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SWARM Council-35

Students With A Responsible Message (SWARM) are Baaaack! Nine of the SWARMsters from last year graduated and have fanned out across the country to pursue their careers. That means we have one returning council member and nine newbies. Now, many of the new council members have worked with us in the past, so don’t think they aren’t hitting the ground running, cause they’re already out o’ sight!

Brittany Prince

First up we have Brittany Prince of the University of South Carolina. Brittany is pursuing a Masters in Health Administration with a concentration in Sexual Health. Brittany comes to us with valuable experience. She has served as an American Academy of Arts and Science Community Service Co-Chair, a mentor for the Minority Assistance Peer Program, worked with IMAGE Modeling Troupe, USC Homecoming Committee, Association of Minority Pre-Health Students, and South Carolina Public Health Association. She may be one busy woman, but she’s committed to giving 110% to working on improving campus sexual health policies at USC and statewide policies at the Statehouse.


Jordan Craven

Jordan Craven is a dapper and energized Junior at the University of South Carolina. He has expressed that joining SWARM is one of many steps towards his goal of working to improve communities. He believes that educating the public on healthy attitudes towards sex, gender, and relationships will reduce unintended pregnancy, intimate partner violence, the spread of STIs and HIV, and will ultimately better our state in more ways than any of us can begin to imagine.


Nadia Anderson

Nadia Anderson comes to us from Columbia College! She is a sophomore and has already completed more than many by the time they graduate. Nadia has worked with the Activities Board at Columbia College. She’s also a member of the NAACP there. She’s been voted Counselor of the Year at the YMCA of Columbia, and recently she has volunteered with the Leadership Institute. She takes pride in her experience working with adolescent girls’ confidence, self-respect, and efficacy. She notes that accomplishing these three important aspects of growing up can’t be completed without them having a good sex education where they recognize the power they have over their own bodies.

Check out these three Rock Stars as they break into the world of video blogs.

We gave them a list of objectives to practice their presentations of advocating for comprehensive sex education to the public. It’s clear they had some fun along the way. Cheers them for their first ever fully self-produced, scripted, and edited video.

(For the record: Brittany will one-up you in basketball. Jordan likes outdated policies like he likes his coffee: ground up and served to-go. And, Nadia moves like a butterfly and stings like a bee on the dance floor.)

Be sure to follow TellThem’s posts over the course of the week to see what the other seven SWARMsters have been up to and to see their first videos!

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By Emma Davidson

Washington DC is a magical place. I remember my first trip, many years ago, and the excitement of finally standing in buildings that I had read about and seen in movies. You hear about DC, read about DC, but it doesn’t always feel real until you’re standing there really looking at it.

Traveling to our nation’s Capitol with 10 smart, capable, eager people is an adventure in itself. The SWARM Council is comprised of 10 amazing college students, who used their time in DC is expand their minds, hearts and perspectives. They were consistently present – not just physically, but mentally as well. This was a challenge – long days of multi- hour sessions on very heavy topics would wear on anyone – but not our SWARMers.

I could name thousands of favorite moments, but what I took away most from our time at the Urban Retreat was a sense of camaraderie and team. We are a team – through tough fights, heartbreak, and triumph. We are stronger together, and will succeed because we have each other. In our case, what happened at the Urban Retreat will not stay at the Urban Retreat. We are returning to South Carolina as trained, experienced reproductive justices advocates. We are bringing back a wealth of knowledge and ideas – and we can’t wait to show what we can do!

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By Cherisse Eatmon

Wow! So what an amazing couple of events that I’ve had the pleasure of attending. I recently attended the Out of the Darkness Community Walk in Columbia with hundreds of others including our SWARM Council. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has organized more than 250 walks nationwide to support suicide prevention research and local programs. It was touching and inspiring to see a group of strangers who were, if only for a moment, bonded. There didn’t need to be a physical connection we all knew and understood the depth of our reasoning for being together as one.

I also had the pleasure of accompanying the SWARM Council on their trip to Washington DC for the annual Urban Retreat. It was here that I watched a group of students from colleges across South Carolina grow together as a family and share their work plans with advocates from across our country and internationally. We were all fighting the vicious battle for equality, inclusion, rights, respect, and responsibility. I couldn’t be more proud of them and their resiliency!

If it wasn’t for the loss of a friend and colleague I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet and learn with such an amazing group of people. Tim, you are missed and remembered each day. The SWARM Council is a spectacular group of young game changers. I’ve watched them grow and they are more motivated than ever to continue the work and improve policies surrounding sexual health-with each mind, person, and policy we strive to continue to be the change set before us. Go SWARM!

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SWARM Council-35

Tell Them‘s youth council for policy change, SWARM (Students With A Responsible Message) heads to DC today to participate in the 12th annual Advocates for Youth Urban Retreat where they will receive comprehensive training on ways to improve sexual health education and programs in our state.

SWARM members attending the conference are Darian Ames (South Carolina State University), Nadia Anderson (Columbia College), Aaron Charleston (Benedict College), Jordan Craven (University of South Carolina), Ashley LeConte (South Carolina State University), Brittany Prince (University of South Carolina), Emily Rogers (College of Charleston), Jasmine Stewart (Winthrop University), Alexus Truluck (Claflin University), and Melanie Waddell (Converse College)

The four-day event includes 120 students from 20 states and 5 countries who will receive specialized training on grassroots and campus organizing, online advocacy, media outreach and public speaking. Activists will also conduct policymaker education visits on Capitol Hill.

The Council’s mobilization comes at a critical time for South Carolina’s young people who face some alarming statistics: 3 in 10 young women in our state will get pregnant before age 20. One in five new HIV/AIDS cases reported in South Carolina is among people age 25 and under. And, youth ages 15-24 account for almost half of new sexually transmitted infection cases.

While in DC, SWARM representatives will be live tweeting from conference events, sharing photos, and highlighting issues affecting today’s youth. Traveling with a theme of “Our Issues, Our Voices”, you can follow along at @tellthemsc on both Twitter and Instagram, or on our Facebook page.

The Council is known on campuses as Students with a Responsible Message (S.W.A.R.M), a name selected to underscore a core goal of building alliances around an issue.

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By Melanie Waddell

SWARM attended the Urban Retreat in Washington DC over the weekend. It was an amazing experience where I was able to meet tons of different people from all across the nation and the world who are just as invested in these issues as I am. To see these young people so involved and engaged in the activities really made me proud to say that I’m with this group. I’m with Advocates for Youth and CAMI. I’m part of a group that promotes comprehensive sex education and equal rights for all.

So this group of amazing talented youth marched towards Capitol Hill and we went in to see our representatives and show them our power. We wanted to show them how much we cared, and show them why they should support us. We marched in to those offices, sat down, and met Congressional aides. We talked, gave our spiel, and left information folders. When we finished, the aides asked us questions or thanked us.

They were nice but noncommittal. One of them explained the process to our group. At the federal level there is only so much that our representatives can do. It’s really up to the state legislators to enact comprehensive sex ed programs for SC. This is because the federal government cannot dictate curriculum, that’s a state responsibility.

In a weird way, this was a practice run for the real meeting with our state legislators. For me, this confirmed that what we’re doing can make an impact. One person can make a difference because there’s a ripple effect. Every time we talk to a legislator, hand out a pamphlet, or post a blog, we can spread the message. And just by doing this, we are already making a difference.

SC is traditional. She’s old-fashioned. She likes her tea sweet and her yellow jasmine blooming. She has never been fond of change. And I can’t fault her for that. I’m the same way. I love SC. It’s the perfect temperature, with mild seasons, great people, and a friendly atmosphere that makes me feel at home no matter what city I’m in. That’s why I feel so strongly about this issue. SC is a great place. I’m just trying to make it even better. I want a state that is known for its neighborly waves, not its ranking as the 8th highest state for HIV rates.

I love my state. And I’m glad that SC has control over its own school curriculum. However, something needs to change. The statistics show that Ab-Only-Until-Marriage programs aren’t effective. They’re expensive, inaccurate, and they don’t work. If SC paid me $20,000 to tell blatant lies and I only worked one day a year, I’m sure taxpayers would be very upset with me. So how come no one questions the sex education that embodies those same qualities? Something has to change. That something is the sex education that is being taught across SC. We know what needs to change. But how do we do it? It’s simple really. We spread the message, we distribute information, and we show our legislators that we care about comprehensive sex education because we care about SC. So what are you waiting for?

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Its almost been several weeks since me and my Broward County Youth Council Family attended the 2012 Urban Retreat in Washington D.C. I don’t know if words can express how much knowledge I attained from this trip. Not only that Ive gotten the opportunity to meet numerous of young people like myself who are passionate and who strongly advocate for these issues in their communities as do I. I also learned so much from the CAMI project which im excited about and the various trainings I attended. I can truly say that this retreat not only open my eyes to other issues that are out there but how I can make a difference to make my voice be heard. Love, Live, Life.

Categories: Sex Education
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By Ashley LeCounte

This weekend at the Urban Retreat was SOOOO fun! I really didn’t expect to enjoy my self  this much. I gained so many skills this weekend and got to see a lot of great monuments. My SWARM Council is awesome, I could not have imagined a better group of people to travel with.

It was very humbling to meet with so many other people from around the world with different backgrounds. Everyone was very nice and genuine. We learned about ” salary negotiating” in one of the sessions. I cannot wait to teach this skill to my AKPsi brothers when I get back to SC State. It lets me know that the money and time spent at Urban Retreat was not in vain because these skills can be used everywhere and not just in my advocacy work.

I definitely have benefited from this weekend. And most of all I know that my dear friend Tim was watching us with a smiling face the whole time.

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By Jordan Craven

I honestly feel like a changed person after the Urban Retreat. I miss my council, coordinators, and new friends. It was the best trip of the year.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Sonya Renee speak at the final dinner. Through spoken word her message was empowering and was beautiful. I fought tears and chills in every poem or stop. One day I hope to find my inner courage to be able to get my message of gender equality, comprehensive sex education, and personal stories across as elegantly as she did.

Another thing I loved was the people. Everyone was extremely accepting, warm, beautiful, and heartfelt. During the talent shows many performed amazingly with vulnerability and passion. In sessions, people made sure I was comfortable and accepted. Never have I been to a place where I felt so open to be me.

Finally, lobby day was a surprising success. Believe me, I was hella nervous, but through workshops, encouragement and wonderful coordinators and fellow council members, I, and everyone else, was able to step up to the plate and speak out in support of the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act.

I LOVED the privilege circle (despite the fact that it was cut short). I felt moved by the honesty and vulnerability from everyone who participated. I was able to fully comprehend my own privilege as a white male, but also my disadvantage as a gay youth who grew up in a single-parent home in a rural community. I felt close to my peers and would LOVE to do this with SWARM USC!

Overall I thought it was an amazing experience. When I left DC I didn’t want to come back to Columbia and the ordinary it serves. I will miss the sea of people, the sea of acceptance, and the sea of hope.

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By Nadia Anderson

I had many takeaways from this amazing trip to Washington, DC for the Urban Retreat. It is kind of hard to lower it to three, but I will try. One takeaway was the act of storytelling. I never knew that it was better to talk about personal experiences rather than facts. I especially thought this because we were presenting for legislators for lobby day and they seem to always want the statistics when hearing about bills that people want to be passed. It was incredible hearing stories from all of the other students and even some of the students from our own group. I had to keep from crying sometimes. When I told my personal story, it was hard because some people that knew me for years were just hearing it for the first time and I think that it changed their perspective of me. I am glad that I told my story though.

I really enjoyed meeting all of the other groups on the trip. Everyone brought their unique personalities and styles and made for a great experience. I really enjoyed meeting the international students. I never knew the struggle that these people went through and that is something that you can’t just see from someone’s outer appearance. We all got on deeper levels with one another and learned so much that is relevant across the world. Everyone was on a mission to change the world and this weekend experience made our missions easier to accomplish.

One thing that I learned from the Urban Retreat that I brought back to implement in SC is the HIV treatment and the studies that scientists are doing to find a cure. I never knew that there were so many ways of treating HIV. I believe that people do not get tested because they still look at it as a death sentence. I will talk to the teen groups that I run and make sure that they know this to tell their friends and make sure that they are aware of what they can do to help themselves.

One memory I will always take with me is the group hug that we had before we started lobbying. Through that small moment, I knew that we were a family now. The things that we shared with each other and the laughs and smiles we shared made me realize that I could depend on all of them whenever I needed anything. Even though we came together under very tragic circumstances, we now have the motivation and the love to fight for what we believe in as a team.

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By Darian James

As I made my way to the airport to join my coordinators and council members, I began to wonder about what the Urban Retreat would be like. After missing flight number one and being persuaded not to get on flight number two, flight number three was very early (5:26 a.m. to be exact) but quite the charm!

After missing two flights and waking up at 3:00 a.m. to catch the third flight I knew for sure that good luck was in store for me. I arrived at the Washington D.C. airport and was greeted by one of my fabulous coordinators, Cherisse.

Thinking that all of my bad luck was used on yesterday, I was certain that the rest of the trip would be perfect….. not just yet! I knocked on the door to room 711 and a guy answered the door. He welcomed me in and introduced himself. I thought nothing of it at that moment but as I began to think about rooming with a guy as the day went on, I started to feel more and more uncomfortable. So uncomfortable that I mentioned it to my coordinators. As we talked about the situation Emma explained that I was placed in that room by mistake. PHEW….I was relieved! As always, my name gave off the impression that I was a male.

The good luck begins and continues after that moment. The Urban Retreat was phenomenal. I am so appreciative for everything that I encountered prior to arriving at the Urban Retreat because I know that those obstacles were preparing me for my “Fiercely Fabulous Weekend.” The retreat certainly met and exceeded all of my expectations. Advocates from all over the world had the opportunity to share ideas, network, bond, grow, and so much more. At the various training sessions we had the opportunity to openly discuss our opinions and experiences about different topics without harsh stares or offensive comments from the people around us.

I am so thankful for this retreat because it not only allowed me to meet new people and grow as an individual but it assisted S.W.A.R.M. in forming a bond that is unbreakable. We shared so much with each other during those five days that you would have thought we knew each other for over five years. We laughed, walked, talked, took pictures, ate, danced, joked, and even cried together. I love my S.W.A.R.M. family so much and I know that Tim is smiling down on us because he would not have wanted it any other way! We love you Tim and we will continue to make you proud. I can honestly say that Exuberant Emma and Courageous Cherisse are two magnificent individuals. To take time out of their busy schedules, to travel to Washington, D.C. with 9 college students, who they saw face to face once or twice was remarkable. Thanks ladies!

The Urban Retreat has given me a different outlook on life, responsibility, rights, and so much more. My most memorable moments are going to the youth lounge for a refresher, media 101 and 102 with Ms. Rachel Cooke, the fabulous speech delivered by Ms. Sonia Renee, and LOBBYING! Lobbying was a great way to end our awesome retreat. It felt so good to go to our state representatives’ staff to voice our opinions and share our personal stories. We even had the opportunity to go on a few tours thank to our amazing coordinator Emma.

We as young people have the right to comprehensive sex education, deserve respect from everyone around us, and you should place responsibility on us to make wise decision when it pertains to sex and relationships!

Anyone who had anything to do with the Urban Retreat I want to thank you so much for a job well done! #UR2012

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By: Alexus Tullock

When Ariel and Leighann informed me on the Urban Retreat they attended last year, I thought they were going a little overboard on the fun they said they had. They said I would meet cool people, get to lobby on Capital Hill, and eat lots and lots of snacks. Well, I honestly had the time of my life in DC.

First, meeting my SWARM council in August, I knew they were the bomb but this trip made us feel like a family.

Then, arriving in DC and meeting awesome people from all over the world was amazing. I had the pleasure of having a roommate from Africa. I never knew how lucky I was until I had the chance to listen to her story. Sexual health education doesn’t exist in Nigeria and many health clinics aren’t willing to help families in need. Most families can’t afford to go to a doctor when they are sick. My heart went out to her and her county. I took a small thing like going to the doctor for granted.

Every morning at 7:00 a.m. (that’s right 7 in the morning!) the California group introduced Forward Stance to the Urban Retreat. Being the great group SWARM is, we were the only ones to show up. Honestly, Forward Stance made a lot of sense. We should always focus on our opponent with a forward stance and we will win every time.

At the closing dinner before Lobby Day, we had the chance to give shout outs to whoever we wanted. Nadia gave a shout out to Emma and Cherisse. Boy did her story have me tearing up. It made me realize how much Tim was missed and how much SWARM was loved.

Lobbing on Capital Hill was so much FUN!! I felt so important. We were like little league politicians walking around DC. Emma was like our Secret Service Agent taking us under tunnels and on private tours! It reminded me a lot of the movie Salt. Having the chance to talk to our state’s Legislatures and bring issues affecting our youth was truly a “wow” moment. How many college students have the opportunity to do that? Not many but my SWARM Council did. I’m sure we made Tim proud!!

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By Brittany Prince

My 1st flight. My 1st trip to the Capital. My 1st Advocates for Youth Conference. September 27-October 1 was filled with a lot of changing events.

At the age of 22, I finally experienced my 1st plane flight. Excitement rushed through my body as I arrived to the airport. I felt like a little kid in a candy store. As we prepared for take off I became anxious and could not help but look out the window. Then it finally took place, the wheels started rolling, the speed accelerated and the plane left the ground. My eyes lit up and I started screaming “weeee” until the pilot instructed us to turn our electronic devices on. My flight was everything I expected and more. I finally got to see Google maps in person.

Once we arrived in DC the metro became our new of source wheels and also my bed on the go. The speakers and workshops were wonderful, but the people were amazing. It was amazing meeting people from different backgrounds coming together for a common goal. It filled my heart with joy being surrounded by youth who were being the change they want to see in the world. Although it was nice meeting new people it was gratifying getting to know my council members better. I never would have imagine being so close to people who were complete strangers to me less than two months ago. Our bond has grown so strong for one another. We laugh together, cry together and will continue to change the world, together. I would do anything for them. We are not just council members, WE ARE FAMILY.

We continue to soar and reach the sky. We will TAKE FLIGHT!

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By Jasmine Stewart

I have thought about the Urban Retreat quite a bit since we have left DC.

The whole experience made me have a whole new perspective on rights, respect, and responsibility; what those three words means to me and everyone around me; what it  really takes to gain those words and obtain them; but most importantly what it means to share these words with each other.

Coming to DC, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions felt and friends gained outside of the workshops, training sessions, and the events.  Yes, we literally spent hours learning, thinking, and training, but after each day, session and second spent together I have gotten to know a little bit more about each person around me.  I felt grateful, and just more than happy to know we have youth from all over the United States and outside of the United States that had a passion just as I for the world to change, and simply by one thing we consider to be so taboo where we live. Lets talk about sex. Lets talk about a comprehensive sex education.

This brings me back to one of my favorite moments: introductions from each youth organization. CAMI CA, started off by singing ” Lets talk about sex baby..” a song originally by Pretty Ricky and Oakland related it to having a comprehensive sex education. I believe each and every youth organization performed and introduced themselves in a unique way. We were all vulnerable, and we all felt nervous going up on stage for the first time in front of faces we didn’t find familiar yet, but we did it for a cause. To remember each face that took the stage to say who they were for a cause, in the most informal way to do so made it the most memorable moment to start off with at the Urban Retreat.

The last night spent at the Washington Court Hotel was our last performance to put on within the hotel, but individually. It was a talent show/ open mic night and I was deciding whether or not I should do drag. My group was excited for me to do so and I was nervous. I felt great that I had people supporting me, even outside of S.W.A.R.M. My roommate and another friend I made on the retreat totally thought I should do it, but my roommate is the one who truly pushed me to do so, saying ” I won’t regret it”. Earlier that day my roommate had a situation she was dealing with and I was there for her and I felt great that she believed in me as much as I believed in her. During the show I saw many people perform and truly put themselves out there and everyone was so supportive as well. As I went up to perform to Chris Brown “Strip” I was a bit nervous and thought that maybe the song wasn’t appropriate enough, but then I remembered one of the things we focused on this whole time was feeling free to express sexuality. Everyone had  gotten up, and clapped while I was performing, and a lot of love was shown after the performance. I felt at ease, I felt as if I had a place where I was truly accepted and where everyone was for the most part accepted no matter who they are. After that we all danced together to celebrate our accomplishments, and future accomplishments. We were celebrating the meaning of rights, respect, and responsibility…because during this trip we have realized we haven’t gained these words… We have always obtained them. Through sharing this time together we have shared with each other the true meaning of a youths rights, respect, and responsibility.

The last day was the most nerve wrecking performance of all.  It was Lobby Day and we all had to spread the word about The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act. On Lobby Day the faculty and some youth veterans told us that we have the power. We have the choice to elect these people, and without us they wouldn’t be where they are. And I never thought about lobbying in that way. I know it was my first time, but I can say that day has really changed my thoughts on policy change and what us as a youth can do to make a difference. It makes me feel that as a youth we all have the right and responsibility to take stances even politically to change our social structure. Because we do respect ourselves, and others as well to do so.

This Urban Retreat helped me realize I can come back to South Carolina and share with others what was shared with me. Our rights, respect, and responsibility. And it can all start with talking about sex… =)

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Click to watch: Fundamental Human Rights.

Every day, governments all over the world violate the fundamental human rights of millions of women. The Center for Reproductive Rights fights on the front lines every day to beat back these assaults — and Meryl Streep, Sarah Silverman, Amy Poehler, Billy Crudup, Audra McDonald, and many more are standing beside us in this call to action in the global battle for reproductive freedom.

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(Trigger warning: Rape)

Is consent for sex something that’s assumed?  Or is it something we must actively obtain when we are initiating it?  Here’s what the Connecticut Supreme Court decided in the last few weeks:

The state Supreme Court Monday threw out the conviction of a city man found guilty of sexually assaulting a severely handicapped woman.

In a 4-3 decision, the high court ruled that despite evidence the 26-year-old woman cannot speak and has little body movement, there was no evidence she could not communicate her refusal to have sex with the defendant, Richard Fourtin Jr. As a result of the ruling, Fourtin goes free and cannot be tried for the case again.1

So, obviously Richard Fourtin Jr.’s defense was: “She didn’t say no./She didn’t fight back.”
The state Supreme Court went on to say:

Women are assumed to be in a constant state of consent unless they explicitly state otherwise.2

Did you already get past the gross urge to puke, head desk, and rage?  It’s okay.  Get it out of your system.  The level of how problematic this is makes me want to run for the hills.  But I’d be a liar if I said that this shocks me.

What if I rephrased the state Supreme Court’s statement to:

Women are assumed to be in a constant state of free access.  Yeah, everyone, just go ahead and try raping that lady.  You have total access unless she says no and fights back.

Sure, I paraphrased that.  But it’s the same message.  It’s still the same implication.

Sometimes sex and women are seen as a commodities, still problematic, but for all intents and purposes, I’ll use this model.  So, what if I rephrased it in this way:

Everyone’s houses and cars are assumed to be in a constant state of access.  So, do feel free to enter any house or car without the owner’s permission unless the owner says no and puts up a struggle.

Now I don’t agree with comparing women to houses and cars.  It unnerves me when anyone uses the fallacious “building demolition” analogy.  But the state Supreme Court’s ruling is based on the commodity model, and based on this model the assumption of other people being in a constant state of consent still makes no sense when paralleled to the prior analogy.  It doesn’t make any sense no matter how we change the context.  Affirmative and enthusiastic consent is a standard we have in all aspects of our lives except when it comes to sex for some reason.  Outside of rape, isn’t it better to have sex with someone you know who wants it completely?  Silence isn’t a yes.  It’s definitely not a, “Oh, I want this.  I want you.”  It’s just compliancy to avoid hurting feelings, arguments, or even violence.  It’s not consent.

Ruling on this lack of a no instead of on the absence of consent puts all the responsibility on the victims to say no instead of on the rapists to refrain from raping. It insinuates that victims are expected to say no to someone potentially dangerous, and even to get physically violent, ignoring the very high risk of possibly being injured further or, you know, killed.  It is an example of rape culture and, at the same time, perpetuates it.   “No means no” is not enough, it’s not efficient.  We should be promoting “yes means yes.”  Hell yes and nothing less.


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This is outside the State Capitol building in Lansing for a free viewing of The Vagina Monologues, in which Eve Ensler made an appearance on her day off, in support of Representative Lisa Brown and overall reproductive healthcare and rights this past summer.  I was definitely there.

Michigan is trying to pass what is considered the worst anti-abortion bill in the nation.

What HB 5177 entails:

1) Bans Abortions After 20 Weeks, Even For Rape And Incest Victims: A woman would not be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of gestation based on the widely disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain after that point. The only exception would be if a woman’s life was in danger.

2) Transforms Doctors Into Detectives: The Republican-backed legislation would make it a crime for anyone to coerce a woman into having an abortion. Doctors will have to give their patients a questionnaire to inform them of the illegality of coercion and determine if the woman had been coerced or is the victim of domestic abuse before the abortion procedure.

3) Limits Access For Rural Women: Under the omnibus bill, doctors would have to be physically present to perform a medication abortion, thus preventing a doctor from administering abortion-inducing medication by consulting via telephone or internet. This would especially hurt rural women, who may have to travel hours to meet in-person with a specialist.

4) Requires Doctors To Purchase Costly Malpractice Insurance: If HB 5711 goes into effect, then doctors would be required to carry $1 million in liability insurance if they perform five or more abortions each month or have been subject to two more more civil suits in the past seven years, among other requirements. But the qualifications are so vague that almost all doctors who perform abortions could be requiredto carry the additional liability insurance at a potential cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) Regulates Clinics Out Of Existence: HB 5711 would create new regulations so that any clinic that provides six or more abortions in a month or one which advertises abortion services would have to be licensed as a “freestanding surgical outpatient facility.” That means that even if a clinic does not offer surgical abortions, it would be required to have a full surgical suite.

Click here to see the progress of the bill.

I hope I don’t get in trouble for this following one.  I don’t really think it’s profane.

You probably can’t see me, but I’m somewhere in here.  I’ll have to look it up but I think over 500 people were there.


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One of the things I like to do as the moderator for STFU, Pro-Life is share pro-choice music.  People ask me why I do this, how is it relevant, etc.  I just think it’s cool to know if our favorite bands or singer supports a cause that we believe in.  A lot of these artists actually put their money into supporting sexual and reproductive health and rights.  Giving them a shout out just seems like the thing to do.

As stated on the STFU, Pro-Life blog:

This is based on their support for Planned Parenthood (either by playing for feminist events and/or knowingly signing onto labels that donate to PP) and continuous work for feminism and overall pro-choice awesomeness. You might be surprised by some of these artists. And if there’s a musician(s) you know that’s pro-choice and it’s not on this list, let me know! Progress never sounded so good.

And here are some of the bands:

AdeleAgainst Me!

Against All Authority


Alanis Morisette

Alice in Chains

Alkaline Trio

Aimee Mann

Andrew Bird

Angels and Airwaves

Ani Difranco

Animal Collective


The Antlers

Aphex Twin

Archers of Loaf

Asobi Seksu


Atlas Sound

Audio Karate

Au Revoir Simone


Bad Astronaut

Bad Religion

Barenaked Ladies


Beach House

Beastie Boys



Ben Folds

Ben Harper

Best Coast


Big D and the Kids Table

Bikini Kill

Billie Holiday

The Black Keys

Black Mountain

Blink 182

Bloc Party


The Bloodsugars

Boards of Canada

Bob Marley

Bon Iver

Born Ruffians

Bouncer Fighter

Bright Eyes


Broken Social Scene


Bruce Springsteen



Cat Power

Chaka Khan


Christina Aguilera

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

Cloud Cult



The Cure

Crystal Antlers

Cyndi Lauper

Dam Funk

Dan Deacon


Dar Williams

Dave Matthews Band

The Dears

Death Cab for Cutie

The Decemberists

Deer Hunter


Devendra Banhardt

Digable Planets

Dillinger Escape Plan

Dinosaur Jr.

