Not Making It To The Finish Line

Sometimes people think sex is just easy.  A+B=C right?  Well sometimes our own insecurities and expectations can mess things up when it comes to sex.  Especially when it comes to having an orgasm.  I’ve met with quite a few people over the years who are concerned about the fact that they aren’t able to have an orgasm during sex.

You may be thinking this just happens to women, but it can often happen to guys as well.  The reason for this isn’t so easy to figure out all the time either.  Here are few different reasons I’ve come across that keep people from “finishing”.  I’m sure there are more, but these are the most common in my book.

1.  Body image issues.  If you aren’t comfortable with yourself and your body, the chances of you having an orgasm go down.  The reason is anxiety over body issues keeps you from relaxing and enjoying the sexual experience.  Your brain is the number one sex organ.  If it is preoccupied with how you look, or what’s going to happen next, or wondering if your doing it right, then it can’t focus on feeling good in the moment and letting the body take over.  Hopefully you’re choosing to have sex with someone who cares about you and is attracted to you no matter what you look like naked.  Try to see yourself through their eyes and remember they chose to be in this moment with you.  Visualize yourself having sex without anxiety and being proud of who you are.  Then it may be easier to actually make that happen when you do have sex.

2.  Performance anxiety.  Again, this one is similar to the first one in that your insecurity is messing up your brain.  If you are over thinking every move you are making and wondering if the other person is having a good time, then you won’t be able to relax and enjoy the moment.  Sex isn’t rocket science, but everyone is different.  If you really want to please your partner, ask them what they enjoy.  They will hopefully be happy that you want to please them and you’ll have a better chance of getting it right.

Sometimes number two can happen when you’re having casual sex and don’t feel comfortable with the person.  My suggestion is to wait until you meet someone you care about and can let your guard down around.  Sometimes number two can happen when you are in a relationship with someone you really care about.  Casual sex may be easier for you because you don’t care as much about what the other person thinks.  My suggestion is to be open with your partner.  Let them know you are feeling a little intimidated.  Talking about it, even though it’s awkward, can help you feel more realistic about your expectations and lower your anxiety.

3.  Religious conflicts.  If you’ve been brought up in a very strict, religious environment it can be hard to let go of those messages later in life.  You may feel guilty over some of your sexual thoughts and having sex can bring on even worse guilt.  This can keep you from relaxing and connecting with your partner during sex.  It may help to talk over this conflict with your partner or a professional who can help you determine whether you want to let go of certain beliefs from your past or wait to have sex.  Some of those beliefs can be deeply imbedded and even if you feel like you’ve decided to be more liberal as an adult, it can be hard to get rid of the thought that you are doing something sinful.  Figuring out what you want to believe about sex before having sex can be very helpful.  If you are still not able to have an orgasm, seek out a professional that can teach you some thought replacement techniques.

4.  Emotional disconnection.  You may be having a hard time responding sexually to your partner because of past hurts that have destroyed your emotional connection.  Even guys can be turned off sexually when feelings are hurt too often in a relationship.  You may feel like you are pulling away mentally and emotionally, so it is hard to be connected physically during sex.  Do your best to repair the emotional damage.  Figure out if you can forgive this person for things that have happened in the past.  If you can’t, it may be time to leave the relationship.  You deserve to get the most out of a relationship and if you can’t connect to your partner during sex, it may be a sign that there are deeper issues to deal with.

5.  No physical attraction.  I’m not sure why you want to have sex with someone you don’t feel attracted to, but it happens.  You may be in this situation because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.  If the sexual spark isn’t there, you may not be able to cross the finish line.  This person should be your friend, not someone you are having sex with.  If you’ve tried and there isn’t success, then it is time to call a spade a spade.

6.  Too much internet pornography.  This one can happen if you get so used to using fantasy and visual images when you masturbate.  You can actually desensitize yourself sexually.  Which means you will need more and more visual stimulation to orgasm.  You may find that you can’t actually have an orgasm during sex without the help of pornography.  It can also increase your expectations of what sex should be like and the reality of sex with your partner may be somewhat of letdown.  If you think this is the problem, try to back yourself off from using pornography and masturbate less for awhile.  Try to visualize having sex with your partner and being able to cross that finish line.  This may help you reach orgasm with only the visual stimulation of your actual partner.

7.  Past abuse (sexual, physical or emotional).  Past abuse can really mess up your perspective on how you feel about yourself and how you feel about sex.  Abuse crosses boundaries and sex is the most sacred boundary you have.  Many people who have been abused either feel they have no boundaries and let everyone in or they put up too many to keep everyone away.  With sex this means you either let anyone and everyone take advantage of you, but you don’t open yourself up to receive any pleasure.  Or you don’t let anyone touch you and are afraid of being that vulnerable with anyone.  If you’ve been abused in the past and you know this affecting your current sex life (or you know you’re avoiding sex because of past abuse) it is recommended that you seek professional help to work though it.  You can move past it and not let it continue to take away from your present and your future happiness.  It isn’t easy, but it is certainly possible.

