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January 15th, 2015

This is my beginning post: updated frequently with information about my recent and upcoming 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’s book:

My book, Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten rules for talking with teenagers about sex, has hit shelves across the country! You can find out more about it at www.BreakingtheHushFactor.com. As a little teaser, here’s everything that’s in the book in one beautiful graphic:

BtHF diagram

This spring and summer,

  • I have begun working as the Sexuality Education and Training Specialist with the Center for Sex Education
  • I am continuing work on editing the new upcoming edition of Streetwise to Sex-wise,
  • I am continuing to work on co-authoring a new lesson and activity manual on teaching about sexual orientation, Orientation: Teaching about identity, attraction, and behavior,
  • I am continuing to write my next book, Grown Up Real, about sex and sexuality for older teen girls, which will be published by Magination Press (an arm of the American Psychological Association) in 2017,
  • I am working on a curriculum in collaboration with the team at Seventeen Days 

In the coming months, I will be presenting at:

  • HavenCon, a gaming convention with an LGBTQIA focus. Social Justice Comedian Sam Killerman and I will be performing our show S.E.X. , April 22-24
  • A training on unhealthy relationships hosted by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, April
  • The annual conference of Sexual Health Initiatives for Teens (SHIFT) North Carolina as keynote, May 11-13

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

Very old and very new books

January 3rd, 2017

Two things have come together in my mind in this most amazing way.

First, I have an office space all of my very own! My excitement about this is hard to overstate. And so that you can join me in this, here’s a picture:


As I moved all of my office things from my living room into my office, I spent some time looking over a few of the more precious items. Most relevant to this particular post are two little books that I inherited from my great-grandmother:


These two books are part of a series called Self and Sex Series:


The full series includes advice about what one ought to know in the following categories:

  • a Young Girl / Boy
  • a Young Woman / Man
  • a Woman / Man at Forty-five

And the price listed in the book is $1 each.

The husband version was published in 1897 and the wife version in 1901. A few exerpts, at random:

Before a ship sales from port with its valuable cargo of goods and its priceless feightage of life, they do what is called “boxing the compass.” Naturally the compass would point to the true north, but because the character of the cargo the needle may be diverted from the true north. To discover whether such local influences exhist, they test and correct the compass. The deviation from the true north might be very slight, and in a very short voyage the error might not result in serious consequences, but the interests involved are too momentous to permit of any risk. Before entering upon the new boyage of married life it is eessential, for the prutiy and saftey of the two who enter upon it, and also fr the well-being of the other lives which may subsequently be added to the family, that the principles by which husband and wife are to be guided should be carefully examined, that errors may be discovered and corrected, for the wrecking of a ship is of less moment than the wrecking of human lives, for these involve not only temporal, but eternal destinies.

– What A Young Husband Ought to Know, pg. 74, from Chapter V, “The Physical cost of Procreation”

But no pressure.

What shall be the ruling characterstics of the man I shall marry? is the question that every young girl has answered long before she may be conscious of it herself. As one and another of her acquaintances marry, she mentally confludes that this and that trait which the new bridegroom possesses would not do at all were she the bride. And so year after year the mental, moral, and physical make-up of the man she is to marry, grows into completeness, as this imagineary being is shaped to her liking.

– What A Young Wife Ought to Know, pg 62, from Chapter V, “The Choice of a Husband”

I mostly love these books because they came from my family, but I do have a penchant for collecting old books relevant to the sex ed world in one way or another.

Which brings me to the second thing on my mind today: My book for older teen girls that will be published this summer! It is called GIRL: Love, sex, romance, and being you. And I have tiny preview of the cover:


I’m so excited about this book it’s hard for me to sit still. It will be out mid-summer, which means that I’m currently putting together my list of people to write blurbies lauding the book. Blurbies are on my mind a lot right now, so of course, I looked in the Self and Sex Series books to see what their blurbies say!


First, how much do love it that the blurbies are titled WHAT EMINENT PEOPLE IN AMERICA SAY? I love it SO FREAKING MUCH.


Second, the language in these recommendations is all too much for me. I love it and it makes me laugh and I’m considering asking my blurbie writers to do this thing for me in Victorian English. (Not really. But how wonderful would that actually be??)

Third, there are no blurbies for the book about young wives. And why not, I wonder? Was the series just no longer doing these by 1901? Was no one willing to recommend it because it was too liberal? Too conservative? I have so many questions, and likely no answers.

Who’s teaching my daughter?

