FORUM FEBRUARY 14, 2017 | VOLUME 2, ISSUE 4
Issue on Sexuality, Relationships, and Reproductive Justice YOUR VOICE. YOUR CONCERNS. YOUR CONTRIBUTION.
Inside Table of Contents 2
Cover Story: Exploring Sexuality: How do we talk about it? Article: An Interview with Dr. Julia Ehrhardt: OU Professor, Mentor, and Activist
Art: Beauty in All Forms Poem: Ourselves
Article: OU's Trans Healthcare Failure
15 16 17 19 20 22 24 26
Art: Binary Figments Article: Health Services on Campus Article: A Chat with Sarah Otts on Her Post-Grad Work Art: Sexual Fluidity Article: Rethinking "Reproductive Justice" Beyond Abortion Article: Let's Talk about Sex (Ed) Article: A Different Creature: An Alumni's Perspective on OU Culture Art: Pure
Our Team Editors-in-Chief
Lucy Mahaffey Eddy Mee Managing Editors Alexandra Goodman Moriah Hayes Student Section Editors Kelsey Morris Nayifa Nihad Alumni Section Editors Ashley Jeffalone Olan Field Professors Section Miranda Koutahi Editor Danielle Wierenga Arts Section Editors Shulie Son Cassie Watson
Director of Media
Amanda Awad Erin Tabberer
Director of Marketing
Dr. Brian Johnson Dr. Joy Pendley Dr. Meg Sibbett Professor Mel Odom Professor Mary Anna Evans Dr. Linda Kelly
Mission Statement: To serve as OU’s central sounding board, bringing together different voices and disciplines to inform, inspire, and encourage interaction on campus.
Disclaimer: FORUM is an independent student organization, and the views and opinions expressed in it are the personal views of the contributors and FORUM Team and do not represent views of the University of Oklahoma. Quotes and contributions have been edited for grammar, typos, and length.
Upcoming Events Pink & Black Ball When: Feb. 17 at 8pm – midnight Where: Molly Shi Boren Ballroom Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door The Pink & Black Ball is an alcohol-free semi-formal benefit to raise funds for the Gender + Equality Center. The money raised through ticket sales is used to fund programs and events to educate students about a variety of campus and community issues including breast health, healthy relationships, LGBTQ+ Ally programs, salary negotiation, and gender-based violence prevention. The Ball will feature a live band for the first hour of the night, with a DJ providing club tunes for the remainder of the evening. Refreshments will include a potatotini bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres, cheese and crackers, and the everpopular chocolate fountain.
The Vagina Monologues When: Feb. 20 & 21, 7pm Where: Meacham Auditorium A series of monologues focus on the female experience in day to day life. Topics range from monologues about hair, to sexual relationships, to experiences with the vagina in general.
Take Root When: Feb. 24-25 Tickets: take-root.org Where: Thurman J. White Forum Building A conference that focuses on sexual education, reproductive health, religious freedom, sexuality, and Indigenous rights. 2
Cover Story: Exploring Sexuality: How do we talk about it? by Kelsey Morris
When we at OU FORUM were trying to decide on the topic to cover for this month’s issue, our managers and editors went back and forth for quite some time between the broad themes of sexuality, gender, and reproductive justice. It's a muddy territory to wade through. Gender and sexuality are intimately related, and issues of sexuality intersect a great deal with the struggle for intersectional reproductive justice. In the same respect, OU's LGBTQ+ community encompasses people who are marginalized because of their gender, their sexuality, or both. As one editor pointed out, combining gender and sexuality into one issue might give the essentialist impression that gender determines sexuality, which is of course not the case. Therefore, we decided to focus on
sexuality for the February issue and then on gender for the next issue, which will be released in March. We wanted to explore both sexuality and gender separately, because it is important to understand these two concepts as separate, even as they overlap in life and relationships. Sexuality is described as a person's romantic or sexual preferences while gender is a person's internal sense of self and how the person chooses to express this sense of self. Now, for some background on our topic: Reproductive justice, coined in 1994 by Black feminists at the International Conference on Population and 3
Development in Cairo, Egypt, is more than the right to choose whether or not to have a child; it is the right to not have, or to have, children and to raise them in a safe, nurturing, healthy environment. This means having access to health care, freedom from abject poverty, and the ability to make choices for oneself and one’s family. An important conference that offers inspiration for our February issue is the Take Root Conference. Take Root focuses on sexual education, reproductive health, and sexuality. Created by OU and OSU students, the conference includes discussion panels, info sessions, workshops, and a networking reception. This month, as social justice scholars and activists from across the South prepare for the conference, we at FORUM will define reproductive justice and take a look at sex, sexuality, and queer identity. If you attend the Take Root conference, be sure to stop by the FORUM table and say hello! We’d love to meet some of our readers! Kelsey Morris Student Section Editor
