My Morning After Podcast: Meet your host Alix Fox
Alix Fox’s colour-changing hair isn’t the only thing that makes her like a chameleon: she camoflauges between professions including broadcaster, journalist and sex educator. In her own, characteristically colourful, words: “my career has more slashes in it than Edward Scissorhands’ shower curtain”. Her latest role will be hosting ellaOne’s #MyMorningAfter podcast series.
We caught up with Alix about the #MyMorningAfter podcast and what she hopes to teach listeners about emergency contraception. Let’s meet your host with the most… Alix Fox.
Hey Alix, thanks for stopping by for a chat! What colour is your hair at the moment?
It’s a sort of Parma Violets lilac shade. It was deep purple, but it's now washed out and for once I'm quite enjoying the diluted version. My sister is getting married in August so I thought that maybe my ‘Lisa Simpson hits middle age’ fluorescent yellow wasn’t ideal. Not least because the wedding is in a forest and when my hair was bright yellow many insects tried to pollinate my head. I don't want to spend the day playing party host to an aphid barbecue on my bonce!
Speaking of playing host to insects, you yourself are one busy bee. Can you tell us about some of the sexual health causes you’ve been working on?
I'm an ambassador of the young people's sexual health charity Brook, who have recently expanded to start considering mental health issues too. Mental and sexual health are tied in with one another: what's happening in your head affects what's happening in your bed and vice versa. I also work with the Terrence Higgins Trust, which is an HIV charity. I was the face of HIV testing week last year – I support people knowing their status, knowledge truly is power.
What was it about ellaOne’s #MyMorningAfter campaign that appealed to you?
Where do I begin?! There are huge amounts of confusion and delusion surrounding the morning after pill. The nickname itself is misleading: we know that ellaOne can be taken up to 120 hours after an unprotected encounter. The more we disseminate reliable information, the better everybody is placed to make decisions that are right for them.
On the podcast, you and your guests discuss some of the stories people have sent in to ellaOne. What do you think about those stories?
One thing I love about the My Morning After stories is that no story refrained from all the gory, glorious, details. While we were recording, it struck me how much of an influence things like religion can have, or what your mum has told you at home, what you heard at school, or the fact that you live in a small village compared to a big bustling town.
On Unexpected Fluids, a podcast I co-host, we share ‘real life tales of sexual fails’ which are often very funny. But after the LOLs comes a lot of learning, because by inviting people to tell the truth about their sexual encounters, we gain huge insight into the reality of people's sex lives.
In my mind, ellaOne’s My Morning After project is absolutely crucial to improving women's health. The stories shed blinding amounts of light on a number of issues that we now know are necessary to tackle if we're going to improve everybody's access to, and understanding of, this type of emergency contraception.
Do you have a My Morning After story?
I have chosen to take oral emergency contraception once. I think I was 19 and I was at uni. My contraceptive pill lived in my makeup bag, so every morning as I applied my lippy and my liner, I would also take care of my vagina. I had bought a new makeup bag and transferred the contents, but this change to my routine meant I forgot to take my pill even though I’d had intercourse the night before.
At that time, I didn't have a full understanding of how the contraceptive pill worked. I read the booklet that came with the medicine, but it felt unclear. I went to my GP to ask for emergency contraception. They gave me the impression they thought I was a ‘silly girl’ wasting their time when the likelihood of me falling pregnant after missing a pill at the end of that packet was “one in a million”. My answer to that was, “well, if I am that one in a million, do you want to be the one who adopts the child?”
I got the pill from the pharmacy and I vividly remember walking home past all the little terraced houses in the student area of Leeds, feeling an immense sense of guilt. I felt I had been irresponsible by missing my pill – even though that's a very human thing to do.
I didn't understand how the medicine worked so I thought I might be terminating a pregnancy, which is totally wrong. As well as carrying my little paper pharmacy bag, I was bearing a massive, invisible, unnecessary backpack full of guilt – I think I actually cried. I didn't feel very supported, aside from my male partner. He was even more worried than I was, because men are taught so little about contraception. If our education had been better, it all could have gone smoother.
What would you like to say to younger Alix?
I would tell her that nothing about that experience involved me letting myself down. Now, I know there was nothing irresponsible about me going to get the morning after pill. In fact, I was being mega-responsible.
This is why having open, honest conversations about these things is so important. If I had clear and accessible information like this podcast, then I might have been able to sidestep that uncomfortable incident.
What do you hope that anyone who listens to the podcast will take away from it?
My ultimate wish is that after somebody has poured these podcasts into their ears, they will remove their earphones feeling entertained and educated. If they ever find themselves making decisions about emergency contraception, that they will feel confident in their understanding of what it is and how to ask for it. I hope they feel empowered and far from alone.
What also struck me was how funny the episodes are. A lot of conversations about contraception are categorically not a laughing matter, and rightfully so, but in this case I think using humour to relax the conversation is really important. A lot of the reason people don't talk about emergency contraception is because of stigma, taboo and embarrassment. If you can break the ice if you can make people feel comfortable and inspired to speak. I've used that as a massive tool throughout my career.
ellaOne® 30mg film-coated tablet contains ulipristal acetate and is indicated for emergency contraception within 120 hours (5 days) of unprotected sex or contraceptive failure. Always read the label.
Words: Miranda Slade