How to plan survivor-centered SAAM programs

How to Build Survivor-Centered SAAM Programs

Each April, colleges, universities, and non-profits across the country recognize Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).

SAAM provides the institutional framework for schools that are just starting to engage with this type of programming on their campuses and for schools that are well-versed in SAAM programming. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center provides a theme and shareable content each year, and some events, like Take Back the Night, bystander intervention workshops, and Project Unbreakable photoshoots are programmatic staples.

But despite the prevalence of SAAM events on college campuses, there is still a big programmatic gap.

Often, SAAM events aren’t designed with the needs of survivors in mind.

When SAAM events aren’t designed thoughtfully, they operate under the assumption that sexual violence hasn’t yet occurred, although statistically, we know that isn’t true.

90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses don't report the assault
Image via the Daily Orange

There are a lot of issues with developing SAAM programs that don’t fully consider survivors and their needs, not the least of which is that those programs simply aren’t relevant to our students.

Components of trauma-informed care, SAMHSA, 2014


In order for SAAM programming to be successful, it must center survivors and it must be trauma-informed. And that programming is what attendees want to see.

I should know — the first time that I designed SAAM events, they totally flopped. But then I did a needs assessment of the students on my campus, and one thing was a thread throughout: people wanted programs that felt relevant to their experiences, not just programs that seemed to be thrown by default or because other campuses were doing them.

So the next year, we totally revamped SAAM events, and at our biggest event, 25% of the student body showed up.

And that’s really, really cool — but also not the point.

Increasing attendance is always a good goal to aim for with any program, but during SAAM, we need to think about more than numbers.

We need to consider the emotional needs of the people in the room, how we advertise events, and how we can create holistic programming models to support survivors, their loved ones, and everyone else.

So, I put together this list of 11 ways that you can center survivors in your SAAM programming efforts. It’s a pretty long list, so let’s just get started:

1. Identify your desired outcomes

When you’re planning a program, what’s your end goal?

Are you looking to simply educate students that sexual violence happens in the world and on campus? Do you want to build community and support systems for survivors on campus? Are you implementing a bystander intervention program?

Each outcome requires you to take a different route, so plan your calendar accordingly. When you’re getting started, determine how many programs you want for each category of learning outcome, and build from there.

2. Balance prevention education with advocacy

So often, SAAM programs are built with one end goal in mind: Prevention education.

I get it. On campus, we’re thinking about how to reduce the number of incidents of sexual violence. But we have to acknowledge that no matter how robust our prevention education efforts are, we will still have students, faculty, and staff in attendance who have experienced sexual violence at some point in their lives.

So if we’re only building programs with the goal of preventing sexual violence, we’re seemingly ignoring those who have already experienced it — especially if those programs aren’t being facilitated from a trauma-informed place.

We know that sexual violence is happening on campus, so consider how you and your office can incorporate advocacy efforts to influence positive change.

That might look like hosting an It’s On Us pledge event, hosting a roundtable conversation about your institution’s Title IX policies and processes, or hosting a Survivor Solidarity (Take Back the Night) march.

Prevention education is absolutely essential, so ensure that as you build those events, you remember that survivors are already in the room.

3. And balance advocacy with recovery

As crucial as SAAM programming is on a college campus, it can also be incredibly draining for survivors, particularly those who are struggling with their recovery.

At your educational and advocacy-based programs, make sure that there is a counselor or advocate available to serve as a crisis resource to students who need them at the moment.

You can team up with your campus’ counseling center or your local rape crisis center to see if they are able to have someone in attendance. If you have a good working relationship with your local organizations, they’ll likely be happy to send a staff member over to help out.

In addition to your education and advocacy programming, incorporate some that are specifically focused on survivors and their recovery.

Events that have an objective of supporting survivors’ recovery paths can help let survivors know that you see them and want to support them. They can also help survivors understand that they are not alone in their experiences.

Some ideas for recovery-focused programs include Project Unbreakable photoshoots, workshops geared toward loved ones about how to best support the survivors in their lives, and workshops about sexuality after trauma. Another common recovery-focused passive program is The Clothesline Project, which can help survivors be able to talk about their experiences in a more anonymous, less-public format.

4. Have counselors on standby

As briefly mentioned in item 3, it’s crucial to have counselors and advocates on stand-by throughout your SAAM programs (or any program that relates to sexual violence).

