Celebrate International Pronouns Day 2020

Did you know that October 21 is International Pronouns Day? Many people may not think much about pronouns, but this is an opportunity to increase awareness about how important it is to use the pronouns people determine are correct for them. This is especially important for people who identify as transgender or gender nonconforming. You can use this day—and, ideally, everyday—to acknowledge and learn about pronouns!

Pronouns Matter

People are not always conscious of others’ pronouns. But it’s important to honor the pronouns someone identifies with. What if you were assigned male at birth but identify as a girl or woman? Or maybe you were assigned female at birth but you identify as a guy? Someone may make an incorrect assumption about your pronouns based on physical appearance.

Or, what if you identify outside of the binary of girl/woman or boy/man altogether when it comes to gender? For example, some people use nonbinary pronouns like ze/hir or they/them. People often depend on that gender binary to make a judgment about someone else. But it’s important to recognize that gender identity is more fluid than just masculine or feminine. Check out this Gender Identity & Expression Map.

You Can Ask

Unfortunately, some people refuse to switch to a more inclusive system due to discrimination or a lack of understanding. But honoring someone’s pronouns shows respect.

What helps is asking for someone’s pronouns. Rather than asking someone what their gender is, ask what pronouns you should use to refer to them. By asking, we acknowledge how we will honor their gender identity.

What You Can Do to Share Your Pronouns

    • Add your pronouns to your digital and social media bios.
    • Include your pronouns in your email signature.
    • Share your pronouns when introducing yourself to new people. This makes space for everyone to share their pronouns, if they feel comfortable.
    • Use name tags with pronouns.
    • Speak up if someone misgenders you.

Tips for Honoring Others’ Pronouns

    • If there is no opportunity to ask someone, use gender neutral pronouns such as “they/them” until you know for sure. However, try to find a time as soon as possible to get clarification on what someone’s pronouns are.
    • If you get it wrong, don’t feel terrible. Just allow yourself to be corrected (or correct yourself), apologize for your error and move on in the conversation.
    • Make sure you get clarity about which pronouns to use in specific spaces. Some people prefer to use the pronouns they were assigned at birth in certain situations to avoid conflict with family members. Unfortunately, it may not be safe for them to be out when it comes to their gender identity.


No matter where you are in your own pronoun journey, be part of a supportive community by making others feel welcome. Whether it’s by sharing your pronouns on social media or starting a conversation by asking for someone’s pronouns, you can work to support diverse identities and make spaces comfortable for others.

Have a great International Pronouns Day and check out this resource for more info!

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The Top Myths about Lust and Love and How They can Ruin Your Sex Life (Part Two)

In this article, Certified Gottman Therapist Dr. Cheryl Fraser continues to debunk love life ideas that you’ve got to be in the mood and that great love “just happens.”

The post The Top Myths about Lust and Love and How They can Ruin Your Sex Life (Part Two) appeared first on The Gottman Institute.


How to Talk to Children and Teens About Uncertainty

Life can be unpredictable, but you can help the young people in your life learn how to cope.

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The Art of Sensual Communication

When you put words to your desire for your partner, you can experience a satisfying relationship in and out of bed.

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Five Ways to Be an Ally to Someone Who Comes Out to You

My best friend and I have known each other for over a decade, since we met in preschool. Yet it still took her some time to fully open up to me about her sexual orientation. She was scared of how it might impact our friendship and that I was going to judge her.

I am so happy that she was able to come out to me. It not only made our bond stronger, but allowed us to experience a genuine moment of friendship and, for me, allyship.

October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a time to celebrate and support those who identify as LGBTQ. Coming out can be awkward and challenging, and for some, dangerous. But having a circle of supportive family and friends can make the difference.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, the number is only one in ten.” They go on to say that, “When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.”

Feeling confused about what to do or say if someone comes out to you? Here are some ideas.

