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A new prescription for tackling sexual violence

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How some advocates are looking to dismantle rape culture using public health strategies.

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When Tahir Duckett talks about consent with elementary and middle school boys, he often talks about video games first.

“If I just hop on your Xbox without your consent, what’s your response?” Duckett says he asks the boys. Almost always, the young boys he’s talking to say they’d fight him.

“They recognize something about their consent has been violated,” he says, speaking with ThinkProgress. “We ask them to interrogate how it feels to have your consent violated. Is that anger? Are you hurt? Are you betrayed?”

And usually, that’s exactly how the boys say they feel. The question, then, is why those answers often change when Duckett presents a romantic or sexual situation where someone doesn’t consent.

“A lot of times we’ll talk about it in those types of concepts, and then we’ll shift to maybe saying, ‘OK, you’re going out with someone, your partner for two months, and [they invite] you over to their house, right? And their parents are out of town, have they consented to anything?’” Duckett says. “That’s where you’ll start to get more pushback.”

When presented with this situation, Duckett says the boys sometimes start to say things like, “Well, she knows what she’s doing by going over to his house while his parents are out of town.”

“And then you can dig in, and…talk about what we were just talking about,” Duckett says. “What’s the assumption, can [you] still say no?”

Duckett is the founder and director of ReThink, a group that works with adolescent boys (and, in some cases, older men) to help them rethink cultural norms about toxic masculinity and rape culture. The group has been working in schools in the Washington, D.C. area, holding sessions in which the ReThink team spends several days with adolescent boys talking about rape myths, consent, and toxic masculinity.

In recent weeks, their work has begun to feel prophetic.

Last month, a wave of allegations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein opened the door for a subsequent avalanche of accusations against other powerful men, including James Toback, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose, Roy Moore, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), just to name a few. While a few have been punished or reprimanded, the majority have been able to escape any major consequences.

Additionally, a recent study done by researchers at Columbia University makes clear that the issue isn’t confined to rich and powerful titans of industry. The study found that 22 percent of students surveyed had experienced sexual assault since starting college, with particularly high rates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students, as well as for gender-nonconforming students and those who had difficulties paying for basic necessities.

In other words, as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said, backtracking after defending Conyers on Meet the Press Sunday, we’ve reached “a watershed moment on this issue.” It’s also prompting questions about what comes next, what avenues are available for justice, and how to cut rape culture’s long, toxic tentacles — which is exactly what ReThink is trying to do, starting at adolescence.

A public health approach

ReThink uses traditional public health strategies — data collection, treating high-risk individuals, changing behavioral norms — to address sexual violence with young boys, working to control the “disease” and change behaviors and beliefs of those who might catch it.

It’s a strategy that the authors of the Columbia study recommend, based on their findings.

“Our findings argue for the potential of a systems-based public health approach — one that recognizes the multiple interrelated factors that produce adverse outcomes, and perhaps particularly emphasizes gender and economic disparities and resulting power dynamics, widespread use of alcohol, attitudes about sexuality, and conversations about sex — to make inroads on an issue that stubbornly persists,” the authors write.

When ReThink visits schools, one public health-style tool they use is the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance Scale (IRMA). IRMA presents different situations and myths to students, such as, “If girl is raped while she is drunk, she is at least somewhat responsible for letting things get out of hand”, or “A lot of times, girls who say they were raped agreed to have sex and then regret it.” Students are asked to rate the rape myths from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

“If you accept all these rape myths you’re more likely to commit an act of sexual violence,” Duckett says. “When we work with boys, after we do these exercises…[and] consent education, breaking down stereotypes, working on a wide range of healthy masculinity ideas…they reject these rape myths at much higher rates.”

This finding, Duckett says, is both discouraging and encouraging.

“We do pretests and posttests, and the pretests show the extent of the problem,” he says. “This is the kind of stuff that our culture has taught them… It’s everywhere, it’s in the TV that we watch, it’s in the music that we listen to.”

“To be completely honest we’ve failed a lot of these boys,” Duckett adds. “Very few even comprehensive sex ed programs have serious conversations about consent, what consent looks like and doesn’t look like, how to ask for it, how to listen for it, [and] how to look for it.”