Regardless of where someone is at in their recovery journey — or if they’re someone who has experienced secondary trauma — engaging in conversations about sexual violence can be incredibly difficult. When you combine that natural difficulty with the high-pressure environment that colleges and universities create, it means that individuals often struggle to cope healthily with the ongoing effects of their past experiences.

Well before SAAM ever begins, reach out to your counseling center and local rape crisis center to see if they would be able to have one or two staff members in attendance at each of your programs.

The counseling/advocacy staff can provide emotional support and healthy coping techniques to survivors who are potentially struggling with flashbacks or retraumatization. They can also serve as helpful resources for individuals who may be struggling with program content in different ways (like if they have a loved one who has experienced interpersonal violence).

Ask the counselors to hang out toward the back of the room during an event or to sit outside of the event space. That way, if an attendee leaves midway, they have the option to sit down privately with the counselor without drawing attention to themselves.

Have your event facilitator introduce the counselors at the beginning of the event, and ask the facilitator to remind participants at another point in the event that there is currently a resource available for attendees who are struggling.

5. Offer support groups

Whether or not you offer support groups during the rest of the year, consider adding in some ad-hoc groups for SAAM. This is a great opportunity to further partner with your counseling center or peer support group facilitators.

If your SAAM schedule is pretty heavy (more than three events per week), consider offering a standing weekly support group throughout the month. The attendance might even let you know that it’s something that should be offered year-round on campus!

For survivors who want to move forward in their recovery or who simply want to know that they’re not alone, support groups are great options. They also provide another layer of security and comfort, as support group locations are often provided only by request.

6. Program with the struggles that survivors may experience in mind

Sexual violence is something that affects much more than one facet of our lives, and recovery is not a short road.

Survivors of sexual trauma may experience a variety of mental health side effects as a result of the trauma they’ve experienced, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse issues, eating disorders, and difficulties with sex and sexuality.

When developing your programming calendar, keep these struggles in mind. How can you offer programs that are responsive to these?

If your programming staff is unable to develop programming specific to any given issue, ensure that you acknowledge it in some way during another, more general program. Simply shedding light on post-traumatic side effects can help survivors draw connections and begin to feel in control of their recovery.

7. Provide fidget tools

Talking about sexual violence is uncomfortable, and when people are uncomfortable, we often fidget. Let attendees know that it’s okay to work out their anxiety however they need to by providing fidget tools at your event. Some of my favorites are colorful pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, and kinetic sand.

8. Offer materials in different mediums

Let’s be honest — focusing can be difficult for anyone during a longer workshop. But when we’re talking about a more difficult topic (like sexual violence), focus is an entirely different issue.

Attendees may mentally check out of an event for a short period as a way of increasing their psychological safety.

If, for example, they are triggered by a particular aspect of the event or if simply engaging in the discussion is more than they can give at that moment, an attendee may opt to fidget with something, look at their phone, doodle on a sheet of paper, or work to turn off their thoughts.

Let attendees know at the beginning of your event that it’s okay for them to take space to take care of themselves — they can leave to go to the bathroom or get some air if they need to, no questions asked.

In order to accommodate this possibility, offer the materials from the event in different mediums. If you’re primarily presenting with a Powerpoint, print out a 1-page summary of information and resources that attendees could bring home with them, offer to email out the slidedeck, and share high-level takeaways on your office’s social media accounts. (Instagram stories works great for this)

Of course, attendees could also be tuning out simply because the workshop itself isn’t very engaging. Which brings me to my next point…

9. Don’t talk at them

Conversations about sexual violence, consent, and communication are some of the most fraught conversations we can have on a college campus. Whether your event is during SAAM, orientation week, or any other time of the year, people are going to be coming into that space with some pre-existing feelings.

Talking at your attendees, rather than engaging them, will only make them disconnect from the topic that much more.

Regardless of your learning outcome for that specific workshop, ensure that there is some type of engaging component to your event. If it’s a Title IX process education workshop, you could ask attendees to write or draw out what they think the process is and who they can go to. If it’s a consent and communication workshop, you could have attendees do a quick quiz about different types of communication and then talk through how we can translate communication styles.

There are tons of options for building engaging programs, so don’t just talk at your attendees.

10. Build healing spaces

Recovery looks different for everyone. SAAM events can help that recovery along, but if they’re not done well, they could actually hinder some survivors’ progress. Focus on creating healing spaces so that regardless of each event’s objective, survivors feel welcomed and like their work in recovery is acknowledged.

