Other than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex?

sexual communicationOther than Salt-n-Pepa, does anybody actually talk openly and honestly about sex? Turns out the answer is YES for Carolina students!  91% of UNC-Chapel Hill first years say they’d communicate with a partner about what they want in a sexual situation.  Now, we know that all first- years are not the same; different groups of students have different attitudes and beliefs. However, interestingly enough this statistic doesn’t change a whole lot across different gender identities, races, and sexual orientations (ranges from 88%-93%).


Alicia Keys Photo by Intel Free Press, Flickr Creative Commons

Not convinced?  Famous musical artists across the decades would agree with 91% of UNC first-years, and have rather good advice and examples of how to communicate about sex. Salt-n-pepa kicks us off with the obvious, “let’s talk about sex, baby, let’s talk about you and me”. Coldplay chimes in about getting it on with, “Turn your magic on, to me she’d say ,…  ‘Oh you make me feel like I’m alive again’”  John Legend and Marvin Gaye (respectively) ask for affirmative verbal consent singing, “I just need permission, so give me the green light” and “I’m asking you baby to get it on with me, I ain’t gonna worry, I ain’t gonna push, won’t push you baby”.  Lauryn Hill talks about what she likes singing, “The sweetest thing I’ve ever known is your kiss upon my collar bone.” And then there’s Alicia Keys showing us how to set some boundaries, “There’s an attraction we can’t just ignore, but before we go too far across the line I gotta really make sure that I’m really sure.”




Coldplay Photo by pinero.beatriz, Flickr Creative Commons
John Legend Photo by Fantasy Springs, Flickr Creative Commons







Speaking of talking about sex… what does “sex” refer to anyways?  Study after study after study has shown that everyone defines sex very differently.  So, for the remainder of this blog, we’re going to focus on “sexual behavior/ activity”, which can include wide a range of behaviors done with ourselves or others including hugging, kissing, vaginal sex, holding hands, oral sex, abstinence, (mutual ) masturbation, different forms of physical intimacy, anal sex, the list goes on.  Some people have oral/ anal/ vaginal sex, other people are sexual in other ways, and some other people choose to abstain from some/ all of these things! Side note: it turns out lots of UNC students are abstaining in lots of different ways as well; click here to learn more! Moral of the story is, no matter what kinds of sexual behaviors you are or aren’t engaging in with other people, learning to talk about wants/needs and boundaries is important, and practice can help. 

Back to the point. If someone is interested in being sexually active, or is sexually active, why does everyone think talking about it with the people involved is such a good idea?  The long and short: talking means everyone is on the same page and everyone will have a better experience if there is clear communication. Loveisrespect.org would say that you’re the only person who knows what’s on your mind, so your partner won’t know unless you say it!  Along the same lines, you can’t know what your partner is thinking or wanting until you ask them and talk about it. We don’t always know how to talk about sexual activity, especially since we don’t always see representations of this in the media, and because we don’t often learn about how to communicate on this topic in school or from our families. However, it’s important for everybody to talk about what they like, don’t like, and what their boundaries are.  It’s also super important to listen to your partner, and respect the things they say and the boundaries they set.  Even if they have previously consented to intimacy, but do not desire to this time. This will show the person that what they say matters to you, and they’re more likely to trust you and listen to you as a result.

Some people think talking about being sexual is for folks in serious, long-term, committed relationships, however, this is just as, if not more, important for people who choose to have casual/ short-term sexual interactions! Why’s that?  Casual/ short-term sexual interactions often occur between people who don’t know each other well, and/or are interacting sexually for the first time.  Therefore, talking about expectations, limits and boundaries for sex (in ways that are comfortable, clear, and sexy) is even more important to make sure everybody is on the same page and having an equally positive experience. There are also people who choose to abstain from some or all sexual behaviors.  Do they need to talk about being sexual?  Absolutely!  Making sure there are clear lines of communication about what everyone wants in these situations is more important than ever so that everyone’s boundaries are understood and respected.

