Ask Debby Herbenick | anal sex
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.
Q I know that no one likes to go to the gynecologist, but I really don’t like to go more than most women. Is it that important? I’m not even having sex right now, I haven’t in the past year, and don’t expect to again soon.
A Actually, and in all seriousness, I love to go to the gynecologist. I look forward to it weeks in advance. I know a good deal about sex because I study and research sex. My gynecologist, however, has expertise in very specialized information about women’s bodies, hormones, breast health and vaginal health because that’s what he studies. Well, what better chance to learn about your body and ask questions of an expert? Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking: “But I’m naked and his hand is up my cooch!” True. But you’re also getting a thorough examination of your breast and gynecological health. For the price of your visit, you can get your questions answered and get a checkup. Cha-ching! It’s a good deal. Plus, whether or not a woman has ever had sex or remains sexually active, her body lives on. We have ovaries, a uterus, a vagina and vulva that all age, change and need to be cared for. You think these organs care if you have sex? Nope! If endometriosis or cancers or bacterial imbalances want to develop, they will anyway. Better to have a gynecologist check up on your parts. Every woman, regardless of whether she is having sex, should check in with her health-care provider to find out how frequently she needs to have a gyn exam. For some of us, it is once a year. For others, it may be more often. The only way to find out is to make an appointment, keep it, get naked, crawl into the scratchy paper gown and get on with it. To learn more about gyn exams and to get one, contact Planned Parenthood (18 S Michigan Ave, sixth floor, 312-592-6700, plannedparenthoodchicago.com ), Howard Brown Health Center (4025 N Sheridan Road, 773-388-1600, howardbrown.org ) or Chicago Women’s Health Center (3435 N Sheffield Ave, 773-935-6126, chicagowomenshealthcenter.org).
Q My wife and I experimented with anal sex (both anal intercourse and mutual anilingus) several years ago, enjoyed it, and added it to our repertoire. Recently, however, she came across an article in a women’s magazine which warned of the health hazards of anal sex. It advised not to have anal intercourse without a condom (even if monogamous) and not to practice anilingus under any circumstances. Neither of us has ever become ill following anal sex. But my wife says that she now feels uncomfortable about it. What’s the poop (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun)? If a married couple is strictly monogamous and practices good hygiene, is there a material health risk in anilingus or non-condom anal intercourse?
A Not to practice anilingus under any circumstances ever? Not even if you had no hands (stop laughing, some people don’t have hands)? Really? Even then, no anilingus? Kidding (and that second glass of wine) aside, this magazine (was it Woman’s Day? Better Homes and Gardens?) article has some good points and so do you. Here, as you put it, is the poop: Coming into contact with fecal matter may possibly put a person at risk for bacterial or viral infections. That said, we come into contact with fecal matter all the time—it is on door knobs, office telephones, hotel bedspreads, chairs (I’m sure you’ve seen the relevant Dateline specials). Assuming you’re not only married but you live together, you are probably already exposed to each other’s fecal matter. Given the proximity of the anus and the vulva/vagina/penis/scrotum, it is likely that if you perform oral sex on each other, you are coming into contact with each other’s fecal matter. If you suck on or lick your partner’s genitals after their genitals have been messing around with your genitals...you see where I’m going with this. Now, does anilingus give you more direct contact with fecal matter—and more of it? Likely, yes. If you have never been sick from it, great. You might one day, but then again you might not. However, even if the risk of problems with anilingus is low, it may not change the fact that your wife feels a little freaked out about condomless anal play. Is she really and truly concerned about it? Or has she always been a little uneasy about it, and now this magazine article is an easy out for her? I don’t know; I’m just asking and encouraging you to talk openly with each other about what you like and don’t like about anal play and what, if anything, might help you two to feel more comfortable with it if you want to re-engage with le derriere. If you want to continue with anilingus, you can apply lube on the receiver’s anal opening, then place a dental dam or a condom cut in half (lengthwise) over the anal opening, and go at it. The lube on the receiver’s side keeps things slippery, and the dam or condom reduces the risk of fecal transfer. Oh, and if you think you might occasionally put the dam or condom down and then come back to anal play, consider using a permanent marker to draw an “X” on the side of the dam that belongs against the anus, so you don’t mix up sides and lick the wrong side. Now, when it comes to anal intercourse, a condom can be particularly helpful if you are planning to have vaginal sex post-booty. Fecal matter can cause problems in the vagina, so some suggest using a condom for anal sex and then removing the condom (or changing into a new one) prior to dipping one’s penis into the vagina. But you probably already know that. Bottom line (hah!), it is indeed possible to have safer, pleasurable, frisky anal play time. Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women (Down There Press, $18) may be good bedroom—or bathroom—reading for you both.
Q My girlfriend and I have an active, fun sex life and enjoy exploring new avenues to stimulate each other. We have seen the G-spot injection (I’ve seen it called the G-shot) popularized on Doctor 90210 and Nip /Tuck. What are your thoughts on this, and who performs the injection—the gynecologist or plastic surgeon?
A I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the “G-shot” lately. These are great questions. However, there hasn’t been a single research study on the G-shot to date (though I would absolutely love to do such a study). In short, the G-shot involves injecting collagen into the wall of the vagina. It is claimed (by some gynecologists and plastic surgeons who are trained to perform it) to make women more aware of, or perhaps more sensitive to, this area of the vagina. That said, the possible risks described on the consent forms tend to be many and varied, including the development of scar tissue or even sexual dysfunction. My thoughts, then, are that I would like to see this procedure—like any medical procedure—studied objectively and reported on so that we can learn about its effectiveness, benefits and risks, thus giving consumers more information to use as they make choices. Until then, we are in a big “nobody knows” situation.
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.