[insert female condom here]

Contraception eh?! Fun stuff, for some people it’s an everyday part of their existence. A pill they take day in day out for a massive chunk of their lives. Others implant something in their arm or their uterus and don’t think about it again for several years. For some people it’s a conversation every time they get their kit off, an expectation or negotiation for the best possible outcome each time. And until recently it’s always been a male centred device.

The female condom was originally made using a polyurethane which made it a) very expensive and b) akin to the sensation of having sex with a crisp packet. The newer model, FC2, is made with much cheaper (and quieter) nitrile but has struggled to overcome the stigma connected with the first model. Continue reading

Review: No Such Thing as Normal, Off the Wall Youth Circus Troupe at the Melbourne Fringe Festival

News Flash: Off The Wall Troupe will be performing No Such Thing As Normal at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from the 25th Feb to 4th March 2012. Get your info and tickets now! And meet the cast at Festival Fishbowl.

I just got home from the Melbourne Fringe Festival with my brother and had to write about the show I saw IMMEDIATELY.

Those of you who know me will know that I’ve been involved with Westside Circus through my work for a while now. Those who don’t should check out the work that Westside does straight away and everyone should grab tickets to go see the newly formed Off the Wall youth troupe’s Fringe Festival performance: No Such Thing as Normal.

From what I understand, Off the Wall is a new troupe, consisting of former Behind the Wall performers. I also understand that the troupe is entirely organised, directed, produced, planned and everything else by the young people involved. Very impressive, not least because the show was absolutely awesome. Continue reading

friday feminaust ~ Chelsea Lewis

Chelsea Lewis is our friday feminaust

What is my feminism?

I’ve always been an activist from leading a protest to the Headmaster’s office in grade four, to Amnesty and Clean Up Australia Day, and ten years volunteering for a queer community radio program, to being an ardent letter to the editor writer and talkback radio caller and the family member who is guaranteed to generate powerful dinner table discussion.

Looking back, I realise I have also always been a feminist but my feminism truly arrived along with the birth of my daughter and I learned a vocabulary for it when I began working at a women’s organisation. Continue reading

YWCA World Council ~ Waking up to your sexual and reproductive health and rights

(left to right): Billington; Betty Naomi Goldstein Friedan; Barbara Ireton; and Marguerite Rawalt

Today I had a sexual awakening. Don’t worry, the rest of this post won’t read like the lyrics to a Marvin Gaye song. I’m talking about waking up to the concept of SRHR – sexual and reproductive health and rights.

At the 2011 International Women’s Summit (IWS), much of the program is dedicated to the work being done by women around the world to combat HIV, and other issues related to SRHR. I was excited to hear the stories of these leaders (who are often women younger than I am), but I didn’t see SRHR as relevant to me. After all, way back when I had braces some awkward male teaching graduate in Reeboks showed me how to put a condom on a banana. Sexual education? Tick! But yesterday I attended the session on SRHR at the World YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Dialogue and the young woman facilitating the session started asking a lot of questions I couldn’t answer. Sure you know how to not catch an STI when you have sex, but what about your emotional health? You know you have the right to say no, but what about your right to privacy – who finds out about your sex life? We’ve all sat through lectures on the seemingly endless negative consequences of sexual activity (unwanted pregnancies, scarlet letters, hairy palms), but how old were you when someone first gave you a positive message about your sexuality? Has that ever happened?

Hmm. Perhaps more relevant than I had thought. Continue reading

Sexuality Gender and Rights Institute: Make No Assumptions

So for those of you who don’t know me personally, or haven’t heard my unending ranting about the incredible institute I’ve been attending in Istanbul guess what… I’ve just been attending an incredible institute in Istanbul!

The focus of the institute was to develop the skills and understanding of activists, project coordinators and advocates from around the world (with a focus on the global south) to deal with issues of human rights in sexuality and gender. The participants are wildly variant from sexuality educators from Kyrgystan, queer film festival innovators from China, journalists from Syria and women’s rights activists from South Africa. On the first day, we learnt our very first lesson, first thing in the morning.

