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The Ugly Truth — TW & CW: Abuse

“I wish I had known that abuse doesn’t look the same for everyone”

. . .

After just meeting Sam last year, I felt as if I had known them my whole life. We shared a lot of the same interests, down to even briefly sharing the same minors. By chance, I sat next to Sam on the first day, in one of my favorite classes of the year. Had they not reached over and explained they were bad at making friends, we would have never communicated again. Knowing so little about them but feeling compelled to bond, I sat next to them day after day. We shared our notes, hung out after class, and even sometimes just sat together in the Memorial Union without as much as saying a word to each other. Their company felt quiet, understanding, and sometimes stressfully erratic. To this day we sit for long periods of time discussing our aspirations, evaluating our feelings and goals in life. Sam has shared their experiences around sex ed in-depth with me, even though there wasn’t very much to share. Sam’s sex ed was similar to all my interviewees, who occurred in middle to high school, had no queer education, and they mostly gathered other info via the internet. They had a great group of friends in which they confirmed all findings with, but even then, they felt it wasn’t enough. For years Sam struggled with their identity and sexuality, never allowing themselves to process what it would be like to not be cis or het. With little information on adequate sex education and few comfortable spaces to talk about such things, Sam fell into a terrible and abusive situation. 

. . .

1. How do you define your sexuality?

I used to always identify as bisexual, but that term is lacking for me now. I could very well just be attracted to anyone, regardless of who it is. Being in a relationship with a trans person, and not really feeling a change of attraction once they came out to me seems like the general reaction I would have with others. 

2. How did you come to define your sexuality?

I internalized it for a long time. I used to watch stuff about gay people being treated so bad and it resonated so deeply. But I never wanted to speak on how I felt. I hid my feelings; it was a really long process for me. High school was just the moment, I didn’t care what happened. I said who I was and didn’t care to see how people reacted. Whatever I am I know it’s not heterosexual.

3.   How do you define your gender?

I’m a woman but I wouldn’t argue with other pronouns being used on me that I’m aware of. I just don’t want to take away from people who struggle to have those different pronouns, so I guess I would just always identify as a she/they.

4.      How did you come to define your gender?

I didn’t and I don’t think I’ll ever truly define myself as anything other than queer because I don’t struggle to bond exclude any labels. 

5.        What did your virginity mean to you if anything?

My virginity didn’t mean anything to me at first. I am an open person, and I wanted to have sex, so I did. If my friends wanted to hear about it, I’d just tell them. I was kind of in a rush to do it, because, at the time, I had been in a relationship for a while with my ex who was about 8 years older. People always wondered what was happening, but I just wanted to please him so badly. My mindset was solely focused on proving to him that I was as mature as he thought I was.  I really didn’t realize I was in an abusive relationship then. Me having sex at first meant nothing, but with the abuse and manipulation, it was turned into something I couldn’t get out of for years. 

6.      Were you influenced by family, religion, or other things that limited your sexuality/gender/ or expression of sex?

I never felt pressured to act differently but I did feel really pressured by my parents to talk about having sex. I think it’s because at the beginning of my first relationship they suspected some abuse. I always lied about his age and never brought him around because he didn’t want to be judged. As time went on, I put on a mask and everything seemed fine, so I never talked about it. I hid my sexuality to my family until college because they were all conservative. My sister was the first to know, well actually I told my abuser and with his response, I hid it longer. Then I told my parents in my last year of college. 

7.       What is one thing you wish you’d known sooner?

I wish I had known that abuse doesn’t look the same for everyone. That you can’t talk people out of a relationship like that. A lot of the time you can provide resources, but I learned quickly that after I survived, my friend was going through the same thing, and no matter what I did to try to get her out, I couldn’t. It wasn’t the same so I just re-lived trauma alongside her until she could get out too. 

8.       What is one nonsexual thing you find sexual?

Tattoos. 

9.     What is an interesting sexual experience you’ve had (whether alone or not), that you’d like to talk about?

I attended a party with my best friend. My best friend and I decided it’d be fun to have a foursome, so for the remainder of the night, we ran upstairs and had very loud and obnoxious sex. 

10.    What do you wish you knew more about sex?

I think I’ve always been very informed about sex. It’s never been an issue really, but one thing I wish I were exposed to more of was body hair. I was unable to allow my natural body hair to be natural in my relationship, so I just wished I had seen more normalization of it before. 

