Happy Birthday, Scarleteen!

Scarleteen is a national treasure.

The site celebrated its 20th birthday over the weekend. Heather Corinna and team have built and maintained a place where young people can go to find safe, honest, scientifically sound, inclusive, accurate, non-judgmental information about sex, sexual health, and healthy relationships for TWENTY! years. Amazing work, y’all.

While I suggest that folks over 25 or so leave participation in the site (like asking advice questions, joining the message boards, or accessing text/chat resources) mostly to the intended audience of young people (unless you want to volunteer), the site is a gold mine for us, too. Feel like your sex ed was lacking and there’s some information you missed out on? Got a weird/embarrassing/”am I the only one who is dealing with this?” question about sexuality that you want to research on a site where you won’t be bombarded with propositions or porn?  Looking for safe, supportive ways to have The Talk with kids in your life and help them make informed, healthy choices for themselves (especially if your sex ed was lacking)? The archives are so rich and so informative, the advice is presented so respectfully and thoughtfully, that people of any age and experience will come away with something valuable.

It’s truly one of those THIS! IS! WHAT! THE! INTERNET! IS! FOR! sites and I’m so glad they’re here.


P.S. I had intentions of linking to a bunch of my favorite posts in this update, but you know that thing, where you start reading the archives of a favorite website and you go into an alternate reality where time moves differently, and you’ve got work to do but you can’t stop reading? Yeah. That. Anyway, one I link to often here is Why I Deeply Dislike Your Much Older Boyfriend.  If you’ve got a favorite Scarleteen post, please share it in the comments!

21 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Scarleteen!

  1. I feel like young adults are still allowed to post there though? The only case I can think of where a forum poster was turned away due to age was some 40+ dude asking about crossdressing kink. I always saw it as intended for young adult+teenage demographic but I could be wrong there.

    Can’t recall what my favourites would be but I like that they had an article on miscarriage – because I don’t think I’ve ever seen it talked about in teens otherwise, and as the article notes its common. That’s a lot to deal with as an adult let alone a kid.

    1. Our target age range is up to 25, but people older than that are welcome to post on the forums – with the understanding that the younger users take priority, so their questions may be answered more slowly or not at all (plus sometimes we have to shut down older adults who are clearly there for the wrong reasons). We have a lot of users in their early to mid 20s!

      1. I really enjoyed reading that article about a large age disparity between partners. The primary theme was a younger female and older male, but as a considerably older woman married to a younger man, the article addressed a LOT of the concerns that I had when entering into the relationship. He certainly wasn’t in any way under aged by the time we started dating, but I’ve tried really hard to make sure that he knows that I want him to chase down his dreams, and that I will be his biggest cheerleader along the way. (I’m 18 years older than him, and he turned 30 this year)
        I feel that “checking in” from time to time can only be a good thing for my relationship and my husband.

      2. Thanks for the clarification and the work you do. Posted there about heavy stuff in the past and it was helpful for me even if I’m not totally out of the fog yet so to speak.

  2. At 31, I have nearly zero experience with romance or sex and few people to talk about it with. I appreciate Scarletteen as a high-quality source of guidance for people of all experience levels, in a venue available to all ages. There are so many resources on the site already that I haven’t felt any need to ask them questions, though I don’t know how it will be if and when more of the information becomes relevant. I no longer have the social setting (school) that most teens and many young adults have, but can relate to some of their thoughts and questions.

    Some articles that seem especially likely to be useful:

    “10 of the best things you can do for your sexual self (at any age)”: http://www.scarleteen.com/article/bodies/10_of_the_best_things_you_can_do_for_your_sexual_self_at_any_age

    The Scarletteen Sex Readiness Checklist:

  3. Happy birthday, Scarleteen!

    Fun fact: I was an ace-spectrum teenager with little-to-no plans of having sex anytime in the near future when I discovered Scarleteen…and it was still incredibly informative and useful! I learned more about topics like my body, consent, and safe sex than was ever taught in (my) school. And even the knowledge that I didn’t use right away (e.g. info about sex with a partner) got stored away in my brain so that when it was starting to become relevant to me, I was better-equipped to make okay decisions around that stuff.

