When Bruce Jenner’s transition became a focus of public attention, it got me thinking about what the attention means for transgender folks, and particularly transgender youth. Having only known a few transgender people myself, but having colleagues who are either trans or dedicated to research that supports the understanding of transgender lives, I decided to get someone to write a guest post on what we should all be doing to support transgender people and particularly transgender youth. Meet Chris Dungee. He is a counselor who speaks at colleges and universities about LGBT issues for faculty and staff development. He also transitioned himself from female to male, so I knew he would be the perfect resource with both professional and personal experience with transgender issues. Here is what he wants us to know:
I can remember when the first stories about Bruce Jenner’s possible transition began to circulate in 2014. I would come across scandalous headlines such as, “Bruce Jenner has surgery to decrease Adam’s apple.” And, “Jenner reveals suspiciously smooth legs!” These articles featured images of Bruce being accompanied out of the backdoor of a hospital by several nurses; whisked away into a black vehicle with heavily tinted windows. The students in the community college I serve as a counselor at were all aflutter over it. America’s Olympic hero was turning into a lady and it was indeed salacious.
Fast forward to April 24th of this year and Diane Sawyer lands the explosive first interview with Caitlyn Jenner as she opens up about her lifelong struggle of being a transgender woman. To be fair, transgender issues had been talked about in the media already due to the visibility of people such as actress Laverne Cox and journalist/activist Janet Mock. “Transparent”, an original program from Amazon allowed viewers to experience the day-to-day life of someone in transition. But the Caitlyn Jenner story reached stratospheric heights. It appeared to be the number one story in the world.
Any news is good news?
Two months later it is difficult to gauge what all of this hoopla means for trans folks and our cause. Yes, everyone is talking about it and so many people seem to be understanding and supportive but let’s break down what is going on:
Visibility – I have done several speaking engagements where people tell me they never knew exactly what it means to be transgender. For many, hearing the pain that Caitlyn Jenner goes through instantly humanized trans individuals for them. This is key. We know that Americans are more likely to empathize and support lesbians, gays and bisexuals if they know someone who identifies as such. Whether you are nostalgic for her days as an Olympian or tune in to see her on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” every week she became that person you know. So, perhaps her visibility, and the reaction to her visible transition, means we are finally on the path to acceptance.
Trans Rights – There are a litany of political and social issues affecting the trans community. Caitlyn touched on many of them in her interview. Access to trans-inclusive health care, ease of attaining and changing documentation, finding employment/housing, and enacting anti-discrimination laws are a few. I have found that for the most part, the average caring person is appalled to find out that only 16 states have laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Also, reports of violence against transgender women of color are at an all-time high. The Human Rights Campaign has gone as far as to call this a “crisis.” Caitlyn mentioned this specifically which left me pleasantly surprised. Lastly, trans Americans are faced with spending tens of thousands of dollars to attain the surgical procedures they need to align their bodies with their souls. Only a handful of health insurance companies view trans specific health issues as non-elective. These issues are finally being talked about on a wide scale.
Acceptance by the LGB community – The acronym LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender, but historically the LGB has not always been welcoming to the T. The winds have shifted within the community as a whole and I am sensing less fear. There has always been this idea that those weird trans freaks will make it that much harder for the world to accept gay rights. Pride festivals all over the country are seeing more trans representation. People are actually proud to say they are transgender.
We are not all Caitlyn Jenner – Being trans is not a cookie cutter mold that can be applied equally to everyone. Though she is a minority, her experience is coming from that of relative privilege. The rest of us do not have millions of dollars to spend on our medical bills or our wardrobes. The vast majority of trans Americans are struggling. As mentioned above there is very little support or help out there. The resources that do exist are limited. I worry that the public will view our issues with rose colored glasses after seeing Caitlyn’s experience. Something else I see come up a lot is skepticism in terms of how long it took Caitlyn to “come out.” In fact, during the Diane Sawyer interview she still had not revealed her female name nor had she changed the use of pronouns to refer to herself. Coming to terms with being transgender is different for every one of us. Some people know it from an early age. Some do not. There is great diversity among the trans population and that needs to be respected.
Exploitation? – The argument can be made that this is all quite exploitative. I have heard from trans folks that the Caitlyn Jenner interview put her on display as if she is abnormal and requires some sort of explanation. I admit I refused to watch the interview when it came first came on. It all seemed too tabloid like to me. Although I now disagree with that sentiment, I completely understand how some may still feel this way.
So what does it mean to transition anyway?
Someone is transgender when their assigned physical sex at birth (male or female) differs from what gender they identify as (man or woman). Throughout a trans person’s life, they may elect to go through steps to alter their body to match their gender. These steps may include undergoing surgical procedures. A transgender woman can have breast implants or receive facial feminization surgery and vaginoplasty to have a vagina. A transgender man can have chest masculinization surgery or receive phalloplasty or metoidioplasty to have a penis. Almost all trans people choose to go through hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This process is life-long and involves taking either estrogen or testosterone which allows the body to adopt feminine or masculine physical characteristics over a period of time.
The mental and emotional impact of transitioning is profound. Many people report a newfound feeling of being whole for the first time in their lives. There is a sense of equilibrium, that your physical self finally matches your inner self. A person who is transitioning may experience an increase in self-esteem and a burst of confidence. However, you also have to confront a sometimes hostile world that does not understand you. Making and keeping friends and loved ones can be a challenge. Dating can be absolutely terrifying. Being faced with the prospect of being romantically rejected because of who you are is daunting.
Unfortunately, there are numerous instances of trans people being fired from their jobs or finding it unbelievably difficult to find employment. Or perhaps you were lucky enough to be able to stay at your job while transitioning but your colleagues are not supportive so you must endure a hostile work environment on a daily basis. If you are trans and entering college or already in college the potential rejection of your peers is a possibility. In fact, your institution may either not know how to support you or simply refuse to do so. This is an issue that directly relates to me as I transitioned on the job and I work at a college. The challenges are numerous.
I am going to take a moment and focus on my area of expertise: college students. Most of what I discuss when I give presentations at conferences and seminars is helping colleges/universities become sensitive and attentive to the needs of their LGBT students. I have identified six factors to emphasize:
ABOUT CHRIS: Chris Dungee is a counselor/adviser at Delaware County Community College in Pennsylvania. He also serves as the faculty adviser for the college’s gay/straight alliance. He speaks at colleges/universities to educate faculty and staff on LGBT issues. Chris dedicates his time to helping schools and workplaces become trans friendly for students and employees. In April of 2014 he transitioned from female to male and as a result has become an invaluable resource to students who wish to do the same on his campus. He resides in Delaware County, PA where he hones his drawing skills, builds model cars and finds time to remain an avid video gamer. If you are interested in having Chris come speak at your school or organization, please contact him at CDUNGEE@dccc.edu.
I'm delighted to introduce a very special writer and mom, Wesley Davidson. She is the author of straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com and is going to teach us how to talk to kids of all ages about sexual orientation in this guest post of hers. She is currently writing a book on this topic, so follow her if you don't want to miss out on the release!
It’s Not Just the Birds and Bees Anymore!
Chances are your kids are bound to see a gay family at a park or fair. Perhaps they attend a school where a classmate has two daddies or two mommies.
Or maybe he watches Modern Family and sees that Cameron and Mitchell are married and have an adopted daughter Lily. Gay celebrities such as Neil Patrick Harris recently married while raising children already. The marriage announcement is fodder for the tabloids and Internet. So in a world where the family is being redefined, how do you explain gay to a child?
As parents or caregivers, your role is crucial in dispelling myths, challenging stereotypes, and expressing respect for all regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
The ABC’s of Sexual Orientation
Sexual orientation can be defined as a person’s physical, emotional, and spiritual attraction to individuals of the same and/or opposite gender. It is not chosen nor is it something that can be changed by medicine or therapy. As to the cause, there are many theories that include genetics, prenatal factors, psychosocial factors, socio-cultural influences or e) all of the above. People’s beliefs about sexual orientation vary and are based on their religious, cultural and family values. Sexual orientation is just one part of who we are. It is different from sexual identity defined as whether you identify as male or female.
Messages for Ages 5-8
Fred Kaeser, Ed.D., sex educator, advises parents to talk to kids about sexual orientation by age 5. Say only what’s necessary to satisfy their curiosity. Remain open for further discussion when and if it is initiated by your child.
Five year-olds can understand that a man who loves and is attracted to another man is called gay. A woman who loves and is attracted to another woman is called lesbian.
Making fun of people by calling them homo, fag, queer, dyke is disrespectful and hurtful. These words are often used with hostility to put down a gay or lesbian person and to imply that that person is less than the person using the phrase.
By age 8, Dr. Kaeser suggests discussing transgenders. You can start by saying that there are boys and men that will seem more like a boy or man. There are many people that will look , act, and behave at times like the opposite sex or perhaps like both sexes. Transgenders do not view themselves as not necessarily being the sex they were born with.
Messages for Ages 9-12
There are men and women who are bisexual, which means they can be drawn to and fall in love with either men or women. Gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual people can adopt children or have their own children. They sometimes marry, if allowed to do so.
Gay, lesbian, or bisexual people’s relationships can be as fulfilling as heterosexual people’s relationships. You can not always tell if a person is gay, bisexual, lesbian, heterosexual by how they act or look. Gay men, lesbian women, bisexuals, and heterosexuals are alike in most ways. Some people are afraid to share that they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual because they fear they will be mistreated.
Messages for Ages 12 through 15:
Every culture and society has people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual. Understanding one’s sexual orientation can be an evolving process. Teenagers who have questions about their sexual orientation should consult a trusted and knowledgeable adult. There are organizations that offer support services, hotlines, and resources for young people who want to talk about sexual orientation.
When a gay, lesbian or bisexual person tells another person his/her sexual orientation, it is known as “coming out.” Sometimes one’s sexual orientation is disclosed without his/her consent. This is known as being “outed.” Disclosing one’s sexual orientation can be difficult because it can invite negative reactions.
People who are gay, lesbian or bisexual engage in many of the same sexual behaviors as heterosexual people. There are young people who have sexual thoughts and experiences with the same sex, but do not consider themselves to be gay, lesbian or bisexual. Similarly, there are young people who have sexual thoughts and experiences with people of the other gender, but do not consider themselves to be heterosexual.
Messages for Ages 15 through 18:
The identification and understanding of one’s sexual orientation may change within their lifetime. There are many states that ban discrimination against individuals because of their sexual orientation.
Not all information on the Internet about sexual orientation is accurate. Gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals can find and join communities for friendship and support. Establishing contact online can be dangerous and proceed with caution.
If you or someone you know is being intimidated, harassed or harmed because of a perceived sexual orientation, it is important to tell a trusted adult, school official, or law enforcement authority.
Seek teachable moments – those daily opportunities that occur when you are with your children that make it easy to share your messages and values. Let your children know that you are open to talking with them about these important issues. If you don’t know how to answer your children’s questions, offer to find the answers or look them up together.
To talk with children, ages five through eight, the books Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite and Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman can help you begin to have conversations. Order through Alyson Publications at 800/525-9766.
For pre-teens and teens, you can find teachable moments by reading an article in the newspaper about gay marriage, watching a sitcom with a gay character or listening to music lyrics that may have positive or homophobic remarks.
Find out what your children’s schools are teaching about these topics. *Unfortunately, many school curricula don’t even address homosexuality and preach abstinence!
Provide pamphlets, books, and other age-appropriate, medically accurate materials. Some sources are: Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), www.pflag.org; National Youth Advocacy Coalition (NYAC), www.nyacyouth.org; Gay, Lesbian& Straight Education Network (GLSEN) http://www.glsen.org
For books that address sexual orientation go to http://www.familiesaretalking.org/resources/sexual_orientation.html or call SIECUS at 212/819-9770, ext. 303.
You can find Wesley on Facebook and Linked In
Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club
I was facilitating a workshop for parents the other night, and there was some confusion over the difference between gender and sexual identity. So, I thought I’d do a quick post on some terminology, and share this helpful video that is really simplistic, yet clear, and suitable for most ages. Understanding the differences in gender, sexual orientation, biological sex, and sexual behavior can be legitimately confusing unless you happen to have had a course on gender or sexuality. For example, many people think of gender in a binary way, but it is more widely accepted as a spectrum (1). There is also the issue of intersectionality, where an individual’s gender identity meets their sexual identity (2), highlighting the importance of considering the nuances of identity and not trying to simply put people in clearly marked boxes. Then, there is the whole issue of sexual behavior. For example, some heterosexually-identified women kiss or engage in other sexual behavior with other women (3), and like the video suggests, some heterosexually-identified priests don’t engage in any sexual behavior. Therefore, sexual behavior does not determine sexual identity. In sum, not everyone agrees on the best terminology to use, but here are some terms that are pretty widely accepted with definitions mostly from GLAAD:
Sex: The biological classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are typically assigned a sex based on a combination of internal and external genitalia and in some cases, chromosomes.
Gender: The state of being or identifying with male or female characteristics that are typically based on socially and culturally constructed norms. Side note: People are usually excited to find out the gender of their baby through an ultrasound. Technically, you are finding out the sex, not the gender. You really won’t know the gender of your baby until your baby can tell YOU.
Gender role: A social or behavioral norm that an individual practices in order to display their identified gender to others.
Transgender: An individual who feels that his/her birth-assigned sex and his/her own internal sense of gender do not match.
Transsexual: A person who, through experiencing an intense, long-term discomfort resulting from feeling the inappropriateness of their assigned gender at birth and discomfort of their body, adapts their gender role and body (either through dress, hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery, etc.) to reflect and be congruent with their true gender identity.
Sexual Orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of a particular sex or gender. A transgender person may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, a woman who transitions from female to male and is attracted to other men would likely identify as a gay man.
Bisexual: An individual who is physically, romantically, and/or emotionally attracted to men and women.
Gay: The adjective used to describe people who have enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions to people of the same sex. Typically, lesbian (n. or adj.) is often a preferred term for women.
Lesbian: A woman who has an enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay (adj.) or as gay women.
Heterosexual: An adjective used to describe an individual’s enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to people of the opposite sex. These people are also referred to as straight.
Sexual Minority: An individual who has adopted a sexual identity that is not exclusively heterosexual.
Homosexual: A very old clinical term that is considered derogatory and offensive by many gay and lesbian people. Don’t use this term.
Queer: Used as an umbrella identity term encompassing lesbian, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgender folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual. “Queer” originated as a derogatory word. Currently, it is being reclaimed by some people and used as a statement of empowerment. Some people identify as “queer” to distance themselves from the rigid categorization of “straight” and “gay”. Some transgender, lesbian, gay, questioning, non-labeling, and bisexual people, however, reject the use of this term due to its connotations of deviance and its tendency to gloss over and sometimes deny the differences between these groups.
(1) Diamond, L. M., & Butterworth, M. (2008). Questioning gender and sexual identity: Dynamic links over time. Sex Roles, 59, 365-376.
(2) Morgan, E. M. (2013). Contemporary issues in sexual orientation and identity development in emerging adulthood. Emerging Adulthood, 1, 52-66.
(3) Yost, M. R., & McCarthy, L. (2012). Girls gone wild?Heterosexual women’s same-sex encounters at college parties. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 36, 7-24.
Working as a sexuality educator, I am often asked questions like, “How do I talk to my child about sex?” and “What do I say to my child about pornography?” Yet, there really is no right or wrong way to answer those questions. There are (of course) better answers and worse answers to those questions, and evidence-based answers to those questions, which I will share in a later post. But the advice I am most comfortable doling out, is to prioritize becoming an approachable parent. In other words, you want to learn how to listen to your kids talk about sex, not just learn what to say to them about sex.
If your child does not already come to you with their emotional and relational concerns about friends and romance, it is likely that your child does not perceive you as an approachable parent. It could also be that your child is introverted or something, but because you only have control over your own behavior, let’s start there first.
With the exception of masturbation, sexual behavior is relational behavior. Although we typically research sexual behavior on an individual level, sex primarily involves two people deciding to engage in some type of sexual behavior together. So, whether that means your child will be negotiating condom use with a short-term partner (who will buy it, who will put it on, when will he/she put it on) or negotiating satisfying sex with a long-term partner (discussing what he/she likes, asking what his/her partner likes, what he/she doesn’t like), learning how to comfortably initiate and execute sexual conversations is a life skill that is better mastered sooner rather than later. Regardless of your pre-marital sex beliefs.
