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Ohio Lawmakers Work to Prohibit Teaching About “Gateway Sexual Activity”

12:40 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Martha Kempner for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

A couple kisses, seen from above

Ohio wants to define "gateway sexual behavior" and then ban teachers from educating about it.

Though most of us are still not quite sure what it is, the concept of “gateway sexual activity” is back, or at least a ban on teaching about it is back.This time it is Republicans on the Ohio House Finance Committee who are worried about our young people heading down the wrong sexual path. So worried, in fact, that they are willing to impose fines on anyone who teaches about such sexual activity. That’s right, an amendment to the budget passed by the committee yesterday would prohibit providing or distributing condoms or other contraceptives on school grounds and ban any instruction that promotes “gateway sexual activity.” Teachers or organizations that violate this ban could be subject to lawsuits by parents as well as a $5,000 fine.

Some of us remember the first time we heard this phrase; it was last year when Tennessee Republicans passed a similar law that became the butt of national jokes because no one knew what a “gateway” behavior would be — a kiss, a foot rub, an expensive dinner? The law didn’t define it but lawmakers in Tennessee promised that we would know it when we saw it. As I reported for RH Reality Check at the time, one legislator explained in testimony on the floor:

“Everybody in this room knows what gateway sexual activity is. Everybody knows there are certain buttons when you push them, certain switches when you turn them on, there’s no stopping, especially for undisciplined, untrained, untaught, and unraised children who just want to feel affection from somebody or anybody.”

I can’t say that this explanation helped enlighten me though it did infuriate me with all of its judgment and blame.  Like many others, I preferred comedian Steven Colbert’s snarky take on it:

“Kissing and hugging are just the last stop before the train pulls into Groin Central Station. We desperately need to intervene earlier to keep kids from engaging in… all the things that lead to the things that lead to sex.”

In an effort to avoid any similar confusion (and perhaps prevent being made fun of on Comedy Central), Ohio legislators provided a definition of “gateway sexual activity.”  And, because teenage sexual behavior is so bad as to be felonious, they took the language straight from the state’s criminal code. So schools cannot promote:

“…any touching of an erogenous zone of another, including without limitation the thigh, genitals, buttock, pubic region, or, if the person is a female, a breast, for the purpose of sexually arousing or gratifying either person.”

Despite this very clear definition of behaviors that Ohio lawmakers think will inevitably lead to teens boffing like bunnies, I imagine that teachers in the state are still confused as to what they can and can’t say. After all, sexuality education is not about promoting specific behaviors, it is (among many, many other things) about helping young people think critically about those behaviors they will and will not choose for themselves. I suppose, though, that such confusion, combined with a hefty fine, will have the exact effect that lawmakers want; teachers will play it safe and say nothing.

As Damon Asbury, a lobbyist for the Ohio School Boards Association told the Dayton Daily News:

“I don’t think we should have teachers put on trial for teaching a prescribed curriculum. It takes you back to the Scopes Trial.”

Kellie Copeland of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told the Dayton Daily News that she also opposed the ban noting the amendment appears to be an attempt to ban comprehensive sex education programs in schools. She added:

Read the rest of this entry →

Is Better Access to Sex Ed and Contraceptive Methods Behind the Latest Significant Decline in Abortion Rates?

1:54 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Yvonne Hamby for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Birth Control Pills

Photo: Sarah C / Flickr

The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) figures indicate not only the lowest current rate of abortion in the United States, but also the largest drop in the rate in 10 years. It will be difficult to determine the precise reason for this trend. As with most public health issues, but especially those that relate to sexual and reproductive health, there are myriad of potential explanations for the decline. The most important questions we need to ask now are: Does the decline in abortion rates indicate better reproductive health choices and outcomes for women? And if so, how do we continue to build on this success?

Researchers have shared several theories behind the decline. Some believe the economic recession has affected reproductive decision-making. A Washington Post report suggests that women are making decisions to continue their pregnancy rather than terminating.

CDC says the decline is due to more effective contraception and increased access and use by women. A study from the journal Fertility and Sterility supports the CDC view with the finding that the use of long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices had tripled between 2002 and 2009, with most of this increase happening within the last two years. These data suggest that our efforts in primary prevention are paying off, which is, to me, perhaps the most hopeful explanation.

