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, 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.

So, 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!


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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hot Topics: PrEP and PEP

Last Friday, Gloria Searson from SMART and COPE joined SMART Youth to talk about something that’s been buzzing in the news lately: PrEP and PEP

For those who may not know, PrEP – which stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – is a pill that a person who is HIV-negative can take once a day to dramatically decrease their risk of getting HIV. It has to be taken consistently in order for the medication to be most effective. On the other hand, PEP – which stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis – is medication an HIV-negative person take after they may have been exposed to the HIV virus to decrease the chances of the virus replicating in their body. The medication works better when taken as soon as possible, but can be taken up to 72 hours after exposure to the virus. Both of these medicines have to be prescribed by a doctor. For this meeting, we focused mostly on PrEP.

We discussed that there is a difference between who the drug is being marketed to versus who would benefit most from the drug. According to public health guidelines, PrEP is recommended for HIV-negative people who:
  • are in a sexual relationship with someone who is HIV-positive
  • are in a non-mutually monogamous sexual relationship with someone who is HIV-Negative and is someone who is considered to be in a high-risk group
  • injects drugs and shares equipment with others
The drug is primarily marketed towards people who fall into these categories; but our youth brought up other groups who would also benefit from the medication yet are being ignored, such as sex workers. Sex workers face a particular barrier to accessing this drug because sex work is illegal in many parts of the world, including the US. PrEP is an expensive drug PrEP (it can cost $8,000-$14,000 a year), and because sex workers do not receive health insurance for their jobs, they would have to pay out-of-pocket for it. This would be a problem for other people who are poor or uninsured.

There are also people who fear that without proper education, people will misuse the drug (which would make it less effective) or start to engage in riskier sexual activity that could increase the rates of other sexually transmitted diseases.

PrEP may be best for one person, but may not be best for another person; that is a decision that is discussed between you and your doctor. As young people, it is important to make sure we learn about the things that affect our sexual lives because education and information helps us to make more informed decisions about our health, whatever decision that may be.

For more information about PrEP or PEP, check out the links below:

Friday, October 10, 2014

‘Tis the season to be haunted!

Join SMART Youth for our 9th Annual Halloween Party at Lucky Strike Bowling, located at 624-660 W 42nd St, New York, NY 10036 (At W 42nd St and 12th Ave). The date and time is Sunday, October 26th from 12:30-3:30pm!

There will be food, candy, an awesome DJ, a makeup artist, and a costume contest with great prizes! You do not want to miss this! Bring your friends, but keep in mind that you're only allowed into the party if you are between the ages of 13 and 22.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hot Topics: HIV Criminalization

We continued our Hot Topics series with our third topic: HIV Criminalization. We at SMART Youth have discussed this topic before on a policy-level and talked about ways to advocate for those affected by these unjust and discriminatory laws. These are laws and policies that prosecute people who are HIV-positive for engaging in consensual sex or other activities without disclosing their HIV status, regardless of actual risk of transmission. For our meeting last Friday, we focused on how these laws affect us on a personal-level.

We watched a video [featuring one of our SMART Youth leaders!] that showcased the many ways these laws negatively affect people who are HIV-positive. Other than not knowing their HIV status, there are many reasons why people do not disclose to their partner. HIV is still a heavily stigmatized condition that means potentially negative consequences for those who choose to reveal their status, including loss of social support from friends and family, job loss, or having their personal information spread to other people.

The purpose of these laws is to force those with HIV to disclose their status to others, but when there are factors discouraging people from doing so, it puts them in a dilemma. One would have to choose between disclosing and getting backlash, or not disclosing and being arrested; both results are harmful. Many times, people avoid getting tested because in the eyes of the law, not knowing about your HIV status is better than knowing. This is the opposite of what we want, which is to eliminate stigma and encourage people to know their status in order to take charge of their health.

In order for people to feel comfortable and safe to disclose their status, we all have a responsibility to create an environment for that. One way to do that is to fight against these unfair laws and policies through educating ourselves and our peers.

For more information on HIV Criminalization laws or disclosure, please see links to our previous blog posts below:
  • HIV Criminalization: 
  • Disclosure: 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Hot Topics: Where is the Justice?

Last Friday, SMART Youth continued our Hot Topics series with a meeting called “Where is the Justice?” where we discussed how crime and punishment can vary depending on who is accused or where you live. This can lead to different legal outcomes.

Our youth brought up many examples of how violence is perceived based on who you are. In the case of Ray Rice, the NFL player who was caught on camera assaulting his the fiancĂ©e in an elevator, his violence was seen much differently than when Solange Knowles (Beyonce’s sister) was caught on camera assaulting Jay-Z in an elevator. Because of the gender differences, Ray Rice’s situation became a very serious matter (as it should have been), yet Solange’s situation was generally laughed off.

Sometimes, these differences also lead to discriminatory outcomes for those accused of crimes. An example of this is how there are racial and class differences in the way students are disciplined in schools. Students of color are more likely to be seen as disruptive in school and more likely to be suspended or expelled. This discrimination contributes to higher rates of students of color getting left back or not completing school.

Who is responsible for serving justice? In the many examples that were talked about, the punishments were given by groups not traditionally seen as enforcers. For instance, the NFL suspended Ray Rice indefinitely for the assault. Some feel that this was the right move by the NFL, but others feel that it is not the organization’s responsibility to punish their players for criminal offenses; that it should only be the responsibility of law enforcement.

For sexual assault on school campuses, campus disciplinary boards are the ones deliberating these cases instead of law enforcement. Part of the reason why these groups are seen as responsible is because law enforcement often fails to hold perpetrators accountable for offenses like domestic violence and sexual assault. On the flip side, school discipline has moved from the hands of school administrators to law enforcement, which many feel is excessive because it exposes children to the justice system instead of dealing with discipline in-house. This also has negative effects on children.

Our justice system is far from perfect, something that our youth have talked about regarding multiple circumstances, including HIV Criminalization. We as youth should be committed to advocating for those who are unfairly treated by the system in the hopes that it will be practiced fairly for everyone in the near future.

Monday, September 29, 2014

SMART Youth September & October Calendar

We have many interesting events coming up, including our SMART Youth Halloween party at Lucky Strike! Check out our calendar below. Hope to see you soon!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hot Topics: Consent

This past Friday, SMART Youth kicked off the new season with a discussion series called “Hot Topics,” where we talk about current event issues that affect youth. For our first meeting, the discussion topic was Consent. Whether it’s about new laws changing how we define sexual assault or the recent complaints about the way colleges deal with sexual assault on campuses, we’ve been hearing a lot about consent in the news and from our peers.

We talked about consent on a policy-level and used California as an example; the state passed new legislation known as “Yes Means Yes” which redefines the way sexual assault accusations are determined in the state. This means that in order for sexual activity to be considered consensual, there needs to be an affirmative “yes.” This is different than the current standard “No Means No,” which requires a person to say “no” for sexual activity to be not be consensual. This new law is important because it clears up many ambiguous situations that occur when a person is unable to say “no” to sex. 

It’s also important because it will apply to all colleges in California and set an example for colleges across the country. One college that we highlighted was Columbia University, where a college student name Emma Sulkowicz is protesting her school’s decision not to discipline her alleged rapist by carrying around her dorm mattress. Laws like this would help reshape the way college campuses and law enforcement deal with sexual assault.

So how can we apply consent to our lives?

We discussed that consent has many layers beyond just saying “yes” to sexual activity. Many of our youth added that consent should not only be expressed, it should be enthusiastic. We also discussed that consent isn’t something that is said once and applied to all sexual activity. Not only should we check in with our partners along the way, but we should also realize that consent can be taken back at any point, and that decision should always be respected. Consent should be an integral part of our sexual lives because it contributes to healthy sexual relationships. Consent is all of our responsibility.

If you think you may be a victim of sexual assault, below are online resources:

Monday, August 4, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: Fetishes — Who Knew Popping Balloons Could Be Foreplay?

We all have that one thing that really gets us in the mood. It could be a certain song because the lyrics remind you of something, or that special scent that you love because your partner wears it; but have you ever felt like that one thing that turns you on isn't shared by others? Does it seem a little different or uncommon. You might have a fetish!

Remember that arousal is different for every person, and that’s okay. Exploring your sexuality in this way can be an exciting process!

The technical definition of a fetish “specifically refers to a strong sexual preoccupation with an object, material, or body part.”This object, material, or body part – the specific thing that is fetishized – often needs to be present, incorporated, or at least thought of in order for the person to reach sexual satisfaction. A fetish is a type of paraphilia, which generally “means compulsively responding in a sexual way to an unusual or socially acceptable stimulus."

