This Week in Sex: States Improve Sex Ed, Vibrator Patent Ruling, and Genitals Clash in the Street


This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Colorado Sex Ed Law Signed by Governor

In January, RH Reality Check reported on an effort by Colorado lawmakers to improve sexuality education in the state. That effort was successful, as the law was recently signed by the governor.

The new law mandates medically accurate comprehensive sexuality education, creates a grant programs that would support evidence-based sexuality education programs, gets rid of the stricter “opt-in” policy that was in place for some schools, and limits the use of direct or indirect funding for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. This does not mean that schools can’t provide abstinence-only programs, as the attorney general recently ruled that third-party organizations could provide such education in schools as long as the schools didn’t receive the grant money.

Still, when taken together, these provisions represent a major step forward for sex education in the state. In fact, until now Colorado did not require sex education but did mandate that any school that chose to teach it stressed abstinence as “the only certain way and the most effective way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.”

The bill was signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper at the end of last month and takes effect July 1.

Boston High Schools Get Condoms

Last week we reported that the Boston School Committee was set to vote on important improvements to sexuality education, including a provision to mandate comprehensive sexuality education as well as one to make condoms available in all of the city’s 32 high schools. As expected, both measures passed with five of the six members of the committee voting in favor of it and one abstaining.

Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, said in a statement, “The vote for comprehensive sex education and condom availability will give students the tools to make healthy decisions at a critical time in their lives. The good decisions youth make now are the good decisions they continue to make into and through adulthood.”

City Councilmember Ayanna Pressley, who has been pushing for condom availability for years, told Boston.com that she was elated by the decision. “It was a long time coming,” she said. And, to celebrate the victory, the city’s former director of public school health education put on a hat that looked like the tip of a condom and posed for pictures. She told Boston.com, “I’ve been working on this for 15 years. They have the option to be safe now.”

Trade Commission Rules on Vibrator Patent

The United States International Trade Commission ruled this week that at least one sex toy maker was violating a patent held by Canadian company Standard Innovation Corp. by selling vibrators that were too similar to the company’s patented We-Vibe. The commission ordered other companies, including the popular sex toy manufacturer Lelo, to stop making and selling these products.

The We-Vibe is shaped like an elongated letter C and is designed so that one side sits inside the vagina and the other stays outside, stimulating the clitoris. Because each side is so flat, the vibrator can remain inside the vagina while a couple has intercourse. The We-Vibe, which sells for between $79 and $170, is enormously popular; it has had cumulative sales of over $100 million in the last five years. The vibrator was first released in 2008, and a fourth generation will be available this fall.

The company argued that two of Lelo’s vibrators, called the Tiani and the Tiani 2, were too similar to the We-Vibe. It also filed suit against Lelo in civil court. The suit was put on hold while the two sides waited for the commission’s rulings, but Standard Innovation Corp. plans to continue it now, especially since the commission ordered Lelo to release numbers on how much profit it has made on its two C-shaped models.

Lelo is protesting the commission’s decision, calling it in a statement “a clear setback for the American consumer, and the industry as a whole.” The decision can be overturned within 60 days by the Obama administration and can also be appealed in federal court. In addition, Lelo says that it is planning to sue Standard Innovation in federal court in California “for alleged infringement of one of Lelo’s own patents.”

Still, Standard Industry feels this was a decisive victory. The company’s CEO, Danny Oscado, told CNBC, “This is a patent we feel very strongly about and for us, [it’s about] bringing a product to market with the level of quality and sophistication we believe the market deserves to have.” He went on to say that the company was going to try to get the We-Vibe, which is currently available on the websites of large drugs such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target, on to the store shelves soon.

A Street Fight Between a Vulva, a Penis, and a Bystander

Pedestrians in Glastonbury, a small town in Somerset, England, saw an unusual sight last Friday, as a vulva struggled to break up a fight between a penis and an offended bystander. OK, it wasn’t actually a vulva and a penis; it was two members from a local acting troupe known as the Nomadic Academy of Fools. One was dressed as a penis and one a vulva to promote the group’s upcoming productions Women Who Wank and the Penis Monologues.

A passerby who was outraged by their costumes confronted the actors. Chris Murray, the actor wearing the penis costume, explained, “I could tell by his body language that he was really angry. I tried to calm him down, I wasn’t looking for a fight; but he grabbed my hat, tore it off and chucked it on the pavement.” His colleague Joanne Tremarco, who was wearing the vulva costume, stepped in between to try and stop the fight.

When the police arrived, they sided with the bystander and demanded that Murray and Tremarco leave the premises. Inspector Mark Nicholson told the Central Somerset Gazette, “We wouldn’t have stopped the play going ahead, but it’s not appropriate to have costumes and swear words like that in the streets where young children and other people could see them and be offended.”

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