Sex & Pancakes

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

  • Friends With An Ex

    Do you think it’s possible to be friends with an ex? I’d like to believe it is but it’s never really happened to me.

    Whether it’s possible to be friends with an ex is only one part of the question of post-breakup relationship dynamics: the other part being whether it is desirable. Many variables, including the quality, history and meaning of the relationship inform whether or not a friendship with an ex will work. In my opinion, a significant factor is whether you were friends prior to dating.

    When we begin a relationship with someone about whom we know relatively little, we get to know him or her primarily in relation to ourselves. Then, after breaking up, we often find ourselves feeling as though we never knew the person we spent so much time with, because in many ways we never did know them for themselves. In this instance, you would have to get to know that person anew, for who they are outside of their relationship to you, in order to create a friendship.

    However, if you have a pre-existing friendship, it can allow you to see the other person not just in relation to you but more in their own right. This makes it easier to see things from each other’s perspective, to genuinely have each other’s best interests in mind, and generally understand and know each other in a more realistic light. This pre-existing friendship can serve as a foundation, giving you an idea of what this new friendship might look like.

    Once you’ve established whether it’s possible for you to be friends with an ex, it’s important to consider whether it’s desirable. There are many great reasons to keep an ex in your life. If you loved someone, you can probably still recognize the qualities that drew you to them and appreciate them as a person. However, very often friendships between exes are started out of obligation.

    Maybe you said you’d always stay friends in the past, maybe they’re the one who wants to be friends, or maybe you feel like you owe them something. Depending on how the relationship ended one partner may also still have feelings for the other or hold some resentment.

    These situations are unlikely to lead to a true friendship and someone is likely to get hurt. It’s fine to say that you would like a friendship one day but it’s also acceptable to say that today is not that day or to let an ex know you’re not interested in pursuing a friendship at all for whatever reason. Not everyone in your life needs to remain there forever.

    The first thing I would recommend is to take some real time apart from each other before even trying to be friends, instead of trying to go straight from a relationship to a friendship. It’s natural to want to hold on to someone at the end of a relationship, but stepping away can help you put things into perspective.

    Without a period of separation and reflection, it can be hard to break out of the roles you play in each other’s lives. Whatever your situation, a likely obstacle might be a sense of obligation or pressure for a friendship to work based on a previously expressed expectation.

    What if it just doesn’t? After a breakup, people sometimes fall into the trap of focusing more on the maintenance of a friendship than on their own health and well-being. So my final thought would be: don’t push too hard for a friendship. If it’s what’s supposed to happen, it’s what will happen.

    Submit your question anonymously at melissafuller.ca and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook.

  • Committing To Your Sexuality

    Is there anything that you regularly see in people that is impeding them from more fully enjoying their sexuality?
    —Would-be Bedroom Pioneer

    There are many things I see impeding people, myself included. I’ll focus on one thing that has been on my mind recently: a lack of commitment to learning about and exploring one’s sexuality.

    I’ve been thinking about this because one of the most common things people tend to ask me is how I know so much about sex.

    The simple answer is that I’ve made a commitment to reading and exposing myself to a variety of perspectives and resources in order to better understand my own sexuality and to help others do the same.

    I’m drawn to material that presents views or ideas I’m unfamiliar with and this has led me to the voices that have most informed and shaped my views on sex.

    Making this sort of commitment can be difficult for some people, but in order to grow you need to first be learning something to grow from.

    There are two major hurdles to making this commitment to learning: being unwilling to make the effort or being embarrassed to.

    Many people seem to want to acquire all the knowledge while expending the least effort possible.

    When I’m asked questions about sex and relationships, or to recommend specific books or articles related to what someone is facing, they often respond with “can you just tell me the gist of it?” as though I could do a decade of relationship research justice or tell them everything about every birth control method in a five-minute conversation.

    If an issue you’re facing is important to you, then it’s probably worth investing some time into it.

    Often, the people we assume are naturally gifted and knowledgeable when it comes to sex and relationships have just invested more time into learning about and improving those areas of their lives.

    It really comes down to how much effort you’re willing to put into your desired outcomes, and an unwillingness to even consider reading a book says a lot.

    If your hurdle to learning is embarrassment, try breaking out of the idea that seeking knowledge on any topic is embarrassing.

    I admit, I haven’t yet mastered this myself. I’m not above shying away from reading certain books in public or blushing when someone sees my search history.

    The last two books I read, despite being brilliant and life-changing, never left my home simply due to their titles—“Vagina” (Naomi Wolf) and “What Makes Love Last?” (John Gottman).*

    Still, I think it’s important to seek and create strategies to learn about the topics that matter to you, whether it’s by reading them in spaces where you feel safe and comfortable or by working towards owning the discomfort.

    Some people will say they can’t make this commitment to learning because they don’t have the time. Between school and working, I know it can be difficult to find time for anything else.

    However, if you’re like most people, sex and relationships are a pretty key component of your life, so it’s worth reflecting on why you might not invest time despite wishing these areas would change.

    People tend to neglect putting time into maintenance and only look into how to make improvements once they are already struggling, which is often when it’s most difficult to do so.

    Putting some time in before then will likely result in less time spent on issues at a later date.

    There are small ways to start doing this if you’re not sure where to start.

    You can search online for articles on topics you’re curious about and look into other work by the authors. Look into sexuality workshops and events happening in the city**, or even just engage in conversations on these topics with people in your life to gain different perspectives.

    If you’re not sure where to start, articles on sexuality and relationships are also regularly shared on the Sex & Pancakes Facebook group so you can head over there and start exploring.

    -Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    For more, like “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook and check out melissafuller.ca

    *I highly recommend these books if either topic interests you!

    **Le Salon de l’Amour et de la Séduction is an event worth checking out Jan. 16-18th at Place Bonaventure: amouretseduction.com

  • Fertility Awareness Methods

    I’m curious about natural contraception methods, but it seems like there are many different approaches and I’m overwhelmed trying to pick one. Is there one you suggest?
    —Only Natural

    Natural contraception methods, more commonly known as fertility awareness-based methods (FAMs), are a great alternative for people who want a hormone-free contraception option.

    They can be challenging at first since they require more consistent awareness and work than hormonal or barrier methods, but they also offer great benefits by allowing you to be more aware of and fully experience your body’s natural cycles since they don’t involve introducing hormones that alter these cycles.

    FAMs are symptom-based methods that rely on tracking bodily changes to predict when you’re ovulating.

    Once you know when you’re ovulating you can avoid having unprotected sex on days surrounding ovulation to prevent pregnancy.

    Several methods exist and involve daily tracking of one or more of the following: your cycle, your cervical mucus and cervical positioning, and your temperature.

    I’ll provide some basic information on these methods but this should not be used as more than an introduction.

    The calendar method involves tracking the number of days in your menstrual cycle, starting with the first day of your period as day 1, in order to determine when you ovulate.

    This should be done for a minimum of 8 cycles, meaning it takes a full 8 months before you can reliably use this method as contraception.

    This method should also only be used if most of your cycles are 27 days or longer. Once you know the number of days in your cycles, you can predict your first and last fertile days.

    For the first fertile day, subtract 18 from the number of days in your shortest cycle (ex: 27-18=9).

    Then, starting with the first day of your current cycle (your period start date), count that number of days and mark the last day with an x. That is your first fertile day.

    For the last fertile day, subtract 11 days from the number of days in your longest cycle (ex: 30-11= 19).

    Starting with the first day of your current cycle, count that number of days and mark it with an x for your last fertile day.

    This would mean that you’re fertile from day 9 to 19 of your cycle and would want to use a backup method of protection during sex.

    The next method involves tracking changes in your cervical mucus and cervical positioning.

    Throughout your cycle, the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus changes. Some days you won’t have any, other days it might be yellow, white, clear, cloudy, sticky or slippery.

    The clear, slippery days are typically the fertile ones, but getting to know your own personal fluctuations is the key. The second component to this method is cervical positioning.

    Throughout your cycle, your cervix also changes and you can track these changes by checking your cervix daily.

    When you’re fertile the cervix rests higher up in the vaginal canal, is more open and softer to allow sperm to travel through more easily. When you’re not fertile the cervix rests lower, is more closed, hard and dry.

    The basal body temperature method involves tracking your daily temperatures when your body is at rest.

    This must be done first thing in the morning while still lying in bed. There is a very slight rise in temperature after ovulation, and a slight drop right before your period, and these can be identified and then used to predict ovulation.

    The most effective and only FAM I recommend looking into is the sympto-thermal method, which combines all three of the previously mentioned methods. Combining them yields the most accurate results, making the prediction of ovulation more precise and reliable.

    FAMs require commitment and consistency. Without sticking to the tracking schedule, it’s impossible for this method to become reliable, because it is based on identifying patterns that emerge over several months.

    It’s very important to educate yourself on proper use and techniques before attempting to use these natural methods since the failure rate with improper use is high.

    There are group and individual trainings available that I highly recommend checking out for detailed information before giving FAMs a try.

    For more on fertility awareness-based methods, check out Planned Parenthood’s great article here.

    For more on the sympto-thermal FAM and workshops in Montreal, check out serena.ca.

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and like “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook.

  • You’ve Said a Mouthful

    What is the most sensitive, polite way to convince a woman that (mutual) fellatio is a really great thing? She just seems dead against it but I know it would give our sex life together another sort of dimension…
    —Mouthing Off

    From what I understand, you would like to engage in mutual oral sex* with your partner but she doesn’t want to.

    There isn’t really a sensitive or polite way to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do.

    Why would you even want to convince her to do something she’s not into? That’s rule #1 of what not to do with a sexual partner.

    Consent does not involve wearing a partner down until they finally say yes to doing something you want. Consent must be freely given; it should be enthusiastic, not reluctant.

    However, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are just trying to figure out what to do because you and your partner have different sexual interests.

    A good approach would be to talk together about your sexual interests in general, with each of you sharing what they are, why you want these things and which things are off the table.

    As with all couples, your sexual interests will likely form a Venn diagram of sorts. You each have your circles of interests and then you overlap in some areas.

    You shouldn’t be aiming to bring your partner into your circle but rather aiming to discover and focus on the areas where you overlap while mutually respecting the parts that don’t.

    In starting a conversation about this, let her go first and listen to what she tells you, evaluating what things you’re into and what things you aren’t.

    If it’s uncomfortable or difficult for either of you to do this on the spot there’s a great online tool to facilitate this called Mojo Upgrade (mojoupgrade.com).

    It allows each person to respond privately to multiple choice questions about their desires with “no”, “if my partner is interested”, “we already do this”, or “yes!!”

    Upon completion, it only shares where your interests overlap without revealing points you might be embarrassed about if either of you isn’t interested.

    If something that matters to you doesn’t come up when you have this conversation, like oral sex, you can start a conversation specifically about that.

    In this case it seems like you already have at some point. You can try asking her if she’d like to share what about it doesn’t interest her and if there’s a reason so you can better understand it from her perspective.

    Don’t do this to try to find out how to convince her, but rather to better understand her. Then when it’s your turn you can express why you do want to do it and what you feel it would add to your sex life together.

    Remember that this isn’t about either of you defending your reasons or choices, or using them as a tool to convince.

    Also talking about the things you already do together and enjoy can help make these conversations easier and more fun since it gives you each opportunities to compliment each other and say positive things about your current sex life.

    Once you’ve heard each other out you can determine where you both stand. If she still doesn’t want to do it, then I strongly suggest you let it go.

    In the end, even if you think it would be great, it probably won’t be for her if she doesn’t want to do it and she may feel just as strongly against it as you do in favour of it.

    It’s also okay to have some incompatible sexual interests in a relationship. What’s important, however, is for each partner to feel heard on how they feel about the differences and not pressured to do anything they’re uncomfortable with.

    *Just to clarify some terms: fellatio refers to oral sex on a penis and cunnilingus refers to oral sex on a vagina. We can also just say oral sex to apply to any mouth to genital action!

    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!

  • 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!