FAQs are personally answered by Dr. Melinda Myers. Dr. Myers has been part of HSU’s faculty for 10 years. She teaches Human Sexuality and other courses for the Psychology and Critical Race, Gender and Sexuality Studies Departments. She owns Good Relations Lovers’ Boutique, a sex-positive store in Eureka. E-mail her at Melinda@goodrelations.com

Bisexual Support

Q. I’m wondering if there is anything like a bisexual swingers club here locally, or a group that gets together. I ‘m also wondering if it is even a good thing to do, with all the unsafe sex that could happen. I feel like it would be a good thing to experience, as long as I’m safe. I am just completely not in the know about these things, and don’t have the slightest clue as to how to go about finding like minded people…

A. There is a polyamorous support group forming, and I’ve seen their flyer up a couple of places. That might be a good place to start. While it isn’t bisexual exactly, at least it includes the multi-partner aspect of what you’re looking for. After you make contact, you should have a pretty good idea about whether or not a bisexual person would be welcome.

As for playing safe, you’re right to be concerned. Most of the polyamorous people I’ve met play only safely. Condoms are required for any insertive activity, and many choose to use barriers for any activity that involves fluid exchange. The groups that are well established, for example several in the bay area, have written behavior codes that the group adheres to. These codes are taken seriously, and those who play agree to abide by them.

You’re also not alone. The QSU is pretty friendly to bis, so if you’re a student you should check them out (Thursdays at the multi-cultural center). In addition there are resources in the community. Read the GALA news for activities and events listings.

I suggest that you read the Ethical Slut for further guidelines. Be up front with your partners, so they can make their own informed decisions about risks and health. It’s the honesty and integrity in relationships that determine their morality. Whatever agreements you make, keep them.

Boyfriend Can't Come

Q. I got together with my boyfriend fairly recently, and we just started having sex. We’ve had sex a few times, in a variety of ways, and he’s never ejaculated. I thought it might be condom shyness, or the fact that we haven’t been together very long…but he never loses his erection, he just doesn’t come. It’s starting to worry him. Any suggestions on what the problem might be or how to fix it???

A. Your sweetie is experiencing something called inhibited male orgasm, and it’s more common than most people realize. Roughly 10% of men experience it at some time in their lives. It could be situational or global. Situational means that he experiences orgasm under some circumstances and not others. Global means he can’t orgasm at all. Sexual dysfunctions also have a time component. They can be acquired or lifelong. This is pretty self-explanatory, and means whether one has always been this way or whether it’s a new problem.

It sounds to me like his difficulty is acquired. I can’t tell from what you’ve said whether it’s situational or not. Can he orgasm alone? If he was able to orgasm when self-pleasuring, and now he can’t orgasm at all, it would be a good idea to make sure there isn’t some underlying medical condition causing the problem.

That’s pretty unlikely, and I would bet that he is able to orgasm alone, but just hasn’t yet with you. In that case, I would say that the most likely explanation is the same as the one I would give if it were you that were having trouble with orgasm. The simplest explanation is that you two just haven’t worked out all the kinks (pun intended) yet for what makes each of you tick.

Pay attention to the emotional and psychological parts of your relationship, too, and make sure you aren’t rushing things. If you are both really ready for sex, you might try a bridge technique.

To bridge means to do one thing for a while, then switch at the last minute to something you know works. The easiest fix would be for you two to make love as long as you want, and when he wants to orgasm, he can pleasure himself. If you both can handle it, it would be best if he did this while wrapped in your arms. It would serve two purposes. First, you can see what he likes, and second, it will probably work like a charm.

Can I Have My Cake and Eat It Too?

Q. I have been in a relationship with a man for the past year and a half. We are deeply in love and have a soul connection. The problem is that I am not generally sexually attracted to men; I am attracted to women. We talk about this a lot and he is very understanding. It would hurt him terribly if I were with someone else. I am so confused and I do not know what to do. I do not want to ruin the sacredness of our relationship, but at the same time I can’t sacrifice my satisfaction forever, I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

A. Your situation is not uncommon, and couples have tried many different solutions. The situation you describe is difficult, no matter how you look at it. I get the sense that you are attracted to this man, but not to men in general. It sounds to me as well like you have a commitment to monogamy, and that neither of you has broken that promise.

I’m glad you’re talking about it, because there is no way this could work if you weren’t honest with him and yourself about how you feel. Basic attractions don’t really change that much over time, and it isn’t reasonable for him or you to expect that true love, or anything else, will make a straight girl out of you.

I’m going to pose a hypothetical question for you, and I suggest you take some time to reflect on it. If he were a woman, and you felt the same soul connection, do you think you would be happy spending the rest of your life with her, never experiencing any other lovers?

The reason the question is important is that your orientation might not be the central issue in this case, even though it might seem like it is. It may be that the idea of life-long monogamy is really what’s freaking you out. Think long and hard about that. If you are basically non-monogamous, and he isn’t, that will be a major problem in the future.

Nevertheless, there are a number of people that have made very satisfying relationships outside the two-people norm. Yes, I know, I’m corrupting the youth of HSU by saying so, and thanks, I appreciate your prayers, and no, I’m probably not going to convert to a traditional world view any time soon, but really, you and your sweetheart can make any agreement you want, as long as it works for both of you.

I also have to tell you that way more people have failed at this than have succeeded, and that the attempt has demolished the relationships of many a well-meaning open-minded couple.

It sounds like you’ve talked with him about your having other partner(s) and that idea doesn’t work for him. You might create a 3-way partnership, by including another woman in your relationship on a more permanent basis. The details to work out an agreement like that could easily make your head spin, but there are resources to help you should you decide to tackle it. Look up an organization called Loving More.

You could also make a different kind of relationship with him, more like a Celtic Handfasting where you commit as long as love lasts. If it’s the idea of a permanent commitment that’s scaring you, then you could delay making one entirely. The absolute worst thing you could do is to break your agreement. Whatever you decide, you must be a grown-up about it. Honesty with your lover, as well as with any possible new lovers, is paramount.

When all is said and done walking away alone or together, with your integrity intact, should be your goal.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Q. In recent years I have begun to question if I have a “normal” sex drive. I wonder this because I have not had sex with a lot of partners but when I have been in a relationship I have always wanted to have a lot of sex. I have always wanted to have sex more frequently then my partners have wanted and I have wanted to have sex for a longer duration then my partners.
Also I seem to be very different than most other women because when I have sex I like to have 3,4,5,6……orgasms which for me is very normal. My friends think that it is crazy for me to have so many orgasms and it is making me feel abnormal.

Am I overly sexual for having so many orgasms and for being more sexual than my past boyfriends, am I not the norm?

Also, although I have felt satisfied by my past partners and I feel that I have had good sexual experiences, I have sort of felt bored with having sex with men. I am tired of sex revolving around the penis and around the male orgasm and I am tired of there being a time line with sex starting and ending with the penis. Having intercourse is the least exciting part of sex for me. I am more interested in eroticism and creative sex. Do you think that this means that I might be interested in having sex with women? I’m feeling like maybe being intimate with a woman might be very pleasurable and totally different then anything I have experienced with a man.

A. I can assure you that while it is unusual for a young woman to be easily and multiply orgasmic, it is far from being abnormal in a clinical sense. How we come to be the sexual individuals we are depends on a host of biological and environmental factors interacting with each other over time. The fact that this seems odd to your friends is totally irrelevant to your experience.

Hanging out with people that cause you to feel bad about who you are and how you are sexually or any other way isn’t good for you. However, one good strategy to help cope with this is to stand up for yourself. You know what you need and desire better than anyone. Developing a positive view of yourself is part of becoming a well-functioning adult. In this case, you can consider your friends’ appraisals of your sexuality to be an opportunity to practice holding onto yourself and your experience, and try validating from inside rather than looking outside.

It sounds like you are choosing your partners carefully, and that’s a crucial first step. In the earlier, pre-sex stages, have discussions about your mutual expectations for sexuality within your relationship. Talk about what you experience and desire to experience. Encourage him to share his ideas with you. From this, you should be able to get a good idea about whether or not you’d be compatible. I probably can’t say this enough, but these are good things to know WAY BEFORE you actually behave sexually with someone. If the conversations don’t lead you to believe this might work, move on!!

I think it’s interesting that you equate longer, more creative lovemaking patterns exclusively with women. The desire for such intense experiences doesn’t suggest to me that you are anything other than heterosexual, however. Rather, it sounds like you’re operating under a stereotype of what sex between women might be like. It isn’t the activities that define one’s orientation, but rather it is the focus of that person’s desires, attractions, and fantasies.

In your case, it sounds more like an erotophilia/erotophobia issue. By that I mean that some people, regardless of orientation, are just naturally more sexual. They think about it more, engage in both solo and partner sex more, and have a more positive attitude about it than their more erotophobic cousins. You sound to me like someone who is more erotophilic, and there’s certainly nothing wrong or abnormal about that.

If you carefully choose your partners, and clarify beforehand what you expect and desire from the relationship in terms of sexual experiences, I think you’ll find someone who shares your experience, and can keep up.

Orgasm from Vaginal Stimulation?

Q. Is it true that some women can have an orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone?

A. The short answer to that question is a qualified yes. While 65-75% of college aged women do not orgasm from intercourse alone, a significant minority do. The clitoris, where most of the orgasm-producing nerve endings are located, isn’t particularly near the vagina, and it isn’t stimulated very much during missionary position, heterosexual intercourse. Nevertheless, there are two explanations for orgasms that some women experience from vaginal stimulation. First is the G-Spot. This area of spongy, glandular tissue lies just beneath the surface of the vaginal wall on the belly-button side, about 2-3 inches inside the vagina (when a woman is aroused). This distinction is important because the vagina expands considerably in length during arousal, and what is in one place at one time can be further inside at another. Pressure on the G-Spot can trigger orgasm and even ejaculation in some women. Discovering how much pressure, and what type feels best comes from loving exploration, and not an obsessive need to find it. Try a gentle “come hither” motion with your middle finger if you have a female partner that would like you to explore. If you would like to explore on your own, there are a variety of toys that are gently curved to assist your discovery.

