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

Well-Women Visits: 6 Things You Should Know

Image by Bedsider

Image by Bedsider

Did you know that a “well-woman” visit is now fully covered by insurance under new law? Yes, all teen girls and women up to age 65 are recommended to schedule a well-woman visit once a year. And that has just been made easier thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

A well-woman exam is important for tracking your overall health and taking care of your body’s needs as they change over time.

Here’s a summary of must-know information about the well-woman visit:

  • It’s preventative care done by your primary care provider. It consists of a full-check up, screening and tests, and counseling to help you make informed choices.
  • Well-women visits are different from Pap smears. The Pap is recommended every three years for 20-29 year olds and are usually done by a gynecologist.
  • You don’t have to pay. Because well-women visits are classified as “preventative care”, your insurance must cover it by law, including separate visits such as a mammogram, scheduled by your doctor during the wellness exam.
  • You and your primary provider decide what happens at the appointment. Go to healthcare.gov for a full list of what is covered under a well-woman exam.

This post by Chelsey Delaney was originally published on Bedsider.org.

BY BEDSIDER | Besider.org

UPDATE: Open enrollment for 2016 health coverage goes from now (November 2015) until January 31, 2016. Keep in mind, if you want coverage starting on January 1, you’ll have to pay your premium by December 15. Explore your options at HealthCare.gov!

If someone asked me a month ago what a “well-woman visit” is, I would have posited that it’s the magical time of year when you visit your gynecologist and he or she pokes around in your vagina. (Then I would have followed with the story of the time my gynecologist joked that she couldn’t find my cervix and that it probably fell out somewhere. Gullible was written all over my uterus that day.)

Unfortunately, my explanation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. In fact, for many women the poking I’m referring to—the Pap smear—isn’t required annually. For a woman like me, in the age range of 21 to 29, Paps are recommended every three years as long as there are no other factors that make more frequent Paps necessary. Also, you don’t have to see a gynecologist for a well-woman visit—you can see your primary care doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.

So, what is a well-woman visit? Well, woman, it depends. Here are six basics you should know:

1. It’s all about preventive health.

Prevention and planning, yo. Going to the doctor only when you’re sick is so last-century. As you age, your body changes and will experience new challenges. A well-woman visit is there for you to understand your own personal health risks and how to readily avoid them.

2. It’s just like a physical, only it doesn’t have to be as…physical.

Don’t just get tests—ask questions. What’s on your mind? Talk about your stress levels, your nutrition, your mood, your medications, your sex life, your family’s health history—next to nothing is off the table. Asking questions and raising concerns helps your health care provider know what’s important to you and what he or she should screen you for. Speaking of health care providers…

3. A good relationship with your provider is vital.

More than ever, health care is beginning to embrace the idea that hey, maybe providers and patients should get along and have open dialogues about stuff. Your provider should meet you in the middle and show a genuine interest in your health—no judgments. Allowing yourself to build trust into that relationship will increase the likelihood of a satisfactory visit (and you’ll also feel less awkward when you need a pelvic exam).

4. It’s not always one-and-done.

While the well-woman visit is often talked about as a single, annual visit, it doesn’t always stop there. For example, if you’ve got a history of breast cancer in your family, your provider might decide that you should get a mammogram. If the mammogram is scheduled at a different time and place, this should also be covered by your insurance. Same deal if you decide to get an IUD or implant—if you need to make a separate appointment for insertion, that should be covered too. Why is this important to know? Because…

5. You shouldn’t be charged for certain preventive services, including well-woman visits.

Don’t touch that wallet if you have health insurance and your provider is covered under your plan. Under the Affordable Care Act, preventive services should be covered by insurance with no out-of-pocket costs. Tip: Be sure to say you’re coming in for a “well-woman visit” when you schedule your appointment(s). And, while it may be tempting to tack your visit onto a sickish-visit with your provider, try to avoid it just to make sure the billing doesn’t get complicated.

