Tag Archives: Sex-negative

Dismantling the myths of rape culture

By Matthew Wade

slutwalk

It’s a double edged sword: as a queer woman, your sex life is objectified if you’re too femme, or dismissed if you’re too masc. In light of the recent SlutWalk rally in Melbourne to protest slut-shaming and victim-blaming, Matthew Wade spoke to queer women about how their sexual identities are policed in Australia.

Men often fetishise the sex lives of queer women or erase them completely, with little elbow room in between.

When she first came out and started dating women, Natasha Smith was femme-presenting, and her sex life was a point of objectification.

“A common question at the time was around what I did in bed, but not in a way that made me feel empowered,” she told the Star Observer.

“People would ask if what I did was really sex, and who the ‘man’ was in the bedroom.

“When there’s no man involved other men have to try and figure out what this tantalising thing is… when a woman’s sexuality isn’t defined by them they turn it into a form of entertainment.”

On the flip side, Smith believes the sexualities of queer women that are more masc-presenting are often invisible, as they’re not seen by men as ‘real’ women.

“Queer women live in this weird dehumanising space where they’re stigmatised as sex objects for the straight male gaze or they’re denied,” she said.

For her Master’s thesis Smith focused on the impact homophobia and sexism had on same-sex attracted women.

She interviewed women aged 18 to 60 and many told her they had experienced street harassment and ogling, with men yelling at them for holding another woman’s hand.

“There’s this idea that you’re an object but if you fight back and resist that, it comes with the threat of escalating violence,” she said.

For many of her interviewees, revealing their sexuality to a male who may be flirting with them in a nightclub would have damaging repercussions.

“As soon as they said they were a lesbian, they’d be called a slut, a dyke, and would be subject to public humiliation,” she said.

While shame and stigma are commonly heaped on the sex lives of queer women, this becomes much more apparent when a queer woman has a more grievous encounter with sexual assault or rape.

According to the United Nations, Australia has one of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, more than double the global average.

However, because men often try to delegitimise the sexualities of queer women, their voices and experiences are left off the table.

Smith believes rape culture affects society at large, but that for queer women it can be particularly damaging.

“If you’re a queer woman and you happen to be more masc-presenting there’s a weird sort of erasure of your sexuality,” she said.

“And because people misunderstand rape as something connected to sexuality, many think queer women aren’t likely to be raped.”

When it comes to survivors of sexual assault and rape, Smith wants to debunk a common misconception: that rape is about sex.

“There’s an assumption when it comes to sexual assault and rape that they’re inherently sexual acts – but they’re not,” she said.

“They’re violent acts of power that use sex as the weapon.

“The myth that rape is somehow related to the sexual attractiveness of women is what leads to the dismissal of the experiences of queer women.”

Beyond the masculine and feminine gender binary that subjects queer women who present either way to sexual fetishisation or erasure, queer women who sit somewhere along the spectrum also face stigma around their sexual identity.

Where Smith recalls being asked intrusive questions about her sex life as a femme-presenting woman, Melbourne resident Luca Vanags-Smith is at times assumed to not have one.

As someone who now identifies as gender queer, Vanags-Smith has seen a noticeable shift in the way her sexual identity has been perceived.

“I think if you’re femme you’re hyper sexualised, and if you don’t fit the stereotypical model of femininity you’re invisible,” she said.

“I’ve had the lived experience of being gender queer for about two years and I’m viewed by many men as being sexless, or as being an asexual creature.

“I think there’s also this idea that two people that have vulvas can’t really have sex because there’s no penetration involved, so men see women sleeping with each other as entertainment for them.”

The desexualisation and dismissal of masc-presenting or gender queer women can also lead to homophobic views around Vanags-Smith’s sexual identity and her relationships with other women.

“I think when I was more femme-presenting people didn’t take it as seriously, but now my relationships often get pushed into a more heterosexual lens, which isn’t the case at all – after three or four months at a job I had, I had to break it to my boss that I wasn’t in fact a man,” she said.

“It can definitely erase the queerness of my relationships.

“People just assume I must be the one that uses the strap on, when one: that’s none of their business and two: that isn’t the case at all.”

Vanags-Smith has also found that heterosexual men will treat her as ‘one of the guys’ and attempt to engage her in a sexist conversation.

“Men will come up to me, point out a particular woman and say, ‘she’s got a great ass mate,’” she said.

“I know how awful that can make someone feel, especially a same-sex attracted woman.

“I’ve also had guys calling me love and telling me I just haven’t had a good fuck, and asking me how I have sex.”

As a means to combat this, Vanags-Smith believes sex education in schools needs to become increasingly sex positive.

