Get Real! Why Can’t I Orgasm?

Heather Corinna

The very best thing I can tell you to do when it comes to becoming orgasmic is to masturbate.

jms91 asks:

It’s
really difficult for me to orgasm. As a female, I know it’s a lot to
expect to orgasm from intercourse, but it seems like everyone at least
does from oral. But I’ve been with my boyfriend for over a year and he
has yet to ever make me orgasm – even through oral sex. Why can’t I
orgasm?

Heather replies:

There is no one sexual activity which we can brings everyone to orgasm or even almost everyone.

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Even though plenty of people certainly enjoy oral sex, not everyone
reaches orgasm that way, nor from any other one activity. You ideas
about that aren’t accurate, though I can certainly understand how you
might get the impression that they are.

Many young women in their teens and even their twenties are and have been anorgasmic or pre-orgasmic:
they don’t yet experience orgasm. Studies on this usually show a range
of anywhere from 30% to 50% or more of women in that age group as
having not experienced orgasm. There are a lot of likely reasons for
that, including:

  • Women’s sexual partners being centered on their own pleasure,
    uninformed about women’s bodies and sexuality, hasty or rushed in the
    sex that’s happening, or focusing most on sexual activities which are
    least pleasurable for women
  • Relationship problems or conflicts or a lack of sexual chemistry with partners
  • Women themselves being uninformed or misinformed about their own
    bodies, about sexuality, about pleasure, which would include
    unrealistic expectations about desire, sex and pleasure
  • Young women not masturbating or really taking the time (or having
    the space to) explore their bodies and minds fully with masturbation
  • Self-image and/or body image issues, or negative attitudes about sex and sexuality, such as shame, guilt or performance anxiety
  • A lack of earnest desire for sex in the first place
  • Physical or psychological issues such as depression, neurological
    diseases, endocrine imbalances or pain with any given kind of sex. Some
    medications — like some medications to treat depression — can also
    inhibit arousal or orgasm
  • Use of alcohol or certain recreational drugs
  • Previous sexual trauma

What age you are can play a role with many of those factors, just
because some of them have to do with life experience, with a growing
knowledge of yourself and your body — and also a comfort and
confidence in both — and also with the level of experience and
maturity of your sexual partners. As well, not everyone is at a point
with puberty where their sexual development has them at the right place
for wanting sex, for feeling that strong want for sex. (It should also
be added that no matter someone’s age, some people find that,
temporarily or lifelong, they just don’t feel either that desire at
all, or the desire to do anything about it. For more information on
that, you can have a look at this or this.)

If you are looking for the one thing where most people of all
genders reach orgasm, more than from any other sexual activity, that’s
been shown to be masturbation in all study on the subject of sexuality
we’ve got (but even with that, we’re usually looking at around 60% –
70% of people, just so you understand how we can never say "everyone"
when it comes to anything to do with sex). That is also the way a
majority of people report reaching orgasm for the first time.

The very best thing I can tell you to do when it comes to becoming
orgasmic is to masturbate. Knowing what I know about the study of
women’s sexuality, I can actually say that if you don’t, and don’t
really spend some quality time with that, you’re unlikely to reach
orgasm or to have the kind of sex life you probably want. Mind, your
motivation there does have some import: if you only do it to try and
make orgasm happen, rather than doing it when you are really feeling
sexual desires strongly, and doing it with the intent to simply
experience pleasure, orgasm or no, it may well be fruitless.
Product-oriented masturbation isn’t going to do you any harm, but it’s
also unlikely to help.

Now and then, I will have young women tell me, when I advise this,
that they just have zero interest in masturbation, and only have
interest in partnered sex. While certainly, another person we have
feelings for tends to up the ante and often heighten how we feel with
sex (as well as providing other angles and stimulus we might just be
unable to physically do for ourselves) my impression is that the women
who say that either a) just aren’t at a point in their lives or
development yet where their sexuality is in real play, c) feel shame in
masturbation, or like saying only sex with a partner feels good is the
"right" answer or the "right" motivation for sex and/or b) aren’t yet
experiencing sexual desire so much as a desire for emotional closeness
to and intimacy with a partner.

