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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Thursday, June 26 2014, Boston Public Radio (BPR) broadcast a segment discussing Alyssa Giacobbe’s June 25 Boston Globe article, “The complicated sex lives of baby boomers.” The relevant BPR segment can be found here, beginning at 1:09:01, in which hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude discuss the article with Alex Beam, a columnist for the Boston Globe.   We are troubled to see such a well-known radio institution participate in the very kind of shaming behavior that prevents many individuals from pursuing their own health and happiness, especially since there are surely many among the hosts’ own circles of loved ones who have faced or will face these issues. Beam, Braude & Eagan’s commentary seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how organizations like The Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health (The CSPH) operate and why people might visit them. As a 501c3 organization, we work with individuals, community organizations, therapists and esteemed medical institutions such as Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School to educate the public about sexual health and all its intersecting issues. Many people would have taken a similar view to BPR’s of The CSPH as a “crazy institute… you couldn’t even imagine existing” before 2009, when our founder Megan Andelloux first dreamed of a place where people could set aside their fears and learn about sexuality and health. It is still hard to believe The CSPH exists in a culture where discussing sex in frank ways is seen as taboo, and sexuality and nudity (especially in older women) are far too often perceived through the same lens of “icky”, “uninteresting” or “creepy” that BPR uses. However, increasing foot traffic and online readership has made it clear to us that the work we do is fundamentally important to all individuals. People who come into The CSPH and seek out our resources should be commended for taking positive steps towards their health and sexual wellness. We cannot stress enough that they do not deserve to have their personal suffering laughed at and deemed unimportant or somehow disgusting. Regarding BPR’s specific comments on baby boomer sexuality: Sexuality does not cease to exist with age, although it changes alongside the body over time. We recommend that BPR’s staff browse through the resources available on our Sex and Aging page to familiarize themselves with the relevant populations and problems that we address. Beam, Braude and Eagan giggle at the rise in STI rates among senior citizens (“Between 2000 and 2010, cases of some STDs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, nearly tripled among those 50 and older”); however, they fail to recognize that this occurs because negative stigma surrounding sex and aging prevents many baby boomers from openly discussing their sex lives and learning how to engage in safe sexual behaviors. Whether we report on them or not, individuals of all ages are having sex and will continue to do so. We believe our role is to provide adults of all ages, including those over 60, with the information necessary to make their choices safe and informed. It is unfortunate to us that BPR, along with many other people and organizations in popular media, have not examined this issue with the journalistic rigor and empathy we expect from public commentators. If they had, they would undoubtedly agree that cavalierly laughing at the natural sexual lives of an entire demographic of people – writing it off as an “always creepy subject” – is neither professional nor warranted. Had they stopped to consider why “everyone [in the article] is not identified by their last names,” instead of simply treating this as another joke, they might have recognized their own role in perpetuating the exact same societal condemnation that leads interviewees to fear revealing their full names in the first place. If Beam, Braude or Eagan ever find themselves close by Pawtucket, Rhode Island, we would like to extend an open invitation to visit our space, where we would be glad to show them around and provide a full explanation of the services we offer; we put a lot of work into our professional offerings, so no “bag over your head” should be required. Perhaps perusing our resources will help educate on the immense pertinence of adult sexual education and facilitate a more respectful understanding of those who are brave enough to seek improvement in their sexual lives.

This is a public statement directly from The Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health. This article was edited on June 27 at 9:39PM to incorporate minor grammar and formatting changes. Content remains unchanged.