It’s 2017, and open discourse on sex and sexuality is still considered somewhat taboo. And quite frankly, many individuals even in college lack knowledge on reproductive health education, from the various birth control options to simply finding resources. In order to combat the very much alive stigma around sex and actively educate college students about reproductive health, Arielle Ross and Jami Tanner work with Bedsider.org, a free support network for birth control with the primary goal of helping women find the method of birth control that is right for them and how to use it consistently and effectively. Read on to learn more about Bedsider at NYU and the sexual empowerment it brings.
Name: Arielle Ross
Major: Concentration in Environmental Design and Technology
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Name: Jami Tanner
Major: Politics, Minor in Public Policy
Hometown: Houston, TX
HC NYU: What are Bedsider.org’s main missions?
AR: We aim to educate individuals generally between the ages of 18-29 about all the available reproductive health options. Our main target audience is people our age. People often say, “Oh, you should have known better because you’re an adult in college”, which is not true. We have a very inconsistent sex education system in this country depending on where students come from. People assume that knowing about condoms and the pill is all there is to birth control. All too often, they don’t realize how many options they actually have.
On campus, those are our main goals. We want to serve as a positive force when it comes to discussing sex. We want to lead people to safe sex options, and allow them to be in a comfortable space, being able to ask questions and find the resources they need.
JT: Going off of what Arielle said, people automatically think that once you hit 18 and enter college, you know everything about sex. There’s growing advocacy for better sex education in high school, which is great, but we don’t really see this happening in college. There are many students who come from places that don’t have any sexual education whatsoever, or from countries that don’t talk about it because it’s considered taboo. There definitely isn’t a strong dialogue on birth control. Bedsider actively works to address these issues, by promoting both dialogue and resources.
HC NYU: What are your individual roles at Bedsider?
AR: I brought Bedsider to NYU, and my main responsibilities consist of overseeing the board, organizing, and outreach.
JT: I focus on organizing and internal outreach. I also keep record of all of our e-board meetings.
HC NYU: What made you personally want to work with Bedsider?
JT: My first experience with advocating for women’s health was my senior year in high school when I worked for Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign. The campaign gave me the chance to interact with my community members on such a personal, intimate level. When I started working for Wendy Davis, I was exposed to the number of battles that women face on a daily basis. It shocked me to see that women constantly have to fight for their rights, even for something as common sense as birth control. It’s also no secret that Texas lacks sexual education. It is a grave flaw in our system. If you look at unplanned pregnancy and abortion rates, birth control is one of the biggest factors in preventing them. I was initially only familiar with the pill, but when I started getting involved with Bedsider, I realized that there were a number of birth control options that I wasn’t aware existed. I think that other people can really benefit from the information that Bedsider provides, just as I did.
AR: So I grew up in a very religious environment. I went to a religious private school and I had no sex ed. When I first started college, I was very adamant about not having sex until I was married. And like Jami, I generally knew about condoms and the pill, but no more. I remember sometime in college, I saw someone had a Bedsider sticker on their laptop and it caught my eye. I asked them what it was, and they told me about Bedsider– I just kept it in the back of my mind. As my time at college elapsed, my views on premarital sex changed and I needed to educate myself starting from scratch about sex education. When I came to NYU–as a transfer student– I saw that Bedsider didn’t exist on campus. So in the midst of trying to find a community for myself and finding people who cared about the same things as I did, my journey with Bedsider began and I created a chapter here.
HC NYU: Your “Thanks Birth Control Day” Campaign last November went viral on social media. Can you tell me more about it?
AR: We decided to make the “Thanks Birth Control Day” Campaign a week of events. It was interesting because we started the campaign two days after the election. People were really eager to learn about how they could be active and contribute which was amazing. We were also giving out t-shirts and had a photo event.
On one of the days, we had a yoga event which was really soothing. One of our general reps, Kate Dowdy, is actually a yoga instructor which is super neat. Overall though, I would say that our Thanks Birth Control Thanksgiving Dinner was the biggest event of the week. NYU Feminist Society co-hosted the event with us, and about 50 people showed up. It was really cute– we had everyone sitting at Thanksgiving themed tables, I did a mini presentation on Bedsider, and we chatted over pie and mashed potatoes, with everyone receiving a #ThxBirthControl shirt for the social media photo campaign the next day.
Yoga Day with NYU BedsiderTeam
From #ThxBirthControl Campaign, cute shirts and photos!