The second explanation for vaginal orgasms requires a brief anatomy lesson. The clitoris is a complicated organ, consisting of much more than just what you see on the outside. Inside a women’s body, the crura (or legs) of the clitoris extend inward, along both sides of the vagina. The crura erect during arousal, but more slowly than most penises. It can take 30 minutes for the clitoris, and all of its internal structures to become fully aroused and engorged. The parts of the clitoris that extend inward can, in some women, be stimulated through the vaginal walls. Scientists who are skeptical of the existence and significance of the G-Spot attribute much of this vaginal sensation to the clitoris’ internal structure.

Remember that sexual pleasure is experienced best, and most intensely, when orgasm isn’t the goal. Rather, enjoy the exploration and variety of sensations for their own sake. Taking plenty of time (Pointer Sisters playing Slow Hand in the Background…), and being fully aroused before you begin vaginal stimulation will enhance your experience.

Frequency and Good Books

Q. Please let me know the normal number of interactions for a couple about 40 years old per month. Also introduce me to an article to improve my knowledge regarding suitable behavior between a couple to reach best sexual satisfaction.

A. As I’ve said a number of times in other articles, “normal” is probably not the best term to use when it comes to sexual matters, because it varies much more than it is similar for different people. There are interesting differences in averages for people by education levels, ethnicity and religion.

Rather than try to tackle all of those issues in this space, here are a couple of highlights from the best study ever done about sex and “typical Americans”. When asked about sexual frequency, the most common answer couples in their 40s gave was a few times per month. Many couples have interactions 2-3 times per week as well. Roughly 2/3 of men and women list one of those two answers for the question.

Women who have attended College have more sexual interactions with their partners on average than do women with less education, but there are no differences to speak of for men.

In answer to your question about improving sexual satisfaction, there are a number of fine resources. Depending on your (and your partner’s) personal style, I might recommend a book called Satisfaction. There are a number of others, including one (please excuse the title, they didn’t consult with me) Extended Massive Orgasm. You can browse the book section at Good Relations, if you’re local. They can help you find books that are suitable for you. You might also search Amazon.com.

He's a Minute Man

Q. My boyfriend is the epitome of the “minute man.” I honestly can’t remember the last time we had sex for more than five minutes/session. Switching up positions seems to make no difference…he comes with the touch of a feather. Obviously I am frustrated as hell by this shortage of excitement on my part. Women’s bodies require more than a few minutes of minor arousal. Any recommendations to get him to last longer? 

A. I’m going to make a couple of inferences from what you’ve written. This problem isn’t brand new, he isn’t as concerned about it as you are, and you’ve talked about it and nothing has changed.

If all of these are true, the best and truest answer I can give you is Dump That Chump! There are many, many fine, ethical, considerate, intelligent, handsome men (and many women) who would just LOVE the opportunity to spend many languid hours figuring out just how you like to be loved.

Being too quick on the trigger is one thing, it happens to the best of ‘em. Accepting it in the long run is another matter altogether. As I see it, you really have a couple of choices, if you don’t take my first recommendation. And let’s face it, if you love him, and you’re like most young women, you’re probably going to put up with this, even though it’s a bad idea, and won’t work in the long run. You could try techniques based on eastern sexual teachings to delay his response, or keep making love after he has an orgasm (probably the best choice).

If you would like to try some delaying tactics, read the Art of Sexual Ecstasy, or Male Multiple Orgasm for some suggestions. They require the participation of both partners, and it doesn’t sound like you have that, frankly.

The easiest solution would be to continue to make love, even if he has already had an orgasm. You could suggest to him ways you would like to be pleasured, and encourage him to try to focus his erotic energy that way. What will probably happen is that he will get another erection, and perhaps even come quickly again, but that’s still no reason to stop.

The whole idea that sex “starts” when the penis enters the vagina and “ends” when he has an orgasm is ridiculous, if you think about it. It starts when it feels erotic to you, and it ends when you want it to, even if no one has had any orgasms, and even if both of you have had 14!

Good luck, but really, Sister, my first suggestion still stands.

Boyfriend Doesn't Like Sex

Q. I have been in relationship with a wonderful guy for the last 18 months. It’s a very healthy relationship only we seem to have different feelings about sex. Sex is very important to me, and it is SO great in a committed, trusting relationship. My sweetheart doesn’t seem to be as interested in sex as I am, and seems somewhat turned off by it even. He doesn’t really like it when I’m really wet, he seems to find it distasteful.

This difference is leading to me being more inhibited, and I’m not used to that. I don’t know how to talk about this without making it seem threatening to him, or like I’m putting pressure on him to perform.

A. There is a concept in sexuality called Erotophilia/Erotophobia. It’s a continuum, like most things related to Psychology, and expresses an idea that people have a natural comfort (or not) with sex. And also like most things in Psychology few people are at the extreme ends of the continuum, we tend toward the middle. It seems likely to me that we are born with a natural range on this continuum, and our life experiences determine exactly, within our natural range, we fall.

It sounds to me like you are mostly erotophilic. You like sex, talk about it comfortably, are interested in learning about it, and I bet you LOVE the juices, etc. Your beau is more erotophobic. It sounds like he tolerates sex, but doesn’t relish it, probably shys away from talking about it, wouldn’t really be interested in learning about it, and the details turn him off.

It also sounds like he really loves you, and that you very much want to try to work this out.

