FEBRUARY 7, 2017 | VOLUME XCVIII | ISSUE XX LOVABLE HACKS SINCE 1918
the sex issue Intimacy can be self-defined in a multitude of ways â€” whether platonic, physical or romantic. With this issue, we explore what this fluid concept of intimacy means to UBC students.
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Every year, The Ubyssey releases a sex issue. The theme of each issue varies. In 2016, we focused on the science of sex and the processes that make people tick. This year, we chose intimacy as our theme. It’s a broad and diverse idea — which is exactly what we wanted. While brainstorming, we struggled to formulate the specific questions that we would prompt people to write about, keeping in mind that the concept of intimacy is not restricted to the physical and the emotional realms. Intimacy is so abstract, filled with nuance and complexity — and we soon realized that the way to do it justice was simply to listen.
With that in mind, we asked UBC students to write us with only the flexibility of our theme to go off of. We wanted to know what intimacy meant to them — to know their thoughts, their feelings, their minds (and what a rich subject to mine). We knew the quality of our submissions would be high, but we didn’t expect to be quite so moved. We hope that the issue does for you what it did for us in its creation — provide you an outlet to understand, to laugh, to maybe cry a little and to learn.
—Samantha McCabe, Web News Editor Joshua Medicoff, Photo Editor
Table 04 08 of 09 10 Contents PERSONAL ESSAYS
INTIMACY IN BRIEF
JOSHUA MEDICOFF, VERONICA CIASTKO, SIENNA COHEN Longform creative non-fiction mulling the concept of intimacy — whatever that means.
KATE COLENBRANDER, ARTHUR LOCKWOOD, ALEXANDRA COLE, AIKEN LAO Short and sweet moments of a time when intimacy was created.
SOMEONE YOU’RE SEEING
THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SWIPING
EMILIE KNEIFEL, HANA GOLIGHTLY, ALEXANDRA COLE Short pieces on a person with which the author feels intimacy.
HELEN ZHOU Tinder has the reputation for being “the hookup app,” but what does it actually do for us in terms of building human connections?
JULIA BURNHAM, CAMELIA ALIKASHANI, JOSHUA SHEPARD, HAILEY ROLLHEISER, ERIC LEUNG, OLAMIDE OLANIYAN Succinct, honest essays on the concept of intimacy in all its forms.
KATE COLENBRANDER, AMY MA, KOBY MICHAELS, NATALIE MORRIS, SAMUEL DU BOIS, SAMANTHA SEARLE, HAILEY ROLLHEISER We asked UBC students what advice they always wanted to give, but never had anyone ask them for.
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three’s a crowd SIENNA COHEN
he two real boyfriends that I’ve had were similar in many ways. They were both incredibly kind-hearted, funny people. They made me feel light, buoyed by their presence. They always made me laugh. But they were also alike in that neither of them knew about my longest relationship with my most consistent lover: depression. Although I’ve spent much of my late teenage years and early 20s trying to shake him, I was born with him tangled up in my genetic code, causing a chemical imbalance in my brain. Although he comes and goes irregularly, we’ve grown codependent — and after so many years together, it’s difficult to imagine my life without his presence. He’s a possessive lover. He gnaws and snaps and claws at me, clinging us together, until my brain is a bruised and bitten peach. There’s rarely room for someone else. Depression is too needy, and grasping for my time and attention for there to be a party of three. My depression sometimes feels like the wild manifestation of a parallel life I have on the side. My real self, I’d like to think, is very happy. I’m animated with close friends and family, in class and at work where I smile for a living — “welcome to Earls!” I’m usually having a pretty good time. I love to read and talk politics, and can spend countless hours with my best friends. I like hanging out with my neighbours’ cats. Given the amount of time Milo and Ruby spend with me, I can only assume it is mandated by Cat Law to put in a certain amount of hours socializing with single, emotionally fraught women. But most of all, I like to date. More accurately, I love to date. For me, a first date is the ultimate curated experience — a new addition to my incredibly diverse dating portfolio. I like choosing a sleek outfit and putting on my jasmine perfume. I like the representation of our best selves, our even-tempered voices, the atmosphere of the candlelit bar we’ve agreed on.
