Thursday, February 4, 2016

The CDC, Body Autonomy and why it matters that 1 in 20 school aged kids are living with brain damage from prenatal alcohol exposure



Yesterday, the CDC released a study that stated that women who are sexually active and not using birth control should also not use alcohol.

The reaction, especially from my people - my wonderful, brilliant feminist people - was fierce and quick. I’ve heard a chorus of : “women are not incubators”, “I’ll take pictures of me doing shots and send it to the CDC” or  “WTF?!”.

Of course, my people are right. Women are not incubators. We are so much more than our uteruses. We have fought hard, and will continue to fight, to be valued as whole people and to have control over our own bodies. Women have chained themselves to buildings, starved, marched, voted, filibustered and died for us to have control over our uteruses and our decisions around our sexuality and our reproduction. When a government agency does or says something that sounds like it’s impinging on that freedom, we fight back. Because we have to.

And, in this instance, the CDC is also right.

Stick with me for a little bit.

Pre-natal alcohol exposure can have devastating effects on a developing fetus’ brain. It can, and does, result in permanent and irreversible brain damage. The CDC estimates that 1 in 20 school age children in the United States are living with the effects of pre-natal alcohol exposure.

1 in 20 children are living with brain damage that is 100% preventable.[1]

How did you feel when the governor of Michigan said, “Oh, it’s just a couple IQ points” in reference to lead poisoning? Yeah.

It’s not ok.

Pre-natal alcohol exposure can cause:
·      Low birth rate
·      Heart and kidney problems
·      Low IQ
·      Learning disabilities
·      Hyperactivity
·      Difficulty with reasoning and judgment
·      Impaired social communication
·      Inability or reduced ability to understand cause and effect


This constellation of symptoms has significant life impacts. 60% of people living with FASD will be in trouble with the law.[2] 94% also live with a mental illness.[3]

Alcohol is more dangerous to fetuses than cocaine or heroin.

That’s not hyperbole. It’s fact. People who are pregnant certainly shouldn’t use cocaine or heroin. Cocaine or crack exposure can result in post birth drug withdrawal, high pitched cries, hyperactivity and learning disabilities. And, with early intervention it is unlikely to result in debilitating long term impacts. The whole freak out over crack babies in the 80s? It turns out that, with support, they’re fine.[4]

Kids with damage from pre-natal alcohol exposure are not fine. No amount of support will fix or re-pattern the brain around the damage.

But, there has to be a level of drinking that’s fine, right? At what level of exposure does damage occur? The thing is, we just don’t know. They used to say it happened with binge drinking (4 drinks or more in one sitting – yeah, I know, that was nothing in college). Some women have drunk far more than that and their kid has no noticeable effects. Others have drunk less and their kid has significant effects. Since fetuses grow quickly and different systems develop at different times, it seems drinking one day matters more than drinking another. But we don’t know which days those are. Or how much alcohol it takes.

Isn’t there a study? There’s no ethical way to do a study that intentionally exposes pregnant people to alcohol. So we’re stuck with this. There is some amount of alcohol that will cause permanent brain damage to a fetus on some days. Since we have no clue what that amount is, it’s probably best to not drink any alcohol at all if you’re having unprotected PIV sex. And certainly best to not drink more than one drink.

Shouldn’t folks just stop drinking when they find out they’re pregnant if they want to continue the pregnancy? Unfortunately, damage can occur before someone knows that they are pregnant. Do you have a dime? Go get it. Check out the ear on Eisenhower. Tiny right? Damage can occur when a fetus is that small. Who the hell knows they’re pregnant at that point?

So back to the CDC.

As women we get told all the time what to do with our bodies. It’s not ok. The way the CDC and the media communicated this information came with a patriarchal, paternalistic tone.

Please don’t let the packaging destroy the message. We, as people with uteruses, have the capacity to eliminate this form of brain damage. And we should.

If someone who may be capable of getting pregnant, is engaging in penis in vagina intercourse, and they  choose to not use a method of pregnancy prevention (any method)[5], there’s a good chance that they will get pregnant. In fact, over a year of unprotected intercourse, there’s around an 80% chance of getting pregnant[6].

Brain damage from alcohol can happen before most people have even realized that they’re pregnant. Therefore, if you’re having this kind of sex and not consistently using a birth control method, it would be best if you also did not use alcohol.

Here’s what the CDC should have said:
If you’re having the kind of sex that could result in pregnancy and you don’t want to be pregnant, use birth control. And drink alcohol (or not) in a way that makes sense for you.
If you choose to not use birth control and/or you’re in a relationship or situation where birth control is not an option, it would be best if you didn’t use alcohol.
If you find out that you’re pregnant and choose to continue the pregnancy, it would be best if you didn’t use alcohol.
If you are unable to give up alcohol, using less alcohol is better than using more.