Part of building a healing space means that as programmers, we need to not only consider what information we need to share during the event but how we want attendees to feel when they leave.

How will you make those two objectives work together?

11. Center identities that are less frequently acknowledged

This last one should go without saying, but it bears repeating: SAAM programming absolutely must be inclusive of a variety of identities and experiences. That means moving beyond the idea that cisgender women are the only people who are sexually assaulted, that men can’t experience (or talk about) trauma, and that sexual violence equals one specific sexual behavior.

End Rape on Campus graphic about LGBTQ students and sexual violence

We’re moving past those tired tropes as a culture, and we need to reflect and advance that in our programming.

That means de-gendering much (if not all) of your SAAM programming, acknowledging that LGBQ and transgender people experience sexual violence at much higher rates than the average, as do people with disabilities. It means realizing that students aren’t the only people on our campuses who experience or are vulnerable to interpersonal violence.

If your campus has a large percentage of students who are undocumented or who are immigrants, how can you develop SAAM programming that addresses their needs and experiences? Can your LGBTQ student union partner with your office on a program about queer survivorship? Can your faculty union host an event for the faculty?

These are all questions that you should be asking yourselves. If we overlook our most vulnerable — even unintentionally — we implicitly tell them that their experiences aren’t important in the greater conversation.

NSVRC SAAM 2018 twitter graphic

How do you center survivors in your SAAM programming? I’d love to hear from you, so drop me a line on Twitter or Instagram @FeministSexEd.


How sex educators can salvage their Facebook reach

5 Ways Sex Educators Can Salvage Social Media Engagement

At the beginning of 2018, Facebook made another change to their newsfeed algorithm.

If you have a Facebook account, you’ve experienced Facebook’s algorithm shifts many times before. But over the past year, Facebook has come under increased scrutiny for their involvement in misleading political ad campaigns and perpetuating “fake news.” And that scrutiny has been followed with some pretty significant shifts to their newsfeed algorithm.

During my time at Upworthy, we talked a lot about the filter bubble. The filter bubble is the idea that you only see content on Facebook that reflects your own beliefs. Sometimes that’s a function of self-selection, but as time has progressed, Facebook has directly contributed to the thickening of the filter bubble through updates to their algorithm.

Their newsfeed algorithm favors content that you’re likely to engage with. So, if you typically like, comment, or share posts that are related to Planned Parenthood, you’ll see more posts about Planned Parenthood. And you’re unlikely to see posts from people or pages who you don’t engage with as frequently, even if you are interested in their content. And this applies to basically every topic you could think of.

It became so apparent that the Wall Street Journal released a “Blue Feed/Red Feed” tool so that you could see how different those feeds look.

The filter bubble affects every marketer, from the amateur to the seasoned professional.

And I’ve consistently seen Facebook’s algorithm updates affect people in the human sexuality field, from sex educators to bloggers and everyone in-between.

Facebook has consistently said that sexuality-related content is inappropriate for its newsfeed. It flags it as explicit, even if it’s not even close to explicit. When I worked for The CSPH managing their social media, I once had an ad for the Center’s internship program denied because Facebook’s system said that it was explicit content.

Yeah; an internship program.

So I get the frustration that folks in the human sexuality field feel when their content just doesn’t seem to be working at all on Facebook.

And I still think you shouldn’t give up on it just yet. 

I have the unique position of working both in marketing and in sex education, so I’ve spent my fair share of time gaming the algorithm to get important posts in front of the right people. I want you to have those same tools. 

That’s why I’m sharing five ways that you can salvage (and improve!) your reach and engagement on Facebook without sacrificing your content or your values. I hope they are helpful!

1. Enable audience targeting

If you’ve ever used Facebook ads before (or tried to) you’re familiar with audience targeting from the paid perspective. But in my experience, sex educators rarely know how to utilize Facebook audience targeting organically. That’s a shame, because it makes a significant difference.

The first thing that you need to do is go to your Facebook page settings, find the line for “audience optimization for posts” and make sure that the box is checked. how to enable audience targeting on facebook pages

Checking that box allows you to target your posts, even when you aren’t putting money behind them. Targeting serves an important purpose, because it allows you to identify a target audience of people who are more likely to be interested in the content that you are sharing.

Here’s how you can do that for each post:

Go to “publishing tools” and then select “scheduled posts.” This will bring you to the dashboard that allows you to easily schedule posts into the future.

