Queering sex education in schools would benefit all pupils

Share

All power to the pupil activists drawing attention to the lack of information about LGBT issues in sex education in England

‘Being LGBT+ in school can be an isolating experience.’

By

All I remember from my relationship and sex education in school is phallic objects, condoms and everyone being terrified of pregnancy. Looking back it’s clear how disjointed and inadequate this was at a time when I was struggling with the complexity of being a black, queer, working-class boy navigating life inside and outside school.

If I had been given information about the kind of relationships I would later come to be in and given the space to think critically about my gender it would have made my road to self-acceptance a less bumpy one. It was also a missed opportunity to address toxic elements of masculinity such as suppressing emotion or objectifying women. Modernising the sex and education curriculum wouldn’t just make LGBT+ people safer, but would benefit the wellbeing of all students.

So when I found out that young south Londoners had put this particular new year’s resolution to the Department for Education, I was elated. Students put banners on every secondary school in Lambeth, demanding that relationship and sex education (RSE) in schools be inclusive of LGBT+ relationships and for it to examine gender and stereotypes. When you consider that inclusive RSE isn’t mandatory in schools in England, hasn’t been updated for well over a decade and almost half of young people no longer identify as exclusively heterosexual, it’s clear it’s time for a much-needed overhaul.

The demand is there. According to a report published by the Terrence Higgins Trust looking at responses from 900 young people aged between 16 and 25, 97% of them thought RSE should be LGBT+ inclusive, but the vast majority (95%) had not been taught about LGBT+ sex and relationships.

This isn’t the only front the current RSE is failing on: 75% of young people were not taught about consent and 50% of them rated their RSE as “poor” or “terrible” with only 10% rating it as “good”. In this context, the shocking 22% rise in cases of gonorrhea between 2016 and 2017 is sadly unsurprising.

I spoke to one of the students responsible for this action; they are 17 years old and asked to remain anonymous. When asked why they felt this action was necessary they said: “Being LGBT+ in school can be an isolating experience … I have experienced ignorant remarks from students and teachers alike. We wanted to do this visual action to draw attention to what feels like a hidden issue, but the impact of which I and many like myself feel on a day to day basis.”

‘An inclusive RSE curriculum could mean LGBT+ identities could be celebrated.’

Only 13% of LGBT+ young people have learned about healthy same-sex relationships. Those who do receive inclusive education are less likely to experience bullying and more likely to report feeling safe, welcome and happy according to Ruth Hunt, chief executive of the LGBT+ equality charity Stonewall.

The feeling that this is a “hidden issue” comes as no surprise given the long history of active exclusion of LGBT+ people and their experiences from public life. In 1988, the Thatcher government introduced section 28 which stopped local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality in schools. It took 15 years for this piece of legislation to be overturned, but many teachers still don’t know if they are legally able to openly discuss LGBT+ topics, and many feel that they lack the expertise to do so.

The reason inclusive RSE isn’t mandatory is because sex education as we know it today was introduced by a Labour government in 2000, but section 28 (the law that banned “promoting” homosexuality) wasn’t overturned until 2003. It is humiliatingly out of date. An inclusive RSE curriculum could mean LGBT+ identities could be celebrated in a place they were once erased and demonised.

Thanks to campaigning organisations such as the Terrance Higgins Trust, the government has committed to making RSE lessons compulsory in all secondary schools in England and relationship education compulsory in primary schools. This was meant to be rolled out in 2019, but has now been pushed back to 2020. Whether this will cover LGBT+ relationships and gender adequately remains to be seen, as the finalised guidance that will be used by schools to deliver the RSE has yet to be published.

The rollout can’t come soon enough. LGBT+ people are more likely to experience poor mental health in the form of depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and substance misuse due to the pervasive discrimination, isolation and homophobia they experience. This shake-up of RSE could be an important step towards changing this.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Homosexuality in nature: Bisexual and gay animals

Share

By

So many people question if animals can be gay, and the answer is, of course.

Every LGBT+ person will cringe upon hearing that their lifestyle is a “choice.” Unfortunately, people around the world still firmly believe that.

For those who believe that homosexuality is a result of being “brainwashed” by society, they should turn their attention to homosexuality in nature.

Indeed, there are bisexual and homosexual members of the animal kingdom beyond mere humans. (And we’re pretty sure that the sheep weren’t ‘turned gay’ from watching ‘gay agenda’ on television.)

Homosexuality in nature

From birds to mammals and reptiles, homosexuality is present in all kinds of animals who are able to have sexual intercourse.

These bisexual and gay animals include penguins, lions, bats, birds, dolphins, elephants and much more.

Join us as we go through some animals that are out and proud.

Bisexual and gay animals

1) Penguins

Penguins are known to mate for life, and they certainly are romantic specifies as they are often in monogamous pairings. Indeed, a penguin is probably more faithful than your ex.

And among these monogamous couples, there are many same-sex couples among penguins.

These gay animal couples will often even adopt their own baby chick, either by caring for an abandoned penguin or by kidnapping one from another couple.

 

Homosexuality among penguins has actually been known for some time. It was discovered and hidden from the public in 1911 as it was deemed ‘too shocking’. The information was then released over 100 years later in 2012.

George Murray Levick had the privilege of observing a wild colony of Adélies penguins at Cape Adare during 1911-1912. There, he described the “astonishing depravity” of “hooligan males” as they had homosexual intercourse, which was highly controversial during the time (apparently even among penguins), as well as conducting in necrophilia and forcefully entering female penguins.

2) Primates

From bonobo apes to snow monkeys and orangutans, there are countless reports of homosexual activities within the primate kingdom.

All bonobos are bisexual species, and other kinds of primates show various homosexual behaviour, found in both zoos and the wild.

3) Black swans

An estimated one-quarter of all black swans are in gay couples.

The same-sex pair of black swans often steals nests from the female so they can raise the chick. Equally, they often form threesomes (or thruples) with the female in order to do this.

Not only that, but black swans may also have relationships with other kinds of birds as seen with the infamous New Zealand love story between Thomas the goose and Henry the swan.

Thomas the goose (left) and Henry the swan.

The bird couple spent “18 happy gay years together” before Henry left Thomas for a female swan.

Then, after Thomas got over his heartbreak, he joined them to make the threesome a thruple.

4) Lizards

Homosexuality is also present in lizards in a rather unique way.

Certain species of whiptail lizards are exclusively female, and the females are able to reproduce from the ovum without the fertilization of a male.

In order to stimulate ovulation, female lizards engage in homosexual behaviour.

Geckos are also known to shown homosexual behaviour in a non-reproductive manner.

5) Dolphins

You’ve probably heard that dolphins are among the few animals that have sex for pleasure.

It’s therefore not that surprising that the adorable sea creatures get involved in some saucy acts of love.

There have been reports of dolphins having same-sex group sex, with spottings of the Amazon river dolphin forming bands with up to five bisexual dolphins.

Dolphins are known to have group sex.

Without regard to gender, dolphins are observed having non-reproductive sex, rubbing each other’s genitals and using their blowhole, anus, penis, snouts, vagina and flippers.

6) Vultures

At Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, two male griffon vultures named Dashik and Yehuda were somewhat of a couple.

The bisexual vultures hit headlines in 1998 when they were often seen having “open and energetic sex.”

Not only that, the couple even raised a chick together. Zookeepers had provided the couple with an artificial egg which the birds had looked after through incubation. Once it was time to hatch, zookeepers put in a baby vulture.

Of course, not all love stories last forever and after some rocky years together, Dashik and Yehuda split up.

They each moved on to have female partners, leaving their wonderful, gay animal romance behind.

7) Elephants

African and Asian elephants will engage in homosexual animal relationships, and males will engage in homosexual intercourse.

Elephants often engage in homosexual intimate relationships

There are reports of affectionate same-sex interactions beyond mere sex. Elephants virtually hold hands by intertwining their trunks, groom and kiss.

The same-sex companionships may last for several years and are apparent in both sexes.

8) Bats

From oral sex to homosexual masturbation and intercourse, various bat species often engage in homosexual behaviour, even cross-species with different kinds of bats forming homosexual animal relationships.

Such behaviour has been observed in both wildlife and in captivity.