11.     Is there anything you do that you feel is different from the norm?

I feel like there isn’t something that isn’t normal. You do what you get pleasure from and that can be your norm as long as it’s consensual.

12.   Do you think your sex falls within the heteronormative, why, or why not?

As a polyamorous person who now engages in queer relationships, I feel like my sex is not heteronormative. 

13.    How do you care for yourself whether before, during, or after sex? 

Shower, brush teeth, pee before and after. 

14.    Is there any advice you’d give to others?

Do what you want with your body. Whether it’s a learning process or you know what you want. Get therapy if you’ve ever been put in a situation that you’re not comfortable with.

15.     Have you ever had sex for items, money, etc.?   

I’m pro-sex-work but no.  

. . .

Writing this interview may have been the hardest one so far. When I started this series, I was prepared for my friends and even strangers to divulge their sexual information. I was prepared to provide resources, they’d light on stigmas, and even bring awareness to certain things folks experience. After weeks of it sitting in my drafts, I thought I’d be prepared for this article to come out. But even as I’m writing this now, I am struggling with wanting to share my friend’s story and wanting to scrap it while I run frantically around the world trying to stop these things from happening. 

I am not shy or new to seeing or hearing of abuse, but I am new to sharing it on a platform in which I have created to uplift everyone’s pleasure and confidence. What I came to realize was that this was Sam’s way of doing the same. Sam speaks on these issues to raise awareness, to uplift others who are going through the same things, and to simply share their truth. That’s why I thought it was important to share regardless of the feelings that it may bring whilst writing it. 

For the next few parts of my discussion section, I will talk more in-depth about abuse, resources, and statistics. Feel free to read when you can, or not at all. 

TW:// Abuse, harm, and click warning. 

1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the united states have experienced rape in their lifetime. On average, 20 people per minute report having been physically abused by an intimate partner in the US (CDC). 

Nearly half of all women and men in the US will experience some form of psychological aggression via an intimate partner (OJP). 

“Domestic violence and abuse stem from a desire to gain and maintain power and control over intimate partners” (NDV). The issue is that many of these statistics look at one form of abuse: the physical kind. Yet, this is not the only form of abuse folks encounter. There are four types of violence one may endure physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and neglect (Saferspaces).

Physical violence may include but is not limited to uses of physical force to cause injury, harm, disability, or even death. Sexual violence may include but is not limited to sexual acts being committed or attempted against a victim who has not given consent, who is unable to consent or has revoked consent. Psychological, better known as emotional or mental abuse, can include verbal or nonverbal communication used to harm, threaten, or intimidate another person via implied or explicit exertion of control. Neglect (i.e. deprivation) is a type of abuse usually done by an individual who has the responsibility to care for another person that is unable to care for themselves. Neglect can look like restrictions of basic needs, attention, medical help, and other restrictive actions that can cause injury or even lead to death. 

All types of violence can lead to physical violence or psychological effects. According to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) creators and Office of Women’s Health (OWH), any form of abuse can lead to health problems down the line so it is imperative that we try our best to create safe spaces for victims. 

The best way to help someone dealing with domestic or interpersonal violence is usually not by involving the cops. If you are in a position in which you can preemptively educate the community, discussions of consent and boundaries are an essential topic for everyone to keep in mind. You could even provide the community with some support via donating to or advocating to start a local shelter, holding weekly advocacy meetings, or creating safe spaces for victims to decompress.

If you are witnessing an act of violence it is important that you only get involved if the situation does not pose a threat to your safety as well. Hotlines such as National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-723 can provide immediate advice if you are witnessing or dealing with violence yourself. 

Most websites will outline the following actions to take when witnessing an occurrence: 

Call the police 

Ask someone to intervene with you. There is strength in numbers.

Distract the victim. Pretend like you are a long lost friend, strike up a conversation, try to remove the abuser from the conversation (Source).

Be a friend. Get them to a safe space if they are willing to leave, talk with them about their options, and share as many resources as you can. You can even show them to your local domestic abuse shelter.

If you are having trouble separating the victim from the abuser, make a lot of noise. Making a lot of noise will draw attention to the abuse that is occurring and most likely sway the abuser to stop. 

