Sexpert: Final Tips for the Semester

Dear Miss Meghan,

Any tips for getting through the end of the semester stress?

-Finally

Dear Finally,

I think the biggest mistake I see students make is not taking care of themselves. Understandably, when we are stressed out and busy the first things to get cut are eating well, exercise, and sleep. Yet those are the exact things that well help us reduce our stress levels. If you take breaks to get a complete meal, go for a run, and aim for 9 hours of sleep, then that huge paper you need to do will take much less time to write because you will have better focus, will be able to think more clearly, and can improve your comprehension of information.

So you say you don’t have 10 hours to spare for sleep, exercise, and food. Fair enough. If you really can’t make the time to do those things, how about you take ten minutes to read a book for pleasure, or journal, or go for a walk. Take a 20 minute nap (not an hour nap) before your big test (sleeping helps your brain retain information). Eat a (healthier) snack, but do it mindfully. Mindful eating is only concentrating on the tastes, textures, smells, and colors of the food. Eat slowly with the laptop shut and the tv and phone off. Bananas are great brain food. Go to calm.com and do a 5 minute guided relaxation.

Self-care in NOT going on facebook or buzzfeed or cracked or reddit or pintrest or twitter for a 20 minute break. It is not listening to your friends complain about how much work they have to do, or taking a break to write aemail. Self-care is not eating Cheetos while watching Toddlers in Tiaras. Or ramen while watching Parks and Recs. Or Snickers while watching 90210. Or, well you get the point. Know the difference between distracting yourself and taking care of yourself.

I wish you all the best of luck on your SMPs, final papers and tests, graduation, jonb searches, summer plans, grad school, or whatever you will be doing for the summer.  Wear sunscreen.

 

Sincerely,

Miss Meghan

Ask Miss Meghan: Recovering from Love

Dear Miss Meghan,

 

My girlfriend ended our relationship after 3 years a few months ago. I am ready to move on, but am not sure what the next steps are. Help.

-Recoveringfromlove

 

Dear Recovering,

I read somewhere that it takes half the time you were in a relationship to get over said relationship. This theory would suggest it’s going to take you a year and a half to truly be ready to move on. The good news is that I think it read this information in Cosmo when I was a teen, so I don’t think we need to take it too seriously as a rule.

I’ve seen enough relationships end at this point in my life, and have a decent knowledge base on the scientific study of love, that I believe that when ‘everyone’ says “time will heal all wounds,” in this case the cliché is actually true. But we can speed it up a bit.

Recovering from any romantic relationship requires us to actually rewire the neuro-pathways in our brain. We have to shift our thinking from “we” back to “me.” The neurotransmitters we get from love are powerful and grow in strength over time. We form associations between “that person” and certain smells, sounds, words, places, etc. and when it ends, we have to get rid of those associations.

Some people (Cosmo) imply that you have no control over this process and that you just have to wait it out. I say you can do lots of things about it: Spend time alone. Go out with friends. Reconnect with people you enjoy. Go on dates. Be set up with someone. Commit to not dating or celibacy for a while. See a concert. Or forty concerts. Find new hobbies or re-start some old ones. Cook.  Figure out what you want in a partner and what you don’t want.

All of these will help in the re-wiring of your brain to start thinking of “you” again instead of your ex’s needs/desires/concerns. If you find yourself falling madly in love with the next person to walk across your doorstep (do you have doorsteps in residence halls?) please ask yourself if it is just the same old pathway lighting up, or is it truly different and new. This is tricky to figure out and we don’t have a clear way of knowing (unless you have access to a PET scan), but the first step in moving on is learning to trust yourself again and figuring out what you want. After you do that, the rest is easy. Or, well, at least easier.

Also, “sorry” about my complete overuse of quotation marks. My bad.

 

Sincerely,

Miss Meghan

Dear Miss Meghan: Fretting Friends Feel Frazzled

Dear Miss Meghan,

I don’t feel it is my place to tell someone they need to get help, but once you’ve been the sounding board for a friend enough times, you can tell they obviously needs more than I can offer.  Is there anything I can say to suggest they talk with someone better equipped than myself without the other person getting hurt?  I can see why these things could be taken personally, but I’ve also seen it turn into a vicious cycle. Or sometimes they attempt help but then fall back into old habits. As concerned friends are we essentially…stuck?

