7 Ways To Have Sex Without A Penis

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— Because You Really Don’t Need One

By Kasandra Brabaw

When most people think about sex, their minds likely jump to penis-in-vagina (P-in-V) sex. And it’s no wonder, given that the sex ed many of us had (if we had it at all) focused on teaching us how to not get pregnant. When pregnancy is the concern (or the goal) then the only kind of sex that seems to “count” is P-in-V sex. We’re so invested in the penis’ involvement in sex, that when the story of a man who lost his penis in a childhood accident came out on Reddit, people had one burning question: How can he fuck his girlfriend?

“We typically end up having this picture in our brain that sex involves a penis and vagina,” says Laura Deitsch, PhD, resident sexologist of Vibrant. “It starts when a penis is hard and it ends when a penis ejaculates.” That fixation on penis-in-vagina penetration as “real sex” not only leaves a bunch of people out, it also ignores all kinds of sexy things couples could be doing instead of sticking a penis into a hole, she says. Plenty of people default to penis-less sex because they have to — including cisgender women in queer relationships and trans or non-binary people who feel gender dysphoria around their genitals — but even straight, cisgender people could benefit from giving the penis a break. Taking one night off from P-in-V sex could inspire creativity in straight couples’ sex lives, and that helps to stave off boredom.

Whether you’re a cis queer woman wondering what to do with her penis-less partner, a trans person looking for ways to avoid gender dysphoria, a straight and cis person whose partner can’t use his penis for medical reasons, or someone who simply wants to add a little excitement to your sex life, we’ve rounded up five ways to have sex without a penis. So, consider giving the P-in-V sex a break, and trying something new.

Put your tongue to work.
You’ve likely heard of the orgasm gap — the fact that straight women orgasm significantly less often than straight men — but have you heard of the oral sex gap? According to at least one study, women are more than twice as likely to go down on a sexual partner than men. So if you’re in a straight pairing, use your penis-less night to start filling in that gap.

Often, oral sex is way more effective (in terms of having orgasms) than penetrative sex alone for people who have vulvas, because there are about 8,000 nerve endings in the clitoris. But, regardless of your gender identity or sexuality, eating someone out for the first time can be scary. Vulvas and vaginas seem like this big mystery, simply because no one talks about them.

So let’s shatter the mystery. All it takes is a little bit of anatomy knowledge and some stellar communication to know what you’re doing. Things to remember: 1) All clits look different, but they’re generally located toward the top of your partner’s vulva. If you can’t find your partner’s clit, ask if you’re in the right spot. 2) Talk to your partner about what they like. It’s the best way to get them off, promise. 3) Have fun! Oral sex is hot.

Get your fingers (or fist) in there.
Fingering isn’t just for foreplay. When done correctly (meaning, there’s plenty of lubrication and it feels good), fingering can be just as satisfying as other forms of penetration. Plus, if your partner has a vulva, using your fingers gives you plenty of mobility to add another finger, tongue, or vibrator circling their clit. And that combo is amazingly good at creating explosive blended orgasms.

If your partner has a penis, you can finger them, too. It’s called “muffing.” People with penises have two spots tucked behind the scrotum and testicles called inguinal canals, which are about the diameter of a finger (but also stretch). Mira Bellwether first wrote about this kind of fingering in a zine called Fucking Trans Women, but the sex act can feel good for anyone who has a penis, regardless of gender identity.

Kick it old school.
Think back to the days of your first romance. You were likely waiting a while to have “real sex.” So, instead, you’d rub your fully clothed body against your partner’s. That, my friends, is dry humping and it can count as sex, too. If you rub in the right places, it can also result in orgasm.

“The main thing for people to remember is that you’re going to try getting some constant friction on the clit,” Laura McGuire, PhD, a sexologist and consultant, previously told Refinery29. So just swivel your hips around on a partner’s erection, hip, thigh, or a sex toy, until you hit a spot that feels good.

Take out the toy box.
Sex toys are your friend, and they can make any kind of sex much more interesting (whether or not the penis is in play). If at least one partner has a clitoris, toys like vibrators and dildos can be used either in combo with oral sex or fingering or they can be used on their own to stimulate any part of the body, Dr. Deitsch says.

Strap-ons can also be a great addition to your sex adventures, whether or not your partner has a penis. And if they do have a penis, toys can still come in handy. Anyone who has a prostate can get lots of pleasure from anal sex, so you can use a strap-on to peg your partner (aka, enter them from behind).

Share your fantasies.
Sex means so many different things to different people that it sometimes doesn’t require much touching at all, Dr. Deitsch says. “If we opened our minds, we’d realize that sex is a whole lot of stuff,” she says. “And I challenge someone, if they’re thinking that something like tying your partner up and reading them erotic fiction isn’t sex, would they do that with a family member or with someone who they just met at the grocery store?”

To some people, sharing sexual fantasies can be highly erotic. So Dr. Deitsch recommends laying with your partner and describing the sexy things you want to do to them, or watching porn together, or engaging in some light bondage as you read sexy stories.

Experiment with texture and touch.
If non-penetrative sex is new for you, then now is a great time to really get to know your partner’s body. “An interesting way to conceptualize a partner is having them be your canvas,” Dr. Deitsch says. Use whatever you can find, that your partner feels good having on their body, and explore different parts of your lover’s body. That can mean a wooden spoon or spatula, a comb, an ice cube, a smooth piece of cloth or a fork. “Rake a comb across their back or take a piece of cloth in between the cleavage area,” Dr. Deitsch says. “Just making a big long production out of feeling different types of touch with different materials.” It’s fun, but can also help you get intimately acquainted with all of your partner’s sensitive spots. (Maybe you can even attempt the elusive nipple-gasm.)

Make it booty-licious.
(Almost) everyone has an anus, Dr. Deitsch says. So anal sex is the great equalizer. “There are a plethora of new toys on the market, like butt plugs and anal beads, that you certainly don’t need a penis to be able to utilize,” she says. And whether any partner involved has a prostate or not, anal sex can feel amazing.

But, it’s also easy to have anal sex that hurts. So, if you’re a first-timer, make sure you’re buying smaller butt plugs that have a flared base and using plenty of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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Modern sexuality: 8 terms you need to know in 2018

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By Maya Khamala

Back in the 70s, French philosopher Michel Foucault made the case that sexuality is a social construct used as a way of controlling people. In his History of Sexuality, he explores how Western society’s views on sex have undergone a major shift over the last few centuries. It’s definitely not that transgressive relationships or desires didn’t exist before. What’s relatively new, though, is the idea that our desires reveal some fundamental truth about who we are, along with the idea that we should (or must) seek out and express whatever such truth we may find. By this logic, sex is not just something you do, but the kind of sex you have (or want to be having) becomes a characteristic of your sexuality.

Freedom, or more boxes? 

But even though Foucault (who identified as gay) acknowledged constructed limitations, to him, getting to the highest truth of our sexualities can easily become an obsession, or a trap, and I’m inclined to agree. I mean, how do we actually know when to stop searching and defining? Some believe that grouping sexual identities into increasingly narrow categories can restrict a person’s freedom to express a truly fluid sexuality, and that each newly accepted sexual orientation demands both acceptance and adoption of increasingly specific criteria. There’s the danger, too, that self-definition pressures others to define themselves using the same parameters, whether they would otherwise choose to do so or not. 

Dissatisfaction with “traditional” labels is more than valid, but doesn’t necessarily have to lead to creating new ones. I’m all for the pro-choice approach, personally. Live and let lust: define away, or opt for the anti-identity and refuse to define yourself. Either way, no need to judge others for the path they choose. And reductive or frustrating though constructs may be for some, I personally don’t believe that makes them any less real or useful to others.

Gender: no longer the top determinant? 

One thing is for sure: in the last few decades, society has most definitely been hard at work constructing sexualities. Alongside the “traditional” heterosexual and homosexual orientations, a seemingly endless variety of other options and avenues now exist. Many of these newly created identities (originated in the past decade) reduce the role of gender in establishing sexual attraction, instead focusing on non-gendered attributes (like emotions, intelligence, or style, for example). As modern times and the dating sites that accompany them would have us believe, rather than emphasizing gender as the primary factor at play in determining who a person might be attracted to, many people are able to identify other features that attract them, which may actually overshadow or even supersede gender as the overarching thing.

Consider the following 8 ways of defining sexuality that I have seen floating around in recent times. They barely even scratch the surface in terms of what’s out there, but everything starts with a taste.

1. Asexual 

Being the absolute horn doggess that I am, I’ve tried and failed to wrap my mind around the asexuality thing. But I respect and believe in its existence. This orientation denotes a lack of any sexual attraction, regardless of gender. No matter what their reasons or lack of reasons are, asexuals are neither interested in nor desire any sexual activity. Nonetheless, they may or may not be in an asexual romantic relationship. Asexual is different from celibate- since the latter is about choosing to refrain from sex, despite desire still existing.

2. Demisexual 

This is one of those “entirely unrelated to gender” sexualities I was mentioning. Characterized by the need to develop a strong emotional connection before engaging in sex, demisexuals require a strong emotional bond before they feel capable of getting sexually involved with anyone. An initial attraction will never spring them into action. “Demi,” means half, and so demisexual kinda sorta means “halfway” between sexual and asexual—which is one way of looking at needing an emotional connection to get aroused, I suppose…

3. Sapiosexual 

I see this one a hell of a lot. I dare say it’s trending. If I was more into amassing identities, I’d claim this one too. Of course, intelligence is relative and varied. Sapiosexuals are those who find intelligence (whatever that may be to them) to be the most sexually attractive feature in a person. They become attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use over other qualities. This may or may not override the preference for a specific gender, depending on the person.