9) Lions

There are many reports of gay lion pairings within the wild. Males are observed engaging in homosexual intimate behaviour.

There are countless reports of homosexual activity between lions

However, exclusively female relationships are rare with most reports of lesbian activity within captivity rather than the wild.

10) Insects

Gay sex is very common among various kinds of insects. Scientists found that 85 percent of male insects engage in homosexuality in nature.

This means that billions of bugs around the world are having gay sex each year.

Despite the high number, many scientists claim that it’s a case of mistaken identity, with insects doing it by accident, actually intending to impregnate a female mate.

The infamous gay sheep studies

You’ve probably heard of this highly publicised study by Oregon Health and Science University in 2003.

While most members of the animal kingdom swap between male and female partners, domestic rams are unique in that they can be completely gay, with 8-to-10 per cent of sheep exclusively homosexual.

A similar percentage of sheep also appear to be asexual, however, many believe that a large part of them could be lesbian sheep who do not have the physical capacity to show their lust given their structure as female sheep simply stand still regardless of whether they want intimacy or not.

However, instead of just letting these sheep be, heterosexual reproductive sex is considered so important in agriculture that experiments were conducted on the gay sheep to attempt to “cure” their homosexuality by altering their hormone levels in the brain.

The reality is that the discoveries from these sheep, along with other members of the animal kingdom, suggests that homosexuality in nature is indeed biological, despite what many homophobic people may argue.

Not to mention, of course, what we see and know from human beings. Surely, what we observe in society and throughout history should be enough? But that combined with the amazing facts about the animal kingdom tips the scales.

There is homosexuality in nature all around the world, whether people like it or not. These are just a few animals that we listed. No doubt, there are hundreds upon hundreds more.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Father-Son Talks About Condoms Pay Health Dividends

Share

By Steven Reinberg

Here’s some straight talk about the value of “the talk.”

Fathers who talk with their teenage sons about condom use can help prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies, researchers say.

Condoms are the only contraceptive method that can prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Yet, recent U.S. government data showed that condom use among teens steadily declined over the last decade.

And as condom use dropped, the number of sexually transmitted infections increased, researchers found. In 2017, the number of STIs reached an all-time high for the fourth year in a row, with teens and young adults accounting for about half of the cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Two out of three new HIV infections in young people are among black and Hispanic males, and more than 200,000 births a year are to teens and young adults, the study authors noted.

For the new study, researchers interviewed 25 black and Hispanic fathers and sons (aged 15 to 19) from New York City. The research was led by Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, a professor at New York University and a nurse practitioner specializing in adolescent sexual and reproductive health at the Adolescent AIDS Program of Montefiore Medical Center, in New York City.

The interviews made it clear that fathers talking to their sons about using condoms consistently and correctly is not only possible, but acceptable. The sons said they wanted their dads to tell them how to use condoms and problems with them, such as breakage and slippage, as well as incorrect use.

Fathers also saw these conversations as a way to improve their own condom use, the study authors said.

The findings showed that communicating about condom use can be a powerful way to help prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, the researchers concluded.

“Helping fathers teach their sons about the consistent and correct use of condoms by addressing common communication barriers — and focusing specifically on strategies to avoid condom use errors and problems — is a promising and novel mechanism to increase the use of male condoms and to reduce unplanned pregnancies, STIs, and sexual reproductive health disparities among adolescent males,” the study authors said in a New York University news release.

The report was published online Dec. 17 in the journal Pediatrics.

More information

For more about sexually transmitted infections, visit the American Sexual Health Association.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

How to talk to your children about sex

Share

It’s no easy task for parents, but there are ways to start this crucial conversation

‘As parents, we know that talking about sex to our children is part of the job.’

By

“If you had a question about sex, where would you go?” I ask my 12-year-old daughter, Orla. She doesn’t look up from her phone. “I’d ask online,” she deadpans. “then delete my browser history.”

“You wouldn’t come to me?” I venture, worried, hurt, amused and (a tiny part) relieved. “Mum, if I asked you about sex, I’d then have to imagine you having sex and that would be traumatic for me,” is the answer I get back.

So … on the face of it, perhaps I’ve failed in the “how to talk about sex to your daughters” section of parenting, especially if, compared to the likes of Emma Thompson, who not so long ago appeared on a podcast to discuss the “sex handbook” she wrote for her daughter when Gaia was only 10 (she’s now 18).

In it, Thompson called sex “shavoom” and pornography “the Kingdom of Ick”. (“If anyone does anything, says anything, implies anything, shows anything or suggests anything that makes you feel ick, move away, get away, say no thank you. Or even just no without the thank you,” reads part of Thompson’s mother-daughter guide.)

As parents, we all know that talking about sex to our children is part of the job. And, with the Government’s updated sex education curriculum delayed by another year – it will become compulsory in schools from September 2020 – we also know it’s more urgent than it’s ever been. Hardcore porn is ubiquitous.

Studies suggest that parents tend to underestimate the extent of their own child’s exposure, but it’s safe to assume that, years before they’ve reached “first base”, boys in particular will have seen images which could create a horribly warped picture of consent, pleasure, health and safety. Add into that the “superbug” STDs, online grooming, the fact that “safe sexting” is now a thing (that’s taking care to cut your face and home from your body shots), and we’ve got our work cut out for us.

All this I know – and yet, the longer I’m a parent, the harder it has become. My daughters are 19, 17 and 12 and the recent study from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, which found that parents talk about sex to their firstborns, then get progressively worse with the rest, rings horribly true. There’s the awkwardness, of course. (I have a friend who’ll happily tell strangers about her dress-up games and spontaneous encounters yet has never managed to talk about sex to her own kids. She thought it would be a breeze, but was shocked to find it mortifying.) But it isn’t just that. I’ve seen how quickly the “issue s” change, how easy it is to fall hopelessly behind. When my youngest pointed to an 11-year-old who was “pansexual”, I couldn’t recall what it even meant. Went home, Googled it, still don’t know.

On top of that, the older I get, the more uncertain I’ve become. I’m more aware than ever how much sex education is really personal opinion. While leading “sexperts” tend to offer reassuring, accepting messages about what’s normal, I feel loathe to repeat them. I vividly recall telling my oldest daughter, aged about 13 at the time, that certain acts commonly found in pornography, such as anal sex, were less common in real life and extremely unlikely to feel good for a girl.

Her 11-year-old sister hovered in the doorway soaking up the message, too. Now, the repeat phrase in the “anal sex” section of one lead sex education website, is “lube and patience”. Which message is more helpful? When it comes to guiding my daughters around the physical acts, probably I “could do better”. But I think, I hope, that where it matters most, I’ve done okay.

Alice Hoyle, relationships and sex advisor with Durex’s sex education arm Durex Do, believes in shifting the emphasis away from practical topics towards a more emotional open-ended approach. This should cover how young people feel about themselves, how society makes them feel, what they want from a relationship and how to communicate that.

“Understanding consent starts really early, age appropriately,” says Hoyle, who also has three daughters, the eldest now eight. “I was watching two-year-olds in a nursery recently, one girl patting the other on her face. The adult in charge was asking the girl to look at the other’s body language. Was she smiling? Did she look cross? Might she want her to stop?

At home, with party games, tickling, whatever, we have the standard family rule – unless everyone’s having fun, it stops. Sometimes, this can be a real challenge. I was doing nit treatment on my daughter’s hair the other day. She had the ‘No Means No’, the good strong body language, the hand up …”

Playground politics are another link to power dynamics, ethical behaviour, what you can and can’t accept. I’ve always encouraged my daughters to tell me everything when it comes to friends and frenemies (I’m fascinated anyway). After school, at bedtime, in the kitchen, in the car, we’ve always talked.

I’ve tried to help them listen to their gut instincts – what feels fun, what feels uncomfortable – and find their own strategies to deal with tricky situations. Sometimes I’ve suggested they walk away and find people who treat them better. This led one daughter to make an entirely new gang of mates, aged nine, and never look back.

If you’re in touch with their highs and lows and talk about your own experiences at their age, then you’ve laid the basics for building healthy relationships and made it easier for them to open up to you. Hoyle keeps lines open with mother-daughter diaries – notebooks where they write messages to one another. On their Jenga set, she has written sentences on each brick which you can complete when you put one in place. “I feel happy when …” or “I feel cross when …” She also recommends Sussed, a family conversation game her children love.