ReThink’s mission, in public health terms, is primary prevention: trying to stop sexual violence. But, Duckett says, there’s still much more that needs to be done.

“I’ll tell you what,” he says, “I believe strongly, if we invested in sexual violence prevention as a public health issue — like we did with drunk driving campaigns, anti-smoking campaigns, teen pregnancy campaigns — if we put that type of money and emphasis into sexual violence prevention work, I strongly believe that we could cut our rates in half in a generation.”

The good news is that Duckett and ReThink aren’t alone in their efforts. Jessica Raven, the executive director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), is working to address sexual violence as a public health issue as well.

CASS has a partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to run awareness campaigns about harassment and assault on public transit; it’s also working on the Safe Bar Collective, which is a program that trains bar staff to recognize sexual harassment and stop it before it turns into assault.

Raven tells ThinkProgress that it’s not enough to call out and take down powerful men in Hollywood. “We have all had these experiences where we witness incidents of harassment,” she says in an interview. “It’s our responsibility to call that out in our friend groups, in our families, in our neighbors.”

Raven says it’s crucial to implement more programs like CASS and ReThink, which work with men to unpack preconceived notions of rape culture and masculinity, as well as safe rehabilitative spaces for aggressors.

“There are really no services for these men to heal,” she says, explaining that it’s vital to “create an environment where they’re able to be open about the changes they’re going to make.”

It’s important to treat the problem like any other disease, Raven adds. “How are we going to address alcoholism without providing rehabilitative services to alcoholics?” she says.

The problem with prisons

While Raven believes in providing more rehabilitative spaces, those spaces shouldn’t be inside prison walls, she says.

Both Duckett and Raven have chosen to focus on public health strategies to address the epidemic of sexual violence rather than the criminal justice system for several important reasons.

“I think we have to be really, really, really careful about our kind of knee-jerk [conclusions]…when it comes to some of these particularly tertiary sort of prevention questions, like increased incarceration, tougher sentencing,” Duckett — a lawyer himself — explains. “There’s not much about our incarceration system that is feminist.”

Prisons, Duckett notes, are one of the major centers of sexual violence in the United States. According to the Bureau of Justice, about 80,000 people are sexually abused in correctional facilities in the United States every year.

The actual number is almost certainly higher than official tallies. Just as a significant majority of rapes and sexual assaults in the United States go unreported, it’s highly likely that the same is true in the prison system. Statistics do suggest that rates of rape and sexual assault are higher among male inmates than female inmates; the same is likely true among African American inmates, who statistically experience higher rates of sexual assault than Caucasian inmates.

“The prison system is and will forever be biased against black bodies and to the extent that we create tougher sentencing laws,” Duckett says, adding that people of color will ultimately be punished much more harshly than their white counterparts.

“Sending someone to prison as we understand it right now, I have a hard time thinking of that as an objectively feminist act,” Duckett argues. “It’s not to say that someone who causes trauma and pain shouldn’t face consequences, but just from a prevention standpoint, I don’t think that prison is the answer there.”

Raven is of the same mindset. “CASS has always had an anti-criminalization position. We don’t see the criminal legal system as a strategy,” she says.

“For starters, we recognize that the communities most affected by gendered and sexual violence are the communities most affected by police violence,” she continues, specifically mentioning women, people of color, gender minorities, and LGBTQ people among those communities. “Prison is punishment, but it’s not accountability, [and] there are no studies that show that prison is increasing safety. The public health approach actually tackles the problems at the root.”

Expanding legal avenues

As ReThink and CASS work toward furthering progress on a public health front, other advocates are looking to expand legal avenues for victims, including abolishing statutes of limitations and expanding affirmative consent laws.

“The abolition of the statute of limitations is a tool,” Jill Stanley, a former prosecutor and district attorney who now focuses on celebrities and the legal system, tells ThinkProgress.

