What an exhilarating week for MSR!
On Friday we were able to recharge our superpowers through networking with other sexuality educators. Nothing makes us happier than being surrounded by sexual health superheros who are doing great work within our local community. Teen pregnancy rates for Native American and Black teens have continued to decrease since the 90s. Oftentimes, their birth rates are only mentioned in comparison to White teen birth rates, therefore emphasizing the current state of health disparities. We believe it is important to take a step back and look at the entire picture, and realize how far we have come in reducing teen pregnancy rates among each racial group.
MSR had the pleasure of presenting at the SHIFTNC Conference on Adolescent Sexual Health on the representation of Black and Native female teens in sexual health research. We felt like this topic was near and dear to our hearts because it is one of the main reasons why we do our work. In a lot of research and in mainstream media there is an absence of Native American teens. Just googling images of Native American female teens for our powerpoint was a challenge, and finding images of Black female teens that weren’t derogatory was an even bigger challenge. When we prepared this presentation we thought about two things: the gap between community health educators and academia and how to empower community health educators to make a difference in the literature. We realize that a lot of people could not attend so we decided to give a brief summary.
- Research on Black female teens and sex, sexuality and sexual health tends to focus on risk reduction, deficit-based models, intervening on this “risky” population and focuses on changing the individuals behavior. This narrative labels Black teen girls as “high risk”, “in need of services”, and excludes intersectionality.
- There needs to be more research on the positives of black sexuality and strengths of the community to make change. There needs to be more research community based research that is conducted by researchers of the same race as the participants. Community health educators should look at ways that they can write academic manuscripts within their organizations, in order to change the narrative from risk reduction to positive youth development and sex-positive.
- Research on Native female teens and sex, sexuality and sexual health tends to focus on victimization, sexual violence and assault, and alcohol use. This narrative exoticizes Native teen girls and portrays them as “invisible” in terms of sexuality education although they have the highest number of repeat pregnancy by race in the state of NC.
- Not only does there need to be more research on Natives in regard to sexuality education, but there is also a need for community tribal members to be trained as peer health educators to help maintain cultural identity.
We would like to thank everyone who attended our session. We thank you for your being an engaged audience, for participating in our activities and creating meaningful dialogue about improving the lives of teen girls. Thank you for all of the hard work that you do within your community.
It is important to remember to stop and recharge. Our work gets tough, especially within our current political climate, but at times like these it’s important to remember your purpose, remember you are making a difference even when you can’t see it, and remember to be the person you needed when you were younger. Thank you to all of the sexual health superheros.