Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category

April 1, 2008

Stories on Teenage Relationship Violence and Sexual Assaults on Reservations Honored by Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

A Cleveland Plain Dealer series on teen dating violence, told through the story of a high school student raped and shot by her ex-boyfriend, and a NPR report on the epidemic of rape on Native American reservations are winners of the 2008 Dart Awards for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma.

Established in 1995, the annual Dart Awards, presented by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the University of Washington, recognize “outstanding reporting that portrays traumatic events with accuracy, insight and sensitivity while illustrating the effects of trauma on victims’ lives and the process of recovery from emotional trauma.” From the release announcing this year’s winners:

The Cleveland Plain Dealer received the Dart Award for “Johanna: Facing Forward” (Rachel Dissell, reporter; Gus Chan, photographer). This remarkable nine-day series traced events leading to the 2007 shooting of 18-year-old Johanna Orozco by her 17-year-old boyfriend. Exploring the roots of relationship violence through Johanna’s eyes, the series – reported and photographed over six months – particularly struck a chord in Cleveland’s Latino community and led to the creation of abuse-awareness programs for teens. [...]

National Public Radio received the Dart Award for “Sexual Abuse of Native American Women” (Laura Sullivan, correspondent; Amy Walters, producer; Maria Godoy, Digital Media Producer), a startling two-part investigative series that opened a new window onto a national disgrace. The series exposed both the fate of women assaulted on reservations, and the web of impunity protecting their assailants.

I was very moved by the NPR report and wrote about it last year when it first aired.

When I find the time, I’m going to read the full Cleveland Plain Dealer series. The paper’s website offers online extras, including story updates, podcasts and resources. Last month, Joanna wrote a letter describing her recovery one year after the assault and her plans for the future.

All too often we’re appalled by insensitive or incomplete coverage. The excellent reporting reflected here deserves widespread attention. More Dart Award radio and newspaper finalists can be found here.

February 22, 2008

V-Bombs and Sex-Ed Fights: Vaginas in the News

“School Newspaper Drops a V-Bomb” reads the headline of this L.A. Times story about the confiscation of a high school student newspaper that featured a labeled diagram of a vagina on the front page of the Valentine’s Day issue.

The paper’s editor-in-chief, 15-year-old Richard Edmond, said he was trying to raise awareness of violence against women with a lead story about playwright Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues.”

“I didn’t think it was going to be that big a deal,” Edmond said. “But they are really upset.”

Edmond said administrators did not explain to his satisfaction why this copy of Le Sabre was unfit for distribution. He said he was told by administrators: “This is not in the taste of the school; this is a high school, not Hollywood Boulevard.”

That didn’t jive so well with the students. The next day, Edmond and others went to school wearing homemade white, black and pink T-shirts reading “My vagina is obscene.” School officials sent home Edmond and two other protesters who refused to change their clothes.

My favorite quote has to be what Edmond told the Student Press Law Center: “My deans said, ‘We understand there’s violence against women, but we have to send you home because that’s our job. I don’t think there should be a ‘but.’”

* * *
This Chicago Tribune headline, meanwhile, promises more bang than the story delivers: “Sex-Ed Fight Began with Condom and Banana.”

No mess here; rather, it’s about a New Jersey peer-to-peer sex-ed course that has drawn the ire of some parents. Indeed, the original headline to the Philadelphia Inquirer story was a more subdued “Sex Ed Led by Teens is Dividing Parents.”

The program involves faculty-supervised juniors and seniors who conduct a series of five seminars attended by freshmen. The New Jersey Teen Prevention Education Program (Teen PEP) is sponsored by the N.J. Department of Health and Senior Services, HiTOPS Inc. (Health-Interested Teens Own Program on Sexuality) and the Princeton Center for Leadership Training.

Favorite quote:

“Students listen to each other anyway,” said Alex Van Kooy, 16, a Clearview peer educator. They talk about sex “in the halls and at the bus stop, and we’re just trying to give the correct information instead of rumors and whispers.”

Echoing that point, columnist Michael Smerconish writes in a related piece that everything he needed to know about sex he learned playing street hockey.

“In those teenage years, sex came up just about everywhere,” writes Smerconish. “Playing sports. At the movies. Drinking a Frank’s soda. All over. Except home. And certainly not in any classroom.”

