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This App Could Bring Sex Ed To All Students

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Real Talk helps middle schoolers access reliable sex ed information using storytelling, regardless of whether they have internet at home

By Emily Matchar

It was a long way from Princeton. After graduating from the Ivy League school, Vichi Jagannathan and Liz Chen both wanted to give back by teaching. So they joined Teach for America, the program that places talented graduates in low-income schools around the country. They found themselves placed in adjacent classrooms in a high school in rural Eastern North Carolina.

Here, Jagannathan and Chen both had the experience of seeing students struggle with unplanned pregnancies at as young as 15 or 16. They wondered why: was it a lack of health education? Could something be done about it?

“Vichi and I talked to students and realized that health was not a huge priority in the school; it came second to physical education,” says Chen, who is now in a PhD program in health behavior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

There were health classes, but teachers didn’t necessarily have good resources like prepared lesson plans and PowerPoints to use. And even when the teachers in the area did have resources, they often felt ill at ease discussing certain aspects of sex and sexuality openly.

“Some of them didn’t feel comfortable answering questions, or discussing topics, potentially because of their religious affiliation,” Chen says.

So Chen and Jagannathan—and later a third woman, Cristina Leos—decided to create a resource that could speak directly to students. That tool became Real Talk, a sexual education app that uses real teenagers’ stories to address questions about sex, puberty, gender, relationships and more. The project has received a $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health, and an additional $25,000 in funding from a student entrepreneurship prize at Yale, where Jagannathan is completing an MBA.

While the app was originally intended for high schoolers, the women realized that many of the teens they were talking to began having sex before 9th grade. So they decided to target the app to middle schoolers instead. To design Real Talk, they spoke with more than 300 students in North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut and elsewhere, conducting long interviews, doing group sessions, and soliciting real life stories about the kind of things most people, teens and adults alike, feel awkward talking about. Not surprisingly, they found that, even in schools with comprehensive sex ed, students still had questions.

“We got the sense that not all of them are comfortable talking about the topic of sex ed in school, which could be for a number of reasons—they’re around their peers, they don’t want other people to know their questions,” Jagannathan says.

They also realized that it was important that students feel the source of information was credible—and to them, that often meant it came from a peer who had been through an experience themselves. They also wanted that story to be written in an authentic way, which meant plenty of slang and emojis. Teenagers, for instance, often use fruit and vegetable symbols to represent genitalia, a fact perhaps not known to most adults.

“Once we started developing the idea of sharing experiences, we learned that stories are a really engaging way to get middle school students to listen and be curious,” says Leos, who is in the same PhD program as Chen. “There’s a lot of development science research that shows that facts and statistics are pretty difficult for teen brains to recall, particularly when they’re in situations of high emotional arousal. But stories are easier to recall.”

Using the app, teens can select their topic of interest and read a text interaction between real teens dicussing the subject at hand—acne, say, or wet dreams. The story will link to factual information from reliable sources, so teens can learn more.

The team says many of the students they interviewed were actually less interested in traditional sex ed topics like pregnancy and how to avoid STIs, and were more interested in puberty and hearing about other peoples’ experiences with things like embarrassingly timed erections.

Students were also “surprisingly both comfortable with and interested in speaking about gender identity and gender fluidity,” Jagannathan says. They wanted to have the option to read stories from real teens of various genders, including genders beyond the traditional male/female binary.

“It’s been refreshing and very surprising to have that pressure from our users,” Jagannathan says.

Some of the stories featured on the app are from students that Chen, Jagannathan and Leos met in person, but many came from an ad placed on Instagram asking for teens to share about their sexual health questions and experiences. The team plans to use Instagram as a key part of their marketing strategy for the app, which they hope to have in iTunes by early next year.

“Over 90 percent of the teens we worked with check Instagram every single day,” Jagannathan says.

