Sex Q&A: How Can You Tell if Your Vagina Is Loose?

Q: I have an embarrassing question. How can you tell if your vagina is loose? I met someone and he couldn’t keep his hands off of me, so I know it wasn’t an issue of attraction. Soon I gave in and decided to sleep with him. He couldn’t get an erection. It was just a semi and I feel like I’m the problem. I haven’t given birth and I’d like to think that I have sex moderately. How is it possible that my vagina is loose? Can you advise me please? Thank you!

A: Vaginas are fascinatingly flexible. The vaginal walls are made of contractile tissue, meaning muscle. These muscles can stretch to accommodate something as small as a finger and as large as a baby’s head. While vagina-owners may require recovery time after delivering a baby for the vagina to return to its original level of elasticity, vaginas do not become more “loose” after a certain amount of sex.

That being said, you do have some control over the strength of your pelvic floor muscles (also known as kegel muscles). To locate your kegel muscles, try stopping the stream of urine next time you pee. The muscles you’re tightening to do that are your pelvic floor muscles. You can exercise these by squeezing them in three second intervals. There are also kegel balls available to exercise these muscles, which can be worn throughout the day and come in different sizes and weights. Stronger kegel muscles will lead to stronger orgasms!

So then, what was the reason for your partner’s loss of erection? There are a multitude of reasons that can explain erectile difficulties. First, let’s break down this common misconception: Erections are not a direct measure of arousal levels. The size of an erection is not a measure of how sexually desirable you are or how into the moment your partner is; let your partner tell you whether or not they want to have sex, not their penis.

That being said, there are a few possible explanations for a non-erect penis during sex. Is your partner on medication? Certain drugs, including antidepressants, can make maintaining an erection or achieving orgasm difficult. Comfort level and stress can also contribute to erectile difficulties. Anxiety — whether it’s about the sexual encounter or something due at work the next day — can cause a penis-owner to go limp. Alcohol consumption, smoking, and fatigue are also all factors that can contribute to erectile difficulties.

While it’s rare for men under 40 years old, some men do experience chronic erectile dysfunction. If your partner has difficulty maintaining an erection over 50% of the time, that may be a sign of a condition requiring treatment.

The most effective way to tackle erectile difficulties with your partner is to communicate about them. Avoid accusatory language toward either you or your partner, such as statements like, “I think there is something wrong with you,” or “Is there something wrong with me?” Try bringing up the conversation outside of the bedroom. Taking yourselves outside of an already vulnerable scenario may make it easier to open up and communicate honestly.

Besides talking it through, there are a few sexual enhancement devices that can help. Cock rings are elastic rings worn at the base of the penis or around the testicles that restrict blood flow to the shaft of the penis. They come in all different sizes, and the CSPH recommends something stretchy for beginners. However, be wary of jelly-like materials that may be irritating. Rings made out of silicone or nitrile are usually your best bet. Some cock rings, like the Je Joue Mio, also vibrate in order to stimulate both partners simultaneously. A penis pump can also be a helpful tool. It creates a vacuum that tugs at the tissue of the penis, causing it to increase in size. The effects of a penis pump are usually more temporary compared to a cock ring, as penis pumps are used before sexual activity instead of during.

Remember: Normal is a frame of mind. Whether it’s the strength of your vagina or your partner’s erection, the most important thing is that you and your partner are having safe and pleasurable sex. Releasing expectations of a certain level of normalcy can reduce anxiety and solve some of these problems!

Join The CSPH as they celebrate their 5th birthday on Sept 19. Details at celebrate.thecsph.org.

Gwendolyn Rosen is a recent graduate from Wesleyan University with a dual degree in feminist, gender and sexuality studies and sociology. She is currently an intern at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health and focused on reducing sexual shame through honest conversations and community building.

Sex Q&A: How Do I Stay in the Moment?

sexSometimes I fantasize about other sexual encounters, or “highlight reel,” while having sex with my long term partner. I very much love my partner, and I’d like to be more in the moment when we’re having sex. How can I do to be more in the moment during sex?

Whether due to stress, exhaustion or boredom, staying in the moment during sex can sometimes be a challenge. Lovers often seek the full attention of their partners during intimate moments as a means of validating the depth of their connection. However, it can be difficult at times to dedicate our undivided attention to our partners in bed. As the novelty of being with a new person wears off, you might find yourself spacing out or thinking about other sexual situations.

We are often told that fantasizing about having sex with someone other than the person we have made a commitment to is similar to cheating; some call it “emotional cheating.” Many of us feel guilty for having such thoughts, but having sexual thoughts about someone other than your significant other is very common. 

De-stigmatizing the matter helps reduce the associated anxiety, and keeps you relaxed and concentrating on your partner. As a couple, you need to develop an understanding that thinking about having sex with other people does not necessarily indicate lack of interest or unfaithfulness. In fact, sexual fantasies can highly improve the quality of your sex life.

There are ways that you could tactfully discuss the matter with your partner. First, your fantasies are yours and you get to decide what details to disclose and how to disclose them. Second, it never hurts to be discreet: “By the way, I was totally thinking about shagging your best friend,” is not the best phrase for opening up the conversation. However, you can talk about where to draw the line when it comes to fantasies. Is it cheating to have sexual fantasies of any kind? If not, what are the elements that may make the fantasies unacceptable? Is it okay to think of celebrities or people who are not in your immediate circle of friends? Exploring the subject from many different angles can not only be rewarding for you personally, but also for your relationship with your partner.

Never rule out the possibility that your partner may be fantasizing as well. Having a conversation about fantasy during sexy time can reduce the potential guilt you may feel when those images spring into your mind. When you find yourself fantasizing about a person other than the one you are having sex with, simply let that thought run through you, allow it do what it is there to do — turn you on, get you off, or both — and then it will slide right out of your brain after its purpose has been served.

There are things you can do to bring yourself back to the moment. Some options include listening to soothing music, practicing relaxation methods and trying new sexual situations to bring back the novelty of sex. Relaxation not only helps with being in the moment, but also improves the quality of your orgasms. One helpful technique, Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), is great if you need a quick way to relax, put your head back on your body, and feel the presence of life around you.

Spicing up your relationship can take on many forms within the boundaries and comfort level you and your partner choose. Be creative and think about possible changes that could add a little more zest to your love-making. Tools such as Mojo Upgrade provide a safe way to discover your common sexual interests without having to bring up a risky proposal. You can learn more about ways to share your sexual fantasies and getting your partner excited about them by reading our Q&A, Sharing Sexual Fantasies. You can also check out our resource page, How To Use The CSPH To Improve Your Sex Life, for new ideas.

Finally, keep in mind that while intimate bonding is best maintained when a couple dedicates their full attention to their lover, not every sexual encounter requires an undivided attention for it to be good. So just relax, try new things while respecting your partner’s boundaries, and let your fantasies run wild!

Written by Ari Sitta, edited by Erin Basler-Francis

Sex Q&A: All About Kegel Balls

kegelLike with many new exercise programs and tools, Kegel balls could benefit from an FAQ. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health  answers some of those “Who can I even ask about this?” questions. From sex toys to fantasies to how to tell your kids about the birds and bees, we’ll supply the answers you crave.

Kegel balls are body-safe hollow balls with tiny weights inside of them that are inserted into the vagina and left there. As we discussed in a previous column, Kegel balls, or ben wa balls, can be extremely beneficial for both increasing the strength and frequency of orgasms and maintaining the tone of the pelvic floor. This month, we troubleshoot some common complaints about kegel balls.

Can Kegel balls get stuck?

To start, let’s talk about the tactile parts of the Kegel ball experience. While it is possible for Kegel balls to stick to the vaginal walls, it is pretty simple to remedy and prevent. To relieve that “stuck” feeling, just move the exerciser within the vagina.

Or get on board with lube. The myth that lube is only for anal and when the vagina isn’t “wet” is keeping people from experiencing how lube can completely change the feel of sexual encounters — for the better. In the case of Kegel balls, lube can prevent discomfort by keeping the surface slick and the vaginal walls slippery. Generally, a water-based lube should do the trick, but if there are still issues with stickiness, try a different formulation, like a hybrid or creme. Just remember: If your Kegel balls are made of silicone, stay away from silicone lube, as it can be incompatible and damage the surface of the kegel balls.

My Kegel balls are lost! Did they get past my cervix?

The cervix is the Great Wall of Uterus. However, it is the baseline fear of many people putting anything fully into the vagina that the item will take a queue from the Huns and breach the barrier. Rest easy. For people whose ectocervix (the part that can be seen during a pelvic exam) is intact, the Kegel balls are not going to get past it. The average diameter of the cervical os (the opening at the end of the vaginal canal) ranges from 1/10th to 3/10th of an inch. For reference, the smallest kegel balls are generally larger than ¾th of an inch in diameter.

Unless you have had a portion of your cervix removed, it is extremely unlikely the Kegel ball will travel into the uterus. If you are using ben wa style balls (those that are not connected and don’t have a retrieval string) it is possible that the ball just nestled comfortably into a part of the vaginal canal. Try coughing a couple of times and it should resurface.

The Kegel balls are super uncomfortable. Why?

To get a little more in depth into Kegel ball comfort, let’s discuss the vagina. Masters & Johnson, in their seminal sex research, measured the average length of the unaroused vaginal canal to be 2.8 – 3.1 inches from introitus (the vaginal opening) to cervix. When aroused, length increased to 4.3 – 4.7 inches. That inch may seem insignificant when looking at the numbers, but it makes a world of difference when we are talking in vagina terms. Additionally, the vaginal walls are mucosal membranes — like the inside of your nose or cheeks — and we all know how much it sucks to have something scratch either of those.

How do you find Kegel balls that will fit your vagina and feel fantastic?

Look at the construction. Is the part that connects the center firm or flexible? If the center is firm and they are too long, the Kegel balls could be sitting uncomfortably in the vagina. Look for ben wa balls or a Kegel ball set with a flexible connector. Make sure the whole thing can be sterilized. This means no braided string. Look for balls that are smooth and have no seams. Scratchy, sharp edges can cause some serious discomfort for the wearer.

Hopefully, this information assuages some of the Kegel concerns you have.

This month’s column is by staff member Erin Basler-Francis. Do you have more sexuality questions? Send them to sex@motifri.com, where they will be kept confidential!

Sex Q&A: So I Want to Try This Thing …

Ever found yourself wondering how to introduce a new sex act to your partner, or how to have orgasms that really hit the spot?  If so, you’ve come to the right place!  The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health will be publishing a monthly question and answer series for all your sex and sexuality-related inquiries.  From sex toys to fantasies to safer sex, we’ll be doling out advice to keep your bedroom romps fresh and your inner sex kitten purring.

This month’s column is from Kimberly Jackson, Contributor the CSPH Blog. Email your pressing sex questions to sex@motifri.com, where they will be kept confidential!

I am a vorarephile, and I’ve run into a problem: How to tell romantic partners? While it would theoretically be harmless, it feels like a violation of trust to pursue a relationship with someone I wasn’t out to, and who didn’t realize that I might fantasize about them swallowing me. At the same time, though, I don’t know how to convey, “I like the idea of being eaten, and it turns me on,” without implying that I’m into real-world cannibalism. I’m out to a few friends, but I’ve been pretty careful about whom I told.

Vorarephilia (aka “vore”): a sexual interest in being eaten alive, eating another, or watching the process, which is expressed through fantasy and role-play. This might include the process of digestion, as well, in a pain-free or painful way. There are variants within vore, and you can read more about those here.

Although your paraphilia may be unusual, your feelings of doubt and insecurity are quite common. Intimate relationships tend to heighten our sense of vulnerability, often due to fear of rejection and ridicule. Perhaps we begin to question whether our belly is toned enough, or wonder if being married five times was twice too many. Truth be told, I used to hide my Garth Brooks CD in a sock drawer. We all have our individual quirks, so it makes sense that you would be reluctant to reveal yours to a stranger or acquaintance, especially one you find attractive and interesting.

Before disclosing your fantasies, however, it is important to assess your motivation. Although you are concerned about a potential “violation of trust,” keep in mind that complete transparency is not always warranted or desirable. For example, a research study at the University of Vermont revealed that 87% of participants (98% of men and 80% of women) experienced occasional sexual fantasies about someone other than their romantic partner. Perhaps it is not necessary to discuss your attraction to Ryan Gosling, admit a penchant for tentacle porn, or proclaim that your ex gave amazing blow jobs. Within a healthy relationship, each person is entitled to some private thoughts and feelings. Honesty is often a good thing, as it can facilitate greater levels of trust and connection, but sharing your bedpost confessions is a prerogative, not an obligation.

Of course, an obvious benefit to talking openly about your sexual fantasies is the possibility for exploration and experimentation. However, before you discuss your desires with anyone else, you must first be comfortable with how you feel. If you can communicate your sexual interests with an attitude of acceptance, humor and mutual curiosity, then your partner may respond more positively. Search for opportunities to educate and enlighten. Perhaps you can find some positive representations of the activities you might enjoy — through movies, cartoons or visual art — and share these with your partner. For example, Little Shop of Horrors and Pinocchio both feature scenes that involve someone being swallowed or eaten alive, which could serve as a harmless introduction to the theme.

Additionally, there are abundant visual representations of vorarephilia on Deviant Art. Connecting with the artists and fans of these pictures could also help you find people who understand and appreciate your interests. Further exploration through text-based role play, either with a community online (e.g., DeviantArt, Fetlife) or with a partner, is another option to consider. Engaging in this type of activity would reinforce that your interest in “being eaten” clearly resides in the domain of fantasy and fiction, as opposed to the cold-blooded cannibalism of Hannibal Lecter. By creating and sharing erotic scenarios you can fantasize about the actions you desire without resorting to actual consumption, thus entertaining your sexual interests with safety and satisfaction.

Deciding when, where and with whom it might be appropriate to share your sexual interests can definitely be a tough call, but after you determine the nature of your relationship — a casual fling, the real thing, or something in between — it will be easier to evaluate the level of trust and emotional safety. Furthermore, creating an environment and opportunity for mutual sharing can help reduce the potential for one partner to feel more vulnerable and exposed. Often, having these conversations outside of the boudoir (or wherever you’re having your steamy moments) when there’s less pressure to be sexual can be helpful. Something to keep at the forefront of your mind, too, is that you should ensure that your partner feels safe when having this conversation, so clarify what your interests are and how those may or may not relate to “real life” and them as you’re speaking. When someone shares a fantasy with a partner, that partner might feel pressure to perform or might leap to conclusions that aren’t actually correct. By setting the tone correctly and offering them ways to say yes as well as ways to say no, you’ll make it a more productive and comfortable conversation.

For example, you could suggest taking an interactive sex questionnaire, such as Mojo Upgrade, which presents a list of sexual fantasies to both partners separately and asks them to indicate their level of interest. After the couple has finished their individual surveys, the internet genie compares the answers and only reveals the activities that share positive responses. That way if your partner is not game to have their toes sucked, but you secretly desire to engage in that activity, they won’t know and the potential for embarrassment is minimized. Although I do not think there are any questions related to vore, it could still be a way to facilitate dialogue about sexual fantasies in general. If you’re feeling more adventurous and are just looking for a way to bring these things up without discussing them face-to-face first, you can find blank BDSM checklists or Yes/No/Maybe lists and fill them out before handing them to a partner, skillfully including vore among the list of possible kinks and activities.

Another option would be to skip the movies and surveys altogether and to take a more direct approach. For example, you could begin by sharing something very basic that you enjoy, invite reciprocity, and then work up to less common desires or activities:

“I loved it when you did ___________ the other day.  It was a huge turn-on for me. What kinds of things do you find pleasurable/hot/awesome?”

However, be prepared for the possibility that your partner could have some unusual interests, too, and evaluate if you are ready to go there. Perhaps your lover wants you to squeal like a dolphin while spanking the monkey. Is that information going to be helpful or hurtful to your relationship? While there is no single right or wrong answer, the potential benefits and consequences should be examined before either person reveals their deepest desires.

Finally, the idea of mutual sharing might be less daunting if you try to meet people with whom you already have common interests. While there are groups on FetLife specifically for vorarephiles, you may also find that people who enjoy science fiction, Dungeons and Dragons, and LARPing could be more receptive to your interests than the random hottie at Whole Foods. Most importantly, remember that no one is completely “normal,” and try to embrace your quirks instead of fighting them. If you feel confident about your own worth and unique interests then you can improve your odds of finding a partner who will embrace the wonderful, accept the weird and be open to adventures both mild and wild.

Want more? Go to TheCSPH.org for more resources. Looking for a fun and sexy night out? Join the CSPH for Sticky Stories, Feb 13 at AS220.

Sex Q&A: Is it normal to be a female who has never orgasmed with a partner?

Ever found yourself wondering how to introduce a new sex act to your partner, or how to have orgasms that really hit the spot?  If so, you’ve come to the right place!  The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health will be publishing a monthly question and answer series for all your sex and sexuality-related inquiries.  From sex toys to fantasies to safer sex, we’ll be doling out advice to keep your bedroom romps fresh and your inner sex kitten purring.

This month’s column is by staff member Yvonne Yu. Email your pressing sex questions to sex@motifri.com, where they will be kept confidential!

Question: “Is it normal to be a female who has never orgasmed with a partner?”

Based on the wording of your question, I’m going to assume a few things: that you have a vulva/vagina; that you’ve been able to experience orgasm by yourself, through masturbation; and that when you talk about sex with a partner, you’re primarily referring to acts of penetration. (Note: penetration is obviously not the only way to play with a vagina, but as it’s most commonly discussed in the context of partnered sex and orgasms, I’ll assume that’s a large part of what you’re typically experiencing.) Now, lets dissect your question:

Is it normal to never orgasm with a partner?

 The quick & easy answer: Absolutely. But lets dive a little deeper.

Shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Gossip Girl” can send the message that everyone’s having sex – and by implication, orgasms – all the time. Magazines can do the same thing, with articles like “50 Ways To Cum Like A Banshee” suggesting that it’s an easy and simple occurrence. However, studies reveal that 75% of sexually active women cannot orgasm from vaginal penetration alone, and 10-15% have never experienced an orgasm at all. If your partnered play has revolved around vaginal penetration in an attempt to orgasm, then your lack of success is hardly an anomaly — in fact, you are the norm.

Vulvas can tend to be more temperamental than penises when it comes to figuring out just the right combination of strokes to get them off, which often leads to frustration and self-doubt on the part of their owners. The Kinsey Institute reports that 79% of men consistently orgasm with their partners, while only 29% of women report the same. This may also be due to differences in societal standards, where many vulva owners are taught to be ashamed of their burgeoning sexualities and therefore may never have explored their own pleasure centers with the same … enthusiasm … of their penis-owning peers. Backing up this idea is the fact that older vulva-owners have higher orgasm rates than their younger counterparts, suggesting that familiarity with their bodies and sexual experience over time can make it easier to reach orgasm.

Also keep in mind that depending on how you are used to getting yourself off, orgasms may feel different with a partner as they arise from different types of stimulation and play: Orgasms that are achieved through external clitoral stimulation alone, for example, feel different from those achieved primarily through internal stimulation of the G-spot/G-zone.

Okay, great. But do I just have to deal with my lack of climax? What can I do to fix it?

If you’ve been able to orgasm alone, that rules out medical issues such as anorgasmia, meaning that you should theoretically be able to achieve orgasm with any partner. So what’s a frustrated gal to do?

The bounty of sex trivia and rigorous research that is the Kinsey Institute also reports that in general, vulva-owners are more likely to orgasm when they engage in a variety of sex acts, and when oral sex or vaginal intercourse is included. So if you’ve been pretty straightforward about your lovemaking to date, consider spicing it up! For inspiration, try filling out a sex activity list with your partner, like the one you can find here. Incorporate play that strokes all parts of the body, not just the genitals, seeing what sensations you enjoy, and then combining those activities with other ones. There’s no need to confine yourself to the ol’ in-and-out when there are multiple paths to orgasm, much like an R-rated Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Talking with a partner about your sexiest fantasies also leads in to one of the key components of partnered sex: communication. While we often hone directly in on the genitals when we think about sex, the brain is an organ that should require just as much if not more attention. For people of any gender, mental state plays a huge role in ability to achieve orgasm, and concerns or stressors of any kind can be major barriers to pleasure.

A lot of us find ourselves paralyzed by insecurity or worry when imagining how other people think of us in public — these fears can be understandably amplified when butt-naked and straining toward a gushing, gurgling climax. Folks who experience insecurity about their bodies also report less sexual self-esteem and lower sexual pleasure. Being comfortable with your partner is therefore extremely important. After all, as much as I can give general guidelines to how vulvas and vaginas typically like to be stimulated, there is such a variety of bodies and preferences out there that the best way to figure out what makes you hum is to constantly communicate with your partner about your likes and dislikes. If you don’t feel good in a certain position, let them know: you can make it clear that this isn’t a personal condemnation of their sexual skills, but simply an incompatibility with how your body works. Allowing yourself to feel comfortable with this kind of dialogue will facilitate not only a healthier sexual connection, but also the freedom to relax and enjoy discovering each other. They’re already willing to jump into bed with you — chances are, the flaws you seem to perceive in your own body don’t even register with them.

Keeping in mind that most vulva-owners orgasm most easily through clitoral stimulation, try focusing on the clitoris alone or combining it with penetrative play. If you’re not using a good lube, pick one out: don’t let friction rub away the fun. Regardless of how wet you usually get, using lubricant is associated with higher amounts of sexual pleasure. The options here are endless! Your partner could use their mouth on your clitoris while penetrating you with their fingers or a body-safe sex toy. If they have a penis (either biological or strapped on), they can penetrate you with that while either one of you uses your fingers to stimulate your clitoris. Vibrators are another great option for clitoral play, as they deliver strong, targeted vibrations, and can make it easier for you to relax and focus on the feelings in your body. You may want to try stacking a pillow or two underneath your lower body when being penetrated in the missionary position, as this can create a more comfortable angle for G-spot/G-zone penetration. (For more ideas, consider reading The CSPH’s Q&A: Sex Positions For Vulva-Owners)

When you’re first starting out, I’d recommend you take charge of your own clitoral stimulation; you will be more aware of the nuances of what your body wants, and your partner can also take it as a valuable chance to observe exactly how you like to be touched. Work with whatever feels good: circular motions? ‘Windshield wiper’ swiping back and forth? Some people like to stimulate the clitoris directly, while for others this is too sensitive and they prefer to rub it through the clitoral hood. You can also place your hand on top of your partner’s hand, guiding their movements; this will allow you to direct the stimulation in a way that is still sizzling and intimate.

These are all techniques and approaches that can hopefully help you reach the same kinds of spine-tingling heights with a partner as you do with yourself. But I do want to stress that while orgasms can certainly be the very happy ending to a good romp, people often miss out on the plethora of pleasures that sex provides even without the presence of an orgasm. At The CSPH we prefer to talk about “pleasure-focused sex” as opposed to “goal-focused sex,” focusing on sex as an entire ride of great sensations instead of a means to an end: the goal of an orgasm. Once you stop thinking that you have to orgasm in order for sex to be good or successful, you can focus on what’s happening to your body at all points in time, enjoying the things your partner does that feel good no matter what the end result is.

Further Resources:

The CSPH Q&A: Am I Orgasming?

The CSPH Q&A: Lost Orgasm