Oh, No! I’m Pregnant…Repost

I wrote this post a year and a half ago, but thought it was worth repeating.  I’m reposting it for those who don’t go back into my archives…

How stressful is it to find out you’re pregnant when you weren’t expecting it?  Let’s face it, having a baby wasn’t exactly in your 4 year college plan.  So what do you do?  First, if you are in a relationship, talk to your boyfriend.  This can be a very difficult conversation.  The first emotion most people feel is denial.  Don’t feel hurt if he is hoping that maybe the pregnancy test was wrong.  He isn’t rejecting you, his brain is just in freak out, no this can’t be happening mode.  If you’ve had a few hours or days to digest this, it will take that amount of time for him to catch up with you.  His first reaction may be to consider abortion.  This too, is common.  The first instincts aren’t pregnantalways the smartest.  There is a lot to discuss and consider.

You both have to think about whether you want to tell family members.  If you have a supportive family it may help you to decide what to do.  If you don’t, you may want to decide what you are going to do before telling your families.  Or you may decide not to tell them at all.  Without outside family support, it is very hard for two college students to raise a baby on their own.  It has and can be done, but not without major sacrifice.  Even with a lot of family support, keeping the baby requires giving up a lot of things.  It may require one or both of you to have to drop out of school either temporarily or permanently.  When you aren’t expecting to have to make these types of decisions, it can be very overwhelming.

However, the pregnancy has a way of marching on.  You can’t NOT decide when it comes to being pregnant.  The baby can only stay in the womb for so long.  If you decide to have the baby, whether you keep it or not, you will need proper prenatal care.  Then you have a few months to decide whether you want to give the baby up for adoption or keep it.  There are many places that help women with the adoption process.  You may consider an open adoption where you still get to be a part of the baby’s life or a closed adoption where you give up all rights and no information is released to the adoptive parents.

If you decide to have an abortion, your timeline shrinks.  In order to take the abortion pill, you need to make up your mind within 9 weeks of pregnancy.  Some women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they are 6-8 weeks along.  After 9 weeks you will need to have an in-clinic abortion.  One type of in-clinic abortion is aspiration or vacuum aspiration.  This type is used up until the 16th week of pregnancy.  After 16 weeks another type of in-clinic abortion is used which is called dilation and evacuation.  Pain and cramping is involved with all types of abortion procedures.

No matter what you decide this is a life changing decision.  You and your boyfriend will never be the same.  That is why using birth control is so important.  If you both feel the same way, making the decision together can bring you closer no matter what you decide to do.  It is when you disagree on the decision that stress adds up exponentially in the relationship.  Both women and men have come in for counseling because their partner pushed them into a decision they didn’t agree with.  A lot of resentment, guilt and anger can build up in this case.  Making this decision is hard enough without also having to go against your values.  Please seek out other people to consult with if you and your partner can’t agree on what to do about the baby.

pregnancyAlso be prepared for psychological stress after you go through with your decision.  If you decide to have an abortion, it may be hard to mentally deal with this after the fact.  The same is true with adoption.  Many people have reported that they go through a grief process afterwards.  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you feel sad or upset.  It is normal to feel this way.  If you have unresolved anger, guilt or resentment towards yourself or your partner, please seek some kind of counseling to help you resolve those feelings.  Also, if you find out you’re pregnant and you aren’t in a relationship, seek the advice of someone close to you that you trust.  This will help you talk through your options.  Have that person there with you if you decide to get an abortion, see a doctor for a check-up, or see an adoption specialist.  It is not recommended that you make every decision and do everything on your own.  That is a huge weight to carry and it helps to share the load with at least one trusted person to help you get through it.

If you do find out you or your girlfriend is pregnant there are many resources that can help you with your decision.  A few a listed below.

Planned Parenthood

Adoption

Pregnancy Options

Acquaintance Rape

September is Sexual Assault Awareness Month.  I wrote this post last year, but feel it is worth repeating.  Date rape happens more often than people think and the beginning of the school year is when most rapes occur.  You think you would know if you’d been raped right?  Not necessarily.  I’ve had women come in for counseling because they felt a friend or acquaintance took advantage of them, either while they were drinking or while they were feeling vulnerable.  They either felt they couldn’t say no or felt pressured by the person they thought they could trust.

Acquaintance Rape happens a lot more often then being assaulted by a stranger.  Over 77% of women report being sexually assaulted by someone they know.  Of those 77% only 2% will actually report the assault.  Why do you think so many women refuse to come forward?  Sometimes it is out of fear.  Sometimes it’s because the woman blames herself for getting into the situation.  Sometimes the woman feels she didn’t say no forcefully enough.   A lot of the time, women will minimize their feelings and try to tell themselves to just forget what happened.

The following situation is an example of why sexual assault isn’t always so black and white:   One night a woman runs into one of her male friends.  She is upset, and he offers to listen and give her some advice.  She starts crying and opening up about what happened with another guy.  She tells him she feels rejected and unlovable.   Her male friend offers comfort and support.  He may start to hug her and rub her back.  It starts to get late and he asks her to stay a little longer so she won’t feel lonely.  They hang out and talk some more.  He starts to cuddle with her and before she realizes it they are kissing.  She says she should leave, but he convinces her that the other guy is stupid for rejecting her.  He tells he thinks she is beautiful, and he would never do that to her.  He continues to touch her and she gives in.  Soon most of their clothing is removed.  She starts to push him away again, but he resists and continues to hold and touch her.  He tells her not to worry, he’ll treat her right.  She feels guilty for letting things go this far.  She also feels she owes him for listening to her.  They have sex.

The best outcome of this scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She feels she consented in the end because she didn’t say no.  She may confront her friend and tell him she regrets her decision and doesn’t want to have sex with him again.  She may or may not ever choose to open up to him again when she feels upset or vulnerable.  She may also have lost some respect or trust for him, but doesn’t feel traumatized by the event.

The next best scenario is the next day she feels bad about giving in and having sex.  She regrets it, but doesn’t feel strong enough to say anything to him.  She may act like it never happened.  She most likely will avoid talking to him when she feels so upset and vulnerable.  She has lost trust and respect for her friend.  A distance grows between them.  She may feel a little upset about the event, but tells herself she has lived and learned.  Next time she will open up to a girlfriend or talk to her guy friends during the daytime when she feels a little safer.

The worst scenario is the next day she feels sick to her stomach when she thinks about what happened.  She feels violated.  She regrets not saying no more forcefully, but feels he should have known she wasn’t there for sex.  She wishes he would have listened when she tried to stop him earlier and pushed him away.  She not only has lost trust and respect for this male friend, she now feels like he is a predator who only listened to her so he could get sex.  She feels traumatized by the event and can’t stop thinking about it.  She is very emotional and doesn’t know what she should do now.  She is very afraid of seeing him again.  Will anyone believe her?  She may start to blame herself and tell herself all the things she should have done.  She most likely won’t report it.  She will go on to blame herself even though somewhere inside she knows she was sexually assaulted by her friend.

Research funded by the U.S. Department of Justice estimates that  1 out of 5 college women will be sexually assaulted.  September happens to be the month when most sexual assaults are reported.  School has just begun and many college students are experiencing their freedom for the first time.  Students go out with their friends and blow off stress from the week.  Some may drink and end up in situations similar to the one above.  The next day they may feel they were assaulted, but don’t report it because they blame themselves for drinking too much.

Unfortunately, sexual assault can happen in all different types of situations.  However, they all leave the person assaulted feeling very vulnerable, scared and alone.  A lot of guilt is also embedded into these situations.  I used the above example to show that rape isn’t always black and white.  Different people are going to feel differently after experiencing similar situations.  However, your feelings are not wrong, whether you feel just slightly uncomfortable or horribly traumatized.  Everyone is different, and your feelings are more true than the details of how it happened.  No one can tell you that you shouldn’t feel something.

If you do feel traumatized, it does help to talk about it.  Processing your feelings can help you move through them.  This will make them less powerful in your mind and help you learn to not blame yourself.  You won’t “get over it”, but it may help you not think about it all the time or have nightmares about it.   I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I do know that women have worked through this and felt they were able to take their power back.  If you are continuing to struggle, please see a counselor or someone non-judgmental who won’t tell you how to feel, but help you process your feelings no matter what they are.

Why Are You Having Sex?

There are a lot of reasons to have sex.  Same action, different intent (or reason), different result.  Sex can be simple or it can get really complicated.  When deciding to have sex, make sure it’s for the right reasons, otherwise the complications add up quickly.

Why have sex?  That is a good question.  Hopefully you decide to have sex because you are in love with someone and want to take your relationship to the next level.  Maybe you decide to have sex because it is fun.   There are many good reasons to have sex, and it doesn’t matter how often.  Even more promiscuous people can be having sex for the right reasons.  In fact a lot of promiscuous people tend to be safer, have more satisfying experiences, and have a sex-positive outlook on life.  Why?  Because they are confident about their decision to have sex.  It is about doing what they want, not about feeling obligated or trying to please someone else.  People who are confident also don’t need to have sex to feel attractive.  They can go out with their friends and not feel compelled to end the night in bed with someone else.  They have standards that they don’t lower just for the sake of sleeping with someone.  Sex isn’t an integral part of their personality – it’s essentially one part of their life that they enjoy.

The decision to have sex should be about you, not about impressing someone else or making someone else happy.  If you feel like you can’t say no, or you don’t have the right to say no, then you are getting into risky territory.  This is your body, and emotional and physical health you’re talking about here.  You should be making the decision to have sex because it is what you want. However, I find a lot of people hop into bed with someone they’re not even attracted to because they feel obligated to have sex.  This could mean there is something in your brain telling you the only value you have is sexual, or that people will only like you if you have sex with them.  You may also feel incomplete if you’re not having as much sex as other people around you.

Stop and think about your choices.  Remember that you actually DO have a choice to have sex.  It is also okay to decide not to have sex.  There is no rule that you have to hook up with someone because it’s Friday night.  If you have friends who think something is wrong with you because you went home alone, then you may want to examine the type of friends you keep.  The key to all this are the words “have to”.  You don’t HAVE TO do anything.  You can stay home and read a book on Friday night or you can go out and have sex with someone if it makes you happy.  Again, the key is doing what makes you happy.  In college it can be easy to get caught up in doing what you think other people would approve of.  Trust me, it is way more important to do things you approve of.  You have to live with yourself when you wake up the next day.  If you are okay with your choices, then don’t let others judge you or push you into doing things that make you feel uncomfortable.

