Week 9: What about pleasure and desire in sexual/reproductive health?

Please post your blog response to the week 9 readings on bringing pleasure and desire into sexual and reproductive health research and programming here.

Also, for those groups presenting earlier in the semester–please note that presentations begin in Week 10, so start preparing for your presentations now and don’t hesitate to get in touch with me if you’d like to meet to discuss your presentation!

28 thoughts on “Week 9: What about pleasure and desire in sexual/reproductive health?

  1. pinkis123

    After reading the Feminism Psychology article entitled “Discourses of desire as governmentality: Young women, sexuality and the significance of safe spaces” I have a lot of thoughts. This is a very interesting and controversial topic, for women themselves as well as how women are viewed. First off, I find it quite mind boggling how with each new year, it seems that childhood is getting shorter. What I mean by this is that the age for females to display themselves as adults and sexually desirable women gets younger and younger. When I was in middle school, I wheeled around a backpack on wheels and worried about playing with my friends, I was still a kid. Nowadays, girls in middle school are trying to look “hot” and wear make-up and revealing clothing. The presentation of young girls has definately changed into a more sexual appearance. This is mostly due to the intense sexual display in the media, from the pop stars and models. Low cut shirts and short skirts are “sexy” and if that’s what the famous people in magazines and tv are wearing, then why shouldnt everyone else? I definately believe that expressing your sexual desire as a women is important but it is also personal, it should not be public and based on other peoples opinions and beliefs. The media has one set image as sexy and it should be okay to not have to obey those standards. Also, there are just way too many dirty sexual slang words towards women’s sexuality- such as cunt and slut. Sexuality is being portrayed in such a dirty and negative manner, such that women are “sexual objects” and not sexually desired or desirable. Women have the right to desire and to be desired and express themselves, but not be portrayed the way the media has chosen. Todays society is very consumer driven, and so who knows if women are just following the media and fashion trends at school, or if they actually want to be displayed sexually because they desire it. It is crazy how intensly the consumer industry is benefiting from todays sexuality trends.
    Overall, I just feel as if the representations of sexuality are disrepectful, particularly the nicknames, which are even found in comics, bands, and websites.

  2. Woo

    I found some of this weeks readings to related to the blog post Pete suggested a couple of weeks ago. I have placed my comments under this post and suggest looking at it.

  3. Nemo

    I thought the article; The Pleasure Deficit: Revisiting the “Sexuality Connection” in Reproductive Health was enlightening. I had never thought of women’s reproductive health as from the angle of including feelings. Articles and campaigns I have come across have always been focused on disease prevention, pregnancy prevention and the effectiveness of contraception at accomplishing these goals. I don’t think I have noticed in my readings any mention of how a woman feels about a particular contraception, if it changes any sexual feelings making it either uncomfortable or pleasurable. The only information on contraceptives and how they may make a difference to sex life is that men tend not to like condoms because they dull sensitivity. It seems to me as if there is a gaping hole in knowledge when it comes to women, contraception and how they can make a difference to their sex life. I changed my gynecologist for reasons along these lines that she would not listen to me and recommend a choice of contraception that I would use and be happy with in my life. I just could not understand why she was like that. I was privileged though as I had a choice to walk away and some education behind me. When I think of young women being given Depo it makes me cringe, have they be told that a side effect is that there is a chance they just won’t want to have sex anymore and that they may become depressed? Depo to me was awful, I didn’t know any better at the time and no one discussed with me that it could affect my libido and my emotions both of which it did in a very negative way. The sad part was I didn’t even realize it was the Depo I thought that it was me going through a phase, going crazy I don’t know what. It dawned on me about a month after I had stopped having the Depo shots when I began to feel alive again and normal.
    Regardless of whether contraception is being used to prevent pregnancy or disease it just seems so obvious that a person’s feelings on how the particular contraception affects her personally will determine usage. Although the article did point out a few community health programs that were trying to bridge the sexuality connection on the whole health services and public health have medicalized women’s reproduction and have left out a key component, the woman.
    After writing this blog I checked out the web site from the article http://www.the-pleasure-project.org It is public health as I have never seen it. Check it out for yourself!

  4. Liz

    After reading the article “Education and Desire: Still Missing after All These Years,” I find myself questioning and analyzing my own sexual education in school. I don’t remember much from high school health. That class is a blur of doodles I drew in my notebook and uninterested glances at the clock while waiting for class to be over. Considering I am a Public Health major now, and was as interested in health then as I am now, I find this my experience a little ironic.
    Although in my situation abstinence was not the only method taught, it was strongly encouraged. The abstinence-only programs described through this model deny individuals, most likely young teens, the knowledge they need to make safe and healthy decisions regarding sex. I find this appalling. It was mentioned that when contraceptives were discussed that only their rates of failure were brought up, not how to use them or how well they worked if used correctly. The censoring of information in the classroom seems only to hinder learning. If safe sex practices and sexual health is not being taught in schools, then I am not sure teenagers will actively seek out the information on their own. If an open dialogue was an option in schools when teaching sexual education, I think students may become more comfortable in discussing these types of issues. Not only would the be more comfortable in a classroom setting, but also with parents, health care professionals, and especially with sexual partners where comfort and communication are highly important. The more open we are as a society to this type of discussion the more comfortable and acceptable it is to discuss the pleasure and desire of sex, which is taboo in most sexual education programs.
    I found it difficult to accept the abstinence-only programs because they were not inclusive to all sexual relationships. Only heterosexual couples who were married were seen as having the right to have sex. This just doesn’t seem acceptable. It creates a large stigma for individuals who may never get married. Does this mean they should never have sex? I certainly hope not. Although I see the benefits of waiting to have sex until an individual may be more mature and ready for the responsibility, I don’t see the importance of being married in a heterosexual relationship.

  5. Jazzy06

    I was very interested in Anita Harris’s “Discourses of Desire as Governmentality” article and its relation to our discussion of body politics. I believe that the most important statement Harris makes is within the first few paragraphs, where she illustrates her belief in the light in which female sexuality is viewed. Formerly, according to Harris, women’s sexuality was only viewed as something to be “monitored and regulated” (Harris, p 39.). However, they are now seen as a way to maintain and fulfill desire. This view shows the immense growth in the ways in which the female body and female sexuality is viewed, not only by males, but by women as well.

    However, I would like to believe that this occurred because of more than our surrounding culture. While it is important for females of all ages to be able to express their love for their body and their sexuality in whichever way they deem necessary, it does not have to revolve around dressing provocatively and being seen as fashionable, as Harris describes in comparison to pop stars and other cultural icons.

    I believe that women should have the right to be described as ‘desire’, both in the ways of being desired and having desires, as well as ‘valuable’, in terms of members of society, and members of the family. Women should not have to choose to be defined by one or the other, or to be limited by the images of being either a slut or a subordinate.

  6. Lilly

    This week’s readings were very intense, but i was really interested in ” Discourses of desire as as governmentality: Young women, sexuality and the significance of safe spaces”. The image problem in the article was just woman themselves, how they explore their bodies and social behaviors. I mean it’s time someone praised and defended reckless teenage girls and young women who behave badly, dress provocatively, engage in risky sex, and get pregnant. When I was growing up, I went to an all girl’s school and I remember there was a strict rule about how we had to dress up but now a days, I think girls in high school or even middle school don’t think that there is nothing wrong with pelvic display, push-up bras, Gos-ford miniskirts, low-cut tops, bare legs, and G-strings or even buttock cleavage. a female’s body is at its fertility peak between the ages of 17 and 23. So when young middle girl advertise or flaunt her sexuality she tries to show as if she is all grown up as a young woman. Children are the most important asset in our culture, so society should be structured around this central reality. Instead, we are structuring society around consumerism – a treadmill of bigger homes, more possessions, more sexual displays, more glamor – for which we run the risk of becoming impoverished. I definitely believe that media plays a big role in displaying sexuality in women. For example, the pressure put on women through ads, television, film and new media to be sexually attractive—and sexually active—is profound.Thanks to beauty pageants such as “Miss World” and “Miss Universe”, as well as locally organized beauty pageants, teenage girls now define beauty by the shape and size of their bodies with the impression that being skinnier is sexier. Provocative images of woman’s partly clothed or naked bodies are especially prevalent in advertising. Sexuality has always been shown very dirty and in a negative manner, where women are portrayed as sexual objects when their bodies and their sexuality are linked to products that are bought and sold. I think women should always be given the right to show their desire, it is very sad when women are just seen or used just as sex objects.

  7. Finkle

    This week’s readings on pleasure and sexual desire in sexual and reproductive health were an interesting set of readings that got me thinking! In the Discourse of desire as Governmentality piece we see, just as in the literature regarding contraception, how well intentioned feminist agenda may have hurt us. The author mentions today’s world filled with sexually confident pop stars such destiny’s child. I always wondered why such a group as the destiny’s child that were known for their songs of empowerment and the independence of women shot videos in which the singers were scantily clad. The videos, in my opinion, always sent a contradictory message of the notion of being independent women yet at the same time seeking attention from the men they were independent from. The author mentions how disconnecting the dialogue of desire from reproduction as serving the interests of the new labor market thus idealizing delayed motherhood for women. This reminded me of the class discussion on the valuation of motherhood as well as the concept of controlling the reproduction of women through contraceptives. The article on “The pleasure Deficit: Revisiting the sexuality connection in reproductive health was another good read. In my experience reading literature on HIV/AIDS and behavior patterns concerning condom use, I too have noticed the notion of a condom curtailing a man sexual experience come up often. This is usually related to their reasons for disliking the use of condoms during intercourse. I guess I did not question the one sidedness of the research that left out reasons why a woman may or may not use a condom. This may have been due to the fact that as we all know the burden of HIV/AIDS lies in patriarchal Sub-Saharan Africa. In my mind the notion of a woman’s sexual pleasure as affecting their contraceptive use was foreign to me because it has generally been absent from the literature. The author mentions giving attention to relational and social factors when researching reasons for women’s contraceptive choices. She mentions a reason for women’s refusal to use condoms because it may diminish a man’s pleasure which also plays into a woman’s own sexual enjoyment. I was enraged to read about sex technique workshops for married women in countries where the spread of HIV is exacerbated by men’s extramarital affairs. My problem with the workshops is the premise of a woman’s sexual knowledge somehow curtailing men’s infidelity. In a way I felt the burden being put back on the woman as it has been in these cultures and the well intentioned programs still in the end revolving around the man without addressing his behavior. On reading the article on “Looking at the real thing”, I still do not concur with the argument on the inclusion of pornography in sexual education as helpful. While I agree that sexuality education is de-eroticized, using pornography that objectifies women in my opinion is not necessarily a step in the right direction either.