-Fretted Friend

Dear Fretted Friend,

This is a common occurrence on our campus, when friends notice that another friend might benefit from help but don’t know what to do. I see numerous students each semester to come in to talk to a therapist about how to help a friend with an eating disorder, abusive relationship, or is being self-destructive. I would suggest being honest with them and expressing that you don’t feel like you are helping them and think they should talk to a counselor. I often suggest, if they are hesitant to come to therapy, offering to come in with them to walk-in hours or attending a group with them for support. The therapists at Counseling Services do not mind if a caring friend or support sits in with someone who is struggling. There are also more passive ways, including just printing out an email from Counseling Services, doing the online mental health screening with them (like the Cosmo quizzes you used to do with your friends in middle school), or picking up a brochure and placing it somewhere where they may see it.

Despite all the ways you can reach out and show your concern, some people are just not ready or in a place where they can ask for help and you have to respect that (unless they are a harm to themselves, in which case please tell someone). They have the right to say “I’m not going to ask for help.” But, as their friend, you also have the right to set a boundary with them and say I can’t help you anymore unless you start helping yourself. This is a really difficult thing to do, and it may ruin the friendship, but if they refuse to take care of themselves, you still have the right to take care of yourself.

Sincerely wishing for snow,

Miss Meghan

 

Miss Meghan: SexFest!

Dear Miss Meghan,

What is this ‘SexFest’ event I keep hearing about?

-SchoolIsCool-

 

Dear SchoolIsCool,

First of all, I appreciate you taking the time to be a fictional person asking a question I made up just so I could write about and self-promote SexFest. Thanks.

The short answer to your question is that it is an awesome event where students can come learn about sex and sexuality. In costumes.

Longer answer is that it will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 1pm-5:30pm. We have an exhibit hall area with off campus agencies, clubs, sex games (like sex Jeopardy), free stuff (tons of condoms), snacks, sex secrets, and other awesome stuff. Last year we had a giant Vulva, draw your own orgasm, Burlesque Club performance, and condom balloon animals! We will have raffles throughout the day (as well as during our keynote speech), t-shirts, and stickers for the first 200 students who show up. At the keynote presentation we will also be having a “best costume” prize, so dress up. I will also be in costume, so it will be worth it just for that.

Our keynote speaker this year is Dr. Timaree Schmit who, sticking with the Halloween theme, will be interactively presenting on: Vampires, Leatherface, and Girls in their Underwear: Sexuality and Fear in Horror Films. Timaree Schmit, Ph.D. has been a professional sexuality educator for over a decade, starting as an HIV prevention counselor and tester, and is now an adjunct professor of human sexuality at Widener University, a syndicated sex columnist, host of the Sex with Timaree podcast, and guest lecturer and consultant on issues related to sexual health, diversity, media literacy, and social justice. Her work can be found at on iTunes and at SexwithTimaree.com. She can also do a mean dinosaur impression, but she only does it if she really likes you.

The event is put on by the Peer Health Educators and Programs Board and this will be our second annual SexFest event. If you or your club would like to get involved, have an idea for the event, a question, or just want to tell me how great this is, email me at mkroot@smcm.edu. You can also find out the details on the Peer Health Educator Facebook page (SMCMPHE). See you there!

Sincerely SexFest is going to be awesome,

Miss Meghan

 

Ask Miss Meghan: Communication Breakdown

Dear Miss Meghan,

 

I’m in a relationship, and trying to figure out how to improve communication with my partner. It’s scary to ask them to talk more, and we already have some jealously/trust issues. Any advice?

 

-TalkToMe –

 

Dear TalkToMe,

This is a pretty common issue that many folks face in relationships. In my experience working with couples who present with sexual difficulties, I’d say that about 80% of the time we are actually working on communication issues. We learn to filter ourselves from saying what we really want to because we are afraid of losing the other person, pushing them away, not wanting to sound silly or be embarrassed, or we don’t trust our instincts.

I also know how hard it is to actually listen to other people talk. So that is the first step: Listen to your partner. Instead of trying to figure out what they are NOT saying, trust in what they are saying. If they aren’t saying how they feel/what they think, that is on them. Pause for five seconds (like, actually count to five in your head) before replying. This gives you both time to process and figure out a response, which is better than trying to come up with a response while the other person is still talking.

