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

Why I love “Y’all”

This post was originally written by Sarah Weller and published on June 23, 2011.

I am not southern. I was born far to close the Mason-Dixon to ever be considered southern, however, as a northern transplant to Chapel Hill, I’ve found myself adopting some southern tendencies (and I don’t just mean my obsession with Carolina BBQ and sweet tea). The longer I’ve been here the more I hear “y’all” edging into my day-to-day vocabulary… to my family, “Are y’all ready yet?” To my friends “Do y’all want to go to the store now or later?” At work, “Have y’all seen the stapler?”

At first it sounded a bit strange coming out of my mouth, but now I like it, especially as I think about why y’all really is a better way to address a group than the alternative, “you guys”. But “y’all,” which is the combination of the words you+all, is gender neutral. Think about it, saying “you guys” implies you’re talking to a bunch of men, it’s not really accurate if you’re addressing a mixed gender group, but y’all it’s all inclusive!

Just look at the multitude of uses of y’all found via the wiki site (that’s right, “y’all” has a wiki!)

  1. A replacement for the plural of you.
    • Example: “Y’all can use the internet at the same time!”
  2. An associative plural, including individuals associated but not present with the singular addressee.
    • Example: “Y’all can come over at around 10:30,” Stephanie says.
      • Stephanie explains to John that John and John’s friends, who are not present at the time, can come over at around 10:30. Stephanie is speaking to John, but treats John as a representative for others.
  3. An institutional plural addressed to one person representing a group.
    • Example: “Y’all sell the best candies, Mrs. Johnson.”
      • Y’all is received by Mrs. Johnson who is the representative of a small candy business.
  4. A form used in direct address in certain contexts (e.g., partings, greetings, invitations, and vocatives)
    • Example: “Hey, y’all!”
      • A greeting that addresses a multitude of people without referencing a singular identity comprising that multitude

Oh and who could forget, the classic… “Y’all come back now, ya hear!?”

Secrets to Sticking to Your Resolution!

Many people make New Year’s Resolutions. New year, new start. According to one study, only 12 % of resolvers actually keep their resolutions, and about half have abandoned them by the end of January.

The resolution that you set can play a big role in your chances of success. 

Do something you WANT to do.

People are motivated by what they want. Imagine: it’s Tuesday night and your friend has an extra ticket to the basketball game. You SHOULD study for that Chem test tomorrow morning, but you WANT to go to the game…what are you gonna choose?

When it comes to resolutions, don’t should on yourself! Make it something you WANT to do. Sometimes this involves reframing or refining your resolution to reflect your wants:

“I should exercise more” vs. “I want to join the intramural soccer team this semester”

“I should save more money” vs. “I want to be more financially independent”

Focus on behaviors not outcomes.

Losing weight often tops the list of most common resolutions. But a goal like this sets you up for failure, because losing weight is an outcome not a behavior. You have much more control over your behavior (e.g., what you eat and how much you exercise) than you do over outcomes like weight loss, so resolve to do (or not do) something you have control over.


Set small goals.

Really small goals.

Big behavior changes require high motivation that is difficult to sustain. Instead, consider tiny changes to make the new habit as easy as possible. Do something small and easy every day. You’re more likely to stick with a habit if you do a small version of it every day rather than big, deep versions of it one time each week.

Set yourself up for success.

Several strategies work well to maintain new habits.

  • Use friction to help yourself. Add friction to behaviors you want to avoid and remove friction from behaviors you want to maintain. Sleep in your workout clothes to make it easier to wake up and move. Choose a mini-habit that requires minimal equipment.
  • Include motivation. Create a reward system that works for you, and use it every step of the way. Add in social by doing your new behavior with a friend, or wait to announce your goal to your friends after you’ve been successful at working on it for a few weeks.
  • Stack your habits. Look for patterns in your day and connect new habits with existing ones.
  • Anticipate challenges. What might get in your way? How can you prepare to persist in those moments?
  • Fail forward. If you miss a day of your new habit or revert back to an old way of being, that’s no reason to call it quits on your goal for good. Give yourself a break, consider what hurdles got in your way, consider adapting your strategy or goal, and go after it again.

Get Creative!

There’s no recommended age on creativity!

Almost a month ago I was helping out at this year’s PASS event, and while talking to some fellow students about blog topics one really caught my attention—creativity through arts and crafts. As an avid pinterest-er (yea I admit it), I have recently renewed my love of all things crafty. With all the hustle and bustle required from my master’s program, I’d nearly forgotten the simple joy and satisfaction that comes from creating something. This was actually quite a shame, because as soon as I rediscovered this, I realized that I find some catharsis in creating something myself. The simple act of watching the pieces of something come together – of smoothing paint over an uncolored surface of my masquerade mask or cutting out bunches of felt flower petals – puts me in the zone.

Arts and creativity are a personal joy- the activities that make me happy are not always the same activities that are going to bring satisfaction to anyone else. Instead, we each can explore to find ways that help you to express yourself. I have friends who paint, sew, scrapbook, sketch, scribble, and knit for their creative release. You don’t have to limit yourself to the visual arts. You could try some auditory  stimulation by picking up an instrument or singing. What about writing? Grab a journal, jot down your thoughts, and perhaps scribble a poem. Or maybe your interest is culinary creativity? Try grabbing some pots and pans and whip up something tasty!

