Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Prevention starts with conversation

By Letters to the editor on April 26, 2016 at 3:31 AM - Reprinted from the Albany Times Union.

Most people have ideas about what sexual assault looks like. Two strangers, physical force, male perpetrator and female victim.

But this isn’t reality. Sexual assault takes on countless forms of verbal, physical or mental abuse, from vicious shaming to the slightest touch.

Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator, be they male, female or intersex, friend, foe, acquaintance or stranger. It is sexual assault anytime one receives sexual contact or attention of any kind without having given consent to receive it.

Part of the reason sexual assault plagues us is that we put more focus into teaching our kids to abstain from sex than we do teaching them how to be healthy, safe and responsible when they become sexually active.

Consent is an immeasurable part of sexual health, safety and responsibility. It’s lack of knowledge of, and respect for, consent that is the issue in the case of sexual assault.

Without proper understanding of consent, our young adults are vulnerable to either being sexually assaulted, or sexually assaulting another person.

It’s time we learn that sexual assault isn’t a rarity that affects certain people. It happens every day in countless ways, and many of us cannot recognize sexual assault when we see, or even inflict it.

Change is long overdue. We are Planned Parenthood, and we are taking a stand. It’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and it’s time to spread the word.

Prevention starts with having the conversation about consent.

Omiyea Stanford

Youth Health Promoter, Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood


Monday, April 25, 2016

Sex Toys Part I : Why All The Shade?

By: Omiyea Stanford, UHPP Youth Health Promoter

Here’s the golden question: Why are sex toys taboo? Believe it or not, sex toys go back as far humans do. The world’s oldest dildo was 20 cm long and made of siltstone. Found in the Hohle Fels cave near Ulm, Germany, it dates back to the Upper Paleolithic Period (30,000 yrs. ago). Wealthy Renaissance women would show off their expensive dildos made of materials like silver, gold, and ivory. Olive oil was used as lube as far back as 350 BC. Yea! And guess what? Sex toys are found in every culture. All around the world they vary in design, function, and type. In ancient Greece, women prior to 5th century BC had dildos they called “Olisbos”. Chinese women in the 15th century used dildos made of lacquered wood with textured surfaces. In ancient China people used penis rings made of goat’s eyelids. Ben Wa Balls, or Kegal balls have been present in Asian culture since 500 AD. There are even strap-on’s depicted in the Kama Sutra! Sex toys are even found in nature. That’s right, some animals masturbate using a sex toy. Those sex toys may not be that high tech, but they are sex toys none the less. Our ancestors and wild friends get the message, so why all the shade? The reason sex toys are so taboo is the fact that they are outright expressions of sexuality and desire, which, unfortunately, is something we don’t handle so well in our culture. 

The Hohle Fels cave phallus

Despite the reality, the majority believes that sexual stimulation is an indulgence or a choice, and that sexuality is simply just a blanket term that covers sexual orientation and desire. This misconception exists because sex and sexuality are culturally unaccepted. Let’s take a closer look, and break down the bass-awkwardness of this logic. The fact is that with the exception of complete asexuality, sexual stimulation is a basic human want and need, period point blank. Believe it or not, it’s right up there in line with eating, and sleeping. Accept it, it’s true! You are a sexual being. It’s not just an indulgence, it’s a necessity. This disconnection makes all the difference in our perceptions. Consequently, our perceptions make all the difference in our actions and views. Imagine if sleeping and eating were suddenly considered indulgences the way sex and sexual stimulation are. Seems unfathomable does it not? That’s because it is! And what about sexuality? Sexuality is the realm of sexual desire or interest as it pertains to an individual. Our very identities as individuals are actually rooted in our sexuality, and vice versa. It’s NOT just as simple as just sexual orientation and desire. Your sexuality isn’t only about sex and desire, it’s part of you! It’s the essence of YOU as it pertains to sexual identity, intimacy, sensuality, sexualization, sexual and reproductive health, AND pleasure and desire. So go ahead people, embrace it! Get in touch with every aspect of your sexually! And what better way to do that than with trying a sex toy?