Sound hard/ challenging/ uncomfortable?  It’s easier (and sexier) than it sounds!  And, if someone knows what you like (and you know what they like), and everyone knows what’s on and off the table, it’ll be a lot more safe and satisfying, too. Here are some phrases our sexual wellness counselors recommend to get you started!

  • Do you want to…?
  • How would you feel about…?
  • How far do you see things going?
  • What do you want to do?
  • Would you like it if I…?
  • I want to…
  • I don’t want to…
  • That sounds amazing
  • Nope, not for me
  • I’m down to do… but I’m not into …

Still perplexed? Click here to take a free online course about creating and sustaining healthy relationships, INCLUDING skills around how to communicate and talk about sex in healthy ways. While the information is applicable to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, these modules are centered on the experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans*, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two Spirit, and Same Gender Loving communities. Whether you are looking to strengthen your own relationship skills or support others in their relationships—this course is for you!


Have additional specific questions?  Make a free private SHARE appointment to talk about talking about sex.SHARE

We encourage you to think about one way you or a friend could communicate about healthy relationships and sex in an open and positive way.  If you or your friend feels uncomfortable talking about this, remember that 91% of your peers and several pop stars have your back and support talking it out! Continue reading

Spring is Here! Get Outside and Visit Some Farms

The last two winters here in Chapel Hill have been a little rough for all you non-winter, non-cold weather people. But fear not, spring is here (no really I swear)!

Photo: "Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina" by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Blossom Time, Fuquay-Varina” by Universal Pops, flickr creative commons

The Azaleas, Dogwoods, and fruit trees are beginning to bloom and the forests are taking on a faint green hue as buds begin to turn to leaves. I love this time of year, and if the trees and bushes are awakening and growing, you know what else is…? Vegetables!

Though Orange County may be best known for Chapel Hill and UNC, farming is a large part of the culture and economy. It has over 604 farms and almost one quarter of the land is agricultural. Crops grown in Orange County include: corn, soybeans, tobacco, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It also has a number of dairy farms and farms that produce beef, pork, chicken, and other types of meat.

So, how does this apply to me or health, you might ask? Great question. Many people believe that eating local is good for your health as well as the environment, and this month Student Wellness is focusing on environmental wellness. The major benefit to the environment is that if you eat local, your food has to travel a much shorter distance from field to plate, which means a lot less fossil fuels burned in the process. Did you know that the average distance food travels is over 1800 miles!

Photo: "Baby Cows!" by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons
Photo: “Baby Cows!” by Jason Adams, flickr creative commons

One of the main reasons I am bringing all this up is that the Annual Piedmont Farm Tour is happening at the end of April (April 25th and 26th), and if you want to take improving your health and the environment one step further, you could ride your bike to one of these farms—Transplanting Traditions Community Farm and Chapel Hill Creamery are both less than seven miles from Chapel Hill.

But even if you don’t do the farm tour, you should try and get out on a bicycle in Orange County. What better way to get exercise than rolling past one picturesque farm after another, with the sun shining and a gentle breeze keeping you cool?

So before you leave Chapel Hill for the summer, visit a farm, go to the farmers market, or ride your bike to Maple View Farm to get some ice cream. You will be helping yourself, getting to know the people who produce your food, and helping the environment all at the same time.

9 Ways to be a More Conscious Volunteer

A few weeks ago, I sat down to start writing a blog post on volunteering, including the many opportunities we as Carolina students have to volunteer. As I started researching the topic I came across a number of websites on the benefits of volunteering, and I noticed that on many of these websites, most or all of the reasons given on why to volunteer were focused on the personal benefits that can be gained through volunteering. For example, I found numerous lists of reasons why people should volunteer, and resume building, developing new skills, and networking were some of the most common (and sometimes only) reasons given. This surprised me, and ultimately rubbed me the wrong way. While these things are all great aspects of volunteering, I think that if our only reasons for volunteering are self-serving, this can be problematic. And thus, a new blog topic was born: how to be a more conscious volunteer!

Photo (Volunteers planting a rain garden 3) by (Chesapeake Bay Program), Flickr Creative Commons.

