Many Canadians of a variety of ages can associate late night sex-related programming with none other than the world-renowned sex educator Sue Johanson, host of The Sunday Night Sex Show.
Johanson was awarded the Order of Canada for her work in the field of sex education, providing many young people with knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise receive from schooling or home — all before the popularity of her television show.
Eventually her show became a massive success and was broadcast nationally, despite this though, Johanson continues to travel, doing talks at universities, even appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, but how did it all start?
The Manitoban was fortunate enough to get a chance to interview Johanson and was able to ask her a few questions regarding student sex lives and health.
In the early 1970s, Johanson opened a birth control clinic at Don Mills Collegiate in North York, Ont., the very first of its kind in North America. After managing the clinic for several years as a registered nurse, she realized that she had to do more.
“[I came to] the realization that kids were having sex and they weren’t sure what they were doing [because] they weren’t getting good sex education at school, and they certainly weren’t getting much from home.”
So, after this revelation, which thousands of us can be thankful for, Johanson went back to school to study education.
“Once I got started, it was just ‘ . . . ain’t nobody gonna stop me now!’”
Johanson says that one of the biggest problems university students and young adults face is still a lack of sexual knowledge. Even with a variety of programs across Canada, young adults still ask very basic questions, demonstrating that even better sexual education is needed.
“It depends on where they come from, as some provinces have a much better sex education curriculum than other provinces. Some boys are still asking, ‘How do I make my penis bigger?’ And some girls are asking, ‘How do I reach orgasm?’ Whereas areas with good sex education, [young adults] are asking much more indepth questions.”
I asked Johanson just how much bad sex is going on out there and what could people do to make their sexual experiences better? She has several messages related to this complex yet common issue.
The first rule, according to Johanson, is communication.
“[Communication] certainly keeps the doors open in the relationship. [ . . . ] My main message has always been: know what you’re doing, think ahead, plan ahead. Never let sex just happen and always practice safer sex. And that’s primarily for women.”
Johanson went on to explain that, surprisingly (or no surprise at all), when it comes to sex, men are often the ones who plan every last detail leading up to the event and “[ . . . ] females don’t. They tend to just let it happen and that’s what keeps them ‘sweet and innocent.’”
Elaborating on this message, Johanson really brought home the point to never let sex “just happen.”
“A lot of that is [because of] drinking. [ . . . ] You go to the bar with a bunch of girls and you meet some gorgeous hunk and you just get carried away [because] you’ve had too much to drink and you let it happen.”
The main reason for this being a dangerous thing to do, according to Johanson, is because however fun spontaneous sex may be with a stranger, you are much less likely to take preventative measures to ensure that the sex is safe or find out what your partner’s health background is. This happens all too easily if two people have been drinking and meet somewhere public, be it a party or a bar.
“When you meet somebody at a bar are you asking them: ‘Is there something I should know?’ [or] ‘Have you had herpes?’ and is he asking her ‘Are you on birth control?’”
Recently, there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the human papillomavirus (HPV) and non-vaginal forms of intercourse, as earlier this year a BBC documentary questioned whether or not oral sex is as “safe” as many people believe, in response to recent studies that are beginning to show that an HPV infection in the gastrointestinal tract can lead to oral cancer.
The Manitoban decided to bring this up with Johanson.
“You can get HPV orally and it is very, very difficult to treat because normally [it is] treated with surgical removal or burning it off or lasering it. So if it is in the middle of your gut it is kind of hard to get at and you don’t know you have to worry about kissing your partner or giving oral to your partner.”
Johanson also gave her input on the HPV vaccine, saying that although it is a good preventative measure, it only prevents two of the four main types of HPV . . . but it is better than nothing.
If you are looking for more information about sex, Johanson’s website, www.talksexwithsue.com, answers a lot of common question as well as many in-depth ones and is an excellent resource to people of all ages.
Sue Johanson will be giving a presentation at the University of Manitoba in University Centre in the second floor multipurpose room on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 12 p.m..
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