Romance

Demisexuality by Ashley Dunn

We live in a world where fast romance is made easy with dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. But what if you want more than just a hook up? What if you don’t even feel sexually attracted to someone until that emotional connection has been established? Well, you may be demisexual.

Demisexuality is often forgotten when discussing the queer spectrum. With no letter designation in the LGBTQIA+ acronym and rare discourse surrounding its meaning, many individuals aren’t exposed to the concept of demisexuality until they frantically search Google for answers to their feelings.

Hell, even the Word document I’m currently typing into doesn’t recognize demisexualityan aggressive red squiggle appears each time I type it out.

My first encounter with demisexuality was via Tumblr. A post was circulating around my dashboard about the spectrum of sexualities, and my eyes paused on the word “demi”. According to the Demisexuality Research Center, demisexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond.

When considering demisexuality, it’s important to distinguish sexual attraction from sexual behavior, as you can’t control the former but can choose whether or not to participate in the latter. Many people denounce demisexuality as they think it’s normal to only want to get into bed with someone after getting to know them. Feeling sexually attracted to your barista or Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, doesn’t come naturally to those who are demisexual though. While the chance to do the horizontal tango with any of these individuals is not always plausible or may be halted due to a variety of reasons, the fact of the matter is that these sexual feelings are not present at all for demisexual people until the emotional bond has been formed.

Demisexual individuals are actually considered to be on the asexual spectrum for this reason. While some demisexuals are uninterested in sex and don’t feel sexual attraction for the most part, the key difference is that they are capable of feeling sexual attraction. Sexuality is incredibly complex, so it’s crucial to remember that even people who identify as demisexual will have a lot of variation within that term.

Anna Drummond, a recently graduated Emerson alumna, says she thought she was straight until certain college experiences prompted her to search for a way to describe what she was feeling.

“I wasn’t emotionally or mentally feeling anything, until I started talking to this guy. We started out very much as a friendship, and I really came to trust him, emotionally, intellectually, mentally,” says Drummond. “It was all there, and then sexual and romantic attraction happened. It wasn’t like some corny movie where the protagonist realizes their best friend has been hot this entire time, but for me it’s that I don’t experience a sexual attraction for someone from the get-go.”

Drummond added that even if a deeply emotional connection has been formed, it doesn’t mean she’s going to suddenly want to fuck them. “It’s just that if I do fuck, I need/want to have that beforehand.”

My relationship with demisexuality is one that is fairly new. I came to college having never experienced sex before, as it wasn’t something I wanted to engage in while I was in high school. Anyone I would have had sex with in high school likely voted for Trump five months ago, so I dodged a bullet.

The sexual climate of college was aggressive. For two years I participated in hookup culture, inviting stranger after stranger into the most private parts of myself, feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled with every kiss, touch, and gasp. I even turned it into a game, but nothing seemed to make me feel, well, anything.

Only now am I discovering that demisexuality explains what I’ve been feeling. The one time I felt anything during sex was when it was with someone I felt so completely connected to, emotionally and mentally. I loved that person, and that love transcended into the bedroom, leaving me satisfied for the first and only time.

It is so important to have conversations about these feelings and ideas that are often hidden. Expression provides visibility, and with visibility comes awareness and understanding of self.

As Drummond so perfectly put it, “All sexualities, whether hidden or not, are valid and have a need to be visible.”

Art by: Taylor Roberts

A Guide to Online Sex by May Blake

Over the summer, I found myself in a four month long-distance relationship. In the midst of our sexual frustration, we decided to foray into foreign territory: online sex. Unlike sexting, online sex is a purely visible and exposed act. Without the excitement of real sex, it can feel planned, unnatural, and even clinical. Online sex can seem intimidating and awkwardwithout the natural, organic flow of having the other person in the room, you have to create your own chemistry. However, after a little preparation, you can make it feel less synthetic and more like an adventure in itself. Remember that while this isn’t the same as real-life sex, it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, too. Talk about it first: It can be easy to feel uneasy and insecure in front of a camera, even in the most comfortable relationships. Start talking to break the tension and create a comfortable atmosphere. By discussing what you’re comfortable with, you can get rid of pre-existing anxieties, making the experience more relaxing and enjoyable.

Set rules: Online sex, and sex in general, is a privilege granted by another person. Stripping on camera does not grant the person permission to take screenshots. Make sure you establish boundaries with your partner.

Insecurities: Without the guise of darkness or lust as a distraction, it can be easy to feel exposed and revealed in front of a camera. No one is as hyper-critical of our bodies as ourselves. Your partner wants to see you, so don’t overstress finding that flattering angle, instead, enjoy showing off your body. More so, don’t be scared of not knowing what to do. None of us go into online sex knowing what we’re doing, so go into it with an open mind, and be eager learn about it as you go along.

Communicate throughout: It’s easy to feel uncomfortable during online sex. Chances are, your partner is feeling the same way. The biggest struggle I encountered with online sex was the lack of comfort. The excitement of online sex was initially followed by a feeling of depression upon realizing that the intimacy of real sex wasn’t there. However, over time, I learned that not being there in person didn’t mean we couldn’t have intimacy. Afterwards, make sure to keep the conversation up to keep up the closeness. Have fun: Online sex is a healthy alternative and can be its own exciting milestone to experience in a relationship. Don’t see it as something you’re subjected to, but learn to relax and enjoy it!

Art by: Hayley Joseph

No Kinkshaming! by Ashley Dunn

My fascination with the world of sexual kinks probably started when I found a pair of fuzzy pink handcuffs in my older brother’s bedroom when I was 13. I didn’t dare ask why he owned these, as I would have been caught red-handed snooping in his room, so I immediately went to the Internet, wielding Urban Dictionary and Reddit as a sword in my conquest to learn about different kinks. Now that I’m older, I often find myself in conversations revolving around the topic of kinks; friends talking about a threesome they had or describing their latex fetish in astonishing detail. Using definitions from Rekink.com, I’ve created a starter guide for anyone unfamiliar with kink terminology:

Aftercare - The period after sex where partners check in and re-establish peace and connection. This can be in the form of cuddling, eating or drinking, smoking, or even having a discussion on the previous sexual experience. It’s considered to be an essential part of kinky play.

BDSM - Bondage, Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadomasochism - This is a catch-all phrase that covers a wide variety of kinks, most of which revolve around bondage, dom/sub relationships, and deriving pleasure from either giving or receiving pain. Spanking, electric play, blindfolding, orgasm control and denial, and rope restraints all fall under the umbrella of BDSM. There’s an entire world of BDSM that you can look into, but remember that consent is the most important part in any of these activities.

Bondage - Provides restriction and restraint. This can include rope bondange, suspension bondage, leather bondage, or latex bondage.

CBT - Acronym for ‘Cock and Ball Torture.’ Pretty much the sexual torture of anyone with a penis.

Choking - The act of causing someone to pass out or lose consciousness by restricting blood flow to the brain via choking. This can be a dangerous kink and is actually debated in the kink community.

Golden Showers - The kink practice of peeing on someone and/or being peed on.

Hard Limit - An element or action that a person isn’t comfortable with or couldn’t see themselves being comfortable with. Common limits include blood, unsafe sex, humiliation, physical harm, and certain triggers. These are to always be respected. There are also soft limits, which a person isn’t really comfortable with but could be sometime in the future.

Masochism - When someone enjoys pain, or derives pleasure from pain.

Pet Play - Involves acting like, or being the owner of, a human puppy/kitty. Costumes and props may be used, like leashes, collars, and food bowls, and it usually involves some kind of power exchange.

Rape Fantasy - I feel like this is the kink that is often debated about as there are definitely some consent boundaries. Many individuals fantasize about wanting to be raped, and this is often referred to as ‘consensual nonconsent.’ Consent is at the heart of this fantasy, and is at the heart of every kink.

Vanilla - Conventional sex. This is sex that doesn’t involve any elements of BDSM, kink, or festishism. While some may call this unadventurous, I firmly believe you shouldn’t shame anyone’s sexual behaviors, regardless of where they fall on the kink spectrum.

Now that you’re familiar with a few of the mainstream kinks, here are some sex shops around Boston to check out if you want to dip your foot into the fetish pool:

Good Vibrations - Brookline, MA - This store has a great selection of products and the staff is very knowledgeable not only about these products, but also the practices. The sex positive environment makes any customer feel comfortable and included. Plus, they have a loyalty card that rewards you with every $100 you spend.

Condom World - Newbury St, Back Bay - Practically in Emerson’s backyard, Condom World has realistic prices and a wide range of products, from condoms (duh) to Kama Sutra products to fetish supplies and novelty items.

Hubba Hubba - Cambridge, MA -  What’s cool about Hubba Hubba is that in addition to sex toys and accessories, they also sell vintage clothing! They’re home to the largest selection of corsets in the Boston area and have always been at the forefront of both fashion and kink trends.

AMAZING Intimate Essentials - Medford, MA - Though this shop is a bit of a commute to get to, it definitely lives up to its name. It has a section for smoking accessories too, so if you’re into getting blazed and having kinky sex it’s like killing two birds with one stone. Definitely worth checking out. Before engaging in any kind of sex, remember that consent is always the sexiest and most important component in the bedroom.

Photo By: Hana Antrim

Sex & the Signs by Ashley Dunn

Freshman year, I declared it my collegiate mission to fuck my way through the zodiac. My first sexual encounter happened my first week of college. It was a two month affair with a poetic Pisces, the first of many Pisces to find their way into my bed. The stars say that Sagittarius, my sign, and Pisces are one of the worst matches, both sexually and romantically. I love to inflict emotional pain upon myself though, so I love Pisces.

Calling this little sexperiment “research” was a bit of a stretch, but that was what I told myself as I read up on astrological sexual chemistry articles and consulting books, like Sextrology, and spoke with friends at Emerson.

Capricorn was the next sign to crawl its way into my every waking thought. According to astrologists, Capricorns like to take their time before jumping into bed with a person, but once they do, they love to take charge. This all proved to be very true for this particular Capricorn, a boy I met on Tinder and hooked up with for a solid five months.

The first time we had sex was on our third date, which set a false precedent that every future Tinder date of mine would be as slow and suspenseful as his. Three minutes into the act, his hand found its way around my neck, no warning or permission asked. I’d never been choked in bed before, but I was into being dominated by this headstrong man. In the month of April, though, a Taurus snatched my Capricorn away from me, and I was back to swiping through Tinder.

Truthfully, the next two people I slept with in this timeline were one night stands, meaningless hookups with meaningless conversations that failed to touch upon the subject of astrology. I counted these as losses, since I had no idea what their zodiac signs were. Did I fuck a Gemini? A Scorpio? What if I had fucked someone on the cusp without even knowing it?

