Successful Sexual Education Must Align With The Reality That Students Already Know About Sex

By: Jillian James

 

There are two crucial elements to sexual education that are key to its success: not underestimating a student’s ability to comprehend and understand sexual topics and understanding what information they have already been exposed to.

 

Here are the facts: Students in America are constantly being exposed to sexuality through music, movies, TV, and other media sources. Some of these forms of media may be exposing students to sex and sexuality for the first time.

 

Meanwhile, some parents nervously avoid talking to their children about sex because they think that the act of talking to their child about sex is an endorsement off the behavior. And even more frightening is the fact some schools still only teach abstinence only education. This mean that students are receiving contradictory information all around them. They being exposed to hyper-sexualized images in the media and then only being taught abstinence only education in the classroom.

 

Sexual education is most effective when the classroom environment is an open, honest, and engaging one. When teachers and curriculum creators are aware of what their students have already been exposed to and take that into consideration the reality that most students are coming into a sexual education classroom with some sort of background knowledge. Sexual education can debunk the sexual myths and stereotypes that are perpetuated by porn and popular television and music.

 

Parents must also be willing to be open and honest with their children about sexuality and not create a stigma around sex. An article from TIME magazine compared the parenting styles of the Dutch to the Americans. According to an article, “Dutch parents keep nothing from children. Nothing is taboo. Questions are answered simply and honestly, at the child’s level of understanding and maturity, as they arise.” The article states that the Dutch have one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world while America has the highest teen pregnancy rate in any developed country. This could be because Dutch children are well informed about sex.

 

We must demand that our sex education curriculum is comprehensive and doesn’t turn a blind eye to what students already know. Parents must also be willing to openly discuss sexuality with their children when they have questions. This will lead to a more educated and better-prepared generation that will develop healthier attitudes about sex and sexuality.

 

Sources:

http://time.com/4759485/dutch-sex-ed/

Constantly Shifting Roles

By: Nicole McLaren

When thinking about gender roles it is important that one realizes that they are shaped by culture and exist in a historical context. One of the biggest changes, since the middle of the last century, in the U.S. is the shift from a single income household to a household in which both spouses are responsible for providing income. This has dramatically impacted the roles women are able to take on, not only in their homes but in the workplace and society.

While women have taken on new roles and responsibilities, it seems that men have been slow to take on “traditional” female roles. The roles of caregiving, nurturing, and tending the house are still thought of as feminine, which is unfortunate for all members of the household.

In a recent study that questioned if and how gender roles have actually changed the researchers found that people still believed in gender characteristics and gender role behaviors. The study also found that men believed more strongly in male gender stereotypes and women believed more in female gender stereotypes.

It is not the fault of the individual that gender stereotypes are still being reinforced by society but it is the responsibility of each of us to combat these stereotypes in our lives and in our own roles.

Whether you are a student, an employee, a parent or child, it is our roles as male, female, transgender, nonconforming to combat these stereotypes about the social construct that gender is. For those in positions of power it is imperative to know what sort of gender cues they are giving off so that you can combat them. For parents or siblings this could mean just pointing out sexism when you see it and not discouraging children from activities that have been gendered by our society. For teachers or managers it means creating safe spaces, challenging stereotypes when you hear them, and putting males and females in leadership positions. This is just a start to how to change gender roles but it is an important one that we all have the power to do.

 

Female Circumcision aka Female Genital Mutilation

 

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Female genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision, is a procedure that removes part or all of the outer part of the female genitals. It is very painful and dangerous, causing pain throughout the victim’s life. It happens mostly in eastern Africa and parts of Asia, but can happen to girls anywhere.

The mutilation can range from just the removal of clitoris and lips (clitoridectomy) to sewing the lips over the vagina (infibulation). It happens to girls in infancy or adolescents, but can also happen to older women as well. The immediate consequences include severe pain, infection, shock, and sometimes death. However, the effects are lifelong. Long term consequences include urinary and vaginal problems, need for surgery later in life, and psychological problems, such as depression and low self-esteem.

Female circumcision is most popular in western and eastern regions in Africa, the Middle East, and some countries in Asia. In these places, it is considered a social norm and believed necessary to raising girls. It is also considered a way to keep women sexually pure by stopping them from wanting to engage in sexual behavior. It is also supposed to increase marriageability.

Female genital mutilation is considered a violation of human rights. Recently, there has been a wider international effort to stop it through more political involvement in countries where it is popular. These  efforts include strengthening the health sector involvement in this issue and education people on why female circumcision is harmful. Stop FGM Now is a campaign working to stop female genital mutilation. You can learn more about how to get involved and save women from female genital mutilation at their website.

The Link Between Depression and Reproductive Health: Yes, they’re connected

By Cassandra Hedrick

 

Recently, doctors have been looking into the connection between reproductive health and depression in women. Depression is a severe sadness that comes with lack of motivation and can cause suicidal thoughts. According to Dr. Mendel, who conducted a study on this topic, “Psychological symptoms continue to shift in relation to reproductive events—for example, the menstrual cycle, childbirth, menopause— across women’s lives.”

 

This study found that girls are at higher risk of depression during puberty due to the drastic change in hormones. Similarly, women show some symptoms of depression during PMS. The same goes for women during pregnancy. 14-23% of pregnant women develop depression, however, it tends to go undiagnosed because it is assumed to be a just a hormonal imbalance. This can be dangerous for both the mother and child. Postpartum depression, meaning depression after giving birth, is also very common. It has not been previously talked about, but women are trying to bring more attention to it.

As a woman, you may be at higher risk for depression. Throughout your life, with the changes your reproductive system, you may experience depression due to hormonal changes. These changes happen through puberty, pregnancy, and after pregnancy. If you think you may be experiencing depression, talk to your doctor and get help.

Biological Sex DOES NOT Equal Pre-existing Condition

By: Nicole McLaren

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that recently made it through the House and will now be voted on by the Senate treats the female sex as though their anatomy is a burden that they should carry the weight for. This bill was designed by 13 men, not a single woman had a say in it. Maybe that is why the pre-existing conditions that disproportionately effect women. It leaves it up to the individual states to determine what a pre-existing condition is and how they will be covered by insurance companies.

Some of these “pre-existing conditions” include: c-sections, domestic violence, sexual assault and postpartum depression. These are clearly forms of gender discrimination since these “conditions” effect mostly people who identify as women. The AHCA claims that it does not allow insurance providers to discriminate based on gender, although that is clearly not the case when they have taken away coverage for preexisting conditions.

Before the passing of the Affordable Care Act this was the case for women in the U.S. who faced discrimination from insurance providers because they were seen as more costly to insure. In 2002, The Huffington Post shared a story from Christina Turner, a woman who was denied health insurance after being raped and taking medication to prevent HIV. Even though she did not develop HIV the insurance company would not insure her because they viewed her as too much of a “risk”.

When insurance companies are allowed to put profits over providing healthcare to people, discrimination against women and other at risk groups will continue to occur. The AHCA bill allows states and insurance companies to decide what is a pre-existing condition and to make a profit off of the misfortune and unpreventable circumstances that happen to so many women, like having to have a c-section, being a victim of rape or abuse, and suffering from postpartum depression.

Why should having a child or being a victim prevent someone from obtaining health insurance? That is the question we have to ask our Senators now that our House representatives have failed to use their power to oppose this bill.

https://www.women.com/angie/lists/trumpcare-targets-women-could-deny-coverage-due-to-assault-or-c-sections

Education Rights for Women (Or lack there of)

By: Cassandra Hedrick

In first world countries like America there is not really a gap between boys and girls school attendance. However, in many countries around the world there is an issue with girls not being able to get an education. In Afghanistan, girls only make up 1/3 of students and they make up 2/3s of illiterate adults worldwide. While we are moving in the direction of gender equality when it comes to education, we are not quite there. There are many factors contributing to this lack of education for girls, the main ones being poverty, race or ethnicity, and location.

Kids in poverty stricken countries are less likely to attend school. Girls are 2% less likely to go to school because they tend to stay at home and help with household duties. Similarly, girls from rural areas are less likely to attend school for the same reason, as well as because of the distance they live from schools. In parts of the world where there is a lot of war and violence, girls may not be able to attend school because it is dangerous for them to go. However, no matter where are in the world, racial and ethnic minorities always attend school at lower rates. This means the gender disparities are accentuated.

We need to pay more attention to gender inequality in education. Just because we don’t see it very often in America, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen all over the world. There are gender disparities in education, caused by poverty, location, and race. If you want to help fix this, you can visit the United Nations Girls Education Initiative to find out more.

Women in Prison: It’s nothing like Orange is the New Black

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Men and women’s prisons are very different from each other. For example, men’s prisons tend to have higher security than women prisons. But even though men and women are separated in prison, there is still an issue of gender inequality. There are only 170 women’s prisons in America and they are not funded as well as the men’s prisons. This causes women prisoners to return to prison at a higher rate, which is known as recidivism.

Even though women’s prisons tend to be more comfortable, they are not as good as men’s prisons. Women tend to stay in dormitories or cottages, rather than cells. Also, like I said before, they have much less security and therefore more freedom. However, they lack in rehabilitation programs. This is a serious issue because many women inmates have substance abuse problems and mental illnesses. Meanwhile, men’s prisons have more rehabilitation programs due to the amount of violent offenders; prisons feel as though they need to rehabilitate them for the protection of the community. This lack of rehabilitation programs is what causes the much higher rates of recidivism for women prisoners.

While the rate of women in prison has tripled since 1980, the funding has not. Just because women get more freedom in prison and the facilities may look nicer, they still aren’t as good as men’s prisons where is counts. Their severe lack of rehabilitation programs causes the inmates to suffer once they leave prison, and inevitably go back. Women need more rehabilitation programs in order to become successful after leaving prison.

