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Center for Sex and Gender Relations

Ask the Sexperts

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Dear Sexperts,
So, Spring Break is coming up. My friends want to fly south, and I'm totally psyched, but I'm a little bit worried about staying safe. Any words of wisdom?
Ah, spring break. It's a wonderful time. Some of us fly to warmer climates; others drive home and reconnect with old friends. However, regardless of where you choose to spend it, spring break tends to be a time of merriment. This means partying and drinking, which often leads to a decrease in condom use.
However, many colleges report an increase in students who wish to be tested for STIs after the return from spring break. Students seem to fear that, in the words of Deborah Mathis, the Administrative Director of Women's Health at the University of Pennsylvania, "They're bringing back souvenirs that they didn't intend to." While it is good news that students are getting tested when they return, the fact remains that they engaged in risky sexual behavior in spite of knowing the risks. So, wherever you're going, make sure that you bring plenty of condoms with you: condoms are the best way to protect against STIs during oral/anal/vaginal sex. Guys, remember that protection is your responsibility too. Also, although the alcohol may be free-flowing and plentiful, try to remain alert, and stay with your friends at all times. Being in a strange place and under the influence could present dangers other than STIs, such as sexual assault.
Finally, remember that HPV is one of the most common STIs out there, and is known to lead to cervical cancer. The Gardasil Vaccine is available at Health Services, right here on campus (The vaccine consists of 3 shots, at a cost of $150 per shot). So if you haven't already, go get vaccinated!
Have a fantastic, fun, and safe spring break!

I engage in masturbation on a regular basis.  Can you tell me more about this guilty pleasure?
First of all: Pleasure—most definitely yes.  Guilty—it shouldn't be!  Masturbation is something that we should all be able to enjoy.  Having some one-on-one time with your own body is important—whether it's every once in a while or every day—because it helps keep you in tune with the way it responds to sensual touch.  What feels good and what doesn't?  Which parts are super sensitive even to the tiniest stroke of your fingers?  Conversely, which parts need extra stimulation to really get your pulse going?  If you're not too lost in the moment (and if you are, then kudos!), try to notice these details when you're taking a time-out to satisfy yourself.  Not only will you become better acquainted with your own body parts, but the knowledge will be helpful in communicating your needs to future partner(s) who may not know all the "ins" and "outs" of your personal pleasure map.  If you happen to be in a "the more, the merrier" sort of mood, you may even want to get more intimate and try mutual masturbation with your partner.  Sometimes more-than-one can amp the fun!
As far as options go, fingerplay certainly isn't the only thing on the menu.  More of us than would like to admit own at least one "toy" made especially for personal play.  Vibrators.  Dildos.  Anal beads.  Penis rings and textured sleeves.  The selection nowadays is huge.  Lucky us!  And as for lube, the choices are endless.  So don't be afraid to try all of the above in your masturbation explorations until you find something that works for you.  Some non-sex toys can be just as effective at pushing your buttons, provided that they are free of pointy bits and are used externally (a handheld back massager works wonders…just saying).  But whatever your toy type—official or improvised—remember to clean and dry it after each use.  Different materials need different kinds of cleaning, so check out http://www.mypleasure.com/education/sex-toy-guide/maintenance.asp for the how-to's of toy maintenance.  It's important to keep their nooks and crannies germ-free so that they're safe for your nooks and crannies.  So, choose your weapon(s) and self-play away!
Want some more good news?  A recent article on FoxNews.com reported that masturbation has lasting health benefits for both men and women, including a powerful boost in the immune system.  Not bad, not bad at all. 

Isn't domestic violence something that can only happen when you are married, and for couples my parent's age?

Domestic violence can happens at any age. Although the name implies that a couple needs to be living together or married, and that visible violence need to be taking place, this is misnomer. Domestic violence can happen anyone, anywhere. Just because couples aren't living together or married does not mean that violence is not taking place. In fact, violent relationships are more prevalent in colleges then most people think.
Another common misconception is that all abuse is physical. Emotional abuse is extremely common and is equally as damaging. The issue with emotional abuse is that it can take longer to detect because it leaves no tell tale signs. Additionally, sometimes it is hard to tell where to draw the line between healthy and unhealthy. However, when "yelling" turns into hitting or crushing a partner's self-esteem then that relationship may be crossing that boundary.
Keep in mind that domestic violence can take place in all different relationships, regardless of race, preference, ethnicity, religion and age. So keep this in mind, and always watch out for friends and family members.

 How often is it normal to masturbate?

Masturbation is a very common and normal sexual practice. However, it remains a taboo subject for most people. Your question is a very common one for that reason; because there is still a certain amount of shame and embarrassment associated with masturbation, people want to know if they do it too much. This is especially true of women. This is perhaps due to a belief that masturbation is only for people who, for one reason or another, do not have access to real sex. This is evident in certain slang terms such as "jerk" or the British "wanker," both of which are derogatory terms that come from words for masturbation.
But everybody masturbates; couples do it too! Masturbation is a very healthy practice. It is a great way to get in touch with ones body, and it relieves sexual tension in the healthiest way possible: there is absolutely no risk of pregnancy or STIs! As to the question of too much masturbation, it is only a problem if it interferes with your daily routine. For example, if you are avoiding contact with other people in favor of masturbation, it is a problem. Ultimately, however, there are as many different kinds of masturbatory habits as there are people.