Category Archives: Sex Education

Degrassi Features Gender-fluid Character

By Ashley Fowler, 18, Staff Writer

October 24, 2017

The Degrassi franchise (which first showed up in the late 1970s and includes several different TV shows) has continued its trend of tackling difficult topics relevant to teens. The latest season of Degrassi: Next Class, seen on Netflix, features the coming-out story of a nonbinary teen. This makes Degrassi: Next Class one of the first shows to have a main character identify as gender-fluid.

Yael, the nonbinary character, struggles with their gender identity before the episode where they become familiar with the terms “genderqueer” and “gender-fluid.” Earlier in the season, they begin to bind their breasts and question their identity as female. Eventually, Yael kisses their friend Lola, thinking their confusion may stem from being gay. After determining that they aren’t gay and still like their boyfriend Hunter, Yael explains to Lola, “I feel in between. I don’t feel like a girl, or what everyone thinks is a girl. I don’t like makeup and stuff like you do. I really, really hate my boobs. But I don’t feel like a boy either. And I’m definitely not gay.” Lola then introduces the words “genderqueer” and “gender-fluid” to Yael, explaining that they are for someone who doesn’t feel male or female. Yael is happy to have found names for the complex feelings they were experiencing regarding their gender.

Although many viewers were happy with the show’s willingness to feature a nonbinary character, some complained that Yael is played by cisgender actress Jamie Bloch. According to the show’s co-executive producer Matt Huether, the idea for Yael to come out as nonbinary developed once Bloch had already been playing the character for multiple seasons. He says in an interview with the online publication Vulture, “Yael starts out the series as cisgender presenting. To be honest, for the first couple of seasons we knew…that Yael would be uncomfortable with [their] own body and self, but we didn’t know what the endpoint was yet.” Huether elaborates, saying it wasn’t until the producers visited a Toronto high school’s queer–straight alliance that they found inspiration for Bloch’s character development.

Television has an awesome opportunity to destigmatize marginalized groups within our culture and bring about awareness and change. To viewers who may not identify as male or female, watching Yael’s experience and acceptance by friends may encourage others to understand their gender identity. Seeing nonbinary people represented in books, TV shows and other media can break down some of the barriers that prevent people from being open about their gender identity. It can also encourage all viewers to think critically about issues that marginalized groups, such as nonbinary people, face today.

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Crisis Pregnancy Centers: The Illusion of Choice

By Sarah Emily Baum, 17, Staff Writer

October 19, 2017

When my friend Jenna* called me crying, terrified she was pregnant at sixteen, I knew I had to get someone else to help her because I was definitely not qualified to handle this.

In the chaos of it all, I made what could have been a catastrophic error. I absent-mindedly Googled the Planned Parenthood texting hotline and clicked the very first link that popped up.

Later, I realized it was a “priority ad”; someone had paid for it to be the first thing on the search page as a way to attract desperate young girls like Jenna, who wouldn’t have the wherewithal to vet their sources first.

So when Jenna sent me screenshots of the conversation between her and a “pregnancy crisis counselor,” I was completely blindsided by the type of “unbiased support” they provided.

Take a moment to calm down, the counselor said. Think about your baby, a little heartbeat in your belly. You wouldn’t want to kill your baby, would you?

In my rush to help Jenna, I had accidentally directed her to a “crisis pregnancy center.” Also known as CPCs, these “clinics” are in actuality fronts for anti-choice organizations, marketing themselves as legitimate medical facilities. CPCs will often set up shop near established Planned Parenthoods or reproductive health centers, and offer things like free pregnancy tests to lure people in. But once inside, CPCs are notorious for spreading misinformation and using anti-choice scare tactics to frighten young girls into making a decision that may not be right for them.

That’s why dozens of organizations from across the country are joining the movement to promote awareness of CPCs. From October 23rd to 28th, over 40 organizations will be participating in a week of action to insist on straightforward, accurate reproductive health care.

Join the conversation with #ExposeFakeClinics and learn what you can do to expose fake clinics. Together, we can fight for a world where women will be empowered to make the reproductive choices that are right for them.