We are capable of making good decisions. We just need good information. We are powerful, and smart, and amazing.

Now go fuck as you want to. Drink in a way that is healthy for you. And make the best choices you can.

Resources:

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blow Jobs!!!


Blow jobs, sucking cock, smoking pipe (WTF?), fellatio – our culture is obsessed. Since the store opened we’ve offered workshops on blow jobs. Many of our workshops sell out, but blow jobs? We could see out a BJ workshop at 2 am in the middle of a blizzard. And most of the attendees would be straight women.

Where does this obsession come from? Maybe it’s from the fact that most folks want to do a good job when they have sex. That sucking on that genital bit that’s really obviously is sticking out from a partner seems like a no brainer. But if it was this straight forward, why do we want to learn more?

I think it’s that we have an idea that penises and clitorises are dramatically different from each other. Or that, because someone doesn’t have a penis, they can’t have the information they need to give an amazing blow job. The truth is, having a penis doesn’t mean that the other penis likes the same things, and, biologically, penises and clitorises aren’t that different from each other. As I always say, men aren’t from Mars, women aren’t from Venus, we’re all from vagina. All genital structures come from the same basic stuff. A penis is essentially a big clitoris with fewer nerve endings.

So, here are some quick blow job tips:

Treat a blow job like a chance to make out with the penis.
Avoid using teeth (obviously)
Listen to your partner – when they’re making good noises, keep doing what you’re doing
You don’t have to deep throat, but if you want to, we can probably teach you how

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Who Should Use PrEP?


Lots of folks! 

PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a daily medication that is available by prescription. People that are at high risk for HIV may choose to use this medication to prevent HIV. Like any medication there are risks and benefits to taking it. We encourage you to use your best judgement and talk to your clinician and see if it's right for you.  

We put together some stories about the kinds of reasons someone might choose to use PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention). Please note – these are composites of actual people and situations.

Mike is a 41 year old man from Towson. He identifies as gay and lives in a cute house with his husband, a picket fence and two dogs. He travels frequently on business. He and his husband have an open relationship. When Mike travels he likes to have anonymous sex with other men. Having a conversation about HIV status isn’t something he usually does and he assumes some of the men he has sex with are HIV positive. He uses condoms most of the time, but occasionally a condom fails or he gets carried away and doesn’t use one. Mike has decided to use PrEP as extra protection against HIV.

Julie is a sex worker. She works on the street in Baltimore and frequently finds that she can make more money if she doesn’t use a condom. Sometimes, even when she insists on using a condom, her client won’t listen or will remove the condom part way through. She decides to use PrEP because it is prevention that she can control.

Shavon and Norman have been married for 15 years. They met at a NA meeting and are both in recovery. Before he got sober, Norman contracted HIV from sharing needles. He is currently medicated and his viral level is undetectable. Their doctor has informed them that the risk of transmission is very low, even if a condom breaks. However, when she was young, Shavon lost people close to her to HIV and she is very frightened of contracting the virus. Any time a condom breaks, she panics and is worried for weeks. As a result, she and Norman don’t have intercourse as often as they would like. Shavon decides to take PrEP  for additional peace of mind.

Chase is a gay man in his early 20s in Baltimore. He loves to party. Sometimes he hooks up with guys in the bathroom at the club, or picks up men from Grindr. When he’s partying he likes to use alcohol and other drugs. The morning after, sometimes he doesn’t know if he’s used a condom or not. He’s not interested in changing his alcohol and drug use at this time. He’s tried and he always ends up in the same situation. So he decides to changes something he knows he can change. He sets a daily alarm in his iPhone and gets a prescription for PrEP.

Olivia lives with Mark. She suspects that he’s cheating on her frequently. Sometimes she sees needle marks on his arms. He denies both the cheating and the drug use and insists that they don’t need condoms. Olivia loves Mark and keeps hoping he’ll change. She’s not ready or willing to leave him. She goes to the doctor and starts taking PrEP. She puts the pills in a vitamin bottle so he won’t know what she’s doing.

There are as many reasons to take PrEP as there are people who take PrEP. If you want to learn more, we hope to see you at the workshop at Sugar on January 24th at 6:30 pm (free). Or check out this website!





Thursday, January 14, 2016

What the heck is PrEP?


Thirty years ago HIV was decimating the gay community across the United States. Gay and bisexual men were dying by the thousands. The average life expectancy of someone with HIV was months or years. It was a terrifying time.

