UU student writes book about sex

‘I have a more relaxed attitude towards sex now'

Milou Foto: Juliette de Groot
Photo: Juliette de Groot

And to think that Niet Bepaald Sexy wasn’t even supposed to be a book. Milou, now 25 years old, wrote it as a series of anecdotes, simply because she likes to write. “Around three years ago, my quest to find good sex started occupying more and more space in my head. Thoughts like ‘I must be the only one going through this’ or ‘I’m never going to solve this problem’ started taking over and I felt like I had to do something about it. So, I started writing it all down. It wasn’t until years later, when I was past the phase of embarrassment, that I considered publishing it. I sent the manuscript to a publisher, Blossom Books, and they were excited about it right away. So, we got the ball rolling, and I had to get used to the idea that other people would be reading that story too,” Milou laughs.

Partially inspired by the documentary Mijn seks is stuk  ("My sex is broken", Ed.) by Lize Korpershoek, and coinciding with the popular TV series Sex Education (2019-now), Niet Bepaald Sexy fits right into the zeitgeist. With topics like insecurity or how communication can be difficult or absent between sexual partners, or how friends can be on the same boat without either of them knowing it, Milou’s story is relatable to many. And that’s perhaps the most surprising thing about her book. Despite series like Sex and the City (1998-2004) and Normal People (2020), it is apparently still difficult to talk about sexuality, especially women's, in 2023.

Milou is no longer surprised by how relatable her book is. “I wasn’t expecting that at first but I've realised that people my age are reading it and then passing it on to their mothers or partners. But there are also people my grandparents' age who read it and recognise themselves in it. That’s really special to me, the fact that there are so many people, even in my own circle of friends, who basically think about sex the same way I do. That they don't feel like they’re alone, as I once thought. Because that's not true."

Closed hatch
Milou’s quest started during an exchange programme in Nashville, USA, a few years ago. A friend asked her point-blank about her sexual experiences. “We were just there with the two of us and he started talking about this. I couldn’t avoid the topic. It’s not as though I didn’t have any experience but let's just say I could summarise my sex life on a Post-it and it didn’t leave a good impression on me. That hatch inside my head just wasn’t opened yet. In the meantime, sex and consent were omnipresent topics on campus. Another friend of mine was focusing on sexual education as a queer person. He was really good at having that conversation. That, too, was an eye opener to me, forcing me to think about it.”

Around the same time, Lize Korpershoek's documentary aired. It was the first time Milou heard anyone talk about sex so openly and vulnerably. “She openly stated that sex wasn’t always fun for her. We often hear about the traumatic experiences and the success stories but that grey area in between, like ‘I don’t know how to relate to sex’, that was new to me. I felt so alone in that place. Being a student made me feel like sex comes first and connection comes second. You have sex and that either is the start of a relationship or it isn't. And because things don’t work like that for me, I wondered how I could ever be in a relationship.”

Milou's idea of sex didn't come out of the blue. A lot of it was taken from literature and film, where male perspectives predominate. “In that sense, Sex Education is such a great example,” she says. “That was the first time I saw a woman masturbate in a cultural product that wasn’t porn. And it wasn’t supposed to be something erotic, but rather completely normal. Something that’s simply part of life. For men, that’s never been an issue. They are regularly shown just casually pleasuring themselves.”

That approach to sexuality is one Milou also saw reflected in her life as a college student. “Students often say at the beginning of the night: ‘Who’s gonna hook up?’ and the next morning: ‘Where did you wake up?’. It might be nice to chat about that but that’s all there is to it. It’s never about what you may have found complicated about it or how to ensure that both partners enjoy themselves. Perhaps neither you nor your sex partners know that, let alone that you can dare to say it. This might even be more complicated for men because they aren’t taught to talk about sensitive topics. I understand that but it also means that things go very wrong sometimes.”

Students tend not to consider such talks sexy, according to Milou. “Everything has to be ‘exciting’, with a flair of ‘will they or won’t they’. But I’m a big fan of first discussing where you’re at,” she laughs. “Sex didn’t become fun for me until I started doing that. But it didn't happen just like that. There was a lot of stress and insecurity at first. ‘Am I doing things right? Is the other person okay with me saying everything out loud?’ It took a while. But, in the end, it did make everything easier for me.”

Milou is no longer as uninterested in sex as she once was. Although she stresses that it’s not a bad thing when people are not interested. “I didn’t like it because I felt like I wasn't normal. I felt like I would never be able to have a romantic relationship with anyone. I don’t think like that anymore. It doesn’t feel like this is my final destination, like I know how things should be. But I do have a more relaxed attitude towards sex now, it’s become a more positive place in my life. I'm not sure if it's because people are more open to this subject in this day and age. I hope so. I've been getting a lot of positive responses. It’s scary to present yourself so vulnerable, of course, but when you show such vulnerability, there is actually much less that can hurt you. I’ve shrugged off my hesitation and now I've got nothing left to hide.”