Friday FREAK OUT! Nice-Guy-Gate

[TRIGGER WARNING for the topic of rape]

In the last few weeks in the feminist blogosphere a HEATED debate has emerged that started with an article posted on the Good Men Project titled, Nice Guys Commit Rape Too, written by Alyssa Royse.  This article tells the story of a ‘nice guy’ that commits an act of rape, and the author seeks to explore why/how it happened: “In order to get to that answer we need to first abolish the idea that all rape is about power and violence. It’s not. Some rape begins as the earnest belief that sex is going to happen, and that it should. The confusion starts with misreading socially accepted cues.”

In the aftermath of this article’s publication, there has ensued a series of responses, rebuttals, and other public outrage via social media.  Here is a sample of what you can find if you jump down the rabbit-hole of ‘nice-guy-gate’, in approximate chronological order:

11/30/12 Good Men Project: Nice Guys Commit Rape Too, by Alyssa Royse – the article that started it all.

12/1/12 Good Men Project: Nice Guys Commit Rape Too, A Response, by Matthew Salesses.

12/8/12 Feministe: What in holy hell is this, by Jill Filipovic.

12/10/12 Good Men Project: I’d Rather Risk Rape than Quit Partying, by ANONYMOUS. [this is the story of a self-identified rapist]

12/10/12 Feministe: And just when you thought the Good Men Project couldn’t get any worse, by Jill Filipovic.

12/10/12 Good Men Project: This is Why We Published a Rapist’s Story, by Joanna Schroeder.

12/10/12 The Soapbox: On Nice Guys as Rapists, by Amelia McDonnell Perry.

12/11/12 Why did the Good Men Project publish a blog by an unrepentant and unconvicted rapist? by Ally Fogg.

12/18/12 Why the ‘nice guys commit rape too’ conversation is not helpful, by Jill Filipovic.

12/??/12 Why I Left the GMP, by Ozy Frantz.

12/20/2012 Rapists Say They Rape Because of Mixed Signals and the Good Men Project Believes Them, by Amanda Marcotte.

Wow, there is a lot being said, and people are surely freakin out about it.  Myself included.  I have really struggled to wrap my head around all of the points being made, and how to frame this debate in a productive manner for myself.

One thing that I am reminded about as I have been digesting the myriad of viewpoints is that consent is an essential topic to cover in sexuality education.  Because it’s not enough just to tell someone, “don’t rape”.  As sexuality educators, we MUST teach participants…

  • What is consent?
  • What do you need consent for?
  • How is consent communicated?
  • How do you know if consent is given?
  • How do you know if consent is not given?
  • How do non-verbal cues affect the understanding of consent?
  • When is someone unable to give consent?

And I’m just getting started!  This is a challenging concept to both teach, and to learn.  As ‘students’, we learn different things about consent from our teachers, peers, the media, parents, religion, etc., and we rarely have an opportunity to truly examine and explore all of the nuances of communicating about consent in real life situations.  Sexuality education should be an opportunity for individuals to learn how to make healthy decisions about sexual activity that are 100% consensual.  (Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on consent in the future.)

I encourage sexuality educators to critically examine all sides of ‘nice-guy-gate’ in order to understand the scope of this controversy. It is also critical that we all send a clear message about the importance of consent, because surely we could all learn about bit more about it.

Overcoming Sex-Shaming Rhetoric at the CFLE Sex Ed Conference 2012

At the CFLE’s annual National Sex Ed Conference I had the pleasure of facilitating a workshop titled Dare to be Shameless! Overcoming Sex-Shaming Rhetoric in Sexuality Education.  During this one-hour workshop we listed examples of sex-shaming rhetoric, identified ways that sex-shaming rhetoric can impact an educational environment, and described strategies for countering sex-shaming rhetoric.  Yep, we did all that in just one hour.  Phew!

It was a wonderful experience being able to engage other sexuality education professionals in a conversation about how our language can make someone feel ashamed about their sexuality, sometimes without that intention.  What even is sex-shaming rhetoric?  As far as I know (and please correct me if I’m wrong), it’s a new concept that needs descriptions and definitions.  During this workshop, I had the help of 75 participants in outlining how sex-shaming rhetoric may be characterized.  photoMy own working definition of sex-shaming rhetoric is:

Language used that makes an individual feel ashamed of a healthy sexual experience, feeling, or act.

