Ask Debby Herbenick | Female orgasms and anal bleaching
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.
Q My boyfriend saw something about anal bleaching on the web, and he asked me to maybe get it done. I had never heard of such a thing. I can’t see mine and I don’t really care what it looks like. The idea of bleaching it doesn’t appeal to me in the least. I think he should be glad that I’m giving him anal sex in the first place since I don’t get much from it, and that he shouldn’t worry about what it looks like, but I said that I would ask you anyway and that I would think about it. Is it safe? Does it work? Do you recommend it? Please say no, no and no.
A Okay, my turn to ask you a question: If you don’t want to bleach your anal opening, why not tell your boyfriend “no” yourself? It is your body—not your boyfriend’s—even though he may play with it from time to time. I can see your point that rather than bleach your butt, he should perhaps kiss it (or at least stroke it lovingly), given that he is apparently getting something from you (anal sex) that you aren’t even into. Is this doing-things-you-don’t-want-to-do characteristic of your sex life? You have anal sex even though it isn’t your thing and it sounds like you are considering anal bleaching even though you don’t really want to do that, either. What gives? I’m not saying that you should never do what your partner wants. There is much fun to be had with sex that you try because your partner wants to, even though you’re not sure about it—kind of like trying new foods. But if this is a pattern for you, consider how you can widen your sexual experiences to include more of what feels good to you, too, and less of what doesn’t. As for anal bleaching, the bottom line (as they say) is that it is unclear if it’s safe or might cause local irritation (e.g., redness, burning, itching or tissue damage). Anal bleaching is probably better described as “anal lightening.” It uses chemicals to lighten areas of darkened pigment. Considering that most topical products have some risk of local irritation, it is likely that anal bleaching does, too. But we need research to know how many men and women are bothered by it and how many are happy with the procedure. We don’t really know. Does it work? Probably, but again we are lacking good evidence. If you are considering anal bleaching, please check with your dermatologist to see if he or she can offer you a safer alternative. Who knows? You may even like it—a lot of people do. And if you’re interested in reading a more sex-positive view of anal sex that may help you to see it in new ways, check out The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women (Cleis Press, $16.95).
Q I can’t stop thinking about sex with women. I don’t want women instead of my husband; in my fantasies, I see us being out somewhere and bringing home a hot woman—someone pornstar–like or a young, tan coed—and having our way with her. Sometimes I am making out with the woman while he jerks himself off, watching us. Other times the woman and I are lying side by side, naked or in lingerie, using vibrators, while my husband again jerks off. Another fantasy is that he fucks the other woman while staring at me or kissing me. I have also thought about the other woman and I tied up, or in lingerie, on our knees while he comes on our faces. These are the things that I think about during sex. I haven’t told him about any of this. I am not even sure if I want to do these things. I am not wondering if I am a lesbian. I know that I am not. I think there is something else to these fantasies. Do you think that I secretly want to enact them? Or is this one of those instances where it is nice in theory but not in practice?
A It’s unclear to me whether you really want to engage in these fantasies, but the fact that you didn’t mention having done anything to make them happen—such as look online or in bars to find women who fit your criteria—makes me wonder whether this is something you’re more interested in enjoying in your head than in your waking life. If you do decide that you want to bring a woman into your bedroom, a book like The Ethical Slut (Greenery Press, $16.95) might be helpful to read with your husband. It has great passages about jealousy, communication and setting boundaries that may help you, your husband and your new lady friend have an enjoyable experience, while protecting your relationship with your husband. If you and your husband decide to proceed, my guess is that you soon will understand the frustrations of many straight men: namely, that it is not exactly easy to find a porn-star look-alike or a “young, tan coed” who actually wants to (a) have sex with you and (b) play out your fantasies just the way that you want them, without any wants or needs of her own. In your fantasy, you and your husband have your way with her. In real life, any woman you bring home may or may not share your ideas of what good sex is. If you’re willing to pay a woman for sex, you can probably find exactly what you’re looking for. But finding a woman just lurking around a bar or on Facebook hoping that a married couple will find her? Far less likely.
Q This may seem like a weird question, but do that many women really have a hard time getting off? I’ve read about it in your column, but I always assumed that those women were in the minority. It came up with a group of girlfriends the other day, and I couldn’t believe how many of them had a hard time having orgasms. I was embarrassed to admit that I’ve always had them, and easily. Not that I am bragging, but is it really that uncommon? What keeps women from getting off?
A Yes, many women have difficulty having orgasms. More often, they are able to orgasm during masturbation or from receiving oral sex, but orgasms from intercourse can be more challenging. In part, this is because stimulating women’s genitals seems to be trickier than stimulating men’s, as more of our parts are “hidden away” like the two branches of the clitoris (the crura) that are tucked inside the body and sometimes difficult to stimulate. Many women and their partners have very little information about sexuality, let alone the pleasurable, enjoyable, orgasmic sides of it (most sex education tends to focus on infection, disease and things that go bump in the night—and not in a good way). As such, few women learn how to stimulate their own bodies in ways that feel pleasurable, and few people who have female partners have learned how to adequately stimulate women. And we haven’t even started talking about mind-set and getting in the mood. Many women find that they need to relax and feel comfortable and in a sexual state of mind in order to come. As such, if they feel shameful or embarrassed about what they are doing, or worried that their partner just wants them to hurry up and come already, then they may find it difficult if not impossible to orgasm. Have most women had at least one orgasm in their life? Yes. But most women do not orgasm easily or consistently. Women who would like a few tips might check out Becoming Orgasmic (Fireside, $15).