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Dr. Sandra L. Caron is a professor of human sexuality at the University of Maine. To submit a question to Dr. Caron or chat with your peers visit www.CollegeSexTalk.com Got a question for Dr. Caron? Visit www.collegesextalk.com/questions.htm and ask away! Get a guaranteed personal and confidential response to your question: www.my-secure-site.com/collegesextalk/ or E-Mail

Best Time of the Year for Sex
Birth Control
Body Functions / Body Parts
Body Image
Breaking Up/Relationship In Crisis
Can Genital Warts be Spread if We use Protection?
Casual Sex/One-Night Stands
Desire/Arousal
Does having sex help you live longer?
Does Status Make a Difference to Women?
Getting Pregnant
He Goes so Deep He Hits Bone
How much of a curve in a penis is too much?
How to go from Friends to Potential Lovers
I Can't Stand His Friends
I have inverted nipples
Importance of a Condom
Is it common for straight males to masturbate with and/or for other straight males?
Is it Safe to have Sex when she is Menstruating?
Is Oral Sex Normal?
Is there a difference between the sex drives in men and women?
Making a Relationship Last
My friend says she was rape. How do I help?
Ovulation & Sex
Painful Sex
Pregnancy
Recontact with a Former Lover
Safest Brand of Condoms
Sex Life has Cooled Down
Sexual Function/Problems
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
What are some ideas to add creativity to our love making?
What does it really take to have a healthy sexual relationship?
What is a "tipped uterus"?
Which presidential candidate is more supportive of sexuality issues
Why Do Women Always Want Serious Commitments?

He Goes so Deep He Hits Bone


Question from a sophomore female at the University of Minnesota Duluth: When my boyfriend and I were having sex he tried to reach, go in as far as he could. Anyways, he touched something in me that felt like a bone or something solid, I felt it too. I thought it hurt or caused some pressure that was extremely new to me. Do you have any idea on what he was feeling and why I could feel it too. Thanks for your time.

Dr. Caron's answer: I assume that what you and he touched was your cervix. I often tell students that if you reach up into your vagina you will feel something that feels like the end of your nose.... it is the base of the uterus. You may also notice that it feels like it has a dimple. This is the opening into the uterus (the cervical os) - which is about the size of a pencil lead. It allows menstrual flow to leave the uterus, and allows sperm to enter the uterus on its way to the fallopian tube to meet an egg.

If you feel the cervix at different times over the course of a month, you will notice that it changes from feeling very hard to feeling softer at different times of the month. For example, around ovulation (when a women releases an egg from her ovary - usually occurs about 2 weeks before her period), it will feel softer. In fact, one of the things women do who are using Natural Family Planning, is to record the changes in the cervix (as well as temperature and mucous changes). I hope this relieves some of your anxiety. You may also find it useful to refer to a basic biology book to understand the positioning and structure of all your reproductive/sexual organs. Best wishes

Desire/Arousal


Q from a Male, First-Year student at University of Oklahoma: Can being in good physical condition increase your desire to have sex?

A: There are many positive benefits to being in good physical condition. Feeling fit helps us feel better about a lot of things. We often feel better about ourselves when we feel we look our best. Being in good shape often leads to positive feelings about life; our desire for many things increases.

Q from a Female, Senior student at Syracuse University: What can I do when I want to make love, but my partner isn't "in the mood"? How can I get him in the mood?

A: Loving relationships thrive on mutual respect. I am not sure that you can make anybody feel romantic and sexy just because that's the time you're feeling romantic and sexy. Generally, "turn-ons" for men include caring, touch, warm shared feelings, and the interest in mutual respect.

I have inverted nipples


Question from a freshman female at the University of North Texas: This is not directly about sex, but close enough. I have inverted nipples and am so nervous about how other people will react to them when I begin to get sexually active. I know I should be "proud" of my body, which I am, but I feel so strange and different. I don't want guys to scream and run away. I heard there is a surgery that can fix them. Is this true and where can I get more information?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Despite what is presented in the media, inverted nipples are normal. Just as women's breasts come in all different shapes and sizes, their nipples do as well: they may be flat, raised, or inverted - all are common. I believe you are in a good position to educate your partner about how every body is unique - and that includes yours. Just like belly buttons, nipples also range in appearance. And I certainly hope your partner will be interested in having a relationship with you, not a body part!

If you are seriously interested in looking into surgery in an attempt to alter your nipples, there is plastic surgery. You can talk to a medical doctor (such as a gynecologist or someone who specializes in women's health) about this option. However, be forewarned: it is very expensive, often leads to loss of sensitivity and ability to become aroused, and can also interfere with your ability to breastfeed later on. Ask yourself: Is it really worth it? I hope you will recognize the gift your uniqueness and learn to accept and celebrate it

Question from a student at University of Memphis: How long has abortion been legal? Up to what month can a girl have an abortion?

Dr. Caron's Answer: In 1973 the Roe vs. Wade decision legalized a woman's right to obtain an abortion from a qualified physician. However, what many people may not realize is that the decision talked about this right in terms of trimesters of pregnancy.

During the first trimester of pregnancy (when over 90% of abortions are performed in this country), a women can request (sometimes called "demand") an abortion; however, during the second trimester, she can only get an abortion with a physician's consent. During the third trimester, an abortion is only permitted in extreme cases - for example, to save the life of the mother or when the fetus has died in utero.

Ovulation & Sex


Q from a Female, first-year student from Triton College: How a girl can know when she's ovulating? And if the girl does not have an orgasm during sex, can she get pregnant even when she's ovulating?

Dr. Caron's Answer:

In terms of your first question, it can be really difficult to know when a girl is ovulating. Many people say that ovulation takes place about 12-14 days before menstruation. That means you can figure it out "after-the-fact" so to speak. For example, if a woman has a 28-day cycle, she is thought to ovulate around the 14th day. But this clearly varies from girl to girl. To help determine more precisely when ovulation takes place, you may want to learn Natural Family Planning - in which you take your basal body temperature each day and record it on a chart, along with charting what your cervical mucous looks like, and the feel of your cervix. Over time, a girl will be able to determine her ovulation as that time when her temperature drops, her mucus looks like egg white, and her cervix feels soft. It takes a bit of practice and a few months to figure out -there are many good books that explain it in greater detail. In terms of the second question, a girl can get pregnant during intercourse if she is ovulating and there is semen ejaculated into/around the vagina. The sperm and egg could care less if you enjoy the act or not. So to answer your question: No, having an orgasm is not necessary for pregnancy.

