Feb 152014
 
Shanna Katz Point of Contact

Shanna Katz: Point of Contact

Some of you may remember how I was so excited a few years back (I think circa 2010?) to be involved in a new project through Pink & White called Point of Contact. The premise? New up and coming videographers were given a Flip camera, and a microbudget, with the concept of creating a four-part series of hot, new, queer porn videos. Many of the other participants decide to follow themselves having fabulously fantastic sexual times by themselves and with others; I took the challenge a little differently. While I love much of the queer porn out there, very little focuses on masturbation or self love. However, I spend a good amount of my time educating people that they SHOULD masturbate and get to know their own bodies before they try and let someone else know what turns them on. Therefore, I decided for my project, to fill four different masturbatory scenes; a queer cigender femme, two cisgender gay men in a kink relationship, a queer soft butch, and an adorable set of a cisgender queer person and a transgender woman mutually masturbating. In addition, I did a post-scene interview with each scene, because that is something I love and value about many queer porn studios, in letting people actually connect with the stars, and to allow the stars to share their identities and experiences.

Anyways, all the footage went into the vault for a while, but now? All of it is finally available on Pink Label VOD. They have now been released, along with the sets of movies from Minax, Cyd St. Vincent, James Darling and Tina Horn (OMG y’all — can you believe my name is up there with some amazing folks like that?!?!). You can read this little write up of the project here on Xbiz.

Wanna watch these awesome movies? Here is the link to all FOUR of my different scenes; choose what you like and check out all of the other folks’ work (and all of the other amazing queer, feminist, ethical and/or sex-positive films on PinkLable VOD) – note, this is 18 only!

Enjoy your exploration of self lovin’,

Shanna

Aug 212013
 

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

When we think of intimate bonds experienced by the self and others, it’s hard not to insinuate a sexual context or a soon-to-be sexual context in which these bonds grow. This notion has prospered excellently in much of the mass media we tend to follow, as intimacy depicted in film is almost always followed by physical attraction. I understand that sexual motivations carries a narrative with great strength (both on and off screen), but it fails to demonstrate that they’re other ways to enjoy intimacy that doesn’t involve a passionate kiss at the end of it.

Here’s the idea: if intimacy happened to be presented to strictly within the context of sex, then it conditions one to seek intimacy exclusively in sex. This could lead to a pattern of thought where sex is seen as the ultimate end goal, with intimacy maybe served as a side. However, it’s important to stress that intimacy proliferates in many different environments, and it’s healthy to acknowledge notions of intimacy that you have that doesn’t necessarily end in a situation where you’re not wearing pants. Furthermore, understanding and appreciating intimacy one can experience outside of a sexual context might also help you within one too. With that said, it’s not my place to detract against the idea of the different kinds of sex people choose to have (both encompassing and void of intimacy), but rather to demonstrate a point that the two could be just as mutually exclusive as they could be intrinsically related.

Speaking of which, what exactly is the difference between enjoying say an incredible meal or an incredible production or an incredible blow job? Physiologically, very little. All three undergo a similar neuronal trajectory in the reward circuit system that promotes a positive self-perception, which in turn releases the same neurotransmitters (more specifically, oxytocin and dopamine). Of course the evolutionary implication behind the motivations driving sexual behavior obviously holds much more weight than artistic behavior, but it’s still kind of cool to think about why these innate mechanisms exist. If it were not an adaptive behavior, the rewarding sensations found in relation to intimacy would’ve been a trait left behind with our ancestors. Intimacy serves a purpose to bring people together as a social unit, so that collectively, we may up our chances of survival and mental well-being. It is single-handedly responsible for the enormous growth in cortical mass, as it is also the reason why we are apt to interpreting and understanding emotion and why our language happens to be so varied and densely knit. We carry these skills not because they simply existed, but because our innate desire to be interconnected willed our species to form it. What I find to be particularly poignant about this theory that when you classify intimacy as the over-arching umbrella term, sex follows suit as a subgenre of intimacy, and not the other way around.

