The vast gap between how the US and Europe think about teens & sex

milkboys Articles, Films & Cinema 7 Comments

Eighth Grade is a highly-acclaimed coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old American girl enduring the trials and tribulations of modern adolescence. But while teenagers in the US might well relate to the movie’s heroine, they won’t be able to see the movie in theaters—unless they’re at least 17 or accompanied by a parent or guardian. That’s because the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an R rating for “language and some sexual material.”

There aren’t many other ratings to compare that against. The movie has only been shown overseas in two countries–the United Kingdom and Canada. But in Canada, Eighth Grade was given a 14A rating, meaning that everyone older than 14 can see it without an adult. Meanwhile, the movie played at the London Sundance film festival, but hasn’t yet been released for commercial viewing in the UK. The British equivalent of the MPAA, the British Board of Film Classification, hasn’t yet rated Eighth Grade, but it’s a good bet that, when it does, the movie will be rated more leniently.

Scene from the Swedish teen film The Ketchup Effect

The discrepancy in Eighth Grade’s Canada and US ratings is symbolic of the difference between the US and the rest of the world, according to the movie’s director Bo Burnham. “There seems to be a strange double-standard between sexuality and violence,” he tells Quartz. “It’s a little weird how much violence you can have in a PG-13 movie.” That’s because, as Charles Bramesco argues in a recent piece for Vox, movie ratings reflect what a culture deems acceptable content for children. And the US and Europe are on very different pages about what they view as child-appropriate.

Read on…

Summer Penis?

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We’ve all heard about “shrinkage,” but there’s a theory that a penis grows larger in warmer weather, too. As the temperature rises, some people swear they get “summer penis,” adding a few cm in length and girth down below. An article in MEL magazine explored this phenomenon, quoting several Reddit users who say the heat led to bigger penises, better erections and larger testicles.x

“Bigger dick in summer and smaller in winter?” posted a Redditor named Guillermo in 2016. “Anybody notices size fluctuation during the year? I know mine is bigger, I have better erections in the summer and I also tend more to of a shower instead of a grower. In the winter, it is the exact contrary. Why is that? More heat = better blood flow? Does that happen to you guys also?”

A number of users piped up to agree: One claimed that in deep winter his penis is about two inches soft. In the hot months, though, it can swell to twice that size (even larger “if I don’t masturbate for a few days”). Another revealed that he had “summer balls”: “I mean, when it’s hot they like to go down like if they were trying to get to my knee. In winter or cold days they look like a little hard brain.”

Of course, people have been scheming to upsize their shlongs for centuries, but there may be some science to summer penis. “When it’s hot outside, you may take in more water, which may in combination with the sweating make it appear like your body or skin is bloated,” urologist Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt told MEL. “And that may give you the perception that things are larger.”

And, just like blood vessels contract when confronted with cold, they expand when warm to regulate heat. “The warmer the ambient environment, the more the blood vessels dilate, and the warmth allowing vasodilation increases blood flow,” urologist Dudley Danoff says. “So if we think of the penis as these two sausage casings that fill with blood, and the one channel that carries the urine, then the sausage casing will swell and expand to its genetic limit depending on the volume of blood. The increased blood flow will increase, and the corpora [the erectile tissue] will be expanded, and the penis will be ‘larger.’”

Unsettling metaphors about sausage aside, Danoff says the increased blood flow wouldn’t hold true when the penis is flaccid, but Dr. Jesse Mills director of the Men’s Clinic at UCLA disagrees. Mills has told Health.com, “penile size in the flaccid state is purely a function of how much blood flow is circulating in the penis. The warmer the environment, the more ‘show’ a man is going to have.”

One Size definitely doesn’t fit all (when it comes to Condoms)

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Pasante, one of the largest independent condom manufacturers in the UK, has released a condom sizer card that allows people to slip their boners into differently sized holes, all to determine what size condom will work best for them.

While it’s super important to use condoms that actually fit your penis size, we hope Pasante’s condom sizer card isn’t made solely out of hard cardboard, because sticking your penis into that would hurt.

According to one custom-size condom manufacturer, various condom studies have shown that one-size-fits-all condoms don’t actually fit anywhere from 40–45% of people with penises. Either the condoms are too long, too short, too tight or too loose.

When a condom is too tight it can be difficult to put on quickly and it can uncomfortably constrict the penis, causing pain and reducing blood flow, both of which can lead to a loss of the erection. When a condom is too loose it bunches up near the base, which can reduce sexual stimulation and even run the risk of slipping off during sex.

Often gay folks will use whatever condoms they get for free at the gay bar, or they’ll just buy whatever’s cheapest at the drug store, but it’s a good idea to really examine and experiment to see which ones are going to work best for you.

A few years ago extra small condoms for teens between 12 and 14 went on sale in Switzerland. Called the Hotshot, the condom has been produced after government research showed that teenagers did not use sufficient protection when having sex.

Study shows why so few queer Teenagers do School Sports

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High school athletics are practically a right of passage for most American teenagers, but there’s a certain demographic that’s getting left out of this activity: LGBTQ kids.

New research from the Human Rights Council shows not only the disparity in playing sports between straight and gay high school kids in the United States, but also some of the biggest reasons for that gap. The major takeaway is that while 68 percent of cisgender/heterosexual teenagers compete in high school sports, the same is true of only 24 percent of LGBTQ students.

That number drops even lower (20 percent) in states that don’t have any policies on the books to protect the rights of LGBTQ teens in sports – or have regressive rules pertaining to trans and gender identity.

The reasons for the lack of participation aren’t too hard to guess: LGBTQ teens simply don’t see themselves being accepted. They worry that their teammates and coaches will tease them, threaten them in a locker room setting or critique them for not being “masculine” enough. Of the kids that do play, about 80 percent are not out to their coaches, primarily for that reason.

Public opinion validates the teens’ feelings. 78 percent of sports fans and athletes acknowledged that youth sports aren’t a safe space for LGBTQ students, and 84 percent say they’ve seen anti-LGBTQ sentiments expressed in athletic settings. That doesn’t exactly make for a warm welcome.

Understandably, sports are most off-putting for trans and non-gender conforming youth. With most sports teams segregated by sex, students who don’t look like their teammates are commonly ostracized, and, in some states, are even forbidden from participating.

The HRC research fills an important hole in our understanding of LGBTQ sports. Although there have been a good amount of work examining queer participation in professional and collegiate sports, the data at the high school level is lacking. By seeing how many LGBTQ people abstain from sports as teenagers, it better illustrates why there aren’t a lot of (out, anyway) gay role models in professional sports – they avoid school athletics before they can develop the necessary skills.

The interesting thing is that the LGBTQ students who do participate in sports are happier and healthier than those who do not. Though still at the high rates you’d hope, student athletes are significantly more likely to have positive self-esteem, feel safe in at school and say they are less depressed than their queer counterparts who skip out on sports. It’s a remarkable correlation, but the study cannot say whether sports help these students to adjust or the better-adjusted students feel more comfortable joining sports.

The HRC further explains that school sports help to promote “equality, fairness, perseverance, discipline and integrity” – not the kind of traits we want to exclude LGBQ students from. Arguably, all kids can learn these traits better from having a diverse set of teammates including, so it should be a priority for schools to find ways to be more inviting and inclusive to these marginalized teens.

Nudity in Germany

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When I was a kid, my father always used to sunbathe nude in our garden at weekends. In public pools, children of all ages were allowed to run around naked all the time. Even now I’m comfortable with getting naked in the sauna or gym changing room. Maybe it’s because I’m German.

Nudism is traditionally popular in Germany, a country considered buttoned up and conservative compared with, let’s say, Italy. In Germany, nudism is known as Freikoerperkultur (FKK), Free Body Culture. When you travel there, you’ll see that baring all is normal in saunas, swimming pools, the park and on the beach.

Summer in the parks of Berlin and Munich brings the chance of encountering a middle-aged, bronzed German wearing only a hat and the BILD-Zeitung, Germany’s favorite tabloid.

