Happy New Year to you from all of us at Scarleteen!
Nearly a month into 2010, we hope your new year has been and continues to be happy, healthy, and all-around awesome. Have you set any New Year Resolutions this year? We have and would like to share them with you!
Over 1000 Scarleteen users are doing just that! Since December 19th and as of yesterday, 1001 visitors to the Scarleteen website have voted in the poll: Which of these is the best sexuality-based New Year's resolution for you? A lot of people will choose resolutions, such as exercising more, getting better grades, and quitting smoking. Those are all noteworthy goals, and big accomplishments when realized, but how about aiming to exercise safer sex all the time, acing a “quiz” of your own anatomy, and quitting bad body image and sexual shame? By setting a sexuality-related resolution, you’re focusing on an important part of you that often doesn’t get the attention (or praise!) it deserves.
THE RESULTS! We’re going to share the results here along with some recommended reading and some teen sex and sexuality-related statistics from the Guttmacher Institute, the Bureau of Justice, Outproud/Oasis, and ChildTrends Databank. All text and statistics following the “Did you know?” heading are directly quoted from the page on what Scarleteen Is.
BE HEARD! In addition to casting their vote, many Scarleteeners have also explained their choice. We encourage you to scroll down to read their resolutions after crunching the numbers.
The poll offered 13 sexuality-based New Years resolutions to choose from: Improving body image and ditching sexual shame came out on top with 18% of all votes. Enjoying oneself more got second place with 14% of the vote, while using birth control or safer sex practices better and seeking out truly desired sexual relationships tied for third place with 11% each. Here is a more specific and all-inclusive break down of the results:
1. To improve my body image and/or ditch sexual shame 18% (182 votes)
Did you know? The National Eating Disorders Association estimates that 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat and between 5-10 million girls and women and 1 million boys and men are struggling with eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or borderline conditions.
One author reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are "unhappy with their bodies." This grows to 78% by the time girls reach seventeen (Brumberg, 1997).
2. To enjoy myself more 14% (144 votes)
Did you know? For many teens, sexual information is more often given in a context of sexual entertainment, peer-to-peer bragging or flirtation, and these approaches not only often result in inaccurate information, but in enabling a context of sexual commodity, shame or pressure around sexuality, as well as sexual stereotypes and cultural ideals or collective cultural fears. This given, our approach at Scarleteen is to be friendly and personable, rather than cold or clinical, but to come to sexual education and information in a professional, respectful way, with care for diverse boundaries and viewpoints.
For further reading, we recommend: 10 of the Best Things You Can Do for Your Sexual Self (at Any Age) and Yield for Pleasure
3. To better use birth control or safer sex practices 11% (106 votes)
Did you know? Of the 18.9 million new cases of STIs each year, 9.1 million (48%) occur among 15-24-year-olds. Although 15-24-year-olds represent only one-quarter of the sexually active population, they account for nearly half of all new STIs each year. Half of new HIV infections (about 20,000) each year occur among youth aged 15-24.
Of the approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies that occur each year, 82% are unintended.
3. To seek out the kind of sexual relationships I truly want 11% (113 votes)
Did you know? By their 18th birthday, six in 10 teenage women and more than five in 10 teenage men have had heterosexual intercourse. More than one-half of all teens ages 15 to 19 report engaging in oral sex (55 percent of males and 54 percent of females in 2002).
For further reading, we recommend: Ready or Not? The Scarleteen Sex Readiness Checklist, Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models, and Sexual Negotiation for the Long Haul
5. To learn more about my own sexual body and self 10% (105 votes)
Did you know? Knowing, too, that the reality of the way youth most often gets sexuality information -- peer-to-peer -- we do our level best to both moderate discussion to help aid youth in learning how to inform each other better, and do what we can to empower youth to research smartly, ask questions, avoid stereotyping, and communicate with and educate one another with sensitivity and compassion.
For further reading, we recommend: Pink Parts - Female Sexual Anatomy, Man's Best Friend - Male Sexual Anatomy, and With Pleasure: A View of Whole Sexual Anatomy for Every Body
...And that's just the beginning! Now please click "read more" below to see to the rest of the statistics and hear what users have to say.
