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May 28 2013

Peer Educators Teach Sex Ed In Cleveland

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by thepleasurechest

cleveland

We’ve talked before on this blog about the need for an alternative to the abstinence-only sex education model, an approach that places importance on consent, communication and practical information. In a welcome move last week, Illinois lawmakers voted to make discussion of birth control mandatory in its sex education classes. Today, we learned about an unusual program run by Case Western University in Cleveland, where teens are trained to teach other about sex and responsibility.

During an after-school program at St. Martin de Porres Family Center on Cleveland’s East Side earlier this year, a freshman voiced his confusion during a talk about safe sex:

“You mean, if she’s drunk or high and says, ‘Yes,’ that’s still rape?” 

Several of the boy’s friends sitting nearby seemed nearly as incredulous, silently shaking their heads in agreement with the question.

Standing in front of the nearly 20 teens, mostly boys, 18-year-old senior Scott Traylor confirmed in a steady voice: “That’s rape.”

Traylor is one of four peer educators trained to help combat a local rise in STIs among teens, but as the above passage indicates, consent is also a big part of the curriculum.

As part of their training, peer educators are trained by medical professionals, sit in on sex education classes and learn self defense to help build their confidence. Peer educators are recruited directly from the communities where they teach and classes are in high demand. To read more about this promising program, read the full story at The Plain Dealer.

h/t Jezebel

 

May 23 2013

Illinois Dumps Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

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by thepleasurechest

condomsLast week, our own Sarah Tomchesson made the case for a sex-positive alternative to the abstinence model of sex education. Yesterday, Illinois lawmakers took a big step in the right direction, by mandating discussion of birth control in all sex ed classes in the state’s public schools.

Gawker reports:

Previously schools had three options when it came to sex ed: abstinence-only classes, comprehensive classes covering both abstinence and safe sex, or no sex ed classes at all. Thanks to the new measure, which Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign into law, schools will now have to either teach the comprehensive sex ed courses or avoid sex ed altogether.

It’s a start. In the meantime, those young people in less enlightened states can always find help at Scarleteen.

May 16 2013

Consent is Sexy: How Pleasure-Centered Education Can Help to Dismantle Rape Culture

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by thepleasurechest

Tomchesson picThis is a guest post by Sarah Tomchesson, The Pleasure Chest’s Director of Business Development and Strategy.

Introducing the concept of pleasure into sex education geared toward young adults has long been frowned upon and rarely implemented with the exception of a few progressive models. Instead, the United States has largely adopted risk-focused education since the federal government’s first allocation of funds for sex education after World War I, when the spread of syphilis and gonorrhea posed a real public health issue. The HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 80s and 90s reinforced the need for sex education as a public health necessity, specifically STD-focused education (more appropriately known now as STIs).

As we know, some contemporary sex education curricula teach that abstinence is the only viable means to avoid pregnancy or contracting an STI. And, wow, nothing is sexier than abstinence! As if taking anything remotely sexual out of the teaching will make young folks ignore their own budding sexuality. This method of sexuality education is misguided. Ignoring the amazing plethora of nerve endings in our genitalia and throughout our bodies, avoiding discussion of self exploration and skipping over how to talk about sex with a partner, does not make kids want sex less. It does not empower them to make healthy choices about their or their partners’ bodies; it does not equip them for their first time (or their first 20 times) and I think it most definitely contributes to the prevalence of rape culture in our society.

abstinence

This pleasure-denying approach to sex education in the US suggests that we are trying to socialize physiological urges out of young folks’ bodies through fear tactics. This method may be helping some of our youth avoid pregnancy and STIs, but ultimately it is putting a lot of them at risk. We are not providing young people with a healthy alternative to the powerful and often disparate messages they receive about sex and sexuality through the internet, music, sports-culture, celebrity-culture, politics and religious institutions.

Sluthood is simultaneously exalted and stigmatized in mainstream media. Similarly, virility and “manliness” is glorified. Viagra and Cialis commercials are now ubiquitous. Politicians are regularly caught cheating. Female professionals are still judged by looks and sex appeal first, effectiveness second (Kamala Harris IS the best-looking Attorney General after all, right?). Professional athletes get sexual assault cases dropped left and right. Stuebenville High School has just extended their football coach’s contract for two years even while the grand jury has convened to determine his culpability in a 2012 sexual assault case (!) In this context, where sexuality is omnipresent but rarely meaningfully discussed and where there is limited access to sexuality education, particularly on the topic of consent, objectification, rape and sexual assault have become normalized. Unfortunately, most sex education curricula do not provide a viable alternative to the disempowering and pervasive model of sexuality provided by our culture.