And as a student of psychology, I always find something so intriguing in being up close with another person. He’ll smile easily. He’ll be a sculpted David come to life. He’ll be achingly intelligent, conscientious of our increasingly turbulent world and seeking to fix it. Sometimes he will be all of these things at once and I’ll melt like caramel ice cream, sweet and dripping. I’m aware of the effort we both put in — but unlike most people, I enjoy it. Most of all, I like how a first date permits me to feel close to someone, all while only having to reveal the specific amounts of neutral emotional territory that I want to. After the first date, though, things change. This is when my two diametrical lives uncomfortably intersect, for depression will make himself known as soon as I have the opportunity to create real intimacy. He’s a low hiss in my ear when I want to ask the person I’m seeing a deep, probing question. A firm, clenching hand on my shoulder warning me not to go there, because if they ask me something real about how I’m feeling, it’ll be painful to lie about it. Given too much time with a certain person, things will swing like a pendulum away from the facade of first impressions or the rawness of passion to an uneasy middle ground. Others might call this a comfortable familiarity, but there is nothing comfortable about it to me. Almost anything can be said and found adorable when someone doesn’t really know you. An absolute void of spatial reasoning skills and a money-back guarantee that I will get lost in three square yards? I couldn’t count the number of men who have tried to help poor me learn the basics of navigation. A fantasy I occasionally have that includes filling my pockets with stones and walking into English Bay? How many people could understand that? Depression is not a sweet quirk I want to share with someone. It’s so, so ugly. I like pretty things. I know it can’t continue forever like this. I usually see people
for a spell of a few months before moving on, because keeping men at arm’s length for longer than that is draining. When things with someone are purely physical, it’s a little easier. For me, sex and depression have a similar physical manifestation: a racing heart, a heat in the stomach, a tension in the muscles. In a sick sense, it’s exciting. It’s crude. It’s a release. But above all else, it’s illusory. No real intimacy is expected, and that certainly helps in moments of “You’ve been Trumped!” — a phrase I’ve coined when I find out guys I’ve been seeing are supporters of Orange Hitler. This has happened three times and each time, I have immediately morphed into Jim Halpert from The Office, staring into the camera, silently begging to be saved. But what did I expect? That’s what happens when you don’t share who you really are or care to learn who the person you’re seeing really is. What’s actually difficult is keeping my emotional barriers up around men I could genuinely see myself with. For these truly empathetic people I’ve met who share my values, I turn on a nice movie about myself for them to watch with the volume turned way, way down. All of my bad and broken parts are muted, it’s true, but my good qualities remain hazy and half-present. They deserve better. And in moments of clarity when my mental fog dissipates for a bit, I know I deserve better. My relationship with depression is the biggest source of toxicity in my life. Breaking up with him will probably be the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. But it’s necessary to eventually let someone else in — and as much as I dream of becoming a clinical psychologist or living abroad one day, having a strong partner who knows all of me just as I know all of him is something I want out of life. Part of it will mean accepting my depression and my mental health likely won’t ever be perfect. But acknowledging it feels a little like a few of the bruises I have are beginning to heal. U
red sea JOSHUA MEDICOFF
s if I were Moses parting the Red Sea, I learned from a young age how to separate the oceanic forces of physical and emotional intimacy. Closeted and afraid, love was not something I ever considered. This wasn’t by virtue of my upbringing. My parents are textbook upper middle-class, white, liberal Canadians. I was warned about the pitfalls of intolerance and instructed as to which words and attitudes were unacceptable. My 82-year-old Jewish grandfather did not bat an eye when he learned I was gay. Instead, he chronicled his experiences working at a gay club in 1960s Montreal. But something inhibited me from embracing my queerness. Maybe it was the lack of representation in the thousands of movies I devoured after my dad introduced me to Jurassic Park. (If I’d been able to watch a gay palaeontologist battle a T. rex, who’s to say where I’d be now?) Maybe it was fear that I’d be accused of being a “faggot” by boys in junior high classrooms. For the purposes of this essay, however, causation is irrelevant — crucial is the shaping of my ability to be intimate with others, and therefore my ability to be intimate with myself. What’s a young boy who feels a desire for his same gender to do? Well first, he questions why this had to happen to him. There’s a reason
why people tread the well-worn cliché of feeling “different” so often. Why, I’d wonder, was I not allowed to be like my male friends, who’d chat authentically about their crushes on girls or about the awesomeness of boobs? I felt cornered, jammed into a stuccoed wall that agitated and broke the surface of my skin. Underneath my flesh: a secret waiting to expose itself to the world. It wasn’t outright homophobia that prevented me from accepting my queerness, but the anxieties that accompany being different. My insides were a lab in which I mixed two chemicals with no safety goggles on. For me, those two chemicals were an aggressive sex drive and an inability to accept my identity, which when combined, lead to an unstable but strikingly active reaction. I resolutely decided that I would allow myself to be sexual with men and leave emotions to relationships with women. If I could separate the two, the uncomfortable truth of my gayness would be a distant thought. I became sexually active relatively early — and then swiftly ventured into a string of awkward physical relationships with boys similarly closeted and afraid. When two people try to ignore their truths together, an odd and melancholic air lingers. There is little comfort in sharing such an uncomfortable sensation with
