Esperanto Magazine - 08 Sex (2022) | MONSU Caulfield

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Juliette Capomolla Kiera Eardley


Callum Johnson


Esperanto Student Magazine MONSU Caufield Inc. Level 2, Building S, 2 Princes Avenue, Caufield East, VIC 3145 +61 3 9903 2525


Esperanto Magazine is published by MONSU Caufield Inc. Views expressed within do not necessarily reflect those of MONSU Caufield Inc, the editorial panel, the publisher, or any other person associated with Esperanto.


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Alice Wright, Amelia Swan, Angel Tully, Ashmitaa Thiruselvam, Daisy Henry, Eden Hopgood, Emma Sudano, Jonathan Hawes, Juliette Capomolla, Kiera Eardley, Lydia Strohfeldt, Ruby Ellam, Sarah Wilkes, Surbhi, Victoria Loizides, Zayan Ismail, Zoë Porter-Parsons


Dina Ivkovich, Emilia Bajer, Fletcher Aldous, Gabrielle Poh, Griffin McGrath, Jessica La, Madison Marshall, Mon Ouk, Naiya Sornratanachai, Rini Pradhan, Shreya Mishra Stephanie Wong, Therese Dias


Fletcher Aldous, @fletcheraldous


06 08 10 12 18 20 22 28 30

Sex on the Silver Screen Sarah Wilkes, Madison Marshall

Yonic Vision

Zoë Porter-Parsons, Fletcher Aldous

The Heavy Burden of My DDs Ashmitaa Thiruselvam, Gabrielle Poh

When Kink Becomes Kinkless Victoria Loizides, Griffin McGrath

Anatomy Class Alice Wright, Emilia Bajer

Fake It ‘Til You Make It Surbhi, Mon Ouk

The Four Horsemen of the Sexpocalypse Lydia Strohfeldt, Naiya Sornratanachai

My Isolationship

Daisy Henry, Gabrielle Poh

Lights Off, Please Angel Tully, Stephanie Wong

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Toxic School Culture: Up in Flames Emma Sudano, Gabrielle Poh

The STIs Have It Ruby Ellam

Love Makes the World Go Round Jonathan Hawes, Jessica La

Into the Camp: A Journey Zayan Ismail, Therese Dias

Sexual Desire Does Not Expire Juliette Capomolla, Shreya Mishra

The Rise and Fall of the Pill Amelia Swan, Jessica La

Body Hair, Don’t Care Eden Hopgood

Mind the Gap Kiera Eardley

editors’ note We wanted the Sex Edition for 2022 to show more than just the act of sex, but everything else that comes along with it — love, heartbreak, sexuality, sexualisation (or sometimes, a lack thereof), kinks and more. Perhaps it’s been the absence of physical intimacy (thanks for nothing, lockdowns and social distancing) that makes this edition all the more important. Hands up who remembers what a first date is like? Or how to deal with STIs? For many of us, it’s been a hot minute since sex has made it into our weekly routines, so we need this edition now more than ever before. To remind us that we are sexy To remind us that whatever sex you like is perfectly fine To remind us that not wanting sex is equally fine To remind us that sex and sexuality is probably a lot more complicated than we will ever be able to put into words We hope this edition will take you on a journey through love, sex, and heartbreak. Enjoy the ride. Love Callum, Juliette and Kiera xx


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Sex on the Silver Screen WORDS Sarah Wilkes @sarahllouise_

ILLUSTRATION Madison Marshall

Sex scenes. Some fooled your 12-year-old self into thinking life was a Nicholas Sparks movie, some take you by surprise at family movie night (ground, swallow me up!) and others are just as hardcore as your last Pornhub search. Whether hot and steamy or downright cringeworthy, there’s no doubt that sex scenes shape the way we perceive and show up in the adult world. It’s interesting to consider how sex on screen influences our viewership of films and television. When I was 13, one of my favourite films (one I shared, it seemed, with every other teenage girl) was The First Time, starring Dylan O’Brien and Britt Robertson. The sex scene in that film, between two hormone-filled teenagers who met at a party, gave me butterflies like I’d never experienced before. The film’s popularity amongst my age group was no coincidence. Its glaringly accurate depiction of life as an adolescent, and all the feelings that come along with it, made The First Time both exciting and comforting to watch. But without the pivotal sex scene, the movie isn’t exactly award-winning. This makes me wonder: without sex scenes, would some films and television shows be as successful? Would R-rated shows like HBO’s Euphoria and Game of Thrones be so popular without their explicitness? As we mature, do we crave watching different types of intimacy on film? Just like our need for intimacy on-screen evolves as we mature, so has cinema etiquette changed over the years. What’s acceptable now would’ve caused outrage in theatres a few decades ago. Watching Fifty Shades of Grey with your closest girlfriend would certainly have a different vibe now than in the ’60s. Nowadays, not only do we live in a sexualised world, but an increasingly digital one, too. Eroticism is at our fingertips with on-demand entertainment streaming services — and, of course, the deep, dark web. Considering this, some might find that full nudity, BDSM and moaning girls just doesn’t do 6

it for them. So, I want to shed light onto one of the most heated and adrenaline-inducing sex scenes of all time, and it isn’t even X-rated after all. There is no doubt that Brokeback Mountain (2005) is groundbreaking in its storytelling of a homosexual relationship between two masculine cowboys in a 1960s society. Watching the two main characters, Ennis and Jack, have sex for the first time is as equally frustrating as it is a relief. Ennis wakes up to find himself spooning Jack, suggesting his attraction is innate, exposed only by the subconscious state of sleep. Ennis’ immediate reaction once awakened is to show aggression towards Jack — if that’s not toxic masculinity, I don’t know what is. Watching the juxtaposition of his desire and blatant fear is nothing short of unsettling for the viewer who can see their obvious connection (I literally thought to myself, “just fuck already, god damn it”). The chemistry between them is so passionate, and the tension so thick, it feels as if it was written in the stars. This fierce urge I had for them to give into each other gave me more feels than watching any kind of explicit sex scene with dicks flying around. Although I’ve never experienced unrequited love like Jack and Ennis, nor ever suffered their oppression, I felt every tumultuous emotion in the scene. Brokeback Mountain’s sex scenes exist to evoke fierce, passionate and yearning emotions in the viewer. Unlike many other films, the sex scenes don’t exist for the audience’s pleasure or selling more box office tickets. But the famous term ‘sex sells’ does ring true in Netflix’s erotic 2020 film, 365 Days. The Polish movie follows the kidnapping of Laura by a Sicilian mafia member named Massimo, who gives Laura 365 days to fall in love with him. Yes, it’s a deeply problematic plot. Yes, it pretty much contradicts what us progressive Gen Zs stand for. The lack of nuance in the film’s title is matched in its plot and character development, and the Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings seem to agree with me.

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Yet here I am — a serially-napping, easilydistracted university student — admitting I sat through the entire film. I even sat through the credits while my fanny flutters subsided. 365 Days includes countless sex scenes, with one scene on a boat being rather notable. It’s the first time Massimo and Laura have sex — but oh boy, this is not their first rodeo. The scene is so intimate that it barely looks like acting. Think passionate, sweaty and just the right

amount of kink — all on top of a super yacht in Sicilian waters. I bet it sounds like one of your secret sexual fantasies, right? To top it off, it has been confirmed that 2022 will see the release of a second 365 Days film, proving that sex really does sell. After all, movies just wouldn’t be the same without those steamy, passionate sex scenes that get our heart rates rising.




There are vaginas on my floor, staring. I wonder if others notice? Lips, slits, in the floorboards? Probably not, that’s just me… yonic vision, what if the women of history are sucked up by roots, reborn, this their only evidence? Carolee Schneemann pulls a scroll from within her private palace made public for art’s sake & the sake of womankind. Printed across pages of history and mind, writhing bodies doused in paint or blood catch the light. Cassandra holds up the torch and the women of antiquity join in the dance, twirling & twirling in the burgeoning twilight, Ecstasy! I lie on the floor, joining my sisters in lush meadows where knots are growth. Aunt Jennifer now embroiders roiling sex scenes that make AnaÏs Nin blush, ah how far we’ve come… Floorboards are hard when they are dead. We bask sweetly in Ethylene, welcomed she feels the weight of breasts & already knows before she knows. Daisy-chain crown, smile of liquid gold, X repeats and she knows. I have a room, with vagina inscribed floors, it is my own (Vagina, Virginia, Virgin) My mum wears pants and picks jasmine to put in a vase. She lies, next to me on the hardwood floor.

