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It’s on Us—to Know About #ItsOnUs

Sex Stories

By Kait Scalisi, MPH

Did you know that this past week was It’s On Us Week of Action?

If you attend or work at a college or university, the answer is probably yes. If you’re involved in sexual health in practically any other way, it isn’t terribly surprising if you didn’t.

For those who are unfamiliar, It’s On Us Week is the next step in the White House’s strategy to end sexual violence on college campuses. The goal: to partner with colleges, universities, and a variety of organizations (e.g. NCAA, SnapChat, etc) to spread the word about the importance of everyone doing their part to prevent such violence. Over 200 schools joined the It’s On Us movement in September, leading to 130 events and 40 campus-created PSAs.

This is a great movement. It’s mobilizing students throughout the country, including athletes and members of Greek life, two key groups in this fight, to speak out about this issue. The PSAs featured people of all genders and race/ethnicities. Generation Progress, the group who is overseeing the entire It’s On Us campaign made some incredibly smart and strategic moves. These include:

  1. Partnering with Snapchat. Public health as a field is not always the most social media savvy. More and more we’re seeing organizations and schools get on board but in this case, the field’s reliance on data is holding it back. Meanwhile social platforms continue to evolve, Snapchat being one of the newest and most appealing to college students who are leaving Facebook and Twitter due to the invasion of the OPS (old persons). Props to Generation Progress for taking a very business approach to planning and meeting their target audience where they’re spending time.
  2. Partnering with the NCAA and SB Nation. Sports sports sports! Over the past few years we’ve seen numerous cases where the hero worship of sports stars has come crashing down in a blaze of sexual violence. SB Nation coordinated its social media efforts to reflect is relationship to the campaign and included a number of insightful pieces. My favorite piece acknowledges that fans can and should appreciate the beauty of the sports world without letting it blind them.

All that being said, there were some major disappointments of the week a well.

  1. The NCAA. Although the college sports association technically was a partner for the Week of Action, they did little to publicly show their support. None of their social profiles were changed to include the It’s On Us filter, there was no feature on the main page of their website, and they tweeted about the Week of Action exactly once. They certainly were not the most engaged partner, a move which implies this issue is still not that important to the college sports world for any reasons other than good PR.
  2. The lack of Greek Life buy-in. While many individual campuses’ Greek life participated in the Week of Action, there doesn’t seem to be be buy-in from the oversight councils. Individual chapters doing work is wonderful. Whole sorority and fraternity systems is even better.
  3. The continued disconnect among sex education, sexual health, and violence prevention. Where was Cosmo, Scarleteen, and Bedsider? Where were the PSAs on popular TV shows and Hulu? Perhaps such outlets were contacted and declined. However, in general these three fields tend to work in opposition to one another rather than supporting each other’s efforts during major campaigns like this. Obviously each area has its own unique agenda, target audience, etc. Nevertheless, each piece also supports the other. For example, more comprehensive sex education allows for more conversation around sex and also sexual health, decreasing the shame and stigma that It’s On Us is also working to limit. I’m not saying each group has to always talk about all the issues but during a campaign such as this week, it would allow for broader reach to audiences that may not have otherwise gotten involved. Almost any sex educator who works on a college campus can tell you a story about bearing witness to students’ stories of sexual assault. So though the connection between Sex Week and It’s On Us may not seem obvious at first, the underlying motivations and ideals are very similar. It would be nice to see that being acted out more overtly. And, for the record – sexual violence prevention organizations could also help out during major sexual health and sex education campaigns such as Get Yourself Tested.

None of this is to undermine the work of the White House or It’s On Us. Instead it’s a call for even more strategic thinking for future campaigns. What else do college stud nets do? Where are they spending their time? What are they reading? What makes them laugh? How can It’s On Us and all other sex-related campaigns hone their language and outreach strategies even more? The goal of course it to get broader attention for the campaign, including in places where it might be less likely found (e.g. more traditional or conservative schools).

I believe in progress, not perfection, and the this campaign certainly represents that. The very fact that the media, colleges, Greek Life, and more are openly discussing sexual violence is a positive step. By taking a stand and bringing sexual violence out into the open, It’s On Us is helping to reduce the shame and stigma survivors so often feel and create a cultural shift in how we think about responsibility and fault.

To learn more about the It’s On Us Campaign, click here.

