Honoring MLK: Racial Justice and Social Work

Martin Luther King Jr. getting quoted out of context is one of my pet peeves. Thankfully, that did not happen on Tuesday, when I attended a panel on racial justice in honor of his legacy.

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers organized a forum to discuss the current state of racial justice and the social work profession in Boston. It was originally scheduled for January, but as luck would have it, Boston faced the snowiest, most bananas winter in history and the well-laid plans had to be changed.

An eternal live-tweeter and sharer of information, I documented the event and created a Storify where people can, essentially, virtually tag along for the ride after the event. You can find it here. The panelists were as follows:

MLK Racial Justice Panel Cohort

Left to right: Melendez, MacArthur, Belkin Martinez, Copeland. Photo credit to Shabnam Deriani.

I don’t generally go to panels on racial justice to learn new information, as someone steeped in this on the daily and who also presents on anti-racism. I go to these events to have more bodies in the room, to hear my colleagues speak, to nourish my spirit with the shared passion of those dedicated to social change. However, I often do learn new nuggets of wisdom—new quotations, new strategies, new frameworks—and this event did not disappoint. The biggest takeaway? The work of Whitney Young Jr.

Dr. Phillipe Copeland—one of the panelists and one of the professors at the Boston University School of Social Work where I’m pursuing my Master’s in Social Work—quoted Whitney Young Jr. and his thoughts on the social work profession as it connected to racial justice and social justice overall. I wanted to share that with all of the budding social workers and seasoned vets in my community, because they are POWERFUL.

Here’s an excerpt from from Young Jr., in “Social Welfare’s Responsibility in Urban Affairs” [emphasis mine].

Let these words ABOUT RACIAL JUSTICE/SOCIAL JUSICE sink in, marinate, and transform you and your practice.

It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a substandard budget. We must plant the seeds of indignation and of desire for change in the mind of every citizen suffering in want. We must be the catalysts of change, not the maintainers of the status quo. Establishing rapport, cutting through defenses, is the only way we can achieve anything of value. We must let people know that we are not just interested in establishing eligibility or in granting minimal services. We must see them as individuals.

We must help them understand that we are not just a part of the faceless bureaucracy which regulates their lives, but that we are concerned with helping them, as individuals, get into the productive mainstream of society. We must fight against red-tape restrictions and requirements which deny people their humanity. We must tell the unemployed that they have the right to work, the right to education of high quality for their children, the right to be trained, and the right to support themselves and their families at a decent level.

We must tell families in poverty that they have a vote and can use it to secure a more sympathetic ear in our corridors of power; that they must broaden their children’s horizons; that change is a law of life, and reform must be a way of life. These are the basic means of humanizing the city.

In a society which has succumbed to an excess of professionalism and technology, materialism and theoretical concepts, we must, in order to redress the balance, succumb to an excess of feeling, of courage, of caring, and of decency. I believe the time is ripe. The problems of our cities are begging for solution. Our profession is now mature and secure enough to provide leadership in this effort. A society that would call itself civilized is at stake.


 

The photo at the top/banner of this post illustrates Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, D.C. [and is in the public domain].

Resources Mentioned at PlaygroundConf 2013 Closing Plenary

PGConf 2013

Stay in Touch!

Find Aida here:

Find Heather here:

Resources & Organizations Directly Mentioned in Presentation:

Additional Resources

Fight Against Fraud (Message from ONA)

**En Español abajo**

¡¡Take action with ONA this Saturday!!

The struggle against theft and fraud at Paraiso Multiservices continues…

José Silverio, the man who presents himself as the owner of a remittance agency on Chalkstone Avenue called Paraiso Multiservices, has been stealing money from his customers for over a year. Most of these customers are Latino immigrants who use his service to send their hard-earned dollars home to support their families in Guatemala, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere. Last month, a small group of Pariso Multiservices customers came forward to denounce this theft. Since then, they have organized over 30 customers, who together have lost over $50,000, to demand justice. They filed a criminal complaint, and last Saturday they staged a successful picket outside of the business attended by dozens of victims and their allies. (Check out the pictures, attached, and thank you to all who came out!)

This week, while the state police continue to investigate this theft,
these customers are taking their fight back to the streets!
Join them this Saturday, July 28th for a picket outside of José Silverio’s house to say ENOUGH is ENOUGH-
stop stealing from our community! 

