Commentary Sexuality

He Won’t Have Sex Anymore: How Can I Change His Mind?

Heather Corinna

Have a partner who wants to step away from sex with you or take a break? If you're wondering what to do to change that, the only right answer is nothing at all. We need to always respect a person's sexual limits and boundaries, whatever their gender.

Published in partnership with Scarleteen

Anonymous asks:

My boyfriend and I have been going out for more a than a year now and we have grown extremely close. We use to have sex regularly and then he just kind of halted it. I want to have sex but he does not want to because of the potential of pregnancy. I suggest using condoms but he still refuses. Is there any way I can convince him to have sex again or will it seem like I am desperate? Please help!

Heather Corinna replies:

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I’m not concerned about you looking desperate by doing anything to try and convince your partner to have sex it seems he’s made clear he’s not comfortable having. What I am concerned about with any situation like this is your partner possibly not having his limits and boundaries respected. That’s the big deal here in my book.

Are there things you could do to convince him to have sex with you? Probably. But it doesn’t matter what those things might be. I’m certainly not going to suggest them.

That’s because I feel very strongly you should not try and change his mind about this in the first place. Trying to change someone’s mind about sex we want, but they don’t want or feel comfortable with, is coercion. In other words, when anyone is doing that, that’s not a healthy framework nor one where, if sex does then occur as a result of that other person trying to change a partner’s no or not now to a yes, the sex would not be fully and freely consensual. You probably don’t need me to tell you that that’s a big, bad deal, even if and when that’s the last thing you intended to do.

What I think you should do, and what any of us always need to do in healthy sexual relationships or interactions, is respect the limit he has set, just like I’d hope he would do for you were the shoe on the other foot.

He’s said he’s not comfortable having whatever kinds of sex he’s not comfortable having right now because he’s concerned about unwanted pregnancy, and it seems he doesn’t feel using condoms alone, like you suggested, would make him feel comfortable enough to engage in sex as a whole, or whatever kinds of sex he’s taken off the table. So, for right now, that’s just how it is, and is something you need to accept.

Now, if he really wants to be having those kinds of sex, and the only issue he has voiced so far that is making sex not-okay for him is the risk of pregnancy and a lack of prevention that is effective enough to make him feel comfortable, AND he has not shut the door on this, but made clear he’d love to have sex were it not for this thing, then you two can certainly talk some more about this. Him voicing that might have sounded something like, “I really, really want to be sexual with you, and I wish I felt okay about it, believe me. But I just don’t, because I am just not okay with the pregnancy risk. If there wasn’t one, I wouldn’t be having this issue.”

If that’s the case, you can open a supportive, pressure-free conversation by first making clear that you respect the limit he has set, and have every intention of continuing to respect it. But, you can add, if he’d really like to be having sex, and he’d like to talk or research some more together to see if you can find a way to engage in sex that does feel right for him and does take care of his conflicts with it now, you’d like to talk about that, too, and see if you can’t find a solution together that works for both of you.

Maybe condoms don’t take care of his discomfort with the pregnancy risk, for example, but maybe condoms and a second reliable form of contraception would. If he does want to look into something like that, perhaps if you two can find a method or combination of methods you both do feel comfortable with, then he’ll change his own mind because he got what he needed to change the situation so that it’s one he is comfortable with. Again, this is assuming he really wants to be engaging in sex right now: if he does, then doing what you can to help him find what he needs for you to both pursue something you want and both feel comfortable with is totally healthy, and isn’t disrespectful of the lines he has drawn.

If that sounds like the right thing to him, and he feels good about that, you two could start by looking at pieces here like this or this, or at Planned Parenthood’s excellent birth control information both want, while working with their boundaries, rather than pushing against them or ignoring them.

Let’s say he doesn’t want to look into other methods right now or did, but still finds nothing gets him comfortable enough, or still isn’t comfortable with other kinds of sex, or just doesn’t want to talk about this anymore for now, period. What then? Again, you’re going to start by accepting that. Then you have a couple options to consider.

I want to first be clear: whether someone is a girl, a guy or a prairie vole, it is totally okay to want to be sexual with someone and to pursue being sexual with someone you want to be sexual with when it feels right for you. But, of course, when there is anyone else involved, the same also always has to be true for them. And anytime anyone is giving us a red light, for any reason, while we may feel bummed out, and it’s okay to feel bummed out, we always need to stop at that light and only ever move forward if it turns green, rather than trying to run it. But you wanting to be sexual and being bummed he doesn’t, or does, but just isn’t cool with that right now? That’s okay. You get to feel disappointed. You also get to still want to be sexual with someone even if they don’t want to be sexual with you, now or ever, or do, but it’s just not right for them. You wanting to be sexual when someone else who doesn’t also doesn’t make you desperate. It just makes you someone who wants a thing someone else doesn’t want or doesn’t feel comfortable with right now, that’s all.

So, what are those options if he doesn’t want to talk any more about this or explore things that might make him more comfortable with you?

Perhaps obviously, if you want an exclusive sexual relationship that is also a romantic relationship and he just doesn’t want that right now, or can’t provide that, you don’t have to stay with this person as that partner or in that kind of relationship. You, like anyone else, always have the option to move away from this relationship or switch it to a platonic friendship if a non-sexual relationship just is not what you want or need and you want to seek out a sexual relationship with someone else for whom sex does feel like the right thing right now. And if that is where you’re at right now, and that’s what you want to do, that’s okay.

It might help to know that more often than not, our first or early relationships tend to be stepping stones in our personal and social development and rarely become very long-term or lifelong sexual or romantic relationships. At any age or time of life, people leave or change relationships when the wants and needs of the people in them aren’t being met, or because the people involved want or are ready for very different things. Sometimes those issues are about whether people want to get married or not, have kids or not, live in the same part of the world or not, have the same values or politics or not, communicate well or don’t, and sometimes they’re about sex. There are really no absolutes about right or wrong reasons to shift or move on from a given relationship, and that’s true of any kind of relationship, too, not just romantic or sexual relationships. You’ve probably experienced that with a friendship at least once in your life already by now. So, if you, he, or both of you feel that around this issue or others, you just might not be the best fit for this kind of relationship anymore, ending it or changing it to a different kind of relationship are valid options.

But sometimes in our relationships — and the longer they last, the more sometimes tends to shift to often — there is going to be some ebb and flow around parts of it, or the people within it, that shift or change, or that are or aren’t happening at a given time. People don’t tend to stay the same through all of life, nor do our lives, so the same is true of our relationships. They will not tend to stay the same over time. Now and then we might find that one part of our relationship is taking more of a lead, or becoming more central than another, or that some part of our relationship or something we do together within it needs to get shelved for a while or be put on hold for any number of reasons. That can happen with a lot of things besides sex or the sexual part of a relationship, but it also absolutely can happen with sex, too.

If you have found and still find a lot of value in the relationship as a whole, and in all the other parts of this relationship besides the sexual piece — like your friendship, like the romantic parts of this is a romantic relationship, like the other paces you two connect with, or ways you are different, but feel like they balance you out — and it’s also a relationship you both want to keep sexually exclusive, then you can also to think about waiting this out or sticking with this and investing the patience, energy and time in working out whatever you both want and need to around it.

And in this case, that might just be about pregnancy risks, but this might also be about more than only that. I don’t know how all of this has been going with you two so far, or what the biggest history of your sexual relationship has been like, but, for instance, if you have been pushing when he has set this limit or others, that certainly could be a sound reason he might want to take sex off the table. I’m not saying you have, but if so, that could totally be part of this. It could also be a world of other things. Sometimes people who feel ready for sex or a certain kind of sex only find out after they engage in it that they weren’t ready, or need things they didn’t know they did before sex was actual, not an abstract. And while needing or wanting to put a stop or a pause on sex can be hard for a lot of people to talk to a partner about, this can be particularly hard for guys. Culturally and interpersonally, guys can be under more pressures to engage in sex than women are: in a lot of ways, the pressure a lot of guys experience to be having sex — from friends, girlfriends or boyfriends, the media, and even family members — is similar to the kinds of pressures a lot of young women experience NOT to have sex, or only to do so in certain social contexts.

