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.

 

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.

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