Picket to Demand Justice!
Saturday, July 28th
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Have questions? Want more information? Call ONA at 401.228.8996

************

¡¡Toma acción con ONA este sábado!!

La lucha contra robo y fraude en Paraiso Multiservices continua…

José Silverio, el hombre representándose como el dueño de Paraiso Multiservices, una agencia de remesas en la Chalkstone, ha estado robando a sus clientes por más de un año. La mayoría de estos clientes son inmigrantes Latinos que usan el servicio para mandar su dinero ganado con sudor a sus países de origen para sostener a sus familias en Guatemala, Mexico, la República Domincana, entre otros lugares. En junio, un grupo de clientes de Pariso Multiservice se levantaron para denuniciar el robo. Desde entonces, ellos han organizado más de 30 clientes que han perdido más de $50,000 para demandar justicia. Ellos hicieron una denuncia formal, y el sábado pasado ellos organizaron un piquete exitoso con 40 victimas y aliados afuera del negocio. (Mira las fotos anexadas, y gracias a tod@s que vinieron!)

Esta semana, mientras que la policia estatal continua con su investigación,
estos clientes van a llevar su lucha a las calles otra vez!
Venga este sábado, 28 de julio para un piquete afuera de la casa de José Silverio para decir YA BASTA-
¡deja de robar de nuestra comunidad!


¡Piquete para demandar justicia!
sábado, 28 de julio
5pm
532 Plainfield St, Providence

Tienes preguntas? Quieres más información? Llama a ONA: 401.228.8996

I asked a friend “Do you think I’m just slowly turning into a pissed off lesbian separatist stereotype?”

Our conclusion was that no, I wasn’t, but I think I’ve more recently come to fully understand those “angry, humorless feminist/woman of color/queer” stereotypes ‘cause I feel that ish right down to my bones. Things that maybe I didn’t care about before, or just let slide by, are no longer okay. Once you start seeing inequality and start realizing how pervasive racism and sexism and homo/trans/biphobia and all these things are, it’s hard to ignore.

Of course I’m angry, after cis-men feel entitled to my body/time and don’t ask for consent, after my queer community is denied rights, after people feel like they have the right to tell me how I can or can’t have sex.

Of course I’m angry when women, especially women of color, make less than men in the same positions; when people of color are vilified in the media and whiteness is insidiously and subtly upheld as the standard; when companies produce skin-lightening creams that reap the benefits of colonialism and ideas about how precious pale skin is.

Of course you’ll think I’m “humorless” when I don’t laugh at the jokes that come at the expense of women/queers/POC, that trivialize inequalities and the fucked up shit some of us have to deal with on a daily basis.

Sorry, but my definition of “funny” no longer encompasses things that rely on oppressive stereotypes and judgments, and yours shouldn’t either. It’s not just being lazy with comedy; it’s outright being a privileged piece of shit who cares more about making a joke than about the harm that joke can cause to people.

Dear White Friends, Lovers, Strangers

No, I don’t hate you as a person because you’re White.

I hate the structural inequalities that put White people at an advantage. I hate the legacy of racism in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. I hate that people of color can’t try to create a safe space for themselves without some White people commenting on how that’s “reverse racism” and “discrimination.” I hate that when people of color talk about race and inequality, many White people respond defensively, negatively, and/or with guilt that then makes them focus on their “feeling bad” and impairs them from seeing the realities we’re bringing up. I hate that many respond with “well, we’re not ALL like that” because I already know you’re not all “like that”–“like that” being overtly discriminatory and horribly racist, but most of you to some degree still perpetuate racism even if in small ways.

I don’t need your guilt or anger; I need your support and your allyship in action.

I don’t need you to hate other White people, but to call them (and yourself) out when something racist happens. I need you to stand up for people of color even when there are none in the room. I need you to examine your privilege and see how it affords you certain things that are not accessible (or easily accessible) to people of color. I need you to look at the history of how racial difference was constructed in the United States and understand the context of race.

I need you to LISTEN.

I do NOT need you to feel guilty, but I understand if you do. I can understand if you feel bad, uncomfortable, awkward, or anything in that realm, but those feelings are a byproduct of examining privilege and usually they can even be part of the process of becoming an ally.

