All posts by sam

Let’s Talk About Sex, Pt. 2: Emotional Honesty

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about talking about sex. It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I end up doing it a lot, possibly because it’s one of my favorite things to do. In every friendship I’ve had, I’ve gotten the sense that I only really become friends with someone after we talk about our love and/or sex lives (or, alternately, our childhoods. I’m sure it’s classically Freudian.)

Still, on a very practical level, I don’t see talking about sex as a hugely radical social act, nor do I see it as the most important subject matter for discussion. The reason why I feel comfortable talking about sex is because I honestly don’t think that talking about sex itself is that big of a deal. Talking about physical processes is actually not that complicated. It requires a knowledge of your own body, and the body of your partner(s), as well as the willingness to say what’s on your mind–beyond that, it’s fairly straightforward.  As a good friend of mine often says, most basic sex issues can be solved with lube and communication.

What I think is a lot more scary than talking about sex is talking about those deepest human fears which often arise in romantic and sexual relationships, among them:

  • The fear that other people don’t want what we want, won’t understand what we want, won’t be able to give us what we want, will think we’re weird for wanting it, won’t want us.
  • The fear that we won’t be made happy, that we can’t make other people happy, that we don’t understand happiness or pleasure, that it will forever elude us, or that we will lose it and never have it again.
  • The fear that we are alone, that we cannot really connect with another person, that we are unknown, misunderstood, or misinterpreted, that we do not have a place in the world.

I think a lot of the fear of talking about sex is actually fear of being emotionally honest. It’s easy to conflate the two, and sometimes-t the two overlap. Sex and emotion (whatever emotion that may be, from love to lust to curiosity) have been and continue to be so linked, though the linkages are multifaceted. We assume that talking about our sexual selves is talking about our ‘real’ selves, the selves that no one sees because they are resigned to the realm of taboo or the hidden; the ‘privacy’ of the bedroom mirrors the ‘interior’ of the self. We, as a society, continue to divide our sexual/intellectual/emotional/moral selves, rather than admit that these selves are part of a discordant, contradictory, yet nonetheless whole personage. The private/public dichotomy applies almost unilaterally, even as it is transgressed (e.g., with the airing of political sex scandals, examinations of celebrities’ personal lives, etc.)

Emotional honesty, to me, is much more complex, and much more onerous, than simply talking about sex. If casually talking about sex would somehow rid us (read: me) of the fundamental fears I mentioned above, re-watching all of  Sex and the City would single handedly have eased all our (read: my) neuroses and malaise. While talking about sex can be a good place to start, I think moving beyond that into the realm of more-complete emotional honesty requires speaking truth about a wide variety of needs, desires, and fears, not only sexual ones.

Plan B Availability on Campus

The recent controversy regarding the sale of Plan B (also known as emergency contraception) in drug stores, in which the Department of Health and Human Services overruled the recommendation of the Food and Drug Administration that Plan B One-Step be made available to all women of childbearing age as an over-the-counter medication, regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the decision, points me to an important fact for anyone of reproductive age at Harvard to know: how to access Plan B on campus, should it be needed. While  Plan B is not available on all campuses, it IS available for free here at Harvard for female undergraduates over the age of 17 with a Harvard ID. Plan B can be accessed through the pharmacy during business, or through UHS Urgent Care. Harvard students can always talk to the pharmacist about any medication accessed through the pharmacy if they have questions regarding Plan B or its usage.

It’s important to note that Plan B is NOT the ‘abortion pill’ (RU-486); it CANNOT terminate an established pregnancy. Nor is Plan B meant to be a regular form of contraception like the birth control pill; rather, it is meant to be used when a regular form of contraception fails.

To learn more about Plan B, visit the website or talk to your doctor or pharmacist!



is what bwings us together today.

I was talking to my mother last night, and realized that she first got married at age 22 (my current age), when she had just graduated from college (which I’m about to do.) It was a startling realization. It probably didn’t help that I had just read The Marriage Plot and have been watching Love Actually pretty much on repeat.   Then, today, I stumbled across Nona Aronowitz’s article on contemporary attitudes towards marriage at, which raises several interesting points about the institution today.



How To Date at Harvard

The masses have spoken: Jezebel has the full story.

Did the founders of OkCupid ever anticipate this?

This Tumblr collects some of the more heinous (and hilarious) online dating profiles.

Ah, the joys of internet romance (apparently not exclusive to  I Saw You Harvard…)

Wait 7 seconds. Then read this post.

There is a popular statistic that men think about sex every 7 seconds, which theoretically means that, if you’re a man, by the time you’ve read this sentence twice, thought to yourself, “Really??! Yeah, sounds about right…” or “No way.”, you should have thought about sex. In fact, you’re probably thinking about it now. However, according to researchers at Ohio State University, not only is this statistic not true, but men aren’t the only ones thinking about sex.

According to the study, young men think about sex about 19 times a day, while young women think about sex about 10 times a day. What determines how much you think about sex may not be your gender, but rather what kind of meanings you attach to sex.

From the article: “If you had to know one thing about a person to best predict how often they would be thinking about sex, you’d be better off knowing their emotional orientation toward sexuality, as opposed to knowing whether they were male or female,” said Terri Fisher, professor of psychology at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus and lead author of the study. “Frequency of thinking about sex is related to variables beyond one’s biological sex.” (Caldwell, 2011).

Fisher suggests that the rates at which people report thinking about sex and sexuality vary according to social expectations; “In this case, we’re seeing that women who are more concerned with the impression they’re making tend to report fewer sexual thoughts, and that’s because thinking about sexuality is not consistent with typical expectations for women” (Caldwell, 2011).

She adds, “It’s amazing the way people will spout off these fake statistics that men think about sex nearly constantly and so much more often than women do…When a man hears a statement like that, he might think there’s something wrong with him because he’s not spending that much time thinking about sexuality, and when women hear about this, if they spend significant time thinking about sex they might think there’s something wrong with them.”

The full study will be published in the Journal of Sex Research in January.


Today is World AIDS Day!

Here at Harvard, students from the Harvard College Global Health and AIDS Coalition call our attention to the fact that much more needs to be done before we can declare ours to be an AIDS-free generation. As Melissa J. Barber, Lulu R. Tsao, and Alyssa Yamamoto allude to in their article, funding for HIV/AIDS research and treatment is decreasing even though there still exists no vaccine for HIV and no cure for AIDS, although certain drugs or drug combinations show promise. This morning, HCGHAC held a World AIDS Day Pool Party demonstration to urge Merck & Co. to join the Medicines Patent Pool and reformulate its AIDS policies; find out more here.

Our fellow Sex Week planners at Brown (Sexual Health Empowerment & Education Council, or SHEEC),  organized a Facing AIDS photo campaign in which students were invited to ” by having your picture taken holding a sign that explains what AIDS treatment/prevent means to you,” according to SHEEC’s Facebook event. Check out the photos here!

Check out the chart below for quick statistics about the state of HIV/AIDS, according to the World Health Organization.

Happy Turkey… Drop?

Jezebel reports on the well-known college phenomenon, the turkey drop,   otherwise known as breaking up with your long-distance significant other from your hometown or your high school during Thanksgiving break.

We only hope that too many freshman hearts aren’t broken upon their return to campus on Sunday…