Porn is something you have to address. I’ve taken the “it’s make believe” line, like watching Superman jump from buildings – don’t expect similar results if you try it at home. It’s that tricky business of sounding a warning without appearing so out of date, they disregard you.

“In the past, sex education has been criticised for being too negative,” says Hoyle, “for not looking at pleasure. That has got better, but there’s a lot of talk among young women that sex positivity has been mis-sold to them. They’ve done things to please men and not themselves.

“You can’t avoid talking about porn, but it’s a tricky one. People use it for pleasure or even sex education, but the sex it portrays is often very male focused and you can’t know if the women in it were abused or trafficked.”

All of the above has been discussed in our household and pretty much anything can open the door: a selfie; a song lyric (Blurred Lines’ I know You Want It, Meghan Trainor’s All About ww.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/sep/01/pops-weighty-issue-all-about-that-bass-body-positive-anthems” data-link-name=”in body link”>That Bass); the Cristiano Ronaldo rape allegations (one daughter has a poster of him above her bed); Love Island (the politics of hair removal and breast augmentation); Love Actually (porn, stalking, cheating … so many issues, where to start?)

Janey Downshire, counsellor and co-author of Teenagers Translated (and another mother of three daughters) believes all these conversations are more crucial than “what goes where”.

“When you’re a teenager, your identity, your sense of who you’d like to be and what’s possible, is a work in progress,” she says. “As parents, we need to help them see all the choices, to think as widely as they can. Most important is that you help your daughter put a high value on herself – to know she’s pretty special.”

Parent coach Judy Reith agrees. “A parent’s job is to help her daughter believe she deserves to have a fantastic relationship with someone,” she says. “Don’t just criticise when her behaviour worries you. Show her great qualities and always praise praise praise when she swims against the tide.”

Perhaps most important is the example you set. “The truth is girls growing up watch their mums like hawks,” says Reith. “If you’re insecure about the way you look, always on a diet, if you don’t expect to be treated well yourself, then that’s the message you send them. If you’re confident, and home is a safe zone where you’re happy to slob around, no makeup and greasy hair, that’s not a bad thing.” (In this department, I’ve excelled.)

So far my eldest girls look like they’re entering adulthood as wise, strong and sorted as any mother could wish them to be. When Orla quipped that taking her sex questions to me was too traumatic, I suggested she ask her oldest sister instead. She’s an adult now after all – and the more safe adults girls have in their lives the better. I have to admit, it felt good to delegate.

Complete Article ↪HERE↩!

Share

Americans Were Quizzed on Sexual Health:

Share

What The Results Say About the State of Sex Ed

by LeAnne Graves

There’s no question that offering consistent and accurate sexual health information in schools is important.

Providing students with these resources not only helps to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), but it can also help to ensure the overall well-being of an individual.

Yet the state of sexual education and awareness in some areas of the United States ranges from medically inaccurate to virtually nonexistent.

At present, only 20 states require that sex and HIV education be “medically, factually, or technically accurate,” (while New Jersey is technically the 21st state, it’s been left out since medical accuracy isn’t specifically outlined in state statute. Rather it’s required by the NJDE’s Comprehensive Health and Physical Education).

Meanwhile, the definition for what’s “medically accurate” can vary by state.

While some states may require approval of the curriculum by the Department of Health, other states allow materials to be distributed that are based on information from published sources that are revered by the medical industry. This lack of a streamlined process can lead to the distribution of incorrect information.

Healthline and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization dedicated to promoting sexual education, conducted a survey that looked at the state of sexual health in the United States.

Below are the results.

Access To Education

In our survey, which polled more than 1,000 Americans, only 12 percent of respondents 60 years and older received some form of sexual education in school.

Meanwhile, only 33 percent of people between 18 and 29 years old reported having any.

While some previous studies have found that abstinence-only education programs don’t protect against teen pregnancies and STIs, there are many areas in the United States where this is the only type of sexual education provided.

States like Mississippi require schools to present sexual education as abstinence-only as the way to combat unwanted pregnancies. Yet Mississippi has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancies, ranking third in 2016.

This is in contrast to New Hampshire, which has the lowest rate of teen pregnancies in the United States. The state teaches health and sex education as well as a curriculum dedicated to STIs starting in middle schools.

To date, 35 states and the District of Columbia also allow for parents to opt-out of having their children participate in sex ed.

Yet in a 2017 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 40 percent of high school students had already engaged in sexual activity.

“When it comes to promoting sex education, the biggest obstacle is definitely our country’s cultural inclination to avoid conversations about sexuality entirely, or to only speak about sex and sexuality in ways that are negative or shaming,” explains Jennifer Driver, SIECUS’ State Policy Director.

“It’s hard to ensure someone’s sexual health and well-being when, far too often, we lack appropriate, affirmative, and non-shaming language to talk about sex in the first place,” she says.

STI prevention

In 2016, nearly a quarter of all new HIV cases in the United States were made up of young people ages 13 to 24, according to the CDC. People ages 15 to 24 also make up half of the 20 million new STIs reported in the United States each year.

Which is why it’s concerning that in our survey — where the age bracket 18 to 29 made up nearly 30 percent of our participants — when asked whether HIV could be spread through saliva, nearly 1 out of 2 people answered incorrectly.

Recently, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a study that states comprehensive sex education (CSE) programs not only increased the overall health and well-being of children and young people, but helped to prevent HIV and STIs as well.

Driver cites the Netherlands as a prime example of the payoffs from CSE programs. The country offers one of the world’s best sex education systems with corresponding health outcomes, particularly when it comes to STI and HIV prevention.

The country requires a comprehensive sexual education course starting in primary school. And the results of these programs speak for themselves.

The Netherlands has one of the lowest rates of HIV at 0.2 percent of adults ages 15 to 49.

Statistics also show that 85 percent of adolescents in the country reported using contraception during their first sexual encounter, while the rate of adolescent pregnancies was low, at 4.5 per 1,000 adolescents.

Though Driver acknowledges that the United States cannot simply “adopt every sex education-related action happening in the Netherlands,” she does acknowledge that it’s possible to look to countries who are taking a similar approach for ideas.

Contraception misconceptions

When it comes to contraception, and more specifically emergency contraception, our survey found that there are a number of misconceptions about how these preventive measures work.

A whopping 93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid. Most people said it was only effective up to two days after having sex.

In fact, “morning-after pills” such as Plan B may help stop unwanted pregnancies if taken up to 5 days after sex with a potential 89 percent reduction in risk.

Other misunderstandings about emergency contraceptives include 34 percent of those polled believing that taking the morning-after pill can cause infertility, and a quarter of respondents believing that it can cause an abortion.

In fact, 70 percent of those surveyed didn’t know that the pill temporarily stops ovulation, which prevents the releasing of an egg to be fertilized.

Whether this misconception about how oral contraception works is a gender issue isn’t clear-cut. What’s understood, however, is that there’s still work to be done.

Though Driver cites the Affordable Care Act as one example of the push for free and accessible birth control and contraception, she’s not convinced this is enough.

“The cultural backlash, as exemplified by several legal fights and an increase in public debates — which have, unfortunately conflated birth control with abortion — illustrates that our society remains uncomfortable with fully embracing female sexuality,” she explains.

93 percent of our respondents were unable to correctly answer how many days after intercourse emergency contraception is valid.

Knowledge by gender

When breaking it down by gender, who’s the most knowledgeable when it comes to sex?

Our survey showed that 65 percent of females answered all questions correctly, while the figure for male participants was 57 percent.

Though these stats aren’t inherently bad, the fact that 35 percent of men who participated in the survey believed that women couldn’t get pregnant while on their periods is an indication that there’s still a ways to go — particularly when it comes to understanding female sexuality.

“We need to do a lot of work to change pervasive myths, specifically surrounding female sexuality,” explains Driver.

“There is still a cultural allowance for men to be sexual beings, while women experience double standards regarding their sexuality. And this long-standing misconception has undoubtedly contributed to confusion surrounding women’s bodies and female sexual health,” she says.