someone else — the truth bubbles between your bodies. The first time I kissed a boy felt like perversion. I thought the act — with their lips and your lips, your face and their face — was what you did with someone you liked or someone you loved. And I wanted to do it. And I felt daring. But after it happened, I felt myself retreating into the secluded corner I’d inhabited for most of my adolescence — except the room this corner existed within was shrinking. I fought harder and harder to repress romantic thought or feeling, acknowledgement not an option. It took until the last fading days of multiple girlfriends for me to come to terms with myself. I enjoyed my time with the women I dated like I enjoy strong friendships, and therein lies the issue. No happiness came from lying to them as well as myself, years spent desperately trying to convince myself of who I wanted to be and not accepting who I am. Shortly afterwards, the sun set on dating women. However, intimacy does not simply follow acceptance. For years of my adolescence, I’d learned to dichotomize the sexual and the emotional, so unlearning took — and is still taking — some time. Physical intimacy requires different skills than emotional intimacy, and melding the two together is a process and a half. The intricacies of the
body are bound to the complexities of the mind, with the two stuck in a messy, moving dance. They zig and zag, turn sharply, stop abruptly, and begin their movement once again, all within seconds. When you don’t grow up considering the relationship between the two, educating yourself on how they interact is quite the learning curve. When I felt comfortable enough, I thought a boyfriend would magically appear and a package of confetti would explode upon his arrival. I soon realized that relationships are as convoluted as the mind itself — with twice the emotions to deal with. (And my overblown sex drive never subsided.) Those aren’t negatives, though. I think they’re just part of the laterin-life epiphanies queer people (and maybe people in general) have when they come to terms with themselves. At 19, I have had relationships and I have had breakups, and they’ve been resplendent and hurtful, rewarding and painful. But look at where I am now. I am fortunate enough to walk home on rainy evenings and inhale the ocean air with which I am surrounded, experiencing the fullest range of human emotion I could at my age. If allowing myself to feel intimacy opens me to the potential for hurt, I will gladly, willingly, let the Red Sea cave in and be whole. U
the joy of sexting VERONICA CIASTKO
know that a person should have an orgasm as often as their partner. This feels right, fair and sensible. Yet, for years after I started having sex, it just didn’t happen for me with my partners. “It just takes a long time,” I’d say, or “that felt really good,” eluding the question of my orgasm entirely. Often, I faked it. These approaches felt wrong, but I was utterly bewildered as to how to make it happen. My body became unknown amd uncooperative during sex. I would command and it would ignore. That is, until I discovered the true joy of one of nature’s age-old carnal delights: sexting. The summer after my first year of university, I went home to the US. I lounged on a pool chair in the backyard, read books all day and relished, for the first time, in the joy of doing nothing. When a friend asked if I wanted to go on a weekend road trip I felt, surprisingly, no inhibitions. I said yes right away. In the carload of people was a boy I’ll call Nick. Nick and I had always had flirty chemistry in high school, but a relationship had never bloomed, sexually or otherwise. On the second night of the road trip, with all of us curled in sleeping bags on the floor of a stranger’s living room, Nick and I talked. In the dark, our hushed voices floated up to the ceiling, vanishing in the air like smoke. It wasn’t sexual. We talked about dorky people from high school that we had practically forgotten, and traced back the reason for why he and I had stopped talking in the first place. When the conversation lulled and a quiet fell on the room, I felt something new. I got up to go pee, to push the feeling down. In the bathroom mirror my cheeks were flushed. When I came back Nick was asleep, one foot poking out from beneath his blanket. I went back to Vancouver shortly thereafter. One day, I got a text from Nick. We chatted. It was comforting to talk with someone from home as I navigated landing an apartment and a job in a city that still felt so foreign, and soon the conversation turned to sex. I felt silly at first. Sexting was a thing I’d dabbled with in the early years of high school, when my sexuality felt so completely outside myself. I had hoped then that following neat, orderly rules would deliver me to supreme womanhood. Kiss a boy, let him touch your boobs, send
him a picture of your butt and bam! You’re a sexually mature woman! When I realized this wasn’t the case, I’d thrown out some behaviours — including sexting. So when Nick first moved into that territory, describing my body with words that made me blush, I thought this wasn’t for me. But as we continued to chat in the coming days, our conversations full of memes and idle chatter about what we were up to, I began to like the sexting that inevitably happened each night. And I mean really like it. It was the sexual exploration porn was never able to provide. Porn felt rehearsed and unreal — it was sexually stimulating, but not in a way that felt applicable to me, transferable to my own life. But sexting was my life, just typed out. The act of writing sexts manifested my realization of my actual desires. The letters on the page forced a truth where it hadn’t existed before. I didn’t lie to Nick about the sexual things that I wanted. In fact, nearly every sext began with “I want you to…” The pressures of a person’s naked body in my presence was lifted. There was no need to fake it. There was only my own body in the room. Nick and I stopped talking eventually. Feelings had become confusing on both of our ends and I had grown to want a partner in my Vancouver world, who would do the things I had finally figured out I wanted. I now wanted a real body in the room with me. When I met my now-boyfriend for the first time at a bar in East Vancouver, I felt high on this new need. We ate nachos and drank cider, and smiled at each other a lot. A few dates later, when we had sex, it felt like a completely new experience. It was awkward and clunky, as most new-partner experiences are, but I was satisfied in my newfound awareness of and advocacy for myself. Months later, when I went home over winter break, I didn’t meet up with Nick. We exchanged some terse texts and I explained that I had a new person in my life. Neither of us made mention of the months when we both badly wanted to be together in person. Instead, I sexted my boyfriend. I felt the same budding desire I’d felt the summer before, with one difference. This time, when I got back to Vancouver, I could turn those silly sexts into a reality. U
Intimacy in Brief
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the rule of threes KATE COLENBRANDER To the boy wearing a black toque who I saw leaving the Nest as I entered it last semester: We made eye contact three separate times in our 30-second encounter, each glance building intimacy and sexual tension. I understand the accidental first look during which our eyes met — but once the count passed two, I took that as the equivalent to a marriage proposal and wanted to use this opportunity to accept it.