Forget sausages and beer, the sign of true German-ness is publicly disrobing with absolutely zero self-consciousness. For me, it’s often just quicker and easier to do a clean strip at the pool or sauna than frantically trying to hide the bits that everyone else is already displaying without batting an eyelid.

Divided by the Iron Curtain, united by nudity

Germany’s passion for clotheslessness finds its origins in late-19th-century health drives when stripping off was seen as part of a route to fitness and sunbathing a possible cure for TB and rheumatism.

In 1920, while the rest of Europe was still getting feverish over the sight an exposed ankle, Germany established its first nude beach on the island of Sylt. Barely a decade later, the Berlin School of Nudism, founded to encourage mixed sex open-air exercises, hosted the first international nudity congress.

The Nazi era brought mixed fortunes for nudism, its ongoing popularity tempered by a moral clampdown. Laws passed in 1933 limited mixed-sex nudism as “a reaction to the increased immorality of the Weimar state.” More restrictions followed amid claims the scene was a “breeding ground for Marxists and homosexuals.” Nevertheless, it remained popular, enjoying support among members of the paramilitary SS.

Rules were softened in 1942 but still subject to Nazi prejudices that predictably focused on Jews and other “undesirables.” But war didn’t dampen Germany’s enthusiasm for stripping off, even when the country was divided by the Iron Curtain.

After the war, nudism was equally popular in both German states. Even as the country was being split asunder in 1949, some in the West were busy founding the Association for Free Body Culture — an organization that today is part of the German Olympic Sport Federation and the largest member of the International Naturist Federation.

Naked proletariat

Nudism was particularly popular in East Germany, or German Democratic Republic as it was known. It was secretly considered a form of escape from the uniforms, marches and conformity of the communist state. East Germans were free to practice nudism and did so wherever possible: at lakes, sea beaches and large FKK camping grounds. There was also, of course, an official socialist institution with a long, uninspiring name.

The “Proletarische Freikoerperkulturbewegung” or Proletarian Free Body Movement had 60,000 members. Nude scenes in GDR movies appeared long before the first naked people appeared in Hollywood films. The fondness for getting naked on both sides of the Iron Curtain also led to some curious incidents. GDR border guards were tasked with training their binoculars on the FKK beach just over the border to observe the behavior of naked capitalists.

Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to have practiced nudism during her youth in the GDR — although it’s not been confirmed whether recently unearthed photos purporting to show her swimming and walking naked with friends are the real deal.

When West Germans started to holiday all over Europe, they brought their penchant for letting it all hang out with them. Nude resorts began opening in France in the 1950s, followed by increasingly popular FKK ventures in Yugoslavia and on the Baltic Sea.

In the beginning beach culture was mostly intermixed and nudity was widely tolerated — perhaps the reason why topless sunbathing is still acceptable on most beaches around the Mediterranean. Vacationing at the large nudist resort of Cap d’Agde in France became popular for Germans when it opened in the 1960s.

Today Germans are typically the most commonly seen nationality at European nude beaches. Back home, there are many nudist camping areas to be found along Germany’s coast and along the lake shores of the former GDR. That said, it’s not permitted to strip everywhere. Walking around naked in public areas where most other people are dressed counts as a minor breach of the law. Prosecutions can follow if another citizen is offended, but few ever are.

Where to bare it all

Today, there are about 600,000 Germans registered in more than 300 private nudist/FKK clubs and a further 14 affiliated clubs in Austria. Members visit these clubs to sunbathe nude or indulge in a spot of nacktjoggen or nacktwandern — naked jogging or rambling through the countryside wearing only backpacks, boots or running shoes.

A list of FKK clubs is available on the German-language homepage of the German Federation of Naturist Clubs. The heartland of public nakedness also still has a plethora of designated FKK beaches and nudist zones in public parks and on beaches.

