Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Breaking down the taboos

By Barbara Biggs - posted Wednesday, 2 May 2007

At the World Association of Sexual Health (WAS) Conference in Sydney recently, as an Australian, I was proud to see a Curtin University Sexology Course awarded the highest honour, a Gold Award, by this international community of sex researchers and practitioners.

After the award ceremony, I spoke with the Perth program leader, Professor Gareth Merriman, who told me it’s been an uphill battle to overcome social and cultural norms.

He cited a recent experience where he organised a lunchtime theatre production of The Vagina Monologues, only to have office staff censor the staff email.


The University Chancellor was not amused and in turn censured her staff. She felt the production was important and wanted to attend.

It’s heartening to see that such a progressive course is attracting overseas students who can’t find such quality education training in their own countries.

I also met with one of the many overseas students of the course, who told me sex was an off-limits topic in her US home despite sexual images abounding - on playing cards, in posters and in semi-pornographic movies shown in her home.

The only time she asked about sex, she was told she’d find out about that when she got married.

When her boyfriend moved into her parent’s home with her when she was 17, nobody commented, asked her about contraception, or discussed the fact that they slept in the same room.

"That’s what motivated me to study sex education," said the now 30-year-old.


“All my relationship choices were affected by this double standard, in-the-dark approach. Somehow I picked up that it was my job to sexually please men which messed me around for a long time. I searched the Internet to find a course that isn’t afraid to tell it how it is. I finally found it in Perth.”

But this openness is not across the board in Australia.

When a protective behaviours book, Everyone’s Got a Bottom, was published this month, for three to eight-year-olds, ABC Learning Centres around the country banned it because the word vulva had been used in the text.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

3 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Barbara Biggs is a former journalist and author of a two-part autobiography, In Moral Danger and The Road Home, launched in May 2004 by Peter Hollingworth and Chat Room in 2006. Her latest book is Sex and Money: How to Get More. Barbara is convenor of the National Council for Children Post-Separation,

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Barbara Biggs

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Barbara Biggs
Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy