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It’s Crucial To Have Honest & Shame-Free Sex Talks With Your Younger Relatives — This Guide Will Help

Having conversations with young people in our lives about relationships and sex can be uncomfortable, weird and stressful, but it’s absolutely necessary. Stereotypes about “spicy” Latinas are extremely pervasive and, as a result, oftentimes our young girls — especially Black Latinas — are treated as purely sexual objects and less like people. To challenge these myths and encourage the sexual health and safety of our young people, discussion is key.

To do this, accurate information, honesty and remaining judgment-free is essential in all conversations that deal with relationships and sex. And considering that millennials and generation X are two of the most open and fluid demographics, it’s also important that these topics aren’t cis and hetero normative. This will ensure that everyone is included in the conversation and receives the necessary information.  

To make sex talks with the youth in your life more helpful, shame-free and impactful, here are 10 topics that should be included.

1. Pay attention to signs that you are in an unhealthy relationship.

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According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 10 percent of teens have reported physical violence in a relationship. However, physical violence is not the only way to notice you are in an unhealthy relationship. It’s important to explain that things like demanding social media passwords, trying to regulate friendships, constant text messages and/or phone calls are all forms and signs of control and abuse. Other red flags: Someone refusing to use a condom and/or trying to make you change or stop whichever birth control option you are currently using. Learning how to identify and detect early signs of abuse and control will help young people understand the types of relationships they want to participate in.

2. Just because you’re attracted to someone, doesn’t mean you like them or want to have sex with them.

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Being attracted to someone doesn’t mean you necessarily want to have sex with that person, nor does it solidify your sexuality. Sometimes, you just like how someone looks and/or behaves, and might not want anything more from them. This is OK. In fact, not experiencing sexual attraction doesn’t mean you’re broken or anything; it may mean you’re asexual. According to The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, “an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” They can still desire emotional connections and relationships with people. The contrary is true as well, because overwhelming attraction or love don’t have to be present to have sex at all. 

3. Sexual orientation and gender are spectrums.

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The Trans Student Educational Resources has a great tool called the Gender Unicorn, which is available in nine languages, to help explain the ways in which gender, sexual orientation and gender presentation are all a spectrum. Life is constantly changing and evolving. Similarly, how you feel about yourself, who you’re attracted to and what type of things arouse you can shift as well. As long as you’re not disrespecting other people based off of their sexuality and or gender, you’re fine.

4. There are different forms of sex.

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Penetrative sex between two straight people isn’t the only form of sex — nor the only way to contract sexually transmitted infections. Oral sex, vaginal and anal are just a few ways people can be sexually intimate with one another. For people who do not identify as heterosexual, sex can look and be very different. The most important thing about sex to remember is as long as whatever you and your partner are doing is consensual, safe and honest, you can call it sex.

5. If you’re engaging in sex, there are ways to practice it safer.

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Discussing birth control and safer sex practices with young people to reduce unintended outcomes should also be a part of your discussion because one’s relationship with their body lasts a lifetime. Currently, male and female condoms are the only medically approved methods that protect against a range of sexually transmitted illnesses and unintended pregnancy. The rate of efficacy for reducing unintended pregnancies for male condoms, when you used properly, is 85 percent, and 79 percent for female condoms. Both are best used with another form of birth control, like the pill, the patch, implant or the shot.

Dental dams are especially useful for oral sex between any genders because they provide a layer of protection between genitalia and other body parts. When choosing a birth control option, it is best to research your options on your own without pressure from other people. Also, consider what type of birth control option works best for your everyday life. A good place to start is Planned Parenthood’s All About Birth Control page on their website.

It’s okay to inquire about birth control options your partner is using, but it is not your place to force someone off or onto a birth control option they are not interested in.

6. Becoming pregnant as a teen isn’t the worst thing that can happen.

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Unexpected things are a part of life, and sometimes that unanticipated occurrence is a pregnancy. The first thing to remember is you have options. You can choose to abort your gestation or carry it to term, and then decide to keep the baby or place them for adoption. Each of these decisions is OK and shouldn’t carry any shame. That’s because pregnancy doesn’t mean your life is over or that you are ruining your future. Despite overarching popular culture beliefs that teenage pregnancy is shameful and a death sentence, the fact is poverty causes more harm to people than unexpected pregnancies.

