The Blog

GUEST POST: New Concerns for Sexually Active Young Adults

Statistics published by the Department of Health reported some optimistic findings on the sexual health of Americans. For example, the incident of new AIDS cases decreased 47 percent in the past four years—from 682 in 2007 to 363 in 2011.

In addition, The Kaiser Family Foundation reported that in recent years, the percent of high school students having sex has decreased from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2013. Also, the incidents of teen pregnancy, births, and abortions have all decreased. They added that the percentage of high school students who report having had four or more sexual partners declined from 18 percent in 1995 to 15 percent in 2013.

While the news is encouraging, there are new behavioral risks that some adolescents and young adults are taking in their relationships that are of some concern. The issues aren’t as much of a worry for their physical health, but their emotional and mental health.

The Independent said that more than ever, teenagers aged 16-18 are engaging in anal sex, usually in an attempt to recreate what they’ve seen in porn. It’s not the act itself that is concerning, but what they call the “climate of coercion” that usually accompanies it at this age. They said that “consent and mutuality are not always a priority for the boys who are trying to persuade girls into having it.” The behavior is especially risky among this age range considering the fact that Adam & Eve’s Safer Sex Guide reported “Four percent of university students claim that they hardly ever perform safer sex.”

Another risky behavior becoming more common among teens and young adults is sexting and sending nude photos to one another. Unfortunately, while most young people are aware that whatever they put online is permanent, few consider the repercussions. That’s especially true when they’re under a false sense of security because they trust their partner. While they’re usually only meant for a specific person, it doesn’t take long for the once private photos to become public, a point made even more evident by the recent amount of celebrity private photos leaked. Simply put, it’s far too easy for someone else to get ahold of your private photos.
Continue Reading →

Can We Talk?

This post comes to us from the folks at Minna Life

SEX. SEX. SEX.

There we’ve said it. You were probably already thinking about sex before we even mentioned it, weren’t you? Let’s face it, it’s natural and, of course, we all do. It’s part of being a healthy human being, but the important question is not if we think about sex, it’s how we think about sex and how we learn to navigate intimate relationships. As many people take their cues about sexuality from media images or online pornography, it leads to inadequate information on basic anatomy, natural sexual responses and relationship expectations. Even most academic health classes seem to offer less than the whole picture or as campus sex-crusader, Dan Savage, notes, “Too often reproduction is simplified into basic biology terms. In classes they’ll just say, there’s an egg, there’s some sperm that gets ejaculated and maybe you’ll create a baby, and there that’s sex. Sexual education needs to be more about how you have sex, how to talk to women to have sex, how to be responsible, how to know what consensual sex is. If we taught drivers ed the way we taught sex ed, no one would survive! We would teach them about the car engine, but nothing about how to drive.”

So what’s the answer to this conundrum? Simple. Let’s talk about it. Talk about the mechanics of sex. Talk about safer sex. Talk about how to respectfully discuss your desires with your partner. Open, frank, non-innuendo’d dialogue is the only way to dispel misconceptions, educate, enlighten, and allow individuals and couples to explore their own unique path to healthy sexual experiences.

Continue Reading →

What’s Sex Got to Do with It?

Check out this awesome article about the importance of educating girls about sex by Kavita N. Ramdas from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Ramdas makes a pretty convincing argument that our attempts to educate girls are severely hampered by our refusal to talk to them about sex. In her words:

So we want to educate girls, but we don’t want to talk about sex. We want girls to read, but we don’t want to provide them with information about their bodies. We want to save girls from female genital mutilation and rescue them from brothels, but we don’t want to know why they choose to sleep with their boyfriends or trade sex for commodities or affection or grades. We want girls to get married later, but we don’t want to talk openly about contraception or abortion.”

There have been a number of blog posts here about the importance of comprehensive sexual education to our future as a nation and this article makes it very clear that sex ed should be a priority in our schools:

…if we want our daughters to grow up with confidence, courage, and competence, we must make sure that they grow up with knowledge about and access to contraception. We should build schools, fund libraries, encourage teacher training, and support free tuition, but we also need to push for comprehensive access to sex education for both girls and boys, not just abroad, but right here in the United States.”