Another basic step is utilizing “I” statements. This helps with the trust issue. It does no good to blame each other, so try speaking to how YOU feel, instead of what the other person is doing that makes you feel a certain way. I recognize this feels like advice you got in second grade, but it is still valid advice.

Lastly, let’s address trust/jealousy issues. The only way to prove your commitment to a relationship is by your behavior. If you know what behaviors spark your partner’s distrust, don’t do those things. If you want to do them anyways and think your partner has no reason to not trust you for doing whatever it is you want to do, then maybe you and your partner are not in the same place and should consider finding someone else who is better suited for you. For example, maybe for you talking to an ex online just means nothing, but your current partner thinks it’s a sign that you are not emotionally committed to them. In this situation, you both have different perspectives (neither being right or wrong, just different views). If you cannot talk to reach a compromise, or if you do reach a compromise but the behaviors that support the compromise are not present, then maybe it’s not the best fit.

Try sitting down and having each of you write a definition of “being in a relationship” and a list of behaviors that go along with it: how do you behave when you are in a relationship, and how do you think the person you are in a relationship with should behave? Compare. Listen. Discuss.

 

Sinseriously,

 

Miss Meghan

Miss Meghan: Condoms, Continued

Dear Miss Meghan,

How do I choose the right condom to use?   (continued from previous article)

-Willy –

 

Dear Willy,

So, in my last article, I covered female condoms, male condoms, and why they come in different colors, flavors, and sizes. So what else do you need to know about male condoms? I would cover which brands to buy, but I realize that you all are going to go with what is cheapest, and that means free from health services (or the condom fairy). In the future when you do have to pay for them, know that some novelty condoms aren’t safe. Always choose condoms that carry the European CE or Kite mark, which is a recognized safety standard. Also, check the date on the packet as condoms don’t last forever. Yes, somewhere in the world there are a few faulty condoms floating around, but odds are it is not in your box or pocket, and unless you have some super classy friends, no one is sitting around with a needle poking holes in all of your condoms.

According to anecdotes and the “best condoms” list I’ve seen, Crown and Beyond Seven typically rate the best; however you won’t find them at CVS or Target because they come from Japan so they need to be ordered online. Durex Maximum Love and Lifestyles Ultra sensitive also make the top of the list, both of which you can find here, on campus, for free in Chance Hall (also improperly referred to by you all as the Health Center).

You can also find condoms that have studs, extra lube, or are ribbed. These options do not affect the quality of the condom, so they exist mostly for the preference of the partner.

Some myths to debunk while I have your attention:

-It is NEVER a good idea to double-bag it. Two condoms at once just create friction and will tear the latex.

-Non-latex condoms are great if you are allergic to latex, but they tend to be more permeable. So they will stop sperm, but may be less effective at stopping viruses (like HIV).

-Lastly, don’t store condoms in your wallet, purse, or pocket unless you have a carrier for it. Yes, I would prefer you use a beaten up condom than no birth control at all, but they are sensitive to light, heat, and weathering so they should be stored in a cool, dry, place. No, “cool” does not mean in the refrigerator. Room temperature will be fine.

Please remember that safe sex is better sex!

 

Sincerely keeping it classy,

 

Miss Meghan

Don’t Be Silly – Wrap Your Willy!

Dear Miss Meghan,

How do I choose the right condom to use?

-Willy –

Dear Willy,

Great question! There are many options to choose from in terms of types of condoms to use for birth control/STI protection. The two major categories are either male condoms (that are placed over the penis or phallic shaped object) or the female condom (inserted into the vaginal canal). There are also “finger condoms” that can be used to cover the hand when engaging in digital penetration (digits as in hands, not digital as in your cell phone).

The female condom is great for anyone who finds a male condom too restrictive around the penis or for folks whose partner does not want to wear a male condom. They are lubricated on both the inside and out and create a barrier between the vaginal canal and the inserted object. It is safe to use a water-based lubricant with a female condom. They work by trapping the semen from entering past the female’s cervix. Female condoms should not be used for anal penetration because you risk having the female condom “sucked” into the anal cavity and that just can’t be fun to remove.

