Sexcapades: A Late Pride Month Tribute to My Sister

In my quest to include the LGBTQ+ community in Sexcapades it dawned me that I should write about a lesbian icon that has impacted my life.

I wanted this to be posted for pride month which is the month of June but I’ve had terrible writer’s block. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to write a post for the LGBTQ+ community but it was hard finding the words to. I didn’t want to offend anyone nor did I want to perpetuate stereotypes.

My sister Justine is one of the two greatest sisters that I could have ever asked for. My sisters and I have travelled together through many lifetimes and I am forever grateful that they chose to be my sisters in this one. I’m sorry Grae but this post isn’t about you, but I have to show some love for my big sister. 

At 5 feet 3 inches, she is covered head-to-toe with tattoos. She has a full sleeve on both of her arms, full sleeve in the process on her one leg, her ribs, neck, back and head, and even the initials of our sister Grace on her butt. She is a walking promotion for our cousin who has done all of her tattoos. Everywhere we go people stop her to talk about her tattoos. They stare as she walks by working up the courage to say nice ink. With her bright blue eyes and short, brown hair she is beautiful. Her natural beauty is outstanding that she doesn’t need makeup (not that she would know how to even apply it). 

Justine is the most caring and loyal person I know. Her love for dogs, her family, her friends show with everything she does. She is the sister that drove six days with me across the country. She is the sister that helped her youngest sister start a dog walking business. She is the sister that patiently helps her brother move in and fix his house. She supports her friends throughout all their achievements, engagements, new jobs and businesses. She is there for her parents when they need her the most. She constantly tells our mother that she can live with her and her future wife when she gets old. Justine is so caring and so passionate that when a dog she walked had to be put down while the family was on vacation, she stayed with dog so it wasn’t alone. 

Justine and I driving in Chicago on our road trip.

At just 7 years old my sister would wake up in the middle of the night to me, a crying infant. She would change me and carry me to our mother so she can feed me. As we got older Justine would babysit Grace and I. I remember always being around her and her friends when our parents went out. She told me that sometimes when she would watch us she would get afraid that we were dead she so she’d wake us up when we were sleeping. Basically, Justine was a second mother sometimes.

I guess I had always known that my sister was a lesbian; she never had a boyfriend. Obviously, she was never interested in boys. She didn’t come out until college when she brought home a girlfriend. The way it seems to me is that as a family, we didn’t see it as a big deal. However, to her, I think it was a big deal. Although my sister’s coming out story was much more lighthearted when compared to others, this isn’t meant to say that everyone’s experiences are the same. My family was just fortunate enough to be accepting and loving of the fact because, like I said, we all knew. We were raised to love someone beyond their sexual orientation.

In fact, when my hometown raised the Pride flag for the first time this past June my mother and sister went there to express their support. And then, my mother posted on Facebook a series of hashtags that made my siblings and I hysterically laugh. I can say that on behalf of my family that we will accept you no matter what you identify as. There is always plenty of room and food if you want to join the Cappiello Clan. 

My mom’s facebook post about the Pride Flag Ceremony in my town.

Having my sister be out and proud makes me reflect on how different it can be for other people. It creates a false reality for me because I can’t comprehend how people can be homophobic. In my eyes, we are all the same and no sexual orientation or identification can change the fact that we are all human beings and that deserve love, respect, and happiness. So when I walked into my living room on June 12, 2016, to my older sister crying on our couch. My heart immediately sank. I went over to comfort her and she asked if I had seen the news about what happened in Orlando. I had. Forty-nine people were killed in a mass shooting inside Pulse Night Club. My heart immediately sank for my sister because it hit so close to home for her. I don’t know if she shares this memory but I remember being sick to my stomach that she was so affected by it.

The following year my sisters and I went to the Pride Parade in New York City. That experience was so exciting for me because millions of people from all over were there to celebrate one another and love. I felt so honored to be there to celebrate my sister. It is upsetting that I cannot be there this year to celebrate pride with her this year but I will be celebrating her and right to love whomever she chooses in San Diego.

To my sister that can quote almost every Will Ferrell movie: I am so proud that you feel safe enough to openly express who you are and confident enough to wear your heart on your tattoo covered sleeve. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model in my life. “I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more.”

Written by: Julie Cappiello 
Justine and I’s selfie on the first night of our road trip to San Diego.
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Sexcapades: Loss of Abortion Begins Attack on Sexual Autonomy

Sexcapades

On this week’s edition of Sexcapades, in light of the recent events within Alabama, the topic of abortion and what’s next is discussed.