These two definitions are very similar, so we’ll break it down with some examples: If the sight of feet really gets you going, it’s probably a foot paraphilia. If you require feet to be incorporated in your sex act (like touching, smelling, licking, etc) in order to experience sexual satisfaction, then it is probably a foot fetish. Most of the time when we talk about fetishes, we’re actually referring to paraphilia, which is why the meanings of these words get confused.

There are hundreds of fetishes and paraphilia. Some are well-known like the BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, and Masochism) scene, which involves role-playing with the behaviors of dominance/submission and by receiving or inflicting pain. Some fetishes/paraphilia are viewed as uncommon or may seem strange to us, like popping balloons or wearing animal costumes while having sex.
For some, balloons are a source of sexual pleasure!
So— is it bad to have a fetish or paraphilia? If it does not interfere with your or someone’s life in a negative way, it isn't bad at all...even if they seem out of the ordinary for most people. For some, the biggest challenge of having a fetish or paraphilia is simply communicating to a partner about their sexual desires. This can make anyone feel awkward or vulnerable when disclosing personal information to our intimate partners. Like anything else when it comes to sex, it is very important to communicate with our sexual partners. Not only will this allow you and your partner to be on the same page, but they may be very willing to accommodate your desires. They may even share your same fetish or paraphilia!

Other people may also share your fetish/paraphilia. There are multiple communities of people with similar interests that not only provide a sense of belonging and acceptance, but are also great resources for information and finding friends or potential partners. These groups can be the first step in discovering your likes and dislikes. When exploring your specific fetish/paraphilia, it is still important to be safe. Safety can mean several things, like:
  • Doing research on your specific fetish/paraphilia. What are the community’s philosophies? Do they provide support or resources on how to begin and how to be safe?
  • Being mindful of which communities (physical or virtual) you’re connecting with. If you feel like you’re in danger, that you cannot trust the people you’re with, or that they’re involved in illegal activities, you do not have to be a part of that group.
  • Establishing rules of consent and safety with your sexual partners.  An example of this is using safewords. Safewords are specific words or phrases that are mutually agreed upon and used to let others know that we want to stop sexual activity. This is most commonly used in BDSM, where words like ‘stop’ or ‘no’ are not taken at face-value and are considered part of role-playing.
  • Being safe if you’re meeting someone from the internet. You can find great tips here.
However, certain fetishes or paraphilia can cause harm to yourself and others, or even be against the law. An extreme example of a harmful paraphilia is pedophilia, which is the strong sexual attraction to children. Anytime our sexual desires and actions become distressing in our lives or the lives of others, it is very important to seek professional counseling/intervention to address them. This way, we can lead both healthy and fulfilling sexual lives.

As mentioned before, there are hundreds of fetishes and paraphilia out there, and this post is just the tip of the iceberg!  If you want to learn more, here are some online resources available to help you explore this topic on a deeper level:

Thursday, July 24, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: Does Size Really Matter?

“Does penis size really matter when it comes to sex?”

Seems like an age-old question that is on most people’s minds (admit it, we know you've asked this question at least once in your life) and never has a definitive answer! The prevailing philosophy is that larger penises are more pleasurable…which is a lame and vague answer. We all feel differently about this question depending on our likes and dislikes. Even the research has different outcomes! There are many sides to this debate and we’re here to explain them!

Size may matter, but not the ways you think!
Some studies show that length may not be the factor in penis size, but girth (width) instead. In the case for women studied, size mattered for those who have orgasms primarily through vaginal penetration because there are pressure-sensitive nerves that can detect stretch, which may be more pleasurable. Men also feel the same sensations through anal sex, so men who prefer that feeling of “fullness” may want a partner with more girth.

Goldilocks Zone
In general, men and women don’t think size matters, as long as it is not on the extreme ends of the size spectrum. You may think this applies to just people who have smaller than average sizes, but this also applies to those with much larger than average penises. The average erect penis is about five to six inches long and has an average circumference of 4.8 inches. Also, the most pleasurable and sensitive parts of the vagina or the anus is the first two or three inches. This means that unless the erect penis is smaller than three inches, size shouldn't affect this level of pleasure. This also means that a larger penis won’t necessarily make things more pleasurable. When a penis is large (by either length or girth), it can lead to discomfort/ pain during vaginal or anal sex.

He Says, She Says
What’s big for someone may be small for someone else. We all have individual preferences and there isn't one way to have sex, so size may matter to one person…but it may not matter for another. Some people may like longer penises because of the sensation of it touching the cervix; some may want a shorter penis because directly stimulates the prostate; some may like penises with more girth because they like the stretching sensation; and some may like penises with less girth because it’s easier to penetrate. Remember that individual people have different sexual body parts, preferences, and needs; so assuming that everyone prefers a bigger penis is assuming that everyone has the same kind of sex.

It really is about the “Motion of the Ocean!”
You know the saying: It’s not about the size of the boat, it’s about the motion of the ocean; that is to say it’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with it. Remember that sex is not always about penetration! Not only do we have other ways to pleasure our partners (such as using our hands, mouth, or sex toys), but sex is also about the intimate connection we make with people. As much as it is about your genitals, it’s also about how you feel and approach sex. With that being said, if you’re feeling less than confident about your genitals or your skills, it will show when you have sex!

It may just all be in our heads!
All in all, size only matters if you make it matter. Studies show that heterosexual men tend to be more concerned about their penis size than heterosexual women are. More times than not, what men consider to be small is actually considered average. In addition, penis size becomes a bigger factor for homosexual men. Research shows that size has a stronger link to dominance and power, so those that self-report being smaller in size are more likely to be “bottoms”and those who reported being average or bigger are more likely to be “tops”. In general, men are often obsessed with their size because they equate penis size with self-esteem and worth…something that is very damaging. Each of our bodies is unique and we should strive to be comfortable with the skin we’re in.

There’s more to your identity and sex life than penetration and penis size, and just because someone considers you “too small” or “too large” doesn’t mean you and your partner cannot have great sex! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

SAY! Advocacy University – Communication 101

Last Friday marked day two of our SAY! Advocacy University. We focused on how to improve our communication skills in order to become better facilitators. Having these skills in our toolbox will allow us to spread the SMART Youth word about sexual health more effectively.

We discussed the importance and principles of public speaking, which include diction, posture, talking speed/volume, eye contact, and looking presentable. When we look and sound confident in what we’re talking about, the audience feeds off of our energy and are more likely to pay attention to what we’re saying. This means making eye contact with audience members; making sure we project our voice and enunciate while we speak; dressing and speaking appropriately depending on the audience; and avoiding verbal ticks such as ‘um’ and ‘like’. We also talked about what makes us afraid of public speaking and the ways we can combat those fears. These include breathing exercises and “faking it ‘till you make it” in order to calm our nerves or boost confidence. Practicing our presentation skills is very important because, like a resume, “how” we present is often holds more weight than “what” we present.

Next, we learned techniques on how to use our public speaking skills as group facilitators. It’s one thing to be able to present information well; it’s another thing to take those presentation skills and lead a group discussion. Being an open person and a good listener are some of the very helpful tips we learned that helps us to become better discussion leaders. Other people may have different – often opposing – viewpoints for a topic, but being able to successfully moderate those differences often creates fruitful discussions. Our youth were then put to the test and asked to practice their newly learned skills. Practice topics ranged from talking about One Direction to discussing if community service should be required for young people. 

As advocates, we want our messages to be heard loud and clear. Equipping our youth with these communication skills will ultimately help them to become better advocates and leaders! Come join us for our next SAY! Advocacy University workshop on Friday, August 8th!

Monday, July 14, 2014

SAY! Advocacy University – The FUNdamentals

This past Friday marked day one of our four-week intensive named SAY! Advocacy University. The Advocacy University is meant to prepare our youth to become better leaders and workshop facilitators in order to spread the word about sexual health to others. We kicked off the first workshop by going over the FUNdamentals!

We discussed what human rights were, why they’re important, and how they related to advocacy. There are many human rights doctrines, laws, and treaties that are created to promote the protection of our individual freedoms. These include freedoms like the right to life, liberty, and security of person; the right to health; and sexual and reproductive rights. The issue is that although these documents have great intentions, not only are there countries (including our own USA) that do not follow these guidelines, but international groups like the United Nations do not have the power to enforce them. This is why the push for human rights is also considered a social movement. We as advocates are extremely important because it is our advocacy power that holds governments and leaders accountable for their laws and actions. 

We then had a refresher on how US laws are policies are made. Using The Affordable Care Act (ACA) as an example, we discussed the process of this health care act; including the routes it took through both the House of Representatives and the Senate (The Legislative Branch), President Obama signing the act (The Executive Branch), and the Supreme Court deciding if the act was constitutional (The Judiciary Branch). We then brought it closer to home by talking about sexual health rights and how our laws both promote and hinder them.

