Talking about safe sex is the best foreplay

Share

College students need to prioritize safe sex and educate themselves on STIs

By Payton Saso

Most people learned about the basics of sex education growing up — or at least heard the slogan “wrap it before you tap it.” Yet it seems college students have forgotten this slogan and are not practicing safe sex.

Women, when having male partners, are often expected to be on a method of birth control, and while many women rely on birth control — some 60% — that is not the only concern for both partners when having sex.

For some sexual partners, the idea of safe sex may be directly correlated with being on the pill, and many forget pregnancy isn’t the only risk of unsafe sex. But sexually transmitted infections are a risk for all parties engaging in sexual activities, and college-aged people are at higher risk of contracting these types of diseases.

Since this age group is at the most risk, it is important for them to practice all forms of safe sex, which means consistently using condoms and other forms of contraceptives.

Many people choose not use condoms in long-term relationships because they know their partner’s sexual history and have been previously tested. But in college, sexual experiences are more than often outside of relationships and sexual history is not discussed. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about STIs found that, “Young women (ages 15-24) account for nearly half (45 percent) of reported cases and face the most severe consequences of an undiagnosed infection.”

A study from researchers Elizabeth M. Farrington, David C. Bell and Aron E. DiBacco looked into the reasons why people reject condoms and stated that, “Many reported objections to condom use seem to be related to anticipated reductions in pleasure and enjoyment, often through ‘ruining the moment’ or ‘inhibiting spur of the moment sex.’”

Taking a few seconds to put on a condom is not something that will ruin the experience, especially if it means protecting yourself from STIs, considering some infections are life-threatening.

Protection does not always mean using a condom, and even condoms must be used properly to prevent risk of tear. Planned Parenthood stated, “It’s also harder to use condoms correctly and remember other safer sex basics when you’re drunk or high.”

In same sex relationships, protection is just as important. Research found that, “Among women, a gay identity was associated with decreased risk while among men, a gay identity among behaviorally bisexual males was associated with increased STI risk.”

Condoms might be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about protection, but there are many other options for birth control that can help prevent contracting a STI, and it’s important to talk with your partner about which method or methods with which you’re both comfortable.

Dr. Candace Black, a lecturer at the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, just finished conducting research on the practices of safe sex and said that often the lack of condom usage comes from a lack of sexual education.

“I don’t have data on this so it is anecdotal, young women are really targeted for sex education when it does occur and so it attributes to ideas like (they are more exposed to ideas like) STIs, condom use and birth control. I think collectively we spend a lot of time teaching young girls about sex education and prevention, which I think is wonderful,” Black said. “I have not observed a parallel effort for young men. And so in my observation, again this is just kind of anecdotal, the young men don’t have the same kind of sex education as far as risk factors, as far as pregnancy as far as all of that. There is a gender disparity as far as access to sex education.”

According to the American Addiction Center, when someone’s inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol, many are “at risk for an unwanted and unplanned pregnancy or for contracting a sexually transmitted (STD) or infectious disease.”

“You have to look beyond the current circumstances of people and consider access to sexual education which is seriously lacking in a lot of places, and in particular Arizona. The sex education isn’t great,” Black said. “There are various nonprofits that try and fill that service gap and provide adolescents and kids with sex education, but there is still a significant need.”

Not properly educating young people on the risk factors surrounding unsafe sex leads to these problems in the future when students are given more freedom in college. This often results in students not prioritizing thorough sexual health, but it should be on the minds of all sexually active students.

In the long run, it’s easier — and safer — to have sex with a condom than to deal with all the repercussions that can come from not using one.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Sex ed video for teens shatters myths about sexuality and disability

Share

The internet has changed how kids learn about sex, but sex ed in the classroom still sucks. In Sex Ed 2.0, Mashable explores the state of sex ed and imagines a future where digital innovations are used to teach consent, sex positivity, respect, and responsibility.

By Rebecca Ruiz

Sex ed in the U.S. is often a hot mess. Teens regularly get medically inaccurate information, learn solely about abstinence, and hear only bad things about LGBTQ identity and sexuality.

Young people with disabilities can feel particularly invisible in classroom sex ed lessons, since the content typically doesn’t reflect their experience. Meanwhile, some teens may assume their peers with disabilities have no interest in sex or sexuality at all.

This new video from AMAZE, a YouTube sex ed series for adolescents and teens, takes on and then shatters the stereotypes and misconceptions about disability and sexuality.

The clip features a young character who uses a wheelchair and the pronouns they/them. They share with an inquisitive friend that yes, they are interested in dating, and yes, their “parts work just fine.” (It’s important to note that while the direct questions help start an educational dialogue in the video, young people shouldn’t similarly quiz their friends with disabilities.)

The candid conversation covers gender identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships, and the specific challenges people with disabilities can face while trying to date. In just three short minutes, the video scores wins for representation, inclusion, and education.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Let’s Stop Ignoring the Truths of Puberty.

Share

We’re Making It Even More Awkward.

Sex education in U.S. schools is lacking, but new efforts to broaden its scope are bubbling up.

By Maya Salam

“I’d rather they just don’t teach anything if they can’t be honest.”

— Susan Lontine, a Colorado state representative who introduced a bill that would mandate teachings about safe sex, consent and sexual orientation in the state’s public schools

By the time I was 15, most of my knowledge about puberty was gleaned from one-dimensional tales on TV and in movies. I learned what it meant when a pubescent boy carried a book in front of his body (cue laugh track) and that when girls develop breasts, boys (and men) “can’t help but” ogle them. That’s about it.

In the last year or so, TV and film have made strides in representing pubescent girls as complex and awkward beings who also happen to be sex-obsessed (a trait normally reserved for adolescent boys), my colleague Amanda Hess pointed out in a recent piece about the shows “PEN15” and “Big Mouth” and the movie “Eighth Grade.”

“The lustful adolescent girl is having her moment,” wrote Hess, a Times culture critic. “It is not, to be clear, an altogether glorious time,” she said, adding that “girls’ feelings matter, too. And these girls feel so much.”

Such nuances and acknowledgments of female sexuality are largely missing from sex education in U.S. schools, where curriculum is lacking over all.

The majority of states don’t mandate sex ed at all, and just 13 require that the material be medically accurate. Abstinence education remains a pillar of most programs. And that is saying nothing of more complex issues like consent, sexual orientation and gender identity. (In seven states, laws prohibit educators from portraying same-sex relationships positively.)

Simultaneously, the influence of pornography is growing. “Easy-to-access online porn fills the vacuum, making porn the de facto sex educator for American youth,” Maggie Jones wrote in The New York Times Magazine last year. Her article pointed to a study in which high schoolers reported that pornography was their primary source for information about sex — more than friends, siblings, schools or parents.

“There’s nowhere else to learn about sex, and porn stars know what they are doing,” one boy told Jones.

But to keep up with the times, new efforts to broaden the scope of sex ed are bubbling up.

A pornography-literacy course, titled The Truth About Pornography, was a recent addition to Start Strong, a peer-leadership program for teenagers headquartered in Boston and funded by the city’s public-health agency.

In Colorado, a new comprehensive, student-supported sex education bill is working its way through the state’s Legislature. It would require the teaching of safe sex, consent and sexual orientation, as well as bar abstinence-only sex education. If passed, Colorado would be the ninth state to require that consent be taught.

And today, the first guide to gender-inclusive puberty education was published by Gender Spectrum, a nonprofit organization that works to create gender-sensitive and inclusive environments for children.

Among other principles, the guide — intended to give educators tools they can incorporate into existing course materials — stresses the complexity of gender as the interrelationship between one’s body, identity and expression. The point, according to Gender Spectrum, is to “ensure that no student’s passage through puberty is stigmatized or made invisible.”

Perhaps leading the way is the British government, which last week announced a major change to the nation’s sex education curriculum, the first revision in decades. Starting in 2020, it will cover topics including same-sex relationships, transgender people, menstruation, sexual assault, forced marriage, pornography and sexting.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Why — and how — parents should help teens develop a healthy understanding of sex

Share

By Ellen Friedrichs

Recently, I attended my 12-year-old daughter’s instrumental concert. The group sounded lovely, and you could tell how much work the kids had put into their performance. My daughter has been playing viola for five years. She has an ensemble class twice a week in school and takes weekly private lessons. She is also supposed to practice on her own.