No one said this would be easy, and we must not confuse safety with comfort.

[UPDATED] Debating on Ultra-Conservative Radio

So…I’m apparently debating Laura Ingraham and Isabel Marin (from Yale’s “Choose Life” and “Undergraduates for a Better Yale College“) on the place of Sex Weeks on college campuses. This will be happening FRIDAY (April 20th) at 11:15 AM EST on The Laura Ingraham Show.

You can listen to it by clicking here.

Long story short, Harvard’s Sex Week got profiled in the New York Times and I was quoted in the article. I’m assuming this is what caught folks’ attention and led them to email me this morning asking if a representative from SHEEC wanted to go on air to speak about Sex Week. They were asking if we could do it “today” (read: within less than 30 minutes of the show having sent that email, which is horrible protocol) or tomorrow. Talk about short notice! But still, I said yes. It’s an interesting opportunity and I feel I can hold my own on the air (or at least I hope I can!). (NOTE: the appearance was originally scheduled for April 18th, but they decided to reschedule for the 20th to give us more on-air time. The first paragraph of this post has been changed to reflect that update).

Wish me luck!

For a bit of background on Laura and her show, let’s look at some of the topics she addresses and the stances she takes (via Wikipedia):

  • Illegal immigration: Ingraham frequently advocates “securing the borders” by putting more resources into stopping illegal immigration. She has a segment called “The Illegal Immigration Sob Story” alert, in which she highlights media articles that she believes are gathering emotional sympathy for illegal immigrants who, she states, are simply breaking the law.
  • Pro-life issues: Ingraham is opposed to abortion on demand, and often talks about human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, taking a pro-life stance against all three. She was an outspoken advocate against Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2 (2006), a ballot measure that she felt was deceptive and that legalized human cloning. Every January 22, Ingraham promotes and lauds the marchers participating in the March for Life, which calls for outlawing abortion, and takes place on the same day as the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.
  • “Pornification” of the culture: Ingraham frequently highlights sex and pornography on her show. She has criticized people such as Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, and others who she claims have pervaded the culture with what she describes as “filth” at the expense of “traditional American values.”

I think we can safely say Laura and I are not going to end up BFFs. As for Isabel (who’s part of an organization that recommends fake clinics or “crisis pregnancy centers” to pregnant women), the same applies.

Hate Crimes Bill Passes in RI House (53 to 15)

As someone who has gone to the Statehouse in support of this bill, its House passage makes me happy!

MERI has just issued the following press release:


Statement from Marriage Equality Rhode Island on House passage of hate crimes reporting legislation


PROVIDENCE – Marriage Equality Rhode Island Campaign Director Ray Sullivan issued the following statement today after the House of Representatives passed legislation to include gender identity and expression as part of the hate crimes reporting law: “On behalf of the tens of thousands of equality supporters across Rhode Island, we commend and thank Rep. Edith Ajello and those state representatives who voted in favor of including gender identity and expression in the hate crimes reporting law. 


While there is much more that our state must do to stop violence and hate crimes of any nature, this is an important first step in protecting a group of citizens that for too long have been unjustly targeted and in some cases maliciously attacked for no other reason than being who they are. 


It is critically important that these crimes be reported and tracked, and we look forward to working with members of the General Assembly to make sure such crimes are appropriately prosecuted and that the perpetrators are punished to the fullest extent of the law. 


We urge the Senate to quickly take up this bill and send it to Gov. Chafee for his signature.

Getting Into BDSM: Questions from a Closeted Kinkster

Header image by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid — Post last updated on 7/8/15

hi there, i saw you on twitter and noticed yr going to geeky kink! i’m a closeted young(ish) kinkster who would love to be the type that goes to cons, has play partners, etc, but doesn’t know anyone or have any connections. do you have any resources or tips? what was yr first bdsm con like? were you intimidated? do you have a kink coming out story? feel free to neglect any of my questions if they’re too prying.

The Resource Questions

Online Community and Building Networks:

Check out Fetlife—which is like a kinky Facebook, sort of. On there, be active on discussion boards for things that call your attention [though you should be aware that Fetlife can also be a hot mess, and that its founder is not a commendable dude]. This is a great place to find kink-related event listings, too! More on that later.

On Twitter, find folks that are awesome and engage with them. You can start by following people’s curated lists, like these and these, and by searching relevant hashtags.

Tumblr, as a platform, is also fantastic. Find BDSM bloggers, follow kink-related tags, reblog some things you find hot and start making connections with other people that share those tastes/interests! I’m especially fond of Happy BDSM and Perverts of Color, two Tumblrs that defy the stereotypical images of kink. Those online friendships can sometimes translate into in-person friendships or even relationships, too. Speaking for myself, my primary partner and I started talking through OKCupid. Many of the people I smooch and/or am GOOD friends with right now, I met online first through various means.

Joining pre-existing networks of kinksters makes your circles grow exponentially. If you’re in college/that demographic, there are some colleges with BDSM groups, most notably Columbia with Conversio Virium, and locally to Rhode Island, College Hill Kink. Beyond the college setting, though, there are “munches” where kinksters gather to chat and eat at places like food courts in a low-pressure environment. These are usually organized by a group, like BTNG—Boston’s Young and Kinky. [Pro-Tip: If you’re under 35, specifically looking for “TNG” groups—The Next Generation—can be fabulous so you’re not awkwardly the only 19 year-old in a sea of 40-somethings.]

Events And Dungeons:

Go to events, definitely, if you feel comfortable (or ok) doing so. The Internet is awesome, but in-person interactions can also be very important, especially if you want to engage in play and, say, need specialized gear or other humans to help. There are a wide variety of cons (some that allow play, some that don’t) for different demographics (trans folks, queer women, youngsters, yada yada) and different proclivities (e.g. rope cons, high-protocol cons, etc.). You can search for them, and here’s where Fetlife also comes in handy.  A safe way of dipping your toes in might be to go to conferences that don’t allow play (e.g. Fetish Fair Fleamarket, which is also pretty cheap) or going to conferences with curious friends and sticking together. Generally, though, here are some names of cons/events you could check out [including them here doesn’t mean I’ve attended or personally endorse them]:

take Classes / Learn Some Things:

The best book for newbies that I’ve found so far? Playing Well With Others  by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams. It’s a primer on everything you need to know as a new kinkster, or just someone curious about breaking into “The Scene.”

Beyond official conferences, different organizations host parties and/or do classes too, and some of them are free and open to the public (e.g. New England Leather Alliance, New England Dungeon Society, The Society in CT, MOB New England, and those that tackle sexuality though not limited to BDSM/kink, like the San Francisco Center for Sex and Culture).

My ultimate favorite resource, though, is KinkAcademy.com: a treasure trove of information from a variety of different perspectives. Awesome multi-media education on-demand (by subscription). Totally worth it, and they have been very supportive of their educators and workers, so from an ethical standpoint, I love recommending them.

Final Words of Wisdom:

Don’t feel pressured to have 69 play partners and hundreds of toys. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s about satisfaction, not numbers. Similarly, it’s not about being on ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS EVARRRR, but being happy with the stuff you’re on and making the best use of them for your needs.

The Personal Questions

My First Con:

was the Fetish Fair Fleamarket in Providence back in 2009. Fun classes, cool fashion show, lots of people, vendors, the whole thing—but no public play, no dungeon. It was a “safe” con in that respect; no need to put myself out there (even though I would have done so if I’d had the chance). Didn’t feel intimidated,  but instead thought “holy shit, these are my people” when I walked in. Super happy to see so many kinksters in one place. It was joyous. Not everyone feels that way, though; some people are overwhelmed, intimidated, scared, nervous, and the list goes on. It’s about seeing what ways make you interact, but also feel comfortable. As of last year or so, the conference has moved venues and I haven’t attended for a while.

Coming Out:

I’m always coming out to new people! My favorite stories usually stem from trips in airports or on mass transit. Hilarious conversations usually ensue. One involved 2 drunk guys talking to my boss/colleague and I when we were in Florida for an adult novelties convention, and us showing them male chastity devices because they wanted to see toys and those were at the top of our bag. Perfect coincidence. On a more family-related level, I came out to my mother indirectly when she read my chat logs and some stuff in my journals when I was a teenager. I’ve come out to her again since, both directly (saying I’m into a variety of kink stuff) and indirectly (hello, bruising!). I’ve come out to friends, but usually without making a big kerfuffle about it because sexuality is such a huge part of my life in general, that it’s not super surprising or unheard of in the circles that I travel.