6. The contents of your well-woman visit are up to you and your provider.

As far as services go, your visit(s) could include any/some of the following depending on your current health status:

  • Contraceptive counseling
  • Alcohol misuse screening
  • Blood pressure screening
  • Cholesterol screening
  • Depression screening
  • Nutrition and diet counseling
  • HIV screening
  • Vaccines and immunizations
  • STI screening

Check out healthcare.gov for a full list of services that are covered under the well-woman visit label. And if your insurance isn’t paying for services you think should be covered under the Affordable Care Act, contact the National Women’s Law Center’s hotline 1-866-745-5487 or via email at CoverHer@nwlc.org to let them know what’s going on and see if they can help.

You’re entitled to a well-woman visit every year until you’re 65. It’s not that you should stop being a well woman when you’re 65, it’s just that when you’re 65 you’ll have Medicare, and Medicare rules. Hopefully, it will act as a reward for being so well for so long!

condom ad condoms too loose

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

What Sexual Activities Put You at Risk of STIs?

Photographer: Alex Louis Engival

Photographer: Alex Louis Engival

Most sex educators and medical professionals use the term “safer” instead of “safe” sex because certain risks do not completely go away when engaging in sexual activities. No matter our age, race, economic status, sexuality, gender, relationship type, married or single, all of us are at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The most effective way to guarantee zero exposure of STIs to yourself and others is to never have sex with anyone! Now, if abstinence is not an ideal choice for you, other things to consider are the different intimate contacts that reduce the risks of exposure.

Here is a list, provided on Scarleteen, of sexual activities in which there are zero or very low risks.

  • Kissing or making out (does pose an oral herpes risk)
  • General body stroking (“feeling up”) or massage without genital contact
  • Dry sex (with both partners clothed)/clothed tribbing or frottage
  • Mutual masturbation or solo masturbation
  • Receptive anal intercourse where the insertive partner is using a sanitized sex toy/dildo, not a penis
  • Sex toy play where toys are not being shared and are cleaned properly before use
  • Phone sex or cybersex
  • Sharing fantasies and/or role playing (within the context of the activities above)

Safer sex practices, such as using protective barriers like condoms, dams and gloves, as well as being tested regularly, all reduce risks.

It’s important to know which sexual activities put you at risk of transmitting or contracting different infections. Here is a list provided by The STD Project of all the STIs you could be exposed to.

The highest risk activities are listed first; activities with the lowest risk are last.

Vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse or vaginal intercourse with a condom that has been used for anal sex:

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV/Vaginitis)
Chancroid
Chlamydia
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Gonorrhea (‘The Clap’)
Hepatitis (A, B & C)
Herpes Simplex
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Warts)
Intestinal Parasites
Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
Molluscum Contagiosum
Mononucleosis (‘Mono’)
Mycoplasma Genitalium
Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU)
Pubic Lice
Scabies
Syphilis
Trichomoniasis

Oral sex (going down, eating out, blow job, giving head, rimming):

Chlamydia
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Gonorrhea
Hepatitis
Herpes Simplex
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Warts)
Intestinal Parasites
Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV)
Molluscum Contagiosum
Mononucleosis (‘Mono’)
Mycoplasma Genitalium
Nongonococcal Urethritis (NGU)
Pubic Lice
Syphilis

Manual sex (hand job, fingering):

Bacterial Vaginosis (BV/Vaginitis)
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Herpes Simplex
Human Papillomavirus (HPV, Warts)
Molluscum Contagiosum
Mononucleosis (‘Mono’)
Pubic Lice
Scabies
Syphilis

Kissing- when no open cuts or sores outside/inside the mouth are present:

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
Herpes Simplex
Mononucleosis (‘Mono’)

The original list is published at The STD Project

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject

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

The Golden Rule to Healthy Hook-Ups

Photo credit: Carolina Ponce

Photo credit: Carolina Ponce

Girl meets boy. They become friends and soon enough, they are hooking up on a regular basis. No love, no commitments – they only do it for the purpose of having sex!

Casual sex has been portrayed in contradictory fashion throughout history. It’s deemed a mortal enemy of love and commitment. People who engage in it are often put down, punished or shamed. At the same time, casual sex is also represented as proof of sexual liberation. As a result, when someone feels like it’s not a good fit for them they might feel stigmatized and fear being perceived as prudish or sexually repressed. It’s a double edged sword.

