Get Real! Sex and Some Change

Heather Corinna

Will sex change things? Probably yes. It can bring about or illuminate changes in the relationships it occurs within, changes in our other relationships, and changes in ourselves.

Anonymous asks:

Me and
my boyfriend plan to marry after school. I really love him and I
really want him the same way he wants me, but I am scared about if we
have sex then he leaves me. I don’t want to lose him.

Heather replies:

There’s no sense in being anything but frank.

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Sex does tend to change things.

It can bring about or illuminate changes in the relationships it
occurs within, changes in our other relationships, and changes in
ourselves. Often, we have to add some factors to our lives we may not
have had to before, like adding the use of birth control or safer sex,
getting sexual healthcare, talking about sexual limits, boundaries and
desires, negotiating sex or navigating through sexual conflicts or
issues. Obviously, certain results or consequences of sex, such as a
pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection, can also create physical
changes, as well as changes to our lives and relationships.

Sometimes those changes aren’t even negative things, like losing
someone, winding up with Herpes or discovering that sex just doesn’t
feel good or right between you. Sometimes those are neutral or positive
changes, like discovering new and pleasurable things about yourself or
your sexuality (or about your partner and his sexuality) you didn’t
know before, getting a boost to your body image, winding up with a
wanted pregnancy, or having a relationship go to a new and bigger
place, but they are still changes, all the same, and sometimes we’re
just not at a time or place in our lives where we feel best able to
deal with big changes. This is why, in the Sex Readiness Checklist we
have at Scarleteen, one of the questions we suggest people ask
themselves if if they feel able to handle any changes sex may cause.

As well, with any relationship we are in, that relationship
changing, coming to an end, or any one party leaving is always a
possibility, whether we have sex or not, whether we (when we can) marry
or not.

There is absolutely nothing any of us can do to assure that a given
person stays with us, or stays in a certain relationship with us.

Whether sex is part of the picture of not, life changes
things, and time changes things. People change and relationships change
as we live, learn and grow, and there is no magic formula or list of
things to do or not to do — nor an order to do things in or not —
which can put you in complete control of that. One of the trickiest
parts of love and relationships is that while they can feel eternal,
and while we may have times when we want a certain way we feel, or
place we’re at in a relationship, or person to stick around forever, if
we can count on any one thing in our lives, it’s change, and that fact
that nothing really lasts forever.

So, in my book, the way to approach that is to value our feelings as
much as we can while we have them, and to love and honor the people who
are in our lives while they’re here as best we can. I also think it’s
sage and caring to try and be flexible and open enough that when — as
we all tend to — each of us changes, we can still love each other and
be in one another’s lives being more attached to who people are
than to what exact kind of relationship we are in with them. (And if
you talk to older couples who have been together and happy for a very
long time, you’ll hear many say that in a long-term marriage, that kind
of flexibility is key.) By all means, when you find something marvelous
you want to commit to as fully as you can, and really put your whole
heart into, I say go for it, since that’s so much of what really living
life is about, but also understand that trying to always telescope all
your actions based on what will keep someone around can, at a certain
point, get in the way of fully experiencing and enjoying what you have
while you have it.

What I seem to hear you saying, though, in regard to sex, sounds to
me like you are feeling that it is very important to you to assure —
for as much as you can — that when you have sex, you do so in a
relationship with someone who is committed to staying in the
relationship with you after sex. That’s hardly an uncommon thing for a
person to want: many people feel that way, and that’s absolutely valid.

Maybe for you, that means you’d prefer to save sex together for
after marriage: if that’s what feels best to you, you get to do that.
Or, maybe you need to sit down and have a deep conversation with your
partner about your concerns, and if you very strongly feel you want to
have sex before marriage, but are fearful about him leaving, see how he
feels about that, and find out how committed he is to sticking with you
no matter what sex might change for each of you and between you. In
doing that, you can also provide him the opportunity to talk about his
own fears and concerns, which you’ll want to be sure get addressed just
like your own.

