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Our volunteers are a huge part of Scarleteen, and I call them superstars with very good reason. They're all incredible.
They play a big part in providing our direct services at our message boards and through our text-in answer service. They are our invaluable collective editorial board: even when volunteers aren't part of writing a piece, every piece we publish goes past at least some of them and their input is priceless. They're an equal part of all conversations about how we run things here, collectively informing and making decisions about how we manage and administrate the site and organization. They are a strong support circle: for all of us as a staff, for each other, for our users. They are a brilliant hivemind: our backend chat channel for staff and volunteers has had some amazing, inspired conversation about the issues we address here at Scarleteen. Most of our volunteers also started out at Scarleteen as users, so they come in with a lot of knowledge about being a user here, which informs the way they do their work a lot. And they dedicate their free time to doing all of this, only receiving a modest stipend for their work as our budget allows.
Like I said, superstars. What we'd do without them....well, I hope we never have to know.
I feel lucky to know all of them as well as I do, and thought all of you might want a chance to get to know them a bit more yourself. I'll do this puppy in two parts to give you these snapshots: here's the first installment!
Where do you live? South English urban town by the sea.
What year did you first find Scarleteen? 2010
What made you want to volunteer? I never knew there were people out there exactly like me. Feminist, gender-fluid, open about sex, thinking in great depth about abuse and objectification, pansexual...Frantically googling the relationships between gender and sexual abuse, I found home. At first I thought you were all teens...but, my gosh. Adults being open about rape with teens. I've never felt so alive since I found Scarleteen. I *had* to be a part of you - I already was in my heart.
Biggest personal sexual epiphany (so far)? That actual, intelligent, well-respected ADULTS believe that gender and sex aren't linked. And there are lots of them. Closely followed by the fact that the so-called 'female' body isn't a sexual thing in itself - just sexualized by culture. I can look in the mirror again!
Best thing you ever learned from a Scarleteen user/users: That we can be strong even if we don't get on so well with our parent(s), or they've abused us. We can survive & thrive; we still rock. Also: every single one of them breaks some kind of stereotype just by existing. One is a femme lesbian, for instance; breaking the idea that lesbians are tomboys. Loads of female users love sex; including casual sex; loads of male users like romance.
Favorite book: Hmm. Mighty difficult. 'Wicked' - Gregory Maguire, 'Delusions of Gender' - Cordelia Fine, Children's Books: 'Saffy's Angel'& 'The Exiles' - Hilary McKay & 'Water Wings' - Moris Glietzman.
Favorite film: Anchorman!
One major life goal: Make some friends I actually love. Be part of a friendship group.
If you could sum up what you want to give to users here in your work at Scarleteen, what would that be? To help make it so that no teen/twenty-something ever goes through what I did due to misinformation. We're only young once, and so many teens must spend it scared to death rather than being free and having fun due to adults with-holding info or lying. So much fear and devastation could have been avoided if only I'd know that: no Manual sex with no ejaculate on hands can't get you pregnant. It's coercion, not 'boys being boys'. A boyfriend can still assault you. You're not broken because you're a girl who has lots of casual sex. You're not getting 'more broken and used up each time'. Age-gap relationships don't automatically kill you if everyone is aware and caring. No, EC isn't an abortion. Nope, men aren't 'more visual' and objectification is part of rape culture. And, yep, bisexuality exists!
Where do you live? Outside of Redmond, WA
What year did you first find Scarleteen? 2010
What made you want to volunteer? Heather asked me, I enjoy helping/educating people.
Biggest personal sexual epiphany (so far)? Something I thought I couldn't even do turned out to be my favorite sexual activity once I tried it.
Best thing you ever learned from a Scarleteen user/users: How strong young people really are.
Favorite book: I love books - I read around 2 books a week. It's really impossible to pick one favorite. I'm into Sci-Fi, True Crime, Self-Improvement, General fiction, Non-fiction, Science books. A couple favorite books: The entire Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Favorite film: Back to the Future
One major life goal: To be content & happy
If you could sum up what you want to give to users here in your work at Scarleteen, what would that be? I would really like to help young people to learn what they need to know to be safe & happy going into adulthood. They have such a desire to learn these things, and yet many adults are reluctant to give them this knowledge - even purposely keeping information from them, often at the expense of a young persons health. I want to counteract this in any way I can - I am a firm believer of information being freely available.
Where do you live? Ottawa, Canada
What year did you first find Scarleteen? 2005
What made you want to volunteer? When I first came here, I had so many questions and I was kind of a mess. All the volunteers and users at the time were awesome to me. Once I got my own stuff mostly sorted out, I wanted to be able to do the same for others so I started reading the articles more and answering questions.
