Oct 142013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Kelsey. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Sexual Consent is voluntary, sober, wanted, informed and mutual verbal agreement to be sexually intimate.  We can’t talk about sex without talking about consent, because sexual consent is not only the law, but it is a sexy and healthy part of a relationship. Why?

Communication simply makes relationships better.

Expressing your needs and concerns is healthy. Asking for what you want and asking your partner(s) what they want is sexy. The more you open you are with your partner(s), and the more you know about each other, the more creative and exciting sex is. Plus, communicating and listening means you respect each other, which promotes trust and honesty.

Remember, consent is verbal, not implied. Here are some consent conversation starters:

  • Share your fantasies, and see how your partner responds. Are they interested? Do they have common fantasies? If so, start exploring them.
  • Ask your partner what they want. If you are excited about what they want, talk about your mutual wants. If you are nervous or unsure, communicate this too.
  • Talk about boundaries and respect them.
  • Ask your partner how they’re feeling. If they reply with something like “good” or “okay” ask them what this means to them.

There are lots of ways to get consent, and consent will look different the more you get to know your partner(s). The most important thing is to listen and remember consent is never implied. Consent is a verbal yes.

 

Oct 112013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

It was stressed that the idea behind living the lifestyle is not about the individual, it is about the relationship. As opposed to neglecting all other sexual sources of happiness that do not directly involve the partner, what the lifestyle offers is the opportunity for partners to be open and communicative about their ambitions, and by doing so they are then able to explore these ambitions together. Listening to Carol and David talk about what the lifestyle meant to them diffused some of the stigma I harbored, and also helped me come to realize two important themes that have relevance in any kind of relationship.

(1) If you have a preference that is important to you, then let it be known!
In the context of swinging, a preference might be voicing your desire to be sexually intimate with multiple partners. Why is this something that is much easier said than done? Perhaps part of the taboo surrounding non-monogamy is this idea of it being ‘unnatural’. I beg to differ! The acceptance of multiple roles has been well-documented from biological, historical, political and psychological perspectives, all adhering to theories that explain so much of our everyday behavior. Indeed, the literature I’ve looked into indicates that the human race evolved under slightly polyamorous contexts, which explains the disparity of muscle mass and body size between men and women. This is due to the different sexual strategies that have evolved extensively over the years, and exists for a variety of reasons, one of which include the benefit of genetic variation multiple partners have to offer. Furthermore, both men and women have shown to have fantasies involving other people outside of their present relationship, particularly around the time when the individual is most fertile (for example, those with vaginas experience both an increase in attraction towards multiple people and will feel more attractive personally just around the time of ovulation). To add, there exists still many religious and cultural beliefs that value the union of multiple partners, and so much of our art and literature has been fueled by deconstruction and understanding complex relationship dynamics. I would argue that it is just as ‘natural’ to have fantasies about other people as it is not to, and it’s quite unfortunate that the normative social construction of western culture hasn’t conditioned us to think of this lifesytle with a little more warmth. Why is that?

Perhaps the answer might be related to the idea that people perceive themselves as the protagonist in their own glorified movie, and thus see themselves as the central theme driving the narrative. The self-perception of being the foundation of the social network is essential to human survival despite the notion appearing to contradict to the examples mentioned before. Some may argue that multiple partners may be appealing in theory, but let’s talk logistics; How important am I really if my partner is openly attracted to others? How do I stay special and keep my self-esteem intact? David and Carol argue that when we shift the focus on feeding the relationship instead of feeding the individual, then it can be possible to satisfy both answers in a way that’s not incongruous. When fueling a health relationship becomes a central theme to both parties, there leaves a space for the needs and demands of both parties to be open, heard, and explored, and perhaps to find reward in exploring them together. Oftentimes, the space you create for you and your partner reinforces the acceptance of yourself. By doing so, you are exploring the boundaries of the relationship you have with your partner together, much the same way one might decide to explore a new country or learn a new skill together. As much as one appreciates the individualistic lone-wolf personal narrative, ultimately there are few greater things in life that derive as much pleasure as participating in activities that you love with those you love.

(2) No one can feel all the happiness you need (and deserve).
Drawing from personal experience, most of the pitfalls I found in my past relationships were due in part to my intense desire to make my partner the source of all my growth and support. This is problematic for a multitude of reasons, but for now I’ll just highlight two: (1) It’s impossible role for your partner to fill (2) It’s an impossible expectation to put on yourself as a partner. This mindset is particularly volatile, and can fester into all emotions I’m sure we we are all familiar with such as guilt, shame and jealousy. When asked about non-monogamous relationships, jealousy is a question that often gets asked. Of course there will always be jealousy in your life with or without non-monogamy, but I think it should be encouraged to try to tease apart jealousy that is healthy and constructive, and jealousy that is bitter and demeaning. For the purpose of this argument, I believe that distinguishing the two has relevance, because it could be cultivated as a useful resource, and motivates one to be a better person.

“Why am I jealous right now? How intense it is? What can I do to change this feeling? Can I talk about it? How can I talk about it? Is this related to my personal insecurities?” All of these questions make us stop and reflect, which could perhaps lead to learning something constructive about ourselves and our relationship. Jealousy is such a tricky emotion simply because the nature of it’s precariousness. It germinates so quickly and stubbornly, and blinds our logic and reasoning with incredible ease. If one could work on identifying, and acknowledging jealousy in a constructive way, it might lead to taking less criticism to heart when we feel the demands are too much, and perhaps make room for more positive emotions to filter through. Because we can only give so much of ourselves, would it not be fair to work towards giving what we can with complete integrity, and let the rest of life fulfill our loved one’s desire? This may be a more constructive alternative to running your love thin by chasing after a fantastical role in their relationship that is unobtainable.

In my mind, what makes the theme so compelling is that these life lessons are something we can practice is any relationship, even those outside of a non-monogamous context. Relationships exist for many different reasons, and communicating, and exploring and respecting the relationship is a central component to it’s vitality. It creates this beautiful circular chain of events, where support can be generated as well as internalized and influenced by both the provider and the receiver. All of these things helps create a healthy space between you and any partner(s), leaving room for compassion and surprise and ultimately attributes to a more coherent sense of self, and above all, a more coherent understanding of your relationship.

Oct 082013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

In the spring of 2013, I attended my first ever Sexual Attitudes Reassessment (SAR) seminar, which was hosted in Montreal, Quebec. When I first showed up, I was unceremoniously handed a box of condoms, a courtesy Diva Cup, and a small folder that contained a skeleton version of the weekend schedule. This marked one of the more underwhelming introductions I’ve encountered, as the workshop quickly proved to be one of the most comprehensive, insightful and innovative learning experiences I’ve ever encountered. Every panel discussion brought incredible stories, filled with equal flavors of awe, sadness, connection and desire. A space was created where I could sit and really think about what sexuality meant to me, and to discuss it with those who bring so many different perspectives to light was wonderful. On a professional level, I felt like I had learned more about sexuality and sex education during those four days than I had in my 22-year life.

On a personal level, however, I was in total emotional turmoil from start to finish. Part of the workshop provided a list of questions you could ask yourself that could potentially bring to focus some of the sweeping generalizations or stereotypes one may inadvertently attached to specific topics, and to realize that you (the liberal and open-minded individual that you pride yourself to be) has unknowingly pocketed and perpetuate some stigma… well my guttural reaction to it was quite intense, and lead to all sorts of behind-the-dumpster-outside-the-metro breakdowns, which quickly transitioned into a healthier paradigm shift and fundamentally changed how I approached sexuality in both myself and in others.

With that said, I really wanted to highlight a particular panel discussion that was given by Carol and David, who came in to talk about swinging. For those who don’t know, swinging could be loosely defined as “A lifestyle of non-monogamy where sexual relations occur outside the established couple”. It’s important to note that swingers tend to refrain from emotional attachments with their outside partners, which generally differentiates their relationship from a polyamorous one, although for the purpose of this post, the idea could apply to any non-monogamous relationship, romantic or not.

