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All forms of sexual harassment can cause psychological harm

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“Being exposed to non-physical sexual harassment can negatively affect symptoms of anxiety, depression, negative body image and low self-esteem,” say Associate Professor Mons Bendixen and Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s (NTNU) Department of Psychology.

This applies to derogatory sexual remarks about appearance, behaviour and sexual orientation, unwanted sexual attention, being subject to rumouring, and being shown sexually oriented images, and the like.

The researchers posed questions about sexual experienced in the previous year and received responses from almost 3,000 high school students in two separate studies. The responses paint a clear picture.

Worst for girls. This is not exclusively something boys do against girls. It’s just as common for boys to harass boys in these ways.

Girls and boys are equally exposed to unpleasant or offensive non-physical sexual harassment. About 62 per cent of both sexes report that they have experienced this in the past year.

“Teens who are harassed the most also struggle more in general. But girls generally struggle considerably more than boys, no matter the degree to which they’re being harassed in this way,” Kennair notes.

“Girls are also more negatively affected by sexual harassment than boys are,” adds Bendixen.

Being a girl is unquestionably the most important risk factor when teens report that they struggle with anxiety, depression, or .

However, non-physical sexual harassment is the second most important factor, and is more strongly associated with adolescents’ psychological well-being than being subjected to sexual coercion in the past year or sexual assault prior to that.

Level of severity

Bendixen and Kennair believe it’s critical to distinguish between different forms of harassment.

They divided the types of harassment into two main groups: non-physical harassment and physically coercive sexual behaviour, such as unwanted kissing, groping, intimate touch, and intercourse. Physical sexual coercion is often characterized as sexual abuse in the literature.

Studies usually lump these two forms of unwanted behaviour together into the same measure. This means that a derogatory comment is included in the same category as rape.

“As far as we know, this is the first study that has distinguished between these two forms and specifically looked at the effects of non-physical sexual harassment,” says Bendixen.

Comments that for some individuals may seem innocent enough can cause significant problems for others.

Many factors accounted for

Not everyone interprets slang or slurs the same way. If someone calls you a “whore” or “gay,” you may not find it offensive. For this reason, the researchers let the adolescents decide whether they perceived a given action as offensive or not, and had them only report what they did find offensive.

The article presents data from two studies. The first study from 2007 included 1384 . The second study included 1485 students and was conducted in 2013-2014. Both studies were carried out in Sør-Trøndelag county and are comparable with regard to demographic conditions.

The results of the first study were reproduced in the second. The findings from the two studies matched each other closely.

The researchers also took into account a number of other potentially influential factors, such as having parents who had separated or were unemployed, educational programme (vocational or general studies), sexual minority status, , and whether they had experienced physical coercion in the past year or any sexual assaults previous to that.

“We’ve found that sexual minorities generally reported more psychological distress,” says Bendixen. The same applied to with parents who are unemployed. On the other hand, students with immigrant status did not report more psychological issues. Bendixen also notes that sexual minorities did not seem to be more negatively affected by sexual harassment than their heterosexual peers.

However, the researchers did find a clear negative effect of non-physical sexual harassment, over and beyond that of the risk factors above.

Uncertain as to what is an effective intervention

So what can be done to reduce behaviours that may cause such serious problems for so many?

Kennair concedes that he doesn’t know what can help.

“This has been studied for years and in numerous countries, but no studies have yet revealed any lasting effects of measures aimed at combating sexual harassment,” Bendixen says. “We know that attitude campaigns can change people’s attitudes to harassment, but it doesn’t result in any reduction in harassment behaviour.”

Bendixen and Kennair want to look into this in an upcoming study. Their goal is to develop practices that reduce all forms of and thereby improve young people’s psychological well-being.

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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Fantastic kinks and where to find them

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“What do you two think about my cock ring?” With a baby blue T-shirt on top and bare as a baby’s bottom below, the stranger nodded down toward his crotch. A bright yellow, adjustable strap was fastened around his pink dick and balls.

“It kind of looks like a watch.” I said abruptly, a bit taken aback by his appearance. I was more modestly dressed in a flowery lingerie set, a UC Berkeley lab coat tied around my waist.

In stark contrast, my close friend and Cal-alumna was wholly unfazed by his sudden, very naked presence. “You should get a figure-eight cock ring!” She advised. “One ring goes around your balls and one around your shaft.” She wore an underbust black dress which showed off her much-complimented heart-tattooed nipples.

“God, I know, right? My boyfriend got this one for me.” His velvety soft dick gently brushed up against my hand like a delicate feather boa. “I wish it was black,” referring to the cock ring.

Last week was the first time I attended Folsom Street Fair, the world’s largest event for BDSM wares and fetish culture. As our Lyft driver pulled up a street away from 8th and Folsom, a man in assless underwear sprinted toward what we could only assume was his kinky oasis. Taking up a sprawling five blocks, I marveled at bondage demonstrations, two public blowjob scenes and the strangest of them all, a plethora of Bud Light stalls.

While others were receiving the blood and body of Christ on Sunday, I received a Bad Dragon grab bag yielding two glow-in-the-dark condoms, a coupon for their high-fantasy sex toys, and their coveted collectable mini silicone dicks, otherwise known as Teenie Weenies. The sex shops and burlesque shows I attended in the past paled in comparison to the absolute spectacle and sexual liberation that embodied Folsom.

Though I have been a longtime patron of the kinky arts, the first time I ever interacted with kink in real life was through a second-hand experience of another Berkeley friend a few years ago. His experience wasn’t the most ideal, as his ex-boyfriend had cheated in order to explore his interests with more seasoned kinksters.

At Folsom, he was asked, as a Filipino man, “how are your people so smooth,” by his ex’s white kink mentor. I was horrified to hear that a seemingly more mature BDSM practitioner unabashedly fetishized Asian bodies. While the sadomasochistic community’s motto is “safe, sane, and consensual,” I realized these words couldn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s easy to forget that existing social stratifications can permeate communities we normally consider to be free of such restrictions.

This is most noticeable in “raceplay” roleplaying in the BDSM community, which frequently focuses on a slave (usually a person of color) servicing their master (usually a white person). While I definitely do not want to be a kink policer, one must note that many kinksters are white and male. Engaging with these scenes uncritically can lead to excusing oppression as simply a “fetish.”

Seeing my friend’s genuine heartbreak and confusion opened my eyes to the potential negativity the BDSM community held within its leather clad jaws. While I still enjoyed consuming kinky content, I was intensely judgemental when my friend’s old flame showed up to a 4th of July barbecue with his “daddy,” who easily looked double his age.

Despite going to Folsom accompanied by a more kink experienced friend, I still had a lot of reservations. Nevertheless, I was determined to challenge my preconceived notions towards kink’s true shades of gray.

When the same cockring man, who also happened to be white, first approached us, I steeled myself for the inevitable harassment and entitlement.

As soon as he said, “women usually don’t tell you what they like, but you two really speak your mind,” I was ready to fall back into the comfortable trap of my preexisting antagonism toward white kinksters.

Feeling defeated, I replied with, “Well, that’s also because many women are still shamed when they talk about sex openly,” and prepared myself for the excuses and false apologies.

After a beat of thinking, he said, “Oh, you’re right! I never thought about it that way.” He ended the exchange with a cheery “Happy Folsom!”

Even my friend, an active participant in kink since her teens, was surprised by the lack of nonconsensual touching and photography, which she had warned me about beforehand due to her previous experiences. Besides that and the masses of entry-level gay boys who wore the same leather chest harness and frayed jorts, the only other discomfort I faced was the oppressively hot sun beating down on all of us — the ultimate dom.

I realized Folsom wasn’t a whirlwind of perceived blasphemy. It was the first time I saw such a variety of racial demographics and age ranges congregate for a specific event. As well as that, snug among all the flogging paraphernalia were free HIV testing stalls courtesy of Trans men 4 men, Queer Asian education booths and gay-friendly doctors. Folsom Street Fair itself is a nonprofit, generating approximately $300,000 annually, and provides a home for other organizations focusing on sex education, AIDS research and kink-friendly psychotherapy, such as Planned Parenthood.

Among the genitalia, latex and leather, Folsom feels like the epitome of debauchery, but it is also inherently tied to education and charity culture. As I watched an older East Asian man lead his White partner around with a chain secured to his balls, I felt like this was the true beginning of my quest to understand the complexities of the BDSM world. Just like Indiana Jones, I will continue to uncover the lost treasures of kink with a crack of my bullwhip.

Complete Article HERE!

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We must acknowledge adolescents as sexual beings

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As a teenager, Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli experienced shame and was often denied access when he tried to purchase condoms. Forty years later, adolescents around the world still face barriers to contraceptive access. In this blog, Dr. Chandra-Mouli discusses those barriers and how they can be overcome.

Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli recalls feeling shame and was often denied access when he tried to purchase condoms as a teenager.

By Dr. Venkatraman Chandra-Mouli

I grew up in India. While in my late teens and studying to be a doctor, I met the girl whom I married some years later. A year or so into our relationship we started to have sex. We decided to use condoms. Getting them at a government-run clinic was out of question. They were known to provide free condoms called Nirodh, which were said to be as smelly and thick as bicycle inner tubes. Asking our family doctor was also out of question. He knew my mother and I had no doubt that he would tell.

So, I used to walk to pharmacies, wait until other customers had left, and then muster up the courage to ask the person behind the counter for upmarket Durex condoms. Sometimes I was successful and walked out feeling like a king. Other times, I was scolded and sent away. I still recall my ears burning with shame. That was 40 years ago, but I know from adolescents around the world with whom I work that they continue to face many barriers to obtaining contraceptives.

Different adolescents, different barriers

In many societies, unmarried adolescents are not supposed to have sex. Laws and policies forbid providing them with contraception. Even when there are no legal or policy restrictions, health workers refuse to provide unmarried adolescents with contraception.

Married adolescents are under pressure to bear children. Many societies require girls to be nonsexual before marriage, fully sexual on their marriage night, and fertile within a year. In this context, there is no discussion of contraception until they have one or more children, especially male children.

Most societies do not acknowledge the sexuality of groups such as adolescents with disabilities or those living with HIV. Neither do they acknowledge the vulnerability of adolescent girls and boys in humanitarian crises situations.

Finally, no one wants to know or deal with non-consensual sex, resulting from either verbal coercion or physical force by adults or peers. Girls who are raped may need post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, emergency contraception, or safe abortion—all of which are taboo subjects.

Overcoming these barriers

These powerful and widespread taboos have resulted in limited and inconsistent progress on improving adolescent contraception access. This has to change. We must acknowledge adolescents as the sexual beings they are. We must try to remember what a joy it was to discover sex when we were adolescents. We must give adolescents the information, skills, and tools they need to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

With that in mind, I recommend the following:

  • We need to provide adolescents with sexuality education that meets their needs.
  • We need to change the way we provide adolescents with contraceptives by offering them a range of contraceptives and helping them choose what best meets their needs, and use a mix of communication channels—public, private, social marketing and social franchising to expand their availability. We must go beyond one-off training to use a package of evidence-based actions to ensure that health workers are competent and responsive to their adolescent clients.
  • We need to address the social and economic context of girls’ lives. In many places, adolescent girls do not have the power to make contraception decisions. Even when they are able to obtain and use contraception, an early pregnancy in or out of union may be the best of a limited set of bad options – when they are limited education and employment prospects.

To reach the 1.2 billion adolescents in the world, we must move from small-scale short-lived projects to large-scale and sustained programs. For this, we need national policies and strategies, and work plans and budgets that are evidence-based and tailored to the realities on the ground. Most importantly, we need robust implementation so that programs are high quality and reach a significant scale while paying attention to equity.

We need government led programs that engage and involve a range of players including adolescents. For this to happen, coordination systems must be in place to engage key sectors such as education, draw upon the energy and expertise of civil society, recognize the complementary role that the public, the private sector and social marketing programs can play, and to meaningfully engage young people.

Some countries have shown us that this can be done. Over a 15-year period, employing a multi-component program including active contraceptive promotion, England has reduced teenage pregnancy by over 50%. This decline has occurred in every single district of the country.

Ethiopia is another outstanding example. Civil war and famine in the mid-1980s had catastrophic effects on the country. However, over a 12 year-period, with an ambitious basic health worker program, Ethiopia has increased contraceptive use in married adolescents from 5% to nearly 30% . It has also halved the rate of child marriage and female genital mutilation, although this decline is more marked in some provinces than in others. These countries have shown that with good leadership and strong management progress is possible.

There will be logistic and social challenges in moving forward. Understanding and overcoming them will require leadership and good management, which is why a strong and sustained focus on implementation must be combined with monitoring and program reviews to generate data that could be used in quick learning cycles to shape and reshape policies and programs.

There is likely to be backlash from those that oppose our efforts to provide adolescents with contraceptive information and services, and to empower them to take charge of their lives. We must do our best to bring these individuals and organizations on board. But we must not be silenced or stopped. We must stand our ground and we must prevail. We owe that to the world’s adolescents.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Things Bisexual People Are Tired of Hearing

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It’s NOT a phase.

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It has been almost two years since I came out as bisexual, and I have never been happier. My bi identity is incredibly important to me and I can honestly say that I would not change my sexual orientation even if I did have the choice. As much as I love being bi, there are still rough days. Like all identities within the LGBTQ+ community, being bi comes with plenty of annoying misconceptions that I’d rather ignore, but still we have to talk about these misconceptions in order to spread awareness that they are not only inaccurate, but also hurtful. Here are 8 misconceptions that bisexuals are tired of hearing.

