Clear Teaching Principles and Sex Education

At fellow MSP blogger Kate’s urging, I began to brainstorm ways to apply the clear teaching principles articulated here to sex education. I’ve spent way more time in the university classroom, typically teaching folklore and/or gender studies classes, than I have in the sex ed classroom, so some of this will speculative. If nothing else, I hope it’ll be helpful or thought-provoking. In the aforementioned article, Dan Berrett relates the findings of studies that document a correlation between students’ perception of their professors’ teaching and improvements in student attitudes and performances that follow. The research suggests that these teaching practices can even help ameliorate gaps in skill sets that exist between students at different levels of privilege. Continue Reading →

Sexuality and Tenure

An assistant professor at Indiana University Northwest reports that she has been denied tenure because she is out as a lesbian. Her publishing record is excellent, and thus she suspects discrimination. This isn’t surprising, given how we’ve seen transgender professors denied tenure. I don’t think it’s fair to ask academics with non-mainstream gender/sexual identities to remain closeted. But that’s essentially what these actions are doing: enforcing a heteronormative ban on behavior that is different. Continue Reading →

Thoughts On “Carrot Dating”

Thanks to an MIT alumnus, there now exists an app called “Carrot Dating,” which allows allows people to offer potential dates a gift for going on a date with them. The problem, of course, is where the gift crosses the line into, say, a bribe or a payment. The app’s creator explains the idea like this: “Giving is the greatest ‘icebreaker,’ and anyone can date the man or woman of their dreams by simply dangling the right ‘carrot.’” The idea is apparently more about having a way to break the ice, and then seeing if you connect, than actually trying to pay someone to go on a date with you. As someone with a background in cultural anthropology, I can agree that giving occupies an important role in many cultures. A glimpse at my field’s classics will confirm this. Continue Reading →

Academia’s Hostility To Women

The Guardian documents a new study reporting on why women in the sciences are leaving academia at much greater rates than men. According to the study’s results, the number of women in science PhD programs who report wanting to remain in academia plummets the longer they spend working on their degrees. Women learn, by observation and experience, that their gender will be an impediment to their progress, and they reported more than men did that the great sacrifices demanded of them were too large. While this study focused on the sciences, I think it might apply in the social sciences and humanities as well. Academia is full of gendered micro-inequalities, though women have largely made progress over time. Continue Reading →

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 →

Dear Indiana: Please Recognize Federal Laws About Same-Sex Partners

As an Indiana resident, I’m upset that not only is gay marriage still not legal in my state, but that the federal law to extend visitation rights to same-sex partners is not being recognized here. Recently, a woman living in Indianapolis was hospitalized while unconscious, and her (female) partner has been banned from visiting her bedside because the unconscious woman’s mother disapproves of their relationship. A 2010 federal law specifies that even in states where gay marriage isn’t yet legal, hospitals that accept Medicare and Medicaid must extend same-sex partner visitation rights. But that clearly hasn’t happened here. That needs to change. Continue Reading →

Comparing “Real Food” And “Real Women” Rhetoric

We’ve all seen the “real women” memes: “Real women have curves,” and so on. There’s been some pushing back against these ideas, which I think is useful, since holding up one category of womanhood as more “real” than another is ultimately essentializing and harmful. This intriguing blog post, Real Food, draws a parallel between the “real women” meme and arguments about “real food,” arguing that this logic is problematic on several levels. First, the “real food” rhetoric tends to be very judgmental: I’ve met very few people who make personal choices of the “real food” persuasion without also pressuring those around them…without also proclaiming that the foods most people rely on to survive are inherently inferior…without also implying that the reason the rest of us are fat, or poor, or don’t have shiny hair, or don’t walk around perpetually bathed in magical sunbeams of happiness, is entirely because we eat the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad food — the food that is not Real. The same thing goes for femininity and “real” women. Continue Reading →

Let’s List How Feminism Hurts Men

I’m a fan of satirical role reversals in rhetoric, as with this list of how to end sexual assault by limiting men’s freedom. Now there’s a list of all the ways in which feminism hurts men. We see examples like “Because of feminism, all birth control is covered for women without question or debate, while men have to fight to get insurance companies to pay for their Viagra prescriptions” and “Because of feminism, it’s hard to find a movie with a heroic male lead anymore.” It really makes you think, doesn’t it? Since all of the examples are so obviously exaggerated… Continue Reading →

Why Can’t We Just Talk About Sex?

I’m annoyed at our sex-phobic culture a lot of the time, for a lot of reasons, but today it’s specifically because we consider it taboo to talk about sex outside of a few limited contexts. When is it okay to talk about sex? Presumably with one’s partner(s) – though in the mainstream culture it’s assumed that in order to talk about sex you’re heterosexually married and pursuing sexual activities as a way to procreate. And in theory you should be able to discuss sex with your medical professionals, especially if you’re experiencing a disorder that’s sexual in nature (genital pain, trying to conceive, etc.). Otherwise, there aren’t many socially acceptable venues in which to openly and honestly discuss sex. 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 →