Why Do Women Always Want Serious Commitments?


Question from a male junior at MIT: Why do women always want serious commitments? I've never been able to have just a casual dating relationship with anyone I've ever dated.

Dr. Caron's Answer: I think it's true, generally, that many (not all) women prefer commitment to casual dating relationships. You should be clear with yourself about what you want in a relationship. If what you want is a casual friendship without a commitment, it is important to be clear about this both with yourself and the women you meet and date. Sometimes men implicitly make promises about "always being there" for the other person without realizing it. Some examples of "implicit" promises include statements such as, "You're really special," "I've never met anyone like you before," or "I can't wait to see you again." Think through your initial relationships of the past and see if you have made such promises, either verbally or nonverbally, in order to enhance you relationship at the time.

Breaking Up/Relationship In Crisis


Q from a Female, Junior student at University of Florida: I broke up with my boyfriend over a year ago, but I can't stop thinking about him. I've dated other guys, but nobody seriously. Will I ever get over him?

A: Probably. One year isn't really a long time to still be thinking about your old boyfriend, especially when you haven't established another serious relationship. It's important to look at why you still think about him. Is it the relationship with him that you miss, or just having a relationship? Why did you break up? Often times it can be easier to remember the good times with your boyfriend, while forgetting why the relationship didn't work out. Remember: One of our tasks in life is learning to let go. It's hard.

Body Image


Q from a Female, Sophomore Cal State -Fullerton: Why are women made to feel unattractive if they are average-looking as opposed to model-looking.

A: If by "average-looking" you mean the majority of women, then logically the majority must be attractive since they attract others and the human race continues. If only people who look like models were attractive, the birth rate would drop precipitously. Not all men look for the same characteristics, despite the messages from the media about the ideal female form. In fact, over time the ideal changes. I have a friend who's rosy gentle curves would make her an ideal in the 17th century. Relax and look for a guy who's ideal is not the media stereotype.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases


Q from a Female, Senior Texas A&M: What are the symptoms of genital warts?

A: Genital warts are determined by visible inspection. HPV (human papilloma virus) causes genital warts, which is a very common virus, infecting about 1 out of every 4 sexually active people. The warts typically appear on the genitals as soft, pink, painless single or multiple growths resembling a small cauliflower. In men, they may appear on the penis, foreskin, and scrotum, and within the urethra. In women, they may be found on the vulva, in the vagina, and on the cervix. The warts begin to appear 1-3 months after contact and are diagnosed visibly at a health clinic specializing in sexually transmitted infections. They may be removed by freezing, burning, dehydration with an electrical needle, or surgery. Although such treatments may remove the warts, please be aware that they do not rid the body of the virus - so there may be recurrences.

Q from a Female, Senior student at the University of Maine: Can you get genital herpes from someone with a cold sore giving you oral sex?

A: Yes. Genital herpes infection is caused by exposure to the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV 1) or herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV 2) through sexual contact. HSV 1 initially was associated with oral infection (cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth) and HSV 2 with genital infection (blisters on the penis or vulva). Over the past 30 years, however, the increased popularity of oral sex has led to an almost equal probability of transferring either form from mouth to genitals and vice versa. The two viruses are not different clinically, as both cause the same painful symptoms. A person with blisters on the mouth cannot only transfer the virus to another person’s genitals, and vice versa, but a person with herpes can transfer it to other parts of his or her own body by touch, including the eyes, as well (this is called autoinoculation). A 2-12 day incubation period follows transmission of the virus. There is no cure, but there is treatment to speed the healing of the painful blisters. An estimated 20-30 million people are presently infected with genital herpes in the U.S. You should know that the virus can be easily spread by even a quick, casual kiss and thus it should not be assumed that a person with oral herpes got it from performing oral sex. By the way, not all mouth ulcers are caused by the herpes virus; they can also be caused by bacteria, allergic reactions, or autoimmune (canker sores) responses. However, “fever blisters” and most cold sores are herpes.

Does Status Make a Difference to Women?


Q from a male, freshman student at Indiana University wants to know. Why do some women desire to sleep with someone of status - specifically an athlete?

Dr. Caron's Answer: I believe that attraction is a complex matter. While it is possible that a woman (or a man) may wish to sleep with someone purely as a status achievement, relationships cannot be built on a single dimension - any more than you would be comfortable sitting in a chair with one leg.

Best Time of the Year for Sex


Q from a male, sophmore from Boston College wants to know....My girlfriend and I were talking and wondered if there is a time of the year that people have sex more than other times?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Interesting question. I have heard it said that June is the most popular month for first sexual experiences. In terms of the time of year more sex occurs, a good indicator may be to look at condom sales. In a year, Americans purchase over 350 million condoms - that works out to about 27 million condoms in a four-week period (monthly). A national study by AC Neilsen in 2002 found that condom sales increased from mid-May to mid-August, to nearly 28 million condoms sold in four-week period. Based on these findings, one could assume that more people have sex (at least safely) during this time of the year. This study also found that the lowest sales are from September to November, with only about 26 million condoms sold per four-week period. As a side note, the study found that more at-home pregnancy tests are sold in March than in any other month...perhaps the result of Valentine's Day activities. Interesting.

Making a Relationship Last


Q A student from a 5th year male University of South Carolina student wants to know....I have a wonderful relationship and would like to know some of the keys to making a relationship last. I am interested in what suggestions you might have for keeping our relationship together.

