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Expert Q&A - Sexplain and Jennifer Niven 28th Sept

ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
edited September 2020 in Sex & Relationships

Hey hey everyone :)

 

We have two experts answering questions on 28th September surrounding two topics. Firstly, we have Sarah Adefehiniti (she/they) answering any questions you have about Sex and Relationships! Secondly, we have Jennifer Niven (she/her) the New York Times Bestselling Author answering any questions about her upcoming book “Breathless”.

Be in the chance of winning a copy of the book by submitting your questions!

 

Who are the experts?


 Sarah Adefehinti (she/they)


Sarah Adefehinti is a facilitator at Sexplain. They deliver workshops to young people on a wide range of topics including on porn, consent, healthy relationships, and sexual pleasure. Sexplain work with schools and universities to provide up-to-date and inclusive sex and relationships education that is intersectional, feminist, non-binary and sex-positive. Sarah is 100% un-embarrassable and they will answer your questions openly and honestly.

 

Sarah will be answering the questions which focus on sex and relationships. You're welcome to post the questions in this thread if you feel comfortable doing so, if not, you can either PM the Mix your questions or submit your questions into this Microsoft Forms survey anonymously! We will put these questions on the thread for you if you'd prefer this way :)

 

Jennifer Niven (she/her)


Jennifer Niven is the author of the New York Times and international bestsellers. All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe. Her books have been translated into 75 languages and have won literary awards around the world. She grew up in Indiana and now divides her time between Georgia and Los Angeles. Find her at jenniferniven.com and on social.

 

Jennifer Niven will be answering questions about her book "Breathless" which is releasing on the 29th September as well as questions about her own career! The blurb of Breathless reads:


"Your first love, your first time, your first heartbreak. The new novel from Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places.

You were my first. Not just sex, although that was part of it, but the first to look past everything else into me. Some of the names and places have been changed, but the story is true.

Claudine Henry was not supposed to spend her summer on this remote island off the coast of Georgia.

She was supposed to be on a road trip with her best friend, spending every last minute together before they go to college.

But after her father makes a shock announcement, she is exiled with her shaken mother, with no phone service and no one she knows. She is completely cut off.

Until she meets Jeremiah. Free spirited, mysterious and beautiful, their chemistry is immediate and irresistible.

They both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, but maybe one summer is enough...".


If you're a budding writer or are interested in writing Jennifer is the person to ask!

 

When?

The date that both Sarah and Jennifer will be available is the 28th September, past 3pm! Additionally, if there are any follow up questions, they may be answered later in the same week!

 

Where?

Questions will be answered in this thread!

 

How will this work?

If you have a question for an expert, you can either write it out in this thread, PM @The Mix or use this Microsoft Forms survey. If you PM @The Mix or use the survey form, we can post your questions for you!



Post edited by Connor on
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Comments

  • MikeMike 🖥️🎧 LandaanPosts: 3,547 Community Manager
    edited September 2020
    One for Sarah: if you're in the early stages of a relationship, what are the signs of that relationship being healthy and what might be some red flags to watch for? :)
    All behaviour is a need trying to be met.

    Want to join the community champions? Drop @TheMix a message!
    Connorsarah_adefehinti
  • BenMaBenMa Posts: 59 Boards Initiate
    Hi Sarah! These first couple of questions are for you, I hope you don't mind how many questions I have! haha.

    1) If an intimate relationship has been almost entirely long distance, do you think it's still possible to consider it as a first proper relationship? Essentially, I'd like to know if you think a long distance relationship is less meaningful/"real" compared to one in real life.

    2) Do you think individuals who identify themselves as LGBT+, and are attracted to same-sex relationships, have more difficulty starting meaningful romantic relationships in comparison with heterosexual/opposite-sex couples?

    3) As a hypothetical, if a couple have been in a healthy relationship for many years, do you think intimate touching still requires explicit consent?

    Thank you so much! Have a wonderful evening.
    Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. – Alfie Kohn
    Connorsarah_adefehinti
  • BenMaBenMa Posts: 59 Boards Initiate
    Hey Jennifer!

    I've unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading any of your books, but upon looking at your website I can see why they are best sellers! I really appreciate the fact that you've got involved with The Mix to answer questions :) In advance, I appreciate you taking the time to read mine!

    1) Do you think that authors understand the influence they have when it comes to breaking down stigmas & stereotypes?