The team also plans to offer Real Talk to sex ed teachers and other educators, who can share it with students. While there’s no lack of high quality sex ed websites aimed at teens, the team hopes having an app will make the information more accessible to rural students and students of color, some of whom may not have reliable internet access at home. They can use their school’s wifi to get the app, which comes with some stories loaded to be read without an internet connection. While it’s not the only sexual health app for teens on the market, its storytelling format gives it a unique edge.

Real Talk’s founders plan to assess the app’s efficacy by looking to see if using it makes teens more likely to understand various sexual health topics, or if it makes them more likely to speak openly with trusted adults about these topics. Ultimately they would like the app to have real-world effects such as reducing the teen pregnancy rate.

Teen pregnancy rates have been declining for some 20 years—in 2014, there were fewer than 25 births for every 1,000 females between 15 and 19, a decline of 9 percent from the previous year. Interventions like Real Talk can help ensure that rate stays low, or perhaps drops even further, said the judges who awarded the team the government grant.

“These interventions will help ensure that this important national success story continues,” said Lawrence Swiader, vice president of digital media at The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in a press release.

But reducing teen pregnancy is not the only important thing. Learning about sex and relationships can potentially teach a number of self-care and interpersonal skills too.

“Since we’re focusing on such a young age group, really one of the best things for us is to help middle school students develop some foundational skills that will improve a variety of other behaviors and outcomes,” Leos says.

Complete Article HERE!

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The New Gay Sexual Revolution

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PrEP, TasP, and fearless sex remind us we can’t advance social justice without including sex in the equation.

By Jacob Anderson-Minshall

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s came to an abrupt and brutal end for many gay and bi men the moment AIDS was traced to sexual contact. In the early days of the epidemic, sex between men was equated with AIDS, not just in the mainstream media, but also in prevention efforts by other gay men. Since AIDS in those days was seen as a death sentence, for men who had sex with men, every sexual interaction carried the risk of death. Indeed, tens of thousands died of AIDS-related conditions.

“I was alive when homosexuality was [still] considered to be a psychological illness,” David Russell, pop star Sia’s manager, recently told Plus magazine. “The two generations ahead of mine, and a good portion of my generation, were completely decimated by AIDS. They’re gone.”

While some men with HIV outlasted all predictions and became long-term survivors, the widespread adoption of condoms is credited with dramatically reducing HIV transmissions among gay and bi men in subsequent years. Yet reliance on nothing but that layer of silicone — a barrier some complain prevents true intimacy and pleasure — couldn’t erase the gnawing dread gay men felt that every sexual encounter could be the one where HIV caught up to them.

There have been, of course, moments when nearly every gay or bi man has allowed their passions to override their fears and enjoyed the skin-on-skin contact that opposite-sex couples often take for granted. Thinking back on those unbridled and unprotected moments of passion filled many of these men with terror, regret, and guilt.

“Shame and gay sex have a very long history,” acknowledges Alex Garner, senior health and innovation strategist with the gay dating app Hornet. “And it takes much self-reflection — and often therapy — to feel proud and unashamed of our sex when everything around us tells us that it’s dirty, immoral, or illegitimate.”

Since the late 1990s and the advent of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, some of the angst around sex between men faded — and with that came changes in behavior. Condom use, once reliably high among gay and bisexual men, has dropped off in the past two decades. According to a recent study published in the journal AIDS, over 40 percent of HIV-negative and 45 percent of HIV-positive gay and bi men admitted to having condomless sex in 2014. Researchers found the decrease in condom use wasn’t explained by serosorting (choosing only partners believed to have the same HIV status) or antiretroviral drug use. And despite what alarmists say, condom use had been declining long before the introduction of PrEP.

Garner, who has been HIV-positive for over two decades, says he’s almost relieved he acquired the virus at 23, because “My entire adult life I have never had to worry about getting HIV.”

The Rise of PrEP

Now there’s hope the younger generation may also experience worry-free sex lives — without the side effects of living with HIV.

