In & Out
Q: I read the letter about the fishy vulva smell [In & Out, TOC 12] and I wanted to share my feedback. I'm a woman and I had the problem myself. I finally realized that the smell only occurred after sex with my boyfriend. If we had sex before bed and I didn't shower in the morning, the smell would be strong by the end of the next day. Apparently his semen plus my body chemistry equaled "fish market." We both went to the doctor and got clean bills of health. I was finally able to solve the problem by going to the bathroom after sex and pushing out as much semen as I could. Oh, and showering the morning after. But a little postsex semen evacuation goes a long way!
A: Thanks for your letter. While I am in no way trying to diagnose your "fish market" experience, I will say this: While a fishy smell is sometimes a sign of "unique chemistry" (that sounds so Britney and K-Fed), other times it's an indication of possible bacterial vaginosis (BV), an imbalance of the bacteria in a woman's vagina. An interesting characteristic of BV is its tendency to bring on the fish smell after unprotected penis-vagina sex (due to changes in vaginal pH). Because untreated BV has been linked to other reproductive-health problems, it may be worth getting a second opinion just to make sure you're BV-free. If it turns out that this truly can be chalked up to "unique chemistry," then it's probably not a big deal, particularly since you've found that going to the bathroom and showering are not only good for general hygiene, but good for your genital smell issue, too. Thanks for sharing your experience with us—it's much appreciated.
Q: In your April 7 column [In & Out, TOC 6] you asked for suggestions on the topic of having sex with men who have large penises. Well, for the record I am 12-plus inches long and 7 to 8 inches around. I had some difficult moments that I won't detail here, but what I had to settle on is this: I always dated women who had at least four kids. Otherwise, I was asking for blue balls and a lot of angry, frustrated anticlimactic evenings being told, "Oh no, you're not stretching me with that," etc. So, there's my answer. That's how I got sex when I was out there dating.
A: While I'm unsure how four became your magic lower-level number, in some ways I can see your point. If a woman has given vaginal birth a few times, her vaginal entrance may be stretched out slightly to allow her to comfortably have intercourse with a man whose penis is quite thick.The length issue is another story, as birthing several children doesn't add several inches to a woman's vaginal length. Frustration? Yes, I imagine there were frustrating times for both you and your partner. But what was the anger about? It can be intimidating (and quite painful) for women to be faced with a penis that is so much larger than her available space. Certainly there are nonangry ways to work out a satisfying sex life. However, looking for a partner who can comfortably "fit" with your body is a valid strategy, too. But take note, well-endowed men: Moms with full broods are not necessarily ready-made partners, and the same rules of engagement (communication, compassion) apply.
Q: My boyfriend wants me to lick chocolate off his penis. While I like the idea (I love chocolate, sex and my boyfriend), I don't like calories. I work as a model and I'm worried about gaining weight if this becomes something we enjoy and do often. How many calories can we burn having sex so that I won't become the "fat girl" model nobody hires?
A: What a quirky little twist on the "How many calories are burned during sex?" question. While I'd love to tell you to relax about the calories, I realize that it's far easier said than done, particularly when weight gain can affect job opportunities. So here goes: The number of calories you burn during any activity (sex or not) depends on various factors, including your gender, age, weight and activity type. I usually turn to www.caloriesperhour.com for sex/calorie questions because of the sexual activity choices (light, moderate or vigorous) and the factors (gender, age, height, weight) the site takes into account. Let's pretend you're 5'9" and 120 pounds (not unusual for a model, but much taller and thinner than most American women), and in your early twenties. You'd burn roughly 35 calories during 30 minutes of moderate sexual activity. Even if you enhance your calorie burn by involving large muscle groups (I'm referring to your legs), it doesn't quite equal a mouthful of chocolate, does it?
Here's what I suggest: Avoid going tit for tat with sex and chocolate calories. Save the chocolate penis for special occasions so that (1) the sex play stays exciting, and (2) calories are minimized. Or plan ahead and make room for chocolate calories in your day's diet. Earlier in the day, eat veggie-centered dishes (low calorie and quite nutritious) in anticipation of your evening splurge. You'll have something to look forward to during the day, and at night, you can bask in your chocolate-covered fun.
The bottom line is this: You enjoy all of these things (chocolate, sex, your boyfriend), so why combine them in a way that'll make you feel anxious or guilty? There's far too much pleasure to be had, and you should only operate within your own comfort zone.
Send letters to Debby Herbenick, MPH c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.