That isn’t to say this must be about more than the pregnancy issue. That could be all it’s about. But if it’s not, you’re going to want to know what else it is about, and you’re both going to want to be able to talk about and work through whatever those things are if you’re going to stay in a relationship. And one of the best ways to create the kind of safe, emotional space for him where he can feel able to voice other, perhaps trickier, issues than the pregnancy issue is to have him know, without a doubt, that his limits are always things you will always accept and respect.

I’d also say that if you find the pause he’s pressed on this is making you feel really insecure or freaked out, it’s good to try and figure out why: good for your relationship, but also good for yourself. It might just be that you’re bumming because you feel a desire for sex with this person, enjoy engaging in sex with this person, and it blows it’s not happening right now. But it might be more than that. For instance, if sex with a partner is part of the way you experience and explore intimacy together, it can sometimes wind up being one of the only ways: it can get out of balance. If sex stops or is taking a breather and people feel like they’re not getting any intimacy, that can be a way of identifying you might need some other ways to be and feel that close in your relationship. Even when sex is happening, relationships that are about more than sex don’t fare well when sex is the only route to intimacy. Another common issue is that a lot of people have a ton of self-esteem or validation of their appeal or attractiveness tied to sex. If and when sex stops, people can find they feel very insecure, worry they aren’t wanted, worry they aren’t attractive. Something like that is another thing when, if that is what’s going on, you’ll want to remedy that whether sex is happening or not, because that can also really mess up your relationship with someone else as well as your relationship with your own sexuality. You can take time to explore and expand other ways to amp your self-esteem and the other ways to feel self-confident, which is good for you regardless. Again, having a balance is important for a healthy sexuality, healthy relationships and just a healthy, happy you.

Those are just two possibilities of many. Take the time to think about them and others and check in with yourself, and maybe your partner, too. It may be that this conflict winds up showing one of both of you things you might not have noticed before and would really benefit from being aware of and sorting out.

Now and then, taking a break from sex in relationships can provide great opportunities for us to not just grow other parts of it, but to improve the sexual part of it, too. Having the chance and the time to really talk more about sex, our sexual limits and boundaries, the sexual dynamics in a relationship, the places in our own sexualities we find, through our relationship, are different than we expected, or may need some creative work or thinking through? These are all awesome opportunities, and things we can sometimes inadvertently shortcut when we’re having sex. If you’re choosing to stick in this relationship as it is, but actively engaging in sex or some kinds of sex is off the table for now, I suggest identifying the positives you can glean from the situation and really running with them.

Again, with any of this, just be very sure you are not pushing, but always opening with and making all the room in the world for his limits. If he doesn’t want to talk about this at all, or comes to a stop at any point, all you can respectfully do is wait until he does feel better about the kinds of sex you want to have or about talking more about it. The ball with this, as it were, will need to largely stay in his court: when and if he’s ready, he will throw the ball back. And if it turns out he just doesn’t ever come back around to wanting to engage in sex, then you’ll need to accept this just isn’t going to be a sexual relationship like it was before again, and you two can make whatever changes or adjustments you want or need to account for that.

There’s nothing desperate about someone honoring someone else’s limits and boundaries around something they themselves want, while still owning your own wants in a way that leaves room for both of you to be the different people you are, in the different places you are. That’s the opposite of desperate, and even more importantly, that’s a way to really demonstrate to the people we care about that we earnestly do care, to increase trust and intimacy and to help everyone feel more comfortable with sex — whether we’re having it or not.

I’m leaving you with some links I think might help, especially if you two do talk more and you need some helps with those conversations. I also included a link to a piece on masturbation, which is always something else we can put more energy into exploring, and something else that tends to benefit our sexuality, at any time, including times when sex with a partner isn’t available to us or the right thing.

