Check Yourself: Planned Parenthood 101

Over the last year or two there have been several attacks on planned parenthood, both violent and smear campaigns. The words ‘Planned Parenthood’ are pretty hot-button, and people don’t usually like to bring it up in casual conversation. But it’s important to know the facts about Planned Parenthood, and here they are:

In a budget allocation that Planned Parenthood released from the 2013-2014 fiscal year, it should be noted that 42% of the services that were given at clinics were in regards to STD/STI testing and treatment. The next largest allocation of services falls under providing contraception, at 34%. 11% of services were described as ‘other’ women’s health services, which can be classified as a mammogram or pap smear. 9% of services were devoted to cancer screenings and prevention. 1% of services fell under a completely separate ‘other’ category. Have you done the math? That leaves 3% of services provided as abortion services. Right, wrong, or indifferent, Planned Parenthood is not solely an abortion clinic, and appears to be doing everything in their power to educate young people and prevent them from needing an abortion in the first place. Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice is not something that I’ll be getting into this evening, but it needs to be known that these are the real allocation of services. A whopping 3% of services nation wide were dedicated to abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women received HIV tests and other STD tests. Over 1 million women received emergency contraception, which resulted in over half a million unintended pregnancies being averted. And still, only 3% of services are abortion related.

You don’t have to agree with abortion. But facts are still facts. Planned Parenthood does a whole lot more good than it does harm, and that is evident in the way that they allocate their services. At Planned Parenthood, men can receive a vasectomy. They don’t discriminate, and are rallied around the cause of making parenthood enjoyable for those who choose to parent, and making sure that it comes at the right time for every individual who comes in their doors.

 

To be or not to be, that is the question.

After a seriously long summer filled with work, very little play, and very little posting to this blog (oops), I’ve finally come up with the inspiration to write again. I’ve been watching this nightmare of a show called “Virgin Territory”, and it’s given me a bit of inspiration. So we’re going to talk about the big V.

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First and foremost, your virginity is simply that. Your virginity. Your virginity does not define the content of your character. Simply because you have it does not mean that you are “pure” or “clean”, it simply means that you have not had sex. I understand the connotations of purity behind virginity, but it deeply disturbs me that both men and women alike are praised for being sexually “pure”, but are not pure of heart, mind, or spirit. Being a virgin does not guarantee that you’re a good person. I’ve known plenty of virgins who are terrible people, and plenty who aren’t. Please, do not wrap up your identity in the state of your virginity. It should not define who you are.

Second, your virginity is something that you hold the power over. You can choose what you do with it, but know that there are always some, no matter how big or small, emotional ramifications that come along with sex, regardless of your gender. Sex is intimate, sex is fun, and sex is special in many situations. If you wish to wait until you’re married, that’s great! If you just want to wait for the right person, that’s great! If you just want to “get rid of it”, you have the option to do that, but be aware that it may or may not be something you regret later on, and always, always, always protect yourself! Your virginity shouldn’t be something that hinders you. It shouldn’t be something that you feel an intense need to be rid of. Different people have sex at different times in their lives. And I guarantee you that if you are determined to have sex, you’ll have it. Again, the status of your virginity should not define you.

Third, you never have to do anything that you don’t want to do. (Except chores, and things like that. But you knew this.) If you get anything from this post, please know that your body is yours, and you have the right to do with it what you wish. Don’t ever let anyone pressure you into having sex if you’re not ready for it, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that your worth and your virginity are interconnected. They aren’t. Because you are a living, breathing human being, you are valuable. Because you are who you are, you are valuable. What you do with your body is your business, and yours alone. If you want to have sex, go for it! Just remember to protect yourself from pregnancy and STD’s. If you don’t want to have sex, please, don’t! No matter how you identify, no one should ever pressure you into having sex. Your buddies do not know better than you. Your girlfriends do not know better than you. Wait until you feel you’re ready.

If you can’t buy condoms, you’re probably not ready to have sex. But, as I’ve stated before, no one else can tell you when you are or aren’t ready. Prepare yourself, be aware of your states age of consent laws, and have contraceptives on hand. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do, and don’t be afraid to leave a situation you are uncomfortable with.

