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With midlife comes sexual wisdom

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Research shows women’s sexuality adapts with aging

by Madison Brunner

While women experience changes with the menopausal transition that can negatively affect their sex lives, they often adapt behaviorally and psychologically to these changes, according to a qualitative study by University of Pittsburgh researchers.

The results of the study, which included individual and focus group interviews, will be published online in the journal Menopause on November 1.

Midlife, which is defined as 40 to 60 years old, can bring physical, psychological, social and partner-related changes. Menopause-related vaginal dryness or pain, aging joints and reduced flexibility may lead to negative changes in sexual function for some women. Additional contributing factors such as career, financial and family stress, and concerns about changing body image, may add to decreased frequency of sex, a low libido and orgasm difficulties. However, not all changes are negative. The positive psychological changes aging brings—such as decreased family concerns, increased self-knowledge and self-confidence, and enhanced communication skills in the bedroom—may lead to improvements in sexual satisfaction with aging.

During the course of the study, the researchers interviewed a total of 39 women who were 45 to 60 years old and had been sexually active with a partner at least once in the prior 12 months. Participants chose to take part in either an individual interview or focus group.

“While prior longitudinal studies have documented negative changes in sexual function as women move through midlife, few have highlighted the positive changes,” said Holly Thomas, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, Pitt School of Medicine. “We found most study participants were prompted to try new adaptive behaviors to overcome negative challenges to maintain their overall sexual satisfaction.”

Such adaptations included using lubricants, different sexual activities/positions and changing priorities, with greater focus on emotional satisfaction. Women also discussed changing their priorities around sex; as they aged, they de-emphasized physical sexual satisfaction and placed more importance on emotional .

“It is important for to recognize that each woman’s experience of during menopause is unique and nuanced, and they should tailor their care accordingly. Midlife can learn strategies, such as adapting sexual behavior and enhancing communication of sexual needs, to help ensure and maintain satisfying as they age,” explained Thomas.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Shaming of Sexuality: America’s Real Sex Scandal

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In early September, the Twitter account of Texas Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz “liked” a post containing explicit pornographic video content. Once noticed by other Twitter users, the news shot around social media; many were both shocked and amused by the public slip-up by the typically straight-laced Senator. For his part, Cruz blamed the error on a staffer, denying that he was the one who had liked the post.

Whether you believe this explanation or not, the idea of Cruz publicly revealing a pornography habit and preference is simultaneously absurd and infuriating. Both of these reactions are a result of Cruz’s staunchly conservative views on sex and sexuality. In 2007 as Texas solicitor general, he defended a law banning the sale of sex toys in the state, arguing that no right existed “to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” Though he did not personally fight to preserve Texas’ anti-sodomy laws in 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, his negative attitudes towards LGBTQ+ causes are well-established: He called the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in favor of marriage equality “fundamentally illegitimate” and supported North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” referring to transgender women as “men” in the process. When pressed in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash on the Texas sex toy law, Cruz backtracked on his previous position, calling the sex toy law “idiotic” and “a stupid law” before adding, “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.” If Cruz truly feels that way, then his past attempts at legislation appear either opportunistic or self-contradicting.

Cruz is far from alone among politicians who have contributed to legislation and rhetoric against private consensual sexual practices. As stated above, it took until 2003 for the Supreme Court to strike down anti-sodomy laws, and, as of 2014, a dozen states still technically had those laws on their books. (In fact, several states have actually been stricter against sodomy than bestiality – including Texas, which has had an anti-sodomy law on the books since 1974 but only made bestiality a crime in 2017.) The sale of sex toys is currently punishable in Alabama by a fine of up to $10,000 and a full year in jail, and last year a US appeals court upheld a similar law in Georgia. Also last year, Utah Governor Gary Herbert declared pornography and pornography addiction a “public health crisis” via a signed resolution, continuing a long trend of political attempts to push back against pornography.

What is most interesting about these types of consensual sex-related laws and attitudes in the United States is that support for them seems to be in direct conflict with the amount of people who participate in said sex acts. Utah residents, for example, actually buy more internet porn per person than those of any other state according to a 2009 study (though it’s a solidly red and majority Mormon state). Only 29 percent of Americans consider watching porn “morally acceptable,” and only 39 percent would “oppose legal restrictions on pornography.” However, between 75 and 80 percent of Americans age 18 to 30 report watching porn at least once a month, and a 2015 Marie Clare study of people 18 and older found that 92 percent of respondents watch porn at least a few times a year, and 41 percent at least every week. Statistically, then, a good number of those who find porn “morally unacceptable” and wouldn’t necessarily fight against anti-porn laws watch porn themselves. In the same vein, there are a number of famous cases of politicians and activists with anti-LGBTQ+ standpoints later being revealed as LGBTQ+ themselves.

So why the hypocrisy? Why do a considerable number of Americans support legislation and rhetoric against sex acts they themselves enjoy? The answer lies squarely on the shoulders of the country’s odd relationship with sex and the public discussion of it. In the US, hyper-sexualization is not simply tolerated but rampant. Everything from M&M’s to sparkling water seems to ascribe to the idea that “sex sells,” their sexed-up ads running on television in plain sight. But once a certain fairly arbitrary line is crossed, the conversation is seen as “too explicit” and gets tucked away in the corner. This creates an environment where pornography, masturbation, sex toy use, and homosexuality are seen as shameful, leading to the statistical discrepancies laid out above. Indeed, in that same Marie Claire poll, 41 percent of respondents said they “don’t want anyone to know about” their porn watching and another 20 percent feel “embarrassed” and “ashamed afterward.”

The don’t-ask-don’t-tell culture around sex in the United States makes it is quite possible that support for sex-based legislation comes more from perceived societal pressure than from personal concern about the issues at hand. In other words, there are potentially more people who support restricting pornography or the sale of sex toys simply because they feel that others expect them to, even if they personally use pornography or sex toys, than there are people who don’t participate and find said actions immoral enough to be worthy of legislative restriction.

American public and social discourse about sex is an unruly, multi-faceted mess, and not one that can be untangled in a day. But if attitudes around sex were to thaw, and people were free to talk more openly about their habits, the stigma and taboos surrounding certain aspects of sexuality – many of which are overwhelmingly common and actually healthy – could be eliminated. This change could come from the top down, with politicians and medical professionals emphasizing the need for healthy sex discourse, or, more likely, from an effort by the populace (which may already be underway) to tear away the curtains. New sex education programs – which are far easier to talk about than actually implement – could put more emphasis on the healthy aspects of sex and sexuality. Celebrities could also speak out, using their platforms to acknowledge the realities of human sexuality. If all this were to happen, eventually laws could be pulled back, and politicians could potentially stop feeling pressure to espouse hypocritical views on sexuality. Maybe then Ted Cruz could truly act on his belief that “consenting adults should be able to do whatever they want in their bedrooms.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A Very Sexy Beginner’s Guide to BDSM Words

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Me talk dirty one day.

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The vocabulary of BDSM can be intimidating to newcomers (newcummers, heh heh). What is your domme talking about when she tells you to to stop topping from the bottom and take off your Zentai suit for some CBT? What, while we’re at it, is a domme? So, let’s start with the basics: “BDSM” stands for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism, the core pillars of kinky fun. Beyond that, there’s a whole language to describe the consensual power exchange practices that take place under the BDSM umbrella. At press time there’s still no “kink” on Duolingo, so here’s a handy glossary of some of the most common BDSM terms, from A to Z.

A is for Aftercare
Aftercare is the practice of checking in with one another after a scene (or “play session,” a.k.a., the time in which the BDSM happens) to make sure all parties feel nice and chill about what just went down. The dominant partner may bring the submissive ice for any bruises, but it’s important to know that aftercare involves emotional care as well as physical. BDSM releases endorphins, which can lead to both dominants and submissives experiencing a “drop.” Aftercare can help prevent that. There’s often cuddling and always conversation; kinksters need love too.

B is for Bondage
Bondage is the act of tying one another up. In most cases the dominant partner is restraining the submissive using ropes, handcuffs, Velcro, specialty hooks, clasps, or simply a belt if you’re on a budget.

C is for CBT (Cock and Ball Torture)
In BDSM, CBT does not refer to cognitive behavioral therapy, it refers to “cock and ball torture,” which is exactly what it sounds like: The dominant will bind, whip, or use their high-ass heels to step on their submissive’s cock and balls to consensually torture them.

D is for D/S
D/S refers to dominance and submission, the crux of a BDSM relationship. While kinky people can be on a spectrum (see: “Switch”), typically you’re either dominant or submissive. If you take away one fact from this guide, it should be that even though the dominant partner in D/S relationship may be slapping, name-calling, and spitting on the submissive, BDSM and D/S relationships are all about erotic power exchange, not one person having power over another. The submissive gets to set their boundaries, and everything is pre-negotiated. The submissive likes getting slapped (see also: “Painslut”).

E is for Edgeplay
Edgeplay refers to the risky shit—the more taboo (or baddest bitch, depending on who you’re talking to) end of the spectrum of BDSM activities. Everyone’s definition of edgeplay is a little different, but blood or knife play is a good example. If there’s actually a chance of real physical harm, it’s likely edgeplay. Only get bloody with a partner who knows what they’re doing without a doubt and has been tested for STIs. You don’t have to get maimed to enjoy BDSM.