It is interesting to note that trends in abortion rates match the current trends in teen pregnancy rates. The teen pregnancy rate and the teen birth rate have declined by more than 40 percent since the early nineties, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The decline, says National Campaign Chief Program Officer Bill Albert, is due to the “magic combination of less sex and more contraception.”

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ELECTION 2012: The Power of the Youth Vote

1:51 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Debra Hauser for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Yesterday, any doubt about the power of Millennials was laid to rest. Young people voted at record levels, representing 19 percent of the total voting public — the largest percentage ever, including in the 2008 presidential election.

This generation of youth represents one of the most influential, diverse, and socially progressive generations in our history, and they are engaged and taking part in our country’s political debate and as advocates and leaders in the reproductive and sexual health field.

A few facts about Millennials.

Millennials are growing in influence. Globally, almost half the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — under the age of 25.  The reproductive and sexual health decisions these young people make will determine the size and health of our planet for decades to come.

Here in the United States, there are approximately 64 million Millennials who were eligible to vote in the 2012 election. This means they represented approximately 29 percent of all eligible voters. Early poll data shows that of those who voted in this election, one in five was between the ages of 18 and 29.

Millennials as a group are expected to grow by four million every year through 2020, when they will number 103 million of voting age. Ninety million Millennials will be eligible to vote in 2020, representing almost 40 percent of all eligible voters.

Millennials are diverse. Currently 39 percent of Millennials are young people of color compared to 30 percent of the general population. Nationwide, communities of color are growing. In fact, between 2000 and 2008, communities of color grew by approximately 20 percent accounting for more than four-fifths of U.S. population growth.  Demographers tell us that by 2050 America will become a Minority-Majority nation.  Communities of color will make up fifty-four percent of America and Latinos/Hispanics will make up 30 percent of the total population (up from 15 percent).

Much of this change is fueled by youth. In fact, people of color will represent a majority of young people by the year 2023.

And all of this matters to those of us who care about progressive issues, because Millennials are more socially progressive than their older counterparts. Whether the issue is immigration, race and gender equality, religious freedom, environmental and economic justice, or access to reproductive and sexual health services, including abortion, Millennials are more progressive than their older counterparts.

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As we continue to get more data, it is likely that young people played an important role in a string of progressive victories: reelecting President Obama; turning the tide in favor of marriage equality with wins in Maryland, Maine, and Minnesota, with Washington poised to join them; defeating an anti-choice ballot measure in Florida; electing the largest cohort of women ever to the Senate, including America’s first openly LGBT Senator; and making history with the passage of the Maryland Dream Act.

Over the next four years, young people will continue to lead us towards new solutions and lasting change. We have a responsibility to work alongside them and we call on President Obama and elected leaders across the country to do the same.

Vaginas Are Sperm Depositories and Other Scary Things About the State of New York’s Sex Ed Curricula

8:04 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Zero Tolerance for Clowns

(Photo: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/flickr)

Written by Martha Kempner for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Along with many others children, teens, and adults, this week I went back to school, too. I started teaching Introduction to Human Sexuality at a local college, something I haven’t done in about six years. In an effort to gauge what my students had already learned and what they wanted to know, I gave them an anonymous questionnaire which, in part, asked them to describe their sexuality education up until this point. At least five of them said that they’d had the “standard” or “usual” high school sex education. Unfortunately, this wasn’t particularly enlightening to me because as a new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) highlights: when it comes to sex ed there is no such thing as standard; every district or even every classroom is different.

A survey of school systems across New York was conducted by NYCLU to determine what, if anything, they were teaching students about sex. Schools in the state are not required to teach comprehensive sexuality education, and while they are required to teach about HIV and certain other health topics, most of the lessons do not address sexuality or relationships. Schools do have to teach about alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; the prevention and detection of certain cancers; child development and parenting skills; and interpersonal violence. They do not, according to the new report, Birds, Bees, and Bias, How Absent Sex Ed Standards Fail New York Students, have to teach about “healthy relationship skills, STI and pregnancy prevention, puberty, [and] anatomy” or “other core aspects of effective, comprehensive sex education.” In 2005, the Department of Education issued state standards for health education, which included many topics related to sexual health. However, these standards are voluntary, and school districts do not have to comply with them. The authors also mention the National Sex Education Standards, which were released early this year by a number of national organizations. These set minimum content requirements for concepts in sex education but are also not binding. The report concludes:

“The current legal and policy climate permits schools in New York to decide what, if any, sex education they will teach beyond the mandated HIV education. As a result, whether New York’s teens graduate from high school with the information and skills crucial to making lifelong healthy and informed decisions about sex and relationships rests in the hands of each individual school district, principal and health education teacher, with little guidance and even less oversight.”

