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May 21, 2013
Because there are actually sensible people on this planet who know that the responsibility of pregnancy does not fall solely on the shoulders of girls and women, the campaign above exists. The Chicago Department of Public Health’s Office of Adolescent and School Health has launched a great campaign about teenage pregnancy. The campaign features images of pregnant lads, reminding people that there is always another party involved. Because in today’s society, people are quick to shame the young women, forgetting that they couldn’t possibly have gotten pregnant all on their own. What are we now? Amoeba?
You can read all about the campaign on the City of Chicago’s official website.
May 21, 2013
(Note: Katia Gomez is the Founder and Executive Director of Educate2Envision, an international NGO working with the children and young people of Honduras. Recently, her organization was recognized by the WomenDeliver as one of the 25 finalists for the WomenDeliver 25, an online competition to determine the top social enterprises that benefit girls and women around the world. More than 13,500 votes were cast online to select Teen Revolt, New Incentives, Wedu, and the other winners. Each finalist will receive a scholarship to WomenDeliver 2013, where they will compete in the first-ever Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge. Photo credits goes to Educate2Envision website and Wikipedia.)
Leo: Hi Katia, first of all, congratulations to you and to Educate2Envision for being one of the Top 10 finalists for the Women Deliver Social Enterprise Challenge. How does it feel to have reached this far? Tell us the process that your organization have undergone in order to reach this point in your organization of being a finalist of such a prestigious competition.
Katia: Thank you! It’s such an honor to be recognized for our work with the girls of Honduras on such a global scale as Women Deliver. It is a great feeling of accomplishment and also one of excitement at this particular point in time as we are growing Educate2Envision and expanding throughout the country to bring educational opportunities to hundreds more. To get to this point has taken the ability to learn lessons along the way and really take time to understand the communities we work with to better support them on their journey towards building empowered future generations.
Leo: How did Educate2Envision started as an organization? Why choose the name Educate2Envision as the name of the organization? Are you based in Honduras alone or does the organization also have other country offices with specific projects to work with?
Katia: My vision for starting the organization came after a Spring Break volunteer trip in 2009 with a group of undergrad classmates. This was one of the first times that I was able to see the poverty discussed in my classroom lectures and textbooks really come to life. Speaking to the parents and teachers in the community that would become our pilot program, I began to quickly understand all the new buzz around girls’ education and how it could indeed change the outcome of entire countries.
The name Educate2Envision came about because I wanted the name to speak to the “before and after” of our work. We don’t only want to provide a means for youth in poverty to become educated in the traditional sense, but rather we have a higher goal of providing them with the self-esteem and leadership skills to envision a better future for their communities.
We are currently working only in Honduras with our headquarters based in California.
Leo: Why should an organization like E2E focus on the education of the young people boys and girls of Honduras? How important is education to them? What good can it bring to their lives?
Katia: An endless number of surveys and interviews that our students have contributed towards overwhelmingly show a desire to use education as a tool to improve and develop their communities and to enable them to be productive citizens of Honduras. Almost every response proves to be a selfless one when asked why education is important. The level of importance cannot be overstated in a society, such as the rural communities of Honduras, where the cycle of poverty is aggressive and stubborn often reflected in parents who lack basic literacy skills. Education is that investment that can break the cycle that has endured for generations and set a precedent with the first in the family to be educated past primary school and beyond; you can bet that their children will follow the same trajectory. Poverty is a complicated web of deeply rooted inequalities, so it can be difficult to find the light at the end of the tunnel, but education is one of the most fool-proof investments we can make in putting an end to this.
Leo: Please share to us the progress of the programs and projects that E2E has implemented in the communities of Pajarillos, Miravalle, and La Ceiba such as:
a. Girls Leadership Club
b. Secondary School Sponsorship
c. E2E Youth Empowerment Network
d. Other E2E Programs
Katia: To date we have sponsored over 60 students to be the first in their families, and often communities, to move beyond 6th grade. The E2E Youth Empowerment Network will have it’s first National Conference take place next month which will showcase small business projects from each school intended to address a need in their communities. This will be the first time they will all be brought together to collaborate and help give a bigger voice to the rural poor. Our Girls Leadership Club is functioning great with the latest survey results showing that girls who participated have greater self-esteem and self-respect than before. One of my favorite recent quotes was from an 11 year old girl, “Before my friends and I would play house and pretend to be moms, now when we play we pretend to be teachers and doctors.”
Leo: Your website gave information to its best, I am wondering if you integrate comprehensive sexuality education to your programs and projects? If yes, I would love to know how you specifically integrated this in your programs and projects. If not, what could be the possible impediments/challenges that E2E which hindered you from implementing so?
Katia: Yes we definitely have prioritized reproductive health and sexuality education in our programming because it is so rarely discussed within the formal school system or even among parents. With such high rates of adolescent pregnancy, there is really no sidestepping the issue if we want our students to excel in our secondary school programming. There are a variety of ways that we instruct our students including open discussions inside the Girls Leadership Club, workshops led by our Honduran University interns, and training primary school teachers how to approach the topic in class. It is taboo is most of Honduran society to openly discuss sexuality education but we have not found parents to be opposed to E2E’s efforts in making the knowledge available to their children.
Leo: How do you monitor and evaluate your programs and projects? What are the results so far?
Katia: Our monitoring and evaluation techniques try to encompass both qualitative and quantitative indicators within a community. For example, we track student progress within the primary and secondary school systems such as enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. But we also pay close attention to the level of behavior change among our students and the community overall by asking questions related to future goals and where education fits in their lives. We have seen outstanding results among the students we have sponsored so far in 2 communities. As a result of creating access to secondary school, enrollment rates have spiked at the primary level as parents have been moved to place their kids in school. We also have the highest number of graduating primary school students in the history of the community, who will all be first generation high school students. Additionally, the community that previously faced the highest level of teen pregnancy has had zero girls in the past 2 years exit 6th grade pregnant, which has broken a decades long trend. The overall sentiment towards having goals in one’s life has been transformed dramatically over the past 3 years such that nearly 100% of primary school students can tell you what they wish to be when they grow up whereas before our arrival, they were unable to answer the question because they were unaware of what other options existed.
Leo: What good practices have you encountered while doing these programs and projects and why should we implement it and learn from it? What does E2E want to achieve at the end of the day? Are their new programs, projects or initiatives that E2E will be implementing anytime soon?
Katia: Good practices sometimes involve needing to stray from the rest of the pack. On the education side of development work, my experience has shown that many organizations invest predominantly in tangible donations and infrastructure projects. Although this does represent an unmet need in many communities, I feel there is a lack of focus on more cost-effective projects that promote leadership and innovation among rural youth. If we spend the time to truly understand the intricacies of a rural poor community, we will come to understand that deeply entrenched belief systems are incredibly difficult to influence when it comes to education, so we must make a conscious effort to work directly alongside community members every step of the way.
E2E wants to leave a community in the hands of empowered future changemakers. We don’t see our role as solely creating access to higher education and enrolling as many kids as possible into the program. Each student that we invest in is surrounded by opportunities to gain leadership and life skills that transcend what is traditionally taught in the classroom.
The newest initiative we have underway is a change to our current student sponsorship program. We are building a sustainable model that will allow students, as a class, to design a small business project that would be analyzed by experts and once finalized would receive seed funding from E2E as well as financial workshops. The income earned would be used by students to fund their own school fees .
Leo: Can you share to us how you got involved in the organization? How does it feel working with young people, girls and boys in Honduras? What is the situation in Honduras that motivated you to work for E2E?
Katia: Well it’s incredible if you look at the figures and just think that a country has nearly 75% under 30 years old and only about a quarter of them have any access or resources to attend secondary school. It’s one thing to be astonished by those numbers but it’s another thing to work directly in trying to close the gap and send first-generation high school students back to school. It’s incredibly rewarding because I was sponsored through high school and university as well and now it has come full circle to being able to help those who needed an opportunity as I did.
Leo: Educate2Envision can only do so much out of its own efforts, how does your community help or assist you? Is there a government counterpart or cooperation in your projects? Are you acknowledge by the government of Honduras for your efforts and is there a support you receive coming from them? With the recent political turmoil in the country, how did it affect your work, your recipient communities, and the education system of Honduras?
Katia: The local government has played a very helpful role in supporting our efforts whether it be through assistance with transportation, monitoring, or providing material support for any construction projects. The Secretary of Education and the Ministry of Social Development are both active in providing partnerships that help offset some financial costs, particularly personnel, on our end. We luckily have not been negatively impacted by any political situations at the national level. As an International NGO we have been very fortunate to have great freedom to function independently without much red tape.
Leo: Some people does not know about where and what Honduras is. I myself only know a few things like its Maya heritage, Tegucigalpa, Dania Prince Mendes (Miss Earth 2003), and Manuel Zelaya to name a few. In your own words, describe Honduras to us, to me. Why do you think it has a promising future when we educate its children in order to envision? Muchas gracias!
Katia: Honduras has unfortunately become synonymous with violence and drug trafficking for many who do not know the country outside of what the media reports. I’m so glad to see that you are familiar with other aspects as well! There are undoubtedly many issues related to violence and poverty that restrain Honduras from progressing forward, but the people here are resilient and bonded as a community. You will always have those in political power who are in it for the wrong reasons but I have met so many local Honduran government workers, young people, and teachers who truly believe, with all their heart, in education as the solution to improving the lives of their communities and the country as a whole. We shouldn’t allow the crimes that take place, as happen in any part of the world, to overshadow the overwhelming acts of good that exist and I believe will ultimately triumph with a new generation of humanitarians that will lead the way.
May 18, 2013
Planning events are a great way to advocate for issues that matter to you and your community. For me, the biggest thing was to giving myself plenty of time to plan everything out, and make sure that it would go smoothly, and as planned.
If you’re working with your council and you want your coordinator to work with you or attend the event, let that person know in advance! They need to know ahead of time, because their schedules can get very busy. You might need to come up with a new date and/or time. If you are going host the event at your school or a with school club affiliate, you might need to fill out permission request forms, depending on your school. You might also need to find a teacher or administrator to sponsor the event.
My council-mate and I were planning to host a movie screening of “Lets Talk About Sex” in our school auditorium! First, we had to talk to the principal about the event. We had never talked to him about our council or sex education, but it went swimmingly! He totally loved the idea and supported us.
In order to reserve the auditorium, we had to have a sponsor. When we decided on sponsors, we went to them and told them about our council and about the movie. A teacher and a school nurse filled out a form for us. We offered to let the nurse and teacher watch the movie and both did. They loved it and fully supported it as well!
Another thing to think about is the time of day to host the event. If you hold it too late in the day, youth will probably not want to go back to school. We chose a time when kids would still be at school.
The next thing that I thought about was how to attract people and get them thinking. Create flyers! At our school, we have computer programs to make the best flyers. We also ended having to make a permission slip, which our coordinator gave us. We stapled a permission slip to each flyer.
Next, we handed them out to people, teachers and our friends. We also served pizza after our event so that people wouldn’t just show up for the pizza and leave. When our event started we accepted the permission slips and asked people sit down. We ended up with 25 people, which is great!
You have to remember that some people will say that they are going to attend, but will not show up later. A very important thing to do before you end the event is to let your attendees ask questions. Let them know about any important events that are coming up, and get their information to enter them into the database and receive newsletters, etc. After your event, you will know you know who you can invite again and ask them to tell their friends. If you feel you didn’t do something well, make a note about it to fix it for your next event. Your first event is a learning experience. Good luck with your event!!
May 18, 2013
Dear Sex Ed Teachers,
Let me start by thanking all the sex educators out there. You are helping us become better human beings.
We might not show it, but we truly appreciate you and all you do.
We (as in your students) know more than anyone that talking about sex can be a bit uncomfortable, but you, being the great sex teacher you are, maneuver us around the initial awkwardness and get us to a place where we are all comfortable enough to ask questions.
Yes, yes, we know the jokes and the eye rolling is annoying, but the truth is we really do care. And that jokes are actually topics that we want to bring up. Your lessons are the topics we bring up at sleep overs and at the lunch tables. If it seems like we don’t care, or like we know all that there is to know about sex, just know that we listened to the topics you brought up. You got us talking, provided us with the information, tools and resources.
Thank you for enduring all the “yo mama” jokes and brushing off the funny comments.
May 18, 2013
I strictly assumed that by this time period humans would not be arguing over equality, inclusion, and sexual health. Apparently, some Americans don’t want their children learning about “the gays”, “the lesbians”, “the immigrants” or “cultures.” Some are even outraged because “white heterosexuals” are “no longer represented.” These are authentic words spoken from citizens present in the committee for HB 1081 or “The Sex Ed Bill”, on Thursday February 7th. I went into committee humming “I’m just a Bill” to ease the nerves, because I had no idea what to expect for my first committee hearing. I was not prepared to speak, but after listening to the opposition’s arguments that were no more than racist and discriminative, I wanted my voice heard. I was “the gay” that they rejected, and the “immigrant” that disgusted them, and the “culture” that they were opposed too.
My turn came to speak. Hesitant I got up from my chair, stepped slow and cautious to the stand while I felt judgment from the many eyes in the room. I thought repeatedly in my head what I wanted to say, but as soon as my mouth said the first word, everything seemed to vanish from my brain. What was a high school student to say? Hell, why was he even here? I sat down. My voice shook as I said my name, but I remembered the woman who didn’t want “the gays” and the “immigrants” in her white heterosexual culture and said “I am here representing the Latino community who cannot be here today because they do not speak English, or have the resources to be here.” Yes, I said Latino with an accent because in that very moment, I had never been more proud to be a person of color. I then stated “I would like to begin by saying that I identify as gay.” Never had a said “I identify as gay” openly, in public. I knew however that this was the time to truly express myself as an advocate.
I testified for HB 1081 in a way I never thought I would. I not only came out to the 12 legislators in the room, but I came out to the priest in the back who probably damned me to hell ten times over, the woman who drove from Colorado Springs to attack communities I am a part of, and the many allies in that room which gave me the boost of confidence I much needed. I didn’t have a clear understanding of why I do the work I do. I knew I had a passion for the education of individuals, the equality of humans, and empowerment of the mind, but it took that one woman saying “the gays” and “the immigrants” to accurately put this into perspective. Not only was I advocating for Comprehensive Sexual Health Education, but I was making a stand for everything that is included in Comp Sex Ed; The inclusion of culture, ability, gender, age, sexual orientation, size, and ethnicity. Comprehensive Sexual Health addresses the respect for others and respect for yourself, which is why I was able to testify, and confront the opposition: Learning about my body, my actions and reactions, and my rights as a young person has allowed me to gain self assurance and confidence. The experience of testifying for committee was electrifying, intimidating, but mostly rewarding and reflective, and I can only hope that I was remembered among the citizens who don’t want the “the gays”, “the lesbians”, or “the immigrants” in their culture, these pitiful underprivileged people: Where are they represented?
May 18, 2013
Respect. I think the word that best describes what I’m trying to get at with this blog. I feel like there’s this notion in society today that a women’s self-respect and self-worth lie completely between her legs, and because of this notion a lot of other social issues arise. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard some variation of the phrase have some respect for yourself ladies and keep your legs closed. Statements like this pigeonhole women and keep society in that outdated mindset that all a woman is good for is sex and childbearing. Self-respect, to me, has to do with self-love and standing up for yourself and what you believe in. It’s like a reverse golden rule, “treat others how you would like to be treated” treating yourself that way too. Self-respect has nothing to do with how much sex you have or how revealing your clothes are.
So, “slut-shaming” is what I’m getting at now. “Slut-shaming” is the shaming or acting of woman, making her feel inferior or guilty for engaging in certain sexual behaviors that deviate from traditional norms or expectations. Girls do it, calling each other sluts with no self-respect because they make sexual decisions that are simply different from their own. And by doing this, they open a door for men and the rest of society to disrespect women and look down on women who simply have different viewpoints than their own. This just adds to the inequality of women and double standards, because you less often see anyone calling a man a slut with no self-respect.
So all of this serves to contribute to another, bigger societal problem which is “victim blaming.” It’s the mindset that women are responsible for being raped, or “they were asking for it,” because of the way they were dressed, the way they were acting or the amount of drugs or alcohol in their system. This culture in society emphasizes and teaches victims not to get raped, or not to do things that would promote getting raped, rather than punishing perpetrators and teaching not to rape. No matter what the person is wearing or how they may be acting, forced sex without consent is rape. Keeping in mind that consent cannot be obtained if the person is passed out drunk. So where did “rape culture” and “victim blaming” come from? Well if we’re allowing society to look down on women as “sluts,” then we can’t be surprised when that same society isn’t sympathetic towards them when they are raped.
Back to respect. Respect is essential to stopping “slut-shaming” and the problems that emerge from it. Having respect is having an open mind towards understanding that not everyone’s opinion on sex and how and when to have it is going to be same as yours. Rather than resorting to calling each other names, we should open our minds and our hearts towards understanding people who are simply different than ourselves.
May 18, 2013
May 17, 2013
May 17, 2013
Wow! How time flies. I can’t imagine I am year older (again), thought I this morning when I received an SMS from a friend I have long lost sight of. It read thus; “Happy Birthday and many more years” This is a classical birthday message that anyone will send to a friend or even an unknown person, you might be thinking. But this is not the case for me because unlike in the previous years when I will just receive these messages and file, I have this year decided to carefully study these Birthday messages before filing or even deleting and as well carefully look through all the Birthday messages I have been sent at each one of these occasions.
Though written in different styles and strongly influenced by the nature of my relationship with the sender of the birthday message, there is a wish that was omnipresent in all the messages: Wishes of Good Health; which is what my friend’s, “Many More Years” in the above extraction from his birthday wish message to me seeks to express The result of this crazy study revealed to me how much Cameroonians care about their health.
The health of the average Cameroonian, like that of any normal human being in the world, is very important to him/her. What would vary might be the approach to ensuring that they stay healthy and maintain an equilibrium that is necessary for them to live a life worth living. Important as being healthy might be to Cameroonians, they are not unaware of the barriers to staying healthy. Talking about barriers to staying healthy in Cameroon, if you ask any Cameroon what the greatest barrier to staying healthy is, you would likely hear him/her answer ‘ACCESS’.
While it is clear from all indications that access to health is a stumbling block to Cameroonian’s staying healthy, it should be noted that even where these health facilities are available, users complain bitterly of the quality of the services rendered. Thus, it is common place to see a health practitioner sarcastically questioning a teenage girl about the reason for her pregnancy and making fun of her pregnancy by using very insulting and violent language. Worst still, it is common place to get a health practitioner who openly discusses results of the medical test of his/her patients without any sense of guilt or fear. The judgmental nature and lack of confidentiality in Cameroon’s health services is so widespread and across all spheres of society that a government minister recently declared that a journalist who had been tortured to death while in detention had died of HIV/AIDS.
With judgemental attitudes like these from health professionals and lack of confidentiality, no wonder an ever increasing number of pregnant teenagers refuse to go for prenatal checkups. To stay clear of insults and other traumatizing language and behaviours, they thus decide to stay at home with the risks that this carries.