This definition may be too straight-forward, or maybe its brevity allows essential room for interpretation.  In short, we as educators must be aware of how our rhetoric around sexuality, including our educational lesson plans, may make someone feel ashamed of their sexuality.

As part of the workshop, I asked participants to write down an example of something someone might say that could be considered sex-shaming, thinking especially of something a sexuality educator might say.  Here are some of the examples they came up with:

  • “If you get pregnant/get a girl pregnant, your life will be ruined.”
  • “There is a time and a place to talk about sex and sex topics, and this isn’t it.”
  • “Clean” = STI negative
  • “When you have a new partner, you must use protection.” (It’s fear-based rhetoric and shaming for people.)
  • A person with multiple partners is nasty.
  • “Sexting is a horrible thing and doing it can ruin your life.”
  • Heterosexual sex is ‘normal’ sex.
  • “You shouldn’t be thinking about sex, you should be thinking about college.”
  • “You’re not old enough to ask those questions!”
  • “If you can’t see something without a mirror, it probably means you shouldn’t be looking at it.”
  • “You’re stupid if you get pregnant.”
  • “You will regret it.”
  • “Boys don’t respect girls that have sex too soon.”
  • “Males tend to be more focused on sex than females.”
  • “…not something [that] good boys and girls do.”
  • “If you sleep with someone too soon, you might smear your reputation.”
  • “What would your parents say if they found out you were having sex?”
  • “You shouldn’t have sex unless you’re in love.”

These examples depict characteristics of sex-shaming rhetoric, and yet they are things that we have all probably heard at least once in our lives from someone of authority.  Being a sexuality educator is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility.  It is up to us to help people feel comfortable asking questions about sexuality, and learn more about themselves, rather than making someone feel bad and ashamed.  Certainly, there are behaviors that need to be deemed as not OK, and that someone should feel ashamed about, such as engaging in any sexual behavior without consent.  However educators (not just sexuality educators, but anyone who is potentially educating others) need to be aware of how their language can be interpreted.  Our educational approaches can be affirming, rather than shame-inducing.

Thank you to all who attended this workshop, and I look forward to continuing this work on improving our sexuality education rhetoric.

Daring to be Shameless

Today I have been preparing for a workshop I’ll be leading this upcoming Friday at the CFLE’s National Sex Ed Conference in New Jersey.  My workshop will be part of a Topic Track on Addressing Shame in Sex Ed.  Here’s the description:

Dare to Be Shameless! Overcoming Sex-Shaming Rhetoric in Sexuality Education  Rush Limbaugh was criticized for calling Sandra Fluke a slut for supporting birth control, but how shameless are sexuality educators? Are you inadvertently using sex-shaming rhetoric? Workshop participants will examine what sex-shaming rhetoric entails, reflect on how sex-shaming can impact sexuality education, and identify alternative approaches that are sex-positive.

My 1-hour workshop will be followed by a session by Megan Andelloux and Aida Manduley discussing the role that shame, guilt, and embarrassment play in sexuality education.  It’s exciting to be a part of a conference workshop series that is exploring the drawbacks of shame in sexuality education.

My preparation for this workshop has me thinking a lot about how people have absorbed and developed a sense of shame about sexuality- both from an educators’ and a students’ standpoint.  There are several potential sources of this shame:

  • Family- parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, faux-family (like my ‘uncle’ lou)
  • Religion- faith communities, religious texts, religious leaders
  • Media- television, books, internet, billboards, music
  • School- teachers, support staff, textbooks, peers

We pick up our attitudes and reactions to sex and sexuality from all of these sources, whether we like it or not.  And a lot of the time, what we learn is less from what is explicitly verbalized and more about the ‘music’ in the background.  It’s the pursed lips at someone laughing when the teacher says ‘penis’. It’s the flared nostrils when someone asks their mom for the definition of a wet dream.  It’s the rolled eyes when someone doesn’t know what a sexually transmitted infection is.  It’s the unwillingness to answer a question about masturbation because it’s ‘off topic’.  All these reactions teach others that sexuality is something to be ashamed of, and that conversations about sexual experiences are inappropriate.

