The Sex Education panel took place on Sunday in Panel Room B. It was moderated by Angela Innes and attended by Stevie Boebi, Riyadh Khalaf, Hannah Witton, Calum McSwiggan, and Lucy Moon.
Angela Innes started the conversation by asking the panellists what prompted them to start talking about sex online. Stevie Boebi answered that it all happened after she came out online. “I started getting a lot of questions” she said, as she explained why she felt the need to answer these in videos. Riyadh Khalaf said that he felt there was no gay sex education out there, and school only had straight sex education, so he had to learn everything from porn. In a similar vein, Hannah Witton’s motivation was the lack of general sex education in school. Calum McSwiggan talked about how much shame there was in his community, but online he felt that there was a space to speak out. Finally, Lucy Moon explained that she did not start by making sex education content but after her shared podcast, she gained an interest in it.
The panel then chatted about what they thought was the main obstacle to good sex education in schools. Hannah quickly answered that the main limitation was lack of money and resourcing, as she felt the government did not prioritise this topic. Calum said that sex education is a broad topic and there is a place for it at different ages. He gave an example that at age 4 you can teach children about their physical bodies, and at 14 you can teach them about actual sex. He suggested that children should be encouraged to ask more questions about what they had to know, and Hannah agreed. Riyadh argued that his sex education at school was very inefficient as it was taught by teachers who were already embarrassed to teach it.
Angela moved the conversation to the responsibility that the creators felt to educate people. Stevie said that in the US the majority of schools teach abstinence only, so she feels a responsibility as there is no one out there talking about it. Calum explained that there is a sense of fear in the sex education community about getting things wrong. Hannah also talked about the fear creators have regarding getting demonetised and being rejected by brands, as soon as the content is sex related. Lucy agreed, saying that “brands don’t really understand”. Riyadh talked about the video he made getting naked and educating people on bodies, and his internal debate on privatising it in order to get a brand deal. Hannah talked about how content is now classified in broad terms, and anything remotely related to sex education is classed as ‘sexual content’.
The panellists were then asked for their thoughts on porn. Riyadh mentioned he documentary he made about LGBTQ+ porn. He went into it thinking that it was harmful but he learned that for many people in the LGBTQ+ community, it is an act of rebellion. Riyadh also made the point that while it is not the best source of education, at least it is one. Hannah spoke about porn as being like a double edged sword. She quoted the fact that people as young as 11 have seen porn with no education or context, and that should be addressed. Calum talked about his experience as a porn star when he was younger, and how education around porn would make a great difference. Riyadh said that we should treat porn like cake, have it in your life, but not every day. Stevie added that the shame around watching porn only makes the problem worse.
The conversation ended with Hannah asking the creators to recommend some good, ethical porn as she said people should “pay for the porn you want to see in the world”. Hannah recommended Erika Lust, Riyadh talked about supporting amateur porn, and Stevie suggested donating to sex workers’ patreons.
An audience member asked for the panellists’ thoughts on the age of consent. Hannah said that 16 is good but arbitrary, and she talked about the nuanced rules that the UK has in order to ensure that minors can have sex with minors but adults cannot. Stevie said that she liked the UK’s approach, as in the US, the age of consent varies widely.
The final question was about LGBTQ+ discrimination in the healthcare system. Riyadh protested about the fact that he cannot give blood, saying “there is no equality”. Calum said that he abstained for a year in order to give blood, and he was told when he went in that he was not allowed because of his previous solo sex work. Stevie talked about the rules in the US, where there is a 10 year waiting period if you are a woman who has had sex with a queer man. She ended by explaining that in the US if you are a lesbian, you have to say that your method of contraception is abstinence.
Photos by Emma Pamplin.
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