Picture this: You walk into the Grille after a Friday night out, ripe with anticipation to take that first, deliciously warm bite into a crispy Dr. Feel Good. Sitting at a lowly lit table with your friends, your buzzer erupts and you spring out of your seat to collect your winnings. All of a sudden, on the walk back to your booth you notice that despite your boundless enthusiasm for this sandwich your supposed-to-be-watery mouth is as dry as a desert. What’s going on?
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I know that I talk all about sex, dating and relationships, but I’ll be honest… a lot of relationship standards confuse the shit out of me. There are too many specific ways for how my partner and I are “supposed to” exist. At the beginning of our relationship, I often found myself questioning if I was doing something because I wanted to or because I was expected to. I’m grateful that my partner and I have such good communication and are both willing to play with our relationship to figure out what works. After workshopping our relationship dynamic, we stumbled into the magical world of Relationship Anarchy (RA).
This semester has really flown by. I know everyone always says that, but I actually have no idea where it’s gone. Feeling stressed and pulled in many directions seems to be a common theme among people I’ve talked to recently. Sometimes I have moments when it feels like my body and brain aren’t on the same page; it can be incredibly frustrating and unfair.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase BDSM? How about kink? Maybe you think about handcuffs, feathers, role-play and Fifty Shades of Grey-type sex. Or maybe you think of Rihanna’s song “S&M,” and maybe now I’ve gotten that song stuck in your head. But I’m here to tell you the BDSM community is actually a large, diverse group of people — and BDSM and kink practices include a lot more than just handcuffs and blindfolds. The complex acronym itself holds a lot within it: Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and submission, Sadism and masochism. So let’s start with the basics. A kink means anything related to sex or intimacy that is outside of intercourse between two monogamous partners. You can think of kinky sex as creative sex, or something that includes fantasies or nontraditional desires. BDSM represents a group of nontraditional (typically sex-based) behaviors that involve some sort of power dynamic. The most important things to know about BDSM are its four main principles of participation: caring, communication, consent and caution. A lot of the time, when we think of power and sex, we think of negative things, including violence. The BDSM community has reworked and reclaimed power in sexual contexts to promote playfulness, pleasure and — most importantly — communication. In the BDSM community and during kink play, deep, planned, specific and ongoing conversations about consent are critical. Part of the pleasure and excitement for some comes from all of the planning and talking and imagining beforehand about what might happen next. And as I always say: consent IS SEXY. Why am I talking about this? It's getting warmer, Covid vaccinations are on the rise, and pretty soon we’re going to see a lot of spring flings. Let’s say you meet up for a hookup (maybe you even downloaded Tinder after my last article ;) ) and find out your partner wants to engage in some kinky activities…what do you do? I always try to check in with my gut feelings. When my partner asked to tie me down to the bed, does my stomach drop because I was excited to try something new, repulsed by the idea or really turned on? Sometimes it's hard to distinguish our feelings and that's OK, as long as you continue to check in with yourself AND your partner(s). Try asking yourself if you’re ready to talk about the logistics of your BDSM practice and safewords, or if you’re interested in exploring some of your kinks — and check out some online videos about safe knots and materials for restraints. Trying something new with someone you trust can be fun and it can also help you understand what just isn’t your thing. So have FUN, kiddos — communicate, be creative and be informed! I did a little bit of digging and got some resources for y’all. Read up! The Ultimate Guide to Kink: BDSM Role Play and the Erotic Edge by Tristan Taormino “Health Care Without Shame: a Handbook for the Sexually Diverse and Their Caregivers” by Charles Moser “SM 101: A Realistic Introduction” by Jay Wiseman “Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Navigating and Exploring the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities” by Lee Harrington and Mollena Williams “Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities” by David M. Ortmann and Richard A. Sprott
We’ve all been there. Literally, all of us have been stuck quarantined in our rooms. It can get pretty boring. And lonely. So it is only natural to download Tinder, right? I mean, it’s a pandemic. If class is online, I guess my romantic life will be, too. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. And maybe you tell yourself you’ll delete it later. You’re just curious to see who’s out there! Ok, great, we’ve justified it — f**k it, download. Time to set up your profile. Obviously you’re outdoorsy, so you gotta include a picture of yourself at the Snow Bowl, but you’re also chill, so definitely a picture at WOMP too. Cute pic at the Knoll? Done. Of course, gotta include a pic with one of the stress-buster puppies. Everyone loves a puppy pic, that’ll get ‘em to swipe right. Now for the real fun: time to swipe. First person you run into is your old FYC. Yikes. They’re kinda cute, but would that be weird? Next person is “Jake, 22” from Dartmouth, followed by “Olivia, 19” from UVM. Unfortunately, those are out of Addison County. Swipe left. Maybe it’s time to shrink the distance. Next one: the guy who rang up your order in town yesterday. Well, it’s a start. After some swiping, you’ll probably match with someone at Midd. Great! Now, what do you message them? Well, there are always canned yet timely pickup lines: “if covid doesn’t take you out, can I?” “Can’t spell quarantine without ‘u r a qt’” and “Is that hand sanitizer in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?” are great (bad?) places to start. You could instead check out their profile and ask them a question related to their interests, or maybe offer a compliment! Also, there’s always the option to be straight up. This is Middlebury, after all, and chances are you’ve seen them around campus.They’ll likely be a friend of a friend anyway, or maybe they lived three doors down from you on Coffrin 4 orange. “Wait, were you in my first year seminar?” When starting something new, especially on a dating app like Tinder, it’s a great idea to talk about expectations. Are you looking for a serious relationship, a friend to eat dinner with at Proc or just a hookup? Whatever it is, it’s important to be honest with yourself and the other person, even if your wants don’t match up. At the very least, they can be someone you whisper “hi” or flash a soft smile to when you see them studying in Davis. So you’ve been chatting, you’re on the same page and you decide to meet up. But what can you even do in these #unprecedented Covid times? Perhaps you can take a tour of Midd’s beautiful campus as the spring weather rolls in, or walk to Otter Creek for coffee and scones. You can also try FaceTiming your date to test the waters without worrying about Covid exposure. Outdoors or online are both perfect pandemic first-date venues. If that goes well, and you catch yourself daydreaming about them in your microeconomics class, it might be time for something a bit more… intimate. If you decide to meet up and suspect it may get physical, have a safety plan in mind. Ask yourself, do I have room in my close contacts? Do they? Am I comfortable being close contacts with them? Don’t forget about STI protection! Have some barrier methods on hand, like internal and external condoms (they’re free at Health Services!). Also, consider telling a trusted friend who you’re seeing and where you’re hanging out. Hopefully it won’t be necessary, but some safety insurance never hurts. Midd’s Tinder scene is a two way street: maybe you’ll find a few new friends, or maybe you’ll have no luck at all! As hard as it is, remember that your self-worth isn’t defined by the direction of someone else’s swipe. Whatever happens, just have fun and stay safe. Years from now, you’ll be celebrating your 25th anniversary with your Marriage Pact match, and you’ll think back and laugh at your Tinder antics. Did my FYC really think I was cute? What’s the BevCo guy up to now? Did Laurie have a burner account to snoop on the student body? Soon enough this pandemic will be a distant memory, and included in it, those bored hours swiping. But for now, enjoy it! Swipe away, little kittens, and maybe we’ll match. ;)
