On meditation

On health

With all of the excitement about meditation lately, I decided to jump on the bandwagon. In case you haven’t tried it yet, I would strongly recommend starting. It’s just as great as everyone says. Not only do you get the street cred of being able to say you meditate, but there’s also some pretty great self-care benefits as well.

The first one that I’ve really experienced is better focus. Some forms of meditation involve focusing on breath or sensations in the body. Its surprisingly harder to do than one might think. Once you learn to be able to focus on your breath or your toes, you can apply the focus to daily life. Tasks will be easier to complete, you’ll be able to quiet the constant inner chatter, and work better in environment with lots of distractions.

The second is stress management and sleep. Meditation is often used as a coping mechanism. Again, meditating can teach you to quiet the constant stream thoughts. This can be used to gain perspective on stressful projects or situations and quiet your mind before going to bed.

Meditation can also make it easier to deal with people. It can also make you a bit easier to deal with, as well. Just like with learning a musical instrument or getting in shape, meditation takes practice. The results, on the other hand, are not as obvious or immediate. Meditation teaches patience and understanding so you are kinder to others as well as yourself.

Practicing meditation helps with anxiety and depressive disorders as well. Teaching the patience, focus, and mindfulness techniques I touched on earlier gives tools to help when you are struggling. Again, you learn to be patient with yourself, tend to sleep better, and have increased focus on yourself, your needs, and what might be the cause of your anxieties.

Meditation has even been shown to help treat chronic pain, headaches, and other chronic illnesses.

The best part of meditation is that its not a huge time suck. Meditating for just five or ten minutes a day can result in some of the benefits.

No matter how busy you are, I would recommend trying meditation. Integrating the practice into your life helps to make you a happier, healthier human. It can be confusing and intimidating at first, but like with anything, the longer you do it, the easier it gets. The more meditation you do the more benefits you will see in your daily life.

I suggested a few meditation apps in my health apps post. The one I have been using to get started is called Calm, which is great for beginners. I have also started using an app called Insight Timer, which is more for people who have a bit of meditation under their belt.

Every best wish,

Julia

 

 

On pride month

On politics, On sexuality

As most of us know, June is LGBTQ+ Pride month. The first official pride celebrations started in 1970 in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The first pride march, called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March took place in 1970. Since then, the movement has expanded to week long festivals all over the world. Since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage many people question why Pride is still celebrated. For the same reason that there is International Women’s Day and Black History Month, there is Pride Month; groups that have been oppressed and discriminated against rise up to celebrate themselves and to show the world that they will not be silent.

While it is a celebration of sexuality and openness, Pride month is also a political statement. Almost every festival will have a memorial for LGBTQ+ people that have died or been killed because of hate. We honor those who commit suicide because they can’t find acceptance, those who are disowned for their sexuality, those who are attacked because of who they hold hands with, and those who die for who they love.

Pride celebrates the rights that have been won: marriage, workplace rights, military service, adoption. The marches also call for the rights we still don’t have and an end to violence.

The celebrations provide a safe environment for people to be open and comfortable with their sexuality. It gives people of all ages, races, genders, abilities, and orientations resources to be safe and healthy.

Finally, Pride shows that you shouldn’t be ashamed. For people who live in places that aren’t supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, Pride lets them know that they aren’t alone. Their sexuality is normal and valid and doesn’t have to be hidden.

Pride celebrates perseverance in the face of extreme adversity and the freedom to be you.

Whether you are part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, Pride is a wonderful way to show your support, meet inspiring people, and make a stand for what you believe in.

Every best wish,

Julia

Anchorage PrideFest is this week! Schedule here.

On the talk

On sex ed

Harvard’s Making Caring Common Project  recently came out with a new study exploring the stereotypical teen experience. The findings reveal that most people, teens included, assume that hook-up culture is huge in high school and college. This is not the case. This focus on hook-up culture eclipses two more relevant issues: sexual harassment and healthy romantic relationships.