So how do we reconcile this? Is hooking up unhealthy or healthy?

Sex educator, JoEllen Notte highlights a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior suggesting that it’s not so much whether you have casual sex that impacts your mental health, it’s why you do it.

This article was originally published on RedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

"Sex that is casual? Shocking!" Image from redheadbedhead.com

“Sex that is casual? Shocking!” Image from redheadbedhead.com

You may have noticed that in the last couple of years there have been a bevy of stories about hook-up culture, online dating, friends with benefits and the general shift from the assumption that everyone should be engaging in “rings and babies dating” to an acceptance that a whole lot of folks are engaging in what could be described as “fuck buddy dating”. Hot on the heels of this discussion has been another conversation. A very intense conversation. A kind of scary conversation. A conversation about how all of this is very, very bad for everyone.

Studies came out telling us that people who engaged in these hook ups were unhappy. Articles came out bemoaning the death of dating, courtship and romance and in general people agreed that this was all very, very bad.

But what if they were all very, very wrong?

When we start to really look at some of the “concern” we see some interesting patterns. Studies set out to prove that casual sex is damaging and (voila!) did! Angry writers who don’t enjoy casual relationships themselves writing scathing indictments of the practice of hooking up because, clearly it is threatening their way of being. Suddenly these “facts” start to look a bit skewed. Are there voices coming from the other side? Perhaps even (gasp!) neutral voices?

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

18 Signs of a Sexually Healthy Adult

Photo credit: Mario Klingemann

Photo credit: Mario Klingemann

What does healthy sexuality look like?

As we’ve talked about before, sexuality is a complex mix of things in varying proportions for different people- things that are physical, emotional, interpersonal, cultural and more. Thus it’s difficult to pin down in one all-encompassing definition. That is why The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) developed a list of behaviors that encapsulate what healthy sexuality can look like.

There is one word you will see a lot on this list. Affirmation, which means the declaration that something is true. In other words, to express and experience sexuality in healthy ways is to positively uphold and support yourself for who you are.

This is not an exhausive list (there are many things one could add). If you find that there are some things missing here, it does not mean something is “wrong” with you. It simply demonstrates how sexuality is extremely diverse. This list is one model (of many) to help explain how healthy sexuality is cultivated.

This article was originally published on KarenRayne.com

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

4th of July Parade

And here is a picture of a young adult – tell me your opinion – is this adult exhibiting Life Behaviors of a Sexually Healthy Adult? Why or why not?

Children and adolescents gather information from watching the adults around them. The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (http://www.siecus.org/) has compiled a list of Life Behaviors of a Sexually Healthy Adult. Reading this list, I think an adult (or child, or adolescent) who is exhibiting these behaviors is healthy in more ways than ‘just’ sexually. What do you think?

A sexually healthy adult will:

1) Appreciate one’s own body.

2) Seek further information about reproduction as needed.

3) Affirm that human development includes sexual development, which may or may not include reproductive or sexual experience.

4) Interact with all genders in respectful and appropriate ways.

5) Affirm one’s own sexual orientation and respect the sexual orientations of others.

6) Affirm one’s own gender identities and respect the gender identities of others.

7) Express love and intimacy in appropriate ways.

8) Develop and maintain meaningful relationships.

9) Make informed choices about family options and relationships.

10) Exhibit skills that enhance personal relationships.

11) Identify and live according to one’s own values.

12) Take responsibility for one’s own behavior.

13) Practice effective decision-making.

14) Develop critical-thinking skills.

15) Communicate effectively with family, peers, and romantic partners.

16) Enjoy and express one’s sexuality throughout life.

17) Express one’s sexuality in ways that are congruent with one’s values.

18) Enjoy sexual feelings without necessarily acting on them.

Source: http://www.siecus.org/pubs/guidelines/guidelines.pdf

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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

4 Reasons Why Grown Ups Need Sex Ed Too

94- grown up sex ed

When we think “sex education”, we tend to picture a class full of awkward teenagers. We don’t image adults sitting in class. Most 20-somethings have a basic understanding of where babies come from; most have already experienced sex with someone else. And yet few adults feel comfortable talking about sex with their partner(s). Sex educator, Kate McCombs knows this all too well. She explains that many of us (adults) don’t know what we want sexually and therefore, don’t know how to communicate our desires.