Male condoms come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, and materials and are used to cover the penis or a shared sex toy for penetration of the mouth, vagina, or anus. Colored condoms only exist to make penises look “prettier” in my opinion, and do not affect the effectiveness or type of sexual activity that can be done with them. Sometimes, I think people just want to see what their penis looks like when it glows in the dark, which, if I had a penis, I would probably want to see at some point in my life.

Flavored condoms should be used for oral sex, and should not be used for vaginal or anal sex. The flavoring typically comes from a sugar based flavored lubricant, which can throw off the pH balance of the vagina or anal canal. If you are using a flavored condom for oral sex and then transition to another type of penetration, you should give the genital area a wipe down first with water to reduce the risk of a yeast infection or UTI.

As for size of a male condom, length matters less than width of the condom. If a condom does not unroll all the way to the base of the penis, you need a longer condom. However, most condoms are made long enough. As for width, you want the condom to fit snug and be a bit tight around the penis without cutting off circulation. If a condom is at all loose on the penis, you increase the risk of tearing the surface resulting in improper use. This means that, for a good percentage of men, thinking that you need to use a magnum because it is looser actually increases your risk for breakage.

Stay tuned for the second part in this series to learn about choosing the correct brand for you, what types to stay away from, and de-bunking some myths (like how many students here think lifestyles break easily).

Seriously sincere,

Miss Meghan

Miss Meghan – "Whiskey Dick" Got You Down? Sober Up!

Dear Miss Meghan,

What are the effects of alcohol on sexual functioning?

-Flaccid for Now-

Dear Flaccid for Now,

I was going to attempt to write this article without using the words “whiskey dick” but after some serious urban dictionary time, I’ve realized that: there are too many terms that include the word flaccid, I am better off using the language I know, and who comes up with these terms? Will The Point News even allow me to use the word “whiskey dick?” [Ed. note: I think we should!]

Anyways, back to the topic. For most folks of any/all sexes, one or two drinks of alcohol will not have a significant affect on one’s ability to obtain a physiological state of sexual arousal. Many folks find that a drink or two reduces sexual inhibitions. The exception to this is if you are on any medications or are combining alcohol with other drugs/substances as they can interact and can cause sexual difficulties. For example, many anti-depressants can affect sexual functioning.

Once you hit three or more drinks in your system, depending on time between drinks and body weight, the alcohol has caused your blood to thin (also a good reason not to get a tattoo when you’ve been drinking). For male-bodied folks, erections occur because the canals in your penis swell, which traps blood in the penis making it firm. If the blood is thinned, it can not be trapped in the penis, causing a failure to obtain an erection.

For female-bodied folks, sexual arousal is caused by the swelling of the vulva which causes blood to get trapped into the vagina canal triggering vaginal lubrication. With alcohol in the system, females have a more difficult time obtaining vaginal lubrication and a state of genital arousal.

Alcohol also slows down your brain’s processing of stimulation, so the sensations of nerve endings in the penis or vulva are not processed by the brain as well as they are when alcohol is not present in the system. It takes firmer stimulation to the surfaces of the genitals to obtain the sensation of pleasure and orgasms are reported to be less intense with alcohol consumption. For women, lack of vaginal lubrication can led to increase tearing or pain during penetration and increases the risk for contracting a sexual transmitted infection. Also, if a condom is not adequately lubricated, it increases the chances of having the condom rip.

Consent for sexual activities also needs to be noted here, as consuming too much alcohol can leave a person unable to give consent. It is imperative that you know how much your partner has had to drink and if they are capable of consenting prior to engaging in any sexual activities with them. Just wait until they sober up to find out if they want to get down.

Writing this really shows the need for a socially standardized term that is the female equivalent of “whiskey dick.” Any thoughts? Don’t forget to write in with your questions for me! They can be submitted via email to me at mkroot@smcm.edu. [Second Ed. Note: we need to find out where the anonymous submission box online went.]

 

Sincerely Craving a Shamrock Shake,

Miss Meghan

 

Ask Miss Meghan: A Watchful Eye for STIs

Dear Miss Meghan,

I got back together with my ex a few weeks ago, and then I found out that she had hooked up with a few other individuals since we had last broken up.  I’m now worried that she may have contracted something during that time. How do we go about getting tested?