That’s a hopeful sign, because generally it’s not really something about someone that is very changeable. It’s sort of a part of your natural inclination, kind of like your orientation, whom you are attracted to (Vigo Mortenson or Orlando Bloom), or whether you are more comfortable asking someone else to dance, or you prefer to be asked.

This isn’t the answer you want to hear, and it isn’t one I’m super thrilled to give you, but it’s the truth. The prognosis here isn’t good. If he has an inner sexier side that might have been buried because of unfortunate experiences, he may be able to work with a counselor competent in sexuality issues to find and nurture that part of himself. But, he could just as easily be born that way. Either he does some work to find his inner sexually expressive self (which may or may not even be there) or you will have to suppress your own natural sexuality, and that’s a very unhealthy choice in my opinion. It might work for a year or even two, but eventually your sexual energy will leak out in unhealthy ways.

This is a pretty common scenario. When it happens in this direction in a heterosexual relationship, with the woman being more into sex for whatever reason, there are some weird gender role things that complicate the solutions. Women who are sexually expressive don’t get a lot of reinforcement for that in society, and often that’s true in relationship as well. Men who aren’t very sexual experience chastisement in various ways, too.

To start with, I think that it is important that you be able to find a way to communicate this to him, and you’re right, it sounds like this is going to be challenging. Try reading Passionate Marriage as a starting place. I think you’ll find many ideas there. If you choose to see a counselor together, ask if he or she is trained in this technique.

I would also suggest Margo Anand’s book, The Art of Sexual Ecstasy: The Path of Sacred Sexuality for Western Loversi. The way to reach a man like your partner is through his heart, not through his pants. This approach would likely be enjoyable for both of you. I can also recommend Sohini Genivieve and Carlo Ponti’s Kreative World (look them up on Google) classes, which aren’t too far from here if you’d rather experience it that way.

Did I Come?

Q. I have been sexually active with my guy for over a year now, and he has lately been concerned with whether I have an orgasm. My question is, how do I really know? I get wet and it feels fantastic, oral sex is the best, I mean my body will shake. Are orgasms from oral sex only? What is the exact definition of an orgasm for a woman? He has one every time…but it’s different. So is it technically an orgasm even if it’s not huge? I just want to know how to explain it to myself, so I can explain it to him.

A. It sounds to me like you are experiencing great sexual pleasure from oral sex, and also that you aren’t technically having an orgasm. This is a tough thing to try to explain to an easily-orgasming guy.

The way I try to explain it in class is to draw it. I draw a “typical” male response pattern, with a fairly steep incline (arousal), a brief leveling off at a fairly high level of excitement (plateau), then a single spike (orgasm) followed by a steady decline (resolution). This is the pattern found by Masters and Johnson in the 60’s, and it is pretty common for most men most of the time. The thing is, for women, there isn’t one single pattern. The phases outlined by Dr. Johnson and her husband don’t necessarily go in that order, they don’t necessarily all occur, and orgasm doesn’t necessarily end responsiveness for women. Some women experience the typical male pattern, but (to use the same language) what it sounds like you’re experiencing is a slower incline (arousal phase), and a very, very, very long plateau phase. Usually when I draw it on the board, men get that what women are experiencing in that case feels VERY good, and even though it isn’t technically an orgasm, is quite satisfying.

You’ll know you’ve had an orgasm when you experience a sensation of release, and probably muscle contractions. You won’t have any doubt. Since you’re experiencing the heights of pleasure during oral sex, it sounds like you experience more sensations from the clitoral nerve pathway. You would probably experience similar pleasure during other activities, if you were using a vibe on your clitoris, or either your or your sweetheart’s fingers. If you would like to experience orgasm, I suggest Tickle Your Fancy by Sadie Allison. It is a very fun book, quite hip and full of great tips. If you want something more classic, but nonetheless effective, try Sex for One by Betty Dobson or For Yourself by Lonnie Barbach. The latter two can usually be found used at one of our great local bookstores.

Everybody’s different, and I can certainly understand why you want him to understand how good sex feels to you, and how much you appreciate him even though your experience is different than his. The trick is to help him see that his way isn’t necessarily better for you, even though he has probably never considered it through another lens before.

This experience is SO common, in fact, that it is the number one reason why over 60% of college women fake orgasm at least some of the time. To all the heterosexual college men reading this, of course it isn’t YOUR partner…

Breaking Up is Easy to Do

Q. I have a problem in maintaining interest in a relationship. Mainly, I like the boy until I have him thoroughly engaged, then I lose all interest and forget about him. Just recently, I really blew it with a good friend. I know that it really hurt him. He even told me that I would never be able to find love because I’m “cold hearted”. Is this something I should worry about? I want a relationship and have had ones in the past. But it just seems to me like I hurt the person I’m trying to be with. Is this something I should seek help about or is it a phase? I’ve been really upset over this. Please help!

A. Interesting dilemma. From what you’ve said, I get that this is a longstanding pattern for you. I could analyze that pattern from at least 3 different Psychological perspectives, but I’ll spare you those details. The point is, what appears to be happening is that the pattern is no longer working for you on some level, and you’d like to find a way out of it. That sounds suspiciously like maturity to me, and given your age, very appropriate.

