Posts Tagged ‘sex education’

Interview with Amy Andre about sexuality studies

January 23, 2008

Best Sex Writing 2008 cover

Here’s the latest in my series of interviews with Best Sex Writing 2008 contributors. Click here to read the table of contents and introduction. Amy Andre

Amy Andre has a master’s degree in human sexuality studies from San Francisco State University. She works as a sex educator and writer.

What inspired your article “The Study of Sex?”

I’m actually the guest lecturer I refer to in the essay. I’ve lectured in Dr. Nick Baham’s class a number of times. He’s doing great work, and I wanted to spread the word.

Your essay starts off with a description of a course called African-American Sexuality and goes on to talk about how race is handled in the field of sexuality studies and the lack of people of color in the field. How is race dealt with generally in the sexuality studies classes you’ve taken? What are some of the areas where the intersection of race and sexuality should be explored in academia, in your opinion?

Sexuality and race are two things that infuse every element of people’s lives. So I feel they should be in every area of academia. When I was in grad school, I was lucky enough to have a couple of professors who were very cognizant of their importance. But that was not the case in every class.

That course was actually part of the Ethnic Studies Department. Do you think a course like that also belongs in other departments?

Absolutely. I would love to see it replicated in Ethnic Studies departments across the country; it belongs in Sexuality Studies departments, too. As far as Nick and I know, his is the only course of its kind anywhere in the US, and, in fact, the world.

You quote SFSU Human Sexuality Studies professor Rita Melendez who says that the word sexuality “gets associated with white people,” and that if it’s in the title of a course, people of color tend not to sign up for that. Based on your own experiences and research, why do you think that is, and what can the field of sexuality studies do to be more welcoming to people of color?

She’s right. For example, even though SFSU, where I got my master’s degree, is, like many California universities, a majority minority school (most students are people of color, and mostly Asian American), the students in the Sexuality Studies master’s program are mostly white. When I was a student there, I was one of three students of color in my graduating class, and the only African American. Sexuality scholarship seems to have a reputation as being a white field, and that’s to the detriment of everyone, current scholars as well as potential scholars. Professors who are passionate about diversity should follow the example that Nick and Rita are setting.

Another interesting notion you bring up is a quote from California State University Professor Nick Baham about BDSM being a “political act.” What’s your take on that notion?

I agree. It’s political because engaging in BDSM is so recreational (as opposed to procreational), that it’s really the loudest you can metaphorically scream “I deserve erotic pleasure.” And that’s a political statement.

One of the first comments on the article at Alternet is an objection to its even being posted there on religious grounds, and religion is also something you touch on in the article. Is there a greater degree of tension between traditional religious beliefs and the field of sexuality studies from people of color?

I’m a non-practicing Jew, so I can’t speak from experience here, only from what I’ve read. But I have not read any social science research indicating that people of color are (a.) more religious than white people; (b.) more sex-negative than white people. There’s a stereotype, for example, that African Americans are more homophobic than whites (and that this homophobia is linked to the involvement of African Americans in Christianity). But, in fact, all the research I have read shows that the opposite is true: white people are just as homophobic as blacks, and blacks are just as LGBT-rights-affirming as whites. That’s a social scientific fact.

You have a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality. Was that also what you studied for your undergraduate degree, and what drew you to the field?

I have a BA in psychology. What drew me to sexuality was the just that I love sex. I’m constantly curious about it. I love to read about what other people do and why they do it. Also, I’m bisexual, and I am especially interested in understanding bisexual identity, politics, health, community issues, etc.

What do you see as the future of Sexuality Studies? Where would you like to see it go?

I would like to see sexuality studies focus a lot more on bisexuality. I recently co-authored Bisexual Health, a book published by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and bisexuals are experiencing a major health crisis. When we look at health status in relation to sexual orientation, people who identify as bisexual (which is, by the way, 50% of all those who identify as either gay, lesbian, or bi) have poorer physical and mental health than people of any other orientation. There’s a lot of work to be done.

What is a typical class you’re taking now like? What do most people in your field want to do after they finish their studies?

Right now, I’m getting an MBA, so a typical class is about finance and math! Coming from the social sciences, and as a writer, I feel very much like a fish out of water. Most people with MBAs go into the corporate world, but I’m planning a career in the nonprofit world, specifically focused on the needs of LGBT people.

In terms of sexuality studies, most of the people I got my first master’s with ended up back in school, working on PhDs, or working as researchers doing sex research at local universities.

You’ve been doing a lot of press around Lisa Diamond’s recent study on women and bisexuality. Can you tell us more about your thoughts on that and the general media treatment of bisexuality? Do you feel the topic is overly sensationalized in mainstream news outlets?