Sex is complicated.  It can be hard to be vulnerable enough to experience an orgasm with another person.  It happens to a lot of people and there are ways to fix it.  Be honest and open with yourself and then with your partner.  If you can’t talk about sex, then maybe that is sign that you shouldn’t be having it yet.  Be smart and be safe.  Always use protection and get tested for STD’s regularly!

Open Relationships

The concept of an open relationship is hard for my brain to wrap around.  I think to myself, “Why be in a relationship if you want to have sex with other people?”  However, I’ve heard that the concept is more accepted with gay men who are in committed relationships.  So I’ve decided to write a post about it and see it from another person’s perspective.

First, when it comes to sex, men and women are different.  Biologically speaking, men have more testosterone, which makes them more sexually driven than females.  On average, men want to have sex more often than women.  Along with that, men are more visual and are turned on more quickly by visual stimuli than women.  Also, women on average attribute more emotional connections to sex.  I believe studies have been done that prove that gay couples have the most sex, heterosexual couples have an average amount of sex, and lesbian couples have the least amount of sex.  This isn’t black or white and there are exceptions to what I’m saying.  However, on average I believe that is pretty accurate.

After listening to a couple of gay men discuss this issue I can see how an open relationship could work and actually thrive if done right.  Also, when talking to a few lesbian women, it was apparent that an open relationship would not be as welcome.  A couple of lesbian women stated that it would probably cause a lot of drama and jealousy in their relationships.  That leads me to believe that an open relationship may be harder for women than men in general, whether in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship.  I’m sure there are women, both heterosexual and lesbian, out there who could tell me they have had successful open relationships.  However, since I haven’t met those women personally, this post will be from the gay male perspective.

So, you may be asking like I did, why would two men in love want to have sex with others outside of their relationship?  I was told that it is possible to have a great connection with someone, to be even be in love with that person and still have the desire to have sex with other attractive men.  Some gay men aren’t ready to completely settle down or make the sacrifice to only have one sexual partner.  However, they’ve found a person they like to be with and spend most of their time with.  Instead of choosing to either sacrifice having a committed relationship or the option of having many sexual partners, some gay couples are choosing to have both at the same time.

The number one factor in making an open relationship work is to be open and honest about it.  Most of the time relationships have problems because of lies, not because of sex.  Each partner needs to be honest with the other one when they decide have sex with someone else.  Both partners also have to be willing to be as safe as possible while having sex outside the relationship.  There is no doubt that you are more at risk for contracting STD’s in an open relationship than a monogamous one.  You have to trust that your partner is taking precautions every time they have sex, and it would be smart to be tested for STD’s as often as possible.

I also asked about the jealousy issue.  I was told there really isn’t one.  From what I understood, an open relationship means sex only.  If the gay couple is out at a club and one of them meets someone they want to have sex with, they tell their partner and then go do what they want.  There isn’t an ongoing relationship with that other person or an emotional tie involved.  Or if the couple is in a long distance relationship they might choose to have sex with other people when they can’t be with each other as long as both partners are in agreement.

This is why my head has a hard time wrapping around this.  I think this has more to do with my personality than the fact that I’m a female, but I only want to have sex when I’m emotionally attached and committed to someone.  I think this is why you have to really know yourself before deciding whether an open relationship would work for you.  Some people are able to separate sex from emotion and therefore not get jealous when their partner is having sex with someone else.  Others may not enjoy or get anything but heartache from being in an open relationship.

Here is the reason why I think this type of relationship works better with gay men.  The relationship is between two men who think more alike when it comes to sex.  They have clear boundaries when it comes to having sex with other men, and are able to keep those boundaries intact by being upfront and honest.  In a heterosexual relationship I think a lot of men would consider the idea of an open relationship.  However, I think there would be some jealousy because they may expect their female partner to become emotionally attached when they have sex with other men.  Even though it isn’t true that all females become emotionally attached during sex, I think the underlying expectation could elicit fear and therefore jealousy in a heterosexual relationship.  The woman in the relationship may also become jealous if they couldn’t handle the number of other women their boyfriend or husband was actually having sex with.  This may be why heterosexual couples keep things casual if they want to have multiple sex partners instead of having an open committed relationship.

If you are gay, you may have the option of being in a committed relationship and having sex with multiple partners.  That doesn’t mean you have to accept this type of lifestyle if you want to be in a relationship as a gay man.  Many gay couples are fully monogamous and happy to make that sacrifice.  If you are heterosexual or lesbian, the option of being in an open relationship is more rare.  It is harder to find someone who will let you have your cake and eat it too.  If you like the idea of having multiple sexual partners, maybe choosing to keep things casual will help keep the drama down to a minimum.  Other people like me, don’t mind making the sacrifice to be with one person.  I actually thrive in a monogamous relationship.  Whatever you decide, stick to your boundaries and keep the communication open and honest.