To determine what students are learning, NYCLU sent questionnaires to a sample of school districts across the state making sure to include small, medium, and large districts. New York City was excluded in part for efficiency purposes. Since the surveys were sent out, however, the city passed a sex education mandate that went into during the 2011-2012 school year. NYCLU says: “We look forward to reviewing New York City data and instruction at a future date.” In total, 108 school districts were included, representing 542,955 students or nearly half of all students enrolled in districts outside New York City. In addition, the authors reviewed the most commonly used textbooks in the state.

The study found major gaps in the education young people should have been receiving, as well as numerous factual errors and biases in the information they were actually given.

Outdated HIV Information

As the only sexuality-related topic that is mandated, HIV is one of the subjects most likely to be covered by school districts in the state.  In fact, 93 percent of districts surveyed provided information on this topic. Unfortunately, many of them used outdated information on “prognosis, drug therapies, prevention and transmission.” Some of the outdated and inaccurate information includes districts telling kids:

  • “Once you have AIDS you will live from 6 months to 3 years.”
  • “[HIV] kills an individual.”

One district mentions AZT, the earliest antiretroviral drug, which was introduced in 1987, but does not discuss any of the newer available therapies. Another provides students with a handout that gives an illustrated timeline of what happens when you become infected with HIV. The timeline explains that one goes from being asymptomatic to having HIV symptoms within 12 years (without mentioning available drug therapies), that the individual then goes from HIV symptoms to AIDS and opportunistic infections within two years, and from there they go to a tombstone that says RIP within two more years.

Anything with a tombstone is clearly trying to instill fear in young people, which is bad enough, but this illustration is troubling in other ways as well. It misses many opportunities to talk about how people are now managing to stay healthy longer with HIV, and it misses all opportunities to mention how to prevent the spread of HIV. In fact, the person in the timeline gets tested for HIV and finds out he’s positive before going into the stage where he is asymptomatic which is described as “feeling healthy but still spreading HIV.”

Young people should know that HIV is preventable through both abstinence and the use of condoms and that it is possible to have it without spreading it.

Incomplete Information about Anatomy
Read the rest of this entry →

Anti-Sex Ed Curriculum Makes the List: Don’t Blame Obama, Blame the System

9:23 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Norman A. Constantine, Eva S. Goldfarb, Danny Ceballos, and Carmen Rita Nevarez for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

See all our coverage of Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education here.

A recently updated list of federally approved “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs has been causing a stir. This list specifies the programs that are eligible for federal funds and serves as the cornerstone of President Obama’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative.  Among the three programs making the list for the first time is the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage program Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education. Our friends and fellow advocates in the adolescent sexual health promotion field have denounced this program as medically inaccurate, biased, fear- and shame-based, and otherwise inappropriate for the classroom. Here we all agree, completely. A program like this has no place in our schools and communities, and especially not with government funding.

But we take issue with criticisms of the Obama administration for “backroom deals and secrecy,” “political expediency,” and “blatant hypocrisy,” among other barbs and arrows recently launched by understandably frustrated advocates. Rather than blaming Obama for this unfortunate development, we’d all do better to recognize that it was the result of a fundamentally flawed system operating according to explicit agreed-upon rules—a system sorely in need of review and repair.

What’s wrong with this system? Simply put, it is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of scientific evidence and its appropriate use. To earn a place on the list, a program needs only to produce one statistically significant outcome in one evaluation study–no matter how many outcomes were tested across how many studies. Yet it is a well-known principle of research statistics that the likelihood of a false finding increases as the number of outcomes tested increases. In fact, if a program has no effect, for every twenty outcomes tested one outcome can be expected to be incorrectly identified as a statistically significant effect merely due to chance alone. Even testing just two outcomes raises the probability of a false finding of effectiveness beyond the traditionally tolerated level of less than five percent. The technical name for taking advantage of this principle to obtain a statistically significant finding is “fishing for significance.”

