Sex education at British schools is objectively not good. More often than not, it begins with your salmon-pink Chemistry teacher trying to say penis without the whole class losing it, and ends not a whole lot better. This might make for an enjoyable class when you're 12 years old, but when you grow up with no useful advice about sex, things are bound to go wrong.
'I HAD TO GO TO THE DOCTOR TO GET A SPECIAL CREAM'
"It would have been nice to know more about what products work well during sex – or substitutes, like coconut oil can be used instead of lube, or whatever. I'm saying this because, once, I was having sex with this guy and I was pretty dry, so he reached into his drawer to pull out what I thought was some lube. A few seconds after he put it on me I could feel my vagina burning up. Honestly, it was so hot it felt like someone was pointing a hairdryer at it. Turns out it was Sanctuary Spa moisturiser. He was like, 'It does the same trick and it smells nice.' I had to run and wash my vagina in his bedroom basin. The next day I went to the doctor's to get a special cream to get rid of the pain – all the alcohol in the fragrance upset my PH levels. Someone teach men about this, please."
– Florence, 25
'I THOUGHT FOREPLAY MEANT DRESSING UP AS A FIREMAN'
"I went to a Catholic school, so our sex-ed was pretty non-existent. All that happened was this ex-priest showed us diagrams of sperm cells swimming towards eggs. I think he also told us about masturbation, but he didn't actually explain what it was – he looked pretty disapproving of the practice anyway.
"Without any helpful guidance, when I started having sex I just assumed I was a pro. One time I was kissing this girl, and when I went to put my dick in she was like, 'Aren't you gonna do any foreplay?' I didn't even know what that meant – I'd only heard that word on TV shows, so I guessed it meant role-play type stuff, like dressing up as a fireman or something. She didn't meet up with me again after that."
– John, 26
'IT'S BIOLOGICAL, SON – OF COURSE YOU'LL KNOW WHAT TO DO'
"My first sex-ed class began with our RE teacher shouting rather aggressively, 'There will be no condoms on bananas in this class.' He was useless at teaching us anything about sex. One guy – the sort who definitely told people he'd had sex with, like, 1,000 virgins, when in actual fact he'd never even kissed a girl – put his hand up and really innocently said: 'Sir, what happens if... when it gets to it... you just don't know what to do?' There was a silence and the class giggled a little, but everyone was quietly chuffed he asked. Then our teacher just went off his fucking nut and bellowed: 'IT'S BIOLOGICAL, SON. OF COURSE YOU'LL KNOW WHAT TO DO. LESS OF YOUR CHEEK.'
"Not really surprising, then, that before me and my girlfriend had sex for the first time we were so nervous about it we both had to have a Sambuca shot. I couldn't get it up, so just assumed I wasn't able to have sex. Instead, I 'fingered' her for 45 minutes, which must have been awful, but bless her, she pretended it was amazing. She also grabbed my dick like one of those cranes at the carnival that you use to catch teddies. That's all we then did for like six months.
"In some senses, I'm lucky. I came out of school less clueless about sex than most. A girl in my class told me that girls are only fertile midweek, which is why everyone goes out on the weekend."
– Neal, 28
'I THOUGHT I'D RELEASED A BAD SPIRIT'
"In sex-ed we used to watch this programme called Education in Love, which just went on about pregnancy. I remember being so stressed about where your legs are meant to go if the woman is on top, and stressing about how loud to moan. Whether I actually enjoyed the experience was not a concern for me. When I started having sex regularly I remember fanny farting really loud. I had absolutely no idea what a fanny fart was, so when it came out of me I thought I'd released a bad spirit or something. He must have known what it was because he just laughed a bit and carried on. But I was so embarrassed it put me off trying sex again with my boyfriend for ages."
– Hattie, 28
'I THOUGHT BLOWJOBS INVOLVED BLOWING'
"Only thing I remember about my sex-ed at school was our teacher getting us to sit in a circle and shout out all the different words people use for vagina and penis. Everyone was like, 'Fanny!', 'Tadger!', 'Boaby!', and then this guy called Matty yelled, 'Cunt.' He got sent to isolation, which seems pretty harsh, considering he was literally answering her question.
"When I actually started having sex I was so nervous – I didn't have a clue what I was meant to be doing. I thought blowjobs involved blowing rather than sucking, so my cheeks would puff outwards like a blowfish. Thank God my first boyfriend hadn't had sex much, 'cause it meant he still always came in my mouth.
"I had to teach myself about sex through the internet. Once, when I was at uni, I had saved this Cosmo article called something like 'Pleasing Your Man: How to Give Blowjobs' onto my favourites. It popped up when my mate Kris opened my laptop to load up The Kardashians. I remember him reading out all the quotes, which said shit like, 'Tease his member,' and other unforgivably cringe phrases. Four years later and my boyfriend says I'm great at giving head, so there's that."
– Leanne, 23