How to schedule posts on Facebook

From there, you’ll select “+Create” in the upper righthand corner. Go ahead and add the content that you want to share. Below, I’ve demonstrated this with a link. (Pro-tip: Once the URL feature image loads, go ahead and delete the URL. It’s still clickable)

You’ll now see that underneath your post canvas, there’s a small target. If you hover your mouse over it, you’ll see that it says “choose the preferred audiences for this post.” Click it.

How to target audiences organically on Facebook

A window will appear where you can search for interests. I will note that not all Facebook pages or interests will appear here. For example, for this post, I tried to search “Autostraddle,” but their website doesn’t show up. So you might need to use some creativity to find pages that are similar to pages that your audience might like.

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 7.16.22 PM

In the past, Facebook has said that it’s best to keep your target groups a mix of broad and niche pages or interests. Here, I’ve chosen nine different target interests: the American Public Health Association, Buzzfeed LGBT, GLSEN, human sexuality, the National Center for Transgender Equality, Planned Parenthood, public health, Refinery29, and women’s health. In my experience, interest groups like these will gather a good mix of sex positive folks, but experiment to find what’s best for you.

From there, click “save” and then click “schedule” and select the date and time that you want the post to publish.

How to schedule a post on Facebook

You can also use this method to restrict your audience — so if you don’t want your post to be visible to people under the age of 18, you can do that. If you’re advertising a workshop in a specific metro area, you can restrict its visibility to that metro area.

I want to be clear that setting up audience targeting does not restrict other people from seeing your post (only audience restrictions can do that).

Instead, audience targeting finds people whose interests are similar to the ones you’ve selected, and shows them your post first. Which means that you’re more likely to get sustained engagement right off the bat, and that’s something that Facebook’s algorithm favors.

2. Use better images

Okay, I know. This one is seems a little vague. But I promise there’s more context. What I mean is that you should use images that are optimized for Facebook: Images with people’s faces, images that are properly sized (more to come on that in a moment), and images that are composed of less than 20% text (this last one is especially important if you’re going to want to “boost” your post).

Embrace the humanity

Images that do well on Facebook and Instagram are nice to look at. But on Facebook, there’s another layer: Images should be human. That’s because Facebook values authenticity in posts. So things that will do well are: Photos of yourself teaching, a “behind the scenes” photo, pictures of pets, or pictures of your work itself.

Anonymous question cards from schools

The image above is an example of an image that has worked well for me across all social channels when it is posted on its own. It works so well that I use it on my site and across my social media channels as a cover photo. Yes, it’s more than 20% text, but it inspires people’s curiosity.

When people on my newsfeed see this image, they start to answer the questions themselves, talk about how they learned about those topics, or they follow-up the questions with their own questions.

Know the optimal size

If you’re doing an image-only post on Facebook, you should aim for a 1000 x 1000 pixel square or a 940 x 788 rectangle. Canva is your best friend here — just build a canvas and upload your photo, and it will automatically size it properly for you. For images that are feature images on my website (on blog posts or specific landing pages), I make them 1000 x 560-pixel rectangles, with the majority of the image content in the center.

Mind your text

This one really only matters if you’re considering boosting your posts for paid campaigns. Facebook will throttle your reach if your image includes more than 20% text, and sometimes will outright deny your ad because of it. Luckily, Facebook has a tool that allows you to check your text proportion.

Too much text on Facebook ad photo

That image that does well for me organically? It wouldn’t do so hot if I tried to put money behind it. This is one example of the importance of optimizing content for each goal and platform that you have.

An important mention

Facebook utilizes machine learning to teach its system how to identify potentially inappropriate content. And after Facebook got slammed for its involvement in fake news scandals in the United States, they tightened up their restrictions. This has tangentially affected folks in the sexuality field because someone, somewhere just doesn’t get it.

Your post images will get flagged as inappropriate by the system if there is nudity (either explicit or implied) — true story, I once had an ad denied because Emma Watson had too much cleavage in the photo. She was fully dressed.

This standard will also affect link posts that you make, but more on that in a bit.

3. Go live

You’re probably sick of hearing about Facebook Live by now, but it’s not going away anytime soon. In fact, video will only grow on Facebook in coming years. So work on finding ways that you can produce videos that serve as teasers for other content on your site or IRL. Facebook loves longer, informative videos, but teasers that are a minute or two long will also work.

