Monday, April 25, 2005

Q20: What if I'm attracted to my Prof?

From "Ready to Hit the Books (and the Sack??)" via Blog Comment:

Dear Beaver: While I would love to have a normal relationship with someone my own age, I find myself drawn to professors. It seems that every semester, I end up infatuated with a different instructor. Currently, I have eyes for one of my humanities professors. I can't get over his sharp wit, brilliant mind, and worldly sophistication. I've been going to office hours every week, and I'm definitely getting interested vibes from him. Last week, after a lengthy session in office hours, he even invited me out for coffee to continue our conversation. I know that this situation may sound bizarre, but I find guys my age to be awkward and immature. Should I pursue my current (more mature) love interest, or should I settle for guys my own age?
- Ready to Hit the Books (and the Sack??)

Your story is the stuff of Hollywood Dangerous Liasons-esque entanglement and yet it is as commonplace as syphilis in a whorehouse. (Was that in bad taste? Most likely.) My first impulse, in all honesty, is to tip-toe away from the subject and let someone else handle this one entirely... But then my two cents started burning a desperate hole in my pocket, and I had to put them in if you will.

First, I would just like to acknowledge the fact that I am a human being with human flaws and a very different set of morals from your fine self or from even the other contributors of this column. So whatever I say should be taken with barrels of salt and scrutinized for hours under a powerful microscope.

Let's get to this problem of yours: you keep looking for hot teacher-student action (hopefully sans pigtails). In fact, that's all you want. You find time after time that your peers--these fine strapping young lads--are mere boys whereas these vintage-wine professors are true men.

My dear, your complaint against males of the twenty-something variety is an age-old one in existence since Man first laughed at his flatulence. Almost every girl--excuse me, woman--you meet will gripe about the maturity (or lack thereof) of the males supposedly called her peers. In the ongoing eternal Battle of the Sexes, the Maturity card is always our trump card against the men.

So naturally, you turn to older, seemingly wiser, and more refined men for romantic interests. And, trapped in your Ivory Tower of Academia, who better to win your affections than your very own professors?

Okay. Before I go on. I think your situation is two-fold: first there's the student-teacher relationship; second there's just the general attraction to older (much older) men (which I'm not lambasting in the slightest so keep your pants on before you start calling me a narrow-minded puritanical prude).

Student-Teacher Relationships
The problem, of which I am sure you are quite aware, is that student-teacher relationships are considered professionally unethical. I'm not even talking weird romantic sticky situations (which is a risk that one takes with any relationship anyway). I'm just talking flat out, you-can-get-someone-fired-from-his-or-her-job, black and white, code of business here. I'm sure you're an intelligent young woman and know the robot rhetoric of "Why" so I won't demean you with details. You really don't want to put this current heartthrob prof of yours in a compromising situation. No matter how delicately and carefully you create this relationship with the current prof such that academic life and romantic life are entirely separate... Things Will Get Dicey. If you really really REALLY (I mean really!) think this dude is the bee's knees and getting in his pantalones is your modus operandi, don't you think you could wait until the end of term? Because here's the thing. Healthy romantic relationships can develop between former students and former teachers. Hint Hint. I'll leave it at that.

Ok now in terms of your particular situation with this particular humanities prof. Be brutally honest with yourself, is this man showing romantic interest or is he trying to be an attentive teacher willing to spend time outside of class and outside of the teaching environment to cultivate a young, eager mind? And if he is showing interest... (I'm going to play a little devil's advocate here) isn't that a wee bit unprofessional and (pardon my layman's term) sketchy? Be careful that you're not the one being exploited here. I know the whole seedy older prof taking advantage of a naive, impressionable, virginal girl is a bit of a cliche, but it ain't a cliche for nothing. Never mind the title of "professor;" there are sketchy folk out there regardless of profession, right? Be wary of the wolf in neat-pressed suit and briefcase.

Older Men
There's nothing wrong with being attracted to older men. The maturity argument is a valid point, no doubt. But ask yourself... is this a quality you find attractive in it of itself? It's ok if it is. Then that's that. If you find older men attractive, that's just the way you were programmed. So be it. After all, some people are attracted to certain races, certain hair colors, certain fashion styles... so why not certain ages?

