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ISSUE 120 VOL 11 PUBLISHED 2/14/2007

Sex on the Hill: Saturday morning

By Sara Antonson
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

You awaken on a Saturday morning, shaking off the fog of too little sleep and come face to face with the clarity of “the morning after.” The anxiety in the pit of your stomach is connected with a feeling of distrust now attached to last evening's intimate partner. What exactly does that old colloquialism “I went farther than I wanted!” mean and how do we protect against its aftershock? My first attempt at a column is to pass along information I have gleaned from professors, mentors, experiences and from the world of sex education and therapy.

I struggled with which path my writing should take. Should I carry on a tradition of civic exploration of sexual politics and issues of freedom? Or should I try to act as a conduit to the undergraduate experience of finding sexual identity and personal values of intimacy alongside the search for academic and career identity?

I think by taking the second road, we may actually find our way to a better discussion of political and sexual rights. So, in this first article I want to talk about what I have learned about “going too far.” Like those of us who personally, or through a friend, have experienced this turmoil, I have sought answers to avoid this relationship-breaking and esteem-jolting experience.

Hopefully, my journey into the St. Olaf social work program, with a specialization in sex education and therapy, has resulted in some knowledge that I can pass on to others. It has been a passion of mine since my senior year in high school and, in the world of sex, I know enough to realize I know very little – so feel free to pass on your knowledge and experiences so we can keep expanding our exploration together in future columns.

Knowing and understanding the phases the body encounters during the sexual response cycle is the foundation to partner discussions about emotional sexual safety. What partners will realize is that the biology of the excitement phase can add a nice emotional shine to holding one another – just the right touch of vulnerability to share your hopes and fears in a heated embrace.

However, the deeper part of the excitement phase, and especially the plateau phase, are clearly oriented to a different physical and emotional goal: orgasm. Before entering the sexual response cycle together, a wonderful place of intimacy, consider what end point you are seeking. Is it that warm sensual togetherness, or is it a much more intimate goal of full sexual release?

For example, are you willing to eliminate planned restraint between the excitement and plateau phases by mixing alcohol with intimacy? Developing a shared plan for an intimate evening can remove risks that would damage the emotions of the individuals and threaten the emotional health of their partnership.

If you don't talk beforehand, what occurs can be an unwanted crossing of physical boundaries, which is often a threat to our physical integrity. You psychology majors out there may perk up and go, “Wait! That's the precursor to post traumatic stress disorder.” Think this is pretty dramatic stuff from a first-time writer just wanting to get you talking?

A study of a small liberal arts college similar to St. Olaf found that, when "hooking up," 23 percent of women and seven percent of men surveyed reported one or more experiences of unwanted sexual intercourse. When those students shared the enduring impact of those experiences, the study found all the psychological chaos of traumatic stress disorders – nightmares, flashbacks in future intimacy with the next partner, a numbing of their sexual response, avoiding healthy intimacy and a distrustful wariness of sexual partnering in general.

When our classes end on Friday afternoon, a whole new world of social and emotional learning opens up. I want this column to be about all the elective credits we choose over those weekend hours. Whatever your goal for sexual intimacy, talk about it with your partner, pick a mutually acceptable path and arrive at the same place, at the same time with a Saturday morning that sparkles.

Sex-related comments, questions and/or suggestions can be mailed to

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