CONSENT & BOUNDARIES
Q: Is discussing consent and boundaries really a mood killer?
A: Nope, not really. Ask a group of people whether they like it when their partner asks them, “do you like this?” or “should I keep going?” and pretty much everyone is going to say yes. Most would even consider it a turn on. Kristen Jozkowski, Ph.D., wrote a great piece about this and other consent myths on Kinsey Confidential. She says “I think when we hear the word consent, we tend to think of formal dialogues (and perhaps even legal contracts!), but in fact, consent can look like a lot of things—for example, asking someone, “are you okay with this?” or “do you want to keep going?” or “is it okay if I do [insert a range of behaviors here]?” Asking questions like these do a number of different things—first they provide an individual the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” to a particular sexual activity, behavior, encounter, etc. thus helping to ensure that when the person does say “yes,” they likely want to be engaging in the behavior that they are engaging in (we could get hung up on language – like the differences between “consent” and “want,” … Secondly, asking questions such as the ones I mentioned above allows people to express their sexual needs–it provides a gateway for communication. This way people can communicate about more than just consent—they can talk about their desires and wants. For example, if someone asks, “are you okay with this?,” a person can respond to that question with more information about what they like, what will turn them on, or what might get them off. Without someone creating that opportunity, such information may be left unsaid, and thus the sexual experience may be less enjoyable or satisfying. Finally, communicating during and about sex helps individuals get their sexual needs met in the moment as well as helps create trust in the relationship, so the individuals involved feel more comfortable with other aspects of the relationship or continued dialogue. Whether the relationship lasts one night or one year, getting your needs met and being able to communicate about further needs getting met is a good thing and will enhance the sexual experience.”
Q: What is a fetish?
A: A fetish is a person’s erotic fascination or fixation with an inanimate object or particular body part (foot, breasts, facial hair, etc.). Most fetish objects are things or clothing that come in close contact with the body. These objects and/or body parts can create arousal for the fetishist.
(All definitions below retrieved from GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide)
Q: What is the difference between sex and gender?
A: Sex is the classification of people as male or female. At birth, infants are assigned a sex based on a combination of bodily characteristics including: chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, and genitals. Gender identity on the other hand, is a person’s internal, personal sense of being a man or a woman (or a boy or a girl). For transgender people, their birth-assigned sex and their own internal sense of gender identity do not match.
Q: What is gender expression?
A: Gender expression is the external manifestation of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through “masculine,” “feminine” or gender-variant behavior, clothing, haircut, voice or body characteristics. Typically, transgender people seek to make their gender expression match their gender identity, rather than their birth-assigned sex.
Q: What is sexual orientation?
A: Sexual orientation describes an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual. For example, a man who transitions from male to female and is attracted to other women would be identified as a lesbian or a gay woman.
Q: How do you know if you’re gay?
A: The GLBT National Help Centers says “Understanding your sexual orientation is really about understanding your long-term feelings and attractions. It has nothing to do with whether you have acted on those feelings yet or not. Just about all mainstream mental health experts now believe that someone’s sexual orientation, regardless of whether they are gay, lesbian, straight or bisexual, is something that forms in each person either before we are born, or within the very first few years of each person’s life. Way before we are making conscious decisions about anything. So people don’t choose to be gay, just like people don’t choose to be straight. Being gay, lesbian or bisexual may not be as common as being straight, but it is considered just as normal. While not everyone falls perfectly under the labels of “gay”, “straight” or “bisexual”, generally someone who is attracted in a physical and/or romantic way to only people of the same-sex might consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. People who are only attracted to people of the opposite-sex might consider themselves to be straight and someone who has some level of attraction to both males and females might consider themselves to be bisexual.”
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to come out as gay?
A: We’d recommend checking out The Human Rights Campaign; they have a great resources page with tips on coming out. The GLBT National Help Center also has a very helpful FAQ section, regarding this topic they say “Deciding to come-out to a family member or friend is a very big decision. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer as to whether you should or shouldn’t do that. Many people first come-out to themselves, and give themselves some time to understand and become comfortable with their feelings. The decision to come-out to another person often involves two decisions. First, should they come-out, and second, when should they do it. If someone decides to come-out to another person, the most important criteria is to think about whether you will be physically safe if you do so. If you feel that the other person might react so negatively as to cause you physical or emotional violence, then you might decide to wait until you would feel safer. Many people who do come-out feel like a great weight has been lifted off of their shoulders, and living your life in an open and honest way is certainly the most desirable thing to do. It can help to think about all the positive things that would come from being out to someone, and any of the negative consequences of doing so, and then weigh each possible choice to see which makes the most sense for this time in your life. If you do decide to come-out, some people find it helps to first pick one person who they think might be the most supportive and respectful. Sometimes that person could be someone who is themselves GLBT, or if not, a close friend or family member.”
The Gay Lesbian International Therapist Search Engine is another a useful tool if you would like to find a professional counselor that is sensitive to gay and lesbian issues and may be able to offer specific advice about your situation.
Q: How should I refer to someone who is transgender?
A: GLAAD has an excellent suggestions: Always use a transgender person’s chosen name. Often transgender people cannot afford a legal name change or are not yet old enough to change their name legally. They should be afforded the same respect for their chosen name as anyone else who lives by a name other than their birth name (e.g., celebrities). Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like you to use. A person who identifies as a certain gender, whether or not that person has taken hormones or had some form of surgery, should be referred to using the pronouns appropriate for that gender. If it is not possible to ask a transgender person which pronoun he or she prefers, use the pronoun that is consistent with the person’s appearance and gender expression. For example, if a person wears a dress and uses the name Susan, feminine pronouns are appropriate. It is never appropriate to put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s chosen name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.
The Associated Press Stylebook provides guidelines for journalists reporting on transgender people and issues.According to the AP Stylebook, reporters should “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly” (see AP, New York Times & Washington Post Style). When describing transgender people, please use the correct term or terms to describe their gender identity. For example, a person who is born male and transitions to become female is a transgender woman, whereas a person who is born female and transitions to become male is a transgender man. Avoid pronoun confusion when examining the stories and backgrounds of transgender people prior to their transition.It is usually best to report on transgender people’s stories from the present day instead of narrating them from some point or multiple points in the past, thus avoiding confusion and potentially disrespectful use of incorrect pronouns.
Q: Can you get pregnant from giving a blow job?
A: Regardless of whether protection is used or not, NO, you cannot get pregnant or get a woman pregnant from a blow job or ejaculating into her mouth. This is because the mouth is connected to the digestive system, which is not connected to the reproductive system. You can give someone an STD from a blow job, however, read more on that in the STD section.
Q: Can you get pregnancy from anal sex?
A: Whether you are using protection or not, NO, you cannot get pregnant or get a woman pregnant from anal sex or ejaculating into her anus. This is because the anus is connected to the rectum, which is connected to the lower intestine, NOT the reproductive system. Because of the close proximity of the anus to the vaginal opening, semen could theoretically slip out of the anus and into the vagina, but that is extremely unlikely. You can give someone an STD from anal sex, however, read more on that in the STD section. Also, if you have never had anal sex, be sure to use lots of lubricant, because unlike the vagina, the rectum does not naturally lubricate itself, and dry tissue is more likely to tear and get infected from the friction of sex.
Q. Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?
A. Yes, you can get pregnant anytime the penis enters the vagina. Even the first time.
Q: If I wear a condom, I won’t get an STD right?
A: Using a condom will reduce the chances of getting an STD that is transmitted via body fluids (like gonorrhea or HIV), but it does not offer much protection against STDs that are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Learn more about the different types of STDs here, and check out STD myths here.