I draw those conclusions particularly when someone voices both not
feeling any sexual desire by themselves and tells me that most or all
of what they get out of sex is emotional. There’s certainly nothing
wrong with that kind of motivation for sex, but it also — all by
itself — is going to be unlikely to result in a lot of physical
pleasure and/or orgasm. Too, I personally think it might be wise for
those who feel that way to check in with themselves and make sure that
their emotional needs are really being met, all around and with sex. It
may well be that if, in fact, there isn’t any actual sexual desire
present, sex may not be what those people even really want or need with
a partner (and that they go that route because that’s what the partner
wants or is offering for intimacy, or because they have the idea that’s
what their motivation for sex is supposed to be, or what sex will
result in, whether or not it actually does or is the best way to have
those needs met) or for themselves.

Something huge to understand about orgasm, which often gets lost in
the media and how people talk about sex as peers or even as partners,
is that what tends to be most important is what leads up to orgasm, and
what your experiences are like whether you have an orgasm or not, right
from the start.

Desire — a strong want or feeling of need for sexual activity — is
no minor player in any of this, either by yourself or with a partner.
Some people can reach orgasm sometimes without it, but that is pretty
unusual. Most people simply need to feel that strong, growly, loud,
hungry, achy, loin-tingly urge to get arousal going, to get aroused, to
stay aroused and get more aroused as sex of any kind starts and
continues, and, when it happens, to reach orgasm. Feeling desire also
has a lot to do with feeling satisfied with sexual experiences: orgasm
alone may or may not result in feelings of deep satisfaction. Sometimes
people get so hung up about the idea of orgasm as what they need to
feel satisfied that they forget, or don’t realize, that a few seconds
of neurological pistons firing may feel mighty awesome sometimes, but
sexual satisfaction is so much more than that: it’s about the whole
journey and process and how we feel throughout, not just at the very
end.

And it may be you not only need to learn about what gets you to
arousal or orgasm, but also what gets you to desire! So many people
talk about foreplay being about what gets us "ready" for sex, but what
they’re really talking about with those various sexual activities are
things we start doing when we are already starting to have sex,
and already interested and becoming aroused. Those activities are kinds
of sex themselves, after all. Getting to our desire tends to involve
more than that, kinds of emotional, intellectual and sensory foreplay,
as it were.

Finding out where your desire lives and when it is and isn’t present
may involve things like evaluating if you and your boyfriend actually
have any strong sexual chemistry or not: if you do actually have sexual
feelings for him, strong physical desires for him. If you don’t feel
some kind of zingy feeling in your pants or other parts of your body
when you’re with him, you probably don’t have that chemistry, and alas,
it often isn’t something we can make happen. It tends to either be
there or just not be there, and is one of the things we’re going to
look TO be there if we are going to pursue a sexual relationship with
someone. That chemistry is a major issue, and it’s not something we’ll
tend to have with just anyone, and we may not tend to always have it
with the people we wish we did. We can love someone, like someone,
think someone is the hottest thing we have ever seen ever, even have
all that be mutual but still not feel a sexual chemistry with them:
that tends to often be somewhat random, and at times, even really
surprising. Many women are raised with the idea that chemistry isn’t
important for us (but only for men), that sex being good for us is just
about if we love someone or not, and those are ideas our cultures tend
to also like to support but which aren’t often in alignment with
women’s experiences of fulfilling sex lives.

It also means discovering what turns you on, all by yourself. Is it
about daydreaming or fantasizing? We hear people talk about what is
sexual for them a lot, but we often hear less about the sensual. I
recognize that word can tend to be used in some really cheesy ways, but
when I say sensual, know that I just mean what’s about your senses. Are
there things which make you feel excited, be they visual — certain
kinds of images or visual cues — textual — like reading certain
things — auditory — hearing certain songs, sounds or words —
gustatory or olfactory — what certain smells or tastes bring up for
you — kinestetic (physical) — like going out to dance, having a run
or a swim, cooking a meal, taking a bath, doing some yoga? How about
what things in your memory of times you have felt desire before can
bring up if those memories are stimulated? I’m not just talking here
about overtly sexual things, either: some of these sensory things may
not seem sexual by a given standard at all, but may evoke a sexual
response because you have associated them with something sexual, had a
sexual experience that involved them, or just because they resonate
with your own unique sexuality. So, while you might find that seeing a
fine bottom brings on feelings of desire, you might also find the same
happens with the sound of a given chord, the smell of a given spice, or
how hot chocolate tastes or a given stretch feels to you.