sure, buddy ALEXANDRA COLE
here’s your chest ARTHUR LOCKWOOD To the pretty girl who came by the pizza place and to whom I said, “here’s your chest” instead of “here’s your change”: I was seven hours into an eight hour shift and my brain was primitive and it just slipped I’m sorry let’s go out some time.
importance of food
I have been sexually active since I was 15 years old, but when I was 21, I orgasmed for the first time. For years, I told partners that I had never climaxed and every single one’s answer was the same: “I can fix that.” Sure, buddy. The first time I had an orgasm, I was in the back of a soccer mom van. He had been in between my legs for the better part of an hour, and every time my body made a weird noise or I apologized for being too loud, he whispered to me, “It’s okay.” I felt so comfortable, so warm, so content — and with my fingers buried in his hair, I came over and over and over again. When it was over, our eyes met and we laughed in tandem, his arms wrapping around me in a tight hug. The seat beneath me was sticky and soaked with warmth, and I felt safe in his arms. The environment was less than sexy, but it remains one of the most intimate moments I’ve ever shared with someone. It wasn’t about love, it wasn’t about accomplishment — it was about making me comfortable. I think that’s what it’s about.
AIKEN LAO To the nice stranger who awkwardly chatted with me before my psychology exam and proceeded to sit beside me during the exam: Sorry I left early. I was hungry.
sheets ALEXANDRA COLE I bled colours all over her sheets.
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AIKEN LAO To the boy who fell asleep on me after a drunken night of failing at beer pong: You’re heavy. And you have a cute smile.
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Someone You’re Seeing
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when in love with a friend HANA GOLIGHTLY “I think I’m in love with you,” I want to say. But don’t worry. I’m in love with you, but it’s a slower, gentler burn than what you are picturing. The way I love you is quiet. It always will be. It is a big love, foundational like the tidal pull of the moon, but I don’t need to scream it from the rooftops. This love is simply there, like the scars on my left knee from where I fell when I was 11, in a screaming, triumphant leap down the stairs to the beach on a family vacation. I like to choose my own catastrophes. I might dream of you sometimes, and I know you can tell when you look at me. But don’t worry — I’m in love with you, but it’s softer and less fervent than what you are imagining. We’re in a crowded room, you look up and our eyes meet; everything is very still and the background blurs, and you can tell by my expression that I’ve thought about kissing you. Don’t worry, I won’t. Though I hang the moon by your gaze, I’ll sit on my hands so I don’t take yours.
turbulent ALEXANDRA COLE I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that understands darkness as well as I do Your fingers write symphonies on my skin And I see rainy evenings in your eyes I dream of your arms around me, watching the ocean
almost toe good to be true EMILIE KNEIFEL My pinkie toes are kind of special. For starters, they don’t really look like toes — they look like fleshy tadpoles. As if their looks weren’t enough, instead of helping me walk like toes are supposed to, they just get in the way, half-wedging themselves between the ground and my ring toes. They’re useless and ugly, and for a long time, I was certain that my hideous toes had destined me for solitude. Until I met my boyfriend, I’d never actually encountered anything that matched their level of unsightliness. My boyfriend is a lot of things. He’s soft and kind and sweet. He’s confident, but never too proud to ask for help. He’s always, always there. He’s also pretty hot. But the day I fell in love with him wasn’t the first time I unzipped his pants. It was another kind of disrobing altogether. It was the day I took off his socks to find that his pinkie toes look exactly like mine.