Today, the picture looks a little different. People of all sexual orientations are living with HIV. It’s still way to common in the communities of men who have sex with men. And way too common in communities of color. The good news is, an HIV diagnosis is not the death sentence it once was. With proper treatment, one can expect to live an average lifespan. And, due to programs like the Maryland AIDS Drug Assistance Program, everyone in Maryland should be able to access both treatment and medication. However, living with and treating HIV is not a cake walk. It involves daily medication, doctors visits, often benefits from life style changes, and can make treating other illnesses more complicated. In other words, although HIV is now treatable (which is awesome), it’s not (yet) curable. It’s not something one wants get.

As you know, HIV is transmitted through the exchange of body fluids between an infected person and an uninfected person. The two most common ways that happens is through anal or vaginal intercourse or through sharing needles. It would be lovely if people were able to use condoms each and every time they had sex that might put them at risk for HIV exposure. But, this is the real world. Most of us who rely on condoms for disease prevention or pregnancy prevention have a story about a time that either the condom failed, or we failed to use one. Because we’re human. We make mistakes. Things happen.[1]

Wouldn’t it be great if there was second line of defense against HIV?

There is. It’s called PrEP[2]. It’s a pill that someone who is HIV negative takes every day. If the medication is taken correctly it’s over 99% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. In fact, a recent study found that even with not perfect use, it was about 50% effective. With perfect use, it’s amazing. And even with inconsistent use, it’s able to significantly lower your risks.

So, is PrEP a good idea for you? It depends. It depends mostly on what kind of sex you have and who you have it with. Are you someone who’s at high risk for HIV?[3] If so, this might be a great option for you.

Want to learn more? Kip Castner from the Center for HIV Prevention at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is teaching a free workshop on PrEP on Monday, January 18th at 6;30 pm at Sugar. We hope to see you there! You’re worth it!

Here’s some links to more info:



Baltimore Needle Exchange Hours & Locations (they also offer HIV testing):
Hours of Operation
Location
Monday 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Monroe & Ramsey
Monday 12:45 PM - 3:30 PM
Westwood, Mount & Calhoun Streets
Monday 3:30-4:45 pm
Park Heights & Spaulding
Monday 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Baltimore & Conkling (Highlandtown)
Monday 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Freemont & Laurens
Tuesday 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Montford & Biddle; Pratt & Carey
Tuesday 12:45 PM - 3:30 PM
Freemont & Riggs, Barclay & 23rd
Wednesday 3:30 - 4:45 pm
Monroe & Ramsey
Wednesday 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Baltimore & Conkling (Highlandtown)
Wednesday 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Freemont & Laurens
Thursday 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Pontiac & 9th Ave.; North & Rosedale
Thursday 12:45 PM - 3:30 PM
James & Ostend; Monroe & Ramsey
Thursday 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Baltimore & Gay (The Block)
Friday 9:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Park Heights & Spaulding
Friday 12:45 PM - 3:30 PM
Westwood, Mount & Calhoun Streets
Friday 3:30 PM - 4:45 PM
Barclay & 23rd
Friday 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Montford & Biddle
Friday 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM
Monroe & Ramsey
Saturday 12:00PM - 4:00PM
Fremont & Riggs



[1] Do you use needles for drugs or black market hormone therapy? You should know about  Baltimore’s Needle Exchange program. They’ll provide you with clean needles and support. If you want access to hormones through a doctor, Chase Brexton has an awesome sliding scale program. They’ll even help you get insurance!
[2] PrEP stands for Pre Exposure Prophylaxis – which is  fancy way of saying prevention
[3] Who’s at “high risk” for contracting HIV from sex? That’s a good question. Generally, the following groups of folks are considered to be at higher risk: men who have sex with men, women and people of other genders who have sex with men who have sex with men, sex workers who have unprotected intercourse with clients, people who have unprotected intercourse with people who share needles, people who have unprotected sexual intercourse with people of unknown HIV status. You and your health care provider will do the best job of figuring out if PrEP is right for you. What’s important is that you be as honest as possible with your health care provider. You’re probably not going to shock them.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sugar is hiring! Are you the right person for the job?

We're bringing in a new Sex Educator (the lovely folks who work the floor and provide education and customer service for our amazing customers)!

The right person for this position will be available to work 10-15 hours a week and must be available weekends, including Saturday nights. People who are not available to work these specific hours will not be considered. Pay is $11.50 an hour with an increase to $12 an hour after completion of a probationary period of around 6 weeks.