His column includes a number of great comments from Michael Porter, a high school English teacher who also serves as a Teen PEP adviser. Tongue in cheek, Porter says, “When I first started to hear some of the revolting things that were happening in Teen PEP workshops, I was ready to start protesting the group myself, until I remembered that I was in charge of it.”

All joking aside, Porter gets that talking about some subjects may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s far easier than dealing with a sexually transmitted disease or unplanned pregnancy.

“I am the father of a 15-year-old girl,” Porter said. “Believe me, I am terrified of the sexually saturated culture that she is surrounded by. I sincerely hope that she chooses to postpone sexual involvement for a long, long, long time. At the same time, as a second-best alternative, I want her to have the information to be safer, should she make a different choice.”

February 5, 2008

Comprehensive Sex Education in Illinois Not All That

One-third of all sex education teachers in Illinois are not providing comprehensive instruction, according to a new study.

The survey by researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center appears in the February 2008 issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology (here’s the abstract). Among the findings: 30 percent of the state’s sex-education teachers had never received sex-education training. The national average is 18 percent.

“For this study, we set the bar for comprehensiveness fairly low relative to what most medical and public health organizations recommend,” said senior author Stacy Tessler Lindau, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and medicine at the University of Chicago, “and one out of three programs failed to clear it.”

“Our children learn many of the skills they need to be healthy citizens and to take responsibility for their own health in school,” she said. “That should include information about sexual aspects of health. Physicians who care for adolescents need to know what students are, or are not learning, in school in order to fill gaps caused by deficits in program content, quality and teacher training.”

The survey of 335 sex education teachers in 201 public middle and high schools was was funded by the Illinois Campaign for Responsible Sex Education, a project of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and Planned Parenthood Chicago Area. The survey found that seven percent of the schools did not off any sex education. Here are some of the curriculum details from those that do:

The most frequently taught topics, covered by 96 percent of teachers, were HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Almost 90 percent of teachers covered abstinence. Among those who taught abstinence, 57 percent emphasized that it was the “best alternative,” 39 percent said it was the “only alternative,” and four percent described it as “one alternative.”

Practical skills — such as contraception, condom use, decision-making and communicating with a partner — and morally debated topics, such as abortion or sexual orientation, were among the least frequently taught. Teachers who had not received sex-education training were less likely to spend time on practical or morally debated topics.

Of the 17 topics, emergency contraception was mentioned least, taught by only 30 percent of teachers. Only 32 percent of teachers brought up homosexuality or sexual orientation, 34 percent taught how to use condoms, 37 percent taught how to use other forms of birth control, 39 percent discussed abortion and 47 percent taught students where to access contraception and sexual-health services.

The most common reason for omitting a topic was “not part of the curriculum.” Those who omitted condom use, however, most often cited “school or district policy.”

January 15, 2008

Calls for Action, Votes and Participation

An activism mini round-up

Assault Against Women: Congresswomen Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), have drafted a letter (PDF) to the Department of Defense and the State Department about efforts to address sexual assault crimes against government contracted employees. The letter cites Jamie Leigh Jones, who was gang raped by fellow employees and held against her will, and Tracy Barker, who was sexually assaulted by a State Department employee.

Jill at Feministe has more on spreading the word about these efforts, including a note from Slaughter asking readers to contact their members of Congress to encourage them to sign on to the letters.

Sex Ed Videos: You have until Jan. 16 (tomorrow!) to visit and vote on your favorite contender in the Fresh Focus: Sex Ed Digital Video Contest, sponsored by RH Reality Check, Isis, Inc., Advocates for Youth, SIECUS and the National Sexuality Resource Center.

The groups asked people age 15 to 30 years old to create a video about the sexuality education they had (or wished they’d had) or to envision the way they’d like sexuality education to be taught.

“Brutally honest, shockingly perceptive and sometimes hilarious, these videos are a wake-up call from young people of all cultures, ethnicities and gender-identities,” writes Amie Newman, in a post about the contest and finalists.

International Women’s Day: Feminist Peace Network is already sounding the bell for International Women’s Day, scheduled for March 8, and will post related announcements and statements. Send information to

Dreams for Women: Antigone Magazine, a grassroots national magazine that works to encourage young women to get involved in politics in Canada, is launching a Feminist Postcard art project based on your dreams for women.