The use of the antiretroviral drug Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (it’s the only medication approved for HIV prevention), has been shown to reduce the chance of HIV transmission to near zero. Since the medication was first approved as PrEP in 2012, only two verified cases of transmission have been documented among those who adhere to the daily schedule (a third, according to HIV expert Howard Grossman, could not be confirmed). New, longer-lasting PrEP injectables should reach market in the next few years. Studies suggest that on-demand PrEP (such as taking it before and after sexual activity) may also be effective.

“This is a revolution!” Gary Cohan, MD, who prescribes PrEP, told us in 2016. “This should be above the fold in The New York Times and on the cover of Time magazine. A pill to prevent HIV?”

Undetectable Equals Untransmittable

Those who are already HIV-positive also have a sure-fire option for preventing the transmission of HIV that doesn’t rely on condoms. It’s called treatment as prevention, or TasP. Those who are poz, take antiretroviral medication, and get their viral load down to an undetectable level, can’t transmit HIV to sexual partners. Last year, The New England Journal of Medicine published the final results of HPTN 052, a study that proved antiretroviral medication alone is enough to prevent HIV transmission among serodiscordant couples. In a Facebook Live interview for AIDS.gov, Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted, “The chance of transmitting [HIV] if you are virally durably suppressed is zero.

Since Dieffenbach’s statement, a number of HIV organizations and medical groups have joined the “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable” bandwagon, including GMHC, APLA Health, and the Latino Commission on AIDS.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of condoms in addition to PrEP or TasP, primarily because neither biomedical approach prevents other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea or syphilis. Still, PrEP and TasP make it safer to have condomless sex — and that could jump-start the new sexual revolution. “When the threat of HIV is removed from sex there is a profound sense of liberation,” Garner says. “Sex can just be about sex.”

One hurdle is PrEP stigma, furthered by the myth of “Truvada whores,” and AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Michael Weinstein’s deliberate efforts to portray the HIV prevention pill as “a party drug.”

“Fear and shame have been ingrained in gay sex for decades,” Garner admits. “And it will take time and a great deal of work to extricate those elements.” But he remains optimistic that “together negative and poz men can shift the culture away from fear and toward liberation.”

He argues that what’s at stake is far more than just a better orgasm.

“Our sexuality is at the core of our humanity,” Garner says. “Our sexuality is as integral to us as our appetite. We can’t advance social justice without including sex. As queer people and as people of color, our bodies have been criminalized, our sexuality has been pathologized, and structures continue to dehumanize us. It’s a radical act of resistance when, as gay men, we choose to find pleasure and intimacy in our sex. Our sex has been, and will continue to be, intensely political. It can change our culture and our politics if we embrace it and run to it instead of away from it.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Unedited Truth About Why You Suck At Relationships, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

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By Erin Cossetta

Aries
(March 21st to April 19th)

You suck at being able to put up with boring.

You’re not naturally interested in commitment until you find someone just as exciting and adventurous as you are. This means that you have a lot of short relationships (or long ones where you’re secretly extremely bored most of the time). You don’t want to slow down and have a huge fear about being tied down to someone who wants you to “settle down”. You’re going to keep sucking at relationships until you meet someone whose version of “growing old” is as exciting as yours.

Taurus
(April 20th to May 21st)

You suck at opening up to people.

You scare people off because you appear to be such an emotionless rock from the outside. Not many people are willing to stick around as long as it takes for you to trust them and open up. You’ve got to give them something that lets them know you’re interested and they should keep trying to get to know you.

Gemini
(May 22nd to June 21st)

You suck at being the adult sometimes.

Geminis live in their own positivity bubble where everything is sunshine and unicorn frappucinos. Relationships require unpleasant work from time to time and when a Gemini fails to realize this, it can make their partner feel alone (which makes them question the viability of the relationship as a whole). You’re going to keep sucking until you find a way to infuse all your passion into the mundane things like relationship maintenance, too.

Cancer
(June 22nd to July 22nd)

You suck at standing up for yourself.

