Our blog is a safe space for our members to explore their thoughts, express their opinions, share our work (and our fun), and spark dialogue about issues surrounding sexual health and sexual assault. Check our blog regularly for updates on current events, essays, and events going on at NU.
A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of SHAPE or Northwestern University. We are a diverse organization on a diverse campus, we hope that the opinions shown here reinforce that.
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SHAPE, ADVISOR "OUTSTANDING": THREE-PEAT BACCHUS
by jai broome
Last weekend, SHAPE was honored as an Outstanding Affiliate of the BACCHUS network. Our wonderful advisor, Laura, was also recognized as an Outstanding Advisor.
We were commended for our part in the revamped Essential NU addressing consent and sexual violence, as well as targetting our outreach to our unique and diverse campus. We're excited to be recognized for our efforts, but we remain focused on the future. SHAPE still strives to change the campus dialogue about sex, relationships and consent, and looks forward to more opportunities.
We want to extend our special thanks to the Theater Department, the New Student and Family Programs, The Center for Youth Inquiry, and Men Against Rape and Sexual Assault. SHAPE was just one player in the renewed ENU, and it could not have happened without the hard work from these other organizations.
This is the third time in as many years that we have received top recognition from the BACCHUS Network. Here's to one more year.
It's that time of year again! Autumn is recruitment season for SHAPE, so make sure to keep an eye out for us. We'll be at the activities fair tomorrow, the bonfire pit on the lakefill sometime in October, and more. Stay tuned...
Click through to fill out the application.
by d'laney gielow
This rather unfortunate/wildly problematic video, which has been making rounds in the feminist blogosphere in recent weeks, advertises a new social media app called BOINK. BOINK allows users to record favorite positions, kinks and fetishes onto a “sexual proclivities” profile, and then BOINK users can touch (‘boink’) their phones together to determine whether the BOINKers in question are sexually compatible. It’s based on the same technology as the data-swapping application “Bump,” but with a built-in “sexual compatibility calculator.” BOINK also provides a “stats” counter for keeping track of various sexploits, as well as a “tales” page where BOINKers can swap stories.
Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think I’ll be BOINKing anytime soon. Technology is great for a lot of things, but when it comes to sex, nothing compares to some good, old-fashioned, face-to-face communication. From the looks of it, BOINK assigns sexual compatibility scores as percentages, but it doesn’t get specific about the specific “sexual proclivities” the parties may have in common. BOINK might tell me I am 91% sexually compatible with someone, but unless I know specifically what it is we had in common, that match percentage isn’t very informative. I can also imagine a scenario in which a high BOINK percentage could make individuals feel pressured to do things they don’t feel like doing merely because they expressed interest when they were filling out their BOINK profile. Heaven forbid a high BOINK rating be misconstrued as consent to sexual activity of any kind.
On the other hand, I have to imagine that anyone who is willing to BOINK phones in a crowded bar is already fairly comfortable talking about sex and wouldn’t think of it as a replacement for real communication. But the app costs 99¢, and why would you pay 99¢ for something you can just as easily have a conversation about for free? Instead of downloading BOINK, why not fill out a Yes/No/Maybe list with your partner? It’s fun, free, and rife with opportunities for realtalk. Next time, TALK before you, uh...boink.
by alex finkelstein
Both sex and logic are things that can be a lot of fun when done right. This post will be a combination of the two. It is a basic guide to some logical fallacies and their relation to sex positivity. Remember that the conclusions are not necessarily wrong because logical fallacies can lead to true conclusions. In the examples I show, I highlight flaws of reasoning and show that the conclusions are wrong due to lack of evidence and a nature contrary to fact.
Inspiration for this post came from here and here.
Straw man Argument: A straw man argument is when somebody misrepresents their opponent’s position and argues against the misrepresentation they created instead of their opponent’s actual beliefs.
