Sexual Wellness

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SEXUAL WELLNESS Nadya Okamoto The founder of PERIOD calls attention to ending the stigma of period poverty


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Why menstrual cups are a safe, affordable alternative period product Sex educator Shan Boodram thinks we should be honest about sexual wellness



Combating the Stigma of Period Poverty in the United States While stigma around period poverty in the United States limits ability to meet needs, the next generation provides hope for progress.


Period poverty However, for people living in poverty, stigma remains deeply tied to their period. Research from U by Kotex finds that 1 in 4 women surveyed struggled to purchase period products in the past year due to lack of income. This is known as period poverty. Not being able to meet one’s own basic needs can lead to shame and despair. These feelings can prevent individuals in need from asking for help to get the period products they need to remain clean and healthy.


ransformational change is happening in the United States today in terms of how our society openly talks about periods. Younger generations are no longer willing to hide periods behind colorful euphemisms or sneak off to restrooms with product in hand to manage basic bodily functions. The new decade offers the promise of ending period stigma once and for all.

One in 5 low-income women reported missing work, school, or similar events due to lack of access to period supplies. Because of an inability to obtain basic necessities, women are sacrificing crucial life events and losing professional or educational opportunities. Period poverty gives rise to feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, and depression. Accessibility Most public restrooms worsen

the issue of period poverty as they are not stocked with free period products. Imagine the public outcry if offices or schools refused to provide free toilet paper for restrooms. Like toilet paper, period products are basic material necessities required to maintain good health and hygiene. Making free period products readily available in all public restrooms is a simple solution to help end period poverty.

The stigma of not being able to afford the products necessary to manage their periods prevents many menstruators from seeking help. Of women who reported struggling with period poverty, only 4 percent knew about community-based period supply banks that provide free period products. The Alliance for Period Supplies and our more than 75 allied programs do just that. We collect, store, and distribute donated period products and get them to people in need. We also are leading open and honest conversations surrounding menstruation. We believe transformational change is underway to end period stigma and period poverty. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Alliance for Period Supplies or our local partners through the With U She Can program, visit or for more information. n Samantha Bell, Alliance for Period Supplies

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It’s Time to End Period Poverty Lack of equal, affordable access to period products means that menstruators worldwide are at a disadvantage — particularly those who are low-income or below the poverty line.

Solutions Nadya Okamoto, the founder and executive director of PERIOD, a nonprofit at the forefront of the menstrual movement, is striving to end period poverty. She founded PERIOD at the age of 16 after she was struck by the lack of support and availability of period products for low-income menstruators. While destigmatizing



enstruators in California alone pay $20 million annually in state sales taxes on menstrual products. It’s common practice for states to exempt necessities from being taxed; however, the mostly male legislature has deemed that menstrual products are not a necessity. By contrast, Viagra and condoms are tax-exempt in California — a particularly egregious example of gender discrimination. This is especially problematic for those of limited means; menstruators below the poverty line are often forced to choose between personal hygiene and sustenance. This crisis exists because menstrual hygiene products are taxed as luxury goods on top of their preexisting high prices.

menstruation, PERIOD calls for freely accessible period products in schools, shelters, and prisons as the removal of the tax on menstrual products. A national study by Thinx and PERIOD investigated period poverty in schools and discovered that 1 in 5 teens has struggled to afford or purchase period products, with 84 percent of teens having missed, or knowing someone who has missed, school due to period poverty. A joint study by Myovant Sciences, Evidation, and PERIOD found

that 60 percent of people of all genders believe that the period stigma is still prevalent in today’s society, with 1 in 5 women saying that they do not feel comfortable talking about menstruation with healthcare providers. Grassroots movement October 19, 2019 marked the largest grassroots mobilization in the history of period activism with the world’s first National Period Day. On this historic day, PERIOD brought together 60 rallies across all 50 U.S. states and

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four countries, uniting a passionate global voice for the menstrual movement to elevate the issues of period poverty, demand real change to make period products accessible to all, and end the luxury tax on all menstrual products. Among the largest metropolitan cities of the nation and struggling with surging homeless populations, Los Angeles was determined to take action. The voices of young activists echoed across MacArthur Park, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, period poverty has got to go!” They were advocating that menstrual hygiene is not a privilege, but a right. Continued advocacy After National Period Day highlighted period poverty, we continue to advocate and serve marginalized communities through phase two of our campaign, “Free the Period.” With our current campaign consisting of two main sectors of advocacy and service — a national collection drive and policy advocacy bootcamp — PERIOD strives to change society’s antiquated laws and viewpoints surrounding menstruation.n Athira Pratap, PERIOD Advocate, University of Southern California; Charlotte Walker, High School PERIOD Chapter President, Sequoyah School