May 3rd, 2016

imgresMy 14 year old daughter is in 8th grade…and that moment, as a sexuality educator and a parent, I had been waiting for for years finally arrived. I got THE LETTER. The one where the school district requests permission to teach my daughter sexuality education. So as all engaged parents should do, I requested to see the full program.

And, I’ll be honest, the Big Decisions program could be worse. Here are some pros:

  • Mentions the clitoris! Woohoo! (“Sensitive Bump Allows for Sexual Stimulation”)
  • Provides medically accurate information about contraception
  • Provides medically accurate information about STDs

But the issues are bigger and more numerous. Here are a few:

  • Refers to STDs rather than STIs (I assume this is because the program is out of date, because it does seem to have medical accuracy as a goal.)
  • It’s sex shaming. Hardcore sex shaming. (The definition of sexual contact is: “The intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks of any person with an intent to abuse, humiliate, harass, degrade, or arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person.” Why are abuse and arouse both part of the same definition? WTF?)
  • Zero mention of gender or sexual identity. (This is, of course, state law. You can read more about that issue at The Daily Texan.)

And more. So much more. I’ll be honest, I don’t have the energy to dive into the more. It’s depressing.

Here are my options, as a parent in the Austin Independent School District: I can choose to say no to my daughter sitting through these programs or I can choose to say nothing and she will default into them.

My daughter and I have talked through her options, and she’s asked me to say no. Given that we have regular conversations about all of these topics – and so much more – at home and that she’s just finished going through the 30-hour human sexuality class I teach through my business Unhushed, I’m inclined to agree that she shouldn’t sit through the class. I would put money on her knowing more about human sexuality than her teacher. As an incredibly bright young person, my daughter is loath to let falsehoods be stated in the classroom without correcting them, and I can’t imagine this topic would be any different.

Which brings me to this point: When my daughter first started the long class she’s just finishing up with now, she was very upset about it. She just didn’t want to go. Not that the material was gross, not that her mother was teaching it, but that she felt like it was a waste of her time because we talk about these things at home so much. Which is true. But I wanted her to talk about these things with her peers and I wanted her to relax talking about with them with me. So I insisted. And she’s groaned more weekends than not as we prepare to go, but she’s gone every time, and she’s been an engaged student throughout. I’ve seen her grow into the dialogue in class and start to take that dialogue outside of the classroom. She’s become a leader in addressing sexuality information, in pointing out sexism and white supremacy and other social justice issues, and in discussing the ways that sexuality education can and should be taught. In our conversations about the public school human sexuality class, she’s said quite eloquently that were she to stay in the classroom, she would add to the conversation rather than detract from it, but she doesn’t feel it’s her place to do that. It’s a perspective that I’m not sure I entirely agree with, but nor do I feel like it’s my place to tell her that she should.

And so, State of Texas, you may not teach my daughter about human sexuality this year, much to the loss of her classmates.

Sisyphean parenting

August 3rd, 2015


The iconic Zits comic strip, by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman, yesterday depicted the act of parenting a teenager as similar to the apparent curse bestowed on Sisyphus, rolling the same boulder up a hill, over and over again only to have it roll back down again.

This delights me, because I made a similar metaphor for Rule 10 in my book, Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten rules for talking with teenagers about sex.

The difference between the way that Jerry and Jim portrayed this experience and the way that I talk about it in Breaking the Hush Factor is the lens through which Albert Camus told the story. The quote from Camus’ telling on the bottom of my Rule 10 badge is this: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.” Camus was saying that the reality of engaging can itself be a joy rather than a toil.

In my book, I made the connection between conversations about sex and sexuality, which have to happen over and over again. As a child grows into an adult, they pass through many stages of identity and sexuality. They will be grappling with different issues and relating to sexuality, both internally and potentially shared with others, in emerging ways throughout that growth process. As such, young people need conversations about sexuality to continue throughout their adolescent developmental process, repeated, in a potentially Sisyphus-like way.

It is my hope that parents will draw joy from this process of talking about sexuality with their teenagers over and over again.

(The remainder of this blog post is in support of professionals on how they can support parents. If you’d like to read what I have to say directly to parents, you can find that here.)

As professionals in the field, you have the potential to make a dramatic impact on home-based conversations whether you work with adolescents or parents or both.

I have found that expanding parental compassion for the adolescent experience can go a long way towards easing difficulties. Parents benefit so much from learning to listen to the pain and to the beauty in their teenager’s emerging sexual knowledge, identity, and experiences. Taking sexuality out of a fear-based issue that has to be addressed once in a horrible conversation to be otherwise avoided, and instead brought into a place where it is addressed many times out of love, compassion, and support dramatically changes the way that parents understand their roles and what they have to offer.

