The Sexual Freedom Project: The Glass Closet

(También en Español)

What issues in your own family that are “off limits” in terms of discussion due to past or present circumstances? Does your family make you live in a glass closet, where everyone knows about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity but just are unwilling to talk about it?  Do you wish your family was more comfortable talking about these tender issues?

Make a video, write a poem, song, or an essay — or even create an original work of art — and express your thoughts. If we feature your contribution on the site, we will send you a free VenusPlusX t-shirt to thank you.

(Editor’s note: The Family Acceptance Project has many resources for your family that can help based on decades of sound research that proves that family acceptance is crucial in reducing youth homelessness, substance abuse, and suicide.)

More videos.

New Anti-HIV Condom Available

Starpharma: VivaGel® Condom Receives TGA Device Certification – Launch Preparations to Follow

Don’t Get Too Excited About The ‘HIV-Killing’ Condom Yet

by Gabe Av Flickr/creative commons

by Gabe Av
Flickr/creative commons

An Australian company, Starpharmahas just received its government’s approval to produce and sell a promising new condom incorporating VivaGel®, a lubricant purported to block viral infections, including HIV, HPV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), up to 99.9% of the time. The Australian consumer brand is LifeStyles Dual Protect, and the company has plans to market worldwide. 

Some experts, such as Dr. Anna-Barbara Moscicki, initially raised red flags. Dr. Mosciki submitted that her earlier study on HPV transmission and and other studies on HIV prevention, showed that VivaGel(R) can cause irritation of surrounding tissues, which of course increases the likely incidence of infection.

Starpharma’s clinical studies included 1000 participants, and its spokespeople were quick to neutralize these concerns by pointing out that those studies used a 3% concentration of VivaGel®, while its study used 1% and the drugstore version will be .5%, neither of which was shown to cause irritation.

If VivaGel® succeeds it promises to significantly reduce infection rates when these condoms are used for safer sex.

However, like all other condoms before these, they have to actually be used, making it doubtful that those needing it the most, the highest risk populations in certain countries, and others insisting on unprotected sex, will benefit.

The important take-away is that if used consistently and correctly, reliance on condoms, VivaGel® or not, significantly reduce the incidence of HIV and other STDs. This is underscored by trends showing that young people are chancing unprotected sex believing incorrectly that HIV is easily curable. It’s not. Go forth and have as much sex as you wish but make sure it is safer sex.

So what do you think of this new product, and how it may say lives?

Condom poster by Jun Jhen Lew Flickr/creative commons

Condom poster by Jun Jhen Lew
Flickr/creative commons


What? Science? Who Needs Science?

On Monday, we wrote our analysis of the disastrous 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Burwell v Hobby Lobby, which gives greater religious freedom rights to closely held for-profit corporations and less religious freedom rights to natural persons (their words). We also urged you to express your dissent by signing on on to support Planned Parenthood in its defends health care access for women.

Flickr/creative commons

Flickr/creative commons


“The decision now says people have the right to ignore science; humans can ignore facts. Science can be contested, disproven, and proven, with experimentation, and the advancement of knowledge. But Hobby Lobby just got a religious exemption from the health care law and basically all science!” — Michelle Garcia at the Advocate 

Closely held for-profit corporations comprise 90% of American companies and millions of workers, and companies are now empowered to intervene in the health care access for women and the men that love them by denying coverage for commonly used, FDA-approved pregnancy prevention pills and devices, such as an IUD (intra-uterine device). We fully agree with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the dissenting opinion, warning that the Court is about to enter “a minefield.”

The New York Times previously tried to explain this, and VenusPlusX, Mother Jones, and others such as Garcia do very well in unpacking the bad science behind the decision. These 5 white men in the majority are uniformed and/or intentionally in denial by misunderstanding that the birth control methods they feel are so at odds with their religions interfere with embryo implantation when in fact they simply prevent fertilization.

These science-deniers and extreme-right wing nuts have driven down the Court’s favorability to 30%, and threaten the balance of government. Last month, VenusPlusX, discussed the impeachment of certain Supreme Court Justices, and this should add more fuel to the fire.

Garcia also makes another very good point of why this decision should worry every lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) person. Generations of LGBT activists have always understood that when it comes to progress, equality rights follow women’s rights. Legislation and lawsuits favoring LGBT people are based on this fact, and shows the two movements have be (and should be) inexorably linked for decades.

As a queer woman, it makes me want to shake every LGBT person who doesn’t see the broader implications of this. What if a company could tell employees that they won’t pay for insurance that covers HIV treatment or health care to transgender people because of owners’ “sincerely held religious beliefs”? Justice Samuel Alito, in writing the majority opinion, promised its scope was “very specific.” Still, some of us side with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and foresee a potential onslaught of legal challenges testing the limits.

When I unfurl my brow and relax to get a good night’s sleep I think about the upside of right-wing theocratic extremism — it brings out the voters. The more desperate the right-wing nuts are and the more sloppy they become help focus progressive action. In America, we can use the issues where Republicans fall short (women’s rights, immigration rights, LGBT rights, immigration rights, workers rights, and on and on) to vote them out in November, insuring a super-majority in the Senate will be available there to appoint new progressive Justices as maybe needed in the next few years; and, regaining the House to replace the do-nothing bunch there now.

291679976_f8e1803bf5_oIt’s the political season. Put your boots on the ground to stand up for those whose human rights are under attack. We have to get our own house in order before we can affect similar changes in trouble spots across the world. Two follows one, three follows two, and so on and so on so just take that first step towards change.

See A Manifesto for The New Age of Sexual Freedom to understand why VenusPlusX believes issues like these are of supreme importance.


National Sex Study reveals what we are up to

National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior

Strand Book Store by Nick Sherman (flickr/creativecommons

Strand Book Store
by Nick Sherman

A new study, the largest in 20 years, represents a clarion call for anyone having sex (or not having sex for that matter). Researchers from the Center for Sexual Health Promotion (CSHP) at Indiana University’s School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation examine the sexual experience and condom-use in almost 6000 people, ages 14-94.

“These data about sexual behaviors and condom use in contemporary America are critically needed by medical and public health professionals who are on the front lines addressing issues such as HIV, sexually transmissible infections, and unintended pregnancy.” (CSHP Director, Michael Reece)

Here are a few things that caught our attention, but it is definitely worth a fair read because you will learn a lot and, more important, it allows you to analyze your own behaviors.

[T]he study helps both the public and professionals to understand how condom use patterns vary across these varying stages in people’s relationships and across ages, adding that “findings show that condoms are used twice as often with casual sexual partners as with relationship partners, a trend that is consistent for both men and women across age groups that span 50 years.” (CSHP Associate Director, Debby Herbenick)

Condom use is of course up to 1 in 4 sexual encounters, although for single people it is 1 in 3, and people of color in America use condoms more than their white counterparts. That may sound like good news except that that means as many as 66-75% are having unprotected sex. 

Adults using a condom for intercourse were just as likely to rate the sexual extent positively in terms of arousal, pleasure and orgasm than when having intercourse without one.

Click here to see Condom Use Graph

Sexual behaviors, from solo and partner masturbation and oral sex to vaginal and anal intercourse. Males masturbate alone more than females, not surprising. But there is near gender equity during our 40s, with males at 76% and females at 65%.

Females are having very little anal penetration, 4-5% before age 18, jumping to 18% by age 20, and then stays around 22% until age 40 and then dropping drastically after that.

Males performing oral sex on females gets into the double digits, 18%, by age 16, and steadily rises to its peak at 74% for ages 25-29, and then slowly declines after that.

Females performing oral sex on males is predictably is substantially greater but males do actually reciprocate in greater numbers only in our 30s.

