14 Sex Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask their Gynecologists or Girlfriends
We rounded up sexual health experts to weigh in on subjects that women are often too red-faced to discuss with their gynecologists or girlfriends. Read on to get the lowdown on what’s really going on down under. And for even more sex ed, take our sexual health quiz…
1. Why don't my breasts match?
Unless you’ve had a boob job, most breasts aren't perfectly matched. That’s because they’re made of mammary gland tissue and fat and have naturally different amounts in each, explains Glenn Updike, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.
For some women, the difference is more pronounced, and it’s usually a cosmetic issue. If it’s embarrassing or affecting your sex life, surgery is an option.
But if one breast suddenly becomes much larger than the other, it could indicate an infection or tumor, so have your gynecologist evaluate it immediately.
2. Is it normal to pass gas during orgasm?
When you climax, the muscles around your genitals – including the sphincter muscle – relax, so it’s not unusual for a little gas to escape, says Millicent Comrie, M.D., founder and medical director of the Long Island College Center for Women’s Health in Brooklyn.
But even before orgasm, the in-and-out motion may trigger gas because the penis rubs against the anus through the vaginal wall, she says.
If it happens frequently and is embarrassing, take an over-the-counter anti-gas medication that contains simethicone before having sex, she says.
3. I had a dream about having sex with another woman. Am I gay or bisexual?
Not necessarily, says Michele Sugg, a certified sex therapist in Branford, Conn. It could mean you’re attracted to women (or a particular woman), but it may signal that you’re missing the close, cozy feelings of hanging with a girlfriend.
“Sometimes women symbolize nurturance, love and closeness” in your dreams, Sugg explains. “If you’re in a relationship with a guy and you’re not getting enough closeness,” such a dream might mean you need more of that.
Remember: An erotic dream doesn’t define your sexual identity.
“Even if it means you feel sexually attracted to another woman, you don’t need to pigeonhole yourself,” she says. “Maybe you’ll be attracted to women at times. There’s a scale rather than being gay, straight or bi.”
4. Is a cold sore the same as herpes?
Cold sores don’t carry the same stigma as genital herpes, but strains of the same herpes simplex virus cause cold sores on the lips (and other areas of the face, chest, even the fingers), as well as blisters around genitals.
In some cases, the virus strain that causes cold sores can also cause serious eye and brain infections. About 50%-80% of American adults have oral herpes; 20% have genital herpes.
Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) usually occurs above the waist (generally through kissing or sharing eating utensils), while herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) usually occurs below the waist (generally through sexual contact). But you can get either virus in either area through oral-genital contact.
“People aren’t as embarrassed to say, ‘I get cold sores,’ but fewer people are apt to bring up that they have genital herpes, although both of them could be in either place,” Updike says.
Genital HSV-1 actually appears to be on the rise among adolescents, Comrie says, “because they’re having oral sex instead of intercourse.”
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are treatable, but neither is curable.
5. Can certain exercises really lead to better sex?
Absolutely. For starters, a good cardiovascular routine helps build energy and stamina. Strength training and stretching can help you build muscles and improve your flexibility so you can get into – and maintain – various positions during sex.
The best exercise to improve sex is the Kegel squeeze – basically strength training for your pubococcygeus (or PC) muscles, which hold up your vagina, anus, uterus, bladder and urethra.
“The stronger these muscles are, the more intense your orgasms will be,” says Chicago sex and relationship therapist Laura Berman, Ph.D., author of The Passion Prescription (Hyperion).
To locate your PC muscles, try to stop your urine flow when you pee. Hold the squeeze for five seconds, then release. Doing 50-150 Kegel squeezes a day will help keep those muscles in good shape. Don’t do Kegels regularly while urinating, because it can lead to urinary tract and bladder infections.
6. Is cybersex really cheating?
Many may not consider provocative emails to be cheating. After all, they reason, you’re only exchanging thoughts or fantasies, not bodily fluids.
But ask yourself: Would you want your partner to read your exchanges and would he be hurt, angry or resentful if he did?
“If your partner wouldn’t feel comfortable with what you’re doing, you’re probably out of bounds,” Sugg says.
Try to figure out what’s missing from your relationship that you’re looking for online. Bored with your sex life? Does your husband see you as the mother of his children while you still feel like a sex kitten? Or maybe you want to try something more risque in the bedroom?
Rather than act out online, talk about it with your partner and expand your sex life together. Real sex beats the virtual kind any day.
7. Will my vagina be noticeably bigger after I have a baby?
If you push a baby out through your vagina, expect some stretching.
“After delivery, the vaginal opening is anywhere from 1-4 centimeters bigger than it was before,” says Bruce Rosenzweig, M.D., director of urogynecology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Whether it snaps back to pre-delivery size after your recovery depends on how big your baby was, how long you pushed, how well your obstetrician repaired any tears and whether you’re diligent about doing your postpartum Kegel exercises.
“If you do those Kegel exercises to strengthen the vaginal muscles, the outcome is better,” Comrie says.
If you had an episiotomy and your OB was meticulous about sewing it up, she adds, “you could be better than before.”
That said, after multiple deliveries, your vagina may still feel roomier and you may want more tightening than you’ll get from marathon Kegel sessions.
If so, ask your gynecologist about vaginal reconstruction (aka perineoplasty or vaginoplasty), which can help lift and tighten the sagging muscles at the vagina’s opening and deeper inside.
8. I’ve never had an orgasm during intercourse. What's wrong with me?
“If you can’t have orgasms with intercourse, you’re normal,” assures Stephanie Buehler, director of the Buehler Institute for sex therapy in Irvine, Calif. “Sometimes women get upset because their partners say, ‘My last lover could have orgasms, so there must be something wrong with you.’”
