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Sexual Health and Safety 101: Frosh Edition

By Di Daniels

Sexual Health and Safety

Don’t get me wrong, the first week of university is an exciting time and you should be taking advantage of every opportunity to let loose and indulge in your adventurous side—in between the sheets, and otherwise.
With that being said, now that you’re outside of the giant safety net that is your parents’ supervision, you should be taking a few extra precautions to make sure that your transition into the world of sex wherever, whenever, is a safe one.
Now, none of the points I’m about to bring up are anything new or groundbreaking, but the following tips are worth keeping in mind. -Di Daniels

The golden rule of consent

Sex can be an exciting, amazing experience—but never without consent from both parties. The definition of consent is something you must know if you are sexually active or plan to take your first steps into the experience. Consent involves a variety of factors, and it’s important to be well-versed in all of them.

Consent means that both parties have made an enthusiastic, direct, voluntary, unimpaired, and conscious agreement to engage in sexual activities of any kind. Consent cannot be given if either party is impaired by any kind of drug. You cannot use your own intoxication as an excuse for carrying out actions of sexual violence—your “I was so drunk I can’t remember a thing” excuse might get you out of other unpleasant scenarios during 101 Week, but consent for sexual activities is NOT one of them.

You cannot assume the person has said yes because they haven’t said no. You cannot receive consent from a person who is asleep or impaired in any way. Consent can never, ever be given under threat from the requesting party, or if the person is in a position of authority over the person being asked.

Even if you’ve stripped down and teased each other for an hour, if your partner decides they don’t want to participate at ANY point, you must respect that their consent can be revoked at any given time during the activity.

You can find a more extensive definition of “consent” in the University of Ottawa’s new sexual assault policy.

“No” does not mean “I want to be convinced”. “No” does not mean “I’m playing hard to get”. “No” means nothing else but “no”, and the golden rule of all sexual relations is that you must always respect this.

Make safer sex a routine

It’s probably not new information that you should use some form of birth control during any erotic encounters, but even though methods like the pill or an IUD can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, these commonly used contraceptives do not protect you against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).

In this light, it’s important to always, always use a condom. Some people don’t disclose or just don’t know that they have an STI, so it’s essential that you put yourself first and use protection. But even these best-laid plans can fail if you don’t use a water-based lube with the condom, as oil-based lube can cause breakage.

If walking into a store and buying condoms over the counter isn’t your thing, go online at Sex It Smart and order free condoms—they literally deliver right to your door, and for those with allergies they also offer latex-free order options. You can also pick some up for free at the U of O’s Health Services.

Not all tests happen in the classroom

After a raunchy week in your new residence, you find yourself itchy, bumpy, or just plain uncomfortable down below. What to do? First of all, try not to feel ashamed about it. The stigma around STIs and other genital infections is still strong on campus, but the reality is that the rates among university students have proven to be on the rise—you are NOT alone in your experience. Even if it feels shameful to do it, it’s important to go see a doctor if you have symptoms and get tested for STIs.

Even if you don’t feel unusual, it’s worth noting that some STIs can lay dormant and cause no symptoms for a period of time, so it’s always a good idea to get checked out on the regular once you become sexually active.

Not sure where to go to discuss your concerns? Lucky for you, the University of Ottawa offers a walk-in clinic, as well as appointments with family doctors, so that you won’t have to go far to get tested. You can also get free and confidential STI testing done at the City of Ottawa’s Sexual Health Centre.

On-campus support

If your 101 Week leaves you feeling uncertain, scared, or anxious about your sex life or sexuality, please seek support—our campus offers so much of it, right at your fingertips.

Student Academic Success Service’s free counselling and coaching service offers counsellors that will help guide you through any turbulence your transition to university may bring. The Women’s Resource Centre offers peer support and guidance from a feminist perspective, as well as free safer sex supplies. The Pride Centre offers drop-in services that provide members of the LGBTQ+ community with a safe space to share experiences with like-minded peers, as well as a service that provides training to those outside of the community on how to become a better ally

Complete Article HERE!

The Sex Talk You Can’t Skip

These conversations with children are far more critical than parents think

by Deirdre Reilly

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Moms and dads typically grit their teeth, square their shoulders, and take a deep breath when it’s time for “the birds and the bees” talk with their kids. For many parents, by the time they gather the courage to have “the talk” — it’s way too late.