The purpose of this article is to challenge the notion that sex education stops after adolescence. Kate McCombs highlights that our bodies and sexual desires change throughout life and this requires access to information that can help us navigate those changes. Here she offers four solid reasons why adults need opportunities to expand their sexual knowledge.

Here are her main points:

  • Not everyone enters adulthood with the same quality of sex education. And rarely does our national sex ed curriculum adequately prepare us for adult romantic relationships.
  • Good communication about sex takes continued learning and practice. It cannot be readily taught in a textbook.
  • Let’s halt the expectation that adults must be “experts” at sex. Instead, let’s promote sexual curiosity with willingness to listen and learn.
  • Many adults feel alone in what they are experiencing. Accessing  informative spaces in which adults can ask personal questions is an important health need.

BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

A week does not go by that an adult does not ask me a very basic sex question. I’m delighted to offer an answer – it’s my job – but it does strike me that something is off when otherwise educated people have big gaps in their knowledge about something as nearly-universal as sex.

Adults need sex ed just as much as young people do. Sexual desires, needs, and physical functioning evolve over time and because of this, we humans need information to help us navigate those changes. But how do you learn such things when you’re an adult and you’re not connected to an institution like school to provide the sex ed? I’d like to normalize the idea that adults need opportunities to expand their sexuality knowledge too.

In major cities, many sex positive retailers and organizations offer grown-up sex ed workshops. Here in New York City, we have a number of progressive sex toy stores that offer classes.

But what about communities that don’t have these types of resources? Although there are a growing number of adult sex ed outlets, there is still a gap between the need and the services to meet that need. Here are four reasons we need more grown-up sex ed:

1. If we don’t get the information during school, we need to get it as adults.

As most of us know, sex education for young people – if it happens at all – is rarely adequate at preparing them for their adult romantic lives. If we’re not properly educating youth about sex and relationships, how do we expect them to fare as adults? For some examples of this education gap, take a look at Melissa White’s article where she asked adults what they wish they’d learned in sex ed. Even if people received sex ed in school, it’s unlikely that it included messages about pleasure or healthy relationships.

In-home sex toy parties fill some of the need for pleasure education, but the consultants doing the presentations sometimes know more about selling the products than they do about sex education and communication. While I love teaching about sex toys, I also suspect that many people in need of good sex ed might not feel comfortable in a sex toy retail environment.

2. Communicating about sex can be hard.

Many people struggle with basic questions like, “How do I tell my partner I’m interested in _____?” or, “How do I tell my partner I don’t enjoy ____?”

People in my workshops frequently tell me that they struggle to talk about sex with their partners. They’re sometimes afraid to seem like they don’t know enough or, for some women especially, they worry that they know “too much” (internalized slut-shaming at its finest).

Sometimes the challenge is that they don’t have enough clarity about what they do want, which seriously compromises their ability to communicate their desires. Other times they don’t want to “ruin the moment,” as if talking about sex is somehow anathema to having good sex.

Good communication – about anything emotional and interpersonal – is challenging for many people. It takes learning and practice, as well as vulnerability and empathy. Those things are challenging to teach in an article or a one-off workshop.

3. Adults are often expected to be “sexperts.”

I’ve encountered many folks who believe that part of being an adult is being an expert at sex. Linguistically, we even use the word “adult” as an all-encompassing euphemism for “sexual.” Many of the articles in mainstream magazines reinforce this idea when they talk about “mastering techniques.” There’s an incredible diversity of things people enjoy sexually, and the only way to really know is to ask.

Instead of encouraging people to become “sexperts,” I encourage people to embrace their inner “sex geek.” Being geeky is about being curious, which allows you to acquire proficiency through asking questions and researching things about which you want to learn. Asking inviting questions – and listening with empathy – goes far in making you awesome in bed.