Biggest personal sexual epiphany (so far)? It's okay to laugh and be silly during sexy times. I used to have this idea that everything had to be perfect and romantic and serious. I realize now that there will be noises and smells, and sometimes something won't go quite where or how you intended it to. Being able to laugh about this stuff makes the whole experience better for me.
Best thing you ever learned from a Scarleteen user/users: I tend to be the kind of person who wants to fix things for everyone, and I’m slowly learning that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and that I don’t have to do everything alone. I think the sense of community and helpfulness around here has been a really big part of that.
Favorite book: I love to read so this is always a really hard question for me to answer. I think I’d have to say His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman though. I’ve re-read it countless times.
Favorite film: Also hard to pinpoint. I have really random tastes in movies, but I guess I’d say it’s a tie between V for Vendetta and Hot Fuzz.
One major life goal: Get my counselling career started!
If you could sum up what you want to give to users here in your work at Scarleteen, what would that be? I’d like everyone who comes to Scarleteen to leave with more knowledge, and a sex positive attitude. Both are so important and really go hand in hand.
Where do you live? Pitcairn, Pennsylvania (small town about 15 minutes outside Pittsburgh)
What year did you first find Scarleteen? 2008
What made you want to volunteer? When I first came to the site it took me a long time to even post, and I was terrified of what whomever answered may say. I remember thinking for sure that every thought I had about past sexual abuse was my fault, but actually finding a comfortable safe space at Scarleteen. The more I saw of the site the more I realized and loved that it was a safe place for so many people. I started answering questions I knew answers to hoping to be able to help others as I was, and was SO excited when I was able to become a volunteer.
Biggest personal sexual epiphany (so far)? I don’t have to have or understand all the answers about myself, my likes and dislikes, or even my boundaries as they can be formed and changed depending on what feels right for me at any time.
Best thing you ever learned from a Scarleteen user/users: One thing I’ve learned from SO many users is that just when we think we’re totally defeated, we can get up – brush the dirt off – and keep on walking. We have some really really strong individuals with such diverse experiences and backgrounds, and so often they really inspire me to keep on fighting through anything.
Favorite book: So, anyone that knows me knows I can’t pick one favorite book. I love to read, was always the kid in trouble for reading a book by flashlight under my covers ever since I was a child - reading anything I can get my hands on. But I can say I’ve read every Stephen King, John Grisham, Laurell K Hamilton, Charlaine Harris and Shel Silverstein book ever published.
Favorite film: I love a good horror movie, especially the classics. Freddy, Jason, even the old black and white films.
One major life goal: Find the courage to always be myself, and make a difference for others while doing so.
If you could sum up what you want to give to users here in your work at Scarleteen, what would that be? I’d like to give users the knowledge to protect themselves in the decisions they feel are right for them at any time – and to help each of them understand that contrary to what I was told growing up it’s totally okay to spend time experimenting and getting to know yourself and what brings pleasure to you. (And enough of the misinformation and scare tactics around sex ed!)
Where do you live? Leeds UK
What year did you first find Scarleteen? around 2005
What made you want to volunteer? Scarleteen's discussions on the boards were something I enjoyed and to be able to have more of an involvement to have my young opinion and expertise respected and appreciated was something I couldn't quite pass up. It's rare that I was able to feel that I could help other people and be respected by grown ups for doing it and for myself. I also happen love finding out more and talking about sexuality and sex.
Biggest personal sexual epiphany (so far)? A single thing might just be my first orgasm not-on-my-own... I think to have that part of myself suddenly not private was a big change. But lots of small epiphanies are always happening: very few sexual experiences have nothing new about them.
Best thing you ever learned from a Scarleteen user/users: That people can deal with a lot of difficult stuff... there doesn't seem to be an objective limit to human adaptability, it's actually amazing and it's like people we live with everyday.
Favorite book: I really couldn't say, but maybe The member of the wedding by Carson McCullers
Favorite film: Something between Disney's Dumbo and Fellini's Roma! Dumbo is just such a heart wrenching compassionate coming-out story about a flying elephant with an amazing score and images while Roma is just a plush gushing passionate portrait of a city with all it's complexities and colours.
One major life goal: To smooth over the bumps, life seems pretty up and down all the time! I like the idea of being old and steady for while!
If you could sum up what you want to give to users here in your work at Scarleteen, what would that be? Some words that help someone to look at their own situations in a some new way that helps them. And to help Scarleteen make sex educators and self-educators of us all.