9 WORDS Zoë Porter-Parsons @zoe.parsons PHOTOGRAPHY Fletcher Aldous @fletcheraldous

Yonic Vision 9

The Heavy Burden of My DDs WORDS Ashmitaa Thiruselvam @ashmitaa___

ILLUSTRATION Gabrielle Poh @mochirune

The big titty committee. A term that I am all too familiar and have a bittersweet relationship with. Growing up, bra shopping was and still is an absolute nightmare for me. I try to put it off for as long as I can, to be honest. Just the idea of having to stand in the changing room, half naked while a slightly older woman wraps her measuring tape around all areas of my chest, gives me second-hand embarrassment. I know that this is just a fragment of my already-existing insecurities and that the bra lady literally does not care, but that whole ordeal makes me uncomfortable. By the time it’s over, I am directed to a tiny rack of nude or black bras tailored to my DDs, looking like they have come straight from my grandmother’s wardrobe. Comfortable, sure, but not sexy in the slightest. Having to plan an outfit for a day or night out never fails to instil a sense of anxiety in me. An oversized top? My boobs make my body look larger than it actually is. What about a pretty, form-fitting blouse? Nope, then my cleavage would be visible. My friends often compliment my boobs, telling me that they look amazing in certain dresses or tops. Despite their purest of intentions and flattery, I definitely don’t feel this way most of the time. Even when wearing the most basic of basic tops, my boobs are the main attraction and I constantly feel oversexualised for simply wearing clothes. Running on a treadmill whilst having to hold on to my chest, like those hentai waifus, is an Olympic sport in itself. This may sound like a ‘suffering from success’ sort of moment, but it’s really not. Oh, and you may be thinking, “why don’t you just wear a sports bra?”. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s almost impossible. Finding a good, 10

supportive and big-boobie-friendly sports bra is extremely rare, or just really, really expensive. I think I might just opt for speed walking in the gym to save myself the backache. One time at work, I was required to wear a button-up top as part of my uniform (one of my worst nightmares). It was not until a female coworker came up to me, in front of all my colleagues, mind you, that I found out that my shirt had unbuttoned itself to expose my bright pink bra. Since that day, I have refused to wear button-up shirts. Just a couple of nights ago, I was watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and was so incredibly envious of all the small and mediumchested girls rocking such cute dresses and tops. You know that infamous yellow backless dress that Kate Hudson wears? Oh, how I wish I could pull off something like that! Unless I am trying to risk a nip slip, this timeless 2003 moment will remain an unattainable dream. Strapless bras were never made to support big chests, and are just as effective as not wearing a bra at all (both are useless). Going braless is also a big no, because remember? Gravity exists. Having big boobs is not really all that, but I have to admit that sometimes I do have my moments. Let’s be honest, my boobs look incredible in certain tops. Heck! Sometimes I get a little scandalous and wear a low-cut top if I’m really feeling myself that day. But unfortunately, the negatives definitely outweigh the positives for me, especially because I just don’t think that my boobs are proportionate to my body. Overall, I have a love-hate relationship with my girls — but we’re working on it, I promise!

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12 The Sex Issue

When Kink Becomes Kinkless WORDS Victoria Loizides @t0t0r1ki55e5girl5

ILLUSTRATION Griffin McGrath @hermann_studios

It’s about to get saucy. So, you’ve made it back to your place, and staggering behind you is your date, so close that even the jimmying of the key in the lock of your front door won’t blur the sound of their heavy breath. You’ve just come back from a pool bar (the universal symbol that almost promises a sexy time). They won twice, and you, once. Sparks fly. “It’s down the corridor, second door to your left,” you say. “I’ll be there in a minute,” you say. They have other plans, grabbing your waist with urgency until somehow you’re both almost stark naked outside your housemate’s bedroom door. Quickly now, you make your way into your room, and the fun begins. There was definitely touching, a lot of kissing, some hip-moving action. All welcome in the story of first-date sex. And then there was slapping, hair-pulling and choking. Lived experience and discussions with friends have taught me that the intersection of pain and pleasure in sex is common practice. Now, let’s be clear; fetishes and sexual preferences are normal, healthy extensions of ourselves. Kink practitioners — those who engage in unconventional sexual behaviour — deserve space to feel safe and warranted. But at times, kinks can be wrongly performed without the affirmative consent of a sexual partner. Even more so, kinks can be perceived as the be-all and end-all of good, sexy sex — so much so that there sometimes exists a certain pressure to just go along with it, despite not wanting to. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the date you just perved in on is how a lot of my first dates go down with cis, heterosexual men. Neither of us bat an eyelid when we later cuddle on top of my cumstained sheets. Sweet, sweet sleep. So when I reflect on these performances of pain-meets-pleasure, wrongly or rightly they don’t usually slot in with my idea of kinky sex, because to me it’s just sex, and that’s just what happens

during sex, right? It’s also not entirely surprising that first dates, second dates, and long-term partners seek to spice things up in the bedroom with dominance and discipline when the vast array of porn websites suggest you watch a ‘tiny teen getting face fucked and slapped’. Whether we like it or not, our actions in bed reflect what is freely accessible online, as we navigate this path in the absence of the sex education we deserved. This is an official call-out to Pornhub: NO MORE TINY TEENS — DO BETTER! However, the problem goes beyond mainstream pornography and its desire to exclude real people having fun, safe, queer, feminist, representative, bushy-pubed, hairy-nippled, sexy sex. It’s that, generally speaking, and without a word, choking and the like has become so incorporated into most of our sex lives that these previously naughty and exciting kinks can’t even be classified as kinky anymore. They seem to live in the conventional sex realm now. Like I said, that’s just what happens during sex, isn’t it? To put it plainly, some kinks have become so mainstream and normalised that we have come to accept them as just plain old sex. The sexiness feels like a veneer to the truth; that painful pleasure is becoming somewhat of an expectation in bed. Instead, our expectations should be drawn from what a sexual partner feels comfortable with in the moment. And whilst kinky sex has always had a place in the sex lives of those who choose it, that’s not to say that kinkless sex is any less worthy, pleasurable or valid. I guess to put it more broadly, it’s important to emotionally and physically understand the sexual behaviours that incorporate pain and pleasure in order to establish their place in our lives, and the measures of care that must follow. Consent, care and old-fashioned horniness can help us draw the line for kink in 2022. Let’s get wet, respectfully.