  8. ILoveBueno

    The article “Education and Desire: Still Missing after All These Years” highlights many of the problems with sexual education programs in public education today. I found it interesting that despite the increased sexualization of images in the media, abstinence based sex education increased by about 20% since the 1980s. It’s not just disappointing but outrageous to think that even though most studies of abstinence based education prove that it doesn’t work in preventing teens from having sex the government still provides so much money to this antiquated form of education.
    Another interesting fact from this article was that two-thirds of the AOUM programs contained basic scientific errors designed to scare children into choosing abstinence. I learned in one of my other public health classes that it’s de riguer in health education not to use scare tactics because scare tactics don’t work. However scare tactics seem commonplace in AOUM programs. Why does the government even waste any money, much less millions of dollars, on educational tools that are scientifically proven to not work? The officials that allowed funding for these programs have some twisted sense of morality in which we can’t teach kids about sex but its okay to allow overly sexualized images into the media and think kids won’t see them or be affected by them.
    I was overly affected by my own beliefs while reading this article and I started to get angry. I was especially angered by the fact that initially programs that received federal AOUM funding were supposed to be able to show a reduction in pregnancy and STDs among students who went through the educational programming. However as soon as the DHHS realized that no such reductions would be made they stepped away from using these markers as tools to judge the success of the programs. Instead they judged the success of the program on the ability to create an environment that supports teens decisions to postpone sex until marriage which isn’t really provable in the way that a reduction of teen pregnancy and STDs is. That seems like a huge shortcoming of the program and a very backhanded way of the DHHS to pretend like their programs work when they don’t.
    Moving onto another article the article about safe spaces seemed a bit out of date to me. It discussed how women use zines to talk about their own sexuality however there are several mass media magazines out now that openly discuss sexuality from a female standpoint and I’m definitely not talking about Cosmo. I’m thinking more along the lines of magazines that let females view there sexuality outside of a format that primarily takes into account how important it is to make men happy. I feel like discussion of female sexuality isn’t so much underground anymore and that it’s more openly discussed than this article lets on.

  9. Pearls

    In this week’s readings I found them very interesting because I have never thought about sexuality in some of the ways that were brought up in these articles. The article “The Pleasure Deficit: Revisiting the ‘Sexuality Connection’ in Reproductive Health” by Jenny A. Higgins and Jennifer S. Hirsch discusses how men and women have different views on what pleasures them during intercourse. The differences that are made in this article, some I found to be surprising, while others I did not think were something that I had not heard before. I thought that it was surprising to hear that women’s sexual autonomy is altered by gender. I suppose I knew that this was true, but I never thought about it in that way, or thought of it as a problem. During vaginal intercourse I had always thought that it was normal for men to not want to use a condom, but I never thought that it would be a problem for most women. I thought that it was surprising to read that women would prefer that men do not use a male condom because it is seen as incompatible with sex that is supposed to be intimate, loving, and monogamous. On the other hand if women are not in a monogamous relationship that is based on love and intimacy, this would have to change a girls opinion on whether or not she would want the male to use a condom.
    The second article that I found most interesting was “‘Looking at the Real Thing’: Young men, pornography, and sexuality education” by Louisa Allen. This article was most interesting because I thought it did a great job at discussing how sexuality is viewed in schools. The way that sexuality is taught in school. The study sent out questionnaires that simply asked the boys who they thought should teach them about sexuality. There are many things that I know I would have said, but these boys were saying things such as pimps and strippers. I never would have thought about this, because it is looked down upon in society, but when I thought about it some more it began to make sense. These pimps and strippers, as the boys called them, would be the most experienced in this area. In schools there are very strict rules on how sexuality needs to be viewed at their age. On the other hand when the kids leave school, they are not censored to what they can and cannot see in terms of sexuality. Therefore I agree that schools should increase what they are teaching boys and girls so that they can make their own decisions in the proper setting. These two articles I found to be the most interesting this week.

  10. Boston

    The article “The Pleasure Deficit: Revisiting the “Sexuality
    Connection” in Reproductive Health” brought up several alarming aspects of promoting sexual pleasure. The article said that about 80 million of the total (210 million) prengancies in the world each year are unplanned. These unplanned pregnancies were not due to contraceptive failure, but lack of use. This statistic is extremely alarming. They go on to say that the average woman has atleast one abortion in her lifetime. This is shocking to me. Although I know that abortion is a private subject i have not heard of one person I know ever getting an abortion. It is frightening that people will go to such lengths just to have an increase in sexual pleasure or even just to further please their partner. Aside from unwanted pregnancy, it is also important for individuals to protect themselves from STDs. Since the 1980s it seems like people have become more aware of the dangers of STDsbut it is important to note that they are still a major concern. The age range that is at the greatest risk is people in their 20s probably because this is the time when people are switching partners and finding what they want in a partner. The lack of familiarity with one of these partners can lead to pressure to please them and take risks that you wouldnt normally take. There have been many organizations that have taken interest in promoting the use of condoms, unfortunately some of these campains have backfired. It think that condom companies are now dong a better job of advertising pleasure. A lot of condoms are now directed towards female pleasure or increased pleasure for both partners by using different lubrications and textures. Hopefully these campains will be more successful than those that were mentioned in this article in reducing unwanted pregnancies and STDs.

  11. Sand

    Louisa Allen’s work examines what you young men wrote on a survey. The young’s men call for pornography. Allen writes that the boys wrote what they did for shock value (to challenge the school authority) and to help manifested a concept of masculinity. I agree on both accounts, but I think Allen should of looked closer at how this concept of masculinity can be limiting and often harmful.
    I liked Allen’s analysis of one boys comment “Should I take the dirt track if there is blood on the road.” And also Allen’s analysis of the comment “Teach us how to hit them G spots on a bitch.” Both comments do seem to have some need to them. One student is asking about anal sex, and asking about a women’s sexual life during her period. Another student is asking about female pleasure. Both questions, are in my mind very important for high school student’s to learn from their sexual education programs. But it’s very important to view how the students asked it. I liked that Allen noted that by calling the women a bitch, the student was making her unimportant. And therefore, the only reason female sexual pleasure would be viewed as valuable to him, would be because of trophy collecting. And I agree that by not simply asking directly about anal sex and a women’s sex life during her period, the student is objectify his partner.
    I find these problems, about gender equality in regardless to actual sex, are not limited to young males. These problems, and similar problems are echoed all across. Many females even seem to add to the growing problem, based on what I assume is internalized oppression. I think that if sexual education where more comprehensive, educators teaching this field may have a better chance at positively effecting the future.
    Likewise, I think it is important to talk to talk about porn in sexual education. Because it’s a part of many people’s sexual lives. Maybe people don’t consider part of people’s active sexual lives, because porn is usually used when alone. But it’s important, because it plays a role in shaping expectations, concepts and ideas of what sex is like, which will affect how people approach sex.

