Sunday, February 20, 2011

Excuse me!

Now, I try not to get too much into politics here, but I feel that we have a really serious situation that is relevant to this blog and that I think is not a partisan issue so much as a basic human decency issue. Our representatives in the House just voted 240-185 to pass the Pence Amendment, which if made into law, will strip Planned Parenthood of all its federal funding.

You might be thinking now, "What. Excuse me. Not okay. Not acceptable. Not appropriate."

At least, that is what you should be thinking. Actually, you should be thinking that, but with a lot of other words in addition that I won't say here because it's a Sunday. But seriously, this is not acceptable.

This nation needs Planned Parenthood. I cannot tell you how important it is. I cannot tell you how many people I worked with during my short stay who had absolutely nowhere else to turn-- people who would have continued bleeding as they had for months, or not bleeding but not seeking prenatal care, or having sex while unsure whether they'd contracted HIV, or people who were in constant pain because the birth control they got wasn't right for them, or people whose birth control consisted of finger-crossing and four-leaf clovers, or people who had been raped and needed the Plan B pill.

I could go on for even longer, but I can assure you that I met at least one person who fell into each of these categories, and many more, who needed this help. I don't know how we can claim to be a nation founded on Christian values if we refuse to help heal the sick. I don't know how we can feel okay spending incredible amounts of money trying to bring democracy to countries that didn't ask for it and then turn around and refuse to provide basic care-- a tiny, tiny, insignificant, microscopic fraction of our national budget-- to people who are begging for care. On top of the monstrosity of this attack, there is the fact that it is simply stupid-- babies cost so much more money than birth control, cancer treatments cost so much more than pap smears, and condoms cost so much less than STD treatment. Institutions like Planned Parenthood just make sense for our economy because they are an investment. I don't think there's a soul on this planet who will deny that preventative medicine is a wise choice, and Planned Parenthood offers preventative medicine to those who need it the most.

I don't know how anyone supporting this proposal can sleep at night, but I know that I won't be able to until I have done everything I can to make sure that the wonderful and necessary institution receives the funding it needs to continue helping people who need help.

Hopefully I've convinced you. The question is how to put this passion into action. Here's what you can do:

1: Donate. A big part of P.P.'s funding comes from donations, and they especially need money right now. Make donations here.

2: Sign Planned Parenthood's open letter to congress. Let congress know that the people want the Pear. Sign here.

3: Call, email, write, send smoke signals, send a telegram, contact your senator and let him or her know how you feel about Planned Parenthood. To find your senators contact info, go here. It's fun, I promise. Just let them know where you live, what you'd like your senator to do and why. For a template for an email, go here and scroll down.

4: Spread the word! This is one case where I think the whole "slacktivism" thing might actually be helpful, as long as your efforts include the link to the open letter. Talk to your friends about why you love Planned Pear, link the open letter/this blog post/the PP website on your Facebook/Twitter/etcetc, shout from the rooftops your praises to the great and glorious Pear and make sure everyone knows that it needs help!

Okay, team. I hope I have your support. We all know that Planned Parenthood needs federal funding and that we need Planned Parenthood. Stand with the Planned!

(To be honest with you, I'm sitting with Planned Parenthood in this shot.)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Party Animals (part one)

Though I'm not always the wildest when it comes to nightlife and therefore have had little firsthand experience with this, I have to tell you that New Year's Eve can be an evening of a million mistakes. Indeed, my pals from Planned Parenthood told me they make bets on how many people come in for emergency contraception. It's the biggest day of the year for the morning-after pill, actually. So this post will be in two parts: first, advice for preparing for a night of potential poor decisions, and second, information on what you can do after said decisions are made.

Here's some advice for you to have in mind before you go out this evening. This website has some great information about the dangers of drinking/drugs and sex and what kind of effect they can have on long-term relationships and short term decision making. Of course, if you absolutely do not want to get pregnant or contract an STI, your best route is not to have sex and not to drink or do drugs because those will impair your judgement. Mixing those two can be very dangerous indeed. However, I don't want anyone to think that the only two options out there are knitting with your cat until midnight or getting pregnant and chlamydia, because that is simply not the case. While having sex at all, especially with impaired judgement, is always risky, there are many ways to make it safer. You deserve to know how to protect your body.

With that disclaimer in mind, here's some advice if you absolutely must go to a wild party this evening:

1: Condoms. I cannot stress this enough. Even if you're on the pill, keep in mind that you might start to find random strangers very appealing, and you probably won't have time to get them tested. Make sure you have condoms aplenty-- put them in your pockets, tuck them into your bra, paperclip them to your boxers, do what you need to in order to get a condom on. This is a time when female condoms are actually very advantageous because you can put one in before going out when you're good and sober.

