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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Friday FREAK OUT! Singapore teen wants inclusive sex ed, free of bigotry

On October 6th, a brave high school student in Singapore penned an open letter to her principal about her sex ed class, in which she asserts, “the workshop and booklet actively serve to promote rape culture in school.”

Agatha Tan’s letter has gone viral, with 4,533 shares on Facebook (as of 10/17), and a slew of supportive articles and posts, such as Jezebel, HuffPo Parents, Business Insider, Singapore, and BuzzFeed to name just a few. Some of Agatha’s key points include:

I learned a simple yet important lesson: that bigotry is very much alive and it was naive of me to think I could be safe from it even in school.

[The workshop presenter from Focus on the Family] sends a dangerous message: that you should always assume that a girl means something else (like “yes”) when really she just means “no”.

The joking attitude here only serves to reinforce rape culture, since the guys now come to mistakenly understand that girls always mean the opposite when they say anything, including “no”.

[Focus on the Family’s] portrayal of guys with regards to their raging hormones not only makes them seem pathetic, but again reduces girls to their role as supporters of their male counterparts.

I feel that [Focus on the Family] has used sexuality education as an opportunity to further spread their own conservative, “God-ordained” beliefs rather than to educate students on arguably more important things such as safe sex, sexual identity and shared and equal responsibility.

The quickness and ease with which the facilitator dismissed anyone outside of his limited moral framework was a clear display of bigotry and tells students that acceptance is beyond him.

This Freak Out of Agatha’s, and the ensuing viral Freak Out occurring internationally, highlights the absolute need to realize that bad sex ed IS happening, and thank goodness someone is willing to tell us all about it. How many other bad sex ed stories are there, or worse, how many times bad sex ed has contributed to poor sexual decision-making, shame, and/or boundary violations?

Since we can’t wave a magic wand and get rid of all the bad sex ed, we need to prepare teens to do just what Agatha did- critically examine (aka, tear apart) the sex ed they get. Just because there’s an outside expert, students still need to determine if the content and delivery is on point. I’ll put out a shameless plug for a lesson plan I wrote about examining fear based methods: “Be Afraid! Be Very Afraid!” It’s published in the curriculum Teaching Safer Sex, Volume 2. In addition, SIECUS has some helpful reviews on existing curricula and speakers in their Community Action Kit. So students: listen carefully and think critically about how people talk about sex and sexuality.

And once they realize their sex ed is bad, they can clamor for sex ed that’s GOOD. Sex ed that is not only accurate and age-appropriate, but also inclusive, affirming, and thought-provoking. Facilitators that are open-minded and welcoming, that do not shut students down or cross boundaries.

Props to Agatha Tan. I hope she continues to inform the leaders in her community, and the world, about any BAD sex ed she gets in the future.

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