When it comes to learning an instrument, or mastering driving, cooking, playing a sport, or becoming fluent in a foreign language, this type of training is the norm. We would never expect someone to instinctively excel at, let alone enjoy, these things without at least some routine instruction or study.

Yet when the topic is sex, something that is arguably more nuanced and complicated than many other life skills, we often assume that putting similar structures for instruction in place will be harmful to young people, or will encourage risky behavior. Or we’re just too uncomfortable to talk to them about it at length. But having worked as a health educator for the past 15 years, I have seen how harmful this misguided approach can be.

The United States’ high rates of adolescent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections are well documented. But what isn’t discussed as often is that the actual experiences of teen sex can be really negative. Frequently, teens hook up in secret, without a committed partner, maybe under the influence of substances and often with the fear of getting in trouble. Many are pressured into things they would rather not do. Others are having experiences that aren’t consensual. And even when it’s consensual, a lot of the sex happening among teens doesn’t feel great, particularly for girls with male partners.

This bleak picture contributes to an understandably common view that teens are just too young to have sex in a healthy manner, and that the best choice is for them simply to abstain. Certainly that assumption is fair for many.

But this view ignores the fact that plenty of these negative experiences are not the byproduct of youth, but rather the result of the conditions under which many teens are having sex. In a culture where abstinence-only programs have taken the place of real sex education, and where many teens lack the resources to prevent pregnancies or STIs, let alone the ability to deal with these situations if they occur, it is common for teens to feel shame, fear and anxiety about sexuality. And many feel like they cannot turn to adults for help when they need it.

So what would it look like if we gave teens the tools to help them succeed? For one thing, we know that accurate information about sex and access to reproductive health care makes teens less likely to become sexually active in the first place. Then if they do have sex, these supports mean they are far more likely to use condoms and contraception, and are at significantly lower risk of having nonconsensual experiences.

It might feel counterintuitive, but parents who want to help teens grow into sexually healthy adults are going to need to step up to the plate. Here are six ways to do that,

Actively support comprehensive sex education in your community and oppose abstinence-only programs. Attend school board meetings where the issue is being discussed, and share your opinion with school officials. Many studies (including one published last month in the American Journal of Public Health) have found that abstinence education has not only failed to prevent teens from having sex, it has also put teens who receive it at greater risk for STIs, pregnancy and even sexual assault than those who get comprehensive sex education.

Make sure teens understand consent. They need to know that sex can’t be truly consensual if there is pressure involved, or if either person is inebriated. It should be clear that if they aren’t completely certain that someone wants to have sex, or if they are questioning how far someone wants to go sexually, they don’t have consent. Teens should also be aware that while many people assume that a lack of a verbal “no” constitutes consent, that is not the case. Teens should be encouraged to clearly state their desires and boundaries.

Support healthy teen relationships. Get to know your child’s boyfriend or girlfriend. If you have concerns about their relationship, share them. But if the relationship seems solid, make it comfortable for the couple to spend time in your home and allow them privacy. Doing this won’t cause teens to have sex if they otherwise wouldn’t, but we do know that if young people choose to become sexually active, doing so in the context of a loving relationship is far safer than a casual hookup. In fact, studies have determined that for older teens, being in a respectful sexual relationship with a caring partner can help them develop better social relationships in early adulthood, can increase self esteem and decrease delinquent behavior.

Teach them to communicate. Make sure teens understand that they should express their limits, likes and dislikes to a partner, and that the expectation should be that both people enjoy the experience. That means that in opposite gender encounters it isn’t only about a boy’s pleasure.

Create an environment in which your children can talk to you. Many parents fear that a conversation about sex will be uncomfortable or will make them seem overly permissive. But letting these fears prevent open dialogue tends to do more harm than good.

Help teens access reproductive health care. Putting barriers in the way of teens’ health care can be dangerous, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has advocated for all teens to have access to confidential reproductive health care, saying it greatly improves health outcomes for adolescents. If you live in one of the many places where teens cannot independently access health care, help them make appointments and ensure they have time alone with their doctors.

The idea of helping teens develop sexual skills may feel like parents are condoning something that they should actually condemn. But American teens face a lot of hurdles on the path to developing healthy sexuality, and when we look at the research, it becomes clear that the best thing we can do for our kids is to help them become sexually informed and proficient long before they become sexually active, and then to help them stay safe and informed once they do.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How to Make Sex More Dangerous

Share

Refusing to provide children with medically accurate sex education isn’t ideological — it’s negligent.

By Andrea Barrica

I cried the first time I saw a naked man. As a young woman growing up in a conservative Catholic household, I couldn’t even look at my own genitals, and thought I would go to hell for masturbating. The abstinence-only education I received — at school, at home, in the church — left me with years of shame, isolation and fear.

I’ve watched the recent battles over allowing comprehensive sex ed in Colorado, Utah and Idaho, and I know how much is at stake for children. As a sex educator and entrepreneur, I’ve spoken with thousands of similarly miseducated young people, and I know the mental and physiological damage it can inflict.

Americans laugh at the embarrassment parents face in talking to kids about sex. But it’s not a joke. Fewer students now receive comprehensive sex ed in our country than at any time in the past 20 years. Since the late 1990s, conservative activists — often with the help of conservative presidents — have steadily chipped away at sex education by funding and mandating abstinence-only policies in schools.

Only about half of all school districts in the United States require any sex ed at all. Of those that do, most mandate or stress abstinence-only instruction. No birth control. No sexually transmitted infection prevention. No consent

In fact, 18 states require that educators tell students that sex is acceptable only within the context of marriage. Seven states prohibit teachers — under penalty of law — from acknowledging the existence of L.G.B.T.Q. people other than in the context of H.I.V. or to condemn homosexuality. Only 10 states even reference “sexual assault” or “consent” in their sex education curriculums.

And in districts where comprehensive sex education is provided, parents are largely allowed to opt out of such instruction for their children.

Conservatives often frame sex ed as government overreach, arguing that lessons in sexuality and relationships are best provided by parents. But most parents can’t or don’t provide such guidance. Refusing to provide children with medically accurate information about their own sexual development isn’t ideological; it’s negligent.

It’s not even effective. States that place a heavy emphasis on abstinence-only sex ed have seen much higher rates of teen pregnancy, even when studies control for factors like income and education levels.

During the Obama administration, funding for abstinence-only sex education was shifted toward more comprehensive sex education — and teen pregnancy dropped nationwide by 41 percent. The Trump administration, embracing an abstinence-only approach, has reversed course, cutting more than $200 million in funding for the program.

Despite the dreams of social conservatives, few teens actually practice abstinence. Nearly 60 percent of students have sex before they graduate from high school, according to some surveys. Many do so without any instruction from parents or schools on condoms, infections or consent.

Perhaps that’s why one in four American women will become pregnant by the time they turn 20.

Or why a quarter of all new cases of sexually transmitted infections occur in teenagers — and the number of S.T.I.s has been at all-time highs.

Or why only 41 percent of American women have described their first sexual experience as wanted.

When we refuse to teach students about sex, we don’t stop sex — we just make it more dangerous. And it’s not just because of S.T.I.s.

Kids who lack information and ownership over their bodies are more likely to be taken advantage of. When children are taught that all premarital sex is negative, it’s harder for them to fight, or report, abuse or coercion.

Abstinence education negates the possibility of consent. When I was a teen, I was taught that men would try to get sex from me, and that my job was to say no. That made me feel as if the coercion and violations that happened to me were my fault. All sexual acts are equally wrong, so if a boy went too far on a date with me, it was my fault for letting him touch me at all.

Keeping children in the dark allows predators to set the narrative. They count on the culture of silence and the sense of shame. When virginity is prized as the highest honor, those who are assaulted can feel even more worthless — and may avoid reporting abusive or predatory behavior out of shame and confusion.

For L.G.B.T.Q. children, things can be even more bleak. A lack of inclusive sex education contributes to feelings of isolation and shame, while enabling bullies. L.G.B.T.Q. kids have even fewer resources, and face more drastic consequences — from physical abuse to homelessness — when they attempt to report assaults.
Sign Up for Paul Krugman’s Newsletter

Paul Krugman did explanatory journalism before it was cool, moving from a career as a world-class economist to writing hard-hitting opinion columns.

When we promote abstinence over medically accurate sexual health, it inflicts a lifetime of physical and psychological harm on young people.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In many countries, the right to accurate information about sexual health is deemed essential. Children raised in the Netherlands, for example, begin sex ed in kindergarten. American teens give birth at a rate that is five times higher than that of their Dutch counterparts. Most Dutch teens report their first sexual experience positively.