Do you know what an internal condom is? I didn’t until a friend recently brought it up, referring to it as a “sex toy,” prompting me to learn more about it and try it for myself. Here’s a quick overview of the internal condom: It is a non-latex condom you can use in an anus or vagina It protects from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy It is larger than an external condom (the kind that goes onto a penis or sex toy) and therefore protects the skin around the vaginal opening or anus I wasn’t sure exactly how it worked, so I practiced putting it on myself before I tried it with a toy or partner, since most of the time when a condom breaks it’s because of user error, not the condom itself. It was admittedly a bit harder to insert than I was expecting, but it was fun! And once I got it in place, it felt secure. I loved that it offered more surface area coverage than an external condom, and, as a result, I felt sexier with my partner because I was extra confident that I was protected from STIs. I also really liked the feeling of the material. It was silky and warmed up to my body, sort of like the Trojan “Bareskin” external condom. It is also completely covered in lube, which made things slippery and sexy and meant I didn’t have to get up to grab a bottle of lube. Fun fact: people with vulvas are way more likely to orgasm if lube is used! The only thing that was wack was the noise factor: when I was using the condom, it made sort of a crinkly sound. But then again, it’s pretty normal for sex to be loud. Next time, I’ll just turn on some music. Overall, I’m stoked that I have another barrier method in my repertoire! A lot of people think that the external condom is the only form of protection one needs, and while it’s a great option, that doesn’t mean it should be the only one. I encourage other folks to try it out if you’re interested. Do a little research and you will find tons of fun things about it. For example, you can insert the condom up to eight hours before sexual contact, meaning that with a little foresight you can be lubed up and ready to go well beforehand. Some insertion tips for folks who want to try it out: do not use the inner ring if you are inserting it into an anus, and make sure the inner ring is secured against your cervix if inserting into a vagina. Make sure it’s really up there and maybe even give it a tug to make sure it’s in place. Then, the most important part is to hold it in place while you are inserting whatever you are inserting — and have fun with it! Stay safe and stay lubey, The Sex Panther
Hey MiddKids! I’m back just in time to answer all the Covid-19-related sex questions you didn’t even know you had. There’s nothing like six months with your parents and siblings to prepare you for the new and strange social landscape that is this semester. Navigating our social lives in college was hard enough when we could touch one another, and with the new Covid-19 regulations, the Middlebury social scene has practically become uncharted waters. In Phase Two, we've been told to pick four — and only four — close contacts to associate with. This makes any flirtatious, Proc crush-esque romances seem more unattainable than ever. Being told you can only interact closely with four people for the foreseeable future is very daunting. Do you choose four of your best friends? Do you leave a spot open in hopes of a new intimate partner? Do you sacrifice one of your closest friends for an already established partner? Were you looking forward to having more than four partners? These are all tricky questions with no obvious answers. I’m here to give you some tips and tricks for navigating sex and intimacy when DFMO’s, one night stands and random hookups are off the table (or at least more complicated than they used to be). Remember that you do not need to be having sex. The Covid-19 pandemic is a really scary time, and possible transmission of the virus is enough to make anyone want to take a break from — or choose not to start — physical intimacy. Also, for many people, sex is not a part of their lives for a little time, a long time, or ever — pandemic or not — and that is perfectly normal. But if you do find yourself wanting a partner or sexual intimacy, here is what I have to say: As the self-proclaimed Sex Panther, I know that being deprived of physical contact for six months leaves a lot of people craving intimacy and pleasure; maybe even a DFMO (there I said it). And coming back to this weird, dystopian campus is not exactly conducive to the sex lives that people may want or expect on a college campus. Communication is the key to Covid-safe sex (and all sex, literally). Communicate your boundaries — know what your partner has been up to (are they following Covid-19 guidelines…?), know who they have been seeing, tell them who you have been seeing and what you are looking to get out of your time together. Just making out? Cool. Something more with those face coverings on? Nice. Condoms and dams non-negotiable while we wait for more research on the virus? #science. Direct communication about what you want and don’t want is sexy and can build trust (also sexy). Maybe Covid-19 is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to step up our sexual health conversation skills, and the pandemic is the masterclass we all didn’t know we signed up for. Whether you are looking for snuggle buddies, multiple partners or want to make full use of the four-person close-contact limit, here are some things to keep in mind: 1) These guidelines are in place to help us, not just to complicate our sex lives. 2) Keep a running list of your hookups if you didn’t already (c’mon, we all think about it sometimes…), even if it was a one-time thing or they were a close contact for less than a hot second. This will be extremely important if contact tracing becomes necessary. 3) 2020 is the time to practice your safest sex yet! The Covid-19 virus has been found in poop and semen which means condoms, dental dams and other barrier methods are some of the best tools we can use to protect against STIs, unwanted pregnancy and Covid-19. 4) Don’t just wash your hands, wash your sex toys too! Check the packaging or manufacturer's instructions for the best cleaning method for your toys. It could be hot soapy water, a 10% bleach solution or something else. 5) As I said earlier, communication is key right now and becomes even more pertinent when you are having sex with new or old close contacts. Keep talking! Good luck, and stay healthy! xoxo, Sex Panther
The more I reflect on my four years at Middlebury, the more I am overwhelmed by how much love I felt for my friends and how loved by them I felt in return. In honor of this week’s Love Issue, I reached out to a few senior friends and asked them to answer a couple questions: how they defined love at Middlebury, if there was anything they wish they had realized sooner or done differently with regard to love during college, and when they felt most loved at Middlebury. When I reflect on those questions, I always gravitate towards two moments. The first was during the last week of my junior fall, when I was living in Palmer. One night, my friends congregated in the suite across the hall from ours, about 15 people were seated around the room in a loose circle, on the floor, on top of desks and on chairs we had crammed into the suite. One friend, splayed on one of the room’s two twin beds and with a beer in his hand, was receiving a stick-and-poke on the back of his calf. Conversation zipped by and around me as I sat on a lofted bed, next to a best friend and a more-than-a-friend. I felt like I was being held in place by the threads that wove around the room, in between people, across my lap and through my two shoulders. It was quintessentially, even obscenely college-esque; still, it remains one of the best nights from the last four years. The second moment that comes to mind is from the last week of my senior year. On Wednesday, the day following the announcement of our untimely departure from campus, my friends and I rallied for a 4 p.m. Mad Taco salute. Over margaritas and overpriced but decent Mexican food, my six closest friends and I tried to come to terms with what it meant to say goodbye to Middlebury, well before any of us felt ready to leave it