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Author Topic: Going deeper on this...
wonder_woman
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Hey there, I'd like to start off by mentioning how wonderful this site has been for me for the past year.

Recently, I've been digging into resources like the "Safer Sex for your Heart" article, and would kind of like to have a discussion about some of those topics. The short story is, I want to respect the new policy of not discussing pregnancy risks. The long story is I'd like to discuss the reasons why I think I tend to relapse into pregnancy paranoias.

Looking at this article, and thinking about all the times in which I engaged in activities that send me down a panic spiral, it's hard for me to pinpoint a reason for my worries. Heather, you (or whoever is reading this), mention quite a few (religion/morality, relationship insecurity, sexual readiness).

Instead of trying to pick "the one" reason for my anxiety, I decided to start with things that I knew to be true. I can't truly say that I felt like I knew where these relationships (the ones that triggered my anxiety) would be a month, or even a week, from any point. I can't say that I ever felt comfortable bringing up conversations about limits with any partner, and even when I DID bring it up, it was never easy for me to do so. I can't say that I've ever had an intimate encounter where I felt as if I had to "get myself" to do something in order to convince myself that I was doing normal things for my age, or somehow teaching myself to "get used" to being sexually active as away to "practice away" my anxiety.

The last thing I mention because that has been my greatest downfall: I keep putting myself in situations that lead to anxiety later on because I feel somehow abnormal because I'm only comfortable with zero-risk situations, and that somehow engaging in more, even infinitesimally risky situations, will somehow fix my anxiety by showing me how non-risky they are. (I think you can probably guess what the result of that has been).

Furthermore, while I am not religious, I think I still probably value the concept of holding sex off until much later than most people I know or hang out with, all of whom share my generally secular attitudes.

So my current thought is to limit all my intimate engagement with people who truly truly share my values. but now my question is are my expectations realistic? I feel as if for my age group, there aren't many who are on the same page as I am. I was raised religiously, and have relinquished the basic concept of all religion, but cannot deny my basic emotional and core attachment to certain aspect of a conservative or religious lifestyle. Do you think that, in order to find a deeper connection with someone who shares this outlook, differing on religious beliefs (i.e., absent for me, but potentially present for him, whoever he might be) is something I will have to learn to reconcile in a relationship that I can feel comfortable with sexually?

Finally, because this post isn't long-winded or broad enough, should I really be looking for a relationship at all, or just a cure for loneliness or boredom? How can I work on determining that?

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Robin Lee
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Hi Wonder_woman,

I'd first like to give you a virtual high-five for taking the time and doing the work to really figure this out for yourself. This kind of introspection and questioning isn't always easy.

There's a lot here, and I'm going to start with some questions that came to mind on reading what you've said in your last few paragraphs.


If you've been using relationships as a solution for loneliness and boredom, how has that been working for you? What else do you feel like you get out of a relationship? If you found other solutions for loneliness and boredom, what do you think they'd be?

Putting aside the question of sexual interaction for a moment: When you imagine being in a relationship with someone whose religious beliefs aren't your own, what do you imagine that being like for you?

--------------------
Robin

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wonder_woman
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If you've been using relationships as a solution for loneliness and boredom, how has that been working for you?
-Usually, the result is that I will continue to see someone even if I don’t see any long-term future with that person, just because I like the idea of simply “enjoying the present” with someone. That doesn’t necessarily mean sexually, but it can and usually does, but can also just mean that sometimes I just enjoy hanging out with someone in a more-than-friends context for a short-term outlook (short-term for me usually means anything less than a year).

What else do you feel like you get out of a relationship?
-Usually, I feel like I’m always learning something just by interacting with someone, even if for short term. I enjoy learning about others, learning from them like their interests and hobbies, or backgrounds that are different from mine. Also I just enjoy the cuddles.

If you found other solutions for loneliness and boredom, what do you think they'd be?
-I guess I could find solace in friendships, although sometimes those aren’t quite close enough to always feel fulfilling.


Putting aside the question of sexual interaction for a moment: When you imagine being in a relationship with someone whose religious beliefs aren't your own, what do you imagine that being like for you?
-Religious beliefs that aren’t my own would currently be any religion. To me, I have a fear that somehow this would be used against me in a relationship; I have the impression that people who are religious want to be with others who share their beliefs, and I am personally convinced that there is not a long life expectancy for people with different religious background. I am sure that, somewhere a long the line, there will be an irreconcilable difference. Also, somewhat irrationally, I feel like my own religious upbringing has been such a limiting and punishing aspect of my life,that I’d kind of like to avoid anything that might bring back those feelings.

