Sunday, September 23, 2012

Safer Sex for Teens Workshop Notes & Links

Safer Sex for Teens Workshop Notes
 - Aug 2012 - Polycamp NW
 - Information is power.  This workshop will give a light-hearted practical look at safer sex practices for teens and empower them to share their new understanding with their parents and peers.

Key Points to remember:
1. Your body and sexuality are a gift.  Always wrap it and do not accept the same gift from someone else unless it too is wrapped.
2. Your sexuality and your emotions are YOUR gift to give when YOU are ready and not when someone else thinks you are or should be or should give it because they need or want it.
3. You are special and being with you sexually and/or loved by you is a privilege.
4. Talk about safe sex options, plan and have condoms and other supplies BEFORE you are in an intimate situation.

 Resources highlighted during the discussion which followed the questions and not necessarily the format of these notes:

Why Practice Safer Sex?
"Any sexual activity puts you at risk. The only way to be 100% free from risk of STDs is to not have sex. And youths are at high risk: Teens and young adults have the highest rates of STDs of any age group. In 2000, nearly half of the 19 million new STD cases occurred  among people ages 15-24.
About 35% of 14- to 19-year-olds are infected with human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common STD among teens. The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls ages 11 to 12, although it may be given to girls as young as age 9. Women up to age 26 should be vaccinated against strains of HPV associated with cervical cancer and genital warts."
"About 18% of all new HIV diagnoses are among people aged 13-24.
All of this can be a bit cumbersome, which is why so many people just don’t bother to use any form of protection, at least from time to time. That’s one of the reasons why there are so many unintended pregnancies and why STDs are so rampant. So if you’re going to engage in sexual intercourse, please make the effort to learn how to prevent pregnancies and STDs."
"Having intercourse has two potential outcomes: causing pleasure and making babies. You will have moments in your life when you’ll want to combine those two, but most of the time you’re going to want one without the other. That’s where contraception comes in. And the less worried you are about causing an unintended pregnancy or risking a disease, the more you’ll enjoy sex — sort of a two-for-the-price-of-one deal. This also works the other way, so if you opt to have sex without using contraception, and you don’t want to get pregnant or contract an STD, you’ll enjoy sex a lot less."
More specifically:

What are the symptoms of STDs that I should look for?  Wouldn't you know if you had an STD or STI?  
 Nurse Sarah - my co-facilitator is a walking dictionary on how all of these diseases present if there are indeed visible symptoms as well as treatments and testing procedures. She gave some brief information and answered questions.

There are many diseases and infections that are spread sexually.  They vary from annoying to life threatening and all should be dealt with promptly but few have symptoms that are obvious.   The bottom line is that anyone can have something and not be aware of it - regardless of their level of sexual expertise or activity.  No matter what they themselves say or think.  YOU are in charge of protecting YOU and responsible for informing others if you have something or have been in contact with someone who has something.  An excellent resource for disease information and current data on same is Center for Disease Control 

Safer sex conversations with dating partners: (HANDOUT) –  Being Ready for Sex, Safer sex activities, If  Safer sex does not happen, Negotiating safer sex

"Communication is an important part of sexual intimacy. For teens in particular, it’s important for sexual health and maturity. If you are in a relationship -- whether or not you are having sex -- you should talk to your partner about their sexual history for several reasons. It can help you establish sexual boundaries (whether you want to have sex or how far you’re willing to take the relationship sexually); it can help you learn if your partner has engaged in risky sex; and it can begin or continue a discussion about safe sex practices." 

"But talking can’t help determine whether your partner has an STD. Even if they assure you that they are sexually healthy, they may be infected with an STD and not know it. Three-fourths of women and half of men who are infected with chlamydia have no symptoms. “The only way to find out for sure if someone has an STD is to get tested,” says Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, PhD, professor of adolescent medicine and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco."

Safer sex conversations with peers: encouraging others to be informed and be safe     - Elevator Speech   -   rest of HAND OUT  Common excuses for not practicing safer sex, Persuasion line to have safer sex.

