Category Archives: Sex Education

Why We Celebrate Pride

By Brooklyn Manga, 18, Contributor

June 26, 2018

At 15, I was a proud bisexual girl, even if I wasn’t vocal about it at school. Living in Georgia, I was pleased that the kids in my high school seemed progressive about LGBTQ rights. Until one day, a classmate said, “Why do the gays even need a pride month? If they want to be considered normal, why don’t they just act like it?” Several people chimed in. Even my teacher!

After I left class that day, I felt paranoid. I thought for sure that everybody knew I was bisexual, and they were disgusted by it. I started to question my pride, my identity. Little did I know then that this was an experience all too familiar to members of the LGBTQ community.

The story of LGBT Pride Month started on June 28, 1969, when a raid—led by the Public Moral Squad, a now-defunct section of the NYC Police Department—occurred at a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn. These raids were common at gay bars across New York City and getting arrested could have dire consequences for those outed, including losing jobs and being kicked out of homes or assaulted.

This raid was like any other until a trans woman named Marsha P. Johnson changed LGBTQ history forever. As one story goes (and there are many different stories about what happened), Johnson threw her shot glass at the mirror as officers fought with the people in the bar and shouted, “I got my civil rights!” People threw rocks, bricks and whatever else they could find at the police. Soon, there were hundreds of people standing up to the police. The now-called “Stonewall Uprising” or “Stonewall Rebellion” lasted for days. After the uprising, LGBTQ activist groups were formed, and the modern-day LGBT liberation movement was born.

In spite of calls to be “out and proud,” my insecurities surrounding my sexual identity remain with me, and I battle with internalized homophobia every day. But when I think about the story of how far we’ve come, the barriers we have broken and the strength that comes from even being able to admit to ourselves that we do not fit the template set out for us, I feel hope. Even if we can’t always be loud, we can be proud. We deserve to be.

In other words, this is our heritage, my story and our story, and the reason why we celebrate LGBTQ Pride Month. Every year, on June 28th, we celebrate more walls broken; we celebrate the marriages, the love, the pride, the courage and everything else that comes with being a part of the LGBTQ community.


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HPV vs. HIV: Do You Know the Difference?

By Carley Campbell, 17, Staff Writer

June 25, 2018

Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently talked about two separate meetings he’d had with President Donald Trump during which the president asked Mr. Gates what the difference was between HPV and HIV. This is something that someone like President Trump—a 72-year-old man (who also happens to be a husband and parent)—should know. In fact, this is something we all should know.

HPV and HIV are both STDs. Both have H in their names, and both have V in their names because they’re both viruses. But that’s where the similarities end.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a super common STD. It can be passed from skin-to-skin contact or oral, vaginal or anal sex with someone who has the virus. A person might not even know they have HPV; most HPV infections clear up on their own with no adverse effects. However, in some cases, HPV can cause warts around the mouth, anus and genitals. And some strains can lead to cervical cancer in women and penile and anal cancer in men. There is a vaccine available, and while condoms and dental dams do not completely prevent HPV, they can lower chances of infection.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is less common than HPV. It can be transmitted when a mucous membrane (like the mouth, vagina or rectum) comes into contact with fluids (such as semen, vaginal fluids or blood) from someone with the virus. HIV weakens the immune system, and there is no vaccine or cure. But there are medications that reduce the amount of the virus in a person’s bodily fluids, which helps them live a longer, healthier life and reduces the chances of the virus being passed on to a partner. Without treatment, HIV can weaken the immune system and lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Condoms are very effective at preventing the sexual transmission of HIV when used correctly.

People who are engaging in sexual behaviors should get tested regularly for STDs. Girls do not need to get Pap tests, which screen for abnormal cervical cells caused by HPV, until they are 21.

You’re hopefully a lot more informed about the difference between HPV and HIV. Ideally, this is information we would all be learning in comprehensive sex education classes. But the irony is that President Trump, who isn’t clear about the difference between HPV and HIV, is heading up an administration that is threatening to cut funding for sex education. Let’s keep speaking up for better sex education, so no one ever has to wonder what the difference is between HPV and HIV.

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National HIV Testing Day—Reduce Your Risk

By Sara Kleine, 17, Contributor

June 25, 2018

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day, an annual occasion for learning about how and why to get tested for HIV and how to reduce our risk of getting and spreading it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in seven people in the U.S. with HIV don’t know they have it—and young people are the most likely to be unaware of their HIV status.

Ben Stearn, M.D., of Washington, D.C., is a doctor who specializes in HIV. He stresses the importance of getting tested: “Finding out (you are) HIV positive (can) result in early treatment, and early treatment maintains a full and healthy immune system.” Stearn says that if you discover you are HIV-positive, you should start treatment as soon as possible.