6. To improve my sexual communication skills 7% (67 votes)
Did you know? One-on-one discussion with Scarleteen users is more than a one-question, one-answer process. Because we use the message boards and site for direct advice and queries, we can engage in ongoing dialogue with users so that if they do not understand an answer, or have more questions, we're available for them.
For further reading, we recommend: Be a Blabbermouth! The Whats, Whys and Hows of Talking About Sex With a Partner and About that “talk” with your parents
7. To allow myself to be more vulnerable, honest and open with partners 7% (70 votes)
Did you know? While we greatly emphasize sexual readiness as a prerequisite to partnered sexual activity of all types at Scarleteen, we fully accept and acknowledge that teens are often sexually active to some degree, with both same and opposite-sex partners, and also acknowledge that everyone has a right to age-appropriate sexual activity and full ownership of one's own sexuality.
8. To be more assertive and speak up more for my sexual wants, needs or boundaries 6% (63 votes)
Did you know? Nearly 50% of Scarleteen users in a recent poll reported having had partners who argued with their limits or boundaries, and over 30% of users polled stated that a partner has coerced or forced them to dismiss their limits.
For further reading, we recommend: Blinders Off:Getting a Good Look at Abuse and Assault and He's my boyfriend, so how could it have been rape?
Did you know? The typical individual was 12.4 years old when they realized that they were gay, lesbian or bisexual. Scarleteen in a fully inclusive space, mindful of vast variations in sexual and gender identities, and close to 20% of our users self-report having same-sex partners or partners of varied sex or gender.
For further reading, we recommend: The Bees and...the Bees: A Homosexuality and Bisexuality Primer, Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out
(Or, How to Come Out of the Closet Without Tripping Over Your Laundry), and The Making of a Homo.
10. Something else (tell us in the comments!) 4% (37 votes)
Did you know? We bring these issues to the table often at Scarleteen, not only responding to immediate crises -- including online support for rape, sexual abuse and battering, reproductive options referrals and counseling, gender dysphoria, eating disorders, STI and pregnancy scares and scenarios -- but also engaging users, male and female alike, in ongoing dialogue and reading about the greater issues of sexual inequities within these issues so that they may all be best able to nurture a healthier, more holistic, authentic and complete sexual life than those of generations before them.
For further reading, we recommend: To Be... AWESOME or Just Be –– Tips on Making the Most of Your Life Right Now! and Activism 101
11. To get tested for sexually transmitted infections and/or ask a partner to 3% (27 votes)
Did you know? In 1999, one in four sex education teachers taught abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and STIs: a huge increase from 1988, when the fraction was just one in 50.
For further reading, we recommend: Testing, Testing..., Your First Gynecologist Visit, and Misconception Mayhem: Separating STI Myths from Facts
12. To get better at respecting the limits and boundaries of others 2% (20 votes)
Did you know? In the U.S., 7 in 10 women who had sex before age 14, and 6 in 10 of those who had sex before age 15 report having had sex involuntarily. Female teens 16 to 19 were three and one-half times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault.
For further reading, we recommend: How You Guys -- that's right, You GUYS -- Can Prevent Rape, I know consent is awesome, but rejection is not!, and How do I tell my boyfriend I don’t think he’s ready for sex yet?
13. To get out of an unhealthy sexual relationship 1% (15 votes)
Did you know? Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rates of intimate violence -- nearly twenty per one thousand women.
For further reading, we recommend: Potholes & Dead Ends: Relationship Roadblocks to Look Out For and I don’t feel safe with him: how can I change my feelings?
A handful of active Scarleteeners shared their resolution in greater detail at the poll and over at the message boards. Here’s what they said!
bookwormfairy a.k.a. Liliamber: I chose to improve my body image and/or ditch sexual shame. Some of the other resolutions applied to me as well but I thought that this should be worked on in the New Year. I have a bad body image of myself and for years I have used men as a way to improve this image.
Cian: There were many I could've well chosen, but to go with the one I feel the strongest about;
My resolution is "To improve my body image and/or ditch sexual shame".
I have been putting myself down in every aspect from a very young age and it has, very naturally, interfered with my sexual encounters despite the fact I have only ever been sexual with one person who I've been with for five years, four of which sexually active.
