There's something about deal-breakers that I think a lot of people miss. A deal-breaker is not exactly a standard that you have. Take dating. If you don't want to be with a man who is broke or you'd prefer not to date someone who's been married before, technically, that's not a deal-breaker. For you, that's a standard or personal principle.
By definition, a deal-breaker is more like something that is up for negotiation, but if both parties can't come to an agreement, the "deal" is off of the table. And boy, when it comes to deal-breakers as it specifically relates to sex in relationships, in order for everyone involved to be happy and fulfilled (oh, and safe; don't forget about safe), there definitely needs to be some pre-sex negotiating that goes on.
To me, there are about 10 things that should be discussed between two people who plan on "engaging" one another in the bedroom. For some of y'all, these are standards and I totally get that. But for everyone, there should at least be a conversation—or two or 12—about all of these issues, preferably beforehand. Otherwise, there's a huge chance that not only will coitus not go as planned, but the relationship itself could find itself in some serious jeopardy too.
1. Bad Hygiene
You'd think it would be a given that most people are turned off by bad hygiene. Oh, but not so fast. Studies reveal that many of us ladies are completely into a sweaty man and, let's not act like all sweat smells great. Personally, some of the best sex I ever had came from a guy who dripped sweat the entire time. The problem was, I actually can barely stand my own, so it was getting to a point where I had to ask myself if I wanted to keep sleeping with him. Either we needed to move to Antarctica or I was gonna have to bow out gracefully (we ended up breaking up before it got to that point).
Along these same lines, there are people I know who don't mind having sex after a long day at work (sans a bath, I mean). Then there are others who think it's a given that their partner should wash up first. See what I mean? Some things are not necessarily right or wrong; some things are about personal preference, so there needs to be some upfront negotiating first.
As far as pubic hair grooming goes, I've had partners who definitely prefer a lot of hair and others that feel like having sex with a woman who has little-to-none of it is like having sex with a child (someone literally said that to me); it creeps them out, so a bush is a must. But then, I have a friend who's been married for years whose husband has been begging her to stop "Nair-ing" her vulva; she ain't having it. Sometimes, she grows it out, just to make him smile. Again, there goes an example of sexual negotiating.
Taking all of what I just said into account, when it comes to your partner's hygiene and landscape, what would be your deal-breakers? Do you have any at all? Does he?
2. Condoms. Or Not.
Did you know that reportedly, only one-third of us use condoms? Wow. Even with all of the information out in these streets about STDs being on the rise, folks still ain't wrappin' it up. Although I'm abstinent now, you can read some about my sexually active journey to see that I clearly wasn't the posterchild for safe sex (not even close—SMDH); therefore, I get that using rubbers isn't anything any of us really want to do. But condoms do save lives (and prevent unwanted pregnancies), so whether or not you and your partner are going to use them is a must-have conversation.
If you do decide to partake (which you absolutely should unless you're in a long-term commitment and you both get tested on a regular basis), you need to make sure that he puts it on, every time, unless you consent to otherwise. I needed to say that because, unfortunately, stealthing (the practice of men taking off condoms without their partner's consent) happens more than a lil' bit. This is why condom etiquette is something that should never be assumed.
Oh, and just for the sake of subconscious reinforcement—if a man does happen to stealth you, he doesn't care about you nearly as he should. So yes, there should be no question that what he did qualifies as an automatic deal-breaker.
3. Fetish Expectations
Even as much as I write about sex, even though I used to work alongside a ministry that got people out of porn, I still have moments when I'll read about something and my immediate response is, "I cannot." Literally. Take sexual fetishes, for example. As I was reading a Thought Catalog article on some of the different kinds that are out there— hybristophilia (the reenactment of rape, murder, etc.), hematolagnia (drinking blood during sex), and cuckoldry (enjoying watching yourself getting cheated on by your partner)—while the topic of fetishes really does garner a "to each their own" response, before someone decides to walk into a room with a diaper on or urinate on you, make sure you let them know whether you're down for exploring fetishes. And, if so, which ones.
Back when I was in college (the early to mid-90s), there were some women I knew who, unbeknownst to them, were taped having sex by some guys on the yard. Those "men" would capture footage of those ladies doing all sorts of stuff and then blackmail them throughout the rest of the school year. That is called revenge porn and most states have laws concerning it.
With articles out here like "Should You Make A Sex Tape? How Amateur Adult Films Can Build Intimacy And Lead To Better Sex", it's clear that some people like to film themselves doing-the-do. But with other articles out in cyberspace like "Filming Yourself Having Sex Can Feel Great – but Only If You're Both in Control", make sure that your partner treats you at all times like one of my favorite Usher songs "Superstar"; that just like a concert, if you prefer that all technology be put away, he adheres to your request. No, not request…requirement.
5. An Undesirable Location
I once read a study that said 1 in 3 teen boys are pressured to have sex while 23 percent of girls are. Pressure, by definition, is a type of force or demand. Yeah, it's an op-ed for another time about how many of our men are not as sexually healthy as they should be and it's all because they were introduced to sex via some sort of "pressure". For now, what I'll say is adults can "peer pressure" each other about as much as adolescents tend to do.
That said, I'm all for spontaneity and thinking outside of the box. When I checked out an article on 200 different places to have sex, I must admit that I filed some away in my mental sexual bucket list. But as I thought about some places (in the car, on the side of a building, public bathrooms) and some of the women in my life who've shared with me times when making out turned to their clothes being taken off in places where they didn't want that to happen, even though they wanted the sex itself—that is why I thought it was important to mention this point as well.
He can think that you're frigid, prudish or any other adjective, but you have every right to have sex, not only when but where you want to. Full stop. No apologies.