My Kinky Root:

The first big inklings came when I was 14 and I had this kind of random role-play via chat with a guy (he was 18) from an art-site I frequented (deviantART). It started out pretty mellow, and then it turned into this sexualized, chatty but violent thing. I don’t even know. It was bizarre. I was confused and turned on and mildly horrified…and that began my first online dating situation. Looking back on it, that was such a strange time in my life…? Anyway. The other big milestone was watching Secretary. Classic. I have SO many fond memories of that movie (and making my MSN nickname—back when MSN Messenger was  A Thing—basically “Aida loves tree trunks” due to a scene in the film). It’s kind of become code for kinky. If someone tells me they like that movie, it’s usually a sign that they’re not the most vanilla of people. NOT always, but often. For some people, it’s like flagging—the hanky code, but with movie choices.

Your Ignorance Is Showing: Ridiculous Comments on Empowerment, Objectification, and Domestic Violence

 Alternatively titled: “A Response to Cate Stewart and Lisa Lansio”
For those of you who don’t know, I’m one of the two co-leaders of SHEEC this year–a group with which I’ve been heavily involved since its inception in 2008/2009. I was at a conference in Colorado this week and sadly had to miss 3 of our events, including a showcase/open-mic in honor of Wear Purple Day/Spirit Day and Love Your Body Day that would benefit Sojourner House, a local domestic violence agency founded by Brown students in 1976. The Showcase featured 2 local poets, the Gendo Taiko (Japanese drumming) crew, Attitude (a dance troupe), as well as a few other performers (of the singing/acoustic-guitar variety).
After a set of great performances, the last two individuals who signed up for the open-mic portion took the stage and began to attack the event and the people who were in it, saying that having a campus pole-dancing troupe perform was “not respectful” and that “it just perpetuated gender roles and objectified women.” One said that “she came here expecting to be empowered, but that’s not what happened for her at all” and that we “need to stop singing about gendered things” (and I believe the example was getting kissed in parking lots? Which…what?). 
The other added that “women need to stop playing the victimized role, stop blaming men for our problems, women bring it upon themselves” and that “women have the power just as much as men and are as much to blame for abuse as men, that women are not chained to the floor and can just walk away from abusive situations.”  That same one mentioned some of the performers who talked about abuse or abused women and their mindsets have no right to speak issues that they were not physically a part of (which is actually inaccurate, but I’ll get to that later).
This is my response, not only as SHEEC’s Co-Chair,  but as an individual:

First of all, the controversial pole-dancing performance. I’m tired of defending and explaining this one, so I’ll keep it short and sweet. Empowering women doesn’t mean desexualizing them. Objectification is only a problem if it’s not paired with due subjectification (read this post as well as the comments). Finally, we support a group of educated women who want to “stretch the boundaries of pole dancing as something far more than simply sexy,” who “want to create a place where people feel comfortable, athletic, and yes, sexy!” and who “consistently challenge the stereotypes that surround vertical dancing, and seek to bring together a wide range of art forms through experimentation and openness in [their] performances.”

