YES! is a Montclair, New Jersey-based organization with an intersectional feminist perspective that seeks to empower young people and deconstruct rape culture through educational workshops about consent and the broad spectrum of sexuality. Check out their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
YES! answered the questions Crybaby readers submitted about birth control, sexuality, and masturbation.
How much does smoking affect birth control?
Smoking does not affect the efficacy of birth control; it will still prevent pregnancy. However, it is not safe to smoke cigarettes while using hormonal birth controls with estrogen because the combination increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. This is especially dangerous for anyone over 35.
All the sex-ed I've ever received has been cishet as hell. What are some important things to know about queer sex for a bi girl such as myself?
First and foremost, it is not all about penis-vagina sex, as most sex ed would have us believe. This model of bases and “going all the way”—and all these different ways of making sex seem linear and working towards a goal of penis-vagina sex—is dumb and wrong and doesn’t include a lot of people. Thinking about sex instead as just a bunch of different ways of making our bodies and other people’s bodies feel good. There’s no such thing as virginity; no act is “farther” than any other: we define intimacy for ourselves. There are a million other things to talk about on this topic, but that’s a place to start!
My girlfriend used to be in an abusive relationship. While she says she's okay with having sex, she always tells me afterwards that it was hard for her, even though during I make sure to ask if she's okay. I'm constantly afraid she's hurting so we never do anything anymore. I love her and I don't mind not having sex, but I know she wants to and I want to help her heal. What should I do?
That’s a hard situation. One important thing for you to know is that healing takes time and you’re probably not equipped to be your girlfriend’s therapist. She might need some serious help that you can’t provide, and only a mental health professional can. Maybe you could try doing something sexual that feels safer, like dirty talk or phone sex, and see if that is comfortable, and then move slowly towards physical touch. If certain sex acts are triggering, try other ones to build trust and comfort before tackling the most difficult stuff. But again, healing takes time, so this stuff might just be hard for her for a while.
How do I know when to take Plan B? Sometimes, even if the condom didn't break, I'm unsure as to how well my partner put it on and if it was effective throughout the duration of sex.
Plan B can have intense effects, so I wouldn’t recommend using it every time you have sex. If you’re worried that your partner isn’t using a condom correctly, that’s something to practice and perfect. Make sure you’re checking the expiration date, pinching the tip, and putting it on with the right side out (you’ll know because the rim should be curling up and out, not down and in). If the condom is inside out when you open it, simply blow hard in it to flip it without exposing it to your sharp nails. Also, make sure not to hang out once the condom-wearer has become soft again or else the semen will leak out. Condoms work best when paired with another kind of birth control, whether hormonal (like the pill, the patch, or an IUD) or another barrier (like a diaphragm or cervical cap). However, if you ever really think there’s a chance precum or semen has gotten into your vagina and you’re not on another form of hormonal birth control, it’s a good idea to take Plan B.
No matter how much I masturbate or how many times I have had sex, I have yet to have an orgasm. How can I finally orgasm?
Some bodies go through phases of not orgasming, or don’t orgasm at all. That’s OK! It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. But there are also things you can try! If you’ve never tried vibration, that can make all the difference. Try a vibrator if you can get one, or a body massager, or even an electric toothbrush! If you have a vagina and a detachable showerhead, that can be great too. Something to be aware of is that, for some people, too much direct stimulation (especially to the clitoris) can be overwhelming and even numbing. Sometimes, less direct stimulation—like using a vibrator on the labia or inner thighs—will stimulate the clitoris in a way that doesn’t overwhelm.
No one ever really talks about masturbation other than how good it is, but I'm wondering: how does one masturbate?
There are infinite ways to masturbate! A lot of it is just being willing to explore touching your body in creative ways to see what feels good to you. If you have no idea where to start, the clitoris, labia, the first few inches of the vagina, and tip of the penis have a lot of nerves, so they’re often pleasurable places to touch. Try fast rhythms and slow rhythms. People with vulvas can also try rolling up a towel and sitting on it or lying down on it and rocking their hips. Vibration is also amazing for people with all bodies!
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