Unequal Partners, Our Whole Lives, and the Sex Ed Conference: 2015 was a busy year!

Goal For The 2015Some really exciting things happening in my personal life aside, 2015 was a year of incredible growth and opportunity! Thus, I had a little less time than I had hoped to work on my blog. So, what was I doing?!

Unequal Partners: Teaching about Power, Consent & Healthy Relationships, 4th Edition

Some time ago, the Executive Director of the Center for Sex Education asked me to edit and update their teaching manual, Unequal Partners. Originally written in the late 1990s by award-winning sexuality educators Sue Montfort and Peggy Brick, the focus had been on preventing teen pregnancies, especially when teen girls were in relationships with older male partners. The lesson plans drew heavily on focus group research conducted by Lyn Phillips, and incorporated opportunities for participants to learn from the experiences shared by the research subjects. In subsequent editions, the editors added more and more on exploring power differentials in general, and developing healthy relationship skills. And along with the times, lessons were adapted and added to be inclusive of same-sex relationships. The 3rd edition, published in 2007, has 30 lesson plans, and also includes several lessons on the legal components of consent.

The 4th edition, which is AT THE PRINTER RIGHT NOW!!!, has a total of 50 lesson plans divided into two volumes- one for participants ages 10-17, one for college-age participants. The manual is now organized into sections, so that facilitators can easily identify the relevant topic. And it’s designed as a choose-your-own adventure resource- you don’t have to do all the lessons in the manual, and there’s no one set way of implementing them (because every group and program is different, and I truly believe in the power of ‘facilitator’s choice’ for program design).

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When I first started working on the project, I recognized how much the narrative of consent has changed in the last decade, and how few curricula address how to navigate the conversation around consent. In addition to understanding the legal age of consent and possible repercussions for engaging in sexual activity with someone who is underage, we need to help young people communicate about consent, read non-verbal cues, and understand the influence of power dynamics in relationships. I know that truly understanding healthy relationships is a lot more than just listing characteristics like respect, trust, honesty, and communication, it’s also about conflict resolution, decision-making, asking someone out, handling rejection, and thinking about break-ups. And many of the issues of power that exist between partners of different ages could also be problematic among partners of the same age, and that a critical learning moment will help participants dissect and unpack POWER as an issue, rather than age.

As I started working on this project, the national dialogue on campus sexual assault and mandated consent education had really started amping up, which highlighted the lack of resources available for this population. I’m really excited about the 20 lessons for college age participants in the 2nd volume, almost all of which are new, and many offering guidance on hot topics, such as BDSM & consent.

This was a pretty epic project- there was a call for lesson plans from contributing authors, I carefully reviewed and updated the existing lesson plans (cutting some, combining others), and there were a few key concepts that I really wanted to make sure were included, so I either invited colleagues to submit a specific lesson or threw one together myself. For example, Meredith White, Julia Scheinbeim & Lindsay Fram co-wrote the lesson plan in volume two Stone Cold Sober, Buzz Buzz Buzz, Totally Wasted, which explores substance use and consent. In response to some relevant current issues, I put together the lesson Tears, Smears & Fears, looking at what can happen after a break-up, such as overwhelming emotions, smearing behaviors like revenge porn, and stalking. Plus the project entailed a massive amount of formatting and copy-editing, and I was incredibly thankful for the wisdom and expertise provided by Bill Taverner and Mary Lynn Koval.

Working on this manual was both fun and thought-provoking, and of course at times challenging! It’s not easy to keep audience, facilitator, scope, and content in mind all at the same time. I hope that it is helpful for facilitators and educators in a variety of settings who are seeking to incorporate concepts of power, consent, and healthy relationships into their programs.

Are you SOLD? You can order your copy today!! http://www.sexedstore.com/unequal-partners-4th-ed/

Our Whole Lives, grades 4-6, 2nd Edition

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The 1st edition was published in 1999.

Not long after I started working on editing and revising Unequal Partners, I was asked to co-author the revisions to the 4th-6th grade Our Whole Lives curriculum, alongside the brilliant and inspiring Amy Johnson. Even though I already had an editing project on my hands, I knew this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!

The Our Whole Lives program holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it one of the first programs I was ever trained to facilitate as a sexuality educator, I participated in the program that preceded Our Whole Lives, called About Your Sexuality, when I was in 8th grade, and in large part is the reason I am a sexuality educator and trainer today. Our Whole Lives expanded on all the good aspects of About Your Sexuality– the intentional environment, the comprehensive approach to learning about sexuality, the value of sexuality as a positive aspect of life, and the focus on respect and relationship- and applied it to not only middle school students, but people of all ages in a developmentally appropriate manner. Our Whole Lives is comprised of six different curricula, one for Kindergarten-1st grade, 4th-6th grades, 7th-9th grades, 10th-12th grades, young adult, and adult. Our Whole Lives is a collaboration between the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, and includes a secular resource with an optional faith supplement for each curriculum.