F is for Fisting
Fisting is when someone sticks their entire fist inside a vagina (or butthole). Yes, it feels good, and no, it won’t “ruin” anything but your desire for vanilla sex. Use lube.

G is for Golden Showers
A golden shower is when you lovingly shower your partner with your piss. It’s high time for the BDSM community reclaimed this word back from Donald Trump, who, may I remind you, allegedly paid sex workers to pee on a bed that Obama slept in out of spite. This is not the same thing as a golden shower. Kink is for smart people.

H is for Hard Limits
Hard limits are sexual acts that are off-limits. Everyone has their own, and you have to discuss these boundaries before any BDSM play. Use it in a sentence: “Please do not pee on me; golden showers are one of my hard limits.”

I is for Impact Play
Impact play refers to any impact on the body, such as spanking, caning, flogging, slapping, etc.

J is for Japanese Bondage
The most well-known type of Japanese bondage is Shibari, in which one partner ties up the other in beautiful and intricate patterns using rope. It’s a method of restraint, but also an art form.

K is for Knife Play
Knife play is, well, knife sex. It’s considered a form of edgeplay (our parents told us not to play with knives for a reason.) If you do play with knives, do it with someone who truly respects you and whom you trust. Often knife play doesn’t actually involve drawing blood, but is done more for the psychological thrill, such as gliding a knife along a partner’s body to induce an adrenaline rush. Call me a prude, but I wouldn’t advise it on a first Tinder date.

L is for Leather
The BDSM community enjoys leather as much as you’d expect. Leather shorts, leather paddles, and leather corsets are popular, although increasingly kinky retailers provide vegan options for their animal-loving geeks.

M is for Masochist
A masochist is someone who gets off on receiving sexual pain.

N is for Needle Play
Also a form of edgeplay (blood!), needle play means using needles on a partner. Hopefully those needles are sterile and surgical grade. Don’t do this with an idiot, please. Most professional dommes have clients who request or are into needle play. It can involve sticking a needle (temporarily) through an erogenous zone such as the nipple or… BACK AWAY NOW IF YOU’RE QUEASY… the shaft of the penis.

O is for Orgasm Denial
You know how sexual anticipation is hot AF? Orgasm denial is next-level sexual anticipation for those who love a throbbing clit or a boner that’s been hard forever just dying to get off—which is to say, almost everyone. The dominant partner will typically bring the submissive close or to the brink of orgasm, then stop. Repeat as necessary.

P is for Painslut
A painslut is a dope-ass submissive who knows what they want, and that’s pain, dammit.

Q is for Queening
Queening is when a woman, a.k.a. the queen you must worship, sits on your face. It’s just a glam name for face-sitting, often used in D/S play. Sometimes the queen will sit on her submissive’s face for like, hours.

R is for RACK
RACK stands for Risk Aware Consensual Kink, which are the BDSM community guidelines on how to make sure everyone is aware of the dangers they consent to. Another set of guidelines are the “SSC,” which stresses keeping activities “safe, sane, and consensual.” We kinksters want everyone to feel happy and fulfilled, and only experience pain that they desire—without actual harm.

S is for Switch
A switch is someone who enjoys both the dominant and submissive role. Get thee a girl who can do both.

T is for Topping From The Bottom
Topping from the bottom refers to when a bottom (sub) gets bratty and tries to control the scene even though negotiations state they should submit. For example, a submissive male may start yelping at his domme that she’s not making him smell her feet exactly like he wants. It can be pretty annoying. It can also be part of the scene itself, such as if the submissive is roleplaying as a little girl with her daddy (this is called “age play”).

U is for Urination
Urinating means peeing (duh) and aside from pissing on a submissive’s face or in their mouth you can do other cool and consensual things with urine, like fill up an enema and inject it up someone’s butt! I am not a medical doctor.

V is for Vanilla
Vanilla refers to someone (or sex) that is not kinky. It’s okay if you’re vanilla. You’re normal and can still find meaningful love and relationships no matter how much society judges you.

W is for Wartenberg Wheel
A Wartenberg Wheel is a nifty little metal pinwheel that you can run over your partner’s nipples or other erogenous zones. It looks scary, but in a fun way, like the Addams Family. It can be used as part of medical play (doctor fetish) or just for the hell of it. Fun fact: It’s a real-life medical device created by neurologist Robert Wartenberg to test nerve reactions, but kinksters figured out it was good for the sex, too.