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any of us take for granted the ability to simply leave the house without our menstrual cycles getting in the way — but for millions of women and people worldwide, life stops when periods start. Known as “period poverty,” lack of access to menstrual care products hinders people’s ability to go about their lives. Period poverty is often presumed to be a third-world issue, but it impacts people around the globe — including in the United States. Many must choose between buying food and purchasing period products each month, and lack of access can keep people from working, attending school, and participating in our economy and society. Beyond affordability, questionable materials also become

a cause for concern, underlining the lack of access to products that are safe for the body and the environment as well. Safe and reusable care Unlike pads and tampons, menstrual cups don’t contain chemicals, bleaches, or fibers that can cause sensitivity or allergic reactions, and menstrual cups are considered more environmentally friendly — many pads and tampons are not biodegradable, creating tons of waste with each cycle. Menstrual cups are often a more economical option, too. With the average person using 20 tampons per month (plus other protection products), a year’s worth of tampons alone can cost at least $120. Sexual and intimacy brand Jimmyjane sells Intimate Care Menstrual Cups for $30 — and with two cups included in each box, a package can easily be split between two people to cut the price further, or saved by a single person for alternating use, allowing for an extended product lifetime.

When seeking to create a better, more thoughtful menstrual cup, Jimmyjane enlisted the help of a sexologist in addition to thorough product research. This collaborative effort culminated in a strategic, reusable design that includes silicone material for optimal hygiene and safety; a flexible, curved bell-shape for a snug, yet comfortable fit; an ergonomic rim to prevent leakage; a shorter stem for easy removal; and anti-suction holes for a gentle break of suction. A happy period Since 2003, Jimmyjane has made it its mission to support the personal wellness goals of people around the world. As a sexual-wellness brand, it is experienced in combating social taboos in order to provide access to important products, and as an internationally recognized brand, it is uniquely suited to help shed light on the importance of ending period poverty. The launch of the Intimate Care Menstrual Cups was a big step, and it’s going a step

further with a new campaign in support of #HappyPeriod. #HappyPeriod is a nonprofit organization distributing menstrual protection to homeless and low-income women and people throughout the United States, and Jimmyjane will be donating $1 to the organization for every Jimmyjane Intimate Care Menstrual Cup sold in early 2020. In a world where lack of access to menstrual care products can actively hinder a person’s ability to work, learn, and function, menstrual cups provide reliable protection every month without necessitating ongoing financial responsibility. By chucking your old period products in favor of menstrual cups, supporting organizations like #HappyPeriod, and simply talking about the reality of period poverty, we can all take part in the change that brings us closer and closer to making affordable access to menstrual protection a reality for everyone. n Shannon McCarty-Caplan, Head of Marketing, Jimmyjane


The Time Is Now to Embrace Sexual Wellness As sexually transmitted infections (STIs) rise in the United States, the time is now to have comprehensive education about sexual wellness. In this fake news, post-truth era, it can be increasingly difficult to determine what the facts actually are. For younger Americans, the facts are sobering. Rising STIs A recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report shows that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have risen nationally for five consecutive years, reaching an all-time high this past year. And young Americans aged 15-24 account for half of the roughly 20 million new STIs that occur each year.

4 Products to Improve Your Sexual Wellness This holiday season, give yourself the gift of complete sexual wellness. From menstruation to hygiene to sex, these products are sure to satisfy.

1 Mimi Soft

2 FemCap

3 Yoni Shakti Bundle

4 Vella

Je Joue Mimi Soft clitoral vibrator is like a bullet, but better. The Mimi Soft’s pebble shape and deep, rumbly vibrations stimulate more nerve endings than any cheap buzzy bullet you may have tried before. Orgasmically superior in every way.

The FDA-approved FemCap is a hormone-free birth control method that’s easy to use and free of side effects. FemCap also delivers antibiotics or antifungals for prevention and treatment of vaginal infections.