The English Garden in Munich has two large FKK areas on the banks of the Eisbach creek. Berlin public parks have FKK areas: the famous Mauerpark in Prenzlauer Berg, the Volkspark Friedrichshain and the Tiergarten, and it’s permitted to get naked on all Berlin’s public bathing beaches, such as at Wannsee or the Mueggelsee.
Along the German coastline, the nudity ground zero of Sylt Island is still going strong. Sylt’s Kampen beach might now be a popular destination for the rich and famous — but in Germany, they too love getting their clothes off.

For those who like to put some distance between themselves and the next naked bather, Germany’s largest Baltic island, Ruegen, has no fewer than five FKK beaches. A full list of public nude bathing areas is available in German at nacktbaden.de.

How to get naked in Germany

The easiest way to bare it all in Deutschland is to visit one of the aforementioned public FKK areas. As these are mostly located in areas with a mixed dressed/undressed crowd, there’s no problem with partially disrobing until you feel comfortable. There are no changing rooms, so undressing takes place in public — but again, not one German is going to be offended by this.

Most FKK beaches on the coast will also have signs indicating textile-free zones. After passing these signs, visitors will need to disrobe immediately to avoid being reprimanded by the lifeguards who also enforce the rules.

Private FKK clubs welcome new members and offer trial memberships for beginners. The days of bare-it-all Germany, however, seem to be in decline. Most young people are fine with sunbathing topless in parks and pools, and like me have no qualms whatsoever with undressing for the sauna. But the ideals of the German nudist movement are slowly dying away.

FKK clubs have complained about shedding members, in east Germany especially, since the Berlin Wall came down. Maybe in today’s Germany there’s no longer a need for demonstrating liberty and freedom by shedding our clothes.

via CNN Travel

American Boys Project

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‘American Boys Project’ wants to flood your Instagram feed with diverse trans men

As our society’s relationship with gender and the language surrounding it slowly begins to shift, trans people are finally being permitted to carve out an authentic, multi-dimensional place for themselves within pop culture. But while the roles for trans characters in movies and TV are starting to move beyond token stereotypes and bad cliches, there’s still a whole lot of work that needs to be done and a greater diversity of non-binary stories that need to be told.

One person putting in that work is photographer Soraya Zaman whose “American Boys Project” is helping to expand our perceptions of the trans-masculine community, presenting viewers with a diversity of trans identities and experiences, while creating a safe space on Instagram for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit tidily into culture’s strict conceptions of gender.

Identifying as gender queer themselves, Soraya says, “Growing up and not having language or people to relate to and correctly explain how I felt in relation to my gender was hard. It took me a long time to come into my own sense of self. So the project is very personal in that way.” The youth of today, on the other hand, are finding new language and new means of forging their unique identities online. “I think its really exciting that the narrative around gender is changing and I wanted to explore that through my photography,” they say. “It makes me happy that young people might not have to sit and wonder why they feel different any longer and instead have a safe space to explore their expression.”

And thanks to their stunning Instagram account @americanboysproject and forthcoming book by the same title coming out April 2019 with Daylight Books, which features portraits and brief interviews with a wide range of people within the trans-masculine community, finding a gender queer person who inspires you, looks like you, or simply understands exactly what you’re going through just got a whole lot easier.

Read on…

Imagining a better Boyhood

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As boys grow up, the process of becoming men encourages them to shed the sort of intimate connections and emotional intelligence that add meaning to life.

In hindsight, our son was gearing up to wear a dress to school for quite some time. For months, he wore dresses—or his purple-and-green mermaid costume—on weekends and after school. Then he began wearing them to sleep in lieu of pajamas, changing out of them after breakfast. Finally, one morning, I brought him his clean pants and shirt, and he looked at me and said, “I’m already dressed.”

He was seated on the couch in a gray cotton sundress covered in doe-eyed unicorns with rainbow manes. He’d slept in it, and in his dreaming hours, I imagine, stood at a podium giving inspirational speeches to an audience composed only of himself. When he’d woken up, he was ready.

He walked the half block to school with a bounce in his step, chest proud. “My friends are going to say dresses aren’t for boys,” he told me casually over his shoulder. “They might,” I agreed. “You can just tell them you are comfortable with yourself and that’s all that matters.” I thought of all the other things he could tell them. I began to list them, but he was off running across the blacktop.