Cancers love love and hate conflict. It’s very hard for them to handle any kind of disharmony, but moments of conflict are necessary for the longterm health of the relationship. Instead, they prefer to sweep issues under the rug and continue to idealize their partner until their emotions explode out of them. You’re going to continue to suck at relationships until you realize that small, unpleasant conversations are better than waiting until the issues are too big to casually discuss.

Leo
(July 23rd to August 22nd)

You suck at trusting people to give you your due.

It’s no secret that Leos love attention and this can often present itself as feeling overlooked or under-appreciated when their love isn’t piling compliments on them. Admit it, you’ve started fights because you think your partner is taking advantage of you. At the beginning of the relationship you need to communicate clearly to your love that you need attention and affection from them to come in the form of concrete words. You’ll both be happier when this expectation is clearly defined.

Virgo
(August 23rd to September 22nd)

You suck at picking the right people.

You view garbage people as a fun project, something for you to challenge yourself with fixing. And then, months later you wonder why you feel more like your bf’s mom than his partner. You’re going to keep sucking at relationships until you force yourself to be vulnerable enough to pick someone who is on equal footing with you.

Libra
(September 23rd to October 22nd)

It’s not that you suck at relationships, it’s that everyone else sucks at relationships.

Seriously. You’re totally out of place in the cold-hearted world of modern dating. You genuinely care about people and want to form relationships with them. You’re not interested in commitment just for the sake of commitment, but it’s hard to find someone who isn’t scared off by wanting something real. You’ll stop sucking when everyone else wises up (or you find another Libra to get with).

Scorpio
(October 23rd to November 22nd)

You suck at letting people know you like them.

People get exhausted by having a crush on a Scorpio because Scorpios never want to be vulnerable enough to return someone’s affection. But this is how good, healthy relationships start. You end up in the same game-playing relationships because you refuse to do this. You’re going to keep sucking at relationships until you humble your ego a little bit and put yourself out there.

Sagittarius
(November 23rd to December 21st)

You suck at taking potential relationships seriously.

Because of your laid back nature, you’ve let healthy relationships slip through your fingers. You prefer to take things as they come, and it can read to others like disinterest. You need to realize that if you meet someone great, they are a rare commodity and worth the occasional stress it will take to lock them down.

Capricorn
(December 22nd to January 20th)

You suck at realizing that everyone has flaws.

Your standards are sky high and you justify it because you’re just as hard on yourself as you are on everyone else. However, you prevent yourself from meeting and dating a lot of really incredible people because they don’t perfectly fit the mold of what you think you want. You’re going to keep sucking at relationships as long as you think love is going to come to you in a cookie cutter form.

Aquarius
(January 21st to February 18th)

You suck at thinking anyone else is on your level.

Intellectually, you don’t think anyone is really on your speed and this is the kind of snobbery other people pick up on. Instead of showing off all the things you know, you need to spend time building bridges and drawing the conversation out of other people. That’s a skill! You can read about it! As soon as you take this as a challenge and put your mind to conversation as a discovery process instead of a sparring match, you’ll be a lot more successful with people.

Pisces
(February 19th to March 20th)

You suck at welcoming people into your world.

Pisces are extremely intimidating people to date, but they never realize this is true about themselves. They think they are warm and open, when in fact they disappear into their own world without inviting their partner in. They’re these unattainable smart dreamy people who don’t ever seem as focused on the relationship as their partner is. You’re going to keep sucking at relationships until you realize perception is reality and the people you date need to see how much you care.

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Oncologists need to discuss sexual issues with patients, says doctor

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Dr. Anne Katz was in Windsor on May 11, 2017, to address Windsor Regional Hospital staff about cancer, intimacy and sexuality.

By Chris Thompson

A Winnipeg doctor who specializes in treating sexual issues with cancer patients is hoping to spread the word about doctors being up front with their patients.

Dr. Anne Katz held an online forum for Windsor Regional Hospital workers about cancer, intimacy and sexuality.

Katz is the author of several books dealing with the issue.

“Really the message is that sexually it is really important for people, for all of us, and I really want to encourage oncology care providers to raise the topic of it with their patients, because when we don’t talk about it, the patients thinks it’s a taboo,” said Katz.

“And 80 per cent of cancer survivors experience sexual difficulty after cancer treatment.”

Katz said doctors should be more willing to bring up sex issues with their cancer patients.

“So it really is something where we have to expose people to having that conversation,” said Katz.

“All cancers, all people, men, women, gay, straight, people recognize things aren’t going right during treatment, but all more commonly sexual problems aren’t recognized until after treatment.”

Katz said many people undergoing cancer treatment don’t realize there is an issue until later.

“Usually people during treatment are really not feeling that well, so it’s kind of on the back burner but it really is a sentinel of survivorship,” Katz said.

“People come to see me and we know certainly that most men who experience prostate cancer are going to experience erectile difficulties, most women with breast cancer often experience body issues, early menopause, or exaggerated menopausal symptoms, people with colorectal cancer have problems.”

Katz said everyone who is experiencing cancer needs to address the issue.

“It really is all cancers,” Katz said. “We’re all sexual beings, literally, from cradle to grave, whether you act on it or not.

“Even if you’re not partnered. It’s so much a part of quality of life for cancer survivors. So it goes away, there are some couples that lose that connectedness, there are some couples that use sex to make up after fights. They are fighting a lot because there is no way to resolve the fights.

“Unless oncology workers can address it and talk about it, patients are very reluctant to bring up the topic.”

Complete Article HERE!

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A ‘Hand’ Book for Male Masturbation

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The new masturbation manifesto and advice manual Better Than the Hand has a bank of spank tips that are hard to beat.

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Every one knows that May is Masturbation Month, but they may not be observing this as an occasion to improve their masturbatory skill set. That’s why it’s a stroke of genius that a new book written by author Magnus Sullivan, Better Than The Hand: How Masturbation is the Key to Better Sex and Healthier Living, was just published, tossing off a toolbox of masturbation techniques and providing meaty tips to extend these practices into partner sex (if you will).

“Even after 22 years of International Masturbation Month, we still find that so many people hold a bias against masturbation,” Good Vibrations staff sexologist Dr. Carol Queen tells SF Weekly. “How can that be a good thing, to disrespect the one sexual pleasure-focused act that everyone can access whenever they want?”

Queen’s lessons on masturbation served as the inspiration for Better Than the Hand, a volume of pocket pinball tips for men or anyone with a penis. It describes a series of hand-y steps and exercises to maintain erections for longer than 15 minutes, employing various sex toys for unique penile arousal scenarios, and using masturbation tricks to regain that erection after having already blown your load once.

“Male masturbation is a very taboo thing for us to talk about, much more so than female masturbation,” Sullivan says.

Although it’s listed now, Better Than the Hand was not always available on Amazon. The online retailer’s censors shut down access to the book once they discovered it was about male masturbation, and other websites have been similarly unreceptive.

“I can’t advertise the book on Facebook,” Sullivan tells SF Weekly. “They rejected every single ad.”

He’s been able to get out of Amazon purgatory, but not without a fight.

“They sent me a note saying, ‘Your book is currently being reviewed for explicit content,’” he recalls. “There’s no explicit content in the book. We’re talking about masturbation!”

But ‘explicit content’ may be in the eye of the beholder. After all, this is a book that contains sentences like, “If you haven’t experienced the deep, muscle-penetrating hum of a Magic Wand on your perineum, anus, and cock, then you’re living in the sexual dark ages.”

Yes, this guy is advocating that men should apply the clitoral sex toy known as the Hitachi Magic Wand not only to their own junk, but to their intimate booty regions as well.

“I got one of the most powerful orgasms I’ve ever had from the Hitachi Wand,” Sullivan tells SF Weekly. “When you use it as a man, I think it’s the closest thing you can experience that’s akin to a female orgasm, because it just kind of happens to you. It isn’t this cock-centric stroking experience, it’s just like all of a sudden there’s this welling up of sensuality, sexuality, and orgasmic sensations that result in an orgasm.”