Being bisexual means that you are half gay and half straight.

I get that this probably seems very logical to a person who is not attracted to people of multiple gender identities, but this is just not correct. You can be half Polish and half Irish. You can be a half sibling. You cannot be half of one sexual orientation and half of another. That’s not how this works. Bisexuality is not a combination of two sexualities; someone who is bi is whole in their identity. Saying otherwise invalidates their sexuality. As Berly R., who is a college senior, tells Teen Vogue, “it’s frustrating that there always has to be a line to that heterosexuality. I am bisexual, meaning that I am 100% bisexual.”

You have straight sex when you’re with someone of the opposite gender and you have gay sex with someone of the same gender.

Um, no. Incorrect. This statement is insinuating that a bi person’s sexuality changes based on who they’re sleeping with. It doesn’t. While sexuality is fluid and could potentially change over time, it doesn’t suddenly change based on the gender of the person you are having sex with. I am bi when I sleep with a girl, a boy, someone who is agender, someone who is gender nonconforming, etc. This statement is also insinuating that there are two genders, which is incorrect. But I will address this in the next statement.

Bisexuality is not an inclusive sexual identity.

When people hear the prefix “bi,” they automatically assume it means that the person is only attracted to men and women. While that may have been the original definition of the sexual orientation, times have changed and people understand that there are more than two genders. Today, many people define bisexuality as being attracted to people of similar gender identities to theirs and gender identities that are different than theirs. There are many gender identities out there and a bi person can choose to date someone who identifies with any of them. “Those who say it’s not inclusive are stuck on an outdated definition”, college sophomore Catie P. tells Teen Vogue. If you want a quality definition of bisexuality, check out Robyn Ochs’ definition of the term. She is an amazing bi activist who knows what she is talking about.

People who are bisexual only identify that way because they are greedy.

I have never understood this misconception. I mean, yes, I’m sure there are plenty of greedy bisexuals out there. But, I am positive that there are also plenty of straight people who are greedy, too. The two are unrelated. The label we each choose to use to describe our attractions to people does not inherently dictate that we want to engage in more sex. Our label just describes the people we are attracted to; that’s it. But if bisexual people want to engage in more sex, that’s our choice too.

In itself, the term “greedy” is problematic. People can choose how much sex they have, and whether it’s more or less than other people doesn’t say anything about them. Having sex with people doesn’t make someone of any orientation “greedy.”

Bisexuals are more likely to cheat.

ANYONE can cheat on their significant other(s); straight people can, gay people can, pansexual people can. You get the picture. My attraction to people of multiple gender identities does not make me more likely to cheat. With that logic, then people who do not identify as bisexual would never cheat, because the decision to cheat on your partner(s) would boil down to being bi. Obviously that is not true because I know multiple people who are not bisexual and have cheated on their significant other. College sophomore Kate S. tells Teen Vogue that she especially hates this stereotype because “you get [hate] from both sides… Lesbians are worried you’ll cheat because you miss guys, and guys are thinking that they need to be twice as overprotective and controlling because both guys and girls could ‘steal’ you away.” You cheat because you make the choice to do so, end of story.

All bisexuals are into polyamorous relationships.

Nope, not even close. While there are many bisexuals who are involved or would be willing to be involved in a polyamorous relationship, there are also many bisexuals who do not wish to be in a polyamorous relationship. I am one of them. The type of relationship setting someone is looking for is not dictated by who they are attracted to.

You are only bisexual if you have dated all of the different gender identities you are attracted to.

No, no, no, and no. Just no. Is a person any less gay if they have never dated someone of the same gender? Is a person any less straight if they haven’t dated anyone at all? This statement is born out of ignorance, plain and simple. A person knows who they are attracted to, regardless of who they choose to date in the end. For example, I have been attracted to multiple nonbinary people over the years. It just so happens that I never had the opportunity to date any of them. I still knew I was attracted to them, I just didn’t act on that attraction.

Bisexuality is just a phase.

This misconception is often the most hurtful in comparison to the rest of the ones listed here. Telling someone that their sexual orientation is a phase is invalidating. I have no doubt that there are people who used “bisexual” as their label for a period of time in their life, before moving on to a different label. Still, that’s no less legitimate. For over a decade, I thought I was straight. It was the label I used until I found a different label that better explained the attractions I felt toward other people. As we grow and learn more about sexuality and gender, we are better able to identify exactly how we feel, and that’s OK.

Complete Article HERE!

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