One of the unique ways that Answer provides comprehensive sexuality education is through our teen-written sexual health magazine and website, Sex, Etc. In honor of Sex, Etc.’s 20th anniversary, Answer is continuing to profile former Sex, Etc. teen staff writers who have gone on to do great work in reproductive health, public health and journalism. We recently e-mailed former teen staff writer Emily Duhovny to find out how working for Sex, Etc. informed the work she does today.
Emily Duhovny, Teen Staff Writer, 2006-2007
Today Emily Duhovny is a Legislative Aide at the office of Congressman Paul Tonko of New York. We aren’t surprised that Emily is working on “the Hill.” She got her start advocating for comprehensive sexuality education during an advocacy day in Washington, D.C. when she was a teenager. That experience empowered Emily and ignited her passion for policy.
Lucinda Holt: How has Sex, Etc. shaped the work you do today?
Emily Duhovny: Sex, Etc. gave me the opportunity to explore how policy and laws affected the lives of teenagers. Sex, Etc. strongly confirmed my belief that teens (and all people) need to be aware of the laws and policies that affect them. It fired me up to want to work to both understand and change the laws in our country. Sex, Etc. pushed me to discuss the issues that some considered to be “taboo” and reminded me that we must advocate and not stay silent on these pressing issues.
Today I remain committed to making the changes I want to see but serve on the other side as a Legislative Aide to Congressman Paul Tonko. I manage a portfolio of topics that includes women’s issues, nutrition and education. In my day-to-day work, I handle many of the issues that Sex, Etc. shines a light on, and I am still deeply drawn to these issues. I meet with organizations and advocacy groups who visit D.C. to talk about comprehensive sex education, reproductive rights and women’s health. I am especially excited when teenagers and college students come to the office to share their voices on these important issues.
LH: What’s the most pressing sexual health issue teens face today?
ED: Access to and knowledge about birth control and sexual health; a huge contributor to teen pregnancy is a lack of information on sexual health and a missing discussion on what healthy relationships and life choices look like. If we care about teenagers and women, then we should not be afraid of what they will do with information. The fact that there are parts of the country where teens are not only kept in the dark but are also fed lies is unacceptable. Misinformation is both dangerous and demeaning. The right message to send to teens is that we trust you to make informed decisions. Keeping teenagers in the dark is a disservice that will have extensive consequences for our teens and our communities. From the staff at Answer and my peers at Sex, Etc., this message was loudly reverberated, and it still rings true today.
LH: What did you enjoy most about writing for Sex, Etc.?
ED: It was inspiring to work with teens and staff who thought critically about these issues. I enjoyed researching topics that I found intriguing or alarming and then being able to share that with other teens. I wanted my peers to read the stories and think “How is this happening in the United States?” and “What can I do to change it?”
Here are some of my favorite stories I had the opportunity to work on:
- “The Long Walk to the Pharmacy: Purchasing Plan B”
- “Same-Sex Prom Dates: What’s the Fuss?
- Going to D.C. to interview Congressman Henry Waxman on his report on the failures of federally funded abstinence-only sex education programs
LH: What issue are you most passionate about and why?
ED: Social justice, which touches upon equality, education, civil rights, access to healthcare, a just legal system and so many other spheres. There are many pressing issues to be addressed, but I deeply believe that there is a level of dignity and opportunity that all people deserve. When we ensure everyone has dignity and opportunity, we give ourselves a fighting chance of addressing all of the problems that our communities face.
LH: Name one thing that makes you really angry or really happy?
ED: Really angry: That in the United States the term “Madam President” has only been used as a hypothetical or in televisions shows. Really happy: That the above fact will one day sound unbelievable and ridiculous to little girls across the nation.
LH: Name one myth or ridiculous thing you heard about sex growing up?
ED: Here is an example I came across during my time at Sex, Etc.: ”Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men’s happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments.” This comes from an excerpt in Congressman Henry Waxman’s report on the failures of federally funded abstinence-only sex education, and it quotes a real abstinence-only sex education curriculum. It may not be specific to sex, but it shows the pervasive stereotypes abstinence-only sex education programs use to portray women. It definitely falls into the ridiculous category.
LH: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would that be?
ED: Margaret Sanger. It would be fascinating to hear her perspective on where we are at today.