Am I Settling?!

Am I Settling?!

By Kaitlyn Goldsmith, PhD(c)

We all have options. We have options for which dating app to use, which TV show to binge watch, and which website to use to order our new Kate Spade purse. But with these options all at our fingertips, do we end up just going with what we know and doing what we always do?  What if we start to use this default mode to choose our partners? Or to stay with the one we’re with? Are we settling?

Communicating with Digital Technology: Does it Make You Closer or Get in the Way of Romance?

Communicating with Digital Technology:  Does it Make You Closer or Get in the Way of Romance?

Lucia F. O'Sullivan, Ph.D.

There is a lot of media alarm about the dangers of new technologies, with concerns that they are making millennials in particular unable to relate on a one-to-one basis (see for example).   But where is the research to support this claim?  Some research shows that communicating via digital technology actually accelerates intimacy because messages can be transmitted, received and reciprocated all day (and all night) long.1-2 Others find that the content of these communications tends be quite superficial.3

Outlaw Science: How Does One Become a Sex Researcher Anyway?

I generally get this question from two types of people:  Those who are interested in becoming a sex researcher, and let’s face it, the path to this outcome is not that obvious, and those who are trying politely to disguise the fact that they are rather surprised, if not alarmed, that they are interacting with someone who chooses sex as a focus for a career. 

We are never getting back together… like ever! Characteristics of breakups among young adults

Robyn Young, BA (Psyc)

The breakup of a romantic relationship is typically a very distressing and life-changing event. This is more common in young adults, and many of them would say that a breakup is the worst event of this stage in their lives. Breakups can escalate depression, anxiety, substance abuse, as well as suicidality in young adults.

Most research looks at adults’ experiences of divorce – not young people’s breakups. We studied breakups in the past year among over 200 18 – 25 year olds.

·         Many (42%) expected their relationship to last a lifetime, while in reality, the largest
percentage (41%) of relationships only lasted a few months to under one year 

·         Peak times for breakups? The start of a school year (September) or at the start of a new calendar year (January)

·         Over half of participants reported this current breakup to be the most intense, however the longer the relationship, the more intense the breakup

·         Expecting the relationship to last longer à more severe breakup

·         No differences in reports by gender or by sexual orientation

Breakups are stressful for everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or any other differences. It is an issue that health professionals and even loved ones (friends and family) of young adults continuously report this to be a significant issue for these people. Therefore, keeping the above information in mind, it is important for keeping things in perspective. It will get better!


See: Belu, C. F., Lee, B. H., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2016). It hurts to let you go: Characteristics of romantic relationships, breakups and the aftermath. Journal of Relationship Research.

The Veiled Truth of Ex-Partner Stalking: Social and Legal Implications

Jeff Forshay

Perceptions of stalking and its realities do not go hand in hand. Ex-partners are much more likely to be guilty of stalking than are stranger, and consequences tend to be more severe.1,2

(James & Farnham, 2003, Rosenfeld & Lewis, 2005, etc.). These findings stand in stark contrast to perceptions of stalking behaviour found by Scott, Lloyd, & Gavin (2010).

Participants in one study were given a vignette in which a girl is being harassed by either a stranger, an acquaintance, or an ex-partner. Participants were asked: “To what extent do you consider the behaviour stalking”, “Do you think police intervention is necessary…” and “To what extent is the victim responsible for encouraging the behaviour”.

·       Compared to stalking by ex-partner & acquaintances, participants were much more likely to label the strangers behaviour as stalking, that police intervention was more necessary, and that the behaviour posed greater risks of harm

·       They also thought that the victim was less responsible for encouraging the stranger’s behaviour

Stalking by ex-partners may be taken less seriously as a whole—even though it’s usually more damaging.

In many western countries anti-stalking laws are quite vague and subjective. They rely heavily on the apparent severity of the situation and assumed intent of the perpetrator

A study of 167 stalking cases in the UK found that almost half (41%) of them were thrown out when the perpetrator was an ex-partner, compared to none when the perpetrator was a stranger.4 (Harris, 2000).

Police officers were also much less likely to even consider bringing up stalking-related charges when ex-partners were involved, labeling them as “domestic issues.”5                

Bottom line:  Ex-partners pose an even greater threat to the well-being of the victim then do strangers, and it is long past time that our societal and judicial attitudes reflect this.


1James, D. V., & Farnham, F. R. (2003). Stalking and serious violence. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 31, 432-439.

2Rosenfeld, B., & Lewis, C. (2005). Assessing violence risk in stalking cases: A regression tree approach. Law and Human Behavior, 29, 343-357.

3Scott, A., Lloyd, R., & Gavin, J. (January 01, 2010). The Influence of Prior Relationship on Perceptions of Stalking in the United Kingdom and Australia. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37, 11, 1185-1194.

4Harris, J. (2000). An evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (Home Office Research Study 203). London, UK: Home Office.      

5Pathé, M., Mullen, P. E., & Purcell, R. (2000). Same-gender stalking. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 28, 191-197.

Rule 34 of the Internet: If it exists, there is porn of it—no exceptions.1

Yvonne Anisimowicz, B. A. (Hons). 

Everyone is a fan of something—a TV show, an author, a sports team, an artist. For some, this fandom can lead to the creation of fanworks. Fanworks include stories (fanfiction), drawings (fanart), songs (filk) about the characters in a fav novel, and videos from movie or tv clips (fanvid), among others. Through the magic of the Internet, fans get to share their enthusiasm and their fanworks, creating that shared community that we call “fandom.”

