Should I Buy Condoms For My Teen?

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BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

No side: BUT THEN THEY’LL HAVE SEX!
Yes side: But if they want to, they’ll have sex anyway.

I do an experiment with my classes every now and then, for fun. I ask them through an anonymous question and answer system whether they plan to have sex later in the day or that night. Because I do this with high school and college students, sometimes I have entire classes who don’t plan to have sex, but more commonly it’s a mix.

Then I pass out condoms.

And ask again whether anyone plans to have sex later that day or night.

And the answers never change. The students who were going to have sex (with or without protection) still will, the students who weren’t going to have sex still aren’t going to.

Providing condoms to young people doesn’t affect whether they’re going to have sex, but it does have the potential to affect whether they’re going to use condoms when they have sex.

And yes, it’s weird, it’s awkward, and other people might judge you for it. Supporting your child in protecting their sexual health is important – far more important than other people’s judgment.

One parent protested to me that she wanted her children to at least have to stop long enough to go and buy condoms before they had sex and that might make them stop long enough to decide not to do it.

Do you see the flaw in her reasoning? She assumed that her children:

• had the intellectual and emotional wherewithal to step out of an emotional and arousing experience,
• have a thoughtful conversation with their partner,
• find a way to a store,
• produce money,
• and look a clerk in the eye (or resolutely avoid it) as they bought condoms when they had zero experience talking about condoms and decision-making with adults, because she refused to have those conversations with her children or allow anyone else to have them.

The risk/reward breakdown here when compared to issue free, condom-less sex just doesn’t make sense for a teenager – and nor should it for a parent who isn’t pulling the wool over their own eyes.

Providing condoms for your teenagers and their friends – regardless of whether they’re actually having sex – normalizes the conversation and makes it that tiny bit more approachable. Lucky Bloke has some great condom sampler options – buy a few of them, toss all the condoms into a bowl, and leave the bowl on the back of the sink in the bathroom.

This is the beginning – or middle – of the parent/teen sex conversation, not the end. But it’s a fantastic stopping station that every parent should take advantage of.

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

Breaking the Hush Factor: A New Book for Talking to Teens about Sex

A new book that teaches adults how to have meaningful discussions about sex with teenagers.

Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking to Teens about Sex is not your typical parenting book. It’s for parents and other adults with teenagers in their lives. It offers practical advice that is purposely inclusive of all genders and sexualities, with a sex positive approach that goes beyond risk prevention. Readers will be guided through a step by step structure of how to have those intimate and sometime difficult conversations.

Author Dr. Karen Rayne has a long track record as a sexual health advocate. She has been working in sex education with all ages for the past decade and is Chair of the National Sex Ed Conference. Dr. Rayne founded HaveYouSeenSex.com and Unhushed in order to open the conversation about sexuality in the home.

The book will be available in stores and online June 14th. An indigo campaign, currently underway, will not only fund publication costs; it is designed to include parents in the co-creation of the second edition.

What is the “Hush Factor”?

The “Hush Factor” refers to the social silence and stigma surrounding sexuality. Numerous studies have shown that having continuous, shame-free and fact-based conversation about sex is one of the most effective ways to increase safer sex practices and decrease unwanted sexual outcomes. According to Planned Parenthood, parents are the most important sex educators for their children. Teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity and use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.

Having “the talk” in positive ways is crucial for helping young people navigate the choices they face and stand up for themselves in all situations, both sexual and otherwise.

Breaking the Hush Factor gives adults the ability to have honest discussion with teens by helping us overcome the cultural shame attached to sexuality and sexual pleasure in particular.

In short, parents need to read this book. Listen to Dr. Rayne discuss her ten steps in this video.

Disabled People Need Sexual Health Care Too

Image by Maria Iliou. From the Disabled Artist Guild.

Image by Maria Iliou. From the Disabled Artist Guild.

