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

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Comments

  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    happycat1 said:
    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
    Hi @happycat1!

    Thank you for your question! And thank you for reading and loving my books! That means so much to me!

    I definitely use things that have happened in my life to inspire my writing. There are pieces of me and pieces of my life in all my books, but the two most personal are All the Bright Places, which was inspired by a boy I loved and lost to suicide, and Breathless (released tomorrow!), which comes from my parents' separation when I was eighteen, and the summer my mom and I left my hometown and started over. Breathless is also personal to my adult self. I met my now husband on a remote Georgia island (where the novel is set), and we had so many adventures which I wrote into the book. :)

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
    Post edited by chubbydumpling on
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Connor said:
    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 😌
    Thanks so much for your question! First, I think what you're doing sounds incredible. And your instincts are right that you should write about your own experience with sex and the conversations around sex within your family. Perhaps you can also speak with experts on the subject, which would help back up your own personal observations. I always hand my books to experts at some point to get their input and feedback, which is extremely valuable, particularly when writing about important issues.

    In terms of how to start writing, I would suggest writing down chapter ideas and subject ideas and just general ideas on index cards-- either in an online program like Scrivener or actual physical index cards or sticky notes. This can be such a good way to start brainstorming and also give the project shape. You can use these cards as a kind of storyboard/outline, rearranging them as necessary, but allowing yourself to just write freely about all the different things you want to say. 

    Also, I always write books I want to read. So I suggest going about it in that way! Write the book YOU want to read on this subject. And know that I'm here cheering you on!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
    chubbydumpling
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    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 :) 

    Ooof this question. I feel you. Mismatched sex drives can be really frustrating and confusing. You are not alone, and I’m sorry you’re going through this right now.


    This is such a complex question to answer, because there isn’t a quick fix (a recurring theme in my answers - sorry). I’ll try my best, though!


    Really importantly, I want to flag something first: there is nothing wrong with you for having a lower sex drive than your partner, and you cannot ‘boost’ your sex drive at will.

    There is nothing wrong with your partner for having a higher sex drive than you, either. They are simply different needs.


    And it’s really important to listen to your body and not force yourself to do anything you don’t want to do.

    Be patient with yourself.

    Practice self-compassion.

    Intimacy can be hard to get used to if you have trauma in your past, but don’t force it - that can add to your fear, your body's trauma response and your difficulties opening up. It will get easier with time, if you go slowly and you don’t feel pressured (from yourself and others).


    There are different schools of thought on the question you asked, but I really like Emily Nagoski’s approach to the sex drive in their book Come As You Are, which (in a nutshell) talks about us all having our own unique set of different sexual contexts that affect our sex drive. I highly recommend reading this book! It’s aimed at people with vulvas & vaginas, but it’s useful for anyone I think.


    Nagoski says that some things ‘press the accelerator’ of our sex drive (make us feel eager for sex) and some ‘press the breaks’ of our sex drive (make us feel really not into sex at the time). The ‘sex drive’ is then about a balance of those things.


    For example, if our partner’s done everything they know turns us on and make us feel safe (like mood lighting and candles, and sweet talking us), but we’re in a really stressed place in life and we’d actually rather just sleep and recover... then we won’t feel turned on no matter how much effort they put on. Sometimes, our feelings of pressure on ourselves to ‘want sex more’ can also act like a massive ‘break’. What would you want sex to be like if you didn’t have that internal pressure?


    Nagoski also says that some people spontaneously want sex, whilst others only want sex as a result of sexual attention from others (a reactive sex drive). Neither is right or wrong, they’re just different… but in our society we’re often told that everyone would have a spontaneous sex drive, when that isn’t the case for lots of people.