Culture & Conversation Media

From ‘Mouseburger’ to Media Icon: Bio Traces Rise of Cosmo Editor Helen Gurley Brown

Eleanor J. Bader

Helen Gurley Brown was a publishing giant and pop-culture feminist theorist. But according to her latest biographer, she was a mass of insecurities even as she confidently told single people, especially women, to take charge of their sex lives.

Like all of us, Cosmopolitan magazine’s longtime editor Helen Gurley Brown lived with conflicting drives and desires. But Gurley Brown’s ideas and insecurities had a public platform, where she championed sex for singles while downplaying workplace sexual harassment and featured feminist voices while upholding the beauty ideals that made her own life difficult.

A workhorse who played hard, Gurley Brown, who died in 2012, is presented as an often contradictory heroine and an unexpected success story in journalist Gerri Hirshey’s new 500-page biography, Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown.

Helen Gurley Brown’s life and example—almost a classic Horatio Alger “rags to riches” tale—affirms that the American idea of surmounting humble origins is sometimes possible, if improbable. But Gurley Brown’s story also illustrates both personal grit and endurance. Wily, willing to take risks, and sexually audacious, she might be a questionable role model for 21st century women, but her amazing story, as told by Hirshey, will nonetheless inspire and entertain.

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Born in 1922, Gurley Brown led Cosmopolitan for 32 years. She moved the magazine, which had been published continuously since 1886, from relative obscurity into the limelight. Known for its brash cover chatter and how-to articles on heterosexual man-pleasing, Cosmo is the world’s highest-selling women’s magazine, with 61 print editions. Its long history—alongside Helen Gurley Brown’s personal story—offers a fascinating window into the intersection between U.S. publishing and burgeoning 20th-century feminist ideologies.

Hirshey (whose earlier books include Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music and We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The True, Tough Story of Women in Rock) presents Gurley Brown as a mess of pushes and pulls: insecure, brilliant, bold, self-effacing, loyal, independent, jittery, and frugal to the point of deprivation. Indeed, Hirshey’s revealing and detailed biography describes the pioneering editor as someone hungry for experiences; a sophisticated New Yorker with deep roots in rural America; and a writer of guidebooks who had trouble taking advice. In short, Helen Gurley Brown was limited by a host of personal issues, but that did not stop her from trying to push societal boundaries and shatter sexual propriety.

A native of small-town Arkansas, Helen’s childhood was marred by tragedy. Her father died in an accident when she was 10; several years later, her older sister, Mary, contracted polio, which left her partially paralyzed. Helen’s mother, Cleo, was overwhelmed and often depressed. Nonetheless, she scrambled to keep the creditors at bay, and the family lived in numerous decrepit rentals during Helen’s childhood.

Poverty was not the only obstacle Helen faced. According to Hirshey, “By the time Mary and Helen were school age, Cleo had begun her steady warnings that pretty girls got the best in life.” While Cleo never used the word “plain” to describe her offspring, it was clear that she did not think them comely. Helen was devastated. What’s more, the fear of being unattractive dogged her for her entire life and she had multiple surgeries to correct “flaws.” She also starved herself and exercised compulsively—and would likely now be labeled as having an eating disorder—to keep her weight at an unwavering 105 pounds.

Her success, Hirshey writes, was the result of luck, tenacity, and sheer chutzpah.

It started in the 1940s, shortly after she finished high school and secured the first of a string of secretarial jobs. During her tenure as a typist and stenographer, Helen cozied up to her male bosses and slept with some of them.

“It was the first time she truly observed and understood that sex is power,” Hirshey writes. “Helen had come to realize that sex was a surprising and thrilling equalizer between the sheets.” Gurley Brown pooh-poohed the idea that people should wait until marriage to have sex and had no problem dating men who were cheating on their wives. The same went, Hirshey writes, for racists and overt anti-Semites. Since she was giving a large part of her earnings to her mother and her sister, it was the size of a man’s bank book, rather than his politics, that evidently curried her favor.

Nevertheless, being a mistress had a downside, and Helen’s diary reveals that she felt like a “little bird … expected to stay in her cage, always available yet always alone.”