Getting tested is a way to take charge of your sexual health. As teens, we have the power to start lifelong habits to maintain good health. That’s why getting tested is a good choice for all sexually active teens. You can find a free testing center near you.

Aside from getting tested, it’s important to know the basic ways to prevent HIV. Using a condom the right way every time you have sex is crucial. People at a high risk of contracting HIV can also ask their doctors about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This is a medicine that reduces the chance of contracting HIV.

National HIV Testing Day reminds us to be aware of our risks and take control of our sexual health. It’s important to take steps to keep ourselves and our current and future partners healthy. Be sure to use protection correctly and don’t forget to get tested!

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Sexual Assault Awareness Month: A Guy’s Experience

By Sara Kleine, 17, Contributor

April 20, 2018

The first time David, 19, of Jersey City, NJ, was sexually assaulted, he was a high school student minding his own business on a train. A man sat down next to him, showed him nude photos of himself and started touching him inappropriately. A year later, while a senior in high school, David was raped. The following year, while David was traveling abroad, a man sexually assaulted him. David had been having a rough time dealing with his identity as a gay male and blamed himself. “Because I was engaging in sexual behavior, I immediately thought I was at least partially at fault,” he says. After lots of reflection and therapy, he now states with confidence, “If you’ve been assaulted, it’s not your fault.”

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We recognize this month as a time to have conversations about sexual assault, to educate ourselves and others about how to give and ask for consent and to support survivors of sexual assault. Because sexual assault is such a traumatic event, survivors often need support that can help them heal and regain self-esteem.

Sexual assault had a huge impact on David’s self-worth. “None of my first sexual encounters— consensual or not—were good and that fed into longstanding fears and shame about my sexuality,” he says. As a result, David reflects, “These experiences shook my confidence…and they have also affected the ways with which I handle relationships and sex.”

As a male survivor of sexual assault, David is not alone. According to information from the U.S. Department of Justice and cited by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), there are, on average, 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault annually in the United States, and one out of every 10 of these victims is male., a website designed to support male survivors of sexual assault and abuse, reports that at least one in six men experience “unwanted sexual experiences” before the age of 18. Despite the significant number of guys who face sexual assault, David has observed that the narrative around it tends to center around women and girls’ experiences. While he recognizes the importance of these stories, David notes that “LGBT+ survivors and men are often shut out.” One important way to support these survivors is to include them in the discussion and validate their stories as much as those of cisgender women and heterosexual people.

Reaching out for support was very difficult for David. He didn’t start going to therapy until he had a breakdown. Now two years into therapy, David is learning that despite the way his experiences colored his view of himself and his relationships, there are plenty of people out there who “respect you, your body and your wants.” Through self-reflection, therapy and support, David has recognized that “fear and guilt, whether well-placed or not, are powerful. But self-forgiveness and inner peace is more powerful. And that’s what I’m working towards.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) or visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

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Love, Simon Is a Love Letter to LGB People

By Isabella Gonzalez, 17, Staff Writer

March 29, 2018

Whenever my girlfriend and I go see a movie, we always lock lips when a kissing scene happens. Of course, it’s a way to make the date more intimate, but it’s also our small way of upsetting heterosexual norms. Despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. in 2015, as a bisexual person I don’t feel represented on the big screen. Three years later, Love, Simon offers hope that maybe I won’t have to rely on silly fan theories, like the theory that those two background characters from Finding Dory are lesbians, to feel represented in films.

Love, Simon, based on a young adult novel, is a romantic comedy starring Nick Robinson as the title teen, Simon Spier. From the start of the film, Simon states that he is “just like you.” He comes from a good family, has a tight-knit group of friends and loves Hamilton. But behind his perfect life, Simon is hiding in the closet, not sharing that he’s gay with anyone. His secret doesn’t stay with him for long once he starts emailing an anonymous gay student using the alias “Blue.”

Considering the fact that Love, Simon is the first high-profile, gay-centric teen romance to be made by a major film studio and distributed nationwide, there were lots of expectations, pressures and controversy about the movie. From casting a heterosexual actor as the lead to Simon being seen as “too white privilege,” Love, Simon has faced its fair share of critics, even with a 91-percent Rotten Tomatoes score. But for someone that’s recently openly bisexual, this movie hits home for me and my other LGB friends that teared up next to me in the theater. The film packs in lots of laughs and heartfelt moments, with scenes ranging from characters coming out as heterosexual to tearful confessions. The story isn’t anything new but is extremely cute and endearing.

Interestingly enough, the most impactful moment for me wasn’t just from the movie itself. When two boys confessed their love for each other and kissed, cheers throughout the theater erupted, shaking my recliner seat. When my girlfriend and I followed in the lip locking, it felt especially right. Hollywood is finally starting to take a close look at their audience. Now, give me the girl version of this love story!

Photo credit 20th Century Fox 

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Teen Dating Violence: Know the Signs

By Sara Kleine, 17, Contributor

February 13, 2018

Ruby, 17, of Takoma Park, MD thought she was in a healthy relationship with her boyfriend of almost two years. Then, she started to pick up on some bad signs. “He got mad when I hung out with my friends,” she says. “I tried to break up with him a few times, and he threatened to hurt himself if I did.”

Abuse in teen relationships is not often discussed, but it’s more common than many people think. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 9.6 percent of high school students who dated in 2014-2015 were physically abused by a partner, and 10.6 percent were sexually abused by a partner. Emotional (also known as psychological) abuse in teen dating relationships is even more common; some studies show it happening at numbers much higher than those for physical or sexual abuse. The CDC says that teens who experience dating violence—whether it be physical, sexual or psychological—are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety and engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drug abuse. There’s a lot at stake for teen victims of dating abuse, which is why we recognize Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month during the month of February and start important conversations about how to recognize dating violence and get help if you need it.

There are a lot of signs of psychological abuse, but they can be easy to miss., a website that supports victims of domestic violence of all kinds, lists jealousy, isolation, possessiveness and threats as some common signs of psychological abuse. Ruby’s boyfriend’s attempts to prevent her from hanging out with friends, along with his threats of self-harm, were warning signs of abuse.

Ruby stresses that it’s good to know these red flags. Communicating with your partner is key. If you suspect that you’re being abused, Ruby advises being honest. “Don’t be afraid to be like, ‘Hey that’s kind of abusive’…because maybe they don’t realize it. You should be open and communicative,” she says. The exception to this advice is if you are in a situation where you don’t feel safe and comfortable enough to confront your partner. In this case, talking to a doctor, school counselor or trusted family member is best. If you’re unsure if your partner’s behavior is abusive, asking close friends what they think can be helpful. They may have a different perspective on your relationship than you do.

After seeking advice from friends, Ruby decided to break up with her boyfriend. Soon after the breakup, he contacted her often and tried to make her feel guilty for leaving. Ruby says that this was hard for her, but she realized that ending her abusive relationship was the healthiest choice in the long run.

Ruby’s story shows how difficult it can be to recognize and then leave an abusive relationship. If you believe that you are in this situation, tell a trusted adult immediately.

You can also get help through these resources:, (1-866-331-8453), and The National Domestic Violence Hotline at (1-800-799-7233).

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Gymnasts Say #MeToo and Are Finally Heard

By Ashley Fowler, 18, Staff Writer

February 9, 2018

#MeToo, originally coined by activist Tarana Burke in 2006, has become a rallying call to discuss and prevent sexual assault in many fields, including athletics. Recently in the news were the trials of Larry Nassar, a doctor who worked for U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University for decades. Nassar pled guilty to federal charges of child pornography and state charges of criminal sexual conduct. In one of the trials regarding his extensive sexual abuse of female gymnasts, some of whom went on to the Olympics, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina gave the floor to over 150 victims to speak about their assault by Nassar.

This wasn’t the first time someone spoke up publicly against Nassar. The story first broke in 2016, when Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast who is now a lawyer and coach, told The Indianapolis Star that Nassar had molested her. When Denhollander initially filed a police complaint, she was concerned she wouldn’t be listened to—and rightly so, as both she and other gymnasts who had spoken up about the issue previously were not believed or listened to.

It’s not new that people doubt sexual assault accusations. In this case, some of the doubt came from the fact that parents were sometimes present during Nassar’s exams, and given his esteemed reputation as one of the best gymnastic doctors, Nassar was trusted. He made his young patients think he was on their side, and families thought they were lucky to get to see him. One woman recalls that when she tried to discuss her assault, she was told it was a medical procedure and not abuse. The fact that victims are so often questioned or not believed is a main reason why they may not come forward.

What should we take from this story? First, as Judge Aquilina did, we should acknowledge the tremendous courage it takes to come forward after enduring sexual assault. We should listen when people come forward rather than being dismissive of them. Further, one of the great things about the #MeToo movement is that it has showcased the power of people when they come together. One can only hope that survivors of sexual assault will feel less alone and like people will believe them if they come forward.

Are you or someone you know experiencing sexual abuse? Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at (800) 656-HOPE (4673).

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Being Single on Valentine’s Day

By Carley Campbell, 16, Staff Writer

February 8, 2018

Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day (despite it being on my birthday). Typically, when you think of Valentine’s Day, you think about romantic love: couples kissing and giving each other gifts, cheesy romantic comedies on television and of course, Hallmark cards and candy. But I’ve also noticed something a bit weird about the holiday. While it’s supposed to be about celebrating love, it seems to alienate one group of people: singles.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, singles are often excluded. If you want an example, just go online. There are plenty of memes about being single on Valentine’s Day. It’s kind of ironic that a holiday all about love can create such self-hatred. So, in the spirit of compassion and caring, I want to ask you to love yourself on the holiday. You might be wondering why.

