For the sexuality guide I am in the process of editing and completing, expected to be on the shelves by Spring of 2006 and published by Cleis Press, I am in need of quotes/short paragraphs on various sexuality and relationship issues and topics from you: the readers in your teens and early twenties (preferably men and women both, between the ages of 15 and 22) for whom the book is written. Quotes from you, in your own words, on some of the topics of the book will help other readers to feel comfort in shared experience as well as to see a diversity of experience they might not have expected. Your own words will also be helpful in clueing in parents and other adults reading the book to the reality of young adult experience with sexuality. Lastly, these replies will also be helpful in future book adaptations, additional book projects and ongoing development to the Scarleteen site.
There are a lot of questions below, so write a little (or a lot) about whichever of these topics/questions as you like: if only one really speaks to you and seems like something you want to share experiences with, that's absolutely fine. The questions are there not because you should try and answer all of them, but to give you ideas of what areas you might feel inclined to talk about. If you just want to talk generally about a topic, not the individual questions posed, go right ahead. If you have a particular story you want to tell about your experiences with sexuality, even if it's not included in one of the questions, tell it. What I'm really looking for here are your own stories: usable, conversational quotes, not dry data to compile for a survey. So, for example, the following answer about masturbation:
"I started masturbating when I was ten. I don't feel ashamed about it. I'm not always sure what to do, and it's hard to find privacy sometimes, but it makes me feel good about my body, and makes me feel good, period. I haven't been able to talk to my partner about it yet though: it feels strange to bring it up."
is the sort of thing I'm looking for, rather than something like,
"I masturbate. I started at 10. I like it."
It's very important that you answer these honestly, not in a way you think makes you look or sound good, or is what you think I want to hear. Your experiences -- whatever they have been -- are what are important here. So, even if something you think should be positive has been negative for you, be honest. If you're embarrassed to say something, know that your email nor these sheets will be shared with ANYONE save myself and my assistant unless a quote is used: if you're more comfortable being more anonymous than just your first name, feel free to give yourself a different name than yours. If a quote is published, only the first name given, your age and possibly your gender will be printed.
In sending in or posting quotes, you are giving permission for publication of your words in the book, authored by myself, and your work may be edited for clarity, readability or relevance. Please email replies/answers with the basic information below before July 1st to: email@example.com. You can also post replies via the message boards in replies here, if you like, or refer me to a previous post you have made on a topic. Feel free to print and/or distribute this survey to students, friends, siblings, school or community groups, other online communities and the like. The more replies I receive, the better represented young adults can be as a group.
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PLEASE INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WITH YOUR REPLIES
Country, City/State, Province:
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Puberty, Sexual Anatomy and Body Image:
How do you feel about your whole body and/or your sexual anatomy? How do you feel your feelings about your body influence your sexual life and choices? What was going through puberty like for you (or is it like now)? What sort of pressures or stresses do you or have you experience(d) in terms of puberty, body image or your genitals?
How important is physical appearance to you, in terms of yourself and in terms of how you look at others or choose romantic and/or sexual partners? How important do you feel it is to everyone around you? Do you feel supported in healthy body image at home, with friends and/or with partners? Do you feel healthy or unhealthy? What's your relationship with food and eating like? What's your relationship with exercise like: why do you do it, what do you like about it? Have you ever experienced an eating disorder, compulsively dieted or had cosmetic surgery, or considered/been concerned with these things? Do you feel your body is "good enough" for you and current or future sexual partners? If not, why not? What do you enjoy about your body and your genitals? What, if anything, don't you enjoy, or what do you feel insecure about?
If you menstruate, what have your experiences been with menstruation? How do you feel about it? What things make you/help you feel good about it? If you feel funny or bad about it, why? How do you feel about the way the rest of the world views menstruation, in your experience? What have your experiences been with menstrual products, commercial, alternative, or both? What helps you out with cramps? If you're male, how do you feel about menstruation?
Do you currently get basic sexual healthcare, yearly sexual checkups and/or annual STI screenings at least once a year? Is getting that care easy or a challenge (for example, is it easy to find and get to affordable, do you feel free to seek it out)? Can you talk to partners or potential partners about sexual healthcare and STI screenings? If so, what's that been like? If not, what makes it hard to do?
Have you felt comfortable getting sexual healthcare like STI screenings or pelvic exams? Where do you get them (sexual health clinic, private GYN, general physician)? Do you ask your doctors or nurses questions freely? Do/have your parents support you in getting this care? Do you have to keep it a secret? Do you feel confident your healthcare providers will keep your information confidential? Have you had any bad experiences, or experienced any discrimination with this sort of healthcare? Do you feel judged in any way for seeking out sexual healthcare, or addressing STI or pregnancy concerns with doctors or nurses?