I’ll say it again, purely because I know so many people who have felt useless after losing their virginity, your worth and the status of your virginity are not intertwined. You are valuable and worthy of love, regardless of the choices you make regarding your body. At the end of the day, no one loves you any less simply because of what you choose to do with your body. Virgin or not, celebrate your sexuality, and do with it what you will, because it is one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer.

What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is About Pleasure?

What If We Admitted to Children That Sex Is About Pleasure? – Pacific Standard: The Science of Society.

 

This is the best damn article about communicating to children about sex and what it should look like. The curiosity is there, ya’ll. This mom is brave enough to tell her son like it really is, and not make it a huge deal.

Birth Control Shaming? That’s a Thing?

Today I had my first truly overt experience with sexism/”slut shaming”/birth control shaming. I’ve made it 20 years without ever having experienced truly obvious accounts of these things. And today? Well today blew that record clear out of the water. I’ll set the stage for you:

I’m at the on-campus medical clinic because I suspect that I have an infection of some sort, so obviously I would need a round of antibiotics for an infection, right? Right. So I’m sitting in the room, when my “doctor” (I use this term very lightly) walks into the room. We cover the normal bases, and inform her that I’ve switched from birth control pills to an IUD. She says to me, “You’re not married. You don’t have kids. Why would you need an IUD?”

Pause. What? Yes, this really happened. This isn’t 1950 sweetheart, I don’t need anyone to tell me what kinds of birth control I can and cannot use. I’m entitled to the birth control of my choosing, and I just so happened to choose this one. But wait, there’s more! She tests me for an infection, and determines that I do in fact have one and I’ll need antibiotics. She says to me, “I want to test for pregnancy, because I don’t want any antibiotics harming a baby since I think you could be pregnant. Ok?”

I’m sure the look on my face was a mixture of confusion and utter disbelief for how completely terribly this woman was treating me. First of all, IUD failure rates are extremely low. Less than 1% annually. Second, I….I’m not pregnant. I know this. I’m not even concerned about this. So why are you testing me for something that first of all is super unlikely, and second of all I know I’m not?

So she tests for it. Surprise, surprise, I’m not pregnant. Thanks for telling me something I already know. She walks in saying, “It was negative. Not that you were really concerned about it.” Seriously, lady?

This entire interaction blew my mind. This was the first overt experience of, I guess “birth control shaming” that I’ve ever experienced. Sure, most women get strange looks when they take the Pill in public. Sure, some people think it’s not an acceptable thing to discuss or even acknowledge. That’s a more common form of oppression and silencing the thoughts and opinions of women. But this? I’ve never experienced something like that before, that was so blatantly condemning my choice. Don’t like my choice? Don’t say anything. Didn’t your mother teach you that if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all? It’s a sad world when a young woman is condemned by a health “professional” for her choice in birth control. There are so many good reasons to be on birth control, so why do people assume that it’s solely for contraceptive purposes? 6/10 women are on birth control for the health benefits. The Pill decreases the likelihood of gynecological cancers, decreases the occurrence of acne, eases the pain of periods and cramps, and so many other things! There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing the Pill, the shot, and IUD, or any other form of birth control that she feel suits her best. Why on earth are we shaming people for making a choice that makes their lives easier? For making a choice that makes their lives easier to plan? For making a choice that practically eliminates consequences of actions that people, by nature, take?

I’ve been upset about it all day. But now I’m just sad for her. Sad that she can’t see past her own judgments and  juvenile words that serve no purpose aside from hurting another person. My entire point in life, my main goal, is to perpetuate a culture where people are not devalued for the choices that they make regarding their sexuality. My point is that you cannot impose your morals and thoughts on to other people. If she thinks birth control should be a topic only held between a husband and wife that already have kids, then fine. She’s entitled to believe that. Where she went wrong was imposing those beliefs on me, and hurting me because of those beliefs. My morals and her morals likely differ. Most people have differing morals. That’s what makes life interesting, and keeps diversity alive. It’s perfectly okay to believe differently from another person. In fact, that should be encouraged! The line should be drawn when it begins to impact other people.

