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Q & A with Sex Educator Shain Stodt

Unequal Sex Doesn't Work

Q. My boyfriend only likes intercourse. He doesn’t touch me otherwise and thinks I’m a freak because I want my clit rubbed, but I can’t make it otherwise. He says his penis tugs my labia lips and that rubs my clitoris with my hood, which should do it. Is there something wrong with me? 

A. No, there’s nothing wrong with you. Insisting that the secondary stimulation of having your labia tugged should satisfy you is tantamount to suggesting that he be content with having his scrotum tugged for all his sexual satisfaction.

The penis and the clitoris are very much the same organ sexually – they are both the primary orgasm triggers. During vaginal/penile sex, your boyfriend is getting direct stimulation, and you are not. We need to get on this more - that the media and mass culture still portray the "Great Romantic Fuck" as a climactic act of vaginal/penile penetration - often without adequate clitoral stimulation and without genuine female orgasm!

Absolutely you are not getting what you need from this situation. He needs to graciously and willingly let you teach him what you need to be pleased - including satisfactory clitoral stimulation AND touching you all over your body in ways you enjoy - or move over for a partner who does!

Tugging, indeed!

Shain


I Want To G-Squirt But Instead Seem To Be Peeing!

Q. I’m trying to have what I hear is the fantastical gushing experience of the G-Spot O., but when I or my lover make contact with what I think’s my lil’ G, all I want to do is pee –and stop!!, ‘cause it’s really uncomfortable...It feels like a spongy bump, it’s about where your page on the G said to look, an’ I think that’s it -- but on me it’s just a pee button! I’m as sexed as a house on fire so how come I’m not G - cumming?

Candy

A. A few things, Candy.

Try some different approaches:

1. Use your closed fingers in a “come-hither” motion, and

2. Try penile/penetrating object thrusting with a sliding-into-base motion (rather than jabbing).

3. Don’t make the effort until your vagina is very relaxed.  (Most women report G-spot orgasms after quite a bit of erotic prelude).

4. Be sure your bladder is empty.

G-spot squirts don’t occur for everyone. Some women just don’t respond to G-Spot stimulation, others do, while still others actively dislike it. All of these responses are totally okay and normal.  Be patient and accepting of yourself while exploring where you fit in this spectrum. You may find yourself having G’s, but if not, let it go. There are plenty of other ways to experience exquisite sexual pleasure and orgasm.

*Shain


I like Sex But I Only Like Vaginal/Penile Sex With a Few Men 

Q. Is it unusual to have had many lovers but only have had vaginal/penile sex with a few of them? The truth is I experience vaginal penetration as being entered in a very intimate and vulnerable way, and only desire this with partners I’m very serious about. After all, when my uterus tents to make space for a penis it’s to enhance conception, a profound feeling. I don’t want to experience this with someone I’m just being frisky with.

Not that I mean I don’t want penetration with someone unless conception is involved; I’ve had my share of penetration and haven’t chosen to be pregnant yet. But it feels private and sacred in a different way to let someone into my body. Is this weird or selfish?

A. No it is NOT - it’s called knowing your Self, and it’s a Very Good Thing. It is letting someone in on a very deep level physically and emotionally to have them inside your vagina, and in so many ways it’s a vulnerable act. If sperm is involved, it can result in conception, and if pregnancy is chosen, the co-creation of a child. The vaginal canal is also highly susceptible to STI’s. Our G-spot and the cervix, the entrance to our womb, are both powerful erotic and emotional focal points inside the vaginal canal. For these reasons and others personal to us each individually, choosing to share this experience with only the right people is wise.

Let’s stop being fooled into believing stereotypes of what “sex” is, and what we “should” want. Each person is different, and the only real guidelines are being comfortable, supportive, and honest with yourself and your partner.

Shain 

 


Touch Is Important To Me 

Q. Touching is a large part of a relationship to me. Affection, love, sensual and sexual pleasure – to me touch is one of the major means of expressing these things.

Finding partners I want to be with in a total way is hard. Not many guys I’ve been with understand or seem to feel touching as I do. I’m with someone now I care for very much, whom I’m compatible with in most ways – but he doesn’t really get touch.

Is this a universal woman – man problem? Is it always a source of dissatisfaction?

A. Women and men are often conditioned differently from birth on in our society. Girls may be touched more freely, with affection and tenderness, while boys may be touched with reserved and expected not to need touch, love, physical comfort. Girls get positive reinforcement for affection (within limits) while boys are repressed if they express this need. It creates an unnatural separation of the “sexes” that solidifies into polarized sex roles.

When this happens, and it happens a lot, it does lead to an incompatibility. But it can be bridged with conscious effort, and many loving couples have done so. There are several sections with helpful exercises on this issue on the website: Communication, Massage, Sensate Focus, and Touch are the first I would look at.

I would specifically do so in that order, starting with communication, because communication is the heart of a fulfilled sexual relationship. The basis for growth and intimacy, it’s what makes partnerships exciting and satisfying. And like sex itself, good communication is skill that we need to learn. Lack of communication is the main reason relationships fail.  

Once you are communicating clearly, the path is open to developing a more sensate – oriented, touch imbued relationship with your partner. Be patient, open and articulate about your feelings and needs, and receptive to his.  

Also – and this is always - put aside special time for your sexual relationship. Don’t hope to improve your sex life if it occurs as an afterthought when you’re tired at night. If touch and sensate focus is as important to you as you indicate, it’s well worth your while to create a relaxed, private, undisturbed space to explore your sexual growth together in. 

Shain  


I Can’t Have An Orgasm Without A Vibrator. Is Something Wrong?

Q. I can’t have an orgasm without a vibrator directly on my clitoris. Love all kinds of sex, luuuv it, but this is the only way I climax. Is something wrong with my body or my head? Some men think it’s like, incomplete that I don’t come just with their cock alone, or seem offended.

A. No, your body and head are just fine. Most women need steady clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm, and many require a vibrator for consistent, definitive orgasm.

We have left an age where women were told that they were deficient if they didn’t have “vaginal orgasms” from penile stimulation alone, and entered into a much more realistic, down to earth era that actually takes real female sexual response into account. Vibrators are one of the best and most popular tools to achieve female orgasm – and yet a dark cloud of guilt and doubt lingers over many women who have discovered that these fantastic inventions are the golden key to their sexual satisfaction. We are still conditioned to think that sex is supposed to provide men with proof of their virility, not provide us with orgasm and gratification.

That just has to change, once and for all. Sex should result in the gratification of both partners, in whatever fashion pleases them. Rejoice that you have found a good way to have satisfying orgasms, and know that you have nothing to prove or apologize for! If you share what pleasures you with a partner, they should appreciate and respect this intimacy. If they don’t, they don’t deserve the privilege of your company.

Shain 


I Don't Enjoy Breast Stimulation

Q. My partner really enjoys playing with my breasts. I don’t enjoy it, never have, particularly sucking. I feel oppressed and put upon it by it, but I also feels like I should allow it and pretend to enjoy it - because aren’t boobs a big thing to men? 

A. Some women enjoy having their breasts erotically stimulated, and some don’t. Don't be a victim of sexual stereotypes: it's a plain fact that not all women enjoy breast stimulation, and you may be one of them. Having your breasts touched is a question of individual taste, and entirely up to you. If you don't enjoy breast stimulation, be absolutely clear about it with your partner. Don’t pretend; nothing is more pernicious to a relationship. On the other hand, take care not to make them feel badly because they do enjoy breast-play. There is no right, wrong, or blame involved here; only honest communication so that you can be comfortable and yourselves together.

Sexuality is individual and unique; we each define our wants. Knowing and accepting our own boundaries and our partner’s boundaries is part of the privilege and intimacy of a satisfying sexual relationship. 

Shain  


He Stops Moving At the Wrong Time

Q. When my lover is inside me and we’re both moving towards a climax, he does the most frustrating thing. He completely breaks rhythm and stops moving, or moves erratically, right before his ejaculation.  It breaks my rhythm and impedes my orgasm.

I have told him this is a problem for me but he says he can’t help it. There’s got to be a better way.

A.  Yes, there’s a way. You’re dealing with a common problem that pertains to a fundamental difference in female and male sexual functioning:

Men have a “Point of No Return” (PONR) after which orgasm triggers without stimulation, and some men need or prefer a cessation of thrusting movement at this point.

Women DON”T have PONR and require steady stimulation until the conclusion of their orgasm.

Perhaps you can be more independent and not entirely depend on his movement for your orgasm. Keep in mind that if you both have a satisfying orgasm, that’s a cause for celebration. Placing pressure on one partner to change if they can’t won’t make for a lasting or happy partnership.

Neither party is at fault here. It’s just a difference that you need to be aware of and work out together. It may be that he can continue to move enough to please you, or that you can rely on clitoral stimulation when he needs to pause in rhythm for his orgasm. If you focus on intimacy and pleasure and not simultaneous orgasm, you may get a lot more from your sexual exchange.

Shain 


Tired Of Hiding Masturbation From My Partner

Q. I’ve been in a committed relationship for many years and it's always been my dirty secret that sometimes I prefer to masturbate rather than make love with my partner. There seems to be a cyclic pattern of very satisfying sexual exchange between us followed by periods when that energy is less intense and masturbation feels more natural. And even during periods of intense involvement, there are just times when I prefer to masturbate. 

Because it seems to make my partner feel inadequate, I try to masturbate when she is not around the house, but this makes the whole experience feel tense and furtive. I resent it, which doesn't help our relationship, but I don't know how to break this impasse. 

A. When we enter into a sexual relationship with another person we are entering into a relationship with someone who already has a primary lifelong sexual relationship - with themselves. This primary relationship is equally important to the partnership we create with another, and should not be given any less respect or space. 

Masturbation is as important, and sometimes more important, then shared sex. It is an essential resource with tremendous health and wellness benefits that every human being is gifted with. The independent experience of body knowledge, pleasure and orgasm masturbation empowers us with is an essential part of our identities. Through it we come to know ourselves, a precious knowledge which we may choose to share with a partner. 

Your partner may believe you masturbate because she's not satisfying sexually. Communicate in very supportive, loving language your positive feelings about your sexual relationship with her while explaining to her that, at the same time, masturbation is a vital part of sexuality that you have always enjoyed, and that this in no way reflects negatively upon the satisfaction you get from your partnership. Rather it is an expression of the sexual pleasure that makes you who you are, and you need to feel comfortable about being yourself. 

It's very important that you be open about this, and not let it rankle anymore. Your desire to masturbate is an affirmation of life that should be celebrated, not hidden. When she is home try telling her when you want to masturbate so that she is not surprised, and you are not on edge. 

Does she enjoy masturbating? Let her know that you would love for her to enjoy herself masturbating as well! You are both women and you clearly know your body well, so perhaps you can give her some tips on enhancing her pleasure.

Shain 

 


I Dread Intercourse

Q. I dread intercourse with my boyfriend. When he’s in me I keep hoping he’ll come so it will be over. And he wants me to congratulate him when it goes on and on! Why is this ordeal racked up as the Ultimate Moment? Surely what it really is is one of the Great Fake Fairytales of the human world!

Sophia

A. Sophia. First of all, call a moratorium on sex with your partner and TELL HIM WHY! The deception involved in your relationship is crippling to both of your well beings, and lethal to your relationship. He needs to know what you are really feeling, and he deserves to hear it without acrimony. Please look at our Communication page and take to heart its approach to owning and sharing your feelings without blaming yourself or your partner. The need here is to change a situation in which you are living in miserable, resentful silence into one where you are expressing yourself honestly, and directing your sexual life so that you are comfortable and happy with what’s going on in bed.

The first step is to bring your feelings out in the open. Let him know that you value your sexual relationship with him and need to make it a source of genuine joy for you both. Try switching your sensual contact over to massage and sensate focus exercises while you begin this exploration to relieve your tension about intercourse, and masturbate to orgasm individually (both of you).

Some points to consider:

1. You must have orgasmic satisfaction with a partner. Tolerating any form of sex because it gives only him pleasure is a recipe for unhappiness, and unfair. If on the other hand, for example you come to orgasm through oral sex or with a vibrator on your clitoris while he’s inside you and the result is that you’re both enjoying pleasure and orgasm, then you’re both gratified and mutual sex makes sense.

2. You may also enjoy penile penetration if you change some key factors, such as only doing it when you both want to, having lots of foreplay, and using lots of good lubrication, and moving together in a rhythm that you both enjoy, rather than letting his rhythm dominate. However penetration should never be at the expense of clitoral stimulation and orgasm.

3. It's possible that you may not like penile penetration. The fact is some people don’t, and they have very happy sex lives focusing on oral sex, mutual masturbation, or whatever pleases them – which is totally fine. There is no law that says we must all like having sex in the same way!

4. And then again, you may not be sexually compatible with your partner. Clearly other factors have brought you together in which your sexual pleasure is not a factor. You may have to accept that he is not actually the right person for you sexually, and another partner may have to be sought for real sexual satisfaction.

One way or another, things usually get a whole lot better once you take a proactive approach to changing them.

Shain 


I'M TRANSITIONING MALE -TO- FEMALE. HOW WILL MY VAGINA BE DIFFERENT THAN A BIOLOGICAL WOMAN'S?

Q. I have begun the first stages of transitioning MTF (shots). Can you tell me if there are ANY differences between the vagina I’ll end up with and a biologically born woman’s? I’ve heard the canal is smaller. With all I’m going through, I don’t want to be disappointed in my puss!

Ricki

A. Hey Ricki,

There are some technical differences, but I don’t think that’s the main point. The point is how you feel, if you are happy with the results of your transition.

Here are the three most basic ‘differences’ between the vagina you’ll have and a biologically born woman’s:

1. Your vagina will be a little less elastic in texture and function. This shouldn’t interfere with your comfort: if it does, speak to your doctor about a surgical adjustment.

2. You will not produce vaginal lubrication, and absolutely will need to have a love affair with a good vaginal lube (not to be substituted by and for an anal lube). Use lots.

3. Your vaginal canal may be, or seem, a bit less deep than some women’s. Women who still have their uterus intact may get a “tenting” effect when excited, wherein their fornix contracts upwards, lifting the uterus and making more space for a penis (or whatever is inside). This is not a big deal, and a lot of women who have had hysterectomy’s are in the same boat. If your vaginal canal is really too shallow for comfort, again, speak to your doctor about corrective surgery.

Do lots and lots of pelvic exercises, once you have healed from surgery, to get those muscles strong and activated. And become familiar with the look and feel of your genitals: give yourself a monthly self-exam.

If you’re open to it, I suggest going to a Trans support group for a while after your surgery where you can talk with other women going through the same stuff about your experiences and adjustments. You may have a nice doctor, but unless they’re Trans themselves they don’t really know what you’re going through. Look at our Resources Page to find a reference for a group.

And congratulations on your resolve to become the physical gender that feels right to you! May you have much joy.

Shain 


AM I PEEING DURING SEX?

Q. I've starting gushing a large quantity of what I think is urine during orgasms. I mean it doesn't smell like urine, but it has a different, thinner consistency than vaginal lubrication. It's clear and doesn't really have any smell, but it's profuse as hell, and so embarrassing to pee yourself during sex! Is this natural for women? -or do I need to worry?

-Jade Kenisha

A. It sounds like you are having G-spot squirts, you lucky thing you! That's great.

G-spot squirts result from stimulation of the G-spot, a spongy area about 2-3 inches inside the vaginal canal on the forward side of the canal (also called the perineal urethra) where it is embedded in the anterior vaginal wall. The distal vagina, clitoris and urethra form an integrated entity covered superficially by the vulval skin and its epithelial features. These parts have a shared vasculature and nerve supply and during sexual stimulation respond as a unit. The parauthreal glands release a fluid sometimes termed "female ejaculation" (which of course it's realy not: there is no sperm content) in quantitys that can be as little as a thimble full or as much as a quart.

Lot's of women TRY to have G-spot squirts with their orgasms, Jade, because of how relaxing and strong they can be. You, O fortunate woman, are already there. Enjoy! And educate your partner, so she/he/ze will understand what's going on.

* Shain  



I STARTED BLEEDING DURING SEX

Q. In the middle of sex yesterday I started bleeding. It's about a week after my period so that’s not it and I had no bleeding before or after.  

I have not been bleeding and was only when I had sex.  I did not feel any pain at all.  I was totally into it when he told me I was bleeding.  VERY embarrassed as it was our first time together!  We both cleaned up and actually tried again and I bleed again! 

Should I be worried? It really ruined the moment! 

A. There are lots of things that can cause bleeding during sex. Old menstrual fluids left over that get shaken up and expel; abrasion due to rigorous penetration; cysts; several STI’s , etc. (look through our STI section for symptoms and details. But DON'T get worried if you think you see STI symptoms listed that match - everyone always does, and often there are none).

I’m glad there was no pain, and bleeding during sex is not uncommon. I hope your partner responded with protective tenderness rather than negatively?  

My instinct would be to call my OB/GYB caregiver and explained what occurred in detail, and perhaps schedule a check-up. It may turn out be nothing, but it’s always better to ease your mind than to carry worry around with you. 

Shain  


MY PARTNERS FEAR OF MY DEATH IS ESTRANGING US EMOTIONALLY AND SEXUALLY

Q. I’m dying, and through the wonders of magical thinking, my partner has convinced herself that it won’t really happen. She nurses me compulsively but avoids everything else real; conflict, financial concerns, politics, the need to buy groceries – and sex.  

I really, really miss sex.  

My doctor says we can still be sexually active and that the endomorphs might even benefit me (and her), but I believe she does not want to chance the emotional roiling that sex could bring up. I understand this, but I feel that we’re losing what’s left of our life together. I want her to acknowledge reality and share herself with me.

 P.

A. Death is a real part of the Earth's perpetuating cycle of life. Although our deaths may be fearful unknowns and the deaths of loved ones may cause excruciating heartbreak, acknowledging death also impels us to cherish and feel life more fully and passionately. Unfortunately, sometimes the fear, grief, and pain involved are too overwhelming, and people retreat beyond the reach of these searing feelings. 

Be very patient and tender with your partner. She needs to be consoled, and to find a way to reconcile herself with your coming death in order to bear the weighty emotions she’s carrying. Don’t be too hard on her magical thinking; it’s how she’s coping. If she sees your imminent death as nothing but an empty and terrible future, she will not come out of her rabbit hole.  

Explain gently that you miss her and need to feel her love. Give her affection without erotic demand. Show her that you two don’t need to spend your time together focused on your death; focus on life. What do you love doing together that is within your current physical capacity? Share these things! 

Talk to her about non-threatening subjects, but really talk and share your feelings. This may allow her the space to open up. 

Shain 


HAVE I MADE MY SON SEX-NEGATIVE, AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Q. My upbringing was very negative about sex. Basically I was told that it was slutty to have sexual feelings and vulgar to talk about sex openly. I married a man with a similar background and we had a pretty unfulfilling sex life, to say the least.  

We also have a son and conveyed our sexual attitude and values to him in no uncertain terms. He definitely learned not to talk about sex – or any intimate issues – with either of us at an early age, and frankly, his silence made us more comfortable. 

I divorced my husband two years ago. Partially through my own growth and partially because of a wonderful relationship, my feelings about sexuality have become infinitely more positive. I hardly recognize the person that I was. And I am terribly concerned about the impact twelve years of negative conditioning has had on my son. Have I ruined his life? What can I do be assure that he doesn’t suffer what I did. 

A. First of all, I’m very glad that you are feeling better about life and sex! Welcome to a happier and richer world. 

Secondly, let's get right to it: i you think you’ve given your son a negative impression of sexuality, you probably have.  

The brain is our most powerful sex organ, reigning over our emotions and our self-concept. Individual personal growth and its sexual component will unfold naturally and beautifully or become stunted and repressed depending on the social, and particularly the familial, messages we receive during our formative years. Because of this, it is vital that parents help instill in children a positive sense of the body and all its functions. Encouraging them to feel positively about natural sexual feelings is a part of that. 

Your son is at a cognitive level where a forthright conversation could be very beneficial. Being sensitive to his privacy and boundaries, tell him honestly that you have grown and learned from life experience that you were guided by misinformation and warped values about sexuality that made you unhappy, and that you regret passing them onto him because you don’t want his life to be unhappy as yours was.  Explain that you repeated the erroneous conditioning of your own childhood with him and tell him that you now know better, and, without being overly personal, give him concrete examples of your misconceptions, comparing them to the truth you have learned. Be very careful to not give too much information –he needs to feel the truth of your words, but it’s not appropriate to give him the details of you sex life. More like:  

 “I felt embarrassed about the human body, but now see that it is natural and terrific; everyone has a unique one!” “I know I may have led you to believe otherwise, but sex really is one of the positive parts of life, and I am finally here if you have any questions.  

“Also, I’d like to give you this book, S.E.X. by Heather Corinna, because she does a good job of laying out important information about sex and youth, and it will give you a lot of resource material. And here are some websites to check out:

www.teensource.com

www.iwannaknow.com 

“Remember I’m here to talk if you have more questions when you’re done looking at this stuff.” 

Children respond well to the truth and appreciate adults owning their mistakes. Without making him self-conscious, you may have to be quietly mindful about your son’s welfare in this regard for some time. Take advantage of opportunities to heal. You have a great chance to regain his trust and impart the tools that will ultimately help him learn to make responsible and informed decisions about sexual engagement and safety, and to cultivate the ability to sustain tender, nurturing and respectful relationships. This is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child. 

Shain 



Can You Have Orgasms Without Physical Touch?

Q. My friend tells me she has orgasms through sheer fantasy, without physically touching herself in any way. I find this amazing. Is this really possible, and can we all cultivated it? And if so, how? 

A. Yes people do have orgasms without touch, and yes, you can cultivate this practice. 

The chief sexual organ is the brain, and people have been known to have orgasms from purely mental stimulation. Individuals have discovered this capacity through varying means: when reading erotica, during phone sex, and during self-directed fantasy are some. The more positive your self-esteem and feelings about sex, pleasure, and leisure, the more access you will have to this lovely form of sexual expression. 

To describe the process pragmatically: this practice is most commonly cultivated through deep fantasy wherein the brain taps into the autoerotic kinetic sensations of the body in conjunction with arousing imaginative stimuli. An imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET) has been used to take pictures of what goes on inside the brain when sexually stimulated, and a region called the claustrum showed the greatest increase in activity. The claustrum is associated with motivation and emotion. 

Ergo, cultivating ready access to your emotions and motivations will probably increase your ability to have this kind of orgasm. As will studying deep fantasy, body awareness, and relaxation techniques. 

However, it doesn't work for everyone. Some extremely sexually aware people have tried to have orgasms this way and couldn't. It's an enjoyable thing to pursue in a relaxed fashion, but don't get hung up worrying about it actually happening or not. Having or not having a fantasy induced orgasm without touch certainly doesn't mean that you are more or less sexual! 

Shain 



July 8. 2013

I Have To Have Radioactive Material Inserted Into My Penis. Is There A Risk To My Partner?

Q. I have penile cancer and need to have radioactive material placed into my shaft to fight the cancer. Does this pose any sexual risk to my lover?

A. Potentially, yes. It sounds like you are going to have radiation pellets inserted into the cancer-affected zones of your body. From Disability and Illness:

Depending on the nature and placement of these pellets, they may be a danger to your partner, in which case you will have to avoid sex until they are removed or become inactive. Be sure to discuss this with your doctor, and to find out how long the treatment lasts and what precautions to take.

The radiation emitted by these pellets may be enough to pose a risk to your lover. I know that’s hard – this is a time when gentle touch and TLC would be most welcome to your besieged penis – but if this is the case, then it is a necessary stricture you’ve got to live with until the pellets are removed or become inactive. Ask your doctor what the radiation range actually is, and be sure to get massages and loving touch in your unaffected body zones!

If you must avoid sex for a while, be careful not to become emotionally disconnected from your partner. Sex does not define you or your worth! Spend time laughing, playing, and enjoying yourself in other ways, and stay close.

Shain 


I’m Attracted To A Sex Addict. What Are The Ground Rules?

Q. A person I’m very fond of just told me that although she likes me, we can’t have sex because she’s a sex addict and she is in a therapeutic program that requires her to abstain from sex for at least six months. That seems brutal to me, and I wonder how healthy it can be for anyone. I do want to be supportive of her therapy, but I’m not sure waiting for sex for that long is either realistic or healthy for me. Are you familiar with any reputable sex therapy program that imposes this kind of restriction? What are the ground rules. 

A. Yes I am familiar with these types of restrictions. It’s common practice for sex therapy rehabilitation programs to make requirements of this nature, with good reason. Sex addicts don’t know how to relate to sex, other people, or themselves in a healthy, self-regulated, centered way. Sex is a form of escape, not an equal sharing of intimacy between consenting, caring adults. Sex addicts need a sustained period of time away from sexual activity with another person while they explore creating the roots of a healthier self.  

It’s great that your friend has faced her addiction and is seeking to change it. You need to appreciate and accept her offer of friendship for what it is, as it is. After all, if you can’t be friends, do you really want to be sexual partners? And personally, six months doesn’t seem like purgatory to me, not when you can masturbate to your hearts’ content while enjoying a developing relationship with a cool person. (Then again, I’ve never seen masturbation as secondary). 

If and when the time comes that your friend wants to become sexual with you, you will probably have a specific program to follow, perhaps with the facilitation of a sex therapist. This is to help her from lapsing into negative patterns. If you’re so lucky as to be invited to share this fragile time with her, honor whatever needs she has while she gets her footing set on a better path. 

Like food addiction, sex addiction bears the onus of being a need, not a recreational activity, like drugs or drinking. You can’t stop eating and you shouldn’t stop having sex. That means confronting the potential for addictive behavior with every sexual engagement. Only a strong, healthy, supportive relationship will reinforce this growth process. If you become lovers, are you prepared to offer that? If not, step back. 