behind. When I asked everyone to remember when at Midd they had laughed the hardest, we were left in hysterics remembering all of the famous and infamous moments of pure, belly-shaking, tear-inducing laughter we’d had over the years. Someone once observed that my friends and I are always laughing; until then, though, I never realized just how apt that description was. Right then, as we felt our collective chapter at Middlebury closing, I felt unmistakably, completely loved. That moment with my friends is one of hundreds that I can think of where I felt completely loved, but this one just happens to be my favorite memory of a chapter closing. If nothing else, college helped me understand how I love. I guess that is how I define love at Middlebury: putting aside your time and stress to take a moment to care for someone else, whether that is making them a cookie, or just taking the time to be quiet and present together. In my experience, I have felt the most love in quiet, routine moments: mornings in bed with someone, homework in the library, rambunctious lunches in Atwater and prolonged dinners on the Proctor terrace. I wish I had realized sooner that these small moments of love would be what I would carry with me after I left Middlebury, but I am so grateful to always carry them with me. Without further ado, here is how people responded to my prompts. When asked how they define love at Midd, they answered: For me, love at Middlebury is defined by my incredibly kind, smart, funny, thoughtful, perceptive closest friends who, after four years, are like an extension of myself. I wish everyone at Midd the same deep-rooted, immutable happiness of knowing, beyond all doubt, that you’ve found your people. I still can’t really believe that we all ended up here together— what are the odds? That infamous Middlebury statistic proved true for me: here, I found my soulmates. I define love at Middlebury the same way I define it everywhere: an intangible sentiment that draws us to people indefinitely in both romantic and platonic contexts. A meaningful and fulfilling connection between two people that allows each individual to bring out the best in themselves. In essence, love is when two (or potentially more) people come together and are more than just the sum of their parts. I would actually say in my time at Middlebury I have more often come to love someone or some group in a non-romantic way than in a platonic way. When asked what they wished they had done differently or realized sooner, they answered: At several points, I remember saying to friends, “There’s just no one left here that I’d be interested in dating.” Of course, that never turned out to be true, and a week or two later I’d meet someone great who I never knew existed. I wish I had had more faith in the dating pool at Middlebury. It’s a cliche, but when it feels like you’ve exhausted your options, do try to keep an open mind— you truly never know who you’ll hit it off with. I was single for a lot of Middlebury and for some reason I always felt this kind of guilt. I knew hookup culture wasn't ideal, but I always felt bad for getting into brief one-to-two month relationships, only to bail out before it got really serious. Now that I'm really happy in a relationship, I see how stupid that mentality was; unless things really feel right, its pointless to feel guilty about not wanting to commit to something, as long as you communicate with the "other" partners ahead of time. I wish I hadn't felt so rushed to find a long-term romantic partner. This had little to do with Middlebury itself, but I came into college on the back of a long-term relationship, and the only kind of relationship I was interested in was one where I could fill that deep void I had for a very close romantic partner. I think I missed a lot of the growth and learning associated with more casual dating and romantic encounters, and I wish looking back I hadn't been so concerned with something you ultimately cannot force. It either happens or it doesn't, and I shouldn't have been so caught up in it all. When asked about when they felt the most loved at Middlebury, they responded: One friend would make me soup whenever she noticed I was sad. There is no sadness that cannot be eased (at least in part) by a cup of hot, homemade soup. I think it was after I went to Nationals this senior year, and all my friends were hitting me with a slew of supporting messages, asking me how it went. It showed me how much they care and it hit me in a really special place. The moment I felt most loved at Middlebury, though there have been many other instances where I've felt loved as well, was on a day of no particular importance. I had been feeling a bit down on my luck for a variety of reasons, and I had gotten through the week just putting my head down, not saying anything to anyone else, and keeping all that sadness to myself. I didn't think anyone would really notice, but that Friday morning when I walked into the dining hall, someone had thought to bake me a batch of cookies because they thought it would be a pleasant surprise and make me happy. I highly doubt they knew I was having a rough week, but the reminder that there are people out there, and especially my friends, who do genuinely care about me, changed my entire week. Sometimes it's the smallest acts of kindness that go the farthest. I still have the ribbon that tied that bag of cookies shut to this day.
Well, last week was crazy ... to say the least. But just because I’m no longer on Middlebury’s campus doesn’t mean that I will stop doing my best to continue as your trusted Sex Panther. I’m sure everyone’s last week on campus got quite jumbled romantically. I know mine did. I’m usually a very pro “no regrets” person, but your girl/panther has got some serious regrets. The end of days really makes you do some crazy things. It also gives you a phenomenal excuse to rationalize getting rejected — for example, if someone ghosts you, it's because it's the apocalypse, right? Speaking of ghosting, one of my biggest regrets about my de facto senior week is neglecting to include my phone number on my crush list. Granted, my crush list was up for all of two hours before it was quickly removed from its shrine on the bulletin board outside Proctor. A day later, when the dean of students kindly gave the green light to seniors to post them, I was so happy to see the wall filled with lists. I loved seeing everyone not only shooting their shots, but showcasing how much they love their friends through creative mediums like paper plates and Spotify playlists. In honor of those brave seniors and the spirit of shooting your shot (pandemic or not!), I compiled all the best coronavirus references from dating apps I have been scanning as I shelter in place at home. What better way to pass the time than to chuckle at the bravado and audacity of horny singles, couples looking for a third and people who are “ethically non-monogamous” (trust me, this one shows up a lot)? Without further ado, here’s a selection of my favorites. “Let’s go on a quarantine date!” “Shelter in place and chill?” “Quarantine and chill?” (I cannot even describe how many times I saw this one, and how irrationally angry it made me ...) “Corona and chill?” “Catch me before corona does.” “Be my quarantine partner! 6’5”, if that matters” (I don’t want to say that it does, but yes, Steven, it does.) “Yes, I have toilet paper, but you’re not invited. Netflix and FaceTime?” “Sorry, I don’t have extra toilet paper or Purell, but I do have Netflix and a strong immune system, so let’s watch Narcos?” “I’ll die drinking these Coronas before that weak a** virus gets to me.” “My dearest madams: Seeking a pen pal with whom I can exchange Jane Austen-style letters until this madness passes. Very much obliged, Adam.” (Accompanied by a decidedly modern shirtless selfie … Mr. Darcy would have at least worn a cravat.) “Funny how you end up on this app when you’re bored. So, on that note… Where the quarantine queens at?? I’m pretty sloshed in the first picture.” (As if that justifies the lack of a shirt ...) “Social distancing is the new dating; not looking for anything serious right now.” (Is anyone?) “If coronavirus doesn't take you out, can I?” “Don’t know if it’s the coronavirus or you that took my breath away.” “We’re under a three week house arrest with our laptops and phones. If they leave you on read, they just aren’t that interested.” (OK — ouch, little too real.) “If you have symptoms plz don’t swipe, lol.” And an honorable mention completely unrelated to coronavirus content: “Not trying to see titties, just personalities.”
