WSE has a new secretary. The amendment has been updated with the office of the Secretary of State in Georgia, and the information change paperwork is submitted to the state of Oregon, which will be complete by next week.
It’s been a bit since I’ve posted an entry here — but not out of forgetfulness. I’ve been a bit short on time to update here (yes, I know there is still much to be updated here). Still, I’m slowly working my way through projects (mainly academic). The current priority WSE project is well under way, and I should have more news on that count later this month.
One of the purposes of WSE is continuing research, and one of my upcoming projects is connected with women in an older age bracket – peri-menopausal and older. It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and written a proper problem statement, and I’m thinking that’s definitely on the agenda before I start mapping how the type of research I suspect would be involved for what I have in mind. As will a thought-feeler out to Dr. Jen, and probably Dr. Doe, and maybe even Kim Anami…for their uniquely meaningful perspectives.
Today only, if you happen to shop at Amazon, your purchase via AmazonSmile goes 10x further. To select Weird Sex Ed as your charitable organization of choice, click here, and search by either name (Weird Sex Ed, Inc.) or by WSE’s EIN# (47-1119314)…then shop as usual! Remember to search via smile.amazon.com (instead of just plain ol’ amazon (dot com) to continue donating to WSE without having to do anything different from what you already do!
As we enter into October, WSE has officially received acknowledgment from the state of Oregon to operate the business here (YAY)!
As a way of both celebrating this, and with the cooler weather on its way, I’m officially starting a small fundraiser. Presently the only items are coffee mugs and hoodies – but I will be adding more items (and I will post images here as I make those updates). The purpose of this fundraiser is to pay for continuing research, and toward efforts to create printed resources for physicians’ offices toward continued awareness raising about barrier prevention methods.
So, the coffee mug…
You can find first (very basic) coffee mug here. I will be adding more designs and colors in the coming days and weeks.
As for the hoodies…
You can find the hoodies here. The hoodies come in sizes S – 5X, and there are currently eight colors available. As with the mugs, I will be working with more designs and styles and colors.
For now, though, I’m working with my Twitter handle and a few very basic hashtags for this particular effort. I’m also welcoming input on preference of hashtags and/or designs.
Also, I’m contemplating having a contest for the best design suggestion – and the prize for whoever wins that would get one or two…maybe even three…items with their design, courtesy of WSE. Watch for more information about that in the coming weeks.
As always, you can choose Weird Sex Ed, Inc. as your charity of choice for anything you order from AmazonSmile — most funds raised here will go toward the “Backseat Drivers in Lovers Lane” project. (You can go directly HERE to choose Weird Sex Ed!)
Keep checking back here, as I will be updating this page as more products and such are added!
Good morning (or afternoon, depending on your time zone)!
The cross-country relocation is done, and WSE HQ is in the process of officially transitioning to the west coast (while the business remains incorporated in Georgia). My household is still in the process of settling in, so I won’t be back in full swing here for a while yet. That said, I have a few minutes while sipping coffee, and have decided to type out a quick blog entry here.
(Heads up in advance — the following will contain some graphic language. Just so you’re warned right up front. Also, the focus of this entry is heteronormative — there are separate areas of discussion when we talk about sexuality outside of heteronormative, but this entry is specific to penis-in-vagina (PIV) [and oral/anal] sexual intercourse. My intent in this entry is not to exclude those areas of discussion; they’re just not the focus here.)
While my primary focus in research and writing is women between the ages of 15 and 24 years, and while my target audience (currently) is parents of teens (and younger kids), these are not my sole areas of focus or attention. I was reminded about other areas of specific focus in a conversation with a classmate, and his surprised response while I answered some questions that he was asking me about different aspects of my research.
The question that stood out to me was such a basic one, and his surprise at the answer reminded me that I need to write about this, since it’s an important topic. My classmate and I were discussing -in small part- some of my (business) plans for WSE with the relocation, and my noting that while my initial research (the stuff that culminated in my dissertation) was based in Georgia, I’ve since branched out beyond the Atlanta-metro. He was asking if I noted differences between STI transmission between people of different ethnic/national origins, and what my thoughts were about those differences. In responding to that question, I happened to mention that a secondary focus I have is women over age 55, because they are the second-highest demographic group affected by sexual infection/disease transmission. His surprise at that comment shifted the conversation, because he was suddenly very curious as to why that might be.
It’s almost amusing to me that most people with whom I’ve had this discussion with register surprise.
In fact, it would be downright funny if it weren’t so very serious. If you go to the Google Machine and type “STIs [or STDs] Women Over 55,” some of the hit titles are rather entertaining, admittedly. But the practical reality is less funny. In fact, it’s a bit troubling. Note – I did not say (or suggest) that the fact is alarming. It isn’t alarming. It’s troubling. It’s cause for serious concern. But it’s not alarming. It’s an area, like so many other areas within sexuality education, that needs awareness raising in our population.
Most of the reasons for women over 55 years being the second-highest demographic group contracting STIs are fairly understandable on consideration. Sometimes the obvious isn’t…truth can hide in plain sight. Most of us who haven’t reached “middle age” (whatever that actually is…I’m going to say here approximately 50 years) don’t give a whole lot of thought to our parents (or grandparents) having sex. Some of the reasons are incredibly similar to the contributing factors of the highest demographic (women between 15 and 24 years).
Here, I’m only going to discuss some of the contributing factors…and I’m going to suggest strongly that there is a distinct need to detach shame (in its many forms) from sex.
First – women over 55 years of age still have sex. I know, this is probably shocking to some to even dare suggest that their grandma still enjoys gettin’ her groove on…but there it is. Seriously, get over it. I don’t wish to be blunt or harsh or anything…but the fact of older women fucking is not really all that shocking. Sex feels good…and women don’t stop enjoying having sex simply for the fact that they’re beyond a certain age that our society deems “too old” for anything related to intimacy and sexuality.
Second – women over 55 years of age are more likely to be single (whether divorced or widowed) than not. I’m not speculating on the various reasons for this, because those are fairly (seemingly) obvious. (Tiny sidenote here – married women over this age also contract STIs, and that is part of this discussion, too…but I am not addressing marital infidelity by either party here.)
Third – when you put the first and second reasons together…and consider the main reasons that are given for condom use in sex education as we understand it…the greater likelihood is that women beyond that “magic age” (55 years in this discussion) aren’t using barrier protection because in their perception, they can’t get pregnant. The thought of STIs isn’t on the surface…and there is definite shame attached to this basic idea.
What do I mean by shame in this context? Well…I’ll frame it this way. If I told you that my (now deceased) mother caught strep throat from a fellow resident at the assisted living facility where she lived, would you even bat an eye beyond a brief concern for her health and well-being? No, probably not. What if I told you, instead, that she thought she had contracted strep, but that it turned out to be chlamydia?
Would your reaction be the same? No…probably not…because in the latter case, you suddenly have to acknowledge that she…a woman over the age of 55 (and in her case, over 60) gave a blowjob to a man who had (undiagnosed) chlamydia and he passed that on to her. Suddenly, the topic gets a bit squicky. As though somehow, an older woman sucking a dick is “worse” than a younger woman doing so. Speaking for myself, there is absolutely nothing wrong or bad about fellatio…at all. So there is nothing wrong with older women engaging in it. Even your great-grandmother, frankly. Unpack that nonsense and recognize that any shame is a social standard that most of us do not actually think about until it surfaces in our own awareness.
Similarly to younger demographic groups, where women are diagnosed three times as frequently as their male counterparts, it is not that women are somehow “more promiscuous,” or that they have STIs in greater numbers. The operative word here is diagnosed. Many STIs (including chlamydia) are “silent,” meaning that there are not necessarily any discernible symptoms…and this is true for both women and men. Women generally are physically examined with greater frequency than men…at least with respect to genital health (think – annual pap and pelvic examinations, which are recommended yearly).
So if a woman beyond childbearing age engages in sex, she is less likely to use a condom because she can no longer get pregnant, which increases the likelihood of contracting an STI, since bodily fluid exchange is still involved in PIV/oral/anal sex. These physical details do not change by virtue of aging. Left untreated, STI transmission creates other health concerns in both women and men (of all ages), so the topic is one that needs more attention.
One of my longer-term goals is to work with practitioners and facilities that serve our older population (independent living facilities, assisted living facilities, long-term care facilities [aka nursing homes], geriatric physicians and et cetera), and work to increase awareness and education of the necessity of condom use and other barrier protection during sex, as well as more frequent health screenings for STIs (along with treatment).
So while my primary focus happens to be younger women and parents, in a long-term aim to educate toward decreasing STI transmission, that is not my sole focus.
And with that…Happy Hump Day!
I haven’t been as active here as I would like to be, but hopefully that will be changing over the next few months. The two main reasons for my low-level activity here are (1) I’ve been in school full-time, so I have had to place heavier emphasis on my studies than time spent updating here, and (2) Weird Sex Ed, Inc., is in the process of relocating.
No, WSE isn’t leaving Georgia entirely. The business is (and will remain) incorporated in Cumming, GA (lol) – so the correspondence address and telephone number will both remain the same. Just the headquarters (administrative office) is relocating to Oregon over the summer. After my family has settled into our new place, and after I have had an opportunity to file the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State office in Oregon, I’ll provide the additional information.
Until then, watch for updates and variety posts over in WSE’s Facebook page!
WSE is an apolitical organization. However I am not an apolitical person. Here in this blog, I tend largely to avoid the political nature of sex education, but that same topic is not without its own political realities. Here, I’m opting to post SCOTUS, Abortion, and Birth Control (aka Life with SCPLs)…and Kim Kardashian (just for “fun”) (be aware, profanity within).
SCOTUS, Abortion, and Birth Control (aka Life with SCPLs)…and Kim Kardashian (just for “fun”)
Today, I’m going to start out by sharing a video of my friend Cara, and that embedded link on her name goes to a facebook post of hers that articulates much of what she expresses in the video below. Worth reading EVERY word, but if watching a video is easier, then that’s cool, too.
I share the above, not because I’m some massive fan of Kim Kardashian…I’m so not. I don’t care about anything related to any of the Kardashians, and the only reason I even know the name is because I have kids of a certain age who keep me up-to-date on celebrity currency. Even granting that I laughed at Bette Middler’s tweet…
Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we’ve never seen,
she’s gonna have to swallow the camera.
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 7, 2016
…I recognized a joke from a comedienne, one for whom I’ve held much admiration for a long time. That being said, I also see a parallel between body shaming (predominantly directed at women), Kim Kardashian’s selfie, mansplainin’, what International Women’s Day is for and about, and the current abortion and birth control cases facing the Supreme Court of the United States. And before you start feeling bad for those sweet little old nuns and their hand-wringing, here is what you need to know about today’s birth control case before the high court.
There are (by far) more intersections, there is more than a small bit of religious (“faith-based”) interference in every single aspect of those intersections, and omigawd Kansas…really all over the country, but fucking Kansas…from bounty options to check genitals in public schools, to comparisons of birth control to eugenics, to attempting to criminalize (with fines AND jail time) for teaching sex ed in public schools (a throwback to Comstock laws) — while being broke! Kansas is fucking broke because of Gov Brownback’s idiotic attempts at Reagan-on-acid taxation experimentation. I can’t begin to express enough contempt for Kansas right now, but it’s in no way limited to Kansas. To be clear.
