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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sex Basics and Sexual Health » WWSVD? (What Would Scarleteen Volunteers Do?)

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Author Topic: WWSVD? (What Would Scarleteen Volunteers Do?)
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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One of the volunteers and I were talking and thought it might be of use or interest to users for those of us who work here, as staff or volunteers, to talk about our OWN habits, choices and approaches when it comes to what WE do to keep our sex lives BOTH healthy and satisfying, not just one or the other.

I think it's easy to assume that people who invest a lot of time in sex education and sexual health simply have everything down when it comes to sex, and automatically get it all going better than anyone else. Certainly, we can often have a leg up, and in some regard, I think that our work-life does tend to influence our personal lives positively in this respect, but that also doesn't happen in some sort of magical, instant way. It also may look a lot more like what YOU do than you might think.

And hey: sometimes it can feel unbalanced here when it comes to how much we know about you, and how little you might know about us. Now and then, it's good for us to be a bit exposed and vulnerable, too. [Smile]

So, this one is for the staff and volunteers (though general users can certainly participate in any way you'd like). I'll add my own answers later, so for whoever wants to get started first, What are some basic things you do in your life and sexual relationships to keep your sex life and personal sexuality BOTH healthy AND seriously satisfying?

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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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JamsessionVT
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 17924

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Oh boy...I suppose I'll kick things off, then.

I've had very few serious sexual partners, mostly because I just never found anyone I was compatible with sexually. I do consider myself to be a very sexual person, and I needed a partner who was similar to me in that regard, otherwise I found myself very frustrated and really at ends with a relationship where the sexual part was very onesided. The partner I have now, however, is very much like me, and though our sexual status doesn't determine how our relationship is going, it has played a large part in bringing us closer to eachother.

So, number one thing for me is making sure the person I am with has similiar needs and wants to mine. Not the same, but similiar.

Second thing, really, is being comfortable and well acquainted with myself. You can't possibly get comfortable during intimicy with someone else if you don't already have an established intimacy with yourself: I know my body very well, I know what feels good and what doesn't, and I've learned how to communicate that to my partner and not be shy about it. Masturbation isn't just a way to get off: it's a way to experiment with myself without the pressures of having someone else there.

Part of being comfortable in my own skin has also come from recognizing and acknowledging my early history of sexual abuse, but not letting that prohibit me from living a healthy sex life. It took me a while before I was comfortable enough to let my partner in on my history, and his support and willingness to let me initiate sexual acitivity when I felt ready was a big deal for me. I've learned to accept what happened to me as a part of who I am now, instead of feeling dirty and guilty, but I don't let that part of my past determine anything in my future.

Last thing (that I can really expand on personally, anyway) is learning to take pleasure in my partner's pleasure. There are times when we're in an intimate situation, and I'm just not responding to what he's doing, for whatever reason. It was so annoying at first, because we'd both be incredibly aroused, but he'd become disheartened with the fact that he couldn't please me. So instead of stopping completely and both feeling frustrated, I'd tend to him instead, and I've learned not only what he likes, but how to take pleasure in pleasing him.

I think a healthy sexual relationship (one that leads to a healthy relationship and life overall) can differ slightly between individuals. What I've found to be true 100% of the time, though, is that it isn't what you already know that's the most important in the long run; it's what you learn along the way.

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Abbie
Scarleteen Volunteer
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iamfree
Activist
Member # 35227

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In my case, it's all about communication. I tell my boyfriend what I like and what I don't (and he does the same with me). we talk about unplanned pregnancy and STDs and we discuss what we are going to do to protect ourselves from them. Also--and this is something that has been seriously wonderful for me--my partner and I made sure we learned about each other's sexual beings and anatomies. This entailed some pretty fun conversations about how it felt to have a period, an erection, etc.
When it comes to my own personal sexuality, I have had the good fortune of having parents who are entirely open and supporting when it comes to my sexuality (no "touching yourself is dirty!" for me!). In fact, I went to my mother when I first needed birth control. That's probably a good thing too, since the sex ed at my school was less than stellar. But most of all, I have found that what helps me most in keeping my personal sexuality healthy is seeking out information about my body. When I was a little girl, I had the book "It's Perfectly Normal" to guide me. Later on, I actively searched for places to learn about sex and everything that comes with it, and I found Scarleteen, which has been a godsend (you rock Heather!). So, even if your sex-ed was crappy and your parents won't have the Talk with you, the very best thing you can do (in my opinion) is actively learn about your sexuality, and ask questions when in doubt.

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Leabug
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I agree with Abbie 100%- it really is all about the things you learn along the way.

My partner and I have had a pretty rough time of it lately due to my health issues, but we've learned a lot, and this difficult time exposed a lot of issues we weren't aware of with regards to our sex life.