Trojan 2011 Sexual Health Report Card

The 2011 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card came out last month.  The makers of Trojan Brand condoms ranks the sexual health resources of 141 American Colleges and Universities.    The Trojan Sexual Health Report Card is about celebrating positive sexual health and the campuses that empower it.  It’s about sparking dialogue and inspiring action; and providing students with the means to enjoy their sexuality and create positive change.

COED Magazine wrote these NOTEWORTHY FINDINGS on their blog:

Football conference shakeups negatively affect conference rankings:

  • The University of Nebraska moving to the Big 10 may make sense on the football field, but the new Big 10 member is lagging in the rankings. Nebraska is the conference’s lowest ranking school at No. 83, 16 spots behind the University of Minnesota (No. 67).

Big Jumps for Big Ten schools:

  • Northwestern University continued their impressive climb up the Report Card, achieving the No. 28 spot. This is the third consecutive year the Wildcats have improved, jumping from 90th in 2008 to 88th in 2009 to 63rd in 2010. The improvement is attributed to the schools’ extensive peer education programs that provides students with a wealth of information, events and workshops on sexual health year-round. Other notable jumps include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which climbed 62 spots from No. 64 to No. 2.

Rising Up the Ranks

  • This year’s rankings saw a number of significant jumps, the largest coming from Texas A&M, which rose 73 spots from No. 110 to No. 37.
  • Northwestern University continued their impressive climb up the Report Card rankings, achieving the No. 28 spot. This is the third consecutive year that the Wildcats have improved their ranking, moving up from 90th in 2008 to 88th in 2009 to 63rd in 2010.
  • Other notable jumps include the aforementioned University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which climbed 62 spots from No. 64 to No. 2, and Colorado State University from No. 63 to No. 7. In fact, all three Colorado schools – Colorado State (from No. 63 to No. 7), University of Denver (from No. 74 to No. 31) and University of Colorado at Boulder (from No. 75 to No. 55) saw improvements in their rankings.

Report Card Rivalries:

Conference Bragging Rights:

  • The Big Ten led in 2010, but slipped to number two with a 2.94 GPA, thanks in part to conference newcomer University of Nebraska bringing in the lowest individual GPA (2.45).
  • The Big Ten was followed by the newly adjusted Pac-12 (2.84), SEC (2.65), ACC (2.60), Big 12 (2.53), MAC (2.52), Conference USA (2.39), WAC (2.29), Mountain West (2.28), Sun Belt (2.23) and Big East (2.09).

Get Yourself Tested!

I realize that a lot of people don’t like labels in relationships.  They want to keep things casual.  One label you definitely don’t want is an STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection).  If you are keeping things casual in your relationships, then you are more likely having more sexual partners.  This increases your risk to become infected with an STI.

The statistics say that 1 out of every 2 people under 25 will become infected with a sexually transmitted disease.  Most of those people don’t even know they are infected because they aren’t experiencing any symptoms.  However, even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, you could still be passing along the infection to others unknowingly.

The great thing is many STI’s can be cured though antibiotics.  The bad thing is that some STI’s are incurable.  So where can you get tested?  You can visit the GYT (Get Yourself Tested) website or the Planned Parenthood website to find a local STD testing center.    With so many places to go to get tested, there really is no excuse not to know if you are sexually healthy or not.

To prevent STI’s you need to know your facts.  Do your research and educate yourself.  Look up info on different STI’s.  There is a page on the Center for Disease Control’s website that can give you a lot of information fast.  You can look up info on Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes, HPV, HIV & AIDS, Trichomoniasis, and other STI’s.

After knowing the facts, start talking about it.  Ask your potential sex partners if they’ve ever been tested.  Talk about the fact that you’ve gotten tested.  Spread the word so others will become more aware and open about it as well.  Continue to get tested if you continue to have sex with new people.

Use protection!!!  Condoms come in all sizes, colors, flavors, and textures.  There is no excuse for not being prepared.  Most college campuses give away free condoms in their Wellness Centers or in their Peer Education Programs.  Condoms can be sexy and fun if you get creative with them.  Figure out new ways to put them on yourself or your partner.  Practicing to get the technique right can also be a lot of fun.  Experiment with different textures and flavors to mix it up a bit.

Also, make sure to use condoms while having oral sex.  Unfortunately oral cancers have increased dramatically since the 1980’s due to a form of HPV that can be spread to the throat from oral sexual contact.  Do not think oral sex is safer than vaginal or anal sex.  It is NOT!  If you don’t have a dental dam to use during oral sex, you can cut a condom length wise and use that as a barrier.  Make sure to tell your health care provider if you’ve had unprotected oral sex so you can be tested for HPV.  Sometimes HPV will work itself out of your system on its own, but sometimes it develops into cancer.  There are also vaccinations for HPV to help prevent cervical or oral cancer.

