Category Archives: Sex & Health in the News

LGBTQ Students Lack Comprehensive Sex Education

By: Jillian James

 

As society becomes more progressive and accepting, the educational standards must shift along with it. According to Gallup polling, ten million Americans consider themselves members of the LGBTQ community. However, many LGBTQ students in schools aren’t seeing themselves being represented in the classroom, especially when it comes to sexual education.

 

According to GLSEN, an education organization that focuses on LGBTQ students’ rights in schools, only 19% of US secondary schools have curriculum or materials in sex education classes that are LGBTQ inclusive, and fewer than five percent of LGBTQ students have taken a health class that discussed LGBTQ topics in a positive manner.

 

This means that LGBTQ have little to no access to education regarding safe sexual behavior and positive LGBTQ relationships. When they do decide to become sexually active, they may be entering a relationship without the knowledge to protect themselves. When LGBTQ students don’t have anyone to turn to, whether it be a parent, teacher, or other adult, then they can turn to other sources like the internet or seek information from their other classmates. This can lead to a warped perception of sexual health.

 

It has been proven that comprehensive sexual education can lower the rates of STDs and STIs and can support overall healthy attitudes and behaviors about sexual health. It is vital that LGBTQ can see positive depictions of themselves in their classrooms so that they have an example to model their behavior after and so that they can feel accepted and understood by their community.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.glsen.org/article/lack-comprehensive-sex-education-putting-lgbtq-youth-risk-national-organizations-issue-call

Why the Term “Plus Sized” is Officially Out of Fashion

By: Jillian James

In the fashion industry in the United States, it has been a common practice to call any model that is above a size four “plus sized”. The official dictionary definition of plus sized is “clothing or people of a size larger than the normal range.” However, several recent studies have conformed that the average American women is a size 14-16.

 

The term “plus sized” is harmful and derogatory because it makes women with beautiful, healthy bodies feel like they are out of the norm or less desirable because they aren’t a size four or smaller. By this standard, the vast majority of women in America would be categorized as “plus sized.” The representation of women in the fashion industry is heavily distorted from reality, which can be harmful by causing low self-esteem and even eating disorders.

 

However, the fashion industry is finally starting to take notice of these issues. A recent movement called “Drop the Plus” has gained national attention. It calls for all women of all body types who work in the fashion industry to simply be called models. Other movements have urged companies to use models with a variety of different body types in their adverting. The lingerie company AERIE has vowed to stop retouching entirely and to depict a wide range of body types in their advertising.

 

Currently, one of the most famous models in the world is Ashley Graham, who is a size 14. She recently broke barriers by appearing on the covers of British and American Vogue, and is redefining societies’ standards of beauty. Hopefully this is the beginning of a lasting trend to stop using the word “plus sized” and to have true representation in the fashion industry.

 

An unretouched Aerie ad

 

Source:

 http://www.elle.com/fashion/news/a27425/drop-the-term-plus-size/

 

How Feminism Can Improve Your Mental Health

By: Jillian James

 

Being a feminist can improve self-esteem and can make women feel powerful and secure in who they are. Feminism allows women to stop viewing themselves through the lens of others and can lead to self-acceptance and self-love. Feminism promotes and encourages individuality and self-expression and is a reaction against societal pressures. This can lead to women having an overall a greater feeling of value and self worth.

A key part of feminism is uplifting other women. It has been scientifically proven that helping others can actually improve our own happiness and well-being. Instead of being focused on negativity and tearing down other women, a key part of feminism is helping others realize their own true potential. Feminism is all about community, about sharing experiences and reaching out to others. Women find safety and security in communities where they have support and can share and bond over common experiences.

Feminism also encourages activism and can help women feel empowered to seek help when they are struggling with their mental health. A key part of feminism is help women realize that they don’t have to go through life alone. In the past many women were reluctant to seek treatment for their mental health, fearing the judgment and stigmatization around it. The feminist movement is intricately tied to the mental health movement, because both are about becoming free of social stigmas and understanding the multifaceted aspect of humanity.

 

 

 

 

Transforming the Narrative Around Gender Confirmation

By: Nicole McLaren

The U.S. has seen an almost 20% rise in gender confirmation surgeries in 2016. There were more than 3,200 transfeminine and transmasculine surgeries last year. This is only one part of the process for a transgender person and there is a variety of surgeries available for the individual.

Access to gender confirmation surgeries is improving and in 2014 Medicare’s ban on using funding for these surgeries was lifted. Now Medicare will pay for surgery on a case by case basis. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited insurance companies that receive federal funding from treating gender identity as a preexisting condition. This was a major win for the transgender community that is now at stake because of the new healthcare bill that is now in the senate. The rise in gender confirmation surgeries can be tied to access to health care thanks to the ACA which is now threatened because the new administration.

While 2016 saw a rise in gender confirmation surgeries there was also another record broken in the trans community, at least 22 trans people were murdered. A trans rights activist, Gearah Goldstein, said that this is due to the “hyper-focus on the transgender experience.” The current administration has also removed the Obama’s transgender bathroom guidelines, which makes life harder for those who do not conform to gender norms.

