For those of you who don’t already know, I’m contributing to the Fearless Press site.
I’m writing a series of articles on Catholic Moral Theology. Look for the series HERE!
By Stephanie Auteri
In a predictable bit of news, the results of a study released this past September show that students consider most sex-education programs to be out-of-touch, outdated, and lacking in the information that might actually prove useful to them. Among the deficiencies reported by teenagers were a focus on fear-based lesson plans, curricula that alienate LGBTQ+ students, instructors untrained in actually providing useful sex-ed, and a failure to acknowledge that some young people are — spoiler alert — sexually active.
When it comes down to it, though, these inadequacies do not stem from lack of trying on the part of certified sexuality educators. There are disparities in curricula, and in resources: Federal funding for sex-education flows to both abstinence-only and evidence-based approaches, and decisions about curricula are made on a state-by-state — and district-by-district — basis. There are still only 13 states that require sex-education to be “medically accurate.”
In fact, in the past year, 23 bills were introduced with the intention of restricting the quality of sex-ed. Such restrictions included moves to limit access to information about reproductive health options, and to exclude qualified sexuality educators from schools based upon their affiliation with abortion providers.
While the majority of these bills failed to advance, in many cases, educators continue to be hamstrung by red tape. And they worry that — in the wake of the most recent presidential election — their jobs will only become more difficult. What is an enterprising, conscientious sex-educator to do?
Recently, I attended the National sex-ed Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where I saw sexuality educator Francisco Ramirez present a keynote on “hacking” sexual health. During his talk, Ramirez spoke about how educators might possibly shake things up, in some cases taking sex-ed outside the classroom in order to reach those who need it most. Happily, many educators are already doing this, systematically toppling many of the barriers that have long stood in their way. Throughout the conference, I was reminded of the many forms such resourcefulness can take. Here are the six most important fixes currently happening in American sex-ed.
1. Where can students get the answers they crave without fear of embarrassment or other negative repercussions? These days: their phones.
Sex-educators often employ anonymous question boxes in their classrooms, but the new-media generation is taking this idea of anonymity to the place where it thrives best: social media. I recently wrote about a variety of new social-media applications, YouTube series, and other online resources that allow teens to seek out accurate sexuality information anonymously. Since then, it seems that not a day goes by where I don’t hear about a new sex-ed app.
What’s important to remember about any of these sex-ed hacks is that just because a program works in one place, that doesn’t mean it will work in every community.
One of the more recent ones to catch my eye is Capptivation’s Reach Out, an app that provides sexual assault survivor resources to college-age students. According to Capptivation, a similar app for high schoolers is on its way. And the Healthy Teen Network — a membership-based advocacy organization — is in the process of developing two phone apps, one for high school-aged teens, and one for people who are older. They were inspired to do so after receiving an RFP (a request for proposal — a document from an agency soliciting a proposal for a specific commodity or service) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alongside the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC has been looking to fund the development of a mobile app that would support teen pregnancy prevention.
This push for sex-ed apps is not without precedent. A 2016 study on mobile phone-based interventions for smoking cessation showed that mobile interventions can lead to positive behavioral changes. And additional research — including a 2016 paper published in BMC Public Health — has shown that sexual-health apps remove certain barriers youth often feel in seeking out sexual-health services: namely, embarrassment. HTN is in the midst of conducting its own randomized control trials in order to determine the efficacy of its apps.
2. How can students take a leadership role in their own sex-education? Through peer-led sex-ed.
A recent review of 15 peer-led sexual-health education programs shows that peer-to-peer sex-ed can be successful at improving teens’ knowledge and attitude about sexual health — which is good news, considering that many teens don’t think adults are doing the best job. And just as with social-media apps, new peer-to-peer training programs are popping up all around the country. Teen PEP, which operates in both New Jersey and North Carolina, is one such program that trains teens to provide sex-ed to their peers at school. Another example is the team out of Planned Parenthood of North, Central, and South New Jersey, which leads an annual Teen Conference that students travel to on a one-day field trip.