An ancient Greek vase depicting a woman and her olisbos

Sex toys can be extremely empowering, and can be a huge help in accepting, and exploring the depths of your own sexuality. BUT, most people get stuck on the negative stereotypes and ideas surrounding sex toys. I’m quite sure you can think of a couple. Do any that come to mind sound like: they’re dirty, weird, freaky, or unnecessary? How about: penetrative sex toys are for females and gay men, not straight men? Or: you shouldn’t need them if you’re in a relationship?

This art from a church pamphlet from the Middle Ages appears to
depict women shopping at a "dildo store"

Tune out all of the background noise for a sec and listen to this: If you’re NOT in a relationship, and/or are not sexually active, using a sex toy can give you the means to take charge of your own pleasure. If you ARE in a relationship, they can drop kick the living daylights out of boredom and spice things up to the point of flames. They can allow for pleasure where pleasure once seemed impossible to achieve. They can be used to explore the extent of sense stimulation and pleasure. They can expand and reshape your views on pleasure itself! Some sex toys, like Ben Wa Balls, more commonly known as Kegal balls, can be used to strengthen the muscles of your whole pelvic region, AND intensify sexual sensitivity and orgasm. Talk about two birds with one stone. They can even be the perfect aids to abstinence! Contrary to popular belief, if you’re trying to be abstinent, using sex toys with masturbation can actually help with temptation. Why? Because the need for sexual stimulation isn’t being suppressed. Sexuality is still able to be embraced and explored. Add some sexual and reproductive health education to that, along with some healthy relationship training and you have a responsible adult ready to navigate the sexual world when they’re ready. Imagine that. Have I beat this dead horse long enough? 

An actual "steam-punk" dildo.

In conclusion; start tuning out all the background noise. Know that sexual stimulation IS a basic human want and need for many people. Know that sexuality is a part of who you are, and a part of everything that makes you uniquely YOU. Know that it’s your right to explore your sexuality and find out what might make you feel good, and sex toys are an amazing way to do that, so go nuts! Take advantage of them, you sexual creatures you. Go forth from here and prosper.

PS: Wanna know about more about sex toy types, safety, and more? Stay tuned for Sex Toys Part II: The ABC’s & 123’s Of Sex Toys and learn your sex toy basics!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Letter to the Editor: Protect women's right to abortion

Hi everyone! I just wanted to share this letter to the editor of the Times Union, written by a loyal donor and advocate for Planned Parenthood on our behalf.  Read it at TimesUnion.com or just continue on after the jump.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Study: teens who live near a Planned Parenthood are less likely to drop out of high school

From UHPP CEO, Chelly Hegan:
"We have had so many conversations over the past few years (maybe more), about the relevance of Planned Parenthood and why what we do is so different than what FQHCs [Federally Qualified Health Centers] have to offer...This article from Vox referring to an even larger article from the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology focuses on this very question."

Highlights from the Vox article include:
Teenage girls who live near a Planned Parenthood clinic are 16 percent less likely to drop out of high school, a new study finds. 
Lots of studies have found that teen moms are significantly less likely to graduate from high school than non-parents; 30 percent of female dropouts cite "pregnancy" and "parenthood" as key reasons for discontinuing their education. 
This new research, published Wednesday in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, looked at both Planned Parenthoods that provide abortions and those that do not. And it found that in either case, living close to one (within a neighborhood of 100,000 people) was associated with fewer female high school dropouts.
 The full study is here in abstract:
OBJECTIVE: To assess whether geographic access to family planning services is associated with a reduced female high school dropout rate. 
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study. We merged the location of Planned Parenthood and Title X clinics with microdata from the 2012-2013 American Community Surveys. The association between female high school dropout rates and local clinic access was assessed using nearest-neighbor matching estimation. Models included various covariates to account for sociodemographic differences across communities and male high school dropout rates to account for unmeasured community characteristics affecting educational outcomes. 
RESULTS: Our sample included 284,910 16- to 22-year-old females. The presence of a Planned Parenthood clinic was associated with a decrease (4.08% compared with 4.83%; relative risk ratio 0.84, P<.001) in female high school dropout rates. This association was consistent across several model specifications. The presence of a Title X clinic was associated with a decrease (4.79% compared with 5.07%; relative risk ratio 0.94, P=.03) in female high school dropout rates, an association that did not remain significant across model specifications. 
CONCLUSION: Local access to Planned Parenthood is associated with lower high school dropout rates in young women. 
(C) 2016 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.
There you have it. Just one more item to add to the growing list of reasons why having a Planned Parenthood health center is beneficial to your community!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Buzzfeed: 21 Things You Should Know About Herpes

