So, this happened two years ago, but it's so fabulous (and sadly still so relevant) we wanted to share it. Here are the answers a 14-year-old girl gave on a condoms 'quiz.' Apparently, there was a list of responses provided that students had to match with objections. Clearly, that wasn't working for her and she wrote her own responses. The fact that she was suspended for it says everything you need to know about the sorry state of sex ed in the USA. OK, maybe the F-Bombs aren't cool for middle school, but she should have gotten an A for being so f-ing smart.
Mild spoilers ahead...
[Downton Abbey, above, and a 1924 conversation that could have taken place yesterday in Texas Anna: I'd like to buy one of these birth control thingies Shop Lady: Have you considered abstinence instead?
As a major sex geek and a rabid fan of Downton Abbey (check out our weekly podcast here), I've been loving the storyline around Lady Mary Crawley's Liverpool tryst and the birth control she asked Anna to buy and hide. I've also been fascinated with the Twitter conversations debating what that book was (Marie Stopes' Wise Parenthood, likely) and what Anna was asked to buy (a diaphragm or cervical cap, although someone thought it was a used condom - ewww!)
The New York Academy of Medicine has a great article about British scientist (and cat lover) Marie Stopes, whose work helping women control their reproduction and have a more enjoyable sex life, got her both lauded and banned (much like the US's Margaret Sanger).
They write (our boldface):
Stopes (1880-1958), a paleobotanist and campaigner for women’s rights, was the author of numerous books on social welfare, many concerning birth control (see Peter Eaton’s valuable checklist for a complete list). Married Love was a kind of self-help book designed to help couples understand each other’s physical and emotional needs. When it was published in March 1918, post-war women embraced the book. The initial 2,000 copy run sold out in the first fortnight. Eaton counts 28 editions, and translations into more than a dozen languages. By 1921, sales had topped 100,000 copies. An early ban of the book in America on obscenity charges was overturned in 1931, by the same judge who overturned the ban on James Joyce’s Ulysses.
In addition to lawsuits, the publication ofMarried Love prompted fan letters containing many questions. Women wanted more specific instructions on birth control methods. Stopes obliged eight months later, with the publication of Wise Parenthood in November 1918.
By the early 1920s, Stopes made advocacy of birth control for the working classes her biggest cause. In 1921, Stopes opened the first British family-planning clinic in north London. A staff comprised of both male and female nurses and doctors offered free birth control advice. By 1925, the clinic moved to central London, and instituted a mail-order birth control service (note to Anna Bates: for future reference, that mail-order service could save an awkward moment or two).
Although the mail order service would have potentially spared Anna some embarrassment, it would have deprived us of the great scene in the shop, and Anna running off without the instructions but with her consciousness seriously raised.
As we've joked on the podcast, considering that Lady Mary can't even put on a necklace by herself, how would she sort out the cervical cap insertion? Would inserting and removing birth control be just another part of a Lady's Maid's job description? And considering that Lady Mary lives in a 200,ooo sq foot house (give or take) why ask Anna to hide it in her two-room cottage? But that's a question for another blog.
So honored to have our V-Card sharing space with Feminist Ryan Gosling at Sewanee University of the South after my "How To Lose Your Virginity Myths" lecture at the Bairnwick Women's Center Pinnacle Luncheon. Want me to come to your school? More info here.
"There are no “but”s when it comes to women’s humanity. Not “but” you’re lonely, not “but” you’re horny, not “but” you’re nice, not “but” that’s how your grandparents met, not “but” she was naked in your bed. Women are people, and women just get to exist and set boundaries and say no. Always. Any time. Just like you."
Lindy West's essay for the Daily Dot is so powerful in the way it elegantly connects the dots between online harassment, rape culture, pick-up artists, and the way women are socialized to be 'kind' and 'receptive.' It's a must-read.
Among the many reasons to watch the new CW show Jane The Virgin (aside from the amazing Gina Rodriguez) is the show's sex positive and pro-choice messages, which Cosmo points out is a big step forward for the Latina community.
"A TV show can't change everything about how the Latino community talks about sex and reproductive rights, but it's heartening to see one that reflects the change that's already happening. And while Jane's decision may ultimately not have been your decision, it's a decision she was able to make — not her mother's, not her grandmother's, not her boyfriend's. The show hasn't trivialized or moralized abortion talk; it's normalized it."