    1. Recognize it is not about you. Do not turn the conversation immediately to yourself. Instead, be patient and let your friend/family member/partner say what they have to say at their own pace.
    2. Appreciate. A simple “Thank you for opening up to me.” communicates closeness and acceptance. When my best friend came out to me, it was no easy task for her. I felt special that out of all the people she knew, she felt she could confide in me.
    3. Ask (appropriate) questions. If you are unsure how to respond, ask how you can help or show support. If the person shares their gender identity with you, you can ask what name or pronoun they want you to use. You should also ask if other people know. Just because this person came out to you doesn’t mean they are out to other people.
    4. Listen and support. Listen attentively and offer support. Make sure they know you are there for them and everything they say will be kept confidential.
    5. Learn. Learning about LGBTQ people and history can be a genuine way of showing that you care and are an ally. LGBTQ individuals are often not represented when we learn about history, so this is important.

When someone comes out to you, it’s an honor. Being an ally means taking the time to listen and advocate for those who are LGBTQ.

My best friend and I are still building our friendship, now going on 13 years strong! I’m so glad she felt comfortable enough to trust me.

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Five LGBT Icons You Should Know

In honor of October being LGBT History Month, I thought we should celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender icons that you’re, unfortunately, probably not learning about in your history class. Let’s take a look at some of the people responsible for the progress celebrated today.

James Baldwin

Baldwin (pictured top left in the photo above) was a Black essayist, playwright and novelist famous for his writings about race, class and sexual orientation. Baldwin gave a voice to queer people by writing about characters who were gay and bisexual. In his works, he spoke of the experience of being both gay and Black in America. His insights on sexual orientation and race offered an intersectional perspective that people weren’t hearing much about at the time.

Baldwin was open about his homosexuality, and he believed sexual orientation was more fluid than just “gay” or “straight.” He never felt the need to fit into any rigid category and believed that a label would just limit his freedom.

For more information, you can read his works, including The Fire Next Time, Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room and Notes of a Native Son, among many others.

Barbara Gittings

Gittings (pictured top center in the photo above) was an openly lesbian woman who advocated for gay rights before the LGBTQ movement had fully taken form in the U.S. In 1958, she started the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis (DOB), the first U.S. lesbian civil rights organization. She organized numerous protests and demonstrations aimed at securing rights for queer people and worked hard to both raise awareness about and decrease stigma related to being gay, including challenging supporters of gay conversion therapy.

Gittings, alongside fellow activist Frank Kameny, also fought a long battle to change psychiatry’s classification of homosexuality as a disease in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association removed its designation of homosexuality as a disorder.

For additional information, you can check out the documentary Gay Pioneers.

Marsha P. Johnson

Johnson (pictured bottom right in the photo above) was a New York City (NYC), self-identified drag queen; a trailblazing transgender and gay rights activist; and an AIDS activist. Johnson noticed that an alarming number of gender nonconforming people, specifically people of color, were living on the street, so with her friend and fellow activist, Sylvia Rivera, Johnson founded Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.). S.T.A.R. established a residence for displaced transgender individuals, especially young people. It served as a safe space, away from violence, harassment and intolerance.

But even before that, Johnson was at the Stonewall Riots, when LGBTQ people clashed with the NYC police. This marked a turning point for the gay liberation movement in the U.S. and inspired Pride marches that still happen annually around the world today.

To learn more about Marsha P. Johnson, check out the documentaries Pay It No Mind:The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson and The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson.

Larry Kramer

Kramer—who passed away earlier this year at the age of 84—was a writer and outspoken gay rights activist who fought to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. Kramer (pictured bottom left in the photo above) co-founded the advocacy groups GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which used the iconic SILENCE = DEATH image that became a symbol for the AIDS crisis. He insisted that the HIV/AIDS epidemic be acknowledged as the public health emergency that it was.

Kramer’s work dramatically challenged and changed public health policies related to HIV/AIDS. He was aggressive in his advocacy for public health and gay rights, in order to get attention for these important causes. He showed that LGBTQ people would fight to be seen and would not be wiped away by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

To learn more about Larry Kramer, watch the documentary How to Survive a Plague or the HBO version of his landmark play The Normal Heart.

Harvey Milk

Milk (pictured top right in the photo above) became the first openly gay or lesbian elected official in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He used his position to advocate for marginalized communities who were facing widespread hostility and discrimination.