Y is for Yes!
BDSM is all about enthusiastic consent. The dominant partner won’t step on their submissive’s head and then shove it into a toilet without a big ole’ “yes, please!”

Z is for Zentai
Zentai is a skintight Japanese body suit typically made of spandex and nylon. It can cover the entire body, including the face. Dance teams or athletes may wear Zentai, but some people get off on the sensation of having their entire body bound in tight fabric, and wear it for kinky reasons.

Complete Article HERE!

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Debunking Common College Sex Myths

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by and

Sex is among the most talked-about subjects on college campuses. Yet myths and misconceptions pervade almost every discussion of sexual activity and sexuality, subtly infiltrating the beliefs of even the best-informed people. Sexually inexperienced young people are likely to become confused by the dizzying array of information and opinions that assails them in conversations about sex.

Only by evaluating common sexual myths and the harmful effects they can have are we able to move past ignorance into a healthier understanding of our bodies and ourselves.

Myth 1: The withdrawal method is safe.

The withdrawal method, which is when the penis is pulled out of the vagina before ejaculation, is among the most dangerous and least effective birth control techniques. According to Planned Parenthood, this method is 78 percent effective. Pre-ejaculatory fluid can sometimes contain sperm, which can put a partner at risk of pregnancy. In addition, physical contact and the exchange of fluids can put both partners at risk for sexually transmitted infections. Just because the man has not ejaculated does not mean that the sex is safe.

Moreover, this technique requires very good timing and self-control to be successful.

“It’s just not very reliable to rely on that in the heat of the moment,” said Talia Parker (COL ’20), director of tabling for H*yas for Choice. If the man accidentally ejaculates before pulling out, the woman will be at an even greater risk of pregnancy, have to deal with a sticky cleanup and sex will end without satisfaction. Plan B, emergency birth control, costs more than $50, too. Getting a condom might seem inconvenient or less fun, but it’s worth it to prevent the consequences possible with the pull-out method.

Myth 2: Men just want sex all the time.

One of the most pernicious sex myths is the notion that men only think about sex all the time. This myth would have us believe that the primary motive behind male behavior is lust. But men have many motivations and drives apart from their sexuality. Relationships between men and women do not always have to be about sex, nor should we callously assume that a man’s actions are motivated by the desire to have sex.

The next time we attribute a man’s actions to his desire for sex, we should take a step back and evaluate why we believe that. More often than not, we will find that we have been making gendered assumptions. Moreover, if a person who identifies as a man does want consensual sex, we should accept this and not try to shame him.

Furthermore, we must remember that not all students in college are having sex. Some students may be choosing to abstain for personal or religious reasons, and others, including asexual students, may not be interested.

“Just having a positive attitude about sex is important and not judging other people for their choices as well,” Parker said.

Myth 3: The only way to experience pleasure is through penetration.

In most of our imaginations, sex means one thing: intercourse between a man and a woman with vaginal penetration. But this image is deeply flawed. It neither incorporates the experiences of gay, queer or intersex people nor accurately conveys the whole array of sexual possibilities available to people regardless of preference or gender.

“The arousal period for a woman is almost twice than [that of] a man,” Lovely Olivier (COL ’18), executive co-chair for United Feminists, a student group dedicated to combating influences of sexism and heteronormativity, said. “Oral sex, erotic massage, hand jobs, mutual masturbation, petting and tribbing, to name a few, are all non-penetrative options for you and your partner to consider. Furthermore, non-penetrative foreplay can increase satisfaction in intimacy altogether. Talk with your partner, share what you want and be open to new experiences.”

Myth 4: Protection doesn’t exist on a Jesuit campus.

Throughout the week, H*yas For Choice tables in the middle of Red Square from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., giving out lube, latex condoms, internal condoms and dental dams for free. For some, long-term birth control, like the pill, may be a better solution. Although intrauterine devices do not prevent STI transmission, the Student Health Center hopes to start giving the devices out next month.

Myth 5: Women do not masturbate.

The National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior published by the Indiana University School of Public Health found that 24.5 percent of women aged 18 to 24 said they masturbated a few times per month to weekly, compared to 25 percent of men in this range who masturbate a few times per month to weekly. Masturbation can help people achieve pleasure and help individuals in relationships by “finding what is best for you,” Parker said.

Trying sex toys can also allow women to embrace their sexuality and experience their first orgasms.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Sex Education for Disabled People Is So Important

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People with disabilities are not automatically asexual.

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

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

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

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

Internet safety matters, too.

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

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

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

Understanding what kinds of sexual protection to use.

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

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

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

Body image matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding power dynamics and consent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The portrayal of disabled bodies matters.

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

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