Being shameless is about using language that is open and accepting; it’s also about maintaining a physical posture of validation and support throughout any interaction with a participant, son, daughter, congregant, etc.  A teacher can tell their students that it’s ok for two people of the same gender to be in love through their words, but the way that they will actually hear it is through their body language, attitudes, and actions. My workshop on Friday will focus on how rhetoric can be sex-shaming. Let’s remember that sex-shaming rhetoric comes from a lot of shameful background ‘music’.

Friday FREAK OUT! Election 2012

Photo: Hey Ladies!!!! Share this to celebrate what women made happen this year. (Also guys, you should totally share this too!)
from Ultra Violet

Facebook, Twitter, the Blogosphere, and News outlets galore have been highlighting the amazing accomplishments of Election Day 2012, when a record number of women were elected, an astounding number of women voted, and there were huge strides forward for marriage equality. Check out these summaries:

Feminist Majority Foundation Blog

Huffington Post’s Women in Politics Break Records in 2012 Election

The BBC’s article- US Election: Women are the New Majority

A New York Times editorial, A Big Leap for Marriage Equality

What do the election results tell us about about being fearless?

  • We are making headway. Despite some major setbacks in the courts, marriage equality is becoming a reality for more and more people in the United States. And we’re not gonna stop now!
  • We will acknowledge women as leaders in our community. Women can, and should be elected to political office, especially since women make up 50% of the population! Has it really taken until 2012 to have 20 women in the U.S. Senate?
  • We will take reproductive rights seriously. The government should not be making a medical decision that belongs to the individual(s) involved.
  • We will be heard. In response to the string of outlandish comments such as ‘legitimate rape’ and ‘binders full of women‘, people made sure that their voices were heard, and they would not stand to elect politicians who will maintain principles of inequality.

What does this election mean for sexuality education?

Sexuality education has been a hot political topic in the past, although it didn’t get a lot of attention this year. This blog post on Answer points out the need for sexuality education to be at the forefront of policy-making. It needs to be a priority, not a bargaining chip. Effective, comprehensive sexuality education needs to be a vital component of learning about healthy living, and I hope that our elected officials will support those programs that are sound in theory and methods, and that avoid using fear tactics.

How can sexuality educators use this election as a teaching tool?

Elections can demonstrate how when a community comes together (either physically, virtually, or metaphorically), their voices can be heard and they can make a difference. Each person gets to decide how they prioritize issues, and cast their vote for who can best represent them. Educators can relate the value of voting in an election to personal decision-making, and the importance of thinking independently and critically about decisions that can affect their lives significantly.

Photo: Need we say more?

Friday FREAK OUT! Yet another rape comment

Is it really a surprise that yet another Republican candidate has made an outrageous comment about rape?  This week Richard Mourdock, a candidate for the Indiana Senate and endorsed by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said, “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.” Also note that while Romney said he disagrees with Mourdock on this issue, he still supports him.

Stephen Colbert’s Team RAPE

The string of comments from republicans this election season has received overwhelming attention from the media, including John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who offers a summary of comments from the GOP and rounds them up as Team Rape.

Sexuality educators! PLEASE use this opportunity to discuss the topic of sexual assault and sexual violence with your participants.  While we may be laughing at the extreme comments made, especially the recurrence of them, rape is no laughing matter.  Use the commentary to engage in thoughtful conversations about why the comments being made are so extreme, and how they can formulate their own opinions about reproductive choice.

Here are some points to make:

  • No one deserves to be sexually assaulted in any way.
  • Consent is paramount when engaging in sexual activity with another person.
  • Rape and sexual assault are against the law.
  • You have the right to make choices about your own body.
  • Everyone deserves to have healthy sexual activity that is completely safe and consensual.

Also see my related post about Todd Akin’s comment on legitimate rape.