*Jenna is a pseudonym used to protect the identity of a teenager who lives in Oklahoma.

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Love Your Body!

By Libby Atkins, 17, Staff Writer

October 18, 2017

October 18th is Love Your Body Day! Don’t forget to love your body this fine Wednesday (and every day). The campaign, created by the National Organization for Women, aims to bring awareness to the narrow and unrealistic standards of female beauty that media—such as TV, movies and advertising—as well as the fashion and beauty industries present. More importantly, Love Your Body Day is a chance to empower girls and women by spreading positive messages about being healthy and loving yourself!

It’s unfortunately super normal to have self-esteem and body image issues. But when you hear someone telling you to “love yourself” or “feel great about your body,” you are not instantly going to be cured of all the negative thoughts you may have about your body. We’re taught that there must be something wrong with the way we look if we look differently than the models and actresses we see on TV and in magazines. How amazing would it feel to be confident, secure and happy with our bodies?! So, on this Love Your Body Day, we compiled some tips on how to feel better about the beautiful body you have!

TIP #1: Send yourself positive messages.

This tip comes to you from Sex, Etc. writer Bells, 15, of Livingston, NJ. “When I’m trying to love myself more, I take time to look in the mirror and name all the things I like about my body. Little things that I find adorable and unique. It helps to give me an optimistic view to balance out the pessimistic view I might have of my body.”

TIP #2: Imagine what your good friends would say and think about you.

Another one of our writers, Emma, 17, of Caldwell, NJ says that it was eye-opening when she realized how dramatic and negative her body-image was. “The things I’ve been insecure about are things that I never noticed in other people,” says Emma. “I would never insult my friends’ appearances the same way I insult my own. I’ve come to realize that I need to stop judging my looks so harshly, because I don’t deserve that type of treatment.”

Once we begin to quiet those self-hating voices in our minds, we can start to replace them with more positive ones. Learning to love yourself and your body is an ongoing process. Why not start by proactively building ourselves up by internalizing good messages about the beautiful way we look?


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Let’s Talk Month and How It Helped My Relationship

By Isabella Gonzalez, 16, Staff Writer

October 10, 2017

October may be home to Halloween, but it’s also Let’s Talk Month, a month dedicated to open communication between young people and their parents or caregivers. This campaign encourages discussion about dating, sex and relationships. Conversations like these shouldn’t be scary or stressful! It’s important to make sure you’re on the same page to avoid confusion and anxiety. After all, establishing communication is key to strengthening any type of relationship, whether it’s between a parent and teen or two partners. For example, inspired by Let’s Talk Month, my girlfriend and I decided to make an open communication policy!

Before we created the policy, whenever we got into a fight or were feeling nervous, we would just stop talking. We’d become strangers, avoiding eye contact and direct conversation. Everyone (not just us, but also our friends) would feel awkward and uncomfortable. Sure, they would try figuring out what was wrong, but all efforts were futile. Only we could fix our silence. Eventually, we admitted to ourselves that the quiet was harming our relationship and needed to stop.

Because of this, we set up a rule. To start, someone says, “Open communication time?” whether it’s the person who wants to talk or the partner who believes something is up. If the other responds with, “Ding, ding, ding!” both partners know it’s OK to talk about it. Since then, awkward silence hasn’t been a problem. We’re now a communicative couple that isn’t afraid to share anything.

So this October, try to find time between homework and crafting your Halloween costume to set up a communication guide that helps both you and a loved one!

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Coming Out: Three Things to Know

By Sarah Emily Baum, 17, Staff Writer

October 6, 2017

Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not.

I wasn’t always this comfortable talking about my sexual orientation. It took years for me to get where I am, but now, I can finally say I am out, proud and happy.

However, as we celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11th, it’s important to remember not everyone feels safe coming out. Some LGBTQ people may get bullied in school, fired from their job or rejected by their family. National Coming Out Day may seem like it’s only for people who can proudly wave rainbow flags and lead the pride parade, but what if you aren’t ready to come out yet? This is a day to help improve that—a chance to increase visibility for LGBTQ people and hear their stories. Whether you’re still unsure of your identity or you feel unsafe because of it, know you are still loved, valid and no less brave and amazing for being who you are.