One father of two from Charlottesville, Virginia, joked to LifeZette, “I had the sex talk with my kids, and it was not bad at all. Sure, they were asleep — but I have to say it really went pretty well!”

There is no reason to avoid or fear the talk with the kids.

“Talking to kids about sexuality does not encourage them to be sexual,” Dr. Rita Eichenstein, a pediatric neuropsychologist in Los Angeles, told LifeZette. “We give our kids all types of information to protect them — why wouldn’t we talk to them about sex? There are a lot of bad things in this world, but sex isn’t one of them. The facts of life aren’t scary — they’re beautiful.”

The best way to discuss a healthy sexual identity with children is to make the topic as normal as possible for both parent and child.

Bobbi Wegman, a Brookline, Massachusetts, clinical psychologist, advocates using the world around you to begin teaching age-appropriate sexual information.

“I’m a mother of three kids, and it is absolutely vital to talk about sex with your children in a direct and 002honest manner that is appropriate for their age,” she told LifeZette. “Personally, the first time this came up in our home, my son was four — he asked where babies came from. We had just finished the summer and he had planted and raised the vegetables in our garden, and I used that as a metaphor for where children come from. ‘Dad planted a seed in Mommy and it grew into a baby, just like the tomato plant you planted,’ I told him. It is best to model that sex and our bodies aren’t shameful, and that sex is completely natural,” she added.

One Boston-area mom recounts how her third pregnancy opened the door for discussion with her first child, a fifth grader.

“He asked me how I first knew I was pregnant, and I said I had missed my period,” this mom of three told LifeZette. “He said, quite casually, ‘Yeah, so what is that?’ We were able to move on from there to a great discussion, which I had been longing to have with him.”

Waiting until your child is a teenager is to late to begin, the experts say.

“Teens, by virtue of their developmental stage, believe they are invincible and thus may not consider the risks associated with their actions,” Laguna Beach, California, psychiatrist Gayani DeSilva told LifeZette. “However, health risks can have lasting implications. For example, teens should be aware that contracting herpes is a lifelong condition that will impact sexual activity for life — and will need to be disclosed to all future sexual partners.”

Other health risks include mental health problems. “Sex in the context of a respectful, loving relationship will not be mentally damaging,” said DeSilva. “But sex in the context of a power struggle, assault, incest, rape, or molestation can have devastating effects on a person’s self-esteem and mental well-being. It may even be the trigger for suicide.”

Adults can hold the view that sexual activity is to be enjoyed only through marriage and still talk to their kids about sex — and the risks associated with it.

“Be consistent in your beliefs — if you are conservative, act conservative,” said Eichenstein. “Be modest, attend church and give them exposure to this topic in a way that is consistent with your morals and values. No closet Puritans allowed — you have to talk the talk and walk the walk of your own family’s moral code.”

Eichenstein understands a parent’s discomfort over “the talk.”

“The media and the culture have made sex really sleazy, and that’s what parents are embarrassed about,” she said. “All the ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’ stuff mangles the reality of normal, healthy sex, and that’s why it is critical that lines of communication are open from very early on. Body parts should be correctly named with young children, and parents should work hard to stay natural about sex.”

Chunking sexual information is good, said Eichenstein, beginning with a series of little talks starting very young. “Remember, the older children get, the less likely they are to listen to the information you have to share. Use books or other helpful materials — don’t fly on your own if it’s not working. Leave a book on your child’s night table and they will read it, guaranteed.”

003“Before sexual activity is the time for the talk — after is too late,” Eichenstein emphasized, adding that 4th, 5th and 6th grade is the window in which to share more in-depth information about sex. “It is good to say, ‘I don’t endorse that you become sexually active. But I hope that if and when you are ready down the road, I hope you’ll be open to talking to me — I’m here to help you.’”

Pornography now seems normative, said Eichenstein, which makes “the talk” an uphill battle for parents.

“Pornography desensitizes kids to sexuality, and cheapens it, too,” she said. “They no longer know how to have a healthy relationship, or how to trust their instincts. My guess is that girls actually want the type of relationships people had in the 1950s — a very romantic relationship.”

It is important to help girls have a sense of self when it comes to sexuality, and to always refuse to do what they don’t want to do — and how to say no to overtures from boys that are not welcome. “That’s the most important part of sex education for girls, in my view — knowing how to get out of a bad situation.”

