Summer Swooner: Dealing with Distance in a Relationship

Dear Sexpert,

My boyfriend and I have been together since the beginning of spring semester.  Unfortunately, he’s going to be going back home on the west coast this summer, while I’m staying on campus to do thesis research. I’m worried the distance might be hard on our relationship. How do we keep our relationship, and more specifically, our sex life, going strong?

Sincerely,

Summer Swooner

Dear Swooner,

It’s totally normal to feel apprehensive about the impending separation between you and your partner. However, it’s important to remember that it’s only for three months. It seems like you want to be together when you return to campus in the fall, so let’s talk about ways to make sure you two can keep the fire burning, despite the geographic distance!

The first place to start is having an honest discussion with your partner about how you want your relationship to be defined during the summer months. Oftentimes, people can feel conflicted when separated from their partner over the summer — likely, you’ll be meeting new people and living different day-to-day lives. If you feel like you or you partner might want to explore other romantic or sexual relationships during the summer, then you should try and have a conversation about the boundaries of your relationship in person, before you two part ways. It can be hard to have these conversations over the phone, since a lot of feelings might be “lost in translation.” Remember to be honest with yourself and with your partner so that during the summer you can feel connected with the space and people around you and confident in the status of your romantic relationship. It is possible that as summer goes on either you or your partner might want to revisit your original agreement; that’s understandable. Be sure to keep those lines of communication open and be true to what you are feeling and what you need in the relationship.

What’s great about modern-day, long-distance dating is that we have the gift of the internet to stay connected. You can use these (text, call, video chat) to communicate regularly but can also get creative for special occasions. For example, use video chat to “have a date”. Get dressed up, set the mood with lighting or decor, and video chat while eating a meal “together”. Of course it’s not the same as being together in-person and may even be a little awkward at first, but it can add something special to your routine of communicating via text or phone call. Furthermore, intentionally having to carve time out for one another may lead to a stronger relationship and getting to know each other on a more emotionally intimate level.

Regarding your sex life, as long as both you and your partner are comfortable, you can use video-chat services (e.g., Facetime, Skype, Snapchat) as a tool to keep the sexual aspects of your relationship alive without being physically together. Video-chatting can make it feel like your partner is right there next to you, so don’t be ashamed of getting a little steamy over Skype! Partners can masturbate to each other over video-chat or share sexual fantasies. It’s great practice for pillow talk, since you’ll likely have to use your words more so than in person!

There may also be times when you really miss your partner and the distance feels too difficult. Make sure you have a support system–friends, family, etc.–who you can talk to for comfort and even distractions when things get tough. They can help you get through the rough patches and feel grounded.

As always, I wish you the best of luck, Swooner. Maintaining honest communication and trust with your partner during the summer will prove useful in building and maintaining your relationship and sex life.  But remember to have some conversations about how you plan to approach the summer before you leave campus.

Yours,

The Sexpert

 

Dry and Dissatisfied: Vaginal Lubrication

Dear Sexpert,

Hi, I don’t get much lubrication in my vagina when I’m having sex, is there any food or drink to help get wetter?

Best,

Dry and Dissatisfied

Dear Dry and Dissatisfied,

Thank you for reaching out to the Sexpert with your question!  Many people with vaginas struggle with lubrication during sexual activities.  First, a quick anatomy lesson: vaginal walls are hydrated by a thin layer of clear, odorless fluid.  The hormone that regulates this fluid is estrogen.  Estrogen influences lubrication of the vagina by influencing the pH of the vagina and vaginal secretions.  Without adequate moisture, vaginal tissues become fragile and irritated, and may even tear.  Beyond causing discomfort in everyday life, dryness can lead to painful sexual intercourse for many people with vaginas.

There are many reasons, ranging from physiological to emotional, why your vagina may be less lubricated when taking part in sexual activities.  For one, decreased moisture may be tied to a decline in estrogen levels as a result of menopause, breastfeeding, or taking oral contraceptives (i.e., birth control pill).  In addition, a variety of oral medications, from antihistamines (allergy season, anyone?) and decongestants to antidepressants, have been shown to decrease vaginal secretions.  Alcohol or other drug use (such as marijuana), in addition to impacting ability to consent, may also dehydrate you and increase vaginal dryness. Douching, or using a solution intended to “clean” the vagina can interfere with your natural pH and may increase dryness, as well. Emotional factors such as feeling stressed or distracted may also decrease natural lubrication by making it difficult to become aroused.

Perhaps the easiest issue to remedy is short duration of foreplay.  Since vaginal moisture is tied to arousal, you may find that lubrication improves when more time is spent focused on arousal before any penetration. This might involve stimulation of parts of the body other than the vagina, such as the breasts, neck, or other erogenous zones. Even simulation of your mind, such as exploring fantasies or watching porn, can increase arousal.

