Tag Archives: youth

Back to School Sexual Health: The Freshman Five

24 Aug

When I went to college, I was like a kid in a candy store. Finally away from the watchful eyes of mom and dad, no curfew, no one to tell me what to do, and boys, boys, boys to choose from.  And I’m sure I was not alone. This first taste of freedom can be so liberating….but it also can lead to some sticky situations.   So, in honor of back to school, I would like to bring you the Top Five Tips for Safe Sex in College to guarantee that you have the most fun (and safe) freshman year possible.

Student Health Services is Your Friend.

Whether it’s Student Health Services, the Health and Wellness Center, or the College Clinic, every University has one. When you first arrive on campus make sure you know where it is located, and stop in for a visit! If you haven’t yet had your first gynecological exam, make one. If you are sexually active, and going to continue to be, get yourself tested. Testing (and treatment) for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on college campuses is usually very reasonable priced, or even free…and you won’t have to worry about your parents finding out. Sexually active men and women should get tested every three months, and Student Health Services is there for you. They should also have lots of helpful information and pamphlets there for the taking, whether you need advice on how to avoid the Freshman 15 or help deciding which birth control method is right for you. And don’t forget to stock up on the free condoms on your way out!

Condoms, Condoms, Condoms.  

And about those condoms, always keep some on hand. They are (at most schools) free for the taking at Health Services.  Even if you are on another method of birth control, keep in mind that barrier contraception methods (male condoms, female condoms, dental dams etc.) are the only way to protect yourself from STIs.  And make sure you know how to use one properly.  If you need some advice, don’t be embarrassed to ask one of your new found friends or your new doctor at Health Services, and steal some dining hall bananas to practice on!

No One Loves a Roommate who Sexiles.

It’s only natural to explore your sexuality when you get to college, whether that be with a partner or by yourself.  Speaking of masturbation, a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine actually found that boys who masturbate are more likely to use a condom when having sex. Yay masturbation! Know your own body and enjoy your orgasms, but also know your surroundings and be respectful to those you are sharing the very cramped quarters with.  If you’re going to have a partner over to your room or just want some alone time, let your roommate know ahead of time or arrange a secret “signal” for one another. A hair thing on the door knob, or a secret code written on the white board can do wonders for your sex life and your roommate relationship….just don’t abuse the power.

Have a Party Plan.

Drinking and sex, especially unsafe sex, seem to go hand-in-hand in college.  And binge drinking (hello college frat parties) is universally linked to risky sexual behavior, which can be especially dangerous for women. Before you go to a party, make sure you have a ride home lined up, whether that be the number for a local cab company, a campus service that gives free rides home, or a designated driver.  And make a pact with your friends to stick together. This way, you can prevent each other from disappearing into a dark room, walking home alone, or going home with a stranger. Acquaintance rape is a reality, so you have to watch out for yourself, your new friends, and your drinks (never leave one unattended!).  If you are going to drink and party in college, drunken hookups may seem inevitable or even ideal; however, you can make thoughtful and careful decisions and still have fun.

Stick to Your Guns, No Means No.

College is going to throw lots of curveballs your way. Lots of new books to read, new friends to meet, and lots of new (and potentially uncomfortable) experiences await you.  You may feel pressured to do things you aren’t ready for based on the people you are surrounded by, I know I did. But don’t do anything you aren’t ready for or comfortable with…no matter what your friends say and do, no matter what your partner wants or says he/she “needs.”  This may be sexually, or just socially, but either way, stay within your comfort zone, know your own personal limits and expectations, and trust your gut.

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Throwing Youth Potential under the Abortion Bus, Not a Good Call

18 Jul

2011 is proving to be a record year in laws proposed to restrict abortion providers’ services and abortion patients’ access to those services. The laws that have passed are atrocious enough alone, but add in the laws “only” proposed, like Sen. John Boozman’s (R-AR) federal law that would Nationalize parental consent laws to prohibit teens from crossing state lines to obtain abortion services; the mid-June Kansas Department of Health regulations threatening to make Kansas the first State without a single abortion provider; and the defunding of Planned Parenthoods around the country, and it ain’t hard to tell why this era is being dubbed as a War On Women.

As a young American, who had vaginal heterosexual sex (hellooo pregnancy risk) throughout my teens and relied on Planned Parenthood for free contraception, I can’t stop focusing on what messages these restrictions and proposals are sending to the current teens in America. Defunding contraceptive services, mandatory sonogram requirements, insurance and Medicaid restrictions, waiting periods, and other restrictive abortion care laws are offensive to all women; they undermine our rationality, independence, and our right to not bear children. But these restrictions also create systematic inequalities in birth control (including abortion) access for specific groups of women. Particularly, the young and the resource (money, car, support) poor, which, in many instances, overlap. While feminist and the prochoice community widely discuss how restricting control over reproduction is ideologically harmful and disrespectful to women,  the same big-ideological-picture on the laws’ impact on youth as a population group is less addressed.

In July we came very close to having our first ever no-provider state. Hypothetically, if the pending Boozman proposal became law at the same time there were no abortion clinics in Kansas, and teen females in KS would come have absolutely no legal, independent access to abortion. This law, along with the others proposed this year, sends a message about how we value youth’s potential and agency that has widespread and harmful implications for male and female teens, parents of these teens, schools and society alike.

We spend infinite social and financial resources on protecting young persons’ potential contribution to society. Our fascination with the American dream, innovation, individualism each stem from our deep appreciation of human potential. We value youth so much that our legal system and social structures operate on many levels to protect against the “wasting” of youth potential (in car accidents, by drinking, by skipping school, going to war, by suffering parental neglect etc.). Age-based laws which mitigate harmful outcomes are symbols of us positively valuing youth; when the measures are protective they point out that we respect youths’ potential and life force. Conversely, age-based laws which are controlling, but not protective, are degrading: They iterate that we both do not value youths potential (as we are willing to put blatantly put it in harm’s way) and that we do not trust youth to take on the responsibility of their potential.

By disallowing abortion as a choice for youth we are saying we want adults to define youths’ potential for them, and sends a very dangerous message: That youth has no control over their own potential. Why is this dangerous? Because we rely on the value of potential to motivate youth to invest in themselves—if adults (law makers etc.) degrade and define the value of youth’s potential, we in turn encourage youth to forgo ownership over their future. Why would youth want to invest in themselves and their dreams if they can not define what that their dreams are and if those dreams can be easily taken away? If we say that women (and men) are not able to choose alternative life paths to early parenthood, we are taking away our faith in their potential and, at the same time, our desire for them to be interested in planning and managing their life options.

I am not saying that becoming a teen or young parent inherently means one’s potential will be lost; not at all. I am, however, saying that when we ask teens to respect their potential by investing in it (staying in school etc) in one hand, and on the other hand say they do not trust them to manage and preserve their own potential, we end up with a byproduct that encourages a de-investment in self. Doing so for our young men and women will not result in an improved society despite claims of the opposite by Boozman and the like.

Though many of the anti-abortion access laws proposed are not realities yet, the increased proposal of the laws are signally we are at the verge of losing faith in rational autonomy and human dignity of women and youth. And, in turn, we are telling youth nationwide to lose faith in themselves. In limiting abortion service access in this manner, state legislatures like that in Kansas and federal politicians like Boozman are telling youth that they are not able to define and work towards their own definitions of “fulfilling potential”. These messages are degrading and harmful to our current and future society. If we value youth for what they will and do contribute to society, we must allow and trust them to define their potential and choose what their contribution will be.

Quick Facts: Millenials and Abortion

9 Jun

Today, the Public Religion Research Institute released a report titled, What the Millennial Generation Tells Us about the Future of the Abortion Debate and the Culture Wars. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here are a few highlights from their executive summary:

  • A solid majority of Americans say abortion should be legal in all (19%) or most (37%) cases, compared to 4-in-10 who say it should be illegal in all (14%) or most (26%) cases. 
  • Nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans say that at least some health care professionals in their communities should provide legal abortions.
  • The binary “pro-choice”/“pro-life” labels do not reflect the complexity of Americans’ views on abortion.
  • The decoupling of attitudes on abortion and same-sex marriage suggests that these topics, which served in the past as the heart of the “values” agenda, are no longer necessarily linked in the minds of Americans.  
  • Millennials are less supportive of legal abortion than their demographic profile would suggest.
  • On the issue of abortion, Americans hold complex and sometimes contradictory views, and grasping this complexity is critical for understanding the dynamics of the debate.
  • Among Americans who attend church at least once or twice a month, majorities report hearing their clergy talk about the issue of abortion (54%) or homosexuality (51%) in church.
  • More than 7-in-10 (72%) religious Americans believe it is possible to disagree with the teachings of their religion on the issue of abortion and still be considered a person of good standing in their faith.

Follow @ChoiceUSA and @Amplifytweets as they livetweet the discussion happening on this data right now!