It sounds to me like you’re expressing feeling pretty fearful about
this right now, and I know for myself that when I feel very scared
about doing something which is absolutely optional — and sex is, and
always should be — I find it best to take more time to work out how I
feel about that thing and how that thing may or may not really suit my
needs before I go ahead and do it.

So, my personal suggestion to you would be to take some more time to
sort out your feelings and talk with your boyfriend before you become
sexually active.

Not only does that make it more likely that you’ll make the best
choice for you, but sex when you’re fearful simply does not tend to be
very enjoyable or enriching: our minds and bodies don’t tend to
experience a lot of pleasure when we’re scared or freaked out, and it’s
also tough to be open enough to really get close to someone during sex
when we’re scared. The time when it’s going to be most right for you is
when it’s not this scary, and clearly, when you feel a bit more secure
in your relationship than you do right now, and have developed more
trust than you have in it right now. An intention to marry or a promise
of marriage in the future can’t automatically create things like trust
and stability with where you’re at (it’s sage to say that marriage is
more about a demonstration of those things as they already exist): it
sounds to me like it might be a good idea for you, in your
decision-making with this and in general, to think less about a future
marriage and more about where you’re at, how you’re feeling, and what
you need to feel more secure in your relationship today.

Don’t forget, too, that sex is not just intercourse. The only two
big differences between vaginal intercourse and all other kinds of sex
is the risk of pregnancy, and the fact that some people simply attach
more importance to vaginal intercourse for personal, religious or
cultural reasons, particularly before they have it (afterwards, it can
tend to be clearer just how different from other kinds of sex it often
isn’t). In other words, if you are doing things like making out, or
having manual or oral sex, then you already are going to have some idea
of how things are going when it comes to sex and the two of you. If you
are doing those things, you can look at how those have been going, and
if it seems like the sex you’re already having in your relationship is
working well within it and leaves you feeling good — not just
physically, but also emotionally — or not-so-great.

Again, no matter what, you can’t have a guarantee that any choice
you make will assure your boyfriend stays your boyfriend, becomes your
husband or sticks around: there is just nothing you can do to assure
that. Heck, maybe you’ll find that it’s you who thinks about
leaving him at some point; maybe it’s you who will find that sex
changes how you feel about him, your relationship, yourself or your
future plans. Maybe you two will have some changes in your relationship
— or that one of you will decide not to continue on with it or a
marriage — over something that isn’t about sex at all. While you can’t
have that guarantee, you can manage this in a way which is most likely
to keep you and your relationship in a good place.

You’re the best expert on knowing when something is right for you,
and when you feel up to handling something and when you do not. You can
certainly act in ways which are most likely to benefit your
relationship and its quality, such as being honest about your fears,
voicing your own needs and working with your partner to assure that sex
is something you both really want, and feel ready both to manage and
enjoy. The bonus is that doing that not only helps you make the best
sexual choices that you can, it helps nurture and grow more love in
your relationship as a whole.

Here are a few extra links to grow on:

News Sexual Health

State with Nation’s Highest Chlamydia Rate Enacts New Restrictions on Sex Ed

Nicole Knight Shine

By requiring sexual education instructors to be certified teachers, the Alaska legislature is targeting Planned Parenthood, which is the largest nonprofit provider of such educational services in the state.

Alaska is imposing a new hurdle on comprehensive sexual health education with a law restricting schools to only hiring certificated school teachers to teach or supervise sex ed classes.

The broad and controversial education bill, HB 156, became law Thursday night without the signature of Gov. Bill Walker, a former Republican who switched his party affiliation to Independent in 2014. HB 156 requires school boards to vet and approve sex ed materials and instructors, making sex ed the “most scrutinized subject in the state,” according to reproductive health advocates.

Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers of Alaska’s legislature.

Championing the restrictions was state Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla), who called sexuality a “new concept” during a Senate Education Committee meeting in April. Dunleavy added the restrictions to HB 156 after the failure of an earlier measure that barred abortion providers—meaning Planned Parenthood—from teaching sex ed.

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Dunleavy has long targeted Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest nonprofit provider of sexual health education, calling its instruction “indoctrination.”

Meanwhile, advocates argue that evidence-based health education is sorely needed in a state that reported 787.5 cases of chlamydia per 100,000 people in 2014—the nation’s highest rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Surveillance Survey for that year.