Sex Positive Example: Sex Positivity promotes positive attitudes and viewpoints towards sex and sexuality. It does not promote unsafe sexual practices or immorality. So if somebody were to argue that sex positivity is bad because it promotes unsafe sexual practices and immorality that would be an example of a straw man argument. It would be untrue because evidence shows that Sex Positivity does not approve of these things.
Ad hominem attacks: Also known as poisoning the well, this is when instead of refuting somebody’s opinion you attack them as a person.
Sex Positive Example: Rush Limbaugh is a racist and a sexist; therefore calling Sandra his beliefs on the contraception mandate are incorrect. A valid argument would say his beliefs on the contraception mandate are incorrect because he does not actually know how contraception works and is using false premises. Him being a racist and a sexist does not make him wrong on this issue, but does make him a bad person.
Post-hoc ergo propter hoc: It means after this therefore because of this. In other words, event A happened first therefore it caused event B that happened afterwards.
Sex Positive Example: This is essentially how victim blaming works. If somebody is wearing provocative clothing and then is raped, the rape is often blamed on the provocative clothing (they were asking for it) because it preceded the rape. However, provocative clothing (or anything the survivor does) does not cause rape, which can be proven by the fact that people are raped when not wearing provocative clothing, and nobody ever asks to be raped.
No True Scotsman: This argument is when you define something as pure or true arbitrarily and use this definition to deflect future criticism
Sex Positive Example: There are people who say that pure or good women have to be virgins. Even if a woman were shown to have exemplary character and be a great person, she would not be considered a good woman by the fallacy’s own definition. I recommend viewing the documentary “The Purity Myth” for further information about how cultural notions of sexual purity are used to control women’s behavior.
False dichotomy / black and white: Only two options are presented, when actually there are more alternatives.
Sex Positive Example: According to some abstinence only education, the choices are abstinence or unsafe promiscuous sex. This is the dichotomy presented in the class where students were forced to drink each other’s backwash as a symbol for sex. In reality, there are other options such as safe sex and sex within a monogamous relationship to name two.
brought to you by trojan
Sure, we've all tried to test latex durability limits by attempting to make balloon animals out of condoms (...or is that just SHAPE people?), but inside the Trojan Factory, they literally put their products through the ringer in order to ensure reliability. In this hilariously mock-science-class video, you'll see what the process of condom production is like, from liquid latex drying on a penis mold to actual condom on actual penis. Well, right before actual penis, anyway. There are other videos for that. Enjoy!—Amanda Glickman
"WHAT IS SHAPE?"
by mallory mattimore-malan
By name, SHAPE is a group of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators. By definition, we are a group of trained students dedicated to promoting dialogue, reducing sexual assault, and creating a sexually healthier campus. By conception, however, SHAPE has a variety of different meanings: condom people, sexperts, feminists, the list goes on. What does being in SHAPE actually mean? Great question.
I joined SHAPE as a freshman at Northwestern after witnessing several other students make jokes about a flyer that asked, “Like talking about sex?” When they left the flyer on a table, I sneakily folded it into my bag and applied later that week. I loved talking about sex. But SHAPE was more than that.
SHAPE training woke me up to a new world. The way Aladdin introduced Jasmine to a whole new world on a magic carpet, SHAPE introduced me to sex, sexuality, and this book, titled Yes Means Yes, that transformed the way I said yes to sex. After every training class I would call my long distance boyfriend to tell him what I had learned that day. “Sex education in schools ignores the female orgasm!” I would rail, infuriated, “It describes male ejaculation like that is all there is to sex!” He was kind enough to listen intently.
After training ended I missed it. I wanted to see my fellow SHAPE members every day. I wanted to talk to them about ‘rape culture’ and sexism, and all of the awful things I saw in the world around me. Anyone who came into my dorm room was quickly introduced to the Guide to Getting It On and encouraged to explore their sex related questions. My fabulous roommate allowed me to display a large vase of condom roses year round. I gave as many presentations as I could sign up for, but that wasn’t enough.
