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Welcome!

January 15th, 2015

This is my beginning post: updated frequently with information about my recent and up-coming work. Check back frequently to stay up to date with my training and teaching schedule!

Are you a new reader? Scroll down to read my thoughts as a sex educator.

Are you a returning reader? Stay  here for a second to find out what I’ve been up to lately and what I’m doing soon! Maybe you’ll be able to join me!

Karen in January:

  • I am continuing work on editing the new upcoming edition of Streetwise to Sex-wise
  • I am also continuing work on the new upcoming curriculum Parents as Sexuality Educators for the Unitarian Universalist Association
  • I am returning to my work on my upcoming book, Breaking the Hush Factor
  • January 8 I will be presenting to the middle school parents at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School
  • January 27 – 29 I am training with the New York Department of Education Office of School Health

Karen in February:

Karen in March:

  • I will be spending two to three weeks in Zimbabwe in my work with the United Nations Population Fund
  • I am continuing work on my upcoming book, Breaking the Hush Factor

Karen in the rest of 2015:

  • I will be publishing my book, Breaking the Hush Factor
  • I am the chair for the National Sex Ed Conference this year, December 9 – 11, New Brunswick, NJ

More details and dates are coming soon! Check back for updates!

I’m looking for a dreamy manager to tell me what to do…

April 26th, 2015

But not in a sexy way. Just professional. That’s all.

The good news is that my work is growing, which is so exciting! The bad news is that I can’t quite keep up. Unless that’s good news because it means YOU are the perfect person to come and work with me!
I’ve thought about what kind of support I need, exactly, and it isn’t quite an assistant and it isn’t quite a boss, so I’ve landed on the term manager.
What this comes down to is that I have so many things to do, and I can’t do all of them. Which pieces a manager might pick up will depend on their individual skill set, I just can’t keep doing it all myself! Here are the pieces of what I do that someone else will – I hope! – help me with starting soon.
  • Calendar/travel Management
  • Client Management
  • Project Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Publicity and outreach to schools and non-profits
  • Small amounts of simple graphic design work
  • Writing
  • Other projects as they arise

A few non-negotiable things that my manager will have to have:

  • High comfort level talking about sex all. the. time.
  • Personally excited about and dedicated to sex ed and, specifically, the framework I base everything on (take a look here for more info: http://karenrayne.com/this-i-believe/)
  • Fun to work with. I laugh a lot while I’m working. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
  • Good financial sensibility.
  • Super organized. I hope my manager will know what I need to do next before I’ve started wondering what to do with myself.
  • While it would be bonus-points-cool if you live in Austin, I’m happy to work with someone remotely.

This is a paid position, but it’s not going to pay your mortgage unless you live in a really, really tiny undesirable house in the middle of nowhere in one of the Dakotas. My hope is that we’ll work together, my business will grow, and your income will grow along with it.

Identity in the online world, or Dr. Alice Dreger Live Tweeting Sex Ed

April 20th, 2015

I’m sure that last week many of you followed the sex ed story of the week that went massively viral about @AliceDreger, the mother who live tweeted her son’s sex ed class. I first saw the story on Vox.

This story was pretty fantastic, I have to admit. I followed along, read with the tweets. They are both horrifying and enlightening. And, coming from Texas, I’ve heard so many stories like this before.

dreger1 dreger2

So there they are. Two of them, at least. Live, bold, and in person.

This story has gone dramatically viral. Even USA Today is in on the story.  I think that the best place to read about the experience is at The Stranger where Dreger writes about it herself.

One of the reasons I prefer to read about this at The Stranger than one of the zillion other places I could read about it is that The Stranger doesn’t immediately label Dr. Dreger as a mother. Because that’s not her primary role in life as it relates to sexuality education. Dr. Dreger is a well-known and respected speaker and author. (Her book, Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science has been on my to-read list since it was recently published. I just bought it and can’t wait to dive into it.)

So what’s the deal? Why are all of these media outlets focusing on Dr. Dreger’s parenting and kinda leaving out why she is qualified to talk about issues in sex ed classrooms in the first place? Some of the articles about Dr. Dreger’s live-tweeting experience did, once you got deep enough into the text, mention that she has professional credentials, but many of them left out that piece entirely.

