The first stop for the vast majority of questions we have in day-to-day life is to Google it. That’s great for a lot of things – recipes, tracking down song names with mere scraps of lyrics, random questions about obscure topics of interest, the list goes on.
The collective information stored in the internet holds the answers to so many of our questions that it starts to feel like the all-knowing God. But alas, such is not the case.
It’s important to remind ourselves that the internet is also full of misinformation, and it’s not always that easy to tell fact from semi-fact, or complete fiction.
This becomes particularly risky territory when you’re googling sex-related advice and information. Believe me.
Recently the internet vehemently suggested to me that coconut oil makes a great natural lube if you don’t have any of the store-bought for-purpose sexual lubricant on hand. Multiple websites raved about how it not only works as lubricant, but improves the general health of your vagina! What a win!
Unfortunately, although the coconut oil smells hella good, the experience culminated in a week of vaginal thrush and more than $60 trying to kick it.
In retrospect, the key problem was that none of these websites had any authority to give advice, there were just so many of them that it seemed legitimate.
But as a friend of mine pointed out, the internet also once suggested that you eat Tide Pods, so it’s far from a beacon of truth.
But doling out sex-related advice is so popular online that it’s easy to be misled. Cross-referencing unverified sources with other unverified sources can give the illusion of truth, and leave you with more problems than you started with (see: thrush).
Of course, with the atrocious lack of sufficient sexual education in schools in Australia and across the world at varying degrees, we have a lot of sex-related questions we need answered.
I can’t name a single friend of mine who knows exactly how the contraceptive pill works, or who didn’t suffer from stress that their genitals weren’t ‘normal’ when they were young. At my school we didn’t even do the iconic ‘how to put a condom on a banana’ lesson, making the use of basic contraception an intimidating task.
That’s a gap in knowledge that can have some very serious consequences (see: unwanted pregnancy, STI’s).
‘Google it’ is our solution to those questions ranging from the more basic to the nuanced complexities of navigating sex, bodies and sexuality. That’s unlikely to change, especially as politicians stubbornly cling to insufficient school sex education programmes.
So the lesson here is to just search wisely. Not every website is a reliable source. Beware of anecdote-based advice that fails to mention the risks involved with using things like coconut oil, butter or egg whites as lube (all real suggestions.)
The good news is there are more and more projects dedicated to providing solid information on these kinds of topics. O.school, AMAZE, F*CK YES, Tabú, and The Killer and a Sweet Thang are a few examples. Then there’s always the option of talking to your doctor about sexual health-related things to ensure you get an informed and personalised answer.
Just make sure that when you have a question about sex, you’re getting an answer you can trust. Believe me, it’s worth the extra research.