An Elevator Speech is a short 2 minute speech you have memorized and at the ready for when a topic comes up in a quick moment like in an elevator or in this case in a moment of unexpected intimacy. Often used as a marketing tool for start up entrepreneurs this is frequently used by poly people to explain poly to others new to the idea.  I recommend it here for discussions with peers and especially dating partners. You have made your decision about whether you are ready for sex or not and what your safer sex preferred options are and why.  You know your speech and are prepared for any arguments. This link ( you some "lines" to use in this speech.

Safer sex conversation with parents:  encouraging parents to be informed, safe and trust that you are.
 "You don't need your parents' permission to make choices about birth control in most states. Minors are explicitly granted the right to contraceptive services in 21 states and Washington D.C.; four states have no specific policy; and the remaining 25 states explicitly allow the right to contraceptive services in certain circumstances."

In Canada, provinces vary but generally once you are 16 yrs old you can make health care choices for yourself and you are covered under your parents basic provincial health care insurance until you are 18 or 19 yrs of age.  Medical clinics will take you as a drop in and you can get STD testing there. Most communities have a clinic that specializes in Sexual health and has free condoms, counselling, and testing.

"Most health care providers will discuss your birth control needs and choices confidentially. Most family planning clinics keep visits confidential, and some provide free birth control. If you use your parents’ insurance, it will show up on their insurance statement."
"Experts urge teens to talk with their parents or other trusted adults (a health care provider, for instance) about safe sex practices. Teenagers' peers can sometimes be an unreliable source of information -- or worse, a source of peer pressure. Parents or other grownups can help teens get accurate information about protection from STDs and unwanted pregnancies."

"There may be another benefit of talking to your parents besides delaying sex: stronger relationships, says Halpern-Felsher. “Teens who preemptively talk to their parents about relationships and safe sex are more likely to have healthy relationships and less health risk,” according to Halpern-Felsher." 

 Another benefit to talking with parents particularly if you live in a poly household is that poly adults most often have safer sex agreements amongst them and may have added advice on how to develop one for yourself.  Generally any parent should be pleased to know that you want to be wiser and that you are working out one for yourself but sometimes we forget our babies aren't babies anymore.  I'd like mine to avoid all the hard learning curves, be healthy in body, emotion and spirit. Be gentle with us but please let us be there for you.  

Interestingly enough it was my daughter who had the safer sex talk with me perhaps a dozen years ago now.  I had divorced and re-entered the dating scene.  I married before AIDS and all this safe sex stuff.  She lectured me and gave me pamphlets.  "I love you, Mom.  I want you safe."  The idea that I had choices about these things an a right to draw a safer sex line in the sand was pretty radical and then I found polyamory and well....radical took on a new meaning entirely.

But I digress...

In the workshop session there were parents amongst attendees and facilitators.  We shared the circumstances of our first sexual experiences and our safer sex agreements with the teens attending.  One of the attendees was a 28 year old who noted that she had had opportunity to be sexually active but had remained a virgin and that it was definitely okay to wait until you were ready.  I myself was 19 and pressured into being sexually active before I was ready and had to sort that emotional baggage out.  Others were teens or young adults and had that first experience with someone that they married and are still with.  

The teens attending were supported by their parents in attending the class and the discussion was lively.  Even the shy guy in the corner paid rapt attention.  When they did a wrap up of the camp at which we had presented, our workshop with noted as a highlight.

I'm pleased that a group of great teens got this message. They were given a business card with this blog address to take home  and are to pass it on.  My hope is that the messages here will save someone somewhere from distress and illness. 

Quotes above are from these sites unless otherwise noted:    (especially section under "relationships")   (excellent "lines" for your elevator speech)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too busy being poly to write about it?!?!

