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SSIS advice column

Welcome back to the Student Sexuality Information Service (SSIS) column, where we answer any and all of Brandeis students’ questions about sex, sexuality, identity and relationships. If you have a question you’d like answered in our next column, email ssis@brandeis.edu or leave a question in the Google Form link on the Student Sexuality Information Service Facebook page. Any and all questions are welcome: There are no bad, stupid or weird questions! 

(Note: These answers are good-faith attempts by SSIS to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means exhaustive or to be taken as universal. If these answers don’t resonate with you, either pay them no mind or reach out to us with suggestions for improvement!)

Is it wrong to use internet porn as a form of self-care? It makes me feel good, yet afterwards I feel ashamed.

Hi there, thank you for asking SSIS this question. Porn is a commonly stigmatized topic, so your feelings are totally valid. Self-care can look a variety of ways—from working out, treating yourself to a special meal or doing some skincare, to watching porn. There is nothing wrong with watching porn to relax, masturbate or have something on in the background. In fact, watching porn is a pretty common way to relieve stress. 

When engaging in self-care, it is important to think about how it makes you feel and if it helps you relax and recharge for things coming your way. Uncovering where your feelings of shame come from may be helpful in becoming more comfortable with utilizing porn for self-care. For example, if these feelings come from feeling unsure about the ethics of the porn you are consuming, there are ways to consume porn that can feel more liberating and empowering. Paying for porn and granting pornstars more control over their content is one way that might help decrease feelings of guilt or shame. However, there may be other reasons at the root of your feelings. That is okay. Recognizing sexual stigma and shame can be an ongoing process and working towards sex positivity can be a lot of emotional work. 

If you would ever like to dive more into this, feel free to drop by our online or in-person office hours. We are always happy to talk and support you in whatever way you feel comfortable.

What’s the best way to meet people in the time of COVID-19?

This is a great question. Meeting people can be a challenge, with or without a global pandemic! We acknowledge that it’s difficult to meet new people during this time, and we applaud your curiosity in finding new and better ways to connect. 

It’s true that the pandemic has made dating and meeting new people difficult, but luckily, people are creative beings! Of course, you could always use dating apps and do a first date on FaceTime. But people are also finding new ways to utilize social media during this time. In the era of Zoom’s dominance, it’s not unheard of now to directly message a person in Zoom. Be careful with this method, though, since the host can see and download the entirety of the meeting chat, including private messages between attendees. Still, if the only setting in which you see someone regularly is on Zoom, this can be a great way of getting past that initial Zoom awkwardness and connect more deeply on another platform.

In the same vein, it has also become somewhat more common to see Instagram DMs and other in-app private messages, both platonic and romantic. During a time where the “normal” avenues for interaction aren’t always available, some of the pre-pandemic etiquette for social media has loosened slightly. This isn’t a universal experience, though, so others might have different levels of comfortability with this. 

While dating apps have been a bit less active these days, they can still be a good option for meeting new people. You could meet with people virtually on the first date, which is a good opportunity to gauge an individual’s comfort level with COVID-19 and determine emotional compatibility.

If dating apps aren’t up your alley, there may be other options. For instance, the Salty newsletter, a media organization for women, trans and nonbinary people, announced recently that they will start doing singles listings on their social media and in their newsletters. To get involved with something like this, you would include a picture of yourself as well as some information on who you are and what you’re looking for. This is just one option, though there may be others in this realm. 

Of course, minimizing new partners and limiting dates to virtual or socially distanced settings is still the most COVID-19-safe method of meeting people. Still, wearing masks and communicating about your social “bubble” with potential partners can also help to limit (but not eliminate) the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Since everyone has different levels of risk and comfort when it comes to COVID-19, it’s important to check in with whoever you are going to meet, as well as whoever you are living with or in close contact with. Communicating with potential dates (romantic or friendly) about your personal safety preferences, your level of risk, whether or not you’re meeting other new people and any other pertinent information will make navigating the process more straightforward for everyone involved. 

We hope this information helps, and as always, we are happy to meet with you to talk through questions like this in our SCC office and online.

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