Ask Debby Herbenick | Anal sex, lubricant and bacterial vaginosis

Answers to your most penetrating sex questions.

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Q I’m a 20-year-old guy. My girlfriend and I have sex, but my penis has not fully penetrated her vagina yet because she doesn’t want me to break the hymen. So I only put my penis outside her hymen and then I stimulate her clitoris until she orgasms. I do wear a condom. We want to try anal sex, but I don’t know where to start. I bought condoms and an egg vibrator, but I need your advice on how to proceed with anal sex.
A I love that you and your girlfriend are able to talk to each other about sex, that she’s been able to communicate her boundaries to you and that you’re respectful of those boundaries. It’s also great that you use a condom. An egg vibrator could be pleasurable for her if applied on her clitoris or, if she’s willing to have a vibrator in her vagina, that may be enjoyable for you two, as well. However, an egg vibrator is not well-suited for anal insertion, as it could more easily get “lost” inside the rectum should it slip out of your grasp. It is, however, wise of you to get a water-based or silicone-based lubricant if you are thinking about trying anal sex together, as the anus doesn’t produce lubrication on its own. For anal sex, I like to say that relaxation, lubrication and communication are key. You might start with inserting only small things into her (or your) anus. Consider, for example, putting a condom over your little finger, adding lubricant to the condom, and then gently inserting it part of the way into the anus and leaving it there for a moment. If that feels comfortable, you might graduate to a small anal toy such as the Little Flirt ($24 at Early to Bed, 5232 N Sheridan Rd, 866-585-2BED), which is made of easy-to-clean silicone and, like other anal toys, has a wide base so that it doesn’t slip up inside the rectum and get lost. To learn more about anal sex and pleasure, which can take time and patience to experience, check out my book, Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction (Rodale, $21.99).

Q I plan on having sex with my man with his penis bare—but my vagina is constantly dry. Would we need to use a certain lube?
A I suppose no one actually needs a pair of lacy underwear, but they can make some people feel sexier, more seductive and more aroused. Similarly, most people do not need to use lubricant in order to fit Part A into Part B, unless it’s a very tight fit, but it can certainly help—especially if a guy’s penis is particularly large, or the part he’s trying to insert it into, like an anus or vagina, is particularly dry. Many women produce less natural vaginal lubrication when they are in low-estrogen states, such as when they are breast-feeding or in menopause. Vaginas can also feel quite dry post-shower or bath. If you find that you’d like to use a lubricant together to make sex feel more comfortable or pleasurable, I’d recommend trying a water-based lubricant such as Sliquid or Good Clean Love (both are available locally at Tulip, 3448 N Halsted St, 773-975-1515). If you’re planning to have sex in a shower, bath or hot tub, go for a silicone lube. If you’d rather go without a lube, try to spend extra time in foreplay to ramp up your own natural vaginal lubrication. However, if you find that you don’t produce enough lubrication to make sex pleasurable, don’t fret: Not everyone does and that’s okay. Lubricant to the rescue! Personally, I think it can be a great idea to keep lubricant by the nightstand as a “just in case” supply: just in case it makes things more comfy, just in case you want to slather some on your breasts for penis-boob sex, just in case you want to rub it on a partner’s penis for a sultry hand job or on your own genitals for lovely masturbation or just in case a quickie turns into a marathon sex session. It’s not as if we women are rain forests, you know. Lube doesn’t have to be just for moments of necessity: It can be for foreplay, sex play, intercourse, masturbation, vibrator play, breast play, extra-long sex play and so much more. You can even slather some around your armpit, in the bend of your knee or between your thighs if you want to get creative about intercourse options. Enjoy!

Q What is the deal with bacterial vaginosis? My ob-gyn and I have been working together to kick this obnoxious recurring problem, and I just can’t seem to get ahead of it! Since there seems to be no “magic pill” (though the meds I’ve been on seem to help, at least temporarily), I’ve been trying to make additional lifestyle changes to reduce the chances of upsetting the balance of “things.” But in doing some reading about BV, I am positively HORRIFIED at the amount of misinformation there appears to be. Now, I know better than to trust the all-mighty Internet for a good single source, but seriously: One site said that just being a lesbian was a cause. A lesbian! Really!? C’mon now. Everywhere else is just trying to sell me something with a ridiculous name. As a monogamous straight gal and owner of a vagina that I’d really like to keep using without feeling deathly self conscious, I’m wondering if you have an inside scoop.
A As a sexual-science nerd, I suppose I do have an inside scoop—but I don’t have a magic cure-all answer, I’m afraid. Bacterial vaginosis (BV) is a tricky vaginal infection that’s marked by vaginal discharge and a fishy odor, and it’s something health-care providers and researchers still struggle to understand. Being a lesbian does not cause BV, though some research has found that having new or multiple male or female partners (not necessarily at the same time) can raise the risk of BV. One study found that cigarette smoking, having anal sex before vaginal sex (e.g., being an anal-to-vaginal switcher) and sex with an uncircumcised male partner raised women’s risk of acquiring BV. Other research suggests that vaginal douching or using spermicidal products that contain nonoxynol-9 may play a role in developing BV. I know of no scientific research that supports dietary changes or magic herbs or supplements to get rid of BV, though there are a few good prescription treatments that can help. Unfortunately, after treatment stops, BV commonly comes back again and again like an ex who just won’t take a hint. BV is also more common among black women for reasons that are not well understood. BV is an extremely common vaginal health condition that many, many women and their partners deal with. If you’d ever like a second opinion, you can find a health-care provider with specific expertise in the vagalicious world through the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease. In the meantime, patience, communicating with a partner about any issues you may need special attention to (like not using spermicidal products or avoiding anal-to-vaginal switching) or feel uncomfortable about (such as fishy odor) may be important to a more pleasurable sex life.

Send letters to Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to inandout@timeoutchicago.com.

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