Q+A

FAQ’s About Sex

(Questions by Human Sexuality students)

 

Q: I remember you told us that women don’t keep making eggs.  Is there a time when a woman can lose all of her eggs?

A; The main ways a woman would “lose” her eggs is to have her ovaries removed due to cancer or because of a hysterectomy (the removal of the internal female reproductive organs).  If her ovaries are damaged they also can become non-functional.  As long as a woman has healthy ovaries, she will have plenty of eggs to use during her fertile life.  Even if she were to have one ovary damaged or lost, the other ovary would be able to easily release all the eggs she would need in her fertile life.

Remember that although women are born with their ovaries full of eggs, they do not begin to mature and release eggs until puberty, and they will stop maturing and releasing eggs when they reach menopause.  After menopause a woman is no longer fertile, meaning she can no longer get pregnant.

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Q: How did you think up the pizza model?  What inspired you?

A: The idea for making up a new model started when I began to realize how damaging the baseball model was.  Thinking up a new model took several years.  Each time I taught a human sexuality class, I would try to think of a different way to explain sexual activity that got away from the baseball model.  I don’t remember the exact year that I thought of the pizza model, but it was when I was teaching high school at St. Joe’s Prep (somewhere between 1986 and 1993).  In 2000 I was asked to write an article for a human sexuality college text book called Readings in Contemporary Sexuality.  This was where the pizza model was first published, although I’d been teaching it in classes for several years before that).  Since then it’s also been published as a lesson plan by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and will soon be added on the Scarleteen website.

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Q: What if it a group of people wanting pizza?

A: I believe that sexual activity is best when it involves only two people.  Remember, sexual activity is about sharing yourself with someone else in a very intimate and personal way.  The more people involved in the experience, the less personal and less intimate it becomes.  Yes, some people do choose to engage in group sexual activity, but this seems to me to exist more on the level of a hook-up (high passion, low intimacy, low commitment) rather than a relationship.

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Q: Would you say sex in America is really centered around men, like a sexist idea of sex?

A: This is a great question; I think you’re very insightful for asking it!  In short, yes, I do think that sexual activity in America (and lots of other places around the world) can be pretty sexist.  As we saw in the baseball model, the man is the “player” while the woman is the “field”.  You can’t get much more sexist than that.  A lot of our societal assumptions about men and women

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Q: What brought upon this idea of “baseball” as a model for sex?

A: The baseball model has been a metaphor for sexual activity in this country for years.  I don’t know exactly when it started.  The important thing is that we recognize the model and its limitations.  The longer we allow the baseball model to continue, people will be setting themselves up for sexual experiences that are unequal, externally controlled, non-communicative, and focused on “results” instead of satisfaction.  Spread the word about the pizza model!

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Q:  How do disabled people have sex?

A: One of the first things to note about this question is that it all depends on the definition of sex.  If we’re using a very limited “baseball” definition of sex as vaginal intercourse then someone whose disability leaves them with no sensation in their genitals wouldn’t be able to have sex.  If, however, we use a more pizza-based definition of sex that isn’t solely focused on genitals or vaginal intercourse then people can have satisfying sexual experiences in all kinds of ways, so a person’s disability may not impact their sexual lives at all.

The question is also difficult question to answer because people can be disabled in so many different ways.  People who have spinal chord injuries and are paralyzed below the waist would have little or no feelings in their genitals.  They often find that another part of their body is especially sensitive to sexual stimulation and may receive sexual pleasure in that way.  People with other kinds of disabilities find other ways to have sexual pleasure.

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Q: What is the most common age to have sex for the first time?

A: Again, this question depends on how you define the word “sex”.  If we’re talking about vaginal intercourse as sex, then, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (a group that collects reliable data on sexual activity) the median age at first intercourse is 16.9 years for boys and 17.4

years for girls.  This matches what we said in class about most teenagers having their first episode of vaginal intercourse sometime in and around their senior year of high school.

To see a handout with other interesting about adolescent sexual activity, click on this link:

http://www.kff.org/youthhivstds/upload/U-S-Teen-Sexual-Activity-Fact-Sheet.pdf

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Q: How many ninth graders (percent) have pizza?

A: If by “pizza” you mean having vaginal intercourse, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (a group that collects reliable data on sexual activity), about 6% of girls and 8% of boys have had intercourse by age 14.  According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (another organization that collects reliable data on sexual activity), By age 15, only 13% of teens have ever had sex. However, by the time they reach age 19, seven in 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.  As you can see, what we said in class is true – the majority of 9th graders have not had vaginal intercourse by the end of their 9th grade year.  Data on other kinds of sexual activity is harder to find.

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Q: Is it unhealthy to swallow semen?

A: Remember, when we’re talking about whether something is healthy or unhealthy, we’re talking about more than just the physical aspects, so let’s look at answering this question in  two ways:

Physical:  Semen is mostly water, fructose (sugar), and sperm cells.  None of these are harmful to swallow.  If, however, a man has a Sexually Transmitted Infection (including HIV), it may be passed along through his semen, and these infections can be transmitted by swallowing semen.  Contracting an infection usually means that a disease causing agent comes into contact with your blood stream.  The mouth is very susceptible to cuts – brushing your teeth, biting your tongue, having your braces scrape the inside of your lips — all can open up access to your blood stream and potential infection.  So, the bottom line is that while semen itself isn’t harmful, it can easily be carrying agents that are harmful.  Since you can’t tell whether someone’s semen may be carrying an STI, I advise caution when it comes to swallowing semen.

Emotional:  Taking someone else’s body fluids into our mouth is a pretty intimate act.  We need to ask ourselves if we feel emotionally ready for that kind of intimacy, and if we’ll feel closer to the person after performing this action?  The person swallowing semen is also put into a very vulnerable position.  Does that feel safe to you?  Do you feel trusting enough of this person to put yourself into that position?  Will you feel used or abused?  Any sexual activity that makes us feel worse about ourselves or that goes against our values must be thought of as unhealthy.

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Q: Are some people naturally “asexual”? / You said you don’t agree with the word “asexual”.  What would you call it?

A: An “asexual” person would be someone who has very little, and possibly, no sexual attraction to other people.  This is someone who doesn’t feel sexually turned on by other people, and who may not desire sexual activity with other people.  An asexual person may still have sexual feelings and fantasies, and may masturbate as a form of sexual pleasure.  It’s also possible that they don’t.  Being “asexual” as we’re defining it here isn’t a problem, a medical condition, or a result of emotional or physical abuse.  It would be a natural condition – the way a person is born.

I said in class that I don’t like the term “asexual” because it sounds kind of clinical to me (like a diagnosis).  I might talk about an “asexual” person as someone having low desire for partnered sexual activity (which, I admit, is a lot more of a mouthful than just saying asexual).

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Q: What percentage of America is openly homosexual?

A: The traditional answer is that about 10% of the population is gay or lesbian – that’s 1 in 10 people.  This number comes from a very famous study of human sexuality conducted by Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and 1950s.  Although that might seem like an ancient study, the numbers hold up even today.  So, 10% is a good general guideline.

The other thing to think about with this question is exactly what it means to be “openly homosexual”.  People can be “out” to various degrees.  Some gay and lesbian people tell their friends about their sexual orientation but not their family; others tell people close to them but not people at their jobs or people who only know them slightly; still others are totally open about their sexual orientation.  All of these things can “count” as being “openly homosexual”, although some people think only the third example listed fits the definition.

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Q: Do cougars play the field or the game?

A: I assume by “cougar” you’re referring to an older woman who seeks out younger men for sexual partners (usually someone eight or more years younger than they are).  Let’s think about this terminology a bit.  If a man seeks out younger partners is he given such a label?  What’s the assumption being made about a woman by calling her a “cougar”?  Personally I see a lot of sexism going on here.

In terms of your question, part of the “cougar” stereotype is that the woman would be the aggressor (the “pitcher” or “player” in the baseball model).  According to the pizza model, though, these roles don’t mean anything.  Either partner can me aggressive or more passive at any time depending on what s/he is feeling.  Remember, those baseball rules only exist to restrict and limit our choices.  I’d get rid of the whole “cougar” idea if I were you.  It’ll lead to a healthier outlook on sexuality.

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Q: Can girls really have orgasms?

A: Absolutely!!  Orgasms are a biological event that both human and non-human animals, male and female, can experience.  An orgasm is a sudden release of muscle and nerve tension that produces a very pleasurable feeling through the whole body, usually starting with the genitals and radiating out to the rest of the body.  If a person is not having an orgasm the likely cause is either they’re not receiving the kind of stimulation their body needs to get to the point of orgasm or that they’re nervous, anxious, tense, or otherwise not able to relax into the experience and let their body do what it wants to do.  There is a myth that it is harder for a woman to achieve orgasm as opposed to a man.  This isn’t actually true. What is true is that the idea of how to bring a man sexual pleasure that might lead to an orgasm is much more understood than how to bring pleasure to a woman that might lead to an orgasm.  Here we see that sexism again; we’re expected to know about men’s bodies but not about women’s.

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Q: Why is sex so good?

A: There are 2 ways to answer this question.  From the biological perspective, sex feels good for an important evolutionary reason.  If a species, like ours, is going to reproduce sexually, then there’s an advantage if that action also feels good.  As I’ve said before, if sex felt like getting your tooth drilled at the dentist, people wouldn’t have it very often and that could eventually threaten the survival of our species.  Our bodies have evolved so that our genital regions, as well as many, many other parts of the body are sensitive to sexual stimulation.  A part of the body that brings sexual pleasure when stimulated is called an erogenous zone.  This does not just mean our genitals.  Each of us has many places on our body that result in sexual pleasure when stimulated.  Knowing your own and your partner’s erogenous zones can lead to much more fulfilling sexual experiences.  The mechanisms of sexual pleasure involve a combination of nerve impulses, blood flow, and muscle tension.  To find out more about this, you might Google the phrase “human sexual response cycle” and look at the work of Master’s and Johnson, 2 famous sex researchers who studied the body changes that happen when people get sexually excited.

The second reason sex feels good is that humans have developed the emotional capacity to feel love, intimacy, and passion.  These emotional states highlight and deepen sexual pleasure.  While pleasure can exist without these emotions, it is much more significant when they are present.

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Q: Is it true that all unborn babies in utero start as girls and eventually change into girls or boys?

A: Not exactly.  Here’s the scoop.  It is true that all human embryos, whether their genetic code is XX or XY have the potential to develop bodies that look either male or female.  Our genetic code is like a blueprint.  The XX blueprint maps out the path to constructing a female body and the XY code maps out the path to constructing a male body.  However, every human being at the beginning of his/her development has all the raw materials necessary to develop into either a male or female bodied person.  First let’s look at the development of genitals (the external sex organs).  All human beings, whether XX or XY, use the exact same blob of tissue to form the genitals.  That blob can be shaped into a penis and scrotum or into a vulva.  That means male and female genitals are made of the exact same “stuff”, just shaped differently.  The tissue that makes up the head of the penis is the same tissue that makes up the clitoris.  The tissue that makes the scrotum is the same tissue that forms the labia major, the outer lips of the vulva.  The tissue that makes up the shaft of the penis is the same tissue that forms the labia minor, the inner lips of the vulva.  So although male and female genitals look very different, they are basically the exact same tissue just shaped differently.  When we look at the development of the internal sexual organs, we see a different story.  There are 2 different sets of materials – one that forms the male internal sexual system and a different one that forms the female sexual system, but every human embryo, whether its genetic code is XX or XY possesses BOTH sets of materials.  The XX code tells the female materials to develop and the male materials to shrink.  The XY code tells the male materials to develop and the female to shrink.  So that means if you look inside a fully formed female you’d still see the original male internal building materials there but kind of shriveled and unused.  The reverse is true for the male.