For example, there are plenty of people on this planet who live happily with little to no sexual activity in their lives. Does this make them incapable of understanding and appreciating intimacy? Certainly not. However, popular opinion is still tempted to imply this stereotype. We see it in how one might treat a friend or family member as being ‘perpetually single’. Are they lonely? Maybe, but it certainly would be presumptuous to assume. Are they incapable of sharing a deep bond with other individuals? Certainly not. People choose to be single based on a multitude of reasons, the large majority of which do not revolve around the disinterest or incompetence of being sexually intimate.

The most spectacular thing about intimacy beyond sex, is it’s unmitigated sweetness can be experienced anywhere at any moment between anyone. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that though the company of others most often creates intimacy, it is ultimately the individual that perceives and internalizes it. I appreciate the moment one has when you find yourself sharing a smile with a stranger in a public place, but the space that’s created between myself and this stranger is largely in part due to the space I have allowed myself to experience in my mind. This should not automatically equate to a “what-a-shame-you-let-the-moment-pass” conundrum if I felt the person did not need to be approached. It should be sufficient enough to allow the thrill to ride its course without having to imply anything else. Having a frank conversation about an interesting topic with a stranger at a gathering does not mean that a shade of romanticism is owed, especially if this person is “someone I could see myself being attracted to”. By accepting it’s existence at face value, you could spend less time tripping over ill-fated attempts to justify an emotion that might not be understood in mainstream opinion. Intimacy helps keep you in check with your own personal relationship, it allows you the opportunity to practice humility and curiosity that other spaces in life might not. It is possible to feel connected and involved without submitting to the social prescription of asking yourself how it’s function should be carried.

For more thoughts, I invite you to read this interesting article :

May 102013
 

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

Alright!  Alright…we know we have gone astray, but how do we get back on track?  How do we continue to improve our sex lives?  Following are three simple tricks you may start playing with next time you are getting frisky in the bedroom.  These tricks of the trade can and will (if you decide to use them) have a huge impact on your sex life.  Alright?  Alright.  First, talk about your body…parts.  Second, provide feedback.  Third, consider agreeing upon a word, phrase,  motion, or set of motions that lets your partner know where you stand.

Talk about your body!  That’s right!  It is time to let go of the “down there” lingo and actually say what you are referring to.  There is a high cost (you know…mediocre sex) for being general when you are referring to your body.  You know, because there is a lot down there.  I am a huge proponent of anatomically correct language, because why not draw upon an already existing mutual vocabulary that is smashingly specific?  However, some individuals find anatomical language: strangely anatomic.  Everyone needs to find language that works for them.  Now, that isn’t a get out of jail free card!  You still need to “find” that language if you haven’t already.  If you presently don’t have a label for your “down there,” then challenge yourself to use a label.  If you presently have a label for one part of your body try becoming even more specific (i.e. penis, head, shaft).  If you are all about the labels, try bouncing around label genres to create different moods (i.e. using anatomically correct when being romantic or  slang when being frisky). The labeling process may feel odd at first, but the more you do it, the less awkward it will feel.

Alright, next we want to provide feedback while getting intimate.  Positive feedback!  Every time you are with your partner sexually, find one thing they are doing that you particularly enjoy, and then tell them, “I like the way you are touching me there,” or “oh yes, keep doing that.”  Then the next time you are with them, pick something else they are doing that you are digging and vocalize that.  The reason I am a huge fan of this technique is because vocalizing what you like eventually results in well-deserved confidence for your partner (and yourself, if you both practice this) because your partner turns into a pleasure-giving machine.  Although they may not start out this way, the more you tell them what you like, they will ease up on the stuff they aren’t getting positive feedback on and hone in on the stuff that you tell them you enjoy.  Very quickly your partner will have a menu of all your favorite things.  Wouldn’t you like a list of their top ten favorite things?  Wouldn’t that make you feel just that much more confident in the bedroom?

Sometimes in the heat of a moment, you get sucked into territory you didn’t expect.  What if you unexpectedly feel uncomfortable?  Or the moment brings up a history of emotions?  Or you just don’t like the way the interaction feels anymore?  There is something really nice about have a predetermined words or motion to communicate desires that are may be difficult to say in the moment.  A motion, such as a tap on the shoulder, means “I’m not sure how I feel about this. Can we back off for a second?”