Her fortunes turned shortly after her 26th birthday, when she became secretary to Don Belding, chairman of the board at prestigious ad agency Foote, Cone, and Belding. Belding paid Helen $75 a week and treated her like a long-lost daughter; she considered him a surrogate father.

Alice Belding, Don’s wife, took a particular interest in Helen and, after reading something she’d written, persuaded her husband to give Helen a chance as a copywriter. He did, making her one of the first women to break into the field.

Meanwhile, there were men. Lots of men. “Certainly, men love beautiful women,” Hirshey writes. But Helen realized that when “the lights went out, Miss Universe might just as well be the poor, sooty match girl if she couldn’t make him shout hallelujah.” She loved the power sex gave her, but was hurt during a group therapy session when another participant dubbed her a slut. “Spoken with venom, it had the effect of a gut-punch,” Hirshey writes.  Still, it proved clarifying for Helen, allowing her to formulate the idea at the heart of her 1962 book, Sex and the Single Girl: There is nothing shameful about unmarried people having sex as long as it’s consensual.

Helen met David Brown, a high-profile movie executive, in 1958, when she was 36. David was 42, twice married and twice divorced, and had no interest in returning to the altar anytime soon.  This was fine with Helen. Nonetheless, as they spent more and more time together, they formed a strategic partnership. Yes, there was love, but Helen Gurley craved financial security, which David could provide. They wed in September 1959.

At that point, David suggested that Helen take a professional detour and write “a guidebook of sorts for single women.” Hirshey reports that he envisioned “something along the lines of ‘How to Have a Successful Affair’” and ticked off possible subjects, including how to snare a guy and dress for conquest. He also wanted the manual to include concrete sex tips. Helen loved the idea and the pair began to work on it, she as writer, he as editor.

Sex and the Single Girl told the truth as Helen saw it. Hirshey notes that the book was meant as a practicum, “and was never intended as an overtly feminist tract. Systemic change was not at all on her radar; she addressed herself to bettering the small, quotidian lives toiling within the status quo, of those, herself included, she would come to call ‘mouseburgers.’ Sexism was not even in her vocabulary.”

Her message was quite simple: Sex needed to be decoupled from marriage. As for gender roles, she was fine with women playing coy. In fact, she explicitly advised women to go out with men only if they could pay for everything, from dinner and drinks to “prezzies.”

There were of course, detractors, but Sex and the Single Girl sold millions of copies and made Helen Gurley Brown a household name. She appeared on countless TV talk shows and was the first woman featured in Playboy’s famous centerpiece interviews.

In the throes of her success, however, David was offered a job in New York and the couple decided to leave California, where they’d both lived for decades. David, Hirshey reports, knew that Helen needed to work, “that Helen unemployed would be Helen unhinged.” Together, they developed a prototype for a monthly women’s magazine that would popularize and expand upon the ideas in Sex and the Single Girl. They called it Femme and floated the idea to every publisher they knew. No one liked it.

Eventually, Hearst Corporation suggested “superimposing” the format on one of the corporation’s least successful publications, Cosmopolitan, with Helen Gurley Brown at the helm.

It worked, not only boosting sagging sales but catapulting “The Cosmo Girl” to prominence. Sexual freedom, Gurley Brown enthused, was in–but apparently only for heterosexuals, since the magazine rarely acknowledged the existence of same-sex relationships or bisexuality.

Nonetheless, the first few issues tackled then-risqué themes, as these titles suggest: “The Bugaboo of Male Impotence”; “I was a Nude Model (and This is What Happened)”; “Things I’ll Never Do with a Man Again”; “The Astonishingly Frank Diary of an Unfaithful Wife”; and “How to Make a Small Bosom Amount to Something.”

As the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s took hold, Cosmo flourished, albeit steering clear of covering racial unrest, the Vietnam War, or the counterculture and anti-militarism movements. Likewise, if Gurley Brown had any thoughts about the civil rights or peace movements, Hirshey neglects to mention them. She does note that for Helen, “readers of color scarcely registered.” It’s too bad this is not probed more deeply in Not Pretty Enough, and why the editor remained above the fray—was it fear, disinterest, or hostility?—remains unclear.