When you’re ready to come out, you’ll know; but before you do, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Nobody Is Entitled to Know Your Identity

The first person I came out to was not my mom. It wasn’t my therapist. It wasn’t my best friend, or my second best friend or my third.  It was some girl I met in the park when I was 12. She said she was gay, and I said, “No way! I’m gay too!” and that was the first time I had ever said it out loud.

I never saw her again.

In fact, the people closest to me tended to be the very last to know. It was easier to come out to other kids online because if they judged me, I could just walk away without any repercussions. Meanwhile, I thought if my parents reacted badly, there would be no way to escape the consequences.

Thankfully my parents were supportive when I came out, even if they were displeased with the fact they were dead last to know. I had come out to my camp counselor, my rabbi, even my congressman before I told my mother and father.

But it wasn’t indicative of how much I care about my parents. It wasn’t me trying to “pull a fast one.” It was just who I was comfortable with, when I was comfortable with it.

Coming out is YOUR journey. It is YOUR identity. You can come out to whoever you want, whenever you want, and deciding not to tell someone doesn’t make you deceitful or manipulative. This is about you. No one is entitled to know about something so deeply personal if you don’t want to share it.

No One Can Define Your Identity but You

Do you identify as a lesbian even though you like boys sometimes? That’s fine.

Are you bisexual but you’ve only ever dated girls? No problem.

Are you pansexual, asexual, demisexual, genderqueer, nonbinary or something else altogether? That’s all right!

Just because you may not be learning about sexual orientation and gender identity at school doesn’t mean your identity isn’t valid. After all, things like gender and sexual orientation are strict categories made up to classify and organize a part of the human experience that, in actuality, includes grey areas.

The only person who truly knows your sexual orientation or gender identity is you. Don’t let anyone force you into a label that doesn’t feel like the right fit. Some people never pick a label at all!

Give It Time

Coming out is not a “one and done” endeavor.

Coming out is a process. Most people are assumed to be heterosexual and cisgender, so you’ll probably come out to lots of people over time.

The idea of coming out as this perpetual journey can be daunting, even exhausting. But it will get easier. Your family might be taking it harshly, your friend might be acting awkward. But if they genuinely love and care for you, they will hopefully overcome that.

And though you may lose some people, there will always be others who love and accept you as you are.

Just keep searching. You’ll find each other.

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Prom: When the Pressure’s On

By Adrian Lam, 18, Staff Writer

May 5, 2017

With spring here and school nearing a close, it’s an exciting time of year. Promposals are popping up left and right, with creative posters, beautiful bouquets and flash mobs galore! But, there is a side of prom we don’t always talk about—also lingering in the air is the pressure to lose one’s virginity and have sex during prom weekend.

When I asked Billy*, 17, from Hillside, NJ, if he had felt this pressure before in his high school, he replied, “It high-key exists. Trust me and just ask around, I bet you’ll hear some wild stuff.”

And let’s be honest: we hear exaggerated stories all the time of teens getting “wasted” on prom weekend and unexpected hookups occurring left and right.

Why is there this pressure? While some teens believe prom is the last chance to lose their virginity before high school is over (basically the premise of American Pie), others feel as if they are obligated to have sex with the date who brought them to prom. (They’re not.) Still, other teens want to share their own exciting stories about what happened that weekend. Certainly, the media has played a large role it making it seem like prom is the “make it or break it” climax (pun intended) of four years of high school when it doesn’t have to be. In reality, there’s no way for us to know how many teens are actually having sex or “losing their virginity,” so teens should not feel pressured during prom.

Whether or not you plan to have sex during prom weekend is nobody’s business, and you have the right to make your own fully informed decision. Bottom line: Be yourself and only have sex when you and your partner both agree that you’re ready.

If you’re not ready, it’s OK to say no. Sex is not a life-changing experience that will make you a different person. You won’t level up and evolve. It’s not a race, so make sure you are physically and emotionally prepared before you make your decision. (And, of course, to avoid a pregnancy and STDs, don’t forget to practice safer sex when you decide the time is right!)

