The “Other” and Surplus Visibility


One of the the articles I am analysing for my masters (into challenging homophobia in schools) talks about Patai’s notion of suplus visibility where:

“unexpected visibility of those who were meant to remain invisible; as the “Other,” they are forced to either disappear or appear larger than life, to keep silent, or scream.”

This might explain why we might commonly see LGBT identities either is invisible (we don’t notice them because they are forced to be closeted) or as “larger than life” or “hypersexual” or “in your face and flaunting it” “being on a soapbox or grinding axes” (read article in full for a fuller explanation).

As a notion it made sense to me, so I thought I would share.

What do you think?

Reference

DEPALMA, R. and ATKINSON, E. (2009b) “Permission to Talk About It” Narratives of Sexual Equality in the Primary Classroom. Qualitative Inquiry. 15 (5). p. 876-892. Available from http://qix.sagepub.com/content/early/2009/02/26/1077800409332763 [Accessed 25/6/13]

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Condom Olympics- A demo video


So a few weeks ago I participated in Teachmeet Taunton and decided to introduce the world to Condom Olympics.  To contextualise this I gave everyone a copy of the lesson plan for this session a version of which I have made available for free on TES Resources.

This lesson maybe good for Science (material properties), D&T (Product Design, Material properties), Business Studies (product development) etc. as well as PSHE teaching about the limitations of condoms in a fun and engaging way.   This lesson isn’t necessarily one I would teach all students (in a time tight curriculum I often have more pressing material to cover) but for some students it will engage them around condom safety in a way that other lessons wouldn’t, so as with all lessons- use your professional judgement to work out what is best for your learners.

The key messages might be:

Oil based lubricants, fingernails, over stretching will all damage condoms but also condoms are very resilient to stretching (fitted 4cans of beans in one condom with room for more- and held over a litre of water before bursting) therefore used properly they are very safe. Condoms are tricky to put on if you are impaired (drunk goggles/in dark), and that condoms are effective at keeping semen in but the blacklight shows the need to wash hands and “penis” afterwards.

The video of my efforts can be seen below (apologies for being painfully loud at times. I have no volume control!)

From left to right the activities are:

  • Rubbing waterbased and oil based lubricants onto blown up condoms (oil based will pop)
  • Picking up paperclips with a condom over your hand
  • How much water can a condom hold (over a bowl!)
  • How many tins will fit in a single condom
  • Drunk goggles- trying to get a condom on the demonstrator
  • Condom in a TV box- demo a condom whilst you can’t see
  • Ejaculating condom demonstrator, with UV sensitive artificial semen and Blacklight

I owe huge thanks to my awesome “Condom Athletes” who helped the activity go with a bang. (literally at 1.18mins in!).  All participants got a “Condom Gold Medal” (the condoms were kindly donated by Pasante and I bought the medals from the party shop!)IMG_1494

Throughly enjoyed my first teachmeet experience and looking forward to the next one TM Exeter where I’m going to do a less fun but very important top tips for challenging homophobia and transphobia. Hope to see you there!

So are you gay then?


Talking about my masters in challenging homophobia in schools in the pub the other night I was confronted with the question:

“So are you gay then?”

This person assumed I must be as she could not comprehend why someone who is straight would be bothered about discrimination of a group that they did not belong to.

With students I usually reply to that question (with a gentle reminder about ground rules and no personal questions!)with:

“would it matter if I were?”

and we start to unpick why this stuff should be important to us all, and how ones sexual orientation does not affect their ability to be a good teacher, a good friend etc.

In the classroom it is an interesting one- if you are a Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual teacher, do you really want to come out to the students in your school? You could be an amazing role model but likewise in a non-supportive school you could be opening up a can of prejudicial worms. Likewise a straight teacher doing this work maybe worried people will assume they are Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual and treat them differently as a result, and this may serve as a barrier to this work. Also they may feel they don’t know enough about the issues to address it properly (to that I must point out white male teachers can teach about racism or sexism just fine- this is no different). (Oh and N.B Straight Teachers answering that question with an emphatic “No!” as if its a bad thing, only serves to reinforce the pervading culture of heteronormativity. Sigh.)