But, here’s the kicker (sorry guys, this won’t be easy to hear).  In order to get a human embryo to develop into a male (to follow that male blueprint the XY code has), you have to add testosterone (the main male hormone) to the embryo at a very specific moment in the development.  If you don’t add that testosterone at just the right time in just the right amount, the human embryo will develop a female body.  To develop a female body you don’t have to do anything at all to the embryo except leave it alone.  This means that female is probably the basic template (model) for life and that males came later.  In effect, the Garden of Eden story would be more accurate if Adam was made from Eve’s rib instead of the other way around.

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Q: Are you a semi-virgin if you had oral but not intercourse?

A: The question I have in response to your question is what’s the value of being a “semi-virgin”?  As we discussed in our classes, there is no one definition for the term “virgin”.  It can mean many different things to many different people.  We should start by asking the question why the label “virgin” is important?   What benefits and drawbacks come with that label?  Are the benefits and drawbacks the same for men and women?  We might see sexism again here, as virginity is often seen as a desirable quality in women but not in men.  Why is that?  Is that fair?

According to my definition of virginity (interacting in some way with another person’s genitals or anus) having oral sex means a person is not a virgin.  What does your definition of virginity tell you, and why does that answer matter?

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Q: What is “fisting”?

A: Humans have developed an extremely wide range of ways to express sexual desire and try to give each other sexual pleasure.  Some of these ways border on dangerous or actually are dangerous.  Fisting, as the name implies, is penetrating a vagina or an anus with a closed fist rather than a penis or a finger, or a sex toy.  It may also refer to penetrating a vagina or anus with an open hand and them making a fist once inside the other person’s body.  Fisting is an extremely dangerous sexual activity and can cause significant damage to the partner being inserted.  I do not consider it an appropriate sexual activity in any way for people in high school or college (and I’m not crazy about it as an activity for adults either).  Why would people perform such a sexual activity?  I can’t answer that question.  Fisting doesn’t meet my definition of healthy sexual activity.

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Q: What do you think is the most appropriate age to have sex? /  When emotionally and physically is someone ready for sex?

A: I wish I had an answer that would be right for all people at all times, but the real answer is “it depends”.  We are all unique individuals, and our relationships are all unique.  Because of that there can’t be a standard answer to this question.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could say, “The Thursday following your 6th date is the most appropriate day to start having sex”?  But, of course, that’s not the way it works.

I think it’s appropriate to start being sexually active with a partner (and remember I define sexually active as being involved with someone else’s genitals or anus) when the relationship has reached a point where intimacy, commitment and passion are established and when both people in the relationship share pretty equal amounts of intimacy, commitment and passion with each other.  I don’t think these things develop quickly, so I don’t think sexual activity is appropriate on a first date or early in a new relationship.  I also think people aren’t ready to become sexually active if they can’t talk about it with their partner in a serious way, and also talk about safer sex practices, contraception (if appropriate) and possible positive and negative consequences and how you’d both deal with them.  Emotionally, a person has to be ready to face whatever emotional response, positive or negative, result from the sexual activity, and they have to be willing to share those emotional reactions with their partner.

As you can see, I think it takes a lot for a couple to be ready to engage in sexual activity.  If any of the above things aren’t in place, I’d say you’re not ready.

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Q: What are some places (in the media, society, etc.) where the baseball model comes up?

A: The more you look for the baseball model in the larger society, the more you’ll see it.  I’ve seen it referenced in commercials, sit-coms, print advertisements, movies, almost everywhere in the media.  It’s even been sung about in songs.  The baseball model is really everywhere – so much so that people don’t even think about it when they hear it.

Our job as people interested in developing healthy sexuality is to look out for those baseball messages and challenge them when we find them.  Challenging them might just mean thinking to yourself “that’s baseball talk – I know pizza is a better way to think about that.”  It might also be teaching your friends about the baseball model and the pizza model and encouraging them not to get caught up in all that baseball talk.  If we could spread the word enough about the dangers of the baseball model and the benefits of the pizza model we’d be a sexually healthier society (and I might finally get on Oprah!)

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Q: What’s the average age in high school for losing your virginity?

A: First, let’s define what “losing your virginity” means.  For most people this means to have vaginal sexual intercourse for the first time.  Some people’s definitions of virginity also include anal sexual intercourse.  Fewer people’s definitions of virginity include having oral sex.  I’m going to assume you’re using the traditional (vaginal intercourse) definition of losing your virginity.

According to a national survey of American teens conducted in 2002, the average age when males first reported having sexual intercourse was 17 years old  The average age for women was slightly higher at 17 and a half years old.

As I mentioned in class, when you look at the national averages for adolescent sexual activity, you find that most 9th graders have not lost their virginity by the end of their 9th grade year. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (a group that collects reliable data on sexual activity), about 6% of girls and 8% of boys have had intercourse by age 14.  According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute (another organization that collects reliable data on sexual activity), By age 15, only 13% of teens have ever had sex. However, by the time they reach age 19, seven in 10 teens have engaged in sexual intercourse.  As you can see, what we said in class is true – the majority of 9th graders have not had vaginal intercourse by the end of their 9th grade year.  Data on other kinds of sexual activity is harder to find.

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Q: What’s the average duration of sex?

A: This is a great question but one that’s hard to answer.  Often this question focuses only on the length of time vaginal intercourse takes (from when the penis is inserted into the vagina until the male ejaculates). [Notice how that definition is both heterosexist and sexist.  It doesn’t include gay and lesbian couples and the “end-point” is measured only by the male ejaculating; it says nothing about whether the woman has achieved orgasm or not.  Here’s a great example of the baseball model at work!]  According to the University of Arizona, some research cites a length of time from penile penetration to ejaculation to be between 3 and 10 minutes, other studies report anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, and then there are those studies that claim the timeframe is much lower, at around 2 minutes.  In a global study done by the Durex Condom Company in 2004, Americans claimed to spend 19.7 minutes on foreplay prior to sex.

 

If we’re using the pizza model instead of the baseball model, this question becomes unimportant.  Sexual activity should last until both partners feel satisfied.  Each act of sexual activity wouldn’t need to be compared to the next or the last one.  Why worry about how long or short the activity is if both people feel satisfied at the end of it?  Remember, it’s not a competition.

 

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Q: What would be considered “virginity” in the baseball model?  How about the pizza model?

A: As with all questions about the term virginity, we should start by asking the question why the label “virgin” is important?   What benefits and drawbacks come with that label?  Are the benefits and drawbacks the same for men and women?  We might see sexism again here, as virginity is often seen as a desirable quality in women but not in men.  Why is that?  Is that fair?

In the baseball model, virginity usually has the definition of not having had vaginal sexual intercourse.

In the pizza model there is no standard definition of virginity.  It would depend what the couple defines as “having sex”.  Remember, my definition for “having sex” is being involved with someone else’s genitals or anus.

What does your definition of virginity tell you, and why does that answer matter?

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Q: Do you think pornography encourages the baseball model?

A: I absolutely think pornography encourages the baseball model.  It highlights the importance of vaginal intercourse over other kinds of sexual activity, and it often promotes the idea of the “bases” as the actors go through a series of regulated steps in their sexual activity – moving from kissing to touching to oral sex to vaginal intercourse.  You can’t get more “baseball” than that!

Pornography is also problematic because it offers unrealistic models of what sexual activity is really like, reinforces rigid, traditional gender roles, and promotes unrealistic body images (especially for women).

Honestly, I don’t think pornography can be considered a part of healthy sexuality for  high school age students.  Pornography is another form of media, just like TV – and we’ve talked about how TV gives us mostly unhealthy models of sexuality and sexual activity.  The same holds true for pornography.  Viewing pornography on a regular basis can fill a person’s head with many unrealistic expectations of what sexual activity may be like.  Those unrealistic expectations can mess people up when they encounter real-life sexual situations.  If a young person is going to view pornography (and, as I said above, I don’t think that’s necessarily healthy), please be clear that this material represents unrealistic fantasies.  There is nothing about the way pornography portrays sexual activity that translates in “real” life.  The clearer you are about that, the better off you’ll be.

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Q: Is there a way to compare the bases?

A: Sure, the baseball model is all about comparing the bases.  First base isn’t as good a second base, and so on.  The question I have, though, is what we get out of comparing these bases?  Who gets to decide that kissing is less important than touching or that oral sex is less than vaginal intercourse?  It’s the comparing and ranking of sexual activities that leads to so many of the problems with the baseball model.

I think if we want to compare sexual activities (or bases), it should only be against our own values and our own experiences.  A “better” activity would be one that brings us more pleasure, or that makes us feel closer to our partner, or that fits most closely with our own values.  That might mean for one person kissing is a more important activity than oral sex, and for another it might not be.

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Q: Why do girls do gangbangs?

A: This question is a great one to examine in some detail.  Notice the gender assumptions built into the question.  Why not “Why do guys do gangbangs”?  Is that because we assume that no guy in his right mind would ever turn down the chance to do one, or that we’d expect a guy to be OK doing one?  Does that mean, then, we assume girls shouldn’t want to do them, or that only certain girls would/should?  Is this really a question about girls or about gangbangs?  To answer the question completely means to address both aspects.

A “gangbang” is a slang term for group sexual activity.  This is when more than 2 or 3 people engage in sexual activity together.   Group sexual activity can take on many forms – all one gender (all guys or all girls), many different guys and girls together, or one girl with many guys / one guy with many girls.

Why would girls do this?  Why would anyone do this?  Certainly group sexual activity is not a way to build a relationship with a partner.  It doesn’t lead to the development of intimacy or commitment, two things we said are essential for healthy relationships.  This kind of sexual activity can lead to lots of difficult emotions, as well as increased risk for sharing sexually transmitted diseases or infections.  There are lots of risks to it and not many healthy benefits.  So why would someone do it?  Maybe they feel pressured into it?  Maybe they don’t have enough self-esteem or self-confidence to say no to it?  Maybe they think they’ll get some kind of status among their friends or social benefit from doing it?  None of these reasons sound healthy to me.

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Q: How much money can you make from porn?

A: First of all, I assume this question is about posing for pornographic photos or acting in pornographic films.  Let’s start with the fact that both are incredibly risky ventures.  Once you allow yourself to be put on film, whether in a photo or a video, you have no control over what will happen to that image.  It exists forever and anyone can eventually get access to it.  Forget about porn, just think about all the photos of yourself you may have posted to Facebook?  Are you OK with anyone (your parents, grandparents, college admissions officer, teachers, partner) seeing them?  Are you sure people wouldn’t use (or aren’t using) them for purposes other than you intended?  Even a supposedly “private” photo or video intended just for your sweetie can easily get beyond your control.  This isn’t meant to scare you; it’s just a reality of living in a digital age where information can be spread so quickly and so far away from you.