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POETRY Dina Ivkovich @dinanotdiner





The Sex Issue

PHOTOGRAPHY Fletcher Aldous @fletcheraldous



Anatomy Class WORDS Alice Wright @alicewrt



The Sex Issue

19 When it comes to sex, we all know what feels good. What belongs where for things to *happen*, however we want it done. But is that all we know when it comes to our sexual organs, or our bodies in general? Australia is finally playing catch-up on sex education in schools, and we’re starting to learn the ins and outs of our bodies and minds. But I’ve finished school, and a while ago now. I definitely wasn’t taught a lot about my anatomy then — so how and why should I learn it now? Recently, I came to the realisation that if I, a cisgender woman, were set the task of labelling the female reproductive system, I would miserably fail. That’s not to mention the male reproductive system. But if we’re growing up with all of these expectations of our bodies when it comes to sex, why do we also have such little knowledge of our anatomy itself? In turn, I’ve set a goal to get to know my body. What better place to begin than Chantelle Otten’s Instagram (@chantelle_otten_sexologist)? I’ve been a big fan of Chantelle for a while now. She is a qualified sexologist and on the side is an influencer, author and podcaster, with Sex Stories. My favourite thing about her Instagram is how comfortable she makes conversations that sometimes seem awkward. Whether it be how to check my breasts correctly to detect cancer or if cranberry juice actually cures UTIs, I’ve been able to learn more about our sexual organs just from scrolling through her feed. Let’s not forget that we don’t need a book, the internet, a podcast or anything else to familiarise ourselves with our bodies. Why not just have a look yourself? There is absolutely no shame in grabbing a mirror and getting a closer understanding of what exactly is down there. All this exploration makes me curious: why is this all so important? Reflecting on past events in my life helps me understand why. It can be far more important than you may believe, because knowing your body can help detect diseases early. My dad was able to recognise a few years ago that he was frequently urinating. That may sound a bit silly, but he was aware that this was unusual, especially for his age which at the time

was over 50. Dad went to the doctor and was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Following this, my mum noticed that she had vaginal bleeding after menopause. With her education of the stages of menopause, she knew this was not normal; after a few tests, she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. With their awareness of how their reproductive systems should efficiently function, my parents thankfully had early detections. As I’m sure you’d understand, this helps the process of battling cancer a huge amount. Beyond health reasons, knowing your body can help you love your body. And loving your body can increase your overall quality of life. Sex is a very vulnerable thing for many. Entering this experience without confidence can be scary and off-putting. So, learn to love yourself. Understand that no two bodies look the same, and that’s the reason why there truly isn’t a single definition of beauty. If you are a person with female anatomy, search up the ‘Labia Library’. It’s a website with photos of many different-looking labias — and as the website likes to remind us, if you don’t see one that looks like yours, that’s okay because we are all different! (And for those who don’t quite know, your labia is the folds of skin that sit either side of your vaginal opening.) All labias are beautiful, so please take the time to love yours. To all penis owners reading this, I did try to find the equivalent website for you, but unfortunately was unable to find anything appropriate or efficient enough for what you deserve. But I want you to know that your reproductive system also comes in all shapes, sizes and colours, and they are all completely fine just the way they are. I’ve come to the conclusion that what is most important in all of this, is to continue the conversation. Talking about our anatomy and why we love our bodies for what they can do is the only way we can all finally understand that the fact that we all look different and function differently is a good thing. Being unique is one of the most valuable things the world has gifted us, and we take it for granted far too often.


Fake It ‘Til You Make It WORDS Surbhi @surbhi_6794 20

ILLUSTRATION Mon Ouk @mono.goose The Sex Issue

My first experience with a fake orgasm was watching a moaning Meg Ryan, aka Sally, throwing her head back in a New York deli and chanting “yes, yes, yes!”. The first time I pulled a Sally myself was a few years back, under the expectant gaze of a partner who asked if I had finished after a few minutes of rock ‘n’ roll, and I giggled awkwardly and nodded. Upon discussing orgasms with a fellow feminist for research, she said she hasn’t met a girlfriend who hasn’t faked or exaggerated her pleasure at least once. Actual research done by the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 58.8% of surveyed women had simulated an orgasm. The question remains why, in a post-feminist era, are we still faking the Big O? I come from a conservative South Asian society where sex and pleasure is only talked about in hushed whispers, behind closed doors — so literature and cinema, including porn, become the carriers of sex education. For better or worse, these became my first sources of information about intimacy, pleasure, sexual experiences, and the expectations that come with them. Just imagine me: a wide-eyed, 14-year-old, spectacled nerd taking notes while watching loud women on Pornhub have multiple orgasms within the span of four minutes, sans foreplay! The fact my teenage literary selection consisted of unending romance books didn’t help much either, considering our dear female protagonist would come apart, shaking and gasping, from one touch of the dark, brooding hero. These are the same books that sold ‘the first time’ as a magical experience replete with fireworks and butterflies, so I guess I should’ve taken it all with a grain of salt. While I know we don’t take these expressions of sexual pleasure as gospel, they still create false sex-pectations about how it’s supposed to go down. Google knows how much time I spent researching what an orgasm is supposed to feel like and whether I was doing it right. Clearly, I’d been far from screaming my heart out. The manufactured pleasure phenomenon also stems from our willingness to not prioritise female pleasure. The embarrassment that comes from having to ask to be pleased — coupled with the internalised belief that being assertive makes a woman an inconvenient, demanding bitch — often pushes us to Oscar-winning performances that could give Meryl Streep a run for her money. Of course, the age-old rationale of protecting our partners’ masculinity at our own expense still stands strong. But let’s be honest, this only impedes honest communication and exploring full sexual satisfaction for both parties. By faking it, it’s just encouraging interactions that aren’t actually working. The solution, at least for my somewhat-inexperienced self, is figuring out what works for me and spending more time finding the ins and outs (apologies for the penetration pun) of my own orgasms, in order to guide someone else better. Then maybe next time, I’ll be swapping my selfinduced embarrassment for the Big (I’ll even take Medium-Sized) O, or at the very least some brutally honest pillow talk. Esperanto


The Four Horsemen of the Sexpocalypse WORDS Lydia Strohfeldt @lydia_strohfeldt

PHOTOGRAPHY Naiya Sornratanachai @naiyanatrix

I’ve always envisioned the end of the world to be incredibly sexy: me, smoky-eyed and sweaty against an incandescent background, wrapped in the arms of someone resembling Adam Driver. This rugged lover uses their last moments of life to finally admit the clitoris is, in fact, the powerhouse of the orgasmic cell, and not something they saw on PornHub that “worked for their ex”. As I whimsically exhale a super-profound quote from Audre Lorde, an array of erotic catastrophes sprawl across the land: volcanic eruptions, earthshattering trembles — the whole world collapses into an exhausted abyss. Alas, one can dream. The saddest part of this fantasy is that Melbourne has literally witnessed an earthquake to top off these past two years of doomsday-ish events — but the experience of having a cis man confess his sexual shortcomings to me? Well, that might just be the only thing truly unprecedented at this point. Which brings me to the core of whatever story I’m trying to craft here. It’s one of crisis, collective despair, of how our silly little bodies have clawed to feel connection while physical touch has lingered in exile. As social fabrics have watched their threads morph into tripwire, skin — once a merchant of desire — has bent its knee to disaster. In short, at what has felt like (and sometimes literally been) the end of the world, sex has become far less about pools of lava engulfing my super cute bare bottom, and more a matter of, well… “don’t you dare bloody touch me”. It wasn’t always like this. I remember stepping out for my first post-breakup, pre-Covid date in early 2020. Perched atop Father’s Office in Melbourne’s CBD, he ordered a Corona from the bar, which a few months later would’ve unveiled some degree of wit. We laughed and made excuses to unnecessarily graze one another’s palms, forearms and thighs. I’ve never been able to use the word chemistry with a straight face 22

(repression, perhaps?), but there was a definitive mixture of timing, anticipation and, in hindsight, temporariness that made that evening feel like a forecast — it seemed it would be the first of many. He was lovely, but it fizzled out as the restrictions ramped up. Little did I know, while our worlds shrunk to a 5km radius, parts of my body were also becoming forbidden territories. With such little space to store my thoughts, they went stir-crazy and dug up the insecurities which prevented me from feeling the slightest bit sexy. I’d spend hours just wandering around my own mind, until my flashlight would fall upon past sexual and romantic experiences I’d never seen so starkly before. It was ugly. I argue that the pandemic has not acted alone, though. Let’s call it: The Four Horsemen of the Sexpocalypse, those being COVID-19, climate change, Trump supporters, and that compulsory toxic relationship in your early twenties that masquerades as a rite of passage. In coalition, these forces have become the moat; my sexuality, the fortress. Sex drive, or perhaps more poignantly, eroticism, often feels like the deepest reflection of who we are — the final say on our confidence, alacrity, freedom and passion. I sense it mapping my body, traversing the latitudes and longitudes of what I’m deeply yearning for. Without it, I’m all scattered coordinates and a suspended ‘X marks the spot’. I didn’t think I’d be channelling the Liberal Party’s approach to sex education at the ripe old age of 23 (chastity belt, anyone?), but the eco-socio-cultural-political-medical-fantasticalantithetical-WHATEVER-ELSE-you-can-possiblythink-of calamities of the 2020s have proven they can break down and burn out just about anyone. Let’s just hope the next cataclysmic event of our lifetimes is a lot more Lara Croft, and a lot less “oh cute, what Oodie is that?”.