Risks While most of these infections can be easily treated — and cured — by antibiotics, they can ultimately lead to serious health problems if left untreated. Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea, for example, can make it difficult, or even impossible, for a woman to get pregnant. Similarly, HIV infections can be well-controlled if detected and treated with antiretroviral drugs, which must be taken for life. If left untreated, HIV leads to the life-threatening opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. STI prevention There is no easy solution to all of this. But a great place to start would be by making it as easy as possible for young people to access the information they need to make smart choices about their sexual health and to get the facts. That responsibility lies with schools, health professionals, families, nonprofit and governmental organizations, and communities. It’s time we fully embraced sexual health and wellness as part of our overall health and wellness. Our young people are our future — so our future is at stake. Kevin Robert Frost, CEO, The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) 6 • FUTUREOFPERSONALHEALTH.COM

Ready for a complete vagina charge-up? Yoni Blossom Herbal Detox Wand clears out your vagina, Radiant Jade Yoni Egg harnesses your sexual energy, and Mahina Menstrual Cup is period enlightenment.

Vella™ is designed by scientists to enhance feminine sexual pleasure. Vella is a proprietary liposomal nanoencapsulation formulation developed with maximum cannabinoid bioavailability for smooth-muscle relaxation and increased blood flow.

Certified Sex Educator Shan Boodram on Why We Need to Talk About Sexuality Certified sex educator Shan Boodram, known for her dating coach and relationship expertise on YouTube, where she has 40 million followers, wants people to focus on their sexual needs and desires. “It’s not a matter of just letting things happen,” Boodram says. “You really do have to be the captain of your own ship, but that doesn’t mean that your direction has to look like everybody else’s.” As a sex educator, she says people need to focus on intimacy education and emotional intelligence education. They need to be able to understand their feelings. “Being able to express yourself intimately, being a good intimate partner, is a learned skill,” she says, encouraging people to make intimate education a part of

their lives. For example, listen to a sex podcast while you drive to work. Accessible Boodram grew up in a Caribbean household. Her sexuality was suppressed and complicated. Then when she was 19, she attended a conference and had an epiphany. “I looked at it and said there needs to be somebody who is making the information more approachable to younger people, making it more accessible,” she says, explaining that became her career mission. She studied journalism and covered sex and relationship stories. She also earned certifications to help her grow her knowledge in the area. Recently she was the host and a consulting producer for Facebook Watch’s relationship series, “Make Up or Break Up.”

Honest The “Game of Desire: 5 Surprising Secrets to Dating With Dominance — and Getting What You Want” author wants everyone to talk more honestly about sex instead of making it taboo. As part of her job, Boodram regularly tests sex toys. She says she used to feel pressure to have the most exciting sex life. She’s learned to honor her body and her needs. “I don’t always want to play and I don’t always want to do something adventurous, so we also try to be mindful to say we don’t have to try everything right now,” she says. “This is a long life and we have a long journey with our sexual self. I don’t put the pressure on myself to make every experience more exciting or thrilling than the last.” Open relationships She and her partner have honest communication. While they’re not currently engaging with other partners, they’re open to the idea. “As we have gone through our lives, there have been times where someone has had an experience with somebody else and we are open to what happens in the future,” she says. The couple started out as friends with benefits. Their relationship has grown slowly over time. “I think that the more honesty and communication we have in the space, the more people benefit,” she says. “I think the people who are afraid of communication are a part of the problem.” n Kristen Castillo

Finding Wellness During Your Period Your period can send you a message about yourself, your body, and your emotional state. Periods are a natural part of having a uterus, but there’s still a stigma around menstruation as a whole. We need to stop treating periods as something shameful to be hidden away, and instead celebrate them as a normal part of life — and that starts with our relationship to our own bodies. Imagine that every month, your favorite flower blossoms inside you. This flower needs you to tend the soil, water it regularly, and give it sunshine. The flower blooms in accordance to your devoted care. And then it wilts, sheds its petals, and gets composted back into the earth. Connect to yourself Every period lets you learn about yourself and your body’s needs. If you experience heavy PMS symptoms, take some time to relax, connect with yourself, and listen to what your body needs. This is your chance to center yourself and spend time tending to your emotional and physical well-being. Breathe and relax Cramps can be painful, but there are techniques you can use to mitigate symptoms. Take a moment and bring your hands to your stomach. Take a long, deep breath in, and fill your stomach completely. Let the breath linger while you bring your focus and awareness to your uterus. Exhale and let it all go. Repeat. Start with a few breaths and work up to a few minutes. Though menstruation often feels like a nuisance, it doesn’t have to be. Take this time to look after yourself, give yourself some self-care, and honor this natural, biological process. Your period can be a gift, not a curse. Alila Rose Grace, Founder, Mahina Menstrual Cup MEDIAPLANET • 7

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