If herpes isn't on your radar, it should be.  After all, "the World Health Organization released a study that estimates that two thirds of people in the world (67%) have the HSV-1 strain of the herpes simplex virus — that’s approximately 3.7 billion people worldwide."  That is a mind-blowing statistic.  67% percent of all the people. Wow.

A genital herpes diagnosis can be devastating.  Here at our Albany health center, we once received a letter from a patient who admitted that she had considered suicide after a herpes diagnosis. However, after receiving compassionate education from UHPP staff about what it means to live with this disease, she realized that it doesn't need to alter her quality of life. Also, knowing that she was not alone helped erase part of that terrible taboo.

However, despite the fact that it is so prevalent, herpes does-- like most STIs-- remain taboo. Arming yourself and your loved ones with education should help dispel a lot of the myths and mistruths that surround this disease.  

Another thing the article mentions is that it is possible to have herpes and not know it, so if you're not sure, please visit your physician or make an appointment at your local Planned Parenthood center. Remember-- knowledge is power!  

Without further ado, here is the terrific list of facts that Buzzfeed put together for us.  Tell your friends!

Click the picture to find out!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Don't Ask, Don't Tell; Stop Repeating the Cycle-- It's Not Helpful!

Hello my fellow Planned Parenthood people! Its Omiyea here sharing thoughts and ideas about “The Talk” with you, and how to make it a little less terrifying and a lot more productive.


In what world has allowing the blind to lead the blind ever worked? In other words, what’s the point in letting a big cycle of confusion go on, and on, when you can just end it? We’re talking about the cycle of Don't Ask, Don't Tell when it comes to conversations about sexual health in the home. How does it go? Just like this: a teen’s body starts changing, or has changed, and they become sexually aware. New things are open to them and they need answers. Teens Don’t Ask their parents to explain anything because it’s way too weird and awkward to talk to them about this stuff. Or maybe it’s because the thought of an adult knowing their thinking about, or having, sex makes them feel gross, or ashamed, or like their doing something wrong.

But it doesn’t just stop there. Teens Don’t Ask but neither do parents. Parents Don’t Ask their teens how they are feeling or if they need to know anything for fear of the inevitable, which is that they actually need and want to know things. It’s hard, and understandably so, for parents to come to terms with their kids entering a mature part of life when they believe their kids minds aren’t necessarily mature enough to handle it. Not to mention they might feel like its way to weird a conversation to have. That’s right parents, we know it’s weird for you too.

For a lot of people it’s nearly impossible to allow their minds to put the innocent vision of their kids together with the explicit realities of the sexual realm. Some parents out there may have the “not my angel” mentality, which basically puts their teens up on a pedestal or believe that they can do no wrong. Thinking like this in terms of sex makes goodness synonymous with sexual inactivity, and paints being sexually active and being bad as evil twins.

Along with all this, it could just be your personal views and experience as a teen that keep you from talking about sex with your kids. For example if a parent strongly believes that sex should only take place on ones wedding night, then it would make sense in a lot of ways to not feel obligated to talk to your kids about sex and their bodies until hmm… they get engaged? The same could be said for your beliefs about the appropriate ages for sex; you may feel that because your kid hasn’t reached this magic number in your head that you don’t have to talk to them about the subject.

