Rowena Murray is someone who loves to talk about good sex, and ensuring that young women are worded up on how to achieve it. Tackling the often taboo subject (and the many sub-topics that come with it) in her newest book For Foxes’ Sake, Rowena had quick chat with Forte about what it’s all about.
So you’ve just released your book For Foxes’ Sake, are you able to give our readers a quick rundown on what it’s about?
For Foxes’ Sake is a guidebook for teenage girls and young women that covers sex, love and relationships in the social media world we’re living in. It’s loaded with facts and handy information, as well as real stories about sex mishaps and love stories, so it’s very real about sex and love! A girl’s gotta learn how to dodge the wet patch.
And we understand your new book first stemmed from the questions women were asking when you worked for an adult e-commerce brand. What were the kind of questions women were asking?
A lot of questions actually came back to confidence; whether they had the confidence to re-enter the dating world after divorce, how to get their sexual mojo back after having their self-esteem worn down by ex-partners, and that perennial one – the orgasm gap between men and women. Some of the questions were specific about sexual pleasure and sexual health, and that comes back to sex education. It was a very common theme. Having poor (or zero) sex ed when you’re younger can have a knock-on effect that can last a really long time. That’s the thinking that led me to write For Foxes’ Sake; if there are more sex ed resources out there, there are going to be more women having better sex, better relationships, and knowing their bodies better.
I definitely ask sex and relationship questions all the time! I talk to my friends, of all ages, because they have so much experience and it’s great to hash things out. That’s why I love the concept of having ‘sex fairy godmothers’ – you need people in your corner to talk to! Whether they’re a combo of friends, your GP, a therapist, or a family member, we need to be able to talk about sex, love and relationships. It’s so good to get fresh perspectives.
In many cases it’s a subject that’s often avoided, how has your own confidence been with the topic and how has it changed over time?
Mixed! I’m a quite shy person, but equally can be quite rowdy and forward – so in my teenage years I was definitely shy and awkward. I definitely got a lot wrong when it came to love, sex and relationships.
These days, I can still be shy on a person-to-person basis, but at the same time I’m very happy to sit around yakking about squirting or getting jizz in your eye when you’re wearing contact lenses (don’t try to resurrect contact lenses in this instance…). So from an educational viewpoint, there’s nothing I’m not happy to discuss.
How was the whole process for you in finding the research and ensuring you had the right knowledge for what, for some, can be very difficult issues as they grow up?
The research part was huge. There is good information out there, but also so much terrible and inaccurate information online, and a lot of that has to do with click-bait headlines. Some also has to do with certain groups who post content that are designed to look like medical advice but it’s actually religious propaganda.
What I’ve done with For Foxes’ Sake is ensure the research was highly credible, and I only used the good stuff. I also worked with experts including a GP and Pharmacist, to make sure this book was a safe space for people to get the information they were looking for.
You’re right that these can be difficult issues for people as they’re growing up, and it’s why I’ve filled the book with real life experiences and advice as well as talking about the mechanics of sex. I want people growing up to know that they’re not alone in feeling the way they do, and facing the issues that they face.
As you’ve mentioned the book tackles social media use as well, and that’s a big issue triple j are also tackling at the moment. What do you think is the biggest change platforms like Instagram and Facebook have done to teenagers growing up?
Social media is awesome, I love it and it’s doing a brilliant job of connecting people and ideas. The biggest change is that social media is now the new love note, sexting is the new flirting, and everything is shareable. There is definitely a risk of private information getting out; whether by accident, on purpose, or through sheer thoughtlessness.
There’s no such thing as true privacy or anonymity on social media. It’s also much, much easier to bully people online than face-to-face. Just a few clicks of a smartphone screen and you’ve potentially devastated someone or trashed their reputation, and bullying behind a laptop or tablet screen provides a bit of distance. If you were doing it to someone’s face, you’d be more circumspect, but online bullying often doesn’t feel real to a lot of bullies. Online bullying is incredibly lazy and in turn, often crueler.
The other major factor is that teenagers start to naturally assert their privacy from their parents and social media is where this often happens. Often parents are a lot further behind the 8-ball than they intend to be because of social media. This isn’t the fault of parents, as young people are total digital natives, but parents do need to know how to keep communication open.
This is no doubt a great tool for those in their younger years, for parents and those in between. What are your thoughts on the current sex-ed books circulating schools?
There is some solid material out there, but what is presented to students is inconsistent from school to school to a degree. Parents also can’t rely on the school to deal with all the education regarding sex as they have a role to play as well, even if it does make them uncomfortable. The books in use within schools are generally good on the mechanics of sex and contraception, but sex ed is also about respectful relationships, consent, communication and negotiation so For Foxes’ Sake fills a very clear gap.
It helps young people, as well as gives parents and educators a springboard too.
Was there anything off limits in the things you wanted to cover?
Nope, I went for it and I did that on purpose. The book covers BDSM, anal sex, a raft of LGBTQI+ topics, orientation and identification, chemsex, sexual assault, revenge porn, sexting and porn. Porn is readily available for free online and young people are viewing it from a young age (in Australia, typically by the ages of 10 to 12) and I’m all for porn, but the entertainment side of life needs to be balanced with the real side of life. The reality of sex and relationships is important knowledge to have, especially if porn is all a young person has to guide them.
The name of the book itself is very tongue in cheek, did the title spring into mind straight away?
It did, straight away. I’m a swear bear and I found it funny. I like a bit of cheesy comedy, so I just decided I had to go with it. It worked out really well the way the name influenced the cover artwork – which I’m completely in love with.
You’ve been described as a “sex fairy godmother” is that a title you wear with pride?
Definitely. I personally have sex fairy godmothers of my own – great friends who I respect and love taking to about life, love and sex mishaps – so I’m wearing the ‘sex fairy godmother’ tiara with pride.
Is there anything else you’d like to add before we finish up?
There are a lot of amazing things happening right now in the digital and social world, and awareness of feminist, LGBTQI+ and consent issues is higher than it’s ever been. That is fantastic and I look forward to seeing that train keep rolling.
The flip side is that there is a definite education gap when it comes to sex, love and relationships with digital natives learning from people who simply aren’t digital natives. They’re speaking slightly different languages and have definitely different experiences. Digital natives look online first, and over 30% of all online traffic is porn, and a huge chunk of the rest of this traffic is social media. For Foxes’ Sake is a safe space for them to get information and hopefully forge their own ‘sex fairy godmother’ network of trusted people around them and live an awesome, sex positive life.
You can read up about the book and Rowena online.