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

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: Safe Sparks: How to Find Your Online Match

"Dating Online" by whybealone1, Flickr Creative Commons
“Dating Online” by whybealone1, Flickr Creative Commons

Match.com. eHarmony. Tinder. OkCupid. Coffee Meets Bagel. Over the past few years, all of these online dating websites have gained members. Online dating has become increasingly more common, especially among millennials. According to one study, 22% of Americans ages 25-34 have used an online dating website. Do people find their soul mate online? The data is unclear, but lots of people definitely meet people online, for friendship, relationships, and/or sex.

Meeting up with someone for the first time can be scary or intimidating, but it can also be a lot of fun! Here are some tips to make the most out of your online dating experiences:

  • Be careful what information you put online. It’s not recommended to put your last name, address, or work online since anyone can access it. Only share your phone number with people whom you plan to get to know better or meet up with.
  • It’s a good idea to chat online or on the phone (or even facetime!) before you meet. This way you can see if you want to meet up with them rather than arriving for a date and realizing then that they seem sketchy.
  • Meet in a public place, such as a coffee shop, for a first date. It’s not recommended to meet for the first time at someone’s apartment, dorm, or house.
  • Arrange your own transportation. This way you can leave at any point and won’t have to depend on the person to get you home.
  • Let a friend or two know where you are going ahead of time and who you are meeting up with. It can be a good idea to have a friend call or text you at some point to give you an “out” in case you want to leave. You can have a code word or just say that your friend needs you.
  • If you plan on hooking up or having sex, discuss expectations ahead of time. Discuss contraception and barrier methods (such as condoms and dental dams), comfort level with certain acts, and what you expect out of the meet up. Know that you can change your mind at any point in time, and you never have to do something you are uncomfortable or unsure about. Consent is required for all sexual acts.
  • Trust your intuition. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, trust that feeling. Never feel guilty for stopping communication with someone who doesn’t make you feel good.


Amee Wurzburg is the Sexual Violence Prevention Program Manager at Student Wellness. She is currently earning her Masters in Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC. Amee received her BA in History from Barnard College of Columbia University. Before moving to North Carolina, Amee worked at an organization in India focused on HIV, where she worked on projects related to rights-violations, LGBTQ health, and domestic violence.

Cuffing Season: Get cuffed on YOU!

"I Love me ... =P" by as_malih
“I Love me … =P” by as_malih

If you haven’t noticed, Fall is finally upon us and we are beginning to enter into the colder months of the year. During this time of year it is quite common to see people coupling up. Colder months equals people trying to get warm, physically and emotionally. Every year we are bombarded with messages through the media that implies that this is the time of year to spend with your partner in contrast to the summer months where being single is celebrated. This phenomenon is often referred to as “Cuffing Season”, a time of year in which people have the desire to be “cuffed” or “tied down” in a serious relationship.

*Use of the words “cuffed” or “tied down” in this context is problematic not only due to the aggressive undertones but also because it is suggestive of a lack of freedom and or loss of control…We’ll save that for another post.

SO what does this mean if you are not in a relationship?

The emphasis that is placed on intimate relationships during this time of year can often translate into loneliness for those that are not in relationships. For singles during this time of year numerous uncomfortable situations are bound to arise. Such as how to deal with plus one’s for holiday parties and nosey family members prodding into your love life when you finally get the gall to even go to   the holiday party and not to mention sitting through romantic movies where there is always a character that’s trying to make it home to their loved ones before Christmas. Instead of letting these scenarios or “cuffing season” get you down, there is no better time to cultivate self-love and warm your own soul during these colder months. Here are some tips:

Engage in self-reflection: Whether you just got out of a relationship or have been single for a while, now is a good time to reflect upon your feelings towards relationships. Think about what motivates you to want to be in a relationship as well as what keeps you from being in one.

 Learn how to self soothe: Enjoy a hot cup of tea or cocoa. Let your thoughts run wild in a new journal. Take a mindful walk. Discover a new relaxing scent.

Do things you love: Get lost in that novel you’ve been meaning to read, Take a chance on a new recipe. Start a new project…who doesn’t love Pinterest? Get out of your comfort zone and try a winter sport…ice-skating is sort of like roller skating right?

Being “cuffed” to yourself not only cultivates a deeper relationship with yourself but can also be satisfying and increase self-awareness, self-efficacy and confidence. How you choose to spend your time during the colder months is completely up to you, so choose wisely.

Kena Watson is a recent graduate of North Carolina Central University’s Master of Psychology program with a passion for promoting healthy body image and self-esteem in women. Kena’s main line of research interest includes the discourse surrounding the relationship between media consumption, beauty ideals and acculturation among African American women. With a background in mental health Kena also enjoys working with students on issues such as anxiety, substance abuse, and eating disorders. While working in Student Wellness Kena serves as a BASICS facilitator; a program geared at providing a harm reduction approach to alcohol consumption among college students. She enjoys cooking, natural hair care, and yoga during her free time.


You can probably describe your ideal partner. You might have a more difficult time describing what a healthy relationship means to you.  Your ideas about healthy relationships can help you make choices and communicate  expectations.  Here are just a few characteristics of healthy relationships:

The list could go on.