After almost a year in office, Milk was assassinated. But his legacy lives on. The doors he opened have led to increasing numbers of openly gay politicians running for office—and winning. Additionally, his plea for more people to come out has inspired many individuals to live their truth. In fact, in an audio recording released after his death, he said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door in the country.”

For more information, watch the movie Milk or the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. Or, read The Mayor of Castro Street.

These individuals are just a few important LGBTQ figures you should know about. There are many others who have helped give a voice to LGBTQ people, marched in protest and brought important aspects of the queer community out of the shadows.

Let’s take a moment to thank these five particularly inspiring, historical icons.

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Machismo: How Toxic Masculinity Harms Latinx People – an interview with Laura Carlsen

Machismo is an expression of exacerbated masculinity that has caused lingering pain and trauma to generations of Latinx people. Many young people are still struggling with it today.

“Machismo” has dreadful roots in Latin based cultures, and is strongly associated with many men’s identities, Latin society and its expressions. Its name derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word “macho” which means male. Machismo is an expression of exacerbated masculinity that has caused lingering pain and trauma to generations of Latinx people. Many young people are still struggling with it today.

Journalist and scholar Laura Carlsen directs the journalistic site Americas Program, focused in Latin America’s foreign policies and the countries’ relations to the USA. She has studied and lived in Mexico city since 1986. In her line of work, Carlsen has to deal with machismo from politics to femicides. She’s dealt with it as it’s spilled into newsrooms where female reporters are bullied and sexually harassed by editors and colleagues, and while gender violence as femicide are treated in some media channels as day to day “sexual assaults” or romanticized as “crimes of passion.”  Scarleteen spoke to Carlsen to further understand machismo and the damages it can cause.

Scarleteen (ST): Can you define machismo and its characteristics?

Laura Carlsen (LC): It is commonly considered an exaggerated expression of masculine identity, but I’d say it’s more a deformed expression of masculine identity constructed to perpetuate and strengthen male dominance over women. It is expressed in brute force, that is, violence against women that confirms a submissive and discriminated role and denies physical and emotional autonomy; in oppressive attitudes that belittle, intimidate, and humiliate women and children; and social characteristics that encourage all of the above, especially in groups of men.

ST: What differentiates machismo from sexism?

LC: Sexism refers more to the structural system and is not directly tied to male character expressions and identities.

ST: How is machismo in Latin America different from the rest of the world?

LC: It’s no coincidence that the word for a stereotypical male-dominated culture is “machismo,” derived from the Spanish word for male and originating in Latin culture. Today in Latin American cultures, machismo is still considered the accepted norm by most of society whereas in other countries at least there is a recognition that, like racism, it is a form of discrimination that should be overcome.

As a direct result of the acceptance of machismo, or male-domination, Latin American countries have the highest rates of violence against women in the world. Also, the world’s cities with the highest homicide rates in general are located here (According to a 2018 report from Igarapé Institute Latin America has 8% of the world’s population, but 33% of its homicides and four countries in the region – Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela – are home to a quarter of all the assassinations on the planet). When a heavily macho culture is combined with weak institutions, faulty justice systems and easy access to firearms, like it is in our region, the result is lethal – for women, children and men.

ST: Are there social or cultural catalysts of that violence?

LC: There is a long history of not only acceptance of male violence and male domination, but of celebration of it. A man who has a more equal relationship with his wife or girlfriend is ridiculed as a “mandilón” (literally, “tied to her apron strings”). Motherhood is accompanied by reinforcement of traditional gender roles and strong barriers against women in the public sphere.

Men’s control of the family economy and often of women’s bodies creates decencies that maintain women’s submission. It’s a reinforcing cycle that despite greater awareness and some public policy to counter it, continues to remain strongly in place. In fact, we’re seeing many signs instances of regression, with the emergence of new fundamentalist movements and rollbacks in women’s legislative gains.

ST: Do you think the societies that lived here before the conquistadors were also sexist?