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2 PHOTOGRAPHY Naiya Sornratanachai @naiyanatrix



ILLUSTRATION Shreya Mishra @shreyamart

My Isolationship WORDS Daisy Henry @daisyhenry_

PHOTOGRAPHY Naiya Sornratanachai @naiyanatrix

ILLUSTRATION Gabrielle Poh @mochirune

While COVID numbers grew, Victoria entered lockdown after lockdown and many people’s worlds slowed down, but mine accelerated at an unprecedented pace — I reconnected with a childhood friend, found myself in a relationship, and moved in with a man for the first time. Usually, I’d say the two-to-three-month mark in a relationship is a fun, relaxed, no commitment period. You go out, keep it casual, and spend time getting to know each other. But in March 2020 (a few weeks into N and my relationship), seeing your ‘intimate partner’ became the one exception to the state’s lockdown rules. Suddenly, we went from simply being old friends reconnecting, to two people in an exclusive relationship with each other. Instead of trying out new restaurants, bonding over gigs and going on long road trips, our date nights looked a little different. But, we did try to keep it fun — we made forts, perfected our cookie recipe, had our own dance parties in the back room. He tried (very patiently) to teach me guitar, and we had great, albeit quiet, sex in his childhood bedroom. But ultimately, entering into a relationship during the pandemic was always going to be unique, for good and bad. N wasn’t just my new partner, he became my best friend, support system, only movie buddy and prime form of socialisation. Having this, especially in isolation, was incredibly lucky. I couldn’t hug my friends or my grandma, but at least N and I were able to give each other that much-needed physical intimacy. We bonded by going back in time and laughing over old memories together, and then again as we rekindled. The young kid with the overly gelled side fringe now worked full time as a graphic designer and could kiss extremely well. It is a crazy world. But we also bonded over the foreign and scary feelings that came with experiencing a global pandemic. When the ground beneath my feet felt shaky and unstable, N was there to hold me. As we awaited press conferences and checked daily case numbers, he was there to crack a joke and ease my dread. As trips got cancelled and I turned 22 in lockdown, he was there cooking me a special at-home birthday dinner. 28

However, our relationship was formed in a period of isolation away from the world, away from our jobs and away from our friends. Although we were getting to know each other incredibly intimately and incredibly quickly, we weren’t getting to know each other as we naturally exist. Our relationship was built on having every weeknight and weekend free to dedicate to each other — a rare lockdowninduced environment. Relying on one person for everything is far from ideal, and we were naturally placing a lot of pressure on each other. When curfew was introduced, it only exacerbated some more strenuous times. If we’d had a fight after 8pm, we were stuck with each other until the morning (read: very awkward). Then in October 2020, Victoria’s 111-day lockdown ended just as we were transitioning into summer. It was great; the days were longer, and we were making the most of them. Suddenly, there were all these exciting things happening in the world and it felt special to venture out and experience them together. I felt giddy at the thought of other people seeing me with this wildly funny, sexy person in public for the first time. But then lockdown was mandated again. First, it was five days in February. Then 14 at the end of May. 12 in July. And then 77 days beginning in early August. Compared to the two long lockdowns the year before, the fact that these were short and constant made me feel more on edge. Rather than submitting to the fate of being stuck at home for weeks on end, I found it difficult to adapt to moving in and out of these states of being. I was growing restless and craving for something exciting to push me outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to feel in control and as though I was moving forward, but instead it was turning into another year of feeling stagnant. Though it began with each of us browsing casually on, we started to consider moving out together. We wanted to feel independent and grown up, and desperately wanted something to distract us. Although we’d had many passionate discussions on buying versus renting (I was a strong advocate for renting, he for buying and investing), we didn’t want an overly serious commitment, or to feel

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trapped and tied to an intimidating mortgage. Not long after, we ended up moving into a cute two-bedroom rental on a leafy street during lockdown six. Though we’d imagined a housewarming party and having friends over, we ended up spending the first two months in isolation together, and initially it was difficult to hold onto our own sense of self. We both worked out of the same room during the day and went to sleep in the same bed each night. Of course I adored his company, but it felt like he was always there. Before, we’d had our own houses to retreat back to and families that provided additional company and conversation. Now, it was really just us. So we were forced to find a balance. We made sure that we went for separate walks with our own family and friends, and had alone time to lean into our own hobbies. I loved nothing more than reading and watching my uni lectures

outside in the sun while he had zoom meetings inside, and enjoyed cooking and illustrating when he clocked off. Forming a relationship and moving out with someone during multiple lockdowns taught me a lot about love, commitment, and independence. I was scared of moving too fast, or how to make sure we remained separate people. But I wanted to try something new, so I risked the fact that it might not work out. And now, after nearly two years together, we’ve become experts at reading each other’s moods and giving each other space to be.



Lights Off, Please WORDS Angel Tully @angel.tully

ILLUSTRATION Stephanie Wong @bymeloniberry

Imagine this: you and your partner are in the moment, you’re kissing, hands are all over the place, the mood is intensifying, you’re both getting hot and sweaty, they pull you on top of them and suddenly a switch flicks… do I look like I have a double chin from this angle? We have all been there, whether it’s a double chin, stomach rolls, an embarrassing sex noise or maybe even the classic case of feeling a bit unco. Feeling selfconscious is natural, but we don’t have to let it get into our heads or stop us from getting and giving head. Here are my top tips for feeling hot in the bedroom, and leaving those insecurities on the floor with the clothes you just took off.


#1. IF THE ROLES WERE REVERSED… Whilst you’re getting down to business and you’re busy worrying if your partner can see your asshole (thanks a lot for that one, Chrissy Teigen), they are 100% only focusing on how good it feels and how sexy you look. Don’t believe me? How many times have you slept with someone and, mid-act, actually stopped to judge them for completely normal and natural parts of their body? Have you ever been laying there and thought, “wow, they look like they have a double chin right now”, or “ew, that was such a weird moan”? Didn’t think so. Sometimes, it’s easy to get so caught up in our own heads that we forget to take a step back and think about it from our partner’s point of view. But the reality is that if someone is willing to trust and respect you enough to have sex, then it’s pretty darn likely that they’re going to enjoy it, and your body! #2. TALK ABOUT IT! Nothing beats a good old conversation. Sex shouldn’t just be about pleasure, but a connection between two people, and a level of trust and intimacy that goes beyond just physical. Even if this intimacy only lasts one night, we need to make sure that our sexual partners are people who respect and listen to us. So it’s definitely important to talk to your partner about what feels comfortable and sexy for you. Although we’re trying to get you OUT of your head, there are some things that might just not feel right — and that’s okay! Maybe there are certain positions that just aren’t for you; they don’t feel as good, you don’t know how to move comfortably, you’re getting a muscle cramp… the possibilities are endless. But communicating this to your partner is super important in making sure you are feeling relaxed and enjoying yourself the entire time. These intimate conversations also help to break the ice, so they’re likely to lead to you feeling more comfortable in your own skin around them, rolls and all! #3. THE DIMMER SWITCH: YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND It can be a scary thought, going from sex in complete darkness to under blinding white fluorescents. And as much as I’d like to tell you to just #loveyourself and strip off in broad daylight, I know it can feel extremely daunting and awkward. So instead of encouraging you to bare all, I am encouraging you to turn your light on, just a little bit. Using a dimmer switch to create a nice dull light, where it’s dark

