Maybe the internet can help!

Something my sisters have observed about me is that i am not very good at the internet. By that I mean that beyond gmail, facebook and maybe NPR, i really find myself not knowing where to go for fun/information/goofy videos/ when i go online. I just never really got around to learning how to enjoy surfing the web, cruising tumblr’s or listening to podcasts.

However, after a *semi* recent breakup i decided, hey, people look to the internet for answers, i may as well cast my net wide and see what comes in. Maybe it was because I was feeling a little lost and didn’t know where to turn to, but i began my quest for collecting data on how people deal with breakups to compare with what was doing to cope.

Whenever I was feeling confused/sad/wanting-to-talk-to-that-someone-that-i-can’t-talk-to-anymore, I would write them letters. We had written each other letters during our relationship, so i had memories of using a pen and paper as a mode of communication with them, so it was therapeutic. I could explain myself without getting push-back, and say things that i didn’t have a chance to say in person. 5279656-Collection-of-different-vintage-letters-with-stamps-Stock-Photo

I realized that it would be unhealthy and unproductive for both of us to ever send those letters. But the process of writing them, folding them up, and putting them in an envelope in my desk drawer felt ok. So that was where i started in my internet quest to seek solidarity in heart break!

Did other people write letters that would go nowhere? Is it ok to write letters that will never be sent? The answer is yes people are doing it and yes it is ok! I found a tumblr with this very idea: http://theletterineversent.tumblr.com/

You can submit a digital letter, or just read the letters written by other people that were never meant to be received. I guess the moral of the story is that even though the internet can be isolating, it can also be a great tool to have your feelings/thoughts validated!

As i mentioned at the beginning, i am sort of new to this, so maybe this is restating the obvious. But maybe there is a special tumblr/site/group out there that can support you in your well being in whatever way you need it.

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Continuing the conversation: Enthusiastic consent!

Trigger Warning: some description of sexual violence and other discussion of lack of consent in links.

The SGA Town Hall on Monday brought together lots of students and administrators to have some really important and engaging conversations about sexual violence on campus. Some key themes regarding consent came up: What constitutes “enthusiastic consent”? What does sexual respect look like? How can we create a campus community where every member puts these concepts into practice and holds each other accountable to the same standards?

In the spirit of keeping the dialogue going, here are some thoughtful, informative, and fun links about enthusiastic consent:

  • Driver’s Ed for the Sexual Superhighway: Navigating Consent — a witty and smart post from the wonderful sex ed resource Scarleteen. Heather Corinna defines consent as “an active process of willingly and freely choosing to participate in sex of any kind with someone else, and a shared responsibility for everyone engaging in, or who wants to engage in, any kind of sexual interaction with someone. When there is a question or invitation about sex of any kind, when consent is mutually given or affirmed, the answer on everyone’s part is an enthusiastic yes….If you want one word to define consent with it’s yes. Consent is a yes a million times over, for the love of all things sparkly, awesome and delicious, and not a minute longer if you want to do it too, please, yes.” This article also has a thorough chart breaking down examples of verbal and nonverbal consent versus what consent is not.
  • Consent is Not a Lightswitch — Jaclyn Friedman, co-author of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape (which also has a great blog), takes down the idea that consenting to one act is consenting to any act, which is so wrong, and instead shows that consent is an ongoing process. I love the combination of sass and wisdom in the article: “Contrary to what seems like popular belief, sexual consent isn’t like a lightswitch, which can be either “on,” or “off.” It’s not like there’s this one thing called “sex” you can consent to anyhow. “Sex” is an evolving series of actions and interactions. You have to have the enthusiastic consent of your partner for all of them. And even if you have your partner’s consent for a particular activity, you have to be prepared for it to change. See, consent isn’t a question. It’s a state. If, instead of lovers, the two of you were synchronized swimmers, consent would be the water. It’s not enough to jump in, get wet and climb out — if you want to swim, you have to be in the water continually. And if you want to have sex, you have to be continually in a state of enthusiastic consent with your partner.”
  • On the Critical Hotness of Enthusiastic Consent — a solid article describing how sexual assault prevention is thoroughly sex positive. The article also includes an amazing comic about sexual respect, boundaries, and consent. Check it out!

