Advice with Spyce: Getting What You Want and Getting What You Need

Dear Spyce,

My girlfriend and I have been together for a few years now and are really into each other. I love having sex with her, but its always the same thing. We only use our fingers and our tongues. I’ve been asking her to try a dildo, even just to use one on me, but she is very resistant to it. She’s what us lesbians call a Gold Star, meaning that she’s never been with a man. I think she doesn’t like anything resembling dick. That’s fine and all, but I’d really like some different kinds of penetration. Any ideas of what I can do? 

Down To Be F

Dear DTBF,

I know how frustrating it can be when you’re Down to Fudge and you’re not getting the sugar you need. A sexual mismatch is never fun, especially when you have so many other wonderful parts of your relationship.

Luckily, penetration comes in many forms these days and you don’t have to bother with an actual penis to get some, or even something that looks, acts, and feels like one. In fact, there are many sex toys on the market that look nothing at all like the male genitalia, and have been created specifically for female bodies to use together. You can research different kinds of materials, shapes and purposes, and find exactly what will work best for you and your girlfriend. 

If you really want to DIY, start out with a trip to the grocery store and get a plain old cucumber. Veggies come in all shapes and sizes, and you can pick out a few to get you started without breaking the bank. And when you’re done, you can make a nice salad. Now that’s an idea even my Jewish grandmother would be proud of! 

If your girlfriend is uncomfortable with these ideas, try sitting down with her and really having a heart to heart. Let her know how much you love and care about her, and how important this is to you. Talk honestly about what’s getting in the way for her. She may have trauma that she’s not expressing to you. Get the help you need to work through this hurdle in your relationship, even if you seek it professionally. This sounds like a romance worth fighting for!

Dear Spyce,

I was married for many years to a man I met when I was very young, and I really was very chaste and unsatisfied for a long time. Now that we’ve divorced, I’ve been spending time enjoying my sexual liberation. However, things seem to have changed a lot since I’ve last been on the playing field and I know that I have to be more careful than ever. Recently I’ve gotten into a few situations where things went a little further than I was anticipating, but I felt weird about asking for protection at that point since we’d already done some other things. When it is too late to ask and just go with it?

Safe and Single

Dear SS,

When is it too late to ask for protection? NEVER!! Unless it’s over, but that’s another story! The truth is, this is your body, your health, your sexuality, your choice. You don’t owe anyone any kind of sexual experience, and the best way to truly enjoy your sexual liberation is by being wholly in charge of everything that you do and allow to be done to you. 

What I always recommend is to become comfortable with your safe sex talk, and have that talk as soon as you know that something intimate is going to happen. Or before. 

Here’s an example: You’re on a date that’s going well. He asks you if you’d like to go back to his place. You are into it, and once you get there, you sit down on the couch with a glass of wine. Bam! Perfect time for the talk! Even though you haven’t technically started doing anything, come on, we’re all adults here! Acting like something is not on the table when it is is just foolish, and possibly dangerous. Better to get it out of the way while you’re still levelheaded and not feeling like throwing caution, and your panties, to the wind! 

In terms of what the safe sex talk actually is, it’s where you talk about when you’ve last been tested, what your status was, who else you’re sleeping with and how, and what you feel comfortable doing moving forward. It’s important to recognize that all sexual contact comes with some risk, and a risk/cost analysis is wise. And always remember that you are never obligated to do anything that you don’t feel comfortable doing, and that you can always say no, or ask for safer sex practices. Anyone who doesn’t respect that is not worth your time! 

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: 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 for October: How can I get it tighter without surgery?

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché,
How can one measure the looseness or tightness of their vagina?? I have a fear that I am loose. How can I get it tighter without surgery?
Miss Fit

Dear Fit,
As a therapist I always have to ask what provokes a question. If you have been told you are “too loose,” and in an insensitive manner, this is probably a symptom of a much larger problem. There is rarely such a thing as being “too loose” if you’re in good health, reasonably fit, and have not yet had children. If your partner has cited this as a flaw, it could it be his size, not yours. Of course, after giving birth there can be another story.

The vagina is made to expand and accommodate, but after delivery it can often use some help getting back into shape. There are simple exercises for the pubococcygeal muscle which supports the pelvic viscera. I will let Granny explain how they work, since, lacking a vagina, I’ve never actually done them. There are additional perks in training this muscle. Contracting it during intercourse will give your partner a nice surprise. However, as with all body building, don’t go crazy with it. A snug fit is great but too much of a good thing can be problematic. I once dated a woman/who could crack a vibrator with her vagina. This made sex with her a little bit scary — she had to be careful not to inflict permanent damage.

There are other issues to watch for in good vaginal health. Lubrication and elasticity are functions of estrogen, so.pain during intercourse is a sign there might be an imbalance. Some women complain of quite the opposite of your question. They feel so “tight” that intercourse is painful. This could be from fear, anxiety or bad technique, because the vagina will accommodate anything to the size of a baby.

A sex therapist might be helpful for you.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: The exercise that Dr. Brilliant speaks of is called a kegel and I got quite an education when I took natural childbirth classes. First, you need to locate the muscles in question. Here’s how: the next time you are peeing, clench and cut the urine off midstream. Congratulations! You’ve done a kegel! This exercise is best done lying on your back. To begin, tighten those pelvic floor muscles, hold for five seconds, and then relax for five seconds. Work
up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, then relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. Don’t hold your breath! What you want to aim for is three sets of 10 repetitions per day. Be consistent!

Does it work? Yes, it does. And Granny can testify personally about that “surprise your partner” thing. The first time you give this little “handshake” to a guy, he usually freaks out. If you want to have some fun with him, pretend you don’t know what he’s talking about.

Here’s the practical truth: If you continue a kegel clench off and on during intercourse, the size of your vagina is irrelevant; the effect is dynamite. I’ve applied the clench method when I was with a guy who had a rather small organ; it seems to level the playing field on both ends. Another plus is that tightening your vaginal muscles during orgasm actually intensifies the sensation and can open the door to those “multiple orgasms” most people only read about in porn mags. I recommend this technique for every woman. You’re welcome, men.

A final note: There is no standard size you can apply to sexual organs; they are what they are. Comparing yourself is the road to madness. The idea is to find a partner who appreciates YOU.

Visit Dr. Brilliant Cliche and the Granny Doctor at their home blog, http://drbrilliantcliche.wordpress.com/ and on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/drbrilliantcliche?fref=ts