Dr. Caron's Answer: One of the most interesting and useful books on this topic is Seven principles for making marriage work by John Gottman. It is full of ideas and activities for couples who want to make their relationship last. Dr. Gottman talks about how stable relationships are based on a deep friendship - the couple doesn't just get along, they support each other's hopes and aspirations and build a sense of purpose into their lives together. He also talks about how important it is to have the positive outweigh the negative.... and suggests that there needs to be 5 positive events for every 1 negative. His final points are really interesting ones for you (or anyone desiring in a long-term relationship) to consider:

  • Before you say goodbye in the morning, be sure to learn about one thing that is happening that day with your partner.
  • Be sure to engage in stress reducing conversations at the end of each workday.
  • Find some way everyday to communicate genuine affection and appreciation toward your partner.
  • Kiss, hold, touch each other during the time you're together.
  • Give at least one genuine praise to your partner each day.

I would add one more to his list that seems very important to the relationship, and that is: Make sure you kiss each other before going to sleep.

Is there a difference between the sex drives in men and women?


Q A student from a female Michigan State University student wants to know....Is there a difference between the sex drives in men and women? If yes, what are those differences?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Physically, we know that men and women are equally capable of sexual arousal. However, when we look at the impact of society on our thoughts and behaviors, we see that men and women are often raised with somewhat different messages/ideas about the meaning of sex and this may lead to different expectations. For example, he may have been raised to think that sex is about finding physical satisfaction/orgasm; versus she may have learned it is a way to find emotional pleasure/love. While society may try to portray women as less interested or uninterested in sex, the reality is that people vary. Some women and some men have very high sex drives, while other men and women do not.

Does having sex help you live longer?


Q A student from a junior male University of Maine student wants to know....Is it really true that having sex makes you live longer?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Clearly, if you are going to be sexually active, practicing safer sex will help you live longer. In terms of your question, there have been a series of research articles suggesting that this might be true. For example, one study found people who had sex less than once a month had twice the death rate of those who had sex at least twice a week. In another study, a researcher found that people who have more sex than the average person (about 4 times a week!) not only live longer, but they actually look younger. Why you ask? Researchers believe that it could be the result of hormones (such as Oxytocin) which are released during orgasm. In his book, Super Young: The Proven Way to Stay Young Forever, Dr. Weeks stresses that diet and exercise also affect whether or not people look younger. One interesting finding was that while masturbation is a healthy alternative to couple sex, he did not find it to be as beneficial in staying younger. So now you know why some people look young for their age! Other studies have linked oxytocin to feelings of bonding or closeness. It turns out women produce about 50 times more of this chemical during sex than do men. In fact, it's been referred to as the "cuddling chemical" - as it seems to play an important role in prompting cuddling between lovers before, during and after lovemaking. Women also produce oxytocin during birthing and lactation - and many believe it may play a role in mother-infant bonding.

I Can't Stand His Friends


Question from a female sophomore from Wake Forest wants to know...I have been dating a guy for a few months and have a major problem. I cannot stand his friends. I do not want this to drive a wedge between us, but it is something I am concerned about. Should I say something or just ignore it?

Dr. Caron's Answer: It sounds like this may be something that is too difficult for you to "sweep under the rug." On the one hand, you know you are not dating his friends, you are dating him. How you feel about your boyfriend plays a major role in your continued interest in the relationship. On the other hand, the people he chooses to surround himself with says something about him - it tells you some things about his values and attitudes. I wish I knew more about what upsets you about his friends. For example, is it something that can repair itself over time? Is it something about them that you can get used to? Is it something you can just ignore? Is it that they demand some (or a lot more) of his attention and that means less time for the two of you? Is it that your boyfriend has not found a good way to balance his time between being with his friends and being with you? Or is it that his friends are the type of people you would never associate with if it were not for your boyfriend? There are a lot of questions to consider. You say you have been dating only a few months, so perhaps you need more time to observe and get to know his friends. Perhaps you have not given them a chance to get to know you and vice versa. Consider taking it slow and keeping yourself open to the idea that you may just need to warm up to each other. However, if you feel the situation is so concerning and so bad that you need to say something to your boyfriend, try to find a way to do it that is respectful of his choice in friends. To be honest, I would not want to put your boyfriend in a situation where he needs to decide between you or his close friends - especially when they have been part of his life a lot longer than you have. Time will tell with this situation. Should you find that you really cannot stand his friends, and your boyfriend is not willing or able to help in resolving the problem, you may need to discontinue the relationship. It really depends on your comfort level and how strongly you feel about the relationship with your boyfriend. What is it about him that interests you or attracts you to him (beyond his poor choice in friends)? You need to decide if the relationship can continue to grow and develop despite his choice in friends. Good luck with this.

My friend says she was rape. How do I help?


Question from a female junior from (unknown/not identified university) wants to know: My friend says she was raped and I honestly do not know what to do to help her or where to turn for help - to help me help her. She is not going to classes and is very depressed.....she stays inside now all the time and refuses to go out to parties or anywhere.

Dr. Caron's Answer: I would suggest contacting the Dean of Students, as well as the public safety/police office, the campus health center, and your campus counseling center. Each of these offices can assist you in helping her. She needs to know her options.... in terms of who can help her legally, medically, emotionally. Many universities now employ sexual assault counselors, so I would also see if you have such a person or office on your campus, or check out the local phone book for a Rape Crisis Center in your community. Sexual assault is a crime and while she needs legal assistance to understand her rights, she also needs medical and emotional assistance. Good for you for being her friend and wanting to help. Believing her is a great first step. Listening, being there, and being patient with her are all going to help. Let's hope your campus is able to respond - they are obligated to help her, but they need to know about this in order to help her. She needs to notify someone within the university system so that the situation can be dealt with appropriately. You will be a big help to her by contacting the various offices initially to see what she needs to do and what will potentially happen at each place. Best wishes.

By the way: What happens when a school does not respond well? Students lose faith in the system, and people become outraged. One example is a website developed by a mother of a student who was sexually assaulted at UVA, www.uvavictimsofrape.com. According to this mother, the situation was not handled well by that university. Let's hope your university responds better than what is described on this website.

What does it really take to have a healthy sexual relationship?