4. Many adults feel alone in what they’re experiencing.

When I teach workshops, one of the most common type of question I get is some variation on, “Am I normal?” This is true whether I’m teaching college students or menopausal women.Vast-Majority-250x308

I recently taught a workshop to a group of moms in Dallas, Texas, that was hosted in someone’s home. I spoke with many of these women one-on-one, and it was remarkable to me how many of them seemed embarrassed to ask their questions.

They asked me things like, “Is it normal to have bladder control problems after having a baby?” and, “Is it weird that I don’t orgasm from intercourse?” The answer to both of these things is yes, totally normal. I think it’s important to highlight that these were professional, educated women. If these women don’t have access to this kind of information, how can women with less access get the information they need?

~~~

Clearly, there’s a giant education gap in the skills people need in order to navigate their sexual lives. While there are some fabulous resources in some communities, there is still an unmet need that I’d love to see remedied.

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

Standing Together In Solidarity At The Sex Ed Conference

Photo credit: Emmanuel Vivier

Photo credit: Emmanuel Vivier

BY MILLA IMPOLA | @MillaImpola

During the Awards Ceremony at the National Sex Ed Conference on December 5, The Women of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) read a powerful statement about racial justice in sexuality education.

As more and more people joined on stage to hold hands, it was a beautiful moment of hope and solidarity in the midst of all the injustice that is going on in this country.

After the event, conference members could sign the statement that was printed along the wall.

Image from The Women Of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) Facebook Page

Image from The Women Of Color Sexual Health Network (WOCSHN) Facebook Page

Solidarity Statement on Racial Justice in Sexuality Education

Because we are in the field of Sexuality Education, a profession skilled at creating space for dialogue, acknowledging difficult topics, and facilitating change;

Because we stand on the shoulders of many before us, some who have received recognition and others who have not;

Because we live in a country founded on systems of oppression, institutionalized racism, and violence;

Because we see police brutality, racial profiling, and mass incarceration as a gross misuse of power which terrorizes individuals, families, and communities;

Because we know the system is not broke, it is doing exactly as it intended;

Because of all of this, and so much more, we also know—-

Because we are part of the problem, we are also part of the solution;

Because we as sexuality educators teach about love, equity, justice, relationships, communication, and safety;

Because we believe in living our lives fully, with intention, agency, and freedom form fear;

Because we hold power, as individuals and as organizations;

Because we can, and we must;

As a multicultural group, we commit to addressing and working to undo racism on personal, professional and institutional levels within the field of sexuality education and in our diverse roles within it, in solidarity with other movements towards racial justice;

Today we commit to the formation of plans of action towards racial justice in sexuality education.

I’m honored to have been part of this moment, and I stand with WOCSHN in this statement.

Together we can all create lasting change.


WOCSHN member Cindy Lee, of the National Sex Ed Conference Planning Committee reads the Solidarity Statement on Racial Justice in Sexuality Education.

Milla Impola is a reproductive justice advocate working to create positive conversations about sexual health in the media. She lives in New York City. Twitter: @MillaImpola

Should You Provide Sexuality Education to Your Patients?

Photo credit: Eva Blue

Photo credit: Eva Blue

It is a rare thing these days to receive comprehensive sex education from a health care practitioner. When it is offered, it’s typically limited to the health of sex organs. However, as Melanie Davis explains in the following article, sex and sexuality go beyond the biological. Crucial aspects of sexuality that influence one’s individual choices are often overlooked by health care providers- such as one’s degree of autonomy as well as knowledge about safer sex tools.

The article speaks to health care providers and offers concrete examples of how sexual health envelops aspects about identity, relationships, and intimacy- all of which impact a person’s overall health.

This article was originally published here.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Physician involvement in sexuality education began in 1904, when dermatologist Prince Morrow, MD published Social Diseases and Marriage. His goal was to protect women whose husbands were bringing home sexually transmitted infections (then called venereal disease) from sex workers.

Sexuality education and medicine became more enmeshed when other physicians and the American Purity Alliance joined Morrow’s work to reduce STIs as a way to promote sexual morality. Today, healthcare providers don’t usually discuss sexual morality with patients, but you are an important source of information about sexuality.

Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health and decision making are critical aspects of sexuality education, and you may have more opportunities to educate patients than you may realize.

The Breadth of Patient Sexuality

If you limit your exam room consultation to discussions of the function and health of sexual organs only, you risk missing out on information that could have an impact on a patient’s sexual health and overall wellness. There are five categories of sexuality that comprise every person’s sexual being:

  • Sensuality = awareness, acceptance and enjoyment of our own or others’ bodies.
  • Intimacy = the degree to which we express and have a need for closeness with another person.
  • Sexual identity = how we perceive ourselves as sexual beings in terms of sex, gender, orientation, expression.
  • Sexual health and reproduction = attitudes and behaviors toward our health and the potential consequences of vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
  • Sexualization = using sex or sexuality to influence, manipulate, or control others.

The area of sexuality in which healthcare providers address most often is sexual health and reproduction for two reasons: 1) It is where most acute medical issues fall, and 2) There are fewer gray areas that can be time-consuming to discuss. However, the other areas of sexuality are less concrete but equally important to discuss, as these examples illustrate:

  • Patients may avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation because they believe genitals are ugly or shameful.
  • Patients may not experience sexual pleasure because they don’t understand their sexual anatomy or the sexual response cycle.
  • A partner’s turn-ons may hurt your patient emotionally or physically.
  • A patient may be struggling with gender identity or sexual sexual identity.
  • A patient may be too embarrassed to disclose sexual coercion/abuse.
  • Research shows that patients often fear being judged by their providers or being embarrassed, so they may not bring up their concerns. Be sure to open the door to conversations about sexuality — One quick way to begin is to ask, “If there were anything you would change about your sex life?”

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about essential, yet easy educational conversations you can have with patients about sexuality.

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis

Quick Tips on Talking Condom Use with Your Teen

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

Most parents are not comfortable talking to their teens about sex, and some make the mistake of relying on school education to teach their kids how to protect themselves using condoms. The fact is that teens often name their parents as the number one influence in their decisions about sex. According to Planned Parenthood, teens who report having good conversations with their parents about sex are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and use condoms and birth control when they do have sex. So this is one of the most important topics a parent can engage with their child.  And seriously, it doesn’t have to be awkward.

Dr. Karen Rayne offers practical tips for parents to cultivate a conversation with their teens about condom use. In this article she emphasizes:

  • Create a time to talk with your teen one on one.
  • If you know your teen is sexually active, the conversation will be easier. Before you have the conversation, reflect on what you do and don’t know about your teen’s sex life.
  • Your teen may have a different definition of “sexually active” than you. Unpack this term with him/her and actively listen to their opinion.
  • Consider starting the conversation about condoms with the simple question: “What do you think about condoms?”
  • Seek resources to support your conversation. There are many great websites and videos online such as Laci Green’s channel, Scarleteen and Sex, Etc.

This article was originally published here

BY DR. KAREN RAYNE | KarenRayne.com

Melissa White over at Lucky Bloke recently asked if I wanted to provide content for her new safer sex education website, and of course I was delighted! But when I went back to look through my blogging archives (both here and at www.karenrayne.com), I found that I had written terrifyingly little about condoms. So here I am, rectifying that problem with Condom Week, on both sites. Here at Unhushed I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. At KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. Interested in receiving Unhushed blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive KarenRayne.com blog posts here.

Starting a conversation about sexuality with your teenager generally can be tricky – but a specific question about contraception and condoms can be both simpler and more stressful. You know what you’re getting at, but how to bring it up delicately?

As with all conversations about sexuality, just diving in at an inopportune time can be problematic, and your teenager can shut down. So find a time when it’s just the two of you and you’re both relaxed. If need be, if your home life is such that these moments don’t come around often, then fabricate one. If you struggle with this, find a YouTube clip or a movie that talks about condoms and watch it with your teenager as a way of introduction. (For example, Juno, where condoms aren’t used, or one of the many condom fashion shows with clips on YouTube.)