It is also important to note that most of the time, involving the police will only exacerbate the situation or lead to the abuser’s retaliation later down the line. In most cases of domestic violence or rape, folks avoid reporting to the police (Source).  Be sure that if you are witnessing or dealing with such occurrences that you consider the best action to take at the moment. If you need external guidance or intervention but do not want to opt for calling the cops, hotlines, community groups, and domestic abuse social workers are great contact options.

Keep in mind that most of the time victims will return to their abusers an average of seven times before leaving (Source).  It is important that, as an outsider, you be patient with the victim. Make sure they consent to your help every step of the way and do not push their boundaries. Victims of abuse are already struggling with a lack of control over their decision making, and it is essential that those trying to help do not further remove their control by trying to “savior” them out of the abuse. Victims should have full knowledge and the ability to make decisions on what is best for them. The most we can do as outsiders is support them. 

. . .

Below are other resources you can utilize: 

https://www.domesticshelters.org/search#?page=1

https://staging.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-commonly-asked-questions/i-know-someone-who-s-being-abused-what-should-i-do-nbsp#.Wh3dRbaZPow

https://www.cpedv.org/domestic-violence-organizations-california

http://www.womaninc.org/education/

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No Wanking Way: Masturbation and Shame

By: Flora Oliveira

I always viewed sex as a two-person thing, and now when I try to do it on my own it’s not as enjoyable.”

. . .

Debby shines through her most honest self. Our conversations on sex were never few or far in between, but rather a topic we shared much comfortability. During this interview, Debby shared her experiences with an effortlessness, noting that she has grown in her comfort of discussing sex not only with others but also while around others. Although she mentions she struggled throughout her adolescence, Debby is striving to be the best medical professional she can be while breaking many of the traditional rules she is expected to follow. After being asked, she also noted that in her youth she received formal sex education in 7th grade and biology class but like others noted, it was fear-based (STD focused) and not sex-positive or LGBTQIA+ inclusive. Undeniably true to herself, in all her intelligence and brilliance, Debby demonstrates that although one can be comfortable with these conversations, it may not translate to one’s comfort with their own bodies. In her interview, she dives deeper on her perspective and experiences with masturbation.

. . .

How do you define your sexuality?

I would say I’m like 95% straight and 5% whatever the fuck because I feel like no one’s really 100% anymore, right? Sometimes I see girls and I’m like “oooo” but they’re usually masculine. I always wonder is my attraction just because of their masculinity? I don’t know, really.

How did you come to define your sexuality?

Trial and error. Like in high school I went through a phase. I know a “phase” has a negative connotation, but I think it was necessary. I say that as it’s not something that I ended up settling on, but it’s something I had to try for myself.

How do you define your gender? How did you come to define your gender?

I am a woman (she/her). That’s one thing I never really questioned so it’s just always been that way for me.

What did your virginity mean to you if anything?

It had different meanings and meant different things to me [throughout] my life. At first, I didn’t take it seriously. I knew the first person wasn’t going to be last but now I wish I had taken it more seriously. Now, I understand why people say to save it. You really don’t get it back, but I don’t think it’s as important or as serious as people make it out to be because that makes people scared. I do think you should take it seriously, and not give it away willy nilly though.

Were you influenced by family, religion, or other things that limited your sexuality/gender/ or expression of sex?

No. Nobody told me I had to be straight. My family is not religious, and also not that educated about LBTQIA+ like that, so there was no discussion in general. I was just free to think what I wanted with who I surrounded myself with outside of family. I wouldn’t say it was limited. If anything, what did limit me was my social awkwardness; otherwise, no limits.

What is one thing you wish you’d known sooner?

Damn… I don’t know man… I wish I just knew everything sooner. I think that would’ve made it easier for me to make a smarter decision on who I did it with. I think it would’ve been different if I just knew more about the sex in general. I would have made a more educated decision which mine was not.

What is one nonsexual thing you find sexual?

I’ve always had a thing about arms. Like nice toned arms, but not like muscly.

What is an interesting sexual experience you’ve had (whether alone or not) that you’d like to talk about?

I had sex on a hiking trail. We saw this treehouse zipline thing and decided it was a great spot to do it at. I also had sex in a public bathroom in baseball field but because it was gross, I didn’t touch anything. It was on our bucket list, and we did it just to say that we did. It was over in 10 minutes.