About two weeks ago, I was catching up with some friends from home and we got to talking about our love lives. I won’t bore you with the details, but the first conversation I had was with a friend who was telling me about the boy from her new “situation-ship”. She had known him for a while and the two finally went on a first date. When the date was over, they returned back to this house where they proceeded to hook up. While they were hooking up, my friend stopped to say that she wasn’t ready to have sex. Her date instantly became distant and cold. When I spoke to her two days after their date, she felt unsure as to whether or not she regretted saying no to having sex. By choosing to not have sex, even though that was clearly his expectation for the night, she felt that she had messed up her chance to be with him. And just a few days later, I talked to another friend about her current “situation-ship.” The boy she was seeing had recently gotten out of a serious, long-term relationship that began in high school. After going on dates for about a month, they were now trying to move beyond goodnight kisses. Once they did, they found it challenging being more intimate. The more they kept trying to have sex, the more it just did not work. She felt like she was doing something wrong, and he felt like he was letting her down. When I asked her whether it was important that they have sex, she responded that it was not; she felt like having sex was something they ought to do. We got to talking about how many times we’ve said yes to having sex because it was expected, not because it was something that we decided we actually wanted. Just how many times have we adjusted our expectations to fit the other person’s? The advice I gave my friend was to take sex off the table. We both expressed that it felt like once we had lost our virginity, we had inadvertantly broken the seal and suddenly sex was expected almost every time we hooked up with someone. We lamented the days when there was a seemingly linear progression of intimacy: the first kiss, then going a little farther than kissing … and, well, you get the picture. My friend’s partner probably felt an immense amount of pressure. She was the first person he’d had sex with since his long-term girlfriend; not only did he want to make her happy, but he also did not want things to end because of their intimacy problems. Being with him was more important to her than having sex right away, and taking sex off the table meant they they could get more comfortable with the idea of building emotional intimacy — and from there, sexual intimiacy. Ultimately, you’re allowed to have whatever relationship with sex that you want. There is a lot of pressure to form a relationship with sex that is casual and devoid of intimiacy in hook-up culture. As I approach my last semester of college, the ongoing importance of sex and role of sex in my life is frequently on my mind. Where I have landed is that until I can decipher what my expectations are and how I want to communicate them, my relationship with sex is being defined by the people I have sex with. For that reason, taking sex off the table might not be such a bad thing. For my friend with the intimacy dilema, taking sex off the table was an opportunity to build a relationship without the pressure and expectations that came with introducing sex before they were both ready. For my friend with the post-hook-up frozone problem, taking sex off the table meant that she didn’t go farther than she wanted to for the sake of meeting his expectations. Whether it is because you want to evaluate your own relationship with sex, build your emotional connection with someone or stay true to what you want, considering taking sex off the table is the only diet that I will be supporting in 2020.
Hello, everyone, and welcome to cuffing season! As many of you have noticed, the frigid arctic has begun to descend upon us. As the temperatures drop, the number of couples sky-rocket. For those looking for alternate ways to get cuffed this year (especially coming into J-Term), might I suggest using this as a convenient time to act on your dissatisfaction with Middlebury’s hook-up culture and asking someone out on — wait for it — a date? (You also do not need to be cuffed nor do you need to want to be cuffed to do so; friend dates are amazing too.) At Middlebury, a lot of the time we’re scared that the person we are into is less into us than we are to them. Asking someone on a date is perceived as the opposite of playing it cool (you know, because it conveys that you are actually interested in the person in a more profound way than wanting to sleep with them occasionally). While everyone defines labels like dating slightly differently, I personally don’t think you get to say you’re dating someone unless you’ve been on a date. At the same time, going on a date doesn’t mean you’re in a relationship — it just means you want to get to know the person better in a setting which isn’t dependent on you guys hooking up (no, “Netflix and chill” does not count). That brings us to the dreaded “date.” I feel like I say this all the time, but I am incredibly perplexed as to why more people don’t go on dates here. Sure, I mean, I know we live in a small town, but come on — there are so many different, fun things to do for a date at Midd. So let’s spice up cuffing season and add asking people on dates to the mix. As your trusty Sex Panther (someone who passionately dislikes hook up culture here) I’ll even do some of the groundwork for you and review some local establishments for their date potential. This week, I’ll be looking at Otter Creek Brewery. If you are in need of a date location and activity that is removed from the prying eyes of Middlebury, you should consider Otter Creek Brewery. Don’t worry, I have been to said brewery on two occasions now. Granted, on both occasions I was with friends, but I still feel qualified to review it for maximum date potential. The ambiance is fun and flirty. They have live music on Friday nights (which could honestly be a great distraction if your Panther of choice turns out to be a less-than-ideal love match). Their staff are friendly and helpful. You definitely don’t need to be an avid beer drinker to go, because the staff will resourcefully guide you towards a beer you can enjoy without grimacing. You can order a flight (small samples of a few different beers, which screams “I’m adventurous ... but also indecisive”) or a full-sized beer (which whispers, “I like commitment”). They have delicious nachos and wings (but maybe save the messy wings for the second date — unless you think you look cute with barbecue sauce on your cheeks). Their hot sauce is delicious, too, and everyone knows that hot sauce tolerance is directly correlated with fun potential. Another awesome thing about Otter Creek is that their taproom has a huge window that overlooks the floor where beers are canned! That way, if you run out of things to say, you can use the window to spark a lively conversation about supply and demand, or a cost-benefit analysis of capitalism (hot). It is a little bit of a drive off-campus, but this affords you some welcome privacy and anonymity. Grabbing a beer is a great, low-stakes way to get to know someone and a great excuse to get off campus and be around people who aren’t Middlebury college students. No longer are you confined to the artificial party makeout scene. In the event you go with the intention of getting drunk, though, you should arrange a DD. So, if you feel dissatisfied with how cuffing season is going for you, or how hook up culture here is performed, consider asking your crush out on a date. Good dates are like good I.P.As — they put a little hop in your step. Dates don’t have to be scary or boring. In fact, they might even allow you to show your best self — you know, in a way that isn’t always possible in an Atwater suite, where you drunkenly scream over the 2019 “Big Booty Remix.” Otter Creek is just one of many options for a date location. Stay tuned for next week when I explore another one!
This week’s column is the second installment in a multi-part series on STIs. For part two of my series on sexually transmitted infections (STIs), let’s dive into whether you should use protection or not during sexual encounters of the third kind (oo, spooky!). Spoiler alert: you should probably just use protection. The only condition where it is ok to forego using protection to avoid STIs is if you are with a partner you trust completely, who you know has been tested for STIs and does not have any. Your relationship with your partner may be monogamous (oo, monogamy — even spookier!) or your partner may have other partners — just make sure they are using protection with their other partners, or that you know everyone involved is STI-free. There are a few important things that I’ve left out of the map (in the print edition) — for instance, if you’re going rollerblading, you should wear knee pads for a different kind of protection. On a more serious note, there are lots of different ways that sex happens, and you should make sure you are protected for all of them. For example, using a dental dam or a condom is the only way to protect yourself from getting an STI. If you’re planning on any kind of anal penetration, you should use a condom and lube. If you are planning on both vaginal and anal penetration, do not transition between the two willy-nilly. You need to use a new condom if you go from anal to vaginal. Don’t go between the two without either removing the condom and putting a new one on, or calling it quits after the “butt stuff”. The bottom line is that pure trust is not only scary, it’s also risky. If you have any kind of icky feeling that you should be using protection, then use protection. There’s no one size fits all approach to sex and protection (although all condoms are the same size...). When in doubt, just use a gosh-darn condom or dental dam! And, if you want to make protection fun and Halloween-themed this weekend, find someone on SPECS and beg them for a glow-in the-dark condom. Stay tuned next week for part 3 of my series on STIs: how to ask someone to use protection (oooo, asking — spookiest!).