    2) What topics inspire your books in particular? Do you have any advice when it comes to writing about sensitive topics (e.g. self harm, sexual assault, suicidal ideation)?

    3) As a more light-hearted question, have you ever had contact with any of your English literature teachers since becoming an author? It would be awesome to hear what they had to say about one of their former students becoming a #1 NYT bestselling hehe!

    Have a wonderful evening!
    Children, after all, are not just adults-in-the-making. They are people whose current needs and rights and experiences must be taken seriously. – Alfie Kohn
    Connor
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Thankyou for your questions :D I'll be adding some to the thread tomorrow. There's still time to send in some questions if you'd like to!
  • happycat1happycat1 Posts: 1 Literally just got here
    I have a question for Jennifer - do you use things that happen in your life to inspire your writing? Thank you, love your books!   :3
    Connor
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    To Sarah. Hey! Is there anything you would suggest to someone who experiences painful sex? I always do everything I can Lube, foreplay etc but it's never been pain free. Thanks if you answer! ~H
    sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Hi Jennifer, I am a Young South Asian woman interested in writing about sex and the taboos involved with Sex within the South Asian Community. The only thing I can write about is my own experience with sex and the conversations around sex within my family. What would be your best advice on how to start writing about it ? Thank you , and excited to read your book 😌
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Sarah: What is your favourite thing about volunteering for Sexplain?
    sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Dear Jennifer, I would like to ask you that what kind of advice would you offer to someone who aspires to be a writer but is facing hurdles like not being able to find enough time because of her academics?
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    edited September 2020
    (Question for Jennifer and Sarah) Hi Jennifer! I have been a fan of your lovely writing for years. My question is for both you and Sarah if you do not mind. Is it normal to feel heartbroken after you initiated a breakup? How can someone deal with this situation?
    sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    (Question for Jennifer)
    Are there any mention to things that happened in your life?

  • independent_independent_ Resident Coffee Addict ScotlandPosts: 6,941 Master Poster
    edited September 2020
    Hey I have a question for Sarah

    Do you think sex education in schools needs to drastically improve? When I was at school I learnt almost nothing about sex, literally the absolute minimum they could tell us. I have learnt a lot from experience now but for other young people, where are good places to learn about sex on the internet? I know I found myself googling things but didn’t really know what websites were actually educational 
    “Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”
    Connorchubbydumplingsarah_adefehinti
  • Anch0r33Anch0r33 Obnoxiously Large Anchor Somewhere in the sea 🌊Posts: 981 Part of The Mix Family
    Hi there! Question for Sarah! 

    Firstly I appreciate the time you've taken to do this :) 

    My question is regarding sex drive and how it can effect a relationship. 

    My partner and I have been together for over two years now and it's become pretty apparent that my sex drive is far lower than theirs. I know this can be frustrating for my partner at times. 

    Is there anything I can do to help boost my sex drive within the relationship as I do care about my partner deeply. 

    I also struggle with kissing and being super intimidate, I struggle with emotions and showing them majority of the time which is something I believe is due to my upbringing and he's aware of this, but I really want to be more intimate with my partner. Is there any ways to help with any of this, will it change with time and how can this affect the relationship long term?

    Thanks :) 
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    Connorsarah_adefehinti
  • independent_independent_ Resident Coffee Addict ScotlandPosts: 6,941 Master Poster
    Anch0r33 said:
    Hi there! Question for Sarah! 

    Firstly I appreciate the time you've taken to do this :) 

    My question is regarding sex drive and how it can effect a relationship. 

    My partner and I have been together for over two years now and it's become pretty apparent that my sex drive is far lower than theirs. I know this can be frustrating for my partner at times. 

    Is there anything I can do to help boost my sex drive within the relationship as I do care about my partner deeply. 

    I also struggle with kissing and being super intimidate, I struggle with emotions and showing them majority of the time which is something I believe is due to my upbringing and he's aware of this, but I really want to be more intimate with my partner. Is there any ways to help with any of this, will it change with time and how can this affect the relationship long term?

    Thanks :) 
    I’d actually be interested to know this as well, I’m from the opposite perspective. The partner with the higher drive and the one who sometimes finds it frustrating. I’m interested to know how it affects relationships too 
    “Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.”
    ConnorAnch0r33sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    (Original Poster @lovelyjoy )

    Hello, Miss Jennifer!