Also, think about your choices after a night of drinking.  Maybe you make good decisions about sex when you’re sober.  You tend to have sex when it pleases you and wake up with no regrets.  However, is it the same after you’ve been drinking?  I meet with many students who only regret their sexual decisions after a night out drinking.  They didn’t intend to have sex, but find they always end up in someone’s bed after downing a couple shots.  Examine your behavior and make some different choices if what you’re doing isn’t making you happy.  If drinking is causing problems in your life, you may want to figure out how to change this pattern before it becomes even more complicated.

Having sex out of obligation, peer pressure, or only while drinking may be the result of something as serious as sexual trauma, a consequence of dangerously low self-esteem or a desperate desire to fit into the “hookup culture” mold.  If you aren’t having sex because it’s fun, pleasurable or as a way to connect to someone you love, then you need to examine why.  Whether you should seek therapy or whether it’s an issue you can work through on your own or with friends, don’t continue to indulge in behavior that isn’t good for you.  Remember, having sex for the wrong reasons is never going to satisfy you or make you feel good about yourself.

Is Sexting Safe?

I wrote a post over a year ago called Safe Sexting.  I thought it might be smart to reiterate some of the things I said in that post plus add a few new things to think about.  Sexting has become very popular among younger people, and probably some older folks too.  People have told me it is a new way of flirting.  However, you can do some pretty stupid things with a smart phone these days.

Students have asked me if I think sexting is a good idea.  It really depends.  In some cases, it is a very stupid idea.  If you don’t really know the person you are sexting or sending naked pictures to, then it can get out of hand pretty quick.  If this person lives on the other side of the world, it may be relatively safer.  They don’t know any of your friends and family and it is a lot less likely that what you said or the pictures you sent could come back to haunt you.  However, if you just sent off a few pictures of yourself to a person you just met in your anatomy lab, be prepared to have their friends looking at you like they’ve seen you naked.  Chances are, they have.  Colleges and universities are like small communities.  People talk and others around you may know more about you than you think.

Another thing to think about is WHY you’re sexting with someone.  Some students have told me they feel pressured into it.  They start out just flirting with someone else through text, but then it quickly becomes sexual.  They tell me they want this person to like them so they continue to say suggestive things through text.  The next thing they know, the person is asking for a naked photo.  Sending this person a naked photo because you just want to get them to like you isn’t a good reason.  You should engage in sexual behavior because it is your choice and what YOU want to do, not because it is what someone else wants you to do.  Do what you feel comfortable with.  Don’t do something to impress someone or make someone else like you.

Be yourself.  If you aren’t overtly sexual in person, don’t pretend to be through text.  This person may then expect you to follow through with some of those sexual suggestions you made when they see you in person.  If you don’t feel comfortable following through, you shouldn’t be making the suggestions in the first place.  It is important to be confident about your decisions.  If you don’t mind being more sexual both through text and in person, then go ahead.  However, if you don’t feel comfortable than feel confident enough to say so.  If you say no and the other person stops texting you, it is a pretty good indication they only wanted to use you for sex any way.  If you want more than sex, it’s better to be disappointed now rather than later.

Is it smart to send naked pics to your boyfriend or girlfriend who you love and trust?  Maybe.  You could be with someone who you know loves you and would never betray you.  However, I’ve heard plenty of horror stories, so please think twice before sending that naked photo off into cyber land.  Once you send that picture you lose all control, so it is still a big risk.  Relationships break up all the time.  This would be a perfect opportunity for your now ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend to get back at you.   The so-called love of your life could save that picture and when they feel angry or upset with you, they may send it to anyone and everyone you know.  Who knows where it could end up after the two of you decide to break up?

Also be aware that if you are in a committed relationship with someone and you are sexting someone else, that is considered cheating.  You can cheat with technology very easily.  Even if the person lives across the world, doing anything behind your boyfriend or girlfriend’s back, is considered deceitful.  You may also want to remove those photos that friends have forwarded to you if you are in a relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend finds a naked photo on your phone that a friend passed along, that could still look very bad for you.  Keeping it on your phone even though it was sent from a buddy of yours, is not considered a smart idea.

Another not so smart idea is sending naked pictures of yourself to someone who doesn’t desire to receive one.  This person is NOT going to consider you irresistibly sexy if they receive unsolicited texts or pictures of a sexual nature.  It is usually a huge turn off.  Don’t just assume someone is willing.  Ask the person if they are okay with it before sending anything sexual.  If that person says no, be respectful.  It is also not a turn on to beg someone for sexual material either.  NO means NO.  If you proceed after this point it is considered sexual harassment.

