As an educator who writes and teaches about sexuality, sometimes I still get questions from readers and clients that surprise me.
The most shocking thing isn't the slew of downright strange questions (of which there are many) but the fact that most of the questions that find their way into my inbox and practice are very common sex questions that I assume most adults know by now. Will a vibrator damage my clitoris? How do I make my partner stop watching porn? Does penis size matter? Is an uncircumcised penis normal? There is no end.
For an educator, it can be frustrating. I put so much information out there only to have the same questions asked again and again.
While it can be maddening, it highlights how deeply sexual shame is ingrained in our minds and culture. People have the information at their fingertips, right there on the internet, but it still doesn't land.
The fact that these questions are still being asked isn't the fault of the people asking them. In fact, I'm sure you'll read some of the examples below and realize you yourself don't know the answer to at least one. This lack of knowledge into the most basic of sex questions says much less about the people asking them and much more about the state of sex ed. We're doing ourselves a great disservice as a country by making comprehensive sex ed impossible to access. It's not your fault you're confused; it's our culture's fault.
With that being said, here are five of the most surprising questions adults still ask me about sex:
1. How do I know what I like in bed? I don't think I've ever had an orgasm.
The short answer: Masturbate. So many of us have this intense fear of self-pleasure, as if touching ourselves could make us dirty, slutty, or unworthy of love. (Note: There is nothing wrong with being a slut, FYI.)
These deep-seated puritanical views of sexuality are extremely pervasive and among the main reasons people don't enjoy sex. While it spans across genders, this is true for female-bodied people, especially. The clitoris is so key to experiencing pleasure and orgasm. If you've never touched your own body, you're going to have a lot of problems communicating your desires to a partner.
Explore your body. See what feels good for you. You can do this in bed, in the bathtub with a showerhead, using a hand or a vibrator—whatever works for you. Finding out how to bring yourself pleasure is the key to unlocking your sexuality.
2. Why don't I get wet enough during sex?
This is a question that I get regularly. In these instances, "sex" refers to intercourse. People with vaginas want to know why they need to use lube (or spit, yikes), why intercourse doesn't feel good or is painful, and why they aren't having orgasms during sex.
The answer? Because intercourse just doesn't produce orgasms for most vulva-owning people.
The vaginal canal has very few touch-sensitive nerve endings. The key to female orgasm is the clitoris. While the internal clitoris expands deep into the body, the clitoral glans (the bud at the top of the vulva) is where most of the nerve endings are clustered.
Most of us require clitoral stimulation with adequate foreplay in order to become aroused enough to have intercourse. When the clitoral network is engaged, the clitoris and vulva swell while the vagina lubricates itself. Without this foreplay, sexual intercourse can be uncomfortable or even painful.
"Foreplay" itself is a misnomer, as it places all of the importance on intercourse, when intercourse isn't even a prerequisite for sexual satisfaction.
Additionally, it doesn't matter how wet you get. You should really always be using lube. Lube helps with friction, comfort, and even aids you to have more orgasms. (Here's mbg's guide to picking the right lube.)
3. Why can I orgasm with my vibrator but not during sex?
This question often goes hand-in-hand with queries such as: Is it normal to prefer masturbation to intercourse? And: Can I get addicted to my vibrator?
Vibrators were designed to bring clit-owning people to orgasm. They offer intense sensation that can give you pleasure like nothing you may have experienced before. With that being said, there is absolutely no scientific evidence that you can become addicted to vibration.
We have to stop thinking of orgasms as a finite resource. We need to open ourselves to experiencing and embracing our full potential for pleasure. You may "need" a vibrator to experience an orgasm, and you know what? That's totally OK. Some clit-owning people need more intense stimulation to have orgasms.
As I've mentioned, intercourse very rarely stimulates the clitoris, the key player in female orgasm. It's not surprising that you'd prefer a vibrator or oral sex. You're not weird or broken. You're a normal sexual being. I promise.
4. If I want to try butt play; will it make me gay?
The "will putting something up my butt make me gay" question is extremely popular among cis men. It seems like no matter how many times I write about the joys of prostate play, this question appears in my email a few times a year.
Here is the truth: No, putting something in your butt will not make you gay. If you put something in your butt and then decide that you are into men now, well, it wasn't because you put anything in your butt.
If you're gay, you're born gay. No amount of butt play is going to "make you" anything.
That being said, butt play is accessible for any and all people, regardless of gender. The first few inches of the anus are packed with nerve-rich tissue. Male-bodied people have a prostate, a walnut-size gland located a few inches inside of the butt. When stimulated, it can offer intense and pleasurable sensation.
If you're interested in butt play, there is no reason you shouldn't explore it!
5. What do I do about mismatched libidos?
This question, while very common, has no easy answer. The most important thing we can do about mismatched libidos is to communicate with one another. This is a difficult feat for most couples. Talking about sexual issues or concerns is not something we're taught how to do.
With strict gender roles set in place by society, it is easy for people to become defensive when their partner raises concerns about sex drive. If you're a man who doesn't want sex as much as your partner, it's considered "unmanly." If you're a woman who wants more sex than her male partner, you must be some kind of harlot or crazed sex demon.
Yet, these stereotypes are not at all true. Women, men, queer folks, and beyond all have differing libidos that have nothing to do with gender or sex. To get around differences in libido, we need to talk about it with our partners to find workable solutions. The person with the higher libido often caters to the person who has the lower libido, stifling themselves because they're sick of being "turned down" for sex. This is not good. Both people are responsible for the sex in a partnership. Everyone deserves to feel satisfied and sexually fulfilled.
Sex is part of relationships. You are in a partnership, and both people need to be willing to compromise to keep the relationship healthy. If we knew how to talk about sex, we'd be able to have these conversations much more freely and without fear of judgment.
If you're dealing with mismatched libidos, working on more effectively communicating about it is step one.
We need to talk more about sex.
If we want people to stop floundering on the topic of sex, we need to talk about sex. If we had pleasure-based sexual education in schools, young people would go into the world much more equipped to deal with relationships and communication around sex.
If you're interested in getting more sex ed in your life, check out Planned Parenthood's website for starters. They have super-informative up-to-date information on sexual health and wellness. They even have super-digestible short sex-ed videos. Inform yourself. We all have to.
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