Category Archives: Relationships

porn, relationships, and confusion

Dear Sexpert,

I just found out that my boyfriend prefers a certain type of porn a few months into our relationship. When we first started dating, I asked him and he lied to me repeatedly saying he has never watched porn. What he’s into isn’t bad, but it is different than what I was expecting. Is it a red flag that he lied to me when I asked the first few times?

– Confused Viewer

Dear Confused Viewer,

Watching porn is fairly common, and can be a healthy part of sexuality. Unfortunately, it is also very stigmatized, and many people avoid talking about their habits and views surrounding porn for fear of being judged negatively. Watching porn is common among both people who are single and those who are in relationships; in fact, in a large study of people in relationships, 85% reported watching pornography in the last six months (Psychology Today). Some people who watch porn consider it a part of their sexuality that they would like to share with their partner(s); others consider porn something they like to enjoy only by themselves, or something that should be kept private. Others may also prefer to involve porn in their sexual relationships only after becoming comfortable with other types of sexuality together. How someone chooses to watch and talk about porn, if at all, really depends on the individual’s preferences and comfort level. However, let’s talk more about the dynamics surrounding your and your boyfriend’s interactions with porn.

It seems like what you are most concerned about is not the porn itself, but the fact that he lied to you, and that it might be a bad sign. While it’s ultimately up to you how you assess the fact that he lied, it makes sense to consider the bigger picture and reasons he might have done so. Porn is still considered very taboo in society; people have varying viewpoints on the ethics of porn in general, and especially about specific types of porn or the fetishes/fantasies represented in them. Many people who watch porn don’t talk about it with friends or partners, perhaps because they believe it is something to be kept private or they fear adverse reactions. One possibility is that your boyfriend worried that you would disapprove of his watching porn, and was embarrassed or hesitant to tell you. Something else that might contribute to this is myths about gender surrounding porn. It’s a mistaken common view that porn is something only viewed by men. In fact, in the study of people in relationships, 73% of women (vs 98% of men) had watched porn within the last 6 months (Psychology Today). If you don’t identify as male, the mistaken conception that your gender indicates your interest in porn may have contributed to an assumption on your boyfriend’s part that porn wasn’t something you would be interested in or approve of. Also, porn is notably very different than real life sex. It’s scripted and performed for the enjoyment of the viewer, and very often does not portray realistic (or healthy) sexual encounters. You said the kind of porn he watches is “not what you were expecting”; from that, it sounds like what he is into might not be something that’s part of your current sexual experiences together. It is possible some people, like your boyfriend, might be worried that sharing with you what porn arouses him would seem too different from what you do together sexually. There is a big difference between fantasy and reality; some people’s sexual fantasies are not things they would really want to do in real life. Your boyfriend might have been worried that you might assume he wants your sex life together to be like the porn he watches, or that he wants something different. Finally, it is possible that your boyfriend was worried you might consider his watching porn a violation of the boundaries of your relationship, and hoped to conceal it from you.

With all of these possibilities, and possibly more, it seems like the best thing to do would be to have an honest conversation with your boyfriend. It’s likely that a lot of what led to his lying was miscommunication and mistaken assumptions. An open conversation about porn, your sex life, and your relationship could bring clarity and reassure him that what you most want is that you are both honest with each other. Approaching the conversation with an open mind can assure him that you won’t judge him, and allow you to understand the motivations behind his withholding his porn usage from you. It is up to you from there to decide, ideally in conversation with him, what to do going forward. Lying is never a positive in a relationship, but it is not necessarily a red flag. It might instead be a sign that the two of you need to work on having more open communication. However, if it turns out that he withheld his porn usage from you because he thought you would consider it a violation of your relationship, then this might be a more serious issue to consider and talk about. Lying to avoid acknowledging the breaching of boundaries in your relationship is a red flag. If you do consider watching porn to be a violation of these boundaries, it might be best to clearly establish your boundary and ask him his opinions. Your partner should always respect your boundaries and what you are comfortable with, but porn is often a non-talked-about “gray area”, especially in otherwise monogamous relationships. Being clear with each other on your feelings is important going forward.

