Feb 072011
 

For those who do not know, many sex educators, myself included, were recently attacked in a post/report that claimed that our education on the Brown University campus was a direct correlation of the recent four new cases of HIV within the student population. It stated that people such as myself (a “sex toy representative”) did not have the education to provide sex ed to students, to handle the emotional side of things, etc (of course, they neglected to mention my Master’s in Human Sexuality Education, which provided me with exactly those aforementioned skills). It also insinuated that I was a prostitute, that other educators are connected with obscenity charges and that some educators are contributing to STI transmission by discussion topics such as polyamory (multiple loves) and anal sex, despite our conversations about barrier methods, testing, and intimacy without exchanging bodily fluids.

I have always had a strong commitment to educating individuals and groups about safer sex, including but not limited to STI prevention, pregnancy prevention, consensual activities and emotional safety. As I continue to educate people about the spectrum of sexuality, I will keep including discussions about safer sex practices (including barriers and transmission prevention) for people of all genders and orientations, and also continue my commitment to distribute dams and gloves in addition to the more traditional condoms and lube freebies often provided. Please read and re-post/forward/desseminate the below press release if you believe the positive aspects of sex education, and refuse to condone the slanderous accusations put forth towards us.

-Shanna Katz, M.Ed

For Immediate Release
Sexuality educators set the record straight: “Talking about sexuality does not increase sexually transmitted infections” despite what non-experts report.

Contact: ?Megan Andelloux
HiOhMegan@gmail.com
401-345-8685

Contact: Aida Manduley
Aida_manduley@brown.edu
787-233-0025

In yet another attempt to shut down access to quality sex education, South-Eastern New England conservative advocates hit the sex panic button in a multi-state, email and phone campaign to colleges all over New England last week.

On February 3rd and 4th , certified sexuality educator and sexologist Megan Andelloux (AASECT, ACS) received word that numerous colleges and university faculty received a document stating that colleges who brought sex educators such as Ms. Andelloux onto their campuses were linked to the increasing rate of transmission of HIV in RI. Furthermore, among other misleading “facts” that were “cited,” the author of this bulletin claimed that Brown University was facing an HIV crisis, which is false.

Citizens Against Trafficking, the face behind the fear-mongering, spammed numerous local institutions from a University of Rhode Island account with its latest malicious missive that targeted specific individuals as well as Brown University. The author of the letter, Margaret Brooks, an Economics Professor at Bridgewater State, suggested that colleges and universities that host sexuality speakers, including those who are professionally accredited, are partly to blame for the four new cases of HIV which have been diagnosed amongst RI college students this year.

Ms. Andelloux states: “My heart goes out to those students who have recently tested positive for HIV. However, there is no evidence of any link between campus presentations on sexual issues and the spike in HIV cases. Rather, I would suggest that this demonstrates a need for more high-quality sex education to college students.“ It is unclear why people at URI or Citizens Against Trafficking, a coalition to combat all forms of human trafficking, is attempting to stop adults from accessing sexual information from qualified, trained educators. What is certain however, is that this Professor of Economics miscalculated her suggestion that a correlation exists between increased HIV rates in Rhode Island and the type of sex education these speakers provided at Brown University: one that emphasized accurate information, risk-reduction, pleasure, and health.

Barrier methods have been shown by the CDC to reduce the transmission of HIV and other STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Research has shown that when individuals have access to medically accurate information, are aware of sexual risk reduction methods, and have access to learn about sexual health, the number of infections and transmission of STIs decreases, pain during sex decreases, and condom use increases. The CAT circulated bulletin is blatantly misleading about many issues, and often omits information that is crucial to understanding the full picture of sex education at Brown and in Rhode Island.

When individuals who do not hold any background in sexuality education speak out in opposition because of their fear or prejudice, society becomes rooted in outdated beliefs and pseudo-science that do injustice to people everywhere. Furthermore, when those individuals personally and publicly attack those devoted to providing sex education with false and misinformed accusations, it not only hurts those who are defamed, but also the community at large.

We ask for an immediate retraction of the vilifying and inaccurate statements made by Ms. Margaret Brooks and Citizens Against Trafficking in their latest newsletter. We also ask that esteemed local universities such as URI and Bridgewater State continue to hold their employees to ethical standards of normal scientific inquiry and require that their faculty hold some modicum of expertise in a field of education before raising the public level of panic over it.

