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Name:  ??
Gender: Male
Age: 33
Location: Miami
I have two unrelated questions: 1. I love anal sex but am concerned that as I age I run the risk of eventually becoming incontinent due to the sexual activity down there. Is white_sneakersthis a valid concern or will my sphincter remain tight enough to hold everything in? I’ve read conflicting opinions. 2. My boyfriend likes the twinks. We’ve been together for about four years and even though I’m only a year younger (he‚s 35), part of the reason he’s attracted to me is my youthful appearance. We have a wonderful relationship — supportive and loving and the sex is great! We even have a semi-open relationship, which is working fine for us so far. However, I’m concerned that at some point he may try something with someone under 18. He enjoys visiting those Barely Legal type porn sites (which hold no interest for me and look illegal). I’ve discussed my concerns with him, and he says I have nothing to worry about because he’d never do anything. But on the other hand, he’s not the most disciplined person in the world. I’m worried that if the opportunity presented itself he wouldn’t be able to resist. If that happened, it would then present emotional and moral problems not to mention legal issues not just for him but (I’m assuming) for me as well. I guess
I’m not sure what my question is. I know the gay community (and really the world) is obsessed with youth, but does this sound like more than that?  Do I have a legitimate concern, or am I being a prude? Obviously you don’t know my boyfriend, but I can’t discern if he just enjoys the fantasy of a younger man/boy or if this could become a problem. If it’s just a fantasy then I have no problem letting him have his fun. Heck, he can fuck all the 20 year olds he wants as far as I’m concerned. (Maybe this stems from my insecurity of growing older even though he insists he will love me even when I’m old and grey). But, if this is more than a fantasy then what do I do?
Thanks, Dr. Dick! Your faithful reader

Let’s address your two concerns in turn.  First, regarding your ass sex question.  Your typical butt-pirate has nothing to worry about in terms of becoming incontinent.  However, you oughta do what every power bottom does to stay in tip-top shape down there — Kegel exercises.

Don’t know kegel exercises from a hole in your head?  Not to worry.  I’ve written and spoken so much about this timely topic, whicht applies to both men and women, I barely have the energy to repeat myself.  So I won’t!

All ya gotta do is use the SEARCH function in the sidebar to your right.  Simply type in the keyword “kegels” and PRESTO!  Just like magic, all my posting and podcasts that include that topic are displayed.  You can read and listen till your heart’s content.

To your other concern, the one about your BF’s interest in the barely-legal crowd; there’s not much you can do about this one way or another.  Most of the adult people I know who have a thing for the young ones keep it on a purely fantasy level.  Those who stray off the daydream path and onto a course of actual pursuit find themselves in all kinds of jeopardy.  Not lest of which is the ridiculous nature of the quest.  Sounds to me like your BF already knows all of this.  But if he doesn’t, it’ll be he who pays, not you.

My advice to you is; take him at his word and worry not.

Name: james
Gender: Male
Age: 48
Location: sutton in ashfield
I have large veins that stick out on my testicles are these anything to worry about

Some guys have smooth balls; some guys have hairy balls; some guys have veiny balls and some guy’s balls are all shriveled up. That’s all balls_uncutthere is to it.

As we age some of us develop varicose veins in our lower extremities.  It’s the force of gravity, don’t cha know.  Varicose veins can occur in our nut sack too.  Sometimes this is associated with wearing a too tight cockring for too long a time.  But it is just as likely to be an issue of genetics.  Not much you can do about it and there is no real danger.

If you aren’t experiencing any discomfort in your family jewels, things are probably ok and I wouldn’t worry.  However, if you are anxious about this, or there is soreness or tenderness or you have other concerns; take your huevos to an MD and have ‘em checked out.  Simple as all that!

Name: Marcus
Gender: Male
Age: 47
Location: Southeast US
I am intrigued by nipple suction pumps, but cannot find much information about their effectiveness on guys. How long do your nipples stay enlarged? Is there any risk or danger in using one of these contraptions? Thanks for any help/direction you can give!

Nipple play is fun for both women and men.  There are several ways of enlarging one’s nipples.  There are low-tech suction devices, metal stretchers and the more high-tech vacuum devices.  All of these systems are very popular.  Have a look in My Stockroom for some examples.  Just search the site using the key word “nipple”.

1 2 5 8 7 6

Wireless Vibrating Nipple Clamps (D120) $32.00
Tit Tuggers (C656) $125.00
The Titilizer (A237) $16.50
10-Piece Cupping Set (B264) $57.00
Snake Bite Kit (A300) $8.00
Nipple Suction Device (B092) $18.00

If you are a casual tit-torturer your nipples will stay enlarged for a few hours.  If you are a hardcore tit-torturer you can completely and permanently alter the look of your nipples.  Is there a risk or is there danger?  Not unless you overdo it.

Name: Tara
Gender: Female
Age: 25
Location: Hoboken, NJ
I got this cute guy friend who’s asked if he can come on my vacation to Bangor, Maine (Stephen King’s home!). So I asked this guy, who’s single, if he wants one bed or two. He said it didn’t matter, so I booked one bed at the hotel. Does this mean he wants to have sex with me? I’m dumping down a ton of money, so I hope so!

How the hell should I know?  He could be hot to get in your pants, or he might simply need an all expense paid holiday.

Why not just ask him.  What’s with the coy routine?  Of course, you could do like the hippies used to do and tell your cute guy friend — “Ass, gas or grass!  No one rides for free.”

gasgrassass

Hi, I have a question that I can not ask anyone else so I found your web site and would really appreciate your advice. Ok, so when I have sex sometimes instead of cuming when I have an orgasm, I pee. Sometimes I do cum though. But when it feels really good and I release, I release pee instead of cum. I just want to know if this happens to other people, and why this happens. And can I fix this. What can I do to make this not happen? I don’t like it happening. I feel bad for my boyfriend who has to have pee on his penis. Please, please, please take the time to reply to me. Thank you for your time. Have a great day.
—   Anonymous.

Are you sure that what you are experiencing is pee?  Could it possibly be that you are ejaculating?  For a good deal of information on this, check out the site called The Clitoris.

Of course, lots of women feel like they have to pee when they cum.  In fact, lots of women actually do pee as they cum.

If indeed you are peeing when you cum, I’d say you are experiencing what we in the business call — stress incontinence.

Stress incontinence can happen just about any time.  Anxiety, stress, working out, jogging, fucking crreampie1can all trigger this type of incontinence.

Curiously enough, research shows that younger women actually have more stress incontinence during sex than do older women.  While only 3% of women over age 65 reported incontinence during sexual activity, 29% of women under age 60 did.

Regardless of the cause of the stress incontinence — nervousness, exercise or sex there is one common denominator.  It’s always related to the strength of a woman’s pelvic floor muscles. The weaker those muscles are, the more likely a woman will leak pee during physical exercise, fucking, sneezing or even laughing.

While many women experience stress incontinence from time to time, there’s a relatively simple solution to the problem. Your pelvic muscles and the tissues surrounding them get stretched out and damaged with time.  Pregnancies will also do a number on these muscles.  They also weaken with age.  And if you are overweight, well that will weaken pelvic floor muscles too as well as add to the likelihood of stress incontinence.

So you might be asking right about now, what IS this simple solution?  Why, it’s Kegel exercises, of course.  (See my response to the first correspondent above.)

Good luck ya’ll

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TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

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Today, I will start with a declaration. A “Thus Sayth Doctor Dick,” sorta deal. I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I reject the concept of sex addiction, that is floating around in the popular culture these days. I know this will rankle a bunch of you, but you need to get over it. Ya see, there ain’t no such thing as a sex addiction. Period!

That being said, I hasten to add that there are sexual compulsions, plenty of ‘em. However, compulsions are not addictions and addictions, while they may involve irresistible impulses, are not the same thing as compulsions. Get it? Got it? Good!