We joke about sex because it’s difficult for us to talk about. And in part because our parents weren’t able to talk with us about it, we’re unable to talk with our kids. We can break the cycle for the next generation of young people by fighting for accessible and comprehensive sex education.

Their safety is more important than our shame.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Why Doesn’t Sex Ed Cover Body Image?

Share

By Tiffany Lashai Curtis

Without a doubt, American sexual education needs a lot of work. Only 25 states even mandate that it be taught in public schools, and only 13 states require those sex ed programs to be medically accurate. In 2016, a study published by the Guttmacher Institute found today’s teens are actually receiving less education on topics like contraception and STI prevention than they did in years past.

In addition to improving access to this kind of basic sexual health information, a new paper published by the American Journal of Sexuality Education suggests we also need to expand the very definition of sexual health. One big addition that the researchers behind the paper recommend: make body image a core part of the curriculum.

How body image affects sexual well-being.

We don’t often think of body image as being directly related to our sex lives, much less our sexual health, but a growing body of research shows the two are actually intimately related. Led by Virginia Ramseyer Winter, Ph.D., MSW, director of the University of Missouri Center for Body Image Research and Policy, the researchers outlined dozens of past studies that demonstrate this connection.

Most prominently, several studies have found negative body image is often associated with increased participation in risky sexual behaviors among girls and women, including not using any contraceptives, having more unprotected sex with casual partners, and tending to be drunk before sex. Meanwhile, women who are more satisfied with their bodies are more likely to use condoms and less likely to have unprotected sex after drinking, Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s team reported: “Increased body image satisfaction acted as a protective factor for this population.”

Why would having poor body image lead girls to having more unsafe sex? One 2002 study that surveyed 522 black teen girls suggests part of the problem is the sexual beliefs and attitudes that tend to come with having a negative view of one’s own body: These girls tended to deal with a nagging fear of being abandoned while asking their partners about using condoms, and they also worried about things like not having a lot of “options” for sexual partners and not having a lot of control in their relationships. They also tended to have generally low self-esteem and more symptoms of depression.

It seems that this concoction of negative beliefs about one’s own sexual and personal worth can lead to difficulties with communicating, the researchers explained: “Self-objectification and poor body image may interfere with a young woman’s ability to advocate or negotiate on her behalf regarding her sexual health.” But Dr. Ramseyer Winter’s past studies have demonstrated the opposite is also true: Women who feel better about their bodies tend to be more comfortable talking about sex in general, which likely allows them to better negotiate their sexual boundaries and needs and thus make better decisions regarding their sexual health.

In other words, being able to comfortably talk about sex is crucial to being able to advocate for oneself in bed, and that comfort is usually closely related to how comfortable a person is with their own body. That makes sense—sex involves a person being naked and exposed, and if the idea of their body being viewed like that is frightening to them, it’ll be harder to confidently talk about sex without all those negative feelings getting in the way.

Indeed, just this month another study found that your perception of your partner’s appreciation of your body can affect your own sexual functioning. If you perceive your partner as loving your body, you have more sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasms, satisfaction, and relationship satisfaction.

Why we need a larger definition of “sexual health.”

Part of the problem is our conceptualization of sexual education as primarily a means of preventing negative health outcomes without talking much about how to promote good sexual outcomes—things like more sexual pleasure, confidence, and overall well-being.

“Instead of considering overall improved sexual health of the individual, sexuality education curricula tend to focus most heavily on reducing unplanned or teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections,” the researchers point out in the paper. “While results from curricula with the aforementioned focuses provide significant immediate results showing improved condom use or abstinence, the results are not significant over time. To work toward a model of sexual health that is more than the absence of negative sexual-health-related outcomes, we must approach sex education from a theoretical perspective that is congruent with this definition.”

The researchers recommended an assessment of current sex ed curriculum and the addition of body image as a core topic for all kids. While people of all genders struggle with body insecurities, the researchers noted that girls tend to be more prone to “self-objectification,” or internalizing other people’s views of their physical appearance, which makes them particularly susceptible to body image issues. A 2006 study found upward of 80 percent of young women reported experiencing dissatisfaction with their bodies, and a 2012 study on girls in the eighth, 10th, and 12th grades found girls experience a decrease in satisfaction with their bodies as they move through adolescence (with Latina girls particularly experiencing this hit to their self-esteem as they got older).

“New curricula should begin prior to puberty, as girls experience intense negative shifts in their body image during puberty and should be delivered in all settings (e.g., churches, schools, community centers),” the researchers recommend. “We can truly make sexuality education comprehensive and reflective of theoretical constructs relevant to girls. New curricula [would] incorporate topics beyond the traditional birth control and STI prevention messages, such as body image, race, gender, relationships, and more.”

If body confidence can begin in the classroom—with young people being actively encouraged to love their bodies—it might help set a precedent for healthier intimate relationships as adults.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

Share

For novelist Lev Rosen, school sex ed involved putting condoms on fruit. We need to be much more creative – and fun, he argues

By Lev Rosen

When I was 13 years old, when I knew I was queer but wouldn’t be saying so for a year, I remember some boys at school during lunch talking about gay sex. They called it “gross”, they laughed about it. That’s what I heard from my peers about the topic. I heard nothing from my teachers; I wasn’t about to ask my parents; and the gay people on TV never did more than peck each other on the lips.

Sex education for teens is one of those topics we tend to dance around. No one wants to talk to them about sex. It sounds pervy to tell kids how to have sex – as if you’re ruining their innocence or, worse, grooming them. I don’t know what your sex education was like, but I remember mine: it was putting condoms on bananas.

Fun fact about bananas: they’re all genetically identical. Every banana you’ve eaten is the same as every other banana you’ve eaten. And many of the sex-education classes taught today are exactly the same as the one I attended more than a decade ago. Condoms on bananas, STDs, reproduction – no talk of pleasure or consent, much less gay sex.

So, I wrote a novel for teens that features guides to oral sex, anal sex, and basic BDSM. I didn’t do this just so people had someone new to send hate mail to; I did it because teens have heard all this already from TV, playground talk, and online porn. Even sheltered teens already have some idea about how sex works; pretending they don’t isn’t going to help anyone. And while not all of them want to try these things, those who do, need to know how to do it safely, and with consent. Instead, they learn all of that from the media.

In most media aimed at teens, queer men tend to be sweet and sexless. You’ve seen or read the gay best friend character who talks about how hot guys are but never touches one. Or you’ve experienced mainstream gay romance – with gentle kissing, hand-holding, maybe a hug (fully clothed). Even when they get to say what they want, these boys on TV or in film rarely long for more than a kiss and a cuddle. We never see the mimed, under-the-covers sexy-and-shirtless making-out that our straight peers are treated to. Straight teens get to have sex on TV. Gay ones, not so much.

There’s this thing I call the glass closet: the idea that liberal-minded, well-meaning folks who genuinely don’t think they have a problem with queer people tend to confine them to a rigid definition of “good” queerness. For women, this means not going too butch, usually. For men, it means not going too femme, and also, not being too slutty. “I love gay people, but do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”; “I love gay people – but not being ‘too gay’, OK guys?”

And gay sex? That’s way too gay.

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

And so, if all the gay teenagers on our screens are portrayed as “good” gays, kept safely in the confines of the glass closet, and sex-ed doesn’t discuss more than bananas and STDs, then real queer teens turn to the one place they can see their desires: porn.

If you haven’t seen any gay (male) porn, let me describe most of it: everything is clean and polished (yes, even most of the dirty stuff). Everyone has lots of vocal fun. No one ever flags until they finish.

Of course, porn is fantasy, and the men in these videos do massive prep for these scenes. It looks much easier than it is – that’s half the fantasy. And as fantasy, it’s fine. But as a primary source of education, gay porn leaves young queer men with an idealised, routine set of acts that suggest a (wrongly) regimented set of requirements for “real” queer sex. Standardised sexual imagery, it turns out, is just bananas with abs.

I’ve also spoken to queer women about their sexual education. They didn’t always go to porn for their sex-ed, but they didn’t find it at school or home either. Those who did look for it in porn had the additional problem that the fantasy being presented wasn’t even being presented for them.

“Many young women will encounter lesbian sex through mainstream porn,” says Allison Moon, sex educator and author of Girl Sex 101. “This means everyone, not only girls, can get some very wrong ideas about lesbian sex, because the lesbian sex in mainstream porn is designed for male visual pleasure. So queer women have to navigate male sexuality whether or not it interests them.”