LC: It’s impossible to talk about all pre-Hispanic (indigenous) societies as one because they each have their own cultures and societies. Anthropologists generally agree that to portray the colonialists as the origin of machismo is wrong–that gender inequality existed in most pre-Hispanic societies.  However, there are also many ways in which women were less oppressed and there are many aspects of these societies that we are still learning about. One constant seems to be that with the rise of militarism comes greater subjugation and exclusion of women.

ST: Has it diminished as time went by or is it still very strong?

LC: It is still very strong and as I mentioned in some ways getting stronger. We have laws, such as electoral gender quotas that have increased the number of women in politics but the manipulation of these laws is widespread and cynical.

In Mexico, a large number of women candidates ceded their elected positions to their husbands after taking office and we had a recent case of parties registering men as transgender to fill women’s quotas despite the fact these people had never before identified as such.

ST: Is there any correlation between machismo and religion?

LC: Yes, the Catholic church hierarchy in many countries and evangelicals have initiated orchestrated offenses against women’s sexual and reproductive rights as part of what they call “family values” that by keeping women and girls from reaching their full human potential and encouraging violence do immeasurable damage to families.

ST: Can you talk a bit more about the correlation between machismo, the Catholic church, and the policing of women’s bodies (particularly their sexual and reproductive health)?

LC: I’m thinking of the Evelyn Hernandez trial, which had a relieving outcome but was still a vicious case nonetheless. (Salvadorian Ms. Hernandez was prosecuted for aggravated homicide based on an obstetric emergency she went through while birthing her child).

ST: During demonstrations in the USA of white male supremacy in 2018 we saw some men with T-shirts making references to the deadly helicopter rides done by the Chilean dictatorial government to throwsome of those who oppose them out of airplanes to hide their deaths. Is there an intersection between white male supremacy and machismo?

LC: Yes. What’s interesting here is that there is an assumption that opposition to white male dominance can and should be annihilated.

ST: How does machismo affect Latin American politics? 

LC: In a number of ways. It is a cultural current that serves to repress feminist movements and campaigns for women’s rights and justify male supremacy. It openly validates discrimination by creating cultural expressions in music, literature, film etc. that set out macho role models that assure its reproduction in the next generation, stunting the emotional growth and human potential of children both male and female. It operates on the basis of dualisms that construe differences as battles for dominance and require active suppression of any human expression that threatens male supremacy.

ST: How does machismo affect your journalistic work and observations of Latin America?

LC: Machismo poses a huge challenge to women journalists. Issues that mostly affect women are ignored or buried by editors, gender violence is trivialized as sexual assault and even assassination of women are justified in the language as “crimes of passion”. we have to struggle to be treated equally as reporters and analysts and face widespread sexual harassment on the job. With high levels of violence against journalists, women journalists face specific threats of sexual violence along with general threats, and not only against them, but against their families.

In Mexico, the tragic and unsolved murder of Miroslava Breach sent a chilling message to women reporters regarding the risks we face. Lately women have been organizing groups of women in journalism to confront these barriers and force the media to be more responsive and adopt protection measures. These groups are important but incipient and still striving to change an industry that is deeply sexist.

ST: Is there any way to extricate machismo from “family values”?

LC: They are completely the opposite. Machismo is statistically the greatest threat to the safety and health of families since rates of male violence affect children’s and mothers’ health, physical integrity, emotional well-being, economic stability, etc.


Libido and Lockdown

Are people experiencing the “quarantine hornies,” or is sex entirely off the menu? The answer is yes; both; all the above. Here's some help for dealing with changes in libido and sexuality, how you express them, and sexual safety for right now.

A lot has changed in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing, quarantine, school closures, working from home, not working at all (not to mention fear about the health of you and/or your loved ones), as well as… libido.

Are people experiencing the “quarantine hornies,” or is sex entirely off the menu? The answer is yes; both; all the above.

Shifts in stress and anxiety, as well as big life changes, can have an effect on a person’s libido in either direction. From a biological perspective, eating, sleeping, and exercising habits all affect sexual appetite. Getting more sleep now? Sexual desire might increase. Can’t go to the gym anymore and don’t work out as much? Sexual urges might decrease. Eating lots of food, but not the healthiest kinds? You guessed it, potential passionate-feelings buzzkill.