I've had basically no libido for quite a while now- with my Crohn's, my guts are nearly always upset and painful, and I'm feeling the effects of malnutrition quite strongly in that I'm exhausted and have almost no desire for sex. This has been tough for my partner to adjust to, because it's basically a 180 degree flip from my sexual personality beforehand.

The most important thing we've learned is that intercourse doesn't always have to be the "main course" per say during sex. I'm rarely feeling up to intercourse, so we've learned that we can have just as much fun even if we only stick to masturbation, manual sex, and oral sex, and we've also incorporated other activities such as massage. I find it incredibly encouraging that my partner has not once held it against me that I haven't felt up to intercourse for nearly a year now (not to say he hasn't missed it, for sure, but he's never been angry at me or accused me of withholding anything).

So that's pretty much the most important thing we do to keep things healthy and sastisfying- we learned to ditch the idea that the only type of sex that counts is intercourse, and have learned to incorporate a variety of other activities when I'm not feeling up to intercourse.

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Lea

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-Lauren-
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Like Lea, I've also had health issues preventing a few different types of sex, though mine is directly linked to the genitals.

Intercourse, penetration of any type, or even touching my vulva altogether (even sitting!) can be out altogether on any given day, and while it's been hard for me to come to grips with that, good communication with my sex partner made it more bearable. Not easy all the time to know that some days my libido will be trampled by pain, but actively working on treatment and accepting any forms of intimacy and expression I can get has helped.

What I have the most difficult time with is remaining sex positive, especially working a spot like this! On my worst days, I sometimes feel bitter about people around me or even here, jealous that it seems everyone has an easier time being sexual than me.

What I do then is step back, take in a deep breath, and screw my head back on straight! I can't know every detail of everyone's sex life; we can't unless we're in the bedroom, too. We make a lot of judgements and comparisons based on what so-and-so says, and stack it up against our own experiences and relationships.

If my comparisons were realistic, everyone has a fantastic time that I miss out on. But we know, from all the work we do around here, that just isn't so. The sex two people are having may not be mutually pleasurable, there may be trust issues, hell, someone MIGHT be suffering silently with pain, in my case. People tend to only report the good when bragging to their friends, and only address one part of the problem when there is something negative to say.

So, to sum it up: come to terms with what I can and can't do to improve my situation, have a partner who will understand, communicate, and accommodate, and do my very best to remain overall sex-positive by putting other people's experiences in context. After all, a good attitude about sex, even if not in regards to your own amorous life, tends to improve things there, anyway. :)

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Leabug
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Ooh, Lauren, I can definately identify with everything you said there too about jealousy. My partner and I had a bit of competition going on with another couple. Our best friends had hooked up and bragged constantly about their sex life to both my partner and I, and our (incredibly mature) reaction was to up the ante and try to outdo them for bragging rights. Then I got sick. It got really hard to deal with hearing about how great things were for them when things were pretty abismal for us at the time.

It can be really hard to be sex positive and not get jealous, and you're right, Lauren, it's really important to realize that you have to do the best you can with what you've got, put things in context, and keep a good attitude.

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Lea

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September
Scarleteen Volunteer
Member # 25425

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My biggest obstacle on the way to a healthy and satisfying sex life has been the abuse I suffered. I got very divorced from my body and my wants and needs and it took me a while to accept the sexual side of me and to learn to enjoy it.

In the process of that, what's always been really big is honesty and communication. I don't think there's anything more important than being able to talk to a partner about anything and everything. Part of that is being honest about my history, being honest about what I'm thinking and feeling, but also being honest with myself and recognizing and respecting my boundaries.

Another big thing is curiosity and a willingness to learn. Funnily enough, despite the fact that I grew up in oh-so-progressive Germany, it took me a long time to really learn about all the 'details' of sex: the fact that condoms aren't the only method of bc out there, the fact that HIV isn't the only STI out there, the fact that piv isn't the only kind of sex that's done. So part of that process has also been to ask questions and do my research and to just generally broaden my horizons.


In conclusion, I think I'm with Abby and Lea here: there's no one recipe for happy, healthy sexual relationships. But if you can communicate well with your partner and the relationship is founded on honesty and respect, you can learn the rest along the way.

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Johanna
Scarleteen Volunteer

"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
Executive Director & Founder
Member # 3

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I'll likely be very random with these, but here I go. I may also add more later. My caveat is that -- and I know I say this a lot these days, mostly because I feel it a lot these days -- I'm the age of a lot of your parents, so suffice it to say, your mileage may vary.