The stars had an Aries in store for me next. Being a fellow fire sign, our sexual chemistry was supposed to be just as hot as our signs, but this was very much wrong. I blame our lack of lust on the fact that we Netflix and Chill’d to House of Cards. While Kevin Spacey can definitely flood my basement, the political undertones of the show weren’t exactly sexy. The Aries also had awful breath and called me out on faking an orgasm, which was true. That was in line with Aries nature, as they are not the type of people you can easily fool.

My freshmen year ended in two parts. Part one involved walking down the hall to have sex with the Virgo in 426, an experience that was a lot more intense than I was expecting. He rolled a perfectly crafted joint and we smoked out in the Common. Though our conversations weren’t of any significance, he spoke intelligently, a classic Virgo quality, but was also incredibly negative, another Virgo staple.

In bed, he was vivacious. Dirty talk was a particular kink of his, which I found interesting because Virgos are often very polite and adverse to vulgarity in public. Our sexual selves can be deeply different than our public selves, something I’ve learned throughout my sexual adventures. I am not into dirty talk, at least not the nonsense that was spewing out of his mouth. He was stellar at eating out though, so I felt I had to compromise a little with that one.

Part two of my freshmen year conclusion was with a Leo. This person was a senior, ready to ditch the purple bubble that was Emerson and head back to his Midwestern home but not before pounding me into oblivion.

Google any compatibility site for a Sagittarius, and you will discover that their most compatible sign is a Leo. I definitely agree with this sentiment because sex with him was like what I imagine having sex with a sex god would be like. Or Zayn Malik. Or Ryan Gosling. Or Angelina Jolie.

He was so energetic and exciting, and he knew how to take control. Egos aren’t the only thing Leos love to have stroked, but I definitely inflated his with every moan and whimper I failed to suppress. I’m not a particularly quiet person in bed and the walls of the Little Building are known for being thin, so I sincerely apologize to whoever was in earshot of 402 that night.

Five signs down and seven to go, I dove into sophomore year a little on the fence about hookup culture. Hookup after hookup, Tinder was making me feel a lot more depressed with every insubstantial conversation I had. I took a breather for a few months until I downloaded the app again in December and met the Pisces that would ruin all Pisces for me.

I was head over heels for this Pisces, shaking my fist at the stars for ever saying we wouldn’t be compatible together. The stars were fucking right, though, and continued to drag me along.

He was something else in bed. Sensitive but assertive, and very giving. We had a very strong emotional connection, one that far surpassed our sexual connection, as we had only ever met in person twice. We continue to talk to this day, so while our road has been a bit rocky, I can’t help but hold on to hope that future Pisces won’t steer me wrong.

I’ve had sex with two Taureans, an April one and a May one, and the month really made a difference. This made me curious about how birth charts affect an individual’s sexual chemistry, but that mission would be even more exhausting.

The April Taurus was super vanilla in bed and made uncomfortable faces. The May Taurus was really into foreplay, something Taureans love, and helped me experience multiple orgasms for the first time, so to him I am grateful.

Another sign I hardcore connected with in bed was a Libra. Libras are often morning people, and the morning sex we had was truly the best start to my summer days. This person was a token Libra: loved to fuck for long periods of time, wanted to dominate, and truly felt nothing towards me in the end. That was a bummer, but c’est la vie.

I haven’t accomplished my silly freshmen quest, so if you’re a Gemini, Cancer, Aquarius, Scorpio, or a fellow Sagittarius, hit a girl up: it’s for science.

Art by: Alyssa Geissler

The S Word by Morgan Davies

The first time I had a real discussion about Sexually Transmitted Infections was when my mom told me I would inevitably get one if I had premarital sex. Before that, things like chlamydia were just rumors I read about on bathroom walls. My health teacher had practically whispered the names of infections when the subject came up which left my peers and I to believe that as long as we had condoms and nice partners, we were saved. My mother, on the other hand, is passionate about discussing safe, responsible intimacy. She became a sex educator through our town’s women’s center during my senior year of high school. I had been there when she pitched the importance of safe sex advocacy to my alma mater and emphasized how essential emotional awareness is when it comes to physicality. I looked up at my mom with heart eyes, admiring her candid nature and compassion when it came to the subject. She was so cool: the lady who passed out free condoms and taught my peers that you couldn’t actually get HIV from a toilet seat.

So when I turned eighteen and started exploring the world of intimacy, my mom was the first person I wanted to talk to. I remember how silently she sat on the couch, as I timidly asked permission to get birth control. I assumed that she would understand my request, both as a seasoned sex educator and a former pregnant college student. I had faith that we could have a mature, woman-to-woman chat about physicality and growing up and

“You know you can get herpes in your eyes,” she said. One of the many one-liners she used during the talk she gave me that night. I was quickly educated on how effortlessly you could get anything from everything. Without an inkling of what to say, I sat there as she explained from kisses to vaginal intercourse, gonorrhea to HPV, all that could be awaiting me once I became sexually active. I was utterly horrified.

While her speech didn’t dissuade me from continuing my self-exploration, it did get me thinking. What were the facts behind these so called “diseases?” If they’re so common, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about them? Out of concern for my own well-being and that of my partners’ and their partners’, I started to research.

What I found was that I wasn’t alone in my naivety. Stigmas surrounding STIs are common, widespread, and often blown WAY out of proportion. Due to a lack of awareness, the public has a very skewed view on what it means to actually have an STI. Getting one is actually a very common part of life. The American Sexual Health Association states that “One in two sexually active persons will contract an STD/STI by age 25.”

