FGM: Female Genital Mutilation

By: Emma Ziulkowski

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure which removes complete or partial external female genitalia and other female organs. FGM is most common in sub-Saharan Africa or Arab States, but has spread to countries in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Migrating populations have even brought this procedure to North America, New Zealand, and Australia. There are about 200 million females that have survived this procedure. FGM inflicts serious consequences for females in regards to their sexual and reproductive health. This is a major problem for women everywhere and it needs to be discussed.

FGM is where elders hold down a female, as young as a few days after birth, and take a razor blade to remove their external genitalia. There are multiple forms of this procedure, but the idea is to remove the external genitalia in order to sew together the vagina leaving a singular hole used for menstrual cycles and urinating. Common complications that occur include shock, hemorrhage, infections, urine retention, fevers and ulcerations. These complications commonly result in death. If a female finds a way to survive this horrific procedure then they will most likely suffer from long term consequences. Aside from psychological effects, these long term consequences include cysts/abscesses, damage the urethra, sexual dysfunction, complications during child birth and a high risk of HIV infections.

Why does this happen? There are different reasons behind this procedure depending on the region. In some communities, young girls are gathered on a single day to endure this procedure as a socio-cultural rite of passage into womanhood. They will use a single razor to cut girls one after another resulting in a high risk of HIV transmission. FGM is sometimes done to control a women’s sexuality to ensure virginity before marriage. FGM is also carried out to enhance sexual pleasure for men. In other communities, external female genitalia is removed simply because it looks dirty or ugly.

Despite the cultural standing behind this procedure it is wrong and females are terrified to go through this procedure. I have not read one scenario where a female has volunteered themselves for FGM. It is forced upon them and extremely dangerous. Earlier I stated that 200 million women have survived this procedure. I want you to understand that this statistic is only females that have survived. These are unnecessary deaths, and I hope together we can begin spreading the word about how bad FGM is for females and their reproductive health. This isn’t a subject to be swept under the rug. It’s a reality that we need to face together and bring to an abrupt halt. You may not feel it’s an endangerment to you now, but it is culturally based and it can happen anywhere.

 

Sources:

http://www.unfpa.org/resources/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-frequently-asked-questions#why

https://www.unicef.org/media/media_30047.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/feb/05/research-finds-200m-victims-female-genital-mutilation-alive-today

 

Don’t Be Silly; Wrap Your Willie!

By: Emma Ziulkowski

Condom use is becoming rarer for millennials which can be extremely bad for a sexually active person’s health. Condoms reduce the risk of contracting STDs and help protect against unwanted pregnancies.

Steps to properly putting on a condom and taking a condom off:

  1. Open packaging and remove condom from wrapper.
  2. When the penis is erect; place the condom at the head of the penis.
  3. Pinch air out of the tip of the condom. This step is very important in allowing room for ejaculation!
  4. While pinching the tip of the condom; unroll the condom all the way down to the base of the penis.
  5. When finished; hold the condom at the base when pulling out of the vagina.
  6. Carefully remove condom and dispose properly in a trashcan.

 

Important things NOT to do with condoms:

  • Do NOT store your condoms in your wallet. Heat and friction damages the condom increasing the chances of breakage.
  • Do NOT ever reuse a condom.
  • Do NOT use more than one condom at a time. This does not increase protection from STDs or pregnancies.
  • Do NOT use expired condoms. Old condoms typically dry out and increase the chances of breakage.
  • Do NOT use oil based lubricants with condom use. The oil can weaken latex and increase breakage.

 

Important things to remember about condoms:

  • Use the correct sized condom for your penis. One size does not fit all!
  • Use water based lubricants to prevent friction.
  • Use latex or polyurethane condoms. If an individual is allergic to latex then use polyurethane condoms which are made with plastic.

 

Condoms may make an individual feel vulnerable or nervous during first time sexual encounters with your partner. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about! The importance of condom use outweighs any unsettling feelings an individual may endure. Planned Parenthood is a proud supporter of sexual health and is always available if you have any questions about sex education or condom use.  Visit their website at: www.myplannedparenthood.org.