Before you think I’m demonizing Kansas…or men in general…I’d like to point you to one microcosmic cross-section of our society: Twitter. Even factoring for troll behavior, a study was conducted via Twitter, by Adobo, and to be clear, the overwhelming reality is that “[w]hen it comes to prejudice online, no group is more hated than women.” (yeah, emphasis added)
In an era when someone like Sarah Palin, with zero legal education, is poised to get a courtroom reality television show, when conspiracy theorists openly state they believe Jennifer Aniston and Michelle Obama are trans*women, and Phyllis fucking Schlafly (yes, that old bag of skin is still alive) is speaking (and being taken seriously) about not nominating a Supreme Court justice until a Republican is elected into the presidency, while yammering about anti-woman, white supremacist-consorting Fascist Donald Trump…it starts becoming a little more clear that what’s happening has precisely nothing to do with people’s feelings about abortion, or about birth control, or about fatness or thinness. It has nothing to do with anything but hatred of women, period, end of story.
These are the same idiots and assholes who -in one breath- yammer about 3-D printing of fetuses “for blind women” (presumably at taxpayer expense and for the “love” of fetuses)…while out of the other side of their mouths, screeching about not paying for birth control (which -when used consistently and correctly- usually prevents pregnancy, ergo abortion), not wanting public school sex ed outside of abstinence-only (which is demonstrably a spectacular failure), increasing restrictions on abortion access (and women’s healthcare in general), resulting in gestational rape and forced parenthood…THEN turning around and stripping funding for women, children, and families to keep food in those *precious* children’s bellies, roofs over their heads, and healthcare when they’re sick…THEN turning around and blaming the very women they forced to gestate that “if they didn’t want children, they should have been more ‘responsible’ about sex” — (circle back to the birth control debate…lather, rinse, repeat). All while continuing to ignore our human trafficking business we know casually as the (for-profit) adoption system AND the over-burdened foster system.
And they never seem to realize the abject irony of talking about children as precious, as gifts (which, no doubt, children ARE precious, they ARE gifts) — but telling women that children are “consequences”…that they are “punishment”…how “precious” is a consequence dressed up as a human child whose mother was forced against her will to gestate an unwanted pregnancy? I mean honestly?
…because really, it’s not about sex (no matter how much that stain of a Kansas legislator is uncomfortable saying the word “vagina” – I get it, for many women brought up in abstinence-based nonsense, speaking medical terminology is extremely uncomfortable…literally unspeakable, actually–
“…It starts, whether intentionally or not, with parents. When my daughter was a baby, I remember reading somewhere that while labeling infants’ body parts (“here’s your nose,” “here are your toes”), parents often include a boy’s genitals but not a girl’s. Leaving something unnamed, of course, makes it quite literally unspeakable. Nor does that silence change much as girls get older…”
When the shame attached to possible “consequences” (and “conscientious” objections by pharmacists) lead to sideways methods of pregnancy prevention…and worse, the return and increase of self-induced abortions, which results in dead women. And all of this is championed by “so-called pro-life” people (aka SCPLs).
…but it’s not about that. It’s about punishing women for being women, for being human and daring to exist with the rights of being human. In a country with 319 million people, 51% of which are women, this is beyond a travesty. It’s dismissed frequently (even by women I know and respect, with casual remarks about “responsibility”), and often ignored is the connection with beauty and thinness and any/everything connected with our bodies and/or appearances…
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” ― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth
Which brings me back to Kim Kardashian and her selfie (which really amounts to *SO WHAT?!*)…and the staggering amount of insults hurled her way. It reminded me (quite a lot) of the same insults that have been hurled at Beyoncé for her “Formation” performance (the outrage was on multiple grounds from many quarters — all of which were ignorant to what she was/is addressing in that song, which is multifaceted, to say the very least – if you’re interested, start here, but this is merely one way of addressing the intersection of lived experience as a woman, Beyoncé is speaking one voice of the black female experience, which I am not qualified to speak to, but I cheer her on 100%). This ties in with a combination in-person and online discussion about intersectionality, but the point is, from a larger perspective, society condemns women by way of our bodies, and the how of that can vary distinctly, depending on color of skin, ethnic origin, size and shape, etc. And I even read that women should be -somehow- try to “be more like Marilyn” in terms of “beauty” — and while I’m not questioning the fact that she was beautiful, first – she was in many ways ahead of her time, true enough…but her public persona was nobody’s role model. Second – in her time, she was just as criticized for daring to exist as a human female in public (and still is by religious fanatics, lest you doubt). So that double-edged sword is hypocrisy that knows neither its own name or history.
So what if ANY woman posts a public nude selfie (or Playboy centerfold or calendar)? I mean seriously, so what?
Rather than link you back to all the variety blog entries I’ve written about the reality of today’s “conservatives” who believe they’re somehow “revolutionary” – I’ll just summarize by pointing out what they really are: Regressive Reactionary Republicans. Today’s version is yammering about “religious freedom” via birth control…but that’s just one tiny little piece of the hatred piled on women in the name of Eve.
To all of them, I raise Lilith’s fist (and more often than not, with a one-finger salute).
Well, folks…it’s officially online now. *EEP!* 😀
I’m honored to be featured with so many amazing women!
I’m on page 50 of this edition!
Today’s topic, by way of facebook discussion, is the matter of routine male infant circumcision. What started the discussion was an article about a movement to ban ear-piercing in infants because of “cruelty” — and it was an interesting conversation. As ought to be expected, male infant circumcision surfaced in the discussion, as did female genital mutilation — two topics I addressed previously . < — That link there is worth having a quick read-through before proceeding here, since it covers a few different things related to genital mutilation (and parental “choice” regarding the matter), but with respect to routine male infant circumcision (specifically newborn), this entry homes in on the history, the myths and the facts…the pseudo-justifications and the debunking of those things in particular.