Finally, if I could offer any advice to you as a soon-to-be graduate, it would be to make the most of these last couple of weeks of high school. There are a lot of ways to have a memorable, fun experience at prom, from eating delicious food to talking to your friends to dabbing whenever the opportunities arise!

*Billy is a pseudonym.

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Period Tracker Apps: What You Should Know

By Naomi Akiyama, Staff Writer

April 10, 2017

The ups and downs of “that” time of the month are all too familiar to many of us. To plan around this ebb and flow of hormones, mobile period-tracking apps can be our closest friends. But as helpful as the popular apps may seem, it’s a good idea to avoid relying on them too much.

There are many different period-tracking apps and each has its own way to make monitoring your cycle more convenient. The apps collect data such as the start and end dates of your period, symptoms, body temperature and even sexual activity. The patterns of information recorded help the apps estimate the days your future periods might begin and end, what symptoms might recur and times of ovulation for cycles to come. By keeping daily tabs on how users feel, it would make sense that users with regular periods would be able to prepare themselves for everything that flows in with the “red tide.”

Some people use the handy system simply to become more familiar with how their bodies work, including when they may be ovulating. We sometimes receive questions from teens on Sex, Etc.’s Tumblr about period trackers and using them to determine when to have sex without becoming pregnant. This is troubling, because period trackers should not be used to dictate these times. The thing is, menstrual cycles aren’t always constant, and can be especially erratic for teens. Secondly, everyone’s body is different, and not everyone ovulates at the same time during a cycle. For these reasons, it may be more difficult for a period tracker to use data to accurately calculate when a person is typically more likely to get pregnant. However, the trust placed in the tracker may lead to risky behavior, like skipping the use of protection because the estimated chance of pregnancy is lower on a given day. Not only is this information not always true because of the inconsistencies in an actual menstrual cycle, but not using contraception (especially condoms) can increase the risk of STDs as well as pregnancy.

All in all, it’s great to have technology like this, especially if you’re tracking general changes in your cycle. But if you’re looking to know exactly when you’re ovulating and using these apps to determine how to act, don’t put all your eggs in one basket by taking your period tracker’s advice.

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Men Sense Force to Search Like Calvin Klein Underwear Models

By David Guirgis, 16, Staff members Writer

September 23, 2015

Objectification of bodies in the media has influenced our tips of what is viewed as “attractive” —from the posters of Victoria’s Magic formula Angels adorning each shopping mall in The us to the shirtless, underwear-clad guys of Calvin Klein and Abercrombie & Fitch. And it is not just an concern for ladies, possibly. A the latest report released on Buzzfeed highlights the point that entire body picture and the strain to seem a particular way influences men, too.

In Buzzfeed’s report, “We Re-Produced Popular Calvin Klein Underwear Adverts and This Is What Took place,” regular guys recreated legendary Calvin Klein advertisements and then gave their reactions to the visuals. The report seems to have struck a chord—it’s been viewed about 800,000 times given that publication and garnered hundreds of remarks, several highlighting the point that men have insecurities as well. The juxtaposition of these types and the daily men trying to re-create them was considered-provoking, since whilst the unique advertisements featured guys with these ripped bodies, the guys re-producing the images had numerous entire body forms. And it is effortless to see how your ordinary Joe could really feel insecure the standard men with numerous entire body forms aren’t usually viewed as conventionally “hot.” Let’s face it, though—when you’re with your partner, you’re not considering about the point that they really don’t seem like underwear types. Average Joe isn’t unattractive at all he just doesn’t have an eight-pack!

Sensation insecure about my entire body is something I battle with as well. And it is fairly significantly a supplied that I’ll in no way seem like the underwear types dripping intercourse from each billboard they’re on. It is a wholly unrealistic ideal, and still I had internalized the belief that I was not “trying tough enough” to seem like these types and that I’d in no way finish up with any one since I appeared, well, ordinary.