I especially love the show for the way it portrays real-life abstinence choices, freely made with actual information, as well as the way it confounds the stereotypes around 'older' virginity. OK, at 23, Jane isn't at all old, but you all are sending me older virgin emails at 19. So. Also, I have a special crush on vain but hilarious Telenovela star Rogelio De La Vega played by Jaime Camil. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch it here for free!
Turkish news outlet The Hurriyet Daily News reports that some Turkish schoolbooks have replaced diagrams of genitalia with cute photos of mothers and baby animals. While pictures of baby polar bears definitely help SEO, they have no place in science books. It's just another disturbing instance of Turkey's increasing conservatism under Erdogan, but keep in mind these censored Turkish sex ed texts are not unlike US abstinence programs which erase information about contraception and gay people–when they're not vilifying them, that is. I hope they still have Our Bodies, Ourselves.
The Telegraph reports that women who are trying to join Indonesia's police force are routinely subjected to 'virginity' testing. The women report that
“My group of about 20 girls was asked to enter the hall and was asked to take off our clothes, including our bras and underpants,” a 19-year-old woman told the organisation. “It was humiliating. Only those who had menstruation can keep [wearing] underpants… A female doctor did the virginity test ... the 'two-finger' test."
The story makes a point of asking what virginity has to do with good police work, but fails to mention that any and all so-called virginity tests don't test anything except how retrograde and ignorant the testers are. Aside from that, these tests were supposed to be abolished in Indonesia in 2010–and they are a violations of human rights.
The UK's Wellcome Collection is doing a year-old exhibit on sexuality called “The Institute of Sexology”, which they describe as:
"a candid exploration of the most publicly discussed of private acts. Undress your mind and join us to investigate human sexuality at 'The Institute', the first of our longer exhibitions. Featuring over 200 objects spanning art, rare archival material, erotica, film and photography, this is the first UK exhibition to bring together the pioneers of the study of sex."
I love their NSFW video, which makes the study of sex look classy and illicit at the same time, with scads of naked bodies and naughty words. Totally worth the trip to London, in my opinion!
From Autostraddle's Rebel Girl series, 5 Bad Theories on Gender and Sex From Way Back When That Still Impact us Today, from with the totally bogus universal theory of gender difference, making European women's bodies the 'normal,' and the ongoing pathologization (is that a word?) of female sexuality.
"The American Psychiatric Association didn’t drop the term hysteria until the 1950s, and hysterical neurosis remained there into 1980. The impacts of the mass misdiagnosis are far-reaching: women today are still labeled “crazy,” and it’s a seemingly natural part of our gender roles."
On the plus side, we got vibrators.
Researchers at Indiana University have just released the very large and very comprehensive National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). With responses from 5,865 people ages 14 to 94, the survey asked about frequency of sex, types of partners, paying for sex and even how much pleasure or pain they got from sexual activity. The always-interesting Cory Silverberg at About:Sexuality spent the weekend with the report (bless his heart) is doing several posts on this gigantic study, the first of which includes some of the highlights (and the entire thread is here.) His posts explore both the good and questionable data, and he makes the point that some of this information has been known to health educators for a while now, but not to the general public.
Unfortunately, he hasn't done anything on age of first sexual experience or the number of non-sexually-active respondents, but that may come in later posts or papers. You can click here for a chart on different sexual activities by age. If you want to do your own research, you can download the first nine papers here.
Here are some of Cory's and our highlights:
Not all teenagers are the same. By collecting data from adolescents age 14 and up, the survey foregrounds the transition moment between the ages of 16-17 and 18-19, where teenagers show a huge leap in both kind and frequency of sexual activities. To offer one example, twice as many women between 18-19 report having had oral sex, vaginal intercourse, and anal sex as women who are 16-17. The data also let us see that condom rates also drop during this transition, in some groups by as much as 50% between the ages of 14-17 and 18-24.
53% of participants were with a romantic partner, 24% had a casual sex partner, and 9% had sex with a "new acquaintance"
Across age groups 6% of men and 30% of women reported some pain at their last sexual encounter. These percentages are striking both in terms of the sheer number of people they represent who are experiencing pain during sex, and the significant (but not surprising) gender discrepancy.
Overall 91% of men and 64% of women report having an orgasm at last sexual encounter. At the same time, 85% of men and 92% of women believed their partner had an orgasm the last time they had sex. These data can't be directly compared given the small group of people who have same sex partners, but the discrepancy, particular among men, is notable. Clearly more men think their partners are having orgasms than they are.
Read more at About:Sexuality.