Over time (and it does often take some time) we will learn these
things about ourselves and develop a sort of bank of various different
things which are our own personal turn-ons. Those don’t always stay the
same over the years, some may change or fall away, and we often will
develop new ones, but there do tend to be some consistencies through
time, and as time passes, and we have more life experience, that bank
tends to grow larger. Our recognition of when we are and are not
feeling desire also is something that, with time, we’ll become better
and better attuned to.

So, you start with your desire, and with the various things that
stir it up and make it grow deeper. Once you’re feeling that in a big
way, and getting more in touch with that, then you’re in a good
place to explore your own sexuality (be it alone or with a partner),
become aroused by touch, and take matters into your own hands. Sex
therapists often make a strong point, too – and a good point — about
giving yourself real time with masturbation: not trying to fit it into
small segments of a few minutes, or rush with it. I know it can be
tougher as a young person to find the time and privacy for that, but my
feeling is that if you can find it for sex with a partner, you can find
it for sex with yourself. You just have to recognize it’s important and
make it important. Here’s some basic information for you about
masturbation: How Do You Masturbate?

Once you start to really take that time and be open to exploring any
number of things, and do that over time, you will begin to learn some
more about your body and your sexuality by yourself, you’ll be likely
to find you are in a far better position to bring those experiences and
that knowledge to the table with a partner, and better able to
communicate to a partner — with your words, by showing them with your
own hands — what does and doesn’t feel good, what does and doesn’t
work for you, what is and is not most likely to bring you to orgasm.
Heck, even just learning how to take care of yourself sexually takes a
lot of the stress and the pressure off of experiences with partners.

Do be sure, though, that with your newfound knowledge, you also
check in and be sure that sex with a partner is even a place you’re at
at this point. Leave room for discovering that you may need or want
some more time with your sexuality for yourself before you’re at a
point of being able to feel able to explore it with someone else. With
that, I’d also evaluate if your relationship is at the point of being
ready for sexual partnership: can you two openly communicate about sex?
Are you both able to be open-minded and respond to what both of you
tells the other you like and want to do? Are you both mutually invested
in one another’s pleasure, not just orgasm or getting sex? If you feel
like you are (and talking about that together would be a great way to
be sure), then great. If not, you might just want to put sex on hold
for a while until you do feel like you’re both really at that place.

If you look back to that list I made for you up top about things
that tend to inhibit orgasm, and you find other things on the list you
might need to address, tend to those as well. For instance, if you’re
suffering from depression, do some work on that and get what care you
need. If your self-esteem or body image needs some work, invest some
energy there. Working on any of those things in that list not only may
help with orgasm, they’ll certainly help with the whole of your life.

How you think about all of this also matters. It matters a lot.

If you come to any kind of sex — alone or with someone else — full
of anxiety or frustration, or if you’re fixated on sex as a product,
not a process, you’re both unlikely to reach orgasm AND unlikely to
enjoy yourself very much. One thing we know is a huge barrier to orgasm
for many people who are otherwise doing everything right is getting
their head stuck in a place during sex where all they are thinking
about is how to get to orgasm, if they’ll get to orgasm, how may times
they have not reached orgasm, how their partner will feel if they don’t
reach orgasm, and where the heck is that bloody freaking orgasm for the love of… ARRRRRGH!
You can perhaps see how that kind of thinking, that kind of feeling,
hardly creates an environment for pleasure. It’s totally unpleasant and
completely crazymaking. I think we can all agree that it is in no way a
sexy feeling.

Sex is a place to destress, to release stress, not the place
to get stressed out. So, do what you can to let go of attachment to
orgasm, and invest yourself instead in just doing what feels good for
you, physically and emotionally. That way, not only are you more likely
to orgasm, you’re also more likely to feel satisfied even when you
don’t.

