Drink and Be Merry: How to Party Safer

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn

It is not simply enough to say, “Don’t have sex when you are drunk.” In real life, sometimes when people party it can lead to sex. No surprise there. Sometimes people falter. Thus it is better to be aware of these tendencies and adopt some basic protocol to help you party safer and reduce risks to your sexual health and well-being.

Even if you choose not to have sex when you drink, there are important party strategies you should know.

Here are key points about partying safer, covered by Yvonne Piper at Bedsider below:

  • Studies show that when people are under the influence of alcohol, condoms and other forms of birth control are discussed less and used less.
  • Another risk is that because drinking impairs your motor skills, there is a higher chance that you and your partner will use whatever method, such as a condom or diaphragm, improperly.
  • There are birth control options that are more “party ready”, such as the IUD and Implant. But these do not protect against STIs.
  • Sometimes condoms are provided at parties. Encourage this and bring your own.

This article is written by Yvonne Piper and originally featured here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

So you’re at a party (or a bar, or a booze-fueled picnic in the park…you get the idea) talking with someone you like A LOT. It’s pretty obvious you want to hook up. There are details to sort out, like whose place and how are we getting there? Other important questions may or may not come up: How are we preventing pregnancy? How are we protecting against STIs? Unfortunately those important questions may be less likely to come up the more you both drink.

A disclaimer: I can’t reassure you that sex while partying can be 100% safe—in some cases the best decision is not to hook up at all. For one thing, when you’re under the influence it can be tricky to be sure both you and your partner are thinking clearly enough to communicate your desires and boundaries with each other. But I also want to be real here: sometimes people party, and sometimes partying leads to sex. For folks who occasionally find themselves hooking up under the influence, there are some ways to keep yourself safer.

Does drinking affect birth control?

Alcohol can alter your judgment. You may be willing to do things (or people!) you would not normally do when sober. This may include having sex when you haven’t negotiated birth control in advance.

There’s mixed scientific evidence about how alcohol impacts birth control use. Some studies show that when alcohol is involved, birth control is discussed less often and condoms are used less, even in established relationships. Other studies show that drinking is associated with more condom use for casual partners and that consistent condom users remain consistent even when under the influence. These conflicting findings may have to do with the fact that alcohol affects people differently.

Whether drinking changes your intentions or not, it can definitely mess with your motor skills. If you use condoms, spermicide, or a diaphragm—any method that requires set up right before sex—there is always a chance of human error. When you’re drunk, the chance of using these methods improperly goes up.

Not every method of contraception is affected by partying. Many methods—IUDs, implants, sterilization, the shot, the ring, and the patch—are perfect for partying as they are in place well in advance of the fun and you bring them with you everywhere. The down side to all these methods is they don’t protect you from STIs. Luckily, condoms are portable even in the tiniest purse or pocket and may be available at bars and parties.

Playing safer

Here are 8 practical ways to play safer when partying:

1) Make a plan when you are sober and stick to it, both for drinking and for sex. If your plan says absolutely no hooking up after drinking, you can still flirt and trade phone numbers with a new potential partner. If your plan clearly says you are done after three alcoholic drinks, alternate your boozy beverages with non-alcoholic drinks, like water or soda, to help the fun last longer. And, of course, make sure you have a plan for getting home that doesn’t involve anyone driving under the influence.

2) Something that may help with #1: whether as moral support or designated drivers, enlist the help of your friends to help you stick to your plan. Here are some tips about how to do this.

3) Condoms are always the way to go for STI protection, but consider a second party-ready method to help ensure that you won’t have pregnancy scares on top of potential STI concerns.

4) Speaking of condoms, don’t rely on a partner to supply them. Even if you’re not sure you’ll need one, even if you already use another form of birth control, carrying condoms—and always using them for STI protection—is a smart thing to do.

5) Don’t leave drinks unattended. Even though it’s flattering when someone offers to buy or bring you a drink, you are safer being in control of your drink at all times.

6) Female condoms can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex, so if you suspect you may be partying too hard to use a male condom, consider trying this.

7) If you find yourself having sex in a situation where condoms aren’t available, withdrawal is always better than nothing (especially if your partner has had practice).

8) Have some emergency contraceptive pills at home in case a condom broke or wasn’t used.

If you’ve had drunk sex, it might be worth reviewing: How much fun was it for you? Did you find you had a harder time getting off when drunk? Did you notice that you had less of your natural lubrication? How about your partner’s sexual function? How does it compare to hooking up sober?

Wish you partied less?

If partying is interfering with your work, school, or relationships and you’d like some support in playing safer, Moderation Management and HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol are good resources.

Be safe and have fun!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Kate McCombs: 6 Sex Ed Videos I Love

Photographer Daniel Go

Photo credit: Daniel Go

From butt toys to hymen myths, here are six popular sex educations videos curated and recommended by renowned sex educator Kate McCombs, MPH.

While each video covers separate topics about sex and sexuality, what they all have in common is accessible messaging. Each aim to help us re-think certain preconceived ideas or poorly addressed aspects on sexual health. All do it in highly entertaining ways! Don’t miss the insightful and musical metaphor of sex at the end!

This piece is originally published on Kate’s blog.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

I love reading blog posts as much as the next social media fiend, but sometimes there’s nothing like a good YouTube video to illustrate the point. But in the sea of poorly-made click bait with the term “sex ed” attached, it can be hard to find the really good stuff. So I’ve compiled a list of some of my all-time favorite sex educational videos. I hope you enjoy.