    I'm a huge fan of yours and I really love ATBP, it was one of my most painful heartbreaks! You once mentioned that Breathless is closer to your heart, shall we expect a greater, but inspirational, heartbreak? Will it mention some mental health issues, too? And what part of it do you think will be the reason why people will love it? Looking forward for its release. Congratulations again!

  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Jennifer, I absolutely love your books! My question is, do you ever feel insecure about your writing? I’ve always wanted to create a story but I can’t seem to bring myself to actually write because I feel like it won’t be any good.
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Jennifer, what emotions do you feel when you’re done writing a new book? (I’m excited to read Breathless!!)

  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Sarah: How do you recommend breaking down the barriers and taboos around having smear tests when talking to your mum/sisters?

    sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    (To sarah) What advice would you give to someone who is looking to stop watching porn?

    sarah_adefehinti
  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    To Jennifer:  If you could choose anyone to play Claudine, who would it be?

  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    (Jennifer) What is your advice to someone looking to become a writer?


  • ConnorConnor Posts: 434 Community Manager
    Jennifer- what motivates you to write on a normal day? Do you have any tips?

  • Millie2787Millie2787 🐶 💜 Posts: 4,104 Community Veteran
    edited September 2020
    For Sarah: How do you get of the fear of being in a relationship? I have Aspergers and I worry that people Might take advantage of that vulnerability 
    Post edited by TheMix on
    Sometimes all you need is one person to believe in you , for you to begin to believe in yourself.
    Connorsarah_adefehinti
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Mike said:
    One for Sarah: if you're in the early stages of a relationship, what are the signs of that relationship being healthy and what might be some red flags to watch for? :)

    Hey Mike - great question! There’s SO much to say on this subject, so I’ll try and cover the basic principles as much as I can, without writing an essay :p


    The basis of a good relationship are respect, communication and care. What this looks like exactly really depends on the people involved.


    However, these three aspects should be evident even at the early stages. Not in a perfect way (because no one is perfect), but it should be clear that you respect each other; that you’re willing to be honest and open (and to work on getting better at it, because it’s difficult!); and that you really care about your own AND the other person’s wellbeing.


    I’m just going to zone in on respect, because, in action, it looks different to different people. Feel free to ask more questions if you’re wondering more about care and communication!


    In a nutshell, though, respect means listening to and honouring that person’s thoughts, feelings and needs.


    For example, you might have different opinions on something, but you still treat their view with respect. You don’t mock them or shun them for thinking differently to you, and you’re able to talk about your different opinions.


    Or another example is that you might decide to say no to a date with your partner because you need some time alone to recharge and connect to yourself. In a healthy relationship, they’ll ideally respect that you have your own life and needs outside of the relationship (and they’ll care about your wellbeing), and you can chat about when you’d like to see each other instead.


    Also in a healthy relationship, it could be that in this scenario they actually really really need your support - so that’s where healthy communication would come in. They’d tell you that actually, they’re really struggling right now, so is it okay to see you soon? And then you can negotiate what works for both of you. Good relationships are also about learning to compromise and negotiate for the benefit of all parties involved.


    It’s important to remember that everyone is different: everyone has learnt how to be in a relationship through watching their family and people growing up around them relate to each other. They may not have learnt how to show love like you did, or to communicate in the same way, or even to know what respect is. Being in a good relationship means being willing to understand that person as a whole, and carve out a way for you both to relate well to each other - and share joy together! 


    I would say the red flags would arise when someone is doing the opposite of this. For example if:

    • Someone is trying to control you, either obviously or by using manipulation - incl. them trying to isolate you from your friends and family

    • They ONLY get defensive or attack you when there’s conflict, and they don’t make steps to apologise or start changing their behaviour.

    • They frequently put you down, mock you or say things to purposefully affect your self esteem

    • You feel like you’re being used, or that they genuinely don’t like you or respect you (listen to your intuition if you feel like something's off!)

    • They’re hot and cold with you: being more affectionate and seeking your attention when you start to pull away, but becoming more distant when you start to get closer.


    If you see these red flags, make sure you chat about it with someone you trust (ideally an adult, depending on what age you are).

    I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any further questions.

    BenMa
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    BenMa said:
    Hi Sarah! These first couple of questions are for you, I hope you don't mind how many questions I have! haha.

    1) If an intimate relationship has been almost entirely long distance, do you think it's still possible to consider it as a first proper relationship? Essentially, I'd like to know if you think a long distance relationship is less meaningful/"real" compared to one in real life.

