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We're just getting caught up with the myriad of fantastic blog entries that are part of the blog carnival that's been going on over the last three weeks as an effort to help cultivate support for Scarleteen. We've been reprinting some entries here at our blog, and will keep up with that, but here are a handful we can link right to for you to take a look at:
From Cory Silverberg at About.Com:
Scarleteen does sex education from a social justice model. Whether it's an article on the site, a response in the forums, or a request for more information in order to refer a youth out, they acknowledge the multiple ways that youth are systemically denied basic rights and access to sex education and sexual health. It's not unusual for a question about, say contraception or sexual pleasure, to elicit an answer that accessibly and seamlessness weaves information about race, class, and gender, in with information about how to go about choosing and accessing contraception, or negotiating with a partner to have sex that feels good. Scarleteen never addresses sexual health in isolation, and in this way helps its users develop their own, more integrated understanding and experience of sexual health.
Scarleteen is beholden to youth who use their service, not funders who pay for it. This is mostly because Scarleteen has no major government or corporate sponsors. Their funding comes from individuals like me and you. There are pros and cons to this situation, but what it means is that the services they deliver are developed in direct response to what youth want, and not in response to what services might get funded. This isn't an either/or proposal, I myself am mostly paid by a very large corporation, but we need to support spaces like Scarleteen where discussions happen much more unencumbered by the process of funding and development which touches so much other social service work.
Lastly, Scarleteen delivers comprehensive sex education that is actually comprehensive. This too is tied to their lack of obligation to institutional funders. On Scarleteen conversations can actually be guided by users, not by internal rules about what is and is not allowed to be talked about. Whether it's information about sexual pleasure, sexual violence, or any kind of sexual choice, Scarleteen users get to direct the conversation, and the educators and volunteers will go where the users want them to go. But they go as educators. They are not friends, they are not parents, they are teachers. They are good teachers, which is what we all need, and what most of us lack.
Which brings me to the part about what we can do. We can make the Internet a better place for sex by having the kind of complicated, honest, direct, and challenging conversations about sex that they have every day on Scarleteen. We can also help by supporting the professionals (paid and unpaid) who are devoted to doing this every day, not just with the people in their own life, but with strangers who come to them looking for support. Like so many good teachers, the folks at Scarleteen are seriously underpaid, and the organization needs our support.
When I was 11, Mom gave me a pamphlet called "Growing Up and Liking It," which featured a dated photograph of a smiling blonde teenage girl in a blue dress on the cover. The pamphlet described menstruation and really seemed to push Modess ("rhymes with oh yes!") sanitary napkins, which no longer existed. Included in the pamphlet was an insert about bras. This was lavishly illustrated with drawings of fabulous, impossibly-stacked women wearing various bullet bras and did little more than cause me to want to become a fabulous, impossibly-stacked woman wearing various bullet bras. The menstruation information, however, was old news. They had already shown us The Film at school. And that, apparently, was all we needed to know about sex. Except they were skipping what seemed to be the most interesting part! I’ve always believed that innocence is underrated but probably not the most practical thing in the world. I was used to being The Smart Girl, and being ignorant about something that was so important was disturbing. Being self-reliant, I set out to learn about sex via the only tools I had available to me: books. I knew the act was called sex, so I consulted Webster's Student Dictionary, but looking up "sex" was a big disappointment to say the least.
From Medicinal Marzipan:
When I was a kid, I was really lucky to have a mother that answered any and all sexual questions with blatant, irreverent, and knowledgable answers. Nothing was off topic. Nothing was considered too mature for my knowing. I never wanted for information, ranging from anatomy to sexuality.
I was very lucky.
Now, I’m not saying that this approach is going to work for everyone. I entirely understand not disclosing everything to your seven year old if it makes you uncomfortable or if you believe that is too much information for a small child. I am saying that access to appropriate and factual information about sex was an asset to me during my youth. It spared me from many things, from taking risks that would impact my sexual health such as not using protection, to feeling no shame about my sexuality or sex practices. In other words – BIG things.