enough to hide your insecurities but also light enough that you can see without accidentally bumping heads (you know you’ve done this), is the perfect transition to feeling comfortable in your own body around your partner. If you don’t have a dimmer switch, turning on a lamp or even lighting some candles is a great way to get yourself used to being seen a little bit more, without committing to complete exposure. Not to mention, candles are the ultimate mood lighting, so it’s impossible not to be super in the mood when those bad boys are burning. As you gradually begin to feel more confident, maybe add in more candles (yes, I actually mean more light), until you are finally ready for the full throttle: sex with the lights ON. #4. WHO NEEDS A PARTNER, ANYWAY? All of the above tips are helpful if you want to feel more confident in the moment, and place a Band-Aid on your insecurities in the bedroom. But my last and definitely most important tip for some sexy, lights-on bedroom activity: get comfortable with yourself first. Spend some time looking at yourself in the mirror… What do YOU find sexy about yourself? What are your best features? What makes you beautiful? Hype yourself up a little bit! Even if you don’t believe it, if you keep doing it then you just might start to convince yourself. Do things that make you feel good outside the bedroom, whether that is exercising and feeling strong, eating nourishing food, or setting aside some time for self care. When you reach a stage that you feel proud and happy in your own body, when you can let go of all your worries because you find yourself that damn sexy, then sex will become even better — and that is when you’ll really feel confident in the bedroom with someone else, lights on or off. The most important validation you’re ever going to get is from yourself. Feeling sexy with the lights on is a challenge we all face at one point or another, but there are heaps of small and achievable steps we can take to rid ourselves of these insecurities. Having a partner that you feel comfortable around and who celebrates you for you is extremely important, but so is having a great relationship with yourself. Learning to celebrate our bodies (and the bodies of our sexual partners) is the switch that will flick on to reveal not just our sexiest selves, but also the best sex of our lives!




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POETRY Dina Ivkovich @dinanotdiner


PHOTOGRAPHY Fletcher Aldous @fletcheraldous


Toxic School Culture: Up in Flames WORDS Emma Sudano @emm4sudan0

ILLUSTRATION Gabrielle Poh @mochirune

I remember clearly when the Year 12s of a nearby all-boys school sprawled sexist comments across their school uniforms. Or when boys in my year created a ‘Holy Trinity’ of the ugliest girls at my school. Or nicknamed girls a ‘bike’ based on their weight or looks. I remember when boys I was forced to go to school events with proudly shared a video titled “Jordan Peterson destroys triggered feminist” on social media. For so long, there has been denial of a clear cultural problem in all-boys schools that is obvious from every angle. Thank fuck these institutions have come under the microscope in recent years, finally accused of fostering an environment of heteronormativity and hypermasculinity. Last November, Melbourne photographer James Robinson (@james.pdf) — former student of Melbourne’s single-sex private school, St Kevin’s College — set alight his school blazer in protest, kissing his male partner on the school oval where this very culture was perpetuated during his schooling years. As a catalyst for change, Robinson’s post was a powerful work of artistic prowess, and by far the best thing I’d seen all year. I spoke to Thomas, a current student at an all-boys school, who shared his own experiences with this toxic culture. He told me how it has affected his queer identity, and that he believes “the burning blazer” will be a catalyst for systematic change. Are you an ‘out’ member of the LGBTQ+ community at your school? Was this a choice you made yourself, or were you outed by someone else? Thomas: I realised I was gay when I was in Year 8 (2018), and now I’m in Year 12. For quite some time before realising it, I was in denial — queer people generally didn’t “exist” at my school, and I suppressed my thoughts for months and months. I am now out as gay at school. Back during Year 8, I was outed by a close female friend and some of the guys at my school. I went to school camp and had asked that girl to continue my Snapchat streaks, but I must’ve had things on the app that indicated I was attracted to guys. I remember coming back from camp, 34

and people asked me if it was true that I was gay. I denied it with all my effort, I was so ashamed and embarrassed of myself. At the time, I had only told a few females, and this experience of being outed really ruined my chance to tell my close guy friends on my own terms. After a few weeks, I told a few friends that the rumour was true, after all. The feeling that people knew something that I didn’t even want to be true was honestly awful. For me, it felt like falling in an elevator. I couldn’t do anything but wait for my fate — my personal story was in the hands of other people. Do you feel able to be your true, authentic self at school? T: I would say that I am generally my authentic self at school. Over time, I’ve learnt to play down my personality with certain guys, because it proves too much for them. However, I do think things are improving. I sense myself feeling more and more confident and authentic at school as time goes on. Usually this is well-received, but sometimes I hear people saying that I have a “girl’s personality” and act girly, which always makes me inclined to tone down my personality again. So in a way, although I am my true self at school, it is a refined, calculated version of myself. Do you believe that your school supports the LGBTQ+ community? T: You see, at school, my group is dubbed the ‘gay group’. It’s a title which we all embrace and love. I will say, though, that I believe that the reason the only out LGBTQ+ students in our year level are all in one specific friendship group is due to lack of acceptance from other people — that’s what compels us to form one main group. There is some warm acceptance from cisgender, hetero guys, but I don’t believe that any of my friends, including myself, would be anywhere near as vocal and authentic at school if we weren’t in the safe space of this so-called ‘gay group’. It is a shame that for some, there’s a stigma to being friends with people in our group, because all of a sudden the spotlight is thrown on them and they’re seen

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as “bi-curious” or “a bit suss” — even if the guy’s just trying to be nice! From a school perspective, I think my school has definitely taken things on board. An allyship focus group is in the works, involving both LGBTQ+ and hetero students. The good thing about this is there are no sides or teams, nobody needs to come out and state their sexuality. The focus group’s goal is to make the school community a more accepting place for everyone. If you asked me a year ago whether the school supports the community, I would’ve said no. But in the past few months there has been avid interest in improving the school environment, which makes me very optimistic. How did you feel when the @james.pdf “burning blazer” Instagram went viral? T: When I saw the burning blazer, I thought, “wow”. Change is going to come from this — this will spark conversations. I was excited, and my friends were, too. And as I read James’ post, everything felt so true. He accurately portrayed the underlying dread and disdain that was directed towards queer students, and the culture that taught boys to act that way. I think James showed that it isn’t any one student’s fault — more so the educators’, who should be

trailblazers for students to follow — which is so important. If the blame was placed on specific students, I fear that James’ post wouldn’t have been as well-received as it was. And even the day after James’ post, I felt that more people were saying hi to me at school and asking me what class I had next, and those small things really made me notice the impact of James’ post. It was probably a wake-up call to people who are bystanders or are ’neutral’ to the queer community. In essence, I feel that the burning of the blazer was pivotal to the culture in all-boys schools, helping it progress into the future as a more unified, accepting place. I can only hope that the people starting Year 7 this year and in the years to come will experience this acceptance in abundance. Thomas’ words are exactly why @james.pdf’s post was so important in starting a conversation between queer and hetero students. It’s about fucking time for change. Students are sent to these schools to get an education and better themselves, but many are met with a culture of toxic masculinity, homophobia and misogyny, resulting in fear and isolation.



The STIs Have It WORDS Ruby Ellam @ruby.ellam There are some things that are way more embarrassing than having an STI. Like shitting your pants twice. Thankfully, Azithromycin, a common antibiotic used to treat chlamydia, exists just to remind us how much worse it can get. Azithromycin causes side effects in about 1 in 100 people including diarrhoea, vomiting and thrush. And like Lady Gaga says, there could be 100 people in the room, but only one (me) will shit their pants after getting chlamydia. Since I became sexually active, I have been tested for STIs once every three or so months and have tried my best to always be protected — but shit happens, literally. To be completely honest, I’m not sure who I got chlamydia from. I’m about 90% sure, based on my highly scientific deduction, but that didn’t stop me from having an internal slutshaming spiral when I had to text my partners and recommend they get tested. Some of them reacted negatively, and the shame continued. I got my medication. And then I shit my pants, and realised that my shame was misplaced. There are more than 30 different diseases and bacterias that can be spread through sexual contact, and according to the World Health Organisation, in 2020 over 374 million new infections were recorded of the four most common STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and trichomoniasis). STIs and STDs are much more common than we like to admit, and not talking about it opens us all up for bad sexual health. No matter your sexuality, gender or relationship status, heed my warnings (or prepare for antibiotic-induced diarrhoea)! 36