In terms of the question you asked, while reliable data to answer this question is difficult to find, I can tell you that the money a person gets paid is probably a lot less than you think – in fact, it can be as little as 20 dollars, or nothing!  Yes, some major “stars” in the “pornography industry” may command as much as a thousand dollars per film, but this is more the exception than the rule.  If you want to get rich quickly, this isn’t the way to go.

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Q: Could your ethnicity be part of how big or small your penis is?

A: This is a very common question, and the simple answer is No.  There is no reliable scientific data that connects penis size to ethnicity.  In every ethnic group there are men with larger than average, smaller than average, and average size penises.

There’s plenty of stories out there about this, though, aren’t there.  The thing to realize is that so many of these stories and myths are based on negative stereotypes and racism.  For example, you may have heard the myth that African-American men have larger penises than white men.  This myth actually has a very racist origin.  During the time of slavery, and especially in the time soon after the abolition of slavery in America, racism caused many whites to think African-American men were  savage, brutal, unintelligent, and dangerous.  The idea of them having larger penises was meant to reinforce their “animal” status and was used as “evidence” that they could not control their sexual feelings and would rape white women if they were allowed to be near them.  The original intent in the story that African-American men had big penises was not to make them seem better than whites, but to make them seem more dangerous and less civilized than whites.  That’s a pretty ugly thing to think about a human being, isn’t it?  Similar racism and ugly stereotypes have led to all kinds of stories that try to connect ethnicity and penis size.  The fact is, this is just using penis size as a way to insult and degrade other people – and there’s nothing healthy about that.

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Q: Could you use a balloon as a condom?

A: Short Answer – ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! UNSAFE! UNHEALTHY! DANGER! DANGER!

Longer Answer: OK, I’m calmer now. Condoms are made to be condoms; balloons are made to be balloons. Both can be made of latex, but that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable. You wouldn’t use a pencil eraser as a car tire even though they’re both made of rubber, would you?

Condoms, when used correctly, are an essential tool in reducing the risk of pregnancy and STIs. They work so well because they’re designed for that purpose. No condom substitute (balloon, plastic baggie, sock — whatever) will provide the same level of protection, and some can do more harm than good. So, insist on the original.

Sometimes people ask about condom substitutes because they don’t know where to get condoms or are embarrassed to get them. Condoms can be purchased at any local drugstore; there are no age requirements for buying condoms and no prescriptions are necessary. Free condoms are available from many health clinics, sexual health agencies, and even some schools (although FCS does not provide free condoms at this time).

Here’s an important thing to consider. If a person doesn’t feel confident enough to acquire condoms, then maybe they shouldn’t be having intercourse. Being ready for sexual intercourse means being able to handle all aspects of the situation, including protecting oneself and one’s sweetheart from unwanted consequences. Remember my rule about sexual activity – “If you can’t look your partner in the eye and talk about it then you can’t do it with them”. My rule for condoms is, “If you can’t take responsibility for securing condoms, then you’re not allowed to have the kind of sexual activity that calls for using condoms.”

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Q: Is it bad if I don’t care what other people think of me — like not a single fiber of my being cares about how others might see me?

A: Just as we looked at biological gender and gender expression as a continuum, we can look at attitudes in that way too. When looking at the gender continuum, we noted 2 important things: (1) Being at the extreme ends of the continuum generally seemed less desirable and (2) Everyone needs to find the place on the continuum where they feel most authentic. Let’s use these ideas to look at your question.

If we think about our reactions to what other people think of us as a continuum “not caring about it at all” would be at the extreme left of the scale and “caring 100% about it” would be at the extreme right.

Your question implies that you place yourself at the far left of this scale. There’s nothing wrong about that, but I would ask whether you’re being more closed off to the view of other people even when they might be helpful? Of course each of us has to be the final judge of what’s right and authentic for us; no one else can do that. However, we often learn what’s most authentic about us by bouncing ideas off of other people and using other people’s observations about us as a “measuring stick” of sorts. It would be selfish and narcissistic to think that we never need input from others, just as it would be unhealthy to base our every thought and action on the attitudes of others.

Being your own person is clearly valuable to you, and I applaud that. I do hear in your question, though, a bit of disdain regarding the opinions others might have of you. I’d urge you to consider “loving the middle” a bit more and finding a balance between completely discounting / ignoring what others say and basing your whole life on it.

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Q: How can you tell if a guy like likes you?

A: I know you’re really hoping for a clear-cut answer here, but that’s just not the way it works, I’m afraid. People can react in all kinds of ways when they like you. Some people get really quiet around you. Others will make sure you notice them. Some will tease you or act annoying. Some will just silently stare at you (yes, that can feel a little creepy.)

The best way to figure out if a guy likes you is to ASK HIM! Might is feel awkward to do that? Sure, but it’s also a way to get a clear answer. You might want to resort to the Middle School tactic of asking your friends to ask his friends if he really likes you or not, but that makes the whole thing so much more public than it needs to be. You could try using Facebook or texts to figure it out, but they’re not great ways to get clear information.

Why not try one of those “I messages” we talked about in session 6 of the mini-course. Remember, in an “I message” you describe the situation, say what you feel, and say what you want or need. Below are 2 different “I messages” you might try (or make up your own!)

#1: “I’m trying to figure something out and I could use your help. I’m feeling a bit confused about what you think of me. I’m wondering if you can be honest with me and tell me whether you like me or not?”

#2: “It’s hard for me to figure out if someone likes me or not. I’d be a lot less anxious if I knew for sure. So, I was just wondering if you like me?”

Asking such a question might seem scary, but, remember, the worst a person can say is “no”, and you’re absolutely strong enough to hear that and be OK.

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Q: Why do I sometimes sneeze when I’m thinking about sexual things?

A: I hadn’t heard of this before, so I did a little research. It turns out there were studies done in 2008 that suggests some people do indeed sneeze in response to thinking about sexual things. It also seems for some people it’s a series of sneezes, not just one. It doesn’t appear to be anything to worry about, and is not associated with any mental or physical problems, so sneeze away!

By the way, the research also suggested that sneezing when thinking about sex might be a trait that runs in families. So why not conduct a little survey around the dinner table one night, or at the next large family gathering?

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Q: I want to have a relationship with someone, but I don’t know how to talk to them or “put myself out there”. Do you have any tips?

A: The first thing I’d say is, don’t go into an interaction with the purpose of getting into a relationship. That puts a ton of pressure on everyone involved. Start by just trying to make a casual, honest connection with someone. Start a conversation about something you like and feel comfortable talking about. Ask questions about them, too. The more “chill” you can be, the more natural the interaction will be, and the better the groundwork will be laid for something more to develop. Relationships that evolve are a lot less stressful and more successful than those we try to force into existence.

Sweetheart relationships should be based on honesty, so don’t play games with people. Say what you feel and mean what you say. If you like someone, tell them. That may seem scary, but it’s the best way to get an honest reaction back.

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Q: People of the opposite gender that I have been interested in have either completely rejected me or used me to show off and not really care about me enough to have a real relationship. I have also never been kissed. I feel ready and mature enough to have a relationship. What is going on?

A: It sounds like you are ready for a relationship, but perhaps the people you’ve been interested in are not. Anyone who would reject a person outright is not ready for a healthy relationship, nor are those who would use another person. Can it be you’re looking in the wrong places to find a sweetheart?

I think the best way to find a sweetheart in high school is to look for someone you’d like to have as a friend first. Find someone with whom you share common interests. Look at the way a person treats his/her friends, and how they talk about other people who are not present. That will give you good information about someone’s “true colors”. Don’t go for status, go for personality and humanity.

Sometimes we do everything right and, still, the other person doesn’t want us. That’s about them, not about you. Anyone who would reject you or just use you isn’t worthy of you in the first place. Don’t waste any more time with them. Move on.

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Q: Why do guys pretend to like you when you’re dating then are jerks after you break up?

A: First of all, let’s not lump all guys into the jerk category. Yes, some guys can be jerks, but not all of them are. Just as we don’t want guys to stereotype all women as being a certain way, we can’t do the same to men.

Now, to your specific question. I obviously can’t answer this question as it pertains to your relationship in particular, so I’m going to have to speak a bit generally and give my opinion (which is not a fact, so you’re free to disagree or think something else).

While I NEVER want to excuse the behavior of being a jerk (that’s never OK), guys can find themselves in a very difficult place after a break up. Guys, especially straight guys, are under enormous pressure to be tough and not to show anything that would be perceived as weakness or softness. Acting like a jerk to a former sweetheart is a way of saying, “I never needed you in the first place, and I wasn’t emotionally connected to you”, even when that’s not true at all! Being a jerk is a way to avoid being seen as weak, either in his own eyes or in the eyes of society. Again, I’m not excusing the behavior, just trying to explain it. Sometimes being a jerk is a way to cover up being hurt or to lash out at someone who we think hurt us. Sometimes being a jerk is a way to stuff down emotions of sadness or pain. I don’t believe there are many guys who intentionally want to be a jerk. I think it’s a defense mechanism.

 

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Q: Is it unhealthy to not have a romantic relationship (like not friendships but anything else) until after high school or should you just jump in to it and then see how it all goes?

A: It’s perfectly healthy to go through high school without having a romantic relationship, or any kind of sexual relationship for that matter. What would be unhealthy is forcing yourself to do it because of some idea that you “should”. Some people just don’t want, or don’t feel ready for a relationship while in high school. That’s perfectly fine. I would say it’s important to stay open to all the possibilities and see what happens. You may not be ready now, but there’s a lot of high school left. You might feel differently in a year or so, and you might not. Either way is fine.

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Q: I’m a girl, and I hate it when people, even girls, say the word bitch to each other or to girls. But I don’t want to sound rude, but I don’t think its right. What to do?

A: Good for you for wanting to stand up for what you believe is right! There are a couple of ways to handle this situation. I think the best would be to say to someone, “I’m really uncomfortable when I hear that word. Could you not use it when I’m around, please?” Notice how that’s an “I statement”. It’s not saying, You’re a bad person because you say that word, it’s expressing your desire not to hear it – which is a completely reasonable thing to request. You could also say something less formal like, “Uh, I hate that word. It’s so uncool.” – or say whatever feels the most natural to you. Just make it an “I statement”.

If someone challenges you on this and asks why you don’t like the word, you don’t have to give an answer to that, but perhaps it’s good to think about why you don’t like it. Do you think it demeans women (or men)? Do you think it’s disrespectful? Do you think it’s crude? Whatever your reason, you’re welcome to share it when you ask people not to use the word. You don’t have to do that, but sometimes it helps people understand where you’re coming from.

I did a bit of research on the word “bitch” and I’m going to add 3 links here that might be of interest to you.

This is the link to a very good article from a journal called Sociological Analysis
. It’s called, “The Social Harm of ‘Bitch’” It gives an excellent history of the word and how it’s used.

http://www.jmu.edu/socanth/sociology/wm_library/Ezzell.Reclaiming_Critical_Analysis.pdf

Some women have “reclaimed” the word and use it as a sign of power. Here’s a blog entry from a woman who thinks using the word “bitch” is empowering:

http://funnyfeminist.com/2011/09/14/on-reclaiming-bitch/

Finally, here’s a different blog post from a woman who refuses to “reclaim” the word.

http://community.feministing.com/2012/06/11/why-i-wont-reclaim-bitch/

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Q: I haven’t had my first kiss yet. Is this a problem?