Porn can (within limits) be a healthy part of one’s sexuality within any relationship status. However, stigmas against watching porn can often cause feelings of shame that result in a lack of communication surrounding porn, including with one’s partner(s). It is completely reasonable to be upset that your boyfriend lied to you, but it is important to have an honest conversation with him about your feelings surrounding his lying to you, porn, and your relationship. From there, it is up to you to assess with yourself what boundaries to set and changes to make in the future, as well as how you feel about his lying to you once you know why.

Best of luck!

– The Sexpert

Resources:

https://www.bustle.com/p/how-to-talk-to-your-partner-about-porn-according-to-a-sex-therapist-1 0 248693 (an article about how to talk about porn with your partner, as advised by a sex therapist)

Sex Toys in Relationships

Dear Sexpert,

I have been dating my girlfriend for about 3 months now. Recently, I’ve noticed that after we have sex, and I’ve seemingly fallen “asleep,” she sometimes reaches in her backpack for her vibrator. The mechanic hum isn’t what keeps me up, but the embarrassment from the fact that sex with me isn’t enough for her. I really care about her, but I don’t know how to confront her about this. What do you think I should do?

Sincerely,

Lackluster Lover

Dear Lover,

Take a breath – this situation sounds challenging but not necessarily something to take personally. Good news, with some open channels of communication with your girlfriend, you will likely find a mutually pleasurable sex life together!

First off, it is important to note that people (more often women-identified individuals) sometimes have more difficulty reaching orgasm (with or without a partner) for any number of reasons. One reason is that traditional depictions of female pleasure often show orgasm resulting from penetrative sex and happening in tandem with a partner’s orgasm — creating that as the model for “how it should work”. Feeling stressed, being distracted/having trouble focusing, not being aroused enough, not yet knowing what feels good, experiencing physical discomfort, etc. can all impact whether or not someone experiences an orgasm.

Your girlfriend’s desire to pleasure herself after sex could indicate a need for trying something different together. If your girlfriend is comfortable masturbating in the same bed as you, then she will likely be comfortable enough to have a conversation about it. Although she’s waiting until after you’re asleep, she’s clearly not trying that hard to hide it from you. You two haven’t been together for that long, so it’s possible that she is apprehensive about bringing this to your attention, or is worried that you will take it personally. But, like I said, it’s important to establish honest and clear ways to communicate about it.

So how do you go about starting the conversation? Well one thing is for certain, don’t wait until she pulls out her vibrator and confront her in a “gotcha!” moment. Instead, bring it up to her over a meal, when you’re just hanging out in your room, or in some other relatively private and comfortable space. Mention that you have noticed her doing this recently, and, if you’re comfortable, express your openness to trying out new things together. Vibrators and other sex toys don’t always have to be used for masturbation; maybe you can try your hand at wielding the mechanical hum. In fact, many sex toys can be used with a partner — some (e.g., vibrating rings) are even made for use during penetrative sex to enhance pleasure of both partners, but be sure to wash your toys thoroughly with soapy water after use, especially if you plan on sharing them between yourselves. You can also use a new condom on toys (e.g., dildo) for each use. Also, if you two often skip straight to penetrative sex, then you might benefit from some additional foreplay to “get things going”. Try oral sex or a sensual massage. Some couples find mutual masturbation (masturbating, individually, near one another) arousing and can also help your partner better understand what works for you.

Anyways, I wish you the best of luck, Lover. These sorts of things can be uncomfortable to initiate at first, but it is likely that, after bringing it up in a mature manner, your sex life (and relationship) will only benefit from the conversations that follow!

Yours,

The Sexpert

Interview with Princeton Plays

In this edition of the Ask the Sexpert Column, we’ll be the ones asking the questions. On December 1st, we had the privilege of the interviewing Jaspreet Kalsi, board member and co-founder of the student group Princeton Plays, the only kink and BDSM community on campus.

Q: Hey Jaspreet, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us. I wanted to start of by asking you to describe what exactly is Princeton Plays?

A: Hi Sexperts, thanks for having me. So Princeton Plays is an ODUS-recognized group that supports an advocacy and education based community that serves for the betterment of Princeton’s health at-large. Princeton Plays seeks to establish an affirming and positive space to discuss matters of kink, provide education both within the group and partnering with groups across campus, promote safe and consensual methods of play, and increase awareness of the social contexts surrounding the kink community so that members will be prepared if they choose to engage in kink in their private or public lives. I should say that, contrary to some of the rumors around campus, we are not a sex club.

How did Princeton Plays get started?

The first iteration of the club was formed in 2014. Back then it was actually called Princeton in the Nation’s Service (PINS), although the LGBT center supported that group, it was never ODUS recognized and sort of fell off after a year or so.

In 2016, I had met a group of five other students who had heard of PINS and wanted to start it up again. We had a serious of informal meetings, essentially a gathering of friends, and over the course of the year we helped create an organized group of about 20. Around the same time we came up with the name Princeton Plays. Our affiliation with the LGBT center really helped in allowing us to grow as a group.

In spring of 2017, the process of becoming a formally recognized student organization had begun. In the Fall of the 2017/18 academic year, we became Women*s center affiliated, SHARE affiliated, and University Health Services (UHS) affiliated. In December of 2017 we became ODUS recognized. At the start of the 18/19 academic year we had about 50-60 people on the listserv and now, only a few months later, we are at about 110 members, and we are proud to say we are not a homogenous group. Also shout out to the amazing Princeton Plays board. The success of the organization has been a true team effort!

You mentioned that Princeton Plays aims to improve Princeton’s health in general. How do you think the club does that?

There are plenty of resources for sexual health [and consent information] on campus – Peer Health Advisers, SHARE peers, and the Student Health Advisory Board. But one area that is lacking is education on alternative sexual practices. I classify these “alternative” practices as anything that would fall under the purview of “kink.” Our definition of kink is one that mostly focuses on fetishes and BDSM.

Princeton Plays has three main principles that center around the betterment of Princeton’s sexual health and wellbeing.

First off, we focus on the educating our members on the physical aspects of kink. If we look at how popular things like 50 Shades of Gray has become, it is obvious that there is widespread interest in alternative sexual practices. There are people on our campus who take part in these kinds of behaviors, and it is important to learn how to do these things in the safest way possible. Just this month, Plays hosted our third rope bondage workshop and we have an impact play workshop scheduled for the near future. No matter how careful you are, mistakes can happen. For example if you’re tying someone up, it is your responsibility to know how do so in a safe way. And similarly, if you’re the one being tied up, it is also your responsibility to know the risks involved.

The next principle is one of community. While kink has gained plenty of traction, it remains to be often looked down upon as “deviant” by a significant amount of the general population. Princeton Plays hopes to create a safe space, where people can come and feel safe, free of judgment for their sexual preferences. For example, at all of our workshops and meetings, we start with a disclaimer which states that members are free to share as much or as little information about themselves as they would like – they don’t even have to give us their name if they would prefer not to. In this community, we hope to practice things safely without having individuals out themselves. Safety and confidentiality are of paramount importance to us. We have a rule which states that any member that is known to share information about another member without their consent is, without exception, banned from the organization.

The third and final pillar is our commitment to improving the scholarly and theoretical discussions on kink. Our unique position as a Princeton University kink club gives us access to resources that other organizations not in an educational setting might not have access to. For example there are scholars and lecturers that can inform our members on the theoretical work behind alternative sexual practices. Plays has aspirations to host a colloquium of university kink clubs here at Princeton. We are already in the process of contacting and organizing. By bringing people together who think about this sort of thing, we hope to improve the field of kink and queer theory while promoting good, educated sexual health practices.

I wanted to ask, since privacy is so important for the group, how do you personally feel being one of the few publicly named members of Princeton Plays?