Even if you practice safe sex every time, there is no 100% guarantee against STI’s except abstinence.  Even if you are being safe, remember to get tested!  You not only want to protect yourself, you want to be able to protect others!  Be Safe and Be Smart!!

A great blog to read for more info on safe sex is Smart, Safe and Sexy

The condom broke! Now what??

Sometimes the condom breaks.  Sometimes you are too tired, too drunk or too lazy to even use a condom.  Sometimes you’re on the pill, but realize you’ve missed a couple days so you might not have been protected from getting pregnant while having sex the night before.  I’d like to think every college student is practicing safe sex every time, but I’m not an idiot.  Life happens and mistakes get made.  Here are some smart things to do after you have a lapse in judgment.

First, you can get emergency contraception.  Unless you are on the pill or another form of birth control, this is the first issue to deal with.  You only have 5 days or 120 hours after unprotected sex to be able to use this form of protection.  There are two types of emergency contraception- morning-after pill and IUD insertion.  The morning-after pill prevents ovulation, so an egg won’t be released.  It may also thicken the cervical mucus preventing sperm from reaching an egg.  It does not cause an abortion.  It is used to prevent a pregnancy.  Within 5 days of having unprotected sex you can also choose to have an IUD inserted.  An IUD is a small device that is inserted directly into the uterus.  Once in place, it will prevent pregnancy for up to 5 years after insertion.  The morning-after pill will reduce the chance of pregnancy by up to 89% if used within the first 72 hours after having unprotected sex.  The sooner you are able to take the pill, the better chances of preventing pregnancy.  The morning after pill can not be used long term.  You will need to use another form of birth control if you want to prevent pregnancy in the future.

Even if you are using birth control or emergency contraception, you are still at risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease or infection.  It is best to get tested as soon as possible even if you don’t have any symptoms.  How do they test for STI’s?  There isn’t just one test for all STI’s.  You will have to let your doctor know your sexual practices and any symptoms.  Some STI’s are tested by a blood sample, some use a urine sample, and others use a tissue sample.  If you have obvious symptoms, it may be easier for your doctor to diagnose through a physical exam.  Otherwise, your doctor will send your sample to a lab to be tested, and you will be notified within a few days if you’ve tested positive or not.  Sometimes your doctor may ask you to come back to be retested in 6 months because some infections don’t show up right away.  Make sure you follow through on getting tested because most people do not show any signs or symptoms of having an STI.

College is about having fun and living in a the moment.  However, when it comes to having sex it pays to think ahead and be prepared.  Carry a condom with you or have some available in your room or apartment.  You can usually get free condoms from your health center on most campuses.  Even when you are fully prepared, having sex can be risky.  The condom can break.  If you aren’t using another form of birth control, don’t hesitate to take emergency contraception.  Then get your butt down to Planned Parenthood or your doctor’s office to get tested for any sexually transmitted infections.  This way you won’t be at risk to spread any infections to others unknowingly.

If you find that you are pregnant or have an STI, it can be very scary.  No one wants to deal with that type of stress on top of all the other stresses in college.  However, it can happen.  Please seek out help if you aren’t sure about what to do next.  Contact the Health or Wellness Center on your campus if you have no where else to go.  It is confidential and free.  You can also access Counseling Services on your campus as well.  A counselor can help you process your feelings and help you figure out what your options are.

Oh No, I’m Pregnant!

Sex and Depression

Depression is a complicated thing.  Sometimes you can be suffering from situational depression (going through a break-up or homesickness) rather than clinical depression (longer term, also know as major depression).  With either of these, your social life can be dramatically affected.  You may not feel you have enough energy to hang out with friends or have interest in activities.  You may even be struggling to go to class some days.  What students don’t realize is that it can make you very vulnerable sexually.

I know some of you are thinking to yourself that you don’t have enough energy to shower, much less have sex.  Sometimes though, all you don’t have energy for is saying no.  A lot of students who feel depressed may still be functioning pretty well around others.  Other than your close friends, no one may notice you are struggling.  It is easy to put on the fake smile when you need to.  Because you don’t want to make a big deal out of it,  your friends are able to coerce you to go out on a Friday night.  You end up in a big group, and you are able to distract yourself enough to have an okay time.  You may strike up a conversation with someone new and become a little more relaxed.  All of the sudden, this person is showing more interest in you and begins to get physical.

In your former life you may have been able to make an informed decision about whether to proceed or put on the brakes.  A lot of people with depression lose perspective.  One, you may have lost some confidence (especially if you are going through a break-up).  This could really cloud your judgment.  You may not feel strong enough to say no or the depressive feelings could be making you feel more desperate than normal.  Two, you may not have the energy to confront the person and gently let them down.  It takes a lot less energy to go with the flow and let someone else lead than to stand up and change the direction of the interaction.  It is almost as if it takes too much effort to care.  Who cares if you have sex with this stranger?  Your life sucks already right?  This person couldn’t do much more damage.  In the past you might have cared who was trying to get you naked, but now?  Things have changed.

