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The V-Spot: No Place for Your O-Face

Dear Yana,

I recently had an ~interesting~ first sexual encounter with a man. We had been talking for a couple weeks and it was our second date, and it was all going pretty well. So far we seem to connect pretty well on an intellectual level and there was some great intimacy build up (read: massive sexual tension-filled cuddling while watching a movie). Though it took us a second to kind of get on the same kissing level, after a while we got on the same groove and I was definitely pleasured.

And then he had an orgasm and it was honestly a turn-off for me. The sound and face he made were just super different than anything I have experienced before. I am naturally fairly quiet, and the few men I’ve been with in the past happen to have been rather conservative as well.

I don’t watch porn, so my past sexual experiences are all I have to go off of. I don’t want to judge people for what they want in bed and I certainly don’t want this to be something that puts a stop to what could potentially grow into a relationship. But at the same time, if I’m turned off by him orgasming, what does that mean for our sexual chemistry in the long term?

— Turned Off by his Turn On

Dear Turned Off,

I once heard a comic do this bit about making fun of other people’s laughs. He made some commentary about how you’re pretty much a total jerk if you scoff at somebody because of the way in which they express pure, unbridled joy and humor. That when you make fun of someone’s laugh, you’re telling them that when they’re tickled pink enough to let go and guffaw, or snort, or cackle, they actually shouldn’t feel joyful because they look real stupid when they do.

Does this rule apply here, Turned Off? Are you being a total jerk if you ditch this dude because he’s so good at leaning into his moment of pleasure that he looks pretty stupid when he does it? Is his looking real un-cute during his ecstatic climax more important than his sexual joy?

To be fair, Turned Off, I would imagine that if you looked yourself straight in the O-face in the mirror it might not be the prettiest selfie you’ve ever seen either. Losing control in a moment of pure pleasure looks and sounds funny sometimes, and that’s okay!

Of course, there are always two sides to every coin…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Jealous in a New Poly Triangle

Hi Yana,

I’m newly in a poly triangle with two dear friends. We’re all very open about how we view partnership and love in all forms, and I didn’t hold any jealousy for their relationship until recently.

Before I was a part of the relationship I wasn’t at all jealous that “Josie” was spending all her time with “Katie” and would hang out with me when convenient. Because to me they were in a relationship and I was a friend.

Now that they both consider me a partner, I feel like I’m a last thought. They have been setting up dates with other people for just the two of them. Hanging out together all the time without thinking to invite me, and only being truly affectionate towards me when they’re drunk or high.

I don’t know if I should be the one dealing with my jealous feelings and let them be, or if it’s something I should ask them to change. To add bonus complications, Josie is my roommate and we all three live in the same house.

None of us have sex because of some trauma stuff and my issues surrounding anxiety and control of my body, so our definition of a partner is someone who fulfills us in a way that other people don’t. So things are very fluid for us. I just don’t know if I have the right to be upset about this.

— Not Ready for This Jelly

Dear Jelly,

Have you ever heard of the phrase “Don’t shit where you eat”? Yeah, me neither. We do live in the Happy Valley, after all, where we keep our partners close, and our partners’ partners even closer. Is this is a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it sure does push us all to the limits of learning how to set clear boundaries and manage our stickiest emotions.

Made stickier by your close living quarters? Maybe. Impossible? Certainly not.

Managing the line between what are my emotions to self-regulate and what is in my partners’ jurisdiction to change is something that crops up in all relationships. However, this dilemma becomes especially apparent in non-monogamous relationships where management of one’s own jealously is considered part of the process.

Do you have the right to your feelings and emotions, Jelly? Of course. Feelings are feelings and stuffing them down or away typically just makes things worse. It’s what you do with them that counts.

There’s a tangible difference between “You better not do anything to upset me!” and “I’ve been feeling left out of our relationship lately and would like to discuss possible solutions”. If managing your jealous feelings looks like putting controls on your partners, that’s not the healthiest. If managing your jealous feelings looks like two-parts your individual work around the roots of your jealousy and one-part open communication with your partners about all three of your needs and desires, you’re moving towards a recipe for healthier coping!

Some of the issue here sounds like unclear expectations between the three of you. Have you told them that you want to be included in more of their couple dynamic? Has the topic of feelings about and hopes for their dates with others been properly sussed out or is it just something that’s happening willy-nilly?

