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

Friday, January 30, 2015

[Taboo Talk III] Sex-R: Toy Story – Sex Toys

Last week was our third workshop of our Taboo Talk series. The topic of discussion was Sex Toys, so our Sex-R theme was Toy Story, naturally!

We've recently blogged about sex toys in the past, giving the 411 on what they are, their history, and how they can be used. Sex toys can be a great way to explore your own sexuality (re: masturbation), and can also be incorporated in many ways for sex with other people (foreplay, mutual masturbation, intercourse, etc)!

There’s no one way to use a sex toy. As long as the toy is being used safely and hygienically, sex toys can be used anywhere on the body that feels pleasurable. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

[Taboo Talk II] Sex-R: Finding Nemo – Masturbation

Two weeks ago, we had our second workshop for Taboo Talk series! This workshop was dedicated to the safest sex of them all: Masturbation, which is why our Sex-R theme was Finding Nemo.

Just so we're all on the same page, masturbation is the act of touching your own genitals for pleasure. We've talked and blogged in the past about how masturbation and self-exploration are common and healthy behaviors that help us learn about ourselves as sexual beings; yet we often find it awkward to talk about it…and when we do, it’s either in a joking way or in a shameful way. It’s hardly ever spoken about positively. We at SMART Youth want to change that!

Our guest facilitator, Melisa, led a discussion on how there are differences in the way masturbation is perceived based on many factors. Our participants told examples of how, depending on your gender and age, masturbation can be seen differently. When men are younger, masturbation is seen as something that every man does and cannot control. When women are younger, masturbation is seen as something that women just don’t do. As we get older, the societal perception changes and masturbation is seen as something that is done only when someone doesn’t have a sexual partner. We know that these are stereotypes and are NOT true! Not every man masturbates, and a lot of women do masturbate.

We also know that masturbation does not depend on having a sexual partner. Both people who are single or in relationships masturbate, and they’re equally okay! Plus, masturbation and mutual masturbation (when partners pleasure themselves in front of their partner or touch/rub their partners’ genitals for pleasure) can be part of foreplay and sex. If there is no transfer of fluids (or you’re following other precautions like using a barrier or washing hands), there is a suuuuper low risk for pregnancy or STI’s…making it the safest sex of them all!

You don’t only have to use your hands either. One can masturbate or do mutual masturbation with the aid of sex toys as well! We have an entire blog post and presentation dedicated to what sex toys are and how to use them.

One way we can reduce shame and start becoming more comfortable with talking about masturbation is to use better words to describe the act. Many of the phrases we use to describe masturbation include jerking off, diddle the skittle, or choke the monkey, which are either funny or sometimes violent. If instead we used more neutral and even more positive phrases like pleasuring yourself, fingering, or as one youth offered, happy time, it may make talking about masturbation a more positive and open topic!

Thank you to Melisa for taking the time out to facilitate such a fun and important meeting!

Friday, January 16, 2015

[Taboo Talk I] Sex-R: The Incredibles – Polyamory and Asexuality

Last week officially started our new series of workshops called Taboo Talk, where we discuss sexual topics that you normally wouldn't discuss in your traditional sex ed class. The theme of the series is Disney’s Pixar, therefore each workshop is named after a Pixar movie.

We often think of relationships as sexual partnerships that involve only two people…but what happens when a relationship doesn't look like that? Our movie theme for last Friday was The Incredibles and the topic was polyamory and asexuality; two things that many people have heard of, but often do not understand because of the misconceptions and myths about them.

Polyamory literally means “many loves” in Greek. In modern practice, polyamory is the idea of having multiple intimate relationships with different people at the same time. It’s also known as “consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy.” In a polyamorous relationship, the knowledge and consent of everyone involved is mandatory, meaning all people in these types of relationships know that they’re in one and are okay with it.

Polyamory can take many forms, ranging from a person having multiple separate relationships to a group of people having relationships with each other. Polyamory not the same as polygamy; polygamy usually involves one man with multiple wives, but not the other way around. Having another relationship with someone else without your partner knowing is also not polyamory. Like mentioned before, all people involved must know and be in agreement with one another.

On the flip side, asexuality is a sexual identity where someone does not feel sexual attraction to or desire for anyone. Often, people who are asexual prefer romantic non-sexual relationships, but some also may not.

Just because a person identifies as asexual does not necessarily mean that asexual people do not have sex; people who identify as asexual may have sex for other reasons such as pleasing their partner or to have children. Asexual people can also identify with having romantic or emotional attractions to people similar to how a sexual person may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc; they just won’t feel a sexual attraction towards them.

There are a lot of misconceptions associated with both polyamory and asexuality for many reasons, ranging from media misrepresentation (or lack of representation) to just having never met someone who expressed that they are polyamorous or asexual. The best thing you can do is to do your research and talk to folk who identify as polyamorous or asexual!

  • To learn more about Polyamory, visit More Than Two at:
  • To learn more about Asexuality, visit Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) at:

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

SMART Youth January & February Calendar

Happy New Year!!
To celebrate, SMART Youth has some fantastic workshops and events coming up for January and February. Join us for our Taboo Talk series, where you'll learn about the stuff you don't learn in school sex ed like fetishes, sex toys, and more! This all leads up to our annual Valentine's Day event! Right after that, we will also have our annual National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day event. We hope to see you all there!

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!