For the month of September, Bustle’s Sex TBH package is talking about sex, honestly. We’re delving into how women approach the things they’re taught to be shy or embarrassed about in the bedroom — and, in doing so, we're liberating people to live their best (sex) lives. Let’s do it.
If you spend enough time on the internet, you'll come across the same questions about sex over and over again, like "why can't I orgasm from sex?" and "how long should sex last?" You might get frustrated that there are so many other questions still unanswered, like what the heck those pre-orgasm contractions are and whether sensitive breasts will make nursing weird.
There are lots of questions nobody even knows the answers to yet, but fortunately, there are also many less-discussed questions experts can answer. There just aren't as many articles about them as there are about how to give great blow jobs (I see you, patriarchy).
Angie Gunn LCSW, Sexuality Expert at Talkspace, tells Bustle that lack of sex education is one of the biggest obstacles couples have in the bedroom, and she sees it in the questions clients ask. But knowing the answers to even the most basic sex ed questions could enhance your sex life. “Basic anatomy and sexual health information is severely limited amongst many clients, which dramatically impacts intimacy," she tells Bustle. "How long does it take the female genitals to become erect/engorged and aroused? Can a non-erect penis reach climax? Where is the G-spot and what is squirting? These and many more important questions speak to a lack of basic sexuality education and information that can dramatically improve sex."
To make my own small contribution to the wealth of knowledge about sex on the internet, I asked millennial women what questions they still have about sex, and there were lots of very valid queries I'd actually never even heard or thought of before. Then, I relayed these questions to Astroglide's resident sexologist, Dr. Jess O'Reilly, and ob-gyn Dr. Angela Jones. Here are their answers.
Question: "My breasts are really sensitive, and depending on when my partner touches them, this can make or break a pleasure session. What connection do breast sensations have to sexual pleasure? Also does this mean nursing will be very strange?"
Answer: "This comes down to both timing as well as personal preference. Regarding timing, depending on where you are in your cycle, breasts can certainly be more painful, tender, or cystic around the time of your period due to hormonal changes (which most of the time is entirely normal). Touching, sucking, pulling, and tugging on breasts during this time frame might not feel that great. During sex and foreplay, the breasts certainly can and do become more engorged, enlarged, and hence have heightened sensitivity. Just like certain positions do more for some than others, certain sexual touches are more pleasurable than others. And no, I don’t think this will mean nursing will be strange for you. The reason for nursing, regardless of what it feels like, may far outweigh any significance placed on the sensations." —Dr. Angela
Question: "What's the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasms? I've heard it's by the stimulus, so if you're just doing clit stuff or vag stuff, but what if it's both? And then some people say the vaginal ones are more intense, but if we're going by stimulus, those are less intense for me."
Answer: "It’s very difficult to separate vaginal orgasms from clitoral orgasms, as they sit in close proximity to one another. The pelvic nerve is believed to transmit sensations from the vagina while the pudendal nerve carries information from the clitoris. However, you can stimulate the inner clitoris via the vaginal canal, so it can be difficult to differentiate between the sensations associated with specific nerve pathways. I wouldn’t worry about which 'type' of orgasm you’re having — just enjoy the process. It’s true that some people report that one 'type' of orgasm feels more intense, but this is a matter of personal preference and experience. For example, some people love G-Spot orgasms (the G-Spot is believed to communicate with the brain via the vagus nerve) and some people find them uncomfortable. My best advice is to experiment with a range of options to see what you enjoy most." —Dr. Jess
Question: "If you have an IUD, and the guy has a big penis, can he feel the wires?"
Answer: "If you reach inside your vagina and find your cervix, you can probably feel your wire. Most of the time the wires attached to the IUD will become less stiff/more malleable and will fold behind the cervix and your partner won’t be able to feel them. I, at times, have had women note that their partners feel as if their penis was being 'poked' shortly after placement, when the strings are more stiff and haven’t had a chance to soften. On other occasions, the strings are really short and located inside the cervix; I doubt if strings in this location are an issue." —Dr. Angela
Question: "While I'm masturbating or my partner is pleasing me, I'll sometimes experience single vaginal contractions, almost like mini orgasms, starting several minutes before I orgasm. What is this?"
Answer: "GOOD! It means that you are having great sex! Vaginal contractions are pretty much as you described them: mini orgasms leading to the main event of ORGASM! It means that the vagina is happy, stimulated, engorged, expanding, and enjoying the ride. The vagina is an AMAZING organ. Enjoy!" —Dr. Angela
Question: "Why are guys so obsessed with anal?"
Answer: "I’m not sure that all guys are obsessed with anal, but anal sex is associated with a more intense sexual taboo, which can make it exciting. Anal sex is also fairly common. Research suggests that nearly half of men and women have engaged in anal intercourse and orgasm rates are actually higher for women who include anal play in their erotic repertoire. That’s right! Among women who had anal sex during their last encounter, 94 percent had an orgasm versus only 84 percent of those who received oral and 65 percent of those who had vaginal intercourse." —Dr. Jess
Question: "My partner seems to be more in the mood at night time, but I'm more in the mood in the morning. Why might that be and is there anything we can do to get on the same page?"