Have an intentional sit-down where each of you can talk about what you want out of this relationship, where your boundaries are, and what you can say yes or no to in a way that feels like a balance between rewarding and challenging.

Sure, part of non-monogamy is facing the ick of jealousy, but no one should be gritting their teeth alone throughout their entire relationship.

Yana Tallon-Hicks is a relationship therapist, sex educator, and writer living in the Pioneer Valley. You can find her work and her professional contact information on her website, yanatallonhicks.com.

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The V-Spot: Healing an Ex-Shaped Hole in the Heart

Dear Yana,

It’s been over a year now since I got my heart stomped by my ex-girlfriend. We were together for 11 years and our relationship ended very badly. Even after such a long term relationship,

I’m still pretty young — in my mid-30s — and I’m pretty sure I’m a catch. But, every time I go out with someone from OKCupid, I never want to see them again. They all seem totally unhinged and just not like anyone I would want to date, casually or otherwise. I’m not even sure that I can do “casual,” now that I think about it.

But I feel like I should be out dating people to see what else is out there and fill this hole in my heart that seems like it’s just never going to go away. How do I let the dating duds down easy while not being a total asshole? What if my heart NEVER heals?

Oh, Holey Heart

 

Dear Holey,

The good news is, heartbreak does heal. Well, at least the agonizing part does. When it comes to long-term loves like the one you describe (an 11-year relationship before you hit 40 runs you through some critical life developments!), the heal time will certainly feel slower. Plus, people’s major loves in life often forever linger. And that’s normal.

The first thing to do, HH, is to stop looking for a replica of your ex. And I don’t mean physically, but more in the way that your specific relationship made you feel when you were first meeting in your 20s, deepening your connection towards your 30s, and whatever you were desperately trying to save towards the end.

A new relationship will not scratch the same itch in the same ways and you as an individual are not the same person you were during the relationship with your ex. Open yourself up to new possibilities of what makes for an attractive partner in the here and now rather than trying to fill the ex-shaped-hole in your heart. Trying to fit an OKCupid date into that shape will prove to be fruitless, frustrating, and a painful reminder that no one will be your ex. And they won’t! And that’s okay. But fighting it makes the healing harder.

Instead, find a new lil’ neighborhood in your heart and let your casual dates hang out there — see if they like it, see if you like it, see what parts of you they challenge, excite, or even point out to you for the first time ever!

Rope off a little place where casual dates are allowed to roam and if you find someone that sticks, you can expand the territory…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Real Sex-ed for Students

Hi Yana,

I recently moved into my aunt’s house, and I now live with my 16-year-old female cousin. Being in her life now makes me realize that I can give her advice on her first relationships and her first love … possibly. When I was 16, I wish I could have had someone in my life to give me advice on the mistakes I was making.

I also realize that 16-year-old me wouldn’t have listened to anything anyone said to me. My cousin is currently interested in a boy that I am not fond of. I don’t think he’s a good guy for her.

How do I warn my cousin of this inevitable heartbreak? How do I tell her to watch her back without ruining our close relationship? I’m pretty lost, but would love to give her some input on her current situation,

— Careful Cousin

Dear Careful,

I made a lot of relational mistakes when I was a teenager. To think about them now as an adult — and as an adult sex educator no less — is downright cringeworthy.

And yet every one of those cringeworthy moments has been a stepping stone on my path to where I am now, having (most of the time, at least) satisfying, healthy, and balanced adult romantic and sexual relationships.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t have valuable guides along the way, as I most certainly did. But rarely were those guides the adults in my life who attempted to control, micromanage, or protect me from ALL mistakes. More often, they were the adults or peers who empowered me to make my own decisions with confidence, self-care, information, and clarity.

They were the people who introduced me to Tapestry Health and how to maintain my sexual well-being without shame; they were the folks who taught me about consent; and sometimes they were completely temporary connections like my high school dean who once sheepishly handed me a “Healthy Relationships Checklist” on the sidewalk and subsequently changed my entire perspective on my budding sex life.

You can’t and shouldn’t try to protect your cousin from every heartbreak and mistake. But you can be an invaluable guide in her sex and relationship education. How? Keep the avenues of communication between you and your particular teen open, authentic, information-accurate, appropriate, and reliable. Here’s some tips everyone could use:

Open: Steer away from shame and towards talking to youth about whatever comes up for them. Keep the caveat that if they’re intending serious harm towards self or others, you will prioritize safety. It’s okay to draw hard ethical lines around issues important to the health and safety of all involved about topics such as abuse, safer-sex, and physical and mental well-being.

