First published on 3 Apr 2013. Updated on 8 Apr 2013.
Kaz, it seems nowadays there's a higher value placed on losing one's virginity than there is keeping it. Would you agree, and why do you think that is?
Nup, I don't agree at all – through my research with 4000 girls aged 12 to 18 for my book Girl Stuff for teenagers, and 7000 women over 18 for the book Women's Stuff, I think there's a huge range of attitudes about virginity, religious and otherwise. I think there's a lot of confusion over the magical, mythical state of virginity, even what it is, technically. In Girl Stuff I talk to girls a lot about virginity and how it's not a "precious gift" that when given away or 'lost" (how weird is that?) means a girl has lost their worth. What's much more important is being in charge of saying yes or no, and being entitled to a respectful sex life. In Girl Stuff I tell girls how to say no, and what they need to know before they say yes.
Do you think there’s a reason that it’s more “shocking” when someone who is a virgin at 20 or older, is male – does it stem from a misled idea that men are sexual beings, while women are not?
After reading the thoughts, questions and confidences of 7000 women for my book Women's Stuff, I can honestly say I don't find this shocking at all. But yes, I think the double standard is alive and well and girls are pressured to look "hot" but not to talk about enjoying or wanting sex.
Fifty Shades of Grey may not have been a literary great, but it was highly successful. Do you think its brought us any closer to female sexuality being recognised and accepted in the same way that male sexuality is?
Ha. I'm all for women enjoying a raunchy read but I find the subtext of that book, that women have a need to be submissive, profoundly dull and oppressive. The success of Fifty Shades showed that people love a sexy book (which we already knew) and that the marketing power of "buzz" works brilliantly. Also, it was the first mass-market book that people could buy totally anonymously, online. It also showed that most people who bought the book thought it was crap and hit "delete" on their device.
How does someone tell their partner that the sex isn’t good without hurting their feelings?
As I say in Women's Stuff, and the spin off ebook "Sex With the Lot", it's always best to put things in the positive, as in "How about we do this?" or "Yes, keep doing that" or "Slow it down, that's good" than say something like "You kiss like a washing machine and you are treating my nipples like radio dials, you lummox". Of course feelings matter, but anyone who gets sulky or doesn't seem interested in pleasing their partner is a dud.
Do you think that a lot of the time, it isn’t selfishness or laziness, but rather a lack of know-how or experience, that creates that kind of situation?
From what women and girls tell me, there are multiple reasons: inexperience, thoughtlessness, and a huge new reason is the influence of porn which portrays women "enjoying" stuff they don't usually enjoy or become aroused by, which young guys and men are "recreating". A lot of porn and popular culture also only focuses on whether the man is getting what he wants. Women can unwittingly perpetuate this by faking pleasure, either to make him feel better or to "get it over with". (Of course, not all women have sex only with men.)
Say you’re into BDSM or maybe just a bit curious: how would you go about getting your partner to agree to give it a try?
I think it's a very dangerous area for many women, as "bondage and discipline" can be closely related to domination and abuse in a relationship. I'd say both partners should do a lot of research about how to be safe, where the line is between sex roles and the rest of the relationship dynamics, and understand very clearly where your boundaries are, and be prepared to back out or stop whenever you want to.
And on the other hand, how would one tell their partner who might really enjoy it, that they’re just not into it, even after giving it a good, hard, cracking go?
Yuck, really? "Good hard cracking go?" I don't think anybody should feel obligated to try something that doesn't pique their interest and make them feel keen. You don't have to try something because your partner wants to do it (regardless of whether you're straight or gay and the gender of the keen partner). Some of this stuff can be humiliating and can hurt. So honesty and respect is the key: everyone gets to ask, and everyone gets to say no thanks. Nobody should feel they have to give anything a "go". It's fine to say, "I know you're keen, and I appreciate your honesty and sharing the idea, but it's not for me." Or, indeed "Tried that, and that's enough for me, thanks." Then the other person decides whether they want to find a new partner, or leave their idea in the fantasy world.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone trying to overcome their own body image issues?
I bang on about this (sorry) in the book, but in general, I try to get women to understand that good sex should be about how sex makes them feel. There are side issues, like how women are portrayed in pornography, and general body image pressures. Sometimes it helps to turn off the lights, not because you're hideous, but because then you can relax and explore and can think about being more visible later.
Do you think that people are smarter when it comes to contraception nowadays or are they merely focused on preventing pregnancy? People still get STDs, and at high rates.
It's amazing that many women are too embarrassed to ask a guy to wear a condom, but not too embarrassed to have sex with him. It needs to be just automatic – it's nothing "personal" and shouldn't be taken as mistrust. There's also the misplaced idea that you could "tell" if somebody has an STD or that if they're faithful to you, they won't pass anything on. The STI section of the book was a revelation to research – did you know most people will come into contact with an HPV (genital wart virus) within the first few fews of having sex? Many dangerous STIs don't have visible symptoms and can result in infertility or other serious complications. The rising rates hotspot for STIs is now middle aged and post-menopause women who get divorced or have sex and think because they can't get pregnant they don't need to protect themselves. All women need regular check ups including cervical smear tests to make sure they don't have the cell changes caused by some strains of HPV that can lead to cervical cancer if not treated.
The most important thing is to be informed – and I guess that's why I write the books I do.
You can download Kaz's ebooks here. They're $4.99 each, except for Escaping Control & Abuse: How to Get Out of a Bad Relationship & Recover from Assault, which is free.