The women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s did capture Helen’s interest, though, and she considered herself a devout feminist, with a particular passion for promoting reproductive rights. She wrote numerous articles about the need to overhaul abortion policies pre-Roe v. Wade, openly declaring that “it’s a shame that girls have to go to Mexico or Europe to be operated on.” At Cosmo, she cheered the arrival of the birth control pill in 1960; hailed the 1965 Supreme Court decision in Griswold v. Connecticut that gave married heterosexuals access to birth control; and was exuberant when Eisenstadt v. Baird gave unmarried couples the same right to control their fertility in 1972.

Sexual harassment, on the other hand, was befuddling to her. Remembering her days as a secretary, she dubbed slaps on the ass and sexually suggestive comments to be harmless fun. “When a man finds you sexually attractive, he is paying you a compliment,” she wrote in a monthly Cosmo column. “When he doesn’t, that’s when you have to worry.”

Small wonder that Kate Millett picketed Cosmo for its “reactionary politics” or that Betty Friedan slammed it for its sexism and preponderance of inane articles on keeping men happy.

Despite disagreeing with these thinkers, Helen Gurley Brown marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in August 1970 and published articles written by prominent feminists as the 1970s unfolded.

Then, at the height of the AIDS crisis, Gurley Brown stepped in it. In early 1988, Cosmo ran an article that minimized the possibility of heterosexual transmission of HIV and made it sound as if straight women were immune from infection. Equally horrifying, the author, psychiatrist Dr. Robert E. Gould, was overtly racist. “Many men in Africa take their women in a brutal way,” he wrote, “so that some heterosexual activity regarded as normal by them would be close to rape by our standards.”

Oy. Readers were aghast, and Gurley Brown was roundly and deservedly criticized. Even Surgeon General C. Everett Koop weighed in, saying the article did “such a disservice” by suggesting that the risk of contracting the virus was low for heterosexual women. Hirshey reports that, inexplicably, the article was never retracted or corrected.

By this point, however, Helen was showing signs of dementia—she had periodical temper tantrums in public and was becoming less reliable and sharp—so Hearst Corporation brought in several new editors, albeit without firing Helen. She continued going into the office until shortly before her 2012 death. She had done paid work for 71 years.

Hirshey’s sources range from primary documents and in-person interviews with people who knew Gurley Brown, including Gloria Vanderbilt and Barbara Walters. Correspondence and recorded talks between her and friends such as Jacqueline Susann and Joan Rivers provide incisive, funny, and poignant anecdotes. These interviews give the book reportorial gravitas and intimacy. And although Hirshey had only a passing acquaintance with her subject—she had interviewed Gurley Brown decades earlier for an article about marriage proposals—she nonetheless manages to show Gurley Brown as a regular Jane who spoke openly about her nagging doubts.

Many readers will feel as if they can relate to Gurley Brown’s struggles and triumphs. Throughout the book, I felt sad for her, but also wished we’d met.

In fact, I closed the book wanting more; among other things, I wanted to better understand what it was like for her to move between near-poverty and the upper crust. Did she feel like an impostor? Did her lifelong conviction that she was not pretty enough or smart enough keep her from feeling connected to others? Did she ever feel truly secure?

Perhaps Gurley Brown’s self-doubts are what kept her from becoming arrogant or abusive to others; even those who hated Cosmopolitan or were frustrated by her racial and political blind spots admired her kindness. Similarly, these doubts did not prompt her to disguise her eccentricities—among them, pilfering from petty cash and always taking public transportation rather than cabs. Indeed, whatever Gurley Brown felt about her own appeal, Hirshey’s biography presents Helen Gurley Brown the woman as quirky, humble, and utterly fascinating.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: A Nursing Home With a Healthy Attitude Toward Sex

Martha Kempner

A nursing home understands that its elderly residents are still sexual beings; New York City is amping up its youth sexual health outreach with emojis of eggplants and monkeys; and if forced to choose between eating and sex, a good number of people pick food.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Sex Is Not Just for the Young

The New York Times recently profiled a nursing home with a sex-positive attitude for its residents. The Hebrew Home at Riverdale adopted its “sexual expression policy” in 1995 after a nurse walked in on two residents having sex. She asked her boss, Daniel Reingold, what she should do. He said, “Tiptoe out and close the door.”