I became more involved with my committee and began working year round on developing the SHAPE training. I had loved every minute of my training and all I wanted was to share that excitement with every single future SHAPE member. As far as I was concerned, SHAPE training was the best thing. Ever. What more could you ask for than twenty, intelligent and wonderful people sitting in a room together talking about sexuality? Answer: Nothing.
It was during this time period, however, that I was confronted with the first real challenge to my training. A close friend was assaulted on campus, and piece-by-piece, recounted to me her experience the morning after the events took place. No amount of training, regardless of how comprehensive, can fully prepare you for the anger, fear, and sorrow you feel when someone you care for has been so hurt. In those first moments, all of the facts and references I had so diligently memorized left my mind and all I could manage was to wrap her in a hug and profess how incredibly and deeply sorry I was.
SHAPE is more than a group of students who know about sex. We are more than a pool of collective knowledge that gives out condoms and advocates for safe sex. What makes us more is not our training, or our presentations, or our events (although those are excellent) but the fact that deep down, every single member in SHAPE lives and breathes our mission. Because at the end of the day, what makes a great peer educator is not the ability to recount a relevant statistic, but the ability to really be there for a friend in need. And it is for this reason that I am so incredibly honored to assume the position of SHAPE director.
"RISUG: THE NEW-ISH FORM OF BIRTH CONTROL THAT NO ONE'S HEARD OF"
by amanda glickman
Imagine a contraceptive that prevents pregnancy sans latex, pills, rings, patches, monthly shots, IUDs, implants, or possible sterilization. Enter Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance. RISUG, originating in India, is a 100% effective way to avoid the potential product of sex (you know, babies) by disabling sperm's fertilization capacity.
The 15-minute procedure consists of two teeny injections of a polymer gel into the vas deferens tubes—all relatively painless after a local anesthetic is administered. This gel lines the walls of the deferens and essentially tears apart sperm as they flow through (this is called the polyelectrolytic effect, for all you sexy science nerds). There is still semen containing sperm in every ejaculation—it's just not baby-making sperm. RISUG remains effective for up to ten years, and can be flushed out and deactivated with an equally-simple procedure of baking soda-solution injection. This is so much easier to reverse than vasectomy, making it a smart choice for younger guys who want to take birth control into their own hands.
So, the big question is, why don't more men and women know about RISUG? The beauty of RISUG is that it's incredibly cheap, making it accessible to guys all over India. Arguably, big pharma-companies don't want to advertise a form of birth control that is a) ridiculously low-cost, and b) focuses on the male's body. Vaselgel, as it's being dubbed in English, is trying to break into the American market, but is struggling to gain popularity—the vicious cycle of being unknown and thus, unutilized, is ruining what could revolutionize birth control as we know it
Get more info here and spread the word! We may have a completely different (and totally awesome) way to prevent pregnancy in the near future. And FYI, other precautions may need to be taken outside of Vaselgel, as it does not prevent STIs!
"KEEP YOUR MITTS OFF MY MUFF"
by sarah daoud
Something strange is happening to the world’s vaginas.
Sure, they’ve been given all sorts of haircuts, some more awkward than the ones (on our heads) our moms made us get before picture day in grade school. They’ve been waxed bare, dyed all sorts of shades of pink, even “vajazzled” with tiny, multicolored rhinestones. But this is something entirely different. At this, women ought to cross their legs tight and say no. In fact, they ought to scream it.
In an attempt to have aesthetically pleasing lady bits, more and more women are electing to undergo various “vaginal rejuvenation” procedures. Although the American Society of Plastic Surgeons only collected statistics for two years, they report a 30% increase from 2005 and 2006. The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology revealed that in 2008 the number of operations increased by 70% compared with the previous year: 1,118 labiaplasty operations on the National Health Service records, and experts assume the trend is still moving upward.
Labiaplasty is a two hour, outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia. Typically, it entails a trimming of the labia minora, or the inner vaginal lips, to become ﬂush with the labia majora, or the outer lips. A few snips and a hundred or so stitches later, and you’ve got yourself a vagina beautiful enough for the Louvre. Ouch.