However, if you're attracted to older men because of the implied maturity... then maybe you are fooling yourself. I know just as many wise 20 year-olds as I do disgustingly immature 30 or 40 year-olds. Maturity is age-blind.

Maybe you should try going on some dates with men of varying age in an attempt to analyze what it is that you find attractive or repulsive or intriguing, and if it is an age-thing... or a unique-person-thing.

Anyway, I think I've rambled long enough. Hopefully one of the other writers of the Beaver Collective will add in their nominal sum of wisdom to help you out as well. But on the Marsupial Front... I think we've said our piece.

Good luck!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Q19: Drunk & Fun to Sober & Awkward; what now?

From "To go for it or not" via Blog Comment:

Hi Mr. Beaver,I met a guy at a party a few weeks ago. We were pretty into each other at a party, so he emailed me later to see if we could get together again. We went out, but it wasn't the same as the first night. It was much more awkward, possibly because he was more sober. We are very different people, however I think it could work but I'm not sure. I'm also wary of leading him on if I decide we are just too different. What to do?
-To go for it or not.

Alcohol leads to a lack of inhibition, which basically means that "anything goes." Therefore, you have a safety net -- if you do something stupid, you can blame it on being drunk.

The morning after / the date-when-sober usually adds a lot more pressure to the interaction between two people. If you do something stupid at this point, you can't blame it on anything but yourself. Perhaps you were just more self-conscious. Many people tend to be awkward on the first date.

Just get to know each other, either via dating or just hanging out. You'll eventually lose that dependency on alcohol for a good time. You probably don't have to be too wary of "leading him on." You're both somewhat interested in each other, and you probably can both learn something from the other person. Opposites attract; he can probably introduce you some new/different interests, and you can do the same for him.

If you're still interested, there's no harm in going on a second date. If it's really awful, then both of you will probably get that vibe and back off. If you think it's awful but he keeps coming back for more, you can either use the "I'm busy" approach, or the "I think we should just hang out as friends," or just plain, "Nah..."

(Note: this post will be edited by 4/28; we have a Beaver-In-Training working on it.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Q18: What should I know about sex? (Especially for my first time...)

[Note: This post was previously entitled: "We just said I love you -- what about sex?" and "Having sex for the first time -- should I lose my virginity?"]

From "In Love and Considering Taking It Further" via email:

So, I have a bit of a personal question. My boyfriend and I are back together and he's even proclaimed his love for me (he was really cute about it). Well, we're still only at 3rd base. I've been contemplating my stance on whether or not to stay a virgin more and more these days. I suppose my question is, what are your thoughts and what sort of protection do you recommend using? My boyfriend has always been supportive of my wanting to stay a virgin until marriage and so he is by no means pressuring me. Anyhoo, just curious as to what you think!
-In Love and Considering Taking It Further

Ni hao, ILaCTIF!

Most people enjoy sex b/c it's fun, feels great, and also adds a whole new level of comfort to the relationship; physical and emotional intimacy are probably the basis for the human desire to be part of a relationship. And it's good to trust your first time to someone you trust, especially your boyfriend whom you love. That said, however, if you've always wanted to wait for marriage, then examine your reasons why. Why do you want to have sex? Why would you want to wait until marriage? Which is more important to you?

Sex for the first time can be quite an intimidating experience. Be sure to talk about it with your partner, to clarify what you expect and/or how far you're willing to go. And yes, sex might hurt for the girl b/c penetration will break her hymen. Therefore, before diving straight into it, work up to that coupling with a lot of foreplay.

Quite frankly, once you lose your virginity, it becomes much less of a big deal. ("It" being virginity, sex, etc.) You do have to adjust to a couple of physical changes -- for example, it's easier to get a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you're careful during sex -- that is, if you don't let his equipment touch your anus and then anywhere near your ureter, then you should be fine. Drinking cranberry juice actually helps to prevent UTIs, so it's good to have some on a regular basis. You should also stay hydrated, and drink lots of water to "flush out" your system. After sex, get up and urinate, so you can clean out any extra substances down there. Later, if you start to experience a continual urge to urinate, or see any blood in your urine, then go see a doctor and get some antibiotics. Yeast infections cause also general itchiness down there, but there are several over-the-counter medications that erase the itchiness quite efficiently. Ah, yes -- and once you're sexually active, you should see a gynecologist once a year for an annual physical.

Whew! Medical advice somewhat aside, make sure you practice safe sex. That is, use a condom. And put it on before your genitalia come into contact; most guys secrete "pre-cum," which does contain a bit of semen. Most people use at least two forms of contraception; the most popular methods are condoms and birth control pills. Make sure that the condoms are strong/durable. Japanese condoms (like Kimonos) are the best -- there are stricter sex laws in Japan, which means that the condoms are stronger, and they're usually also thinner and don't smell horrendously like rubber -- Trojans definitely stink. You can buy Kimonos (or other brands of condoms) from Drugstore.Com. Alternatively, you can snag Pleasure Plus Condoms from your local CVS Pharmacy and other stores. These condoms have been described via podcast and Glamour Magazine as "latex viagra." Their main website also distributes free samples.

If you're near Boston and you'd like to try out a wide range before settling on one brand, check out the ones at Grand Opening in Coolidge Corner or at Condom World on Newbury Street. They usually sell individual condoms for less than $1.

Prelubricated condoms are quite common these days, though when you store them for a long time, the lubricant might start to break down the condom. Therefore, check the expiration date before you open/use a condom. Condoms that consist of "natural skins" or sheer latex might enhance sensitivity, but the former doesn't block STDs and the latter can easily tear. Some ribbed condoms are said to also enhance sensitivity, but these usually have raised areas that are high stress points and can also easily tear. We recommend experimenting with various condoms' length and thickness to find the best one for you. For an overview of condoms, check out this Wikipedia Article: Condom.

You can also increase sensitivity by adding a few drops of lubricant to the inside surface of the condom before it's unrolled. The lubricant should be applied to the outer surface of the condom, as well as the female genitalia. If there isn't enough lubrication, bleeding/irritation might result from the friction. If the girl bleeds a lot after sex and isn't on her period, then she should go see a doctor.

Lubricants are recommended to be water-based and water-soluble, to allow for easy clean-up and condom stability. Petroleum-based lubricants will break down the latex, damage the condom, and stick to delicate tissues, which promotes microorganism growth. Slightly acidic lubes inhibit microorganisms. When choosing a lubricant, try not to buy one that contains glycerin, which breaks down to a type of sugar in the vagina. Sugars can be a food source for yeast, thereby promoting yeast infections.

Lubes: We recommend Liquid Silk, which feels quite natural and has surprisingly few ingredients -- which is good for sensitive skin. It also doesn't contain glycerin, and is quite safe and hypoallergenic. Quite a few people use Astroglide, though this lube does contain glycerin and has a sticky feel -- like sugar water drying on your skin. It also probably promotes yeast infections and general itchiness in the nether regions.

The obsessively-careful couples will 'test' condoms for leaks after their usage; this usually involves filling the used condom with water and squeezing, like a water balloon. Though not the most graceful of activities, this shows whether or not the condom remained intact. If you do find a leak, go to your doctor and ask for the Morning After Pill.

You might want to also consider other methods of contraception. Oral contraception, like birth control pills, used in conjunction with condoms greatly decreases the chance of pregnancy. "The Pill" alone won't prevent STDs, though, so if you have sex, make sure it's with someone you trust.

Don't feel pressured into having sex, either by society or your own urges, but examine why you want/don't want to. In the end, though you can't go back to the state of "innocent virginhood," once you lose your virginity, you'll probably feel that sex just isn't the monumental occasion or intimidating milestone it once was. Hopefully, your boyfriend will make your first time wonderful for you. :) And you trust him, too, so that's good...

That said, afterwards, if you two ever break up, then try not to just have sex casually. Quite a few people think that sex is trivial, or take it for granted that "everyone's had sex by [insert age here]." Since it becomes less of an ordeal to hop into the sack, many people feel the urge to hook up and go all the way. Hooking up often works on an emotional level for some, but in the long run (and with all of the STDs out there), it's not safe. If he's experienced, then you should tell him to get tested first, just in case. There are a couple of STDs that are undetectable that can cause problems if they aren't treated. To get a little more info on that, view the comments page for this post, or refer to Q25: STDs.

Overall, if you trust your man, and you're ready to take this step in your relationship, go for it. :)

[Note: If this didn't answer your question, or if there are more details you'd like advice on, feel free to email/post again. :)]

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Q17: Good relationship advice sites?