In Austin, Texas, the Peer 2 Peer Project trains teens to teach both on school grounds and at other locations within their communities, going so far as to pay them for their efforts. In Baltimore, Maryland, the Healthy Teen Network and its subsidiary, the Healthy Teen Leadership Alliance, also empower teens to influence the field of sexual health. These are just a handful of programs among many that are handing the reins over to teens. It can be difficult to keep track of all the peer-led programs popping up around the country, but Advocates for Youth — an advocacy organization with its focus on adolescent sexual health — has gathered the results of numerous studies on the impact of peer education. These studies show how peer education reduces risky sexual behaviors and empowers teens, who seem to find their peers to be more credible than adult educators.
Complete Article HERE!
Uncertainty surrounding the boundaries of ethical sexual activity is not confined to boozed-up young adults or American presidents. Among academics there is discussion about what distinguishes rape and sexual assault from another category of “ethically problematic” sex.
Examples of “unjust sex” include “women being pressured – not quite to the point of outright coercion, but pressured uncomfortably nonetheless – to have sex, or to have sex without contraception,” explains Ann Cahill, author of a number of books on gender issues including Rethinking Rape.
Cahill, professor of philosophy at Elon University in North Carolina who is visiting Dublin this week, says she has tried to “figure out in more detail” what distinguishes sexual assault from “unjust sex”, drawing on the work of New Zealand psychologist Nicola Gavey.
Her analysis has led her to challenge the traditional feminist concern with “objectification”: treating women’s bodies as objects. Instead, she uses “derivatisation” – treating women as “stunted persons, persons whose identity and behaviour is primarily or entirely limited by the desires of another person” – as a standard by which to measure actions.
Cahill says “we need to remember that sexual assault is not the only kind of sexual interaction that is ethically problematic. Too often our approach to sexual ethics is limited by relying solely on the presence of consent, a reliance that obscures other crucial elements in sexual interactions that are ethically relevant”.
“Briefly, I argue that examples of unjust sex and incidents of sexual assault share an indifference to women’s sexual preferences, desires and wellbeing, and that’s what explains how unjust sex perpetuates and upholds rape culture. In both cases, the specific sexuality of the woman is not participating robustly in the creation of the sexual interaction.
“What distinguishes the two examples, I then argue, is the specific role that the woman’s sexual subjectivity plays. In the case of examples within the grey area of unjust sex, women’s agency plays an important role: if a man repeats a request for or invitation to sex multiple times, for example, that very repetition indicates that the woman’s consent is important.
“However, I also argue that the role that the woman’s agency plays is a problematically stunted one that limits the kind of influence she can have on the quality of the interaction that ensues, and does so to such an extent that it renders the interaction unethical.
“In the case of sexual assault, the woman’s agency is either overcome – by force, or coercion, or other methods – or undone entirely, by use of drugs or alcohol.”
“Feminists have long used the notion of objectification as an ethical lens, and specifically, as an ethically pejorative term. And certainly I do think that many of the social and political phenomena that feminists have criticised by using the term ‘objectification’ – dominant forms of pornography, oppressive medical practices, common representations of women’s bodies – are worthy of ethical critique.
“However, I worry about what the term ‘objectification’ implies, and when I dug into the philosophical literature that sought to really unpack the term, my worries only intensified. If objectification means, roughly, to be treated as a thing – a material entity – and if it is virtually always ethically problematic, then it seems we are committed to a metaphysics that places our materiality in opposition to our humanity or moral worth.
“But what if our materiality, our embodiment, is not contrary to our humanity or moral worth, but an essential part of it? If we approach embodiment in this way, then to be treated like a thing is not necessarily degrading or dehumanising. In fact, having one’s body be the object of a sexualising gaze and/or touch could be deeply affirming.
“Getting back to your question: does sexual attraction require objectification? The short answer is yes: sexual attraction requires treating another body as a material entity. But that does not mean that sexual attraction is necessarily ethically problematic.”
“This is a tricky matter, because human beings are intersubjective.
“Equal and just relationships among individuals require the recognition that they have a substantial contribution to make to those relationships, and that no relationship should position one of the individuals involved in it as the raison d’être of the relationship itself.”
“As I state above, objectification is not necessarily ethically problematic. And so to the extent that women have the capacity to treat men’s bodies as material entities, yes, they can objectify them.
