Am I a Sexuality Educator, or a Be-A-Nice-Person Educator?

As a sexuality educator, I teach about a lot of different topics- contraception, sexuality transmitted infections (STIs), reproduction, anatomy, relationships, violence prevention, values, consent, pleasure, and the list goes on. However, there’s a theme that is ever-present in my work. At the end of the day, a lot of my lessons end with the message, “Be a nice person”.

For example, in a lesson about contraception, I emphasize, be a nice person and make sure you and your sexual partner are on the same page about preventing pregnancy (or not!). In a lesson about STIs, be a nice person and get tested so that you don’t unknowingly expose someone else to an STI. In a lesson about values, be a nice person and respect someone else’s values about sexual expression. In a lesson about consent, be a nice person and make sure that your sexual partner is consenting (preferably enthusiastically!) to all sexual activities. In a lesson about pleasure, be a nice person and think about whether your partner is experiencing pleasure.

Sexuality is so much about being in relationships- with another person, with oneself, with society, with family. And relationships are tough- sometimes we can say the most hurtful things to the people we love the most (including ourselves). It can be easy (and human) to be respond to conflict or disagreement or confusion with yelling, put-downs, passive-aggressive BS, coercion, or the silent treatment. Being a nice person is not always easy- it takes active listening, thoughtful consideration, and sometimes sheer magic. Plus, many people were not taught this critical skill, and it certainly isn’t modeled very regularly in our society. (Need a little help? Wikihow has some helpful suggestions that apply in all sorts of related situations.)

The message, “be a nice person”, is a great alternative to the ‘don’t do this’, ‘don’t do that’ message. Those ‘don’ts’ often get conflated into fear-based messages of, DO THIS AND YOU’LL DIE/SUFFER/HURT SOMEONE. Yes, our actions can hurt others, and yes, we need to be aware of how to prevent harm to others. One of the most basic, fundamental ways we can accomplish that goal is to “BE A NICE PERSON!”

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Friday FREAK OUT! #Feministsareugly reminds us to be beautiful

What’s trending on the sexuality front this week? The hashtag #feministsareugly has grabbed the attention of feminists and anti-feminists worldwide, and the Twitterverse is freakin’ out.

The hashtag first appeared a little over two weeks ago, and many assumed that it was coined by misogynst, antifeminist crusaders, following in the footsteps of other hashtags like #Idontneedfeminism and #womenagainstfeminism that have been flooding people’s twitter feeds all summer. (News outlets and blogs added to the confusion of the hashtag’s origins with posts such as Feminists are posting stunning selfies to mock #feministsareugly hashtag and Feminists hit back by posting stunning selfies.)

However, the hashtag was actually coined by feminists @LilyBolourian and @Cheuya in order to change the narrative about women of color and standards of beauty. Studentbeans.com did a great piece: This is why #Feministsareugly is a brilliant hashtag. And @LilyBolourian has been particularly vocal about the origins and purpose behind the hashtag:

 

Lily shared with me that the hashtag was inspired by a need to respond to both…

misogynist trolls judging women’s appearances and fellow feminists pearl-clutching because they felt that our way of hitting back against patriarchy was somehow reinforcing it.

But in the end…

There is no proper or right way to feminist.

And the call for selfies was also from the hashtag creators:

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Resulting in TONS of amazing selfies from feminists- both women and men! (Yay men!)

No matter what, it’s has certainly inspired a dialogue over feminism, objectification, standards of beauty, etc:

Over at HuffPoUK, they wonder if feminists are missing the point:

We understand these women are trying to point out the ridiculousness of the ‘ugly feminist’ stereotype, but are they really re-claiming the phrase or just playing into the hands of the aforementioned chauvinistic pig?

Feminists believe in equal rights, which in turn means believing in an end to the objectification of women. But by posting selfies, are some not promoting the objectification of women by inviting others to judge their ‘hotness’?

But what do we do with this hashtag now that people are freakin’ out about it? Certainly many have taken the opportunity to speak out about the value of self expression, about their views on feminism, about the evils of misogyny, and the importance of getting your story straight before you post it!

I think this particular freak out in and of itself highlights the variety of opinion and the strength of individuality, and how we need to honor and respect people no matter how they express themselves or what they look like. It can be hard to disagree with someone else, but it can be done respectfully, without dragging them under the bus for who they are. Twitter has become a hotbed of trash-talking, by opponents and allies of feminism alike, and #feministsareugly reminds us to be beautiful, own that beauty and respect the beauty of others.