All posts by martha

A Slut Manifesto

This article comes from Government in the Lab, and is a short, insightful piece about the word “slut”

Check it out here

An Interview with The Consensual Project’s Ben Privot

Ben Privot is the founder of the Consensual Project, whose mission is to “partner with schools and universities to bring students a fresh understanding of consent.” Sex Week had a chat with him about this sometimes nebulous and too-often ignored concept.

SW: Can body language alone give consent?

BP: Body language is an absolutely exciting way in which we interpret and enjoy our sexual experiences. But, alone, it’s not entirely reliable.  Sexual contact is wonderfully nuanced which makes it so exhilarating.

SW: What about long term partners – isn’t asking someone you’ve been dating for a while if it’s ok for you to kiss them sort of weird?

BP: I think this question wonderfully addresses one of the common misunderstandings of consent. Which is, it’s important at first, but over time, you’ll have to do it less.  The purpose of sexual communication is to find ways of comfortably being open about your desire and discovering the sexy desires of your parter.

If the goal of your relationship is make communication feel comfortable, sexy, and open, then asking for a kiss should get easier and easier and more and more exciting. With longer term partners, I would hope that with time both parties become more and more comfortable expressing their desire.

SW: We’re all terrified of rejection – how do I deal when I ask and someone says no?

BP: First off, let’s be honest. We all get rejected. Everyone. Beyonce?  Brad Pitt? They get rejected too. It’s normal.  We all get rejected when expressing romantic interest, whether it’s “I’m into you, do you feel the same way about me?” or “would you like a kiss?” or “would you like me to ____ your ___?” No two people are going to be 100% compatible all the time. But, if you let your fear of rejection prevent you from expressing your desires, you’re not going to express them and are going to have a much much much more difficult time finding a way to comfortably negotiate and enjoy them with your partner. One really important component to keep in mind when communicating with someone is to ask yourself, “how does it feel to communicate my interests and desires to this person?” If the person is respectful, accepting, non-judgemental, they’re probably going to respectfully reject you in an easier way.  I think there’s a general rule here, the more respectful you ask, the easier it is for the person to reject you in a respectful way that will keep your ego intact and your heart still beating.

SW: I’m at a modern college party, and I want to dance (read: rub my genitals on the buttocks of in a semi-rhythmic fashion) with someone. How do I handle consent in this situation?

BP: You can’t go for grinding right off the bat. You can’t have boiling water without heating it up first.  Two simple questions that work like a charm. First, “Would you like to dance?” It’s short and sweet. Second, “How do you like to dance?” If the person says,”rub your gentiles on my buttocks in a semi-rhythmic fashion” and that’s what you’re both into- go for it.  Just remember that people may not be interested in grinding and may be interested in other ways of dancing.

SW: Do you think there’s a gender difference or issue in consent?

BP: I think there’s much to learn about how our social location (sexuality, gender, race, etc) impact how we relate to our bodies and how we relate to others. Speaking on gender specifically, I’m not sure where this idea originated, but it’s important to recognize that asking for consent doesn’t make you more or less masculine/feminine and asserting a boundary in no way makes you any less masculine or feminine.  Everyone needs to know that expressing your desire and non-desire isn’t wrong. It’s the exact opposite.

SW: Do you get criticized for being so vocal about enthusiastic consent as a man?

BP: If you think consent isn’t sexy or worth it, I’m going to do my best to share a perspective on consent in a way that I hope will resonate with you. But realistically, and quite sadly in my eyes, not everyone will fully embrace the message. But, as a man in this work, the responses I get from men provide me with a lot of hope and excitement.  I find that the men I meet who ask me about my work have honest questions about how to please their partners. And how to discuss pleasure. And we end up having great conversations.

SW: Talking about sex with a partner – even one you have a good and trusting relationship with – can be uncomfortable. Do you have any recommendations for communication about topics we’ve been trained by society to avoid?

BP: Great question! I think this link will have great answers:

SW: So my partner and I are both enthusiastic and consensual. How do I go from that to great sex?

BP: Fantasies! I would suggest you try asking your partner if they have a fantasy they would like to share. If you and your partner have established great communication and you’re feeling comfortable opening up and you suspect your partner might as well, try asking: “What’s something that you fantasize about we might want to try?”

SW: I want to have sex, but my partner doesn’t. Obviously, I don’t want to push him or her into doing anything that makes them uncomfortable, but what do I do with my desire? Am I forbidden to have it or talk about it?