The procedure can cost upwards of $5,000, is rarely covered by insurance, and sometimes requires a second surgery to ﬁnish the job. But aside from the fact that women are paying doctors huge sums of money to botch up their perfectly normal genitalia, there’s also the tiny fact that no medical board or association seems to support the surgeries.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or ACOG, released a statement in 2007 condemning the surgeries, and even went on to say that they were “unproven surgical procedures with obvious risks” and not “medically indicated.” The American Society for Plastic Surgeons has described the operation as “fringe.”
And while these procedures are supposed to make women feel good about their down theres, the ACOG asks us to consider that “patients who are anxious or insecure about their genital appearance or sexual function may be further traumatized by undergoing an unproven surgical procedure with obvious risks.”
Instead of undergoing dangerous surgery that is deemed unnecessary and dangerous, a woman’s “concern regarding the appearance of her genitalia may be alleviated by a frank discussion of the wide range of normal genitalia and reassurance that the appearance of the external genitalia varies significantly from woman to woman.”
Essentially, what ACOG is trying to get self-conscious, jaded women living in an appearance obsessed culture to understand is that appealing to a vaginal standard of beauty is senseless.
One question, worth asking yet seemingly swept aside, is where does this standard of vaginal beauty come from? Who is perpetuating the forces at play that cause women to undergo expensive, painful surgeries and weeks of recovery time to achieve an arbitrary deﬁnition of “normal?”
Some angry women and men, such as the Love The Lips Anti Labiaplasty interest group on Facebook, seem to have conjured images of middle-aged white men in charcoal gray suits (the culprit for nearly everything when there’s no speciﬁc or obvious way to place blame) sitting in fancy ofﬁces, concocting ways to make the women of the western world feel inadequate.
But no, “the man” isn’t the (only) one to blame. We’re all to blame.
You, me, and the media that surrounds us—the media that we feed into and that feeds off of us—are creating an unlivable world for women. A world that bombards us with photoshopped images of women so ﬂawless they appear alien, that disregards older women as sexually expired, that puts all of us up against scrutiny for every measly inch of our bodies. A world in which a USC frat brother sends an email to his entire chapter warning his fellow Kappa Sigmas to avoid women whose genitals look like “a bag of roast beef on the outside.” A world in which there is little to no account for natural diversity, but instead shouts at us that there is only one way to be sexy, beautiful, and desirable.
This socially constructed self hatred that we push onto women for their bodies is only stronger when science and medicine appear to be backing it up. By offering these dangerous cosmetic surgeries, doctors perpetuate and legitimize an extremely narrow view of aesthetic and sexual ideals, encouraging women to be self conscious about their bodies and risk infection, altered sensation, dyspareunia, nerve damage, adhesions, and scarring to be “normal.”
Instead of medically sanctioning these insecurities, we should look to medical professionals to stand up and tell us that we are normal, that we are healthy, and that going through pain and blowing our savings on a designer vagina is not the way to feel better about ourselves.
This is a x-post from The Current, published with permission from The Daily Northwestern
Another Feb. 14 has come and gone, as bevies of bouquets are beginning to wilt and make their way into dumpsters across campus. Valentine's Day meant different things to different people: Singles Awareness Day, Vomit at "Cute" Couples Day, Hallmark Sales Go Up Day, There's No More Chocolate in CVS Day, and so on and so forth. But for those of us with a partner to call our Valentine, it was something else as well — Relationship Peak Day.
On Relationship Peak Day, we get bombarded by our favorite sweets, a bouquet of flowers, a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Johns, new cologne or whatever. We're told by our better halves how wonderful, indispensable and good-looking we are. Oh, and we're also having some ultra hot hook-ups. So it's no wonder we're on a love high, hopped up on compliments and heart-shaped Reese's from the C-Store.