To the woman in the pub I didn’t ask her “would it matter if I were?” but said loftily

To me this is an equalities issue and it’s something we should all be bothered about whatever our sexual orientation or gender identity.

(and then carried on ranting about my research to the poor woman- sorry!)

Whilst doing this work I have always been aware of having heterosexual privilege. Being a married (to a man) mother of two working in this field, means that it brings this issue into the mainstream. I’m not someone from a so-called “sexual minority” (I hate that term- very “othering”) on a soapbox but someone who never experiences homophobia but is actively engaged in challenging prejudice and discrimination particularly related to sexual orientation and gender identity. In my experience this has possibly added a level of engagement to the work from straight colleagues, that might not be present if I was a gay, lesbian or bisexual teacher?

I’m not saying all teachers need to be as engaged on these issues as rantypants me, but I am saying all teachers can and should challenge LGBT prejudice as much as possible regardless of their own identity. It’s a human rights issue, it’s an equalities issue and even just taking the time to consider how you might answer the question from a student

So are you gay then?

in a way that addresses sexualities equality in some way is a step in the right direction.

Anyhow Macklemore, Ryan Lewis &Mary Lewis say it better than me afterall its “Same Love.”

Over 100 school policies identified that mention something on “not promoting sexual orientation”, many also include “that would be inappropriate teaching.”


I just did this google search (more info on this non-systematic search strategy can be found here), in the first 32 pages I identified OVER 100 school policies that include words to the effect of the DfE 2000 Guidance which states several times.

“It is not about the promotion of sexual orientation or

sexual activity – this would be inappropriate teaching.”

I do not have time to go through all 138,000 google hits in that search but I am betting that hundreds and hundreds of schools include versions of this phrase.

After all these school policies are only following the exact wording from the guidance of the department for education.

Can we blame them?

These policies (and the more serious ones where “homosexuality is not allowed to be promoted“), and government guidance have create school cultures where homophobia and transphobia can thrive, and teachers are scared to challenge it lest they be accused of “promotion”.

The DfE are trying to spin it that they meant not promoting one sexual orientation (heterosexuality) over any other. We know they did not. The evidence from this post and this one shows just how little they care about students who are LGBT whatever noises they are currently making in the current media furore.

We cannot let them continue to get away with this. We cannot. I want my children to learn in an environment where they understand that everyone is equal and that differences are to be respected.

To do otherwise fails another generation.

How to make your own “artificial semen” or “UV sensitive fluid” for condom demonstrations.


When doing a condom demonstration I like to use an ejaculating condom demonstrator with UV sensitive fluid (artificial semen) and a blacklight to show that semen can still be present on the penis (and hands) even if they look clean post “ejaculation”. This highlights the need to be careful post coitally and not to get intimate again without clean hands/another condom etc, otherwise you maybe at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unplanned pregnancy.

I recently ran out of my Health Edco UV sensitive Fluid and although it is £6.95 they have a minimum order charge of £20 plus its about £10 P&P so in order to try and save money I thought I would have a bash (no pun intended) at making my own.  I do also have this non UV sensitive artificial semen but its very grittty (eh?! and Urgh!) and tends to go off after a year plus the lack of UV sensitivity ruins part of my demo, so I tend not to use it if I can.

A discussion on twitter on how to get UV sensitivity suggested laundry brightener and then just a white liquid soap or shampoo for the “semen”.

UPDATE 10th March 2014. Have found a much better way. Scroll to end!

So you will need the following:

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A clean jar (I just washed out my old jar of UV sensitive fluid). Some laundry brightener (about £3) and some white liquid soap (about 90p).

I filled the jar three quarters full of soap and stirred in half a sachet of laundry brightener.

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Something very odd happened. The previously powdered laundry brightener clumped into hard solid lumps…..

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and so far I have not been totally able to get rid of them. However the UV sensitivity is excellent!

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I ended up adding the rest of the sachet of brightener and topped up the jar to full with the liquid soap.

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The solution has oddly gone runnier than it was when the two things weren’t mixed- I thought it would go a bit thicker with a powder being added to a thick liquid, so I am pondering adding some cornflour to thicken it up! It also doesn’t have the slightly translucent quality that my previous jar of UV sensitive fluid (and real semen) does and to be honest it looks a smidge radioactive in the jar (tinge of fluorescent yellow/green)! Overall, I am reasonably pleased with the result even if its appearance isn’t as good as the Health Edco stuff, the UV sensitivity in my homemade stuff is far superior making this demo much more obvious when working with larger groups and since it is so much cheaper to make then I’m happy!

By the way real semen would probably glow under a black light but not to the vivid extent that my homemade artificial stuff does! My homemade artificial stuff also smells very strongly of soap and laundry unlike the real deal which many say smells like Bleach but heck its in the same genre of “cleaning fluid smells”. 😉 Ha!

I have enough liquid soap and sachets of brightener left to make up about 3 or 4 more batches (so £1 a batch instead of £20!) but as I only use 3-5ml at a time (the average ejaculation size) per demonstration, then I think this lot will last me a while so long as it doesn’t react/go off in the coming weeks. I will keep an eye and keep you posted.

Hope this post helps any cheapskate sex educators out there :D.  If you would like a copy of my 25 page indepth guide to doing a condom demonstration with young people (or anyone over 13 really) then you can email me on sexedukation@gmail.com it costs £3.50 or is provided free on condom demonstration training courses I deliver, just contact me for more details.

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UPDATE 10/4/14

Turns out white hand soap on its own is UV sensitive (feel a bit silly for not trying that first and faffing with the laundry brightener! So basically you can ignore the entire post above but leaving it for posterity of the daft things I do for my job). I bought an 80p one from the supermarket and I will easily have enough for thousands of demonstrations.  The added bonus is it will not clog your demonstrator, usually when training I pack away hurriedly and sometimes forget to flush the tubes of the demonstrator. One time I was doing a training and the tiny plug of artificial semen that rose majestically from the end of the demonstrator caused a hysteria that was hard to come back from so to speak.  But I have discovered that hand soap doesn’t seem to solidify in the same way as have just flushed the tubes with water as I am training this arvo and it was all clear and soapy fresh.   😀

Happy Educating

A sex educator’s role as a “role model”


So with a week to go until I give birth, this week I got myself into a bit of of a situation from a somewhat sarcastic tweet I wrote on twitter about  being a “role model” for the “importance of marriage for family life” (referring to the DfE Sex & Relationship Education 2000 guidance which until it is finally updated is still what we have for schools as “guidance” (albeit totally out of date and useless guidance!).  This has given rise to me needing to write two blog posts on this! This one about “A sex educators role as a “role model” and another about “A sex educators role in reducing unplanned pregnancy

Anyhow my tweet was sarcastic as the phrase “importance of marriage for family life” has always rankled with me in the 2000 Sex Education Guidance (for a start it shouldn’t it be Marriage, Civil Partnerships and stable relationships maybe!?)- and Education for Choice have written the perfect blog post about Teaching about Marriage which I agree with totally so don’t need to replicate my rant here.   So I was being sarcastic as technically I am a “good role model” for the DfE’s 2000 guidance utopian vision (and Gove’s current Free School and Academy Vision) of everyone being happily married and planning their families, even if this isn’t how life works out for everyone and the notion “superiority” of this position is  flawed and not one I am comfortable with.

Unfortunately a particularly vitrolic tweeter decided to make baseless assumptions about my marital status and whether my pregnancy was planned or not and therefore my abilities as a sex educator!? (as apparently an unmarried woman with an unplanned pregnancy could not possibly be a good role model or a good sex educator!? Say what!?).  Humph. I don’t feel that anyone’s personal circumstances have any bearing on their abilities as educators other than to maybe contribute life experiences (and I tried to unpick this more in a previous blogpost on being a “pregnant sex educator”! ) but as always this goes back to the  SRE golden rule of not answering personal questions but using general situations as examples- this keeps everything safer for the educator and the learner.  So yes my personal circumstances and experiences may contribute in some way to my abilities as a sex educator but they are NOT relevant or necessary to my role as a sex educator because my role is to support young people to explore options open to them and help them developing the knowledge, understanding and skills to make the best choices for them. It is not about getting my students to “do as I do” or “don’t do as I did” as for a start that isn’t effective teaching and learning!