And this is just one of the more blatant of the numerous problems with the evidence review system currently in place. These problems and their implications are described elsewhere in more detail. Suffice it to say that under current “evidence-based” standards of effectiveness, a Mickey Mouse cartoon could be listed as an effective teen pregnancy prevention program with just a moderate amount of evaluation creativity and persistence. Perhaps it is then no surprise that upon release of the original version of this evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program list in 2010, the independent non-partisan research-use watchdog Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy commented that “HHS’s evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program is an excellent first step, but only 2 of 28 approved models have strong evidence of effectiveness.”

The biggest challenge in research and research use in this area is that we as a field need to move away from asking these simplistic out-of-context yes/no questions about effectiveness of individual name-brand curricula. These types of questions inevitably lead to the picking and choosing of isolated favorable findings. Instead, we can do a better job of critically weighing and integrating the entire body of relevant program evaluation evidence —together with the broader body of scientific research evidence on adolescent health and development —as they inform a set of general principles of effective and responsible comprehensive sexuality education.

To complement this more encompassing view of evidence, while at the same time recognizing the understandable demand among funders and program providers for simple and straightforward guidance about program development and selection, we propose a move to standards-based lists. There are now many excellent sets of standards and guidelines for comprehensive sexuality education, from groups such as SIECUS, UNESCO, and IPPF, as well as the newly developed National Sexuality Education Standards.  These standards represent an enormous improvement over what is currently passing for comprehensive sexuality education, and enjoy widespread support from mainstream health and education organizations.  Any of these could be used as the basis of an objective and systematic process for rating curricula and other programs on the most important content and process criteria.

California has already provided a model of such a system, based on its Sexual Health Education Accountability Act and related California Education Code. These basic standards for comprehensive sexuality education provide 45 explicit criteria that serve as the foundation for an objective and systematic process used to rate curricula in California.  The successful experience in California with this system could help inform the adaption of such as system in other states, and for federal program review as well. It could be applied to any of the existing standards.

Advocates for Youth has promised to challenge the existing evidence-based paradigm and to “advocate for a recalibration of the current balance towards a vision of sex education that is evidence-informed and rights based.” We enthusiastically support this new focus, and will help however we can.

He-Men, Virginity Pledges and Bridal Dreams: Obama Administration Quietly Endorses Dangerous Ab-Only Curriculum

10:28 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

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Written by Debra Hauser, Monica Rodriguez, Elizabeth Schroeder and Danene Sorace for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Sometime this month, an updated list of “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention programs was endorsed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and posted to the website of the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH).

No notice, not even a press release to announce the addition of three programs to the coveted list of 28 deemed effective and carrying the HHS seal of approval. Until now, this list was the holy grail of the Administration’s commitment to a science-based approach to teen pregnancy prevention and a directive for grantees of the President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI).

So why the secrecy about the new additions? What does the Administration have to hide?

Because one of the “new” programs is actually an old, dis-proven and dangerous abstinence-only-until-marriage program.

We have been around long enough to expect politics as usual in Washington, D.C. The backroom deals and secrecy should not surprise us. The jettisoning of young people and their sexual health for political expediency is not new. But, this blatant hypocrisy needs to stop. This latest example is just too much.

Perhaps the Administration realized that the inclusion of Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education on this select list would call into question its commitment to young people and their sexual health. Once again, they have succumbed to the political pressure of social conservatives and allowed the ideology of the right to prevail over the health and well-being of the nation’s youth. The Obama Administration’s endorsement of this abstinence-only-until marriage program runs in direct contradiction to its stated commitment to the health and well-being of young people and, quite possibly, its promise to uphold science and evidence.

The Trampling of Young People’s Sexual Health

The President has talked about his administration’s commitment to LGBT health and rights by recording his own “It Gets Better Video” and announcing support for both the Safe Schools Improvement Act and Student Non-Discrimination Act. And, the CDC has recognized the disproportionate impact of the HIV epidemic on young men who have sex with men and has committed millions of federal dollars to reducing the burden of disease on this population.