I scanned the entrance to see whether any parents noticed us as they came and went. I hadn’t expected my stomach to churn. I felt proud of him for his self-assuredness, for the way he’d prepared for this quietly and at his own pace, but I worried about what judgments and conclusions parents and teachers might make. And of course I worried somebody would shame him.

When he walked into his classroom, sure enough, one child immediately remarked, “Why are you wearing a dress? Dresses are for girls.” A teacher swiftly and gently shut down the child’s commentary and hugged my son tightly. He didn’t look troubled, didn’t look back at me, so I headed home, tucking a backup T-shirt into his cubby just in case his certainty flagged.

In the afternoon, he was still wearing the unicorn dress. He skipped down the sidewalk, reporting that some kids had protested his attire, but he’d assured them that he was comfortable with himself.

Read on…

What did You learn at School today? Homophobia.

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Keeping LGBT issues out of schools is a fool’s errand. Some seven percent of millennials—who now account for the majority of the U.S. workforce—now identify as LGBT. The legalization of same-sex marriage has ushered in sweeping cultural change, too. Fewer teachers will feel like they have to hide who they are, or like they must leave the LGBT history untaught.

And yet, in recent weeks, there have been a rash of national news stories about LGBT issues—and, indeed, LGBT people—being pushed out of schools. LGBT teachers are getting suspended or fired. Some parents in Illinois are working themselves into a tizzy over LGBT history making its way into textbooks. And across the border in Alberta, there is considerable controversy over the fact that gay-straight alliances do not have to notify parents if their children come to extracurricular meetings.

Taken together, these stories paint a depressing picture of the state of LGBT acceptance today: For some Americans, the fantasy persists that schools can and should be LGBT-free zones. Age-old fears about teachers indoctrinating children, or “turning them gay,” still have power. And even some parents who consider themselves to be allies of LGBT adults will draw an uncrossable line in the sandbox. Read on…

Why Pride still matters

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We made amazing progress over the last few decades when it comes to queer rights, acceptance & visibility. So much that some people might wonder if we really still need pride parades. Here are some arguments why we do:

1. Pride commemorates our history

In 1969, it was illegal for LGBT people to congregate at a bar, or for bars to serve LGBT people. The Mafia-owned Stonewall Inn, located in New York’s Greenwich Village, was one of the few places LGBT people could get a drink or hang out. Even there, life wasn’t easy: Police frequently raided the bar, issuing fines and violently arresting patrons. In the early morning of June 28th, 1969, a black trans woman named Marsha Johnson struck back by throwing a shot glass at police officers.

This act of resistance, known today as the “shot glass heard around the world,” kicked off days of rioting as LGBT people rose up against the police system’s brutality and bigotry. A month later, Brenda Howard, a bisexual woman, helped plan the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March near the site of the riots. And while the LGBT civil rights movement has made great strides in the decades since then, we’re still far from true freedom and equality – which is why we should never forget where and how Pride celebrations started.

2. People are still attacked because of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity

Threats, violence and harassment against queer people happen every day, including during Prides. In a number of countries, events can’t go ahead without heavy police presence. In 2015, while 250 people were peacefully demonstrating during Pride in Kyiv, Ukraine, counter-demonstrators violently attacked the parade and left 10 people injured. In many countries, including in Ukraine, crimes perpetrated because of someone’s real or perceived or sexual orientation or gender identity are not prosecuted as hate crimes, and sometimes they’re not investigated at all.

Homophobic and transphobic hate crimes have a devastating impact on LGBTI communities. The fear of being targeted pushes people to hide their identity. When attackers go unpunished it spreads distrust towards the police and the courts. What’s more, these hate crimes are under-reported, which means people don’t get the protection they urgently need.

3. Prides are an opportunity to challenge homophobic and transphobic legislation

LGBTI rights activists have been prevented from holding Pride events in Moscow, Russia, since 2006 – and following a decision of the Moscow City Court in 2012, for the next 100 years. In addition, a federal bill prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors was passed in 2013. In short, the law now bans LGBTI activism and support groups and punishes people for expressing their sexual orientation and their gender identity, including at Pride events.