“However, in our current political and social situation, women’s objectification of men’s bodies is far less common than men’s objectification of women’s bodies; even more importantly, it rarely amounts to derivatisation and does not serve to undermine men’s political, social, and economic equality.
“When I say that it does not amount to derivatisation, I mean that heterosexual men are less likely to view their bodies solely or persistently through the lens of how they appear to heterosexual women, and they rarely see male bodies represented in dominant media as defined primarily or solely through how those bodies appear to heterosexual women.
“While it’s not impossible for women to derivatise men – one can imagine, for example, a woman evaluating a man as a sexual partner solely on the basis of whether he matches her sexual preferences – structurally, those examples of derivatisation don’t add up to the kind of persistent inequality that still tracks along gender lines.
“For example, as political candidates, men don’t suffer for failing to meet the aesthetic ideals of heterosexual women, while women do suffer for failing to meet the aesthetic ideals of heterosexual men. Of course, they also suffer for meeting those ideals too well, because feminine beauty, while allegedly admirable in women, is also associated with shallowness and lack of intellect.
“Although I haven’t written about this before, however, it seems to me that hegemonic masculinity does have a derivatising effect on heterosexual men, to the extent that it requires them to derivatise women. In this sense, the subjectivity of heterosexual men is stunted to the extent that it is required to engage in the kinds of behaviour that demonstrates disrespect of women as moral equals – behaviour that is necessary for other heterosexual male subjects to be confirmed or affirmed in their own forms of masculinity.
“To the extent that heterosexual men can find their standing within homosocial relations threatened or troubled if they refuse to derivatise women, or at least pretend to, then they are also subject to a failure to recognise their own ontological distinctness.”
Complete Article HEREvi!
How often women in heterosexual couples desire sex depends on how committed the relationship is and what type of birth control the woman uses.
Sex is quite wonderful when the goal is to have children. But sex can also serve as a “glue” in a committed relationship.
Most animals have periods when they come into heat, and outside of these periods they don’t find sex interesting at all.
Humans, however, are constantly interested in sex. This interest can seem like a waste of energy, but an evolutionary perspective may explain why we function this way.
More sex with progesterone and commitment
A new study from NTNU and the University of New Mexico confirm that sex is important for pair–bonding between men and women in relationships.
The researchers also found a correlation between the type of oral contraceptive women use and how often couples have sex.
The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Evolution & Human Behavior.
“The function of sex in humans outside ovulation is an evolutionary mystery. But we believe that it has to do with binding the parties in the relationship together,” says Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, a professor of psychology at NTNU.
Kennair worked with Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, Nick Grebe and University of New Mexico Professor Steve Gangestad to ask hundreds of Norwegian heterosexual women about contraception, sex and relationships.
Their results show that of women in long-term relationships and who are using hormonal contraception, those who are more committed to their relationships have more sex with partners, as one might expect.
“But this association was especially true when the contraceptive that women used had potent levels of synthetic hormones that mimic the effects of the natural hormone progesterone, and lower levels of the hormone oestrogen,” Gangestad said.
“We’re talking about intercourse here, not other types of sex like oral sex, masturbation and such. This strengthens the idea that sex outside the ovulation phase has a function besides just pleasure,” says Grøntvedt.
Big differences between types of contraceptives
Hormonal contraceptives, like birth control pills, implantable rods and patches, contain two types of hormones:
Oestrogen, which naturally peaks just before ovulation when naturally cycling women can conceive offspring, and hormones that have the same effect as progesterone, which naturally peaks during the extended sexual phase, a time when offspring cannot be conceived.
The levels of each hormone type vary in different contraceptives. Hence, some contraceptives mimic hormones that are more characteristic of ovulation, whereas others mimic hormones when women can’t conceive.
The women who used contraception with more oestrogen were most sexually active when they were in a less committed relationship.
On the other hand, women who used contraception with more progesterone were the most sexually active when they were faithful and loyal to their partners.
“Before we did this study, we didn’t know how much difference there was between the two types of hormonal contraceptives,” says Grøntvedt.
A credible holistic picture
The researchers surveyed two groups of women. All the women were using hormonal contraception and were in committed, heterosexual relationships.