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#1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY Don’t ignore that weird discharge. I know it’s gross, but just don’t. Itching, pelvic or abdominal pain, fevers, sore throats, genital sores, warts or rashes, fatigue, painful urination or intercourse — these symptoms shouldn’t be ignored, and eliminating sexually transmitted diseases is an easy way of narrowing down the cause. It could be simple, or it could be syphilitic. #2. GET TESTED AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR (MORE FREQUENTLY IF YOU’RE NASTY) While it’s important to take notice of any changes in your genitals, some STIs and STDs have no symptoms at all and can go completely unnoticed, so it’s important to get tested whether you’re exhibiting symptoms or not. You should also get tested even if you’ve used a condom. STI tests take barely half an hour, from the doctor’s visit to finishing the test, and trust me, most doctors seem psyched that all they have to do is write a pathology referral and send you on your way. #3. USE YOUR COMMON SENSE AND TRUST NO ONE Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but be wary of artless hustlers who “just don’t like the feeling” of a condom. No one is “too big” to wrap it up. Yes, some people are allergic to latex, but they make alternatives for that reason. If their genitalia looks weird or is leaking something odd or is maybe covered in a rash, don’t take their word that it’s just a yeast infection. No glove, no love.

#4. CONTRACEPTION CAN BE A STIPULATION OF CONSENT If you want to have sex with someone but they won’t put on a condom, then they don’t respect your body or health, full stop. If your consent comes with the stipulation of barrier contraception, then enforce it, my friends! Especially if you know they are sleeping with other people — not for slutshaming reasons, but for your sexual health. If they’re pressuring you to go without, the likelihood is that they’re probably doing the same to their other sexual partners. #5. PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST If you find yourself compromising your boundaries for one or multiple people, ask yourself why? Do you think that person deserves to put your health at risk? Is this someone you like or want to pursue romantically? Can you build a relationship with someone who puts their comfort before your health? No matter your circumstances or sexual history, you deserve to be treated with respect. #6. DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY Mistakes happen. You got really drunk on a date and had some fun. Consensual sex, but forget the condom? It happens! You aren’t a bad person, and neither is your partner. Have a chat with them and establish that going forward, you want to use protection and make an effort next time to initiate the process. And if you’re due for a check-up, use this as an excuse to get a sexual health check. The moral of the story: if you’re getting busy, pop on the protection or you might get chlamydia. If you get chlamydia, stay home or you might shit your pants.



Love Makes the World Go Round WORDS Jonathan Hawes @j9hawes

ILLUSTRATION Jessica La @jessicala.png

When my girlfriend and I walk through town holding hands, we turn a lot of heads. I joke that it’s because they’re wondering how a beautiful woman like her ended up with an average Joe like me. Though underneath the humour, we both know why people are staring. She’s Black, and I’m White. To be fair, most of the staring took place in rural England, where we first met. I have no idea how Aussies would react to seeing us in public. Hopefully there’d be a lot less blatant staring — interracial relationships are over four times more common in Australia than in England. But we’re not just interracial, we’re inter-continental. To cut a long story short: I’m from America, she’s from Kenya. We met in the UK while studying our Bachelor degrees, and now I’m doing a masters in Australia while she does hers in England. Every relationship faces challenges, but I’d argue ours are fairly unique. There are a lot of cultural differences between a white man from rural Texas and a Kisii woman from Nairobi. Some of these differences are fun to explore. She likes the way I say Texan idioms, like “this ain’t my first rodeo,” or “we’ve howdied, but we ain’t shook”. I find some of her superstitions amusing, like how you shouldn’t whistle at night or how it’s a bad omen if you hear an owl’s hoot while dusting your house during twilight. Other differences are more serious and impact our plans for the future. Kenyan culture is generally risk-averse and having debt is frowned upon, so mortgages are basically unheard of. If you don’t have the money to buy a house outright, you rent until you do. There’s also no expectation to move out of your parents’ house, regardless of your age. As an American, I baulk at the prospect of living with my parents past my early twenties, and a mortgage seems as natural to me as apple pie. Our compromise? We’ve agreed to never have a mortgage, but we’ll rent our own place as soon as we can. Speaking of parents, the stigma around meeting your partner’s parents is very different. 38

I introduced my partner to my parents about six months after our first date, but two years later I still haven’t met hers. That’s because in Kenya, you generally don’t introduce your parents to your significant other unless you’re about to marry them. I’m happy to put that one off, though. Meeting the parents can be scary. Though what’s truly scary is how our relationship was impacted by the pandemic. Due to travel restrictions and other logistical nightmares, we dated long-distance for over 600 days! That was a hard time. We both enjoy physical touch as a love language, so not being able to hug, kiss, hold hands or knock boots was heartbreaking. On top of that, we were dealing with a six-hour time difference, so we couldn’t even talk to each other as much as we wanted to. But that didn’t stop us from trying. Zoom dates, online games, long strings of text messages — we did it all. One day we even spent 12 hours chatting on the phone! Thankfully, we get to see each other more often these days. The experience we gained over those 600 days helped us learn how to communicate effectively. We’ve become long-distance pros! People have asked me how we did it, but honestly, it just felt like we had no other option. We love each other, and when someone is willing to put in the time and effort to love you regardless of the distance, you feel compelled to return the favour twice over. Managing distance wasn’t the only thing I’ve had to learn. As a white man, I’ve had to recognise and dismantle many racial biases I wasn’t previously aware of within myself. Thank goodness uni had already made me open to this process before we started dating. Who knows if she would’ve had the patience to deal with my 17-year-old self? (She assures me that she would have, and that she would’ve just kicked my butt until I started acting right.) One of the most pivotal experiences in making me realise the extent of the bias I grew up with was when I was showing a picture of my girlfriend to a friend of mine back in Texas. His first response was a slightly confused “huh”,

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followed about 10 seconds later with, “never thought you’d date a black chick”. I’m not friends with him anymore. When he said that, I was appalled. What did he mean by that? Why did her skin colour matter? After thinking it out over a few days, I came to the horrific realisation that just a few years ago I might’ve thought the same thing. That’s just one example of me having to confront my own bias. It starts with learning that your view is not the default or the norm. From there, you’re more able to listen to and appreciate other points of view, even when they come into conflict with your own deeply held

beliefs. Introspection like that is often painful, but it is also necessary to avoid inflicting pain on others. We need to break free from our echo chambers, as the world outside has a lot more to offer than what we can find back home. So if you’re ever out on the street and you catch yourself staring at a mixed-race couple, maybe you should take some time to think about why that is. You might not always like the answers you find, but in the long run it’s a rewarding, enlightening experience.



Into the Camp: A Journey WORDS Zayan Ismail @zayanisml_

ILLUSTRATION Therese Dias @diastherese

Much had changed when the world witnessed the closing of the early noughties. It was an era of anticipation for transformation. On the internet, in music, on television: the zeitgeist of the 2010s ushered in something different — something reminiscent of love, transformation and yearning for tolerance and acceptance. I saw it first on MTV. Gaga, in a bright blue swimsuit and a blond bob singinging ‘Poker Face’. The theatrics of ‘Paparazzi’, and then came ‘The Fame’, in which 40

she coins the famous line “obsessively opposed to the typical”. I saw the outlandish outfits, chiffon and latex, shades and long trains — how camp and how strange. I was thoroughly intrigued. With ‘Born This Way’, I began to realise my uniqueness and accept that it was in many ways, totally okay. I was always different, and very much cognisant of the fact that I was existing in a world different than my own internal one. As a child I was imaginative, always drawing, reading, listening and