One of the ways your child will become comfortable having sexual conversations now or in the future, is through practicing with you. The majority of research finds that parent-child communication about sexuality yields safer sexual behaviors in adolescents such as condom use, contraception use, and delayed onset of intercourse (1, 2, 3). Most likely because it increases efficacy in your child to take the necessary steps to prioritize their health (4). But it can be difficult to initiate conversations about sex. So, how does one get started? You start by listening to what your child is already saying. Really listening. And then you can start talking, once your child feels heard. Even if you have some embarrassing moments, even if you don’t have all the answers, even if you say something that is incorrect and need to correct yourself, your child is better off because you’re prioritizing listening over lecturing to her.
If you are concerned that your child may be pregnant, may have gotten someone else pregnant, may have been sexually abused or assaulted, or may have sexually abused or assaulted someone else, you need to address your concerns immediately. You can access resources to do so here. If you do not have any of these concerns, you’re ready to prioritize ‘becoming approachable’. Here are 7 ways to try approachable parenting on for size:
1. Know your own perspective on sexuality. Are you comfortable talking about sex? Are you confident in your own sexuality? If not, practice sexual conversations with a partner, relative, or friend. If you waiver at all when you say these words or phrases: “Penis, vagina, vulva, testes, oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex, fellatio, cunnilingus, or penetration,” you may lose some of your credibility. Like a shark to blood in the water, your kid will sniff this discomfort out so quickly, that he or she will do anything in his or her power to avoid such an awkward situation ever again. A fun way to tackle this issue in your family is to play a little game I like to call “Dramatic Anatomy”. You can print out a list of anatomically correct body parts here and as a family compete against each other to win in all of the categories. You end up saying: uterus, penis, fallopian tube, perineum, etc. in scared, happy, disappointed, excited, embarrassed, etc. voices. Then you vote on who did the best “depressed perineum” or “happy uterus”.
2. Act calmly even if you aren’t. Imagine you are watching a TV show with your child and there is a steamy sex scene between two characters who don’t know each other and obviously did not use a condom. Do not react. You may be sweating it, thinking, “This is a teachable moment! Oh crap. What am I supposed to teach here?” Instead, just breathe. After the show is over you can ask your child “What did you think about John having sex with that random girl?” Hopefully, your child will say something like, “I know! They barely knew each other!” or will give you some indicator of risk. But he or she will probably shrug and annoyingly say “I don’t know.” You can then respond with something like, “It just seemed so out of character for him, they barely knew each other.” And leave it at that. This doesn’t mean that you condone unprotected or uncommitted sex, it just conveys to your child that if these subjects arise, you will remain calm. Believe it or not, you just capitalized on a teachable moment by establishing yourself as approachable. You initiated a sexual conversation, and when your child responded to your question, you did not punish him for his opinion or lack thereof. After you’re sure your child perceives you as approachable you can go more into depth about safety when those moments arise.
3. Practice active listening skills. Don’t focus on what you should be asking your child. For example, the worst way to start a conversation would be with either of these questions: “Are you having sex?’” or “Are you watching pornography on the internet?” Instead, focus on how you respond when your child is talking to you about any emotionally charged issue. This means nodding your head, saying “uh-huh”, or giving other verbal or non-verbal cues that you really are listening to understand, not listening just to respond. The other biggie-no interrupting! Research shows that mothers become more authoritative during sexual conversations (5), but you actually do not want to do this if you want to encourage an on-going dialogue about sexuality with your child.
4. Don’t assume heterosexuality. This is a big one and unfortunately, a new one for our culture. This may be something you’ve already been doing since your child was young, but if you have been assuming your child is heterosexual his whole life, it is ok to change your tune. This can be as easy as saying “romantic partner” instead of “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “Do you have a crush on anyone?” instead of “Do you have a crush on a particular boy/girl?” For more information on becoming a sensitive parent for LGBT youth, check out my resource page here.
5. Prioritize support over judgment. If your daughter comes to you because she is afraid she is pregnant, tell her something like, “Wow. I am so glad you came to me about this. Although this is not easy for me to hear, I am more worried about you. How are you feeling about this?” Then try your best to assure your child you will be there every step of the way to manage the outcomes of her decisions. The worst way you could react
is with judgment. “How could you do this?” or “You know this against our beliefs!” Now is not the time for that. Your job is to establish yourself as the safest place in this journey.
6.Try self-disclosing about your own sexual experiences during adolescence in an age appropriate way. Research has shown that more maternal disclosure about sexual experiences is linked to adolescents’ more conservative views about pre-marital sex (6). If you weren’t sexually active in adolescence, talk about the pressure you felt to have sex or to remain abstinent. If prom (or the 8th grade graduation dance) is coming up say something like, “Geeze, I remember my prom (or 8th grade graduation dance). I felt so much pressure to have sex (or make out) with Dean. I guess that is just kinda cliché-huh?” There is no guarantee this phrase will get you anywhere, but I’m sure you can think of phrases that would reveal a little bit about your own experience that your child may respond to.
7. Use humor when possible. I wish sex wasn’t embarrassing, but in our culture, it is. So, it’s okay to laugh a little and to try to use humor when possible. Teen pregnancy, STIs, and sexual assault are serious issues, but dating, romance and sexual behavior are quite funny. If you step back and look at the big picture from the awkwardness, to the noises, smells, cultural customs, there is a lot of laughter to find in it all. Laughter will help you and your child both get comfortable about sex and the conversations can flow from there.
(1) Eastman K.L., Corona R., & Schuster MA. (2006). Talking Parents, Healthy Teens: A worksite-based program for parents to promote adolescent sexual health. Prevention of
Chronic Disease, 20, 123-141.
(2) Clawson C.L. & Reese-Weber M. (2003). The amount and timing of parent-adolescent sexual communication as predictors of late adolescent sexual risk-taking. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 256–268.
(3) Miller K.S., Levin M.L., Whitaker D.J., & Xu X. (1998). Patterns of condom use among adolescents: The impact of mother-adolescent communication. American Journal of Public Health, 10, 1542–1544.
(4) Bandura, A. (2004). Health promotion by social cognitive means. Health Education Behaviors, 31, 143-164.
(5) Lefkowitz, E.S., Kahlbaugh, P., & Sigman, M. D. (1996). Turn-taking in mother-adolescent conversations about sexuality and conflict. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 25, 307-321.
(6) Romo, L.F., Lefkowitz, E. S., Sigman, M., & Au, T. K. (2001). Determinants of mother-adolescent communication about sex in Latino families. Journal of Adolescent and Family Health, 2, 72-82.
Photo Source: Dollar Photo Club
Ok folks, I am predicting that Origami Condoms will revolutionize safe sex. Currently, Danny Resnic, has conducted four clinical trials through NIH-funded grants as well as support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to test three types of condoms: a male condom, a female condom and a specialized anal condom which, if it passes, will be the first condom approved for anal sex by the US Food and Drug Administration. What else makes these condoms different? They are made of silicone instead of latex, which means they are better at resisting viruses and bacteria and they provide more pleasurable sensation (1)! Why does that matter? News flash: Research indicates that men do not like to use condoms, mostly because it feels better to have sex without one (2). Among men who do use condoms, many remove the condom before they orgasm (3), often due to a reduction in sensation and loss of an erection (4). The experience of a loss of an erection is very embarrassing (5), and what do we do when we get embarrassed? Avoid every possibility that embarrassment will happen again. Thus, reducing the likelihood of using a condom again.
Many men also describe feeling annoyed when a partner insists on using a condom because of the reduction of pleasure (6). In heterosexual couples, this annoyance often makes the female partner decline her assertion to use a condom because women (being the nurturers of the relationship) often feel the obligation to rescue their partners from embarrassment or dysfunction. This negotiation can put both partners at risk. Heterosexual women also report dislike for the use of male condoms because of annoyances “in putting it on in time” (2). Therefore, the use of a female condom can provide a safe alternative because they are inserted before intercourse and therefore do not disrupt intimacy because they do not have to be rolled onto a penis mid-way through sexual activity.
Origami’s condom that has been designed exclusively for receptive anal sex can also be inserted prior to anal intercourse. This is a major breakthrough in sexual safety. There are rising concerns about the popularity of barebacking among gay men, which is the act of intentional unprotected anal sex(7). Currently, people use male or female condoms during anal sex (both of which are notorious for not staying put) or they don’t use a condom at all during anal sex. It is really important to use a condom during anal penetration regardless of your sexual orientation. Even if you are in a committed relationship and are not using condoms for vaginal sex (when applicable) because both partners are STI-free and you are using a different form of pregnancy prevention (when applicable), you should always use a condom during anal sex.
Despite the popularity of ATM (inserting a penis in the anus and then in the mouth) or ATV (inserting a penis in the anus and then in the vagina) in pornography (8), these acts are a huge bacterial no-no because the rectum is a huge bacterial nightmare. You do not want the bacteria that live in the rectum anywhere near the vagina or mouth. If you are a woman who is having sex with another woman and using toys to penetrate the anus, a condom for the toy can also be a good solution to prevent the spread of bacteria after anal play. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with anal penetration, there are just extra efforts that need to be taken in order to engage in anal penetration without spreading bacteria to the mouth or vagina. That being said, I do encounter a lot of heterosexual women and girls in my workshops who feel pressure to engage in anal sex when they do not want to. If you don’t have any interest in anal sex, don’t do it. The majority of pleasure that comes from anal stimulation among women comes from the anus itself, not from penetration of the rectum, because women do not have a prostate gland. Therefore, simply applying pressure to the anus with a finger will provide maximum pleasure without the risk of rectal tearing and stretching-which can lead to problems over time.
Now, this next statement is a stretch: I also think these condoms, if they really do increase pleasure, could potentially combat unhealthy norms of masculine sexuality. Through the lens of heteronormativity, heterosexual men are more sexually privileged than heterosexual women and therefore can insist on experiencing pleasure and passion over responsibility, whereas women bear the responsibilities of unwanted pregnancy and negative sexual stereotyping, making their sexual choices more burdensome (9,10). Since the invention of hormonal birth control in the 1960s, the responsibility for contraception has predominately been delegated to women, which consequently excluded contraception from masculinity norms (11). From this perspective, a man choosing to not use a condom would be a symbol of masculine power and sexual agency because he would be emphasizing pleasure over responsibility. Therefore a condom that increases pleasure for the man or can be used by a receptive partner during penetrative sex, could help to reduce the risk associated with masculinity-induced unprotected sex.
Whatever type of penetrative sex you are into, these new condoms may be of interest to you. Unfortunately, due to FCC restrictions, Origami can’t show their condoms on television or talk about the appropriate anatomy to demonstrate how they work in radio. So, I’m asking you to check ‘em out and pass the word along so that Origami can get the funding they need to bring these revolutionary condoms to market ASAP!
1. Krakauer, H. (2013). See ya, latex: reinventing the condom. New Scientist, 217(2900), 37-39.
2. Brook (2005). The choreography of condom use: how, not just if, young people use condoms. Research conducted by the University of Southampton. Available online at: www.brooks.org.uk (accessed 12 August 2013).
3. Crosby, R. A., Sanders, S. A., Yaber, W. K., Graham, A. C. & Dodge, B. (2000) Condom use: errors and problems among college men, Sexually Transmitted Disease, 29, 552–557.
4. Measor (2006). Condom use: A culture of resistance. Sex Education, 6 (4), 393-402.
5. Wood, A. (1998) Sex education for boys. Health Education, 3, 95–99.
6. Vittellone, N. (2002) Condoms and the making of sexual difference, Body and Society, 8(3), 71–94.
7. Crossley, M. L. (2004). Making sense of ‘barebacking’: Gay men's narratives, unsafe sex and the ‘resistance habitus’. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43(2), 225-244.
8. Jensen, R. (2007). Getting off: Pornography and the end of masculinity. Cambridge: South End Press.
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About this Blog:
I'm here to help us discuss sexuality, gender, sexual media, and social media by integrating information from academic and mainstream sources. I do this so you can be informed about what is going on in the sex research world and apply the research to your life. I hope this process produces more sexually competent people who raise sexually competent kids.
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