It’s not the kind of thing I can give you a pat answer to. As much as I’d like to pull a simple solution out my magic bag, this is exactly the kind of thing a good therapist can work out with you. If you’re really broke, you can also get help at the Davis House Counseling Clinic. Counseling Grad students closely supervised by licensed therapists staff it, and it is very affordable.

I suspect that your ex-boyfriend will get on with his life. Heartbreak or no heartbreak, I wager he’ll fall in love again. For what it’s worth, I would also wager that you’ll fall in love, and that when you do you might have a greater understanding of your past patterns that will help you negotiate a relationship that works for you.

Hope that helps.

Condom Shyness

Q. Years ago when I tried using rubbers with my partner, I would go limp immediately when she put them on. When I put them on alone when masturbating I would go limp. At that time I quit using them altogether. Now I have to start using them again for medical reasons. My partner and I have tried them with the same results… I have gone limp as soon as they have been put on. We have tried blow jobs, and hand jobs but they don’t work. I need help. Got any ideas !!!!!! Please!!!!!!

A. This is actually a pretty common problem. All of us know that we should use some kind of a latex barrier to increase safety during sex, but if what you want to do involves using your penis, and it refuses to play if you cover it, what can you do?

I have a couple of suggestions. The easiest is to use Viagra for awhile while you are getting used to condoms. Sometimes, this is the easiest way. Viagra is a safe drug for most people, however, since you mentioned in your question that you were using condoms now for medical reasons, you should check with your Dr. to be sure Viagra is OK for you. That’s pretty easy to do because you do still need a prescription to get it. No, Pfizer isn’t paying me to write this column.

The way Viagra works is by relaxing smooth muscle in the penis, which facilitates the erection by allowing the arteries to let blood flow in, which naturally puts pressure on the veins that usually move blood away from the penis and back to the heart. This results in an erection. It doesn’t work in the absence of sexual stimulation. If there’s nobody around that stimulates you, or you aren’t stimulating yourself, Viagra won’t do anything. It lasts quite a long time, and in many men I’ve talked to it works nearly 24 hours. You can manage lots of sex in 24 hours I bet. This gives you ample time to see if it helps your condom shyness.

My second suggestion would be to try other activities. You can do massage, oral lovemaking (with or without a barrier), use sex toys or whatever else you and your partner like. Try putting on a condom, and if it doesn’t work, do other things. Attitude is important here. Gleefully experiment with all of the other non-penis ways there are to make love. Once your penis gets the idea that you’re going to play with or without him, he may decide to suit up and get in the game.

Condoms and Circumcision

Q. I am uncircumcised, and I have heard when using condoms, it is important to pull the skin back on the penis before putting on the condom. Is this true??? When I use a condom I do not have any trouble getting one on; however, I practiced getting one on with my skin pulled back and had a lot of difficulty for a couple of reasons. First, I can’t get a condom to fit. Secondly, my skin cannot stay pulled back when I have an erection. Any advice???

A. Whoever told you to pull the skin back on your penis before putting on a condom probably either didn’t own a penis, or was circumcised. You shouldn’t try to hold the foreskin back (as you figured out). I would suggest you try a variety of condom styles, by yourself, and practice until you figure out what works best for you. Just make sure you’ve got a sombrero and not a shower cap when you look at the condom, and roll it on down without trying to hold the foreskin any particular way.

Uncircumcised men have rated Lifestyles Extra Pleasure and Pleasure Plus most highly. They are cut differently, with more room at the tip. Both also work well for men with piercings of the frenulum, foreskin or corona. Last I checked, the Health Center, Open Door and Planned Parenthood have Lifestyles, (for cheap or free). Good Relations has both, and Long’s has Lifestyles.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms

Q. I had a couple of questions I’m hoping you can answer. How soon does morning sickness start after you’re pregnant? How often does birth control not work? Are there any reasons that could cause it to not work? What are other early symptoms of pregnancy?
Also, I’ve heard that the first time a girl (sic) gets pregnant, her body will abort the baby…is that true?

A. Wow. Important questions. Some of your questions have been answered in earlier columns, but I’ll repeat the information briefly, because nobody should have to wonder about these things.

Morning sickness doesn’t ALWAYS happen, and it can begin at any time during pregnancy and last anywhere up to the entire 40 weeks. Most commonly, it begins somewhere around 8-14 weeks (6-12 from the last period), and lasts during the first trimester.

By “birth control”, I’m assuming you mean combination oral birth control pills. Taken correctly, the answer is virtually never. Unfortunately, they are rarely taken absolutely perfectly, and anytime a woman messes up taking them, pregnancy is a more likely result.

By correctly, I mean one a day, at roughly the same time each day, not with grapefruit juice, not while taking antibiotics. Once a woman misses a pill, she is advised to take two the next day. If she misses more than one, she is advised to use an alternate method of birth control for the rest of that cycle.

Other symptoms of early pregnancy are a missed period and tender breasts that sometimes are also enlarged. Once a period is missed, the home tests should be pretty accurate. There is a blood test that can be done at the Health Center even before a woman misses her period.

Also, pregnant women don’t ALWAYS miss their periods. If you’re worried, you should get a test. The earlier you know, the more options you have, and the better decision you can make. This would be a really bad time to bury your head in the sand.

