Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sex Ed, STIs, and Demographics

Yesterday, over in my personal blog, I shared a tidbit from my dissertation. (Note: In the future, I will share more from my research, after the dissertation has been published — what I’m sharing here is already public information, and is easily verifiable.)

In the United States in 2007, 1,108,374 new incidences of chlamydia were reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with females reported at 825,660 new cases and males reported at 280,337 new cases. The numbers from 2007 are a 6% increase in chlamydia transmission from 2006, a 24% increase from 2002, and a 47% increase from 1997…” […] “Further, Black female teens contract chlamydia eight times more frequently than White female teens, and Hispanic female teens contract chlamydia more than three times more frequently than White female teens.”

I want you to read the above very carefully. Then I want you to consider the following…a story from my own personal life experience…before I dive fully into my thoughts — and questions — this morning.


I was 22 years old, a single mom in the process of my first divorce. My oldest child and I were living with my mother and grandmother in San Antonio, Texas. I was working one full-time job and two part-time jobs. My son was on Medicaid, and even with all of my jobs, we qualified for state benefits like food stamps. Did I mention I was in the process of a divorce? It was a particularly nasty one, at that.

My full-time job was as a secretary/registrar for an international organization…you may be familiar with it…as it provides disaster relief services around the U.S. and around the world. Because of my particular position within this particular organization, I interfaced frequently with the public and on many different levels. One of those levels happened to be courier services, and one of the couriers was a young, attractive man who, for some odd reason, had a cute little crush on me. I was mildly interested, but not enough to actually act on that interest. Stress from the divorce process and all that…

This guy and I talked semi-regularly, so I got to know a little about his life and he got to know a little about mine. All in snippets, of course, since he and I both had jobs to do.

One day, I was particularly stressed out…and he was solicitous as to what was bothering me. My stress had to do with the child support facet of the divorce, and how tight funds are when a single parent works as much as I was working just to make ends meet. I remember with a degree of uncanny clarity what he said to me in “support”: Why don’t you change your last name to Hernandez and apply for welfare?

I looked at him, only initially shocked, and said flatly, My maiden name is Alvarado, you *****, kindly leave and don’t grace me with your presence again.


I didn’t say it quite so nicely as that, mind you, but I won’t speak to everything that I actually said…or thought…at the time. I was disgusted and appalled.

I have shared the above story for different reasons with different people in different contexts…but the thrust is, I have –my entire life– lived in White skin. I do not and cannot speak directly to the lived experiences of People of Color (hereafter, simply referred to as POC, for those who are unfamiliar with the term). I will never be able to speak to the lived experience of any POC. What I can speak to is what it is like to live in White skin, the privilege associated with that, and the displeasure of being the recipient of “insider commentary” of White privilege. I was raised by a man who is 1st generation American of Mexican parentage. The father of my eldest child is half Mexican.

I do not abide White privilege with ease or comfort, and at my current age, I am better equipped to speak to it bluntly and boldly. At 22, I was not quite so at ease in my own skin. In fact, I wound up remarrying, and enduring a 12-year relationship with a racist, sexist, homophobic emotional abuser before finally recognizing that much of my discomfort within my own skin was both directly and indirectly related to societal dysfunction regarding racial stereotypes. I came through those things…safely to the other side where I am today…and I won’t say that I came through unscathed, but I am here. Both proud and humbled…and stronger for having endured those experiences.

It is, however, with caution and care founded in deep respect for my fellow human beans, that I come here today with the topic of sex education, STI prevention, and demographic statistics related to sex education realities and STI information. I shared the above tidbit from my own life to make clear that I’m not attempting to usurp anyone else’s lived experiences…AND because the statistics are tragic. Those statistics need to be addressed forthrightly with unflinching honesty, because POC are disproportionately affected by STIs, and not just chlamydia. Different segments of the population are affected by different STIs…and racial differences are notable, in terms of trending.