She also added that sexist attitudes and misogyny are the bedrock of homophobia, transphobia, and whorephobia.

“With same-sex intimate relationships between women, men don’t really fit into that equation,” she said.

“And some see that as affronting.”

Melbourne recently played host to the annual SlutWalk rally, a march developed as a means to protest the slut-shaming and victim-blaming of women around the world, irrespective of gender or sexual identity.

It was created in Canada in 2011 after a police officer said “women should avoid dressing like sluts” if they wanted to avoid being sexually assaulted.

In Melbourne the rally sees speakers with a diverse range of experiences speaking out against misogyny and rape culture, and how it affects women.

Smith believes SlutWalk does well at being as inclusive as it can be, particularly now that the conversation around trans and queer identities has become more prominent.

“When I started going to SlutWalk I wasn’t as out as I am now, and it was through being emerged in the march that I found a community of feminists that understood me,” she said.

“They enabled me to grow into someone I’m very proud of and to be comfortable in my sexuality.”

Vanags-Smith said she loves SlutWalk because it changes people’s opinions of what a sexual assault survivor might look like, to include women of different ages, cultural backgrounds, and sex ual and gender identities.

“It acknowledges that there may be people who are femme and attractive, but there may be women who don’t fit these archetypes who may also experience sexual assault,” she said.

“The idea that some women are more at risk than others is a massive myth in rape culture that SlutWalk seeks to dismantle.”

Complete Article HERE!

Sex education is not relevant to pupils’ lives, says report

International study finds schools’ teaching about sexuality out of touch, moralistic and unwilling to accept some students are already in relationships

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A sex education lesson at Chelmsford grammar school.

A sex education lesson at Chelmsford grammar school.

Sex education in schools worldwide is so “out of touch” with pupils’ experiences that they find it irrelevant and switch off, research of young people in 10 countries including the UK shows.

Many students find lessons about sex and relationships negative, moralistic and too scientific to help them deal with the feelings and situations they are encountering, according to an analysis of young people’s views published in the journal BMJ Open.

The study, led by Dr Pandora Pound of the school of social and community medicine at Bristol University, found a surprising consistency in young people’s views on sex education regardless of whether they were in Britain, the US, Iran, Japan, Australia or elsewhere.

“It is clear from our findings that SRE [sex and relationship education] provision in schools frequently fails to meet the needs of young people,” Pound said. “Schools seem to have difficulty accepting [that] some people are sexually active, which leads to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”

Pound and her colleagues reached their conclusions after examining 55 previously published studies that set out young people’s views of sex education between 1990 and 2015. It also included pupils and ex-pupils in the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and Sweden.

SRE lessons too often left female pupils at risk of harassment if they participated and male students anxious to hide their ignorance about sex, they found. Some young men were disruptive in class in order to disguise their inexperience.

Many pupils believed that schools saw sex as a problem to be managed, that there was too much focus on heterosexual relationships and that females were often portrayed as passive and males as predatory, the researchers found.

Many pupils also found it uncomfortable and unhelpful that teachers they had for other subjects also taught them SRE. “They expressed dislike of their own teachers delivering SRE due to blurred boundaries, lack of anonymity, embarrassment and poor training,” according to the study.

A 2013 report into sex education by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate for England, found that just 19% of 18-year-olds believe that SRE should be taught by a teacher from their own schools.

For their part, teachers themselves often admit to “discomfort” at teaching SRE. Ofsted’s review also found that one in three English schools delivered poor quality SRE.

Schools could tackle these problems by instead holding some single sex SRE lessons and using sex educators from outside to deliver lessons, the authors suggest.

They also suggest that schools should be much more “sex-positive” – open, frank and positive about sex in a way that challenges negative attitudes in society to sex.

“It is disappointing that the pattern of inadequate sex and relationships education is repeated from country to country, with young people in England and elsewhere saying that SRE starts too little and too late and is often too biological with little attention to relationships, and lessons fail to reflect the reality of young people’s lives,” said Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the UK’s Sex Education Forum.

“Teachers have repeatedly said that they need subject-specific training so that they can teach good quality sex and relationships education, but in England there has been a failing on the part of government to require that SRE must be taught in every school, so there are huge gaps in provision with some schools not teaching the subject at all,” she added.

The study, which was funded by the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research, also found that SRE often does not give pupils practical information such as what to do if they become pregnant and the pros and cons of different methods of contraception. In addition it found that sex education is often delivered too late for some pupils.

Without an overhaul of SRE, “young people will continue to disengage from SRE and opportunities for safeguarding and improving their sexual health will be reduced”, the paper warns.