4. Gynosexual 

Gyno what? Have you had your pap smear this year? Just kidding, different use of gyno. Gynosexuals are sexually and/or romantically attracted to anything associated with females, female parts, female identity, women, femininity. Obviously, this can be interpreted in any number of ways, and differs from person to person. Some people who identify this way may care more about gender, or specifically cisgender identity than others.

5. Androsexual 

This one is the sexual or romantic attraction to males, men, masculinity, male parts, male identity, and just like gynosexuality, can differ wildly in its expression from person to person. By some people’s standards, I very likely fit into this category (among others, of course). But other people’s standards hardly matter when expressing your own sexual identity, just remember that. So you might as well cherry-pick as/if you see fit!

6. Bisexual 

Bisexuality is a sexual attraction to both men and women. Basic, and accepted long ago, right? Except bi people happen to deal with a (not) surprising amount of stigma, even (or especially?) in the LGBTQ universe. Apparently being part of the acronym doesn’t equal acceptance. Most of the stigma comes from an unwillingness to “pick sides,” which is exactly the problem (sometimes) with too many definitions. People get judgy and end up replicating the same oppressive bullshit they were trying to define themselves out of.

7. Pansexual 

Some people conflate pansexuality with bisexuality, but they’re different. The former is a sexual attraction to people of any gender—not just men and women. Considered one of the most fluid orientations, pansexuality means feeling sexually attracted to people of any gender, including people who identify as transgendered, transsexual, androgynous, or gender fluid—to name a few. Pansexuality has been more in the spotlight recently, at least in part due to celebrities choosing to identify this way (including Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monae).

8. Skoliosexual 

To be skoliosexual is to be attracted to anyone who isn’t cisgendered. Skoliosexuality refers to sexual attraction to people who identify as non-binary, and apparently does not generally describe an attraction to specific genitalia or birth assignments. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a word for people who are only attracted to binary/cisgendered people, and while I didn’t come up with anything conclusive, controversial opinion would simply call that “transphobic”. 

Now, while I am inclined to believe that I’m attracted to what I’m attracted to, and that there’s not much I can do about it, labels be damned, maybe one real benefit of being able to cherry pick sexualities is that they get us thinking. They even challenging ourselves, sometimes in ways that help us grow and shed unhealthy habits (like being attracted exclusively to assholes, for example—what’s the word for that one?).

Complete Article HERE!

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Why do we have difficulty accepting the variety of gender expressions?

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Isn’t it self-evident that gender would always be uniquely expressed in each person?

Gender is not binary, but alters from culture to culture, from generation to generation

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I know we’ve all heard this stuff before: men and women and boys and girls are “different”: they think differently, they think about different things, and they interact with the world in different ways. But those are dangerous ideas. Why? Because they simplify both women and/or men as stereotypical, and we know that stereotypes flatten the complexity of the human person. Each of us is complicated, amazing, contradictory, mysterious, hopeful, sad – and in all other matters of being human. We have already left other stereotypes behind us. For instance, we know not all Canadians are polite or Irish people good singers and dancers. Furthermore, we as individuals appreciate being taken as we are, in our own lives as ourselves, and not as representations of all women and/or all men in all circumstances, all of the time.

So why is it that we have so much difficulty in accepting the variety of gender expressions and in being nice about it? Isn’t it self-evident that gender would always be uniquely expressed in each person? For a long time feminist and cultural studies scholars have made the convincing case that sex is primarily the biological reality of someone as male and/or female, while gender is what is socialised. Gender is not binary, but alters from culture to culture, from generation to generation, from family to family and community to community.

It is time to embrace the incredible variety of gender identities and gender expressions as part of societal change. In Canada, a bill was introduced by Justin Trudeau’s government in May of 2016, passed the legislative process and, upon receiving Royal Assent in June of 2017, became law. The purpose of Bill C-16 was to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and Criminal Code by adding “gender expression and gender identity” as protected grounds to the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code.

Seems like a no-brainer but there was a backlash in regards to the use of pronouns (he, him, his or she, her, hers or they, them, theirs). The backlash rested on an argument about government infringing on freedom of speech and enacting something called “compelled speech”. The protesters wanted to be able to refuse to use different pronouns for those who do not subscribe to binary gender. If someone asked them to refer to them as “they” or “them”, they didn’t want to feel “compelled” to honour this because of freedom of expression.

But what’s so difficult about it? If Elizabeth Jones at the bookstore, say, asked me to call her Mrs Jones, why would I say “Nope. I am more comfortable with calling you Betty”? And if Pat asked you to call Pat “them”, wouldn’t you?

It’s not a big ask, and the world would be a better place if we were nice to each other. In any event, the Canadian Bar Association argued that the Bill C-16 provides necessary protections for transgender people in particular and posed no risk to freedom of expression. Thankfully, the debate seems to have settled down but, sad to say, often rages elsewhere.

Ours is a world of incredible social change. We will need to make necessary adjustments as we go forward as a society. We should all get to decide how we are to be addressed. This matters because our words reveal us and create us. Words reveal how we see the world, how we see and understand others and can create our views and attitudes.

A civilised society respects all people. We live our lives as free agents who love, work, rest and think in our own unique ways. If we can’t see the commonalities of all people and the uniqueness of each person, if we always see sex and gender as the biggest deal in who someone is, then we are doomed to this gender/sexuality conflict forever.

To be kind and gracious with some added Canadian politeness to all persons through thoughtful language, regardless of gender expressions, sexuality, sex, religion, ethnicity, race and socio-economic status, is the only way forward. Whether we be men and/or women, teachers and/or lawyers, straight and/or gay, conservative and/or liberal, we can respect all persons. Basic respect for others is necessary for all of us to live good, just and peaceful lives with those around us. Let’s play nice.

Complete Article HERE!

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Non-Binary Folks Share Advice for Coming Out as Gender Non-Conforming and Accepting Yourself

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Struggling to come out as your authentic self? You’re not alone.

 by


 
With Pride Month coming to a close, Lifehacker has released a video featuring folks discussing coming out and the process of identifying as non-binary. The individuals include Nandi Kayyy, Dane Calabro, Divesh Brahmbhatt, and Kei Williams, all of whom use the pronouns they/them, but describe their gender identity in a variety of different ways. The video touches on gender, sexuality, identity, and the struggles of coming out as non-binary.

Simply put, gender non-forming is “a term used to describe some people whose gender expression is different from conventional expectations of masculinity and femininity.” Similar terms like genderqueer, gender fluid, non-binary, and gender variant express the recognition of a gender spectrum that exists beyond the male/female binary.

Another important distinction is the difference between sex and gender, two concepts often used interchangeably with each other. Sex is simply the medical assignment made at birth based on a baby’s external anatomy. Gender however, is how you feel inside, your sense of self. Sex and gender are entirely separate from sexuality/orientation, which is about who you are(or aren’t) sexually or romantically attracted to.

Despite being acknowledged across cultures and countries, the concept of gender variance is still widely misunderstood and dismissed. While gender variance has existed for centuries, many people struggle with upending and exploring identities beyond the binary.

It’s hard to break out of a system that’s been reinforced as a cornerstone of our identity since before we’re born. Just look at the rise in popularity of gender reveal parties, where parents and families gather together to cut open a cake or bust a pinata or smash a watermelon in an alligator’s mouth to get those pink vs. blue results.

But progress is happening: states like Oregon, Washington, New York and California have passed laws officially recognizing a third gender, and gender variant characters are appearing in popular culture (one of our faves, Steven Universe, gets a shout-out in the video).

For some people, gender identity is a fixed constant, while others experience gender as a fluid and ever-changing experience. There’s no wrong answer and no wrong way to identify: everyone moves at their own personal velocity. If you want to learn more, check out resources like GLAAD, The Non-Binary Resource and the Trevor Project or reach out to your local LGBTQ center.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex and gender both shape your health, in different ways

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When you think about gender, what comes to mind? Is it anatomy or the way someone dresses or acts? Do you think of gender as binary — male or female? Do you think it predicts sexual orientation?

Gender is often equated with sex — by researchers as well as those they research, especially in the health arena. Recently I searched a database for health-related research articles with “gender” in the title. Of the 10 articles that came up first in the list, every single one used “gender” as a synonym for sex.

Although gender can be related to sex, it is a very different concept. Gender is generally understood to be socially constructed, and can differ depending on society and culture. Sex, on the other hand, is defined by chromosomes and anatomy — labelled male or female. It also includes intersex people whose bodies are not typically male or female, often with characteristics of both sexes.

Researchers often assume that all biologically female people will be more similar to each other than to those who are biologically male, and group them together in their studies. They do not consider the various sex- and gender-linked social roles and constraints that can also affect their health. This results in policies and treatment plans that are homogenous.

‘Masculine?’ ‘Cisgender?’ ‘Gender fluid?’

The term “gender” was originally developed to describe people who did not identify with their biological sex. John Money, a pioneering gender researcher, explained: “Gender identity is your own sense or conviction of maleness or femaleness; and gender role is the cultural stereotype of what is masculine and feminine.”

There are now many terms used to describe gender — some of the earliest ones in use are “feminine,” “masculine” and “androgynous” (a combination of masculine and feminine characteristics).

Research shows that gender, as well as sex, can influence vulnerability to disease.

More recent gender definitions include: “Bigender” (expressing two distinct gender identities), “gender fluid” (moving between gendered behaviour that is feminine and masculine depending on the situation) and “agender” or “undifferentiated” (someone who does not identify with a particular gender or is genderless).

If a person’s gender is consistent with their sex (e.g. a biologically female person is feminine) they are referred to as “cisgender.”