Defining consent

From the #MeToo movement to the Christine Blasey Ford case, it’s clear that creating dialogue around and providing information about sexual consent has never been more imperative.

The findings from our survey indicate that this is also the case. Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent still believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

This specific age bracket represented the largest group with the least understanding as to what constituted as consent.

What’s more, a quarter of all respondents answered the same question incorrectly, with some believing that consent is applicable if the person says yes despite drinking, or if the other person doesn’t say no at all.

These findings, as concerning as they might be, shouldn’t be surprising. To date, only six states require instruction to include information on consent, says Driver.

Yet the UNESCO study mentioned earlier cites CSE programs as an effective way “of equipping young people with knowledge and skills to make responsible choices for their lives.”

This includes improving their “analytical, communication, and other life skills for health and well-being in relation to… gender-based violence, consent, sexual abuse, and harmful practices.”

Of the respondents ages 18 to 29, 14 percent believed that a significant other has a right to sex.

What’s next?

Though the results of our survey indicate that more needs to be done in terms of providing CSE programs in school, there’s evidence that the United States is moving in the right direction.

A Planned Parenthood Federation of America poll conducted this year revealed that 98 percent of likely voters support sex education in high school, while 89 percent support it in middle school.

“We’re at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancy in this country and a historic low for pregnancy among teenagers,” said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood.

“Sex education and access to family planning services have been critical to helping teens stay safe and healthy — now is not the time to walk back that progress.”

Moreover, SIECUS is advocating for policies that would create the first-ever federal funding stream for comprehensive sexuality education in schools.

They’re also working to raise awareness about the need to increase and improve the access of marginalized young people to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.

“Comprehensive school-based sex education should provide fact and medically-based information that complements and augments the sex education children receive from their families, religious and community groups, and healthcare professionals,” explains Driver.

“We can increase sexual health knowledge for people of all ages by simply treating it like any other aspect of health. We should positively affirm that sexuality is a fundamental and normal part of being human,” she adds.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Disabled people must be able to express our sexual needs. Our health depends on it

Share
‘Can you even have sex, Sam? Can you have children?’

By Samantha Renke

Sex. We all know what it is — and when most of us think of it we think of pleasure, love, passion and mostly a darn good time.

However for some, sex can have a huge impact on their entire lives, affecting their wellbeing, confidence, self worth and sense of belonging.

Early last week I joined a panel of experts and influencers for BBC 5 Live’s #SexTakeover, the UK’s largest sex discussion.

I came away with the strangely reassuring knowledge that all of us — no matter who we are — have had a complex relationship with sex at one time or another. We all have hangups and awkward sexual encounters but for me, as a disabled woman, the takeover highlighted how society is grossly failing disabled people in all areas of sex and sexual wellbeing.

So what happens when no one will discuss sex with you, when medical professionals are letting you down when it comes to your sexual health, or when those around you see you more as a child than a sexual being?

I have a rare genetic disorder known as osteogenesis impefecta (brittle bone disease), I am just shy of four feet tall and a full-time wheelchair user. I knew very early on that I was ‘different’, and that my life experiences differed somewhat from my peers.

I spent most of my adolescence not knowing if I could even physically have sex or if my body would grow like everyone else’s. At one point I convinced myself that I’d never experience puberty, get my period or have sexual relationships because of my condition.

Intrusive questions asked by those around me, as well as the weird fascination that society seems to have around sex and disabled people, added fuel to my already confusing relationship with sex.

I even became the joke in a dare where a group of guys egged each other on to come up to me in a night club.

‘Can you even have sex, Sam? Can you have children? Can you kiss a boy or would you break your jaw? Can you have a boyfriend?’

It seems to be common practice to perceive people with disabilities as objects rather than complete people.

This leads to the view that they are less human and do not desire, need nor want the same things as everyone else. Even now, I get comments on online forums asking if I can have sex, or people commenting that they find me ‘brave’ for being on dating sites.

These experiences aren’t isolated, as many of my close friends have shared similar stories, like comedian Lila Hart. Like Lila, I too experienced people’s embarrassment about having relations with me, and even became the joke in a dare where a group of guys egged each other on to come up to me in a night club.

The disability charity Scope published dating statistics that show only 5% of people who aren’t disabled have ever asked out, or been on a date with, a disabled person, which just highlights that we aren’t seen as sexually desirable.

The stereotypes and misinformation surrounding sex and disabled people goes beyond whether or not we get asked out on a date. It can also impact on whether or not we have proper access to sexual health as Athena Stevens — a playwright and human rights activist who lives with cerebral palsy — found out when she went for a routine pap test.

Athena’s involuntary movements during a standard smear test meant that the doctor eventually gave up. But rather than discuss what they could offer her going forward, they told her in the most cold and insensitive way that ‘lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice’ and that they ‘did not think sex will ever be possible’ for her.

One mother confided in me that she is terrified about discussing sex with her daughter, who has spina bifida. Upon asking her endocrinologist how to discuss periods with her daughter, the doctor replied that she didn’t really know, and that her medical advice was to talk to other parents and see how they managed. The only advice offered by her specialist was for her daughter to wear nappies.

There is a substantial breakdown of communication between medical professionals, parents, care givers and educators when we look at sex and disabilities.

No one actually seems to be taking the time to ask what the person with a disability wants or needs. We can feel awkward and jump around the subject all we want, but the fact remains that no matter what your disability looks like, we are all still sexual beings.

The real danger comes when awkwardness and ignorance causes people with disabilities to not only miss out on meaningful intimate relationships, but in many cases our wellbeing is also put at tremendous risk when we aren’t able to access sexual health treatments or contraception.

I’d like to see better education across the board when it comes to disability and sex. Not talking about it can lead to somebody feeling like a lesser person, feeling less desirable and ultimately dehumanised.

Parents need to have access to a better understanding of sex and disability, so that they don’t feel like they are failing their children and their children, in turn, can then feel comfortable to express their sexual needs.

We also need to see the media better embrace disabled people as sexual beings — where are our disabled lingerie models or steamy sex scenes with disabled actors?

Sex may be an awkward subject to broach for many of us, but not talking about it can be so damaging. Especially for disabled people.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

What is BDSM?

Share

A beginners kinky guide to getting started with BDSM

By Mistress Scarlett

Many people think of BDSM as whips and chains in dark, scary dungeons, but the truth of it is, anyone could be practicing aspects of BDSM in their own homes to spice up their sex lives, live out fantasies or enjoy minor taboos that in the past were not even mentioned in public. BDSM as a term stood for bondage and discipline, domination and submission and sadism and masochism in the past, which could make it sound quite intimidating to many people. BDSM is now used as a blanket term for fetishes and kinks that fall outside of mainstream behaviors. Many of these kinks and fetishes actually have nothing to do with sex at all while others are intricately entwined with what goes on in the bedroom. Some BDSM practices are only carried out in the bedroom while others such as TPE (total power exchange) may actually be ingrained in to every aspect of daily life. There are actually far too many aspects of BDSM today than what can be categorized in to neatly label little boxes, so we are just going to look at a small portion of what makes up BDSM and focus on the more erotic side of the topic.

Remember, the first rule in BDSM is consent and the persons giving the consent need to be fully informed of all the risks and be able to legally consent to whatever aspect is being introduced. Remember, BDSM as practiced by real people is not the same as what is shown in entertainment such as movies or porn. Most kinks, fetishes or role play do need special gear, clothing, equipment or even a dungeon. If you want to wear fun outfits for role play, that is up to you but the only thing that limits your BDSM play is your own imagination. If you do get wrapped up in all things BDSM you might then want to invest in equipment such as bondage gear, ropes, floggers, canes, electro-play equipment, sounds, leather, chains and more. There is a vast variety of equipment available online and in certain adult stores. Always purchase good quality, body safe equipment for any BDSM play to keep everyone involved as safe as possible. Do not try any of the more risky kinks such as suspension bondage, knife or needle play and so forth unless you have had some training and are 100% sure you can keep your partner safe from unintended harm. Even simple play such as spanking can go wrong if you don’t know the person you are playing with well and their potential health problems. Research everything thoroughly if you plan to go in-depth in to BDSM and get a mentor if possible. Go to events and moots to learn more so that you always play safely.