We wanted to showcase individuals who would address the core of our event, who would speak to their relationships with their bodies via song/dance/poetry and would show us a bit of themselves through their art. This event wasn’t meant to empower every person, but provide a space so people could share what empowered them and talk about what didn’t. Sorry, Cate and Lisa, if this didn’t empower you personally, but that’s not what the event was for. We wanted to start the conversation and show the varied emotions people had regarding their bodies, trying to focus on the positive, but also trying to highlight the complexity and (thus billing it as something “silly and serious and complex” in our advertising).
Now, what I consider the most egregious part of this evening (again, from what I’ve been told) was the commentary around abuse and the power women do or don’t have.
  • As a CLASS of people, no, women do not have the same power men have. This, of course, is affected by the intersections of people’s identities and how they affect their place on the social ladder/s, but if we’re only considering it on the axis of sex, no. We are not seen as equal and we do not have the same power men do. Some individual women may have more power in specific contexts, but ask yourself–is that because they’re women or is it because of something else? And furthermore, think of the difference between winning a battle and winning the war. Few and exceptional individual cases of powerful women don’t erase the massive inequalities across society.
  • We are not blaming individual men for “our problems.” First of all, they’re EVERYONE’S problems. Second of all, what we *are* blaming is a system that in most instances, privileges men and masculinity and devalues or even punishes women and femininity (not that the two–m/m and w/f–are inextricably joined, but are often thought to be). It’s not the fault of individual men (or women) acting in a vacuum; it’s the fault of everyone taking actions that contribute to this system, and that’s why EVERYONE has to work against it.
  • “Women bring it upon themselves” is such a problematic statement, I don’t even know where to begin. My first reaction is to say “Your privilege and ignorance are showing.” I’ll call upon the words of S. Biko: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” READ ABOUT OPPRESSION AND POWER. Expand your myopic view. Your personal experience as a a woman and even as a victim/survivor of abuse does not qualify you to invalidate the experience of others, particularly women who have experienced trauma.
  • Abusive situations are DEFINED by a power and control imbalance, so NO, if the abusive partner in a male/female couple is the male, the female partner does NOT have the same power. She is also NOT TO BLAME for the abuse; no victim of abuse ever is. Read up on slut-shaming and victim-blaming to educate yourself on this. Intimate partner abuse is also often reinforced by other forms of institutional abuse/power; again, these things don’t occur in a vacuum. Context is important!
  • Many circumstances make it difficult for women (or any abused partner) to walk away from their situation, and the comment about them “not being chained to the floor” is offensive in its disrespect and flagrant ignorance. This an excellent resource that answers the “why doesn’t she just leave?” question so often posed to and/or about victims. Also check this  out for more information. I personally hate this question because it blames, shames, and disenfranchises victims, though I understand where it comes from (because I once asked it too).
I commend Jenn, Chay, Linh and the other SHEEC planners that were there and handled this as gracefully as they could given the circumstances. Thank you for positively representing SHEEC and doing damage-control, for letting those two girls know that you respected their right to have an opinion and their desire to share it, but that they did not have to attack other performers to express them. I also want to thank the performers for weathering that storm and for reaching out to us after the event with very touching emails.
Having a conversation or constructive dialogue is not the same as being argumentative and rude. Debating a point is not the same as attacking a group of people and not listening to their defense. Constructive criticism is no the same as ignorant remarks made to shame others and devalue their experiences. Learn the difference, Lisa and Cate, and then try again. We’re willing to listen if you are.
SHEEC is a group that was made to address issues of gender, sex, sexuality, and all the things that go along with it. This means we aren’t going to shy away from difficult conversations, controversy, and tackling the taboos. In fact, it means we’re more likely to address them because we come from a place that sees addressing those topics as a PRESSING NEED instead of as something to be avoided. We want to make people feel challenged and productively uncomfortable while also nourishing those who need it and providing support for folks marginalized due to their sexuality or desires. If you are looking for a “safe” group that doesn’t push envelopes, this is not it.

Q&A: I Think I Might Be Pregnant…

I might be pregnant. I had unprotected sex with my boyfriend and I’m about 5 days late (I’m pretty regular). I have NO idea what to do about it. I consider myself Pro-Choice, but I’m also a believer that things happen for a reason? I’m very confused. While I believe it is every woman’s right to choose what she wants to do with her body, I feel that if I were to choose aborting this hypothetical child, it’d be selfish that another being got denied life because I was too careless to prevent it.

Post last updated on 7/8/15

Hi Anonymous! It’s normal to feel confused, especially around a situation like this. Because you’re already 5 days late, I’m assuming this sexual contact was more than 5 days ago and thus taking emergency contraception wouldn’t do much. So, my suggestion would be to first assess your risk (to see how likely it is that you are pregnant), and then take a pregnancy test ASAP to check it out. In my opinion, you don’t need to think further ahead until you have the results and facts more concretely; over-thinking the possibilities will probably just stress you out. First of all, though, remember that many things can throw off your cycle, including changes in diet, stress-levels, and exercise…it doesn’t have to be a pregnancy.

In terms of assessing risk, I’d ask you a few questions

  • Did he ejaculate inside of your vagina (or on your vulva)? If yes, there is a chance you could be pregnant.
  • Did he pre-cum inside of your vagina? If yes, there’s a possibility, but it’s fairly slim. Pre-cum doesn’t contain sperm unless there was a previous ejaculation and the guy didn’t pee between ejaculating and pre-cumming; then the sperm comes from semen still in the urethra.
  • Did you engage in any activity that could’ve led semen to enter your vaginal canal (e.g. anal sex with bf ejaculating when you were facedown and thus it could’ve dripped)? If so, there is a chance of pregnancy.

