Interview by Ralph Edelstein.
Anne Siemons and Leila Lambrechts study Sexuology. They founded the Dutch platform «Sexuologen in Spe», meaning sexologists in spe, where they discuss sex and existing taboos on sex, sexuality, love and relationships in a very accessible way. Anne often approached the topics from a medical perspective, where Leila focusses on the psychological aspects.
What is it you do exactly?
We try to involve people in a fun and honest conversation about sex. Not in a provocative way, but positive and approachable.
Are there still taboos on sex and intimacy in 2019?
Many. Masturbating, for example. People will still start giggling when this topic is mentioned. In fact, everything related to sex is still a taboo, many people cannot talk about it openly. This is problematic, since it leads to uncertainty at a very basic level. The most frequently asked question on our platform, by both young people and adults, is: ‘is it normal that …’. This shows that people have no idea, because sex is something that is still not openly discussed. We try to change this.
What do you notice?
That everyone wants to be ‘normal’ in bed, but nobody knows exactly what is normal. And that is why we say: as long as you do something with someone who also thinks it’s okay, everything is normal. Five times a day is fine, once in a month is also great, squirting is fine, anal is fine, everything is fine. It’s all ‘normal’. People often do not dare to talk about it because they fear that their environment won’t find them normal. Also, if you ask people how often they have sex with their partner, they often say three times. Because people consider this as normal. But if you keep asking, it often turns out to be a different number.
Why do you find it important to break taboos around sex? Isn’t sex a private thing that you shouldn’t talk about too often?
There is a difference between private and talking about something. We talk about sex all day, but we never share our personal experiences. We also don’t comment on personal questions, about how often we masturbate or not. But we do tell you how it works. People often think that when you talk about sex, you have to reveal everything about yourself. But you can easily talk about sex without sharing your personal experiences. The point is that, the topic is open for discussion. It also helps with sharing your concrete, personal wishes and needs with your sex-partner.
What are the important topics?
One of the topics that we are currently working on is, letting people know that you do not have to do everything. The media overflows us with stories, which make it seem like you have to do everything. Anal, threesomes, squirting, sex videos. This image shows us that everything is possible, and everything is fun. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that you have to do it as well. Take anal sex. If you’re into it fine. But it’s not necessary. We want these topics to be open for discussion. That’s why we share our scientific knowledge, to be able to join the conversation.
This differentiates you from, for example, another #Changemaker, Linda de Munck, who talks about sex and sexuality from her personal experience.
Exactly. The approach is different. Linda makes it very personal, while we want to talk about sex on an academic level. We are trained to become sexologists – hence our name Sexologists in Spe – and thus mix ourselves as professionals in the debate. But in a fun and refreshing way and not by publishing dry articles in scientific journals.
Do you focus on boys, girls or everyone?
We focus on everyone. Our followers are 60% female and 40% male. The funny thing is that most questions are from men!
Really?! What does that mean?
It probably means that men feel pressure to perform. Many men ask us about the size of their penis or ask us how they have to perform certain actions, such as how to make a girl squirt. Their questions often relate to certain techniques. This implicates that men have the feeling that they have to ‘do it right’, as if sex is a performance. We often see men bragging about sex, while they actually feel very insecure about it. To give you an example, they often approach us with ‘Do you want to go out with me?’ or ‘I would like to fuck you’. We always let them know that we do not accept offensiveness and are not open for sharing or doing anything private but would love to answer any other questions. This often results in more serious questions, for example about ejaculating too quickly. We think it’s fun, to break through this shield.
Are there taboos that you do not dare to discuss?
Yes, children and sexuality. Children are sexual beings, but very differently than adults. Children can already have an erection when they are still in the womb, or they could start masturbating at a very young age. But adults look at it from their adult perspective, as if those children are horny. That is not true. A consequence of the observation that children are sexual may be that adults think that you can also be sexual with a child. That is very dangerous, that is why we prefer to stay away from this topic. This is a big taboo, but at the moment we do not dare to discuss this yet.
What does the New Feminism mean to you?
That’s difficult. We wouldn’t call ourselves feminists, but we do stand for everything that feminism entails.
Isn’t that something positive? That you don’t have to call yourself a feminist to actually be a feminist?
Probably, yes. We just see ourselves as women in 2019. It bothers us that a separate name is needed. If we all want to be equal, that we think a separate name must not be necessary. This is also how we see sexuality. Sexuality is for everyone, and everyone has an equal part in is. Our main goal is to make sexuality more open and accessible, that is what we are committed to.
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