ROSIE GREEN: It’s back to sex school for me


Styling: Nicola Rose. Make-up: Caroline Barnes at Frank Agency. Hair: Alex Szabo at Carol Hayes. dress, self-portrait, from Selfridges

Styling: Nicola Rose. Caroline Barnes from Frank Agency. Alex Szabo, Carol Hayes. Self-portrait dress by Selfridges 

 It’s been a long time since I was enlightened on the fundamentals of the birds and the bees. At eight years old, I felt both appalled as well as intrigued.

And then I asked my ‘teachers’ – my mum and her mate Kate – ‘What if it’s too big and it won’t fit?’ At which point they both laughed until their mascara smudged and pelvic floors were almost overwhelmed, and said, ‘That doesn’t happen very often.’

As I embark on a post-marriage exploration of discovery, it became clear that there’s more to sex than just knowing what happens where. My new world means I am re-evaluating everything I thought about relationships and the most mind-blowing revelation is that good sex doesn’t ‘just happen’.

Until now, I’d subscribed to the idea that if two people who fancy each other get together they will effortlessly have great sex: stars will align, fireworks will explode with pleasing synchronicity. It was romantic to think that a man could masterfully please me. As he knows exactly what I should get for Christmas. However, no one can read minds. I only need to see my regifting drawer of novelty socks and hot chocolate stirrers in order to realize that. For good sex, input is required both physically and mentally.

Now my life has been blown wide open, I don’t feel so buttoned-up 

I have found backup to my theory in the unlikely form of Gwyneth Paltrow, who in her new Netflix show Sex, Love & Goop champions and normalises the pursuit of female pleasure. Gwyneth used the analogy of a golf match to describe her relationship with Michaela Boehm, an intimacy coach. You wouldn’t just go out there as a newcomer and expect to hit a birdie. It is important to master the basics of golf and become familiar with it.

So I’m working on it. Readers, my course is very enjoyable. My boyfriend and I are openly communicating.

What did I do in my marital life? Did I hell – I shut that stuff right down. Why? Embarrassment, mainly. Also, I would feel vulnerable, too exposed if I had expressed my feelings. Because my ex-husband was

I got together we were young and virile; sex was good and uncomplicated so I didn’t feel the need to talk about it. But now I see it could have been better if I’d been more honest. That would certainly have stopped the build-up resentments, and misunderstandings.

Weirdly, now that my life has been blown wide open, I don’t feel so buttoned-up. I am more comfortable talking about my needs and listening to my boyfriend’s. I’m now able to have grown-up conversations around what fires me up (flirty texts, kissing, a glass of wine) and what pours cold water on desire (seven glasses of wine).

Which brings me to another hard-earned fact of life: you can’t have great sex until you know what you want. For the first time in my life I’ve actively thought about what presses my buttons. Up until now I was more familiar with the Farrow & Ball paint chart than my own erogenous zones, so I’m up-skilling in this area. I realise I’ve never educated myself on what gets me in the mood. A lot of what makes me feel desirous is dependent on my context. It’s easy to feel sexy when you have the time to yourself to prepare, enjoy the build up, and the tension. When I’m out with friends, I enjoy flirting.

In addition to learning practical skills, I’ve also read books and listened carefully to experts. It is clear from them that the world can be so diverse in how people react to things. My predilections will be formed by my experiences; my boyfriend’s will be entirely different based on his.

Which has led me to understand that the ‘facts of life’ secondary school-style is a very narrow definition of sex. It seemed that I understood the basic concepts of GCSE reproduction and was therefore an expert on the topic. But I now realize that the dictionary definitions of sex are only the tip of the iceberg.

For instance, Gwyneth and her pal talk a lot about how ‘outercourse’ is as essential as ‘intercourse’. Which decoded means all the peripheral stuff – the touching, stroking and the other erogenous zones – is not actually peripheral at all; it can be the main event.

So as of now I’m buying into the alternative facts of life – ones which go beyond the basics and factor in the importance of talking, of pleasure and of how it can build or erode a relationship. I’m hoping to get an A*.