Check it out. With the help of my handy-dandy dictionary, a good place to start in all such discussions, I discovered these two very distinct definitions.

Addiction — a need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. Broadly: persistent use of a substance known by the user to be harmful. A state of physiological and psychological dependence on a drug.

Compulsive — driven by an irresistible inner force to do something; i.e. a compulsive liar.See! Different words. Different meanings. Not a particularly complex notion to grasp, right?

And listen, just because a bunch of pseudo-intelligent afternoon talks show hosts banter the two concepts about like they were interchangeable doesn’t make it so. In fact, we do ourselves a huge disservice by jumbling these two very specific concepts. Because finding the proper intervention for either an addiction or a compulsive behavior will be as specific as the problem itself. One thing is for certain; misidentifying one of the things, as the other will surly complicate the problem solving. It’s kinda like going to the doctor with a headache, and when the doc asks where it hurts, you point to your stomach. It simply won’t do.

Dear Dr. Dick, I’ve been married for 5 years now and truly love my wife, however I can never seem to get enough sex. I am 30 and she’s 29, but I constantly find myself in the chat rooms and porn sites lookin for more sex. It’s more than just a hobby; it’s a habit! And if I have a few cocktails in me, and that happens more and more, I really can’t stop myself. I once lost a job once because I used the work computer to search the web for sex. It’s like I’m addicted to sex. My wife knows I have played around (we even did a 3-way once and it was totally hot) but she has no idea how extreme it’s become. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m not unhappy with my wife. I just can’t seem to stop wanting sex. Any suggestions?   — Brian

Dear Brian,

You got it bad, and that ain’t good!porn.jpg

It’s interesting to note that you tell me about your compulsive sexual behavior in the same breath that you claim to love your wife. Love and sex are two very different things. And as you’ve probably guessed already, there’s no necessary connection between the two. Sometimes they go together, but not always. So it is possible to love someone dearly and deeply, but still be consumed with pursuing sex with others.

It appears to me that you’ve really got two problems happening simultaneously. First, your compulsive prowling of the internet for sex. (This is complicated by your alcohol abuse.) Second, the deception you’re practicing on your wife. Let’s deal with each of these in turn.

Your particular sexual activity, like any compulsive behavior (over eating, excessive shopping, etc.), is more than just a bad habit. It’s a serious dysfunction. Take it from me, breaking this behavior pattern will be very difficult, if not impossible, without some professional help. If the problem is as serious as you say, then you’d better seek help right away. This sort of thing, if left untreated, will not only destroy your marriage; it will ruin your life. When you seek professional help, I encourage you to include information about your alcohol consumption. If there is an addiction in all of this, it’s the alcohol, not the sex. And in your case, your (alcohol) addiction may be fueling your (sex) compulsion.

Look for a sex-positive therapist, someone who has experience working with other people similarly challenged. A support group may also be an option. Since you’re not alone in this, there is probably a group already meeting in where you live. You’ll need to do some legwork to uncover these resources, but I promise you it will be well worth your effort.

Now, regarding your relationship. It’s imperative that you come clean with your wife about your (sex) compulsion and probable (alcohol) addiction. Not only will you feel better not having to deceive her anymore, but you’ll also need her support in overcoming these problems. I suggest that you attend to this right away. There’s not a moment to lose.

Good luck

Hey doc! I think I’m addicted to having sex on the internet. I haven’t told my partner. Do you think this is a form of cheating or is it just harmless fun? I like getting off with guys in chat rooms and with my webcam. I feel guilty about it so I guess this tells me something!— Luke

Dear Luke,

You’re having what is commonly known as cyber sex, right? If that’s a good call on myfingering.jpg part, I don’t consider it a form of “cheating” on your partner, any more than I would consider jerking off to porn to be cheating. (We’ll address this notion of cheating in a later column.)

