As Diggory points out in the latest episode of The Real Sex Education podcast, many people begin their adult lives in what could be considered polyamorous relationships. As many young people have a number of undefined sexual relationships, not to mention hook-ups, they are effectively polyamorous. Even when they only have one partner in practice, they remain open to other relationships, whether or not they actually have them, until they agree the relationship has become ‘exclusive’. Until then, there aren’t supposed to be any expectations between them, though there may be expectations or hopes in reality. Maybe it’s when these kick in that people begin to think about being exclusive.

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Many people have been affected by the irony of spending years of effort to avoid a pregnancy, only to find it’s difficult to conceive once they try. On the whole, we’re attempting to start our families later. This means both that fertility may have already begun to decline and we may have been exposed to more viruses, bacteria and general life which could have affected our chances. Of course, the effect of just living occurs on top of all the other reasons conception may be challenging, such as low sperm count, endometriosis, polycystic ovary disease, adhesions…and so on and on. When it’s taking time to conceive, couples often presume there are plenty of solutions available to them, with many assuming IVF can fix them. But it’s not that simple. IVF isn’t suitable for everybody, isn’t available to everybody anyway and can be complex, physically unpleasant and emotionally devastating.

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Angus Barge

Erections are pretty unruly, let’s face it. They can appear when you don’t want them and disappear when you do. They can become an obsession, a preoccupation that makes their behaviour even more difficult to predict. It’s fair to say that everyone with a penis will have some sort of issue with their erection at some point in their life. Nevertheless, when it happens, many people assume they’re unusual and that such a thing has never happened to anyone else. They often can’t check this out, as it’s too embarrassing to talk about. If they did, they would discover that they’re not unusual at all. Far from it. Whether it’s worrying about always having an erection during maths lessons, wondering where it goes when you want it or concern that it seems less firm than it used to be, trust me — your friends will have got the T-shirt. This is what our Real Sex Education podcast guest Angus Barge discovered when he developed an erectile problem, going on to found Mojo, a platform for men to share information and experiences.

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Dr Leila Hussein

Female Genital Cutting wasn’t even mentioned when I trained as a psychosexual therapist, but by the time I was teaching myself students were actively asking for advice about how to work with affected women. In trying to find out more, the size of the issue quickly became apparent. According to World Health Organization figures, there are currently a staggering 200 million women and girls who have been cut, with 3 million still being cut every year. Dr Leyla Hussein, a psychotherapist and activist who is our guest on this week’s Real Sex Education podcast, told us that someone is cut every 11 seconds.

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Daniel Craig as James Bond

James Bond started out as the epitome of stereotypical masculinity, but has evolved into a more sensitive and flawed version of a man.  Contemporary Bond is far more androgynous than creator Ian Fleming’s original, and women in the Bond films have also evolved to become more assertive, tough, independent and capable. As ‘Bond girls’ have developed more traditionally masculine characteristics, and Bond himself is now ‘showing his feminine side’, more men are likewise identifying with a less one-dimensional version of maleness. The latest actor to play James Bond, Daniel Craig, has discussed his own comfort with a more vulnerable version of masculinity, avoiding pubs to swerve the ‘aggressive dick swinging’ of men drinking together. He’s also okay with men publically touching one another and unafraid of homophobic judgement. He seems like a man safe in his own skin.

The adoption of gender fluidity in the Bond films has been argued to reflect cultural changes whereby men now are keen to avoid the characteristics of hegemonic masculinity which see women and ‘weaker’ others, such as gay men, as less than themselves. Traditional  masculinity has been associated with the original Bond characteristics of being tough, always being ready for sex, not caring and showing little emotion. Indeed, when Bond’s double agent lover Vesper Lynd dies in Casino Royale, he merely shrugs, ‘The bitch is dead’. The audience, however, suspects he’s grief-stricken, which is confirmed in subsequent movies as Craig’s Bond morphs into a far more human version of himself.

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Alice Olivia Scarlett

If you were to ask people about the reasons they have sex, you’d probably find a surprising number weren’t all that interested or weren’t at all interested, and that their reasons for engaging in sexual behaviour had nothing to do with desire. Some people never have sex because they want to. They do it to please their partner, because they feel obliged to, because they ‘want to feel normal’, because they want a baby, because they get on better with their partner for a few days afterwards, because they fear that otherwise their partner may have an affair, because they think it has health benefits or because they used to enjoy it.

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We were excited to talk to Dr Janine David, a GP with a special interest in men’s sexual problems on this week’s Real Sex Education podcast, because the past few years has seen a huge media interest in so-called Low-T. Unfortunately, the media is more interested than some GPs, so companies have been pushing out self-testing kits to check testosterone levels. In the US, meanwhile, there is much more interest in testosterone and more chance of health professionals asking about sexual issues and erections.

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Kate Moyle

Emerging from all the lockdowns, many people are assessing their lives and relationships, and making changes. Some of these changes inevitably focus on how we treat out bodies and value our health. For some people, this is simply about becoming a bit fitter. For others, there’s an appreciation that their sexual expression has somehow become compromised.

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Sometimes when I see straight couples for therapy, a guy expresses an interest in anal sex when his partner isn’t interested. ‘Everyone’s doing it these days though,’ he might say, as if that seals the deal. So, usually, I’ll enquire whether he’d be interested in pegging, which is also proving quite popular at the moment. Pegging is about women penetrating men, which seems only fair given that men have had the monopoly on penetration for way too long….

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Betty Martin

‘No’ is a sentence, as this week’s Real Sex Education guest Betty Martin points out. Nonetheless, it’s not a word some of us find easy to say or to hear. Betty has come up with a great way of exploring consent for couples, which she calls The Wheel of Consent, and she tells us all about it on the podcast.

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