Well it’s both freeing and nerve-wracking. I grew up in a small, predominantly white town as the only person who wore a turban, so I’ve always stuck out in a way. I think growing up with that experience has emboldened me to always be an individual and to be true to myself. Like, I have aspirations of going to medical school someday. It is of course risky, since I could miss out on some opportunities, but someone’s gotta do it, so it might as well be me. It is part of my religious beliefs that all humans are one, and that we are all equal in God’s eyes and thus we should accept each other as we are and support the health of everyone. I hope that my public expression of individuality will inspire others to be themselves.

How can people get involved?

Email the listserv! If you send an email to plays@princeton.edu you will be put in touch with a board member who can answer all the questions, give you info about meetings.

Anything else you want people to know about Princeton Plays?

We are a community that want to help you be you! No one should be afraid of being themselves, and we hope to share knowledge and community with all those interested.

First-Year Virgin: How should I go about having sex for the first time?

Dear Sexpert,

Now that we’re a month into the school year, it seems like my friends have been hooking up or having sex more frequently than I am.  I feel insecure about my lack of sexual experiences and I would like to lose my virginity. How should I go about having sex for the first time?

–First-year virgin

image of sock on door

Hi first-year virgin,

Sexual debut can be a source of stress for many.  Sometimes, it may seem like everyone else is engaging in more sexual activity than us. Surveys of Princeton undergraduates tell us that about 61% of current Princeton undergrads have one or more sexual partners in the past year, while 39% have had none. Despite what your peers are doing, though, it is important to note that the decisions of when, how, and with whom to have sex are extremely personal ones. Whatever you choose, make sure it feels right for you!

The concept of virginity is a social construct (and a heteronormative one, too) that tends to place unnecessary pressure on those who abstain from engaging in sexual activities or those who abstain from sexual activity other than penile-vaginal intercourse.  Often, losing one’s virginity is considered to be a uniform, landmark event in one’s life; however, a first sexual experience can encompass a multitude of different forms and personal, cultural, or religious significance.  For some, the loss of virginity might include engaging in any form of sexual activity involving the genitals, engaging in new sexual experiences or activities with a current partner, engaging in sexual activities with a new partner, or having an orgasm. That being said, on your quest to expand your sexual experiences, I would encourage you to first think about and define what virginity means to you.  

In thinking about how you might find a potential sexual partner, many students meet people anywhere from their classes and organizations to parties, to dating apps like Tinder or Grindr, or through mutual friends.  When engaging in any sexual activity for the first time, it is important to be aware of boundaries and practice open communication with your partner because first sexual experiences may be nerve-wracking or uncomfortable.  For example, people with vaginas who wish to engage in penetrative sex may experience discomfort upon penetration due to insufficient lubrication and increased friction, stretching of the vaginal walls, or the breakage of the hymen, a membrane covering the opening of the vagina. (Note: breaking of the hymen can occur through other non-sexual activities [e.g., using tampons, exercise] and also may not occur during penetrative sex).  That said, using sufficient lubrication and focusing on foreplay to increase arousal can help ease physical discomfort.  Nerves or anxiety, which may be associated with first sexual encounters, can affect the sexual functions of penises and vaginas alike. For people with penises, nerves may make it hard to achieve or maintain a full erection. For people with vaginas, nerves can prevent natural lubrication of the vagina. Constant communication is another way to prevent nervousness or discomfort before and during sexual activity.

Before engaging in sexual activity for the first time, make sure that you are taking care of your health and safety. Using barrier methods can lower risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI) and, if relevant, contraceptive methods to prevent pregnancy (if you will be engaging in penile-vaginal sex).  It is important to talk to your partner. If the sexual activity of your choice involves penile penetration (of the vagina, anus or mouth), it is important to use an external (male) condom or internal (female) condom to prevent STI transmission.  If fingers will be used to stimulate the genital areas, a finger cot or condom can be used as a barrier.  If you wish to learn more about barrier methods or have further questions about sexual health, you can make an appointment online with a sexual health provider through MyUHS.