Dirty Projectors


Dixie Chicks


The Donnas

Dropkick Murphys

Dry the River


Ellie Goulding

Elvis Perkins

Emilie Autumn




Expensive Looks

The Explosion


Femi Kuti

Fish Bone

Flogging Molly

Florence and the Machine

Freelance Whales

Flying Lotus

Foo Fighters

Forest Fire

The Format

Four Tet

Fox and the Law 


Gang Gang Dance

Get Up Kids

Good Charlotte

Goo Goo Dolls

The Go Team

Green Day

Gregory and the Hawk

Grizzly Bear


Henry Rollins


Holly Throsby

The Holograms


Hygiene Wilder

Iggy Pop

Indigo Girls


Janis Ian

Jessie J


Jimi Hendrix

Joan Jett

Joanna Newsom

Johnny Cash

Justin Timberlake

Kate Nash

The Kennedys

Kings of Convenience

Kinky Friedman

Kitten Forever


Lady Gaga

Lenny Kravitz

Less Than Jake

Le Tigre

Lily Allen

Little Boots

Living Colour

Liz Phair


The Lunachicks


The Magnetic Fields

Manic Street Preachers

Maps & Atlases

Marilyn Manson

Marina and the Diamonds

Marnie Stern

Mary J. Blige

Melissa Etheridge



The Mountain Goats

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

My Brightest Diamond

My Morning Jacket

The National

Neil Young

Neko Case

New Found Glory

The New Pornographers

Nice Nice

Nice Purse

Nina Simone


No Age

No Doubt


No Rey

No Use For a Name


The Offspring

Of Montreal

Passion Pit

Patti Smith


Pearl Jam





The Postal Service

The Presidents of the United States

Queens of the Stone Age


Rage Against the Machine

The Raincoats

The Ramones


Ra Ra Riot

Regina Spektor

Red Hot Chilli Peppers


Rilo Kiley

Rise Against


Salt ‘n’ Pepa


Sarah McLachlan

The Scissor Sisters

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Sheryl Crow

The Shins

Sigur Ros


Social Distortion

Sonic Youth

Sorry OK

Sound Garden


The States

Steel Train

Stone Temple Pilots

Straylight Run

Strike Anywhere


Sum 41

The Summer Set

Surfer Blood

Sweet Secrets 

System of a Down

Ted Leo

Teenage Moods


Tegan and Sara

Thao Nguyen

Thom Yorke

Those Darlins

Tom Waits


Tori Amos

Tupac Shakur

TV on the Radio


Uh Huh Her


The Vacancy

Vampire Weekend

Veruca Salt

The Volcano Diary



White Zombie

Wolf Mother

Wolf Parade


Yann Tiersan



Yo La Tengo

Zola Jesus




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South Carolina

In South Carolina, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. SWARM (Students With A Responsible Message), a project of Advocates for Youth and Tell Them SC leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of the youth council members in training in August!


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In Florida, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. The Broward County Youth Council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members at the 2012 Urban Retreat!

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In Colorado, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state. Colorado Youth Create, a project of Advocates for Youth and Colorado Youth Matter, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members on their way to tell their Senators and Representatives about the importance of good sex ed!



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Young people at Advocates’ partner organization Forward Together  surveyed and interviewed students to get more in-depth information about the sex education young people want to see in their school. Check it out!

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In California, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state.  California’s state sex ed leadership council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Forward Together, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.

Youth activists from California, at the Capitol and ready to lobby!


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Each year over 120 youth activists gather in Washington, D.C. to share expertise with one another and Advocates for Youth staff; learn about the latest findings and legislation that affect reproductive health; participate in trainings; and make a commitment to be lifelong advocates for young people’s reproductive and sexual health and rights. Then they head to Capitol Hill to educate their representatives on why comprehensive sexual health education is so important for young people.


Groups attending the conference included:

1 in 3 Organizers.  These college students attend a special pre-conference where they will learn how to support abortion rights through sharing women’s stories.  This year, the groups attending the Urban Retreat included:

State Youth Activist Councils from Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, and South Carolina.  Working with partner organizations, these groups of young people will motivate for comprehensive sex education and other important youth rights at the state and community level.

Campus Organizers.  These students at colleges and universities organize their fellow college students to work for youth reproductive and sexual health and rights.

International Youth Speak Out members from Jamaica, Nepal, and Nigeria lead councils in their home countries to promote youth inclusion and youth sexual health and rights.

International GLBT Health and Rights advocates work for the rights of LGBT people in their home countries.

International Youth Leadership Council members are US-based college students who advocate on behalf of young people in low and middle income countries.

Young Women of Color Leadership Council members advocate for HIV prevention and reproductive justice and the inclusion of young women of color in prevention programs.

YouthResource members advocate for LGBT rights in their communities and provide peer education and support to LGBT young people.

It’s a diverse gathering, but these young people all have one thing in common:  they are fierce, motivated activists working hard to make youth voices heard!

“I had such a wonderful time in DC (like always) advocating for Reproductive Justice and being around such amazing young leaders in our country! Urban Retreat always reminds me that I am never alone in this fight!” – Bree, Young Women of Color Leadership Council (more…)

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Check out this brand new factsheet about youth sexual and reproductive health in Alabama.  It’s full of info about why youth activists do the work they do and what they hope to accomplish in their state.

Alabama’s Youth: Focus on Reproductive and Sexual Health

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In Alabama, young people are working to make comprehensive sex education a reality in their state.  The Youth Activist Council, a project of Advocates for Youth and Alabama Alliance for Healthy Youth, leads the work of a statewide youth activist network that advocates for comprehensive sexual health education.  Here’s a picture of some of the council members on their way to tell their Senators and Representatives about the importance of good sex ed!

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My interview with Province of Dinagat Island Population Program Officer Lusio T. Mercado. He was speaker on youth issues during the UNI-MAD Regional Youth Summit last September 2, 2012. In my interview with Mr. Mercado, he discussed the programs and projects that the CARAGA Region and the Province of Dinagat Island is implementing in order to respond the issues of youth especially teenage pregnancy and early sexual encounter; among them are symposiums on teenage pregnancy, and youth camps. They also inculcate inter-faith dialogues and spiritual transformation. He is a native of Samar and speaks fluently on Waray but has been based in Dinagat Island for a very long time.

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion, Part 3a: Education

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited. My response and criticism can be found below.

1) What kind of government involvement, if any, is appropriate when it comes to sex education?

Tough question. The government has recently become involved with what for all time has been considered an intensely familial matter.

We imagine that a daughter told by her mother that she is beautiful, loved, of infinite value, worth a man who will cherish her as such, and that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," would be more likely to make holistic sexual choices and achieve inner happiness than if by watching a Planned Parenthood employee put a condom on a banana.

Similarly, we believe that a father telling his son that he is proud of him, that he loves him, that sex is a positive good and a total gift of self oriented in its nature and chemistry towards "forever," that it is no manliness to use women for pleasure, but it’s epically manly to sacrifice your desires for the good of your beloved, and to seek the woman who you will promise to be with forever, and once that promise is made, then fulfill that promise with your entire body in the act of sex — We believe this would be — in the long run — far more effective than being shown a slideshow of diseased penises and getting free rubbers from your gym teacher.

However, we’ve created a culture of awkwardness between parents and their kids, to the point where this discussion has become a far scarier one to have than it should be. We are inundated with the culture’s idea of sex from a young age, and thus parents feel like they’re competing with everything cool in a kid’s life. Want to talk to your son about this when he turns 12? 11 is the average age a boy is exposed to hardcore pornography. Want to tell your daughter her body is valuable and beautiful? She’s already seen the female body used to sell cars on TV.

So if the government is to be involved in sex education, we believe it should be finding people who can effectively speak against the current sexual culture that’s making everyone miserable. Maybe Obama could help us out. After all, he speaks very effectively on the importance of families staying together, and of fathers resisting the easy route of divorce and instead being present for their wife and children, to which we tip our hats.

2) Do you believe sex education courses belong in schools? If so, and if you were able to write the curriculum, what would you include?

See previous question. Add to it teaching the Creighton MODEL to girls.

3) As part of sex education classes, you would recommend the Creighton Model be taught to girls. If the boys in the class will presumably one day be married to women, isn’t it important for them to be familiar with the Creighton Model as well?

Absolutely. You’ve got fantastic ideas: Teach it to boys and girls — perhaps not together, as there could be a maturity gap in the discussion of things like luteal phases and mucus patterns — and watch the male respect of the intricacy and beauty of the female body soar.

4) You refer to girls as having "infinite value." How do you define this phrase? And is the same true for boys?

The value of the human person is immeasurable, priceless, and infinite. We hold this truth to be self-evident, that the value of all else pales and bows before the value of a single human life. And yes, the same is true for boys.

5) In your ideal conversation of how mothers talk to their daughters about sexuality, you say that girls are "worth a man who will cherish her as [having infinite value]." To me, this phrase suggests that her value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. I agree that every person deserves to have a partner (if they want one) that loves and cherishes them, and treats them well. But I don’t believe that virginity or fertility are the reasons someone deserves to be valued and treated well.

We had no intention of suggesting that a girl’s value is her virginity and her ability to become pregnant. That’s ridiculous. Girls are worth men who will cherish them as having infinite value for the simple reason that they are girls. That they are human persons. Dignity and infinite worth are products of being a human person, and girls — who are so often bombarded with the idea that their worth depends on being "hot", being productive, having sex, making children, being popular, being rich, etc. — need to be affirmed by their lovers in this manner: "You are of infinite value to me because you are."

6) Do you think it’s important for religion to be included in sexuality education?

No. Then again, we’re a little confused why it’s so important for the government to be involved with sex education, but whatever.

7) How does information of and access to condoms increase the chance of someone -who wants to remain abstinent- having sex?

There’s folks way more qualified to answer that question, so we’d again refer you to the following study.

Response and Criticism

1) The Federal Government has been involved with funding sex education programs, unfortunately giving hundreds of millions of dollars to abstinence-only programs that are proven failures. But there’s been no federal law about what is taught in these classes. Some states don’t require sex ed be taught at all. And the curriculum for sex education programs are decided largely by the school districts with consideration for community input.

Also, were you serious when you said that telling your child they’re loved is more effective at achieving a positive, health sexual outlook and practice than learning how to prevent STDs and pregnancy? I agree that the female body is often objectified in media, but, if anything, wouldn’t that make it easier to talk to your child about body image and sexual autonomy since you have so many accessible, cultural examples to make your point?

2) Much more on the Creighton Model later!

3) Since I don’t think you’re suggesting that the Creighton Model should start being taught in 5th or 6th grade (where they wouldn’t understand it anyway) or in jr. high (see how far you get talking about cervical music to a room of 13 year olds), I don’t think that a maturity gap is what you should be worried about.

4) If the term “infinite value” has the same meaning for boys as it does for girls, why have both times you said it, you’ve applied it to girls, especially considering that you made the choice to use different language for boys?

5) It’s a nice thought, but there’s no denying that girls are held to a much higher standard of “purity” than boys.

7) This link is to the Duke study, described above. If 1Flesh doesn’t feel they’re qualified to answer this basic question, I guess I’ll jump in. Knowing how to use a condom will not magically make a person who has chosen to be abstinent change their mind and make sex a “habit.” Sex is a personal and consensual choice. Just because I have a life-jacket doesn’t mean I’m going to go water skiing.

Next Up, in pt. 4: Sex

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1Flesh is a new online organization promoting the message that condoms and hormonal contraception are ineffective at preventing STDs/STIs and unintended pregnancy as well as being harmful to the health and relationship of a couple. They believe that people should not have sex before they are married, and then should use a method of “birth control” called the Creighton Model, which is really just a suped-up version of the Rhythm Method (despite how much they tried to convince me otherwise).

Need to catch up?: Part 1: The Basics, Part 2: Religion

This is part three of an in-depth interview I conducted by e-mail with Anna Buckley of 1Flesh, from July 15- 19. All of their responses are printed in full and unedited.

I assume you support abstinence-only programs. What are you thoughts on more comprehensive approaches? Also, how do you feel about classes including discussions on contraception being labeled comprehensive? To you, is it an appropriate term?

Actually, we find abstinence-only education decisively whack. Telling kids to just not have sex because it’ll give you STDs degrades the act of sex as ugly, patronizes the students as stupid, and — though we know there’s "evidence" both ways — doesn’t seem to be a magic cure.

Educating kids on contraception is no better. Such programs — well-intentioned though they may be — come with the philosophy that women cannot understand their own bodies, that men "are going to have sex anyways" and thus can’t control their bodies, and that the grand purpose of a thing as mind-blowing as sex is to satisfy a biological urge without biological consequences. There’s a reason the 2011 Duke study “Habit Persistence and Teen Sex”concluded that “programs that increase access to contraception are found to decrease teen pregnancies in the short run but increase teen pregnancies in the long run.” It creates a lame sexual c ulture, and reaps lame results.

No, if we had our way (which we’re entirely aware that we won’t) girls would be empowered to understand their own fertility cycle by being taught to chart with the Creighton MODEL, not as contraception, but as self-knowledge. Girls and guys would all learn about the nature of sex itself, in all its bonding beauty, from oxytocin to prostaglandins, from fetal development to pheremonal attraction. Girls would be told that they have immense value inherent in their very beings, and guys would be taken on a hike and told about how historically speaking, an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions, and to sacrifice ourselves for love.

We’re speaking unoffically, of course, and entirely off the top of our heads, of course, but the bottom line is this — elevate the sexual culture. It currently resides in the pits. We’ve got 1 in 5 women being raped, and 1 in 3 reporting some sort of sexual abuse. We’ve got untold millions of kids addicted to porn, and 63% of married women who’d rather be watching a movie than having sex with their husbands, and 1 in 4 teenage girls with an STD. Whatever we’ve been doing, it ain’t working.

So much to say here, so let me start with the Duke study and go from there. This is a quote from the Conclusion of the study you linked to:

There is much persistence in teen sexual behavior. If this habit persistence arises from a moral or psychological barrier that has been crossed once an individual has sex for the _rst time (a _xed cost) or the _rst time in a relationship (a transition cost), programs that increase rates of teen sexual activity may lead to higher pregnancy rates in the long run than in the short run.

I have issues with this and how you interpreted its meaning. First, yes, teens have sex. I don’t think I’d call sex a “habit,” though, and I certainly don’t think that in order to have sex you have to break through a “moral or psychological barrier.” The study also suggests that once you have sex (either for the first time or with a new partner) that sex is automatically a “habit” with a “cost.” They, and you, seem to say that birth control becomes less effective over time, which is not true. The only way that more sex leads to more pregnancy is that you have a greater number of possibilities of using birth control incorrectly or inconsistently. That’s not a problem with birth control. That’s a problem with poor education and limited access.

Now to the rest of it.

1) I’m glad that we both agree that abstinence-only programs are “whack.” Side note: No one has said “whack” in 15 years. What are you doing?
2) I disagree that learning about menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and contraception would make anyone feel like they “cannot understand their own bodies.”
3) Regardless of the type and quality of the sex education they are given, men are “going to have sex anyways;” 62% by the end of high school and 90% by the end of college. We agree that sex is a natural, healthy desire, but in my opinion, and in the facts, pre-marital sex is not due to an un-controlled (male) body; it’s about desire, pleasure, and fun. And it’s not cheapened by this. How can two people consenting to sexual pleasure be “cheap”? Also, who are you to decide whose sex is good enough?
4) Millions of kids are addicted to porn? Really?
5) Your solution to rape, sexual abuse, and STDs is to discourage the use of condoms? Come on now.

Can you comment on why you believe that sex has hormonal "bonding" elements? Why would it be necessary for the body to do this?

Well, from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense. If sex has the capacity to produce a new offspring, the last thing you want is your mate ditching you. It would ruin survival chances all around — especially for the offspring. Thus it seems that any individuals who became chemically bonded to each-other during sex — by chemicals like oxytocin — would have a greater chance of spreading their genes than individuals who didn’t. Natural selection would pick it up from there.

Actually, if we’re going to guess about the mating habits of primitive humans, I’d say it makes much more sense, evolutionarily, for a female to copulate with several males, ensuring that her children will be cared for by many.

You say "an essential part to manliness is the ability to battle and destroy our selfish passions." Doesn’t this suggest that sexual desire is harmful to young men? And doesn’t it assume that young women don’t also have strong sexual desires?

The key word here is "selfish" desires. Sexual desires are good, appropriate and beautiful. They make Shakespeare Shakespearean, and the world go round. The problem is that our culture tells men — and especially men — to take these beautiful desires — which by their nature look outwards, towards a beloved — and turn them inwards, making them selfish. Young men are inundated with the message that — in order to be a man — they have to get laid. Think about that term, "get laid." It’s entirely about "me." I get something. Not "I give myself", not "I share in something beautiful", but I get. When sexual desires become selfish, pornography makes a whole lot of sense. If it’s about me, who needs another person? The alarming fact that frequent viewers of pornography are more likely to believe that women enjoy rape, and more likely to label an act of sexual violence as sexual — and not violent — seems a natural consequence of divorcing sex from the idea of self-gift. If desires are selfish — about me — who cares about the other person? To which we here at 1Flesh react violently, and instead claim as our own a sexual culture that stands in radical, stark contradiction to the tyranny of selfishness: Sex as pure self-gift, all imitations be damned.

I 100% agree that using language like “get” and “take” instead of “give” and “share” are problematic (and patriarchal) when it comes to sexuality. I also agree that most pornography plays into these ideas. But I don’t think the idea of pornography is inherently selfish, and I certainly don’t think that it leads to a tyrannical sexual culture of selfishness. Yes, some people watch legitimately problematic porn, but I would suggest that material like that isn’t really about sex at all.

Can you cite the study where you read those stats on sexual violence?

It’s right here. There is a 22% increase in sexual perpetration; a 20% increase in negative intimate relationships; and a 31% increase in believing rape myths. A total sample size of 12,323 people comprised the present meta-analysis.

This study was conducted by the National Foundation for Family Research and Education. It appears that this Canadian organization does not have a website, and from everything else that I found on them, they appear to be on par with the American Family Association and the Family Research Council, both of which are listed as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Meaning I don’t take seriously anything coming out of these groups.

Next Up, in pt. 3b: Education (continued)

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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“We don’t have high paid lobbyists; we don’t have a lot of money. Here are some of the things we do have: the most people living with HIV & AIDS, the most poverty, the most sexually transmitted infections, the most people without health insurance, the most vulnerable populations, the fastest growing epidemic, the least access to healthcare, the highest mortality rates, and the least resources to deal with this crisis.” – Kathie Heirs, CEO AIDS Alabma

Kathie Heirs’ blunt summation illustrates the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the southern United States. Hiers and her organization AIDS Alabama, which is part of the Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) at Advocates for Youth, appear in a new documentary entitled deepsouth. Directed by Lisa Biagiotti, the documentary follows the stories of individuals and communities fighting the spread of a HIV/AIDS epidemic in the domestic south. deepsouth examines the different facets of a culture that renders this epidemic invisible and perpetuates the silence around this issue. deepsouth shows that understanding the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is less about ‘that one time you should have used a condom’ and more about the compilation of factors (e.g. abstinence-only sex education, religious values, individualism, racism, homophobia, etc.) that lead to an epidemic.

The film premieres this week at the International AIDS Conference, which is under way here in Washington, DC. The conference and city is buzzing with hope for an AIDS free generation. With recent medical advances, like the FDA approval of Truvada and more clinical trials for HIV vaccines, Secretary Hilary Clinton’s goal of an AIDS free generation seems within reach. Yet, the focus on medicine and prevention do little to address the stigma and discrimination of HIV positive individuals or the real causes of a global epidemic. This week alone, HIV statistics on black men became consistent talking points and were publicized with few parallel messages on the discrimination, profiling and stereotyping of black men and the relations of sexism, racism, and heterosexism to a larger HIV/AIDS epidemic. Echoing Elton John, the key to developing a true global commitment to ending HIV/AIDS lies in deconstructing a fear of HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS phobia), a judgment of those living with it, and addressing other HIV/AIDS risk factors such as poverty and lack of education.

deepsouth pioneers this path by examining the cultural factors that contribute to discrimination through the lens of three main stories. Biagiotti follows Josh, a young, gay black man living with HIV in a rural community, Monica and Tammy, coordinators of a support group and retreat for HIV positive individuals, and Heirs, who tours the country seeking federal aid for the epidemic.

In an interview with The Baltimore Sun, Biagotti lays down the focus of her documentary:
The reality is that HIV is less about safe sex and more about safety nets. HIV is symptomatic of so many other social ills. Silence, stigma and judgment create layers of secrecy. They can’t be “fixed” without a deep dive into the underlying reasons behind why people are quiet, what they’re ashamed of and why they’re afraid.

The documentary’s premier is tonight at 7PM at E Street Cinemas in Washington D.C., and will screen tomorrow, Wednesday, July 25 at both 3PM and 7PM.

Stay tuned for a second blog post later this week that reviews the film and discusses the role of HIV/AIDS phobia and racism in HIV/AIDS activism.

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Just in time for the International AIDS Conference here in Washington, DC, this week Congresswoman Barbara Lee introduced H.R. 6138, the Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012. This visionary bill creates a policy and financing framework for an AIDS-Free Generation.

Quoting from the Congresswoman’s press statement:

The Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic Act of 2012 increases and targets federal resources to maximize impact of HIV efforts, expands efforts to end stigma and discrimination, repeals and reforms laws that violate human rights and undermine the positive impact of resources, and maximizes federal coordinating efforts to drive greater efficiency and improved results in all HIV and related programs. The bill establishes a system to expand targeted efforts to prevent HIV infection using a combination of effective, evidence-based approaches and accelerated research and educational reforms to addressing the epidemic at home and abroad. The bill also provides for the expansion of comprehensive sex education, the distribution of condoms to people in prison, and improved provisions for monitoring HIV care.

In particular, the bill highlights the impact of the HIV & AIDS epidemic on young people both domestically and internationally as well as calls to expand comprehensive sex education and end funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.

Currently, there are 26 co-sponsors.

We applaud Congresswoman Lee for her leadership on this legislation and proudly support the bill and hope for its passage!

The text of the bill should be up soon and will be available here. For more information on the bill, check out this fact sheet.

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On Wednesday, House Republicans passed the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (otherwise known as Labor-HHS) FY 13 funding bill. In this bill, House Republicans defined their funding priorities and unfortunately (and unsurprisingly) sexual health took a tremendous hit. Here is a quick overview of how programs affecting young people’s sexual and rights fared:

Sex Education:
-The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, which funds evidence-based and promising programs was cut from $105 million to $20 million while Community Abstinence Education was increased from $5 million to $20 million.

Contraception & Preventive Care:
-Title X Family Planning program funds clinics to provide access to contraception and other preventive health services to low-income people, including youth. This program was completely zeroed out.

-Funding to all Planned Parenthood affiliates would be zeroed out if they used their own money to provide abortion care.

-Includes Blunt Amendment-like language which would allow employers to refuse coverage of any health benefit in their insurance plans for any religious and/or moral belief.

In addition, large pieces of the Affordable Care Act would go unfunded, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention would receive a massive cut and federal funding of needle exchange would be banned…again. Of course we can’t forget that once again the bill also withholds federal dollars from covering women’s access to abortion-except in the most extreme circumstances.

While these attacks are not a surprise, it is nonetheless disappointing and incredibly infuriating. Next up, the bill goes to the full Committee for a vote. We’ll keep you updated when that happens.

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This past weekend, I attended the National Council of La Raza’s Annual Conference in Las Vegas Nevada. I had the most amazing time in the NCLR conference. I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to lead a workshop with an amazing individual, Ana Laura Rivera, in the Lideres Summit [the youth component of the NCLR Conference]. In addition, our coordinator Hemly Ordonez was (and is) amazing throughout this entire conference. Also, I met awesome DREAMers!

Ana Laura, from YWOC, and me!

Our presentation was titled, “Sex Education Advocacy: Helping Youth Make Sound and Good Decisions” and we had approximately forty high school and college students. Our presentation offered an array of valuable information. Also, we felt that it was crucial to engage our audience through thoughtful questions. For example, we asked, “What do you think consists of an effective sex education class?” and we even had a fun game called, “Named that Contraceptive!” in which we displayed a photo of a contraceptive and asked the audience to correctly name it. In this presentation, we began with defining sex education and the two types of sex education [abstinence-centered and comprehensive sex education]. Second, we described different methods of contraception and passed around a female condom so our audience could have an actual view of a type of contraceptive. Third, we provided statistics of birth rates among adolescents in the United States with a special emphasis on Latino adolescents. Lastly, we informed our audience on how they could effectively advocate for this issue and others. Overall, we had an informative and fun presentation with a receptive audience! After the presentation, Ana Laura and I were interviewed by the Huff Post Voces, the Spanish segment of AOL’s Huffington Post.

My flight was scheduled for 1AM Sunday but I missed it because I confused the times. However, if I would have left, I would not have learned many valuable things, especially about myself, on that exact Sunday. For example, Hemly helped me understand and shape my own identity as a Latina, as a young mother, and as an activist. I learned that it in order to shape your identity you must understand your past, history, and culture and how it fits in the larger context. In this blog, I want to talk about my culture, my upbringing on welfare programs, and teenage pregnancy.

On welfare programs…

In the Nuestras Voces, Nuestra Salud: A Critical Conversation About Latina Reproductive Health, a policy workshop, I became emotional because I finally understood the issues that Latinas face in a larger scale. I saw my entire life in those three simple PowerPoint presentations. I first saw it through my childhood as a Medicaid recipient. My three siblings and I grew up with the assistance of welfare, including Medicaid, housing, and food stamps. The first time my mother received Medicaid was when she was pregnant of me because it was considered a high risk pregnancy. She had not received it before because at the time she lived in Matamoros, Mexico and she believed that it was not correct to receive government services. Ultimately, she returned to the United States because she was extremely poor in Mexico, even though she was born in the U.S. and loved Matamoros. These programs helped us tremendously when my mother and father worked on minimum wage. On a separate note, we got sick often! Medicaid helped us when we were sick, when my brother broke his arm, when we needed a checkup to play sports. Even though we lived with a low socioeconomic status, we received quality healthcare insurance and medication because of Medicaid. Once I became pregnant, I knew that I needed healthcare insurance for my pregnancy, so I applied for Medicaid. Throughout my pregnancy, Medicaid helped me tremendously! It assisted me in providing for monthly and weekly medical visits, prenatal vitamins, and additional services I needed. It paid for my hospital bill when Frida was born. After the pregnancy, I placed Frida on Medicaid and I also received assistance from WIC. So in this presentation, I also learned about the Affordable Health Care Act and became ecstatic to learn about the services that would assist many people without medical insurance. At the moment, my brother, sister, and myself are without insurance and I immediately thought of them. I dislike thinking that my brother or my younger sister cannot visit a doctor because he has no medical insurance or sufficient money.

On teenage pregnancy…

On a booklet titled “2011 Bringing Opportunity Home: A Latino Public Policy Agenda for the 112th Congress” [provided by NCLR] it stated [in regards to teen pregnancy from a study in 2006],

“Among racial and ethnic minorities, Latinas ages 15-19 have the highest teen pregnancy rate (126.6 per 1000) and highest teen pregnancy rate (70.1 per 1000). To put this into perspective, 52% of Latinas get pregnant at least once before the age of 20, and Latinas accounted for nearly 33% of births to teens ages 15-19 in 2009.”

