At the World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) Conference in Sydney recently, as an Australian, I was proud to see a Curtin University Sexology Course awarded the highest honour, a Gold Award, by this international community of sex researchers and practitioners.
After the award ceremony, I spoke with the Perth program leader, Professor Gareth Merriman, who told me it’s been an uphill battle to overcome social and cultural norms.
He cited a recent experience where he organised a lunchtime theatre production of The Vagina Monologues, only to have office staff censor the staff email.
The University Chancellor was not amused and in turn censured her staff. She felt the production was important and wanted to attend.
It’s heartening to see that such a progressive course is attracting overseas students who can’t find such quality education training in their own countries.
I also met with one of the many overseas students of the course, who told me sex was an off-limits topic in her US home despite sexual images abounding - on playing cards, in posters and in semi-pornographic movies shown in her home.
The only time she asked about sex, she was told she’d find out about that when she got married.
When her boyfriend moved into her parent’s home with her when she was 17, nobody commented, asked her about contraception, or discussed the fact that they slept in the same room.
"That’s what motivated me to study sex education," said the now 30-year-old.
“All my relationship choices were affected by this double standard, in-the-dark approach. Somehow I picked up that it was my job to sexually please men which messed me around for a long time. I searched the Internet to find a course that isn’t afraid to tell it how it is. I finally found it in Perth.”
But this openness is not across the board in Australia.
When a protective behaviours book, Everyone’s Got a Bottom, was published this month, for three to eight-year-olds, ABC Learning Centres around the country banned it because the word vulva had been used in the text.
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