As Stanley explains, “We understand that there are times you can’t recall [an incident]. When you are strong enough or when you have a clear picture of who your assaulter is, we can have evidence.” At that point, Stanley says, no matter how long it’s been since an assault took place, the victim should be able to go to law enforcement.

Stanley also points to the expansion of affirmative consent standards as a possible way of strengthening legal avenues for victims. At present, affirmative consent — a “yes means yes” standard rather than “no means no” standard — applies only to certain colleges and universities.

“[Affirmative consent standards] are very narrow,” Stanley says. “It only applies to state-funded colleges in New York and California.”

Some private universities — including each of the Ivy League schools other than Harvard — have adopted the standard, but so far, New York and California are the only states to have enacted laws mandating all state funded universities use the affirmative consent standard.

Stanley notes that the expansion of affirmative consent laws could be especially valuable because victims often don’t have the capacity to consent.

“The bigger issue in all of these laws is that we need capacity to say no,” she says.

While she believes such a standard could be helpful, Stanley doubts changes will come on a national legislative level. “The country is very slow,” she says.

One way she believes affirmative consent could become the standard? By putting it in employment contracts.

Here, California State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D), who co-authored California’s affirmative consent law, agrees.

“That might be a great thing,” Jackson tells ThinkProgress. Like Stanley, she has her doubts, but remains optimistic. “Could we get that passed? We could try!” she says.

Jackson also believes it could be beneficial to pass laws aimed at making educational initiatives — similar to ReThink’s curriculum — the standard for children, starting from a young age.

“What we really need is…education, whether it’s in the workplace or with our youngest children,” Jackson says. “Our culture has frequently rewarded men behaving badly…. We have to change it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Lessons In Love For Generation Snapchat

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Tatiana Curran, right, and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman say their three-year relationship is an anomaly amongst their peers. But they readily concede that even they have serious issues around intimacy.

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Along with explicit sexual education classes, some schools are beginning to offer more G-rated lessons on love. Experts say the so-called “iGen” is woefully unprepared to have healthy, caring romantic relationships and young people need more guidance. So schools are adding classes that are less about the “plumbing” of relationships, and more about the passion.

At Beaver Country Day School, a private school near Boston, Matthew Lippman has taught whole courses on love and relationships. He loves teaching about love so much, he finds ways to delve into it every chance he gets.

In his American Literature class recently, he launched into a discussion about love songs.

“This is my favorite” he announces as he blasts “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi. The students howl.

“Are you kidding me?!”

“It’s so dirty!” the students say.

“Just kidding!” Lippman laughs. But now that he’s got their attention, he starts drilling them on what the song says about love — and lust.

Senior Tatiana Curran wades in cautiously. “It’s sexual,” she says. “But that doesn’t mean it’s love … y’know what I mean?”

“I understand,” Lippman reassures her, gently buttressing what may be a subtle distinction to some.

Lippman then introduces the class to what really is one of his favorites: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your

Matthew Lippman loves teaching about love so much he finds ways to slide in a lesson comparing contemporary and decades-old love songs during an African-American Literature class.

Face” by Roberta Flack. The song starts to unfurl so slowly, you can literally see these millennials getting antsy. Several seem relieved when Lippman finally stops the song, and starts pressing them on its underlying message.

“It’s showing that love takes time, that it’s not something that you rush into,” offers Joddy Nwankwo, noting how incongruous that is in today’s culture of high-speed everything and blithe hook-ups.

“A lot of (students) have short attention spans,” says Aiden Geary. “People don’t have a lot of long term relationships because we want everything like now, and then once we have it we’re bored with it.”

Curran and her boyfriend Jake Cowen-Whitman, who’ve been together for three years, are something of an exception. “I was asked literally the other day … ‘Aren’t you bored?'” Curran laughs.

But as one of those “iGen” teens who tend to text more than talk, even Curran readily cops to having some serious issues with intimacy.

“I get really uncomfortable, when it comes to like really romantic things,” she says. “Like I hate eye contact. It took me almost two years to actually fully make eye contact with Jake for a full sentence.”

The struggle to be present

“I think that’s the biggest piece to all of this,” says Lippman. “So much of this intimacy thing is being present, and that is hard for them.”