Originally, last week’s post was supposed to take a form of another theme. I had this strong, intuitive gut feeling that I should write a book review of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice and talk about abortion. So I changed it. Last week, the most restrictive, oppressive and horrifying laws were passed in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri and Ohio. When media coined ‘heart beat bill’ was passed in Georgia I was sick to my stomach. Then when Alabama followed, I was enraged. 

Last Monday, I had this feeling that I should write another post about abortion and how important sexual autonomy as a human right. Whenever I began to write I all that would come out was anger and fear. Again on Tuesday, all I felt was fear. Fear for myself, my friends, my sisters, cousins, aunts. Fear for women at my school, in my community and women in the states where their choice, freedom and bodies were being stripped away from them. Wednesday, I meditated and I asked for clarity on what to do. When we fear something we give it power, we give it our energy. The energy we invest in fearing something is energy wasted when instead we can use that energy to fight something. It is Thursday that I am writing this and I know what to do. 

A 46-Year-Old Monumental Stride:

Roe v. Wadeis a law that was passed in 1973 in the height of the second-wave feminism movement. It was decided by the Supreme Court that the Constitution provides a “fundamental right to privacy” protecting “a woman’s right to an abortion prior to the viability of the fetus.” 

What does this mean? Let’s break it down. 

Fundamental right to privacy:

 “Fundamental right to privacy is listed under the Due Process Clause in the Fourteenth AmendmentDue Processoffers defense against the denial of life, liberty or property by the government. What is tricky and troubling about the Fourteenth Amendment is that ‘privacy’ and ‘right to privacy’ is listed a “fundamental right,” yet personal autonomy is not.

Viability of the fetus:

Viability of the fetus is the age at which the fetus is able to survive outside the womb with medical assistance.  The Court decided that after the second trimester the fetus became viable. The third trimester begins around week 28 of a pregnancy and lasts until birth. Pregnancy usually last about 40 weeks. The Court ruled the state could regulate or ban abortions after the second trimester with the exception of preserving “the life and health of the mother.”

Lives at Stake: The threat to Roe

Since the ruling of Roe, women’s sexual autonomy and right to privacy has been constantly under attack. Not ever 50 years later, five states have passed regressive, oppressive and restrictive abortion bills the nation has ever seen. As a country we are regressing and it is time we do something about it.

April 11: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill that would prevent abortions to be performed after the fetal heartbeat has been detected. The heartbeat is detected at six weeks before most women even know they are pregnant. According to Guttmacher Institute, Ohio is the third state to pass an abortion ban bill with Kentucky and Mississippi being the first two. This ban will start in July of this year

May 7: Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp signs the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban. Similar to Ohio, women in Georgia cannot seek out abortions after six weeks. The most gruesome part is that the bill provides punishment for women who seek out and those who perform abortions. Abortion Practitioners can face up to 10 years in prison that is more time in jail than Brock TunerShane Piche, and Michael Wysolovski.

May 15: Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey signs a similar bill that punishes abortion practitioners with life in prison. Again, more time in prison than Jacob Walter AndersonAustin James Wilkerson, and  Benjamin Lawrence Petty. As if this bill couldn’t get more disturbing, the amendment for the exemption of rape and incest failed 11-21. 

Is there more that can be done? While access to abortion is amazing there are a few more things that should be included in this conversation: Primarily, sex education & health care.

Action we need to take:

Our country loves to oppress, control and abuse the women who live and step foot in it. Women of color have known this since the dawn of time. These laws hit their communities just as hard, if not harder than others. This is where there is less access to quality health care and coverage, lower education, and higher poverty rates.

Every day we are getting closer to a reality similar to the Handmaid’s Tale.It is horrifying that our society is mimicking a piece of fiction, like it was meant to warn us about the dangers that lie ahead. With that being said it is not the time to call for a sex strike; It is time to share stories and advocate for safer practices, better sex education programs, and improved access to health care. All the policies that Republicans and “pro-lifers” are against.

While these bills are detrimental let’s not forget about the conservative leaning Supreme Court and the accused sexual predator Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At the end of the day, Roe needs serious protection.

Written by: Julie Cappiello

Sexcapades: Review of Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice

Sexcapades

Sexcapades reviews Dr. Willis Parker’s Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, followed by a discussion on abortion.

Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice is a memoir outlining Dr. Willie Parker’s journey to becoming an abortion doctor and reproductive activist. Seamlessly blending his strong Christian beliefs, love for medical science and the philosophy that a woman’s body is her own, Dr. Parker eloquently encompasses what it means to be a Good Samaritan. 

As an African American growing up in the Deep South during the height of Civil Rights Movement, Dr. Parker’s words strongly imitate those of Dr. Martin Luther Kings—a role model of his. Dr. Parker’s rise from adversities like poverty, racism, and being raised by a single mother was extremely moving. His tenacity radiated throughout every word, sentence and chapter. There was not a time in reading this book where I did not feel moved or was awed in some way.

As I mentioned, Dr. Parker has faced a lot of adversities. He grew up in Wylam, Alabama in a small, impoverish neighborhood. Many people who grow up in communities like his do not see a way out. While, Dr. Parker had a lot of role models to look up to but he also faced a multitude of racism and community doubt that he would succeed. For example, Dr. Parker was told by a guidance counselor to become a carpenter because he said he liked to work with his hands. Despite his doubtful environment, Dr. Parker was consistently dedicated to his religion and education. He has graduated from Brea College in Kentucky and has received degrees from the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Michigan. 

I was initially intrigued by how Dr. Parker’s Christian faith would factor into his profession and activism.

To be honest, before reading the book I thought Dr. Parker would completely abandon his faith when he began his practice of abortions and activism. I scolded myself after reading the book because that is a very ignorant ideology. Dr. Parker’s religion is not separate from his line of work and activism. It fuels and empowers it. Dr. Parker and his book showed me how he uses Christianity to empower women, their sexuality and dreams. His interpretation of his religion is beautiful, eye-opening and definitely differs from the way ‘pro-lifers,’ or antis as he calls them, use Christianity to push their controlling and hatred agenda. 

What I loved a lot about the book is Dr. Parker’s inclusion of stories of women he has encounter in his line of work. It is what I found to be the most de-stigmatizing of the entire book. These women have dreams to be successful too. According to Dr. Parker’s book, most women who are seeking abortions are women who come from a low socioeconomic background. These are the women who have to scrape every penny together to have an abortion. Their limited access to safe abortions is because they have limited access to good health care and insurance. Some women are likely to have no insurance at all, some have other children at home, some are beaten by their husbands and some are teenagers. What all of these women have in common is that they have dreams too, they have hopes, desires and realities.

Dr. Parker’s book puts it in perspective how detrimental restrictive abortion laws are to women who need them.

Dr. Parker calls out how unconstitutional U.S policies are on abortion and how lawmakers are shutting down abortion clinics making it harder for women to seek them out. Twenty-seven states in America have imposed waiting periods between twenty-four and seventy-two hours for women to get abortions. This waiting period is between the initial visit for counseling and consultation and the actual abortion appointment. Every minute a woman delays her abortion the price increases because she moves farther along in her pregnancy. Dr. Parker says policies like the waiting period is financially disabling women who may already be living under or around the poverty line. The book cites calculations from ThinkProgress that if a woman in Wisconsin wants to terminate a first trimester pregnancy after you factor in gas, taking off of work, child care expenses (if she has children at home), and the waiting period that it would cost her over one thousand dollars.

Financial instability causes a huge issue because some states may only allow first trimester abortions, thus, making it harder for women to receive an abortion. Due to the harsher and stricter policies being enacted by states some women are forced to bring a pregnancy to full term. These laws are robbing women of their reproductive freedom and possibly making them more financially unstable than they were before:

“According to data from Planned Parenthood, more than one third of women having abortions in the second trimester said they delayed because they needed time to raise the money.”

Dr. Willis Parker (102)

Mississippi has a ban on second trimester abortions, Dr. Parker tells a story of a young woman who was thirteen weeks pregnant and needed time to scrape together extra money. By the time he saw her again the gestational age of the fetus was sixteen weeks and one day. Dr. Parker was not able to perform an abortion because she was now in the second trimester of her pregnancy. The best he can do for women in this situation is inform them of other clinics that are allowed to second trimester abortions but sometimes they way over state lines.

A consequence of harsh restrictive laws are the dwindling number of abortion clinics in the United States.

In the states where abortion clinics are disappearing and there are more restrictive policies, surveys found that Google searches in DIY abortions spiked. For example, in Texas between 2012-2015 the number of abortion clinics has decreased from forty-one to seventeen. DIY abortions are extremely dangerous because these women may take illegal medications, homeopathic remedies and even worse trying to perform their own abortion with household items like a coat hanger. Dr. Parker says women who take illegal pills put themselves at extreme risks, especially if it doesn’t work. Dr. Parker says these laws force women into corners and then ultimately make the decision for them by making it a very public and political battle.