You can record videos or utilize Facebook live. Facebook live has the added benefit of sending push notifications to people who are likely to be interested in your content. And, live videos are archived in your video library so you can continue to share them in the future.

There is similar guidance here as there is for image posts: Implied or explicit nudity will lead to your video getting throttled in the newsfeed. So live toy demos aren’t going to work here, but answering three frequently asked questions about a specific toy will work great. You can still show the toy on video, just don’t insert it into any holes.

One example of how Facebook throttles that reach for implied sexuality is in a study of how this video performed when I posted it on my page:

The video starts off with two masculine-presenting people having sex, and even though they are animated, the computer knows. So, this post was immediately throttled, even though it would be considered both appropriate length and informative. In all, it only reached 11 people. Yikes. 

Videos are a great way to direct traffic to your site without having to include a link — so if you’re a toy reviewer, this option may be helpful for you. Just drop your URL in the first comment on the video (“Read my full review here: [URL]!”) and mention your site throughout the video.

4. Share your blog posts (creatively)

If you have a blog, keep sharing your posts (make sure you remember your audience targeting from #1!) But, you might want to find new ways to share them.

If you’ve found that links directly to your site get throttled by the Facebook algorithm because your site contains “explicit” content (insert eyeroll here), sharing links directly to your website won’t work as well.

Instead, utilize the video tools mentioned above and do the “image + bitly” technique. 

Upload an image like you typically would, and add your caption to it. Then, your “call to action” should include a customized bitlink. You can put that directly in the post or in the first comment. You can see an example of this below.

Screen Shot 2018-01-24 at 7.59.20 PM

If you utilize the first comment option, you’ll trick Facebook into not reading your post as a link post. But, if someone shares your post, the bitlink won’t travel with it. The jury’s still out on if Facebook reads bitlinks in image captions as standard image posts, but in my experience, they don’t.

5. Build a support team

We all need support. And Facebook rewards pages and people who do have support in the form of audience feedback. So if people are “liking” or reacting to your posts, they’re more likely to show up in other people’s feeds. But that needs to happen naturally.

If you’re asking for likes, comments, or shares, Facebook is going to limit your reach, because they identify that behavior as spammy. And sorry, but it is. 

Instead, reach out to your network of like-minded professionals and build a Facebook chat where you can post links to Facebook posts that you want more engagement on. Ask them privately to like, share, and comment on the posts. That way, Facebook will read your post as getting a lot of engagement and will start showing it to new people.

(Note: Make sure you have everyone’s consent before you add them to a large group chat. No one likes being added to a group chat without context. Ask them in a one-on-one message, and if they say yes, go from there.) 

I personally recommend keeping those group chats under 10 people, because otherwise, you will all be getting inundated with messages nonstop.

Another thing that you can do is build a thematic Facebook group. Decide on a theme that feels relevant to your brand, and link that group up to your Facebook page. Invite your friends, colleagues, and audience to that group. Host weekly conversations there, encourage people to share articles and relevant blog posts and use that as a way of building your fan base.

Groups, like Facebook Live, have the added perk of sending push notifications to members every time someone posts.


These tips are just a few ways to improve your reach and engagement on Facebook. Some of my tried-and-true standards, like sharing related content that isn’t affiliated with your brand at all, aren’t included here. So this list is by no means exhaustive (I wouldn’t have a job if it were), but it is a solid start.

Want to chat more about this? Just drop me a line.


Why We Need to Reframe New Year’s Resolutions

It’s January 1, and if you’re pretty much anywhere on social media, you’re reading about resolutions.

I never make New Year’s resolutions, but this year I decided that I wanted to try my hand at it again. I’ve never been very good at making or keeping resolutions, and when you combine that with my need to be perfect in everything I do, well…it’s basically just a set-up for unreasonable stress and anxiety.

And if you’ve ever set a resolution yourself, you know that after even just a little bit of time, they stop working. Why is that? 

We set ourselves up for failure when we make New Year’s resolutions for a few reasons:

  1. They’re too broad
  2. They’re too drastic of a behavioral shift
  3. We don’t build systems of support and accountability

But most importantly: New Year’s resolutions don’t work because we don’t give ourselves space to not succeed. 

We set these huge mandates for ourselves, expecting our behavior to change automatically overnight, without any struggle at all. And that just isn’t realistic — changing our habits and behavior takes a lot more work, and we have to acknowledge that failure or “slipping up” is a part of that. We need to be okay with failing. 

