Let’s talk about sex.

How many of us got “the talk” from our parents? I thought that conversation only happened in movies. I didn’t receive much if any sex education in school either. What I learned about sex from birth up to the age of 18 was limited; my peers, older brother, and the internet were my teachers, and I was the student.

I recently met a passionate soul and a firm believer that a young person should have sex education as early as six years old. She may have a point as the United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe.

Hailing from East London, and of Jamaican heritage, the sexual health advocate has taken upon herself to share knowledge and empower young people using her talents as a writer. She has reached well over 15,000 young people with her online and printed magazine, Shine Aloud. 

Shine Aloud is a sexual health magazine aimed at young women and men aged 16-25 and deconstructs the myths that we have about sex, and speaks openly on the matter in a way young people and seniors can connect.  

Meet the founder, Rianna Raymond-Williams.

Kofi: What made you create a service for young people and sexual health?

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Rianna: I worked for Terrence Higgins Trust for five years. It’s a sexual health charity based in London, and I worked mainly in the Barking and Newham areas. Through interactions, I noticed there was a lot of misinformation about sex that was negatively affecting young people. They were misinformed about, what is a ‘healthy’ relationship? Why, and when should we use contraception? Respecting your partner’s choices, and the various ways you can contract a sexually transmitted infection. I wanted to use my love for writing to create a platform that discusses these issues openly and honestly in a voice that is unique to young people.

K: Did you see a gap in the market, which was much needed?

Rianna: Yes, I feel so. There was not a magazine that speaks in a language young people understand; the majority of them are formal and use medical terms that youth won’t find fun to read.No publication connects sexual health to popular culture. There are a lot of magazines that focus purely on celebrity lifestyle, fashion, entertainment, and beauty. I feel this creates a culture of self-conscious young people. I wanted to create a magazine that’s educational, entertaining and self-empowering, which links sexual health with arts and culture._mg_2518
K: When did you create Shine Aloud magazine?

Rianna: Shine Aloud began online five years ago; we then moved to print and our most recent issue was in March 2016. Our previous issue releases were in 2014. They included a men’s issue which sold out within two weeks and the women’s’ which sold out in 4 weeks. We have reached well over 15,000 young people with our printed copies._mg_2553K: Everything is online and digital these days, why did you decide to print Shine Aloud?

Rianna: As a writer, I love the feeling of a physical print in my hands, but this was not the main reason. There is a misconception that young people always have access to the internet. I work with a lot of youth from all types of backgrounds, and some don’t always have access to the web. I wanted something they could take away, read in their own time and discuss with their friends.Our printed issues have different themes, for example, we had an issue that celebrated women, and in that we had young female writers talk about abortion and female genital mutilation (FGM). We had an issue unique to men, which talked about how porn can affect a young man’s perception of what sex should be? The role of a man in a relationship and misconceptions of what it is to be a ‘real’ man?

img_2540-2K: British culture can be quite conservative, do you feel uncomfortable speaking about sex publicly?
Rianna: I have worked in sexual health for a long time, I have to do it for my job – I don’t find it uncomfortable to talk about sex openly.K: How would you describe your sex education during childhood into adolescence?
Rianna: I notice a lot of young people including myself learned about sex through friends. You can learn good stuff, but also bad stuff. Our experiences differ, some young people have experienced family members in abusive relationships from an early age and thought that it was the norm. I went to an all-girls school; I have known girls to be in relationships where their partners were very controlling; they believed that was okay because it is all they knew. It’s a common fact that there is a link between childhood experiences and adulthood.
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“I think young people should learn about sex from the age of six.”
Rianna: As adults, we want to protect our children, and because of the way we think about sex, it’s natural for us not to want our children to have sex education too early. However, I do not mean penetrative sex. I am talking about understanding and recognizing their body parts. If children are aware of what their body does and can name them, it can protect them. So, if a young girl says “that person has touched my vagina” it automatically rings alarm bells.
K: What would you like to achieve with Shine Aloud?
Rianna: Change someone’s life sounds a bit cliché; I would say my goal is to empower people with the right tools. I run Shine Aloud by myself, but I work with very talented freelancers – graphic designers and writers on each issue. I would like to give passionate and driven young people who didn’t go the traditional route in education the opportunity to contribute to the magazine.
K: What would you tell your younger self about sex?                                                                    
Rianna: Know yourself! I think there is a lot of peer pressure to find a partner. Find out who you are first, and know your values. Also, don’t be afraid of change, sometimes what feels right for you now, won’t necessarily be the best for you in the future.
To find out more about Rianna Raymond-Williams and Shine Aloud magazine visit www.shinealoud.co.uk and follow on Twitter @ShineALOUDUK
 
Subject – Rianna Raymond-Williams, writer and founder of Shine Aloud
Writer & Photographer – @Kofi Dwaah

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