So, starting with the history…perhaps the oldest history is religious tradition. Specifically, the two major world religions that adhere to this practice are Judaism and Islam…and of course later into the American Christian tradition (but that is connected with American military history, which I will address next). Yes, the practice of male infant circumcision is arguably ancient. The justifications include a “covenant” with the appropriate deity, supposed hygiene arguments, and masturbation prevention (lest a man “waste his seed” — in the Bible, “Onanism,” from Genesis 38:9; and in the Quran, “Ḥarām,” Chapter 23: Al-Mu’minun – Verse: 5-7). Of course, there is the counter-argument that these verses (respectively) weren’t really about sin…they were about “hygiene” — and there may well be some truth to that argument, even while that argument ignores a couple of extremely important points. During the (stated) era of the Bible, and of the Quran, hygiene was…well, “primitive” is a harsh word to use (because I’m not keen on falsely anachronizing history), but comparative to modern hygienic practices, “primitive” is used in the technical sense (and not in a demeaning way) – meaning: “relating to, denoting, or preserving the character of an early stage in the evolutionary or historical development of something.” Parallel discussion exist, for example, about why pork is off-limits to both Judaism and Islam (and technically Christianity). Rationales and justification provided include cloven hooves, doesn’t chew its own cud, garbage disposal, et cetera…and really, adherents of the food proscription frequently don’t ask whether there may be an actual, logical reason for the proscription (and yes, logical reasons exist! really!). Again, we’re talking about ancient times. Large animals fit for eating generally couldn’t be eaten all in one sitting (compared with, say, chicken or other small fowl that can be cooked and eaten within a day). Larger livestock animals like beef could be preserved more safely if salted…or if cooked very well-done, dried out & jerkied, even…without much risk of later consumption. Pork, however, doesn’t keep in the same way…and consumption of old pork products can and does lead to *big time* sickness, and death even. So, yeah, it makes sense that pork would be placed on a food proscription list, given the hygienic factors of the era. When viewed through a long lens of history, circumcision as a practice then, would make a type of sense, given the lens of available and comparably primitive hygiene access at the time. Also, sexually transmitted infections existed during the Biblical era (which is older than Islam), and is documented fully. So definitely, it would seem that lopping off a piece of skin that might house all sorts of infectious material would make sense. Then. Not now. Today, it’s simply a matter of tradition…with no logical basis for continuation beyond tradition.
Military background -particular to the United States- and into the current debates
Moving past the ancient history of the practice, and moving westward (to the United States specifically), let’s have a look at the practice of circumcision in the United States, and why that came to be the norm (surprise — circumcision in the U.S. is not ancient, but only about a century or so old). Within the History of Circumcision website, which has numerous embedded citation links (feel free to peruse them), there is a link within the United States’ subheading about the military history in the U.S. about the practice of male circumcision. The linked entry on this is short by comparison — and worth reading in its entirety — but here I’ll copy/paste a couple of pertinent quotes from it.
“For the past 130 years the American medical industry has been involved in the business of removing part or all of the external sexual organs of male and female children. While the origins of sexual mutilations among prehistoric and primitive peoples is a matter for theory and speculation, the origin and spread of sexual mutilation in American medical practice can be precisely documented. Seen in the proper context of the entire scope of western history, the modern American enigma of institutionalized sexual mutilation is an historic aberration of profound significance and degree, one that could never have been predicted, and one that perhaps could not have been avoided.”
“The early promoters of circumcision fully acknowledged the sexual functions of the foreskin and advocated circumcision as the intentional destruction of those functions. One of many such acknowledgements was published in an issue of the Medical News in November 1900:
Finally, circumcision probably tends to increase the power of sexual control. The only physiological advantage which the prepuce can be supposed to confer is that of maintaining the penis in a condition susceptible of more acute sensation than would otherwise exist. It may be supposed to increase the pleasure of the act and the impulse to it. These are advantages, however, which in the present state of society can well be spared, and if in their loss some degree of increased sexual control should result, one should be thankful. 
In 1902 an editorial in the American Practitioner and News made clear the anti-sexual motivation behind the doctrine of circumcision as a hygienic measure:
Another advantage of circumcision is … the lessened liability to masturbation. A long foreskin is irritating per se, as it necessitates more manipulation of the parts in bathing. … This leads the child to handle the parts, and as a rule pleasurable sensations are elicited from the extremely sensitive mucous membrane, with resultant manipulation and masturbation. The exposure of the glans penis following circumcision … lessens the sensitiveness of the organ. It therefore lies with the physicians, the family adviser in affairs hygienic and medical, to urge its acceptance. ”
…and then read the entirety of part 5 (World War II), click through to Part 2 , and read through the remaining section, which explains a LOT of why there is so much “justification” for circumcision (it shouldn’t surprise you to know that money is directly involved).
So, nutshelled, as with the primitive practices…the rationale amounts to demonization of normal sexual behaviors like masturbation…along with supposed hygiene factors that are very easily destroyed on analysis.
Some of the various excuses given
What about appearance? An uncut penis looks “unnatural” and/or “gross”… I want my son’s penis to look like Daddy’s penis… et cetera ad nauseam/ad absurdum.
Rather than provide the numerous links available that refute these cosmetic claims, I’ll just point out the obvious retorts…
What *about* appearance?! What is the actual standard…and why? (This thought exercise is more in-depth than it sounds…)
Unnatural? A penis in its uncut and natural state is unnatural? How does that work?