That being said, there are effective interventions for women struggling with painful sex as a result of vaginal dryness.  You may consider buying over-the-counter lubricants to provide additional lubrication.  However, make sure you purchase water-based or silicone-based lube (not oil-based) if using a latex condom to prevent the material from breaking down.  Do not use silicone-based lube on silicone toys, which can also cause material break-down. When it doubt, water-based lube works safely with most materials. It does, however, tend to dry up quicker when exposed to air, so make sure to have plenty on hand and add more as needed! In addition to over-the-counter lubricants, some healthcare providers might recommend taking supplemental estrogen to provide a more permanent solution to vaginal dryness.  A variety of estrogen products are available by prescription; you may be prescribed a vaginal estrogen ring, a vaginal estrogen tablet, or a vaginal estrogen cream. Consult with your provider if you find the other, non-prescription remedies insufficient.

In addition to over-the-counter lube or prescribed medication, some studies have found that certain food or drink has the ability to enhance vaginal lubrication.  Perhaps the easiest dietary solution to promote lubrication would be to drink more water!  Dehydration undoubtedly will lead to a dryer vagina.  In addition to water, other food and drink have been shown to enhance lubrication.  For example, the phytoestrogens in unprocessed soy products have been shown to enhance vaginal moisture.  In addition to soy, avocados, apples and flaxseeds have been shown to prevent dryness.

If vaginal dryness persists, you may want to make an appointment with a University Health Services’ clinician at McCosh Health Center by phone (609-258-3141) or online at MyUHS.  In some cases, a discussion of your health history and a physical examination may be useful in determining the cause of, and most effective methods to treat, vaginal dryness.

Sources:

https://www.bedsider.org/features/591-foods-that-make-your-vagina-happy-and-healthy-yes-really

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/best-fixes-vaginal-dryness-plus-natural-options/

Sex Toys in Relationships

Dear Sexpert,

I have been dating my girlfriend for about 3 months now. Recently, I’ve noticed that after we have sex, and I’ve seemingly fallen “asleep,” she sometimes reaches in her backpack for her vibrator. The mechanic hum isn’t what keeps me up, but the embarrassment from the fact that sex with me isn’t enough for her. I really care about her, but I don’t know how to confront her about this. What do you think I should do?

Sincerely,

Lackluster Lover

Dear Lover,

Take a breath – this situation sounds challenging but not necessarily something to take personally. Good news, with some open channels of communication with your girlfriend, you will likely find a mutually pleasurable sex life together!

First off, it is important to note that people (more often women-identified individuals) sometimes have more difficulty reaching orgasm (with or without a partner) for any number of reasons. One reason is that traditional depictions of female pleasure often show orgasm resulting from penetrative sex and happening in tandem with a partner’s orgasm — creating that as the model for “how it should work”. Feeling stressed, being distracted/having trouble focusing, not being aroused enough, not yet knowing what feels good, experiencing physical discomfort, etc. can all impact whether or not someone experiences an orgasm.

Your girlfriend’s desire to pleasure herself after sex could indicate a need for trying something different together. If your girlfriend is comfortable masturbating in the same bed as you, then she will likely be comfortable enough to have a conversation about it. Although she’s waiting until after you’re asleep, she’s clearly not trying that hard to hide it from you. You two haven’t been together for that long, so it’s possible that she is apprehensive about bringing this to your attention, or is worried that you will take it personally. But, like I said, it’s important to establish honest and clear ways to communicate about it.

So how do you go about starting the conversation? Well one thing is for certain, don’t wait until she pulls out her vibrator and confront her in a “gotcha!” moment. Instead, bring it up to her over a meal, when you’re just hanging out in your room, or in some other relatively private and comfortable space. Mention that you have noticed her doing this recently, and, if you’re comfortable, express your openness to trying out new things together. Vibrators and other sex toys don’t always have to be used for masturbation; maybe you can try your hand at wielding the mechanical hum. In fact, many sex toys can be used with a partner — some (e.g., vibrating rings) are even made for use during penetrative sex to enhance pleasure of both partners, but be sure to wash your toys thoroughly with soapy water after use, especially if you plan on sharing them between yourselves. You can also use a new condom on toys (e.g., dildo) for each use. Also, if you two often skip straight to penetrative sex, then you might benefit from some additional foreplay to “get things going”. Try oral sex or a sensual massage. Some couples find mutual masturbation (masturbating, individually, near one another) arousing and can also help your partner better understand what works for you.

Anyways, I wish you the best of luck, Lover. These sorts of things can be uncomfortable to initiate at first, but it is likely that, after bringing it up in a mature manner, your sex life (and relationship) will only benefit from the conversations that follow!

Yours,

The Sexpert

Tear Preventer: What are my Lube Options?

Dear Sexpert,

 Can I use micellar water or v-wash as anal lubricant (since it should be water-based)? What can I use apart from expensive lubes?

Sincerely,

Tear Preventer

Dear Tear Preventer,

Thank you for reaching out to the Sexpert with your question!  Since the anus does not lubricate naturally, many people find that adding a lubricant makes anal penetration a more pleasant experience.  Additionally, using an effective lubricant lowers risk of condom breakage (from friction) and helps protect sensitive tissue.  As you note, making sure a lubricant is water-based (as opposed to oil-based) when using with latex condoms or other latex-based protective barriers is ideal to preventing the latex from breaking down. With such a wide variety of lubricants on the market, and a wealth of information about lubricants on the internet, it can be difficult to choose the option that will be best for you.

First, I’d like to start by talking about micellar water and v-wash for our readers who are not familiar with these products.  V Wash Plus Expert Intimate Hygiene is marketed as a vaginal wash to ease vaginal discomforts (e.g., itching, pain) or infections.  V Wash is a water-based wash that includes the ingredients: lactic acid, tea tree oil, and sea buckhorn oil.  Alternatively, micellar water is a combination of purified water, hydrating ingredients, such as glycerin, and low concentrations of extremely mild surfactants (substances which tend to reduce surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved).  The molecules of surfactants group together to form microscopic spheres called micelles, which act like magnets for dirt and oil.  Recently, micellar water has become popular in the United States amongst models, celebrities, and makeup artists as a makeup remover, cleanser, and toner.

I would advise against using v-wash or micellar water as anal lubricants.  First off, these products contain chemicals, such as glycerin, that can cause infections if not cleaned off properly and could damage the lining of the rectum.  Further, in general, lubricants and other care product designed for the vagina*, such as V Wash, are acidic to cater to the slightly acidic pH of the vagina. Since the rectal pH is more neutral, surrounding tissues could be damaged upon exposure to these products.

Now, let’s talk about good lubricants to use depending on sexual act.  If you will be using a latex condom or silicone sex toy, use water-based lube to prevent condom breakage or damage to the toy.  Look for non-flavored (flavored varieties often have sugar and other added ingredients) varieties of water-based lube to minimize sensitive tissue irritation.  Note: it might require some reapplication as water based lube dries more quickly. Some people who have penetrative anal sex may prefer silicone-based lube because it is typically slicker and stays wetter longer, thus reducing friction upon sensitive tissues.  Although safe for use with condoms, silicone-based lube is not safe for use with sex toys unless there is a condom on the toy.  Finally, oil-based lube is not safe for use with latex condoms.  Because of the sensitivity of anal tissues and incompatibility of lubricants with condoms and sex toys, I would also advise against using household products such as petroleum jelly, coconut oil, or olive oil as anal lubricants.  To ensure pleasure and safety for all parties involved in anal stimulation or penetration, it is best to use an unscented product that is suitable to your preferred activity.

To learn more about safer anal sex practices or to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you can make an appointment with a University Health Services’ clinician at McCosh Health Center online at MyUHS.

*For more information about care products and cleansers designed for the vagina, see Sexpert article https://thesexpert.princeton.edu/2018/04/are-feminine-hygiene-washes-safe-to-use/

References:

  1. https://www.allure.com/gallery/micellar-water-facial-cleanser
  2. Identification of Personal Lubricants That Can Cause Rectal Epithelial Cell Damage and Enhance HIV Type 1 Replication in Vitro. AIDS RESEARCH AND HUMAN RETROVIRUSES, Volume 27, Number 9, 2011
  3. https://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/olive-oil-anal-sex-lubricant

 

 

 

 

 

Is it Time to see a Gynecologist?

Dear Sexpert,

I’ve been looking into taking better care of my sexual health lately. My friend mentioned that she went to see her gynecologist recently, and I was wondering when I should start seeing a gynecologist?

Sincerely,

Gynecologically Inspired

Dear Gynecologically Inspired,

Thank you for your question! In short, it really depends on your unique needs and medical history. Gynecologists are excellent resources for in-depth and specialized knowledge and care for individuals with any of these reproductive organs: vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. They provide services such as breast and pelvic exams to look for any abnormal growths, a Pap test (which checks for abnormal cell growth on the cervix), tests for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and can provide advice about contraceptives and prescriptions for birth control*.

The current recommendation from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is that patients see a gynecologist as early as 13 years old. This helps to address concerns or questions related to the menstrual cycle, hygiene, contraception, etc. and establish a comfortable relationship. A preventative annual visit is recommended (and covered by many insurance plans) for established patients for visual breast exam and external pelvic examination. It is during this time that the patient can ask questions, discuss concerns or get prescriptions for birth control methods. For more information about the preventative screenings that might be conducted during a visit, check out one of our older articles.

It is not until age 21 that getting a Pap test regularly is recommended, regardless of sexual history. So, if you are not already going annually, this might be a good age to start seeing a gynecologist. How frequently you get a Pap test from there is dependent on your age, medical history and previous test results. For example, generally healthy 21-29 year olds, may only need a Pap test every 3 years.  Your healthcare provider can tell you what is appropriate for you.

However, if you are sexually active, it might be a good idea to start seeing a gynecologist earlier than 21 so you can be prepared and well-informed about your sexual health and ways to lower your health risks. Anything that seems to be out of the ordinary is also reason to see a gynecologist – for example, discovering a lump in your breast, pain during sex, painful or debilitating menstrual cycles, or any sign of infection in your genital region.

On campus, seeing a gynecologist might not be an option, but the same services provided by most gynecologists can be found at University Health Services! The list of services and instructions for scheduling an appointment can be found on the UHS website. The Sexual Health and Wellness services at UHS caters to all patients, and unlike many gynecologists also has specialists in LGBTQ+ health. They can perform annual exams, Pap test, STI screens, provide birth control prescription and counseling, and investigate any additional health concerns.

As always with health concerns, it is better to be safe and have your questions answered and concerns addressed, and UHS health care professionals are here for that reason!

Sincerely,

The Sexpert

*Note: Pap tests and other examinations can be done by practitioners with other credentials, including nurse practitioners.

Information for this article came from the Mayo Clinic Website (https://mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/when-should-a-female-start-seeing-a-gynecologist) and the UHS Website (https://uhs.princeton.edu/medical-services/sexual-health-and-wellness). Planned Parenthood https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/cancer/cervical-cancer/whats-pap-test

https://thesexpert.princeton.edu/2017/10/happy-pappy-what-does-a-pap-smear-involve/

 

Lookin’ Hairy: Dealing With Body Hair

Dear Sexpert,

I’ve heard a lot about “manscaping.” What is this and should I be doing it? 

– Lookin’ Hairy

Hi Lookin’ Hairy,

Thank you for your question! Manscaping refers to men-identified folks waxing, shaving, or trimming body hair..  While women were traditionally those to whom services or products to trim or remove their unwanted hair were geared, today people of all sexes have moved towards managing their unwanted hair, thus the emergence of the term “manscaping”. This term encompasses altering of the hair anywhere from eyebrows and ears, to chest and back, to the pubic region. According to a 2014 survey, 39% of men aged 18 and older report “manscaping” and 2017 study reported that 50.5% of men report grooming “down there” regularly.

It is important to note that by no means should you feel forced to alter your body hair – whether implicitly by advertisements or magazine articles, or explicitly by a partner or someone else’s demand. Body hair is a natural occurrence and plenty of people leave it to do its thing. But if you do want to shape, trim or remove it, there are many methods to choose from depending on your preference.

Waxing pulls the hair out from the follicle and slows the reemergence of the hair. Over time, waxing can also permanently make your hair thinner and less noticeable. Experts recommend that you go to a certified, reputable, and clean waxing salon to wax your hair to prevent infection and injury. You can also use at-home waxing kits which are cheaper but also carry more risk of user error. Be sure to read and follow all of the directions that accompany your waxing kit. Some considerations if you are thinking of waxing your pubic hair: some professional salons require parental consent for people under 16 years old. If waxing at home, be extremely careful around your genital area, so as to avoid burns or tears of the skin.

 

You can also choose to shave but be sure to use shaving cream or gel and a sharp razor to prevent cuts and irritation, and shave in the direction of the hair growth. Shaving leaves the follicle of the hair in the skin which means that the hair will grow back faster than waxing and may seem darker and thicker due to the blunt end caused by the razor (the hair is not actually thicker). If the hair is long, trimming beforehand to about 1/4 – 1/16 inch length can make shaving easier. For some people shaving is not ideal as it will sometimes irritate the skin, cause razor bumps, and put you at a higher chance of having ingrown hairs (where hairs grow into the skin instead of out of the skin). Both shaving and waxing will sometimes result in a couple days of itching a few days after removing hair as the hair begins to grow back. When shaving pubic hair, pull skin taught and shave with light, gentle strokes. Using a portable mirror can help to see what you’re doing.

 

If you wish to just trim your hair but not completely remove it, you can use scissors or invest in an electric trimmer. Both will allow you to control how much hair to remove. When using scissors, make sure they are clean (wipe them down with rubbing alcohol beforehand) and you don’t cut too close to the skin. For electric razors, there are all kinds of attachments that help trim ear and nose hair, or select the length of hair that remains. If trimming your pubic region, take care not to trim too close to the genitals.

Lastly, you can also choose to use a depilatory creams, such as Nair, to chemically remove hair. These chemicals loosen hair from the follicle. These creams can cause allergic reactions or breakouts. If you choose to use this method for pubic hair, make sure you use products formulated specifically for sensitive areas. Using creams is the most dangerous way to remove pubic hair due to the risk of chemical burns or severe skin irritation. Be sure to read and follow all directions accompanying the cream if you decide to use this method.

After-care also matters! Use a gentle astringent like witch hazel or alcohol-free aloe vera gel on the area. If you do experience any minor cuts, wash thoroughly with soap and warm water and hold pressure with a damp piece of paper towel or toilet paper to clot for 10-15 minutes. Cuts that bleed for longer might require medical attention. For any more injuries or infections, do not hesitate to contact a health provider, even with just questions.

With trimming and maintaining pubic hair becoming more mainstream, your options have grown drastically!  Remember to do and proceed with what you are comfortable and feel free to explore! The good news with all of these methods is that if you get a “bad haircut”, it’ll grow back.

Best,

The Sexpert

 

Sources:

American Journal of Men’s Health

Go Ask Alice! Columbia

Multisponsor survey

 

Waxed and Annoyed

Dear Sexpert,

About 5-6 months ago, I got a full Brazilian wax for the first time, but I wish I wouldn’t have because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I was told afterwards that I had to buy and continue using their ingrown hair serum (which is really expensive) and then I found out that you’re supposed to wax every 4-6 weeks but that is really expensive for me to do. Now, I haven’t done anything since then but my hairs have grown back and I’m very uncomfortable with it. Should I let them grow out longer or should I try to remove them on my own?

Sincerely,

Waxed and Annoyed

Dear Waxed and Annoyed,

Ouch! Waxing is a great hair removal option for some, but it seems that your skin may be too sensitive to continue waxing. Totally fine! You have many options for personal grooming –all of which vary in cost, frequency of maintenance, and potential discomfort– if you’re looking to trim things up down there.

If you’re done with waxing, shaving could be a good, relatively inexpensive option if you want to fully remove all hair. Before shaving, make sure to trim as much hair as possible and soak the region for at least five minutes either in a tub or in the shower to soften the hair and skin. Use a hand mirror, sharp razor, and gentle, fragrance-free shaving cream, and shave in the direction that the hair grows. Shaving is gentler on the skin than waxing, and usually applying baby oil or aloe vera before and after shaving is enough to prevent ingrown hairs. However, shaving can be time consuming, inconvenient, and for those with very sensitive skin or if it is not done properly it can definitely cause irritation and ingrown hairs.

Hair removal creams or ‘depilatories’ can also achieve the same effect as waxing, but not all creams are safe for use on the vulva. If you do try this method, make sure that the cream you buy is safe for use on the vulva or bikini line, and carefully follow the instruction in order to prevent irritation. Given the sensitivity of your skin, it is recommended that you try the cream on a small area to “test” how your skin reacts before applying all over. If you notice any burning, pain, or swelling, the product might be too irritating for you.

An easier option that is likely not to cause any irritation but also does not fully remove hair is to use a trimmer. These tools are essentially beard trimmers or electric powered razors but for pubic hair. They trim the hair down to a preferred level without touching the base or root of the hair, preventing irritation and ingrown hairs. Higher-end models can be adjusted to cut at a certain length or have various attachments to assist in grooming. Usually these trimmers are made specifically for pubic hair and can be bought online or in a drug store.

In the meantime, if you are seeing any irritation, there are several inexpensive methods to relieve any pain or itching. Soaking/showering with warm water and keeping the area clean, dry, and moisturized are good places to start. Make sure you use very gentle products — specifically those without any fragrance– on the inflamed area.

If you notice any sign of infection, like red bumps or white-headed pimples around the hair follicle, you can apply a thin layer of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the area. If you experience any itching, you can do the same with hydrocortisone cream. You should also take a break from hair removal while the skin heals. Finally, as always, if the condition persists or is becoming extremely uncomfortable, make sure to see a health care provider to ensure that the condition does not worsen.

Overall, you have many options for pubic hair care, but you get to choose what works best for you and what makes you feel most comfortable!

Sincerely,

The Sexpert

Source information from https://youngwomenshealth.org/2013/08/22/removing-pubic-hair/

Interview with Princeton Plays

In this edition of the Ask the Sexpert Column, we’ll be the ones asking the questions. On December 1st, we had the privilege of the interviewing Jaspreet Kalsi, board member and co-founder of the student group Princeton Plays, the only kink and BDSM community on campus.

Q: Hey Jaspreet, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us. I wanted to start of by asking you to describe what exactly is Princeton Plays?

A: Hi Sexperts, thanks for having me. So Princeton Plays is an ODUS-recognized group that supports an advocacy and education based community that serves for the betterment of Princeton’s health at-large. Princeton Plays seeks to establish an affirming and positive space to discuss matters of kink, provide education both within the group and partnering with groups across campus, promote safe and consensual methods of play, and increase awareness of the social contexts surrounding the kink community so that members will be prepared if they choose to engage in kink in their private or public lives. I should say that, contrary to some of the rumors around campus, we are not a sex club.

How did Princeton Plays get started?

The first iteration of the club was formed in 2014. Back then it was actually called Princeton in the Nation’s Service (PINS), although the LGBT center supported that group, it was never ODUS recognized and sort of fell off after a year or so.

In 2016, I had met a group of five other students who had heard of PINS and wanted to start it up again. We had a serious of informal meetings, essentially a gathering of friends, and over the course of the year we helped create an organized group of about 20. Around the same time we came up with the name Princeton Plays. Our affiliation with the LGBT center really helped in allowing us to grow as a group.

In spring of 2017, the process of becoming a formally recognized student organization had begun. In the Fall of the 2017/18 academic year, we became Women*s center affiliated, SHARE affiliated, and University Health Services (UHS) affiliated. In December of 2017 we became ODUS recognized. At the start of the 18/19 academic year we had about 50-60 people on the listserv and now, only a few months later, we are at about 110 members, and we are proud to say we are not a homogenous group. Also shout out to the amazing Princeton Plays board. The success of the organization has been a true team effort!

You mentioned that Princeton Plays aims to improve Princeton’s health in general. How do you think the club does that?

There are plenty of resources for sexual health [and consent information] on campus – Peer Health Advisers, SHARE peers, and the Student Health Advisory Board. But one area that is lacking is education on alternative sexual practices. I classify these “alternative” practices as anything that would fall under the purview of “kink.” Our definition of kink is one that mostly focuses on fetishes and BDSM.

Princeton Plays has three main principles that center around the betterment of Princeton’s sexual health and wellbeing.

First off, we focus on the educating our members on the physical aspects of kink. If we look at how popular things like 50 Shades of Gray has become, it is obvious that there is widespread interest in alternative sexual practices. There are people on our campus who take part in these kinds of behaviors, and it is important to learn how to do these things in the safest way possible. Just this month, Plays hosted our third rope bondage workshop and we have an impact play workshop scheduled for the near future. No matter how careful you are, mistakes can happen. For example if you’re tying someone up, it is your responsibility to know how do so in a safe way. And similarly, if you’re the one being tied up, it is also your responsibility to know the risks involved.

The next principle is one of community. While kink has gained plenty of traction, it remains to be often looked down upon as “deviant” by a significant amount of the general population. Princeton Plays hopes to create a safe space, where people can come and feel safe, free of judgment for their sexual preferences. For example, at all of our workshops and meetings, we start with a disclaimer which states that members are free to share as much or as little information about themselves as they would like – they don’t even have to give us their name if they would prefer not to. In this community, we hope to practice things safely without having individuals out themselves. Safety and confidentiality are of paramount importance to us. We have a rule which states that any member that is known to share information about another member without their consent is, without exception, banned from the organization.

The third and final pillar is our commitment to improving the scholarly and theoretical discussions on kink. Our unique position as a Princeton University kink club gives us access to resources that other organizations not in an educational setting might not have access to. For example there are scholars and lecturers that can inform our members on the theoretical work behind alternative sexual practices. Plays has aspirations to host a colloquium of university kink clubs here at Princeton. We are already in the process of contacting and organizing. By bringing people together who think about this sort of thing, we hope to improve the field of kink and queer theory while promoting good, educated sexual health practices.

I wanted to ask, since privacy is so important for the group, how do you personally feel being one of the few publicly named members of Princeton Plays?

Well it’s both freeing and nerve-wracking. I grew up in a small, predominantly white town as the only person who wore a turban, so I’ve always stuck out in a way. I think growing up with that experience has emboldened me to always be an individual and to be true to myself. Like, I have aspirations of going to medical school someday. It is of course risky, since I could miss out on some opportunities, but someone’s gotta do it, so it might as well be me. It is part of my religious beliefs that all humans are one, and that we are all equal in God’s eyes and thus we should accept each other as we are and support the health of everyone. I hope that my public expression of individuality will inspire others to be themselves.

How can people get involved?

Email the listserv! If you send an email to plays@princeton.edu you will be put in touch with a board member who can answer all the questions, give you info about meetings.

Anything else you want people to know about Princeton Plays?

We are a community that want to help you be you! No one should be afraid of being themselves, and we hope to share knowledge and community with all those interested.

Browser: How much porn is too much porn?

Dear Sexpert;

Over the past year, I have been watching porn more and more. How much porn is too much porn and how do I know if I have a problem?

Browser

Hi Browser;

Thank you for your question! Over the years, as we have become more connected to the internet, our access to porn has grown and understandably, time spent watching porn has also increased. According to a 2017 study conducted by PornHub.com, its website receives 75 million unique daily visitors and has over one million hours of uploaded content. Increasingly, consumers are using their mobile phones to access such content, compared to magazines or computers. It is suffice to say that watching porn is not a rare occurrence but watching porn may become a problem if it begins to interfere with your everyday tasks.

You may want to start by asking yourself why your consumption of porn has increased. The answer to this question could indicate whether your use is situational (e.g., increased access, providing material for self-pleasure, getting ideas for acts with your partner(s), watching with partner(s) as foreplay, etc.), or potentially concerning.

Politics of porn aside, some research has indicated that watching porn has benefits. It has been shown to improve mental health by reducing stress. When you are stressed, your brain releases cortisol that blocks the ability to think clearly. According to a 2013 study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, men who watched porn cut their cortisol levels by half and performed better on a math test. Porn can also bolster relationships by opening your minds to new sexual possibilities. On the flip side, porn can contribute to unrealistic expectations about our bodies (see recent question on penis size) and pleasure, and some depict demeaning or even violent acts that would be problematic if enacted in real life, without a partner’s consent. If you communicate effectively and mutually with your partner regarding your boundaries and expectations, porn can complement an intimate relationship.

It’s important to take these reported benefits with a grain of salt, though. The impacts will range from person to person. While porn may be beneficial to one relationship it may also be harmful to another. Although porn can reduce stress for one individual, it may cause another person to withdraw socially and adversely affect their mental or physical state. Signs that your porn consumption may be too much could include skipping class or other responsibilities to watch porn or missing social functions because you are watching porn. If your porn consumption is adversely affecting your relationship(s), such as making it difficult to be aroused in person or creating tension with your partner(s), or more generally impacting your life in ways you do not want, it may be time to speak to a professional. Talking with a counselor at CPS about your goals — whether it be around reducing your porn consumption and finding ways to use porn to benefit you–is a great place to start the conversation in a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Appointments with CPS counselors are confidential and free, and can be made online through your MyUHS portal.

In summary, how much porn is too much porn? The amount of porn consumed that constitutes too much porn varies from person to person but if your consumption of porn is affecting your everyday tasks or is adversely affecting your relationships, it might be time to speak to a professional. If your porn consumption is not adversely affecting your everyday life, stream away! Remember that the University’s networks allow you to stream, download, and torrent material freely, including porn.  However, downloading or torrenting any kind of copyrighted material without authorization or permission from the rights-holder is a violation of U. S. copyright law, and of the University’s own acceptable use policy.

Best Wishes,

The Sexpert

Sources

https://www.pornhub.com/insights/10-years

https://www.apa.org/monitor/2014/04/pornography.aspx

https://journals.lww.com/psychosomaticmedicine/fulltext/2013/05000/The_Effect_of_a_Primary_Sexual_Reward_Manipulation.10.aspx

https://itpolicy.princeton.edu

Mr. Measuring Stick: Does Size Matter?

Dear Sexpert,

I’ve only recently started watching porn online, and I’ve seen countless advertisements about “guaranteed” ways to make my penis bigger. Also, the guys in the videos are usually longer than I am. I never really questioned my size before watching porn, and I’m starting to feel as if I won’t be able to please my partner if I don’t do something about my penis size. So I’m wondering: does size really matter?   

Thanks in advance,

Mr. Measuring Stick

Dear Mr. Measuring Stick,

Ah…the age old question that has dumbfounded people for decades — “does size matter?” Well, the answer isn’t as clear cut as yes or no. And we shouldn’t be surprised by that, since sex is rarely that simple and is very individual.

First, let’s clear the air about all the “10 tricks to make you grow 3 inches in 5 weeks” and other clickbait advertisements that taunt you as you browse porn sites – they’re a scam. Dr. Brian Christine, a urologist with the Urology Centers of Alabama, says: “There’s nothing topical you can put on your penis that will make it grow longer…same goes for pills—it’s a complete waste of money.” You’ll see these products marketed with penis-boosting vitamins, minerals, herbs, or hormones, but no controlled studies have shown they’ll provide any benefit. In fact some products might even produce harmful effects. For example, certain toys like cock rings or devices like penis pumps can increase the size of an erection minimally and temporarily. But using them for an extended period of time or producing great swelling can result in discomfort, bruising and even damage to penile tissue.

In fact, the constant debate over penis size can be traced to a deeper issue that permeates throughout our everyday language and popular media, such as music, TV shows, and movies. Often, the size and length of someone’s penis is linked to how powerful or successful someone is, or size comparisons are used to make others feel “less than”. We always hear that people believe that “bigger is better,” (from candy bars to body parts) and that leads to a horrible cycle of competition, where size-enhancing tips and tricks start to become appealing. But, truth is, your penis size doesn’t determine your sexual performance, or your overall worth. Also, odds are, you’re probably doing alright in the size department. The average penis measures somewhere between 3 and 5 inches when flaccid or not erect, and between 5 and 7 inches when erect.

So what DOES matter? Your confidence! And how you are respectful and attentive with your partner(s). If you’re still a little shy about your little guy, focus more on what you can do with your partner that doesn’t involve a penis. You can practice the craft of foreplay and oral sex, or forms of intimacy that don’t involve sex. There are many ways to please your partner without having a long penis. Size makes no difference at all as long as you and your partner are openly communicating, and happy and comfortable. That said, there are some ways to make your love muscle flex a little harder. If you’re hung up on size, trimming your pubic hair might make your penis appear larger and it may even increase sensitivity around the base of your penis. If you’re into that, be careful to avoid nicks and razor burn, which can increase risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI) transmission or a less-than pleasurable experience for you.

So, Mr. Measuring Stick, do not fear! The porn industry may feed you lies that claim size to be the end all be all of sexual happiness, but there’s so much more to it than a number on a ruler. So don’t be shy, and make the best of what you got!

Information about penis size retrieved from Men’s Journal, Healthline, Mayo Clinic and Zavamed.

 

Understanding Plan B

Dear Sexpert,

 My friend told me that she went to McCosh this morning to get Plan B after having unprotected sex with her boyfriend.  I am curious to find out more about how Plan B works.  Is it the same as an abortion?

–Plan A Preferred 

Dear Plan A Preferred,

I am happy to answer your questions about emergency contraception.  People may seek emergency contraceptive services for many reasons, including contraceptive failure (such as condom breakage) or forgetting to take birth control pills.  Options for emergency contraception include Plan B One-Step® or other generic progestin pills, ella® or other pills containing progesterone receptor modulators, some estrogen-progestin combination pills, and copper intrauterine devices (ParaGard® IUD).  Although there are sometimes stigmas around seeking emergency contraceptives, there should be no shame in seeking them when unexpected things go wrong.  As long as you are using non-emergency contraceptives regularly or as your primary form of contraception, it is useful to be knowledgeable about back-up options (hence the name “Plan B”).

I’ll now go into the physiological explanations about how these different methods work.  During the menstrual cycle, the pituitary gland in the brain releases the follicle-stimulating Hormone (FSH) which initiates the growth of follicles and a premature egg in the ovaries.  These follicles then release the hormone estrogen, which thickens the lining of the uterus and signals to the brain to release the luteinizing hormone (LH), which then triggers ovulation.  Birth control pills work by monitoring hormone levels; by increasing progestin levels, the pills decrease FSH and LH levels which prevent ovulation.  Plan B, or “the morning after pill,” works in essentially the same manner as birth control pills.  Plan B contains a higher dose of levonorgestrel, a synthetic form of progestin.  Therefore, it works to prevent ovulation just like birth control does.  Emergency contraceptive methods that prevent ovulation should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex to be most effective.  Levonorgestrel in Plan B thickens the mucosal lining of the uterus to create an environment where sperm will not survive.  Taken up to 3 days after sex, Plan B is able to prevent ovulation with an 89% success rate. Other emergency contraception methods can be effective when taken up to 5 days after sex.

Similar to Plan B, Ella also works to prevent ovulation.  Ella contains a progesterone receptor modulator, which actually has been shown to have a more direct inhibitory effect on ovulation.  Unlike Plan B, ella is only available by prescription. As opposed to preventing ovulation, the copper IUD prevents pregnancy after unprotected sex through impeding sperm function.  The copper IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after sex to prevent pregnancy at a 99% rate. Since the copper IUD is also a form of regular birth control (categorized as LARC or long-acting reversible contraception because it can remain in place for up to 10 years).  If you think long-term birth control could be right for you, you should talk to a healthcare provider at UHS. Also, emergency contraception is not the same as abortion because all methods only work pre-implantation (or the attaching of a fertilized egg to the uterine wall).  An implanted egg will not be affected by any emergency contraceptive method.

If you wish to obtain emergency contraception, or learn more about emergency contraceptive methods, you can make an appointment at McCosh Health Center via University Health Services.  To obtain emergency contraception, you do not need to make an appointment.  The morning after pill is available by appointment during regular hours and through the infirmary after business hours.  You can also go to the local Planned Parenthood, or get Plan B or the generic form from the local pharmacy in the family planning aisle (Call ahead to make sure they have it in stock!). I hope this article has cleared up your questions regarding emergency contraceptives.  Although they should under no circumstances be used as a primary form of contraception and do not protect against sexually transmitted infections, it is always useful to have a “plan b.”

Information regarding Plan B obtained from: The Emergency Contraception Website (Princeton), Planned Parenthood, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), AsapScience, and K. Gemzell-Danielsson et al. (2013).

 

 

Vape Lord: Does Juuling affect my erection?

Dear Sexpert,

Recently, my girlfriend and I have noticed that I’ve had trouble ‘performing’ in the bedroom, even if I haven’t been drinking. I thought these problems only happened to older people, but I heard that Juuling can cause problems with erections. Is this true?

Sincerely, Vape Lord

Dear Vape Lord,

Thank you for reaching out! Difficulty getting aroused and/or maintaining an erection can be a frustrating and embarrassing problem for many people, so there is nothing to be ashamed of. Luckily, for young people, this is often a fixable problem, too!

An erection occurs when hormone stimuli trigger blood flow into the spongy tissue of the penis. Thus, anything that interferes with these hormones or the blood flow can cause problems getting or maintaining an erection, otherwise known as erectile dysfunction, or ED. In young people, ED can be related to a variety of environmental causes, such as an unhealthy diet, medications, lack of sleep and exercise, and stress. It can also be due to the effects from chemicals or substances, as you note, including alcohol or other drugs.

Vaping – especially using a Juul device or ‘Juuling’ – is becoming increasingly popular because it is thought to be healthier than traditional cigarettes and often comes in a variety of flavors. However, vaping involves the ingestion of an aerosol that frequently contains nicotine and other chemicals and can be highly addictive. Most people do not believe that Juuls or other e-cigarettes contain nicotine, but in fact, a single Juul pod has the equivalent of twenty cigarettes’ worth of nicotine.

Nicotine alone has been shown to reduce sexual arousal in men and long-term studies reveal that the intensity of cigarette usage is correlated with greater degree of erectile dysfunction. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, meaning that it causes blood vessels to narrow and blood flow to be reduced. Since increased blood flow to the penis is what causes an erection, decreased blood flow creates more difficulty getting or maintaining them.  As long as nothing else has changed in your lifestyle and your stress levels have remained constant, it is possible that excessive nicotine consumption could be causing your ED.

This vasoconstriction can even cause permanent blood-vessel damage with prolonged, heavy use. As scary as ‘permanent damage’ sounds, there is good news! After smoking cessation, ED status improves quickly and significantly, especially in young people. Luckily, if your problem is nicotine-related, it will likely clear up if your nicotine consumption is curbed. If your ED persists, seeing a medical professional might be in order to discuss possible hormonal or lifestyle-related concerns. McCosh Health Center has Sexual Health and Wellness (SHAW) providers who would be able to help you get a diagnosis and treatment.

If you are a regular e-cigarette-user and have had problems with erections, it is definitely worth curbing your use to see if that nicotine consumption could be the root of your ED – it could be a simple and easy solution with the bonus of other health benefits, too.

– The Sexpert

Information regarding nicotine and erectile dysfunction provided by CNBC, Livestrong, National Institutes of Health, and BJU International peer-reviewed journal.

 

 

A Division of Peer Heath Advisers, Princeton University @princeton_pha

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