Sexual Health

Recent posts

Daily Sexual Violence, In India And America

The rape and murder of Jyothi Singh Pandey in New Delhi brought the world’s attention to the problem of sexual violence in India, with many calling for police reforms as well as culture-wide changes. And it is a culture-wide problem: as this article in The Atlantic demonstrates, there are a host of subtle cultural oppressions, which add up to “ongoing attacks on women, be they decisions to feed them last, marry them as teenagers, skimp on their medical care, or gang rape them on a bus.” But then read this piece, which focuses on the sexual violence American women face. With our rape rates -  there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime – we also have an epidemic of ongoing attacks on women. Sexual violence is not an isolated phenomenon, and it’s not something our modernized culture has stamped out: it is systemic oppression. Continue Reading →

Lubricant vs. Vaginal Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

Because someone asked me yesterday (and I often forget that many people don’t receive this kind of information from doctors, nurses, family, or friends):

Lubricants are typically for use during various types of sex (e.g., masturbation alone, partnered masturbation, hand jobs, sex toy play, vaginal intercourse, and most definitely anal intercourse). Women and men of diverse ages use lubricant during sexual activities. Think of lube as something one uses “in the moment” (e.g., during sexual activities). Lube is widely available in drug stores, retail chains, adult bookstores, and online. Vaginal moisturizers are more about keeping the vagina moist and pliable even when not “in use” for sex. 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 →

Would You Say You Had Sex If… He Came In Your Thigh Crease?


The phrase “having sex” means different things to different people. Most people agree that penile-vaginal intercourse counts as sex and that if you’ve had penile-vaginal intercourse with a person then you’ve “had sex” with them and that the person counts as a sexual partner. However, what counts as sex isn’t always so cut and dry (and can vary by age, gender, and self-identified sexual orientation among other factors). When I first began working at The Kinsey Institute in 1999, a study that one of my mentors – Dr. Stephanie Sanders – conducted with her colleague, Dr. June Reinisch, that had examined college students’ meanings of having “had sex” was newly published. The study made waves in large part because it came at a time when Americans and politicians in particular were debating whether oral sex was sex, and thus whether President Bill Clinton was being truthful when he said he had not “had sex with that woman”. Continue Reading →

Why Legislating Sex Work Is Problematic

In light of California’s mandatory condom laws for adult performers, I’ve been thinking about why governments feel the need to step in and legislate sex work (I say legislate when often it is criminalized, but here I’ll be focusing on laws that regulate rather than prohibit). First, let’s think of people we categorically make laws about. Children: they have to go to school, they have to be under a legal guardian until they reach a certain age, and so on. Prisoners: they do not have full legal rights, but they retain many other rights, such as access to basic minimum living standards. The poor: there’s a whole body of laws, historically dating back to the Elizabethan era in England, governing employment and aid opportunities for the underprivileged. Continue Reading →

Product Review: Renew Toy Revitalizing Cleanser

Our friends over at Good Vibrations recently sent me a new product to review. It’s like Christmas all over again! The Renew Toy Revitalization Cleanser is such a handy little thing! Forget about interrupting sexy times to run to the bathroom to clean a toy- a swift pump of this little spray bottle and you’re good to go! This comes in handy especially if you share a bathroom- I can’t tell you how awkward it is to try to clean a sex toy in a dormitory bathroom. You get all kinds of weird looks. Continue Reading →

Communication Fails:


Last week, I stumbled upon, a website devoted to “interpreting” cryptic text messages from men. Here’s how it works: a user sends in a text message, includes their own comments giving necessary background information, and leaves the decision up to the internet. Anyone in the blogosphere can vote in one of three ways regarding the sender’s intentions: either he’s into you, he’s not into you, or the verdict is still out. Sound familiar? My first instinct was to hate it, to repost the link with some snarky comment about the novel idea of actually asking your partner what they meant.  My second instinct was to hate it more, wondering why these people couldn’t just ask their friends what they thought rather than airing all their dirty laundry on the internet. Continue Reading →

My Mentor, Sex Therapist and Author Sallie Foley


One of my mentors during my graduate studies was Sallie Foley. Sallie has been a social worker and sex therapist for 30+ years and currently runs the Sexual Health Certificate Program at the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. Check out that amazing program here. My first contact with Sallie was when I was the Peer Education Coordinator at the University of Michigan and I helped to put on ”Sexpertise”, the University’s annual conference on sexual health. Sallie was an integral part of this important conference and one of the premiere speakers, talking about her research and giving workshops on sexual pleasure. Continue Reading →

Advances In Women’s Health Politics (Plus Ninjas Against Rape)

If you have the time to read it, I highly highly highly recommend checking out Echo Zen’s Feministe post “How Women’s Health and Social Media Won 2012: Retrospective.” This link-rich essay describes the political events of 2012 in relation to women’s health, the amazing role of social media, and the rise of feminist advocacy by everyday women. Zen points out that what the social media strategies of 2012 exposed is “the violent rhetoric that once came from GOP quarters about how women’s healthcare isn’t real healthcare, since only sluts and prostitutes need contraception and family planning. If the extremists have learned anything from this cycle, it’s that openly campaigning against women’s lives is no longer a winning strategy, just as relying entirely on the white Christian vote is no longer a viable tactic.” This underlines how politicized an issue women’s health has become. Continue Reading →