An Interview with Dr. Julia Ehrhardt: OU Professor, Mentor, and Activist by Miranda Koutahi Dr. Ehrhardt is an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and an affiliate faculty member of the Women's and Gender Studies Department. Ehrhardt received her B.A. in English with a minor in Women's Studies from Duke University, and her M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her foci include women’s literature from the turn of the twentieth century to the present. Her current courses include Gay and Lesbian Literature and Contemporary American Women's Writing. She is the author of Writers of Conviction: The Personal Further Readings from Dr. Ehrhardt's Courses Politics of Zona Gale, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, Angels in America Rose Wilder Lane, and by Tony Kushner Josephine Herbst (2004), and is currently working on a book about dieting The Normal Heart in American literature. by Larry Kramer
As a mentor, what has your experience with sexuality and reproductive rights been like on the OU campus? I’ve had the good fortune to hear people’s coming-out stories, to learn about students who are transgender, who come out to me and come to me for resources. I think one of the great things about college is, when you’re away from your family and your support system, you can sort of try things out on professors and people in the community. I have heard stories and I’ve thought, I don’t know how this person is still alive. I’ve heard of people who were disowned for being gay or lesbian, or people who’ve had to go to conversion therapy for being gay or lesbian. I’ve heard of transgender students who couldn’t explain to others what transgender was. There are students who have been victims and survivors of incest, who were told that this was just the way life was. I’ve also had a lot of students who have questions and curiosity about different methods of birth control or sex education that they never heard about when they 5
were in high school. You’re helping them deal with anger about that, about sex education alongside medical and social information that they had been shielded from. What is it like working with young LGBTQ+ students and their allies? How is that different from working with previous generations? Generationally, things are different. The generation ahead of me was hesitant about coming out. I didn’t come out until college, and even then people said “Well, don’t do that, because it could affect your career.” Now I’m teaching a class, Gay and Lesbian Literature, and one of the reasons I’m really looking forward to teaching that class and excited about the people in it is because they’re bringing me up to speed on current information. They’re bringing me books that I might want to read and questions I might want to consider or that I just haven’t thought about or need to think more about. I was really nervous about teaching the class, because I was worried the students would think I wasn’t up to speed or teaching them stuff that was going to be useful. But people are very receptive to these topics when we talk about them in class. Now they know me as someone who’s really interested in this and who will listen and try to understand. It’s my good privilege to work with students who are always stretching my imagination. They’re coming up with brilliant research topics while holding me accountable, and saying, “Look, we’re having this event, you'd better be there!” Why is it important to have classes on gay and lesbian literature, or classes focusing on female authors? Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. One is that you can go your whole life without reading literature by a woman. In many departments and English classes around the country, you have “Gender Week,” or “Race Week,” where okay, here we have our black author and here we have our female author. That female author tends to be a middle-class white woman, right? In developing my classes, I’ve been really conscious of including voices that testify to the female experience who are also really talented writers, whether they identify as female or feminist or not. The problem with the way the literary establishment works is that we tend not to see male writers as gendered. That person is just a writer. Female writers always seem to have that gender tag in front of them. There’s this idea that there’s a kind of women’s fiction that women are really good at writing: chick lit, the beach book, children’s literature. You rarely see women lauded for being really tremendous novelists. Toni Morrison is an obvious exception to the rule, but we also have to pay attention to intersectionality and how class, religion, region, and education affects how one imagines oneself as a writer. It’s very 6
