Amy*’s voice trembles as she recalls losing her virginity at the age of 17.
“It was clumsy and awkward and painful,” she said.
“I felt like the worst person in the world, like I wasn’t meant to have done it. Even though it was consensual, the education from school and the stigma made me feel horrible.”
The 30-year-old remembers her sex education focussed on abstinence and “connection to God.”
She carried her shame with her in her first marriage.
“I felt it was my duty to lay there for [my ex-husband’s] pleasure. He would do things I never liked, he would be rough, I asked him to use lube but I was ignored. He would make me turn around so I wasn’t facing him and I used to feel so ashamed. If I spoke up, he would say it was my body’s fault.”
Amy is not alone. A new Australian Study of Health and Relationships (ASHR) study of 20,000 Australians found that 17 per cent of women experienced painful sex compared with 2 per cent of men.
Earlier this year, history was made in the Australian burlesque and LGBTQIA+ community.
Scarlet Adams, real name Anthony Price, was crowned Miss Burlesque Australia.
She is the first drag queen to ever compete in the final and then claim the title in the competition’s nine-year history.
Scarlet Adams’ victory is reminiscent of the very beginnings of burlesque in its main hub New York City, which featured a significant amount of LGBTQIA+ characters who were celebrated by society at large.
According to research by Atlas Obscura, the 1920s to the early 1930s saw a trend known as the “Pansy Craze,” where every nightclub, burlesque, vaudeville and Broadway show featured lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans characters.
Drag queens and drag kings held beauty contests all around the United States while lesbians and bisexuals performed songs about same-sex relationships, until a crackdown on “deviants” in the mid 1930s.
Today, the queer burlesque scene is alive and well, with a whole range of unique characters gracing stages around the world.
Northside Riding Club is one of the oldest equestrian clubs in Sydney, with over 300 members of all ages.
One of these members is a young woman named Sam*.
She has cerebral palsy and suffered a serious brain injury at the age of seven which exacerbated her condition.
Sam loves horses, and riding gives her a joy and feeling of independence like no other. But it is not easy for her to live out her dream.
She falls over trying to mount her horse. There is no flat pathway for her to navigate around Princess Anne Equestrian Arena, the section of St Ives Showground where Northside members ride. The nearest accessible toilets are over one kilometre away.
Now, thanks to a joint effort between Northside, the NSW government and Ku-ring-gai Council, her life has been made much easier.