I have some links to pass on to you, but I also have some books I’d
like to suggest you find and spend some time with. I think they’ll all
be helpful for you. I’d advise you get your hands on Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving by Betty Dodson, I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide by Dorian Solot and Marshall Miller, For Yourself : The Fulfillment of Female Sexuality by Lonnie Barbach, and/or Women Who Love Sex: Ordinary Women Describe Their Paths to Pleasure, Intimacy, and Ecstasy
by Gina Ogden. I’d also suggest, while you’re at the bookstore, finding
something just utterly delicious to read that is not nonfiction, but
some kind of very sensory poetry or prose. Buy your desire a nice
birthday present.

Here are some more links to round all of this out for you. Have a
read, and then the very last thing you’re going to need is just some
patience for yourself. While I understand how frustrated you seem to
feel, and understand why any of us wants to reach orgasm, I also know
that for some folks, this takes time. If you can start to do all of
this stuff and cultivate some patience with yourself in the process,
you will very likely get to the place you want to be, and once you’re
there, you’re unlikely to find yourself caring very much about whatever
time it took you to get there.

 

Culture & Conversation Media

Filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos Centers Abortion Stories in New Documentary

Renee Bracey Sherman

The film arrives at a time when personal stories are center stage in the national conversation about abortion, including in the most recent Supreme Court decision, and rightly so. The people who actually have and provide abortions should be driving the narrative, not misinformation and political rhetoric.

This piece is published in collaboration with Echoing Ida, a Forward Together project.

A new film by producer and director Tracy Droz Tragos, Abortion: Stories Women Tell, profiles several Missouri residents who are forced to drive across the Mississippi River into Illinois for abortion care.

The 93-minute film features interviews with over 20 women who have had or are having abortions, most of whom are Missouri residents traveling to the Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois, which is located about 15 minutes from downtown St. Louis.

Like Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, Missouri has only one abortion clinic in the entire state.

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The women share their experiences, painting a more nuanced picture that shows why one in three women of reproductive age often seek abortion care in the United States.

The film arrives at a time when personal stories are center stage in the national conversation about abortion, including in the most recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, and rightly so. The people who actually have and provide abortions should be driving the narrative, not misinformation and political rhetoric. But while I commend recent efforts by filmmakers like Droz Tragos and others to center abortion stories in their projects, these creators still have far to go when it comes to presenting a truly diverse cadre of storytellers if they really want to shift the conversation around abortion and break down reproductive stigma.

In the wake of Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion law, which was at the heart of the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court case, Droz Tragos, a Missouri native, said in a press statement she felt compelled to document how her home state has been eroding access to reproductive health care. In total, Droz Tragos interviewed 81 people with a spectrum of experiences to show viewers a fuller picture of the barriersincluding legislation and stigmathat affect people seeking abortion care.

Similar to HBO documentaries about abortion that have come before it—including 12th & Delaware and Abortion: Desperate ChoicesAbortion: Stories Women Tell involves short interviews with women who are having and have had abortions, conversations with the staff of the Hope Clinic about why they do the work they do, interviews with local anti-choice organizers, and footage of anti-choice protesters shouting at patients, along with beautiful shots of the Midwest landscape and the Mississippi River as patients make road trips to appointments. There are scenes of clinic escorts holding their ground as anti-choice protesters yell Bible passages and obscenities at them. One older clinic escort carries a copy of Living in the Crosshairs as a protester follows her to her car, shouting. The escort later shares her abortion story.

One of the main storytellers, Amie, is a white 30-year-old divorced mother of two living in Boonville, Missouri. She travels over 100 miles each way to the Hope Clinic, and the film chronicles her experience in getting an abortion and follow-up care. Almost two-thirds of people seeking abortions, like Amie, are already a parent. Amie says that the economic challenges of raising her other children make continuing the pregnancy nearly impossible. She describes being physically unable to carry a baby and work her 70 to 90 hours a week. Like many of the storytellers in the film, Amie talks about the internalized stigma she’s feeling, the lack of support she has from loved ones, and the fear of family members finding out. She’s resilient and determined; a powerful voice.

The film also follows Kathy, an anti-choice activist from Bloomfield, Missouri, who says she was “almost aborted,” and that she found her calling in the anti-choice movement when she noticed “Anne” in the middle of the name “Planned Parenthood.” Anne is Kathy’s middle name.