Reingold, the president of RiverSpring Health (which runs the nursing home), said that aging includes a lot of loss—from the loss of spouses and friends to the loss of independence and mobility. But he believes the loss of physical touch and intimacy does not have to be part of getting older.

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The policy acknowledges that residents have the right to seek out and engage in consensual acts of sexual expression with other residents or with visitors. The policy ensures that staff understand that their role is not to prevent sexual contact. In fact, some of the staff like to play cupid for residents. Audrey Davison, an 85-year-old resident, said that the staff let her sleep in her boyfriend’s room, and one aide even made them a “Do Not Disturb” sign for his door. She added: “I enjoyed it and he was a very good lover.”

Still, there are complicating factors to dating in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. Some residents may be married to people who don’t live in the facility, and others may be suffering from memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, which can raise issues of consent. Hebrew Home’s policy states that Alzheimer’s patients can give consent under certain circumstances.

Though not all nursing homes have formal policies about sex, many acknowledge that their residents are or want to be sexually active and are working to help residents have a safe and consensual experience. Dr. Cheryl Phillips, a senior vice president at LeadingAge, an organization which represents nursing homes and others who provide elder care, also told the New York Times that this generation of older adults is different: “They’ve been having sex—that’s part of who they are—and just because they’re moving into a nursing home doesn’t mean they’re going to stop having sex.”

Of course, not all residents are lucky in love when they move in. Hebrew Home says that about 40 of its 870 residents are in relationships. Staff are trying to help the others. They set up happy hours, a prom, and have started a dating service called G-Date (for “Grandparent Date”). So far it hasn’t been too successful in making matches, but the staff is convinced that someday their efforts will pay off with a wedding.

Can Emojis Connect Youth to Sexual Health Services?

New York City’s public hospital system, known as Health & Hospitals, provides confidential sexual health services—including pregnancy tests, contraception, and tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)—for young people 12 and older regardless of their ability to pay, immigration status, or sexual orientation. Health & Hospitals served 152,000 patients last year, but its leaders think it could do even more if more young people were aware of the services offered.

As a way to speak the language of young people, Health & Hospitals launched a campaign starring emojis in July.

The emojis are expected to reach 2.4 million young people in New York City through social media including Facebook and Instagram. The emojis include an eggplant, a monkey covering his eyes, and, of course, some birds and bees. The online ads read, “Need someone to talk to about ‘it’?”

When young people click on the emojis, they will be taken to the Health & Hospitals youth website, which explains available services and how to find accessible providers.

Dr. Ram Raju, president and CEO of NYC Health & Hospitals, said in a press release that the organization provides nonjudgmental services to youth: “Whether it’s birth control, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception or depression screening, the public health system has affordable services in local community health centers, where we speak your language, understand your culture and respect your privacy.”

But some worry that these emojis are confusing. Elizabeth Schroeder, a sex educator and trainer, told the New York Times that while she applauded the effort, she questioned if the images chosen were the best to convey the message.

We here at This Week in Sex have to agree and admit the images confuse us as well. The monkey is cute, but what does it have to do with STDs?

Choosing Between Appetites, Many Pick Food

Good food or good sex? These two sources of pleasure are rarely at odds with each other, but if they ever are, which would you choose?

A new survey, by advertising agency Havas Worldwide, posed this very question to almost 12,000 adults in 37 countries across the globe. The results show that about half of adults (46 percent of men and 51 percent of women) believe that food can be as pleasurable as sex. And one-third would choose a great dinner at a restaurant rather than sex; women were more likely to make this choice (42 percent compared with 26 percent of men).

Millennials were also more likely to make this choice than those slightly older Gen-Xers (35 percent to 30 percent). Of course, it’s hard to tell whether this says more about their sex lives or their eating habits.

 

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