Gross? Well, so are many things about the human body. Should we cut off our noses because we develop boogers? How about our ears because of earwax?
You want your son’s penis to look like his dad’s? Again, how about his nose? His ears? His eyes? If you don’t apply the same “justification” for other body parts, then why is his penis somehow different?
There are numerous logical retorts for the (many ridiculous) cosmetic justifications for circumcision, of course…but one must first actually ask the question of how they would deal with any other body part first.
Risk of UTI, STIs, and the *scary hashtag* #PENISCANCER !!!
Within this subheading, I’ll provide a few of the “justifying” links given to me during the aforementioned facebook discussion…starting with the Mayo Clinic’s recommendations on the topic.
Within that link, the justifications given are:
Hygiene, UTI prevention, STI prevention, prevention of “penile problems”, and decreased risk of penile cancer — WOW!! It must be really awesome to have such a strong recommendation from the Mayo Clinic, right? Well hold on there, partner…read the disclaimers in there VERY carefully. Each of the explanations are weaselly, with plenty of “howevers” and “mights” and “coulds” and such –and NO supporting citation…though surely the citations come from somewhere, right? Right…they come from…
…the American Academy of Pediatrics! Another well-known and well-trusted source (yes, I agree, they certainly are, actually) — complete with the noteworthy endorsement from ACoG and the American Cancer Society — so why on earth would I dare to challenge such well-respected sources? Well, part of the reason has to do with their own transparency. If you click through the link provided and scroll down below the abstract, you will find a huge list of articles that not only refute, but provide scientific explanation for refutation of the AAP statement. This is important, for many reasons, but I would argue that transparency within a scientific organization is necessary — and a perusal of the refutations is in order if you’re not familiar.
For example…the University of Oxford presents a full article with loads of embedded citations (back to MORE scientific sources) of why the AAP’s *new* policy statement on circumcision is embarrassingly out of date AND is in direct conflict with global medical opinion on the topic. Specifically, one of the criticisms actually noted IN the AAP files says THIS:
“The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released its new Technical Report and Policy Statement on male circumcision, concluding that current evidence indicates that the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks. The technical report is based on the scrutiny of a large number of complex scientific articles. Therefore, while striving for objectivity, the conclusions drawn by the 8 task force members reflect what these individual physicians perceived as trustworthy evidence. Seen from the outside, cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious, and the report’s conclusions are different from those reached by physicians in other parts of the Western world, including Europe, Canada, and Australia. In this commentary, a different view is presented by non–US-based physicians and representatives of general medical associations and societies for pediatrics, pediatric surgery, and pediatric urology in Northern Europe. To these authors, only 1 of the arguments put forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics has some theoretical relevance in relation to infant male circumcision; namely, the possible protection against urinary tract infections in infant boys, which can easily be treated with antibiotics without tissue loss. The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves.” (emphasis added)
So, the big “news flash” in the United States is that male infant circumcision should be routine (ask where the money is in that count), while ignoring that right in the *very same source* there is acknowledgment that ALL of the reasons provided are NOT equivalent in a American (Western) context as where the substantiating studies transpired…and for VERY similar reasons as provided in the religious history context above.
My stance is not actually opposed to male circumcision in general (if it is voluntary and consenting)…but I am opposed to routine male infant circumcision specifically. All of the claims made by variety sources justifying the practice are easily refuted (in many cases, outright debunked in terms of Western practice). In cases where circumcision IS actually medically indicated (where other, non-invasive measures do not resolve the issue in a child where the parents have to make a decision in their child’s best interest), then sure…no problem. Of course, medical indication makes sense. I also do not believe in demonizing parents for the decision to circumcise their sons. As I said in my original blog entry about this topic: “I don’t think that telling parents who made that choice for their sons that they “damaged” their sons is a good thing either. In fact, I think it’s cruel to do that, because chances are, they thought they were doing what was right for their child. Even if it meant permanent removal of something like foreskin.”
However, in the VAST majority of cases, I do not view routine male infant circumcision as anything other than cosmetic…and IF that male human DESIRES to be circumcised later in life, then he owns his own body, and has the right to that CHOICE. It should be his choice…in the end.
With that, Happy Fried Day!
Note up front: This is not a WSE “official” position. This is my personal position on the topic. I am including it in a WSE entry because of its connection with sex education, communication, and boundaries.
I’ve been approached a few different times, and in a few different ways, about my thoughts/insights to the Josh Duggar fiasco. Most comments have been made to me publicly in various threads on my facebook timeline, some in comments on people’s own timelines, a few privately…and one post from a friend directly to my wall with a question. Or really, a set of questions.
It’s probably not altogether surprising that I would be approached with questions like this, given my education and exactly what it is that I do. The question, although singularly phrased, is layered…“what are the moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities of a (normal) family that encounters this kind of abuse among siblings?” — and it is definitely a very nuanced question to try to answer in any meaningful way. I needed time to really think about it, given the various conversations I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with, and the different things I’ve read by different people regarding the Duggar situation itself.
Rather than try to answer the question within the confines of a facebook thread, I decided to bring the discussion into my own space, where I can try to expand on the thoughts that surfaced. Teasing out the different strands is a challenge, because this is not an easy subject to write about. So, up front, I’ll open with what I’m going to address: the matter of actual pedophilia (what it is, what it isn’t, etc); a comparatively recent story of friend of mine, along with a bit of family history; the matter of what the law has to say on this subject; morals and ethics; my personal take on the topic as a parent; and how I feel about serial child molesters, rapists, and anyone who tries to make excuses for them. Those are the different strands that will be addressed. You have the choice to read…or move on to something else…because this will be a lengthy entry.
What I do, and why I get asked the question.
Parent-child communication is vital -and at the earliest stages- to later decision-making during the tumultuous teenage and young adult years. This parent-child communication is also the foundation for establishing and fostering healthy boundaries in children. My general approach to this subject is directed to parents, not to children or teens, because the origin of discomfort begins with parents (again, generally). My focus as an educator is to help guide parents toward open, honest, and healthy communication with their children about anatomy first by helping parents become more comfortable with medically-accurate terminology. The aim of WSE in this regard, in the long-term, is to hopefully elevate awareness about the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and hopefully reduce that prevalence through (1) education, (2) communication, and (3) knowing where to access tools (such as preventive measures and treatment services if necessary). Because STI awareness and education is my primary focus, I have not gone into many other areas of education at this point. That said, I have connected with a local organization that fights sex trafficking and plan to attend a meeting in the near future where I may address matters of sex and communication from a parental standpoint, also.
I share these things to make clear that the matter of child molestation is not far off of my radar, but neither it is my area of expertise. While I can speak to the subject professionally where the matter of parent-child communication intersects with my focus, it would be dishonest to attempt to speak to the subject of child molestation or predatory sexual behavior as though it is something I specialize in – because I do not. And I’m glad that I do not. I deal with some messy topics, but the matter of child molestation is one that is beyond my scope professionally. I probably never would have chosen it as an area of concentration because it intersects with my personal history in such a way that it is a topic that is difficult to speak to objectively. The only way that I can speak to the topic is from a more personal level. In this entry, I’m not speaking as Dr. Alvarado-Wirtz…but as Denise. With these things in mind…
So, to start with, I want to ensure that there are very clear distinguishing lines drawn between three things: Mistakes of youth, pedophilia, and predatory sexual behavior. I want to be very clear about these things, because they all exist, they all matter, they may intersect but not necessarily, and the lines quickly blur when emotions are hot. I also want to draw the distinctions because I am sick to death of reading variations of “but he was just a horny teenager.” I’m sick to death of apologetics that focus on the abuser and disregard the victims. So Josh Duggar is “sorry”…now, that it’s out in the open. He’s “sorry”…now that the reality TV family’s skeleton has been put on public display after repeatedly chastising the LGBTQ community in the name of “family values.” He’s…sorry. Victimizing multiple children (to include his sisters) was a “mistake.” And of course, now, the discussion of pedophilia coming forth from members of the mental health community in the face of details about this family nightmare unfolding like the reality TV show that the Duggars ironically created.
Let’s separate out the strands here. Let’s talk about mistakes first. We all make them. Many of us, during our youths, made plenty of mistakes…sexually and otherwise. Things that we might go back and change if we could. Things we’re genuinely remorseful about. Things that we have tried to make right. A good example is a situation a friend of mine endured just a few years ago with her son. When he was about 13 years old or so, he made a mistake. He was visiting his non-custodial family, and violated the boundaries of his younger half-sister. There was no touching involved whatsoever, nothing physical occurred. There was simply a boundary violation, sexual in nature but not in action. There was an emotional explosion that occurred after he went home to his custodial family, when his younger sister said something to the non-custodial parent. My friend was called, chewed out, the son called every imaginable name by his non-custodial parent, told that he was never allowed in their home again (never mind that there was little involvement to begin with). It was horrifying for my friend, who immediately confronted her son. He was deeply ashamed, embarrassed, and above all, remorseful. She got him into counseling immediately. She wasn’t worried about whether or not he would violate her other children’s boundaries (and that has never happened). It was an extraordinarily stressful time for the family for many different reasons, but he received love and support, necessary counseling, and…above all…he was held accountable. He wanted to apologize directly to his half-sibling (though that opportunity was never afforded by the non-custodial parent at the time). Years have passed since this incident occurred, and the other parent is only now saying that maybe he handled it improperly. He was (understandably) concerned for his daughter, but had no concern for his son. He has since tried to reach out to his son…only to discover that the window of opportunity to make right with his son slammed shut. It is unfortunate, but that is how it happened. Thankfully, this young man’s mistake…and it was a mistake…didn’t wind up turning his life upside-down. He’s now in a very loving relationship, is extremely close to his mom, is equally protective of his younger siblings. That situation…a one-time event in his life…was a mistake. Nothing will ever undo it, but he’s working to make right.
Now let’s talk about pedophilia. Pedophilia in the clinical sense is comparatively rare, but unlike other conditions that people seek out treatment for, pedophiles are not likely to seek treatment because of the social realities connected with the condition. Pedophilia, as a fantasy, is not a choice (catch your knee)…but pedophilia is not a sexual orientation. It is what is known as a paraphilia. The decision to act on the fantasy is a choice, a choice that causes deep and longstanding harm in its victims. Pedophilia is the most common paraphilia, but the vast majority of sexual predators and child molestors are not actually pedophiles in the clinical sense (again, we’ll return to those folks shortly). For this reason, people who attempt to create a parallel between pedophilia and homosexuality are being (knowingly or unknowingly) dishonest. While it may be difficult to wrap around, a case worth reading (listening to also) and working to understand is this one. For pedophiles who do not act on the impulse, having an avenue for therapy and treatment, a support group, however anonymously, is vital. For people who do not act on those urges, who actively seek help and support and consistently refrain from being in situations that put children at risk, I support their efforts. I am opposed to the notion of thought crime. As human animals, we can and do fantasize about any number of things, and often never act on those fantasies. Fantasies are neither right nor wrong…they just are. However, acting on those fantasies may not only be wrong…it is criminal if it violates consent.