A: No problem at all! There’s no “right” age to have a first kiss. It can happen at any age. If it hasn’t happened for you yet, then it hasn’t happened.

I imagine you might feel pressure to have that first kiss, but don’t do it just for the sake of doing it (or just to get it over with). You deserve to have it with someone you really want to kiss. And when you find that person, be sure to let them know that you’ve selected them to share your first kiss with – that’s an honor! If they don’t treat it like the amazing gift it is, then they don’t deserve to be your first kiss. I know there’s someone out there who would feel really special to receive your first kiss. That’s who you deserve!

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Q: I’ve heard that most people don’t lose their virginity to someone they truly love, or rather someone who they are in serious relationship with. In class you said that teenagers should experiment with many types of relationships such as hooking up, and one night stands and such. Is it unhealthy to have the expectation that you want to lose your virginity to someone who you truly are in love with, or is it unrealistic in today’s society?

A: First, I want to clarify that I don’t expect everyone in high school to practice hook ups or one night stands. There are plenty of perfectly healthy people who go through high school without either. I think it’s OK for people to practice different kinds of relationships if they want to, but I don’t think hook-ups or one night stands are necessary for developing healthy sexuality – quite the opposite. A reliance on hook-ups or one night stands as one’s main sexual interaction is unlikely to lead to a healthy outcome.

Now, to your specific question. In fact, the data suggests that most people do lose their virginity to someone special. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a very well-respected organization that deals with healthy sexuality, 72% of females and 56% of males report that their first sexual experience was with a steady partner, while 14% of females and 25% of males report a first sexual experience with someone whom they had just met or who was just a friend. So, the odds are in a person’s favor that they’ll have their first sexual experience with someone special.

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Q: Is it weird to take personality into account when you are talking about attractiveness

A: Not at all! Our attractions are more than just physical. In fact, people’s personality, habits, values — even the language they use can enhance or diminish our physical and sexual attraction to them. Someone can be the hottest person on earth, but of they’re a jerk, or prejudiced, or if they have a personal habit you find distasteful, they’ll look far less attractive. And a person who may not be “classically” attractive may have a personality that makes them much more physically and sexually desirable. Body, Heart, and Mind are always at work together when dealing with attraction and relationships. They don’t exist independent of each other.

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Q: Is it normal to have a crush on more than one person at a time?

A: It’s perfectly normal to have multiple crushes at the same time. Crushes are very normal (even adults have them) and we can have lots of different responses to them. Some crushes are really fun to have because we know nothing is ever going to come of them so we can enjoy the fantasy. Some crushes are harder if we think we could be with that person but there are things standing in the way. Some crushes turn into actual encounters or relationships, others don’t. Having crushes on multiple people is commmon – it just means that there are many people you find attractive and can see yourself with.

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Q: Why do I sometimes get erections during the day even when I’m not thinking about sex?

A: Would you believe the answer is because you’re healthy? Erections aren’t always brought on by sexual thoughts or feelings, although that’s one of the ways to get them. An erection is a reflex, and it’s common for our bodies to have spontaneous erections. During puberty when your hormones levels are especially high, this can happen pretty frequently – sometimes at embarrassing times. But it’s perfectly normal.

So what do we do with all those erections? Well, sometimes we give them attention and other times we don’t. It seems like erections always demand attention, but they’re not the boss of you. Sometimes people want to pay attention to the erection, maybe just enjoying the feeling or masturbating or fantasizing. For those times when you just want the erection to go away, I think it’s wise to have what I call an “erection buster”. That’s a thought that’s so not sexy or distracting to you that you’ll lose focus on your erection and it’ll go away. This can be any kind of thought – you’ll need to figure out what works for you. Some people say the multiplication tables, or try to call a gross image to mind. Some people think of their parents or grandparents – that’s usually kills it 🙂 The main idea here is that you get to decide what to do with the erections you have. You control them; they don’t control you.

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Q: is it normal to just randomly get turned on through out the day multiple times a day? p.s. I’m a girl not guy

A: Not only is this normal, it’s perfectly healthy. Every person, guy or girl, has their own level of being turned on. Some people get turned on pretty easily, so it’s natural for them to feel that way many times in a day. Other people get turned on less frequently. Also remember that our “regular” level of arousal is influenced by a host of factors, including our physical and mental state. We can all go through periods when we’re more or less turned on than what’s “usual” for us.

The other thing to remember is that there are a variety of ways to deal with being turned on. Some people masturbate when they get turned on. Some people fantasize. Some people try to think about something non-sexy to get their mind off of being turned on. We all need a variety of strategies for dealing with being turned on, especially in situations where it’s not the best time to be turned on.

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Q: So we know you don’t like the baseball model of intercourse and made the pizza model. Do you also wish to change the use of terms like “getting laid”, “hooking up”, “going all the way”, “one night stand” and things along those lines?

A: Actually, I think all those terms can be fine. When it comes to talking about sexuality, I believe a person should be multi-lingual – able to speak in lots of different ways about it. Sometimes slang, like the phrases you named in your question, are an easy and informal way to talk with friends. As long as everyone is on the same page about what a word or phrase means, great! But slang won’t work in every situation. We need to be able to speak a more romantic language with our sweethearts. We need to be able to speak a medical/biological language when talking to our doctor. No one language is right for every situation, so develop your ability to be sexually multi-lingual.

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Q: Is it normal to be in love with someone and be very attracted to them but some weeks not feel nearly as attracted and as desperate to talk to them etc

A: What you’re describing is absolutely normal! Relationships with our sweethearts don’t exist in a vacuum; they are constantly being influenced and affected things happening to us and around us. Our emotional state on a given day can affect how attracted we feel to our sweethearts, whether we’re tired or stressed can have an impact, whether we’re upset with a family member or friend can impact it. If our sweetheart is feeling stressed or sick or grumpy, that can affect how much we feel attracted to him/her. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean that we’re always attracted to our sweetheart the same amount all the time. We’re all human; we don’t stay in any emotional state for very long so we shouldn’t put the expectation on us that we always need to be completely “into” our sweethearts.

By the way, I noticed at the end of your question you say, “not as desperate to talk to them”. I’m not sure if you used the word desperate deliberately, but desperation isn’t what relationships should be about. Of course we miss our sweeties when we don’t see or talk to them, but if we have come to depend on our sweetheart or our relationship to make us feel like a complete person, that’s not healthy. Remember, you’re two individual people in a relationship, not a relationship of two combined people.

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Q: Is it normal that I’m not into Pornography but I do masturbate?
-Male

A: It’s absolutely normal! The idea that every guy will be into viewing pornography is a stereotype. The same goes for the stereotype that all girls aren’t into viewing porn. Some guys and girls like to watch it, others don’t. Some people use pornography while masturbating, others don’t. The important thing is that you do whatever feels most natural and right for you.

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Q: How do two guys dance together?

A: I like this question. It’s not one I’ve gotten before! If you’re talking about “slow dancing” where one person leads there are a couple of ways for same-sex couples to figure that out. Sometimes the taller person leads; sometimes the person who’s the better dancer leads; sometimes they take turns leading. Sometimes couples talk about who’s leading before they start to dance, other times they just go out onto the dance floor and do what feels natural. Now when it comes to “fast dancing” (as they used to call it when I was a kid), you just go out onto the dance floor and shake what the good Lord gave ya’ – same as any couple.

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Q: What could it mean if you have only extreme sexual attractions to one gender but extreme emotional and (only slight) sexual attractions to the other?

A: This is a great question because it recognizes that we have different kinds of attractions.

– Sexual Attraction: Who we feel turned on by and want to have sexual activity with. This is a body response; it’s about seeking and giving sexual pleasure.

– Emotional Attraction (also called Intimacy): Who we feel closely connected to and who we want to know more fully and deeply. This isn’t about sexual activity necessarily; it’s about sharing trust, communication, and those intangible aspects of ourselves

– Romantic Attraction: Who we want to form a loving relationship with. Romantic attraction is more than just wanting to hook up with somebody. Some see it as a combination of sexual attraction and emotional attraction. It’s wanting to know someone deeply and share sexual pleasure with them.

In terms of your question, I’m afraid you’re the only person who can determine what your various attractions “mean” for you. It’s not uncommon that we feel strong sexual attraction to one gender and strong emotional attachment to the other gender. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to have stronger emotional connections with the gender(s) they’re NOT sexually attracted to because all that confusing anxiety that can come with sexual activity is set aside and you can just focus on being the other aspects of each other. What makes a healthy romantic relationship successful is when two people can develop their emotional attractions for each other while also maintaining and acting on their sexual attractions for each other. This isn’t always easy, but most people in good romantic relationships will say it’s worth it!

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Q: Is it wrong to assume someone as male or female by their physical appearance?

A: Gender is such an important lens through which we view the world that we can hardly help looking at someone and instantly thinking “male” or “female”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Where we get into trouble is when we are not willing to go further than our instantaneous assumptions.  We know that gender is not just two boxes labeled “male” and “female” but a continuum that expresses these ends but also a lot in between.  Are we willing to go beyond or challenge our initial assumptions or judgments?  Are we willing to ask if we don’t know (and, by the way, can we ever actually know for sure unless we ask – aren’t we just making an assumption that turns out to be right?)  Are we open to an answer that might not be just “male” or “female”?  An important part of respecting a person as an individual is letting them define who they are.  It’s wrong to shove people into rigid boxes just to make ourselves feel more comfortable.  It’s not the initial assumption that’s the problem; it’s what we do after making that initial assumption that counts.

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Q: Can you have sex when you have a baby? And will it hurt the baby?

A: Sexual activity, including vaginal intercourse, during pregnancy is perfectly healthy and poses no risk to the baby.  Many couples have an active sex life throughout their pregnancy.  It’s up to the couple to decide what sexual activity they want to have during pregnancy.  Things will certainly change as the pregnancy progresses, especially for the woman as her body becomes larger and her hormones change throughout the pregnancy.  Couples who talk about these things, are willing to be flexible and compromise, and who want what’s best for each other will be able to navigate the issue of sexual activity during pregnancy with few difficulties.

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Q: Do people think less of you if you masturbate?

A: First of all, how would other people know that a person masturbates?  They might assume, but it’s only if a person discloses that information that they would know for sure.  Our sexual activities are private; we get to decide what we want to share and what we don’t.  Don’t let anyone force you into disclosing things about you that you don’t want to share.

I guess some people might look down on someone who masturbates, but that suggests to me they really don’t understand masturbation or that they have a lot of misconceptions about it.  People who think masturbation is a sign or weakness, or a sin, or something harmful might look down on someone if they masturbate – but none of those things are true.  Masturbation does no harm – physical, emotional, psychological or spiritual to a person.  It can be a healthy expression of one’s sexuality and a good way to learn about one’s body and what brings it pleasure.  Not everyone does it, and not everyone feels the same way about it

The most important thing when it comes to masturbation is how the person feels about themselves. It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks.

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Q: I’ve tried to masturbate before, and it didn’t affect me in any way.  Is there something wrong with me?

A: Absolutely not!  Not everyone has the same reaction to masturbation.  Some people find it pleasurable; others don’t.  Some people do it often; others never do.  The important thing is to know that whatever your experience it’s well within the range of what’s normal.  A person can have a very sexually healthy life without masturbation, so if it’s just not for you, then that’s fine.

