Let’s Really Talk About Sex

Enthusiastic Consent. I’m a fan. For any of you not in the know, Enthusiastic Consent is a way to make sure that yes really means yes and no means no, during sex. It’s an ongoing conversation during sex itself, where partners listen to all manner of cues to make sure that what’s happening is really wanted. Scarleteen has a good definition here. Enthusiastic Consent is a term designed to get people talking to each other about sex so that when the sex happens, everyone is on the same page, happy and in alignment with what’s supposed to happen.
I had a conversation today with a friend of mine to discuss his curriculum on Enthusiastic Consent on college campuses. And I’m all for it, the enthusiasm and the consent.
But it got me thinking. When is this sex supposed to be discussed? Right then at the bedside? A few moments before, in the living room? In the car after dinner? When does the actual conversation and agreement about sex occur?
Part of me thinks that concepts like Enthusiastic Consent won’t truly take hold until we are able to have conversations planning the sexual encounter long, long before moment of consent occurs.
Let’s look at this from a different angle. Imagine this dialogue between two friends planning a meal together.
Sam: Hey, you want to have dinner tomorrow night?
Alex: Sure thing! Thanks for asking!
Sam: I was thinking about this new Thai place up the road.
Alex: Hmmm. Thai sounds good but I just had it for lunch today, actually.
Sam: OK, no prob. What about Indian? That way I could still get a curry.
Alex: Great! Which restaurant? India Star or Madras?
Sam: Oooh! Madras!
Alex: OK, should I pick you up or would you like to meet there?
So forth and so on. They might even discuss with pleasure the food they are planning to have.
The next day, it’s likely they’d confirm plans, check in to make sure everything was a go. And things would go great. Or, maybe someone has to change plans right before hand which could cause some disappointment, but they’d likely reschedule and everyone would deal. 
Even if they wind up at the restaurant but Sam isn’t hungry for some reason, Alex wouldn’t think about forcing Sam to eat if it was clear Alex didn’t have an appetite.
Maybe Alex would even enjoy Sam’s enjoyment of the food.
We plan pretty much all of our activities, social or otherwise. We ask, negotiate, detail the plans and check in to confirm. We can even take classes to learn how to be better at certain aspects of social and work things: Cooking! Party planning! Etiquette! Why don’t we do this about sex? Why do we wait until the very last minute to get the details set? Or just fumble into bed with hopefully willing partners?
Because the stakes of attempting to have sex are higher than a simple lunch date? If we start with a presumption that sex is high stakes, it’s important, it’s a connection of some sort between two people, then how is it that the conversations around sex are so limited and clumsy? Why not have those high stakes moments more prepared for, more thought through, more discussed?
Why are there no culturally accepted forms or practices to gain relational and erotic literacy—so that those skills are built one upon the other—leading to an end result of enthusiastic consent. Wouldn’t this also foster graciousness and acceptance if sex doesn’t happen?
That’s a rhetorical question, FYI. I know very well why there aren’t. I understand that A) our culture doesn’t really promote that level of honest discussion around sexuality, B) sexual education and acknowledgment of sexuality is not the norm, and C) we don’t place much value in pleasure for pleasure’s sake. We do place a strong emphasis on “getting laid” but also “not talking about it.” Those things don’t go well together.
Because of those dynamics, the scenario for a young couple newly interested in each other might go like this:
Sam: You want to come over and watch a movie tomorrow? (And hopefully have sex with me.)
Alex: Sure, I’d love to see Harry Potter. (I really want to watch Harry Potter and maybe cuddle, I like Sam a lot.)
Later that night:
Sam: (makes a move)
Alex: (Um? What?) Okay, I guess.
Sam: (Yay! Wait, do I have protection? I think Alex has some?)
Alex: (Gah, I don’t have protection maybe I’ll just do oral because I don’t want to have intercourse yet.)
Sam: (Alex likes ORAL!)
And maybe things work out okay. And maybe they don’t. Maybe Alex feels like things went too fast. Maybe Sam is thrilled and thinks Alex is happy. Maybe Alex thinks Sam is a jerk or maybe they move forward and don’t really discuss it.
Things can get even weirder if one partner stops the other in the middle of things. Someone feels frustrated and resentful. Someone feels guilty and like a failure. Heck, both of them probably feel like they failed at sex. But they were set up not to win, if you think about it.
The stakes should be both higher and lower. Sex should be important enough to talk it through, to really plan. But also, sex should be human and regular enough so that if someone gets cold feet in the middle, no one freaks out.
Because we live in a culture that doesn’t support sexual education and literacy at all ages and because much of our culture is distrustful of pleasure, we fail to plan and we refuse to really talk ; we obfuscate much of our intentions around sexuality. This raises the stakes to a nearly impossible level leaving everyone feeling fraught.
A final conversation between our friends:
Sam: Want to come over tomorrow night? I’ve been enjoying dating you so much and well, I’d love to to take the relationship to the next level and have sex.
Alex: Wow! I like you too, a whole lot. But I’m not in the right space for that, so I’d love to cuddle, kiss, and watch a movie. I’d like to take things a little slower maybe than you, but I do want to get to that point with you.
Sam: Sounds great. Let’s see where things go, but I won’t have any major expectations tomorrow.
Sam: I’m not sure if I’m into waiting a long time. Let’s talk about things tomorrow and I’d like to hear more from you.
Sam could accept or reject the offer. Alex too. But they’d both be real clear on what they were getting into with each other on the date.
While this final scenario does indeed happen out there in the world (I know people within queer spaces in the LGBT and kink/poly community who discuss sex this way, with more transparent negotiations), my guess is it’s a long way from happening as a global practice.
Few of us discuss things like this, and even when we do, it often feels the opposite of sexy.
My friend and I discussed this over our coffee, wondering how we can ever teach enthusiastic consent without actually teaching the skills of having plan-ful conversations about sex well before the act. How do we start farther back, both in schools but also with parents and other adults so that you get the conversations started at multiple ages?
I think the paradigm has to shift, I’m not always entirely sure how to get that shift started, but I want to live in a world where we plan and tend not only our meals with friends, but the best and most honored parts of our relationships with our loved ones. If sex is that important, we really really should talk about it.
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Ways To Change Your Romantic Type

When it comes to men, I have a type. Physically, he’s tall and lean. He’s also the soft-spoken intellectual and creative type. And more often than not, he’s emotionally unavailable and self-absorbed. And yet, I date him over and over again, like a broken record stuck on one false note.
This might be why there’s an entire dating industry geared toward women. And as much as you might want to blame it on “Sex and the City,” the truth of the matter is that many women, myself included, don’t always go for the right type of guy. You may now cue the latest romantic comedy that you don’t want to believe is loosely based on your life. But in honor of New Year, New You Month, it’s time for a change“You know it’s time when you need to change when you have a moment where you realize things aren’t working for you,” says Nancy Slotnick, dating coach and founder of Cablight, a company that focuses on “love life management.” Nancy deals with her clients’ dating dilemmas, and often, she says, half the problem is dating the wrong type of guy. “There’s a difference between having types and having flings,” says Slotnick. “That’s what’s called sowing your wild oats. But if you go for the bad guy often enough, you know you need to rethink things.”
Nancy believes that people can absolutely change their types and has outlined some tactics for doing just that.
1. Go after qualities. If you’re into clean-cut, preppy guys, ask yourself what it is about that type of man that piques your interest, and try to assess that in other people. It’s worth while to date outside your type just to identify the qualities you seek in a partner. Try to pick up on clues like how often he smiles or the way he talks to his friends.
2. Don’t think you have to change yourself. “If you’re on a date with someone who is not your type, you think you have to be a version of yourself that matches him and is like him. This isn’t the case,” Nancy insists.
3. Get out of your head. The next time you got out with someone you’d never otherwise give a second chance, try to establish whether it’s your intuition or anxiety talking.
4. Have dealbreakers. It might sound counterintuitive in your initial efforts, but they’ll help you from wasting your time. Have three absolute dealbreakers in your prospective partner. Just make sure they’re based on character and not stereotypes.
5. Last but not least, chemistry comes first. Nancy insists that love is more about chemistry, and that it’s certainly found in types you wouldn’t think of. The difference is that you probably won’t find it in a bar or a chance encounter, as opposed to knowing someone in a non-romantic situation first.
Still skeptical? “Think of those Dharma & Greg situations. They exist,” Slotnick reaffirms.
At the very least, you could try it out. The worst that happens is you sell the story to a movie producer for the next big rom-com box office hit.
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Things You Didn't Know You Could Get Addicted To

Soy shakes, golden retrievers, squat thrusts. These aren't the makings of a week-long bender in Vegas, unless you happen to be Marquis de Sade. However, the human brain is a mysterious lump of meat, and under rare circumstances the mind can become hooked on all sorts of things that are usually completely innocent or even commendable.
Such as ...
Doesn't sound so bad ...
Many of us own collections that we're too ashamed to discuss in public, whether it's vintage porn, yarn or commemorative Burger King glasses. So when you hear there's such a thing as book addiction, you figure, hell, it'd be rad to be addicted to the Western literary canon. You'd be so quick with quips and quotes at dinner parties you could wear a damned monocle and nobody would dare call you on it.
The horrifying reality:
The most prominent modern bibiliomaniac was Stephen Carrie Blumberg. From 1974 to 1990, this bookish chap raided the archives of about 185 North American universities. When the FBI finally raided his Ottumwa, Iowa home, the feds discovered 28,000 stolen books and manuscripts he had been compulsively hoarding.
Bibliomaniacs like him don't necessarily read their books or even collect valuable ones. They just collect them out of a compulsive need to have a fuckload of books. So you could be a bibliomaniac while remaining completely illiterate, though you could build a kick-ass fort.
By the way, after Blumberg spent 4.5 years in prison for stealing all those books, he was rearrested in July 2003 for stealing, um, doorknobs. Figure that one out.
Warning Signs:
Technology has obviously made books unnecessary, so the sight of even one book in a friend's home should be cause for concern. If the person has gone as far as to purchase an entire special shelf to hold all of his books, it's probably time for an intervention.
Doesn't sound so bad ...
We know what you're thinking: If one puppy is adorable, think how much more adorable a dozen of them would be! Furthermore, chicks dig animal lovers and dudes love the movie Beastmaster, so where's the problem? Every day we come home will be like that scene in Ace Ventura!
The horrifying reality:
In one infamous 2005 case, animal control officers retrieved more than 300 sewage-scented pups from Barbara and Robert Woodley's Sanford, North Carolina home. The house's stench was so damn doggy that it brought the rescuing veterinarians to tears ... literally. Animal hoarding is often the result of crippling obsessive-compulsive disorder. The hoarder believes that he alone understands his pets, who apparently wish to live cramped and knee-deep in their own shit.
On a similar note, The New York Times recently posited that "crazy cat lady" syndrome stems from an infection by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. According to this model, feline stool transmits the bug, which gives the infected owner an unhealthy case of cat-scratch fever. Before you laugh, know that 60 million Americans may be infected with toxoplasma and that some experts think it will turn all of us into zombies.
Warning Signs:
We're going to go out on a limb here, but we're thinking the presence of lots and lots of animals in a guy's living room may be an indication. Further, if you catch someone extolling the virtues of Eddie Murphy's 1998 opus Doctor Dolittle, that individual is either a potential animal hoarder or eight-years-old. On the other hand, if you catch someone extolling the virtues of Marc Singer's 1982 opusThe Beastmaster, buy that man a drink!

He has a Master's degree ... in beasts
Eating Right
Doesn't sound so bad ...
Hey reader, what'd you eat today? What's that? A sausage stromboli, some Skittles and a teacup full of Maker's Mark? And it's not even noon? For shame, you're not getting enough fiber to absorb that bourbon.
Wait, what did we eat? The internet writer's special, natch: a tub of Crisco and a tin of Skoal. So if they say there's such a thing as getting addicted to healthy food (or orthorexia) then we should all be so lucky. Right?
The horrifying reality:
You can die from it.
See, the orthorexia nervosa sufferer's fanatical desire to consume the correct foods comes with the problem that their idea of what "correct" means is entirely subjective and often nutritionally unsound. Eating 10 cans of pinto beans a day sounds healthier than eating ten Big Macs, but both diets leave out important nutrients and will reward you with DEFCON 5 flatulence. And at the end of the day, your body just needs fat. A diet with zero fat can kill you just as effectively as too much, though most of us are a very long way away from experiencing that for ourselves.
Warning Signs:
The doctor who discovered this disorder says "social isolation" resulting from the diet is one warning sign. So take Mr. Pinto Bean from our above example. Chances are he's disgusted with other people's "impure," non-bean diets, so he posts a personal on Craigslist entitled "LOOKING 4 GOYA-MINDED WOMAN."
And since no one shares the rectitude required to eat beans 24/7, Mr. Bean spends the rest of his life alone, weeping as he farts, farting as he weeps.
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