individual to each author. But there are also constraints in terms of gender when you talk about access to publishing. Look at how many books by women are reviewed in The New York Times Book Review, even though their chief book reviewer is a woman. I wanted to teach the gay and lesbian literature class because it seemed to me that students were very familiar with contemporary gay and lesbian fiction, such as Fun Home, Tipping the Velvet, those sorts of things. But they really didn’t know what we would call canonical gay and lesbian literature, starting with Whitman and Dickinson and even further back. These are important writers in the American literary tradition. There’s a gay and lesbian literary heritage that people should know, but they don’t know, and that’s why I wanted to teach that class. What do you think OU faculty members can do to support or assist students struggling with their sexuality or reproductive rights? I think it’s a responsibility of the faculty to educate yourself about this topic, and also to show students that they are not alone, that there are people like them. When you go to school, you’re becoming who you’re going to be in the world. I always tell people, “I don’t care if you like my class or not. I really want to teach you, or hope you realize that what really matters is being a good person and being true to yourself.” And when you’re gay, lesbian, or queer in any way, you know that the world isn’t the way the world is supposed to be. And it’s hard to testify to that, but you’re lucky because you know the world doesn’t have to be the way it is. I think that we have a lot of work to do. We need faculty members to be there. OU has a great faculty who come to activities, people who come to lectures. They’re trying to show that we are also engaged in these issues, not only because of our intellectual work, but also because we have a personal stake in this. I think most people who are in this field really care about students. We want them to do well and we want them to thrive. Again, it’s a challenge to be out and have to do all this self-education and exploration when you may be working, may be having a job. You know, college is hard enough when you have to take organic chemistry and try to figure out all this stuff. What resources on campus would you recommend for LGBTQ+ students or students who are seeking more information about reproductive rights/justice? We’ve got great resources like the Gender and Equality Center, the Women’s and Gender Studies programs, and also faculty members who might not be affiliated with these programs and who are also out and available to students to talk about this. A great organization from the Gender and Equality Center are the Sexperts. They’ll give presentations on sex, sexuality, safe sex, and questions about reproductive politics and ways to educate and take care for yourself. I also think Take Root is very important. A lot of times when people talk about reproductive justice, what they’re thinking about is the right to choose. That’s not only what reproductive justice is – it’s the idea that people have the right to decide whether or not they’re going to have children, how they want to raise those children. They need options and 7
the freedom to do that, and that’s a right, it’s not a privilege. Take Root also deals with questions of HIV, the environment, and also non-traditional parenting, on what that would really mean if we had a truly just society in terms of reproduction. I’m also very impressed and inspired by the work of individual students and research projects, and in the organization QUIC (Queer Inclusion on Campus) and other student activism. I think that Goddard Health Center can be helpful. I think also there’s a lot of resources at OU, but it’s hard to find them; because of the web, because we don’t call offices anymore. How could OU improve on this aspect? I would like it if Goddard would hire someone who had a specialty or a nurse practitioner who had worked in the areas of gender health, lesbian and gay health, and transgender health, which aren’t the same issues. Each of those communities has different needs. I think it would be really great if we could get some more health practitioners, not only who have been educated in this area, but who are really invested in issues of LGBTQ+ health. Here is where people who are transitioning can get hormones, and a lot of people are going to be getting birth control for the first time. I think every lesbian, when you go to the doctor, they ask you “Are you sexually active?” You say yes, and they ask, “Is there any chance you might be pregnant?” You say no, and then they’re all freaked out because you’re not on birth control, that sort of thing. I also think the Office of University Community is good, but we really need to press them on issues of gender, and also on disability and mental health. I think that studies have shown that gay, lesbian, and transgender youth are more likely to try to commit suicide. They may be depressed, and their mental health needs may not be answered here.