    This means that we may read our partner as having a ‘lower’ sex drive than ours, but it could actually just be that we have a spontaneous sex drive, whilst they have a reactive one… so they are less likely to initiate sex, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want it just because they don’t start it (talking about it is really important in this too! Obviously check they want to be touched before you do anything - consent is key in a relationship)


    It’s really really important to explore and talk about what great sex would feel like with your partner - thinking about not just what happens in the bedroom, but the lead up to it. What are you actually comfortable with? What do you actually want to do, if there were no expectations? How do you want to be wooed and seduced and loved, way before you initiate sex?

    Ultimately, your situation is unique to you and your partner’s relationship, so the most in-depth and bespoke approach would be to go through it with a psychosexual counsellor, if you feel able to (and if you feel like the relationship is worth that investment). That extra outsider’s perspective from an expert can help you step back and understand what’s going on and what to do.


    I hope this helps a bit. Sending solidarity and care your way!


    Anch0r33Laineindependent_
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    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 
    Hey again @independent_

    Have a look at my reply to Anch0r33 - bits of it might be helpful for you too.

    Ultimately, getting on the same page with your partner will be helpful for both of you. Truly getting to understand what the other is experiencing is important in overcoming challenges together.


    Mismatching sex drives affects every relationship differently. Some people break up, and others get closer as a result of learning and growing together through the challenges.


    It's always important to make sure neither partner is putting pressure on the other to have sex - otherwise the sex you'd be having would not be consensual.


    Talking about sex together may be really helpful - like, what do you both actually want from sex? and is the person with a higher sex drive able to get that elsewhere, like by masturbating? How important is this in your relationship, and who can you turn to for help with this? (hint: psychosexual counselling is great ;) )

    I hope this helps!

    independent_
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    Sarah: How do you recommend breaking down the barriers and taboos around having smear tests when talking to your mum/sisters?

    Hi! I’m not sure exactly what the barriers and taboos look like for you (please feel free to elaborate), but I would say that, when dealing with taboos, it’s important to meet people where they’re at.


    If your mother and sisters don’t feel comfortable talking about smear tests, what’s at the root of that? What are they afraid of, or what are they against? And what is a topic that’s smaller but related, that they’d be a little uncomfortable talking about, that you can start bringing up in conversation? That way, you can start opening up a dialogue about sexual health or your bodies, little by little.


    It can also be helpful to go down the purely factual route and talk about the medical importance of smear tests - much like you would talk about the health reasons for brushing your teeth, or checking your boobs etc.


    I hope this helps somewhat, and good luck! And remember, it’s not YOUR responsibility to change their minds. Do what you can to keep yourself safe when having these discussions with your family - it’s also okay to just leave it if it’s too taxing for you.


  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    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?
    Hi!

    This is such a good question and one that plagues most writers-- how to find the time to write! It can be so challenging, whether you're in school or working or parenting. My mom was also an author, and she said as writers we so often have to work by the patchwork quilt method of writing, which means we have to find time here or there-- five minutes, an hour-- whatever amount of time we can spare. And if we keep doing that whenever we're able, we eventually discover we've woven together something lovely and whole. It can be frustrating, but most writers write while holding down other jobs. Charles Dickens worked in a bank! You just have to believe in yourself and your work. And know that I'm here cheering you on!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    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?
    Hi! Thank you for your lovely words about my writing! 

    As Sarah said, it is absolutely normal to feel heartbroken after you initiated a breakup. The death of a relationship is a loss, just like the death of a loved one. You are mourning that loss. You need to let yourself grieve. Be gentle with yourself. Be tender with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Feel all the feelings. It's the only way to get through. Let yourself feel everything. But also do little things and big things to comfort yourself, whether it's listening to empowering break-up music, rereading your favorite book, watching funny movies or TV, spending time with friends and/or outside, writing down your feelings. Things that remind you that you're okay. You're amazing. And you will get through this.

    I'm sending you lots of love.
    Jennifer xx
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    (Question for Jennifer)
    Are there any mention to things that happened in your life?

    Hi! Absolutely! All my books to some degree include pieces of myself, my life, people I love, experiences I've gone through. All the Bright Places and Breathless in particular are very personal. It can be difficult to open yourself up on the page, but I believe that in order for my readers to feel all the emotions I want them to feel, I need to feel those emotions while writing. 

