FLASHBACK FRIDAY: 11 Healthy Things to Do For and With Your Partner During Finals

I will keep this short so you can go back to studying.

As you know, finals are here.  Having a significant other during finals can provide critical social and emotional support during this stressful time.

Here are some things you can do to support your partner during finals:

  1. Support them in their efforts to refrain from Facebook, Twitter, and texting.
  2. Make them study food (peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix , or egg and cheese on a biscuit!) to help them stay focused.  Not eating enough during stressful times can increase fatigue, and being hungry can be a distraction from studying.
  3. Save their favorite study spot while they are taking a break or an exam.
  4. Offer up your place to study if they have loud roommates.
  5. Do their laundry so they can sleep a little longer.
  6. If you are stressed, find a constructive way to share that stress with them without stressing them out too.
  7. Take care of their pet while they study in Davis all day so they do not have to worry.
  8. Make them a care package with healthy snacks, batteries for their calculator, and highlighters.  This may brighten their week 🙂
  9. Try not to share germs if you have the flu or a cold.  Tips on handwashing can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/
  10. Give them a hand, neck, or back massage to relieve tension from all that typing.
  11. Encourage them to take study breaks, get exercise, and plenty of sleep. All of these things are critical for remembering facts and doing well in stressful situations.

You can also relieve finals related stress by watching a movie, taking a walk, playing video games, or taking a nap together.   Yes, sex is a stress reliever too – but  be sure you talk about it first and are using a form of contraception, or it could be a bigger stressor than stress reliever !

If you have additional suggestions Tweet, Facebook, or comment below.

Happy Finals! You can do it!

How to have a better hookup?

After last semester’s “Orgasm? Yes Please!” performance, we received feedback that you wanted to learn more about communicating about sex during hookups.  In our program, we showed couples in committed relationships working out how to have safer & better sex.  Y’all let us know that you want to see how that works in less committed relationships, too.
What are the difficult conversations with hookups? What do you wish you could express? How could you picture your hookups being safer and sexier? Your questions will help us bring you a fresh, updated OYP in Fall 2013!
Let us know what you think on this anonymous survey.
Stay tuned to the Healthy Heels Blog for information on the upcoming Orgasm? Yes, Please performance! Put it on your calendar: Friday October 25, 2013 7-9pm.

Give Yourself a Hand: Part Two (Female Masturbation!)

Our guest writer is a UNC graduate student in public health who focuses on sexual health and the social factors that influence it.


Female masturbation! In Give Yourself A Hand: Part One, I explored varying perspectives on female masturbation throughout history and some of its less obvious benefits. Here, I offer an introduction into its mechanics for those female-bodied readers newer to the solo no-pants dance. Because I wanted you to be informed by more than my thoughts and experiences, I solicited the input of lady friends across the country. To those wonderful women who opened their bedroom doors to us, I offer my sincerest thanks.

Masturbation can be defined as self-stimulation of genitalia for sexual pleasure. I like this broad definition, because it reminds us that there are no rules about how and with whom you masturbate, and that masturbation does not need to result in orgasm in order to be pleasurable. Still, in the varied forms that female masturbation takes, there are a few key things to keep in mind:

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50 Shades of Curious: Beginning a BDSM Conversation with Your Partner

BDSM is an acronym for bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism. BDSM activities can range from light slapping, to bondage, to intense use of sex toys and other tools. Despite what popular media may like us to believe, there are no significant differences in rates of psychopathology, depression, anxiety, OCD, and psychological sadism and masochism between folks who practice BDSM sex play and those who don’t (Connoly 2006). In essence, folks who practice BDSM are not violent, they aren’t “crazy”, and their BDSM practices don’t leave them psychological troubled. According to the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, approximately 18-20% of folks have been blindfolded during sex, 30-32% of folks have tied someone up or been tied up during sex, and 38-50% of folks have been spanked during sexual activity.

Knowing that so many folks engage in BDSM, and that it doesn’t have to include being locked up in a basement dungeon…are you thinking you may be interested?

talk first, then play
talk first, then play

Communication is the first step to exploring BDSM with a partner. Be clear about what you want, what you’re open to exploring, and what your limits are. It’s also important to keep in mind that your sex partner(s) may be exploring BDSM for the first time, or they may have previous experience.

Just as you would like your sex partner to do for you, it’s important to:

  • be respectful of your partner’s limits
  • be willing to explore their desires
  • not criticize, ridicule, or poke fun at their sex play interests
  • uphold agreements and privacy

There are helpful worksheets  and checklists you can print out to get the conversation started, which list a range of light to intense BDSM activities and provide space for you and your partner to voice whether you think each sounds super-hot, is something you’re up for discussing, or is something that is off-limits.

ready to explore?
ready to explore?

