If you’re an avid reader of The Feronia Project you know that we dig the Vlogbrothers. If you’re in the “friendzone,” here’s a little tutorial from Hank on how to get out. Happy Friday!
Since many of us will experience sexual assault or abuse at some point in our lives, the question of how we can support someone who’s dealing with this this is a topic that comes up for a lot of people. But just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s familiar. Here are some ways to get started if you’re feeling at loose ends.
Follow their lead, and wait to ask questions about ‘what next.’ Having Something To Do can help a lot of us feel less anxious about traumatic situations, but the more you can focus on what your friend is going through, and push that impulse to the side, the more helpful you’ll be to them.
See what they want to do about reporting their assault. This is part of the previous point, but since this is one of the first things that a lot of people think of, it deserves its own spot. For people who *want* to report their assault to the police, having someone to help navigate through everything can be a real boon. However, not everyone wants to go through that process. And for people whose assaults were a long time ago, it’s often not an option, or it’s one that they’ve already worked through and decided against.
Offer specific kinds of help, and make it easy for them to say yes or no to it. Offering broad support (“I’m here for whatever you need”) is great, but when people are overwhelmed, they sometimes can’t pin down specific things to ask. Combining that support with concrete questions can make it easier for people to tell you what they need.
Notice if you start to feel judgmental, and decide what you’re going to do about it. Sexual assault and abuse are still very stigmatized topics, and we all internalize messages from society that can pop up when we least expect it. You have a lot of options when it comes to figuring out how to work through them, but it’s deeply important to recognize that it’s happening.
Give yourself time to work through all of this! It can be incredibly intense to be there for someone who’s going through this. Whatever’s going on, find someone whom you can lean on around what you’re experiencing.
And above all, trust yourself. If your friend trusts you enough to open up to you about this, then you’ve already shown them that you’re someone who’s on their side, and who will be able to do right by them.
Recently, I was catching up with an old friend when the topic of workplace culture came up. I made some offhand remark about the fact that I’ve only had one job with a male boss, and that the vast majority of my coworkers have all been women, and was really surprised by her response. She immediately expressed sympathy, and said that she could only imagine ‘all the drama’ that goes along with that.
I told her that I never really experienced any of that, our conversation moved on, and I probably wouldn’t have thought of it again except for Facebook. That weekend, another friend posted a meme about the Icelandic Women’s Strike of 1975, with a caption of “What power women have when they unite – instead of tear ourselves apart through gossip, demeaning behavior and ridicule.”
Now, it’s always amazing to see what can happen when a large group acts collectively, and it’s a hard and therefore pretty rare thing to see. But is the idea of women’s cattiness so deeply ingrained that it’s always the default expectation for a lot of people? I’ve heard the tropes about this before, but I thought that most of it was like the idea that all lesbians always wear flannel, or that all pregnant women only eat fried pickles: a stereotype that’s an easy sitcom punchline, but one that (almost) no one takes seriously.
Looking into it a bit, though, I found that a *lot* of people take this seriously, and I found myself shocked by the fact that I hadn’t run up against this more often.
We’re only now starting to get more objective data on these kinds of behaviors, though, so assumptions have had a long time to go unchecked. Psychologists call this kind of behavior indirect aggression, and past research tended to focus much more closely on direct aggression. It’s easier to see and categorize shoves and punches, and it’s a lot harder to ask questions about when people have been snide or exclusionary.
The research so far is pretty interesting, especially in the differences between men and women: there aren’t many. Men “gossip” more than women, but if often doesn’t get that label. And men and women express indirect aggression at the same rates, even though a lot of the mainstream press articles about new papers won’t mention that fact.
When I first started looking into this, I was wondering if I’d just been unfathomably lucky in my life and friendships. I’m glad to see that my friends, coworkers and I aren’t anomalies, but I’d be even happier if we could put the tired stereotypes to rest.
What age should someone stop having sex? How old is too old? For many people, the answer is that they would like to have some sexual activity, whether it is with a partner or with themselves, for as long as they possibly can. Sex or not, intimacy is important throughout our lives. Some, unfortunately, are judgmental of people having sex later in life.
Most of us have sexual desires, and this is not necessarily going to go away as we age. Additionally, medicine is getting more adept at making sex possible for people later in life, despite health conditions that might have previously impacted their sexual behavior. This is done in various ways, like the use of hormone therapy for people who have been through menopause, or drugs that help people get or maintain an erection despite circulation issues. All of this culminates in allowing people to remain sexually active later in life than might have been possible without medical intervention.
However, because our society is so focused on youth, we often forget that older people can be sexual beings. Additionally, some generations of elderly people today may not be as comfortable talking about sex and sexuality with those around them. Generational hang-ups about the stigma of sexuality may mean that continuing desire is not discussed in “polite company.” This could affect how individuals talk to those around them about sex. As a society, this also means that we may be confusing discomfort talking about sex from discomfort participating in sexual acts, giving us false notions about elderly people not having sex.
As sexual health advocates, it is important to make sure that our work does not leave out older generations. Sexual health, including regular STD testing, the use of barrier methods, and the ability to have an open and honest dialogue about sex with one’s care provider, is important for sexual wellbeing throughout all stages of one’s life!
We’ve talked about communication before on Feronia, and how it’s a key part of so many different things – consent, exploring new activities, embracing your own desire, not to mention the roles it plays in all of the rest of our lives. But while wanting to communicate well is a good (and necessary!) first step, it’s a bit vague as a roadmap.
Whenever I see advice that says “communicate with your partner” and doesn’t offer specifics, I’m reminded of the South Park Underpants Gnomes:
Thankfully (though somewhat sadly) this is a really common problem, so you don’t have to start from zero.
Often, we find ourselves tongue tied when we want to talk about trying something new. Writing things down can often be easier than talking about them in the moment, though. And when it comes to communicating around sex, silliness can sometimes help break the ice a bit. One way to bring up new possibilities is to fill two bowls with different slips of paper – put actions (kissing, touching, massaging, etc.) on one set, and body parts on the other. You’ll get a few odd combinations, and laughing about them can help make it easier to try new things and talk about what you like and aren’t so into.
That brings up another tricky set of conversations – talking about things that you don’t like. While it can feel really awkward to bring up, know that your partner wants to know this stuff! One way to bring it up gently is to pair a statement about what you don’t like with one about something you like better – you’re still being clear about your desires, but you’re making it easier to move forward to things you enjoy. (Note: this is advice for talking about specific activities within an otherwise good dynamic. If anything is seriously off-kilter, you don’t want to risk rushing past it by doing this.)
There are a lot more hurdles to clear when dealing with communication issues – judicious use of advice columns and the self-help aisle can provide a lot more for tips more specific to your particular situation. There are a lot of great advice sites out there – I can recommend Go Ask Alice, Ask a Queer Chick, and Autostraddle, and there are a lot of other places with good tips about communicating outside of romantic relationships, too.
With all advice, though, be sure to take it with at least a grain of salt. I like reading Dan Savage, but I know to be wary around his columns that talk about bisexuality and trans* issues (particularly for things in the archives). And there’s a lot of useful information in books like the 5 Love Languages, but you have to sift through a fair bit of dross to get to it. (In that example, the author only talks about opposite-sex relationships, is pretty proscriptive about monogamy, and has some other ideas that made me roll my eyes pretty often.)
Whatever you’re talking about, here’s to making it less intimidating, more fun, and connected to getting more of what you want, in your relationship and beyond.
If you don’t follow The New York Times, you should. One of the reasons we love it is because they publish excellent and timely articles on health, and we sex educators rely on it to stay up on the latest news. It is a reliable and sound resource for us. Here are a few of our recommendations from the last month or so…
Searching for Sex, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, January 25, 2015
If you’re fascinated by all things sex ed like I am, you MUST read this article. I’m not even going to prep you with a little introductory paragraph because I want you to be totally blown away. The article is a bit long so if you don’t have time now, bookmark it for later.
Medicating Women’s Feelings, by Julie Holland, February 28, 2015
There are lots of things our society doesn’t talk enough about and mental health tops the list, in my opinion. This article, written by an experienced psychiatrist, says enough is enough! She says, “The new, medicated normal is at odds with women’s dynamic biology; brain and body chemicals are meant to be in flux. By evolutionary design, we are hard-wired to be sensitive to our environments, empathic to our children’s needs and intuitive of our partners’ intentions. Women’s emotionality is a sign of health, not disease; it is a source of power. But we are under constant pressure to restrain our emotional lives.” I highy recommend this read…share the article, talk about it, reach out to a friend.
Two Strains of H.I.V. Cut Vastly Different Paths by Carl Zimmer, March 2, 2015
We’ve posted many articles about HIV before, including this one the origin of HIV. What I like about Carl Zimmer’s article is that he retraces what we already knew about HIV’s origin, but helps us fill in the gaps by exposing us to new research. HIV-2 didn’t just take one giant leap from primate to human, IT TOOK NINE! HIV-1 was trickier to track down. Scientists have been sifting through chimpanzee and gorilla feces for years looking for answers and now they finally have definitive proof that they can use to reconstruct the path that HIV-1 took. It’s a very fascinating read so be sure to check it out!
Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.
*This post is a synopsis/simplification of the original paper, Why Humans Have Sex, by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, which was published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior (2007) 36:477–507. If you find this topic fascinating, be sure to read their entire paper.
For a long time, the reasons people have sex have been thought to be few in number and easily discernible. The most commonly stated reasons are: to procreate, to experience pleasure, and to express love and affection.
However, research on this topic has shown that the reasons why people have sex go beyond just love, pleasure, and making babies, but not a lot of studies have been done to pinpoint these reasons. The studies which have been done have shown significant gender differences and individual differences, which were coherently linked with certain personality traits. These studies have documented more than 200 reasons why people are motivated to have sex. The reasons/motives can be categorized into groups since they can be very similar to each other but just worded or expressed in different ways.
The four groups which most of the reasons fall into are:
Looking at the gender differences, men generally seek sex because they like how it feels. Women, although they also derive pleasure from the act, are generally more interested in the emotional and relationship enhancement that sex offers. This difference has been named body-centered and person-centered sex.
Body-centered sex is when you have sex because you like the way it makes your body feel. You aren’t concerned with the emotions of your partner. Person-centered sex is when you have sex to connect with the other person. You care about the emotions involved and the relationship between you and your partner. Individuals can switch between body-centered and person-centered sex depending on a lot of factors which include stage in one’s life (which age and life experience is affected by), current situation in life and many more.
Despite these general observations, studies suggest that there has been a convergence in sexual attitudes among men and women in recent years. Instead of men and women being at opposite ends of the (traditional) sexual spectrum, they are now coming together. More women are having sex for physical reasons and more men say they have sex for emotional reasons (or maybe now they just feel safer reporting these feelings?).
Why are these reasons important to know? Well, why people have sex is often tied to the image of themselves and their social relationships, with changes continually happening over time. Understanding the differences in these motivations is very important. It helps us understand what’s going on in our sexual relationship(s). Finding out the reasons for wanting to have sex can aid in addressing certain problems with interpersonal relationships especially between couples and also be used to identify certain issues with sexual behaviors. Very often, you find the source of the problem can be traced to the particular motivation.