My apologies for the summer of silence on this blog.  It has been a very busy summer and lots of stretches to my personal poly-ness.
Hmm....where to start.
June to mid July was spent pulling together programming and resources for PolyFamilyCampBC, held at Gordon Bay Provincial Park on Lake Cowichan, Vancouver Island.  Every year for the past probably ten years I've been involved and often the solo effort behind a group camping experience for my local poly community.  This year was hands down the best one ever.  So many people came forward to participate in one way or another and showed true commitment from idea to follow though.  They needed me to guide and keep them on timeline but that's about it.  It was wonderful.  My carload arrived first and were able to have things set up and organized so that the others could quickly follow up and be involved as planned.  Then one of the teens who had come with us had an accident with a hatchet while he helped prepare kindling for the evening campfire.  We had to take him for a 45 minute drive to the nearest hospital.  I handed my clip board with registration and schedule info on it to the nearest planning committee volunteer and left.  They worked together and everything ran like a charm.  I was worried about the injury which looked worse that in was and when we returned the group of folks who were from all over and not necessarily acquainted had pulled together for a weekend of poly community that is the goal but frequently not the achievement in these types of events.  I was very impressed and felt privileged to have lucked into such a terrific group.  The variety show and a spontaneous water balloon battle were too of the highlights where I watched people of all ages work and laugh together.  It was a happy poly moment for sure.  I'd actually thought that last year was my final year of organizer bunny for this event but was persuaded to do one more year.  I really feel as if the planning committee which was totally new for this year is good to go on their own for next year as there is some very strong leadership amongst them and some very amazing creativity.

The rest of July and August was spent working on materials for two workshops that I would be presenting at PolyCamp NW in Olympia, Washington in late August.  I also had a vendors booth at that event and was gathering some of my published work for that.  I did a Writer's Boot Camp workshop at PolyFamilyCampBC as well as at this Washington camp. Helping people who like to write get themselves organized to publish is part of my business at Filidh Publishing (  and I run a Facebook group for authors as well as IRL meetings (Eclectic Writer's Boot Camp).  The preparation for that workshop went fairly smoothly and both sessions over the summer were exciting with some very unique voices amongst participants.  The second workshop for PolyCamp NW caused me more angst.  Safer Sex for Teens was the title and while I've done safer sex workshops for adults before this was a much different audience.  As my children were growing up, our house was the place to hang out and talk to "Mom" about troubling issues.  I had many chats about how to talk to your boy/girl friend about being ready for sex, using condoms, pregnancy,  drug/alcohol use at parties and a whole host of adult stuff that lands on a teenagers radar much earlier that most parents realize.  I'm always mindful that my preferences as a parent for my children may not be another parent's preference and would often offer to help the kid talk to his/her parents about what was troubling them.  So this workshop topic was a good fit for me and my co-facilitator who is a public health nurse with lots of teen contact in her place of work.  The issue of what resources and laws are in place in Washington state (as opposed to British Columbia where we both live) around teenagers accessing medical testing, contraceptives, and safer sex supplies was a research point.  Also the poly component.  Teenagers who live in poly households, like any other teenager would most likely have an understanding of communication between adults as more open and agreements being in place but would of course not privy to the actual discussions or activities.  The workshop was an amazing experience of listening to the kids and parents who attended and just being in the moment of curiousity with them.  I promised to post the notes from that to this blog so that great bunch of kids could access the resources  for later reminders and pass info on to  their friends. The support of parents and easy atmosphere of the session was a very happy poly moment.

I had opportunity this summer to watch a few episodes of Polyamory: Married and Dating which belatedly became available to Canadian viewers.  I like that its getting wide attention.  I like that its keeping the concept out there and creating awareness.  The term "polyamory" covers a broad spectrum of activity and personally those actors get way more sex than I do too, but it is still a very good show.  I was tweaked by other things.  For instance in the episode when the trio came to the quad's place for their first poly potluck:
1. the one woman says that she'd expected a sex party
2. the vetoed woman was allowed to attend the potluck despite the wife's discomfort
3. all the tongue sucking kissing going on

As an organizer, I had pause to wonder if people who see our notices for potlucks in private homes are expecting sex parties too.  That would explain several things from hesitant attendance to an air of disappointment from a rather exuberant former attendee.  It actually never occurred to me that one would see potluck and thing dessert was sex.  Yes, yes...I am naive at times.  Which brings me to point 3.  People at our events hug and kiss but I generally don't get a throat swabbing with those greetings.  That one character, Tahl, is a bit of a creep with his lower brain doing most of the driving in my opinion anyway.  However, I'm wondering if parties in California are waaaaay different than up here in the Canadian zone.