There are tons of websites and venues out there to get you inspired on your creative journey. Here are  just a few Continue reading

The “Yes-Damn” Effect

It’s a New Year!  A new semester!  The crisp white pages of your 2012 planner lay open to a world of possibilities.  Your Google calendar is filled with vast swaths of free time.  Are you free next Wednesday to volunteer for your sorority’s social?  Of course!  Wanna help your friend distribute flyers for a project next month?  Sure!  Some people are going to a hockey game in Raleigh this weekend—you in?  YES!

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Thanksgiving Break To Do List: Eat, sleep, end relationship….

The Thanksgiving Break Break Up is also called a Turkey Drop (1, 2, 3).  Turkey Drops happen around Thanksgiving when students return home and find that they are no longer interested in their high school sweetheart, or when people in a budding romance realize that it will never reach full bloom by the end of the year.

Breaking up can be stressful. So here is some advice about what to do if you are part of a Turkey Drop.

  1. If you are ending the relationship, consider the other person’s feelings.   You do not have to remain best friends, but try to part on good terms to reduce the stress.
  2. Consider that if geographical distance has been a problem in the relationship, the other person may feel the same way you do.
  3. Finals will be around the corner when you return to campus, and you may experience a variety of emotions as a result of the break-up.  Contact Counseling and Wellness to gain perspective and learn coping mechanisms to prevent break-up related emotions from interfering with finals.
  4. Consider any follow-up steps you need to take to end the relationship.  Do you want to erase the former significant other from all aspects of Facebook?  Do they have things at your place that need to be returned or vice versa?  Considering these factors and taking action may help you move forward.
  5. Make time for friends and doing things that you enjoy.  This will relieve some stress and provide a pleasant distraction.

Additional information about dealing with break-ups can be found here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Do you have ideas about how to move on from a Turkey Drop?  If so, tweet at us, post on our Facebook wall, or comment below!

Makin’ Me-Time

Continuing with the spirit of welcome back, I’m going to share a little slice of honest pie….

I’m a student, and sometimes this “back to school thing” gets my heart beating a little more rapidly than usual as I imagine the one hundred million different responsibilities awaiting me (a slight exaggeration), and I’d like to imagine I’m not alone. Right now we’re all going through what I like to call our syllabus days. My typical reaction to this: “Oh my gosh, you want me to write/read/do WHAT?!?… Uh, no way.” Usually, it takes me a day or two, but I soon accept my fate. And by “my fate” I mean my life being  school, school and more school. This semester, however, I am determined that my fate will be different. I am going to be the master of my schedule, and I will continue to do some of the things that I love.

Now, I’m not really sure exactly how this is going to shape up, so I resorted to trusty Google to see what time management and stress management experts had to say (funny how frequently those things go together, huh?).  So here we go… makin’ me-time:

Before even going any further, take a second and think about what your me-time might be. What makes you happy? Helps you to decompress? Keeps you in a happy, healthy and balanced frame of mind? I know for me its reading, cooking and exercising…. All things which fell off my radar quickly last year and resulted in a much less happy, less healthy and overall un-balanced Sarah. No bueno.

So without further ado, here is what my favorite three tips from what the experts had to say:

Make it routine & schedule it in. As Laura  said, this is super important. Your classes are scheduled in, why should your other “life” priorities not. Find a time in your schedule, say Saturday mornings and designate it as your reading/running/watching cartoons/ laughing/ smiling/ fun… YOU TIME!

Find your “time sucks.” Where in the day are you “losing” useful time? Time that you could use to do those things that make you happy, but instead you’re doing “eh” or “so-so” things.  For example, I personally find myself on Facebook—frequently. Do I really need to be on Facebook? No. Does Facebooking really make me that happy? Eh, honestly, not really. If I used that time to do get some exercise/make some tasty food/ read a book would I enjoy it more. Probably.

Find support. Sometimes it can be hard to stick to a schedule, especially if you feel that aspects of your academic life are pushing you farther away from those things. In these cases it can be useful to elicit the help of friends and peers. Let them know what your goals and plans are, and ask them to help you stay accountable. Personally, this has manifested as me and my roommate committing to a gym class together. With the two of us both pushing for the same personal-happiness goal together, we can support each other on our “off days.”

I’d love to hear other tips on how you all make “me- time,” as clearly this is going to be a new endeavor for me.

How To Have a Stress-Free School Year

I know what you’re thinking:  “I don’t need advice on a stress-free school year.  I have all my notebooks, matching pens and pencil case, post its and baby stapler with little baby staples all ready for my first week of class.  It’s all smooth sailing from here.”  But I would be willing to bet that I will see you the night before your first exam in 3 weeks in the library frantically scribbling important topics on your post it notes with empty coffee cups and baby staples strewn about.  In fact, I guarantee it.

So, please read this stress-free blog.  If nothing else, you’ll know where to come back and post a comment to prove me wrong. 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!

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Hydrate or Die

Summer is here and it’s already a hot one.  Most people know that drinking water is important, but it is especially crucial in the hot summer months when it is far easier to get dehydrated.  So here’s a list of tips (in no particular order) to keep you refreshed and hydrated every day:

  1.   Eat your water.  Fruits and veggies naturally contain a lot of water, so eating these nutrient rich foods not only keeps you hydrated, but keeps  you healthier overall.
  2. Make water taste better.  Sometimes it’s easy to get sick of plain old water.  Adding fresh fruit or veggies, like cucumber, to change the flavor of water can be a great way to turn up the taste.. Plus, it will make you feel like you’re at a spa! Continue reading