Yet, at best Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education ignores LGBT youth – and at worst it promotes homophobia. The stigmatization of LGBT youth throughout the program reinforces the cultural invisibility and bias these students already face in many schools and communities. The curriculum’s focus on marriage as the only appropriate context for sexual behavior further ostracizes LGBT youth and the children of LGBT parents who still cannot legally marry in most states.

The Director of the CDC has called teen pregnancy prevention and HIV prevention two of the country’s six “winnable battles,” and recent analysis of National Survey of Family Growth data trends indicates that significant reductions in teen births have been primarily fueled by increased contraceptive use.

Today roughly 40 percent of high school students have had sex and young people under age 29 continue to account for approximately 30 percent of all new cases of HIV infection.

Yet, Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education does not include information about the health benefits of contraception or condoms. Read the rest of this entry →

Title X and The Role of Family Planning Providers in Preventing and Treating Sexually Transmitted Infections

10:02 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Clare Coleman for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

This article is published in partnership with the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) as part of our joint series on STD Awareness

Over the past 40 years, Title X family planning providers have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income and uninsured individuals. Screening, testing, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are key components of the essential health education and services provided by family planning providers each year. In 2010, the Title X family planning network performed over 6 million STD tests, a 3.5 percent increase over the previous year, and over 1.1 million HIV tests, a 10 percent increase over 2009. Family planning and sexual health programs have a tremendous amount of expertise in targeting “hard-to-reach” populations, particularly through education and counseling.

Family planning providers have long understood the role sexual health plays in the lifelong health and well-being of their patients. Suspected of being the number one cause of preventable infertility, chlamydia – a curable infection – is the most common bacterial STD in the US, with an estimated 2.8 million infections annually. Annual US gonorrhea infections are estimated to be as high as 700,000 a year. If left untreated, both infections can spread into the uterus or fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID and other infections in the upper genital tract can cause damage leading to infertility, chronic pelvic pain, and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancy.

Recognizing the important role publicly funded family planning providers can and do play in STD prevention, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports chlamydia and gonorrhea prevention efforts in family planning health centers through the Infertility Prevention Project (IPP). Begun as a demonstration project in 1988 to address the leading STD-based causes of infertility, IPP has expanded to all ten of the federal Health and Human Service regions, supporting screening and treatment among sexually-active, low-income women.

CDC estimates that undiagnosed and untreated STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea cause at least 24,000 women in the US each year to become infertile. In addition to the health burdens that result from chlamydia and gonorrhea, chlamydia in particular has severe economic costs within the health care system. Over $2 billion is spent every year on the medical management of chlamydia and related complications. The total lifetime medical cost has been estimated at $315 per case for women. Furthermore, a single case of PID costs between $1,060 and $3,180 (in 2000 dollars).

To ensure quality sexual and reproductive health and address economic burdens, continued efforts to educate, screen, test, and treat for STDs is critical to our nation’s public health and well-being. The Title X family planning network is proud to be an essential safety-net provider in these efforts to improve access for populations that may have nowhere else to turn for these services.

How HIV-Positive Women Drove a Grassroots Campaign for NYC’s Sex-Ed Mandate

7:56 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

"Teach/Learn"

"Teach/Learn" by duane.schoon on flickr

Written by Alison Yager for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Earlier this week, New York City announced that all public middle and high schools must provide a semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade, and again in 9th or 10th grade. This is a tremendous achievement for the many individuals and agencies who have worked toward this goal for many years.  The Sex Education Alliance of New York City (SEANYC), a broad-based coalition, has provided a large tent under which advocates gathered with the shared mission of improving comprehensive sexuality and health education in the NYC public schools.  Participating agencies each bring something different to the table.  HIV Law Project, where I work, is an active SEANYC member.

In 2006 HIV Law Project invited a group of women living with HIV and AIDS to develop an advocacy campaign around a yet-to-be-determined issue.  They considered various issues of importance to them, and sex education was at the top of the list.  They knew that HIV continued to spread unabated through their communities, and they saw that their children and their neighbors’ children were not getting the information they needed to stay safe.  Many of the women had already stepped into this breach themselves: they gave condoms to the youth in their apartment buildings, they hosted impromptu living room chats for their teenagers’ friends about safe sex, and they routinely dispelled myths about HIV transmission.  Read the rest of this entry →

Developing New Birth Control Methods for Men, Will It Change the Debate?