Megan Andelloux is available to answer any questions the press, Margaret Brooks, University of Rhode Island or Citizens Against Trafficking holds. Aida Manduley, the Chair of Brown University’s Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council and Brown University’s is available to discuss the upcoming Sex Week and sexuality workshops held at Brown University.

Signed,
Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS
Shanna Katz, M.Ed
Reid Mihalko
Aida Manduley

Sep 292010
 

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about the multiple attacks against sex ed on college campus and the absolutely ridiculous hysteria driven by the so called “concerns” of economics professor Margaret Brooks (please note that she has absolutely no connection to sex ed of any sort). The Chronicle of Higher Education published an op-ed piece earlier, a piece that had no place in an influential academic journal. In this piece, Brooks sullies the concept of a decades-old, nationally celebrated sexuality education event series for university students (please keep in mind these students are almost all over 18, and are considered adults in our culture) called Sex Week. Instead, she rekindles the “think of the children!” outcry, causing unfounded drama and concern for the future of sex education on college and university campuses.

It is clear, she writes, that many people and organizations claim to be experts in the field of sex education and are eager to gain access to the hearts, minds, and yes, perhaps even the bodies of our college students. Strong measures are needed to preserve students’ sexual health and safety, as well as colleges’ integrity and reputations. Um. What? Really? I obviously spent two full years of graduate school, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for education, and hundreds of hours of pro bono work solely for the purpose of getting into the minds of college students. Please note the dripping sarcasm.

With the help of Logan Levkoff, a large group of sexuality educations, university faculty/staff and college/university students on Sex Week planning committeescomposed a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and sent it to the editors on September 16th.

Dear Chronicle Editors,

We were deeply disappointed by your recent publication of economics Professor Margaret Brooks’ op-ed, “‘Sex Week’ Should Arouse Caution Most of All.” It is clear that Margaret Brooks has not only misrepresented herself, but also seeks to discount over 40 years of legal precedent upholding student rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The policies she calls for attack academic freedom itself, representing a clear return to the pre-1960’s-era doctrine of in loco parentis. Moreover, her suggestion to use far-fetched “sexual harassment liability” as a stick to force implementation of her proposed policies is nothing short of outrageous.

In her article, Brooks displays willful ignorance or calculated deception by omitting important information related to Sex Week events, making the article little more than fear- and shame-based grandstanding. She writes that Sex Week events occur unbeknownst to staff and faculty, while failing to remark on her own correspondence with administrators at Brown University, who informed her of their approval of Sex Week after investigating her concerns. Brooks’ suggestion that the sole purpose of Sex Week events are to sell sex toys and pornography is incorrect and irresponsible. Readers need merely look at the schedules from various Sex Weeks to see that topics covered have included sex & disability, religious perspectives on sexuality, communication, transgender issues, critical evaluation of sexuality as portrayed in pop culture and pornography, healing from sexual assault, safer sex, and yes, even topics such as traditional families and abstinence.

When Brooks complains about a “lack of balance,” what she’s really taking issue with is a necessary attempt to restore balance to sex education for young adults, after the many years of abstinence-only education most of them have received during their younger years. While the purpose of an opinion piece is to present one particular perspective, given the flaws in Brooks’ argument, as well as her lack of credentials in the field of human sexuality, it is imprudent not to present an alternative perspective. Instead of offering a valuable contribution to the much-needed academic discourse on sex education, The Chronicle betrays an anti-sex education bias unbecoming of a publication of record in higher education.

We, the undersigned, believe sexuality is a key component in literature, history, politics, religion, and popular culture—each of which are topics integral to the activities that Sex Week and similar programs bring to college campuses. Perhaps some people don’t think these are appropriate subjects for college students (most of whom are legally adults) to discuss in an intellectual setting, such as a college or university. That’s their prerogative. However, to suggest as Brooks does that these topics are unsuitable in and of themselves, that their mere mention warrants sexual harassment lawsuits, or that students be barred from exploration of such topics in pursuit of their own education, is nothing short of an attack on the fundamental principles of higher education and should have been seen as such by the editors of The Chronicle.

