Hooking Up Safely

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By Dr. Jess O'Reilly. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
  • How can you prepare for a hookup if you’ll be partying with drugs & alcohol?
  • What protection should you use for different types of sex?
  • How do I talk to my teens about hookups?

Jess discuss hookups — in college and beyond.

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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

Hooking Up Safely

Participant #1:
You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast sex and relationship advice you can use tonight. Hey, Jess here all on my lonesome to talk about hooking up safely, specifically in the context of college. But I think it applies across the board because I received a question, a lovely question from a lovely listener who I’ve heard from you before, actually, and she says, my twin daughters are going into senior year, so that’s grade twelve for Canadians, so they’re not far off from college. I’ve always talked to them about sex, everything and anything, but now I realize that I haven’t talked to them about sex, culture and hooking up and what specifically they can do to be safe and make sure it feels good for them. Can you share some language to help me talk about drugs and drinking and what protection to use for different sex acts? I’m sharing some specific questions below if that helps you to understand what I’m looking for. All right. This is perfect because we were recently talking about the culture of sex on college campuses in the United States and across North America. And I think we need to talk about the specifics of like, how do we plan for this and make sex pleasurable and consensual and amazing and positive. We’re just neutral because not every experience is going to be amazing. And I think that talking about drinking and doing drugs is a really important piece. And the first part of this person’s question asks, if you’re going to be drinking or doing drugs, how do you make sure hookups are safe? And of course, once we introduce substances that impair our judgment and affect our emotional functioning, our cognitive functioning or physical functioning, it can change sex. So I think one of the most important pieces and when I do work with young people, I ask them to consider what do you want to do before you start drinking or using drugs? Because if you plan on doing either or both of these things, of course you can always have the option to stay sober. But if you do plan to do these things, your desires can kind of change over the course of an evening. And you may find seems as though your boundary shift as you get to know a new partner. And so identifying your desires in advance while your mind is clear, while you’re sober, can help you to make decisions that feel good in the heat of the moment, right, that you’re going to feel good about the next day. So you might find that chatting with a friend helps you to kind of identify your desires and delineate your boundaries. And the conversation, it can be broad, it can be casual, it doesn’t have to be explicit or intense. It can even just be about telling yourself, hey, I really want to hook up tonight, or I don’t want to hook up tonight, or I want to do this thing but not the other thing. And if you can clearly identify your boundaries and desires, then you can, I think, clearly communicate more clearly communicate those boundaries and desires. So of course, you’re entitled to do as much or as little as you choose. And of course, we want the enthusiastic consent of all parties involved. So if you want to make out while you’re naked but not have genital touching, that’s your call. If you want to have penis and vagina intercourse without oral, that’s cool. If you want to do naked body shots with ten strangers in the kitchen but don’t want to engage in any other sexual activity in a private room, that’s your prerogative, really.

When it comes to sex and the combination of sexual activities you desire, the possibilities are infinite. So I think you want to just think about all the possible things that can happen and don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume that your partner or partner is into anything you have to ask. Don’t assume that they’ll understand your boundaries until they’re clearly communicated. So I would say before you go out, really think about what is it I’m into? And that takes some thought. I think if you’ve experimented with your own body, you’re going to be better prepared. And also, once you’ve communicated your desires and limits to a new partner or partners, remember that you can also make changes and you can revoke consent at any time. So if something you thought was going to feel good does not feel good, go ahead and speak up. If you want to slow down, go ahead and say so. And if you’re not sure what somebody likes, just ask. So I think that’s my big thing in terms of preparing for drinking and drugs. And then also there’s a whole other conversation about buddy systems for drinking, for drugs, for where you’re getting those substances, who’s pouring the drink? How are you making sure you take care of the drink? I think that most of us are quite aware of these things now. Like, for example, the other day I was at a private party and there was a really cool playroom in the back and I wanted to go into the playroom, actually, with multiple rooms. It was really neat before anybody went in because I just wanted to kind of get a tour of it. But you couldn’t take your drink inside and I just bought my drink, so I left my drink outside and even though I really knew everyone there, I was like, no, man, I’m not drinking this drink. I threw it out and bought another one. So we just have to be aware. Of course, when people are using drugs, it can be more of a challenge because maybe it’s not regulated and you don’t know where you’re getting it. So you do want to have buddies, of course, to look out for one another. I’m definitely not a drug and alcohol educator, so I don’t have the perspective on that that somebody else might have. So I’m sure you can find a really great podcast on use. There are many on using drugs and alcohol with a harm reduction approach. But my perspective is the sexual perspective, which is think about what you want in advance, maybe write it down, chat about it with a friend, tell yourself about it before you walk in so that you can make those decisions when you’re of sound and clear mind. This parent also wants to know if you should always be carrying protection. Yeah, I think it’s good to plan ahead. You can carry condoms and lube and dental dams or any other safer sex tools that you’ll need to make the experience safer and more pleasurable. And you have lots of different options. You definitely don’t want to keep condoms in warm places like the glove compartment of your car, or in your wallet for years and years, where you sit on them, but maybe just stick fresh ones in your bag or your purse or your jacket pocket. And of course, condoms that you wear over the penis are more widely known and available, but you can also reduce risk of STI transmission using the FC Two condom, which is worn internally. It used to be branded as the female condom, but lots of people can use it all genders and it’s worn internally, providing some additional barrier on the exterior as well. If you’ve never seen one of those condoms, it kind of looks like a big, big condom with an internal ring on the closed end, and you squeeze that ring to slide it into, for example, the vaginal canal, and then there’s an external ring on the outside and that sort of sits over the labia. People will also use it annually, but they’ll remove the internal ring before they insert it for comfort. So in terms of what you’re going to use.