If you want to be a little smarter while sexting it is a good idea not to send any pictures with your face also in the photo.  Some people say it is a little less likely that you will be able to identified in case the picture gets out to others.  Yet, remember, many famous people have been identified in naked photos even though their face wasn’t in the picture.  You may also want to set some ground rules before you engage in sexting as well.  Let the person know how far you want to go.  You may want to tell them upfront that you don’t mind flirting sexually, but you don’t want to receive or send any naked pictures.  If you aren’t ready to have sex with this person, it is also a good idea to let them know up front that you like to flirt, but don’t plan on meeting up with them at 2am to hook up.

I said this in my last post, but I think it is worth repeating.  As a counselor, I recommend you educate yourself before engaging in sexting with anyone.  It may seem fun, harmless and safer than having sex, but there are still consequences that can be devastating.  Be aware of all the risks before deciding what is best for you.  If you are over 18 it isn’t illegal to send sexual material over your phone to someone else that is over 18.  You have to decide what you are comfortable with and be strong about setting a clear boundary with others who are trying to engage you in this behavior.  If you start something and then feel uncomfortable, stop and let the other person know.  If they won’t stop, find a way to block them from your phone if possible or report them for harassment.  Be smart and be safe!

 

Gonorrhea resistant to antibiotics???

This will be horrific if it is true.  I’ve heard on the news that a certain strain of Gonorrhea has become resistant to antibiotics.  The Center for Disease Control has this information on their website.  Right now, this horrible STI is very curable with antibiotics.  If you realize you have it, it can freak you out.  However, with one pill, Gonorrhea is eliminated from your body.  Unlike Herpes Simplex Virus 1 & 2, Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), Hepatitis and HIV which can be treated, but can’t be cured.  Gonorrhea may join these incurable STI’s if it continues to become resistant to antibiotics.  It is important to know the facts and do what you can to prevent contracting this or any STI”s at all.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection which can be contracted through semen or vaginal fluids during unprotected sexual contact, heterosexual or homosexual, with an infected partner:

  • vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner
  • oral sex, although this is less common
  • sharing sex toys
  • touching parts of the body with fingers (for example, touching the private parts and then the eyes)
  • any very close physical contact
  • the bacteria can be passed from hand to hand (very rare isolated cases)
  • from a mother to her baby at birth

You can NOT catch it from simple kissing, sharing baths, towels, cups, or from toilet seats according to the Sexually Transmitted Diseases Guide.

The best way to prevent contracting Gonorrhea is abstinence from sex.  If this is not realistic, then it is advised to follow these guidelines to reduce your risk of contracting Gonorrhea or any other STI:

  • Use latex condoms from start to finish every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex.
  • Have sex with only one uninfected partner whom only has sex with you (mutual monogamy).
  • Water-based spermicides can be used along with latex condoms for additional protection during vaginal intercourse. Use of spermicide is not recommended nor found to be effective for oral or anal intercourse.
  • Have regular check-ups if you are sexually active.
  • If you have an STD, don’t have sex (oral, vaginal, anal) until all partners have been treated.
  • Prompt, qualified and appropriate medical intervention, treatment and follow-up are important steps in breaking the disease cycle.
  • Know your partner(s). Careful consideration and open communication between partners may protect all partners involved from infection.

Gonorrhea has several symptoms which can appear 1-14 days after sexual contact.

In women the symptoms appear as:

  • strong smelling vaginal discharge that may be thin & watery or thick & yellow/green
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • possibly some low abdominal or pelvic tenderness
  • pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
  • low abdominal pain sometimes with nausea

In men the symptoms appear as:

  • white, yellow or green thick discharge from the tip of the penis
  • inflammation of the testicles & prostate gland
  • irritation or discharge from the anus
  • urethral itch & pain or burning sensation when passing urine

50% of women and 10% of men do NOT have symptoms of Gonorrhea.  You may pass on the infection because you don’t know you are infected.  The only way to know for sure you have not contracted Gonorrhea is by getting tested.  Very often Gonorrhea is contracted along with Chlamydia.  50% of people who contract Gonorrhea, also contract Chlamydia at the same time.  Make sure you also get treated for Chlamydia if it is not ruled out when you are tested for Gonorrhea.  If Gonorrhea is not treated it can have long term effects on the body.

In women it can cause:

  • life-threatening complications such as ectopic pregnancy (outside the womb)
  • blocked fallopian tubes (the tubes which carry the egg from the ovaries to the womb), which can result in reduced fertility or infertility
  • long-term pelvic pain

In men, it can lead to:

  • painful inflammation of the testicles, which may result in reduced fertility or sterility

It is so important to protect yourself during any sexual contact.  STI’s are real.  Gonorrhea is one of the most common STI’s out there among young people.  It is known that over 65 million people in the United States are living with an STI and 15 million new cases are reported every year.  Please be smart about your sex life and practice safe sex every time you have sex.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon

The Fifty Shades Trilogy has become a huge phenomenon.  I know many college women and maybe some curious guys are reading it.  What makes this trilogy so popular?  It seems to tap into those fantasies that a lot of people have about finding someone you are completely consumed with and can’t get enough of.  I have heard that this book started from another phenomenon called “Fan Fiction”.  I haven’t read or wrote any fan fiction, but a couple students  told me that it started with the “Twilight” series.  The writer’s of fan fiction use Bella and Edward as inspiration for characters and make up their own story about them.  Usually it is very sexual in nature.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” started out as a fan fiction novel on the internet.  It was so hugely popular that it became a book.  The author, E.L. James, changed the names of the characters from Bella and Edward to Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

First off, I’ll just come right out and say I’m one of the few women left on the planet that has not read the Fifty Shades Trilogy.  I think most people picked up the book because of curiosity and as they started to read it they became hooked.  I have read the Twilight series and I was hooked immediately by the first book.  I love the story of Edward and Bella.  Edward is so drawn to her that he denies his own instincts to be around her.  What woman wouldn’t be drawn to that?