My knowledge about swinging prior to the panel discussion was embarrassingly fragmented, taken from a myriad of here-say stories from friends-of-friends, and movies starring Nicole Kidman. Truthfully, it was a topic I never gave much thought to, because I wrongly believed that the justification for openly having sex with other partners always came from a place of guilt and insecurity, or that it implied that there was something wrong or damaged with the relationship. Of course both were false assumptions, as it was very quickly understood that swinging had much less to do with sex, and more to do with supporting and exploring the relationship boundaries you share with your partner.

Carol and David were nothing short of spectacular; they were tall and graceful, clean cut, brightly-smiling and above all, confidant. Their confidence exuded from their body, was knit in every word they said, and soaked in every gaze they gave one another. As impressive as it was to see attraction and commitment conveyed so openly, I found it most striking that their lifestyle – The Lifestyle, as they called it—could be explained so effortlessly, and discussed with such coherence and eloquence.

Aug 262013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Kelsey. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section. – Shanna

Safe sex information is an essential component of health. Expanding the definition of safe sex to include more than just condoms is one of my biggest goals in life. I put a condom on banana for the very first time last month when I was performing in a health education theatre troupe in front of 500 college freshman.

When I think back to my high school health class, the only thing I can really remember is to always use a condom. And okay, yes, condoms are important, they greatly reduce the risk of pregnancy, and protect against some STIs…that is if you are having sex that involves a penis inside you.  My point is, the type of sex education I learned in high school never applied to me.  I was on my own to become empowered and informed and so are a lot of other people.

The problem is, if the only take home message from a health class is to wear a condom, many important topics are missing. For example:

Where is the empowerment?

If you feel empowered during intimacy, you can advocate for yourself with confidence.  One way to feel empowered is being informed and feeling comfortable with your own body.

What is body positivity?

Body positivity means feeling comfortable in your own skin.  It means honoring your body and making healthy choices that fit your needs.

What are other forms of contraception?

There are many different types of contraception. Some examples are birth control pills, the depo provera shot, a diaphragm or intra-uterine devices. What’s important is knowing how to access them, what questions to ask your doctor, what they’re used for, and what to expect.

What is consent?

Sexual Consent is voluntary, sober, wanted, informed and mutual verbal agreement to be sexually intimate. It’s a no until it’s a yes when it comes to sex or being intimate.

Are there other types of intimacy besides penetration?

Yes! There’s kissing, touching, holding hands, talking dirty and so much more.

What exactly is a condom?

Condoms are sheaths of thin latex or plastic that are worn on the erect penis during penetrative vaginal, anal or oral sex. They protect couples from sharing most sexually transmitted infections and prevent 98% of pregnancies if used correctly. (editor’s note; this refers to “male” condoms — they also make “female” condoms that are worn inside the vagina or anus. Either type can be used by folks of any sex or gender)  You can access condoms at drug stores, grocery stores, some vending machines, doctor’s offices or health clinics like Planned Parenthood.

Sex toys? What?

A great way to spice up intimacy, experiment with different fantasies, and achieve the desired level of stimulation.  I recommend going to a local body positive and sex positive shop or doing some online research. You never know until you try! Editor’s Note: Keep in mind that if a toy is not made of a sterilizable material  like silicone, glass, metal, ceramic or corian, you will want to use a condom on it when sharing!

 

What if I am woman having sex with another woman?

That’s great! If both partners are a female-bodied vagina owners, you won’t need a condom (unless to for sex toys, especially non-sterilizable ones), but dental dams prevent sharing most sexually transmitted infections during oral sex.  Some people use latex or nitrile gloves, or finger cots for added protection.

These are just some of the topics I would include if I could teach a high school sex education class now. It is impossible to mention everything in a single post, but I assure you there will be more to come. It’s very important stuff.

 

 

 

Aug 152013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Kelsey. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section. – Shanna

With over 24 million people in the United States suffering from anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorders, and thousands more on restrictive diets, body positive organizations like HAES (Health at Every Size) are revolutionary in the fight for health and positive body image. HAES stands behind the principle that skinny does not equal healthy.