1. The Most LOLworthy: Ducky DooLittle’s “Not In Your Butt”

In her playful demeanor, Ducky describes a number of things found in people’s butts in emergency rooms. It’s both hilarious and educational about what things should never go through the backdoor.

2. The Mythbuster: Laci Green’s “You Can’t POP Your Cherry”

There is still so much misinformation circulating about the hymen (or “vaginal corona” as it’s now called). Laci busts through all the myths in this clear and helpful video.

3. The Surprise: Charlie McDonnell’s “Sex & Consent”

English video blogger Charlie McDonnell isn’t a sex educator but made a simple video about the importance of consent in sexual relationships. It’s friendly, accessible, and I love that in a channel devoted to his random musings and science facts, he slips in a little stealth sex education to his young audience.

4. The Most Playful: Lindsey Doe’s “The Vulva – The Vagina’s Neighborhood”

Dr. Linsey Doe from Sexplanations describes the key parts of female genital anatomy using a number of
different illustrations. I love that she drops in a little etymology too, like that the mons veneris is named after the goddess Venus.

5. The Communication Hacker: Reid Mihalko’s “Safer Sex Elevator Speech”

In this video, Reid talks to Cathy Vartuli about exactly how to talk about safer sex and STI status with a new partner. It’s such a stressful conversation for many folks, and the way Reid breaks it down makes it much more manageable to have this important conversation.

6. The Most Inspirational: Karen B. K. Chan’s “Jam 2013″

If I could only show someone one 5-minute sex ed video, this would be it. Karen explores how instead of thinking of pleasure as a scarce resource, think of it like practicing a musical instrument. It’s one of the most brilliant and insightful pieces of sex ed I’ve seen.

kate_mccombs

KATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

When Sex Is Just A Bummer

Head in HandsHave you recently had a sex experience that was less than fulfilling? Sex bummers can put a real strain on your emotional well being. But as Heather Corinna explains, they don’t have to be that way. In this article, Heather offers new and helpful perspective on sex faux pas that can make you thankful for the experience.

Here’s a summary of key benefits that sexual bummers can provide:

  • Sex bummers can teach us more about what and who we do and don’t like.
  • Bummers offer clues for what needs to be changed and communicated better.
  • Bummers can help us improve our expectations as well as demonstrate what we need and want.
  • Bummers can build intimacy.

This article was originally published at Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Sometimes sex is freaking amazing. Sometimes it’s not, but it’s still mighty good. It’s little more than nice at other times, but as fine a way to have spent those twenty minutes as any other. Then there are times when it’s none of those things: when it’s an oh-well, an oh-that’s-so-good-oh-wait-now-it’s-so-NOT-ACK-STOP!, a WTF was that even? or even an OMFG-WHY-ME-WHYYYYYYY. And times when there’s little to no humour in a sexual disappointment or outcome at all, just some seriously rough feelings or difficult things to contend with.  

Everyone is going to have at least some of those times, way more than just once or twice. Sometimes, or in some interactions, relationships or phases of life, we may even experience sex more often being a bummer for us than being satisfying and awesome.

Maybe sex stunk because someone seemed to think trying to lick your eyeball was sexy, while you felt like they were coming at you with some kind of cannibal agenda they’d clearly kept hidden until now. For every single time one of you moved one way, the other guessed wrong and moved the same way, so all you both got out of sex was bumps on your head and a shiny new tube of Neosporin for where your lip got split by their earring. Your little sister walked in on you, or you shot a condom across the room while trying to get it on and your unstoppable laughter kept you from getting back into your sexy. You and someone else just may not be clicking: everything you do starts out being something one of you likes, and turns out to be something the other doesn’t. Maybe you just can’t get out of your head enough to stay in the groove, or get in the groove to begin with. Or perhaps you’ve become a new member of the statistically large group* who discover that a bed surrounded by candles more often creates smoke damage and a need for new curtains than it does romance.

Many sex bummers are silly or funny, so long as we have a sense of humor about them. Others aren’t, like being triggered during sex from previous trauma or abuse, or having someone you just had otherwise-amazing sex with open their mouth after and say something carelessly stupid that gets them the gold in the Douchebag Olympics. Sometimes people have a hard time being kind or patient with themselves with the learning curve of masturbation or sex with partners. Some people have sexual expectations and ideals that are clearly unrealistic, but they still have a very big, sometimes even religious, emotional attachment to those ideals, so being shown the realities can feel devastating. Being unpleasantly surprised by our emotional reactions to certain things — like having post-breakup sex you thought you were cool with, only to find out that you are in no way cool with it — can also be something we may need to cry out rather than laugh off. Some bummers are more challenging or emotionally rough than others.

We know that resilience is key in healthy sexual and personal development. Being able to experience and move forward from anything from a mere disappointment to a terrible trauma or tragedy is vital for being able to live our lives and find happiness in them. Being resilient is ultimately about having the tools and the desire to adapt to life and its experiences, rather than getting stuck or mired down under the weight of things.

Resilience is what’s asked of us when sex is disappointing, especially if we don’t want it to be chock full o’bummer evermore. Perspective is a big help with resilience, because it lets us know the real gravity of something. When it’s truly not a big whoop, it helps us to let it go more easily. Someone should be able to easily cope with not getting an erection or not reaching orgasm now and then, or finding out that a partner just isn’t into one or two sexual things they are. Those things are, indeed, bummers, but great tragedies they are not. On the other hand, struggling for years to reclaim a sexual life that was hijacked by sexual abuse or assault, feeling so unaccepted and unsafe in being queer that you never even let yourself love whoever it is you love, battling serious sexually-transmitted illness and its worst complications: that’s huge stuff we can’t (and shouldn’t) just brush off.

If we sweat the small stuff a lot, we won’t be able to deal with the truly hard and challenging stuff. When we learn to let go of the small stuff, so it’s not part of our stresses and strains, we have way more of our own emotional reserves to help us through the big stuff. And when aren’t sweating the small stuff, we’re far more likely to actually enjoy most of our lives, including our sexual lives, fumbles and all.

But isn’t sex supposed to be about pleasure?

Sex of any kind, be it masturbation or sex with partners, is primarily about seeking and intending physical and emotional pleasure. But seeking something out or intending it doesn’t mean we’ll always get or find that thing, or have it go as we expected or intended. Sex being about pleasure also doesn’t mean that every nanosecond we’re sexual in some way will be amazing, without fumbles or moments where things are only so-so. Like any other part of life, sex is something we’re likely to have a wide range of different experiences with, including how much pleasure we do and don’t wind up experiencing each time, and how much what we experience is or isn’t as we expected or were going for.

There are things we can certainly do to make it more likely we’ll experience pleasure with masturbation or sex with partners, including the most basic stuff we need to do to just be safely and soundly sexual with ourselves and others. We can all do consenting well, so no one is doing anything to the other they don’t want or aren’t okay with.  We can aim to please ourselves or each other, and put our all into that. We get to choose what we do with which body parts, and how we use them, how we communicate and how we listen and what we do with that information.

But there’s a lot about engaging in sex, alone or with partners, that is simply not entirely within our control. Always doing all of those things above that are within our control still can’t make it so sex is always fabulous. Doing those things, for instance, doesn’t always mean we’ll discover or answer what we or others really want just yet, that our intent to please will always result in pleasure, or the kind of pleasure we want, or that even open, rich shared communication will result in agreement, compatibility or all the orgasms all the time. Just because we are seeking out and can find pleasure and other kinds of awesome in sex and sexuality doesn’t mean we always will.

Same deal, different context: I’ve been making music since I was a kid: it’s one of my first loves in my life. It’s my happy place. Except for the times that it isn’t, or it is, but it just doesn’t make me as happy as I know it can, or doesn’t go the way I expected.

Sometimes practicing is pure bliss; other times it’s a total drag. Some days my hands work beautifully; other days, my fingers feel clumsy and I can’t sustain a pattern or rhythm to save my life. Playing with other people rocks when we all really get in the groove together. But we can’t always do that, so sometimes it feels more like work than play, and can result in hurt feelings or petty resentments. Sometimes I grab an instrument excited to play, but once I start playing, I just can’t get into it that day at all. Sometimes I break a string and don’t have an extra set (and once sliced my cheek open in the process of breaking one, just to add injury to insult), discover the piano’s fallen out of tune, or have a cold, so singing feels and sounds like a duck on its deathbed instead of feeling and sounding good. All of these things are out of my control, and all can totally tank what could have been an opportunity for me to play and enjoy playing.

Sex is a lot like that, for most people, often as much of the time as it is all they want or expect it to be. Because of the bonkers-high expectations that get placed, or we place, on sex, it can be harder to see it the way we would similar things that we seek pleasure in, but just don’t find sometimes, whether that’s about playing music, eating cupcakes, getting a haircut or falling in love. But just like other things that don’t go as we wanted have a potentially positive value, the same goes here. Today’s sex bummer could result in next month’s victory dance if you let it.

Using Bummers for Good

Besides furnishing you with some dishy content for your memoirs, there are other hidden upsides to sex that isn’t great….

Continue reading the full article at Scarleteen.

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heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

What Is a “Beacon of Permission”?

Photo credit: Carol Jones

Photo credit: Carol Jones

When you’re hanging out, do you and your friends, peers, sex partners, etc., talk about sex? Not just about who is a good or bad kisser, or what certain people are like in bed. Rather, do you have heartfelt conversations, do you ask personal questions that lead to more healthy, informed choices in your’s and other people’s lives?

Not many people have this opportunity with others. It is more common, instead, to avoid sex conversations altogether. When sex educator, Kate McCombs was asked during a panel discussion, “What can we do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” McCombs response was, “To become a beacon of permission.”

What she means by this is to become a sound board with whom others feel safe to talk about sex and ask questions they might not otherwise feel comfortable discussing.

It is about intentionally creating a safe, non-judgmental, shame-free space to talk about sex in a health-promoting way. As McCombs wrote elsewhere, “It’s someone who acts as a beacon to shine light on the shame shadows that traditionally surround conversations about sex.”

This does not mean to talk about sex in some radical, edging or pop-cultural fashion. Key to Kate McCombs’ concept is that the dialogue must be honest, educational and healing. When people are more informed about themselves and their bodies they are better equipped to take care of themselves and the people they care about. If we approached personal sex conversations with less shame and sensationalism, and more honesty and open-mindedness, we can explore concepts of sexuality in more healthy, positive ways. It makes the world a better place for us all.

This article was originally published here.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

As is glaringly obvious, I love talking about sex.

For me, being a sex educator isn’t just about teaching about sex in a vacuum – it’s also about talking about it with others in order to normalize discussions about sexuality.

Far too often, people feel uneasy talking about sex. And I don’t mean sensationalized, pop-culture sex. There’s a lot of that talk happening. I’m referring to genuine, sincere discussions about sex that lead to healthful, mindful choices and meaningful connection in people’s lives.

Some people might avoid sex conversations altogether, while others might make jokes to mask their discomfort. I’m all for finding the playful, humorous sides of sex, but I recognize that laughter can sometimes be an indicator of embarrassment or shame.