An important side note for the ladies: Condoms are not just a male’s responsibility! As stated above, condoms are becoming rarer for millennials. Many males don’t always carry condoms because condoms decrease sensation during sex for them. They may not understand the severity of contracting an STD or maybe the female is on birth control and they don’t find it critical. It is. It’s not bad for a female to carry a condom and not something to be frowned upon. Do it for your own sexual health!

 

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/male-condom-use.html

https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/brief.html

 

Birth control on a college student budget

By: Cassie Manz

The United Nations Population Fund describes good sexual and reproductive health as the ability to have “a satisfying and safe sex life, the capability to reproduce, and the freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so.” The UNPF continues that to maintain one’s sexual and reproductive health, “people need access to accurate information and the safe, effective, affordable and acceptable contraception method of their choice.”

 

On college campuses across the country, effective contraception can sometimes be difficult to come by. Condoms are usually pretty easy to find. They’re frequently handed out at RA events and on most campuses there are conveniently placed baskets of them in dorm buildings.

 

However, according to Planned Parenthood, condoms are only about 82% effective at preventing pregnancies in the real world, where people don’t use condoms perfectly every time they have sex. For this reason, people with vaginas choose other methods of birth control, like the pill, to complement or stand in for condoms and prevent unwanted pregnancies.

 

There are several ways you can get birth control pills as a student.

One option is your campus health center. Call, check their website, or visit the center to see if they offer the pill for free. If you have health insurance through your university, your student health plan might cover birth control as well. Go to Coverher.org to contact the National Women’s Law Center’s hotline to see if your university covers birth control through the student health plan.

 

If you’re a college student and you’re not able to get birth control pills through your campus health center, Planned Parenthood can help. At Planned Parenthood, you can get a prescription for birth control pills. The health center will work with you on finding a prescription that matches your financial ability. Most Planned Parenthood centers accept Medicaid and health insurance.

 

Visit your local Planned Parenthood to learn more about birth control and which option might be best for you.

 

Sources:

https://www.bedsider.org/features/359-back-to-school-birth-control-6-questions-to-answer

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/condom/how-effective-are-condoms

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/birth-control-pill/how-do-i-get-birth-control-pills

Let’s Keep Each Other STD FREE

By: Emma Ziulkowski

 

STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are more common than you think. It’s important for you to take proper precautions which are easily accessible to learn about through sex education.

Let’s start with the numbers to better understand the severity. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) STD’s are increasing significantly now more than ever and “Americans aged 15-24 account for half of the estimated 20 million new STDs in the U.S. each year. In 2015, there were 981,359 reported cases of chlamydial infection among persons aged 15-24 years, representing 64% of all reported chlamydia cases.” Only certain STDs/STIs are required to be reported to CDC or other state health departments. These include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. So as you can see, more than half of all people will contract an STD/STI at least once in their lifetime.

But there is something we can do about it.

Sexual education is key when understanding your body, sexual encounters, and your options. Most people will tell you to practice abstinence. I’m here to say there are other options for individuals to protect themselves. Protection against STDs and STIs include condom use, routine testing, vaccinations, or being aware of the sexual history of your partner(s).

This is just a basic summation of STDs/STIs to bring you awareness. I’m a firm believer in sexual education and there are many routes one can take in educating themselves. Sexual health education isn’t easy to talk about with just anyone, and in my opinion a great source to better educate yourself is to visit any Planned Parenthood health center. They offer a variety of education resources and have staff members you can speak with in confidence. Planned Parenthood teaches you how to practice safer sex. You can start easy by visiting their website to see the services they offer at www.myplannedparenthood.org.

 

Sources:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/for-educators/what-sex-education

https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/2015/std-surveillance-report-press-release.html

My “Experience” with Sex Ed

 

By: Alexis Martinez

Imagine being a naïve high school freshman excited to learn about sex in gym class… until you’re bombarded with an “abstinence only” lesson. Yup, that was me.

Abstinence till Marriage was emphasized the whole time. Not telling us it’s okay to have sex, but telling us why we shouldn’t. I remember being asked by this so-called teacher to sign an “ATM” card (yeah, Abstinence Til Marriage). You were supposed to keep this card in your wallet, I guess as a reminder that sex is evil? Who knows, but the concept itself was ridiculous and cheesy.