Beauty in All Forms by Taylor Lawrence
Ourselves by Lena Tenney
They mock our safe spaces Say that we're whiny weak whippersnappers who are part of the pathetically pitiful participation trophy generation Yet They are afraid of our very existence Me taking a breath as a queer gender non-conforming woman who gives no fucks about their social norms And doesn't want to participate nicely in their oppressive patriarchal, racist, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, capitalist structures And fucking wears white shoes after Labor Day because I do what I want Scares them They are afraid of us They are afraid of us For simply being us Some would say that they're not afraid That they're angry 10
Or disgusted as one “alt-right” Twitter egg told me Because homophobia doesn't exist—no one is actually AFRAID of the gays They're disgusted by them And that Twitter egg rejoiced that my "weak blood line" would be dying out But what that egg didn't know Was that they were confirming the very fact that I scare them That me having children And me raising children to be like me Scares Them Terrifies Them Makes them shake in their boots that apparently have bootstraps strong enough to pull themselves up by Because nobody ever gave them anything goddammit "We are a homophobic racist's worst nightmare" She said An interracial couple Not afraid to kiss on the plane Subjecting the passengers nearby To our shameless conversation about fighting racism on all fronts An affront To humanity Is what we are called Yet when did they ever Respect humanity To begin with? They don't respect our humanity When all we want is the dignity of humanity to be a guarantee For equality To be the normality A wise Master once said: "Fear leads to anger Anger leads to hate Hate leads to suffering" So know that our suffering Is rooted in their fear 11
Not in any fault of ours You are perfect You are loved You are needed Don't ever let anyone tell you that you aren't brave For you are your ancestors' wildest dreams You have the power to inspire fear Simply by BEING Even though we don't want to be feared We aren't scary We're simply visionary Revolutionary Extraordinary Okay, maybe we are a little scary But We just want to be We just want to live We just want to survive We just want to exist We just want to be We just want to be We just want to be Ourselves.
OU's Trans Healthcare Failure by Neha Raghavan
As a trans woman of color, I admire the ways that OU has worked to accommodate all students. The Gender and Equality Center (which leads events such as the Queer Tour and provides resources for LGBTQ+ students), the Queer Student Association, and the LGBTQ+ Lounge all help LGBTQ+ students find their community on campus. The LGBTQ+ Ally program and the required diversity training also train faculty and students to promote a culture of inclusion on campus. Rallies against police brutality, the immigration ban, and ignorance have been held throughout my freshman year. President David Boren has also taken a stance for inclusion, speaking out against racism on campus and the immigration ban. While I appreciate everything OU has done, an immediate need of the trans community has yet to be addressedhealthcare. The trans community has largely been neglected by medical professionals, with many doctors and nurses unaware of how to treat trans patients. Unfortunately, OU isn’t much of an exception. I made the choice to begin Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) recently. HRT is an important step for many trans people, helping align our gender identity and our secondary sex characteristics. As a first step towards HRT, I made a counseling appointment at Goddard Health Services (a letter from a medical professional is required to begin HRT). As I was filling out the mental health intake form, I was already wary. The mental health intake form currently lists “transsexual” (an outdated term referring to a trans person who’s taken hormones or had surgery) as a sexuality. Not only does the term transsexual exclude trans individuals who either haven’t or don’t want to medically transition, it also isn’t a sexual orientation. The form lists questions about menstruation under a section labeled “FOR WOMEN” (ignoring the reality of
AFAB (assigned female at birth) trans people), and reeks of heterosexism by only referring to parents as a father and mother. This was, unfortunately, just the form. While my appointments at Goddard have gone smoothly, with staff using my correct pronouns and name, avoiding invasive questions, and largely respecting my identity as a trans woman, the services available for trans people are lacking, to say the least. Once I receive my letter confirming that I can begin HRT, there’s nothing else Goddard offers trans students. HRT can’t be started at Goddard, and despite the daunting name, HRT isn’t a difficult service to provide. HRT consists of blood work (to check that trans patients won’t react adversely to hormones), and then a monthly prescription of hormones in the form of pills, patches, or injections. While Goddard will fill prescriptions for hormones, since Goddard doesn’t have an endocrinologist, trans students have to get bloodwork, testing, and prescriptions outside of Goddard. Even if Goddard can’t provide HRT, OU has done nothing to accommodate trans healthcare. There are very few clinics in Oklahoma that provide HRT, and Planned Parenthood is one of them. The lack of HRT at Goddard wasn’t an issue while there was Planned Parenthood in Norman, but that branch has since closed. The closest clinic providing HRT is now the Planned Parenthood in Central OKC. For trans students without access to transportation, this only makes the path towards HRT even more difficult. As such, many of my trans friends have taken to self-medicating. Hormones can be bought on the internet from black market sellers or overseas sellers, and for many trans people this simplifies and lowers the cost of HRT. However, the dangers of self-medication should be obvious, and the unintended side effects can include increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, depression, obesity, diabetes, etc. If OU were to make HRT more accessible to trans students, less trans students would resort to self-medication. OU could provide/connect trans students with transportation, work directly with the Planned Parenthood clinic in OKC, cover transition-related costs under student health insurance, or find other ways to make HRT more accessible to trans students. The hurdles involved in beginning HRT at OU are not only an inconvenience, but a mental and physical health failure. If our university wants to truly listen to the needs of the LGBTQ community, trans healthcare needs to be addressed.
Binary Figments by Nick Good
In Binary Figments, I explore aspects of performative gender theory, sexuality, historical ecofeminism, and the concept of gender and sexuality as a spectrum. I was originally inspired to create this piece when I realized that I was subconsciously doodling gender theory. Other inspirations include the works of Judith Butler and Simone de Beauvoir, the religious use of entheogens during the pre-agrarian age, and aspects of expressionism and cubism. I created Binary Figments by doodling with a pen, taking a photo of the original piece, and extensively manipulating the photo.
Health Services on Campus by Alise Osis I work as a physician assistant at OU Health Services- Goddard Health Center. We are on the front lines of educating patients about reproductive health and contraceptive options. Here’s what is happening with reproductive health and contraception: Our female patients are increasingly requesting long-term reversible contraceptives such as Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) or the Nexplanon (a matchstick-sized plastic rod that is implanted just under the skin of the upper arm). Both IUDs and Nexplanon are extremely effective methods of contraception and offer protection from pregnancy from between 3-10 years depending on which device is used. Women and men are eligible to receive the Gardasil vaccine that protects against the strains of human papillomavirus that are known to cause cervical and other cancers, as well as genital warts. We encourage patients to schedule an annual physical exam to discuss age-appropriate screenings. Pap testing (cervical cancer screening) and pelvic exams are recommended for women beginning at age 21. STD screenings are available for both men and women by appointment with a provider or walk-in screening is available at the laboratory. We can discuss all contraceptive options available and answer any questions patients may have about sexual health and reproduction.
Image from Creative Commons
Contact Us! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 405-325-4611
A Chat with Sarah Otts on Her Post-Grad Work by Ashley Jeffalone When did you graduate and in what subjects? May 2016. I majored in Computer Science and minored in WGS. Can you describe your experience as a queer student and activist during your time at OU? I came out as queer during my sophomore year at OU and started going to the GLBTF student organization and to LGBTQ+ events, which for me was a great way to get to know other people in the community and find support at OU. That same year I went to my first Take Root conference, where I learned about inspiring work being done by activists in red states. In early 2015, inspired by Take Root and by OU Unheard, some friends and I started Queer Inclusion on Campus, a student activist group. We were motivated by some problems we and our peers faced as LGBTQ+ students at OU, including microaggressions and cultural problems, like getting glared at when holding hands with our partners, and institutional problems, like trans students having difficulties adding their preferred names to university records. We held a community meeting, did research, wrote a document outlining problem areas and suggestions, and had meetings with offices around campus. Of course, any change at OU requires the work of many people and groups, so I don't want to claim that we single-handedly orchestrated specific changes, but we did participate in or start many discussions. For example, our request for an LGBTQ+ Resource Center influenced the opening of the LGBTQ+ Lounge on campus. In 2015-2016, we started working more with other activist groups at OU and formed a coalition of Indigenous students, black students, Latinx students, queer students, and students with disabilities. Through the students in this coalition, I learned powerful lessons about organizing and collaboration that I'll take with me in all my work going forward.
What are you doing now, and how did you get started doing it? I live in Boston and work for a children's online community called Scratch, where I interned throughout college. On Scratch, people ages 8+ share and discuss games, stories, and animations that they create. This might not seem related to sexuality and reproductive justice, but it totally is! We think it's important that young people on Scratch can discuss topics that matter to themâ€“and for some kids that means talking about their gender identities and sexual orientations, for example. Facilitating those conversions can be challenging, but it's also really rewarding to work to create a welcoming and creative space for young people of all sorts of backgrounds and identities. What advice do you have for current OU students? It can be helpful to talk to alumni and talk to student activists at other universities. One of the challenges of student activism is that, when a wave of activists graduate and potentially move, some institutional knowledge gets lost. Also, it's easy to pay attention only to OU and not to what's happening at other colleges. What strategies have worked at other universities, or at OU in the past? What has been challenging? Also, knowing what policy changes students at other universities have successfully advocated for can be helpful argumentatively--"[Other Big 12 school] has [this new policy/resource], why don't we?"