However, your feelings of guilt are another thing all together. They tell me that you are not at peace with your sexual practices. Maybe you need to take a look at this. Are your cyber pursuits a serious concern? Do you squander your sexual energy on cyber sex, instead of sharing it with your partner? Only you can determine this for sure. I can assure you that the guilt feelings will continue to plague you until you dump the sexual practices that are hurtful to you and those you love, and integrate healthier ones in their place.

Good luck

Hi Dr. Dick, My boyfriend cheats on me. Every time he does he begs me for forgiveness. I think ok, but don’t do that again. I love him, but I hate feeling bad all the time. I feel stupid putting up with all of this, but I can’t leave him. I still love him. Please give me some advice. Thank You. Hope to here from you soon, Denise

Dear Denise,cunny_illus.jpg

Before we turn our attention to your boyfriend, let me make a quick observation about you, Denise. You’re a mess, girl! I mean really, take a long hard look at yourself, you’re a freakin’ doormat! How’s the BF supposed to respect you when you have no respect for yourself? How can you say that you love a person that makes you feel bad? You are deceiving yourself, girlfriend, cuz LOVE don’t ever make you feel bad.

As screwed up as your BF is, and he is pretty fucked up, he is just part of the problem. You’ve got some obsession issues yourself that you need to address.Your boyfriend probably has you pegged as a pussy…and not in a good way. He knows you will tolerate his misbehavior, which of course gives him permission to do whatever he feels like doing whenever he feel like doing it. If you’re really serious about reining in the bastard, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate. Until you do precisely that he’ll just think that he can roam wherever he wants and whenever he wants.

There are root causes for his behavior, just like there is a root cause for your behavior. To get to the bottom of all of this each of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy with a therapist. One can only hope that there’s a bank of goodwill between the two of you, enough to carry the day. However, if I had to guess, I’d say there was a slim to no chance for that, right? If so, I advise you throw the bum out. And no more relationships for you till you get your head screwed on tighter.

Good Luck

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Looking for a Pro(vider)

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Name: Gabe
Gender: Male
Age: 32
Location: Salt Lake City
I travel a lot for work and often get really lonely on long trips. I’m not much for going to bars, because I don’t drink. And the idea of looking for sex in a bathhouse or sex club, or worse in the bushes, really puts me off. Lately I’ve been thinking I should just hire an escort, but I wouldn’t even know how to begin. This must be a pretty common phenomenon though because I see tons of ads for escorts on line in every city I go to. Any suggestions on how someone new at this might proceed?

Sure darlin’, I have lots of suggestions. I presume you’ve ordered out for food on occasion while you were traveling for business, right? Finding a satisfying “order out” sexual adventure is not fundamentally different than that. In the case of an escort, the commodities are charming company, erotic massage, and a little sex play, instead of Potstickers, Moo shu pork, or Kung Pao Chicken.

As you know, not all order out is created equal. There is bad food and unsavory escorts. So you’re gonna need to do some homework. You already know there are loads of escort or rent-boy sites on the net. There are also several review sites, where customers of the provider leave their comments regarding their levels of satisfaction and the like. Most escorts out there, particularly the really good ones, immediately call your attention to the review they receive. This is a good policy for both provider and consumer alike. It’s like having the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval stamped on your ass.

I have a sense that some of my readers are turning up their nose at this discussion. I often hear from folks that they don’t have to PAY for sex. Oh yeah? Here’s the thing, sex fans; no sex is free. You may not be directly commerce-ing in hard cold cash, but there’s a commercial aspect to all sex…even, or maybe I should say, especially in marriage. So if we could skip the moral high-horse thing, right about now, I’d appreciate it.

Ok, so now that we have that out of the way, we can get back to your question, Gabe. Once you’ve decided to proceed, start by interviewing a few working boys. This can initially be done vie email. Ask for further information about his services and rates. Many escorts have plenty more photos of themselves available to be sent to prospective clients, so you might respectfully request those. If at all possible, include a photo of yourself, or at the very least an accurate description of yourself.