Lisa Diamond’s study shows that, for bisexual women, attraction to people of more than one gender remains consistent over time. Of course, to bi women, this comes as no surprise. I came out as bi when I was 14, which was almost 20 years ago, and I’ve never wavered from that. What she’s proving is that being bi isn’t a phase. The idea that it is a phase – and that phases are bad or wrong or inauthentic – is not only biphobic to me, but also confusing. Why would desire not based on gender be temporary? Why would desire based on gender be the ideal permanent state? I don’t have anything against monosexual (gay and straight) people – in fact, I’m engaged to one – but I do object to a monosexual-centric imperative.

There is definitely a lot of sensationalism happening in the mainstream media. It’s almost as though journalists can’t figure out any other way to present bisexuals.

You directed the short documentary film On My Skin about a transgender man and his family. Can you tell us more about the film and how it came about?

On My Skin is about my friend Logan Gutierrez-Mock. He and I got our sexuality masters degrees together. For fun, after I graduated, I took a free intro-level film class at a local community center. My fiancée, Kami, is a film-maker, and I love visiting her on sets and watching her in action, so I thought it would be cool to learn how to make one. Logan had just come back from Mexico, where his grandfather is from, and he had blogged about his journey. He was also just starting to transition from female-to-male and had a lot to say about his family and his gender. I decided to make a film based on his blog, and six months later, On My Skin was born and showing at film festivals all over the world. It’s even been translated into Spanish for the showings in Latin America and Spain!

What are the differences for you in working in academia and working in film? Do you prefer one over the other?

Other than giving guest lectures on topics like bisexual health, I don’t work in academia. And, other than directing On My Skin, I wouldn’t say I work in film, either!

What are you working on now?

Currently, outside of being a full-time MBA student, I’m writing a book, getting essays published in various places, and promoting Bisexual Health, which is available on the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force website as a free PDF download. And bringing On My Skin (which is available on my site, amyandre.com) to universities; it’s perfect for Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Sexuality Studies classrooms. Oh, and I’m also planning my wedding. I stay pretty busy. 😉

Sex in the news roundup: Thurston Moore gets Pervy, Katherine Heigl’s sex life, SaSi sex toys, and more

January 20, 2008

“Thurston Moore to Soundtrack Arthouse Erotica Film,” Uncut

Thurston Moore has soundtracked an arthouse erotica film, made by acclaimed New York underground director Richard Kern.

The 60-minute film, titled “Extra Action (And Extra Hardcore)” , is released on DVD on March 18, and features original music from the Sonic Youth guitarist.Kern has collaborated with Moore in the past, directing the gory video for Sonic Youth’s 1984 single “Death Valley ‘69″ and supplying the cover image for their 1986 album“Evol”, which was taken from Kern ’s film “Submit To Me Now” .

Also: ”Thurston Moore gets Pervy,” Synthesis.net

”Marriage boosts Knocked Up star’s sex life,” The Times

Katherine Heigl has confessed her sex life has got “10 times better” since getting married.

The Knocked Up star — who married musician Josh Kelley in December — says her bedroom gymnastics have improved dramatically since tying the knot. She told the US’s Cosmopolitan magazine: “Our sex life has always been phenomenal, but I think it is 10 times better than it was. We understand each other better.”You feel sheltered in the moment, whether you’re being wild and crazy and you’re doing your striptease or it’s more mellow.”

”Teenagers’ cell nudity under fire,” The Salt Lake TribunePolice and school district officials are investigating several Farmington Junior High teenagers who traded nude photos of themselves over cell phones.

The latest incident is the third time this school year that Farmington schools have caught students trading photos of their genitals and other nude shots, said Christopher Williams, a spokesman for the Davis School District.

“This type of technology creates problems,” Williams said. “Imagine being a teacher trying to teach a class and you’ve got students sharing inappropriate photos of each other. You’re not going to have the attention of the students.”

A parent recently found the explicit photos on a child’s cell phone and contacted police with concerns about the material, said Farmington police Lt. Shane Whitacker. The photos were traced to 13- and 14-year-old students enrolled at Farmington Junior High School, he said. Both boys and girls were involved.

”Sex, Lies and Contraception: The Male Pill,” Blowfish Blog, Greta Christina

If I were a single guy, dating and screwing around, I wouldn’t want to leave the contraception question in the hands of some woman I’d just met, either. I mean, think about it. If, as a woman, I wouldn’t trust some strange guy who told me, “Don’t worry, baby, I’m on the pill” —

then why on earth should men trust some strange woman to tell them the same thing? The consequences for men of an unwanted pregnancy aren’t as intense as they are for women . . . but they’re not negligible. (Can you say, “child support”?)

And I think that might point to the real market for the male pill. (Or patch, or injection, or however the drug winds up getting delivered.)