This week’s column is the first installment in a multi-part series on STIs. Gather around the fall leaf-fueled campfire; let’s talk about STIs. I’ll start by saying that you should not be having unprotected sex, unless you’re certain that your partner doesn’t have an STI, that you don’t have an STI and that you’re unable to become pregnant (either because of the kind of sex you’re having, or because you’re taking a backup birth control method to avoid pregnancy). Sure, using protection is a great first step, but you should probably have an understanding of what you are protecting yourself against. When I use the acronym STI, I mean Sexually Transmitted Infection, not Subject To Inspection or Star Trek Insurrection (just to clarify for anyone who never had the pleasure of their eighth grade P.E. teacher explaining what chlamydia was in front of a classroom of terrified pre-teens). STIs are transmitted through sexual contact. The most prevalent STIs are chlamydia, gonorrea, syphilis, HPV and HIV. Over the last five years, there has been an increase every year in the rate of people contracting STIs, making them a lot more common than you might think. While rates of teen pregnancy are dropping (hurrah!), rates of STIs are rising (oh no!). By no means are we immune to STIs within the Middlebury bubble. It is estimated that one in four college students will contract an STI. Now, you may think that you’re one of the 3 who won’t get an STI — and by no means am I implying that you’re just a statistic — but there is definitely a much higher chance that you will get an STI than you should be comfortable with, especially if you’re having unprotected sex (and no, the “pull-out method” does not count as protection). Almost half of the people diagnosed with STIs in America are 15–24 year olds, putting us, as college students, at a very high risk. The bottom line is that if you’re sexually active with multiple partners (or heck, even one regular partner) you should get tested regularly. Often, the symptoms of STIs don’t present themselves. For instance, the only physical symptom of HPV is genital warts (again, super common — you should definitely get a pap smear to check for abnormalities next time you go to the OB/GYN, even if you don’t present any physical symptoms). The STI most commonly contracted by college students is chlamydia, which often goes unnoticed for long periods of time (if and when you experience symptoms, they include burning sensation while urinating, abnormal discharge or itching rash). You can’t tell who has an STI just by looking with the naked eye. Did you know that Vincent Van Gough lived with untreated syphilis? I sincerely hope that you don’t want to go the way that Gough did (ha, ha), because untreated syphilis can lead to blindness and infertility. I know that you’re probably thinking you share very few lifestyle similarities to Vincent Van Gough, but hear me out. Rates of syphilis have been increasing over the last few years (despite the name syphilis sounding like it belongs in an old-timey, black and white movie). The symptoms for the first stage of syphilis include chancres on your genitalia, which are easily mistakable for pimples. The sores are super contagious, so if you’re concerned, get tested immediately. The good news about STIs (at least for the bacterial ones like syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia) is that they’re curable by antibiotics if caught early. The even better news is that you can get tested for free at Parton — without any need for insurance, or parents finding out! You can get a prescription for birth control from Parton, too (and you can get it delivered to Parton, instead of the pharmacy), as well as a prescription for an HIV prevention drug like PrEP or Truvada. You can get tested for free at the Planned Parenthood in Middlebury. Any kind of surgical birth control (such an implant or IUD) is available there too. Yes, the idea of getting an STI is scary, but there are resources and information available to you. So the next time your partner tries to dissuade you from using protection because it doesn’t feel good, kindly remind them that neither do STIs. If you want to be having responsible and informed, unprotected sex, start by getting tested — and stay tuned for part 2 of this series on STIs.
At Cocoon the other night, a short prompt, written on a small piece of paper, was handed out to the audience. We were asked to fill in the blank of “the last time I bounced back from something was…” Later in the night, amid some other responses, a submission was read aloud: “The last time I bounced back from something was when I realized that it was better to be alone than to be lonely in a relationship.” This statement was met with a sounds of agreement and knowing head nods. This got me thinking all weekend about what the connotations of being alone are here at Middlebury (and I’m equating alone here to not being in a relationship). I have decided on an amendment to the Cocoon-goer’s response — but first, let me explain what I mean by the “connotations of being alone at Middlebury.” First of all, it is a fundamental human desire to feel like you belong. Here, though, it seems like that desire is multiplied tenfold. Middlebury is a place where we are defined just as much by the people around us as we are by our accomplishments and the things we do. The population of Middlebury is pretty damn self-selecting, with the most important admission criteria being an affinity for the Green Mountains, a tolerance for sub-freezing temperatures and whether you like fair trade granola or not. There is a satisfying edge to talking about how busy we are — which breeds an almost gluttonous approach to life here at Middlebury. We are all so busy chasing success (working, socializing, generally over-achieving) and we congratulate ourselves for it, despite the hours of sleep we miss out on, the accumulation of darker and darker circles under our eyes, or the times that we forget to stop and look up at the changing fall leaves. My theory is that the Middlebury brand of loneliness comes from us being scared that being alone reflects that we are incapable of being truly successful here. Middlebury is a lonely place, more so at times for some people than for others. Still, while this loneliness varies in degree of severity, it might just be one of the constants of the Middlebury experience. Anyone who has experienced walking back from the library at 12 p.m. during winter finals will tell you that the barren landscape doesn’t exactly foster a sense of community. I truly believe our deepest fear as Middlebury students is to be isolated, because isolation implies “aloneness.” Perhaps we fight to prevent the creeping sense of isolation by establishing safeguards that we then decide define success at Middlebury; staying busy doing something worthwhile, surrounding yourself with friends that you may or may not be happy to be defined by and — if the dating scene here/the universe so dictates — being in a relationship. Even when we establish these safeguards, we feel that there is something wrong with us which has rendered us isolated and alone because somehow the loneliness seeps in somewhere. Let’s face it, it is impossible to balance everything. People who aren’t in a relationship feel like they are missing out on what they’ve been taught is an essential collegiate experience, while people who are in a relationship feel like they are missing out on time with friends and feel isolated from their “alone” peers. Whenever the Middlebury loneliness comes knocking on my door, it makes me ask myself: What am I doing wrong? But I would never look at anyone that I love who is alone and ask them what they are doing wrong. Maybe the solution is to stop treating the people we surround ourselves with and the accolades we add to our resumes as vanguards against loneliness. Instead, we should use them as tools to get to the other side — belonging. Perhaps all we need to foster belonging is to realize that we all feel lonely. Talk about it, admit defeat and distress. Use your safeguards (friends, hobbies, engaging with things you care about) for catharsis, even if it just means feeling a little less alone for a couple minutes here and there. So, I guess my amendment to the anonymous Cocoon audience member’s response is this: I would rather be happy being alone but be honest about being lonely, than be unhappy in a relationship.
For those of you who are not familiar, DFMO stands for “Dance Floor Make-Out”— which, whether we like it or not, is a time-honored tradition at Middlebury College. On Sunday mornings, DFMOs form a classic, confusing topic of discussion at tables in Proctor or Ross. The perplexing nature of the DFMO lies in both the complicated set of circumstances which lead to two often very sweaty people swapping saliva; the particular nature of the DFMO; and the DFMO’s implications, or aftermath. By nature, DFMOs vary. Variations hinge on whether or not the making out was limited to the dance floor; whether or not both parties parted ways immediately afterwards; if the making out (and possibly more!) continued in one of the two parties’ dorm rooms; if numbers were exchanged; and, lastly, whether there continues to be mutual interest in making out, whether it be on dance floors, in dorm rooms or even on Battell Beach (not a bad option, if you don’t mind the mosquitos). Arguably, the most confusing part of the DFMO is what turns the singular DMFO into the plural. During the course of my research, it became clear to me that the quality DFMO itself is not what guarantees that fateful next-morning-text, or else the inevitable — and interminable — awkward encounters in line at the dining hall. Instead, it is the circumstances surrounding the DFMO which have the potential to keep it to a single, one-time thing, or else bring about future, plural DFMOs. My in-depth research has indicated that there are three distinct categories of DFMO in particular: the random DFMO, the blind DFMO and the icky DFMO. The random DFMO is, of course, completely random. There is generally a complete lack of expectations from either party about a shared future and so, as a result, this particular form of the DFMO rarely leads to relationships … unless the random makeout session becomes a pattern, and names and are eventually exchanged. (Or if the pair happens to meet somewhere civilized, like the library, and decide they like each other’s faces in daylight or voices when they aren’t screaming over the thumping bass of “Mr. Brightside”). The blind DFMO is one in which both parties simply need a forum to hook up — one that isn’t a formal “date.” Middlebury isn’t exactly a place where people get asked out on dates without casually hooking up over the course of a semester and then forcefully asking themselves almost a year later, “wait, uh ... are we dating?” This kind of DFMO, in which both parties have expressed a prior interest and the Atwater dance floor simply acts as a social lubricant, seems to be the most successful model for creating a relationship. The essential nature of both the random and blind DFMO is that they should be fun, flirty, and (so long as the DFMO is not premeditated) all expectations ought to be left behind, like PBR cans on the sticky Atwater floor. Now that I’ve defined what the DFMO should be, it is easier to talk about what it shouldn’t be. Above all else, the DFMO should not be something born out of intimidation or obligation. We have all probably seen — or, for many of us, experienced — a situation that felt or looked wrong. I can remember one of my first DFMO experiences freshman year and the subsequent “dish” session that occurred in Ross the next morning. What happened is not that important; what is important is that I was left feeling unsettled and uneasy about what had transpired. For one thing, my understanding going into the DFMO was completely different than his. I had not yet learned the expressive tools to communicate what I wanted, and waking up the next morning, I knew I had gone further with the DFMO than I wanted to. I didn’t even get a text the next day. This is a prime example of the icky DFMO; “icky,” because that is the most accurate way to describe how I felt about myself and my body the next day. As in my experience, the icky DFMO is bred from unequal expectations, high levels of intoxication and imbalances in power (with “power” usually meaning social capital). My advice to you, Middlebury students, is to know what you want, to set your boundaries and understand that the DFMO is definitely not the only way to find love or connection here at this confusing institution. First and foremost, please know that you don’t need to do anything that you are not comfortable with, whether it be a DFMO or beyond. I hope that now, as certified DFMO experts, primed and ready to identify the best possible set-up for a successful DFMO, your Sunday morning conversations will not be cause for ickiness or alarm, but for fun and sex-positivity.
So you want to make a crush list? Great! But before you do, maybe take a second to read through these pointers: @ senior boys who put first-year girls you have never spoken to but thought were hot at an Atwater party on your list: maybe DON’T DO THAT. Phew. Now that that’s off my chest, we can talk about Crush List Season. For those of you who have never experienced this phenomenon, buckle in kittens. It is one of the best and worst times of the year. The sun is out (I saw it once I swear), exams are coming up, graduation is on the horizon, and the Adirondack chairs are still nowhere to be found (seriously. Where the f*** are the Adirondack chairs??). That means a lot of people are very stressed and also very horny, if history tells us anything. And that means the crush lists are upon us. Crush lists as a concept are cute; like a post-adolescent Valentine’s card with more publicity and less free candy. It’s a fun tradition where seniors embrace the devil-may-care ethos of college hookups for what they should be, with a tongue-in-cheek open invitation to a brief fling. Midd kids talk a big game about hookup culture, but we can be really shame-y and toxic about it at the same time. Crush lists are on the lighter, more lighthearted side of this culture, or at least are meant to be. They’re a public expression of desire in a way that is pretty benign and puts the ball in the other person’s court. Which, you know, would ideally be how one approaches one’s crushes in the first place but we can’t all be experts in communication, so we make do. No one expects to start long term relationships with anyone on their crush lists. They’re crushes in a ‘10/10 would bone’ kind of way, and that’s generally how they’re received. Of course, some people make crush lists and just include their friends, some mix-and-match, and some crush lists are honest-to-goodness shouts into the hookup void. I have enjoyed looking at and helping compose friends’ crush lists over the years, and many of them put a lot of time and energy into making them creative and fun. However, in practice they can be (as one anonymous source says) “public and terrifying,” and the power dynamics involved can get pretty sticky. The very fact that crush lists are a senior tradition means that the power dynamics involved are automatically in favor of the one who posts the list, especially if the people on your list are juniors or underclassfolx. Power dynamics are suuuuper important to consider, yet are often ignored. While as a first year it might feel gratifying to be noticed and put on a crush list by a senior, it can be a really, REALLY big red flag, especially if that person has never had any meaningful interactions with you. While what you do with that information is up to you, make sure that any choices you make are fully informed by the power dynamics at play. And if you’re the piece of trash that does put first year girls you think are hot on your list hoping that they swoon into your arms, would your mother be proud of that decision? I don’t think so. Another thing to consider is the fact that crush lists are immensely public things; you may be fine baring your soul to the world and putting it all out there, but think about the people on your list. Would they feel uncomfortable being named in so public a way? By posting a list publically you may be making some of the people on that list very uncomfortable, which is the opposite of the intended use for a crush list. I know I love looking at all the creative crush lists that get put up (and taken down) and put up (and taken down) ad nauseum this time of the year. I shouldn’t have to spell out how to not be a creepy dick, but as long as you’re not a creepy dick, go forth into Crush List Season and prosper, kittens.