• I make sure that sex isn't the only sensual or physical experience I have in my life. In other words, I don't put all of my sensuality, sensory experiences or physicality in that one place. I roll in the mud and dig in the dirt, take long baths, cook all the time, have a box of good-smelling things I sniff often, create art, hula-hoop, bike, box or dance, go barefoot, slater my skin in lotions without rushing, enjoy tactile things, primally scream now and then, sit with my face in front of a hot fire, spend plenty of time outside. I feel like leading a very multi-sensory life has always amped up my sex life and also assured that I'm not looking for sex to fit the whole bill in that regard.

• I cultivate my solo sex life just as much as I do my sex life with partners. I also choose not to masturbate unless I have time to really savor it, get comfortable, have the kind of time for sex with myself that I like to have with sex with a partner.

• I try to cultivate sexual relationships where we can both/all talk openly about previous relationships and sexual experiences good and bad. Often, talking about what you like and don't means talking about what you have liked and have not with previous partners. I'm of the mind that jealousy is a serious love and sex killer, so I always want to do all I can to embrace everyone's previous experiences and have an openness in talking about them. In that same vein, even in monogamous relationships, I think crushes and flirting are just fine -- and can even help a monogamous sex life -- and do what I can to make that acceptable and allowable.

• It's a longtime given for me to take very good care of my sexual health. Unless I am just broker than broke (I've been uninsured since the mid-80's, and at times things have been pretty awful financially), my annual (or more often, during times when I'm non-monogamous) exams and STI tests are simply a given. As well, I don't do arguments about safer sex: it's also just a given. I know that being safe allows me a comfort and security in the sex I'm having that creates better sex for me, since less worry = more latitude for fun in my book. Plus, someone arguing with me about our safety when we could be having a good time is just a total drag at best, and really ooky to me at worst, so I just don't go there.

• I allow myself the limits I have without getting hung up on them. I have a few things that I just can't do due most of the time to sexual trauma, and it's clear at this point in my life that those things aren't going away. That's okay. Very few people I have ever dated have been able to or even wanted to do everything we could, so I get to be no exception.

• I allow/have allowed myself sexual experiences which are or very well may be only that. I take emotional and sexual risks as personal growth journeys sometimes.

• I think of any new sexual partner as exactly that: new. I don't ever assume someone will like something even if every other sexual partner I have had did, or that I'll like or do the same things with a new partner I did with someone previous. It strikes me as an opportunity, really: sex has been a part of my life for so long that things being new with new people is a joy, not a drag. I've also had a lot of practice making an *** out of myself, so that's not something I worry about in bed anymore. Even if and when I or my partner try something new that winds up more silly than sexy, it's good news: laughter always has a place in my bedroom.

• Personally, it works for me to always make clear that when monogamy is the order of the day, it's always something that can be up for discussion. In other words, we both agree to it, fine, but if either of us at any point wants to discuss non-monogamy, that discussion is never off-limits (nor is that a promise on either of our parts that we'll automatically be okay with changing a monogamous status). I find that doing that acknowledges that relationships shift all the time, and that it nurtures the sense that monogamy is something both of us agree to because it is what we want at a given time, not something we feel trapped in.

• I give myself a lot of room to experiment, and a lot of room to express myself sexually even if I know or feel it might seem or look silly, might not be found sexy by anyone else, might not have a known result.

• I don't ever apologize for being sexual and enjoying sex, even when that's in a context that isn't acceptable to everyone. I have never apologized for being queer for instance, never apologized or been ashamed of the fact that I've been something of a sexual adventurer, never apologized during times when I only wanted casual dating or casual sex rather than something more committed. If it's not doing anyone else harm, and I'm also enjoying myself and not putting myself in harm's way, I figure it's all good, no matter what an outsider may have to say about it.

• I think of my body, everyone's body as a sex organ entire when sex is what's going on. I don't privilege genitals, nor any one kind of sex, which has perhaps always been easier for me having a very wide range of attraction and very diverse relationships. I once found eating an orange as much of a sexual experience as anything else, and it was a very enlightening orange, to which I am eternally grateful. [Smile]

• There is a LOT of talking in my sex life, in and out of bed. A LOT of talking.

I'll also admit that doing this work can create challenges with my sex life. Because people often come here with sexual problems and crises, some days it can leave me feeling like, "Oh, ugh: sex." Sometimes I'm just too emotionally worn out from the stuff here that just breaks my heart to have sex. On the other hand, the effects tend to be fairly limited for me here simply because I'm such a different age than everyone else, so I don't tend to make comparisons often between someone else's sexuality and my own: most of what I see here may sometimes have things in common with some of my sexuality 20 years ago, but very little to do with my sexuality now. If anything -- this is hopefully not going to sound as crappy as I suspect it might -- a lot of what I see here makes my own sex life and sexuality look almost Utopian, and I worry about what I can do to help anyone here enjoy themselves more, but then, it's likely that any of you might feel the same way 20 years from now, too. [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

Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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