    I think viewing porn in class, may not be such a horrible idea. But various types of porn would have to be displayed, and questions would have to address the obvious false of the main stream porn industry. “Why is the camera always focused on the female? How come they don’t show a lot of the guy? Why do they often ejaculate on the women’s face?” This could be a terrify experience for some students; it would have to be done in some groups, in a very safe environment.

    But to be quite honest, I don’t think many adult (let alone students) truly understand themes human sexuality. I think most people are very confused as to why are both attracted and disgusted by things like porn. I think adults, like the students we are raising, have lots questions to still answer.

  12. HM

    In the article “Discourses of Desire as Governmentality: Young Women, Sexuality and the Significance of Safe Spaces” the author articulated the need for safe spaces where young women can talk about and embody sexual desire. What was problematic about this article was its position that there are places in popular media for girls’ sexual desire. In particular the quote, “Many popular forums now exist for the articulation of young female sexual desire in images, speech, and personal style. Overwhelmingly, however, young women’s apparently new found sassiness and sexual autonomy is spoken through fashion, television shows, music, and books”(40). Many feminists would actually say that the representations of female sexual desire in the media aren’t real or designed by women, but are actually created by larger forces in society and by the desires and ideas of female sexuality of males. I think this position makes the entire argument, that there should be safe spaces for female sexual desire in educational forums, a somewhat flawed argument. Yes, there should be safe spaces for females to articulate their sexual desire in education, but the idea that there are places in popular media for girls to articulate sexual desire is naïve. The female sexuality represented by the media ignores many aspects of female sexuality and doesn’t create space for young females to create their own desires and sexuality, much less to articulate them. In popular media, if you are a female, you must want to be like “sexually confident young pop stars” (40). This message ignores women as desiring sex and presents them only as desirable sex objects to be viewed by men, and young women buy this because it is the only sexuality they are being allowed. The article seems to present the problem with discourses of female desire as being that it doesn’t allow for a desire that may include teen motherhood or other family responsibilities. Young motherhood isn’t the only part of young female sexuality being ignored. There are safe spaces for women to speak about sexual desire that is real, but these spaces, like some websites and feminist magazines like Bitch and Bust, but the majority of young women have never heard of these spaces and rely on women’s magazines like Cosmo or Glamour to tell them what they should want or how they should feel instead of promoting searching for and thinking about what an individual truly desires. I found the talk about ‘zines as safe spaces dated, but even back in the early to mid nineties when girls were creating zines, there was only a small market for them compared to the wide reach of major women’s magazines.
    The article that I found hardest to separate in my mind from my own opinions and experiences was “Sexuality Education and Desire: Still Missing After All These Years.” I’m so in favor of comprehensive sex education and against AOUM programs that I found the positions put forward in the article common sense. The statistics that the article presented made me wonder even more how some people can favor AOUM programs when it seems so clear that they are ineffective and dangerous and ignore the idea that young people have sex because they want to.

  13. Mew

    I found it very interesting to think about how sexual education programs “de-eroticize” sex and sexuality as discussed in the Allen article on Young Men, Pornography, and Sexuality Education. I feel there is a great tendency for sex education programs to focus on contraception and pregnancy or STD prevention, which is very beneficial, but as Allen notes it also tends to emphasize “girls’ responsibility” (79) and often boys don’t feel this information pertains to them as much. Additionally, there is little mention of the emotional, desirable, and erotic aspects of sex for both young women and young men.

    Allen explains how many sex education programs “de-eroticize bodies through cross-sectional drawings and cartoons, downplays the sexual, and conveys a sense of indecency and shame in nakedness” (78). This is not helpful for the real, lived sexual experiences people encounter. I’m not so sure if bringing mainstream pornography into the classroom will help this, but real pictures of naked bodies, and better descriptions of sexualities and sexual encounters may be useful. However, Sand’s comment about how porn is a part of many people’s sexual lives made me think that it maybe bringing pornography into the classroom could be a positive experience, if time is taken to analyze dominant discourses within them. As Allen says, “engaging students may help to minimize [pornography’s] power in affecting dominant discourses of sexuality” (80).

    On a personal note, the discussion of masculinities within this article made me really think about how the men I know play out dominant discourses of “hegemonic masculinity” with their sexual language. I can’t help but think about my old boyfriend and how around all of his male friends, they would make constant jokes about “slaying bitches” and make other various, vulgar comments hinting at sexual violence against women. But when he wasn’t around his male friends, his language was much different, and he was more concerned about my sexual needs and whether he was satisfying them. Though I knew it was a “joke,” I could never figure out why he had to speak so nastily about women and sex in front of his friends. In thinking about it now, I feel like a lot of men feel pressured to uphold dominant discourses of sexuality, where men are in control and women are expendable, or they must at least make jokes about it with their male peers as a way of affirming their knowledge and power on the subject. To me, this issue of sexual language and dominant discourses on sexuality is a very serious concern that should be addressed.