Let’s look at some basic BDSM play. Bondage can refer to ropes, cuffs and other restraints but can also include aspects such as mummification, vacuum packing, sensory deprivation, masks, gags and more. Bondage can be for a short time or extended periods and can be gentle to extreme. There is aesthetic bondage such as Shibari which is done for body decoration to suspension bondage where the person in bondage is actually hoisted off the floor / bed / flat surface. Both of these types of bondage require dedication, study and knowledge to keep everyone safe from injury. Discipline can be part of domination and submission play or just spankings for fun. Erotic discipline such as flogging can be extremely enjoyable to all involved while spanking for punishment can be attached to behavior modification and control. There are so many variables and aspects to this type of play as well and it is very important that research is done before embarking on any type of BDSM play.

In dominance and submission there is generally role play where one person is in control of another person or persons. For some people this role play happens in the bedroom only, while for others this can actually become part of their daily lives. Some people may also switch and be dominant on some occasions or with some people and be submissive at other times. These dynamics can change quite a bit as well. A male dominant is usually referred to as a Dom or Master and a female dominant as a Domme, Domina, Mistress, Goddess and other honorifics. The person is the submissive role is generally referred to as a sub or a slave depending on their roles. This type of play also encompasses “Littles” with Daddy/Mommy figures and other types of play such as Puppy, Pony and Kitten play. There is nothing wrong with experimenting in the different roles until you figure out what you enjoy and what you don’t. Just stick to the golden rule of consent and safety at all times.

Masochism and sadism usually features someone who enjoys inflicting pain with someone who enjoys receiving pain. This can be mild spanking to CBT and includes play such as knives, needles, hot wax and more. This type of play can be very erotic and can also be quite extreme depending on the people involved and what gets their motors running. There are many, many, many other kinks, fetishes and more that can be explored under the wide umbrella of the term BDSM. If you are interested in making things a bit more interesting in the bedroom or even your daily life, spend some time on sites dedicated to BDSM; go to events and meetings with like-minded people. You may very well be surprised at what turns you on.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Yes, yes, yes:

Share

Why female pleasure must be at the heart of sex education

‘Our sex education was essentially a lesson in contraception.’

Bring in compulsory sex education classes from the age of four – and end the idea that sex is only about power and pleasure for men

By

I was given a shell-clasped plastic case in pearly pink. Inside were two sanitary towels so small they could have been used as rugs in a doll’s house, and a leaflet about other sorts of period products. I had started my period at least a year before receiving these treasures. The trinket box was wasted on me, and the conversations about my periods came way too late.

I genuinely don’t remember any other sex education at primary school. By the time they started talking to us about it at secondary school, I think in the third year (year 9), most of the girls in my class had had their first sexual encounters. These were mostly at the Bill Clinton level: not full intercourse, but all the other stuff. The teachers were clearly counting on us not having had intercourse (although some of us had) because our sex education was about AIDS (it was the early 90s) and babies. It was essentially a lesson in contraception. I would wager that almost every girl in my class carried a condom in her purse long before she came to this lesson. In fact, we used to keep them as charms to show how grown up we were, accidentally on purpose spilling them out of our bags and pretending to be embarrassed.

We were the generation of the Femidom, which I am certain no one has ever used, but my brother’s best mate’s mum worked at the family planning clinic, so they nicked a big box from her and he would frequently put them in my school bag as a joke. When these fell out, I genuinely was embarrassed. Women’s sexuality was embarrassing, whereas pretending you were a dab hand at rolling on a condom was something to be proud of.

Sex and relationships were never discussed in our contraceptive education. It was all about the dangers of a man climaxing. That is the thing that causes the babies, so that is what we were taught about. We were shown how to handle and dispose of men’s pleasure safely. I went to a girls’ school; I have no idea what boys were taught – most likely the same.

The heavy petting we were all getting up to, bragging about which “base’” we had got to with the lads, was, again, all about doing what the boys wanted. When they were touching us and we were gloating about it, we garnered zero pleasure from such interactions – beyond getting to tell your mates that the fittest one had stuck his hand in your knickers. It was a league table; it wasn’t even about liking people. No one ever told us that it would be great if you liked each other, better if you did it because you actually got off from it. Bless the boys, I think they thought we enjoyed it. No one told them, either.

In almost every case, we were not victims, and the boys were not aggressors, but we were certainly not sexually enlightened young women exploring our sexuality. We were vessels for the boys’ exploration. No one ever said that sex was for us, too.

I hope this has changed a bit in 20 years, but I am not sure it has. I spent a good few years while working at Women’s Aid going to schools and teaching teenagers about the scary side of relationships: rape, coercive control and sexual exploitation. We always couched this in terms of teaching about sex equality and how power imbalances between men and women can lead to dangerous and harmful behaviours and expectations. We would try to teach boys to respect women and women to respect themselves. It was vital work, usually brought about after an incident of sexual violence at a school, but it never explored the ideas of women having equal sexual needs, wants and, ultimately, power.

Still, the average member of the British public thinks men need sex more than women. They need it like we need water, oxygen and food. This is a cultural norm we have all accepted and it seeps into how we live our lives and teach our children. Men don’t need sex any more than women, they just enjoy it more because it has a guaranteed payoff. They won’t die if they don’t have it, just like I won’t die if I don’t eat cake. We have to change this altered reality.

The government has just released its draft guidelines on relationship and sex education after campaigners and politicians have, for decades, called for mandatory relationship education to try to end the epidemic of domestic and sexual abuse. The guidelines are better than they were and cover areas of coercion and consent – finally. However, they still give a green light to schools to teach only very traditional notions of sexuality, relationships and gender norms. They are also squeamish about sex, which seems a bit odd, and totally fail to address the idea of a power imbalance between men and women that leads to coercion and sexual abuse. Worst of all, in my opinion, is the emphasis on teaching “virtues” including “self-control” and resisting sexual pressure, suggesting abstinence and ignoring the fact that many are coerced. This, once again, seems to put pressure on girls to be the controllers of male sexuality, not masters of their own. A bit like when my nan used to say: “Keep your hand on your halfpenny,” as if it was me tantalisingly flashing my vagina at boys and giving in to their demands that would lead to my untimely pregnancy. “Just say no” doesn’t work, so perhaps we need to try teaching young people about why they might want to say “yes”. What does good, healthy and happy sex look like, for example?

Girls masturbate, girls know all about what they like and want. They also know what boys like and want. Boys only know the latter. Girls and boys spend at least the first 10 years of their sex lives focusing exclusively on what boys want. Girls are taught at school that sex is about boys and how they should manage that – from the mess to the risks. Would it hurt to talk to both boys and girls about how sex should be for both parties? Giving girls a bit of hope that shagging won’t just lead to them dripping in breast milk or being a witness in a trial. Could we not change the way that sex is perceived to be about power and pleasure for men by simply talking to young people about why we do it?

I want young people to have compulsory sex education from the age of four. I want us to be braver about talking to kids about the difficult and scary stuff, like abuse and coercion. I want the frightened young woman who feels pressured to know that at school she will be able to find help. I want all of that, but I don’t want young girls growing up thinking that sex is just something that happens to us. I want boys and girls to know that it should be about both people not just agreeing, but also enjoying it.

Boys should want girls to say yes, yes, yes, not just be taught to listen when they say no.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Encourage teens to discuss relationships, experts say

Share

By Carolyn Crist

Healthcare providers and parents should begin talking to adolescents in middle school about healthy romantic and sexual relationships and mutual respect for others, a doctors’ group urges.

Obstetrician-gynecologists, in particular, should screen their patients routinely for intimate partner violence and sexual coercion and be prepared to discuss it, the Committee on Adolescent Health Care of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises.

“Our aim is to give the healthcare provider a guide on how to approach adolescents and educate them on the importance of relationships that promote their overall wellbeing,” said Dr. Oluyemisi Adeyemi-Fowode of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who co-authored the committee’s opinion statement and resource for doctors published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“We want to recognize the full spectrum of relationships and that not all adolescents are involved in sexual relationships,” she said in an email. “This acknowledges the sexual and non-sexual aspects of relationships.”