Many of us – not just professional sex educators and therapists – have the unique desire, knowledge, and skills to become what I call “beacons of permission” in the world. By “permission” I mean permission to have honest, educational, and even healing conversations about sex. Many people who describe themselves as “sex positive” or “sex geeky” fall under this category.

Does the following sound familiar? Many of the sex-positive folks I know describe themselves as always being “that friend” to whom others could turn when they had sexual questions. That sort of unofficial peer education is a manifestation of that permission-giving.

When I tell new acquaintances what I do for a living, I often become the sounding board for sex and relationship questions and (occasionally) whispered confessions. Nearly all of the sex educators I know describe having similar experiences.

This is what being a beacon of permission looks like: by communicating that you are a safe person with whom to talk about sex, you create spaces wherein people can explore ideas that have been marinating for days or decades.

Not all conversations about sex are equal. Most people notice that sex occupies a significant percentage of the airwaves. From “sexting” moral panic, to the recent sexual exploits of a B-list reality TV star, the media is full of sex, but it’s very rarely explored in a way that leads to better understanding of sexuality.

I suspect that some people may become so over-saturated with the sex alarmism and titillation that permeates the media that they may find it more difficult to hear messages that are actually educational, useful, or health-promoting.

Not all conversations have to be serious. I think it can be deeply cathartic to laugh about sex (see “Burritos and Ball Jokes”). But I think that bringing greater intention to the conversation – intentions like “shedding light on a taboo topic” or “reducing sex-negativity” – can go a long way in shaping our understanding of what it means to talk about sex.

So when an audience member at a panel I was on asked, “What can we as sex geeks do to make the world a more sex-positive place?” I lit up. I responded by describing this concept of being a beacon of permission and intentionally fostering meaningful dialogue.

I suspect that people are hungry for this kind of meaning, so when a safe-space creating, sex-positive person enters their lives, they’ll usually take the opportunity to engage. Whether you would consider yourself a “sex geek” or not, I encourage you to become a beacon of permission to others.

I argue that in order to reduce sex-negativity, the world needs to start by having more of these safe spaces. I’m grateful that it’s my job to help facilitate them.

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kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

The Tangled Nature of Sexy & Violent Halloween Costumes

Photo credit: Charles Rodstorm

Photo credit: Charles Rodstorm

Once again, the sexy Halloween costume debate is in full swing this season. On the one hand, women ought to be allowed to explore their sexuality without fear of repercussions: slut-shaming, objectification, harassment. On the other hand, sexy costumes are increasingly becoming the only purchasing option on the market for women and girls. This debate has sparked grassroots activism, from stores of being pressured to remove sexy toddler costumes from store shelves, to radical DIY Liberate Halloween Action Kits.

But this year’s debate takes on a whole new dimension. Dr. Karen Rayne argues that more and more customs are sexualizing violence in absurd ways; some of which glorify domestic violence and victimhood. Drawing from examples in our popular culture, Rayne argues that this trend is a new kind of assault on educating young people about consent, sexuality and gender expectations.

Do you think the sexy costume has taken an absurd and offensive twist? Is non-consent culture permeating Halloween? Read below and conclude for yourself.

This post was originally publish on Unhushed.net

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

sexy and violent Halloween Costumes

Image from Unhushed.net

Sexy Halloween costumes are evident everywhere we go, all October long. I have been inundated with commentary on these kinds of costumes, and given it myself, for years. I’m emotionally exhausted by it, so I don’t write about it anymore.

But this year, my deepest outrage, sorrow, and grief over the way we are expressing ourselves as a culture has been touched just as deeply as it was the first time I saw a “Sexy Halloween Costume” that was toddler-sized.

But this year, it’s not about the sexy costumes. Or, rather, it’s not just about the sexy costumes. It’s the violent, individual, personalized, victim costumes. It’s the Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman costumes; it’s this Facebook post by a former student of a teacher friend of mine.

This personalization of the Halloween gore is an entirely different animal than the sexiness that has been creeping younger and younger. As offensive as that is, this takes it to a new level.

The integration of sex and violence – the making sexy of violence against women – has been around for along time and it’s getting worse. From Rhianna and Chris Brown to Pink (see below), abuse is being increasingly sexualized.

And now it’s Halloween’s turn to get in on it all.

Gore is one thing. Sexy zombies may be stupid and raise questions of consent (read down a bit, the relevant part is there, I promise), but the personalized and violent Halloween costumes that are starting to show up and weave into the standing sexy Halloween costumes is a new kind of assault on and education of young people.

Assault, battery, murder: these are not hilarious and funny things to trot out on a holiday. My teacher friend whose student posted the Facebook picture responded (in part) with: “Are you speaking out against domestic abuse, or saying that it makes a good costume. How many women can’t wipe off this ‘make-up’?” My friend was the first to comment on the post, so he was able to set the tone, but there were already eight or nine Likes. We need to teach our children how to recognize inappropriate humor and how to stand up to it. Because this just isn’t funny, cute, or appropriate.

rayne2sm DR. KAREN RAYNE With a doctoral degree is in Educational Psychology, Karen provides advice and support to parents on how to educate their children and teenagers about sex and sexuality. Karen’s knowledge about adolescent development and education provides her with a solid background for guiding parents through these tricky conversations. And, as a college professor, helping young adults grapple with sexuality, she is known to change student’s lives. On twitter @KarenRayne

What Does Sexual Consent Look Like?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

When it comes to sex, consent is essential. As JoEllen Notte of the RedHeadBedhead.com writes, consent is to sexual play as a doorbell is to a home. We do not question the validity of houses having doorbells. And yet, the topic of sexual consent generates heated debate.