Turbulent, they called me I believe that I’m a storm you want to endure “Crazy, or crazy for you?” Your breath blankets me Safe in your embrace
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The Psychology of Swiping
aybe you’re on it after a bad breakup. Maybe you’re on it to pass the time during your long bus ride. Maybe you’re on it to genuinely look for someone to make a meaningful connection with (in which case, maybe you should try Plenty of Fish instead). No matter the reason, there’s a good chance that you are one of the 19 million college-aged Tinder users. The infamous dating app, where you swipe left or right on profiles to either try and match with them or reject them, has gained a reputation for being a place for people to seek out hookups and casual sex — as well as a net worth in the billions. Gone are the days of hanging out at the bar, setting your sights on someone and wooing them with your superior flirting techniques. Or are they? Tinder has the reputation for being “the hookup app,” but what does it actually do for us in terms of building human connections? What does it mean for the way that people interact and judge one another when they go back to real life? SWIPING RIGHT (I.E. THE GOOD STUFF) According to UBC professor of philosophy Dr. Carrie Jenkins, our expectations about love — especially ones that are socially constructed — have evolved since the advent of online dating. “If you just rely on walking into a bar and hoping to meet someone, the chances of meeting someone who wants the same kind of relationship as you, [especially] if you want anything at all that’s not the ‘normative standard,’ is quite small,” she said. The “script” for prescribed relationships changes as more people gain the power to decide what kinds of relationships they want to be in — they no longer have to be monogamous, have an expectation of leading to marriage, or be heterosexual. The power to “filter” through the kinds of people you would be interested in seeing is made possible through Tinder, noted Jenkins. This concept of a new “script” applies to the way that relationships pan out as well, said UBC sociology professor Dr. Yue Qian. She cited a study done by an American scholar, who found that it was not the case that young people are currently only hooking up instead of getting into romantic relationships. Rather, the way that romantic relationships come about are now different. “Think about courtship in the old days. Two people go to dinner, see a movie, they try it out through dates, and then they define a serious relationship and continue dating,” said Qian. “Nowadays, relationships start in the bed and then they decide whether they want to have shared
events outside of the bed. The sequence of events has changed a bit — maybe with the help of online dating.” SWIPING LEFT (I.E. THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF) This new-age dating method, in many ways, isn’t very new-age at all. In fact, Qian said that it is only the technology that is recent, and that traditional dating dynamics are still prevalent. “For example, in the US, research has shown that when they ask online daters to rate online dating profiles, they find that highly educated men have higher rating scores than highly educated women. So being educated is a much more preferable attribute for men than for women.” It seems then that while there is new technology to facilitate new kinds of relationships, the way that people use them still trends towards traditional preferences. Despite Tinder’s popularity and the large number of people using the app, there is still a degree of stigma around it. One student said that he and his current girlfriend met through Tinder, but they both tell their parents they met at a party or through mutual friends because he knows they wouldn’t understand. But even among young people, there is a certain aspect of negativity surrounding online dating. “[My friend] said that he didn’t like how it was basically the same thing as walking through a club at the end of the night when the lights go on, trying to find someone to bang. But you’re not drunk, you’re actually just online,” said Jemma Dash, a third-year psychology major. “There’s something to be said about something that’s so physical, and then transforming the entrance into that physical world in a way that has absolutely nothing physical. It just seems like two extremes bashing together, which doesn’t work for me.” SWIPING FAST The signature swiping motion of Tinder allows users to go through many people within seconds, often making a snap judgement based on just a single picture. “These kinds of apps can reinforce stereotypes towards certain groups,” said Qian. For example, Qian cited the difference between Asian men and women on the dating market. Asian men are often stereotyped as the least preferable racial group, while Asian women are often fetishized as one of the most preferable. What this means for online dating is that there is a very clear mechanism and filter in place for people to be selective about the race of potential mates. “When we look at the profile pictures on an app like Tinder, what do we identify first? Race,” said Qian. “Without the intention
of even trying to get to know that person, we are more likely to make rash decisions about who they’re interested in based on longstanding stereotypes, especially about race.” The quick, surface level interactions of the app were off-putting to Dash, who deleted it after three days. “I think going into it, you can’t really expect it to work if you want more than [surface level interaction] or if you value more than that because you’re going into a platform where it’s so appearance-based,” she said. On the other hand, the split second hot-or-not decisions we make about people aren’t necessarily restricted to the online realm. “We make instant snap judgements about people within the first few seconds of looking at them. In some ways, Tinder is really just mirroring a thing that happens in the offline world as well,” said Jenkins. “Even people who swipe quickly, I don’t necessarily think they’re doing anything particularly different from what we do in real life when we meet new people. But they’re doing more of it because they’re being presented with more options.” SWIPING SMART The long and the short of online dating, hooking up and relationships is to think critically about the social construction of what love and dating looks like. Hookup culture, for example, may not actually be as new of a concept as it’s generally perceived to be. “With the rise of social media in general, we see things now that we didn’t notice at first because we just weren’t able to and [it] was so filtered out due to a lack of communication, at least at that level,” said David Pashinsky, a first-year forestry student. “I think hookup culture’s always been there, but it just hadn’t had a way to manifest itself until now.” With Tinder and romance in the era of technology, Jenkins urges people in general, but especially students, to be mindful of misconceptions and misinformation. The idea that everyone is on Tinder hooking up with people can in fact perpetuate a kind of pressure on people to do just that, or risk being seen as “weird.” “It’s important to ask questions like, ‘Hang on, where did that pressure come from? How does it interact with what I really want from my life right now?’ That’s a question where the answer’s going to be different for everybody, even if the pressure is the same,” she said. “You have to think about all of this really hard and you have to think about it for yourself because no one else is going to do what you need to do.” U
