WISH I’D KNOWN…
What would have been good to know about sex and relationships? What can your kids learn now from the benefit of other people’s hindsight? Our panels of NEAR PEERS look back
What our young adults said
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN AT 16
1) I would like to have known more about me, my body, the importance of my pleasure and this comes from education, family life but also the entertainment industry (not porn) dictates how you should act with a partner.
2) I would have liked to learn about the changes in the body from sex ed, different conditions (vaginismus, endometriosis, Cervical/ ovary cancers), STDs (herpes, cold sores etc), LGBTQ relationships, the SOCIAL SIDE OF SEX (consent(!!!!), pornography, body positivity, respect)
3) Get your information from a trusted sources; they won’t teach you, so educate yourself. You’re doing well and don’t worry, five years from now it won’t matter as much. Also, wear that condom at.all.times
JULIA SPENCE, AGE 23
I wish I’d known much more in terms of consent, especially that it was OK to say “no” and always my choice. I wish people had spoken more openly to me about sex and relationships and that I’d been given a language to communicate about it to my partners, peers and parents
ISLA, AGE 27
At the age of 16 I would love to have been informed that my choices shouldn’t be based on boys' expectations (or what I thought they were, mainly from pop culture). I believe it shaped my reality into being perceived by myself as the weaker, submissive participant that needed to be acted upon, manipulated and “play the game”. I know now, with age, that the idea of needing to be liked by the opposite sex is a distractive one for healthy sexual education and relationship building
KATYA, AGE 28
1) Consent is the most important thing. A good, inclusive definition of what sex is. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Respect your own emotional boundaries.
2) It’s OK to not know what is going on, that in an ideal world, school’s sex education will provide a safe and accessible space for learning, and that you don’t have to get information from pornography and playground rumours. The massive impact traditional gender roles have on sex.
3) You aren’t going to have sex until you’re 20, and that’s OK. Any worries you have in the next 4 years will drift away. Be kind to your friends and yourself in the discourse around sex. And of course, no kink shaming!
JEFF, AGE 26
I wish I'd known that there are more forms of contraception than condoms and the pill!
OLGA, AGE 23
What our teens said
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN AT 13
Porn is not an accurate source of what to expect in a relationship, especially for men....the damage that it does is not worth the enjoyment you may get out of watching it. It is....such an inaccurate representation of how to treat your sexual partners (as no more than sex toys). If I were 13, I’d stay the hell away from it
GAUCHO, AGE 18
Techniques on how to pleasure a girl. Most guys are unsure of what to do: the only reference is porn
ANONYMOUS, AGE 18
Be confident and don’t worry. Don’t be afraid to ask a girl out, the worst they could say is no. Everything works out in the end
ANONYMOUS, AGE 16
Just be who you want to be. Resist peer pressure when it comes to identity and romance
ANONYMOUS, AGE 15
Losing your virginity isn’t as important as it may seem. It’s much nicer to lose your virginity with someone you actually like – be it a close friend or a partner – than with a stranger or someone you’ve just met
GAUCHO, AGE 18
I think that boys should be taught more about the menstrual cycle and contraception (such as how the pill works etc) as many of the boys I know do not know enough about it. Similarly girls should be taught more about what boys go through in puberty
I wish I'd known that not having had a relationship didn't make me less attractive or worthy than any of my peers"
OLGA, AGE 23
That’s such a tough question, dude. With things such as sexting and porn I always found it a bit odd. Why would you sext when you could just have a sexual encounter in real life with another person? Shying behind a camera is really strange. With love and relationships, the thing which I would’ve wanted to understand is that life is…
BILLY, AGE 18
This might be controversial but I’d tell her to take a proper look around because the daring, mischievous, liberated, downright scandalous sex life she was so desperately craving was actually already unfolding. The power to be having the sex I wanted was already with me, I was in control
MEG, AGE 24
WISH I’D KNOWN…
We found this invaluable advice to celebrities’ 16-year-old selves collected in a book published by Simon & Schuster in aid of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
Match the celeb with their post-adolescent advice. Answers below…
A) THE FLAMBOYANT MUSICIAN
I made the mistake of not having sex until I was 23! I loved being with another man and felt relieved that I finally knew who I was. My advice to you is never to chase love – it will find you when you least expect it. Have fun, have lots of safe sex and enjoy your sexuality. Stand up for every human being’s rights. Be loving, kind and strong. Set an example. Read their lyrical letter in full
B) THE SEX EDUCATION ACTOR
You are completely and utterly self obsessed. If you spent a quarter of your time thinking about others instead of how much you hate your thighs, your level of contentment and self worth would expand exponentially. Expand your horizons; your world is a bigger oyster than your low self-esteem wants you to believe. Read their surprising next steps
C) THE CHAT SHOW PRESENTER
Stop worrying about the opinion of others and be yourself! Read more! You will be happy!! Things you will always love: comics; punk rock; masturbation (although sex is better). If I may quote a band who will not have a hit until you are 23… RELAX! Read and be comforted
D) THE PRINCIPLED BRITISH ACTOR
Diets are the best way of confusing your metabolism for the rest of your life. Just be you & get on with it, I cannot tell you how much time & energy you’ll save & how much happier you’ll be. When he says he doesn’t love you, believe him. He doesn’t. All the other mistakes you make are worth their weight in gold. Receive the full wisdom
E) THE REALITY TV DOCTOR
The pressure felt by other kids to keep up with their peers is unfelt by you and you glide on by. Your tendency to do exactly the opposite to everyone else, to never jump through hoops and never approach things by the usual channels will frustrate many, especially your parents, but stick to it
F) THE HOBBIT ACTOR
Stay in more, keep off the smokes and tell your parents you love them