We need to be pushing SAFE sex instead of no sex. Instead of teaching our kids that abstinence is the only option, we need to teach them that there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to having sex. You shouldn’t feel like you’re doing something wrong. Let’s face the facts, teenagers have sex – and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s wrong is that we shame them for it, we should all feel comfortable talking to our parents and having productive conversations about it. Once you start shaming them, then they don’t want to tell you about their life.

Not everyone believes in waiting until marriage, and that’s okay. Everyone goes through different experiences at different times in their lives. We are each our own person and need to be making our own choices instead of being filled with ideas that sex is only okay during marriage.

It’s pretty funny that a 14-year-old girl knew that this type of “sexual education” was ridiculous. I sat there wondering how many of these kids are actually going to wait until marriage? And who is this old man to be telling me when I should be having sex?  And why am I signing a damn fake ATM card? Our sexual education experiences affect how we handle our sex lives in the future, it’s time we teach a safe sex lifestyle instead of a no sex lifestyle.

If your school is pushing an abstinence-only life, don’t worry! Planned Parenthood is here to help. Never be scared to come for us with your questions. We have all of your birth control answers here at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control

It’s More Than the Birds and the Bees

By: Alexis Martinez

Since we were preteens, we always heard the phrase “the birds and the bees”. We learn that one a day you will meet someone and feel special feelings for them that you express physically. Yeah, that awkward talk you have with your parents. Sometimes the adults in our lives tend to forget that it is more than just birds and bees, sex is complicated. Here are a few things that people forget

It can be emotional: Having sex for the first time can be embarrassing, confusing and often liberating. You could either feel incredibly confident after or like you want to crawl into a hole. One thing to remember is that you should never feel ashamed. It can be hard to process after, but never be scared to seek guidance from your family or friends. You’re always taught that one day you’ll fall in love and that it’ll be a magical moment, but there are times where everything isn’t so magical.  Sometimes you are sexually active with someone you don’t love, or with someone that doesn’t love you back. It’s all so complicated and that’s why you should make sure you talk to your partner before you make the next step.

Safety first: I know you’ve heard this a million times, but safety is a priority. You are all thinking “I’d never have unprotected sex”, but believe me, it happens. There are times where you are completely unprepared and in the moment, but you have to say no. Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a one-time thing, because one time can lead to a pregnancy or STD.

Consent: If you aren’t feeling comfortable with every step you’re taking, then don’t do it. Don’t be scared to say no. Communication is key. If your partner if making you feel guilty for not wanting to go all the way – forget them. Only do what makes you comfortable and put your feelings ahead. There is no rush to have sex, there is no rush to have a first kiss, take everything one step at a time and at your pace.

If you feel like you’re ready to be sexually active or just have any questions, please get in contact with Planned Parenthood. You can chat us here at https://www.plannedparenthood.org/online-tools/chat

 

 

They NEED access to reproductive health services too.

By: Emma Emma Ziulkowski

The lack of reproductive health services in developing countries has been a major problem resulting in many deaths. Reproductive health is important for a woman’s mental, psychical, and social well-being. The failure of reproductive health services leads to high rates of maternal mortality, HIV outbreaks, pelvic infections, unhealthy pregnancies and so much more.

Joseph Kasonde is well known in Europe as the Acting Regional Adviser for Women’s and Reproductive Health. He collects research for the lack of reproductive health services in developing countries. Kasonde says, “Ninety percent of the 585,000 women who die annually in the world from pregnancy related complications are in developing countries.” That’s such a high percentage for developing countries which makes it known that these high rates of maternal mortality are due to the lack of reproductive health services. According to the World Health Organization, “… at the end of 2007, 33.2 million people were living with HIV… more than 95% of HIV infections are in developing countries.” Imagine how many of those 33.2 million people are women, and how many of these women don’t have knowledge of their HIV infection due to the lack of reproductive health services? How many women do you think pass HIV to their newborn children unintentionally? Pelvic infections are another common issue women have in developing countries that often times lead to infertility. In addition, women are having unhealthy pregnancies because there’s no prenatal care being offered to them.

