Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lands End & Gloria Steinem: So What’s the Big Deal?

The Vice Chairperson of UHPP's Board of Directors, Jill Rafferty-Weinisch, has written a scathing dissertation of Lands End's resent goof regarding Gloria Steinem.

For those of you who may not have heard, Lands End decided to feature a different "icon" every season to appear as a model on their website and in their catalogs.  Gloria Steinem is a prominent American feminist, activist, and author.  She appeared as the first guest in the icon series.  Pretty great, right?  Or maybe not for some.

Some anti-feminist and anti-choice people protested the selection of Steinem as an icon, and threatened boycotts.  Lands End caved, and pulled the feature.

Jill goes on to describe the backlash:
"The response to the apology has been fierce, and although there is no way for me to gauge whether the company has lost more customers because of the original article or the ensuing backlash, damage to their reputation is assured. The company’s liberal “if you’re not satisfied for any reason” policy is leading to mass returns. Their Facebook page has become a rallying point for angry women feeling their trust (and consumer dollars) have been betrayed.
Women and girls are routinely socialized that their rights are acceptable – as long as they do not offend or make anyone else uncomfortable. Our existence is regularly constrained by the possibility we might make someone feel bad, or horny, or angry, or threatened. It has broad and sweeping ramifications in terms of violence against women, educational attainment, workplace equity, the provision of medical care, basic bodily autonomy… virtually every part of our lives."
Read her full blog here.

What Jill doesn't tell you in her blog, is that she gathered up every single article of Lands End clothing she had, no matter how old it was, and returned it. She was a big fan of their stuff, and had accumulated quite a bit of it over the years.  True to their policy, they refunded her every cent; over $2000 worth.

Do you have Lands End clothing in your home?  Are you unhappy with their decision to remove Steinem from their website and materials?  If so, you can do something about it.  Take a stand!


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Ongoing-Yet-Completely-Curable Epidemic

By Youth Health Promoter Omiyea Stanford

Omiyea Stanford
Did you know that one out of every four teens becomes pregnant at least once before age 20? Did you know that despite a dramatic decline in teen birth rates and teen pregnancy, the United States still has one of the highest teen birth and pregnancy rates in the industrialized world? Do you know why? Well there are a mess load of reasons, but, a lack evidence-based sex education plays a huge part. Discuss, dissect, and digress? Yes we shall.

A lack of Evidence Based Programming (EBP), is an enormous part of the problem. Abstinence Only Education (AOE), EBP’s bitter enemy and arch nemesis that just won't die, is still used in classrooms across the country. There are so many reasons why AOE programming doesn’t work, including its misogynistic foundations and messages, idealism of heterosexual marriage, sex and gender bias and oppression, lack of consistency in teaching even the most basic aspects of sexual health like anatomy and reproduction, and lack of regulation of information accuracy and bias. However, one of the most prominent problems, is that it is just plain unrealistic! It’s not enough to offer one solution, especially one where the only answer is to do nothing, which is completely impractical and futile. Sex and sexual stimulation are basic human wants and needs, and AOE teachings disregard and create shame around that fact. AOE teachings leave students who become sexually active as teens with zero knowledge of how to protect themselves. EBP, however, works a little bit differently. Ok, actually, it works a lot differently. 

Evidence Based Programming (EBP) teaches that abstinence is an option, but not the only option. EBP prepares students for any path they choose by providing them with accurate, inclusive, and unbiased information that spans every aspect of sexual health, sexual safety and responsibility, and even the aspects of healthy relationships. Despite the facts indicating that EBP is effective in reducing teen pregnancy and STD/HIV rates, it is still is meet with googolplexes of opposition. A common critique, is that if you teach kids about sex, then they will be more likely to have sex. My reply is, "and?"  Firstly, EBP obviously doesn't encourage and teach kids how to have sex. It teaches them what sex is, and how to be safe if/when they have it. Come on people, that one was a given. Secondly, why do adults feel like it is their solemn duty to keep teens from being sexually active? That’s half of the problem in the nutshell! Teens having sex isn’t the issue! That isn’t what we should be trying our very hardest to prevent. It’s ignorance! This urge in adults to stop teens from becoming sexually active is more about keeping teens “innocent” then it is about keeping them safe. Leave them in the dark and hurl a “just don’t do it” at them every time sex comes up, and I guarantee you they’ll be defenseless. Make sure that they are given the information they need about all the aspects of sexual health, and they will have the ability to make informed, safe and healthy decisions about their own sexual health based on what they want for themselves. Sounds like EBP is our cure-all right? Well, not exactly. There is still something vital to sexual health education that is missing from even the EBP curriculum. And what is that? Pleasure and sex positivity! 

Obviously sex isn’t just about reproduction. If it was we’d barely do it, and we’d probably have a lot less humans on earth than we currently do. Humans are one of the very few species of animals on earth that have sex for fun. If this is true, then why is it that pleasure and sex positivity are missing from EBP curricula in our classrooms? Even with EBP, information about sexual health is given in sex negative ways; in other words, sex is only ever really talked about as it relates to anatomy, reproduction, and preventing the negative consequences. The topic of pleasure is treated similarly. This is an extension of our inability to accept and acknowledge true human sexuality and sexual nature. Pleasure positive sex education curricula really means not disconnecting pleasure and positivity from sex. It’s all a matter of keeping a balance between teaching young people that, yes, sex can be dangerous and it can have very serious consequences, but it can also be fun, pleasurable, satisfying, and enjoyable as well. Sex and pleasure positive EBP would provide the information young adults need to be safe, and dispel shame around sexual desire. Four words: two birds, one stone. 

Fellow YHP Blinky Lawrence
making his voice heard
And now for the big question: what do we do? Education is an enormous factor in the teen pregnancy epidemic, but in the larger scheme of things, our issues with sex education is just a symptom of a bigger issue. Our culture and society’s lack of ability to accept and acknowledge true human sexuality and nature is not a problem that can be repaired overnight, and as an extension, neither will the teen pregnancy epidemic. Want to know how you can do your part? Be an advocate for sex positive EBP education! If you’re a parent, make sure your kids are informed. If their school won’t teach them, you teach them. Teens; fight for your right to be educated! Get the right information from anywhere you can. Fight for sex positive EBP in your schools and communities. Last but not least: spread the word. A huge part of why the teen pregnancy epidemic is an epidemic at all is that people don’t know what they’re up against. So get the real numbers and statistics, and put the information into circulation in and around your communities. 

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, but efforts shouldn’t end after May 31. Be an advocate 365 days a year! The teen pregnancy epidemic is an incredibly large issue to tackle, but it’s the small efforts of individuals that will bring it down to size. So go ahead people-- get out there and knock this epidemic down a peg or ten.

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 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!