I see two issues with our cultural perspective that has landed us here, ignoring a professional woman’s knowledge and skills that provides her with content expertise on the topic she is speaking on:

  1. Education, and particularly sex education, is not a career or a profession that has unique insight and understanding, but rather is seen as something that parents are more qualified to weigh in on than trained professionals.
  2. Women’s roles are primarily based in the home and the family rather than their professional lines of work. This means that the mother-role is more important than the professional-role and should be mentioned first.

Dr. Dreger did go into the classroom because of her parental relationship with one of the students in the classroom. (In The Stranger piece linked to above, she talks about her embarrassment that she neglected tales of horrific sex ed in her local schools until her own son was in the class.) But it was both things – not only her parenting role – not only her professional role – that gave her unique insight and engagement with that classroom’s content.

I’ve worked in education for a long time. I haven’t ever, really, done anything outside of this field. And I’ve heard the jokes: “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach teachers.” They’re wrong, they’re insulting, they’re exhausting. They make me so angry. There is content expertise and then there is pedagogical expertise, and they are both important to a high quality learning environment. Dr. Dreger has both. And so we need to – we must! – listen to what she has to say about topics that are relevant to her areas of expertise. Not just because she is a parent. It seems that because adults spent a huge chunk of their lives in classrooms, as students, that they think they are experts about what it means to be in a classroom as a teacher. That is just not true. (Incidentally, the same is true of sex. Because most people have sex, most people erroneously consider themselves experts on it. But that is a post for another time, because I have a meeting I have to get to.)

But she is a parent. And that is relevant to the story; she was in the classroom because of her parenting role. It is worth mentioning, but it is not the entirety of the story! We cannot let women’s professional roles outside the home fall second fiddle to their parenting roles inside the home. This is an issue that permeates our society and is deeply divided along gender lines. Hillary Clinton was recently taken to task in the press for having her family along with her during campaign stops – it was suggested she was too much of a mother, not enough of a president. Male presidential candidates take their families along with them on political campaigns all the time and are encouraged, lauded for their dedication! But women? They’re either all-family or all-work, without an understanding of the contextualization that happens in an individual’s identity that not only leaves room for both, but actively incorporates both. This is true for all people along the gender spectrum.

Dr. Dreger’s story is one example of the ways that we fall culturally short in our understandings of both sexual and educational expertise and the ways that we conceptualize motherhood. So while I’m thrilled that poor sexuality education is part of the current national conversation, I’m disappointed in its shortfalls. Dr. Dreger is an expert. And, frankly, her book is awesome in so many ways. Everyone should put it on their to-read list.

Bodies and sex in the age of the profane

November 15th, 2014

profane bodiesI just this morning opened a new book, Sacred Economics: Money, gift & society in the age of transition by Charles Eisenstein. (You can read the entire thing online, as well as watch a video that I haven’t watched yet, on that website.)

Opening a new book like this – one that is outside of my professional purview – one that has come highly recommended (this time by Sam Killermann) – is always thrilling to me. There is a certain kind of intellectual dialogue that is rare to come across, in either book or person form. It feeds my soul, it reminds me that I am human, it engages me on a soul level.

I am often a little afraid when I start a new book with a little whisper of a hope that it will fit into this place in me. And so I delay. I carry the book around, unopened, for the weight of it in my hands and in my hopes. I wait for a breathless moment alone when I can start from the beginning. I am one who finds the introductions to books to be critical. They set the stage, provide a mindset. When done right, I relish them. This time I was not disappointed. From introduction, I am entirely compelled to share and discuss this quote:

For several thousand years, the concepts of sacred, holy, and divine have referred increasingly to something separate from nature, the world, and the flesh. Three or four thousand years ago the gods began a migration from the lakes, forests, rivers, and mountains into the sky, becoming the imperial overlords of nature rather than its essence. As divinity separated from nature, so also it became unholy to involve oneself too deeply in the affairs of the world. The human being changed from a living embodied soul into its profane envelope, a mere receptacle of spirit, culminating in the Cartesian mote of consciousness observing the world but not participating in it, and the Newtonian watchmaker-God doing the same. To be divine was to be supernatural, nonmaterial. If God participated in the world at all, it was through miracles-divine intercessions violating or superseding nature’s laws.

