Ask Debby Herbenick | Huge penises, bummed-out virgins
Answers to your most penetrating sex questions.
Q I’m a gay male who is HIV negative. I recently broke up with an HIV-positive guy, after a year of dating, because I was unwilling to have unprotected sex. My research indicated a 4 percent risk of HIV transmission from the bottom (him) to the top (me), which is a risk I wouldn’t take. As such, he had no sex drive because to him, sex with a condom is “just sex—not love” since there is a “barrier between the two people.” This week I found out that he has been posting sex ads on Craigslist and when explicitly asked by potential hookups about his HIV status, he responds that he is negative. I know this because an out-of-town friend was cruising Craigslist ads here last week, recognized his face pic and showed me their e-mail conversation. My ex has very few friends and no family. I still love him and care about him, but don’t know what to say or do about this self-destructive and potentially illegal behavior.
A Illegal? Absolutely. But how to proceed? That gets tricky. If you end up spreading word about his HIV status, then you could be in legal trouble yourself. The fact is, no one should really be trusting a stranger to tell them the truth about their HIV status. Anyone who is barebacking with someone they just met on Craiglist or Manhunt or wherever else is putting themselves at risk for HIV. You clearly try to take good care of yourself and are taking very smart measures (talking with partners about their HIV status and standing firm about using condoms). Not everyone does this. As a result, we have an HIV epidemic of enormous proportions among men who have sex with men in the U.S. While on the whole, fewer than one percent of Americans are infected with HIV, in urban areas as many as 20 to 30 percent of men who have sex with men are HIV positive—and many don’t know it. Several studies have shown that people who are HIV positive do not always disclose their status to partners, which means that people need to be more proactive about getting tested together and sticking around to hear each others’ results. That’s right: Get each others’ permission to sit in the room together and hear each others’ results. You made a very good decision: Although the risk of HIV infection from bottom to top is small, it is real, so condom use matters. You cannot save the world from your ex’s lies. You can, of course, talk with mutual friends. You can even post reminders on Craigslist that some people are knowingly lying about their HIV status—but you probably can’t say who without winding up in a lot of legal trouble yourself. If you’re in communication with your ex, you could talk to him about it. You can also contact the Howard Brown Health Center and ask for suggestions about how to handle specific situations, about what you can or cannot say and about whether there’s someone, such as a case worker, who can intervene with your ex and remind him of the risk he is putting other people at, as well as his own legal risk should he infect someone.
Q Is it normal to want to pee on your girlfriend?
A Yes and no. Does everyone want to pee on their partner? No. But some people do, so that makes it part of the normal range of sexual experiences. We have no good data on the frequency of this or the many other less-vanilla aspects of sexuality. As you can imagine, no one is really beating down scientists’ doors to fund such a study. That said, many people engage in similar sex play (“golden showers”). Those who like the idea but can’t or don’t want to make it happen sometimes talk dirty to each other about golden-shower play while they’re in the midst of more vanilla sex. If you decide to share your fantasy with your girlfriend and she’s interested in trying it, you might try it in the shower or bath for easy clean-up. Others do it in the bedroom or another room of the house, but often with towels or plastic tarp-like sheets laid down so they don’t end up with a pee smell on the bed or floor. Urine is pretty sterile, so it’s not a super risky behavior.
Q I was a 29-year-old virgin until recently. I wanted to wait until I was engaged to be married; now that I am, we had sex, but it was no big thing. It was kind of blah. It made me wonder why I waited all of these years. I wouldn’t say it was a let-down, but it definitely wasn’t the special spiritual experience I had built it up in my mind to be, thanks to years of Catholic school. Why don’t they tell people this? And also, is it all downhill from here?
A Although sex is a hugely awesome and meaningful experience, for many first-timers it’s kind of a “that’s it?” experience. The world doesn’t end, and your parents don’t come out of the woodwork wielding crufixes, at least in most cases. And on the pleasure side, people don’t often perform sexually the way that they thought they would the first time. Women usually don’t have orgasms the first time and men often have difficulty with their erections, ejaculation (often coming quicker than they thought) or both. The good news is that sex often gets better. You develop a rhythm, you get to explore, you might even find yourself in a threesome or with whipped cream on your breasts or semen on your face or walking around with a sore vagina after some seriously vigorous sex. All of this—and more—is possible! The world is like one big Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of sex, so explore. Check out my book Because It Feels Good (Rodale, $21.99), The Ethical Slut (Celestial Arts, $16.99), Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships (WW Norton, $16.95) or any erotica book edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel for ideas.
Q What is the biggest penis ever recorded?
A As far as I know, the record goes to a man with a 13.5"-long erect (9.5” flaccid) penis. However, I have anecdotally heard reports of larger penises. I spoke with a man several years ago who was interested in taking part in a condom study our research team was conducting, but was worried that we wouldn’t have a condom to fit his 14"- long penis (we did not). I also once had a conversation with a well-known woman at a party and she swore to me that she had personally measured a man’s 16"-long erect penis. Of course, the vast, vast, vast majority of men are nowhere near this size (most men are in the 4–6-inch range when erect), which is good, as most people would find it difficult to allow a man with a penis that large to fully penetrate their vagina, anus or mouth. And that’s a difficulty that many men with larger penises experience, which is why the Large Penis Support Group is a great resource for well-endowed men. On the LPSG message board, members exchange tips about more comfortable sex, but also about finding swimsuits that “contain” their penis discreetly. Some men have grown up being made fun of due to their penis size, which is a shame.
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.