It is high time the quality of health services in existing health facilities be improved so that patients, especially young persons, can have the best possible experience and not be afraid, for instance, to get an HIV test because they are not sure the results will remain between them and the health professionals.
The quality of health services, though often ignored, is an important factor in reinforcing the access of young people in particular and society at large to health facilities and should be considered as such by policy makers and health professionals. The availability of health facilities that have little or no consideration for the quality of the services offered creates more problems than it solves.
As government leaders, policymakers, healthcare professionals, NGO representatives, corporate leaders, and global media outlets gather in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Women Deliver 3rd Global conference to hold from the 28th-31st May 2013, it is my greatest desire that the quality of health services as they are now be carefully studied and appropriate action taken to make them less judgmental, more efficient, and more youth friendly.
May 16, 2013
Melissa Harris-Perry’s Panel looks at Elizabeth Smart’s recent comments on abstinence-only sex education and whether the policy is effective.
WATCH IT HERE: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty_MA_mrow8
May 13, 2013
May 11, 2013
“Sadly, real or perceived controversy keeps schools from providing young people with the information and skills they need to become sexually healthy adults. Just like other topics taught in school, sexuality education should be developmentally appropriate, sequential and complete.
Irrational fear – the cultural belief that teaching young people about sex will cause them to have sex – keeps administrators and educators from doing what they know is best: providing young people with developmentally appropriate, sequential and honest sex education. Never mind that 30 years of public health research clearly demonstrates that when young people receive such education, they are more likely to delay sexual initiation, and to use protection when they do eventually become sexually active, than those who receive no sex education or learn only about abstinence. Withholding information about sex and sexuality will not keep children safe; it will only keep them ignorant.
Ninety-five percent of all Americans have sex before marriage. About half of all young people begin having sex by age 17. Providing a foundation of quality sex education is the only way to ensure that young people will grow into sexually healthy adults. It can augment what children learn at home and combat misinformation learned from peers or found on the Internet. Porn is not the best way for teenagers to learn about sex, but it will fill the vacuum when sex education is politicized and withheld from our classrooms.
Quality sex education should start in kindergarten. Early elementary school students need to learn the proper names for their body parts, the difference between good touch and bad touch, and ways in which they can be a good friend (the foundation for healthy intimate relationships later in life). Fourth- and fifth-graders need information about puberty and their changing bodies, Internet safety, and the harmful impact of bullying. And seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders are ready for information about body image, reproduction, abstinence, contraception, H.I.V. and disease prevention, communication, and the topic they most want to learn about: healthy relationships.”
May 6, 2013
If Nevada and Sexuality listed their relationship status on Facebook, it would undoubtedly read “It’s Complicated”.
A flourishing sex trade? Check! A tourist industry that is based around that 80’s clichéd notion that “sex sells” and continuously uses women’s bodies as the background for marketing strategies? Duh, All about it! Home to Sin City, a place built upon a slogan that tells visitors that you can basically indulge in whatever vice you want, and leave with no consequences? Come on, It’s Vegas, Baby!
But providing young people a comprehensive sex education?! NOW, THAT IS SIMPLY OUTRAGEOUS. At least that’s what many lawmakers and anti sex ed advocates are screaming about in Carson City because of a new comprehensive sex education bill (AB 230) that is currently making its way through the Nevada legislature.
As a homegrown Nevadan, a Las Vegas resident for over 25 years, and an activist who found her voice and strength by engaging in local communities in Las Vegas and throughout Nevada, I can’t put into words how important and HUGE this all is.
See, Las Vegas is a city that has a difficult time having an honest conversation about sex. Sure, its nickname is Sin City, and everywhere you look, some notion of sex is being shoved down your throat (pun unintended). And while prostitution is not legal in Las Vegas itself, there are small towns outside of the city limits where legal brothels boast a steady business. All this to say, Las Vegas and the state it resides in, have not reconciled this economically-driven presentation of sex with the way we talk to the young people growing up around it.
My sex education in Nevada was similar to many others across the country. When the time came to teach sex ed, the health teacher separated us by gender: we then learned the basic anatomy of parts and functions, saw traumatic photos of STDs, and were warned about the varying consequences to having sex. You know, the basic fear-inducing, shame-based ways of talking to young people about sexuality.
Now what wasn’t talked about were all the sex-related things I was actually seeing around me day-to-day. Like the fact that most my friends were already engaged in varying sexual activities at that point. Like how I had no clue what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like for someone my age. Like how I didn’t have a firm grasp on what rape actually was, especially in the context of drinking and drugs. Like how I had internalized the correlation of my sexual desirability and success. Like how I knew that if I went to college, I’d end up making less money than if I served cocktails on the Strip. Like how I saw my male friend get in trouble for wearing makeup to school. Yup, my Nevada sex education really just became another layer of my adolescent confusion, fear and shame around sexuality.
Growing into adulthood, finding my feminist voice, and figuring out sex and sexuality on my own, I slowly shed those layers of fear and shame that had been so prominent in my life as a young person. As my voice grew louder and my activist spirit hardened, I quickly ascertained that Las Vegas and the entire state of Nevada was one of the most unique political landscapes in this country. And also had the most schizophrenic internal conversations with itself about sex and sexuality.
But just a few years ago, I saw a brief step forward in that conversation. I had the privilege to help organize the first-ever LGBT Lobby Day in Carson City where we actually talked with legislators about gender and sexuality. That was also the session where we were able to pass a domestic partnerships bill in Nevada (a state whose constitution includes language on marriage being only between a man and a woman). And after those victories, I often wondered what the next big legislative victory would be.
Fast forward a few years later, and here I am, sitting in an office in Washington, DC, working for a national organization that fights for reproductive and sexual health/rights for young people. And my job? I manage state-based policy and mobilization efforts around comprehensive sex education.
And I’m hopeful to believe that THAT is what the next big legislative victory will be in my home state.
To put some legislative context to this — After failed attempts in 2011, the Nevada Legislature is currently (finally!) debating the merits of providing its young people with a more comprehensive approach to sex education, and advocates are pushing hard this time around to see their vision turn into reality. And to add to that, the nation’s eye has been on Nevada’s legislature recently, most having to do with a new wave of courageous and progressive legislators (Lucy Flores, Kelvin Atkinson, Pat Spearman – I’m lookin’ at you!) that have really pushed the state to see that the Personal IS Political …. even in the Wild West of Nevada.
And though I find myself described as a Washingtonian these days, y’all should know that this little Battle Born activist doesn’t mess around with her Nevada’tude. With Nevada having the 4th highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and topping the charts in STD rates and high school drop-out rates, I’m standing in solidarity and joining my friends in the Silver State to push for a more comprehensive approach to sex education.
Because the adults of Nevada owe it to their young people to finally figure out their state’s relationship to sex; and maybe then, Nevada’s young people will have access to a healthy, positive relationship to sexuality and themselves.
If you are curious about the movement of Nevada’s sex ed bill, follow updates here!
May 4, 2013
May 3, 2013
South Carolina’s sex education is horribly outdated, and we all know it. I’ll admit I’m not from South Carolina. I spent middle and high school in Denver, Colorado, and, so I received a pretty decent sex education from the school system. The currciculum promoted abstinence, but it also covered contraception and condoms, and it covered STD’s. At the time, I didn’t think this was very revolutionary as far as sex education went. Then, I came to USC for my undergrad, and I found myself in a women’s health class. During this class, my professor asked my classmates who had attended high school in South Carolina (the majority of them, around 50 people) who hadn’t received sex ed during high school and almost every single person raised their hands. Needless to say, I was shocked.
TellThemSC is doing a great job spreading the news about how outdated (over 25 years) CHEA (the Comprehensive Health Education Act) is. It was revolutionary for its time, but as my example above shows, it’s starting to lag in applicability and usefulness, and the youth of SC deserve better. If you have any time this week, stand up for the youth of SC (this could even include you!) and let SC lawmakers know that you’re invested in seeing this bill update all the way through! Check out this link and get calling:mhttps://secure3.convio.net/ttsc/site/Advocacy?alertId=333&pg=makeACall&JServSessionIdr004=838ahh7o19.app334b.
May 2, 2013
Last week, governments from around the world met at the United Nations for the 46th Commission on Population and Development (CPD). Throughout the week-long deliberations, governments, UN agencies, demographers, and NGOs debated the topic of migration and its relationship to the 1994 ICPD Programme of Action—a groundbreaking declaration which signaled a major shift in population policy from one based on population control to one based on human rights, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH).
What’s migration got to do with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), you ask? Well, just about everything.
Today, more women are migrating than ever before, representing nearly half of the total international migrant population, and in some countries, as much as 70 to 80 percent. And young migrants under the age of 29 make up half of all global migrants. During the process of migration, women and girls tend to be more vulnerable to human rights violations, particularly SRHR violations, including violence, exploitation, and sexual coercion. Moreover, migrant women and young people are also at increased risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections due to inadequate access to health services, including SRH services. As a result, ensuring access to SRHR information and services and protection of women’s and young people’s rights was our number one goal at the CPD.
So, how’d we do? Well, this year’s CPD proved interesting, to say the least. Traditionally progressive countries that fight every year to advance SRHR found themselves in a bit of a pickle given their countries’ rather regressive migration policies. Against the backdrop of comprehensive immigration reform playing out on Capitol Hill, the US delegation—typically a stalwart champion of young people’s SRHR and LGBT rights—sought to include language restricting access to non-emergency services to only those migrants who are documented or in legal status. The same was true for other Global North countries like the UK, Canada, Denmark, and the EU. At the same time, conservative countries with strong religious views (think Nigeria, Egypt, Qatar, Honduras, Malta, and Poland) joined forces with the Holy See (aka, the Vatican) to denounce any inclusion of SRHR or sexual orientation and gender identity. Discussions grew more and more tense by the day, resulting in an eventual breakdown of the negotiations and a final “take it or leave it” declaration drafted by the chair of the commission.
From a youth SRHR perspective, the declaration is just so-so. Here’s my take on it.
And the Ugly:
After a groundbreaking resolution on adolescents and young people at last year’s CPD, we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us to ensure young people’s rights are front and center in the 20-year review of the ICPD in 2014 and in the post-2015 development agenda. We simply cannot afford to go backwards; we need forward progress if we are ever to see the full implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action.
Apr 30, 2013
When I first began to read the article “How a German Elementary School Taught Sex Ed“ published today in The Atlantic, I was a bit shocked. The first sentence describes how a high school biology teacher in Idaho is under investigation by a “professional standards commission” for using the word vagina. Okay, that wasn’t what shocked me. After all, there was that Michigan State Representative who was censored last year for using the same word in front of adults. What surprised me more was the next sentence. Parents in Berlin are mad after an elementary school used a book containing illustrations of condoms and descriptions of orgasms to discuss sex.
Germany? That’s a country in Europe, right? Isn’t Europe supposed to be all liberal about sex and more open to discussion, which is why they have higher rates of contraceptive use and lower rates of teen pregnancy and abortion than other countries. So isn’t this normal?
The article included pictures from the book, along with a disclaimer that cartoon penises would be shown ahead. The first set of images show a couple of cuddling on the bed, both completely naked with all of their anatomically correct parts shown. In the next image, Lisa – the name of the woman – is putting a condom on Lars. Great, safe sex! In the following image, the couple is enjoying some post-coital cuddling.
To appease those German parents and lawmakers who thought that perhaps the book had “unnecessary zeal“, updated versions of the book change the name of the couple from Lisa and Lars to Mama and Papa, and remove images of condoms so that sex is not portrayed as something that is merely done for pleasure. The name of the book is even changed to “Was I in Mommy’s Stomach Too?”.
The authors of a 2012 study that examined children’s knowledge and understanding of contraception and birth argued that kids in elementary school are capable of understanding such topics. However, the study’s results showed that kids from Sweden and the Netherlands understood far more about these ideas than did children from the United States (no shocker there). (The picture at the topic of this article was drawn by a Dutch boy as part of the study. Not too bad, actually)
In the 22 years this book has been out, Germany has still managed to keep its adolescent birth rate to one-third of that of the U.S. While it would be unfair to claim that this book is solely responsible for the lower rate, it is indicative of wider acceptance of age-appropriate sexuality education in Germany and Europe as a whole. To be clear, there has been no discussion of banning the book in Germany, or firing the teachers who used the book. The book is still at the school, although children do not have direct access to it. The most critical comment of the book came from a lawmaker who said that “Sex education should accompany the development of children, not speed it up.”At a time when sex education is again under attack across the United States, it may be too extreme to ask that the book is translated into English. However, the United States could still learn a lot from Europe and their reasonable, realistic views on sexuality education.
Apr 30, 2013
Transgender women are the fastest growing population of the HIV-positive. The National Institutes of Health came out with a report, noting that almost a third of transgender Americans have HIV. Trans women of color specifically are at a greater risk than their white sisters. Through a survey, it was found that 56% of black trans women have HIV. The 2009 study from NIH also noted that many transgender women may not even know their HIV status. With an alarming statistic like this, we have to wonder what’s causing it.
When individuals are thrown into social injustice, it can be difficult to escape from. Trans women are profiled and disproportionately targeted and arrested by the law enforcement. The police will try to use condoms as evidence of sex work, so trans women face the “choice” of keeping themselves and their partners safe or getting arrested. When they’re forced into jail, trans women are often housed with male inmates or they are put into solitary confinement, as if either path is any better. Sex workers are generally more likely to be HIV-positive than those who are not engaged in sex work, but because of the disproportionate targeting of trans women, trans women sex workers’ risk for HIV is four times greater.
While sex work is a valid way of meeting financial needs, some trans women turn to it as an option because of discrimination in employment. In most of the United States, it’s completely legal to turn down or dismiss a person based on gender identity and sexual orientation. People can even be denied housing or become evicted because of their gender identity and orientation. This leaves a dangerously negative and significant impact on their economic well-being and safety. It also makes it difficult for trans women especially to keep up with their hormonal therapy, since it’s often not covered by insurance, if they can even pay for that insurance with what the circumstances are. With lack of access to basic health care, many incompetent doctors, clinics, social stigma, and overall institutions that discriminate against trans women, especially those of color– it’s all a very nasty formula expressing why trans women are hit so hard with HIV.
So, what can we do to help? Trans people are often absent from public campaigns for sexual health and safety. We can start by including them into that, and into many of our discussions and campaigns of social justice as well. We could get trans-specific in our literature in safer sex guides. We could also set up community centers as a safe space for trans people and create some peer groups, which would be strong social networks and a good use of peer outreach for safer sex and HIV testing. And of course we could and should create social support and do our part to de-stigmatize our trans brothers and sisters. Look up a local or national activist organization today.
Apr 24, 2013
“I also came to realize that the focus on personhood ignores the fact that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is growing inside of another person’s body.”
|—||Libby Anne, “How I Lost Faith in the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement”|
This is really important to consider. You absolutely can advocate for a zygote, embryo, or fetus. But understand that in doing so, it subsequently infringes on the rights of the person this being resides in.
Giving a fetus personhood is not equality. No one currently has the special right of using another’s person body without constant consent.
Apr 15, 2013
There are many reasons one may feel the need to reuse a condom. One may not have enough condoms on hand, too caught up in the moment to search for another or possibly trying to save on the amount of money being spent on condoms. However, this practice is highly unsafe. Reusing a condom puts you at risk for multiple reasons.
The major problem with reusing a condom is the contact with the different bodily fluids. This is because if there is ejaculate or pre-ejaculate in the condom or on the condom this puts your partner at risk for catching any infections you may have. Also, if your partner has any infections this may too cause you to catch an infection from them. Another point to note is that condoms where not built to be reused. After using a condom it is hard to get the condom back on the penis without damaging it in some manner. A new condom provides an air tight seal to prevent leakage of semen, but after being used this feature is gone so the condom does not hold on as tight anymore. Due to this both you and your partner are at risk of getting infections and possible pregnancy issues.
So it is best to always keep more than one condom on hand. And if you find yourself in the predicament of needing another condom, remember, it’s best to wait than to give in to immediate satisfaction and live with regret for the rest of your life.
Apr 15, 2013
by Ashley L.
Bee Day was fun. It gave me time to catch up with my SWARM members and meet students from USC. It was also good meeting Brandon for the first time and catching up with the Tell Them staff. We stayed at a hotel on USC\’s campus on Tuesday night. On Wednesday we ate breakfast and lunch at the Tell Them office while we went over key points to talk about while lobbying. We walked for about 15 minutes to The State House. We took a beautiful group picture outside in front of the George Washington statue.When we first arrived we realized that the people that we needed to talk to were on furlough. We were bummed about this at first but that did not stop us. We still stayed and talked with the assistants. I think that we still did a great job and still got our points across. We know that they will still receive the information because we left informational packets. Overall I had a great trip to Columbia for Bee Day.
Apr 12, 2013
The female condom doesn’t get much attention when it comes on to sex education and the little attention it gets is over shadowed by the oh so mighty male condom (lol) so I’ve decided to share some tips i found online on how to use the female condom and answer some questions that some females might ask about the female condom and its usage.
Do female condoms interfere with the woman’s experience of pleasure during sex?
They can take some getting used to, but once you do, they shouldn’t interfere with orgasm. In fact, because the female condom has a ring that lies near or atop the clitoris (as you can see in the picture above), some women may actually get some additional pleasure because of the stimulation.
Do we need to know anything about how to use or insert them?
On the open end, a flexible ring is attached. Inside the closed end is a smaller, floating ring. The inner ring should be squeezed together and inserted; the outer ring will nestle outside the vagina. Women who have used a diaphragm will understand how to do this immediately — others will probably need to practice. They come with a bit of lube already on them, so they can be slippery and a little hard to keep squeezed shut while inserting.
Are they as effective at preventing STDs and pregnancies as male condoms are?
When used correctly, they are pretty comparable. This means, though, that users have to avoid the lose-the-condom-inside-the-vaginal-cavity problem. And the “Ooops, honey, I thought I was in the condom but really my penis was next to it” problem.
The very best thing about them, STD-wise, is that they cover more of the vulva (and penile base) than a traditional condom, making them a better pick for preventing herpes and HPV.
Do they allow men to feel more pleasure during sex?
Yes, many men do say they feel more sensation. Why? the female condom is bigger, capacity-wise, and is not supposed to hug the penis, so the guy gets more motion and friction than he does wearing a male condom, which clings tightly to the contours of his cock. Guys who want to prevent the cling problem with their own condoms should be putting two or three drops of lube into the head before they put their condom on, so the head of the condom has some mobility on the head of the penis.
And do female condoms, um, head off any problems related to the occasional loss of erection while he’s putting the condom on?
Because there shouldn’t be as much anxiety or fumbling on his part, it may well help with the loss-of-erection issue.
Anal sex isn’t my thing. But if my readers are having it, will a female condom protect them?