Gender does not tell us about sexual orientation. For example, a feminine (her gender) woman (her sex) may define herself as straight or anywhere in the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) spectrum. The same goes for a feminine man.

Femininity can affect your heart

When gender has actually been measured in health-related research, the labels “masculine,” “feminine” and “androgynous” have traditionally been used.

Research shows that health outcomes are not homogeneous for the sexes, meaning all biological females do not have the same vulnerabilities to illnesses and diseases and nor do all biological males.

Gender is one of the things that can influence these differences. For example, when the gender of participants is considered, “higher femininity scores among men, for example, are associated with lower incidence of coronary artery disease…(and) female well-being may suffer when women adopt workplace behaviours traditionally seen as masculine.”

In another study, quality of life was better for androgynous men and women with Parkinson’s disease. In cardiovascular research, more masculine people have a greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are more feminine. And research with cancer patients found that both patients and their caregivers who were feminine or androgynous were at lower risk of depression-related symptoms as compared to those who were masculine and undifferentiated.

However, as mentioned earlier, many health researchers do not measure gender, despite the existence of tools and strategies for doing so. They may try to guess gender based on sex and/or what someone looks like. But it is rare that they ask people.

A tool for researchers

The self-report gender measure (SR-Gender) I developed, and first used in a study of aging, is one simple tool that was developed specifically for health research.

The SR-Gender asks a simple question: “Most of the time would you say you are…?” and offers the following answer choices: “Very feminine,” “mostly feminine,” “a mix of masculine and feminine,” “neither masculine or feminine,” “mostly masculine,” “very masculine” or “other.”

The option to answer “other” is important and reflects the constant evolution of gender. As “other” genders are shared, the self-report gender measure can be adapted to reflect these different categorizations.

It’s also important to note that the SR-Gender is not meant for in-depth gender research, but for health and/or medical studies, where it can be used in addition to, or instead of, sex.

Using gender when describing sex just muddies the waters. Including the actual gender of research participants, as well as their sex, in health-related studies will enrich our understanding of illness.

By asking people to tell us their sex and gender, health researchers may be able to understand why people experience illness and disease differently.

Complete Article HERE!

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What Does It Actually Mean To Be Sexually Fluid?

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It’s not the same as being bisexual.

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[R]ecently, I was speaking with a friend about sexuality and labels: She has fallen in love with both men and women, and cannot quite pin down her orientation.

She doesn’t feel fully lesbian and she doesn’t feel fully straight. But bisexual somehow doesn’t strike her as the right fit, either.

Hers is more an attraction she can categorize on a person-to-person basis and it has evolved over the years, but when pressed to define it herself, no single word surfaces.

I had two words to suggest: sexually fluid.

Sexually, what? This concept can be difficult to wrap your mind around, and comes with a lot of confusion.

What Is Sexual Fluidity?

“I define sexual fluidity as a capacity for a change in sexual attraction—depending on changes in situational or environmental or relationship conditions,” says Lisa Diamond, Ph.D., professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah. Diamond should know: she literally wrote the book on this matter, Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women’s Love and Desire.

Sexual fluidity: The idea that sexual orientation can change over time, and depending on the situation at hand.

The concept of sexual fluidity doesn’t negate the existence of sexual orientation (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and so forth). Rather, fluidity builds in a little wiggle room, Diamond says.

Not quite getting it? Rena McDaniel—a clinical sexologist and licensed therapist—suggests thinking about a spectrum, with attraction to women-identifying people on the left side, and male-identifying people on the right. Your attraction profile exists within a bracket on that spectrum, and that bracket can slide: At age 22, for example, your attraction bracket might sit closer to the left, but by 30, you might find it’s shifted a few degrees to the right.

“You may, for instance, be attracted to the more feminine side of the gender spectrum, and over time, that may evolve and you may find yourself attracted to…people on more the masculine side…and that—over your lifetime—may shift and change,” McDaniel says.

That’s not to say a person chooses their sexual orientation, though: Rather, it means that the degree to which they’re attracted to men or women, or whoever, might vary somewhat over time.

In other words, sexual fluidity does not mean once I was exclusively attracted to men, and now I’m exclusively attracted to women, but something closer to I was once attracted to men and women, but these days I find myself attracted more or less exclusively to women. That migration can depend on a person’s experiences, Diamond adds, and on their personal relationships.

How Is It Different Than Bisexuality?

“Are you not just describing bisexuality?” I hear someone muttering off in the distance. Diamond says she gets that question a lot, and in truth, the two concepts do share much in common.

The confusion isn’t helped by a lack of agreement, even among bisexual people, as to what bisexual means: For some, it’s attraction to both genders; for others, it’s not caring about gender at all and gauging attraction on the basis of the person in front of you.

Bisexuality, she continues, “is a real orientation, it does exist, and I’ve seen a lot of people in the bisexual orientation experience themselves as consistently over time being attracted to both women and men. Maybe not to the exact same degrees—it doesn’t have to be 50/50—but they are consistently attracted to both women and men.”

Fluidity, meanwhile, connotes change over time: “Someone who’s fluid, they aren’t necessarily going to consistently experience attraction for both women and men,” Diamond explains. “There may be times in their life that they are more aware of attraction toward one gender, and times in their life when they’re attracted to the other gender.”

Further, not everyone exhibits the same degree of fluidity—and some people don’t experience fluidity at all, which is also fine. You can be the most open-minded person in the world and still not summon up attraction for a man-identifying or woman-identifying person, because again, you don’t get to choose sexual orientation.

And while Diamond’s research used to indicate that women-identified people were more fluid than male-identified, that’s changing. Many men are increasingly comfortable describing themselves as mostly heterosexual, Diamond notes.

Complete Article HERE!

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Beyond breadwinners and homemakers, we need to examine how same-sex couples divide housework

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[H]ousework is often understood as a gendered negotiation based on the traditional roles of homemaker (feminine) and breadwinner (masculine). While gender norms have shifted dramatically in the past few decades, theories of housework are still stuck on this 1950s model.

Shifting family structures, including the rising number of same-sex marriages in recent years, mean our understanding of housework needs updating. In our recent study, we highlight that current theories of housework do not adequately address dynamics in same-sex couples.

We present our own approach, arguing that all couples adopt different roles at different life points, and some reject traditional gender identities altogether.

Simply, there is no single way to explain the role of gender in housework. Our theories and data analysis need updating to account for the more diverse ways people behave as men and women in both same-sex and heterosexual relationships.

Housework in theory

Existing theories of housework argue that domestic labour is one way to perform gender for oneself and one’s partner within heterosexual couples. The basic assumption is that individuals are socialised from birth into gender roles that dictate appropriate feminine and masculine behaviours.

Traditional gender roles teach young girls that women are responsible for the physical and mental work of ensuring household chores are completed. By contrast, breadwinner roles teach young boys that masculinity is tied to providing for the family economically.

Traditional housework divisions relegate men to a narrow set of housework tasks – maintenance of the home, yard work and home repair.

Existing theories of housework suggest individuals are socialised into traditional gender roles from birth.

Feminist literature has challenged these ideas, arguing that domestic and economic work should not be distributed based on gender.

Young people today are more likely than older generations to reject traditionally gendered expectations in favour of more equal divisions of paid and domestic work. Yet we know that gender remains a major factor in unpaid divisions of household labour.

Housework and same-sex couples

Research shows that same-sex couples have more equitable divisions of housework than heterosexual couples, but the partner who engages in more childcare also does more “feminine” housework tasks. However, the question of how to explain these divisions remains.

Existing theories assume same-sex couples either behave just as heterosexual couples, with one specialising in the home and one in the workforce, or do not divide housework by gender at all.

One argument is that same-sex couples are able to negotiate housework in the “absence” of gender. As the argument goes, one partner does the washing, dishes and vacuuming not because they are male or female but because they prefer these chores, have less money or spend less time at work.

Existing studies show that same-sex couples have more equitable housework divisions than heterosexual couples.

However, we argue that same-sex couples’ housework divisions and relationship dynamics may function in more complicated ways, rather than simply doing or undoing heterosexual gender dynamics.

Women, regardless of sexual orientation, may view a clean and well-dressed table as one way to be a “good” woman. But, for others, housework may tap into more nuanced gender relations. For example, resisting the urge to constantly tidy up after children and partners may, for some women, be a form of feminist rebellion, a challenge to patriarchal norms.

Same-sex couples may have more scope to engage in a greater diversity of housework tasks, without the boundaries of heterosexual norms of “feminine” and “masculine” chores. But their performance of these chores is often interpreted through traditional gender norms (for example, gay men clean, cook and decorate as a sign of femininity) that have homophobic connotations.

Applying heterosexual norms to same-sex couples housework negotiations is fraught with false gendered assumptions and homophobia.

Cultural narratives of gender

To fully explain the way same-sex couples might negotiate housework, we need to leave our old theories of gender behind.

Take two examples. The idea that men using power tools to feel a rush of masculinity is evident in our cultural narratives. Similarly, the notion that women bake cupcakes to shower their families with feminine love is also ingrained in our traditional gender norms.

If we switch the genders here – have women use power tools to be feminine and men bake cupcakes to be masculine – we can see that the logic of these theories falls flat. Of course, men bake and women use tools, but how these tap into gender identities is lacking from existing research.

Men may bake to show care for their partners and this action may tap into other dimensions of masculinity (such as caring and nurturing). Gay men may engage in baking and lesbian women in using power tools as a way to tap into different dimensions of their masculinity and femininity (such as care or empowerment), not to demonstrate their rejection of either gender identity.

Or, housework may have less to do with gender among modern heterosexual and same-sex couples and more to do with preferences, leisure and relaxation.