“It is extremely dangerous for anyone to take unidentifiable pills for any reason, and if one woman was brave enough to enter my office having pursued that course, then there are many others who are not.”  

Dr. Parker Willis (105)

As a feminist and a person that stands on the “pro-choice” side of the abortion argument, I believe that if a woman does not wish to be pregnant it is ultimately her choice to terminate it. I chose this book because I wanted to hear a perspective from an OB-GYN who perform abortions. Reading Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice has changed my life and increased my beliefs that a woman reproductive choices are entirely up to her. Dr. Willie Parker is an inspiration and truly embodies what it means to be a Good Samaritan. I would totally recommend this book to everyone, even if you are not ‘pro-choice,’ it puts abortion in the perspective about it can empower and help women in our society. I believe because advocates like Dr. Willie Parker the stigmatization of abortions can be greatly reduced. 

Written by: Julie Cappiello
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Sexcapades: The Necessity of Birth Control

Sexcapades

My trials and tribulations on achieving a healthy sex life continue as I journeyed to Planned Parenthood for my birth control implant.

My experience on changing birth control methods:

For the last ten months or so, I’ve been thinking about changing my birth control method. I’ve been on the pill for four years now and I’ve been getting tired of taking a pill every day. In my research I found that hormonal forms of birth control can be linked to depression and autoimmune disease. In high school I struggled with symptoms of depression which increased when I began to take oral contraceptives. Additionally, the maternal side of my family has a history of autoimmune disease. 

Two years ago I had a blood test done and my antinuclear antibodies (ANA)results came back positive. A positive result doesn’t necessarily indicate that I have an autoimmune disease like lupus; healthy people can have a positive result. What it does mean is that antinuclear antibodies are present and being produced. Recently, my younger sister had the same results and this brought some concern to our mom. 

After conducting sufficient research prompting me to change to a non-hormonal IUD, I decide to be proactive and make an appointment at Planned Parenthood. My overall experience with PP and its staff was very pleasant. I was able to make an appointment online and set up text alerts. Shortly after I was contacted by PP and to my surprise they were very inconspicuous on the phone. I didn’t really need them to be, but I appreciated it because not all women have open-minded parents like I do.

On the day of my appointment I was very nervous because I knew after the procedure I would experience ‘mild to moderate’ pain, but I was not prepared for what happened. The nurse practitioner did a short pelvic exam to see the placement of the uterus. This is when the nurse practitioner told me that my cervix was really small and tilted, which may impose complications during insertions. This made me a little more nervous but I wanted to proceed. 

After the pelvic exam, they will prep you by using an instrument to open your cervix then clean your vagina and cervix with an antiseptic solution. Following that they will insert another instrument to measure the depth of your uterus. It is here where you will feel some cramping similar to your period. Finally, they will insert a tube containing the IUD through your vagina into the uterus where it will stay.

On my first attempt, I did not go through with the insertion because the instrument opening my cervix came off. The pain was unbearable, my legs were shaking so bad and I began to blackout. The nurse practitioner told me that is a normal for some women as she removed the instruments from my body. The other woman in the room began to place an ice pack underneath my neck and a hot pack on my lower abdomen.

After a little of resting they asked if I wanted to try again, I said yes still determined to get an IUD. Again there was complications and I didn’t let the nurse practitioner get to insertion. She told me that I can reschedule and take a medication that will dialate me. I declined because I was seriously traumatized and I wanted someone I trusted to be there with me. I left PP in pain and slightly disappointed because I don’t want to be on oral contraceptives anymore nor do I wish to be on synthetic hormones. I went home, cried and took a nap. 

Common Birth Control Methods

There are many ways to be proactive about your sexual health and protect yourself from unplanned pregnancies, diseases and infections. Below are four ways that you too can take control of your sex life. 

The Pill

This oral contraceptive stops the sperm from fertilizing the egg by stopping containing hormones that stop ovulation and thickening the mucus blocking the sperm from reaching the egg in the uterus. It works best when taken around the same time every single day. There are apps like Bedsider that sends you reminders. I have friends who set alarms, whatever works for you just make sure you take it!

FYI: Oral contraceptives do not protect against STIs so use condoms!

 According to PP, even if you use the pill perfectly, it will be 99 percent effective, but since that is not realistic it is about 91 percent effective. Using condoms and the pill together is a perfect combination against the spread of sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.

