Let’s Talk About Sex

By Sierra Talcott

One of the conversations parents tend to dread most with their kids is the one about sex. This conversation usually isn’t the most helpful either. There might be some mumbling about a condom and a banana, but that is generally it. With this mindset, the Internet or trial and error becomes the best teachers, and while trial and error can be a good method for some things, pregnancy prevention is not one of those. I remember the first time I had sex, the guy told me afterwards that he was not sure if he had put the condom on right. As a young woman who did not want to get pregnant, this was not something I wanted to hear.

This is why sexual education from a young age is so important. Not only does it help inform young adults about sex, but it also makes conversations about sex less taboo. This can lead better conversations about pregnancy prevention, but also just about sexual experiences in general. This is a good thing, especially for women, as we can have a harder time climaxing than men. Why not talk about the g- spot and variety of positions, because let’s face it, sex is fun! With the appropriate knowledge about how to have safe sex, young adults can be more open about their experiences and create more positive ones. Withholding sex education doesn’t stop sex, it just leads to the potential of more negative sexual experiences.

A hand putting a condom on a banana.
Practicing safe sex.

The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among first world countries. For every one thousand girls aged between fifteen and nineteen, about 57 become pregnant every year. This means that about 615,000 teenage girls who become pregnant each year in the United States. Of that number, eighty two percent of the pregnancies are unintended. With six out of every ten young women having sex, the odds of pregnancy are very high for most teenage girls.

Teenage mothers are at a higher risk for illness, stillbirth, miscarriage, and neonatal death. They are also less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to live in poverty and rely on welfare. Not only do they bare the costs of an unintended pregnancy but the rest of society feels the effects as well. $9.4 billion is lost each year from tax revenue, public assistance, child healthcare, foster care, and criminal charges, all stemming from unplanned teenage pregnancy.

This leads to the question, how can we help reduce teenage pregnancy rates? The answer to this is comprehensive sexual education. Comprehensive sexual education is based on teaching girls about self- agency and their rights as individuals, and is gender focused. It involves teaching about human development, anatomy, and reproductive health as well as sexually transmitted infections. Comprehensive sexual education also teaches about how to explore the positive values associated with sex and teaches young people about how to identify sexual abuse, as well as many other issues with regard to healthy relationships.

Comprehensive sexual education has often been surrounded by myths that this type of education encourages teenagers to have more sex. This has been proven to be untrue. Research conducted by the National Survey of Family Growth showed that teens who received comprehensive sex education were fifty percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education. States who teach comprehensive sexual education tend to have the lowest pregnancy rates.

Comprehensive sexual education not only delays sexual experiences in youth, it also focuses on teaching age-appropriate sexual education to youth. Kindergarten through second grade students learn about family structure, their body parts, and also what to do if they are inappropriately touched. In third through fifth grade, students learn about puberty and start to learn about HIV. In sixth through eight grade, students learn about relationships, decision making, and how to resist social pressure. In later grades, students learn more about sex, including abstinence. This information being taught is vital to setting youth up for success later in life. Comprehensive sexual education doesn’t only teach about sex but also about relationships and how to have healthy ones, which is something that is helpful for everyone to learn.

While comprehensive sexual education has positive results, there has been backlash against it, primarily from conservative-minded people. As of 2018, only 24 states mandated sexual education for youth. Thirty-seven states require that if sexual education is taught, abstinence must be taught along with it. Out of those thirty-seven states, twenty-four state that abstinence must be stressed. This is compared to only thirteen states that require that sexual education must be medically accurate. Looking at the numbers, it is clear that states care more about teaching abstinence than providing medically correct information, which is astounding. This is also detrimental to youth, because abstinence-only education is not only ineffective but can give youth a skewed idea of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Abstinence-only education often stresses that sex should be saved for marriage, which in reality is not what happens in most intimate relationships. A recent survey by the Guttmacher Institute, concluded that ninety-five percent of Americans have had sex before marriage. With this being the case, clearly abstinence-only education is an outdated way of thinking.

Our youth deserve the best education possible when it comes to sexual education, and comprehensive sexual education is the way to do it. We live in a world where sexual relationships are constantly evolving, and it would be a disservice to the next generation to not give them the tools needed to have healthy sexual relationships. Sex is not only fun, it is also a healthy thing to do and should be treated as such. While abstinence is still important for youth, they need to have the tools in place to stay safe if they choose not to go that route. The consequences of not educating youth about safe sex falls mainly on teenage girls, who have every right to be taught how to prevent pregnancy so that they can choose what route they would like to take in life.