Shain  


Will Viagra Help Me Prolong Erection?

Q. I think I have erectile dysfunction because I can’t say hard for more than a few minutes. I want to have erections for a longer time than that. I hear Viagra can do this. Is it true?

Carlos

A. Perhaps, Carlos. There are pros and cons to Viagra, and other options to consider.

Many men who think they need Viagra could learn how to prolong their erections naturally, without the use of drugs, by developing more awareness of their sexual functioning. Please take a look at our pages on Masturbation, Sensate Focus, and the Premature Ejaculation (PE) section of our Sexual Dysfunction page. You may find ways on them to prolong ejaculation and erection and more than that, to enjoy other aspects of sex - which may in turn prolong erection and ejaculation.

I developed the latter section on PE especially because I think it would be wonderful to emphasize teaching our sons and lovers about how to get in touch with their innate capacity for sustaining erection and their ability to choose when to have an orgasm, rather than enforcing the idea that we need to turn to drugs.

That being said, Viagra may be a useful tool for increasing your erectile functioning, depending on whether you fit the criteria for its use:

How Viagra Works: A pill of Viagra taken an hour prior to sex helps block a particular enzyme that decreases penile blood flow, thus increasing the flow of blood into the spongy tissues of the penile shaft. This creates a sustained erection. Something to keep in mind: despite the myth that Viagra is a panacea for any man wanting a prolonged erection, it often has no effect whatsoever on men who already have a normal functional erectile ability. Among men with erectile dysfunction, it’s about 66% effective. 

There are some potential medical risks involved in the use of Viagra which you should be well informed about. From Sexual Dysfunction: Viagra should only be used under a physicians’ supervision due to its’ potential hazards. Men using nitrate heart medicines, high blood pressure medication, or experiencing any issues with blood dilation should not use Viagra because it increases arterial dilation. 

If a Viagra-assisted erection does not subside naturally after orgasm but persists without change, seek medical treatment. This is a potentially dangerous situation that requires immediate attention. Sustained erection lasting longer than four hours can cause permanent damage to the penile tissues. 

If a Viagra-assisted erection does not subside naturally after orgasm but persists without change, seek medical treatment. This is a potentially dangerous situation that requires immediate attention. Sustained erection lasting longer than four hours can cause permanent damage to the penile tissues. 

Consider your options, and be prudent, safe - and enjoy. 

Shain 

©Copyright 2013


Sex Has Dropped Off The Road Map

Q. Reese and I have been together for thirty-four years. Somewhere around twenty-one years ago, when we had our first baby, sex dropped off the map as a priority. After a while, it just dropped off the map.

About six months ago our oldest left the nest for college. Since then we’ve made some sexual overtures, but we don’t spark. We used to be young and slim and hot. Now we’re old, saggy and self-conscious.

We have a strong bond, and a life of memories. It keeps us together. But we don’t connect personally in the ways we used to. In truth, in ways we’ve almost become strangers.

It’s not enough. I don’t want a sexless relationship. I want to get back what we had as lovers.

Can you make any suggestions about bringing back the passion?

Sahen

A. You’re experiencing a plateau that many people arrive at when they’ve centered their lives around child rearing and forgotten to keep their own partnerships alive and growing. When the children are gone, you’re left with a partner you don’t know and aren’t sexually connected with anymore.

You can’t really go back, Sahen; you can only connect now, in the present, as the people you’ve evolved into. Your sexual disconnection is rooted in the emotional disconnection that you’ve lapsed into. To vitalize your sex life, you have to discover each other. Do you both want to do that? Because reconnecting requires a desire for deeper intimacy on both of your parts.

That means getting away from the rote roles you’ve both been embodying for some time: the parent who puts passion aside, the companion who offers friendship without sex.  And that means taking time to get to know each other through courtship. Yes, that’s what I said; courtship. Work at romancing each other like your relationship depends on it; it does. Listen and respond to each other with your whole being; spend time every day thinking about how to make your partner happy.

You need to make each other feel special, attractive, wanted, and desirable. And you need to know in your own hearts that you are these things! Be fiercely tender and proud  of your sags and lines; they are the badges of a unique, full life.

This is the time to dare to share new sexual fantasies with each other. Perhaps something you didn’t have the courage to before; try it now. Break new ground. Try new roles. Dress differently. Use sex toys you’d only dreamed about. Find a new level of freedom and explore new sexual and emotional territory together.

Nothing is more rewarding than the gold of a committed relationship between long-term lovers; that when erotic fire burns at the most intense heat. But many people don’t get there because they are afraid to face their body’s natural aging process, the fear of loss, growing older. They miss out on the best sex of all; the mature sex of a deep, life-long love. I hope you get to savor this treasure.

Yes, it’s a kind of work. The best kind, with the greatest reward.

Look through the exercises on our Massage, Communication, Aging, Body Image, Touch, Sensate Focus and Tantra pages. You may find an exercise that will resonate as a take-off point. Happy travels!

Shain 


Is There Sex After Herpes

Q. Two years ago I learned I have incurable genitals herpes from a routine annual STD screening, and I went into a sexual deep freeze. I haven't had sex with another person since.

How can I? Herpes is a bad joke on television about someone who is dirty and slutty. Someone who is unclean. People with AIDS are tragic; people with herpes are contemptible.

Herpes is telling someone you want to make love to that you have a painful, ugly disease that they could get if you’re physically intimate together. Herpes is rejection and isolation, having sex through plastic, never feeling someone's tongue on your pussy again. I can't face sex, or the magnitude of the loss of it as I knew it, so for two years I haven't acknowledged it.

Now I have to face that I don't want to live my life as a sexual hermit, I don't think I can. I love sex. But what's left of it now that's good? I'm a living contagion.

Zoe

A. Zoe, my dear, you have wonderful sex to look forward to for years, so get out of your funk and start learning about delicious safer sex techniques to reduce risk reduction. Yes, you need to take protective measures during sex, both to protect your partner and to protect yourself. In this day and age, so does EVERYONE. Safer sex isn't punishment; it can be very fun and erotic with a little practice. (Check out our two pages on safer sex for some tips).You can cry over spilt milk, or you can savor the bounty of pleasure available to you with the acquired knowledge and skill you can easily gain about gloves, dams, condoms, and other delightful friends of the adventurous.

And yes, as a society our attitude towards the herpes is juvenile, cruel and prurient because it is a condition associated with sex, and socially we are sexually immature. The masses are asses. The simple fact is that the herpes virus is an extremely common, highly contagious medical condition that one out of every 5.5 American has – one fifth of the population. These stats hold pretty steady over much of the adult world population. We should all be taking about herpes just as we should be talking about sex among friends and family, openly, compassionately, and without judgment.

So become informed about safer sex, and be patient and honest with potential partners. Some of them may choose to avoid sex with you, as is their prerogative; this is not a rejection of you as a human being in any way but a personal choice on their part not to risk a contagious condition. Others will definitely want to explore safer sex options with you.

The important thing is not to carry any feeling that your personal worth has anything to do with this mere medical condition. I strongly recommend checking out an STI support group if one is available to you; talking with others who are experiencing the same thing can demystify the scary aspects of having a disease, and reassure you that you're experiencing something quite normal and manageable.

Shain 

©Copyright 2013 

Picture: The It Gets Better Project


My Daughter Has Been Diagnosed With Turners Syndrome

Q. My nine year old daughter has been diagnosed with an abnormal intersex condition called Turners Syndrome. Will she be able to have children and lead a normal life? Should she have corrective gender surgery? 

A. Women with Turners Syndrome can seldom produce children, although there are exceptions. From our Intersex Page: 

Women with Turner's syndrome frequently lack one or both ovaries, or have only streaks of ovarian tissue, and can rarely produce eggs or female hormones. Without ovaries or eggs, pregnancy is not possible. Women with Turner's also may not develop breasts, or begin their menstrual cycle, unless they take the hormones estrogen and progestin. Many, but not all, are of short stature, and some may have defects of the heart, kidney, or ears that require medical attention. 

Being Intersex is less common than having XY or XX chromosomes, but it isn’t abnormal; many people are Intersex to some degree or another. Two things are very important: 

1. That you support her identity and identity choices as she develops them. Love her for exactly who she is. That is not defined by fertility or motherhood or breasts or ovaries; that is defined by who she is as a human being, and what makes her happy. Normal is overrated: happiness isn’t. 

2. That she receives enlightened, specialized medical attention so that her anatomic and physiologic condition is clearly understood, and any health needs she may have are met. 

PLEASE review our Intersex page in regard to sex assignment surgery. This is a sensitive issue about which any decisions are usually best left to the Intersex individual. Quite a lot of identity confusion and misery can result in forced, uninformed, or involuntary surgery. Love her, nurture her unique soul, and have faith in her ability to make the right choice for herself when she’s ready, if any choice must be made. (She may be perfectly happy as she is). 

*    Shain  


I Have A Small Penis

Q. I have a small penis. When I’m erect, I’m about 31/2 inches, tops. I’m inhibited around women and have a hard time feeling confident enough to initiate sex. Are there ways to improve penile size?

Raj

A. You can’t actually make your penis larger, although you can add an artificial penis sleeve or extender if you wish.

Raj, a (not very well kept) secret is that women don’t consider penis size a priority – at least, not women who know about really good sex.

Women are far more interested in your sensitivity to their sexual needs, and your understanding of female sexuality. Moving together well, knowing how to touch and arouse her in her erogenous zones, and being emotionally open, means ever so much more to most women than whether you have a large penis, believe me.

Besides, the size of your penis, 31/2 inches, is just fine for reaching her G-spot, or anything else a partner could want.

Most importantly, don’t let your penis or any part of your body be objectified. You are a unique, beautiful person; you’re not here to live up to an abstract standard of penile size, or any other body-image-status- hype.

You need to free yourself of this size concept that is burdening you, and start to appreciate and enjoy your fabulous, pleasure-giving, life-affirming penis for the wondrous thing it is.

Shain 

©Copyright 2013      


Taking The Plunge After MTF Sex-Change Surgery

Q. I had MTF* (*male to female sex-change surgery) surgery about six months ago. Since my surgery I’ve only explored vaginal penetration to keep my vaginal canal open. My healing process took a long time due to a condition I have, but I’ve healed and I’m ready to have penile-vaginal sex.

It’s amazing, I’ve wanted it all my life but now I’m hesitant. There’s no one special and I don’t just want to ram a random cock in there for the sake of saying “Ta Da! I’ve done it!” But I do want to do it – I’ve waited long enough.

So how come I’m procrastinating?

As an experienced vagina owner to a newby, can you give a gal any tips on getting her, er, ‘toes ‘wet?

Belle

A. Belle, I think lowering yourself gently and carefully into all that wet is a good idea. You and your marvelous new vagina deserve the TLC.

Before penile penetration with a partner, I hope you have practiced with your finger and then gradated dildos? It’s important to get used to, and comfortable with, the feel of a pleasure object inside of you.

Relaxing your genitals with an orgasm will probably help this process. To that aim, I strongly recommend you try masturbating as you use a penetration toy. This way you can also begin learning how your new genitals function sexually.

Find a great, water-based vaginal lube you love and use lots of it, okay? Your hormonal treatments will not provide you with the vaginal lubrication you need for safe and pleasurable vaginal sex.

There’s nothing wrong with taking your time learning how to pleasure your new body while looking for someone special to share with. And the more familiar you are with your body, the more comfortable you will feel taking the plunge when you find them.

* Shain’s note.

Shain 


It Takes Time

Q. I’ve never had sex. I’ve kissed and that’s it. I’ve been with a boy I really like for months now and whenever it gets past kissing, I just can’t go farther. I get excited, get an erection, but I also start shaking and feeling afraid.

I don’t understand it – he’s the guy of my dreams, and I sexually fantasize about him when I masturbate, and – the rest of the time, too.  

I can’t think of any trauma that causes me to be afraid of sex. He’s very attractive to me - kissing him is great.  

Do you have any ideas about what to do? 

Rolando 

A. Well, you’ll definitely have to find the answer to this yourself, Rolando, because only you have the answer. What I can do is make a few suggestions for your consideration: 

Sometimes people become nervous about sex when they become too focused on it. When that happens, you can’t ever really relax and let things take their course. One way around this is to put sex aside for a while and concentrate on relaxed intimacy. Let your partner know what you’re feeling and why, and that you would like to explore Sensate Focus, Massage, Breathing, Fantasy, Communication and Touch exercises together (see our pages on these topics to get started). Accept that sex may NOT be the outcome of this exploration - and may never be. Let it go. 

Keep in mind that you have nothing to prove, and don’t owe your friend sex. Find a Mantra that relaxes you when you feel afraid: “It’s okay, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to”, -whatever addresses what you’re feeling and need to hear to be comfortable. 

Also, going beyond kissing can be incremental, not an instant plunge into full sex. You can –and should -take all the time you want to gradually experience different aspects of sexual contact.  

If nothing works and this remains an ongoing issue, than talk to a sex therapist or counselor. Sometimes a third party can offer just the right insight or gesture to unlock a problem.

You’ll get there when you're ready. Easy does it, my dear. It takes time.

Shain 

©Copyright 2013


Sex Has Become Stale With My Partner

Q. My lover and I always make love the same way. While I usually have an orgasm, I find myself unenthusiastic about doing the same thing all the time. I tried suggesting variations, but he seems very stuck on the missionary position as the only way he wants to have sex.  

I really do love him and would like to stay with him the rest of my life, but sometimes I'm so damn tired of this repetitious enactment that I either feel like I am withering away or I want to start screaming. Help. 

A. So many people have this problem that I truly believe we must all make it part of our regular dialogue with each other throughout all the stages of our lives. People tend to develop rote patterns in relationships, and sex is no exception. Creativity, and with it intimacy, disappear as sex becomes a repetitious, monotonous routine rather than an exciting and vital deepening of intimacy and pleasure. 

It is absolutely essential to shake the bonds of routine loose now, before either this incredibly important part of your life becomes sublimated, or the relationship ends because of your ongoing disappointment.  

In a loving and caring way, communicate with your husband that you very much want to expand on your sex life together. Be sure to communicate that it is absolutely not a question of blaming him for any inadequacy.  Rather, and that you love them and want to be closer to him. You are sharing with him an intimate expression of your wants and needs. The chances are that if he opens up to exploring more varied and enthusiastic sex with you, he will enjoy it a great deal indeed. 

Be patient, non-judgmental, and take responsibility for consistently communicating what you want from him sexually. Solicit information from him as well – what does he want? It's a two-way street that will benefit him as much as you. If you love him enough to want to spend the rest of your life with him, acknowledge to yourself how extremely important working on this aspect of your relationship is. Let him know as well how much it means to you to share this deep part of yourselves together. It is an opportunity to reach a new level of intimacy. 

Try utilizing the exercises in our Communication section.  You may find some useful stuff in Sensate Focus, Role Playing, Massage, Sex Roles, too, once you start exploring sexual variety together. 

If you make every patient effort to make this part of your relationship more satisfying, including seeking counseling, and/or a sex therapists help if necessary, and your husband is still not responsive, then you have to make an honest assessment of what is really important to you. You may redefine your relationship as a friendship and seek a sexual partnership elsewhere, or you may choose to remain monogamous with him and develop your own sexual relationship with your primary lifelong partner – yourself. But whatever you do, don't settle for a life of chronic dissatisfaction, unhappiness, or resentment. It will poison your life and your marriage. 

Shain 


 

My Children Have Been Sold On Phony Media Values. How Can I get Through To Them?

Q. I'm incredibly frustrated with a world in which my children are growing up believing that they need to compare themselves to the media images that are blitzing them everywhere! 

My daughters all think they're too fat to be attractive, even though they look beautiful and healthy to me, and my son thinks he should be a muscular “stud”. I see them feeling compelled by their peer groups to take sexual risks that they are not ready to take, and I continually worry about pregnancy, STDs, and my children's belief that they don't measure up to being "cool people". They really don't seem to grasp the uncool consequences of random sex, diet pills, and a narcissistic lifestyle. 

I hear them with their friends and they seem to think it’s a desirable life goal to be celebrity, and that if they can just achieve fame and thinness, they will be worthy of the golden cornucopia of success and happiness. What hope is there for young people who are barraged by these deluded goals and images everywhere in magazines, television, movies, the Internet, etc.? 

A. 

"The only place love is free and sex is safe is in the media."

-Thomas Hearn Jr., Wake Forest University

I agree. Young peoples’ vulnerabilities are exploited perniciously by industry for gain. When our youth looks to peers, celebrities and mass culture for role models, as they inevitably do, they are inundated with carefully studied, calculated media campaigns that manipulate them into adopting unrealistic, unhealthy body images and sexual expectations. 

What the media and the industries they represent don’t say is “Love yourself. Cherish your uniqueness and adore every detail of your special body. Know that you’re beautiful just as you are. Find your own path, trust in your soul.” If they did, the fashion and celluloid industries would collapse overnight. 

What they also don’t do is provide valuable role models or deal with life realistically. When is the last time you heard someone on television say: “We’re going to use a condom and a spermicide, Mr. Romantic TV Actor. I have no intention of wrecking my life with AIDS or an unwanted pregnancy to have so-called hot, spur of the moment sex. That’s pure stupidity”.  

Or “I didn’t have an orgasm. I don’t come just from penetration and need more clitoral stimulation and oral sex to get there. You did – why shouldn’t I?” 

Or “I have issues with my sexual partner. I don’t like their genital odor or swallowing their sperm. How can I communicate this concern to them in a way that brings about a positive result and does not hurt their feelings?” 

Or “I’m really interested in that guy. How will he react to the fact that I have Herpes? I hope he’ll want to work out a relationship with me, because I’m so drawn to him sexually. What are the safer-sex options I can present him with?” 

Nor do they ever portray the ambivalences and fears they create with their misrepresentations. When is the last time you saw someone one television say “Hey, I don’t look anything like the popular body model. My breasts don’t pop up; their long and cylinder - shaped. I have full hips and strong, curving thighs. My hair is fuzzy, not long and silky. My labia are long and lumpy. I guess I don’t rate. I’ll need to do speed to get thin enough, have my lips and hips surgically sheared off, put artificial objects in my breasts that will cause me to loose sensitivity to touch and risk cancer, burn my nappy hair to the roots, and have clitoral reduction surgery so that I can fit in and be loved.” 

If they did, our kids would see the miserable impact of all the phony hype on real people’s self- images and esteem, and wise up. 

So here are some things you can do to help out: 

First and foremost, let them know that you love them for who they are, as they are, and you don’t want them to try to look or act like anybody else. 

Look into how you may be buying into negative values and stereotypes in your own life. Young people are tremendously sensitive to double standards and hypocrisy. If you are buying in, you may want to examine this with them. You can learn together about how media and social conditioning works on personal self- concept and image. 

Talk about media hype, and what it does to people. Offer examples of other, healthier role models than they usually see in the mass media, and tell them why you think these models are real, and worthy of emulation. Don’t preach: share your own feelings and experiences. 

And last but far from least, see that they get good sources of information about sex, body image  and relationships!

Shain 


My Son Was Ostracized In School For Being Gay

A. My son was ostracized and targeted for abuse because he is gay. He is also a gentle, sensitive boy who wasn’t interested in competitive sports and didn’t fit the stereotype of “male”. Names like “fag” and ‘queer-boy” were spit in his direction on a daily basis. The teachers knew and didn’t do anything to stop it; some of them tacitly encouraged it. 

I didn’t know what was wrong; only that he seemed very troubled, withdrawn, and that he hated school, though he used to love it. Finally he came home with a broken wrist and bloody nose. I found him in the bathroom, traumatized. When I confronted the school authorities, they suggested the situation would get better if my son would learn be act in a more “manly” fashion and improve his facility at sports. They also implied that I should put him in counseling for his “tendencies”. 

It finally hit home. I was beyond heartbroken, beyond furious. My son is a beautiful person who never hurt anyone - and he’s the one who should change his behavior? 

The worst part is that he felt ashamed to speak to me about the horrible harassment he suffered. Homophobia was so damn prevalent in our church and community that he bought into it, into the belief that he deserved punishment. And I never spoke up against it, never criticized the prejudiced beliefs or identified the ugly bigoted undercurrents our whole social culture was founded on. Because I thought: well, it’s not really effecting my family, so what does it matter? My son paid the price for my silence. 

Because we live in an isolated community without other educational choices and I can’t afford to move us yet, we’ve opted to home school. Our taxes pay for these schools that don’t deserve our money until they represent a just and enlightened approach to education and human values, but my son is not safe or honored in their halls.

He’s joined a whole network of positive LGBT youth groups on his computer, is back on track academically, and is much happier. I work with several groups who teach tolerance and seek to improve the educational and social environment for all people; I now get that not to act, to be passive about prejudice, is to enable it. 

Juliette Henri 

A. Juliet, it makes the crucial difference that you have woken up to your son’s plight and ARE SUPPORTING HIM. As a mother I would be sure to stay tuned into the recovery of his self-esteem, which has been damaged and may be fragile for a while. 

It is also great that your son is doing everything he can to reach out and connect with the LGBTQQI (and Allies) community –it is very important that he be around people who accept and affirm him for himself. Some students who have been subjected to prejudice like your son has have found it empowering and constructive to contact LAMBAlegal, the ACLUor other advocate groups to either bring legal action against the school, or to initiate awareness programs. If he wants to investigate this course, here are some contacts to startmwith:

LAMBDALegal, www.lambdalegal.org, 212-809-8585 American Civil Liberties Unionwww.aclu.org

Or perhaps he simply needs the space to heal, separate from any further involvement with the school. That’s up to him. It’s not a decision he needs to make until he’s ready.

Thanks for being a terrific mom!

Shain 

©Copyright 2013


My Child Walked In On My Partner And I Having Sex. What Should I Do?

Q. My child walked in on my partner and I having sex, and I'm not sure how to handle it.

A. Children accept sex as part of the natural continuum of life, unless they are told differently. 

Communicate to them that what you are doing is loving and positive, and it’s completely okay that they walked in on you while you were making love (but to knock on the door next time it is closed so that nobody will be startled). 

 Young children who really don’t understand adult sex may be concerned that their parents are fighting, or that someone is being physically hurt. They may also feel left out of this close and loving sharing between adult parents/partners; it depends on what they see, and how they interpret it.

 Be sensitive and responsive to their emotions, and warmly reassure them that you are not fighting or expressing anger and no one is being hurt. Let them know that you love them and want to be with them very much, but sex is a private thing just between partners. Children have their own privacy needs, and will understand this if it’s explained lovingly.  

Then spend some extra time with them, later.

Shain


My Partner Wants To Try Sex-Role Reversals In Bed

Q. My partner of ten years read your section on sex-roles and confessed to me that he’s always wanted to play a girl in bed.  Flowing clothes, soft-gestures, anal penetration in the missionary position. I asked him if he really wants to be with another man, but he says he wants me to play the man and use a strap-on dildo.

We’ve had a pretty traditional sex-role relationship for a long time, so this came as a surprise to say the least. I’m of two minds about it; kind of turned-on and excited, but also scared. Isn’t this abnormal? Do these desires mean he’s really gay?

Gina

A. Relax, Gina. Role-reversals are fun and liberating. They allow us to explore our rich human nature and become more whole as human beings.

There is nothing abnormal or unusual about your partner’s desires. Lots of men have similar passions. Just enjoy that excitement you feel about exploring this new space together.

Using a strap-on dildo takes a little practice. Three things to keep in mind:

1. Make sure the harness is snug enough that it holds the dildo in place (try it on before purchasing it)

2. Don’t start with a large dildo, which could hurt your partner. In fact, if he’s not used to anal penetration, don’t start with a dildo. Use your finger, first one, than two, until his anus becomes accustomed to penetration. This also gives you a good opportunity to locate his prostate, which for many guys is the “male G-spot” and intensely sensitive to stimulation.

3. Use lots of ANAL lubricant, as opposed to vaginal lubricant. Rectal tissue is thin and lacks the elasticity of vaginal tissue, requiring a thicker lubrication.

I’m glad your partner is seeking to infuse your sexual relationship with new ideas and energy. I hope you keep traveling in fun, erotic new directions together.

Shain 


How Dangerous Is Toxic Shock Syndrome? 

Q. I'd like to switch from using sanitary pads to tampons, but the fine print on tampon boxes refers to a “potentially fatal condition” called Toxic Shock Syndrome that can be caused by tampons. Holy crap – aren't there enough problems in the world? Can you explain what this scary sounding illness is, and do I have to worry? I'm really tired of wearing pads. 

A. Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a rare but potentially very serious condition associated with the use of tampons, which has been known to cause dire symptoms and even fatalities. It's caused by a staph organism that produces toxins which colonize on tampons during use. 

TSS is thought to occur when tampons become overly saturated with menstrual fluids. To reduce the probability of TSS, make sure that you don't use a tampon intended for a larger menstrual saturation level then you actually need at any given phase of your menses, and change your tampon once every four hours, even if it's not saturated. Sleep with a pad on rather than with a tampon inserted. And always insert tampons gently – don't force. 

Even so, if you experience sudden fever, chills, nausea, dizziness, faithless, weakness or develop the body rash, it's imperative that you see a doctor immediately. 

Another concern with tampons is that they are usually bleached, and bleach is not a healthy substance to expose the vagina to. It can interfere with the vaginas natural bacterial balance, cause tears which increase the risk of infection and STI’s, and other problems. If a tampon causes you any itching or chafing, immediately stop using the product. For information about unbleached menstrual products and alternatives, see the Resources in our Menstruation section. 

Shain 

©Copyright 2013


My Daughter Is Retarded And Sexually Interested 

Q. My daughter is medium - level mentally retarded. At eighteen, she is sexually interested, but I know that she doesn’t understand the emotional or physiological consequences of sex and pregnancy. Consequences are hard for her to grasp.

It’s very painful to me because she doesn’t understand adult complexities and needs, but on a real level she feels them. She has a loving nature and has begun talking about having a baby as if it would be “cute”, as she puts it.

I’ve tried to explain birth control to her but she doesn’t really understand and I’m afraid she is going to become pregnant.

As much as I would love a grandchild I have come to accept that it is not a reflection on her beautiful heart/ soul to recognize that she cannot take care of child, and I do not advocate anyone having a baby who cannot take care of them. I am certainly not in a position to raise her child and continue caring for her. I worry already about what will happen to her when I’m gone.

Since she cannot be relied upon to protect herself, I wish I could have her sterilized. I know that is not a politically correct thing to say in some circles, but those circles don’t deal with the realities of a retarded child. Unfortunately because of these political concerns doctors are reluctant to sterilize. Do you know of any alternatives?

A. I sympathize with you. This is a tough situation. An option may be a ten-year IUD. It’s not a permanent solution, but it can provide a long stretch of protected time for her and peace of mind for you.

Look at the Copper-T IUD in our Birth Control section, and if this seems like a viable possibility, call Planned Parenthood or another supportive women’s reproductive health service and explain the situation with your daughter to them. (They may have some good ideas, too). They can meet with you and your daughter and with your help, explain to her how it works.

Being a mother means doing the difficult, the right thing for your child. Which you are.

Shain 


Our Erections Have Lessened With Age. Should We Use Viagra?

Q. My lover and I have been together happily for four decades and have always enjoyed sex in a big way. It's an important connection between us. But when we hit our mid 60s, we both noticed a lessening in the duration and quality of our erections. While it honestly doesn't bother me at all, it does seem to bother him, and that bothers me. What do you think of Viagra? 

A. Sometimes with advancing age men experience decreased blood flow to the penis, making engorgement and erection harder. Plaque builds up in the blood vessels and gradually blocks blood flow, which can cause not only erectile dysfunction but heart disease and other serious ailments. Ergo the popularity of drugs like Viagra, which increase the flow of blood to the penis when stimulated.  

Viagra is not a cure-all: it is only effective, in varying degrees, for about 66% of the men who try it. Note that it is crucial that it be taken strictly under the supervision of a physician, because it is not medically tenable for everyone, and its unsupervised use can cause serious health complications: 

Anyone who is using a heart nitrate medicine should not take Viagra because it increases arterial dilation, causing greater risk of dropping blood pressure, unconsciousness, and death. 

Another concern is that older men who use Viagra are sometimes tempted to assert themselves beyond their physical limits, leading to exhaustion and potentially heart attack, stroke, and other dangerous conditopns. It's important to be prudent and pay attention to your body's natural rhythms and signals. Avoid stressing the heart excessively. 

If your doctor and you weigh these factors and decide to explore Viagra, keep in mind that it works best if not taken with high-fat foods or alcohol. 

However, before resorting to Viagra, I strongly recommend exploring a regular exercise routine and a nutritious plant- based diet, such as that described by Rip Esselstyn In his book The Engine2 Diet and in the work of Dr. Joel Fuhrman. A strong, micronutrient rich plant-based diet helps to clear out obstructive plague deposits naturally and open blood vessels. Many men find this energizing diet and exercise approach a more effective route to increased well-being - including erectile function - than pharmaceuticals like Viagra and Cialis, etc. And as their total health improves, they feel better about life and sex in general. 

If erection really matters to you and your partner, you can also explore a penile implant. This is a non-pharmaceutical option that some men prefer because it gives them control over when they have an erection. 

Sometimes sexual dependency on erection is socially conditioned behavior based on a perception of sexuality that may have more importance in our minds then in reality. You can have fabulous fun and orgasms with lessened erectile function because lessened erectile function does not interfere with magnificent male orgasms. The nerves that control orgasm are entirely separate from those that control erection. So if your objective is to have incredibly pleasurable sex, lessening of erectile functioning does not need to stop you from enjoying yourselves one bit.  

Shain 

©Copyright 2013


PMS Is Keeping Us From Living Together

Q. I’ve had a relationship with a woman I adore for four years now. We live in separate homes but spend a lot of the month together. For the last year we’ve talked about living together but she is reluctant because, as she puts it, she gets “crazy and bitchy” during her menstrual cycle. She also has endometriosis, apparently a contributing factor, and describes severe pain and mood swings. She says she is concerned that this will have an adverse effect on our relationship. 

We are very companionable and at ease together, and I miss her every month when she isolates herself for about a week until her cycle is passed. I can’t help but think we could work this out in a living situation if we try, and I truly don’t understand how getting her period can make this much of a difference. Is there something I’m missing? I menstruate, too, and it doesn’t radically change my feelings about our relationship or my outlook on life. 

A. It sounds like your partner may be suffering from some of the more serious effects of PMS. This is to be taken seriously. 

Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is caused by the enormous hormonal changes that take place during the menstrual cycle. PMS can start up to 10 days before menstruation begins, but it most commonly starts to three days prior to menstruation. It can cause very serious depression, mood swings, irritability, cravings for certain foods, and a lot of unpleasant physical symptoms like headache, backache, cramps, bloating of the uterus, breast tenderness, nausea, and vertigo, to name a few. Some women really do feel like they become a Mr. Hyde- like alter ego, and hate burdening their friends and family with difficult personality changes that they feel they can't control.  

Things that may help to alleviate PMS symptoms are: 

1. Engage in regular physical exercise, and continue it through the menstrual cycle. Yoga combined with cardio is ideal, but any kind of stretching followed by activity that gets the cardiovascular system working is great. It can do a great deal to help ameliorate or alleviate symptoms. 

2. Apply heat. A hot bath, sauna or a heating pad placed on the lower back or area over the uterus may help relieve cramps. 

3. Have orgasms, either through masturbation or, if tolerable, partner sex. Orgasm releases relaxing endomorphs, and sends a flush of blood into the vulva, which relieves tension and cramping. (A good vibrator can be just right for this). 

4. Eat a healthy, plant-based diet. Avoid dairy, meat, and processed foods. Deleting sugar, caffeine salts candy and alcohol from all food intake may greatly reduce mood swings, headaches and cramps. 

5. Consult with a doctor about the use of over-the-counter medications specific to relieving the symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps, such as ibuprofen, aspirin, Midol, or Motrin. Some women find them very helpful. 

6. Consult with a psychiatrist about extreme mood swings or depression. The limited use of antidepressants taken specifically during each month's period of concentrated symptoms may provide very worthwhile relief. 

7. Rest a lot, and avoid stress. 

Endometriosis, the misplacement of the endometrial uterine lining into the intestines, vaginal canal, or other areas of the body where it is not meant to be, can be extraordinarily painful. For women with extensive endometriosis, menstrual cramps sometimes resemble labor pains. It hurts fiercely! In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary to remove it. Sometimes heat, massage, exercise, or homeopathic remedies help, as well as some medications your partner’s doctor may recommend or prescribe. Certainly, the combination of PMS and endometriosis could be a lot to manage! 

If your partner is experiencing these issues, then believe her that she is being protective of your relationship by separating herself from you during her menstrual cycle. Her concerns are real. What you might do is suggest that you try and stay with her at her apartment and see if the application of massage, heat, medications, quiet, etc., and lots of patience and sensitivity make the experience acceptable to her. 

If not, be prepared to completely respect either her decision to continue to be separate from you altogether when she's menstruating, or if she tries coping with your company, but finds it too difficult, be prepared to lovingly leave until she can see you comfortably. Like the song says, we earn the precious right to love. This means accepting each other's boundaries, limitations and needs. Cherish the time you do have together, and except that her need for separation has no negative connotation in regard to her love for you. On the contrary, it is a step she's taking to keep your relationship happy and strong.  

Shain 


My School Only Teaches Abstinence And I Want More Information About Sex

Q. My school emphasizes abstinence only until marriage as the way to avoid STI's and pregnancy out of wedlock. They do not make sex education available. 

My church and family also don’t believe in sex before marriage, but I would like to think for myself about this issue, and to know what my alternatives are. I have a very intense desire to make love with my girlfriend, and I sensed that she has similar feelings, but we are both in the dark about sex. Is it true that we will get STI's and she will instantly get pregnant if we don't abstain? 

A. I am proud of you for reaching out to get information about this important issue in your life. It is foolish and dangerous to you to keep you in the dark about sex, which is a natural part of maturing, and you deserve to knowledgeable about sex so that you can make informed choices that affect your health and happiness. 

Abstinence is generally considered the total repression of mutual oral, vaginal, manual or anal sexual contact. If strictly practiced, it will prevent pregnancy. It can also prevent some STI's, but some sexually transmitted infections such as herpes, syphilis, mononucleosis and HPV can be contracted through kissing and in some instances touch. 

It’s also possible to transmit or contract STI's even if you've never had sex - even if you've never kissed anyone and grew up in a hermetically sealed environment! Some people who have never had sex are carriers because they are born with STI's, and don't know it. They unwittingly transmit STI's. The only really effective way to avoid STI's is for both partners to get tested before having sex. 

It also helps to be aware of STI symptoms and take preventative measures if they are detected, but keep in mind that many people with STI's have no symptoms. Testing is the only sure way. 

Sex involving penile ejaculation anywhere in or near the vagina will certainly drastically increase the probability of pregnancy. To ensure that you have a baby only when you feel ready to choose  to undertake this in enormous commitment, learn about the proper use of birth control methods and find the one(s) that comfortably suit you and your partner. There is nothing more terrifying than risking unwanted pregnancy during sex because you don't know how to prevent it. 

You are not far from Chapel Hill, where there is a Planned Parenthood (lucky you). Make an appointment with your girlfriend to get information about birth control methods and STI prevention – an absolute essential if you're thinking about a sexual relationship. 

Nothing is wrong with having a period of abstinence in your life if it makes you happy, but you should not feel forced into abstinence because you have been told that your sexual feelings are wrong. Many sex therapists and researchers believe that abstinence is particularly difficult, inappropriate and untenable during youth because this is a period when your body is filled with hormones, signaling that it’s time for sexual exploration. It is probably more helpful to become informed about sex so that you can make intelligent, safe, and positive choices. Your sexuality is an important part of your basic identity development – getting comfortable with yourself and the world you want to thrive in.  

Be certain about this: your sexuality is a healthy and necessary part of life. It's natural to explore sex, and you should be free to do this unpressured by dogma or anti-sexual sentiments.  

This does not necessarily mean you will want to plunge headlong into mad orgies of sex! Your sexual interests and needs should unfold at your own pace. Only you can know what you feel like doing and what you're emotionally ready for. Part of growing is learning to listen to your own feelings and instincts. You should know that sex is a good and positive aspect of life which you define, and nobody else. 

Please look at the How to Use Safer Sex Aids and Safer Sex sections of our website for information on these topics. Also, check out our Contacts and Resources section for lots of helpful additional information, and Teens.  

Shain 


I Think My Sister Was Raped

Q. I’m not close to my sister – I’m ten years older than her – but I think she was raped. She came home seeming very upset about three nights ago and locked herself in her room. She’s been withdrawn and very different, and won’t talk to me or our parents, but my instinct tells me she’s experienced trauma, and I think it was sexual. How can I help her?

                                                   ~Chris

A. There are kind of two parts to approaching this: the first part is to be loving, receptive, and patient, and let her speak about her experience if and when she feels safe. The other part is dealing practically with the potential consequences of this terrible violation in as timely a fashion as possible, because if she needs to deal with counteracting a sexually transmitted infection, an unwanted pregnancy, or injuries that need medical treatment, time is of the essence. Likewise, if she chooses to report her assault, the sooner she does so the better. It may not be too late to collect physical evidence.  

You need to be there in every way for her now. From what you describe, she’s internalizing the experience, by which I mean being affected by it without seeking any healing or comfort. That’s not an uncommon response to being seriously wounded, but it may not be very helpful to her right now. If she’s not talking to you, talk to her, without putting emotional pressure on her to respond. Let her know honestly what you believe and that you are not only concerned about how she was hurt, but that you are concerned about the tangible consequences and want her to get medical attention to protect her health. Offer to take her to a clinic. 

Look at our section on Sexual Assault: it describes what procedures should take place at the hospital and her options if she chooses to file a report with the police. It will be helpful if you both read it, but if she doesn’t want to, at least you can be prepared to help her through this process. Be ready to go through a check list of the treatments that she should receive at the hospital. These include checking for and documenting any injuries; pregnancy testing; STI tests; verifying any physical evidence of sexual assault and of the presence of date rape drugs; and the offer of counseling. 

There will be follow-through appointments she must keep, and there may be medications for STI’s, pregnancy, or injuries. Support her in this by offering to take her to appointments, and by gently making sure that she completes the prescribed treatment course of any medications. 

Healing from rape is another matter. It’s very personal and individual, and there’s not a single road map to follow. One thing that is certain, though, is that healing is necessary; the emotional scars of rape don’t just disappear. If healing doesn’t occur then rape can continue to victimize it’s recipient by causing painful damage to her/his self- esteem, relationships, feelings of safety and confidence, sexual comfort and pleasure, and ability to trust. Painful flashbacks can occur with Rape Trauma Syndrome, interfering with sex, work, and family. 

The love, patience, acceptance and support of friends and family can be crucial to the healing process. So can individual counseling and support groups, which most Rape Crisis centers provide. Again, offer to go with her, but accept that she might prefer to go by herself. 

Some things to keep in mind if your sister talks to you about her rape: Believe her. Validate her experience. Be prepared to accept whatever emotions she expresses, even if they don’t seem appropriate to you or aren’t what you expected. Don’t judge her in any way; just listen. 

Lastly, she is not the only one in this: you have been and will be affected deeply by her rape, too. Don’t lock anger or sorrow away to be strong for her; find the time and space to explore and accept your own feelings, with as much compassion and patience as you would give your sister. 

Shain


Reparative Therapy

Q. My niece confided in me that she’s a lesbian when she was twelve, and came out to her family when she turned fifteen, about five months ago. They are conservative people who believe that it is “against the ways of God” to be gay, and did not receive the news well.

She always seemed pretty strong to me, but when I saw her last this week she told me her family has been pushing her to have “Reparative Therapy”, and that she has just agreed to try it.

I was surprised and concerned. She’s always been a vibrant, confident girl who knew her mind. The girl I saw last week seemed frightened, self-doubting, and confused about her feelings.

I don’t know much about “Reparative Therapy”.  My understanding is that it’s supposed to turn gays straight. Can you tell me about it, and if it’s safe?

A. The first thing I can tell you is that “Reparative Therapy” is not a genuine or legitimate form of therapy. Therapy is employed to treat an illness: being LGBTQQI is not an illness, it’s a normal state.  Treating an illness that doesn’t exist is called fraud.

“Reparative Therapy” was created by conflicted, repressed people who believe that it is sinful and in violation of religious scriptures to be gay. It has no basis in recognized psychology: The American Psychological Association acknowledged forty years ago that homosexuality is not a mental illness but a normal human sexual state. “Reparative Therapy” is essentially an attempt to legitimize ignorance and bigotry.

Unfortunately, “Reparative Therapists” prey on people who are vulnerable, through negative social conditioning, to its homophobic message. It has caused great harm to people struggling with their identity’s, leading some to a lifetime of closeted misery and others to suicide. Both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association have issued statements condemning its dangerous techniques and misguided agenda.

I am urgently concerned about your niece. As a minor living with a family who are acting against her best interests she is in risk of real psychological damage. From what you describe, her own sense of identity has already been seriously affected.

PLEASE: affirm and love her for herself and support her right and vital need to make her own decisions about her sexual identity. Call the Human Rights Campaign (202-628-4100) for information about Reparative Therapy, call LAMBDAlegal (212-809-8585) for information about her civil rights, and help her get in touch with people who will support her, LGBTQQI and allies. Go to the IT GES BETTER Project site with her and read some of the beautiful testimonials from other people who’ve gone through similar experiences and come out on the other side.

She needs your support NOW. There’s no time to loose in this situation.

Shain


Is Prozac Affecting My Sexual Drive?

Q. I have begun taking Prozac for depression. At first it was all bells and ribbons, because I’ve become more stable and able to enjoy life than ever before. But my partner noticed, and then I did, that I am less interested in sex. She has shown me articles that state Prozac represses sexual desire. Now I want to drop using it so that my appetite for sex will return. Should I?

A. Prozac is in a class of anti-depressants known to subdue libido. It depends on how much you’re taking and how your body processes it. Sometimes after your body adjusts to it desire will re-emerge, and sometimes it acts as a permanent obstacle to sexual excitation.

It is probably unwise just stop using it on your own. We don’t want you going from the frying pan to the fire by having a relapse into depression. Speak to your doctor and explain your concerns. It may be that adjusting the dosage will work, or you may end up trying an alternative anti-depressant.

In the meantime don’t get frustrated or worried about it. Enjoy your newfound freedom from depression, and give yourself some time to work out the right medication.

Shain 


I Just Don't Like Oral Sex (Fellatio) With My Partner

Q. I just don’t like oral sex with my boyfriend. I feel like I’m strangling on his penis – I literally gag. I don’t like the taste of sperm, and I hate swallowing it. But I love getting oral sex! So I keep bucking up and enduring doing what I hate, because it seems fair.

It’s reaching the point where I hate this conflict enough that I may have to discontinue the sexual part of our relationship, although I care for him very much and generally love (other parts of) sex with him.

A. You should never do anything you don’t wholeheartedly enjoy during sex. It should bring you pleasure, not be a trial.

Lots of people don’t like tasting or swallowing sperm. It’s a question of individual preference, and it’s totally fine to have yours. It’s safer to use a condom anyway, and you can even use a flavored one if you like. This solves the issue of taste and swallowing.

Be sure he uses a thin, high sensitivity condom so that he can enjoy the nuances of your administrations.

As to the gagging, do not take any more of his penis into your mouth than you are comfortable with, and keep his penis away from the gag reflex at the back of your throat. The first third of the penis has the largest concentration of nerves and is the most arousing area to concentrate on during fellatio. Focus predominantly on this area, with small forays into the lower shaft that involve licking and flicking, not sucking.

It’s your body and your sex life.  Eliminate anything that causes you conflict or dread and let it be a source of joy and energy.

 Shain


Can I Get an Adequate Penis with Female To Male Surgery?

Q. I am considering FTM surgery and have heard mixed reviews about the viability of the FTM surgical penis. Several friends have told me that they were not satisfied with the result of their surgery, that their dick wasn’t big enough and couldn’t stay erect, and that you usually have to use a dildo. I don’t want to use a dildo – I want to use my own penis. Can you tell me if the surgery works or not?

A. The surgery is not yet ideal. Currently there are two main types available:

1. A clitoral release, which exposes the clitoral shaft, creating a micro-phallus.

Implemented with hormonal treatments, the clitoris may grow somewhat larger, but it will not reach the size of an average penis.

2. Phalloplasty, which constructs a larger phallus with tissue grafts and fat deposits.

This penile construction does not have the erectile tissue of a penis. A penile pump may be added to help simulate erection.

With this surgery the clitoral head is usually left exposed at top of the penile shaft for sexual stimulation. 

It’s up to you to choose whether you want a larger penis without very much nerve sensation in it but with the size and effect of an average penis, or a smaller, micro-penis made from your own hypersensitive clitoral tissue. I know that what you probably really want is a combination of both, but so far surgeons haven’t figured out how to construct this.

 Shain


Living Until You Die

Q. I am critically and terminally ill. With HIV complicated by advanced prostatic and pancreatic cancer, my prognosis is short-term. Sexual intimacy with my husband is extremely important to me, even though I’m not always well enough for a complete orgasm. I treasure our intimacy, whatever form it takes, inexpressibly.

Whenever I approach him sexually, though, he bursts into tears, and then seems to stay in a state of grief for hours or days afterward.

To me sex has always been an affirmation of our love, and I feel cut-off from something priceless by his reaction. On the other hand, I don’t want to bring sadness to him. I feel that time is short and I want him to have happy memories of our last days together. What do I do?

-Jackson

A.  For many people who love each other, sexual intimacy is the epitome of expressing love. When one partner’s death is approaching, sex can become the symbol of losing this love which is so precious.

The closeness and intimacy of loving sexual expression may also open up some powerful emotions that your partner is trying to keep a lid on as a coping device.

Fear of loss and grief can invade and paralyze life. Your partner is too frightened of his future without you to cherish the present. Your ability to convey to him the simple reality that you are alive now and want to relish and enjoy your time together is handicapped by the intensity of his emotional block.

Very gently emphasize sharing positive things that bring you joy and pleasure in your daily lives together. Tell him how you miss sexual intimacy together and about how you love making love with him, but don’t press him to be sexually demonstrative. Let him be. As long as he can only see the bleakness of your absence while in your presence, he’s going to stay in emotional hiding. He must find a place of balance that allows him to overcome his fear. You can only be patient and loving and honest, Jackson.

Shain


Sex After Spinal Cord Injury

Q. My wife suffered the loss of motor coordination and about 50% of all sensation below her waist in a combat injury during which her spinal cord was damaged. As a result she’s been unable to have an orgasm. Sex is very much a part of our closeness and love, and her inability to have an orgasm is extremely distressing to me because I know how much she enjoyed it. It’s not fair for me to have orgasms while she can’t, and although she tells me she’s happy being intimate in every other way we can be, things are not the same between us. Most of the time I end up sneaking off and masturbating. 

Her doctor told us is that we need to adjust to her limitations and accept that she is non-orgasmic. I don’t want to give up on this, and I know that she feels the same way, but we have come to despair of any realistic options. Can you give us any suggestions?

                              ~ Lamonte

A. Many people discover a rich range of sexual expression after spinal cord injury. I'm proud of you both for your commitment to your sexual relationship despite your wife's injury. Absolutely do not give up! 

I believe it could be very helpful and productive for you to contact a sex counselor or therapist with experience in working with spinal injury cases. They can work with your wife's condition to help her individually and you together as a couple to maximize sexual capacity – which in most people is enormous, injury or no. 

Find a counselor you're comfortable with. Trust your instincts and don't be afraid to shop around for someone that you both connect with. It may benefit your wife or yourself to have some individual sessions with them, as well. Methods that you may explore are: 

1. Discovering and expanding areas of physical sensitivity. This includes an in-depth exploration of your wife's injured and non-injured body areas to pinpoint exactly what sensitivity levels she has where, and what pleases her. Sometimes small areas of sensitivity exist in even severely spinal cord injured people that can be acutely sensitive to stimulation. When this is the case, the only way to locate them is to search the body thoroughly by touch. Remember: sensual pleasure is not limited to the genitals, some very delicious sensations can arise from all over the body when caressed effectively. 

2. Maximizing sensate focus capacity through self-directed exercises exploring touch, massage, breathing, and lots of tender loving care. 

3. Building your wife's capacity to fantasize may be an important part of her sexual rehabilitation. The brain is the body's most powerful sex organ, and the imagination can create amazing subjective erotic experiences that can lead to orgasm. 

4. Sex researchers and therapists have recognized for a long time that non-genital orgasm, or orgasm in parts of the body other than the genitals, does exist for some people. Dr. Masters of the pioneering sex research and therapy team Masters and Johnson tells of a woman who, after a severe spinal injury rendered her unable to feel sensation in her genitals, had full and satisfying orgasms in her lips, which underwent the same pattern of engorgement and orgasmic release that her clitoral erectile tissue had previously. She and her husband had a very passionate and satisfying sex life.  

5. Lastly, this can be a process that requires a lot of listening, patience, love, and respect on both your parts. Talking honestly with each other will be pivotal to this whole process, and your counselor may suggest you use certain techniques of communication.  

And please, don't feel guilty or negative in any way about masturbating! For many people this is a very natural and healthy release while they are working through sexual issues with another person. Masturbation makes you more relaxed, and that can only help your relationship. 

A good contact for finding a counselor is AASECT: American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists www.aasect.org 202-449-1099

Shain


Sexual Development Begins At Conception

Q. I was raised in a conservative, highly religious family. My parents did not talk about sex, but managed to convey that it is a bad thing. I must have spoken to my mother when I got my period, but I can’t remember it.

My sister was the rebellious, sexy one, and she hasn’t spoken with my parents in years. She tells me that they called her a whore for going out with boys and were “crazy freaks” about sex. I don’t have any recall of any of it. I do know I never dated until I went away to college, and then my dates were very awkward. I was afraid to touch anyone – I had never been touched! Never hugged or comforted or kissed as a child. Learning to show affection was excruciating.

I’ve got two babies now, twins, who are four months old. A girl, and a boy. I don’t want them to grow up feeling constrained and conflicted; I want them to be comfortable with their sexuality. God forbid they should have to go through what I did.

Can you tell me when children’s sexuality starts developing, and at what age it is appropriate to talk to them about sex?

A. Our sexuality begins developing from the moment we are conceived, and continues developing through different stages for the rest of our lives. In a sense, our children are always asking questions and receiving input and information about sexuality on a non-verbal level, long before we ‘talk’ to them about sex.

The smallest infant perceives emotion and instruction through touch, sound, and a thousand sensory cues. This includes information on how the world around them reacts to them, their naked body and its natural functions, their gender, and their sexuality. They sense how mom feels about nursing them, how people feel about caring for them, touching them, and changing them. All of this feeds into their sexual development.

Being comfortable about your own body and sexuality, and accepting of theirs as it unfolds, will communicate a strong positive foundation of sexually affirmative beliefs to them.

Children may begin verbally asking about sex from kinder- garden age up, their interest passing through phases: younger children want increasingly more facts about reproduction, older children become more interested in relationships; emotional dynamics and sexual technique.

Be open, truthful and honest when you answer questions, but don’t over-inform. Children won’t process more information that they’re not ready for. A five year old can grasp only some rudimentary concepts about conception and an explanation on the physiological ins and outs of reproduction will be wasted. A seven year old will probably not understand a talk about contraception and responsibility. A twelve year old is usually more interested in learning about kissing and what boundaries to have when making out then sexual technique; a fifteen year old is very interested in sexual technique. It’s time for the talk about contraception and responsibility, if they haven’t broached the subject already.

Speaking about broaching the subject; if your child is shy or you sense that they’re interested in sex but aren’t approaching you with questions, a very good tact for opening the door to communication is to give them some excellent, age-appropriate books. San Francisco Sex Information has great online suggestions. And Scarleteen founder Heather Corinna has a great book for teenagers, which is available through the Scarleteen website.

Shain


Confused By Labels 

Q. My best friend is trans. Or is gay. Or was. Or is intersex. Or was. It keeps changing. I’m lost.

We used to be together as a couple. Then he said he couldn’t have sex with a vagina anymore, because he’s gay. Now he wants to have an operation to have a vagina.

I was in love with him before. I want to support his gender identity. I just don’t really understand the changes he is going through. What is the difference between gay, trans, intersex?

A. First of all, before we get into classifications, I don’t care what his gender identity is: you don’t “have sex with a vagina.” You have sex with another human being, a whole person. Someone whose heart you honor and respect. Whatever genitals he is or isn’t sporting, it is selfish, self-centered and grossly insensitive for your ‘friend’ to have defined you and your sexual relationship in this way. He needs to wake up, get over his preoccupation with his identity, and become a better person.

As to the semantic differences between gay, trans, and intersex, here’s the skinny (from the LGBTQQI page):

A gay man is emotionally, romantically, spiritually and sexually attracted to other men.

Transgender refers to a person who feels that they were born the wrong anatomical sex; a woman born in a man’s body, or a man born in a woman’s body. 

Some transgender people adjust their gender expression to match their gender identity through changing  their name, the way they dress, speak, cut their hair, or move, and use (or don’t use) make-up. Others undergo a physical transition with hormonal treatments and/or sexual reassignment surgery.  

Still others people see transgender identity as an acceptance of the integration of "male" and "female" traits. 

The medical definition of intersex is a Hermaphrodite; a person with a full set of both male and female sex organs and hormones. 

However, many people do not fit the strict physical sex binary presented by the medical model of male and female. A lot of us have some degree of anatomical or physiological intersex traits. 

Some intersex people enjoy their physicality and sexuality just as it is, taking pride in their unique identity. Others feel identified with a specific sex and want to become more physically a female or a male, and may undertake sexual reassignment surgery and/or hormonal therapy to change. 

You can get learn a lot more about definitions on the LGBTQQI page.

Definitions being spoken to, don’t get too hung up on labels. Some people have a definite sexual preference and identity, but many do not. For the majority, sexuality is a fluent continuum with many possible expressions.

Shain


Anal Sex Unusually Odiferous

Q. I usually like anal sex. It’s my favorite form of penetration. Recently met a woman who likes it a lot, too, but I’m put off by her fecal smell. This isn’t like me; I’m mostly pretty at ease with bodily functions and smells. Her smell is stronger and more pungent than anything I’ve encountered before. Any suggestions?

A. The two main factors that affect fecal odor are diet and health. If your partner is unwell, this could cause an unusually strong odor. (Unusual body odors are worth reporting to your doctor).

Much more commonly, the cause of body smells is diet. Diet affects not only our fecal odors but the smell of our breath, sweat, urine, and other exudations. A change in diet will often result in a different smell. Going Vegan is the frequent remedy for a strong fecal smell, because a diet of fruit, grains and vegetables will usually bring about a much lighter fecal smell than a diet with fatty foods and especially meat.

It will not happen the moment someone alters their diet; the body takes a while to cleanse. If your friend is willing to change her diet, you will probably notice a change in her fecal scent within a few days to a couple of weeks.

A solicitous note: make sure you are using a kind of lubrication that is specifically designed for anal sex. Rectal tissue is thin and not very elastic, and it requires a thicker lube (and a gentle approach).

Shain


Being Intimate in Hospice 

Q. My wife is in hospice. She is weak, but we would still like very much to lie together naked and touch each other, and sometimes make love. But we never get the chance to because of the lack of privacy in her care facility. We've mentioned our needs to her nurses but they seem to think that this is not done. Isn't there anything I can do about this awful prohibition? 

A. Yes, there certainly is. It is extremely important for the two of you to have this affirming, comforting, intimate, very private time together, and you should not be denied it. 

Inform your wife's doctor and if necessary the in-house counselor of your need to have private, uninterrupted time together in her room. Let them know that you wish to be secure in the knowledge that you will not be disturbed. Ask them to speak to all the staff that enters your wife's room and explain the need for absolutely uninterrupted privacy. Unfortunately because of your wife's condition it would probably be unwise to actually lock her door, but ask the hospice to make up a special DOES NOT ENTER sign that the staff will respect. 

The hospice staff might understandably be concerned that a medical issue could arise during your private time together requiring their immediate access and attention, but if you leave the door unlocked (but of course closed) and know the location of her call button so that you can summon them should the need arise, this should alleviate this valid concern. 

The real need to allow for intimacy has not yet been adequately addressed by our health system. You may have to break some ground here, but it is so very important for the two of you to be together that it is well worth the effort.

Shain


Worried About Our First Time Making Love

Q. I am 19 and a virgin. I'm in love with my girlfriend and she feels the same about me. I sense that we are going to make love soon, and I very much want it to be pleasurable for her. My brothers tell me that the most important thing is to have a large dong (which I don't really have), to be able to keep an erection a long time, and to “pump like a machine gun”. Is this true? My brothers are experienced, but I would like a woman's perspective. 

A. Good for you! Your poor brothers are really starting you off on the wrong foot, and you should talk to a woman to find out about a woman's sexuality. Especially the woman you love. She has the ability to tell you all about what feels good to her and satisfies her unique desires. One of the special enchantments in a sexual partnership is the intimacy of this conversation. 

That being said, a large penis is not what women value, nor does a large penis make sex more successful. The truth is that male erection - centered sex often equals non-orgasmic sex for women. 

Here is some information that may make you feel more comfortable: 

1. Don’t be overly focused on your penis during sex. The clitoris, not the vaginal canal, is the primary female sex organ. Its’ sensitive head and shaft are most exposed above the vaginal canal, and for the majority of women penile thrusting inside their vagina alone does not give their clitoris enough stimulation to induce orgasm. Direct clitoral stimulation through oral or manual manipulation is often necessary, and it must be sustained up until a woman's orgasm is complete. 

 2. The whole body is erogenous. Areas such as the breasts, nipples, genitals, anus, inner thighs, toes, and mouth may all be extremely responsive to touch because a cluster of sensitive nerve endings reside in these areas. At the same time, every individual is unique in what kind of touch pleasures them how, when and where. Be generous, and teach each other about your unique pleasure centers. 

3. Sex will be more pleasurable for you if you feel comfortable with your erectile functioning. 

The first way to learn about this is during masturbation. Don't be rushed, take the time to enjoy caressing your whole body and discover what feels good to you. This becomes knowledge that you can teach your partner. 

Learn how repeatedly stimulate yourself to near orgasm, and then stop and relax before ejaculation. Practice this and you will become more confident about your ability to be erect when you want to, and to have an orgasm when you want to. 

Practice using condoms while masturbating. Condoms are important defenses against STI's and unwanted pregnancy. They become more natural and comfortable to use with experience, so it's good to become adept at using them before engaging in a sexual relationship with another. 

Explore caressing your entire body and learn to enjoy a wide range of sensual pleasures other than penile stimulation. Be aware of your emotions as well as any physical sensations. Nurture your emotional as well as your physical needs. Sex is about a great deal more than penile stimulation or penetration, and whether alone or with a partner, it becomes much more rewarding when you expand your pleasure capacity beyond your penis. 

4. Communication is the key in a successful sexual relationship. Touch – sex – is a kind of language. You need to gift each other with the knowledge of your own bodies, and give each other feedback about what feels good to you, and what does not. Your partner cannot intuit or read your mind, no matter how attuned to your feelings she may be, and it is unfair to expect her to. You said that you love your girlfriend; be nurturing, honest and open with each other about your needs, and you will find that your sexual relationship offers you the opportunity to express your heart and soul to each other in a very deep way. 

Shain


Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome Is Real and Tough

Q. My next-door neighbor homeschools her 12 year old daughter and entirely prevents her from having a social life with other children. I became very concerned about this little girl’s isolation, to the extent that I considered contacting Social Services. 

The strange thing was that my neighbor seemed like a very nice woman and loving with her daughter, not tyrannical or misanthropic in any way. I found this confusing and after receiving several friendly rebuffs for suggested play dates for her daughter and our children, I asked her why her daughter appears to be without peer friendships. 

It was a subject she was reluctant to discuss but we gradually became good friends and she finally told me that her daughter is "oversexed" and cannot be around other children. I told her I thought this is a very old-fashioned concept and a potentially cruel one, and surely this was a normal phase in her daughter's life, or at the very least one for a counselor to deal with. I could not see how utter isolation could benefit this child. 

She then told me that her daughter has spontaneous random periods of sexual stimulation that sometimes seems to result in orgasm and that negative reactions to her child’s "episodes" have caused her to be hesitant even to take her daughter outside of the house to go shopping, sit in the park, or any other activities of the sort most of us take for granted. She allowed me to meet her daughter and while we were sitting at the kitchen table talking about mundane subjects, quite out of the blue this rather quiet little girl did appear to suddenly become aroused and have what appeared to be an orgasm. 

I had never heard of or seen anything like this. Because I had been prepared by her mother I didn't perceive this “episode” as negative but it certainly seemed out of context and startling! We just continued our conversation after her orgasm as if it had not happened, but I can imagine the effect this would have in many situations. I now feel a lot more sympathy for my neighbor and especially for her daughter, because generally speaking ours is not exactly a society which will react to her disorder with positive attention.  

Have you heard of anything like this condition before? Is there a treatment for it? 

A. It sounds like she may have Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome (PSAS), a condition in which strong sexual arousal and in some cases spontaneous orgasm occurs unpredictably, unbidden by any natural sexual stimulation. It’s extremely tough to live with, and many people who have this condition live in relative social isolation because of prevailing cultural taboos on public sexual expression, and their own sense of loss of privacy. 

People with PSAS used to be labeled “nymphomaniacs” or “sexual deviants” when their condition was known, and were hidden away in institutions, lobotomized, or given surgery to sever nerves in their spinal cord.  Which speaks terrifying volumes about our historical attitude toward sexuality.  

We have evolved a bit since then but PSAS is still not very well understood, and socially it still invokes ostracism. Its somatic cause is unclear, though it is thought to be related to a dysfunction of the nervous system. 

This is most difficult –and painful - with a young child who is by nature very vulnerable and sensitive to social messages and may receive, as you say, a lot of negative social attention in response to her condition, either exploitative or condemnatory. I can completely understand her mother's choice to homeschool her, and protect her from the world which would give her negative messages about herself. And I also understand your concern about the unhealthy effects of this child’s social isolation; ideally, children do need contact with peers and other people during their development. In this regard, your nonjudgmental friendship expands both their worlds in a positive way. 

I would suggest that your neighbor find a good pediatrician to discuss what treatment options are appropriate and available for her daughter. These may include bio-feedback, specific exercises, and behavior modification therapy to give her coping tools.  

In the meantime, it's important that she does not get the message that there is something wrong with her, or bad about her, because of her "episodes". If she does, it may cause lasting harm to her self-image. If she has already received negative messages, it may very much benefit her to talk with a supportive counselor or sex therapist who is experienced in working with children. Emphasis on the word supportive; children are incredibly susceptible to the powerful effects of therapeutic techniques and it’s important that whoever she works with helps her build positive feelings about herself without any underlying tacit negative messages. Not all adults have resolved their own issues about sex, including counselors.

Shain


Female Genital Mutilation 

Q. A colleague of mine immigrated to the United States from Nigeria. Although we have a friendly office and over the years most of us have gotten to know each other personally, she's always been extremely quiet about her private life. Recently when some of us were discussing our sexual experiences in a fairly humorous and forthright manner, she discreetly indicated that sex has not ever been a source of happiness for her. To make a long story short, she finally confided to a few of us that her clitoris was removed without anesthetic when she was a child of nine, and her vagina sewn closed.

To add to this horror, she was married after her first menstruation because, as she put it, it would be an "embarrassment for a woman to be unmarried after her first cycle". She was 10 years old, and given no choice in the matter.  

It was made clear to her by her family and culture that she was not expected to enjoy sex, and that it would actually be immoral if she did. During her first sexual experience, her husbands’ penis could not access her sewn up vagina -no kidding!!- and she experienced incredible pain. Eventually he tore open her stitches enough to satisfy himself. 

Sex has never been anything but painful to her, and she is continually terrified of becoming pregnant because apparently many women in her village who have had the same procedure die through various complications during pregnancy or childbirth. At the same time, she was taught that it is wrong to use birth control because it’s a woman's duty to bare children.

We were all unutterably saddened, furious, and horrified by the circumstances of her life. We have all told her that she deserves to enjoy sex with the person of her choice and to control when she conceives, and there has been a gradual sea change in her. For us, it's been an amazing lesson on how powerfully conditioning affects us because although she's been surrounded for years by women who talk about enjoying sex, it never even occurred to her that that this could apply to her. 

She tells us that castrating girl children is a common practice in her country. How can this outrage exist in this day and age? And is there anything that can be done medically to reverse or heal the carnage committed on her genitals so that she can feel sexual pleasure and orgasm? 

A. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an atrocity inflicted on approximately two million girls between the ages of four and 15 annually. Sometimes inaccurately called “female circumcision”, worldwide about 140 million women have survived this butchery, which rips from them a large part of their sexuality, identity, health, self-esteem, and independence. More than 80% of the women in Somalia, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Sudan have been maimed by this horrific tradition. Something like 50% or more of the women in Mali, Chad, and Nigeria, where your colleague is from, are mutilated as well. FGM is practiced over the entire continent of Africa and has spread across the globe. 

Usually performed without anesthetic or sterile surgical instruments, the extent of mutilation varies from the partial removal of the clitoris to the removal of the entire genital region. Once the genitalia are cut out the whole vulva is sewn tightly shut. This frequently results in blood loss, infection, extreme pain, and death. For those that survive and "heal", the common result is painful intercourse, urinary blockages and infections, and difficulty and /or death in childbirth. 

The cultural rationale for this barbaric rite revolves around the idea that women’s sexuality must be controlled and suppressed, and that it is a woman's destiny is to be a man's possession, without free will. FMG is intended to preserve a woman's virginity until she is married to / owned by a man, and to deprive a woman of natural sexual pleasure so that she will not be tempted to be unfaithful to her husband or to enjoy her sexuality. 

It constitutes a kind of savage war on women’s’ freedom, health and happiness that partners with the use of rape as an instrument of war in contemporary society. Incredibly, while men from China may receive political asylum in the United States to protect them from forced vasectomy, women from any country are not given political asylum to avoid having their sex organs cut out. To me, this expresses undercurrents in our own Western culture that reflect the same demeaning root values about women. 

The world community has failed women profoundly by not stopping this mass torture. Generation after generation of women endure this procedure which mutilates them body and soul, and like so many issues concerning women, its grave impact on women's health and well-being is disregarded.

 Sadly, not all of the individuals in cultures who commit this atrocity actually understand how adversely it affects its recipients. It is an ingrained tradition that they have not had the opportunity to understand and consider. Because most parents do love their children, it is vital to reach out to these communities with sex education information about how this procedure damages women, and to offer positive female role models. Parents in female-repressive societies desperately need the opportunity to understand that their female children have an equal capacity for sexual joy, independence of thought, and self-direction as their male children, and that both their children and cultures will flower and thrive when their daughters have these fundamental rights.

Surgically there has been mixed success in clitoral and genital reconstruction. Some surgery has been quite successful, and some not, depending on the initial degree of mutilation, and how much tissue and nerve damage occurred. But even when disabled by severe castration women can develop a great deal of sensate pleasure in their bodies and often the potential for orgasm. In some cases, women may learn to experience orgasm in areas of the body other than the traditional sex organs. It is absolutely a worthwhile course to pursue and can make an irreplaceable quality of life difference.

Meanwhile, surgical reconstructive techniques are improving all the time, and a growing number of doctors around the world are performing them. See the Female Genital Mutilation section for some good resources.

Shain


My Partner Is Being Affected By FTM Hormonal Treatments

A. My partner is undergoing hormonal treatments for FTM transitioning. Am I imagining that it is affecting his personality? There seems to be more friction between us, and he seems more impatient about communication. He also seems to want more sex - like all the time. Is this healthy and normal, or is something wrong with the treatment (or him)? I'm starting to wonder if I'm with the same person I fell in love with.

Q. I often think that when people transition, their partners need as much counseling and information as they do - if not more.  

Yes, varying degrees of personality change are pretty common during FTM (Female to Male) hormonal transitioning because increased doses of the "masculinizing" hormone testosterone can impact the personality as well as the body significantly.  

Testosterone encourages the development of male physical characteristics: body hair, deep voice, genital masculinization, muscle mass, etc. It can also increase sexual drive and aggressive tendencies. It's important that you and your partner be aware of this and communicate openly about any changes that his hormonal therapy causes in your relationship.

Sometimes these changes lessen with time as the body integrates the transitional hormonal changes, like a pendulum swinging back to a more centered, familiar place. And sometimes the changes are permanent. There is no question that this can be a difficult period of adjustment for you if you don't feel a positive response to this aspect of your partner’s changes. I strongly recommend that you and your partner see an LGBTQQI - affirmative counselor who is familiar with transitioning issues to help you through work things through. Check into sites like www.gayfriendlytherapists.com, and also call local LGBT centers for references. And See if our Communication section has anything to offer you.  

As far as your question "is this healthy", hormonal transitioning puts great demands on the systems of the body. It's a kind of second puberty occurring in an older, less resilient body. Medical monitoring is important, not only now but for the rest of your partner’s life. This is partially to ensure the success of the treatment, and partially because there are health-risks associated with hormonal therapy. For example, dosing the body with testosterone increases the risk of cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Your partner’s doctor must be proactive in monitoring for any early symptoms of these. 

The other side of all this, of course, is the tremendous relief and joy of becoming whole that is finally available to your partner! It's important to focus on sharing the beautiful and fulfilling nature of your partners transitioning with them, to balance the rough spots with the wondrous ones. Hopefully with love and work, you will come through this closer and more aware of each other’s value as a friend and partner than ever.

Shain


Childbirth Has Affected Vaginal Sex

Q. I had a baby about six months ago. After about two months my man and I began making love again, but penile penetration doesn’t feel the same. I don’t seem to feel his penis as well as before. The quality of contact is not the same. It’s almost as if my vaginal muscles aren’t responding.

I did have a small episiotomy, but I don’t think that’s the culprit, or at least not all of it. The small area of scar tissue does seem a bit less sensitive, but it’s my whole vaginal canal that seems different.

Is this unusual after childbirth, and does it pass?

~ Serita

A. This is a fairly common experience after childbirth. It may mean that the muscles of your vaginal canal were stretched during pregnancy and childbirth and need to be toned to regain their elasticity. Muscles may also tear during birth, and need to heal.

Not only is this important for sexual health, but these muscles help protect you from uterine prolapse, a dangerous condition when the pelvic muscles grow too weak to hold the uterus in place and it drops into the vaginal canal, and can even hang out of it.

See your gynecologist/OBGYN specialist and ask them to look at your vaginal muscle tone. A good doctor will hopefully be able to see lax tone or torn muscle, although unfortunately many are deficient in this regard because they are not trained in medical school to be aware of this key area of sexual and reproductive health.

Also ask them to look for any muscle tearing. This can be indicated by redness or bruise-like discoloration, and may be felt as a persistent soreness or ache. A combination of specific exercises and rest is usually recommended for this.

The principal therapy for lax pelvic muscles is – you guessed it – pelvic exercises. Go to our Pelvic Exercises Section and use these exercises to restore your vaginal muscle tone. Then keep it up for life, to maintain your sexual health and pleasure!

As for your episiotomy scar (scar tissue left from an incision made to make the vaginal opening larger during birth) you must access its affect. You mention less sensitivity in this area - does it have significant repercussions on your ability to enjoy vaginal-penile sex? If so, try massaging the tissue with moisturizer regularly. If the scar tissue really is a pronounced obstruction to your pleasure and other techniques don't alleviate this, you can speak to your doctor about an operation to remove the scar tissue.

Work those pelvic muscles, Serita. You may come out of this feeling more toned and aware of your body than ever.

Shain 


Third Trimester Abortion

A. I decided to have an abortion and learned that it's illegal. I am 25 weeks pregnant. My older sister had an abortion at this stage - but now it's illegal? What the-? Am I supposed to bear a child against my will? I'm not a breeding machine. Is that my legal status now- I'm a breeding slave? I refuse, I refuse to be forced to breed if there are any alternatives, and there must be.

B. Yes there is. You live in Colorado, where one of the few remaining clinics providing this crucial medical service operates, The Boulder Abortion Clinic: http://www.drhern.com/en/abortion-services/third-trimester-abortion.html

Anti- woman, anti-choice President George W. Bush and the Republican majority in Congress installed a bill taking this right away from women by law and criminalizing women and doctors who engaged in this medical procedure. However, some states, ethical doctors, and individuals have fought back to preserve this option to women in need of it.

No woman should EVER be forced to bear a child because it’s the will of the State, or of anyone else. We have to take back the inherently just legal and civil rights these men stole from us.

 Shain 


Menstrual Products Should Never Hurt

Q. I have begun getting menstruation and have no one to talk to. I live alone with my father. My father says it is "women's sin of blood". I put in a tampon at school but it hurts. Is it supposed to? Am I sick? 

A. Sweetheart, nothing should hurt your vagina. Stop using a tampon and use a menstrual pad instead until you get sorted out. A menstrual pad is attached to your underwear, where it catches menstrual fluids, and is not inserted in any way. Nothing should ever be inserted into the vaginal canal if it causes pain. 

Lots of things could cause the pain your experiencing. A simple question: did the tampon you used come in an inserter or container, and did you remove the inserter/container when you inserted the tampon? If you didn't remove it but were walking around with it inside you, it can really hurt! Check the instructions on the package and see if this is the case. 

Other things that can cause pain are a closed hymen, an STI, vaginismus (clenched vaginal muscles), endometriosis, cysts - but the only way to find out is to see a gynecologist, and you must. Your father does not sound like a good candidate for help in this regard. If he will not take you for a gynecological examination - or if you don't want to approach him about it - speak to the nurse at school or a teacher that you trust about your need. If necessary, they can contact a social worker to help you, but there may be other alternatives. 

Menstruation is not "women's sin of blood". It is the fabulous process through which we women become fertile and can have children, if we choose. Welcome to this rich phase of your life!  Welcome to choice and responsibility and the incredible transition that marks the change from girlhood to womanhood. Please get going reading the Informed About Sex sections on menstruation, conception, teens, and anatomy and physiology, and peruse the resource sections for on-line groups to join. Check out Scarleteen, All-Girl Army, and the other links for a friendly place to talk and question. You may feel very separate but really you are part of a community of young women going through the same things you are - reach out and connect to them.

Shain


Should I Circumcise My Son?    

Q. It seems to be fairly common practice to circumcise infant boys in hospitals nowadays. I'm pregnant with my first son and I want to know how circumcision will affect him. My sons' father was circumcised and he believes that this has had a positive effect on his hygiene and capacity to feel pleasure. He also thinks circumcision is aesthetically preferable. I am concerned that this kind of surgery could be emotionally traumatic, and I want to know what's best for my son. 

A. I agree that what is best for your son is what is most important.

It is not necessary to circumcise your son for him to have good personal hygiene. He simply needs to be taught to gently and thoroughly clean under his foreskin on a regular basis to remove any Smegma buildup. And while he cleans under his foreskin, he can also proactively check his whole genital area for changes which can alert him to signs of infection or illness. It's an excellent life-long habit to cultivate! 

The foreskins' purpose is protective. It helps prevent the penile gland from rubbing against external materials that might irritate it. This function also helps preserve sensitivity, and accordingly, increases pleasure.

As for aesthetics: these are cultivated. There is no reason to regard an uncircumcised penis as less aesthetic than a circumcised one. Your son will not consider an uncircumcised penis unaesthetic unless he is taught to.

Children are extremely sensitive to non-verbal, emotional cues, and your son will probably base how he feels about the way his body looks on the environmental feedback he gets from family, peers, and society. As his parents, you and your partner will shape much of this formative imprint, and have the opportunity to help him develop a positive body image.

There is a debate as to the psychological impact of circumcision on infants. Some argue that with the proper anesthetic this fairly simple medical procedure is harmless. Others argue that subjecting an infant to needless surgery and pain is an unwarranted risk. Still others believe circumcision instills psychic trauma. I am an advocate for allowing people to make decisions about their own bodies, and would remind you that your son can choose for himself when he is old enough.

Ultimately, you must follow your loving heart to protect your sons' best interest.

Shain

Shain Stodt is a certified Sex Educator trained at the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, California. The creator and chief writer of Informed About Sex and Sex Education Station, Shain specializes in female sexuality, body image and core beliefs, teens, transitioning, sexual identity, and aging. She lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where she consults with individuals and couples, leads workshops, lectures, writes, and advocates passionately for progressive sex education. Shain is the in-residence sex educator of Integrative Arts and Wellness and moderates the popular Facebook discussion page Sex Education Station.
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