Friday FREAK OUT! Sex Ed on the Daily Show

This week sexuality education got national attention on the ever-popular Daily Show. In Clark County, Las Vegas, teens are lobbying the school district to incorporate comprehensive sexuality education into the curriculum, sparking debate among teens and parents. One parent in particular, “Princeton mom” Susan Patton, has been vocal in her objection, stating that sex ed should not be taught in school at all, and that parents and faith leaders should be the ones teaching young people about sexuality.

The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper took a moment to interview not only Susan Patton, but also a group of teens to hear their input on what they want to learn about in sex ed and what questions they have, airing this past Wednesday:

In addition to providing some comedic relief, this story highlights several different freak outs that some people have about sex ed:

  • Teens freak out because they need and want information and resources they’re not getting. “Sex ed is really important because we need to be able to make healthy, responsible, educated decisions about our own bodies.” -Teen
  • Teens freak out because their parents aren’t great resources on sexuality. “Parents only know so much on this issue. Parents aren’t always there!” -Teen; “Thinking about my mom teaching me about the clitoris. I just vomited in my mouth a little bit.” -Jordan Klepper
  • Parents freak out because they don’t want their kids to get information about sex. “Nobody wants to talk about these facts, it makes them uncomfortable.” -Jordan Klepper
  • Parents freak out because they think that kids just want to have sex (in any interpretation of that broad term). “Do they really want knowledge or do they really want sex?” -Susan Patton
  • Parents freak out because they have to answer questions and provide information that they are not comfortable with. “If it’s that awkward for parents to talk to their children about sexual behavior, then you have to find a website, sit your child down in front of it and say, look, google it.” -Susan Patton
  • Teens freak out because their parents are freaking out.

Wow- lots of freaking out! (And that’s not even all the freak-outs!)

Really, sexuality education should be a multi-pronged approach (maybe not necessarily including the Wolf of Ball Street, the Daily Show’s fact based porn that will get you off…of unsafe sex). So in one regard, Susan Patton is right, that parents do need to talk openly and honestly with their kids about sexuality, relationships, decision-making, values and so on. AND kids need to learn critical information, facts and resources from teachers at school. AND faith communities can offer further learning environments that provide safe spaces for critical thinking and dialogue. AND as individuals we can learn more by reading books, utilizing web-based resources, and talking with friends and family members.

Sex ed should not exist in a vacuum, at only one time in only one place. We need to embrace a continued learning approach because we grow and change throughout our lives, gaining new experiences and perspectives along the way- especially in regards to sexuality. Let’s stop talking about sex ed as a “one and done” approach implemented by just one person. Sexuality education needs to be taken on by parents, teachers, faith leaders, AND the individual.

Kudos to the Daily Show, for showcasing the needs teens have for accurate information and making fun of the preposterous idea that sex ed does not belong in school.

50 Shades of Grey: I read it so you don’t have to

*Note to my readers: spoiler alert! If you don’t want to know what happens in the 50 Shades trilogy, I recommend not reading this post past the “Here Goes”.

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Every once in a while, a book will be so popular its influence is undeniable. For better or for worse, 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, is one of those books. Since its publication in 2011, over one hundred million copies of the book have been sold, and the film is about to hit the screens on February 13, 2015. In April 2012, Time magazine included author EL James in a list of “100 Most Influential People in the World”. 50 Shades of Grey is now a common household reference- it seems like everyone knows about it, and it’s safe to say a good chunk of people have read the series (or at least tried to).

What’s the big deal about 50 Shades? In a nutshell, it’s wildly popular trashy erotica. It originated as Twilight fan fiction, first posted under the title Master of the Universe with characters even named after Edward and Bella. After some push back on the sexual nature of the series, James removed the story from fan fiction sites and eventually posted the reworked original piece as 50 Shades of Grey. So its popularity most likely stems from the following first gained in the Twilight scene.

Is it any good? In my opinion (which I know many others share), the books are poorly written, lack character development, have painfully predictable plot lines, glorify some very unhealthy relationship behaviors, and the sex scenes are remarkably similar- you’ve read one or two, you’ve read them all. But I guess some people must like the books- or else how would they be so popular? Maybe people read them out of simple curiosity, maybe a socially acceptable way to learn more about BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominant/submissive, sadism/masochism) and/or read about sex, or maybe just because it was available at the right time in the right place. Or maybe because it’s somehow become socially acceptable to read this particular erotica- people are reading it on the subway, on airplanes, in waiting rooms.