Now, assuming you don’t dump him for being an insensitive cad, you’re well within your rights to point out that about 70% of women don’t orgasm during intercourse without direct clitoral stimulation. You can also clue him in to the fact that it’s perfectly OK for one of you to lend a hand.
“Touching your clitoris during sex really ups the chances that you’ll have an orgasm,” says Carol Queen, staff sexologist for the online sex toy boutique Good Vibrations (GoodVibes.com).
If you’ve never experienced an orgasm – and about 10% of women haven't – you might consider investing in some slippery lube (not oil, which can irritate sensitive vaginal tissues) and experiment alone. Don’t get discouraged if there are no immediate fireworks.
“The first time, it might take an hour of stimulation to produce an orgasm; it might also take many tries to get comfortable with the feelings of strong arousal,” Buehler says.
9. Where’s my G-spot?
That’s the million-dollar sex question. Some researchers don’t believe in the G-spot; others staunchly defend its existence but disagree about its exact location.
One school of sex researchers says the G-spot is the glandular tissue around the urethra (found behind your pubic bone, about two inches inside your vagina). Others believe it’s farther back, in a triangular area on the back of the bladder wall – called the trigone or T Zone – where three nerves come together.
It’s probably some combination of these. But if your partner’s plucking the right strings, so to speak, does it matter which instrument he’s playing?
Need help? Read How to Find Your G-spot.
10. Can anal sex give me hemorrhoids?
Not as long as you’re relaxed and enjoying it, assures Ellen Barnard, a sex educator/counselor and co-founder of A Woman’s Touch in Madison, Wisc. (a-womans-touch.com).
Hemorrhoids (painful swollen veins in the anal area) can result from excess pressure around your anus – say, when you’re really straining to go to the bathroom.
But when you use a good lubricant and the penetration feels comfortable – not forced – there’s no risk of anal sex causing hemorrhoids. In fact, some sex researchers believe tush play may actually prevent hemorrhoids.
“It improves the strength and flexibility of the skin and muscles so that the anus is better able to respond to pressure, rather than bulging and producing hemorrhoids,” Barnard says.
11. Why don’t my privates look like a centerfold’s?
Beyond the extensive airbrushing magazine photos undergo, the hard truth is that even if you started with a nice, tight package, child birthing changes everything. Once you push a couple of 8-10 pound babies through the birth canal, things down there won't look the same.
Indeed, Rosenzweig says, some women’s vaginas sag so much that they complain of discomfort while walking.
Not surprisingly, age is another culprit. You don’t expect to look like the pouty-lipped young things in Clearasil ads when you’re 45, right? Well, just as the lips around your mouth can thin with age, so can the ones in your southern hemisphere.
“Women lose fat in that area, the elasticity and tone of the tissue decreases and the inner vaginal lips droop,” explains Dolores Kent, M.D., a Beverly Hills ob-gyn and cosmetic surgeon.
Some “have their vaginas done” because vaginal changes cause medical problems or make sex uncomfortable, but Kent says that 85% of the women who come to her for such procedures are worried about aesthetics.
“They’ve seen the men’s magazines and feel their vulvas aren’t pretty,” she says.
12. If I’m uncomfortable with how I smell down there, can I change it?
Sure, but you’re probably worrying needlessly, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical director of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. “Most of the women who come in saying, ‘I smell really bad,’ smell fine,” she says.
If you’re concerned, see your gynecologist because strong odor (and discharge) is a sign of a bacterial infection. If there’s no infection and you’re still worried, avoiding spicy or pungent foods may help, Rosenzweig says.
Minkin recommends an over-the-counter product called Rephresh that rebalances the vagina’s pH and makes you more fragrant.
Don’t use douches or feminine sprays. They can irritate and can alter the vagina’s natural flora, which increases your risk of getting an infection and mask an existing one.
13. Do I have a greater risk for infection if my genitals are pierced?
“It’s not a great idea to have foreign objects around your genitalia because areas that are prone to moisture and intimate contact are very attractive to bacteria,” Rosenzweig says.
“But if you have great hygiene and a normal immune system, a genital piercing isn’t going to increase your risk for yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis.”
Still, some people always have a little redness or irritation around pierced areas, even when they’re in ho-hum spots like ears, noses or navels. So, if your piercing seems perpetually inflamed, take it out.
14. If I've been diagnosed with HPV once in the past, do I still have it? Am I still at risk for cervical cancer?
If you’ve had sex, you’ve probably bumped into human papilloma virus (HPV) – about 80% of sexually active people have been exposed to at least one of the 30 known HPV strains.
But in most cases – 90% – the infection clears up on its own. Odds are, you won’t even realize you had it. Most HPV viruses come and go without notice, but about 10 strains can increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.
If you’re under 26, consider getting the HPV vaccine, Gardasil, which protects against the four main strains of HPV responsible for about 70% of cervical cancers. (This goes for men too.) Also, protect yourself with routine Pap tests, which look for changes in the cervix that could eventually become cancer.
“We don’t know why some women develop cervical cancer and others don’t,” says Thomas Herzog, M.D., director of the gynecologic oncology at Columbia University in New York City. “But there are millions of women with HPV and more than 11,000 cases of cervical cancer in the U.S. each year, so if you’re screened regularly, it’s very unlikely you’ll develop cervical cancer. And if you did it would be caught extremely early and likely completely cured.”
Most women over 30 who’ve had three consecutive normal Pap tests are advised to get screenings only every two to three years.