    Thank you for your question!
    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Connor said:
    (To sarah) What advice would you give to someone who is looking to stop watching porn?

    Hey!

    It really depends on what your relationship with porn is. It might be really easy for you to just go cold turkey and not watch it at all, or it might be harder because you're so used to it.

    Just to get clear, ask yourself why you want to stop watching porn.
    Are you just not into it anymore and it feels like a bad habit that you find hard to stop?
    Do you not like what you're watching? In which case, you might just want to find different types that feel better for you to watch.
    Or do you have shame associated with it? Which is a societal issue, because porn can be part of a healthy sexuality.
    Basically, just check in with your intentions to see if you're stopping it for the right reasons, that you've decided on.

    With any habit, it's important to remain mindful and watch your behaviour. If you catch yourself going to watch porn when you told yourself you wouldn't do it, then ask yourself: what need am I trying to fulfil by watching porn right now?
    For ex. you might be feeling lonely, horny, bored or upset. Once you have the answer, you could then ask: how can I meet this need in another way?

    It's totally normal and okay to masturbate without using porn. If porn is what you're used to, it may feel a little weird at first to not watch it while touching yourself, and that's okay. It'll get easier with practice.

    I would recommend learning to focus on your body's sensations when masturbating instead and getting curious with it, as if you were discovering a partner's body. That way, you'll get more comfortable with your body and you are also likely to start feeling more pleasure from less stimulation, as you get more and more used to focusing on the sensations.

    And if you're really struggling with stopping porn, speak to a GP or a counsellor!
    Laine
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Connor said:
    (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!

    Hi! Thank you for your questions! And thank you for reading ATBP! That means the world to me!

    All my books are close to my heart, but Breathless is close in a very special way-- it's the book that led me to my now husband. It's also inspired by one of the most emotional summers of my life, when my parents separated and five days after high school graduation my mom and I moved away and started over. I had sex for the first time and really struggled with all the feelings you have between high school and college of becoming an adult, independent of parents and old friends. Years later, I ventured to a remote island off the coast of Georgia where I met my now husband. We fell in love that first day and had adventure after adventure, which I wrote into the book. So these are all the reasons it's close to my heart and all the reasons I hope readers will love it. That and the fact that it's about learning to write your story and your life, all on your own, which I think everyone can relate to.

    And yes, there may be some heartbreak. And it will deal with the issues of loss and fear and anxiety and isolation. 

    Thank you in advance for reading!
    Love,
    Jennifer xx 
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    To Jennifer:  If you could choose anyone to play Claudine, who would it be?

    The brilliant and amazing Sophia Lillis!!! She's who I pictured when I wrote Claude, and to me she IS Claude!

    Thank you for your question!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    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 
    Hey @Millie2787!

    Thank you for your question. I hear you - it's not always easy to trust people and to know their intention; lots of people feel this way!

    Unfortunately, learning to trust is often about feeling the fear and doing it anyway (within reason). We could trust someone and get hurt, but we could also trust someone and end up having a really great time with them.
    This goes for friendships too, so opening up and sharing more of yourself to people you might want to be friends with might be a good way to start getting over this fear too.

    It really depends on the person you're interested in as well. If you don't know whether to try a relationship with them or not, it might be useful to chat to people who you already trust and hear their opinions. If they know the person, they could tell you what they think of them. Ultimately, though, it's your choice if you decide to try being in a relationship. It's important to only do this when you feel ready, not when others say you should, or because everyone else is doing it.

    It's also really important to know that, even if you do choose to be in a relationship, it doesn't mean that you'll have to do everything that other person wants you to do. You get to choose what you want to do, and you can say no at any time (even if you've already said yes to something).
    You can still have your friends and loved ones look out for you, and you can definitely break up if you decide you're not ready or you don't want to be with that person.