BY ROBIN MANDELL | ReadySexyAble.com

Most safer sex guides take it for granted that all of us are going to have the manual dexterity (ability to move our hands) to unwrap and use a condom, that getting STI testing is as easy as booking (and keeping) an appointment at a free or low-cost sexual health clinic, and that communicating with a partner about safer sex is as easy as having a few face-to-face conversations about it. For those of us who have any sort of physical, cognitive, or psychological disability, these and other “basic” safer sex strategies may not be so easy.

It doesn’t help that disabled people are assumed to be nonsexual, or to have more important things to worry about than the “luxury” of sexual feelings or a sexual relationship, or any number of other myths about sex and disability all of which miss the mark in one way or another.

People with disabilities who are sexually active, or planning to be sexually active, need to practice safer sex, and get regular sexual healthcare, just like anyone else.

A Quick Overview of Safer Sex

If you’re disabled, know that you have the right to whatever expression of your sexuality you want to have, and you have the right to be safe when expressing your sexual self, both alone and with partners.

Safer sex is about taking care of your sexual health, and protecting yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Preventing unwanted pregnancy is known as birth control, not safer sex, but it’s still part of your sexual healthcare if pregnancy is something that can happen to you or someone you’re sexually involved with.

Safer sex includes using barriers (such as condoms or dental dams) for genital contact with a partner, and getting regular sexual healthcare, including STI testing.

Let’s look at a few considerations around safer sex specific to being someone who has any kind of disability. You can get more safer sex info by reading through the other articles on this site.

Sexual Health Care

Most sexual health services aren’t set up to meet the needs of disabled people. In the U.S., many providers don’t get training in working with patients who have disabilities. Coupled with assumptions about disability and sex, this can lead to you not getting the sexual healthcare you need. That might be a healthcare provider who doesn’t ask you about sex, or asks in such a way that assumes you’re not having it.

Or, it means examination tables that don’t accommodate people whose bodies don’t move in the ways expected for traditional exams. This includes staff unable, unwilling, or untrained to assist with positioning your body on the table.

Or, it means reams of forms to fill out, and informational pamphlets and brochures that are only available in print.

Even one step into a building- or doorways that are too narrow- can keep you from seeing a healthcare provider of your choosing.

Healthcare providers aren’t immune to the myths about disabled people and sex, which can result in them assuming their disabled patients aren’t having sex and consequently not asking questions about sexual health, evaluating someone’s need for birth control or STI testing, or even conducting routine genital exams.

Sometimes healthcare providers can fall into the trap of thinking that any problem a patient presents with is related to their disability; or, it may be assumed that what would be a problem for some people (such as fertility problems or the need for frequent STI testing)) will not be a priority or even a problem for disabled people.

Steps you can take to get the sexual healthcare you need if you have a disability:

  • Look for a sex-positive healthcare provider.
  • Find a provider who can meet your disability needs. Members of the Gimp Girl community have put together this list of accessible gynecologists. The list is short, but can give you an idea of what sorts of accommodations you can ask for, and expect, from any private medical practice or clinic.
  • Be prepared to ask for the sexual healthcare you need. Sadly, preparing yourself might also include being ready to fend off judgment, condescension or surprise.If your provider doesn’t bring up sex, you can. You can ask for STI testing, or to discuss birth control options.
  • Be sure when you’re discussing birth control, or if you are being treated for an STI, that the treatment won’t interfere with any medication you take and that any possible side effects won’t trigger physical or psychological symptoms of your disability.

Some assumptions you might encounter:

  • “Oh, I guess we don’t have to talk about birth control, do we?” Quickly followed by the next question in the provider’s list.

Possible response: “Yes, actually, I do need to talk about that. I’ve been wondering what method would be easiest to use considering the problems I have with my hands.”

  • “Is there someone who can help you with your birth control pills?”

Possible Response: “No, I want to keep that private. Maybe I need a different kind that will be easier for me to use on my own.”

  • “I know it’s hard for us to do a pelvic exam on you. Let’s skip it this year.”

Possible Response: “I know it’s hard to examine me, but with what I told you about my sexual history, is a pelvic exam advisable medically? I don’t want to skip any steps I need for my health.”