Alaska’s teen pregnancy rate is higher than the national average.

The governor in a statement described his decision as a “very close call.”

“Given that this bill will have a broad and wide-ranging effect on education statewide, I have decided to allow HB 156 to become law without my signature,” Walker said.

Teachers, parents, and advocates had urged Walker to veto HB 156. Alaska’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, Amy Jo Meiners, took to Twitter following Walker’s announcement, writing, as reported by Juneau Empire, “This will cause such a burden on teachers [and] our partners in health education, including parents [and] health [professionals].”

An Anchorage parent and grandparent described her opposition to the bill in an op-ed, writing, “There is no doubt that HB 156 is designed to make it harder to access real sexual health education …. Although our state faces its largest budget crisis in history, certain members of the Legislature spent a lot of time worrying that teenagers are receiving information about their own bodies.”

Jessica Cler, Alaska public affairs manager with Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, called Walker’s decision a “crushing blow for comprehensive and medically accurate sexual health education” in a statement.

She added that Walker’s “lack of action today has put the education of thousands of teens in Alaska at risk. This is designed to do one thing: Block students from accessing the sex education they need on safe sex and healthy relationships.”

The law follows the 2016 Legislative Round-up released this week by advocacy group Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. The report found that 63 percent of bills this year sought to improve sex ed, but more than a quarter undermined student rights or the quality of instruction by various means, including “promoting misinformation and an anti-abortion agenda.”

Commentary Politics

On Immigration, Major Political Parties Can’t Seem to Agree on What’s ‘Un-American’

Tina Vasquez

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Immigration has been one of the country’s most contentious political topics and, not surprisingly, is now a primary focus of this election. But no matter how you feel about the subject, this is a nation of immigrants in search of “el sueño Americano,” as Karla Ortiz reminded us on the first night of the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Ortiz, the 11-year-old daughter of two undocumented parents, appeared in a Hillary Clinton campaign ad earlier this year expressing fear that her parents would be deported. Standing next to her mother on the DNC stage, the young girl told the crowd that she is an American who wants to become a lawyer to help families like hers.

It was a powerful way to kick-start the week, suggesting to viewers Democrats were taking a radically different approach to immigration than the Republican National Convention (RNC). While the RNC made undocumented immigrants the scapegoats for a variety of social ills, from U.S. unemployment to terrorism, the DNC chose to highlight the contributions of immigrants: the U.S. citizen daughter of undocumented parents, the undocumented college graduate, the children of immigrants who went into politics. Yet, even the stories shared at the DNC were too tidy and palatable, focusing on “acceptable” immigrant narratives. There were no mixed-status families discussing their deported parents, for example.

As far as immigration is concerned, neither the Democrats nor Republicans are without their faults, though positions taken at the conventions were clearly more extreme in one case than the other. By the end of two weeks, viewers may not have known whether to blame immigrants for taking their jobs or to befriend their hardworking immigrant neighbors. For the undocumented immigrants watching the conventions, the message, however, was clear: Both parties have a lot of work to do when it comes to humanizing their communities.  

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“No Business Being in This Country”

For context, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his running mate Mike Pence are the decidedly anti-immigrant ticket. From the beginning, Trump’s campaign has been overrun by anti-immigrant rhetoric, from calling Mexicans “rapists” and “killers” to calling for a ban on Muslim immigration. And as of July 24, Trump’s proposed ban now includes people from countries “compromised by terrorism” who will not be allowed to enter the United States, including anyone from France.

So, it should come as no surprise that the first night of the RNC, which had the theme of “Make America Safe Again,” preyed on American fears of the “other.” In this case: undocumented immigrants who, as Julianne Hing wrote for the Nation, “aren’t just drug dealers and rapists anymorenow they’re murderers, too.”

Night one of the RNC featured not one but three speakers whose children were killed by undocumented immigrants. “They’re just three brave representatives of many thousands who have suffered so gravely,” Trump said at the convention. “Of all my travels in this country, nothing has affected me more, nothing even close I have to tell you, than the time I have spent with the mothers and fathers who have lost their children to violence spilling across our borders, which we can solve. We have to solve it.”