“The international evidence is clear, comprehensive SRE taught early by trained educators results in improvements for young people’s sexual health and reductions in sexual violence,” added Emmerson. “But too many countries are failing to respond and take action and provide children and young people with the education they need and deserve.”

Complete Article HERE!

Assisted-living facilities limit older adults’ rights to sexual freedom, study finds

Georgia State University

senior intimacy

ATLANTA — Older adults in assisted-living facilities experience limits to their rights to sexual freedom because of a lack of policies regarding the issue and the actions of staff and administrators at these facilities, according to research conducted by the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State University.

Though assisted-living facilities emphasize independence and autonomy, this study found staff and administrators behave in ways that create an environment of surveillance. The findings, published in the Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, indicate conflict between autonomy and the protection of residents in regard to sexual freedom in assisted-living facilities.

Nearly one million Americans live in assisted-living facilities, a number expected to increase as adults continue to live longer. Regulations at these facilities may vary, but they share a mission of providing a homelike environment that emphasizes consumer choice, autonomy, privacy and control. Despite this philosophy, the autonomy of residents may be significantly restricted, including their sexuality and intimacy choices.

Sexual activity does not necessarily decrease as people age. The frequency of sexual activity in older adults is lower than in younger adults, but the majority maintain interest in sexual and intimate behavior. Engaging in sexual relationships, which is associated with psychological and physical wellbeing, requires autonomous decision-making.

While assisted-living facilities have many rules, they typically lack systematic policies about how to manage sexual behavior among residents, which falls under residents’ rights, said Elisabeth Burgess, an author of the study and director of the Gerontology Institute.

“Residents of assisted-living facilities have the right to certain things when they’re in institutional care, but there’s not an explicit right to sexuality,” Burgess said. “There’s oversight and responsibility for the health and wellbeing of people who live there, but that does not mean denying people the right to make choices. If you have a policy, you can say to the family when someone moves in, here are our policies and this is how issues are dealt with. In the absence of a policy, it becomes a case-by-case situation, and you don’t have consistency in terms of what you do.”

The researchers collected data at six assisted-living facilities in the metropolitan Atlanta area that varied in size, location, price, ownership type and resident demographics. The data collection involved participant observation and semi-structured interviews with administrative and care staff, residents and family members, as well as focus groups with staff.

The study found that staff and administrators affirmed that residents had rights to sexual and intimate behavior, but they provided justifications for exceptions and engaged in strategies that created an environment of surveillance, which discouraged and prevented sexual and intimate behavior.

The administrators and staff gave several overlapping reasons for steering residents away from each other and denying rights to sexual and intimate behavior. Administrators emphasized their responsibility for the residents’ health and safety, which often took precedence over other concerns.

Family members’ wishes played a role. Family members usually choose the home and manage the residents’ financial affairs. In some instances, they transport family members to doctor’s appointments, volunteer at the facility and help pay for the facility, which is not covered by Medicaid. They are often very protective of their parents and grandparents and are uncomfortable with new romantic or intimate partnerships, according to staff. Administrators often deferred to family wishes in order to reduce potential conflict.

Staff and administrators expressed concern about consent and cognitive impairment. More than two-thirds of residents in assisted-living facilities have some level of cognitive impairment, which can range from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia. They felt responsible for protecting residents and guarding against sexual abuse, even if a person wasn’t officially diagnosed.

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Co-authors of the study, Georgia State alumni, include Christina Barmon of Central Connecticut State University, Alexis Bender of Ripple Effect Communications in Rockville, Md., and James Moorhead Jr. of the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging Services.

The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health.

Read the study HERE!

Complete Article HERE!

Large number of young people experience sex problems, study finds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Complete Article HERE!

Here’s What Could Get You Committed If You Were a Woman in the 1870s

Many of things that got women committed in the 1870s would be considered normal behavior today.

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Woman in the 1870s

Despite all the effort made today to de-stigmatize mental illness, the history of mental health and its treatment isn’t pretty. Even as late as the 1970s, lobotomies were widely practiced in the United States to “cure” things such as depression, anxiety, and even homosexuality. Now, imagine yourself in the late 1800s … let’s say around 1875. The germ theory of medicine had barely been worked out, let alone any sound understanding of the human mind and mental illness. People were still treated with bloodletting, mercury, and other dangerous practices. The definition of “insanity” was flexible, and often used to strip inconvenient family members of their money and land. Protections against being committed to an insane asylum in the late 1800s were few … and even fewer if you were a woman. With only the signature of a husband or a male guardian, women could be committed for the rest of their lives for “illnesses” that are now recognized as normal, healthy sexual behavior.

 

Complete Article HERE!