I hope this article has reinforced that choices regarding sex are personal, and sexual experiences need not be restricted to a timeline.  Whether you choose to explore sexual experiences with a partner immediately or far in the future, your choices are valid.

-The Sexpert

Information for this article was obtained from Kinsey Confidential and Go Ask Alice.

Not-Into-Intercourse: How can my partner and I be intimate with each other without having sex / what are different forms of outercourse?

Dear Sexpert,

I love my partner very much, but I am not sure that I am ready to have sex with my partner yet. Are there ways to be intimate without having sex?

–Not-Into-Intercourse

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Friends or More: Is the intimacy you have with a friend different than the intimacy you have with a romantic partner?

Dear Sexpert,

I wonder if you think that the emotional intimacy that you have with a friend versus a romantic partner is substantively different?

–Friends or More?

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Unhappy Receiver: What do I do if I am receiving inappropriate, sexual messages from a classmate?

Dear Sexpert,

cell phoneOne of my classmates keeps on sending me inappropriate, sexual text messages that I don’t feel comfortable about. What should I do? I am worried that things would be really awkward between us if I confront them.  

–Unhappy Receiver

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Too Much?: Is having sex 3-4 times per day going overboard?

Dear Sexpert,

Is there such a thing as too much sex? My boyfriend and I are in a long distance relationship so every time we see each other, we have sex about 3 to 4 times per day. Sometimes my vagina feels sore afterwards and penetration becomes painful. With Winter Break coming up, I don’t know whether to be worried or not or how to bring this up with my boyfriend. Please help!

–Too Much or Just Overreacting?

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The Real Girl: What if my boyfriend watches too much porn?

Dear Sexpert,

My boyfriend watches a lot of porn. A lot of porn. He watches porn every night before he falls asleep, even the nights that we have sex; he often wants to watch it to get in the mood before we have sex. It makes me uncomfortable and I have tried to talk to him about it, but he says I’m being controlling and just don’t understand. But I don’t feel like I can be sexually or emotionally intimate with someone who would rather watch porn than be with me.

–TheRealGirl

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Uncertain Sexter: Is it safe to send my partner nude pictures?

Dear Sexpert,

I started a relationship a few weeks ago and I am having a lot of fun with my partner. They’ve been asking me to send “sexy” pictures of myself and I have sent a few. But after reading some articles about sexting, I am not too sure how I feel. Should I be worried? I don’t know how to bring it up since my relationship is pretty new.

—Uncertain Sexter

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Expanding My Horizons: How do I tell my partner I’m ready for oral sex?

Two heads facing away from each other with question marks followed by two heads facing each other with heartsDear Sexpert,

My relationship with my partner has become pretty serious and we’re ready to be more intimate with each other. While I’m interested in experimenting with oral sex, I’m still not ready to do more than that. How do I explain this to my partner without offending them?

Expanding My Horizons

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Dorm-less for the Night: What should I do if I’m being sexiled?

Dear Sexpert,

From what I hear, things are beginning to get hot and heavy between my roommate and his partner.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my room was their final destination after a night out this weekend.  I’ve never had a roommate before, so what should I do if my roommate wants to have sex in our room?  Where should I go?

–Dorm-less for the night

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Digitally Apprehensive: Does online dating work?

Dear Sexpert~

My love life has been pretty slow for a while and I haven’t had much luck meeting people in person. I’ve thought about trying online dating, but I’m too embarrassed to actually go through with it. I’m also worried about safety and being catfished. Do you think it’s still worth a shot?

–Digitally Apprehensive

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Confused Club Member: This my first time having casual sex–what should I do?

Dear Sexpert,

I just joined an eating club, and I’m already excited about all the new friends I’m making! I’ve also started hooking up with someone I recently met in the club. Our relationship is pretty casual, and for the most part, physical. In fact, when we’re eating dinner in a group or hanging around the club during the day, I feel like I’m barely acknowledged. We are both enjoying the physical side of our relationship, but I also feel confused about having casual sex. What should I do?

–Confused Club Member

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