It is a myth that a woman’s first baby will be miscarried. Lots and lots of women have perfectly healthy pregnancies (and babies) having had sex only once, let alone having been pregnant only once. Of all the women I know who have ever been pregnant, the vast majority have never miscarried.

Should I Make a Move?

Q. I know this girl who just broke up with her sweetheart of two years. They have been separated for a month. I really like this girl and I want to tell her but I also want her to have time to heal. What is the best thing for me to do in this situation? Thanks for your help. 

A. You’re right that a month isn’t very long after a two-year relationship. Focusing on your friendship with her is good, because you can still have a great time hanging out and she can sort out her feelings. Enjoy spending time, without trying to force an agenda. Chances are she is probably aware of your attraction, anyway.

Making yourself available sends a signal that you’re interested, whether that’s in making a more intimate friendship, or something more. Letting things take a natural course could save you both some heartache. There isn’t any hurry.

On the other hand, really cool people sometimes don’t stay single for very long if they want to be in relationship. Some people just like being partnered, and others want time to be alone to sort themselves out. I’m not sure there’s anything psychologically better about either option, and it probably has more to do with people’s temperaments and personalities than any deep-seated need to be in relationship to feel whole.

I’m not sure what the best course of action is, because it depends on your personalities. Forget playing her, that’s a bad choice no matter what. Forget trying to manipulate her, either, because that’s even worse. Think about what it is you really want, and honestly communicate that.

You might, for example, tell her that you really like her and that you’re OK staying “just friends” if she wants, but you’d love the opportunity to sweep her off her feet. Let her decide. If you’re open to both possibilities, then say so. You could mess up a perfectly good friendship if you’re not up front, and that would be a sad outcome for someone who’s already lost an important relationship.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes…

Erectile Dysfunction

Q. My problem is that I am sexually “shy”, for lack of a better euphemism. I have no problem achieving an erection during foreplay, even for extended periods of time, but the moment that it’s time to actually have sex I lose it. This used to happen only on random occasions but my fear of recurrence has become a self-fulfilling prophecy and I think that for all concerned I should give up trying to have sex altogether. To make matters worse, ( if that’s possible) when I am able to have an erection, I experience premature ejaculation! I wonder if it is because every woman I’ve been with has cheated on me. When I last had a long-term relationship the problem completely went away. I never had trouble having sex with her, and it was probably partly due to the fact that I didn’t feel inhibited even walking around naked in front of her. For almost anybody else though I just don’t want to be seen naked. I cannot get myself to believe that I am very attractive (especially without clothes), and I think that male genitalia and especially mine are hideous. Please help! 

A. I may be jumping to conclusions, but it sounds like you aren’t in an emotionally close relationship at the moment but rather have been attempting to have sex within the context of more casual dating scenarios. That just might not work for you; at least it might not work for parts of you. If you are with someone long enough that you’re more comfortable with whatever happens, your problem might take care of itself. If you’re trying to have sex absent the intimacy, as much as that’s the macho American ideal, it could easily explain your experience. Casual sex just doesn’t work very well for lots of folks. I think it’s particularly significant that in a long-term relationship, this problem goes away. That says that as much as you might think it should be otherwise, you are the kind of person that needs that for sex to be good. It could be lots, lots worse!

Depending on how long you’ve experienced this, and under what circumstances it occurs; I would suggest a couple of different things. It sounds fixable, but I think you’re going to need help (of the professional sort) to do it. I can also tell you confidently that the sooner the better. Unfortunately, there are very few therapists in this area with expertise in treating sexual dysfunctions. I’ll send you some suggestions privately.

I would hate to see you avoid sex altogether rather than risk it happening. In the short term, I would suspect that Viagra or Levitra would work well for you, and that could help you get over the psychological self-fulfilling prophecy part. You should be able to get a prescription at the Health Center. And no, it isn’t just you. Especially when it comes to condoms, many, many men have erection trouble. In fact, I have 3 questions in my “to be answered” file that are variations on this same theme.

You’re dealing with a learned response, and what you need to do is unlearn it. That’s a little harder to do than it sounds, but certainly not TOO hard (ouch, really bad pun, sorry). And just so you know, men with ED (erectile dysfunction) very often have Premature Ejaculation when they finally do get an erection.

Good sex happens within the context of healthy relationships. I recommend that you spend some energy figuring out what you need to do to be able to handle a mature, adult, honest relationship and I would bet a large sum of money that will take care of the issue once and for all.

In general, this kind of dysfunction is related to anxiety. It is just another form of it. Probably beats panic attacks, but it still sucks. Feeling like you’re unattractive to your partner almost necessarily precludes that your experience will be satisfying. Feeling like your penis is unattractive, in particular, will make this problem much worse. In relationship, people become more comfortable with each other, and those voices inside become quieter as they’re replaced by the compliments partners pay one another.

You could think about it this way. Lots of unattractive people, probably much more unattractive than you imagine yourself to be when you’re beating up on yourself, are having good sex. Your anxiety is triggering your self-doubt, and also pushing the play button on those tapes inside your head. The things I know of that work for anxiety are: Stop smoking pot (really, I know it sounds crazy but it matters), avoid caffeine (coffee, tea, chocolate), meditate regularly, exercise regularly, avoid heavily processed foods and very importantly, identify the irrational thoughts that are keeping you from feeling good and replace them with self-statements that serve you.