The phrase “I can’t… I’m on a diet” is usually harmful for the entire body. When you are on a diet, you are depriving your body of valuable nutrients – things your body needs to function properly and feel healthy. In fact, most people who diet and lose more than the recommended one-pound per week gain the weight back within 6 months to make up for diet induced starvation.

Before you start a diet it is important to ask yourself WHY.

• Are you trying to lose weight to look a certain way?

• Are you channeling emotional control issues into controlling the food that you eat?

• How much weight are you trying to lose?

• Who will be an emotional support system and educational resource during your weight loss

journey?

• Are you exercising and are you eating enough to do so?

According to HAES, the best way to improve health is to honor your body. Some ways to honor your body are to accept and respect the natural diversity in body types, eat in a flexible manner, and appreciate the natural movement of the body, like finding movements, stretches and exercises that you enjoy. Approach health from an individualized holistic perspective.

People who honor their body (no matter what their size) are more comfortable sexually.

• Sexuality expression is a reflection of the inner self, physical self, emotional self

• Sexuality is largely dependent on how we see our selves and how we interact with others.

• Love your body, honor your body, and actively challenge the idea the skinny means healthy.

The bottom line is that every body is different and health truly does look and feel different for everyone. What felt good yesterday, may not feel good two months from now. It is important to take time to learn what feels best and always remember to leave room for change and growth.

Important language from the World Health Organization:

Eating Disorder: Eating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which you’re so preoccupied with food and weight that you can often focus on little else.

Anorexia nervosa: Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. People with anorexia attempt to maintain a weight that’s far below normal for their age and height. To prevent weight gain or to continue losing weight, people with anorexia nervosa may starve themselves or exercise excessively.

Bulimia nervosa: People with bulimia may secretly binge — eating large amounts of food — and then purge, trying to get rid of the extra calories in an unhealthy way. For example, someone with bulimia may force vomiting or do excessive exercise.

Binge Eating Disorder: Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which you frequently consume unusually large amounts of food. But for some people, overeating crosses the line to binge-eating disorder and it becomes a regular occurrence, usually done in secret. When you have binge-eating disorder, you may be deeply embarrassed about gorging and vow to stop. But you feel such a compulsion that you can’t resist the urges and continue binge eating.

Diet: Intentional reduction in calories, restriction of foods with the goal of weight loss.

Holistic Health: Includes all aspects of health such as mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and financial wellbeing.

Aug 082013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

It is nearly impossible to peel socio-cognitive development from exposure to media. It’s relevance echoes from our early infancy, where developmental researchers have found that children rely on these cues given by their caregivers to guide them on how and when act in ambiguous situations. The technical term for this is called anchoring, and it is a skill can be generalized well throughout the lifespan, as we are always subconsciously taking in information from our surroundings, and integrating it into our social network.  We pick up on these cues from the community we are affiliated with, the newspapers we choose to read and with the media we are exposed to. The lessons we learn from media echos in our daily interactions all the time. It tells us that if we keep a beer in our hand, we could be conditioned to feeling less nervous. It tells us what kind of clean crisp shirt is appropriate for a job interview. It also tells us it’s inappropriate to shout in art galleries and grocery stores, but not concerts and birthday parties.

With that said, pornography is no exception to this phenomenon. Even an individual who is exposed to a resourceful sexual education cannot magically neglect the information one takes in while watching pornography. Can you blame us? Human beings are physiologically inclined to perceive and internalize visual stimuli more strongly than other senses, so it’s no surprise that sex we see on screen is something that ‘sticks’ with us. Pornography has now become the norm for youth, with 87% of boys and 31% of girls reported being exposed to it at one point.