So, even though most people who are feeling depressed aren’t really experiencing a desire to have sex, they may find themselves in engaging in a lot of sexual encounters anyway.  The biggest thing you need to be aware of is that you are more vulnerable.  Your defenses are down, and that means you may be a target for those looking to use someone.  Not everyone out there is genuine and kind.  There are a lot of students looking to hook up on a college campus.  They know it is easier to score if they find someone who could care less about themselves.  If you are feeling depressed, this means they are looking for you!!

Even though you may look normal on the outside, there are people who are good at reading non-verbal cues and can pick up on little things you do or don’t say in a conversation.  They may try something with you because they don’t care about risking rejection, and something you said or did is leading them to believe you may not put up a fight.

What should you do?  Hide in your room for the semester?  No.  However, don’t let your friends leave you alone at a party.  Have someone you trust go with you to a party or when hanging out in a big group.  Let that person know you don’t want to hook up with anyone and to intervene if they see anyone hanging all over you.  You can’t trust yourself, so you need to bring in back up.  That means opening up to one or two people who you trust to keep your confidence and best interest at heart.  Also, try hanging out in smaller groups for awhile and skip the big party.  The other suggestion I’m going to throw out there seems like a no-brainer…Don’t drink alcohol or smoke marijuana!  Talk about making yourself more vulnerable!!  Will these things make you feel better?  Maybe temporarily.  They usually just make your symptoms worse over time, and they definitely screw up your judgment.

People ask me why drugs and alcohol only work temporarily.  For one, alcohol is a depressant.  It may numb your feelings at the moment, but guess what happens when you sober up?  The depression is back and usually becomes worse.  Marijuana also has the effect of making you forget your pain for awhile.  This sounds fabulous.  However, it also  makes you not care about anything except smoking and eating.  Most people who smoke marijuana regularly are also more likely to skip class and not turn in homework or papers.  Depression is already going to make school harder, so why throw fuel on the fire?  Trust me, you will feel worse if you find out you are flunking and may need to repeat classes.  It also costs a lot of money over time.  An empty bank account won’t lighten the load any either.

Be smart.  Take care of yourself in healthy ways.  Make sure you get enough sleep, but don’t fall into the temptation of sleeping too much.  Get exercise.  Walking and yoga can be done without a lot of effort at first.  They also have been known to alleviate some symptoms of depression.  Eat right!  Don’t skip meals because you are too tired or overeat to make yourself feel better.  Both of these will also make you feel worse, not better.  Talk to someone or write down your feelings to help you process them.  It is also okay to cry!!  Some people also decide that medication is the best way to manage their depression.  There are many things you can do to lessen your symptoms and move forward with your life.  Don’t let unsafe sex, drugs, alcohol, or food get in the way!  If you find you need more than a friend to talk to, there are counselors on almost every college campus that are available for free.  Seek them out if you are needing more help to fight depression.

What your Mama didn’t tell you about Sex

It’s that time of year again. Time to pack up the old Honda Civic and head back to college.  For many students this is their first year of college.  Many of those freshman may think college is a sexual free for all.  The sad thing is that thought isn’t far off the mark.  College is a time when a lot of students experience freedom for the first time.  No curfews and no one to check in with.  So many new co-eds walking around campus.  It isn’t hard to see why hooking up is the norm.  Unfortunately, hooking up without being smart can lead to huge problems.  Here are a few things your mama may not have told you that you should think about before getting naked with the guy or girl you passed in the quad.

1.  STI’s!  Yes, they do exist on college campuses.  Just because the person looks hot and healthy doesn’t mean they are.  Many students end up with an STI (sexually transmitted infection) because they assumed their partner was clean.  The fact is that many people don’t even know they have an STI unless they are tested because many infections don’t have any symptoms.  Your mom may have told you to use a condom, but even she may not be aware of how prevalent STI’s are on college campuses.  If she did, she may have kept you at home!  Always, always use a condom!!  Also, get tested every six months and especially after having unprotected sex!  Another thing to remember, other forms of birth control don’t prevent STI’s.  Some people think they don’t need to use a condom because they are on the pill.  This will keep you from getting pregnant, but won’t prevent an STI.  Don’t get lazy just because you’re already preventing pregnancy.  You still need a condom!

2.  Oral sex is sex!  I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that someone is a virgin, yet they have been having oral sex.  Guess what?  This is sexual activity that doesn’t exactly make you innocent.  You can also get STI’s from having oral sex.  Many doctors are reporting that students are showing up with STI infections in their throats.  Not fun!  I’m sure your mom didn’t mention using a dental dam or a condom while having oral sex.  You need a barrier between you and your partner’s sex organs if you want to have safer sex.  And swapping sexual fluids during oral sex can lead to a sexually transmitted infection.