  4. I am forever indebted to Scarleteen for teaching me how the hymen works – at the time, this article was literally the only source of information I could find in accessible language rather than dense medical jargon:
    This was several years ago, and I was already a 30-something mother, so it was a point of purely academic interest by then; but the mountain of misinformation (some blatant, some believable) that I’d been fed on this subject had been bothering me for years! Now (with 25+ years misspent reading trashy romance novels), I’m faced with two possibilities: either the majority of adults genuinely have no idea how the hymen works, or all those myths are perpetuated deliberately out of pure fetishisation. I’m not sure which prospect disturbs me more.

    I think my school sex ed (in early ’90s UK) was pretty good as these things go, but even “pretty good” still left a lot of gaps, some of them major ones. The two biggest: 1) I cannot recall the subject of consent being touched upon ever (with hindsight I suspect it was, but so gingerly that it didn’t register with me); 2) anything outside the cishet ‘norm’ was mentioned only briefly in passing, if at all. Since my eldest child has lately reached double figures, and I’ve had some indications that the school curriculum has not significantly improved since my day, I’ve been looking around for books to supplement it. (I should state, I’m always openly willing to discuss these things with my kids! – but increasingly, they are not willing to discuss them with me; and given that I’d as soon have gnawed off my own leg as ever discussed anything remotely sexual with my parents, I can understand that.) I’ve been largely frustrated to find that there is very little age-appropriate literature that is any better at covering these massive ‘gaps’ than the books my parents gave me circa 1990.

    So thank you, Captain, for the timely reminder that yes, this is what the internet is for! And huge thanks to everyone at Scarleteen for working to battle the barrage of bad information that can adversely affect people of any age, but particularly the young and vulnerable.

    1. So, I’m 40, have been sexually active for 22 years, and have personally birthed 2 humans… had NO idea about the hymen. Mind blown over morning coffee!!!!

    2. “Now (with 25+ years misspent reading trashy romance novels), I’m faced with two possibilities: either the majority of adults genuinely have no idea how the hymen works, or all those myths are perpetuated deliberately out of pure fetishisation. I’m not sure which prospect disturbs me more.”

      I’ve had very similar thoughts. I read plenty of erotic lit, and I’ve been rather horrified by the number of authors who apparently think that the vaginal corona (hymen) is located several inches inside the vagina, that an imperforate corona is the norm (rather than a relatively uncommon condition that can require surgical intervention to allow, at least, the passage of menstrual discharge), and that vaginal penetration inevitably means tearing the corona, which necessarily results in pain and bleeding. I HOPE these people aren’t basing this writing on personal experience: difficult penetration, pain, and bleeding sounds a lot more like sexual assault than consensual sex with an aroused partner (though of course those things don’t ALWAYS mean assault or lack of arousal). I guess the best case scenario is that most people never got accurate information (or any information beyond the myths pervading the culture) and never bothered to seek/verify that information later, not even when pursuing a career writing about human sexual behavior.

      Because I knew (mostly) medically accurate anatomical and sexual information (though I, and perhaps medical science generally, didn’t yet know that regular hormonal and discharge action tended to erode the corona until I read the linked article, so I was still operating under the “torn doing gymnastics, riding bikes, etc.” myth), I knew it was available to people interested in finding it (especially adults), so the persistence and prevalence of the myths has continually baffled me.

      As for books, you might consider Heather’s/Scarleteen’s “S.E.X.” It’s a queer-inclusive option that covers the anatomical, mechanical, AND social aspects of sexuality in depth, much like the website but formatted/organized for and presented in book form – http://www.scarleteen.com/article/read/all_about_s_e_x_the_scarleteen_book

  5. I’m 53 and wouldn’t dream of asking questions on the site because of my age but have found it to be a very valuable source of information, because nearly all of my past romantic/sexual relationships have been abusive and in many ways I’m having to start over (on issues such as sexual orientation, boundaries and consent). I really wish Scarlateen had been around the first time I was trying to navigate all this.