From Button Street:
Shuffling feet, dusty floors. Click-whrr, washed-out slides. Snickering. Honestly, I don’t remember much about high school sex ed except that it was boring. My school was reasonably progressive, but our sex-ed class was anatomical, biological, and cold–in short, completely unhelpful.
My parents? Oh, I have the very vaguest memory of my mom having a “talk” with me…it would another year or two before I came out to them, but I knew I only liked girls and as soon as she started talking about boys my mind wandered off. If I never had sex with boys, I certainly couldn’t get pregnant, and I couldn’t catch anything nasty either right? So I didn’t need to care. And when I finally got laid with a girl–you know what I remember about my first kiss, my first time having sex? I’ll tell you it had nothing to do with safer sex. Not on my radar.
As a cripplingly awkward young lesbian too frightened to ask my parents or anyone about what I was going through, it wasn’t easy to find what I was looking for. Like many queer youth, I thought I was weird, I thought there was something wrong with me. I was terrified and embarrassed and didn’t know where to look other than the internet. This was in the last days of the BBS, when Geocities twinkled like so much tacky graffiti–and unfortunately, I didn’t find anything like Scarleteen.
Although I turned out okay, it took most of my young adult life to correct my misconceptions about my own sexuality and identity. Other people have much worse stories—but it doesn’t have to be like that.
From I'm Not Sorry:
Unfortunately young women have been given the shaft, literally and figuratively, for millennia when it comes to sex education. Ever-pervasive religion of pretty much every sort puts women in the “you are a vessel” category, there only to serve men’s needs, denying that we might have needs of our own. We are told how to please men, but not how to tell men to please us. We are told to put our men and our children’s lives over our own; society applauds the brave woman with cancer who puts off treatment to give birth or who finally gets that baby after seven IVF tries. If a woman wants anything other than a husband and children—or, just maybe, pleasure during sex—she is branded as selfish, a slut, a whore, unnatural. Thanks to the Internet the misogynists have really come out to play. While I was writing about Debbie Does Dallas out of curiosity I Googled “seventies porn ads.” With some poking around I found the worst term used towards women in the ads was “broads.” These days? “Cum-guzzling sluts eager to swallow your load!” “Hungry bitches ready for your cock!” “Nasty cunts who take it in the ass and beg for more!” I’m not saying women weren’t exploited in the seventies and eighties, but at least they weren’t called names–in public, anyway.
Thankfully, the Internet also offers a platform for the truth, which brings me to Scarleteen.
I first came across Scarleteen a few years ago and immediately fell in love with it—because it was honest. It embraces every choice a teenager can make—straight, homosexual, omnisexual–without judgment and is super medically accurate. It advises frank talk and actions from safe sex to masturbatory techniques without any of the mainstream media’s bullshit or spin or political correctness. You will not see terms like “va-jay-jay” there. If you are a parent and aren’t comfortable with talking about sex with your kids, the best thing you can do for them is send them over to Scarleteen. Hell, even if you are comfortable with talking about sex with your kids send them to Scarleteen. Read it yourself, you might learn something. With INS I’ve striven to present the truth about abortion without judgment. Heather Corinna goes about five hundred steps ahead of me with sex and Scarleteen and she does it on next to no cash, which makes it even more amazing. I don’t ask INS readers to pony up money very often, but please try to throw a few bucks Scarleteen’s way. It is a truly valuable resource and any help to keep it available to kids, especially this generation, bombarded with conflicting messages all over the place, will be gratefully appreciated. If one gender-bending kid breathes a sigh of relief knowing that there are others; if one teenage boy realizes that it’s okay to be a virgin; if one teenage girl learns that there’s nothing wrong with her if she doesn’t come solely through intercourse, that’s one more sexually healthy human being on the planet.
Want to help out? We need whatever you can give this year, and whatever it is, we can assure you, it'll be so appreciated by our staff and volunteers, and more importantly, by the millions of Scarleteen readers and users every year who rely on us for a safe, sound and smart place to learn about sexuality and to get direct support when they need it. To find out how, click here!