As far as words go, many individuals enjoy the red/yellow/green code.  Red means stop right there and don’t you move a muscle!  Yellow means, I’m not too sure how I feel about this, let’s slow down, maybe talk about it, maybe not and green means Yes! YES!  The red/yellow/green code is particularly nice because of the yellow aspect.  We often think of sexual interactions as black or white, where we want something or we don’t.  In reality, our sexual experiences involve experimentation, which results in grey areas.  The yellow allows for that nuance.  Yellow says, “Maybe if the licking was done just a little different you would love it,” or “this is too much for me today, let’s come back to it tomorrow.”

Motions are the exact same idea.  Tapping their chest could be red, tapping on either shoulder could be yellow, and deep pressure into their upper arms could be green.  Having a motion may be an excellent substitute for a word, because sometimes yelling “Oh my gosh! You fierce animal you! Green!” is challenging to make sexy.  Then again, sometimes it isn’t.

The code system may be particularly useful for survivors of sexual violence.  It is common for survivors to experience emotional triggers during sexual interactions that bring them back to their assault(s).  Triggers can happen unexpectedly even with partners they love.  Having a word or motion to help a survivor communicate their needs can help a survivor say what they need to, during a highly emotional moment when typical phrases might fail them.  Considering the high rates of sexual violence in this country (1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18, 1 in 3 women in their lifetime), there is (unfortunately) a good chance that at some point in your life you may engaged sexually with a survivor, whether you are aware of their history or not. Incorporating predetermined words or motions to communicate one’s desires may provide a safety net for a survivor when traditional phrases such as “stop” or “slow down” may be even more difficult for them to say.  Setting up these boundaries may provide extra support to an individual in need without you ever knowing.

These three fabulous tricks (if I do say so myself), of course, only touch base on a few communication skills. Nevertheless, these may be a nice place to start.  Challenge yourself.  I think you’ll be surprised how just talking to your partner about what you are doing will be both liberating and empowering.

May 062013
 

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

Botanically Infused Oceanics by Sliquid:  I love this lube, love, love,love. 

Why is this lube absolutely and positively fantastic?  Let’s start with the appearance.  Oceanics comes in a sophisticated little bottle that I feel comfortable leaving out on my dresser.  The label itself is classy and could easily be mistaken for some fancy beauty product.  It does have “Sliquid” written on the front which may give the product away, however, I am not convinced it necessarily does.  Either way, the swanky packaging is a lovely perk that made it easy to leave the bottle out and about in an easily accessible location.  The bottle has a push-to-snap-open cap which is pretty easy to use, even when my fingers are slick.  Although I personally prefer a pump (tremendously convenient) for my lube bottles, the top on this bottle does its job.

When I first got the lube, I put a dab the size of half-a-pea on my finger.  To the touch the lube is so smooth it is almost silky.  Additionally it felt cool, clean, and refreshing to the touch and is quite thin.  A little of this stuff goes a long way, for that little dab covered my entire first finger and thumb thoroughly.

I began rubbing my fingers together and discovered this baby was long lasting, especially for a water based lube.  Even better, the lube never got sticky, stringy, or goopy.  Instead, when the lube had finally soaked into my fingers (as water based lubes do) my fingers felt like they had been well moisturized.

To make this lovely lube lovelier still, I discovered that this lube has no taste.  Zero.  Zilch! You heard me!   I actually continued tasting the lube repeatedly to a point where it was just awkward because I was convinced that I was missing the taste.  It took me longer than I would like to admit to finally realize there isn’t one, or at least none that my taste buds can detect.  If anything, there is a tinge of sweetness but that could very well be my imagination building upon the ever so subtle sweet smell the lube has that makes you ask yourself, am I in the botanic gardens?