That is the same kind of draw to the Fifty Shades series.  My guess is that it isn’t just the S&M and blatant pornographic scenes in the book that have hooked so many people into reading it.  I’ve heard that women are drawn to the main character, Christian.  He calls all the shots and doesn’t get emotionally involved.  Then Anastasia comes along.  He is intrigued by her and he realizes even though he is the dominant in the relationship, he isn’t completely in control anymore.  Him being so consumed by his need for her is what drives people to be hooked into the story.

When some people think of S&M, they only think of one person punishing or hurting the other one to becomes sexually aroused.  If this was true, then it wouldn’t be such a huge fantasy for so many people.  The reality is that S&M is all about choice.  It may look like one person is forcing his will, but ultimately the submissive is choosing that role.  He or she wants to be in that position.  It is an interesting dynamic.  One person really looks like they are in control, but if you look closer, you’ll see that it is an illusion.  A person can gain power in two ways.  They can take it by sheer force or they can be offered it by someone who freely gives it to them.  In the book Anastasia gets to Christian, but she freely gives him power over her.  Their feelings are mutual.

When it comes to sexual fantasies, many people can feel very ashamed.  There are a lot of mixed messages about sex in our culture and many people can become confused about their sexual feelings.  I don’t suggest that people open up to just anyone about those very private thoughts.  However, in a trusting relationship, it can draw two people closer together if they share their fantasies.  You can let your partner know if you aren’t comfortable with something they bring up without shaming them.  You also don’t have to try something just because your partner has had a sexual fantasy about it.  Not all fantasies are meant to be acted out in real life.  That doesn’t mean you can’t still use them to enhance your sex life with your partner.

The key is being open, honest and affirming.  Listening to your partner openly and being able to affirm that they have a right to feel or think the way they do, even if you don’t agree.  You both need to be okay with each other saying no and not feeling rejected as a person.  When acting out any sexual fantasy, both people involved have to be okay with the situation.  If one person feels coerced or forced, it will cause a lot of resentment to build.   It is okay to try something because you want to make your partner happy, even though it may make you feel a little uncomfortable.  Just know you can say no if you find out you don’t like it after you’ve tried it.  If your partner isn’t open to you saying no, then you have bigger problems than sexual compatibility in the relationship.

When reading the Fifty Shades trilogy, remember that you are reading fiction and that life doesn’t always work out the way it does in books.  Fantasies are great, but remember that reality doesn’t always live up to fantasies for a reason.   Not everyone is compatible.  It isn’t easy to find someone who wants you as much as you want them and then on top of that be completely sexually compatible.  The reality is that in real life people usually have to let something go or compromise to be in a successful relationship.   Just remember there isn’t something wrong with you if you like something and your partner doesn’t.  Be confident about yourself and how you feel.  If living out a particular fantasy is really important to you, you may need to be in a relationship with someone who feels the same way.  If your relationship is more important, than let go of living out that sexual fantasy and continue to use it in other ways to enhance your sex life.

Also, please remember that sex won’t be fulfilling if it isn’t mutual.  In the trilogy I’m pretty sure Christian isn’t forcing something that Anastasia is truly against.  Make sure you are confident enough to stand up for yourself and that your partner respects you enough to listen before you engage in any sexual activity.   To be safe, make sure you trust the person and know that you can say no at any time.  Not everyone out there should be trusted obviously.  It is no small thing to open up about your sexual fantasies, and you should be careful when choosing who to be vulnerable with.  Lastly, remember to use protection.  People do get STD’s in real life!

Safe Sex- Where It All Began

I saw a post on Smart, Safe and Sexy’s Blog about how the concept of safe sex started and why.  I thought I would borrow parts of it and piggy back off of her post.

Richard Berkowitz, a gay man, who believed he was the first gay rights activist in his state of New Jersey in the 1970′s  is essentially the inventor of the concept of “safe sex” along with fellow activists Joseph Sonnabend and Michael Callen.   Berkowitz advocated for safe sexual practices in response to the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s.  His early work noted risk factors for infection such as drug use and having multiple sex partners, and he supported condom use for all who were sexually active.

Berkowitz, Cullen, and Sonnabend revolved their lives around safe sex, and despite their efforts to deliver positive messages, were persecuted by the public for being sex-negative and anti-gay.  Other gay activists were upset because they felt Berkowitz was linking being gay with safe sex and the AIDS epidemic.  The AIDS epidemic may have motivated Berkowitz to start the whole concept of safe sex, but he was interested in protecting all people, not just the LGBT community.  At the time it was very controversial since AIDS was then considered a gay disease.  Some people still think this way and believe they are safe from contracting HIV because they aren’t gay.  This is completely FALSE!  HIV and AIDS affect millions of people and most of those people are heterosexual.  People fighting for gay rights today are still trying to fight against the stigma of HIV and AIDS being linked to the LGBT community.