Please submit a cover letter and resume to jacq@sugartheshop.com by Monday, October 26th at noon. After applications are reviewed, several folks will be selected for interviews

In the cover letter include the ways in which your experience is relevant to the position and why you want to work at Sugar. Although in many cases, our ideal candidate has previous sex education experience, we're willing to teach the right person. Tell us why you're right for the job! Look over the required skills - do you have everything on the list?




Please confirm in the cover letter that you are available to work both weekend and weekday evenings.

No calls please - email only.

Sugar is committed to a diverse work force and welcomes applications from people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.

We're looking forward to meeting you!





Sex Educator
The Sex Educator is responsible for answering customers’ questions, using active listening skills to determine the customer’s concerns and needs, providing customers with the information they require to make the purchases that are best for them and/or providing customers with referrals to other community organizations, stores or healthcare providers if Sugar is not able to meet their needs.  In addition, SEs process sales in the POS system, stock the store and maintain information in the Inventory Control system, ensure that the store is clean and tidy at all times, fulfillment of customer orders for shipping and perform other duties as assigned.  These duties may include:  store decoration, workshop instruction and/or special events.
Required skills:
-       A passion for Sugar’s mission
-       Computer literacy
-       Excellent customer service
-       Able to accurately work with money
-       Able to lift 50 pounds
-       Able to work evenings and weekends
-       Comfort with and acceptance of diverse sexualities
-       Cultural competency with diverse communities
-       Knowledge and understanding of queer and gender issues
-       Commitment to a team environment
-       A mind that is open to new things and ways of solving problems
Preferred:
Previous experience in sexuality education, counseling and/or retail.
Sugar will provide Sex Educators with:
$11.50 an hour – eligible for increase after successful completion
A commitment to a systems oriented work place.
A work place that is respectful and supportive.

Mission

Sugar is a lesbian owned, multi-gender operated, for profit, mission driven sex toy store.  By providing education and toys in a shame free, sex positive, fun environment we help people of all genders and orientations experience their own unique sexuality with shameless joy and passion. 

Vision

A world in which healthy sexuality is respected and celebrated in all of its diversity.

Values

Sugar believes that sex between consenting adults is sacred, powerful and fun and should be celebrated and honored.  By providing quality education and toys in a sex positive, fun atmosphere, we will help foster healthy sexuality.  In order to provide our customers with impeccable customer service we strive to create a work environment that is healthy and supportive of each and every member of the Sugar team.  Sugar also works to exist in the environment in a way that is sustainable and responsible.

Sugar provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws. Sugar complies with applicable state and local laws governing non-discrimination in employment in every location in which the company has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, but not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.
Sugar expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, or veteran status. Improper interference with the ability of Sugar employees to perform their expected job duties is absolutely not tolerated.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

I Stand With Planned Parenthood

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I worked for Planned Parenthood.

I’ve been a patient at Planned Parenthood.

I’ve taken friends to Planned Parenthood.

I am grateful I was given the opportunity to be a part of an organization that has given so much to so many.

I’m proud to have been part of an organization that delivers some of the highest quality health care I’ve seen. And delivers it with care and compassion.

The care Planned Parenthood delivers is both stellar and comprehensive.

While I worked at Planned Parenthood, I helped women access treatment for cervical cancer, helped even more women access treatment to prevent cervical cancer, taught folks how to use condoms, called Children’s Services on parents that were abusing a patient, helped a client understand how chlamydia was transmitted (definitely not the way she walked in thinking it had happened), held the hand of women aged 13 to 40+ as they had an abortion that they had carefully considered and chose with clarity, provided clear options to other women as they wrestled with their decision about their pregnancy including referrals to adoption and parenting resources and supported them in whatever their decision was, stood firm as a parent screamed at me when I refused to allow our clinic to provide their teenager with an abortion she didn’t want, provided countless women with the information they needed in order to choose when, or if they would get pregnant, helped women problem solve how to leave their abuser,  or access prenatal care and WIC.

In Minnesota, doing this meant walking through a picket line every day. Even the days we weren’t providing abortion services. It meant not fighting back when one of the protestors screamed at my best friend and her son as they dropped me off for work in the morning, “At least you didn’t kill that baby”.  It became normal to see the doctor take off her bullet proof vest and hang it by her coat when she walked in the door. On my way home from work, I peeked under my car and in my tailpipe before I got in to make sure there wasn’t a bomb, every single day.

Working for PP meant photocopying frozen moldy clinic records after anti-abortion people tried to burn down one of our clinics. This clinic that was burned in Brainerd, Minnesota provided only birth control, STI testing and cancer screening services.

It meant being on a first name basis with our local ATF and FBI agents.

