Ask Debby Herbenick | Pregnancy risks and happy-ending massages
TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.
Q I read in one of your recent columns about pregnancy risk from semen getting on the vaginal opening (the towel question). Is this a risk only if the man ejaculates directly ON the entrance, or can you get pregnant from just a little anywhere? For example, if he is wearing shorts, and the woman’s area happens to rub against them where the semen is, can you get pregnant? Also, is there a time limit for how long semen is “active”?
A The take-home message of all hypothetical “could I get pregnant if…” questions is that if wet semen gets inside the vagina or around the vaginal entrance (close enough that sperm can swim up into the vagina through vaginal secretions), then there is a risk for pregnancy. That means that all of the following are possible pregnancy scenarios, assuming no birth control is used: guy ejaculates inside a woman’s vagina (duh); guy ejaculates right at a woman’s vaginal entrance; guy ejaculates on his girlfriend’s stomach, smears his fingers in his semen, then sticks his semen-soaked fingers in or around his girlfriend’s vagina; guy ejaculates on bedsheets and then, while the semen is still wet, his female partner grinds her bare vulva against the wet spot. As for the “shorts” scenario you presented, it is unlikely that semen will swim through clothing. Then again, there’s a reason we have the saying “better safe than sorry.” It’s hard to know what people are really doing when they say they are dry humping through clothes—on the one hand, sperm aren’t going to bust through tight-weave polyester shorts, but if a guy is wearing boxers and his erect penis sneaks out the “peek-a-boo” window and he ejaculates on his girlfriend’s only partly covered vulva (the tinier the panties, the less they cover the vaginal entrance), then I wouldn’t want to place bets. Unlikely pregnancy scenario? Sure. But the closer the sperm gets to the vagina, the riskier it gets. As for time limits, if semen is still wet, there can be living sperm in there. Once it dries, they are likely kaput, which some estimate as taking as long as an hour or more. Just try to use common sense, people: If you and your partner don’t want to get pregnant but you do like testing the rule and getting Part A really close to Part B, then consider other forms of contraception like the birth control pill, patch, shot or ring. To listen to more “could I get pregnant if…” scenarios, check out the free podcasts I’ve recorded for the Kinsey Institute at kinseyconfidential.org.
Q My long-term boyfriend told me that he wants to try fist fucking. Fisting is one thing I’ve never considered doing; I might if it’s important to him and if I can find a way to feel safe about it. But I also might just let him loose for the night to experiment on his own with other guys. I don’t think it would even make me jealous: Fine, let him have a fist up his ass! Won’t be mine! But either way, I figure I owe it to our relationship to learn more about fist fucking than what I can absorb from porn.
A In spite of the lessons one can learn from Crisco-laden handballing (a.k.a. “fist fucking”) porn, I agree that it’s wise to seek out additional information. Especially since fisting has nothing to do with sticking one’s fist up a partner’s anus (or vagina) as the name might imply (rather, the hand enters while being held in a narrower shape, rather than a round, wide fist, which could cause damage). As such, attention to safety, laying aside plenty of time (it can take hours) and communication are key to making fisting a good experience. For years, Trust, the Hand Book: A Guide to the Sensual and Spiritual Art of Handballing (Alamo Square, $14.95) was the prime resource for people looking to fist or be fisted. Though it’s still a well-respected source in terms of the history, technique and emotional context of handballing, researchers have learned more about relevant health issues (including HIV) since its original publication. First Hand: An Erotic Guide to Fisting (Nazca Plains, $17.95) is more recent and makes a fine additional resource.
Q Is it a bad idea for a man to keep pumping after he’s ejaculated using a condom? Can’t the sperm start to leak out the top? I’m psyched that my guy can stay hard for a long time after he comes, but I do not want to get pregnant. Suggestions?
A Yes, it is certainly possibly that post-ejaculatory pumps could squeeze semen out of the condom. Is it likely? No, but in part the risk depends on the overall fit of the condom. As you likely know, even guys who stay mostly hard post-ejaculation lose at least a little of their firmness. And as a guy becomes less hard, the condom can loosen, leaving wiggle room for semen to run down and out. In one study, we found higher rates of condom slippage when guys withdrew (as opposed to during intercourse), possibly because the condom had become loosened post-ejaculation. So while I know that a few extra pumps can be fun, I agree that it’s not the best idea for those looking to reduce the risk of pregnancy or infection. If he still wants to play with his semihard erection, maybe he can pull out, take the condom off, and you can either put a new one on or play with his penis in other ways, like oral sex, touching or a big wet kiss on the head of his still-hard penis.
Q I have one quick question regarding your recent reply about the happy-ending-massage place (In & Out, TOC 184). For a few years, living in various European cities, I always had a HEMP where I would go every two or three months. Those ten minutes made such a difference to me. When I met my wife seven years ago, I told her about it: She was not thrilled but accepted it. Then, it became part of our routine every three or four months. A couple of times she even picked me up from one of those places. We have always had a very satisfying sex life, so this HEMP thing was never an issue. And then, last year we moved to Chicago. I was under the impression that there are no HEMP places in this country. I’ve never seen one and never heard anybody talking about one. I was missing them, until I read your column. I guess my question is: Where can I find one?
A Ah, you Europeans—always tantalizing us with your sexual freedoms! As masturbation and massage parlors (M&M parlors; or HEMPs as you called them) are not legal in the vast majority of the United States, I can’t recommend any specific places. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, though. If you want to locate a HEMP, phrases like “in-call” and “full service” are sometimes code words (but not always, so don’t get fresh with your masseuse—they deal with enough over-eager clients). Because they’re illegal, HEMPs tend to operate wordlessly: Clients don’t verbally ask to be masturbated and masseuses don’t verbally offer. Some guys sigh audibly every time the masseuse ventures near their thighs as a “do me, please” hint. Route 70 (between Indiana and Ohio) has several potentially sketchy places, should you happen to have an upcoming trip planned. Google searches may also lead you to online communities in which people anonymously share more detailed recommendations.