The recent Hobby Lobby decision in the Supreme Court stated that corporations can opt out of covering certain medical benefits for religious reasons. For Hobby Lobby (a chain craft store headquartered in Oklahoma), this meant that they were legally allowed to not cover certain types of contraceptives because they were not in line with their religious beliefs. Not only does a decision like this only negatively affect one gender (Hobby Lobby still covers vasectomies and Viagra), but it would be more harmful for poor women and women of color because of the additional inequalities they face. 

This again showed us that our laws and policies don’t necessarily reflect science, and that the rights of some are valued more than the rights of others (the disadvantaged). This is why advocacy is important – we need to fight to make sure our rights as young people and as sexual beings are protected in our country and throughout the world.

Friday, July 11, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: What’s All the Buzz about Sex Toys?

Let’s talk about toys! Ahem…not children’s toys. We’re talking sex toys. Sex toys are tools that we use to give us sexual pleasure. We've talked about how self-pleasure and sexual exploration are healthy, and sex toys are a great start to that journey; but they don’t always have to be used for masturbation. Sex toys can be used with your partner as well and be a healthy way to find out each other’s likes and dislikes.

So you want to try a sex toy, but you don’t know where to start? If you’re new to the world of sex toys, here’s an introductory guide to help you navigate!

Ye Olde History of Sex Toys

Sex toys have a very long and funny history. Dildos have been around since the Stone Age…literally. They were made from polished stone! Many ancient civilizations used sex toys for purposes ranging from religious ceremonies to a soldier giving his wife a dildo to ensure she will be faithful while he’s fighting in a war.

Vibrators have a much shorter, yet more bizarre history.  During the Victorian Era, there was a supposed illness [that strangely only affected women…hmmm] called Hysteria, which had symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, and depression. The prescribed treatment was pelvic massages, which doctors would perform manually, until patients had a hysterical paroxysm (re: ORGASM!) This was at a time when female sexuality and pleasure was not considered at all, therefore there was very little known about it! Doctors complained about doing these very popular procedures because their hands got tired and it sometimes took patients long time to reach orgasm hysterical paroxysm, so companies started making electric vibrators for home use! It’s no shock that these devices flew off the shelves…that was until everyone caught on that women were using these devices sexually. Sales of personal vibrators dropped until they reappeared in the 1960’s!

Scene from Hysteria. You should watch this movie!
The Sexual Revolution was the time when vibrators and other sex toys made a comeback. The Sexual Revolution started in the 60’s and was a time when Western heteronormative views on sex and sexuality were challenged. With the popularization of sexuality in media throughout the 90’s and 2000’s (re: Samantha from Sex in the City and the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy), sex toys are back and more popular than ever! And although the history of sex toys has been mostly focused on women, there are all kinds of sex toys that serve the pleasures of all genders, sexual preferences, and tastes! Sex toys are not just for cis-hetreosexual women, they’re for EVERYONE!

So now that you have your history down, let’s get to the nitty gritty!

Types of Toys

There are so many different types of toys out there, ranging from the type of material it’s made out of, to if it vibrates or doesn’t; but we’re going to break it down into a few different categories based on the toys’ functions. It’s important to note what these are not rigid categories; you can use a sex toy for any body part you wish, as long as you use it safely and hygienically! (Links to pictures are NOT SAFE FOR WORK!)

As stated before, dildos have been around since the Stone Age. Today, they come in all shapes, sizes, textures and materials [though not in stone]! Dildos are toys that rod-like (most times phallic) in shape and are used for sexual penetration. They can be used for both vaginal and anal penetration, although it is important to note that dildos without wide bases should NOT be used in the anus. Dildos can also be double ended, which is great for simultaneous partner pleasure. The defining characteristic of a dildo is that they do not vibrate! If you’re looking for a vibrating dildo, take a look at the Vibrators section further down this list.

Although dildos can be used for the anus, there are some toys that are just made specifically for anal penetration and designed to make it more comfortable and pleasurable. Some of the types include butt plugs, anal beads, and prostate massagers. Butt plugs are shorter and differently shaped than dildos. Most of them are conically shaped, with a very wide base to prevent the plug from getting lost in the rectum. Anal beads are a toy with a series of different sized balls attached to each other that is inserted and removed from the anus to enhance pleasure. Prostate massagers are specifically shaped to stimulate the prostate.