More and more, I’m finding the underlying message of how porn is talked about in regards to sex education is it emphasizes the importance of segregating porn as ‘fantasy’ and sex as ‘real’. With that said, it is very tempting emphasize the degradation and objectification found in mainstream pornography, or perhaps has dismissed it as being “for entertainment purposes only”. The idea is peppered in any intro level social psych or gender studies class, and fuels a few of the spicier Tedtalks. I have two main problems with this well-educated (and, let’s face it, slightly presumptuous) attitude:

(1) If research tells us that we are learning from porn, but education tells us we shouldn’t, then what are we supposed to do?
This sounds like a mixed message that could definitely leave the audience confused. If we feel like we are learning a skill by using a resource that has been told is unreliable, then it leaves room for guilt and shame to creep in, which really doesn’t help open up a dialogue. Information comes from all walks of life, and oftentimes not all of it comes from academia and research. It’s important to embrace the lessons we learn, and provide a space where people can talk openly and share these experiences with one another.

(2) It tends to generalize all styles of pornography and lump it into one type.

Of course we know this is not true and that there are in fact, a plethora of pornography that exists, each carrying it’s own brand and message.

Nina Hartley* is an incredible example of this. Both a porn star and a registered nurse, she has always been a strong voice advocating the importance of creating sex-positive pornography that strengthens and educates us about sexuality. This is a powerful message, as not only does it create an accepting environment as a consumer of porn, but also it celebrates that multi-faceted understanding of sexuality as a whole.

Keeping to this theme, Blue Artichoke Films** is a production company that also aims to make films more sex-positive, and focuses more on the intimacy and emotional unfolding of the interactions. This quality is seen down to the nitty gritty real-time editing, in an attempt to captive the heat of the moment.

However, it should be noted that I’m not in the belief that pornography is a substitute for sex education all together, but I do believe the subject could be incorporated in the curriculum with a little more warmth. Sometimes I feel like porn is a subject that is not sure how to be dealt with within the sex education curriculum because of it’s artistic elements of fantasy, but it is not to say that it’s relevance should be dismissed entirely.

With that said, we are slowly coming to the small space where fantasy and reality meet. The trends in media are working towards finding ways to make it more interactive with the audience. We see it in how we watch sports, how we take in news, and how we interact with our friends and family online. This is a really exciting time for us, because now more than ever, it is so easy to gain knowledge, and create a message that can be heard. By generalizing and dismissing pornography, it leaves very little room to make it constructive, and certainly does not leave any room for change in the industry.  Pornography is an industry just like any other, and akin to other industries, it changes and shifts based on our demands as a consumer. This leaves us with an incredible opportunity for us to support and direct it to a healthier outlet. This allows ample initiative as a consumer to educate oneself about what kinds of messages we want to see in pornography, and where we can go to support those who give this message.

*For more information on Nina Hartley: http://www.nina.com/

** For more information of Blue Artichoke Films:  http://blueartichokefilms.com/

For one of Shanna’s posts on Feminist and Ethical Pornography (including what it is, companies making it, etc), check this out: http://shannakatz.com/2011/02/21/what-is-ethicalfeminist-pornography/

Jul 262013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Kelsey. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

According to recent research, 41% to 72% of queer (Iincluding LGBTAIAA) people never come out to their health care provider (McManus, Hunter & Renn). However, the majority of individuals who chose to come out experienced increased satisfaction with their care afterwards. What a relief! But, coming out to a provider is easier said than done. Queer individuals encounter compounding oppressions, and often challenge the norms for gender expression and sexual preferences. Coming out to a provider can be especially complicated, stressful, and your identity may just be hard to explain. Not to mention it’s exhausting having to constantly be teaching, when few are willing to seek the information on their own. However, with the right provider, healthcare can be completely individualized.

So, how can you come out to your health care provider? The first thing to remember is the provider is there to help YOU. Listening is crucial. There is no space for assumptions in the doctor’s office, especially on their behalf. The provider must refrain from determining your needs before you open your mouth. In order to do this, providers must deconstruct their assumptions about gender and gender expression. But still, sometimes as the patient you have to explain things more than once. For example, many health care providers assume that their patients are heterosexual so, continuing to advocating against this assumption is an uphill climb but very necessary! You can be honest and explain your needs.

