Contains adult themes
Ever wondered how a sex coach decides to make sex their job? Athena Mae found her unlikely calling as a teenager, when friends came to her with their questions.
“I’d hear crazy things, like, ‘Is it true that if you douche your vagina with Coca-Cola after sex you won’t get pregnant?’" the 35-year-old Londoner says. "My family was very open about sex, so I couldn’t believe my friends weren’t."
Athena’s open-mindedness led her to BDSM clubs, including a role as – best LinkedIn entry ever – 'Dungeon Mistress' (“you ensure people don’t overstep boundaries,” she writes on her profile). Then she started teaching body-positive sex education.
"There's still so much misinformation about sexual health," Athena says. "One woman recently told me that she’d tried to treat an STI by putting a garlic clove up her vagina."
Athena’s frank approach to sex education, as well as her own personal experiences, see her contribute to the new BBC Three documentary Too Fat For Love.
“I’ve never been below a size 16; I’m currently a size 24 to 26," she says. "Some guys will say things like, ‘Can you even get on top?’ But [fat women] are just people who want to have sex with people who want to have sex with us.”
The stereotypical attitude of larger women being undesirable was seen in Friends with ‘Fat Monica' – the teen version of Courteney Cox's character – who was always eating, and never had any luck with romance. "I’ve learned that your weight is not what makes you worthy of love or great sex,” Athena says.
This is what 20 years of shedding myths about sex and body size has taught her. And, yep, she tells it straight...
DON'T: Let cruel words define you
“The game ‘Pull a Pig’ comes up a lot with fat women. Lads seek out the fattest woman they can find, and the competition is to sleep with her and then display her as a trophy, exposing her to public ridicule. That happened to me at 17. I thought, 'Wow, I’ve met a nice dude, we’ve had sex, and now he’s inviting me for lunch with his friends.' When I walked into that pub, a massive cheer erupted. His friends handed him an envelope full of notes, and he slapped my arse and said, ‘Thanks for that, love.’
"My heart broke. As I stood there in front of that jeering crowd, I thought, 'I need a superhero to rescue me'. But there wasn’t one. In that moment, I decided I would be my own hero. I told myself, 'It will be OK.'
"I now surround myself with kind, positive people who don’t make comments about weight or looks. Other people still say mean things to me - I’ve been told that I might break someone if I go on top during sex, for example. I’m like, 'Really? Sure, I’m a powerful woman, but breaking someone in half is Avengers territory. That would be amazing if I could do that.'"
DO: Own your size
“I actually love the word 'fat'. It doesn’t mean ugly, dirty, that no one will want to sleep with you, or any of these horrible things that some people seem to think it does.
"About six months ago, I went into a coffee shop and I heard someone mutter, ‘Look, there’s the fat bird.’ The woman behind the counter was defiant, saying, ‘Oh you’re not fat, you’re beautiful.’ And I replied, ‘I’m a size 24 to 26 – of course I’m fat! But I am beautiful as well. I think what you’re trying to tell me is that I’m a beautiful person, and I appreciate that, but I am fat.'
"To me, the word fat is fine - and owning it will help boost your confidence inside and outside the bedroom.”
DON'T: Focus just on penetration
“If you do find intercourse difficult - be it for physical or confidence reasons - there are so many brilliant ways to have sex without penetration. Just as there’s not only one body type that is sexy, sex isn’t a one–trick pony. I tell people in my classes that we need to remember that sex isn’t just about a penis going into a vagina. That idea suggests there’s a right way and a wrong way to have sex, and there’s not.
"For instance, if you’re lying on your bed and your partner is touching your clitoris and you’re kissing – is that sex? I’d say so. Sex is whatever you want it to be. And that is the most important message I tell people: do what makes you happy.
"No matter your shape, size, skin colour, or what you’re into sexually (as long as it’s with consenting adults), you are worthy of every single grain of pleasure that you can drain from sex - and from life.”
DO: Grab your body parts with pride
“Have sex to your body’s capabilities. If you have a large belly, like I do, and it gets in the way a bit, just pull it out of the way. Same if you have extra fat on your mons pubis [the ‘mound’ where your pubic hair grows] or thick thighs: just pull things apart and go at it.
"If you suffer from pain on weight-bearing joints such as your hips, put something under your partner’s butt so you don’t have to go down quite as hard when on top. If being on all fours is uncomfortable, lean forwards and have something prop your belly up, such as a cushion or foam wedge.
"Being fat and having sex is really no different to being thin and having sex, because each body is different. Do what is good – and possible – for yours.”