When our teen patient showed up for her counseling appointment the day after we cancelled her abortion procedure (after a battle of wills between her mother and I over her attempt to force her daughter into the appointment to terminate her pregnancy), I wondered why she had returned. I had left our previous session feeling like a total amateur (which I was) and bully. Nevertheless, she was coming back in, and I resolved to listen and respond to her needs, rather than my own this time.
“I don’t know what to do next,” she told me upon her arrival. “I mean, I know I’m going to have a baby, but, like, what do I do?” We both knew she meant that she hadn’t secured the support of her mother around her decision to become a teen parent, and that she needed resources. Naturally, the first resource that came to mind was having a medically accurate, clinical discussion of sex and birth control methods. Unlike some of our teen patients, she had a correct understanding of sex–the definition and mechanics. Like most of our patients, regardless of age, she didn’t understand how she became pregnant using the withdrawal method, after receiving basic sex education at school, but never discussing the subject in detail with her parents. I began my explanation of pre-ejaculate, survey of available birth control methods and assessment of which would work best for her in the future, given her lifestyle and needs (as she described them). She had been having sex with her boyfriend, another young teen, for a period of several months and this was her first time being pregnant. She needed adult support and guidance desperately, and I racked my brain to figure out how to help her on that front, given her mother’s disregard and stubbornness. “Do you have a relationship with your father?” I asked, clutching at straws. Continue reading →
When I got to the final question of the medical history portion of the appointment, our patient reluctantly replied, “well…my mom told me I have to.” I had just asked her if she was comfortable with her decision to have an abortion, and whether she was being threatened, forced or coerced. If the answer was anything other than “yes, I’m comfortable” and “no, I am not being threatened, forced or coerced”, or if a strong emotional response was provoked by the question, we hit the brakes on the appointment. Often my colleagues would pull me into the room when patient broke into sobs at the question, or mentioned someone in the waiting room insisting on the appointment. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t at our clinic of their own volition. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t in an emotionally safe place the day of their appointment. In this case the patient was a young teenager, and when I pressed for more information she told me that while she wanted to keep her pregnancy, her mom was forcing her to have an abortion. I immediately notified my colleagues to remove the patient’s name from our treatment roster, and stepped out into the lobby to bring the patient’s mother into our counseling office. Continue reading →
“I was one of those kids you wrote about,” she commented, after reading about the pregnant virgin I counseled at Planned Parenthood, “and you probably want to interview me for your blog.” I leapt at the opportunity she was offering to capture a first-person narrative about the experience of being opted out of school sex ed and how it affects adult sexuality. Continue reading →
I was sitting on a bench over in the weights area doing biceps curls when I heard a man say, “so this guy proposed on camera at a game and his girlfriend said no. Later, she explained to him it was because his dick was too small!” I sensed my next voyeuristic “Overheard” post was taking shape at the squats rack adjacent to me, and subtly moved closer, to hear better. “It’s this documentary called Unhung Hero and it’s about this guy’s search to find out if size really does matter,” he continued, his buddies (and I) hanging on his every word. I studied them in the mirror that covers the entire back wall of the building, three men in their late twenties, all white, all of average height, barrel chested, pecs and biceps defined. “So, like, what did he do?” one of them asked. “She dumped him and he went around the world to check out the myths, to find out if the stereotypes are true, and what men do to get bigger.” Earlier that morning, I had been lamenting to myself that it had been ages since I’d overheard anything worth blogging about, and realizing I was going to have to try harder (read: be creepier) if I wanted to keep the “Overheard” series alive on Candid Uprising. Jackpot. Three jocks talking dick size at the gym. I couldn’t have asked for a more compelling conversation, and in such timely fashion! Continue reading →
The unmarried couple was in their very early twenties, earnest, frightened and shell-shocked. They had made an appointment for “options counseling”, a session devoted to exploring the three choices available for dealing with an unintended pregnancy: parenting, adoption, abortion. The young lady had found out a few days prior that she was pregnant and they were holy terrified. Yes, I mean holy, not wholly. You see, they were the youth group directors at their church, tasked with setting an example of young Christian adulthood, and teaching abstinence education. Their unintended pregnancy meant not just making a choice, it meant facing their church community with a staggering hypocrisy, and standing in judgement for going against their group’s religious tenets. I had my work cut out for me, as their counselor, and a person vehemently opposed to abstinence-only “education”.
I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that many of you have seen a provider for reproductive purposes. It’s a rite of passage for many women to go to an office to obtain birth control, and for both men and women to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). These appointments can admittedly be uncomfortable and/or embarrassing for many people. What with taking time off work and driving to an office, sitting in a waiting room and avoiding eye contact (while simultaneously doing some covert people-watching), and waiting to see a provider, it seems like there are better ways to spend your day.
During my master’s internship I worked as a counselor at Planned Parenthood for six months. It was a unique style of therapy–short term, solutions-focused crisis work. I had just completed a six month practicum at the University’s Counselor Training Center, where I met with a roster of five clients, individually, once a week for an hour, for fifteen weeks. I hated it. Having to sit there in a room walled with one-way glass, knowing I was being filmed and possibly watched in real time by my supervisor and listen to people vent about their issues was anything but inspiring. I felt completely on display, self-conscious and wooden. As a result the sessions were inorganic, and I doubt I helped any of my clients, who seemed to be there not to work, but to have someone on which to dump their problems at no cost. Planned Parenthood couldn’t have been more different: dynamic, fast-paced. A revolving door of changing faces, I was completely engaged with each client’s unique story, like that of the pregnant virgin. Continue reading →
Some night last fall when the college kids had come back to campus, I walked around the university district, using the scene as my own personal voyeuristic fishbowl. At one point a jacked-up, enormous, gleaming white truck came cruising by at a glacial pace. Horn blaring at a decibel level fit for a cargo ship, a twenty-something man perched halfway out the passenger window yelling come-ons at every group he saw. The hormone and douche levels were so high, I was revolted and steered my male companion to a quieter street, but not before I heard a woman behind me remark, he’s a scrub! A brilliant and apt TLC reference, as the guy met the criteria: hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, he was certainly trying to holler at women. What we heard off the beaten path however, was a similarly vivid illustration of male sexuality at its worst, and most naive. Continue reading →
Childhood sex-play is another of those phenomena that is common and rarely talked about. We’re born with our sexuality, and from the time we become curious about our genitalia and the concept of sex, we begin to explore: alone, in pairs, in groups. The age at which this occurs varies widely, and for many of us it begins in young childhood. I can remember using the spray from the handheld shower nozzle on myself at the age of six because I noticed it felt good. Before I discovered orgasm at age ten (and even sometimes after), I was interested in imaginary games about sex. Continue reading →
Some time late last decade, I accompanied a group of (former) friends to a joint bachelor-bachelorette party weekend at a lake cabin. It was my first such event, and I looked forward to days of girl time, as the genders would be segregated. When I arrived a day later than the rest of the party, I made my way to a dock where eight or so women were sprawled, sipping drinks and sunning themselves. Eagerly, I joined the conversation where the question, “describe your first kiss” had been posed. Surprised at the PG rated topic, I blurted, “describe your loss of virginity”. Continue reading →