These developing countries are being prevented from having basic social and economic advancements that developed countries have. These are hard to obtain because these countries are extremely poor. It’s a vicious cycle that always comes back to money. There are many programs that allow people to donate to these developing countries especially on matters of reproductive health services, but the money usually goes to individuals that need immediate help.

The bigger picture is that money needs to be invested in these reproductive health services now, so in the future there will be less money going towards all these health problems stated above. Global partnerships are needed to help finance these reproductive health services so these developing countries can focus on preventing these problems. We need to establish health centers similar to Planned Parenthood in these developing countries to help with their reproductive health services. Hopefully, these health centers can offer what Planned Parenthood does. Services like prenatal care, contraceptives, vaccines, HIV testing, gynecological exams and more. Eventually, these centers can hopefully offer services at a discounted rate just as Planned Parenthood does.

Sources:

http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/documents/UNMP1_FactsFigures_SRH.pdf

http://www.gfmer.ch/Endo/Lectures_09/kasonde.htm

http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/hiv/en/index1.html

 

“Healthy Vagina, Happy Life”

By: Cassie Manz

Keeping our vaginas healthy and happy is uber important, especially during the summertime when sun, sand, sweat, and water pose certain challenges to our vaginal hygiene.

 

Okay, yes, we all probably want our vaginas to be healthy, but why is it so important? Besides the fact that life is better when it’s looking good, smelling good, and feeling good, the vagina is also related to our overall well-being and can give us clues about our hormones and mental health, according to Dr. Sheeva Talebian, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist with CCRM New York. “Most of us are fairly shocked to learn that the health of your vagina may be a reflection of the health of the rest of your body,” Dr. Talebian told Teen Vogue in an interview. “[…] things like vaginal discomfort, vaginal discharge, and vaginal odor can be the first sign that something is off within your body.”

 

So, how do we practice good vaginal care? Where do we start? Maybe you know some of the basics: don’t use scented soaps or harsh cleansers when shaving or washing around the vulva, don’t stay in a wet bathing suit or sweaty gym clothes for too long, and so on. Maybe you didn’t know any of this.

There’s a lot we can do to take care of our vaginas and make sure everything is healthy down there.

Here are some tips:

 

  1. DON’T douche. Seriously, just don’t. Douching, washing out the vagina, can interfere with the vagina’s natural pH levels, which usually range from about 3.8 to 4.5, and reduce its acidity which can lead to bacterial infections. Your vagina will clean itself naturally through discharge; although douching might seem like a good or necessary thing, it can make things a lot worse for your vagina.
  2. Stick to cotton underwear and don’t wear thongs everyday! I know, it seems unsexy, but many health experts suggest cotton underwear because it is more breathable and helps ward off infections.
  3. Eat foods with probiotics, like yogurt and kimchi, to help maintain the vaginal pH levels and fight infections! Eating right makes our body feel good, and this includes our vagina!
  4. Always have safe sex! Wearing condoms during sex helps prevent against contracting STDs, like genital herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital warts, and HIV. And remember to use a new condom when switching from oral sex or anal sex to vaginal sex. Besides, protecting you from STDs and unwanted pregnancies, condoms also help to keep those natural vaginal pH levels balanced.
  5. Make an appointment with your gyno…regularly! According to Everyday Health, if you have a vagina you should see a gynecologist by the time you’re 21 or within three years of becoming sexually active.
  6. Treat infections as soon as possible! If you think you are experiencing symptoms of a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, see your doctor before it becomes worse. If these infections go untreated for a long period of time they could cause serious reproductive health issues.

 

Sources:

http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health-pictures/hygiene-rules-for-a-healthy-vagina.aspx#02

http://www.teenvogue.com/story/what-your-vagina-is-trying-to-tell-you

 

LGBT potential parents face discrimination in Texas on religious grounds

Cassie Manz

Two years ago, gay marriage was legalized in the United States. It was a historic day, celebrated with pride and love by people all across the country. LGBTQ folks would now be able to marry in a court of law and experience all the benefits and rights that marriage entails.

And before LGBTQ folks could get married, they could still legally become parents.

