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.

 

 

 

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 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!

Mar 142012
 

My partner and I are heading to Momentum at the end of the month to present one of our favorite co-lead workshops; Check Yourself — Recognizing Privilege in a Sex Ed Context. We’re really looking forward to the event — we just found out that Jocelyn Elders (yes, the “masturbation is ok and healthy” Dr Elders) will be on the closing keynote panel. Many of my favorite people in the sexuality industry will be there as well; educators, authors, manufacturers, sex workers, activists and more.

If you’ll be there, please come chat me up! Often times at events, I meet people on the way out who say “wow, I didn’t realize you’d actually want to talk to me” and at that point, I really do, but we’re heading to the airport. If you’ll be at Momentum, I absolutely want to meet you, get to know you and have sexy nerdy talk, so stop by and say hi.

Can’t wait for all the sex geekery this weekend will provide. Hope to see you there!

-Shanna

Nov 282011
 

Question: What are some fun ways to spice up a boring relationship?

Answer:

There is no one size fits all answer to this question, because “boring” definitely depends on who you ask. For some, it could mean that sexual activity is frequent, but always the same. For others, it might mean sexual activity isn’t a frequent as it used to be. For yet others, it might not have anything to do with the sex — perhaps everything seems to be “meh” — no exciting date nights, or doing the same thing every evening.

First thing to do; figure out what it is that you think is boring. Then, in a super NICE and CARING way, bring it up to your partner.

Good Example: “I love spending time with you having adventures, and feel like we haven’t gotten to have many lately — is there anything you’ve been ding to do or places to explore? Let’s create an adventure this weekend!”

Not as good example: “We never do anything fun any more!”

Good example: “It’s awesome that we get to have sexy times so often…I was thinking maybe we could watch this DVD/read this book/try out _____ to add some new exciting variations, since I love having sex with/fucking you!”

Not as good example: “We have sex a lot, but it’s boring/same old thing night after night.”

You hopefully like/love your partner, so it’s good to do your best to not hurt their feelings, and to let them know what you DO like about being them, and what you would like to have more of, because you enjoy it. You have to do some work too — get some ideas going for what you want to do. Check out your local paper/websites to get ideas for free and/or cheap things to do in your neighborhood. If you’re trying to have more adventures in your sex life, try out some books or adult DVDs to get suggestions. If you’re wanting to be sexual more often, it is probably worth re-defining your idea of sex; it doesn’t always have to be oral, or intercourse, or _____. Thinking about adding in some hot make out sessions, some fun role play, or even erotic massages. There are lots of ways to be sexually active with each other; they don’t always have to involve penetration, or even genitals or orgasms. Having fun together sexually can be just as awesome as having traditional sex.

Hope this helps,

-Shanna

Have a question you want answered (anonymously)? Contact me and I’ll post the answer!

Nov 132011
 

Question: Does semen whiten your teeth?

Answer: As much as you may want to hear that swallowing in the course of a blow job will act like Crest Whitening Strips, I hate to break it to you; this is one of the many myths associated with sex, and semen specifically. And while we’re at it; nor does semen provide your daily nutritional needs in the protein department.

Feel free to choose whether to swallow or not; that is always and will always be up to you. Just remember the following:

a) Semen can contain STIs, so get you and your partner tested on a full STI panel before you make this decsion.

b) Swallowing does not make oral sex better or worse than letting them ejaculate elsewhere (chest, face, back, towel, shower, bed, themselves, etc). Do it if you like it, but know it doesn’t change the sensation.

c) Semen is not a good source of any vitamins, minerals, or nutrition. It will not make your hair shinier, whiten your teeth, make your skin smoother, etc. Those are all false statements, but ones that are bandied about quite often.

Hope this helps,

-Shanna

Have a question you want answered (anonymously)? Contact me and I’ll post the answer!

Sep 062011
 

Have you heard of Kink Academy




or their sister site, PassionateU.com?

They are amazing education sites for folks around the world to get accessible and affordable education around sexuality. Kink Academy is more focused on kinky fun, while Passionate U talks about sexuality from a more mainstream light, but both are incredible. They feature clips from educators around the world, teaching their sexuality classes to you, regardless of whether you’re near by a hopping dungeon or rocking sex positive space. Wanna learn how to throw a single tail? Done. Wanna get some blow job basic? Done. Interested in gender 101 or the intersection of sex and disability? That is there too! Over a hundred educators (myself included) are excited to help you explore the spectrum that is sexuality.

Why am I pumping this up? Well, first of all, they are an awesome set of sites, and I’m happy to promote them. And second of all, I’m giving a FREE month of membership away to one of these two sites (winner’s choice) at the end of this contest.

How do you enter?

Must be 18 plus. Comment before by September 20th, 2011 (with a valid email please, so I can get ahold of the winner) with why YOU think it is important to have accessible sex education. It can be a sentence, a paragraph, a poem, a picture, but tell us why sex education is important to you, your community, etc.  Winner will get ONE MONTH FREE on their choice of either PassionateU or Kink Academy.

Time to try and win!

