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 weareultraviolet.org

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?