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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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Are Tasty Lubes Giving Me Tonsillitis?

Hi Yana,

I have been using flavored lube for mostly oral, but recently this has been causing tonsillitis for me. I forgot to read the fine print, “Use within 3 months,” so now I must chuck out a full bottle (I hate wastage!).

What brands of flavored lube would you recommend using to avoid wastage? What are the best brands to use? Also I live in Australia, so would it be okay to order it online if it’s not available in the shops?

— Lickety Sick

Hi LS,

Tonsillitis? From expired lube? I gotta say I’ve never heard that one before and my research isn’t coming up with any definitive answers. As tonsillitis is caused by bacterial infection I would say to get thee to a doctor to get that checked out. Bacteria and oral sex do not mix well and you certainly don’t want to be tossing something back and forth with your partner/s or be chronically contracting something that’s bad for your health.

Oral thrush — which can cause pain similar to tonsillitis like a sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and white pustules on the inner cheeks and back of the throat — can occur via performing oral sex on someone with a yeast infection, for example. (And yeast infections can find home in both the vagina as well as in the cozy folds of an uncircumcised penis, btw!)

I myself learned an itchy, unfortunate lesson about the joys of lube and lover-licking many years ago as a college freshman. For months on end I was coming down with yeast infections — itching, burning yeasties that would not quit. Finally I went to my campus’ health services and pleaded with the nurse to help me put an end to this vicious cycle. She asked me two questions: Is your boyfriend uncircumcised? Are you using KY Jelly? Answers: yes and yes.

Anyone who has attended my workshops or reads my column knows I hate glycerin-containing lubes (KY and Astroglide being the biggest offenders) with a fiery, yeasty passion. And that, well, memorable time during my freshman year in college is exactly why. The nurse enlightened me to the fact that my boyfriend could harbor a yeast infection and that the glycerin in the lube we were using (ahem, KY!) was off-setting the pH balance of my precious pussy, tripping up yeast infections which I was then passing to my boyfriend and he back to me again…continue reading…

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When Can We Ditch the Rubbers?

After how many months of no symptoms can one safely assume he or she is free of sexually transmitted diseases?

I’m in a monogamous relationship right now with someone who’s just as healthy as I am, and we’re wondering how long until we can be reasonably sure we won’t pass each other anything. My partner is an excessively careful person. We’ve been in a committed relationship for about five months and my partner uses an IUD. We are safe to forgo condoms, correct?

I’m so happy that you and your partner are actively discussing your sexual health and negotiating your safer sex approach. But why be “reasonably sure” when you can just be “sure” about your sexual health status? Continued…