By Isobel Ellul
As part of spearheading the ‘Let’s Talk About Sex Safety’ campaign, Rachael talks all things sexual health, sex education, contraception, consent and pornography. This follows on from the successful distribution of free condoms at our Musical Festivals in 2019; promoting safe sex, enjoying sex sensibly, respectfully and consensually, gratefully supported by our Chief Minister. The response to this was mainly hugely positive with adults saying: “Where were you when we were teenagers?”, lots of giggles from teenagers and many very frank and open discussions about safe and consensual sex… not to mention a few blown up condoms floating through the air!
Gibraltar is privileged to have its own sexual health clinic as part of the Well Person Unit at the GHA, easily and anonymously accessible to all, offering sound clinical, informative and supportive advice to those who are sexually active. We have come a long way, as Rachael explains from her teenage years, in that the conversation has opened up… but we still have a way to go. From the age of consent at 16, it is crucial our young feel comfortable to know that their sexual health needs, information on sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, sexual orientation identity questions and sex boundaries queries are addressed, and where to seek the advice. And crucially, so they can access sexual health education easily as part of mainstream learning. Even discussions on body positivity, sexual orientation and period poverty need to be had to empower our young to make the right informed and safe choices, especially if they are unable to talk to a family member about any of this.
We have come a long way… but we still have a way to go.
Rachael feels strongly that nothing should be unspeakable. If young people are sexually active, they need guidance on ensuring sex is consensual, that there is dialogue about both wanting the same thing out of it and if it is not a yes, to respect that NO means NO; non-consensual sex is rape. That they are aware of the wide range of contraception available, choosing the best option for them. And to highlight the importance of how pornography is not the real world, it is a huge money-spinning business and not a sexual activity guide on what to expect from a sexual partner as the norm. For example, things not seen in mainstream porn include shyness, cuddling, not getting in the mood, scars and stretch marks, intellectual flirting and pets watching!
Importantly, sexual transmitted diseases can sometimes take a while to present symptomatically, so for those who have had multiple partners or unprotected sex, getting screened at the sexual health clinic is vital. And let’s be honest, not all sex happens in stable relationships and in heterosexual ones! Rachael’s message is consent, condoms, screening and a contingency, i.e. a back-up plan when all fails, such as emergency contraception, which she reiterates time and again. Additionally, Rachael explains the charity No More Shame is able to signpost young people to the appropriate services, pass on information packages on safe sex if necessary and give out free condoms.
Discussions need to be had to empower our young to make safe choices.
Importantly, our LGBTQ+ community must be supported too, with a safe space for young people, exploring their sexual orientation, to be able to access information and advice without judgement.
In this regard, Let’s Talk Real also chatted to Angel Cornelio (Instagram @angelarioo93) about his struggles, growing up as a gay boy in Gibraltar, with homophobia and discrimination; who supported him, what his coping mechanisms were and how he finally managed to get through it with confidence and pride to become the beautiful person he is today. Because after all, love is love; February is the month of love and our message is love safely, responsibly and consensually and enjoy!
Love safely, responsibly and consensually.
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