Sincerely,
-The Undersigned

  • Charlie Glickman, PhD
  • Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS
  • Logan Levkoff, M.S., Ph.D., AASECT
  • Shanna Katz, M.Ed, AASECT
  • Dr. Katherine Frank, Professor of Anthropology, College of the Atlantic
  • Charles Moser, Ph.D., MD, FACP, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sexual Medicine, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in San Francisco, CA
  • Dr. Staci Newmahr, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Buffalo State College
  • Jennifer Giang, ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission, University of California, Davis
  • Caitlin Alday, ASUCD Gender & Sexualities Commission Chair, University of California, Davis
  • Laura Mitchell, Gender and Sexuality Commission, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, University of California, Davis
  • Jason Hans, Ph.D., CFLE, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky
  • Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • Aida Manduley, Brown University Class of 2011, Sex Week Coordinator and Chairperson for the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council
  • Caroline McKenzie, Ph.D. student, Women’s Studies, Purdue University
  • Dr. DJ Williams, Leisure Sciences
  • Elizabeth Anne Wood, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Nassau Community College
  • Scott Elman, President of the Student Health Advisory Committee, Washington University in St. Louis

This letter had 16 signatories when it was sent out, which was almost TWO WEEKS ago at this point. In the world of online news and publication, that could be seen as eons. So far, we have heard neither hide nor hair of the Chronicle, and certainly no indication that they have any intentions of publishing this letter, or recanting their publications of Brooks’ inflammatory piece. One might say that rather then facing the facts, the Chronicle has chosen the cowardly route, and has chosen to maintain silence rather than address such an important educational conversation and issue.

Ergo, we have decided to publish the letter. I (Shanna) would like to ask you to do the same. I think it is incredibly important that people realize not only the importance of sexuality education on college and university campuses, but also see how much damage a person with NO sexual education experience can do when allowed to spout forth her antiquated, misogynistic and often time complete inaccurate verbage. I say shame on the Chronicle for allowing such to be published, and it is beyond high time we reclaim and support sexuality education for the amazing and much needed facet of education that it is.

Shanna

Dr. Logan Levkoff is a a writer for the Huffington Post, and has posted this letter, with her own comments, on there as well.

Sep 102010
 

I am in a field where life is always hard. Now, this is true for most people; people in the service industry are on their feet all day and deal with rude people, teachers deal with puffed up parents and out of control students, etc.

However, a few thoughts about the field of sexuality and sex education:

There are no other fields I can think of where educators/consultants are hired, told that they won’t have any of their travel expenses (food, flight, accommodations) covered, and that the educator/consultant may or may not actually make money, depending on how many people (if any) show. This is the norm for the sex education industry. Certainly, if you’re lucky enough to get to speak at colleges, many will at the least guarantee a speaker’s fee, but even still, few cover travel, or if they do, reimburse you for sometimes very large expenses MONTHS after your speaking engagement. I have paid literally thousands of dollars over the past four years to travel to places to speak. Sometimes, I break even, but most times, I’m in the red. I’ve had classes canceled because no one registered, and sat in rooms waiting for 1 person so I could at least do my presentation. I’ve sat in other rooms, filled with 50-60 people, and made enough to cover my motel, or maybe food and taxi, but definitely never airfare. I cannot see most motivational speakers, political consultants, or IT tech specialists doing that or putting up with it, but it is the norm in this field.

Secondly, this is a field where people are constantly trying to undermine you. For example, the drama with Margaret Brooks (who has NO sexuality background what so ever) calling out Megan Andelloux, May May, and other, saying horrible and slanderous things about them…not because they were bad at what they did, or did anything wrong, but SOLELY because they believe in sex education. While I was not name, I found myself targeted in many of her tirades because I spoke at Brown University during Sex Week 2010. Even my class on sexuality and disability was consider an aberration. People hate on sex educators not because of their amount of education, or professionalism, or skills (or lack there of); no no, we are constantly coming under attack just because we have a passion for educating others on the important issue of sexuality.

How about the concept of “finding someone out?” Many sex educators, bloggers, etc use pen names/work names. Sometimes, it’s their first name and middle name, leaving out the last name. Other times, it’s a completely new name. Why? For protection. Sometimes from people who like what we have to say a little too much, and other times from the anti-sex positivity people. It’s scary. I choose to work under my real name, as I got my Master’s in Human Sexuality Education under it, and I am proud of this. In doing so, I am opening myself up to stalkers, to never being able to work a traditional job without people knowing who I “really” am, etc. My partner has been scared about this numerous times.