While these infections affect a large part of our population, it’s often difficult to find resources that don’t perpetuate stigmas, misinformation, and DO promote self-love and acceptance.

   Luckily for you, my mother scared me badly enough that I created a list of some of the best:

  1. The STD Project:

This organization’s website is like the Costco of STI information and awareness. From facts on infections, to information on affordable testing and treatment, blogs by those effected, question hotlines, and safe sex barriers for purchase, The STD Project has it all. If you’re just looking to educate yourself, trying to come to terms with a diagnosis, or anywhere in between, the website is definitely worth taking a look at.

  1. Planned Parenthood:

An obvious go-to, Planned Parenthood offers affordable testing, safe sex advice, tons of STI facts and resources, FAQs, articles, etc. You’re able to call their hotline and talk to a clinician right away if you have a concern, and they have a separate resource hotline if they are unable to help you. For instance, if they don’t take your insurance they can connect you with affordable clinics in your area.

  1. The Center for Sexual Health and Pleasure

Based out of Pawtucket, RI, the center is definitely worth a visit (at least to their website). They do a lot of workshops on sexual health, confidence, and safe sex, travelling around to different establishments throughout the year (they visit Emerson annually).

They also have a library of resources, articles, books, pamphlets, and videos available both in their center and online. If you can’t find the information you need from them, they can direct you to more resources.

  1. Safersex.education

This website is not only really cute and clever, it provides extensive info and tips on safe sex, STI testing, and STI prevention. Some of my favorite featured articles are “8 Tips for Safer, Smart Hook Ups” (originally from Bedsider, see below), and “All Barriers All The Time.” The latter is an extensive safe sex guide, complete with a few humorous, informative cartoons.

Safersex definitely strives to break down stigmas and provide comprehensive information, all while taking the edge off with a playful approach.

  1. Bedsider

Another great organization that works to promote safe sex and birth control information. However, they also have a smaller section on STIs, with some very thought-provoking articles. Their real selling point is Guy Nottadadi, an advocate and spokesperson who wants to “Make Sex Great Again” through communication and awareness. His light-hearted videos are perfect for gearing up for any “have-you-been-tested?” talks with a partner.

  1. Mark Manson: Your Honest-to-God Guide to STDS.

I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of my favorite features on STIs. Written by author and blogger Mark Manson (of markmanson.net), the guide includes a very upfront view at dealing with STIs as a sexually active human. Humorous and honest, Manson really emphasizes the “no-blame” mentality that should be associated with getting a diagnosis. He also breaks down what each STI entails, and focuses on how the symptoms affect the health and comfort of the infected person, rather than their love lives. The really unique part? Manson includes a “Raw Score” of how many people you’d “have to sleep with” to get a certain infection. While it’s not logistically accurate, the numbers he presents are based on statistics, and give readers a better idea of just how common STIs are.

    Fear no more, these resources have your back whether you’re concerned about a sexual encounter, or just trying to educate yourself. With compassionate approaches and expert advice, they’ll be your best friend, and a much better alternative to a herpes talk with your or my mom.

Art by: Hayley Joseph

A Fat Girl’s Guide to Romance by Julie Moskowitz

I am fat. The kind of fat with a visible belly outline, double chin, flabby arms, thick thighs, and stretch marks. I have been fat for most of my life, and I may remain fat for the rest of it, but I don’t really care. It has taken me a long time to accept my body for what it is, and it is an ongoing battle. Living as a fat person in our society, we are told that we are damaged goods for not having flat stomachs and toned limbs. Most fat people, especially women, are never presented with the idea that fatness can be a neutral fact about our bodies, let alone a positive one. We are forced into diets and our math lessons start early with calorie counting. I personally do not know one fat woman who has not struggled with her body image. However, the idea that fat people will never find love or be able to have a “successful relationship” seems to have permeated through the collective consciousness of the western world. I have personally experienced shock over how people actually want to be with me, as well as the astonished looks on people’s faces when I tell them that I have a boyfriend. “Good for you!” says a nosy neighbor named Jan, with her eyebrows so far up her face, they might as well be her new hairline. “Wow, that’s so great!” says a well-meaning family member.

Today, I have experienced love. I’ve had sex, which I never thought would happen unless I was thin. I’ve participated in the hookup culture. I have been in a serious relationship for almost a year and half. I’ve learned that the romantic world has hidden obstacles set up for us fat girls, and they’re not always easy to overcome. It’s important to talk about the challenges we face when it comes to love, sex, and relationships in order to pepper some humanity and validation onto us fat girls who are so often deprived of both. Of the many lessons I’ve learned while dating as a fat person, here are the top nine:

  1. Learn to trust yourself and your partner(s).  It can be very hard to trust people to actually care about you, especially since we’ve been taught that, since we are fat, we don’t deserve that care. However, in order to experience love, intimacy, and sex, you need to have faith in the other person(s) you are involved with. You need to trust yourself to make those decisions.
  2. Unlearn the “fat = undesirable” lesson. “Fat” is most frequently used as a synonym for “flawed,” “ugly,” “unattractive,” or “unhealthy.” Newsflash, everyone is flawed. You may not like parts of your body, you may even hate the whole thing, but it's the only one you have. The sooner you accept yourself as you are, the sooner you will feel deserving of self-love. Live your life to the fullest without waiting for the “skinny girl within” to escape.
  3. Don’t feel the need to “put out more.” The first time I had sex was consensual, but I remember thinking “If I don’t do this now, who knows when my next opportunity will be.” That’s bullshit. You do not need to have sex at every opportunity unless you want to. You do not need to “put out” because you don’t owe anyone anything.
  4. Ask for what you want (in bed and in life). You should not be afraid to communicate and be honest with your sexual and romantic partners. Clear communication is key. If you are not being yourself, you’re not going to feel your best, and you certainly won’t have an empowering experience. This is one of those situations that is easier said than done, especially if you are at a point in life where you are just getting to know yourself.
  5. Don’t date people who treat you poorly. This is a hard and fast rule that should be a given, but often is not. If you take anything from this, do not concede on this one. Even if you feel like you don’t deserve or won’t find anyone better. Even if you love them. You should not spend time with people who do not value you. If they’re not proud to hold your hand in public, it’s time to say goodbye.
  6. Share your food struggles with your partner. It’s hard, but if you have a complicated relationship with food, take the time and effort to talk to your partner about it. Plus size individuals’ relationships with food will always be overanalyzed. So much so, that many fat people refuse to eat in public out of fear of being shamed. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, “At least 30 million people of all ages and genders in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder.” In my experience, it is best to clue your partner in on what may trigger you or make you uncomfortable, keeping that line of communication open and honest.
  7. Stop trying to physically hide yourself. Here’s the thing: after a certain point your partner knows what you look like, and they don’t care. Get completely naked. Have sex with the lights on. Embrace the sexy selfies! Don’t feel the need to shy away from certain positions. I used to refuse to be on top because I was afraid that I would literally crush the person underneath me. Ridiculous. Your body is awesome and beautiful from every angle, in all different shapes and colors of clothing, in every lighting, because it is your body.
  8. Don’t compare yourself to others. I constantly hear people of all sizes and gender identities comparing their bodies to others. I especially hear this from other fat women. I see us poking and prodding ourselves in mirrors, trying to squish in Spanx, and make ourselves look like the photoshopped images we’re constantly bombarded with. Here’s the thing, your body is never going to look like someone else’s body, because you will never be someone else. You are you and your body is your own. Own it and celebrate it, regardless of your size.
  9. Stop apologizing for your body. Amy Poehler once said, "It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you've been taught to feel sorry for." There are so many things to apologize for in life, but your body and the way it looks is not one of them. The sooner you stop apologizing for your body, the sooner you will be able to embrace it.

Art by: Taylor Roberts

Birth Control Guide by May Blake

In my own experience, there are not nearly enough avenues for people to find the right method of birth control. Coming from a conservative high school in Texas, I never received a proper sex education. So, upon coming to college, I found myself frighteningly uninformed on the realities of safe sex. After hours of research spent combing through PlannedParenthood.com, I eventually landed on the birth control pill as the easiest and most convenient choice for me. Sex education is not always the most comfortable thing to talk about, but ultimately, it is critical that knowledge about the different types of contraceptives is accessible. With plenty of options designed to suit different people’s needs, it is important to choose which one is best for you.

Birth control pill: The most popular choice of birth control. When taken around the same time every day, the pill is 99% effective against pregnancy. The pill’s combination of progestin and estrogen suppresses ovulation, and prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg. There are also plenty of non-birth control benefits, like easing period pain, regulating periods, and clearing up acne.

The pill usually comes in two types: the estrogen and progestin combination, or the progestin-only pill. Progestin-only pills are recommended for people who have health conditions that prevent them from taking estrogen. They are safer for smokers, diabetics, and heart disease patients, as well as those at risk for blood clots. They are also prescribed to women who are breastfeeding. In order to properly prevent pregnancy, progestin-only pills need to be taken at exactly the same time every day, so if you’re not the best at remembering to take your pill, the combination pill might be a safer bet. Another option is the extended-cycle pill, which allows you to have a period only every three months.

IUD (Intrauterine Device): A small t-shaped device made out of flexible plastic that is inserted into a woman’s uterus to prevent pregnancy. It is an effective, long-term birth control method that usually lasts for 3-6 years, and can also be easily removed. This is a great choice for people who do not want to worry about keeping track of their birth control. There’s also the option of the Copper T IUD, which can still be effective if inserted into your uterus five to seven days after unprotected sex.

Vaginal ring (also known as NuvaRing): A small, flexible ring made of plastic that delivers estrogen and progestin. You place the ring in your vagina for three weeks, and then you take it out for the last week of every month to have your period. It’s quick, easy, and convenient.

Cervical cap: A small, silicone cap that you place over your cervix before sex. When used correctly with spermicidal lubricant, the cap blocks the opening of the uterus.

Diaphragm: Made of rubber and shaped like a dome, a diaphragm prevents sperm from fertilizing an egg. Like the cervical cap, it covers the cervix and must always be used with spermicidal lube. Women must be fitted for a diaphragm in their doctor's office.

Female condom: A little pouch that you insert into the vagina and over the cervix. Can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. Female condoms are one of the few options that protect against STDs. Male condoms, however, provide more protection.

Male condom: When worn properly during sex, male condoms collect semen, prevent pregnancy, and protect against STDs.

Patch: A thin, beige plastic patch that sticks to your skin and releases hormones. The patch is quick, easy, and painless. You can stick it to your skin and forget about it, until you have to replace it the next week!