Why did I read the series? I knew about the series well before picking the books up myself, and heard friends and colleagues say they tried to read it but couldn’t make it past the first few chapters. By the time I read the first book, 50 Shades was already part of regular conversations among sexuality educators. And I delved into them and read all three books for several reasons:

  • People kept on asking me about it. They know I’m a sexuality educator, and wanted to know what I thought. Therefore, I wanted to have an informed opinion.
  • I knew that my audience, my sex ed participants would have read 50 Shades or at least heard of it, and frankly I didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of them! Plus it’s helpful to have an idea of where your participants are coming from in terms of how/what they’ve learned about sex.
  • I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Why THIS book? What could be captivating people THIS MUCH?
  • To write this blog post, and provide a service to my fellow educators. Reading the series was annoying, frustrating, and left a bad taste in my mouth, and it’s THREE books. But sexuality educators NEED to know something about 50 Shades, because we can’t go around pretending it hasn’t impacted our culture on some level. So in this post I’m going to point out key components of the book that would be critical to know about in your role as an educator. (You can also read more on Wikipedia about the series.)

 

So here goes!  Continue reading

Friday FREAK OUT! UVA Sororities banned from frat parties: an ill-advised strategy

The University of Virginia, like many other colleges and universities nationwide, is struggling to address campus sexual assault. In the current climate, people feel called to take some action to prevent further assaults from taking place, and it seems that some of these actions are well-intentioned yet ill-advised.

The Washington Post reported this week that 16 of UVA’s sorority chapters in the National Panhellenic Conference were banned from attending fraternity parties this weekend in order to ensure their safety. Many students are outraged at this mandate, a decision that demonstrates an attitude that women are weak and need to be protected.

This action also neglects to hold those people who are engaging in coercive behaviors or committing acts of violence accountable for their actions. I’m tired of ‘prevention tactics’ that lay the sole responsibility on potential victims- yes we all need to do our best to stay safe, but really people need to NOT commit acts of violence.

You bet I’m freaking out about this one, alongside a slew of others (I particularly like how Mary Sanchez responded in her piece Sorority strictures are a retrograde reaction to campus sexual assault) and many students who have every right to be frustrated and upset by these top-down, ‘holding the victim responsible’ actions.

‘Prevention’ measures that don’t address the root of the problem of sexual assault- one person taking control of another, engaging in behaviors without the consent of another person- only change the environment that the assault takes place in. Assault may take place while alcohol is involved or at a frat party, but it’s not the REASON. Let’s spend our efforts and energies looking to education and changing the culture in which consent is overlooked, bypassed, or ignored to one where consent is expected and respected.

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Resource Highlight: Our Whole Lives

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Description
Our Whole Lives is a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum available for six different age levels (grades k-1, grades 4-6, grades 7-9, grades 10-12, young adult, and adult), developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC). This program can be combined with the Sexuality and Our Faith supplements, available for each level.

In-depth training sessions are available for would-be facilitators of the program, that usually take place over one weekend. Training sessions provide facilitators with a strong understanding of the Our Whole Lives values, key facilitation and implementation skills, tips on teaching about critical topic areas, and an opportunity to practice through peer facilitation. Check out the list of upcoming trainings on either the UUA or UCC training list websites.

The Sexuality and our Faith supplement includes an optional visual component for the grades 7-9 and 10-12 levels, available to facilitators from UUA or UCC congregations who have attended an OWL training and are approved by their Trainers.

Using this resource
While designed by the UUA and UCC, the curricula can be implemented in either faith-based or secular settings- any faith-based material is only included in the supplemental material. Note, the lesson plans in the curricula for grades K-1, 4-6, and 7-9 are intended to be used sequentially and in full. The lesson plans in the grades 10-12, young adult, and adult programs can be more loosely implemented, using the audience to identify which topics will be included in the program to meet the needs and interests of the group.

Why I like it
The Our Whole Lives program is not only well crafted and intentionally written, it is respected in the field of sexuality education as a model curriculum. It is easy to use for even an inexperienced facilitator, and engages participants in critical thinking while also providing key information. In addition, the OWL values make it clear that the program stands for something, and that something will hopefully help participants be healthy sexual beings.

Plus, this is a comprehensive program that provides age-appropriate learning for people of ALL ages, because we are sexual beings from the moment we come into existence until we die, and we all need to explore this complex topic of sexuality throughout our lives- not just once (or even just twice). We bend and grow and stretch all the time, let’s do that with our sexual development, too.

I also have a strong personal connection to this program. I am a facilitator for all six age levels and a Trainer for middle/high school and adult/young adult levels, and has informed my personal and professional development in profound ways. Of course I selected this resource as my first resource highlight!

How can you get it
Visit the UUA Bookstore or the UCC website to purchase the curricula and/or supplements. Cost of the curricula are $40 (grades K-1, 4-6, young adult), $60 (grades 10-12, adult), and $75 (grades 7-9). Supplements range from $8 to $18.

Coming Up in 2015 on FearlessSexualityEducator.com

Goal For The 2015Happy New Year! Well, yes, I’m 22 days late on the start of 2015, but I just renewed the domain fearlesssexualityeducator.com for yet another year. It’s the perfect time to let you know what’s coming down the pike and to set some goals and objectives for the year to come.

First up, I’d like to introduce a new series of posts- Resource Highlights. These posts will provide information about a sexuality education resource I recommend often or generally just find useful, such as a book, curriculum, video, blog, or other tool or material. In my posts I’ll tell you what the resource is, how to get to it, why I like it, and maybe some thoughts on utilizing that resource effectively.

