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JOIN SMART YOUTH

If you want to make a difference and help others while learning about sexual health and keeping yourself safe, then you need to join SMART Youth! You can come to any of our events around the city or come to one of our movie nights or Open Mic events. Check out our schedule to learn what we are doing or e-mail sync.nyc@gmail.com.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The World beyond SMART Youth

Over the years, we've seen our youth grow up within SMART Youth. Whether it was about safer sex or tips on how to write a resume, our youth have learned so many skills through our workshops and meetings. It’s important to have knowledge and skills, but what’s more important is what we do with it.

So we asked the question: Which ways have you used what you've learned in SMART Youth outside of SMART Youth?

There were many different answers. Some spoke about how being involved in SMART Youth has allowed them to be a source of information or resources for their friends and peers. One person even spoke of how she hosts sex education events on her college campus. Another participant said that talking about current event issues in sex and sexuality made him more aware of situations that are happening, and that SMART Youth provided a safe space to discuss these issues.

Others spoke about how the skills they've learned through meetings and workshops have helped them become better communicators. This is an important skill that is not only used for maintaining personal relationships, but for other parts of life like having a job.


We’re excited to know that our youth are not only benefiting from our workshops, but that they are also spreading what they've learned from SMART Youth!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Porn: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


When you hear or see the word “Porn”, what things come to mind? Maybe it’s excitement about a favorite scene from a video you saw. Or perhaps it’s disgust because of the types of scenes that are filmed. Porn produces a range of feelings and emotions, making it a controversial topic for many people. 

Pornography is generally defined as the portrayal of sexual acts through films, photos, magazines, novels, and more; but most people commonly refer to videos and movies when talking about porn.
Before the internet, someone had to buy magazines or go to an adult movie theater in order to see pornographic images. Since the advent of the internet, porn has not only been extremely accessible to the public, but it allows people of younger ages to access it.


For every person who supports porn, there are just as many who do not; and all for different reasons.

Sp, is porn bad or good? The answer is very complex and personal, but we’re here to guide you through the pros and cons.

The Good

It’s a safe space to help you learn what turns you on or not
There are many types of porn available, based on certain interests, desires, and fetishes. Porn gives you the opportunity to explore these interests in the privacy of your home, and without judgment.

It can help you vicariously live out your fantasies and fetishes
There are some scenarios, such as voyeurism, that may not be feasible or legal to do; but watching or reading pornography about it may help you live out a fantasy without actually doing it.

It can prep you for both masturbation and partner sex
Watching porn commonly used to get yourself in the mood to masturbate, but porn can also be used as a part of foreplay for partner sex!

It can help you incorporate new moves in the bedroom
Pornographic videos are known for showing moves that one would read about in Cosmo Magazine. Seeing these moves in action (instead of reading about them) can help give you a visual representation of how they would look in real like.


The Bad

It can give you unrealistic expectations for sex
Believe it or not, most porn is staged and directed. Real life sex is not. Therefore, expecting sex in real life to mirror what you see or read in pornography/erotica is not realistic. Sex is not always perfect, and that’s okay!

It can give you unrealistic ideas of what genitalia is supposed to look like
Like in most popular media, beauty standards also exist in pornography. Our expectations of what our genitalia is supposed to look like can be skewed by looking at porn. It’s important to remember that 
our body parts are unique and not to judge what ours looks like based on these images.


The Ugly

You can end up harming or violating your partner because you assumed they would like a certain position or sexual scenario
 A lot of porn is aggressive and sometimes violent, and often skips consent to sex and the use of barrier protection. Assuming that sex is only supposed to be that (without checking in with your partner) is damaging and can end up hurting your partner.

Porn addictions are real and serious
Many behaviors can become addictive, and watching porn is not excluded. Signs of porn addiction include decreased interest in actual sexual activity, skipping daily responsibilities (such as going to school or work) to watch porn, and many more. This could not only be extremely harmful for your relationships, but also for yourself. If you think you or someone you know may be addicted to porn, there is help.