I feel like it was a fun thing to do. That’s the thing, sex doesn’t always have to be intimate. Especially if you’re in a relationship with someone and it’s someone that you trust, it really, truly, can just be for fun– another bonding experience to add to the list.

What do you wish you knew more about (sex-specific)?

I wish I knew more about masturbation. I always viewed sex as a two-person thing, and now when I try to do it on my own it’s not as enjoyable. It’ll never match up to having it with another person. It’s not sad but I feel like I’m missing out. I feel like that’s just how it is for me. I think it would have been nice to know things in general as a girl because I still don’t prioritize getting checked out. There was no dialogue about it whatsoever, and now I feel naturally uncomfortable to go to the gyno or doctor, even though I am an adult. I know sex-ed’s a thing in school, but I think lack of sex conversations and lack of [adequate] sex-ed creates more stigmas. Even having gone through sex-ed, I don’t feel comfortable going to the doctor. I didn’t find out about UTIs and yeast infections until recently. I thought yeast infections were explicitly caused by sex, but it isn’t; we don’t get taught that. That just makes things more complicated and you become so uncomfortable you can’t talk about sex. Growing up I always thought about going to go get checked out, but I never was comfortable asking my mom since I thought yeast infections were tied to sex. I couldn’t tell my parents because I thought there would be questions. I think it should be more of the normal thing to do, and even now, I know people who are sexually active but think home remedies work. They were also never taught correctly and couldn’t ever talk to people about it.

Is there anything you do that you feel is different from the norm?

I feel like I’m as normie as it gets. I used to and still think it’s more intimate to have oral sex than penetrative sex. I don’t know if that’s weird or not…

When I first had sex I just wanted to have [penetrative] sex. I didn’t want to do any of the pregame stuff before sex because I didn’t know him that well. I don’t know, I always thought that was kind of weird.

Do you think your sex falls within the heteronormative, why, or why not?

Yeah, because it is. I’ve only had sex with a guy, and I identify as a girl.

How do you care for yourself whether before, during, or after sex?

I don’t. Some people always shave before, and I don’t give a fuck. I just shower and brush my teeth before, and after.

Is there any advice you’d give to others?

I would say make sure it’s with someone you know a little bit. It’s not just a trust thing but you don’t want to be vulnerable to someone you don’t know. I feel like it’s more enjoyable with someone you know to some degree. I feel like casual is fine but if you really don’t know someone, it may not be as enjoyable if you really don’t know the person. Just be safe.

Have you ever had sex for items, money, etc.?

This is going to get a little serious, but it wasn’t explicitly said that we would do this for this. It was more suggested in there like you’ll do this for something (maybe). I don’t think it should be that way, especially if it’s like the situation I was in. I don’t think you should have sex unless you really don’t mind and want to. You should be having sex for your own enjoyment, and then later if you don’t mind and you really want money, lunch, whatever then that’s fine. I feel like if that’s how you start, you’ll always view it as an exchange.

. . .

To all my readers and interviewees this is an open letter to y’all:

Masturbation is completely, unequivocally NORMAL. Masturbation is a version of safe sex. Whether you choose to dip your toes (or fingers) into the water, it is all completely your decision.

I want to emphasize that we often stigmatize everything we think must be private, but masturbation doesn’t have to be a single person thing.

Until recently, I also stigmatized masturbation. *Shocking, right? *

NOT!

From a very young age, and I mean YOUNG like a toddler young, most of us are taught that touching our genitals is evil, forbidden, and even shameful. But what we did not know is that masturbation is healthy and actually a part of every child and teen’s development.

From an early age, children learn to pair good sensations with their genitals. Believe it or not, children learn to explore their bodies like they explore most things — by rubbing, touching, or pulling on it. There are actual ultrasounds and research to show that even fetuses do it in utero (learn more here  or here). If the thought of everyone masturbating in their parent’s tummy doesn’t prove masturbation to be normal, I don’t know what else to tell you.

Just kidding, here’s a few more reasons it’s perfectly normal and awesome:

Masturbation can be a great way to learn what’s best for your body. Masturbation can help you find out what you like or do not like so that you can tell your partner, get specific toys, and/or find a good lube for yourself. It also has health benefits. It relieves stress, period cramps, pains, and for some it brings on orgasms (study on this here)!