A psychological concept called Terror Management Theory provides another explanation for why this libido change can occur in either direction. This theory says that when we are reminded of our mortality, we alter our behaviors. Though the creators of this theory didn’t specifically relate it to libido, the connection makes sense. Basically, “Life is short! I need to have lots of sex!” or “Life is short! There’s no time for lots of sex when I have so many other things to worry about!”

Anxiety can also affect libido in a bi-directional manner. Think of it like Goldilocks and the Libido-Bears of Anxiety. Too much or too extreme anxiety can decrease sexual desire drastically, whereas just a little bit,  juuuuust the right amount, can increase it (no anxiety at all, of course, has no effect). It’s also possible to alternate between both ends of the libido spectrum!

While anxiety, Terror Management Theory, and lifestyle changes are some broad explanations for libido changes during the pandemic, you may be wondering if there are any other, more specific reasons. There are.

“Where on earth did my libido go?”

  • Survival Stress: There are so many causes of stress right now. There’s relationship stress (of the familial, platonic, sexual, and romantic kinds), for one. There’s also school stress. Adapting to digital learning or making the decision to take some time off from school are both really difficult. Motivation and focus might suffer right now, further increasing stress. Plus, there’s work stress. The loss of a job—part-time or full time, for either you or your parents— is always stressful, let alone piling everything else happening right now on top. Pair this up with a pandemic and health concerns, and “survival stress” occurs. When this happens, the body essentially goes into fight-or-flight, and the only thing that matters is getting through the stressor—sex be damned.
  • Mental health struggles: Many people are experiencing mental health changes during this time. Previously controlled depression might now be spiking. Panic could be appearing for the first time. Generalized anxiety might be rearing its head. If you’ve lost a loved one during this time, there’s processing, grief, and mourning. All these things can drop a sky-high libido down to the sub-basement.
  • Pregnancy, contraception, and other sexual health concerns: if you do have access to a sexual partner*, fears about pregnancy or STIs could stunt libido. Expired IUDs or Depo-Provera shots might not be easy to renew right now. Perhaps you’re out of PrEP and don’t want to risk going to a doctor’s office or pharmacist for more. Maybe there are access issues for reproductive health care. Either way, worrying about getting pregnant or contracting an STI isn’t exactly a turn on.

“Why am I in the mood all the time?”

  • Physical contact changes: Even if you weren’t sexually active with partners before lockdown, you likely experienced other forms of physical touch from romantic partners, friends, and family. Now, without access to partners and friends, that physical contact is lacking, and quarantining with family might have you cringing at the thought of giving them a hug. This prolonged lack of physical contact can cause an increased desire for physical intimacy, which may include sexual intimacy.
  • Sex or masturbation as coping mechanism, distraction tactic, or stress reliever: Whether it’s a solo session with a hand or toy, or a sexy video chat or phone call with a partner, sex and orgasms release feel-good hormones which can be helpful in periods of high-anxiety. If you’re experiencing pandemic-induced anxiety (think back to the Libido Bears), the body might know it needs something to relax, and you might be getting turned on more as a result!
  • Schedule changes: Before the pandemic you may have had classes, a job, sports, clubs, religious obligations, and a social life. If you were really busy, you could have simply lacked the time to always be in the mood back then. Now, with many things cancelled or put on hold, there’s more opportunity for you and your body to feel aroused. Similarly, with the removal of many obligations from your plate, your stress levels might have decreased, which can increase libido.

“What do I do about it?”

  • Whether you don’t currently have a partner or a safe way to be with one, or don’t want to masturbate all the time, you can channel your libido energy elsewhere. Finding something that fully occupies your mind can be a great distraction from unwanted arousal. Play a game, paint a picture, work on a puzzle, read a (non-sexy) book.
  • Meditation can also be useful. Meditation can improve willpower, self-awareness, patience, tolerance, and the ability to refocus attention. Becoming more in tune with the senses through mediation can be helpful in redirecting them. This practice can also help you become better at experiencing sexual feelings and subsequently letting them go.
  • Though certain kinds of exercise increase libido, exercise can also be used to tone down your arousal or release those feelings. High intensity exercise can be a great option, because it can decrease or answer libido, distract you from arousal, and make you way too tired to even think about wanting to have sex.