7. Coercion isn’t consent.

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Feeling like you have to convince someone to have sex with you isn’t “game” or skill. Rather, it can be coercion, and it causes harm. If someone is ready to have sex with you, they will. If someone doesn’t want to have sex with you, they don’t have to. Pressuring people to engage in sexual activity with you is sexual coercion, and it’s a crime. Remember: the absence of “yes” is no.

8. You don’t “owe” anyone your attention, body or sex.

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Going out with someone for any given period of time does not mean you “owe them” anything. Someone being nice to you does not mean you “owe them” anything. By default, the notion of owing someone something creates a power dynamic in which one person has more power over the other person. This doesn’t agree with the principal of consent and can lead to coercive behavior from the person that feels they are owed your attention, body or sex.

9. Your decision to have sex or refrain from having sex doesn’t make you better than anyone else.

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Deciding to not engage in any form of sex, just oral sex or not have sex that often doesn’t make you a better person than someone who does. Inversely, deciding to have sex in any capacity doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just means you’ve made different decisions.

10. Sex is pleasurable and doesn’t have to always be linked procreation.

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For some reason, people believe that stating that sex is pleasurable, as many of us know it is, is not something we should share with young people, but leaving this out of sex talks can make our youth feel dirty and shameful for enjoying their sexuality. Whether you’re exploring your body by yourself through masturbation or having sex with someone else, the truth is pleasure is a part of sexual experiences. The earlier people know this, the earlier they can realize that sex isn’t just an act that is “owed” to your partner or merely for procreation. Instead, it’s something that you should want to engage in because you want it and because you can have a pleasurable experience.

Bonus: Porn is not an all-knowing or reliable educational tool about how to have sex and what is pleasurable.

There are so many topics that intersect when having conversations about sex and relationships, so it’s impossible to list all of the things that should be covered. This list is meant to help start and maintain a conversation and doesn’t seek to be a definitive list of topics. Remember to tailor the conversation so that it’s culturally responsive and as inclusive as possible.

Read: Why You Need To Be Talking Openly And Honestly About Sex To The Youth In Your Life

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This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

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This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

Art has the power to shift culture, and in Puerto Rico, a young illustrator is using it to help demystify female sexuality in a society where it’s largely still seen as taboo.

For the last four years, Guanina Cotto has used art as a way to explore her own sexuality, drawing erotic moments she has experienced to better understand what she likes and doesn’t like.

“It’s a tool to get to know myself,” Cotto, 25, told FIERCE. “It’s like writing for some people. For me, it’s like having a visual journal, where I draw ideas, what I’m feeling, new things I’ve explored and using it to learn about myself.”

Using Instagram as her visual diary, Cotto’s illustrations, which depict her lounging naked on a hammock, masturbating in bed, kissing other women or engaging in sexual practices with men, caught attention beyond her eyes. With more than 5 thousand followers, it’s become a site to challenge machista standards of female sexuality, gender expectations and heteronormativity on an island where public education teaches students sex is to be engaged in after marriage and where women are shamed, sometimes attacked, for daring to display their bare or scantily-dressed bodies.

The Isabela-based artist welcomes the attention her self-described “biographic soft erotic” illustrations have received, believing her portrayals could make people more comfortable seeing sexually liberated women in real life.

“My art is a way of normalizing sexuality,” she said. “Art exposes and stimulates people in many ways. I think the more people see the naked body, the more normal it will become.”

The process of normalizing an aspect of humanity that remains hush-hush, particularly in rural western municipalities like the one she lives in, comes with strains, however. In 2015, for instance, Collectivo Moriviví, a young women’s art collective based in the island’s metropolitan area, painted an anti-domestic violence mural that showed full-figured nude Black women with their faces covered. Months later, the piece, displayed in San Juan’s art district of Santurce, was defaced, with vandals drawing undergarments on the women’s bodies. For Cotto, whose work lives online, backlash to her art exists in reports to Instagram for explicit sexual content, a reprisal she says has become less frequent over the years.