Implant: A tiny rod that is inserted under the skin of your upper arm, implants are nearly 100% effective. Implants can last up to four years and costs range from $0 to up to $800. Similar to IUDs, after insertion, birth control does not need to be directly managed, and can be forgotten about.

Sterilization: A surgical procedure where women undergo either tubal ligation, a procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes from carrying eggs to the uterus, or tubal implants, where a small coil is inserted into the fallopian tubes. For men, sterilization is a vasectomy, a minor surgery in which the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles are cut.

Morning-after pill (Plan B): Plan B contains a higher dose of the same synthetic hormones found in the combination pill, and prevents the sperm from fertilizing the egg. It works best if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, but may work up to five days later.

More information can be found at plannedparenthood.org, birthcontrol.com, and webmd.com/sex/birth-control.

Photo by: Hana Antrim

Girls Don't Count by Your Magazine

BY M LAKATOS and PEYTON DIX You are thirteen when Ellie Paciorek from second period pre-algebra asks if you can show her how to kiss a boy.  You’ve never kissed a boy but you want to kiss her, so you say yes. “Just follow my lead."  She uses too much tongue but you don't mind.

She pulls at your shirt and runs her hands up your back, and electricity vibrates through every nerve ending in your body. She leans in, her breath hot on your ear, and whispers, “So is this how you would do it — with a boy?”

The moms always wait up, say Did you girls have fun, say Do you want any snacks, say Oh, honey, I pulled out the trundle bed for you, and you say Thank you, and then you fall into her twin bed together, and her blankets are so soft and she is softer.

Fifteen in the dark beneath your paisley bedspread, Phoebe kisses your neck and then your clavicle, and your ears and lips and breasts. Lying in thin tops under sweaty eyelids, she falls into you and you to her, and she is nervous but tastes so sweet and your heart swells and you tangle together until you can’t tell whose hair is whose. “Don’t worry,” she whispers to you, kissing your cheeks and nose and brushing your hair out of your eyes. “You’re still a virgin. Girls don’t count. It’s not a big deal.”

You find any excuse to let your fingers linger on her skin too long. You’re nervous and it’s quiet and you can barely breathe. You’ve waited for her for months. You melt at her touch, at her lips and the curve of her waist and the way her face crinkles when she laughs about something stupid you’ve said.  

"It’s not a big deal,” says your boyfriend freshman year of college at the Halloween party you attend in matching superhero costumes. You are kissing a pretty girl who lives a floor below you as he drinks cheap beer with his roommates across the room. “It doesn’t bother me. Do whatever you want, baby.”

Later, you run into a boy from your ethics class and you stop for a moment to talk — commiserate about the density of Kierkegaard’s discourses. He compliments your costume. Your boyfriend swoops in, puts his arm around your waist forcefully and pulls you away. “Why the fuck were you talking to that guy like that?” he demands stonily as you wait for the train.

You smoke a little bit then teepee trees in the garden and go to the playground on the Esplanade and climb to the top. You scream at the top of your lungs out onto the icy river, then tumble down, giggling wildly and kissing each other’s frozen lips.

You sit in pajamas with your new roommates the first night of sophomore year — comply with standard “boy talk.” They list all of the boys they’ve had sex with - four for Maya, who’s been in decidedly committed relationships since her first high school boyfriend. Kathleen’s number is a little higher - party hookups and booty-calls in between boyfriends.  When you go, Maya is pissed. “That’s not fair!” she exclaims. “If you’re counting girls, I should be able to count blow jobs!”

You spend nights with butterflies in your stomach, lips almost touching before you spin away with drunken nerves. Your hands intertwine beneath jacket sleeves as you give sage boy advice to drunk friends about the cute guys who sit with PBRs at the next table. Your friends flirt, and you whisper incoherent secrets into each other’s ears, sip your beers, kiss necks softly.

Winter break and you’re at an impromptu dinner party with high school friends. You eat duck and asparagus and sip her parents’ expensive wine in her pristine kitchen and play truth or dare. You pick truth, and Ezra asks you what the kinkiest thing you’ve done is. You freeze, embarrassed, unsure of how to answer. Anna answers for you — “Well she fucks girls, so…” Everyone nods, satisfied with the response. “Damn,” the boys say.  “That’s hot.”

She is nervous and sweet and her skin is warm and silk. You could keep your face on her neck, on her collarbone, down her soft stomach,  forever, you think. You revel in the beauty that permeates when she’s silent, or thoughtful, the beauty in her intellect, her perceptiveness, her wit. In her eyes, Jesus Christ.

You fidget with your fingers as you sit with your brother in your favorite restaurant.  You can’t meet his gaze when you tell him about her. You inhale sharply and think about her cheeks, their rosiness, the way freckles litter her forehead and the spaces where her eyes crinkle up when she speaks.  You tell him you think you’re in love.  He’s surprised, but smiles.  “What’s his name?” he asks.  “Her name’s Charlotte,” you say cautiously.  His expression changes.

You can feel the shadow of her weight on your hip bones, and all this beer tastes like now is kissing her. You’ve memorized how her eyes look when they’re open, how the brown in them is gold and how the black in them is endless.

At a bar in JP, a cute guy with a scruffy beard and tortoiseshell eyeglasses buys you a beer.  You thank him, but tell him upfront that you have a girlfriend.

He laughs.  “Are you in college?”  You tell him yes.  “All girls are a little gay in college.  You’re gonna end up with a man, don’t worry.”  You tell him that’s presumptuous, ask him what he means.  “Oh, come on,” he chuckles.  "You’re too pretty to be gay.”

She gets quiet and you drive, because you’re good at that.  You pull over when you tire, and sleep on backs, and she’s pulling your shirt with its collar, your body with its heart beating too fast. She whispers on about astrology, and children’s television shows, and plays with your hair, then she stops and watches, quiet, and she grabs your hand, and it’s making s’mores – snap crackle pop. You almost tell her you love her then, but let the sound of her voice sing you to sleep instead.

You run into your ex-boyfriend in the dining hall and he smirks at you.  He’s heard you and Charlotte have broken up.  “You missed dick, huh?” he chides.  “Knew you wouldn’t be able to stay away long.”

You broke up because she cheated on you with an old girlfriend and thinking about her makes you feel like crumbling to pieces, but you don’t tell him that.

 

The Man Who Wanted by Nathaniel Charles

Men want sex. That’s the assumption, that it is hard-wired into our DNA. We want it. We need it. We can’t control ourselves. That’s what makes men, men. If my story from last night doesn’t end with a woman in my bed, guys aren’t listening. I get an eye roll when I suggest that “hookup” isn’t synonymous with sexual intercourse. In a world where testosterone equals sex, I am not a mainstream man. I am a confusing anomaly to write off. Still, one night a little too much Baileys topped with a dose of humanity got the best of me, and it happened. It was fleeting, it was short-lived, it was nothing—but it was everything. In the span of a shuddered breath, I had undone twenty years of vigilance and patience. I wasn’t with someone I loved. I was tipsy, if not drunk. I’d had a clear picture of this moment in my life based on hopelessly romantic ideals. I was supposed to be married and dangerously in love. I would carry her into the bedroom or until my arms failed. She would push me onto the bed and climb on top of me, and then the happy couple would consummate. But every piece of the story I had meticulously positioned was out of alignment. And though I pulled out as quickly as I’d gone in, everything had changed.

It’s complicated, because I grew up knowing that I would wait until marriage to have sex. Sex is meaningful, and I didn’t want to share that moment with anyone but my future wife. Yet I was on my back surrounded by someone else’s white sheets, battling to process what had occurred. The moment itself was one I had believed to hold extreme significance. This was my First Time. This was that thing people shared when they played Truth or Dare, or Never Have I Ever, or humbly recounted the tale of Reginald’s quivering member. Whether I liked it or not, this was my story. But the question I soon found more essential was not, “What have I done?” but “Where do I go from here?” I had done it. So what was next? Had I broken the seal? Or had one moment just slipped through the cracks? I was at war with myself. Desire fought destiny, and I had reached what I had believed to be a defining crossroads: the man who waited versus the man who wanted.

Women want sex, too. Almost all of my friends are women, and we regularly give advice and share sagas on the topic. We are slowly but surely moving toward a society where sexually-autonomous women are accepted and championed. It is not rare to have a woman ask me to end the night at her place, and for me to be terrified of disappointing her. Because in most cases, I know what I want, and I don’t want to have sex.

That truth has consequences. Months after my First Time, it greatly threatened my First Relationship, where my girlfriend wanted to have sex. For much of my life, the guys I knew would made jokes about “plowing” this and “hittin” that. From them I learned that it was my duty. It wasn’t relegated to guys I knew in real life—the jokes extended to the male characters in movies, television, commercials, and books. They were guys’ guys, having unadulterated sex when it pleased them, and I was no longer the virgin that wasn’t involved and couldn’t understand. So when my girlfriend wanted sex, I gave it to her.

I couldn’t deny my true desires for long, though. The flip couldn’t simply switch. I had been a proud virgin of my own volition for too long. So I told her that I couldn’t do it anymore. It was devastating to us both. I had always failed in the eyes of men, but now I found myself disappointing a woman as well.  Society says that if a man doesn’t want to have sex with you, he doesn’t want you. But my love could be expressed in so many ways, of which sex was the least.

Over a year since the First Time, my mind has barely settled. The expectations weigh heavy on me as every flirtatious text leads to the next, and I know that there is a good chance I won’t deliver what might be expected of me. I don’t always know what I want. But I do know what the world wants of me. Or more so what the world expects of me. I’ve always known.

After all, guys only want one thing.

And though I don’t know what will happen next time I message Tinder bae or snap homegirl at 1 a.m., I do know that I should believe that what I want is okay. It takes two, and I shouldn’t be afraid of stopping the boat any more than she should be. I know that I would want her to be comfortable enough to slow the pace, and I should be able to presume the same. I know that I should receive the same respect that I would give. I know that I have the option to say no. I know that sex isn’t the end-all to being a man.

I know it all. Here’s to believing it.

Photo by Benjamin Frohman

Love, Feminism, and Sisterhood by Hannah McKennett

Picture this: your boyfriend is a conventionally good-looking hunk with a strong jaw-line and killer abs. You’re a stunning bombshell with bleached blonde hair and a forever bikini body. The two of you spend your free time talking about feelings and jumping off of waterfalls. Sounds like another Nicholas Sparks love story, but here’s the twist: your perfect boyfriend also has twenty-four other perfect girlfriends, and there’s only one engagement ring. Now our tear-jerking, romance novel has turned into a dramatic combination of Sister Wives and The Hunger Games. The Bachelor’s twentieth season came to a close in the middle of March with Denver-native heartthrob, Ben Higgins, putting a ring on his beautiful blonde babe, Lauren Bushnell. For thirteen years, viewers from across the nation have been tuning in to watch this problematic, (un)reality television series and its spin-offs (The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise). We know the women, such as Michelle Money, whose last name says everything you need to know about her intentions; the men, such as JJ and Clint, last year’s bromance that edged a little closer to romance; and, of course, Chris Harrison, The Bachelor nation’s surrogate father and mentor.