Like I said before, it’s perfectly normal to feel confused and even feel at odds with your political beliefs/thoughts. Remember, though: being pro-choice doesn’t mean automatically having to get an abortion; it means considering the options and having the freedom to pick the one that best suits you in a variety of ways. Keeping a child or putting it up for adoption doesn’t make you any less of a pro-choicer (or feminist, if you ID that way). There are support groups, message boards, counselors, and a variety of folks available to talk you through these thoughts and situations. See what resources you have at your disposal. Be wary of crisis pregnancy centers, though–many are anti-choice/pro-life and use scary rhetoric that doesn’t actually give you all the information you need to make an educated choice about what to do if you’re actually pregnant.

After assessing your risk, I’d suggest a pregnancy test ASAP. (The longer you wait, the narrower your options get for dealing with it.) They have them at drugstores and some HS/college health clinics, but access to them depends on your location. Some places even offer them for free! I could perhaps help point you in some direction if I knew your area? Feel free to private-message me or email me, if you want! If you can’t access them or don’t feel comfortable doing so, perhaps asking a friend would work? Some folks even ask strangers because there’s little investment in their opinion! While pregnancy tests are not infallible, they can at least give you a preliminary answer. I’m a fan of always taking two tests just in case (one a few days after the other). For more info on how to do them, how they work, and all that, click here.

You can choose to mention that you’re going to take a pregnancy test to your boyfriend, but you can also choose to do it without notifying him. Depending on how you feel about your relationship and how long you’ve been going out, you may feel a need to talk through this with him (before, during, and/or after), but it’s also perfectly fine for you to take care of yourself first. Bottom line, though: you don’t have to go through any of this alone, and you get to decide who you talk to–find someone who will be helpful, respectful, and supportive. If you’re in the US or Canada, you can call Planned Parenthood’s hotline (1.800.230.PLAN), the NAF hotline (1.800.772.9100), and/or Backline (1.888.493.0092).

If for some reason you feel you need another test or another opinion, you can try to visit a local Planned Parenthood or any sort of clinic with access to a physician, and OBGYN, and/or some sort of professional that can either perform a fluid (urine/blood) test or do an ultrasound.

So, post-test, if you AREN’T pregnant, this is a good opportunity to think through what you would’ve done if you had been. It can be something to bring up with your boyfriend, and something to keep in mind next time you are thinking of how to protect yourself against pregnancy. Maybe using another birth control method could be useful? Maybe making up some rules regarding contraception and when you can have sex? Who knows. If you ARE pregnant, you should learn about your options so you can make the best decision for you. The short-list would be: put it up for adoption, keep it, or abort it. You don’t have to make the decision immediately, but definitely be aware of your time-frame!

(Now, this is my VERY PERSONAL VIEW on others bringing life into this world and by no means do I wish to impose it on you; I wish to merely share it in an attempt to provide perspective.) I’m someone who considers overpopulation and the fact that we have so many kids in the foster system already when thinking of bringing new life into the world. For someone who currently does not want a child and/or feels unprepared to (and/or cannot) care for one, I feel it’s best to put it up for adoption or to abort it. Due to the aforementioned issues, I believe that if a fetus is going to grow into a baby, then it should be born into a space that can nurture it, and it’s often more sensical to pursue abortion rather than adoption when such a space can’t be provided/secured.

It’s not an issue of being selfish or not, especially now; this fetus is something that can grow only if you help it grow, and you have the choice to make that happen or not, and to decide what will come of that. Since you feel everything happens for a reason, consider the fact that if you get pregnant, the implication doesn’t HAVE to be that you should keep it. Perhaps this happened so you would change your birth control, have a conversation with your partner, or any number of other reasons. Personally, I don’t think it makes you selfish to not keep it, but in the end, the opinion that truly matters is your own. At the end of the day, you should make the choice that, given everything, is best for you and you can safely make.

For more information, feel free to contact me again + please check out the amazing Scarleteen resources on this topic.