Most recently, I was trying to switch my twitter name to ShannaKatz. Why? Because I would be easier to find (it’s currently under my old pen name/roller derby name). I want it to be more professional. I want to be more accessible as “me.” I posted about doing this, and before I could claim @ShannaKatz, someone else did. And created a fake, impersonating/rude and inflammatory profile. I don’t see that happen to Prof1234 who tries to switch to MrJones, or sewerrat89 who wants to be JaneSmith. Because I work in the field of sexuality, I am opening myself up to this. (Note: I would HIGHLY suggest that anyone in the field of sexuality; writers/educators/bloggers/etc, who is on twitter under a pen name, register for your “real name” account as well, and just park it, so that you never have to deal with this. Despite literally HUNDREDS of people marking it as spam, and me reporting it to twitter as impersonation, it’s still up).

It is 2010, and we are still terrified of being open and accepting about sexuality. We still say hateful things, we use the term whore in a derogatory manner, we call out porn stars as bad people while we secretly watch porn at home. We ask sex educators when they’re going to get a “REAL” job, or on the other end of things, assume that because we’re educators in the field of sexuality, that we’re open to be sexual with anyone, or at the very least, we want to share our own sexual experiences whenever we’re asked.

I wouldn’t change my career. I spent four months last summer making twice of what I make now, working in an international company’s corporate office. I was bored out of my mind (having done all the work in record time, as I’m used to being my own self, my own marketer/PR, my own personal assistant, my own travel agent, etc, I somehow got all of the work done in half the time allotted to me). I love what I do; I love educating people, and continuing to learn things myself. I love travel. I love seeing people’s faces light up when they finally “get” something, and seeing people cry with joy when they have their identities validated. I love helping people. And this all makes it worth it.

Despite this, however, I feel like I’m on the front lines of a battle. I have to fight not only to have my voice heard, but also to keep myself from being dragged through the mud…not because of anything I did, or even who I am, but only because I believe in people’s right to be educated on sexuality. I’m constantly defending myself, pulling myself over hurdles, dragging myself out of holes, dodging bullets, tip toeing carefully for fear of setting off a mine.

At least it is never boring.

-Shanna

Sep 042010
 

There are a number of articles out there now that are discussing how “awful” college sex weeks are, how sex education is “infecting” college campuses, how Yale giving out 14,000 condoms is a travesty. I’m not going to do them the service of linking to these ridiculous articles, as some of them take some pot shots at other sex educators, at student groups putting on sexuality education workshop, etc. However, in my humble opinion, most of these articles are poorly researched and full of hooey.

Now, it’s true. I am a sex educator, more particularly, a sex educator who presents on college campuses, so defending sex education at colleges and universities is obviously in my best interest. So let it be said that you should take what I say with a grain of salt.

However, I chose this field because it is incredibly important. In 2003, I met an 18 year old college student who had never learned how to use a condom, despite 6 of her friends from high school having had children. In 2007, I met college students who told me that the withdrawal method “must work” because they’d used it for a year and never gotten pregnant (despite some of their cohorts leaving school/take a leave of absence due to their pregnancies). I’ve met numerous students who didn’t know how to balance their identities, many of which they hadn’t taken pride in until they got to college. I’ve met dozens of depressed students who were scared to come out to their roommates/college friends/hall mates/RAs/professors because of the overall view of LGBTQ identities on campus. All of these people were helped in some way by sexuality education, whether it was through me, through a school sponsored event, through a school group providing sex ed.

Sex education is helpful to people of all ages, but is crucial to people in their teens and early twenties, when they are developing their identities, making decisions about sexual activity. Getting sex education does NOT encourage anyone to be sexually active. In fact, many people who get comprehensive sexuality education in high school and middle school have better self image, are more comfortable in setting boundaries, know ow to say know, choose not to be sexually active as early, and/or choose not to be sexually active while under the influence of other substances. Almost everyone will have the ability to make healthier choices regarding safer sex, pregnancy prevention, and more.

Most sex weeks (as well as other sexuality education workshop) on college and university campuses are put together by students. Student who want information about sexuality; about anatomy, about identity, about safer sex, about pleasure, about communication, about relationships, and more. Clearly, there is a need for this education, because if it doesn’t come from sexuality educators, it comes from word of mouth (which can often provide incorrect information), or from the internet, or from trial and error. They are going to get this information from somewhere — I’d rather they get it from a trained sexuality educator (whether myself or someone else) who is trained in correct information, in counseling students, in talking about such a fraught topic, etc.