Some aspects of the porn industry are shady
There are parts of the porn industry that people have issues with. Some of these complaints include the ways some porn workers are treated in the workplace, and the ways that porn is linked to racism, sexism, and transphobia. These are issues that should always be considered if you choose to watch porn and what type of porn you watch.


Although these points do not represent all opinions when it comes to pornography, these are some points you should research before you take a stance on this topic or decide to watch pornography.

Remember that you need to be 18 and over to legally view porn in the United States.
If you think you have a porn addiction, a visiting a mental health provider is a great start to overcoming addiction. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GEMS Visits SMART Youth

Last Friday, GEMS came over to SMART Youth to teach an important workshop. GEMS stands for Girls Educational & Mentoring Services and is the “only organization in New York State specifically designed to serve girls and young women who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking.” Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Domestic Trafficking is sexual activity involving a child under the age of 17 in exchange for money, services, or other things of value.


It’s hard for a lot of us to recognize that commercial sexual exploitation happens in our very own communities. Often times when we think of commercial sexual exploitation, a very specific image comes to mind and it’s usually of someone from outside of the United States; but we don’t realize that prostitution or sex work involving minors in the US is also considered commercial sexual exploitation. In New York City, it is estimated that 2,200 children are involved in commercial sexual exploitation every year.

There are many factors that can increase the risk of a child becoming domestically trafficked such as poverty, running away, child abuse/neglect, and sexual abuse, but these are not the only factors. This was highlighted when we watched a clip Very Young Girls, which is a documentary revealing this issue of youth being sexually exploited.


How can we help and become advocates? One way is to challenge our assumptions of what a victim of sexual exploitation looks like. Often, people see young girls (usually of color) who may be involved in some sort of sex work and assume the worst of them. They may blame the victim and say things like “She made a choice to be a prostitute/sex worker.” We need to remember that a child is still a child and that no child can independently choose to be a sex worker.

If you want to find out more about the work GEMS does, about Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Domestic Trafficking of children, or how to link someone who is a victim of this to services, check out the links below:

Thank you to GEMS for visiting and giving a very informative presentation!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

SMART Youth November & December Calendar


Check out our upcoming meetings and events, including our SMART Youth Open Mic Night!

THANK YOU from SMART Youth!

We want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who came, donated treats and prizes, or brought friends and family to our annual SMART Youth Halloween Party! It was a blast and a great success, and it wouldn't have been possible without you awesome folk! Please stay tuned for our upcoming meetings and events!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hot Topics: Gender and Sexuality Spectrum

This past Friday marked our last Hot Topics meeting, in which we talked about the gender and sexuality spectrum. We discussed that there are many dimensions that make up our sexual identities, such as gender identity, gender expression, biological (or assigned) sex, and sexual orientation.

We focused mostly on gender identity, which is a person’s perception of their own gender. Many people think of gender as just two things, man or woman. This is called a gender binary, but there are so many other ways our gender can be identified, which includes genderqueer, genderless, and more.

Gender expression is the way someone chooses to display themselves (mannerisms, clothing choice, etc) and can range from being masculine, feminine, androgynous, femme, butch, agender and more.  

Biological sex, or sex assigned at birth, is categorized by our sexual organs and hormones. Usually, people also refer to biological sex as a binary – male or female – but there are more categories such as intersex.

Sexual orientation is about who we are attracted to, which can include straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc.



Two of our guests at our meeting spoke about their experiences being transgender, which is when your assigned sex at birth does not match your gender identity. They shared what it was like being a transgender youth and their journey to adulthood. They also explained that transgender is an umbrella term and that there are many types of ways to be transgender, including female-to-male, male-to-female, two-spirit, bigender, and many more.

Each dimension stands alone, meaning that your identity in one category does not necessarily affect or change your identity in another category. For instance, someone was assigned female at birth and is attracted to men. If they identify as a man, this does not mean their attraction changes; they can still be attracted to men.

Although there were some labels listed for each dimension, there are infinite ways to categorize (or not categorize) ourselves. So many aspects of our lives make us unique, and our sexuality is no different.