In 1978 New York became the first state to say it wouldn’t reject adoption applicants solely because of “homosexuality.” In 1997 New Jersey became the first state to allow same-sex couples to adopt jointly.

In 2015, the same year gay marriage became legal, the Every Child Deserves a Family Act was introduced to Congress but didn’t pass the Senate. If passed, the bill would have prohibited any child welfare agency that receives federal funding from discriminating against any potential foster or adoptive parent/s on the basis of “sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status,” according to the Human Rights Campaign. The act would also prevent discrimination against any foster youth because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

If only this bill had managed to make it through Congress.

Last month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott passed House Bill 3859 which allows adoption and foster care agencies to deny services or turn away prospective parents based on the agencies’ “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Many LGBTQ advocates, as well as Texas Democrats, have claimed the bill discriminates against LGBTQ folks hoping to adopt or become foster parents.

Many opponents of this bill claim that it does not have the best interests of the children at heart. There is a large number of children in this country who need a home, and whether or not that home consists of two gay parents should not matter.

Currey Cook, director of the Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project, told Jezebel’s politics podcast Big Time Dicks, that the law will also affect children in foster care: HB 3859 allows agencies to either refuse care to children or refuse to recognize their gender identity or sexual orientation.

In this current political climate, it is imperative that we, as citizens, remain involved in the lawmaking process to prevent unjust laws from being passed. We need to continue to call our senators and representatives and voice our opinions. And we must continue to stand up and fight for what we believe in and what we think is right: like the idea that who you love shouldn’t make a difference in whether or not you get to be a parent.

 

Sources:

http://theslot.jezebel.com/texas-law-allows-child-welfare-agencies-to-discriminate-1796368197

http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/10/11/milestones-in-lgbt-parenting-history/

http://www.hrc.org/resources/every-child-deserves-a-family-act

https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2017/05/10/texas-house-passes-bill-protectingreligious-adoption-agencies-deny-services-turn-away-prospective-parents

 

Why Donald Trump’s Sexist Comments are Still Inexcusable

By: Cassie Manz

Donald Trump has spent a little over six months in office. Given his well-known and publicized past, his recent comments about MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski may not come as a surprise. However, as a country, we cannot become complacent in calling out his sexist and misogynistic behavior. If we do so, we run the risk of normalizing his behavior and making it seem acceptable.

In a series of twitter posts on June 29 Trump described Brzezinski as “Low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and said she had been “bleeding badly from a face lift” when she attended a social event at his Mar-a-Lago residence around New Year’s Eve. In a later tweet he described her as “dumb as rock.” He also insulted Brzezinski’s fellow host, and fiance, Joe Scarborough, in the series of tweets calling him “Psycho Joe” and “crazy.”

During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, The Washington Post obtained a recording of Trump talking to television personality Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood.” In the taping, Trump was recorded saying that “when you’re a star” you can do anything to women, like kiss them without waiting or “grab ‘em by the pussy.” The video incited national outrage and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike. In an article for the New Yorker, writer John Cassidy wondered what the Republican party would do with four weeks left till the election and a candidate who “once described his behavior in terms that fit a sexual predator?” Most people seemed sure that the public airing of the tape was the end of Trump’s presidential bid. Yet, despite these horrific comments, Donald Trump won the election. Although he did not win the popular vote, people still voted for him, including fifty-three percent of white women, according to exit polls.

The next logical question is “How?” How did women vote for this man to become president after what he said about women? How did people find it within themselves to brush these comments away, and still check the box next to his name on the ballot? For me, I am still not sure what the answer is.

But, we cannot allow what happened then to happen now. As women, trans women, women of color, and LGBTQIA folks, we cannot normalize Donald Trump’s comments and actions or allow them to slip by unnoticed. We must call out his sexist and misogynistic behavior, simply because it is wrong and unacceptable, because it is oppressive to our very existence. We would do it if he was one of our coworkers, if he was a relative, if he was still just a real estate tycoon, and we must do it while he is the President of the United States. The stakes are too high.    

 

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/30/us/mika-brzezinski-trump-tweets.html

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/a-sexual-predator-in-the-republican-partys-midst