Any-who, after all this non-asking, then comes the inevitable and very silent Mr. Don’t Tell. Teens Don’t Tell their parents they need answers, and parents don’t exactly volunteer information. Teens are experiencing new emotions and sometimes finding themselves in very peculiar situations. But because they are concerned of feeling judged, embarrassed and disappointing they hold it in. Parents Don’t Tell their kids that what they are experiencing is a normal part of life. Stayed tuned next week when I discuss YOU DON’T KNOW, UNTIL YOU KNOW!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Ignoring it, muting it, and stalling it to no avail. Stop it, do you hear me? STOP IT RIGHT NOW!

Please enjoy another educational installment from our Youth Health Promoter series!  Please check out our first installment on legal consent vs parental consent here.

I am Omiyea, a Youth Health Promoter at Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood in Albany, and I have been given the opportunity to talk to you about the "big conversation”. I will try my best to give you some insight from a teen's point of view on many aspects of the matter, in the hopes that sharing my thoughts and ideas with you will help you, help parents, help their kids.

Sit tight because we’ve got a lot to say, and we thank you for being willing to listen. Let’s talk about talking about sex!

Ignoring it, muting it, and stalling it to no avail. Stop it, do you hear me? STOP IT RIGHT NOW!
by Omiyea Stanford

Way too often you will see parents dismiss all logical thought when it comes to the subject of sex and their kids, and don’t get me wrong; it's understandable as to why. Most times parents just want to preserve their child's innocence for as long as possible and protect them from the not so pretty realities of life-- which is fine. What’s NOT fine though is using this type of blind protective thinking as a guide in place of common sense reasoning, real facts, and straight forward honesty to deal with your confused, ever-changing, hormonal, and fertile teens. So lesson number one? Stop forcing the innocence of a child onto a physically, mentally, and sexually maturing human being.

A lot of times what you will see happening at home are these three things:  Parents trying to #1: ignore, #2: mute, or #3: stall their child’s budding sexuality. Parents ignore it by choosing not to acknowledge that their teens have changed, or are changing, into sexually able and conscious people. Instead parents continue to treat their teens like oblivious little kids in terms of sexuality and sexual awareness. Parents try to mute it by stringing up a curtain of pure stubborn iron will that keeps out all mention of sex and sexuality period point blank, in the home and any other place it can. Lastly, parents try to stall it by creating an overbearing and unrealistic network of rules, regulations, and morals that completely stomp out the slightest possibility of sex or any other outward display of sexual desire or expression like a stank, all-controlling, giant soul-crushing foot.

All three of these tactics and every other combination in-between works toward one simple and actually reasonable common goal: kids waiting to have sex. Having a mind to push your kids toward waiting is great and lovely-- beautiful even. But defaulting to these infamous three techniques to do it is NOT the way to go. Ok sure, sometimes these tactics work. But even more times they just result in any number, variance, or combination of rebellion, confusion, dishonesty, ignorance, misinformation, fear, and a crippled acceptance of oneself or one’s sexuality. And why? Because all of these tactics fail to acknowledge and normalize one common denominator: that sex is a basic human want and need. This is true for the most mature adult, and the most immature teen. To try to take out this one simple fact from the mix of logic behind any strategy put toward curbing the sexual agendas of sexually mature and/or maturing people, will result in either failure or some degree of harm. Let’s go out on a limb and make this an official no-no. As far as focusing on making your kids wait, maybe think about it this way: a lot of times once the mystery is taken out of something, it becomes less desirable. Educate the living day lights out of your teens about sex and sexuality and just maybe they won't be so eager to get things going. Even if this doesn’t work and your teen doesn't choose to wait after all, at least you could rest easy knowing that they know how to protect themselves and proceed safely. Parents? You’re welcome.