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Bloghopping: October/November 2008

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Thu, 2008-11-13 11:39

Often, Scarleteen content is quoted within other blogs and articles, and my favorite thing about that is seeing how what we've done here can further other conversations and ideas; how others take some of what we've done in a different direction or to a further point.

Here are a few recent blogs and articles who have quoted or used some of our content to help address an array of topics. To check out the whole of the pieces, just give the links a click.

Interracial Dating: Does It Really Aid In The Race Reconciliation Process? (at UrbanMinistry.org)

When one finds true love, one may believe that the love they have for the other person is capable of moving mountains. Because of this belief, they want to shout their love at the top of their lungs; they may even desire to demonstrate it through public affection [i.e.--hand holding, kissing and cuddling, etc.] Because this love is so huge, there may even be a chance of the both of you successfully challenging societal norms, including norms inherent within the system of racism.

However, what if an interracial relationship potentially reflects the values inherent in the system of racism? Further, though the arrangement can be interpreted as love, what if that love is built upon the systematic belief that one race is better than another? In instances where this is the case, interracial dating cannot necessarily be viewed as a catalyst for change; rather, it can be viewed as a reflection of the oppressive nature of racism—a system that often forces us to look at beauty within a race-dominated paradigm that creates an even bigger disparity not only within minority communities, but in majority based communities as well.

Hypersexualized society puts young girls at risk (at Straight.com, Vancouver)

Pussycat Dolls creator Robin Antin is the worst thing to happen to teenage girls in a long time. For proof, look no further than The Search for the Next Doll, the reality-TV show she hosted last year. One of the episode's themes was confidence, and one of the best ways for the young women to acquire some, in Antin's view, was to strip to their skivvies and "dance" in glass cages. Nothing like preparing the youth of today for tomorrow.

The truly hurl-inducing scene of Antin, purveyor of all things slutty, teaching girls that gyrating in lingerie equals self-assuredness shows up in Sexy Inc. Our Children Under Influence, a documentary by Montreal filmmaker Sophie Bissonnette.

The film, coproduced by the National Film Board and the YWCA Montreal, includes everything from video clips of Nelly Furtado ("Promiscuous Girl") and Britney Spears ("I'm a Slave 4 U") to comments by psychologists and teachers about the impact of our sexed-up culture on youth. In essence, the film conveys how young girls want to be popular, and to be popular they have to be hot. They've been taught that their main value comes from their looks, not their brains, talents, achievements, goals, or aspirations.

No wonder, then, that fishnet stocking-clad Bratz dolls are coveted and thongs and spaghetti straps are cool.

Sexy Inc. served as a jumping-off point for discussion about our hypersexualized society at a Week Without Violence seminar presented by the YWCA Vancouver in October.

"The film shows the enormous pressure we see for very young girls to be sexy too soon," said Janet Austin, chief executive officer of the YWCA Vancouver, noting that one in two women in their lifetime will be subject to physical or sexual abuse.

Jan Sippel, the abuse-prevention coordinator for the Vancouver school board, spoke at the session of ways to counter the ubiquitous commercialization of sex and the objectification of women. One is media literacy.

The Future of Sex Ed (at Melissa Gira Grant)

Let’s talk about the 90’s, seriously? There was this notion that everyone online was just there posing as some sexual projection, like it was all the same three guys in raincoats with pink panties underneath. That nobody would want to be themselves, or want real information from real people. The Internet was understood as a fantasy playground, totally disconnected from one’s “real” self. This is when it was especially trendy to talk about virtual sex, teledildonics, and a lot of other nonsense that never came to pass or catch on.

Scarleteen was one ray of light in the 1990’s. Here’s what it looked like in 2000, and here’s the message boards today, over ten years after it began. Scarleteen proved that a sex educator could come up from her own community — in Heather Corinna, its’ founder. That a community could build trust, even when anonymous. Heather’s told me that some of those same users are still around today. It’s the model much of online sex ed followed, and rightly so.

2001. America does really get online. Maybe it was 9/11. Internet social scientists love to argue this point out. We still don’t know what it is, but all of a sudden, what were our personal blogs — and here’s my really embarrassing personal blog from 2001 to 2003 on Livejournal — were read by a much larger audience.