  6. Scarleteen is wonderful, and I had no idea it had been around for so long!

    (Here’s just a very very tiny gentle heads-up that as I recall, Corinna uses they/them/their pronouns.)

  7. As someone who was a virgin quite late in life, Scarleteen was really valuable to me when I was thinking about losing my virginity (which I did safely and consensually, yaaaay!) Why I Deeply Dislike Your Much Older Boyfriend was also really helpful to me in processing my feelings about a very unhealthy relationship I had with a much older man when I was a young ‘un. Thank you Scarleteen, keep on keeping on ❤

  8. Dulcie Vino, I’m going with “myth perpetuated deliberately out of pure fetishization”. And if I was young enough to be a legitimate provider of input, I’d gently lean on the Scarleteen people to put a little more emphasis on a personal self-examination of the relevant parts and gradual manual stretching of anything that might be tight. This will prevent pain and the danger of an infected laceration. What is it with people not bothering to tell the young how *not* to be hurt?? (And don’t get me started on circumcision.)
    A fellow ace here whose parents talked big about how progressive they were but didn’t know squat about consent.

  9. I live in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada. I grew up with the sex ed that our lovely wannabe theocracy, which was elected to power this past June, forced the education system to revert back to from the allegedly-controversial-but-only-among-prudes/right-wingers 2015 curriculum, what with its talk of CONSENT and LGBT ACCEPTANCE. I think if I were a teacher I would try and recommend Scarleteen to my students. I hope the less prudish teachers are doing that already. The “old” curriculum isn’t that bad compared to the travesties I’ve heard about in some states, but it certainly could have been better about a lot of things. It certainly did little to solve my own sex/romance-related hangups, caused largely by my struggles with social interaction from about age 7 to this day, and exacerbated by a deeply conservative church community that views everything from premarital sex to video games as evil or at least highly suspicious. Not to mention I was constantly fat-shamed by my own family, and my body image has never really had a chance to recover. A lot of times I find that I don’t even look in the mirror when brushing my teeth.

    Speaking of all that, here’s an update from the last time I went in-depth about my life in the August 3 article/thread. I can hardly believe it’s actually been over four months since I stumbled on here and just bared my soul about how miserable my life is and how desperately I want out. It’s hard for me to write these things because I’ve been ignored at times, including in the couple of shorter subsequent comments I made in older articles on here (honestly kind of understandable in this case because I didn’t give much to go with). I think I just have a problem where I bottle up my emotions due to not feeling like there’s anyone around who will actually listen, and then start oversharing somewhere when I can’t take it anymore. And with the holidays close by, basically everybody that I would talk to about this stuff is on break until January.

    I got a job that started this past October. It’s at a school catering business, and while I like the job and its balance of flexibility and routine, it has nothing to do with what I studied and otherwise built a lot of my skill set around. I don’t believe I mentioned this here before, but after graduation I was unemployed for four years despite connecting with several agencies to find a job for two years. So it has been very difficult to demonstrate my skill set or even know if it actually matches with various career paths that one would typically associate with a science major. I didn’t think it would bother me this much as long as I was able to put my other skills to use somewhere in life.

    The pay isn’t exactly great; it’s a part time job at minimum wage, another thing that the conservatives decided to screw over because Tim Horton’s allegedly somehow can’t afford to give their workers remotely fair wages and benefits. However, when combined with disability-related benefits, it does seem to be enough for me to afford to rent out a studio apartment and finally just get out of here. It wouldn’t be the greatest apartment ever, but I think I have enough to at least look at corporate-owned buildings and avoid scams altogether. After some scares with listings that looked too good to be true, I think I should just avoid independent landlords and roommates because scam deals are just too appealing to someone as desperate as me. (The vast majority of roommate-seekers seem to be women seeking women, anyway.) I don’t want to move too far away right now as some people suggested in my previous comment, as I feel like that would impose unnecessary additional hurdles on an already difficult transition. It would be nice just to be closer to my current job so I don’t have to commute for over an hour.