Friday, October 17, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: To Wax or Not to Wax – That is the Question

Okay, so waxing had nothing to do with the life question Hamlet was grappling with, but it’s something that many of us have thought about, especially relating to pubic hair. There are multiple debates, both in the bedroom and publically, as to whether we should let it be au naturale or if we should groom it to some degree (trimming or complete hair removal). 

We, especially women, are constantly bombarded with messages from the media about how we should maintain our private gardens, but are any of them valid? Is there a ‘correct’ way to upkeep our pubic hair?

The History

Worrying about our pubic hair is not as new as we may think. Actually, the practice has been around for thousands of years! In the Middle East and other areas with hot climates, it was common hygienic or religious practice for both women and men to remove their body hair.

Flash forward to modern times – Removing hair from the bikini line became trendy in the United Sates during the 1940’s, when bathing suit bottoms became more revealing. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that the practice of waxing all of your pubic hair became a trend. It was introduced by the Brazilian J.Sisters who opened a salon in NYC in 1987 and popularized by an episode of Sex in the City where Carrie Bradshaw went to get a Brazilian wax. 



Today, removing pubic hair is almost seen as the norm. It’s common to see many salons offering the service, and many people also trim/remove their pubic hair at home. Although women receive the most messages about how to maintain their pubic hair, this is not only a women’s concern. There is a rising trend in men also trimming or removing their pubic hair, also called “manscaping.”

Types of Hair Removal

There tend to be three categories in which people generally style their pubic hair:
  • Natural – This is when the pubic hair is left untouched
  • Trimmed – This is when the pubic hair is cut to a shorter length, but not removed,
  • Shaped/Removed – This is when the pubic hair is removed either completely from the area, or is shaped depending on your preference. This can range from removing just the hair on your “bikini line”, to going completely bare.


Methods of Hair Removal

There are many ways you can trim or remove pubic hair. Each technique yields different results, as well as has its own pros and cons.

Shaving: This is when you use a razor to cut hair down to the skin. While shaving is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of hair removal (you can do it yourself in the shower!), it only cuts the hair off, meaning your hair will grow back at its normal rate. Shaving also means that the hair is cut off bluntly, which not only makes your hair feel courser and prickly when it grows back, but also puts you at greater risk for ingrown hairs.

Waxing/Sugaring: This is when a very tacky paste, such as hot wax, is spread across and quickly pulled from the skin, removing the hair from its root (follicle). Because the hair is removed from the root, it slows the rate the hair will grow back. The hair also grows back softer because it’s not cut. This method is not only costly, but is also painful because the pubic area is very sensitive. It is best to get it done professionally.

Depilatories: This is a chemical paste that removes the hair by dissolving it. It’s a fairly easy, painless, and inexpensive process. Since harsh chemicals are used, it’s very important to read the directions on any depilatory product…especially because the pubic area is sensitive. Only use depilatories that are specifically for pubic hair removal.

Long term/Permanent Removal: There are two methods of long term hair removal. Laser hair removal involves removing hair by pulsating laser light onto the hair follicle and destroying the root. This allows hair growth to be slower and slower over time, although not permanent. On the other hand, electrolysis is the only permanent hair removal technique, given that it actually destroys the hair cells responsible for growth. Both procedures are painful and extremely expensive, so they’re recommended for smaller areas on the body.



The Great Debate

For as many people who are fans of pubic hair grooming, there are just as many who are not. There are multiple arguments for and against grooming. Some believe that it is most hygienic to be “bare down there”, with people crediting pubic hair removal for the eradication of pubic lice. Others believe that removing all of your pubic hair is wrong because it perpetuates “porn culture.” Many people feel that the porn industry is responsible –through the way they display women’s labia in porn scenes – for convincing both men and women that having no pubic hair is more attractive, which creates a beauty standard.

There are multiple reasons for why people choose or don’t choose to keep or remove their pubic hair, but you should never feel that you have to do anything to your pubic hair – let alone any part of your body – to please someone or to follow a trend. If you think it is right for you, you can access safety tips for shaving and waxing linked here and here.

Do what’s right and comfortable for you. Your choice to wax, shave, or trim is just as valid as your choice not to; and that’s what it is, YOUR choice!