Birth control shame is a real thing. I can’t believe that it’s still so prevalent, but it is a real thing. Let’s stop making judgments on women based on their usage of birth control. Let’s stop making assumptions about their lives. Let’s certainly never treat them the way that this “doctor” treated me today. Professionalism is important. She was unprofessional at catastrophic levels. If your health professional ever treats you like this, please, change your doctor! It’s not worth someone denying you something that is fully in the realm of possibility for you to receive. Do your research, know your stuff, and stand your ground. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wrong for having your own best interest in mind.

I Don’t Know How I Got Pregnant! Why Abstinence Based Sex Ed Doesn’t Work

First of all, let me address abstinence and the strong feelings that tend to come with it. I understand. I understand that people who promote abstinence based sex education really do have the best intentions behind it. No one wants their child to have sex before they’re ready/can handle the consequences/outside of marriage. Everyone wants their child to wait as long as they possibly can so that they’re not exposed to the tremendous risks that come along with sex. This I wholeheartedly understand.

What I don’t understand is why we continue to promote it, when studies have shown over and over again that it isn’t working. The social factors alone are evidence enough that these policies are not working. The United States has the highest teenage pregnancy rate out of all the developed countries, and the highest infant mortality rate of the developed countries. The lack of women’s health and reproductive rights in this country is outrageous, especially since the U.S. tends to be portrayed as a global superpower. If this is true, we’re making a mockery of ourselves with the way we’re handling these things, like women’s health, that really should be considered non-issues. The average birth rate per 1,000 young women ages 15-19 in the United States is 34.2 (2010). Here is a handy little map so you can compare numbers geographically. You’ll notice that in the southern states, this number rises dramatically. In Texas, my home state, the number is 52.2. In Mississippi, it’s 55. Wait, what? That’s such a large amount of young women getting pregnant! Get this, only 22 out of the 50 states require sex education and 20 require HIV/AIDS education. Only 19 of these states require medically accurate information. And even then, it’s stated that the definition of “medically accurate” can vary. Yikes. I even looked at a website called abstinenceworks.org, where you can see where your state stands on sex education. The language associated with states that don’t comply to their preferred method of teaching borders on ludicrous.

Here is what sex educators, legislators, parents, and voters need to know. No matter what you do, teenagers always have, and always will have sex. If they’re going to do it, I would rather them have access to the resources that will protect them from contracting an STI, or becoming pregnant. In centuries past, adolescents were marrying by the time they hit puberty, so sex outside of marriage was a non-issue. However, the age at which people are getting married is slowly getting older. The average age men marry is almost 30, and women are typically married around 26 years old. The economy is tough, jobs are even tougher to come by. It doesn’t always make sense for these young couples to get married when they are not financially stable. Since the average age of marriage is getting older, it makes sense that adolescents aren’t waiting to have sex.

Think about when you were a teenager. How often did you actually listen to the things your parents were telling you about love, life, and relationships? Chances are, you didn’t pay much attention. We make our own decisions and learn from them, whether we regard them as mistakes or not. Abstinence sex education works the same way. Don’t you wish your mother had given you all the information in regards to that bad boy that you were totally into? Don’t you wish she’d given you some solid, factual information on the content of his character (and maybe criminal record)? When you’re presented with all of the facts, you are able to make an informed decision that greatly impacts your future. You wouldn’t make a major move to a completely different city for a job offer without reviewing the position, looking into the company, and determining whether or not it would make you happy, would you? The same basic concepts apply.

So, my friends, I encourage all of you to advocate for these ridiculous trends to change! We hold the power to change things. So lets get to it.

Hey Girl, Do I Have Your Consent?

Today we’re gonna address this super fun topic called consent. Basically, consent is what needs to be given before you can continue a sexual act, whether intercourse or otherwise. Consent is vital, because if you do not have consent, then what you are doing can be classified and prosecuted as rape. No one wants to go there! Our culture tends to avoid talking about consent, so here’s what both men and women alike need to know:

In the United States, every single state has different age of consent laws. Age of consent refers to the age that you are legally able to consent to sex. If sex is had before that age, it could be prosecuted as rape if charges are pressed. You should know where your state stands on the age of consent! Many young men and women find themselves on sex offender registry lists for having sex with a minor, even with their verbal consent. Even with this verbal consent given from both participating parties, it is still illegal if one of them is under their states age of consent. If parents decide to press charges, they can. Few states will consider the age gap between the two participating parties within a couple of years, but generally an age gap over 2 or 3 years will still be considered statutory rape. In absolutely no state is the age of consent under the age of 16. For a deeper look at your states particular age of consent laws, click right here.