Adeyemi-Fowode and her coauthor Dr. Karen Gerancher of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, suggest creating a nonjudgmental environment for teens to talk and recommend educating staff about unique concerns that adolescents may have as compared to adult patients. Parents and caregivers should be provided with resources, too, they write.

“As individuals, our days include constant interaction with other people,” Adeyemi-Fowode told Reuters Health. “Learning how to effectively communicate is essential to these exchanges, and it is a skill that we begin to develop very early in life.”

In middle school, when self-discovery develops, parents, mentors and healthcare providers can help adolescents build on these communication skills. As they spend more time on social networking sites and other electronic media, teens could use guidance on how to recognize relationships that positively encourage them and relationships that hurt them emotionally or physically.

Primarily, healthcare providers and parents should discuss key aspects of a healthy relationship, including respect, communication and the value of people’s bodies and personal health. Equality, honesty, physical safety, independence and humor are also good qualities in a positive relationship.

As doctors interact with teens, they should also be aware of how social norms, religion and family influence could play a role in their relationships.

Although the primary focus of counseling should help teens define a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss unhealthy characteristics, too, the authors write. This includes control, disrespect, intimidation, dishonesty, dependence, hostility and abuse. They cite a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of young women in high school that found about 11 percent had been forced to engage in sexual activities they didn’t want, including kissing, touching and sexual intercourse. About 9 percent said they were physically hurt by someone they were dating.

For obstetrician-gynecologists, the initial reproductive health visit recommended for girls at ages 13-15 could be a good time to begin talking about romantic and sexual health concerns, the authors write. They also offer doctors a list of questions that may be helpful for these conversations, including “How do you feel about relationships in general or about your own sexuality?” and “What qualities are important to someone you would date or go out with?”

Health providers can provide confidentiality for teens but also talk with parents about their kids’ relationships. The committee opinion suggests that doctors encourage parents to model good relationships, discuss sex and sexual risk, and monitor media to reduce exposure to highly sexualized content.

“Without intentionally talking to them about respectful, equitable relationships, we’re leaving them to fend for themselves,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, who wasn’t involved in the opinion statement.

Miller recommends FuturesWithoutViolence.org, a website that offers resources on dating violence, workplace harassment, domestic violence and childhood trauma. She and colleagues distribute the organization’s “Hanging Out or Hooking Up?” safety card (bit.ly/2PQfxEM), which offers tips to recognize and address adolescent relationship abuse, to patients and parents, Miller said.

“More than 20 years of research shows the impact of abusive relationships on young people’s health,” Miller said in a phone interview. “Unintended pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV, depression, anxiety, suicide, disordered eating and substance abuse can stem from this.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Sex Ed before college can prevent student experiences of sexual assault

Share

Students who receive sexuality education, including refusal skills training, before college matriculation are at lower risk of experiencing sexual assault during college, according to new research published today in PLOS ONE. The latest publication from Columbia University’s Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT) project suggests that sexuality education during high school may have a lasting and protective effect for adolescents.

The research found that students who received about how to say no to sex (refusal skills training) before age 18 were less likely to experience penetrative in . Students who received refusal skills training also received other forms of sexual education, including instruction about methods of birth control and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Students who received abstinence-only instruction did not show significantly reduced experiences of campus sexual assault.

“We need to start sexuality education earlier,” said John Santelli, MD, the article’s lead author, a pediatrician and professor of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “It’s time for a life-course approach to sexual assault prevention, which means teaching young people—before they get to college—about healthy and unhealthy sexual relationships, how to say no to unwanted sex, and how to say yes to wanted sexual relationships.”

The findings draw on a confidential survey of 1671 students from Columbia University and Barnard College conducted in the spring of 2016 and on in-depth interviews with 151 undergraduate students conducted from September 2015 to January 2017.

The authors found that multiple social and personal factors experienced prior to college were associated with students’ experience of penetrative sexual assault (vaginal, oral, or anal) during college. These factors include unwanted sexual contact before college (for women); adverse child experiences such as physical abuse; ‘hooking up’ in high school; or initiation of sex and alcohol or drug use before age 18.

Ethnographic interviews highlighted the heterogeneity of students’ sex education experiences. Many described sexuality education that was awkward, incomplete, or provided little information about sexual consent or sexual assault.

The research also found that students who were born outside of the United States and students whose mothers had lived only part of their lives or never lived in the U.S. had fewer experiences of penetrative sexual assault in college. Religious participation in did not prevent sexual assault overall, but a higher frequency of religious participation showed a borderline statistically significant protective association.

“The protective impact of refusal skills-based , along with previous research showing that a substantial proportion of students have experienced before entering college, underlines the importance of complementing campus-based prevention efforts with earlier refusal skills training,” said Santelli.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Encourage teens to discuss relationships, experts say

Share

BY Carolyn Crist</a

Healthcare providers and parents should begin talking to adolescents in middle school about healthy romantic and sexual relationships and mutual respect for others, a doctors’ group urges.

Obstetrician-gynecologists, in particular, should screen their patients routinely for intimate partner violence and sexual coercion and be prepared to discuss it, the Committee on Adolescent Health Care of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises.

“Our aim is to give the healthcare provider a guide on how to approach adolescents and educate them on the importance of relationships that promote their overall wellbeing,” said Dr. Oluyemisi Adeyemi-Fowode of Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, who co-authored the committee’s opinion statement and resource for doctors published in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

“We want to recognize the full spectrum of relationships and that not all adolescents are involved in sexual relationships,” she said in an email. “This acknowledges the sexual and non-sexual aspects of relationships.”

Adeyemi-Fowode and her coauthor Dr. Karen Gerancher of Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, suggest creating a nonjudgmental environment for teens to talk and recommend educating staff about unique concerns that adolescents may have as compared to adult patients. Parents and caregivers should be provided with resources, too, they write.

“As individuals, our days include constant interaction with other people,” Adeyemi-Fowode told Reuters Health. “Learning how to effectively communicate is essential to these exchanges, and it is a skill that we begin to develop very early in life.”

In middle school, when self-discovery develops, parents, mentors and healthcare providers can help adolescents build on these communication skills. As they spend more time on social networking sites and other electronic media, teens could use guidance on how to recognize relationships that positively encourage them and relationships that hurt them emotionally or physically.

Primarily, healthcare providers and parents should discuss key aspects of a healthy relationship, including respect, communication and the value of people’s bodies and personal health. Equality, honesty, physical safety, independence and humor are also good qualities in a positive relationship.

As doctors interact with teens, they should also be aware of how social norms, religion and family influence could play a role in their relationships.

Although the primary focus of counseling should help teens define a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss unhealthy characteristics, too, the authors write. This includes control, disrespect, intimidation, dishonesty, dependence, hostility and abuse. They cite a 2017 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of young women in high school that found about 11 percent had been forced to engage in sexual activities they didn’t want, including kissing, touching and sexual intercourse. About 9 percent said they were physically hurt by someone they were dating.

For obstetrician-gynecologists, the initial reproductive health visit recommended for girls at ages 13-15 could be a good time to begin talking about romantic and sexual health concerns, the authors write. They also offer doctors a list of questions that may be helpful for these conversations, including “How do you feel about relationships in general or about your own sexuality?” and “What qualities are important to someone you would date or go out with?”

Health providers can provide confidentiality for teens but also talk with parents about their kids’ relationships. The committee opinion suggests that doctors encourage parents to model good relationships, discuss sex and sexual risk, and monitor media to reduce exposure to highly sexualized content.

“Without intentionally talking to them about respectful, equitable relationships, we’re leaving them to fend for themselves,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, who wasn’t involved in the opinion statement.

Miller recommends FuturesWithoutViolence.org, a website that offers resources on dating violence, workplace harassment, domestic violence and childhood trauma. She and colleagues distribute the organization’s “Hanging Out or Hooking Up?” safety card (bit.ly/2PQfxEM), which offers tips to recognize and address adolescent relationship abuse, to patients and parents, Miller said.

“More than 20 years of research shows the impact of abusive relationships on young people’s health,” Miller said in a phone interview. “Unintended pregnancies, sexually-transmitted infections, HIV, depression, anxiety, suicide, disordered eating and substance abuse can stem from this.”