Lastly, and I hope you already know this; there are LOTS and LOTS of amazing ways to “satisfy” women even if your penis doesn’t cooperate. What makes sex really, really good doesn’t have much to do with perfect bodies or perfect penises, it has to do with knowing your partner, and allowing her to know you.

Is He Gay?

Q. I have been with my boyfriend for three years now, and we have been living together for about 5 months. I believe I have become more liberal and accepting of people’s sexual orientations. My boyfriend is quite interested in anal sex, which I thought was a gay activity. We tried it about a month ago; we used a condom, and lots of lube. He was very gentle and encouraging, and I hated it. I also felt used afterwards, and that had to be the worst sexual thing I’ve ever participated in. Later I wanted him to do something for me, so I bribed him with anal sex, and it was still uncomfortable for me. I don’t understand why it is so uncomfortable, since I enjoy that area being stimulated, but entering it is not fun. I also don’t understand his interest in that area since he is so homophobic. Is he gay? Or am I a prude?

A. I’m having trouble understanding why you’d bribe your boyfriend with sex of any kind that you didn’t want to engage in. It seems like it would have been much easier on you to just do whatever it was by yourself, or get another friend to help you if necessary. Sex is fun, and it’s supposed to be. Why make things uncomfortable for yourself by doing things you don’t like. I suggest you stick with the kinds of sex you DO like.

Sometimes there are activities that one person in a couple really likes, but the other likes less. For example, one person might really like oral sex in a ‘69’ position, while the other person likes to concentrate on giving or receiving separately. They can negotiate that in a way that feels good to them. Maybe they sometimes do it one way, and sometimes the other. The difference is that both of them DO like the activities, just to different degrees. But no one in a relationship needs to compromise about something that they really dislike. To do so creates far more problems than any “favor” is worth.

I don’t know if your boyfriend is gay or not, and I certainly can’t tell by knowing what kinds of activities he likes. But if he’s in love with you he probably isn’t. Some people like anal stimulation with penetration, some like anal stimulation but not penetration, and some people don’t like either. Sexual individuality is like that. So is orientation, but the two aren’t related. Orientation is about who you love, not just whom you have sex with nor the type of sex you like. Not liking an activity doesn’t make you a prude, and liking it doesn’t make him, or anyone else gay.

Besides, it’s a stereotype anyway. The most common activity between gay men is oral sex, not anal sex. Straight couples experience anal sex, as do lesbians. It’s that “flavor of ice cream analogy” I use all the time. You can choose whatever flavors you like from Bon Boniere, and liking chocolate syrup on your mango sorbet can develop from your genes, your experiences or a combination of both. You wouldn’t worry if your sweetie suggested one flavor and it didn’t sound good to you. You’d probably just suggest he not share it with you. You can watch him eat it if you want to, or you can taste it and decide whether or not you like it, or you can suggest a compromise flavor, but you wouldn’t eat it if you hated it, now would you?

And since we’re on a roll, you probably wouldn’t support a constitutional amendment requiring the government to censure anyone else that ate it, either.

Man Can't Come

Q. I’m a 39 year old male in a relationship with a wonderful lady that I love very much. She is smart, beautiful and extremely sexy and making love with her is always wonderful. I do have a problem though in that I’m having a difficult time reaching orgasm. I could understand it if I were having some difficulty maintaining an erection, but that certainly isn’t the case. I love the sexual chemistry we have and that she wants to make love as much as I do.

She is so wonderful about this and has been a great partner trying pretty much anything from oral sex to different positions to get me to climax. But for the most part, in order for me to reach orgasm, I have to masturbate myself while she watches. You need to know that this has happened in previous relationships but I was always able to hide the fact that I didn’t reach orgasm during sex even though my partners would.

So, I don’t know where to turn with this problem and since this is the lady I want to spend the rest of my life with I need some help. Because I love her so much I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get me through this.

A. As you probably know, last semester a man wrote me who was experiencing something similar. That column generated more comments than any other single thing I’ve ever written. There are a couple of major differences between his experience and yours, and those differences change my recommendations entirely.

Sexual dysfunctions generally have in common something called “subjective discomfort”. This means that if you have a problem with it, it’s a problem. If you’re OK with it, then you don’t. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but in general, it’s your feelings about what’s happening that determine whether or not something is a dysfunction.

What you’re describing affects about 10% of men at some point in their lives. It is fairly easy to treat, and I think you and your partner can probably do it by yourselves. To start with, I would suggest that you try Bridging.

Bridging means to engage in an activity likely to result in orgasm, in your case self-pleasuring, and then when you are very close to coming, your partner would pleasure you. This can be done in a variety of wonderful ways, but given what you’ve said in your question, I would suggest that she continue to pleasure you with her hand to start with. The trick to this is to COMMUNICATE. You need to be able to let her know when you are very close to coming, and she needs to continue to stimulate you as similarly to what you were doing yourself as she can.

Like many types of sex therapy, this treatment is gradual. It might not work the first time, or even the second. It is likely to work, though. Once you can come with her pleasuring you in that manner, try switching a little earlier. Continue with that until it’s easy and comfortable. You can try the same thing with other activities at that point. Pleasure yourself until you are close, and then your partner can continue to stimulate you orally or in whatever ways you and she like.

