In the realm of sex, Hannah Whitton does it all: she’s a YouTuber, podcaster, author, and educator. Over the past decade, she’s discussed kink, disability, feminism, and relationship issues—and she’s also expecting a baby this April. Personally, I’ve been following Hannah for a few years now. Her openness about sexuality, pleasure, and even her finances as a YouTuber has always been refreshing.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Hannah, starting with what influences her work. Hannah was as approachable as she seems in her videos—very bubbly and full of humour. We spent the next hour talking everything from sex ed to disability to consent.
Adolescent Content: How do you see your career affecting your personal life in the long run? What changes will having a baby (congratulations!) bring?
Hannah Witton: A lot of the content that I make ties into where I'm at in life—the things that I'm currently learning or going through. I can't see myself moving away from sex education, because [I want to be a sex-positive parent and I know that pregnancy, birth, and postpartum will all affect my relationship dynamic and sex life].
Adolescent: What misinformation have you been seeing on social media pertaining to sex and relationships?
Hannah: [People still treat] penis-in-vagina sex as this holy grail, and I think that does a lot of people a disservice—not only people in sexual relationships where there isn't a penis and vagina, but also people who just don't enjoy [P-in-V sex] or can't have it for whatever reason. There's a lot of internal shame that can come from that. There are a lot of misconceptions about what kinds of sex people are having. What we're comparing ourselves to isn't based in any reality… [It isn’t based on] real conversations with people like, “Hey, how often do you have sex? How often do you masturbate? What kinds of sex are you into?” We absorb a lot of these assumptions, like, “Okay, what’s normal for a healthy couple is penis-in-vagina sex three times a week.” That’s so restrictive.
Adolescent: Over the past ten years that you’ve been doing this, how have you seen attitudes toward sexuality and relationships change?
Hannah: It's just slow, which can be frustrating at times. Unfortunately, these things take time because…[everything] we’re challenging is so ingrained. People feel really threatened. Our education systems, our health systems, the law—all of these things are built around having a heterosexual, cis, monogamous unit.
Adolescent: How do you broach the subject of kink with your partner?
Hannah: First, you need to be having conversations about [your sex life together]. One of my favorite ways to approach [these] conversations is by referencing [something]—maybe it's a podcast, an article, or a TV show. You can be like, “Oh, hey, did you see that? What did you think?” And then you're not specifically asking, “[What does this have] to do with us and our relationship?” It’s more like, “How do you feel about kink in general? How do you feel about sex toys?”—not “What sex toy do you want to use on me?” Those are two very different questions.
Adolescent: Do you have any specific communication practices that ensure consent is always clear and obvious—no gray area?
Hannah: Yeah, that gray area really scares a lot of people. People are like, “How do I know?” and there's a lot of resistance like, “Sex should be spontaneous!” [But consent] doesn't have to be unsexy. What if we reframed consent as dirty talk?
Adolescent: Dirty talk is a huge part of porn, and there is a way to put consent in there and make it sexy. It doesn’t have to be like, “Do you want me to put my penis in your vagina?”
Hannah: Exactly. Another important thing to talk about is, “Hey, what do you want me to call your body parts? Do you like the term vagina? Do you prefer pussy? What about your chest?” These are conversations that you can have in a light-hearted, fun, loving, sexy way. [It doesn’t] have to be sterile.
Adolescent: You have been extremely open about your journey with your disability and your stoma. I love how you gave her name.
Hannah: She was very loud in her first few days, and so we called her Mona.
Adolescent: A great name. But, you know, it's a huge change. Have you had to make any bigger accommodations to your sex life as a result of your stoma?
Hannah: It’s been a process. Having the stoma itself and the stoma bag, day to day, doesn't like impact my sex life. Occasionally, it's something extra to think about like, “oh, okay, I need to go empty my stoma bag before having sex”. But that's very similar to, “oh, I need to wee before having sex”. Sometimes it can feel like it might get in the way a bit. Like, sometimes it makes a noise during sex. We very much just laugh it off. All sorts of noises and smells happened during sex, anyway, so it's just part of the tapestry of the whole experience.
One of the main things [that impacted my sex life] was my recovery from surgery. Being really ill and being really weak, and that whole process of being like, “okay, we need to kind of really take things back to basics”. I was a lot more fragile and just learning about how this new body of mine works. I was mentally and emotionally coming to terms with having a scar and having a stoma in terms of body image and feeling sexy, or feeling confident. It was definitely like a learning experience.
Adolescent: Disabilities are oftentimes looked upon as something to “work around”, rather than “this is just a part of who I am. I have sex a little differently.” What are your thoughts on that perspective?
Hannah: I think if we had a broader definition of sex, and a more expansive understanding of what sex can be, how it can vary and be different from person to person [things would be different]. One of the things that I've been thinking about a lot more recently is how disability is a spectrum. It's not a case of not disabled and disabled. Some people might experience disability temporarily. Some people might find certain life experiences or mental health illnesses quite disabling.
What I think we need to do is, like you were saying: not think of it as “I have this disability, and so sex has to be different”. Everybody has got something that they need to navigate when it comes to sex. It might just be that maybe you struggle with premature ejaculation, or maybe at certain times of your menstrual cycle, your boobs really hurt. No one person experiences sex in the same way. So then when you put two people together - even more than that - suddenly there's a puzzle, there's a lot of things that you've got to take into account.
Adolescent: Has your podcast, Doing It, lent you to any experiences or modes of thinking that you would not have otherwise come across that might have changed your mind?
Hannah: That's a good question. I don't have a really nice, succinct answer to that. Because, the general answer is probably, but I've done so many episodes and done so many interviews. I'm like, “oh, which ones in particular?” There's so much. I feel like I'm always constantly learning about gender and the experiences of trans people. And so I'm always really grateful to be learning from those conversations that I have with guests of mine who have been on the podcast who are trans.
Adolescent: Do you have any specific resources you’d recommend to people?
Hannah: Oh, yeah. I'm an ambassador for Brook, a sexual health charity for young people in the UK. They have loads of great stuff on their website in terms of relationships and sexual health. I always recommend them. Bish is another UK website, [and it’s] a great place to look for more in-depth articles that answer certain questions in a really inclusive, nonjudgmental, and thoughtful way.
[In general, ask yourself,] “Is this thing that I'm consuming making me feel good about myself? Or is it making me feel bad?” Try to gravitate as much as possible toward the things that make you feel good about yourself.
You can keep up with Hannah on Instagram and Twitter @hannahwitton.