January 13, 2008

Double Dose: A Modest Proposal for Pregnant Teens; C-Section Stats Under Review; Googling Your Health; New Info on Medicare and Health Insurance Coverage

A Modest Proposal: “Pregnant students in a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks of maternity leave so they can heal, bond with their newborns and not be penalized with unexcused absences,” reports the Denver Post, which notes that Denver Public Schools has no districtwide policy, meaning it’s left up to schools to “to work out plans for students to continue their education.”

What that means is some schools have set a policy whereby girls who don’t show up for school the day after they give birth are charged with unexcused absences. Many of the comments on this story argue against “special treatment.”

Florida Considers Proposal to Teach “Abstinence Plus”: “The bill would still require that schools teach abstinence as ‘the only certain way to avoid pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases,’” reports the AP. “But, the measure would require that starting in the 6th grade, sex education classes provide information about the health benefits and side effects of contraceptives.”

Iowa Gets Funding to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies: Former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack launched a statewide project called “Iowa Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancies” that will focus on women ages 18 to 30. “As a woman, as a teacher, as a mother, I believe we have a responsibility to give all women in our state the knowledge and the means to prevent unintended pregnancies,” she said. From the Des Moines Register:

Half of all pregnancies in Iowa in 2006 were unintended, Vilsack said, citing state Department of Public Health statistics. Of those, 14 percent ended in terminations, she said, citing Iowa Barriers to Prenatal Care Project statistics.

Iowa ranks 48th in the nation in making family planning services available and 39th in its public funding for those efforts. More than half of Iowa’s counties do not have family planning centers, Vilsack said.

C-Section Statistics Under Review: “In 2006, 31.1% of U.S. births were by C-section, a 50% increase over the previous decade,” notes USA Today in a story that examines the debate over safety of elective c-sections.

For more information, check out this earlier post on c-sections and the rise of maternal mortality, as well as Rachel’s post on c-section rates by hospital.

FDA Takes Action on Biodentical Hormones: “The Food and Drug Administration is cracking down on pharmacies that sell customized hormone mixtures as antidotes for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, saying they are being promoted with false claims about their benefits and contain an ingredient the agency hadn’t approved,” reports the Wall St. Journal.

Here’s more from Well, where an interesting discussion follows, and the FDA press release.

Do You Google Your Health?: Rahul K. Parikh, M.D. doesn’t mind if you do and suggests websites that provide accurate, up-to-date medical information. Don’t forget Rachel’s great post on online health research — it includes questions to ask when evaluating the reliability of websites.

Medicare and Health Insurance Coverage: The Kaiser Family Foundation this week released a new issue brief providing an overview of Medicare’s financing and the fiscal challenges the program faces in the coming decades.

KFF also released two updated fact sheets that provide the most current information and data on health insurance coverage for women ages 18-64. The first, Women’s Health Insurance Coverage, provides new statistics on health coverage, describes the major sources of health insurance, summarizes the major policy challenges facing women in obtaining health coverage, and provides data on the more than 17 million women who are uninsured.

The second fact sheet, Health Insurance Coverage of Women by State, provides state-by-state data on the uninsured rate, as well as rates of private insurance and Medicaid coverage.

December 27, 2007

A Look Back: “Doin’ It: Sex, Disability and Videotape”

I love end-of-the-year retrospectives — they help to frame the year that was and I catch up on great stories and bits of culture I missed the first time around.

Today during a look back on Eight Forty-Eight, a local Chicago Public Radio show, I was reminded of a story I had intended to blog when it first aired in April — an interview with members of the Empowered FeFes, a group of young women with disabilities sponsored by Chicago-based Access Living.

The Empowered FeFes collaborated with Beyond Media to create “Doin’ It: Sex, Disability and Videotape,” a documentary released this year that addresses society’s general unwillingness to acknowledge that people with disabilities have sexual needs and desires.

“We have to let people know that because in their mind they’re thinking oh, she’s in a chair, she can’t do that, she can’t date, she’ll never get married,” said Veronica Martinez, a member of the Empowered FeFes.

The film also covers issues ranging from reproductive rights and the history of forced sterilization to sexual health and domestic violence.

“The motivation,” Susan Nussbaum of Access Living told Eight Forty-Eight, “is for young women and girls with disabilities around the U.S. to have a very affirmative image about their own sexuality, the thing I wish I had had myself at that age.”