Eichenstein said parents talk to boys a lot less about sex than they talk to girls, and this is dangerous. “Boys can turn into aggressors and they need to be taught by responsible parents,” she noted.

“Simple empathy between the sexes is a huge part of good sexual education for children,” noted Eichenstein. “For boys, it’s the ability to put themselves in a girl’s shoes — and act accordingly.”

Complete Article HERE!

The World Health Organization Proposes Dropping Transgender Identity From Its List of Mental Disorders

Transgender identity would instead be categorized under the sexual health umbrella, which could significantly impact acceptance of transgender individuals in health care and social spaces.

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The World Health Organization is currently considering reclassifying transgender identity in its International Classification of Diseases. Though the WHO previously labeled transgender identity as a mental disorder, a recent Lancet Psychiatry study has led the organization to reevaluate that decision. Now, the WHO is discussing re-categorizing the term under its sexual health umbrella—which could have major implications for how transgender people are viewed in both health care and society.

This new conversation is the result of a study that shed light on the complex relationship between transgender identity and mental illness. The study, which drew on a sample of 250 transgender individuals, found that while many transgender people experience mental distress, most of that distress is linked to experiences associated with being transgender—like family, social, or work or scholastic dysfunction. It’s not that being transgender is a mental illness in and of itself, it’s that identifying as transgender can lead to rejection, violence and other things that cause mental distress. These findings clearly challenge the WHO’s decision to label transgender identity as a mental disorder, which is why the organization is currently rethinking its original designation—and why it’s doing so right now.

If this story sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Until the late 1980s, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While that’s not the same thing as the WHO’s ICD, the two serve a similar purpose: being the go-to resource for defining health conditions and tracking global health trends. The DSM renamed homosexuality as “sexual orientation disturbance” in 1973, and changed its name to “ego-dystonic homosexuality” before removing it from the list of mental disorders altogether in 1987. “I’ve never heard a gay person lament the loss of the diagnosis of homosexuality,” Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist specializing in gender, tells SELF. “[And I don’t] think we will find many transgender people—if any—[who] lament the disappearance of a mental health diagnosis—as long as we continue to ensure the provision of all medical services.” Ehrensaft explains that classifying transgender identity as a mental disorder “declares a mental illness where there is none,” which can leave transgender individuals facing increased stigma in an already rejecting world.

Though there’s no official count of how many Americans identify as transgender, LGBT demographer Gary Gates has estimated that the number falls around 700,000. (It’s worth noting that this data is based on two studies—one from 2007 and one from 2009—so it’s not necessarily representative of the actual transgender population in the U.S.) Regardless of the exact figure, the WHO’s decision has the potential to impact a significant number of Americans—and Americans who are disproportionately at risk for things like poverty, suicide, and various forms of discrimination, at that. “It is extremely damaging to label someone’s identity as a mental disorder,” Jamison Green, transgender rights activist, tells SELF. Stigmas associated with transgender identity and mental health can impact someone’s ability to get hired, receive a promotion, and to feel confident enough with the surrounding world. “There’s a huge, huge problem,” he says.

While the WHO hasn’t made any official decisions yet, reclassification could potentially have beneficial outcomes for members of the LGBT community. “What we have to look at is social ramifications of the experience of transgender people,” Green says. And one of the things the WHO’s decision would do, he says, is clear up some of the cross-cultural confusion surrounding gender and sexual orientation. “It’s a very complex subject, and there’s very little known about it from a clear technical perspective,” Green says. Still, moving away from classifying transgender as a mental disorder is a positive step, he says, because transgender identity is linked to a person’s physical nature (gender confirmation surgery, potential roots in endocrinology, etc.) in many ways.

That said, the decision to potentially re-categorize transgender identity under the sexual health umbrella is a little complicated—and could potentially be a step in the wrong direction. “I think it kind of misses the mark,” Green says. He mentioned that sexual health issues include things like the inability to orgasm and, in some cases, pregnancy—not gender identity. “There is nothing sexual about gender when it comes to health,” Ehrensaft reiterates. “It’s all about who you know yourself to be—as male, female, or other—and how you want to present your gender to the world. Anything having to do with sex organs and sexual functioning is a different issue.” Still, it’s a step nonetheless. “That’s sort of the mentality that we’re having to deal with—that’s there’s something wrong with a person if their gender doesn’t match the sex of their body,” Green says. “So where do we [classify] that so people can be properly treated in a humane fashion, rather than in a damaging one? There’s a struggle.”