Volunteering can be a great part of one’s undergraduate or graduate experience at Carolina. I highly encourage everyone to get involved in whatever way(s) they are able. But as we embark on our journeys as volunteers, I would like to challenge us all to be conscious, mindful, and respectful throughout the whole process – from our reasons for why we volunteer to where we volunteer and what volunteer work we choose to participate in.

If you accept this challenge (and I hope you do!), here are some tips for all of us to keep in mind as we venture out into our communities to volunteer:

  1. Define for yourself why you volunteer. Maybe you volunteer because you feel strongly about a certain issue facing our society, or because you want to positively impact your community. Whatever your reason is (and I again challenge us all to identify reasons beyond things like resume building), remind yourself of it often. Let it serve as an inspiration for you.
  2. Do your research! Find an organization you’re interested in that does work in an area you’re passionate about, and volunteer with them as regularly as you’re able. Get to know the staff and clients. Find out what the organization really needs help with, and offer to help them with those projects that are perhaps not the most glamorous (like shredding paper, sealing envelopes, or filing).
  3. Talk to members of the community where you volunteer. Spend some time critically thinking about the volunteer work you are doing, and how community members perceive it. Is the volunteer work you’re providing something that the community feels is important to improving their community, or is it just something that someone outside of the community decided was a good idea?
  4. Volunteer as regularly as you can. While one-time, once per year service days are great, the more regularly you can volunteer with an organization, the more they will get to know you, and be able to really utilize your many talents to help further their mission.
  5. Be consistent and reliable. Whatever commitment you make to an organization to volunteer (be it weekly, monthly, four times per year, etc.), honor it. Remember that the organization and the community it works with are counting on you to fulfill that commitment.
  6. Be knowledgeable about and respectful of the communities you’re volunteering in. Be aware of the disparities that exist in our society (racial disparities, income disparities, health disparities, etc.) and how they might be impacting the community you are volunteering with. Be aware of your privilege as a volunteer coming into a community, and how that dynamic might be impacting members of the community. For more information on different neighborhoods and communities in Chapel Hill, check out the Town of Chapel Hill’s website as a starting point.
  7. Don’t view your volunteering as a way to “fix” people and the communities they live in. When you go into a community to volunteer, consider the community members the experts. They know their community best, and they know what their community needs. When volunteers see their role as “fixing” a community, that mindset can be both disrespectful and harmful to the community and its residents. Instead, when volunteering in a community you’re unfamiliar with, think of yourself as a partner to community residents – be ready and willing to listen and learn. For more information, check out a previous Healthy Heels blog post that talks about savior complex and the effect it can have on communities.
  8. Spend some time volunteering in your own neighborhood. Think of ways you can positively impact the community you live in (trash pick-up, building a community garden, advocating for an issue in front of local government, etc.). Check in with your neighbors – see if you can get a group together to work on a project that will benefit your neighborhood and get some of your friends or neighbors together on a Saturday to work on a project that you all think is important for your neighborhood.
  9. Have fun, learn something new, and gain new perspectives!

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities while at UNC? Check out some of these websites:

Apples Service Learning Courses

Volunteer opportunities in Chapel Hill

Interested in learning about volunteer options for after graduation? Check out these opportunities:


Peace Corps






ERMAHGERD!! Extrer drergs!! (What to do with all those random extra pills you no longer need!)

Did you know that keeping those extra pain pills (or those antibiotics you ended up being allergic to, or those birth control pills you switched off of months ago) lying around isn’t exactly ideal? There are actually quite a few safety hazards related to unwanted/extra pharmaceuticals: drug abuse, poisoning, overdose, environmental problems…Plus you will likely want to clear out your medicine cabinet sooner or later, and may wonder the best way to dispose of these meds.