With years of perseverance Berkowitz was eventually successful in disseminating his message and enabling sexually active people to retain their sexual freedom and exploration while remaining safe and avoiding risky behavior.  Today the concept of safe sex is definitely not tied just to the gay community or to HIV.  The fact that high school and college age students are by far contracting the most STI’s every year is the reason the concept of safe sex is used today.  Promoting safe sex is helping to educate people about all of the sexually transmitted diseases, which affect millions of Americans each year.  The only 100% effective way of not contracting an STI is abstinence.  Using condoms are the best way to protect yourself from contracting a sexually transmitted infection if you are sexually active in any way.

The 2009 film Sex Positive by Daryl Wein documents Berkowitz’s life and the pioneering of safe sex.  It’s a really interesting story that sheds light into the lives of the sexually active community in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and of those who stood with and against Berkowitz during his quest for safer sex practices.  Berkowitz stated that “It’s never too late to start having safe sex”, and I could not have said it better myself!  His mission to stop the AIDS epidemic ultimately changed the practice of sex forever, and has made the concept of safe sex universally understood and widely appreciated by today’s generation.

Hats off to Berkowitz and his fellow activists who found a way to promote safe sex through positive messages and for making “safe sex” a household name.  Check out the trailer for the Sex Positive documentary here!  It’s truly an enlightening story that needs to be told and should be seen! http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1057293081/

Am I Cut Out To Have A One Night Stand?

I love the show New Girl on FOX.  Zooey Daschanel cracks me up as Jess.  She is a very quirky teacher who lives with three guys.  I’m a little behind on my DVR so I just watched the Valentine’s Day episode where Jess is feeling “twirly”.  She wants to go out and have a one night stand because it is her first single Valentine’s Day in six years.  Except everyone who knows her, knows she gets too attached to people.

Her friend C.C. reminds her that she doesn’t have one night stands because she is able to become emotionally attached to a shoe on the side of the road.  Her roommate, Schmidt, and C.C. go with her to the bar because they don’t trust her to find an appropriate guy for a one night on her own.  They stop her when she meets a guy and realizes they are both from Oregon.  They remind her that she can’t have anything in common with the guy or she will become attached.  She then ends up meeting Oliver.  Oliver only talks about what he had for lunch, which turns out to be mostly tacos and Jess realizes she is totally bored.  Her friends finally concede that she can have a one night stand with this guy because there is zero chance for attachment.

However, because it is a sitcom, Jess’ plan is foiled and she doesn’t end up having a one night stand.  Although, she is prepared with a whole box of condoms.  At least she isn’t stupid.  It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared right?  The reason I liked this episode so much, besides it being hilarious, is the fact that we all are not made equally.  I believe having a one night stand is harder for some people than others.  Why?

Well our personalities are all a little different.  Some people are born to take risks.  Nothing seems to scare them.  Other people are born more cautious.  They take longer to make decisions because they don’t want to make a mistake.  Some people are also more naturally sensitive and empathetic to others.  They might be more like Jess and get attached pretty easily.  I find you can push the limits on your personality a little bit, but it comes off very fake when you try to be someone you aren’t.  Having casual sex may seem like it is easy for your friends, but you may question if it really right for you.  This is a really good question.  It is too easy to compare yourself to others and then try to be more like the person you think is better, smarter, prettier, funnier or more interesting than you.  Instead of trying to be themselves, a lot of people work hard to be more like a person they admire.

It is not a good idea to have a one night stand because it helped your friend get over a break up.  Trust me, that doesn’t mean it will help you too!!  However, if you feel you want to push your boundaries and like Jess, you feel a little “twirly”, then here are some suggestions to help you be more successful.  By successful, I mean not get hurt or feel guilty the next day.

1.  Know your intentions.  Casual sex is one dimensional.  If you need to prove something or are secretly hoping for more, stop right there.  If you’re only trying to prove to yourself or someone else you can do this it will mostly likely leave feeling even more insecure.  If you’re secretly wanting to date this person you are getting too up close and personal which is last thing you want in a one night stand.  You will only feel hurt in the end.

2.  Do not look past physical attraction.  If you think the person is sweet, funny or even interesting it could get complicated very easily.  You will most likely feel disappointed when it doesn’t get past the one night part.  Jess’s friends are helping her when they encourage her to walk away from guys she may potentially become too attached to.

3. No cuddling.  Cuddling starts to drift into the affectionate lane.  This can cause emotions to develop at lightening speed.  Cuddling is a sign that you possibly want more from this person.  You don’t have to jump out of bed as soon as you “finish”, but you don’t want to linger too long either.

4.  Don’t use someone.  This means if you know this person has feelings for you, they are definitely NOT one night stand material.  It may seem easy for you, but you will cause big problems for yourself very quickly.  Don’t be selfish.  Find someone who has no attachment to you!