Technically the one role sex educators should have in the classroom is NOT to be a role model- that’s not what effective sex and relationships education is at all.

Rant over.

A Sex Educator’s Role in reducing unplanned pregnancy?


Okay so my twitter conversations this week yielded two blog posts- One “A sex educators role as a role model” and this one ” A Sex Educator’s Role in reducing unplanned pregnancy?”.

Apparently a sex educators main job should be reducing unplanned pregnancy (especially illegitimacy) according to one particular tweeter (I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist). I disagreed somewhat but in 140 characters it can be difficult to explore properly so I decided to write this blogpost to help me clarify my own feelings on this as a sex educator.

Firstly let’s think about what unplanned pregnancy actually is- it’s a sperm meeting an egg, being fertilised and implanting in a woman’s womb and developing. It may be caused by a failure of contraception (product failure or user failure)  or lack of contraception (which maybe an “accidental consenual type action” eg. getting carried away, lack of knowledge and understanding etc) or a deliberate non-consensual action- ie. coercion or deceit by one partner or rape).  Unplanned pregnancies happen. ALOT.   Virtually anyone who is sexually active with someone of the opposite sex is going to be running a risk of an unplanned pregnancy every single time they have sex. After all THERE IS NO METHOD OF CONTRACEPTION THAT IS 100% EFFECTIVE (but there are some pretty good ones out there with very low failure rates and you can find out about them all here ).  In fact given that in a lifetime 1 in 3 women are likely to have an abortion it suggests that unplanned pregnancy is incredibly common (and that obviously that figure doesn’t include stats for unplanned pregnancies that are born or miscarried- In fact judging from this report from U.S I’d estimate that maybe 1 in 2 women will have an unintended pregnancy in their lifetime).

Now let’s consider why society might want to reduce unplanned pregnancies?   (I asked Twitter #Hivemind for reasons and these are some of the things we came up with- many thanks to @Edforchoice, @Caught_intheAct, @Johnny_Rat)

  • To reduce number of abortions?
  • To meet government targets? (eg. Teenage pregnancy strategy)
  • To reduce population rate?
  • For societal benefit- eg. reducing cycle of poverty?
  • Because actively choosing to be a parent is potentially more positive than passively/accidently choosing to be a parent (also in terms of impact on relationships)
  • To fit into some moral or value judgement? (eg. teenage mothers are bad)
  • To support people so that they don’t have to go through the potentially difficult pregnancy decision making process which could be mentally traumatic

N.B. Shouldn’t  it be more about reducing unwanted pregnancies  rather than those that were technically unplanned but continued as was the right choice for them?

Now looking at that list of reasons I need to think carefully about which ones I would ascribe to as a sex educator? Personally  I see my role as supporting people with knowledge, understanding and skills to make informed positive choices about their own lives, and to be  honest the notion of “reducing unplanned pregnancy”  maybe imbuing sex educators with some powers I don’t think we necessarily have!? Let me explain further:  I feel a sex educators role should obviously focus on general education about fertility, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, contraceptive choices etc. as well as support with contraceptive decision making and pregnancy decision making in cases of unplanned pregnancy (be it have the baby, adoption or abortion).  Imparting this level of knowledge, understanding and skills, may lead to a reduction in unplanned pregnancies but equally it may not- simply due to the way life works- fate or whatever (it’s not like my role is swooping in and stopping the condom from breaking at the crucial moment like some kind of Contraception Guardian Angel!) .  I think the main thing is we do educate about unplanned pregnancy to empower people with knowledge, understanding and skills to deal with the situation in a way that is best for them. Proving whether this has an effect on reducing unplanned pregnancy is obviously rather hard to do given the myriad of situations that can give rise to an unplanned pregnancy, which is why I wouldn’t necessarily say it was explicitly in my job description.  (Although I would probably say my job description includes educating about ideas that could potentially contribute to reducing unplanned pregnancies.)