Mark thinks that, even if pharmaceutical researchers could make it effective, male hormonal contraception will always be a niche market, mainly limited to men in committed long-term relationships with women who trust them enough to leave the contraception in their hands. But while I can see his point, I think he may be overlooking another key market: the market of single men who want control of their own damn reproduction, just as much as women do. I think the biggest market for the male pill might well be single men who want the moral equivalent of a temporary vasectomy: a way to guarantee that they won’t get stuck with offspring they didn’t expect or want.

”The Roots of Western Pornography,” Marianna Beck, Libido Films blog

Prosecutions against pornography were largely haphazard in England during the 18th century, although the publication of pornography was judicially declared to be an offense of common law. As noted, Memoirswas successfully driven underground without any legal prosecution and, generally speaking, there seems to have been little government interference in regard to publications described as bawdy or licentious. The main exception, of course, was if sexual activity found itself mixed in with politics and/or blasphemy. Although the major campaigns against obscenity didn’t start taking shape until the beginning of the 19th century, it was clear that the winds of tolerance were shifting as the 18th century ended. One of the more perceptible changes occurred in 1787, when King George III issued a proclamation against vice, exhorting the public to “suppress all loose and licentious prints, books, and publications dispensing poison to the minds of the young and the unwary, and to punish publishers and vendors thereof.”

”Sex-ed effort in Glen Cove focuses on Latinos,” Newsday

For Blanca Recinos, doing laundry in Glen Cove has become an opportunity to lecture about sex education.

Armed with brochures and pamphlets from Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, Recinos talks to her Latino peers about the prevention of pregnancy, HIV, AIDS and human papillomavirus. Recinos, a six-year resident of Glen Cove, is one of 14 women recruited by Planned Parenthood of Nassau County as part of a new, Spanish-language marketing campaign to inform the Latino community in the city and the surrounding area about the services the health center offers and to draw them in. ”The community needs plenty of information in this regard,” said Recinos, 39. “At the very least I can talk to them a bit and hope that it stays on their minds.

”‘Sensual Intelligence’ Gives New SaSi Sex Toy an Erotic Edge,” Regina Lynn, Wired.com

But we’re finally starting to see sexual appliances that can compete in coolness with The Sharper Image’s kids-of-all-ages catalog, although not necessarily with the Roomba robotic vacuum.

British company Je Joue launched a new product, the SaSi, at the Adult Entertainment Expo last week in Las Vegas. If the original Je Joue oral-sex simulator is like a 60-GB iPod with multiple playlists you design yourself, the SaSi is like an iPod Nano with an automated Most Popular playlist.

The SaSi takes the best of the Je Joue — soft surface material, firm massage finger, sensual movements — and simplifies the control so all you have to do is press a button to say “yay” or “nay” to a particular movement. It also has buttons to control speed and to add or remove vibration.

Violet Blue blasts abstinence only education

January 16, 2008

There were several topics I had hoped to include in Best Sex Writing 2008 that didn’t make it in (among them last year’s various political sex scandals), and one was sex education and abstinence-only education. I had on my list Amy DePaul’s Alternet article on secondary virginity but couldn’t get the rights to it. There’s been lots of great stuff written about abstinence-only education of late, and here’s an example from Violet Blue, also a contributor to BSW (I hope to have an interview with her here soon). The column is called “Abstiencne does not make the heart grow fonder.” And I used a photo of her with a cupcake just because I love them. For some positive and comprehensive looks at sex ed, visit Ellen Friedrichs’s www.sexedvice.com, Heather Corinna’s Scarleteen, (Heather is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and you can read my interview with her here) and check out the work of Logan Levkoff, author of Third Base Ain’t What It Used to Be.

Here’s a snippet from Violet’s column:

Abstinence education is a failure, but at the 11th hour of 2007 it still got a huge pile of Bush-approved money.

How much cash are we talking about to pay teen girls to give their hoo-hahs a Coke
and a smile? (Make mine a double, thanks.)

In April 2007, Massachusetts declined the yearly allotment of the U.S. government’s $700,000 per-state grant for abstinence education in public schools. (Abstinence education discourages the use of any birth control, such as condoms.) This was just after a 20-page Columbia University study exposed that abstinence curriculum statements about condom use are medically inaccurate. The American Civil Liberties Union, tired of the Department of Health and Human Services ignoring repeated warnings about incorrect data, sent the department a letter threatening legal action. The ACLU is trying to get the DHHS to stop disseminating bad information — because doing so violates
federal law
.

At the same time, Randall Tobias, President Bush’s abstinence-promoting, condom-discouraging “AIDS Czar” and deputy secretary of state, resigned after admitting he was a customer of the famed “DC Madam” when the escort service was about to surrender its records. The Washington Post reported that the government spends $176 million a year on abstinence programs. Let us ask ourselves, is that anywhere near what Tobias made as the (former) head of Eli Lilly?

Read the whole column