For sure, not all of them. Some young people are persevering and managing to forge meaningful, intimate relationships. And in some ways, technology can actually enable some difficult conversations. Some teens text things they wouldn’t have said at all if they had to do it face-to-face.

But, Lippman says, a significant number of young people are clearly struggling to make those real connections, and classes like his dovetail with a trend toward whole-child education.

He doesn’t pretend that one class can be a cure, but his lessons do seem to be resonating with his students.

“Walking into the class, I felt like I knew a good amount about love,” says Jade Bacherman. “But now I’m realizing that there’s a lot more to learn.”

“I don’t think we’re prepared to know what a healthy relationship looks like,” says Lisa Winshall. While kids get instruction on things like consent and sexual violence, she says they desperately need more coaching “on a much deeper level [about] what really taking care of someone else means.”

It’s exactly what Harvard Graduate school of Education Senior Lecturer Rick Weissbourd has found. His recent research shows young people are struggling with how to conceive of romantic relationships, let alone how to actually navigate them. “It’s a deep underlying anxiety,” he says, “so they’re looking for wisdom.” And it’s not enough to just give them “disaster prevention” kinds of sex ed classes, that only deal with pregnancy, STD’s and sexual violence, he adds.

“I think we are failing epically to have basic conversations with young people about the subtle, tender generous, demanding work about learning how to love,” he says. According to his data, about 70 percent of young people crave those conversations.

For them, the motivation may be a more fulfilling love life. But Weissbourd says the societal stakes are high; healthier relationships, he says, will pay dividends on all kinds of social ills, from sexual harassment and domestic abuse, to depression and alcoholism.

Relationships beyond Snapchat

Another school that’s trying to answer the call is The Urban school, a private high school in San Francisco. Health teacher Shafia Zaloom says she too was alarmed by teens’ social struggles and their belief that they “can build relationships over Snapchat or Instagram.” So she started a kind of “Dating 101” curriculum that covers things as basic as how to ask someone out. In one recent class, students brainstormed out loud.

“Like ‘Do you want to, like, go see a movie some time?'” suggests Sophomore Somerset Miles Dwyer with a nervous giggle.

“Yeah,” Zaloom nods, but then reminds the student to add “with me” at the end of the question, “to clarify things, because it’s not like ‘Oh, come hang out with us’ and chill with the group.” When you say “with me,” she explains, “that communicates more clearly your intentions that you want to be spending time together and getting to know each other.”

Zaloom’s course also tutors the kids on everything from how to break up to how to take things to the next level.

In one lesson they critique Hollywood love scenes. “That’s totally unrealistic,” says Miles Dwyer, as multiple romantic kisses and dreamy declarations of love unfold seamlessly, over a dramatic musical soundtrack . It all unleashes a slew of confessions about how much more awkward their own encounters usually are, and how insecure that makes them.

“On TV, the awkwardness isn’t there,” says Dominic Lauber. So when things don’t go as smoothly “in your real life, it feels like you’re doing something wrong,” he says. “So it could just feel like something you’d want to avoid. Kids nod and snap their fingers in agreement.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a fear,” says Abby Tuttle. “It’s all about vulnerability.”

Pushing through awkwardness

Boston College Professor Kerry Cronin says the insecurity and aversion to taking risks persist, so even the older students she sees on campus, still struggle with basic dating protocol. “You know they’re really just sort of numskulls about basic social steps,” she says. “They really aren’t sure how to handle themselves.”

It’s exactly why she now gives students a homework assignment — in an introductory Philosophy and Theology course — to actually ask someone out, in person.

“It’s mostly about pushing thru awkwardness,” Cronin says, “and finding out that even if you get rejected isn’t going to kill you. Because [this generation is] terrified of failure. And resilience is a major issue.”

Data is hard to come by, but anecdotally, private schools seem more apt than public schools to expand the usual “reading writing and ‘rithmatic” to also include romance.

“Our teachers are already burdened enough,” says Ashley Beaver, a public school substitute teacher and mom in San Diego. She says educating kids about love should come from parents, not schools, especially given how schools have handled sex ed.