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Q: Is it true that girls bleed all over the place their first time? How do I deal with this?

A: It is not true that girls “bleed all over the place” the first time they have a period.  A girl’s first period may be light or heavy – there’s no way to predict what it will be.  What your question might refer to is that if a girl is not aware that her period has begun, she may find her clothes bloody or stained with discharge.

A few things can help with the anxiety of a first period.  Keeping a supply of pads or tampons and a change of clothes and underwear at school should give you all the supplies you need to handle any situation that arises.  Talking with a trusted older woman who can tell you about some signs you might notice before your period comes may also be helpful.

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Q: Does the outer part of the vagina (I guess the vulva)  get bigger depending on how fat a girl is?  Does the same thing happen for penises and testicles?

A: When our bodies accumulate fat they do get larger, but that doesn’t apply to the genitals.  In fact, as the skin around the genitals grows, they may even look smaller.

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Q: What does it mean if a girl gets vaginal discharge, not just on or around her period?

A: The vagina is a self-cleaning organ.  Vaginal discharge is one of the ways a vagina keeps itself healthy.  It’s normal for women to have some vaginal discharge throughout their menstrual cycle and not just near the time of their period.

Normal vaginal discharge will be clear or whitish in color (it may turn more yellow when it dries).  It will have no scent or a very mild one.  It’s texture can be anywhere from thin and stretchy to looking and feeling like paste – all of these are normal.  Your vaginal discharge changes consistency during your menstrual cycle.  The amount of discharge can vary from a little to a lot – again, all of this is normal.

Abnormal vaginal discharge will be yellowish or greenish, will have a very unpleasant (some say “fishy”) odor, and will be clumpy like cottage cheese.  This is usually a signal of a vaginal infection, which may or may not be sexually transmitted.  Changes in the color, consistency, amount, and/or smell of vaginal secretions that are unlike your normal monthly changes may be a reason to be concerned. Infections are more likely to occur immediately before and during your period, when the vaginal environment is at its least acidic. Abnormal vaginal discharge can also be accompanied by itching, vaginal redness or soreness, rash, burning sensation when peeing, and/or pain. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to see your health care provider for an exam and treatment.

 

 

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Q: Why are guys so obsessed with boobs?

A: The simple answer is because they’ve been taught to be obsessed with breasts.  Not every culture sees women’s breasts as a focus for sexual pleasure or attraction.  What tends to make breasts the object of sexual desire is not seeing them regularly in a society.  In societies where women routinely go topless, breasts are seen as just another body part.  Some will find them sexually stimulating, others will not.  In the US, however, women’s breasts are not routinely visible.  That can make them become an object of desire.  It’s clear that in this country we make a strong connection between women’s breasts and sex.  Once a culture makes this connection then women’s breasts become more and more sexualized and take on greater importance.  Guys are told they must be interested in women’s breasts – that it’s part of being a man.  This is unfair both to men and to women.  It creates all this drama around a body part that in other situations might just be allowed to be one part among many others – like men’s breasts are this country.

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Q: How do two girls have sex?

A: This is one of the most common questions I get asked as a sexuality educator.  Let’s just look at the question for a second and see what it tells us – and then I promise I’ll answer it.

So many people associate the idea of “having sex” with vaginal intercourse, for which, of course, you need a penis.  Yet 2 women having sex together don’t have a penis, do they?  Nope, they don’t.  Then some people say, “Oh, they must use some kind of sex toy or artificial penis!”  Yet, the research shows that only a small minority of women who have sex with women use a sex toy or penis substitute as part of their sexual activity.  Then people really get confused!  This question reveals to us how much we value the penis in sexual activity and how closely we adhere to the baseball model of sexual activity.    If we were more able to think about sexual activity according to the pizza model, we’d remember that the penis is only one part among a whole body that can be used to give and receive sexual pleasure.  Give the poor penis a break!  There’s a lot more there to work with!

OK, so to answer the question, sex between women includes all the kissing, caressing, and stimulating that sex between a man and women does. The vulva is often stimulated with the hand or the mouth, and since that’s where the clitoris is, the potential for orgasm is greatly increased by this kind of stimulation.  Some women do stimulate the vagina as well, using fingers or a sex toy, but as noted above that’s not the majority of women.

The best sexual activity doesn’t come from a manual or a list of instructions.  It comes from knowing your body, knowing your partner’s body and communicating about what brings both people pleasure.

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Q: I think I may be in love with 2 people. Is that possible or just my brain tricking me?

A: First lets talk about the difference between attraction, infatuation, lust, and love.

Attraction is that initial spark that draws us to someone.  It’s the thing that makes us take a second look.  When we are attracted to someone we want to look at them and be around them.  Attraction doesn’t really depend on knowing them or even talking to them.  It’s something in us that gets triggered.

Infatuation is having a strong interest in someone.  It’s thinking about them a lot (both in sexual and non-sexual ways).  It’s getting to know a lot about them, either directly from them or from their friends, Facebook page, or whatever.  Infatuation often feels like love but it’s almost always one-sided.  We are infatuated with someone but, sadly, they’re rarely infatuated with us.

Lust is just a physical and sexual attraction.  We lust for people who we want to be with sexually.  We don’t often think about them as a whole person – that can even ruin the lust.

One of the best definitions of love I know was created by Dr. Ken George, who was one of my graduate school teachers.  He defines love as “best friend + sex”.  In other words, being in love with someone feels just like being with your best friend but you also add sexual attraction and a desire to act on that attraction.

Given that definition of love, I’d say it’s pretty hard truly to be in love with more than one person at a time.  We can certainly be attracted to, infatuated with, and even lust for many people at the same time.  We can have connections that are intimate and passionate with different people to different degrees, but I think love is pretty special and doesn’t usually happen for more than one person at a time.

Now, I do believe people your age can be in love.  I don’t think it’s exactly the same kind of love that you’ll be in when you’re in your 20s or 30s, but I do believe love between young people is real.  If you are in love with someone, you want to commit fully to him/her.  Being in love with 2 people means being fully committed to two people, but that can’t happen, can it?  I’d suggest looking at your feelings again and seeing if you can’t figure out what else might be going on here.

 

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Q: What does society say when girls lose their virginity as opposed to boys?

A: The first thing I want to say about this question is beware what “society” says about issues involving human sexuality.  We live in a pretty sexually unhealthy society in this country, and often the messages that are put out are not helpful in the development of healthy sexuality.  Be sure to examine all messages with a critical and analytic eye.

Society makes a distinction about how and when a girl loses her virginity.  If she does it on her wedding night, or as part of loving, stable relationship, society might not have anything bad to say about it.  But if a girl loses her virginity in a random sexual encounter or not in the context of a relationship, society is, sadly, likely to look down on her.  This furthers the sexist myth that there are “good girls” and “bad girls” and that boys should want to date “bad girls” but marry “good girls”.  Can you see how this puts women in a no-win situation?  Of course when a boy loses his virginity, no matter how it happens (as long as it’s with a woman, that is) he’s to be congratulated.  How can we help develop healthy sexuality in people when boys are told they should lose their virginity and girls are told they shouldn’t?

The decision about when and how to lose one’s virginity is a highly personal decision – one that needs to be made based on what’s best for the individual him/herself and not what society tell us.

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Q: Why do I get cuts on the skin of my penis?

A: The skin of the shaft of the penis is quite thin and delicate, and it can be torn or cut pretty easily. Vigorous masturbation, inadvertently scratching the penis with one’s fingernails, or even the penis rubbing up against underwear or clothing (especially a guy’s zipper) can cause small cuts or abrasions to appear.

If a guy has small cuts on the skin of his penis, he has to be very careful if he is going to be involved in sexual activity with a partner. Any cuts or small scrapes on our genitals increases the risk if infections with STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) including HIV. A penis that has open cuts on it should always be covered by a condom if it is being used in sexual activity.

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Q: What is the average width of an erect penis?

A: Like the answer to what’s the average length of a penis the answer is a range. Unlike the average length question, it’s harder to find a good source that reports the range accurately.

Of the many sources I checked, 1.5 inches seems to be a number that comes up a lot when talking about average penis width. Remember, though, that this means some will be more narrow than this and some will be wider than this. Also remember that most information about penis size and width is for men who are fully grown – and no high school student us in that category.

For people’s who sexual partners are women, penis width actually seems to be more important in giving women sexual pleasure than penis length. A wider penis will stimulate more of the vaginal wall than a more narrow one – of course, any average size penis will do this just fine. This makes sense if we remember that the most sensitive region of the vagina is closer to the front, which is why length doesn’t seem to be as important as width.

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Q: Why don’t I get wet dreams anymore? (I regularly ejaculate.)

A: You’ve actually answered your own question. Wet dreams (which are technically called “nocturnal emissions”) are the way the body releases a build up of sperm cells in the body. If a person ejaculates regularly (and that can mean more than once a day, every day, every couple of days, or even every week) the frequency of wet dreams will decrease because those ejaculations are taking care of releasing sperm cells that have been made and stored. Of course, guys still can get wet dreams if they ejaculate regularly, but they are usually less common.

By the way, you don’t have to worry about running out of sperm cells. Did you know a man makes 3000 sperm cells every SECOND (1500 in each testis). Even a man who ejaculates more than once a day can’t deplete that many sperm cells!

Here’s something I bet you may not have thought about – girls have wet dreams too! Now, most girls don’t ejaculate (see the question of female ejaculation to find out more about that) but girls do have sexual dreams that result in orgasms. It’s not about releasing excess cells as it is in guys, but they’re just as pleasurable. There’s no study I know of that talks about the frequency of wet dreams in girls so I can’t say how often this occurs, but from what women have told me, it’s more than most guys would think.

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Q: Do teenage females masturbate as much as teenage boys?

A: The quick answer is that some do and some don’t, but I don’t suspect you’ll find that a very satisfactory answer.

The main difference between masturbation in males and females isn’t really about how much we do it but what we say we do and how we talk about it.

Our society says that guys are “supposed” to masturbate and talk about masturbation. A guy who doesn’t masturbate (which is perfectly normal) may even feel pressure to say he does. Our society says that girls aren’t “supposed” to masturbate and that they shouldn’t talk about it if they do. This makes it difficult to assess accurately how much people actually do masturbate.

Teenage girls certainly do masturbate – and the frequency can vary as much as it does in guys. Just like guys, there are some girls who masturbate daily or even more, and there are some girls who masturbate less or not at all – again, just like guys.

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Q: Is it normal/healthy to masturbate over 7 days a week or even 10? Also what are the consequences to masturbating too often?

Q: What is the average number of times to masturbate a day?

Q: Is it healthy to masturbate more than once a week?

Q: If you masturbate a lot, is it bad for you?

A: Great questions! The answer is that there is no general average or way to say what is “too much” or “too little” masturbation; it varies depending on the person. Some people masturbate occasionally; some do it once a day; some do it twice a day; some do it more often. All of these can be normal. During puberty, when you’re producing a high volume of sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) the frequency of masturbation may go up. It’s also true that a person has a period of several days when they’re masturbating a lot and then several days or even weeks will pass without them doing it. The important thing is to figure out what’s normal for you and what level of masturbation you’re comfortable with.

