I know that I said I was going to talk about gender identity, and I am, soon. But something kinda cool happened a few days ago that got me thinking, and since I’ve been stressed out of my mind with dissertation worries this week, I’m going to start by writing about that.
The title may be slightly misleading. I have a little sister. Well, I say ‘little’, she’s eighteen now, terrifying as that is. I am not going to call her Philomela (because that name does not exactly have positive associations) – Camilla seems slightly better. We are very different people, who do not always get on particularly well (and that’s an understatement), but I decided that it was my duty as older sister to give her the Sex Talk when she turned sixteen. After all, I had lot of knowledge and experience that would make sex and relationships so much better for her, if she only took my advice.
She didn’t. Of course she didn’t – I am her sister, and am therefore utterly uncool in every way. Key moments I remember vividly are ‘I’d have sex, but I’d never do oral, because that’s just gross‘, and ‘Urgh, you’ve had sex with girls, you’re such a freak!’. It did not go well, and I stopped discussing sex with her, on the grounds that she was too immature to handle it, and the more I tried, the more I would end up pushing her away. I did attempt to give her condoms at one point, to which she responded ‘Um, I’m not some kind of slut. If I want to have sex, the guy is clearly going to provide them’.
Now, this isn’t just being immature about sex (immature is thinking that kissing is disgusting because eww, saliva!), it’s being irresponsible and unsafe. If you only want to have sex with men who provide their own condoms, then that’s okay. It’s good to know that you’re with someone who’s at least vaguely responsible. But that’s not an excuse not to be responsible yourself. What if she ends up at a party and there’s this guy she’s liked for ages and he finally kisses her and wants to take her home but he doesn’t have any condoms? Maybe she’ll say no thank you, and arrange to meet him another time, but there’s a strong chance she’ll go ‘screw it’, and do it anyway, and then have to worry about the morning-after-pill and pregnancy tests and STIs. Carrying around your own condoms doesn’t mean you have to sleep with any guy who forgets his, but it does stop you from being in that awkward position.
Anyway, that was all background, to show how my sister hasn’t really accepted the whole sex positivity thing, and is therefore not ready for the type of sisterly conversations I would like to have with her. Or so I thought. This October she went off to university, and I know it’s a cliche to say that university makes you grow up, but the changes I’ve seen in her over the last few months are astounding. She cooks for herself, she handles her work without my parents making her, and best of all, she calls me up for random chats when she’s bored. During one of these out-of-the-blue chats, she asked me what I’d been up to the night before. And I had a split second to decide what I should say.
You see, the night before was the after-show party of that play I was talking about. After-shows are amazing. The play finishes, you clear up, then everyone in the theatre goes up to the bar for a massive private party. Everyone drinks far too much, but there’s no pressure, and, unlike in a club, it’s a really safe environment. So we were celebrating that the show had been a success, and I was maybe a little tipsy (or possibly really drunk), and somehow I ended up having sex backstage. Having sex in a theatre has always been a fantasy of mine, along with library sex and outdoor sex (both of which I have now finally done). And of course it was awkward and rushed, the position wasn’t great and we spent the whole time worrying that someone would catch us, but we did it, and I find that kinda awesome.
But could I tell my (now grown up) baby sister that? She’d just been talking to me about a boy that she liked, so I figured it wasn’t utterly inappropriate, and she had asked. The result?
Me: I had sex backstage at the after-show party.
Her: Urgh, that’s so gross… Why couldn’t you have done it in the auditorium? At least there are comfortable seats there!
Success! My little sister has finally accepted sex, to the point where she can joke with me about where’s the best place in a theatre to do it! I know, that sounds like a ridiculous reason to be happy, and maybe it is. I don’t know how other siblings deal with talking about this stuff, and maybe I’m mad for even considering it. But when I think about how she would have handled that conversation a year ago, compared to what she says now, she really has grown up a huge amount. So I decided to push my luck and go a step further.
Me: We thought for a second that we didn’t have any condoms, but then realised we each had one in our wallets, just in case.
Her: Well duh. It’d be kinda stupid not to.
Again, not quite the deep meaningful sisterly bonding experience I might have hoped for, but pretty awesome all the same. At least I don’t have to worry about her being stuck in that awkward (and frankly dangerous) position anymore. And yes, she still thinks I’m hideously uncool, and if she heard some of the stuff I’ve done, she’d tell me I was gross or a freak, but that’s not the point. The point is she’s learning that sex isn’t this shameful disgusting thing like she learnt at school, and that it’s okay to talk about it sometimes. And even if she’s not talking about it with me, the fact that she knows she can means the world to me.
Because to be honest, if there’s hope for Camilla, there’s hope for anyone.