Sex & Pancakes

No matter what your pleasure, get health tips with our sex column by Melissa Fuller.

  • We’re All That Kind of Girl

    Recently, excerpts from Lena Dunham’s book Not That Kind of Girl made the rounds online. In these, she described childhood memories of being seven years old and looking at her then one-year-old sister’s vagina, bribing her with candy to kiss her, and masturbating next to her in bed. In response, the Internet exploded with articles accusing her of child molestation.

    Evidently, these stories made people uncomfortable. In addition to the accusations, people started boycotting her book readings and even calling on organizations she is affiliated with to drop her. While people’s discomfort is understandable, the issues raised with Dunham’s stories aren’t about molestation or child abuse; rather they point to our discomfort with childhood sexuality.

    It’s about how uncomfortable and scary it is for adults when children engage in sexual exploration and then show no shame for doing so. I know it’s uncomfortable for many to think about but these are realities for many children when they’re learning about their bodies.

    It is overdramatic and dangerous to refer to what Dunham described as “child molestation.” Sexual play and a curiosity about how one’s body works are quite normal and are common examples of childhood sexual development. Most of us have experienced it, actively engaged in it, and even reflected on it as adults. However, many of us have also forgotten or repressed any memories we have of it.

    Despite how common it is, it’s rarely spoken about and many people who do have vague memories of exploring alone, with their siblings or close friends as children are left not knowing how to interpret what they remember.

    We regularly shame children for sexual play and exploration by interpreting their actions in the same way we would for adults. We talk as though children have malignant or predatory intent, rather than understanding that they are acting out of curiosity and exploration. Adults distort these innocent actions as they project their internalized shame about sexuality onto them.

    Responding with punishment rather than education makes children internalize this shame, thus ensuring the cycle of shame continues.

    We frame these actions as nonconsensual, labeling the kids as sex offenders and their actions as assault. Yet the law holds that people are incapable of giving sexual consent until the age of 16, and consent remains a concept that even adults are struggling to get right. Then why do we expect children to know what it is and how to ask for it?

    I’m glad these stories are making people uncomfortable and are being talked about. I hope this discomfort makes people reflect on their own internalized shame about sexuality and how that shapes how they respond to these types of situations. The fact is that we all have this shame to some degree; and the only real way to make progress is for each of us to commit to looking within ourselves, identifying these aspects of our thinking, and then working to shed them.

    The sort of childhood sexual play that Lena Dunham describes in her book is normal. We need to work towards normalizing rather than stigmatizing it. Though difficult, part of this will require people becoming comfortable sharing their childhood sexual experiences, as well as creating a space in which it’s safe for people to do so.

    Once we do, we will be in a better position to deal with children’s sexuality in a way that is healthy rather than damaging. One such place has already popped up as a result; you can find it at thosekindsofgirls.tumblr.com.

    In light of all this we would do well to keep in mind the words of sex researcher Michael Flood: “Protecting children from sexual harm does not mean protecting children from sexuality.”

    For more, check out sex-pancakes.com and like “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!

  • Come Prepared

    Many of the sexual health questions I respond to involve helping people navigate emergency situations. It’s easy for people to panic if something goes wrong and they don’t know what their options are.

    A condom breaking during sex, a forgotten birth control dose or an unwanted pregnancy can be stressful situations, and having to find information or make a decision when you’re already in them can be overwhelming.

    This week I wanted to share a practical tool that I always recommend to help navigate these kinds of situations: sexual health strategies.

    Many of us already have vague ideas of what we would do if something went wrong, but a sexual health strategy is a specific step-by-step action plan for these situations. It should be personal, well thought out, revised and even practiced so that it’s of actual use to you. Kind of like a fire drill.

    I started using sexual health strategies when I first became sexually active because while I was really fascinated by sex, I was also terrified of the risks.

    I would learn everything I could about a specific STI and then become really paranoid that I had it. While being informed is awesome, the paranoia wasn’t compatible with fully embracing and exploring my sexuality. This led me to start carefully thinking out the worst-case scenarios of my fears in order to create strategies to help me deal with them and reduce my anxiety.

    I’ve found this to be really helpful in my personal life, but also in helping others manage undesirable situations with more ease.

    A sexual strategy means identifying your options and having answers to your questions before you need them. It’s going through the motions without the stress and time constraints of being in the actual situation.

    For example, let’s say a condom breaks during vaginal penetration. What options do you have when a condom breaks? Maybe you’ll want to get emergency contraception (EC, “the morning-after pill”), in which case you’ll need to figure out where and how you would get it.

    Maybe you’ll want to get tested for STIs, in which case you’ll need to figure out where you would go, how long it would take to make an appointment and how long you’d need to wait for your results.

    From here, find out what you need to know to build your strategy. For example, if you wanted to get emergency contraception, you might talk to your doctor or pharmacist about how it works, how and where you would get it, the timeframe during which you can take it, what questions you will be asked during a consultation, whether it can be covered by insurance, and any other questions you might have.