In all communication with the service provider, NEVER suggest that you are offering money for sex, in most jurisdictions that’s against the law. While we all know that the client hopes to get some sex action in the encounter, the money exchanged is not for the sex, but for the provider’s time, company and expertise. This may sound like splitting hairs. But in this arrangement, if sex actually happens, consenting adults are mutually agreeing to it during the time they’ve arranged to be together. Curiously enough, many of the sex professionals I know, and I know a lot of ‘em, tell me that a sizable portion of their clientele only want their company and companionship. Outright sex never enters the equation.

Finding the right escort for you, on any given occasion, is your task. Know what you want and know how to ask for it. Don’t waste your time or that of the provider by beating around the bush. If you are new at this, say so. The rentboy, if he’s any good at all, will be familiar with this territory and help you though the initial conversation. There are different levels of pros out there; each will have his own fee structure for services provided. If you’re looking for something kinky, be ready to pay lots more. Never try to bargain with the provider. If he’s out of your price range, move along. Or you could simply come right out with it and say, Listen, I have X amount of money to spend and I’m looking for some delightful company. Are you available? This way you let the provider decide if he has the time to spare at the discounted rate. You’d be a fool not to insist on safe-sex, but there’s a shit-load of fools out there.

Not all prostitutes are prostitutes because they want to. Some are supporting a drug habit, some are working their way though college. For some it’s survival sex. For others it’s acting out behavior. But most guys turn pro because they’re good at what they do. And most enjoy the accompanying lifestyle. The truly successful provider will have a string of regulars, men they have a somewhat more intimate connection with. Kinda like finding a great Chinese restaurant and becoming a regular there. The proprietor might just offer you something not on the menu as a way of acknowledging your preferred customer status. Get it?

Some Johns, use the service of an agency. Sometimes that can be a more reliable way to go at first. However, I am of the mind that the hard-working independent entrepreneur is best.

When arranging an outcall to your hotel, there may be an additional surcharge for traveling time and cost — think gas prices. This should be agreed upon before the deal is struck.

Most independent escorts offer both in calls and outcalls. They usually work out of their home or apartment and many of these escorts have day jobs. Some independent escorts also work in the porn industry. If this suits your tastes, you will definitely pay a premium for a date with a star.

You’ll also find among the independent providers that unique phenomenon — Gay For Pay. These guys are ostensibly “straight”…and I put that word in quotes and use it very lightly. GFP guys will have gay sex with gay men for money. In the old days, we used to refer to them as trade. And like we in the business say, “today’s trade is tomorrow’s competition;” if you catch my drift.

At any rate, like I said at the beginning, a wise and informed consumer is happy and satisfied consumer.

Good Luck

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Why Sex Education for Disabled People Is So Important

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

 

By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People with disabilities are not automatically asexual.

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

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

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

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

Internet safety matters, too.

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

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

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

Understanding what kinds of sexual protection to use.

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

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

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

Body image matters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding power dynamics and consent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The portrayal of disabled bodies matters.

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

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

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

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LGBTQ kids are missing out on sex education—and it’s up to schools to change that

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Last year, California officially mandated LGBTQ history lessons in public schools, vowing to teach “the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans” and their impact on both the state’s and the country’s history.

This was a victory for LGBTQ rights, because it’s a rarity; in most states—in all but nine to be exact—schools don’t even cover LGBTQ sexuality, let alone queer history.

When surveyed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), only 12 percent of millennials said they received sexual education material that covered sex between gay partners—even though 20 percent of millennials consider themselves LGBTQ. American sex ed is “primarily or exclusively focused on heterosexual relationships between cisgender people,” according to a different study conducted by Planned Parenthood and the HRC.

This hetero-specific focus creates a multitude of problems for all young people sorting through their anxieties and questions about sex and sexuality. For one, straight students aren’t being forced to acknowledge other sexualities, which can foster bullying and promote a culture of intolerance. For another, a lack of school discussion means most LGBTQ students are being inadvertently told to stay in the closet. And with that messaging, there is the shame and hiding, and then there are the health risks.

