No one has all the answers when it comes to sex, even clinical sexologists and other experts. I know this because every time I meet one, we have tons to talk about, and that includes questions and challenges of their own. Sex isn’t, and never will be, a science.
Still, some matters are better handled by consulting someone with expertise, training, and most importantly, experience. Sorry, but Google and crowdsourcing answers from your friends ain’t got nothing on that. Below is our latest batch of sex and relationship conundrums, addressed by columnist and clinical sexologist and couple’s therapist Dr. Eve, author of the bestselling book Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction and host of the #CyberInfidelity podcast (downloadable here).
Q: How do I prep my body for anal play?
A: First things first: You need to feel safe. That requires consent, condoms, and cleanliness. Lots of people have hang-ups around body odors and juices down there. It inhibits them from getting down and dirty. Asking people to lick or insert something into an anus, or vice versa, can sometimes give them the heebie-jeebies. Here are some easy ways to make anal easy, clean, and fun:
- Bathe or shower beforehand and wash the anal area with warm, soapy water (no chemicals, as they’ll remove the important anal lining, putting you at risk of infection.)
- Use the bathroom before anal play. That’s generally enough to keep you safe during anal penetration
- Some people choose to rinse internally using enemas or anal douches, which are available at pharmacies. These are safe occasionally, but don’t make it a daily habit. Also, note that it’s not at all necessary.
- When well washed, the sphincter and surrounding skin is as clean as any other part of the body, but some stray digestive-tract bacteria may remain inside the anus. That’s why nothing that goes in should come into contact with the vagina afterward, as bacteria can travel up the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection.
- Keep a towel handy, as accidents may happen.
- Always use a condom and anal lubricant on fingers, penis, or toys.
- Start by stretching the anus with a small butt plug before inserting anything larger.
- The whole time, breathe and relax—it helps everything go a little smoother (literally).
Q: I love being social, but my S.O. doesn’t, and it’s becoming a problem. Help!
A: When you’re extroverted, at first it can be kind of cute to be with an introvert, as it can feel like he or she grounds you. Likewise, it’s fun to be with an extrovert if you tend to spend more time alone, since it can boost your social life. At first, you might both bend over backwards to please each other, going along with the new lifestyle. It can be exciting and new.
Then, after about six months, reality sets in and your natural tendencies and preferences return. In your case, you’re probably becoming restless as your S.O. wants another night of Netflix and chill, but you want to meet friends for drinks on the new rooftop bar. Tension mounts as you feel caged in and he or she starts to resent being dragged to yet another event—with that, sex will often drop in frequency and you wonder what brought you together in the first place.
The only way to deal with it is to talk about it head-on. Acknowledge that your natural differences are becoming difficult for you both. Make sure it’s a calm, sober, in-person conversation that happens when you’re both feeling energized and present—not right before bed or shortly after a fight. Talk about expectations and relationship requirements: Do you believe a couple should always hang out together, or enjoy independent time alone, in addition to couple time? If you can both agree to a few nights each week spent apart, doing your separate things, it can work quite well. But if one person wants the other to change his or her lifestyle entirely, it may be best to hit the road. Compromising too much is never a good idea, and believing the other person will change is unrealistic.
Q: I have a hard time coming without my vibrator—should I be worried?
A: Orgasms, unfortunately, aren’t the easiest thing for women to achieve. They require time, patience, and focus. And mostly they require women giving themselves permission to have pleasure, not just give it to a partner. Hence the majority of women can orgasm just fine alone (or with porn) yet may continue to struggle to come with a partner.
Vibrators and other sexual health products, like lube and clitoral stimulants, have been a huge help. It’s now second nature for many women to grab a vibrator before, during, or after sex. Sometimes all it takes is a few minutes with the vibe and you can have an orgasm. The obvious upside to this trend is that more women are orgasming, more often—a huge achievement. But what some mistake as a downside is that it now seems more difficult to come with a partner (or generally without a vibrator).
Ultimately, you may be misinterpreting your increased ability (and speedy ability) to come with your inability or slowness to orgasm with your partner or manually. Don’t make this mistake! Don’t worry that it’s possible to overuse your vibrator—it’s not. While sex toys may change our standards for how quickly, easily, and powerfully we come, they’re certainly not making it impossible to come without them (even if mentally, it might feel that way).