“I don’t like that my libido has changed. I want it to go back to the way it was. What do I do?”

  • Don’t guilt or shame yourself. If you normally enjoy a high libido, but now don’t want to be touched with a ten-foot pole, it’s okay. You’re still you, and you haven’t done anything wrong to bring this upon yourself. Your libido will return as the world settles into new normalcy and life becomes less scary and unknown. Likewise, if you never felt like you needed much sexual contact, but now are always itching for a release, know that you didn’t all of a sudden become sex crazed, and you’re not doomed to a life of constant horniness. Things will even out.
  • Pandemic or not, fluctuations in libido throughout life are extremely common. Age, diet, life changes, and many other things factor into sexual desire, and this will remain true during periods of life other than this one. Lockdown may have intensified libido changes for many people, but that doesn’t mean there will be need to worry if desire fluctuations happen again down the road when the pandemic is over. This also means that libido changes right now for some people might not have anything to do with the pandemic at all! It could just be one of the many perfectly normal libido shifts that occur throughout life.
  • Talk to someone you can trust. That person can be a romantic or sexual partner, friend, relative… really, anyone you’re comfortable with. Just talking about what you’re experiencing can minimize distress. If that doesn’t work and you have the access to mental health care, counselors—especially those certified in sex therapy—can be a great resource to help you work though these changes. Many counselors are offering teletherapy right now, so you can keep yourself and your family safe while still taking care of your mental and sexual health. Scarleteen’s direct services are also available to you.
  • Masturbate! Solo-sex can be helpful whether your libido is unusually low or unusually high. Masturbation can help release some sexual tension if your libido is higher than normal; likewise, if your libido seems to have flown off to a distant country, taking some time to really get yourself aroused, and doing so on a somewhat regular basis, can help bring your sex drive back up naturally. It’s kind of like a positive and negative feedback loop in one. This practice can be valuable whether you’re single or in a relationship with someone you no longer have physical access to.
  • If you have a partner*, finding other ways to be intimate (sexual and not) are super important and useful right now. Besides phone calls and video chatting, try writing each other a poem, or making each other a picture. Work out together in your own separate homes. Pick out a movie to watch at the same time. Make playlists for each other and listen to them simultaneously. Cook a dinner together on video chat, or order from the same restaurant. Intimacy building is an important part of all relationships, and adaptations in how we do so may lead your relationship to become even stronger!

*You are your safest sex partner. This is true always, but especially right now.

If you are having sex with a partner you don’t live with, there are risks associated with participating in in-person partnered sexual activity. We know that COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets found in saliva and breath, making kissing a particularly high risk for transmission, and heavy breathing during sex can exacerbate spread. Though scientists currently think it’s unlikely for the virus to spread through semen or vaginal fluid, there may be a possibility for transmission through contact with fecal matter, making oral-anal contact a potential mode infection. Remember that trauma can lead to risk taking, and many people are experiencing trauma right now due to the pandemic, so intentionally prioritizing proper sexual precautions is of utmost importance. If you do have sex with someone outside your household, be safe.

  • Avoid kissing and unprotected oral-body contact, especially oral-anal contact.
  • Try mutual masturbation. Self-pleasuring together from a distance is significantly safer than up-close body-to-body activity.
  • Use barrier protection always, and contraception if needed. Focusing on COVID safety doesn’t mean standard sexual health practices should take a back-seat.
  • Talk about COVID the same way you would any sexual health topic. Does either partner have any symptoms? Has either been tested recently? What was the diagnosis? Safe-sex conversation skills can be truly beneficial for this situation.
  • Minimize the amount of partners you have during this time. If you are going to have sex, limiting your number of partners can be truly helpful with preventing spread of the virus.
  • Make informed decisions about your partners. Have they been social distancing or quarantining? How many people live in their household? Though risk is still high regardless, risk significantly increases if one or both people have not been following social distancing guidelines.
  • Wear a mask. Though masks don’t work perfectly in close contact, they can still help minimize spread by containing droplets. If you’re going to be having sex, taking every precaution you can is important. Though it may seem strange at first, incorporating masks into sex can be a fun and adventurous new thing!
  • Shower before meeting up and after parting ways, and wash your hands for twenty seconds immediately prior to and immediately post sexual activity. Cleaning your body and hands can remove any droplets that may have landed on your skin during un-masked alone time or from contact with your partner.