The connections to the body and sexuality are ones I have been talking about for some time in my work life. Why is it that sexuality is held as base, material, separate from the holy and divine? It used to be sacred, and I still consider it to be. My work, while incorporating humor and illness, physical pleasure and deep emotional pain, the depths and the heights of the human experience and everything in between, is ultimately a sacred professional path that I have been called to walk.

I marvel, confused, at the people who try to hide sexuality, to shame their children in it. It is one of the most sacred and important parts of being human – this capacity for such connection with the self and with others. Why would we be here on this earth if not, at least in part, for the very human connections that we can and should take part in? Sexual connection is a holy and sacred thing. But sexual connection is not just with another person – it is also with the self, with nature, with the divine. It has the potential for so much more, and we must respect it as such.

And so to Eisenstein’s point: While he was talking about money and finances, his point stands regarding sexuality and the body. The shift from describing the body as “a living embodied soul” into the “profane envelope” has left a deep rift in our capacity to see the holy – in the bodies we have now. The physical being is not about the degree of thinness, tallness, breastiness, etc., that we can achieve. It is about the elemental honoring of nature and spirit that is at all time within us and surrounding us.

In the same way that the ocean, mountains, moon, stars,
whatever part of nature it is that you find to be most elementally inspiring…
even the skyscrapers, the cell phones, the manmade fountains,
all things, are real, elemental, and maintain a whisper of truth and inspiration to them.
So, too, sexuality.

And this is what I hope my students walk away from my class having internalized. Not an overt description of sexuality as holy or sacred, because that is merely an internal respect externalized into somewhat faulty language. No, instead, I want them to find a respect of the sexual as beautiful, healing, life-giving. I want them to be able to look into themselves, first, and acknowledge that baseline of truth, and then eventually to look into others and see it there too. Imagine if that respectful, honoring, old English word thou were brought back as a way to refer to someone else’s sexuality. Suddenly it becomes truly theirs, to own and to love and to experience. It is something that must not be harmed because it commands the deepest respect. It is something that can be shared communally – it cannot be given or taken.

We cannot walk through life without grappling with sexuality, but we absolutely have the choice for the level on which we choose to grapple. And this is my choice: I will bow and honor each person’s sexuality and identity, because they deserve my respect and love.

Condom Week: Buying condoms with teenagers

June 6th, 2014

karens_condoms2

I know I’m not the only one out there doing this. But I know that most young people don’t ever access contraception until they need it – right then! That’s not a time or a place to try and do something as different and unusual and potentially scary as buying condoms.

I take groups of, mostly, middle school students to buy condoms at pharmacies. My students are usually very nervous about the process. Here are the issues they tend to bring up:

  • What if they see someone they know?
  • What if the clerk won’t sell to them?
  • What if someone asks them what they’re doing with the condoms?
  • What if buying condoms is against the law at their age?
  • How will they locate the condoms in the store? What if they can’t find them?
  • What if their…parents find out? (Their parents have all given specific permission for this excursion.)

Buying something as overtly sexual as condoms just feels wrong to young people. And thus the difficulty buying them for the first time when they really need them. The hurdles are already there – raising above them when the stakes are high is even harder.

Talking young people through the legalities of buying condoms (fully legal, at any age) and how to navigate the store is empowering for them. Pointing out that they can just put the condoms down somewhere and walk away from them if they see someone they know, that they can lie to people who are inappropriately inquisitive about why they’re buying condoms or what they are going to do about them can make a huge difference.

Pointing out that I am outside the store, fully ready to support them in any way they need and that their parents are fully aware of the trip also helps.

But do you know what makes the biggest difference? Actually buying condoms.

I’ve had, overwhelmingly, my students experience the following: Loads of giggles on their part and clerks who don’t bat an eye at them. Except, sometimes, after the twelfth or fifteenth middle schooler comes through their line in an hour they’ll ask whether a class is happening or something. My students are often surprised (and sometimes disappointed) at what a non-issue it actually is.