Listen to the interview here, and check out a great three-minute clip from the film below.

December 21, 2007

A Made for TV Story: 16-Year-Old “Good Girl” Gets Pregnant

Moving from the perpetually pre-pregnant woman to the teenage pregnancy that caused shockwaves … News that Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old star of Nickelodeon’s popular “Zoey 101,” is pregnant sent the media into a tailspin this week over The Big Question: “What will parents tell their children?”

Without waiting for Nickelodeon to air a “sex special” next year hosted by Linda Ellerbee — “TV queen of talking to moppets about any subject that makes advertisers cringe!” notes Lisa de Moreas — parents might want to start by discussing the importance of sex education, and what can happen when contraception isn’t used or unexpectedly fails.

The Massachusetts teenagers quoted in this New York Times story on reaction to Spears’ pregnancy get what Spears’s own mom didn’t want to accept: teenagers have sex, even teenagers who make curfew.

Referencing the same NYT article, Tracy Clark Flory makes an excellent point about how Jamie Lynn Spears, who until now had been held up as the antidote to her older sister’s tabloid life, is being shamed.

“There are some dangerous assumptions being made here, namely that having sex at age 16 makes one unclean, a fallen angel, and that contraception never fails,” writes Flory. “So much of the ‘TV’s perfect girl is pregnant’ coverage focuses on the dilemma facing parents: How do they best discuss the news with their kids? It’s an important question, to be sure. I just hope the dichotomous angel vs. slut, smart vs. stupid context in this Times article isn’t representative of how parents are answering that call.”

December 7, 2007

Pledges and Power: At Purity Balls, Fathers Hold the Key

The Chicago Tribune reports on a purity ball in Peoria, Ill. (video included), one of many purity balls held around the country at which daughters promise their virginity to their fathers until marriage.

“Girls are going into marriage with 12 sexual relationships. That brings so much baggage and regret that it breaks down the marriage,” said Janet Hellige, a volunteer who organizes the biannual Father-Daughter Purity Ball sponsored by The Christian Center in Peoria. “Girls have a wonderful gift to give, and we don’t want them to give all of themselves away. What we want them to do is present themselves as a rose to their husband with no blemishes.”

Nothing like the shaming of young women to spark a movement.

The story thankfully includes a thorough assessment of the failure of abstinence only programs — noting, for example, that teen pregnancy rates have dropped 36 percent since peaking in 1990, largely because teens are having safer sex, not no sex. (A side note: check out this story published Thursday on the increase in the birth rate for teenagers age 15-19 — the latest numbers show that the birth rate increased 3 percent in 2006, the first increase since 1991).

Interestingly, the founder of the first purity ball said promoting abstinence wasn’t the focus.

“This was birthed out of our home, not the abstinence movement,” said Randy Wilson, who has five daughters and two sons, and who with his wife, Lisa, founded Generations of Light, a Christian ministry in Colorado Springs. “It is a fatherhood event, not a virginity or abstinence event. We don’t think it’s appropriate to put that weight on the daughter’s shoulders.”

But Generations of Light is hardly offering a radically enlightened experience. At its purity balls, each father pledges to “cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.”

The father refers to himself in the pledge as “the high priest in my home,” while daughters are to be “cherished as regal princesses.”

Not exactly the terminology that comes to mind when advocating for healthy father-daughter relationships.

Mary Zeiss Stange, a professor of women’s studies at Skidmore College, offers a feminist critique that gets to the heart of the problem:

“These events represent an idea that there is something about female sexuality that needs to be controlled by dominant men in the household,” said Stange. “That relates to a patriarchal position in the evangelical movement that not only defines female sexuality but females themselves as property. What happens with purity balls is, in effect, the daughter becomes her father’s property until he hands her off to her husband.”

November 6, 2007

Creepy Pageant Promotion


Meet the new class of objectified 6-year-olds, stars of VH1′s “Little Beauties: Ultimate Kiddie Queen Showdown,” a documentary billed as a “light-hearted look into the wonderful world of children’s beauty pageants through the eyes of four, precocious six-year old girls.”

If that isn’t enough to turn your stomach, check out VH1′s list of what viewers will be privy to, including spray tanning sessions and fake teeth fittings. The show has also annoyingly given the girls descriptors, like “the flirt” or “the diva.”