Important questions

As ideas of gender as a simple binary (masculinity and femininity) are increasingly challenged, the question of how gender affects couples’ housework divisions is important. Existing studies on gender and housework ask standard questions about gender (male/female/other) but fail to ask detailed questions about gender identities and gender expressions on a continuum.

Within same-sex couples, housework is less likely to be a source of patriarchal domination, but that doesn’t mean gender is absent from negotiations. Today’s adults were raised in the context of our society’s gender norms, and being in a non-heterosexual relationship requires a re-evaluation of these norms.

This can create flexibility in how gender is expressed to the outside world, to people’s partners, and to themselves. And identifying to what extent gender remains coupled to inequality is important, especially given that housework inequality jeopardises relationship quality regardless of sexuality.

Complete Article HERE!

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This is the difference between gender and sexuality

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The two are incredibly different

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Many assume gender identity and sexual orientation are linked, but the two concepts are different and it’s important to know why.

On a very basic level, gender identity is described as being more about who you are, and sexual orientation is defined as who you want to be with.

If someone is transgender, for example, some people assume that they must also be lesbian, gay or bisexual – but this is not the case.

However, gender and sexuality is (obviously) much more complex than this.

What is gender identity?

Gender identity is your own personal perception of yourself – and there are many different genders outside of male and female. And importantly, the gender with which someone identifies might not match the gender they were assigned at birth.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, gender identity is the “innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.”

Gender is complicated because different genders come with a host of societal expectations about behaviours and characteristics, which can have negative impacts on people.

Societal expectations of gender norms – or gender roles – often dictate who can and should do what.

A Pakistani transgender activist

For instance, women have historically faced setbacks in the workplace, or fewer opportunities, purely because they are women and for no other reason.

Whereas from a traditional viewpoint, men are expected to make decisions, and naturally be authoritative when at work.

Gender also has legal implications. In the UK, anyone who wants to legally change the gender they were assigned with at birth has to apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but it is a lengthy and difficult process so not everyone chooses to do this.

To qualify for the certificate, people must have lived for two years in the gender they identify with and have a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where someone experiences distress because there is a mismatch between their gender identity and biological sex.

What is transitioning?

Transitioning describes the steps which a transgender person may take to live in the gender with which they identify.

The process is different for each person and may include medical intervention such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not everyone wants or is able to have this.

It may involve transitioning socially, either by wearing different clothing, using names or pronouns or telling friends and family.

Gender expression is how someone expresses their gender identity externally, for example, through appearance – clothing, hair or make-up – or through their behaviour.

This is the difference between gender and sexuality

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A Glossary of Terms for Talking About Sex and Gender in 2018

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[A]s our understanding of gender and sexuality is evolving, so are the words we use to describe them. There are many more sexual identities and expressions than previously acknowledged, so it’s about time we named more of them.

“The binary options of gender—man or woman—and sexuality—heterosexual or gay—are way too limiting to capture the complexity of human life,” says sex educator Kenna Cook. “There are so many variations in our personalities, beliefs, and DNA that limiting human sexuality to a tiny box of two choices makes it impossible for people to exist authentically.”

Learning the correct terminology for different expressions of gender and sexuality is essential not only to participate in conversations on this topic in an educated way, but also to support the people in your own life who might identify with them. “Language gives us ownership of our identities and autonomy over our personal choices,” says Cook. “Having words to communicate our identities gives us a way to find others similar to us. Words can help us feel seen.”

So, in the interest of educating ourselves and others, here’s a guide to a few human sexuality terms that you might not know, but definitely should.

Cisgender: Identifying with the same sex you were assigned at birth. A cisgender woman, for example, may have been born with female anatomy, like a vulva, and assigned female at birth.

Transgender: Identifying with a gender that differs from the sex you were assigned at birth. For example, trans women are people who may have male anatomy and been assigned male at birth and identify as women.

Queer: Anything other than straight and cisgender, or, more generally, breaking the mold of what society teaches us are the default options for gender and sexuality.

Sexually fluid: Feeling attracted to different genders at different times in one’s lifetime, or open to sexual relationships with a gender that one is not normally attracted to. For example, a heterosexual women who occasionally is attracted to women might identify as sexually fluid.

Pansexual: Attracted to all variations of gender identities. Because there are more than two genders, pansexual people may not find the word “bisexual” adequate to describe their sexual identities.

Asexual: Not experiencing sexual attraction to other people. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t have sexual urges or romantic attraction to others. In fact, many aseuxal people masturbate and have romantic relationships. Some people also feel some sexual attraction to others but view themselves as on the asexual spectrum.

Pangender: Feeling an affiliation with multiple gender identities. A pangender person, for example, might feel they embody male, female, and other genders simultaneously.

Agender: Not identifying with any gender. Agender people might disagree with the whole concept of gender or simply feel that it does not apply to them.

Non-binary: Not exclusively identifying as male or female. Non-binary people may also identify as agender, pangender, or trans. They can also identify as male or female in addition to being non-binary. Some non-binary people use the pronouns “they/them”.

Genderqueer: Expressing gender outside of cisgender. This could include someone who is trans, non-binary, pangender, agender, or simply “genderqueer,” without any other gender label.

Gender-nonconforming: This term is sometimes used simply to denote a lack of adherence to typical gender roles or stereotypes. Other times, it indicates a refusal to identify with a gender. Some non-binary and trans people also identify as gender-nonconforming.

Polyamory (a.k.a. ethical non-monogamy): Consensually having romantic relationships with more than one person, whether with one primary partner and other secondary partners or with several partners given equal importance.

Open relationship: A relationship in which one or more people are permitted to have other sexual or romantic relationships. This type of relationship agreement can exist in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.

Solo polyamory: Someone who considers their primary relationship to be with themselves. Sometimes this means having multiple partners but not a “primary” relationship with anyone.

BDSM: an acronym for Bondage, Dominance, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism.

Kink: a term that is representative of alternative sexual interests like BDSM, sexual fetishes, and other forms of sexual expression that depart from what’s considered “vanilla” sexual expression.

Keep in mind that all these definitions are personal, so you won’t be able to say which term applies to another person unless you ask. For this reason, it’s important not to make assumptions about who someone dates, who they have sex with, or how they identify based on how they look or act.

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Federal courts ask: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

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Existing prohibitions against discrimination ‘because of sex,’ already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

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[A] number of federal courts have begun to ask a question that has become more and more subtle over the past few years: What is the meaning of ‘sex’?

It’s a question that has in many ways evolved out of the storms of cultural change that have surrounded the country’s shifting ideas about human sexuality and gender over the past few decades. Many of these culminated in the US Supreme Court’s landmark 5-to-4 decision in 2015, in which a bare majority declared same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

On the one hand, the high court’s epoch-changing decision that legalized same-sex marriage created the kind of situation that inevitably arises out of rapid cultural change. Today, neither the federal government nor some 28 states offer any explicit civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBTQ), either in the workplace or any other arena of daily life.

“It is constitutionally jarring to know that, in most states, a lesbian couple can get married on Saturday and be fired from their jobs on Monday, without legal redress,” notes the legal scholar William Eskridge, professor at Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.

And many throughout the country, even those with liberal-leaning views, continue to be uneasy about the presence of transgender people in certain sensitive places, including school bathrooms and locker rooms.

On Friday, President Trump issued a policy memo that would disqualify most transgender people from serving in the military, after tweeting about his plans to issue such a ban last July. As Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reported to the president in February, the administration is concerned that the presence of transgender soldiers could “undermine readiness,” “disrupt unit cohesion,” and create unreasonable health care costs for the military, echoing arguments used in the past for other groups.

At least four federal courts have found this reasoning constitutionally jarring as well, potentially violating the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.

Yet beyond sweeping constitutional questions which regulate what the government can do to its citizens, the nation’s evolving definitions of sex, marriage, and gender have also been quietly transforming the nation’s civil rights laws, which regulate how citizens live their common lives together.

Title VII and Title IX

Indeed, a number of federal courts have recently begun to weigh in on a vigorous and relatively new legal idea, simmering for the past few years in federal civil rights cases but only now beginning to take a more defined legal shape.

There may be no need to press Congress and the majority of state legislatures to change their statutes and explicitly add LGBTQ people to their lists of protected classes. (Traditionally, these include race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.) Existing prohibitions against discrimination “because of sex,” already provide a civil rights umbrella wide enough to cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and transgender identity, some judges are beginning to say.

The Obama administration took this position in 2016, telling the nation’s public schools that transgender students should be able to use the bathroom of their choice, a directive that interpreted Title IX’s prohibitions against sex discrimination as covering transgender identity.

Last April, the US Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, which includes nine justices nominated by Republican presidents and five by President Ronald Reagan, also embraced this idea. In an 8-to-3 decision that spanned the panel’s ideological spectrum, the full court ruled that the Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination in the workplace also included any based on sexual orientation.

Last month, the Second Circuit in New York issued a similar ruling. “Sexual orientation discrimination is a subset of sex discrimination because sexual orientation is defined by one’s sex in relation to the sex of those to whom one is attracted,” wrote Chief Judge Robert Katzmann for the 10-3 majority. It would be impossible “for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without taking sex into account,” he continued.

Such an evolving legal definition of sex could again reshape the nation’s legal landscape. “Potentially a lot is at stake,” says Professor Eskridge. “Depending how broadly you go, this idea could affect dozens of state statutes and dozens of federal statutes, the chief of which are Title VII and Title IX,” sections in the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act that forbids discrimination both in the workplace and in public schools.