The image in the badge of the sun rising behind Sysiphus’s boulder is no mistake. The goal is for parents to see this act of talking about sex over and over and over again as the sun rising, over and over and over again. It is beautiful, it is meditative, if you’re able to sit back and enjoy it.

As a professional, your work is to draw parents into this kind of space where they are able to see the beauty in the act of conversation. For your part, that often means listening to their pain, frustration, confusion, and other negative feelings. There is usually hope, excitement, and acknowledgement of the beauty buried under those negative feelings if you dive down deeply enough. The diving requires you, the professional, to be patient. To sit with and acknowledge the pain. To leave space for and to speak to the beauty when you see rivulets of it coming through. This is not easy work, but it is so powerful.

When you are working with young people, they need two things: some kind of rubric for deciding whether their parent is a trusted adult they can talk with, practical support for finding a trusted adult to talk with (if that is not their parent), and some kind of explanation for why their parent may be reacting the way that they are.

I wrote an article for Scarleteen that, for the most part, answers the first two issues. (You can find it here.) The third one I hadn’t fully conceptualized or worked through when I wrote the article. Since then I’ve talked with more and more and more youth about this issue and heard their pain and sadness that they can’t talk more openly with their parents. (Okay, in fairness, only some of them are in pain over this. Some of them are delighted that they can’t talk with their parents. Others have great conversations with their parents. But for the ones who are confused, who want to talk but feel they can’t, the pain is great.)

Young people who crave conversations about sexuality with their parents (and yes, they do exist, they’ve come entirely by choice to my workshops specifically on how to open those doors) need to know that it’s not their fault that their parents aren’t open to them. They need to know that their actions, choices, knowledge, fears, beauty, love, and more aren’t the cause of their parents distance. To support teenagers through this process, you need to let them give voice to all of those feelings about their own sexuality and how they are able (or rather not able) to relate to their parents. Give them the space to give voice to that which remains hidden at home. You must become, at least for the moment, what they feel is lacking at home. You have to be their trusted adult for them to see that it is not them that is hampering their conversations with their parents.

When you feel they might be ready, then you can gently talk about the issues that may be holding their parents back (the parent’s sexual biography, sexual and religious beliefs, fear, the speed at which parents feel their children grow up, etc.). But these are likely conjectures on your part. You offer them not as a way to solve the issue at home, because that is outside of your purview. Rather, you offer them as a way to further support the young people in understanding that it is not because of them that their parents have closed the door on conversations about sexuality. Life and sexuality are complex, and you are serving as a reminder of that reality.

Above all, practice what you are teaching the parents and young people in your professional life: By experiencing the joy in the toil of pushing the boulder up the hill over and over again, so that you can see the sun rise every time.

Breaking the Hush Factor: Rule #2

July 14th, 2015

I am SO happy to say that, amidst bizarre shipping delays between the publisher and the printer, the first round of softcover Breaking the Hush Factor books have been SHIPPED! If you ordered a softcover during the Indiegogo campaign, you should have received it yesterday – or maybe you’ll get it today. I hope you’ll be as thrilled with them as I am!

If you ordered a hardcover, it’ll be a few more days – more crazy shipping issues!

In the meantime (or in the event you’re reading this after realtime publication), let’s talk about Rule #2:


One of the mistakes I see parents making over and over again is making their conversations with their teenagers be about them. They want to share their experiences, talk about their beliefs/morals/perspectives/etc. They want to do so many things! But it’s not about what the parents want. It’s about what the teenager wants and needs to talk about. It is about the teenager’s passage through understanding and experience.

Furthermore, it’s not about what the parent thinks the teenager is likely to do or even want to do. Parental expectations are based in the parent’s perspective, rather than the teenager’s reality.

This chapter leads parents through considering themselves so that they are able to move forward to considering their teenagers. Accepting that they are unable to accurately predict, that their teenager is unique and individual in their sexual development, allows parents a way of approaching the conversations with openness and an interest in learning more that is so useful!

Breaking the Hush Factor isn’t quite available on Amazon yet – but it will be so soon! And you’ll be able to find out as soon as that happens on the book Facebook page.

Breaking the Hush Factor: Rule #1

June 24th, 2015

Friends, it’s really happening, and I couldn’t be more excited and nervous and nervously excited. My book, Breaking the Hush Factor, is almost here.