When actually using the lube I discovered that all of the finger trial observations remained true.  The same cool, clean, and refreshing feeling I experienced when trying it on my fingers was even more present.  Although water based lubes are known for drying out more quickly than other lubes, I found that I didn’t need to reapply.  Then again, on my lube filled adventure I was not engaging in prolonged sexual activity with a partner, but instead flying solo with my vibrator.   So, although it is long lasting, if you intend to use this lube for extensive partnered fun, you’ll probably have to reapply.  Having to stop the fun to put on more is probably the biggest downside to this lube, but to be expected with water based lubes. {Editor’s note: with water based lube, just add some water to reactivate, instead of adding more lube!}

An upside to water based lubes is that they don’t ruin sex toys or condoms.  So I had no concern that my lube was melting my toy while I was using it, ::whew::, like silicone lube will do to silicone toys.  Another upside to water based lube, and thus this lube, is that it is easy to clean up.  In fact, it requires almost no clean up because most of it was absorbed by the time I was finished.  The rest came off easily with soap and water and there was no mess left on my sheets.  Hallelujah!  Even BETTER, Oceanics has no harmful chemicals!  The lube glycerine and paraben free and certificated organic.  Talk about rad(ical), at least in modern America.

Overall, I dig this lube and recommend it to anyone questing for a quality water based lube.  It is smooth as all get up, has essentially no taste but does have a slight smell of flowers.  A little of this lube goes a long way and lasts for a while.  Plus, at no point did it get stringy or goopy.  Oceanics is condom safe, sex toy safe, and safe for your body for a totally reasonable price.  Boom!  This lube rocks – click here to get your own bottle!

 

May 032013
 

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

The first sex (and I use this term loosely to define all forms of sexual interactions) advice we generally receive is the just feel it method.  I am not exactly sure what “it” we are supposed to be feeling, but don’t ask questions because that exposes your *gasp* “lack of knowledge” or your *don’t say it!* “lack of experience.”  Because let’s be honest, using your crystal ball and 6th grade lesson on anatomy makes you an expert at pleasing your partner.  Duh.

Anyway, just feel it.  You want one thing to lead smoothly to another.  It needs to be romantic.  It needs to be smooth.  It needs to be intimate.  Don’t ruin it by talking or fussing.

Mmmmm yes.  That advice is a little like getting thrown into the Olympic pole vaulting competition, in which someone hands you your vaulting pole and says to you “just feel it.” They then pat you on the back and send you sprinting towards a pole that is 18 feet in the air and parallel to the earth.  Now I don’t know about you, bit if that were me I would take any advice you can get.  But you know, I would  this hunch that in about 15 seconds I would be feeling a lot of different things, and none of them would be what Mr. Just Feel It, was referring to.

Ways and reasons you get clued to the downsides of the just feel it method:

1)      Someone gives you wise sexual advice, OR,

2)      You realize your sexual experiences are continuously dull and disappointing, OR,

3)      You, or someone you love, experience(s) a sexual assault

It might occur to you that the just feel it method doesn’t work. At all. Period. The end.

Not only does the just feel it method lead to a lot of miscommunications, but how on earth are you supposed to have decent sex?  Did you know that there are six vital steps one must hone to have a successful pole vault?  Nor did I (thank you Wikipedia). There are six!  The approach, plant and take-off, swing up, extension, turn, and fly-away.  Yup, like pole vaulting, sex isn’t a one-step endeavor. I think it’s time to start looking for some decent advice.

After searching high and low, low and high, and back around again, hopefully you stumble across the just communicate method.  Now, that shockingly simple advice may be the best sexual advice you will ever receive in your lifetime.  So…what’s the problem?

Let us return to pole vaulting for a hot second.  Now you are at the start line, and Mr. Just Feel It transforms into Ms. Just Jump.  Telling an Olympic pole vaulter to just jump is indeed the best advice you can possibly give them.  Truly. It focuses them on the big picture.  However, this advice assumes a certain level of skill (years spent honing the art of vaulting). For them, all they need to do is focus on what they already know how to do.

“Communicate” is the best advice you can give a professional communicator, but unfortunately when it comes to talking about sex we often find ourselves tongue-tied. In a society of “just feel it,” we have learned to keep our mouths shut in the bedroom.  On the whole, we don’t know how to communicate our wants, desires, boundaries, and fantasies. Sex (again, in the loose sense of the word) is an art, a skill, a practice.  And communicating around sex is also an art, a skill, and a practice.

Now, I am no communication guru (but good Lordisa I am trying), but I do have a few little tricks that can turn into a sexual revolution.

Curious?  Check out Communicating in the Bedroom, Part 2!

