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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: Seeking Sex-Positive Ed for My Niece

Hey Yana,

Over Thanksgiving I spent some time with my awesome 18-year-old niece. I’m in need of your wisdom about a situation I’m trying to wrap my 30-year-old, feminist, protective brain around.

My niece lives in a small town, far from her friends, and has been dealing with some depression. She told me that she’s been driving to meet up and have sex with dudes from Tinder. There have been at least two. I think they’re in their 20s, maybe older. She’s been kind of reticent about details, so I’m thinking there might be some more that would make me more concerned.

When she first told me, I was like “Cool! Sex-positive! Get it girl! Always tell your friends where you’ll be! Condomscondomscondoms! Get tested! Call me any time!” But the more I think about it, the more concerned I am about her emotional health, and the way that she might be using sex less-than-safely.

I’m certain that she hasn’t had pleasure-positive or consent-focused sex-ed and I worry that all the terrible messages about sex that accompany female socialization are setting up this amazing young woman to get hurt.

Are there ways I can encourage her to take care of herself without shaming her?

— Sex-Posi Auntie

Dear Sex-Posi Auntie,

Use your cool, younger-aunt status to your advantage and find a way to talk to your niece about the difference between sex for sex’s sake and sex that feels good, affirming, and consensual. This conversation could be sparked by a sex scene in a movie, a lyric in a song, or you could get real intentional and hold a little viewing of my TEDx talk, which talks about just this — how young people learn about sex in a way that dangerously divorces it from sexual pleasure and consent.

The sex-positivity movement has done wonders in the ways it’s prioritized pleasure over disease, choice over shame, and health over stigma. However, sex-positivity can be wrongly conflated with “all sex is good sex, and the more sex, the better!” “Sex positive” doesn’t mean that all sexual experiences are inherently positive or that we should ignore the things that can be negative about sex.

Rather than throw a sex-posi blanket over your niece’s experiences, lead her through an exploration of the nuances of healthy sex that honors her sexual agency. The World Health Organization’s great definition of “sexual health” prioritizes pleasure and consent:

“A state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction, or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination. and violence. For sexual health to be maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected, and fulfilled.”

Examine both sides of the sexual coin with your niece — both what feels rewarding, safe, and empowering and what feels scary, unhealthy, or unsafe…continue reading…

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New Pornographer Interested in Sex Ed

Hi Yana!

I saw your TEDx talk in Vienna and was copiously taking notes. The content was an eye-opener for me. I had never thought that both of our basic information sources about sex [school-sanctioned sex education and online pornography] are running their very own twisted agenda.

I started working in the porn industry six weeks ago — hey, the money is fantastic! — and my consumption of porn has gone way up as a side effect. I’m an animator on 3D animated porn shorts, so any porn clip is not only watched, but dissected frame by frame for all the details in body mechanics. (Yeah, it’s a tough life.)

What I wanted to ask you ever since that talk is: What resources can you suggest for filling that gap that both sex ed and porn leave?

I guess before your talk I would have let Google answer that question, but after your talk I’m somewhat weary of online sex education. Any books, videos, or online resources you recommend?

— Pornographer Across the Pond

Hello, PAP!

Thanks for such a great question and for your kind words. As someone actually working on porn sets,

Read this week's Intern Investigation!

Read this week’s Intern Investigation!

I’m so glad that you in particular attended the talk and are thinking about these things.

For readers who haven’t viewed my TEDxTalk yet, here’s the CliffsNotes version: Sex education is failing us hard. So, very naturally people — especially teens — are turning to Google and therefore often mainstream online porn to learn about what’s really going on with this whole sex thing beyond STDs and pregnancy risk.

But then mainstream porn paints a picture of sex that is limited to heterosexuality, penis-in-vagina penetration, and flawless and predictable mutual orgasm without any conversation about how this happens. If you’re a loyal reader, you already know that conversations about sex are crucial for practicing consent and having great sex.

Online porn, our new sex educator, teaches us what roles we should fit into during sex, what kinds of sex are “normal” and “abnormal,” and that sex needs to be wordless in order to be hot, sexy, and pleasurable.

So, PAP, what can you do to manage this deficit? The first is to work for and support pornography companies with ethical missions…continue reading…

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Husband Seeks Female-Friendly Sex Ed

Hi Yana,

My wife is interested in exploring her sexuality a little further — things she might be interested in trying, etc. — but is hoping to do so in a way that is female- and feminist-friendly. Do you have any suggestions for things she can do or read either individually or with me?