Now, what about alcohol and consent? This is where things can become a little murkier, since we aren’t always taught when two people are able to consent to sex.  A great rule of thumb is that if the person you wish to have sex with has had more than one alcoholic drink, you should probably wait to have sex until you’re both in an environment free from intoxication, and where you can both talk about your boundaries, what you’re comfortable, etc. The fact is that we don’t know other peoples limits. A 300 pound, 6’4″ football player will more likely than not have a higher tolerance than someone that weighs 150 pounds and stands at an average height. Different people metabolize alcohol differently, so no two people have exactly the same tolerance level. If a person is passed out drunk, is slurring their words, can’t walk in a straight line, throwing up, or showing any other signs of extreme intoxication, having sex with them is considered rape, and would be prosecuted as such. 

Another important thing to note is that consent can be retracted at any time, by any participating party. If you feel unsafe, you have the right to speak up and stop what you’re doing. If your partner(s) do not respect those wishes, they’re getting into sexual assault territory. You have the right to say no when you’re uncomfortable. It is not teasing, and you do not owe anyone sex! Draw the line when you’re no longer comfortable or feel safe. Sexual coercion is never okay. Just because you’ve done it before does not mean that you have to do it again. Just because you’ve started does not mean that you have to “finish”. When you’re uncomfortable, let it be known. Consent can always, always, always, be retracted.

For some more excellent information on consent, brought to you by the lovely Laci Green, go ahead and skip to :30.

 

Also, this.

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I know, I’m using bold face for everything today. It’s an important topic! If you get nothing else out of this blog, then please understand consent, what it looks like, and what is rape and what isn’t. We consistently teach women not to get raped, instead of teaching men not to rape. Why it’s this way, I may never understand. But we have the power to change that. Many rape cases can be entirely avoided just by providing accurate information about laws to young men and women, and when a person can consent to sex and when they can’t.

If you ever need clarification on what rape constitutes, look no further. The new definition of rape, provided by the United States Department of Justice Attorney General, is “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” This is the actual definition of rape. This is what the United States recognizes as their legal definition of rape, and is what rape cases will be tried based off of.

Rape happens most often between two people who know, and even trust each other. These kinds of violation of trust happen to too many men and women. RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) estimates that 2/3 of rapes are perpetrated by someone the survivor knows, and 1 in 6 women have been raped during their lifetime, and 1 in 33 men. In general terms of sexual assault, which ranges from molestation, indecent exposure, rape, attempted rape, and so on, the numbers come closer to 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men.

Consent is so extremely important, ya’ll. Without proper consent, you get sexual assault. If you’re unsure, just ask! With consent comes safety and trust, all important to the equation of having safe and informed sex. If you have any more question, please, please, please ask me!  I’ve provided a little light reading on consent, just so you have access to those resources!

http://www.uhs.uga.edu/consent/

http://healthandcounseling.unca.edu/what-consent

http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2012/January/12-ag-018.html

The Basics, Shall We?

You may be here wondering what Sex Positive even means. Well, my friend, let me tell you. Sex Positivity is the exact opposite of the culture that we are currently experiencing in the United States. Sex Positivity is about acceptance of all people’s decisions regarding their bodies, even if you do not agree with them. It’s about understanding that sex is a part of life, and everyone has the right to partake in a sex life that is enjoyable and SAFE. Sex Positivity is about encouraging safe, informed, and consensual sex. If you want to have sex, then please! By all means. Have sex. The sex positive movement is here to encourage you to make good decisions by educating you on STI’s and birth control. We’re here to educate you on what consent looks like. We’re here to inform you, so that you can make the best possible choices for yourself and your partner. Sex Positivity is about liberating your sexuality, and allowing you to embrace it, so that you can express it in ways that are best fit for you.

So, today, I’m wanting to give a basic talk/read/whatever this is, about the way the female reproductive system works. You may have a flashback to the eighth grade. You’ll be okay. I promise. So, here we go.