Sometimes, if the provider assumes the answer to a question, like that you don’t need to have birth control, or of course you’re not sexually active so there’s no need to talk about that and they can move right along with the questions, their words are accompanied by nervous laughter. You might want to drop through a hole in the floor when hearing that, but just because they’re nervous doesn’t mean you have to be. As disabled people, we’re often encouraged to help people feel less nervous around us. This is your healthcare provider, though; it’s their job to meet your healthcare needs and to deal with whatever feelings they have around doing that on their own time. So, just take a deep breath and set them straight about what you need from them.

Once you’ve found a provider you’re able to work with, talk with them to make sure you’re getting the best care you can. The following resources might help you and them. (Unfortunately, most of the writing and research on this topic has been geared towards patients who have what medical people have defined as female genitals. If you don’t have a vagina/vulva, your healthcare needs will be different but your provider can still work with you to find creative solutions to disability-related problems that might come up during examinations.)

Table Manners and Beyond: The Gynecological Exam for Women with Developmental Disabilities and Other Functional Limitation, and Reproductive Health Care Experiences of Women With Physical Disabilities: A Qualitative Study are both resources you and your provider can read through together to help problem-solve any accessibility challenges you’re having with your healthcare.

Accessing Safer Sex Supplies

Transportation problems, inaccessible buildings, worries about being judged, or lack of trusted help can keep you from getting safer sex supplies. Perhaps you’re in a wheelchair and need to ask a store employee to reach your preferred pack of condoms. Or maybe you have a visual impairment and need to ask for help reading the wide variety of lube bottles. Being in these situations may make you feel vulnerable to being asked intrusive questions or judgmental comments. Considering that people ask visibly disabled strangers how they have sex, these fears aren’t unfounded. How can you get supplies while maintaining self-respect and privacy?

Many resource centres on college campuses and sexual or reproductive health clinics provide free condoms. If you get your healthcare needs taken care of at a private practice, and you have a good rapport with your provider, consider asking them if they can obtain condoms, gloves, or other safer sex supplies for you.

You also might consider asking a trusted friend to pick supplies up for you- they can find somewhere that offers them for free so no one has to pay -and handing them over when you see each other.

Many reputable suppliers also sell safer sex supplies online at decent prices and provide clear , detailed information on what you’re buying.

Communication

Do you have the words to talk about sex, and about your body? A lot of us, whether we’re disabled or not, don’t grow up learning the right words for our body parts, or clearly understanding how our bodies work.

When you’re talking to someone you are (or want to be) having sex with, making sure you can communicate accurately and clearly is important. You can’t consent to take part in a sexual activity if you can’t understand your partner, or if they can’t understand you. It’s hard to agree on safer sex practices if, say, one or both partners are unable to speak clearly, are hard of hearing or deaf, or has trouble paying attention to written or spoken words for more than a moment.

You and your partner might want to have a few ways you communicate with each other about sex, both when you’re discussing it and when you’re doing it.

Your communication toolbox can include talking or signing, gesturing, writing notes back and forth, or any other way you can both understand each other. If verbal communication is difficult, or doesn’t happen at all, you’ll want to agree ahead of time on how you’ll communicate things during sex like “I need more lube” or “let’s get the dental dam.”

If talking and writing are both difficult, you might try reading through safer sex information together, and using words or body language (such as nodding your head, shrugging, looking confused, and so on) to indicate when you’ve read something you want to start doing, or that you want to learn more about.

If you use any assistive or augmentative communication devices, you might find the following list of sexual vocabulary words and phrases useful. These can also help you when you’re communicating with a healthcare provider or caregiver.

A Word On Coercion

Disabled people are at an increased risk of experiencing sexual assault. Sometimes that abuse can take the form of sexual coercion, someone talking you into sex you don’t want to have, or attempting to convince you to ditch the safer sex practices you’ve made it clear you want to use. Some people with disabilities are told—sometimes by partners, sometimes by family or friends–that they should be grateful for any sexual attention they get even if it’s not precisely what they want or need.

I call BS on that!

If someone is trying to talk or force you into sex that isn’t safe for you in any way, and they’re trying to use your disability (or anything else) to convince you, that’s just not okay. A person’s disability is no excuse for abuse.

