Sex & Pancakes
No matter what your pleasure, get health tips with our sex column by Melissa Fuller.
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?
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.
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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…
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!
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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!
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.
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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.