6. No STD Test/Results
Every once in a while, I'll get asked what my ultimate "sexual low" was. For me, it was having unprotected sex, with three different guys (on three separate days, not all at once), in one week. Back when I was sexually active, my pattern was always to have sex with friends, so it was pretty much a week of "recycle sex". It doesn't matter, though. Because they were my friends, I knew them well enough to know that I wasn't the only person they were "repurposing" with. For this reason alone, I should've required an STD test from them and they should've required one of me.
I've had chlamydia before. Thankfully, that is curable. But hepatitis B, herpes simplex virus (HSV or herpes), HIV and the human papillomavirus (HPV), at least for now, are not. Plus, there are STDs like super gonorrhea that do not currently react to antibiotics (yikes).
I don't care how fine he is, how well you know him, or what he tells you, it's always smart to expect an STD test and to view the results for yourself before sex (especially with a new partner). And since there are now tests that can be taken from the convenience and privacy of your own home (click here for a woman's test, here for a man's), there's really no excuse. Now is there?
OK, this is another one of those points that is relevant unless you are in a long-term relationship. I'm pretty sure that all of us who've had sex, have done it while we were drunk, at least, once over the course of our lifetime. The reason why this made the list is because, if the person you're thinking about "engaging" is a new potential partner and you get inebriated, it can get a little murky when it comes to whether or not what you did (or all of what you did) was consensual.
There's no question that, for many, alcohol can intensify sexual arousal and remove anxiety and jitters. But don't wait until after you're tipsy AF to try and decide if you should get it on or not. Again, this is a discussion that should absolutely be had beforehand. If the guy respects you and is looking out for your best interest (and his, come to think about it), he will totally agree.
I'll tell you what always has been and forever will be a deal-breaker for me. Don't be over here thinking that you'll get the benefits of my full lips and overbite when "going downtown" (shout out to SWV) ain't even on your radar. Nope. Nada. No sir.
Listen, I'm pretty sure that it comes as absolutely no surprise that in a fairly large (and popular) survey, a whopping 85 percent of men vs. a mere 64 percent of women claimed to have an orgasm during the last sexual encounter that they had. Hmph. The only thing that I can figure is the cause of that is selfishness; men who don't make their partner's pleasure as much of a priority as their own (good lovers do, by the way).
The act of sex between two people can't happen without the participation of both (not if it's consensual, anyway). If your partner doesn't believe that it shouldn't go down unless both of you are also fully satisfied, then there's no question that his selfishness should also be a surefire deal-breaker.
9. Sharing Your Partner
As far as multiple sex partners go, two reads that provide some interesting info is "Promiscuous America: Smart, Secular, and Somewhat Less Happy" and "7 Things People with Multiple Partners Want You to Know About What It's Really Like". Something that particularly stood out to me in the second article was polyamory requires a lot of communication, isn't always easy, and some people "fall into the lifestyle" without even really noticing (getting drunk and having a threesome was the example given).
Yeah, about that last one. Whether it's in the form of a full-on relationship or you simply being cool with you and/or your partner having sex with others, that's one thing. But if you're someone who is under the assumption that you and your partner are exclusive, 1) don't assume that; ask, and 2) if he's not interested in that arrangement and/or he initially agrees, only for you to eventually discover that he lied, hopefully it's a given that this is definitely a deal-breaker as well.
10. The Act Itself
This one is short 'n sweet. From positions to the amount of time to what happens afterwards—sex has hundreds of different combinations. What you consider to be a good time may or may not be what he does. If he mentions or tries anything that makes you uncomfortable, stop. If he pushes you or pressures you beyond your boundary, he is violating you. Yes sis, out of all of these, that is the biggest sexual deal-breaker that there is. Period.
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Russell and Nina Westbrook are one of those low-key, unproblematic couples we don’t talk about enough. They met in college and got married in 2015. They also have a beautiful family with three kids. While Russell is an NBA star, Nina is a licensed family and marriage therapist and a mental health advocate.
She recently launched the podcast The Relationship Chronicles with Nina Westbrook, and in the latest episode, she had none other than her husband on as a guest. The college sweethearts dived into important topics from marriage to children and how they navigate it all.
One of the topics they touched on was dealing with resentment in your relationship. The former MVP highlighted the sacrifices his wife has had to make in order for him to pursue a career in the NBA, and that’s why it’s also important for him to support his wife whenever he can.
“For me is respecting and understanding what your partner do and the time it takes,” Russell said. “Not kind of downplaying what they do, understanding the time and energy and effort they're doing to make sure whether it’s their job or making sure home is taken care of, and understanding that, I think that is the challenge of not being resentful.”
Nina agreed and also shared her thoughts on resentment. According to her, one of the best things couples should do is have their own identity and passions outside of the relationship in an effort to be fulfilled.
“I also think that when you’re in a relationship, that’s why it’s so important that each individual kinda pursue their own passions and follow their own dreams as I feel like it only becomes or leads to resentment when one person is not feeling fulfilled in what they're doing in their lives,” she explained.
“And so, they will start to look at the other partner who’s happy or excelling or promoting or moving along in their journey, then they’re left feeling stuck like they sacrificed themselves, their happiness, their career, their future and have not pursued it in the name of the relationship or their partner. So, it’s so much easier to avoid those feelings of resentment when you’re each equally pursuing your passions.”
The couple has many passions that they work on together and separately. Outside of basketball and his family, Russell has become known for his eclectic style and started the fashion brand Honor The Gift. Nina has her podcast, and she also started the mental health website Bene. Together, they run the Why Not? Foundation, which works with kids in underserved communities.
“I’m a firm believer that one person can’t be everything to you, so you have to sort of seek out those different friendships or groups or hobbies or activities that help to fulfill you,” Nina concluded.
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Feature image by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Religion of Sports