Recent posts

Informed Consent: The Milgram Experiment

I mentioned in the first informed consent post that we apply the idea of informed consent in academia and research in order to make sure we’re being ethical when dealing with human subjects. Why is this a big deal? Stanley Milgram’s experiment that tricked people into thinking they were administering electric shocks (in dangerous amounts) to other people is a great example of how an experiment can be psychologically damaging to people who don’t know what they’re in for. This video clip succinctly explains the experiment and shows footage from a similar experiment. If you felt disturbed while watching it, just imagine how the unknowing subjects involved felt! Continue Reading →

Informed Consent: Relationship Status Questions

An important way that informed consent is relevant to sexual pursuits is in the question of relationship status, availability, and ethical entanglements. Let me put it this way: say that you’re single and on a date with someone. It’s going well. What if, after the date (and whatever ensuing erotic activities you might’ve pursued), this person reveals that they’re actually in a long-term committed relationship, or married? How would you feel about that? Continue Reading →

Introduction To Informed Consent

I’ve been thinking about consent a lot lately, and so I’m going to use this blog post to kick off a series of posts that focuses on one aspect of consent: informed consent. I’ll address what informed consent is and how it differs from plain ol’ regular consent, and I’ll set up a discussion about the importance of informed consent that will continue in my next few posts. The most basic definition of consent is to give permission for something to happen. Sex educators and feminists generally agree that consent is a significant component of healthy sexual relationships: situations that lack consent are considered coercive or abusive, hence we try to educate people about consent so that they can make sure they’re always having consensual sex and thus not hurting anyone. How does informed consent differ from this? Continue Reading →

What’s Your “Sex Educator Face?”

Recently, at the end of a workshop I had given to a group of university students, I was standing with a small group of organizers and participants when an international student from Asia came up to me and asked me, “How does a tampon work?”

The group that was around me were all from Western countries and I could tell that they found her question really surprising. While internally I felt a bit surprised that someone who was in her late twenties was asking me a question that’s in the content of a fifth grade sex ed class, I responded in a way that communicated that this was a completely typical question. I asked a woman in the group if she happened to have a tampon in her bag. She found one, and I took a little plastic cup, put water in it, and did the demonstration that I’ve done in a puberty education class. After the participant left, a couple of the organizers commented on how I had handled her question with a warm but emotionally-neutral facial expression and a matter-of-fact explanation. Continue Reading →

What a Fashion Publicist Can Teach You About Sex

In an effort to not forget some of the wise advice I’ve read over the past year, I’ve recently been rereading certain chapters of books I’ve flagged on my bookshelf. (Side note: Never borrow a book from me; they’re all marked up with pen and flagged with neon Post-it notes.)

Getting to the point: I was rereading Kelly Cutrone’s book, Normal Gets You Nowhere, and forgot how completely fantastic (not to mention hysterical!) her second chapter is. The title? “THE KELLA-SUTRA: If You’re Not Getting Fucked by Midnight, Go Home.” Continue Reading →

What do Helen Hunt and Sex Surrogacy Have in Common?

image courtesy of

Quite a lot, it turns out. A few weeks ago, I watched The Sessions, a new film starring Hunt as Cheryl Cohen Greene, a California-based sex surrogate. What is sex surrogacy, you may ask? I asked myself the same thing. When my mom first proposed that we watch the movie together and explained a bit of the premise, I was dubious. Continue Reading →

Act Less Gay For A Better Life?

An article I read recently hit a nerve. Apparently some teachers are telling kids that are being bullied that they need to act less gay. While this article is from England, I think that it is applicable for almost anywhere. The article from the London Evening Standard acknowledges that some children are teased for their sexuality, and I not only see this happen in college environments daily, but also witnessed it in my junior high and high school. A friend of mine actually started an organization, Write Your Principal, partially due to the bullying that LGBTQIQ students have had to face and also due to her own experiences. Continue Reading →

Some Thoughts On Harassment And Consent

How to deal with harassment – street harassment like catcalls, as well as persistent attempts to flirt – is an ongoing topic in feminist circles (as it should be). There are frequently misunderstandings, however, about what harassment actually means, and why it’s considered a big deal. This Brute Reason post lays out a lot of reasons why the men who say “But I’d love that kind of/that much attention!” aren’t actually talking about street harassment. They fail to understand that harassment is, by its nature, unwanted attention. Continue Reading →

How I Became a Sex Educator: Lessons from My Mom

Most sex educators I know are constantly being asked why they go into the work they do. Fair enough, I think, since it’s a bit surprising when people learn that someone’s chosen to spend their days talking about a subject that most people find uncomfortable. I think it’s exactly that discomfort that inspires many sex educators to pursue their field. Sex is a near-universal human experience, yet it’s clouded by cultural shame, embarrassment, and mis-information. The light bulb moments that can occur as the result of actually talking about sex are powerful (and sometimes even healing). Continue Reading →