If one of these is used for anal sex, you have to be quite cautious because a particularly deep thrust can push it all the way in. This could conceivably happen vaginally, too, with a long-penised guy, but is less likely, because the cervix provides a natural stop that the rectum does not have.
What about the cost?
They’re more expensive than male condoms — but some clinics have started to dispense them for free.
Apr 10, 2013
Only 23% of sexually active teens have been tested for HIV. Are you one of them? Find free or low-cost clinics near you!
Apr 10, 2013
Today is National Youth HIV and AIDS Awareness Day. This disease has been robbing our generation of precious young people for many years and now is the time to take a stand and fight for our generation back. I am happy to support this day and I have hopes that it will evolve into a mass movement amongst the young people of this generation. Knowledge is power! By raising awareness and promoting prevention young people will have the power to fight HIV and AIDS.
Apr 10, 2013
While Boston College is against adult students at the college using and having access to condoms my college LOVED when the student government gave out condom flowers on Condom Day.
I am one part of my college’s Undergrad Student Governments Health Programming Board. Our campus has a health clinic like many other college campuses however, a lot of students do not know about it. In an effort to get more of my peers to know about the clinic and to be more mindful of the sexual health I decided to make condom flowers for Valentine’s Day and give them away to students.
Apr 9, 2013
by Nadia A.
I really enjoyed participating in Bee Day this year. I was upset that we were not able to actually meet with the senators though. I have met most of the representatives and was really excited about seeing the other side. The highlight of the day was going to Representative Jerry Govan’s office and hearing the opinion of his assist, Mickey. She was very supportive of what SWARM was doing and thinks that other young people should try to get involved with the issue of Comprehensive Sex Education too.
One thing that really amazes me is the fact that South Carolina is very open to letting people walk through the State House and letting people see where the laws are made and evaluated. This is good because voters need to know that they are welcome to see what is going on in the government and feel that they are not beneath the legislators. This creates a closer connection between the legislators and the voters.
A tactic that I will bring back with me next year is the willingness to listen to the opinion of others. It is important to be open-minded when lobbying for something that you believe is right. If we are not open-minded, how do we expect the legislators to consider our ideas and want to make the change that we believe needs to be made in South Carolina schools? Overall, I enjoyed the day and am looking forward to Bee Day next year with my SWARM and TellThem family!
Apr 9, 2013
I read an article about funding being pulled from Sex Week at the University of Tennessee. The event was scheduled to take place on April 7 – 12, 2013. This is discouraging, not only because an opportunity to inform the masses is lost, but also because the retract of funding was done so at the last minute. This in addition to a pulling of funding for a LGBTQ conference shows the disconnect between officials at the school, and the student population. People don’t realize how important sex education is. It is at this level, that people can get informed and learn how to make responsible decisions so society can grow and flourish. Reiterating what the author said in the article, yes sex education is important in middle and high schools, however college-aged populations should not be neglected either. This is a critical time where most students are experiencing being away from home and alcohol and drugs are readily available. Extra funding should be provided not taken away. Keep the youth informed, our future depends on it!
Apr 8, 2013
by Alexus T.
Bee Day in my opinion was a huge success!! Even though we didn’t get to talk to members of the House or the Senate we pulled it off. Meeting the USC Social Work Program students was fun. They all were unique and brought different ideas to the table. We all shared the common interest of wanting Comprehensive Sexual Health Education for our youth. It is crazy to spend $190 million on teen moms when the money could be put to use in many other ways to benefit South Carolina. Planning SexED on the beach was also fun. Hopefully we can make it happen. A huge beach party for college students while educating them on sex?? FUN FUN FUN
My unforgettable moment was when I went Rep. Cobb-Hunter’s office. We all were a little afraid to enter because she was yelling at someone and her conversation went from professional to personal. My great SWARMer friend Melanie took the honor of placing my folder on her assistant’s desk.I had a great day overall!!
Apr 6, 2013
A few weeks back I listened attentively to ‘SOS Doctor’, one of the best health programs that be on Radio in Cameroon. As I listened, I got very happy at the great job that Dr. Dion Grace, a member of the National AIDS Control Committee of Cameroon was doing to educate Cameroonians on anti-retroviral drugs. She eloquently and insightfully answered every one of the questions that were posed to her by listeners who called-in and am sure her intervention in the program was a timely one. Everything was fine until when a listener called-in to ask what is it that could be done to reduce stigma on people who are on anti-retroviral drugs. Dr. Dion as usual gave a very insightful answer to this question going as far as citing the example of Ivory Coast where the drugs are put in anonymous packages so that they can be taken by patients without fear of stigma by the people around them. She went ahead to cite cases where some special containers of various doses is been used in some countries to reduce stigma. This was quiet interesting to know, but when she started advising people on anti-retroviral that they could tell people around them that they are taking vitamins or pills in order to avoid stigmatization I grumbled the following to myself: Do I have to be so ashamed of my status that I have to lie to others?
I have no statistics on this but I can assure you that having to lie on your HIV status is the order of the day in Cameroon especially amongst young people to avoid stigma and discrimination. Well, this to an extend is understandable given that People Living With HIV/AIDS(PLWHA) are considered as being punished by God for either their sisns or those committed by their family. But when telling a lie to avoid stigma is a behaviour that is reinforced health professionals, I have reservations and clearly doubt how efficient this approach could be.
I am utterly convinced that a problem can only be solved if its root cause(s) is/are carefully tackled. As a young person living in a society where most PLWHA are young persons, I compare telling a lie on your HIV/AIDS status to survive to deliberately refusing to tackle the problem from it’s source and launching an attack on its leaves instead.
To reduce stigma in the most sustainable way possible, education rather than lies is required.Young People, their families, and the communities in which People on anti-retroviral drugs have to be educated on the dangers of stigma and on the importance of accepting PLWHA. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations’ Secretary-General, vividly spelt out society’s responsibility to PLWHA when he declared that, “We can fight stigma. Enlightened laws and policies are key. But it begins with openness, the courage to speak out. Schools should teach respect and understanding. Religious leaders should preach tolerance. The media should condemn prejudice and use its influence to advance social change, from securing legal protections to ensuring access to health care.”
Lies do nothing but contribute in amplifying the myth around HIV/AIDS in the Cameroonian society. People on anti-retroviral drugs do not need to lie on their status to survive stigma, they need to accept themselves as they are and deserve the care and protection that every other human being is due by the society in which they live.They deserve to live a real life and not a life of lies.
Apr 6, 2013
A new bill is sitting in front of Alabama lawmakers that would strike this inaccurate, hateful language from the law. But there are only a few weeks before the session ends. If they don\’t feel the pressure from the public and the media, we won\’t have another chance before 2014.
Apr 5, 2013
by Jordan C.
“First, let me say how much I enjoy being part of the SWARM council.
It gives me so much joy to be able to work with such amazing and passionate people. I attended “Bee Day” last year as a general advocate and felt the enthusiasm the TellThem staff had for their cause and I knew I had to be a part of it.
This year, my first time attending as a council member, I still felt the same amount of passion and drive that I felt my first year. Even though we were not able to personally talk to our legislators (because they decided to take an early Easter vacation…), we still were able to talk to their staff and let them know how important comprehensive sex education is to us and other South Carolina youth.
Since we weren’t able to meet with our Senators or Representatives, most of the “fun” occurred before and after our lobbying.
As I stated before, I love being part of SWARM, and I love it even more when I get to meet up and talk to the other council members and staff. My favorite things about this trip were being able to talk to my cohorts about equality, education, and ways to promote our mission; being able to catch up with the lovely Emma Davidson and the rest of the TellThem staff over lunch; and becoming, in general, more confident with speaking out for sex education reform.
Even though I’ve been on the council for a year, I still get nervous when we go to talk to our legislators, but this group helps ease my anxiety. So I am thankful every time we meet up because without these people, I would be stuttering and sweating like a person on trial.
However, the thing I take away most from “Bee Day” is the urge to change our state for the better. South Carolina’s outdated CHEA is not being followed, and the state is failing at providing non-discriminatory, medically accurate, age-appropriate, responsible, inclusive sex education. This is is the pinnacle of our work and our advocacy, and “Bee Day” reiterates the need for constituents to get out and speak up for what they want to see be done. And I want change.
Again, “Bee Day” was a great experience, and I cannot wait to participate in it again (and I hope our senators and rep’s will be in session, and actually update their calendars so we’d know). Hopefully we will have just as much fun, and just as much advocacy next year. ”
Apr 3, 2013
Thanks to Advocates For Youth, I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s National Advocacy Weekend for 5 days this past March. As I packed my bags and boarded the plane that would take me from Ithaca, NY to Washington DC, I had no clue as to the intense intellectual, emotional, and passionate environment I was about to step into.
This year’s Advocacy Weekend was focused on the inclusion of immigrant women’s health care in immigration reform. Immigration policy directly affects an immigrant woman’s access to health care. According to the NLIRH website, the majority of female immigrants do not have healthcare coverage. State legislatures continue to introduce legislation that would restrict non-citizens’ access to basic public health programs, including prenatal care. Immigrant women are less likely to receive adequate reproductive health care, including cervical and breast cancer screening and treatment, family planning services, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, accurate sex education and culturally and linguistically competent services.
Reproductive Justice tells us that these services are essential for women to have the basic human rights to dignity and self determination. It was under this belief that over 50 activists from across the country joined together. We represented the full spectrum of american latina identity- some of us were undocumented, others were second and third generation citizens. Our command of English and Spanish differed, but we were united in our conviction, and most of all in our support of one another.
Yo te apoyo. This is one of NLIRH’s campaign slogans, and it was this sentiment that was most felt throughout the weekend. As we learned about the intricacies of immigration reform and of it’s intersections with Reproductive Justice, we were free to voice our personal experiences and frustrations. People spoke of very personal obstacles- young motherhood, the pain of familial disruption by deportation, the inability to be seen by a doctor for a cyst in the breast- openly and honestly, and were always received with respect and the assurance that they had in their power the ability to create change.
At the rally for Immigrant Women on Sunday, speakers shouted, “We are on the right side of history!” to a church full of applause. I clapped and shouted right along. It was only later that I questioned the assurance I felt that this is true. I suppose I feel that I am “on the right side of history” when I am working with people who sound least like a history textbook.. People who choose not to simplify and sterilize an issue, because they are not afraid to admit to and confront the complexity and diversity of it. People who gain collective power through their willingness to admit to vulnerability, to the need to support and be supported in their struggle.
For more information about the issue of Immigrant women’s access to healthcare, and how it is affected by immigration policy, check out:
Apr 3, 2013
In this midst of an ongoing conversation with a classmate of mine, they asked me “Hey Crystal, how can you tell if a person has an STD?”. Once I noticed that this question had caught more attention than either of us had planned on, I politely answered “You can’t”. All at once I became bombarded with questions, with the main idea being, “How do I protect myself?”. I went on to say that people who have STDs or who are HIV positive obviously aren’t just walking around with badges on that read “Hi, my name is _______, and I have Chlamydia.” You can’t tell what a person has been infected with, and honestly in most cases, they may not even know themselves that they are infected. Nevertheless,I am positive that the best way to protect yourself is to practice safe sex. Condoms aren’t just something cool to collect, or put on your key chain, or even to wear on a stylish bag (although we absolutely love these swag items)… condoms are like mini soldiers that protect you from the dangers that may come along with being sexually active. Wear your soldiers with pride and always wrap it up! For more info on sexual health, text SEXT to 74574.
Apr 2, 2013
April has been deemed STD Awareness Month by the Center for Disease Control. This is an important observance that flies by without many people knowing it, and usually these are the people that should know about it.
Every year, according to the CDC, 20 million people will be newly infected with an STD and in half of these cases they are under the age of 25. That’s scary!
The problem is that many of these people don’t know that they are even infected and that helps spread the infection on to new partners. STDs like chlamydia, HPV, and gonorrhea often have little to no symptoms which in turn becomes a cycle of people getting infected without knowing it and spreading down the line.
These can be physically dangerous as well. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause serious damage to both men and women’s reproductive systems and HPV can cause cancer. All of these can easily be avoided if it’s known to the patient that they are infected and seek quick treatment.
Education and testing is the key to bringing rates down and getting this problem under control. The CDC recommends that all active people get tested yearly. When is the last time you have been tested? Are you sure about your status?
Apr 1, 2013
Mar 29, 2013
My last post I shared some interesting information about the female body. I went and found some interesting information about the male body, that I now share with you.
Just as informative as I found the information about the female body, I also found this to be a good read for all my peers and for those who it will be shared with.
Again, HAPPY READING and please share the info with your network.
THE MALE BODY
Men’s/guy’s bodies allow men to enjoy pleasurable sexual feelings, have sexual intercourse and orgasms, and reproduce by making sperm that can fertilize the woman’s ova (eggs). The sexual organs of the male are partly visible and partly hidden within the body. Each part has a medical name and there are lots of other names that people sometimes use. The medical names for the outside parts are:
A penis hangs outside a guy’s body from the genital area and underneath the penis is a loose sack of skin that is called the scrotum. At the top of the penis (which is called the glans) is an opening called the urethra. Guys urinate (pee) through the urethra. The urethra is also the hole through which semen spurts out of the guy’s penis when he ejaculates during an orgasm. One of the biggest concerns of many young men, and many older men, is the size of their penis. There’s not a right size for a penis at any particular age. Normally the penis is soft. But when a man gets sexually aroused blood flows into the penis at a faster rate than it flows out. This makes the penis larger and harder and it is called an erection. The average penis is between 5 and 6 inches long when erect. Not all erections are caused by sexual excitement. Guys, especially younger guys, can get erections at the weirdest times. These are called spontaneous erections and this can be embarrassing. However they go away fairly quickly if you ignore them. Many guys also get erections during their sleep and have a spontaneous orgasm in their sleep. This called a “wet dream” and doesn’t mean anything is wrong. Some men are circumcised (the foreskin which covers the glans is cut back after birth) and some are not. Guys who are not circumcised need to pull back the foreskin when they urinate or wash themselves.
The scrotum is the loose sack of skin in which the testicles (balls) are hidden. Depending on how cold or warm it is, whether the guy is sexually aroused or not the scrotum can shrink or expand in size. The scrotum is covered with public hair. The medical names for the inside parts are:
There are two testes (also called testicles or balls) that are inside the scrotum. Before puberty the testes are inside the body but “drop down” into the scrotum at puberty when a boy begins to physically become a man. The two testes grow in size and become able to produce sperm and male hormones like testosterone. The testes are healthiest when they are at a temperature slightly less than the inside of the guy’s body. They are very sensitive to injury. When a guy ejaculates, sperm that was made in the testes mixes with other fluids that are made inside the body and spurts out of the penis.
The epididymis is a narrow, tightly-coiled tube connecting the ducts from the bottom of each testicle to the vas deferens. The epididymis is sort of like a reservoir for sperm that is made in the testes.
The vas deferens transports sperm from the epididymis to be ready for ejaculation. During ejaculation, the vas deferens contracts and pumps sperm towards the penis.
The seminal vesicles produce fluid that mixes with the semen before it is ejaculated.
The main function of the prostate is to store and release a milky white fluid that makes up about 25-30% of the semen which is combined with sperm and seminal vesicle fluid. The alkalinity of prostate fluid helps neutralize the acidity of the vagina, prolonging the life of sperm. The prostate contains some smooth muscles that help to pump the semen out of the penis during ejaculation.
Mar 29, 2013
It’s time to take action and invest in young people – their health, their education, and their leadership – so we can truly reach an AIDS-free generation!
Join us for the FIRST EVER National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) on April 10! Let’s acknowledge young people’s great work fighting this epidemic, and hold our leaders accountable to prioritizing young people in the fight against HIV & AIDS.
Mar 29, 2013
So, I was doing my usual reading online and I came across some information – some very interesting information about the females’ body.
I found this to be a good read, but not many people know how the females’ body works nor can even identify the females’ body parts properly.
A woman’s/girl’s body can give her pleasurable sexual feelings, allow her to have sexual intercourse, have orgasms, become pregnant and give birth. Any girl who has begun her period can become pregnant if sperm fertilizes one of her ova (eggs). The parts of a girl’s body that are in the genital area make up her reproductive system. The reproductive system has both outside and inside parts. Each part has a medical name and there are lots of other names that people sometimes use. The names for the outside parts are:
A girl’s breasts are part of her reproductive system because they will provide breast milk if she has a baby. A girl’s breasts are sensitive and when they are touched they can give her pleasurable sexual feelings. During puberty it is normal for girls to have sore, tender breasts as they grow and develop.
The vulva is the name for the outside sexual parts of a girl’s body “down there”. The vulva includes the labia, the clitoris and the openings for the urethra (where pee comes out) and the vagina. Every girl has a vulva. It is the source of most of the sexual pleasure that women feel.
The word labia mean “lips” in Latin. Every girl has two sets of lips as part of her vulva. The outside lips are thicker folds of skin that come together and hide the rest of the vulva. Their medical name is the “labia majora” which means the big lips. They usually have pubic hair on them and they can be long or short, large or small. There is no one right size. When a girl gets sexually excited (turned on or horny) they swell up and may change colour. Inside the outer lips is a second set of very sensitive lips that some people think look little wings or flower petals. Their medical name is “labia minora.” They are often pink in colour but they can also be everything from brown to black. Some women’s inner lips stick out between their outer lips. This is perfectly normal and not a problem. The inner lips can also be wrinkled or smooth.
The clitoris (sometimes shortened to “clit”) is located at the top of the vulva where the inner lips come together to make a little hood that hides the clitoris. Just like everything else, the clitoris can vary a lot in size. It can be as small as a tiny pea or as large as a fingertip. The clitoris is the pleasure centre of the vulva. When a girl is sexually aroused the clitoris gets bigger and firmer. It is super sensitive and its one and only purpose is to make a woman feel good.
The urethra is the small opening where urine (pee) comes out of the body. It is just below the clitoris.
The opening to the vagina is where the two inner lips of the vulva come together at the bottom of the vulva. The vagina connects a girl’s outer sex organs to her internal sex organs. The names for the inside parts are the:
The vagina is where the menstrual flow from a girl’s monthly period comes out the body and where the penis goes in during sexual intercourse. The vagina is very expandable and is the opening through which the baby is pushed out of the body during childbirth.
The cervix is the narrow part of the uterus that is connected to the vagina inside a girl’s body. The word cervix means “neck” in Latin.
The uterus is the Latin word for the womb. It is the part of the reproductive system (the part of the body that allows a woman to get pregnant and have a baby). The uterus is where the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, becomes a fetus and grows into a baby.
The Fallopian Tubes are named after a medical researcher who first studied this part of women’s bodies. There are two fallopian tubes and once a month the ovaries deposit an egg in one of the tubes where it can be fertilized by sperm from the man’s body. If the egg is fertilized it moves down the tube and attaches itself to the inside of the uterus. When that happens a woman has become pregnant.
Mar 27, 2013
Chlamydia is one of the most common STIs and it can have serious long-term effects. But, if properly treated, Chlamydia can be cured.
Gonorrhea aka “The Clap” is a common STI that can be cured with antibiotics. If not treated early, it can seriously affect your health and, like Chlamydia, may cause infertility. It usually takes three to five days for symptoms of gonorrhea to appear.
Syphilis is a very serious STI that is passed from one person to another through unprotected oral, anal or vaginal sex. If untreated, syphilis can eventually affect your entire body and may lead to brain damage, heart disease, paralysis and death. Like other STIs, a person infected with syphilis may not show any symptoms at all and may unknowingly pass the disease onto others. Syphilis, if treated early, is curable with antibiotics. Syphilis, in both males and females, develops in four stages.
There are different stages of Syphilis:
A painless sore called a chancre (pronounced kanker) may appear between 9 and 90 days after contact with an infected person.
About six weeks to six months after infection, flu-like symptoms may be felt. For some people, a rash appears over the entire body and is most noticeable on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
In Stage Three the disease lays dormant in the body and the infected person has no symptoms. But, the syphilis bacteria may continue to grow and multiply. This stage can last from 1 to 30 years and may eventually lead to Stage Four – the most damaging stage of all.
Years after you’re first infected, untreated syphilis can cause blindness, brain damage, heart disease, paralysis and even death.
If a woman is pregnant and gets Syphilis, she can pass it to her unborn baby. Babies born with syphilis may be blind, deaf or mentally delayed. They can have bone deformities or be stillborn. Not everyone develops visible symptoms of syphilis. You may be infected and unknowingly pass the disease on to others. You can help protect yourself against syphilis by using condoms and dental dams when you have sex.
Trichomonas aka “Trich” is caused by a parasite in the vagina or urethra. It can be cured with antibiotics. Symptoms usually begin to show 3 to 21 days after infection occurs.
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a common STI. It is the virus that causes genital warts and may lead to cancer of the cervix or penis. Signs and symptoms of HPV are different for males and females
Genital herpes is a painful STI that causes sores on or around the penis, vagina and/or anus. It is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area (sore) during oral, anal, and/or vaginal sex. There is no cure for herpes. Some people will only have one painful herpes outbreak, while others will have outbreaks for their entire life.
Scabies and Crabs are tiny bugs that live on the skin of an infected person. They are usually spread through sexual contact, but you can also catch scabies or crabs by sharing bed linen, clothes or towels with an infected person. You may have scabies if you feel itchy over your whole body, especially at night. A rash, caused when the female bug digs into the skin to lay eggs, usually appears in the folds of skin around the penis or vagina, between the fingers, and on the wrists, elbows and abdomen. You may have crabs if you feel itchy around your genitals and see small, light brown bugs crawling on your skin.
Hepatitis B aka Hep B is an STI that can cause liver failure. It is spread by having unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. There is no cure for hepatitis B but there is a vaccine. Hepatitis B becomes a chronic infection after six months. People with chronic hepatitis B are at higher risk for liver failure and liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer. There is medication available to help manage chronic hepatitis. Most people will show no signs of being infected with hepatitis B. For those that do show signs, they will likely experience flu-like symptoms, like tiredness, aching joints, stomach pain, loss of appetite and nausea. It may take 45 to 180 days after infection for symptoms to appear.
HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a lifelong disease that is most commonly spread through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. There are two stages to this disease. The first stage is HIV which weakens the immune system of the person infected. The immune system has an important role in our bodies because it helps us fight off infections and viruses to keep us healthy.
Mar 26, 2013
Ahh the sweet smell of Spring. The flowers are blooming, Texas thunderstorms blot the state unexpectedly, and we’re gearing up for more advocacy events in Dallas! Recently, our Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at SMU hosted a Darwin Day Celebration, celebrating the scholar’s work and influence on science. We thought we would ramp up and start advocating for less creationism and more evolution in public schools. However, Texas Senator Ken Paxton proposed Senate Bill 521 which would prohibit any organization individual that performs abortions from providing sex education in public schools. Basically, they want to keep Planned Parenthood out of sex education in Texas, but it goes beyond PP and abortion.
The bill also requires school districts to request written permission (at least two weeks in advanced!) from each students’ guardian to participate in a sex education class if it is not taught by an individual other than an employee of the district.
We’re calling them out. In response, we’re writing to our local papers, calling Senators and Representatives, and planning a birth control panel on campus. We want everyone to know how important it is for us to keep comprehensive sex education in our public schools. Statistics show that abstinence only education is obviously not working. We’re calling on our representatives to protect our young students in the classroom, and educate them about safe sex and their rights!
As long as sex education is under attack, we’ll be here fighting. Look forward to updates (and hopefully success stories) very soon!
Michael Graves is a student at Southern Methodist University where he serves as the President of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter. This is his first year to be a member of the Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI), a partnership of Advocates for Youth.
Mar 26, 2013
I have seen this post circulate on Facebook and loved its message. I apologizing for not crediting it since I am not sure who put it together. There is absolutely no way to sugar coat the rape stories that are happening today and we should keep doing our great work loud and proud until we no longer hear about these savage crimes happening in our world. It is about time we teach our fellow humans NOT TO RAPE. Full Stop.
Mar 23, 2013
If you haven’t heard already, the law makers in North Dakota are pushing for another anti-choice bill. This time it’s an abortion ban on the basis of personhood. If passed, this would effectively give fertilized eggs all the rights of U.S. citizens. And it would cut off abortion care completely. Beyond abortion this bill would also charge doctors who damage embryos in any way with criminal negligence. It also prevents doctors from being able to perform in vitro fertilizations. Now you might be thinking an unconstitutional bill like this couldn’t possibly get passed by Senate or the House, but it did. Shockingly, it passed the House by a vote of 57-35 and it’s currently making its way to the Governor’s desk.
The state’s recent six-week abortion ban is already in direct violation of Roe v. Wade and will bring about several legal costs for taxpayers when challenged. This next measure of a total abortion ban will surely cause North Dakota to face the same results, costing the state more than they bargained for. And how will they pay for these litigations?
During a recent debate between Senator Margaret Sitte and Dr. Kristen Cain about the abortion restrictions and pending abortion ban, Senator Sitte accidentally lets something slip. When asked if these bills will cost taxpayers possibly millions, Senator Sitte unintentionally admits that there are outside interests behind the unconstitutional abortion bans who are willing to spend those millions to make sure people in North Dakota will not have access to reproductive healthcare and rights. Watch as Senator Sitte tries to lie her way out of it.
This abortion ban won’t be a law until Governor Jack Darlymple of North Dakota signs it, and it’s unclear if he will or won’t.
To contact Governor Jack Darlymple:
Office of Governor
State of North Dakota
600 East Boulevard Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58505-0100
Mar 22, 2013
Two personhood bills — Senate Bill 2303 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009 — have already passed the Senate, and the GOP-controlled House is expected to take them upsometime this week. But if North Dakota successfully enacts a total abortion ban, there will be serious consequences for the state that extend even beyond women’s reproductive freedom. Here are five ways the state will suffer under personhood:
1. There will be fewer doctors in the state available to provide medical care. In a historic move for the North Dakota Medical Association, the nonpartisan organization has come out againstpersonhood. The group points out that the anti-abortion measures go too far to “interfere with the physician practice,” and they suspect it will be harder to find qualified medical professionals willing to practice in North Dakota if the state imposes so many complicated restrictions on doctors. Some doctors have already testified before state lawmakersto say they will leave North Dakota if the abortion bans pass.
2. Maternal health care will be compromised. Doctors could becharged with criminal negligence if anything happens to an embryo — which could prevent them from making quick decisions that could help save women’s lives. The tragic case of Savita Halappanavar, a woman who died after being denied an abortion in a Catholic hospital because her doctors were reluctant to provide care that could get them in trouble with the law, highlights the serious consequences of state lawmakers coming between a woman and her doctor.
3. Women could be forced to resort to illegal abortion procedures.Under a personhood law, women will end up resorting to dangerous “backroom” abortions, one former pediatrician warned North Dakota lawmakers last week. That Fargo-area doctor did his medical training before Roe v. Wade, when women were dying of bacterial infections after botched abortion procedures — and he warns that the passage of the proposed personhood measures would pull North Dakota back into “the stone age of medicine.” There’s evidence to back up that claim. According to the Guttmacher Institute, the legality of abortion hasabsolutely no correlation to abortion rates around the world, because women will continue to seek to terminate pregnancies regardless of the law.
4. Women won’t be able to use in vitro fertilization to try to have a family. Ironically, in addition to compromising medical procedures for the women seeking to terminate a pregnancy, personhood measures also place restrictions on the women who are trying to get pregnant. “These bills will stop the practice of in vitro fertilization in this state,” Dr. Stephanie Dahl, an obstetrician-gynecologist and reproductive medicine specialist in Fargo, explained to lawmakers. Doctors wouldn’t be able to perform any procedure that carries the risk of damaging some embryos, so women would be forced to travel to South Dakota or Minnesota for in vitro treatment, a six-week process that requires multiple sonograms and up to 12 visits to the doctor.
5. The state will become embroiled in expensive lawsuits. North Dakota’s six-week abortion ban already runs afoul of Roe v. Wade, and will certainly invite several costly legal challenges. A total abortion ban would lead to similar consequences. Two personhood bills were recentlystruck down in Oklahoma, suggesting that the courts won’t take kindly to North Dakota’s push to restrict women’s constitutional rights, either. Nevertheless, even the self-proclaimed “fiscally conservative” Republicans in the state are willing to defend their abortion bans on the state’s dime.
Mar 20, 2013
— Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Kierra Johnson, Beyond Choice: How We Learned to Stop Labeling and Love Reproductive Justice
Mar 19, 2013
The war against women continues in Texas. It seems as if the attack against women’s health will not stop. Recently, Texas State Senators Deuell, Campbell, and Schwertner introduced Senate Bill 537. This bill also known as the “Back Door Abortion Ban” is an attempt to restrict a women’s basic right to living a healthy life. Under the guise of safety and more regulation, Senate Bill 537 would in fact not improve safety of abortion care, but instead place medically unnecessary requirements on health centers such as becoming licensed Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs).
These requirements would force all but five women health centers that offer abortion services to shut down in the state of Texas. This would have a devastating impact on thousands of women, especially low income women. Low-income women and women of color who live in the rural parts of Texas do not have access to the necessary resources to protect themselves and live a healthy life. To attain a basic cervical cancer screening sometimes they need to take time off work and travel miles to go to the nearest health clinic.
My mother and myself are prime examples of this. We both do not have health insurance because we cannot afford it. My mother lives in South Texas and has traveled to Mexico to consult a doctor. She only goes to the doctor when about once every two years because she cannot afford losing a day of work, paying doctor visits, and buying prescribed medicine. I am a fourth year student at the University of Texas at Austin. I do not have my yearly check ups due the inability to afford health care insurance. It is difficult, frustrating and stressful living each day without health care and hoping you do not get sick and continue to work or pursue a higher education.
Texas has the highest percentage of women who are uninsured . Also, Texas ranks one of the top ten highest rates of women having cervical cancer. Yet, the 2011 Texas Legislature cut 66 percent of family planning funds. About 300, 000 fewer women will now receive health care . Unfortunately, Texas State legislature does not support women’s health. Every year, the state of Texas is limiting a women’s basic right to living a healthy life.
SB 537 is another example of the Texas State Legislature trying to limit women’s health rights in Texas. However, we will not let that happen because we decide what is best for our future. Young leaders in Texas such as myself working with the Young Women of Color Leadership Council with Advocates for Youth, Katy Waters Vice-President for Voices for Reproductive Justice at the University of Texas at Austin and organizations such as NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and Planned Parenthood are working hard to make sure our communities are aware of what the Texas State legislature is doing. Through advocacy, lobbying, community outreach, petition drives, and speak outs at the Texas State Capitol we are making sure to create conversations with our families and friends All women in Texas deserve access to HIV tests, birth control, safe and legal abortions. Women’s health is not a just a women’s issue. It is an inclusive problem that affects everyone. Family planning cuts and closing down of abortion clinics will affect mothers, wives, daughters, husbands, sons and the list continues.
Simple actions such as following bills that may affect women’s lives and what is going on at the Texas legislature online at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx or signing online petitions such as opposing SB 537 online https://secure.ppaction.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=15903 to hold our political leaders accountable are ways communities can speak up.
 Guttmacher Institute. State Facts About Title X and Family Planning: Texas.http://www.guttmacher.org/statecenter/title-X/TX.html.
 Legislative Budget Board. http://www.lbb.state.tx.us/
Mar 19, 2013
Let’s face the facts: We live in a victim blaming society when it comes to sexual assault and rape.
After the guilty verdict was announced following the Steubenville rape case in Ohio, my initial thought was worry.
I worry about the victim who spoke out against her rapists, condemning two boys who were the pride of the town for being star players on the football team. I worry not only for the trauma she faced during the rape act and the humiliating physical evidence via tweets, instagram, and video posts, but also for the aftermath she will face following the trial…
I worry for her safety because people don’t quite understand what rape is and will condemn her for it because she was drunk.
I worry that she will not have a much needed support system from peers or members of the community following the trial.
I worry if she will have a counselor to talk to in the upcoming months she will try to get back to living a “normal life”.
I worry that those two boys will never learn their lesson about what rape actually is. Being that mainstream media has taken their side and glorified them as victims because they were promising football players and students who got good grades. They just got caught up in a regrettable act (not regretting the rape, but the regretting the fact that it was recorded with photos).
The two young men will have to register as sex offenders and spend one to two years in juvenile detention, but that is not what I am concerned about, unlike other mainstream media outlets.
Instead of feeling sympathy that their promising football careers are essentially over, I feel actual sympathy for the victim of being raped without her consent and how she will cope and deal with the consequences living in a town that cares more about their football team than the well being of a 16 year old girl who was taken advantage of.
The rape victim, a 16 year old girl, should be our main concern. Not the future of rapists, but the future of a young girl, who has to deal with being a rape survivor in a patriarchal, misogynistic, sexist, victim-blaming society.
I shouldn’t have to worry about the well-being of a rape victim. She should know that this entire ordeal is not her fault. She should expect counseling and psychological services to help her cope with trauma. She should have support instead of backlash from her community of peers and adults.
That’s how it should be…but we live in a society that blames rape victims instead of sympathizing with them. And that is a shame.
Mar 18, 2013
Going to college is a huge step in any young adult’s life. For me, no longer having my parents and guardians to make decisions for me was a huge challenge. From being exposed to older guys at outrageous parties to the excessive amounts of “Party Boosters” such as Liquor & beer, were all major temptations, but let’s not forget the biggest temptation of them all…S-E-X!!! In many cases, freshmen are a main target for some upperclassmen…also known as “FRESH MEAT”. Vulnerable, curious, and naïve to most situations, I made the decision like most of us would…from the influence of our peers. Regardless of the many influences around you, continue to think smart and make the best decision for your own sex life; WRAP IT UP! Always remember, a bad decision today could make the difference of a lifetime forever. Keep it safe when exploring your sex life as a college student. SAFE SEX is great sex! So GO AHEAD! You can do it! Fool those upperclassmen, be the “Fresh Meat”, with a FRESH MIND, and a FRESH START for a LIFETIME! For more sexual health info, you can text SEXT to 74574.
Mar 17, 2013
Technology has become more integral to our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that millions use online dating websites and social apps in search of friendships, romance, and sex. This reality continues to bring individuals closer while removing personal communication as well as creating controversial news headlines.
For many LGBTQ youth, using their internet devices to interact with others is both convenient and comfortable, especially for those who are in the closet about their sexual or gender identity. While most of these youths are skilled at using electronics and social media networks, they are also unaware of the potential risks that come with meeting strangers and sharing extremely personal information.
Just recently, a 16-year-old Broward County student contracted HIV after having unprotected sex with two older men he met through a social app. Stories like this as well as rapes, abductions, and murders have been in the news, where young teens meet unknown persons through websites as popular as Myspace and Facebook, yet end in tragedy.
More than ever, it’s become a necessity for teens and adults to become informed about bullying, privacy, and sexuality so they can actively defend themselves from cyberbullying, predators, and sexually transmitted diseases.
As a young queer male, I’ve studied the habits of friends and pop culture trends. While South Florida has a rich network of resources for the LGBTQ population, a large portion prefer to join websites like Craigslist, Manhunt, Plenty Of Fish, BGCLive or download apps like Adam4Adam, Grindr, and Jack’d seeking a new friend, love, or a one night stand.
These websites and apps (especially those catering to LGBTQ persons) emphasize shallowness (you can filter users based their physical appearance, age, and ethnicity) and reinforce unrealistic social standards (many profiles will write phrases like “No Fats, No Fems, No Blacks, No Old”).
I don’t suffer from social anxiety or instant gratification and declare myself an online dating skeptic. In the past, I browsed these websites to understand the psychology of online dating and was shocked at how the members had no hesitation in revealing their partially or fully nude bodies and used explicit or unintelligent language in messages.
When I downloaded an app 2 weeks ago, I revisited the same behaviors I encountered on those sites, except it’s more invasive: you can see how many miles each user is from you. I was messaged daily from users aged 18 to 45, of various racial groups, hobbies, and intentions.
Not only did these last 2 weeks teach me that we’re too dependent on technology, but that it’s important to maintain meaningful and personal contact with each other. Online dating has its upside, but with the increasing lack of privacy and dangers associated with chatting to strangers, you never know who is on the other side of that laptop or iPhone.
We may be more connected than ever, but we must be more safe and protected than ever.
Mar 15, 2013
One State. A Country worth of Disappointment.
12 is the new 20
If you’ve been following any news about reproductive health recently, you may have seen a thing or 12 about Arkansas. Just a reminder: Arkansas passed the most restrictive abortion law in the country, banning abortion at 12 weeks of pregnancy. There are a few factors to note about this piece of legislation and what it means for the future of anti-abortion policies throughout the states.
The bill was actually vetoed by Governor Mike Beebe (D) and his veto was overridden by the Republican-controlled legislature (shout out to the Beebe for trying!). Its sponsor is Republican Senator Jason Rapert (self-identified tea partier), who actually submitted a bill to ban abortions at 6 weeks but decided to retract since the only way to know anything about a fetus at 6 weeks is with a transvaginal ultrasound (and he didn’t want to feel the heat Virginia felt when they tackled that issue). The final approval of the bill was surprisingly unemotional, with consideration taking just a few minutes and with no one refuting, pushing back or making a statement against the decision. Mere moments that would potentially put hundreds of women at risk. Mere moments that put Arkansas at the center of the abortion rights movement. Mere moments that pushed fetal heartbeats and 12-week bans as a possible and passable policy option. This is unsettling, to say the least.
Fetal Heartbeat is the new Fetal Pain
Interestingly, what we’re seeing now are certain old school anti-abortion leaders worried that this new wave of (tea party-inspired) radical anti-abortion activism is only going to push abortion ban policies to federal courts, get struck down, and actually just REINFORCE Roe. And they’re right. While we’re on the topic, let’s just revisit the Supreme Court and Roe v. Wade for a moment, which states that women have a constitutional right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb (24-26 weeks into the pregnancy).