The narrative around the transgender community is facing both wins and losses but the visibility of trans folks is on the rise and allows them to control their stories.

Access to Reproductive Health Care in A War Zone

By: Nicole McLaren

One of the most devastating and far reaching consequences of the conflict in Sudan between the government and the rebel army is the lack of access to health care for women in the effected areas. For women in the rebel held areas of Sudan the result can be serious health complications from unplanned pregnancies because they receive no health care services.

Without access to contraception they are unable to control the timing and number of their pregnancies and they are unable to receive healthcare services while they are pregnant. The Human Rights Watch conducted in depth interviews with women and girls from the rebel held areas and found that most of them did not know what a condom was and did not know of other types of contraception. Only two hospitals in this region provide comprehensive emergency care and only a few clinics provide prenatal care. There are humanitarian organizations that attempt to provide care for women in this region but they are unable to help all of the women who need it.

Women and girls in this area are still subject to female genital mutilation, which can cause issues later on in life, especially during labor and birth. Many women and girls are also victims of child marriage in this region which can cause reproductive health problems as well.

The lack of accurate information on what is happening in the region is an issue because  it keeps the issues hidden from the world and does not allow people to share their experience. That is why it is important for groups like the Human Rights Watch to provide insight into the region’s issues and give a voice to the most vulenrable like women and girls who do not have access to health care. In order to help them reach a larger audience I encourage you to read the full report, share it and donate to them if possible. This is a link to the full report about the Sudanese conflict https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/05/22/no-control-no-choice/lack-access-reproductive-healthcare-sudans-rebel-held

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/05/22/sudan-obstruction-aid-endangers-womens-lives

Porn: Is it feminist?

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Porn has been around since cameras and it is not going away anytime soon. Lots of people have tried to limit or ban it, but it hasn’t worked. It has split the feminist community into pro and anti porn feminism. Both have arguments about why they do or do not support pornography as a feminist. Let’s explore both sides.

Anti-Porn

Porn videos tend to be male centric. There are a variety of videos that can be considered degrading to women. Many videos feature what is called the “money shot” where the girl gets cum on her face. This kind of stuff can negatively affect how women are viewed by some men as well as give unrealistic ideas about sex and sexuality to younger viewers.

Another argument is that is causes low self-esteem. However, a study done by Psychologist James Griffith showed that women in porn do not have lower self-esteem or higher rates of mental illness when compared to other college aged women.

Pro-Porn

Other feminists argue that porn is actually empowering to women as it allows them to control and express their sexuality for both actors and viewers. Basically, they believe women should be allowed to do what they want with their bodies, even if that means porn. Nina Hartley, former porn star said anti-porn feminists are actually taking away choices and putting down other women.

 

No matter what side you are on, as a feminist, you should agree women have the right to do what they want with their bodies. Even so, we can also acknowledge the negative affects porn can have on the view of women and address that by not watching videos that degrade women. I believe, as long as the sex is between two consenting adults, there is nothing wrong with it.

 

Why Prostitution Should Be Legal?

 

By: Cassandra Hedrick

Prostitution is considered one of the oldest professions, though I don’t think there is research to back that up. It still persists today, despite being illegal in most places worldwide, however there are some places that have legalized and regulated it. Because it is illegal, it actually makes it more dangerous for women who choose to do it, which of course does not include anyone being prostituted against their will.

I spoke with a former prostitute (who wishes to remain anonymous), who said “Well, I think it should be legal because simply it’s an exchange of goods for a service, people just don’t agree with it from a moral standpoint, but that shouldn’t influence legislation.” When asked why, she said “I think it’s ironic that the one advantage women have over men in our society, their sexuality, is only allowed to be monetized on big companies and the governments terms. You can use women to sell anything you want, you can sell their appearance, the idea of their body, everything. But the second a woman wants to take advantage of their over-sexualisation and monetize their bodies for themselves it’s illegal. It limits women’s agency over their own body and sexuality.” She also explained that illegal prostitution means workers cannot report assaults or they will also be charged with a crime.

On the topic of safety, the former prostitute explains that legal brothels would make the work much safer, stating “Legalization would also allow for brothels to be run, which if run correctly can be much safer for women than independent work.” She says. She goes on to explain the benefits of legal brothels, which includes a safe space for prostitutes to work. Brothels also set the pricing so individual workers don’t have to deal with the hassle of negotiation because “negotiating price can be degrading, stressful, and sometimes dangerous. In a brothel a price would be set and the women are not forced to negotiate their worth and risk the patron getting angry and potentially violent when discussing cost.” In addition to the safety of workers, we can tax brothels and put that money back into the community, essentially eliminating the need for women to get into sex work just to support themselves.

Prostitution should be legal and regulated for the safety and autonomy of the workers. There are many ways we can make prostitution safe and legal, while banning it makes it more dangerous. In the words of a former prostitute, “it is possible to form legislation that protects women and gives them the control in the situation.”

 

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.

 

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.