    2) Do you think individuals who identify themselves as LGBT+, and are attracted to same-sex relationships, have more difficulty starting meaningful romantic relationships in comparison with heterosexual/opposite-sex couples?

    3) As a hypothetical, if a couple have been in a healthy relationship for many years, do you think intimate touching still requires explicit consent?

    Thank you so much! Have a wonderful evening.

    Hey @BenMa! Thank you for the great questions - it’s great you have so many! That’s what we’re here for :) 


    1) You get to define what a ‘proper relationship’ is for you. If you feel strong feelings towards that person and it’s mutual, then that’s a relationship (if you both want it to be and you’ve talked about it).


    Long distance relationships are relationships - the people involved are just far away from each other. Every relationship is different, so how they handle this will be different too - for some, they may only want to be in a long distance situation for a limited time and may want to make clear plans as to when they’ll start living in the same place, for example. Others might not have that urgency, and may be happy with seeing each other every few months instead. Neither of these scenarios mean those people love each other any less!



    2)
    I get the feeling that the question was relating to the ‘dating pool’ available when you’re LGBT+ - like, can you meet as many potential partners as hetero people? (do tell me if that wasn’t the question)


    This really depends on where you are and what communities you’re tapped into.


    If you’re near a city with LGBT+ spaces and events, or in a school/university that has an LGBT+ society, it might be easier to meet people there.


    If you aren’t out and your area is not LGBT+ friendly, perhaps reaching out to safe, online LGBT+ spaces for young people and making friends may be an easier way to meet others (until you can move area) - this is also more relevant to everyone in this Covid world we’re living in now, to be honest. We have to socialise online for a little bit longer, but that means we get to meet new people we would have never met before!


    Have a look at organisations like Stonewall Youth or Gendered Intelligence (that’s what I mean by safe, online spaces - ran by an organisation, ideally) -  https://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/ or http://genderedintelligence.co.uk/ 


    There’s also dating apps if you’re over 18, which can be helpful for meeting people, but should be used with caution - as you can meet all sorts of people (good and bad) there, and the apps in themselves are designed to be addictive, rather than create meaningful relationships. There’s a good video on that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ccSlmbu0a-0 


    Being single can feel really lonely, but it’s important to know that you can get a lot of the companionship you seek from friendships too! So do focus on cultivating those too.



    3) Yes, definitely you would have to keep having explicit consent with a long term partner! Consent is an ongoing conversation - just because someone has said yes to something once, doesn’t mean they want to do it all of the time, or ever again (this goes for everything).


    It’s part and parcel of having a healthy relationship, and it doesn’t need to feel clunky or awkward. Plus, the more you practice talking about what you like and don’t like in bed, and how you want to be touched, the easier it gets to keep having those conversations… and it improves your experience of sex, too! Because you both know what the other wants :)


    It’s important to remember that people’s sexual preferences change throughout their life, and with their mood as well. So just because your partner was really into receiving oral sex last week, it doesn’t mean they feel like it today. Maybe they just want to be held and have some slower sexy time today, and that’s okay. This goes for you too! You get to change your mind! So keep that conversation going - it’ll get easier the more you do it.


    Post edited by chubbydumpling on
    chubbydumplingBenMa
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    To Sarah. Hey! Is there anything you would suggest to someone who experiences painful sex? I always do everything I can Lube, foreplay etc but it's never been pain free. Thanks if you answer! ~H

    Hey H,


    I’m sorry to hear things have been painful!


    My usual advice for this would be to slow everything riiight down - and maybe not even have penetrative sex, unless you really want it at that time.


    Learning to have sex in ways that don’t involve penetration can make your body relax more and feel safer (what people often call ‘foreplay’, but I like to call ‘outercourse’ - because it’s a valid form of sex too and doesn’t have to lead to penetration at all to be sex). Sometimes the mental pressure of having to have sex in one specific way can mean our body is still tense when we get to penetration - because we mentally didn’t give ourselves the choice to opt out, if that makes sense.


    Try exploring what feels really good for you (both alone and with your partner), without trying to fit your experience into what you’ve been told sex should look like.


    However, it sounds like you’ve tried a lot already, so I would also advise to have a chat with your GP and/or contact a sexual health clinic, who can chat you through your options.


    Sometimes they may give you vaginal dilators to help you work up to feeling comfortable with inserting things without pain, or they may refer you to a psychosexual counsellor who can chat through the situation with you and give you exercises to do at home.