Original intent

On the surface, the debate over the meaning of “sex” in these cases divides legal thinkers into classic liberal and conservative approaches to the law. Those who focus on the “original intent” of laws and the precise words of the legal text have generally rejected the expansive lines of thinking about the definition of sex.

“I think the better answer, the cleaner answer is just, let Congress go ahead and change the laws,” says Mark Goldfeder, senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory Law School in Atlanta. And there’s virtue in hashing out such questions through a political process rather than letting a panel of judges make such society-shaping decisions.

Indeed, this was part of the reasoning behind a three-judge panel in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, which came to the opposite conclusion. In a 2-to-1 decision, the majority said that discrimination “because of sex” and discrimination based on sexual orientation were two different things. The disagreement among appeals courts could invite a potential Supreme Court review, scholars say.

But the history of the legal concept of “sex discrimination” unfolded in a much more complex way, many observers note, and conservative jurisprudence, too, has played a key role in the evolving definitions of “sex” that almost immediately began to widen over time.

“There’s been this natural progression of the law,” says Susan Eisenberg, managing partner at the Miami office of Cozen O’Connor. As a trial attorney who has been defending companies from civil rights complaints for more than two decades, she’s has watched as the concept of “sex” in discrimination cases has evolved over time, changing the ways she defends her clients.

The evolution of civil rights law

In the first decade after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, she and others point out, the “original intent” of the prohibition against sex discrimination was clear. The nation’s elite law schools and medical schools were often reserved for male applicants only, single women could be denied leases and bank accounts, and the nation understood its merit-based workplace as the natural domain of men alone.

But by the 1970s, people began to claim that sexual harassment in the workplace also violated Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination, and the Supreme Court agreed, declaring “a hostile work environment” as a violation of Title VII.

By the end of the 1980s, the Supreme Court found that discrimination based on “gender stereotypes” was also a violation of civil rights laws – in this case a woman who was passed up for promotion because she did not act feminine enough.

“She argued: that’s discrimination against me on the basis of my sex,” says Steve Sanders, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law in Bloomington. “They’re not discriminating against me as a woman per se, but they’re discriminating against me because I failed to demonstrate certain stereotypes of what it means to be a woman, and the Supreme Court accepted that.”

And the nation’s high court broadened the definition even further in 1998, ruling unanimously that Title VII’s workplace protections covered sexual harassment between members of the same sex – a key decision, says Ms. Eisenberg, citing a passage that in many ways redefined her job.

“Statutory prohibitions often go beyond the principal evil to cover reasonably comparable evils, and it is ultimately the provisions of our laws rather than the principal concerns of our legislators by which we are governed,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority in the case Oncale v. Sundowner, explaining the expanding definition of sex in this area of civil rights law.

“The sexual orientation cases that we’re now seeing basically takes the logic of these cases one step further,” says Professor Sanders. “If you’re a man, the social stereotype and the social expectation is that you will want to have sex with a woman, that you will want to have a relationship and a marriage with a woman. But, no, you defy that gender stereotype about what it means to be a man, because you’re attracted to other men.”

“Well, if the idea that men should only be attracted to women and women should only be attracted to men is a form of gender stereotyping, ergo, the logic goes, it’s covered by Title VII,” he says.

The Trump administration, however, maintains that while the Justice Department “is committed to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of all individuals,” in these case it remains “committed to the fundamental principle that the courts cannot expand the law beyond what Congress has provided,” said Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley in February.

‘Lack of clarity can prove expensive’

Corporate attorneys say most businesses have already instituted their own antidiscrimination policies. “But though many have adopted these, only voluntarily, the unevenness, the irregularity of anti-discrimination laws, I think is very challenging for the business community to grapple with,” says Darren Rosenblum, professor at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in New York. “So I think there is an imperative to clarify the law on this point. That’s what they need first and foremost, because the lack of clarity can prove expensive, figuring out which norms to follow.”

Even so, Eisenberg points out that given the ways in which the high court has redefined the meaning of sex in past precedents, today simple claims of “gender stereotyping” already covers most claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“And if you’ve got people who are being discriminated against just because they’re not part of a protected characteristic, that’s just not good management,” Eisenberg says. “It’s not good for recruiting, it’s not good for maintaining employees, it’s not good all the way around.”

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Barres examines gender, science debate and offers a novel critique

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[B]en Barres has a distinct edge over the many others who have joined the debate about whether men’s brains are innately better suited for science than women’s. He doesn’t just make an abstract argument about the similarities and differences between the genders; he has lived as both.

Having lived as a woman and a man helped Ben Barres to better understand gender discrimination against female scientists.

Barres’ experience as a female-to-male transgendered person led him to write a pointed commentary in the July 13 issue of Nature rebuking the comments of former Harvard University president Lawrence Summers that raised the possibility that the dearth of women in the upper levels of science is rooted in biology. Marshalling scientific evidence as well as drawing from personal experience, Barres maintained that, contrary to Summers’ remarks, the lack of women in the upper reaches of research has more to do with bias than aptitude.

“This is a street fight,” said Barres, MD, PhD, professor of neurobiology and of developmental biology and of neurology and neurological sciences, referring to the gang of male academics and pundits who have attacked women scientists who criticized arguments about their alleged biological inferiority.

Barres’ piece revived the heated debate about gender inequality in science, garnering worldwide attention including pieces in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Where Summers sees innate differences, Barres sees discrimination. As a young woman—Barbara—he said he was discouraged from setting his sights on MIT, where he ended up receiving his bachelor’s degree. Once there, he was told that a boyfriend must have solved a hard math problem that he had answered and that had stumped most men in the class. After he began living as a man in 1997, Barres overheard another scientist say, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s work.”

From Barres’ perspective the only thing that changed is his ability to cry. Other than the absence of tears, he feels exactly the same. His science is the same, his interests are the same and he feels the quality of his work is unchanged.

That he could be treated differently by people who think of him as a woman, as a man or as a transgendered person makes Barres angry. What’s worse is that some women don’t recognize that they are treated differently because, unlike him, they’ve never known anything else.

The irony, Barres said, is that those who argue in favor of innate differences in scientific ability lack scientific data to explain why women make up more than half of all graduate students but only 10 percent of tenured faculty. The situation is similar for minorities.

“It’s leakage along the pipeline all the way,” Stanford President John Hennessy, who last year spoke out against Summers’ original remarks, said in an interview with a Newsweek reporter.

Yet scientists of both sexes are ready to attribute the gap to a gender difference. “They don’t care what the data is,” Barres said. “That’s the meaning of prejudice.”

Barres doesn’t think that scientists at the top of the ladder mean harm. “I am certain that all of the proponents of the Larry Summers hypothesis are well-meaning and fair-minded people,” he wrote in his Nature commentary. Still, because we all grew up in a culture that holds men and women to different standards, people are blind to their inherent biases, Barres said.

In his essay Barres points to data from a range of studies showing bias in science. For example, when a mixed panel of scientists evaluated grant proposals without names, men and women fared equally. However, when competing unblinded, a woman applying for a research grant needed to be three times more productive than men to be considered equally competent.

Further evidence comes from Mahzarin Banaji, PhD, professor of psychology at Harvard. She and her colleagues have devised a test that forces people to quickly associate terms with genders. The results revealed that both men and women are less likely to associate scientific words with women than with men.

Given these and other findings, Barres wondered how scientists could fail to admit that discrimination is a problem. His answer? Optimism. Most scientists want to believe that they are fair, he said, and for that reason overlook data indicating that they probably aren’t.

Unfortunately, this optimism prevents those at the top of the field from taking steps to eliminate a bias they don’t acknowledge. “People can’t change until they see there’s a problem,” he said.

Barres’ colleague Jennifer Raymond, PhD, assistant professor of neurobiology, said she appreciates his speaking out. “Most people do think there is a level playing field despite the data to the contrary,” she said.

Medical school Dean Philip Pizzo, MD, also applauds Barres’ efforts to promote fairness in science. “Dr. Barres is right to challenge individuals and organizations who contribute to known or unknown bias. He compels us to think more critically and honestly and to grow in more positive directions,” Pizzo said.

Barres’ concerns go beyond his own advancement. Pointing to his own large office, replete with comfortable furniture and a coffee table, he said, “I have everything I need.” As a tenured professor, he’s not fighting for himself. “This is about my students,” he said. “I want them all to be successful.”

And he wants science to move forward, which means looking beyond the abilities of white men, who make up 8 percent of the world’s population. The odds that all of the world’s best scientists can be found in that subset is, at best, small, he said.

With that in mind, Barres has been at the forefront of the fight to make science fairer for all genders and races. One focus is eliminating bias from grant applications, especially for the most lucrative grants where the stakes are highest.

Last year, Barres convinced the National Institutes of Health to change how it chooses talented young scientists to receive its Director’s Pioneer Award, worth $500,000 per year for five years. In 2004, the 64-person selection panel consisted of 60 men; all nine grants went to men. In 2005, the agency increased the number of women on the panel; six of the 13 grants went to women. Barres said that he has now set his sights on challenging what he perceives as gender bias in the Howard Hughes Investigator program, an elite scientific award that virtually guarantees long-term research funding.

In his commentary, Barres listed additional ideas for how to retain more women and minorities in science, beyond the standard cries to simply hire more women. He suggested that women scientists be judged by the quality of their science rather than the quantity, given that many bear the brunt of child-care responsibilities. He proposed enacting more gender-balanced selection processes for grants and job searches, as with the Pioneer award. And he called on academic leaders to speak out when departments aren’t diverse.

Barres said that critics have dismissed women who complain of discrimination in science as being irrational and emotional, but he said that the opposite argument is easy to make. “It is overwhelmingly men who commit violent crimes out of rage and anger,” he wrote. “If any one ever sees a women with road rage, they should write it up and send it to a medical journal.”