Before moving to sexual predators, I want to ensure that there is explicit clarification here. There are people who go the opposite direction of the examples above. There are people and organizations (internationally) that seek to lower or abolish the age of consent, who advocate making adult-child sexual interaction completely legal. (Note, wiki links are used here so that you, gentle reader, can drop to the bottom of the pages for original source citations, if desired.) I do NOT support those. Not now, not ever. Just…NOPE. Although some European countries have a more generally neutral stance on pedophilia (in this sense, the fantasy not acted upon, the absence of harm done to children), and the Netherlands is typically the country pointed to as an example. This point ignores the laws there that remain in place to protect the rights of people who have pedophilia unacted upon AND to protect the rights of children. In 2014, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands banned the online group Vereniging Martijn.
The court’s ruling “held that the dangers of pedophilia are too great to allow the group to continue. This is because, the court reasoned, children are particularly vulnerable, and the protections they require justifies using the extraordinary relief of disbanding Martijn. In addition, the court agreed with the prosecutor’s arguments that victims of pedophilia should not be forced to be exposed to the group’s message. The ruling overturned a lower court decision that said only groups that threaten to cause social disruption are eligible to be banned.” I’ll return to the question of law shortly.
Next, let’s talk about sexual predators. Child molesters. Rapists. Let’s talk about these folks. I’ll grant that they may have made a mistake or two. I’ll grant that they might have a few snippets in common with pedophiles in the loosest of senses. I will grant that there are intersectional areas. But when it comes down to predatory sexual behavior of the sort that actively preys on people who do not and/or cannot consent, we’re talking about people with control issues, people who use sex as a weapon. I’ll even grant that they may have started out as untreated pedophiles who were possibly abused themselves, who knew what happened to them was wrong, who knew that the urge to harm others was wrong…but who chose to act upon the impulse to violate another person’s bodily autonomy without consent anyway. These people are criminals, period. This is a particularly difficult topic for me, personally, because I know many people for whom this is a lived experience. People who knowingly, willingly, and repeatedly violate another person’s bodily autonomy sexually are not “making a mistake” — they aren’t “just horny teenagers” — they are predators, criminals, who take something irreplacable from someone else for their own gratification. They are, typically, unrepentant about their actions. And while I know (anecdotally) that these behaviors manifest generationally and cyclically within families, there is not definitive causal connection in the research about abused children eventually becoming abusers themselves (the majority do not); the research remains inconclusive about whether serial sexual abusers were themselves abused as children.
A bit of personal perspective.
The movie “A Time to Kill” has this line in it that, if you haven’t ever heard it outside of the movie, it’s easy to think it was made up for a script to put a couple of redneck child rapists in the audience’s disfavor. Thing is, I knew that line…I’d heard it before I ever saw the movie…it stood out for me, and I’ve never forgotten it. In the movie, a young black girl (12 or so years old in the scene) is walking home after having gone to a local store to pick up a few groceries. Two drunk rednecks see her and decide to have some “fun” with her…the exchange in the movie was:
Redneck #1: Isn’t she a bit young?
Redneck #2: If she’s old enough to crawl, she’s in the right position.
Now, the trajectory of the movie was about whether or not a black man could receive a fair trial in the South (for murdering the child rapists who violated his daughter), but my focus is on that particular exchange in the movie. The redneck rapists in the movie weren’t pedophiles…they were sexual predators. They were the same ilk of people, the world over, that seek out children to violate. As earlier mentioned, certain matters occur within families generationally – and in my case, I made the conscious decision that for my own children, the cycle stopped at my own doorstep. I have, over the course of my experience as a parent, deliberately kept emotional and geographic distance between myself and my family, much as I love my family members. The distance remains firm, even while I do go to visit…if infrequently.
I remember an exchange between two of my family members (both female), where the subject of childhood sexual molestation surfaced. The older female relative looked at the younger female relative and said, “If I could live through it, so can you.” The refusal to hold the offenders accountable is something that I recognize from where it can stem…but I personally find it inexcusable. Put more bluntly, because of this particular dynamic within my own family tree, even when I lived with my family as an adult with a young child, I never left my child unattended with certain other family members. Ever. Just…NOPE. I witnessed too much as a kid, experienced too much, knew too much of the history to ever-ever-ever leave my child unattended. That is just the way it was. At my first opportunity, I moved away permanently (which brought with it its own sets of problems, but those problems aren’t directly relevant to this particular topic). As an adult survivor, I have met many people over the intervening years (both male and female) who have lived through similar experiences, who have similar family histories, and like me, the deliberate, conscious decision is that the cycle of abuse stopped at their doorstep.
I’ve written before, extensively, about where religious harm intersects with sexual predatory behavior with children – and how this manifests in the prevalence of church “youth pastors” (in the United States, specifically, and this is directly connected with the Duggar fiasco because of how religion can and does warp healthy sexuality); but this is not a problem limited to religion (and I would argue that the majority of religious people find sexual exploitation of children repellant, so I’m not browbeating religion here, in and of itself). This is a problem that is not limited to my family (many of whom happen to be religious) or the United States; it is a global concern. I hesitate to draw any specific conclusions or make any direct assertions, but I will admit that I find the matter of American and European businessmen being the dominant group of people who go to other countries (on multiple continents), seeking out children to have sex with. I find it telling because of the religiously-rooted societies from which these men spring (and they are typically men), and the religious distortions of sexuality. But again, this is NOT about singling out people who identify religiously, because people of various social, cultural, and religious backgrounds engage in this behavior.
On a very local level, I support Stop Exploiting Children Task Force of Forsyth County (SECTFF), because I am a firm believer that practical advocacy begins in one’s own backyard. When I initially met with some of the folks at SECTFF (at a local fair), I was asked if I would consider speaking at an upcoming meeting, given what I do. I am of course interested, and plan to attend an upcoming meeting this summer unless my calendar explodes the way it has been doing over the past few months. The group is one of many around the United States that works to fight sexual exploitation of children, with the goal of ending sex trafficking of children and women.