So far, the proposed reclassification has been approved by every committee that’s discussed it—leaving it under review for the latest edition of the WHO’s ICD. Geoffrey Reed, a professor who worked on the Lancet Psychiatry study, told the New York Times that the re-categorization wasn’t receiving opposition from the WHO and suggested we might see the change as soon as May 2018, when the newly revised version of the ICD is approved.

“Trans people, like anybody else, have identities that need to be respected,” Green says. “And all of the people who are affected by these sex and gender misunderstandings—and our lack of scientific knowledge—do not deserve to be vilified or stigmatized or punished in any way. That’s what we’re trying to move toward in the awkward world of policy making.”

Complete Article HERE!

Large number of young people experience sex problems, study finds

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More to be done to help with ‘sexual function’ as well as advice on STIs and pregnancy, say authors of survey

Many young people reported finding intercourse difficult and the inability to climax, the study found

Many young people reported finding intercourse difficult and the inability to climax, the study found

Large numbers of young people experience sexual problems such as pain or anxiety during sex, the inability to climax and finding intercourse difficult, a study has found.

A third (33.8%) of sexually active teenagers and young men aged 16-21 and 44.4% of sexually active young women the same age experienced at least one problem, which lasted for at least three months, with their ability to enjoy sex in the past year, according to the research.

Experts say the results, from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) study of sexual health in Britain, show that young people need help with their “sexual function” as much as advice on avoiding sexually transmitted infection or unintended pregnancy. They experience problems almost as much as older people, it emerged.

For women, the most common problem was difficulty in reaching climax, which 21.3% of female participants said they experienced. The next most common problems were: lacking enjoyment in sex (9.8%), feeling physical pain as a result of sex (9%), an uncomfortably dry vagina (8.5%), feeling anxious during sex (8%) and no excitement or arousal (8%).

Among men, the biggest difficulty was reaching a climax too quickly, which 13.2% had experienced. Smaller numbers reported difficulty in reaching a climax (8.3%), difficulty getting or keeping an erection (7.8%), lacking enjoyment in sex (5.4%) and feeling anxious (4.8%).

The Natsal surveys, the funders of which include the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health, are seen as the most in-depth portraits of sexual behaviour in Britain. This latest edition has been carried out by academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London and NatCen Social Research. Natsal-3 is based on 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive men and women aged between 16 and 21.

“Our findings show that distressing sexual problems are not only experienced by older people in Britain”, said Dr Kirstin Mitchell, the lead author of the study. “They are in fact relatively common in early adulthood as well.

“If we want to improve sexual wellbeing in the UK population, we need to reach people as they start their sex lives, otherwise a lack of knowledge, anxiety or shame might progress into lifelong sexual difficulties that can be damaging to sexual enjoyment and relationships,” she added.

Among the sexually active, 9.1% of young men and 13.4% of young women said that they had felt distressed about a sexual problem that had troubled them for at least three months.

Natsal-3 found some significant differences between men and women in the sexual problems they encountered. Far more women (9.8%) than men (5.4%) lacked enjoyment in sex, felt anxious during sex (8% compared with 4.8% of men) and experienced no excitement or arousal during sex (8% compared with 3.2% of men).

The same stark gender divide was also apparent in those who professed no interest in having sex. One in five (22%) of women said they lacked interest, while far fewer men – 10.5% – said the same.

Young people are very unlikely to seek professional help for their problem. Although 36.3% of women and 26% of men said they had sought help, this was usually from family, friends, the media or the internet. Just 4% of young men and 8% of young women had turned to an expert such as a GP, psychiatrist or sexual health professional about their sex life.

Prof Kaye Wellings of LSHTM, a co-author, said: “UK sex education is often silent on issues of sexual satisfaction, but these are clearly important to young people and should be addressed. Sex education could do much more to debunk myths about sex, discuss pleasure and promote gender equality in relationships.”

Complete Article HERE!

Doctors urged to advise patients about risks of abstinence-centric sex education

American Academy of Pediatricians’ new report is the clearest denouncement of the failures of not talking about STIs and pregnancy prevention

Across the US only 50% of high school students receive sex education that meets the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Across the US only 50% of high school students receive sex education that meets the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The country’s largest organization of pediatricians entered fraught political territory on Monday, with a call for doctors to use their time with patients to combat the potential health consequences of abstinence-centric sex education.

