Category Archives: Personal Health & Hygiene

global trotter: Sexual health care abroad

Dear Sexpert,

I want to go abroad this summer but I am concerned about receiving sexual health care abroad in a more conservative country. I am also gay going to a country where gay relationships are generally not accepted. What should I do?

-Global Trotter

Dear Global Trotter,

Whenever travelling abroad for internships or vacation, you should always consider your health and safety. It is important to have a plan in place in the event that you become ill or injured while traveling. It’s great that you are learning more about how to keep yourself healthy and safe before traveling.

Sexual health resources vary between countries and if you require sexual health care while abroad or if you expect that you will need specific sexual health services while abroad, it can be useful to know what resources are available in the country that you will be traveling to before deciding to go there. If you travel with a University-sponsored trip such as for an internship through the International Internship Program, the Streicker Fund, the Global Health Program, or the Princeton Environmental Institute, or for thesis research funded through University sources, you are automatically enrolled in International SOS, which is an international emergency medical assistance and insurance service. International SOS will be able to connect you to accredited, English-speaking doctors in the country and will often be able to connect you to LGBTQ+ healthcare allies at your request. Before traveling, consult with representatives at ISOS either by phone or email to inquire about the medical resources available and if you should be concerned about any security risks. They will be able to let you know if they recommend that you travel. If you find yourself needing medical attention abroad, you should contact International SOS for assistance regardless if it is a general medical concern or a sexual health concern.

If you are planning to travel internationally to places other than Western Europe and Australia, it is recommended that you make a Travel Health appointment with University Health Services 4-6 weeks prior to international travel to learn about country-specific risks and precautions and how to stay healthy while traveling. During this appointment, you may also ask your medical provider questions related to sexual health concerns or services while abroad. If you take medication such as birth control or PrEP, let your provider know so they can guide you through the steps needed to acquire enough drug for the duration of your trip.

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to also consider the social climate, local laws, and norms around sexual orientation and gender identity within the country that you wish to travel to. Before your trip, advisers at the Office of International Programs (OIP) can discuss options with you. OIP’s website also resources to help you navigate identity in other countries, including a geographic map of sexual orientation protection and criminalization laws by country. You can also email the LGBT Center (lgbt@princeton.edu) to discuss some pre-departure safety considerations or to get in contact with other LGBTQ+ identified students, who have studied abroad in your host country, to learn from their experiences.

Different cultures may also perceive gender identity or sexual orientation differently. For example, while you might be more easily seen as “gay” at home, locals in your host country might read you as straight. Additionally, you may have to decide whether and/or how to “come out” to your new social circles while abroad. Or how to safely find community with other LGBTQ+ folks in your host country.

If on University travel, you are subject to the host country’s laws, as University travel policy states that the University will not provide any legal services to students arrested while traveling abroad. In some countries, being gay is considered illegal and a punishable crime. In other countries, being gay is legal but not as socially accepted (i.e., may be met with hostility). You may be able to travel to extremely conservative societies by “hiding” your sexuality but it is important to consider the emotional toll of doing this. If you are concerned about this, reach out to Counseling & Psychological Services at McCosh Health Center to discuss your concerns, and to talk through support options while abroad.

Remember, there are a ton of campus and online resources to support you in navigating this decision. Consulting with International SOS, University Health Services, Office of International Programs or your specific program, or the LGBT Center should be able to help you make an informed decision about where to travel and how to maintain your health and safety.

Safe travels,

The Sexpert

Here are some additional resources:

U.S. State Department LGBTI traveler information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-with-special-considerations/lgbti.html

https://www.gooverseas.com/blog/lgbtq-study-abroad-safety-issues

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IGLA World) – https://ilga.org/maps-sexual-orientation-laws

https://case.edu/lgbt/sites/case.edu.lgbt/files/2018-04/lgbt-study-abroad-guide.pdf

Information for this article provided by Global ProgramSystem – Princeton University, LGBT Center, Office of International Programs and University-Sponsored International Travel regulations.

Campus sexplorer: is it okay to have sex in public spaces?

Hi Sexpert,

My partner and I have made a bucket list of places to have sex before we graduate. We were thinking of places like Frick, Frist, and Firestone. Do you have any tips for us?

-Campus Sexplorer

Dear Campus Sexplorer,

Thank you so much for your question. People have different preferences in regards to where they choose to have sex. While some may prefer having sex in a private place (or a traditional space like a bedroom), some may prefer having sex in a more public place (and are even aroused by the excitement of potentially getting caught). Others are open to all options. Wherever you choose to have sex is up to you but there are several things to take into consideration when selecting a location. First, it is important to take into consideration the attitudes of other people. While you may enjoy having sex in Frick, students, staff, and visitors do not necessarily want to be involved or witness your sexual act.

From a legal standpoint, it is also important to keep in mind that it is illegal to have intercourse or sexual activity such as oral sex in public places (N.J.R.S. 2C:14-4). If caught, you could be charged with a misdemeanor which if found guilty may remain on your permanent record and you may be placed on the sex offender registry. Even if you have sex in a car in a secluded place at night, that is still considered public sex in almost all jurisdictions. Although sex in a public restroom stall with the door closed is out of public view, most state decency laws prohibit sex in public restrooms. Dancing or grinding on each other is not considered a violation of the law but oral and manual (handjobs) copulation is considered sex and you can be charged with public indecency even if the genitalia is not visible. Having sex in a public place at Princeton is also considered a violation of Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities and you may face additional disciplinary action by the university if caught (RRR 1.3.3 “Sexual Misconduct”).

While we do not condone illegal behavior, if you choose to engage in sex acts in more public places, consider times when it might be less populated, like late at night or early in the morning. Or look for places where you can lock the door. This way you are less likely to get caught, or to be inconsiderate to the people around you.

It is completely understandable if you are aroused by the danger aspect of public sex. If that’s the thrill you’re looking for, you could try having sex in your room with the blinds open, as a safer way to experiment with exhibitionism without getting caught. You can also fantasize aloud with your partner about what you want to do in public to get your engines revved up, but then take it to a private place to play it out.

Ultimately, when deciding a place to have sex always remember to remain respectful of your community members and ensure both you and your partner feel comfortable, consent to all activities, and practice safer sex.

Best,

The Sexpert

Information for this article provided by NJ State Legislature, Princeton University’s Rights Rules and Responsibilities, and Criminal Defense Lawyer.com

Sexpert topic round-up: seeing healthcare providers over the holidays

Hi Readers,

Heading home for the holidays can be a great time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider(s). Check out previously posted articles about different health-related screenings, switching birth control, and starting PrEP. We hope this is a friendly reminder to talk to your healthcare provider(s) about any health-related concerns you may have and about preventative care options.

-The Sexpert

Risky Business: Consuming Ejaculation

Dear Sexpert,

I hang around in the evening with friends and we sometimes have some beer. We were hanging recently and we all got a McDonald’s. I was with three guys and we were fooling about and they ejaculated into a shake and got me to drink it. I was like Eew at first but when I started drinking it I quite liked that they were all focused on watching me and the attention I got. I couldn’t taste their stuff and it was fine. Is this risky? I’m guessing they may want to try it again soon.

 -Risky Business

Dear Risky Business,

Let me start out by saying there’s no single definition as to what “risky” sexual behavior is. For example, risk can refer to the likelihood of getting pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), your personal safety during an encounter, your comfort level and how close the encounter came to any personal boundaries you may have, or to potential social or interpersonal impacts of a sexual encounter. Additionally, some sexual activities can be legally risky or illegal. While legality, and the risk of getting pregnant or contracting an STI can be somewhat objectively interpreted (through the known effectiveness of different types of contraception and knowledge of your partners’ and your own sexual history and STI test results), your comfort and safety regarding a sexual encounter have to be interpreted through your own feelings. Let’s address each aspect of risk of your encounter in turn, but remember that many of the aspects solely rely on what you want to do sexually, and what you consent to.

First, you cannot become pregnant through drinking ejaculate (or through oral sex, for that matter). However, you can still contract STIs through contact with bodily fluids (i.e., blood, semen, vaginal fluid). Many of the most commonly spread STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and herpes, can be spread through oral contact with ejaculate. Without knowing the STI statuses of your friends, you were potentially incurring risk for STI transmission. Engaging in oral play is safer with use of barrier methods (e.g., condoms) and/or confirming negative STI status of partners involved.

Consent by all parties, and trust that your partner(s) will abide by the limits of your consent, is crucial for any sexual encounter. Consent must be affirmative (“yes, I want to do this with you”), specific (“I want to do ___ with you, but not ___”), ongoing (“I am still okay with what we’re doing”), and uncoerced. If someone pressures you to do something until you give in, that is not consent freely given. Additionally, if someone is incapacitated (due to drugs, alcohol, or mental or physical incapacitation), they cannot give consent. By your description of the encounter, it is unclear whether you fully consented to the activity, or may have felt pressured into it. You said that you were initially uncomfortable with it and it also sounds like you had not discussed ahead of time what you were going to do, and what you were comfortable with. If this is the case, it could suggest that future encounters with these friends are risky in the sense that they may again not listen to and respect your wishes. I encourage you to reflect upon how much you trust them, and whether you are comfortable with what happened and/or feel confident that you can be honest with them in the future about your boundaries.

Legality also factors into the risk of this experience. From your question, it sounds like you may still have been near the McDonald’s and in public when this occurred. In many states, including New Jersey, public sex acts are considered misdemeanors, and depending on the state and manner of the offense, they can count as sex crimes. It’s legally risky to have any kind of sexual encounter, including exposing one’s genitals, in public (N.J.R.S. 2C:14-4). As well, if you were drinking beer in public, this violates restrictions on public consumption of alcohol, and also underage drinking laws if you or any of your friends are under 21. If you were in a car at the time, it is also illegal to have an open container in a motor vehicle, and it is dangerous (and depending on age and level of impairment, possibly illegal) for anyone to drive after consuming alcohol. Finally, keep in mind that consent requires full competence; people who have been drinking to the point of incapacitation cannot consent.

Finally, it’s important for you to think about what exactly about your encounter you liked, and whether you want to repeat it. It sounds like you may have liked the way your encounter made you feel (paid attention to) more than you liked the encounter itself. If this is the case, consider whether you were actually happy and comfortable with what you did, or whether you were only comfortable with it because it had an emotional pay off. Doing things you’re not comfortable with sexually for an emotional payoff may leave you feeling cheated if you do the act and don’t get the reward. Don’t be afraid to consider other things that may make you feel the same way, like planning an event for your friends or finding another outlet for social exploration.

There is no sexual activity that is ultimately “good” or “bad”, but each has varying risks associated with it. In the case you described, there are many possible risks: contracting an STI, engaging in illegal acts, and/or of having your consent or boundaries violated. However, all of these can be prevented or addressed with some forethought. Consider the questions posed in this article, and if you still want to talk to someone about your sexual health, your feelings surrounding sex, or your thoughts on your emotional and physical needs, you can make an appointment with a counselor at Counseling & Psychological Services (CPS). McCosh Health Center also has STI testing, or can refer you to an outside testing facility for any of your friends that may not be students.

Best wishes,

The Sexpert

Information for this article provided by UK’s National Health Service and NJ State Legislature.

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.

Information for this article provided by Bedsider and Cleveland Clinic.

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/

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.

 

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.