3.  Anal sex is sex!  I’ve also been told some people want to remain a virgin but still please their partner so they have anal sex.  Guess what?  Same thing as above!  Actually anal sex is more prone to STI’s because you are more likely to tear during anal sex which lets potentially contaminated fluid into your blood stream.  Unless you are homosexual, and your mom knows you are homosexual, I’m sure she probably didn’t discuss anal sex with you.  If you are homosexual, these last two points are definitely directed at you!  Use a condom while having anal sex and a condom or dental dam while having oral sex.  Remember that some STI’s are not curable and it only takes one time to become infected!

4. Be confident!  So many people get all uptight about their weight or how they look while having sex.  You aren’t performing in front of a million people in a porn film.  This is just you and your partner.  If you can’t feel comfortable with them, then maybe you should think twice about having sex.  Your mom may have told you to only have sex when you are in love and in a committed relationship.  Being realistic for a second, I know sex may not always be about love, but it should be about pleasure.  Your pleasure, not just your partner’s.  Remember that no one looks good having sex, so try to forget about sucking in your stomach, and just go with it.  If this isn’t easy for you, it is okay to wait for someone you are more committed to and relaxed around to engage in sex.  For you women out there, I’ve heard many guys tell me they would rather have their girlfriend gain ten pounds and have fun while having sex than to lose weight and still be self-conscious during sex.  Confidence is the key, not a perfect body!

5.  Ask for what you want!  The last point leads to this one.  In order to have fun, you should be able to verbalize what you like.  It isn’t a slam to your partner that they can’t read your mind.  Everyone is different and may be turned on by different things.  Don’t be offended if your partner asks you to do something different than what you are used to.  It doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong.  Take your partner’s suggestion and use it to make them happy.  Then speak up for yourself as well!  Your mom may not have mentioned that it is okay to ask for what you want in bed, but trust me, it is the mature way to go!  If you aren’t sure about what you want, then this is the time to explore and see what works right and what doesn’t.  If you try something and don’t like it, you don’t have to do it that way again.

6.  Know yourself!  No two people are alike.  Don’t compare yourself to someone else.  Some people can have several sex partners and feel confident and good about themselves.  Other people would feel ashamed by the same number.  You have to decide what is okay for you.  Just because your roommate or best friend is hooking up constantly doesn’t mean that is the right choice for you.  If you know you are the type of person who wants to wait, then don’t feel ashamed about it.  There are a lot of students who aren’t having sex in college, even if that seems improbable to you.  Whatever you decide, be happy about the decision and always know that you can change your mind about what you want in the future.  Your mom may have covered this one, but I thought it was worth repeating.

Now that I’ve told you things your mom may have neglected to tell you before you left for college, you can go out, have fun and be safe!

Say Yes to the Sex

I’ve been watching “Say Yes to the Dress” this summer while I’m off of work.  One thing I love about working in a university is that I’m off when the students are.  So, I decided to take a spin on that title and write a post today about being open to sexual adventure.  If you watch the show you know that a lot of different types of women come in to buy wedding dresses.  Some women know what they want and are very confident.  Other women are self-conscious and very critical of themselves.  I find this also happens a lot with sex.  Maybe you are the adventurous and confident type already.  You may not even need to be in a trusting long-term relationship to say yes to sexual adventure.  However, there are many people out there who are not confident at all about their body or trying something out of their comfort zone.  Here are some tips for those of you who aren’t super confident or adventurous…yet!

1.  As they say on the show, “Keep an open mind and trust your dress consultant”.  I say, “Be confident and trust your partner”.  I have met students who don’t feel very good about themselves.  They often wonder what their boyfriend or girlfriend sees in them.  They don’t trust when other people tell them that they look good.  If you’ve recently lost weight you could still be seeing a bigger person in the mirror even though you now look great.  So, when it comes time to take off your clothes you still feel very self-conscious.  I have had both men and women say they only have sex with all the lights off and never let their partner really see them naked.  First, if this person loves you, you need to trust they will love you even when you’re naked.  Second, if you are having casual sex then it really won’t matter what that person thinks if you don’t ever plan to see them again.  Take a chance and have sex with the lights on.  Men are visual creatures.  Most men admit that seeing their partner naked is a turn-on.  Confidence is also a huge turn-on.  I’ve had guys report that they would rather their girlfriend gain a few pounds and walk around naked in front of them than to lose a few pounds and still hide their body.  You have to believe that the other person wants you and be confident enough to show what God gave you.

2.  “Don’t get locked into one silhouette”, or what I refer to as, “Don’t get locked into one way of having sex”.  I’ve heard some people say they only have sex in one position.  They have taboos about other positions or trying something different.  Sex is about exploration and finding what feels good to you and your partner.  You won’t know what works best unless you’re willing to try new things.  If you try something and you don’t like it, then be willing to share that with your partner.  You still have the right to say no if something doesn’t feel good to you.  If you think sex is best only when done in missionary position then you are missing out on other ways to please yourself and your partner.  Some students report having issues with certain sexual acts because of past abuse.  They may feel locked into certain ways of doing things because it feels safe.  It is okay to share that with your partner and explain why you may not being willing to try certain things in the bedroom.  After you’ve built up some trust and confidence in the relationship and in yourself, you may want to try new things when you’re ready.  Be open and communicate with your partner about what you want, and be open to your partner’s needs as well as your own.