For example, a transgender individual who has just decided to start hormone therapy may have a well-established relationship with their provider. But, this trusted provider does not understand the needs of a transgender person. To overcome this barrier, the patient can start the conversation by asking questions like, “do you know what my needs are and do you understand them?” If the answer is no, the patient can say “are you willing and able to become educated on my needs?” If the answer is still no, than the patient can ask their provider to refer them to someone who can help. Wouldn’t it be great if more doctors had experience with transgender individuals?

You may also need to explain that a certain identity, just like a certain appearance, does not equate to a certain set of needs. Honest conversations can turn a dreaded trip to the doctor into an empowering experience that ensures continued self-care. For example, providers may not understand that you may be considering birth control this year, even though at your last appointment your partner was female, and you have ovaries and a uterus. Another example is that you need to be able to trust that your provider will believe you if you say you are in an abusive relationship, even though your partner does not fit the stereotypical abuser profile.

Gender and sexuality are fluid and no identity is simple. Unfortunately in our society, doctors are less versed in the needs of queer individuals. But this does not mean you deserve to have your needs met and your concerns validated any less.

Tips for Patients:
• Take your time finding an accepting and supportive health care provider

• Tell your provider your preferred pronouns

• Bring a trusted friend with you to your appointment

• Ask questions

• Explain your health concerns

• Be a self-advocate

• Report discriminatory or dismissive behavior

Jul 242013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Belief #5: Women get STI’s more than men.

Science says: Women [Editor's Note: defined in most research by feminine presenting people with vulvas] have been found to have slightly higher prevalence rates than men. However, there is strong suspicion that this difference is due to flaws in the research design. With that said, women are more likely to get tested regularly and are far more likely to report and disclose status, all of which could also bias prevalence rates. So far, nothing has been found that makes women intrinsically more vulnerable to contracting an STI.

Yeah, but what does this mean? The individual who gets tested first is typically the first person who has to disclose his or her status to the other sexual partners. However, there is this cognitive assumption that the first person to gain knowledge about the infection is automatically deemed the source of the infection. If women are more likely to get tested, then women are more likely to be the first to receive the information about said STI. This sometimes could further perpetuate these issues surrounding self-confidence, which could in turn decrease the likelihood that someone would continue to display healthy sexual practices (like getting tested regularly). It’s no surprise that self-esteem and self-concept are large facilitators in exhibiting healthy practices, and sexual health should not be considered an exception.

Solutions?  Perhaps it would be best to think of this issue from a larger public health perspective. Responding with shame, embarrassment and disgust to a status disclosure doesn’t make the individual want to open up and talk about it, and it certainly doesn’t support healthy sex choices. I think it would be more effective if the response to a friend or family being open about their status was support, because it reflects that the individual has taken initiative towards bettering their lives in a healthy way. We applaud those who take initiative to eat healthier, and exercise more because we know that the intrinsic motivations are not something that comes with ease. Why can’t we start thinking the same way about our own sexual health?

Some of the best advice I have ever received was from my mother, who once told me “Well, if you want to start thinking about things differently, stop talking about them with such hostility”. With that said, changing the way we talk about our sexual health helps us create a more constructive way of thinking about our sexual health. Even by making the small changes that I’ve highlighted above, I think this will help change the concept of transmission to something with a little less hostility, and a little more openness. Hopefully this piece will help you think about how you talk about STIs in your life, and perhaps lead you to having happy and healthy conversations with more objectification, support and understanding.

 

Jul 222013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

 

Belief #4: Only people who sleep around get STI’s.

Science says: STI transmission does show to have a mild correlation with number of sexual partners. However we should be reminded that correlation does not equate with causation. The number of partners can increase the probability of STI transmission because there are more instances of contact one could potentially have with an infection, but there is nothing intrinsic in the individual that makes him/her more susceptible to contraction by virtue of sleeping with multiple partners, especially if the said individual is diligent about using the necessary precautions.

