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The V-Spot: How Do I Disclose an STI?

Hi Yana,

I recently found out after my 21-year pap smear that I carry HPV (human papillomavirus). It’s incredibly annoying that even though I’ve been tested all my life, a very common STI can still be transferred to me. It was also troubling that after checking a little bit more, HPV can also be transferred with a condom on, so it could have been from any of my sexual partners.

My overall question is, how do I navigate telling the people I’ve already had sex with that I have an STI and that they should probably get tested? It’s extremely awkward but morally I feel an obligation to tell them. I just don’t know how.

Thanks,

STI Dunno What to Say

 

Dear STI Dunno,

You’re not alone in your struggle with HPV. Half of all college-aged people contract HPV. HPV is so common, that sexual healthcare providers have called it “a symptom of sexual activity itself” as 75 percent of sexually active people will experience an active HPV infection. You’re one of 20 million people with HPV right now, and, statistically speaking, your past and future lovers may already be in the same boat with you.

Without the visible symptom of warts (which only some strains of HPV cause) there’s no HPV test for penises. Trickier still, HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, rather than the familiar fluid-to-fluid transmission of many other STIs/STDs. So, as you’ve found out, though condoms can offer a 70-75 percent protection rate against HPV transmission, they can’t offer full protection as they don’t cover the full genital area. Other protective measures like using dental dams for oral and gloves for manual sex can reduce your HPV risk, but abstaining completely from genital-to-genital contact forever is the only sure way to completely dodge HPV transmission from where you’re standing. In my opinion, a non-sustainable option.

You’re absolutely right that it’s annoying that though you’ve been diligent about getting tested and using condoms, here you are with your Rolodex of past lovers and a positive HPV test. But the reality is that keeping up with your sexual health isn’t just about magically dodging an STI that’s becoming statistically harder and harder to avoid.

Testing doesn’t inherently guard you from transmission but rather equips you to guard others from transmission. Normalizing testing by getting tested, sharing our statuses, and reducing shame about all of it better equips all of us to let our partners know what’s up and to make their own informed decisions about the risks they would like to take with us. Sex is never a risk-free activity. But neither is driving, or eating, or even abstinence, really. Managing risk is a personal choice and begins with status knowledge and disclosure. So your testing rituals aren’t for nothing, STI Dunno, I can assure you of that.

Whatever you do, avoid the shame and blame game for both yourself and your past partners…continue reading…

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The Many Forms of Relationships // a lil workshop write-up

The Many Forms of Relationships by Angelique Inchierca

This month, I went to Keene State to present my workshop Polyamory and Open Relationships and student newspaper member Angelique Inchiera wrote this great article about it. Thanks for having me, Keene State!


Starting at a very young age, people develop relationships with their parents, siblings, friends, and significant others, but many struggle to understand what those relationships should look like.

infographic by Alexandria Saurman / Managing Executive Editor

INFOGRAPHIC BY ALEXANDRIA SAURMAN / MANAGING EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Program Support Assistant for LGBTQ+ Students Hunter Kirschner (pronouns: he, him, his) said, “We learn about relationships from our parents, friends and media. You basically only see monogamous relationships, so you can understand what those look like and what the rules are for that.”

When the societal expectations of monogamous relationships are challenged, confusion and frustration can occur.

KSC sophomore Dreamy Kljajic (pronouns: they, them, their) said, “I mostly heard of it from how society says that if a couple is in an open relationship, that means they’re not happy with each other.”

Dictionary.com defines an open relationship as “a marriage or relationship in which both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others.”

Kirschner said he hopes that students attending the event will take away the proper skills needed to have a healthy, polyamorous relationship.

“Also, exposure and understanding that these relationships are not of any less value and that they can be done well and that they can be healthy,” Kirschner added.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Relationship Therapist and Sex Educator Yana Tallon-Hicks (pronouns: she, her, hers) came to Keene State College to present her “Polyamory and Open Relationships” workshop.

At the presentation, Tallon-Hicks said non-monogamy is a term that umbrellas several others, including polyamory, solo-poly, open relationships (including subcategories: swinging and monogamish), polyfidelity and relationship anarchy (refer to infographic).

Tallon-Hicks defined polyamory as a “multiplicity of emotional and sexual relationships.” She said many students are confused on how this concept works, giving the term and other non-monogamous relationships many misconceptions. A common belief among students is that both polyamory and open relationships are equivalent to one another.

Kirschner said, “I think people use them interchangeably. I think in an open relationship you have a primary partner and you are open to seeing other people, but it’s your relationship that is central. Whereas polyamory can also include multiple primary relationships.”

Tallon-Hicks said that, usually, in polyamorous relationships, each partner fills a  different role, but it is very common that everyone is connected to each other. She said one partner may be for sexually intimate relations, while another could be someone for going out on dates with regularly. Another term often confused with polyamory is polygamy.

Kirschner said, “Polygamy refers to just marriage… we associate [it] with the Mormon Religion. I think it’s more the idea of being married to multiple people rather than just being in any other kind of relationship.”

Kirschner said an easy way to understand polyamory is by knowing the common nickname Polycule.

“This idea of individuals having all these different connections, like atoms, to this one thing; like a molecule, but with people. It’s kind of like having a network of people. You may have one primary or not. You may just have multiple relationships with different people that all know you are dating all these people,” he said…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: Oceans Apart

Hi Yana,

We met when we were 15 years old on the other side of the world. We were instantly attracted to each other and even made out on the first night. Saw each other over the years randomly on vacations, weddings etc. Tried to stay in touch and hang on to something we weren’t even sure was real.

We’ve always had oceans between us and no way to cross it permanently. We lost touch seven years ago. Met each other again two months ago, and there it was again – instant, strong, unstoppable attraction. Now we’re adults, talking about being able to potentially cross the ocean one day if we find something real.

I can’t stop thinking about her. It’s become an obsession. I get emotional when I look at her pictures sometimes. I have started taking selfies, to send to her. She sends them to me too, and reciprocates for the most part short of the unhealthy area. I constantly fantasize about how I can move there. We have never even spent more than a couple of days together and it’s scary to feel like this. I’ve become crazy about her.

I’m a dreamer so I get carried away easily, but never like this. It’s at a point where I think that I may fuck it all up. I’m going to see her next week and short of yoga, meditation and other self-care practices to center myself, do you have any advice for me? Do you have any advice for us for how we can know if there’s something real there beyond the intense stuff that may be mired in vacation fantasies?

Thanking you,

Wanderlust or Wanderlove?

 

Dear Wanderlust,

Limerence. Lim·er·ence. /ˈlimərəns/: an involuntary interpersonal state that involves an acute longing for emotional reciprocation, obsessive-compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and emotional dependence on another person.

Limerence is one of those magic little states of being that pops up somewhere between a crush and an actual relationship, and is typically responsible for that short firework-burst of time that somehow allows you to stay up all night talking or having sex without sleep or sustenance or has you missing those deadlines without a care for consequence.

Limerence is said to be fueled by our brain releasing neurochemicals such as dopamine, phenylethylamine (a natural amphetamine), estrogen and testosterone — the chemical cocktail that produces the euphoria of new attraction.

Limerence is sometimes tempered by affections being reciprocated and leading to a relationship or, it fizzles out and you go your separate ways with the hangover of “Whoa, what was I thinking??” Throw a couple oceans between you, and it’s quite possible this stage hasn’t faded in the 8 years you describe.

Limerence can lead to love but limerence isn’t necessarily love, Wanderlust…continue reading…