skirt

Pleasure-centered education can provide our youth with meaningful tools to help them navigate one of, if not the most, vulnerable parts of their identity. As a sex educator, who teaches from a pleasure-based perspective I understand how complicated and loaded the concept of pleasure can be, even to adults. However, to embrace a healthy model of sexuality in which consent is a key piece one must be able to wrap their head around the vast pleasure possibilities consent unlocks. The model of sexuality that our culture constructs is unattainable because within it exists an irresolvable conflict between repression and overstimulation. I believe that introducing the concept of pleasure is essential to educating on consent and can offer a significant alternative to the current “one size fits all” model of sexuality. Empowering people to understand their sexuality and showing them the ways their bodies are built for pleasure, encourages them to seek out the sex that is right for them and to reject sex that hurts or is unsatisfying.

In a pleasure-based model, exploration of one’s own body is at the core of the ideology and anatomy is taught from the perspective of the potential of the different nerve endings in the body. Anatomy lessons serve as a tool for individual empowerment. Education on the ways our bodies are wired for orgasm is especially important for young women who are discouraged by society’s messaging to enjoy sex, and who have largely been denied permission to be sexual or to have sexual needs for fear of being labeled a slut.

vaginalodor

Also, women are not taught to have pride for their genitals in the same way that a lot of men come to love and readily explore their penises. Just watch any feminine hygiene or douching commercial and you will see the deep shame that we as a society feel about the vulva. Likewise, the inherent power of the penis is ingrained in young men, but we are not teaching them that possessing a penis does not entitle them to pleasure any way they want it, whenever they want it.

Pleasure-based curriculum approaches sex from the perspective of mutual pleasure, through detailing the body’s pleasure map and also by laying out a framework for safe exploration in relationships through strong communication. Demonstrating how to negotiate sex with a partner, what you like and don’t like, provides an excellent opportunity for meaningful discussion about what consent means and what it looks like in practice. The affirmative consent model where only “yes” means “yes” is perfectly positioned in pleasure-centered education. Introducing consent in this context, where the goal is greater pleasure for both partners, makes it sexy and helps elucidate how sex with a consenting partner is always more satisfying.

consentissexy

The problem with risk-focused or abstinence-only sex education is that the concept of mutuality is absent; the curriculum has been disinfected of any remnants of sexiness. Young people know that when sex education focuses solely on negative outcomes that something is missing. In the absence of comprehensive and affirmative education they will seek out information where none has been provided. The sexuality resources that are most readily available and accessible are not promoting consent, sex-positivity or contributing to a rape-free culture.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not arguing that “Blow Jobs 101” or “The Ultimate O: Achieving Multiple Orgasms” is appropriate curriculum for teenagers.  However, recent events at Occidental College, USC, Amherst, Stuebenville High School and in the military demonstrate that rape culture is alive and well. These events highlight that people are entering their sexually active years with little to no understanding of what informed consent is.

sexed

There are age-appropriate ways to sexually empower our youth and it is a priority that we do so. One great example of progressive education is Planned Parenthood Los Angeles’ pilot health program, which includes an educational curriculum for students and parents that is paired with health resources and peer advocacy on high school campuses. Another is Dr. Laura Berman’s Sex Ed Handbook for parents (PDF), which encourages discussion in the home from a young age. Young people are confused about their sexuality and their bodies and are becoming confused adults. Hopefully, some will find their way to a sex-positive or pleasure-centered workshop in adult life but many will not.

Our sex education has sheltered young people by focusing on risk and denying pleasure while the rest of society bombards them with a precarious model of sexuality. This combination is not working for us anymore. It is time that we introduce pleasure, and with it sexy consent, into more sex education curricula.

To read more about how young people are combating rape culture, read our previous post on the Know Your IX campus movement. 

Apr 29 2013

Know Your IX

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by thepleasurechest

In 2010, a study by the Department of Justice found that 1 in 4 women will become a victim of rape while attending college. Given this reality, it’s disturbing that so many universities seem unwilling or unable to address rape culture on campus. Student activists from around the country are starting to push back, demanding more education about rape, more support for survivors and better training for people handling sexual assault claims.

Their cause got a boost in 2011 when the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights sent a letter to all colleges clarifying that “sexual harassment of students, which includes acts of sexual violence, is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX.” The 1972 law has been at the center of numerous battles over equality in college sports, but is now fueling anti-rape organizing on college campuses.

ixThe activist collective Know Your IX has launched a national education campaign to help students understand their legal rights. They’re currently raising money to launch a website, a social media campaign and print advertising in student newspapers, before the start of the fall school year. If you’d like to help, check out their Indiegogo page and share the link to this video.