From "Internetly Bored" via AIM:

Hi -- are there any other sites that you'd recommend for advice or relationships or other things?
-Internetly Bored

Yo, IB --
Sure! Here's a list of some fun and some informative links:

  • Go Ask Alice!
    Columbia University's Q&A Internet Service

    A not-so-illustrated guide to Guys, Love, Lust, and General Rules on how to treat the opposite (or not so opposite, if you're Gay) sex in matters of relationshippy-ness.

  • MIT Senior Ball Survival Guide
    How to find a date, how to tie a bowtie, and what to do if your shirt gets caught in your zipper. A worse-case scenario guide to formal occasions. :)

  • Misc Sites via Google
    A list of sites that came up when you search for "relationship advice." (And there are quite a few out there...)

    From Comments on this Post:
  • Kinsey: legitimate/studies

  • Nerve

  • OkCupid: learn-about-relationships-the-hard-way

  • The Sex Clinic: your own personal sex coach (sort of)

  • Gender Talk: 88.1FM/WMBR talk show on Saturdays from 8-9pm

  • Oh's "sunday night sex show"

  • jackinworld: for the males

  • Savage Love

...We'll keep adding to this list as we find new/cool/good sites. If you've got a recommendation, please comment! :)

Monday, April 18, 2005

Q16: I'm a lesbian with a crush on my best guy friend...

From "Guys or Girls?" via Blog Comment: i am a girl and for a little over a year i was pretty sure i was a lesbian.. i have a girlfriend back home too.. but recently i have developed a crush on my best guy friend here. and then i found out that he is basically in love with me. i'm so confused and i don't know what to do...i dont want to hurt my girlfriend or cheat on her or anything but sometimes i really wanna do stuff with my guy friend...
-Guys or Girls?

Hello, GoG --

Why are/were you pretty sure you were a lesbian? Have you had a straight relationship, with a guy? Many people are bisexual.

Something we advise to all people in relationships: assess why you’re in a relationship with your current significant other. Do you love her? Where do you want your relationship with her to go? How long have you been dating? Why are you dating? Do you see yourself with her forever? Talk to her about your answers to these questions. If you do love her, then perhaps going out with your best guy friend wouldn’t measure up to your current relationship. If you’ve never had a boyfriend, then you might not know if it’ll measure up or if you can love a guy or not.

Has your girlfriend always been a lesbian? Has she ever had a crush on a guy? You might want to ask her the above questions, too -- how does she know she's a lesbian? Has she ever had a crush on a guy? What did she do about it? Does she love you? What does she want from your relationship?

Long distance relationships are pretty tough. Your guy friend is here, and at the very least, you’ll probably feel tempted to do something. Keep that in mind, too: if you stay with your gal, how would you get over your guy friend?

There’s probably a reason why you’re best friends with that guy. Namely, you’re attracted (emotionally/mentally, at least) to each other so much that you’re close to each other. Oftentimes, the segue from friendship to boyfriend/girlfriend involves a physical attraction. It’s the combination of physical and emotional intimacy that allow total intimacy, comfort, trust, love – all those things that we human beings crave from a partner. So… if the guy’s your best friend, and you’re also physically attracted, it might be worth a shot. Remember, though: when you take “the next step,” it’s double or nothing. That is, your future relationship with him could be either [at least] “twice” as much as you’ve got right now, or if you broke up badly, it could fade away to “nothing.” However, if you’re really good friends and completely open with each other, you can probably find a way to remain friends afterwards. Sometimes, a relationship even adds depth to a friendship; you’d see how the other person acts in a relationship, which gives you a deeper understanding for his/her character. (For more info on that, see our post on Q12: I've got a boyfriend -- and a crush on another guy...)

Talk to your best friend about your feelings, too. See how serious he feels, and compare it to how serious you feel. You probably talk to him about your current relationship. Has he met your girlfriend? Does he think you’ve got the potential for a long-term relationship?

Alternative Advice: Just get really drunk one night and have a threesome! When you wake up in the morning, go with whomever made you happiest. Or start a love triangle…

…Er… If that sounds tempting, make sure you talk it over with everyone involved. Otherwise, someone might end up feeling used. Another scenario: your guy friend and your girlfriend might get together, leaving you in the dust.

With any relationship, there's a series of ongoing questions: "Do we love each other? Do we take the next step or break up? Is this other person going to be better?"