He continued, “I am tired of powerful people using their position to demean me just because I am different from them. . . . I will certainly not sit around silently and endure them.”

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We Need To Talk About LGBTQ Students & Sex Ed

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By Kimberly Truong

[I]t’s no secret that the state of sex education in America can be dire — so much so that when Refinery29 polled more than 500 of our staffers and readers about their sex ed, we found that nearly a third described their respective experiences as “terrible.”

But if sex ed already fails to be comprehensive in general, often neglecting subjects like consent and pleasure, imagine how unhelpful it can be for students who identify as LGBTQ.

In fact, according to a 2016 report from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), LGBTQ students are even less likely than their peers to find sex ed useful. In a survey of 1,367 students, almost half (46.5%) of LGBTQ students who received sex ed said they didn’t find it useful, while less than a third (29.9%) of their non-LGBTQ peers reported the same.

These results aren’t exactly surprising. For starters, a 2015 study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that a mere 12% of millennials reported that their sex education classes even discussed same-sex relationships in the first place. And, sadly, most of the dialogue around LGBTQ sex ed is about how terrible it can be. A cursory Google search for “LGBTQ sex ed” will bring up front-page results like “The Quest For Inclusive Sex Ed” and “LGBTQ Youth Need Inclusive Sex Education.” Not to mention, what we learn about virginity and safer sex often neglects to cover what those topics might entail for people who aren’t heterosexual. In fact, sex ed can fail to acknowledge that even what’s considered sex in the first place can differ depending on the person.

Discussing sexual orientation and LGBTQ issues in a positive way, however, is crucial to inclusive and useful sex ed that sets up students for safer, consensual sex lives (which is a pretty bare minimum goal). Noreen Giga, senior research associate for GLSEN, tells Refinery29 that even when LGBTQ issues are included in sex ed or other health discussions, they can be covered in a stigmatizing way, like “only talking about the LGBTQ community when talking about harmful behaviors” — for example, only discussing HIV/AIDS when it comes to transgender people and gay men.

“That’s just talking about the community in a negative way and not providing any positive information or representation around LGBTQ youth, especially when it pertains to healthy sexual behavior,” Giga says. “HIV can be an issue in the LGBTQ community, but that doesn’t mean that’s what health education should focus on — it needs to focus on preparing young people to engage in safer sex practices.”

It’s no wonder, then, that GLSEN’s 2015 National School Climate Survey found that less than 6% of LGBTQ middle and high school students in the U.S. learned about LGBTQ issues in a positive way during health classes. So where does that leave the remaining 94% of LGBTQ students? In an educational environment that either covers these issues in a negative way or completely ignores them. And that’s unacceptable.

“There are so many barriers when it comes to sex education overall that when you move down the line to thinking about comprehensiveness and inclusivity, it’s a huge challenge,” Giga says.

While it’s clear that educators have to make sure that sex education really prepares everyone — not just straight people — the rest of society needs to do our part and examine our own biases to help make that possible. Positive, comprehensive LGBTQ sex ed isn’t a straightforward issue that can be solved with any one solution. But in a world where parents can be outraged over children learning about different sexualities in school, and health teachers can be suspended for teaching students about gender identity, perhaps we can start by helping people better understand orientations and identities that are different from their own.

We may have a ways to go before sex education really addresses the issues it needs to in order to help us all lead healthier, more enjoyable lives, but we do have to start somewhere — even if that means having conversations that make us uncomfortable. (Need help? Our Gender Nation glossary is a great place to start.)

“We need to let go of this fear that you need to know all these answers [about sexual education], or this idea that young people need to feel shame when asking these questions [about sexual health],” Giga says. “Sexual health education is crucial, not only to students’ current well-being, but also the rest of their lives. It plays a part in having healthy relationships, learning to negotiate better health care, communicating with doctors, and even in how we think about gender roles.”

Bottom line: Everyone deserves education that helps them make healthy choices about their bodies and their relationships, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity happens to be

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Gender Glossary: Understanding ‘Intersex’ Beyond the Binary

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By Harish Iyer

[8] November is designated as the day where we show solidarity and ensure that we educate ourselves about the intersex community. 8 November is the birthday of Herculin Barbin a french intersex person, who was brought up as a girl, but in adulthood discovered that she has a vagina but also a small penis. She thought she was being punished and ended up committing suicide after writing a memoir, which is, a living document of what it meant to be intersex in the mid 1800s.

As a person from the LGBTIQ community, it is important that we address the I in LGBTIQ. To address that, we need to understand what intersex really means. This is because much of our discrimination is borne out of misinformation or lack of knowledge. In a world where we view everything in binaries, to let people know that there are sexes beyond male and female would need an open mind. But do we understand the binaries well either?

Did You Know: Bisexuals are capable of having romantic feelings with people regardless of gender.

Before we even get to intersex, it is important to understand the difference between sex, gender and sexuality. Let me try simplifying this with the least amount of jargon.

Speaking of sex, I remember the joke way back in school, where we used to giggle whenever we saw “sex” written in any form as we thought the response should be “2 times in a day”. But sex in every context is not the act of sexual intercourse. The most easy and explicit way that I could explain is that sex is between your legs, it is determined by the presence or absence of an organ like a penis or vagina. If you have a penis you get classified as male, if you have a vagina you get classified as female.

Gender is a social construct. It is in your mind and heart and is not determined by the presence or absence of a body organ. One could be a female and identify as female, or be a male and identify as a male. However, you could also be a male (with a penis) but identify as a female, or be a female (with a vagina) and identify as a male. What you identify as, is what we call – “gender identity”.  It is also known as “transgender”.

Segregation of gender would directly detriment a culture of empathy and mutual respect.

Also, when we say gender is a social construct, it could mean that it may take time for people to realise their gender expression. Because of the fact that the society puts people in specific gender roles, it becomes difficult for people to express that they actually are a man but from within they feel they are a woman or the vice versa. It could mean that they wish to identify as gender-queer or transgender.

Like, I am a male and till a few years back I thought my gender was male. But I am realising that my gender expression is more feminine, which could mean that I could identify as gender-queer in coming years.

The bottom-line is that my gender is what I tell you my gender is. My gender is not what you think my gender is.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

One could go on and on about gender, sex and sexuality. Now that we have some basic knowledge about sex and gender. Let us understand intersex.

Intersex persons are people who are born with a sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit into definitions of sex of male or female in terms of anatomy. A person may be born with a penis and with a depression that leads to a labia. Or a person could be born with a vagina and may have a small penis.

It is rude and incorrect to classify intersex persons as “in-betweens” or “abnormal” people. It is however not rude to state that intersex persons are different.

There is a huge confusion among most people about intersex persons and hijras. Hijras are a community of transgender persons who live together and have their own social and religious practices. They are mainly male persons who have a female gender expression. They may or may not have undergone a sexual re-assignment surgery to align their sex with the gender that they identify with. Hijras could be intersex people too. However, all intersex people are not Hijras.

There is a myth that hijras pick up children with ambiguous gender when they come to bless newborns. In a world where the girl child is drowned and killed at birth, it is not hard to imagine that a child with ambiguous gender is despised and also killed in some cases. Hijras are believed to offer to adopt such children. There is very little research on this. Much of these are myths propagated by folklore and incredibly stupid television serials who’re feeding on such myths and increasing the confusion between our understanding of intersex persons and hijras.

How do you identify if a person is intersex? You will not be able to tell. And you don’t need to identify them. They will tell you if they feel like telling you. It is polite to ask everyone what gender pronoun they would prefer and address them that way.

Didn’t I say, gender is something that people tell you? It is not just he/she or him/her, some could say that they prefer a collective pronoun “they or their” or “ze or hir” as gender neutral pronouns. So the pronouns in short are he/she/ze/ they or him/her/hir/their. Ask, don’t assume such things.

There are very few people in India who are intersex and openly identify as one.  One of my friends, Gopi Shankar is an intersex person who founded an organisation called Srushti Madurai. I used to always refer to Gopi as “he” as his gender expression, I assumed is Male and so did many journalists. Until recently when I discovered that he is intersex and prefers pronoun “ze”.

Ze contested elections in the Tamil Nadu Legistlative assembly in 2016 and has also won a lot of awards and accolades for hir work in the domain of gender and sexuality especially in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

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The future is fluid:

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Generation Z’s approach to gender and sexuality is indeed revolutionary

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Whenever a new generation comes of age, it inevitably ends up getting scrutinized by those who came before. Just look at how millennials have been derided for killing romance, sex, and the entire democratic system. If you believe everything you read, it’s like this generation is single-handedly out to destroy all that is holy in America, leaving nothing behind for posterity.

But death leads to new life, and from the ashes of the American Dream (which millennials have also killed), the younger Generation Z appears to have discovered a bevy of new social norms—especially in regards to gender and sexuality.

Also called the iGeneration, Generation Z is loosely defined as anyone born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s (aka ages 7 to 22). Growing up in the shadow of what is now the largest living American generation, Generation Z inevitably took a lot of inspiration from millennials. But as this group of young Americans become teenagers, even certified legal-drinking adults, one defining feature experts are starting to notice is the iGen’s tendency to view gender and sexuality as something on a spectrum, not just simply male or female, or gay or straight.

Lily-Rose Depp, Johnny Depp’s 18-year-old daughter and an actor in her own right, has said, “You don’t have to label your sexuality; so many kids these days are not labeling their sexuality and I think that’s so cool.” At 19 years old, Jaden Smith told GQ Style, “I feel like people are kind of confused about gender norms. I feel like people don’t really get it. I’m not saying that I get it, I’m just saying that I’ve never seen any distinction.”