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some tips for safely ridding yourself of those pesky extra pills:

› DON’T FLUSH unless they are on this list from the FDA:

Swimming Fish





› Trash ’em? OK…BUT

  • First, make any leftover pills as unappealing as possible – shake them out of the bottle and mix them with gross trash like rotting food, old wet coffee grounds, and/or dirty kitty litter.
  • Be sure they are not in a trash receptacle that is accessible to kids, pets, or
    wildlife to avoid unintentional poisoning. Even something as simple as a few iron pills can be fatal to small children if accidentally ingested.
  • Protect yourself: remove any and all identifying info from the bottle – this includes anything with the patient’s name, phone number, address, etc. – prior to recycling it (if possible) or throwing it away.

Look who got stuck in the garbage can...

›  Best bet? Bring them to your pharmacy for proper disposal (Call them first – not all pharmacies have the ability to take back your old prescription/non-prescription meds).

  • Sometimes the pharmacy will want the label left on, and sometimes they will have you tear the label off before dropping them off.  To be on the safe side, leave all labels on until/unless you’re told otherwise.
  • You can bring them to Campus Health Pharmacy any time during business hours.
  • *Due to DEA regulations, Campus Health Pharmacy is unable to accept controlled substances – however, look for specific events throughout the year for take-back of these items!*

› Bestest bet? Don’t forget community “drug take back” events!

  • Keep an eye out for these events, which are often sponsored by the local police department, hospital, or pharmacy.  These offer great opportunities to gather up all those old tubes, bottles, vials, jars, and boxes of meds you don’t need any longer and get rid of them all for good.
  • See disposemymeds for an easy way to find these events in your neck of the woods.
  • Come find Campus Health during the move-out events around campus at the end of the spring semesters – we’ll be here to collect up any meds you find under that 3 month old pile of dirty laundry you finally had to pick up in order to pack.

Now, go forth and clean out that medicine cabinet! And stay tuned for more medication safety tips…

Oregon Drug Take Back Event - Sept. 2010

Creating a Happy Space (An Earth Day Post)

(FYI: This is an Earth Day Post, it might not seem like it, but wait for it, it’s coming!)

I recently went through the painful process of searching for an apartment. I knew exactly what I wanted. One bedroom, good light, clean, preferably with a porch. How challenging can that really be? Pretty challenging, apparently. For some reason, apartment after apartment just didn’t feel “right.” The space didn’t make me happy. I finally found a place that vibed with me. Regretfully, I am paying a little more for it. But heck, what’s a little more for happiness?

For me, my foray into apartment hunting drove home how  important space is for my mental health. Then, through the strange maze of circuitry in my brain I began thinking beyond just my personal space, but bigger. About how the environment as a whole impacts my mental state. Living in a clean environment definitely makes me a happier, more pleasant person. Look at these two pictures. Which one do you think would help you achieve peace of mind?

 Beach A?  
Or Beach B?

 With all that trash on Beach A, I know I would MUCH rather be on Beach B. My personal take-a-way from this is: If I want to spend time on beaches like Beach B, shouldn’t I be helping to create them? All that trash on Beach A had to come from somewhere. How much am I contributing to problems like this?

To answer these questions I turned to the trusty internet! There I found all sorts of information, but one resource in particular I think is worth sharing: the Global Footprint Network’s, Footprint Calculator. The Global Footprint Network is a nonprofit organization, “established to enable a sustainable future where all people have the opportunity to live satisfying lives within the means of one planet.” Their Footprint Calculator, helps individuals to determine what exactly their “footprint” is, i.e. how much of earth’s resources are consumed during their regular day to day activity. After answering a series of questions like “How often do you eat beef?” or “How much trash do you generate?” the calculator will tell you how many earths it would take if everyone on the planet live the same as you. (Mine was embarrassingly high and I refuse to share).

Never fear though, the calculator doesn’t simply give you information and set you on your way. is the site includes tons of information about how to reduce your footprint. Something as simple as taking the bus once a week or cutting meat from your diet (Meatless Monday anyone?) is a start!

That’s why this Earth Day (see it’s there), I’m pledging to redouble my efforts to be Earth friendly and reduce my own (embarrassingly) large footprint.