Next, I’d like to recommit to sharing posts on why/how to implement fearless sexuality education. Stay tuned for posts on topics such as enthusiastic consent, pornography, STI transmission, and pleasure. Feel free to offer suggestions for posts in the comments.

Lastly, I’ll continue my Friday FREAK OUT series, highlighting media freak outs related to sexuality and how sexuality educators can respond appropriately.

So to accomplish these goals and stay true to you and me, there’s nothing like some S.M.A.R.T. objectives to get the job done. (S.M.A.R.T. objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, not to mention the best thing that ever happened to program planning and lesson plan development.)

By the end of 2015, I will write…

  • At least 12 Resource Highlight posts (approximately once/month on any day that works for me).
  • At least 6 Why/How posts (about bimonthly whenever I can get to it).
  • At least 18 Friday Freak Out posts (mostly twice/month but sometimes less, on Fridays).

That’s a total of 36 posts in 2015, in three different categories. That’s what y’all have to look forward to, and who knows, maybe I’ll exceed these expectations.

Friday FREAK OUT! Hasbro’s Play-Doh Extruder Tool

Play-Doh’s Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain Playset has caused quite a commotion over the holiday season, supposedly ruining some Christmas celebrations. The freak out is happening over the 3-inch Extruder Tool included in the playset, which many report resembles a penis or a dildo.

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the EXTRUDER TOOL
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PLAY-DOH SWEET SHOPPE CAKE MOUNTAIN PLAYSET

 

The product description reads:

Once you’ve made your pretend cakes, it’s time to decorate. You can start by squeezing out some Play-Doh Plus frosting with the extruder. Try adding 2 colors for fun swirls!

Comments on Twitter and Facebook range from outrage to delight, and news outlets have also had a heyday with reporting this story (check out stories on USA Today, SF Gate, and Huffington Post).

In response to consumer feedback, Hasbro issued a statement on their Facebook page indicating they are replacing future playsets with a different tool and will offer a replacement for anyone who would like one.

This freak out is really a teachable moment and a reality check all in one. Children who get the playset and wonder if the extruder tool resembles a penis, parents can reply with an accurate, correct response. Here’s a sample reply: “Some people may think that the extruder tool in your play-doh set resembles a penis. However, there are many things that could resemble lots of body parts. No matter what the tool resembles, it’s important to use it correctly and respectfully. But for this purpose, the tool is meant to help you design a fun and delightful pretend cake made out of play-doh.”

Parents that do freak out about this tool need to get in touch with the reality that many things DO resemble body parts, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Children need to learn about body parts, especially from their parents, and the more we can talk about them naturally and with ease (withOUT freaking out about it), the more that children will be comfortable and at ease with their own body parts.

As one Facebook commenter says…

“We better ban ALL the things.”

Jeremy Harrison's photo.

 

Friday FREAK OUT! Myla Delbasio breaks ground as a normal-sized model

This past Monday, Calvin Klein nonchalantly released its new line, Perfectly FIt, featuring Myla Delbasio, a normal size 10. CK did not make a big deal of Myla’s inclusion in the spread alongside other straight-sized models, who are typically size 0 or 2. However, several media outlets were quick to label Myla as ‘plus-sized’, resulting in a Twitter backlash highlighting that a size 10 is not a plus-size.

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This freak out has given Myla an unanticipated platform to share her story of finding her way in the modeling industry as a ‘normal’ size. In interviews with NY Magazine and Elle, Myla talks about the past 10 years in her career as a model, and how challenging it has been for her and other girls to be ‘in-between’. She also shared how she never thought she would have an impact on young girls and their body image until she started getting emails this week from teens saying how much seeing her has given them new hope.

What was also uncovered in the midst of Myla’s sudden fame is a video featuring Myla by the What’s Underneath Project, posted on Sep 3, 2014. In this video, Myla shares about her issues and hangups with body image, challenges with drug addiction and eating disorders, and how she feels she is finally coming to a place of acceptance and acknowledgement of her body- feeling good about it, feeling healthy. Oh and she does this while she takes off her clothes, one item at a time. Instead of being tantalizing, she shares more and more while becoming more and more vulnerable.

What’s so amazing about this particular freak out is that we’re freaking out about normal. Not just normal body size but normal, no big deal presentation of it. Even in their follow up statement, Calvin Klein maintains a stance of inclusivity:

The Perfectly Fit line was created to celebrate and cater to the needs of different women, and these images are intended to communicate that our new line is more inclusive and available in several silhouettes in an extensive range of sizes.

There are still significant problems with how women are represented in the media- I imagine that Myla’s photos are still airbrushed and touched up so we can’t see blemishes or stretch marks, but at least her size is more representative of the average female in the US.

And this freak out has generated an inspirational conversation about body image, self-assurance, and body confidence. Let’s keep it going.

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