— Helpful Husband

Hello HH,

My favorite kind of husband is the one willing to lend a helping hand to his partner’s continued sexual exploration — especially when they’re flexible about their level of involvement!

Googling “sex” willy-nilly on the internet can get sticky to say the least. Before y’all surf the web, hit the books. Come As You Are by our very own local sexpert Emily Nagoski is the first thing to read. This is one of the most comprehensive, shame-reducing and normalizing books about sex I’ve read. Her helpful worksheets direct the reader through some great self-reflection and sexual explorations and can be done solo or with a partner (that’s you, HH!).

Other good readings include Mating in Captivity by my professional idol Esther Perel and O WOW: Discovering Your Ultimate Orgasm by Jenny Block.

Watching feminist porn either solo or with a partner is great sexploration fodder. Feminist porn isn’t that wam-bam-thank-you-whatever-your-name-was mainstream porn you find easily when you Google “porn.” Feminist porn is intentionally made for the non-male gaze, is often directed by women and queer people, features scenes co-created by the performers, and proudly displays real orgasms and consent practices. (Read my past column, Grass Fed Porn for more on feminist porn.)

Tristan Taormino directs great feminist-friendly sex educational porn she calls “expert guides” on topics that include female orgasms, the G-spot, oral sex, threesomes, and rough sex that blend smut and educational lecture for a real pleasurable learning experience.

Also, your truly humble sex columnist teaches a variety of workshops on topics such as the G-spot, kink, anal sex, non-monogamous relationships, and sex toys! You can find my upcoming workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.

Sexual shame can be a heavy shroud to lift for a lot of people — especially women, queer people and other folks who have not been granted the same social permission to talk about and explore their sexuality and experiences of sexual pleasure that straight men have enjoyed…continue reading…

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Oh! Oh! Oh? Where’s My Orgasm?

Hi Yana!

I started having sex with males this past summer. It’s fun and exciting, but I’ve yet to reach an earth-shattering orgasm. That may be too high of an expectation for myself, but it feels like I’ve never had an orgasm at all.

I feel the build up, but there’s no release. I think this may be contributing to my extremely low sex drive, because sex isn’t really beneficial for me. I really do want to be having more sex, and more fulfilling healthy sex with my long-term partner.

How do I have an orgasm? How do I go about figuring out what I like, what gets me off? Am I getting in my own way somehow?

Usually when I have sex it’s vaginal penetration with short bursts of clitoral stimulation. I guess my main problem is starting the dialogue, “Hey, can you try this?” because I don’t know what to ask for. Should I watch more porn, go on kinky websites for ideas? Or, considering how sex in mainstream media is depicted in a way that is largely unbeneficial to women, is that more hurt than help?

— Still Searching

Dear SS,

Your questions echo the many, many questions I get from people trying to overcome this sexual hurdle — or just come at all. An orgasm is typically characterized by a pleasurable build-up which ends in a climactic release.

It sounds like you’re on your way, but haven’t quite reached Orgasm Town — a common experience.

You’re on the right track in your thinking about this — your search for an orgasm is going to take a lot more than basic P-in-V penetration. Logistically speaking, direct and consistent clitoral stimulation is a requirement for most. More importantly, orgasms take personal work both in between our legs and in between our ears. What I mean to say, is the brain is our largest sex organ; so let’s start there…continue reading…

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Dry-humping Better Than Sex

I’m an 18-year-old girl with a sex question. I don’t orgasm during sex with a guy, but I usually do orgasm when we’re dry-humping. Do you have any advice about how sex could be made better for me? I still want to have sex to pleasure my partner, but it’s boring for me. Help me get over this hump!

It sounds like your partner needs to learn where your clitoris is! You’re probably orgasming during dry-humping because your clitoris is getting rubbed and/or stimulated consistently by whatever surface you’re dry-grinding on. This isn’t surprising as direct, consistent clitoral stimulation is a requirement for well over 75 percent of women to achieve a clitoral climax. The Cliteracy Project by artist Sophia Wallace is a really fun and accessible way for both of you to start learning more about the clitoris.