Clearly, I fell into this statistic. Even though the Latino birth rate has decreased, we still possess the highest teen birth rate [Texas ranks fourth!]. I also want to note that on a study conducted by the CDC, teen childbearing in the U.S. cost approximately $10.9 billion. These are the reasons why:

“Women who become pregnant as a teenager face a host of challenges, particularly as they relate to education. Furthermore, the effects of a teen pregnancy go beyond the teen mother. Children of teen mothers have higher rates of poverty and are more likely to repeat a grade and drop out of school… Many of these factors have a disproportionate effect on Latina teenagers given the challenges they already face in obtaining a quality education.”

The presenters also mentioned that an overwhelming amount of Latinas do not utilize contraceptives because they cannot afford it and the existing stigmatization.

Teenage pregnancy and young parents face many social inequalities that hinder their development and the possibility of realizing their full potential. In addition, we must provide strong bases of support for young parents to counter these obstacles. Luckily, I have been able to continue with my post-secondary education because of the tremendous help my mother and government services have given to me. I see that they want me to succeed for myself and for my daughter. Initially, I viewed my goals with those motivations in mind but now I have realized that it is much more than that. I am motivated by other pregnant teenagers and young parents. I am motivated by the fact that I am breaking those barriers to success and stigmatization I face for being a young parent. I am motivated by the fact that I am an example that it can be done and that we can help others.

The common theme for this year’s NCLR conference was sparking a movement. For this issue, we spark a movement by initiating the conversation. We must engage in honest and open conversations with adolescents, without the omission or distortion of information. It does make a difference.

In a workshop at the AFY Urban Retreat, we were asked to write on an index card why we are acitivists and we were asked to pass them around and read them out loud. I was given this one and it resonated with my life so much that I decided to keep it. I have had it ever since.

On my Mexican culture…

In this conference, many of the presenters spoke about how their parents raised them with a strong cultural upbringing. They embraced their culture. It is important to note that in Texas, I did not receive any education on my culture and how it played an important role in Texas. It was not until I was enrolled in Mexican American Studies [in college!] that I learned about the Chicano Movement. I am ashamed to say that I did not consider myself a woman of color until I attended the AFY’s Urban Retreat last year. Whenever I was presented with a questionnaire that asked for my race, I did not select white or black. I knew [or at least I thought I did] that I was not white but I was not white, I was Hispanic. However, when other people had “white” on their birth certificate we were all confused. Now I understand that many Mexican Americans registered as white to their birth certificate to avoid many oppressive methods that were placed on them. So, there is confusion when it comes to our role in Texas and the United States. I did not know the history of my ethnicity and I did not understand it. I never questioned it because it was never taught. Our culture was not taught or embraced in public schools. This is a problem in Texas that must be undone. We must teach children and adolescents about our culture, our history, and our past. We can change our future if we become educated on our history. It does not matter if Latinos are the fastest growing group in the United States, we must still become informed, teach others, and empower them to become civically engaged.

Why Learn Mexican American History?

     1. Awareness of the largest U.S. minority
2. Omission and/or distortion in traditional U.S. history
3. Importance to self-esteem which affects
a. Values
b. Opinions
c. Lifestyle Choices
d. Stimulation of Learning
4. Significance to ethnic literacy and how it affects our
a. Daily lives
b. Society
c. Transactions- locally, regionally, nationally, transnationally
5. Awareness of Mexican American contributions to U.S. history
6. Creation of a school climate which appreciates diversity 

It took me this long to really understand all of this! Even though I am considered low income and a young mother, I do not see it as an excuse to no be successful. It may be more difficult but not impossible. Now more than ever, it is crucial to understand and recognize oppressive systems. We must not stay quiet and we must question and speak out against something that is not right. We must exercise our power through voting and civic engagement [not just in election years]. Before doing this, we must create a culture of participation[credit to NCLR’s CEO and President].

From the Barefoot Guide!

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  Comprehensive sex education, one of the objective of yalc (youth activist leadership council) is the need of today’s generation education. Giving knowledge regarding sex education helps to overcome the risk of the sexual behaviour.Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Sex education is also about developing young people’s skills so that they make informed choices about their behaviour, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. This is because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS . It is also argued that providing sex education helps to meet young people’s rights to information about matters that affect them, their right to have their needs met and to help them enjoy their sexuality and the relationships that they form other. Research shows that teenagers who receive sex education that includes discussion of contraception are more likely than those who receive abstinence-only messages to delay sexual activity and to use contraceptives when they do become sexually active.
In Nepal , the subject has been introduced from class 6 but the srh information has been included only in class 9 and 10. The education about sex education has been overlapped with reproductive education which is almost different from each other.In the present curriculum , grade 6 and 8,includes only about reproductive areas like HIV ,methods of family planning and other STDS which really lags behinds the information regarding their bodily change and their curiosity regarding attraction towards the opposite sex and others. Students know more about more than those in text books through other sources by that time. Students are exposed to the subject much later than when they should actually have been. All the information is flooded in class 9 all of a sudden rather than gradually introducing age appropriate topics. Several topics are mentioned just but not explained. It means that the curiosity of the students will grow. For e.g.. Process of sex is mentioned but not explained. Similarly, abortion has just been mentioned, but with least explanation. And like the simple sharing information to parents and older siblings are also not included .if such things are focused and put in the curicullum then the students will share their curiosity and share their problems with their parents which will be guided in a right direction.

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In case you missed it, this morning the Supreme Court released their health care decision. There were two major pieces in their announcement:

• The mandate was upheld in 5-4 decision. Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority (shocking!-really it is). The majority has different opinions as to why the mandate is constitutional, but for the most part it considers the mandate a tax which Congress can legally impose on people.
• Medicaid expansion was also upheld, but should states choose not to participate in the expansion, they cannot be penalized by the federal government (i.e. they can’t have their current Medicaid dollars pulled if they don’t participate in the expansion). That unfortunately means that states will be able to opt-out of the expansion which is bad for young people, people living with HIV/AIDS, etc.

We can only hope states won’t opt-out of the Medicaid expansion which is due to start in 2014.

The rest of the health care law stands (young people can stay on their parent’s health insurance, state sex education money, birth control/women’s health regs, can’t exclude people from coverage based on pre-existing conditions, etc.). Now we’re just counting down until the rest of the bill being implemented. To see what is happening when, check out this timeline: http://www.healthcare.gov/law/timeline/.

For more information on the Supreme Court’s decision, these SCOTUS blog pieces are helpful:

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When most people think of Texas they don’t think of LGBTQ pride. In fact, they think the opposite. They think of state that, until a landmark 2003 Supreme Court ruling, made same-sex sexual activity a criminal offense for which you could face arrest. They think of a state that overwhelmingly passed an amendment to its constitution in 2005 which banned equal marriage. They think of a state that does not have any legal protection for LGBTQ people against discrimination by employers. They think of a state that provides sex education that either demonizes LGBTQ youth or pretends they don’t exist.

In many ways, these ideas of Texas are accurate, but there is another side to Texas – the Texas we should be thinking about. There is a Texas in which Houston, the largest city in state and the fourth largest city in the country, has the nation’s first openly-lesbian mayor. There is a Texas which has some of the largest and most numerous pride parades and festivals each year. There is a Texas where the Mayor of El Paso stood up for equal domestic partner benefits for LGBTQ city employees and caused a national conversation. There is a Texas which just nominated its second ever openly-LGBTQ individual to serve in the Texas House of Representatives, a Latina from El Paso.

There is a Texas which is changing – one that is young and full of open-minded people who celebrate each other’s individuality. Texas is a big, diverse state – something that we’re proud of. More and more, young LGBTQ Texans are feeling confident to speak out and demand equal treatment and respect for their community. I’m lucky to work with some of these amazing young people every day. In particular, I have been inspired by James Lee, one of our Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative student leaders, who has grown to become an amazing activist for equality. He’s worked diligently to raise awareness for LGBTQ equality on his campus and in his city. I’m also proud to work alongside so many youth allies to the LGBTQ community. With their work and the rise of millennials into political power, I am confident that Texas will be a place of great change. June is a month Texans should be proud of the achievements we’ve had and will continue to have for LGBTQ equality. The way I see it, if things are changing in Texas – they’re changing everywhere.

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While searching the youth led story in Nepal I went through lot of people asking them about their story, their life and their way of living. Their stories shocked me and made me think about for couple of days. But among those stories, there was one such story which I thought must be known by everyone and can be used as a lesson to all who think that their suffering is painful than that of others.
Nagira Khootan, a normal Muslim girl in a small village of Kapilvastu called Krishnanagar, is supposed to be a “curse” or “sin” done in previous life. With the desire to get boy, a girl named Najira Khootan was born. She had 5 sisters with no brother and it was also regarded as a curse for her. From the very beginning of her life she was subjugated and unloved by her parents. Not only from the parental love but also she was deprived of nutritious food and also from the education. She along with all her sister had to do all the household works and was treated as servant in her own house.
With the phase of time, she entered into adolescent period where she noticed physical changes. She was unknown and scared when she encountered menstruation period and the pain that she gets during those periods. She was in a thought that this was some kind of disease, she never knew about it. She was also scared to share it with her family as well. Sometimes she even noticed blood coming out even then she was silent but one day when tolerance was beyond her perimeter she expressed it with her sister only then she came to know about it which made her to tolerate a lot of pain within herself. She remembers what would be her situation at that time when she was unable to say a word to her parents about the change. Her mother was also a female but never tried to understand her because she was also grown up in same conservative society because she desired to get a boy for her family for easy doorway to heaven.
Time was passing but she was unaware about the sex education and way to handle it. Her marriage was fixed at the age of 16 with the boy who is 20 years older than her. Sudden case of marriage came to her life when her father saw her talking to a boy living nearby. Since she was unknown about simple sex education and other basic knowledge she entered to her married life. She was also unaware about the family planning and she became pregnant at the age of 18.She even did heavy work during those days which caused adverse effect in her health. Being pregnant at such a small age and carrying out household activities and lack of proper nutrients her health was deteriorated. Due to all these reason her child was born in critical situation and became malnutrient, unfortunately her baby died after ten days. She had return to her daily activities the day after due to which her health was more deteriorated.
After 2 years she again became mother and gave birth to a baby girl but as her father, her husband also wanted baby boy. She became pregnant five times in the hope and desire of a baby boy which was fulfilled at the sixth attempt. She never ever had any family planning measure nor her husband. Due to all these reasons, now she is struggling for her life.
If she would have provided sex education during her teenage she could have come up with her pain and obstacles and if she could have known about family planning she could have used certain measures to control her pregnancy. And the most important thing if she was provided with parental care she would never ever have encountered such pain in her life.

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Amplify has the stories you need to hear! With so many great contributors from all over the world, you definitely don’t want you to miss out on the top insightful and informative stories of the week. Check in each week for a list of must-read posts. Whether it’s a national story or a individual experience, these are the issues you care about!

May 27- June 2

Stats this week: 26 blogs by 15 writers

Planned Parenthood “sting” as pointless as usual- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

So: the video is about a theoretical medical procedure that would be highly statistically unlikely in this country.
Plus, the counselor doesn’t advise anything illegal.
Thus, having no real whistle to blow, the video uses the fictional scenario to get you to respond emotionally to the idea of sex-selective abortion and to call for it to be outlawed.

Yo te conozco, bacalao: Recognizing PRENDA for what it is- by AFY_Aimee

Inside this post:

Now you might think that Congressman Franks, if he really cared about ending this practice, would want to restrict all methods of sex selection. But you would be wrong. Because despite everything Franks says, this isn’t about sex discrimination or caring about female fetuses. This is an abortion ban in disguise.

Remember Sarah Baartman- by Media_Justice

Inside this post:

In 1810 an English doctor on a ship, William Dunlop, met her and convinced her to travel to Europe with him. She agreed and Dunlop took her with him to Europe where she was put on display for others to view and given the name “The Hottentot Venus.” Her body shape and size was seen as oddly disfigured by Europeans and Dunlop.

Mothers, Daughters, and Loving Yourself- by U-DGurl

Inside this post:

Growing up I never got the “right’ messages of sex or rights of young people, especially young girls. Sexually explicit materials and romantic books that exaggerate a woman’s sexual experience were my primary sources of information, but we all know how terrible those things can be. What’s worse, young girls are “encouraged” to emulate these women that they clearly are not. Up to a certain age, I thought it was acceptable for men to beat their women; acceptable that much older men would lure 25 year olds to their rooms; acceptable that no girl is special enough to desire a life except that with a husband and children.

Lack of Sex Education Among Young Women in the Latino Community- by Brenda_Bri

Inside this post:

Lately I have been trying to inform almost every girl about reproductive justice that I encounter that seems to lack sex education. I try explaining their rights as a young women, sexual awareness, and how sex doesn’t make you a bad person. I enjoy informing young women about sex because I know I’m doing a great thing. I know that everything I explain to them will be spread and eventually lead them to make better decisions.

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

My blog posts this week:
Four reasons I’ve decided not to weigh myself
New Mexico Health Official Asked to Resign for Suggesting Teens Use Condoms
Rape Victim Denied EC and Rape Kit Because it’s Legal in Oklahoma for Doctors To Do That (TW)

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          “My parents would kick me out the house if they found out I was pregnant .” “My parents never talk about sex.” I didn’t know there was free birth control available for me.” These are the types of things I hear young Latinas around my community say. How much more can lack of sex education affect the Latino community/ Roughly, 50% of young Latinas get pregnant. These means they are having unprotected sex. Most of these pregnancies are unplanned. Why do Latinas have the highest pregnancy rate than any other race? Could it be the cultural morals/values, social pressure, or religious pressure? How does the media usually portray Latinas? These three factors are the main reason why young women don’t know they have choices and options. Reproductive justice is something really important that needs to be known but many young women from Latino backgrounds don’t know what reproductive system means. If most of the young women knew what reproductive justice was then they’ll probably make better choices.

          Cultural values in the Latino community greatly affect the decisions made by young women. “That’s my son” is what the typical Latino father says with brag when his son is involved with many girls. But what about “That’s my girl” when she’s seen with a lot of guys. She’s expected to stay a virgin till marriage. She can’t even have a boyfriend because her parents will assume she’s having sex. And if a young women decides to have sex there’s nothing wrong with that. Girls shouldn’t feel less or dirty when they are ready to have sex. Young women Latinas are set to believe that sex is dirty. That is the reason why Latino parents tend not to talk about sex at all with their children. Many of the Latino parents come from an environment where sex wasn’t spoken in their homes so they carry on the idea to their future generations that NOT talking about sex is okay. What they don’t know is that this is affecting the choices their children make. They feel as though talking about sex may encourage their children to have sex which actually is informing them to practice safe sex in the future. Children can’t speak to their parents about sex because they were raised to not have sex till marriage. This discourages young Latinas to talk to their parents about sex.

          Young Latinas are constantly put into social and religious pressure when making choices. Why do people always have to decide for them? Young women have the right to decide for themselves and they should know that. They should know that if they’re pregnant they can decide whether to have they baby or not. They should also know that there is access available for birth control and std testing for them, race, social status, or color doesn’t matter. Most of the Latino’s religion is Catholic which makes a young Latina’s choices limited. They can’t have sex until marriage, they can’t have an abortion, and so on. These types of limitations makes Latinas think that having sex before marriage makes them look dirty so they rather not talk about it. Embarrassment or the feeling of getting judged about talking sex has come from families that don’t talk about sex. This makes it so much harder for girls to go look for help, support, and obtain accurate information. Having sex doesn’t make anybody a bad person. Sex is normal and if a young women is ready to have sex she should know how to protect herself and her partner from unplanned pregnancies, and std transmissions. Everyone has the right to have and know their choices.

          The media usually portrays Latina women as unintelligent and getting pregnant at an early age. For example in the movie Quincienera a young 15 year old Latina has an unplanned pregnancy. Her character shows that she knew nothing about sex. When young Latinas watch this movie, they seem to be watching an “unintelligent person”. This is definitely not the type of role model young Latinas need. They need an encouragement from a smart educated Latina but the media tends to rarely show positive models for Latinas.

          Ever since I started my internship in the Cuidate Program I notice how much help the Latino community needs with sex education. Starting with my school peers I noticed the lack of sex education. Lately I have been trying to inform almost every girl about reproductive justice that I encounter that seems to lack sex education. I try explaining their rights as a young women, sexual awareness, and how sex doesn’t make you a bad person. I enjoy informing young women about sex because I know I’m doing a great thing. I know that everything I explain to them will be spread and eventually lead them to make better decisions. I started to talk to the 9th graders that I tutor at my high school. I asked them if their parents talked about sex and what they think about their children having sex. Most of them responded that they weren’t aloud to have a boyfriend and they were expected to marry virgins based on their parent’s religion morals. Something that caught my attention was when a girl said she hasn’t had her period. I asked her if she has gone to the doctor with her mom. She said “ It feels really uncomfortable talking to my mom because she never talks about sex related things” I told her about reproductive justice and how she has rights to know about her body and what to do with it. I told her there was a free clinic at school available and completely confidential. I encouraged her to go and see a doctor and ask her concerns about her delayed period. She responded “ I feel weird telling a doctor that I haven’t had my period. What if I’m the only one in the school that doesn’t have her period? Isn’t the doctor going to think that I’m asking a stupid question? Can I even go to the doctor for that?” I told her not to worry that the doctor isn’t going to judge her and that doctors see all sorts of patients with different problems. To encourage her and make sure she went to the free clinic I told her I would be more than welcome to go with her to the clinic. I lead her to the clinic and she got an appointment. I told her to tell her friends to tell their friends about reproductive justice and to take advantage of the free clinic available at school. When we came out of the clinic she said thank you. Those two words meant a lot because I know that at least one person now knows more about sex and she’ll be making better decisions in her life. By just telling her I am sure she will tell her friends and her friends are going to tell their friends and eventually the word reproductive justice will mean something for those young women from Latina backgrounds. I will continue to spread the word and keep being an advocate and provide information about HIV, safe sex awareness, and the importance of reproductive justice within the Latino community.

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I have recently been hired as the staff member who works with the Broward County Youth Council. I am in awe of the work the students on the council have already accomplished. Bringing comprehensive sexual health education to Broward County schools is a daunting task, one that they have faced with absolute determination.

Before becoming part of this collaboration between Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth, I was a Community Health Educator for Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast. As an educator, I became painfully aware of the need for comprehensive sex-ed in our schools. Talking to teens about sex and hearing first-hand the misconceptions and misinformation they had about sex and about their bodies, only increased my resolve to ensure that all teens are given REAL sex education [hyperlink: bit.ly/REALSexEdpledge]

Sex education isn’t just about pregnancy and disease prevention; it’s about learning how to make informed decisions about your health and your life. In a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, we cannot afford to keep our teens in the dark. A lack of knowledge about sexual health can cost our teens their future.

By not providing the information to our teens about how they can protect themselves, we are endangering their lives. The majority of teens that I have encountered can’t tell you the different ways that HIV can be transmitted, or they don’t know about the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and the fact that it can cause cancer in both men and women.

When we give teens knowledge about their sexual health, we are giving them the tools they need to stay healthy and have a fulfilling life. The Broward County Youth Council is made up of teens and young adults who are a part of the community in Broward County. They understand the need for Real Sex education better than anyone, and that is why they are so passionate about their work. Every member knows that this information can affect their lives, the lives of their friends, and the lives of everyone in their community. I am really excited to work with the BCYC and to help them bring comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education to Broward County schools!

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My friend has taught his three daughters, aged six to 11, never to sit on any man’s lap, for they may be unaware of the effect they may have on the man.

I am impressed with his ability to protect his daughters from unnecessary risks.

Thirteen years ago, when my eldest son was 12, he was invited to go swimming with a stranger. He agreed but informed us first.

We confronted the stranger and, needless to say, were glad that they did not swim together.

The American Psychological Association estimates that 60 per cent of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members – i.e. family friends, babysitters, childcare providers and neighbours.

Child pornographers and other abusers who are strangers may contact children via the Internet.

While I do not have the data for Singapore, I feel that parents must take proactive steps to protect their children before it is too late.

My children have been trained to know that sexual advances from adults are wrong. We tell them what are "okay" and "not okay" touches, that no one must touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We maintain open communication, encourage them to ask questions and talk about their experiences.

After their eighth birthday, they can ask anything about sex. Before that age, they should just accept our instructions.

Some of their questions included how babies are formed, why men masturbate, whether a girl can have sex without getting pregnant and why watching pornography is wrong when most of their friends are already doing so.

One of their acquaintances even boasted that his supply of porn DVDs came from his father. Another child, who is 12, downloaded porn on his iPhone and shared it with his friends. It is a step away from acting out what they see.

Children are curious by nature.

So, parents need to answer these questions, not abdicate responsibility to schools, trusting naively that a few lessons on sexual education is enough.

These lessons provide only information, with no assurance that children would make the right decision as to their sexual experiences.

Children often act based on their attitudes towards an issue, attitudes anchored in a family’s beliefs.

Different families have different beliefs, but some are common to all, for example, that our bodies are not objects to be toyed with.

Other beliefs, like on contraception, abortion, divorce, the role of masturbation, visiting a prostitute, are more challenging.

Adults compromise on some of these but may be unhappy if their children follow suit.

Parents have to examine their fundamental beliefs about sex and sexuality and walk the talk. Children are sharp; they know when we are insincere.

If they do not think us trustworthy in this aspect, they would seek other sources of information, such as friends, the Internet or adult magazines

Sex education is parents’ most important gift to children, as any misinformation may harm their health in the form of sexually transmitted diseases.

We should start as soon as possible to inoculate our children against pedophiles.

Source: www.todayonline.com

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While going through the course of health education in Nepal, it’s really saddening to see the syllabus as the main focus for sexual health and reproduction is given in class 9. When I was studying, we didn’t actually have the details except the STDs and STIs mainly focusing on HIV/AIDS and reproduction system of male and female. But the time has changed and the young people are being more exposed to the issue of sexuality, sexual and reproductive health. Many people used to suffer due to lack of information but now they know it from other mediums like their friends, internet, TV, etc. if not given in their text. With this we can see that it is risky for the young people of our society to get wrong information and also get carried away with the peer pressure as it is the very main problem of adolescents.

It has been found that on an average boy starts masturbating from the age of 10-15. This shows that it is high time for them to know about themselves, about sexuality and their reproductive health during the class of 5 or 6. For this I think that education is a must thing. Adolescent find it difficult and awkward to talk about their growing pubic hair, growing of breasts, wet dreams, getting attracted to the opposite sex, etc. to their elders or parents. Especially for young girls, many boys and men try to take advantage of their innocence and sexually abuse or harass them and yet the girls can’t come and tell it to their parents unknowingly or knowingly because of awkwardness.

Sex education is a guideline for the adolescents to deal with their problems and fight for themselves. Because parents have a thought that their children will learn in school and teachers think that their parents will teach them at home. This leads for the youngsters to suffer and probability of getting the wrong information is very high. If they learn to cope up with the changes in themselves, it will be easier for them to deal with their life and help their friends or younger ones with their queries too. So Sex education is a must and also the content must be appropriate. Accordingly to the age and class the syllabus must be designed. The teacher, who is teaching health, should also be good. The teacher should make the classroom environment very friendly so that he/she should not feel awkward to talk to the students neither should students feel. If possible some extra knowledge should also be provided to the students rather from the text but should be appropriate to their age. Students should not find difficulty to ask their queries to teachers. This way the abortion rate will decrease, people will have a healthy married life and there will be control in population. The main change in our society will be the attitude of people. The word SEX will not be a taboo in our society which means that people will start talking about HIV/AIDS freely leading to the decrease of rate of infected people.

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Late last year, Congressman Trent Franks (R-AZ) introduced the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act of 2011 (aka PRENDA) to ban abortions on the basis of race and sex selection (more on that later). With PRENDA coming up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives today, anti-abortion hoax video auteur Lila Rose just happened to release a new video “sting operation” claiming to document sex selection at Planned Parenthood clinics. Because these totally-not-coordinated attacks on abortion access have nothing to do with each other, House Republicans made a last minute change to the bill – dropping “race selection” language completely*. Now, we just happen – totally a coincidence, we promise! – to have Congress voting on a “sex selection abortion ban” the day after a new “undercover sex selection abortion exposé” tries to hijack the news cycle.


On the surface, this legislation – along with similar bills in state legislatures – pretends to care about communities of color, who access abortion at higher rates than their White counterparts. If signed into law, PRENDA would impose civil and criminal penalties on health care providers who terminate a pregnancy for reasons of race and/or sex. In other words, this law would now make it illegal to have an abortion for a particular reason. By evoking the images of two iconic freedom fighters and using language borrowed from the Civil Rights Movement, Rep. Franks obviously hoped to distract us from his true intentions.

Let’s be clear – this is not about protecting women and girls.

So what are we really talking about? Sex selection consists of using a variety of medical procedures to ensure having a child of a preferred sex. It takes many forms, including sperm sorting, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis, and abortion. It’s based on the idea that sex equals gender, and gender equals expected social behaviors and norms. In societies where men enjoy a higher social status than women, there is enormous pressure on women to have sons, including threats and acts of physical, emotional and verbal abuse.

And the truth is banning sex selection does not protect women and girls from this pressure. In fact, it just reinforces the gender inequality that already exists.

Now you might think that Congressman Franks, if he really cared about ending this practice, would want to restrict all methods of sex selection. But you would be wrong. Because despite everything Franks says, this isn’t about sex discrimination or caring about female fetuses. This is an abortion ban in disguise.

Sex selection, however, is real and does take place in many countries around the world, including right here in the United States. Unlike what Rep. Franks proposes, we can discourage gender bias without undermining women’s reproductive self-determination and health care. We want women to be able to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. PRENDA is a ploy to weaken support for reproductive justice in communities of color by stigmatizing women of color’s reproductive choices and saying they are not fit to make these decisions in the first place.

As reproductive health, rights and justice activists, if we really care about the lives of women and girls, we should focus on dismantling the gender stereotypes that drive the pressure to have sons. We should ensure access to comprehensive sex education and the full spectrum of reproductive health services.

We have a saying in Spanish, “Yo te conozco bacalao, aunque vengas disfrazado.” (“I know you, codfish, although you come disguised.”) Despite his newfound concern for women of color, Congressman Franks doesn’t fool me. He can hide behind the legacies of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass and co-opt human rights language, all he wants, but that doesn’t change his real agenda. He wants to ban abortion. Period. And I see through his disguise.

* Even though race selection seems to have been dropped from the bill – for now – it’s worth touching on the topic for a moment since most of these bills propose banning abortion in the case of sex and/or race selection. RACE SELECTION DOES NOT EXIST. It’s not real. Race selection is a bogeyman made up by anti-abortion activists to attack women of color, especially Black women. Women of color experience unintended pregnancies and abortions at higher rates than White woman. You and I probably understand that is because women of color have less access to reproductive health care services, including contraception, resulting in higher rates of unintended pregnancies. To anti-abortion activists, the higher abortion rates mean that women of color are terminating pregnancies because they do not want to have babies of color. Abortion opponents say any abortion by a woman of color is tantamount to genocide. But to paraphrase reproductive justice activist Loretta Ross, “What Black woman doesn’t know she’s having a Black baby?”

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During an interview with KOAT-TV earlier this month, the Chief Medical Officer of the New Mexico Department of Health was asked about the stunning, 50% increase in cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia among teens compared to this time last year. As graduations are celebrated and summer begins, New Mexico also finds itself at the top of Guttmacher’s list of highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation. In light of these numbers, the reporter from KOAT asked Dr. Erin Bouquin a simple question.

Reporter: What are you guys trying to tell kids?

Bouquin: Use condoms. Condoms are very, very important in controlling sexually transmitted diseases.

Reporter: And abstinence?

Bouquin: Abstinence. I like the ABCs: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Birth Control.

One hour after the interview aired, Bouquin received an e-mail, asking her to meet with Catherine Torres, the state’s Health Secretary. It was during this meeting that Bouquin was asked to resign because she “didn’t meet the governor’s expectations.”