Friday FREAK OUT! Binders full of women

During Tuesday’s debate between President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a young women asked a question about what each would do in response to the inequality of pay between men and women in the workforce. In Romney’s response, he claimed that when looking to fill cabinet positions in Massachusetts he had his staff compile ‘binders full of women’ as potential candidates for those jobs. Research into this claim has shown that he did not initiate this task, it was actually a non-profit effort to get more women into government positions. His comment has gone absolutely viral- there is now a Binders Full of Women website, tumblr, Facebook page, Wikipedia page, and an urban dictionary entry. Pictures on product descriptions for 3-ring binders have been added depicting political messages such as “Bain Capital outsourced my job to China, and all I got was this lousy binder!”. I might even be a binder full of women for Halloween! And the list goes on so long that there are now stories about how viral Binders Full of Women has gone.

Responses have included-

  • Outrage at Romney twisting the truth
  • Mocking Romney’s attitude in the first place
  • A uniting of women nationwide to send Romney a binder full of women who are voting for Obama
  • A rebuttal ad from the Romney campaign and
  • Disparaging the 24-year old pre-K teacher that asked the question.

This overwhelming response highlights an important message that should be repeated over and over: women matter. Women are not second class citizens and they should not be an after-thought when bringing people together to govern a population that is 50% women. Women should be considered for any position they are qualified for and paid the same as any man with the same qualifications. They should also not be lumped together as one giant blob to tap into just to reach a quota. Women, like any human being regardless of gender, should be respected and considered for their strengths, knowledge, and skills as individuals.

What can sexuality educators do with this media frenzy? In a safe, intentional learning environment this can be a valuable teachable moment to discuss gender, power, and equality. This is an opportunity to talk about the value of inclusivity, and self-worth. You could have participants do an art project of a binder full of you, with pictures of an individual throughout their lives. You can talk about how gender relates to relationships and whether both people have equal rights in that relationship. You can also show how one question about job pay asked in a presidential debate can spark millions of freak outs about gender inequality and how maybe that will institute change and motivate action. Some binders full of women like to party. 

Friday FREAK OUT! Gay teen denied Eagle Scout Award, despite his project on tolerance

Ryan Andresen

The Scouting program has three specific objectives, commonly referred to as the “Aims of Scouting.” They are character development, citizenship training, and personal fitness.


The methods by which the aims are achieved are listed below in random order to emphasize the equal importance of each.



The ideals of Boy Scouting are spelled out in the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, the Scout motto, and the Scout slogan. The Boy Scout measures himself against these ideals and continually tries to improve. The goals are high, and, as he reaches for them, he has some control over what and who he becomes.



The patrol method gives Boy Scouts an experience in group living and participating citizenship. It places responsibility on young shoulders and teaches boys how to accept it. The patrol method allows Scouts to interact in small groups where they can easily relate to each other. These small groups determine troop activities through their elected representatives.


Outdoor Programs


Boy Scouting is designed to take place outdoors. It is in the outdoor setting that Scouts share responsibilities and learn to live with one another. It is here that the skills and activities practiced at troop meetings come alive with purpose. Being close to nature helps Boy Scouts gain an appreciation for God’s handiwork and humankind’s place in it. The outdoors is the laboratory for Boy Scouts to learn ecology and practice conservation of nature’s resources.



Boy Scouting provides a series of surmountable obstacles and steps in overcoming them through the advancement method. The Boy Scout plans his advancement and progresses at his own pace as he meets each challenge. The Boy Scout is rewarded for each achievement, which helps him gain self-confidence. The steps in the advancement system help a Boy Scout grow in self-reliance and in the ability to help others.


Association with Adults

Boys learn a great deal by watching how adults conduct themselves. Scout leaders can be positive role models for the members of their troops. In many cases a Scoutmaster who is willing to listen to boys, encourage them, and take a sincere interest in them can make a profound difference in their lives.


Personal Growth

As Boy Scouts plan their activities and progress toward their goals, they experience personal growth. The Good Turn concept is a major part of the personal growth method of Boy Scouting. Boys grow as they participate in community service projects and do Good Turns for others. Probably no device is so successful in developing a basis for personal growth as the daily Good Turn. The religious emblems program also is a large part of the personal growth method. Frequent personal conferences with his Scoutmaster help each Boy Scout to determine his growth toward Scouting’s aims.