So if you’re having oral sex on a penis, you can use a condom design for a penis and you put a drop a lube in the tip for pleasure. If you’re engaging in oral sex on a vulva, you can use the FC Two to provide some additional protection over the labia. Or you can use a latex glove where you cut off the fingers and leave the thumb on, and then you cut down the pinky side of the glove opposite from the thumb. And then you have a dental dam with a little thumb insert into the orifice of your choice. Again, you can use some lube between the glove and the valve off for heightened sensation. You can cut the tip off a condom and cut down the side to create a latex dental dam. You can get dental dams, probably from your local health station. And if you’re engaging in oral sex on an anus, you can also use a dental dam, a glove, a cut condom. Like I just said, you can use the FC two condom removing the internal ring. It’s not technically approved for anal sex, but I don’t know if condoms are specifically FDA approved for anal sex at this point in time for various reasons. But those are some of the barrier protections you can use. And again, just knowing how to use them, what you have, where to get them ahead of time is a big deal, especially if you’re partying. They also ask, how much risk does oral sex without protection present someone? Okay, so what’s the risk of oral sex? The risk of STIs associated with oral sex, it really varies according to several factors, including, but not limited to open cuts in the mouth, open sores, immunity, fluids in the region, and the specific STI itself. So, for example, the CDC indicates that there is little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV from oral sex. But other STIs, like herpes, hepatitis, and others, can be transmitted via oral. So here’s the reality. If you’re having any type of sex, STIs are a risk, right? Just STIs are a risk when you have sex, just like getting the flu or a cold a risk if you go to a party or a movie theater. And we can’t always pinpoint the risk of a single specific sexual encounter, just like we can’t pinpoint the risk of getting cold when you go to a specific movie at a specific theater because there are multiple factors that either increase or attenuate risk. So I think what we need to do is reduce our risk in a way that’s comfortable to us. Destigmatize STIs, right? They’re infections. They are bacterial, they’re viral like any other bacterial or viral infection that we all get. The difference is we tend to ignore STIs or even, I think, live in the dark and pretend we don’t have them. So the key is really getting tested regularly, because if you get tested, then you can know what’s going on in your body, and in most cases, you can get treated or you can just manage the STI. And so I think that’s the big piece is that, yes, there’s risk with oral, but people are going to do what feels comfortable for them. Some people are more open to a little bit more risk. Other people perhaps have other issues. Maybe they’re immunocompromised, maybe they’re HIV positive. And so then an STI can have more deleterious effect on the body. So you kind of have to assess what works for you. But let’s just recognize that if you’re sexually active, you may get an STI, and all you can do is reduce your risk. Just like everything else in life, we go on living, and we just don’t have the same stigma as we do when it comes to STIs. Okay, next, she wants to know about establishing consent before a hookup. Yes, because we no longer live in an era of no means no. We want a partner who wants to have sex, not someone who acquiesces to pressure or feels unsure. And so, yeah, you want to check in and ask them if it’s feeling good. And you can keep doing this throughout the encounter. And it can be enjoyable. And it’s mandatory, obviously, to make sure your partner is consenting. Do you like this? Do you want more? Does this feel good? And if you’re feeling unsure, if you’re getting any signals that they’re not having a good time or you’re not having a good time, take a break. Ask them what feels good for them. Be aware of body language, right? Are they reaching for you? Are they pulling you closer? Are they moving into you? Or are they closing off their body and pulling away? And of course, it goes without saying that we don’t use alcohol or drugs as a means to elicit consent. And so much of our culture, I think, is rooted in that type of rape culture and the idea that if I can just get them drunk or they’re two drinks away from saying yes. And I think that we’re far beyond that. You’re far beyond that at this point in time. All right, and then the final question is, is there anything else I should talk to them about when it comes to hooking up? Yeah, absolutely. I think that what we want to do is normalize any experience from abstinence to multiple hook ups, because there is no single or right way to pursue and enjoy sex in college or at any age. It is okay to hook up with a partner tonight, a different partner tomorrow, another partner in the next night. And it’s okay to also not have sexual partners. The data suggests that hooking up isn’t necessarily on the significant rise, even though the conversation is more at the forefront. So what I see from the data is that it’s not that young people necessarily have more sexual partners versus those in the but terminology is changing more than the behavior itself. And I think we talked about this last week or the week before.