Is your girlfriend your best friend? Why/why not? Whom do you feel closer to, the girl or the guy? People generally feel closest to the person that they're in a relationship with, due to trust, love, and a combination of other factors. Sort out whom you have the deepest feelings for, which one you're most attracted to, which one you're closest to, and what you want from a relationship in general. Good luck! :)

[Note: If this didn't answer your question, or if there are more details you'd like advice on, feel free to email/IM/post again! :)]

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Q15: How do I know if he loves me?

From "Self Conscious in Relationships" via email:

I need some advice. I have been dating someone for a month, which isn't very long at all, but we spend every minute of our spare time together. He recently told me that he loved me, which is a big deal. He has never been in love before, and i am afraid that he may be confusing love with infatuation. I have been in love before, and I can tell that I am in love now, but is there a way to know if he is? I spend so much time with him, and everyone I know thinks we are sleeping together (which we aren't), but the idea is out there. One month seems very fast to me to take that step, but I don't know. I feel like I should stop seeing him as often as I do if I don't think that sex is a good idea at the moment, mainly because people can make stupid decisions, and I feel like I am 2, but if he doesn't really love me, then it seems like an even bigger deal. I don't know what to do. How do you know when the timing is "right?" Do you ever know?
-Self Conscious in Relationships

Hello, SCiR!
First off… do you trust the guy?

Examine some of the reasons why you’re in the relationship. Why do you love him? How do you know that you’re in love? Have you asked him if he really loves you? How does he know? Do you want it to last? Do you trust and love him more than you care about what other people think? Why does it matter that people think you’re sleeping together? Have you had sex before? Is he pressuring you to have sex? Do you want to have sex with him?

A friend of ours has been in a very similar situation to yours. As far as, “how does the guy know that he loves me?” – well, the guy just said/says, “I know. It’s just how I feel.” They also had sex pretty quickly. They’ve also been dating for over a year now, so we guess it’s worked out well. We asked another friend how she knew that she loved a particular guy. She said, “There are so many reasons… but it’s because I can’t tell you any particular reason that I know I love him.” (All of these are paraphrased, of course.)

If you love him, and if he loves you, then titles like “infatuation” don’t really matter. It might feel like puppy love or infatuation in the beginning, but that doesn’t necessarily have to end; love just evolves. Usually, this evolving involves a growing sense of comfort, of intimacy, of “feeling right.” Sometimes, all we can go on are feelings. Love doesn’t often seem “reasonable,” does it?

If you do decide to have sex, then make sure you get tested first. Also, if you feel that “this relationship is going too fast,” then take a step back. This could result in alienation, or misunderstanding, so make sure you’re clear about your reasons for doing so. Make sure you’ve got reasons for doing so in the first place. Answer the above questions, and go over them with your guy. You both (will) need to communicate, and try to understand each other’s points of view. Also, give the guy a little credit -- he's innocent (er, in love?) until proven guilty (er...not in love?), right? Just go with what you feel. If you feel an overwhelming sense of doubt, then it'll be hard for you to get over that obstacle; psychologically telling yourself that love's not going to happen will make it not happen. However, if you feel that he's right and he feels that you're right, there's no reason to doubt that.

Unfortunately, often one only knows “what is right” in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20. But think it out, and go with what you feel. If you do trust him, then trust his feelings, too. Trust is the major basis of a relationship. Without trust, you won't have a good relationship. True, by trusting you make yourself vulnerable, and honestly, you might get hurt in the long run – but that’s a risk we all have to take. Timing doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You’ve spent a lot of time with this guy. You probably know him a lot more than you’d generally know a person after a month. On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable with consuming each other’s lives, then take a step back. Don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do, but also don’t analyze every single thing. To quote ee cummings:
(given the scalpel,they dissect a kiss;
or,sold the reason,they undream a dream)

And, quite frankly, I know at least two couples who have told each other "I love you" within a month of dating each other. And they're still together. So time means diddlysquat -- you can't measure something as amorphous as love with something as rigid as time. Talk it over, examine your feelings, and good luck! :)

If you’ve got a couple of reasons or can tell us “how do you know you’re in love?”, please let us know! :)

[Note: If this didn't answer your question, or if there are more details you'd like advice on, feel free to email/IM/post again! :)]