Make no assumptions

Or, if you must make assumptions, make as few as possible

Or, at least know what assumptions you are making

This mantra would be seriously put to the test over the next 9 days with no topics closed to discussion (except maybe the development of a new framework other than the human rights one to talk about this issues through – I think that was just too much for the organisers to even contemplate!). Conversations ranged from, is adult-child sex always abuse? What is the standard of sexual legitimacy that we want to work with (currently the accepted standard is “consent” but within that word lie many sleeping assumptions and challenges). What is the sexual hierarchy in your part of the world and how can it be changed/challenged/rejected? Does gender really exist outside of the collective societal mind and if not how can we campaign for trans and intersex rights without relying on a gender identity framework? Woah was my brain spinning every night with the ideas and discussions flying around the meeting room at the Hotel Erboy in Istanbul! Continue reading

The Exchange Value of Sexual Encounters: Gina Robinson

I recently read something that raised my feminist ire:  it was a blog entry where a young guy explained why he would only marry a woman who had had fewer  sexual partners than he had, had. Aside from the difficulties of the presumption that marriage is just a function of growing up, like the body losing its ability to regenerate, far more concerning is the presumption that to be marriage material, a woman must not have  ‘too many’ sexual partners. The way that this guy (as a sidenote—continually typing ‘this guy’ palls, I shall  level with you: it was Vinny Guadagnino, given a public sphere profile by the Jersey Shore) justified what he acknowledged was a ‘double standard’ was by saying that the exchange value of sexual encounters was different for the sexes: females traded gold, and males traded silver, therefore males had to have more sex to get the same ‘value’. What I like about Vinny’s words is that he admits the double standard, and acknowledges that both sexes are capable of feeling desire and acting upon it. What raises my ire is that rather than deconstructing it, he seeks to justify it by the gold-silver analogy. Continue reading

“from the mouths of babes” ~ What did you learn? Both sexes wank

 Part of my day job is running community programs  with young women at a local high school. The aims  of the program are to improve self esteem and  confidence, instil a sense of community and team  work and talk about issues of body image, the  objectification of women and hyper-sexualised  images in magazines, music videos and other media.  Note that so far, masturbation, has not come up as a  topic. That’s because it’s not a topic, somehow I think  if I went to a funder and said that I wanted to teach  high school girls about masturbation, I might struggle to get funding. And yet for one girl who participated in my program last term, this was the message which most stood out for her. How did this happen and what do I think about it?

Continue reading

Review – The Talk DVD

The Talk – A sexual health and ethics dvd aimed at parents, carers and teenagers.

I went to the launch of this DVD today, basically a room full of comedians and health professionals at the Melbourne Town Hall… my idea of heaven! Nelly Thomas has hit the right note once again with this dvd talking about sex and sexual relationships in a fun and interesting way, without trivialising the important stuff or ignoring the awkward stuff. As a community worker I love the section on “doing it right” best, an opportunity to talk about sexual rights and responsibilities that is sorely needed in sexuality education whether in the home or at school. I had pretty good sex ed when I was at school but sexual ethics were still missed from the equation and when I talk to young people about it I find they either have no idea what I’m talking about or are completely blown away that I would even bring it up!

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more in the DVD that I might be able to draw out and use in my own work currently but it’s not aimed at health professionals and as a starting block for parents to talk to their kids about sex it really does the job.

The cut aways to short snippets of stand up are a brilliant way to lighten the mood and give anxious watchers some breathing space (although I’d love to see the unedited versions). There’s a mock family trying to discuss sex and failing spectacularly, a great way of showing how not to do “the talk”. The animations and amusing and original and Nelly Thomas is an engaging and amusing host. Good to see some recognisable professionals doing their thing and I was very chuffed to see a text book I actually own in the backdrop of one of the scenes!

I think a lot has been left out but anything longer and there would be too much to talk about afterwards. I think Ms Thomas has left it wide open for a sequel dealing with more awkward and uncomfortable conversations and I look forward to what might be produced.

Get your copy at http://www.thetalkdvd.com.au