Well, as I get older, I notice more and more people feeling down on Valentine’s Day. Maybe it’s over the lack of gifts or a lack of attention from someone you care about. Either way, it’s hard to see people hurting over a holiday meant to inspire kindness to others. And in order to be kind to others, it helps to be kind to yourself. I know it sounds cheesy, but self-love (and self-confidence) is important. Instead of moping about being single, go hang out with a friend if you don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day. Watch TV, go get snacks. This could be a great way to build a close relationship. Valentine’s Day may be on a Wednesday this year, but you can still go out of your way to have fun.

You could also do something for someone else. Support a local charity. Hand out meals in a soup kitchen, write letters to the elderly or give support to someone in need. It’ll help someone else and also help you feel great.

There’s no shortage of things to help you love yourself on Valentine’s Day. Even though I’m not a fan of the commercial side of the day, I want to encourage people to treat themselves kindly. So today, go out and do something to love yourself and others.

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When #MeToo Brings Down Your Stars

Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the #MeToo movement has repeatedly demanded justice for victims of sexual harassment and assault. With good reason, you hear about it everywhere: on awards shows, radio, the front page of BuzzFeed. I’ve crossed my fingers some nights, praying that no one I’ve chosen to support with my admiration and hard-earned cash is actually a creep. After all, there’s practically a new headline every week about some celebrity being accused of or confessing to sexual misconduct. Some of these celebrities include James Franco, Matt Lauer and, “Cry Baby” singer and former The Voice contestant, Melanie Martinez.

Martinez’s story doesn’t just stand out to me because I went to one of her concerts two years ago, but also because it’s one of the only widely reported headlines involving a young, upcoming female celebrity allegedly sexually assaulting another female. Timothy Heller, a former friend of Martinez’s, wrote on Twitter that Martinez repeatedly made sexual advances toward her, despite Heller refusing them numerous times. Heller claimed that eventually, Martinez sexually assaulted her. Since the story was posted online, Martinez has made two public statements denying the accusations, saying, “She never said no to what we chose to do together.” More recently, Martinez released a new song entitled “Piggyback,” which appears to throw heavy shade at Heller.

The fan reaction has been mixed. Some made the “#melaniemartinezisover” tag trend in mere hours. Others have remained loyal “Cry Babies” by trying to find any evidence of Martinez’s innocence. The rest have either kept quiet or still don’t know where they stand. I’m in the latter group. After all, there’s no confirmed truth. We weren’t in the room where it happened; no one knows the whole story except them. I had liked Melanie Martinez since she released “Cry Baby” and even bought a cassette version of the album. But Heller’s story is so terrible; it makes me feel ashamed I was ever a fan in the first place.

As more stories come to light, it’s important to remind ourselves that some of these celebrities are truly adored and idolized. Most of us have that one celebrity we love endlessly, and for some, that might have been Martinez. Instead of rubbing it in fans’ faces that they supported a potential rapist, try to be respectful. This is a funeral; they may be mourning the bright image they once had of that person.

The post When #MeToo Brings Down Your Stars appeared first on Sex, Etc..

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World Aids Day 2017

By Emma Ogando, 17, Staff Writer

December 1, 2017

December 1st is World AIDS Day. This is a day to remember those around the globe who are living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or have lost their lives to complications from acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV does not discriminate against sexual orientation, race or gender. Currently, there are approximately 36.7 million people worldwide living with HIV. It also doesn’t discriminate by age: a third of new HIV infections in the world are among those 15 to 24 years old, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

When AIDS was first diagnosed in United States, it was briefly called gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) by some. The U.S. government was slow to act and as a result many people died. Instead of waiting for the government to do more, a group of people in New York City created the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (or ACT UP, as it is more widely known) to advocate and lobby for those with HIV/AIDS. From this group came the Treatment Action Group (TAG), which successfully advocated for quicker development of new HIV treatments.

ACT UP is an important and inspiring example of advocacy making an impact. Today, ACT UP continues to advocate for those with HIV/AIDS around the world. In fact, this year marks their 30th anniversary! I didn’t know about ACT UP until two years ago, when I watched a documentary called How to Survive a Plague. After watching it, it became important to me to celebrate those in ACT UP for their actions and beliefs.

The fight to end the spread of HIV is still not over. Globally, one million people died from AIDS in 2016, and some still mistakenly associate HIV with a “gay lifestyle” because they do not know the range of behaviors that can transmit HIV regardless of your sexual orientation. However, with education, we can make strides in ending stigma and ignorance toward those with the virus.

This December 1st (and everyday), think about those who have lost their lives, but also think about those who have survived and those who have made great strides by advocating for a cure and treatment. There is hope that we can end AIDS.

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