Abortion bans, at 12 (fetal heartbeat) or 20 weeks (fetal pain), are being argued in court because, get this, they actually ARE unconstitutional. Just last week, a federal court struck down Idaho’s 20-week abortion ban. Luckily, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union have challenged the 12-week ban in Arkansas and are hopeful they will strike down the legislation before it comes into effect.
But that doesn’t mean this new wave of anti-abortion activists and elected officials won’t continue to introduce legislation like wildfire. Nebraska started this trend with a 20-week ban in 2010, which prompted five more states to follow suit in 2011 (Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, and Oklahoma), and then three more in 2012 (Arizona, Georgia, and Louisiana). Thus far, Arkansas is the first state this year to approve an abortion ban.
Let’s Back up…What’s with the numbers? These measures are premised on the idea that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks of gestation and have a detectable heartbeat at 12 weeks, and should therefore be afforded state protections. Well actually, in 2005 the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published a statement that, after rigorous scientific review, states that “fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.” And, as of a statement released in the summer of 2012, there have been no new studies since that have changed this dominant view of the medical profession. And that’s just the opinion of the entire medical profession and rigorous scientific review. No big deal.
But the real point is that 20-week bans, 12-week bans, and whatever ban that occurs before viability are straight-up unconstitutional. We can see this doesn’t seem to stop radical anti-abortion crusaders, which is the worrying part. And the questions we must ask ourselves as abortions-rights activists: What number is next? What state is next?
Actually, we have the answer to that last question. Drum roll please….. NORTH DAKOTA. Yup. A similar ban is under consideration in North Dakota RIGHT NOW. In the light of recent events in Arkansas, this bill may be all the more likely to pass. Other states that have introduced similar heartbeat bans during the current legislative session include Ohio, Kansas, Texas and Alabama. Be on the lookout for actions to plug into in the near future.
BUT FOR REALSIES…. Arkansas takes the cake on worst reproductive health policies this week. And that 12-week abortion stuff above? That’s not the end of it. Earlier this month, they also passed a law that limits abortion coverage in the state’s upcoming health exchange. Oh, and if Senator Rapert didn’t feel like he had done enough passing the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban, the next day he co-sponsored a bill designed to strip Planned Parenthood of all state and federal financing. Wow, Arkansas. Just… WOW.
I’m feeling a bit underwhelmed with the state of states these days. But I can’t end this on such a negative note. There HAS been some good coming out of the states, right? Right.
Shout out to…. ILLINOIS! Why?! Well a few things.
On the local level:
The Chicago Board of Education recently passed a policy that mandates a set amount of time be spent on sex education in every grade, beginning in kindergarten. In addition, for the first time, sex education instruction in Chicago will cover sexual orientation and gender identity. CHEERS to Chi-Town for getting that all young people deserve the right to lead healthy lives and access to complete and accurate information.
On the state level:
This week, HB 2213, passed through the House Education Committee, which seeks to remove the barriers to school attendance, safety, and completion among young parents, expecting parents, or survivors of domestic or sexual violence. This “Ensuring Success in Schools” Act is now on its way to the House floor for debate. One step closer to ensuring the rights of pregnant and parenting teens!
Also, this week, Illinois’s comprehensive sex education bill (HB 2675) passed out of the Human Services Committee and is heading to the House floor, which requires that if sex education IS taught, then the curriculum needs to be comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate. One step closer towards a more comprehensive approach to sex education!
And to continue on the shout-out train, major props to our friends over at the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health (ICAH) for all their advocacy work and youth mobilization on both of these statewide efforts! Young people and sex education for the win!
Curated by Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, State Strategies Manager, Advocates for Youth
Mar 13, 2013
My name is Lesley Del Rio and I am a CREATE council member. I was disappointed to learn that after all the hard work we put into Youth Action Day, a group of people who oppose our message took it as a joke and intruded and tried to silence our voices. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but Youth Action Day was about Comprehensive Sex Ed and showing our support for HB 1081, not opposing it and bringing it down. We don’t want to give them any more attention because they don’t deserve it. This is an example of why we need to stand together and advocate for what we want and need in spite of opposition.
Mar 13, 2013
Last week I posted a blog responding to the New York City Human Resource Administration’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign. With much hard work, The New York Coalition for Reproductive Justice has launched its No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign in response to the Human Resource Administration’s,“Think Being A Teen Parent Won’t Cost You?”campaign. A collective of women of color, teen parents, community organizers, young people and myself have organized this campaign. We need you help with this push back. We are standing up and letting people know that our young people, especially young parents deserve better!
We ask that you stand with us and sign on listing your affiliation, organization and state. Please send that information and sign on at nyc4rj[at]gmail[dot]com. Support us in getting the word out and pushing for a teen pregnancy prevention campaign that DOES NOT shame and blame teen parents, particularly teen parents of color.
To find the Sign On Letter please visit nyc4rj.tumblr.com
Here are ALL the ways you can support the “No Stigma! No Shame!” Campaign (via Nicole Clark Consulting):
1. Stand with us and sign on to our letter by contacting Jasmine Burnett, founder of NYC4RJ, at nyc4rj[at]gmail[dot]com. Please listyour name, any academic or professional affiliations, and state. Your information will be added to this letter, and this letter will be sent to Robert Doar, commissioner of HRA’s Department of Social Services, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
2. Join us on social media! Follow NYC4RJ on Twitter (and follow our hashtag #NoStigmaNoShame ) and like the NYC4RJ Facebook page to keep up with the latest updates on the No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign.
4. Share this blog post and the NYC4RJ No Stigma! No Shame! Campaign sign-on letter with others and encourage them contact Jasmine Burnett to sign on with their support.
This sign on letter is just the beginning. We plan to incorporate a campaign that infuses policy advocacy, arts, and education that will make sure that all teens in New York City are able to make the best decisions for their health and lives. Support us in getting the word out and pushing for a teen pregnancy prevention and parenting campaign that DOES NOT shame and blame teen parents.
Mar 11, 2013
I apologize for the late post, but the day is not over yet! Today is National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! March 10th is a day women and girls come together in solidarity and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in our community!
Here are some stats from the CDC (2011) about HIV among women & girls:
While these statistics are alarming, it is imperative to know the facts on HIV/AIDS in women & girls in order to raise awareness and hopefully lower the rates of HIV.
How can we protect ourselves from HIV/AIDS as women?
If you engage in sexual contact, use a condom every time. Women & girls often do not feel obligated to carry condoms because of the stigma that it is a man’s responsibility to have protection. While carrying condoms may be intimidating, it is extremely empowering to know that you have the option to be safe while engaging in consensual sex.
* I highly recommend that women try the female condom 2, which you can purchase at your local Walgreen’s. You can check out more information on the female condom here: http://www.fc2femalecondom.com/home.html
Have conversations with your partner about safe sex and HIV. Get tested together and share your results. One of the most important assets to a healthy relationship is healthy communication.
Do your best not to engage in risky behavior that may inhibit your decision making skills, such as drinking or partaking in other drugs. Being intoxicated can make you more likely to engage in risky, unsafe sex.
GET TESTED!!! Always be aware of your status. If you are sexually active, it is recommended that you get tested every 6 months. You can find out where to get tested in your city here: http://hivtest.cdc.gov/Default.aspx
GO FORTH AND SPREAD THIS INFORMATION!!! Remember sistahs, our work to create an HIV/AIDS free environment in NOT finished! It all begins with you.
Here is a nice video from Facing AIDS that I found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9jtweKQOX0
Mar 10, 2013
A fellow Amplify Blogger, Twittersister and founder of TeenMomNYC.com, a website offering support and incite of the day to day life of what it means to be a teenage mother, recently posted a blog (like many of us) about the New York City Teen Pregnancy “Prevention” Campaign that launched last week by the NYC Human Resources Administration. Reading through my newsfeed last night, I caught a glimpse of her responding to the hateful comments she was receiving on this particular blog post. This morning, I decided to visit her blog for myself. There were a whopping 38 comments attached to what I thought was a brilliantly written blog laced with veracity and Gloria’s situated knowledges as a teen parent. I guess the others did not think so. Let me first say that I was not a teen mother and I cannot, will not and do not wish to speak from that perspective. However, I am a young woman of color who was born and raised in a hypersegregated medically “underserved” area, attended sub-standard schools, and was in and out of kinship care my entire life. All of these experiences influence my analysis of this situation (outside of my work with young people and pregnant and parenting teens).
This blog is also not meant to come to anyone’s rescue (we advocates/activists are not saving teen moms from these egregious, shameful ads) because they do not need us to rescue them or step in and give them a voice. These brave young women already have them! This is to show my solidarity with them and express why I feel so strongly about the attacks on them. As if the ads were not enough, you have people offering their empty “advice” on their blogs, ranging from “been there, done that” to “you should have kept your legs closed.” Uhh no that’s not about to happen. So you want to come for teen moms? Let me come for your train of thought. Allow me to deconstruct your notions of young people and teen pregnancy prevention.
Wait, be patient, love yourself!
I recommend young people keep a journal of their childhood that way when they grow up and catch a sudden case of dementia when it comes to sexuality and sexual activity they can “remember” their teen years. An “older wiser woman” commented that there is in fact no positive side to teen sexual activity. Hmmm well that’s strange considering teens are pretty much still keep having sex (something has to be positive there). While we all hope that young people delay sexual activity, lets face the music TEENS ARE HAVING SEX! Just because young people make decisions to have sex, doesn’t mean we don’t love ourselves. I’m pretty sure we’d love ourselves more if society showed us some love too!
I didn’t know lived in a society in which CULTURE does not play a significant role in how we raise our children!
An anonymous added that young people have an “unlimited” amount of resources including our moms, aunts, sisters, friends… Okay, so where I come from my family doesn’t talk about sex. Outside of the fact that most parents don’t feel comfortable talking to their kids about sex, I know first hand that some families are not about to talk about sex! As a person of the African Diaspora, sex was not talked about in my house. I was told not to get pregnant, but NEVER how to go about preventing pregnancy. And when I did receive some ‘sex education”, it definitely didn’t apply to me. No one met me where I was. No one wanted to speak my language. Then and now youth need Culturally and Linguistically relevant (along with medically accurate, age-appropriate) sexual education. Because all that other stuff…Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Just close your legs that way we don’t have to provide you with comprehensive sexual education, access to birth control and all the other things you need to lead healthy lives!
Telling someone to keep their legs closed is not okay! First of all opening your legs does not cause pregnancy (if that was the case I’d be with child every time a rode a bike, danced, and did jumping jacks.).Secondly, most women don’t get pregnant by themselves unless we are talking about the Immaculate Conception. The notion of “keeping your legs closed” is not only sexist and misogynist but just plain ignorant. And lets think about resources, is birth control accessible? I saw comments on other blogs about the Affordable Care Act and how teens could purchase birth control on their parent’s health insurance because it would be free. Well some insurance companies, have these cool things called EOBs (Explanation of Benefits). They basically tell you all the stuff you just got done at your doctors visit. Until we get that fixed I don’t know how accessible Birth Control under the ACA is for young people. That’s the ish I don’t like!
Society doesn’t owe you anything its all about “choice.” (This is where you laugh hysterically.)
Oh please. This kills me because some people are so scared of the word “choice.” It kills me because people throw around the word choice and “decision making” when we aren’t really handing out the tools for young people to make choices. Yes society has a responsibility to equip young people with these tools, but that does not excuse the fact that young people have individual responsibilities too. We contribute to society (so stop acting like you don’t know). We don’t need shaming ads to tell us that parenting is hard. We don’t need people telling us that we are WIC/EBT/Medicaid/Government Assistance users and that the older generation needs not be responsible for us. Well last I checked Social Security and Medicare are government programs and every McDonalds minimum-wage check goes to fund the older generation.
If you are going to come for young moms, young people, young people of color I just ask one thing….. COME CORRECT or go home.
Mar 7, 2013
In 1988, South Carolina was ahead of the curve in adopting a mandate for health education, which included a reproductive health component. A new report suggests, however, that 25-years later many school districts aren’t following the mandate and students are still not getting the education they should.
Entering the year 2013, we have to wonder why this continues when we have such high teen pregnancy rates. As young adults with a passion for sexual health we have to think about innovative and accurate ways to inform the youth. Even if you do not consider yourself a sexual health warrior, you still need accurate and reliable information for your own health. If school districts are not getting students the information they need, can you imagine the places students go to find answers? Scary thought. So whether that means finding accurate sites, speaking with your health care providers and encouraging safe sexual practices to your friends we can start somewhere. If you build up enough courage, you can reach out to senators, write blogs or even join sexual health initiatives that promote HIV prevention and birth control access – like the SC Contraceptive Access Campaign. So no matter where you start, just start and most importantly promote condom use EACH and EVERY time you have sex. We can’t save the world if we aren’t safe!
Mar 6, 2013
During my past couple nights of boredom, I decided to play with our SEXTED line. If you have not taken some time to just “diddle” with the free text messaging line, then you are missing out on a great resource. The text line provides confidential information that can be accessed through a simple text message. Simple keywords will provide accurate and up-to-date knowledge on local resources. This is helpful because there may be some questions that you may feel uncomfortable asking someone, but this text line provides all that information at your fingertips. If you take a moment and use this resource then you will see just how helpful it really is. So don’t wait another moment, and just text SEXT to 74574!!
Mar 4, 2013
While browsing through my twitter page I came across an ad directed at teen mothers in NYC. While seeing this ad disgusted me; I was a little relieved that I had not seen it person in my city, Brooklyn. Not only is this ad extremely offensive (the Post calls it a “Tad” offensive), it has racist, classist and sexist undertones. The ad I saw featured a beautiful brown girl with big brown eyes and read “Honestly Mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” It also quoted a statistic that 90% of teen parents do not marry each other. While this statistic can be shocking to most it also seems to continue to push the agenda of marriage and “nuclear” families among young people, something I wish this country would have let go of in the 1976 Reagan “Welfare Queen” era.
After further research, I discovered that this ad was part of a larger campaign created by the NYC Human Resources Administration. For an agency with the word “resources” in its name, it appears that they do not know how to use them very well. Especially considering the fact that the United States is preparing to undergo sequestration and they thought it wise to use government funding to disseminate disturbing, stigmatizing and shameful ads about teen mothers. Also considering the fact they are a “Human Resources” agency, I would think funds would be better allocated to real initiatives to help young mothers, such as creating real job opportunities for young moms and working with other agencies and organizations to provide childcare so that young women could support their families. It is resourceful to create life-size ads that basically say “Mom you suck for having me.”
While NYC has taken steps to improve the lives of young parents, like closing Pregnancy Schools after advocates insisted these institutions were in violation of Title IX, this initiative seems backwards. This is the same city responsible for the Living for the Young Family through Education program which provides free childcare around the city to help teen parents graduate from high school. In addition to these efforts, the NYC Department of Education mandated Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools in 2011 to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, HIV and STIs among young people. However, many of the youth that I work with in Brooklyn still report receiving little to no sex education even after the mandate was placed into effect. Having grown up in Brooklyn my entire life and having never received formal sexual education, I know they are telling the truth.
So if you think scare tactics and shameful ads are going to work, think again. In fact it is just making the situation worse. I’m mostly concerned with who the agency talked to before creating these controversial ads. It definitely was not teen parents!! I wonder how agencies feel they can solve a problem without consulting the people on the ground and the young people with the “situated knowledge.” As a millennial of color, research shows that although my peers would like to decrease the rate of teen pregnancies, they also feel that society has a responsibility to provide young parents with the necessary resources and opportunities to lead healthy lives.
Lastly, I think these ads should be taken down, and the funding for this so-called Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Initiative should be redirected to organizations working to provide real comprehensive sexual education, access to contraception, teen parenting programs, affordable childcare and job opportunities for young people. Education, inclusion and empowerment is how we solve real issues not by attaching stigma to young people, especially young women!
Mar 4, 2013
Supporting the rights of LGBT youth, young & parenting teens, and youth of color is totally critical when supporting sex education. It still feels like some states can’t get it together.
The utterly unforgivable: Tennessee & North Dakota
Tennessee decided to double down in both the state house and senate in February and re – introduced a worse version of their “Don’t Say Gay” legislation from last year. As if it this wasn’t already bad enough to deny LGBT youth of inclusive sexuality education, the “Classroom Protection Act,” if passed (SB 234/HB 1332), would also require school administrators, nurses, and counselors to report LGBT students to their families and recommend “counseling.”
North Dakota was not showing me any love again on Valentine’s Day because they struck down the anti – discrimination bill (SB 2252) which would have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. WHY DO YOU STILL WANT TO DISCRIMINATE???
BUT, it’s not ALL bad, there are some totally awesome things on the horizon.
Happy Feet for: Nebraska, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, & Texas
Nebraska introduced sex ed legislation (LB 619) that defines access to medically accurate information that will not allow for bias of LGBT young people, students of color, students with disabilities, or sexually active students. Thanks for not being biased!
Also, Maryland and Massachusetts are working on a Trans inclusive policy. The Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality hosted a lobby day in February for the Fairness for All Marylander Act (SB449) which would stop discrimination based on gender identity for public accommodation, housing, and employment. We want to throw our support to the activist community in Maryland pushing it forward. The Massachusetts Department of Education issued guidance for public schools so they can be inclusive of transgender students.
I am keeping my fingers crossed for a big win in New Mexico to support the rights of pregnant and parenting teens. Educational equity must include an equitable school absence policy for pregnant teens (HB300/SB382), they had an amazing young parent lobby day, it passed the house & senate last week!
Also, there is nothing but love for student activists who are making it happen. Shout out to the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapters who are fired up and will start pushing back against the bill that would ban Planned Parenthood from providing sex ed in public schools in March.
Curated by Hemly Ordonez, State Strategies Manager at Advocates for Youth.
Mar 4, 2013
When the issue about sexual and reproductive health burning all over the world, I am trying to analysis the work I did to support for the movement. From last year I have been a member of Youth Advocacy leadership council (YALC) and continuing this year as well advocating for the amendment of comprehensive sexuality Education and advocating for the meaningful participation of youth at the decision making for SRHR issue Nepal.
Since we matched our objectives with the global issue, we were directly or indirectly addressing the global issues as well. We prepared action of plan and various activities to make our objective attainable.
To address the AIDs day we did “Red Ribbon Caravan” in which we travelled to the rural setting of Nepal making them aware about HIV/AIDS through discussion, puppet show, and quiz competition. In this program we targeted to general audience.
Second program for supporting we did “ Youth Conclave” were we gathered policy makers from curriculum Development Centre, minister from health department, teachers who deal with the sexual and reproductive chapter, students, guardians in one place and understanding the SRHR issues at different levels. We tried to increase interaction among each other to understand the challenges and loopholes to self and others range addressing it.
The other activities that I did being a part of YALC were like petition signing asking to have support for comprehensive sexuality education, online debate in related topics and many informal talk program.
So trying to follow “BIGGER ONLY ACHEIVABLE DOING SMALL THING” and initiating small efforts to respect the global issue.
