In & Out
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.
Q My girlfriend and I enjoy reading your column in TOC. Our sex life is great; we talk a lot about what we like, dislike and what we are willing to experiment with in order to enjoy it to the fullest. We wanted to know what she can do to have an orgasm faster than what it takes her now. When she masturbates she can last over an hour playing with her vibrator to achieve her orgasm, and when I perform oral on her she will last approximately 40 to 50 minutes before she achieves her peak. Mind you I’m not complaining—I enjoy performing oral on her, as every man should—but it’s gotten to the point that she has told me she feels sorry for having me down there so long because she has had this problem since she has been sexually active. Are there any techniques, toys or advice that you recommend for her to achieve orgasm faster? I love to see her emotionally and physically happy, and I would like to know what I/we can do.
A I feel sad that your girlfriend thinks that her terrifically responsive body has long been a “problem.” Her time to orgasm is absolutely within the typical range of other women. Some women come quickly, but most don’t. (Men’s orgasms have sometimes been likened to microwave ovens and women’s orgasms to Crock-Pots.) That said, spending more time in foreplay (before you begin oral sex or before she begins using her vibrator) may amp up her arousal for a quicker orgasm. And although she is already orgasmic, reading the book Becoming Orgasmic (Fireside, $15), which describes many different exercises related to breath and body position, may help you both to explore her body in new ways that feel good. Multi-speed or more intense vibrators might help as well. However, I’d suggest focusing more on exploration and pleasure rather than speed of orgasm. Pressure (even unintended pressure) that she puts on herself can make it more difficult to orgasm. Finally, let me suggest that you two try on a new perspective: Instead of her 40- to 60-minute buildups being seen as problematic, try considering them a blessing. The fact that orgasm often takes time for women to achieve may be nature’s way of encouraging us to spend more time in bed, connecting with our partner and experiencing the pleasures of each other’s bodies and souls, and less time watching television or checking e-mail. Enjoy the time you have together, and let me extend my most sincere praises to you both for developing such an open, honest and mutually pleasurable sexual relationship. These seem to be undervalued skills in our culture, but I think that good relationship skills and communication are vital.
Q I am in my early thirties and have been having sex since college. In the last few years, I developed a strange physical side effect from vaginal intercourse which I promptly brought to the attention of my gynecologist. I began to bleed during sex, sometimes a little bit and sometimes enough to stain the sheets. Luckily the men in my life have been very relaxed about it. When I talked to my doctor about it, she suggested that perhaps I have a “sensitive system” that either doesn’t produce enough natural lube or takes a while to produce the right amount. She suggested that I use K-Y Jelly or some other type of lubricant to cut down on the friction, which was most likely causing the bleeding through tiny tears in the vaginal wall. I did use lube and it did cut down on the bleeding. It is never accompanied by pain, so after finishing I always have to take a careful look to see if it happened again. My doctor did not have any permanent solutions or major concerns, which leads me to believe this might be a life-long issue. Is this one of those common problems women face but don’t discuss? Are there other options for me?
A I’m sorry that you’ve been experiencing this problem for so long and that it’s upset you after what were, I hope, otherwise pleasurable sexual experiences. I’m glad the men have been understanding and relaxed; it seems men are often more accepting of our bodies than we are ourselves. I’m not a medical doctor and I certainly can’t diagnose you, but I do know a lot about vaginas and vulvas so hopefully I can suggest some possibilities. Personally, I’d get a second opinion. Sure, some women bleed after sex, but it is not that common for younger women to bleed regularly after sex. A “sensitive system” doesn’t give you much to go with. Some women are prone to postcoital bleeding due to low levels of estrogen, whereby the vagina itself has thinned (atrophied) and become less elastic, making it more vulnerable to tearing (and therefore bleeding) with sex. While this is more common among older, menopausal women, it can happen to women of reproductive age, too, either after giving birth, during breast feeding, as a side effect from certain medications or supplements, as a result of very low body fat, or for other reasons. Various estrogen treatments (including topical creams and estrogen rings) are available by prescription. Other possible causes of post-coital bleeding include cervical problems (but these would have likely been detected in a gyn exam or Pap test) and vaginal infections (sexually transmitted or not; have you been tested?). In short, while many women silently suffer from vulvovaginal problems, you deserve a more thorough investigation. Check out The V Book: A Doctor’s Guide to Complete Vulvovaginal Health (Bantam, $15) to learn more about vaginal health and post-coital bleeding so that you can ask more detailed and informed questions at your next health-care appointment. If you have to carry lube around, consider the pillow packs available at local adult bookstores—they’re more portable than the behemoth bottles. Hang in there.
Q In a recent column [In&Out, TOC 116], you discussed the pros and cons of sex while a woman is on her period. As a woman prone to urinary tract infections, I’ve found that I am more likely to get a UTI if I have sex during my period. How can I prevent this?
A Many women notice that sexual situations that cause fluid to get near their urethral opening (the opening that allows urine to leave your body)—which means all kinds of self- or partner-sex situations—can increase the chance of developing a UTI. Whether it is your own vaginal lubrications that get smeared upward around your urethral opening, or else a store-bought lubricant, ejaculate or chocolate sauce (I wouldn’t recommend putting chocolate sauce on your genitals, but some folks do it anyway), each of these could irritate the urethra and contribute to a UTI. Menstrual blood, too. Some of the increased risk may be related to hormonal changes associated with your period that also make you more prone to UTI. Many women find that basic preventive behaviors—peeing before and after sex, drinking lots of water (to help flush bacteria out of the urethra)—are helpful. The whole “treat a UTI with cranberry juice” thing is sketchy. According to some research, it may be that cranberry juice can help to prevent a UTI, but it is unlikely to sufficiently treat an existing UTI. Check in with your health-care provider for his or her recommendations about your personal health.
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 email@example.com.