Artwork by Danielle Wierenga
Sexual FluidityÂ This piece represents the fluidity of my sexuality. In our everchanging world, I believe that society must become aware and more accepting that there are not always easy or exact answers to questions.
byÂ Katie Murray
Rethinking "Reproductive Justice" Beyond Abortion by Stephanie Allred
Artwork by Danielle Wierenga
When most people hear the phrase “reproductive justice,” abortion is the first, and probably only, thing that comes to mind. I felt largely the same way when I started at OU; in fact, I hadn’t even ever heard the phrase specifically. Since I’ve been at OU, my understanding of reproductive justice has expanded and become more complex. Reproductive justice does, in fact, include abortion. Access to safe and legal abortion is one of the cornerstones of the reproductive justice movement, and the current political state in the U.S. makes this issue more pressing than in recent decades. Reproductive justice encompasses a myriad other health and political issues. For many years now, the federal funding to health providers like Planned Parenthood has been cut as a political tactic. While these measures are taken mainly to restrict abortion, they restrict access to other important reproductive health programs for everyone. In recent years, Texas has grown to have the highest maternal mortality rates in the country. According to a study in the Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Journal, the maternal mortality rate in Texas doubled within only two years following a 66% cut to family planning funds in the state budget.¹ Shocking in itself, these numbers are even more of a concern for women of color. In the same study, African American women were found to bear the highest rates of maternal mortality; between 2011 and 2012, African American women accounted for 28% of total maternal deaths despite accounting for only 11% of total births.² ___________________________________________________
¹ From "Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas After Cuts To Women’s Health," Laura Bassett, 2016, The Huffington Post. Copyright 2016 by The Huffington Post. ² From "Texas’ maternal death rates top most industrialized countries," Rick Jervis, 2016, USA Today. Copyright 2016 by USA Today.
The cuts in state funding caused the closure of more than 80 family planning clinics in Texas. These are the clinics that provide family planning and prenatal care. These closures mean that some patients would have to travel prohibitive distances to get their healthcare providers, or not get the care that they need. These closures mean that some patients would no longer be able to find affordable healthcare. Not just to single out Texas, these same kinds of budget cuts and restrictions on family planning and reproductive health are occurring all over the country. Not only does reproductive justice include the ways that our laws affect access to reproductive healthcare, but also how our justice system operates. States all over the country are passing new laws criminalizing abortion, and even miscarriages and stillborn births. In some cases, women have been convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after giving birth to a stillborn child. Those dealing with drug and alcohol addiction during their pregnancy are up for criminal charges. This intersection between the “war on drugs” and reproductive health maintains the same disparity between whites and people of color as our entire criminal justice system. Laws criminalizing drug use in pregnancy discourage drug users from seeking vital prenatal care or any other type of healthcare—the interactions that might help drug users find resources to stay sober during their pregnancy and get the treatment they need—for fear of prosecution. In Utah, miscarriages have been defined as criminal homicides in an attempt to further criminalize abortion. The severity of these laws that is aimed at illegal abortion ends up preventing people from getting the healthcare they need and criminalizes those already experiencing the tragedy of miscarriage or stillbirth. And reproductive justice is so much more than this. It is people who identify as transgender being able to store their eggs and/or sperm. It is women of color having access to HPV vaccines that protect against the strains that are more likely in their communities. It is access to birth control regardless of the beliefs of certain employers. It is more than simply “pro-life” or “pro-choice.” In the simplest sense, reproductive justice is a way of thinking that links health, gender, and sexuality to human rights.