9:20 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

I wonder if Bill O’Reilly would be so worried about alcohol getting in the way of contraception if men were responsible for birth control. Currently, the only options for men other than “pulling out” are condoms or a vasectomy. The idea of a birth control pill for men has been floating around for many years with few results, but an article in the New York Times this weekend, suggests that “prompted by women’s organizations, global health groups and surveys indicating that men are receptive, federal agencies are financing research.”

At this point researchers are still looking for methods that are as safe, reliable, and reversible as existing birth control options for women and that have few side effects. Some of the options they are looking at include:

    • Using hormones to stop sperm production. Described as “the most studied approach in the United States,” researchers are using progestin, a hormone used in female birth control pills, which interrupts testosterone production and stops the testes from making sperm. In order to make sure that men don’t lose libido and muscle mass, they are also given limited testosterone.
    • Interrupting sperm maturation. Researchers at the University of Kansas are working on a pill which interrupts the maturation process of sperm so that they are not functional.
    • Blocking retinoic acid. Other researchers are working on drugs that would block retinoic acid which is important for sperm production. Unfortunately, thus far at least one of these drugs is completely incompatible with alcohol – drinking while on it makes men quite sick.
    • Reducing the mobility of sperm. A neurobiologist at Harvard “discovered that sperm tails contain calcium-ion channels, with electrically charged ions ‘turbo-charging the sperm’ to reach eggs.” He is working on a drug that would disable this channel.
    • Inactivating sperm with shots. Called Risug (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance), this method involves periodically injecting gel into the scrotum.
    • Halting sperm production with ultrasound. This method involves heating the testes which can stop sperm production for months.

      Like Viagra, which was discovered during development of treatment for high blood pressure and angina, many of these potential new birth control options were developed for other purposes including treating cancer, worm infections, skin diseases, hypertension, and psychosis. The last two drugs were found to keep men from ejaculating during orgasms, of course, in order to use them as birth control researchers will have to change them to make sure they no longer impact blood pressure and mood.

      It may be awhile before any of these methods are widely available though it does make one wonder if a slew of new male-control options will change the debate over contraception. Will critics still be suggesting that easy access to inexpensive birth control methods will create a new generation of sluts?

       

      Teen Sex and Contraception on Television: Where’s the Personal Responsibility?

      8:29 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

      Written by Martha Kempner for RHRealityCheck.org. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

      In the last few weeks, I learned that Bristol Palin was on the pill and all of the stars of 16 and Pregnant used condoms.  I find this slightly curious because, as we know, all of them ended up parents before they were old enough to vote. If I didn’t know any better, I would start to wonder if contraception just doesn’t work.  But since I do know better, I am instead left wondering if the media is letting our most famous teen parents get one over on us and in the process perpetuating myths and misunderstandings about birth control.

      Birth Control Pills Work

      In her book Bristol Plain explains how the first time she had sex took place while drunk on a camping trip and she feels that Levi “stole” her virginity, though she was not raped.  (I have already admitted that I’m obsessed with Bristol and discussed this odd explanation of hers in an earlier piece.) Despite this, she went on to have a sexual relationship with him for the next two years and became pregnant with their son, Tripp.  In her book Palin explains that at the time she got pregnant, she was on birth control pills that “had been prescribed to her for cramps.”

      That reminded me of a sex ed lecture that I had during my senior year in high school (yes, senior year, because when it came to sex, East Brunswick High School didn’t like to tell us about anything until after they were sure we had already tried it). The health teacher held up a packet of pills and said “Some of your friends may be on these, but that’s just for cramp control.” We all stifled our laughter and fought the urge to say in our best sarcastic teen voice “yeah, right.” Some of our friends were on it, hell, some of us were on it, and it wasn’t just for cramp control.

      Sure some women use the pill for the benefits it provides other than birth control—it regulates one’s period, can reduce cramps and other premenstrual issues, and some brands can actually help control acne. The good news is that even if the motivation to start or keep taking the pill is something other than contraception, if taken correctly, that very same pill will prevent pregnancy.  When pressed by Barbara Walters in a recent appearance on The View, Bristol said: “I was on birth control when I got pregnant yeah, but it obviously was not used effectively.” 

      It’s in the passive voice but I guess it’s as close as we will get to some personal responsibility.

      Continue reading…