For these Gen Zers, fluidity isn’t reactionary like it was (and still is) for millennials; now, it’s closer to the norm.

In fact, a 2016 survey by the consumer insight agency J. Walter Thompson Innovation Group found that only 48 percent of Generation Z identifies as “completely heterosexual,” compared to 65 percent of millennials. And over half of these young Americans reported knowing someone who goes by non-traditional gender pronouns like “they/them,” making this generation the only demographic where that is the case.

The iGeneration, as its name suggests, is unique because its members were the first to be born in the post-dot-com bubble world. While Generation X, baby boomers, and even older millennials will wax poetic about life before the internet took over, Gen Z doesn’t even know what that looks like. And although being constantly connected to the web can be very problematic at times, it has also gifted this generation with a level of exposure to different worldviews that was previously unheard of.

“We grew up in a time when the internet opened the doors of the world—literally—and allowed us to talk to someone on the other side of the globe in a matter of seconds,” Sean Dolan, a 19-year-old who grew up in the Chicago suburbs and now lives in Austin, told the Daily Dot. “The internet generation, as I’ve heard us referred to, has never experienced what it is like to not feel connected to every piece of information in the world at any time.”

Not only does the internet open up doors to different views of gender and sexuality, but it also allows for members of Gen Z to find other people who feel the same way that they do. Today, online communities like those found on Tumblr and in private Facebook groups are there to show support even when nobody is physically there to do so.

“Nowadays, I feel like kids are way more open about talking about sexuality, and making it more mainstream through use of social media and new forms of technology,” Madeline Dolinsky, a 20-year-old Chicago native told the Daily Dot. “People can freely express who they are and feel comfortable knowing they have a larger community around them who supports them.”

According to a 2013 study by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, LGBTQ teens are online for an average of 45 minutes longer than straight, cisgender teens. And while only 19 percent of these straight, cisgender teens reported making friends online, half of the LGBTQ survey respondents said that they did have a close friend they met online.

This doesn’t come as a surprise for Michael Bronski, a professor in the women, gender, and sexuality department at Harvard University. In the 16 years that Bronski has been teaching, he has witnessed first hand how internet communities have shaped his students.

“I can remember a moment at Dartmouth, maybe 2007, when the freshman class showed up and because Facebook had just been invented, many gay or lesbian students as freshmen came and they already knew each other,” Bronski told the Daily Dot. “It was this amazing thing where the first LGBT meeting was completely packed because they were all friends already. Well, they were virtual friends.”

And that was 10 years ago, when social media was just starting to become a part of mainstream culture. Now, the iGen often goes to these virtual communities first to learn about gender and sexuality, regardless of whether they’re actively looking for fellow LGBTQ teens or just trying to procrastinate homework.

“Even in the past five years, I think I’ve seen more of an openness and open-mindedness about talking about stuff,” Bronski said. “You don’t have to go to the library to look up in the card catalog books that have ‘gay’ in the title anymore—you can do it on your iPhone that your mother left you with when you were 10.”

In other words, the internet can give queer teens what real-life surroundings cannot. For Dolan, growing up in what he refers to as “the conservative suburbs of Chicago,” it was hard for him to be open about his sexuality. Only when he went off to college and found himself surrounded by other people his own age did he gain the confidence to come out to his family. And when he did come out, he found that his parents were supportive, but not necessarily as understanding as his fellow Gen Zers.

“I had this idea all the way up until college that I would never come out to my parents, except for when I [told] them that I got married to another man,” Dolan said. “It wasn’t until I finally summoned up the courage to call them and tell them that their first reaction was, ‘Honey, we know.’ I still feel that, although they have been accepting when I talk about it at home, it is a borderline don’t-ask, don’t-tell situation.”

Dolan’s family experience shows that America won’t seamlessly become a fluid utopia when iGen takes over. While Gen Xers like Dolan’s parents might be more open to gays and lesbians than Baby Boomers are, sexuality is still predominantly seen as a black-or-white concept among them. The term “sexual fluidity” didn’t even enter the mainstream vernacular until psychologist Lisa M. Diamond wrote a book on the subject in 2008.

Gender fluidity, meanwhile, is an even more recent concept in pop culture. Only in the last few years have people come under fire for using the derogatory term “tranny.” And for some Gen Zers, the reality of living life outside of the binary is still far from perfect.

Nikolai Tarsinov is a 20-year-old transgender man currently living in Boston who identifies as pansexual. He often notices a discrepancy between how open his generation thinks it is in regards to fluidity, versus how open it actually is.

“My friend group is almost all heterosexual and cisgender. If I’m being completely honest, they are a lot less open-minded than they think they are,” Nikolai said. “The same people who proudly declare themselves progressives and allies will offhandedly make comments about how I’m not a ‘real’ guy.”

This also might have to do with maturity—teenagers can be mean and they’re hardly masters of nuance. But it also shows that this generation is teetering on the precipice of a major breakthrough. It’s going to take more than celebrities endorsing fluidity, however, to make long-term, noticeable changes to how America perceives gender and sexual identities. The million-dollar question now is whether or not Generation Z is ready to commit to those changes.

“I would never belittle the progress society has made. Just over the course of my short life, I have seen queerness go from something to make fun of to something that’s tentatively accepted,” Tarsinov said. “We are a lot more progressive than any generation that has come before us, but there is a lot more work to be done before society gets to a place where all people can be comfortable with their sexuality.”

It can be hard to predict trends in an entire generation’s worldviews, especially when dealing with a group as young as Generation Z. It can be even more difficult to try and sum up an entire generation’s views on a topic as complex as gender or sexuality. And let’s get one thing clear: Generation Z probably won’t be the group to completely rid the world of sexual and gender binaries.

With that said, this generation is onto something. It will be interesting to see how gender and sexual norms change as the iGen continues to grow up and enter the “real world”—whatever that means.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Sex Education for Disabled People Is So Important

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“Just because a person has a disability does not mean they don’t still have the same hormones and sexual desires as other individuals.”

 

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“Sex and disability, disability and sex; the two words may seem incompatible,” Michael A. Rembis wrote in his 2009 paper on the social model of disabled sexuality. Though roughly 15% of adults around the world (that’s nearly one billion people), and over 20 million adults in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 64 have a disability, when it comes to disability and sex, there’s a disconnect. People with disabilities often have rich and satisfying sex lives. So why are they frequently treated as though they are incapable of having sexual needs and desires, and are excluded from sexual health education curriculum?

According to Kehau Gunderson, the lead trainer and senior health educator at Health Connected, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing comprehensive sexual health education programs throughout the state of California, the sexual health and safety of students with disabilities is often not prioritized because educators are more focused on other aspects of the students’ well-being. “Educators are thinking more about these students’ physical needs. They don’t see them as being sexual people with sexual needs and desires. They don’t see them as wanting relationships,” Gunderson told me when I met her and the rest of the Health Connected team at their office in Redwood City, California.

When I asked why students with disabilities have historically been excluded from sexual education, Jennifer Rogers, who also works as a health education specialist at Health Connected, chimed in. “In general, the topic of sex is something that is challenging for a lot of people to talk about. I think that aspect compounded with someone with specialized learning needs can be even more challenging if you’re not a teacher who’s really comfortable delivering this kind of material,” she said.

But it was the third health education specialist I spoke with, DeAnna Quan, who really hit the nail on the head: “I think sometimes it also has to do with not having the materials and having trouble adapting the materials as well. While people often just don’t see disabled people as being sexual beings, they are. And this is a population who really needs this information.”

The complete lack of sexual education in many schools for students with disabilities is particularly alarming given the fact that individuals with disabilities are at a much higher risk of sexual assault and abuse. In fact, children with disabilities are up to four times more likely to face abuse and women with disabilities are nearly 40% more likely to face abuse in adulthood. Yet students in special education classes are often denied the option to participate in sex education at all. When these students are included in mainstream health courses, the curriculum is often inaccessible.

Disability activist Anne Finger wrote, “Sexuality is often the source of our deepest pain. It’s easier for us to talk about and formulate strategies for changing discrimination in employment, education, and housing than to talk about our exclusion from sexuality and reproduction.” But as Robert McRuer wrote in Disabling Sex: Notes for a Crip Theory of Sexuality, “What if disability were sexy? And what if disabled people were understood to be both subjects and objects of a multiplicity of erotic desires and practices, both within and outside the parameters of heteronormative sexuality?”

When it comes to disability and sexuality, a large part of the issue lies in the fact that disabled people are so infrequently included in the decisions made about their bodies, their education, and their care. So what do people with disabilities wish they had learned in sex ed? This is what students and adults with disabilities said about their experience in sexual health courses and what they wish they had learned.

People with disabilities are not automatically asexual.

“The idea of people with disabilities as asexual beings who have no need for love, sex, or romantic relationships is ridiculous. However, it is one that has a stronghold in most people’s minds,” wrote disability activist Nidhi Goyal in her article, “Why Should Disability Spell the End of Romance?” That may be because disabled people are often seen as being innocent and childlike, one disabled activist said.

“As a society, we don’t talk about sex enough from a pleasure-based perspective. So much is focused on fertility and reproduction — and that’s not always something abled people think disabled people should or can do. We’re infantilized, stripped of our sexuality, and presumed to be non-sexual beings. Plenty of us are asexual, but plenty of us are very sexual as well, like me. Like anyone of any ability, we hit every spot on the spectrum from straight to gay, cis to trans, sexual to asexual, romantic to aromantic, and more.” Kirsten Schultz, a 29-year-old disabled, genderqueer, and pansexual health activist, sexuality educator, and writer, said via email.