There are often lots of reasons why people masturbate. Of course it’s about getting sexual pleasure, but some people do it to relax; some do it because they’re bored; some do it before going to sleep; and some do it out of habit. Another thing to assess is your own reasons for masturbating and making sure you feel OK about them.

In terms of your question about potential harmful consequences of masturbation, you should also check out the question “When is masturbation harmful?” on the blog. It contains additional information about this topic.

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Q: Are there ways to masturbate other than using the genitals?

A: Sure! Masturbation simply means stimulating oneself to bring about sexual pleasure. As we said in class today, anywhere on our body can be a source of sexual pleasure, not just the genitals. So anywhere a person stimulates (touches, rubs, etc.) themselves can bring about sexual pleasure. Remember, too, that there are all kinds of pleasure beyond sexual pleasure. Sometimes stimulating oneself can feel comforting, relaxing, even energizing if you’re doing vigorous exercise. That wouldn’t be considered masturbation because the goal is not sexual pleasure.

Some people even find they will have an orgasm by stimulating parts of their body other than their genitals. Our sexuality encompasses our whole bodies and we have many different spots where we are especially sensitive to sexual pleasure. These vary from person to person, so the only way to tell what they are is to know your own body and what brings you pleasure.

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Q: Is it weird not to have a bright white ejaculation, and instead have one that’s more opaque?

A: First let’s define opaque for those folks who are wondering what that means. Opaque just means not shiny or bright, but more dull in color. It also means not translucent, meaning light doesn’t pass through it.

Ejaculations are made up of sperm cells and seminal fluid. The sperm cells are made in a guy’s testes and the seminal fluid is made in his prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and Cowper’s glands. The color of the ejaculation depends on the ratio of sperm cells to seminal fluid. A higher concentration of sperm cells or a lower amount of seminal fluid will make an ejaculation more bright white in color. A lower concentration of sperm cells or a larger amount of seminal fluid will result in an ejaculation that is less bright. Sometimes it may even look clear. Now, before you go jumping to false conclusions about not making enough sperm, let me assure you that an opaque ejaculation will have more than enough sperm cells to make a man fertile. (Hmmm, is that good news or bad news?)

By the way, the amount of semen a guy produces in an ejaculation varies from guy to guy, and can vary within a guy depending on the situation. If some if ejaculating frequently, they may find the amount of their ejaculate is slightly reduced over time. If someone hasn’t ejaculated in several days or even weeks, they will find a greater volume of semen is ejacuated. The body is constantly making both sperm cells and seminal fluid, so you’ll never run out.

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Q: Why are hickeys pleasurable?

A: I’m not sure from your question what kind of pleasure you’re talking about here, so I’ll answer as broadly as I can. Staring with what exactly a hickey is.

A hickey is basically a bruise that is made by prolonged sucking or biting of a part of another person’s body. Hickeys usually are found on the neck, but can be on any part of the body. And do you know what a bruise is? It results from breaking blood vessels on or near the surface of the skin. It’s actually a minor injury. Hickeys are usually not harmful but they can take several days to heal as the blood vessels that were broken mend themselves and the blood that’s leaked out of them drains away. (Doesn’t sound quite so sexy now, does it?)

Hickeys may be deliberately given or they may result from intense, passionate sexual activity where people don’t realize what they’re doing.

In terms of the pleasure associated with them, getting a hickey may feel pleasurable because they usually occur on sensitive areas of the body that feel good when they’re kissed or even nibbled a bit. The neck is a part of the body that is particularly sensitive to stimulation and we often interpret that stimulation as sexual – especially when it occurs in a sexual situation. Giving someone a hickey may be pleasurable because our lips are also very sensitive, and when they touch sensitive skin they are stimulated as well. So, the good feeling can go both ways.

Despite the good feelings that may come from giving or getting a hickey, it also must be said that hickeys are usually given as a way of “marking” a person as “yours”. It’s a way of saying, “you belong to me”, which is a pretty oppressive thing when you think about it. They can be used as a way of showing power over one’s partner (look what I can do to them), or showing an unequal level of power in the relationship (I’m in charge). When hickeys are used in this way I think they’re pretty awful.

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Q: Are hand jobs or blow jobs pleasurable for the girl as well?

A: I’m so glad you asked this question. It’s something we’re going to talk about our session about sexually healthy relationships. One thing we can say for sure is that if a someone gets pleasure from giving another person a hand job or oral sex it’s quite a bit different than the pleasure the person receiving those activities gets. The person receiving the hand job or oral sex is most often getting sexual pleasure from it. The person performing the activity may or may not be getting sexual pleasure. They may get the pleasure of knowing their partner is enjoying what they’re doing, or the pleasure of feeling in control of the situation or the pleasure that comes with being in a sexual situation, but it’s not usually the same kind of pleasure that the person receiving the hand job or oral sex is.

If we’re interested in sexual activity where both parties have equal access to sexual pleasure, then it doesn’t seem fair to me if one partner is getting sexual pleasure – and maybe even an orgasm – and the other is not.

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Q: Is it common to have irregular periods as a teenager?

Q: If I got my period on the 4th of the month for the first time then again on the 4th the second time, but it’s the 12th and I haven’t gotten it again yet. Should I be worried?

A: It is absolutely normal for young women to have irregular menstrual cycles.

According to kidshealth.org, “It’s not unusual, especially in the first 2 years after menarche (your first period), to skip periods or to have an irregular menstrual cycle. Illness, rapid weight change, or stress can also make things more unpredictable because the part of the brain that regulates periods is influenced by events like these.

Some girls’ periods arrive like clockwork. Others get theirs at slightly different times each month. Many girls get regular periods most of the time, but occasionally skip a period or get an extra period during times of pressure or stress. In fact, you may notice that when you go on a trip or have a major change in your schedule your period is late. All of this is perfectly normal.

It’s also normal for the number of days a girl has her period to vary. Sometimes a girl may bleed for 2 days, sometimes it may last a week. That’s because the level of hormones the body manufactures can be different from one cycle to the next, and this affects the amount and length of bleeding.”

 

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Q: Do vulvas smell?

A: This is a very common question, but let’s start by fixing the language. Many times this question is worded as “Do vaginas smell?” That may be what you’re asking.

There is a myth out there that women’s vaginas and vulvas may have an unpleasant smell. This is a myth. It is true that a vagina is home to a whole host of bacteria and other organisms, but these are supposed to be there – they’re what make a vagina healthy! A healthy vagina or vulva will not have an unpleasant smell at all, but it will have a natural scent – all living things do.

Here are a few other things to consider:

First, all human bodies smell, but not in the bad way! Our bodies are constantly secreting chemicals that give off odors. This is perfectly natural and normal; we’re not sterile creatures! Places on our body that have hair are especially good at capturing our natural scent – that’s one of the reasons we have hair where we do. Although humans do not have a very sensitive sense of smell, we do respond to those chemical signals that other people’s bodies give off.

Second, everyone’s natural scents are different. We will be more attracted to some than to others.

Third, the scent we give off can be a sign of how healthy or unhealthy we are. People who have a poor diet high in fat, people who smoke, people who abuse alcohol or drugs, or people who don’t take good care of their bodies may have a scent to their skin and body fluids that is harsher, more acidic, and more bitter. People who have a healthy, balanced diet, who get regular exercise, who don’t smoke, drink, or take drugs will have a scent to their skin and body fluids that will range from mild to even somewhat sweet. So, what you put into your body will be revealed one way or another.

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Q: Is it possible to be in love with someone and yet have no sexual attraction to them whatsoever?

There is someone I think I am in love with. I think about them every second of every day, I live for the time I spend with them, and I would give absolutely anything for them to be happy. Despite such strong feelings, I have no sexual attraction to this person whatsoever. I just don’t understand my feelings and am incredibly frustrated!

A: I can understand how frustrating this must feel. I’m glad you asked this question.

As we’ll learn in session 4 of our mini-course, there are many different kinds of love – not all of them are sexual. Perhaps what you feel is a deep sense of caring for this person? Could this be your best friend?

Perhaps you admire this person so much that you find yourself obsessively thinking about them, but it’s more that you want to be like them rather than be with them?

Another possibility is that you think so highly of this person that you can’t imagine them being sexual with anybody? Sometimes we put people on such a high pedestal that we can’t imagine them doing something as potentially messy as sex – or we can’t imagine they could possibly want to have sex with us, so we bury any sexual attraction we may feel for them?

Sexual attraction isn’t something we can make happen. It’s not like if you try hard enough you can make yourself feel something for someone else. It sounds like you think you should feel sexual attraction for this person. Maybe all that pressure is blocking it from happening?

I’m sorry I can’t say for certain what’s happening, but I hope you’ll consider some of these ideas here. Ask another question if you’re still stumped.

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Q: How do you know “for sure” that you’re bi?

A: This is a great question, and one that lots of people have. Remember, sexual orientation is an internally applied label. That means, the only valid label for your sexual orientation is the one you give yourself. Of course, this can cause us distress if we just aren’t sure about our sexual attractions.

People become “sure” or their sexual orientations at varying stages of life. Some know quite early, even in grade school; a large number of people feel “sure” in high school or college; and some need until their adulthood to be “sure”.

One way to be “sure” of our sexual orientation is to see patterns that repeat over time and situations. For example, someone who ultimately identifies him/herself as bisexual would be someone who feels sexual attraction to both the same and the other gender consistently over time and will feel those attractions in all kinds of different situations. (The balance doesn’t have to be 50-50, by the way. Some bisexual people feel equally attracted to the same and the other gender, but others have stronger feelings one way or the other. That’s perfectly normal.)

Being bisexual also means having the capacity to fall in love with someone of the same or the other gender. Again, usually this doesn’t happen at the same time. Humans tend to fall in love with one person at a time. But being bisexual doesn’t mean you have to have had sexual activity or form relationships with both the same and the other gender. It only means you have the potential for that. A bisexual person’s sexual desires allow them to be turned on by, feel the desire to be sexually active with, and to be in a loving long-term relationship with people of any gender.

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Q: There is a girl who is trisexual (men, women, and animals). What is your opinion on this?

A: My opinion on this matters less than the facts, so let’s start there.

The term “trisexual” is one that gets used when describing sexual orientation but not in the way you define it above. It usually refers to being attracted to traditionally defined males, traditionally defined females, and males and females who fall more in the middle of the gender identity spectrum (for example, trans-men and trans-women).

There are theories of sexual orientation that suggest humans can feel sexual attraction for non-human animals. The problem with this is that healthy sexual activity requires the consent of both partners, and non-human animals can’t consent – certainly not in a way that we can understand clearly. That makes any sexual contact that would occur one-sided and create a significant (and unhealthy) power balance in the interaction. So, we’d have to label this kind of activity as generally unhealthy.

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Q: I wish girls would realize that guys have a lot of pressure to look good too.

A: You are so right! Both guys and girls are under lots of pressure to look a certain way and act a certain way. It is not easy for any of us to navigate through the thousands of messages we face every day about how we “should” be.

Remember, that the only person who has the right to determine who you “should” be is YOU! Go back to the section in handout 2 that talks about building a better body image to review the tips we talked about in class.

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Q: Is is normal to experience, look at, and touch other girls’ private parts when you are 7 or 8?