What does consent actually mean? What does sexual consent look like? Do I have to sign a contract with my partner about everything we do together before we take our clothes off?

This confusion is not surprising. Movies typically portray sizzling sex scenes without any talking. The characters are so in sync with each other that communication seems unnecessary. In the article below, JoEllen points to ways in which “enthusiastic consent” is the brunt of media jokes that poke fun at anti-harassment activists as out-of-touch, over-the-top PC mood killers.

How did we get to this political climate around consent?

According to JoEllen, it all begins from a faulty model taught from a young age: The “no means no” model.

In this clever piece, “I Got Your Consentlandia Right Here“, JoEllen runs through the flaws and harmful effects that longstanding approaches to consent have had in our media, our legal system and our personal well being. Then she demonstrates practical ways that consent takes place and how it looks in different contexts. When you’re done reading, you’ll never think of consent as a drag again.

Here are key points to take away:

  • “No means no” perpetuates the stance, “They never said no”, as a valid response to sexual harassment and rape charges.
  • The new model, “Yes means yes”, implies collaboration. Real consent happens only once there is an active, voluntary “yes” or “F*ck Yeah!”.
  • Consent is an on-going process that requires constant communication.
  •  “Yes means yes” allows for no confusion, no mind reading, and much better sex!

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

The topic of consent has been weighing heavy on my mind this last week. I’ve watched people wrestle with it, spring into action around it, snark about it, debate it, discuss it and even mock it, dismiss it and reduce it to a meme. A conclusion that I’ve come to (a conclusion that I’ve come to many times before) is that most people— even the ones who want desperately to help— don’t really get consent. The fact that the topic breeds debate and frequently causes people to get angry (“What, do I have to fill out a form before I touch someone now?!”) is actually absurd because when it comes down to it, consent is just about not violating boundaries. That shouldn’t piss us off. We’re not outraged that houses have doorbells rather than coming with the assumption that we can all just walk on in, right? Right. But somehow when you suggest to people that they may want to ask before stomping all up into another person’s space, there is backlash. So how did this happen?

Think back to how you were taught about consent. Odds are you weren’t really. You were more likely taught about “no”. If you were born with a vagina, you were probably taught to be careful because people might rape you and you should say “no” or, if you were born with a penis, you were told that “no means no” and if you hear “no” then you should not proceed because, rape¹. What has happened here is that you learned a couple of things:

  1. One partner should charge ahead until they get the red light from the other.
  2. Listen for a cue to stop, rather than a cue to start.
  3. If you don’t hear a “no”, you’re good to go.

This model has proven disastrous in myriad ways. From lawyers who argue that unconscious victims weren’t raped because they didn’t say the all-important “no”, to people who have no idea how to communicate sexual needs because everything we’ve been taught is based in negatives (i.e. what DON’T we want), to the general pattern of blaming victims not rapists because, obviously, they didn’t “no” hard enough, to the fact that no one knows what the hell “yes” looks like, to this bizarre idea that if we ask people if we can touch them before we touch them we will never touch each other again/it will be super-awkward and not fun.

Folks, it’s a steaming pile of horse shit. All of it.

Seriously.

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit consent obsessed and, while consent is not always about sex (in fact, a lot of what we’re talking about applies to most non-sexual situations and, ahem, communities), I’m happy to report that my own life got way easier, more comfortable, more fun and, frankly, sexier once I figured this consent business out….

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

15 Warning Signs He Doesn’t Support Your Contraceptive Choices

Image from Bedsider.org

If any one of these warning signs relates to your experience, you are not in a balanced, healthy relationship.

Some of the warning signs may seem extreme (like “Do you find him poking holes in condoms?”), but the fact is that these things do happen. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) one in five young women say they have experienced reproductive coercion. Reproductive coercion is when one partner forces the other into sex without contraception.

Even more common is facing a partner who dislikes condoms and tries to convince the other to have condomless sex (read our post for the best lines of defense against excuses not to have safer sex).

As Lynn Harris points out in the article below, such an interaction is ultimately about one person having power over the other. It is the opposite of a healthy, loving and respectful relationship.

Here Lynn Harris offers tips on what to do if your partner is showing signs of disrespecting your contraceptive choices. Ultimately, it’s not about the birth control. It’s about another form of control.

This article by Lynn Harris was re-posted with permission from Bedsider.org

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Alice’s boyfriend really didn’t want to wear a condom. “You don’t know how good it feels without one,” he’d say—over and over—or “I can’t come with one,” recalls Alice, 23, of Seattle. “He’d been able to before, so I should have realized that was bullsh*t. But he’d slowly talked me into it.” When she finally let him go without, she says, “I was like, ‘Fine, if it makes you shut up about it, go ahead.’”

That was the day Alice conceived her son, now 4. But don’t call it an “unplanned pregnancy.” It wasn’t just that Alice’s boyfriend liked the feel of condomless sex. He wasn’t in denial about the consequences. Alice hadn’t planned the pregnancy, but her boyfriend had. Guys like him want to get girls pregnant. As Alice now knows: “He really wanted a son.”

As I noted in a previous article for The Nation, and others have noted, stereotypes about women being the ones to “trick” their partner into pregnancy are extremely misleading and potentially destructive. Experts have put a name to the phenomenon of reproductive coercion, where it’s men who force women into sex without contraception. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF), one in five young women say they’ve experienced pregnancy coercion; one in seven say a guy has sabotaged her contraception. Though other abuse may not be occurring, it sure as heck might: women who have been abused by a boyfriend are five times as likely to be forced into not using a condom and eight times more likely to be pressured to get pregnant.