“OK Lord, are you telling me that I need to get in the middle of this?” she recalls thinking.

The filmmakers interview the staff of the Hope Clinic, including Dr. Erin King, a pregnant abortion provider who moved from Chicago to Granite City to provide care and who deals with the all-too-common protesting of her home and workplace. They speak to Barb, a talkative nurse who had an abortion 40 years earlier because her nursing school wouldn’t have let her finish her degree while she was pregnant. And Chi Chi, a security guard at the Hope Clinic who is shown talking back to the protesters judging patients as they walk into the clinic, also shares her abortion story later in the film. These stories remind us that people who have abortions are on the frontlines of this work, fighting to defend access to care.

To address the full spectrum of pregnancy experiences, the film also features the stories of a few who, for various reasons, placed their children for adoption or continued to parent. While the filmmakers interview Alexis, a pregnant Black high school student whose mother died when she was 8 years old, classmates can be heard in the distance tormenting her, asking if she’s on the MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant. She’s visibly distraught and crying, illustrating the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum women of color experiencing unintended pregnancy often face.

Te’Aundra, another young Black woman, shares her story of becoming pregnant just as she received a college basketball scholarship. She was forced to turn down the scholarship and sought an adoption, but the adoption agency refused to help her since the child’s father wouldn’t agree to it. She says she would have had an abortion if she could start over again.

While anti-choice rhetoric has conflated adoption as the automatic abortion alternative, research has shown that most seeking adoption are personally debating between adoption and parenting. This is illustrated in Janet’s story, a woman with a drug addiction who was raising one child with her partner, but wasn’t able to raise a second, so she sought an adoption. These stories are examples of the many societal systems failing those who choose adoption or students raising families, in addition to those fighting barriers to abortion access.

At times, the film feels repetitive and disjointed, but the stories are powerful. The range of experiences and reasons for having an abortion (or seeking adoption) bring to life the data points too often ignored by politicians and the media: everything from economic instability and fetal health, to domestic violence and desire to finish an education. The majority of abortion stories featured were shared by those who already had children. Their stories had a recurring theme of loneliness and lack of support from their loved ones and friends at a time when they needed it. Research has shown that 66 percent of people who have abortions tend to only tell 1.24 people about their experience, leaving them keeping a secret for fear of judgment and shame.

While many cite financial issues when paying for abortions or as the reason for not continuing the pregnancy, the film doesn’t go in depth about how the patients come to pay for their abortions—which is something my employer, the National Network for Abortion Funds (NNAF), directly addresses—or the systemic issues that created their financial situations.

However, it brings to light the hypocrisy of our nation, where the invisible hand of our society’s lack of respect for pregnant people and working parents can force people to make pregnancy decisions based on economic situations rather than a desire to be pregnant or parent.

“I’m not just doing this for me” is a common phrase when citing having an abortion for existing or future children.

Overall, the film is moving simply because abortion stories are moving, especially for audiences who don’t have the opportunity to have someone share their abortion story with them personally. I have been sharing my abortion story for five years and hearing someone share their story with me always feels like a gift. I heard parts of my own story in those shared; however, I felt underrepresented in this film that took place partly in my home state of Illinois. While people of color are present in the film in different capacities, a racial analysis around the issues covered in the film is non-existent.

Race is a huge factor when it comes to access to contraception and reproductive health care; over 60 percent of people who have abortions are people of color. Yet, it took 40 minutes for a person of color to share an abortion story. It seemed that five people of color’s abortion stories were shown out of the over 20 stories, but without actual demographic data, I cannot confirm how all the film’s storytellers identify racially. (HBO was not able to provide the demographic data of the storytellers featured in the film by press time.)

It’s true that racism mixed with sexism and abortion stigma make it more difficult for people of color to speak openly about their abortion stories, but continued lack of visual representation perpetuates that cycle. At a time when abortion storytellers themselves, like those of NNAF’s We Testify program, are trying to make more visible a multitude of identities based on race, sexuality, immigration status, ability, and economic status, it’s difficult to give a ringing endorsement of a film that minimizes our stories and relegates us to the second half of a film, or in the cases of some of these identities, nowhere at all. When will we become the central characters that reality and data show that we are?

