Let’s talk about sex (baby). It’s important. Critically important – without it we wouldn’t be here. And we all have it right? Well, not all of us.
According to the New York Times, 15 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women say they have not had sex in the previous year. Nine per cent of men and 18 per cent of women haven’t had a roll in the hay in the last five years. But the ‘average’ adult has sex more than 54 times a year. Married and active people have more sex than non-married or non-active people. Drinkers have more sex than non-drinkers. People in the 1930s had the most; while still-maligned millennials have had the least.
We think it’s about time to shine a light on sex. Because there is a lot to talk about. For starters, how do our own hang-ups and lack of self confidence affect how we feel about getting our clothes off with other people? How does our moralising of sex affect how much we have it, with whom, how often, and who we tell about it? Why don’t we speak up when it literally hurts us? And why don’t we just chat about how much fun it can be.
15 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women say they have not had sex in the previous year.
To get the conversation started we have roped in (no pun intended) sex educator Tammi Ireland. Originally from the west coast of Australia, the Sydney-based ex-journalist-turned-publicist is going to help us understand our sexuality a little better. But before we get to the real nitty gritty stuff, we wanted to ask Tammi just how she because an expert on all things sex.
You are a journalist by trade and now a sex educator: what led you down this path?
I’ve worn many hats in my life. Professionally: journalist, publicist, student, counsellor. Personally: woman, sister, daughter, lover and more. The one thing that is common throughout all is my love of connecting with people, discovering what brings them joy (their story, their business, their relationships) and working with them to manifest as much joy as they possibly can in their lives.
Were (and are) your friends, family and partner supportive of your sex education work? Has there been any pushback against you going into this field, or do you have to set boundaries with your partner about how much of ‘you’ you bring into your public life?
My current partner is incredibly supportive of my work. He sees how happy I am learning about human connection to relationships, sexuality, sensuality and more. Of course, there are aspects of my true self throughout my work, though most of what I do centres on the individuals I’m working with – be that one on one, or through BARE Sexology on Instagram, which is an incredible platform for connecting women in particular. My friends have also been so supportive of BARE. It’s not uncommon to be pulled aside at an event and asked a specific relationship or sex question. Simply being there to discuss deeply personal things that have been on their mind for some time, makes this all so rewarding.
We (as a culture) are so hung up on sex: why do you think this is?
We are, but often only at surface level. As humans, we’re voyeurs. We want to know what others are doing and how this compares against ourselves (in all aspects – health, money, relationships, career). But the true and important, examination of the self is often not done. We are reticent to ask ourselves ‘Am I happy?’, ‘Am I completely comfortable in my relationship?’, ‘Is the passion there?’ So often a lot of these questions seem scary in case we discover something about ourselves that doesn’t fit with our ego (outward self). Yet, those are the parts of sex and relationships we really should delve into.
s humans, we’re voyeurs. We want to know what others are doing and how this compares against ourselves (in all aspects – health, money, relationships, career)
If you could give advice to girls in their teens about sexuality, what would it be?
Embrace your sexuality and explore by yourself or with a partner, though do so safely – always use a condom (they are the only readily-available contraception that prevent against STIs), always ask for consent, always ensure you’re 100 per cent into the moment. If there is any doubt, stop.
Ask questions of the women around you that you trust – they have stories to tell, of heartbreak, first experiences, wrongdoings and self worth. Learn from them.
And when you speak with your friends, don’t compare! Great sexual experiences truly come when there’s a connection with the person you are being intimate with, at the mind, heart and genitals. This is a key principle of Tantric practice.
If you could give advice to parents in terms of setting a healthy sexual example for their kids and talking to their kids about sex, what would you say?
Honesty is the best policy. Many parents have a fear of disclosing too much, in case their kids are ‘enticed’ to have sex earlier than they’re ready. However, if the ‘birds and the bees’ conversation centres not only on sex, but also on consent, enjoyment, contraception, how your drive is your own, non-comparison and more, then it can be healthy and positive for you and your child.
Having freedom and feeling comfortable talking to your partner about your sex life is critical – but so many of us seem to feel so uneasy about this. How can we start to feel comfortable in our own skins?
The first step is often to be honest with ourselves about what’s missing, and what we really want. There are so many things that impact our capabilities to communicate about what we want sexually – childhood trauma, romantic attachments, relationships with our parents and more all play a factor. Addressing these can help us feel comfortable in our own skin.
Masturbate! You can’t help others if you don’t help yourself, so learn what you like by exploring your body using your fingers or toys.
And when you’re ready, approaching a conversation with your partner can be made easier in a non-vulnerable place – discuss outside of the bedroom, and note that you want to be heard and want to hear them.
Do you test all the products you talk about?
Always. It’s really important to me that I’m authentic in my approach and life. I would not recommend a product that I have not first tried and enjoyed.
Who are the people you look up to and learn from in sexology?
Sexology covers such a vast amount of topics. As a student now, I’m inspired by those who encourage good counselling practice and true education of sex and relationships – Esther Perel, The School or Life, the team at Par Femme, Karley Sciortino, Tiah Eckhardt and Melbourne sexologist Chris Fox are just a few. Most of all, I learn from the women I interact with everyday on Instagram – they’re the ones asking me questions that they can’t find answered anywhere, the ones giving me direct feedback, and the women driving positive change to bring joy to themselves. What’s more inspiring than that?
The first step is often to be honest with ourselves about what’s missing, and what we really want.
What do you find sexy?
Warm summer nights, silk slips and cotton underwear, vintage erotica, radiant women living in their bliss, men with sharp wit, drive and ambition.
How important is sex in your life?
Very important, but not so that it’s everything. Sexuality itself rates higher. Like anybody, I go through ebbs and flows of my own sensuality (women often do, thanks to our menstrual cycle), though always try to connect intimately with myself and my partner – be that through simple touch, embrace, kissing, making love, fucking or enjoying a lazy sleep-in on a Sunday morning.
Do you have any questions for Tammi? Send them to us: email@example.com or write them in the comment below.
Tammi Ireland is a sex educator, based in Sydney, Australia. Follow her at BARE Sexology on Instagram.