The Female Reproductive System! What a marvelous thing. There are 5 major components to the female reproductive system. I’ll even add a little diagram.

  1. Ovaries – The ovaries are where a woman’s eggs nest. Get it, nest? I’m hilarious. Anyway, eggs are released from a woman’s ovaries when a young woman hits puberty. The release of an egg is the first signal to your body that it will either have a menstrual cycle, or become pregnant. The egg, also called the ovum, is released from your ovaries and travels down the Fallopian tubes. Don’t ever worry about running out of these little guys and gals, because there are seriously millions of them. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there can be 6-7 MILLION of them just hangin’ around in your ovaries. That’s a ton of eggs, ya’ll. When an egg is unfertilized, a woman’s menstrual cycle will occur.
  2. Fallopian Tubes – Your Fallopian tubes are the tubes that your egg will travel down in hopes of becoming fertilized. Usually, fertilization (the meeting of sperm with an egg) occurs in these tubes before or during the time that a woman will ovulate. Women will usually ovulate about 12-14 days after their last period has occurred, but it varies from woman to woman! Ovulation and menstruation is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. If you’re having sex, be careful about the times you have unprotected intercourse. You’re most likely to get pregnant in the first week or so before ovulation and during ovulation, since sperm can live inside the body for 5-7 days. It’s unlikely to become pregnant after ovulation has occurred.
  3. Uterus – The uterus is where a fertilized egg will implant into the uterine wall, resulting in a pregnancy. For implantation to occur, the uterine lining  must be thick enough for the egg to attach. The uterine walls build up in thickness throughout a menstrual cycle, so that a fertilized egg will be better able to attach. For some women, heavy periods can be a result of a really thick uterine lining. If an egg is fertilized and attached, the pregnancy will develop and continue in the uterus. In rare cases, a tubal pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy can occur. A tubal pregnancy is a serious health risk, where the pregnancy develops in a woman’s Fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are also a serious health risk, and occurs when a pregnancy develops anywhere outside of the uterus. Both of these are extremely rare. These are not health concerns that need to be the first thing a woman jumps to when experiencing pregnancy symptoms.
  4. Cervix – The cervix is a portion of the female reproductive system that doesn’t get much credit for anything. The cervix is the part of a woman’s body that allows for sperm to come through, as well as where menstrual blood is expelled from. Women with IUD’s (Intrauterine Devices) are familiar with finding their cervix. If you want to look for yours, it can usually be found by stretching a finger up about one to two inches into the vagina. It feels like the tip of your nose! Depending on where a woman is at in her menstrual cycle, it can be very low or very high, and the opening may be larger or smaller. The cervix has a layer of mucus, which makes it harder for sperm to fertilize an egg. On birth control, this mucus is thickened, making it even harder for the sperm to find an egg!
  5. Vaginal Canal – The vaginal canal is where sexual intercourse occurs, and (often times) where ejaculation occurs. When a man ejaculates (orgasms and releases semen which contains sperm) into a woman’s vagina, the sperm sets forth on its journey to find the egg. If the sperm can make it through all the natural barriers of a woman’s reproductive system, a pregnancy can occur.

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If you are currently having sex and not using protection, you are putting yourself at risk for contracting an STI or becoming pregnant. There are many ways to protect yourself, including condoms, birth control pills, female condoms, IUDs, and many more methods of birth control that we will cover very soon! At the very least, if you do not want to get pregnant or contract an STI, consider using a condom. The failure rate for condoms with perfect use is 2 out of every 100 women, and typical use is 18 in 100. If you do not know how to put on a condom, grab a banana, some condoms, and practice! Practice makes perfect, and the better you’re able to protect yourself, the less likely you’ll be to become pregnant or contract an STI. Of course, abstinence is the only way to make sure, with 100% accuracy, that you do not become pregnant or contract an STI. However, using protection greatly decreases those chances when used correctly! So, men and women alike, grab your condoms and your new information in regards to the female reproductive system, and get it on.

 

Additional Resources:

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/

http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/changing_body/female_repro.html

http://www.webmd.com/sex-relationships/guide/your-guide-female-reproductive-system

http://www.innerbody.com/image/repfov.html