According to a study published on Insider, daily masturbation can benefit your heart. In folks over the age of 65, masturbation has been shown to lower hypertension and rapid heart rate (link to Insider HERE). It has also been noted that after orgasming, folks stated their skin cleared, their sense of smell improved, and research also shows that their stress, anxiety, and depression levels lowered (research for this HERE).

Now, even though both you and I know that masturbation is normal and good for our bodies, we still must acknowledge the social stigmas and implications that exist around masturbation. It is essential that within an adequate discussion of sex education, stigmas and discomforts are addressed. Masturbation and discussions about  masturbation have always been treated as a shameful act within our society. Masturbation is often not discussed, labeled as “dirty” or “gross,” and it is definitely not included in our current sex education. Often conversations regarding masturbation surround ideas that masturbation causes mental health issues, leads to sexual inadequacies, or simply is sinful.

These myths are ingrained in our society in part because of how society polices bodies, but also because of the medical attitudes and origins of masturbation. Western culture adopted the idea that sex was impure unless done for the purpose of procreation or a man’s enjoyment. That positioned male pleasure at the center of sex, while it positioned family and purity at the center of women’s relation to sex. This ideology coupled with medicine was seen as having adverse effects as early as the 20th century when doctors attributed a women-only disorder named “hysteria” to symptoms such as outbursts, frustration, nervousness, and any form of sexual desire. Essentially, women who did not center their whole lives around calmly cleaning the house, praising the husband, and raising the children, were defined as dealing with “hysterical paroxysm.” And the so-called cure-all? Doctors forcefully stimulated these women until they orgasmed and stopped acting in such ways.

Early discussions on masturbation were common for men– they were acceptable. But when it came to women, it was seen as a sin, a symptom, and/or a disease. Ingrained in our society was the idea that masturbation is only acceptable at the hands of men. Even now, we see these ideas around masturbation being reinforced with stigmas and myths.

For a bit more fun, I asked my audience on Instagram to share with me what myths they had been told about masturbation, and here were the results:

Masturbation gives you Herpes.

It would cause your full body to blister.

“Me time” would cause your genitals to fall off.

Playing with your genitals would give you STDs.

Masturbation would stunt your growth and hormones.

Masturbation would make hair grow in between your fingers.

The elbow bump on your arm would grow significantly every time you masturbated

It would cause you to go blind 

And my favorite of all time…

Orgasms are finite. If you use them you lose me.

Just for those of you considering using these funny myths with your children: DON’T.

This is not how you teach people about masturbation! As we have seen, such myths and stigmatization around masturbation causes folks to create a bad relationship with it, even though it is completely normal. Shaming is not a form of protection.

As we have seen per my last article, shaming only causes youth to take more risk, increases STD probability, and can lead to self-harm. We should all know how to safely and privately masturbate without shame, fear, or misinformation.

There is nothing wrong with masturbation, there is nothing wrong with being familiar with your genitals, and there is certainly nothing wrong with getting regular genital checkups. In light of finishing this article, I challenge you, my reader, to combat the shame we feel around masturbation. Go tell everyone you know how healthy it is, how it relieves stress, and how there are no adverse side effects to masturbating.

Or you know, you can just go spend some time masturbating too.

Whatever floats your boat. Thanks for reading!

. . .

New York Times “Why Is Children’s Masturbation Such a Secret?”: HERE 

Research on child development and masturbation: HERE

Sexual Behaviors in children: HERE 

Planned Parenthood on masturbation: HERE

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Norwegian Sexcapade

“It ended up just being me, the Grindr guy, and his very attractive friend.

. . .

This week’s interview centers my friend, “Whorechata, ” who kept it short and entertaining. Just as fun as his pseudo-name and introduction picture, Whorechata is a vibrant nature enthusiast, who strives to open his own social plant shop. Whorechata shares a little of his personality by exposing his “homophobic republican ass teacher” who would not let him run for prom queen. According to his teacher, only girls can dream of receiving a tiara on prom night. Nonetheless, Whorechata, as salty as he still is about his high school experience, goes on to share his personal growth. Amongst discussing his queer self-acceptance, he acknowledged key challenges of the relentless system that excluded proper LGBTQIA+ sex ed. Thankfully, Whorechata was able to self-educate with the help of something most of us queer folk use when seeking inclusive sex ed– the internet.  Furthermore, he advises that self-comfort be a priority while also giving us a little insight on how far he’s cum in his process of living his best gay life. 