How Television Falsely Depicts Abortion

By: Jillian James

Kerry Washington in an episode on Scandal, one of the few shows that have portrayed an abortion in an honest and realistic manner.

 

When it comes to the media’s depiction of abortion, there is usually more fiction on the screen than fact. The University of California San Francisco ANSIRH program’s Abortion OnScreen project studied how abortion was portrayed in a wide variety of television shows. According to the study, “42.5 percent of plot lines included a complication, intervention, or major health consequence” as a result of an abortion.

 

That is huge contrast to the actual outcome data from abortion procedures. Only 2.1% of all abortions have any sort of complication, and they are usually minor. In reality, an abortion is an incredibly safe medical procedure that carries very small risk.

 

According to the study, TV makes having an abortion seem like a high-stakes operation. Characters who receive abortions on TV are frequently depicted as having serious, life-altering complications from the procedure, including “infertility, depression, and death.” According to the study, 5% of the characters in the television samples studies died from having an abortion. That number is astronomically high and dangerously incorrect.

 

People internalize what they see on television, and television has the ability to shape public views and public policy. With women’s rights and reproductive access constantly being attacked by government officials, it is crucial that people have a proper understanding of abortion and its level of safety. Portraying abortion in such a negative light can falsely lead the public to form biases again abortion that are not based on fact, and using abortion to add drama to a television show is blatantly misleading the public.

 

An abortion is not a dangerous decision. Its time for the media to stop portraying it that way.

 

SOURCES:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/04/18/abortion_is_20_times_more_dangerous_on_tv_than_it_is_in_real_life.html

https://www.ansirh.org/news/tv-greatly-exaggerates-medical-and-psychological-risks-associated-abortion

 

Religion and Sex Ed in the U.S.

By: Nicole McLaren

The history of sexual education in the U.S. has been interesting to say the least. In the 19th century sex ed included pamphlets about the evils of masturbation to the spreading of the idea that masturbation and ejaculation cause loss of energy. The early 20th century brought about the first organized sexual education. Chicago was the first city to implement sexual education in high school although the program was shut down early after it started. The federal government’s first attempt to educate about sex was during WW1 when they began teaching solider’s about STDs.

The U.S. Office of Education began training teachers in sexual education by the 1930s. By the 60’s and 70’s sex ed had become a political issue that religious conservatives used to prevent sexual education in public schools. These religious groups viewed sex ed as promoting promiscuity, even going as far as claiming sex ed was communist indoctrination.

With HIV emerging as an issue in the 80s, sex ed took on a more prominent role but religious conservatives pushed back through the creation of abstinence only programs. From 1981 to 2010 the federal government spent over $1 billion on abstinence only sexual education programs. This began in the Reagan administration and continued into two years of Obama’s first term. Even in the Clinton’s administration there was provisions added, by religious groups, to the Welfare Reform Act of 96 to ensure that abstinence only education was funded by the federal government. The information provided in these programs not only leaves out birth control methods and other methods of prevention, they also distort medical facts and rely on religious doctrine.

While we have started to move towards a more scientifically based sexual education there is still improvements to be made. The need to promote fact based sex ed is ultimately up to the people in each state. We must push our legislators with organizations like Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth to implement sex ed programs in public schools that provide real education for students.

 

 

Do you know how babies are made?

By: Nicole McLaren

The goal of sexual education is to teach young folks how to lead healthy sex lives, at least that is the ideal form of it. Unfortunately only 24 states and D.C. require that public schools teach sex education. Even among these sex education programs there is variance, some programs focus on abstinence only instead of providing a comprehensive education.

Not only have these abstinence only programs been found ineffective at keeping teens from having sex, some of them are not based on scientific fact and actually rely on religion to educate. The federal government has spent taxpayer money to fund these abstinence only programs even after the research found them to be ineffective.  Advocates for Youth claims that overall congress has spent over $1.5 billion on these harmful programs.

Multiple studies have found that parents regardless of educational obtainment, economic class, and religious affiliation, support the idea that comprehensive sexual education should be provided to their children. These studies have been completed nation-wide and in individual states and the results have been the same.

The prevention of teen pregnancy and STD/STI contraction is important for young people to lead healthy, successful lives. The best way to do this is to provide sexual education for teens in school, at home and in the community. Every year, according to dosomething.org 750,000 teen girls will get pregnant in the U.S. That’s 3 out of every 10 teenage girls. Becoming a parent is the leading cause of dropping out of high school, 50% of teen moms never graduate. Only 2% of teen moms earn a college degree.

There is much we can do in way of changing policy by working with organizations  like Planned Parenthood to lobby legislators into listening to the wants and needs of their constituents. Something that we can do right now though is start a free Babysitters Club to help teen moms stay in school or earn their GEDs. Here is a link https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns/babysitters-club?source=node/152