This book is written to parents, but it applies to all people who talk about sexuality with young people, and lays out ten accessible and concrete rules for how to have those conversations. The ten rules all work together in a beautifully interconnected framework.


Here’s Rule #1: Know yourself. Parents process through their own childhood emotions as their children grow and develop through childhood, and that doesn’t stop when children reach adolescence. Understanding yourself is a critical first step to engaging with your teenagers around sexuality.

Even more important is understanding the conceptual frameworks through which you, the parent or other adult, understand sexuality, adolescence, and adolescent sexuality. You will bring your ideas into your conversations with your teenagers and being able to parse out when they are appropriate and inappropriate will facilitate much more effective conversations.

I’ll be posting the next nine rules over the next few weeks as the book is launched, along with pieces of information about each of them. The book, of course, goes into much more depth about each of the rules and includes workbook questions to help you process, comics to make you laugh, and graphics that outline the interconnected nature of the rules.

The final proof will arrive on Friday, June 26, and assuming it looks just as beautiful as I expect it to, we’ll be fulfilling preorders next week and the book will be officially launched for mass purchasing love on Monday, July 13 through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.


So much more about my book!

May 27th, 2015

Did you know that I have a book coming out? I’ve been emailing and posting information, but I wanted to give you all a more in-depth reading of the theoretical approach I use as a groundwork for the book.

To that end, my friend and midwife Christy Tashjian and her wife Jenni Huntly interviewed me for her blog. What follows is a re-post of the interview.

Interview with Dr. Karen Rayne, Sexuality Educator and Author of “Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking with Teenagers about Sex!”

Karen Rayne, PhD, sexuality educator, is publishing her first book!



Breaking the Hush Factor: Ten Rules for Talking with Teenagers About Sex! will be released on June 14th. Karen has been teaching sex education with all ages for several years and is a great resource for helping parents work through our own thoughts, beliefs, and feelings around sex and relationships.

A few days ago, Karen come over to our house to chat about her book, we also fed her some delicious baked pears…it’s always nice to feed someone when you really want them to talk! The following is a paraphrased retelling of our conversation….

Jenni: Is the book an accumulation of teaching classes for middle school or is it more related to the individual counseling you do?

Karen: This book is not content oriented at all, it is really about helping parents become familiar with their own feelings around sex so that they can be open to discussions with their teens in an authentic way. I discovered there is much less information out there in the literature about practically addressing your (parents’) own issues.

Christy: My sense is that a parent’s ability to talk to their children and/or teens about sexuality depends mostly on relationship building throughout parenting. It is a gradual process of becoming more and more comfortable discussing things that feel very intimate.

Karen: The context of the relationship is really important and coming to the conversation without any of your own baggage around what is going to happen in the context of that conversation is very important. There are kids who actively come to a conversation about sex and want to engage with their parents and there are some kids who absolutely do not want to talk with their parents about sex. But the ways that the parent should approach each of these kids is within the same framework of honoring and trusting your kid to bring you what they need. They may bring you the need for lots of discussion about sex or none at all; the important thing is to remain open to the dialogue however much or little that is.

Christy: I have been amazed over the years when I didn’t think my kids were listening, I later learned they were taking everything in and remembering it!

Karen: That’s something I do talk about it in the book a lot, about how much your kids do listen to you and how well they do know you. By the time they are teenagers, they really know you AND your reactions very well. Now it is your time, as the parent, to listen and get to know them really well. It’s important to spend a lot of your time listening and really hearing what they are saying, being a sounding board for them to process and assess where they are, thus helping them move forward in beautiful ways.

Christy: What came to me listening to you just now is that we can and should give our kids credit for knowing more and being capable of figuring things out more than we might think.

Karen: It’s a transition, right. When our kids were three, we clearly knew more things about their bodies and how they work and what their needs might be, but as they get older it’s a process of them learning and knowing their own needs; the adolescent years are when this self knowing and transfer of power happens most dramatically. In many ways our culture sees it as a lack of innocence if you know about sex, and even if you don’t buy into that it can be a little bit shocking when your kids start to talk about sex.  Cards Against Humanity is a really interesting point of discussion around this. Most of my high school students have played it and some of my middle school students have.

Christy: I feel like middle school age is a little inappropriate for playing Cards Against Humanity but I actually think it would have been a great game for me to play in high school. I was so naïve and broadening my world would have been helpful, I think; shocking and a little embarrassing, but helpful. So I have not tried to stop my high schooler from playing it, but I have encouraged my middle schooler to wait till she gets a little older.