And that leaves queer teens in sex-education classes in an awkward place. Straight teens can ask about things they’ve seen on TV, they can apply condoms-on-bananas to what they learn from the media, and come away with a basic framework of sex. Queer teens can only turn to porn.

The good news is that, in some places, things are changing. When I contacted my old high school to find out how the condom bananas were going, I spoke to the director of health and wellness about how the sex-education curriculum has changed, and how it’s about to change even further.

“We can do better, and we’re on the cusp,” she told me, before going into future plans: a curriculum that covers the usual safe-sex issues, but also talks about consent, healthy relationships, porn literacy and queer sex. I was thrilled to hear it. I may have even become a little teary, thinking about a class of young queer people who get a real sexual education that applies to them.

But not every school does this. And they need to, because queer people are everywhere. We’ve made strides in acceptance, but today I still see gay men in their 20s and 30s online saying they don’t know how things work. I get emails from men saying my book taught them things they wish they had learned as a teen. Teens today tell me that it’s so nice to hear someone talk about gay teens having sex, about how they feel, as though, even if they’re out, they’re still not allowed to act on their desires – or are unsure how.

Right now, teenagers’ choices for learning are two extremes (the “good gay” or the “bad gay”) – neither of which is helpful. Either way, these teens end up feeling as if they’ve done something wrong. And we can fix that so easily. Just start talking about it, teaching it. We do it with straight sex. We can fix this the way we can fix most things in life: just gay it up.

What gay teens should watch and read

Another Gay Movie (2006) A raunchy teen sex comedy about four gay guys trying to lose their virginity before graduating. There are gross sex gags, some nudity, and the pressure to lose one’s virginity is problematic, but if you wanted a queer male version of the American Pie movies (or the more recent Blockers), this is it.

I Killed My Mother (2009) A French-Canadian film that features young gay men having fun, sexy sex without being porn – like many of the straight teens you see on TV today.

Release, by Patrick Ness There are plenty of graphic, but beautifully wrought sex scenes in this book about a queer teen trying to find some freedom for himself in a small American town and with his deeply religious family.

Under The Lights, by Dahlia Adler This fun romp on the set of a Hollywood television show has explicit lesbian sex behind the scenes, as the character deals with who she’s playing on TV, and who she is when she’s with her publicist’s daughter.

Princess Cyd (2017) In this quiet and beautiful film about a teen girl (Cyd) spending the summer with her aunt, there’s one great scene between Cyd and Katie, who is a “little bit boy” (and played by a non-binary actor). It’s exactly the sort of sex we should be seeing everywhere.

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by LC Rosen is published in paperback by Penguin on 7 February at £7.99.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

There’s a better way to talk to your kids about sex

Share

By Jenny Anderson

It’s no secret that many parents struggle with talking to their kids about sex. But a new study from Britain suggests those awkward conversations may be key in helping kids navigate their first sexual experiences—and offers some useful guidance on how to do it.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles poll delves into sexual behavior in Britain. It asks some obvious questions, such as “What age did you first have sex?” Others dig deeper: “Did you feel peer pressure to have sex when you did it for the first time?” “Were you drunk?” “Did you want it as much as your partner wanted it?”

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine used the survey to do a more in-depth study on the circumstances surrounding young people’s first time and how they felt about it, interviewing 2,825 young people from the survey. (The broader national survey included 15,162 men and women, aged 17-24, between 2010-2012.) The study, recently published in BMJ Sexual & Reproductive Health, was retrospective, meaning that young adults were asked to reflect on their first experience, which could have been years earlier.

In an effort to get beyond the simplistic question of “When did you first have sex” to the more important ones around whether young adults felt ready, the authors sought to assess respondents’ “sexual competence” based on questions the young adults answered in the survey. The components of sexual competence include:

  • Did you use contraception?
  • Did you feel in charge of your decision (or was the decision influenced by things such as peer pressure and/or drunkenness)?
  • Were you and your partner equally willing to do it?
  • Did it happen at the right time?

Competence feels like a loaded word, especially in the context of sex. But if you lose the word and look at the questions embedded in the definition, you have an interesting road map to what readiness may look like, including consent, protection, safety, and interest.

Not surprisingly, many people found their first times to be not-so-great. A whopping 40% of women and 26% of men did not think that their first sexual experience occurred at the ‘right time,’ while 17.4% of women reported that they and their partner were not equally willing to have sex the first time it happened. A similar share of women reported a non-autonomous reason—such as peer pressure or drunkenness—for their first sexual encounter. Nine out of ten young adults used contraception.

According to the researchers’ definition of competence, 52% of women and 42% of men were not sexually competent for their first time.

The relationship between age and sexual competence was not straightforward, but it was clearly directional: 78% of 13-14-year-old girls were not competent, compared to 36% of 18-24-year-old girls. (For boys, 65% were not competent at 13-14, compared to 40% at 18-24.)

First times are often fraught for a variety of reasons: peer or partner pressure, expectations, mechanics. But being older clearly has advantages. The study suggested that there was also a connection—for girls at least—between having conversations with parents or learning about sex and relationships in school and feeling ready.

“That young women who had discussed sexual matters with their parents, and those who reported school to be their main source from which they learnt about sexual matters, were more likely to have been sexually competent at first sex resonates with previous research,” the study said. The authors suggest that may be because parental input and conversations, and school-based relationships and sex education, “may provide the knowledge and skills required to negotiate a positive and safe sexual experience.”

That association was not observed with men. The authors suggest one interpretation is that communication is less important for men as they reflect on their first encounter.

Self-reported retrospective interviews necessarily may be influenced by flaws of memory and bias. But if self-reporting shows this much uncertainty and openness about not being ready, it seems safe to assume the numbers are even greater.

Clearly, parents need to do more to help kids figure out the right time to become sexually active. Forty-seven percent of 14-year-old girls and 58% of 14-year-old boys said they had never discussed sex with either parent. And as awareness of sexual health and well-being develops, conversations between parents and kids must go beyond advice like “Use protection. Don’t get a disease” to what healthy relationships look and feel like, what consent is, how to say no, and how porn pollutes our idea about what sex should be like.

A starting point for those conversations is a vernacular that makes sense. The definition of competence laid out by the BMJ researchers is compatible with that of the World Health Organization, which also goes beyond physical health (contraception and sexually transmitted diseases) to include mental well-being and social aspects, referring to a “positive and respectful approach to… sexual relationships” and “safe sexual experiences, free of coercion.”

Based on the BMJ study, the BBC suggests that parents talk to teens about sex using this checklist:

When is the right time?

If you think you might have sex, ask yourself:

  • Does it feel right?
  • Do I love my partner?
  • Does he/she love me just as much?
  • Have we talked about using condoms to prevent STIs and HIV, and was the talk OK?
  • Have we got contraception organised to protect against pregnancy?
  • Do I feel able to say “no” at any point if I change my mind, and will we both be OK with that?

Also consider:

  • Do I feel under pressure from anyone, such as my partner or friends?
  • Could I have any regrets afterwards?
  • Am I thinking about having sex just to impress my friends or keep up with them?
  • Am I thinking about having sex just to keep my partner?

Research suggests that our early experiences with sex can have a long-term influence on sexual health. So it makes sense for parents to do what they can—from an ongoing conversation to an anonymous checklist left on the table—to increase the odds that teens’ first encounters are good ones.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Here’s What Sex Therapists Really Think About Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

Share

The show gets a lot right.

By Kasandra Brabaw

When Netflix’s new show Sex Education dropped earlier this month, it became an instant hit among basically anyone who has sex or thinks about sex. The show follows an awkward teen, Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who knows a lot about sex thanks to his sex therapist mom, Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). Otis teams up with school outcast, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), once they realize that Otis’s sexual knowledge means they can both make some major cash from their peers via “therapy sessions.” In each episode, Otis addresses a new classmate’s sex and relationship issues, all while dealing with his own sexual inhibitions and his mom’s serious prying.

Those who love the show love how relatable it is in showing the awkward situations and weird sexual questions that teens are inevitably going through but aren’t usually talking about. And with Otis as acting as a sex therapist for his classmates, we get to see what it would be like if teenagers actually had a thoughtful, insightful outlet for talking about sex and relationships.