It sounds like you and she are already communicating well, and that you’re being honest with her about your experience. Good luck, and let me know how it works. I’ve got other tricks up my keyboard if necessary.

I am Reasonably Handsome

Q. I am reasonably handsome, in very good physical condition and even my ex-girlfriend says I am a great guy. I just read your column in this week’s Lumberjack, and I have a somewhat related question/problem. You see I am able to have intercourse, for well over an hour or even two, without achieving orgasm. I have tried all things to hurry the process along: oral sex, anal sex, different positions, etc, and nothing seems to help. So my question is this: would you share my phone number with your readers?

A. What an interesting dilemma! I was wondering what I was going to do with my life after I quit teaching, and now I think I’ve got it. I’ll become a match-maker!

I’m glad your self-concept isn’t suffering over this. It sounds like you have framed it in the proper perspective. My editor suggests that you check out the Jack Personals to see if you can remedy the lack of partner problem. It doesn’t sound to me like you’d have too much trouble.

I would be remiss in my duties, however, if I didn’t tackle some of the underlying issues in your question. Good sex isn’t enough on which to build a relationship, although it’s certainly easier than to build one around bad sex. You may be the Goddess’ gift to women (or men) in bed, but if you don’t put the seat down, s/he won’t put up with you for long. Good relationships are built around mutual trust, intimacy, and daily uplifts. Those are the things people say and do that increase good feelings in a partnership like remembering to buy flowers for no particular reason, compliments, and thoughtful favors.

The other possibility is that you could be one of the 8-10% of men who have a sexual dysfunction called male inhibited orgasm. Like most sex troubles, it’s only a problem if you and/or your partner(s) have a problem with it, and it doesn’t sound like you do. Should you ever want to be able to orgasm more quickly or easily, let me know and I’ll steer you in the right direction.

HPV Orally

Q. I attended your “Love Line” last night and you mentioned some pills that you can insert in your vagina to balance your pH levels. I was wondering if this was just for during a yeast infection or if you can do it on a regular basis. Also can HPV be transmited orally (i.e. can I get them in my mouth from giving oral sex or can my boyfriend get them in his mouth from giving me oral sex?) Thanks for your time and the talk the other night was great.
It was very interesting and I really want to take your Human Sexuality class next semester. Oh, and someone said that you can take that course or Women’s Studies with you and it’s the same course, they just count for different units, is this true? Thanks again.

A. Yes, it’s true that you can take 436 as either Women’s Studies or Psych, your choice, same class. You can even take it twice, once each way, although I’m not sure why you’d want to.

I’m glad you enjoyed the talk. I had fun. Lots of great questions. You can use Boric Acid capsules to balance the Ph of the vagina, but most health women don’t need to. Usually, it all takes care of itself. If you have frequent sex without condoms, the semen could put you off a bit, in which case using the capsules in your vagina say once a week would be g good idea to keep things groovy.

Yes, HPV can be transmitted orally, you or he could get them in your throat/mouth from contacting the lesions. It’s VERY transmissible when the warts are present, even when they’re really tiny, so it’s important to keep a close eye on it. It MAY be transmissible at other time, the jury’s still out.

The Pill and Wetness

Q. I was on birth control for 2 years and you said in your column that it can cause a women to not get wet. I am always dry now and never get wet, even during sex. I use lube, it’s no big deal, but I wonder if I will ever be able to get wet again? I haven’t been on the pill for over 6 months now and there is no sign of it coming back. Is there another reason that this could be occurring? Are there any medications I can use to bring my moisture back?

 A. Taking birth control pills does reduce vaginal lubrication in some women, but it generally reverses itself once she stops taking the pills. Certainly within 6 months, you wouldn’t still be experiencing a lack of lubrication. That means you need to look at other factors that could be affecting your slipperiness. Stress, diet, and other medications would be good starting places. In any event, using a good lube is a great interim measure.

How is your stress level? You might take a look at your living situation, your family relationships, financial situation, academic progress and self-care. Are there areas in which you could be managing better? Do you need to unburden yourself of some of your troubles? Everyone experiences stressors in their lives, and stress is our body’s response to those stressors. Some of us are wired to react to stress in ways that affect our sexual functioning. If you think stress is responsible for some or all of your trouble, you could re-think how you’re handling the stressors. If you need help sorting this out, talk to Counseling and Psychological Services, or call the Davis House Counseling Clinic.

If you’re taking antihistamines or other medications, they could be affecting your lubrication. In that case, you should talk to your health care provider about this. Generally s/he can make adjustments that meet your health needs without negatively impacting your sexual functioning. They won’t know if you don’t tell them, however. To answer your last question, I don’t know of any medications that specifically increase lubrication, although some care providers prescribe testosterone or other medications to increase desire and improve women’s sexual functioning overall, it would be unlikely that a testosterone deficit is the cause of a young woman’s troubles.

You’re on the right track with using lubes in the meantime. I know I’ve said this before, but be sure whatever you’re using is water-soluble and condom safe if you’re using latex barriers. In another column I’ll talk more specifically about which ones work best for which activities.

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