Here is one thing I want to make very clear, because I have had people attempt to assert this (and I’ve heard strains of such commentary in various media)…the differences within racial categories are not about “promiscuity”. In other words, Black people and Hispanic people are not more promiscuous than White people; Asian-Americans are not less promiscuous than other demographic categories in the United States. This is not an issue about promiscuity at all…and the implications of such assertions are insidious in the subtle cruelty that only serve to increase our already crippling societal dysfunction.

There are several societal patterns that, when researched, clearly contribute to different racial categories having increased occurrences of STI incidence — and that is a topic that I will delve into on a later date, because it is critical to understand if we wish to have any hope of containment and reversal of those numbers. That is not the purpose of today’s entry.

Today, I would like to reach out and ask for your thoughts. What do you perceive to be some of the reasons for the differences in demographic disparities with respect to STIs? And for readers who are POC, I really would like you to share your thoughts, because your voices MATTER.

Questions about Sex Education in American Public Schools

Happy Monday! 🙂

This morning, I want to throw a thought out for consideration.

I am, personally, a huge advocate for comprehensive sex education in public school, and starting earlier than 5th or 6th grade — but I know that idea makes a lot of parents squick out. With 30 out of 50 states accepting Title V funding for abstinence education, the fact that many parents/voters seem to “want” abstinence-based (AOUM and abstinence-plus) sex education taught to their kids…though I suspect not many really know what is actually taught in abstinence-based sex ed. More importantly, I know most parents do not know what is not taught in abstinence-based sex ed. Nor do most parents know the history of AOUM sex education, much less how much of a battleground topic it is in Washington D.C.

Schools across the country, desperate for funding, accept Title V funding, even if it means they know their students do not receive complete (or even necessarily accurate) information. There are a lot of politics surrounding this topic, and the reality is that abstinence-based sex education has its roots in religious ideology, which is something I will bring up for discussion in a future entry.

For today, I want to ask this question. If all states accepted appropriate funding for ALL education, to include sex education…and if all states’ *public* schools stuck with comprehensive sex education (minus all the gender-focused religiously-rooted and shame-based loaded language), what would be the problem for *religious* parents who wanted to teach their kids –at home– what their religious beliefs are related to sex? …rather than pushing a religious ideology via sex education onto all kids, regardless of home-based religious beliefs? What would be wrong with giving the parents the choice to opt their kids out of comprehensive sex ed, if they hold such strong objections to it?

Why are we dealing with this sort of sex-negative education in the 21st century? Particularly in the face of the United States having the highest rates of unplanned pregnancy and STI transmission across the teen and young adult populations in the industrialized world?

To provide a contrast…the Netherlands has among the lowest rates of unplanned teen pregnancy and STI transmission in the world…they provide comprehensive sex education at very early ages…and there are PLENTY of religious people there. For people who truly want to reduce teen pregnancies, abortions, and STI transmission, why is the question of comprehensive sex education actually even a question at all?


Initial Survey — please participate

Please participate! 🙂

Click HERE to complete the survey.

Update: My apologies for any confusion with this survey. Updated survey (hopefully it makes better sense now — very different than in conducting interviews verbally, as it happens LOL)

Update #2: Initial concerns that have been brought up about this survey, I would like to take a moment to clarify here. First, the main limitation is the number of questions allowed in the type of survey I’m using in this initial test. When I initially conducted this research, I did so through verbal interview questions that allowed for detailed follow-up in real time. Presently, that option is not available (I hope to be able to upgrade that eventually). Second, there are no wrong answers…the questions are deliberately vague, because perspective is what I am seeking. Your perspective, whatever that may be…however you interpret the question…is your correct answer. Simple as that, really — and is why I wanted to ensure that a descriptive text section was included in the end to allow for any individual clarification to any answer (all of which are completely optional). Third, and finally…at the present time, my focus is U.S.-specific…but I do not want that to be a prohibiting factor in whoever chooses to participate in this exercise. I am aware that answers are going to vary based on region and state (within the U.S.), and will vary broadly outside of the U.S. — that is a weakness in this initial survey that I am aware of going in…so don’t let those things stop you from participating. Answer the questions to the best of your ability, because every answer is valuable.

Thank you!