“I mean they talked to middle schoolers about flavored condoms,'” she says. “It’s just too much too soon. So, no, I just don’t trust the institution to do it correctly.”

Indeed, G-rated discussions are not likely to be any less controversial in schools than the old-school X-rated ones says Jonathan Zimmerman of University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. He agrees that the instruction is critically needed, but he says “we shouldn’t pretend that we have anything like agreement on these subjects.”

“Frankly, it’s a lot easier to get consensus on the sperm and the egg than it is on lust vs. love,” he says. “These are issues of values and ethics and culture, and in a country that is so irreducibly multicultural, we should expect there to be profound controversy and disagreement about this approach.”

Ideally, Harvard’s Weissbourd says, the lessons should come from school and home. And while many parents may think their kids don’t want to hear it from mom or dad, Weissbourd’s research shows they actually do.

As Professor Cronin put it, this generation was raised by helicopter parents — they expect to be coached on everything.

Complete Article HERE!

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Envisioning A New Approach To Postpartum Sex

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Welcoming a baby into the world is an incredible experience, but it is certainly not a seamless one. Although your new bundle of joy may be small, metaphorically speaking, they occupy a lot of space, with your partner and intimacy being the first thing to be pushed to the side.

As part of running MysteryVibe, I speak to women and men from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures every day – and one of the most common themes of discussions or questions people ask me is around reclaiming intimacy and sexual pleasure after childbirth.

The 6-week check-up often marks the moment when new moms are physically cleared by their doctors to have sex again. But while you might be given the green light, many women are simply not ready emotionally for penetrative sex.

You have welcomed a new human into the world, and while your heart could burst from all the love you feel, likewise you might be worried sick about their well-being at every moment, ready to cry at the drop of a pin.

Between the physical recovery of birth, a flurry of activities and the emotional rollercoaster of hormones, the last thing on your mind during the postpartum is being physically available for yourself, much less your partner.

But that does not mean that you have to give up on intimacy altogether.

It is time to reframe the 6 week check-up, and move beyond its unrealistic presumption that makes new mothers feel pressured to jump back into the sack after a string of sexless months, and guilty or ashamed when they cannot bring themselves to do it right away.

Rather, we propose a new vision of postpartum sex as a gentle journey of intimacy that leads to a fulfilling, pleasurable relationship with your partner, where sex does not have to mean intercourse right away.

A journey that will not necessarily lead you back to your pre-baby sex life, but to a new normal that can even be more emotionally (and physically) satisfying than ever before!

The rules of the game – go at your own pace, take it slow, communicate your needs to your partner, sit back, relax and let yourself enjoy the pleasure.  Here we offer you a few tips to kickstart your journey.

1. TLC- tender loving care. Before you can be emotionally or physically available for your partner, you must carve out some time for some self-love. Perhaps let dad or grandparents have some alone time with the new arrival – take a bubble bath, go for a walk in nature or perhaps cuddle up in a cozy blanket listening to your favorite tunes.

If you are up to it, maybe try a solo session, using a clitoral stimulator or small vibrator with lots of lubricants. Because of your body’s changing-needs, highly-customizable toys like MysteryVibe’s Crescendo will be a great fit as you can change its shape along with creating unique patterns of vibrations (spanning from super gentle to more powerful).

Toys like this are super effective at satisfying both penetrative and non-penetrative play, and don’t rely on friction or thrusting, which can be painful for many women post-birth. This will be a great time to reconnect with your body, with orgasms acting as stress relievers as well.

Whatever it is, love yourself and do what makes you feel good!

2. Rediscover the power of cuddling and kissing. While it may feel like you are regressing back to ‘first base’, these simple forms of physical touch with your partner increase* oxytocin levels, also known as the ‘bonding’ hormone that can help reduce* stress and anxiety.

So, when your baby is sleeping, take some time to simply hold each other’s hands or wrap yourself up in one another’s arms as you watch some TV.  When you are feeling ready for second base, allow your lips to linger and move into loving, passionate kisses.