the ubyssey the sex issue
I confess CAMELIA ALIKASHANI Lately I’ve been told that I shock people, and you’ve admitted I’ve shocked you, too. But I have my own confession — something that took me off guard. The other day, you taught me just how many nerves exist on human hands. You reached over and weaved your fingers through the gaps between my own. Then and there, I discovered just how much my hands could really feel. They have held newborns, strummed guitar strings and had a love affair through the keys of a piano. They have whispered sweet words through midnight messages, and have felt life leave from within their grasp, but I confess that I never imagined a simple clutch could send such a shock through them, traveling across my entire body with a single, natural gesture. As we sat side by side, shoulders touching, fingers intertwined, hands growing warmer with every passing minute, I felt a heat rush through my entire being. And when you rubbed my fingers oh-sogently? It was as if someone had just started a circuit on my skin — and even though sparks and ashes from flames can give you third-degree burns, I confess that I have never felt a warmth more pleasant. In fact, I welcome the scorch. U
To him, to you JOSHUA SHEPHERD
JOB FAIR FEB 12-18 9AM-6PM
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It is fucking intimate when someone leaves you feeling broken. It’s intimate when someone tells you that you have too many flaws — that you are a good person to hurt. When someone gives up on you so easily, I hope you discover that intimacy the way that I did. A lot of things were broken, but my heart wasn’t broken. It was working overtime, exhausted and heavy, trying to heal the rest of me. I felt sad, so I tried to heal through my pain, searching for my own faults, examining every word and memory to explain why the relationship failed. I felt hurt, so I tried to heal through my anger, searching for his shortcomings, setting fire to every memory. It was his fault, wasn’t it? But the blame game is a losing game. We both made mistakes. I’m not perfect. He isn’t perfect. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t him. It was us. The moment that I walked away and didn’t look back, I began to know what it truly meant to be intimate. I still need to heal, to fix the emotional damage that he left behind when he told me that I was flawed, but not how I was flawed. How do I prove that I am worth love? How do I prove that I am not as flawed as he said I was? I am learning, but it is so fucking painful sometimes. I have learned to tenderly hold my beautifully imperfect body the way that I tried to hold his. That is intimacy. I have learned to gently hold my heart the way my friend held me as I cried for the whole morning. That is intimacy. I have learned to be patient with myself — we don’t heal in one night, in one essay. A friend reminded me of this in a note that simply read, “time heals all wounds.” That is intimacy. I have learned to love myself when I don’t want to, the way my parents continuously loved me when I told them that I was gay. That is intimacy. I may never know exactly how I am flawed, but I will find healing in intimacy with myself, my friends and my family. I will be okay. To him — forgive me, I know you meant well and you are kind. To you, the reader — you are perfectly flawed. Find intimacy. Love yourself patiently. Healing takes time. U
The healing properties of the vagina HAILEY ROLLHEISER “My dick is fucking raw,” he said, bent over the bed with his hard-on exposed. “I think I can feel your IUD.” I narrowed my eyes at him in indignant speculation. He was neither the largest nor the most enthusiastic sex partner I had been with that summer. How could that be? (This is actually nearly impossible.) And then to think, that while I was on top of him, I was actually stabbing him with my IUD… I felt embarrassed and angered by his lack of grace. I made a secret vow to myself right then and there that I would never again ride him. Ha! Except, for logic-defying reasons unknown, I wanted to have sex with him again, and thought about it frequently. Maybe it was his repetitive, sweet pillow talk which occurred incessantly both nights we spent together. He was still mourning the break-up with his long-term girlfriend that happened a year and a half ago, calling her his “girlfriend” on more than one occasion. “You have a girlfriend?” I once asked incredulously. “No, I mean my ex-girlfriend.” If that isn’t a big enough sign to get out while you still can, I don’t know what is. But my ego got in the way and I viewed us as two people cut from the same cloth — two melancholy victims of awful breakups who were still somewhat caught up in the evil vortexes of their villainous exes. In a romantic comedy, this was the perfect set-up for us to fall in love while we soothed each other’s broken hearts with oral sex and reverse-cowgirl. He was broken, and so like many other women in the world, I thought, alas, it is only I who can fix him with the healing properties of my vagina! The success rate of this idea sits at a slim two per cent (probably) and like many heroic women before me, the fallen man continued hobbling along his crooked path, having now hurt both of us even more in his delusional quest of the broken-hearted. U