But then, like a ton of bricks, it hits us like a sugar crash, because it is one. Welcome to The Post-Valentine's Lull. We're sick to our stomachs from eating Fannie Mae, and all of the sudden, our relationships are sort of humdrum. No one is telling us how incredibly sexy we are or sending an a capella group to sing to us anymore, and we couldn't be more lethargic.
For those suffering from PVL, there are a few remedies that could give your relationship its buzz back. To keep Valentine's Day from being the only day you two feel the magic, break the monotony of your routine by trying something new and steamy in the bedroom post V-Day.
1. Bring a toy into the mix. Props like a vibrating cock ring (to give pleasure and also maintain an erection), bondage tape, or even a sex swing are perfect for great Post-Valentine's Lull sexcapades. Aside from the fun sex, it also doubles as a gift to your partner. Win-win.
2. Experiment with role play or power dynamics. Taking on a new personality in bed is a surefire way to spice things up. Whether you become a sexy TA, a wookie or just a little more bossy, leaving your norm behind is always fun!
3. Include others. Okay, not necessarily live people, but watching porn together could be a fun way to heat things up. Pick one out together and then be inspired by the professionals in the field of sex. Follow their lead as you watch, and see where it takes you.
4. Take your hookup elsewhere. Location, location, location. Getting it on somewhere other than your apartment or frat house bedroom can be quite an excitement booster. Suggest getting hot and heavy in the great outdoors, in a Norris bathroom, on a roof, in a Tech classroom, or even in the shower.
Cure your PVL and get laid, Wildcats.
CAN SOMEONE REALLY BE BI IF THEY HAVEN'T SLEPT WITH A DUDE?
by ceri roberts
The other night, I was hanging out with a group of people, discussing other people that we all know, as is so common at college. This one guy came up, in reference to a girl he’d hooked up with the past weekend, and someone said, “I’m pretty sure he’s bi though, right?” To which another friend responded, “Well, but has he even hooked up with a guy ever?”
This caught my attention as being a little off. We’re in the process of training the new SHAPE babies right now, and just a few weeks ago had our sessions on LGBTQIA everything. We talked about sexual orientation, identity and actions, and the difference between all three of these, an idea that comes from the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid (a follow-on from Kinsey’s Scale). For example, someone can identify as “gay” without having ever had a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. We also spent a lot of time discussing the spectrum of sexual orientation, and how we all feel it is a much more fluid thing than one extreme or the other.
I spend so much of my time either in SHAPE or with people of like minds that I sometimes forget not everyone understands these concepts. To me, a guy identifying as “bi” but having never hooked up with another guy is completely normal – why shouldn’t it be? If that’s how he wants to identify, that’s how he should identify, regardless of any action he has or has not taken. But the real world doesn’t work like this. In the real world, two platonic guy friends still have to say “no homo” after they hug to make sure everyone around understands that that action doesn’t imply identity.
In the real world, a shocking number of people still don’t think that “bisexual” can even be a real thing. I was watching an old episode of “Friends” the other day, where Phoebe sang a song with the lyrics, “Sometimes men love women, sometimes men love men, then there are bisexuals, though some just say they’re kidding themselves.” While in an episode from the mid-‘90s, it would be foolish to think that a large portion of people don’t still feel this way.
Look, I didn’t say anything to my friend who made this comment. How would that have gone: “Actually, even if he hasn’t hooked up with a guy before, he can still identify as bisexual and we should all respect that identity.” Statements like that, well, they’re alienating and a tad pretentious. And I wouldn’t want to come off that way for fear that people wouldn’t take what I said seriously. What I do make efforts to do, however, is never to find myself making a similar comment. If someone tells me they’re gay, I don’t say, “Ooh so how many guys have you hooked up with so far?” I say, “That’s really cool, thanks so much for sharing with me.”
People can identify however they want to. Just because I’ve never known you to do anything like an elephant doesn’t mean you can’t come in one day and say, “Hey, I think I’m an elephant!” Okay, that’s a bad example. But you get the point.