Mar 3, 2013
SEE COMPLETE IMAGE:
Mar 3, 2013
Mar 1, 2013
While reading a article where state chicago are making proposal that will address sexual education, sexual bullying standards. I my self think its a good idea because at that age they can develope how to protect theirs self when their exactlyy ready for male,female to invlove in sexually actives.It can even stop are protect them from sex with more than one person in the same place but unless its ok from both female are male.Then to keep them from sex crime.Another reason I say the proposal can be great because you can have the parents answer. The age limit is age-appropriate knowledge that can guide them throughout their lives. Then while their at home with thier parents can teach them sex ed and to have sex at right age are untill married I think its good idea and should have a proposal in every state.
By Max Smith
Mar 1, 2013
I have had an abortion. Most people who know me know that. I’m very open about it and fervently pro-choice. I had to start my piece like this, so you’ll understand where I’m coming from. I’m not writing this post out of malice, but for educational purposes. I haven’t been able to find any other pieces on this subject, so maybe I’m wrong. If I am I would appreciate any readers to provide me with some cold hard medical facts. Okay?
Before my abortion I had a transvaginal ultrasound. This was in mid-2011, so before TVUs got famous. When I saw the device I was wary and my reaction was something along the lines of “woah what’s that? Do I have to have that because I don’t want it.” The woman said yes it was necessary for the procedure and she’s sorry. She didn’t say it was required by law or whatever, but that it was necessary. She didn’t show me the ultrasound or talk about it or even offer to. The whole thing was over in about two minutes. I had a surgical abortion at nine weeks and I was assured this was needed for my procedure.
Then eventually the TVU law proposals starting arriving and I was incredibly confused and hurt. Had something wrong been done to me? By that clinic? That clinic that saved my future? That clinic I was eternally grateful to? That clinic that advertises “comprehensive reproductive services in a supportive, nonjudgmental, knowledge-based environment?” That clinic that boasts that it has “the most experienced clinic staff in the region?” That clinic which is part of the National Abortion Federation?
All of these activists were and still are posting images of ultrasound wands with captions like “up mine? Up yours?” and talking about TVUs being a violation and comparing them to rape. This was/is really upsetting to me. I felt weirdly betrayed by my savior clinic. So I called them. I just briefly asked why they do TVUs and the clinic worker said because it was needed for the procedure. I felt pretty satisfied with that answer.
Of course I think this mandatory TVU legislation is terrible and wrong. It’s unethical for legislators with no medical expertise to be putting this into law. Since when are bills about medical procedure? Those are two entirely different fields. Where are the laws going into detail about thermometer or blood drawing procedure? Why is abortion any different? Why would a bill by those with no medical degree be dictating what practitioners do? Also, are states competing for the most ridiculous TVU bill? Now apparently there are bills requiring two TVUs.
Honestly I have not take part in this debate because it made me uncomfortable. The anti-choice side was clearly wrong, but for the first time I also felt the pro-choice side was wrong. They weren’t being outraged about the right things. They weren’t being outraged about why specifically this legislation was terrible instead they were just proclaiming TVUs were terrible. I don’t know why I’m talking in past tense. This is still going on. So, pro-choice activists are proclaiming that what is in some clinics vital to abortion is a violation and basically a desecration of human rights. They’re starting to sound like the anti-choicers to me. I mean what if legislators start listening? What if they start believing TVUs are a violation and try to ban them? What does that mean for the clinics that use them? Will abortion access become more difficult and expensive? Are these pro-choicers hurting the movement?
I’m working on expanding my knowledge. Nowhere on prochoice.org does it say TVUs are “medically unnecessary” like so many pro-choicers are claiming. This week I asked my abortion clinic for more in depth reasoning into their usage of TVUs. This was their response:
“There is no mandated law in TN that requires a vaginal ultrasound although they are trying to pass a law currently to require an ultrasound 24 – 72 hours before an abortion with the sound of a heart beat, verbal description of the u/s picture and a copy of the picture given to the patient. Here at [name removed] we routinely perform a vaginal ultrasound for patients who may be under 12 weeks and an abdominal ultrasound for patient who may be over 12 weeks. Because a patient can have missed a period and not be pregnant or can have a period and be pregnant, (it is possible to have periods all the way up until delivery) until we do an ultrasound we do not know for sure her gestational age. An accurate gestational age supports providing the best possible care for our patients. We do not however show her a picture, hear a heartbeat (which we don’t have the equipment for) or describe the u/s to the patient unless she requests it.”
Basically I’m demanding more education on this issue for everyone. Because honestly I’m offended that my supposed allies are telling me I was violated. It almost feels like they’re belittling rape. Why is it so difficult to find resources on this? Why can’t I find other articles with this viewpoint? Is it the abortion stigma? Are women not talking about it because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their abortion? Are abortion providers not coming forward so that they don’t disclose their profession and put themselves at risk? I’m concerned and I demand more information.
Mar 1, 2013
Alabama’s Sex Education Law is pretty good… except for one part. The part is when it says that “homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” This is a minimum content law meaning that this is the absolute minimum that teachers must teach. Now, most people already know about this injustice in the Alabama law, but what can we do about it? This is why I am glad to be part of the Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth. This week I got to collect information and share what kind of sexual education I received in high school to Patricia Todd, an Alabama state representative. It is great to know that she is working to make a difference at Montgomery. By talking to her and preparing for the Youth Lobby Day (where youth from all over the state are going down to Montgomery to lobby for a better, more comprehensive and informative HIV education law), I felt like I had a direct impact in my state! I want to encourage others out there, especially young people, that we do have a voice-and if we yell loud enough- but more importantly long enough- someone will have to hear.
“When I introduce the concept of reproductive justice to new audiences, at lectures or workshops, I always frame it in the same way. I use a really simple exercise, where I draw a stick figure on a piece of butcher paper, or an easel, or a chalkboard. Then I ask the question: “What things in this person’s life will impact their ability to create the family they want to create?” Usually it takes a few minutes for the audience to get going, but within five or ten minutes the result is a stick figure with many, many issues written in bubbles around them. Things like religion, money, environment, language, race, gender, sexuality, laws, incarceration end up surrounding the person.
This activity is a pretty decent illustration of my definition of reproductive justice—it’s working to build a world where everyone has what they need to create the family they want to create. And that work requires incorporating and taking into account all of those items written in bubbles on the diagram, as well as many we probably leave out. Almost always this exercise results in “ah ha” moments, and it’s had a striking universality—from using it with college students to using it in Latina immigrant communities on the border. Reproductive justice is an easier concept to explain in ten minutes than in a two-word soundbite, like pro-choice, but that additional context also allows for so many more of the issues and challenges or our every day lives to be made visible and explicitly included in our work.”
Feb 25, 2013
In the spheres of education and public health, sex education is often discussed in terms of content and outcomes. Policy makers, advocates, parents, and educators want to know: Does it teach about contraceptive methods? Is there a condom demonstration? Does it lead to young people delaying sex? Does it reduce rates of STI transmission? And certainly content and outcomes are of vital importance. But great sex education must also address the context of young people’s lives. And that requires that sex education support young people in building the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy to create and navigate healthy relationships throughout their lives.
For too long, in reaction to years of federally-subsidized medically-inaccurate, misleading, and stigmatizing abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, advocates and educators in favor of comprehensive sex education have concentrated on a relatively small component of this topic. The work for comprehensive sex education has often focused narrowly on ensuring that young people can learn accurate and age-appropriate information about their bodies, about sexual decision-making and negotiation, and about reducing the risk of STI transmission and unintended pregnancy. And as a result, there have been positive shifts in sex education in recent years. Federal funding initiatives like the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) and the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) have increased the resources available in states, communities, and schools to implement evidence-based programs.
But too many of these programs and curricula focus narrowly on specific changes in youth risk behavior—such as delayed initiation of sex, reduced frequency of sex, and increased condom use—and not nearly enough on healthy relationships. This is a missed opportunity and an incomplete representation of comprehensive sex education.
Healthy relationships education is an integral component of truly comprehensive sex education. Released last year, the National Sexuality Education Standards outline the minimum, essential content and skills that is age-appropriate for children and youth in grades K-12, and healthy relationships is one of seven major topic areas (page 32). These standards outline the baseline of healthy relationship knowledge and skills that students should have after completing sex education coursework. For example, students should be able to:
It is not a coincidence that healthy relationships are a key component of comprehensive sex education, because comprehensive sex education is the best vehicle for healthy relationship education. The information and skills that it takes to create and navigate healthy relationships are best taught in the context of the non-judgmental, honest, and inclusive classrooms that comprehensive sex education fosters.
Because while some abstinence-only-until-marriage programs do purport to teach information and skills related to healthy relationships, these programs are full of flawed, incomplete, and harmful messages. These programs make false promises to youth that they will necessarily avoid heartache, regret, and “baggage” by pursuing relationships and avoiding sex. They teach young people that relationships that involve sexual activity can only chip away at a finite “self:” that youth have a certain amount of love and affection to give, and they will be diminished and depleted if they give it away “too soon” or to the “wrong” person. They often assume that (heterosexual) marriage is an inevitable and/or universally desired goal. This is a wildly limiting way to think about people’s personal and interpersonal capacity. Relationships—including young people’s relationships—can be opportunities for learning and growth, and we are much better off helping young people pursue mutually respectful and satisfying relationships than we are feeding them dishonest guarantees.
For many young people, part of pursuing and maintaining healthy relationships may mean delaying sex. For many others, it may not. Either way, a real understanding of communication, power, consent, sexual negotiation, and risk reduction is of vital importance. To fully meet young people’s rights and needs, we must take an inclusive and non-judgmental approach to relationship education. A sole focus on sexual refusal skills—as is the case in many abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—is just not sufficient. We must work with youth as they learn to form and maintain healthy relationships. This includes being truly inclusive of GLBTQ youth and families. It includes respecting and trusting young people with the knowledge and skills to negotiate relationships and sexuality on their own terms.
Healthy relationships education is not a “middle-ground” between comprehensive sex education and abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. If we don’t look closely, some programs may use the guise of healthy relationships education to reinforce the same old gender stereotypes and compulsory heterosexuality that we see in abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.
Rather, healthy relationships education is part and parcel of comprehensive sex education. Sex education programs that teach youth to reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy and STI transmission are incomplete if they neglect to build in youth the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy to negotiate healthy relationships. And programs that purport to teach relationship skills but fail to do so in a way that represents the full range of experiences in young people’s lives are limiting and ultimately harmful.
We must take the strides we’ve made and move forward to ensure that sex education for young people is truly meeting their rights and needs and that healthy relationships education is integrally tied to the respect, honesty, and inclusivity of comprehensive sex education.
Feb 22, 2013
Here is my latest video blog for the Broward County Youth Council. I go into a little detail about my background and childhood, my reasons for becoming an advocate, and what I expect from the future!
Feb 21, 2013
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen To Host Event Encouraging Dialogue Around Educational Inequality
Who: Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen is an annual event designed to showcase female artists and use hip-hop to raise awareness around social issues.
What: This year’s event, titled ‘No Limits…Knowledge is Power!’ features female educators, students, activists, DJs, emcees, b-girls, poets, visual artists and dancers who will convene to advocate for comprehensive sexual education curriculum in all school districts, smaller class sizes and educational opportunities for all children.
When: Saturday, March 2nd, 2013, from 2pm-5pm ET
Where: Hostos Community College Main Theater
450 Grand Concourse at 149th Street
Media RSVP and Interview Requests: Kathleen Adams, firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information visit:
Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen (MHHK) is a multifaceted hip hop event designed to showcase women artists, especially women of color. MHHK serves as a social justice community-organizing platform that educates and empowers women of color on issues that impact their lives, including HIV/AIDS and reproductive justice. Our mission is to create a dynamic interactive exchange and safe space for all women of color to express themselves through art.
Feb 20, 2013
At a school health conference last year, I was eager to attend workshops on research, curriculum, and teaching methodology related to healthy relationships education. Unfortunately, the one workshop I was able to attend on this topic was not just disappointing, but puzzling and ultimately upsetting.
I attended a workshop a new “research-based” curriculum called Relationship Smarts PLUS. And for at least 45 minutes, they had me fooled. The presenters described extensive program evaluation with thousands of students in Alabama public schools. They described decreases in students’ reported sanctioning and experiences of aggression within relationships. They shared with us their “7 Principles of Smart Relationships”—sound principles such as “expect good communication” and “seek…someone with common interests.” But red flags were raised when the facilitators (the writers and trainers of the curriculum) adlibbed gender stereotypes with glee whenever possible. When our handouts read Don’t Try to Change Someone Into Someone He or She Is Not, the workshop facilitators wasted no time telling us that “it is usually the girls trying to change the boys.” When the handouts said Don’t play games, be phony, or pressure someone, the facilitators added that “we all know that it is usually the boys trying to pressure the girls.” Their needless gender stereotypes only served to undermine their otherwise reasonable and universal advice for healthy relationships.
A similar pattern followed as we, the participants, shared from the slips of paper we’d been given to assess different experiences as Smart or Not-So-Smart expressions of the 7 Principles of Smart Relationships (page 23). Participants would read their statements as they saw them fitting in with the 7 principles, classifying each as Smart or Not-So-Smart. Two examples—
Here, the prompts seemed perfectly set up to be LGBTQ-inclusive—the first-person speaker’s pronoun or gender is never specified. And yet the workshop facilitators never failed to imply a heterosexual relationship in each of the scenarios. When I asked a question about whether the teachers in their extensive pilot and evaluation had received training on LGBTQ competency and inclusivity during their preparation, I was told: “This was in Alabama.”
I felt like I had been ambushed by a seemingly positive, or at least benign, program with a secret conservative agenda. I had to find out more about who wrote this curriculum—what were their values and motives?
Indeed, this curriculum from the Dibble Institute is undoubtedly in line with the legacy of marriage promotion programs—federally-backed initiatives that stemmed not from a true interest in promoting healthy, mutually-fulfilling relationships, but from conservative attempts to reform welfare. It turns out that one reason the facilitators were so set on implying the gender of the first-person speaker is that in the instructor’s manual of the curriculum, these relationship example cards are overtly divided into the Girl Class Set and the Guy Class Set (page 24). In other words, facilitators are supposed to give out separate prompts to girls and boys—prompts that almost universally refer to partners as he and she, respectively.
Upon closer investigation, the curriculum does have three mentions in these scenarios of young people who are questioning their sexuality and thinking they might be gay or bisexual, and they are primarily tied to an abstinence message. To separate these scenarios out—by stating, “I think I’m a lesbian and my girlfriend keeps pressuring me to have sex”—is to miss the point that healthy relationships matter across the range of sexual identity and experience. It would be far stronger to nix the Girl cards (where this example is one of 24) and the Guy cards and adopt more inclusive language, varied examples, and universalism to the understanding of the right to healthy relationships.
A look through the curriculum revealed additional gaps: in the multitude of relationship vignettes, why couldn’t any examples show young people openly discussing contraceptive options with their partners? Or planning to visit a clinic and speak with a health care provider? Or getting tested for STIs? The ability to do these things openly with a partner can very much be a positive or warning sign of a healthy or unhealthy relationship. To neglect to depict these important and responsible conversations and activities is to fail to paint them as such.
Lest we believe that this curriculum left out these aspects of relationships and decision-making by accident, the final of the Concluding Points for this activity is this:
“There is one thing that can be guaranteed – If you leave sex out of your relationship during your teen years, the pain of a broken heart, the level of regret, and the high-cost risks of STDs and pregnancy will be reduced or avoided. You will have less baggage and more freedom to experience relationships and to move on if you need to. For now, the best advice is to enjoy each other and have fun as you try out relationships and keep these principles as a guide.” (page 16)
The fundamental messages of healthy relationship education matter—and Relationship Smarts PLUS may have gotten a few things right—but the values of the messenger matter, too. Do you really want a curriculum from the same people who developed and promote a lesson for high school students on the perils of “cohabitation” called Why Buy the Cow When You Can Get the Milk for Free?
Feb 19, 2013
Last Thursday, Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act! This bill lays out a comprehensive, age-appropriate, and holistic vision for sex education in the United States.
Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. To have healthy lives, young people need sex education programs which provide them with the information and skills necessary to make healthy decisions – and that includes medically accurate and complete information about abstinence, contraception, condoms, healthy relationships, sexuality, and more.
They also need programs which connect with young people’s lives and do not ignore or stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, or young people who have already had sex.
Let’s work to ensure that young people get the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education. Please ask your Members of Congress to help make the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality.
Feb 17, 2013
I was delighted to open up my email inbox this past Thursday and find this message from Sarah Audelo, Senior Manager of Domestic Policy here at Advocates for Youth:
Today, Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) introduced the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act! This bill lays out a comprehensive, age-appropriate, and holistic vision for sex education in the United States.
Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. To have healthy lives, young people need sex education programs which provide them with the information and skills necessary to make healthy decisions – and that includes medically accurate and complete information about abstinence, contraception, condoms, healthy relationships, sexuality, and more.
They also need programs which connect with young people’s lives and do not ignore or stigmatize lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, or young people who have already had sex.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s work to ensure that young people get the sex education they need in order to lead healthy lives and have healthy relationships. We owe it to them to provide them honest sexual health education.
The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (click for detailed information on the bill) resonated with me so much when I first read through it at the Urban Retreat this past September. It puts into eloquent terms what I sat through high school sex ed class wishing for, and offers practical action to make this expanded curricula and service possible.
Since the tenth grade, I had been the lucky beneficiary of progressive, medically accurate, inclusive, and informative sex education. My teacher was amazing- open, honest, and approachable. We knew that we could talk with her about ANY concerns or tough situations we were going through.
I had also been in a very close relationship with my boyfriend. I credit the sex education that I received with helping to guide us through what was an incredibly loving, respectful formative sexual relationship. Together, we navigated through all the trials of sex- obtaining birth control, correctly using condoms, going on panicked emergency contraception runs, and communicating with each other when we felt uncomfortable or hurt by something. All along we knew our community was there for us with resources and sage advice.
However one sex ed class differed from the rest. During my senior year of high school, the Ithaca Crisis Pregnancy Center came in to talk with us about abstinence. A panel of young people- two married couples and one girl who pledged to abstain until marraige- stood and exulted the virtues of married sex, and the dangers of pre marital intercourse. I sat feeling excluded from the conversation, talked down to, and shamed. When I got home, I wrote this article, which I gave to the Board of Education the next day:
Why the abstinence speakers from Ithaca Pregnancy Center did not belong in our school
Let me start this off by saying that I really, truly believe that abstinence is one of many safe, realistic, and healthy options for teenagers concerning their sexuality. Which is why I am really glad that it is a part of Trumansburg’s sex education curriculum, along with information about contraceptive use and std education. Recently, the high school had guest speakers come in to health classes to talk specifically about abstinence.
