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Sex Ed 101 : Learning How to Say Yes and No

All the rules change when you get to college—curfews fall away, parental supervision disappears and you’re left to navigate all on your own. You will be exposed to strangers and larger numbers of possible partners than you probably experienced in high school. It can be a heady experience. And it may be a little scary—so let’s have the sex talk—not that old one but something new—more grown-up.

One of the Most Important Sex Skills You Need in College

How would you rank your conversational skills when it comes to talking about sex? It’s the most overlooked, most important aspect to having good sex.

Awkward? Maybe, but talking about it can be really sexy. It all starts with consent. Getting consent or giving consent is empowering and freeing in a relationship. Consent is a pretty hot topic right now as a safety issue. That’s important but so is the personal aspect of being clear about saying yes, or no. When you speak up about sex it will empower you as an individual and set the stage for a good sexual experience.

We’re talking about being able to say YES—yes I’d love to have you kiss me. Yes, I think the idea of getting intimate with you sounds fun. Yes, and can we use condoms.

There are gender differences and cultural expectations when it comes to sex—guys are expected to want it and women aren’t. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. And we’re more uncomfortable actually admitting to our desire to have sex. When two people want to hook up there has to be some mutual language to convey desires, concerns and the important stuff—what turns you on. Learning those skills and understanding your own ability to consent fully to the kind of experiences you want is important.

Is there anything sexier than having a person you’re interested in saying to you, “Yes, I want to do these things with you”? When you are clear on what you want, you are likely to be a more engaged partner. Finding one’s voice and being able to articulate what you want is key to having better sex and better relationships.

Communication skills will lead both of you to talk more openly about what the intimate moment will be like and to express your expectations and preferences. Part of being able to say Yes means you have become comfortable with saying No as well. They go together and you need to be able to speak your own truth in any given sexual moment. The problems arise when one party is silent. The other person is left to try and figure out what you want—they can either ignore your wishes, or ask you explicitly for your consent. We can articulate our movie choices, what food we’re in the mood for, where and when to have coffee—why get silent on one of the most important ways to engage with another person?

It’s acceptable for male and females to say, “I want to have sex with you…and I want you/us to use condoms.” Part of good, conscious sex involves being safe—emotionally, physically, and health-wise. Talking about safety from sexually transmitted is something both genders need to work on—the risks of sexually transmitted infections mean you need to use condoms—if your partner says no, are you prepared to tell him or her that you won’t have sex?

Your Sex Ed 201 Homework:

Practice saying yes and no. Start by writing down what you might say to someone who is asking you to have sex. You could go farther and write down things you might want to say about sex—what you like, what you want to do, or don’t want to do. Practice saying out loud what you think, what you want, what turns you on. Talk to your mirror, role-play with a friend. You want to be able to express what you want and what you don’t want.

It may feel direct, but when the time feels right, talking about sex is a good thing. Misunderstandings and ambivalence are lessened when you’re able to talk about what you want and what your partner wants. It’s common sense.

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