Some Thoughts on Sex Ed at Harvard

By a male first-year student

As part of the dichotomy between its exceptionalism and its commonalities with the concepts of higher education, Harvard both flees from and embraces what it shares with other colleges. We distinguish ourselves in academics, the University says, but we share the common nature of life and our students are as happy and as equipped with opportunities as any other campus in the nation. To a large degree, this assertion is quite correct. Harvard is not like any other United States institution—will any other college that is 375 years old please stand up?—in terms of its pedagogical history and the staff is littered with Nobel Prize winners and experts in their relative fields. The academics are noteworthy and the college is ranked no.1 on the all-important scale to mothers of high school seniors everywhere—U.S. News and Report. The school’s newspaper, The Crimson, is a million dollar enterprise; for every dorm there is a name every student knows who has lived in it. Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Al Gore, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, the list goes on and on bounce house sales canada.

Yet in many ways, Harvard is no different from many other institutions. As part of the American college system, Harvard is not immune to the symptoms of the American college dating scene. The ideas of rape and alcohol-induced illicit and possibly nonconsensual sexual activity are not gone at Harvard. This summer alone, there were two rapes in the Harvard yard. With the frequent consumption of alcoholic beverages, a staple on every campus no matter the history, bad decisions can easily be made. Harvard makes a concerted effort to teach students about this in opening week with seminars and the humorous and slightly tasteless Sex Signals production.

However, it is important for the college to acknowledge that sexual education in our country is horrendous and it is very possible that most Harvard students have not received the same sexual education. Some may be sexually experienced; some may not. Some may be sexually knowledgeable; some may not. Education should be more comprehensible on this front and the emphasis should be on voluntary seminars that encourage students to pursue knowledge that they don’t already know. Instead of passive e-mails that most students skim over, it is important to make proctors announce these to their entryways and make students aware of what is being offered to them.

Continue Reading →

The Shocking State of Sex Ed in New York

The New York Civil Liberties Union recently issued a report highlighting the failure of New York’s schools to provide their students with comprehensive sex ed. Although the state published sexual health instruction guidelines in 2005, they are not binding on New York schools, leaving decisions of what to teach and how to teach it in the hands of individual school districts and teachers. The report is based on sex-education materials from 108 different school districts (excluding New York City which recently adopted binding sex ed guidelines) and contains some truly appalling results.

The NYCLU ultimately found that in addition to inaccurate or incomplete lessons on reproductive anatomy, basic functions, and pregnancy and STI prevention, the curricula largely ignore or even stigmatize LGBTQ students, exhibit a heavy heterocentric bias, and perpetuate gender stereotypes. Many curricula also contain moral overtones and deliver a shame-based message on sexuality and teen pregnancy and parenting. The study also revealed a clear gender gap, with programs addressing male anatomy and orgasm more than twice as often as their female counterparts.

A number of fairly shocking handouts found in the report have been showing up all over the internet today being attacked for their depiction of gender stereotypes, and rightly so. Handouts describing women as “hazardous materials” that are “highly ornamental, especially in sports cars” are both unfunny and seriously damaging to young people. It may seem excessive to condemn teachers for what was (at least I hope) meant as a joke but when less than half of the sex ed programs in the study address gender role stereotypes and less than 20% cover gender identity we don’t really have time for jokes.

The report is shocking but ultimately not all that surprising. There’s a clear lack of comprehensive sex ed throughout the country and it’s reflected in our national discourse. We’re appalled when people like Todd Akin voice inaccurate and offensive opinions about rape, but we don’t require our schools to teach the facts about sexual assault. The most important part of the NYCLU’s report isn’t the shocking handouts or the appalling statistics, it’s their detailed recommendations for improving sexual education, advice that’s helpful no matter what state you live in.

Sex ed is bad, but it can be better. Contact your local school board and your elected officials and demand comprehensive sexual education standards today.

Sex Charts From OkCupid

OkCupid pulled data from their user base to make a bunch of awesome charts about sex, including some interesting facts about twitter users and the relationship between body type, sex drive, and self confidence.

Check them out here at OkCupid’s blog!

The Transgender Equal Rights Law Takes Effect!

On Sunday, Massachusetts became the 16th state to enact a law protecting the rights of transgender residents. The law, which passed last November but only just came into effect, makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity with regards to housing, employment, lending, and public education. This is a huge step for Massachusetts towards equality for people of all identities and will help bring an end to the discrimination faced everyday by transgender people.

You can read more about the law and transgender rights in Massachusetts here at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition

Sex Week at the University of Pennsylvania?

Arielle Pardes calls for a sex week at Penn in this great piece from the Daily Pennsylvanian. SHEATH co-presidents Hazel Lever and Martha Farlow had this to say about the value of Sex Week:

Sex Week is absolutely educational! Our schools don’t teach us, our parents don’t teach us, our peers have only warped and incorrect knowledge [about sex] — so these events become the perfect outlet to give students the information they desperately need.