  14. lolo

    Although I’m totally for comprehensive sex education that takes into account all genders and sexual orientations, I always find an element of hesitation when talking about teenage sexuality. In theory I’m very interested in incorporating sexual pleasure into sex education curricula, but I also can’t help but think what it is that parents want. I know that comprehensive sex education is what I would want for my kids, but since working in a school system and at a summer camp, it’s incredibly difficult to cast aside what a parent wants for their kids when it differs from your own ideas. We’ve talked about how you can’t tell someone whether to have kids and how to raise them, but what about the parents’ perspective? In the Fine & McClelland article they include an important survey by Kaiser and NPR of what kind of sex education teenagers want, but don’t include what their parents might prefer. Although they do include many statistics as to why abstinence only education is harmful to young people, they don’t include qualitative data on the parents and what values they are teaching at home. Abstinence only sex education might not be encouraged by parents, but I’m not sure they would then want education that focuses on pleasure. A big issue in my home state of Maine right now is gay marriage and whether it would be taught in schools. Though I’m not sure exactly what is meant by ‘teaching’ marriage (except for the fact that supporters say it won’t happen in schools), it seems very unlikely that students will be taught about pleasure and desire. I definitely believe that it should be, however, but in conjunction with safety in terms of violence and also disease. I think that responsible relationships should be taught and that students should be taught how to make decisions on their own and that a big component of that is sexual pleasure. I’m just very skeptical as to whether such discourse would be allowed in public schools and I agree with the Fine & McClelland article that other forums (such as after school activities/groups and camps) should also be considered as important places for education as well.

  15. Blush

    I think sexuality is and always has been, something very personal and subjective, whether one is a male or female- eroticized images and media to me just seem to be a form of sex for people who are sexually unsatisfied in some way or another. Anita Harris’s article touched upon how young women’s sexuality has always been “monitored and regulated” and I think this is especially significant in examining how sexuality is viewed in this culture: both as unspeakable and as totally pervasive and dominant in the media and culture. For women in particular, there seems always to be the constant, nagging paradox of being frigid and virginal or being sexy and hyper-sexual. Of course almost none of us are, in reality, simply one or the other, but it often seems that if a girl isn’t sexy enough, she is socially punished in the form of rejection and teasing and if she is too sexy, she is viewed as “easy” and is often taken advantage of. A balance is difficult to find especially in the early teen years where girls are most self-conscious and most easily susceptible to the hazards of pervasive and unrealistic media images and scenarios.

    While Harris states that women are “afforded more opportunities to speak, enact, and display sexual desire than ever before”, I think it is indeed important to recognize that there is a time and a place for sexuality and that not everything in life needs to revolve around sex, as is so often the case in media representations of human interactions. In terms of sex education and preparing youths to be sexually healthy and responsible, I think honesty is always best. Teaching about every contraceptive method and also speaking about the benefits of meaningful, loving relationships would do a lot more good, in my opinion, than showing teenagers the vulgarities of porn as one of their first encounters with sex.

    While I’m obviously happy that women now have more freedom to express their sexuality, I do think that sex education should emphasize the benefits of relationships and of being “ready” to have sex, as sex comes with many emotional and physical after-effects. Ultimately, however, the choice to have sex, or to do anything sexual, is the choice of the individual and the best we can do is provide honest, accessible information and resources.

    I also thought “The Pleasure Deficit” article was interesting and touched upon the fact that the pleasure aspect of sex is mostly geared toward serving men for their sexual pleasure when in reality sex can and should be just as pleasurable for women! It’s sad that comparatively little care or thought is given to how many contraceptives can affect a woman’s libido and a woman’s ability to enjoy sex. Just imagine if a man was expected to use a contraceptive that lowered his libido! Although condoms do arguably take away some of the closeness and sensation of sex, they do not actually hormonally lower libido. It’s up to the couple to decide if condoms are the right way to go!

  16. cupcake

    As I read the readings for this week I could not help but think about myself and my own upbringing. My high school wasn’t the best with sexual education, but I did receive it. My mother was also very involved and encouraged me to ask questions about sexuality. I read these stories about young men and women who do not know any better, have inadequate sexual information, and make poor decisions and cannot help but feel bad for them. It is a shame that this country is so divided in sexual topics. The youth are truly disadvantaged by this.

    One article that comes to mind is “Looking at the real thing: Young men, pornography, and sexuality education”. I appreciated and enjoyed that the author did not reprimand the comments made by the boys or somehow show that young boys are sex-crazed, irresponsible individuals. Although the boys’ comments shows some insights as to how sexual education functions in New Zealand, I think it is also a cry for help. Clearly these teenagers do not know the correct information. In such a modern age, it is time for an education overhaul.

  17. Arewa

    While reading, “Discourses of desires of govern-mentality”, the religion of Islam kept popping up in my head. The reason for this is because in the religion of Islam, Muslim females are suppose to cover up wearing something that does not show skin and is not overly tight. The Qu’ran says that women should lower their gaze and dress modestly. But with the help of the media and even people around us it is extremely hard for women in general to follow this rule. For example, the fashion trends that designers provide for young women these days are fitted and tight which shows the figure of us females. I remember when I was younger jeans use to hang above my belly button, but as I grew older I learned of different styles such as low-rise jeans or hip hungers which are jeans that fit below your belly button and are extremely low. Models and celebrities also play a role, because these are the people who are glamored up in front of use who we want to look or be like, just because they look pretty. I was watching a talk show that showed the behind the scenes of models and their photo shoots. We were able to see the excessive amount of make-up the make-up artist put on these females, the amount of weave put in their hair and what shocked me the most was the editing the camera man did on these photos. I saw that they expand the size of the woman’s chest and their butt to make them look bigger than they really are and also they decrease the size of their waist to make them look smaller than they really are. You’d be surprised on how many people didn’t know that information. But I wish things like this were spoken about more in school, because little girls these days are feeding into the media and are trying to be these women. “Whatever glitters isn’t always gold”. Just because these women look beautiful doesn’t mean its real. And sometimes we need to blame the parents who actually allow for this to go on. It starts off with young girls putting on make-up and wearing the tight clothing. Next thing you know they are having sex at age 11.

