No Is Not A Dirty Word

University opens us up to many new experiences; some of them exciting, some nerve wracking, and some that are downright terrifying – such as sex. Sex can be as confusing as it is pleasurable, and it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, self-conscious, and embarrassed as you negotiate the minefield of sharing your body with another. As a thirty-something, I feel duty-bound to offer reassurance and guidance to my younger peers, and to help dispel a few myths about sexual intercourse.

Let’s begin with expectations versus reality. Most of you will have been exposed to porn, and so have a fairly good idea of how sex is supposed to work and what people get up to when they’re getting it on. Except that porn has about as much to do with what really happens between the sheets as a mushroom has to do with rainbows – pretty much nothing. The body types that are shown in mainstream porn represent a very small proportion of the population, so the first thing to do is forget about ridiculous beauty standards.

Your body is perfect as it is, and deserves to be treated with respect. In the same vein, if someone is showing you their body, treat it with respect and dignity. So let’s say you’ve been with your partner for a while, had a few heavy kissing sessions, and you’re ready to take it to the next level. Take a moment and recognise what you’re asking of one another. You are asking that you share a sensual, pleasurable time together. Recognise that to do this, you need to trust each other and respect each other’s choices and bodies. This includes practising safesex, which involves much more than using a condom or a dental dam.

This brings us to communication. To clarify, “No” means no. “I’m not sure” means no. “I don’t like that” means no. “Stop” means no. If you can’t trust someone to stop when you ask them to they’re not a suitable sexual partner. If you cannot trust yourself to stop when someone asks you to, you’re not ready to be having sex. If you’re not ready to have sex, or to try anything else, be honest. It’s part of respecting yourself. If your partner tells you they don’t want to do something, accept their choice. Do not try to convince them; this is coercion and it is a breach of consent, which is just a nice way of saying sexual abuse.

Everyone is different. Just because your best friend is having sex and trying all kinds of wild positions doesn’t mean you have to. Just because I’m attracted to brown eyes, strong thighs, and absurd laughs doesn’t mean my girlfriend has to be attracted to the same things. And just because your partner wants to try to emulate a Brazzers clip doesn’t mean you have to. Sex is about connection. It’s at its best when the connection between two people is one that is genuine, fully present, and built on a foundation of trust, respect, and the red hot magnetism that no doubt brought you together in the first place.

So what are the keys to a fun, happy sexual experience? Communication, trust, respect, and consent. Plus condoms or dental dams. Most of all, don’t be a jerk.

Words by 
Heather McGinn

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