As a college sex-ed teacher, students' questions haven't changed much over the last 10 years.
Whether they're having sex, college students are curious about a wide variety of topics.
Students most commonly ask me about communication, orgasms, and kink.
In my 10 years as a sex educator traveling the country to teach college students, I've seen a lot of shifts in how students experience their time at college.
One thing that hasn't changed: the questions that keep them up at night.
Most of us have felt a little clueless about sex at some point in our adult lives, and when students are away at school, they might feel like everyone knows something they don't. The reality is that even your most experienced classmates are still figuring things out — and not one of us, no matter our age, knows everything about sex.
The questions that students ask me are surprisingly consistent. Whether I'm speaking to students at a Catholic college or a secular institution, a tiny liberal-arts school or a 60,000-student research university, the same topics come up time and time again.
So, here are the top five questions students ask me year after year — because if they're wondering about these, you probably are, too.
1. How do you talk to someone about what you want in bed?
This is my students' most frequently asked question by a landslide. Even if students got better-than-average sex education in high school, they still might feel confused or worried about how to talk to their partners about what they're into.
My No.1 tip: take it out of the bedroom. Conversations about sex shouldn't just happen while you're having sex — though that's important, too.
Grab a coffee and go for a walk or plan a date night at home to talk about your desires, curiosities, and boundaries. Taking it out of the bedroom gives everyone a chance to think about how they feel, rather than thinking they must respond in the moment.
2. Why don't I orgasm with a partner?
This one is a common question among college students. It's also the most common question I get in my Instagram DMs from people who feel lost, confused, and a little broken.
Even if someone reaches orgasm on their own, they might not with a partner. That could be because they don't feel comfortable with that person, because they're self-conscious, because they need some extra tools such as lubricants or toys, or because their partner's technique is lacking and they've said nothing about it.
Most people have sex because they want to feel good, and while orgasm isn't the only measure of pleasure, it's one of them.
Orgasm questions are often tied to communication skills. So, if you're not reaching orgasm with your partner, take some time to think about why. Then, scroll back up to the first question to get some tips on starting the conversation.
3. Where is a safe place to buy sex toys online?
"Safe" can mean many different things, but when it comes to buying sex toys, my students usually mean "will the website steal my identity?" or "how do I know the toy is a safe material?"
Counterfeit toys — and even used returns — are prevalent on Amazon. Many premium brands don't permit the e-commerce giant to sell their toys to begin with. So, when you're shopping for Prime Day deals, skip the vibrator section.
Instead, look for toys made from nonporous materials — 100% silicone, ABS plastic, stainless steel, and borosilicate glass — from reputable retailers.
Good Vibes, Babeland, Spectrum Boutique, and Shop Enby are all great options for folks in the US, while Come As You Are Co-op has Canada covered, and Lovehoney ships almost anywhere. You can also shop directly from most brands' websites.
4. At what stage of kink do you employ a safe word?
Kink questions have become more and more common over the past five years, so I don't expect this one to go away any time soon.
The short answer: I recommend agreeing on a safe word before any type of sex, whether it's kinky or vanilla. They can even be helpful even in nonsexual situations.
Safe words and gestures are a quick way to say "stop" or "slow down." They signal that someone needs to adjust something, so you can use them for anything from "I have a cramp in my leg" to "this is too much."
So, use them whenever you need to. Just make sure they're easy to remember and that everyone involved knows what they mean.
5. Why do I sometimes feel bad saying 'no' to my long-term partner?
In my experience, most questions come back to communication — this one included. While we often think about communication being challenging in new relationships, we can face difficulties in long-term relationships, too.
Sometimes, we feel bad saying "no" to sex because we know that we've been in a rut lately but don't know how to get out. Other times, it's because we struggle with people-pleasing tendencies.
These feelings can also arise in some people because, in the past, their partner might not have responded well to being told "no." If you say "no" to sex, and your partner responds by getting angry, upset, putting you down, or pressuring you, that's not OK — it's a red flag.
Talk with your partner about how it made you feel, and if they're unwilling to hear you out, reach out to a trusted therapist or friend for support. It may be time to consider relationship therapy or even consider exiting the relationship.
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