A: Remember that sexuality is a life-long aspect. Our sexuality starts at birth and continues until the last day of our life, so it makes sense that children who haven’t reached puberty yet have sexuality and may express it in all kinds of ways.

Childhood sex play, both same gender and other gender, is fairly common. When little kids look at, touch, or explore others’ sexual organs it’s usually out of curiosity or just play. The aspect of sexual desire isn’t there yet; that starts at puberty when we begin to understand the idea of sexual attraction and identify our interests in others as sexual in nature. Childhood sex play does not necessarily indicate our sexual orientation (who we will eventually find sexually attractive and fall in love with).

When childhood sex play happens between two children who are both willing to participate in it then it isn’t necessarily unhealthy, especially if the children have not been given messages that their bodies or their genitals are “bad” or “dirty”. If, however, one partner is forced into the activity, or if an adult or older child (especially one who has started puberty) does this, then it is a serious matter and can cross the line to sexual abuse, which is a very unhealthy thing.

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Q: Is it bad to give oral sex to a girl?

A: First let’s clarify what we mean by a sexual activity being “good” or “bad”. This definition can come from many different sources. Here are three things I think about when determining whether something is good or bad:

  1. a) Values: A good sexual activity is one that follows our core values about sex, pleasure, relationships, etc. A bad sexual activity is one which violates our values.
  2. b) Information: A good sexual activity is one which proceeds from accurate information about the act and its potential positive and negative consequences. A bad sexual activity is one based on mythology, rumor, or speculation.
  3. c) Consent: A good sexual activity is one in which all parties involved freely and knowingly consent to the activity. A bad sexual activity is one that is performed without the consent of the parties involved or where the ability to consent is compromised through something like pressure, or substance abuse.

Given these ideas, I would think it’s “bad” to give oral sex to a girl if it violates a person’s values of what sex should be, if a person is not well informed about what performing oral sex means or the consequences, or if it is done without consent.

Perhaps your question is more about the potential risks associated with giving oral sex to a girl. While there is no risk of pregnancy with oral sex, there is risk of STI transmission. If a woman is infected with an STI, her vaginal fluids can transmit that infection (either through the mucous membranes that line the mouth or directly into the blood stream if there are any cuts or open sores in the mouth). Oral sex carries a lower risk of STI transmission than vaginal or anal intercourse, but the risk is there. Using a dental dam when performing oral sex on a woman reduces the risk of STI transmission. Besides the potential physical consequences, there are possible emotional consequences to oral sex. It is essential to make sure both parties are prepared for the intimacy and emotional connection that oral sex may bring.

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Q: Can a woman get pregnant during her period?

A: The short answer to this is “yes!”  It’s absolutely possible for a woman to get pregnant during her period.  Remember, a period marks the END of the previous menstrual cycle, but a NEW cycle with a new egg cell could be well underway, and that’s the egg that would be fertilized and result in a pregnancy.

Basically, there is NO good way for the average teenager to predict a woman’s fertile and non-fertile days.  Therefore, one  must assume  that a woman is fertile ALL THE TIME and take the appropriate precautions if engaging in behaviors that can results in pregnancy.

Here’s a longer and more complex answer if you want it.  Determining when a woman can get pregnant during her menstrual cycle is complex.  It involves a number of factors, many of which are not directly observable.  In truth, a woman is fertile (able to get pregnant) about two weeks out of every month, which means there are also about two to three weeks when she can’t get pregnant.  So, IN THEORY, if a person had all the necessary information, it would be possible to chart out a woman’s fertile and non-fertile days.  It’s actually couples who are TRYING to get pregnant who usually learn how to chart a woman’s fertile days.  Some of the factors involved in doing this are: figuring out when ovulation occurs (which is very difficult), factoring in the 24-48 lifespan of the average egg cell after ovulation, and factoring in the 5-7 DAYS sperm cells can stay alive once ejaculated into a woman’s body, and others as well.  As you can see, this is not a quick or easy set of computations.

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Q:  Is it possible to pass out from blood loss in an erection?

A: If this were true, there would be men dropping all over the place!!  No, the amount of blood needed to fill a penis and result in an erection is easily managed by the body.  Even the largest erection does not take enough blood to cause a drop in blood pressure that would lead to passing out.

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Q:  I’m wondering if hair color matches pube (pubic hair) color?

A: A lot of people wonder about this.  You may have even heard a slang way to ask this (“Does the carpet match the drapes?”)  I’m glad you asked it in the more mature and direct way.  All that coded language just takes us back to the baseball model and all its associated problems.

The simple answer is, yes, in general pubic hair matches head hair in color, although pubic hair tends to be darker than head hair.  Why is that?  Head hair is constantly exposed to sunlight which lightens color pigment.  Pubic hair is covered most of the time, so it does not undergo this bombardment of sunlight.  In general, though, the color is compatible

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Q: Why would a species evolve a body part just for pleasure?

A: Pleasure isn’t just a luxury; it’s actually a very important biological tool.  If a species needs to something in order to survive, isn’t it better if that thing (whatever it is) also brings pleasure to the organism?  Can you imagine what would happen if sexual activity felt like having your teeth drilled at the dentist?  We might have died out as a species a long, long time ago!  Pleasure provides an incentive for an organism to do something that might be difficult or costly.  When you think about it, a woman getting pregnant brings incredible risk and cost to her body.  When pregnant she is much more vulnerable and much less able to defend herself, and her body undergoes incredible stress.  To carry and support another living organism for 9 months and then to birth it is no easy task.  The pleasure associated with sexual activity makes the experience “worth it” in the moment.  Since women bear the great majority risk and cost in pregnancy, I’m not surprised their bodies have developed an organ whose sole function is sexual pleasure.

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Q: Why does blood go to the penis when stimulated?  How does the brain know to do that?

A: Like every other part of our body, the penis is controlled by a nerve impulse feedback loop.  Sensation to the penis is transmitted to the brain via the spinal cord.  In response to the stimulation, the brain sends signals back down the spinal cord directing the blood vessles, muscles, and tissues to respond.  As you might imagine, it’s a very complex process, but it’s not any different than your body responding to heat by turning on your sweat glands, or your brain continually signaling your heart to keep beating.  Knowing that the spinal cord is involved, though, gives you the reason why a serious spinal cord injury can leave a man unable to achieve an erection or have any sensation to his penis.  If the neural messages are blocked in getting to the brain or coming from the brain, the body cannot react, even if it is receiving stimulation.

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Q: Does ejaculation feel better with or without a foreskin?

A: The problem with answering this question is circumcision (removal of the foreskin) happens very early in life, so a man either has a foreskin or doesn’t.  He can’t ever really compare what it feels like both with and without a foreskin.

There is some evidence to suggest that the head of a penis is slightly more sensitive if a man has a foreskin.  This makes sense because it is covered much of the time the penis is flaccid so is not directly rubbing against a man’s underwear or body the way a cicumcised penis is.  The difference in sensation, though, is minor.  This can be either good news or bad news.  A more sensitive glans (head of the penis) might mean a man feel more sensation, but also might mean he ejaculates more quickly because his penis is more sensitive, while a circumcised penis might take a bit longer to reach ejaculation because of its slightly reduced sensation, but in some cases that might be a good thing.

In truth, though, this is just an academic question.  What every man needs to know is how his own penis responds to stimulation whether it is circumcised or not.  Comparing penises doesn’t really get you anywhere – it’s not like a man can do anything to his penis to change its fundamental size, shape, or sensation.

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Q: What are the functions of the testicles?

A: Testicles is a word that means both the scrotum and the testes taken together.  Testicles isn’t a body part in itself but rather a name for a collection of parts, each of which has its own function.  There’s another question on the blog about the function of the scrotum, so let’s talk here about the testes.

The testes have two important functions.  They produce sperm cells and they produce the male hormone testosterone.  Sperm production starts at puberty and will continue through the rest of a man’s life, barring illness or injury.  Hormone production starts long before that, actually before we’re even born while we’re still in the womb.  At puberty, however, the testes produce dramatically more testosterone which drives the changes that happen at puberty.  Once puberty is over, the testes make consistent levels of testosterone throughout the remainder of a man’s life.  Usually with age testosterone production slows but, like sperm production, it never fully stops.

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Q:  What is the function of the scrotum?

A: The scrotum is the sac that holds the testes.  It’s main function is to act as a thermostat (temperature regulator).  The testes must be kept 3-4 degrees cooler than your body temperature to make sperm effectively.  This is why the testes aren’t inside your body where they’d be a lot safer; if they were, they wouldn’t work.  When the outside temperature is cold, especially if it gets suddenly colder (say from jumping into a cold swimming pool), the scrotum shrinks to pull the testes close to the body and keep them warm.  If the outside temperature is very hot, the scrotum elongates to allow air to circulate around the testes to cool them.  The scrotum can move up and down as much as 1.5 inches!  That’s a lot of movement and provides a great deal of temperature control.

 

 

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Q: Is it bad for the muscle to try to pee with an erection because you’re forcing it?

A: It’s not bad and you won’t do any damage to yourself if a guy tries to pee when he has an erection.  As we said in class, when the penis becomes erect, small muscles clamp down on the tube that carries urine from the bladder.  This is so urine won’t mix with any semen or pre-ejaculatory fluid that might be coming into the penis from the testes.  While peeing with an erection is difficult, it can be done without damage.  A better option, though, is to let the erection subside a bit so the muscles loosen their grip and urine can flow freely…and remember, what I said a guy should think about to get rid of an unwanted erection?

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Q: If you have spots and bumps around your vulva is that normal?

A: I’m so glad you asked this question, and I’ll bet it took courage to do it!  It can be perfectly normal for a vulva to be bumpy or spotty, but I can’t say if that’s so in any particular case.  Our genitals, whether male or female, can be naturally bumpy, spotty, freckled, or even have color variations in the skin.  The question is whether it’s always been that way or if it’s something that’s recently developed.  Are the bumps and spots associated with any symptoms like burning, itching, oozing, or pain?  Any of those symptoms could be something to have checked out by a doctor.  This is why I stressed in our classes that we have to become the best experts on our own bodies.  It’s only when we know our natural look, feel, and behavior that we can really tell when something abnormal is going on.

If you feel nervous about any aspect of your body and think something might be wrong, please talk to your parents, another family member, or a trusted adult who can make an appointment for you with a gynecologist.  Once a young woman becomes sexually active (meaning  someone besides you is involved with your vulva) then routine gynecological exams are a good idea.  For a woman who isn’t yet sexually active, a visit to a gynecologist can be helpful in learning about her body and what it’s normal and natural state is so that she can then know if something changes from there.

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Q: When stimulating a man where does it feel best?  What hurts?

A: If there were a simply answer to this question I’d certainly give it to you, but the fact is that everyone’s body is different and everyone has their own reactions to stimulation.  While, biologically, the head of the penis is the most sensitive part, not every man gets the same amount of pleasure from its stimulation.

The best, and really the only way, to make sure you’re giving your partner pleasure is to ask them and to have them tell you what feels good for them.  Communication, not technique is the key to good sexual activity.

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Q:  When is masturbation harmful?

A: Let’s answer this question in two ways – physically and emotionally.

Physically, there are no harmful effects of masturbation.  I guess a person could masturbate so frequently that they make their genitals sore.  In that case I hope they’d have the sense to stop and give their body a chance to heal and rest a bit.  But in terms of harmful physical affects to fertility, sexual performance, sexual desire, or anything like that, there aren’t any.