Yet, when questioned about the resignation, both Governor Susana Martinez and the Department of Health both denied any connection between the interview and Dr. Bouquin’s resignation. Scott Darnell, the governor’s spokesperson, even went so far as to say that Bouquin’s comments on birth control did not conflict with the governor’s views.

The governor is a proponent of taking a balanced and multi- pronged approach to controlling the spread of sexually transmitted diseases; there is nothing in Dr. Bouquin’s interview that would conflict with that approach.

If you‘re not buying this, you’re not alone. The now-former Chief Medical Officer believes the reason she was asked to leave couldn’t be clearer.

On the day I was asked to leave, I said the word condom three times on the news.

In an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, Bouquin says that the department is “becoming more political,” and explains that it’s “recently applied for Title V federal funding that stresses abstinence-based sex education.”

Yet, I do see a silver lining here.. Even though the state “does not mandate sex education or regulate its content if taught” (with the exception of information on HIV), and apparently just forced someone to resign for advocating safe sex, they still felt the need to cover up why she was forced to resign, fearing it would make them “look bad” if it was clear that they got rid of her because she said in public that condoms prevent the spread of STIs and STDs.

A 2000 poll commissioned by the New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition found that 90% of adults in the state support sex education for high school students, along with 78% supporting sex ed for middle school students. I believe it is this overwhelming acceptance of sex education that contributed to Governor Martinez making the baseless claim that she prefers a “multi-pronged approach” to sex ed. As 90% of New Mexico could tell you governor, if condoms aren’t one of your “prongs,” you’re aren’t doing it right.

You can contact Governor Martinez through her website, or at 505-476-2200. There is also a petition up at Change.org asking for Erin Bouquin to be reinstated.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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It is us, who knows the twin aspects of early marriage and pregnancy; it’s them, whose minds are dumb on conservative traditional norms and values. Who believes if said that sexual excitement will be returning after teen as well? Who cares if said you got a virgin boy/girl even you married at 25 ages? Who believes you if said no children even after 2 years of marriage? These are all propounding questions still burning in the rural part of world. Though thought optimum sexual excitement during adolescent, there are also risk of complication and diseases during the sexual course. The old concepts and explanation about sex and sexual behavior has been changed, this credit goes to the sex education. The main medium for this in Nepal are: teachers, radio, newspapers, TV, Doctors and Health professionals. The fact sheet by WHO 2012 shows following facts:
• About 16 million girls aged 15 to 19 years and two million girls under the age of 15 give birth every year. Worldwide, one in five girls has given birth by the age of 18. In the poorest regions of the world, this figure rises to over one in three girls. Almost all adolescent births – about 95% – occur in low- and middle-income countries. Within countries, adolescent births are more likely to occur among poor, less educated and rural populations.
• An estimated three million girls aged 15-19 undergo unsafe abortions every year.
• In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years.
• Stillbirths and newborn deaths are 50% higher among infants of adolescent mothers than among infants of women aged 20-29 years.
• Infants of adolescent mothers are more likely to have low birth weight.
Several factors contribute to adolescent births, in many societies, girls may be under pressure to marry and bear children early, or they may have limited educational and employment prospects. In low- and middle-income countries, over 30% of girls marry before they are 18 years of age; around 14% before the age of 15. Moreover, married adolescents are likely to become pregnant and give birth in accordance with social norms.

Education, on the other hand, is a major protective factor for early pregnancy: the more years of schooling, the fewer early pregnancies. Birth rates among women with low education are higher than for those with secondary or tertiary education. There is a lack of sexuality education in many countries. A global coverage measure related to sexuality education estimates that only 36% of young men and 24% of young women aged 15-24 in low- and middle-income countries have comprehensive and correct knowledge of how to prevent HIV. Having babies during adolescence has serious consequences for the health of the girl and her infant, especially in areas with weak health systems. In some countries, adolescents are less likely than adults to obtain skilled care before, during and after childbirth. Pregnant adolescents are more likely than adults to have unsafe abortions. An estimated three million unsafe abortions occur globally every year among girls aged 15-19 years. Unsafe abortions contribute substantially to lasting health problems and maternal deaths.
After all, education on sex is thought to be with great responsibility. It is the way of having equity and understanding the sexual phenomenon, consequences of unsafe sex, and the overall healthy sexual life.

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 As a member of the Broward County Youth Council, I was responsible for getting students to complete surveys about sex education. We are trying to find out what information and education that students in Broward County are getting.
When we began surveying students, I was nervous about what people would say. It was challenging for me to stand in front of a classroom filled with students and ask them to to fill out a survey about sex education. It may be that I was more nervous about the maturity level they may or may not have. Thankfully, most students were excited to complete the survey. Of course there were some that weren’t keen on the idea, and that’s fine too. They weren’t mean and angry about the fact that I asked.
I was surprised the most by the fact that the students thought teens should older be when they received sex education. Girls were the majority that believed they wait to learn about sex when they are older. I was shocked that some students didn’t know that oral sex could transmit STIs (sexually transmitted infections) including HIV/AIDS. When the students finished the surveys, many would ask me questions and for advice on sexual health!
This experience has taught me a lot. I learned that there are too many young people don’t know basic information about sexual health or health care such as birth control. I am glad I had an opportunity to take part in the Broward County Youth Council this year. I enjoy helping people, and fighting for comprehensive sex education is definitely something that students need to protect themselves. I love the fact that I helped others gain that knowledge.
You can take the survey: http://bit.ly/HealthyTeensYouthSurvey
The Broward County Youth Council is a project of the Florida Healthy Teens Campaign sponsored by Planned Parenthood of South Florida and the Treasure Coast and Advocates for Youth. The purpose of the council is to advocate for comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education that provides teens with the information and skills for responsible decision-making. www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org<http://www.HealthyTeensFlorida.org>

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Deborah Paz helps to lead the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Texas at El Paso – a part of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI). Deborah is beginning her second year in this program and enjoys advocating for comprehensive sex ed and LGBTQ equality in her community

As a straight ally, I deeply care about LGBTQ equality and I often focus my activism on this issue. I’ve realized that I care about this issue so passionately because I truly believe no one should be punished for simply being themselves or for expressing who they are.

To me, homophobia/heterosexism means the belief in stereotypes and discrimination against LGBTQ people. It is part of a patriarchal society that deems certain people inferior and creates social normative barriers and stigmas toward different people. Homophobia, in my opinion, fails to address the natural essences and diversity of human sexuality. Many people believe that people are only supposed to be straight and they often use the ability of males and females to reproduce together as some sort of justification. Homophobia ignores the fact that diverse sexual urges and desires are real and can be for anybody!

Laws that regulate what a person does in their private lives completely disregard Thomas Jefferson’s eloquent proclamation that every person has the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". Homophobic/heterosexist laws take away our individual liberties without any substantial or compelling legal basis.

My support for the LGBTQ community not only revolves around the issue of marriage equality but also teaching all young people proper comprehensive sexuality education. When we are silent about the issue of LGBTQ-inclusive education, many young people are left to make wrongful assumptions which can lead to STIs and other consequences (all of which are completely preventable.) Teaching youth about sexuality means not only introducing contraceptives, but also including information on getting tested for STIs, understanding diverse sexual orientations, gender identity and healthy relationships. Without this, young adults can find it difficult to bring up this topic with their partner and they may face more difficulty with the rest of society. An LGBTQ-inclusive sex education would not only provide useful information for all students but it would also help to educate straight students about diversity which would reduce stigma and discrimination in our culture.

Supporting issues like equal marriage and comprehensive sex ed are great ways to create an inclusive society where people will not be shamed for who they are. These are big approaches that are gaining new momentum towards acceptance from a majority of society.
President Obama recently announced that he supports equal marriage. There is no doubt that this type of action can become controversial but it is exactly the kind of remark that can create a more open society towards people outside the hetero-normative assumption. Things are certainly getting better for LGBTQ individuals across our country and I believe that with progressive, grassroots organizing and inclusive education an LGBTQ-friendly society can be realized.  

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The destiny of every nation, village and community lies in the hands of its people and is closely linked to their intellectual development. All the nations, villages and communities we admire, hail or despise today are only a fruit of its people’s concern or complacency to partake in their nation, village and community development efforts.

Education and especially that of the girl child is one of these development efforts from which people in rural and urban communities in Cameroon are being excluded. Consciously or unconsciously, an ever increasing number of young girls are, because of pregnancy, being refused their rights of belonging to a community, their right to education is continuously abused, and they are restrained from taking part in community developmental activities.

A Policy Based on Stigma and Rumor

In Cameroon, the dismissal of a girl that is pregnant is inscribed in the internal rules and regulations of almost all schools (primary and secondary). Based on these internal rules which have no legal backing, pregnant teenage girls are dismissed daily from these schools on grounds that, they will serve as bad examples to the other girls in the school, and soil the reputation of the educational establishment.

Waves of shock and anger ran through my family last month when Regine, an 18 year old extended family member, was dismissed from school on grounds that she was pregnant. Dismissed from school in Lower sixth (last but one year in secondary, Regina was no doubt luckier than the 57% of pupils in Cameroon who do not survive to the last grade of primary school; a majority of them being girls (UNICEF).But she is also undisputedly very unlucky in that, prospects of her completing secondary school have been greatly compromised by her purported pregnancy and above all her dismissal from school. Did you get it right? I said purported pregnancy because it has turned out that Regine is not pregnant. Yet she will not be readmitted into her school or any other in the village.

Regina’s case is just one in a thousand of such cases whereby, based on rumor and hearsay, the future of girls in Cameroon is sacrificed on the Alter of morality and Puritanism.

Dismissing Pregnant Girls Robs Them of Their Education Forever

According to statistics from the German Cooperation Agency (GTZ) in Cameroon, 20 -30% of young mothers had unplanned pregnancies with more than half of these girls becoming pregnant after their first sexual encounter, and 25% of them dropping out of school permanently. This, coupled with my observation that a majority of girls dismissed from schools on grounds of pregnancy, rarely ever go back to school, poses a problem of the effectiveness of sex education in the Cameroonian educational system and the raison-d’être of practices like these which makes the school not the safe haven it is meant to be but an environment where exclusion, intolerance, hypocrisy, and terror reigns supreme.

While I agree that teenage pregnancy has to be discouraged, I fiercely oppose the approach to achieving this goal which consists of dismissing pregnant teenagers and advocate for an approach that ‘Manages’ rather than ‘punishes’ teenage pregnancy.

Educating on SRHR: A Shared Responsibility

An efficient management of teenage pregnancy is only possible through the education and sensitization of young boys and girls on their Sex and Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR).In my opinion, this approach is even more inclusive and just when the responsibility of educating children on their Sex and Reproductive Health Rights(SRHR) is shared by all the stakeholders in various communities.

There exist a host of cultural and religious taboos in most rural communities in Cameroon, makes sex education to a considerable proportion of people living in these communities a source of moral decay and a means of making children indulge into sex early. Viewed with a bad eye by most traditional and religious authorities, the restriction of lessons on sex education to basics is the order of the day in Cameroon.

A study carried out by the Germano-Cameroonian Health Program (SRJA), reveals that 62 % of girls who admitted having had an abortion had given birth before the age of 19, and 10% before the age of 16.A majority of these girls did not do any pre-natal medical consultations with 26% of them girls having contracted a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the previous year. Frightening, no doubt, are the above facts and figures are, even more frightening is the number of girls who die while having an abortion in the towns and villages of Cameroon. How many of these poor outcomes could good sex education and contraceptive access have prevented?

Dismissal: Not a Solution; the Source of More Troubles

To reduce the horror caused by unsafe abortions in Cameroon, Sex and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) should be given the place it deserves in the school curricula. The way sex education is currently being done in schools across the country is very shallow with pupils and students limited on to the concepts around sex while they are not taught their Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.

In addition to the above, the exclusion of teenage mothers from society through dismissal from school and isolation is a problem rather than a solution. Rather than constantly telling pregnant teenagers that they are a disgrace to their family, their church, or community, they should instead be shown that they can a play a fundamental role in the development of their communities.

The impact of the stigmatization of teenage mothers and the dismissal of pregnant teenagers from schools thus goes beyond just negatively affecting their ability to exercise their right to education, but is having a huge impact on the sexual and reproductive health rights of girls in rural communities in Cameroon. Action that is inclusive is needed if development efforts of each and everyone are to be counted. Because in my opinion, the dismissal of pregnant teenagers rather than being a solution has been the source of many more troubles for communities in my country.

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Working with the Healthy Teens Campaign’s Broward County Youth Council (BCYC) was such an inspiring experience. I was so impressed and excited by the council members’ passion and dedication to have comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sex education in their schools in Broward County.

I have worked with volunteers and elected officials for more than 10 years, and seeing the Broward council members in action surprised and impressed me. Their passion and knowledge about the need for real sex education was better than some professionals.

The BCYC’s big project this year was a county wide survey of Broward County schools’ current sex education programs; as well as students’ current knowledge and what they would like to learn. There were many challenges and obstacles. Many schools did not want the council members collecting surveys at school. But the council members rose to the occasion and reached out to their peers, distributed surveys at their after school activities, and through social media outlets. They even created a video to encourage students to participate.

The past year has been a learning experience for not only the students but also me! I may even have gotten more out of the experience than the council. The biggest realization I am taking away is that if given the opportunity and the tools to meet their goals, the sky is the limit for our young activists!

While our work has only begun and there is still much to do; I can’t wait for the day all public schools in Broward County have comprehensive, medically accurate, and age appropriate sexual health education due to the hard work of the work Broward County Youth Council!

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I gave out the last condom today, meaning "Mission Condom Distribution" is complete. While some people sought me out to ask for condoms (as was the case for number 500), most of the condoms were given out at a school event called "One Big Sex Night" which featured a group sex therapy show and sex education. Although not every attendee agreed with what was said by the socio-comedian who hosted the event, almost all of them took interest its free condoms.


I had talked with my school’s University Program Board (who sponsored the event) and helped set up a table filled with free condoms as well as flyers for the Great American Condom Campaign and Trojan’s instruction sheets. It was great to see people’s interest and curiosity toward a table littered with condoms and spread the word about safe sex.

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Today is the last day of classes, and of course I’m happy to be done with classes (currently pretending there are no finals)  but I’m also thinking back to everything we’ve done this semester! This was my fourth semester as president of the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter, a non-partisan student organization that aims supports religious freedoms, civil liberties, and strong public schools. Here’s a group picture from one of our meetings, aren’t we just the cutest activsts you ever saw? I know we are :)

I’ve summed up most of our events with a few highlights and pictures below, and I know that more than anything it’s been an incredible semester and I can’t wait to come back in the Fall!

Party with Darwin!
This was our first event of the semester, which consisted of two parts: 1) celebrating Darwin’s birthday by eating cake (of course!) and watching Kansas vs. Darwin, and 2) some good old fashioned craftivism where we turned plain old condoms in to condom roses for our Valentine’s Day condom distribution and petition drive! We had a great turnout, just over 40 students came to hang out and many signed up for our Valentine’s Day event too!

One of our birthday cakes for Dawin’s birthday! Not only was it adorable (thanks to our officers), but it was also delicious and vegan! 

Some student chapter members creating condom roses by wrapping red cellophane around a condom, securing with tape, and then adding a green pipecleaner! Instant romance!

Our super adorable outreach coordinator, Julian Villarreal, posing with a heart made of condom roses! What a beautiful sight!

Valentine’s Day Petition Drive and Condom Distribution
We know Valentine’s Day is the day of loooooove and often the day of looooooove making, so we wanted to make sure our peers had the condoms they needed to get it on (if they choose to!) and also used the opportunity to collect petition signatures in support of medically accurate, comprehensive sex education! We collected over 200 petitions and mobilized 18 students to volunteer with us! This is an annual tradition for us, and always tons of fun :)

Getting some signatures! We had tons of condoms that we crafted to look like roses (that’s whtat you see on the table) which students loved, we distributed every condom we brought with us AND collected over 200 petition signatures!

Students for Birth Control Rally with Cecile Richards
We were lucky to partner with University Democrats, Planned Parenthood of Austin, and Voices for Reproductive Justice to hold a rally in support of contaceptive access. Even better? Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and founder of the Texas Freedom Network, came as a guest speaker and I got to introduce her after my rally speech! I was absolutely terrified to speak in front of almost 200 people and tons of news cameras, but it was a great experience and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!

The crowd beginning to gather outside of our tent. Even the rain couldn’t keep these young activitsts away! Planned Parenthood supplied the rally with cool activist signs from their Women Are Watching campaign, which many of us now have hanging up as art in our rooms!

Cecile Richards (YES!), our events coordinator Carisa Lopez, and myself after all of our rally speakers finished! Those are three very big smiles, we just couldn’t help ourselves after the heartwarming support from so many UT students!

Stand Up for Sex Ed: In-District Lobby Day
A small group of activists dedicated their Wednesday afternoon to talk to our representatives about why comprehensive sex education is important and how they can help to make comprehensive sex ed a reality for Texas students. First we gathered at the office where I facilitated a quick lobby day training, then headed to the Capitol. We met with State Senator Kirk Watson’s office and State Representative Elliott Naishtat’s office, who were both very supportive and gave us some great insight about who else we should target. 

It was a windy day at the Texas Capitol, which made posing for pictures a little difficult but just even more fun! Here a few of our young lobbyists pose in front of the Capitol after a successful meeting with Senator Watson’s office!

Forty Acres Fest 
Forty Acres Fest is a UT tradition where student organizations are invited to table in a carnival-like area with countless fun activities, live music, free food, games, and moonwalks! It was a great opportunity to reach out to new students we haven’t worked with before, and it was tons of fun! We set up our table with a cardboard cutout of Rick Perry, our current governor and the second largest support of failed abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (George W. Bush is still #1 though!) so that students could write him a message and stick it to him, literally, with a sticky note. In addition to our fabulous Perry cutout, we also collected petition signatures and signed up new students!

Everyone loved the Rick Perry cutout!

A student writes his message to Rick Perry, clearly further evidence that expecting abstinence until marriage is not realistic!

Leadership Development Institute
Last, but certainly not least, we tied together the semester with a civic engagement training hosted by the Texas Freedom Network to get everyone ready for voter registration and elections in the fall! We’re now full trainined in voter registration drives, voter pledge cards, phone banking, block walking, State Board of Education issues, and already have an outline of events for next semester!

Getting settled in to our seats and ready to learn! How much coffee does it take to get 35 college students to pay attention early on a Sunday morning? LOTS. OF. COFFEE!

Some hilarious block walking role play! Good for a laugh and even a few teachable moments!

The semester is over, but we’ve only begun planning for next semester! Stay tuned for updates and have a safe summer :)

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Garrett Mize is the Youth Advocacy Coordinator at the Texas Freedom Network and heads up the Texas Student Leadership Council, a part of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative.

Summer is so close, you can almost feel it. At least you can certainly feel the heat of the summer sun here in Texas. Summer means one thing – another semester is coming to an end. It has been an amazing semester in Texas for our Cultural Advocacy Mobilization Initiative (CAMI) youth leaders. Each of them lead a Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter on their campus and they have accomplished a great deal to support comprehensive sex education and equality.

In-District Lobby Days
The Texas Legislature meets every other year. Last year we brought 75 young people to the Capitol from across the state to lobby for comprehensive sex ed. But in an off-session year, what is a statewide youth movement to do? We coordinated a statewide, in-district lobby week for our student chapters. In each city, our students set up visits and met with the legislative staff of their state representatives and state senators to convey one message: support comprehensive sex ed! We’re proud to say that 27 young people participated in in-district lobbying and we know that this will help keep the issue of comprehensive sex ed legislators’ minds until next session.

School Health Advisory Councils
While many of our CAMI leaders serve on their School Health Advisory Councils (SHAC), which are voluntary groups that advise local school districts on what approach to take regarding sex ed, one CAMI leader in particular had immense success. Olac Fuentes joined the El Paso Independent School District SHAC and eventually began serving on the teen pregnancy prevention committee. On the committee, he helped to guide his fellow members to support comprehensive sex ed curriculum and abandon ineffective abstinence-only programs currently being used by the district. The committee took the recommendation to the full SHAC, and with Olac’s help, the recommendation was approved! We are currently waiting on the EPISD board of trustees to approve the recommendation but it is likely that they will. Way to go Olac! A great example of local advocacy at its finest.

University of Houston Let’s Talk About Sex Screening
Our Student Chapter at the University of Houston (UH), led by CAMI member James Lee, recently hosted a screening of Let’s Talk About Sex on their campus with a panel discussion afterward. The event was well attended and even received coverage by the school newspaper. The students’ favorite part of the film was when the attitudes of American youth were compared to the attitudes of youth in the Netherlands.

Leadership Development Institutes
This semester we hosted three Leadership Development Institute (LDI) trainings, at the University of Texas at Brownsville, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso. We had approximately 30 young people attended each training. They learned extensive information on grassroots organizing and civic engagement. In particular they learned tactics like voter registration, block-walking (canvassing) and phone-banking. Each of our student chapters will be using these skills through the next semester to register thousands of students across Texas to vote. In 2010, Texas ranked dead last – 50th – in voter turnout. And in most major urban areas, less than 1 out of 5 young people voted. The voice of young people needs to be heard in order to raise the issue of sex ed in political discourse. In particular, our student chapters will be educating students about the State Board of Education and their power to create curriculum standards and adopt textbooks for Texas’ nearly 4.8 million public school students. The state of sex ed is so bad in Texas that currently the word “condom” is not even mentioned a single time in any of the three major health textbooks. It’s time for that to change.

White House Young American Series

Recently some of our student chapter leaders participated in the White House Young American Series with Ronnie Cho, the President of the United States’ Liaison to Young Americans. This town hall event was meant to explore the issues that young people care about. UH CAMI leader James Lee was in attendance and brought attention to the need for comprehensive sex ed. TFN Student Chapter members from UT Austin also attended, and the TFN Student Chapter at UT San Antonio participated online.

Kiss for Equality
The fight for equal domestic partnerships for faculty and staff has been an ongoing campaign at the University of Houston for some time. Currently our Student Chapter President James Lee is leading an effort to keep this issue relevant to decisions makers on campus. James organized an awareness event with hundreds of young people on Valentine’s Day. His student organization made rally signs supporting equal domestic partner benefits and they hosted a “kiss in” – a flash mob of sorts where hundreds of diverse couples were encouraged to kiss at the same time to demonstrate their support. It received front-page attention from the campus newspaper and has helped keep the conversation about equality strong in Houston.

As you can see, it is has been a busy semester for us in Texas, but there is still plenty of work to be done!

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 In order to achieve sustainable development we need to take into consideration not only environmental and economical, but also social issues. Only through taking into account the intersectionality of these issues, we can talk about sustainable development.

Yes… alternative resources of power, sustainable agriculture, ecobusinesses are for sure important. But the issues of birth control, family planning, human population control and reproductive/sexual health/rights in general are of the same importance for sustainable development.

However, in this blog entry I want to touch the importance of sex education in sustainable development. Sex education helps to build such very important character trait as responsibility, which is important for sustainable development. If a person is responsible for his reproductive health, sexual life and sexual behavior, then it’s more likely that he will take responsible actions for environmental sustainability and they more likely avoid overexploitation and overconsumption.

It’s very important to introduce sex education along with sustainable development classes at schools in Kyrgyzstan. Now we do not have either state-recognized programs for both sex education and education in sustainable development.

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 Dear 15-year-old Emily,

First of all, kudos for you for getting the HPV vaccine (and kudos to your mom for being so awesome by supporting it)! It’s all about preventative care. About now you are finishing your freshman year of high school and, wow, has it been intense.

Your best friend will reveal to you that she had decided to have sex with her boyfriend who’s also a freshman. At this point the only sex education either of you have had was in middle school and that was just anatomy. You’ll have to wait until next year to learn about condoms, STIs, and to watch an awkward breast self-examination video. Your friend’s chosen method of birth control is called the “pull-out” method? (Um… FYI it’s completely unreliable at best.) She doesn’t know about anything else. I’m not gonna tell you if she gets pregnant or an STI.  You’ll just have to educate yourself the best ways you can figure out and do your best to explain to your friends that they need to too. Forget the whole thing about young people giving “bad” information. You’re probably the best source of education most of those girls will ever have.

You are a lucky girl; your parents are all about education. They will answer any questions you have (and your dad will make it uncomfortable, but he can’t help it). You are in the minority of teens whose parents are open about sexual health. You lucked out.

My advice to you would be to share that knowledge with your peers: those who are not able to speak with their parents about sex and those who are at risk for teen pregnancy, or STIs, and not to mention the emotions that go along with sex. You should start practicing now, because you’ll be a part of SWARM in college. There you’ll continue to educate your peers and convince them the “pull-out” method ain’t got nothing on condoms! But you’re gonna do even better than that… you’re going to change things. You’re going to be one of thousands of sparks to ignite a change where you live. You’re going to help make sure that no 9th grader ever uses the “pull-out” method without knowing that she should be using a condom.

Keep your head high. There’s a lot more going on than sex, though that seems to be what everyone’s doing and talking about. Your history test, for instance, next week is going to get you grounded unless you actually sit down and read the chapter!

Oh, one last thing—You’re awesome in every way.

With love, 21-year-old Emily


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In a casual discussion with some of my girlfriends, we began talking about our sex lives and attitudes. Though we all were of the same age group, two of my friends would not contribute to the discussion with something more than a giggle or a smile to compliment what some other person is saying. When this attitude of theirs was taken note of, some of us demanded to know why they were so dormant and would not say a word to ad to the discussion. It was then that one of them disclosed that she didn’t think sex was an issue to be discussed publicly and as a result of that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking about it. Then I began thinking of if this should really happen nowadays. Taking into consideration the fact that so many young people get involved in sexual activities for several reasons such as financial and to some extent peer pressure, not mentioning that about 70% of commercial sex workers are made up of young people, questions could not stop popping into my head. This being the case if abstinence from sexual activities is so difficult for young people, then the remedy should be sex education. As a matter of importance, sex education should be highly encouraged and should not only be limited to the responsibilities of a teacher or teachers but should also stretch to the responsibilities of parents, health officials, religious personalities, peers and everyone. People should feel more comfortable talking about sexual issues to help young people learn more and be aware of the positive and negative consequences they will, they are getting involved with when and if they decide to. Young people should also feel comfortable talking about these issues themselves to help each other by getting information which they maybe did not previously know about.

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Last week, a student of mine in Kindergarten in the Elementary school I work for showed his “private area” to another male student, while singing, “I’m Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO. I asked him where he learned to do that and he simply said he learned it from television.

Two weeks ago, two girls in 2nd grade were discussing the difference between animals who lay eggs and animals who do not. The girls stated that guys release sperm in the mom and they get pregnant and have the baby 9 months later with a belly button, whereas animals that lay eggs do not.

Though this is somewhat accurate, these two girls were well aware of the biological steps to reproduction, a discussion that is awkwardly saved for them in junior high school. When I asked where they learned this information, which I assumed would be from their parents, I was quickly caught off guard when they said they saw it on Family Guy. An cartoon television series that is known for it’s offensive, adult humor that is definitely not suitable for children.

It is clear that these two examples are definitely eyebrow raisers for concerned parents. Though I wish I could teach them about comprehensive sex education, it is not my place to. That is saved for the awkward pubescent stage in junior high, in which girls and boys are already exploring their bodies and sexual drives. These situations make me ponder…

Is elementary school too early to discuss comprehensive sex education?

From my personal experience of working with school-age youth, many children, ages 5-11, are well aware of the emotional and physical concepts of being in a relationship and “liking” someone. Many of the youth ask me if I like my co-worker or who my boyfriend is and often tease me about kissing someone of holding someone’s hands. Many boys and girls go around looking to see who likes them and have a steady boyfriend/girlfriend (sometimes more than one!) for a few days. Oftentimes, they break up and move on to the next one, but nonetheless know the basic steps of being in a relationship, despite their maturity level.