    There is one thing I’ve found when contemplating that actually moving out was a goal that may finally be within reach for me. There are a lot of things I’ve wanted to do in my life that I didn’t get to do before because it was too much of a hassle or I was too ashamed to go after what I wanted or I was discouraged by my social environment. For example, I would like to try and reconnect with people I knew from early on in university before my struggling grades caused me to withdraw from my efforts at social interaction. Would that be worth it? Would it be weird if I started following anyone I found on social media? How many of them would even remember me? Another thing is I still don’t really know how I want my future career path to go. Despite my struggles, I actually really liked what I studied and strongly considered grad school before giving up on the idea because of my family not only not supporting my studies, but at times actively hindering them.

    On one hand, I feel like I should focus on securing my exit for the time being. On the other hand… I’ve lost too much time. I’m 30 now. Programs aimed at young job seekers probably wouldn’t take me. I’ve lost contact with nearly everybody I used to know outside of my church community. The new connections I’ve made from employment agencies are okay, but not much in the way of “friends” currently.

    1. Hi Impish! I don’t have much concrete to say but I just wanted to say that I read your post and sympathize. It is seriously hard feeling isolated like that. And I understand how it would feel weird to reach out to former friends who used to be going through your science career with you but now are in a completely different place in their lives than you are.

      I think it would not be weird to send a hello on social media. Maybe one of them will be delighted to hear from you and want to chat at length–but if that doesnt happen, so be it. You can’t found a current friendship on reminiscing about old times anyway. I bet you could find some people in your town who are former science students and had to drop out of the field for one reason or another. Are there any science-related social events in your town? (We have something called “science cabaret” in my town which is talks and demonstrations held at a bar with lots of chitchatting before and after.) Science-related volunteer things, etc. Way to find people who would totally not think your situation strange.

      Anyway, I’m glad you’ve made progress and I hope your next year is even better!

      1. Thanks for your reply!

        I think “science-related social event” is kind of vague. I’ve never really found any sort of social event I’d be interested in around here (for clarification, I live a bit north of Toronto) and I’m not even sure how I’d find one to begin with. I’ve tried browsing meetup.com a few times and that didn’t really take with me.

        Maybe this is a bit counter-intuitive, but I found it more difficult making friends within my fields of study. It was really bad because I was unable to find study groups and would frequently end up with incompetent lab partners. The lab partner I had in second year dropped out halfway through, leaving me to do the experiments on my own, something that became even more difficult as I fell behind with the rest of my work. I think often about my very first week of classes, when the physics department held a social event for the new students. There was a similar event at my church, and ultimately I went to the latter. I’m not saying that this decision was necessarily a major factor in derailing my academic career. It’s possible that it wouldn’t have actually helped me much to have gone to that one small event. That said, people seemed to find their lab partners awfully quickly.

        What I did attend was student orientation the week before the start of classes, followed by living in-residence. I met a fair number of people during that time, and I put what effort I could muster into at least staying in touch with other students. I’d sit with people in the cafeteria. I’d attend various events. I’d even get invited to just hang out in places. It was all sorts of uncomfortable and probably the most out there I’ve ever been in my life, and honestly I didn’t really hate it.

        There was also a social group in the university that I went to, which revolved around students with autism. I met some great people there as well. At one point, I was invited to an event that one of them was holding with some of his other friends. I ended up not going because I was living off-campus at that point and could not easily get to where he was. I think about that a lot, too, and I wonder what would have been different had I put more of an effort to go to these kinds of things. Yet I was so severely discouraged from social interaction at this point that it was easy to justify not going.

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