Guess what? Many fanworks contain sexual content. One of the most prominent online archives of fanworks has more than three quarters of a million registered users and is home to more than 2.3 million fanworks.2 All works are tagged with keywords describing their content, typically “sexual content,” “smut,” “relationship(s),” and “romance.”

Fun Facts About Fanworks:

·       Of 824 adults (18-66 years), 15% reported using fanworks containing sexual content, with 15% of those used only fanworks with sexual content

·       For sexual fanworks: fanfiction (71%) and fanart (55%) were the most popular

·       Women and men use sexual fanworks to the same extent

·       But more women use fanfiction (86% vs. 60%), and more men use fanart (67% vs. 39%)

Fandom’s origin is obscure,3 but this is not a fringe interest!!

As fandom enters the mainstream, more people are becoming aware of and using fanworks, sometimes without realizing it—for instance, did you know that Fifty Shades of Grey was originally written as Twilight fanfiction?4



1 Rule 34 (n.d.) Retrieved from

2 Archive of Our Own (n.d.) Retrieved from

3 Grossman, L. (2011). The boy who lived forever. Time, 178(3), 44-50.

4 Downing, L. (2013). Safewording! Kinkphobia and gender normativity in Fifty Shades of Grey. Psychology & Sexuality, 4, 92-102. doi: 10.1080/19419899.2012.740067


“I have a nice gross vagina”… wait! Does that even make sense?

Miranda Fudge, B.A. (Hons.), Ph.D. Candidate

LADIES… how do you feel about your down-there? Are you absolutely in love with your coochie? Or do you try to forget that special-place is even a part of your body? MEN… You might enjoy the lady-yum-yum (or not), but have you ever wondered how the wonderful women in your life feel about their vulva/vagina (genitals)1?

According to our recent study2, women’s thoughts and feelings about their genitals tend to be somewhat mixed.

The 20 women we interviewed tended to have positive, negative, and neutral feelings about different aspects of their genitals, all at once. For example, one woman loved how her vulva looked but was very disappointed in how her vagina functioned, if you know what I mean ;)

So what makes this important? Well, aside from the fact that it’s just plain upsetting that many women feel badly about such an amazing (and super fun!) part of their body, negative feelings have consequences!

Some of the women in our study described:

·      hiding their genitals in both public (e.g., change rooms) and private (e.g., sexual) situations

·      limiting sexual activities

·      engaging in unnecessary (possibly harmful) hygiene practices.

Many just don’t know a lot about their genitals. There is huge diversity in how women’s genitals look, smell, taste, and function. You heard it here: each vulva is very unique and equally as beautiful as the next!

If you would like to learn more about women’s genitals (and we highly recommend that you do!), especially the topic of genital diversity, please explore the resources below: 

Books about women’s genitals and genital health:

     The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health (by Elizabeth G. Stewart and Paula Spencer)

       Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva (by Debby Herbenick and Vanessa Schick)

Websites featuring galleries, books, or works of art displaying genital diversity3:


1 In case you were wondering… your vulva is the part of your genitals you can see from the outside (including parts like the clitoris, pubic mound, and vaginal lips). Your vagina is the inside part (also sometimes called the birth canal and/or the part where a tampon/penis/other-fun-object can be inserted).

2 Fudge, M. C., & Byers, E. S. (2016). “I have a nice gross vagina”: Understanding young women’s genital self-perceptions. Journal of Sex Research. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1155200.

3 Most of these websites provide you with the opportunity to view a variety of women’s vulvas, should you be interested in doing so. Many women find this experience to be enlightening and reassuring because it shows that every woman’s genitals are unique and that there is no “normal” genital appearance. It is our hope that visiting these sites will be empowering for you as well.


“Does this make me look fat?” How the things partners tell each other about their bodies affects their self confidence

Kaitlyn Goldsmith, B.A. (Hons.), Ph.D. Candidate

Have you complimented your partner’s looks recently? Maybe you had an unfortunate blunder when your partner asked, “Does this make me look fat?” Maybe you haven’t said anything directly, but your tone of voice or gestures were loud and clear?!  (Translation:  “Uhhhh, yeah, sure does.”)

Do these little everyday things that partners say about one another’s bodies actually have an impact? What really happens when your significant other says something negative (or positive) about your body? Could these messages have an impact on your sex life? These were the questions that lead us to ask 35 men and 57 women about the messages they have received from their romantic partners about their bodies and how they feel those messages have affected them.  These men and women wrote about the most memorable messages about their bodies they had received from their partner.

Here’s what we found:

·      The good news is that every single person reported receiving at least one positive message about their body… run-of-the-mill compliments, sexy compliments, comments that challenged negative beliefs about themselves

·      Men and women typically received messages non-verbally, through body language and tone of voice (who knew!?)

·      Most felt these messages had a positive impact on their body image AND their sex life. They felt more sexually confident, empowered, and fulfilled

·      Although fewer men and women reported receiving negative messages (both verbally and non-verbally), these messages were linked to reduced body confidence AND less sexual satisfaction

·      Most striking?  Both men and women reported fairly ordinary, sometimes seemingly neutral, messages having a big impact on their confidence and sex lives

So be careful! 

If you have a partner, why not make an effort to help them feel sexy? Dish out those compliments! Ask if you’ve hurt their feelings with a comment or action! You never know, it may even improve your sex life


For full article:

Goldsmith, K. M., & Byers, E. S. (2016). Perceived impact of body feedback from romantic partners on young adults’ body image and sexual well-being. Body Image, 17, 161-170.