As I observe these behaviors, my mind races with curiosity of how things were in the past. Yes, these things happened in elementary school when I was a child. Seeing my peers “date” someone, kiss, and break-up. While many adults assume that children are still maintaining their innocent-like behavior, I find it quickly dissolving away as time goes on. Children retain information about sex and sexuality more than ever in songs, t.v, the internet, and seeing their parent’s behavior.

In my personal opinion, as children learn from the media and what they hear at home about sex, relationships, and sexuality, the same amount of information needs to be taught to them about sex, relationships, and sexuality.

When I say information, I do mean sex education that is age appropriate and encourages age appropriate dialogue.

I remember being 8 years old and my mother teaching me about the female reproductive system. When I asked her where babies came from, she kept it completely honest and did not hold anything back. She started from the beginning, telling me about puberty and sexual desires to having sex, getting pregnant, and having a baby. She then discussed the social aspects of being in a relationship, such as liking someone, the emotions associated with it, going steady, communication, and even heartbreak. My mother put everything into perspective for me that was easy to understand at my age. I completely respected her for letting me know as soon as possible. If I were thrown into a situation without her teaching me beforehand, I definitely would have made some risky decisions.

Whenever I speak to parents, I encourage them to talk to their children early about sex and relationships. Young children know more than everyone assumes and though they may not ask questions, they see it on a daily basis in advertisements, television, music, and the internet. Kids often put what they see to use and as a youth worker, I have plenty of examples to show for it.

I also do not want to discourage age appropriate sex education before junior high school. Some young girls are already going through their puberty stages before they transition to middle school, while young males are already beginning to question the their phases and are anticipating their own change. Perhaps this idea might be too radical for some, but I do believe that young children will find it more beneficial to be informed about their own bodies sooner rather than later.

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Are you a young person (14-24 years old) who is…

  • Passionate about fighting for young people’s rights to sexual health information and services?
  • Interested in connecting with youth leaders from across the country?
  • Dedicated to developing skills to make a difference in your community?

Consider applying for one of Advocates for Youth’s programs! See all of the available opportunities below.

If selected, you will have opportunities to: develop new organizing and leadership skills; become informed on sexual and reproductive health issues; connect with passionate young people from across the country; and have a lasting impact on your communities. You will also join more than 100 youth activists in Washington, DC for an intense four-day activist training institute free of charge!

Advocates’ youth activists have done amazing work this year. You can join them in:

  • Increasing HIV testing on your campus
  • Providing confidential support and resources to young people who are worried about coming out
  • Working with college administrators to make condom distribution more widely available on your campus
  • Mobilizing your peers around international family planning issues
  • Working to destigmatize abortion and ensure youth access to affordable birth control

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, check out the program descriptions below and apply today! Application deadlines are coming up fast.

Wait — I’m not a young person…

If you are a parent, teacher, or advocate who knows young people who are passionate about sexual and reproductive health and rights, please encourage them to apply today.


Julia Reticker-Flynn
Youth Activist Network Manager
Advocates for Youth

Campus Organizing Team

Advocates for Youth works with campus organizations to provide them with skills, information, and materials to conduct advocacy campaigns on their campuses. Each year, selected campus organizations are chosen to receive intensive assistance, including funding, advocacy and media training, materials for dissemination and on-going assistance to help educate, activate, and empower students on issues such as condom availability, LGBT rights, comprehensive sex education, abortion access, and HIV prevention/treatment among others!

Click here to complete the Campus Organizing Team application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

Young Women of Color Leadership Council (YWOCLC)

The Young Women of Color Leadership Council is composed of young leaders and activists who come together to promote a message of prevention and empowerment through a reproductive justice lens. All of the Council’s work is a collaboration of diversity and power, in the hopes of affecting a million more young women of color. The goals of the Council are to educate, include, and empower.

Click here to complete the Young Women of Color Leadership Council application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

YouthResource Peer Educators

YouthResource, a website by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) young people, explores issues of concern to GLBTQ youth. The Online Peer Educators provide affirmation and support to their peers, answer questions posed by visitors, and assist users to find the local resources they need. Peer Educators also write blogs, articles, and issue briefs for the YouthResource website, advocate for GLBTQ rights, and present at conferences on GLBTQ issues.

Click here to complete the YouthResource Peer Educator application. Apps are due May 10, 2012.

Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative (CAMI): State Activists

Advocates for Youth works with state youth activists in 8 target states (AL, CA, CO, FL, OH, NC, SC, TX) on youth leadership councils, which advocate for comprehensive sex education and other sexual health and rights issues in their communities. Their goal is to mobilize people in their states to fight for honest, responsible sex education and ensure that young people are listened to and have a voice within the debate. Click here to find out more about our state partners. Applications will be available shortly.

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The Broward County Legislative Briefing was a lively conversation between Planned Parenthood’s CEO Lillian Tamayo, Supporters, the Broward County Youth Council, and some of our champions in the Legislature Representative Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, Representative Hazel Rogers and Senator Nan Rich. They each spoke of 2012 legislative session and the importance of defeating all the anti-choice bills introduced each commented on the fact it was done through all groups joining together and our supporters passion.

The Broward Youth Council members, who are a group of 10 youth leaders that advocate for comprehensive sex education in Broward county schools, were able to give the elected officials an overview of their work in Broward County. Youth Council members enjoyed speaking to legislators on a face to face basis. Most importanly, the elected officials enjoyed having young, passionate voices in the room asking questions and providing comments. You can see some the youth council members in the photo above with elected officials. (From the left you see Tevin Dean, Representative Clarke-Reed, Jenny Dorval, Senator Rich, Flavia Franco, April Copeland, and Representative Rogers).

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On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a re-call election set for this summer, signed a bill passed down party lines by Republicans to repeal the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Yes- he decided to make it harder for women being paid an unequal amount to press charges against their employers. Apparently he and the Republicans in the state legislature believe that women don’t deserve to be paid as much as men. The repeal, supported by several major business associations, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Restaurant association, reverses an employee’s ability to “plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state court system,” and instead forces them to go before a federal court.

Reading about this, I asked myself: “Don’t we have federal legislation protecting an employee’s right to equal pay? How does this law comply with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?” What I learned was that the Ledbetter Act deals with revising the statute of limitations on when an employee can sue for unequal pay; it doesn’t deal with the process of how they do that. What it does say is that you can sue for unequal pay within 180 days of your most recent paycheck, extending the previous limitation of 180 days from your first discriminatory paycheck.

Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin state senator and “major driver of the repeal,” believes that “a huge number of the discrimination claims are baseless,” even though the 2009 law offered such confident protection to employees that zero lawsuits were filed against employers during the two years the law was in effect. Faced with the realities of the wage gap, though- which in Wisconsin is 78:100- Grothman explains the discrepancy as a difference in priorities and a different sense of urgency between men and women; not as discrimination.

During a recent interview, he referred to work done by Ann Coulter, which he claimed showed that the wage gap only effects married women. Even knowing this isn’t true, it’s problematic because it supports the assumption that married women, who are presumed to have children, obviously have better things to worry about than finances. This theory, however, was debunked by a 2007 study by the American Association of University Women.

“After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained,” it said. After 10 years in the workforce, there’s an unexplained 12 percent gap.

When asked for his response to such studies, Grothman dismissed the American Association of University Women as “a pretty liberal group,” and claimed that they overlooked things like “goals in life,” saying, “You could argue that money is more important for men.”

Saying that money is more important for men is like saying that paying the rent, buying food, and covering medical bills isn’t as important to women. It also plays to the stereotype that women want or need men who can fully support them financially, freeing them to do the un-paid “women’s work” like laundry, dishes, and childcare that they really wish they could do even more of.

Sarah Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, says that the new law is a “women’s health issue.”

"The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women’s health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access."

She makes an apt point, especially considering the long list of recent legislative attacks on Wisconsin women. This includes the defunding of Planned Parenthood, mandatory counseling sessions for those seeking an abortion, a ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion, abstinence-only programs that cannot include information on contraceptives, and a personhood amendment, each proposed or passed within the last year.

Kathleen Falk, a former Dane County executive and one of two Democratic frontrunners in the Governor’s re-call election, says that as a working mother, she understands the importance of economic stability for women.

"As a woman and as a mother who worked full-time while raising my son, I know first-hand how important pay equity and health care are to women across Wisconsin,"

According to her website, Ms. Falk “has been recognized for her three decades of public service and has received dozens of awards and recognitions” from various groups such as women’s organizations, LGBT and equality advocates, and domestic violence support groups. Her statement reminded me of another Wisconsin news story I heard about a month ago. It features our sexist friend, Glenn Grothman, co-sponsoring a bill with Rep. Donald Pridemore that would associate single parenthood with child abuse.

The bill says a child being raised by a single mother could be considered living in an abusive situation…

It would mandate the state Child Abuse Prevention Board conduct public awareness campaigns emphasizing that single parenthood is a leading cause of child abuse.

While being interviewed about the validity of the bill, Grothman spoke of his own research (without citing sources) that claimed an outrageous connection to sexual abuse.

"A child is 20 times more likely to be sexually abused if they are raised by say, a mother and a boyfriend, than their mother and father," Grothman said

He also voiced a conspiracy theory last summer that single motherhood was all part of the liberal agenda.

The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government,”

That makes no damn sense. And what a slap in the face to the single mothers of Wisconsin, who incidentally, make up one-third of parents raising children in the state. This Republican war on women is despicable. In Wisconsin, women are at a disadvantage to fight workplace discrimination, to get comprehensive sex education, to secure access to prescription medication and medical procedures, and to be given a level of respect as people and as parents, whether married or single. When will it end??

What makes it worse is that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that what they’re doing is abusive. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, recently said in an interview on “Political Capital with Al Hunt” that the war on women was as fictional as claiming we were having a “war on caterpillars.” Nice to know he’s taking this seriously.

In contrast, the Obama re-election campaign has spoken out strongly against these attacks. Responding to Chairman Priebus’ caterpillar comment, Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager said that this was yet another example of why women can’t trust Republicans to protect their rights.

“Reince Priebus’ comparison of Republican attempts to limit women’s access to mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and contraception to a ‘war on caterpillars’ shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health. … Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

And, in response to the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a campaign spokesperson called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has supported Governor Scott Walker, to tell the women of Wisconsin whether he agrees with the repeal.

"As he campaigned across Wisconsin, Mitt Romney repeatedly praised Governor Scott Walker’s leadership, calling him a ‘hero’ and ‘a man of courage,’" she said. "But with his signing yesterday of a bill make it harder for women to enforce in court their right to equal pay, Walker showed how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine not only women’s health care, but also their economic security. Does Romney think women should have ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers? Or does he stand with Governor Walker against this?"

The people of Wisconsin stood up at this time last year to fight against the Republican effort to restrict the rights of unionized workers, and in doing so they inspired the entire country. Considering the extreme attacks they are now pushing through against women, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the people of Wisconsin put up another great fight.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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While campaigning in Wisconsin for the upcoming primary, GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum was making a public appearance at a bowling alley to spend time among voters. One man who was joining in the game, described only as “young,” apparently picked up a pink bowling ball, only to be reprimanded by Santorum, who said, “You’re not gonna use that pink ball. We’re not gonna let you do that. Not on camera.”

There are so many directions I could go with my criticism of this. The first think that comes to mind, given Santorum’s “man-on-dog” history, is that he didn’t want anyone seeing video of their game to assume that he bowls in the vicinity of anyone that anyone could assume might be gay. The extension of this thought, though, is why a pink bowling ball might lead someone to think that the person using it is gay.

In current fashion, though not historically, pink is associated with a concept of femininity. The bowling ball assumption that the man is gay is based on the idea that “real men” only use objects painted in “masculine colors.” This means that if a man uses a pink bowling ball, he must not be a “real man”- which, to someone who would make this connection, is the same thing as assuming he’s gay.

But, again, why would a pink bowling ball lead someone to believe that? Basically- misogyny. If association with an object painted a “girly” color means that you are less of a person, that leads me to conclude that Rick Santorum believes that women are lesser people than men. That’s misogyny.

Santorum clearly believes that he as one man knows better than 150 million women who they should marry, if and when they have children, how many children they should have, if they should watch pornography, if they should be valued less than a fertilized egg, if they are free to practice a non-Christian religion, if they and their partner would make good adoptive parents, if they should be taught scientifically and medically accurate information in science and sex education, or if it’s just entertainment when women speaking publicly about reproductive health concerns are called sluts and prostitutes.

Rick Santorum told that young man in Wisconsin not to use a pink bowling ball because he couldn’t stand to be caught in the same room with a man who thought that touching something “feminine” did not diminish him as a person. It’s sick. That is absolutely unacceptable behavior from someone who wants to be President. If you don’t respect the majority of the people in this country, why do you even want to be President of this country? Is it because you think you can change us? Do you think we need to be saved? This is not leadership, Rick Santorum. This is misogyny and homophobia. These antiquated notions are not helping us move forward. They are holding us back.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Public school sex education is a huge deal. I don’t think most of the parents or teachers realize how huge of a deal it is. They might perk up and pay attention, but then again, maybe not. May be if they knew exactly what curriculum in what ways is being taught? Then they might would ask it to be more of a comprehensive and an age appropriate one.
I still remember my past clinging. When I use to be in my school days, all of us mates use to be timid when the teacher entered the class to give us lecture on “sex education”. The term itself was enough for us to behave peculiarly. Though the topic is intriguing still the culture that we follow makes it nebulous. And the most interesting fact is that the teacher himself would hesitate in front of us. As a result the chapter would be left untaught or half taught. Yes, that’s exactly what happens and I am sure every one of us might have same or a different story. So on with my question since this issue is fundamental why is it still neglected? It’s something that’s debatable and owes an answer. This issue might also turn into a blame game- “one blaming upon other”. But I think I have my own counter to this. I was wondering what people’s views are on the age children should start sex education in school. I personally don’t think my age group got any sex education at the appropriate age and the government seems to be putting off the idea by not revising the curriculum according to the altering requirements of the children. In my opinion, sex education should start as soon as puberty starts. Most important hormonal changes in our sexual lives start at puberty. Puberty starts somewhere between 8 and 13 for girls and 9 and 14 for boys. And prominently having being born in a Nepalese society it’s hard for us to approach to our parents in case of any queries that pops in to our mind regarding sexuality. That results psychological tribulations, cerebral tensions and depression. The earlier the better and the more comprehensive even more better. These days most teens lack sex education because parents feel shy to talk about sex and teachers think it is inappropriate to start sex education at a younger age. These days children as young as 12 are having sex because they think sex are fun! Not knowing the consequences. The curriculums that are taught here start as early as 4th grade teaching children about HIV. I am stunned and appalled. I have a 5th grader brother and I don’t think that children this young need to be taught about sex as explicitly as these curriculum teach them, and I certainly don’t think they have a need for HIV info either. Tell them about puberty and teach them from a scientific and medical standpoint about the changes that will occur in their bodies, but HIV . . .? I also find it very strange that in these curriculums the STD and HIV lessons are at the bottom. After they have talked to the kids about “touching,” “sexual exploitation,” “gender identification” and “sexual health and hygiene” then they will tell them, well you could get a disease. This is beyond ridiculous. I am so shocked by these curriculums, that I am just doing a little critique of them here.
Comprehensive Sexuality Education is a program that starts in kindergarten and continues through high school. It brings up age appropriate sexuality topics and covers the broad spectrum of sex education, including safe sex, STDs, contraceptives, masturbation, body image, and more. If this is the type of sex education your teen is receiving at school there may be times that you need to buffer some of the information, as it may have come sooner than your teenager needed it. Typically, most schools fall in the middle of the two types of programs. Either way, you will need to know what your teenager is being – or is not being – taught about sex and their sexuality. Then you can be prepared for their questions with the correct answers, and not leave it to their friends or the media to educate them and importantly not leaving them with psychological traumas.
Kriti Giri
Youth Activist Leadership Council

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     “Drinking toilet water can prevent pregnancy.” When I was reading an article named “100 weird daily life anecdotes” shared by my friends on the Chinese version of Facebook—Renren, this sentence, immediately caught my attention. “Gosh!” Said in my mind, I continued my reading of these 100 weird, “must-known” knowledge points. Then, sentences such as “having sex during menses will not lead to pregnant” all come up. So confused by whether people will believe these, I messaged my friends. “Well,” she replied quickly, “I don’t know, it sounds weird but if it works, then it is worth trying.”
     Chinese sex education was a problem and is still a problem even though some schools have already tried to improve it. When I was in middle school, I remembered to have a class, just one class, that we were told why girls had to suffer menses with all boys were forced to wait outside the classroom. Then when I entered my senior high, all my sex-ed was finished in my biology class where we learned the differences of male and female and the birth of a child. However, we never got the chance to learn things such as how to be in relationships, how to respect gender differences, and safe sex. So I always believed that first, be in a relation was bad because it was time consuming and would never end up good; second, sex was bad, and it was a thing I should never engage—unless I wanted to have a baby. However, the more forbid we got, the more curious we became. In my high school years, girls had to hide their sanitarian napkins in case guys teased them. Also, guys watched adult videos since they were so curious about sex.
     So, the outcome is quite foreseeable. Yesterday, I researched for the Chinese youth reproductive health survey, I got a report that produced by UN and the Chinese government in 2009. So I did some translation: (this is a survey conducted in 2009 in China, targeted on 164000000 young people aged 15-24)
_ Among them, 60% are comfort with having sex before marriage.
_ 22.4% have had sex before.
_ Among the 22.4% young people, more than half of them didn’t use any contraception method during their first time sex.
_ Among female youth who had sex before marriage, 91% of them were forced to conduct abortion.
_ And for the reproductive health service part, about 60% consulting services needs and 50% treatment needs are unmet.
_ Only 4.4% youth have correct understanding about reproductive health and only 14.4% youth have the correct knowledge about HIV prevention.
     So comprehensive sex-ed, we need it!

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Here at Amplify we believe that young people matter. A lot. When half of the world’s population is under 25, it is to everyone’s advantage — especially elected officials, decision makers, and members of the media — to listen closely to young people’s voices. But what are the issues that matter most to them?

During the next few months we’ll be posting blogs about Millennial viewpoints — who they are, what they do, and how their attitudes and beliefs are shaping our world. In fact, our first blog post was just published on Politico. Check it out, share it out, and comment. Also, please check out our new website section on AdvocatesForYouth.org about Millennials. It’s brimming with facts, polling data, and amazing infographics.

Millennials, young people 30 and under, are coming of age in a world vastly different from that of their parents and grandparents. The Millennial generation is diverse, technologically savvy, open minded, and committed to sexual health and rights. In fact, this generation may just be the most pro-sexual health generation in U.S. history and has the potential to put America on course to become a truly sexually healthy nation.

In 2012 there will be 64 million Millennial eligible voters, 29 percent of all eligible voters. Every year there are an additional 4 million new Millennial voters; by 2016 they will represent 36 percent of eligible voters and by 2020 they will represent just under 40 percent of eligible voters.

You would think that addressing the interests of young people would seem like a natural conclusion for politicians. And yet young voices are continuously pushed aside because many politicians refuse to engage young people on issues that matter to them.

And what’s a priority issue for young people? Sex.

They already favor a more pragmatic, comprehensive approach to sex education which means going beyond just talking about risk and disease prevention including the promotion of healthy relationships, effective communication and decision-making based on personal values. Based on their attitudes not only on comprehensive sex education, but marriage equality and reproductive health issues, Millennials could be the generation that finally ends the cultural wars on these issues and moves us to a sexually healthy nation.

Here’s looking at you, Millennials.

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With so many people claiming to be deeply invested in the sexual lives of unmarried young women, our culture is full of expressions and representations of values, priorities, preferences, expectations, definitions, judgments, and assumptions about virginity. Yet in all the conversation, how much of what we hear, or believe, comes from the women and girls themselves? Virginity is often framed in a rigid, black and white lens, yet the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of women and girls who have not had sex are varied, changeable, and at times even contradictory. Yet virginity is thought of as something that everyone understands and accepts to be, on some level, real. Today, what we call virginity is generally thought of in two ways: sexy or lame. The striking difference between these two ideas prompted me to think more about how and why such a dichotomy exists and what it means for and to the girls and women we apply this label to.

I want to start by looking into each interpretation. First: sexy. Why is virginity, understood to be the absence of sexual activity, considered sexy? Part of this paradox is inherent in virginity itself. It is understood in terms of what it is not, so it’s impossible to talk about virginity without also talking about sex. Unfortunately, what we culturally define as sexy, and even how we define sex itself, is still largely described and experienced from a male perspective. Virginity is theoretically female and theoretically sexy because of the way we understand male sexuality. Unfortunately, this shows that a girl or woman’s virginity is not about her, but about an idea, full of its own value and meaning, that someone else places upon her.

It’s hard to escape the language commonly used to define, explain, and often excuse the mental and physical aspects of male sexuality, but without understanding this language and the social structure it’s built on, we overlook the significance that male sexuality has on female virginity. Hanne Blank’s book, Virgin: The Untouched History, explores this connection.

The erotics of virginity are the priorities of patriarchal sexuality writ large. In eroticizing virginity, youth, physical nubility, ignorance, inexperience, fragility, and vulnerability are objectified from the perspective of someone who, by definition, is none of these things.
-p. 196

It likewise demands that no woman may be considered sexually real by herself, that it is only through the sexual action of a male partner that her sexually is truly summoned into being.
-p. 196

Virginity is thought of as sexy because men are told that virginity is something to be acquired and that it takes “a ‘real man’ to convert a virginal ‘little girl’ into a sexually eager ‘real woman’” (p. 195) When a woman’s sexuality is defined by what a male does to her or takes from her, her ability to define her sexuality and to decide for herself what her expression of that sexuality means is taken out of her hands. As long as men are allowed to be the deciding factor in female virginity, the way that we talk about the sexual appeal of women who have not had sex will be defined as what men are expected to think of as sexy.

And now onto the opinion that being labeled as a virgin is lame. This idea began to take shape in the 1960s era of “free love” and available, reliable birth control. Hanne Blank describes the emerging mentality this way:

Along the way, more and more women began to insist that female sexual pleasure was just as important as male sexual pleasure. Rather than using romantic commitment and marriage as their sole yardstick of a successful interpersonal life, some men and women took to gauging personal success on the basis of sexual experience.
-p. 231

…to many it was now seen as the difference between being “liberated” and being “hung up.” To actually be a virgin betrayed one as repressed.
-p. 231

Then, in the 1980s, the United States became the first, and remains the only, developed country in the world to “create a federal agenda having specifically to do with the virginity of it’s citizens,” set up to “teach specific sexual ideologies and behaviors” “upon a specifically Christian model of sexual morality.” Yet, recognizing that the term “virginity” had developed a negative or unwanted connotation, the legislation was tailored to be as deceptively acceptable as possible. “Virginity” was replaced with “abstinence.” You’ll probably be surprised that, in fact:

The word “virginity” appears nowhere in American legislation that deals with the ideal of “abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard.”
-p. 244

This was done under the impression that while virginity was viewed as an “oddity,” abstinence was about “virtuous self-control.” Importantly, it was a choice- one that even someone who had had sex could still make.

But it would be ridiculous to think that just because you call it abstinence, it isn’t still all about sex. And further, it would be naïve to accept that our apparent obsession with abstinence isn’t itself rooted deeply in patriarchy. We see this clearly in the fact that despite “90% of Americans support[ing] comprehensive sex education in the schools,” legislation on both the federal and state levels have “generated a top-down ideological program that rests neither upon the demands of extant laws nor upon the wishes of American voters.” (p. 244) When men make up 83% of Congress and 77% of state legislatures, men are the ones who dictate national priorities, including the language with which girls are told what their virginity means.

So where does this leave the girls and women who have not had (what most people consider to be) sex? What does it mean that regardless of their own desires and actions, they are viewed as sexy or desirable for a circumstance that is not necessarily under their control and of which strangers can associate any value or meaning without their control and even without their knowledge? What does it mean that even when they’re told virginity is something you want to get rid of as soon as possible (or, to stay “abstinent” as long as possible- as if virginity was a tangible thing to be given, traded, sold, or guarded) they are still not the ones who get to decide what virginity is, what it means to them, how they want to express themselves sexually, and what they understand their sexuality to mean?

It seems obvious to me that the fairest, most practical, and healthiest way forward is to put women and girls firmly in charge of their own sexuality. The past 100 years have shown enormous advances for feminism, but we have still to break the stronghold that patriarchy and religious ideology have on female sexuality. Virginity is a social construct- the only meaning or effect it has lies in what we assign to it. It is also ever-changing, which should give us hope that we will each eventually be able to view and discuss our sexuality as something more complex than “has she or hasn’t she?” and more personal than something that is assumed to be universally understood.

For more on the fascinating subject of our cultural attachment to virginity, I highly recommend Virgin: The Untouched History, by Hanne Blank.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Working in advocacy for LGBTQ equality, comprehensive sex education, and access to abortion, we’re used to people being against us. The recent attack on contraception, though, seems to have crossed a universal line. How could there actually be people in positions of power fighting against birth control?? It seems to have suddenly become a controversy. But there’s always been something about labeling things as “controversial” that’s bugged me. I think I now know how to explain what I mean by this.

It is my belief that despite the deeply partisan temper tantrums that elected Republicans have thrown over the past few years, that there are in fact very few things in the world of politics that are actually controversial. How can this be? I think calling something controversial has become too easy. It’s thrown out whenever there’s any kind of disagreement, and each time, it’s used to make the issue sound complex and interesting- something you should pay attention to. It would be easy to blame this overuse on cable news, as they have to work longer to keep an audience, but I think this habit has taken on a life of its own.

Calling an issue or action controversial has too often now been used to validate a debate that should be straight-forward. Just because there is a disagreement about something does not mean that it’s controversial. Example: Some people (including 21% of Republicans in Alabama) disagree with couples of a different race marrying each other. That does not mean that marriage equality for inter-racial couples is controversial. In fact, I would argue that these marriages were never actually controversial. An issue could only be defined as such if there are two (or more) genuine sides to it. Prejudice, ignorance, fear, racism, homophobia, and sexism (among others) are not genuine arguments. They may be felt genuinely, but none of them are legitimate reasons upon which to pass or reject laws.

That is why women having easy access to contraception isn’t controversial. To say that it is would only be an attempt to make an invalid argument seem relevant. We must demand truth and rationality in our discourse. It does us no good to waste time arguing over things that should be reasonably understood. We cannot let empty words distract us from the facts.

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts. – Nan Robertson

It has come to my attention once again about how much work needs to done in order to sensitize our male counterparts on gender inequality. Since the beginning, society has degraded women and has made them look as an inferior sex. At a Myths and Taboos session with some high school boys I observed that many of them think of women as simple objects of pleasure. They, on the other hand, consider themselves strong and worthy of having sex at anytime with anyone without fear of being labeled the way women are if they did the same thing. Why though? I strongly believe that it is really unfair for a woman or a girl to have to put up with all these negative stereotypes. Sexual relationships are an important and integral part of us as human beings. Feeling pleasure is not a sin, however ever since the dawn of humanity, the only ones who should enjoy sex are men; a downright ludicrous myth.

Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.
Jim Morrison

Many of the sex talk that is going around is influenced by the media and it is from there that many young people seek answers to their many questions concerning sex. It seems as if though the media, especially the internet, is the best and only reliable source when it comes to sex. While the internet may have some of the answers, it is not always consistent; it will always have the answers that you want to hear even if it’s not factual. The way women are portrayed by the media is one of the main reasons why women are viewed as objects. Although in many parts of the world, women’s sexuality is no longer seen as a taboo, pornography, magazines, songs and commercials is causing many men to treat women as things rather than as human beings with feelings.