I want myself to enjoy myself more without the distracting "Oh, a roll of fat there, can't do that because of my legs, can't look that way because of this and that" etc going on in my head. And not just myself, but also my partner. I don't want my partner to suffer from my low self esteem any longer.
I will be taking steps to a "better me" as soon as the mental health and wellbeing offices open at my school.
grizzly_boy: Okay, here's mine: To not have sex until I feel completely ready (in other words, remain a virgin until I feel ready for sex). All I'm trying to say is that I don't yet feel ready for sex and don't want to be forced into it. I am getting into the age where some of my peers are sexually active, and it could happen that somebody tries to force me into having sex with them. There are TOO MANY things that can go wrong. There are just too many factors. It's not something that I'm ready for. My dad thinks that teens having sex is not always the best idea. Personally, if you're careful, I think it's okay. I'm just not ready yet and don't want to do it until I am.
Heather, Scarleteen Director & Founder: Just so all of you know that things like this are hardly only things younger people or those newer to sex or sexuality may need/want to work on, mine would be to be more vulnerable and open (the honest part, I got down).
It's not that I'm not either of those things, I am, but the older I get the more I realize that there is always another layer of vulnerability and openness than wherever you're at, and when you know you're in a safe emotional space to try going one level deeper, it's beneficial to do so, and can offer things you didn't even know you didn't have. I'm with someone right now with whom my history is such that I know there may not be a safer person for me in this department, so it's a safe risk to take that might give both of us even more depth than we already thought we had, together and alone. Especially since my partner is so vulnerable with me, it's gob-smacking sometimes, and shows me that I still have some more opening up I can do.
But just wanted to add my two cents so you could know that even those of us who do sexuality as a living, and who are getting long in the tooth can still always have room for growth and improvements.
Jill2000Plus: To improve my body image and ditch sexual shame
I've been struggling with always feeling like I'm doing something wrong by enjoying myself and I want to stop thinking and feeling that way, last night I was masturbating and I remember just feeling so right, so full of love and happiness and brilliant fantasies and pretty angry that my head is trying to convince me that my body isn't my own or that feeling good leads to doing or thinking bad things, I was looking at my body, my legs, my breasts, thinking how my body is just fine the way it is, that there's nothing wrong with being fat and that my body and my orgasms are sweet, wonderful, precious, joyous and that whether I want to be pregnant or not is my decision and not some matter of trivial inconvenience, I ended up crying because it was such a relief to treat myself with that kindness. And then I ate crisps (potato chips) and cuddled my teddy bear. I'm not really thinking of this as a new year's resolution, but I do want to do wonderful things and enjoy myself and embrace the body that is me and is mine, the euphoria between my legs and ears, and to learn and help others have ownership of and knowledge about their bodies and sexuality too. In order to do that I'm going to make sure I get my name on the list to take part in peer education workshops at my LGBT youth group and keep reading up so I can find out loads of useful information and gain greater understanding.
To go off on a slight tangent I want to thank this site once again, it does make a difference, it offers education and an acknowledgement and advocacy of teenagers' and childrens' rights where others would heap on fear and guilt and shame and punishment, and it's not just the volunteers, it's all the young people who come here and educate themselves and think about things then use that knowledge and awareness to support each other.
Joey a.k.a. September, Scarleteen volunteer: I selected "To accept and embrace my sexual orientation or sexual identity".
I first came out in high school, ten years ago, and dated women exclusively for a few years until I started seeing my (now ex-) boyfriend in 2004. Since then, I have been dating only males. In a lot of ways, I was going the path of least resistance: I attend University in a very conservative area and though I am out to my friends and they are supportive of me, there is no queer community to speak of on my campus. Aside from a friend who recently came out to me, I only have one queer couple in my circle of friends - and I have not met any other queer people in the more than 4 years I have lived in this town.
For the fall semester this year, I went to study abroad. The college I visited had a massive queer community, and for the first time since high school, I regularly hung out with other queer people and dated women. And I had the most amazing time and felt more true to myself than I had in years.