Let's Talk about Sex (Ed) by Amy Jenkins Comprehensive sexuality education is a right. Many people would argue that sex ed is important, but what is comprehensive sexuality and why is it a human right? Let's break it down. Comprehensive Reproductive justice is an intersectional framework for all things involving reproduction and sexuality. That is why the comprehensive nature of sexuality education is essential. This can either mean that people receiving the education can cover a broad spectrum of sexuality in an extended period of time or it can mean covering the most relevant and important topics for a specific community. The most crucial point is that information is accurate, gender-inclusive, culturally competent, and covers topics in an age-appropriate manner. Comprehensive sexuality education is often the proposed alternative of abstinence-only sex education, which is exactly what it sounds like. These programs attempt to delay sexual activity in teens by stressing that abstinence is the only completely effective way to prevent pregnancy and STIs. Abstinence-only education excludes any information on contraceptive methods and often leaves out many other aspects of sexuality. Sexuality The shorthand many people use for this topic is “sex ed,” including people who work in sexual health and reproductive justice. Who can blame them? “Comprehensive sexuality education” is a mouthful. However, distinguishing “sex education” and “sexuality education” clarifies that these efforts are not simply to teach people about sexual intercourse or even just safe sex. It is about teaching people how to lead healthy lives, have healthy relationships, and understand physiology–yes, even outside of the bedroom. It is absolutely necessary to educate individuals about puberty, condom use, contraception, sexually transmitted infections, physiology, and reproduction. However, comprehensive sexuality education goes further to encompass personal safety, decision making, relationships, and consent from an early age. This is part of the intersectional nature of the issue. Not only has comprehensive sexuality education proved to be the most effective education strategy in preventing unwanted pregnancy and STIs, it also combats issues such as sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, and sexual assault. Education It is often said that education is a lifelong journey, and the same is true with sexuality education. While it may sound bizarre at first, sexuality education can (and should) begin 22
as soon as a child becomes aware of their body. The National Sexuality Education Standards state that by the end of the 2nd grade, students should be able to use the anatomically correct words for body parts as well as explain that all people, including children, have the right to tell others not to touch their body without consent.¹ This gives children a foundation to build upon throughout their adolescence–as they experience puberty, changing relationships, and eventually sexual experiences. By high school, it should be expected that students understand the human sexual response cycle, describe the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, have an understanding of various methods of contraception (including abstinence and condoms), and define STDs, including HIV, and how they are and are not contracted. Right According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first drafted in 1948, every human has a right to education, sexual freedom, and reproductive freedom.² We are the product of reproduction and most of us will have sexual relations in our lifetime. Sexual health fundamentally impacts all of us and understanding it empowers us. However, we are currently failing at providing adequate education to ensure that healthy sexual lives are possible for our citizens. The combination of the U.S.’s hypersexualized pop-culture and the lack of sexuality education at home and in schools is problematic and dangerous. We continue to struggle with an unintended pregnancy, STIs, and sexual assault more than other developed countries. Within the U.S., marginalized communities are disproportionately denied sexual rights. We can no longer accept this blatant disregard of our sexual nature, health, and wellbeing. Understanding one of our most basic human functions and how it ties into our lives, our relationships, and our culture is not only essential to our health and prosperity, but is a basic human right.
¹ From National Sexuality Education Standards, 2011, Future of Sex Education, Copyright 2011. ² From Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Copyright 1948.
A Different Creature: An Alumni's Perspective by Shai Fenwick on OU Culture Reproductive justice is the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights, according to the Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice.¹ My experiences with sexuality and reproductive justice began in childhood, through a series of painful and difficult encounters of abuse. Everyone’s experience of abuse is different and manifests differently; it’s not always the central and most absorbing detail of my life, but the legacy of anxiety and hyper-alertness is an artifact I still carry with me years later, like many survivors. My experiences seemed pretty overwhelming until I learned to use them to help understand others’ pain, and learn about their lives and viewpoints. When I emigrated from my country to the U.S., I learned about other aspects of identity which impact reproductive justice, such as age, race, and immigrant status. As an immigrant to the U.S. with a visa but without a green card, my fate was entirely subject to the whims of people with absolute and inimical power over my life and person. I did not experience freedom from threat until I left my home for university. For me, as for many of our students, college was the first freedom from direct oppression I had known. College does bring additional threats to reproductive health through contact with larger numbers of people conditioned by rape culture to target others for sexual violence. Contrary to many expectations, sexual assault on college campuses is not confined to female students. According to a study reported in The OU Daily in December 2015, 1 in 5 female students and 1 in 16 male students were sexually assaulted during their college years.² The University of Oklahoma is a different creature today than the university life in my day. Our bread-and-butter is the first time college attendee, and we do more to scaffold and support the first time student than any institution in my memory. ___________________________________________________
¹ From “What is Reproductive Justice?” Loretta Ross, The Pro-Choice Public Education Project. ² From “New sexual assault research not acknowledged by OU administrators,” Dana Branham, 2016, The OU Daily, Copyright 2016 by The OU Daily.