The speakers came from the Ithaca Pregnancy Center, a center which provides “alternatives to abortion”. This seems like a needed public service, until you look closer into the background of the organization. The Ithaca Pregnancy Center is a part of a larger network of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and can be found in listings of Crisis Pregnancy Centers across the United States. CPCs often exist to dissuade women from having abortions by offering information about the “emotional repercussions” of abortion, graphic, exaggerated descriptions of abortion techniques, and ultrasounds. In New York State,there have been probes into these centers in response to complaints of blatant misinformation.
Whatever an individuals personal beliefs about abortion, a factual unbiased approach should be embraced in the classroom. We deserve to learn the facts about intercourse, STDs, abstinence, and abortion from unbiased educators without an agenda. Bringing in speakers who are affiliated with a staunchly anti-choice organization, and presenting them as sex educators (which implies that everything they say is factual), polarizes and adds an element of discomfort to a classroom in which students should be presented with facts that enable them to make their own informed decisions.
The speakers included a married couple in their twenties, a woman in her early thirties, and two teenage girls. They made their message clear from the beginning: Abstinence until marriage is the best option for teenagers regarding their sexuality. They presented marriage as the ultimate and only complete safe haven from the dangers of intimacy. There are two problems with this message.
The first is that assuming that one option (in this case, abstinence) works for all teenagers is wrong. Teenagers are a diverse population of people with a plethora of opinions and backgrounds. Taking a “one size fits all” approach to sex is counter productive and alienating. The second problem is the “until marriage” part of the message. This completely excludes any gay or lesbian student, for whom marriage is not an option. It also idealizes marriage, making it seem as though it magically makes all the risks of sex- STDs, pregnancy, rape, emotional distress- disappear. It is possible to contract an STD, get pregnant before you are ready, and be raped by your spouse, but this was not addressed, which is dangerous.
They also gave the message that abstinence is not only an option, but the ONLY safe option by completely discrediting the use of condoms and not mentioning birth control. One of the speakers said “Condoms are an option, and claim to be effective…but they only are when used correctly so there goes that.” She then said that condoms can allow STDs to be transmitted, and can break. Which is factual, however she did not discuss ways to maximize the effectiveness of condoms (such as the use of spermicide and pulling out before ejaculation), or how to wear them properly. This gave the impression that condoms are ineffective, and therefor the idea of “safe sex” being possible outside of abstinence is false.
Abstinence, like condoms, is also effective only when used correctly. If you slip up once and engage in a sexual act, or use selective abstinence (ex abstaining from genital but not oral sex) then the 100% effectivity rate lowers. If students are under the impression that condoms are ineffective, practice abstinence, then slip up, they are more likely to not use protection. Teaching abstinence in a way that discredits contraceptives is irresponsible and counterproductive to the comprehensive sex education policy that our school follows.
The most important thing for a education program to do is not to idealize sex (marital or premarital), marriage, “love,” a non marital romantic relationship, or fetishize virginity or the loss of virginity. Sex ed should be honest and inclusive, and should provide an unbiased understanding of the multiple theories about sexuality (feminist, religious, etc.). Sex ed should, above all, enable students to communicate and advocate for what they do and don’t want their sexuality to consist of. Comprehensive sex education does this to an extent. These speakers, however did not. They should not have been included in our health curriculum, and should be prevented from being included in the future.
This is what I, as a high school student, wanted and expected from my sex education, without having read or heard of The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act or Advocates for Youth. This is what high school students want. Help make this vision a reality by supporting the act. Please ask your Members of Congress to help make the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act a reality.
Feb 14, 2013
Youth Action Day will be on March 11th from 8:30-3:30 PM!!!
Join us at the Capitol to discuss with policy makers why increasing access to comprehensive sex education and school-based health centers is critical for Colorado Young people!
The Colorado Youth CREATE council will provide a fun and interactive training on the legislative process and how to talk to our legislators, followed with meetings with our Senators and Representatives.
We’ll also leave room for LOTS OF FUN!!! Highlights include:Raffle prizes, a photo booth complete with props, a ‘Real World’ style confessional to talk about your feelings and experiences, games and networking opportunities!
Register today: www.coloradoyouthmatter.org
The deadline is March 1st
Feb 13, 2013
Where we share all of our emotions. About all of the states.
Just say NO to… Abortion?!
It’s basically the mantra of anti-choice lawmakers across the country and one that they’re now espousing inside the classroom. Currently there are two similar bills, one in Montana (HB 239) and one in Texas (HB 1057), that prohibits a school district from allowing any abortion services provider to teach sex ed in schools. And of course, by abortion providers, they really mean Planned Parenthoods.
The bill in Texas was just introduced last week, and includes a ban on “any entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions” from providing human sexuality or family planning instruction. Talk about a case of the scarlet letter (“A” for abortion, in this case). The motive behind this piece of legislation is clearly to ensure any organization that is either a Planned Parenthood or any individual and/or entity that affiliates with Planned Parenthood is not welcome in Texas classrooms. It even reinforces stigma against abortion providers themselves, by actually banning individuals that perform abortions inside the classroom. This lawmaker (and so many others) simply does not want a more comprehensive conversation about sex education, including contraceptives, even when the Lone Star State has the fourth highest teen birth rate in the country. The bill would also put an “opt-in” requirement for sex ed, meaning all students must obtain a written consent form from a parent or guardian to even be able to sit in the classroom.
Montana is in the same boat, except it’s just further along in the process. On Wednesday, February 6, the House passed a bill (HB 239) that would, like Texas, require parental permission before students can attend sex education classes (“opt-in”) and also ban any “person, entity… affiliate or agent” that is a provider of abortion services to offer, sponsor, or furnish any course material on sex ed. The definitions are broad enough to, again, be harmful to local Planned Parenthoods or any organization that affiliates with the group, that has a stake in sex ed curriculum.
And to round out the “don’t you dare affiliate with anyone who dare say the A-word” news in the states, we turn our head to North Dakota, where two researchers who were granted federal funds to evaluate a local sex education program had their funds frozen from the University’s president (North Dakota State University) because they had signed an agreement to work with Planned Parenthood. While he justified his actions because of a (vague and contested) 1979 state law that prohibits any federal funds being used by entities that provide or refer abortions, the real reasons seems to be political pressure more than anything. Once anti-Planned Parenthood legislators caught wind of the grant and made comments about cutting the University’s funding if it dared move forward with accepting the grant, NDSU president peculiarly decided to freeze the funds (and without conferring with the researchers OR anyone from faculty leadership), making the announcement on a local conservative talk radio show.
Texas, Montana, North Dakota FAIL.
Now here are some other states and my emotions about them.
North Dakota vs. South Dakota = STALEMATE
Apparently, the Dakotas have gotten together and decided they want to make it as hard as possible for women to have any type of access to abortion. North Dakota’s Senate just passed a Personhood Constitutional Amendment initiative on Thursday that would amend the state’s constitution to give legal rights and protections to human embryos. YUP, you read that right, the state’s CONSTITUTION. If it passes the house, North Dakota voters will decide on it in the 2014 elections. And then South Dakota decides to hop back on the anti-abortion bandwagon and introduced a bill that would redefine the 72-hour waiting period as to not include weekends or holidays, which could drastically eliminate access to safe abortion for women – especially since there is only one comprehensive women’s clinic that provides abortions in the entire state. So yeah… neither state wins this round this time around. Sorry, Dakotas. Better luck next time.
And the winner is…
The state’s House Health, Insurance, and Environment committee passed a comprehensive sex ed bill last week (HB 1081) that would define sex education in the state as having to be age appropriate, culturally sensitive, evidence-based, and include positive youth development. It also creates a grant program and a cash fund to ensure the implementation of comprehensive sex ed programs throughout the state. Legislatively, it’s only part-way there (and there are Senate challenges ahead), BUT we should all give a round of applause for Colorado ‘cause they are on their way.
But the real winners are the activists who told their representatives why comprehensive sex education is important. Big high-fives go out to Colorado Youth Create’s youth activists, Scarlett and Adrian, who were the only high school students testifying during the hearing. Listen to their awesomeness HERE!
Do you have any rants or raves about things going on in YOUR state? Or maybe you live in one of the above states? Please share all of the feelings in the comments section below!
Curated by Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, State Strategies Manager, Advocates for Youth
Feb 13, 2013
Are you ready to bring all 50 states into a head to head competition? Then let’s get ready to RUMBLE!!! At this moment, 48 state legislative sessions are up and running across the United States (Louisiana and Florida start in late spring). We are ready to give you the inside scoop on state policy as it shakes and shimmies through the state legislature. For us to have the ultimate victory dance and win the “war on women”, LGBT equality, pass comprehensive sex education, and work towards an AIDS free generation we must keep our eyes on the state legislative process. In 2012, state policy worked to erode reproductive and sexual health care and information, voting rights, immigrant rights, and student rights. We have to pick up a new routine, join our friends (activists and advocates), and bust a move to stop terrible legislation in 2013 and support great policies as they move.
The question is, how do we shake things up? Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes and myself make up the State Strategies Team at Advocates for Youth. We would like to invite you to put on your dancing shoes and join us each week as we moonwalk through the good, the bad, and the ugly of what is moving in state legislative policy. In addition, we will show case great examples of youth activists changing policy. If you want to channel your inner policy diva, then join us on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month. Also, let us know if there is something we should highlight. In the words of the great Queen B (aka Beyonce), “Can you handle this?”
Diana is going to kick us off this week!!
Curated by Hemly Ordonez, State Strategies Manager at Advocates for Youth.
Feb 10, 2013
(oldie but goody)
Feb 10, 2013
Information is harmless. Lifting the shroud of ignorance is, if anything, simply a transition to a more knowledgeable state. This transition, however, can be difficult and sometimes outright frightening for some.
One poignant example of this fear is the insistence for abstinence-only sexual education in Alabama high schools. The main difference between abstinence-only education and more comprehensive sexual education is the exclusion of important information on contraceptives and male/female condoms.
In the absence of this information, many abstinence-only programs attempt to fill the glaring gap in students’ education by emphasizing the significance of abstinence until marriage.
Unfortunately, these kinds of approaches have been shown to have little, if any, effect on the behavior of hormone-charged teens. Columbia University noted that the more radical abstinence-only programs, which include virginity pledges as part of their curricula, tend to increase the students’ risks of sexually transmitted infection (STI) contraction or pregnancy.
If that isn’t enough, a survey of federally funded abstinence-only health programs by the Special Investigations Division of the House of Representatives found that false information was also being taught. An astounding 80% of information provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the effectiveness of condoms and contraceptives was found to be wrong or misleading.
Between misinformation about practicing safe sex and the counterproductive nature of abstinence-only education, it is no wonder that pregnancy and STI’s are found in the halls of Alabama schools.
So why are lawmakers and parents in Alabama largely hesitant about teaching safe sex in school? How could those entrusted to shepherd our state’s fledgling flock lead them into such a pitfall?
Here, I want to transcend the tired tirade about the conservative, Bible belt blah blah… and focus instead on the underlying premise in supporting most abstinence-only sexual education. Namely, that some kinds of information should not be given to children as it may be harmful to them in their naïve state of life.
This premise supports most arguments for censorship around children and adolescents and is rarely seen as problematic (or maybe it should be?).
On the issue of sexual education, parents and lawmakers weary of providing complete information evoke this very premise. The proponents of abstinence-only health education cite very real concerns about children having sex before parents or guardians feel they are ready.
Consequently, this concern becomes a kind of fear of comprehensive sexual education because it removes many secular arguments against having sex (high risk of STI contraction/pregnancy).
In the absence of these real risks to sex, parents may feel this information would encourage children to have sex before marriage or before they are ready. Unfortunately, this fear has had very real consequences in Alabama schools.
Rather than fear this important sexual health information, lawmakers, teachers, and parents should reevaluate what exactly is problematic about it. The nature of information is neither good, nor bad, nor beneficial, nor harmful.
So to fear it is tantamount to being afraid of numbers on a page. Alabama’s startled shepherds should abandon this misplaced phobia and realize that the real object of their concern is how adolescents apply such information, a topic unrelated to how to best maintain one’s body.
With this paradigm shift, it becomes apparent that opinions about lifestyle choices have jumped from the home to the classroom, with adolescent health paying the price.
Feb 8, 2013
When I first contacted The Texas Freedom Network about starting a student chapter at The University of Houston Downtown, I imagined a little group on campus that would meet occasionally, talk about issues and maybe eat some pizza while enjoying the company of like-minded students. I really thought that would be the extent of it. To my surprise I was completely amazed to be in a situation where I would have the opportunity to become politically active, influence and mobilize my peers during an exhilarating election season and become an integral part of a network of people that work to make a positive difference in Texas. How awesome!
Soon after talking with TFN’s Youth Advocacy Coordinator, Garrett Mize, I was immediately welcomed and hit the ground running. TFN arranged for me to attend several grassroots trainings that focused on leadership, campaigning and mobilizing young voters. I admit, the amount of information thrown my way was overwhelming, but I was always in a room full of people that made advocacy feel so attainable that it never seemed intimidating. I got to connect with TFN’s other student outreach interns – the Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) members. After hearing about what they’d achieved on their campuses to promote comprehensive sex ed, I was so impressed and excited to get back to my own campus as a new member of the team.
I could not have picked a better time to get involved. For the most part, the semester was focused on the election and the Texas State Board of Education. Comprehensive sex ed, LGBTQ equality and birth control access are issues I’ve always felt passionately about, and being able to start a group on campus that could focus on moving public education forward in Texas during a time which we could leverage real change was exciting. Students at UHD could of course relate to the issues, so finding a core group that cared and were interested in joining TFN wasn’t too difficult.
Apart from our TFN student chapter, the entire UHD campus was buzzing with election fever and we were lucky to be a part of it. Along with other student organizations we worked to register young voters and helped to get out the vote with a campus wide “Walk To Vote” rally during which Houston Mayor Anise Parker spoke about the right and responsibility of voting. It was a spectacular event with 300+ students, 150 of whom were first time voter, who all walked downtown together to vote. (insert pictures)
We worked hard to let students know that their vote in the State Board of Education Election could make a big impact for comprehensive sex ed, as the SBOE writes curriculum and creates textbook standards. We did a lot of tabling, made posters and handed out all 500 condoms we received from the Great American Condom Campaign. We stuck “VOTE” stickers onto the condoms and attached them to TFN’s Texas State Board of Education non-partisan voter guides. We also handed out interesting facts about our sex education (or the lack thereof) in Texas to really drive the point home. We could not have asked for a better response from our student body. Students were so receptive and seemed to be interested in finding out about TFN and the issues we care about. We also spotted more than a few students with their voter guides at the polls. Success!
Now we find ourselves at the end of an election season and our very first semester as the TFN Student Chapter at UHD. It was a time consuming and hectic couple of months and at times it seemed like we’d never meet the goals we set for ourselves. I’d be lying if I said I never questioned whether it was unrealistic to attempt to build a group from nothing. However, beyond the self-doubt, I found that I was able to make my peers excited with this work, their new found passion and most importantly enthusiasm to continue because they now know that they can make a difference. This serves as an inspiration to me in continuing to grow and strengthen our activism on campus.
Feb 8, 2013
The above link is an advertisement during this year’s Super Bowl which I find interesting. It, according to YouTube, “reveal the untold story of an age-ole question that has perplexed parents for generations—‘where do babies come from?’ through an epic journey, nine months in the making”. However, for me, it seems to be another failure of our current sex-ed: telling your kids that they travel nine months from another planet to meet their parents is just a new version of telling them they come from cabbage fields or, even, trashcans—which is widely used version by Chinese parents. The tricky thing about this commercial that makes it really interesting is actually, if you take a deep thought about the dad’s explanation of the launching of spaceships from other planets to reach the earth and after nine months traveling babies finally meet their parents—it is a subtle undercurrent of the process of sperm-egg fusion. And especially at the end of the advertisement, while the kid indicated he has learnt about the fact that babies come from sex between dads and moms, the mom quickly stopped him and started to play some music. While amazed by how creative our dads and moms are, I am also confused by their ideology towards sexuality—given the fact that they want to tell the truth and the truth will eventually be discovered by their sons and daughters, why not just have a good talk with them and save the kids’ time of “exploring the truth”? As a result, I believe a comprehensive age appropriate sex education is definitely what we need. Not only to help parents be able to overcome the historical dilemma, but also to make sure the sexual and reproductive health of our children.
Feb 6, 2013
House Bill 1081, AKA “The Sex Ed Bill” is scheduled to be heard in its first House Committee tomorrow! In order to ensure that Colorado’s students have ACCESS to comprehensive sex ed, contact your legislators today!
Feb 3, 2013
It was my first year in the University of Abuja, and I must say, I wasn’t impressed. The student hostels were an abomination, and goodness knows that I still don’t know how I got the resolve to stay there during the entire course of my studies at the University. That was 5 years to long. The hostels were filthy and badly maintained. It also didn’t help that the spaces we were all crammed into had the breathing space of a can of sardines, or less, to be honest.
I’ll never forget the day that a neighbour of mine in the hostel recalled the time she caught “something” from the public bathrooms. That was just…NASTY!!!
When she first started living in the hostels, she was a good girl. I mean a very good girl. The porters and hall administrators absolutely adored her. But then, something terrible happened…she caught what people around here like to refer to as “thrush” or more aptly “the vaginal scourge.” It itched, it shed, it was irritated by almost every single movement you made, and worse of all, it was humiliating.
Now thrush isn’t that much of a big deal, really. But then again, those who say stuff like that are:
1. Those who probably will never get infected the way girls do. That includes the entire male population of the world who will probably never itch and smell himself in that way.
2. Those disgustingly lucky women who the rest of us secretly hate. All I can say is, their time will come…
Thrush is an infection caused by a yeast fungus called Candida spp. Small numbers of Candida spp. commonly live on the skin and around the vaginal area and are usually harmless. The immune system and the harmless bacteria that also normally live on the skin and in the vagina usually stop Candida spp. from thriving. However, when conditions are good for Candida spp., numbers multiply and may invade the vagina and cause symptoms. Conditions like dirty pit toilets without an adequately closed off base that stops hot air rising from the clogged pits…I forgot to mention that some school are still archaic in this decade.
My dear, sweet friend caught this pretty embarrassing issue and went home to get treated, away from the sniggers of girls and the indiscreet school doctor whose credentials were more than a little doubtful.
Now, the traditional treatment was not fun. First of all, it was believed, and maybe still is, that in order to stop thrush from occurring at the infected area, that is, the vulva and the skin around it had to be scrapped with a razor. When infected that area of the skin is already weak and peeling and incredibly painful. Ouch isn’t enough to quantify the pain a razor would cause.
Secondly, that newly scrapped area had to be submerged into a basin of hot, anti-septic water for a period of days at least twice a day. I wish I could swear on this blog, but I’ve been warned in writing and over the phone that the F word and the S word aren’t words I’m allowed to use. But by all means, feel free.
Thirdly, and thankfully, less brutally painful, she underwent a series of medication where pessaries (vaginally inserted pills) and orally taken drugs were used.
I guess what I’ve been trying to say through this very sad and painful post is that, all that stress and pain and humiliation she had to go through for what?