Authentic:….continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Is My Romance Dead?

Dear Yana,

I know your column is mainly about sex, but for me, it’s all about the romance. I’ve been struggling for decades to balance my love of flowers, dancing, and candlelight with my love of a husband who struggles with intimacy (for good reasons) and who promises me these things after an increasingly strongly worded hint from me that it is the little things that matter. But he never follows it through.

The passion, friendship … everything else is there and over the years I have opened my spirit to a Zen-like acceptance for what he isn’t able to express. But there is no denying the fact that subtle seduction and the charm of being surprised is what lures me between the sheets. I have a very deep love of a man who is partly dense, partly lazy, but moreover I believe too wounded by his past to ever give of himself in a delicate way.

How do I smooth out the edges of my chafing heart? (I have in the past taken him dancing, on picnics, to unexpected places and so on, but I am beginning to pine to be led into the forest of romance.) Perhaps in the age of Trump chivalry is dead and the roses have shriveled away.

— In Love with a Non-Romantic

Dear In Love,

First, I love that you sent me this letter via mail. I myself feel romanced by your extra efforts in mailing me a real live letter rather than shooting off an email as you hurriedly slash your Monday morning inbox at the office. You’re clearly geared towards going the extra mile rather than taking a shortcut — and I love it.

I don’t know the specifics of your husband’s painful past. However, while it’s important to tread carefully around people’s traumas, I also believe that it’s equally important for all members of a relationship to put in the work it takes to make themselves and the relationship healthy.

Meaning, is your partner holding you at arm’s length in the name of past experiences and then simply shrugging and calling it a day? Or are his past hurts something that he is working on processing and existing alongside of in the relationship?

I’ll give you a personal example: I’ve always been open about the fact that I struggle with anxiety. High anxiety days typically (and understandably) aren’t my most “I feel sexy!” days. However, I also know that sticking to regular yoga, not overloading my work schedule, and attending weekly therapy all help me manage my anxiety.

This doesn’t mean anxiety will magically disappear from my life, but it does mean that I put in the work to manage it so that it doesn’t negatively impact me and/or intimacy in my relationship ALL the time…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: IPAs Run My Sex Life

Editor’s Note: This column refers to sexual trauma responses.

Hi Yana,

My girlfriend and I have been together for four months, but lately I’ve been noticing we’ve only been having sex when we’re drinking. Nothing to put consent into question for either of us, of course, just a couple beers.

I asked her about it over dinner, and she said, “It’s nothing you’re doing wrong, I’ve just hated myself lately.” I know she struggles with depression and anxiety and has some trauma in her past, so I’m unsure how to proceed.

I know I can’t “solve” her problems or make her have a more positive body image, but I care about her and don’t want our sex life to be dependent on how many IPAs are available. I try to be supportive and complimentary because she’s gorgeous and has a great body, but I also get that my opinion isn’t enough to alter what she sees in herself.

— Seeking Happiness, Not Hoppiness

 

Dear Seeking Happiness,

It’s so great that you noticed this trend in your sex life and had the bravery to bring it up to your girlfriend in the way that you did. That your partner feels comfortable telling you what’s going on for her, even if it’s something painful like “I hate myself lately” makes me think that you all have a solid communication foundation which is invaluable.

When people have experienced sexual/relational trauma, a person’s body and brain can register all sexual touch as potentially dangerous as it attempts to protect them from a repeat experience. The body and mind can start responding to sexual touch in ways that either triggers flashbacks or shuts the body down in some way to avoid danger.

It’s possible that your girlfriend’s drinks requirements help her get past this discomfort in order to engage in sex and/or helps her numb out whatever unpleasant responses are happening for her mentally, emotionally, or physically. If she’s willing or able to work with a therapist around this trauma, the therapist might help her identify and explore her trauma and how else she might be able to cope with it besides drinking before sex.

You’re absolutely right that you can’t “fix” her and in fact it can be harmful to her, you, and your relationship if you should make that your mission. However, you’re an equal part of this sexual relationship and it can be painful to witness your sexual partner essentially taking steps to numb herself out or block herself from you when you’re having sex. Even when our partners have traumatic histories, it’s still okay to desire a connected and engaged sex life, even if it’s not immediately possible.