Apr 292013
 

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

G-Whizz is a lovely, adorable, and petite g-spot vibrator made by Lovehoney.  The vibrator is made to both stimulate the clitoris and the g-spot. I have to say, this vibrator is a straightforward creation that covers all your basics.

One upside of the G-Whizz is that the vibrator takes one, yes you heard me, one AA battery!  Every other vibrator I own takes two AAA batteries that always seem to hide themselves in the nooks of my apartment.  This battery upgrade is an excellent example of little things making big differences.  Another upside is that the vibration options cover all of your bases.  The vibrator has 7 different pulsating patterns and 3 different vibration speeds resulting in 10 total options.  Soft, strong, fast, and slow, with some really nice pulsation patterns.  During my first usage, I was skeptical of some of the settings, but as I continued to use the vibrator, they grew on me – you know, different moods, different desires.  I was particularly impressed with the slower, softer settings.  As for strength, I found the vibrator to deliver.  I personally enjoy a vibrator with a little oomph behind it and although my mind was not blown away by the strength (and I’m not sure I would want to be), I was quite happy with the power this tiny vibrator has.

This vibrator operates with a single button that serves as both the power button and the settings switch.  A downside to this vibrator is that once you turn it on you have to cycle through all the settings to get to the one you would like to use.  Although this is common in the world of vibrators, this is a personal annoyance I have.  Thankfully though, to turn off the vibrator you do not have to flip through all the settings.  Instead you just hold down the button and it switches right off.  Praise the wise women of the world, because when I’m finished, I’m finished.

While using the vibrator I was particularly impressed with the material.  The vibrator is silky smooth to the touch.  As for volume – you know, the important question of whether the other people that also live in your house will hear this lovely, adorable, and petite toy vibrating when you may not want them to – I will say it is about average.  I wouldn’t call the vibrator either noisy or quiet.  When the vibrator is set to one of the softer settings, it is mighty hushed, but as the intensity of the vibration increases so does the noise (how logical).  If noise is particularly important to you, I wouldn’t consider this vibrator the quietest of them all.  Either way, if your doors have a standard thickness, I’ll think you’ll be okay.

The shaft of the vibrator is quite stiff, however, the head of the vibrator has some flexibility.  Overall, the toy is firm enough to keep its shape, but it does bend slightly when you put pressure on it.  This flexibility is nice because it allows the vibrator take shape with your body.  However, this flexibility inhibits the ability to apply firm pressure on your g-spot.  When I tried to apply the pressure I enjoy, I found the head of the vibrator giving way.  I ended up using the vibrator mostly for clitoral stimulation and it rocked my world in that department.  Also important to note, I found that I didn’t need very much lubrication for this toy.  The first time I used it I didn’t use any extra lubrication and found I didn’t need it.  The times following I applied a water based lube (silicone lube on silicone toy equals one strangely warped and melted toy…really) and I found that really enhanced the silkiness of the toy.

Overall, I would consider this to be a nice toy that does what it claims to do.  It covers all of your basics and is reasonably priced (19.99 euros, which is about 26 U.S. dollars).  It’s darn attractive, always a plus.  It is also small, which is fabulous for when you want to tuck that baby away.  However, if you have a particularly high g-spot the length of this vibrator may not work for you.  The G-Whizz has some enjoyable soft settings, but also packs a punch.  I personally found the vibrator to be great for clitoral stimulation, and I assume it is great for g-spot stimulation if you don’t mind the flexibility of the head.

This vibrator is a nice introductory vibrator for someone newly exploring their g-spot.  I believe it would also be a nice vibrator for a more experienced individual who just wants a simple, straightforward toy that does the trick.

Thanks Lovehoney for sending this toy to me for review.  You can bet your great Uncle Ron’s homemade donuts that I’m enjoying it.