-Scared of Sharing

 

Dear Scared of Sharing,

Thanks for asking this! It is important for any new or new-again relationships to have honesty regarding their past sexual behaviors. While it may be an awkward conversation to talk about past behaviors, it both builds intimacy and increases your safety. I’m not saying you should carry around a list with the names of every person you have ever hooked up with or have the conversation about your “numbers” of partners. What I am asking is that you ask your partner what behaviors they have and have not done in the past, what they want to do and don’t want to do with you currently or in the near future, and if they have engaged in sexual behaviors since last getting tested.

Yes, using a condom will reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from your partner. However, not all STIs are prevented from use of a condom, especially if it is one that may be living on the skin around the genitals (maybe the image of tiny crab-like lice creatures crawling around on your partner’s pubic area is enough to wait until you both get tested).

I would also recommend after getting tested once, to get tested again in six months because some STIs can hibernate in the body and don’t test positive until 6 months out.

Our SMCM health center can do some STI screening. However, the health center is not equipped to do comprehensive testing for all STIs. If you are symptomatic (for example, have a burning sensation, itching, a break out of some kind, distinctive odor, a discolored discharge, or unusual redness or irritation) then I would highly recommend coming into the health center as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms with a practitioner.

However, if you are just being smart and cautious, your best bet is the St. Mary’s County Health Department located in Leonardtown (21580 Peabody Street). Every Wednesday, they offer free STI screenings on a walk-in basis. You can also make an appointment by calling 301-475-4330. Make sure to advocate for yourself and find out exactly what you are being tested for, how the different STIs are tested for (blood versus urine versus visual inspection), and the chances of false-positives and false-negatives for the array of STIs/tests. It doesn’t hurt to go in with a checklist of STIs to make sure that you are being screened for all that you may be concerned about.

If you have trouble getting to Leonardtown and can’t find a friend to drive you, I may be able to find a way to help you out if you are desperate. I would much rather spend time helping you find a ride to the clinic now than have an STI outbreak on campus. Mold issues are one thing; a rash of STI breakouts is a whole different boatload of trouble.

Mostly Sincere,

Miss Meghan

Miss Meghan: Birth Control Part 2

I recently have become sexually active with my boyfriend. How do I decide which birth control method is right for me?

-Indecisive

Dear Indecisive (continued from previous article),

Now that I’ve covered condoms, the pill, the patch, the shot, and the ring, let’s move on to diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, IUDs (intrauterine devices) and Implanon.

Diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges are between 84% and 94% effective when used correctly, and I wish more women would go back to these methods because they do not affect the hormone levels in your body. However, many folks see these as “dated” and they do require some planning of sexual activities. You need to get fitted at your gyno for a diaphragm, but they last a while. These methods take some planning on the woman’s part because they are typically inserted a few hours prior to sexual activity.

Finally, we come to IUDs and Implanon. Depending on your insurance, coverage of these items varies. The script for Implanon currently retails around $800, not including the price of the “surgery” from your gyno to implant the small plastic chip into your arm. IUDs are either plastic or copper, and the plastic IUD and Implanon affect the levels of progesterone in your body.

We suspect that the copper IUD neutralized the PH balance of the uterus so any egg that is fertilized does not plant onto the uterine wall. Some women report cramping, spotting, or prolonged periods, especially during the first six months. However, others report that while on these they no longer get a period, which over the course of the five to seven years that the device is in means that you are saving a bundle on tampons or pads. Up until recently, IUDs were only considered an option for women who had already given birth at least once or who were over the age of 25, but nowadays most gynos are more than willing to provide IUDs or Implanon for sexually active 18- to 25-year-olds as well.

Surgery is also an option, but is costly and permanent. Vasectomies (men), tubal ligations (women), hysteroscopic sterilization (women), and hysterectomies (women) are all surgical procedures. If you have made the decision to never have children, this may be a great option. Many women and men below the age of 35 find it difficult to convince a doctor to perform the procedure for fear that the patient will later change his or her mind. If this is the choice for you, please work on creating a convincing argument for it.

Now, I hope providing you with all these options hasn’t made the decision any harder than it already was. Choosing the method right for you depends on your memory skills, cost, comfort with your body, insurance, and what will work best for your body. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a good gynecologist and a communicative partner to discuss your options with.

Sincerely still enjoying every time I see that boat,

Miss Meghan