It also broke barriers in a lot of ways, like showing teens finally having honest, progressive conversations about sex and sexuality. And also showing a full vulva on TV. Of course, that doesn’t mean every bit of Sex Education is 100 percent accurate. This is still TV, after all, and TV shows tend to rely on clichéd tropes and unrealistic drama to make the show entertaining.

So we talked to six real-life sex therapists about their thoughts on the show. Here’s what they had to say.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the whole season!

1. The show’s portrayal of an actual licensed sex therapist—Jean (Otis’s mom)—is a little clichéd.

“Sex therapy is a bit unconventional as a job, but it’s still a job to us,” Kate Stewart, a licensed mental health counselor based in Seattle, tells SELF.

Although some sex therapists may constantly talk about sex and have lots of sex with lots of people, the majority don’t. “I rolled my eyes at the trope of the mom banging all these people because she’s a sex therapist,” sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D. tells SELF. “Banging people all over the place is not a job requirement.”

Then there’s the issue of the job itself—Jean makes it look like being a sex therapist is a cakewalk. It’s not. “For the most part, sex therapists don’t just sit around in big houses barely doing anything and looking gorgeous all day,” Rosara Torrisi, Ph.D., a sex therapist based in Long Island, tells SELF. “We see clients, we write articles, we give talks, we lecture, we teach, and so on. Looks nice, though.”

2. But her dildo-filled office is pretty realistic.

“I want to say that I don’t have nearly as much crazy sex art, but I do have two nude paintings and a bunch of crystal and stainless steel dildos decorating my office,” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, tells SELF.

3. Most sex therapists are generally better with personal and professional boundaries.

Not only does Dr. Milburn openly hold therapy sessions in her home—breaching her patient’s privacy, as well as her and Otis’s potential safety—she also pries into her son’s sexuality and disrespects his wishes on a few occasions. Sure, lots of moms do this and it gives us the kind of drama that makes TV interesting, but it’s not exactly how you’d expect a sex therapist to act.

“Many of the sex therapists I know have children, and they are all very respectful of their children’s space and ability to explore sexuality in their own way and on their own time,” Stewart says. “I think we would all talk to our children about our work if they were interested, but we wouldn’t get into such graphic detail about our clients being interested in pegging.”

On top of that, we discover that Jean and her ex-husband (also seemingly a sex therapist) had a toxic relationship complete with a lack of boundaries that probably led to Otis’s own sexual inhibitions (specifically, his inability to masturbate). Remember that scene when young Otis sees his dad having sex with a patient? “Completely against our ethics and care for a client,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York, tells SELF. Later, we see a scene in which Jean explains to young Otis that sex can be wonderful but can also destroy lives. “So it’s not that Otis is just inhibited,” says Fleming. “He was taught and conditioned by his own mother that sex is destructive

But then again, nobody is perfect, even therapists. And Jean’s behavior shines a light on that fact.

“Otis’s mother was one of my favorite characters,” sex therapist Megan Davis, M.Ed, tells SELF. “She shows the reality that even though we are therapists, we’re sometimes at fault for crossing boundaries with those closest to us (by writing a book about Otis’s sexual difficulties), being unclear in our communication, and reacting in stressful situations.” She adds, “I can admit, I am sometimes guilty of not taking my own advice or keeping my cool.”

4. But Sex Education does a great job depicting real sex and relationship problems—and solutions.

“My favorite scene was when Otis counseled the two lesbians in the pool,” Dr. Torrisi says. “At some point one of them remarks that the issue can’t be the relationship, that it’s just the sex. I hear this a lot. Yes, having a good relationship can help sex. And having good sex can help the relationship. But often as a sex therapist, I see people scapegoat the sex in order to hide their fears about the relationship.”

In fact, pretty much every therapy session Otis has with fellow students rings true. “Otis addressed issues such as low or no desire, pain during sex, lack of orgasm, erectile dysfunction, and sexual orientation issues,” Davis says. “We have a tendency to shame and silence discussions of sexuality and sexual issues, but Otis was able to help his peers to remove the shame and begin openly talking about their bodies, their sexuality, and their issues.”

The way people react to his advice is realistic as well. “There is an immense power in just being able to talk about sex out loud. In the scene in the bathroom with Adam, you can practically see the weight coming off of his shoulders when he acknowledges that he’s having issues with his erection and orgasm,” Marin says. “I see that same kind of relief with my clients, too.”

5. Ultimately the program shows that sex therapy—or at the very least better sex education—can be helpful for pretty much anyone.

“Otis debunked many myths about sex during his sessions with his peers. For example, the myth and expectation that men should last 30-45 minutes before orgasm, when in fact most men only last three to five minutes. And the myth that vaginas [or, more accurately, vulvas] are supposed to look a certain way, particularly the labia,” Davis says.

Despite the TV tendency to solve complex problems in 30 minutes or less, Otis uses very real sex therapy tactics to help his fellow students. “He provided education to his peers, homework (i.e. when he sent Aimee home and encouraged her to masturbate on her own in order to tell her partner what she likes or doesn’t like in bed), brought in both partners to work on communication strategies, worked with couples on conflict resolution skills, and encouraged experimentation individually or as a couple,” Davis explains.

Although the show portrayed sex therapy in both realistic and unrealistic ways, it’s strides ahead of similar teen shows about sex. In Sex Education, sexual issues like erectile dysfunction and sex injuries aren’t laughed off—they’re given serious thought and discussion.

If after watching the show you think you might benefit from sex therapy of your own, here’s how to find out more about it.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Queering sex education in schools would benefit all pupils

Share

All power to the pupil activists drawing attention to the lack of information about LGBT issues in sex education in England

‘Being LGBT+ in school can be an isolating experience.’

By

All I remember from my relationship and sex education in school is phallic objects, condoms and everyone being terrified of pregnancy. Looking back it’s clear how disjointed and inadequate this was at a time when I was struggling with the complexity of being a black, queer, working-class boy navigating life inside and outside school.

If I had been given information about the kind of relationships I would later come to be in and given the space to think critically about my gender it would have made my road to self-acceptance a less bumpy one. It was also a missed opportunity to address toxic elements of masculinity such as suppressing emotion or objectifying women. Modernising the sex and education curriculum wouldn’t just make LGBT+ people safer, but would benefit the wellbeing of all students.

So when I found out that young south Londoners had put this particular new year’s resolution to the Department for Education, I was elated. Students put banners on every secondary school in Lambeth, demanding that relationship and sex education (RSE) in schools be inclusive of LGBT+ relationships and for it to examine gender and stereotypes. When you consider that inclusive RSE isn’t mandatory in schools in England, hasn’t been updated for well over a decade and almost half of young people no longer identify as exclusively heterosexual, it’s clear it’s time for a much-needed overhaul.

The demand is there. According to a report published by the Terrence Higgins Trust looking at responses from 900 young people aged between 16 and 25, 97% of them thought RSE should be LGBT+ inclusive, but the vast majority (95%) had not been taught about LGBT+ sex and relationships.

This isn’t the only front the current RSE is failing on: 75% of young people were not taught about consent and 50% of them rated their RSE as “poor” or “terrible” with only 10% rating it as “good”. In this context, the shocking 22% rise in cases of gonorrhea between 2016 and 2017 is sadly unsurprising.

I spoke to one of the students responsible for this action; they are 17 years old and asked to remain anonymous. When asked why they felt this action was necessary they said: “Being LGBT+ in school can be an isolating experience … I have experienced ignorant remarks from students and teachers alike. We wanted to do this visual action to draw attention to what feels like a hidden issue, but the impact of which I and many like myself feel on a day to day basis.”

‘An inclusive RSE curriculum could mean LGBT+ identities could be celebrated.’

Only 13% of LGBT+ young people have learned about healthy same-sex relationships. Those who do receive inclusive education are less likely to experience bullying and more likely to report feeling safe, welcome and happy according to Ruth Hunt, chief executive of the LGBT+ equality charity Stonewall.

The feeling that this is a “hidden issue” comes as no surprise given the long history of active exclusion of LGBT+ people and their experiences from public life. In 1988, the Thatcher government introduced section 28 which stopped local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality in schools. It took 15 years for this piece of legislation to be overturned, but many teachers still don’t know if they are legally able to openly discuss LGBT+ topics, and many feel that they lack the expertise to do so.

The reason inclusive RSE isn’t mandatory is because sex education as we know it today was introduced by a Labour government in 2000, but section 28 (the law that banned “promoting” homosexuality) wasn’t overturned until 2003. It is humiliatingly out of date. An inclusive RSE curriculum could mean LGBT+ identities could be celebrated in a place they were once erased and demonised.