    I hope this helps. Best of luck!
    Millie2787chubbydumpling
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    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.
    Hi! Thank you for this question-- it's such a good one! And thank you for reading my books! <3

    Yes, I feel insecure about my writing a lot! Every writer I know feels that way. We question ourselves and doubt ourselves and wonder how we've ever written books that people have wanted to read. Each time I start a new project, I wonder how on earth I'll do it because I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing! I think all my other books must have been flukes! But then I center myself down and remind myself why I want to write this particular idea. And then I just tell myself to play with it for a while and see where it leads, no pressure. I remind myself that it's only for me, only for my eyes, and no one will be reading it unless I want them to. I also remind myself that I can go back and edit what I write and make it good, but at first it's just important to get the words out onto the page. 

    Give yourself permission to write something that isn't perfect. Have fun with it. Just start writing, and don't edit yourself along the way. And know that I'm here rooting for you! And feeling the exact same way!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    Jennifer, what emotions do you feel when you’re done writing a new book? (I’m excited to read Breathless!!)

    Hi! Thanks for this wonderful question! And thank you for being excited to read Breathless!

    I feel every emotion under the sun when I'm done writing a new book! Relief, exhilaration, depletion, exhaustion, excitement, happiness, joy, fulfillment, anxiousness over whether it's good or not. I usually have to lie down for a couple of days and rest, physically, mentally, and emotionally, because I'm completely wiped out. It's this roller coaster of overwhelming feelings. And it happens with every book.

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    (Jennifer) What is your advice to someone looking to become a writer?


    Hi! And thank you for this question!

    Always believe in yourself and in your work. Don't ever doubt yourself. Don't limit yourself or your imagination. Write. Write. Write. Show up to do the work. If you don't write it, it won't get written. Be disciplined. Be bold. Be fearless. Don't let yourself be paralyzed by the fear of not being perfect. Learn to love editing so that you can go back and make the writing even stronger. Read everything. Play. Have fun. And write the story you want to read.

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    Connor said:
    Jennifer- what motivates you to write on a normal day? Do you have any tips?

    Hi! And thank you for your question!

    I write because I need to in my heart and soul. I'm a generally sunny person, but when I don't write I get grumpy and off balance. I need to write. I have all these stories and characters and feelings that I carry around with me, and I feel this urgency to put them on paper. It's been like that since I was a little girl.

    In terms of tips, sit down and let yourself play with your idea. Give yourself the freedom to brainstorm and create without worrying about anyone else. Believe in yourself and in your work. Writing is like a muscle, so the more you exercise it the stronger it gets. Exercise that muscle. Write as much as you can as often as you can. Make a playlist for your characters and your story. Let the music help motivate you. And write the story you most want to read.

    I'm cheering you on!

    Love,
    Jennifer xx
  • LaineLaine Fruit loop Gone for gooPosts: 2,767 Account Deactivated
    I've learnt quite a lot from your replies @sarah_adefehinti just want to thank you for the work you and Sexplain do! 

    Sex education is always something that's inspired and interested me but it's fascinating how we can still learn new things! :)

    🌈Positive thoughts🌈

    "This is my family. I found it, all on my own.
    It's little, and Broken, but still good. Yeah. Still good." ~ Stitch

    "Lately, I've been struggling with all the simple things in my life" ~ Cian Ducrot

    "I don't know if it's because my heart hurts or I'm insecure" ~ Juice Wrld
    sarah_adefehinti
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    Laine said:
    I've learnt quite a lot from your replies @sarah_adefehinti just want to thank you for the work you and Sexplain do! 