Long gone are the days when vibrators were attached to large machines that had to be powered by coal. Nowadays, vibrators can be plugged into outlets, can be battery-powered, or even be wireless. They can be the size of personal massagers (Hitachi Wand) or be the size of your thumb (bullet). Many vibrators have different speeds and variations of vibrations to choose from. Some vibrators also have attachments to them to further enhance pleasure, whether it’s an attachment to stimulate the clitoris or an attachment to stimulate the g-spot or prostate.

Suuuuper discrete! 
If you want to be able to use a dildo without using hands, then a Strap-On Harness may be right for you. A harness is something you wear around your hips that you can attach a dildo to penetrate a partner.

Toys for the Penis
There are a few toys that are made to enhance pleasure for the penis. Masturbation Sleeves are toys that are used on the penis and simulate penetration similar to a mouth, vagina, or anus. Sleeves can come with features such as vibrations, liquid, suction, and different textures throughout the toy in order to accurately replicate these body parts. C-Rings are rings that either go around the penis or scrotum to slow blood flow to the penis. This allows erections to last longer. They also delay orgasms and can cause orgasms to be more intense.

This is not an exhaustive list of toys, given that there are so many ways to give and receive pleasure. Taking a virtual trip to a sex toy website (or physically going to a sex toy shop) will introduce you to more options!

Lube it Up!

When using your sex toys, water-based lubricants are best! Although they don’t last as long and do need some reapplying, you can be sure that it’ll be safe for your toy! If you have a silicon or non-glass sex toy, do not use silicon-based lubricants. Silicon loves to bond with silicon, so when you use a silicon toy with silicon lube, they join together and become gummy and tacky…which is not what you want your toy to be! Stay away from oil-based lubricants also, as they are harder to clean and may deteriorate the outside of your toy depending on what material it’s made out of! If you’re using a condom on your sex toy, the rules for lubricant and condoms still apply

Safety’s First!

It is super important to clean your toys before and after use! To clean your toys, wash with antibacterial soap and warm water or wash with hydrogen peroxide and rinse with warm water. Some toys require you to boil them or put them in the dishwasher to ensure cleanliness. Make sure you read the cleaning instructions when you purchase your toy. Do not wash a toy while it’s still on or plugged in, nor submerge the mechanical parts in water. The more porous the toy (jelly toys tend to be porous), the harder it is to clean. If you’re using a sex toy between partners or using one between different parts of your body (especially switching from anal to anything else), it is especially important to keep your toys clean between use. Using a condom with the sex toy is a great alternative, too. Just make sure you use a new condom with each sex act and each partner!

Make sure you’re buying from reputable places! Sex toys are not government regulated, so makers of sex toys do not have to use materials that are suitable for bodily use. When you buy from a well-known or reputable store, you can be mostly assured that what you’re buying is okay to put inside of you.

So there you have it! Now go out there and have some hysterical paroxysms!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: What is Slut Shaming?

Growing up as a woman today can feel very complicated. They are judged on their clothing, weight, choices about jobs, and their sexual experiences. Sex is always a messy topic (sometimes literally), but a woman's sexuality and choices are often the default in how society and everyone around them defines them. Whore, ho, skank, thot, slut…not only are we familiar with these words, some of us have even used them before to describe a woman who we perceive to a lot of sexual partners. Ever notice there are no true equivalent insults to describe a man who fall under the same category? Sure there are words like player and stud to name a few, but none of those words have the same negative tone as the ones that describe a woman’s sexual behavior. None of them imply that having a lot of sex is immoral and shameful like the words used against women. Some of the words used for men are actually positive and seen as something to look up to!
Basically, this is slut shaming in a nutshell: it’s a double standard that shames and attacks women for being sexual, while at the same time glorifies men for doing the same exact thing. It doesn’t even need to be as direct as calling someone a slut; when one speaks about someone’s sexual habits negatively, or perceptions of their sexual habits, slut shaming is still happening.

This falls under a social structure called “Patriarchy”, which is a system of male/masculine dominance and power. This is the same system that values “traditional” households (two heterosexual parents with the man as the head of the house), allows employers to generally pay women less than men for doing the same job, and contributes to women having higher rates of being sexually assaulted than men.

But slut shaming gets more complex than just women being called sluts for having a lot of sex. Patriarchy and slut shaming goes so deep that it affects many groups of women in different ways, as well as both men and women that are gender nonconforming. It is not only tied to sexism, but also to (and worsens) other inequalities like racism, classism, homophobia/femmephobia, and trans-misogyny. This means that women of color are more likely to be slut shamed than white women; poor women more than affluent women; transgender women more than cisgender women; gay/bisexual people more than straight people; and people who identify as feminine more than those who identify as masculine.

