The sex education I received in school was more than what was legally allowed for the state I was in. Alaska was (and is, I believe) an “abstinence only” state and I distinctly remember my health teacher in High School giving us far more information than we were “supposed” to have and telling us to keep it hush hush. At the time I was a Junior, though most people took health their Freshman year. I don’t remember any sexual education at all before that except for when the girls and boys were separated in elementary school and we watched a video about menstruation. Not exactly the same thing.
Even though what my health teacher taught was more than was considered acceptable by the state, it was still far less than teens need to know. Her great rebellion was to talk about condoms and birth control in addition to the scare-tactic teaching of the abstinence only curriculum complete with pictures of STDs and emphasis on the values of waiting. The knowledge she shared, however, was nothing that I didn’t already know about.
Really, a lot of my early sex education came from my sister who is seven years older than me. Our mother is very much a second-wave feminist and wasn’t as big on sexual education or sexuality in general, so she stepped in to fill that gap. She gave me books about my body, sexuality, and feminism. I read Cunt when I was twelve, for instance. She took me into Babeland Seattle when I was fourteen and bought me a vibrator. Most of this was long after I had discovered the internet and had already begun exploring sexuality, but she definitely guided me from afar as I walked the path.
I was first pointed toward Scarleteen in 2002, I believe, though not by my sister. I remember the situation quite clearly, actually, but the date is a little fuzzy to me. I was in a queer & kinky novelty shop (stickers, buttons, shirts, etc.) in Anchorage, Alaska that also sold a small smattering of sex toys and bdsm equipment. I was underage and asked the clerk directly about my ability to purchase items of a sexual nature. He said a cuff and blindfold set (I still have the blindfold) would be acceptable to purchase in addition to the stickers I had chosen, though not a few of the other things I was interested in, and asked me if I knew of a site named Scarleteen.
At that point I had already been interested in sexuality and had been exploring it for quite some time, though I was still a virgin. In fact, the reason why I was visiting Anchorage (I lived in Juneau) was for a queer youth leadership retreat. I was going to the retreat because it was the same year I was going to start the Gay-Straight Alliance at my high school. This incident was before the retreat and the suggestion lay dormant in my subconscious for a little while after I got back, but I made my way to Scarleteen soon after.
I was never heavily active on the Scarleteen forums, though I have been looking around them recently and wish I had been. I was always busy and a bit of an isolationist, so the community I found there would probably have been a better one than the online community I actually frequented. I would like to lie and say that Scarleteen was something I utilized to its fullest potential, but in all honesty it wasn’t. That doesn’t mean I didn’t use it, though.
I remember looking around the site for information and my exploration of sexuality was definitely influenced heavily by the articles I read. Scarleteen came rather late in my exploration as I had already discovered the internet, sexuality, and kink before it was introduced to me but even so it definitely made an impact.
It is a source of an amazing wealth of honest and accurate sex information that is an amazing resource for everyone. While it’s geared toward teens I know it has a thing or two (or more) that anyone and everyone would benefit from reading, and lots of information that most “adults” don’t know. With the state of sex education in general Scarleteen is an amazing resource that needs all the support that we can give it. Just the fact that something like Scarleteen exists is a blessing.
Scarleteen was a part of my sexual education, and has affected and continues to effect people every single day since it was founded. I have no doubt that the world needs the information and education that Scarleteen provides. We need it, and right now Scarleteen needs us.
What Scarleteen Needs:
Last year, Scarleteen needed increased donations in order to get through the end of 2009 and into 2010, in large part because private donations for a few years previous had been so low and left us in a very financially precarious position. We increased our financial goals to reflect the need for a minimum annual operating budget of $70,000. Thanks to generous contributions from our supporters in response to that appeal, while we were not able to reach that level, we were able to raise what we needed to not only get through 2009, but were able to use the funds wisely to sustain the organization through 2010. Our goal now is to continue to work toward that annual operating budget. Ideally, we would like to see a minimum of $20,000 in individual donations each year to combine with funding from private grants. In order for that to happen, we need for current donors to keep giving, and we also also need to cultivate new donors.
We’re asking for your help in either giving a donation of your own or encouraging your readers, colleagues, friends and family to donate. Given our visibility, tenure and traffic, with your help, meeting our goal should not be particularly challenging. A $100 donation can pay half of our server bill for a month, or half the monthly cost of the text-in service, or can fund any kind of use of the site, including one-on-one counsel and care, for around 10,000 of our daily users. However, we very much appreciate donations at any level. Read more about the support Scarleteen needs.
If you’re interested click here to donate now. Every little bit helps!
So you know I’m not just asking you to do this without doing anything myself: in addition to this blog post I set up a monthly donation to Scarleteen and I am working on filling out the volunteer application and will dedicate my time to it, given the chance that they want me. I’m dedicated to helping Scarleteen remain an amazing online resource, and I hope you are interested in helping as well.
More about Scarleteen:
Scarleteen has been the premier online sexuality resource for young people worldwide since 1998, and has the longest tenure of any sex education resource for young people online. We have consistently provided free, inclusive, comprehensive and positive sex education, information and one-on-one support to millions, and have never shied away from discussing sexuality as more than merely posing potential risks, but as posing potential benefits, something rarely seen in young adult sex education. We built the online model for teen and young adult sex education and have never stopped working hard to sustain, refine and expand it.
What you might not know is that Scarleteen is the highest ranked online young adult sexuality resource but also the least funded and that the youth who need us most are also the least able to donate. You might not know that we have done all we have with a budget typically lower than the median annual household income in the U.S. You might not know we have provided the services we have to millions without any federal, state or local funding and that we are and have always been fully independent media which depends on public support to survive and grow.
You also might not know Scarleteen is primarily funded by people who care deeply about teens having this kind of vital and valuable service; individuals like you and your readers who want better for young people than what they get in schools, on the street or from initiatives whose aim is to intentionally use fearmongering, bias and misinformation about sexuality to try to scare or intimidate young people into serving their own personal, political or religious agendas. Read more about Scarleteen.