I hope these articles can help you keep the conversation happening: share them on your social media outlets (with a trigger warning, ideally — here’s why I use them in case that term is new to you), ask your friends what they think about these issues, or check out events happening elsewhere on campus since there are so many groups doing incredible work around consent, sex positivity, and violence prevention.

How would you like to see Well-Woman continue to engage issues around enthusiastic consent and sexual respect on our campus? Let us know in the comments!

Apply for the LGBTQA retreat!

LGBTQA Student Leadership Retreat 2013:  October 25-27th

Make new friends, build community, experience personal growth and discover leadership opportunities!  We will explore what brings us together within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and ally (LGBTQA) community and how our different experiences create spaces for ally-building and activism. Visit our blog: lgbtqaretreat.wordpress.com

Apply by Friday October 4th, 2013 at tinyurl.com/lgbtqaretreat

 

I went last year, will be facilitating this year, and it’s a blast! Lots of discussion about how identities interact and how to build community, plus time to hang out and enjoy nature.

FREE safer sex supplies are back outside the office!

Free lubricated “male” condoms (PS: did you know you have to pinch the tip when putting the condom on?), “female” condoms, water-based lubricant, and dental dams, available right outside our office in 119 Reid. Haven’t visited yet? Hang a left by the Reid elevators and you’ll be able to spot the table with the supply basket.

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Hooray, free safer sex supplies!

If you have a question about safer sex (from types of protection to making safer sex as pleasurable as possible), contraception, or even a non-sex question, stop by our office hours: staff office hours 1-4 PM Monday through Friday and Peer Ed office hours 7-9 PM Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Columbians Have the Best Sex…Ed

Guess someone’s been noticing our condom basket outside the Well Woman office…

 

According to Trojan’s and Sperling’s Best Places’ list of the top 20 college sex-ed programs (which are measured by the availability and quality of HIV testing, STD testing, sexual awareness programs, contraceptives, condoms, anonymous advice, peer groups, outreach programs, sexual assault programs, health center hours, appointment flexibility, and website usability), Columbia fared extremely well, beating out Oregon State, Brown, Princeton, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for the #1 slot. Typical overachievers.

Better Late Than Never: World Contraception Day!

So, I’m three days late…in writing this post, since World Contraception Day occurs on September 26th. I promise I wasn’t delayed with this post just to include that terrible pun, since scares of unwanted pregnancies are nothing to joke about. If you are having a type of sex that could lead to pregnancy but do not currently want to become pregnant, it’s important to know your contraceptive options!

Check out the World Contraception Day’s Guide to Contraception. If you are a Barnard student, make an appointment with Health Services (there are several awesome contraception experts). There are also several books in the office to get acquainted with your options, but the nurse practitioners are really friendly and great resources, not to mention the ones who will be prescribing you pills or referring you to other forms of birth control. If you are not at BC and do not have much insurance coverage, try to find a local Planned Parenthood. They will help you find low- or no-cost contraception that works for you.

Remember too that condoms are considered a form of contraception, but that safer sex practices must be maintained even when a person is on hormonal birth control or in sex acts where pregnancy is not a risk, such as anal or oral sex. Did you know there are flavored condoms [available in the WW office!] specifically for mouth-to-penis contact? Don’t forget about dental dams [also available at WW] for mouth-to-vagina or mouth-to-anus contact. Anal sex carries high STI risks, so always use condoms with lots of lubricant!

A very important caveat that’s worth restating: hormonal birth control does NOT protect against STIs–only condoms and other latex barriers, used correctly, will protect you from STIs.

I noticed that the vision of World Contraception Day is “a world where every pregnancy is wanted.” For some interesting discussion of the implications of a world with only wanted pregnancies vs. a world with no unwanted pregnancies, check out this blog at RH Reality Check.

Guide to Lube

Check out this helpful graphic about lube.

It’s worth reiterating that oil based lube DESTROYS LATEX! Please do not use oil based lubricants for safer sex. If you are not currently practicing safer sex, either enjoy being abstinent, which remains the safest situation, or please start to take precautions to minimize your risk of contracting STIs or becoming pregnant (reducing it to well under 1% with proper items such as contraception and barriers like condoms)–use latex-based condoms, dental dams, and even gloves to practice safer sex! Please stop by the Well Woman office for free condoms and lube (occasionally some dental dams & flavored condoms as well) in addition to more information about proper use of these items.