What’s it like to get an IUD?

By Katy Wicks

Intrauterine Devices (IUD) have become increasingly more popular over the years. They are reliable, easy to forget about, and sometimes cheaper than other forms of birth control. But many people have negative experiences with their insertion and the way their body adjusts after. I want to offer a happier take on the IUD and share what the insertion and removal process is like.

I am on my second IUD. And both times, insertion was relatively painless. Removal was also nothing more than a big menstrual cramp. So, what is it like to get in IUD inserted? Keep in mind this is just my experience with an IUD and that my placement and removal was done at a branch of Planned Parenthood both times. To understand what an IUD may be like for you, it is best to work with a doctor.

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Don’t Get Burned by a Gaslighter

The song “Gaslighter” was recently released by The Chicks on their first album in 14 years. The transition from the subject of their song “Goodbye, Earl” to “Gaslighter” is a metaphor for the empowerment that some women experience when trying to leave abusive relationships. Sometimes, you have to feed your abusive husband poisoned black-eyed peas, as The Chicks sing about Earl. But, other times, you have to identify his manipulative tendencies and leave him in the dust. The term “gaslight” has shown up in feminist media more and more lately, as women identify emotional abuse they experience and gain the power to put an end to it. However, it is not easy for many victims of abuse to escape it. Learning the red flags of emotional manipulation can help to prevent the prolonging of abuse.

Gaslighting is a form of emotional manipulation used in interpersonal relationships. It is used to confuse a victim into questioning reality by denying facts, which gives the abuser more power. The term itself comes from the 1944 film, “Gaslight,” in which a husband tricks his wife into thinking she is going crazy by dimming the gas lights in their home. Gaslighting is “designed to confuse a person into accepting someone else’s perception, or judgement or thoughts.” This can be used to twist a person’s thoughts to the advantage of the manipulator, whether it be a partner, spouse, boss, or friend. There are several ways to identify the characteristics of a “gaslighter,” but whether you are made to question your sanity, second-guess yourself and your judgement, or lie to avoid the twists and turns of reality in a relationship, there are ways to escape the emotional turmoil caused by manipulation.

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Let’s get ready for the election

By Katy Wicks

Tomorrow is election day in the US. Irrespective of your hopes for the outcome, it is likely to be an emotionally charged day. It is important to remember that the presidential election is not the only election that gets decided tomorrow, and local elections are equally, if not more, important in some cases than the presidential race. But before we get too caught up in what might happen tomorrow, remember you can still vote to have a say in the outcome. I urge you to research what is on your local ballot and cast your vote on November 3rd.

This year’s presidential race has a lot of women’s issues tied to it. Urgent topics for consideration during the race have been health care, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and other reproductive healthcare, and the impact of COVID-19. These topics are deeply personal for many people. The confirmation of the new Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett caused additional questions about civil rights and changes that could come in the next four years.

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Women can go outside, too

By Katy Wicks

A woman sitting next to a tent.
Source Pixabay

Adventuring in the outdoors can be intimidating. Whether you have backpacked every weekend growing up or you are walking into the climbing center for the first time, adventuring is a challenge, and women typically experience more challenges in the outdoors. When we see advertisements for prominent brands like Patagonia and Osprey, it was not until recently that women showed up in those breathtaking images of summiting a mountain. More than that, it is sometimes assumed that women are too weak to do things like rock climbing, mountain biking, or other outdoor activities.

Women can adventure in the outdoors and if they want to, they should. But starting a hobby like backpacking can be very intimidating without someone to mentor you through the process. Thankfully there are many resources for women to learn about adventuring alongside other women. In many towns, there are women-led trips that span from intro courses to expert. Here in Moscow, ID, our University of Idaho Outdoor Program offers many courses just for women.

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No: Say it Loud, Say it Proud

By Sierra Talcott

I have a problem saying no. Not in all situations, I can say no in situations of consent but in terms of people asking for favors, I struggle with saying no. I love helping people and thrive on positive interactions so whenever someone asks me to do something, I automatically say yes. The problem with this is that it creates interactions that are not always healthy for me. I can get very overwhelmed with things I have to do, and yet when someone asks me to do something, I will immediately say yes. As you can imagine, this then causes me extra stress. While I love helping people, it’s also okay to say no when someone asks for something. This problem of saying no isn’t something that only I struggle with; many women have trouble saying no and setting boundaries for themselves.

