In & Out
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions
Q Are men wired to lose interest in romance immediately after having an orgasm? I’d sure like to be able to tell my partners that nature meant for me to roll over and go to sleep.
A It’s a sad thing when “he just wants to sleep with you” means snoozing instead of sex, but so it goes. During orgasm (and men almost always seem to have orgasms during sex, the lucky bastards) most men and women experience a variety of physiological changes, including increases of oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that are thought to be associated with feelings of relaxation, bonding and being satiated. Some researchers suggest that changes like these are what make people crave postsex cuddling (or snoozing). Preliminary research even suggests that both women and men have higher surges of prolactin after intercourse-based orgasms compared to masturbation-based orgasms. Perhaps that’s why a single intercourse orgasm seems to be enough for some folks whereas ten or 20 vibrator-induced masturbation orgasms—though strong, wet and undoubtedly fun—may just scratch the surface. Or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, we need more research in this area to understand what’s going on with orgasms, hormones, sleepiness, and differences/similarities between masturbation and intercourse orgasms. Aside from biology, some sex educators wonder if the sex-to-sleep effect isn’t simply due to the fact that people tend to have sex at night, when they’re already tired, and oftentimes they even choose to have sex because they know that vigorous thrusting or rolling around might put them to sleep. Or if the sex is boring, at least it burns more calories than reading a dull novel, and yet it still does the job of putting one to sleep. Finally, some guys complain that they feel sleepy after sex while their female partners do not. Not to be snippy, but perhaps if women were more frequently having orgasms during any kind of sex (and thus releasing stress-reducing, calming hormones) perhaps they would be equally sleepy. So that handles the sleepy postorgasm part of your question. As for losing interest in romance? That’s another story and science can’t help you out there, so step up your game.
Q Good answer to the black guy who admits he prefers white women [In & Out, TOC 104]. So many brothers who also do are afraid to say it because they might be criticized by the black community, especially the women in it. I’ve found it difficult to meet white women in Chicago. It’s impossible not to be affected by the barrage of white sex symbols (female and male) the media throws at us hourly. There are many desirable black women out there, but a lot of them have been kicked in the teeth by players, and you can’t blame them for erecting barriers to protect themselves from more heartache. Then there are the ones who believe that their degrees and business titles have elevated them to goddess status, and this makes them unapproachable. I’ve been an equal-opportunity dater ever since college, and have had quite a bit of success with white women in places like Atlanta (California was a smorgasbord). My most effective posture was that of “brooding black artist,” and it attracted chicks like a magnet. I learned early that the militant pose was a turnoff, so I avoided it. By the way, what are you doing Memorial Day? I’d love to take you to my family’s picnic. You look like you could use a plate or two of barbecue.
A Okay, so there’s not really a question here. However there are several interesting points. One, the types of sex symbols portrayed by the media certainly may influence the types of real live human beings that people find attractive (how else to explain my love for men in sequin jackets and jazz pants, if not for the fact that Neil Diamond has so clearly—and for decades—been upheld as an American Sex Symbol?). Two, women and men “of all races” can become bitter and self-protective when they’ve been hurt by players, liars, mean people and anyone else whose behavior sucks. Sex and love should be fun, glorious, hot and a little bit ridiculous, but never mean. Three, people take on identities sometimes out of self-exploration and other times to bag a babe (or dude). Beware these types and instead find someone who is as much themselves as they can be. Four, I don’t even know what to say. The barbecue comment made me laugh. But I’m still not going.
Q First, I would like to tell you that I love your column. It’s the first thing I flip to when I get TOC. I was hoping you could help me with a current problem. I recently started dating a guy I really like. We haven’t had sex yet, but we have fooled around. From the beginning he told me he has HPV (warts). When he has an outbreak he gets them on the area above his genitals—the pubic area—not on his genitals. He has not had an outbreak in about six months. Am I at risk of getting HPV even if he is not having an outbreak? If so, how? What can I do to protect myself and remain STI-free? Please help me—I really like this guy.
A I like this guy, too. Not everyone would be so honest and tell a (potential) new partner all about his genital warts, including where he gets them and how long it’s been since the last outbreak. But your guy did! And that’s supercool of him. It’s also awesome that you were seemingly able to respond to him well and not freak out or shun him because of it (at least I assume you had a good reaction—you are, after all, sticking around and looking for ways to be sexual with him). Here’s the deal: Condoms cannot eliminate the risk of transmitting the human papillomavirus (HPV). That’s because HPV is transmitted from skin to skin, and condoms cannot cover all of one’s genital skin. In addition, it’s unclear how transmissible HPV is during an outbreak versus when one is not having a visible outbreak. It’s safe to assume that there is always a chance of transmitting HPV whether or not he’s having an outbreak. In part, this is because oftentimes people get what are called “subclinical” warts, meaning that the warts aren’t necessarily visible to the naked eye. So he may have a wart outbreak and not know it. However, I would encourage you to talk to your health-care provider about Gardasil, a relatively new vaccine that prevents four strains of HPV (the ones that commonly cause most cases of genital warts and most cases of cervical cancer. Now, getting Gardasil doesn’t mean that you will not get HPV warts or cervical cancer; you still might. The vaccine only protects against four of 100-plus HPV strains. It is not a guarantee against warts or cancer. Also, it is relatively new and we have much to learn about it (one reason I am against mandatory vaccinations for young girls). The vaccine entails a course of three shots, so even if you got your first shot tomorrow, you wouldn’t have complete protection for several months. You can get the vaccine even if you have already had sex (most sexually active adults likely have at least one strain of HPV). Learn more about HPV at www.cdc.gov/std/hpv. In the meantime, you can try other forms of sexual sharing. It is rare to transmit HPV from oral sex (the virus tends to “prefer” genital skin) though it is possible; and breast touching and making out can still be fun and safe, too.
Send letters to Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.