Something borrowed ERIC LEUNG He had finally kissed her for the first time that night. Her lips were soft and puffy — like cotton candy, if you please — and oh god, how it melted on him. A part of him kept calling out for more… more… more… because that was what he was supposed to do because he was in love. The world was tilting and spinning and exploding, and he couldn’t stop for fuck’s sake because he was madly in love and in love and in love. But a small part of him — that teeny-tiny good part which always reminded him to wear a condom, for instance — prevented him from overdoing it. So he pulled away slowly, having kissed no more than the tip of her lips, and turned his thoughts to strawberries, because that was how she tasted and how he would remember her for the rest of his life, for god knows how long how long how long how long — Her eyes slowly opened and looked into his, but he could never decipher her because she wasn’t his. Not for a twitch of an eye, or a split of a second, or nanosecond, or never and ever because she wasn’t his, she wasn’t his, she wasn’t his. So he cupped her delicate face with one of his large hands (perhaps a bit too large for comfort) and used his oversized thumb to trace the smoothness of her pink skin, feeling for her warmth. Remembering it. There were no tears to trace, feelings to be told, nor love to be made because why should there be? It was just a moment. A moment to be remembered and the moment was short, the moment was long, the moment was eternal, the moment was fleeting, the moment was nothing, the moment was everything. Why couldn’t things be both nothing and everything, and why did they have to be so black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and black and white and black and — “Will you remember me?” he whispered. But she never answered, and he never asked again. Somewhere the clock struck 12 and the music halted. Something borrowed must be returned on its due date. U
Heaven helps those who help themselves OLAMIDE OLANIYAN The prevailing image of love today is one of raw, unadulterated desire. One of unconditional irreverence and worship. Passion that dazes you and leaves you short of breath. A love comprised of indestructible energy and the unfailing laws of attraction. Heaven. We are constantly bombarded with this image — on television, in movies, in art and in music. But this image also carries a more insidious undertone: that our quest for intimacy should come before all else, and that we must fight for it even at the toll of ourselves. From this idea comes the common belief that relationships are nasty. That we are meant to feel bad or even feel unsafe in relationships and that we should hold on to them at the expense of our own emotions. I am not advocating for collectively throwing ourselves off of a cliff like lemmings and ending all relationships that we feel challenged in. I am challenging the idea that relationships cannot be fulfilling, that we can’t co-exist without tearing each other down. I am saying that a loving relationship, where you both support each other’s goals and help each other achieve them, is a perfectly real thing and that we can all get there. How can we get to the point where our significant others respect us and make us feel safe? We need to love ourselves first and not settle for less. That sounds selfish, but it is only when we are good with ourselves and know ourselves that we can then know what we want out of a relationship. Many of us have these thoughts floating around in our heads of what we want and who we want to be with. But often we choose the first person that comes by who only remotely fits into that mould, jumping headfirst into the opportunity and discarding our other desires and needs that are in those moments seemingly unimportant. Those issues come up more often as time rolls by — and as the honeymoon goggles come off, the boxing gloves come out. Instead of compromising on certain things, we start to sacrifice them. There’s a saying where I’m from, regularly touted as something between a universal truth and a religious piece of advice — “heaven helps those who help themselves.” Help yourself. Take care of yourself. Love yourself. Never play yourself. And someday, maybe someone will love you too. U
the ubyssey the sex issue
how to have a healthy relationship, according to science
how to deal with a breakup, scientifically
KOBY MICHAELS KOBY MICHAELS Relationships are all about feelings, not facts, but a healthy dose of data won’t hurt your love life — just keep it out of the bedroom. Here’s what can you learn from science to have a less-than-awful breakup: First things first — breakups suck. Psychological research has equated breakups with the grief associated with a death. It’s okay to be mad, angry, sad, or disappointed, or all of the above. The fastest way to get over it is to embrace the suck. Just give the suck a big bear hug — it’ll be shorter that way. Unfriend them. Unfriend and unfollow them on every social media platform you have. Delete their phone number. Facebook even has a tool to help you forget your ex. Seeing their posts — or your ex seeing yours — is just asking for more emotions than you can handle right now. Don’t drink. Drinking away your sorrows sounds like a great idea — it’s not. Alcohol is a depressant and is just going to make you feel worse. And don’t go out and try an upper because that will just bury the problem for an hour or two before all those feelings come crashing back down on you. Reach out to friends. Humans hate rejection. Back when we were hunter-gatherers, being rejected by a group meant death. While a breakup is not (repeat not) life-threatening, your brain isn’t good at differentiating between types of rejection and loss. A little acceptance — with help from your friends — can go a long way towards tricking your brain out of its post-rejection slump. Exercise, eat well and get enough sleep. More and more research is coming out about how taking care of yourself really is the best medicine. And whatever you do, don’t get back together with your ex. U
ask sexy natalie NATALIE MORRIS Dear Sexy Natalie, How do you feel closer to your partner when in bed? I’m guessing you’re not talking about sleeping here! But the same advice applies when talking about anything to do with sex: communication and consent are key. What works for one person might be completely wrong for others. Some people like a lot of eye contact to feel intimate, but some like… knowing that their partner isn’t going to choke them too hard. Different strokes for different folks — pun absolutely intended. My girlfriend really wants to be dominated in the bedroom. How do I do this? Let me say it again for the people in the back: communication and consent. What are both your and her comfort levels? What does “domination” mean for her exactly? Where do you want to draw the line? Talk about this beforehand, and think of a safe word or just go with the “green, yellow, red” rule. Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable dominating her or you just know that you won’t have a good time, say so — consent goes both ways! Make sure you give each other proper aftercare. And have fun! U