    On an entertainment blog site, I recently saw an article about an 11 year old girl who just recently gave birth to a child. It’s hard for me to believe that an 11 year old is already thinking about sex. That’s just crazy to me. When I was 11 I was worried about doing well in school. I never even had a boyfriend yet at that age and to think, people this young at that age are already having sexually intercourse is very bizarre.

  18. faves06

    This week’s readings were very interesting. I had never noticed that sexual desire had never been asked of me when I have been on the birth control pill for years. My doctor had never asked me anything beyond protecting myself during sex. It is unfortunate that women are being taught abstinence only and not being educated on how sex can be pleasurable. I believe that this is why young women are seeing risky sex as more fun or why they show themselves as a sexual object. I think that if women are taught the true potential pleasure sex can have as well as safe ways to show your sexuality, then we would eliminate a lot of negative consequences on our youth.

    I had never been taught or asked much about sexual pleasure until I became an Athena’s Goddess, which many of you may know, sells Home Novelties, mostly for women and couples. It is unbelievable how much money this industry makes but how women do not know their bodies at all. Some of these women are in their 40’s or older and are learning how to have pleasurable sex for the first time. Many of them also don’t know how they can talk to their partners to make sex enjoyable for both partners.

    Today’s media, in my opinion, has both a positive and negative influence on women’s sexual health. On the positive side are shows like Sex and the City that promote women actually enjoying sex and having their sexual needs met openly. On the negative side, young women’s aren’t getting the education before seeing such shows and don’t know how to protect themselves while being promiscuous.

    I think there is a huge problem with sexual pleasure and its discourses today. If there was more upfront information for women and a better way of teaching them about their bodies, not just menstruation in fifth grade and abstinence in high school, women will be much more comfortable with their sexual self.

  19. the_fallen

    When was the last time you made a face when you saw the erectile dysfunction commercial on television? Who wants to see “old” people taking Viagra so that they can “do it”? The “new kind of citizens” is what young women are being called because of their portrayal in popular culture. Young women’s bodies are used as economic purposes because it triggers an increase in production and consumption. Their bodies are promoted everywhere therefore leaving no space for the older generations of women. Nowadays, older women are not really portrayed in popular media as much as young women well except in few cases such as the porn industry. Young women’s sexual desire is controlled and marketed everywhere. Women are sexual objects to which consumerism relies on for tremendous profits. This is implemented in lifestyles using fashion, television shows and young celebrities.

    When was the last time you looked in the mirror and wished you could kick ass in heels like Buffy the vampire slayer? Well I have but there is one problem, I can’t even keep my heels on for 30 minutes let along kick some vampire or zombie’s ass in them. It’s all about making money and one way to do that is using women and controlling them especially their bodies.

    So apparently, if women are going to contribute to the economy, they need to plan motherhood at a later stage in their lives, therefore teen pregnancy is a big no. But how can we change these beliefs and grips on women? Reading about sexual desire and young female’s bodies is much easier than actually doing something to change those beliefs or behaviors. Though, I don’t think it is impossible. There are advocators out there trying to change those perspectives, trying to remind young women that they do not need to look like Lara Croft but they only need to love their bodies.

    Reading the article was very interesting and it was like a reminder since I knew these information before but than again sometimes it was shocking to not only read about it but to see that we are so caught up in dressing like Lara Croft that we forgot, or don’t realize that there is something much more powerful to that.

  20. Smile

    In Discourses of Desire as Governmentality: Young Women, Sexuality and the Significance of Safe Spaces , Anita Harris raised issues in which women face on a daily basis. She states that “young women’s apparently new-found sassiness and sexual autonomy is spoken through fashion, television shows, music and books.” Women are constantly seen as sexual objects through all aspects of life especially young women where the media is one of the main sources of outlet for many girls. They want to follow the latest trends or fads that are happening now and the influences of the media and what not have shaped much of the culture we live in now. Having the shortest skirt or showing the most skin is what you need to do to get noticed. It amazes me how the media and what not have influenced all aspects of how lives to even the way we dress on a daily basis. Women like Brittany Spears as mentioned in the reading have this feminist message that women are sexual subjects has become bound up with a neoliberal message about autonomy being well expressed through consumer choice. That this encourages the elements of hegemony that women face on a daily basis and how men’s perceptions of women are based on these messages.
    I begin to reflect on my generation and my younger sister generation and how her generation is much more sexual and promiscuous than how mine has ever been. I see more and more young girls having sex at such a young age and doing things that I never thought about or even knew about until I was much older and my sister knew more than I did at a young age. Although we are about 2-3 years apart I felt that through the years the worse things would get. You also begin to question our society and the images in which children see at such a young age and how it all begins at the home. Also it is so hard at times to get away from all the hype that being to arise over the latest new thing. For example recently the Rihanna fad has come into play and you being to notice more and more young women cute their hair to have that “Rihanna haircut”, or the whole skinny jean fad, where now you see a lot more girls where skinny jeans. You begin to recognize how the media, fashion, and even music place a strong role in all aspects of life especially sexuality and even reproductive health. The reading also suggest how young women need a “safe space” where they need to vent about these misconceptions that they face due to this idea of being sexual objects and speaking out about these things and empowering women more about their sexuality. They need to be careful not to fall under the hegemony but to embrace aspects of themselves in a different way. This reading to helped me realize that we become so influenced by so many different things that aid us in the perceptions we make on a daily basis and how we have to be careful not to let them take over the real issues we face.