    I hope things improve for you. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you and lots of people go through this! You deserve to have pleasurable, pain free sex and it CAN happen.


    chubbydumplingBenMaLaine
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    Sarah: What is your favourite thing about volunteering for Sexplain?
    Answering people’s questions about sex! No lie. It’s so interesting to me and I like chatting to people directly about something that we’re often not allowed to talk about.
    BenMa
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Connor said:
    (Question for Jennifer and Sarah) Hi Jennifer! I have been a fan of your lovely writing for years. My question is for both you and Sarah if you do not mind. Is it normal to feel heartbroken after you initiated a breakup? How can someone deal with this situation?

    Yes, of course it's normal to feel heartbroken! Just because you broke it off, it doesn’t mean you don’t still have feelings for that person. It’s normal for you to also grieve that relationship.


    There’s no quick fix for heartbreak, unfortunately, and each situation and person is different. The most important thing is to allow yourself to feel how you’re feeling. Find ways to express that, either to trusted friends, a counsellor, by writing it down, crying, or whatever feels right for you.

    Take good care of yourself during this time period, and try and listen to what you need. Ask for support too, from people who have your back!


    As the person who broke it off, it’s also important to not lead your ex on when you’re feeling this emotional (for ex. with messages like 'I miss you' 'I still love you' etc.) Give it some time, and if in future you feel like you definitely want to get back together (and you’re not just feeling lonely), then chat to them about it. But for now, just grieve the relationship and remember why you broke it off.


    It might also be good for you both to have space (and to not try and force a friendship immediately), because that way you can heal a little more without needing to remind yourself of how much you care about them each time. You can be friends later if you both want to, but give yourselves time to adjust to the change.


    Sending solidarity and best of luck!


    BenMa
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Hey I have a question for Sarah

    Do you think sex education in schools needs to drastically improve? When I was at school I learnt almost nothing about sex, literally the absolute minimum they could tell us. I have learnt a lot from experience now but for other young people, where are good places to learn about sex on the internet? I know I found myself googling things but didn’t really know what websites were actually educational 

    Hey @independent_,


    Yes definitely! That’s why Sexplain and other sex education organisations exist. There’s too many things to improve in terms of sex ed in schools, so I won’t list them :P


    Websites like Sexwise (https://www.sexwise.org.uk/), Brook (https://www.brook.org.uk/), The Mix (obvs), Sexplain’s Instagram feed and blog (https://www.instagram.com/sexplainuk) and Fumble (https://www.fumble.org.uk/) are great places to start for any young people who want to learn more about sex from trusted sources.
    independent_
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    BenMa said:
    Hey Jennifer!

    I've unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading any of your books, but upon looking at your website I can see why they are best sellers! I really appreciate the fact that you've got involved with The Mix to answer questions :) In advance, I appreciate you taking the time to read mine!

    1) Do you think that authors understand the influence they have when it comes to breaking down stigmas & stereotypes?

    2) What topics inspire your books in particular? Do you have any advice when it comes to writing about sensitive topics (e.g. self harm, sexual assault, suicidal ideation)?

    3) As a more light-hearted question, have you ever had contact with any of your English literature teachers since becoming an author? It would be awesome to hear what they had to say about one of their former students becoming a #1 NYT bestselling hehe!

    Have a wonderful evening!
    Hi @BenMa!

    Thank you for your lovely comment on my books, and thank you for your questions! 

    1) I think we definitely understand, particularly as YA authors, the influence we have. My friend David Levithan calls us "ambassadors of empathy," and I love this term. We all take our work very seriously. In writing about issues surrounding suicide, mental health, loss, bullying, sex, love, I feel a huge responsibility to be as honest as possible, to write from a place of real understanding, of personal experience, of expert guidance. And if I can help break down stigmas and stereotypes in doing so, that means I've accomplished what I've set out to do.

    2) Life inspires my books. Especially my own experiences or experiences of those I love. In terms of advice for writing about sensitive topics, it's that responsibility I talked about in answer 1. Write honestly. Write with great sensitivity. Write genuinely. Write responsibly. Talk to experts. Do your research. Talk to others who have firsthand experience with these topics. Write from your heart. 

    3) I have actually! What a fun question! Some of my past English teachers (grammar school, high school, and college) have actually attended author events and I've had the chance to thank them for their influence and guidance in front of a crowd of people! Those were such wonderful, memorable moments for me! 

    Thank you again for these amazing questions!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
    Post edited by chubbydumpling on
    BenMa
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