In a new report, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) issued its clearest denunciation yet of sex education programs that fail to offer comprehensive information on topics such as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy prevention.

“This is the mothership telling pediatricians that talking about sex is part of your charge to keep children and adolescents safe,” said Dr Cora Breuner, a professor and pediatrician at Seattle Children’s research hospital and the report’s lead author.

“These guidelines give pediatricians in communities where people might say, ‘We don’t want you talking to our kids about this stuff,’ permission to say, ‘No, I can talk about this, I should talk about this, I need to talk about this.’”

The report is broadly a call for pediatricians to help fill in the gaps left by the country’s patchwork sex education programs. It urges pediatricians to teach not only contraception and the benefits of delaying sexual activity, but to cover topics such as sexual consent, sexual orientation and gender identity with school-aged children who may not receive any information in the classroom and involve their parents.

But the authors single out abstinence-heavy education, which sometimes excludes information about contraceptives, as a key concern for doctors looking to help adolescent patients avoid sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. As a result, it is likely to fuel an already contentious debate.

Groups that have advocated for sex education to emphasize abstinence instantly found fault with the new guidelines.

“A health organization like the AAP should not be affirming a behavior that can compromise the health of youth,” said Valerie Huber, the president of Ascend, a group that promotes abstinence-centric sex education and advocates for federal funding. The group was formerly known as the formerly the National Abstinence Education Association.

“They recommend ‘responsible sex’ for young adolescents. Exactly what is responsible sexual activity for adolescents? … The science is clear that teens are healthier when they avoid all sexual activity.”

Moreover, Huber said, programs that “normalize teen sex” are unpopular with many parents.

“Most communities do not support the type of sex education they recommend,” she said.

Still, others embraced the report as bringing the AAP’s recommendations more in line with the reality.

“This is a fantastic move,” said Chitra Panjabi, the president of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), a research group that supports comprehensive sex education. “It’s really important that our medical providers are standing up and saying, hey, the youth in our communities are coming to us because they’re not getting the information they need. And so we need to step in.”

The US does not enforce national standards for sex education and schools in many states are not required to teach it. Across the country, SIECUS estimates, only 50% of high school students receive sex education that meets the recommendations of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other half of students receive anything from an incomplete sex education, to education that emphasizes abstinence, to abstinence-only education, with a focus on delaying sex until heterosexual marriage.

In February, Barack Obama proposed a budget for 2017 that eliminated the $10m the department of health and human services spends on abstinence-only programs every year. But funding continues to flow to those programs from other sources. Title V, an abstinence-only program, allocates $75m a year to abstinence-only programs, money that states match by 75%.

In the last quarter-century, programs emphasizing abstinence as the optimal way to avoid pregnancy and STIs have received more than $2bn in funding from the federal government. Comprehensive sex education, by contrast, has no dedicated federal funding stream.

“It’s a political climate where people don’t want to talk about these issues,” said Breuner. “But it makes our job so much harder when we cannot coordinate our efforts with the schools. It takes time away from the other safety issues we need to be discussing. Don’t smoke weed. Don’t text and drive.”

Recently, two major surveys of existing research on sex education concluded that there was no evidence or inconclusive evidence to show that abstinence-centric programs succeeded in delaying sexual activity. One of the surveys found that comprehensive sex education was actually more effective than abstinence education at delaying sexual activity in teens. (Ascend points to select studies which show the opposite.)

A long-term study found that teens receiving abstinence-only programs were less likely to use contraceptives or be screened for STIs, although rates of infections were not elevated.

The studies helped compel the AAP to issue its first major guidance on sex education since 2001.

“It’s important for pediatricians to have the backing to say, ‘Look, I can’t support telling this stuff to children,’” Breuner said. “I have to deal with the aftermath, which is a 15-year-old who’s pregnant, or a 16-year-old who has a sexually transmitted infection he’s going to have for the rest of his life.”

Breuner said a number of her patients have suffered consequences from abstinence-only education. Many of them are pregnant teenagers and girls who, in the absence of accurate information, came to believe in common myths about pregnancy prevention.

“They’ll say, ‘I thought you couldn’t get pregnant when you were having your period,’ or, ‘I thought it took two or three years after you get your period to be able get pregnant.’ It’s heartbreaking, because I know with education, this could have been prevented.”

Complete Article HERE!