BP: It’s great to be honest about what your needs are in a relationship. Whether those needs are emotional, financial, spiritual, or sexual. If sex is one of those needs, that’s entirely fine. But, it’s not the job of the other person to have to fulfill those needs. If your at a point in the relationship where you had expected to have sex but partner doesn’t want sex, it looks like there’s a sexual incompatibility and it might be time to move on.

Another thing to be conscious of is that in a long term relationship one partner may be feeling more sexual than the other and that this dynamic may switch where the other partner may feel more sexual than the other. If you notice that you’re the partner whose feeling more sexual, constantly asking for sexual activity can be badgering and can add lots of pressure to hook up which is frustrating and irritating for the other person to have to deal with and is a huge turn off for them as well. One way to address this dynamic is to hold off initiating if you’re the one who initiates more and as well asking if there’s a reason why the other partner isn’t initiating.

SW: How do you establish enthusiastic consent with a partner you don’t know well (a one night stand type deal)?

BP: There is a lot to say about this! I’ll share one quick important tip that will make any one-night connection safer and more pleasurable. Be entirely honest about what your expectations are. Are you looking for a one night stand? A possible relationship? Something else? This conversation can obviously be intimidating to approach but clarifying in a fun but respectful way will reveal what connections exist.  Plus if you don’t have it there’s going to be the constant doubts of, “Will the person stay in morning?” or “Will the person leave?” and who wants to be anxious about that? You never know why someone is interested in spending the night.  Second, find someone you genuinely enjoy talking to.  When the mood is right, and each of you are vibing off of one another, asking for that first kiss will not only feel all the more comfortable, it will be hot! Then you’ll only want to ask and share more and see what the night has in store for you both…

SW: Speaking of which, how do I flirt with or hit on someone within the framework of consent? I don’t know if they’re into me yet, but I wanna try!

BP: Create a pressure free environment. That should be your primary goal when meeting someone.  Aim to connect, genuinely. To be sincere in your interest, humor, and ___descriptive adjective on meeting someone___which means you need to be sincere about your interest in their comfort. I once read that great flirting requires timing and sensitivity and I couldn’t agree more. Finally, connect on something that makes you feel confident. Something that your excitied about and so are they. That’s when it becomes easier to include some of the ways you like to flirt.  That way when it comes time to do something else exciting, the excitiment gets to continue.

Expect more from TCP on this in the future! There are a couple of articles which are on the way now and flirting is definitely one of them.

SW: What were some barriers you had in creating The Consent Project?

BP: First, I want to be clear, I advocate the use of barriers. Contraception puns aside, I honesty haven’t had any external roadblocks. There are definitely some hurdles to jump but the only barriers I find are the ones I place in front of myself. Namely when I start to doubt myself. I thought I was the only one who doubted themselves in their work and had a fear of failure but I think it may be symptomatic for entrepreneurs to question their success and potential for growth. I once had the blessing of getting to have dinner with a great film producer who started her own company.  I opened up about my anxieties and asking her if she ever feared she would fail or doubted herself. Mind you, this is an incredibly successful producer. Her response, “Ben, I have that fear every day.” The stress was immediately lifted. The weaknesses reside within ourselves and so too are the strengths with which we overcome them.

SW: Got any advice for students wanting to pursue careers in sexual health education and advocacy?

BP: Absolutely! One goal for this project, and I feel the same goes for sexual health educators more broadly, is to empower everyone to realize they are their own sexual health educators. They are the leading experts on their desires. They decide what information speaks to them and what doesn’t.  The sooner people realize this the sooner they start to take ownership of their body and sexuality.

That and get on twitter. I’m not joking. Twitter is a fantastic way to find information, organizations, cultures, and thinkers/writers.

Anonymous Statement on Abstinence

“I am not a prude. That’s maybe the first thing you should know about the effect that my choice to be abstinent has on my life. Not having sex doesn’t mean that I don’t like men. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want relationships. It doesn’t mean that my delicate virgin ears are offended and defiled if someone talks about sex in front of me. It doesn’t even mean that I don’t (theoretically) like sex. It means that I’m waiting. My choice to wait doesn’t have anything to do with the guys I’ve dated, the guys I’ve kissed, the guys I’ve thought about kissing, the guys I’ve thought about having sex with, my friends, my family, or anybody I meet who is or is not sexually active. It’s a decision that is completely mine and not one that I was pressured into.

I’m abstinent because I want to be sure that the first person I have sex with is the only person I have sex with. Virginity may be a social construct, but it’s still important to me and I want to be sure that, when I decide to “lose it”, it’s with someone that I’ll be with forever. I’m just as much of a feminist as you are. I promise. I just feel like having sex is an incredibly important step to take and it’s something that I’m more comfortable sharing with one person. I understand that not everyone feels the same way I do. I’m not here to judge you for your choices; all I ask is that you don’t judge me for mine. Being okay with your body and with sex is about knowing what you’re comfortable with, and that spectrum includes abstinence as well as sexual activity. It’s all about knowing yourself and feeling good about the choices you make. Whatever those choices may be, we deserve to be respected for them. More than that, we deserve to be safe. We deserve to be educated. We deserve to be happy.”

On Virginity

Alright, listen up. I’m only gonna say this once

Virginity is EXACTLY what you make it.

If it’s important to you, it’s important.

If it’s not important to you, it’s not important.

If it’s physical to you, it’s physical.

If it’s emotional to you, it’s emotional.

Because it’s your goddamn body and your goddamn life and nobody can tell you what is or isn’t important to you. So if you’re a virgin, that’s awesome. If you’re not, that’s also awesome. If you define virginity as vaginal sex, or anal sex, or oral sex, or kissing, or whatever, that’s awesome. If you think virginity is a stupid concept, that’s awesome. Because virginity is about how YOU think about YOUR body and YOUR relationship with it and with other people.

So stop slut-shaming and stop talking about what age you “should” lose it and stop talking about how people who have lost it are bad and people who haven’t lost it are bad and how people who save it or don’t save it for marriage are better. As long as you are happy and healthy and comfortable with YOUR decisions about YOUR OWN BODY, well that’s fucking great, and anyone who can say that deserves your respect.

Why do I support Sex Week?

This post is Part 1 of “Why do I support Sex Week?”
Read more about our supporters here→


I’m bad at talking about sex. I blush easily; I get flustered; I start sweating buckets. I have a hard time saying the names of certain body parts, certain four-letter words, and certain four-letter words for body parts out loud. When talking about sex, in more ways than one, I feel like a kindergartener who stumbled into a late-semester Math 55 lecture. If you knew me, I’m probably the last person you’d ever start a conversation about sex with, and also the last person who would start a conversation about sex with you. In fact, I can hardly believe that I’m typing this at all, much less letting it go online.

But Sex Week matters to me because a thing you can’t—or won’t—talk about, even to yourself, begins to wield undue power over you. Sex and sexuality are naturally powerful forces, of course. But like all powerful things, they can be either beneficial or destructive. Too often, the capacities we have grow destructive, towards both us and those around us, for mere lack of understanding. And the process of understanding requires a kind of courage—a willingness to think things freely, to discuss things with others, and to let others discuss things freely and openly.

Sex Week provides a time and space for the pursuit of this understanding. And it’s vital that this kind of event happens in college, and in public. Universities exist in order to foster conversations that wouldn’t happen elsewhere, and to encourage the pursuit of knowledge in the belief that the enlightened mind is a stronger and freer one. In this sense, Sex Week is as important to that mission as anything that happens inside the classroom for credit.

So, despite the fact that I’m liable to turn as red as an heirloom tomato in July, you’ll see me at Sex Week because, in the end, you can’t deny that sex and sexuality are parts of yourself, and parts of the human experience. And if you’re going to fully understand yourself or others, you have to be willing to dare to know. Anything else is self-deception—like pretending you don’t need to sleep, or that you don’t have arms. It does a violence and an injustice to the integrity of the self. Sometimes, it feels like the path of least resistance not to ask these questions, or have these conversations. But that makes it all the more important to ask, talk, and listen anyway.

– Spencer

Nearly 1 in 5 American women has been sexually assaulted

Modern Romance?

modern romance

(Apologies, the only source I can find for this is currently “tumblr.”)

The Salvation Army on Sexual Orientation

LGBT activists are calling on philanthropists this year to give their donations elsewhere, due to the Salvation Army’s negative stance on homosexuality and queer rights. The latest version of the Salvation Army ethics code on sexuality calls for, “chastity outside of heterosexual marriage and faithfulness within it.” So whether you give or not, be informed.