What makes slut shaming even more complicated is that there is no defined meaning for it. We just know that it’s someone who’s had sex with one too many people. How vague! There is no specific number of people someone has to sleep with to qualify as a slut; it’s all based on individual factors and perceptions such as who is being slut shamed, who’s doing the slut shaming, and the situation. Given that it’s so ambiguous, this is a clear sign that slut shaming isn't really about sex at all…it’s about using power and privilege to police sex and fit in society’s narrow views of gender and sexuality.

What makes slut shaming so horrible? Not only does it support structures of inequality like all of the –isms and –phobias mentioned before, it promotes bullying, sexual assault, and rape culture. Considering someone a slut is often the justification perpetrators use when committing sexual assault, as well as victims being slut shamed when they report sexual assault to family/friends or the authorities. This is very damaging, and has resulted in people taking their own lives because of the shame they feel. This also goes beyond just men calling women sluts or fearing sexual assault — patriarchy is so prevalent that women slut shame other women, gay men slut shame other gay men, etc. Because patriarchy is so dominant in our culture, even those who are affected by it can still perpetuate it.
So what can we do about this?

Don’t let anybody shame you for what makes you happy and what makes you feel good. Don’t let people bring you down! But it isn't always even about other people; how many of us can honestly say that we have never called another woman a slut? Unfortunately, not many. We need to stop perpetuating this! Change starts with us, and we need to recognize that it isn't okay to look down on women, or anybody, for how they choose to present themselves, or the number of partners they choose to sleep with. It is important to recognize the power that words and perceptions of people have over one’s feelings of self-worth and value in society.  If you are in a position of privilege, it is important to recognize the privilege that you hold and not use it to shame other people for their habits.  And if you are a victim of slut-shaming, it is important to know that you are not alone, and that what has been done, or is being done to you is not okay.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

SMART Youth Learns How to Get Paid

Last Friday, we learned some great tips and techniques for how to land the job that we want. We first started off with talking about the importance of your resume. A resume is a detailed, yet concise way of showcasing our experiences so we can get hired. Our resumes are often our first impression to employers before they meet us, so it is very important that our resumes are as perfect as possible. Employers can have tens or even hundreds of resumes to look through (the longest they will look at your resume is fifteen seconds), and the first way they determine the qualified from the unqualified is through simply looking at your resume’s appearance. The second way is through searching for important keywords related to what they are looking for in an employee. This means having neat and consistent formatting, explaining relevant work or volunteer experiences with the same language used in the job description, and making sure that our resumes are totally free of spelling and grammatical errors.
Conservative Resume
Creative Resume
Both are acceptable. It depends on the field of work you're applying to!

Another first (or second) impression we make is through interviewing for the job. Whether it’s because we dropped in to find out if a place is hiring, or we were called back for a formal interview because our resume was impressive, we learned that the interview starts the moment we step into the workplace and ends on our first day at work. This means looking and being your best. One important tip we learned is bringing your resume and list of references with you to your interview. This way, not only do you have something to refer to during your interview, but many times you’ll be required to fill out additional paperwork before or after your interview – having your resume and references with you will come in handy instead of trying to recall all of that information. Some other interviewing tips and techniques we discussed included dressing the part for the interview, arriving ten minutes earlier than your scheduled time, being kind and respectful to everyone you encounter, looking attentive and interested throughout the interview, answering questions with specific examples of your skills and experiences, asking follow-up questions at the end, and sending a thank you note to the interviewer within twenty-four hours of the interview.
Regular white computer paper will do!
With these tips and more, we are now better equipped and more prepared to tackle the work world!

Below are some more resources about resumes and interviews!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

SMART Youth Answers: Will This Neck Tattoo Stop Me from Becoming a CEO?

From eyebrow rings to tongue rings…from a small heart on your wrist to a chest tattoo saying “NO RAGRETS”, people choose to express themselves through different types of body art. So much so that 10% of Americans have tattoos and 14% of Americans have piercings in places other than the earlobe (one-third of those age 25 to 30 have tattoos or some type of atypical piercing). Although even grandmothers are getting tattoos and piercings today, there are still jobs where having and showing them can affect your career prospects. In a survey done recently, 42% of managers stated that a potential employee having an atypical piercing or visible tattoo lowered their opinions of them.  This is important to know because employers have the legal right to not hire you based on your piercings or tattoos.