Show and tell her that you’re here to be supportive and that her mental health is important to you as it’s part of your shared relational space. Offer support but don’t push, blame, or take too much charge.

How?…continue reading…

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Poor Me! I’m Too Orgasmic!

Hi Yana,

I have a little bit of a problem that most people wouldn’t consider a problem, so there aren’t a lot of resources for me. I am extremely orgasmic. Now, of course, I’m grateful for this and all, but it’s to the point that I usually come like 10-plus times during partnered sex.

One drawback is, sometimes, I feel like I can’t focus as much on my partners’ pleasure when I’m experiencing all that sensation and I feel I could be having a deeper connection with them.

The other drawback is physical; when I masturbate, I can easily surpass 10 times in 10 minutes and OMG, the leg cramps can be awful.

I guess what I’m looking for is advice on how to slow down a little bit and still enjoy myself. Any thoughts?

— Overly Orgasmic Over Here

Dear OOOH,

Too orgasmic, eh? Before some of my less orgasmic readers start shredding this week’s column in order to dry your overly-pleasured tears, let us all be reminded that both suffering and pleasure are truly in the eyes (and genitalia) of the beholder.

What sexual satisfaction often boils down to is the sense of accomplishment in relation to sexpectations: If orgasm is the goal and you “achieve” it, you might feel good about the sex you just had. If slowing down and reducing your orgasms is the goal and you “achieve” that, will you feel like you’ve hit your mark? If being present in your body with your partners is the goal, regardless of orgasm, and you fail to accomplish that experience, you might leave feeling bummed about your sexy time.

So, what I’m hearing from you, OOOH, is that your personal goal is to reduce the amount of Os, and increase the quality of those Os as a way to subsequently increase the quality of your sexual interaction with partners. Let’s do it!

First, it sounds like you’re very good at knowing how to get yourself off, either solo or with partners. Cut it out. Don’t use your fav toys. Don’t get into your fav positions. Don’t even contract those pelvic muscles! Make it a game in your head, a playful and consensual power dynamic between you and your partners, or simply a personal challenge to see how long you can last without giving in to le petit mort.

Do more sex acts that focus on your partners’, rather than your own, body…continue reading…



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The V-Spot: My BF Won’t Go Down on Me

Hi Yana,

My boyfriend refuses to go down on me. As a bisexual woman who has been in long term relationships with women, it’s something I miss. I bring it up and he gets defensive about it. I’m always down to give the blow jobs and don’t believe in not doing so just because he doesn’t go down on me.

He’s tight lipped about why he isn’t interested in it. He makes it seem like we would have to be together for a long time before he does, but it has been over six months — and we live together. Any suggestions?

— Left Bi & Dry

Dear Bi & Dry,

Tight lipped, eh? Sounds like he’s not the only one!

Without much background information, I’m left with a few questions that’ll determine my advice:

1.) What has he done to make it seem like he wants you two to have more relationship history before going down on you? Did he say this outright? Or are his answers vague; he mentions “trust” and “knowing each other better,” but does not offer any idea of what that might look like?

2.) How have you brought it up with him? Is it in a way that warrants his defensive reaction? Or are you approaching this from a perspective that truly wants to understand his aversion to going down?

3.) And then finally: Has he NEVER gone down on you ever in your entire relationship? Or is this a new, sudden, or gradual change?

In my experience, both personal and professional, someone’s resistance to performing oral sex (beyond they simply don’t care for it) is usually about:

1.) Gendered, social sex education that expects women to perform oral sex on men. (Need an example? Let’s play a game and count the number of magazine cover stories this month that feature an article about BJs and compare them to the cover stories run about cunnilingus. Meanwhile, men don’t get the social message that “Being a Good Lover = Providing Oral Sex” pounded into their heads, so some may feel less urgency/“off the hook” about it.

2.) Bad sexual experience with performing oral sex…continue reading…

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My Seven Minutes in Heaven With GO Magazine

Welcome to “Seven Minutes in Heaven,” GO Magazine’s brand new interview series that profiles a different queer person each day by asking them seven unique (and sometimes random) questions. Get to know the thoughts, feelings and opinions of the groundbreaking, fierce forces-of-nature in the queer community.