Brief digression here but moving on….

Karen: Kids do generally think their parents are stricter than they are. And I think this comes from a place of kids really, really caring what their parents think. Especially with something like sex, kids may think their parents are particularly less open-minded than they are. Take my classes for example, some of my students say, “my parents would never be OK with me talking about this.” And I say, “well, your parents know the entire curriculum for this class and they pay me a lot of money to discuss this stuff with you!”  And they say, “ooo….”

It’s like an impulse or reflex that the students respond this way to some of the things we talk about in class.  So what I am trying to do with the book is to help parents help their kids get out of that reactionary place by suggesting that they [the parents] stay interested in what their kids are saying and engaged with their kids at whatever level the kids are bringing the conversation to. This will help the kids understand that their parents really want to be there with them, listening to their thoughts, emotions, and feelings, considerations and worries, instead of the parent leading the conversation. It’s a definite conversation power shift that helps kids discover their own sexual paths.

Jenni: That speaks to the individuality of sexuality, that we are all dramatically different from each other, so that makes a lot of sense to me.

Karen: I think there is an element of kids needing to separate from their parents in some way, and sometimes they tell the parent and sometimes they don’t. Every kid in my class talks about their parents. It’s like their parents are over their shoulder, there with them. Sometimes the kids are arguing with them, sometimes agreeing, sometimes trying to figure their parents out, but they are always there, figuratively present with the kid.  It’s about how as a parent to be supportive of their kids finding their own identity, whether this matches what the parents want or expect.

Jenni: Even when you may not have figured it out for yourself… (laughter)

Karen: Yes, and that’s what the first four chapters in the book are about, the parent figuring themselves out enough to be present in the conversation about sex with their kids.

Please check out Karen’s indiegogo campaign and think about buying her book, especially if you have teenagers 1200x900-testimonial-book-gina

Seeing as we are midwives who get lots of questions about sexuality and relationships, our discussion with Karen moved along to sex during pregnancy and the postpartum months. She facilitated one of our group prenatal sessions last year, and talking about that experience is where this conversation picks up again…and then organically moves back to talking with kids, very cyclical….

Christy: People expect their sexuality and sex drive to remain the same in pregnancy and postpartum and most often it does not. That change can be pretty sudden and can catch both partners off guard.

Jenni: And then there is this notion that when people become pregnant they have to put aside their sexuality and/or some people have trouble figuring out how to be a parent and a sexual being at the same time.

Christy: Yes, when one has a lot of different hats to wear it’s hard switching back and forth between them quickly.

Karen: What’s normal? What’s right? I think that is where people’s questions really are. People have a fear of cross-mingling sex and babies/children.

Christy: I also think one thing pregnant people are really surprised by is how low their libido is in pregnancy and/or the postpartum months. Some people worry, I think it’s a common fear, that they will never feel like having sex again in the way they did before having a baby. I think it is totally normal and it’s a helpful thing to point out that they may not have sex for a very long time but that the desire will come back. Of course, some people have a very high libido in pregnancy and enjoy it very much! I want to help people understand that libido is very fluid over a life span; sex drive varies greatly at different times in people’s lives. That’s something I don’t remember hearing about or talking about when I was pregnant or just postpartum: that sexual desire is so up and down over one’s lifespan.

Karen: I think that is one thing that is really missing in abstinence-only sex education. So when we are talking about abstinence in my classes with young people, I always say to them that there are times over their entire lifespan that they will be deciding not to have sex, for a variety of reasons — maybe they don’t have an appropriate partner, they or their partner may have some kind of STI, they may have other physical health concerns, maybe they’ve just given birth to a baby, there are lots of reasons, they may be on a spiritual journey where refraining from sexual contact is what seems best at the moment… During their life, whether they’re married or not, whether they have a partner or not, there will be times in their life when they will choose to refrain from having sex… Really honoring the space that abstinence provides is something not just for teenagers; because, firstly, I think that teenagers can hear it more easily if it’s something for everyone, and also they are then able to carry that into their future lives where they are able to respect a decision or feeling inside themselves to refrain from sexual activity. It’s important for people to know that choosing abstinence at all different times in their life is a respectable decision and a respectful decision as part of the life process.

Christy: I think that the common approach to abstinence only birth control does teenagers a big disservice.  This description you give providers a more holistic view of what abstinence can look like in an empowering way.