  21. Mufasa

    The reading “Discourse of desire as a governmentality: Young women, sexuality and the significance of safe spaces” was very interesting. In today’s society’s, women do dress more freely. The media plays a large role in affecting the way women think of what is appropriate. Women today just follow what media shows without thinking at times. For example, the clothing ads, perfume ads, diet ads, etc. all show women who are thin and link it to beauty. The author discusses how the media is using women as a sex object to sell products and create a norm for beauty. Girls today are dressing more mature for their age. Today you can see girls who are 13 year olds dressing the same as 16 year olds. The childhood for girls has become very narrow. The pressures girls face today are very stressful and brainwashing the mind set of young women. We are living in an extremely materialistic world where women follow whatever they see through media and culture. I feel girls are facing these pressures starting at a very young age.
    When I first came to college I was not exposed to the culture students lived in. it was a little bit of a cultural shock and overwhelming in the beginning. Since I went to a small catholic high school it was very different to see the type of people at UMass. I did feel left out at times in terms of fashion and past experiences but learned the new culture very quickly. Now a days, the women’s bodies are often dismembered into legs, breasts or thighs, reinforcing the message that women are objects rather than whole human beings.
    At the end, I just want to say that advertising and media images that encourage girls to focus on looks and sexuality are harmful to their emotional and physical health.

  22. Hot Chocolate

    This week’s readings were particularly interesting and eye opening. I was definitely drawn to the article “Discourses of Desire as Governmentality: Young Women, Sexuality and the Significance of Safe Spaces.” I am not surprised to read how the media, public and others can convince women to change how they express themselves and change their mindset on when they should be starting a family or having children. It seems to me as if years progress, it has become socially acceptable to have fewer children or none at all. If a women has a higher job position and is able to support herself and be independent, it seems to be more attractive to the public than a woman who is a house wife and takes care of her 3 children. For example, in the song “Miss Independent,” by music artist Ne-yo, the lyrics “kinda woman that want you but don’t need you,” “manicured nails to set the pedicure off
    she’s fly effortlessly,” and “car and a crib she bout to pay em both off
    and her bills are paid on time,” portray the ideal woman in the media today. The lyrics also express how women should appear and keep themselves maintained which can be misleading to many young girls that are listening to this song. Just like this song, other sources such as magazines, tv shows, and music videos influence young minds to dress inappropriate for their age and encourage behaviors such as sex, make-up, and looking “sexy”. I have seen this myself when I visited Pec middle school in Holyoak in the beginning of this semester. I was horrified to see for myself that girls as young as twelve years old were wearing excessive make-up, short shorts, big hoop earrings and revealing clothing. When I was twelve years old, I still shopped with my mother and was never exposed to such things. I think that the influence of the media on these young girls is unacceptable.
    I am glad to read that there are “safe places” for women to express themselves such as blogs, magazines, and websites. These sources provide women with support as well as create a better understanding of each other and new experiences. It also causes others to become more open-minded and accepting of different sexualities.

  23. TEASE

    The article, “‘Looking at the Real Thing’: Young men, pornography, and sexuality education”, made me realize that there is much work needed in sex education courses in schools. Schools are so limited and strict in what can be taught that kids leave the classroom with more unanswered questions about sex. The way that the boys were portraying their curiosities about sex were very disrespectful and immature. These sex education courses can start off by teaching kids respect and manners, as well as using correct terms of sex. By this, they learn not to objectify their partner and appreciate their sexual experiences.

    I think porn would be a great idea to introduce to high school aged kids because majority of them have already been exposed to it. We are taught over and over again that the best thing to practice is abstinence and masturbation. In that age of curiosity, kids tend to look toward porn for experiences because they can’t get that anywhere else. In showing porn in the classroom, I think it is important to also teach the students how porn degrades women and how sex in the real life should not be like that.

    Through these teaching methods, the students should leave the classroom feeling comfortable with their bodies, how to handle their partner’s body, respect for themselves and their partner, and how to have fun and safe sex.

    What also caught my eye through the readings was the article, “The pleasure deficit: Revisiting the ’sexuality connection’ in reproductive health”. I do agree that many women, like me, do not like the “feel” of condoms and would rather have sex without it. Sex should be full of pleasure and fun but what many women don’t think about is the high risk of diseases that they can contract or even pregnancy when practicing unsafe sex. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t dare to not use a condom when engaging in sexual activity with a new partner.

    Overall, I think it is important that sex education should be expanded and taught to younger kids, not to promote sex, but to make them aware of the realities of sex and their futures.

  24. Phoenix

    This week, I found the article, “Young Women, Sexuality and the Significance of Safe Spaces” by Anita Harris very interesting. Like many of the other students in the class who have already blogged and left a comment about this article, I also noticed that society’s current view on women is largely due to how they are portrayed and objectified in the media. It is true that when pop artists start prancing around scantily clad such as Britney Spears, they give women a bad reputation, not to mention a bad role model for young girls to follow. And that also when rap artists come out with new songs, many of them are just about “making money and sexing some ho’s” and that their rap music videos just show a bunch of women in bras and thongs jiggling all over the place, it doesn’t help our image. It also doesn’t help that sex sells — so really erotic and provocative pictures of women for condom or alcohol advertisements perpetuates the stereotype, as people will associate sex with condoms and alcohol. Again, it is true that the media does play a huge role in the way that women are seen currently… but I think part of the blame also falls on the parents. While I was working at TJ Maxx during high school, I was fixing up the children/teenager section because the store was about to close. A woman was shopping with her daughter who I assumed to be around 7-8 years old. The girl was going through the rack of clothes and wanted to buy shorts, when her mother pulled out a really really short skirt from the rack. She told her daughter that she should wear the skirt because it was what all the other little girls were wearing and she should fit in with her friends. I was definitely shocked and appalled after witnessing this, because I would never encourage my daughter to wear a mini-skirt to school at the age of 7-8 just so she can fit in with her friends.
    So yes, the media does play a huge role in perpetuating stereotypes of women, but I think that some people need to work on teaching their children to appreciate and respect themselves so that they won’t have to rely on the media to dictate how they should look because it’s what everybody else views as acceptable.