Proper safe-sex education is important for all students, and LGBTQ people are no exception: 22 percent of all transgender women are HIV positive, and queer men face a higher risk of contact with HIV or a sexually transmitted disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While ignoring queer students may not be a new phenomenon, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be remedied. And perhaps school districts can start by listening to the stories of queer people who have gone through the country’s lackluster sexual education systems. Through them, activists can learn how to fix such a massive gap in sex education.

This is what the queer sex ed gap looks like

Larissa Glasser, a librarian and writer living in Massachusetts, grew up in the 1980s, an era whose approach to sex ed was based in fear and simple authoritarian phrases like “Don’t do it.” Glasser, whose transgender, obviously couldn’t rely on schools to teach her about queer life.

“I was in public school until fifth grade and we had no sex education whatsoever,” she told the Daily Dot. “This was during the Reagan presidency, so all we ever heard about sex was AIDS as a scare tactic to be abstinent.”

Very little accurate information existed about transgender women outside of schools. Glasser was only exposed to trans people through filmmakers like John Waters and Ralph Bakshi.

“Finally, during the 1990s, trans issues were addressed somewhat respectfully in about 10 percent of the films I saw,” Glasser said. “Then I discovered writers like Jean Genet, Angela Carter, and Hubert Selby Jr., who were willing to portray queer femme sexuality in a somewhat positive light.”

Glasser’s experiences mirror many other LGBTQ students’ struggles. Sophie Searcy grew up miles away in Kentucky during the ’90s and 2000s, attending Catholic school all the way through high school, and she too had virtually no experience with LGBTQ education. Queer and trans sexuality just wasn’t discussed.

“The Catholic system I belonged to had a program called ‘family life,’ which was a religious health and sex education program,” Searcy told the Daily Dot. “Very basic facts about anatomy and puberty were explained in gender-separated rooms. There was no mention of safer sex methods, navigating consent, or any LGBTQ issues whatsoever.”

Searcy knew early on that her church wasn’t LGBTQ-inclusive. But looking back on those early years, she realized that queer people were treated as if they simply didn’t exist at all.

“The class explained sex as exclusively between a man and a woman, as if only heterosexual orientations existed,” Searcy said. “Similar to how the class erased all non-hetero orientations, the class explained gender, sexual development, and sexual intercourse in a way that didn’t even acknowledge the possibility of trans people. Boys had penises, girls have vaginas, boys develop into men, girls develop into women, etc., etc., etc.”

In particularly conservative areas, sexual education isn’t just biased—what it is lacking can induce violence. LGBTQ activist and writer Sarah Bess grew up in southeast Missouri in the 1990s, and she was repeatedly harassed, bullied, and physically assaulted across school districts.

“I was this awkward, autistic, queer kid from the middle of nowhere, so I got picked on a lot,” Bess explained. “I dropped out in the seventh grade because I was getting beat up so much and my home life sucked and I really didn’t care about school.”

Bess’s classes didn’t provide a respite from the attacks. “Being gay wasn’t really mentioned as a possibility in my sex ed classes. The existence of trans people definitely wasn’t acknowledged. There was a lot of fear-mongering about pregnancy and STIs, and that’s mostly what I remember,” Bess explained. “I don’t remember anyone at school even mentioning trans people. Beyond transphobic Jerry Springer and Maury Povich episodes, I don’t think we were on anyone’s radar.”

In one case, her sex education teacher enabled a physical assault.

“My seventh-grade sex ed class was taught by a gym coach who watched two boys beat the shit out of me after school one day,” Bess said. “He just laughed, got in his car and drove off.”

When anti-LGBTQ sentiments take hold in a school, then queer students live in an ongoing state of fear. This not just impedes their education, it can be debilitating for their growth and self-esteem—and it can separate queer people from one another by forcing them to stay hidden. For someone like Bess, this was extremely alienating.