Thanks to campaigning organisations such as the Terrance Higgins Trust, the government has committed to making RSE lessons compulsory in all secondary schools in England and relationship education compulsory in primary schools. This was meant to be rolled out in 2019, but has now been pushed back to 2020. Whether this will cover LGBT+ relationships and gender adequately remains to be seen, as the finalised guidance that will be used by schools to deliver the RSE has yet to be published.

The rollout can’t come soon enough. LGBT+ people are more likely to experience poor mental health in the form of depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and substance misuse due to the pervasive discrimination, isolation and homophobia they experience. This shake-up of RSE could be an important step towards changing this.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Father-Son Talks About Condoms Pay Health Dividends

Share

By Steven Reinberg

Here’s some straight talk about the value of “the talk.”

Fathers who talk with their teenage sons about condom use can help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies, researchers say.

Condoms are the only contraceptive method that can prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Yet, recent U.S. government data showed that condom use among teens steadily declined over the last decade.

And as condom use dropped, the number of sexually transmitted infections increased, researchers found. In 2017, the number of STIs reached an all-time high for the fourth year in a row, with teens and young adults accounting for about half of the cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two out of three new HIV infections in young people are among black and Hispanic males, and more than 200,000 births a year are to teens and young adults, the study authors noted.

For the new study, researchers interviewed 25 black and Hispanic fathers and sons (aged 15 to 19) from New York City. The research was led by Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor at New York University and a nurse practitioner specializing in adolescent sexual and reproductive health at the Adolescent AIDS Program of Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.

The interviews made it clear that fathers talking to their sons about using condoms consistently and correctly is not only possible, but acceptable. The sons said they wanted their dads to tell them how to use condoms and problems with them, such as breakage and slippage, as well as incorrect use.

Fathers also saw these conversations as a way to improve their own condom use, the study authors said.

The findings showed that communicating about condom use can be a powerful way to help prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the researchers concluded.

“Helping fathers teach their sons about the consistent and correct use of condoms by addressing common communication barriers — and focusing specifically on strategies to avoid condom use errors and problems — is a promising and novel mechanism to increase the use of male condoms and to reduce unplanned pregnancies, STIs, and sexual reproductive health disparities among adolescent males,” the study authors said in a New York University news release.

The report was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Pediatrics.

More information

For more about sexually transmitted infections, visit the American Sexual Health Association.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How to talk to your children about sex

Share

It’s no easy task for parents, but there are ways to start this crucial conversation

‘As parents, we know that talking about sex to our children is part of the job.’

By

“If you had a question about sex, where would you go?” I ask my 12-year-old daughter, Orla. She doesn’t look up from her phone. “I’d ask online,” she deadpans. “then delete my browser history.”

“You wouldn’t come to me?” I venture, worried, hurt, amused and (a tiny part) relieved. “Mum, if I asked you about sex, I’d then have to imagine you having sex and that would be traumatic for me,” is the answer I get back.

So … on the face of it, perhaps I’ve failed in the “how to talk about sex to your daughters” section of parenting, especially if, compared to the likes of Emma Thompson, who not so long ago appeared on a podcast to discuss the “sex handbook” she wrote for her daughter when Gaia was only 10 (she’s now 18).

In it, Thompson called sex “shavoom” and pornography “the Kingdom of Ick”. (“If anyone does anything, says anything, implies anything, shows anything or suggests anything that makes you feel ick, move away, get away, say no thank you. Or even just no without the thank you,” reads part of Thompson’s mother-daughter guide.)

As parents, we all know that talking about sex to our children is part of the job. And, with the Government’s updated sex education curriculum delayed by another year – it will become compulsory in schools from September 2020 – we also know it’s more urgent than it’s ever been. Hardcore porn is ubiquitous.

Studies suggest that parents tend to underestimate the extent of their own child’s exposure, but it’s safe to assume that, years before they’ve reached “first base”, boys in particular will have seen images which could create a horribly warped picture of consent, pleasure, health and safety. Add into that the “superbug” STDs, online grooming, the fact that “safe sexting” is now a thing (that’s taking care to cut your face and home from your body shots), and we’ve got our work cut out for us.

All this I know – and yet, the longer I’m a parent, the harder it has become. My daughters are 19, 17 and 12 and the recent study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, which found that parents talk about sex to their firstborns, then get progressively worse with the rest, rings horribly true. There’s the awkwardness, of course. (I have a friend who’ll happily tell strangers about her dress-up games and spontaneous encounters yet has never managed to talk about sex to her own kids. She thought it would be a breeze, but was shocked to find it mortifying.) But it isn’t just that. I’ve seen how quickly the “issue s” change, how easy it is to fall hopelessly behind. When my youngest pointed to an 11-year-old who was “pansexual”, I couldn’t recall what it even meant. Went home, Googled it, still don’t know.

On top of that, the older I get, the more uncertain I’ve become. I’m more aware than ever how much sex education is really personal opinion. While leading “sexperts” tend to offer reassuring, accepting messages about what’s normal, I feel loathe to repeat them. I vividly recall telling my oldest daughter, aged about 13 at the time, that certain acts commonly found in pornography, such as anal sex, were less common in real life and extremely unlikely to feel good for a girl.

Her 11-year-old sister hovered in the doorway soaking up the message, too. Now, the repeat phrase in the “anal sex” section of one lead sex education website, is “lube and patience”. Which message is more helpful? When it comes to guiding my daughters around the physical acts, probably I “could do better”. But I think, I hope, that where it matters most, I’ve done okay.

Alice Hoyle, relationships and sex advisor with Durex’s sex education arm Durex Do, believes in shifting the emphasis away from practical topics towards a more emotional open-ended approach. This should cover how young people feel about themselves, how society makes them feel, what they want from a relationship and how to communicate that.

“Understanding consent starts really early, age appropriately,” says Hoyle, who also has three daughters, the eldest now eight. “I was watching two-year-olds in a nursery recently, one girl patting the other on her face. The adult in charge was asking the girl to look at the other’s body language. Was she smiling? Did she look cross? Might she want her to stop?

At home, with party games, tickling, whatever, we have the standard family rule – unless everyone’s having fun, it stops. Sometimes, this can be a real challenge. I was doing nit treatment on my daughter’s hair the other day. She had the ‘No Means No’, the good strong body language, the hand up …”

Playground politics are another link to power dynamics, ethical behaviour, what you can and can’t accept. I’ve always encouraged my daughters to tell me everything when it comes to friends and frenemies (I’m fascinated anyway). After school, at bedtime, in the kitchen, in the car, we’ve always talked.

I’ve tried to help them listen to their gut instincts – what feels fun, what feels uncomfortable – and find their own strategies to deal with tricky situations. Sometimes I’ve suggested they walk away and find people who treat them better. This led one daughter to make an entirely new gang of mates, aged nine, and never look back.

If you’re in touch with their highs and lows and talk about your own experiences at their age, then you’ve laid the basics for building healthy relationships and made it easier for them to open up to you. Hoyle keeps lines open with mother-daughter diaries – notebooks where they write messages to one another. On their Jenga set, she has written sentences on each brick which you can complete when you put one in place. “I feel happy when …” or “I feel cross when …” She also recommends Sussed, a family conversation game her children love.

Porn is something you have to address. I’ve taken the “it’s make believe” line, like watching Superman jump from buildings – don’t expect similar results if you try it at home. It’s that tricky business of sounding a warning without appearing so out of date, they disregard you.

“In the past, sex education has been criticised for being too negative,” says Hoyle, “for not looking at pleasure. That has got better, but there’s a lot of talk among young women that sex positivity has been mis-sold to them. They’ve done things to please men and not themselves.

“You can’t avoid talking about porn, but it’s a tricky one. People use it for pleasure or even sex education, but the sex it portrays is often very male focused and you can’t know if the women in it were abused or trafficked.”

All of the above has been discussed in our household and pretty much anything can open the door: a selfie; a song lyric (Blurred Lines’ I know You Want It, Meghan Trainor’s All About ww.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/sep/01/pops-weighty-issue-all-about-that-bass-body-positive-anthems” data-link-name=”in body link”>That Bass); the Cristiano Ronaldo rape allegations (one daughter has a poster of him above her bed); Love Island (the politics of hair removal and breast augmentation); Love Actually (porn, stalking, cheating … so many issues, where to start?)

