National Student Pride Is SCREAMING; #LetsTalkAboutSex (Baby)
Jamie Wareham National Student Pride Director of Communications
Let’s not be coy, Sex is great. I’m partial to it, myself.
But we’ll leave my stories for another time, because when we try talking about sex all too often the great British sense of well-to-do manners rather, gets-in-the-way.
Here is a stellar example – do you remember your sex-ed class?
Mine was awkward, biological and not sexy at all. Beyond the condom on a banana and an uber-clinical description of the reproductive process; all it did was reaffirm vaginas were not my thing – but also, that vaginas ‘were supposed to be’.
If you don’t remember sex-ed, you might have been one of the unlucky many to have missed out. Due to the rise in academies, only 40% of schools, the state ones, are legally obliged to teach any Sex Education.
Last year listening to the panels at National Student Pride where the key theme was mental health, it became ever clearer to me that if only we were taught that being LGBT was okay during our critical formative years, so many of our communities problems could be solved.
Whether that’s the rising levels of HIV, those struggling with addictions and the higher likelihood LGBT people face of having mental health woes, it was clear. So much of the discussion could be traced back to a toxic shame our society still teaches us to have of gay sex, by an education system that doesn’t even do our straight counterparts justice in the bedroom. It’s drummed into us – if we’re not reproducing, then what’s the point? My case and point is epitomised in the Mean Girls Sex-Ed scene quote: “If you have sex, you will get Chlamydia and die.”
Where is the talk of pleasure, and those amazing oxytocin hormones released by loving someone, the biggest and best natural high there is? Why aren’t we taught about consent and how to say no? One of my biggest regrets in my sex life is starting it when I did. I wasn’t ready, but I thought I was supposed to.
Sex-Ed at school should have given me the knowledge and empowerment to have the sex I wanted, crucially when I wanted it.
The Department of Education has recently confirmed it is going to look again at how Sex Education is taught. In 2017, the 50th anniversary year since the decriminalisation of gay sex between consenting men over the age of 21, I look to the Education Secretary Justine Greening. As the first openly LGBT woman to serve in the Cabinet, she has an incredible opportunity to liberate so many young minds and champion our voice during this process.
Last year, it was pop star Will Young speaking on the mental health panel who said: “I used to joke when I go into a gay bar, I can smell the self-hate”. He linked it to the concept of toxic shame, something which Matthew Todd, who chaired that panel, wrote about in his book ‘Straight Jacket’.
It was inspiring to watch as Will Young spoke so freely about his addictions to love and porn, again, rooted in an early ‘taught shame’ of being any sexuality other than straight.
That’s why Student Pride continues, providing a platform for debate and discussion, driven by students. The 2016 event was a huge success with over 125 Universities and colleges attending. Providing a safe ground for discussion is core to our event because there are so few places to talk and such a need to break down the stigma around talking about sex and relationships (though we’ll go party in our pink jeans later on too, see you at G-A-Y’s Heaven for the party of the year with a queue that gets as big as Kylie’s).
National Student Pride is also proud to host the biggest LGBT student careers fair of its kind. Not only is it an integral part of the daytime event, but it also provides the opportunity for employers to reach into the incredible diversity of LGBT students. Corporate sponsorship is essential to keep the daytime event free and therefore accessible to all regardless of age, wage or background.
National Student Pride is platinum sponsored in 2017 by EY for the seventh year. Maggie Stilwell, Managing Partner for Talent at EY, UK & Ireland, comments: “EY are proud to be the Platinum sponsor for National Student Pride 2017, a partnership we have built and maintained for the last seven years. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unerring, and the event allows us to connect with young LGBT talent in an environment of respect and opportunity. It’s important to us to show the next generation that they will be able to be themselves in the workplace. Last year thousands of the students from across the UK attended the event, and we are excited to meet even more in February at the Careers Fair. We look forward to the whole weekend festival of events, including the ever popular series of discussions.” Law firm Clifford Chance and 02 are gold sponsors. Aviva, Enterprise Rent-a-car, GE Capital, IBM, Lloyds Banking Group and Thomson Reuters are silver sponsors.
Steered by a group of graduates, activists and former speakers, every single person who contributes to student pride does so entirely voluntarily. Just like the push for equal marriage, the event is driven by a group of students who ask for nothing in return.
The event began at Oxford Brookes University in 2005 as a response to the Christian Union’s ‘Homosexuality and the Bible’ talk. Student Pride continues this mantra in its 12th year. Student Pride is returning to the University of Westminster’s Marylebone campus opposite Madame Tussaud’s and continues to host its club events with G-A-Y. The venue which, over the years since we started collaborating with them, has improved their gender neutral toilet facilities and, despite a difficult end to the year in 2016, is working closely with UK Black Pride and us to make their clubs an inclusive space for BAME people.
Every year we shine a spotlight on prejudice by engaging with partners because we believe that conversation and words have an inextricable power to change lives.
What’s clear is the need for our marginalised community to look in on itself. We’ll be proudly screaming about the need for same sex relationships to be discussed in all schools, both primary and secondary. But this year we’ll also cover bullying, including within the community which is far too often racist as well as intersectionality. That fancy word, for how your many intertwining identities, including being a massive Taylor Swift fan as well as having a disability and being gay, is what makes you, YOU.
Tickets for the event are on sale now: The daytime festival at the University of Westminster is free and open to all – club nights at G-A-Y and Heaven are £5 for a weekend wristband, and for an exclusive film extra, see www.studentpride.co.uk/tickets.
So stick on Salt N Pepa, we’re talking about sex, and it’s going to be one hell of a ride.