We started to see the impact our personal words had. That we didn’t have to segment ourselves to be read: that we could mix up sex, politics, health information, and random intimate day-to-day details, and be meaningful in a very different way to our readers. We gained their trust by seeming real in a very impersonal media landscape.

Sex and the Steel City: Understanding a common sexual phenomenon: vasocongestion (at The Silhouette)

“Oh baby, don’t stop now, you’re killing me”

Sound familiar? Whether or not you have ever been in a situation where your partner or yourself does not achieve orgasm during sexual activity, you have probably heard of the term “blue balls.” This is a slang term that Discovery Health defined as “the testicular aching which may occur when the blood that fills the vessels in a male’s genital area during sexual arousal is not dissipated by orgasm.”

The slang term probably came from the bluish tinge the testicles take on during the phenomenon, but the real word for it is vasocongestion. It is due to the depletion of oxygen within the blood when it pools for a long period of time within the prostate region. Vasocongestion occurs when a male becomes sexually excited; the arteries carrying the blood to the genitals enlarge and the blood vessels constrict. Discovery Health reported that this uneven blood flow causes more blood to become trapped in the penis and testicles causing an erection and increasing the size of the testicles, in some cases, up to 50 per cent. If an orgasm is reached and ejaculation occurs, the arteries return to normal size and the penis and testicles follow suit in a short time. However, if an orgasm does not occur, Discovery Canada reports that a feeling of “heaviness, aching and discomfort” may occur.

While this is an actual occurrence that males experience, it is only a relatively mild and temporary discomfort. Vasocongestion is used as a rather convenient and persuasive excuse for why an orgasm is necessary. The important thing to remember, however, is that while this is an actual phenomenon, it is not painful and certainly not permanently damaging to male genitals.

Females can experience vasocongestion as well, however it is usually referred to as pelvic congestion.

I also want to link you to a recent book salon at Firedoglake for Jessica Fields' new book, Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality I guest hosted. I really enjoyed the book and thought it brought up a lot of issues with sex education we often address here, but so infrequently see addressed elsewhere. The interactive salon was bustling and full of a lot of excellent conversation with Jessica I think you'll find of interest.

Since its dawn in America around 100 years ago, sex education has been and remains a controversial and provocative topic with often greatly polarized opinions about and approaches to it. In the last 12 years, since the advent of federally-funded abstinence-only sex education, the battles over sex ed by parents, advocacy, religious and health organizations and the government have amplified. Yet, caught in the middle are the students and teachers whose everyday experiences of sex education are seldom as clear-cut as either side of the debate suggests. With teen STI, pregnancy and birth rates in the U.S. still the highest of any developed nation, and with teens living in a world of increasingly mixed sexual messages, these issues are crucial.

Yet, whether we're talking about abstinence-only or comprehensive sex education, the issue doesn't stop at who is getting what kind of sex education. As someone who works to fill in sex education gaps for teens, no matter what type of sex ed they have or have not had, I can attest to the importance of looking not just at the battles around sex education and assuring young people get the information they need, but of issues in and around sex education which are often overlooked or diminished.

Any type of sex ed, particularly when administered through the schools, still exists in the macrocosms and microcosms of both the social and school environment and the greater context of the world we, and teens, live in. While most sex ed focuses on risk management, sexuality is far larger than something as simple as either having sex or not, or either suffering or avoiding negative health consequences. Issues of social inequities, the precarious balance of power within sexual and other interpersonal relationships and the politics of pleasure all play a part -- even when left unaddressed by curricula -- in what any kind of sex ed teaches, in how it is taught and learned and in what a student walks away from sex education with… and without.

Our guest for today's discussion is Jessica Fields, author of "Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality." Risky Lessons brings readers inside three North Carolina middle schools to show how students and teachers support and subvert the official curriculum through their questions, choices, viewpoints, and reactions. The book highlights how sex education’s formal and informal lessons reflect and reinforce gender, race, and class inequalities.

Ultimately critical of both conservative and liberal approaches, Fields argues for curricula that promote social and sexual justice. Sex education’s aim need not be limited to reducing the risks of adolescent pregnancies, disease, and sexual activity. Rather, its lessons should help young people to recognize and contend with sexual desires, power, and inequalities.

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