“I was in my late teens the first time I knowingly talked to another trans woman online,” Bess explained. “I was in my twenties before I knowingly met anyone like me in person.”

For others, sex education classes could have possibly saved their lives. A 2014 report published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the UCLA Williams Institute reveals that suicide attempt rates are particularly high among transgender and gender non-conforming students who face harassment or bullying at school. Through sex education, though, students could have a better understanding of gender transitioning or normalizing queer sexuality. The more that classrooms validate LGBTQ experiences, the more likely students are to treat their fellow classmates with respect.

“Gender was always conflated with assigned sex and body parts,” Searcy said. “It wasn’t that trans people were portrayed as evil or misguided, but that the possibility of being trans was never even acknowledged.”

Then came the internet

So if LGBTQ students aren’t able to learn about their bodies from primary and secondary schools, where do they go for information about queer sexuality? Many turn to the internet.

But the internet is a luxury, one that not everyone is able to access—especially those in previous generations. In Bess’s case, this directly impacted her exposure to trans material.

“I didn’t have consistent internet access for most of my life, so I picked up bits and pieces where and when I could,” she said. “I watched a lot of porn with trans women in it and read a lot of gross forced fem erotica, none of which was very helpful for learning about sex.”

Even when internet access is available, its resources aren’t always helpful. Sometimes they can be damaging.

Shortly after Glasser graduated from library school, she stumbled across a gender transitioning guideline called tsroadmap, also known as “Transsexual & Transgender Road Map.” Glasser felt even worse about herself while using the website, in part because the guide relied on rigid stereotypes and generalizations for trans women. In one case, the site demanded that trans women undergo surgeries in order to properly transition, when many trans people prefer not to undergo permanent surgery.

“It was useful at the time,” she said, “but in hindsight, I think its normativity had a fairly toxic effect on my self-esteem when I was at my most vulnerable point.”

Searcy, on the other hand, saw internet access as a major source for learning more about non-hetero sexuality. Some of her biggest resources for her transitioning were writers who have gained significant prominence thanks to the internet’s impact on the trans community.

“Ultimately, a close friend came out as trans which led me to question my own gender and explore resources on my own,” Searcy said. “Julia Serano and Morgan M Page were particularly helpful, as were Imogen Binnie and Casey Plett.”

So while online resources aren’t exactly perfect, the internet has advanced far enough that it can connect trans and queer people with the online communities they need to learn more about themselves. On Reddit, there are subreddits like /r/asktransgender that let trans people learn about undergoing gender transitioning. Sites like Sites like Keshet and Queer Theology provide resources for religious queer and transgender people. Resources like TJOBBANK host employment listings for LGBTQ folks searching for inclusive workplaces. And services like Discord and Slack allow queer and trans users to create their own closed groups where LGBTQ members can hang out, talk about queer life, or get together and play video games. The internet has changed over time, and that means there are more ways for queer and trans people to meet each other than before.

But it’s unfair to relegate LGBTQ students to the internet for advice, often in secret. It can stall LGBTQ kids from coming out, make trans and queer sexuality feel like a taboo, or send the message that queer and trans life isn’t important enough to understand.

Schools are supposed to provide students with learning opportunities that help young kids grow into productive adults. That’s why third graders learn basic reading comprehension skills, and high schools teach American history (albeit often from a very straight, white, male perspective), and middle schoolers get a whole class dedicated to sex and their bodies—so they can go out into the world informed and prepared.

But if schools leave out LGBTQ sexuality and force queer students to learn on their own time, then those schools are failing at their jobs. Why must the burden be on LGBTQ youth to educate themselves?

The solutions that exist

Casey Plett, author of A Safe Girl to Love, lived in an upper-middle class suburb in Oregon during her high school years. At the time, she enrolled in an “internationally-focused hippie-ish sub-program” that seemed more like “actual sex ed taught by Planned Parenthood.” And yet like Glasser and Searcy, she says, “I cannot recall LGBTQ issues ever coming up. Negatively or positively.”

