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How to Have Sex (In a Cost-of-Living Crisis)


Written by Stella Roper (they/she) | @stellyvision | Arts & Culture Editor

Illustration by Sophie Lee (she/her) | Contributing Artist

TW: Sex, Sexuality, Reproductive Rights

Is the financial crisis making you feel down instead of wanting to ‘get down’? In a Q&A with Aussie-based sexology student, Zoe Snell (she/her) provides guidance, assurance and answers to questions that cover all sorts of sex related topics. Informative to all students, whatever sex-life-state they find themselves currently in. 

Could you describe what the term 'sexology' means to you and what led you to undertake this field of study?

‘Sexology’ is kind of what it says on the tin, it’s the scientific study of sex. I understand sexology to examine the biological, psychosocial, and social aspects of human sexuality and sexual well-being. I was drawn to it as I have always been fascinated by sex (I used to say talking about sex is the next best thing to having it!) and how it’s such a human experience, yet is so taboo within our society. It was during a post-lockdown moment of clarity that I decided to undertake this field of study as I realised I wasn’t fulfilled in my current field of work, and I should go back and do something I’ve always been interested in!

What is your favourite thing to tell people when it comes to de-mystifying things around sex?

I love discussing sexual scripts with people! Most people haven’t heard the term ‘sexual scripts’, but when you explain what they are, they understand. Sexual scripts are basically society’s shared meanings for what’s an appropriate sexual behaviour, and generally they’re informed by gender roles. A good example is the notion that men should always be the one to initiate sex. We’ve likely all thought this at some point to varying degrees, but it’s so important to unpack why we hold this belief otherwise it can lead to really harmful thoughts and behaviours. I always encourage people who are interested in sexual behaviours to look into sexual scripts and see how they may have informed their decisions and feelings!

Are there any misconceptions about sex and finances that you often encounter within your studies?

I think it’s important to acknowledge that sex isn’t always as glamorous as we’re led to believe. So much of what we see represented in the media is beautiful people having sex in big plush beds with 1000-thread-count sheets, when in reality that is not often how sex looks for a lot of people. Sex isn’t better because you have a big bed or fancy lingerie, it can be just as great on a single mattress wearing a stained t-shirt!

Do you believe that a cost-of-living crisis, which both Aotearoa and Australia are facing, has an impact on students' sex lives?

Absolutely! Many young people who are currently experiencing this cost-of-living crisis are reporting high feelings of stress and anxiety, and when we’re stressed or anxious our cortisol levels increase which in turn reduces our testosterone, the hormone most responsible for our libido. To put it simply: feeling stressed is likely to make you less horny. 

What advice do you have for students who may be navigating both sexual exploration and financial independence for the first time?

The growing pains at this time are real, it can be really hard to transition from late adolescence to early adulthood, but I think being kind to yourself is the most important thing. If your sex life or your financial situation doesn’t look how you imagined, firstly let go of expectations, secondly don’t forget it’s not now or never! Both these things will grow and develop over time as you do too, so there’s no need to be in such a rush to get to the destination, have fun figuring it all out.

What are some simple ways to spice up one's sex life that won't break the bank?

Watching porn is a great way to get inspired, and maybe you’ll even feel turned on by things you have never even considered. Of course, I’m going to recommend ethical porn instead of mainstream porn, but ethical porn doesn’t have to cost money. There are plenty of free ethical porn websites you can enjoy: Bellesa, Afterglow, and Lustery are a few! 

Can you share some tips on how couples can maintain intimacy and communicate with their partners about their sexual desires and preferences without adding financial pressure?

Sex doesn’t need to cost a thing! If there are sexual desires you want to explore, start with low-cost experiences like trying a new position or incorporating role play or dirty talk. If there are things that you want to explore that cost money, maybe like bringing in sex toys, talk to your partner about how this will meet your needs and fill a gap that you feel is missing - it could be reflective of something bigger in the relationship, you can then work together to budget for the purchase. Don’t forget that your sexuality is vital to your overall well-being, and you’re never being frivolous for wanting to explore it! Before bringing in anything new to sex, whether it’s positions, role play, dirty talk or a sex toy, talk to your partner first and make sure you have their consent!

My other tip would be never have conversations about finances where you tend to have sex, like the bed. Keep that area sacred for your physical intimacy.

What are some essential tips for maintaining good physical hygiene and sexual health for students who are beginning to explore their sexuality?

Prevention is always better (read: cheaper) than cure, so staying safe and healthy will save you money in the long run! As un-sexy as it may be, washing your hands before any sexual activity is a great way to prevent bacteria entering the urinary tract which can lead to pesky UTIs (urinary tract infections), and unwanted doctor appointments. For the same reason, if you have a vulva, always do a wee after sex or masturbating to flush out any bacteria that may have entered your urethra.

Using condoms is the easiest way to prevent STIs or unwanted pregnancy, both of which cost money to treat. Condoms generally cost $1 per use, so they are a cost-effective way of staying safe, but many youth services or sexual health agencies will offer free condoms, you can always call and ask or Google locations near you. You can get free condoms online from the Burnett Foundation Aotearoa, or if you’re in Australia, Headspace provides free condoms at most of their locations.

If you suspect you might have an STI and you are unable to attend a doctor’s office, I would suggest first contacting a local sexual health agency as they usually offer low-cost services for students and can even offer free services depending on your financial situation. If this isn’t an option, you can always attend the emergency department of your local hospital as a last resort (just be prepared to wait a while!). 

Are there any free or low-cost resources available for students looking to explore new aspects of their sexuality? 

Definitely - those free ethical porn sites I mentioned earlier, plus Rosy and Quinn for those who prefer audio erotica (or may have vision impairment!). Play Safe is a NSW govt website (I know, but I promise it’s cool and inclusive!) that I think is awesome for young people wanting to explore healthy and safe sex.

To finish this off, do you happen to have any interesting/funny sex-related facts? 

I find it very interesting that a woman coined the term ‘incel’ to describe her romantic life and feelings of loneliness, before it was hijacked by the misogynistic alt-right. Why do men ruin everything!?

Follow Zoe Snell on Instagram: @zocs_ for more!


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