Sexual Health

Recent posts

Six Things I Learned From Being a Birth Control Counselor

Like many sex educators I know, my very first sex ed gig was taking part in my undergrad university’s peer education program. Getting the training and the opportunity to deliver sex ed was a powerful experience for me and a real boost to my career as a sex educator (penis costume notwithstanding). One of the key responsibilities of being a peer educator was providing one-on-one sexual health counseling for students at the University’s health center – many of them young women wanting to start using birth control. Since the doctors and nurse practitioners at the health center had little time to spend with patients, my role was to educate the “clients” about their options beforehand. I had the time to ask questions about their lifestyle, sexual activities, preferences, and what would be convenient for them. Continue Reading →

Thanksgiving: Sex Things to be Thankful For

In addition to family, friends, good health, and an enchanting world to live in, here are some things I am thankful for about sexuality and bodies and maybe you are too:

1) Vaginal tenting: The process by which sexual excitation causes the vagina to expand in length and width makes for more comfortable, pleasurable vaginal intercourse and vaginal penetration and that makes these types of sex better for many people the world over. 2) Lubrication: Here I mean both vaginal lubrication and store-bought lubricant, as each can make different types of sex and sex play more comfortable and pleasurable. Spending enough time doing exciting foreplay/sex play things in ways that enhance vaginal lubrication can also help to reduce the risk of vaginal discomfort, pain, and/or tearing. So much to be grateful for! 3) Erections: I hope to never lose wonder over the magic of erections. Continue Reading →

When Abstinence-Only Sex Education Is Against Your Religion

This Patheos blog post by Sunweaver discusses an uncommon dilemma: we’re very accustomed to people objecting to sex education because they say it’s against their religion, but what about people who object to abstinence-only sex education citing the same reason? She points out that “to use fear and shame to intimidate children into avoiding sex until marriage is to vilify something I see as sacred.” Further, she cites studies of abstinence-only education demonstrating that it is based upon religious belief, leading to this problem: “Abstinence-only is a religious teaching and it isn’t my religion they’re teaching.” We know it’s impossible to please everyone, but this is yet one more reason to embrace a fact-based approach to sex education. In an ideal world, at least, it’d be harder to alienate people with facts, but especially with sex, it can be (unfortunately) difficult to disentangle fact from belief. Continue Reading →

Why Telling Women To “Just Close Your Legs” Isn’t Good

Every so often, I run across arguments about women in poverty or other difficult situations who should just, like, stop having babies already. The message “just keep your legs closed” is a prevalent one… but I don’t think it works, or that it’s remotely a good idea. First, until we get closer to universally accessible (meaning affordable) contraception, it makes no sense to berate women for their choices. Any “choice” made within an oppressive environment is not really a choice at all, or at least, not a freely-made choice. Continue Reading →

Condoms, Anyone?

Earlier this week, I overheard a rather disappointing conversation as I was sitting in the waiting room of my gynecologist’s office. It went something like this: A young woman—I’d say, early twenties—enters the waiting room to discuss an issue she has with the secretary. The twenty-something is extremely upset because—due to changes in her health insurance—she’s no longer going to be able to receive the NuvaRing (for free, I assume?), and now has to switch to an alternate form of birth control that will now cost her upwards of $50 a month. As the secretary was trying to calm her down, she was mentioning cheaper forms of protection. And when she brought up condoms, the younger woman cut her off and said she’s looking for “protection that will actually work.”

Sigh. Continue Reading →

The Pill Vs. The Pullout

Hormonal birth control is something that works for some women, and not for others, which is okay. Yet as Jill discusses in this Feministe article, the author of a new book called Sweetening the Pill takes her own awful experience on the pill as evidence “that the Pill is terrible for all women.” Generalizing from one person’s experience to everyone’s is, of course, a bad idea. As Jill writes: “And most of my friends who are on the Pill don’t have the same side effects that I had, and are perfectly happy relying on it as their primary means of contraception. Also, one friend feels like she gets in her best shape by running, another by doing Barre classes and Pilates, whereas I prefer yoga. Continue Reading →

On Being A Sex Educator When You’re Not

A funny thing has been happening to me lately. People have started treating me like a sex educator, even though I’m not. I work in adjacent fields, certainly (such as folklore and gender studies), but I wouldn’t claim the title of sex educator for a number of reasons. What’s a well-intentioned scholar/blogger to do? First, while I frequently can and do educate people about sex, there’s a reason I’m not calling myself a sex educator. Continue Reading →

Where’s The “Pro-Life” Outrage Over Forced Sterilization?

It was recently reported that a number of female inmates in California prisons were sterilized without their consent, and that others were engaged in coercive conversations which could well have led in that direction. With all the “pro-life” (see here for why I prefer the term “anti-abortion” instead) fuss over abortions, I wonder why there isn’t more outcry over this issue? Perhaps it’s a class issue, and female prisoners who tend to come from lower-class backgrounds are seen as less desirable mothers? Whatever the reason, forced sterilization is wrong (oh hi, informed consent!), and it’d be great if the “pro-life” camp could channel some of their seemingly boundless energy into addressing this issue. Continue Reading →

Revisiting “Safe, Legal, And Rare”

The idea that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare” was articulated by Bill Clinton in the 1990s, and President Obama recently used that same language again, saying: “I think Bill Clinton had the right formulation a couple of decades ago, which is abortion should be safe, legal, and rare…I think it’s something all of us should recognize is a difficult, oftentimes tragic situation that families are wrestling with.” While I like his emphasis on letting families decide what’s right for them in that statement, I also think we should reevaluate the “safe, legal, and rare” language that has become common in the abortion debate. This Feministe article discusses why abortion, like any other medical procedure, should indeed be safe, legal, and rare… but that we, its defenders, should drop the “rare” part of the sentence because it opens us to attacks from the opposition who are essentially saying, “well if you’re so in favor of it, why should it be rare?” The author argues: “Outside of a few truly horrible types of people, few would argue that we need to outlaw balloon angioplasty because we’d all rather people not need it, because ouch and ew. Safe, legal, rare angioplasty is seldom up for debate. Until you talk about abortion. Continue Reading →

The Problem With The Texas Senate Tampon Confiscation

Those following the saga of the anti-abortion laws being passed in Texas likely saw that tampons were being confiscated from those entering the Texas capitol. Without even getting into the strange irony that guns were still allowed inside (because how are tampons more dangerous than guns?!), I’d like to talk a bit about the dissonance between an abstract idea and the concrete reality that follows. The idea here, of course, was to prevent protestors from using tampons as projectiles or launched items within the capitol. The concrete reality of that idea being enforced, however, went beyond implementing that idea and in fact revealed a lack of regard for the consequences for individual women. What if a woman were on her period that day and actually needed a tampon? Continue Reading →