In the United States, our entire culture — especially for Millenials — revolves around success. And that success usually isn’t defined by ourselves, it’s defined in relation to what other people think it should be. We apply for a promotion because other people tell us we should, we juggle too many obligations to show how skilled we are at managing large loads, and even when we do reach typical markers of success, we feel like we haven’t done well enough.


In 2016, a survey conducted by Dr. Stuart Slavin found that 80% of surveyed high school students experienced moderate to severe anxiety — the majority of which was caused by school and the need to succeed. The need to be successful is literally making us sick — and it’s only going to get worse. 

The success drive is exactly why I never set New Year’s resolutions. But this year, I decided to give myself some grace: Instead of setting big, vague resolutions that I didn’t really care about, I decided to take a different approach.

For nearly all of December, I took stock of what was happening in my life — and there was a lot. I came home from a vacation, went to a conference, started a new contract role, tried desperately to catch-up on work, and then got sick — all before we even got to the weekend before Christmas.

Nearly all of the negative things happening in my life — being behind on work, getting sick, and the handful of panicked meltdowns I had — were the result of me not paying attention to what I needed or wanted. For pretty much my entire life, I’ve focused so much on running toward someone else’s idea of success that I never stopped to think about what it meant for me. 

So this year, I wrote resolutions that each answered one question: How can I reduce my daily stress levels?

The list is long, but here are a few examples:

1. Pay off my credit card debt by the end of the year

In 2016, I built up a large amount of credit card debt. I’ve been steadily paying it off, and I’m finally getting close. Once I’m done, I can focus on my student loans, buying my first car, and saving. Money has always been a huge source of stress and anxiety for me, so working through this one has already helped my mental health.

2. Take time to stretch in the mornings

Once upon a time, I was really active — I went to the gym for 1-2 hours each day and did several hours of dance classes each week. Now, not so much. I can’t touch my toes anymore, and I can tell that my reduced flexibility has impacted my daily pain levels. Instead of jumping out of bed to get ready for work, I’d like to take a few intentional minutes to warm up my muscles.

3. Take one tech-free day each month

There are some months where I work seven days per week, and well over 10-12 hours per day. That’s ridiculous. I’m going to try to reduce my workload, but I’m not making that a resolution (I know myself better than that). Instead, I’m going to take one tech-free day each month. I’ll put my phone on do not disturb mode, put away my laptop, and read a book or spend the day outside. I’ve done these in the past, and always felt happier and more relaxed for it.

4. Be sexy just for myself

When I feel sexy, I feel powerful. But most days, I feel actively unsexy — I’m in pain, or need to shower, or am sick, or am too stressed with work. And that feeling impacts my relationship with myself and my relationship with my partner. I’ve typically combatted this feeling by taking one day every several months where I’ll dress in a way that feels sexy to me. But I’ve never really done that just because I want to — it often comes from a place of feeling obligated. So this year, I’m going to practice sexiness just for my own sake. Side note: I have an entire list of resolutions that are sex-related, and I’ll be talking about them live on O.School on Tuesday, January 2, at 7 pm ET. 

5. Exercise my empathy muscles

This resolution is a bit backwards. I’ve noticed that the more stressed or overwhelmed I am, the less I am able to empathize with the people around me. I consider myself to be a pretty empathetic person, so whenever I notice this happening, it’s a huge clash with my values. This year, while I’m trying to find ways to reduce stress in other parts of my life, I’m also going to take the time to sit down and simply listen to people more. This won’t directly reduce my stress levels (although there’s a lot to be said for empathy as an exercise in self-understanding) but it will help me feel like I’m living out my values in the way I want to be.

This year, I’m setting resolutions with me in mind — not our success-driven culture.

Here’s to a year of failures, of growth, and of learning.

Happy new year, sex geeks.

PS: If you want to talk more about resolutions that can positively impact your sex life, join my livestream January 2, 2018, at 7 pm ET

Sex(y) resolutions for 2018 — O.School — Cassandra Corrado

Product Reviews, Uncategorized

Product Review: POP! by Semenette

PLast week, I was the featured sex educator at a panel about sex and relationships at New College of Florida.

I decided to bring some products from my teaching kit with me so that students could get a feel for different types of toys and lubes and so I could answer their questions.

I made sure to bring toys with me that would elicit at least a few “what is that?” comments from students. While toys like the Pure Wand brought giggles, looks of confusion, and delight, students had a completely different reaction when they picked up the Pop dildo.