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Recovering the Beauty of Sex

Share

By Joseph A. Barisas and William F. Long

Last week, a group of students hosted Harvard Sex Week, a series of widely-publicized events with titles ranging from “Hit Me Baby One More Time: BDSM in the Dorm Room” and “Bloody Good! An Intro to Period Sex” to “One is Not Enough: Open Relationships, Non-Monogamy, & Polyamory.” The Undergraduate Council and the Harvard Foundation shared the distinction of sponsoring these talks with, among others, various retailers of exotic sex toys, lubricants, and condoms.

Over our years at Harvard, we’ve seen our fair share of the extreme and the avant-garde, but this year’s programming managed to shock even us. The idea that a week including BDSM and polyamory could possibly contribute anything to a healthy understanding of sex struck us as entirely backward. Why has our dialogue about sex, something which should be considered intimate and reverent and profound, become simply an outlet for our unrestrained desires and debased passions?

The answer, we suspect, likely has something to do with the fact that Harvard teaches us from our very first week on campus an oversimplified attitude towards sex that we might call the “consensual” philosophy of sex. Each year during Opening Days, freshmen sit through a mandatory theatrical production called “Speak About It” in which, over an hour of sexual reenactments, they learn that as long as they have “consent,” they are free to engage in whatever with whomever they please. What matters is not the act consented to, but the consent itself. While consent is obviously essential to the very nature of sex, there is so much more to it than just a verbal assent extracted from the other party in order to do whatever one desires.

Because there are no other normative guidelines on what true and good sex is, this ambivalence inevitably reduces sex, one of the most powerful and meaningful components of the human experience, to what many young people invariably want it to be: a purely physical act whose primary function is to produce pleasure and satisfy passions. It matters not with whom one engages in it, neither the duration or depth of that relationship, nor yet the further continuance of the relationship. To speak of its emotional and spiritual aspects feels awkward and anachronistic, and discussion of its procreative nature, arguably the most essential characteristic of sex, is avoided like the plague.

But the consequences of this cheapened, hollowed-out view of sex are heartbreaking. They can be seen in a culture of one-night-stands and hook-ups, fueled by alcohol, often ending in indifference and, occasionally, emotional trauma. Young men and women learn to see one another as means to gratification and not ends in themselves, infinitely valuable and unique. A woman who had suffered the emotional toll of being ghosted once too many times asked in a New York Times column whether by consenting to hook-up culture, she had also consented to its premise of detachment and self-centeredness. When we lower our standards of acceptable sexual behavior to merely what is legal, we should not be surprised to see our personal standards of sexual morality drop and unbridled license expand to fill the void.

A sexual ethic that bases its standards solely on what is allowed teaches students that they are being moral by merely staying within the bounds of the law. A robust ethic has positive rather than solely negative norms. Students learn implicitly a definition of sex as allowance, where anything not prohibited is good, instead of realizing that boundaries and reason help make sex the entirely unique and wonderful thing it is. Paradoxically, this prohibitive ethic in which we are currently immersed destroys the possibility of allowing people to see sex as a good and honorable and beautiful thing.

One of the self-proclaimed objectives of Sex Week was to “connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard,” and the group that runs it aims to “open up campus dialogue.” This is an aspiration we can certainly agree with, and we want to begin engaging in this dialogue by rejecting the premise that the ethic of “consent” is sufficient to create a culture of sex that truly empowers and connects.

Couldn’t we all agree that true sex requires genuine care for the other party and to have their best interest at heart? The moment we impose this reasonable requirement, we recategorize a wide swath of sexual behavior — drunken one-night-stands for instance — as instead a sort of glorified mutual masturbation. As we continue to positively construct sex by considering its many natural and valuable facets, we begin to elevate its dignity and purpose and reestablish a philosophy of sexual ethics that we believe benefits everyone. At the Harvard College Anscombe Society, we believe among other things that true sex should be a total and unreserved giving of oneself to another, physically, emotionally, psychologically, biologically, and spiritually. Its primary function is unitive, tying two people in an indissoluble bond, and procreative, wherein the love shared between the two manifests itself in the miracle of human life.

Only when we take every aspect of sex seriously and consider it in its proper framing, can we recover its natural beauty and value. Admittedly, constructing a full alternative vision of sex is not something that can be easily done in an op-ed, and the Anscombe Society — through meetings and public talks, including one with world-renowned moral philosopher Dr. Janet E. Smith this week — hopes to continue this ongoing dialogue about true love.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Time to stop being coy about sex – and give young people the truth

Share

The government’s draft curriculum on sex education falls short on LGBT experiences, sexual violence and pornography

Why is there such a reluctance to arm young people with the information and discussions they need to go on to have healthier sexual relationships?

By

I had just turned 11 when Salt-N-Pepa released a track that made my ears burn on first hearing: “Let’s talk about sex baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be. Let’s talk about SEX.” It was quickly recorded on to a cassette and listened to surreptitiously. God forbid my parents should hear and think I wanted to talk about sex with them. But of course, as a preteen and then teenager, it was a conversation I did want to have. One I hoped would make me feel normal amid the swirl of overwhelming hormones.

My parents were, for their part, ordinary in their attitude towards “the talk”. They could be best described as squeamish, preferring to be vague on details but with a huge dollop of fear because … PREGNANCY. They were, and are, not alone. Ineptitude sits close to denial; both act as effective weapons for those who’d rather shirk a tricky responsibility. On this matter our schools have proved no different. Deemed best placed to curate discussions around sex, they have done so with an incompetence that has left young people unable to talk about the good and bad of s-e-x.

Britney Spears was dressed in a school uniform demanding “Hit me baby one more time” when the current sex education curriculum was first published. That year Monica Lewinsky was pilloried by public opinion that was too sexist to recognise that the 22-year-old intern might be a victim in the grim spectacle. Our schools largely ignored these teachable moments and were silent on such milestones. No wonder then that it is a curriculum feminists have long criticised for inadequately meeting the needs of today’s young. Where is talk about consent, sexting and the explosion of online pornography? Nowhere. Why is there such a reluctance to arm young people with the information and discussions they need to go on to have healthier sexual relationships?

Thankfully in the government’s new relationships and sex education (RSE) draft curriculum there is now explicit mention of these issues, and on Wednesday the Department for Education (DfE) closes its consultation on it. Yet there is still a danger it could fail many of our young by repeating old mistakes – and by ignoring the issues young people want to talk about.

It’s clear from the draft curriculum that violence against women and LGBT experiences are still issues seemingly difficult to broach – best handled with the language of ambiguity or outright silence. There is talk about coercion, but no room to place that in the context of gender inequality.

There is, too, a repeated return to the centrality of marriage, admittedly with an acknowledgment that this includes same-sex marriage. Yet this jars with making the teaching of LGBT relationships discretionary. It is why the feminist organisation Level Up is calling for people, especially the young, to have their say and respond to the government’s draft consultation. The aim is to let the government know that LGBT experiences should be an integral part of sex education rather than a tacked-on optional extra. To ignore this would be to let down the thousands of LGBT young people grappling with their sexual identity, who are already made to feel out of place. A survey by the government itself found that for 31% of young people, it is a priority that they are taught about gender and sexual identity.

We all have stories of that one sex ed class where a teacher, usually barely able to contain their own discomfort, instructs a class of giggling teenagers on how best to place a condom on a cucumber. It tells us much that the memory of sex education for so many is one of awkward tittering – and a very clear sense that sex is something to be feared if not avoided.

But even in that scenario, most could at least say they found their sexual identity reflected in the content of discussion. The same could not be said for LGBT students whose teachers were legally bound under section 28 to desist from teaching “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Fifteen years on from the repeal of the act, and despite proposed changes to the curriculum, RSE in many schools might be more accurately described as heterosexual sex ed. If schools can decide to opt out of teaching LGBT experiences, the government must accept that those relationships will not be normalised and LGBT young people will be made vulnerable as a result.

That LGBT students would be given sex ed without seeing themselves reflected is a repudiation of their sexual identity. It is the type of silence that can easily breed self-doubt and loathing, not to mention bullying and coercion. This new curriculum is supposed to be a step forward. Instead it feels like we are stuck in the past.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

6 things I wish I knew about sex as a teen

Share
It’s up to you to define what constitutes losing your virginity

By Olivia Cassano

Growing up we receive so many problematic messages about sex that it’s no wonder we still consider it such a taboo.