Guys like Alice’s boyfriend hide birth control pills or flush them down the toilet; they sweet-talk, threaten, even rape. Why? Not because they’re dreaming of booties, blankets, and Daddy-baby yoga. “It’s about one person controlling another,” says Leslie Walker, M.D., chief of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. (Talk about control: experts say some men force their girlfriends to get pregnant—and to have abortions.) It’s the ultimate form of control: of your body itself and—if you have a baby, or get an STI, some of which cause infertility—of the rest of your life.

Reproductive coercion happens to teens and adults, rich, poor and average; any race or religion; women in long-term relationships, hookups, and in-between; women like Anya Alvarez, 21, who was having sex with a guy she’d just started seeing when she spotted her NuvaRing on her rug—which, needless to say, was not where she had put it. Yep: he’d yanked it out. “He said he’d done it to other women and they didn’t mind,” she says. Even in a new relationship, or something you wouldn’t call a relationship at all, you need to be careful.

Red Flags

“One clear warning sign: a partner who doesn’t support your using whatever contraception you want,” says FVPF senior policy director Rebecca Levenson. “Even if it’s subtle, like weird-supportive, it still gets him what he wants.”

  • Does he refuse to wear a condom? “That’s near-universal with reproductive coercion, and can start on sexual-date-one,” says Heather Corinna, founder and director of Scarleteen and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.
  • Does he equate birth control with cheating? As one woman (“Erika”) reported to the FVPF: “He said the pill made women want to have sex all the time, and that I’d cheat because I wouldn’t need to use a condom.”
  • Do you go behind his back to get contraception? “Erika” snuck to a clinic for the pill. “For a year, I made sure he never saw them,” she says.
  • Does he say things about hormonal birth control (Pills, implants, IUDs) like (MYTH ALERT!!!!). “Those make you gain weight, which you struggle with. I love you so much I wouldn’t want you to do that”?
  • Does he threaten to hurt you if you use contraception—or consider abortion?

There’s also sweeter-sounding baby-making talk. “It can seem like he’s trying to express commitment or get serious,” says Corinna. “Only people who love you want to make babies with you, right? Wrong. Some people want to create a family for the best reasons. Others want to control you, make it harder for you to leave, or create new, smaller people to control. The folks with the good motives will not ever pressure or trick you.” Does he:

  • Say things like “If you have a baby we’ll always be connected” or “If you really loved me you’d have my baby”?
  • Refer to sperm as mini-hims? Alice: “My boyfriend would congratulate himself for sending in his buddies to get the job done.”
  • Say someone who uses contraception doesn’t love their partner? Or contraception keeps people from being close?
  • Talk about pregnancy or parenthood without including your needs or your body?

New guys may deploy all sorts of lines. Check your gut; don’t take a chance. If something sounds off to you—like “I had a vasectomy” or “I smoke pot so I’m infertile”—it probably is.

And some actions say it all:

  • Do your pills keep disappearing?
  • Does the condom keep “breaking”? The third time this happened to “Libby” in Illinois, her boyfriend admitted he’d removed it. After that, he began raping her without one.
  • Have you caught him messing with your birth control or poking holes in condoms?
  • Does he break his promise to “pull out”?
  • Does he sneak off the condom (NuvaRing, etc.) during intercourse?
  • Does he physically force you to have sex without protection?

What to do?

If even one of the above sounds familiar to you…one is too many. Steps to take to protect your health:

  • If on date one refuses a condom—“ground zero for safer sex,” says Corinna—kick him out.
  • If sex suddenly feels different, check the condom.
  • Consider contraception you can hide, or that’s tough to sabotage, like Depo-Provera or IUD. (Note: This alone does not prevent STIs.)
  • Get tested for STIs (see our post on how easy it is to get tested). Some are symptomless, but can do future damage. Talk to a health care provider. If it doesn’t make sense for you to leave the relationship now, you can at least try to prevent STIs or pregnancies.
  • Imagine a healthy relationship. No pressure, no tricks; just love, support—and, if you’re ready, sex that feels right. “If a female patient whose partner refuses condoms says, ‘They don’t feel good for me, either,’ I say, ‘That’s because he’s not sharing a real, intimate relationship with you,” Dr. Walker explains. “It’s not about the condom.”

condom ad condoms too tight

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

The Blind Leading the Blind: Is Abstinence-only Education to Blame for Parents Who Can’t Say “Penis”?

From Mean Girls (2004)

From “Mean Girls” (2004)

Abstinence-only education does not exist in a vacuum. There is an important history in the United States in which certain laws and federal funding began supporting fear-based curricula. This stems from the belief that if you tell students the biological consequences (i.e, STIs, unwanted pregnancy, death) and social consequences of sex (i.e., specifically for girls, loss of purity and respect) it will encourage student to delay sexual activity. But studies show this is not the case. Despite all abstinence-only efforts, teens are not engaging in less sex, and the prevalence of STIs among 15-24 year olds remains high.

As sex educator, JoEllen Notte points out in this article, avoiding fact-based approaches to sex and sexual relationship education only leaves students ill-equipped to make safer choices.

In this article, she makes a strong argument that abstinence-only sex ed has produced a generation of parents today who are not only incapable (or unwilling) to discuss sex in a healthy, positive manner with their own children, but who also have not established a positive relationship to sex for themselves. Hence the need for more adult sex education to undo the damage and shame instilled by the abstinence-only model.