Kirsten, who due to numerous chronic illnesses has lived with disability since she was five years old, was not exposed to information regarding her sexual health and bodily autonomy. “I dealt with sexual abuse from another child right after I fell ill, and this continued for years. I bring this up because my mother didn’t share a lot of sex ed stuff with me at home because of illness. This infantilization is not uncommon in the disability world, especially for kids,” she said.

Growing up in Oregon, Kirsten said she was homeschooled until the age of 13 and didn’t begin seeing medical professionals regularly until she turned 21. “This means all sexual education I learned until 13 was on my own, and from 13 to 21, it was all stuff I either sought out or was taught in school.” Schultz explained. But even what she learned about sex in school was limited. “School-based education, even in the liberal state of Oregon, where I grew up, was focused on sharing the potential negatives of sex — STIs, pregnancy, etc. Almost none of it was pleasure-based and it wasn’t accessible. Up until I was in college, the few positions I tried were all things I had seen in porn…AKA they weren’t comfortable or effective for me,” she added.

Internet safety matters, too.

While many disabled people are infantilized, others are often oversexualized. K Wheeler, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Washington, was only 12 the first time their photos were stolen off of the Internet and posted on websites fetishizing amputees. K, who was born with congenital amputation and identifies as demisexual, panromantic, and disabled, thinks this is something students with disabilities need to know about. “There’s a whole side of the Internet where people will seek out people with disabilities, friend them on Facebook, steal their photos, and use them on websites,” she said.

These groups of people who fetishize amputees are known as “amputee devotees.” K had heard of this fetish thanks to prior education from her mother, but not everyone knows how to keep themselves safe on the Internet. “This is something that people with disabilities need to know, that a person without a disability might not think of, ” K said.

K also believes more general Internet privacy information should also be discussed in sex ed courses. “In the technological age that we’re in, I feel like Internet privacy should be talked about,” they said. This includes things like consent and sending naked photos with a significant other if you’re under 18. “That is technically a crime. It’s not just parents saying ‘don’t do it because we don’t want you to.’ One or both of you could get in trouble legally,” K added.

Understanding what kinds of sexual protection to use.

Isaac Thomas, a 21-year-old student at Valencia College in Orlando, lives with a visual impairment and went to a high school that he said didn’t even offer sexual education courses. “I did go to a school for students with disabilities and, unfortunately, during my entire time there, there was never any type of sexual education class,” he said.

And Isaac noted that sexual awareness plays a large role in protection. “They should understand that just because a person has a disability, does not mean they don’t still have the same hormones and sexual desires as other individuals. It’s even more important that they teach sex education to people that have disabilities so they’re not taken advantage of in any kind of sexual way. If anything, it should be taught even more among the disabled community. Ignoring this problem will not make it go away. If this problem is not addressed, it will increase,” Isaac said.

Before entering college, Isaac said he wishes he had received more information about condoms. “I wish I had learned what types of condoms are best for protection. I should’ve also learned the best type of contraceptive pills to have in case unplanned sexual activity happens with friends or coworkers.”

Body image matters.

Nicole Tencic, a 23-year-old senior at Molloy College in New York, who is disabled, fine-motor challenged, and hearing impaired, believes in the importance of exploring and promoting positive body image for all bodies. Nicole, who became disabled at the age of six after undergoing high-dose chemotherapy, struggled to accept herself and her disability. “I became disabled when I was old enough to distinguish that something was wrong. I was very self-conscience. Accepting my disability was hard for me and emotionally disturbing,” she shared. “I was always concerned about what other people thought of me, and I was always very shy and quiet.”

It was when she entered college that Nicole really came to accept her body, embrace her sexuality, and develop an interest in dating. “I had my first boyfriend at 21. The reason I waited so long to date is because I needed to accept myself and my differences before I cared for anyone else. I couldn’t allow myself to bring someone into my life if I was unaccepting of myself, and if I did, I would be selfish because I would be more concerned about myself,” Nicole said. She also recognized the fact that while sexuality and disability are separate topics that need to be addressed differently, they can impact each other. “Disability may influence sexuality in terms of what you like and dislike, and can and cannot do,” but overall, “one’s sexuality does not have to do with one’s disability,” she clarified.

It’s important to make sex ed inclusive to multi-marginalized populations.

Dominick Evans, a queer and transgender man living with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, various chronic health disabilities, and OCD, believes in the importance of sexual education stretching beyond the cisgender, heteronormative perspective. He also understands the dangers associated with being a member of a marginalized group. “The more marginalized you are, the less safe you are when it comes to sex,” he said in an email.

Dominick, who works as a filmmaker, writer, and media and entertainment advocate for the Center for Disability Rights, has even developed policy ideas related to increased inclusion for students with disabilities — especially LGBTQ students with disabilities. “These students are at higher risk of sexual assault and rape, STIs like HIV, unplanned pregnancies, and manipulation in sexual situations,” Dominick said. “Since disabled LGBTQIA students do not have access to sexual education, sometimes at all, let alone education that makes sense for their bodies and sexual orientation, it makes sense the rates for disabled people when it comes to sexual assault and STIs are so much higher.”

According to Dominick, the fact that many disabled students are denied access to sexual health curriculum is at the root of the problem. “When it comes to disparities in the numbers of sexual assault, rape, STIs, etc. for all disabled students, not having access to sexual education is part of the problem. We know this is specifically linked to lack of sex ed, which is why sex ed must begin addressing these disparities.”

So what does Dominick have in mind in terms of educational policies to help improve this issue? “The curriculum would highlight teaching students how to protect themselves from sexual abuse, STI and pregnancy prevention campaigns geared specifically at all disabled and LGBTQIA youth, ensuring IEPs (individualized education programs) cover sex ed inclusion strategies, access to information about sexuality and gender identity, and additional education to address disparities that affect disabled LGBTQIA students who are people of color.”

Understanding power dynamics and consent.

It’s important to understand the power dynamic that often exists between people with disabilities and their caretakers. Many people with disabilities rely on their caretakers to perform basic tasks, like getting ready in the morning. Women with disabilities are 40% more likely to experience intimate partner violence compared to non-disabled women. This includes sexual, emotional, financial, and physical abuse, as well as neglect. For this reason, women with disabilities are less likely to report their abusers.

“Sometimes they’re more likely to think ‘this is the only relationship I can get,’ so they’re more likely to stay in these abusive relationships or have less access to even pursue courses of action to get out of the relationship. Especially if there is dependence on their partner in some way,” said K.

Dominick agreed. “Many of us often grow up believing we may not even be able to have sexual relationships. We often grow up believing our bodies are disgusting and there is something wrong with them,” he said. “So, when someone, especially someone with some type of power over us like a teacher or caregiver, shows us sexual attention and we believe we don’t deserve anything better or will never have the opportunity for sex again, it is easy to see why some disabled people are able to be manipulated or harmed in sexual situations.”

Dominick said this ideology led to his first sexual experience. “I probably should not have been having sex because I lost [my virginity] believing I had to take whatever opportunities I received,” he said, before going on to acknowledge the falsehood in these assumptions. “I’ve had many other relationships since then, and my last partner, I’ve been with for 15 years.”

But when it comes to disability, consent can be tricky. Some disabilities make communication a challenge. The lack of sexual education for many developmentally disabled students means they often don’t understand the concept of consent.

People with disabilities are more at risk for sexual exploitation and abuse.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, children with disabilities also face a much higher risk of abuse. In 2009, 11% of all child abuse victims had a behavioral, cognitive, or physical disability. In fact, when compared to non-disabled children, children with disabilities are twice as likely to be physically or sexually abused. Those living with developmental disabilities are anywhere from 4 to 10 times more likely to face abuse.

Deni Fraser, the assistant principal at the Lavelle School for the Blind, a school in New York City dedicated to teaching students with visual impairment and developmental disabilities, believes it’s important for all students to understand the importance of boundaries, both other people’s and their own. Many students at the school, who range in age from 2 to 21, also have co-morbid diagnoses, making the students’ needs varied.

“It’s important for our students to know that we want them to be safe at all times,” Fraser said. “Letting them know what’s appropriate touch, not only them touching others, but other people touching them; saying things to them; for people not taking advantage of them; knowing who is safe to talk to and who is safe to be in your personal space; if there’s anything going on with your body, who would be the appropriate person to talk to; not sharing private information — so what is privacy; and the importance of understanding safe strangers, like doctors, versus non-safe strangers.”

The portrayal of disabled bodies matters.

The media also plays a part in perpetuating the idea that individuals with disabilities do not have sex. Sexuality is often viewed as unnatural for individuals with disabilities, and many disabled students internalize that. “Even Tyrion Lannister, one of the most sexual disabled characters on television, usually has to pay for sex, and even he was horribly deceived the first time he had a sexual experience,” Dominick noted. “If the media is not even saying sex is normal or natural for disabled people, and sex education is not inclusive, then often disabled people are having to learn about and understand sex on their own,” he added.

Many students with disabilities also want to see their bodies reflected in sexual education materials. “Part of the curriculum at a lot of different schools includes showing some level of video,” K said. But including a person with a visible physical disability in these videos would go a long way in helping to shatter the stigma surrounding sex and disability, she said. According to K, this would help people understand that sex isn’t only for able-bodied people.

People with disabilities make up a large part of the population. They’re the one minority group any person can become a part of at any time. Therefore, incorporating disability-related information into sexual education curriculum not only benefits students who are already disabled, but it can help students who, at some point in their lives, will experience disability. Embracing an inclusive approach and keeping bias out of the classroom would help raise awareness, create empathy, and celebrate diversity. By listening to disabled voices, we can work toward a society that values inclusivity.

Complete Article HERE!

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