Though I am returning to my 'home' university for another year to finish up my M.A. there, this is my resolution: To stop being hetero-by-default, to be more out even if people don't expect or suspect it of me, to make a greater effort to seek out other queer or queer-friendly people, and to stop dating men I am not really attracted to.
KMPatwardhan, Scarleteen blogger: Actually put myself out there, not let it get to me if someone isn't interested.
Lena a.k.a. Ecofem, Scarleteen volunteer and Spotlight blogger: I would like to finally get that IUD that I've wanted for a long time! I have an appointment with a new GYN at the beginning of the year and my fingers are crossed that it'll be a GO. Update: I was able to already realize my sexuality-based New Year's resolution of getting an IUD: I'm happy to say that I got my Mirena last week!
May Day: To be more assertive and speak up more for my sexual wants, needs or boundaries
My first partner really intimidated me into sex, and it's only been in the last 6 months i've started being vocal about how he treated me and started to heal. I don't want to be afraid of speaking up for myself any more.
moonlight bouncing off water: To embrace and accept my sexual orientation.
I feel like I accept myself and I do, somewhat, but I certainly could more. I am very comfortable with liking women much more than men, but at the same time if I see a woman that I find attractive I almost blurt it out, but then I stop myself. I haven't come out to my parents. I want to, to a certain degree, but it didn't go well the first time, so I ended up lying and telling them that I was straight.
Also: I really feel ready for a relationship, but I am not attracted to many males and I don't know of many non-straight females. (and I don't find those I know of attractive) It is hard to feel like this when all my peers are dating and my family is questioning me about boyfriends. I need to come to terms with the fact that in such a small town I won't date as many people as others, at least not in my adolescence, and there is nothing I can do to change that.
RB211: Mine would have to be making the right choice of girl / continue holding out until then. Want to find "the one" and be with her so we can build a future together, vs. making a mistake going after the wrong girl(s) and ending up with no one, feeling hopeless.
Shea: Feel better about myself, make friends, cure my depression by having said friends, and most of all, tell my girlfriend I'd like a little attention once and awhile.
tidal wave: I am going to accept my disability and develop ways to manage it so that I can have relationships I enjoy. I am still coming to terms with how my AD has progressed, even though everyone is different I sometimes look at others and just feel helpless thinking I can't be like them in social situations. I am getting therapy which will improve this (fingers crossed)
Vikki a.k.a. Love-Life: There are a few I hope to do this year, but the big one is to be more assertive and speak up more for my sexual wants, needs or boundaries. Just recently this year I've found all kinds of new boundaries and things that I'm no longer comfortable with, which is really hard since I've been dating my boyfriend for 8 months and now I've got all of these different boundaries. I haven't been very clear about these new boundaries and it's just bad all around because I feel uncomfortable. Also, I want to be more assertive because I'm not by nature/socialization and I really believe it's a life skill that I should always focus on improving.
Another thing I want to work on is being very clear about my personal space boundaries. People like to hug me, and others I'm sure, and unless I'm close friends or family, I'd rather they not. So I want to be able to speak up and let people know that I don't want a hug.
So, what’s your resolution?
It’s never too late to set positive goals for yourself, so we invite you to keep voting in the sexuality-based New Year’s resolution poll if you haven’t yet and share if you’d like. If you did vote, please keep us updated on your progress, here in the blog, there at the poll, or over at the message boards. And if you’re interested in more Scarleteen polls, we’d love for you to continue casting your vote: Our latest poll asks, "What do your parents/guardians think about dating/relationships for you?"
Many, many thanks to bookwormfairy/Liliamber, Cian, grizzly_boy, Heather, Jill2000Plus, Joey/September, KMPatwardhan, May Day, moonlight bouncing off water, RB211, Shea, tidal wave, and Vikki/Love-Life for sharing their resolutions for this blog entry. See you here and at the message boards!
Lena, formerly known at the blog as Femke, is a Scarleteen volunteer and creator and editor of the Spotlight on Scarleteen blog feature that helps readers get to know the site content and people who create it better. What is Spotlight on Scarleteen? Find out more by clicking here. If you've read the Spotlight series in the Scarleteen blog in the past, you may have noticed the new logo created just for you, drawn by Lena and made shiny by Jacob.