Janey Downshire, counsellor and co-author of Teenagers Translated (and another mother of three daughters) believes all these conversations are more crucial than “what goes where”.

“When you’re a teenager, your identity, your sense of who you’d like to be and what’s possible, is a work in progress,” she says. “As parents, we need to help them see all the choices, to think as widely as they can. Most important is that you help your daughter put a high value on herself – to know she’s pretty special.”

Parent coach Judy Reith agrees. “A parent’s job is to help her daughter believe she deserves to have a fantastic relationship with someone,” she says. “Don’t just criticise when her behaviour worries you. Show her great qualities and always praise praise praise when she swims against the tide.”

Perhaps most important is the example you set. “The truth is girls growing up watch their mums like hawks,” says Reith. “If you’re insecure about the way you look, always on a diet, if you don’t expect to be treated well yourself, then that’s the message you send them. If you’re confident, and home is a safe zone where you’re happy to slob around, no makeup and greasy hair, that’s not a bad thing.” (In this department, I’ve excelled.)

So far my eldest girls look like they’re entering adulthood as wise, strong and sorted as any mother could wish them to be. When Orla quipped that taking her sex questions to me was too traumatic, I suggested she ask her oldest sister instead. She’s an adult now after all – and the more safe adults girls have in their lives the better. I have to admit, it felt good to delegate.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Share

Americans Were Quizzed on Sexual Health:

Share

What The Results Say About the State of Sex Ed

by LeAnne Graves

There’s no question that offering consistent and accurate sexual health information in schools is important.

Providing students with these resources not only helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it can also help to ensure the overall well-being of an individual.

Yet the state of sexual education and awareness in some areas of the United States ranges from medically inaccurate to virtually nonexistent.

At present, only 20 states require that sex and HIV education be “medically, factually, or technically accurate,” (while New Jersey is technically the 21st state, it’s been left out since medical accuracy isn’t specifically outlined in state statute. Rather it’s required by the NJDE’s Comprehensive Health and Physical Education).

Meanwhile, the definition for what’s “medically accurate” can vary by state.

While some states may require approval of the curriculum by the Department of Health, other states allow materials to be distributed that are based on information from published sources that are revered by the medical industry. This lack of a streamlined process can lead to the distribution of incorrect information.

Healthline and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization dedicated to promoting sexual education, conducted a survey that looked at the state of sexual health in the United States.

Below are the results.

Access To Education

In our survey, which polled more than 1,000 Americans, only 12 percent of respondents 60 years and older received some form of sexual education in school.

Meanwhile, only 33 percent of people between 18 and 29 years old reported having any.

While some previous studies have found that abstinence-only education programs don’t protect against teen pregnancies and STIs, there are many areas in the United States where this is the only type of sexual education provided.

States like Mississippi require schools to present sexual education as abstinence-only as the way to combat unwanted pregnancies. Yet Mississippi has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, ranking third in 2016.

This is in contrast to New Hampshire, which has the lowest rate of teen pregnancies in the United States. The state teaches health and sex education as well as a curriculum dedicated to STIs starting in middle schools.

To date, 35 states and the District of Columbia also allow for parents to opt-out of having their children participate in sex ed.

Yet in a 2017 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 40 percent of high school students had already engaged in sexual activity.

“When it comes to promoting sex education, the biggest obstacle is definitely our country’s cultural inclination to avoid conversations about sexuality entirely, or to only speak about sex and sexuality in ways that are negative or shaming,” explains Jennifer Driver, SIECUS’ State Policy Director.

“It’s hard to ensure someone’s sexual health and well-being when, far too often, we lack appropriate, affirmative, and non-shaming language to talk about sex in the first place,” she says.

STI prevention

In 2016, nearly a quarter of all new HIV cases in the United States were made up of young people ages 13 to 24, according to the CDC. People ages 15 to 24 also make up half of the 20 million new STIs reported in the United States each year.

Which is why it’s concerning that in our survey — where the age bracket 18 to 29 made up nearly 30 percent of our participants — when asked whether HIV could be spread through saliva, nearly 1 out of 2 people answered incorrectly.

Recently, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a study that states comprehensive sex education (CSE) programs not only increased the overall health and well-being of children and young people, but helped to prevent HIV and STIs as well.

Driver cites the Netherlands as a prime example of the payoffs from CSE programs. The country offers one of the world’s best sex education systems with corresponding health outcomes, particularly when it comes to STI and HIV prevention.

The country requires a comprehensive sexual education course starting in primary school. And the results of these programs speak for themselves.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of HIV at 0.2 percent of adults ages 15 to 49.

Statistics also show that 85 percent of adolescents in the country reported using contraception during their first sexual encounter, while the rate of adolescent pregnancies was low, at 4.5 per 1,000 adolescents.

Though Driver acknowledges that the United States cannot simply “adopt every sex education-related action happening in the Netherlands,” she does acknowledge that it’s possible to look to countries who are taking a similar approach for ideas.

Contraception misconceptions

When it comes to contraception, and more specifically emergency contraception, our survey found that there are a number of misconceptions about how these preventive measures work.

A whopping 93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid. Most people said it was only effective up to two days after having sex.

In fact, “morning-after pills” such as Plan B may help stop unwanted pregnancies if taken up to 5 days after sex with a potential 89 percent reduction in risk.

Other misunderstandings about emergency contraceptives include 34 percent of those polled believing that taking the morning-after pill can cause infertility, and a quarter of respondents believing that it can cause an abortion.

In fact, 70 percent of those surveyed didn’t know that the pill temporarily stops ovulation, which prevents the releasing of an egg to be fertilized.

Whether this misconception about how oral contraception works is a gender issue isn’t clear-cut. What’s understood, however, is that there’s still work to be done.

Though Driver cites the Affordable Care Act as one example of the push for free and accessible birth control and contraception, she’s not convinced this is enough.

“The cultural backlash, as exemplified by several legal fights and an increase in public debates — which have, unfortunately conflated birth control with abortion — illustrates that our society remains uncomfortable with fully embracing female sexuality,” she explains.

93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid.

Knowledge by gender

When breaking it down by gender, who’s the most knowledgeable when it comes to sex?

Our survey showed that 65 percent of females answered all questions correctly, while the figure for male participants was 57 percent.

Though these stats aren’t inherently bad, the fact that 35 percent of men who participated in the survey believed that women couldn’t get pregnant while on their periods is an indication that there’s still a ways to go — particularly when it comes to understanding female sexuality.

“We need to do a lot of work to change pervasive myths, specifically surrounding female sexuality,” explains Driver.

“There is still a cultural allowance for men to be sexual beings, while women experience double standards regarding their sexuality. And this long-standing misconception has undoubtedly contributed to confusion surrounding women’s bodies and female sexual health,” she says.

Defining consent

From the #MeToo movement to the Christine Blasey Ford case, it’s clear that creating dialogue around and providing information about sexual consent has never been more imperative.

The findings from our survey indicate that this is also the case. Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent still believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

This specific age bracket represented the largest group with the least understanding as to what constituted as consent.

What’s more, a quarter of all respondents answered the same question incorrectly, with some believing that consent is applicable if the person says yes despite drinking, or if the other person doesn’t say no at all.

These findings, as concerning as they might be, shouldn’t be surprising. To date, only six states require instruction to include information on consent, says Driver.

Yet the UNESCO study mentioned earlier cites CSE programs as an effective way “of equipping young people with knowledge and skills to make responsible choices for their lives.”

This includes improving their “analytical, communication, and other life skills for health and well-being in relation to… gender-based violence, consent, sexual abuse, and harmful practices.”

Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

What’s next?

Though the results of our survey indicate that more needs to be done in terms of providing CSE programs in school, there’s evidence that the United States is moving in the right direction.

A Planned Parenthood Federation of America poll conducted this year revealed that 98 percent of likely voters support sex education in high school, while 89 percent support it in middle school.

“We’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in this country and a historic low for pregnancy among teenagers,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.

“Sex education and access to family planning services have been critical to helping teens stay safe and healthy — now is not the time to walk back that progress.”

Moreover, SIECUS is advocating for policies that would create the first-ever federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

They’re also working to raise awareness about the need to increase and improve the access of marginalized young people to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“Comprehensive school-based sex education should provide fact and medically-based information that complements and augments the sex education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and healthcare professionals,” explains Driver.