Other Sexual Health News This Week

Rikers Island to Launch Unit for Transgender Inmates (New York Daily News)

State Can’t Make Sex Offenders Give Authorities Their Internet IDs (LA Times)

Judge Lifts Montana Same-Sex Marriage Ban (ABC FoxMontana)

More Women Getting Mastectomies They May Not Need (CBS News)

Olympic President Wants to Add Sexual Orientation to Non-Discrimination Policy (Think Progress)

Sex Ed Controversies in Gilbert, Tempe an Anomaly (AZ Central)

Important Dates

World AIDS Day, Dec 1. Click here to find events near you.

The following conferences have early registration deadlines in December. Click on each title for more information and to register.

National Conference on Sexual Assault and Violence, Feb 24-25, Berkley, CA.

The following conferences take place in November and December. Click on each title for more information and to register.

National Sex Ed Conference, Dec 3-5, Meadowlands, NJ Be on the lookout for presentations by SHR’s Kait Scalisi and the CSPH’s Megan Andelloux

Safer Sex Promotr

Sex Stories

By Kait Scalisi, MPH

In recent years, public health efforts have increasingly focused on higher-risk and hard-to reach populations including men who have sex with men (MSM). Despite these efforts, however, HIV rates remain stagnant and condom use is on the decline. In order to address these concerns, public health organizations and the owners of seven gay dating sites—BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude,, Grindr, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF—and apps came together to determine the best way to meet both parties’ needs: making money and promoting health.

One of the biggest tensions between the sex-positive movement and the public health field is how to mitigate the risks of sex in a way that does not shame people. Public health often decries so-called hookup culture because of a large body of research linking numerous bad health outcomes to earlier sexual debut, a higher number of sexual partners, and other sexual choices identified as risky. Nevertheless, with the rise of smart phones and apps, hookups are easier than ever.

The meeting, held in San Francisco and organized by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), was based in part on research from 2010 which explored the types of prevention strategies mobile and Web app users would be open to. However, the technology and the way people use it has changed drastically in the last four years, so the results were viewed more as a reference than a roadmap.

The meeting itself furthered the insights from the 2010 survey. Specifically,

  • App and Web site owners want to promote prevention strategies but need to know what works.
  • Top priorities included promoting STI testing and reducing stigma for those living with STIs.
  • Partner notification procedures need to be adapted for apps.

Ultimately, the meeting’s participants decided to focus on three areas: promoting testing, fighting stigma, and relationship building between the two fields.

This meeting is exciting for so many reasons. It helps debunk the idea that app owners care only about the bottom line and are not invested in being socially responsible. It highlights a sex-positive approach to STI prevention, rather than one rooted in fear tactics, shame, blame, or “don’t do it!” messaging. It shows that public health is evolving … and maybe our efforts don’t have to be in conflict with sex-positivity.

This collaboration is beautiful because it meets MSM, a group classified as hard-to-reach, right where they are—on the apps and Web sites they use daily. Holding this meeting was a strategic, business-like move, which isn’t public health’s traditional modus operandi. It takes the best of both sectors and combines them into a solid strategy to meet everyone’s objectives, whether those are measured in dollars, dates, or rates.

Read a full overview of the meeting here.

Other Sexual Health News This Week

Michigan Gay Rights: GOP Bill Would Add Sexual Orientation, But Not Gender Identity Protections (

Judge Strikes Down SC Same-Sex Marriage Ban (WLTX19)

Supreme Court Allows Same-Sex Marriages to Proceed in Kansas, Lifting Stay (Washington Post)

Transgender-Friendly Bathroom Legislation to be Subject of Cleveland City Council Hearing Today (

New York Initiative to Help Other Cities Clear Rape-Kit Backlogs (New York Times)

Military Sexual Assault in US Veterans: Results from the National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (PubMed- NCBI)

Important Dates

World AIDS Day, Dec 1. Click here to find events near you.

The following conferences take place in November and December. Click on each title for more information and to register.

APHA’s 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition, Nov 15-19, New Orleans, LA

National Sex Ed Conference, Dec 3-5, Meadowlands, NJ Be on the lookout for presentations by SHR’s Kait Scalisi and the CSPH’s Megan Andelloux

Everyone Is Doing It

Sex Stories

By Kait Scalisi, MPH

You won’t often find sexual fantasies being discussed as part of a standard public health curriculum. Yet fantasizing is shown to be both a normal and health part of sexuality. Now, researchers out of Canada have discovered just how normal certain fantasies are.

Spoiler alert: if you’ve wanked to it, someone else probably has too.