2: Make New Year's Eve Resolutions-- that is, decide what you want to do before you leave the house so you can be prepared. If you definitely don't want to have sex, take some measures to make sure that doesn't happen. Be extra lax with your body hair grooming, for instance, and establish to your group of friends that you would like to wake up alone in your bed the next morning. I also had a friend once who wrote "I have herpes!" on her stomach once before a night of wild times. I never heard how that worked out for her, but the point is that you should be making decisions and taking measures to stick to them while your mind is still clear. This also applies to how much you want to drink etc.

3: Buddy system! Never go out with the intention of drinking/getting high by yourself. You'll want a wingwoman or wingman to keep tabs on what kind of substances you put into your body and in what quantities and who you go home with and when. When you're impaired you're more likely to get in a fight, get lost, get injured, and get taken advantage of, and having a buddy is a great way to prevent this from happening. This is also very important because you'll need someone to call for help if you start to show signs of alcohol poisoning. Keep track of your buddy, make sure they have a condom, and never leave a party without making sure your buddy is okay and has a safe way of getting home.

4: Parties are also dangerous in terms of being taken advantage of sexually (this is another reason why having a buddy is so important). Never, ever leave your drink unattended, don't take drinks from strangers, and make sure your buddy knows where you're going and who you're going with before you leave. Try to avoid being in dangerous or isolated situations with people you don't know, and make very clear how far you'd like to go with potential hookups. Also remember how important it is to be respectful of other people's physical boundaries. Silence is not consent, and it is illegal to have sex with someone who is incapacitated because of alcohol or drugs. Don't have sex with someone without getting their clear, lucid consent.

Go out this evening armed with this knowledge, my friends, I will write to you next year!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I can't believe it's December! That's one nice thing about monthly self-checks-- they are a reminder time passing. I'm including in this a Breast Cancer Awareness PSA that was pretty controversial. In fact, a lot of controversy surrounds the current breast cancer climate and its corporate vibes. It is all very interesting (there's an interesting website about it here), but the bottom line is, take care of your body!

Now, folks, unless you've forgotten:


You should be doing Breast Self-Exams (BSEs) once a month for any changes. It's hard to remember, certainly, but make a habit of doing it on the same day of each month and it will get easier. If you think it will motivate you, try making it a fun thing-- buy special lotion just for self-exams, have a BSE theme song, light some pink candles, make some gynocentric treats, whatever will help you remember.
Breast tissue is naturally lumpy and bumpy, so it's best to get really well acquainted with yours so that any changes will stand out. Keep in mind that your breast tissue will change throughout puberty, and they might feel a little different while you're on your period. Your breast tissue reaches pretty far-- up into your underarms and right beneath your collarbone. It might be easier if your breasts are slippery, so you could try doing this in the shower while you're soapy or when you're putting on lotion. Start by putting your left hand on the back of your head, and checking your left breast with your right hand. Use the pads of your three middle fingers and move in small circles over the entire area of your breast. There are a few different recommended patterns-- you can start on the outside and feel your way to the nipple using progressively smaller circles, or try starting on one side and feeling in an up-and-down pattern. Whatever you choose, use the same method consistently. Do this for each breast standing up, lying on your back, and lying on your side. Next, do a visual check-- stand in front of a mirror and put your hands above your head, then examine your breasts from all angles, checking for lumps, puckering, discoloration, or any other suspicious changes. Put your hands on your hips and do the same, then lean over and check them from that angle.
And, you're done! Before you get dressed again, take a moment to rememberf that you have the rack on an angel. (Does anybody remember that Simpsons episode?)


Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among young men. This self examination is a little bit harder for me to explain because, despite many suggestions from various well wishers, I have yet to (literally) grow a pair. You dudes should also feel free to try to make it a fun thing, maybe by getting a special, um, self exam... chain saw? Truck?
Ha. Just kidding! You're allowed to like candles as well, obv. Theme songs too.
So, to check your testicles, I'd suggest getting in the bath or shower first. Roll each of your testicles between your thumb and fingers individually, looking out for lumps (which can be as small as a grain of rice), swelling, discoloration, and general achiness.
There are a few things that you'll notice that are completely normal: once testicle might be a tiny bit bigger than the other, and you'll feel your epididymis, at the top back part of your testicle-- it's soft, rope-like, and tender.
And you're done!