In Maryland, it meant squeezing enough money out of our budget to provide the services our patient’s needed. Any time the local police felt there was a threat I had to get to work early so that they could inspect the facility with a bomb dog. That clinic had been burned in a different location. The police took it personally. They weren’t going to let it happen again. I opened the mail alone in a separate room with door closed wearing gloves and a mask because some lovely person had decided it was fun to mail suspicious powders to women’s clinic. Any suspicious package was thrown away. Because not only did clinics like ours get anthrax threats. A number of other frightening things had been sent to women’s clinics in the mail. Did you send our clinic staff cookies? I’ll never know. If I didn’t know it was coming, it went in the trash.

Today, not much is different. The threats just come in different clothes. A presidential candidate in blue skirt suit lying about a video. Legislators working diligently to remove funding from the organization best equipped to deliver desperately needed services to women across the country. Legislators passing law after law designed specifically to reduce access to abortion services. It's the same old tired, misogynist song.

This war, this fight for power and control over our bodies is about a group of people who do not want women, especially poor women or women of color, to have access to the services we need to take control of their lives. Women, women’s sexuality and our control over our own reproductive choices, is seen as a radical threat to both the patriarchy and the theocracy all too many of these politicians want to live in.

I stand with Planned Parenthood. Because I stand with women.

Rise

Monday, June 8, 2015

Sugar is hiring!

We're bringing in a new Sex Educator (the lovely folks who work the floor and provide education and customer service for our amazing customers)!

The right person for this position will be available to work 10-15 hours a week and must be available weekends, including Saturday nights. People who are not available to work these specific hours will not be considered. Pay is $11.50 an hour with an increase to $12 an hour after completion of a probationary period of around 6 weeks.

Please submit a cover letter and resume to jacq@sugartheshop.com by Friday, June 12th at 5 pm. After applications are reviewed, several folks will be selected for interviews

In the cover letter include the ways in which your experience is relevant to the position and why you want to work at Sugar. Although in many cases, our ideal candidate has previous sex education experience, we're willing to teach the right person. Tell us why you're right for the job! Look over the required skills - do you have everything on the list?




Please confirm in the cover letter that you are available to work both weekend and weekday evenings.

No calls please - email only.

Sugar is committed to a diverse work force and welcomes applications from people of all ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.

We're looking forward to meeting you!




Sex Educator
The Sex Educator is responsible for answering customers’ questions, using active listening skills to determine the customer’s concerns and needs, providing customers with the information they require to make the purchases that are best for them and/or providing customers with referrals to other community organizations, stores or healthcare providers if Sugar is not able to meet their needs.  In addition, SEs process sales in the POS system, stock the store and maintain information in the Inventory Control system, ensure that the store is clean and tidy at all times, fulfillment of customer orders for shipping and perform other duties as assigned.  These duties may include:  store decoration, workshop instruction and/or special events.
Required skills:
-       A passion for Sugar’s mission
-       Computer literacy
-       Excellent customer service
-       Able to accurately work with money
-       Able to lift 50 pounds
-       Able to work evenings and weekends
-       Comfort with and acceptance of diverse sexualities
-       Cultural competency with diverse communities
-       Knowledge and understanding of queer and gender issues
-       Commitment to a team environment
-       A mind that is open to new things and ways of solving problems
Preferred:
Previous experience in sexuality education, counseling and/or retail.
Sugar will provide Sex Educators with:
$11.50 an hour – eligible for increase after successful completion
A commitment to a systems oriented work place.
A work place that is respectful and supportive.

Mission

Sugar is a lesbian owned, multi-gender operated, for profit, mission driven sex toy store.  By providing education and toys in a shame free, sex positive, fun environment we help people of all genders and orientations experience their own unique sexuality with shameless joy and passion. 

Vision

A world in which healthy sexuality is respected and celebrated in all of its diversity.

Values

Sugar believes that sex between consenting adults is sacred, powerful and fun and should be celebrated and honored.  By providing quality education and toys in a sex positive, fun atmosphere, we will help foster healthy sexuality.  In order to provide our customers with impeccable customer service we strive to create a work environment that is healthy and supportive of each and every member of the Sugar team.  Sugar also works to exist in the environment in a way that is sustainable and responsible.

Sugar provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, marital status, amnesty, or status as a covered veteran in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws. Sugar complies with applicable state and local laws governing non-discrimination in employment in every location in which the company has facilities. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including, but not limited to, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation, and training.
Sugar expressly prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, genetic information, disability, or veteran status. Improper interference with the ability of Sugar employees to perform their expected job duties is absolutely not tolerated.