More Resources on Sex and Disability

The following are some sex-and-disability resources that you may find useful:

ROBIN MANDELL is a healthy sexuality and disability rights advocate based in the Washington D.C. area.
She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies from Queen’s University in Canada and a Professional Writing Certificate from Washington State University. Over the years, Robin has amassed extensive experience working with people at vulnerable times of their lives, both as a crisis hotline worker and a sexuality and relationships education advocate with Scarleteen.  Robin has discovered over the years that disability issues receive significantly less attention in academia and social justice movements than they’re due. She has developed a passion for starting dialogues on sex, disability and accessibility, and has come to the realization that, as much as she just wants to be like everybody else, she can use her visible reality as a blind woman to start these dialogues. Robin blogs on disabilities, sexualities, and the connections between them at ReadySexyAble.com and has published articles on various sexuality and sexual health topics at Scarleteen and Fearless press.

Best Lines of Defense Against Partner’s Excuses Not to Practice Safer Sex

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This post is for anyone who has ever complained about condoms/dams, or has faced complaints from a sex partner; or you are new to safer sex (or you’ve been out of the game for a while) and want to start practicing. In many ways, this post is actually for everyone! We’ve pooled together resources from Condom Monologues and Lucky Bloke to help prepare you with the best lines of reasoning and defense to common excuses against protective sex barriers.

Note: Negotiating safer sex is not confined to heterosexual relationships in which the female is making the male do something. This is an issue that happens in all types of relationships and power dynamics across genders. Knowing how to assert health boundaries is a tool for everyone (of all genders) to have:

Partner: “Condoms never fit me.”
You: “If you’re too big to fit any of these different sizes than you are too big for me.”

There is a deluge of condoms on the market today, all in a variety of smells, tastes, materials, and yes, sizes. There are condoms that are as small as 1.25″ in diameter and ones as large as 2.3″ in diameter. You would be hard-pressed to find a sexually active man who didn’t fall in that range! Need help determining his condom size? Find it here: http://www.luckybloke.com/choose-size

Partner: “It doesn’t feel good.” “I can’t feel anything”.
You: “I can’t enjoy sex if I don’t feel safe.”
“The safer I feel, the hotter the sex.”

or

Partner: “I want to be closer to you/feel you.”
You:“I can’t feel close to you if I don’t feel safe.”

Condoms, dams and lubes have come so far that, in a lot of ways, sex can actually be enhanced with these safety tools. Most importantly, you can feel safe knowing that you have greatly reduced your risk of catching STIs or getting pregnant when you aren’t ready to. Think of protective barriers as sex accessories.

Heather Corinna explains it best: “Asking someone to care for you in any way is not a barrier to intimacy: it’s not asking that keeps space between you…sexual health or even just how to use condoms and use them in a way that works for both of you is not something that keeps people apart, but that brings people closer together.”

Partner: “You think I have an STD”. “You don’t trust me.”
You:“This isn’t about me thinking that here is something wrong with you; this is about both our health.”

You know what? Using a condom and other protective barriers shows that you both care about yourselves and each other! Having unprotected sex is not an act that builds trust. Instead, it is an act that can occur as a result of already-built trust. Knowing that your partner will be there for you if sex results in a pregnancy, and knowing that your partner is not exposing you to a sexually transmitted infection, are what enables you to trust them with the act of bareback sex. See how that works? Trust is earned.

Partner: “Just this one time.”
You: “We’ve got all these condoms/dams. Let’s do it more than once!”
“Once is one too much for me.”

Being prepared with a variety of condoms/dams will be a great help. It is everyone’s personal responsibility to take care of their own health. Don’t assume one partner will be prepared, unless you have talked and made this arrangement with them.

It’s best to prepare with a variety of shapes, textures and flavors, latex and non-latex, because you want to find barriers that suit both you and your partner best. Plus experimenting adds a whole new dynamic to play. There are variety sample packs, like the one’s curated by Lucky Bloke, that can help you on your safer sex discovery.

condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES SexEd, Activism, Storytelling and More… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships. Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue