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Spotlight on Scarleteen: Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day 2010!

The Fourteenth of February is a day that can conjure up various feelings, depending on the person and the context. Often people fall into two V-Day camps: those who delight in the sweet celebration and those who wish it were February 14th that happens only once every four years.

Spotlight on Scarleteen: New Years Resolutions

Happy New Year to you from all of us at Scarleteen!

Nearly a month into 2010, we hope your new year has been and continues to be happy, healthy, and all-around awesome. Have you set any New Year Resolutions this year? We have and would like to share them with you!

Over 1000 Scarleteen users are doing just that! Since December 19th and as of yesterday, 1001 visitors to the Scarleteen website have voted in the poll: Which of these is the best sexuality-based New Year's resolution for you? A lot of people will choose resolutions, such as exercising more, getting better grades, and quitting smoking. Those are all noteworthy goals, and big accomplishments when realized, but how about aiming to exercise safer sex all the time, acing a “quiz” of your own anatomy, and quitting bad body image and sexual shame? By setting a sexuality-related resolution, you’re focusing on an important part of you that often doesn’t get the attention (or praise!) it deserves.

THE RESULTS! We’re going to share the results here along with some recommended reading and some teen sex and sexuality-related statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, the Bureau of Justice, Outproud/Oasis, and ChildTrends Databank. All text and statistics following the “Did you know?” heading are directly quoted from the page on what Scarleteen Is.

BE HEARD! In addition to casting their vote, many Scarleteeners have also explained their choice. We encourage you to scroll down to read their resolutions after crunching the numbers.

THE RESULTS!

The poll offered 13 sexuality-based New Years resolutions to choose from: Improving body image and ditching sexual shame came out on top with 18% of all votes. Enjoying oneself more got second place with 14% of the vote, while using birth control or safer sex practices better and seeking out truly desired sexual relationships tied for third place with 11% each. Here is a more specific and all-inclusive break down of the results:

1. To improve my body image and/or ditch sexual shame 18% (182 votes)

Did you know? The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and between 5-10 million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or borderline conditions.

One author reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen (Brumberg, 1997).

For further reading, we recommend: An Immodest Proposal and Seven Ways to Love Your Body

2. To enjoy myself more 14% (144 votes)

Did you know? For many teens, sexual information is more often given in a context of sexual entertainment, peer-to-peer bragging or flirtation, and these approaches not only often result in inaccurate information, but in enabling a context of sexual commodity, shame or pressure around sexuality, as well as sexual stereotypes and cultural ideals or collective cultural fears. This given, our approach at Scarleteen is to be friendly and personable, rather than cold or clinical, but to come to sexual education and information in a professional, respectful way, with care for diverse boundaries and viewpoints.

For further reading, we recommend: 10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age) and Yield for Pleasure

3. To better use birth control or safer sex practices 11% (106 votes)

Did you know? Of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year, 9.1 million (48%) occur among 15-24-year-olds. Although 15-24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half of all new STIs each year. Half of new HIV infections (about 20,000) each year occur among youth aged 15-24.

Of the approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies that occur each year, 82% are unintended.

For further reading, we recommend: Safe, Sound & Sexy: A Safer Sex How-To and Birth Control Bingo!

3. To seek out the kind of sexual relationships I truly want 11% (113 votes)

Did you know? By their 18th birthday, six in 10 teenage women and more than five in 10 teenage men have had heterosexual intercourse. More than one-half of all teens ages 15 to 19 report engaging in oral sex (55 percent of males and 54 percent of females in 2002).

For further reading, we recommend: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist, Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models, and Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul

5. To learn more about my own sexual body and self 10% (105 votes)

Did you know? Knowing, too, that the reality of the way youth most often gets sexuality information -- peer-to-peer -- we do our level best to both moderate discussion to help aid youth in learning how to inform each other better, and do what we can to empower youth to research smartly, ask questions, avoid stereotyping, and communicate with and educate one another with sensitivity and compassion.