When you bring up the topic of condom usage, don’t hedge around the topic, just bring it up like you would anything else you want to have a conversation about. There’s no reason to treat sexuality as a forbidden or taboo subject matter, just a sensitive and potentially emotional one.

Before you start the conversation, it’s important for you to consider how much you know about your teenager’s sexual activity because they require slightly different approaches. Do you know if your teenager is sexually active? Do they know you know? Do you suspect, but don’t have any actual proof? Do you wonder, but aren’t really sure? Do you think not, but you want to start these conversations earlier rather than later (and good for you!)?

If you know your teenager is sexually active – and your teenager knows you know – then the conversation is easier. You can jump directly to contraceptives, but remember that it’s a conversation, not an interrogation. Offer support in obtaining condoms. Make it clear that sexual health is a value that you have and that you will follow through on.

If you don’t know for sure whether your teenager is sexually active – or they don’t know that you know – the conversation is a little trickier. Making any assumptions about your teen’s sexual activity level can feel presumptuous to them and make them shut down. Give your teenager enough room for plausible deniability around their sexual activity. For the context of this conversation, whether your teenager is actually having sex is less important than an upfront conversation about contraception: what it does, how to access it, how to use it, how to talk with a partner about it, and more.

You don’t need to know the answers to all of these questions yourself, but you do need to know where to find the answers. I recommend Scarleteen and Sex, Etc. as the best places to go with your teenager or to send your teenager to find sexual information online. Facilitating a conversation about condoms is really the most important part of this process. And it can start with this question, regardless of any other part of your process: “What do you think about condoms?”

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

Can Pre-Ejaculate Cause Pregnancy?

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Can pre-ejaculate cause pregnancy? This is an important question for anyone who can become pregnant, or is having sex with someone who can get pregnant. Particularly for those who use the “pull-out” or fertility awareness method, understanding the risks involved is fundamental to making proper health choices for yourself.

The answer to this question, however, is not so certain and still under going research. In this article, Heather Corinna explains what exactly we do know for certain about pre-cum and how best to approach risks with the information that is out there.

Here are her key points:

  • There is far less sperm in pre-cum than there is in ejaculation.
  • Chances of sperm in pre-cum are lowered if one has recently urinated and has not ejaculated before intercourse.
  • Pre-cum can transmit infections.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Jess asks:

Can a woman become pregnant off of pre-cum fluid alone?

Heather Corinna replies:

The short answer is that it is possible, yes, but is not very likely.

The longer answer is that there are a lot of variables, and we still need more study to be done on this to give a better answer.

Do we know that pre-ejaculate fluid can contain sperm? Yes, we do. We also know that there are far, far less sperm in pre-ejaculate — when there are any at all — than there are in a full ejaculation: a full ejaculation contains as many as 100 million sperm, whereas when sperm is in pre-ejaculate, it’s more like a few million, if that many. But it only takes one active sperm and a few hundred helper sperm to create a pregnancy, so sometimes there may be more than enough sperm in pre-ejaculate when sperm are present in it to make that happen. However, sperm also need the fluid they’re part of to create a pregnancy, so the limited volume of pre-ejaculate is also an issue, as is the far fewer sperm which may be (and often are not) part of it.

There’s no 100% way to know at the time if pre-ejaculate contains sperm, but it’s generally agreed upon that it is most likely or only likely to when a man has recently ejaculated and has not urinated afterwards (urine flushes the urethra out, removing traces of sperm). It’s generally considered to be least likely to contain sperm when a man either hasn’t ejaculated in a while and/or has recently urinated before he’s pre-ejaculating.

Since you’ll often hear a lot of argument when it comes to whether sperm are or are not present in pre-ejaculate, here’s what some other credible folks have to say on the matter:

Go Ask Alice at Columbia University says:

Sperm could be in pre-cum, but only after a recent ejaculation, after which some sperm may be left hanging around in the urethra. “Recent” means masturbating earlier and then having sex with a woman, or during the same sexual episode of the recent ejaculation. Urinating in between ejaculations flushes the urethra of stray sperm and makes the way clear for the sperm-less pre-ejaculate fluid. If sperm remains after a prior ejaculation, then it’s possible that they can enter the vagina and make their way to meet an egg.

