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Wellness Word: February 28

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Everyone who has access to media – whether television, internet or the newspaper – is exposed to numerous and diverse depictions of sex and sexuality. The ways in which sexuality is characterized in the media often dictate whether we regard these sexual practices as normal or abnormal. This can sometimes make us worry that there is something wrong with our lifestyle or sexual preferences.

Everyone differs in what sexual activities they find comfortable or desirable. Whether you choose to be sexually active or decide not to engage physically at all is entirely fine. What is most important is that you and your partner communicate your “dos” and “don’ts” and respect each other’s boundaries.

Many people find it awkward to discuss sexuality openly with their partner. Part of this may come from the worry that they will seem inexperienced. However, no two relationships are the same. Whether you have had numerous sexual partners or are engaging in something for the first time, every experience will be different. It is important to be open-minded and not base expectations on other people’s experiences or on media representations of similar relationships. If you are comfortable enough to be intimate with someone, you should also be comfortable enough to tell them how you feel – and to listen in return. If you don’t feel that you can be honest and open with your boundaries, or your partner does not listen to or respect them, you may want to reconsider whether you should be engaging with them sexually.

Talking with your partner about what you want and do not want to do should occur each time you get intimate. Just because your partner enjoys an activity sometimes does not mean that he or she is always in the mood for it. Asking your partner what he or she desires and communicating throughout can help ensure both you and your partner have a good time. If your partner says “no,” it always means “no.” A lack of “no” does not mean “yes,” so make sure that your partner agrees before assuming that you can go ahead. It is important that the “yes” is genuine rather than stemming from guilt or coercion.

In addition to talking to your partner about sex, using condoms is important. Condom usage is the only way to protect against sexually transmitted infections. Condoms also reduce the risk of pregnancy. Although condoms do not protect from STIs that are spread via skin contact, they significantly reduce the likelihood of getting an STI that is spread through bodily fluid. Also, if you are not in the habit of using condoms or dental dams for oral sex, you may want to consider it, particularly if you have an open sore, cut or burn in your mouth.

If you’d like more information on how to talk to your partner about sex, safer sex and healthy relationships, as well as peer support, stop by the Wellness Center located in Buntrock 112. The Wellness Center is open weekdays during chapel time and from 2-8 p.m.

Sexual Responsibility Week was Feb. 23-27. Wellness Center events included lectures on helping peers with sexual assault, a Condom Olympics event and ‘sexy consent,’ a celebration of healthy relationships. The next Wellness Center themed week will be Health and Wellness week, with events happening March 7-10.

mcmillap@stolaf.edu