Question from a male junior from University of Connecticut wants to know: I think I know a lot about the right moves, but what else should I be thinking of?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Most people recognize that technique is only a small part of what it takes to have a healthy sexual relationship. It appears to be more important to be able to communicate and create an openness to intimacy and sharing. Survey after survey reveals that a sexual relationship is rated as more satisfying if it is based on such things responsibility, equality, and honesty. This has been found to be true whether it is in the context of a one-night stand or a long-term relationship. Since no two people are alike, a technique (or "move", as you say) that is a turn-on for one person may be the opposite for another. The only sure way to figure out what pleases your partner is to communicate. By this, I mean not only being able to talk, but also being able to listen to your partner. You'll need to have an atmosphere of openness. A few examples of ways that sex can be unhealthy include when it becomes a performance (thinking you must know everything and be the best) and when sex becomes a competition (thinking you have to out-do your partner's previous lovers). Remember: You want to increase the pleasure by reducing the pressure. Again, great sex isn't so much about the right move, as the right mood! Being open to sharing what feels good for each other is an important part of the equation.

Which presidential candidate is more supportive of sexuality issues


Question from a female sophomore from the University of Maine wants to know: Which of the 2 major presidential candidates is more supportive of sexuality issues? They both grew up in the 60s and the sexual revolution, so that should count for something.

Dr. Caron's Response: If you watched the debates or have had a chance to read some of the news stories on President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry, you know that several issues related to sexuality have been discussed. Although they both were in college in the 60s and lived through the "sexual revolution" (and they both have daughters, by the way!!), they differ drastically on issues related to sexuality. Here's the way I understand it: Both Bush and Kerry recognize that we have high teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates, but they have very different ideas on how to deal with reducing these rates. Bush supports abstinence-only-until-marriage programs (have kids sign virginity pledges and teach them to say no until marriage) and he favors reducing teens' ability to access birth control services (both here and oversees - in fact, on his first day in office he cut international family planning). Kerry supports comprehensive sexuality education, which covers abstinence as well as information on birth control, and he supports funding of family planning services (both here and abroad - he says one of his first acts in office will be to restore international family planning funds). When it comes to abortion, Bush has made it clear that he is anti-choice-that the way to reduce the number of abortions is by making it illegal or at least limiting access; he considers abortion murder - except in cases of rape or incest, and then I guess it is not considered murder. Kerry has stated he is pro-choice, and believes this is an issue between the woman, her partner, and her doctor; he is interested in focusing on ways to prevent the pregnancy to begin with. For example, Kerry supports having birth control covered by insurance and supports greater access to emergency contraception. Bush wants us to believe condoms are ineffective and a waste of time and money; Kerry wants us to believe that condoms work and should be promoted as a good means of protection. On gay rights, they both are against gay "marriage," however Kerry supports civil unions giving gay couples the same rights as married people (semantics?). Bush wants to add a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage; Kerry is opposed to having the constitution altered to take away the rights of American citizens (Dick Cheney actually agrees with Kerry on this). Kerry thinks gay Americans should be afforded the same rights as non-gay Americans. To find out more, check out their websites.

Is Oral Sex Normal?


Question from a male sophomore at Michigan: My girlfriend and I have been together for four months and while I would say our sex life is pretty good, it is limited to intercourse and a bit of touching... however, oral sex is not even in the picture.... I have tried to convince my girlfriend that it is a normal thing to do, but she isn't willing to even try. Is this normal for her not to even want to try?

Dr. Caron's Answer: You bring up a good point: No one should ever be forced or coerced into any sexual behavior they are not comfortable with. In terms of who likes or does not like oral sex: depending on what study you look at, 10%-30% of people surveyed found oral sex unusual, kinky or very unappealing. Older adults report less experience with oral sex than younger people; those with more education are more likely to engage in oral sex than those with fewer years of schooling. There are many reasons why someone may feel uncomfortable with oral sex and wish to avoid it. Can you talk with your partner about what may be going on for her? One of the most obvious relates to an individual's morals and attitudes about sex. Some believe that oral sex is simply wrong and conflicts with their personal code of acceptable behavior. Other reasons are unrelated to morality and concern the mechanics of the behavior itself. Women are often concerned that the man will ejaculate in her mouth and she will find that unpleasant. While it is not dangerous to swallow semen (assuming there are no infections), some women would rather not do so (and since many students ask, please know that semen is low in calories with only 5 calories in the average ejaculate). Both men and women worry that the smell or taste of the female genitals will be unpleasant or repulsive. In reality, female genitals that are washed with normal regularity have a natural fragrance that most people find attractive and enjoyable. If these are some of her concerns, perhaps they can be overcome by sensitivity, respect and patience.

Importance of a Condom


Question from a female sophomore at Arizona State University: I know it's important to ask your sexual partner to wear a condom, but how should I approach the issue? I'm not comfortable discussing it.

Dr. Caron's Answer: Anyone you know well enough to be sleeping with, you should know well enough to talk about protection with. However, I recognize that talking about sex has never been easy. In fact, some people even think it's wrong or that it ruins the mood. But in this age of "fatal sexuality" - where people can die from unprotected sexual intercourse - it is crucial that you talk about using condoms. Forethought before Foreplay is essential: Talk with your partner before you end up in bed. You might try bringing up the subject by saying, "Gee, I keep hearing all this stuff about AIDS and safer sex. What do you think?" Or, "I'd love to make love with you, but I'm worried about disease." Talk about your need to have sex safely. If he's a former Boy Scout, he'll understand the concept of being prepared. If he's ever played sports he'll understand how important it is to wear protective gear before you play the game.

Question from a student at Fanshawe College: In the heat of the moment, I forgot to remove my tampon before me and my boyfriend had sex...now it's gone...what do I do now?

Dr. Caron's Answer: If you are sure you did not take it out before intercourse, then it is not "gone" as you say - it is in there somewhere - most likely pushed up/crammed to the top of your vagina, next to your cervix. If you or your partner are unable to reach it when you are squatting and one of you inserts a finger into your vagina, I suggest you seek some medical assistance. It is not uncommon to have a woman contact a health center and ask for assistance in removing a tampon. If you just leave it there, it can create an environment that leads to infection - and you will be seeking medical assistance at that point to relieve the infection. Better now than later. Best wishes!

