Monday, October 20, 2008

Q & A: Can a woman or girl get pregnant if... ?

Q. Can a woman or girl get pregnant if _______?

A. A woman can get pregnant when semen (cum) gets inside her vagina. It doesn't matter if she's a virgin. It doesn't matter if she has an orgasm or not. It doesn't matter if you have sex underwater, or douche afterwards. Once the semen is inside the vagina, millions of sperm cells are racing towards the uterus, into the fallopian tubes and looking for an egg to fertilize. Nine months later a fertilized egg is a new baby.

Giving a woman oral sex ("eating pussy") cannot get a woman pregnant. Touching a penis cannot get a woman pregnant. Giving a man oral sex ("blow jobs") or swallowing semen cannot make a woman pregnant. Sperm must meet egg for pregnancy to happen, so as long as no semen gets inside the woman's vagina, there is no way for her to get pregnant.

If a man pulls out before he comes, the woman is somewhat less likely to get pregnant, but it is still a significant possibility. This is because a penis leaks small amounts of precum while erect, and this precum can contain trace amounts of semen.

Semen is composed of sperm, which create the pregnancy if one successfully penetrates an egg, plus a sugary nutritional substance to keep the sperm alive during the journey. In order for pregnancy to occur the sperm must not only be alive, but strong enough to penetrate the egg wall.

Because of this, sperm quickly lose their viability when exposed to the air. And it is statistically impossible for a woman or girl to get pregnant from having a man or boy ejaculate on her clothing.

If she's on her period... There are days a woman can get pregnant and days when she can't. Figuring out those days is the tricky part. One of the most common ways people try to figure out "safe" and "fertile" days is called the rhythm method. Because of the guesswork involved rhythm is not an effective method of birth control.

The first day of your period is called Day 1. You then count all the days till you get your period again. The total number of those days is the length of your menstrual cycle. Fourteen days after you ovulate (when an egg is ready to meet the sperm) you get your period. That means if you ovulate on Day 20, your cycle will be 34 days total (20 + 14). Or, if you ovulate on Day 8, you're cycle will be 22 days long.

You could assume that because your cycles are usually 28 days that you ovulate on Day 14 (28 minus 14) of your period. But how do you know you are going to ovulate on day 14 of this cycle? The truth is, you don't. Your next cycle may only be 18 days. This means you are going to ovulate on Day 4 (18 minus 14). Because sperm live for three days, this means that if you have sex on your period you're going to get pregnant. Or your cycle may be 35 days this time. This means on Day 21, when you think the egg is no longer going to be around, it's actually ripe and ready to get fertilized and make you pregnant!

The Fertility Awareness Method (FAM) is the best way to know when you are ovulating and when you aren't. The Fertility Awareness Handbook by Barbara Kass-Annese is a great place to start learning how to use this method. It may be a little confusing to understand right away, which is why Planned Parenthood teaches classes on FAM. It takes a big commitment and being (or becoming) very comfortable with your body. It involves taking your temperature every morning before you get up, checking your cervical mucus twice a day, and keeping track of these findings on a chart. If this sounds like something you would like to do (it's a great way to find out more about your body) contact your local Planned Parenthood for a FAM class.

Q & A: I'm interested in trying anal sex. Any tips?

Q. I'm interested in trying anal sex. Any tips?

A. Our four guidelines for anal sex are: communication, lubrication, patience, and protection.

  • Communication: Communication is exceptionally important in anal sex, both before and during. The "before" part is talking to your partner beforehand, to make sure that you're both signed up for this activity. The "during" part is making sure that the person being penetrated is in control, and is communicating to the penetrating person how things are going -- how fast to go, whether to ease up, etc.

  • Lubrication: Unlike the vagina or the mouth, the anus and rectum don't have a built-in source of lubrication. Even worse, the rectum is designed to absorb liquids. So, you've got to provide your own lube, and lots of it. The rule of thumb is to use as much as you think you need, and then use more. If you're using condoms, be sure to use a water-based lubricant (e.g., Astroglide).

  • Patience: Go slowly, and follow the lead of the person being penetrated. You may want to start with a finger first, to get the anus used to something smaller. If the person being penetrated is relatively inexperienced at this, take the pressure off by giving up on goals and concentrating more on enjoying the process. In other words, don't think of how far you want to go with this project ("Oh, boy, it's going to feel good when I'm inside"), but rather, focus on the journey ("Hey, this is fun!") Like so many things worth doing, it may take several tries before you're both happy with it.

  • Protection: Anal sex is one of the highest-risk activities for transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But other sexually transmitted diseases can be spread through anal sex as well. So, we strongly recommend using condoms during anal sex. The person doing the penetrating should also be sure to wash his hands and penis afterwards, to avoid spreading other diseases like hepatitis.

Q & A: A same-sex friend of mine and I got together last night, and, well, we had sex. Does this mean I'm gay/lesbian?

Q. A same-sex friend of mine and I got together last night, and, well, we had sex. Does this mean I'm gay/lesbian?

A. In a nutshell, no. It means you made an experiment, and only you can say what the results of that experiment are. Perhaps you're gay, perhaps you're straight, perhaps you're bisexual. Perhaps more experimentation is in order! :-)

One way of thinking about sexual identity that works for many people is to think of it as a scale or a spectrum -- from "completely straight" at one end to "perfectly bisexual" in the middle and to "completely homosexual" at the other end. Most people don't land exactly on either end, or exactly in the middle, but rather are somewhere in between. Experiments can help you figure out where you fall on the spectrum. But, an experiment, in and of itself, doesn't automatically mean you're gay, straight, or anything else.

And it's actually more interesting than that. For one thing, sexual orientation is fluid, and can vary over time. Some people have same-sex partners for part of their lives, and opposite-sex partners for other parts.

For another thing, you can also think about different aspects of your sexuality: there's how you identify yourself ("I'm a straight man..."), there's what you fantasize about ("... who daydreams about other guys..."), and there's what you do ("... and who seems to sleep mostly with women, but has had occasional flings with other guys in the past.")

Finally, remember that experimentation is a great way to become a better lover. Although this might be disturbing to you at first, you may find you've learned things that will make your sex better whether your future couplings are with the same or the opposite gender. And that's cool!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Q & A: My husband refuses to kiss or hug

My husband refuses to kiss or hug. What can I do? I need hugs and kisses!
-- xoxox

dear xoxox,
Don't we all! Hugs and kisses, also known as cuddling, are necessary in any relationship. They create closeness and intimacy in a way that differs from other activities you share, including having sex and making love. It is, however, a common female complaint that male partners don't show enough physical affection.

To remedy this situation, it's time to have a serious discussion with your spouse. He needs to know how important hugs and kisses are to you. *Please don't take this lightly, or ignore my suggestion because hugs and kisses don't seem like a serious enough problem about which to make an "issue."* It's incredibly important to your relationship that you get the type and amount of affection and caring that you need.

When you bring up the subject with your husband, make sure that you don't accuse him of being a terrible lover or put him on the defensive in any way. Start by letting him know all the things that you think are great about him and your marriage. Then move into the heart of the discussion by saying that the only thing missing that would make your relationship perfect is more cuddling (hugs and kisses).

Then ask him why he's not interested. Is it because one of you has bad breath? Did he have a bad experience with kissing? Does he simply not enjoy hugging and kissing? Does he think it's silly? Once you find out the root of the problem, it becomes much easier to find a mutually agreeable solution.

Now comes the compromise. Ask him if there's something that he thinks has been missing in your relationship. Would he like more time to hang out with his buddies or perhaps more oral sex? Give him the space to articulate whatever he desires; no judgments on your part. This will allow him to be an equal player with some negotiating power.

Okay, it's easy now. He gives you some of what you want, you give him some of what he wants, and everyone's happy!

Q & A: how to get my husband in the mood for sex?

I want to learn how to get my husband in the mood for sex, but it just don't know where to start. Can you help?

-- ups

dear ups,
The fine art of seduction - it's the ability to peek your partner's desire and direct his attention away from what he's doing (and towards you!). There are no ABCs as each person is unique and responds to different things (although some Romeos would like to tell you otherwise...). Instead, what follows are a few basic ideas to help you get started.

Timing is Everything

Any sexual invitation has a better chance of success if both partners are feeling good about each other. If you have just had a fight and it's still unresolved or there's an argument brewing and the tension is thick, chances of any type of sexual initiation working are slim.

Ask and You Shall Receive

If you're both in a good mood, however, the easiest way to initiate sex is to ask. To be a bit more creative, try combining the direct approach with a little salesmanship. Tell him why making love is a good idea. Rub his neck or back at the same time. Words and physical (non-genital) touch combined can be very persuasive.

A Song in Your Heart

Music can work wonders. And if you're light on your feet, you can try dancing as a lead-in to fun in the bedroom. Kissing is another definite winner, as is making your partner feel special. Try leaving him a note, telling him how great you think he is, or giving him a surprise gift.

Repeat Performance

Try reminding your partner of a great time you had together. It could be another time you made love, a moment during a romantic vacation, or a day when you two felt completely intimate. Often the memory works to get you both turned on once again.

Schedule for Love

Make a date with your husband to have sex. Before the date, leave a phone message or send a letter describing what you're looking forward to doing with him later. Be specific; be erotic; spell it out for him. By the time you see each other for the date, you'll both be anticipating a rollicking time.

Whatever you do to initiate sex, tune in to how you're feeling. If you're playful, find a silly way to get things heated up. If you're loving, be more sensual. And if you're simply turned on, try an erotic approach. You have to be willing to accept rejection sometimes, but if you're imaginative, your sex life can get VERY spicy.

Q & A: Is it safe to swallow semen?

Is it safe to swallow semen? Is it high in calories? In regards to pH is it more basic or acidic?
-- dieting

dear dieting, I bets you've already asked your partner this question, and he said, "Sure it's safe...."

In reality, a man's ejaculate is "safe" as long as it doesn't contain any sexually transmitted diseases. And there is no way to know if a new partner has any sexually transmitted diseases. You can ask, of course, and that's a wise thing to do to open up communication. However, in many cases, your partner may not even know himself, as the most common symptom of a sexually transmitted disease is no symptom at all. And yes, HIV can be transmitted via oral sex. See our answers to What can I get from giving oral sex to a man for more specific information. Any contact with an infected person's seminal or vaginal fluids is a potential danger to an uninfected partner.

That said, if you're in a totally monogamous relationship where neither of you has been diagnosed with an STD and both have tested HIV negative, it's safe to swallow semen. Although you should know, there are a few rare cases of folks who are allergic!

Semen's about 5 calories per teaspoonful. An average ejaculation produces two to five millileters of fluids, or one to two teaspoonfuls. This amount does vary from man to man, dependent on his age, and the frequency with which he's having sex, but on average, one to two spoonfuls is the load. The sperm in semen is only about five percent of the total at most. The rest of the semen is a fluid mixture containing fructose (a sugar), protein, citric acid, alkalines and a host of other substances hospitable to the sperm. So, since semen contains both acidic and basic substances, they potentially cancel each other out into pH neutrality.

That's the scoop!

Q & A: We both like oral sex, but she only likes to receive and not to give

My girlfriend and I get along fine except for one thing. We both like oral sex, but she only likes to receive and not to give. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to give at any time -- it's just that I'm the only one giving. I've tried going slowly and working my way up to getting her in the mood to give, but she says she just doesn't feel right about it. It's slowly driving me crazy, because my previous girlfriend loved to give oral sex and I guess I became spoiled. I really do love my girlfriend, but I don't understand how she has no problem receiving but can't give at all. Can you help me convince her?

-- one way street

dear one way street,
Glad to hear that you and your girlfriend are getting along fine... because this negotiation is going to take a lot of work. First off, you can't convince anyone to do something that she doesn't want to do. It's called manipulation. Even if you could convince her, she'd end up doing it out of guilt or resentment, and believe Delilah, both of those spoil the mood!

So, what can you do? You need to have a frank discussion with your girlfriend -- but not in bed! At a time when you're both pretty happy and feeling relaxed, bring up the subject of your sex life. Tell her about the things she does that really turn you on and how great you think you're getting along. Then, begin to tell her how the non-reciprocation of oral sex is starting to bother you. Rather than put her on the defensive, tell her what you like about receiving oral sex. Then ask her what it is about the act that she doesn't like. Ask her to be very specific -- not just that she doesn't feel right about it.

Is it the taste? The feeling of a penis in her mouth? Was she forced to perform oral sex on a man in the past? Does she have religious or some other taboos against oral sex? You have to find out exactly what her objections are before you two can remedy the situation.

If she was forced by a man to perform oral sex when she was younger, it would be wise for her to see a counselor for a few visits to deal with the experience. See Sexuality Resources for more information on sex therapists and hotline numbers. You can also remind her gently that you are a different person than the one who forced her, and that you would never do that to her.

If it's about taboos against oral sex, it falls on you to debunk the myths she's living with. Some of the more common "ideas" about fellatio are that it's worthless because it's not for procreation and that it's just plain dirty. It will take some serious discussion to break down any of her stereotypes that have been built up over time.

If it's purely a physical thing (i.e. she just doesn't like it), it's time for you to become her teacher. Many women feel out of control when giving head. Have her try using her hand to guide your penis into her mouth. That way, she can be in control of when, how far, and how fast your penis will move. Also, you can try different positions: for example, with you on your knees, lying down with her on top, etc., to find one where she feels comfortable. You will have to experiment together to see what works for you. Most importantly, you'll have to be willing to forego the act at times if your girlfriend is really uncomfortable.

Hopefully, you two will come to some mutual agreement about giving and getting....pleasing and being pleasured. If you can work out this one, you'll be able to work out most anything you're faced with in the future! Good luck!

Q & A: Whenever we kiss it's like a tongue war!

I've started dating this guy, and whenever we kiss it's like a tongue war! He just tries to stick his tongue as far down my throat as possible, and I have to fight it off with my tongue! How do I tell him I'd like him to chill out without hurting his feelings?
-- no kiss-ey

dear no kiss-ey,
Sounds to Delilah like you're more no tongue-y than no kiss-ey. Listen, everyone has different styles in bed, as we do in our everyday lives. Think about the guy who you started dating only to find out later that he chews with his mouth open--or calls his mother three times a day. The best strategy is to approach the problem directly, as soon as possible. There's no way he can know that you don't like his deep kissing unless you tell him.

Make sure you're ready before you broach the subject. Aim for a neutral moment. (That means not before, during, or after sex!) Start slowly by telling him how much you like him, enjoy his company, etc. Let him know that you really like kissing, especially kissing him (here it comes....) but, that when he kisses you deeply with his tongue, it's not pleasurable for you. Or tell him it puts you on the defensive, or makes you feel like the beginnings of a tongue war, or makes you gag. Use your own words to let him know exactly what happens when he wages tongue battles. Once he understands the problem, give him some alternatives. Better yet, show him how you like to be kissed. Most likely, any bad feelings in the air will then change immediately.

Hopefully, he's a guy who likes to be taught, and you two can agree on a mode of kissing that works for both of you. If not, you have to make a decision. Is he so great that you can deal with the tongue wars? Or does it bother you so much that you don't think you can pursue the relationship? You have to give him a chance first, though, so have that conversation real soon, and see what happens!

Q & A: How do you French kiss excellently?

Okay, I know this is going to sound dumb, but how do you French kiss excellently?
-- pucker up

dear pucker up,
This is not a stupid question at all. In fact, many people complain about the way their lovers kiss. So, we're going to take it from a pro -- William Cane, the man who wrote The Art of Kissing.

The French kiss is the most intimate, sensual, and exciting kiss around. Here are some tips for doing it right:

  • Take an active part in the kiss. Push your tongue into your partner's mouth.
  • Take a passive part at times. When your partner pushes his or her tongue into your mouth, relax and enjoy.
  • Breathe through your nose. It prolongs the kiss.
  • Close your eyes at times so you concentrate on the sensations.
  • Feel free to make sounds -- small cries and moans communicate excitement to your partner.
  • Explore the roof of your partner's mouth, along with the inside of the cheeks, the teeth, under the tongue, the lips, etc.

If you want to go the advanced route, here are a few more ideas:

  • Twist your tongue around your partner's.
  • Wrestle with your partner's tongue.
  • Playfully lick the tip of your partner's tongue.
  • Tell your partner to stick his or her tongue out, then lick it.
  • Gently, then vigorously, suck your partner's tongue.
  • Chew your partner's tongue with your teeth.
  • Gently bite your partner's lip.

Have fun kissing!

Q & A: I'm not sure if I'm French kissing my girlfriend correctly

I'm not sure if I'm French kissing my girlfriend correctly. What exactly should I be doing with my tongue?

- - Tongue Tied

dear tongue tied,
French kissing is one of the most exciting and sensual activities in the world! According to "The Art of Kissing," the term French kiss came into the English language in 1923 as a slur on French culture, which was thought to be overly concerned with sexual matters. In France, it's called tongue kissing or soul kissing instead.

What to do with your tongue? First and foremost, explore your partner's tongue. Suck on it, roll it around in your mouth, find all its crevices. It will be so soft and irresistible, that you may find it hard to do anything else.

If you're feeling creative, though, you can try exploring the roof of your partner's mouth, as well as the inside of her cheeks, her teeth, under her tongue, and the arch at the back of her mouth.

The key to French kissing is not to do it too much. Take a short break every five minutes or so. Don't move your tongue around too quickly. And take turns being the active and passive kisser.

There you go. Now you just need a willing partner, and you can relax and have some kissing fun!