Good morning!

Today, I’d like to talk more about communication. In my personal blog this morning, I shared my thoughts on Lisa Ling’s episode last night about the world of BDSM. I want to make clear that “alternative lifestyles” (and I use that phrase very loosely here, because I believe certain realms of sexuality go beyond “lifestyle choices” and really are more a way of being) are not a direct or even primary focus of this blog, or the project Weird Sex Ed seeks to complete. However, one very important aspect of what I detailed over in my personal blog is pertinent here in this space: Communication.

One thing I found in my research with parents of female teens is something I call the “Squick Factor.” After final publication of my dissertation, I will feel more comfortable directly quoting some of what is in the dissertation; for the time being, though, I will state that one really important subject that emerged across the various themes and sub-themes in my research was the matter of communication. More accurately…the lack of adequate communication.

A phrase that comes up repeatedly in conversations, particularly about children, tweens, and teenagers is “age appropriate.” Understand, too, that I am not in any way advocating that young children need to know more than what is age-appropriate for them…BUT…more often than not, when I hear the term used, what I’m hearing being said is nothing to do with what children need to know — and this is especially true when I hear it from parents with respect to teenagers (and most often, teenage daughters). What I’m really hearing when a lot of parents use that term is that they, the parents, are not ready for their child to know “something”…and especially if it’s about sex.

During the pilot study of my research, one of the questions I had was…when should we start communicating with our kids? When is “age appropriate”? And one of the funniest (yes, funniest) answers I was given was, “When they start asking questions.” The answer was so direct, and so simple, that it took me off-guard…and I started laughing. However, that answer also mirrored something that was said starkly in Kristin Luker’s book When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex–and Sex Education–Since the SixtiesLuker was very clear that she knew what she was suggesting would be controversial, and that it slapped both sides of the sex education debate. She said, “Since the debate about sex education gets its passion from deeply felt ideas about gender, and women’s roles in particular, why not tell young people that?

So my question today…my thoughts on communication…is why are parents so uncomfortable? From your perspective, as a reader here, why do you think parents have such difficulty addressing the subject of sex with kids frankly and without the “Squick Factor”?

An interesting and thought-provoking response

One of the more thought-provoking responses I received to the questions I posed in the previous entry was:

“I think this depends on how you define language. Language can always always be softened, diluted, or manipulated in any way to prove a point. I am not a linguist, but propaganda is ubiquitous throughout the human condition, thus any language is susceptible to manipulatory devices and plain talk.”

Interesting, and definitely holds excellent points. I wonder how much of our use of language (as we understand it as individuals) is connected on a larger scale through mass-media interference, religious interference, differences between how members of different generations communicate between each other and across generational divides?


Friday Thought-seeking

For my first real blog entry here, I got an unexpected “inspiration” (if we can call it that) from a disagreeable discussion elsewhere online. The initial topic of discussion is not relevant to my questions for you (and yes, I am seeking your thoughts, so please share them).

Does language (any language, really, but in this I’m referring specifically to American English) affect how we interact? If so, in what way/s?

Do you see connections between our spoken and written language and sex education? If so, what connections do you see?

Do you believe that how we use language contributes to individual, family, and/or societal dysfunction? If so, in what way/s?

Birth of Weird Sex Ed

Hi there! Welcome to Weird Sex Ed!

I’m Dr. Denise Wirtz, and the purpose of this website is to promote, encourage, inspire…and to develop (eventually) a resource (that will be available both online and hard copy) for parents, teenagers, and sex educators.

For the time being, I am still building this site, so forgive me if it’s under construction with very little information currently.

Warm Regards,

*Update: Important note about this website and its eventual contents (including this blog) — If you are in search of graphic sexual content of a pornographic or erotica nature, you’re in the wrong place. This is not a site intended with those purposes in mind. I have no problem with those areas of sexuality in any way; however, this site’s intended purposes are educational, with a focus on exploring areas where human sexuality intersects with other facets of human experience, and the eventual aim of creating a useful comprehensive, sex-positive resource that is easy to access and understand.