In the end, it’s important to remember that these times are difficult for everyone. You’re allowed to have feelings about what’s going on, and you’re allowed to be nervous about libido changes. But know that it’s all normal, and it’s okay that these changes are happening. People all over the world are experiencing the same things you are. And it will get better.


World Contraception Day 2020

Happy World Contraception Day! Part of the international Your Life campaign, World Contraception Day takes place every year on September 26. It was launched with the aim of helping young people around the world make safe and educated decisions about sex.

Why This Matters to Teens

This is especially important for teens, who often don’t receive education about contraception in school. Just “16 states require instruction on condoms or contraception when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided,” according to SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change. Plus, “35 require schools to stress abstinence when sex education or HIV/STI instruction is provided.”

But, the reality is that there are teens who choose to have sex and not remain abstinent, and this lack of information has an effect on them. “By the time they are in twelfth grade, the majority of high school students have had sexual intercourse,” says a report done by the Guttmacher Institute using data from the U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys done in 2013, 2015 and 2017, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Contraceptive Choices

World Contraception Day seeks to educate teens about the importance of safer sex. When it comes to preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the campaign introduces teens to information and resources about their contraceptive choices.

Currently, there are numerous forms of contraception available and finding one that works for you can seem like a daunting task. This campaign can help teens decide which method is best for them and what steps to take to access different contraceptive methods, including finding a health care provider if needed.

A Great Resource

The Your Life website guides teens on the usage and function of various contraceptive methods, teaching them things like which methods prevent STDs in addition to unintended pregnancy and the effectiveness of each. In addition, the website includes answers to commonly asked questions in order to enable teens to make decisions that benefit them most.

For many teens, high school is the time they begin to consider having sex for the first time. That’s why it’s so important to have campaigns like World Contraception Day that raise awareness and give them the opportunity they deserve to make informed decisions about their bodies and sexual health.

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How Do I Tell If Someone Is Into Me?

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation. Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. Douglas Laman is here to give fellow autistic readers a little help.

You can read a book. You can read a map. But reading people, that’s difficult in any situation.

Reading people to figure out if they’re actually into you romantically or sexually is even more difficult. It’s a harrowing part of developing any sort of crush on another person. That sensation of your mind ping-ponging back and forth between the ideas that your crush is infatuated with you and that your crush probably doesn’t even know you exist. The difficulty of navigating this scenario is only exacerbated for many autistic people. After all, it plays into a struggle found among many of us, myself included, dealing with reading people’s subtle social cues.

If somebody is trying to let you know if they “like” you or not, they’re often going to communicate those feelings through hand movements, raised eyebrows or vocal tone. Trying to navigate those signals has brought me plenty of frustration in the past. I’m surely not the only autistic person to feel that struggle.

There are ways to cut through all the confusion and get some clarity on if someone you like feels the same way about you. But first, let’s clarify if the water is safe to swim in before you go jumping in that pool. In other words, let’s examine why you think a person might like you back. What circumstances have led you to think a person feels this way about you? Is it just because they have been nice to you? Is there a deeper connection between you two? What kind of conversations have you shared in the past?

There is a great deal of difference between a person exhibiting basic kindness and exhibiting indicators of feeling something more passionate. Contemplate your past interactions with this person to figure out if there’s anything in their body language and vocals to even examine.

Once you’re sure there’s something deeper, then there are ways to figure out if your suspicions are correct. These subtle signals can appear anywhere and at anytime through subtle pieces of body language. Some people may explicitly say “I like you” or “I don’t like you like that,” but many people won’t be so direct. Particularly with the latter phrase, people tend to convey their interior desires through gestures.

Now, sometimes, a stretch is just a stretch. It’s important to not lapse into self-absorbed territory and think every move a person makes is a signal to you. But other times, what a person does with their bodies can indicate something greater. This is especially true when a person is trying to convey whether they like you or not. For example, a person may indicate they feel closer to you through means like frequently getting closer to you. Conversely, a person looking always looking off or moving further away when engaging with you is trying to indicate they’re uncomfortable in this social situation and don’t want to be closer to you.

Of course, not every piece of body language is as simple as looking away or moving closer. If you’re still struggling to figure out what their body language means, you can use context clues to help you figure it out.  An example of this could be if the person you’re attached to looks at the floor. Did you recently say something that would cause the other person to turn downwards? Did they indicate they wanted to look at the floor? Did behavior from another person cause this? There are all kinds of things all around you that can help lead you to the meaning behind body language. In the process, you can figure out how the other person is subtly communicating their feelings about you.

A similar process can be used to decipher the underlying meaning behind someone’s voice. The way a person says a certain phrase can indicate they feel comfortable around you and may reciprocate your feelings. However, a person can also use details about their voice to convey the opposite feeling. This is especially notable in the kind of words and subjects they use in a conversation. For instance, your crush may repeatedly refer to you as a friend or change the subject when you bring up more intimate subject matter. These function as a way of a person quietly letting you know they just don’t like you in a romantic way.

If you want to figure out a persons feelings about you, it’s important to also interact with them in the right environment. For this topic, check out my recent Scarleteen column looking at ideal places for a first date.  This location should strive for a balance between intimacy and comfort for the person you’re seeing. Somewhere like a museum, a restaurant or a thrift store can provide plenty of opportunities for one-on-one interactions. However, they also have lots of other people around, which can provide comfort for the other person you’re seeing. In these locations, you can examine your crush’s body language and vocal traits to figure out whether you’re they like you back.

Of course, these tips, particularly ones regarding places to meet, are more applicable to traditional dating expectations than where we’re all at right now as I’m writing this. In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is anything but traditional. People are connecting through virtual means rather than in-person scenarios. These tips about body language and vocal tics can still be applicable over a Zoom session. Additionally, this virtual reality offers new indicators whether a person is into you or not.

Let us look at a person constantly declining your requests to have a one-on-one videochat session. Though they may always say it’s because they’re “busy”, this recurring notice can be the other person trying to gently let you know they’re not interested in you in that manner. On a more positive note, recurring prolonged one-on-one Zoom or Skype sessions with another person can be a good indicator that they may have deeper feelings for you.

If you’re getting signals that they do, in fact, feel the same way about you, then you can start to gradually incorporate the topics like seeing each other regularly or having a more romantic or sexual date into your conversations. However, it is crucial to note that, whether you’re interacting in-person or virtually, you will never be able to read another person’s body language better than that other person. If the person you’re with is expressing discomfort or lack of consent, even if it doesn’t look like that to you, that overrides your interpretation.

Similarly, if a person ends up not reciprocating your feeling of affection, that’s totally okay. You can feel disappointed, of course, but them not returning your romantic intentions does not make them a villain. This is especially an important lesson to impart for heterosexual cisgender men. As a society, men are conditioned to think they’re owed women as romantic partners. If a woman deviates from a man’s affections, well, it gets chalked up to being a conspiracy against “nice guys” or other similar expressions of entitlement. We’re not entitled to women, their attention or affection.

Those toxic ideas reduce women from being people to objects. That’s why it’s important, even if you’re disappointed that your crush isn’t into you, to not diminish the humanity of that former crush. They are a person too and one perfectly within their own rights not to be enamored with you.

Reading a person’s body language is significantly harder than reading a map or a book. However, it is an essential process. Much like not demonizing a person because they’re not into you, understanding a person’s body language is a great way to recognize somebody else’s humanity. Relationships are not built on treating people like trophies to be obtained. Taking the time to assess a person as a human being who communicates needs through body language, that is what relationships are all about.

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