Sex, sex, and sex
Dear Birdie: My boyfriend and I haven’t had sex yet, but we’re planning on it. I feel very comfortable with him and I think I’m ready, but he made an offhand comment about porn the other day and now I’m paranoid he’s going to have really unrealistic expectations of how it’s going to be when we have sex.
— Not-A-Porn-Star Nora
First, I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions about his expectations based on a passing comment. He may have been distracted and not recognized the weight of his words or the effect that they had on you. Don’t stress yourself out over a potentially non-existent problem or associate this anxiety with having sex with your partner.
But with that said, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re right and that his expectations are skewed if this happens to be his first time too. Porn is not reality. You know that. I know that. But a lot of people haven’t quite grasped that gospel. So really, it’s all about communication: commun-ication before you have sex, to understand his expectations and to convey your comfort level and the realities of the human body; communication during sex to make sure you both feel safe and acknowledged; and communication after sex for a chill debrief and a juice box (and a reiteration of mutual respect).
I want to stress that his potential dissociation from reality is no reflection on you. Furthermore, the responsibility is not on you to make him see the light, so to speak. He’s an adult (if a delusional one), so if he can’t adjust his expectations after a reality check, there’s no reason why you should have to stay and convince him of his delusion or, heaven forbid, conform to his unreasonable fantasy. You have my blessing, and the blessing of the entire UVic community, to break it off in that case.
Dear Birdie: I’m not in a committed relationship but I’m thinking of going on the pill. Is it worth risking all of those side effects if I don’t actually have a partner with whom I’m having frequent sex?
— Proactive Prudence
I reject the idea that you can’t explore birth control options prematurely. No harm can ever come from educating yourself and being prepared for the future (I feel like I’m just quoting middle school sex-ed teachers, but the point still stands). Most women take a couple of attempts before they find the birth control method that best suits their body anyway. In being proactive, you have more time to familiarize yourself with how your body reacts and to resolve any problems if they do occur. While there are a variety of methods to explore, from IUDs to contraceptive injections, you’ve specifically mentioned the pill, so we’ll focus on that.
The campus clinic is a very welcoming and informative resource for birth control. If you make an appointment to see a nurse they can walk you through the process and answer any questions you may have. Barring the extremely unlikely case that you will have a more serious side effect, most people experience nausea, headaches, or mood swings if their first-choice pill isn’t quite right.
It’s a bit of trial and error if you have a standard model uterus with no indication of your hormonal makeup. If any of these symptoms persist, you can go back to the clinic and they will give you a different pill with an altered combination of hormones. Ultimately, birth control helps ensure your safety and autonomy, both of which are 110 per cent worth sorting through some minor side effects. Even if you’re not having sex, the pill can reduce period pain and lighten your flow, clear up acne in some cases, and even help women manage certain conditions of the reproductive system, such as endometriosis. So basically, don’t feel like sex and the pill are exclusively mutual — it’s an empowering decision regardless of what you get up to behind closed doors.
Dear Birdie: I really care about my partner, but I’ve recently realized that I would prefer to be in an open relationship. I don’t think they would be opposed to the idea, but because we decided we were exclusive at the beginning of our relationship, I’m afraid they’re going to be hurt by the suggestion.
I think you’re going to have to prepare yourself for a near-certain outcome: that this conversation will end your relationship. And that’s on you, not them. Like you said, you had an agreement, so you’re the one who has decided to breach that agreement regardless of their response. There’s nothing wrong with having an open relationship, but it’s dependent on mutual understanding. However, I do commend you for recognizing that you have a responsibility to your partner, and that a discussion must precede any action on your part to pursue an open relationship. I hope that the period between your realization and your discussion with your partner is a brief one, because emotional cheating or drifting hurts just the same as physical cheating.
Obviously, this may be the trickiest of tricky conversations with a significant other — the old I-want-to-see-other-people-but-one-of-those-people-could-be-you-if-you-want talk. Classic, but requires a careful hand. I have never been in this situation, but it would be most important to a) try to communicate how much you respect your partner and b) let them steer the conversation after you’ve made your key point.
It’s a monumental announcement to present to a person, and they will likely require time to digest and sort out their emotions. Maybe they tell you right away that they love the idea. Maybe they just want to break up. You are obligated to step back and let them process and pursue whichever avenue they choose. If you want any chance of keeping this person in your life, let them know that you are open to communicate whenever or if ever they decide. But again, don’t pressure them to conform to your decision. We ain’t about that peer-pressuring life here at the Martlet.