Answer: "You’re not always going to want sex at the same time as your partner, so your best option is to compromise. Remember that you aren’t always going to be in the mood for sex — oftentimes, you have to get in the mood. Desire is not always spontaneous; you often need to get aroused before you experience sexual desire, so teach your partner how to arouse you and have them do the same." —Dr. Jess
Question: "What should you do if your partner has a lower libido than you?"
Answer: "Inevitably, every couple will face the challenge of mismatched libidos at some point in time. The most important thing you can do is talk about it. If you want sex more often than your partner does, it’s likely that you underestimate how often they want it and they likely overestimate how often you want to have sex. Try this exercise to start the conversation: You each take a blank sheet of paper. On the upper half, you write down how often you’d like to have sex (1/day, 1/week, 1/month, 1/year, 1/decade). Don’t peek at your partner’s! On the bottom half of the paper, write down how often you think your partner wants to have sex. Exchange papers. Have a laugh. Have a discussion." —Dr. Jess
Question: "When I masturbate, most times when I finger myself, after about 10 minutes I experience a strong burning sensation inside, so I usually stop and touch the clitoris instead. I thought it was a latex allergy, but it still happens when I use non-latex gloves and even happens with my bare hands (I make sure to wash my hands first to get rid of that variable too). Any idea what might be causing it? Could it be psychological?"
Answer: "The first thing that came to mind when I read this question was lubrication. Are you adequately lubricated? If not, you may experience the burning sensation you described above. Also, underlying cases of vaginitis, whether it be related to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis, can also cause pain or burning with sexual maneuvers, masturbation or otherwise." —Dr. Angela
Question: "How does having sex for the first time affect my cycle?"
Answer: "It has been proposed that having sex for the first time, with all the excitement and arousal that is often times associated with it, may throw your hormones off a bit. However, the stress associated with it being your first time is more likely the culprit. Stress can definitely cause a period to be delayed." —Dr. Angela
Question: "Is non-monogamy realistic? I'd love to have an open relationship, but I've seen it go badly for lots of couples. Can you really be open and still stay together?"
Answer: "I think the same could be said of monogamy — we all know dozens (hundreds?) of couples whose monogamous relationships have failed abysmally. The reality is that relationships are hard regardless of whether they’re monogamous or consensually non-monogamous. Consensually non-monogamous relationships (CNM) can work. I see them work every day. I also see them fail — just like monogamous relationships. You may be more likely to notice CNM relationships that fail because of a cultural bias that positions them as less desirable and more problematic. We don’t have a lot of data on CNM relationships, but the limited data suggests that these relationships are highly fulfilling." —Dr. Jess
Question: "When I orgasm, my legs seize up and my hamstrings get really tight, and the next day, my legs feel really sore — like I did a really hard workout. Is there any way to prevent this from happening? Different position perhaps? Most of the time. I am in bed on my back with my legs straight."
Answer: "Sounds like quite an orgasm! Are you adequately hydrated? Remember, sex is a workout!" —Dr. Angela
Question: "Why is there such a high premium on losing your virginity?"
Answer: "Virginity is such an interesting concept. It’s a cultural concept that is highly gendered — women are revered for its preservation and men for its dereliction. While female pop stars take virginity pledges, their male counterparts brag about “losing their virginities” as pre-teens (and in some cases younger). It’s so important to note that the definition of virginity itself isn’t universal — it’s far too limiting to be applied across the board. If I’m a woman who only has sex with women, am I a virgin because I’ve never had a penis inside of my vagina? Will I be a virgin for the rest of my life?" —Dr. Jess
Question: "How do you have enjoyable sex when sex is painful?"
Answer: "There are many reasons why sex can be painful, and I highly suggest that you see your doctor and a pelvic floor physiotherapist if sex is painful. Sex shouldn’t be painful (unless you want it to be, but I don’t think that’s what you’re asking). Seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist can help with both the physical and emotional elements that lead to painful sex. An additional note: arousal and orgasm produce a series of chemical changes in the body that can have a palliative effect, and your pain thresholds double during high arousal stages. Getting yourself riled up and/or having an orgasm can increase comfort and pleasure during penetration."—Dr. Jess
Question: "How do you safely have anal sex if there's feces up there? Do you need to get rid of everything in your bowels (how?) or is the condom bound to end up touching it regardless?"
Answer: "Regular hygiene (e.g. daily showers or baths) keep the anus clean. Having said that, the bum is a passageway (not a storage facility) for feces, so having a shower before anal play and sliding a finger up your bum to clean it out or double check will help to put you at ease. You also want to practice safer sex (condoms, gloves, dental dams and lube!)."—Dr. Jess
Hopefully, you're feeling a lot more enlightened about sex now. There's no reason to be embarrassed by whatever question you might still have about sex — knowledge is power. Regardless of how long you've been sexually active or how much you already know, learning more could end up changing your sex life.