In July, at the progressive conference Netroots Nation, the film was screened followed by an all-white panel discussion. I remember feeling frustrated at the time, both because of the lack of people of color on the panel and because I had planned on seeing the film before learning about a march led by activists from Hands Up United and the Organization for Black Struggle. There was a moment in which I felt like I had to choose between my Blackness and my abortion experience. I chose my Black womanhood and marched with local activists, who under the Black Lives Matter banner have centered intersectionality. My hope is that soon I won’t have to make these decisions in the fight for abortion rights; a fight where people of color are the backbone whether we’re featured prominently in films or not.

The film highlights the violent rhetoric anti-choice protesters use to demean those seeking abortions, but doesn’t dissect the deeply racist and abhorrent comments, often hurled at patients of color by older white protesters. These racist and sexist comments are what fuel much of the stigma that allows discriminatory laws, such as those banning so-called race- and sex-selective abortions, to flourish.

As I finished the documentary, I remembered a quote Chelsea, a white Christian woman who chose an abortion when her baby’s skull stopped developing above the eyes, said: “Knowing you’re not alone is the most important thing.”

In her case, her pastor supported her and her husband’s decision and prayed over them at the church. She seemed at peace with her decision to seek abortion because she had the support system she desired. Perhaps upon seeing the film, some will realize that all pregnancy decisions can be quite isolating and lonely, and we should show each other a bit more compassion when making them.

My hope is that the film reaches others who’ve had abortions and reminds them that they aren’t alone, whether they see themselves truly represented or not. That we who choose abortion are normal, loved, and supported. And that’s the main point of the film, isn’t it?

Abortion: Stories Women Tell is available in theaters in select cities and will be available on HBO in 2017.

Culture & Conversation Politics

Latino Votes Count or ‘Why Would They Be Trying to Suppress Them?’: Dolores Huerta on What’s at Stake in 2016

Ally Boguhn

“We know that we’ve had this problem that Latinos sometimes don’t vote—they feel intimidated, they feel like maybe their vote doesn’t matter,” Huerta told Rewire. Huerta encouraged people to consider both what is at stake and why their vote might be suppressed in the first place.

Republican nominee Donald Trump launched his campaign for president in June 2015 with a speech notoriously claiming Mexican immigrants to the United States “are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”

Since then, both Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party at large have continued to rely upon anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric to drum up support. Take for example, this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio—whose department came under fire earlier this year for racially profiling Latinos—was invited to take the stage to push Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile border wall. Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that Trump’s campaign had worked with the sheriff to finalize his speech.

This June, just a day shy of the anniversary of Trump’s entrance into the presidential race, People for the American Way and CASA in Action hosted an event highlighting what they deemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s “Year of Hate.”

Among the advocates speaking at the event was legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who worked alongside César Chávez in the farm workers’ movement. Speaking by phone the next day with Rewire, Huerta—who has endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—detailed the importance of Latinos getting involved in the 2016 election, and what she sees as being at stake for the community.

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The Trump campaign is “promoting a culture of violence,” Huerta told Rewire, adding that it “is not just limited to the rallies,” which have sometimes ended in violent incidents, “but when he is attacking Mexicans, and gays, and women, and making fun of disabled people.”

Huerta didn’t just see this kind of rhetoric as harmful to Latinos. When asked about its effect on the country at large, she suggested it affected not only those who already held racist beliefs, but also people living in the communities of color those people may then target. “For those people who are already racist, it sort of reinforces their racism,” she said. “I think people have their own frustrations in their lives and they take it out on immigrants, they take it out on women. And I think that it really endangers so many people of color.”

The inflammatory rhetoric toward people of color by presidential candidates has led to “an alarming level of fear and anxiety among children of color and inflaming racial and ethnic tensions in the classroom,” according to an April report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The organization’s analysis of the impact of the 2016 presidential election on classrooms across the country found “an increase in bullying, harassment and intimidation of students whose races, religions or nationalities have been the verbal targets of candidates on the campaign trail.” Though the SPLC did not name Trump in its questions, its survey of about 2,000 K-12 educators elicited up more than 1,000 comments about the Republican nominee, compared to less than 200 comments mentioning other presidential candidates still in the race at that time.