The study looked at data from over 1,500 adults. Notably, the numbers were nearly evenly split between men and women, a characteristic which lends credibility and generalizability to the results. With regards to the fantasies themselves, the majority of fantasies were classified as either “common” or “typical,” meaning that more than half of participants reported having them. Only 11 of the fantasies were statistically “rare” or “unusual”—that is, reported by less than 3% and 16% of the participants respectively. Rare fantasies included bestiality and pedophilia, while unusual ones included cross-dressing and urinating on one’s partner. It is important here to again highlight that the study focused only on the sexual scenarios that participants fantasized about, not acted on.

Notable results include:

  • Wanting to feel romantic emotions during sex was typical for both men and women. So much for those stereotypes about men being unfeeling horndogs.
  • Though fantasies related to submission (e.g. being tied up, spanked, etc.) were common for both genders, most women reported not wanting to act on those fantasies in real life.
  • Significantly more people fantasized about same-sex sex acts than identified as gay or not heterosexual.
  • People fantasized about having sex with their friends about as often as they fantasized about doing it with strangers.
  • Everyone fantasized about oral sex.
  • Many more women than men fantasized about having sex with more than three people at once.

The study also supported some commonly held perceptions for both genders. For example, many men fantasize about anal sex, ejaculating on their partner, and having a threesome with two women. Women, on the other hand, like to fantasize about sex with a celebrity, and were more apt to fantasize about sex with someone of the same gender.

Unsurprisingly, men reported having sexual fantasies more often than women, were more likely than women to want to realize their fantasies, and gave more vividly detailed descriptions of their favorite fantasies. This may be related to observed tendency of men to be less sexually inhibited than women. Women may fantasize less due to guilt and negative attitudes about thinking sexual thoughts; however, they may have under-reported their fantasies to conform with what they believed to be acceptable. Likewise, men might have over-reported their fantasies so they would seem more sexually experienced and open. Most likely, the discrepancy in frequency of fantasies incorporates all of these explanations to some extent.

This research is important on a multitude of levels. For individuals, it normalizes both the experience of fantasizing and the fantasies themselves. In other words, they’re normal. For mental health providers, it supports the idea that certain fantasies alone, such as domination and submission, may not actually be a paraphilic disorder but a natural and healthy part of patient’s sex life. Lastly, it supports the argument that there is so much more to sex than reproduction. As the researchers themselves said about the fantasies unique to men, including anal sex and watching their partner have sex with someone else, “Evolutionary biological theories cannot explain these fantasies.”

The researchers intend on doing additional analyses to make further connections among personal characteristics and specific fantasies.

For a graph showing the full list of fantasies and their frequency by gender click here.

Other Sexual Health News This Week

CALCASA Release Report on Campus Sexual Assault (CALCASA)

Chiaro Reboots the Pelvic Floor Exerciser as a Sleek Connected Wearable Called Elvie (TechCrunch)

MIT Survey Suggests How Campuses Can Address Sexual Assault (Central Maine)

Missouri Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional, Court Rules(Reuters)

Groups Ask School Districts to Reconsider Transgender Restroom Policies (The Daily Signal)

University Students, Faculty Push for Gender Identity Inclusion (The Cavalier Daily)

Coalition Of Parents Shocked To Discover Planned Parenthood Teaching Sex Ed At East Bay Schools (CBS San Francisco)

2014 Results: Sexual Health Ballot Measures

Colorado—Amendment 67, Definition of Personhood

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution protecting pregnant women and unborn children by defining “person” and “child” in the Colorado criminal code and the Colorado wrongful death act to include unborn human beings?




   65%  ❌  not passed

Source: Colorado Secretary of State, Unofficial Results (62 of 64 counties reporting)

Illinois—Birth Control in Prescription Drug Coverage Question

This non-binding advisory question on the Illinois ballot asks:

Shall any health insurance plan in Illinois that provides prescription drug coverage be required to include prescription birth control as part of that coverage?


   66%  ✅




North Dakota—“Life Begins at Conception” Amendment, Measure 1

This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article I of the North Dakota Constitution stating, “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”




   64%  ❌  not passed


Tennessee—Legislative Powers Regarding Abortion, Amendment 1

Shall Article I, of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following language as a new, appropriately designated section:

Nothing in this Constitution secures or protects a right to abortion or requires the funding of an abortion. The people retain the right through their elected state representatives and state senators to enact, amend, or repeal statutes regarding abortion, including, but not limited to, circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest or when necessary to save the life of the mother.


   53%  ✅  passed