Category Archives: Latest

The Best Way to Empower our Girls? Give Them an Honest Sexual Education.

by Patricia Seidel

As headline breaking news last month, Obama claims that he plans to abolish the Abstinence-based education system that runs rampant across the US. As conservatives fight to keep the fear-based program alive, it opens the door for a proper discussion on what our sexual education should be.

While my high-school didn’t follow the “Abstinence Only” curriculum and I was raised in a household that held a healthy dialogue about sex, I certainly remember hearing opinions from several religious teachers that advocated for this program, including saying: “Smart women wait to have sex until their married.” “Good girls don’t have sex.” “Abstinence is the only way to stay pure.” And worst of all, “Don’t distract (or encourage) the boys with those thoughts.” Many young women have memories of the doing the “tape exercise” – a trick to shame young women into thinking they are dirty if they give their “piece of tape” to many partners.

Two Little Sisters Playing in Water in Swimming Pool

The largest problem with abstinence based sexual education is that it highly promotes shame–particularly for young women–surrounding sex and other natural, normal desires. Teaching adolescents not to trust their natural hormonal progression, let alone dissuading them from knowing their own bodies FIRST, can easily make for abusive relationships with their self-esteem, with other sexual partners and in the end, promotes self-hate and guilt. Additionally, the prejudices that follow this practice prevent the necessary information from being taught: anatomy, disease prevention, consent and contraception often fall to the back burner. Even more so, when the blame falls to young women for “exciting” young men, it highly promotes rape culture and perpetuates (the already present) shame women feel for having any sexual desire.

Through speaking with numerous young women and men about their educational experiences in adolescence, many have expressed their discontent with the system; much of this turning into disappointment at the lack of education they were given. Growing up, many of us learned the anatomy of the human body and how STI’s are transmitted but the lessons surrounding consent, pleasure, masturbation, sexual identity, fertility, menstruation and even the actual act of sex were never covered. Shockingly, many young people don’t know the difference between rape and sex. (Let me be clear on one thing – there is no idea of ‘consensual sex.’ There is rape, and sex. Nothing in between.) Many received no education at all.

After living in France for nearly a year and learning about their sexual education system, it is nothing short of the truth to say that it is to be admired. Through piqued curiosity I discovered that talking about sex is not something you gossip about in-between close friends, but on the contrary, something that is freely discussed among people with intense sincerity.

In Europe, sexual education is based on the idea of sexual enlightenment. The French, who are leading the way in this field, encourage curiosity and self-discovery. Here, sexuality isn’t seen as an undesired, negative side effect of adolescence, menstruation isn’t veiled in disgust and mystery and body positivity is inspired in not just young women, but young men.

While the students learn not only how to counter against STI’s and properly use contraceptives, they also focus on subjects like sexual identity & diversity, rape prevention, masturbation, personal sexuality, and the ultimate American taboo: pleasure.

The ultimate way to empower women is to give them autonomy over their own body, choices, rights, relationships and education. Sadly, there are many parts of the world where this is not always possible, where girls are forced to marry at 11 years old, girls who can’t go to school because of their periods and girls who suffer from genital mutilation to eliminate their desire. It is ignorant to think we are not currently fighting the same battle in our modern first-world country: we shame women for having sex. We shame them for menstruating. We shame them for saying “No” and meaning it.

All of this can be changed in the classroom.

By giving our girls an honest sexual education, we arm them with the tools they need for life. By telling them not only how to counter against AIDS, but also teaching them about consent, sexual identity, their own anatomy and yes, pleasure, it allows them to govern their own bodies, their own identity, their own minds. Once they understand the reality — not what the media, religious conservatives or their parents are telling them — and are supported by a secure education around them, other people cannot shame them into thinking otherwise. Promoting self-love will save them in a world that will challenge them for life.

Open the door for an honest discussion. Ask the hard questions. Be curious. Tell your girls that when she says “NO,” it means something. Let’s educate them, show them the light and the dark, and watch how they shine.

headshot-actor-135x135Originally from the United States, Patricia Seidel is a recent university graduate who came to France to work as an Au Pair, but soon discovered her passion for Women’s Rights. With two undergraduate degrees and soon starting her masters in International Relations at the Sorbonne, she is excited to work with to further her education in the humanitarian world. Patricia has spoken at several research conferences on the subject of women’s rights mainly pertaining to maternity, women in literature and the history of women’s rights. As well as working with W4, Patricia is also teaching courses in Business English, English/American literature, résumé writing, and also offering free language exchanges to refugees. Patricia hopes to pursue her insatiable wanderlust by traveling through northern Africa and the Middle East after finishing her master’s degree while continuing to work in the world of women’s rights.

Murder in the British Virgin Islands? Stay Tuned… EPISODE TWO

By Tracey Parent

Day One:

The cast of characters… (some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty).

13073088_10156799869115591_1094687726_oWell I’ve now been on the boat 24 hours and gotten to know the others aboard a bit. Let’s just say it’s going to be an interesting week.

So let me start with Ross. Ross is our captain, he is the owner of, which coordinates private and group sailing cruises throughout the Caribbean but specializing in the British Virgin Islands. I found Ross through a friend on Facebook and have had no less than 10 friends and clients begin working with him to plan their own cruises. The great thing about Ross and his company is that you can make your own private trip with friends, family, etc., or you can join one of his customized group trips, which is what I am doing right now. There honestly is a trip for everyone, from Eco-cruises to Scuba, and even Yoga, Pilates and SUP cruises.