For further reading, we recommend: Innies and Outies: The Vagina, Clitoris, Uterus and More, Innies and Outies: The Penis, Testes and More, and With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body

...And that's just the beginning! Now please click "read more" below to see to the rest of the statistics and hear what users have to say.

Spotlight on Scarleteen: Mary C.

If you're a regular reader of the Scarleteen blog, then you're probably already familiar with her fierce, fantastic, and, yes, frisky blog entries: Mary C. a.k.a. Mary Lingwall may be a relatively new arrival at Scarleteen, but she's already made quite a splash with some strong stories. Not afraid to push the envelope, Mary's posts are a mixture of fresh personal narrative, social commentary, and academic comparative that is tasty and easy to swallow-- just what the empowered sex-positive educator ordered!

In her first piece, "From Closeted to Comfortable", we accompany her on her journey from the closet as a reluctant masturbator to her dorm bathroom where she unabashedly washes her dildos while holding court with friends. However, that post is not just fun to read but even manages to connect the assiduous with the intense. Mary asserts that she can, indeed, feel comfortable with her whole self, sexual or not. She credits resources like Scarleteen for "reminding me that my sex life is not my defining characteristic and that being kinky doesn’t equate to being degenerate." Then, in "Vajayjays," "Lady Parts" & "Aunt Flow", Mary takes Oprah to task for pussyfooting around using the correct terminology for female genitalia. Indeed, if "even Oprah... who has recently been one of the most beneficially outspoken contenders in the push for medically accurate, full-body sexual education for adolescents... can't say the word "vagina" without becoming uncomfortable", then is it any wonder that it's so hard for legions of girls and young women to do the same? In her most recent entry, Mary explores the intersection between "Feminism and Facials", or how even in the sex-positive feminist blogosphere, certain sexual acts can make people cringe or cry out with contempt; Mary provides an excellent overview on the topic, summarizing many of the pieces out there and stating her opinion, then ultimately leaving it up to the readers to decide where they stand.

Mary is not just a thought-provoking but also a prolific writer. In addition to occasionally blogging at Scarleteen, Mary is a junior Plan II Honors and History major at the University of Texas at Austin, where she can also be found reaching out to her peers as a Healthy Sexuality Peer Educator for UT’s health services, chairing Campus Coalition for Sexual Literacy, and writing for the Daily Texan. While she's currently on hiatus from Scarleteen, hardly surprisingly considering all the great things on her plate, you don't have to wait to read new material if you head over to her DT sex column "Hump Day” or check out her personal journal at Pink Lip Pariah.

I absolutely adore each of those pieces of hers here at Scarleteen and eagerly anticipate the topics Mary will cover in the future; I am also proud to share this recent interview with Scarleteen right now.

Without any further ado, here she is!

US to Lift HIV/AIDS Travel Ban

Good news from the White House! President Obama announced today that the US will overturn its current law banning HIV-positive individuals from entering the United States as tourists or immigrants. He explained that lifting the ban will help end stigma against people with HIV/AIDS; in fact, the ban itself has kept many people from getting tested and, therefore, could even be said to increase the spread of the disease.

Abuse and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Four years ago, Joseph Rocha was a committed and ambitious 18-year-old Navy recruit sure of two things: his love for his country and the corresponding desire to serve it in the Armed Forces, as well as his sexual orientation as a gay man. Unfortunately, the latter was very much in conflict with the former.

Kansas Abortion Provider Slain

Very sad news: A prominent abortion provider, George Tiller, was shot and killed this morning inside his church in Wichita, Kansas. He was one of the few remaining doctors in the US who perform therapeutic late-term abortions after 25 weeks (to 28 LMP). Unfortunately, Dr. Tiller was regularly targeted by radical anti-abortion groups; his clinic was bombed in 1986 and he was shot and wounded in 1993.

'American Youth' Photo Book

A new photo book entitled 'American Youth' was recently released. This glossy, 240-page photographic document features snapshots and extended photo essays on young people from all across the United States, from all walks of life: races and ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more. The subjects' commonality is their age (those who come of age this decade a.k.a. people born between 1982-1991) and their country of residence.