One group consisted of 112 women that researchers followed over a 12-week period. The women were asked how often and when in their cycle they had sex.
The second sample group consisted of 275 women in long–term relationships who used hormonal contraception.
This group was not followed over time, but the researchers asked them how many times they had had sex in the past week. This type of study – using data collected at a specific point in time – is called a cross-sectional study.
Both groups were asked to indicate the type of contraception they were using, and if a pill, which brand it was.
“Since we examined these two groups using different methods – a snapshot for the one group and a longitudinal study for the other – we can be confident that the results provide a reliable overall picture,” Grøntvedt said.
Natural or synthetic hormones had similar effects
The basis for the NTNU study was a 2013 American study, where 50 women and their partners answered a series of questions about their relationships, menstrual cycles and frequency of sex.
None of these women were using any kind of hormonal contraception, so only their natural hormones were involved.
The study showed that women initiated sex more in the extended sexual phase – when they were not ovulating and progesterone was the dominant hormone – if they were invested in the relationship.
NTNU researchers wanted to verify the American results in their study, but with participants who were using a hormonal contraceptive that simulates a natural cycle.
Their results were the same as in the US study, in which women were not using any hormonal birth control.
The researchers were thus able to show that how often women have sex is linked to how committed they feel towards their partner and the type of hormone they are governed by, whether natural or synthetic.
“A lot of social psychology studies that have led to cool discoveries through the ages have lost status, because it hasn’t been possible to copy them and verify the results.”
“We are extremely pleased to have been able to verify the results of the study by Grebe and his colleagues, and we are equally pleased that we have also made new discoveries,” Kennair says.
Complete Article HERE!
The act of intimate sex has been evolving over millions of years as an apparatus to deliver sperm to eggs and initiate pregnancy. Currently, we look at the social and mental aspects of health benefits that are a importance of consenting sexual relationships, or the pursuit of them.
Have you ever met big shot who is right for you “on paper”, but when push comes to push their scent seems wrong, or the stimulus isn’t there? Our bodies can tell our minds who we don’t want to be with. Similarly, our bodies can give us strong indications about whether we want to stay close to someone.
Such releases are mostly marked during sexual pleasure and orgasm. The release of these chemicals is thought to promote love and pledge between couples and increase the chance that they stay together. Some research secondary this comes from studies of rodents. For example, female voles have been found to bond to male voles when their copulation with them is paired with an infusion of oxytocin.
In individuals, those couples who have sex less regularly are at greater risk of relationship closure than are friskier couples. But oxytocin is not just good for pair bonding. It is released from the brain into the blood stream in many social conditions, including breastfeeding, singing and most actions that involve being “together” pleasurably. It appears oxytocin plays a role in a lot of group oriented and socially sweet activities, and is implicated in altruism.
Bonobos (a species of apes) appear to take full benefit of the link between harmony and sex, often resolving conflicts or heartening one another by rubbing genitals, copulating, masturbating or performing oral sex on one another. This isn’t somewhat to try during a tense board meeting, but such findings hint at the potential role lovemaking may play in settlement between couples.
Sex is a form of isometrics: a fun online calculator can help you analyze how much energy you burned during your last sex session.
People with poor physical or sensitive health are also more likely to have sexual problems. Here connection is hard to establish – healthier people will tend to be “up” for more sex, but it is also likely that the physical workout and bonding benefits conversed by satisfying sex lead to healthier, happier lives.
It’s also thinkable our long, energetic, and physically demanding style of sex evolved to help us evaluate the health of probable long-term partners.
Some truth-seekers propose art forms such as poetry, music and painting result from our drive to get people in bed with us.
In a culture in which there’s at least some choice obtainable in whom we mate with, rivalry will be fierce. Therefore, we need to display features that will make us striking to those we are attracted to.
In humans, this is believed to result in modest and creative displays, as well as displays of humor. We certainly see indication of the success of this method: musicians, for example, are stereotyped as never lacking a possible mate. Picasso’s most creative and creative periods usually coincided with the arrival of a new mistress on the scene.
What then does science tell us? Simply put, non-reproductive sex is an motion that can bring natural rewards. It can bring people together, help drive creative endeavors, and pay to good health.