Every year, March 8th is International Women's Day, a political holiday that honors the struggles, achievements and hopes for women worldwide. Since its first observance in 1908, we've come along way, baby -- but not nearly as far as you might think:
The World Economic Forum predicted in 2014 that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then one year later in 2015, they estimated that a slowdown in the already glacial pace of progress meant the gender gap wouldn't close entirely until 2133.
That's some pretty depressing news, courtesy of the International Women's Day website. So this year's theme of the Day is gender parity. By participating in a Pledge for Parity, companies are taking one specific action to advance women in their specific workplace. And individuals -- both men and women -- are encouraged to take steps in their own lives to "help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias."
Being sex & relationship writers, our own focus is, not surprisingly, on gender parity in the bedroom. Here are 7 steps any gal can take to make sure her bed is an even playing field:
1. Orgasm equity. Everyone deserves equal amounts of pleasure. Make sure your partner at least tries to give you an orgasm for every one you help give them. If they can't, go ahead and give yourself one! And if they won't even put in any effort, again give one to yourself and then get a new partner.
2. Thumbs Down Slut-Shaming. Don't talk trash about women with enthusiastic sex drives. Don't make yourself feel bad or guilty about your own enthusiastic sex drive, whether solo or with partners. Don't get hung up on body counts (i.e. the number of people you've had sex with compared to the number of people your partner or your friends have). And stand-up for yourself when someone tries shame you for being a sexual creature. Like our loyal reader Bklynbug recently commented, "I refuse to be labeled by others. I have sex with whomever I choose, whenever I choose. I am empowered by my sexuality."
3. Know Your Body. Love your body. Don't be ashamed about your body. Explore it with your hands and your eyes -- externally and internally. Don't leave it up to someone else to figure out how your body works and what makes it tick! Masturbate regularly, whether you're single or in a relationship. And be sure to communicate your body's desires to any partner.
4. Take Control of Your Sexual Health. And we're talking both physically and mentally. Carry your own barrier protection, whether condoms or dental dams. Use a back-up form of birth control correctly (e.g. no skipping any Pills, if that's what you use). Get yourself checked regularly for STDs; and speak up with your doctor about which tests you want done (a pap smear won't catch everything). Talk with your partner openly, honestly and without shame (see #2) about your and their sexual history -- that doesn't necessarily mean the number of partners, that means STD test dates and results. Never do anything you don't want to do; say no clearly and confidently if you're ever uncomfortable -- whether your tipsy on a first date or you've been married for 30 years. If you're sexually assaulted or raped, report it to the authorities immediately and see a doctor. And if you see someone who can't take control of their own sexual health -- because they're impaired or being controlled or manipulated -- step in (safely, of course).
5. Invest in Your Pleasure. You and your body are worth it. And studies have shown that women who masturbate and use sex toy experience higher rates of sexual satisfaction both alone and with partners. The right toy might just be the key to unlocking a stubborn orgasm. A well-made rabbit can improve masturbation, giving you more sexual confidence. Even something as simple -- and affordable -- as a lubricant or a blindfold can transform sex for you. Avoid cheap novelty toys; instead, go for quality design, body-safe materials (no phthalates, BPA-free), recharge-ability, care & cleaning instructions and warranties. Try to find erotic materials that appeal to you, whether that's female-produced porn by someone like Erika Lust, sexy graphic novels, erotica anthologies, bodice-ripper paperbacks, or even just something steamy on Netflix like old episodes of "The L Word."
6. Promote Decent Sex Ed. Fight for comprehensive sexuality education and against abstinence-only programs in your local schools. If you've got kids, talk to them regularly about anatomy (use the correct terms!), sexuality (awkward but important!), safety, consent and respect. Get them copies of Cory Silverberg's amazing "What Makes a Baby" (6 yrs old & younger) and "Sex Is a Funny Word" if they're between 7 and 10 (stay tuned for his forthcoming teen book). Until then, get them "Sex: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College." Get yourself your own adult sex ed books, manuals and guides --you can always keep learning about sex! And brush up right here on how bodies work. After all, a high sexual I.Q. will give you more confidence and pleasure. Talk to your friends of all orientations and genders about sex tips, sexual politics, feminism, and gay & gender issues to broaden your -- and their -- horizons (try to refrain from being judgmental).
7. Fight for Your Reproductive Rights. They're in serious jeopardy right now: 288 abortion restrictions have been passed since 2011! And when reproductive rights are taken away, women lose. We lose privacy, autonomy, financial security and self-determination. Make no mistake, when you can't make decisions about your own body, you are disempowered. And we're not just talking about access to safe abortions, we're talking about access to affordable birth control, family planning information, and cancer screenings. We can't afford to go backwards. So follow Planned Parenthood Action and Reproductive Health Reality Check (aka RH Reality Check) on Facebook to get important updates on threats to women's rights and how you can fight back -- locally, nationally and internationally.
Want more health-positive tips?
This post is part of a blog series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with International Women's Day, celebrated on March 8, 2016. A What's Working series, the posts address solutions tied to the United Nations' theme for International Women's Day this year: "Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality." To view all of the posts in the series, click here.