The Feminist Women’s Health Center says about it:

During sex, the penis releases two kinds of fluids. The first is pre-ejaculate or pre-cum, a lubricant made in a gland in the penis. This fluid usually contains no sperm, but can transmit infections. The second, released with ejaculation, is semen, which is made in the testicles and carries thousands of sperm in addition to any sexually transmittable infections that may be present.

Many sources that discuss the ineffectiveness of withdrawal argue that pre-cum can contain sperm. This is because previous ejaculations can leave some sperm behind in the folds of the penis. While there is a need for further study, it is likely that urination before intercourse washes leftover sperm from the urethra, the tube from which both urine and semen exit the penis.

Here’s what Student Health Services at Oregon State University has to say:

Pre-cum is the pre-ejaculate fluid that can be released from the penis during sexual activity. It is usually released before the male reaches orgasm, which results in the ejaculation of semen. Pre-cum prepares the urethra for the semen and helps in lubrication during sexual intercourse. Also the pre-cum may contain sperm. Since the pre-ejaculate can contain sperm, a pregnancy can occur if the man’s pre-cum comes in contact with the woman’s vaginal canal.

However, there is inconclusive evidence as to where the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from. Many researchers suggest that the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from leftover sperm from a previous ejaculation of semen. These researchers suggest that urinating after the ejaculation of semen will remove any sperm from the urethra, so as to prevent the pre-ejaculate from containing sperm. However, research is still being conducted to support this widely accepted idea.

And here’s what Contraceptive Technology has to say:

Some concern exists that the pre-ejaculate fluid may carry sperm into the vagina. In itself, the pre-ejaculate, a lubricating secretion produced by the Littre or Cowper’s glands, contains no sperm. A study examining the pre-ejaculate for the presence of spermatozoa found none in the samples of 16 men. However, a previous ejaculation may have left some sperm hidden within the folds of the urethral lining. In examinations of the pre-ejaculate in a small study, the pre-ejaculate was free of spermatozoa in all of 11 HIV-seronegative men and 4 or 12 seropositive men. Although the 8 samples containing spermatozoa revealed only small clumps of a few hundred sperm, these could possibly pose a risk of fertilization. In all likelihood, the spermatozoa left from a previous ejaculation could be washed out with the force of a normal urination. However, this remains unstudied.

So again, the only right answer we can give right now is a maybe.

But we also do know that withdrawal isn’t one of the most effective birth control methods, in either perfect or typical use, and that enough people report using it perfectly — saying they withdrew well before ejaculation — and still becoming pregnant (including my parents as well as a close friend of mine, for a personal perspective), that we’d be remiss to rule out pre-ejaculate as a pregnancy risk. Bear in mind that during the Baby Boom in the United States — a period in history when we had more births than any other — that withdrawal was the most common method of birth control people were using. Of course, many of those pregnancies may well have been due to men who said they pulled out on time not realizing they had actually ejaculated, and we have no way of knowing what the real deal was. What we can know, for sure, are the success and failure rates of withdrawal as a method, however it is practiced, and know that most other methods of birth control are more effective.

Too, unprotected sex, period — ejaculate or no — poses risks of all sexually transmitted infections, which should be just as great a concern as pregnancy. And pre-ejaculate can transmit the HIV virus just as much as full ejaculate can.

So, having unprotected sex, period, just isn’t a good idea unless you are trying to become pregnant AND you and your partner have both been practicing safer sex for at least six months, monogamously, AND each have at least TWO full and clear STI screens under your belts. While it’d be nice if we had more data on pre-ejaculate at this point, at the same time, it’s not all that essential. We already have the essential information we need, which is that ANY unprotected intercourse presents risks of pregnancy and STIs, and that people who want to prevent pregnancy achieve that best with the most reliable methods of contraception, used properly and consistently, or by abstaining from the kinds of sex which present pregnancy risks.

If you want to engage in intercourse safely, you need a condom at a minimum, and if, for whatever reason, that or some other reliable method is not an option, then the only good choice is to choose not to have sex until sound contraception can be used.

Here are some extra links to grow on:

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