We know that this list should never include violence or abuse. In all relationships, behaviors and words should be non-threatening.  Ask these questions if you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship. If you believe you might be in an unhealthy relationship, consider your options. You are always welcome to come to Counseling and Psychological Services without an appointment Monday – Friday 9-12 and 1-4 or you can call 919-966-2281 as a 24-hr crisis line.

Let us know what being in a healthy relationship means to you. Leave a comment below, tweet at us (@UNCHealthyHeels), or post a message on our facebook page!

This post was edited on 10/2/2015 with updated contact information, social media links. Also edited for clarity. 

9 Ways to build intimacy (HINT: it’s NOT what you’re thinking…)

– by Natalie Rich, Coordinator for Prevention Initiatives at Student Wellness

Sex and intimacy are often used interchangeably, but intimacy and sex are not the same. Which means you can be intimate with your partner without having sex. In fact, many people have romantic relationships without engaging in sexual intercourse or any sexual activity (check out our awesome blog about different types of abstinence!).

So what is intimacy and how is it different from sex?

Intimacy means connecting deeply with another person. All kinds of relationships have intimacy, including familial relationships, friendships, and romantic partnerships, which I will be focusing on for this blog. And intimacy is a process, not a goal. It’s a process that lasts as long as the relationship. Intimacy can include connecting emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically.

Whether you choose to be sexually active or not, you can still create intimacy in your relationship.


  1. HUGS! actually, any kind of affectionate touching, like hand holding, light massage, touching hair/face, and kissing are all ways to build intimacy in a relationship. Research shows that physical contact not only creates connection, it also boosts immunity, and releases “feel-good” neurotransmitters in the brain.
  2. Look at your partner: smile at them across a crowded room. Take some time to sit quietly over a meal or on the couch. Besides touch, eye contact may be the earliest way we learn to connect to another person; it is how we first learn about intimacy and build empathy as an infant.
  3. Get active: do something new and different, like playing tennis or taking a class together. This helps you and your partner make memories together that you can laugh about and enjoy for months or years to come. Plus, it can help you see and appreciate your partner in a whole new way (who knew they had such amazing dance skills?…).
  4. Go on a trip: doesn’t need to be extravagant; it could be a picnic in the arboretum or an afternoon at the Ackland Art Museum. Proactively seeking out new environments allows you both to see each other in a new and different light, which helps you get to know each other on a deeper level.
  5. Do something nice: again, this doesn’t have to be buying a fancy gift or putting on some extravagant romantic evening. How about washing the dishes that have piled up in the sink while your partner is studying? Or go out and buy their favorite study snack and bring it to them at the UL.
  6. Praise your partner in front of others: this is a HUGE confidence boost to your partner! Being publicly supportive shows that you pay attention and appreciate them for their gifts and talents. And when that praise gets back to your partner, they will feel it exponentially, knowing that your praise was totally unsolicited.
  7. Ask open-ended questions: ask about hopes and dreams for the future; ask what they are thinking or feeling right here and now; ask about past experiences or favorite memories; ask about favorite colors, flowers, or pet peeves. Then, LISTEN carefully, without distractions (laptop closed, TV off, phone out of sight). Let your partner know that learning more about them trumps everything else in that moment.
  8. Be self-aware: reflect on your own values, hopes and dreams, and ideal partner qualities. Make your own “do well/do better” list to help reflect on your strengths and areas for improvement. Be honest and open with your partner about who you are, what you like and dislike, and what you want.
  9. Be vulnerable: this may be the hardest, but best way to build closeness in a relationship. Share your insecurities, your fears, and the things that have hurt you in the past.

Being vulnerable doesn’t just mean expressing your deepest emotions (although this is definitely a big part), it also means letting a bit of your cray-cray out. Go ahead and confess your habit of separating the chocolate from the nuts in your trail mix before eating all the nuts one-by-one and then the chocolate (wait…am I alone in this?).

Don’t be afraid to be silly and let your goofball flag fly! Your partner will probably appreciate you more for it. Plus, you will end up feeling even more deeply cared for and accepted knowing that you can just be yourself around your partner.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable lies at the heart of intimacy, because it creates that deep human connection that we all crave. If you haven’t watched this Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability, check it out!

Natalie works to create an environment at UNC where the healthy choice is the easiest and most accessible. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC and a Masters degree in Public Health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. You can find her at Student Wellness on the 2nd floor of Campus Health Services. 

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: This is Why I Came to Love Yoga

This post was written by Emily Wheeler and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone Up.

I fell in love with yoga two years ago when I attended my first yoga class on campus as a group fitness class through campus rec. The instructor had an obvious love for yoga, but also for teaching in general, which was fitting because she was an education major. I admit that I always imagined yoga classes as a place for meditative “hippie-types” who were disgusted by meat and loved to say “owmmm.” What I discovered instead is that yoga is powerful in a way that you never understand until one day, you allow yourself to let go of all of your notions, assumptions, and judgments about yoga and just let yourself sink into it with the real intention of discovering what it has to offer you. (I also learned that sometimes you can do yoga to hip hop/pop music if you’re just not in a very mellow mood that day.)