However, some hope is emerging, as in recent years people in Saint-Petersburg were able to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. The relentless commitment of Russian LGBTI activists to organising a Pride is not only about the event itself, it’s also a brave defiance against Russia’s unjust laws curbing freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

4. Rights can never be taken for granted

Even in countries where in the past Pride events were allowed to go ahead, we cannot take things for granted. In Istanbul, the Turkish authorities decided to ban Pride, even though parades have taken place since 2003 without incident. Despite the ban, 5,000 peaceful participants gathered but were dispersed by police forces using tear gas, pepper-ball projectiles and water cannons. This appalling backlash is unfortunately one in a long series of harsh restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, but it was still a shock in a country where last year’s Pride attracted up to 90,000 people.

5. Prides contribute to changing hearts and minds

Change is possible, even when homophobic and transphobic attitudes exist. When 70 LGBTI activists marched in the streets of Riga, Latvia, for the very first Pride event in 2005, they were met by over 2,000 counter-protestors, and many of them were attacked. Ten years on, more than 5,000 people took part in EuroPride 2015, with only 40 counter-protestors and no serious incidents reported. “The marchers as well as the people watching us were happy, many of them were waving hands,” said Rupert, an activist from Germany, who also took part in one of the first Prides in Riga.

Similarly, after being banned three years in a row, Belgrade Pride in Serbia took place successfully in recent years. In both instances the event went ahead peacefully and according to the organisers’ plan, with proper protection from the police. This sends a strong message to the local population as well as other cities and neighbouring countries. It demonstrates a commitment from authorities to uphold LGBTI rights and shows that activism can bring change.

6. Prides are empowering

Pride events aren’t about approval but acceptance. They are about human rights; they empower queer individuals to reclaim the rights and freedoms they are denied, and the public space they are often excluded from. Visibility is crucial, especially when the state and opposition groups go to considerable lengths to put LGBTI people at the margins of society.

Fighting shame and social stigma, and marching in the face of threats and violence – Pride parades are not only inspiring celebrations of difference but also a declaration of intent. Through these events, demonstrators assert that they will not to be intimidated, that they will continue to demand equality, and that LGBTI rights are human rights.

Before you knock it, just think about the middle school kid for whom going to a Pride event is a dream because they’re so excited to get to be themselves somewhere without fear of judgment. Think about the elderly gay man for whom pride is a reminder of how far we’ve come. Think about these people (and more) before you think solely about what Pride means to you.

Troye’s Little Lies

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In a not-so-shocking revelation, Troye Sivan talked about how he, like many other queer teens, lied about his age on Grindr to hook up with older men when he was younger.

“All my friends were hooking up with random people at parties, and I just felt so left behind because I didn’t know gay people, I didn’t know where to meet gay people.

I didn’t really want to venture out by myself and so I just did stuff that a 17-year-old boy shouldn’t really have to do. I managed to get a fake ID and then I got Grindr on my phone and started to try to meet people who were like me, but you sort of are forced a little bit into these hyper-sexualized environments, and even though that’s awesome when you’re 17… I didn’t know what else to do.

My heart must have been going a million miles an hour. I don’t remember specifically but, because I was always so small, I was so scared to meet up with people because I was like, ‘I’m going to get killed, I’m going to get murdered by someone.’

When I see photos of myself, from when I was that age, and I think of the guys that I was meeting up with and talking to, I think: ‘Wow, I looked really, really young.’ [It makes me feel] Kind of a little bit creeped-out, but at the same time I really don’t have any regrets. Maybe I wasn’t ever truly scared, just really uncomfortable.

There’s actually a song about it on the album called ’17’… Originally the chorus of the song was ‘Here he comes, like he just walked out of a dream, doesn’t care that you’re 17’. And I was like ‘uh, that sounds a bit predatory’, and maybe it was a little bit. That’s what I mean, it’s like, I’m not looking back at those experiences in a negative or a positive light.”

–Troye Sivan reminiscing about his teenage years to Attitude