Pluralistic ignorance helps in part to explain so called perceived hookup culture. And this refers to pluralistic ignorance refers to the private rejection and public embrace of a specific phenomenon. So we reject something in private. Most young people actually want relationships, not just hookups. But we’re told that everyone’s doing it hooking up. So we sort of feel like we have to go along with it. And I think it’s really important to be aware of pluralistic ignorance, especially with regard to hookup culture, because I’m all for hooking up in one night stance, if that’s what you’re into. But I’m not for people doing it because they feel like they must do it or that everyone else is doing it. Because the data actually says not everyone is doing it. And I’m thinking about a specific young person that I know who was never into hooking up. And all of their friends were always hooking up and they were in this long term relationship. Well, not that long term because they were young, but they’d been in a relationship for months and months. And then when they broke up, they finally went out one night and they’re like, okay, I’m going to hook up, because I guess that’s just what you do. And they hated it. It just wasn’t there. It wasn’t their vibe, it wasn’t their scene. It didn’t work for them. It wasn’t pleasurable. I remember them coming to me and feeling like something was wrong with them because all their friends love these casual hookups. But here’s the thing. No two people are alike. And you can hook up a lot or hook up a little or not hook up at all, and it can be really fulfilling for you. And this person ended up dating someone else for a while, and they’re just more of a serial monogamist, and that’s okay. That’s their thing. And I think their friends approached them with a little bit of judgment, like, oh, you’ve never had a one night stand or you’ve never done these things. And that’s just a new form of peer pressure that I think is unfortunately veiled in sex positivity. So hopefully your sex positivity is really about broadening options for people without any pressure. And if you are hooking up, hopefully it provided some strategies for planning ahead, especially if you are partying or drinking or doing drugs, as well as the protective mechanisms that you can use from dental dams to latex gloves to internal condoms, the FC, two condoms, as well as the external condoms that are designed to fit around a penis. And hopefully you’ll be using them because safer sex is hotter sex. And I want to thank you so much for sending in this question about hookups. And I hope you’ll either share this podcast with your daughters or just start this conversation about thinking about what it is, what are they into. I think that’s a really good place to start for any of us. If we’re going out and thinking of hooking up, what are we hoping to get out of it? Because definitely there are people who want to hook up for the power to know that they can. There are people who want to hook up for the validation because it feels really good to be wanted. Some people want to hook up because they just want to get off. Some people like the risk of it, the taboo nature of it, the rejection of repressive history, and none of those is bad or good. And I think they’re all fairly neutral as long as you’re doing what feels good for you physically and emotionally and relationally and practically and of course, practicing, say for a second. With that, I will thank you for tuning into this quickie episode of the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. If you are shopping for anything fun for your hookups or your longterm relationships, head on over to Adam and Eve.com. Use code Dr. Jess to save 50% off almost any single item, plus free shipping and some free goodies. Have fun with it. There is so much to explore out there. Whether you’re hooking up for the first time or the 999th time, have a great one. You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life. Improve your life.

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