It’s Thursday, my dudes. You know what that means! Time for another fun edition of your favorite advice-but-not-really column, Sex Panther! I know you just can’t wait. I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few weeks about relationship structures and hookup culture here at Midd. I mean, it’s pretty much always on my mind but you get the point. I want to talk about hookup culture specifically as it relates to relationship structure; often, it feels like hookups happen in this limbo where talking about emotions, expectations, and desires can be taboo. You know what can help break those taboos? COMMUNICATION. Which I know I talked about last week, but it’s damn important. While a good part of that taboo is probably due to the way alcohol relates to hookup culture-- let’s be honest, sex kittens, you probably don’t find that surprising. But that means that often people aren’t in a headspace to have those conversations in the moment. And let me be crystal clear: when you or your partner(s) are under the influence you legally cannot give consent. Does that mean that drunk hookups don’t happen? Of course not. In an ideal world would that be the case? No. But we need to recognize that fact before getting further into this discussion. Ok. So say you’re drunk. You’ve been flirting all night with the cutie/s at the party, who has/have also been drinking. The stars align and you dance together, one thing leads to another, and suddenly you’re wrapped in a passionate embrace. Or a sloppy drunk makeout. That one’s probably more likely, tbh. ANYWAYS, let’s say you head home together. Score! Right? Maybe you’re thinking about the fun that awaits, and maybe not so much on the conversation aspect. But the conversation is very important, especially in hookups. From here on, things can go a few ways. Now would be a great time to disclose your relationship status, if you haven’t already. And I don’t mean just making sure you’re both single (though that is a good rule of thumb if you are both monogamous people for whom that classification makes sense). You need to make sure you know exactly what you’re committing to for the immediate future, and how that fits with everyone involved. For example, I am not monogamous. Nor would I classify myself as polyamorous; I lean more towards the relationship anarchy side of things (go/relationshipanarchy; I am sure to let people I am hooking up with know this fact as well as my expectations i.e. that I would love to have sex but plan on sleeping over with my sweetie, or that I would be down to make out and sleep over, but not have sex.) Sometimes it freaks people out to hear me be frank about not only my desires but also about the way in which I engage in relationships. And that’s totally ok. If being upfront about the fact that I have other sweeties or that I am looking for a casual relationship which involves both sex and friendship or what have you, I think it is only fair to let that person know my full intentions at the outset. If you are in an open or a poly relationship, that might mean telling the person you’re hooking up with that you do have a primary partner/s and checking that they feel comfortable hooking up knowing that arrangement. If you are monogamous and don’t have a partner, that is good information to disclose as well! Point is, the only thing that being upfront about your relationship ’sitch and your expectations adds is clarity. That doesn’t (and shouldn’t) kill the vibe. If it does, that person was maybe not the best fit for you in that moment. Having these conversations is so so SO important, and can save you so much heartache later down the line. And a hookup doesn’t have to end in a sexual relationship. Some of my closest friendships here have come out of hookups we all agree were fun, but the chemistry was more that of a non-sexual nature, and that was fine! What isn’t fine is refusing to communicate with your hookups.
You’ve probably heard it a million times, sex kittens, but communication is key! This counts in pretty much every relationship you will ever have, whether it is a sexual one or a romantic one or a professional one or anything in between. If you don’t start honing your communication skills-- really making sure that you equip yourself with the tools you need to speak honestly, compassionately and openly about things that maybe make you uncomfortable or that are difficult to talk about -- then you are setting yourself and the people you interact with up for failure and frustration. Sure, communication looks different to everyone, but holding space for others and having a willingness to be vulnerable are important skills when it comes to romance or sex. Like, super important. Realistically, I myself have failed at communicating my wants and needs or holding space on many occasions, and you probably have failed and will continue to do so. What is important is building those skills and striving to have those hard conversations, even when choosing to ignore or dance around them seems easier. Trust me, it is not easier, not in the long run. Take, for example, disclosing your STI status to partners. First off, if you are going to be having ANY kind of oral or genital contact with anyone ever, YOU SHOULD KNOW YOUR STI STATUS. This could be a whole damn column in its own right, but seriously. If you are not mature enough to march your ass down to Parton, say “Hi, I’d like to request a full STI screening please,” and TAKE THE DAMN TEST, you are not mature enough to be putting your genitals or mouth near anyone else’s but your Fleshlights. Parton has funding to subsidize these tests, making them FREE to you as a student. It is literally free. I am begging you. Plenty of people don’t have sex with other people, and while it is still helpful to know your STI status even in those cases, it is less irresponsible to the health and safety of others than if you don’t know your status and do choose to engage in acts which can transmit STIs. This is not to say that STIs are dirty or immoral or bad in any way- there are many ways to contract STIs. A partner of mine once got oral herpes from sharing a water bottle with a friend. Another friend of mine contracted chlamydia after a drunken hookup where their partner didn’t know (or worse, failed to disclose-- which in certain cases can be a federal offense) their STI status. Sex is fun, and sometimes you’re gonna have to deal with STIs. It happens. But don’t let it ruin your fun. Make sure you’re equipped to deal with those crucial conversations. Here’s an example: Person A: “I can’t wait to eat you out.” Person B: “That sounds amazing! Before we do that though, when was the last time you got tested? I just got tested last week, but nothing to report here!” Person A: “About 6 months ago. But I did have a cold sore a couple of weeks ago…” Person B: “Thanks for letting me know! I’d still love to get eaten out. Let’s use a dental dam to be safe. What flavor do you prefer? I have cherry, mint, and unflavored.” Yeah, we all know that the conversation might be longer or a little bit awkward, especially if the person has not been tested in a while, but it is important to know what you’re walking into to have both a safe and fun experience. And if you get tested and find out that you have contracted an STI, it is always a good idea to let partners you have had since your last test know that they should get tested too. If you ask a partner or partners their STI statuses and they can’t or won’t respond...then RUN. They might be perfectly nice people, they might have perfectly beautiful fellatio skills or pound you to a pulp in the best way, but they are also irresponsible and you (and your body) deserve better. If you really like them (or their genitals and physical touch and want it to continue) do yourself and them a favor by insisting they get tested. If they won’t, there are other fish in the sea. And at least you know what some of those other fish’s STI statuses are.
I loooove talking during sex. Moans and groans? Sexy as hell. Affirmations of consent? Even sexier. Making jokes to lighten the mood? Dirty talk? Yes and yes. I’ll take it all, please and thank you. But there is one thing I never, never want to hear during sex. “I think the condom just broke.” That one’s a real mood-killer. If you’re like me and you’ve been on the receiving end of a broken condom, you know that stomach-dropping, panicky feeling that comes with it. Sex can be scary — why are there so many risks associated with something so fun??? — but a broken condom doesn’t mean the world is ending. If STD transmission is the paramount concern, I recommend talking to your partner about their and your sexual health and getting tested immediately. But if you’re like me, a pregnancy-paranoid, uterus-havin’ humyn who’s not on another form of birth control and is trying to keep her eggs unfertilized, it’s time to take the handy dandy morning-after pill. The pill, colloquially known as Plan B, is an emergency contraceptive that delays ovulation so you can remain your un-pregnant self. The most popular and widely-available brand of the pill is Plan B One Step, which uses the synthetic hormone levonorgestrel (which is a lot like the natural hormone progesterone) to delay the release of the egg from the ovary. The science jargon makes that all sound more intense than it actually is - Plan B is basically just a single-use, higher-dose birth control pill. The levonorgestrel Plan B pills are especially great because you can get them over the counter; another variety of emergency contraception, called ella, is more effective but requires a prescription. None of the Plan B options prevent contraction of STDs. A broken condom isn’t the only reason for enlisting the help of my girl Plan B. You might have forgotten to put the condom on, or haven’t been taking your regular birth control, or maybe your partner didn’t pull out in time (a separate column on pulling out to come – pre-cum, beware!). In any case, you shouldn’t use Plan B as regular birth control — other forms of contraception, like birth control pills and IUDs, are more consistently effective and less expensive — but there is no limit to the amount of times you can take it. She really is a life-saver. This magical little pill does come at a price, about $50 at most drug stores. But GREAT news: You can buy Plan B at Parton for only $18, which is the per-unit cost for the pill when the health center buys it in bulk. AND if you need financial assistance for Plan B (or other sexual health services), Parton will hook you the f*ck up for even cheaper. I don’t think that many people know this — the health center said it receives between zero and six Plan B visits per month — but I am telling you now: if you have a sex-mergency, get your ass to Parton! And get it there within 72 hours – the pill is most effective within three days of a slip up, though it is technically good for an additional two days after that. But the sooner you take it, before the pregnancy has implanted in the uterus, the better it will work. The health center also offers STI screenings and treatment, contraception counseling and UTI exams and treatment, among a bevy of other sexual health services. And the health center won’t tell your parents, or alert them of your Plan B purchase, if you’re worried about them finding out. Though I can’t relate. In high school, I asked my mom to drive me to CVS to get Plan B when the condom broke with my high school beau, so we’re past that point and comfortably living in the TMI zone. The pill is also available at Planned Parenthood clinics, most drug stores and online. There is no age minimum or any health requirements precluding purchase. You can also find rebates and coupons on the Plan B website to avoid that daunting $50 price tag. I will warn you that Plan B can come with some gnarly side effects. More often than not, it messes with your period and causes some nausea (though there have been instances after which I’ve been completely symptom-free). But you know what else has those effects? Pregnancy. And I’ll take mild nausea and cramps if it means my uterus can remain baby-less any day, please and thank you. Plan B is great, but even better is avoiding the need to take it altogether. A preventative, pre-penetration precaution I recommend is to keep your condoms safety stored so that they won’t rip or wear too thin before the sexy times even happen. Condom carrying cases, for example, will keep your rubbers from rubbing against the other shit in your bag and will keep them away from sharp objects. Plus, if you’re like me and you store your condoms in the school supplies compartment of your backpack, it makes opening your bag to grab a pen in front of your professor a little less risky. During sex, use lots o’ water-based lubrication to decrease chances of tearing from friction. Invest in good, lubed-up condoms, too — I like Skyn and Trojans the best — and don’t use a condom if it’s expired – this means the material has worn thin and there is an increased chance of breakage. Some positions also might be more friction-inducing than others; for example, most breakages I’ve had have been in doggy position. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting creative with how you get down. So make sure those condoms are nice and lubed up, or find another birth control method that works for you. Condom breakages and pregnancy scares can be terrifying, my sexy readers. And it is frustrating that the onus falls entirely on women to deal with these matters — male birth control, WYA?!! — but it doesn’t need to be as scary as it often feels. Plan B is your friend and she’ll always be there for you, even when your condom isn’t.
Editor’s note: Throughout the semester you’ll be reading articles from Middlebury students of different identities and experiences on all things sex and relationships. Helloooooo again, sex kittens! I have a topic to talk to y’all about this week that is very near and dear to my heart and that I am 100 percent certain needed to be canceled, like, yesterday. What could a sex-positive Sex Panther possibly have a vendetta against in the world of all things sexy?! Foreplay, of course. Yeah. You read that right. Screw foreplay. I mean it. Not the actions we associate with foreplay, of course, but the word. Besides rolling a little creepily off the tongue, the idea of foreplay really delegitimizes a lot of fun, feel-good sex. It reinforces that penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex is the be-all-end-all act constituting sex when that is just SO NOT TRUE. Besides feeding into repressive systems of power that go into dictating what gets to (culturally) count as “real” sex, foreplay as a concept naturally reinforces, on some level, the idea that a (cis) penis going in a (cis) vagina is the only natural or acceptable culmination of sexual activity. Foreplay as a concept is heteronormative. It is cisnormative. It is patriarchal, and it is officially canceled because it automatically places everything outside of PIV sex outside the realm of actual sex. [pullquote speaker="" photo="" align="center" background="on" border="all" shadow="on"]Foreplay as a concept is heteronormative. It is cisnormative. It is patriarchal, and it is officially canceled.[/pullquote] I say screw that — in whatever way that means to you. Because there are SO many more ways to have sex than just PIV, and there is SO much more pleasure to be found once you start to break down those internalized notions about the “right” way to screw. Sex isn’t a checklist, and it sure ain’t a baseball game. So throw out the bases, because the only agenda you should be holding yourself to is the one you and your partner(s) make together. I guess my issue here is really with how we define sex. Our restrictive definition of sex (missionary, PIV, etc.) automatically means we have to create an extra category just to fit all the other — arguably more fun and exciting — stuff (like oral sex and sex with toys). In the European middle ages, the handy label of “sodomy” did the trick of covering the “other” category. No, really. Basically, any act that was not procreative, missionary, PIV, and religiously ordained could and often did fall under the category of “sodomy” as a sexual sin. This repressive culture of sex has carried over to today, when what we call foreplay is presented as non-essential and even frivolous. Frivolous? How dare they?! Getting my titties tickled creates sensations of pleasure just as much as touching my clit or being penetrated. Why let this antiquated hierarchy of pleasure based on legitimacy and respectability — and ourselves — keep us from inhabiting our own bodies and owning our own pleasure? This is my problem with foreplay. There’s no room to say “I don’t actually want anything in my pussy at the moment, but I will cum for you if you pinch my tits and talk dirty to me, babe,” with no other alternative than orgasm. If that’s not what you want if you don’t want to (be) penetrate(d) but want to have sex, there is a massive social consciousness that says, ‘Actually, no, that doesn’t count as sex,’ even though it TOTALLY DOES. I am not arguing against taking time to turn each other on, to explore the softness and hardness and curviness of each other’s bodies, to finger or fellate, to break out the nipple clamps and blindfolds. Please, by all means keep doing that. Just stop calling it foreplay. Instead, why can’t we broaden our definition of what sex means? Why can’t we eradicate PIV intercourse as the pièce de résistance and honor the pleasure our bodies feel from all the other wonderful methods of stimulation available to us? That’s not to say we should shun PIV intercourse altogether by any means. What I am saying is that we need to see it as simply an option on an extensive menu of sex. Prioritize pleasure, not the penis. As a queer person who is not too titillated by penis, I challenge you to tell me that the sex I’m having with my partner(s) at any given time isn’t sex just because there’s no penis involved. Because to me, that’s laughable. To me, the sex and pleasure I pursue is infinitely better. It ignores the naturalized progression of sex and instead empowers everyone involved to ask for what they want and to savor every sensation without feeling like there’s some end-goal to get to. Call it what you will, but recognize that everything outside the realm of PIV intercourse is also sex. From this point of view, the concept of foreplay just doesn’t make sense. Everything we do is sex and everything we do is foreplay and everything we do can be both at the same time. So don’t tell me that eating someone out, or mutual masturbation, or fingering, or frottage don’t count as sex. Don’t tell me they’re just foreplay. Those sources of pleasure are just as intense, just as important and just as valid as PIV intercourse. It means that sex is still something accessible to everyone; folx of different genders and sexual orientations, folx with disabilities or traumas, folx with STIs or folx for whom placing a penis in an orifice simply isn’t a viable or safe option. So this is my manifesto against foreplay. Only my partner(s) and I get to determine what counts as sex for us, and we don’t believe in foreplay.