“We can increase sexual health knowledge for people of all ages by simply treating it like any other aspect of health. We should positively affirm that sexuality is a fundamental and normal part of being human,” she adds.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Child Sexual Abuse Among Boys

Share

Many boys, too, are sexually abused. Most don’t feel comfortable speaking up about it.

Boys who are sexually abused often don’t know where to turn, making it all the more critical for parents and other adults to ensure signs of abuse aren’t overlooked.

By Raychelle Cassada Lohmann

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016 more than 57,000 children reported being sexually abused, and that’s on the low end since only about a third of cases are reported. What’s more, males are even less likely to report sexual abuse than females. Research indicates that about 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18, and most of them aren’t saying a thing.

Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire reports that 90 percent of these boys will likely know the person who is sexually abusing them. According to RAINN, or the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, about a third of the sexual perpetrators are family members, and about 60 percent are acquaintances.

Another potential reason males may not report being victims of sexual abuse is stereotypes that exist in our culture pertaining to how they are supposed to be strong and independent. As a society, we have done a huge disservice to our boys by instilling stereotypes, like that big boys don’t cry, and sending the message they should just suck it up and be strong, or even worse, that they need to “man up.” According to these false beliefs, men are supposed to be tough and brave, and they’re supposed to have a strong sex drive. Media, literature, schools, community establishments like places of worship and even family members can reinforce stereotypical messages and paint a fictitious picture of how boys are supposed to behave. Research indicates that male sex abuse survivors not only have few resources available to them, but they also face greater stigma than female survivors.

In a study published last year in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers show that gender stereotypes have been associated with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression. It’s not just an American problem, either. According to research done as part of the Global Early Adolescent Study, a collaborative effort of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the World Health Organization and other research partners, children studied from 15 different countries began to accept gender stereotypes well before the age of 10. So it appears that many of these misconceptions are universal. When boys are taught that they aren’t supposed to show emotion because that is a sign of weakness, they learn to suppress and not express their feelings.

In a society full of erroneous stereotypes, is it any wonder that boys are less likely to report having been sexually abused than girls? With most of the research on sex abuse focusing on male perpetrators and female survivors, it’s past time that we shed some light on the devastating effects of male sexual abuse. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • One in 25 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, according to a review of child sex abuse prevalence studies.
  • 10 percent of rape survivors are male, according to RAINN.
  • 27 percent of male rape survivors were sexually abused before they were 10 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • 7 percent of boys in the juvenile justice system have been sexually abused.
  • 50 percent of the children who are sex trafficked in the U.S. are male; and according to the National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, the average age at which boys first become victims of prostitution is 11 to 13.

Unquestionably, when boys or men are sexually abused, it has a profound impact on their psychological and emotional well-being. According to the American Psychological Association’s Division of Trauma Psychology, this horrific crime has been associated with:

  • Alcoholism and drug use
  • Anger and aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Intimate relationship problems
  • Poor school and work performance
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Despite all of the information that we have on sex abuse, we still have a long way to go. It’s hard to turn on the TV and see that another person, such as a coach, teacher, priest or physician has taken indecent liberties with a minor. As we continue to urge survivors to come forward, more survivors may begin to tell their stories.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Yes, yes, yes:

Share

Why female pleasure must be at the heart of sex education

‘Our sex education was essentially a lesson in contraception.’

Bring in compulsory sex education classes from the age of four – and end the idea that sex is only about power and pleasure for men

By

I was given a shell-clasped plastic case in pearly pink. Inside were two sanitary towels so small they could have been used as rugs in a doll’s house, and a leaflet about other sorts of period products. I had started my period at least a year before receiving these treasures. The trinket box was wasted on me, and the conversations about my periods came way too late.

I genuinely don’t remember any other sex education at primary school. By the time they started talking to us about it at secondary school, I think in the third year (year 9), most of the girls in my class had had their first sexual encounters. These were mostly at the Bill Clinton level: not full intercourse, but all the other stuff. The teachers were clearly counting on us not having had intercourse (although some of us had) because our sex education was about AIDS (it was the early 90s) and babies. It was essentially a lesson in contraception. I would wager that almost every girl in my class carried a condom in her purse long before she came to this lesson. In fact, we used to keep them as charms to show how grown up we were, accidentally on purpose spilling them out of our bags and pretending to be embarrassed.

We were the generation of the Femidom, which I am certain no one has ever used, but my brother’s best mate’s mum worked at the family planning clinic, so they nicked a big box from her and he would frequently put them in my school bag as a joke. When these fell out, I genuinely was embarrassed. Women’s sexuality was embarrassing, whereas pretending you were a dab hand at rolling on a condom was something to be proud of.

Sex and relationships were never discussed in our contraceptive education. It was all about the dangers of a man climaxing. That is the thing that causes the babies, so that is what we were taught about. We were shown how to handle and dispose of men’s pleasure safely. I went to a girls’ school; I have no idea what boys were taught – most likely the same.

The heavy petting we were all getting up to, bragging about which “base’” we had got to with the lads, was, again, all about doing what the boys wanted. When they were touching us and we were gloating about it, we garnered zero pleasure from such interactions – beyond getting to tell your mates that the fittest one had stuck his hand in your knickers. It was a league table; it wasn’t even about liking people. No one ever told us that it would be great if you liked each other, better if you did it because you actually got off from it. Bless the boys, I think they thought we enjoyed it. No one told them, either.

In almost every case, we were not victims, and the boys were not aggressors, but we were certainly not sexually enlightened young women exploring our sexuality. We were vessels for the boys’ exploration. No one ever said that sex was for us, too.

I hope this has changed a bit in 20 years, but I am not sure it has. I spent a good few years while working at Women’s Aid going to schools and teaching teenagers about the scary side of relationships: rape, coercive control and sexual exploitation. We always couched this in terms of teaching about sex equality and how power imbalances between men and women can lead to dangerous and harmful behaviours and expectations. We would try to teach boys to respect women and women to respect themselves. It was vital work, usually brought about after an incident of sexual violence at a school, but it never explored the ideas of women having equal sexual needs, wants and, ultimately, power.

Still, the average member of the British public thinks men need sex more than women. They need it like we need water, oxygen and food. This is a cultural norm we have all accepted and it seeps into how we live our lives and teach our children. Men don’t need sex any more than women, they just enjoy it more because it has a guaranteed payoff. They won’t die if they don’t have it, just like I won’t die if I don’t eat cake. We have to change this altered reality.

The government has just released its draft guidelines on relationship and sex education after campaigners and politicians have, for decades, called for mandatory relationship education to try to end the epidemic of domestic and sexual abuse. The guidelines are better than they were and cover areas of coercion and consent – finally. However, they still give a green light to schools to teach only very traditional notions of sexuality, relationships and gender norms. They are also squeamish about sex, which seems a bit odd, and totally fail to address the idea of a power imbalance between men and women that leads to coercion and sexual abuse. Worst of all, in my opinion, is the emphasis on teaching “virtues” including “self-control” and resisting sexual pressure, suggesting abstinence and ignoring the fact that many are coerced. This, once again, seems to put pressure on girls to be the controllers of male sexuality, not masters of their own. A bit like when my nan used to say: “Keep your hand on your halfpenny,” as if it was me tantalisingly flashing my vagina at boys and giving in to their demands that would lead to my untimely pregnancy. “Just say no” doesn’t work, so perhaps we need to try teaching young people about why they might want to say “yes”. What does good, healthy and happy sex look like, for example?

Girls masturbate, girls know all about what they like and want. They also know what boys like and want. Boys only know the latter. Girls and boys spend at least the first 10 years of their sex lives focusing exclusively on what boys want. Girls are taught at school that sex is about boys and how they should manage that – from the mess to the risks. Would it hurt to talk to both boys and girls about how sex should be for both parties? Giving girls a bit of hope that shagging won’t just lead to them dripping in breast milk or being a witness in a trial. Could we not change the way that sex is perceived to be about power and pleasure for men by simply talking to young people about why we do it?

I want young people to have compulsory sex education from the age of four. I want us to be braver about talking to kids about the difficult and scary stuff, like abuse and coercion. I want the frightened young woman who feels pressured to know that at school she will be able to find help. I want all of that, but I don’t want young girls growing up thinking that sex is just something that happens to us. I want boys and girls to know that it should be about both people not just agreeing, but also enjoying it.

Boys should want girls to say yes, yes, yes, not just be taught to listen when they say no.

Complete Article HERE!

Share