3.  “Don’t bring a big entourage”, or what I refer to as, “Don’t bring all your friends and family into your sex life”.  Too many opinions can be a bad thing.  Don’t get caught up in what your friends are doing with their partners and start comparing yourself with them.  Many students tell me they feel they have to do certain things because they hear about their friends doing it.  You don’t have to do anything just because someone else is trying it.  You also don’t have to feel forced to share about your sex life with everyone else.  I suggest you be very selective about what you share and with whom you share it.  Sex seems to be everywhere in the media, but that doesn’t mean you have to share all your private moments with everyone around you.  Sex isn’t a spectator sport.  You may feel more willing to try new things if you don’t think your partner is going to give a play by play report to their five best friends.  It helps to be more adventurous if you trust your partner to keep it just between the two of you.

4.  “Know your budget and don’t try on dresses you can’t afford”, or what I refer to as, “Be safe and don’t have sex without protection”.  I’m all for trying new things and being adventurous, but remember to be as safe as possible.  Most students still don’t realize they can get an STI from oral sex.  You still need to use a condom or a dental dam when engaging in oral sex.  Unless you and your partner are monogamous and have been tested after six months of being monogamous, you need to continue to use a condom every time you have sex.  Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you forget the bottom line.  Getting pregnant in college is a very hard thing to face.  It’s also no fun to find out you’ve contracted an STI, especially if it is an incurable one.  So go ahead and get your freak on, but be smart while doing it so you won’t have regrets later.

5.  “Trust your gut”, or what I refer to as, “Trust your gut”.  You will know when to push yourself and when to pull back.  Continue to work on your confidence and believe in yourself.  Sometimes you can’t think about sex too much, you just have to dive in and see what happens.  Don’t analyze what you look like in a certain position or if you are doing right.  Everyone gets an A for effort in the bedroom and your partner will be happy that you are into pleasing them as much as yourself.  The point is to have fun and let go of inhibitions.  Remember, to be truly sexy you just have to think about the other person more than yourself when your naked.

Friends With Benefits

I hear this term, Friends With Benefits, a lot.  However, most of the time when this scenario is described to me it sounds like things are light on the friends side and heavy on the benefits.  To me, this is a tricky combo.  The reason I say this is because a friendship requires some commitment and some emotions.  Yet benefits sound like a casual hook up that doesn’t include either of those two things.  Can you really be friends and have no strings attached benefits?  The concept is great but I’m not sure how well this works out in reality.  I have an open mind, so I’m willing to explore the idea.

When I hear students talk about having a friends with benefits relationship it sounds more like a casual hook up with a friend of a friend (acquaintance) for a few weeks, maybe months.  Maybe this is where the word “friend” comes in??  When I hear about students who have been really good friends with someone, but then sex finally enters the picture it usually ends up becoming a more serious relationship or the friendship ends in a very bad way.  There is nothing casual about it.  Usually this student is coming in to talk to me because they are depressed that it didn’t work out.  They realize now they have deep feelings for the other person and having sex ruined everything.

So, obviously the term is frustrating to me as a counselor.  I really think if you are going to enter into a Friends With Benefits type of relationship you should set some boundaries for yourself.  The first thing is to be honest with yourself.  Before entering into a sexual relationship ask yourself if you have feelings for this person at all.  Relationships don’t stay static.  They tend to grow.  Frequent sexual encounters with someone you have feelings for is very dangerous ground.  You will end up falling in love with this person and be very hurt if they dismiss your “casual” relationship and move on to someone else.  I have students who become very upset with themselves because they knew what they were signing up for but were hopeful for a different outcome.  They hoped casual sex would turn into a real committed relationship.  Do not be delusional.  Do not have sex with someone you have feelings for and pretend that you can keep it light and fun.  At this point I do not call this “friends with benefits”, I call it, “please give me love if I give you sex”.

It is one thing to be sexually attracted to someone you barely know and hook up to fill the time between more serious relationships.  If you are both on that same page it can end in a “no harm, no foul” way.  If you suspect the other person has feelings for you I would put the breaks on starting a sexual relationship.  It may be tempting to take advantage of the situation in front of you, but it can end in psycho stalker territory.  If you aren’t careful you could find yourself in a situation that is very hard to untangle yourself from.

I only put that out there because I often hear students say “I didn’t realize they were in love with me”.  They then go on to talk about how they feel bad about hurting this other person and now feel awkward when they see them around campus.  I  realize that some people can be good liars.  You may have entered the friends with benefits relationship thinking the other person was on the same page.  However, most of the time you get a vibe if the other person is really into you.  Pay attention to the signals the other person is giving before you start getting naked on a regular basis.  Life is complicated.  Most of the time sex is complicated, even though most people would like it to keep it simple so they can have more of it without thinking of the consequences.  If you at all suspect the other person has any feelings for you, walk away ASAP!