Yeah, but what does this mean? If you get an STI, then you are “one of those” people who sleep around. The stigmatization that surrounds those who sleep with multiple partners can be extrapolated into a whole other rant, but for the purpose of this argument, I will keep it brief. Slut-shaming is a very powerful tool that has been used by both sexes to clearly disrespect women based solely on their sexual habits. As a result of this, women are hypersensitive to the criterion that defines someone as being sexually promiscuous (STI contraction being one of them). Generally speaking, women typically don’t view their behaviors as being “slutty”, and therefore if they do end up behaving in a way that would be thought of as “slutty behavior”, it becomes much easier to justify ignoring the repercussions.

“Well, if only sluts get STI’s, and I have an STI, what does that make me?”. The idea is distressing as it is problematic. The only thing worse than going around calling other people sluts based on their status is actually internalizing that you are one. One unfortunate aspect of this self-deprecation is it has a role outside of our sex lives as well; it carries a profound implication in many different facets that make up one’s character, including self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. None of this fosters a healthy psyche, nor does it feul a supportive society.

Solutions? Start thinking about the math. Using Chlamydia as an example, it is estimated that 4.5% of individuals will contract Chlamydia at least once in their life. Think about this when you are sitting in a crowded room, like a lecture hall, or you are on a bus. For example, if you happen to be in a room with 100 people, then statistically speaking, about five people sitting in the very same room could potentially have it. Be sure to keep in mind that these people are not necessarily women who might be labeled a “slut”, they really could be any gender, any race, with one or many partners.

***Editor’s note from Shanna; it is 100% to identify as a slut (or promisculous, etc), to choose to have multiple partners, to have as much consensual sex as you would like, or all of the above. This post serves to discuss the issues around STIs and partners, NOT to judge anyone’s sexual choices.***

Part V will be posted in a few days.

Jul 202013
 

This is a post by one of my Summer 2013 interns, Iradele. Find more posts from her and other current and former interns under the Intern Corner section.Shanna

Belief #3: Thanks a lot for giving me an STI.. asshole.

Science Says: STIs are still infections, and thus do not possess any kind of foresight. They do not “choose” where to infect, in the same way that pollen that is picked up by the wind does not “choose” where it lands. This is a Lamarkian mindset to evolution, and it has been well documented as an inaccurate way of thinking about how organisms propagate. The design of a sexual transmitted infection** (in both bacteria and viruses) allows for an easy transmission to a suitable condition if the opportunity presents itself. If you have an environment that’s suitable for an STI to germinate (as most reproductive tracts tend to be) then the trick here is to simply look into what you can do to minimize opportunity.

Following this logic, the individual in which whose body an STI resides does not possess any kind of control over where and when the infection decides to proliferate. At no point during sex does your partner conscientiously say it him/herself “Ok, NOW I will bestow the chlamydia I have to you!”, the process is obviously much more passive and frankly, kind of underwhelming. Of course the partner with knowledge of his or her infection can take precautions to decrease the chances of transmission, which includes anything from regular STI screenings to antibacterial treatment to having an open fucking conversation about it, but the point here to show that blame cannot really be put on anyone because you can’t really blame an infection for doing what it naturally needs to do to survive.

**Here are 3 Rules for Transmission: (1) two people need to be present (2) one needs to be infected (3) There needs to be contact.

Ok, but what does this mean? As is common behavior with other unpleasant circumstances in which the receiver had no choice, people have a tendency to quickly look for who to blame. By using simple accusations like “you gave it to me”, using a blame-game approach insinuates is that there is something malicious about the partner’s character, because in order for you to give something to someone, you have to have first claimed ownership over it.  We have ownership of our fists, and therefore are responsible when we decide and take initiative by throwing a punch.  It is unfair to use that same logic to claim ownership of an infection that inhabits a reproductive tract, as medically STIs are considered a foreign body, and do not “belong to us”.

Solutions? When discussing STIs, try refraining from using subjective terms that imply personal responsibility. By being objective and nonjudgmental, it creates more space for the infected individual to be open and feel like he or she has a say about their status, which in turn promotes a more constructive conversation.

Part IV will be posted shortly.