“Is it a pump? What does it do?”

When I bring toys to colleges, I often watch curiosity turn to delight (or alarm), but Pop was different.

When I told students that Pop is an ejaculating dildo, and that it was originally created to help couples reproduce with at-home inseminations, some students teared up. When I mentioned that some trans folks might use Pop as a tool that affirms their gender identity and presentation during sex, they got quiet and contemplative.

The Pop is fun, don’t get me wrong. But it’s also much more than a toy. For many people, the Pop dildo could be life-changing.

The Basics

Pop is a silicone ejaculating dildo made in the United States and Germany, produced by Fun Factory. It comes in four colors: toffee (light-medium flesh tone), cocoa (medium-dark flesh tone), raspberry (bright pink), and slate (black).

Pop dildo - review - Cassandra Corrado - silicone toys

The dildo, internal tubing, and bulb are all made of medical-grade silicone, while the “lock” pieces (shown below in the instructional video) are made of ABS plastic.

Pop is harness-compatible, but does not come with a harness. Its retail price is $140. The bulb that comes with Pop doesn’t hold a ton of liquid (about 1 tablespoon), so if you’re looking for something to produce a more dramatic effect, you might be interested in purchasing the larger bulb — it holds four times as much liquid as the standard size.

How It Works

I’m going to be honest: I struggle with Ikea-style instructions. Nearly all of the furniture I’ve ever purchased has been from Ikea, so I’ve assembled my fair share of couches, tables, and bed frames. Assembling the Pop for the first time was an experience on-par with the time I assembled a sleeper sofa with built-in storage by myself while drinking wine.


That’s to say: I cried a little bit because I just don’t understand visual instructions well. 85% of the assembly was fine, but I struggled with the “Luer lock” and the tip.

The instructional booklet that comes with the Pop wasn’t helpful to me, but if you’re someone who has a good understanding of spacial dynamics and really loves playing with Legos, you would probably be fine. If you are like me, Pop has an instructional video that is very helpful.

Once I watched the video, I stopped crying and finished assembling the thing. Watching it be assembled was so much easier for my brain.

Pop’s assembly is fairly simple once you understand how it works, but a key thing to remember is that you will need to disassemble and reassemble it after each use.

Unlike other ejaculating dildos on the market, Pop is intended to be able to be fully sanitized, and is therefore safe to use for at-home inseminations. In order for Pop to be fully sanitized, they recommend fully replacing the tubing after each use. Pop comes with 5 tubes, and once you use all of those you’ll have to purchase a refill kit, which runs $45. The refill kit comes with 5 tubes and a bulb.

Once assembled, you can fill up the bulb with your liquid of choice. To ejaculate, just press down on the bulb, and, well…pop goes the dildo.

A portion of the tubing gets pushed into a seam in the base, so the dildo will still rest flat against your body if you’re wearing it with a harness. Figuring out where to put the bulb is more of a challenge, and if you have any type of stomach rolls, they’ll likely press against the bulb, which could cause some “pre-cumming” to happen.


What to Use It With

Once Pop is assembled, you can fill up the tube with your liquid of choice — that could be semen, lube, water, or something else (but keep in mind that some fluids could cause bodily discomfort or trigger infections). Pop recommends Sliquid Silk, a hybrid (silicone/water) lubricant that looks eerily like semen. Recently, Sliquid released Pop Lube, which was formulated specifically for use with the Pop dildo.

The two lubricants have identical ingredient lists, but Silk is a 9% silicone blend while Pop is 12% silicone. The higher amount of silicone in the Pop lubricant makes it slightly longer lasting, but otherwise, there are not many significant functional differences. The Pop Lube description specifically states that it is safe to use on the external portion of the dildo, not just with the tubing — so it won’t cause problems with the silicone. With any lubricant that you use with Pop, make sure to do a patch test on the base.

Both recommended lubricants are pretty thick, though, which means you’re not going to be getting a geyser effect once you press down on the pump.


^This won’t be happening with either lubricant

If you really want the “WHOA BABY LOOK AT THAT!” effect, sticking with water will be your best bet. If you’re more interested in a semen-like look or feel, then either of the recommended lubes will get the job done.

How to Clean It

The dildo portion of Pop can be cleaned with hot, soapy water, boiled for 3 minutes, or put through the dishwasher on sanitize mode (without dish detergent).

Because the bulb is opaque and the tubing isn’t transparent, you can’t tell when those components are clean. Wash, rinse, repeat is your friend here.

