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Sex Education

73 Seconds: A ZCenter Podcast

ZCenter offers a fresh new perspective on sexuality, healing after trauma, and community activism. The podcast, 73 Seconds, refers to the statistic that every 73 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. Since the start of our podcast, RAINN.org has updated this statistic to show that it is now every 68 seconds (RAINN, 2021), only reinforcing the need for public education and efforts to raise awareness of the prevalence of sexual violence.

 

For an edgy and delightful hour of conversation, check out our most recent episode, Let’s Get Cozier. We interview Jean Cozier, long time supporter of sexual assault survivors and founder of Awakenings, a gallery in Chicago that showcases artwork made by survivors of sexual violence. 

 

As you skim through episode topics, you’ll see that we highlight local community partners, discuss national social justice topics, and converse about the healing process after sexual abuse. 

Catch 73 Seconds on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon Music, or wherever you get your podcasts.

 


For questions and inquiries about the 73 Seconds podcast, please contact sbrennan@zcenter.org.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

RAINN: Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. 2021. Statistics. https://www.rainn.org/statistics

 

Pleasure is Privilege

Girls just wanna have fun; but can they? In the world of sexuality, pleasure is privilege. 

 

Education

Women are not always taught that they deserve pleasure or deserve to ask for pleasure, nor do we as a society teach them about pleasure. The sex education programs provided in schools do not account for women’s pleasure, orgasm, or masturbation. A comprehensive sexuality education is needed, so that all genders fully understand the intricacies of pleasure.

 

Patriarchy

The experience of pleasure is often limited to those in control; in a patriarchy, it is men who control the pleasure. Many women worldwide are mutilated in the name of circumcision; men get to control women’s pleasure (Posner, 2018). In further frustration with the patriarchy, most women in heterosexual relationships have difficulty with orgasms, whereas lesbian couples often find more pleasure (Posner, 2018). The couples who are able to explore sexuality outside of society’s norms, where men control sex, are the couples who find pleasure more easily.

 

Pleasure and Pain

The brain reacts to orgasms most similarly to seizures (more so than any other activity measured). There is a close connection between pleasure and pain and it is not fully understood (Posner, 2018). As a rape crisis center, we also know that too often sexuality is experienced as abuse, as perpetrators justify that the other person actually enjoys it. Too many youth learn about sex only through abuse, learning only the pain rather than the pleasure of sexuality.

 

Inequality Post-Pleasure

Access to medical services is limited for many Women of Color, rural women, and women in subcultures that frown upon women’s reproductive health choices. Women’s health clinics are often too far of a drive or do not offer women choices about pregnancy, STDs, or reporting abuse (Ewing & Grady, 2010).

 

Maternal and postpartum health in the U.S. remains problematic, especially for Women of Color: 

  • Suicide and overdose combined are the leading cause of death in the first year postpartum (Zahlaway Belsito, 2021). 
  • Approximately 700+ women die in the U.S. from pregnancy related causes in a year (CDC, 2020).
  • Black and Indigenous women are over 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women (Zahlaway Belsito, 2021).

 

Recommendations

  1. Communication between partners is key to pleasure with a partner.
  2. Comprehensive sexuality education is needed for all socioeconomic levels, especially for addressing pleasure, orgasms, and masturbation.
  3. Female circumcision needs to end.
  4. More funding is needed for sexual abuse services. Donate to your local rape crisis center.
  5. Access to medical care needs to be an important investment in all socioeconomic areas. For ideas on how to get involved in women’s health advocacy, see the Advocacy toolkit.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, EdM, PhD, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Center for Disease Control (CDC). 2020. First Data Released on Maternal Mortality in Over a Decade. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/nchs_press_releases/2020/202001_MMR.htm

 

Ewing, H. & R. Grady. (2010). 12th & Delaware. (documentary.) https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/12th-and-delaware-doc

 

Posner, J. (2018). Explained: The Female Orgasm. (documentary series.) Season 1, Episode 16. https://www.netflix.com/title/80216752

 

Zahlaway Belsito, J. (2021). Women’s Reproductive Health Forum. (online.) Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance.

Sex Positivity Post Trauma

A Sexual Society

Sex is everywhere. It is in the ads on TV and on social media, the conversations had among family and friends, and as an integral part of intimate human connection. Recent data shows that the average partnered female-identifying person between the ages of 25 and 59 is having some form of sexual contact weekly (What Is the “Normal” Frequency of Sex?, 2015). These numbers may, to many, indicate that we as a society have decent sex lives. Conversely, Carnegie Mellon took these numbers and examined them further. The International Society for Sexual Medicine (2015) described this study as taking 64 couples and instructing half to increase sexual frequency and the other half to continue as they were. The couples rated amount of sexual activity and happiness with the results showing that those having more sex were not, in fact, happier. According to Mollen & Abbott (2021), sexual wellbeing, including medically accurate education, is integral to positive sexual expression and satisfaction. However, they noted that comprehensive education has steadily declined since 1995, especially for women, persons of color, and those of low socioeconomic status. With this lack of education, how are people as intimate beings supposed to really know about sex? Better yet, how does one distinguish sex? Bad sex? Good sex? Great sex? Hell, was it even truly consensual?

 

Sex as trauma

Based on this information, it appears that society may have become one of double-entendres and sexual banter, without the actual knowledge base to back it up. This includes having real conversations with our intimate partners around the pros and cons of the sex it appears we are all having. Now, couple this information we just discussed and introduce the intricacies of sexual violence. The most recent statistics from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center show that 81% of women and 43% of men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetimes (The Facts behind the #metoo Movement, n.d.). If it is already hard enough for people to discuss sexuality with those that they are engaging in the act with, what does this mean for those that are sexually traumatized?  To further complicate these already large numbers, 51% of these reported incidences are by people they know. This makes future intimacy complex because the reality of sexual experiences directly ties back to a trauma. This can look like dissociation during sex, hypervigilance, or hypersexuality as a means to control the sexual narrative (Maltz, 2012). These things have become much more commonly known, however, it is still very difficult to know how to navigate the changes that take place mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

 

Tips for Post-Trauma Intimacy

The old adage that knowledge is power really matters when it comes to journeying through sexual trauma either as a survivor, or as a significant other of those who have faced sexual violence. These tips can provide some starting points for the journey toward post-trauma intimacy and connection.

 

1.Talk about intimacy. 

Knowing that we as a society do not have a grounded base in sexual health, means that intimacy is not something that many people discuss. How do people feel loved? What are the ways that each person expresses their love, care, and concern for others? Intimacy does not automatically equal sex. The definition of intimacy is closeness, and after trauma, closeness is avoided because that is how that person was hurt. Defining safety, acts of love, etc. is key to building trust and a more close relationship. 

 

2. Learn about PTSD. 

PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is unique to each person and presents with different symptoms. Knowing what your partner is experiencing, or knowing what you as a survivor is experiencing, is integral to understanding what triggers you. Once triggers are identified, they will no longer be unknown and can therefore be managed appropriately without as many surprises. 

 

3. Create positive sexual experiences.

Using consent as a guide, exploration of comfort around sexual interaction can begin to reframe sexuality as a positive instead of something to be feared or avoided. After trauma, the brain wants to keep us as safe as possible, and that includes staying far away from anything resembling the traumatic experience. In order to orient ourselves to sex as a positive interaction, work slowly, by yourself or with a partner to introduce positive sexual interactions using all senses to build a good foundation for sex and intimate connection. 

 

4. COMMUNICATION

Discussing how to work through these difficult experiences is beneficial in two ways. Communicating feelings about trauma allows the survivor and/or their partner to express happiness, sadness, frustration, etc. so it is no longer bottled up inside causing its own set of symptoms.  It also allows people to express likes and dislikes around sex so there is a clearly defined understanding about boundaries and that the survivor is able to regain control in a sexual environment. 

 

Maltz, W. (2012). The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, 3rd Edition (3rd Revised, Updated ed. edition). William Morrow Paperbacks.

Mollen, D., & Abbott, D. M. (2021). Sexuality as a competency: Advancing training to serve the public. Training and Education in Professional Psychology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000378

The facts behind the #metoo movement: A national study on sexual harassment and assault. (n.d.). National Sexual Violence Resource Center. Retrieved May 25, 2021, from https://www.nsvrc.org/resource/facts-behind-metoo-movement-national-study-sexual-harassment-and-assault

What is the “normal” frequency of sex? (2015, October 20). ISSM. https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-the-normal-frequency-of-sex/


Written by Christine Berry, LPC, NCC, Doctoral Candidate, Director of Services.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

The Importance of Positively Talking to Your Kids About Sex

The thought of sitting your child down for the “birds and the bees” conversation can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be and is necessary for a healthy understanding of sex. The best sex education strategy is beginning the conversation about sex early and continuing that conversation as the child grows older. This will help your children understand the body and help them feel more positive about their own body. And don’t worry, younger children are typically interested in pregnancy and babies, rather than the mechanics of sex. Here are 5 more reasons to talk to your child about sex: 

 

  1. Body Positivity.  Talking to your children about their bodies openly and honestly shares the message that there is nothing about their bodies to be ashamed of. Your children will more likely be happy with the body they have instead of what they don’t!
  2. Healthy Gender Identity. Gender is different from sex. Sex is something assigned at birth, whereas gender is something based more on how we feel. Sex Education includes conversations about gender so children can grow up understanding who they are and being okay with it.
  3. Recognize Boundaries. Early Sex Education will allow children to recognize what type of behavior is appropriate and  what is inappropriate.
  4. Safer from Sexual Abuse. Learning appropriate boundaries will help children recognize unsafe situations and provide them with the confidence to disclose to a trusted adult if something negative occurs. 
  5. Safe, Consensual Sex. Sex Education teaches children the importance of consent and provide the tools to make smarter decisions. Teaching children positive sexual values provides a framework to make good decisions when faced with the opportunity to have sex at a later age.

There are many more reasons to start the conversation now with your child about safe, positive sex. Becoming a sex-positive parent means knowing your children will grow into autonomous, sexually active adults and supporting children’ s individual sexual identities no matter what. And remember, the process of speaking to your children about sex can seem more daunting than it needs to be. If framed as a series of conversations over time you can avoid the potentially stressful or awkward singular conversation and ensure your child’s future health and safety.  

 

Learn more:

Sex Education for Children: Why Parents Should Talk to Their Kids about Sex by SickKids Staff

Sex Positive Parenting: Rethinking the Sex Talk with Your Kids by Stacey Winconek

How to Talk to Your Kids about Sex at Any Age by Brit + Co

13 Really Good Reasons to Talk to Your Child about Sex by Cath Hakanson

The Sex-Positive Parent by Airial Clark

 


Written by Brigit Dunne, Grants Manager.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

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