And as for trans issues? “Ha,” she told the Daily Dot. “No. Zero.”

This was in 2001. But she recognizes things have changed since then. LGBTQ equality has become more mainstream, trans rights have entered the news cycle, and queer sex ed has turned into a serious activist rallying point. Today, she thinks there’s solutions that school districts can take to bring LGBTQ education to kids, instead of forcing them to turn to the internet. That is, if they’re willing to put in the effort.

“There are plenty of gay sexual health resources out there,” Plett said. “I’d get a hold of them, pay them to come, and let them take the wheel. And be open and loving and willing to learn.”

Plett is right. Today, many local LGBTQ organizations host workshops for queer youth, providing the resources students need to learn more about their sexuality. Long Island’s Pride for Youth, for example, facilitates workshops on fighting transphobia and working with LGBTQ youth. Other community centers, such as New York City’s Apicha Community Health Center and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, provide training segments for educators, giving them the skills they need to teach LGBTQ-inclusive material in classrooms. And in recent years, Planned Parenthood has both criticized the lack of LGBTQ sex education in public schools, and begun taking a more LGBTQ-inclusive approach to sex education.

Gender therapists and counselors traditionally host workshops for teens as well, allowing them to explore LGBTQ topics in an affirming environment. And programs like the GSA Network even give students the training they need to host workshops and class sessions that can debunk damaging myths about the queer community.

For those who don’t live in “gay-friendly” metropolitan areas, there are also online resources available for classrooms. TED hosts a variety of TED Talks covering LGBTQ issues, from coming out to helping transgender teens. And many educators host lesson plans and teach-ins that are available for free online, allowing students to engage in queer sex education topics through a vetted workshop environment.

These programs and groups normalize LGBTQ sexuality. Workshops talk frankly and openly about what it means to have sex as a gay or transgender person and provide safe sex education to prevent STIs. They also give educators the training they need not just to respect queer students, but to include LGBTQ topics in future lesson plans. If school districts aren’t sure how to approach queer sexuality, here is where they can start.

“It would have been incredible for me to hear the simple facts that sex is complicated and messy but that there are a few universals that we should consider (consent, safer methods, exploration),” Searcy explained, “or that gender is independent of assigned sex and that it might be helpful to consider if my assigned sex did not fit.”

That’s something echoed by Bess, who knows all too well that many school districts are still avoiding LGBTQ topics in their entirety. She insists that the federal government should take a more active role in protecting LGBTQ youth, especially in areas where people are particularly bigoted toward queer students. Many school districts simply aren’t evolving anywhere near the rate of young people’s attitudes toward sexuality.

“It’s been awhile since I was in school, but it doesn’t seem like things are much better now in the places I grew up,” she explained. “Federal intervention is absolutely necessary to protect queer and trans students and educators, especially in rural school districts.”

Safety is where educators need to start if they want to facilitate an open, tolerant conversation about sex and sexuality. With transgender students under attack through outrageous “bathroom bills” across the U.S. and the Trump administration officially rescinding any federal guidelines for protecting trans youth, state and federal intervention is more important than ever.

For example, in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo officially outlawed all forms of discrimination against transgender people in 2015. Discriminatory fines for “willful, wanton or malicious” discrimination is up to $100,000. Massachusetts offers the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a joint initiative that provides training for school administrators on queer topics and gives students the tools they need to become activists in their school settings.

Fostering change and giving schools a legal incentive to end discrimination is important. Seeing how 42 percent of all queer youth feel their community is not accepting of LGBTQ people, promoting tolerance and opening constructive discussion are the keys to getting there.

Schools teach basic sex education for a reason: Most adults will have sex, and the repercussions of sex are often far-reaching and far-ranging and can be life-changing. But if sex education doesn’t address the current population and the culture, then it’s time for administrators to recognize they’re doing youth a disservice. Making things right could actually save lives.

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