As women, we are taught to be nurturers and put others’ needs before our own. As children, we are taught to help around the house and we often babysit younger siblings or relatives, which can reinforce this notion of women as caregivers. When we become pregnant, for nine months, our body is not our own and part of our purpose becomes sustaining life. After a child is born, it relies on our bodies to feed it and keep it alive. Even once a child is independently eating, children still need to be cared for and that burden falls mainly on women. With all of these caretaking expectations, it may not seem like it’s possible to say no but this makes saying no even more important. Women can burn out, mothers can burn out, and this is not healthy for us mentally, nor is it healthy for those around us.

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The Silent Mental Health Struggle

By Sierra Talcott

Women are superheroes; we juggle jobs, motherhood, gender discrimination, and do it all under the intense scrutiny of society. Often, this looks seamless, like juggling all these roles is as easy as breathing. The truth of the matter is that this is not the case. The pressures that women face are often extremely challenging. It is hard to juggle multiple things. It can be exhausting and overwhelming. This is not a bad thing; feeling overwhelmed is normal and it is okay to not be okay. But often women suffer in silence, instead of getting help.

Throughout history women have been undermined by the patriarchy. Hysteria was the first mental “disorder” that women were targeted by. The phrase hysterical woman; has been used time and time again to invalidate women’s strong emotions. Even today, women are still treated as if they are exaggerating their health symptoms. An example of this is with the condition endometriosis. Endometriosis, a disease that only affects women, can take up to ten years to diagnose, as women are often thought to be exaggerating their pain. In some instances, when doctors are unable to find the cause of a woman’s symptoms, they will assume her symptoms are psychological or psychosomatic. This happens to women ten times more than men.

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IU-Do or IU-Don’t

By Sierra Talcott

I am nervously reclining in a chair at the doctor’s office. My feet are elevated and I’m deep breathing as I’m trying to control the significant amount of pain I’m feeling. There are three doctors concentrated on my lower region. They keep trying to insert an IUD while my body stays clamped shut. After what seems like an eternity, they give up and instead book me to see a specialist. This is not my first time having problems with an IUD. They had just taken my previous one out as it was falling out of my uterus, which I became aware of after three weeks of intense cramping and bleeding.

In a society where women are often told they’re being hysterical or they’re exaggerating, it had taken me three weeks of continuous pain to finally speak up and say something was wrong. As a woman who knows some forms of birth control are not as good as they should be, I thought the pain, as unbearable as it was, was something I just needed to endure.

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Plastic-Free Periods

By Katy Wicks 

Menstruating is a lot of work. Each month it can cause pain, emotional changes, stains, and a significant environmental impact. The last one began to stand out to me over the last few years as I shifted to trying to use fewer single-use items. I noticed that not only are the pad and tampon themselves single-use, but they come in wrapping and with applicators that are also single-use. I began to wonder what other alternatives to menstrual products are out there.

Menstrual products, although small, have a large impact on the amount of waste we put into landfills. The average woman menstruates for 37 years. That is roughly 444 periods and 2,220 days of menstruation (assuming an average monthly cycle of five days). If each day, five single-use products are used (which is a low estimate), that is 11,100 single-use products in a lifetime. Just cutting that number in half would have a huge impact on the environment throughout each menstruating person’s lifetime.

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A Woman in Finance

By Samantha Krier

It is intimidating to enter into a major that you know almost nothing about, and a major that historically has not had a great deal of women in it. When I decided on my major and announced it to my family and friends, I got a lot of confused looks. There wasn’t really a lot of excitement or congratulations. They told me “that’s a good field to get into” rather than “what a great choice for you!” This is understandable, since I do not really seem like I fit into the business world. My personality is very shy, and I have showed more aptitude for reading and writing than business. In addition, I had never really told anyone that I wanted to be in the business world. This reaction wasn’t uncalled for, but it made me nervous that no one seemed to believe in my decision.

When I started in my major, I had no experience in Business or Finance, and everything was new to me. I had to learn very fast and start from the bottom to be where some of my classmates already were. Some people had been investing already, and some had been reading and listening to podcasts about the market for a while. Surprisingly, there was an almost equal mix of men and women in my classes. In some of the upper-level classes, there might have been more men, but it was pretty close. The university did a great job in this way. Nevertheless, I still was intimidated by some of the men in my classes who acted like they knew everything already. They already had the upper hand, because more men have been in Finance historically, and the field may be more partial to hiring them.

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