Apr 222013
 

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

College students–and high school students at that–hold a longstanding trend of hookups. Formerly more generally referred to as one night stands, hookups vary from having a main squeeze to friends with benefits to one night stands. At my school at least, the contradictory element of hookups lies in a belief many students hold: that hookup culture dominates and everyone participates, while the truth indicates it’s fewer students then everyone seems to think. Whatever the numbers, a survey done earlier in the year showed that during hookups, females on my college campus orgasmed during hookups only a fraction of the frequency time their male counterparts did (not implying only straight people here, just that men orgasmed in hookups regardless of the gender of the person they were hooking up with, and women didn’t, also regardless of their partner’s gender).
The myth of the vaginal orgasm has long pervaded us, and people are starting to see that. Few and far between seem to be able to satisfy woman identified folk, and it can be difficult to have a satisfying hookup without satisfying sex–which just leads to awkwardness and tension on both sides of the spectrum. I mean, this is why Shanna wrote her book on cunnilingus, after all! So what can we do to promote the female orgasm and better our hookups in general?

Communicate!
Yeah, this one gets thrown at you over and over. But that’s cause it’s important. Even just “that feels good” or “what are you into?” can open the door to way better sex than you’d have in the first place.

Experiment.
Experiment with various safe, sane, and consensual sexy acts. You might find a position or toy you’ve never tried before, and it might become your new favorite way to play.

Masturbate!
Know your body so you can show others how to make you feel great. This may include looking at your genitals: how can you know what you might like if you don’t even know what you look like “down there?”

Talk to your friends about sex.
In a nice, non-objectifying way. By asking others what they do to talk about having safe sex in the context of a hookup you can learn how to protect yourself and help others at the same time. Plus, these chats generally lead to hilarious stories.

I also recommend reading Pat Califia’s “42 Things You Can Do to Make the Future Safer For Sex” in his book, Public Sex. A comprehensive list of acts that will open your own views on sexuality, from pleasure to politic, each act will make you think–at the very least. I’ll list a couple for you here:

*Study sex.
*Find a new fantasy.
*Make art about how sex feels.
*Teach somebody how to come with a rubber barrier.
*Vote.
*Write a love letter to an unloveable part of your body.
*Hand out clean needles and free condoms. If you can’t do this, give money to the people who are doing it for you.

Apr 182013
 

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

Masturbation and sexual violence in particular are two topics that can be especially challenging to teach but absolutely necessary.

Masturbation is normal for all individuals, regardless of developmental ability. The exploration of genitals and self-pleasure is a common human experience which generally begins in infancy.  Individuals on the spectrum are no different.  In fact, most individuals on the spectrum learn to masturbate on their own at some point in their life, however, many have trouble reaching orgasm during masturbation.  The challenge to reach orgasm may become problematic for two reasons: First, it may result in ritualistic behaviors. Second, it may be the only realistic outlet for sexual release for some people with autism.  If masturbation becomes a problematic behavior perhaps due to a lack of orgasm, check out The Center for Disability Information and Referral; they will be able to refer to informational videos about masturbating to orgasm.

Regardless of whether or not the behavior is ritualistic, a strict structure around masturbation is will help the individual to understand when masturbation is appropriate and when it is not.  Designate areas where it is okay to masturbate.  For example, an individual’s bedroom is generally a good option.  Avoid teaching the bathroom as an appropriate place to masturbate because using the bathroom may become a stimulus to masturbate.  Set up rules that designate an appropriate time to masturbate. Teach the individual that sometimes, masturbation is not an option.  Provide the individual with alone time or private time and give them the tools (verbal, ASL, PEC, etc) to communicate their desire for private time.  If this individual follows a strict schedule, incorporate private time into the schedule.  If/when the individual requests private time, refer to the schedule reminding them when they will have time to themselves.

Part of the teaching process regarding appropriate masturbation is teaching inappropriate masturbation.  When someone is engaging in inappropriate masturbation, interrupt the behavior by asking the individual to cease the behavior without emotional affect.   Remind the individual of when masturbation is appropriate with whatever means you communicate (such as verbal, i.e. “private time in bedroom” or visual, i.e. image of their bedroom).  Then redirect individual to an appropriate activity.  Particularly successful redirections may include ones that require the use of their hands (bead work, puzzles, etc.) a physical activity (bouncing on a ball or trampoline), or one that requires a lot of focus for that individual.  If their bedroom is available, you may redirect them to their bedroom.  Be wary of redirecting them to their bedroom immediately because the individual may learn to request masturbation by engaging in it.  Perhaps create a first/then demand i.e. first puzzle then private time, or have them engage in another activity and once engaged have them practice requesting private time appropriately.