Helping Ourselves

I just took down my Christmas tree last Thursday.  It was February 16th.  It only took 1 hour and 10 minutes.  I have been stressing out since I got back from break because despite the amount of free time I have on my hands, I could not bring myself to take down that tree.  I got the box set of Sex and the City for Christmas and just finished the first DVD of Season 5 – I certainly had a free 70 minutes at least 30 times over in the past month and a half.  So, if it was stressing me out and if I had the time, then why couldn’t I buckle down and do it?

I wish I knew the answer to this question but it seems as I go through life, questions of this variety pop up much more often than the answers. Continue reading

Healthy Tips for your Summer Shindig!

One of the best parts of summer is having the extra time to socialize with people and enjoy some fun in the sun.  Those cookouts, pool parties, and beach excursions don’t always lend themselves to the healthiest choices, neither for you nor the environment.  Here are a few tips to keep your summer shindigs fun AND healthy!

  Continue reading

It’s not Easy Being Green

“It’s not easy being green.” – Kermit the Frog.

Kermit summarized my personal attempts at living a more sustainable lifestyle. It’s not easy, especially on a student’s budget. In fact at times, it seemed downright impossible. However, somehow our froggy friend managed to keep going green, and that’s what I’m going to share with you – a simple secret on how to go green without losing the green from your pocket!

So before revealing my tips, let’s start with a little background on the Green Movement. The current Green Movement is based in the idea of sustainability. What is sustainability? Personally, my favorite definition is from Robert Gilman, Director of the Context Institute, You might think of it as extending the Golden Rule through time, so that you do onto future generations (as well as your present fellow beings) as you would have them do onto you. Pretty cool, huh? Being sustainable means taking care of the environment around you  -on any level, be it your room, apartment building, town, state, country, world.

While this seems simple, at times it can seem challenging, especially when you’re on a limited budget already. However, don’t let this deter you from making green changes in your life (your environment will be nicer for you and those around you!). It’s the little things that add up! Continue reading

Happy Earth Day!

Under all that Tar Heel blue, UNC has a heart that’s green.  On the College Sustainability Report Card, an independent sustainability evaluation of 300 public and private colleges, UNC earned an A-.

We got kudos for having a university Sustainability Office, purchasing EnergyStar equipment, using energy-efficient lighting, buying local and organic food, and decreasing water use by 57% per square foot of building since 2005.  Other big winners?  The Report Card loved the Tar Heel Treasure yard sale during move-out in the spring, which generated 13 tons of stuff to sell for worthy causes.  We also got big points for all of our sustainability-focused student groups and the Sustainability Living Learning Community.

So what do we need to work on?  Continue reading

Eating Local

Looking for an easy entry into the local food movement?  Already into local foods and want more?  Wonder whether local meats can really differ from what’s in the supermarket?  Today I’m excited to talk about an amazing local foods speaker coming to UNC, navigating the local farmers’ markets and area restaurants that serve local food.

So, this past fall break, I almost drove 3 hours to buy chicken and eggs from a farm I’m enamored with, and I’ve been a vegetarian for 5 years.  This farm – Polyface, Inc. – is the farm of Joel Salatin, a third generation farmer.  If you’ve watched Food, Inc., read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or been around the local food/sustainable agriculture movement, then you’ve probably already heard of Joel Salatin.  His farm is known for producing food (particularly beef, pork and poultry) that’s beyond organic.  The farming practices at Polyface are creative, innovative and animal-friendly.  If you eat meat, have ever thought about where your food comes from, or wanted to know if there’s a better way than run-of-the-mill industrial agriculture, then I hope you’re as excited as I am that Joel is coming to UNC!

The event “Local Food: Talk and Taste” features alternative farmer and local food advocate Joel Salatin and is on Wednesday April 13th at 5:00 PM. The event is sponsored by the UNC Sustainability Office as a part of Earth Week celebration.  Joel is an entertaining and dynamic speaker, and if that’s not enough, delicious local food tastings will follow prepared in part by one of my new favorite restaurants: Vimala’s Curryblossom Café.

Stuck in class Wednesday evening?  Well, you can still get into local foods by checking out one of the area’s farmers’ markets or local restaurants that serve local.   Here’s a quick guide to when, where and how to navigate a market successfully. Continue reading