I was deeply scrutinized and cloistered by cultural strictures and did not know the language or behaviors of freedom. These insufficiencies in my own understanding left me unable to make full use of the resources available. Although we live in a space where non reporting is a social norm, there are inclusive financial, social, and informational resources and supports for all survivors of any kind of sexual violence. Between the Gender and Equality Center, the Counseling Psychology Clinic, OU Advocates, and resources at the Women and Gender Studies department and crossdepartmental allies all across campus, there are people who want to help. The SART program, LGBTQ+ Ally, and other programs of this nature are embedded elements of campus culture now, and although the current political climate supports rape culture as a part of white supremacist patriarchal rhetoric and actors, there have also been pervasive and public refutations of that agenda. Ultimately, the battleground for identity and acceptance of reproductive health and justice is seated in the body, which makes the conversation around RJ inherently personal and intimate. I work with Take Root because it is a unique conference examining this work as seated in all levels of education, specifically in red states. We provide a home for dialogue inclusive of all identities, and in a cross-disciplinary arena of collaboration and exploration. We make a space to hear each othersâ€™ stories.Â
by Neha Raghavan
I drew Pure a few days after I publicly came out, and I was depressed and exhausted. I kept being told that queer people were sexual deviants, disturbed, sinners, evil, etc. After getting into (yet another) fight with my mom, I called my friend and ranted about everything. I stayed up all night with them, drawing, crying, and venting, and by the next morning I’d completed this piece. Pure is a queer depiction of sexuality with the same emotional purity that society affords heterosexuality. These two men are naked and embracing, but this painting isn’t intended to evoke carnal desire; these men are completing one another. Pure is a direct response to homophobic ideas that equate queerness with immorality. The two aren’t committing morally corrupt acts; rather, they’re intensely in love, smiling as they embrace the beauty of their sexuality.
About the Contributors Stephanie Allred is a chemical biosciences senior with minors in French, African studies, and women's and gender studies. She works as the gender-based violence prevention and health programs intern for the Gender + Equality Center. She aspires to attend medical school and work in the fields of public health and women's and reproductive health.
Dr. Julia Ehrhardt is an associate professor of American Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and an affiliate faculty member of the Women's and Gender Studies Department. Ehrhardt received her B.A. in English with a minor in Women's Studies from Duke University, and her M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. Her foci include women’s literature from the turn of the twentieth century to the present.
Shai Fenwick is an OU alumna with a B.A. in Anthropology, and is currently pursuing graduate studies. Fenwick was born a Trinidadian national before immigrating with her family to the United States in the mid-1980s. Fenwick is active in the local fandom and reproductive justice activism communities.
Nick Good is a transfer student majoring in philosophy and art, culture, and technology. He spends his free time making digital art, listening to music, and arguing with his friends.
About the Contributors Amy Jenkins graduated in December 2016 with a Bachelor of Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma and works as the Ambassador Team Lead in the Office of University Community on campus. Her dedication to promoting sexual health began in high school, as she grew up witnessing how the lack of sexuality education and resources impacted the Oklahoma community.
Taylor Lawrence is a junior majoring in architecture. She loves art, reading, and music. For Taylor, photography is a passion and an avenue for creativity and connectivity.
Kelsey Morris is a second-year sociology student minoring in medical humanities and social justice. She is involved with OU Debate and various social justice organizations on campus.
Katie Murray is an OU student who aspires to be a middle school teacher. She enjoys painting, spending time with her family, discovering new art, riding her bike, and making playlists on Spotify.
About the Contributors
Alise Osis is a Physician's Assistant at Goddard Health Center working in OU's Student Health Services.
Sarah Otts graduated from OU's Computer Science program in Spring 2016. At OU, she was a founding member of the student activist group Queer Inclusion on Campus and a member of the LGBTQ Program Advisory Board. She now works at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT.
Neha Raghavan is a freshman pre-med women’s and gender studies major. She also works as an illustrator and pianist and has an unhealthy addiction to boba tea.
Lena Tenney is a researcher and facilitator at a racial justice institute. She graduated from OU in 2016 with a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Education. Lena is a co-founder of OU activist group Queer Inclusion on Campus (QUIC).
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Published on Feb 14, 2017
We are excited to share contributions from students, professors, and alumni; these include photography, artwork, interviews, and great theme...