Sexual violence is another challenging topic to approach.  Although there is no absolute way to completely protect a person you love with ASD from victimization, there are steps that can dramatically decrease the likelihood of abuse.  The National Child Traumatic Stress Network suggests the following steps:

1.  Teaching children accurate names of their private body parts.

2.  Avoid focusing exclusively on “stranger danger.”  Keep in mind that most children are abused by someone they know and trust.

3.  Teach about body safety and the difference between “okay” and “not okay” touching.

4.  Let children know that they have the right to make decisions about their bodies.  Empower them to say “no” and determining when they do and do not want to be touched, even in non-sexual ways (e.g. politely refusing hugs), and to say “no” to touching others.

5.  Make sure children know that adults and older children never need with their private body parts (e.g. bathing or going to the bathroom)

6. Teach children to take care of their own private parts (i.e. bathing, wiping after bathroom use) so they don’t have to rely on adults or older children for help.

7. Educate children about the difference between good secrets (like surprise parties – which are okay because they are not kept a secret for long) and bad secrets (those that the child is supposed to keep secret forever, which are not okay)

8. Trust your instincts! If you feel uneasy about leaving a child with someone, don’t do it.  If you’re concerned about possible sexual abuse, ask questions.

Obviously many of these lessons depend on the developmental abilities of the individual and some of these are unrealistic for some individuals.  Adaptations can be made to communicate these messages.  Additionally, supporting a school or program in their efforts to make an individual with ASD as independent as possible (eating, bathing) is critical.  Off Limits: A Parent’s Guide to Keeping Kids Safe from Sexual Abuse, by Feather Berkower is an absolute must read for every parent (present or future) and caretaker.  Although her books targets prevention techniques for parent’s with typically developing children, many of the concepts and ideas are applicable to those with ASD.  Feather will completely blow your mind and change your concepts around what prevention work means.  I cannot recommend this book more highly.

Sexual violence in the neurologically different population is happening at astounding rates.  Additionally, individuals on the spectrum who have been abused may engage in abusive behaviors towards younger siblings or ASD peers without an understanding of their actions.  There are steps to protect the ones we love on the spectrum from suffering in this way.  In fact, individuals on the spectrum should instead be given the support to live happy and sexually liberating lives!  May we move in that direction.

 

*Peter Gerhardt does fabulous work regarding the intersection of autism and sexuality.  Much of the information in this blog came from articles he has written and lectures he has given at conferences.  For more information I recommend a quick google search on his name.  Lots of quality information will pop up.  Also, don’t forget to talk to talk to the therapists, caretakers, and teachers in your life.  They too may have some fabulous suggestions in this arena.  Why not make this this education process a team effort.  Two heads are (almost) always better than one!

Apr 152013
 

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

Individuals with autism need sexual education.  But how and what do we teach?

Unfortunately, we live in a society where is not enough to assume that the person in your life with ASD is receiving quality education at their school, day program(s), or housing facility.  I presently work for a school for individuals with autism that provides healthy sexuality and sexual safety information, but these programs are few and far in-between.  Sadly, it is safer to assume that the person in your life on the spectrum is not receiving sexuality and sexual safety information.  This is why it is important to make yourself into the personal resource or advocate for the person on the spectrum that you love.  If you aren’t taking initiative to personally teach this information or to make sure the teachers and/or administration is providing quality sex education, odds are, no one is.

So, Step 1: Become a resource for that person you love with ASD, as the teacher of this information or as their advocate.

Step 2: Make sure the sexuality information is proactive.  When it comes to sex education ,America is generally a reactive society, and this is within the neurotypical population.  This tactic of teaching someone about condoms after they have already gotten pregnant is absurd, right?  Perfectly avoidable repercussions, including high rates of sexual abuse, STDs, and unintended pregnancy, are happening at alarming rates.  If this is how we educate our typically developing population, I’m sure you can imagine that the education for a population that is seen as asexual is even more pathetic.   Individuals on the spectrum often only receive sexual education after they have engaged in inappropriate and sometimes dangerous sexual (if the behavior is ever realized by a caretaker at all).  We need to prioritize education prior to an interest in sexual activity (if developmentally appropriate) or when interest is just becoming noticeable.