I have, once, had a clerk who desperately tried to avoid selling my students condoms. She flat out refused the first one. Because of our talk beforehand about how to handle this sort of situation (“It’s legal, it’s none of your business.”), my student knew how to respond. The clerk called her manager over and protested. The manager told her she had to sell the condoms, that it wasn’t her choice. The clerk harassed all 17 of my students, one at a time, as they went through her cash register. My students were amazing. After the first one, of course, they knew what was coming. Two of the boys bought their condoms while holding hands. Another student bought a six pack of Red Bull at the same time. The clerk demanded that my last student through put the condoms back and not buy them. He asked her, “Why not?” She shook her head, glazed-eyed, and said, “I don’t know.”

My students learned that they can stand up for their own sexual health that day. What better lesson is there, really?

 

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), 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 KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

Condom Week: “But then she/he will think…”

June 5th, 2014

karens_condoms2Tying back in, somewhat, with Monday’s post on debunking theoretical myths about condoms, let’s talk about that pervasive issue: the people (who you rarely actually have in your classroom) who think that if their partner (who you do have in your classroom) requests a condom, it means that the partner is cheating. Or that they suspect the person of cheating. The issue, of course, is that this isn’t just a myth, it’s far too real for far too many young people.

I wish I could tell you that you can tell your students the real answer: That if a partner or a potential partner is pulling you away from health (emotional, physical, sexual, any kind of health), then they aren’t respecting you and you should summarily dump them. I wish telling your students that would work.

I wish telling your students that they must wear condoms would work too. And that if you told them that

they had to brush their teeth and follow the true voice in their heart and not let it be corrupted by any of a wide number of influences that would work.

I wish that I had a recipe of language and activities that could take the pain out of your students’ lives, sexual and otherwise.

But I don’t. And nor do you. It is the reality of the sexuality educator that we must sit with our students in their sexual and relationship based pain. Aside from the occasionally humorous, “Can I just show you this picture of my penis/vulva/breast so you can tell me what I should do about it?”, students come to us because they don’t know where else to go.

“My partner choked me until I passed out, but I liked the choking, but I wish he’d stopped when I passed out, but he didn’t and I fell through glass, but I love him, so don’t tell me to break up with him, so what do I do?”

“I can’t handle hormonal birth control, but my partner won’t use condoms, but I have to have sex with him or he’ll break up with me, but I love him, so don’t tell me to break up with him, so what do I do?”

It is not always a boy who is the one who is being physically or emotionally manipulative, not by far. These are just two recent stories from students, and they happen to be about boys.

So you sit and you listen and you listen and you listen. That’s really where one of our greatest potential influences comes from. If we are blessed with the sort of job that allows us to listen hard enough, long enough, students sometimes learn to listen to themselves. That is the greatest breakthrough, really. Too many young people have never been listened to. And without that, how would they ever learn to listen to their own thoughts, feelings, and needs?

Until then we include in our classroom conversations that yes, if someone doesn’t have your highest degree of sexual health in mind, they’re probably not ready to be sexual with you yet. If whatever you find to be important, they aren’t willing to be supportive of, they’re not ready for a physical connection as potentially beautiful and potentially painful as sex.

It is a stop-gap measure, this classroom message, and sometimes the best we have to offer. I wish we had more.

 

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), 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 KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

Condom Week: The KuKluxKlan, meth labs, and AK-47s

June 4th, 2014

karens_condoms2While we’re on the topic of condoms, I want to take a moment to address the issue of public perception. Sexuality education and sexual health are both often relegated to the back room of a red light district sex worker studio. Not that there’s anything wrong with the back room of a red light district sex worker studio, but it’s clearly not a place for children and not something you’re going to chat about in most company. Sexuality education and sexual health, however are absolutely topics that children need to be exposed to and should be discussed in most company.

When I first started in sex ed, my grandmother was pretty embarrassed about it. She would tell people that I was a psychology professor, which, while true, neglected some key details. She asked me why I had to focus “on THAT” when I could do so many good things with my life. In the subsequent years, after learning from me how many college students have zero knowledge about the basics of reproduction, for example, she has become a stalwart supporter. We now talk openly about sexuality education and sexual health, and it’s a beautiful thing.