. . .

How do you define your sexuality and gender? How did you come to define your sexuality? How did you come to define your gender? 

I’m just a gay, cis-male. In middle school, I realized I found other guys attractive. I don’t know how to answer besides I just know.

What did your virginity mean to you, if anything?

It didn’t really mean much to me. I just had a hookup as my first sexual experience.

Is there anything you do that you feel is different from the norm?

 I don’t really prefer anal sex. Which I guess isn’t really weird, but it’s different in the norm in the gay community. Especially with being expected to be either a top or a bottom.

How do you care for yourself whether before, during, or after sex?

 Before sex, I shower and do some prep work so I can smell nice and be appealing to my partner. In turn, it increases my self-confidence.

During, I make sure the other person is enjoying it, and make sure I voice what I like too.

Were you influenced by family, religion, or other things that limited your sexuality, gender, or expression of sex?

I wasn’t really influenced by my family or religion in regard to repressing my sexuality and expression of it. I chastised myself because I was afraid of getting judged by my peers. Throughout high school, there weren’t any other gay kids. I remember, in PE class, my freshman year of high school, one of the football players and his friend came up to me asking if I was gay. They put me on the spot. That experience just reaffirmed my fear of the judgment I would face if openly gay. As for my family situation, it was basically a “don’t ask don’t tell” agreement. My parents never ask about my romantic life.  

What is an interesting sexual experience you’ve had whether alone or not, that you’d like to talk about?

The wildest thing I did happened when I was studying abroad in Norway. When I got to the Airbnb I decided to lay down and charge my phone before heading out. I hopped on Grindr and this guy hit me up almost immediately. He was at a pub nearby and asked if I wanted to get drinks with him and his friends. I was like hell yeah; I get to meet the locals! 

I went over and met up with them but when I went to order a drink, they asked to see my ID and proceeded to explain that they stopped serving alcohol to people under 20 at 6 pm. I told the guys that we went to a different bar. The Grindr guy ended up getting us shots that were like 60% proof. His 2 friends were asking me about America and what I was doing in Europe, and then a little bit later another very attractive friend showed up catching my attention. We all talked and then the 2 original friends excused themselves. It ended up just being me, the Grindr guy, and his very attractive friend.

At this point, I had like 2 of those strong ass shots and like 4 pints of beer. I was FEELING IT. So, the Grindr guy invites us over to his place to hang out. Were in his kitchen and he asked if I wanted a cookie. I had hella drunchies and so I had one. We talked for a bit and I noticed I felt something change. I felt weird and ended up realizing the cookie was an edible. He offered to have us sit in his room and when we got there, he introduced me to his “no clothing rules.” 

And that’s how I was in a three-way with two Norwegian guys.

There’s also a part 2 to this story. A few years later I went back to Norway to visit a different friend I made there. It was Independence Day, so I walked around town and ended up running into the guys again and relived the experience. 

Have you ever had sex for items, money, etc? 

Yes. I did it for fun though. I thought it’d be a cool story to tell later. 

Is there any advice you’d give to others?

I’d say do what’s comfortable, don’t feel like you need to do something you aren’t comfortable with just because you want to please your partner. Sex is about pleasure for both parties

What do you wish you knew more about sex?

That for anal sex it’s not like in porn where the top just sticks it in, and everything is good to go. In reality, you have to stretch otherwise it really hurts.

What is one thing you wish you’d known sooner?

 In high school, I shouldn’t have given a fuck and lived my best gay life.

. . .

A common theme discussed in the last two interviews has been a lack of LGBTQIA+ inclusive sex education and non-abstinence sex-education. At fault for this insufficient education are the systems in place which prioritize hetero-normality. This normality, or prioritizing of straight, white, cis, and abled body, sex drastically affects those who are excluded from these categories. The need for LGBTQIA+ sex-ed has always been silenced, but struggles told by the very voices affected, demonstrates the necessity for this topic. 