So, here are a few things to mull over before getting that matching face tattoo with your best friend:

Where you Work: Generally, corporate jobs, face-to-face customer service, retail/sales, government, medicine, education, law still do not accept visible tattoos and piercings in the workplace. Some of the main reasons mentioned by employers include:
  • Employee image – Those with tattoos and piercings are sometimes still linked with rebellion and aggression. An employer is less likely to hire you if you’re associated with those characteristics. That butterfly tattoo behind your ear just screams aggression!
  • Company image – Many of the job fields listed above interact with customers or clients on a regular basis. Some companies don’t want their image to be represented with tattoos and piercings because it may distract or put off those that the company is serving. Some also want to maintain a “professional” environment, and tattoos/piercings are not associated with professionalism – particularly if they include naked women/men, misspelled words, or large facial piercings.
  • Safety – Some jobs like construction and mechanics are more accepting body art, but their main concern is for piercings that dangle or are large enough to risk injury during work. Jobs in these fields usually warn employees to remove those specific types of piercings.
Jobs based in the arts (graphic designers, film, dance, music), construction, and athletics tend to be more accepting of tattoos and piercings. Every job is different, so still check each job’s policy on tattoos and piercings.

Rookie or Veteran: If you've been working at your job for many years, and have proven yourself to be a great employee, getting a tattoo or piercing may not hurt your career prospects compared to if you just started (and given it’s not against dress code). When interviewing for a job, cover or remove your tattoos/piercings. It might be better to cover up, get the job, then get the tattoo/piercing (if it follows the company dress code). Be aware, the top three personal reasons that make an employer less likely to promote you are piercings, bad breath, and visible tattoos.  

I guess oral hygiene is REALLY important, too!
Everyone is Different!: Even in the fields where they’re generally not accepted, certain employers can still be accepting of tattoos/piercings, and vice versa. It can also depend on the type of tattoo or piercing you have. Some jobs allow visible tattoos, as long as they are not offensive. Others allow for smaller facial piercings, like a nose stud instead of a nose ring. For example, Starbucks is seen as a very relaxed and accepting work environment, but they do not allow tattoos to be visible and atypical piercings must be removed during work hours. Walmart allows for tattoos but not facial piercings. Always check work the dress code policy when before or during an interview to find out if your job would allow tattoos and piercings.

Religious/Cultural Tattoos and Piercings: If you have a piercing or tattoo for religious/cultural reasons, a job cannot deny hiring you for those reasons (depending on US or international employee discrimination laws). Ex: If you wear a nose ring because you are Hindu, you cannot be denied a job in the U.S. based on that. In New Zealand, if you are Maori and have a cultural tattoo (called a Moko), you cannot be denied employment based on that. 


Individual Discretion: Think about if your tattoos will distract you or other people while doing your work. Also think about if you will be a visible representation of your workplace. If you’re an elementary school teacher with a face or neck tattoo, this may distract students throughout the day and hinder your work. If you work in the corporate world, but do IT work, having tattoos and piercings may not be a problem. When you get your tattoo/piercing, think about what type of field you’re going into, the types of positions you want, and the people you would be serving.  

Well, what can I do about it??

If you already have tattoos/piercings, you can put makeup over your visible tattoos, or remove your piercings when at work. You can also use piercing retainers (clear or flesh-colored jewelry) if you have a fresh piercing or one that closes up easily.

If you’re unwilling to cover/remove them because you feel that they are an important part of your identity, your goal should be to find a workplace that is appreciative or accepting of body art.

If you don’t have tattoos or piercings, but are thinking about getting them, ask yourself: Can this tattoo or piercing be hidden/removed? Can this tattoo or piercing be done on a part of my body that’s already generally covered? Will my future job/career be okay with my body art? Is this tattoo or piercing worth the risk of being denied employment or promotions?

There is hope though! As more people are getting tattoos and piercings, they are becoming more accepted in the mainstream, which includes the workplace! Maybe in 20 years, tattoos and piercings won’t mean a thing!

  • Piercings and tattoos can be very beautiful ways to express ourselves, but they are also permanent (except for small piercings)!
  • Make sure you are being safe when getting a tattoo or piercing. For more information, read our blog post about tattoo safety.
  • In New York the legal age to get a piercing or tattoo is 18 years or older. If you are younger than 16 years old, you can get a piercing with a parent/guardian’s permission. For tattoos, you MUST be 18 years or older. Body Art parlors that are willing to break the law may not be the safest place to get a tattoo or piercing!  Check out this link for more information on other states.