Personally the notion of society planning on reducing unplanned pregnancies is one I can be a little uncomfortable with in the way it is carried out even with the best of intentions.  I used to sit in on teenage pregnancy partnership board meetings and one issue bounced around was:  “meeting targets to get “LAC’s onto LARCS” (Looked after children onto long acting reversible contraceptives)”, because as a demographic Looked After Children are much more like to face an unplanned pregnancy and this was seen as a way of reducing that.  This made me feel quite uncomfortable- it felt somewhat dictatorial or even smacked slightly of eugenics? , I was worried about what free choices these young people were being able to make if people supporting them were pushing an agenda onto them to meet a target. What these young people really needed was proper support, housing, finances, education etc. as well as proper informed consent for their contraceptive choices.  As it happened those interventions were also being put into place for these young people and this “LARC’s for LAC’s” target. was a a small part of a whole range of strategies aimed at supporting young people to meet the ECM agenda,  but as a strategy it was one I felt somewhat uncomfortable with (not least because LARC’s don’t protect from STI’s and the focus was all about the pregnancy prevention seemingly rather than the mental and physical health of the individual.)  But then that’s targets and local government for you, but it clarifies why I personally am uncomfortable in being cast as having a “role in reducing unplanned pregnancy” as I am not entirely sure  that is really should be explicitly my role!?

Thoughts?

P.S If I don’t reply to comments immediately it is possibly because I am giving birth/looking after a newborn! Haha

On being a pregnant sex educator.


“Miss are you pregnant?”  (unfortunately occasionally I have had to snarl back “no I’m just fat”- disclaimer -there were pies and water retention involved)

But occasionally (not that often -mind!) I get to respond with a smile “why yes, yes I am”.

Then you see their brains whirr.  They want to ask more questions but they also know you are quite strict about your ground rules and the no personal questions, and then the penny drops. ….

……it dawns on them- THERE IS UNDENIABLE EVIDENCE YOU HAVE HAD SEX. LIKE AT LEAST ONCE.  EWWWWWWW  (technically I reserve the right to maintain I may not have had sex.  This bump may be an immaculate conception or IVF you know? Or I may lie about the pies because its too early to tell the general populace about the bean)

The students are desperate to know more- (not about the getting pregnant part- hopefully I have taught them enough about that already and they appreciate that its personal) but they want to know about how it feels, what its like, what’s going on at each stage and what the baby looks like and so on.  They may even want to know about the birth and life with a newborn.

And suddenly I become a perfect teaching resource.  I am my own guest speaker.  I am a visual aid, the kicking bump is kinaesthetic learning at its best, me wittering on for the auditory learners. Brill!

Except…..

 

…what about my ground rules….

 

….the no personal stories or experiences?….

 

…surely I musn’t break that?

 

I ponder and then I negotiate this arrangement with the class- Personally I am happy to talk about my pregnancy and answer any questions they may have.  If they ask any question I am uncomfortable with I won’t answer it and will let them know that I find that question too personal. The class are more than happy with this and our class boundaries are maintained. In the event they never did ask a question I felt crossed the boundary and was too personal.

I am also keen to reinforce that this is MY experience that I am sharing to help them learn about pregnancy but it isn’t necessarily going to be the same for everyone, as everyone is different (and some are lucky not enough not to puke their guts up for the first 17weeks like me whereas others more unfortunate may be sick all the way through!).

It was a fascinating experience being my very own teaching resource but am not dedicated enough to do it on a regular basis for my classes! Hehe.  Any other pregnant sex educators got stories to share?

P.S. I haven’t yet taught a lesson about childbirth or abortion since being pregnant/having a baby and I think that will be an interesting challenge for me as an educator- after all your personal experiences do colour the way you impart information and its important to be mindful of that so you remain an unbiased evidenced based source of information as much as possibly (although I still inappropriately joke that I can single-handedly sort my borough’s teenage pregnancy issue out simply by telling them my horrific birth story!)