A 6-year-old flirt. Nice.

As Samhita writes, “Please, just stop pornifying, beautifying, and making over our 6 year old girls!!!”

September 10, 2007

Suicide Rates Increase in Young Girls

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report on suicide trends among those ages 10-24 in the United States, updated with 2004 data. Alarmingly, the suicide rate appears to have increased 8% from 2003 to 2004 after a period of decline, having decreased 28.5% from 1990 to 2003. A CDC press release notes it as “the biggest annual increase that we’ve seen in 15 years.”

After breaking the data down by sex and age, three groups stood out as having significantly increased suicide rates compared with 2003 – females 10-14 years, females 15-19 years old, and males 15-19 years old. Although suicide rates remain higher in boys, the largest percentage increase was in the group of girls who were 10 to 14.

The researchers also found that the methods by which young women committed suicide have changed – while firearms used to be the most common method for both sexes, hanging/suffocation is now the most common method for girls.

The editors note that it is not yet clear whether this finding is a single-year anomaly, or whether the rate will continue to increase – the FDA’s initial warnings about a possible increase in suicide risk in teens taking certain antidepressants happened in 2004, the year of this new data. They also express concern about changing risk factors for suicide and increased use of readily available means (such as hanging), and point out the lack of available insight into young female suicide:

Scientific knowledge regarding risk factors for suicide in young females is limited. Research that focuses on suicide mortality has emphasized males, who constitute approximately three fourths of suicide decedents aged 10–19 years. In contrast, research on suicidal behavior among females primarily has examined factors related to suicidal thoughts and nonfatal self-inflicted injuries.

If you or a loved one need help with this issue, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 1-800-273-TALK to speak with a counselor and be referred to a local crisis center. You may also want to view this fact sheet on recognizing suicidal behavior and guide for parents.

August 29, 2007

NBC: Selling Out America’s Teens, One Tiara at a Time

Miranda Spencer watches the “Miss Teen USA” pageant on NBC so you don’t have to.

Never mind that today’s “Miss Teen USA” pageant sets feminism back 40 years, back when airlines had slogans like, “I’m Kimberly. Fly me!” Or that, creepily enough, you can buy photos of the bikini-clad high schoolers on the pageant website. These young women are being proferred as role models.

I can only think of my spunky, whip-smart 12-year-old cousin Jenny, and hope her TV was broken last night. She doesn’t need to know that in a few years she’ll be old enough for NBC to pimp her out to America.

The photo part kills me. The pageant website also presents a list of beauty tips that seems to miss its demographic: Who knew so many teens needed help reducing the appearance of cellulite?

And yet it ends with this ironic tip: “Always be true to your inner voice. It’s your personality, strength, accomplishments, intelligence, and self-confidence that will radiate from within and make the world notice the extraordinary you!”

Oh, we only wish.

August 23, 2007

More on the “Modesty Movement”

It’s the topic of today’s “Talk of the Nation” on NPR. Guests include Wendy Shalit, author of “Girls Gone Mild,” and Amy Dickerson, “Ask Amy” columnist of the Chicago Tribune.

One of the first callers, a father and middle school teacher who criticizes his female students’ clothes, will really endear himself to listeners (heh). Amy steps up and does a nice job.

August 22, 2007

A Return to Blogging — and to Modesty

First, a big thank you to Rachel Walden of Women’s Health News for guest blogging while I was collecting rocks on the beaches of Cape Cod. She’s spectacular, so make sure to visit her site regularly.

Now, what would a return to blogging be without a return to modesty? Anne K. Ream writes in the L.A. Times about the growing “modesty movement,” as reflected by websites like Modestly Yours, Modesty Zone and, which promotes a “chaste but chic” dress code for teens.

“They call themselves sexual revolutionaries, but that might be something of a misnomer: In their world, abstinence is the order of the day and female virtue is the best way to ensure female safety,” writes Ream, founder of Voices and Faces Project and co-founder of Girl360. Her critique continues:

The mother of the modesty movement is Wendy Shalit, whose 1999 book, “A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue,” argues that today’s young women have reverted to an earlier mode of femininity, deciding that in the face of sexual excess, chastity is the ultimate 21st century rebellion.