Through normalizing female sexual autonomy and pleasure, Cotto believes it could help generations unlearn messages they were taught about their bodies, consent and relationships in school, through church and in their families.

She knows firsthand how detrimental these lessons on female morality and respectability are for young women trying to make sense of their desires. Growing up, Cotto attended a religious school, where educational instruction, and home lessons from her grandmother, taught her that premarital sex and self-pleasure were sins. While the artist does have a mother, who she describes as a feminist, that told her that she is in control of her body, the mixed messages impacted her connection with her body and sexuality and, as a result, her future romantic relationships.

“I grew up scared, scared of my own feelings and wants,” she said. “We grow up not knowing our own bodies and that we are capable of experiencing pleasure, too. They teach us that sex is something done to us, not for us to enjoy. We become objects, as if being beautiful and desirable is the most important thing to be.”

That fear and unfamiliarity of what healthy, respectful relationships look like, she shares, previously kept her tied to former lovers who wanted to control the way she dressed and acted in public. She believes women are less likely to stay in situations where they aren’t valued and respected if they are taught earlier in their lives that they have autonomy over their bodies.

“When we learn sexuality isn’t shameful, we can establish healthy boundaries and be more in tune with what makes us our true selves. We become empowered,” she said.

While Cotto views her art as personal, she also believes it, and others like it, have the power to allow women to feel comfortable in their bodies, own their sexuality and demand pleasure and respect. Her illustrations, which, in addition to presenting women engaging in eroticism, also depict them participating in daily activities like lounging, drawing or breast-feeding their infants nude, is often the first time people see women represented through a female’s gaze.

“When I draw the naked body of a woman, it’s not always sexual. Oftentimes, it is, but not always. For me, it’s about normalizing the body, showing the beauty of women and what it looks like to be a free woman, through a female’s gaze,” she said.

Read: After Sex Shame Led To A Porn Addiction, This Latina Is Encouraging All Women To Unlearn Ideas That Sexuality Is Dirty

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

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A Group Of Primarily Female Mexican Scientists Discovered A Potential Cure For HPV

“If you’re having sex, you’ll likely contract HPV at some point in your life.” That is how one gynecologist explained the sexually transmitted diseases to me, which completely freaked me out. Even though human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus contracted through sexual intercourse, it doesn’t make it less scary when you realize that it’s related to 150 viruses and can lead to cancer for both men and women. While there are vaccines available to prevent the spread of HPV to a broader age group than in previous years, we are finally closer to finding a cure.

A group of primarily female Mexican scientists at the National Polytechnic Institute cured their patients of HPV.

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The team of researchers, led by Dr. Eva Ramos Gallegos (pictured above), treated 420 patients from Veracruz and Oaxaca, and 29 from Mexico City. They used “photodynamic therapy” which “is a treatment that involves using a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light to treat different areas of the body” according to their report.

The doctors found extraordinary results through their method of treatment that led to cure 100 percent of the people that had HPV. They also cured 64.3 percent of people infected with HPV that had cancerous cells, and 57.2 percent of people that had cancerous cells without the HPV virus. That last result could mean that a cure for cancer is not far behind.

“Unlike other treatments, it only eliminates damaged cells and does not affect healthy structures. Therefore, it has great potential to decrease the death rate from cervical cancer,” Dr. Gallegos told Radio Guama.

People on social media ecstatically hailed the finding by the Mexicana researchers.

We highly doubt President Trump will ever mention this achievement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to comment on this remarkable finding.

While there’s more testing that will inevitably take place, we will have to wait and see how long it takes for other researchers and scientists to catch on to their method of treatment.

The fact that a woman-led team discovered this cure is something we should all be applauding.

Hopefully, their research will get more funding so they can further test patients and help educate others about their process.

According to the CDC,  79 million Americans, primarily teens and people in the early 20s, are infected with HPV. In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer. The way to prevent contracting HPV is by getting the vaccine — available for males and females — and by using condoms. However, you can still contract HPV because HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom – so condoms may not adequately protect against getting HPV.

READ: Here Are A Handful Of Reasons Why We Need To Talk To Latinx Kids About S-E-X

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