Point two interested me.  We've had poly configurations break up and issues like this in our local poly communities and when one is the organizer it is really difficult to manage the fall out of stuff like this.  I thought the quad handled it very well as did the wife.  The woman in question was a bit over the top with bringing flowers for "the woman of the house" which would have been fine had they been for both women of the house.  I thought she was brave to attend the event at all though.

Conflicts are part of being human.  The great thing about poly is that we have an opportunity to set them out on the table and work them out.  Pushing the envelope on your comfort and allowing change and compromise to enter into the discussion is extremely valuable and exhausting.  But definitely worthwhile.

This summer has been full of shifts in my work both as an employee and a business owner.  There has been a lot of overtime and working from home to accommodate new responsibilities at my regular job.  I also shifted hats in my business from being an author to being a publisher and promoter of another author.  I hadn't really sought more than a mentor role but was approached by this author to take the ropes and get her published.  It too has meant a lot of overtime and left no time for any writing of my own including this blog.  I've been working on a book about being poly in Canada and a historical fantasy novel.  Both projects call to me and I make brief notes but long to devote some time to writing them.  All of this is very much like my poly relationships in that I try to make sure all my loves have some attention and hope that they will bear with me as I devote more to the one at this time.  Transferable skills?  Perhaps.

This has also been an interesting summer for family, extended family and poly family blending into one amazing blur of love and support.  I discovered in June that I'm a grandmother and both my son and I have set about getting to know a very special young man.  His mother has been embraced by our family and she is very pleased with the welcome to both herself and her son.  I'd not have it any other way and I'm very fortunate that although she and my son are no longer together, she sees the importance of extended family.  My one partner's ex partner has a new beau who lives with his son, his ex, her new hubby and a baby on the way.  They have become regular guests in our home and at extended family events.  It was kind of cute to note both of my partners and the new beau bonding over the BBQ recently.  My partner's ex is roommate to my adult daughters and we all traveled to PolyCamp NW together.  The menfolk entertained themselves and we had a girls weekend.  Conversations were mom and daughter morphed into old friends.  I had a hard time with PolyCamp NW as it was the first time I'd been with that group of people since ending a relationship with someone in that community.  He wasn't there but his wife and other members of his poly-cule were there.  In a sense that made his presence even stronger for me.  I think I've backburnered the grief one goes through with busy stuff.  I was absolutely welcome and hugged to pieces by all of them.  I refrained from asking after him but it was a struggle and I really was not my usual upbeat self.  His wife and I exchanged granbaby photos and I realized that two years have passed.  I couldn't shake the sense that it had happened only yesterday and realized that I needed to get over myself and find closure.  I think one of the things we forget in the poly people must communicate theory is that we really have to communicate with ourselves too.  I got called on that which is another awesome thing being poly gives you.  Time to move on.  I realized too that hiding from the pain of that relationship ending has most definitely impacted all of my other relationships.

Another f@#!$$king learning experience and more notes for my book on poly.  Life is just a research project in the end, isn't it?

Labour Day Weekend I went camping with my two live in partners, a lady who has dated both of my partners off and on, her teenage son and my oldest son and his girlfriend.  We drove way up the Fraser Canyon to Quesnel and stayed at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park.  My son and his girlfriend live even further up north and met us there.  Our friend grew up in the area and her son was born there so there was some visiting with her family in the area and a life of me guided tour of the town.  I enjoyed visiting with my son and his girlfriend and our friend's son took a shine to the girlfriend referring to her as "bird" in sign language. On the return trip, we stopped in at my one partner's mother and step-dad's place and camped over night.  My partner stayed on to visit with his folks and the rest of us continued home.  His folks were very welcoming of my other partner, our friend and her son.  It was the first we have seen them since the article in the paper and online about our poly triad came out in 2010.  They knew we were poly before that but it was there in print for all the world to see.  That's a bit different.  Some of our family and friends have distanced themselves because of that publicity.  Mom and step-dad were loving and just plain glad to see my partner and that he was happy.  Definitely a happy poly moment.

Happy Fall, dear readers.