In yoga, I find that the amount of focus that it requires for me to think about my breath and the many sensations happening in my muscles allows me to let go of thinking about anything else. No matter how stressed I am or how caught up in the expectations of life I become, I can come back to remembering what really matters within an hour with yoga. Although it might sound strange, for me and many others, yoga is just as much a mental or spiritual experience as it is physical—it offers me the opportunity to step out of the world by reverting into my own body and my own mind. Yoga reminds me to be the best that I can be, to appreciate life and my body, and to do the things that make me happy.

Many thanks for the images from Franklin Street Yoga Center!

I love that in a matter of months, doing yoga regularly drastically improved my strength and balance in a way that is still kind to my body. So often, other forms of exercise feel like they’re beating my body up and leave me with sore knees and aching muscles for days. Yoga, while it still leaves my upper body sore sometimes, feels much more gentle to my joints and muscles.

Yoga is also a type of exercise that I can do at any time of day: it’s a great way to start off my morning or I can do it late at night without worrying about needing time to calm down before I can sleep. I like to attend classes or use online videos because I like the guidance of an instructor talking in the background the entire time. At the very end of every yoga class I’ve ever attended, you end in savasana, also called “corpse pose” or “final resting pose.” In this position, you are laying flat on your back as you try to progressively relax every muscle in your body to find total release. It is always amazing to me how much tension I hold in all of my muscles without realizing it until I actively focus on relaxing them. I even notice a lot of tension in my face as I try to relax (which could explain why sometimes people think I’m angry when I’m really just focused on something.)


I love yoga because after an hour of intentionally focusing on my breathing and movement, I can melt into the floor in savasana and it feels like pure peace. No matter how frustrating my day has been or how exhausted I am, I can let all of that tension go for a few minutes and finally feel like me again. It’s a feeling of such relaxation and relief that I can’t even put it into words, but it makes the entire class or video worth it, even after I was tempted to quit multiple times within a single hour. If you’ve never tried yoga, all of these descriptions may sound nearly comical, but if you try it with an open mind one day, you may discover, as I did, that yoga isn’t what you expected at all.

Will you be my Valentine?

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, where chocolates are shared and love is in the air. Take a visit to Walmart or the Dollar store and you’ll find yourself surrounded by heart shaped gifts, balloons, and chocolate.

February is also the American Heart Month, which the United States observes to raise more awareness about the nationwide issues of heart related diseases. While February is American Heart Month, every month should be spent taking care of your heart. Even now, while you’re in school in, there are some steps you should be taking in order to prevent issues in the future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “715,000 American have a heart attack and about 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year.” Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart disease doesn’t single out the heart! Heart disease is a term to refer other types of heart conditions related to the arteries and veins that ultimately affect the heart.

So you may ask, “What can I do?” Nothing happens overnight but one night could be all it takes to get you started. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind, which coincidentally prevent many other diseases too:

Eat healthy. It’s the obvious yet hardest to maintain. There are many resources on the internet such as information provided on American Heart Association site and under Nutrition Health Topics on Campus Health.

Stress Management. Begin building healthy habits and ways to manage stress. Talk to family and friends, get organized, and try to identify what is causing your stress. If you are worrying about something try an activity you enjoy to take your mind off of it or take action steps to counter the issue. If you need assistance talking through your stress Counseling and Psychological Services are here for you.

Exercise regularly. Go on a walk with a friend or join a UNC intermural sport team. There are many ways to stay active! Being physically healthy is another method of stress management. You can find ways to stay active and even how much physical activity is healthy to engage in on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site or check out the special events at Campus Rec!

Don’t smoke. This is the hardest of all and yet the easiest single action to curb heart disease. Consult with a Quit Smoking Support Group or head to the Healthy Heels Shoppe in Campus Health for cessation aids.

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

So many times when I have a day off from school (like today) I am so thankful that I have that extra hour in the morning and the leisure time in the afternoon, that I forget to really think about why I had that day off in the first place. Since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I just want to take a minute, apart from all the perks of a day off, to think about and celebrate MLK, a man whose dream has shaped the United States. So, in the spirit of the day, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

I hope, in sharing this, during your day off you will choose love and maybe pass on an act of kindness to another! There are lots of ways that you can spread the love— Hold the door for someone. Pay a stranger a complement. Leave a larger-than-average tip. More ideas? Check out randomactsofkindness.org You do not even have to limit this to your day off, in the true spirit of MLK incorporate love and kindness into your day-to-day!

In addition, UNC’s division of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs will be hosting a series of events all week to celebrate MLK’s legacy and commemorate his ideals. Check out one or more of this week’s events.

Monday, January 16
Day for Service MLK
Youth Leadership Program
Rally,March, Service
Unity Dinner
“He Was a Poem, He Was a Song”

Tuesday, January 17Candlelight Vigil
31st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture by Andrew Young and Presentation of the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship

Wednesday, January 18Kappa Omicron chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Oratorical contest

Thursday, January 19Quiz Bowl
Popular Movements: A Panel Discussion

Friday, January 20Screening of documentary “Precious knowledge”
“I, Too, Sing America”