Leadership Development

The Boy Scout program encourages boys to learn and practice leadership skills. Every Boy Scout has the opportunity to participate in both shared and total leadership situations. Understanding the concepts of leadership helps a boy accept the leadership role of others and guides him toward the citizenship aim of Scouting.



The uniform makes the Boy Scout troop visible as a force for good and creates a positive youth image in the community. Boy Scouting is an action program, and wearing the uniform is an action that shows each Boy Scout’s commitment to the aims and purposes of Scouting. The uniform gives the Boy Scout identity in a world brotherhood of youth who believe in the same ideals. The uniform is practical attire for Boy Scout activities and provides a way for Boy Scouts to wear the badges that show what they have accomplished.

Check out this Huffington Post article, outlining the ordeal.

Friday FREAK OUT! Nipplegate

Tsk Tsk! The New Yorker recently got in trouble with Facebook because one of their cartoons supposedly did not fit the Sex and Nudity guidelines, resulting in the temporary ban of the New Yorker’s entire Facebook page.

What was so offensive? Two dots, representing female nipple bulges.

I understand the need to have guidelines (enter teachable moment about boundaries!), especially for a social media platform where users can certainly misuse the site; however, this “infraction” should hardly warrant banning the entire page. It’s a good thing that Facebook reversed its decision and reinstated the page, but what does this ‘freak out’ say about our culture?
• Dots are nipples, and you can tell the difference between a male dot (OK) and a female dot (NOT OK)
• Cartoons are the same as real-life depictions
• There’s something about female nipple bulges that makes them in appropriate

I can’t help but draw the parrallel to my recent blog post about Olympic Boobs & Boners, where I highlighted that body-part freak outs could be contributing to problems with self-image and acceptance of our bodies. I mean, what do women do to conceal the presence of their nipples? Strategies range from band-aids to $34 silicone nipsticks (They hide nipples completely, yet feel natural). Are nipples so offensive that we need to go to such lengths to hide/deny their existence?

This recurring issue of body-part-media-freak-outs is also very relevant to US culture, and yet Europeans would not have bat their eyes at some cartoon dots representing female nipple bulges. Or many other regions, for that matter!

In the end, these issues present outstanding platforms for discussion in an educational setting, and I believe it is essential for those discussions to happen in order for us to process the freak-outs that might have us all in a huff about our own nipples.


Friday FREAK OUT! Legitimate rape

On Sunday, August 19, Representative Todd Akin of Missouri made a statement during an interview on the Jaco Report on Fox 2 that outraged Democrats and Republicans alike. When asked about his position on abortion in cases of rape, he replied:

“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney even denounced Akin’s statement, twice!

And rightly so. This is one story that we should be freaking out about. The media frenzy surrounding Akin’s statement and even the aftermath of apologies and calls to quit the race have created a forum of dialogue about a sensitive topic. We are looking at the facts of rape, which is about control and power, facts that Akin clearly does not understand. Twitter feeds have exploded with comments about not just rape, but sexual coercion and even sleazy partners.

@ieatmykidzsnack: So a woman’s body can block “rape semen?” Don’t you think we’d be able to block “never gonna call again semen” & “no good loser semen” too?

The fact is that Akin is wrong- women do not have a magical power to dispel the semen of a rapist. And now anyone paying any attention to the news this week hopefully also knows that, thanks to this outrageous, absurd statement!!

Sexuality educators can use media frenzies like this one to talk about how people learn, and unlearn, myths about rape, and please be sure to set the record straight with your participants! Penile-vaginal penetration by ANY penis (even a rapists’) without using a barrier method or contraception can result in pregnancy. It doesn’t always, but it can.

For a great, concise summary of the statements/events related to Akin’s statement, check out this NY Times article.

Tuesday tip: urban dictionary!

Tip for Tuesday!

Not sure what your participant means when they say things like:
Common law girlfriend
Shatner texting

Look it up on

Better yet- ask your participants what it means, then look it up! It’s ok to admit you don’t know the meaning of slang terms- showing that you aren’t a walking encyclopedia (or google) can help a participant feel more comfortable acknowledging that they don’t know everything!