To climb to the heights, sex education is not enough. We need to learn how to love. -Joseph & Lois Bird

Gender inequality exists all over the world in every society in different forms. Although every effort is being done to achieve gender equality, we the young people need to willingly accept gender equality as a way to foster the growth of healthy communities. Women are beautiful and we are no better than men, we are equal and as such men should respect us for who we are. The media can be very educational and it should not lead people to discriminate, stigmatize or hurt each other. As young people, let us not rely on the media to help us define our sexuality. The process of discovering our own, unique sexuality can be very exciting especially when we love and respect one another.

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Editor’s Note: This blog is part of the HERvotes blog carnival.

This week is the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and next week the Supreme Court will hear arguments from some states who are essentially trying to overturn the law for a variety of reasons.

While the Affordable Care Act is nowhere near perfect and in fact does some crappy things (sets us back on abortion and funds abstinence-only sex education programs to states for five years), there are quite a few positive advances for young people which we have listed below.

1. Young people can stay on their parent’s health insurance until their 26th birthday.
When the healthcare bill passed, young people were the largest group of the uninsured. In these economic times, not only has it been difficult for people (especially young people) to find jobs, but jobs that include health insurance. Being able to stay on your parent’s health insurance just makes sense. New data has shown that nearly one million young people have gained health insurance thanks to this provision.

2. Minors can’t be denied insurance coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Because of the new healthcare bill, minors cannot be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. This is great news for young people who have everything from asthma to HIV.

3. No co-pays for birth control.
In the year 2012, you’d think access to birth control wouldn’t be a big deal…but it is. Not all health plans cover contraception and even if they do, sometimes co-pays are too high to make contraception accessible. In fact, one study showed that more than half of young women experienced a time when they could not afford to use their birth control consistently.

Well, this is about to get better. Starting in August, plans will be required to not only cover contraception, but cover it with no co-pay. One exemption exists for houses of worship who oppose contraception. For religious-based organizations who oppose birth control, they are able to apply for a one-year waiver from the rule, meaning they would not have to comply until August 2013 and then the health insurance company covers the actual cost of the contraception. For groups that are self-insured, those rules are still being discussed.

And as we heard on Friday, this rule also applies to student health plans (yay!), some of which currently do not cover birth control. Student activists from across the country like Sandra Fluke and you have been fighting for a LONG time for this victory. Like with the employer plans, religious-affiliated universities may apply for a one-year waiver, but by August 2013, student health plans will also have to cover contraception making access one step closer to reality for young women trying to focus on their education. Check out other protections to student health plans that were also just announced by clicking here.

Let’s face it. Birth control can be expensive. If women, including young women, want to make the responsible decision to use contraception to prevent and unintended pregnancy, they should be able to access the services they need to do so.

These are just a few gains brought to us by the new healthcare law that have been implemented or will go into effect soon, but there is more to come…

1. No one will be denied coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
Whether it’s diabetes, cancer, pregnancy or domestic violence (I’m not even lying. Women have been denied coverage because they are survivors of domestic violence or are pregnant), starting in 2014, no one will be denied access to insurance coverage because of any pre-existing condition.

2. Medicaid expanded!
In order to make sure more people have access to healthcare, in 2014, Medicaid will be expanded to include all Americans who make less than 133% of the poverty level (about $14,000 for individuals and $29,000 for a family of four). This is a HUGE deal for young people and young families who previously have had a hard time accessing healthcare. I know this is especially important for women (like some of my friends) who have become pregnant, had access to Medicaid during their pregnancy, and then were kicked off weeks after delivering their baby.

3. Women can’t be charged more…for being women.
Believe it or not, there are still cases where men and women pay different prices for the same health insurance…and women are paying MORE (Equality, what?). Because of the new healthcare law, insurance companies cannot charge higher rates based on gender. While this also doesn’t come into effect until 2014, it’s a huge gain that honestly, should have happened years ago.

Like I mentioned before, there is a lot to the new healthcare law, but these are just a few of the good things we’ve gained because of it. And while it clearly isn’t perfect, it’s certainly not something to overturn and take away all these advances that benefit young people.

For those who oppose the entire law, it’s probably a good idea to ask them where they stand on these issues, and if they really want them all to go away.

As more of the law is implemented, we’ll be sure to keep you updated!

To learn more about the new healthcare law and additional benefits for women, check out the HERvotes blog carnival.

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Each week, I’ll be posting a list of the most news-worthy and/or inspirational, informative, well-written, thought-provoking, and/or unique posts of the week. While every post and every contributor is valuable to our community, these are the blogs that I feel are must-reads.

March 11- March 17

Stats this week: 52 posts by 30 writers

No Te Metas Con Las Mujeres De Tejas/ Don’t Mess With Texas Women- by abril_flowers

Inside this post:

I hoped to rely on resources like Planned Parenthood but Perry decided to select few resources to fund for women’s health services. Planned Parenthood is not one of them.

My advice to activists considering public health graduate programs- by ashthom

Inside this post:

There is a big difference between working to implement policies that impact health and implementing programs that impact health. Find what you like. Both are important and have an impact on the health and lives of people, but the skills and personality needed to do each type of work are different.

Wisconsin escalates its war on sex education- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

But while the new law isn’t a surprise, it’s certainly a disappointment. The removal of instruction about contraception is bad. But calling abstinence "the only reliable" means of prevention is simply a lie.

BCSSH Sex Files #19: The One-Stop Guide to Women’s Health Care Reform- by bcssh

Inside this post:

Since it can be difficult even for us to keep up with the sudden bustle of Congressional activity, we’ve broken down the top three benchmarks in the women’s health debate, as well as a few ways that you can get involved to stand up for your rights and health.

Stupid Stuff State Legislatures Are Doing, and The Awesome Responses They Get- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

In Arizona, SB1359 would allow doctors who personally oppose abortion to – well, not exactly lie – but withhold medical information from pregnant women if they think that information might lead to the woman considering abortion.

INTERVIEW: Rachel Lloyd, Founder of Girls Educational & Mentoring Services- by Amplify_Staff

Inside this post:

I believe that there are a handful of adult women in the commercial sex industry for whom it may be an employment choice among other employment choices. I can’t speak for them or their experiences. However for millions of girls and women, (and boys and transgender youth) around the world, it’s less about choice than it is about lack of choice.

The Violence Against Women Act; It Shouldn’t Be Controversial- by nikki_liz

Inside this post:

…many in Congress who oppose the Violence Against Women Act are saying that domestic violence in immigrant and LGBT communities is not a big deal, and these provisions are just attempts to give more rights to immigrants and to those identifying as LGBT. However, these expansions are responses to the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs’ 2010 report,…

BREAKING: Utah governor vetoes abstinence-only bill- by AFY_EmilyB

Inside this post:

The new bill would have taken Utah from "sex education which discusses condoms and contraception but emphasizes abstinence" to "sex education which may not even broach the topic of contraception." It would be a change from "lots of moralizing with your info" to "no info."

Thank you to everyone who posted a blog this week! You are part of what makes this community great!

~ Samantha
Community Editor

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In unexpected good news,  Utah governor Gary Herbert has vetoed the abstinence-only bill recently passed by the state’s legislature.

Herbert has said he vetoed the bill because it requires that parents be given fewer options for their children’s education, and because most Utah parents currently allow their children to take sex education classes:

"If HB 363 were to become law, parents would no longer have the option the overwhelming majority is currently choosing for their children. I am unwilling to conclude that the state knows better than Utah’s parents as to what is best for their children," he said.
"In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement, and more choice—not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice," he added.

This is good news out of Utah, whose state law around sex ed already contains restrictions and moral prescriptions.  The new bill would have taken Utah from "sex education which discusses condoms and contraception but emphasizes abstinence" to "sex education which may not even broach the topic of contraception."  It would be a change from "lots of moralizing with your info" to "no info."

Yet truly comprehensive sex education, which includes information about abstinence as well as contraception, isn’t inconsistent with conservative values and need not be mischaracterized as such: it does not advocate for students to engage in sexual activity, but rather provides factual information about various methods of protection from unintended pregnancy and STIs.  Vetoing this bill was a good step for Utah. States should move toward sex education which recognizes young people’s rights and protects their health by providing non-biased, comprehensive, accurate information about sex, sexuality, and relationships.

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Written by: Nicole Murray, Advocates for Youth Intern

A sarcastic twist on an old tactic – the poison pill amendment – is making rounds in state legislatures as opposition mounts to the ongoing assault on reproductive and sexual rights. The poison pill amendment, or the wrecking amendment, is an amendment proposed to a bill by someone who opposes the bill. This amendment is usually not something the legislator proposing the amendment would want in reality, but is proposed to give more room for debate, to post pone a vote on a bill, or, in cases where the amendment does get attached to the bill, ensure that no one would vote for the bill with the attached amendment.

Todays poison pills are aimed at exposing the sexism inherent in attempting to restrict women’s reproductive rights and freedoms, while still allowing men complete sexual freedom and control over their own bodies.

In addition to the ultrasound bill signed into law in Virginia, and the very possible return to abstinence-only education in Utah, here are some of the most recent stupid laws legislatures are considering.

Wisconsin: A Bill Making Non-Marital Parenthood Tantamount To Abuse

Senate bill 507, introduced by Senator Glenn Grothman, would update the states current Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention law to emphasize “non marital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”  According to Grothman, “Whether that leads to more people paying attention and having children after they’re married or whether that leads to some other making a choice for adoptions,” he wanted to bring up this “politically incorrect” legislation, as he calls it.

In the past, Grotham has campaigned against programs that would make contraception and other health services that would lead to fewer unintended pregnancies. He recently wrote “How the United States and The State of Wisconsin Are Working to Encourage Single Motherhood and Discouraging Children in 2 Parent Families,” where he claims that the government tells women not to get married so they can receive low-income housing assistance, school choice, WIC, and food stamps.

The bill would create a public awareness campaign aimed at promoting the idea that raising a child out of wedlock (either as co-habitators, as a single parent, or as a committed LGBT couple) is abusive and neglectful to children. This public education campaign would specifically emphasis (read: demonize) single mothers, as it is supposed to underscore “the role of fathers in the primary prevention of child abuse and neglect.” According to these legislators, without a man around, a woman will just abuse her children. (Never mind that there are many women who are single mothers due to fleeing abusive partners and spouses.)

According to Representative Chris Taylor:

“This bill is going to do nothing to help children avoid abuse. It’s going to do nothing to help families. What this bill does is call out and chastise women who have babies who are unmarried.”

The most recent numbers show that a third of all parents in Wisconsin are single parents, with the majority being single mothers. 90% of teen parents were unmarried at the birth of the child. In 2010 there were 25,228 non-marital teen births. Those mothers would all be demonized by this bill.

A side note: at 1:00 AM Wednesday March 14th, 2012, the Legislature passed AB337, which will repeal the Healthy Youth Act. The Healthy Youth Act was the gold standard in sex education. Now teens will be denied accurate medical information about preventing teen pregnancy and STIs. Will this lead to an increase in teen mothers? And therefore, according to this bill, an increase in neglectful and abusive non-marital parents?  The legislature also passed AB154, which bans private insurance from covering abortion. If teens do find themselves pregnant, they will be forced to pay for an abortion out of pocked now. On Thursday they will be voting on AB371, which will ban telemedice abortion, meaning teens who choose abortion will not only have to pay for it out of pocket, rather than have it covered by their parents private insurance, but they will have to travel possibly hours to get to a clinic that can perform it. (Telemedicine is a way that residents of rural communities can get access to specialists and doctors without traveling out of their community. They talk to the doctor via video conference, like Skype, and then the doctor can determine if the patient can get the medicine. The doctor will hit a button, and unlock a drawer the patient has access to, and the patient will then take the pills in front of a nurse. This is a common way of administering many medicines, including RU-486, or Mifepristone, for a medical abortion).

Arizona: A Bill Making it Legal For  A Doctor To Withhold Medical Information Concerning A Pregnancy If That Information Might Lead To The Woman Considering Abortion

In Arizona, SB1359 would allow doctors who personally oppose abortion to – well, not exactly lie – but withhold medical information from pregnant women if they think that information might lead to the woman considering abortion.

What information would this be? Information on possible birth defects the fetus may have, or does have; information on medical conditions that may lead to the woman’s death if an abortion is not obtained; and information on medical conditions the fetus may have that might lead to either a short and agonizing life after birth, or other quality of life conditions.

For women who may choose not to abort, withholding this information means that the family has no time to prepare to give birth to and raise a child with birth defects, and no time to attempt to find out if they have the financial resources to provide all the medical care the child might need.

Lesson to be learned: If a woman is seeking abortion, you must give her ALL the information by means of forcing her to have an ultrasound. If a woman is carrying a wanted pregnancy, make sure she has NO information that might cause her to change her mind about giving birth.

Side note of another bill in Arizona: HB2625, a bill to allow any religious employer to refuse to have insurance which covers contraception. In an earlier version of the bill, religious employer was defined as: ,

(a)  The entity primarily employs persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
(b)  The entity primarily serves persons who share the religious tenets of the entity.
(c)  The entity is a nonprofit organization as described in section 6033(a)(2)(A) (i) or (iii) of the internal revenue code of 1986, as amended.

 however, this definition was removed, leaving it undefined. Further, an earlier bill contained clause stating that “a religious employer shall not discriminate against an employee who independently chooses to obtain insurance coverage or prescriptions for contraceptives from another source.” This was also removed, giving the green light to religious employers to fire employees who use contraception.

Georgia: A Bill That Would Ban Abortions After 20 Weeks

In Georgia, HB 954 would ban abortion in the state after 20 weeks, based on the idea that at 20 weeks fetuses become “pain capable.” Most research states, however, that a fetus does not have the neurological systems in place to experience tough, and cannot distinguish between touch and pain (which is an emotional response) until much later in the third trimester, which is the time right before a woman would normally give birth.

Most abortions occur in the first trimester, so while this bill will not affect the majority of women seeking abortion, it will affect the women who find out about severe birth defects, complications, or that the fetus has died. Medical complications are usually not detectable until around the 18th to 19th week.  At this point, further tests need to be done to confirm certain defects. With the new law, a woman who receives a bad indication would have just a few days to decide whether she wants to hope for the best, go forth with more testing, and chance that she might in fact be carrying a fetus incompatible with life, or should she abort while it is still legal, and try again? Women who have fetuses that have died would not be allowed to induce labor and deliver a stillbirth past 20 weeks, as this procedure would technically still be an abortion. Instead, if a fetus is stillborn, and it is 21 weeks, she will be forced to carry a stillborn fetus to term, rather than induce labor, mourn, and try again.

In a moment of extreme insensitivity, one Representative compared women carrying stillborn fetuses to cows he used to work with who delivered dead calves.

And here are some of the sarcastic responses:

Delaware: In Wilmingont, Delware, a bill was passed to grant every sperm and every egg personhood, and deem them equal under law.

Virginia: In Virginia, Senator Janet Howell proposed an amendment to the ultrasound bill which would have required rectal exams and cardiac stress tests for men wishing obtain medications for erectile dysfunction. The amendment was just two votes shy of passing.

Georgia: Female lawmakers in Georgia have proposed a bill that would ban men from obtaining vasectomies. The author of the bill, Yasmin Neal, said:

“"It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States."”

Ohio: A bill (SB307) proposed in Ohio by Senator Nina Turner would require men to receive a psychological screening performed by a sex therapist, receive a cardiac stress test and present a notarized affidavit signed by a current sexual partner stating that the man is in fact impotent. It further states that the man must be notified in writing of the potential risks and complications of taking erectile dysfunction medications, and for a physician to include non-pharmaceutical treatments for erectile dysfunction, including resources for celibacy.

Illinois: Representative Kelly Cassidy proposed an amendment that would require a man seeking erectile dysfunction medications to watch a graphic video detailing the complications and treatments for complications that could arise from taking medication for erectile dysfunction.

Oklahoma: An amendment was proposed to a personhood bill that would make it illegal to ejaculate anywhere outside of a woman’s vagina, and another amendment that would require that any man who impregnates a woman without her consent pay a large fine, be required to obtain a vasectomy, and be financially responsible for the resulting offspring until he/she reaches 21 years of age. 

Texas: While this bill (HB15) was passed last year and went into effect recently, there were still a number of amendments that women legislators attempted to tag on to the bill to show their displeasure. This specific bill does require a transvaginal ultrasound for women seeking abortion care. Several amendments were attached (all failed) to the ultrasound bill, including an amendment  that would require the state to pay for college tuition for any child born as a result of a pregnant woman viewing the ultrasound and changing her mind, an amendment of the state to pay health care costs for the resulting child until 18 years of age, (later amended to age 6), as well as a failed common sense amendment to provide the woman with medically accurate information on contraception, and an amendment to make the Department of Health pay for the mandatory ultrasounds, and later this amendment was re-written to require the state to pay for the ultrasound if the woman did not live within 45 minutes of the provider.

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Wisconsin’s state legislature has passed a "sex education" bill that undoes many of the tenets in the more progressive 2010 bill, and it now moves on to Governor Scott Walker, who is likely to sign it. The new sex education law:

1) Transforms sex education "requirements" into "recommendations"
2) Removes the following topics from sex ed curriculum recommendations
"pregnancy; parenting; body image;  gender stereotypes; and the health benefits, side effects, and proper use of contraceptives and barrier methods approved by the federal Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to prevent pregnancy and barrier methods approved by the
FDA to prevent sexually transmitted infections"
3) Requires that students be taught that abstinence is the "preferred choice of behavior for unmarried pupils" and "the only reliable way to present pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections."
4) Requires the promotion of the socioeconomic benefits of marriage and the connection between marriage and good parenting.

In short, the bill takes Wisconsin’s requirement that sex education programs teach about contraception, and turns it into a requirement that they teach about abstinence.  

Conservatives in Wisconsin have never liked 2010’s Healthy Youth Act.  In fact, one county’s district attorney sent a letter to teachers of the district threatening to prosecute them if they taught comprehensive sex ed.

But while the new law isn’t a surprise, it’s certainly a disappointment.  The removal of instruction about contraception is bad.  But calling abstinence "the only reliable" means of prevention is simply a lie.  Firstly, many methods of protection work and work well.  The IUD is over 99% effective at preventing pregnancy, while condoms are "highly effective" at preventing the transmission of HIV, according to the CDC.  

Secondly, reliability is largely dependent on the user.  The user must RELIABLY USE a method.  Abstinence is very reliable if you remain abstinent.  Condoms are very reliable if you use them consistently and correctly.  By removing information about other methods, and by implying that they are unreliable, the legislators are doing young people a severe disservice: they are endangering young people’s health and violating their rights.

Further, as we tried to communicate in this video, abstinence-only-until-marriage lessons at best exclude LGBT youth and at worst vilify them.  Wisconsin has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, yet students will be taught that abstinence is the "preferred behavior" for unmarried students.  Just….forever, Wisconsin?  So it’s basically just a program of shaming for LGBT students –  "stay abstinent" or "do wrong."   That seems contrary to the section of the bill that cautions against bias against students on the basis of sexual orientation.  And not to mention, almost half of high school students have already had sex, so it’s a program of shame for them too.

Finally, a "promotion of marriage" tenet is profoundly offensive and presumptuous.  Why should that value be forced on students?  In a nation where 50% of marriages fail and 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, how many of Wisconsin’s students will be taught that their families are subpar, inferior to the married-heterosexual parents their sex education teacher is so keen on?  And why is promoting a particular type of relationship even an aspect of learning about sex and sexuality? 

Students shouldn’t be misled, lied to, and stigmatized. They shouldn’t be denied information that could save their lives.  This shame-based bill is shameful. 

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During undergrad I loved being a peer health educator and activist with Advocates for Youth. That love and passion for health promotion and advocacy led me to Ohio State to study public health. My specialization was Health Behavior and Health Promotion. I have had many friends and fellow Advocates for Youth organizers ask me about MPH programs and graduate school.

Well — here you have it folks! Here are my thoughts and advice on going to graduate school for public health!

Sexual health education is complicated, and prevention is hard work!

I came to graduate school knowing abstinence-only sex education did not improve student health outcomes. It violated the rights of students by promoting one set of pseudo-values while withholding life-saving information. In other words, comp sex ed good, ab-only bad.

Then I embarked on my graduate thesis, and boy did I learn the devil is in the details.
First off, these programs tend to be less discrete than abstinence-only-until-marriage and comprehensive sexual health education. Sexual health education programs have very specific goals, and are tailored for a specific population. For example, one program that a friend of my mine implements in Cleveland is called “Be Sex Smart.” It is targeted to LGBTQ youth with a high risk of HIV infection. The goal of the program is to improve self-esteem and decision-making. The operating theory here is that improving self-esteem and decision-making will decrease youths’ risk for HIV/AIDS.

This leads to another important point that I learned in graduate school. There is not strong evidence that sexual health education programs directly impact health outcomes such as teen pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted infection rates. Instead, programs aim to improve factors that impact health outcomes, such as knowledge and self-efficacy. These factors in turn are chosen and prioritized because behavior change theories postulate that altering them will lead to improved health outcomes and behaviors.

For example, when I taught sexual health education in Cleveland schools, we tested the teens’ pre- and post-program sexual health knowledge. Our program was shown to improve student knowledge — therefore, based on behavior change theory, improvements in student knowledge resulted in improved student health outcomes. All of this also underscores the importance of program evaluation. To prove that a program is effective, it must be evaluated.
Even when programs are evidence- and theory-based, there can still be barrier to implementing your program effectively. Do you have a reliable and quiet space to hold your program? How much time do you have each week or day to implement the curriculum? How are you going to recruit participants? Does your organization have a sustainable funding model for your program? How will you recruit and train educators? The list goes on.

Working in prevention is tough yet highly rewarding. It takes courage, personality, and passion. While I found it frustrating that there was not more research on the impact of sexual health education, it was also exciting to realize there is still much work to be done. We could be the future researchers and program staff to develop new programs and implement them in communities across the country!

Social determinants of health matter, a lot

If you haven’t watched the PBS special “Unnatural Causes,” you will within the first week of your MPH program. Hell, you might even watch it twice. The series does a great job of introducing students to the concept of social determinants of health. As someone interested in health promotion and social justice, I was instantly drawn to studying social determinants of health. It is important to understand the huge impact social inequalities have on health outcomes. This is not a concept that comes naturally to all in the public health field. But to those of us with an interest in health promotion and social justice, this is where you might find an intersection in topics that excites and intrigues you.

Determine if you are a direct-service person or policy person

There is a big difference between working to implement policies that impact health and implementing programs that impact health. Find what you like. Both are important and have an impact on the health and lives of people, but the skills and personality needed to do each type of work are different. Graduate school is a time to explore and learn what you love to do. Try different things and push your boundaries. You might be surprised what work suites you best.

Internships rule

To get the biggest bang for your buck while studying public health, you need to find stellar sites for your internship and/or final project. Not only will the site agency create a space for you to get practical experience, but also the staff you work with at your site can be your best mentors. My internship supervisor taught me everything, and helped me land my dream job! Shoot for the moon when it comes to finding a good internship. Finding a good internship experience is the most important part of your graduate school professional development.

Professionally, follow your passion and always be true to yourself

Do what you love, not what sounds impressive. During graduate school I was offered a position as a research assistant on a colon cancer project. The position paid my tuition and I was part of a large research project funded by the CDC through a prestigious hospital. In public health speak that seemed glamorous. I ended up hating it. It wasn’t my passion. Then I started interning with Planned Parenthood and felt at home. While there is much to learn at school, at the end of the day you know why you came in the first place. Stick to your heart, and you will end up in the right place.

If you have any questions about graduate school, please feel free to reach out to me via Facebook message. 

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Garrett Mize [TFN Youth Coordinator] and me [President of the TFN Student Chapter at UTB]!

Saturday night was amazing! The Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at UT Brownsville organized an awareness show for comprehensive sex education. We organized the show at a historical building located in downtown Brownsville. The reason I decided to organize a show with local bands playing and outside of the university was because I wanted to attempt a different approach in informing people about comprehensive sex education. Well, it worked fantastically! There were many high school students, college students, and older people. Many signed petitions and many took condoms. Most important, many recognized the severity of the issue [the rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases] and understood what must be done in order to solve the problem.

All in all, the show was a great success. The atmosphere was so energetic and positive because people came with an open mind. They left informed and with free condoms and awesome tunes.

I want to thank Mark Clark for allowing us to have our event at the Galeria 409 and Friday Avenue, Los Cuervos, Cutters, Force of Habit, Tzu Gardens, and RFC for making the show even more awesome! Special shoutouts go to Lorenzo Garcia, Omar Avitia, Rene Daracon, Dustin Sanchez and the UTPA crew [Jackie Joy] for helping us out. Alexis Manrique, you did a fantastic job! Lastly, I want to thank my youth coordinator, Garrett Mize for supporting this event and everything the TFN Student Chapter at UT Brownsville does. We could not have done this without all of your help. And thanks to everyone who came out!!! I hope we can continue to make change in Brownsville because we sure do need it.

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March 10th is National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day – a time to educate, include and empower communities across the country about the impact that HIV and AIDS has had on women and girls.

This year’s theme is “Every Moment is a Deciding Moment” to show that you are greater than this disease and you have empowered yourself and your community to get educated, get involved, get treated.

Women have been hit hard by this disease and now it is time for us to confront it head on.

So on March 10th we are asking that you join the movement with these steps:

#1: Bring Awareness on your Social Media Networks.

Step 1: Change your Facebook Profile Picture:

Step 2: Follow our Twitter account @ywoc_lc or @amplify

Step 3: Retweet Retweet to #NWGHAAD

#2: Support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, a comprehensive, progressive vision for sex education policy in the United States.

Step 1: Click here to sign the petition (h)

Step 2: Blast the petition link to all your friends:

Step 3: Share this petition to your facebook and twitter accounts

#3: Get Tested

Step 1: Find an HIV testing location near you 

Step 2: Get tested for HIV and know your status!

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On Tuesday, March 7th, the Utah State Senate voted to remove abstinence-plus education from school curriculum, and replace it with abstinence-only-until-marriage. The bill, HR363, sponsored by Senator Margaret Dayton, passed 19-10, and is currently sitting on Governor Gary Herbert’s desk. This bills is worded in such a way that school districts do not have to offer sex education, but if they do, it must not mention contraception, homosexuality, or pre-marital sex.

According to Rebecca Wind, a spokeswoman for the Guttmacher Institute;

"Utah is by far the most restrictive policy out there. There are no other states that … don’t allow birth control discussion at all, in the way that the Utah legislation does. So it is unique in that respect."

The policy prohibits teachers from talking about sex outside of marriage (be it pre-marital or extra-marital), homosexuality, and methods of preventing pregnancy or spreading STD’s even when asked directly by students.

Supporters laud the passage of the bill as a crucial component of the ongoing culture wars in the country;

"It is important for us to go a step further from abstinence-plus to abstinence-only so that the state Office of Education can remove the endorsement of Planned Parenthood from their website," Sen. Margaret Dayton

(Note: Sen. Dayton is opposed to abortion, and as a result, Planned Parenthood. There are nine Planned Parenthood health centers in the state of Utah. One of them provides abortion services.)

According to Rep. Francis Gibson, unintended teen pregnancy is still a problem in the district he represents, and the curriculum in the district, which is abstinence-only, is not working.

"I would hope as we make this decision, that we won’t think if we say abstinence only, that fairy dust will have been sprinkled and that teen pregnancy will no longer be a problem," –Rep Francis Gibson

Opponents of the bill pointed out that this could lead to higher rates of teen pregnancy, and therefore, higher rates of abortion. Supporters opined that the only way to prevent teen pregnancy was with abstinence. Comprehensive sex education (or abstinence-plus) arms teens and students with the information they need in order to ensure that when they do engage in sex, they are protected against unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and infections.