JT: Our #THXBIRTHCONTROL hashtag, which was used all over the country, went viral on social media. We were featured on the Huffington Post and Forbes; even Hillary Clinton was mentioning Bedsider! We got a lot of positive attention, and people really realized that there are actually so many reasons to thank birth control. It was great because one of our goals was to have everyone just be able to share stories about how birth control positively impacts their life.
HC NYU: How can students at NYU get involved with Bedsider? What kind of opportunities are there?
JT: If students want to become a general rep, they can apply through the Bedsider website application, and their form will be sent to the national system. Once this is completed, they can just meet up with one of us and we can get to know each other!
Another big way that students can help us out is that if they are involved in any other organizations, they can always co-sponsor an event with Bedsider! We aim to create intersectional discourse where it’s not just about a certain group with a certain set of beliefs.
AR: When it comes to the practical terms of what Bedsider reps do, we have a general rep meeting once a month where we engage in political conversations, for example, a phonebank, and of course, host fun events. In the past, we’ve had potlucks, a picnic, workshops and community building, and we also went to the Museum of Sex which was unforgettable.
We like to host events with residential assistants too, so if students are in housing, sometimes we’ll have events right in their dorm buildings which is super convenient! We’ve had quite a few Bedsider ‘sexy trivias’, and residents came out to learn about what we do. We then provide RA’s with materials to have their very own Bedsider bulletin board. Trivias are always a fun way to chat and laugh with residents and RA’s in an easy-going space, all while learning from each other and from Bedsider resources. Oh and I’ve seen some VERY impressive vagina and penis drawings.
HC NYU: Despite the fact that it is 2017, there still seems to be somewhat of a stigma when it comes to openly discussing birth control and sex. How do we change this?
JT: What’s unique about Bedsider is the way they approach the topic of sex education compared to other health organizations. It’s a very casual, welcoming culture. They use cheeky graphics and stickers to explain options, and it makes people comfortable and relaxed. For once, birth control dialogue is carefree and isn’t approached as taboo.
AR: There are many misconceptions, especially from older generations, that birth control is ‘bad for your health’, ‘not natural’ or that it will ‘affect your fertility’. My parents definitely had fears about it. I was telling my mom that I wanted to get the IUD, and she was kind of freaking out. And of course our parents have these fears, because throughout the years, birth control has changed a lot. I think it’s important that we pave the path for discussion with our parents and updating them on the all of the new medical research surrounding birth control.
HC NYU: What are some goals you hope to accomplish within the next year?
JT: I’d definitely like to see Bedsider become a widely known resource at NYU. Right now, we still have to define what Bedsider is and does every time. More importantly, I feel very strongly about working on more inclusivity, especially with the LGBTQ community. We want to have discourse concerning our LGBTQ community and birth control, in particular, birth control in the transgender community. I feel like there isn’t a sufficient dialogue specific to these minority groups, who are not in the traditional mainstream discussion when it comes to reproductive rights, and I think we have an obligation to change this. Birth control itself is taboo, but birth control to trans people is even more taboo. Expanding and opening the dialogue to beyond cis, straight women is one of our major goals. As we expand, we hope we can truly be representative of all groups.
AR: Yeah, we definitely want Bedsider to be a household name. If someone said, “Hmm, my pill isn’t working so well”, we want somebody to respond with, “Oh! You should check out Bedsider.org!”. That’s my goal. Also going off of what Jami said, we really need to avoid falling into the cisgender heteronormative language–that birth control is only used for penetration between a penis and the vagina. Because that is not what birth control is only for. We’re aiming to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to shaping our organization.
HC NYU: Speed Round. Ready, set, go!
Your fantasy job:
JT: President of the ACLU
AR: Professional traveller
Favorite Brunch Spot:
JT: Le Barricou, BEST pancakes ever
AR: Prune in Lower East Side, super tasty and has an intimate setting
You work/focus best at:
JT: Coffee shops
AR: Coffee shops. There’s just enough noise that I don’t feel alone but can focus.
Get involved with Bedsider today!
[Subscribe to Bedsider at NYU emails here]
Meetings: Bedsider at NYU holds general meetings the first Monday of the month at 6:45pm, general rep meetings once a month, and e-board meetings on a bi-weekly basis. If you are interested in becoming involved with Bedsider at NYU, please refer to the contact information below.
Facebook: Jami Tanner/Arielle Ross
**Tomorrow evening, along with ZTA and AST, Bedsider will be screening the documentary “How to Lose Your Virginity” followed by a Q&A with the director. See event here.**