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Heather
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Can I duck in and ask you to perhaps talk about why you feel like sexual or romantic relationships have offered you a level of closeness/intimacy non-sexual friendships have not?

Particularly since when I hear someone saying things like they don't even feel free to express their own limits and boundaries, that suggests to me there really, clearly, isn't a whole lot of closeness going on?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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Can I duck in and ask you to perhaps talk about why you feel like sexual or romantic relationships have offered you a level of closeness/intimacy non-sexual friendships have not?
Maybe closeness isn’t the right word. I definitely cannot express my sexuality with my friends in a way I can with partners. But I definitely consider it somewhat of a “need”, even if it unfortunately usually results in a mental spiral.


Particularly since when I hear someone saying things like they don't even feel free to express their own limits and boundaries, that suggests to me there really, clearly, isn't a whole lot of closeness going on?
I think I’ve the few times I have expressed boundaries has been more the result of personal confidence and responsibility. My attitude in those situations is “this is my right, and either we talk about it or I leave the room.” It stems from a feeling of forwardness, rather than absolute comfort with the other individual. Does that make sense?

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wonder_woman
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Sorry for my weird formatting, I just want to make sure I get to every question! [Smile]
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Heather
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I'm not sure there really is such a thing as "absolute" comfort with someone else -- or even ourselves! -- but yes, I think I get you.

Let's maybe try this on, while we're brainstorming this together: can you describe for me a sexual situation or circumstance, where you think you WOULD feel as comfortable as possible, that would feel right for you, and that you think would NOT result in panic and anxiety?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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I think I would have to know that the person would still be interested in me regardless of any kind of sexual activity we would be having, in any direction (more or less). It just seems like, in general, once to get to a certain level with someone it’s like the floodgates open and suddenly that becomes the expectations, and there’s no where to go but (1) stagnate, or (2) get more sexually involved (but not necessarily “serious” in an emotional sense, except for seriously more nervous!).
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Robin Lee
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I hope it's okay if I pop back in here. Reading your latest response, Wonder Woman, I'm wondering what you feel makes the other person's interest in sex more important than your interest in it?

--------------------
Robin

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wonder_woman
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I just seems like I'm being unfair or demanding. Its absurd, when I type it out, but that's really how I feel.
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Heather
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I wonder if you have any sense of why what you're saying you want feels demanding?

Because looking at what you posted, I don't see that wanting someone to have interest in you as a whole person -- so long as you're doing the same -- is actually anything more than really basic.

Do you think that another person wouldn't want that, too, or that that's someone asking a lot of someone?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Robin Lee
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So, a comfortable situation for you would be one in which your partner would be interested in you regardless of what sexual activity you did or didn't do.

Can you dig a little more into your experiences with this? I'm wondering particularly if the idea that at a certain point in a relationship certain types of sex have to happen was communicated to you explicitly by any o your partners.

That is, has anyone told you that they wouldn't be interested in you if certain types of sex did or didn't happen? If no one told you, and this is a belief that you've held without explicit corroboration from partners, where do you think the belief came from?

--------------------
Robin

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wonder_woman
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You're right, nobody have explicitly state this. But it feels implied, in that I perceive an adverse or disappointed reaction when I express limitations. (Actually, now that I think about it, I perceive this reaction but cannot be sure that reaction was truly there all the time. It def was there some of the time, maybe not in all cases).
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Heather
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Okay.

What about this: what's the problem with someone being disappointed in a limit you set?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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I think it plays into a stereotype that I developed that somehow, that partners are only ever in it for sex, and so any disappointment comes from an immoral place.
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wonder_woman
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Also sorry my responses are suddenly so short! Partly these questions are getting harder and harder, and partly I'm beginning to realize how out of whack my expectations can be...sometimes I know my reactions might not realistic or even fair, but if they are based on my true feelings about things, that what sort of changes could I maybe make to start having healthier emotions and/or expectations? Or should I strive to change them at all? I always like to think that everyone, myself included, has the right to think or react in their personal ways, but what if what I think or feel isn't realistic or fair to others?
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Heather
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Well, assuming both of you are choosing to engage in sex, you're both "in it for sex," even if that isn't the only thing both of you are in it for.

And that means that either person may experience disappointment sometimes, including sexually. Obviously, morality is personal, so I can't tell you what's moral or immoral, as that's going to be about your own beliefs. But I can say that people experiencing disappointment, sexual and otherwise, is certainly human, certainly happens, and is also something most healthy people deal with just fine. Life is disappointing sometimes, after all, as are our personal interactions sometimes, even when no one is doing anything wrong, you know?

It's okay for you to answer and talk however you'd like and feel good about here.