5.  Always Use Protection.  You may not need a whole box of condoms to get you through the night, but definitely don’t leave home without being prepared.  By definition this is not an exclusive relationship.  You don’t know where this person has been, and you should never take the risk to believe they are clean.

Lastly, keep the communication open.  Be honest about your expectations.  Find someone who is on the same page before you engage in any removal of clothing.  Also, be aware that this person may not be straight forward with you.  You are taking a risk that they are single and unattached.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you if their significant other walks in the room and starts World War III.

One night stands are a risk.  Don’t try to sugar coat it any other way.  Not everyone is cut out to live this lifestyle or even try it on for size just one time.  Remember, the first rule is to know yourself and your intentions.  Figure out what choices you want to make and then be confident about it.  You don’t have to have casual sex because all your friends think it’s a great time.  If you are someone who gets attached easily, then be realistic about the possibility of one night stands not being for you.  You also don’t have to apologize if you are more of a risk taker and this is something you want to do.  If you start to feel guilty, that is sign something is wrong and maybe you need to make some adjustments in the choices you are making.  However, be aware of not taking on other people’s guilt.

College is about figuring out who you are and what you want.  The hardest part about that is really separating your own voice from those you’ve grown up with and the people currently around you all the time.  It is hard to think for yourself sometimes and not feel pressured to do things because someone else thinks it is a great idea.  Be smart about your choices and make sure it is what you want before diving in.  If you’ve been reading my blog awhile, you know I’m all about learning from mistakes.  If you do decide to have a one night stand and it goes south, learn from it and move on instead of beating yourself up for the next three years.

So…Are We Gonna Hook Up Or What?

Even though I listen to college students every day I still feel out of the loop when it comes to how students communicate with one another.  The terms students use to get someone to have sex with them are what confuse me the most.  Some students tell me that when someone asks them to hang out to watch movies it means the person wants them to come over and have sex.   Really?  Am I the only one who would assume you just want to hang out and watch a movie?  I guess I am getting old. So when I read this post by Isabel, a college student, I  had to reblog it because it makes me think about how with texting, the art of seduction has flown totally out the window.

“So…are we gonna hook-up or what?”

Ah, another poor soul lost to the epidemic I refer to as “The Death of Subtlety.” It was a fabulous time (read: three days) we spent together. He was good-looking, kinda funny, not too much of a d-bag…in other words, a total catch.  And then, as we lay in each other’s arms on the musty couch, he uttered that fateful question.  Sigh.  Is it too much to ask that an insignificant other be at least a little eloquent?

Apparently, the answer is yes, it is too much to ask.  And while I like to think I’m the only one that destiny thrusts into these terribly awkward situations, this is not the case.  Many of my peers, both guys and girls, have shared disaster stories involving their partners’ lack of tactfulness and vain attempts at trying to “get it in,” as the kids say nowadays.  (My personal favorite involves Paranormal Activity, a roommate gone for the weekend, and the statement, “You should give me a blowjob.”  Needless to say, nothing “got in” that night.)

So, in response to the fact that some people are not fluent in the language of subtlety, I’ve decided to compile a list of common phrases you might hear from these failed Don Juans…and how to respond.

1. “You should give me a blowjob/sleep with me/etc.”

I’m sorry, I don’t recall agreeing to an “awkward conversation for blowjobs” program. Why else should I do whatever you’re asking? By the way, definitely work on your conversational transitions.

Proper Response: You should retract that statement and try again.

2. “Hey…wanna make-out/hook-up/do something you’ll regret tomorrow?”

While better than the previous statement (they did give you the option to say no after all), this question ruins the moment and sends the awkward meter through the roof. Just touch my face or something and I’ll get the hint.

Proper Response: As charming as you are, I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request. (Bonus: Pirates of the Caribbean reference! Dudes love that.)

3. “People tell me I’m really great at sex/going down/misc. other ‘activity’.’”

I’m glad you’re proud of your “skill.” But unless you provide a reference, I really don’t care about your previous experience. And let’s be honest, I like to delude myself into thinking that you’ve only ever hooked-up with me.

Proper Response: Were those people paid for their testimonials?

4. “You know, my roommate’s gone for the weekend and I’m feeling really lonely…”

Let me guess: there’s so much room for activities now! While that sounds like a riveting opportunity, your poor attempts at making me feel empathy for your loneliness are as laughable as Kim K.’s marriage (BAM! Pop culture smackdown).

Proper Response: Now we can make intense eye contact without your pesky roommate bothering us!

5. “What’s up?” or any variation of this phrase, sent in a text at 2 a.m.

We all know and tolerate those booty call texts that can range from a simple drunken “heeyyyy” to something like the one my roommate received last week: “Bang?” (She responded with “Sleep?” Conversation over.) I’m all for late-night hook-ups, but there has to be a better way of initiating them.

Proper Response: Depends if you’re into it or not. Answering with, “I wanna hold your hand so hard,” also works.

It is hard to shock me as a counselor.  I hear a lot of things.  So, I’m not shocked, but I do think texting has made trying to talk someone into having sex with you hit an all-time low.  It never ceases to amaze me what people will say to one another through a text.  Would you actually dial someone’s number and ask them these questions in person?  Maybe you are that bold.  However, if you are that bold, then I would suggest finding better ways to ask for what you want.  The sad thing is that some of these statements probably do work.