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day has come around once again, and I hope you will all remember today to do something, anything, to make proper care, supplies, and education relating to HIV/AIDS possible.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Ah, Black Friday. When we follow "I have so much!" up with "I want more!". More like BLEAK Friday, amirite?
In any case, though I did not rabidly consume at four this morning, in the spirit of this day, I would like to say, "I want more!" I want more condoms used more frequently, and I want more birth control heroes making more medicine that is available to more people. (Though I can't say I want more ovaries. Two is plenty.)
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I have a lot to be grateful for. I have as many condoms as any virgin could ask for (more, in fact). I have the shoulders of Margaret Sanger to stand on and a pair of ovaries that seem to be working very well indeed. But what does this mean? Those of us who have these things, I think, also have a duty to make sure that other people have them as well. So remember, on this day of ingratitude, to demand higher standards for reproductive healthcare and education for everyone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgangster!

Well hello, loyal bleaders! I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I certainly did. Today, I am especially thankful for condoms. These wonderful little guys are the symbol of safe sex and where I got my start with reproductive health. Condoms are wonderful in their simplicity-- shell out a few cents, set aside ten seconds, and you're safe from a million horrible diseases and you will almost certainly not be responsible for any tiny little people because of your intercourse. Whether you favor latex, polyurethane, polyisoprene, or lambskin, our friend the condom is a tiny investment with huge payoff, and it just might be the key to saving the world. Just think: if every single person in the world who didn't want to conceive a child used a condom every time they had sex, the world would be a lot more carefree for everyone. What also inspires is all the awesome folks out there promoting condom use! Here are a few of my favorite condomy wobsites:

And here's a very helpful video from a cute boy and our friends at Planned Parenthood:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Here are some friends from the neighborhood I'm thankful for!

Today, I am thankful for the heroes of the birth control movement. The road to getting people their birth control has been a rough one, and we couldn’t have done it without these folks:

First of all, there is Margaret Sanger. She is very dear to my heart because of my association with Planned Parenthood. She coined the term “birth control” and felt that every woman should be “the absolute mistress of her own body”. Isn’t that divine? Margaret was civilly disobedient in a wonderful way—she smuggled cervical caps, opened illegal family planning clinics, and published pamphlets that were considered obscene and often taken off the market. She also founded the organization that would later become Planned Parenthood. Despite being jailed sometimes and facing a lot of opposition, Margaret was always working towards her goal of ladies being their own bosses, and that is really admirable.

A big turning point in Margaret’s life was when a friend of hers, Sadie Sachs, died because of an unsafe abortion. I think that’s really important—I try to remind people that Planned Parenthood prevents a lot of abortions. While some of us may be pro-life and some of us may be pro-choice, I think above all we should be pro-nobody-should-have-to-make-that-choice, right? Margaret understood that well. (Note: None of this is to say that I agree with absolutely everything she said, but a lot of the work that she did was really impressive and important.)

I am also thankful for John Rock, who worked with Gregory Pincus to develop the first hormonal birth control. Rock is impressive to me because he was a devout Catholic but he also supported birth control. As a Mormon sex educator, I am always glad to hear about religious folks who also like contraception. He coauthored a book called Voluntary Parenthood (which I definitely want to read, even though it might be a tiny bit outdated by now) and he taught at Harvard medical school, where he included birth control in his curriculum, even though he could have gotten into some serious trouble for that. I am so impressed by that.

The whole thing about teaching sex ed illegally is interesting to me, though—that is, when I first read that, my initial reaction was “Oh, they were so ignorant back in the olden days!” but then I realized how close that is to the reality of a lot of American teens—I got my first comprehensive sex ed lesson in college because, as you may recall, teaching comprehensive sex ed is not okay in Utah. The fight is ongoing, people! Yes pecan!

Katherine McCormick was another pretty awesome lady. Her husband died and left her a great fortune, and she used a huge portion of it to fund birth control research. Katherine was cool because, though she had a large fortune, she did some of the dirty work (including smuggling diaphragms). She also did some other really amazing stuff for the ladies, including paying for a women’s dormitory on campus at MIT (which was important because then the ladies could learn about science and math) and working very hard to get votes for women (thanks guys! For the nineteenth amendment!) McCormick’s contribution to Planned Parenthood and to Rock and Pincus’s research was vital, we would certainly not be where we are today without her.

I chose these three because I feel like they represent three major roles in movements like this one, in particular the birth control movement that continues today. We have Margaret, who was mostly a spokeswoman/political activist, we have John, who was a scientist, and we have Katherine, who put her money where her mouth was. Of course, each of them did a little of everything, but I guess I hoped presenting these awesome folks would remind us that there are a lot of different roles needed in important movements like these, and that they all need a lot of different kinds of people to work.

PS: First of all, I am sorry that this post does not feature exciting links or pictures. It did at first, but then something went horribly wrong with my internet or something. That also explains why I'm posting this at 2:30, I've been wrestling with the old NetBook (apologies to my gracious roommate!). Second of all, PBS is where I learned most of this, they have a really awesome page on birth control. Also Wikipedia, obviously.