  25. Daisy

    Jenny Higgins and Jennifer Hirsch discuss in the article, ‘The Pleasure Deficit: Revisiting the “Sexuality Connection” in Reproductive Health’, the lives and sexuality of women and how they perceive and view sex. Women have traditionally been cast aside when it comes to pleasure during sexual intercourse. Their needs are not often met, and it is often assumed that they do not care as much about the feelings that sex brings as much as their male counterparts. It is important to realize that women are concerned about what sex feels like, but they need to practice safe ways of having it. It is unbelievable to me that women would go around in today’s society not using condoms. With all the STD’s and STI’s that are present in the world now, it is so necessary to be safe in what you are doing. This article talks about women who are in “committed, monogamous relationships” do not feel like they need to use a condom because it takes away from the love and trust they have in their partners. Another reason that they are giving for women not using condoms is the fact that they think that their partners will think less of them or in some ways resent them for wanting to use one. This is because it is often thought that condoms take away from male sexual pleasure. It is important to reinforce the use of condoms and make women aware of their own sexual pleasure and rights.

  26. b.green

    I thought the article on young men, pornography, and sexual education very insightful. I liked how it argued for the need to include desire and talk about the actual act of sex and how doing so could actually be beneficial because it would allow a more positive dialogue around sex and allow for positive sex models. The article seemed to argue that many young men (and women) are turning to pornography, not only for sexual pleasure, but also as a teaching tool. If we don’t teach our children about sex in the context of gender equality, then the violence and misogyny around sex may keep growing because porn is an industry that relies on acts that are “perverse” and outside of society. However, if these are the only acts that young men (and women) learn than they are bound to be repeated and the cycle continues.
    In Discourse of Desire, the author brings up, what I seem to see as a key issue in current sexuality debates; women being proud of their sexuality, but at the same time they are in a larger sphere that includes the economy and governemnt as regulators of sexuality.

  27. CP

    I thought the readings did a good job of highlighting the fact that sexuality, desire, and pleasure are seldom discussed in any positive ways in the context of “reproductive health” and of the unintended (and intended) consequences of this, for example, the unintended effect of young men looking to pornography for “information” on sexuality (Allen), or the intended effect of using the “freedom” to be sexual as a method of female worker control (Harris).

    Two articles in particular brought out another important point for me. At the end of their article discussing the “pleasure deficit” in reproductive health research, Higgins and Hirsch bring up the potential for an increased focus on pleasure to “inadvertently perpetuate gender inequality”; and in Discourses of Desire as Governmentality, Harris talks about the co-opting of women’s sexual desire by neoliberalism and the need for “safe places” for young women to “perform” their sexuality unencumbered by the problems of display and gaze. Both these articles highlight the (often unexamined outside this class) pervasive nature of the patriarchy and its negative impact on women, and men.

  28. Love

    Through these readings and class discussions, I realize, I know a lot of this these. Then I wonder, why it seems so normal and why people do not seem to do anything about it. And I wonder, why I don’t do anything about it and why these topics do not cross my mind more often, because afterall, this is the field and the topics that most interest me. Yet, through the readings and discussions, it makes me realize how true and ridiculous some things are. How society makes us feel that these things are normal.

    The pressure women have. I almost always forget that, or I think it does not exist. Why? Because it is not discussed, because it is not written off as pressure, it is just a womans job. A woman is meant to be with a man and is meant to procreate. Then they must stay home with their children and be a housewife/stay at home mom. If they do anything outside of this, there are always questions. If they do not want children, they are abusing their privilege as a woman. If they cannot have children, they are a failure. If they do not get married, they are lonely. If they end up with a woman, they are selfish. If they get a job instead of being a housewife/ stay at home mom, they are again, selfish and only interested in their own benefit and advancements. They can not be the one that is financially taking care of the family.

    Then there is the lack of education in schools about sex education. Majority of what is taught is abstinence education. Abstinence education, in my opinion and in many peoples, does not work. If you teach someone not do something, most likely, they are going to do it, especially the youth. Schools that fund abstinence education are not allowed to talk about sex in detail or answer many questions that students may ask in regards to sex. If so, they are at a risk of losing their job. Then those schools that are allowed to teach sex health education or HIV/AIDS education (both are separate programs) or both, they are not given a specific agenda, they teach as they choose, that is why there is no consistency across the board. Therefore, if they want to teach about STDs, they can, but they do not have to. If they want to teach about various contraceptives, they can, but they do not have to. If the teacher has their own strong believe about a certain method, they can tell their students that that is the way they should act/do. Sex needs to be discussed in schools, each couple years, there should be more and more information as they develop physically and hormonally. They should know what they are getting themselves into, because most of them go out there blind sighted and never understand how or why they got sick or why they are having a baby. Education is important, if we need to learn about science and history and math and english, which some people consider things that some may never really use, then sex education is a necessity. It should not be put on the back burner. Everyone experiences something with their own bodies, whether or not the act results in sex, we all have emotions and hormones that we do not always understand and the need for that information is urgent.

    Desire. Need. Sexuality. Women should be able to have desires, needs and be able to express them the same way men do. Men can jump from a woman to another woman, and they are called a pimp and are almost praised and it shows that they are that much more ‘experienced’ in bed! If a woman jumps from a man to a man, she is called a slut. If she sleeps with a woman, she is considered “kinky or freaky” or depending how shes dresses a “dike”. A woman should be able to talk about her experiences comfortably, without feeling like she did something ‘dirty’ or ‘sinful’. She should be able to experience whomever however many times she so feels the need without being put down. As long as they are things that the individual wants to partake in, it is completely up to that individual. Same thing with men. Whatever anyone chooses to do, it is their decision it is their life and they are the one that most of the time has to deal with the consequences. Education is essential.

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