Supporters of this bill seem to think that teens are not having sex, and often promote harmful and damaging stereotypes that teen mothers. Young people have sex, and this is not something new. It wasn’t too long ago that women were married by sixteen, and pregnant by seventeen. The difference between those teen moms, and todays, is the marital status of the women. The teen mothers of today are not married. Current research has found that the median age for first sexual experience for both sexes is 17 years old, while the current average age of first marriage for women is roughly 25 years old, and for men around 27 years old. The gap between first sex and marriage is roughly 10 years. Today, premarital sex is a near ubiqutous practice. Therefore, we need education that reflects this reality. That education should include discussion of contraception, sexuality, and healthy relationships both in and out of marriage, orientation and gender identity.

Young people of today need to be trusted. Adults do not need to withhold information from students. Trust young people to take that information and do with it what they feel is most appropriate for themselves.

Research shows that when you teach comprehensive sex education, teens actually delay the onset of first sexual experiences, and are more likely to take steps to make sure that the sex they are engaging in, when they do, is healthy and safe.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are framed around upholding a standard that is unfairly harmful to women, and to teens who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, genderqueer, or are questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In these classes women are told their value is lost with virginity, and that they must hold themselves up to a standard of purity. Rarely do these classes mention the necessity of sexual purity for men. Many of these courses include lessons aimed at making sure women know they are the gatekeepers of sexuality, that they are the ones who have to hold off the advances of men. Some of these courses include books that portray women as damsels in distress, and men as knights. These books warn that if a woman gives too much advice or has too many opinions, the knight will feel unneeded, and leave.

LGBTQ students find the messages of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs to be filled with heteronormative messages of male providers and women care takers, with no room for relationships where these “norms” are absent, and no mention the validity of same sex households and marriages. Utah is not one of the few states where marriage equality is legal, and these students are being told to remain abstinent if they do not plan on marrying a person of the opposite gender. They are told their relationships and their own sexual health needs are less than.

In a strange coincidence, a study released yesterday, finds “that formal sex education
that includes instruction about both waiting to have sex and methods of birth control can improve the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults” The study further found that respondents who were instructed in both abstinence and contraceptive methods were more likely to be older at their first sexual experience than those who had received no formal instruction at all (which this bill would allow schools to have no instruction at all). Those receiving both information about abstinence and contraceptive education were also more likely to have healthier relationships. Condom use at first sexual experience was highest among respondents who had instruction in both, too.

This study proves that when you give the tools to young people, they will make the best decisions for themselves. Being honest and open about sexuality is the best approach. Preaching about abstinence will not stop anyone from having sex if they want to. If someone wants to have sex, they should have all the knowledge they need to make a healthy decision about the sex for both their own health, and their partners health. It is detrimental to the health of young people to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that if we with hold valuable information about contraception and condoms, then young people will not have sex.

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Did you know that African Americans account for only 14 percent of the U.S. population but make up almost half of all newly diagnosed HIV cases each year? This is an alarming rate and it is stumping advocates as to why this is happening. Poverty is one of the things believed to be fueling the epidemic and in African American communities, poverty rates are higher than other communities. Poverty affects all parts of life, impacting housing, education, nutrition and access to health care. When tackling issues such as worrying for your next meal or how rent will be paid on a regular basis, there is no surprise that getting educated on HIV is not at the top of the list.


On top of these issues, the budget cuts are causing state-run family-planning clinics to shut down so people have no place to go for regular checkups, to learn about their bodies and how to keep themselves healthy. Not to mention there is health illiteracy. There are a shocking number of blacks who cannot use written materials in the health care settings. HIV/AIDS is not just a “gay man disease.” It is a deadly, color blind disease and everyone is vulnerable.

You have to be concerned for your health and take the necessary precautions. You should:
1. Practice safe sex during EVERY sexual encounter.
2. Get screened every three to six months for undiagnosed and untreated cases of STDs and engage in partner notification services if you are diagnosed with an STD.
3. Get comprehensive sex education from a clinic and be open and honest about sex with your partner or children.

For more information check out The Body: The Complete HIV/AIDS Resource and Health Facts: HIV.

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While I was in my eighth standards at my school, many HIV/AIDS awareness and sex education programs were conducted. Our seniors, students of grade 9 and 10 were taken and we had to sit in our class and follow the class routine. I had once asked my teacher why we aren’t taken to attend the program. Then my teacher answered saying that it is only applicable for seniors not for you. I used to think that sex education was all about safe sexual practices, enjoyable age for involving in sex and marriage. I had heard people talking about HIV/AIDS and used to be a taboo for us to utter the word. Now as I grow old, I come to know that it was not just about safe sexual practice, enjoyable age for involving in sex and marriage but also to help protect you against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Every time while we used to study about development and changes that occur in our body during adolescent and attractions towards opposite sexes, we used to laugh and giggle. Not only the student, teachers used to feel awkward and they used to skip the chapter saying that once we read at home we can understand ourselves. But I was more concerned about the things why we have changes and why do people don’t talk about all this freely. I used to read different articles in newspaper, read magazines and talk with friends to know more about sexuality. When I talked freely, others used to feel and say that I should have some shame as a girl to talk on the issues like this. I used to fear to talk to my parents about it and elders. They think that exposure on these things will encourage us more into sexual experimentation.

Sex education is a mandatory for every individual since teenage as it is a part of our life. It helps young people to prepare for healthy and fulfilling lives. Good knowledge, skills and attitudes help them to make choices in the future and enhance their independence and self-esteem. Moreover, it also helps them to experience their sexuality and relationships in a positive and pleasurable way. People have a wrong concept about exposure to sexual activity, but the fact is that they are aware and can practice it safely. Apart from that, some researches have proved that good and rights-based sexuality education programmes can delay initiation of sexual activity and unprotected intercourse, decrease the number of sexual partners, increase contraceptive and condom use which leads to decrease in unintended pregnancies, sexual problems and sexually transmitted infections among young people. It is important for an individual to understand rather than learn from experiencing. It is the high time, people must understand that sexuality education does not encourage people for sexual practices and promote messages about abstinence rather it helps them to understand their rights and take care of themselves.

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Venue: CDC, Sanothimi, Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Date: 20th January, 2012.
Time: 1 pm.

Members of Youth Activist Leadership council (YALC), 2012, had a visit to Curriculum Development Center (CDC) according to their 5th day schedule. The iYSO project coordinator, Miss Medha Sherma, 10 members of council, Miss Subha Kayastha along with their Project Manager from US, Miss Mimi Melles, had a visit at above mentioned venue. The visit was concerned mainly on achieving the information and basic understanding on curriculum making process. The formed enthusiastic, dynamic and diversified council has their one main objective as amending the EPH curriculum to be age appropriate and comprehensive. Targeting youth, to have access on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Right (SRHR), council had taken its first step on basic understanding of the present EPH syllabus in Nepal approaching CDC.
YUWA had organized meeting with Mr. Damodar Regmi, section officer, Department of Education. After sharing the objectives of the council, he encouraged council to visit Executative Director, Mr. Khajraj Baral, who mainly works at amending curriculum on globally prioritized issues. With his warm welcome, he praised the role of YALC. On behalf of aim of visit, Baral suggested council members to have basic overview on present curriculum before they move for their workshop. He had reminded others as well, who come up with similar global issues to be focused on curriculum. Mr. Baral added, “In this present world of science and technology we have much better course than other nations, even than Finland, which has best curriculum among OECD countries”. “We don’t want to make more load on child, mentally and physically, there is enough content for their future”, said Baral. He told course was changing since 2028 B.S., and there were significant changes in context to global issues. “Focusing on slow and step by step motivation in Education, we are encouraging SRH issues through optional subjects also, but that’s the culture which defines future for competing with others, choosing Math and computer rather than Health” , addressed by Baral on members’ queries.
Mr. Baral approved his affirmative views on changing curriculum according to need, but he signaled the basic barriers before the change like: political commitment, recourses shortage (man, money, materials, and methods), burning issues of other fields (Global warming, Human Rights, Child Friendly Environment, law based knowledge, conflicts, agriculture, etc.), societal norms and culture, unpaid tax, transitional phase of the country, etc. On the same session he prioritized the sex education according to age, but the internet had influence to meet these goals easily. Teachers training and guardians guidance plays an important role in establishing the better environment besides only including SRHR issues in curriculum. The weakness in knowing the world, that CDC is updating curriculum in every 5 years, and revising its curriculum in every 10 years. Furthermore he told they were changing facts, figures and data annually.
CDC is on process of changing curriculum of class 7 by 15th Marg 2068 B.S. At this stand he added that curriculum revision is a long process that involves learning from different national and international issues, age appropriateness, resources, working environment, etc. According to Mr. Baral curriculum development process goes through following phases:
1. Situational analysis and feedback from students, teachers. Study on international curriculum development process and its content.
2. Comparisons between existing curriculum and international syllabus involving high level expertise.
3. Draft completion.
4. Conducting review process involves teachers, topic related specialist, skilled human resource from related field, individuals from CDC and researchers.
5. Development of curriculum.
6. Certification from subject committee.
7. Coordination committee review:
Vertically- compare with other classes like class 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.
Horizontally- comparison among contents of the subjects like
Science, mathematics, Social Studies, etc.
8. Goes through council meetings and their valid certification.
9. Finally, passed by Government of Nepal through parliament.

On queries of YALC members, Mr. Baral answered them all establishing a diplomatic relationship. Focusing on gender sensitization issues amendment is only possible by the combined effort from Political, Societal, Economical, Academic and other’s sectors. Besides amending the course, Nepal has already the gist of content on SRH issues, but unfortunately teachers are escaping these topics. On the question from member, that the SRH issues should be focused by increasing total marks in exam point of view, Mr. Baral replied every issue plays a vital role in development of a child. There were other issues, which secures the future.
Every agenda make a link with life, so everyone asks for including issues related to their field. It seems like he had lack of knowledge on SRHR issues, distinct voice youth’s choice. However, everyone should understand HEALTH IS WEALTH; this is only possible through health promoting education. Finally, he concluded defining Nepalese, “Nepal is a poor country containing rich Nepalese”. Thus, YALC members had learnt the ongoing system on developing curriculum. It’s a challenge over them to challenge the global challenging challenge.

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Everything is bigger in Texas…. including STI and teen pregnancy rates. AIDs has spread as well due to one of the many BIG problems in Texas… sexual education in schools. Texas lags in this area as abstinence only programs still run rampant in this glorious red state of ours! Studies have shown that Abstinence only programs are not effective. While some may feel it is important to highlight the importance of waiting to have sex til marriage, this approach has negatively affected Texan children. They are being robbed of reality, that a lot of them will have sex by the time they graduate and will need to know how to protect themselves. Comprehensive sexual education is not some new idea that liberals have thought of, it’s working elsewhere (other states and other countries at that). Sadly Texas is strongly against premarital sex and feel that abstinence only programs will further their cause. Well… they don’t! This is what prompted this group of UT Longhorns to advocate this cause. Adolescent and young adult reproductive health is so important to us and while we are new and fledglings compared to other student orgs that have been at this school for 30, 40 or even 80 years, we plan to make ourselves known. While UT Austin is probably one of the most liberal colleges in Texas it is still quite conservative. With this we know our advocating comprehensive sex education in local schools and the promotion of safe sex practice (both straight AND LGBTQ!) will be an uphill battle, but it’s a cause worth fighting for. On this blog we will try our best to chronicle all of the events we do to promote such an important cause for America’s future!

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You may recall that Jamie Lynn Spears, child actress and sister of Britney Spears, shocked her fans in 2007 when she announced that she was pregnant.  This week, Jamie Lynn has an essay in Glamour Magazine describing her experiences, and it’s really worth reading.  Even though she leads a fairly privileged life, her experience is in many ways similar to many teens’ experiences and speaks to a lot of sad truths about our culture.

Right up front Spears says:

Casey was my first love. Since the day I saw him, I just wanted to marry him and be with him forever and ever. I believe in safety and birth control as prevention. But like many young girls…I was really scared to go to the doctor.

1) Teens aren’t "hormonal monsters" or whatever:  most have their first sex with someone they’re in a relationship with.  Like the rest of us, they feel love and affection, and want to express that affection romantically.

2) Many know about birth control and believe in it as prevention.  But something stops them from seeking it out – fear.  Fear of lack of confidentiality and of judgement.  Fear of being found out – because being found out as sexually active would be shameful.   It’s a direct line from shame about sexuality, to unintended pregnancy. 

Later, after learning she was pregnant:

I did feel responsible for the young girls and the mothers who I probably confused and let down. I apologize for that. But I wasn’t trying to glamorize teen pregnancy. I hated when [the tabloids] said that.

She’s not lying about being villainized.  Everyone had something to say about the matter.  But tell me, how would becoming pregnant let American girls and mothers down?  And what does "glamorizing teen pregnancy,"  a charge that seems to be repeated whenever a pregnant  teen expresses excitement about motherhood, has a baby shower, or is seen smiling at any time, mean?  Jamie Lynn had sex with someone she loved and with whom she was in a long term relationship, and became pregnant accidentally.   She decided to become a mother. What was she supposed to do, dress in black and parade the streets crying "Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa"?    The very notion of "shaming" or  "glamorizing"  a person’s pregnancy is absurd and offensive. Unintended pregnancy, while not ideal, happens – in fact, it happens 50 percent of the time, so I’m not sure what folks are on their high horses about.  

Later, commenting on her daugher Maddie, she says:

It’d be dumb to sit here and say that Maddie isn’t going to like a boy one day and she isn’t going to have a boyfriend. I’ll just have to handle that the best way that I can. Both her daddy and me will caution her [about having sex], and I would hope that she would not want to do that at all, but I have to make sure that I’m realistic too. I’ve got to figure out a way to communicate to her to make smart choices and make the best decisions she can.

I find this passage is a little bittersweet. "I would hope that she would not want to do that at all" :  denial springs eternal.  The culture that shaped Jamie Lynn as a teen will shape her as a parent, and like all too many parents in America, she will probably bring shame and denial about sex to the table, when as we know, honesty and acceptance leads to better outcomes.  By talking about realism, at least she’s acknowledging that empowering teens to protect themselves from pregnancy and HIV/STIs should be a priority for parents.  But that’s really not enough.  We can’t keep living with this culture of shame and fear around teen sexuality, we can’t keep framing sex as "this terrible thing that God forbid you do, though if you do it be sure to use condoms."  And then we can’t keep vilifying teen mothers.  As a culture we need to start embracing pragmatic attitudes and policies – from comprehensive sex education, to youth friendly clinics and services, to programs which support all teens, including teen parents.  

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In Friday’s Washington Post, Christina Hoff ommers questioned CDC findings on sexual violence.  Calling the study "careless" and saying it relies on "the familiar jargon of feminist theory," Sommers even puts the word sexism in distasteful air quotes, as in, "the report also called for more research on ‘sexism.’"

Sommers takes issue with the phasing of the CDC’s question about sexual assault:

In a telephone survey with a 30 percent response rate, interviewers did not ask participants whether they had been raped. Instead of such straightforward questions….[the sample was asked]  “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever had vaginal sex with you?” A majority of the 1.3 million women (61.5 percent) the CDC projected as rape victims in 2010 experienced this sort of “alcohol or drug facilitated penetration.”  

What does that mean? If a woman was unconscious or severely incapacitated, everyone would call it rape. But what about sex while inebriated? Few people would say that intoxicated sex alone constitutes rape. 

So, first of all, I don’t think the CDC was unclear in its phrasing.  It’s asking sample participatns if they were too drunk or high to consent.  Only they can answer that.  And in its sexual violence toolkit, the CDC is again quite clear on the topic:  

What is meant by “alcohol/drug facilitated penetration”?
This represents times when a victim was sexually penetrated but they were unable to consent to it because they were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out from alcohol or drugs. This includes times when a perpetrator intentionally drugged or spiked the drink of a victim but without the victim’s knowledge, and cases where the victim may have voluntarily used alcohol or drugs, but the perpetrator took advantage of the victim when they were too intoxicated, high, or passed out to consent to sex.  (Emphasis mine)

But it’s this comment from Sommers that I’m more troubled by:

The CDC effectively set a stage where each step of physical intimacy required a notarized testament of sober consent.

No, they don’t set that stage, and Sommers knows they don’t.  What the CDC has done is ask women if they were raped.  They include "Someone had sex with you when you were too inebriated to consent" as a definition of rape.  

But what Sommers is really attacking isn’t a specific CDC question, it’s attempts to normalize enthusiastic consent – a culture where what "sex" means is that both parties discussed what would happen ahead of time, and communicated throughout the experience, changing what they were doing as needed – including stopping if they weren’t totally sure the other person wanted it.  

I’ve heard snide comments like hers many times — beginning in 1993, with Antioch College’s famous dating policy.  At the time it was greeted with mockery.  The very notion of having to ask each time you did anything!  In 2006, Gettysburg College’s sexual misconduct policy (in short, "Effective consent is informed, freely and actively given, using mutually understandable words or actions which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity") was also met with indignation.   

But what is so funny, what is so absurd, about requiring mutual consent?  In this article about good sex education, Al Vernacchio brings up a "pizza metaphor" to encourage good communication around sex:

“If you’re gonna have pizza with someone else, what do you have to do?” he continued. “You gotta talk about what you want. Even if you’re going to have the same pizza you always have, you say, ‘We getting the usual?’ Just a check in. And square, round, thick, thin, stuffed crust, pepperoni, stromboli, pineapple — none of those are wrong; variety in the pizza model doesn’t come with judgment."

He’s talking about decision-making around sex, but it extends to mutual consent as well:  before you get a pizza, you both have to agree you want pizza.  And you have to discuss several other points as well.  You have to check in.  

When people make that "Better call a lawyer before you make out with someone these days" joke, what I hear is "Having to ask someone before you do something sexual with them is silly/burdensome/wrong."  Tell me this:  How does spreading that attitude help the "real victims of sexual violence" Sommers is so concerned about?  

I think people mock "enthusiastic consent" model because they liked the old way, where boys insisted and girls resisted.  Where you teach that both parties must enthusiastically consent, you are saying that women have to say what they want or do not want out of sex.  And if there’s one thing social conservatives can’t handle, it’s a sexually empowered woman.  

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By: Lauren Kalina, Advocates for Youth Intern

On January 10th, the UN released their Zero Draft for the Rio+20 Conference. The Rio+20 Conference is the sobriquet for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). It is being hosted in Brazil this summer to mark the 20th anniversary of 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED.) The conference will focus on the facilitation of sustainable development in the context of today’s society.

While the Zero Draft is an important beginning to outlining needs and priorities for the upcoming conference, there is an important aspect of sustainable development that the draft seems to have forgotten: the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people.

Young people play a crucial role in advocating and organizing around the intersection of environmental sustainability and reproductive rights. An example of this is The Time is Now Campaign, which addresses several of these intersection points, such as: population maintenance, contraception and family planning services, HIV/AIDS prevention, natural resources management, sex education, and more.

Last November when civil society organizations had the opportunity to submit suggestions for the Zero Draft, Advocates for Youth, along with several other organizations, provided a statement with a number of recommendations, which were as follows:

• Make sexual and reproductive health and rights, particularly among youth, a sectoral priority to renew commitments from governments, the private sector, and civil societies.
• Invest in rights and evidence-based comprehensive sexuality education and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services to support young people’s ability to make informed responsible decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.
• Challenge the global architecture of climate change, and its technology focus, and shift the discussion to a more human rights-based adaptation approach. Such a strategy would better serve the range of issues pivotal to improving the health of women worldwide and thus helping lead to a sustainable future.
• Ensure meaningful youth participation in the planning, design, and implementation of program and policies, especially those relevant to SRHR, climate change, and sustainable development.

While the Zero Draft fails to include any of these recommendations, the UNCSD did address some other important topics such as youth, gender equality, and access to education—areas that are central to ensuring the health and prosperity of developing countries. For example, the Zero Draft stated:

“We support the work of UN Women in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in all aspects of life and bringing greater attention to the linkages between gender equality and the promotion of sustainable development.”

“We agree to promote education for sustainable development beyond the end of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in 2014, to educate a new generation of students in the values, key disciplines and holistic, cross-disciplinary approaches essential to promoting sustainable development.”

While these clauses are significant and I applaud their inclusion, the absence of language highlighting the importance of youth sexual and reproductive health and rights in the context of environmental sustainability really upsets me. We are the largest generation of young people in history; and as activists and leaders for a greener and healthier world, it’s critical that supporting our sexual and reproductive health and rights becomes part of discussions and strategies that nations are pursuing towards achieving environmental sustainability and overall development goals.

However, we should not become discouraged by this preliminary document – this is, after all, just the zero draft. I hope that now, as the intersessional meeting on the Zero Draft comes to a close today in New York, the UNCSD leaders will realize the importance of this missing piece about the sexual and reproductive health and rights of youth and make an effort to include it in future drafts.

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Even though Rick Santorum’s recent comments about abstinence lessons in education have been roundly denounced as false, even by the head of one of the programs he was referring to, he’s still sticking to that whole "Obama hates abstinence" line.  

As ThinkProgress and Jezebel report, last night Santorum upped the ante, observing that Obama hates abstinence because he hates poor people.  

I’ve addressed before how profoundly untrue it is the claim that comprehensive sex education doesn’t teach abstinence. (The new National Sexuality Education Standards name it as an necessary component of the lesson at 17 different points of a child’s education!).

I don’t particularly understand the comment that not having abstinence-only programs leads people into poverty, not just because I don’t think sex automatically leads to poverty, but because abstinence-only programs don’t work, not even at helping teens remain abstinent. As to the President hating poor people, well, I’m not in his head, but it seems unlikely.

I’m still not sure where Santorum is trying to go with all these claims, but rest assured that it comes down to a deep fear of sexuality.  Some people on the far right would simply rather have teens receive programs that don’t help them at all, than have them receive programs that do work and also empower them to control their own sexuality.    

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A new study from the CDC examined unintended pregnancies among teens, and found that half of teens who were sexually active but didn’t want to become pregnant, were not using contraception. 

Why weren’t they using contraception? Some of the findings are troubling: 

 – Thirty percent believed they could not become pregnant at the time (even though about 90 percent of sexually active teens using no method become pregnant within a year of having sex)

 – 25 percent didn’t use contraception because they believed their partner didn’t want to use contraception. 

 – 13 percent reported lack of access to contraception.

Furthermore, 45% of the teens who became pregnanct were using hormonal birth control or condoms.  Since with proper use, pills are over 90% effective and condoms are 80% effective,  this points to irregular or incorrect use of the method.

Misunderstanding of the possibility of pregnancy,  lack of access to contraception, an inability to negotiate contraceptive use,  and a tendency to use contraception sporadically or incorrectly:  all symptoms of the mixed messages and embarrassed silence teens absorb about sexuality, both from sex education still dominated by abstinence-only funding and its legacy, and from a culture that both glorifies and vilifies teen sexuality.

A comparison to European rates of teen pregnancy, sexual behavior, and contraception use is especially revealing: teens in France, Germany, and the Netherlands aren’t less likely to have sex, but they are far less likely to become pregnant and far more likely to be using hormonal contraception.   That’s the result of both public policy, and a cultural committment to honest communication around sexuality.   

Most teens do not want to become pregnant.  Society should be empowering them to keep those intentions, not throwing up roadblocks.

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by Jamie Newton

Don’t get me wrong: I am elated that national sexuality standards have come to the table — and more excited that they amount to more than: “don’t do it or you’ll die.” As joyous as I was to read about the release of these all over the web last week and as awesome as it was to see a dialogue about sexuality spread through the public sphere, I couldn’t help but feel something is wrong.

Every article and blog I read seemed to be missing half the point. In highlighting what young people need to learn according to the new standards, they had drawn examples like, “describe common symptoms of and treatments for STDs” and “define sexual harassment and sexual abuse.”

Not a single article I read mentioned the new standards teach healthy relationships, identity, and sexuality. Even when praising the release of more comprehensive sex education standards, the media coverage was still zoning in only on the dangers taught in the new standards.

We have to stop teaching and talking about sex as a danger. Can it be? Absolutely. But sexuality is also good, beautiful, and positively powerful as well. Isn’t that what we should be teaching and talking about? Shouldn’t we be focused on increasing our youth’s experiences with the most positive aspects and decreasing their experiences with the negative?

I applaud the efforts of everyone who worked on these new standards, and I am so grateful it was done by people who traditionally believe sexuality is not a scary or dangerous thing, but an innate, gorgeous part of the human identity. I think they did something incredibly novel for our times: composed a way to teach sexuality without concentrating on risks. That is why this is newsworthy.

Sexuality can be more than how it’s being taught in most places now — more healthy, more beautiful, more meaningful. The new national sexuality education standards are a step in the right direction — not because they teach the risks of sexuality done "wrong," but because they teach the benefits and beauty of sexuality done "right." The next step is creating an environment outside of the classroom that embraces sexuality as a positive aspect of society too. How awesome will it be when an entire generation receives and transmits that positive message?

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The content of sex education lessons varies wildly from state to state and even from district to district.  Some students receive no instruction about sexual health at all. Millions learn that girls shouldn’t have ideas and boys are like microwaves.   Only a small percent receive comprehensive and age-appropriate instruction throughout their time in school.

The National Sexuality Education Standards, released this week, attempt to change all that, providing clear, consistent, and straightforward guidance on the essential minimum,core content for sexuality education that is developmentally and age-appropriate for students in grades Kindergarten through grade 12. 

Advocates for Youth is part of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) Initiative, the team that developed the standards.  Based on on both what science has proven and what every child has the right to learn, and modeled on the National Health Education Standards, the National Sexuality Education Standards focus on seven topics as the minimum, essential content and skills for K–12 education: Anatomy and Physiology, Puberty and Adolescent Development, Identity, Pregnancy and Reproduction, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV, Healthy Relationships, and Personal Safety.

It’s hoped that the standards will help school districts identify areas in which sex education might be lacking and fill in the gaps for their students.   One example where many schools are failing is homophobic bullying.  From the Associated Press:

Despite awareness of bullying, for example, Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth, one of the groups involved with creating the standards, said some schools don’t address it — or at least not in relation to sexual orientation or gender identity, which is where she said a lot of the bullying occurs.

"They should tackle it head on," Hauser said.

How can activists spread awareness of the new Standards and help get them implemented? 

You can tweet or post the link on Facebook: http://www.futureofsexed.org/fosestandards.html

You can blog about them here on Amplify or on your own blog.

Or if you want to go deeper, you can start organizing to support comprehensive sex education.

Widespread adoption of the National Sexuality Education Standards is one step toward achieving the Three R’s vision for youth sexual and reproductive health and rights. Click through to learn more about the Standards.

Questions and Answers about the National Sexuality Education Standards

How Is Sexuality Education Being Defined in the National Sexuality Education Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards recognize sexuality education as a broad term that includes a range of topic areas that impact a person’s sexual health and well-being. Although it has historically focused on sexual behaviors and the potential outcomes of those behaviors, in its more comprehensive form, sexuality education is about much more than that. The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

Why Provide Sexuality Education In Public Schools?

The vast majority of young people in Kindergarten through twelfth grade in the United States attend public schools. As a result, these schools provide a logical venue for reaching the greatest number of young people possible with life-enhancing, life-saving sexuality information.

Years of research demonstrate the need for providing sexuality education in public school settings:

• Many comprehensive sex education programs help youth delay the onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use.

• Teens who received comprehensive sexuality education were 50 percent less likely to report getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy .

• Because so much bullying and harassment takes place in schools, it is imperative that school-based sexuality education address sexual orientation and combating harassment and bullying. Nearly 9 out of 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) students report being harassed in school. LGBT students who report frequent harassment also suffer from lower grade point averages.

• Similarly, teen relationship violence continues to be a pressing problem. Although frequently under-reported, ten percent of teens are physically harmed by their boyfriend
or girlfriend in a given year. Much of teen dating behavior is played out within the school environment, and therefore the topic areas of communication, healthy relationships, boundary setting, respect and others must be included in school-based sexuality education programming.

• Parents nationwide overwhelmingly support comprehensive sexuality education in public schools. 

What Are Educational Standards?