It is hard for me to go right to what you could do to develop healthier expectations or feelings, because I'm not really sure I have any grasp of the whole scope of things here, or what exactly the trouble is.

Going back, if that's okay, to asking what you feel would make for a healthy, comfortable sexual interaction for you, you said it was about someone simply seeing and treating you as a whole person, rather than as an object, or only as someone they want ONLY a sexual relationship with. Is that still right? If so, I'm not seeing what isn't healthy or sound about that: like I said earlier, that neither sounds demanding, unfair nor unrealistic to me.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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Hm, let me put it this way then. Sometimes I feel like I should theoretically be ok with having sex, since I theoretically don't judge others for doing so with their relationships. However, when I try to practice that attitude, I feel like I get guilt-morality whip-lashed. It's like I will explicitly believe and interact with others in a way that is accepting of their choices, because I do want to believe that there is nothing wrong with sex out of traditional contexts (marriage, or even monogamy), but that I hold myself to a much stricter standard (even though, outwardly at least, I don't want to).

But ok, towards your question, I guess the reason why I might find it "unrealistic" is because sometimes I do feel like relationships (or at least the ones I've had) have been all or none. I'm not sure I've had the fortune to meet anyone who kind of shares my outlook, or I've ruined the potential of knowing someone in a more secure context by trying to "experientially learn" my way to stop being so anxiety-wrought and jumping right in, which basically skips ahead to a very insecure feeling situation.

I think looking forward, I should definitely hold of the physical aspect of relationships until much, much later than I have previously. Any pointers?

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wonder_woman
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ah, and by monogamy i meant "exclusivity"
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Heather
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I'm about to head to bed, but if you're still up, can you perhaps make me a little list of what you want here?

In other words, I still feel pretty unclear on what kind of standards you're talking about, for instance, and what your outlook you're talking about it.

Knowing more about that would give us some direction in talking with you about how to go about pursuing what you want and being more likely to find it. [Smile]

(If you need it, btw, as far as I'm concerned, if people are consenting, sexually or otherwise, and we're not talking about abuses, there isn't a wrong answer in my book about what you want. So, if, just for example, you were to say you only wanted to engage in sex in marriage, and to save sex for way later in a relationship, I wouldn't think there was anything wrong with that, nor that that wasn't an okay thing for you to be wanting.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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Ah yes ma'am! I'll try (there's a lot of mind fluff going on, and I'm pretty tangential on this thread).

OK here goes:
1. So I wish that I could express my sexual side in a way that does not make me feel anxiety-ridden, or ashamed, or embarrassed. I think I'd like be more sexually active, just because it seems to promise a richer life.
2. Previously when I have experimented with sexuality with others, I have felt some-what cheapened by the whole experience, or that somehow it was the wrong thing to do. My guesses for why I feel this way go back to upbringing (which doesn't approve of extra-marital anything), and possibly the fact that all of my experiences were in pretty insecure relationships to begin with.
3. With this in mind, I'm wondering if its worth trying to experiment sexually with a much more established, secure partner in the future, of it might make me revert to all my anxiety?

To clear up the discussion of holding myself to a double standard, what I think I'm trying to say is that my head says "this is the 21st century, and I shouldn't feel bad about sexual experiences with short-term partners, because that kind of thinking isn't helpful to anyone. Doing things that feel good or are fun isn't a bad thing". But my heart literally veers the other direction whenever I try to take this approach in my own life and says, "I feel guilty about this experience, even though physically it's what I wanted at the time, and I don't think I shouldn't feel bad about this"

Thanks for your patience btw

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Heather
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I have yet to feel like you've asked anything at all of my patience, but you're welcome. [Smile]

You say,
quote:
my head says "this is the 21st century, and I shouldn't feel bad about sexual experiences with short-term partners, because that kind of thinking isn't helpful to anyone. Doing things that feel good or are fun isn't a bad thing". But my heart literally veers the other direction whenever I try to take this approach in my own life and says, "I feel guilty about this experience, even though physically it's what I wanted at the time, and I don't think I shouldn't feel bad about this"
And what I'd suggest, and think, instead is more like, "This is the 21st century, where everyone now has more freedom of choice when it comes to their own sexual lives, and a greater ability and more support to choose what *we* want based on who we are, uniquely, as individuals."

What that means is that for someone who DOES want and feel good about more short-term or casual encounters, they get to pick that; for someone who wants and feels good about sex only in the context of romantic and/or committed relationships, they get to pick that.