But why do we care? Us women, the viewers that are funding this show, have allowed something so old fashioned and problematic to run for twenty seasons, despite living in a time when feminism is more present than ever. Why are we still spending our Monday nights consumed with the unreality of conventional beauty, heteronormativity, and the journey of love?

The Bachelor is a prevalent reflection of gender in our society, and not a good one. Women have been taught for hundreds of years that they must compete for the affection of a man. This has fed into the patriarchy that is our modern society by giving men the power to choose the most attractive or desirable “contestant,” while teaching women to see each other as competition instead of sisters in an oppressing world. On The Bachelor, women are made to literally compete for the attention of the man with various activities on group dates and alone time during rose ceremonies. One of the most memorable group dates during this season involved not only physical activity, but also public humiliation. The women were made to vigorously exercise so that Ben, blindfolded, could smell their musk and report whether he found it sweet or sour (this was apparently meant to determine compatibility based on scientific research). Imagine your crush not only smelling your sweaty body on one of the first dates, but also commenting on its odor in front of his other suitors (on national television). And group dates are the least of these contestants’ worries. As each week brings them closer to the finale of the show, these women have to face either going home single as a “loser” or “winning” a proposal. This teaches women to strive for marriage and co-dependence, claiming that a successful career and independent lifestyle means nothing without a man.  

I have been a self-proclaimed feminist since I first learned the word five years ago. Of course I want equal rights, equal representation, and respect for more than my physical appearanceyet I still religiously watch The Bachelor every Monday night.

Normally I could brush this off as a character flaw or a bit of the patriarchy sneaking in without my awareness, but I’m not the only strong feminist watching. During a Girls Tell All episode this year, female comedian Amy Schumer was live tweeting her thoughts. She wrote, “Team Jubilee for life #Bachelor” and “There is nothing wrong with ‘complicated’ women, Chris Harrison. You treated it like something she should fight. A woman shouldn’t try to.” This got me thinking about what The Bachelor offered, other than misogynistic entertainment.

It had become a weekly ritual for my suitemates and I, curling up in front of our common room television to see what this season’s villain, Olivia, would do next, who Ben would send home in tears, and what uncomfortable dating situations the contestants would be put through this time around. We enjoyed sharing our opinions on the various women—not only who we thought Ben should be with, but who we liked. This Bachelor viewing party was definitely not limited to my common room. Around the nation, women—and men—of all ages come together every week to share their thoughts on the latest episode. Bachelor Live, the talk show that aired after each episode, revealed viewing parties that included young women grouped together in sororities and families bunched together on couches in suburban living rooms. Bachelor Fantasy Leagues have even been created, growing in popularity with each year.

Somehow, a show that breeds competition among women has actually brought women together. This terribly anti-modern feminist show has created a sisterhood in modern feminists by starting a conversation about shared experiences with the unrealistic expectations of society, the journey for love, and the internal and external conflicts that arise from emotional situations. Around the nation, women are utilizing this platform to connect and relate.

Jessica Goldstein, writer for various magazines including New York Magazine, gives her approach in an analysis of the show. She writes, “You’ll never hear about national divorce rates, same-sex partnerships, or casual hookups during an episode. Contestants don’t use cell phones…What The Bachelor does is take present-day romance—a liberating, confusing, overwhelming, free-for-all—and lace it back up into a corset.” Maybe we continue to watch this sort of 1950s courtship ritual because we’re nostalgic for the order and organization that love used to have. While we don’t miss anything else about the ‘50s, the simplicity of letter jackets and sock hops can seem desirable compared to the confusion of our social media hook-up culture.

Emerson students, Gina Marsh and Evie Ali, focused on a different aspect of the show: the actual contestants. Marsh says, “Even though I know the drama is enhanced, I still like to root for certain girls.” It’s important for women to support their fellow women, and The Bachelor provides this opportunity. Ali comments, “Although it could be more diverse, it shows a lot of various strong personality types that don’t put women in a bubble.” Not only are we finding women to connect with, we are exposing ourselves to many different personalities, all strong and capable.

Personally, I get satisfaction from watching the messy dating situations on the screen, comparing these to my awkward first dates, uncomfortable goodbyes, and unsuccessful Tinder swiping. Maybe I don’t get actual fireworks during make-out sessions, but romance is never perfect, and it’s nice to see that the falling-in-love-in-Europe, rainbow-love on The Bachelor doesn’t always work out either (only three couples have stayed married after twenty seasons. And it should be noted that all three came out of The Bachelorette, not The Bachelor).

Talking about our own struggles with love can be difficult, but watching those of others gives us the opportunity to reflect and discuss with the only people who truly understand: other women.

So why are we still watching? It’s not because we really believe that marriage is the answer to all of our problems, or that love can be found through a competition on reality TV. It’s because we’ve finally found our sisterhood, our platform to connect and relate to each other. I look forward to my Monday nights lounging in front of the TV with my fellow girls, discussing our experiences and sharing our thoughts and opinions. Bring on season twenty-one.

Photo by Anja Schwarzer