The 4th-6th grade curriculum happens to be my favorite age group to lead for Our Whole Lives. 10-12 year olds are experiencing a lot of change, are often eager to learn, and will still play and have fun without worrying too much about what that means. Amy and I were excited to build on what was already a strong program. Originally written in the mid-90s (published in 1999), the program needed a refresh to reflect shifts in our language about gender, sexual orientation, among other topics, plus we wanted to added some topics related to media literacy and body image.

Amy and I worked closely together to revise the curriculum, thinking carefully about how will 10-12 year olds respond to various activities, language, and content. We agreed that 8 lessons wasn’t quite enough, so the 2nd edition will feature 10 one-hour workshops. It’s also remarkable how much of sexuality education at that age is about learning vocabulary, so we added a Word Bank, with new words added to the Bank each lesson, which will remain up and visible for the rest of the program.

The process for revising this curriculum was very different from Unequal Partners– each workshop was collaboratively written by me and Amy, sent to a team of reviewers, and then we revised the workshop based on feedback. And now that our work is done, the curriculum is currently being field-tested in a variety of settings nationwide, after which final revisions will be made.

So STAY TUNED on when the 2nd edition of Our Whole Lives for grades 4-6 will be available for purchase!

Consent: So Simple, Yet Oh So Very Complicated…Keynote at the National Sex Ed Conference

Yet another exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to give a keynote presentation for the National Sex Ed Conference on the topic of consent. What a year!

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That’s me, talking with my hands! And right in front of the Racial Justice Solidarity statement. Rad, indeed.

With this opportunity, I wanted to highlight the national conversation on consent, share some insights on how college students in particular have been taking up the issue, and add some depth to the conversation because I truly believe that consent can be quite complicated. Building on the thoughts and ideas that went into Unequal Partners, I sought to demonstrate the need for messages that are simple and straightforward, and that make great t-shirts and memes, but also touch on the complexities of relationships (of any duration, seriousness, or commitment) and power dynamics.

This project was also a challenge! My jam is far more facilitation- asking participants questions and really allowing their insights to drive the lesson and conversation. In preparing for this keynote, I had to get ready to talk TO a group of about 500 people for AN HOUR! Switching gears to presentation mode was truly a moment of growth for me, and entailed more than a small bit of research and reading up on crafting an engaging talk, rather than a workshop! Although I did ask people to turn to their neighbors and discuss messages about consent. I just couldn’t resist!

This was fun, though. I’ve enjoyed learning and growing at the National Sex Ed Conference for five years now, and this experience was just the same- encouraging me to truly think about what do sexuality educators need to be thinking about.

Want to check it out? The video from my keynote will be posted in the coming weeks, I’ll post the link once it’s live! More info about the conference can be found: http://sexedconference.com

In Reflection of 2015

2015 was HUGE! Two big teaching manual editing projects and prepping and giving my first keynote presentation all in my ‘spare’ time, I’m trying to not be too hard on myself for the lapse in blog posts. And I couldn’t have done it alone- I had many friends and loved ones that have helped and supported me through the journey of 2015!

Now, what’s in store for 2016? Hopefully a few more posts, including in terms of resource highlights, recent reads and Friday Freak Outs, and please bear with me as I balance it all!

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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.

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! What can we learn from First Kiss video featuring strangers kissing

Earlier this week a video was posted to Youtube called First Kiss (also known as 20 Strangers Kissing). Within 24 hours, it had over 20 million views. As of this post, it’s got over 44 million.

That is basically the definition of VIRAL. It’s been called beautiful, touching, gorgeous, and strangely sweet. It’s also be described as cringy-cute and a bad first date– probably because it was soon learned that the video is actually an ad for Wren, a clothing line. (Note, it’s being described as a viral win.)

But once you get past that the video is actually an advertisement and the individuals in the video are actors (selected in part for their attractive looks) and are not representative of your average human being and that it’s incredibly staged, there ARE lessons about sexuality that can be learned:

  • Mike Domritz, on the Date Safe Project website, points out that the video demonstrates that asking for consent- something demonstrated throughout this video- doesn’t have to ruin everything, and can in fact make everything better.
  • Daniel Garza, from the Examiner, points out that the video highlights that “you are a living, breathing, sexual person with needs.”
  • Marcie Bianco, on PolicyMic, points out that the video “gives credence to the idea of sexuality as an act, or an action. There is no difference between the nerves or intimacies of the men kissing women, the men kissing men or the women kissing other women.”