    Sex education is always something that's inspired and interested me but it's fascinating how we can still learn new things! :)
    Thanks Laine! Appreciate it :D
    LaineBenMa
  • DancerDancer Bog Off Justine! Posts: 5,871 Part of The Furniture
    Jennifer: I just wanted to say that you are an amazing author and you inspire many young people with your writing.  I have never personally read any of what you have done but seeing the extract that was shared by Connor you have an amazing talent for writing. What stimuli do you like to use for your writing? 
    I'm a fruit loop. 🍊➰

    There's a part of me I can't get back.  A little girl grew up too fast. All it took was once. I'll never be the same.
  • DancerDancer Bog Off Justine! Posts: 5,871 Part of The Furniture
    Sarah: What do you feel is most important about being inclusive when discussing potentially sensitive topics when speaking to young people?
    I'm a fruit loop. 🍊➰

    There's a part of me I can't get back.  A little girl grew up too fast. All it took was once. I'll never be the same.
  • jennifernivenjenniferniven Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Kasa2103 said:
    Jennifer: I just wanted to say that you are an amazing author and you inspire many young people with your writing.  I have never personally read any of what you have done but seeing the extract that was shared by Connor you have an amazing talent for writing. What stimuli do you like to use for your writing? 
    Hi @Kasa2103

    Thank you so much for these lovely words! They are so appreciated! And thank you for your question! 

    For me, so much of the stimuli I use for writing comes from life. Not just my own life, but life around me. People I meet. Places I go. Experiences I have or hear about. The things I write are generally very personal, so much of it comes from my heart and my own life experience. I also love creating playlists for my characters and my stories and listening to these as I write. I find that music really helps me drop in emotionally and mentally to the world and feelings that I need to access. I also read a lot, but I have to be careful what I read when I’m writing. I never want to unconsciously copy someone’s voice. So when I’m writing YA, I never read YA. I read adult books like Ruth Ware, Lucy Foley, or anything by Mindy Kaling.

    Thank you again!
    Jennifer xx
  • DancerDancer Bog Off Justine! Posts: 5,871 Part of The Furniture
    edited September 2020
    Sounds amazing. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply. <3
    I'm a fruit loop. 🍊➰

    There's a part of me I can't get back.  A little girl grew up too fast. All it took was once. I'll never be the same.
  • sarah_adefehintisarah_adefehinti Posts: 13 Expert
    edited September 2020
    Kasa2103 said:
    Sarah: What do you feel is most important about being inclusive when discussing potentially sensitive topics when speaking to young people?
    Hey @Kasa2103,

    I think the main focus is on not making assumptions.

    For example, when we talk about sex & relationships at Sexplain, we speak in a non-gendered, sex-positive way. For example, we may say 'partners' instead of 'boyfriends and girlfriends'. Or we may specifically voice that we know not everyone will want to have sex, or be monogamous (and that reflects in our language when we speak about a partner or partners, for example).

    I hope this helps. 
    chubbydumpling
  • DancerDancer Bog Off Justine! Posts: 5,871 Part of The Furniture
    Sounds great. Thank you for explaining that. I have been curious a lot about it so I finally got it off my chest!
    I'm a fruit loop. 🍊➰

    There's a part of me I can't get back.  A little girl grew up too fast. All it took was once. I'll never be the same.
  • Millie2787Millie2787 🐶 💜 Posts: 4,244 Community Veteran
    Thank you so much @sarah_adefehinti

    I was in a relationship previously, they was my first relationship and they unfortunately ended it with me and I never really knew why . It was kind of after then that the fear of being in a relationship started snd I never knew why that came about . Making friends isn’t easy for me i much prefer to be by myself 

    But thank you so much for the advice 💜
    Sometimes all you need is one person to believe in you , for you to begin to believe in yourself.
    chubbydumplingsarah_adefehinti
  • SiaSia Posts: 1 Literally just got here
    For Jennifer


    Hi lovely! First, I'm sooo proud of u, and I'm so greatful that I'm here, with u, in this new journey. U are absolutely amazing! I love u so much and I'm literally gonna cry because u are my inspiration and I'm sooo happy for u! 🥺❤  
    My question is:
    Isn't it scary? Publishing Breathless, your story. Aren't u scared that people will judge you? This is a really special book for all of us but especially for u. 

    Sending so much love! Can't wait to see u on tour! 💞


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