Relationship panel doesn’t beat around the bush, self-love is celebrated

College students have more in common with prairie voles and middle-aged people than they’d like to think.

That is just a taste of the advice panelists Kathryn Gonzalez; Katherine Goldey, assistant professor of psychology and behavioral neuroscience; and Tomas Yufik, assistant professor of psychology, gave at the annual Sex, Love and Relationships Panel hosted by the St. Edward’s University’s Psychological Society on Feb. 23.

In relation to prairie voles, the panelists discussed an analogy that sex is not a necessary factor for prairie voles to form pair bonds, and that also reins true for human relationships that can build intimacy in other ways.

“[Sex] is helpful; it’s nice.” Gonzalez said. “But it is not required.”

Brainstorming other ways to build intimacy, the panelists suggested getting intimate with your partner by cuddling and steering clear of seeking instant gratification through the use of dating apps.

The panelists took turns responding to anonymous questions chosen from a jar and emphasized that communication and couples’ therapy can be the key to getting over a rough patch in a relationship, despite the stereotype that therapy is only for middle-aged married couples.

The encouragement to attend couples’ therapy and pursue other activities that are in one’s own best romantic interest, not only for heterosexuals, but for the LGBT community as well, drew in an audience of students seeking an honest talk about sex.

“I loved the way that it was a normal perspective and a behavioral neuroscience or clinical perspective,” freshman Doris Rubi said. “It was raw, crude, just like, no filter.”

While those living on campus have had similar talks arranged by their resident assistants, this panel is a yearly event students living off campus have the opportunity to attend.

“Whatever [students] are concerned about, they’re not alone in it, and hopefully by asking the question in a public forum, other people can hear the question and think ‘oh yeah that’s me, but I was too embarrassed to say,’ so that’s always a big help for students grappling with these issues,” Yufik said.

The panelists also discussed the discrepancies in each person’s own sexuality, in which communication or couples therapy may not be necessary, especially for single people. Namely, the focus was on whether or not masturbation and being asexual or having asexual tendencies is acceptable or not. The panelists agreed that indeed, it is OK.

Communication can come back into the picture however, for those in a relationship wishing to explore their solo sexuality, but must decide with their partner whether or not to restrict themselves, since some may feel as though masturbation may constitute as cheating in a way.

“If your partner is in another city and you have needs as a sexual person, I think that [masturbation] is definitely one option,” Goldey said.

The panel touched on a broad range of topics related to sex and relationships in a manner that allowed students to speak to the panelists in a friendly discourse about topics they may have otherwise learned about through trial and error. One thing panelists are unable to answer for students, however, is who their one true prairie vole is.