-Shanna

Aug 162011
 

Everyone (or almost everyone) knows my vulva puppet Vivianne:

However, Vivianne (provided for me by Fascinations) has never been alone.  She has her little sis, Val (short for Valerie) purchased for me by a dedicate reader/fan of mine:

And now, the two have been joined by a third, soon to be revealed purple and lavender vulva puppet. However, my new vulva puppet is sadly without a name! How horribly sad is that? So, I ask you, my fearless followers, to help me name my newest vulva puppet.  My favorite five names will make it into a run off contest (with links to your blog or twitter pages if you’d like), and the ultimate winner will get a little mini prize pack from me (I’m not telling what’s it in, but if you know me, you know it’ll be fun).

It’s easy to enter – just comment on this post with your suggestion (s) for the name for this new member of my vulva family by August 26th. Please make sure I have a way to contact you in case you make it into the final round. Please be creative, but not offensive (any vulva-negative suggestions will be deleted), as I love my vulva puppets and take them everywhere with me!

Alright; let the creative juices flow! (pun totally intended)

-Shanna

Jul 252011
 

Surprisingly, sex education is a fairly thankless job. While there is often the bonus of fun work which I am passionate about, and the occasional free sex toys to test and review, overall, there is a lot of drama. You have to promote yourself constantly to get bookings, you usually have to work a full time just that is not connected to sexuality, or if it is, usually not the side that you’re passionate about. You have to deal with people (friends, family, co-workers and strangers) judging your choice of work, as well as treating you as a free sex therapist all the time. You have to have epic debates about whether to use your real name, give out your real phone number, etc, because of the fear of being unemployable in the future, or having stalkers…well, stalk you. It is not a job that makes much money (really), and it’s one that involves a constant fight for sex positivity in various environments, from the government funding Planned Parenthood to inclusion of gender in employment non-discrimination acts, to fighting for/with folks with disabilities to be allowed to embrace their own sexuality, to removing laws that make owning/buying sex toys illegal in certain states.

It is not easy, and there are days when I sometimes wish I had maybe chosen another route.

And then, you are reminded in a heart beat of why you do what you do.

Last week, I taught my final class (of pre-booked ones) at Fascinations. If they’d like to have me again, I’d be happy to do so, but this was my last planned one. The room was PACKED, standing room only (60+ people) for a class on cunnilingus, which is not frequently a sell-out subject. People were involved, asked questions, answered my questions, and were a truly wonderful group to teach to for 90 minutes. Afterwards, not one, not two, but over a dozen people came up to me, telling me how much I had positively affected my life. One woman was at a class for the first time, and cried, telling me she was so glad to have gotten to hear me speak at least once. Another women cried, telling me that over the last year or more, I had changed her life so incredibly, taking scary subjects of sexuality and helping her confront them, learn about them, and embrace them. Another group of 20 somethings (and a woman who had just turned 18, and was visiting a toy store for the first time) told me how much they’d learned from me, how comfortable they felt with their bodies and their sexualities, and how much they missed me. They all wanted to know when I’d be back, and they all hugged me.

THAT is why I do what I do. My goal in every class is for each person to learn 1 little thing that is new. One. This class, *I* learned how much my education has helped others truly embrace who they are, and have a more positive experience with sexuality. I could not ask for anything more than to have had such a positive effect in so many people’s lives, particularly in a state/area where sex is rarely discussed with a positive and pleasure centric bent.

It can often be a thankless job, but the occasionaly “Thank yous” that I get from people who have attended my classes, read my writing, watched my videos, or had counseling sessions with me? That is better than any easy 9-5 job, better than any big paycheck (though that would be nice too), and totally makes me reinvigorate my passion for this field. And to you all, I say thank you!

-Shanna

Jul 222011
 

Hey folks of Colorado –

Colorado Youth Matter (an awesome non-profit advocating for evidence based sex education inclusion in schools) is creating (through a partnership with Advocates for Youth) a Youth Advocacy Council. Now, they’re looking for people ages 15-22, so whether you fall in that range, or know a passionate person who does, and if you or they have a passion for inclusive sex education, now is the time to apply! You’ll get a stipend, plus a trip to a national AFY meeting, the opportunity to work on creating change, and much more. The info is below. Ready, set,…..check it out!

Shanna

Colorado Youth Matter in partnership with Advocates for Youth is searching for passionate youth and young adult activists from across Colorado to be part of a brand new Youth Advocacy Council!

The Colorado Youth Advocacy Council will be composed of 10 dynamic young people (ages 15-22) from around the state who will work together to advocate for comprehensive and inclusive sex education programs and policies in Colorado. Council members will take a grassroots approach to mobilizing communities around comprehensive sex education, social and reproductive justice, and other related policy issues by engaging communities to create opportunities that empower youth and their families to make healthy and informed decisions regarding their reproductive and sexual health.

Please pass this information and application on to all youth and young adults who you believe would be great activists to promote sexual and reproductive health. Feel free to pass this information along to others as well, as they may know someone who would be best for the job!

Click here to download an application or contact Joey at jtorres@coloradoyouthmatter.org with any questions. The deadline to apply is August 1, but applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

Thank you,

Joey Torres
Youth Advocacy Coordinator
Colorado Youth Matter