The clitoris’s climactic fondness for direct and consistent stimulation explains the popularity of clitoral vibrators and is also sadly missing from solely penetrative penis-in-vagina sex as thrusting does little to stimulate your clitoris (located externally above the vaginal opening where the folds of the labia meet). So, your new joint mission is to squash your sexual boredom and experiment with new ways to get you that consistent clitoral stimulation you’re enjoying during dry-humping. Why is this your joint mission?…continue reading…

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Lost in Labialand

I recently started reading your sex column, and it’s really great! There are sooooo many questions I had floating around in my mind about sex, because they don’t really talk about lesbians that much (ahem, at all) in sex ed.

My problem is this: I recently started dating a girl who is sexually active and when the time comes to do The Do I have no idea how to make things enjoyable for her. I have my own vagina as a reference point, but everyone’s bodies are different so I don’t know if she’ll respond to similar things as I do.

I would just let her to take the lead, but I think she expects me to know what I’m doing because I tend to align more with the butch category. Do you have any tips on just getting it on with a girl in general? Like, what are some things partners in the past have responded well to? I dunno. Pretty much any advice on the subject would be appreciated.

Welcome to the fold(s)! Yep, traditional sex education does diddly squat in providing LGBTQ-inclusive information. But let’s be honest — most government-funded sex education programs aren’t doing a great job with the penis-in-vagina sex ed either. In fact, the Public Religion Research Institute found in a 2015 survey that four in 10 millennials reported that high school sex ed classes weren’t helpful to them in making decisions about sex and relationships at all. Throw in homophobia and limited views as to what kinds of sex “count,” and us LGBTQ folks are screwed when it comes to learning how to screw.

Luckily, you’ve got me, the Internet, and a thriving LGBTQ community to learn from. You’re right, while your own vagina is a great basic anatomical reference, all vaginas respond differently to stimulation; so you can’t make many assumptions. This is intimidating, but the good news is that this is true for everyone with all kinds of anatomy and sexual identities — everyone responds differently to sexual stimulation so in reality, nobody has any idea what they’re doing when they sleep with a new person…continue reading…

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Fretting Over My First Time


I’m a 17-year-old virgin. My partner and I tried having sex, but we couldn’t get it in. I went to the doctor for contraception and I asked her why we couldn’t get it in. She said that I needed to relax; how the hell do I relax?! During sex (or trying to) I wasn’t worried. I was a bit daunted by it because I had no sexual experience — none, nada, nothing! Do you have any advice on how I can relax?

Secondly, I’ve never given oral. I want to try everything at least once. In my head I think, “I can totally do this, I’m fine, I’ll just go for it,” but when I was in the situation where I could give him oral, I couldn’t do it. I think at best, I’m worried about the taste. I’m also worried about whether he’ll like it or not, or whether it’ll accidentally brush against my teeth. Do you have any advice on how I might overcome this? Or any advice on giving head?

When I’m not writing this column, I’m teaching workshops about sex and consent. Teaching these workshops to youth has made one thing clear: Teens are getting a lot of confusing and inaccurate information about sex. Most problematically, movies, porn, and music rarely portray anyone talking to each other about the sex they’re having.

So, you’re taking great first steps towards your first time by including visiting your doctor, discussing contraception (Please also discuss STI/STD protection with your doctor and partner), voicing your worries, and seeking reliable information.

Here’s my best advice for all your questions: Talk with your partner. This sounds simple, but it works wonders and is No. 1 on the list of things-I-wish-I’d-done-differently-my-first-time amongst adults…continue reading…


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Getting Selfish in the Sack

We’re socialized to not ask for what we want. This applies to promotions, the best looking cookie in the cafe’s pastry case and, of course, sex. When we pointedly ask for what we want, we’re seen as selfish, greedy, finicky and maybe even a little mean. When women ask for what they want in bed they’re stamped with ye olde “slut” badge. When men ask, they’re viewed as non-masculinely picky: you have a penis for fuck’s sake how difficult can it really be to please? No wonder we’re not asking for what we want in the sack.

The assumption that we’re only good at The Sex if we know exactly what our partners want just by getting naked with them is totally absurd. Yet media everywhere (myself included) cash in on giving you tips to “give her what she wants” and “how to blow his mind”.

Well, here’s the simple answer to all of these supposed sexual mysteries: Ask.

This is the truth: if you ask for what you want and need, you are more likely to get it than if you don’t. Continued…