Here are important points to take away. Be sure to read through the entire article as there are some juicy links within:

  • Abstinence-only teaches girls that their value is based on their “virginity”.
  • Abstinence-only promotes the myth that condoms don’t work and that “sex” is limited to penis-vaginal intercourse.
  • People, parents and children alike, are unclear about terms of consent. We need to teach it!
  • Sex education does not stop after high school. Parents need it too. They need guidance about how to talk to their children about sex in a way that does not shame or reinforce misinformation.

This article was originally published on theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

A couple weeks back there was a rash of stories about a baby doll that had some parents all up in arms. Why, you ask? Was it unsafe? No. Racist? No. Prohibitively expensive? Not that I’ve heard. The big problem? It has a penis. You know, like a human. People were PISSED. The ire was vented in the now-common manner- facebook posts- where folks are declaring that the “company makes me sick” because little girls “don’t need to know about anatomy” etc, etc.

Barely a week later a petition started circulating demanding that the Fremont Board of Education remove a book called “Your Health Today” from schools. Parents were outraged (outraged!) that the book: “exposes youth to sexual games, sexual fantasies, sexual bondage with handcuffs, ropes, and blindfolds, sexual toys and vibrator devices, and additional instruction that is extremely inappropriate for 13 and 14 year-old youth.”

All accounts indicate that while the book did, in fact, indicate that sex can be enjoyable , none of the information was prevented in a salacious or provocative manner. In fact, Slate describes it as “the most boring prose imaginable” including lessons explaining that students should only ever do what “they are comfortable doing”. But that wasn’t enough to keep parents from freaking out. My favorite complaint is the one that is about one of my favorite parts of the book: Parent Asfia Ahmed, fretted to the San Jose Mercury-News, “There’s a section that tells you how to talk to your prospective partners about your sexual history, how does that relate to a 14-year-old kid? I don’t see it at all.” *

I wish this August was some kind of sex-negative anomaly but it’s not. Earlier this year, there was a similar wave of discussion in reference to teaching children the proper anatomical terms for their body parts. That’s right. People have been getting upset because their children were given factually correct information about their bodies- they were, for example, exposed to words like “vagina”.

So, what gives? How did people become convinced that accurate education was heinously inappropriate and something to shield their children from lest their innocence be destroyed.

I have a theory.

I blame abstinence-only education.

But not the education of this generation. I think this generation of parents who thinks they can shield their children from their own genitals and that they shouldn’t talk to their teenagers about sex, lest they get ideas is the result of the previous generation- the first one that was highly likely to be presented with abstinence-only education in their schools.

Let’s take a quick history break: Abstinence-only education started receiving limited federal funding in 1982 through the Adolescent Family Life Act. After the passing of the Welfare Reform Act in 1996, which included a mandate that 50 million dollars yearly be allocated to abstinence-only education, it spread rapidly as cash-strapped schools decided that receiving the funds was more valuable than, you know, teaching kids anything about sex.**

exposed to similar nonsense in schools. We need to be the antidote to abstinence only education. Right now, there is a generation of parents who, when it comes to teaching their kids about sex, are basically like the blind leading the blind and, as educators, let’s be their guide.

Continue reading at The Redhead Bedhead.

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JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

Why Changing the Meaning of Consent Is Good

Image by Condom Monologues

Image by Condom Monologues

BY LARA WORCESTER | Condom Monologues

**trigger warning: This post references sexual assault and abuse.

Condom negotiation is often framed in a very particular way: a lady convincing a guy to wear the condom despite all his excuses not to. This very limited view overlooks (or simply reduces) the meaning of consent to an action that only happens at a certain point during sex. A contributor on Condom Monologues shared how her permission and safety was derailed while her sexual partner assumed absolute consent.

“I know fundamentally I cannot give consent without feeling safe. One time during sex (however safe I felt) the guy took the condom off without telling me. He figured, once we got this hot and heated there were no cues that I was saying “no”. I feel guilt sharing this story because I know people will judge me for having sex with this guy even after his display of Jerk-Assness; even after he breached my consent.” – a Condom Monologuer

Experiences like this are rarely represented in daily media. And yet, her story explicitly illustrates a fundamental component of consent that activists have been pushing for years: consent is an ongoing process.

This storyteller’s candor is a bold response to a “consent culture” that has made significant gains in recent years to legally redefining the term, particularly on US college campuses. Just this May 2014, the White House launched a website to inform students of their rights and guide schools on how to prevent and deal with sexual assault cases. The initiative also redefined consent as a “voluntary agreement” in which “silence, or absence of resistance does not imply consent.” This means that the government has finally dropped the problematic “no means no” model- an approach which implies that sex can happen as long as no one says “no”.

What is replaced with this new definition is “yes means yes.” In other words, real sexual consent happens only once there is an obvious and enthusiastic “yes”.

This is a big win for activists who are cultivating a “consent culture” that push hashtags like #ConsentIsSexy or market condom packages that read sobering messages like “My Dress Does Not Mean Yes.”

Catchy slogans are useful and have made great waves. However, the nuances of sexual relationships can get lost in their wake. Consent becomes reduced to an absolute end, with no discussion of the process or means, not dissimilar to how condom negotiation is taught in sex education as I mentioned earlier. In reality, however, consent is not isolated or all-encompassing. It is an on-going, never-ending process in which all parties must engage.

What the “enthusiastic yes” model does is shift the perspective to emphasize consent as a collaborative navigation. When consent is understood as fluid, experiences like the one shared at Condom Monologues, can be acknowledge without victim-blaming or shaming. Promoting consent in this way abandons the myth that we have to be mind-readers and just know what pleases the other. It reinforces the requirement for considerate communication. After all, isn’t that what human intimacy is all about?

