In & Out
Here at TOC, my job is to answer readers’ questions about sex in a weekly column. I’ve answered questions from curious readers about positions, orgasm, waxing, erections, virginity, sexual orientation, condoms, vaginal pain, birth control, infections, sexual desire, genital lumps and bumps and more. As a college student, you probably have many sex questions, and you’ll likely have plenty more over the course of your lifetime. That doesn’t mean you’re clueless; it means you’re a curious, sexual being. And that’s a good thing. By asking questions, you can learn more about yourself and others, and figure out how to have the best sex life possible. Sex can be hot and fun if you take the time to ask questions, talk to your partner and are responsible. To get you started, here are ten tips for great sex.
1. Learn about bodies—your own and your partner’s.
Although sex is about more than our genitals, many sex and relationship problems are affected by what we do (and don’t) know about our bodies. If a man can’t get an erection, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t lust for or love you anymore. And if a woman can’t orgasm, there’s probably nothing wrong with her—she and her partner may just need a little info on the clitoris and the mythical workings of female orgasm. For details, check out The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex (Cleis Press, $25.95).
2. Don’t jump the gun.
Whether we’re talking kissing, intercourse, dating or marriage, the best strategy is to wait until you are ready. Think of readiness in different contexts—when on this date, when with this particular partner or when in life do you feel ready to do whatever it is you’re thinking of doing? It’s easy to spend all your time with a new crush, but it’s equally important to spend time with yourself figuring out what you want and when you want it.
3. Talk with your partner.
Notice I said “talk with” and not “talk to.” Ask open-ended (e.g., “What do you think about…?”) rather than closed (e.g., yes or no) questions to encourage conversation. Tell your partner what feels good (emotionally and physically) and what hurts. Ask him or her to share the same with you. Communication truly is the key to yummy sex—just don’t overshare on MySpace.
4. Fall in love with diversity.
Human sexuality is full of variation, whether we’re talking sexual orientation, gender identity, frequency of sex, lubrication, or genital size and shape. Rather than simply tolerating diversity, consider embracing it. I truly believe that if more people accepted this variation in others, they might also learn to accept and appreciate their own quirks. It’s okay to be your own person. Work it, own it and love it.
5. Prioritize health.
If you are thinking about being sexual with others or already have been, or if you’re a woman who is at least 18, it is important to visit a health-care provider for a checkup. Sexual health is about more than infections—it’s about your genital health, fertility and becoming comfortable talking with your health-care provider about sexual matters. Sex is more than physical health, too. If you have personal issues you need help with, meet with a sex therapist (locate one at www.aasect.org) or a counselor at your school’s health center. Many sexual problems are related to lifestyle choices, too—smoking, stress, lack of sleep and a poor diet can contribute to sexual problems. For example, snorting Adderall may keep you up partying or studying, but it also may cause erection problems.
6. Do your research on sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV/AIDS.
STIs never sound sexy, but the more you learn about them, the better choices you can make about your health. For example, if a guy tells you he’s been tested for “everything,” you’ll know that’s not true (we have no way of testing men for the human papillomavirus—known as HPV—which can cause genital warts or cervical problems). Herpes testing is not always available or reliable. Condoms can greatly reduce the risk of some STIs (like chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV) but it’s unclear to what extent they reduce the risk of infections like herpes or HPV, which are transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. Learn more about STI symptoms, testing and treatment—and the new HPV vaccine—at www.plannedparenthood.org.
7. Safer sex can be amazing sex.
There are many flavored lubricants that—paired with a condom—can make oral sex safer and yummier (my favorite: Climax Fruit Bomb in blue razzberry). Condoms come in 55 sizes (see www.condomania.com for TheyFit condoms) to fit men of all lengths and circumferences. Inspiral condoms are another fantastic option—they have roomier heads, which allow for more sensitivity where it counts (at the nerve-rich head). Consider behaviors, as well. If intercourse or oral sex are too risky, think outside the box. Try making out, sensual massage or touching yourselves in front of each other. Getting reliable birth control from your campus health center or local family-planning clinic (like Planned Parenthood—where both women and men can receive health care) is important, too.
8. Focus on pleasure—not performance.
People of all ages often make the mistake of having goal-oriented sex. We sometimes worry too much about having or giving an orgasm that we forget to enjoy it. Plus, it’s just annoying to hear “Did you come yet?” ten times. No wonder women (and men) end up faking it. Sex can be more fun if you focus on how your mind and body feel in the moment, rather than if you or your partner’s body did what you wanted. Also, focusing on pleasure (rather than outcomes) can help relax your body enough to have a great time.
9. Talk to your parents and friends.
Okay, it’s not necessary to talk to your parents specifically, but it might help. The point is to begin talking with your friends, siblings, spiritual leader or other trusted people about your views on relationships and sexuality. You don’t ever have to share anything about your own sex life. However, the more you can talk to people about sexuality in general (e.g., your views on same-sex marriage or sex education), the more comfortable you may be talking about sex when it matters most, like with your partner or when you need information.
10. Ask the experts.
When you’re wondering “What did my partner mean when he said…” or “What is the best oral sex technique?,” the best expert will always be your partner. Only he or she knows what feels best for him or her. But when you need information about infections, how to have an orgasm or erection issues, ask a sex educator, health-care provider or sex therapist. You can always e-mail me confidentially at Time Out Chicago with your questions (email@example.com). It’s my job and I love it, so ask away.