The best way to ensure that the tubing is fully sanitized is to change it, which is why Pop provides you with 5 tubes when you purchase the dildo. If you aren’t going to change the tubing as frequently, wash the tubing immediately after use with hot, soapy water, flushing the tube and bulb multiple times until the water runs completely clear.

Who It’s For

Pop’s original iteration, The Semenette, was developed out of a desire for at-home inseminations that weren’t so clinical. In its updated form, though, Pop has recognized that there are many types of people who may be interested in an ejaculating dildo.

Reproductive Assistance

At a personal level, I really appreciate what Pop does for couples who aren’t able to reproduce on their own. As a queer woman, I often think about my reproductive options: would I want to be inseminated? If I did, would I want to do it in a doctor’s office, or use a tool like Pop? Or maybe I don’t want to be pregnant, and would rather adopt. But then there are so many underlying issues with adoption. So maybe I will get pregnant. Maybe?

Thinking about the ways I am (and am not) able to reproduce stresses me out. But I appreciate that I have another option on the table — because the Pop would allow both my partner and I to be involved in the insemination process, and that’s really important to me. 

Transgender Folks

Transgender people who want a product that affirms their identity may enjoy Pop because it allows them to have the visual experience of ejaculation. And with that ejaculating functionality comes an important question: who pushes the button? A Femme Cock also contemplated this during their review process, and it’s something I’ve thought about since day one.

My gut says that the person doing the ejaculating (the person wearing Pop) would be the one to squeeze the bulb, but technically, any of the people involved could. If you and your partners are into orgasm control, this would be a great way to involve a more visual component — when you’re ready to let your partner cum, the ejaculation visual can make that experience even more powerful.

Erection Difficulties

There are a lot of stereotypes around people with (physical response) arousal difficulties: that people who can’t get erections are too old to have sex, that not being able to get wet means that you’re “all dried up” permanently, or that the people involved aren’t into what’s happening.

But let’s be clear: physical indicators (such as erections, getting wet, and having an orgasm) have nothing to do with someone’s interest in sex. Someone could have an erection, but not be aroused, or be aroused, but not have an erection.

Erections and getting wet are indicators of one thing: physical stimulation. That could include something as simple as a breeze going under someone’s skirt or it could mean that someone wants to have sex. The only way to know how someone is really feeling is to ask. And of course, someone could be aroused, but might not be showing physical response indicators.

Here is a list of other things that could inhibit someone’s ability to get an erection or ejaculate:

  • Alcohol use
  • Drug use (this includes recreational drugs, as well as opioids, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications, among others)
  • Depression or anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Nerve damage
  • Stress
  • Spinal damage, including compressed discs or pinched nerves
  • Low testosterone

For people with penises who want to experience erections, not being able to get one (or maintain one as long as you’d like) can be incredibly frustrating. Pop can be a helpful tool for these folks, helping them regain some amount of control over their own bodies.

Couples Who Are Not Fluid-Bonded

To be fluid-bonded means that two or more people are sharing bodily fluids — usually semen, vaginal fluids, or blood — with each other.

In US society, there’s an expectation that being fluid-bonded is a key step in a relationship’s “seriousness.” But that just isn’t true — people within highly committed relationships could choose to not fluid bond, and that doesn’t mean they aren’t committed or faithful to the expectations of the relationship. And being fluid-bonded doesn’t necessarily indicate that people within the relationship are more committed to each other than people in other relationships.

People may practice fluid protection for a variety of reasons, but one major factor is HIV or STI status. HIV, Hepatitis B + C, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis can all be transmitted through various bodily fluids.

If a couple chooses to be fluid-protected, Pop is an option for risk reduction that goes beyond “use condoms.” If you wanted to still “ejaculate” onto or inside of your partner while maintaining your fluid protection, you could strap-on with Pop (using the SpareParts Deuce harness if you have a penis) and still have the experience of ejaculation while maintaining your boundaries.


Pop is a great option so many people — whether you’re looking for something to help with insemination or you want the visual of ejaculation, Pop gets the job done. At a pretty high price point, Pop is going to be an investment, but its high-quality materials and manufacturing mean that that investment is going to last a long time. If you’re looking for a toy that can ejaculate, Pop should be on your list


Thanks to POP! for sending me a sample to review. I bring Pop with me when I teach workshops, so if you want to learn about it in-person, contact me today