• Educational standards define the knowledge and skills young people need to know in specific topic areas by the end of specific grades. They offer guidance to members of a school district, including teachers and administrators, on understanding what content and skills are age-appropriate at these grade levels.

• Many classroom topic areas have voluntary national education standards, including English Language Arts, History, Science, Mathematics and Health.

• The National Health Education Standards (NHES) were developed to establish, promote and support health-enhancing behaviors for students from grades pre-K -12. Nearly 75 percent of states require districts to follow national or state health education standards.

• When sexuality education is provided in school, it is usually part of the health curriculum. The National Health Education Standards, therefore, heavily influenced the development of the National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12.

Why Are Educational Standards Needed For Sex Education?

Although sexuality education is most frequently taught within the health curriculum, the National Health Education Standards do not provide any guidance on how to teach specific topics, including human sexuality. How sexuality education is taught is determined locally, and outlined in each school district’s curriculum.

• Currently, the manner in which sexuality education is provided in schools is determined by individual school districts or instructors. The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 provide sound guidance from educational experts across various disciplines on the minimum core sexuality-related knowledge and skills appropriate to each developmental level in a young person’s life.

• Educational standards help determine whether students have learned what they need to know in order to progress through school and into their futures successfully.

• Although the vast majority of school districts around the country have adopted the National Health Education Standards, these standards provide only general guidance without focusing on specific content areas, including sexuality education.

Who Developed These Standards?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12 are being disseminated in partnership with the American Association of Health Education, the American School Health Association, the National Education Association–Health Information Network, and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education.

• Over 50 professionals representing a wide range of schools, school districts, educational organizations and more, contributed to development of the standards, which was a project of the Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative.

What Topic Areas Were Selected for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

Topic areas covered in the National Sexuality Education Standards reflect the essential, minimum core content and skills students need to learn by the end of specific grades. They were not designed to be truly comprehensive in scope, but to offer a baseline from which school districts can begin.

The topic areas included in the National Sexuality Education Standards are:

• Anatomy and Physiology
• Puberty and Adolescent Development
• Identity
• Pregnancy and Reproduction
• Sexually Transmitted Diseases and HIV
• Healthy Relationships
• Personal Safety

How Were These Specific Topic Areas Selected?

• The content for the National Sexuality Education Standards were informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade .

• The vast majority of schools that provide some kind of sexuality education limit their course offerings to pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention. Yet most professionals agree that just covering these topics is not enough to support young people’s healthy development. The National Sexuality Education Standards were designed to provide guidance in addressing the essential, minimum core content for sexuality education that is age-appropriate for students in grades K—12.

How Was Age-Appropriateness Determined for the National Sexuality Education Standards?

• The age-appropriateness of the content and skills of the National Sexuality Education Standards was informed by the National Health Education Standards, the work of the CDC’s Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT) , existing state and international education standards that include sexual health content and the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th Grade . In addition, guidance was also provided by over 50 experts in the fields of education, health, child and adolescent development and sexuality education.

How Should School Districts and Departments of Education Use These Standards?

The National Sexuality Education Standards represent the core, minimum content and skills for students grades K-12. School districts can use them in the following ways:

• School districts providing no sexuality education can consider them a roadmap for creating a scope and sequence that is based in available research and health behavior theories.

• School districts already providing some sex education, but seeking to expand the grade levels at which it is taught, can use the standards as guidance for age-appropriateness, particularly for students of younger ages.

• School administrators and curriculum supervisors can use the standards to outline what, based on research and extensive professional expertise, are the minimum, essential content and skills for sexuality education K–12 given student needs, limited teacher preparation and typically available time and resources.

• Schools can use the standards as a roadmap for designing and delivering sexuality education K–12 that is planned, sequential and part of a comprehensive school health education approach.

• The standards offer teachers and administrators clear, concise recommendations for school personnel on what is age-appropriate to teach students at different grade levels.

• The standards remove the guesswork from creating a sexuality education scope and sequence that is age- and developmentally-appropriate by translating an emerging body of research related to school-based sexuality education to ensure that it is evidence-informed and theory-driven.

How Do the National Sexuality Education Standards Support Parents?

• The National Sexuality Education Standards provide a clear, concise framework for parents to understand what the minimum, core content and skills are that their children need to know at different ages so that they can partner with schools to reinforce the school’s sexuality education program at home within the context of their family’s values.

• Research shows that sexuality education programs that teach about abstinence as well as other topics can have a positive impact on young people’s behaviors and practices.3 In communities where no or insufficient sexuality education is being offered, parents can use the National Sexuality Education Standards to advocate for the inclusion of content and skills that are based in research and best practices.

The Future of Sex Education (FoSE) initiative is a collaboration between Advocates for Youth, Answer and the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) to promote the institutionalization of sexuality education in America’s public schools. For more information, please visit www.futureofsexed.org.


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Thanks to Rick Santorum’s comments about contraception, and his subsequent attempts to dial back those comments, one of the weekend’s two Republican presidential debates contained a lengthy interlude about contraception.  As soon as Romney was done minimizing the importance of something which over 98% of sexually active women have used, he managed to force out "Contraception, it’s working just fine, just leave it alone.”  

That would be an adequate contraception philosophy if it truly reflected Republican, or even Romney’s philosophy, but we know it doesn’t.  In the last year we have seen many attacks on contraception — from the Mississippi personhood bill, which Romney wouldn’t say whether he supported or opposed,  to attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of birth control to young and low income women, which attempts Romney supports.    

An even sillier lie in the weekend’s debates came when Rick Santorum made this claim:

"In fact, he (Obama) has required programs not to talk about marriage, not to talk about abstinence, if — in order to get federal funds."

This is laughably untrue.  First of all, no federally-funded sex education program leaves abstinence out of the discussion.  Funds from the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative must go to medically accurate and scientifically proven programs – all of which discuss abstinence as a 100% effective method of birth control and as a great choice for teens.  Funds from the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (health care reform) must teach about both abstinence and contraception.  No one wants to leave abstinence out of a discussion of sexual health, and certainly not the President.  
But even if Santorum were referring to abstinence-only programs, which discuss contraception only in terms of failure rates (if at all) and have repeatedly been proven ineffective, he’d still be wrong, because as CNN notes,  "the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $110 million in grants in September 2010 for a range of groups, including more than $33 million for abstinence-focused programs in 29 states and Puerto Rico."   That’s right, another $33 million added to the well over $1.5 billion spent on drink-the-spit style programs.  

Ah, but who expects Santorum not to be muddled.  This is the same man who literally said that gay couples only live in certain states. It is going to be a long year.

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With close to end up the year 2011, it would really be interesting to view the year back and see how much ahead we all move for the cause. It means I am only talking about Advocacy that is focus on Sexual Reproductive Health, HIV and AIDS from youth’s perspectives from pure Nepalese eyes.

When we start year 2011, it was kind of hope as a youth activist in Nepal as we were going to start our work with Advocates for Youth in Nepal through YUWA. It was kind of excitement and challenge for us. So many causes for challenge but which of course over masked due to our excitement and passion to work for the cause. Advocating for an issue is not just working for some project or doing some workshop or conference. It is far more strong shot for us and we were excited as we, at that time, were confident enough to bear that all.

The time we started to work with Advocates for Youth were the time when all youth in our neighbor countries already started to unite for the same causes, where lots of work were done and some visible impact started to see. In our country also, story was similar. So many successful and so-called advocacies were going on and which is still there. However, the difference of our entry was with force of young people. (I mean here are young people of age below 24 years.) So many organizations still working in Nepal for whom youth means not old, means whose beard is not white. But for us, it is who is below certain age line, who have that energy to make change, and who have hope of long life ahead to live in rights based society.
The background when we stared to work was so much funny in one sense and so much tough in other sense. I am still not convinced that we became able to change that stereotype but I am very happy that we become able to hit there that people start marking the energy of young people, creativity of young people in all aspect not only as beneficiaries of program but also as professionals to plan those programs.

Year 2011 was really a great activism year for world also. For HIV activism it was really important year, for youth activist also it was really important year and so many other marking events for year 2012 already started to be planned in this year. In this verge of this platform, we have run a long way.

I remember the day when we set two policy objectives during our Council training in Dhulikhel. That was about youth leadership and sex education in schools. Before that also there were so many trainings, so many people talked about it, so many young people were trained to be peer educator but no one were really loud to speak out about change in policy which is guiding us to give that education. In that sense, we become pioneer to be that voice raiser from ourselves it mean from youth itself.

By saying this, I am not criticizing the very successful advocacy effort taken by Family Planning Association of Nepal (FPAN) but just saying the young people itself become able to speak for themselves, which may have greater success if we become able to do Youth-Adult partnership now.

I really cannot measure how far we reached for our advocacy objectives but I am pretty sure about the change we become able to create. It was really not a joke to have young people discussing policies rather than just programs and working for it. So, breaking the stereotype and building the foundation was happened in year 2011 but still we need to build the house and society where rights of people be always right. Rights of young people be always right and they become able to use that freely.

Therefore, looking behind 2011 and being strategic, it is really a good time to hit the iron, as this is hot now. Still should not forget our failure during the year 2011. Fragile nature of young people and keeping the energy live for whole year is always a problem for advocacy, which is not going to be changed next year. Let’s continue the effort with great hope for 2012 and lets concentrate on what we become able to build in 2011 and make that bigger in 2012.

Thank you for all the help you all did so far and hope the same for 2012. Happy New Year..

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This is me at a petition drive!

La historia de una activista.

When I was selected on an internship for the Texas Freedom Network, I was ecstatic. I knew that this internship sought for activists. At first, I was a bit hesitant, not because of activism but because I had never done any actual activist work. However, I knew that I was passionate, committed, enthusiastic, and prepared. The Texas Freedom Network’s beliefs were what I believed in, specifically advocating for comprehensive sex education in Texas. Also, I became an advocate under the Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative.  Through the help of my youth coordinator, Garrett Mize, my fellow TFN members from Texas, Advocates for Youth, and Amplify, I learned [and I am still learning] how to develop into a passionate, strong, and fervent activist.
This semester, I successfully established the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas. It was a tedious process to become a registered organization, however, I am extremely proud to say that the TFN Student Chapter at my university is the FIRST and ONLY POLITICAL ORGANIZATION that advocates for many issues that are prevalent in Texas [as well as the entire United States]. I do feel that our university was in need of a political organization other than the Student Government Association because many students are unaware of the issues that are occurring.
The first event that the TFN participated in was College Radio Day. We held a small petition drive for comprehensive sex education. It was an interesting experience because a lot of people were asking many questions. We had mixed emotions regarding comprehensive sex education. Many students were not given any sex education, others did not know that we had abstinence-only programs, and a few believed that we should not have comprehensive sex education because youth are ultimately to blame if they become pregnant or acquire an sexually transmitted disease. Also, we mentioned how LGBT youth are almost always not included in sex education. They are definitely excluded from the curriculum. All in all, we had a great turnout. Many people believed in our cause.
Students at UTB signing petitions!
The second event the TFN held was a bigger petition drive; however, we had help from the Great American Condom Campaign. For this event, there were over 100 petitions signed for comprehensive sex education in Texas. Not only did people sign petitions, we talked to people about safe sex and why it is important to have comprehensive sex education. We provided information regarding statistics, contraceptives, and STI/STD prevention. Lastly, we distributed over 200 condoms! I think this was the most interesting part of our event. Many people were asking questions as to how I had so many condoms. I explained the GACC to the people. Everyone was excited and happy that a student was actually distributing condoms and for our cause. We tried to create an inviting environment because we know that many people do not feel comfortable in talking about these issues [it also has to do a lot with the culture!].

Our table!

This semester, I joined the School Health Advisory Committee in the Brownsville Independent School District [I have a blog for this!]. Currently, I will be working on making a recommendation for comprehensive sex education and presenting it in the following meeting [February!].

Even though I did not host many events like I would have liked to, I feel like I did a great job this semester in bringing the cause into light. Many people were unaware of the statistics and the policies that are in place. Now, I have all the confidence in my acitivist work. Texas, like most of the United States, is making a disservice to youth by not providing them with medically accurate sexual health education. Ultimately, it is up to us to make a change.

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Today the House passed an appropriations bill that brought back abstinence-only-until-marriage funding that study after study has shown just doesn’t work! (Pissed? Take action and tell us what YOU would spend $5 million on #InsteadOfAbOnly) Check out sex education champion Rep. Barbara Lee speaking about why she voted against this bill.

Please take a minute to call her office and say THANK YOU for being a sex education champion!  Her office number is: 202.225.2661.

And here’s another great video from today where she speaks more in depth about the other problematic issues in the bill including a federal funding ban for needle exchange programs and a ban on DC using its OWN money to provide abortion care to low-income women in the District.

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…someday I will learn to come up with catchy, creative titles for my blog posts.  But not today.

I don’t know what you’ve heard about the Heartbeat Bill in the state of Ohio, but it is quite crazy and needs to be stopped.  The bill states that abortion will not be legal after a heartbeat is detected, even in the cases of rape, incest, health of the mother and viability of the fetus (whether or not it can live outside of the womb).  There are a whole host of issues with this bill, a few of them being: 
– Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant until they are at least 6 weeks along; a heartbeat is typically detected for the first time around 4-6 weeks.  Therefore, this law essentially outlaws abortion for everyone who is not expecting a pregnancy.
– It forces women to carry an unhealthy fetus to term knowing that within hours after birth the baby will die.
– It forces survivors of rape to carry the child of their rapist for 9 months.
– It is UNCONSTITUTIONAL! The ACLU has already declared that it will file a lawsuit against the state if this piece of legislation is passed.
– There are hundreds of other reasons as to why this whole thing is terrible, but I won’t spend all of my time telling listing them…

The bill was passed in the Ohio House of Representatives, and was then passed on to the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Aging.  Last week, supporters of the bill testified in front of the committee; some of these individuals speaking about how they had at least one, if not two abortions and now regret their decision after seeking help from extremely religious organizations that have shamed them into believing that they are murderers.  Other supporters of the bill testified this week with thousands of Bible verses and incorrect "facts" about abortion.  I also testified on Tuesday (after about 7 hours of being at the statehouse and 4 hours into the committee hearing)… but I was testifying against the bill.  Some main points that I made were:
– I am a female of childbearing age & this legislation that directly impacts me & my peers (I had to point this out as the majority, if not all of the pro-lifers were white, male, and (of the women) post-childbearing age.)
– Until the state government was willing to fully fund education and social programs (including adoption services), they should not be passing a bill that requires families to bring another child into this world that they are unable to care for.
– This piece of legislation tells me that my state government does not respect me as an individual or trust me to make the best decision for my life and my body.  Therefore, it makes me want to take my Master’s degree & income tax from my well paying job to another state where I am respected and trusted.
– There must be a separation of church and state.  While I don’t know if I would ever have an abortion, I do know that it’s not my right to make that choice for someone else.  We are all entitled to worship or not worship in whatever way we choose; we should not be subjected to follow the rules of someone else’s religious beliefs.  If your faith tells you that abortion is not a good choice, then you should take that into consideration for your own life; you cannot make someone else abide of the rules of your religion.   (I wish I would have articulated this point better after hearing all of the other testimonies…)
– We need to stop wasting time trying to pass unconstitutional legislation and start investing in prevention that works, ie: comprehensive sex education.

Other interesting points made at the hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday were:
– How many individuals on the pro-life movement are adopting children?  Specifically children born right here in Ohio, not from third world countries.  Realistic answer:  not enough.
– What is the pro-life movement doing to support other issues such as education, Medicaid and social programs to support children outside of the womb?  Realistic answer:  nothing.
– Is Faith to Action (the pro-life group sponsoring this legislation) going to pay the state’s legal fees when this is taken to the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional?  Given answer:  Only through tax dollars.  
– Will current and future physicians choose to practice medicine in Ohio knowing that they could be arrested if they felt the best medical decision to save a patient’s life was to abort their fetus?  Answer:  Yes, with absolute certainty.

Testifying was a great experience!  The room was definitely full of tension, and it certainly was a longggg day – but we made it out alive!  I felt very respected by the committee, and occasionally individuals on the othe rside of the debate were semi-cordial.  After the hearing was over, I spoke to my senator (who happened to be the vice chair of the committee).  He thanked me for coming down and stating my views on the bill; he then went on to express how even though there are very strong beliefs on both sides, he has the highest respect for individuals (especially young people) who come to Columbus to make their voice heard (meaning he didn’t agree with me, but he was glad I was there).  

The only downfall to all of this was that there were VERY few young people there testifying. While the pro-choice-ers had a few young people testify, the majority of all people who spoke were 40+…. It made me realize even more how important it is for young people to get involved & make their voice heard.  No matter where you stand on an issue, if you feel passionately about it and have done your research to develop an opinion, let the legislators know how you feel!!  You are the future of this country and the decisions made today are about YOUR life – they will impact you & generations to come.  Voting is huge, but advocating for something can make an incredible difference.  Get involved, folks!  Stop letting the baby boomers make all of the decisions – this is YOUR country, too!

If you’re wondering what happened with the heartbeat bill – it is going to continue to sit in the committee until further notice.  The Senate president told the committee chair to suspend all hearings on the Heartbeat Bill until further notice (which is good news for us because their goal was to pass it by Christmas) …. So who knows when hearings will come about again, but thankfully Ohioans maintain their right to choose…. for now. :-/

Oh, and here is the link to the news clip with my testimony!

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So, Congress introduced its appropriations bill late last night to fund the federal government through the end of the 2012 fiscal year. There’s good news and bad news.

GOOD: Your calls to Congress made a difference! Even though new abstinence-only-until-marriage funding was reintroduced, they will only receive $5 million. That’s a step in the right direction.

BAD: We’ve seen this before. The Community Based Abstinence Education (CBAE) fund was launched with only $20 million, but its annual funding was scaled up to more than $110 million in just a few years. $5 million is just the beginning.

By now we all know that the majority of Americans oppose an abstinence-only approach to sex education. What makes this worse is that Congress has been raging for months about slashing unnecessary spending and cutting the deficit. $5 million for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs is like taking a match to taxpayers’ money and simply lighting it on fire. (Actually, it’s even worse than that. Research has shown that these programs have no impact on teen behavior – and they also forbid students from learning about contraception and condoms.)

Our elected officials are fond of saying that "the people" know how to spend their own tax dollars better than politicians in Washington do, and for once we couldn’t agree more. So let’s turn it over to you.


Click here to join the conversation on Facebook.

"Like" us on Facebook, and post comments, photos, or videos on the Amplify Facebook Page explaining how you’d help people with $5 million — rather than fund failed abstinence-only programs. Download a template HERE!

Click here to join the conversation on Twitter.

Let us know by tweeting @AmplifyTweets and using the #InsteadOfAbOnly and #5mil hashtags.

I can’t wait to see all of your amazing ideas – and don’t worry, we’ll make sure to pass them along leaders on Capitol Hill!

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Last week, we were all psyched because the Food and Drug Administration recommended that Plan B One-Step (also known as emergency contraception) be approved over-the-counter for women and young people of all ages…then the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) gave the FDA the shaft, with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ruling that younger adolescents don’t have the same capacity to think as critically as their older peers. Everybody had something to say about it, including Jessica Valenti, Jezebel, NARAL, The Washington Post, doctors groups, The New York Times, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, and RH Reality Check.

Then President Obama decided to defend the Secretary Sebelius’s decision, stating that, as a father of two daughters, the government should "apply some common sense" — as opposed to what? Listening to science? While I understand President Obama’s stance and I can see where Secretary Sebelius is coming from to a certain degree, I also understand a couple of things:

  1. 2012 is an election year: This is really about the Obama administration taking all necessary routes to make sure that Obama is re-elected in 2012. What better way to assist in that than by appealing to the "moral consciousness" of many people who are undecided if they should vote for Obama or for the yet-unknown Republican candidate, and by throwing young people under the bus in the process?

  2. Making access to contraception more difficult can result in negative consequences: If a 16-year-old cannot get access to Plan B, the chances of experiencing an unwanted pregnancy or having an abortion increase significantly. Thus, if the goal is to decrease the number of abortion procedures and the number of teen pregnancies, it makes sense to provide everyone with access to an array of birth control options, including emergency contraception. Emergency contraception is safe when used as directed, and it can stop unwanted pregnancies from occurring. This is why comprehensive sex education, combined with parent-child communication, is extremely important.

  3. All young people are not the same: Secretary Sebelius’s statement that younger adolescents may not have the same capacity to think as critically as their older peers makes sense on a surface level, but in working with young people throughout the years, I know that not all young people think alike, act alike, and many are more mature and can think critically than many adults give them credit for. In fact, I believe I know more young people who know what Plan B than older adults. Sebelius provided no scientific evidence that would actually say why the FDA is incorrect in their recommendation. To say that younger adolescents do not know how to effectively read a label and take the correct dosage (or that they wouldn’t be able to go to their nearest clinic or to a trusted adult if they have questions) is bizarre and condescending.

  4. The same HHS that vetoed the FDA’s recommendation on Plan B is the same HHS that recommended health insurance companies provide birth control prescriptions with no co-pay starting August 2012: Was the HHS thinking about any potential damaging consequences when this recommendation was made?

  5. Medical science should always prevail: Common sense isn’t so common when it’s used to trump scientific evidence. Politics should not win out over medical science. I expected for President Obama to focus more on the best medical and scientific research.

Though teen birth rates have steadily declined over the years, young women of color still experience unintended pregnancies at a disproportionate rate.

These are some reasons why not making Plan B available over-the-counter affects young women of color:

  1. Significant barriers: Youth of color experience more financial, cultural, and institutional barriers in obtaining health care compared to white youth, and many youth of color are receiving limited access to medical services that can aid in their overall health and wellbeing. Denying young women of color access to emergency contraception over-the-counter, when they are already receiving little or no medical services, places them in a precarious situation.

  2. Abortions on the rise: Women of color are having abortions at higher rates than white women, often because of financial constraints. With no access to Plan B, the rates of abortion will continue to rise for young women, especially young women of color.

  3. Limited proper identification: In order to get any type of prescription, one will need access to proper identification outside of a school ID. How many young people are walking around with proper identification? This can definitely be a problem for young immigrant women.

  4. Negotiating condom use: This places an even greater burden on young women of color who have difficulty in negotiating condom use with their sexual partners.

Yes, President Obama may have been thinking of his daughters when he defended the HHS’s decision to overrule the FDA. However, many young women of color may not be growing up in homes where they have access to healthcare services that the Obama children most likely have. In order to work towards decreasing the rates of unintended pregnancies and abortion for young women of color, we need to make Plan B available for all young people.

Take action with me and many others in telling the Obama administration and HHS to stop preventing the FDA from recommending scientifically based and sound decisions for the health and lives of women and young people.

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I’m pro-choice and I’m pro-life. It’s a definition that I’ve come to myself, interest-group free.

For a long time, I was about nothing more than ensuring a women’s right to choice—to choose if and when she would become a mother. Over time, my beliefs have become more complicated with the more people I meet, the more stories I hear, and the older I get.

Before either side sounds the alarm, hear me out.

In the abortion world, there are two camps: the extreme pro-choicers and the extreme pro-lifers. We seldom (if ever) see the regular people who have been touched by abortion. Planned Parenthood and the Ohio Right to Life both have testimonials from women to advance the organization’s interests, not necessarily the story of everyday women.

I’m not relinquishing my pro-choice beliefs. Instead, I’m adopting some new ones. Sitting for an entire day listening to testimony for both sides on House Bill 125, the “Heartbeat” Bill, I’m rattled and frustrated. Perhaps you should be, too.

It’s not just the fact that this legislation would prohibit abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected that brings about frustration. If you know me, you know I think that this is the wrong approach. If you disagree, then let’s agree to disagree. Still hear me out.

What I cannot understand—what baffles and confuses and angers me—is the fact that we have a middle ground, yet so few are willing to leave the comfort of their talking points and their derisive language to try to come up with a solution.

Abortion is “erroneous” fetuses have “civil rights,” and the constitution is “perverted”. Ok, ok—I get it. You are opposed to abortion. Fine. I personally believe it’s less black and white, but can we set those arguments aside and move toward the one that really matters: prevention?

When we want to prevent car accidents, we teach people how to drive safely. When we want to prevent poverty, we attack its root causes: addiction, education, unplanned pregnancies, etc. And when we want to prevent abortion—which we must all have a stake in—then we have to start with preventing unplanned pregnancies.

How? We could start with improving sex education. On an issue that clearly drums up endless passion on both sides, would we ever come up short on ideas? I doubt it. The key is to put our differences aside and reunite as Americans with a singular purpose: to improve the quality of life for everyone, young and old. There is something inherently pro-life sounding in that, if you ask me.

Yes, I’m pro-choice. But, like many others, including those on the pro-life side, we are so much more than our labels, so, if you dare, leave yours at the door and let’s actually solve a problem instead of creating new ones.

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Garrett Mize is the Youth Advocacy Coordinator at the Texas Freedom Network and heads up the Texas Student Leadership Council, a part of Advocates for Youth’s Cultural Advocacy and Mobilization Initiative.

In just the past few months, comprehensive sex ed has made huge strides in Texas. With the announcement of Texas Freedom Network’s latest report, our Houston Leadership Development Institute and World AIDS Day there is plenty of good news to go around.

Texas Freedom Network Education Fund Report

TFNEF’s latest report on sex ed in Texas is much different than our original 2009 report Just Say Don’t Know. In the first report, we asked each public school district in Texas to tell us what type of sex ed they taught. Of the 1,031 independent school districts in Texas, 990 responded.  We found that 94 percent of school districts taught abstinence-only, 3.6 percent taught abstinence-plus and 2.3 percent taught nothing at all. The numbers were startling to say the least.

Our newest report, Sex Education in Texas Public Schools: Progress in the Lone Star State, found that abstinence-only is now taught in 74.6 percent of school districts, and abstinence-plus is taught in 25.4 percent of school districts. This major improvement in the quality of sex ed taught in Texas is thanks in large part to grassroots activists who have served on a local School Health Advisory Council (SHAC) and to organizations like the Texas Freedom Network and Advocates for Youth. While abstinence-only remains the clear majority, it is losing its grip in Texas. The latest report’s findings were featured in The Dallas Morning News.


University of Houston Leadership Development Institute

Recently, the Texas Freedom Network Student Chapter at UH hosted its first-ever Leadership Development Institute. This grassroots training focused on civic engagement and skills to organize students on campus to support comprehensive sex ed in a non-partisan manner during the election cycle. With 50 people in attendance, this training was a popular Saturday event.

James Lee, president of the TFN student chapter at UH, organized the event and introduced the presenters, which included Dr. Susan Tortolero, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research at the University of Texas Health Science Center; Meryl Cohen, vice president of Education at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast; Resha Thomas, campaign coordinator for the Texas Organizing Project; and Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.

I’m expecting a lot of great work to come out of this student chapter next semester!

World AIDS Day 2011

Despite the fact that it was finals week, our youth activists managed to put on great events to highlight World AIDS Day on their campuses. In particular, Mackenzie Massey, president of the TFN student chapter at UT, organized the entire World AIDS Day fair at her school. She created a coalition of 13 student organizations, led by the TFN student chapter, to put on this day of action. The coalition had free HIV testing, a T-shirt awareness campaign with 250 t-shirts, an expert discussion panel, a student organization tabling fair, a banner signing campaign and a petition signing effort to support comprehensive sex ed in Texas. Mackenzie worked closely with Ana Laura Rivera, another fantastic Advocates for Youth activist, to put this event on.

Their efforts were featured in numerous media outlets, including Spanish-language Univision, The Daily Texan, Austin NPR affiliate KUT 90.5 FM and other student news sources. Other youth activists also took action by tabling on their campuses to mark World AIDS Day, including Spencer Allers at UT San Antonio and April Flores at UT Brownsville.

There has been a lot of progress in Texas this past semester, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have much to look forward to in 2012!