So…to answer the question.
Having addressed the three distinguishing lines between “mistakes,” pedophilia, and predatory sexual behavior; my friend’s story; and a bit of personal history, it’s time to return to the question asked by my friend: “what are the moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities of a (normal) family that encounters this kind of abuse among siblings?”
I can only hope that all of what has preceded my broaching answering this question has allowed for some dimensional/nuanced understanding of where I’m coming from when I attempt to actually answer my friend’s question.
Legally, the matter of sexual molestation of children, particularly within a family (by siblings or other family members), is complex. You can go to the wiki page on this topic (this is United States-specific), read through it, read through the 28 different source citations in there. I could pull out the criminal law casebooks, websites, call on legal eagle friends of mine to help me with explaining the complexities of our legal justice system with respect to incest and child molestation. Here, I will simply say that the matter is extremely complex. I’m one person, and if you’ve managed to make it this far reading this entry, I hope it is clear that my thoughts on this subject are extremely complex and not in any way lacking in personal bias…and I won’t pretend otherwise. There are laws that I understand cognitively, and there are laws that while I might understand, I don’t necessarily agree with. But trying to explain them here would take longer than this entry already is entirely, and would be easier and faster to look up for yourself, depending on your specific jurisdiction.
The matter of morals and ethics as even more hinky. I don’t define others’ moral compasses, only my own. Ethics is a realm of philosophy that flows into our (and other countries’) laws, and I do not define these things for anyone but myself. That being said, I suspect what my friend is asking me is a question that steps beyond a matter of simple definitions…and what the question is actually asking is, “What would you do if your son molested your daughter?” (or daughter-son…either way) THAT is the question I actually hear being asked. This is a very difficult question, and one that I have thought about before. More than once. Given my own history on the subject, it would seem impossible that the thought would never cross my mind.
The inclination that I have, as a parent (presumably shared by most parents) is to protect my children. ALL of my children. The notion of my son molesting my daughter (or vice versa) is one that sickens me. The very thought is repugnant. But the inclination is still to protect ALL of my children. What this means to me personally includes the matter of full accountability. Much, I suspect, of how I would respond to a horrifying situation like that would be to ask pertinent questions – what level of molestation? How many times? etc… Depending on the answers to those questions, my immediate course of action, hypothetically, would be two-fold. First, I would reach out to people in the healthcare community (medical AND mental, depending on how far the molestation went) — to ensure that my daughter received immediate treatment for any medical concerns (pregnancy comes to mind for example), along with treatment for emotional trauma. Alongside that, I would reach out to an attorney, because I would want BOTH mental health evaluation for my son, along with ensuring that he had some sort of legal backing. The notion of my son going to jail for molesting my daughter (again, or vice versa) would be simply awful (particularly understanding how the hierarchy in the jail/prison system works), and I would ideally want him (or her) in a treatment facility rather than in a jail cell. (Note: I’m placing the male child in the position of the offender primarily…because that is standard in the overwhelming majority of cases; but to be clear, my hypothetical approach would be the same, regardless of who was the offender and who was the victim.)
I can certainly understand (though not excuse) why parents hide the actions of their sons who molest a sibling or siblings; I do not understand how parents can (and frequently do) go into victim-blaming games with their daughters. If I were to discover that my son had molested several children…? Again, the matter of accountability. Serial sexual molestation, predatory sexual behavior that violates others’ rights to bodily autonomy, is criminal…and for a crime committed (whether against others’ children, or against another of my own children), is a matter that must be dealt with in terms of legal accountability. Checks and balances. And…as a parent, it is extremely difficult for me to say that, because I love and desire to protect ALL of my children.
That being said, this hypothetical scenario stated, though not impossible, is extremely unlikely in my own household. In my household, because of what I do for a living, the matter of open, honest, and respectful communication on ALL matters (including sexual matters) is one that I don’t simply talk about and educate others about…I live by it. Communication about body space, personal boundaries (and our right to enforce those boundaries), the differences between private and secret, etc etc etc…these things are openly discussed in my household. My children…my daughter and both of my sons…know that they own their own bodies. Every bit of their bodies. They have the absolute right to say “no” to any unwanted physical contact — all the way down to something as innocuous as tickling. It is that simple.
Tying this thought back to the subject of Josh Duggar, his family’s blatant hiding of his criminal history of serial molestation (including his sisters) until the statute of limitations expired…? Spewing “family values” nonsense in the name of their particular flavor of religious dogma, condemning homosexuality, parading their lives in reality TV while doing so, cozying up to conservative politicians to try to enact laws against consenting adults KNOWING this was in their own family tree?
My feeling, honestly? Fuck that guy. Fuck Josh Duggar…fuck his entire family (except for his victims)…and fuck ANYONE who attempts to wrongly defend him in the name of their god, in the name of “youthful mistakes,” in the name of pedophilia, all that. He’s not a pedophile in the clinical sense noted above. He was and remains an unpunished serial child molester. He will likely not be held accountable for his crimes…nor will his family for covering for him all these years. Seriously just fuck them.
And for anyone attempting to defend him while talking out of both sides of their mouths? Just…all the nopes. Fuck them, too. Yes, the subject of pedophilia is nuanced. Yes, my perspective as a sex educator (professionally), as a survivor and as a parent (privately) is nuanced. I hope that I’ve adequately answered my friend’s question in a way that makes sense to her. But my position on Josh Duggar and others like him is pretty black & white.
With that, Happy Sunday.