Relationships are really, really hard and no relationship is without its problems. Even that couple you know that has been together for years, is always smiling at each other and posts cute couple photos all the time? Yep, they have their problems too. Perfect relationships simply don’t exist — get that through your head. So what does science say is the best way to have a healthy relationship? Communication: Duh, but communication is hard. One simple lesson to learn from research is how to argue well. The point of an argument isn’t to win — it’s about finding a solution. Your partner isn’t your enemy, so don’t treat them like one — even when they are being objectively annoying. Compassion: There are two components to compassion — kindness and generosity. Say your partner is a giant nerd and points out a bigger-than-usual moon, which you give zero fucks about. Instead of dragging them away, suck it up and stare at the moon with them. If it’s important enough for them to have wanted to point out, show some compassion and indulge them. It might seem like a little thing, but this mentality could be the closest thing love has to a magic bullet. Physical intimacy: Sex is a good start, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all of physical intimacy. A lot of research says that the more sex you have, the better your relationship is going to be. But just sex isn’t enough — you need to show physical intimacy beyond coitus. Cuddling, hugging and kissing are all strongly associated with greater relationship satisfaction. If you like someone, show them. They’ll be happier and so will you. Don’t be a jerk: This is easier said than done, but it basically boils down to just not being selfish. Relationships have to be mutual. Give a little now and then — you might even like it. Bonus tip, free of charge: Do new and exciting things with your partner. Your brain is too unevolved to know the difference between the excitement of the new thing and excitement associated with a person. Your brain will associate all the adrenaline from narrowly avoiding death-by-skydiving with your partner. U
vaginyah’s & vaginah’s
there is no saviour SAMUEL DU BOIS & SAMANTHA SEARLE There is no saviour in a relationship. Nobody, no matter how much they love you, can fix you. If you are looking for the kind of person that soft-rock bands in the 90s sung about (“Wonderwall” by Oasis, “Fix You” by Coldplay), you should leave those ideas behind. Not only is it unrealistic, but it is also unfair to expect your significant other to save you. They are similarly flawed individuals that have their own troubles to deal with. You can help each other work through things, of course, but you cannot expect them to whisk you away to their golden palace or have them turn you into a pouty vampire to mope eternally together. This isn’t meant to sound cynical. You aren’t doomed to wade through your problems alone — you just have to respect your partner’s problems as well. Don’t make their troubles more difficult for the sake of your own ease. Understand each other. Help each other as best as you can, but do not mistake self-sacrifice for some romantic idea of what love is. Love is a balance of all respects. Strength in yourself is as vital as the strength you have together. If you can make it through the most difficult of times, your relationship will be stronger because of it. U
Light a few candles, put on some Patti Smith, pull out your pocket mirror and get a good angle: it’s time to get close and personal with your furry friend we all know as the vagina. Here’s a short list of facts that you should have been learning in your middle school health class while they were putting a condom on a banana for the fifth time. LOVE THY LABIA No two vaginas, much like chicken nuggets, are the same. Put simply, vaginas are extremely varied in size and shape of the clitoris, labia, amount of pubic hair and more. So don’t worry if it doesn’t look like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting — mine doesn’t either.
abstinence isn’t always a bad thing HAILEY ROLLHEISER In third year, after a string of bad sexual partners, I abstained for eight months. What I learned was simple and seemingly obvious, but nevertheless important: sex should be a choice. It should make you feel good (while you’re having it and afterwards) and waiting for the right person in order to avoid sex that makes you feel shameful, sad or lonely is a perfectly fine idea. U
TO PEE OR NOT TO PEE Something that still shocks me to this day is the “common knowledge” that to prevent or help prevent the risk of getting a urinary tract infection, consider peeing after sex. A urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria that travels up the urethra and enters the bladder, and peeing flushes out the bacteria that may have accumulated post-sex. Just make sure you wipe front to back, you fucking animals. DON’T BE A DOUCHE I don’t know if I’ve emphasized this enough: your vagina is magical. It is a self-cleaning machine that features natural processes that work to maintain a pH balance. By introducing foreign materials like douches and body washes, you’re going to piss it off (no pun intended). So stick to warm — and if needed, minimally soapy — water. HONOURABLE DISCHARGE To quote Jenny Slate, “There is no woman that ends her day with a clean pair of underpants that look like they’ve ever even come from the store. They look like a little bag that has fallen face down in a tub of cream cheese.” According to Vanessa Cullins of Planned Parenthood, “The purpose of discharge is to keep the vagina clean,” and likewise, gynaecologists say that a healthy vagina will release about a teaspoon of discharge in the span of 24 hours. Discharge can range widely in consistency and colour, change throughout your monthly cycle and should only cause major concern if there is a dramatic change in its appearance and/or smell. Your discharge can be a great barometer for your vaginal health, and knowing that the presence of it is normal is the first step to identifying what's abnormal or unhealthy. YOUR CYCLE IS FLUID, PERIOD Your menstrual cycle can be influenced by a multitude of factors despite any previous patterns of uniformity. Diet, exercise, medication, stress, age, sleep, travel, alcohol and drug consumption can all have effects on the length and time of your period or ovulation.
Whether you have a vagina or not, I hope this list gave you confidence, knowledge and much-needed lip service (pun intended) to the eighth wonder of the world: the vagina. U
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