Karen: When coming to a conversation with your kids about sex, the key is to identify your own issues so that even if you don’t resolve them, you at least know what they are, and if your kid starts to mention something [difficult for you], you know where the trigger is coming from. This will help you know when to take a break in the conversation, because you’re having a reaction that’s about you and not about them. But part of that process is ideally learning to just sit with where you are sexually at any given moment. It may be a time of a lot of arousal, and a lot of desire, and a lot of sexual activity, and a lot of orgasms, or it may be just a place of a lot of desire, but not a lot of arousal or sexual activity. There are a lot of variables at play here, and I think that just letting your body whisper to you where you are and following it and respecting it, and not feeling the need for it to be different is a huge gift to yourself and for your kids. The painful parts of sexuality are when you end up with sexual activity and even orgasm, without the arousal or the desire. That’s what we really want to avoid.

Jenni: And that can be tricky if you are partnered, with all the potential discrepancies between partners. And often, as a parent, I imagine you are trying to figure out where you are at, and that’s influenced by your current relationship or non-relationship. So then it’s influenced by your partner’s desire or interest in sex.

Christy: So, it could be that the sexual desire of both partners could go for long periods of time never matching up; that kind-of stinks. And then they have to navigate that within the relationship.

Jenni: I can imagine that affects the conversation with your kids; trying to figure out what to say to them when you are figuring out your own relationship makes it much more complicated.

Karen: So much more complicated! And if you have all these emotional reactions to sex because of what’s going on in your relationship right now, then talking to your kids about it, without having any of your own emotional reaction around the topic influencing the conversation, is really, really hard.

[Pause in conversation, which is unusual for us]

Karen: That’s how it can be talking to kids. It is a process of trying to negotiate your response, because in some ways that is a public face, rather than a private face. Your private sexual life is not about your child and they don’t need to have any part of it or know anything about it, in terms of concrete details for sure. But how do you negotiate your public face in those conversations while still being authentic, because if you’re lying your kids are going to pick up on it.  You have to be honest to a degree, saying things such as “You know this conversation is really hard for me right now, but I know it’s important so we’re going to have it anyways.” Owning up to that weirdness is important. One of the things that I cover in my book is that [as a mature adult] you use the other adults in your life to talk with about sex or other issues before you talk to your kids. Work through some of your own stuff with your peers, or a therapist, or whomever is appropriate for you.

Christy: I think that’s a good place to end it, especially since our kids are such great mirrors of ourselves, helping ourselves ultimately helps them.

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.

Intimacy in Assisted Living

February 2nd, 2015

The assisted living industry provides residential, medical, nutritional, functional, and social services for approximately 1 million older adults in the United States. This category includes assisted living homes as well as residential care facilities for the elderly located within assisted living facilities or independent living retirement communities such as the one at www.carltonseniorliving.com/community/orangevale/, complexes that provide health related services to the elderly on an ancillary basis.

Despite their holistic approach to person-centered care and their emphasis on a consumer-empowered, social environment, assisted living providers pay scant attention to clients’ sexual needs. Lack of engagement by providers and the lack of culturally competent training often results in unawareness of the importance of sexual health as a part of overall quality of life for all adults of all ages regardless of health status and related stigmas and concerns for those individuals diagnosed with all forms of dementia within long-term care programs and other elders who are sexually marginalized due to disability status or other marginalizations or privacy concerns associated with the aging population.

Because assisted living continues to be a strong option for residential long-term care for growing numbers of older adults, it is critical to determine residents’ expectations and experiences of sex and intimacy in this environment in order to understand both current and potential gaps in services and to support healthy aging initiatives in these settings and those related to housing and living options for individuals with all types of disabilities worldwide.

It’s important to contribute to an understanding of how sexuality and intimacy are experienced within the social models of care provided in assisted living communities and how these factors may impact overall well-being and quality of life of people who live within this setting – especially as it relates to those already struggling with the uncertainties associated with memory and cognitive issues. The importance of maintaining sexuality over the life course, as well as continued sexual desire and participation in sexual expression by older adults needs to be acknowledged as part and parcel of fulfilling individual meaning and purpose in life that is meaningful to clients according to their specific needs and abilities and preferences.

Although sex in assisted living can be enjoyable, a physical release, and expected behavior, victimization also occurs. Many individuals opt for assisted-living settings as a result of injuries from falls during sexual encounters. In addition anecdotal reports indicate that among individuals in cognitive decline who have engaged in sexual activity while residing in these facilities and then are no longer capable of consenting to it generally do not report instances of sexual assault because their bodies are not believed to be able to prevent unwanted advances; medical staff members are also typically not knowledgeable about issues of abuse involving patients with cognitive impairment.