Friday FREAK OUT! IRS makes bold move for same-sex partners

Yesterday, the IRS ruled that same-sex married couples can file taxes jointly, regardless of the law in their state of residence. That means that if two people were married in one of the 13 states with same-sex marriage laws, and they reside in one of the 37 states that do not recognize their marriages, they will file joint federal taxes and single state taxes.

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This is both a significant step towards marriage equality, and also a confusing mess on how to file taxes. While this ruling does clarify how taxes will be filed for same-sex couples, it may create some complications, as pointed out in the NY Times.

Sexuality educators can use this ruling as an opportunity to highlight the progress towards equality, and the challenges that still abound.

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Friday FREAK OUT! Calling Chelsea Manning by HER name

This week, Pfc. Manning- sentenced to 35 years in military prison for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks- announced, “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female.”

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Amidst issues of the availability of hormone therapy in military prison and gender-specific imprisonment, the media response to Chelsea’s statement has been disrespectful, and an example of how NOT to honor someone’s gender identity. In her statement, Chelsea wrote, “I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.” Despite this straightforward, specific request, countless media sources have refused to comply, as Feministing points out that NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, the Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Politico, the Telegraph, Reuters, and the Los Angeles Times all used masculine pronouns and referred to Chelsea as Bradley. Time for an apology!

There has been considerable outcry about this major media misstep (but props to the Guardian for getting it right), with reference to how this issue is tough. I actually disagree. Chelsea was actually incredibly clear in her statement- it might be tough for someone to start using the correct pronouns, but we know which ones are ‘correct’. Gender identity is about a person’s self-idenitification, and if specific pronouns are requested, we should honor their request.

Seems like reporters, editors, and newscasters could all benefit from reviewing this AWESOME resource: How to Respect a Transgender Person. Step one:

Respect their gender identity. Think of them as the gender they refer to themselves as and refer to them with their chosen name and gender pronoun (regardless of their physical appearance) from now on.

Sexuality educators- please review this resource and teach your participants to respect transgender people, and not mimic the mainstream media.

I should note that some news sources have actually done a good job calling out this mistreatment of the coverage, including Huffington Post and Slate.

Friday FREAK OUT! Dear Daughter: I hope you have awesome sex

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When I was applying to grad school in 2004 for a master of public health in sexuality and health wanting to help change the discourse of how we talk about sex, never did I think that in just under 10 years an essay like Dear Daughter: I Hope you Have Awesome Sex would A. be written, and B. get so much attention.

This post, accurately characterized as provocative and refreshing by Feminist Philosophers, has been reposted on the Good Men Project and Huffington Post to name a few, taking writer Ferrett Steinmetz totally by surprise (check out his Random Thoughts on Going Viral).

Ferrett’s inspiration for writing this open letter was Daddy’s Rules for Dating– an outlandish yet sadly realistic list of limiting one’s daughter’s decision-making power and instilling incredible fear in a potential (assumed to be male) suitor. This list was surely meant to be funny but instead does a great job of outlining atrocious fear-based fathering.

What I absolutely love about Ferrett’s letter is that he acknowledges that his daughter is a sexual being, with the ability to make her own, informed decisions about engaging in sexual behaviors. He uses the words CONSENSUAL and GENDERQUEER. He eschews an open and honest attitude about sexuality that many parents struggle to adopt. He also admits that his daughter is her own person, whom he cannot control: “You’re not me. Nor are you an extension of my will….I’m not the guard who locks you in the tower.” How wonderfully empowering is that?! Instead, he’s the father that can be a support system, someone to turn to even when life involves sex.

I know that many people have criticized this piece, probably calling Ferrett worse things than I can imagine, but I wholeheartedly believe he’s on the right track. I’m happy to see people freakin out about this one- let’s get the word out there that sex can be awesome and sexuality isn’t something to be afraid of.

Friday FREAK OUT! Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: The differences explained with food

On your Facebook feed, scrolling through Twitter, or in the Huffington Post Weird News section, you may stumble across a wildly popular video making the rounds on the internet: Porn Sex vs. Real Sex: The differences explained with food.

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This short, hilarious video demonstrates some of the ways that pornography distorts the realities of sexuality, sharing tidbits such as….

In real life 75 percent of men ejaculate within 3 minutes.

71 percent of all women can’t orgasm through penetration.

all through the use of fruits, vegetables, and other things found in the kitchen in only 1:48. The use of food adds humor to a subject that is still somewhat taboo to discuss, as pointed out in an article by Mark Wilson.

In response to this video, a few people in the porn industry admit that porn is not meant to teach people how to have sex. Nina Hartley shared with the Huffington Post:

Pornography is a paid, professional performance by actors. It is a fantasy, it is not meant to be a rulebook and guidebook or a how to as a general rule. And it goes to show how poor our sex education is in this country that people are reduced to looking at an entertainment medium for information about the body.

Nina makes an excellent point. As I noted in a post last year, we need to be teaching individuals about sexually explicit content so they can think critically about it, and understand the differences between reality and fantasy. Especially in an ever-increasing age of technology where porn is not only easy to find, it’s sometimes hard to avoid. (Although Amtrak wouldn’t let me watch this video using their on-train wifi!)

What I think is extra interesting about this video, is that it wasn’t developed or commissioned by renowned sexuality educators (although a few, like myself, have applauded its ingenuity). Web video company Kornhaber Brown told HuffPo that they “just made this for fun”. Their website says, “Originally started as a fun internal project, we wanted to talk about a provocative social issue in a very creative way.” Since it’s launch at the end of July, the video has had over 6 million views.

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vs. the variety of real-life vaginas:

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(well, actually, vulvas. that’s what they would have said if they’d consulted sexuality professionals. but i guess we can forgive them this one time.)

Friday FREAK OUT! HelloFlo

This week one of the media items that has topped the charts is the advertisement for HelloFlo. I know when something has gone viral when more than two of my friends says, “have you seen this yet?” It’s all over Facebook, and definitely getting the attention of NPR.

This advertisement, featuring a young girl who just gets her period at summer camp, is trying to tell the viewer that tampons can be delivered to your door! Wow!

Whether they mean it or not, this ad, not meant to be a lesson on puberty, is telling the public a LOT about it. Such as…
– Vagina is a word that is ok to say.
– Your period is something that happens, so be ready and get used to it.
– Girls are getting their periods, so they need to both know about it and have products to respond.

This ad has definitely gone viral, apparently shutting down their website for a bit. However, what do young people really need to know about their menstrual cycle? Sure, many women do get cramps, and they should be prepared for some potential symptoms, but they should also feel ok with walking into a store, and asking the drug store clerk, “Where are the tampons?” I guess at summer camp it might be a bit tough to find a drug store, so a delivery service could certainly come in handy. But let’s also tell individuals that having a period is nothing to be ashamed of, and that obtaining products such as tampons and panty-liners is no big thang.

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