We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a licensed sex psychotherapist based in San Francisco, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to deal with awkward things that happen during sex.
Q: I get embarrassed easily, so sex is pretty much a minefield for me. How do you suggest I prevent or deal with stuff like queefing and being clumsy during sex?
A: As enjoyable as sex can be, it sure creates a lot of opportunities for things to go awry. From flatulence to accidental ventures into anal territory to awkward silences, there are plenty of humbling things that come with being intimate.
"Sex is like any other physical activity," Bay Area-based sex coach Pam Costa tells Bustle. "If we want it to be fun and pleasurable, not only is it helpful to learn how our own bodies work, but it’s also helpful to learn how our partner’s body works. And just like learning how to dance can be awkward at first, learning how our own bodies work sexually and then pairing that with another body can be awkward at first, too."
Embrace the idea that sex is awkward, and you'll lose the pressure to make it perfect every single time. In a whole lifetime of having sex, you’re bound to have things go wrong every once in a while. Think about all the good stuff you get in exchange.
Still, there are some easy ways to minimize the embarrassment of sex gone wrong. Below, some of the most common awkward sex moments, how to prevent them, and what to do when you find yourself in the midst of a cringe-worthy moment.
You are going to fart during sex at least once in your life. It’s inevitable. Farts can range greatly in their embarrassment level, based on their volume and, uh, aroma. Some farts can be ignored relatively easily, but others will be too obvious to disregard.
Prevention plan: In my opinion, the smartest thing Dan Savage ever said was "fuck first." Having sex before going out — and especially before big celebrations that involve copious amounts of food and alcohol — is always a good idea. If you’re feeling full or bloated but still amorous, then try to have sex in positions where your body remains relatively flat, like missionary or spooning. Doggy-style is not your friend in this situation.
Crisis management: If it’s a quiet or odorless one, ignore it. If there’s no denying it, your best bet is to simply laugh at yourself and apologize. Try throwing in a compliment, like, “Wow, I am so sorry. I was so into you I didn’t even realize what was happening.”
Queefing, aka vagina farts, happen when a penis or sex toy pumps air into the vaginal canal during in-and-out thrusting. The air pressure builds up, leading to that unfortunate squelching sound. Fortunately it’s only air involved, so there’s none of the odor you get with farts.
Prevention plan: If queefs really bother you, you can try to avoid having your partner pull out very far. The less air that gets pushed into you the better, so focus more on grinding than thrusting. But honestly, queefs happen so frequently that going to great lengths to avoid them is more distracting than beneficial.
Crisis management: Most sexually active adults are familiar with queefing, and know that it is part of the deal when it comes to sex. The easiest thing to do is just to ignore it if it happens. If acknowledging awkward moments is more your speed, laugh or say something simple like, “Carry on!” If it sounded a lot like flatulence, you can clarify with, "That was a queef, not a fart.” Noted.
The Wrong Hole
You’re about to round the bases toward home when all of a sudden, their penis misses the mark and heads further south to your butt. Sometimes it stops at a simple graze, but other times, it can result in full-on penetration.
Prevention plan: Most people seem to think that a penis or sex toy magically knows how to find on the vaginal opening. This isn’t the case — a little assistance is usually necessary. Use your hand to guide your partner's penis into the right spot. You can make this action feel sexier by spending a few moments stroking their penis, or teasingly grinding their penis on your labia before pushing it in.
Crisis management: This mortifying moment can’t always be ignored. If their penis just glided over your butt crack, you’re probably fine. But if they made significant contact with your anus, you’ll want to get up and take a moment to wash off or change your condom. I know it can dampen the mood, but the anus has bacteria that doesn’t mix well with the vagina and can cause a UTI, so this is a precaution you’ll be glad you took.
It’s easy to get caught in a tangle of limbs, get a Charley horse from being in a strange angle, or push body parts in ways they were not designed to be moved. A surprisingly high number of emergency room visits are sex-related. I’ve heard of everything from falling off the bed to accidentally smacking a partner in the face to “breaking” a penis.
"Maybe you are trying something new like pulling someone’s hair or flipping them over and during the attempt, your partner says 'ow' or falls off the side of the bed," Costa says. "If you feel embarrassed and pull back or freeze up, your partner is likely to do the same and feel disconnected or embarrassed themselves. If instead, you stay close and look them in the eye with a big smile and 'Well that didn’t quite go as expected, let’s try again!' things are likely to feel a lot more light-hearted and comfortable."
Prevention plan: Sorry, but there are no surefire ways to prevent injury during sex. Try to exercise a decent amount of caution, and stay mindful about your body the entire time. If you feel pain or discomfort at any time, change positions right away or take a quick breather. Don’t let a fear of “spoiling the mood” trump keeping yourself safe.
Crisis management: After an accident has occurred, take a moment to survey the extent of the injury. If the only damage is to your ego, laugh it off together. If the injury is more intense, you may have to prematurely bring an end to your romp in the hay. See a doctor for anything truly serious, obviously.
Trying Something New That Doesn't Work
The best sex requires a lot of creativity and an open, adventurous mind. Experimenting during sex will improve your it, but there are bound to be some duds in the mix. You may try out a position that doesn’t actually feel that great, or you might attempt to use a sex toy that winds up being too confusing to operate.
Prevention plan: If you’re planning on trying something new, talk about it beforehand. You don’t want to map out every single moment, but it’s useful to get on the same page. For example, let’s say you’re trying to use a vibrating cock ring for the first time. You could discuss when to put it on and in which positions it might work best. You could play with the toy beforehand to get a sense of how the buttons work. If it’s something particularly complex, do plenty of research beforehand! You don’t want to try bondage for the first time without knowing what you’re doing.
Crisis management: Don’t force yourself to keep going if something doesn’t feel good. In the moment, say something simple like, "Let’s go back to missionary" or "I think I’m done playing with this toy for now." You don’t need to go into a ton of detail. If you’re worried about feeling awkward, include a compliment to your partner. For example, "I want to be able to look you in the eyes" or "I want to feel your body without anything in between us." After you’ve finished having sex, discuss what went wrong, and whether it’s worth making another attempt. You may have unsuccessfully tried to get into Sideways Straddle this time, but you might be able to figure it out for next time.
Pam Costa, Bay Area-based sex coach