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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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Hide My Hickies!

Tis I, LL [from previous column “‘Lost in Labialand”]. I’m back with another problem. The advice you gave me last time worked out great. Opening the lines of communication between my partner and I really helped. However, my girlfriend and I have run into an issue: either she bruises really easily, or I need to settle down.

There have been multiple instances of hickies in our endeavors together, and most of the time we have difficulty getting rid of them/hiding them without arousing suspicion. She enjoys receiving them and I enjoy giving them, but once the heat of the moment is over …

Do you have any advice pertaining to more effective hickey-hiding, leaving less of a mark, or anything like that? A couple of close friends suggested forgoing neck kissing altogether, but why would anyone want to do that?!

So glad to hear that my advice to talk openly with your babe about being new to Labialand as a high school butchie was helpful! It sounds like y’all are having a great time — with the marks to prove it. But between parents, teachers, and nosey peers, I’m sure not everyone is as excited for you and your necking as I am. As you’ve said above, you’re both enjoying yourselves and love doing the hot ’n’ heavy that leads to the hickies so you’d like to diminish the damage done without stopping the fun. Here are my suggestions on how to do this:

Stop sucking! A hickey is left behind from biting and sucking the skin (usually around the neck) enough that small blood vessels called capillaries break, letting a tiny bit of blood seep out and become visible from under the skin. The harder you bite/suck, the more capillaries will break and the more visible and long-lasting your hickey will be.

Some people get hickies easier than others and it sounds like maybe your GF is one of them. In my high school necking days, I found that nibbling without sucking can offer the same type of sensation to the person getting snacked on without leaving kissing crumbs behind. Try out a softer smooching/nibbling routine without the suction…continue reading…

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Sweet (Sex-Positive) Sixteen

My eldest daughter is now 16. I’ve had to cover the sex talk basics as her mother (we’re divorced) is FAR more conservative (and shall we say repressed) than I. How do I, as a father, steer my daughter towards a more sex-positive outlook when it’s clear she isn’t getting the same feedback when she’s with her mother? Is there ever a time/approach where it’s appropriate to get her a vibrator? Do you just enlist a female friend for such duty?

Now wouldn’t it be nice if I could just tell parents that their teenagers will happily sit down for sex talks with them, fully absorb all of the information given, and then apply it rightly to their impending sexual explorations? (Because that’s what we did as teens, right?)

Unfortunately, the second something comes from a parent (even if you’re a cool, sex-positive parent and even if it’s an awesome vibrator) it’s just not that cool anymore. (Do kids even say “cool” anymore?) Continued…