If you are going to ask me for my opinion, I would say you are worth more effort then what is written above.  You deserve to have someone work a little harder to have certain privileges with your body don’t you think?  Both men and women could work a little on their respect for themselves and one another.  I know in college there is a lot of pressure to have “the college experience” which means get drunk,  smoke weed and have sex.  You may also feel pretty lonely at times.  However, there is more to life and to college.  I still believe it should be a little bit harder for someone to get you naked.  Make them work a little bit to prove to you they are worth it.   You don’t have to settle for a hook up if you don’t want to.  From what I hear it is hardly ever worth the effort or even worth remembering.  Get some much needed sleep instead!  But hey, what do I know?

Don’t Drink & Text

Hooking Up

Am I at Risk for Getting a Sexually Transmitted Infection?

Since the #1 post on this blog is “I Have Herpes!  What Do I Do Now?”  I believe talking about STI’s is important.  Hearing the words “You have cancer” is extremely devastating.  I think hearing the words “You have a sexually transmitted infection” is almost as devastating for most people.  Some STI’s can be cured, but some can not.  It causes a lot of psychological stress to find out you’ve become infected, not to mention physical pain for those experiencing symptoms.  No one expects it, but when it happens it can drop the world out from under your feet.

I don’t mean to rain on everyone’s parade.  Sex is supposed to be fun and exciting.  It is all that and more.   But it also needs to be as safe as possible because it isn’t so fun and exciting to tell your partner you’re infected with an STI.  The truth is millions of people in the United States are currently infected with an STI.  It happens!  And it can happen to you.  I’ve talked to many students that it has happened to, so I thought it would be a good idea to write some facts about STI’s to keep others from experiencing this type of pain.  I’ve taken some information from Planned Parenthood and condensed it down into some important facts you need to know.

One of the biggest misconceptions is someone who is a virgin believing they aren’t at risk for an STI.  FALSE!!  Not all sexually transmitted infections are transmitted the same way.  Read below to see what your risks are.

Unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse-  HIGH RISK FOR:

  • Herpes Simplex Virus- HSV 1 (oral herpes) & HSV 2 (genital herpes)
  • Human Papilloma Viruses- HPV (some cause genital warts, some cause cancer
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis B Virus- HBV
  • Cytomegalovirus- CMV
  • Syphilis
  • Scabies
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus- HIV

Unprotected Oral Sex-  HIGH RISK FOR:

  • Herpes Simplex Virus- HSV 1 & 2
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Syphilis

Sex play without sexual intercourse-  RISK FOR:

  • Herpes Simplex Virus- HSV 1 & 2
  • Human Papilloma Virus- HPV
  • Cytomegalovirus- CMV
  • Scabies

Click to receive more information on the above listed STI’s

Safer sex is anything we do to lower our risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.  Three Steps to Safer Sex:

  1. Become honest with yourself about the risks you take.
  2. Decide which risks you are willing to take- and which ones you are NOT willing to take.
  3. Find ways to make your sex play as safe and satisfying as possible.

The most important ways to reduce your risk are:

  • Keep your partner’s body fluids out of your body- vagina, anus or mouth
  • Don’t touch sores or growths that are caused by sexually transmitted infections

The use of condoms, female condoms or dental dams are the most effective ways to protect yourself from your partner’s bodily fluids.  ALWAYS USE PROTECTION while engaging in sexual activity!

Be aware that some of the STI’s listed above can be transmitted by skin to skin contact and are not always transmitted by bodily fluid.  Herpes and HPV are the big ones.  This is why they are so common. They can also be transmitted even if you aren’t showing any symptoms or having a current break out.

A lot of STI’s don’t present any symptoms.  Especially in women.  You may not be aware that you are infected.  This is why so many people continue to become infected.  It isn’t because their partner lied to them.  It is because their partner did not know they were infected.

The only way to know for sure if you are infected is to GET TESTED!!  You have to ask your doctor or the clinician for specific STI tests.  Don’t assume they will know which tests to give you or that they will automatically test you for everything.   They will not!  Let them know your concerns and ask for the specific tests you are worried about.  The results of those tests are the only way to know what you are dealing with.

This may sound cheesy, but here are ways to make sex safer…

  • if you decide to have sexual intercourse, using a latex or female condom makes it safer.
  • if you decide to have oral sex instead of unprotected vaginal or an intercourse, it is safer.
  • if you decide to have protected oral sex instead of unprotected oral sex, it is safer.
  • if you decide to rub against each other with your clothes off instead of having sex or oral sex, it is safer.
  • if you decide to give each other an erotic massage instead of rubbing against each other with your clothes off, it is safer.
  • if after you give each other a massage, you wash your hands before touching your face or genitals, it is even safer.
  • if you decide to masturbate alone or have cybersex or phone sex instead of physical contact with someone else, it is even safer.

Do what you feel comfortable with and be strong enough to communicate those feelings to your partner.  Be open, honest and smart to stay as safe as possible.  Oh and one more time…Don’t forget to USE PROTECTION and GET TESTED!!