I first found Yana Tallon-Hicks through fellow online sex columnists and writers. I immediately became an avid reader of her work. The way she tackles complex conversations around non-monogamy, questioning sexuality and experimenting with new sexual pleasures was both smart and fun. So often, people are terrified to ask questions about sex or even talk about pleasure with their partners. Yana makes talking about consent and relationships accessible and feel like something we can all integrate into our lives.

As a budding sex educator myself, seeing that other people are also committed to teaching consent and pleasure-based sex education gives me hope. It inspires me that someday maybe we’ll have a society that values consent and empowering our young people with holistic sex education. Yana is out there doing the work and providing people of all experiences with the knowledge to make informed sexual decisions. Today, we spent seven minutes in heaven getting to know Yana and a bit more about her work.

GO Magazine: Who are you and what do you do?

Yana Tallon-Hicks: I’m Yana! I use she/her pronouns and I’m a pleasure-positive, consent-focused sex educator, I’m a sex columnist, and I’m a relationships therapist. I teach workshops about topics such as non-monogamy, sex toys, pleasure, and consent to a variety of audiences included teens, college students, and adults. I also do in-person therapy and online sex and relationship coaching for a wide variety of clients—mostly queer, women, femme, and/or non-monogamous folks.

I also obsess over how much I love my dog, eat a lot of baked goods, and do a lot of yoga.

GO: Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged or depleted?

YTJ: I really appreciate the work of other sex educators, sexuality professionals, and artists. Watching them authentically hustle for the shared things we believe in is incredibly inspiring but also reminds me that I’m not The Only One carrying my hopes and dreams for a more pleasure-empowered world.

This really helps me burst the isolation/savior bubble that can come along with being an independently employed freelancer who essentially relates to people for a living but only from a professional standpoint. That can easily get really tiring if you can’t turn to the other people doing similar work in your community—even if that community is only found online.

GO: Who are your queer role models?

YTH: Making more space for my own personal vulnerability to influence my work is something I’m striving for these days. As an Aquarius with Virgo rising this isn’t the easiest task for me. So, my queer role models tend to be the people I observe doing their creative work in a way that is both authentically vulnerable and powerfully professional. So, Andre ShaktiJiz Lee, Noel’le Longhaul, and Alok Vaid-Menon are all total bosses of their own creative life’s work and I really admire that.

I’m also quite lucky to cohabitate with a queer artist. My husband Patrick MacDonald inspires me to push my own vulnerability in my work every day by giving me permission to do so when I start doubting myself or thinking that I’m “too much.”…read more on GoMag.com

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How Do I Make My Orgasms Come Back?

Dear Yana,

I’m a single woman in my late twenties, with no relationships on the horizon. But that’s OK, because I have a super intense, cordless Hitachi that I’m in love with.

Problem is, recently, whenever I have attempted to reach orgasm, it never comes. I get the brink, right before the fall, but I’m just stuck. This has happened with lovers in the past; one even suggested it was a problem with not being able to “let go.”

Perhaps I am not relaxing enough when I masturbate. What are some tips, tricks, or techniques to have that incredible, solo experience?

— Absent Orgasms

Dear Absent,

I’m laughing a little at your partner’s (I’m sure well-meaning) suggestion to “let go” seeing as that is technically what an orgasm is, after all — a build-up followed by a release. It’s almost like your partner was like “Honey, have you tried just having an orgasm?”

I kid, but really, please let this sex columnist and educator tell you that nobody (not even your partner, not even me) can tell you the key to finding and experiencing your own sexual satisfaction. But, I can give you some suggestions to try out!

From your question, it sounds like you’ve been able to orgasm in the past and it’s only recently that the Os have hit the skids. This can be for a variety of reasons — new medications (especially antidepressants), new stress levels, new major life events, etc. Emily Nagoski’s free desire brakes/gas pedal worksheets (thedirtynormal.com) can help assess environmental, relational, and personal factors that may be impacting your current experiences of desire and pleasure.

In my opinion, with the rumbly, reliable, powerful Hitachi, you’re armed with the perfect tool for the titillating task at hand. But I find myself wondering how many laps you’re taking around the brink before attempting to push yourself over the orgasmic edge. Meaning, do you turn the Hitachi on high, make clitoral contact, and then smash the gas pedal straight to the finish line? Or do you take time with yourself to build up anticipation? Experiment with bringing yourself close to the tipping point of orgasm and then backing off on sensation…continue reading…