Intercourse sells, but these advertisements are advertising a fantasy. In real daily life, not all women have thigh gaps and big butts similarly, not all guys have smoldering abdominal muscles and excellent pecs. But you know what? Which is wholly Ok. At the finish of the working day, accepting and loving your entire body and the bodies of others—whatever shape they’re in—is significantly much more particular. And that goes for individuals of all genders, too.

For more information on sex education, we suggest to visit

What do you imagine about the Buzzfeed report? Sound off in the remarks!

Impression supply: Buzzfeed
Photographer: David Bertozzi

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National Women’s History Month: We’ve Come a Long Way

By Grace Wampold, 17, Staff Writer

March 15, 2017

March is Women’s History Month—a time to remember that the rights we exercise today are the product of our very slow evolution toward gender equality. From Susan B. Anthony to Audre Lorde, most of us have a list of strong women in history that come to mind. These activists fought to give women a voice and things like the right to vote in the U.S.

It was not that long ago that women were expected to wear only dresses and keep silent. They were told what their role in society should be and what to do with their bodies and sexuality. Sex was never discussed with girls unless it related to pregnancy or the pleasure of a man. Having the power to decide how many kids you want, what you expect from your partner and what you want out of a relationship is just as important as having the right to vote and an opportunity to influence public policy.

Today, I have the right to explore my sexuality and understand my own desires out of life rather than have a path chosen for me. I can wear pants to school or “pants” in a relationship, if that’s what I feel comfortable doing. Let’s hear it for women, all types of women, because this month is for you. May we be inspired to continue to work toward a world where all people are treated fairly and with respect, regardless of their gender.

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LGBTQ TV—a Great Escape

By Gillian Hatcher, 18, Staff Writer

March 10, 2017

What’s going on in the world has many people feeling afraid, stressed out, overwhelmed and just all around not good. I for one am not immune to those feelings. One thing that I find a lot of comfort in during hard times is TV shows. I look to them to escape reality for a while and to enter a seemingly easier world where problems can be cleared up at the end of an episode or a season. Personally, as a queer woman, I like to watch very LGBTQ+ positive shows, and I have complied a list of the best ones I have come across in my travels.


Since its release, this Netflix sci-fi series has gotten both viewer and critical acclaim, and I think it’s well deserved. Sense8 is the story of eight strangers who realize that they are all mysteriously connected after each experiencing the same vision. The characters are all from different backgrounds and parts of the world and are diverse in race, sexual orientation and gender. To top it all off, the show was written by the Wachowski sisters, who are both transwomen. You can watch season one plus their Christmas special on Netflix now.

Take My Wife

This sitcom is about the lives of real-life married couple and comedians Carmen Esposito and Rhea Butcher. The show is a dramatized version of things that actually happened to them as they work their way to becoming famous comedians. I love and recommend this show because it feels like any old sitcom you would watch. Carmen and Rhea deal with money troubles, finding jobs, relationships and all the normal sitcom stuff, but there is a fresh take on it since they are a lesbian couple. It is also wonderful to see a lesbian couple portrayed like, well, a normal couple in a TV show. Oh, and it’s pretty funny too. Take My Wife season one is available on Amazon.

Yuri!!! on Ice

This anime series is so good that someone like me, who doesn’t watch anime, fell in love with it. It’s about a young Japanese figure skater, Yuri Katsuki, who isn’t doing so well professionally until his idol (Victor Nikiforov, the world’s top figure skater) shows up one day and offers to be his coach. This show portrays a loving gay relationship flourishing in an environment free of hate. The creator, Mitsurō Kubo, has stated that the world she created has no hate in it and that everyone is supportive of different sexual orientations. With loveable characters, a great plot and even an adorable dog, there is nothing to not love about Yuri!!! on Ice. I highly recommend it. Season one is available on Crunchyroll.

I’ve always been someone who used TV shows to escape, and I find the most comfort in the worlds that shows like Sense8, Take My Wife, and Yuri!!! on Ice create—worlds that are so full of diversity and celebrate that diversity. Maybe it’s just the dreamer in me that likes to watch these shows because I think that one day we could have that kind of world and that with a lot of work and love we could all celebrate the diversity that makes this world what it is. Even if it’s not like that now, for the next thirty minutes while I watch Yuri skate, it is.

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