Next up is ‘Melanie.’ Melanie is from Chicago, mid-forties and so far, reserved. I am pretty sure Melanie packed for three other people as well because her suitcase is the size of her sleeping quarters. Which surprises me because this isn’t her first trip either with Ross or on a boat. Her morning started with makeup and hair spray, which made me giggle inwardly. I mean, who the hell needs foundation and eyeliner at 7am in the Caribbean? I do believe however that we should all do what makes us feel good so you do you Melanie.

‘Bob and MaryJane.’ Bob and MaryJane are a cute married couple from Philly, I’m guessing in their early thirties. They are very picky eaters but not the kind that make it an issue for everyone else. Other than MaryJane’s allergy constraints, they just pick off the things they don’t like. I know this because I have taken on the role of “chef” on board, which anyone who knows me would find fitting (despite my earlier assertion that I would be making nothing stronger than a margarita). The truth is that I love to cook for others and I like being in charge. In my mind I imagined this free-for-all chaotic kitchen situation where everyone had their own crap and morning and afternoons would be too many cooks in the kitchen. I much prefer taking the lead and making sure everyone gets fed so that the fridge and kitchen stay organized and clean. Even on vacation I can’t stand a messy kitchen… but, I digress, Ed is the videographer on the boat and has THE COOLEST stuff EVER. He has two drones, underwater cameras, remote control everything. For him this is a working vacation. He and his wife are very nice.

‘Joe.’ I mentioned him before, he is the owner of a bunch of restaurants in Hilton Head, SC. He’s tall, mid fifties I guess, very sweet and warm. He seems like a gentle soul. He reminds me of my father. Smart, intellectual and even on vacation his entrepreneurial spirit needs stimulation. His idea of relaxing is reading a business-related book in a hammock. He’s single and traveling with his two friends ‘Eric and Carolyn,’ also from HH and from the restaurant industry (and no, none of them cook).

‘Eric’ and ‘Carolyn.’ In some ways he annoys me, but in other ways I find myself liking him, although I think as the week progresses his idiosyncrasies are probably going to prove to be an issue for others (they already are for one person on board), but time will tell. Carolyn is just a spunky and sweet Southern Belle.

Kristi. My friend and travel-mate is so many things. She is sweet and salty defined. She drinks a protein shake for breakfast and proceeds to eat candy all day. She hates rules and sometimes intentionally breaks them just because they exist. She’s funny and crazy. You can count on her to have brought every level of sunscreen but it wouldn’t surprise me if she smuggled a katana in her bag as well. Go figure. So far all has been tame with her. Let’s just hope she doesn’t over-imbibe. Pray for us.

And last but not least there is ‘Pam.’ I’ve been dying to tell you about Pam. Remember how I said the “zen” people I have met tend to be the most chaotic? Well PAM fits the bill to-a-tee. First of all she is sweet, she is beautiful and she is kind. She loves the earth and she is just as you would imagine a Hawaii-girl would be. Bronze, blonde highlights in her salt soaked long hair and that natural beauty that requires no makeup. She wears this sterling silver necklace with a whale tail pendant, and tie-dyed sundresses.

She is sister-earth with a sharp edge to her. She is zen until you irritate her, which I haven’t…. so far.

I won’t waste time on the little tantrums but last night is worth mentioning. Dinner was over and the check arrived. The bill comes and all that is required is for each person to find their food and drink, add the total, plus the 15% service charge, which is gratuity (there are no taxes) and pass the check down to the next person with your money. Simple enough right? WRONG. Pam decides to make it easy and add up everyone’s total but instead of speeding the paying process she is drawing lines through items she has already added, then can’t make it all add up, then can’t read what she has already scratched through and after about 10 minutes she is pissed. She has adopted the responsibility unnecessarily, and now is snappy and agitated and nobody else at the table knows how things got this awkward this fast. Needless to say, it all worked out, Pam took a walk and calm was restored. Pam is gonna be the drama on this trip I’m fairly certain. But she will almost certainly be the most fun as well!

Day Two:

It’s 6:30am and once again I am up with the sun. The thing I am most grateful for this morning is the fact that this birth control strategy is actually WORKING… so far, no flow! To say I am not an early riser would be an understatement. The term “early-riser” gives the impression that being awake early is intentional. I don’t sleep well, what with turning 40, kids, dogs, etc. So one might think given the opportunity I might sleep for days but honestly I think it’s gratitude that wakes me with the sun here. Being on a gorgeous boat, in the perfect weather, with the most magical views, makes you not want to waste a moment.

So here I sit on the rooftop of the boat listening to the water lap up against the side of our boat and others, the sound of the ropes hitting the masts of the sails on all these amazing sailboats moored beside us. It’s like a sailboat parking lot. Right now we are moored in the small bay at Saba Rock and The Bitter End Yacht Club. There are probably a hundred sailboats in the bay, sails down and lightly swaying back and forth in the breeze. The sun is coming up just over the mountain behind The Bitter End, and on a few of the boats you see a captain or two up and prepping boats and having their morning coffee. The temperature is… I dunno, whatever perfect is, with a breeze. When I woke up this morning and entered the galley, our captain Ross, said the wi-fi was down. I couldn’t care less. I’m sure we will get it sometime and when we do I will check in and make sure the world at home isn’t falling apart without me, which I feel certain it isn’t, and I will send out this update.