So why do we need a more inclusive version of sex education? Let’s break it down:

Abstinence focused sex-ed leads to avoidance, fear, and internalized struggles. By focusing on avoidance of sex, teens often get discouraged to ask questions in an educational setting. With half of national STD’s cases occurring in young people ages 15-24, we can see that this avoidance around the topic of sex does more harm than good (CDC). Abstinence only education has failed in delaying teens from having sex or reducing teen pregnancy, but one thing it has done is increase the risk of misinformation (Advocates). This misinformation produced by abstinence-only programs, is usually seen in how the programs “distort information about the effectiveness of contraceptives, misrepresent the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, treat gender stereotypes as scientific fact, and contain basic scientific errors”(2004 Government Reform Committee). With 37 states requiring some form of abstinence teaching, it is clear that the danger of misinformation will continue to affect not only straight youth, but especially LGBTQIA+ youth( Journal of Adolescent Health).

A big part of abstinence-based teaching is the idea that virginity and purity should be preserved. What this teaching fails to highlight is that virginity is a social construct made in part to control women and allow families to capitalize on marrying their “pure” daughters off. Although capitalizing on the purity of one’s daughter has been discarded in most cultures, I still found it relevant to ask what virginity meant to each interviewee. With interviewing a diverse group of individuals, it can be seen they all hold differentiating opinions on virginity. Each valid and respectable for themselves. The main point of this virginity question is one I feel the need to address. The point being, that although virginity may mean something to one person and nothing to another, each self-definition should be respected. Never should we judge, or impose our own views on others, and we shouldn’t require everyone to see virginity in the same light. The reason for addressing this is mainly to emphasize that sex is versatile, ever changing, and definitely not heteronormative. Even as a construct, virginity, and the greater topic of sex hold weight in our society.  

Trying to navigate non-inclusive sex ed as a kid while being LGBTQIA+ can lead to self-shame and alienation. Shame is not a motivating factor to be safe– it has been proven to do otherwise. Kids will experiment unsafely, and this can put them in non-consensual or dangerous positions. Everyone goes through puberty, masturbates, and feels some level of shame around such topics, but excluding necessary information shouldn’t be reinforced systematically.  

LGBTQIA+ exclusionary sex education, “others” students who may already be struggling with their identity. Not only will this form of exclusion lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, it also excludes several forms of sex experienced by all identities (i.e. oral, anal, fingering, self-pleasure, use of sex toys, etc.). The singular definition of sex being limited to penetrative vagina -penis sex, teaches sex as heteronormative and restricts individuals opportunities to redefine or re identify their sexuality. This is especially troubling for trans kids, given that not all women have vaginas and not all men have penises. The biological institutions of sex and gender in heteronormative sex education, leads to confusion about sex and gender being societal constructs too.  

With so much confusion LGBTQIA+ kids or teens will feel the need to refrain from asking questions, or even attempt to go to sources that are not safe or educational. Sex ed. is supposed to provide information on how to be safe and stay healthy yet with no teaching on dental dams, douching, proper use of condoms, or pleasure vs reproduction, health and safety are disregarded. With inclusive sex education everyone can define what sex means, looks like, and feels like to them, creating less problems and more openness in conversations on sex.  

Let’s be honest, reaching out to the internet for sex advice as a minor is not always the safest route. Everyone should be allowed to express their sexuality freely while knowing the ins and outs of being safe. Excluding whole groups of people or excluding necessary information is dangerous and can often erase the necessary information (i.e. consent). Along with not having adequate safe sex info, LGBTQIA+ youth can experience higher levels of STDs, UTIs, and other diseases. With 48% of trans youth having attempted suicide under the age of 26, and 59% of youth regularly self-harming, it is given that we need to provide better and safer information (Trevor Project and The Guardian). There should be an emphasis on doing what feels right for each individual, and that needs to include the LGBTQIA+ community.

Without the betterment of sex-ed, youth will most likely continue to face high levels of STD’s and UTI’s, self-harm, and suicide. Such inclusive information would eliminate confusion for all individuals seeking relevant information and they would have access to it without needing to fear stigmatization, bullying, or “othering” from peers or demeaning authority figures. We want to protect our youth; To do that we must teach them to be shame free, fear free, and educated on how to keep themselves, and their bodies healthy and safe.

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To learn more about inclusive sex education please see links below:

Prints, Webinars, and Other Resources Linked: HERE 

Learn more about general sex ed: HERE

Here why we need LGBTQ+ education TEDx talk by youth, Grace James: HERE 

Gay and Lesbian Sex- Ed Video: HERE 

Why is Abstinence A Problem video: HERE