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Dear Sexpert,

I just joined an eating club, and I’m already excited about all the new friends I’m making! I’ve also started hooking up with someone I recently met in myclub. Our relationship is pretty casual, and for the most part, physical. In fact, when we’re eating dinner in a group or hanging around the club during the day, I feel like I’m barely acknowledged. We are both enjoying the physical side of our relationship, but I also feel confused about having casual sex. What should I do?

Sincerely,

Confused Club Member

 

Dear Confused Club Member,

College relationships can sometimes be hard to navigate, especially when they take place in a relatively new and unfamiliar environment. Relationships come in all forms and levels of commitment, and there is nothing wrong with having a casual relationship if it is something you and your partner desire (and, of course, if you are practicing safe sex, but more on that later). Only you can decide if a purely physical relationship is something that you want for yourself.

That said, as with any type of relationship, you want to make sure that you respect yourself and your partner, even if the relationship is solely sexual. Similarly, it is important to feel respected by your partner. Try asking yourself these questions:Does your partner make you feel comfortable and respect your boundaries when you engage in sexual activity?Do they treat you with respect outside of the physical relationship, even if you aren’t necessarily friends or emotionally involved? If the answer to either of these questions is "no", this dynamic could be contributing to your confusion. It is importantthat you and your partner are maintaining a good level of communication about your expectations for the relationship —and revisiting the conversation if either one of your feelings change.If one partner is viewing the relationship differently than the other, it might lead to even more confusion or hurt feelings, so it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page regarding the type of relationship that you are each interested in.

It’s also important that you respect and communicate with your partner about physical concerns. You are already enjoying the sexual aspect —imagine how much better it could be without worrying about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or if appropriate, pregnancy!As with any sexual relationship, you should communicate openly about using condoms, dental dams, or other forms of barrier protection, as well as about getting tested for STIs. You can get FREE external (male)condoms from your RCA, and external or internal (female) condoms fromthe LGBT Center, a Peer Health Adviser or at the front desk ofMcCosh Health Center (10 per day).There is also STI testing at the University Health Services’ Sexual Health and Wellness clinic; HIV testing is free and gonorrhea and chlamydia testing is $14.

If you still feel confused about engaging in casual relationships, or if you just want to speak with someone about your concerns, you can make an appointment tospeak with a clinicianat Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at McCosh. While the decisionsto have casual sex and with whom to do so areultimately yours to make, you deserve to feel respected and safe.

-The Sexpert

For more information on how to navigate casual relationships: http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/category/relationships

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