According to the study, the lack of information stems from parents, teachers, and other key adults in a teen’s life. The project surveyed around 3,000 people 18-25, asking questions about sexual harassment, misogyny, love, and sex.

The first key finding was that teens and adults both tend to overestimate the size of hook-up culture. Both teens and adults assumed that the percentage of teens hooking up was almost double the actual numbers. Those surveyed were more interested in sex in a relationship. The misunderstanding is harmful. Teens feel as if they are failing or lacking because they haven’t had a certain number of sexual partners. The hook-up myth puts pressure on them to have sex even if they aren’t comfortable, potentially leading to unsafe sex. The pressure to hook-up and the stereotypes often lead to substance use which can lead to sexual violence.

Hook-up culture encourages teens to be emotionally distant from their partner(s). To fight this tendency, it is important to talk about romantic feelings and love.

It is assumed that romantic feelings and relationships will just work themselves out and everything will be okay. Again, this is a misunderstanding. Of the people surveyed, 65 – 70% responded that they wanted more guidance on the emotional side of relationships from the adults in their lives. The lack of information leads to stunted emotional health and growth, unhealthy relationships, higher divorce rates, and marital problems. Talking with teens about romantic feelings, cheating, arguments, love, breakups and all the emotional aspects of a relationship is just as important as talking with teens about their sexual health. The two go hand in hand.

Lastly, the study explores the failure to address sexual harassment. Many of the phrases used to talk about sex are violent: “I’d hit that”, “Would bang”, you get the gist. Other phrases are misogynistic: “bros before hos”, etc. Both of these things are used by most everyone, but we don’t realize the implications. These phrases and attitudes lead to the misunderstanding of what sexual harassment is. Most people realize that groping a stranger on the train is assault, because people speak out against it. Catcalling on the streets is just accepted as a fact of life, because it isn’t discussed.

Some porn supports internalized sexual violence. It isn’t realistic. To teens who may not have experienced sex, it is assumed that what is happening on the screen is how sex should go. Most people are desensitized to the violence inherent to they way we approach sex and the negative effect that this has.

So now comes the call to action. These problems often fly under the radar. When they are brought to attention, we don’t know how to address them. Its difficult to communicate the emotional side of relationships. Hook-up culture and the way we approach sex is internalized, and therefore hard to combat. The study has a few steps to starting conversations about these issues and links to many different resources and curricula for teachers, adults and teens. Introducing some of these conversations in the home and classroom starts to fight against the problems facing teens. Loveisrespect.org, Break the Cycle, blogs, and just an open dialogue between teens and adults, can be a huge help. So, when having “the talk” be sure to talk about it all.

Every best wish,

Julia

On getting tested

On sex ed, On sexuality

Fun fact: 1 out of every two people will contract an STI at some point in their life.

This can lead to some pretty nasty consequences. Cancer, infertility, pregnancy complications, chronic pain, and even death. The problem with this is that our much loved high school sex ed programs forget one important detail.

Most STIs are asymptomatic.

That means symptoms don’t show up. HPV, for example, is asymptotic, but can lead to cervical cancer if left untreated. Undetected STIS tend to be a bigger problem for women as the urethra and the vagina are separate, whereas in men, painful urination makes STIs a whole lot easier to detect. Its still a valid problem for everyone. At first, most STIs don’t cause too much harm. Its when they are left untreated for long periods of time that they start to wreak havoc.

So how do you prevent getting an STI?

  1. Safe sex! That’s right, condoms prevent up to 98% of STI cases when used correctly. This includes all types of sex, whether it be penetrational, oral , or anything in between. STIs such as gonorrhea can infect any mucousy area of the body- throat, nose and eyes included.
  2. Communicate! Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about any STIs you might have and ask them if they have anything. The conversation will probably be awkward, but its much better than having and STI.
  3. When in doubt, see a doctor. If you even suspect an ingrown hair may be something more, get it checked. Even if you exhibit no symptoms, get tested. Its recommended that you get tested at least every 3-6 months. Like I said before, most STIs are asymptomatic, so its better to be safe than have an untreated STI.

If you or your partner have an STI be sure to communicate it. First off, both of you should be tested to make sure everything is being treated. Second, communicate. I know I say this all the time, but communication is the foundation to a healthy relationship and healthy sexuality. Lastly, follow the doctors recommendations! They tend to know what they’re talking about

Before I leave you alone, here’s one last resource. iknowmine is one of my favorite resources for Alaska teens. They have a whole bunch of helpful information. Additionally, they provide free at home STI testing kits and condoms. For those of you who don’t have easy access to a doctor, this is a way that you can get tested. The whole process is anonymous and parental consent is not required in Alaska. The website also has information on your sexual health rights, as well as countless resources about basically everything involved with sexuality. Highly recommended.

Every best wish,

Julia

 

On health apps

On health, On sex ed

As the end of the school year nears, people start to panic about pretty much everything. This is especially true for those of you who are graduating. College kids are always stressed and broke. Here are a few free apps that can help with stress, clear up questions, and help you try and keep some of your sanity.

First off Pacifica. Pacifica is a stress and anxiety reducing app. It uses actual treatments and teaches you how to apply them to your daily life. It comes with a mood/health tracker, meditations and mindfulness, relaxation techniques, self-help guidance, goals, progress tracker and peer community support. You can get it here for iOS and android with paid upgrades.

Another stress relieving app is called Headspace. This is a guided meditation app that gives you the skills to be happier and healthier. Level one is made up of ten guided meditations to start you off, with a paid subscription to access all of their meditations. You can get it here for iOS and andriod.

Calm is another meditation app. Unlike Headspace, Calm has guided and unguided meditations, breathing exercises, soundscapes. Calm also features sleep stories, which combine music, soundscapes and nice voices to send you off to sleep. Get it here for iOS or android.

Yoga Studio is one of the most popular yoga apps out there. It comes with hundreds of poses, videos, and guides for people of every level out there. Get it here for iOS or android.

My Sex Doctor is an app all about sex ed in the real world. It talks about pleasure, safe sex, STIs, your body, relationships, dating, flirting and anything in between. Get it here for iOS or andriod.

For anyone who gets a period, Eve is a fantastic period tracker and sexual health app. It helps track your cycle, gives you health tips, teach you more about your body and sex, and provides science based information on birth control, your body, birth control and sex. You can get it here for iOS or andriod with paid upgrades.

Planned Parenthood recently came out with their own period tracker app called Spot On. It tracks your cycle, symptoms, and provides accurate information on sex, birth control and your body. Get it here for iOS and android.

Evernote is a great organization app. It lets you list, take notes and pictures all while allowing you to share across devices. You can also share with other users of the app, making it useful for group projects. You can get it here for iOS or andriod.

None of the health apps are supposed to replace a real doctor. While they have accurate, scientific information, always go to a professional if you have a real concern.

Every best wish,

Julia

On pronouns

On sexuality

Traditionally, gender is binary, or split into two options: he and she. Gender fluidity, agender, intersex, and other non-binary identities challenge this idea. The idea that gender is more of a spectrum with masculinity and one end and femininity at the other is becoming more accepted. For society to be inclusive and respectful to all identities and expression of gender there needs to be a gender neutral pronoun. As we become more and more inclusive, the list of preferred pronouns grows.

The most common is “they”. It is used just like the plural they, but instead to refer to a singular person. Instead of “He enjoyed himself.” you would say “They enjoyed themself.” They and themself take the place of he and himself respectively. Other pronouns include co, en, ey, xie, yo and ze. People choose pronouns based off of personal identity and what they feel most comfortable with.

A handy guide from UCDavis lists them out here:

co

co

cos

cos

coself

en

en

ens

ens

enself

ey

em

eir

eirs

emself

he

him

his

his

himself

she

her

her

hers

herself

they

them

their

theirs

themself

xie

hir (“here”)

hir

hirs

hirself

yo

yo

yos

yos

yoself

ze

zir

zir

zirs

zirself

Again, these are by no means the only options, just the ones most commonly used.