One other thing that I hear about in my office is concerning STI’s.  Getting a sexually transmitted infection from a friends with benefits relationship can really mess up the whole casual vibe you were striving for.  It also messes up trust and loyalty.  If this person is a friend of a friend they are going to be more loyal to them than you.  This is how rumors and hateful things get started on Facebook and texting forwards.  You still need to protect yourself and use a condom when you enter any sexual relationship.  Even if it is with someone you seem to know really well.

From what I can tell, Friends With Benefits is supposed to be fun and casual.  To keep it that way, be smart.  Be aware of what is going on with you and with the other person.  If you meet someone else you really want to commit to or you find yourself becoming attached, be honest and disengage.  Be prepared to have the other person walk away at any time.  It is easier to let someone walk away when the whole point is to stay casual.  If this isn’t you, realize it is okay to be on your own until you find something a little more serious.

Telling The One You Love You Have An STD

Telling someone you have an STD is probably one of the hardest conversations you can have.  It gets even harder if you have to tell your partner that you have a STD that can’t be cured.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that even though young people ages 15-24 represent only 25% of the sexually active population, they acquire nearly half of all newly diagnosed STD’s.  College students may think they are immune to getting an STD because everyone around them looks healthy, but many college students are facing the horrible fact that they have contracted an STD.  Once you find out you have an STD, the conversation to let your partner or future partners know can be devastatingly hard.

Putting this conversation off will only develop trust issues and put a huge strain on the relationship.  Go into the conversation with a calm demeanor and stick to the facts at first.  After telling your partner the facts, you can share your own feelings and grief about finding out.  Remember that grief has many stages- denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally acceptance.  You may still be struggling with your own acceptance of the STD while you are trying to have this conversation.  However, it is very important not to put it off.  Only wait if you are feeling a lot of anger because it may lead to you be very defensive which won’t be helpful to you or your partner.  If you contracted the STD before you were in the relationship, let your partner know this and take the responsibility.  However, sometimes it is hard to know who gave the STD to who.  Encourage your partner to get tested as soon as possible.  Sometimes this will help determine who had the STD first, but it is not always possible to figure out.  Do not start to blame each other.  Unless one of you has cheated in the relationship, it may not matter who had the STD first.  The first conversation is only going to be the first of many if you plan to keep your relationship intact.  The psychological and emotional effects are sometimes worse than the physical, so give yourselves both time to work through the emotions.  It can be hard to accept, but some couples now realize that they can’t reinfect each other and go on to have a healthy sexual relationship.  Acceptance is possible with strong communication and trust in place.  It is emotionally hard because it isn’t something people often talk to others about.  Some couples may decide not to tell anyone else and only have each other for support.

What if you find out you have an incurable STD and you aren’t in a relationship?  In counseling, students work through a lot of self esteem issues and deal with their guilt.  They have to learn to forgive themselves for not protecting themselves in the past.  A lot of students state they feel gross and contagious.  It is hard to confidently put yourself out there to meet new people when you feel this way.  I see people who feel so ashamed that they are afraid to start a new relationship.  We work on focusing on other things they have to offer in a relationship.  After awhile some people who are tired of being alone may start to date, but break it off if it starts to become sexual.  After avoiding sex for a long time, a lot of people have anxiety about being with someone again.  In time, you will find someone you don’t want to run away from.  Then its time for the dreaded conversation.

Some students have decided to go onto dating sites for people who have Herpes Simplex Virus or HIV to find others who are already infected.  This has helped some people find satisfying relationships with someone who would automatically know about their STD.  Some students who meet someone they really like ask when they should have this conversation.  I encourage them to wait until they know the person better and want to be committed in the relationship.  Its a no-brainer to say something before it becomes sexual.  I suggest they be upfront and honest and share the risks with their new boyfriend or girlfriend.  Facing the possible rejection is excruciating but a lot of students have reported positive results when having this conversation in a loving, positive relationship.  It is a very courageous thing to tell someone about your sexual past, but it is very important to keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible.

Please be smart about your sex life.  If you don’t have any STDs, be thankful and continue to practice safe sex.  Get tested to avoid the devastating consequence of spreading an STD to someone else.  If you have a STD that is incurable, life isn’t over.  Many people are living happy, healthy lives and many people are in relationships.  For more information please see the following websites listed below.

http://www.cdc.gov/std/default.htm

http://www.herpes.com

http://hpv.com/pdc/hpv/index.jsp

http://www.hiv.com

I wrote a post similar to this a few months ago.  I realized after reading it again that I didn’t really give any suggestions on how to actually have the conversation.  I made those corrections in this post.  To read the previous post, please click on this link:

https://collegerelationships.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/relationships-and-stds/