3. Venture outside the usual. For many women, their breasts and vagina feel less sexual during the postpartum period. Once a focal point in the bedroom, breasts are now inflated and sore, and the vulva and vagina may be recovering from the physical trauma of childbirth.

No need to fret. There are many other erogenous zones that can bring you pleasure.  With their hands and/or mouth, ask your partner to stimulate other areas of your body.

Try some of these: ears, neck, nape of neck, spine, back, behind the knees and feet. These areas are full of nerve endings and can reveal some unexpectedly pleasurable sensations.

4. Explore non-penetrative practices. There are many ways to experience mutual pleasure and intimacy with your partner outside of the traditional penetrative act. Try reinventing the 69.

If you are not ready for vaginal or clitoral action, ask your partner to massage your feet that stimulate blood flow up to your legs and abdomen, while you return the favor with your hands or mouth.

You and your partner could also try intercrural sex, where the penis is stimulated by being placed in between your thighs. Or, on the flip side, intergluteal sex where the penis can be stimulated by moving between the buttocks.

For the last two, we recommend lube.

5. Invest in some good quality lube. When you are ready for more advanced foreplay or penetrative sex, do not be shocked if you are not naturally lubricating downstairs. Dryness is another side-effect of declined estrogen and progesterone levels post-birth.

Lube will be your best friend when you are getting back to the norm with your partner, helping things run smoothly. Clitoral stimulators can also act as great tools in this department. Also, do not forget to relax.

Many women feel a mixture of fear and anxiety about returning back to penetrative sex after months of celibacy, leading to a tenseness that will undeniably make sex less pleasurable. If you can, have a glass of wine, take your time, let your partner give you a massage, and then get the lube out!

6. The gift that keeps on giving. So maybe you are just not in the mood? Because of wonky hormonal changes, it’s totally normal to experience plummeted levels of libido. It’s ok.

Nonetheless, women put pressure on themselves to perform in the bedroom out of guilt for not tending to their partner’s sexual needs. Consider buying masturbating toys for your partner, it will show them that you care without forcing yourself to do anything out of your comfort zone.

All in all, intimacy with your partner can help decrease* your stress, improve* your confidence and (contrary to belief) energize you! Making space to prioritize intimacy, without the pressure of going all in, can help nurture a deep connection with your partner that can translate to increased happiness and wellbeing.

Do not expect to go from 0 to 100 after your 6 week check-up. Remember, most women wait longer than 6 weeks, and many women will not get 100% back into the groove of things for months.

Allow this journey back to intimacy be an exciting opportunity to rediscover the relationship you have with your own body and to find new techniques that lie outside the norm with your partner.

The key is to take things slowly, to listen to yourself, communicate with your partner, and when the time comes, use lots and lots of lube.

Complete Article HERE!

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Why teaching kids about sex is key for preventing sexual violence

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Sex ed can be awkward. It can also be life-changing.

You may think of sex education like it appears in pop culture: A classroom of teens looking nervously at a banana and a condom.

Amid the giggling and awkward questions, maybe the students get some insight into how sex works or how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

While that’s valuable knowledge, comprehensive and LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed actually has the power to positively influence the way young people see themselves and their sexuality. It may also help prevent sexual violence when it teaches students how to value their own bodily autonomy, ask for consent, and identify unhealthy relationship behavior.

That possibility couldn’t be more important at a time when the public is searching for answers about how to stop sexual violence.

It’s a familiar cycle; one person’s predatory behavior becomes national news (think Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Donald Trump, and Bill Cosby), the outrage reaches a peak before fading from the headlines, and we end up back in similar territory months or years later.

 

Nicole Cushman, executive director of the comprehensive sex ed nonprofit organization Answer, says that teaching young people about sex and sexuality can fundamentally shift their views on critical issues like consent, abuse, and assault.

When parents and educators wait to have these conversations until children are young adults or off at college, Cushman says, “we are really doing too little, too late.”

Comprehensive sex ed, in contrast, focuses on addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and social dimensions of sexuality starting in kindergarten and lasting through the end of high school. There’s no single lesson plan, since educators and nonprofits can develop curricula that meet varying state standards, but the idea is to cover everything including anatomy, healthy relationships, pregnancy and birth, contraceptives, sexual orientation, and media literacy.

“Comprehensive sex ed builds a foundation for these conversations in age-appropriate ways,” Cushman says. “That [allows] us not to just equip young people with knowledge and definitions, but the ability to recognize sexual harassment and assault … and actually create culture change around this issue.”

Some parents balk at the idea of starting young, but researchers believe that teaching elementary school students basic anatomical vocabulary as well as the concept of consent may help prevent sexual abuse, or help kids report it when they experience it.

If a child, for example, doesn’t know what to call her vagina, she may not know how to describe molestation. And if a boy doesn’t understand that he can only touch others with their permission, and be touched by others upon giving his consent, he may mistake sexual abuse as normal.

It doesn’t take much to imagine how that early education could impart life-long lessons about the boundaries that separate respectful physical contact from abuse and assault.

 

Some adults, however, think children learn these lessons without their explicit help. While they do internalize signals and cues from the behavior they witness, that’s not always a good thing, says Debra Hauser, president of the nonprofit reproductive and sexual health organization Advocates for Youth.

If a child grew up in a household witnessing an emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive relationship, they may not feel they have a right to give or revoke their consent. They may also believe it’s their right to violate someone else. Moreover, young people rarely, if ever, get to watch as the adults around them navigate complicated conversations about things like birth control and sexual preferences.

That’s where comprehensive sex ed can be essential, Hauser explains.

“You want young people to learn knowledge, but you also want them to learn skills,” she says. “There’s a particular art to communicating about boundaries, contraceptive use, likes and dislikes. It’s not something you get to see that often because they’re private conversations.”

So while parents — and some students — grimace at the idea of role-playing such exchanges in the classroom, that technique is a cornerstone of comprehensive sex education. Staging practical interactions that are inclusive of LGBTQ students can help reduce the stigma that keeps people from expressing their desires, whether that’s to stop or start a sexual encounter, use protection, or confront abusive behavior.

But learning and practicing consent isn’t a silver bullet for prevention, Cushman says: “Plenty of young people could spout off the definition of consent, but until we really shift our ideas about gender, power, and sexuality, we’re not going to see lasting change.”

Research does suggest that a curriculum that draws attention to gender or power in relationships, fosters critical thinking about gender norms, helps students value themselves, and drives personal reflection is much more likely to be effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

 

There’s also research that indicates that clinging to harmful gender norms is associated with being less likely to use contraceptives and condoms. And women and girls who feel they have less power in a sexual relationship may experience higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV.

While researchers don’t yet know whether comprehensive sex ed can reduce sexual violence, Hauser believes it’s an important part of prevention.

“Comprehensive sex ed is absolutely essential if we’re ever going to be successful in combatting this culture,” she says.

But not all students have access to such a curriculum in their schools. While California, for example, requires schools to provide medically accurate and LGBTQ-inclusive sex ed, more than two dozen states don’t mandate sex ed at all. Some don’t even require medically accurate curricula.

The Trump administration is no fan of comprehensive sex ed, either. It recently axed federal funding for pregnancy prevention programs and appointed an abstinence-only advocate to an important position at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Research shows that abstinence-only education is ineffective. It can also perpetuate traditional gender roles, which often reinforce the idea that girls and women bear the responsibility of preventing sexual assault.

Cushman understands that parents who don’t want their children learning about comprehensive sex ed are just worried for their kids, but she says the knowledge they gain isn’t “dangerous.”

Even if some parents can’t shake the worry that it might be, the firestorm over Harvey Weinstein’s behavior and the outcry from his victims are proof that we need to better educate young people about sex, consent, and healthy relationships.

It’s simply unconscionable to teach girls and women, by design or accident, that sexual violence is their fault.

“We have an obligation to make sure [youth] have the knowledge and skills they need to make the decisions that are best for them,” Cushman says. “Sex ed really does have the power to shift our perceptions.” 

Complete Article HERE!

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Debunking Common College Sex Myths

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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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