So some questions:

Why use gender neutral pronouns?

Using the correct pronouns is a respect thing. If you use someone’s preferred gender pronouns (PGP), it shows to them that you respect their gender identity. This is huge. More importantly, it shows that you respect them as a person. Using the wrong pronouns, intentionally or not, can make someone feel alienated or invalid. It’s just as insulting to be called “he” if you identify as “she” as it is to be if you identify as “ze”.

How do I ask someone’s pronouns?

It can be an awkward thing to do. Chances are, the person will be happy you asked. Again, its a show of respect.

One way to ask is to introduce yourself with your pronouns and then ask the other person. Example: “My name is _______ and my pronouns are _____/_____. What about you?”

You could ask just ask directly “What pronouns do you prefer?”

When in doubt, just use the person’s name. It can be awkward to ask, but its more awkward to assume.

What if I make a mistake?

It is perfectly okay. Just correct yourself, apologize and keep going. The fact that you’re making an effort is a good thing.

Remember to always keep in mind the person’s needs. Keep in mind if they are closeted or not. Many people are open with their identities in some circles and not others. Ask in what situations each pronoun is appropriate or what the person is comfortable with. The last thing you want to do is out them by accident.

As always, keep an open mind, do your research and communicate!

Every best wish,

Julia

On the different types of birth control

On sex ed

Many new types of birth control have recently hit the market. There’s lots of options and it can be difficult to understand what might work best for you. This will hopefully help clear up some of that.

Implant (Nexplanon): Nexplanon is a small, flexible rod that is inserted into the upper arm. It last for around 3 years, and can be removed at any time. The implant works by releasing low doses of etonogestrel, which is a synthetic version of the naturally produced hormone progesterone. It is up to 99% effective at prevent pregnancy with correct usage.

  • PROS:
    • No schedule- The implant just releases hormones as life goes on.
    • It lasts up to three years.
    • 99% effective!!!
    • No one can tell that you are using it.
  • CONS:
    • Implants (VERY VERY RARELY) can cause blood clots, which can lead to larger health issues.
    • The chance of an ectopic pregnancy increases slightly if you become pregnant while using Nexplanon.
    • Higher risk for ovarian cysts.
    • Unknown effect on breast cancer.
    • Implantation can sometimes be painful/complicated.
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Heavy bleeding during menstruation
    • Irregular periods
    • Spotting
    • Mood swings and depression
    • Acne
    • Weight gain
    • Headaches
    • Increased PMS symptoms

Intrauterine Device (IUD): The IUD is a small t-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus via the cervix. It is 99% effective at preventing pregnancy. There are hormonal options (Marina or Skyla) and non hormonal options (Paragard). They can last anywhere from 3-10 years depending on what type you get.

  • Marina/Skyla: The Marina and Skyla work by releasing levonorgestrel into the system. The Skyla is slightly smaller, and therefore recommended for those who have not yet had children. These last for 3-5 years.
  • Paragard: The Paragard is made of copper. Copper is a substance that is toxic to sperm and therefore kills is before a pregnancy can occur. These can last up to 10 years.
  • PROS:
    • IUDs last for a very long time.
    • Low maintenance aside from occasional checks to make sure they are still in place.
    • The most effective form of birth control other than abstinence.
    • Again, no one can tell that you are using it.
    • Monthly self-checks to ensure the IUD is still in place.
    • Can treat heavy periods (Marina)
    • Emergency contraception (Paragard)
  • CONS:
    • Insertion and removal can be painful
    • Perforation of the uterine wall can very rarely occur.
    • Higher risk of pelvic infections and pelvic inflammatory disease.
    • The device can be expelled from the uterus, especially in smaller women
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Irregular periods
    • Heavy bleeding (Non-Hormone)
    • Painful cramps/back pain
    • Acne (Hormone)
    • Emotional (Hormone)
    • Spotting at time of insertion and between periods

The Pill: There many different variations on the pill. Different brands use different hormones. Most contain progesterone, estrogen, or a combination of the two. When used correctly, it can 89%-99% effective when used correctly. The pill can be taken for any amount of time.

  • PROS:
    • The pill is super reliable and a common form of birth control.
    • Most types allow for predictable periods.
    • Can decrease some PMS symptoms.
    • Can decrease the risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and some cancers.
  • CONS:
    • Must be taken on a schedule.
    • Can increase some PMS symptoms
    • Increase some symptoms of depression
    • Spotting (progesterone only pills)
    • Hair growth
    • Weight gain
  • SIDE EFFECT:
    • Headaches
    • Weight gain
    • Nausea
    • Headaches
    • Mood changes

The Patch: The patch is a small plastic patch that sticks to the upper arm and releases a combination of progesterone and estrogen. It is worn for three weeks, followed by a patch free week. It can be 92-99% effective when used correctly.

  • PROS:
    • Reduced PMS symptoms
    • Reduced risk of some cancers
    • Reduced risk of pelvic inflammatory disease and ectopic pregnancy
  • CONS:
    • Spotting between periods
    • Nausea
    • Easy to use incorrectly
    • One color that doesn’t fit all skin tones
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Nausea, stomach pain
    • Breast tenderness or swelling
    • Headache
    •  Anxiety and mood changes
    • Skin irritation, redness, itching, or swelling where the patch was worn
    • Menstrual cramps
    • Irregular  bleeding or spotting

NuvaRing: For the NuvaRing to work, you have to insert it into the vagina once a week for three weeks, then nothing for one week. It releases progesterone and estrogen. It is up to 98% effective when used correctly.

  • PROS:
    • You don’t have to pay attention to it daily
    • Reduces some PMS symptoms
    • Reduced chance of some cancers, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy.
  • CONS:
    • Increased chance of blood clots
    • Easy to misuse
    • Can cause skin reactions for your partner
    • Increased chance of Toxic Shock Syndrome
    • Painful cramps
    • Increased feelings of depression
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Tissue irritation inside your vagina or on your cervix
    • Headache/Migranes
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Vaginal discharge
    • Weight gain
    • Vaginal discomfort
    • Breast pain, discomfort, or tenderness
    • Abdominal pain
    • Acne

The Shot (Depo-Provera): The shot is given once every 12-14 weeks. It contains progesterone. It can be up to 99% effective when used correctly and on time.

  • PROS:
    • Low maintenance
    • Invisible- no one can see that your using it.
    • Reduced chance of ectopic pregnancy and some cancers
    • Lighter periods, in some cases, women stop getting their period
  • CONS:
    • Spotting between periods
    • Schedule depends on a doctor
    • Increased PMS symptoms
    • Higher chance of depression
    • Higher chance of osteoporosis
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Irregular periods
    • Weight gain
    • Nausea
    • Stomach cramping/bloating
    • Dizziness/headache
    • Tiredness/irritability
    • Breast tenderness
    • Acne
    • Hair loss

Withdrawal: The male partner “pulls out” just prior to ejaculation. it is 73-95% effective.

  • PROS:
    • Hormone free
    • Free
  • CONS:
    • One person is in control
    • Requires you to be very in tune with your body
    • Very ineffective
    • Requires trust and self-control
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • None

Fertility Awareness: This is a way to predict when a woman is ovulating and/or fertile. It is 76-88% effective. There a multiple methods. They depend on ovulation, cervical mucus, body temperature, or a combination of the above.

  • PROS:
    • Hormone free
    • Free
    • Helps to create better communication
    • Makes you more in tune with your body
  • CONS:
    • Very ineffective
    • Commitment, no spontaneous sex
    • Requires you to be very in tune with your body
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • None

Diaphragm: The diaphragm is a dome-shaped piece of silicon inserted into the vagina to cover the the cervix. It must be used in combination with spermicide to be as effective as possible. It is anywhere from 71-94% effective when used correctly.

  • PROS:
    • Hormone free
    • Lasts up to two years
  • CONS:
    • Easy to misuse
    • Increased risk of UTIs
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Vaginal irritation for some women

Today Sponge: The sponge is similar to the Diaphragm in that it covers the cervix. Instead of a cup containing spermicide, it is a foam sponge. It is 84-89% effective when used correctly.

  • PROS:
    • Hormone free
    • Easy to use
    • No prescription required
  • CONS:
    • Easy to misuse
    • Can cause vaginal dryness/irritation
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Vaginal dryness
    • Irritation
    • Uncomfortable sex

Condoms: Condoms come in male or female version. The male condom is placed over the penis just prior to sex. The female version is inserted into the vagina just prior to sex. When used correctly, both can prevent pregnancy up to 82%.

  • PROS:
    • Prevent STIs
    • Can increase pleasure
    • No prescription
    • Cheap and sometimes free!
  • CONS:
    • Easy to misuse
    • Can break
    • Not as effective as other types
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Be careful of latex allergies

Abstinence: Abstinence is the only 100% effective form of birth control. Abstinence is when a person does not have sex.

  • PROS:
    • No risk of pregnancy
    • No risk of STIs
    • No hormones
  • CON:
    • Requires self-control and communication
    • Peer pressure
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • None

Morning-After Pill: Morning after pills are a form of emergency contraceptive. It can be taken up to 5 days after unprotected sex. The pills work by releasing high levels of hormones into your system.

  • PROS:
    • Fall back option
    • Very effective when taken in the time slots
  • CONS:
    • Not recommended for daily use
    • Expensive with out insurance
  • SIDE EFFECTS:
    • Irregular periods
    • Increased PMS symptoms.

Birth control is also broken into tiers by effectiveness.

This is not supposed to tell you what kind of birth control to use. Always always always do your research and talk to a doctor to find out what is the best option for you!

Every best wish,

Julia

 

 

On consentual nonmonogamy

On sexuality

Consensual nonmonogamy is the practice or desire of having multiple partners with the knowledge and consent of all parties involved. Recently there has been a push for nonmonogamy to be recognized as a sexual identity, so let’s talk about what exactly it means.

To start, some definitions of common terms:

  • Closed relationship: This is the ‘traditional’ relationship made up of two people with the expectation that neither has an additional partner.
  • Open relationship: An open relationship is typically made up of two people. There is an agreement that either partner can have sexual relations outside of the main relationship.
  • Polyfidelity: Multiple partners are involved in the relationship, as in a triad, but no one is allowed to take on outside partners.
  • Polyamory: This is a blanket term for multiple partner relationships.
  • Swinging: Focusing on recreational sex and not relationships.
  • Primary relationship: This is an individual’s closest relationship. The majority of their time, energy, and emotional connection is invested in this relationship.
  • Secondary: This is a less intimate relationship. Less energy and time are invested in this relationship.
  • Triad: This is a relationship involving three people. Each person is equally involved with the other two members.
  • Vee: This is similar to a triad. Instead of everyone having equal involvement, two people (the arms) have equal involvement with one person (the hinge) and less involvement with each other.
  • Compersion: Positive feelings that are felt when a partner finds joy or love in a partner other than oneself.

These aren’t all of the possible combinations of multiple partner relationships. There are countless different arrangements and styles of relationships.

Multiple partner relationships are often misunderstood as cheating. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The key to a successful relationship (monogamous or not) is communication and consent. This is even more important in multiple partner relationships. When the rules of a relationship are broken, then it is considered cheating. In monogamous relationship these rules sometimes aren’t openly discussed, but are more of a social expectation. In multiple partner relationships it’s vital to discuss the rules and expectations of each party involved. This can be anything from who can have sex with who, to emotional ties, to the approval of outside partners. If any of the rules are broken, it is considered cheating, just like it would be to a monogamous couple. Full consent to engage in a multiple partner relationship ensures that all feelings are out in the open. Each person involved must be happy with the arrangement in order for it to be as successful as possible. This communication and consent of all parties is the most important aspect of a nonmonogamous relationship.

The want or need for multiple partners is often labelled as greed or unhappiness with a current relationship. Again, this assumption is far from the truth. The increased communication that comes with multiple partner relationships often leads to stronger, happier relationships.  The concept of compersion comes into play here. This the excitement and happiness one partner feels when the other finds joy or love in a different partner. The feeling is often compared to the excitement you feel for a friend when they get a new job, or a promotion or something else positive in their life. With compersion also comes the threat of jealousy. This is where communication comes in again. People in multiple partner relationships tend to be more open with their emotions and better at communicating with others.

Another argument against nonmonogamy is the threat of STIs and pregnancy. In most cases of cheating safe sex isn’t practiced increasing the threat of contracting a STI or becoming pregnant. The opposite is true in multiple partner relationships. There is a noticeable increase in condom usage, sanitation, and STI testing. Most multiple partner relationships have what is called a “safe sex circle” or a “condom contract”, which is an agreement that dictates condom usage and testing rules for everyone.

Multiple partner relationships are not for everyone. They require strong relationships and lots of communication. Conflicting emotions and complicated situations can arise, so an open mind is vital. Even if you are a serial monogamous, it’s important to know what different issues are facing the world. As always, spread the good word, smash stereotypes, and keep informed.

Learn more here, here, or here!

Every best wish,

Julia

On baseball and sex

On sex ed

It might be a problem that its hard to tell if someone is talking about baseball or their sex life when you’re eavesdropping on conversations. Another great TED talk I’m going to refer you to is by Al Vernacchio. He tackles the issue beautifully.

Baseball is the most popular metaphor America uses to talk about sex. The metaphor is toxic, but because its so ingrained into our culture, we fail to realize it.

First off there’s the bases. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and home run. Its a cycle. To get to second base you have to get to 1st. To hit a home run you have to pass through all three bases. Once you hit a home run, you have to start all over. Its expected that certain actions are done in a certain order and that’s how it has to go every time. If you go out of order, you’re breaking the rules.

The baseball metaphor assigns roles. Pitcher performs the act (usually expected of the more masculine counterpart) and the catcher receives (usually expected of the more feminine counterpart). You can be either one or the other. Lesbian or gay people play for the other team, creating a further divide and negative connotations.

Without thinking about it, talking about sex in terms of baseball seems fine. Once the metaphor broken down, it becomes obvious how harmful it can be.

To start, its competitive. Baseball is a game. Games have a winner, but that means there has to be a loser, too. Instead of the people involved working together, they are competing.

There’s an overload of expectation and goal setting. When its game time, you play. If it’s Valentine’s Day, or prom night, or an anniversary, or your parents aren’t home, you’re expected to play. Just like with baseball, players can’t tell the coach they just aren’t up for playing today. There’s also the expectation of finishing the game. ‘Hitting a home run’ usually refers to penetrative sex ending in an orgasm. If there isn’t a home run, then the game wasn’t successful. This isn’t the case with sex. Orgasm is not always the goal, and shouldn’t always be the goal. If you get to second base and really like it there, you shouldn’t have to move until you want to. Adding the goal of orgasm adds undue pressure to everyone involved. This is especially harmful to people who are just starting to have sex and beginning to explore their sexuality. It can be very high stress and adding extra pressure is unhealthy. In a game you are always expected to follow the rules. Now don’t get me wrong. Sex has rules (consent and safety!) no matter how you look at it. With the baseball metaphor, those rules are rigid. If you break them, you get thrown out of the game. There is no room to go outside the box or experiment. With sex, those opportunities need to be there and be had safely. Relationships and sexuality are more fluid than the baseball metaphor makes them out to be.

The metaphor is also heteronormative and limiting. Baseball with all its bases and bats and dugouts talks only about penetrative sex involving a penis and a vagina. This only further emphasizes the misunderstanding that penetrative sex is the only way to go. This isn’t the case.

Vernacchio talks about all of the above mentioned problems with the baseball metaphor and proposes an new way to talk about sex. Pizza. You see with pizza, there’s no expectation or competition or right way.

With the baseball metaphor, you play the game whenever you are expected to. With pizza, you only eat when you’re hungry. If you don’t want pizza, you don’t have to have any. You only eat pizza with somebody else when both of you want pizza. When it’s thought of as a want and not a need or an expectation, sex tends to be safer and the associated thoughts tend to be more positive.

Pizza is never a competition. It’s an experience. That’s what sex should be. Instead of a high stress environment, riddled with rules and expectations, its a nice experience you share with other people.

The most valuable part of the pizza metaphor is the inherent communication. Before you order pizza, you talk about what you want. What toppings, what size, what you like and what you don’t like. There is compromise, but in the end, everyone gets what they want. You can get the usual, or you can try something new. Afterwards, you talk about the pizza. You ask yourself if you liked it, if you want to try a different kind, or if you want to order from someplace else. Communication is carried through the whole experience to ensure that everyone is satisfied.

There is no right or wrong way to eat pizza. You can eat it with someone else or with a group of people or all by yourself. You can have whatever toppings you want and you can eat as much or as little as you want.

The pizza metaphor isn’t perfect, but its much healthier than the current one we’re using. In order for sex ed to be as good as it can be, we need teach ourselves to communicate. We need to ask questions and come up with answers so everyone is safe and satisfied. America is losing interest in baseball anyway. Let’s adapt.

Every good wish,

Julia

On intersectionality

On feminism

Intersectional feminism is a phrase that has been thrown around a lot recently. It can be a confusing concept, but it’s important to understand.

Intersectionality is a theory or study of intersecting social identities and how they relate to systems of oppression or discrimination. Translation: things like race, orientation, identity, etc create a bunch of different layers of discrimination. The term was first coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 when she was the professor of law at UCLA in a paper titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimintion Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antirasict Politics”. She started to use the term after she heard the story of Emma DeGraffenreid and a few other black women who sued General Motors for discrimination. The company hired black people and the company hired women, so the claim was dismissed. The court wasn’t seeing a vital part of the picture. The only black people hired were men and the only women hired were white. DeGraffenreid and the other women were caught in the intersection of the two factors of gender and race. This experience she called intersectionality.

According to Crenshaw in her powerful TED Talk, the problem was one of frame. The courts didn’t have a frame through which they could see DeGraffenreid’s problem, and no word to use when talking about it. When there is no way to discuss an issue, those affected fall through the cracks and are forgotten. It can be assumed that if an issue effects black people and women, then black people who are women and women who are black people will be protected by the solution. She refers to this as a “trickle down approach to social justice”.  This one size fits all approach to feminism is harmful and ineffective. If the problem isn’t viewed with concern for ALL members of the targeted group, then the problem won’t go away. The attempt at inclusivity erases the specific group of issues that face different subgroups of the movement. It is the #AllLivesMatter of feminism.

Here’s a quick example of how this would work. A company sets a goal of hiring more women. 70% of the applicant pool are women of color. The company reaches their goal of hiring more women, but only 10% of the new workforce is made up of women of color. The male portion of the workforce has equal employment for different races. The company doesn’t discriminate in terms of gender or race, but when you combine race and gender there is discrimination. That is where intersectional injustice can be seen and fought against.

This problem of intersectionality has grown from a race issue to an issue that effecting every woman who experiences multiple levels of social injustice. Crenshaw brings up issues of homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, and xenophobia. There are countless others she doesn’t list.

Some people don’t experience intersectional social injustice in their lives. That doesn’t mean that it is not an issue. For feminism to be effective and inclusive, it has to be intersectional. Women of color, trans women, women of a low socioeconomic status, gay women, disabled women, older women, women with mental disabilities, and others experience discrimination for things other than gender. Ignoring their struggles only sets everyone back.

Intersectionality isn’t the thing that will magically make discrimination and oppression disappear. Intersectionality will bring those who are forgotten back into the eye of the public so they can finally be helped. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t be an easy change. With work and effort the concept of intersectionality won’t be foreign and policies will finally reflect and work in favor of everyone.

Every good wish,

Julia