Click here to see Sexual Behavior Graph

The data continues to show that adolescents are actually having less sex than previous studies (that focused only on teens) have suggested.

Photo of Roman Lesbian Statue by Rob Meredith (flickr/creativecommons

Photo of Roman Lesbian Statue by Rob Meredith (flickr/creativecommons

The study confirms that beyond the stats of sexual orientation in men and women, the numbers of American’s having had same-gender sex at some point in their lives is “higher.”

And, oh yes, the study confirms that males report the incidence of their female partners’ frequency of orgasm at 85% while females say it’s only 64%.

You can download the study’s full report by going to the National Sex Study website.

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.

Creative Commons Image by: epSos.de
Creative Commons Original Image by: bluekdesign
Imaged Edited by: Alifa Watkins

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.”

Creative Commons Image Provided by: Wikicommons
Creative Commons Image Provided by: Kris Hoet

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).

Creative Commons Image Provided by: AJC1

Creative Commons Image Edited by: Alifa Watkins
Creative Commons Image Provided by: Flickr

Engineered stem cells seek out, kill HIV in living organisms

(También en Español)

News of Note: Engineered stem cells seek out, kill HIV in living organisms

(Medical Xpress) — Expanding on previous research providing proof-of-principal that human stem cells can be genetically engineered into HIV-fighting cells, a team of UCLA researchers have now demonstrated that these cells can actually attack HIV-infected cells in a living organism.

Sexually transmitted diseases are an unfortunate, but very real obstacle for the sexual freedom movement, one that often reinforces fears and insecurities that lead to further sexual repression.

While many people think of HIV as an “incurable” disease, that may not always be the case.  Modern medicine has drastically improved the lifespan of those infected with the virus from as little as 8 years in the mid 90s to even 50 years today. With studies like these and others, the chance that a cure will be found within our lifetime is higher than ever, although informed consent and practicing safer sex will always be needed.

We will continue to bring you the latest developments on HIV studies and sexual health.

Creative Commons image by: AJC1

Bill Gates gives $750 million to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

(También en español)

News of Note: Gates Foundation gives $750 million to Global Fund

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave $750 million Thursday to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to help assure that the organization can keep supplying AIDS drugs while it seeks to adjust to the economic downturn.

The Global Fund, which has disbursed $15.1 billion to low-income countries over the past decade, said in November that it would not award any new grants until 2014. Nearly all of the fund’s money comes from governments in the industrialized world, many of which were unwilling to increase their donations or, in a few cases, fulfill previous pledges.

The fear has been that some AIDS programs in Africa might run out of money, forcing patients to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs that are keeping them alive. While such dire events were never likely, they are even less likely now.

Seven hundred and fifty million dollars? That is a profound amount of money, thank you Bill Gates! Now I’m curious how much of this money will make it into the right hands as well as how much will contribute to finding a cure for HIV. The Global Fund has raised nearly 30 billion in pledges from developed nations since 2002. That is a tremendous amount of money floating around, and a significant portion of that is being spent on treatment. I just hope that no one involved in the distribution of this wealth sees treating HIV/AIDS as more profitable than finding a cure. Never the less, I applaud anyone who donates $750 million to relieve human suffering.

Creative Commons Image: Source

HIV vaccine developed in Canada approved for human studies

News of Note: HIV vaccine developed in Canada approved for human studies

A Canadian-developed vaccine to prevent HIV has been given the green light for testing in human clinical trials.

The vaccine, developed by researchers at the University of Western Ontario, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start being tested in humans in January.

It is the first preventive HIV vaccine approved for clinical trials to use a whole HIV-1 virus, which has been both killed and genetically engineered, to activate immunity. In this way, the new vaccine is much like the killed whole virus vaccines that are successful against polio, rabies and influenza.

This is yet another huge step towards the cure for HIV. A future without sexually stigmatizing diseases looks more realistic everyday. Keep an eye on VenusPlusX for continuing coverage of these exciting breakthroughs.