Although I consider myself a very sex-positive person now, it took years to unlearn most of what mainstream society taught me about doing the deed.

There’s a lot to be learned about the nuanced experience of sex and I full-heartedly believe that we can never stop learning.

But here are the things I think everyone, young women especially, should know in order to foster a healthy, fulfilling relationship with sex.

Virginity is a heteronormative myth

Almost everything we know about virginity is either wrong or misogynistic.

First of all, it completely excludes same-sex experiences and focuses only on hetero PIV (penis in vagina) sex, alienating gay sex and turning it into the ‘other’.

If we were to take virginity for how it’s taught, technically gay people are all virgins.

See? It makes no sense.

All sex is sex and, ultimately, it’s up to you to define what constitutes losing your virginity, because it’s nothing more than a concept.

Losing your virginity is also somehow simultaneously romanticised and made out to be this horrific, traumatising, painful milestone.

It’s an oxymoron, but your entry point to sex will most likely be unremarkable.

It doesn’t have to hurt and you might not bleed (I didn’t), because another fallacy is that losing your V-card is all about the hymen breaking.

We’re taught that the hymen is like a fleshy roadblock that needs to be crashed into to officially lose your virgin status, but none of that is true.

The hymen is a thin, perforated membrane most, not all, women have, and it can be torn from pretty much anything, like tampons, masturbation and even some types of sport. It’s not proof of your virginity or lack thereof because, newsflash, women don’t come with a freshness seal.

The first time can be uncomfortable and the pain often associated with it most likely comes from nerves and a lack of lubrication.

Relax, lube up and enjoy (once you’re ready of course).

Had I known this before my first time, I wouldn’t have looked forward to it with such dreaded anticipation.

All sex is sex

As mentioned above, society has a tendency to think of sex as intercourse.

Again, this alienates same-sex experiences and trivialises other sexual activities like oral, anal and masturbation.

This way of thinking is so embedded in how we understand and talk about sex that it took me a while to dismantle this way of thinking, but it’s crucial to abandon this hierarchy.

And – lazy, straight men – foreplay is sex. Stop acting like it’s a nuisance you have to quickly get rid of before sticking your dick in us.

Which brings me to my next point.

Sex is not a race

Orgasms feel incredible and provide a wide range of mental and physical benefits, but, that being said, they’re not the only reason we have sex. Sex should be a whole experience and should be enjoyed even though it doesn’t end in climax, especially since the sad reality is that most hetero women don’t come from intercourse alone. Slow down, savour the experience and stop trying to hit a home run straight away. Masturbating is awesome

Women do it too.

It doesn’t make you desperate.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

It’s healthy. It’s amazing.

DIY sex is more than just satisfaction, it’s an act of self-love that reinforces your own pleasure and agency in sex.

Knowing how to please yourself means knowing what you want out of a sexual experience with a partner, if you wish to have one.

STIs don’t make you dirty

Although I was lucky enough to attend a school that offered a sex ed class, all it consisted of was our teacher showing us a slide show of disease-ridden genitalia.

The aim wasn’t so much to spread awareness but rather disgust us into not having unprotected sex.

It reinforced the stigma that people with STIs are dirty and stupid for catching them in the first place, most likely from having sex with a lot of different people.

Yes, we should teach kids to use a condom and get regularly tested – this advice applies to adults too – but we should also be taught how to talk about STIs without judgement or shame.

The easier it is to talk about them without wanting to recoil, the easier it is to approach the subject with a partner should you find out you caught something.

I didn’t get my first sexual health test until six years after being sexually active because I was terrified of knowing if I had anything.

Now I get a routine check every six months even though I am in a committed relationship, and it’s something I look forward to because it’s a way to make sure I’m being safe and keeping my partner safe too.

STIs aren’t something to be happy about, but they’re also not the end of your sex life.

Literally anything about consent

It’s 2018 and most people still don’t have a clear grasp on consent.

Growing up, I had never even heard of consent, because no one taught me.

Consent isn’t just the absence of a ‘no’, it’s a voluntary, explicit and enthusiastic verbal and non-verbal ‘yes’. It can be withdrawn at any point and consenting to one activity does not mean consenting to any future activities.

Sex without consent is abuse or rape, so it’s probably the first and most important thing we should be learning when it comes to sex.

Complete Article HERE!

Share

Get the Sex Education You Never Had With These 9 Books

Share

It’s not too late to learn something beyond the keep-your-legs-closed approach. Virginity not required.

By

Chances are, if you had sex ed in America, your sexual IQ is suffering. To help get you up to speed, we asked top experts to weigh in on their fave books on sex and sexuality, from newer releases to tried-and-true classics. Consider this your actually good resource on what to read.

A playbook for your vagina problems

Our Bodies, Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Collective

“This classic belongs on every woman’s bookshelf. It is a very comprehensive guide to most sexual-health issues that you are likely to encounter in your life and frequently connects critical medical information to its cultural context.” —Laci Green, online sex educator and author of Sex Plus 

An LGBTQ “instruction manual”

This Book Is Gay, by Juno Dawson

“Growing up, it’s common to have lots of questions about sexuality, attraction, love, and relationships. Being LGBTQ can add an additional layer to those questions and sometimes it’s hard to know who to talk to or where to get information. This book is filled with great info about sexual health, as well as stories from LGBTQ youth.”  —Nora Gelperin, director of sexuality education and training with Advocates for Youth 

A true story about sexual assault

Missoula, by Jon Krakauer

“I’m recommending this book to highlight sexual assault and rape on college campuses. This story stresses the need for sexual-assault education at the college campus level but provides insight on the need to provide this education at an early age. And it also sheds light on the need to address the justice system on college campuses.” —Jennifer Driver, state policy director for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) 

An almost sci-fi take on female anatomy

Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier

“An OG guide to the female body. Natalie Angier does a great job dissecting stereotypes while outlining research (and lack of research) on the exact anatomy that life comes from. Twenty years later and this is still a go-to guide.” —Eileen Kelly, editor-in-chief and founder of Killer and a Sweet Thang 

A refreshing brushup on periods, relationships, and consent

GIRL: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You, by Karen Rayne

“I chose this story because Karen runs one of my favorite sex-ed organizations, Unhushed. It’s similar to my book, Sex Plus, for those looking to expand their perspective.” –Green 

An illustrated explainer on “sex stuff”

It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris

“This read provides comprehensive information about how bodies work, how pregnancy happens, various attractions, and sexual orientations. My go-to sexual-health book with fantastic, inclusive content and wonderful illustrations that help explain all this complicated sexuality stuff.” —Gelperin

The textbook you should’ve had

Changing Bodies, Changing Lives, by Ruth Bell

“Ruth Bell was part of the team that wrote Our Bodies, Ourselves, which revolutionized sex education in 1976. In this book, she includes poems and cartoons from real teenagers, making it feel more lived-in and more realistic than many others. We desperately need more options for sex-ed books that have an intersectional feminist lens—especially ones that prioritize transgender kids—but Bell’s updated work is sex-positive and LGBTQ-friendly.” —Samantha Dercher, federal policy director for (SIECUS) 

Gen Z giving their take on sex

Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, by Peggy Orenstein

“Peggy Orenstein traveled the United States interviewing more than 70 young girls between 15 and 20 to figure out what it’s like for girls growing up in today’s day and age. This is a highly insightful read into how the digital landscape is changing everything around us, shaping the way society views women and how girls and women view themselves. It’s a necessary read.” —Kelly

A classic about the angst of girlhood

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

“Judy Blume’s 1970s novels are iconic for a reason—the world has changed, but preteen anxieties don’t. Although today’s kids have probably never heard of a sanitary belt (recent editions of the novel have updated the text to more modern menstrual products, but I prefer the original book!), Margaret still serves as a representation of that universal tween feeling of not belonging. It might not feel as modern as it once did, but Judy Blume—and Margaret—revolutionized how preteen girls view themselves and their bodies and made the terrifying unknowns of puberty seem a little less scary to me.” —Dercher

Complete Article HERE!

Share