Masturbation and Sexual Response:
What do you think about masturbation, for yourself, partners or others? Do you enjoy masturbating? Do you feel okay about it or not? Do you feel free to masturbate, or do you feel any measure of shame? How do you feel about partners masturbating? Is it something you define as sex? Do you feel free to talk about it with doctors, nurses or partners? Do you feel like you know what to do? What's masturbation about for you (orgasm, positive body image, exploration, etc.)? Do you/have you masturbate(d) with a partner?
How do you feel about orgasm? Do you orgasm? If so, what does it feel like for you, and how do you feel about it? If not, is that a big frustration for you or not? How do you identify when you're feeling aroused and when you aren't?
How do you feel about it? How do you define it? Do you use it yourself? Does your partner? How big a place do you think it has in your life/how much influence does it have on your sex life? Does all or some pornography make you feel bad about yourself or sexuality, ever? If so, how?
Do you feel like you have choices with your gender identity? Have you ever questioned being male/female or what your sex means in terms of your life, how you're treated by others, et cetera? What assumptions, if any, do you feel are made about your gender, and how do those effect you? How do you combat them? What assumptions might YOU make about gender? How much influence does your gender/sex have on your life and relationships? How does sexism affect you? What sexual standards and mores do you feel are allowed/encouraged for guys, and which for girls?
If you are transgender or genderqueer, what has that been like for you? What are your biggest challenges? How do you combat discrimination? How have friends, family, partners and school community treated you and your approach to gender?
Sexual Identity and Orientation:
Whether you're straight, homosexual, bisexual or anything in between, what have your experiences with sexual identity and orientation been like? How free do you (or don't you feel) to explore issues of sexual orientation? Have you ever questioned your sexual identity or orientation? How free do you feel to be out with your orientation: with friends, partners, parents, at school and in your community? If you're heterosexual, have you even thought about sexual orientation before/much? If you're heterosexual, how do you feel about friends and peers who are not? Have you ever had a friend or partner come out to you?
If you're bisexual or homosexual, are you out? If not, why not? If so, to who are you out, and how did coming out go for you? Do you feel safe being out? What is queer life like for you as a teen or young adult? Do you feel like you have queer community, including friends, or is your queer community only composed of sexual partners or dates? How has dating been for you: do you find it difficult to find partners in your community? If you are or have been partnered with someone of the same-sex in your teens, how have your experiences been both within the relationship and in terms of how others view you/it? What are the biggest challenges in being/having been a queer youth for you? Are there hidden benefits you've experienced?
Where do you get models and/or role models for romantic/sexual relationships? How would you describe what your relationships have been like? What have you called them/do you call them? What does "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" mean to you? How long have your romantic/sexual relationships lasted, and what feels like a long-term and short-term relationship to you? How do you work your relationships into the rest of your life? How important are your romantic/sexual relationships to you: for instance, are they more or less important than friends and family, school and life goals? Do you feel in control in your relationships, and able to communicate and ask for what you need and want? Do you feel like you and your partners know what you're doing, or like you're feeling your way through things? No matter your orientation, do you think about things like moving in together and/or marriage? How do you handle relationship problems?
If you've been involved in "off-the-beaten-path" relationships, like friends with benefits, relationships with a big age difference, and so forth, how has that gone for you? Were you able to find support when you needed it? What were the biggest challenges? Do you feel able to seek out the sort of relationships you really want/need, or like you need to take what you can get? How important is being in a relationship to you?
What's falling in love feel like for you? If you've experienced a breakup, what's that been like?
Choosing to be Sexually Active (this would mean ANY partnered sexual activity, not just heterosexual intercourse):
How have you made the choice to be sexually active -- or not? What influences your choices in this regard? What is the most important thing you'd say to you to make choosing to be sexually active right for you? Are things like safer sex, birth control, finances and life goals important factors or not? Have you ever felt like you've made the wrong choice? If so, why? Do you feel able to have open discussion with possible partners when it comes to both of you deciding if and when sexual activity is right for you both? What does "being ready" mean to you? How do you figure out if a partner -- male or female -- is ready for sex with you? Do you feel like becoming sexually active was a choice you made, or something that "just happened?"
Have you ever felt pressured into becoming sexually active, from partners or friends? Do you feel able to make the best choices for yourself, always, or like you have to compromise your needs and wants, or pretend they're different than they are?
If you have had sexual partners, what would you say was your "first" sexual experience? How do you feel about the concept of virginity? What do you enjoy most about sex with your partners, in terms of both the emotional and the physical? Where do you feel lost? Has sex with partners in your teens been awkward or difficult? Do you feel satisfied -- physically, emotionally -- with the sex you have with partners? What sexual activities do you enjoy most and why? Least? Do you feel like you can really communicate well with sexual partners? If so, what has helped you be able to do that? If not, what do you feel your obstacles are? Can you freely share things like sexual fantasies or "kinky" desires with partners or not?
Do you feel able to say no to sex when you don't want it? Do you feel you are able to ACCEPT no as an answer from a partner? When you have said no to sex, why have you said no: what have the deal-breakers been? What do you feel are your basic limits and boundaries right now? Do you feel you have sex for the right reasons? If not, what are some 'wrong" reasons you feel you've had sex? What does "consent" and/or "informed consent" mean to you? Do you feel able to fully consent to sex at this point, or do you feel like part of you is always a bit (or more than a bit) uncertain?
Who do you look to for support and information when it comes to partnered sex? Do you have a good support system in terms of sex, outside any current partners? Do you feel like you are judged or labeled in any way for being sexually active, or for choosing NOT to be sexually active? Do laws like age of consent laws factor into your sexual choices? If you're sexually active, does your family know? If so, how did that go, and if not, why not?
How has partnered sex made you feel about yourself, from good to bad and anything in between? Has it changed how you see yourself, your body or your relationship with your partners? Has it added extra stresses to your life, and if so, are they manageable for you? What are your expectations with partnered sex at this point?
Safer Sex and Birth Control:
Do you practice safer sex? What does that mean to you: condoms for intercourse, or latex barriers for more activities, annual testing, limiting the number of partners you have? have you and your partner(s) discussed sexual history openly, as well as safer sex practices? Do you feel like you are or are not (or have or have not) taken more risks in terms of STIs than you should? Do you feel like you know what safer sex even means? Do you feel confident in your safer sex practices protecting you? Are you comfortable initiating discussion about safer sex with partners? Asking partners to wear condoms or use other barriers? What have your experiences been with this: ever had a partner refuse to wear a condom, for instance, or refuse to use a latex glove when you've asked? Do you feel any pressure to take risks you don't want to?
Do you use birth control? If not, and you are heterosexually active, why not? What methods do/have you used and how have they worked for you? What troubles, if any, do you/have you had using certain methods of birth control? Do you feel protected by the methods you use, or do you still worry a good deal about pregnancy? Do you feel like you understand how birth control methods work and how to use them correctly?
What has your experience been in getting birth control? If you've asked your general doctor or gynecologist about birth control, have they given you information on all methods, or just suggested one, such as assuming you should be on the pill, without asking what your needs and wants are? Have you had any troubles getting any method of birth control; have you been refused birth control by a doctor, pharmacist or store? Has your healthcare pro given you the information you need to use methods correctly, or do you feel in the dark?
How have conversations/negotiations about safer sex and birth control gone for you, with partners or with family?
Have you used emergency contraception? If so, how did that go for you? Are you inclined NOT to seek out EC when you might need it? If so, why not?
If you are male, and sleeping with women, what do you see as your responsibilities per birth control? How do you take responsibility in this regard (for example, sharing costs, using condoms, etc.)?
Sexually Transmitted Infections:
Do you feel like you know a lot about STIs? What is confusing to you? Have you ever had an STI yourself, or had a partner who has had or contracted an STI? What have your personal experiences with STIs been like?
Sexual assault, abuse and rape:
Have you ever been sexually abused, raped or date/acquaintance raped? Have you even been coerced into sex? Have you ever been uncertain if you have been raped or not? If you have been sexually assaulted in any way, how did you handle it? Did you report? If so, how was your experience doing so? Were you told NOT to report by anyone or intimidated after the fact in any way? Have you found support and/or counseling? Have you been able to tell sex partners, friends and/or family you have been raped? Have you felt unable to trust enough afterwards to consider consensual sexual partnership? How has sexual abuse, assault or rape made you feel about yourself? How might you help someone else who has been raped?
Do you feel like you understand how pregnancy happens and what the real risks are? Does your partner?
Are you concerned about becoming pregnant, or a partner becoming pregnant: what would you say your level of concern is? About friends who may become pregnant? Have you had pregnancy scares? What was that like? How did your partner(s) handle that? If you had a partner who became pregnant or had a pregnancy scare, what was that like? How did you feel about that and how did you deal?
Have you ever been pregnant? What happened? When you became pregnant, was it purely accidental/birth control failure, or partially or fully intended on your part? What did you do, and how did you deal with it, emotionally? Have you given birth, parented, put a child up for adoption or had an abortion? How was any of that for you, what was/has been easier than you thought or more challenging?
If you have been pregnant, no matter what choice you made, how have your sexual choices since then changed?
(Please understand that due to the sheer volume of replies expected, those whose quotes are used will not be notified, nor will those be notified if their material is not used. Please do not email to ask if your work will or will not be used. Thank you.)
Thanks so much!
Editor & Founder
ST homepage • ST blog • about Heather & Scarleteen
[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 06-11-2005).]