Safest Brand of Condoms


Question from a senior male student at Central Washington University. What is the safest brand of condoms to use? Also, if possible could you give me a list of ratings that condoms got for being safe?

Dr. Caron's Answer: There are more than 100 brands of condoms available in the United States today. Latex condoms are the most effective method for reducing the risk of infection from HIV that cause AIDS, as well as other STDs. For people who are sensitive to latex, polyurethane condoms are a good alternative. Some condoms are pre-lubricated. These lubricants do not increase birth control or STD protection. Non-oil-based lubricants, such as water or K-Y jelly, can be used with latex or lambskin condoms. Do not use oil-based lubricants with a latex condom (such as petroleum jelly/Vaseline, lotions, or massage or baby oil) because they can weaken the condom and cause it to break.

The FDA, which regulates condoms as a medical device, reviews production records and examines stock at random. Should leaks turn up on 4 per 1000 condoms in a run, the entire lot is thrown out. It is important to know that an estimated 2-5% of condoms tear during use. Most of those failures are thought to stem from misuse, not inherent product flaws. That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides directions on the importance of consistent and correct use of condoms, including: use a condom with every act of intercourse from start to finish store in cool place, check expiration date, open carefully, use a new condom every time, put condom on erect penis before it touches any part of partner’s body, be sure to leave a reservoir tip, withdraw soon after ejaculation while still erect.

Consumer Reports has also tested the effectiveness of condoms. Their report in 1999 tested 30 models of latex condoms major brands and small brands, in different sizes, textures, and lubricants, some promoting extra thinness or strength. Only 2 products of the 30 failed their tests: Durex Pure Protection Spermicidally Lubricated and Trojan Plus 2 Spermicidal so avoid those 2 products!

All of the following passed their minimum burst standards, as well as their higher threshold test, so these would be brands to consider purchasing:

Lubricated condoms that did well:

Beyond Seven, Class Act Ultra Thin & Sensitive, Durex Extra Sensitive, and Trojan Ultra Thin are thinner than most. Trojan Magnum is longer and wider than most. Kimono Microthin is longer and thinner than most. Lifestyles Vibra Ribbed, Trojan Ultra Texture, and Trojan Ribbed are textured condoms. Durex Enhanced Pleasure, Lifestyles Extra Pleasure, and Trojan Ultra Pleasure are uniquely shaped. Trojan Shared Sensation is textured and uniquely shaped.

Unlubricated condoms that did well:

Trojan has a plain end; Trojan-Enz has a nipple shaped reservoir like all other condoms in the ratings.

Painful Sex


Question from a female junior at student at the University of Calgary:

I have a question for a friend of mine. He has recently been dating this woman. She states that she has never had an orgasm before. She has not had sex in 2 years. When my friend and her went to have intercourse, he said that it was very painful for her. They tried Vaseline and lubrication from the drugstore, but it didn't seem to alleviate the pain. Any suggestions as to why or how they can prevent future reoccurrences of this painful event.

Dr. Caron's Answer: Your question raises several issues. One issue is the pain this woman is experiencing with intercourse. I would like to know if she has always experienced pain, or if it is just now with this new partner. If she has always experienced pain, an appointment with a gynecologist would be recommended to rule out a physical concern. Assuming it is not physical, you say they have tried lubricants but that did not seem to help relieve the pain. The choice to use a lubricant indicates a possible arousal issue. In order for her own body to produce sufficient lubrication, she needs to feel desire, trust, and affection for her partner.

You say this is a new relationship. Perhaps their emotional intimacy needs to be further developed before they proceed with physical intimacy. One suggestion is for them to try to expand their definition of sex - thinking of it as more than just intercourse. Certainly slowing things down, focusing less on intercourse and reaching orgasm, and more on the pleasure of giving will help. It is also important that she have control in the sexual situation so that should penetration take place, she is guiding that process and finding the position that is best for her. [Note: Use of a water-based lubricant is advised (e.g., Astroglide, K-Y jelly); oil-based lubricants such as Vaseline are not recommended.]

The other issue you raise is about her inexperience (you say she has not had sex in several years and she has never had an orgasm). This can certainly relate to her lack of arousal, and any anxiety or stress she may be placing on the sexual aspect of their relationship. It sounds like she (and maybe even he) does not know much about her own sexual functioning. For example, some people do not realize that the clitoris is strategically located outside and above the vaginal opening. For many women, stimulation around this area is essential for reaching orgasm. Such stimulation does not require intercourse or a penis. It's important for a woman to first find out for herself what feels good and then gently show her partner. Many men (and women) have been told that "real sex" means "penis-in-vagina" only; many of us recognize that sex involves much more than this.

Overall, I think there is something to be said about the importance of this couple to talk to one another openly about what they are experiencing. Sexual communication is both an important and necessary aspect of any relationship. Couples that explore each other's need and desires enhance the satisfaction experienced in an intimate relationship. However, many couples choose to overlook the possibilities that open communication implies. Lack of or ineffective communication is a leading cause of sexual dysfunction. Talking about sex is not always easy, but it is necessary. Communication not only alleviates anxiety, but also heightens sexual pleasure. One might start by asking, "What do you like?" or "What feels good to you?" The bedroom may not be the best place to start this conversation. Although communication is sometimes difficult, it is essential to a healthy and growing relationship.

Recontact with a Former Lover


Q from a male, Junior student at the University of Chicago wants to know....What do you do if you carry strong feelings for an ex-lover, but you have lost contact due to distance? I'm afraid she may be mad because I haven't called, but it was too hard to hear her voice. Can you make any suggestion of how to open the relationship again?

Dr. Caron's Answer: I would suggest writing her a letter, rather than calling her. That way she isn't put on the spot or taken by surprise. It gives her the chance to think about what has happened and decide how she wants to respond. Since you say she may be mad, I would suggest including an explanation of why you haven't called (i.e., it was too hard to hear her voice). You might also explain your current interest in re-connecting with her. Is it to rekindle a love relationship, to develop a friendship, or to just check out if she's alive? You don't indicate how long ago you were involved with her. Please be prepared to hear that she may have "moved on". She may not share your feelings. She may even be involved in another relationship. It does sound like you need some type of "closure" - I hope you can find it with your letter. if not, you need to find the strength to do it on your own - or even with the help of someone like a counselor. Sometimes an objective person can offer you the insight and support you need to let go and move on. Good luck!

Can Genital Warts be Spread if We use Protection?


Q from a Female, Senior student from an unidentified university wants to know....I started seeing a guy who has HPV. He has gone to his family doctor and has used the cream. His doctor said he can barely see them. The warts are located on his mound (pubic) area. His doctor has referred him to see a specialist. My question is: Because he is on medication can this be spread to me? Also, how can we use protection when they are on his mound area?

Dr. Caron's response: Genital warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV). It is the most common sexually transmitted viral disease in the U.S., with over 5 million new cases annually. The warts usually appear on the genitals a few months after exposure to an infected partner. They are not painful, but some strains have been associated with a higher incidence of cervical cancer. HPV is extremely contagious, so it is in your best interest to wait until the small warts have been treated to proceed with genital contact. As you realize, a male condom is not going to cover the mound where the warts are located; and if you use a female condom, the rim may offer some protection from coming in contact with his mound, but it cannot be guaranteed to keep the area covered during sexual intercourse. Although the cream he is using is effective in removing the warts, it works slowly and may take months - and the warts are still contagious. In addition, genital contact with him is not advised while he is using the cream that is designed to burn off the warts; direct contact of this cream with your genitals would not be pleasant. I am glad to know he is being referred to a specialist ­ someone who works specifically with sexually transmitted diseases ­ who can verify that these are genital warts and remove them more quickly. Genital warts can be removed by laser surgery, cryotherapy (freezing), cauterization (burning), or surgical excision. Once they are treated and the skin has healed, your friend should plan regular follow-up visits and also check himself regularly ­ since recurrence is not uncommon. As his sexual partner, you should proceed with caution once all signs of the warts are gone.

Birth Control


Q from a Male, Senior student at Colorado State: Well here is the deal... i am in a relationship where we are sexually active, but i have a problem. We have had unprotected sex, and we tried to use protection. Every time we try, "brian" doesn't cooperate and loses interest. I love my girlfriend to death and when we don't use protection it's the greatest ever... but help! we need/want protection, but its just not working...

A: You say you are using protection sometimes, and other times you are not. By protection, I assume that you are referring to use of condoms (the method that is causing "brian" to lose interest). My first question is: What are you and your girlfriend trying to protect yourselves from? If it is only pregnancy, there are several options (e.g., contraceptive pills, shots, and implants). Make an appointment to visit your local family planning together to discuss these options. If you are interested in protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases, and a male condom is not working out for you (or "brian"), then perhaps she could consider using the female condom. If this is a monogamous relationship, and both of you are currently disease free, then your best protection from disease is to keep the relationship monogamous. There is no need to use condoms for protection from a disease that does not exist in such a situation. Whatever you decide, remember: Forethought Before Foreplay is always useful in other words, be sure to talk to your partner about this before you find yourself together beneath the sheets. Facing an unplanned pregnancy is not something either of you should have to contend with at this point in your life.

How to go from Friends to Potential Lovers


Q from a male junior at the University of Maine wants to know: I've been best friends with this girl for two years. I'm starting to develop stronger feelings for her now and I believe she feels the same way. How do I break the ice and not ruin the friendship if things don't work out?

Dr. Caron's Answer: As with any relationship, a person must often take risks to move forward. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees that things will work out. However, it is helpful that you have already established a friendship. But before you talk with her about how you're feeling, I suggest you think about how you'll feel if she says she just wants to continue to be friends. Will you be able to continue the friendship? I would guess that if your friendship is important to both of you, you'll be able to work things out. Best wishes.

Is it Safe to have Sex when she is Menstruating?


Q from a male freshman at BU wants to know: We are new at this and wondering: Can a woman have sex while she is menstruating? Is it really safe?

Dr. Caron's answer: Yes, and many women do. Some women even prefer intercourse during this time because they fear pregnancy less (assuming they ovulate in the middle of their cycle). For others, having sex/orgasm often makes a women feel particularly good at this time and can relieve menstrual cramping by relieving pelvic congestion. While some women feel more sexual during this period, it should be noted that others wouldn't dream of desiring sex at this time. Although sex during a woman's period is harmless, one's attitude about menstruation can effect how she (or her partner) feels about participating in sex during this time.

Pregnancy


Q from a Male, Junior student at Michigan State: How many days out of the month can a woman get pregnant?

A: A woman is technically only fertile for approximately 1 day; that is, the day she ovulates. The egg is generally fertilizable for only 12 to 24 hours following its release from the ovary. Ovulation typically occurs 14 days before the start of her next menstrual cycle. Because sperm only have an effective life of about 72 hours and the egg an even shorter life, conception must occur within 24 to 36 hours of ovulation. Knowing this, it is amazing to think people are even able to get pregnant. If a woman is really interested in tracking her own ovulation, she might want to pick up a book explaining natural family planning. It’s a method that assists women in determining their time of ovulation by keeping track of temperature and mucus changes.

Casual Sex/One-Night Stands


Q from a Female, Junior student at U. of Oregon: How do I know if I'm promiscuous or just normally enjoying sex with several partners?

A: Promiscuity is a label that some people use to describe the behavior of those who have sex with a variety of different partners on a casual basis. Because of the double standard, it's more often used in a negative way to describe women. Clearly there are some people who enjoy sex with a variety of partners, and prefer to avoid getting emotionally involved. According to Gina Ogden, author of Women Who Love Sex, if a person engages in this kind of behavior in a responsible, nonexploitative manner, taking appropriate steps to reduce risks of disease and pregnancy, and emerges from them without negative feelings or conflict, there is no particular reason to judge the behavior as a problem. Sometimes, however, having multiple sex partners may be motivated by something else. Many of us have probably seen people engaging in random sex for reasons that are not always positive such as an unsatisfied personal life or lack of self-respect. Certainly some people feel a need to prove themselves. Multiple sexual encounters may also represent a means of escape or retaliation for a troubled relationship. In these cases, the person has the potential of creating more serious problems. Hopefully they can take a moment to look at their motives - talk with someone about what is going on and develop more appropriate ways to deal with these stresses. I suggest you look at your motives for having sex and decide.

What is a "tipped uterus"?


Q from a female junior at SF State wants to know. What does it mean to have a "tipped" uterus? My doctor told me this and gave me no indication of what this might mean for me down the road.

Dr. Caron's Response: The uterus is held in the pelvic area by ligaments - sort of suspended in place. It is generally perpendicular to the vagina - tilting toward the bladder. However, in 1 in every 5 women, the uterus tilts back toward the rectum (hence the term "tipped"). So no need to worry. This poses no serious problems but may cause discomfort in some positions during intercourse. In the old days, they would tell women this could lead to difficulty in pregnancy (conceiving, carrying or delivering a baby) - but this has not proven to be the case. Although I should point out that some have suggested that rear-entry intercourse position may be more comfortable and may improve the chances of conception over the man-on-top intercourse position.

How much of a curve in a penis is too much?


Q from a female senior at Central Florida wants to know. I have never seen anything like this before. My boyfriend has a curved penis, which makes sexual intercourse uncomfortable. We've tried different positions, but that hasn't helped. It's really curved! What should I do?

Dr. Caron's Answer: Unlike women, who tend to have regular gyn exams where certain conditions are recognized and discussed, males are not so lucky. Has he ever been to see a family physician or urologist to discuss this? I would encourage him to do so. While some degree of curvature is perfectly normal, men with Peyronie's disease have excessive curvature that can make erections painful or make it difficult to enjoy intercourse. This rare condition is caused by buildup of fibrous tissue and calcium deposits in the penile shaft. Although some Peyronie's disease appears to clear up on their own, most require medical attention. Encourage him to talk to his family doctor for a referral to a urologist. Good luck.

What are some ideas to add creativity to our love making?


Q from a freshman male at Georgia Southern wants to know. I have been in a relationship with a girl I have known for almost a year now. Our sex life is healthy but she says that I am not creative. She wants me to think up new ideas but I need help. Suggestions?

Dr. Caron's response: Let me begin by saying that since your sex life involves her, I guess I would ask her to participate in the creativity process.... and not expect you to be the one who initiates or creates the new experience. And what exactly does she mean by "creative"? If she means she would like to try new positions, well... the Kama Sutra suggests there are 529 possible positions... so this may be a resource for you. My guess would be that your relationship has fallen into a pattern or routine where the newness has worn off... if it is the same old thing time after time, it's going to get boring. That's true with many things in life... for example, if you get excited about a new flavor of Ben & Jerry's ice-cream and then proceed to eat it every day, the excitement will wear off and it will become boring. I imagine that whoever said, "variety is the spice of life" may have been referring to our sex life. I think expanding one's definition of sex beyond penis-in-vagina is a good place to start. What else do you do in terms of touching and caressing one another? Varying the time and place of your sexual interaction can help add to the excitement and sense of newness. But as I said in the beginning, I think this task of being more creative involves both of you... can you talk to her about ideas she may have to spice things up? Perhaps asking her what turns her on and where she likes to be touched would help.....maybe when you are in bed together you could ask her to show you. I believe that by communicating with each other, you will be better able to meet each other's needs. Best wishes.

Body Functions / Body Parts


Q from a Male, First-Year student at Bowling Green: Which is better in a penis: length or width?

A: You may have heard the quote, "It's not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean." The vagina is quite adept at accommodating to penis size and many women actually prefer stimulation around the clitoris and vaginal opening to deep thrusting, which some women may find painful. Pleasant stimulation doesn't require a large penis (in width or length) and can be achieved by hand or mouth. The size of a man's penis seems to be more important in the locker room than in the bedroom.

Sexual Function/Problems


Q from a Female, Sophomore student at Tennessee State: Me and my boyfriend have been together for 4 months. When we have sex I can't come. I think I can do it but I'm not sure, this upsets my boyfriend as he thinks I don't get pleasure from sex with him but I do. Can you help me??

A: It is not uncommon for women to have problems reaching orgasm early on in a sexual relationship. It takes time to get to know what is possible when the two of you are together. It sounds like you need to spend some time finding out what is pleasurable for you.

Are you comfortable touching your own body? Once you know what feels good - you will be better able to point your partner in the right direction. It's also important to know that most women need direct stimulation of the clitoris for orgasm to occur.

As far as penis-in-vagina sex: this tends to be an ineffective method for many women to reach orgasm. The clitoris is located too far from the vaginal opening to receive adequate stimulation from thrusting alone. It is not surprising to hear you have not reached orgasm this way. Your boyfriend needs to know this and be educated as well.

I suggest you begin by familiarizing yourself with your own body. One book that has been helpful for many women in your situation is, For Each Other, by Lonnie Barbach (see suggested books on my website). Her book discusses female anatomy, pleasure, and touching, as well as how to communicate your needs and desires to your partner. I think your boyfriend would benefit from reading this with you.

Remember: Every woman is unique. The only way he will know how to please you is if you understand yourself. Best wishes!

Q from a Female, Senior student at Miami University: I am never able to fuly attain an orgasm. Whether with my boyfriend, or while masturbating, I always reach the point where I feel an orgasm coming, and then my body becomes completely numb for a few moments. After, I feel overly sensitive, as though I've just had an orgasm.

What can I do to stop "freezing" and start feeling the orgasm? I've had orgasms in the past, but not in a few years. I've never experienced anything sexually traumatic, and my relationship with my boyfriend is very fulfilling, so what could the problem be?

A: It is not uncommon for women to have problems reaching orgasm. It takes time to get to know your body and how it works - what feels good and what is a turn-on. You say you reach a point where things become numb. One suggestion is to move toward orgasm more slowly. Another is to stimulate the area around the clitoris ­ rather than directly. In fact, some women find that direct stimulation of the clitoris is way too sensitive, and they shut down. So try to begin by gently stimulating the area around the clitoris, and then "back off" every few minutes before returning to stroking your clitoris. Allow yourself to build toward the orgasm. The other suggestion is to purchase a vibrator (sold as body massager in most stores), and use that either alone or with your partner to explore what feels good. One book I would recommend is For Yourself, by Lonnie Barbach. It may offer you some valuable insight.

Sex Life has Cooled Down


A female grad student from the University of Maine wants to know….When our relationship started over 2 years ago, my partner and I had a great and active sex life---for the past 6 months or so, things have died down a lot. Is there anything we can do to get our sexual desires back? We both take antidepressants, which is likely a contributing factor.

Dr. Caron's Answer: First of all, I need to say that this is one of the most common questions I receive from couples who have been together for several years. It may be reassuring to know you're not alone. There are lots of possible reasons for low desire. Please know that a person's sexual desire (or "sex drive" as it is commonly referred to) moves up and down throughout the course of his/her lifetime. There are many things that seem to impact on our sexual desire. Low sexual desire has been associated with such factors as depression, anger, stress, habituation to a sexual partner (the novelty and risk are gone), fear of loss of control, religious orthodoxy, sexual assault, medication side effects, conflict, and fear of closeness. You are right that anti-depressants can have an effect. Talk to your doctor about this and about possible changes in the type of medication. However, if you have both been taking them all along, this would suggest that it may be something else. The most common reason for low desire is ROUTINE! Anything that is routine, which happens over and over again in the same exact way, becomes boring or stale. Even sex. For too many couples, sex becomes a routine that happens at the end of the day, when you're both exhausted, just before falling asleep. If you believe your low desire is related to routine, then I would suggest talking with your partner about how you can "spice up" your relationship. It's important to make things different: changing your positions, places, and times; adding little surprises; doing the things that used to turn you on which have now fallen to the side. It's important to find ways to vary your experiences - this means communicating and negotiating with your partner. I should also point out that some therapists believe that relationship issues are the most important factors contributing to desire problems. Some people experiencing low sexual desire say they are very unhappy in the quality of their relationship with their partner, particularly in the expression of affection. This may be something to look at? It is true for you? If there are things that are upsetting you, it may be time to settle those having a conversation about what is happening in your relationship outside the bedroom will be important. Sometimes those issues get taken into the bedroom with us and it is hard to put them aside and just enjoy the pleasure. Finally, I just want to say that if you and your partner are comfortable with the relationship as it is and neither of you have a need to be sexual right now then fine. Trying to live up to someone else's expectations of what should be going on sexually in your relationship can actually cause more problems. You two need to figure out what works best for your relationship. Best wishes.

Getting Pregnant


Q from a Female First-Year student at UNCC wants to know….Can a woman get pregnant at any time, or is there a time when she can't get pregnant?

Dr. Caron’s response: You get pregnant when an egg and sperm meet ­ so both need to be present for this to occur. Most women ovulate (release an egg) in the middle of their cycle. For example, if a woman menstruates every 28 days, she typically ovulates on or around the 10-16th day before the start of her next period. The egg lives only 4 to 24 hours after ovulation. Sperm are most active within 48 hours after ejaculation. So, one way to avoid pregnancy is to avoid having intercourse around the time you ovulate. (of course you can also use birth control pills that stop ovulation completely ­ no egg = no way to get pregnant).The problem is trying to determine when you ovulate. For some women the signs are more obvious. For example, some women experience a twinge on one side of the lower abdomen during ovulation, called mittleschmerz (German for middle pain). Around the time of ovulation there is an increase and a change in cervical mucous secretions. The mucus becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy (like egg white). It is at this time that a woman can most easily become pregnant. If you really want to understand your body and your ovulatory cycle, I suggest learning natural family planning (there are books explaining this); this method teaches you how to chart your temperature and mucus changes in order to predict ovulation. You can also buy an ovulation-predication kit at the drug store; but this can be a bit expensive, as it requires you to check your urine daily for the presence of hormones. Best wishes!

Is it common for straight males to masturbate with and/or for other straight males?


Q from a Male, senior at Harvard University wants to know.....Is it normal, or should I say common, for straight males to masturbate with and/or for other straight males?

Dr. Caron's response: Let me begin by stating that just because something is not common does not mean it is not normal. And although we usually think of masturbation as a solo activity, it can be shared with a sexual partner in person, or via phone or internet. It also happens in groups. Please keep in mind that finding good research data on masturbation is difficult because many people are not comfortable reporting honestly about their masturbatory behavior. Having said that, when looking for data on straight males masturbating with other straight males, it does not appear to be a very common practice - at least in the published research arena. The little research found on this would fall into the category of group masturbation – also known as the "circle jerk" - where groups of boys form a circle and see who can masturbate the fastest or propel their ejaculate the furthest. One recent paper on this very topic was published by Cornog in the Journal of Sex Education and Therapy. An adult version of group masturbation occurs in organized clubs, sometimes referred to as Jack-Off or JO clubs. One example is the New York Jacks, a male masturbation club started in the 1980s. Although it is thought that this type of shared masturbatory experience most likely occurs between gay males, we know it also includes women and heterosexuals. This is seen in the rise in clubs now referred to as Jack and Jill Off or JJO clubs. Getting back to your question - I think it is important for the people participating to decide what they are comfortable with - and if this feels right for them - in terms of their own values and beliefs. That's something to consider when deciding whether to share this side of oneself with another person.

Book on Masturbation

© 2008, Sandra L. Caron

Resources
Related Issues:
Sexuality, Gay/Bi/Trans, Teen Sex , Talking With Kids About Tough Issues
Journals - on Sexual Abuse and Trauma
Periodicals -Gay/Bi
Books
Sexuality, Gay/bi, and Transgender.

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Sex is much bigger than genitals. It's a matter of sensory awareness, living in the physical world and reacting to it in a sensory way. - Camille Paglia



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