For the most part, sexuality education supports all choices, including abstinence as a choice. I know that all of my classes welcome people of all genders, orientations, backgrounds, etc, regardless of whether students are sexually active. I’m sorry, but given that about 99.9% of society features on the mainstream and the majority (white, straight/heterosexual, cisgender, traditionally able bodied, vanilla relationships), I feel it is completely valid for colleges and universities to bring in classes that talk about sexual minorities, as well as other workshops (like intersecting identities and relationship communication discussions) that appeal to people of ALL identities. Very few students need to know what sexuality looks like for a traditionally able bodied person; how many have been asked to think about people with disabilities, and how their sexuality looks and occurs, and how to make all of their campus accessible, more than just physically.

Denying that college age students are thinking about their sexuality (whether or not they are sexually active) is like an ostrich sticking its head in its the sand. Let’s please support them in their desire for knowledge and to learn more about their sexual identities, and how to make healthy choices, rather than just pretend that its not happening. And let’s also not throw negativity at the schools that are in fact fulfilling their promise to support students’ ENTIRE education, and at the educators who are helping these knowledge hungry students to learn more about themselves. It’s just rude.

That’s what I’ve got to say on this issue.

However, Dr. Charlie Glickman, a respected sex educator, also has something to say about this, more specifically about Margaret Brooks’ anti Brown Sex Week article (in interest of full disclosure, I spoke at Brown’s Sex Week, including on Sexuality and Disability, and on Relationships and Communication). His post is much less based on emotional than mine, and takes on her article bit by bit. I highly suggest reading it.

For anyone still interesting in bringing sexuality education to their campus, I’m still booking for 2010-2011. I’d love to come help college students learn and grow.

Shanna

Apr 122010
 

This is cross posted from my other blog, but I feel that it is incredibly important for people every where to read things like this, and to stand up against hate, against stigmatism, against the ridiculous accusations and name call that is loaded onto us by people who claim to be “academics.” It is high time that we stand up against this, that we stand together as a sex positive, inclusive, caring community, and show them that their taunts, their accusations, their hate mongering and their anger have no place here.

One of our “own,” a fierce warrior of sex positivity and transparency, has been attacked by Donna M. Hughes and Margaret Brooks. Maymay, a sex blogger/educator/geek/rockstar/podcaster/etc has come under fire from two people who have also attached Kink for All Providence, the lovely Oh Megan, and many more. I will not link to their original bulletin (which they sent forth to hundreds if not thousands of people), but you can read what Maymay said about the attack here, and about furthering dialogue instead of just throwing stones and insults at each other.

We must stand up for ourselves, and for each other every single day. I lovingly and jokingly (sometimes) refer to myself as a professional pervert, but while I have reclaimed that word, many of us (people who work towards sex positivity; bloggers, educators, authors, etc) have it hurled at us in a negative context on a very regular basis. Whether we teach online, at Planned Parenthood, in a public school, a private school, workshops, through hosing unconferences, etc, we have to fight for the right to be seen as true educators, people teaching a needed or even just “legit” subject.

So when one of us is attacked, whether it is online or in real life, whether we’re being called a pervert or a pedophile or a whore or the anti-christ, we are all being attacked. We are being told that sexuality education is harmful, that we are wrong to want people to be educated and open and have happy sex lives (whether vanilla or kinky, monogamous or not). We are ALL being attacked.

Ergo, I stand up for sexuality education, I stand up for sex positivity, I stand up for the free discussion of sexuality amoungst all people. I am not a pedophile or the anti-christ. I am just someone that believes in equal rights and understanding and education regarding healthy sexuality for ALL people. I stand against the creepy pervert stigma. I stand here, wearing my leopard print and polka dots, taking sexuality OUT of the dark, OUT for the closet, putting it forth for people to see, discuss, talk about, question, understand and more.

I stand in solidarity with Maymay, and with all the other sex positive people who have been stigmatize, and persecuted, and hated on just for wanted to bring open-ness and discussion regarding healthy sexuality to all people.

Stand up against stigma. Speak out. The more we bring forth sexuality in a positive light, and stand together in solidarity, the less slander, libel, hated, threats, name calling and more can affect us.

My name is Shanna Katz. I am a proptent of sex positivity and accessible sexuality education for all. Do not think to shame me. I support others like me, and those I disagree with as well. I support the freedom of speech and the freedom of sex educaton. I stand up for sexuality.

Also, Viviane wrote an excellent post on this as well over at the Sex Carnival. Aida Manduley, the student at Brown who was instrumental in organizing Kink for All Providence also wrote a piece here about the event and speaking up for herself and sexuality.