We're all still different people, who come from different backgrounds. There really is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to any aspect of human sexuality. You clearly now that up until now, and for now, anyway -- maybe for more than now -- what you've been trying isn't working for you. And you may feel like you wish you were someone else in this regard for some reason, but you're you. [Smile] And that needs to be okay with you, and with anyone else you're with intimately!

I'd also add that being sexually active doesn't mean a richer life, or a life someone is more satisfied with because, again, there are a million ways of doing that, a million ways it can go. It's not like sex = good in every situation or context. It has that capacity, just like say, food does, but it's not a given. And trying to be sexual in ways that aren't working for us aren't going to make our lives feel richer, as you yourself have already been experiencing.

I'm getting that you don't feel so hot about your upbringing and some of what it's left you with. That's always something you can work with over time, but I'm hearing you express pretty clearly that, at least for now, you get a clear sense you would feel a LOT better about sex if you were only engaging in it in the context of an ongoing relationships, and one that wasn't just sexual, but where sex was only one part. Does that sound right?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Robin Lee
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Hi Wonder_Woman,

You know, it really would be okay if some kinds of sexual activity, or all sexual activity, didn't feel right to you at this point in time. That doesn't say anything about your politics, your beliefs about what is right for other people, your religious beliefs, or anything else about you and what you think. All it says is that sexual activity with someone else doesn't feel right for you at this point in time.

You know that saying about trusting your gut when making decisions about something? Reading what you've written, it sounds to me like your gut is telling you that, for whatever reason, sexual activity with a partner -- the kinds of sexual activities you've been engaging in, and the kinds of relationships they've happened in -- don't feel right to your gut, your inner self.

I very much get how you wouldn't necessarily like the reasons for this. I also think that, regardless of the reasons, you have every right to trust and not judge that inner part of yourself that is saying that these sexual activities, or these sexual activities in these relationships, aren't okay right now.

What do you think?

--------------------
Robin

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wonder_woman
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Heather: yeah that sounds right. Part of the “ongoing relationship” I think would help me feel like I could handle risks better, because I would ideally know that my partner would be willing work through any problems with risks if they ended up happening and do everything with me to prevent them in the first place.

Robin: Yeah you hit the nail on the head (and Heather, too). But somehow what I think I should be able to handle ideologically or politically isn’t what I’ve been able to handle in practice. This disconnect really really bothers me, for some reason.

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Heather
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Okay!

So, I'd say one of the clearest, easiest places to start is to start setting limits on when you get sexual with sopmeone and with whom. In other words, for now, sex outside of a long-term relationship, a relationship that's been about more than sex for a while, is just a dealbreaker. It's not something you're going to do because it's just not in alignment with what you want or know yourself to feel comfortable with. It's also not something that equals a satisfying sex life you feel good about for you, if you feel better about putting this in a sex-positive context that very much DOES seem in alignment with your politics.

So, do you feel like you know how to frame that, and present it to, with someone who might be interested in sex with you?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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Hm maybe....is this something you would explicitly bring up with someone, or does it get discerned? It seems really formal to say I should always discuss this. But as a general rule I should definitely note that if any relationship seems like its going in the opposite direction I can either back up or call it quits?
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Heather
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Well, I'd say it depends.

For example, if you've been on a couple dates, or hung out with someone a while and they try and initiate something sexual with you, you can tell them that you aren't in the kind of relationship with them, now, or yet, where that's something you want to do. Then you can talk more about that if they want to know what that is.

Or, if you feel like you're with someone you want to get into that kind of relationship with over time, and they seem to be waiting on you to get sexual to give them that clue, you can use your words instead, stating your interest in them and what kind of relationship you want to pursue.

And by all means, if someone seems to be making clear to you they want a kind of sexual interaction or relationship that doesn't fit these needs, you can tell them that. If they aren't down with that, or that doesn't fit their needs, then yep, you part ways in this regard. If they are, or might be, but want more information or time to think pr process, you give them those things. [Smile]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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wonder_woman
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Gotcha...sounds so simple, because really it is. You know, I can't tell if this is how I've always felt, and just never bothered to dig into it until I started having anxious freak-outs. I didn't always have them, its really only been in the past year. Which is strange..but like you said our outlooks and attitudes towards sex will not always be static during our lifetimes.
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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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Well, it might not always be easy.

There can be challenges, for sure, is holding our own limits and not going along when there's a dealbreaker. Too, some people think their only "in" into a relationship is through sex, and that can be a message a lot of women get, particularly.

But for sure, we don't stay the same through our whole lives, in any regard, this area of them being no exception. I'm sure you'll work out how to be a Wonder Woman in this area, too. [Smile] Just might take some time and probably a little more trust in yourself and honoring your own feelings, reactions and limits.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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