Billed as “immigration reform advocates,” grieving parents like Mary Ann Mendoza called her son’s killer, who had resided in the United States for 20 years before the drunk driving accident that ended her police officer son’s life, an “illegal immigrant” who “had no business being in this country.”

It seemed exploitative and felt all too common. Drunk driving deaths are tragically common and have nothing to do with immigration, but it is easier to demonize undocumented immigrants than it is to address the nation’s broken immigration system and the conditions that are separating people from their countries of originconditions to which the United States has contributed. Trump has spent months intentionally and disingenuously pushing narratives that undocumented immigrants are hurting and exploiting the United States, rather than attempting to get to the root of these issues. This was hammered home by Mendoza, who finished her speech saying that we have a system that cares more about “illegals” than Americans, and that a vote for Hillary “puts all of our children’s lives at risk.”

There was also Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious racist whose department made a practice of racially profiling Latinos and was recently found to be in civil contempt of court for “repeatedly and knowingly” disobeying orders to cease policing tactics against Latinos, NPR reported.

Like Mendoza, Arpaio told the RNC crowd that the immigration system “puts the needs of other nations ahead of ours” and that “we are more concerned with the rights of ‘illegal aliens’ and criminals than we are with protecting our own country.” The sheriff asserted that he was at the RNC because he was distinctly qualified to discuss the “dangers of illegal immigration,” as someone who has lived on both sides of the border.

“We have terrorists coming in over our border, infiltrating our communities, and causing massive destruction and mayhem,” Arpaio said. “We have criminals penetrating our weak border security systems and committing serious crimes.”

Broadly, the takeaway from the RNC and the GOP nominee himself is that undocumented immigrants are terrorists who are taking American jobs and lives. “Trump leaned on a tragic story of a young woman’s murder to prop up a generalized depiction of immigrants as menacing, homicidal animals ‘roaming freely to threaten peaceful citizens,’” Hing wrote for the Nation.

When accepting the nomination, Trump highlighted the story of Sarah Root of Nebraska, a 21-year-old who was killed in a drunk-driving accident by a 19-year-old undocumented immigrant.

“To this administration, [the Root family’s] amazing daughter was just one more American life that wasn’t worth protecting,” Trump said. “One more child to sacrifice on the altar of open borders.”

It should be noted that the information related to immigration that Trump provided in his RNC speech, which included the assertion that the federal government enables crime by not deporting more undocumented immigrants (despite deporting more undocumented immigrants than ever before in recent years), came from groups founded by John Tanton, a well-known nativist whom the Southern Poverty Law center referred to as “the racist architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement.”

“The Border Crossed Us”

From the get-go, it seemed the DNC set out to counter the dangerous, anti-immigrant rhetoric pushed at the RNC. Over and over again, Democrats like Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA) hit back hard against Trump, citing him by name and quoting him directly.

“Donald Trump believes that Mexican immigrants are murderers and rapists. But what about my parents, Donald?” Sánchez asked the crowd, standing next to her sister, Rep. Loretta Sánchez (D-CA). “They are the only parents in our nation’s 265-year history to send not one but two daughters to the United States Congress!”

Each speech from a Latino touched on immigration, glossing over the fact that immigration is not just a Latino issue. While the sentiments were positiveillustrating a community that is thriving, and providing a much-needed break from the RNC’s anti-immigrant rhetoricat the core of every speech were messages of assimilation and respectability politics.

Even in gutsier speeches from people like actress Eva Longoria, there was the need to assert that her family is American and that her father is a veteran. The actress said, “My family never crossed a border. The border crossed us.”

Whether intentional or not, the DNC divided immigrants into those who are acceptable, respectable, and worthy of citizenship, and those—invisible at the convention—who are not. “Border crossers” who do not identify as American, who do not learn English, who do not aspire to go to college or become an entrepreneur because basic survival is overwhelming enough, what about them? Do they deserve to be in detention? Do their families deserve to be ripped apart by deportation?

