Scarleteen Link ♥: This Week's Roundup (11.28.11)

Some of our staff and volunteer's fave links and reading from our Facebook and Twitter feeds this week:

Stephanie's Fave: 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence:

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the ensuing 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence are commemorated every year around the world to raise awareness and trigger action on this pervasive human rights violation.

This year, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet unveiled a 16 Step Policy Agenda to address the issue. Ending violence against women is one of UN Women’s priority areas. UN Women also coordinates the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign and supports widespread social mobilization through its Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women platform. In addition, UN Women manages the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women which commemorates its 15th anniversary in 2011.

Karyn's Faves: Abstinence education does not lead to abstinent behavior:

The study is the first large-scale evidence that the type of sex education provided in public schools has a significant effect on teen pregnancy rates, Hall said.

“This clearly shows that prescribed abstinence-only education in public schools does not lead to abstinent behavior,” said David Hall, second author and assistant professor of genetics in the Franklin College. “It may even contribute to the high teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. compared to other industrialized countries.”

Along with teen pregnancy rates and sex education methods, Hall and Stanger-Hall looked at the influence of socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers and ethnicity of each state’s teen population.

Even when accounting for these factors, which could potentially impact teen pregnancy rates, the significant relationship between sex education methods and teen pregnancy remained: the more strongly abstinence education is emphasized in state laws and policies, the higher the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates.

Personal Stories of Young People Living with HIV:

I'm Lilly and I’ve just been given my diagnosis a couple of months ago. I'm 20 years old and I don't know exactly how or when I got the virus as I have never had any distinctive symptoms or conversion illnesses however I have my suspicions on my first love boyfriend when I was 15. I have been with my current partner for over 3 years and until now had never used protection, I feel grateful that he is still testing negative.

My initial reaction to the diagnosis was complete and utter could I get HIV? How could this happen to me? I am going to die! Although I was reassured by my health advisor that there has been progress and I would live hopefully a \'normal\' life, visions of AIDS patients did not stop crossing my mind. I cried non-stop for the next few weeks, my appetite disappeared, I was not able to sleep, I did not want to go out, got severe headaches and basically wanted to end it there and then.

My partner has been great in helping me get through this time, I have not told my parents as yet out of fear that they will disown me, or worse, making their life a living hell. Although I still get times when I break down and cry, I am beginning to feel slightly stronger and more couragous(sic). I have joined a few support groups and have realised I am not alone, and this illness does not fit any stereotype- everyone is at risk, not just MSM, injecting drug users or people of colour.

On World AIDS Day, Remember Women:

Worldwide, 215 million women are not using an effective method of contraception despite the fact that they want to avoid pregnancy. The largest segment of these women live in sub-Saharan Africa and many are at risk of HIV. Women account for 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, and young women between the ages of 15 to 24 are up to eight times more likely to be infected than men of the same age.

December 1st marks World AIDS Day and this year’s theme is “Getting to Zero.” Much of this day will be focused on a celebration of new technology and science that can help prevent HIV through daily treatment and male circumcision. And we should celebrate those advances – but we should also not lose sight of women who need both family planning and HIV services.

Heather's Faves: Let’s get real: female sexual pleasure and HIV prevention:

My point in highlighting these particular experiences is clearly not to advocate for forms of sexual practice that may increase the risk of HIV transmission, but rather to encourage a broader and realistic conversation amongst researchers, policy makers and service providers around the varied ways in which young women define their sexuality and what they find sexually pleasurable. If our responses do not resonate with young women’s lived realities, they will fail. It is especially worrying that mistrust of African women’s sexual pleasure has become the default position in the HIV prevention world. There are hardly any interventions that are designed specifically to address young women’s sexuality in a positive and non-judgmental way and which acknowledge that some young women have sex because they find it pleasurable. Indeed, those of us in the HIV prevention world would do well to remember that sex is not always about danger and risk but is also ‘a positive and joyous experience’ for many people, including young, unmarried African women. In the mid-nineties, US anthropologist Ralph Bolton wrote a piece in which he lamented the fact that most HIV research had completely ignored ‘the joys of sex’. He identified twenty-six ways in which sex is a positive—rather than a negative—experience and these included: sex is play, adventure, transcendence, fun, fantasy, interaction, pleasure, liminality, ecstasy, experience, an expression of emotions and a source of meaning.

Play, adventure and experience were particularly strong themes in the narratives of the female students I encountered and yet, as Kenyan feminist scholar Mumbi Machera so poignantly asserted in Re-thinking sexualities in Africa, very rarely is ‘women’s sexual desire depicted as an autonomous gesture and as an independent longing for sexual expression, satisfaction and fulfillment’ in most of this literature. Surely, our reluctance and failure to acknowledge that young women are autonomous sexual beings must, at some level, impede our ability to effectively intervene with this population. The continued high rates of HIV infection among young women point to major inadequacies in current responses and these, in turn, can partly be attributed to the fact that many of these responses have been premised on the notion of women’s victimhood and lack of sexual agency. Examples include generic messages that are based on the ABC approach—abstain, be faithful and use condoms—which encourage young women to ‘say no’ to pre-marital sex or which focus on teaching women condom negotiation skills. These do not leave much room for individual choice and preference, and they do not resonate with the lived realities of those young women who prefer to ‘say yes’ to sex, or who may have successfully negotiated the non-use of condoms with their sexual partners. In fact, US scholars Jennifer Higgins and Jennifer Hirsch note that a few studies have shown that women - rather than men - are sometimes responsible for the non-use of condoms in relationships as they complain that condoms adversely affect their sexual enjoyment.

Adoption in the United States: Harder and More Complicated Than Most Believe But "Open" to Change:

Adoption has an abysmal and embarrassing history in the United States. The twenties saw Orphan Trains, where children (many of whom weren’t actually orphans) were placed into what frequently amounted to indentured servitude. The thirties and forties marked the emergence of for-profit adoption following the lead of the terribly corrupt Georgia Tann, who actively stole children from poorer families and placed them with anyone able to pay her high fees. The fifties and sixties constituted the “baby scoop” era, where young pregnant women were sent to maternity homes and subjected to emotional and financial coercion that denied their motherhood and assured them they would forget about their children soon after the adoption.

They never did.

From this history of corruption emerged the tenets that would shape adoption for following generations: a large amount of secrecy, an unhealthy dose of shame, and the belief that keeping adoptions closed was the best thing for all parties.

To all those men who don’t think the rape jokes are a problem:

I get it—you’re a decent guy. I can even believe it. You’ve never raped anybody. You would NEVER rape anybody. You’re upset that all these feminists are trying to accuse you of doing something, or connect you to doing something, that, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve never done and would never condone.

And they’ve told you about triggers, and PTSD, and how one in six women is a survivor, and you get it. You do. But you can’t let every time someone gets all upset get in the way of you having a good time, right? Especially when it doesn’t mean anything. Rape jokes have never made YOU go out and rape someone. They never would; they never could. You just don’t see how it matters.

I’m going to tell you how it does matter. And I tell you this because I genuinely believe you mean it when you say you don’t want to hurt anybody, and that it’s important to you to do your best to be a decent and good person, and that you don’t see the harm.

What was going on here at Scarleteen in the last week? Some snippets: