Sex & Pancakes

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

  • Feeling Whipped By The Commercialization of Valentine’s Day?

    You can listen to the podcast associated with this article which was originally recorded as part of The Download 12/2/14

    February 14th was my anniversary with my high school sweetheart. Though we had been dating for a while, we waited until Valentine’s Day to become official — because that’s what you do when you’re a teenager falling in love for the first time. We were together for a pretty long time, and after several years the pressure of Valentine’s Day anniversaries got pretty intense. We had big expectations, and every year we tried to outdo the previous one with more expensive gifts until we eventually became bitter about how excited we used to get about the day.

    The first Valentine’s Day after we broke up, I realized that Valentine’s Day didn’t actually mean anything to me. I realized I actually kind of hated it. I disliked the commercialization of love along with the pressure to spend money on generic cards. Mostly I disliked the need to express affection through grand gestures and gifts rather than through a daily practice of love.I decided that I didn’t want to continue this tradition in new relationships, so I basically ignored Valentine’s Day for the following 6 years—unless you count passive-aggressive comments about how lame it is.

    Last year was the first time I acknowledged Valentine’s Day in years. Okay, my partner was actually the one who acknowledged it, but his gestures reminded me that like any other holiday, you get to decide what it means and what you do. You also get to decide who you spend it with, since romantic love is only one of the many kinds of love that we can embrace. So this year I’m reclaiming Valentine’s Day as a day of adventure—a day to try something new with a partner, on your own, or with a friend.

    All this brings me to a Valentine’s Day list, where you will find some less generic things to do this year in Montreal. There’s something for everyone, although you’ll probably want to skip some options depending on whom you’re celebrating with! My advice is to pick something you’ve never done before and go into it with no expectations other than to have a new experience.

    If you’re looking to learn something, you can take a bondage workshop at the Alternative Lifestyles Community Centre (ALCC). On February 14th they’re offering two bondage workshops: Basic Bondage at 2pm and Intermediate Bondage at 4pm. Bonus: On February 15th they have a Spank Like a Pro workshop at 1:30pm. Prices vary but these 3 workshops are 20$ each and spaces are limited so RSVP to reserve your place. The centre offers many different activities on other topics such as polyamory, submission, spanking, bisexuality, and swinging. Check them out at alccva.wordpress.com for more info.

    If you’re itching to spend some time outdoors, then a City lights snowshoeing excursion might be your adventure! Les Amis de la Montagne offer guided winter night excursions of Mount-Royal most weekends. Their Valentine’s Day special tour includes mulled wine and a chocolate truffle for 28$ on the 13th (English) and 14th (French). Snowshoes are included. Check out this and other winter activities on Mount-Royal at http://bit.ly/1ukTCWh

    If you’d rather avoid the cold and get physical indoors, HappyTree Yoga is hosting a Couples Yoga workshop for 40$ per couple from 4-5:30pm on the 14th. Learning shared breathing and stillness together can be a great way to deepen both physical and emotional intimacy. For more info: http://bit.ly/1DJlZgs

    On the more adventurous side, Moksha Yoga NDG is offering an Acro Yoga Basics workshop for 17$ on the 15th from 1:30-3:30pm. This would be a lot of fun to do with your partner or a friend and you don’t need previous experience! For more info: http://bit.ly/1D6pH5L. If you’re looking to just sit back and watch there are some great shows happening this weekend.

    The Self-Love Cabaret is “an evening of self-love with an explicitly feminist, queer, anti-racist and anti-colonial mandate” that you won’t want to miss. The event is pay-what-you-can and you can check out their Facebook event for details: The Self-Love Cabaret: l’amour se conjugue à la première personne.

    Blue Light Burlesque is also hosting a Valentine’s Day event at Cafe Campus on the 14th. Tickets are 25$ in advance and you can find out more at bluelightburlesque.com

    If you’re not interested in leaving the house (or your bed), you can spend the night in with MakeLoveNotPorn.tv. They host and curate an awesome collection of porn that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people who believe that the sex we have in our everyday life is the hottest sex there is.” Check them out, rent a video, or make and submit a video of your own – the possibilities are endless and oh so hot!

    Finally, if you must give a gift keep it simple and personal. I suggest mailing a handwritten letter to someone you love. We’re not used to receiving letters anymore, unless it’s bills or government mail, so it’s pretty exciting to get a surprise letter! If you’re having trouble with what to write, you can share your favorite memory of them; what qualities you admire in them; or tell them the story of the day you met from your perspective.

    If you don’t have their address, just check next time you’re over or look up the area on Google maps. You can also find postal codes online once you have the address – which is only creepy if you think it is! Well there you have it, hopefully you’ve found something to occupy your time this weekend.

    As for me, someone special will be receiving a letter in the mail from their not so secret admirer, and I’ll be trying to do as many of these activities as I can fit into the weekend. Chances are I’ll just start and end on the last one though… Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

  • Pregnancy Options

    My period is late so I took two pregnancy tests, but they each came out different… I don’t know what to do now or what to do if I’m pregnant. I always thought I’d have an abortion if it happened but now I feel confused. Help?

    Before anything else, you’ll want to find out if you’re actually pregnant. Since you’ve already done two at home pregnancy tests with mixed results, it’s time to go to a clinic. You can go to Concordia Health Services, a CLSC, or any walk-in clinic.* They might do another urine test or go straight for a blood test; but either way, you’ll want to double-check any positive results from an at-home pregnancy test with a nurse or doctor since they can be faulty.

    If calling a clinic ahead, make sure to tell them that it’s for a pregnancy test since you’re likely to get an earlier appointment. From there, let’s say you find out you’re pregnant and take a look at possible next steps. Even if you always thought you’d have an abortion, it’s impossible to know how you’ll really feel until you’re in the situation.

    If you’re not sure about continuing a pregnancy, you’ll want to start by exploring your feelings about the pregnancy and your options. This is a very personal decision that can be complicated, so it’s one that only you can make for yourself. It can help to reach out to a person who you trust to support you through your own decision-making process without trying to influence your decision. Since that can sometimes be difficult for someone close to you to do, I recommend seeking the help of a professional counselor or therapist either way.

    Counseling will give you the space to freely explore your feelings away from other people who may be affected by them. Concordia Counseling and Development is a free on-campus resource that you can check out for counseling services. You can even read counselors’ bios online to see if someone specific interests you. If you’re looking for off-campus support and you’re 25 years old or under, I highly recommend the social services at Head & Hands. You can call (514) 481-0277 and ask to make a counseling appointment.

    At the same time, maybe you’re not interested in seeing a counselor or you want to start with something more private. There are also resources that can guide you through a personal reflection on your own or with a person you trust. The website pregnancyoptions.info offers free workbooks to help people process feelings and thoughts related to pregnancy and abortion.

    The Pregnancy Options Workbook is a great and thorough tool to help anyone who becomes pregnant to figure out their next steps. It addresses both physical and emotional aspects of pregnancy, while providing detailed information on what to expect for all available options. Depending on your choices, the other workbooks on the Pregnancy Options website might be of use to you. Whatever your situation or decisions, I would also have more suggestions for support and resources, so feel free to reach out again with any follow-up questions.

    *Concordia Health Services—call to make an appointment or show up in person for urgent care services: 514-848-2424 ext. 3565 (SGW, GM-200), ext. 3575 (LOY, AD-131) CLSC or walk-in clinic: call info-santé at 8-1-1 from any Quebec phone line and ask for the nearest clinic. Concordia Counselling and Development : call 514-848-2424 :ext. 3545 (SGW), ext. 3555 (LOY)

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

  • Breaking It Off with a Prof

    What do you do if you are sexually involved with a married prof? You want to break it off but he is getting kind of needy and you want to end it nicely.

    In many ways, breaking off a relationship of any sort with a professor should be rather similar to ending any other relationship. While it can be difficult if the other person doesn’t want it to end, the best you can do is be straightforward with them and communicate honestly about no longer wanting the relationship to continue.

    It helps to be confident and clear in what you want, especially if you feel that the other person doesn’t want the same thing and to remember that continuing a relationship because you feel bad isn’t fair to you or the other person. From there, all you can do is hope that the other person will handle the situation as maturely as possible and be prepared to distance yourself if not.

    However, if you’re taking one of this professor’s courses this semester, it might be a little more complicated than that. Relationships in which there is a power imbalance of some sort between partners can often be more tricky territory to navigate. In fact, this is reflected in Canadian laws about consent. The legal age for consent to sexual activity is 16.

    However, the age is raised to 18 when there is a significant age difference, a hierarchical relationship (like dating your boss or teacher), or another factor that suggests the possibility that one partner is being exploited. I mention this not to suggest that you’re being exploited, but because the same power dynamics from which the law seeks to protect minors can, and often do, still exist in relationships at any age.

    Essentially, the situation becomes more complex anytime one partner depends on the other for something other than love and respect—like a pay cheque, grades or keeping a secret. Whether or not this thing is brought up explicitly, it can play a role as a sort of unconscious gambling chip, subtly influencing how you see yourself in the situation as well as what decisions you make, how you make them, and when. What’s important to recognize is that such factors can play a role in your decision-making even if they’re not actively being used against you.

    Moreover, it can be rather difficult to discern when one of these factors is at play. I’ll also point out that the professor isn’t the only one with power here. While you’re getting grades and credits from them, they likewise probably depend on you to keep a secret for both their professional and marital stability.

    I bring this up because, while I think most people are above using these things to intentionally manipulate, it’s nonetheless important to reflect on how they may be influencing your decisions. Sometimes it can help to actually bring these things up if they’re at all of concern to you since it can lead to an open discussion that provides clarity on where you both stand.

    In returning to what to do if you want to break it off, in my opinion an honest conversation is always best. It helps to enter that conversation knowing what you would like the outcome to be, while also being sensitive of the fact that the other person might be hurt.

    If you want it to end nicely, this would mean hearing them out and being kind, while staying true to where you’re at. When someone is being needy, it’s easy to imagine them being difficult if you try to break it off and that can keep you from expressing yourself directly for fear of hurting them or having them act out. However, the kindest approach is to be honest and treat the other person the way you would want to be treated.

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

  • 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