I was brought up to think that women who have thrush are to be laughed at. I never got any form of sex education or any real information that referred to “the talk” in high school (where I was told by my biology teacher that if I sat on a toilet seat that had sperm on it that I could get pregnant) or by my parent (who till this day still refuses to recognise that their kids may probably have sex before they get married in the catholic church).
I’ve known young ladies who have suffered in silence for months at a time because they were embarrassed to confide in anyone, or even go to a hospital or gynaecologist to seek treatment. What’s even sad is that thrush isn’t even a sexually transmitted disease. And it does make you wonder – if people react so negatively to a vaginal infection that has nothing to do with sex, what else are they hiding under there?
If educational institutions can’t even get the courage or initiative to discuss feminine hygiene that goes beyond washing “that” area properly without using the appropriate words, then when are we going to have the courage to discuss other important issues like HIV, gonorrhoea or even contraception? They believe that ignorance is key to reducing the rate at which young people have pre-marital sex. But then, they fail to realise that with hormones, anything can happen.
Instead of holding vital information back that could potentially save someone’s life, why not give them the information and trust that as responsible individuals that young people will be able to make their own choices? Why not help, instead of laughing at a girl who has trouble with an issue she’s embarrassed about?
When we give young people access to relevant information, we give them the power of choice, the power to make their decisions knowing that whatever they pick, whatever the outcome gives them the confidence to be responsible members of the society, to be empowered young men and women around the world that could contribute their views, to the development and advancement of their communities and the world to a larger extent.
Information and the use of said information is key to ensuring innovative solutions to issues concerned with sexual and reproductive health.
Feb 1, 2013
Roe v. Wade guaranteed abortion as a legal right across the country. A separate decision two decades later, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, guaranteed states’ rights to limit access to abortion, so long as it did not pose an “undue burden” on the woman.
States have, over the past four decades, made no short use of that latter right. Only one state, Oregon, has not layered additional restrictions on top of the Roe decision. At the other end of the spectrum is Oklahoma: With 22 abortion restrictions, it has more than any other state. The chart below, courtesy of Remapping the Debate, has the full list. You can also gohere for an interactive version of the graphic, which will let you look at what type of restrictions each state has set.
Jan 31, 2013
Text message conversation:
Friend: What up!
Me: Chillin. You?
Friend: I gotta talk to you but I’ll text you in a bit….
oh man. this might be big.
Me: What’s up ma?
Friend: Nothing what up?
Me: How was school?
Friend: Fo sho! So Umm I gotta talk to ya…
breathe, Rebecca, breathe.
Me: What’s up?
Friend: So umm I kinda need something… From you..
Friend: Lol… Take a guess.. “be protected”
Me: For you?
no, Rebecca, for her cat. of course it’s for her. get it together!
Friend: Mhm.. Lol
Me: Is this something you want?
Friend: Not that I want, I need it. “stay protected” lol you have them…
Me: Yes I know, but have you and _____ talked about this? And have you had time to think about what you want?
Me: Okay, I had to ask. I trust you and I’m glad you asked me. Is there a certain time you need it by?
Friend: I don’t need it soon. Whenever you can (:
Me: Okay, well I want to make sure you have them for protection when and if you need them. I assume you haven’t talked to your mom about this?
why, Rebecca? why are you making assumptions? have you learned nothing from your social work classes??
Friend: We’ve had the “talk.”
Me: Ight lil’ ma. If you have any questions just ask
Friend: Ight I will (:
This was a conversation between a friend and I from a couple of weeks ago. If you can’t tell by the coy wording, we are talking about condoms and sex. Looking back on the conversation I wish I would have just said condoms and sex instead of “it.” What can I say? I was caught off guard. I have known this friend of mine all her life. She is a special person to me, and I consider her to be a little sister, especially since I don’t have any younger siblings. I have always been very open and honest with her, hoping that she would return the favor by trusting me, and I’m glad she did.
Back when I first began my activism with sex education and sexual health, I asked my middle/high school aged cousins and friends about the type of sex ed they were receiving in school. Some were a little embarrassed and tried to laugh my questions off, while others were straight forward and told me that they don’t remember learning anything, but that so and so was pregnant and had to leave school for a bit. No matter which way the conversation went, I always ended it with something like this, “I just want you to know that I will always be here for you, if you ever need anything. I’m in college, and I remember my years in high school; I know sex happens. I can’t tell you how to live your life, but I can tell you this, if you choose to have sex you should respect yourself and your partner by using protection.” I didn’t want to come off as preachy by telling them what to do, but I wanted to get a message across.
When I started having sex I had no formal education and had to research everything online. You can imagine how amazing that process went. I feel that I knew more than some of my peers because I knew that you could get pregnant “even if he pulls out,” and that you can’t get pregnant by having oral sex. However, I didn’t know that oral/anal sex are still sex, so condoms should still be used.
I have always had a great relationship with my parents, but in high school I was scared to talk to them about sex. Growing up in a devout Catholic household might have that effect. I wasn’t scared of them, but I didn’t want them to judge me or get angry. I didn’t know how to approach them. Now, things are much different. My parents are very much aware of the work that I do, and they respect me for it. While there is one particular issue we don’t see eye to eye on (I’m pro-choice, they are pro-life), we still respect each other and love each other. I often joke with my mom and tell her we will probably run into each other at a rally but will be on opposing sides. She rolls her eyes and responds with something like, “estas loca,” and I tell her to pray extra hard for me.
I love my parents, family, and friends. I’m glad that my relationships are always strengthening and growing thanks to the big questions and conversations that allow for both parties to gain trust. These conversations are important, not only for the obvious reasons like preventing pregnancy, STI’s, or HIV, but also to have healthy relationships with the people you love or care about.
Jan 30, 2013
My high school sex education lacked talking about relationships and sexuality, but made sure to show visuals of warts, herpes, and gonorrhea. It was like a horror movie and it gave me nightmares as if I was a little kid that believed in the boogie man. The problem was I liked the boogie man, that we can rename sex, and I didn’t know how to necessarily prevent attracting stds as a lesbian female who didn’t partake in heterosexual intercourse. They told us to wrap it up, but I had no idea how to wrap it up being a female who had sex with females. Also, I was told AIDS was most associated with gay men, which we all know that is statistically proven to be wrong. Regardless of not knowing how to deal with my sexual orientation, I believe we can all relate to the fact that even with the horror stories we hear about the boogie man, it doesn’t stop us from getting our boogie on with our favorite person or people. That is why it is important to not only talk about the consequences of sex, but to talk about all the options we have with preventing these consequences, and to understand what sex is from all social aspects. Let’s stay inclusive, and not be bias. Lets learn how to communicate about sex and our relationships.
Jan 28, 2013
Sex Education in Manning, SC: some experience it while others do not. The first time I had a conversation about sex education from a school official was in junior high. Only a selected group of girls would get pulled out from class to discuss the issue at hand. She discussed STI’s and used scare tactics to prevent us from having sex. I still have the visuals in my mind of what chlamydia looks like. Those pictures however were over exaggerated. All STI’s do not look that. In fact one may not show any signs. And what if someone saw those signs? I do not remember ever discussing where one should go. I do not remember her telling us if we become sexually active to get tested. All I really remember is just do not have sex so you will not get STI’s or become pregnant. Although abstinence is the only 100% way to prevent pregnancy and STI’s, teenagers do not practice this way.
When I got to the high school it was required that gym class taught sex education for 1 week. The parents however had to sign a permission slip. Some parents did not want their children learning about the subject and did not sign it while other parents signed the permission slip. For many of the students in the class it was their first time having the proper education about sex. This is absurd saying the class ranged from 9th-12th grade. Most of the teenagers had already had their first encounter with sex. My gym teacher did a great job explaining it however. She showed us how to put on a male condom and female condom. She discussed birth control and the different types. STI’s were discussed but she did not encourage us to get tested. We even saw a video of a woman giving birth.
I felt my school tried to get the message across however it was to late. I felt we should have started having the talk in 5th grade. Some of my classmates were getting pregnant in junior high. Timing plays a major role in sex education. Also the course could have been longer than a week. I am just very blessed to have gotten the education in time and did not become a statistic.
Jan 28, 2013
Ashley, a student at SC State University and member of the SWARM Council, shares her story.
Jan 28, 2013
Let the record show that this U-DGurl is in absolute LOVE with Laci Greene!
I am literally watching her video on “A is for Abstinence” and I think it’s such a great thing to do for those who need (and may not need) to be informed about abstinence and making the choice
She’s funny and so real…did I mention funny, too?
I do wish there was a Laci Greene symbol back in my high school days. So many girls grew up, confused about the changes in their bodies, confused about their desires and the world they lived in that seemed to change after they discovered two weird things growing on their chests. And what towhere telling you was worse, the “grown ups” we turned to made it their duty to give developing girls and growing boys the most untrue and confusing information possible. Either that, or they made you feel guilty about know what was happening to your body. It’s Yours! It’s your duty and privilege to know as much as possible about your body, your likes and so on without anyone, anywhere telling you that it’s wrong and sinful to.
By Kwa Gaston
Jan 26, 2013
‘I am tired of being ill-treated and falsely accused of being mentally ill and being treated with such scorn because of rumours that I am an HIV sero positive patient.’ These are some of the words left behind by Emmanuel Eyo in the early days of the year 2013. A 30 year-old Cameroonian young man, Emmanuel tired of life and committed suicide by throwing himself into the Wouri river- one of Cameroon’s most renowned and dangerous rivers.- in the early days of the year 2013.
Tired of being stigmatized by his family and people in the neighbourhood in which he lived, Emmanuel decided to put an end to his days. Though committing suicide has arguably never being a solution to stigma and discrimination, Emmanuel’s act in a country where many still consider HIV/AIDS to be a mysterious disease and a curse from the gods, is comprehendible and raises questions about the treatment of people Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).
This blog might be about Emmanuel, but what may be hard for you to imagine is that, like in Emmanuel’s case, many suicide cases in Douala and other towns are happening because of stigma related to being HIV positive. It is becoming clear from these acts of suicide that stigmatization is rising and having a ravaging effect on the physical and mental health of PLWHA in Cameroon.
The above observation is quite paradoxical because it is largely observed that the level of awareness on HIV/AIDS has increased among Cameroonians in the past decade while at the same time the number of people committing suicide for reasons related to stigma and discrimination because of their serological status is rising. Urgent action needs to be taken if this must be stopped.
In recent years, commendable efforts have been made by Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health, Civil Society Organisations(CSOs),United Nations’ agencies, and other development partners to fight against HIV/AIDS and avoid any new infections. That said, the fact is that the emphases of the different campaigns and programs implemented by these stakeholders has been around raising awareness about the existence of HIV/AIDS and how to avoid or protect oneself against it with little or nothing done around the stigma suffered by young people like Emmanuel because of their serological status . In my opinion, this gap in programming could explain the fact that despite rising levels of awareness about HIV/AIDS, the level of stigma towards PLWHA appears to be increasing instead of decreasing.
It is high time that the clinical approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS, which is dominant in initiatives and programs run by various community stakeholders in Cameroon, be complimented by the community approach to fighting against HIV/AIDS. When given its place in the fight against HIV/AIDS, sufficient attention will be paid to socio- cultural and religious factors that impact perceptions that people have of PLWHA in their communities. In order to truly combat stigma, integrating a community-based approach must be given the place that it deserves in the formulation of policies and implementation of health programs.
Stigma is an important factor in the effective fight against HIV/AIDS and should be considered as such. I am convinced that, unlike Emmanuel’s story which l have shared with you through this blog, untold is the story of millions of PLWHVA, especially the young people among them, who are languishing in stigma and wishing that they had never been born. Let’s act now, all together, to make the fight against stigma become as important as the distribution of condoms. It is only by so doing that we can effectively fight not only against HIV/ AIDS but also against the stigma and discrimination that is killing PLWHA in my country.
Jan 24, 2013
Tell Them is proud to announce the release of a new report: 25 Years and 250,000 Teen Pregnancies Later.
This report examines the multitude of research surrounding the need for comprehensive sex education programs in South Carolina.
The report highlights 5 major problems with current sex education programs:
The Comprehensive Health Education Act was passed in 1988. Twenty-five years later, we are still facing the same problems. Condom use among teens is down (67% used condoms in 2005, 58% used condoms in 2011); more than 50% of high school students (and nearly 20% of middle school students) report that they have already had sex; and there are an average of 68 newly reported cases of Chlamydia or Gonorrhea in youth every day.
This should enrage every parent in our state. Let’s see this report as the catalyst for change. Visit www.reformsexed.org now and email your legislator. Tell Them that you support sex ed reform and demand that we get comprehensive sex education programs in our schools.
While the report focuses on information released Monday by the New Morning Foundation in their new report A Sterling Opportunity, the Tell Them analysis also examined recent studies by the South Carolina State Alliance for Adolescent Sexual Health, the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the 2010 US census, the CDC’s annual youth risk behavior surveys and a regional report published last year. For a complete list of sources, visit our webpage.
Jan 21, 2013
by Melanie Waddell
My first introduction to what sex really is was a video that my mother showed me. She sat me down in front of the television, pressed play, and left the room. I watched this video in utter confusion. By the end of the video, which had a definite Christian skew, the only thing I had really learned was that God wanted people to wait until they were married to have sex. Whatever that was.
My mom showed me this video because she didn’t want me to be completely shocked when I had to go to sex ed the next week. When I did go into the classroom, with all the rest of the girls in seventh grade, I learned what the different parts of the body were. I think. All I really remember was the silicone breast models and how you were supposed to do self check exams so you didn’t get cancer. Needless to say, it was confusing and I didn’t understand.
In tenth grade, we had sex ed round 2. I went into a science classroom with all the other girls in our combined Biology classes. A different teacher went through the same spiel about the reproductive system. This is a uterus, this is a penis, etc. I like to think she meant well by showing us graphic pictures of genitalia, but in reality these type of graphic slideshows are often used as a fear tactic. I guess in my case it worked. I was terrified. I didn’t want to go near a male ever again.
Sex ed taught me to fear sex like the plague. Avoid it like you would a particularly nasty virus. There were just too many negative consequences. If you had sex, you would get pregnant. If you had sex, you would get an STD. In short, if you had sex your life would be ruined one way or the other.
What did sex ed teach you?
Jan 20, 2013
Jan 18, 2013
“We realize that transitioning isn’t for everyone. However, too many people make “regret” claims that simply aren’t true. Take a look.”
Jan 17, 2013
There is a lot of controversy and debate about school systems and the sexual health education being taught to students. Some schools are reportedly being biased to certain sexual orientations. Some schools are incorrectly educating the actual anatomy and physiology of the female sexual organs. Homosexual teens are being told to seek help and counseling for being openly gay but those who admit to being sexually active aren’t. One School is reported as sharing in a health class that,(and I paraphrase) “If you get AIDs you will die and that’s all we know.” Many parents are logically upset … so what do you think? Is it more the parents or the public school’s responsibility to teach young people about sexual health education? Just like the term, “It takes a village to raise a child”, well I believe it is the responsibility of everyone to make sure young people have all of the necessary information to make informed decisions about sex, sexual health, and sexual relationships. I vote YES to comprehensive sex education at every grade level!
Jan 16, 2013
by Emily Rogers
I had sex education in the public schools of Virginia, but it was (considerably) lacking. It was arbitrarily placed in 5th, 7th, and 10th grades and functioned to inform me that menstruation is not lethal, pregnancy can happen, and STIs are gross. Naturally, I had other questions.
Questions about my vagina, how sex worked, what an orgasm was, and why the school kept telling me it was something I needed to wait for. Who had all the answers? Who could I say the word “vagina” out loud to? My mom.
I asked my mom all about sex and she gave me uncensored answers. She advised me to take some time, a hand mirror and just look at my vagina. It’s a part of me after all; I should know it like I know my face or my knees or that weird freckle on my shoulder. She told me the mechanics of sex. She really demystified the process for me. It was no longer this mysterious, sacred act that I wasn’t allowed to know about. I finally knew the definition of “orgasm.”
As far as why the schools kept telling me to wait, instead of what contraceptives were, mom gave the best advice of all. Respect you. You’ll know when you’re ready to have sex; you’ll know when you’re being pressured. So love you, respect you and be smart about it.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to have candid, honest conversations with my mother. But that isn’t always the case. Not all families are as open about sex as mine was (granted I ran the opposite direction when my dad attempted these topics). Some families don’t have the time to have these discussions. Some families didn’t get comprehensive sex education and are therefore not informed enough to give their children the facts.
Comprehensive sex education, taught in more than just 5th, 7th and 10th grades, can bridge these gaps. It provides accurate, fact-based education to all students. And if they have other questions, they can give my mom a call.
Jan 16, 2013
In 2011, youth ages 13 through 14 accounted for 23% of new HIV cases in North Carolina. Alarmingly, the cohort with the highest percentage of new HIV cases in 2011 was among ages 20 through 24 who accounted for 17% of the new HIV cases. The next highest affected cohort was among ages 25 through 29 coming in at 14% of the new HIV cases. Despite the drop in new HIV cases across the different age cohorts between 2010 and 2011, the age range 20 through 24 still accounted for 17% of new HIV case in North Carolina. In fact, the number of new HIV cases from 2010 to 2011 increased for the cohort 20 through 24 year olds.
In 2010, of the 499,846 first time freshmen enrolled in Higher Education, 62.8 % of them were between the ages of 18 through 24. Currently there is no data tracking the number of LGBT identified people between the ages of 18 through 24 year attending higher education in North Carolina. Also, there is no data specifically tracking the number of new HIV cases among those in higher education in North Carolina. These statistics provide a compelling reason to focus on HIV/AIDS awareness that specifically target people between the ages of 18 and 24 in places they gather, such as college campuses.
On possible solution is to require Freshmen and Transfer students to take a course in Comprehensive Health Education that covers in depth HIV and STDs, Contraception and Abstinence, Healthy Relationships and Communication and Rape, being inclusive of both straight and LGBT College students.
Sources: (North Carolina 2011 HIV/STD Surveillance Report, Report Compiled by: N.C. Division of Public Health, N.C. Department of Health & Human Services, http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/cd/stds/figures.html)
(Statistical Abstract of Higher Education in North Carolina, 2010-11, Report Compiled by: Daphne Dow, Social Research Associate Institutional Research and Analysis UNC General Administration, http://www.northcarolina.edu/reports/index.php)
Jan 13, 2013
Click on the link to see the images in full!
Jan 12, 2013
The beginning of the Month on January 7, 2013 when Kimi Farrington of the Broward county Youth council did a presentation and open forum about sex it was one of my highlights to set the new year of right. BCYC attended to also any questions, comments, or concerns. I mean type of questions that these young people were asking about had me in shock. Just the fact that a parent, guardian, or teacher was not helping these kids shocked me. There were a couple of young women who did not even know the various types of birth control out there. After this meeting it made me conscious the amount of work and what we should be teaching our young people about sex so they will be prepared and not CLUELESS.