At the convention, Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), a champion of immigration reform, said something seemingly innocuous that snapped into focus the problem with the Democrats’ immigration narrative.

“In her heart, Hillary Clinton’s dream for America is one where immigrants are allowed to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, pay their taxes, and not feel fear that their families are going to be ripped apart,” Gutiérrez said.

The Democratic Party is participating in an all-too-convenient erasure of the progress undocumented people have made through sheer force of will. Immigration has become a leading topic not because there are more people crossing the border (there aren’t) or because nativist Donald Trump decided to run for president, but because a segment of the population has been denied basic rights and has been fighting tooth and nail to save themselves, their families, and their communities.

Immigrants have been coming out of the shadows and as a result, are largely responsible for the few forms of relief undocumented communities now have, like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who meet specific qualifications to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. And “getting right with the law” is a joke at this point. The problem isn’t that immigrants are failing to adhere to immigration laws; the problem is immigration laws that are notoriously complicated and convoluted, and the system, which is so backlogged with cases that a judge sometimes has just seven minutes to determine an immigrant’s fate.

Becoming a U.S. citizen is also really expensive. There is a cap on how many people can immigrate from any given country in a year, and as Janell Ross explained at the Washington Post:

There are some countries, including Mexico, from where a worker with no special skills or a relative in the United States can apply and wait 23 years, according to the U.S. government’s own data. That’s right: There are people receiving visas right now in Mexico to immigrate to the United States who applied in 1993.

But getting back to Gutierrez’s quote: Undocumented immigrants do pay taxes, though their ability to contribute to our economy should not be the one point on which Democrats hang their hats in order to attract voters. And actually, undocumented people pay a lot of taxes—some $11.6 billion in state and local taxes last year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy—while rarely benefiting from a majority of federal assistance programs since the administration of President Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we know it” in 1996.

If Democrats were being honest at their convention, we would have heard about their failure to end family detention, and they would have addressed that they too have a history of criminalizing undocumented immigrants.

The 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, enacted under former President Clinton, have had the combined effect of dramatically increasing the number of immigrants in detention and expanding mandatory or indefinite detention of noncitizens ordered to be removed to countries that will not accept them, as the American Civil Liberties Union notes on its site. Clinton also passed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which economically devastated Mexican farmers, leading to their mass migration to the United States in search of work.

In 1990, then-Sen. Joe Biden introduced the Violence Against Women Act, which passed in 1994 and specifically excluded undocumented women for the first 19 of the law’s 22 years, and even now is only helpful if the victim of intimate partner abuse is a child, parent, or current/former spouse of a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident.

In addition, President Obama is called by immigrant rights advocates “deporter in chief,” having put into place a “deportation machine” that has sent more than two million migrants back to their country of origin, more than any president in history. New arrivals to the United States, such as the Central American asylum seekers coming to our border escaping gender-based violence, are treated with the same level of prioritization for removal as threats to our national security. The country’s approach to this humanitarian crisis has been raiding homes in the middle of the night and placing migrants in detention centers, which despite being rife with allegations of human rights abuses, are making private prison corporations millions in revenue.

How Are We Defining “Un-American”?

When writing about the Democratic Party, community organizer Rosa Clemente, the 2008 Green Party vice president candidate, said that she is afraid of Trump, “but not enough to be distracted from what we must do, which is to break the two-party system for good.”

This is an election like we’ve never seen before, and it would be disingenuous to imply that the party advocating for the demise of the undocumented population is on equal footing with the party advocating for the rights of certain immigrants whose narratives it finds acceptable. But this is a country where Republicans loudly—and with no consequence—espouse racist, xenophobic, and nativist beliefs while Democrats publicly voice support of migrants while quietly standing by policies that criminalize undocumented communities and lead to record numbers of deportations.

During two weeks of conventions, both sides declared theirs was the party that encapsulated what America was supposed to be, adhering to morals and values handed down from our forefathers. But ours is a country comprised of stolen land and built by slave labor where today, undocumented immigrants, the population most affected by unjust immigration laws and violent anti-immigrant rhetoric, don’t have the right to vote. It is becoming increasingly hard to tell if that is indeed “un-American” or deeply American.