No one would argue that the right to say no to sex isn’t a good thing. And surely we can agree that talking to girls about the value of their bodies, and their selves, is a welcome cultural shift. But when Shalit argues that “many of the problems we hear about today — sexual harassment, date rape … are connected to our culture’s attack on modesty,” she is making a dangerous leap.

It’s not a lack of female modesty but a sense of male entitlement that leads to sexual violence. And the idea that we women can change men’s behavior by changing our clothes is not only disconcerting, it has been debunked. As millions of women know all too well, no one ever avoided a rape by wearing a longer skirt. [...]

Scratch the surface, and what’s supposed to be good for girls reveals itself to be all about the boys: dressing in a way that doesn’t over-excite them, demurring so that their manhood remains intact and holding tight to our sexuality until we find a husband who is worthy of that ultimate “prize.”

What’s lost in this view of the world is the power of female desire: not just sexual and sartorial but professional and intellectual. There is something liberating about a girlhood (and womanhood) that is not lived solely in anticipation of, or in response to, a man. There’s something freeing about a world in which women have the right to take risks (and to get mad).

While boys may be marketed the British “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” concludes Ream, there’s no equivalent for girls: “I guess the fairer sex will have to satisfy itself with Shalit’s latest tome: ‘Girls Gone Mild.’”

Speaking of “The Dangerous Book for Boys,” Charles McGrath had a very funny take on it in Sunday’s New York Times. The film rights have just been bought.

August 14, 2007

Review of “Girls Gone Mild”

In a Washington Post review of Wendy Shalit’s new book, “Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to Be Good,” Jennifer Howard writes that Shalit engages in “some very dubious sociology.” Here’s my favorite part:

Even more detached from reality is Shalit’s takedown of older feminists. These are the good ladies, second- and third-wavers, who run organizations such as NOW and who have fought for years to give women the same chances as men — not, as Shalit would have it, just the chance to sleep around like men. She attacks them for “the concessions they made to pornography” and for being “so committed to the idea of casual sex as liberation” that they’re baffled by younger, more restrained women.

“As the third-wavers continue to advocate a public, crude sexuality and younger girls feel oppressed by how public sexuality is, the two sets of women are on course for an inevitable collision,” Shalit writes. This is bone-headed conservatism at its most offensive. Last time I checked my Feminist Manual, letting it all hang out in public didn’t appear on the must-do list. Nor did making concessions to pornographers, but maybe I missed that section. Shalit would have us believe that feminism is not a dirty word in her vocabulary. Yet she seems surprised when a Wesleyan undergraduate “rejects sexual exhibitionism even though she identifies as a feminist.”

Imagine that! A feminist who doesn’t take her clothes off. What is this world coming to?

For more on Shalit’s book and the younger women she quotes, see Jessica Valenti’s post from July.

July 17, 2007

Real S.E.X. Ed

Rachel Kramer Bussel interviews Heather Corrina, a 37-year-old Seattle resident who for the past eight years has been providing teens with non-judgmental and accurate information about safer sex via her website,

Corrina has a new book out, “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.”

Asked how her identity as a feminist factors into her sex-ed philosophy, Corrina replies:

It has a pretty strong influence. One of the biggest errors we see with both sex education and with cultural sexual ethics and practices is that it’s usually done in the context of the prevailing oppressions. For instance, most sex ed is glaringly heterosexist, and presumes a heterosexual default. Much of it is overtly or covertly noninclusive when it comes to class, race, sex, gender and orientation.

Sex is often framed with some pretty decrepit and dangerous gender roles and stereotyping: assuming or encouraging female passivity or male dominance in sex and relationships, heralding vaginal intercourse as a be-all-end-all, setting the male/female romantic relationship above and beyond all others, presenting sexuality — particularly for women — as something a partner gives to you, or you to them, rather than something which exists all on its own and is sometimes chosen to be shared.

We don’t get to decide if society oppresses us as a class, be that by sex, by orientation, by color, by economic class. But we absolutely do get to decide that we are only going to be in intimate, interpersonal relationships based on equality. So, even though women are still taught to be largely passive sexually — even the vagina, a very active muscle, is more often presented as a passive receptacle than not! — we can see the negatives in that, for women and men, and opt for better.

*Sigh.* If only government-funded websites were written by smart, thoughtful sex educators …