Long-time ASHA colleague Martha Kempner writes on rewire.com about recent key hires with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that may bolster the reemergence of abstinence-only sex education programs.
“[Girls] have told by society that sex is great but that’s not their experience. They don’t know how to talk about that disconnect, there’s a certain amount of shame that shuts down their voice….for me, sexual empowerment for girls is helping them to find a voice in their sexual relationships.”
In a compelling TED Talk video (available below), nurse practitioner Jane Epstein makes the case that our efforts are sadly lacking with it comes to talking to teen girls and young women. In this episode of ASHA’s podcast we delve deeper into the topic with Ms. Epstein on not only what to say when talking to young females about sex, but how to help them speak up for themselves.
Jane Epstein is a Yale graduate and a clinician who sees teenagers at a high school-based health clinic where, as part of comprehensive health care, she provides sexual health care including contraception services to teens.
ASHA’s Sex+Health podcast is on iTunes. Subscribe today!
The term “revenge porn” made headlines in celebrity news this week, after Rob Kardashian posted explicit photos of ex-girlfriend Blac Chyna on his Instagram account, which was subsequently suspended. In California, where Kardashian lives, it is a crime for a person to distribute intimate, sexually explicit images “when he/she knows or should know that distribution of the image will cause serious emotional distress, and the person depicted suffers that distress,” and legal experts weighed in on HuffPo on the possible consequences of his actions. Whatever the motives in this case, the term “revenge porn” can be misleading, as individuals may post or share sexuality explicit photos for different reasons. The broader term “nonconsensual porn” better expresses what’s at issue here—explicit images are shared without an individual’s consent.
The problem is not uncommon. A 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute found that about 10.4 million people in the U.S. “have been threatened with or experienced the posting of explicit images without their consent.” Both men and women can be victims of nonconsensual porn, but the majority of nonconsensual images are of women—including service women. Earlier this year it was revealed that nude photos of more than two dozen female service members, active duty and veterans, were being shared by marines in a private Facebook group. While the marines involved may face charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, civilians can face legal consequences for sharing images without consent. According to the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, 38 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws against nonconsensual porn. The organization offers more information about nonconsensual porn and state laws here.
As of July 1, Oregon residents will have three options for gender on state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses: M, F or X. The X offers an option for individuals who identify as non-binary, neither exclusively male or female. The decision by the state’s Transportation Commission makes Oregon the first state in the country to allow residents to identify as non-binary. The Oregonian reports that plans for the new option were first announced last summer and 83 public comments were submitted to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. Only 12 people opposed the change.
While Oregon may be the first state to recognize non-binary identity, California is not far behind. The Gender Recognition Act, or Senate Bill 179, would allow an individual to change their gender on a birth certificate or driver’s license to be female, male, or non-binary. The bill has been passed in the senate and now must make it through the General Assembly and the office of the governor.
In a 2001 poll by the Pew Research Center—a nonpartisan organization that conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, and other empirical social science research—Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57% to 35%. Polling in 2017 shows a significant change in those numbers, with 62% expressing support for same-sex marriage versus 32% opposed. This most recent poll also marked the first time that a majority of those in specific demographic groups, including Baby Boomers, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, did not oppose same-sex marriage.
Check out the Pew Research Center site for an interactive look at the changing views on same-sex marriage.
Rolling Back Federal Protections for Transgender Students
In late February the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines that require schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice rather than the one corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
ASHA president and CEO Lynn B. Barclay points out that while laws remain in place that protect transgender students from discrimination harassment, the administration’s move sends a chilling message: “Imagine trying to navigate not only the normal challenges that are a part of growing up but also having face a society that is far from welcoming to sexual minorities,” she says. “Gender identity and expression should not be impacted by ideology. Respecting the privacy of transgender students in choosing which bathroom to use is a matter of decency and fairness and these kids should not be targeted by partisan politics.”
The Trump administration says these matters are best handled at the state and local levels but Barclay believes federal protection is necessary to ensure equal, consistent treatment across the nation. “LGBTQ rights are under assault and making an appeal to ‘states’ rights’ is just smoke and mirrors. We need robust, nationwide protections in place so all students are treated fairly no matter where they live. We have to be better than this.”
CNN and other outlets have run articles on a recently published paper linking high levels of antibody to herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2, the main cause of genital herpes) in pregnant women with an increased risk their baby will later be found to have autism. The authors of the paper believe the potential link isn’t that the virus interacts directly with the fetus, but could be due to an inflammatory response HSV2 causes in the mother that may ultimately interfere with the development of the baby’s nervous system.
The response to these findings has been mixed with several leading experts (including ASHA’s medical and scientific advisors) believing many unanswered questions remain and agreeing that much more research would be needed to validate these results.
“Women who have HSV2 and who are pregnant, or planning pregnancy, should not be alarmed by this study” says Anna Wald, MD, MPH of the University of Washington. “While we need to continue to investigate the reasons for autism, I am not convinced by this study that there is a link between antibody levels to HSV in mid-pregnancy and the risk of autism.”
Bottom line: most pregnant women with HSV2 have normal pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. Many HSV researchers and clinical experts aren’t overly concerned by these findings and don’t think women should be, either. As always, talk to your health care provider if you have questions. You can read more about herpes and pregnancy from the University of Washington Virology Research Clinic and also ASHA’s Herpes Resource Center.
Cisgender? Transgender? Intersex? There’s much to talk about in sexual health and ASHA sorts out the terminology. The letters LGBTQ (or GLBTQ) are often used as an abbreviated way of referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals, as well as those who identify as queer.
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If you struggle with incontinence and have concerns about leaking during sex, you’re not alone. The American Foundation for Urologic Disease (AFUD) reports that one in three women with stress incontinence avoids sex due to fears of leaking during intercourse or orgasm. But incontinence during sex doesn’t have to be an issue. Below are some tips to manage your incontinence and reclaim your sex life.
- Be Prepared. Believe it or not, your behavior prior to sex can have a big impact on your chances of leaking during the act. Here are a few tips to help you avoid an uncomfortable situation:
- Avoid bladder-irritating foods or drinks a couple of hours before bedtime. Not sure what your food and drink triggers are? There are some common ones, but you can also track your own habits for a week or so to determine what foods and drink you.
- Limiting your fluids prior to having sex.
- Practice “double voiding” prior to sex. This is when you go to the bathroom, wait a few minutes, and then go again to empty any residual urine that may still be present in the bladder.
- Use protective bedding so that you are covered in case an accident does happen.
- Try a new position. You may find that a new position creates less stress on your bladder muscles, making leakage less likely.
- Strengthen up down there. Regular pelvic floor workouts can do wonders for women who experience incontinence. An added bonus? Studies have shown that by strengthening your pelvic floor muscles you may also experience stronger orgasms and find sex more satisfying.
- Talk about it. While this is an uncomfortable discussion to have, the mere act of telling your partner about your condition may relieve some of the stress associated with it.
Talk to your Doctor
If you’ve tried the steps above to no avail, consider talking to your doctor about your condition. Incontinence is not a normal part of aging and many things can be done to correct the situation. Your doctor can tell you about options that will best fit your needs. Need help finding a physician? Click here.
This blog originally appeared on the BHealth Blog from The National Association For Continence, a non-profit association providing resources and support to those living with incontinence. For more articles, information and tools on managing bladder and bowel health conditions, please visit www.nafc.org.