But the 2016 election presents an opportunity for those affected by that violent rhetoric to make their voices heard, said Huerta. “The Latino vote is going to be the decisive vote in terms of who is going to be elected the president of the United States,” she continued, later noting that “we’ve actually seen a resurgence right now of Latinos registering to vote and Latinos becoming citizens.”

However, a desire to vote may not always be enough. Latinos, along with other marginalized groups, face many barriers when it comes to voting due to the onslaught of voter restrictions pushed by conservative lawmakers across the country—a problem only exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling gutting portions of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) meant to safeguard against voter suppression efforts. The 2016 election season will be the first presidential election without those protections.

As many as 875,000 eligible Latino voters could face difficulty voting thanks to new restrictions—such as voter ID laws, proof of citizenship requirements, and shortened early voting periods—put into place since the 2012 elections, a May analysis from the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials found.

When it comes to restrictions like this, Huerta “absolutely” saw how they could create barriers for those hoping to cast their ballot this year. “They’ve made all of these restrictions that keep especially the Latino population from voting. So it’s very scary,” said Huerta, pointing to laws in states like Texas, which previously had one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country. (The state has since agreed to weaken its law following a judge’s order).

“We know that we’ve had this problem that Latinos sometimes don’t vote—they feel intimidated, they feel like maybe their vote doesn’t matter,” Huerta went on.

Huerta encouraged people to consider both what is at stake and why their voting rights might be targeted in the first place. “What we have to think about is, if they’re doing so much to suppress the vote of the Latino and the African-American community, that means that that vote really counts. It really matters or else why would they be trying to suppress them?”

Appealing to those voters means tapping into the issues Latinos care about. “I think the issues [Latinos care about] are very, very clear,” said Huerta when asked how a presidential candidate could best appeal to the demographic. “I mean, immigration of course is one of the issues that we have, but then education is another one, and health care.”

A February survey conducted jointly by the Washington Post and Univision found that the top five issues Latino voters cared about in the 2016 election cycle were jobs and the economy (33 percent), immigration (17 percent), education (16 percent), health care (11 percent), and terrorism (9 percent).

Another election-year issue that could affect voters is the nomination of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Huerta added. She pointed out the effect justices have on our society by using the now-decided Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case as an example. “You know, again, when we think of the presidents, and we think of the Supreme Court and we know that [was] one of the issues that [was] pending in the Supreme Court … whether what they did in Texas … was constitutional or not with all of the restrictions they put on the health clinics,” she said.

Latinas disproportionately face large barriers to reproductive health care. According to Planned Parenthood, they “experience higher rates of reproductive cancers, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections than most other groups of people.” Those barriers are only exacerbated by laws like Texas’ HB 2, as the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health explained in its amicus brief in the Whole Woman’s Health case prior to the decision: “Texas Latinas already face significant geographic, transportation, infrastructure, and cost challenges in accessing health services.”

“H.B. 2’s impact is acute because of the day-to-day struggles many Latinas encounter when seeking to exercise their reproductive rights,” wrote the organization in its brief. “In Texas, there is a dire shortage of healthcare facilities and providers in predominantly Latino communities. Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured adults in the country, and Texas Latinos are more than twice as likely as whites to be uninsured …. Additionally, the lack of public and private transportation creates a major barrier to accessing health services, especially in rural areas.”

As Rewire’s Tina Vasquez has reported, for undocumented women, the struggle to access care can be even greater.

Given the threats cases like Whole Woman’s Health have posed to reproductive rights, Huerta noted that “Trump’s constant attacks and misogynist statements” should be taken with caution. Trump has repeatedly vowed to appoint anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court if elected.

“The things he says without even thinking about it … it shows what a dangerous individual he can be when it comes to women’s rights and women’s reproductive rights,” said Huerta.

Though the race for the White House was a top concern of Huerta’s, she concluded by noting that it is hardly the only election that matters this year. “I think the other thing is we have to really talk about is, the presidency is really important, but so is the Senate and the Congress,” said Huerta.

“We’ve got to make sure we get good people elected at every level, starting at school board level, city council, supervisors, commissioners, etc. state legislatures …. We’ve got to make sure reasonable people will be elected, and reasonable people are voted into office.”

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