As with all my Friday Freak Outs, I encourage sexuality educators to use popular media as teachable moments. This video can spark interesting discussions around consent, sexual being-ness, and inclusivity. It could also spark discussions around intimacy, hook-up culture, and the use of sexuality in advertizing.  (It can also spark parody videos, like this one that is NSFW, or this one, which IS safe for work.) The possibilities are really endless.

Friday FREAK OUT! “The twerkiest week of all time ever”

So if you don’t know what twerking is, it’s about time that you found out. Especially because according to the Huffington Post, last week was the “twerkiest week of all time ever.

Maybe it’s because Myley Cyrus performed the “Twerk that Changed the World” with Robin Thicke at the MTV video music awards in a nude bikini as he sung his summer anthem, Blurred Lines. (See my post earlier this summer about how this song has been accused of being ‘rapey’.)

Maybe it’s because within 48 hours of Myley Cyrus’ performance, the word “twerk” made it into the Oxford dictionary, defined as: “dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance” (as of August 2013). (Check out slate’s commentary)

Maybe it’s because you’ve seen this INSANE video of an epic twerk fail, posted by a user attempting to make a video for her boyfriend, but instead she ends up smashing a glass coffee table and setting her clothes on fire.

Or maybe you’ve seen the parody YouTube video, Captain Kirk watches Miley Cyrus performance.

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Still confused about what ‘twerking’ really is? You’re not alone!!

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Well, maybe urban dictionary‘s definition will provide a more accurate explanation: “The rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter in ones intended audience.” In essence, some sexy dancing.

My question is, where does the HANDSTAND come in? I mean, people have been ‘dancing to popular music in a sexually provocative manner with thrusting hip movements’ at least since Elvis, if not the beginning of time. But the handstand? I think that’s what got 33 students at Scripps Ranch High School suspended for posting a twerking video filmed on school property.

So, have you explained twerking to your parents yet? No? Well, this hilarious (yet at times racist) NY Times op-ed may help, and it’s important to remember,

A critical first step is to acknowledge that twerking is a normal part of life and that there is nothing shameful in their questions.

Which is actually a great message for sexuality educators as well. Your students may be wanting to twerk, have tried it out at home (hopefully without burning candles nearby), or watching YouTube videos of people twerking. And if twerking hasn’t come up in your classes yet, you might as well be prepared. Here are some suggestions for finding out more about what your participants know, and helping them process this twerk freak out:
– Simply ask, “what comes to mind when you hear the word ‘twerk’?”
– Check out some twerking youtube videos so you have a good handle on the wide variety of interpretations of twerking. (WARNING, it could be rather explicit if you simply google ‘twerk’)
– Have participants think about the various perceptions of twerking, such as what the twerker may be seeking, what the twerkee may be experiencing, and what the twerk bystander may be observing.
– Ask students why twerking is causing such a ‘freak out’ in the media.
– Explore scenarios in which twerking may be appropriate (at a dance club) or inappropriate (at a job interview- except if it’s for a hip-hop backup dancer).
– Ask students to consider how twerking can relate to World Sexual Health Day (celebrated this past week, on Sep 4, 2013)- this year’s slogan: “To achieve sexual health, picture yourself owning your sexual rights”.

Just remember, we all twerk in our own ways. Some with nude-colored bikinis, some standing on their hands, and some just swaying from side to side. At the end of the day it’s all sexy dancing. And, if you want to reach your audience, don’t put down their twerk- your twerk may be different, but it’s still a twerk.

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Friday FREAK OUT! Outrage over ads for Kegel exercises

Riding along on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), some people do not want to see ads about Kegel exercises. The ads, which have been up for about 4 weeks, read:

Ladies, admit it. You’re doing kegels right now.

The ads have been called offensive, appalling, outrageous, and over the line.

What many riders don’t know is that this ad is part of a tv network Veria Living’s Random Acts of Wellness Campaign. This campaign is meant to be a light-hearted way of getting people thinking about wellness.

Funny, because another fabulous awareness campaign was launched just this week that directly relates to these ads. Sexuality educator Debby Herbenick launched a fabulous new Tumblr, Make Sex Normal.

I think these Kegel ads are a great example of ways that we can make sex normal. If we can be open and honest about discussing pelvic exercises, then we set the foundation for individuals being comfortable talking about things like consent! These ads are a great opportunity for teachable moments to talk about how sexual health is about more than just condoms.

It’s too bad that according to the Huntington Patch, the ads will come down next week.

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

Ryan Andresen

 

http://nesa.org/methods.html

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.

 

Ideals

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.

 

Patrols

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

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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.

 

Advancement

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.

 

Uniform

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.