“For me, that was an eye-opener that there’s a much bigger world out there regarding my own body,” he adds.

Needless to say, there are some pretty freaky masturbation techniques described in this book. It’s called Better Than the Hand because your hand is what you’re already using for jackin’ the beanstalk, but this book sets out to expand your rubbing-out repertoire to include a number of unconventional sex toys that many heterosexual guys would be embarrassed to admit owning.

Better Than the Hand lists and evaluates a whole range of penis sleeves, Fleshlights, cock rings, penis pumps, Tenga eggs, prostate massagers, and more. There is even a section on those humanoid sex dolls, which the sex doll-owning community prefers we refer to as “full-size masturbators.”

“Masturbation isn’t seen by 99 percent of men as a way to experiment,” Sullivan says, passionately defending these sex toys for men. “Toys can be used to manage premature orgasms, to stay hard after orgasms, and to have multiple orgasms.”

Men’s sexual problems, as Sullivan sees it, can be attributed to male masturbation being a task traditionally handled quickly, quietly, and with great shame. Men have a tendency to go straight for their own primary erogenous zone and ejaculate as quickly as possible.

That’s bad technique, and why the Journal of Sexual Medicine estimates men last, on average, 5.4 minutes during vaginal intercourse. Sullivan sets out to establish male masturbation as a “process-oriented rather than a goal-oriented activity,” with specifics strategies to enhance the four separate identifiable stages of Excitement, Plateau, Orgasm, and Resolution.

In doing so, men can enhance not only their quality of sex but also their personal health. The book argues that masturbation has specific male health benefits, like reducing the risk of prostate cancer, boosting the immune system, and improving the quality of your sleep.

But most importantly, coming to grips with your masturbating habits — and being able to talk about them — can make men better lovers, and less chauvinistic as people.

“As men explore their own bodies, they’re also becoming much more skillful, knowledgeable, sensitive lovers,” Sullivan says. “When you have sexual identity and sexual behavior being constrained or restricted, it leads to a problem of toxic male sexuality.”

This toxic male sexuality has been seen in the headlines around Brock Turner, the Stanford student who assaulted an unconscious woman, or with our pussy-grabbing president. Having produced both straight and gay adult films for more than 20 years, Sullivan sees toxic male sexuality as a primarily straight male phenomenon.

“Most gay men have come to terms with what it is to be sexual,” he tells SF Weekly. “Most straight men aren’t dealing with questions like that, so they never develop the vocabulary, the empathy, or the emotional intelligence to have these subtle interactions.”

A lack of empathy or emotional intelligence can be seen in the pornography that straight men watch, and why this porn profoundly bothers their female partners.

“The biggest fantasy of most straight men is fucking some 18-year-old girl in the ass,” says Sullivan, who also manages an online porn streaming platform. “By far, the largest-watched category of porn is anal sex with young models.”

It might be fair to say this represents arrested emotional development among porn-watching straight men. But it also represents a psychological toll for their female partners, creating body-image issues and a sense of betrayal over how the porn-consuming straight guy prefers these adult-film starlets.

Men forget that feeling desired is a primary erotic trigger for many women, and that to desire someone else may feel like a violation of the couple’s intimacy. This sense of violation can also play out when masturbation or porn interferes with a guy’s ability to get erections.

“The desire thing is probably linked to the way some women freak out when their male partners can’t get erections on demand,” Queen says. “It feels like the cock is the barometer of desirability. It’s fucked up, but there it is.”

Better Than the Hand addresses many of the sticky topics that surround male masturbation, and it has some dynamite chapters on communicating masturbatory habits and the use of toys for couples, plus a detailed script for an outrageously hot mutual-masturbation scenario.

But the book’s main thrust is to give men a curiosity on how to make their dick work better, and how masturbating is key to this process. As so capably said by our long-lost muse Whitney Houston, “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.”

Complete Article HERE!

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