For great sex tips on how to navigate consent and talk with your partner, read more from Elena Kate of Rad Sex.

LARA WORCESTER is co-founder & editor at Condom Monologues, and a Lucky Bloke contributor. She’s a published social researcher with a Master’s in Gender & Sexuality studies and has worked with various HIV/AIDS organizations including Stella and the HIV Disclosure Project.

Could Enthusiastic Consent Improve Your Sex Life?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

For years feminist activists have fought for a more comprehensive definition of sexual consent- one that emphasizes an enthusiastic and active “Yes!”

Most of us have been taught that “no means no”, which is necessary in some circumstances. However, critics argue that this model reinforces the idea that sexual activities can take place only until there is a “no”. The problem with this is that it validates grey areas of victim-blaming if the person never spoke up nor told another to “stop”. The alternative model, “yes means yes”, makes it clear that consent is an agreement for something to happen. But there is a lot more involved than that.

In this article from Bedsider, E.B. Troast establishes what’s involved in this alternative definition of consent and offers insightful tips on how we can communicate and practice with our sexual partners.

By the end, you will understand what great sex actually involves! Here are key points:

  • Identify your desires and your boundaries.
  • Don’t try to be a mind reader. Considerate and honest communication is key.
  • Co-operative discovery is what all parties enjoy.
  •  Think of sexual engagement as a journey that require planning and communication in order for everyone involved to be fulfilled.

The original article was published here.

BY E.B. TROAST at BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

When it comes to sex, consent is key! But we often skip over the talking part to get to the fun physical part. Movies usually show sex without talking—the partners are just so in tune with each other that communication becomes unnecessary. Alas, that’s usually a fantasy. But what does communicating consent look like?

If you had sex ed in school, you probably learned about “no meaning no” and may have even practiced refusal skills. Being able to say and hear “no” is essential, but it doesn’t help us communicate about the real reasons many people choose to have sex: pleasure, desire, and connection. Enthusiastic consent is a way to communicate your desires, learn about your partner’s desires, and be proactive about consent.

What makes enthusiastic consent different?

People often think of consent as one person asking (or doing) and the other person saying “yes” or “no.” Enthusiastic consent is different. Enthusiastic consent is both partners talking about and deciding what will happen in a sexual encounter. It’s like planning a road trip together—you talk about where you want to go and what you want to see, rather than detailing the exact turns to get there. This goes beyond yes/no questions, focusing on communication about wants and desires. In enthusiastic consent, all people involved move towards desired activities with mutual enthusiasm.

Unlike other sex skills like putting on a condom, consent is rarely taught. But it takes practice! Here are 4 tips to improve your enthusiastic consent and communication skills.

1. Know what you don’t want… and what you DO want!

Knowing your boundaries is essential. Your boundaries may change from day to day and partner to partner, so check in with yourself. Thinking about your own boundaries before anything sexy starts to happen with a partner may give you greater confidence to tell that partner what you are not interested in doing.

It’s equally important to think about what you DO want. Thinking about your own desires can help you identify what is a “yes, please!” If you’re not sure what you want or how you like it, research! Spend some time with yourself and get to know what your body likes. Then you can have show and tell with a partner, guiding them like a pro. You may also want to check out various forms of erotica, which can be another source of inspiration about desires.

2. Start talking

Don’t expect to be a mind reader in the bedroom—or to have your mind read by a partner. The only crystal ball that will show a partner the way to please you is communication. Clear, honest information is key.

This does not have to be a business-like conversation that happens before sex. Telling your partner your desires—whether it’s the first time you’re having sex or the thousandth—can be a real turn on. You don’t have to discuss all your wants before things get steamy; after all, you may find inspiration in the heat of the moment. A desire can be seductively whispered into a partner’s ear or growled as you pull your partner close. “It would be so hot if you got on top” will let your partner know what you want and provide the opportunity for your partner to decide if it’s something they want too.

3. Forget compromise—find the mutual yes!

Compromise is when someone gives up something they want or accepts something they don’t want. Compromise about sex may lead to feeling pressured, resentful, and even regretful. Saying yes just to please a partner, or because the partner said yes to you last time, or because saying no feels risky has the potential to lead to more harm than good.

Enthusiastic consent is based on finding the mutual yes. This means that both partners say what they like and what turns them on, and together they can find the overlap. Try things like:

“Where’s your favorite place for me to touch you?”

“I love it when you ______.”

“I have a fantasy—can I tell you about it?”

4. Plan the journey, not the route

Think about what you want from the experience—how you want your partner to feel, what type of experience you want to have… Is it about having fun? Strengthening love? Creating a connection? Seeing how many orgasms you can both have? If both people are in line with what they want from the experience, they are more likely to feel satisfied in the end.

Just like a road trip, there might be some planning and communication that happens before and after the adventure. Checking in about STI status, recent tests, other sexual partners, birth control, relationship stuff, and what happens after can ensure that you both know what to expect and feel safer throughout.

Enjoy the trip

Changing the way we communicate about sex can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding to learn enthusiastic consent skills. We may be good at reading our partners and figuring out what they want, but we will never really know what secret, delicious desires they’ve been hiding until we invite them to share, and we share our own. Through getting to know what you want, communicating about those desires, and finding the mutual yes with your partner, you may be surprised how much more pleasure you can find together!

E.B. Troast has been providing sex positive, non-judgmental, inclusive sex education in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 10 years. She works with Planned Parenthood and San Francisco Sex Information (SFSI). E.B. may have the best job in the world, because she gets to spend her time learning and teaching about her favorite subjects—sex, sexuality, health, and pleasure!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider