Alifa Watkins

Preventing Teens from Preventing Pregnancy: “Plan B” not an Option for Teens PART II

“As many as 11% of U.S. women ages 15-44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used a “morning after” pill at least once, or 5.8 million women. Half say they used it because they feared their birth control method may have failed, and the rest say they had unprotected sex.”

First Federal Report on Emergency Contraception

The report also found that only 14% of sexually experienced females ages 15–19 had ever used emergency contraception, compared to 23% of women ages 20-24 and 16% of women ages 25–29. Moreover, the report showed that emergency contraception was most common among women 20-24, the never married, Hispanic and white women, and the college-educated.

So what’s with this fear that if the morning-after pill was available over-the-counter for girls under the age of 17 without prescription, that there would be a flood of 10 and 11 year olds buying it along with “bubble gum or batteries?” In my opinion, if they are old enough to have sex and have babies, they are old enough to have access to reproductive services, contraception, and especially the information provided by comprehensive sex education that is necessary for them to make healthy, responsible decisions about their sexuality and behaviors.

Federal Judge Edward R. Korman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York seems to agree with me. In April (2013), Korman’s ruling in Tummino v. Hamburg reversed a prior decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). In 1999, Plan B became the first emergency contraceptive approved for use by prescription. In 2006, the FDA approved it as an over-the counter drug for women over the age of 18, while requiring a prescription for minors and subsequently allowed 17-year-olds to obtain the drug without a prescription, which was overturned by the HSS in 2011 (see previous article).

Magazine cover depicting headlines for MTV’s “Teen Mom” series, demonstrating how American society exploits the struggles of teen mothers for humor and profit. The media should be trying to reinforce teen’s sexual and reproductive rights, including access to reproductive services and comprehensive sex education, not mocking the experiences of teen mothers in a sitcom reality television show.

Many have argued that the controversy over emergency contraception is based in politics, not science, where it should be. Nonetheless, this ruling has sparked hope in many, including Nancy Northup, the president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit against the FDA and HSS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “This landmark court decision has struck a huge blow to the deep-seated discrimination that has for too long denied women access to a full range of safe and effective birth control methods. Women all over the country will no longer face arbitrary delays and barriers just to get emergency contraception.”

Now we who support the sexual rights of youth and access to comprehensive reproductive services must wait to see what unfolds next, as the Justice Department reacted to the ruling by stating, “The Department of Justice is reviewing the appellate options and expects to act promptly,” according to spokeswoman Allison Price.

For more, see Part 1.

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Preventing Teens from Preventing Pregnancy: “Plan B” not an Option for Teens PART I

In 2011, the secretary of health and human services’ banned over-the-counter sales of emergency birth control to girls under age 17… in 2013, a federal judge challenged this decision.

When Kathleen Sebelius, former health secretary of President Obama, blocked the sale of emergency birth control (commonly referred as the “morning after pill” or by its name bran of “Plan B”) to girls under the age of 17, President Obama endorsed her decision, saying that “the reason Kathleen made this decision was she could not be confident that a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old going into a drugstore should be able – along with bubble gum or batteries – be able to buy a medication that potentially, if not used properly, could end up having an adverse effect.”

However, not everyone believes that Plan B will produce “adverse effects” on young girls.

Ted Miller, spokesman for Naral Pro-Choice America, and others in women’s groups argued that science supported the use of such medication for young girls: “Teva, the pill’s maker, commissioned two large studies in adolescents to satisfy government concerns about selling freely to them.” This did not satisfy Ms. Sebelius, who said in her reject that neither study included 11-year-olds. Even so, according to Dr. Phillip Stubblefield, a contraceptive expert from Boston University School of Medicine, there is no reason to believe that the morning-after pill would react any differently than older girls.

A huge part of the controversy of emergency contraception is that it is commonly confused with the abortion pill, when in fact, emergency contraception only prevents pregnancy, not terminates it.


But you tell me, what would you rather have: a pregnant 10 or 11-year-old, or a 10 or 11-year-old buying Plan B?

Research has demonstrated how teen pregnancy and childbearing negatively affects the parents and society, including substantial social and economic costs. In 2008, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly $11 billion per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers. Moreover, only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by 22 years of age, versus approximately 90% of women who had not given birth during adolescence.

Life isn’t easy for the children of teen parents either: compared to children born to older mothers, children born to teen moms are likely to drop out of high school, live in poverty, become teen parents, use Medicaid and CHIP, experience abuse/neglect, enter the foster care system, end up in prisons, and be raised in single parent families. Unfortunately as well, the children of teenage mothers are more likely to have more health problems and face unemployment as a young adult. Additionally, these children have lower scores on measures of kindergarten readiness and lower vocabulary, math, and reading scores. In 2011 alone, almost 330,000 babies were born to teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19.

To clarify, Plan B is an emergency contraception to be taken within 72 hours after unprotected intercourse to prevent pregnancy. Plan B is NOT to be confused with RU-486, the abortion drug. So if you ask me, I’d rather have emergency birth control available to teens who desperately need it than more disadvantaged teen parents and children. And apparently, so does a federal judge. Check out Part 2 for the rest of this article.

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Depending on More than Faith: Comprehensive Sex Ed in Church

Although social conservatives have dominated discourse around religion and sexuality, it turns out that millions of religious and spiritual youth and adults believe that faith, and a positive approach to healthy sexuality, are not mutually exclusive. 

I never thought that I would see that day where I would come across an article discussing how Churches across the nation are moving away from the “Abstinence-only” approach to Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE). In my mind, as with the minds of many Americans, comprehensive sex education and religion seemed to be at odds, especially when it came to same-sex sexuality. So when I read that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) published a faith-based comprehensive sex ed curriculum in 2006, AND affirms human sexuality, including the expressions of sexuality that occur within same-sex relationships, as a gift from God, my mind nearly exploded. Moreover, the United Methodist Church passed an official resolution in 2010 to encourage congregations to take up the issue of sex education.

But this revelation is about (God) damn time!

429px-Brenig_Evergislus_HillebrandFor too long, social conservatives have used religion to keep comprehensive sex education out of the classroom. They especially have a beef with condoms. They have spent more than one billion in public funding within the U.S. to promote abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that distort the health benefits of condoms. They also argued at international conferences that promoting condom use encourages teens to have sex, despite overwhelming research to the contrary: educating youth about condoms does not promote sexual activity. In fact, research indicates that young people who are educated about the health benefits of condoms are more likely than other young people to use condoms when they eventually initiate sex.

So I commend the work of religious leaders who are moving away from this restrictive, scientifically invalid viewpoint. While some religious leaders and institutions, like the Catholic Church in New York City, continue to fight against comprehensive sex education in schools and remind us how there should be a separation between Church and State (because we all know that is NOT the reality in the U.S.), at least others are tackling the issues on Church ground, such as the First United Methodist Church in Madison, WI, who will introduce a comprehensive sexual education program, “Our Whole Lives,” for the first time this year. Not only will discussing human sexuality in a positive light foster a new, cooperative relationship between faith and sexuality, but also will encourage more teens to talk to their parents and Church leaders about their issues and concerns, instead of sometimes relying on inaccurate sources or porn. There will always be barriers to comprehensive sex education to overcome, but at least this is another step towards victory in the fight for youth sexual rights.

The Pen Versus the Sword: Sex Education Books and Death Threats in Saudi Arabia

47% of fathers in Saudi Arabia find it difficult to answer their children
s questions related to sex and about 87% find it embarrassing to answer the questions, and, as a result, they tend to ignore them.

Professor Amal Mohammed Banouna

In her recent research study of the position of parents and teachers on offering early sex education to children between 3 and 8 years of age, Professor Amal Mohammed Banouna of Umm al-Qura University in Mecca found that the curiosity of students about sexuality embarrassed many parents and elders in the conservative kingdom. Despite this blush, Banouna found that more than 90% of parents and teachers support the introduction of sex education in public schools. Also, Banouna recommended that both teachers AND parents should be given training on how to deal with their children’s curiosity, especially when it comes to matters of sexuality. Another older study in 2010 showed that 43% of parents were reluctant to share sexual health information with their children themselves; yet, almost 90% said they were concerned their children may be sexually harassed or abused. 

Mohammad Al-Sheddi, a member of the Shoura Council and the Human Rights Commission, believes that children have a right to information that would protect them, stating, The Shoura recently approved a protocol to protect children from being exploited for pornography. Children should be equipped with enough information that would allow them to differentiate between right and wrong, and detect whether they are being used or lured into a situation in which they may be abused.

Also in 2010, Dr. Wedad Lootah, an Emirati social worker and marriage counselor who wrote a bestselling book on sex education, said that she planned to write a series of three books on the subject for kindergarten, junior school and high school pupils. She outlined her plans saying, First there will be a picture book for kindergarten that will grab their interest, and then for the bigger ones, grades one to six, there will be Islamic teachings in simple language. Then for the higher grades who already know everything, there will be the dangers and the negative effects: what is right and what is wrong. However, I was unable to find any recent stories about the potential books beyond that fact she received many death threats from fundamentalists.

Dr. Lootah, who wears a full-length black niqag, is the only female counselor at the Family Court of Dubai, where she counsels several Arabs, including Emiratis at her Dubai Healthcare City clinic, and teaches them how to have a healthy physical relationship.

So if Saudi youth aren’t getting the necessary information to protect themselves and be sexually healthy from their schools or their parents, where are they getting it from?
The answer is through trial and error, books, and the Internet according to female college students in a discussion about sex education in the Kingdom. These women also reported feeling that they did not have a safe place or safe person where they could comfortably go and ask such questions. Moreover, women’s relationship to sexuality and sexual health in Saudi Arabia needs drastic improvements. According to a study on women’s sexual health, female participants reported experiencing more difficulties in talking about sexual matters generally, and specifically those that related to sexual intercourse. They also delayed seeking sexual health care as a result of the influence of Saudi social norms around women’s sexuality. Plus, health care professionals tended to avoid initiating discussions about sexual matters in their clinical practices to respect the cultural norms and avoid offending the patient.
Hopefully, with the projected introduction of sex education in schools, Saudi Arabian youth and women can start receiving the information they need to maintain their sexual health. Nonetheless, as Banouna pointed out, no matter how embarrassing or taboo, parents, teachers, school administrations, and health care professionals should ALL be involved in educating youth about sexuality and sexual health or else they will not know how to take care of or protect their bodies and make responsible choices.




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Want Teens to Have Positive Sexual Health? Sex-Positivity Can Help With That

“Informed teens are much more likely to wait for first intercourse, use condoms and other barrier and birth control methods at first intercourse, and are more likely to take responsibility regarding their own sexual health.” Emily E. Prior

But not just any information given to teens will produce such a result. For decades, sex education programming in schools across America have used an agenda of fear tactics to teach teens that sex is bad, sexual pleasure is sin, and homosexuality is a mental illness. It’s time that Americans realize this approach of scaring teens from having sex doesn’t work: 46.8% of high school students report having engaged in sexual intercourse, with the rate increasing to 63.1% for high school seniors.

Using fear tactics in sex education is like hanging on the edge of a cliff: a person doesn’t have to be forced on to the edge to experience fear to know how dangerous it is. Similarly, if teachers taught comprehensive sex education using open, honest communication, then students will stay away from the cliff’s edge and practice safe sex.

So if you can’t scare teens from having sex, what else can we do?

The exact opposite of what doesn’t work: educate teens using sex-positive approaches. Wilhelm Reich (1897-1957) created the concept of sex-positive and sex-negative when he hypothesized that some societies view sexual expression as essentially good and healthy, while other societies take an overall negative view of sexuality and seek to repress and control the sex drive. Does the later ring a bell?

Emily E. Prior, the Director of the Center for Positive Sexuality, describes being sex-positive as “not limiting sexual scripts to reproduction and procreative-only sex, but also the pleasurable, rewarding, and nonprocreative aspects of sexuality.” However, Prior warns that this does not mean educators should start “promoting” sex, but rather, “recognizing sexuality as a normal, healthy part of being a person and that everyone is a sexual being.” But this is not a new concept: just check out the Dutch.

So how can educators utilize sex-positivity in the classroom? Prior has a tip.

First, educators can create a sex-positive classroom space: “A sex-positive space,” Prior begins, “is an open and accepting space where [students] can feel comfortable to be themselves, communicate with one another, and be accepting, not just tolerant, of others’ differences related to sexuality and sexual behavior.” This means that students who identify with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and questioning (LGBTQ)  community will not be excluded or stigmatized, which typically happens in a sex-negative space. Also, as Prior eloquently puts it, a sex-positive approach “allows teens to recognize their personal and sexual development as an ongoing, lifelong, and healthy process. By allowing for communication and individual expression, teens are much more likely to make healthy choices that work for their bodies.” 

The differences between a sex-positive approach to sex and the sex-negative approach to sex, with the former reflected in comprehensive sex education and the later used in abstinence-only education.

Sounds great to me! And it should sound great to everyone who wants to help teens become sexually responsible and reduce America’s high rates of unintended teen pregnancies and transmission of STIs and HIV–and who doesn’t? Let’s face it: teens are going to have sex no matter if we try to scare them or not, so we might as well suck it up and give them the information and tools they need to be safe once they decide to have sex, be it during high school or after marriage.

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The Way We “Talk the Talk” Controls the Way We “Walk the Walk” PART 2

(También en español) In Part 1, I highlighted the first three of six sex narratives developed by Marty Klein, Ph.D., in his book, America’s War on Sex, and outlined in last year’s  State of Sexual Freedom Report, produced by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull). Dr. Klein posits, “Sexual freedom expands or contracts within political, social, economic, cultural, and psychological contexts–some of them contradictory, some of them mutually reinforcing.”

A quick recap: a “narrative” is a coherent storyline that contains a set of assumptions that enables people to make meaning out of raw fact. So the way we talk and tell stories about sexual facts influences our perceptions about sex and the meaning we give to facts. The first three narratives discussed earlier are that “sex is dangerous,” “government should protect us from sexual danger,” and “certain people aren’t sexually normal, and certain kinds of sex aren’t normal; society needs to be protected from both.”

Now, for the fourth narrative, “morality can be measured by sexual criteria–the less sex, the less evident the sex, and the less adventurous the sex, the more ‘moral’ the person.” This type of judgment is superficial because it bases a person’s morality on perceived sexual practices, on their decision-making, willingness to take responsibility for their actions, honesty in dealing with others, or willingness to sacrifice for the common good, which are key concerns when dealing with morality. This narrative also fuels people’s anathema to sex workers, which lead to the development of “Prostitution-Free Zones” (PFZs) laws in D.C., which legalized sex discrimination and allowed cops to profile people as sex workers based on appearance and perceived sexuality and sexual activity in public areas. Not only were these zones a threat to civil rights, but also human rights, something Woodhull actively advocates and defends. (Through the work of Woodhull, VenusPlusX, and a dozen other advocacy organizations, city officials now conclude that PFZs are indeed unconstitutional, and trashed a bill that would have made them permanent and police are no longer enforcing them.)

The fifth narrative is “sexual expression is appropriate only for some people, only under certain conditions. Anything else is unauthorized and bad for society.” This is evident in the fact that Americans are still uncomfortable with the idea of teens, the elderly, the non-heterosexual, the physically or mentally handicapped, the incarcerated, and the unmarried being sexual. Moreover, some forms of sexual expression, such as BDSM, are often considered unauthorized for anyone, regardless of consent.

Last, “when it comes to civil rights, sexuality is different.” However, this notion is false because our sexual rights are part of our civil rights (as mentioned previously) and a part of our basic human rights.

All in all, these six narratives play a key component to our perceptions of teen sexuality and sex education. With regards to teens, American society generates narratives about teen sexuality being “dangerous,” in need of governmental control through abstinence-only education, and only normal if it is heteronormative — but teen sexuality still immoral by nature and in premarital sexual expression. These are extremely harmful narratives for American youth, and the effects play out in the high rates of unwanted teen pregnancy, STD/STI transmission, and HIV.

Therefore, everyone must recognize these narratives for what they are: stories, and not scientific fact. Once we understand that, we can start disavowing these narratives of sexuality that negatively influence our perceptions of sex, teen sexuality, and sexual rights and freedoms.

Marty Klein’s six narratives of sexuality have profound impact on American youth, impacting our attitudes about teen sexuality and sex education.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in September.  Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will be presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

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The Way We “Talk the Talk” Controls the Way We “Walk the Walk” Part 1

(También en español)

“Sexual freedom expands or contracts within political, social, economic, cultural, and psychological contexts–some of them contradictory, some of them mutually reinforcing.” Marty Klein, Ph.D.

This is where the narratives of sexuality come into play: a “narrative” is a coherent storyline that contains a set of assumptions that enables people to make meaning out of raw fact.

For example, take the fact that there are 1 million abortions in American every year. Now, some people will argue that this fact as evidence of moral weakness and sexual promiscuity, while others interpret this fact as reflecting poor contraception use and a culture that discourages sexual planning. So basically, the way we talk and tell stories about sexual facts influences our perceptions about sex and the meaning we give to facts.

Marty Klein, psychologist and author of “America’s War on Sex,” which is outlined in the State of Sexual Freedom Report, produced by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull). Klein states that there are six key narratives of sexuality that support the restriction of sexual rights and freedom by controlling the way we “walk the walk” when it comes to sex.

It is important to remember that the societal narratives and stories we tell about sexuality are not facts, but only meanings attached to the facts. It is our duty to decipher these negative narratives as to combat their control over sexual rights and freedoms.

First is the narrative “sex is dangerous.” When sex is discussed in American society, it is typically through negative topics such as unwanted pregnancy, sexual violence, sexual dysfunction, and STDs/HIV. This focus on the risks of sexual activity leaves little room for discussions about its benefits, advantages, or pleasures: a practice that is also pervasive in abstinence-only education.

However, when people only focus on the negatives of sex, they either become sex-phobic or are ill-prepared when they find themselves in a sexual situation.

A second  narrative is the “government should protect us from sexual danger,” including sexual violence, perceived sexual abnormality, and the evidence of others’ sexuality. This narrative puts demands on the government to criminalize various sexual behaviors, restrict sexual commerce, and control sexual expression in mass media. Building off of this is the third narrative, “certain people aren’t sexually normal, and certain kinds of sex aren’t normal; society needs to be protected from both.” Examples of both these narratives are evident in the debate about marriage equality, the fight for LGBTQ rights, and in the SlutWalk movement.

To read about three more narratives of sexuality and their impact on teen sexuality and sex education in America, please read Part 2.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual rights/freedom and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit in September.  Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will be presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

“If there were only 11 people in the world”: Narratives of sexuality reveals that, even with the progressive movement for LGBTQ rights, Americans at large still see certain sexualities as “normal” (heterosexuality) while all others are “abnormal” (homosexuality).

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Pass This Test and Get Kicked Out of School

También en español

Delhi Charter School, in Louisiana, has a Student Pregnancy Policy that allows staff to force female students who are suspected of being pregnant to take a pregnancy test. If students are pregnant or refuse to take the test, they are kicked out and must undergo home schooling if they want to continue their education at the school.

Apparently, Delhi Charter School doesn’t believe that female students have a right to education free from discrimination, unlike the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull) as mentioned in my previous post, “Sex Education is a Human Right.” Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an article admonishing Delhi’s policy for its blatant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the policy completely disregards Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federal funded education programs and activities. Title IX explicitly mandates that schools cannot exclude any student from an education program or activity “on the basis of such a student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.” Coupled with this offense is the policy’s violation of the Constitution’s due process right to procreate and equal protection by treating female students differently from male students.

Delhi Charter School’s policy is not only a violation of Title IX and the Constitution, but also the fundamental human rights of access to information, education, and sexual freedom.

Yet, approximately 70% of teenage girls who give birth drop out of school because illegal discrimination and the fact many schools fail to help pregnant and parenting teens stay in school: some schools even exclude or punish them. How could this be?

Well, let’s take a look at the educational system. As Woodhull’s State of Sexual Freedom 2011 report documents, the United States has high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates and the highest teen pregnancy rate among industrialized nations. Woodhull highlights two important reasons for this: other developed countries have easier access to contraception and health care services, and there is more comprehensive sexuality education. So without access to both basic health care services, including contraception, and comprehensive sex education (in the U.S., more than half the states still don’t require sex education), it’s no wonder why almost 750,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year. Not only does this lack of sexual health education affect students, but also school administrators and staff. Without proper training and education, administrators and teachers are ill equipped to adequately deal with the needs of pregnant and parenting students’ situations.

Pregnant and parenting teens are legally entitled to education and supportive services for themselves and their children. Click to find out more about the legal rights of female students in New York and Minnesota.

Hence, we need to education both students and school administrations about the procedures that are required by law to support pregnant and parenting teens that already face social stigma. Most importantly, as Woodhull posits over and over again, we need to educate teens about their basic human rights of sexual freedom and sexual health information. When students are knowledgeable about their sexual rights, whether pregnant, parenting, or not, they are better equipped to stand up for themselves, their education, and against the illegal, discriminatory practices and barriers within the education system.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can visit their website. Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

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Sex Education is a Human Right

También en español

The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull), named in honor of Victoria Woodhull, joins the public discussion about sex education by framing it in the context of sexual freedom and human rights.

Woodhull is a leader in advocacy and activism for sexual freedom, rights, and liberty and also acts as a convener of activists and a resource for progressive initiatives that advance sexual freedom. Woodhull works hard to combat the prohibition of pleasure, advance an agenda that recognizes the wonderful diversity of sex, sexuality, and our rights as human beings to make informed, consensual choices in our lives; Woodhull recognizes that this agenda can be accomplished through comprehensive sex education. Woodhull believes that comprehensive sex education includes age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality, addresses both genders and transgender and all orientations and disability, and teaches how alcohol and drugs can effect responsible decision making.

However, Woodhull does not just approach sexual health as an educational issue, but also in the context of sexual freedom and our universal human rights.

Former U.S. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt with the English version of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Woodhull posits on the inclusion of sexual freedom.

In their report, State of Sexual Freedom in the United States 2011, Woodhull advocates that human beings, including youth and adults, have the right to access information that will help them make the best decisions for themselves and lead happier lives. As sexuality is a part of every human being, access to sexuality information is a part of our basic human rights. Sexuality is not only about sex, either. In the broadest terms, sexuality encompasses everything from engaging in sexual acts, to how people see themselves in terms of body image and gender roles, to how people relate to others in emotional and physical relationships.

As such, Woodhull asserts that everyone deserves access to comprehensive sex education, because a lack of access to valid information about sex and sexuality is not only harmful and ineffective, but also contrary our fundamental humans rights. Along with the right to access vital information, we have the human right of sexual freedom, a freedom that is the right of all individuals to develop and express their unique sexuality, and includes the freedom of sexuality education and sexual health. Sexual freedom involves not only the freedom “to do” something sexually, but also the freedom “not to do” something sexually. Therefore, sexual health programs that boost sexual health, like comprehensive sex education, are the ideal for sexual freedom because they incorporate teachings about both abstinence and contraception.

Woodhull justifiably frames the discussion of sex education in the context of our fundamental human rights of education and sexual freedom.

If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can visit their website. Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”

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Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away (Part 2)

In the U.S., teens often feel that if they were to confide in their parents about having sex or thinking about it, their parents would be very disappointed.

That is one of the reasons why teens don’t seek advice or guidance from their parents when it comes to sexual matters. But what about parents who don’t talk to their children?


Two major fears that American parents have are that if they broach the subject of sex with their teen, they may give the impression that they condone it or put the idea in their head in the first place. Let’s take a closer look at this concern that most American parents have.

For one, the fact that this parent doesn’t want their teen to think they “condone” teen sex reflects how, for American parents, teen sex is something to be feared and forbidden, even though the majority of American teens make sex part of their lives by age 17 or 18. Understandably, any approach that focuses on the dangers of sex does not give teens the tools to navigate the territory of sexuality and relationships in a healthy way. The evidence is in: the U.S. has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates and the Netherlands one of the lowest in the world.

But what is there to fear?

Obviously, there are the risks of unwanted pregnancy, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD/STIs) when it comes to sex, but Americans tend to forget that there is as easy, cheap, and simple way to curtail these risks substantially: CONDOMS. Using latex condoms correctly and consistently are highly effective (nearly 99%) in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV and several STD/STIs during vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse, pregnancy, Using condoms also lowers female’s risk of developing cervical cancer and can help people clear HPV infection and/or reduce their risk of re-infection.

Other methods of contraception, such as hormonal methods, are just as effective. In fact, in the Netherlands, 6 out of 10 teenage girls are on the pill at first intercourse, versus only about 1 in 5 in the U.S. If more parents and educators openly taught teens about condoms and other contraceptives, teens would increase their use of contraceptives. Only then will the rate of unintended pregnancies, STD/STIs, and abortions drastically decline, and effectively reduce the risk of teen sex by teens who are too uneducated about sexual health matters to be sexually responsible.


Second, many experts agree that talking honestly and comprehensively to teens about sexuality does not increase the likelihood of sexual activity: it actually delays the onset of sex, reduce the frequency of sex, and lower the number of sexual partners among teens. Addressing sexuality frequently and with regard to different aspects, such as relationships, helps young people make more empowered and responsible choices about sex and their sexuality. Furthermore, when parents are able to provide guidance, teens will be less likely to rely on unrealistic and unhealthy media portrayals, such as porn, to help them understand how they should behave sexually.


For more detailed information, check out Schalet’s book “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens, and the Culture of Sexthat holistically compares American and Dutch teen sexual health outcomes based on the drastically different approaches to teen sexuality in the U.S. and the Netherlands.

Parents or teens can use her book or this post and “Newsflash America: Denying Teen Sex Doesn’t Make It Go Away (Part 1)” as conversation starters to move your family’s ideas forward in a healthy and safe way.

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