So what, you may ask, does all of this have to do with the KuKluxKlan, meth labs, and AK-47s? Twitter considers condoms (a key component of both sexuality education and sexual health) to be part of the same category as:

  • Hate content and violence.
  • Drugs and drug paraphernalia.
  • Weapons and weapon accessories.

I could go on and on about the bizarre propensity in our society to conflate sexuality and violence, particularly in movies. How is it possible that the kind of violence that exists in movies is considered appropriate for children? The new X-men movie for example? Not appropriate for children. It’s gore-filled, fast paced, all sorts of things that elevate the audience’s anxiety levels. When children grow up with constantly heightened anxiety levels, they become accustomed to that and they can’t ever really, fully relax. You know what doesn’t raise the audience’s anxiety level? Nipples. It might arouse the audience, depending on a number of variables, but arousal levels go up and down naturally, they don’t get caught in the same hardcore, over-stimulated cycle as anxiety.

And do you know what does good for people? Saves lives rather than ends them? Condoms.

So what’s the deal, Twitter? You should stop perpetuating this particularly craziness.

Want to tell Twitter? Sign this change.org petition: https://www.change.org/petitions/dick-costolo-dickc-twitter-ceo-keep-your-users-truly-safe-please-remove-condoms-from-twitterads-blacklist
and then tell all your friends to sign too!

And then dress up like a giant condom and hangout on the street! Because condoms need to be part of our public discourse. End of story.

 

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), 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 KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

Condom Week: When hands-on is called for

June 3rd, 2014

karens_condoms2Being a sex educator with my face and my e-mail address out on the Internet sometimes means I get crazy notes from people. Last week I got a Facebook message that said this: “I want to practice sex with a female on the camera and gave him $ 500 to send the amount by Mister Naonio I swear to you I’m serious.” I mean, wow, right? I also had someone posing as a student e-mail me asking for details about my classes, suggesting he wanted to enroll in the fall. After several back and forths he wrapped up thusly: “Do professors ever assign hands on activities?” I said no, that hands-on activities don’t happen in college classrooms, but there are other places that offer hands-on instruction. He replied with: “There’s so much more I’d like to talk about but I can only imagine how busy you are!” I declined to respond.

But there are occasions when hands-on is the right way to go, and condom education is one of them.

A quick side note: There are many places where hands-on condom education just isn’t possible for political or other reasons. In many school districts around here, for example, teachers aren’t allowed to bring condoms into the school. If your teaching local has similar requirements, don’t beat yourself up over it or do something that might get you fired. I provide links to YouTube videos below that can stand in, when necessary, for doing the actual activity.

So many young people have their first experience with a condom when they are in the dark, trying to figure out how to use the silly thing, are fully aroused, trying not to be embarrassed, etc. It’s not the most conducive experience to figuring out something new, even something relatively un-complicated like a condom. To combat this, I like to provide students with an activity that will provide them with lots of opportunity to figure condoms out. I divide the class into four groups and then rotate them through four stations. In general, having one educator at the demonstration model and one educator to monitor the other three stations works well. However, having more than four or five people per group can become unwieldy, so you might benefit from adding anther station or providing two of each kind of station so you can have smaller groups. Provide a big pile of condoms at each station. If they can vary in kind, brand, color, size, etc., even better! The stations are as follows:

  1. Demonstration Station: I prefer to use a realistic looking dildo, but everyone has their own preference here. Taking students through all the steps – from checking the expiration date to taking the condom off after ejaculation – is important. Relevant YouTube video:
  2. Lubrication Station: “Wait, which kind of lube can’t you use on a condom?” The kind that gets all hot and breaks them when you rub it on. Nothing drives this point home further than trying out different kinds of lube and seeing what happens! Relevant YouTube video:
  3. Sensation Station: Even after saying that you can feel through condoms, many students either don’t believe it or end up believing someone else rather than trying it out for themselves. Get a few feathers (I use turkey feathers from the free-range turkeys in my yard…) and have students put the condom over their hand and see what the feather feels like when brushed over the condom-covered hand vs. the non-condom-covered hand. Telling them there’s no difference is silly, but letting them actually feel that there’s still substantial sensation is important. I couldn’t find a good YouTube video for this, but the other videos address it here or there.
  4. Maximization Station: How big can a condom get? This station, in particular, works better if you have a range of condom sizes on hand (so to speak) for the students to explore and discuss. The stated goal is for them to see how big they can get the condom. I’ve had students do all kinds of funny things, from putting condoms on their heads, feet, backpacks, and more. When they’re in a space that allows for it, they love filling them up with water. Relevant YouTube video:

Please note that the YouTube videos may or may not be available for your group of students, depending on the age you’re working with. There are lots of videos out there – if you go the video route, find one that is appropriate for the age and development of your students!

Engaging with condoms at this level helps to dispel additional condom myths, building on yesterday’s blog post, but in a very personal sort of way.

 

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), 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 KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

Condom Week: Debunking myths in the classroom

June 2nd, 2014

karens_condoms2

I’ve decided that it’s Condom Week around here at Unhushed. 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.unhushed.net/blog), 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 KarenRayne.com I’ll be writing about teachers and other educators’ issues about condoms in the classroom. At Unhushed.net I’ll be writing about parental concerns about condoms. Interested in receiving KarenRayne blog posts as they happen? Sign up here. You can sign up to receive Unhushed blog posts here.

I want to start Condom Week by addressing some of the myths about condoms. These raise their ugly heads in the classroom over and over again and having solid responses to them lets you respond with charisma, humor, and ease.

      1. Sex doesn’t feel as good with a condom. Well, this is (clearly) a personal preference. Some people will agree, others will prefer condoms, and that’s important to acknowledge in a classroom environment. But the social meme is certainly that condoms don’t feel good. You can address this in some ways by bringing condoms into the classroom and asking students to put them over their hands see what they can feel through them. While it may change or reduce the sensation, it certainly doesn’t restrict all of it. I find that this commercial does a fantastic job of having the rest of the conversation:
      2. You can’t buy condoms if you’re underage. I can’t even tell you how often I hear this from students! And even more amazingly, it often doesn’t even come up until I ask about it. Young people believe that age restrictions on things that they want to do, but adults want them to not do, are ubiquitous, and they often incorrectly believe that applies to access to safer sex as well. The best way to dispel this myth, if you’re in a sufficiently liberal teaching environment, is taking young people to a store and supporting them through their first condom buying experience. While Planned Parenthood and other organizations give condoms away for free, it’s sometimes harder for young people to access those clinics than it is for them to access a grocery store or a pharmacy with $20 in their pockets. Short of an actual field trip, assure young people of their rights to sexual health and do some cashier-consumer role plays in the classroom.
      3. Condoms don’t work. Particularly in those states with the highest teenage pregnancy rates and lingering propensity towards abstinence only until marriage sex education (like Texas, cough, cough), too many young people have been taught that condoms don’t work. You should point young people in the direction of the concrete research that says otherwise. If they are dismissive or uninterested in actual research, remind them that they are talking about important things – and making allegations without backup. Sexuality and sexual health are not topics to be flippant about. If they are old enough and responsible enough to be engaging sexually, they should be old enough and responsible enough to be finding real answers to the sexual issues they are facing.
      4. If my partner wants to use a condom, it means they’re cheating on me. Wow, that’s a doozy of a myth, and I find it’s more insidious in its less overt form: If my partner wants to use a condom, it means they don’t want to be as close to me as possible, that they don’t love me as much as I love them. My post on Thursday is going to deal entirely with this and similar topics: how to support students in talking with their partners about safer sex and condom use.

There are, of course, many more condom myths than the ones I am including here. What are the myths you have run across most frequently, or the ones that tripped you up the most?

Vagina Madlibs

May 28th, 2014

If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, or talk with me about my classes often, you probably know that my college classes wrap-up with a big creative project. Some of them are amazing (some examples here). This last semester I had a student who was torn about her final project and e-mailed me several times for advice and suggestions. Really, she didn’t need any, just the encouragement to listen to her intuition.

My student decided to write a Vagina Madlib and ask friends to fill it in. Brilliant!

Vagina MadlibHow would your students react if you asked them to fill out such a Madlib on the first day of class? Here’s what my student’s friends had to say:

billboard

bus

wall