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observing my surroundings. I did not fancy football or cars. I loved flowers, gardens and the sea. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Mum’s playlist of Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I enjoyed prancing around the house and garden, picking flowers. In hindsight, I was always aware of my queerness and indifferent to the noise around me. After all, what’s a child with a bob cut and a love for Barbie and Bratz got to do with war and famine in this world? Alas, there was always negativity and snarky remarks at school, within family and beyond that for years made me feel a sense of trepidation when talking about my interests or truly exhibiting myself to the world. I was sure about myself, but were they? Almost everyone around me was bland in the binary, plodding along the mundane avenue of life with no vibrancy or colour. There’s so much else going on in this world and yet people choose to belittle others who occupy space in their much-loved identity. I was keen to move beyond this, to explore different interests that did not fall in line with stereotypical masculinity. “Why are you always sitting with the girls?” one teacher announced in Grade Three. I honestly did not give her a ‘good enough’ answer. Firstly, it was an odd remark: I felt that it was completely normal and utterly ridiculous of her to ask me in the first place. I suppose I did not feel welcome or safe with the boys. Of course, in a world where boys are told to adhere to patriarchal and misogynistic standards, one could never feel safe nor loved. It is this insecurity with one’s masculinity that results in violence and harm to others, something that was too foreign to me even at a young age. I did not feel the need to belittle or harm others. I had too much love in me. It didn’t help that this was all happening during adolescence and puberty, when you’re already in the midst of confusion. So misinformed and unaware, unable to navigate this strange society — especially one that does not talk about the intricacies of simply growing up. Was it me trying to keep away from toxic societal standards that led me to accept myself? For me, self-acceptance wasn’t so much an awakening but a wonderful journey. It’s one that

I am still on right now, and I look forward to going wherever it takes me. From the music that I listen to and the creative avenues I pursue, to the work that I am passionate about — I know how queer and different I feel in all aspects of my life. I have come to fully embrace it all. But society, indeed, is marred with discrimination, hate, violence and intolerance towards people who may seem to deviate from the usual crowd. I often find seashells on the beach that are a bit more vibrant and colourful than the rest. Isn’t it interesting, how most people would embrace a peculiar seashell, but never a living, breathing human being? Despite this, when I found friends, family and a community that embraced me, I reached a realisation that all we need is a little bit of love in the world. The pandemic has taught me one thing: we need more solidarity. It was during lockdown that I truly came into my own gendered identity. For me, it is all about the nuanced embrace of your own masculinity and femininity — to grasp the flux and constant transformation of what it means to be human. To break away from the binary and go beyond what is expected in our societies, based on our socialisation as young children. This is, of course, not easy. An awakening does not happen in one day. As I write this, I recall one fine day in pandemic isolation when I finally decided that it was time to let go of all expectations and just be myself. I understood, I knew all along, but it was the people who told me otherwise that made me doubt myself. Indeed, with all that’s happening around the world, I do not have time to waste. The vibrant dawn of coming into myself is happening now, just as each day breaks to a new beginning. It is heartening to see our generation break away from dated and archaic moulds. A little bit of tolerance and unconditional love for humanity goes a long way. Heaven knows we need it. With war in Europe reminiscent of spiteful eras past, and continuing subjugation in the Middle East — true liberation and love comes from within acknowledging our own existence whilst occupying the space of acceptance. Let it be a catalyst for positive change. We are here and we are queer!



Sexual Desire Does Not Expire WORDS Juliette Capomolla @juliettecapomolla

ILLUSTRATION Shreya Mishra @shreyamart

I think it’s safe to say that we’d all be horrified if sex wasn’t a part of our futures. The thought that, at the ripe old age of 65, I might no longer be having sex, makes me shudder. We twentysomethings are expected to be crazed hornbags (sorry, I hate that expression too) and a lot of the time, we sure as hell live up to it. But do we really want to get shacked up, be intimate for mere procreation purposes, create a sex schedule (read: only Wednesday nights at 9pm) and then eventually just never have sex again? Dearest reader, I know our answers are both a firm no. But this is essentially what we expect of older people, is it not? It’s plain old weird if our parents have sex, let alone our grandparents! God forbid! Yet, we wouldn’t wish the same fate upon ourselves — so why do we expect this of them? If you happened to watch Binge’s new Australian series Love Me, you may remember that two of the main characters, Glen and Anita, have the most intimate and graphic sex on the show — and they’re 61 and 64 respectively IRL. It was a notable choice by producers to showcase older sex, an often unchartered territory, that did not go unnoticed by myself or reviewers alike. Reader, I posit to you that we should be talking about older sex even more. Apparently, almost three-quarters of Australians over 60 are still having sex, so our futures are looking bright! If you’re in a couple, you’re in even better luck: couples in their sixties are still getting it on about once a week. So, why is there this misconception that old people don’t get down and dirty? Well, there’s a number of factors that don’t necessarily facilitate sex. Firstly, older people are unfortunately more likely to be divorced or widowed — experiences after which they’re much less likely to get back on the horse. We should also take into account that their pond is a lot smaller, with a lot less fish in it: many are coupled up, 42

some have passed on, and others are simply happy on their own. In addition to the shortage of suitable partners, there’s also the unfortunate but fact-of-life reality that older people do suffer health issues which changes the nature of their sexual experiences. For men, it might be erectile dysfunction, and for women it might be vaginal dryness — but it can also extend to your overall wellbeing. Things like arthritis, dementia, diabetes, and incontinence can all affect older people’s intimacy. Do not fret, though, because that’s not to say that sex becomes impossible. Clearly, the majority of oldies still manage to get down and dirty. It’s just about adapting to your changing bodies, and finding new ways to spice things up in the bedroom. It turns out that our fear of oldies doing the no-pants dance is not good for anyone. STIs among older people are rising at a much faster rate than younger people, and it’s probably because we simply don’t talk about it. Not only did these baby boomers and the silent generation have a much more conservative sexual education than us youngins, we’re not including them in the discussions these days. Sure, they might not have to worry about pregnancy anymore, so why use a condom? STIs, that’s why! We don’t even mention older people in sexual health policy documents, which undoubtedly entrenches their poor sexual education. You’re probably thinking — why do we even care about what old people are doing? Well, that’s where you and I are headed! Let’s just say that a sexless future is not on the cards for me, and I’m sure you’d be on the same wavelength. It haunts me (dramatic, much?) to think that one day, I might not want or be able to have sex. But hopefully, given our better sexual education and now knowing it’s not all doom and gloom when we hit retirement, we can rest assured knowing our next bang will certainly not be our last.

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The Rise and Fall of the Pill WORDS Amelia Swan

ILLUSTRATION Jessica La @jessicala.png

“I think you should go on the pill.” It seemed like an odd thing to say to me at 15. With a curly bob and a generous spread of bulging pimples, I was in the low-risk category for an unplanned teenage pregnancy. But still, here I was watching my GP write me a script for Femme-Tab ED 20/100. That story was the same for my sister a few years later, who was also put on the pill to help with her skin. Then a friend. And then another. It seemed every second girl was on the pill before they left high school, and almost all of us had an alternative reason for being on it rather than preventing pregnancy. Despite the fact my sister and I were on the pill for the same reason, our reactions couldn’t have been more different. Where my skin cleared, hers flared up even more. Where my periods stopped, hers would flow heavily for weeks on end. The most terrifying difference, however, was the fact that while I was enjoying my newfound confidence, my little sister was at her lowest. After a few years of daily notifications reminding us to take our pills, wild mood swings and even the odd pregnancy scare, one of us has settled on a copper IUD and the other doesn’t use any formal contraception at all. The one thing we agree on; we will not be going near the pill again. Is this a common attitude to that potent pack of hormones though? General Practitioner Dr Cathy Brooker thinks the popularity of the pill has gone down in recent years, especially because doctors “love LARCS”. Dr Brooker explained that LARCS (Long Acting Reversible Contraception) such as the rod, the copper IUD and the hormonal IUD are more effective than the pill. In comparison to the pill’s high doses of progesterone and oestrogen, LARCS generally have low levels of these hormones or none at all. The downside? According to Dr Brooker, implanting a rod or an IUD, especially in a teenager, can feel a bit invasive. The pill therefore remains an important stepping stone in using contraception, but with so many variables, there’s no way to know how it will affect your weight, skin, and mood. There is also the additional fact that the pill is only considered to be 93% effective against pregnancy, and the efficacy goes down with each missed pill. I am left feeling that the pill was never the ‘one size fits all’ solution I thought it was when I was 15. Esperanto