 

Apr 22 2013

Adult Film Industry Organizes Against Proposed State Law Mandating Condoms in Porn

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by thepleasurechest

unclesamLast November, Los Angeles voters approved Measure B, a law requiring condoms for all porn shoots in LA County. While that law faces appeal, there’s a new challenge to California’s adult film industry. Assembly Bill 332 would enforce a statewide requirement for condoms on all adult film sets.

Our friends at the Free Speech Coalition argue that, if passed, AB 332 would drive the industry out of California. There’s some evidence for this. Since the passage of Measure B, applications for porn film permits in Los Angeles have plummeted, with productions moving to nearby Ventura County. In LA, “only two permits have been issued for pornographic filming so far this year, far off pace for an industry that typically gets about 500 permits annually.”

Aside from the economic impact of a ban, the FSC emphasizes that the adult industry already has effective protocols to protect performers.

“Between April of 2006 and December of 2012 there have been 46,283 new cases of HIV reported in the state of California.  During that same time period only two performers contracted HIV—off set—in their personal lives.  No transmission of HIV has occurred on an adult set since 2004 nationwide.”

They also point out that the bill interferes with a pending lawsuit filed by Vivid Entertainment, challenging the constitutionality of Measure B. Rather than pass yet another law making it harder for the adult industry, the state should wait to see what happens with the suit against Measure B.

The FSC is encouraging friends of the adult film industry to contact members of the Assembly State Labor Committee by phone, fax or email, asking them to oppose AB332 when it comes up for up a vote this Wednesday. The call to action, along with suggested talking points and contact information for the committee members can be found here.

 

Apr 19 2013

2 Inspiring Videos from New Zealand’s Historic Vote For Marriage Equality

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by thepleasurechest

This has been a week packed with grim news, so it was easy to miss this bright spot. On Wednesday, New Zealand’s parliament overwhelmingly voted for marriage equality. If you’re keeping score, this is the 14th country where it’s now legal for gay and lesbian couples to marry. And if you haven’t done so already, please watch this wonderfully funny speech by New Zealand MP Maurice Williamson in support of the bill.

When the final vote was announced, the House of Representatives burst into applause. A few moments later, as Boing Boing reports, “observers in the gallery and MPs on the floor burst into song, a stirring rendition of “Pokarekare Ana,” an NZ love song that dates back to WWI.” Watch these videos and try not to smile.

h/t @celtipag

 

Apr 11 2013

Racism in the Porn Industry

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by thepleasurechest

porn

Is the porn industry racist? That’s the headline of this interesting article in The Root, which talks to porn legend Lexington Steele on the challenges faced by black porn performers. One of the biggest issues is that many white female performers will not do scenes with black men. These biases exist in spite of the enormous popularity of interracial porn. Steele explains:

 “It’s definitely something that exists, and I think it’s something that’s built within the fabric of the industry, because if you look at the individuals that are in positions of authority over some of the white females, the ones governing them are the ones implementing this practice of no interracial.”

The article goes on to discuss other problems encountered by people of color in the industry. Black women are typically paid less than white women, a claim backed up by porn star Misty Stone. To read more, click on over to The Root.

Apr 09 2013

The Trans 100

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by thepleasurechest

trans100

Just over a week ago, trans folks and their allies marked the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Today, awareness of trans activism gets another big boost with the publication of the Trans 100, a diverse list featuring profiles of 100 trans folks making a difference in their communities.

The brainchild of We Happy Trans’ Jen Richards and Antonia D’orsay, executive director of This Is How, the Trans 100 represents an effort — which will hopefully be reflected across the LGBT community — to break down implicit (and explicit) transphobia in media coverage by highlighting the diversity of trans Americans.

We’re proud to see a few folks we know on this list and inspired by the many we have just learned about. See the whole list at Buzzfeed.

Apr 20 2012

Time Capsule Videos for LGBTQ Youth

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by thepleasurechest

This is cool! You’ve probably seen plenty of It Gets Better videos and many versions of the Shit People Say meme. But today, we came across two viral videos on the web that make a great double bill of inspiration for LGBTQ youth.

First up, young members of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance record video messages for their 40 year-old selves. Then, watch members of the Canadian group Get Real send messages to their 7th grade selves.

(h/t Queerty & Buzzfeed)