INTERVIEW: Hannah Witton

Hannah Witton

Hannah Witton Pic

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Hannah Witton is a twenty-something YouTuber who spreads positive messages to young people about sex, relationships, body image, gender and sexuality.

Doing It candidly and openly explores topics like masturbation and puberty, slut shaming and consent as well as how to maintain healthy relationships in a digital age.

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You’ve been making videos about sex and relationship education for over 5 years. What made you want to write a book? How does the book differ from your YouTube channel?
I’ve always loved books and reading, and I was really into the idea of creating something physical and permanent that could act like a sex & relationships manual. It covers a lot of the same topics I talk about in my videos just in more detail, there are guest contributors who are experts or people with personal experiences in some areas, and some personal anecdotes from myself that I’ve never shared online before.

HANNAH WITTON

Why do you think sex is such a taboo subject? Why is it important for young people to talk and learn about it?
I think it’s such a taboo subject because it’s very often a personal, private thing and the silence, mystery, rules and boundaries that surround it have turned it into this taboo topic. It is crucial for young people to learn about it because it affects everyone’s lives. Whether you’re having sex or not, talking about this and learning about it can help with having healthy relationships, body confidence, learning about your own or others’ sexuality and genders.

There are so many facets to sex and relationship education that just generally help with the confidence and well being of young people (and any age!) that it is of course important!

Did you have every chapter planned out from the beginning, or did you add and remove sections? What was the most difficult chapter to write? Are there any stories that almost didn’t make it?
I had the whole structure of the book and the different title chapters planned out before I started writing, but of course in the process of writing they got moved around and changed and a whole section even got removed. The most difficult chapter to write emotionally was the chapter on consent and rape, because it’s such a heavy and serious topic and I really wanted to get it right. The most difficult chapter to write logistically was the contraception chapter because I struggled with how on earth I was going to talk about all the different types there were and all the pros/cons/how you use them etc. I ended up going with a table but it was very frustrating!

Doing it cover

Your book includes loads of pieces written by other YouTubers and content creators. How instrumental do you think the online community is in generating discussion about sex and relationships?
I think the online community is doing an incredible job of talking about sex and relationships – it’s where I started learning everything! It’s a great place for discussion but also I think it’s a great place for LGBTQ+ voices. Especially for young LGBTQ+ people who don’t have anyone in their real life to relate to, they can find people online who have similar experiences to them and that can really help. There’s a plethora of ‘coming out videos’ online, and loads of trans YouTubers who make videos about their transition. I can only imagine that for young people going through these things and who maybe feel alone and misunderstood, the internet is a wonderful place.

Doing It offers readers advice and answers a lot of common questions about sex and relationships. Where do you go when you have your own questions?
I go to the internet usually. I check the Brook website and also the NHS as my first point of call. And then I’ll see if Dr. Lindsey Doe has a video about it on her channel “Sexplanations”.

LINDSAYDr. Lindsey Doe

At what age do you think schools should start giving sex education? If you were a sex ed. teacher, what 3 things would you make sure your students left school knowing?
I think that relationships and sex education needs to start before someone is experiencing anything first hand. So learning about puberty before you get your period, learning about contraception before you have sex. Relationships education should be taught in primary school – healthy relationships, ok and not ok touches, body autonomy. Then in secondary school you can start talking about sex, masturbation, contraception, STIs etc.

The 3 things I would make sure my students left school knowing would be:
* communicate and get consent!
* how to protect yourself from STIs
* sex can be pleasurable and there is nothing wrong with wanting or seeking out that pleasure

You recently took a short break from the internet while you were travelling. How did that feel? Do you ever feel pressure to constantly update your social media channels to maintain your online presence?
The break was wonderful, and it was a much-needed holiday. And yes I do feel that pressure to constantly be updating twitter and instagram, that’s one of the reasons I took the break was to get out of that cycle. I actually made a video about the experience of living offline whilst I was away!

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Do you ever feel self-conscious about your life being on the internet? Is there anything you’ve shared that maybe you regret sharing?
Sometimes I think about what my future children will think. There’s a lot of old cringey videos online, nothing I regret sharing but we’re always embarrassed by our past selves.

You’ve got a YouTube channel, blog, Instagram and Twitter. Which is your favourite and why?
I think Twitter might be my favourite. It’s such an open, free platform. I laugh at jokes on twitter, I get a lot of my news from twitter, and I lurk in the shadows watching twitter drama unfold. But also it’s one of the most direct ways I can connect with my audience and they can connect with me.

Do boys/potential love interests ever get intimidated by your YouTube channel? Have you ever gotten in trouble for mentioning or talking about someone in particular?
Sometimes they get really curious and ask loads of questions. When I used to date I tried to keep my job a secret for as long as possible because I hated talking about it. My current boyfriend already knew what my job was before we started dating and he doesn’t want anything to do with it which is amazing. He doesn’t even watch my videos so if I ever mention him he has no idea haha!

You’re pretty passionate about politics and were open about voting Labour. Why is it important for young people to be comfortable discussing politics?
Politics often looks like it’s an old men’s club but politics is for everyone and it affects everyone.

Young people historically have been the least likely to turn out to vote in elections and the most likely to feel the effects of the government so it’s very important to get young people comfortable with politics so they can feel empowered to take action and make their own decisions when voting.

VOTE

You’re pretty brave when it comes to talking about things many others don’t. Where’s the line? Are there any topics you wouldn’t risk bringing up in a conversation?
I haven’t found a line yet in terms of topics I’d like to cover but I definitely draw a line around things in my private life that I don’t want to share.

You mentioned in a blog post that you’ve got some ideas brewing for a second book. Any clues as to what those are? Would Book 2 have a similar subject matter, or would you go in a totally different direction?
This is very much still in progress so I couldn’t possibly give away too many details!

What’s next for you? Any items on your bucket list that you’re desperate to tick off?
I would love to do TV, that’s the next big goal for me.

BOOK

Read our review of ‘Doing It’ here

Doing It was published by Wren & Rook (Hachette Children’s Group) on 6th April 2017.

You can purchase a copy of Doing It from FoylesWaterstones, or The Book Depository:

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To discover more about Hachette click here

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