The urge to engage in or explore consensual BDSM may be confusing for some folks, especially those who identify as feminists, whose ancestors have historically been enslaved or beaten, or folks who have experienced sexual assault or relationship abuse in the past. For more dialogue on the reconciliation between BDSM play and feminism, check out feminist sex and relationship columnist Jessica Wakeman’s articles First Time for Everything and Slap Happy and Sylvia Fox’s article Reconciling Feminism with an Interest in BDSM which can be purchased online or in print.

thumb.phpBeing a survivor of interpersonal violence who is interested in BDSM does not necessarily mean you have not healed from your experience.  Abuse and assault are not about sex, they’re about power and control. BDSM is about the consensual play of dominant and submissive sexual relationships and mutual arousal resulting from these activities.  Just as a survivor of interpersonal violence can maintain or regain interest in sex after being assaulted or abused, they can also regain or become interested in consensual BDSM.

Here are some red flags that a BSDM sex partner may in fact be abusive:

  • Ignoring safe words
  • Not respecting your limits, negotiations, agreements, or contracts
  • Pushing you into a D/S relationship too quickly
  • Belittling your ideas or suggestions for sex play
  • ONLY interacting with you in a kinky or sexual manner as if they are always role-playing
  • Threatening or coercing you into engaging in submission or BDSM activities outside of your comfort zone

Check out the books The Loving Dominant (Warren & Warren, 2008) and The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM, Role Play and the Erotic Edge (Taramino, 2012) if you’re interested in learning more about BDSM practices and the BDSM community.

If you’re concerned you or someone you know may be being coerced, pressured, or forced into engaging in sexual activities they’re not ready for or aren’t interested in, check out the information and resources at safe.unc.edu or the Orange County Rape Crisis Center.

Connoly, P. (2006). Psychological functioning of bondage/domination/sado-masochism practitioners. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 18(1).

Lingering questions from “Orgasm? Yes Please!”

Your Questions from “Orgasm? Yes, Please!” 

We had a great time hosting “Orgasm? Yes Please!” a couple of Fridays ago to a rowdy audience of over 300 UNC students! Big thanks for The Daily Tarheel for sending some love our way, to our co-sponsors Project Dinah, UNC Panhellenic Council, and to our collaborators on stage, Interactive Theater Carolina.

During the presentation, the audience texted in their anonymous questions. We didn’t have time to answer everything at the event, so we’re here today to  address some of your questions that we missed. Some of them we’ve blogged about before!

You asked, “G-spot, fact or fiction?”

Recent research has shown that “even though the majority of women believe that the G-spot exists, even if they don’t have one, we’ve all been fooled.  Sort of.” Read more!

You asked, “Is having sex while on your period really an option? How is that sanitary?”  

It’s entirely a matter of taste, and “if you are worried about the aesthetics of it, you can always throw down a towel first and then go for it!” Read more!

You asked, “Are Trojans the most effective condom? 

All condoms whose labels indicate they are for sexual use (aka, not “novelty items”) are required to pass the same tests for efficacy as they are “regarded by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as Class II medical devices, a designation that includes pregnancy tests and powered wheelchairs.  Products in this category have to meet special labeling requirements and performance standards.”  Read more!

You asked, “Are STI tests on campus free?”

The Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS)  office offers a free blood HIV test! Otherwise, the price depends on your insurance. Campus Health website has information on pricing without insurance! Read more!

Free Oraquick rapid test will be available on World AIDS Day, being celebrated 11/30/12 on the UNC Campus. Free testing will be available on a walk-in basis from 11am-5pm in the UNC Student Union.

You asked, “Would you rather fight 100 duck sized horses or one horse size duck?”

You know, I’m going to have to think about that one.

Stay tuned for more! We’ll be answering other questions from “Orgasm? Yes Please!” in upcoming blog posts.

(Probably) Not Your Parents’ Summer Book List

It’s summer! Classes are out, the beach is calling your name, and your favorite coffee shop has recovered from finals and has some couches available for your leisurely enjoyment. Summer is the perfect time to crack open a book for pleasure instead of assignment or requirement.


I’ve collected a list of some of my favorite books about healthy relationships, GLBTIQ experiences, and general sex-positive vibes. Check them out for some positive, educational, and enjoyable summer reading!

Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape
Eds. Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Yes Means Yes aims to end sexual assault by beginning with changing society’s view of women as sexual conquests and instead viewing them as sexual collaborators in the framework of enthusiastic consent. The book provides commentary on media, pornography, and sex education as it encourages both men and women to enjoy sex and sexuality instead of being ashamed about it.
There is a Yes Means Yes blog that you can check out. Both of the authors have Twitter accounts linked on their names above that you can follow as well!

The Guide to Getting it On, Sixth Edition
Author: Paul Joannides
This sex guide has been translated into 12 languages and won 5 awards. Its 928 pages have tips and reliable but down to earth info on everything you can think of, from uncircumcised penises to sex play to myths about menstruation. It is GLBTIQ friendly and very non-judgmental about people’s bodies and their sexual behavior. There are fun illustrations and you don’t have to read it from cover to cover, it’s the perfect book to pull out and flip to a random page to start learning!
The Guide also has a website where there are exerpts on specific topics from the book, as well as links to the book’s facebook page and youtube channel.

Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma
Author: Staci Haines
Haines, an educator in the areas of sex education and somatic healing, put together this sex-positive guide for survivors of sexual assault to support them in saying “yes” to wanted sexual experiences. The author is very direct in her writing, so it’s a good idea to be in a good space when you sit down to read this as it could be triggering. The focus of the book is that not only can sex can be good, positive, and feel safe after you’ve survived a sexual assault, but that having such positive sexual experiences can be an integral part of a survivor’s healing process.

These last two are all super interesting reads and could offer great support to anyone who is questioning their gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation, or who is super sure they’re queer and proud of it!

Genderqueer: Voices from Beyond the Sexual Binary
Eds. Clare Howell, Joan Nestle, and Riki Wilchins
This is a collection of 31 true personal stories of gender construction, exploration, and questioning from folks who don’t fit the traditional male/female binary.

Getting Bi: Voices of Bisexuals Around the World, Second Edition
Authors and Eds: Robyn Ochs and Sarah Rowley
Robyn Ochs, one of the authors and editors of Getting Bi, is a bisexual activist who travels to colleges and universities around the country hosting workshops and lectures on breaking beyond or out of the gender binary.
You can “like” Robyn on Facebook or follow her on Twitter if you dig her book!

You can check your local public library or search the UNC library system catalog online here for these books, or see if they’re available on your  kindle, nook, or other fancy electronic reading device!

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

“Why do I feel pain during sex?”

Sex is supposed to feel good! Sex might not be earth-shattering every time and that’s just part of life, but sometimes penetrative vaginal sex can be downright physically painful. Why? There’s no one single answer. A variety of physical and emotional issues can play a role. Here are some possibilities to consider.
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Anal Sex: A Response to Students’ Questions

Early in the semester, I attended Dan Savage’s program at UNC and I was struck by how many questions there were about anal sex. And then I thought back: whenever the Sexual Wellness Specialists (formerly CHECS) do a program, we also get lots of questions about anal sex. I then looked at the Healthy Heels blog and saw that we’ve never done a post on anal sex. Well, there’s no time like the present so let’s talk about anal sex.

Anal sex can mean lots of different things; it isn’t just a penis inserted into the rectum. Anal sex can be anal massage, sticking your tongue up and around your partner’s anus (also known as rimming), and something going in the anal opening, including a finger, butt plug, penis or dildo. Continue reading

More Orgasm Answers?! Yes, Please!

Did you attend “Orgasms? Yes, Please!”? Were you not able to make it, but wish you had? Never fear! We are answering questions from the event on our blog so everyone can get the answers. For the event itself we focused mostly on women’s bodies and, unless otherwise stated, all of our information directed towards “partners” is applicable to anyone who partners with women. Because there were so many questions asked, we will have several blog entries dedicated to answering questions.

Is it possible to have more than one orgasm?

Yes! Multiple orgasms refer to orgasms that happen one after another, sometimes only seconds apart. Multiple orgasms can happen with a partner, alone and sometimes sex toys might be involved. For many women, stimulating the clitoris immediately after have an orgasm is not a very pleasurable experience. This is because the clitoris becomes very sensitive after orgasm. If you are interested in trying to have multiple orgasms, try taking a short break and let the clitoris rest a few minutes. During the resting period you and your partner can kiss, touch, talk, or whatever feels good. When you and your partner are ready (or if you are having a self-loving session), you can resume clitoral stimulation and try to have another orgasm. With all of this being said, there is nothing wrong with women who cannot have or have not had multiple orgasms. Continue reading