Step 3: Some important concepts that are important to teach

Public versus private behavior, good touch versus bad touch, proper names of body parts (research shows children who know anatomically correct language for their body are less likely to be victims of sexual violence because they have the language to talk about what happened to them), personal boundaries and personal spaces, masturbation (“private touching”), avoidance of danger and abuse prevention, social skills and relationship building, dating skills (if developmentally appropriate), personal responsibility and values (if developmentally appropriate).

Masturbation and sexual violence are often the two most challenges topics for folks to address.  For more information on how to teach or handle those topics check out Autism and Sexuality, Part 3.

Apr 122013
 

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

Sex, sexuality and sexual safety are important topics of discussion.  Addressing it in our own lives is hard enough, let alone talking about it with our partner, friends, or children.  And when an individual has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) this conversation may seem harder, even impossible.  How do we address these complex and challenging topics?  And really, is it all that important? 

Yes.  Yes yes yes.  It is that important.

But before we get to the how, let us address the how come.

Lisa Mitchell is a counselor who specializes in autism.  She argues that the following points are the top reasons why it is vital to provide individuals with autism accurate and useful information concerning sexuality and sexual safety. 

First, ASD individuals often have limited opportunities for socialization and normalizing social sexual experiences.  The few opportunities they do have are complicated by social skills deficits associated with autism.  Secondly, many individuals with ASD do not have even basic knowledge about sexuality, and low reading ability hinders the chance to learn from written materials and other media such as the internet.  Thirdly, individuals with ASD are people and, like all people, have the right to learn all they are able so they may become a sexually healthy person.  Individuals on the spectrum have the same hormones and urges as their peers deserve the information necessary to make healthy decisions.  Fourth, individuals on the spectrum need additional information to protect themselves from sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, and STDs.  This is particularly challenging for many individuals with ASD who have low self-esteem that leads them to be willing to engage in risky behavior in order to be accepted by their peers. Fifth, many individuals with ASD do not know when and to whom they may ask questions about sexuality.  This issue can be eliminated merely by making yourself available as a resource.

I would like to expand on the fact that, simply put, individuals on the spectrum have sexualities, too.  Many individuals on the spectrum, along with most individuals with intellectual differences, are not considered sexual beings by our society.  This is false.  Individuals with autism are sexual beings.  However, many individuals on the spectrum have cognitive abilities that are incongruent with their sexual development.  This incongruence often leads to another common misconception: sex education is inappropriate for individuals with autism.  Instead, sex education needs to be tailored to best support each individual.  Let’s be real – navigating the sexual world is hard no matter what who you are.  As parents, friends, cousins, and caregivers to an individual with autism, it is vital we recognize that individuals on the spectrum have a right to sexual education so they may live a healthy and satisfying sexual life. whatever that may be.

Individuals on the also spectrum need quality information so they may lead a life free of sexual assault and abuse, which is the second point I would like to expand on.  As individuals who know and love someone with autism, it is imperative we understand that individuals with neurological differences are extremely vulnerable to sexual abuse.  1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys suffer from sexual abuse before the age of 18.  And sexual violence does not cease when an individual is 18.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey reports that every 2 minutes a person is sexually victimized in the U.S.  For individuals with intellectual differences the numbers are even higher.  Although no specific numbers exist for rates of sexual abuse among individuals with autism specifically, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that individuals with any type of cognitive, intellectual, and/or developmental difference are 3.44 times more likely to be a victim of abuse (i.e. neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse) than their typically developing peers.   But the numbers don’t have to be this high.  With proper sexual education many individuals with autism can learn tools to protect themselves from sexual abuse and communicate any potential or previous harm inflicted, giving others in their lives the ability to take action.

ASD is a spectrum that covers a wide range of abilities.  This means the types of appropriate emotional and/or sexual relationships will vary dramatically for each person. The one consistent aspect of autism is that no one size fits all, and this concept applies to sexual education as well.  In turn, each individual needs personalized instruction that is appropriate for their abilities.

Every person deserves positive and healthy sex education and sexual safety information regardless of their neurology so they may enjoy a healthy and abuse free sexual life.