    Now you have the information with which to create your final strategy for emergency contraception. It might look something like this:

    (1) Go to the pharmacy within 120 hours of the encounter—the earlier, the better.
    (2) Ask to speak to the pharmacist.
    (3) Answer questions on the method of protection you use, the date of your last period, reactions to other medications, history with emergency contraception, etc.
    (4) Obtain and take emergency contraception.
    (5) Stay aware of the expected date of your next period in case you want to take a pregnancy test.

    This is just one example of a sexual health strategy; yours for the same situation might be a little different. The key is to really make them your own and with enough detail so that they’re relevant and easy to follow.

    Sexual strategies can be applied to any aspect of sex that could require preparation, such as an unwanted pregnancy, a STI diagnosis, communicating boundaries with a partner, discussing consent, or anything else you can think of.

    Sexual strategies make you think about these situations ahead of time, so you can act confidently in the moment instead of panicking or feeling unsure.

    Share your sexual health strategies on the “Sex & Pancakes” Facebook page and submit your sex and relationship questions anonymously at sex-pancakes.com.

  • BDSM Is About Consent

    BDSM is a type of sex play that involves acts of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. Some people derive pleasure directly from pain or violence, but for many, the excitement comes from the manipulation or subversion of power dynamics within relationships.

    BDSM requires a sophisticated set of communication and relationships skills, and it requires a level of trust that is difficult to casually achieve.

    Consent is at the core of BDSM and if done properly, miscommunications about consent are not commonplace. Above all, BDSM requires an education and a commitment to your partner’s well being.

    BDSM has seen a recent surge in popularity throughout mainstream pornography and popular fiction. It’s exciting to see the portrayal of alternative sexual interests becoming mainstream, but these depictions rarely give an accurate image of BDSM.

    They leave out the parts where people establish consent for acts they want to do, and they don’t show the required relationship-building. They don’t show us the work, negotiation, boundary-setting, verbal and non-verbal communication, checking in, and aftercare that are left out.

    They only show us the doing of BDSM, thus leaving us with the idea that BDSM is purely violence or dominance. In a time when most people are getting their sexual education from porn, this becomes the representation to which we are most exposed, and which we later replicate with our partners.

    Engaging in BDSM practices with such a simplified idea of BDSM is dangerous. It can pave the way for people that commit sexual assault in order to normalize their actions as a particular kink that their partner wasn’t into; using it as a pretext to cover the fact that actions were non-consensual and crossed boundaries.

    The reality is that most people who commit sexual assault don’t think that they committed sexual assault. For the most part people who have abused, assaulted and raped often don’t think of themselves as having done so, and they certainly don’t identify with labels like rapist or abuser.

    Typically, they feel like they have a right to do what they want to someone else, a perspective enabled by mainstream depictions of alternative sexual practices that omit the need to establish consent.

    Part of why rape culture is so difficult to dismantle is that it’s far more complicated than people being just plain evil. Often, a lack of awareness and education regarding how one’s actions constitute abuse is a major factor.

    This is important because people who commit sexual assault are not likely to police their own actions and do the things we say “rapists” or “abusers” should do differently if they don’t identify with these terms.

    In shifting the dialogue around assault towards teaching people not to rape, we also need to acknowledge the fact that some sexual assailants do not realize the significance of their own actions.

    Our challenge, then, is in finding new ways to discuss assault that actually reach the people who assault, rather than just those who are assaulted.
    The work we do to support victims is important and necessary, but the work we do to reach those who assault must also be considered since it has the most potential for change.

    The balance between channeling one’s efforts towards supporting victims and addressing perpetrators is precarious and I don’t necessarily have a solution or know how to achieve it.

    It’s difficult, but I think part of it will involve creating everyday spaces that encourage the education and reflection of those who might commit sexual assault, while continuing to offer support to the victims of these assaults.

    It will involve discussions about how to best approach those who aren’t seeking this reflection. There are places on campus to have these conversations and work towards these goals, such as the Sexual Assault Resource Centre and the Centre for Gender Advocacy. I encourage those of you interested in finding this balance to approach them and to get involved.

    Finally, the most important work to do is inner work. We all have a responsibility to examine our own behavior and reflect on whether we are ever the perpetrators of sexual assault.

    Looking at oneself in this way takes a level of self-awareness, courage, and willingness that is not always easy to uphold, but very necessary if we ever hope to encourage others to do the same.

    —Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. For more info on the Sexual Assault Resource Centre, visit them on the SGW campus in room GM-300.27. For more info on the Centre for Gender Advocacy, visit them at 2110 Mackay St.

  • Massaging the Male G-Spot

    I’m a straight male in a relationship and I want to try massaging my prostate. My partner and I have never explored anal play before so we’re not sure where to start. She asked me to lead the way but I don’t really know what will feel good or how to do it. Any tips on how to start?
    —Prostate Explorer

    Similar to any other first-time sex act, the place to start is with an openness to explore yourself. I have some tips that can serve as a basic intro to anal and prostate play, but the key is to use these steps as a way to find what feels good for you.

    There are some safe sex practices you can adopt when engaging in anal play.

    Before getting started, you might want to have a bowel movement to clear the rectum and then clean the surrounding area to limit the presence of fecal matter. However, for some people, fecal matter is part of what excites them.

    Either way, you can be safer by wearing latex gloves on any hands involved in the acts and by using a latex barrier (condoms, dental dams, gloves) on any toys or objects. Each of these practices limits direct contact with fluids and fecal matter, which lowers your risk for transmission of STIs and bacteria.

    Whether you decide to use barriers or not, it’s also a good idea to cut and file the nails on any penetrating fingers to avoid scratching or tearing the rectal lining, and to use the pad of fingers for stimulation to avoid leading with your nails.

    As for how to do this, you might opt to explore on your own before doing it with a partner, but the steps are basically the same. The main difference is that clear communication is essential with a partner since they won’t always be able to tell if something feels good or when you’re ready to continue.

    Anal penetration is easiest when the receiving partner is relaxed. This can be difficult your first time since you might feel nervous and physically tense your muscles. Starting slow and with a lot of foreplay is key to facilitating most penetration.

    If alone, you might start by fantasizing and touching your body to get in the mood. With a partner you might want to start with kissing, light physical touching or a body massage—anything that turns you on and helps you relax.

    From there, you can start by massaging the perineum, which is the area between the testicles and the anus. Many men enjoy this because it stimulates the prostate from the outside. A good starting position is with the receiving partner lying on their back with their legs bent, lifted and spread. Using the pads of fingers, you can rub or press gently on the perineum—whatever feels good to you in the moment. You can try this on its own or paired with stroking your penis or massaging other parts of the body.

    Once you’re feeling ready, you can move towards stimulating the anus in the same way, without penetrating it at first. This would be a good time to add lube if you haven’t already since it will feel awesome and help make this easier and safer. Taking your time, check how relaxed the anus is and experiment with partially penetrating it. The lining of the rectum is thin so you want to move slow and avoid forced movements.

    Once inside, place the finger on the rectal wall at the front of your body and aim to reach the spot behind the perineum that you were massaging earlier. You’re looking for a round spot of tissue, the prostate. Once you find it, use the pad of your finger to massage it. You can start by applying direct pressure or rubbing it directly at different speeds. At this point, it’s all about exploring what gives you pleasure and following it.

    Some people like this stimulation alone; others like to pair it with stimulating the penis. Some people do this until orgasm, while others just enjoy the ride. Where you go from here is up to you. Share this with your partner and hopefully it will help you both feel more equipped to start exploring, but feel free to write back if you have questions on further exploration or the prostate itself!

    —Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!

  • A Period Piece

    I love having sex when I’m on my period because I’m always really horny. Are there things I should be doing to be as safe as when I’m having regular sex?
    —Sexy Period

    For the most part, safe period sex is the same as safe regular sex.

    As a general rule, condoms are recommended during all penetrative sex. During vaginal sex, there’s a risk of STI transmission through vaginal and ejaculatory fluids. While on your period, an extra fluid is present and can increase that risk.

    Menstrual fluid can also make it more difficult to tell if you’re irritated or bleeding from penetration, and any irritation or small tear can be an entry point to STIs. Your cervix, which is the entrance to your uterus, is also more open which can increase the chance of bacteria entering the uterus.

    It’s not all bad news, however, since the extra fluid from your period can mean more lubrication, which can make penetration easier by reducing friction and preventing those same irritations.

    While unlikely, there is still a risk of pregnancy while on your period. Sperm can survive for up to 72 hours and, depending where you are in your cycle, some people mistake spotting for still being on their period.

    If you’re doing other things leading up to penetration, remember that minimal contact with menstrual fluid is safest.

    If you like being fingered or manually stimulated, your partner can wear latex gloves. If you like being orally stimulated, you can use a dental dam and you can try keeping a tampon or menstrual cup in if
    the stimulation is mostly external and you want to prevent the flow of fluid.

    You can even find black latex gloves or dental dams if either of you is uncomfortable with seeing too much fluid.

    Aside from physical safer sex practices, you and your partner’s comfort will play a role in how safe you both feel. Before having sex on your period with a partner, it can help to talk about what each of you is and isn’t comfortable doing and if there are ways to increase that comfort.

    Some people like minimal menstrual fluid, while some don’t mind it, and others love it. It’s good to know where each of you falls.

    If you want to avoid making too much of a mess, you can stick to lighter days in your cycle. You can also put down a towel and keep another wet towel close to wipe up after.

    Some people really like having sex in the shower when they’re on their period so that they don’t have to worry about making a mess.

    You can also keep whatever menstrual method you use in place during foreplay up until the time comes for penetration. Condoms can help with easier clean up since your partner is likely to have less fluid on them.

    When it comes to positioning, missionary can be a good one to prevent outflow but there’s no need to avoid certain positions if you’re both comfortable. It’s also worth mentioning that some positions that penetrate more deeply, such as ones from behind, could be uncomfortable during your period since your cervix is softer and may be sensitive.

    If you and your partner are both comfortable, then period sex can be both safe and a lot of fun. As you mentioned, some women get hornier during their period and there can be some great benefits to being sexually active during your cycle—with or without a partner.

    Orgasms can be a natural and awesome way to reduce menstrual cramps and physical discomfort, so doing whatever gets you there during your period can also be a great tool!

    —Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!