It is important to note that oral contraceptives, like other forms of birth control, are not one size fits all. There are different brands, different doses of hormones, there are combination pills and progestin-only pills. Talk to your gynecologist to see what form of oral contraceptive would be right for you. 

IUDs and Implants

The Implant aka Nexplanon is a little rod that is inserted into your bicep and it releases hormones that prevent pregnancy. It is very low maintenance because it is under the skin and is effective for up to five years. The implant method works similar to the pill, it releases the hormone progestin which thickens the mucus in the cervix and prohibits ovulation. Side effects include spotting, some may experience longer and heavier periods, while most experience short and lighter periods. Pain and bruising maybe a side effect after insertion. 

According to PP, the Intrauterine Device (IUD) is the one most effective birth control out right now. Currently, there are five FDA approved brands: Paragard, Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla. The IUD can be hormonal or non-hormonal. Paragard the only non-hormonal IUD is wrapped in copper that prevents pregnancy for up to 12 years. Since there are no hormones, Paragard does not interfere with your natural cycle and ovulation and it does not increase cervical mucus. Paragard can also be used as an emergency contraceptive if inserted within five days of unprotected sex. There are some side effects of IUDs that included cramps and backaches, worse period symptoms and heavier periods(Paragard), spotting between periods and irregular periods.

And for those who haven’t heard: both implants and IUDs do not protect against STIs and HIV so use condoms! 

Condoms

Condoms are probably the most commonly known and popular forms of birth control methods. They prevent pregnancies and lower risk of contracting STIs. They come in a variety of forms liked lubricated or non-lubricated, some contain spermicide (do not use for oral or anal sex), some do not contain spermicide, latex and non-latex (my personal fave because I’m allergic). Spermicide contains chemicals that stop sperm from moving, therefore spermicide condoms are lubricated with it. Spermicide condoms may cause irritation to some men and women so you may want opt for another type. Be wary of the types of lubricants you use because they may cause certain types of condoms — like latex — to break.

Emergency Contraceptives

Emergency contraceptives can stop a pregnancy before it starts and can usually be taken up to five days following unprotected sex. However, the sooner, the better. It is extremely important to note; emergency contraceptives are NOTabortion pills.  There are four types of emergency contraceptives, one I already mentioned (see IUDs). 

Ella is a new form of emergency contraceptives in the United States that blocks the hormones involved in contraception. It comes in a one pill pack and it is most effective within the first 24 hours of unprotected sex when conception of pregnancy is at its highest. Ella does not decrease fertility or cause infertility. It is only intended for one-time use so if you want to have unprotected sex again, I would suggest using condoms or change your birth control method. Ella is available at family planning clinics like PP, campus health centers and in certain states your local pharmacists can prescribe Ella to you (California is one of them!).

Plan B is probably the most commonly knownemergency contraceptive. Plan B is a one pill, progestin-only emergency contraceptive (reminder: progestin delays or stops ovulation). It has the same ingredients as birth control just at higher doses. This emergency contraceptive also does not decrease fertility, so when you are ready to have a baby you are free to do so. Plan B is not an abortion pill either and does not protect you from HIV and STDs. Some women found after taking Plan B they saw changes in their period that include spotting or bleeding. However, it is recommended that you take a pregnancy test if you miss your period. 

According to Bedsider,the Yuzpe method is an emergency contraceptive method that dates back to ‘70s. In this method, certain everyday birth control pills can be taken in two doses 12 hours apart to decrease the risk of fertilization. It most effective within the first 72 hours of unprotected sex. Women who use this method may feel nauseous and some may vomit, it is suggested to take the pills with food. Since you are taking an increased amount of your everyday birth control pills you are going to want to talk your doctor about what to do to get back on your regular schedule. 

Take Control of Your Sex Life

If you are curious about other forms of birth control or want more information on the ones, I listed above that my go to websites are Planned Parenthood and Besider. Overall, I think birth control and safe sex practices are really important to a healthy, enjoyable and chaos free sex life. I wish I was taught more forms of birth control growing up and in high school. One of my greatest hopes for this world is the incorporation of realistic safe sex practices in our education system. As a youth leader in an after school program for middle schoolers, I’ve noticed that sexual education is not a part of curriculum. It deeply concerns me that some of these teens are engaging in sex without knowing the risks and ways to prevent these risks. Another one of my greatest hopes is access to realistic sex education programs and access to birth control methods.

Written by: Julie Cappiello
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