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POETRY Dina Ivkovich @dinanotdiner


ILLUSTRATION Gabrielle Poh @mochirune



The Sex Issue

Body Hair, Don’t Care WORDS Eden Hopgood @edie.hopgood Here we are in 2022, and female body hair somehow continues to be taboo. Having permeated gender dynamics for centuries, it’s always been regarded as yet another beauty standard women are expected to abide by, and a lack of body hair in the female-identifying population has long signified the ‘ideal body’. But this has begun to shift. More attention in the beauty industry is being given to gender fluidity, body positivity, and more inclusive messaging. In recent years, norms are finally beginning to shift; almost one in four women under 25 no longer shave their armpits, compared with just one in 20 in 2013. We’ve been fed a narrative that body hair on females is disgusting — yet we don’t bat an eyelid at the same hair on male-identifying individuals. In fact, it’s almost a masculine feature they seem to strive towards. “You really should shave your armpits, it’s very unhygienic”, or “do you even shower?” are questions only reserved for unshaved female body hair. The first woman I was exposed to who wasn’t afraid of their natural body hair was my mum. From a young age, my naive self was socialised to think that female body hair was gross and something I needed to avoid to be conventionally pretty. To my disdain, this desensitised me to the hurtful and cruel comments I would make, like “Mum, you need to shave”. Despite her plight to convince me of the empowerment of embracing your body hair, my pre-teen self (who barely even needed to shave) was already convinced that it was dirty and undesirable. Upon further reflection, my prepubescent eagerness to begin shaving is now incredibly confronting and confusing to me. It shines a light on how deeply entrenched in society the idea is that no body hair is desirable. From a young age, this was a mindset forced upon my impressionable brain — a mindset which, admittedly, I kept up until quite recently. I try not to beat myself up about this, because it’s extremely hard to break away from the toxic beauty standards pushed onto us as young females. It’s much easier to conform with

the majority and go along with it, for better or for worse. Despite this, the recent shift in the view of body hair has been largely influenced by the media, with celebrities embracing their own body hair on a big scale. This change has been globalised by social movements such as Januhairy and Get Hairy February, which encourage females to rally together by sharing images and stories about their body hair, and why they have decided to stop shaving. More and more female figures are also beginning to rock body hair on red carpets, photo shoots and social media. Celebrities such as Bella Thorne, Miley Cyrus and Drew Barrymore are just a few notable names that have felt shameless in showing the hair on their bodies to the masses. It’s undeniable: their influence is second to none. I am by no means suggesting that every woman shouldn’t shave! Liberation of your body looks different for everyone, and acknowledging that people choose to shave based on personal preference rather than sheer conformity is really important. The key thing, though, is giving femalepresenting individuals the chance to self-reflect — are you making self-informed decisions, or are you being pushed by society’s idea of what is attractive? If the decisions aren’t based on doing what makes you feel comfortable, or as a means of self-love and care, maybe it’s time to think about why it is that we’re making these choices. What I’m really getting at here: step away from making decisions rooted in toxicity and heteronormative societal ideals, and instead live and make decisions just for you! Since moving to Melbourne, I have met some of the first people my age who are enthusiastically embracing their body hair. They view their body hair as sexy, liberating and powerful, focusing on how it adds to, rather than takes away from, their appearance. In turn, I started seeing my own hair in that way. A razor hasn’t touched my underarms for a while now, and I still feel just as beautiful. And the crazy thing? No one loves me less, treats me worse, or views me as any lesser than because of it, despite my greatest fears.



Mind the Gap WORDS Kiera Eardley @kieraeardley It’s a phrase that’s all too familiar for women who grew up quickly, matured early, felt ahead of their years as a teenager: “you just need to meet an older guy”. All the shortcomings of the seemingly clueless boys our own age could easily be attributed to immaturity and slower brain development, so the obvious solution for us was to date older. With age comes inherent maturity and life experience and security, they say, and that was an appealing prospect as a young girl whose eyes glazed over at the monotone mention of any testosterone-fuelled male pastime. But when the age gap is substantial, is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Given that we grew up with age gaps (or maybe more aptly, age chasms or canyons) aplenty in pop culture, we can’t be blamed for our fascination. Everywhere you looked, there was a fictional pairing with a not-insignificant number of years between them. Think about it; from the glamorisation of crushes on older teachers in young adult novels, to the well-worn “middle-aged man leaves middle-aged wife for much-younger woman” trope (Alan Rickman in Love Actually, I’m glaring angrily at you), the entertainment industry loves to romanticise an older man and younger woman. Hollywood is also prone to casting unrealistically younger women with its biggest male stars, with age disparities like Bill Murray (52) and Scarlett Johansson (17) in Lost in Translation so common that we hardly think twice about it. We seem to collectively turn a blind eye to these strange pairings in cinema, when in reality they’d be cause for uproar. Imagine your friend walking into Friday night drinks with her brand-new boyfriend, and he’s old enough to be one of your dad’s friends — that’d be cause for a major intervention, How I Met Your Mother-style. It’s not to say that there’s something inherently wrong with all relationships with significant age gaps, but the concept itself does beg some questions. For the younger party, the appeal is logical; your older partner has more life experience, more maturity, better stories to tell, and they can share that wisdom with you on a daily basis. For the older partner, there are more question marks. Is it about energy, lust for life and vivacity? There might be an element of osmosis, 52

that just being around someone younger makes you feel younger by association, which appeals to the Peter Pans among us. Or is it more to do with ego? For these Leonardo DiCaprio types — at 47 years of age, Leo has never dated a woman over the age of 25 — one can only assume that there’s an aesthetic appeal involved, where a younger partner’s youth and beauty reflects positively onto themselves. Personally, the aspect I’d find most difficult about dating someone far older than me is the lifestyle mismatch. Finding someone my own age whose schedule and habits fit easily around my own has been hard enough, but doing the same with a man in an entirely different stage of life would be a whole new (read: far trickier) ball game. Power to the people who can make it work, I say. There’s also an inherent power dynamic in these pairings, both on-screen and in real life. It’s true that Hollywood boasts some impressive celebrity couples with age gaps who have gone the distance, like George and Amal Clooney (17 years), Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds (11 years), and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones (25 years). Yet the list of failed celebrity couples with over a decade between them is growing, and we can see the evidence of toxic dynamics in a lot of them. Take our girl Taylor Swift, for example. In late 2021, she re-released ‘All Too Well’, essentially a 10-minute roasting of Jake Gyllenhaal. He was nine years her senior when they dated, and the lyrics contain such gems as “the punch line goes, ‘I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age’”. And don’t get me started on her 2010 song ‘Dear John’, the most brutal (but justified) portrayal of a shitty relationship I’ve ever heard put to music. This all paints a not-uncommon picture where age gaps in relationships are flaunted by the older partner abusing the younger’s lack of experience, in order to get away with subpar behaviour and emotional ineptitude. Gender expectations in relationships are another important facet of this phenomenon. Men dating younger women is generally accepted as the norm — to account for that gap in maturity, apparently — but what happens when a woman dates a much-younger man? Well, society doesn’t

The Sex Issue

tend to like it, like Demi Moore being labelled a cougar in denial of her age during her six-year marriage to Ashton Kutcher (15 years her junior). The concept of a man being with an older woman flies in the face of the intrigue, innocence and virginal value of the younger woman which has been built up over centuries. It’s why we wear white on our wedding day, and it’s why women are depicted as holding less value as they age; we still don’t really know how to rationalise older women and romance.

At the end of the day, though, age gaps aren’t the be-all and end-all in relationships. Yes, they’re everywhere in popular culture, and yes, they can be controversial, and no, dating older is categorically not the solution to every straight girl’s dating woes. Ultimately, we should probably all just mind our own business — love has no age, and if two people are happy together, then that’s the only thing that matters.





The Sex Issue

I’m about to finish, but make sure to come again for the next edition.



PHOTOGRAPHY Fletcher Aldous @fletcheraldous