On the emotional side, if masturbation makes a person feel guilty, ashamed, or in any way negative about their body or themselves, then I think they might consider not doing it while they try to work on those issues.  It is possible to work through negative feelings and change the way you think and react, but if masturbation really violates someone’s core values, then I’d advise them not to do it.  It’s certainly not healthy to do something deliberately to yourself that brings you physical or emotional pain.

I’d also say that masturbation becomes harmful when it isolates us and takes the place of human to human interaction. If someone would consistently rather stay home and masturbate than go out with their friends, I think that’s a problem. If someone refuses to get into sexual or romantic relationships because they’d rather masturbate, I think that’s a problem too. Anything that isolates us from other people and locks us away from healthy connections with the world has to be examined.

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Q: Is there a way to compare the bases?

A: Sure, the baseball model is all about comparing the bases.  First base isn’t as good a second base, and so on.  The question I have, though, is what do we get out of comparing these bases?  Who gets to decide that kissing is less important than touching or that oral sex is less than vaginal intercourse?  It’s the comparing and ranking of sexual activities that leads to so many of the problems with the baseball model.

I think if we want to compare sexual activities (or bases), it should only be against our own values and our own experiences.  A “better” activity would be one that brings us more pleasure, or that makes us feel closer to our partner, or that fits most closely with our own values.  That might mean for one person kissing is a more important activity than oral sex, and for another it might not be.

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Q: Does your G-spot have to be specifically penetrated in order to get an orgasm?

A: No, in fact, you can’t penetrate a G-spot at all.

The G-spot isn’t an opening or even a defined organ.  It’s a patch of tissue that lives about a third of the way up the vagina between the outer vaginal wall and the urethra (the tube that carries urine).  Look at the picture below to get a better idea of what this means:

For some women, stimulation of the G-spot is pleasurable and may help them achieve orgasm.  The G-spot is stimulated by stimulating the vaginal wall that lies directly in front of the G-spot.

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Q: What other genders are there?

A: This is a hard question to answer.  If we think of gender as a continuum (a line) rather than separate boxes, then there are an infinite number of genders (just like there can be an infinite number of points on a line), right?  It’s no longer considered correct to say that there are only two genders – male and female.  Rather, we say that male and female are two two traditional ways to understand gender, and while the majority of people still use one of those terms to describe their gender, there are many people who do not exactly fit those traditional definitions.  These people may identify their gender in any number of ways:  transgender, gender diverse, gender queer, boi, gender variant, two-spirit, gender neutral, etc..  All of those labels are ways to say that someone sees themselves as more or other than the very traditional understandings of male and female.

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Q:  Is the foreskin bad for you in some way?  Why take it off?

A: The foreskin is not bad at all.  In fact, it’s completely natural.  All penises have one at birth – it’s what a penis was intended to look like.

Foreskins are removed for a variety of reasons.  Jews and Muslims remove it for religious reasons – as a sign of their covenant with God.  Besides religious reasons, foreskins are removed because of mistaken beliefs that a penis is cleaner without a foreskin (it isn’t), or sometimes simply because the father of the baby is circumcised and he wants his son’s penis to look like his to avoid “confusion”.  (I really don’t get that argument.  How often do we see our parents’ genitals – eeeewwwww!)   In America, circumcision (removal of the foreskin at birth) became a very routine practice once the majority of babies began to be born in hospitals instead of at home.  It could be done easily there and in sanitary conditions (but, again, there was no real reason to do it).  In Europe circumcision has always been the exception rather than the rule – most men born in Europe (unless they’re Jewish or Muslim) have their foreskins.  The American Pediatric Association says there is no medical or biological reason to remove the foreskin.

Here’s an interesting (and kinda’ gross) historical note.  In ancient times during wars, some cultures would circumcise all the male soldiers they captured as a way to de-masculanize them.  Here’s another fun foreskin fact.  The Biblical book of Samuel, tells the story of King Saul promising David that he could marry his daughter if David brought him 100 Philistine foreskins (the Philistines were the enemies of the Jews at that time).  Saul figured David could never kill 100 men, much less take their foreskins, and was sure David would die in the attempt.  But guess what, David later appeared at Saul’s court bringing along 200 Philistine foreskins and was therefore able to marry Saul’s daughter.  How’s that for a bridal price!

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Q: What’s the difference between trans-man/woman, two-spirit, gender diverse, etc?

A: All of these terms refer to someone who identifies their gender as something other than the “standard” ways we think of male and female.  They all have the same general meaning, but each one is used in a slightly different way.  For example, trans-man/woman is usually used by someone who is “transitioning” from male to female or from female to male.  Transitioning is a term used to mean changing one’s language, appearance, clothing, or even body to match the gender one feels like inside rather than the gender they were assigned at birth.  Two-spirit is a Native American term for someone who has qualities of both male and female within them.  Gender diverse is a term for someone whose gender expression may be a mix of what we think of as male and female rather than leaning mostly towards one side or the other.

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Q: How do vaginas lengthen?

A: The walls of the vagina are made of elastic tissue and are have natural folds and wrinkles in them, much like the skin on the penis.  During sexual excitement as blood flows into the pubic region (the region between your legs), the walls of the vagina swell with the increase of blood, the wrinkles disappear and the vagina expand.  It’s a little like putting a gentle amount of air into an uninflated balloon.  In fact, in the unstimulated state, the walls of the vagina lay flat against each other, much like an uninflated balloon.  With the inflow of blood during stimulation, the vaginal walls seperate from each other and are held apart.  An instimulated vagina is around 3-4 inches long and when stimulated it may lengthen to 5-7 inches long (the same size as the average erect penis, by the way).

The other signs of sexual stimulation in the vulva are: the labia major swell with blood and part slightly; the labia minor actually change color (they are so thin that the blood flowing into them deepens their color – sometimes rather dramatically); and the clitoris erects.

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Q: I heard a study saying that bi (bisexual) isn’t real, just people too uncomfortable to say that they’re gay.  Is this true?

A: While I’ve heard things like that as well, I can tell you it is not true.  Bisexuality is a completely real and valid sexual orientation.  People who are bisexual have natural sexual attractions both to those of the same gender and those of the other gender.  Sometimes those attractions are fairly equal between the same gender and the other gender, but they can exist in any balance.

It is true that some people label themselves as bisexual at one point in their life and then later label themselves as gay or lesbian.  These may be people who have always felt strong same-gender attractions but were not ready to label themselves that way, or they may be people who have come to understand their sexual attractions more as they grew and matured.

What’s important to realize is that most researchers agree that our natural sexual attractions are fixed very early in life (possibly by the time we’re 2 years old).  The rest of our lives involves coming to understand and acknowledge those attractions.  Because we live in a  society that is dominated by heterosexuality and still has a lot of bias against homosexuality and bisexuality, it’s easy to understand why some people might struggle with their sexual feelings and with applying a label to themselves that’s anything other than “straight”.

The last important thing to remember is that sexual orientation labels are internally applied labels.  That means the ONLY valid label for your sexual attractions is the one you give yourself.  It doesn’t matter what other people may call you or label you.  The true label comes from within.

Sorry for the long answer to a short question!

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Q: Why do some women have vaginal births and others have C-sections?

A: Obviously, vaginal births are the more natural, and therefore the more preferred option for delivering a baby.  However,  30% of all births in the US are done by C-section.  This can happen for a number of reasons:

1) If it is determined that health of the mother or baby would be theatened by a vaginal birth then a C-section is performed.

2) If during labor and vaginal birth, complications develop, doctors may decide to switch to a C-section to alleviate the complications.

3) If a woman wants to plan exactly when she will have her baby, she may schedule a C-section for that time.

C-sections are considered major surgery and so they are not without risk.  Any decisions about whether a woman should deliver her baby via a vaginal birth or C-section should be made in consultation with her doctor, mid-wife, or other birthing specialist.

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Q:  Is it true that women lose fertility by being bulimic?

A: A woman has to maintain a certain level of body fat for her body’s systems to function normally.  That normal function includes having regular menstrual cycles and periods.  It is true that women who have anorexia and bulimia and who lose too much body weight will stop having menstrual cycles and periods.  Their body is simply too weak to maintain that system.

In fact, there are many things that can disrupt or stop a girl’s menstrual cycle and periods.  Excessive weight gain or weight loss can do it.  Excessive exercise that results in a dramatic loss of body fat can also do it.  Excessive stress can also do it.  The good news is that this is usually reversible.  If the woman regains a healthy amount of body fat (or reduces her body fat to a healthy level) her body will be able to manage her menstrual cycle again.

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Q: Is it normal to shave your pubes?

Q: Should girls shave their vaginas?

Q: What are the advantages / disadvantages of removing hair from your genitals?

A:  Today our society is pretty hair-phobic.  It’s become more common for people to trim and/or shave their pubic hair.  We’ve come to associate body hair with being unclean, unsophisticated, and “nasty”.  Why is this?  There’s certainly no truth to any of that!  Why are people so unhappy with their pubic hair that they’d want to shave it?  If it’s out of shame or discomfort with their natural body, that might not be a very good reason.  If they’re trying to achieve some unrealistic body image pushed by the media, then that’s certainly not a good reason.  If they think it will make them appear more innocent or pure, that’s really not true, and is not a good reason.  A more important question, I think, is why so many people want to make themselves look like little boys and girls who haven’t started puberty yet?  Are we embarrassed to be sexually mature?  So, is there any good reason to trim or shave one’s pubic hair?  In my opinion, not that I can think of .  Personally, I see it as trying to run away from something that’s natural and normal about our bodies.  Why don’t we try harder to love our bodies as they are rather than trying to change them into something that they’re not?  If we weren’t supposed to have pubic hair, we wouldn’t have it.

Speaking of why we have pubic hair, let’s also think for a moment to think about that.  One reason is that we’re mammals, and one of the defining characteristics of mammals is that they have hair on their bodies.  If you didn’t have hair, you’d be a lizard!  A second reason we have hair is that it offers both warmth and protection.  We’ve evolved to have hair on places of our body where that warmth or protection is especially useful.  We have hair on our heads because that’s where we lose the most body heat, and hair helps to keep us warmer.  We have hair around our genitals because it helps to protect that delicate skin from scrapes, cuts, and other damage.  Before humans wore clothes this was especially useful.  Pubic hair probably captured all kinds of little twigs and  rocks and debris that might otherwise have hurt our genitals.  The final reason for pubic hair specifically is that it signals sexual maturity.  It’s a visual sign to others that we’ve successfully gone through puberty (or are going through it) and that we’re biologically able to reproduce.  So, the hair down there isn’t just random – it really has reasons for being there.

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Q: Is ejaculating a lot bad for your body?  Can you still perform at an effective level through sex with ejaculation at least once a day?

A: This is a very common question, and it’s fueled by all the myths that are out there about ejaculation causing everything from sexual weakness, to poor athletic performance, to decreased fertility, to poor eyesight and even hair on your palms!

Here’s the straight truth:  Ejaculation is a natural bodily process.  It does not weaken or harm the body in any way.  The amount of ejaculate (the fluid a man ejaculates) a man produces varies from person to person.  Some men make more ejaculate than others; that’s just the way their body works.  It’s useful to know what’s an average amount of ejaculate for you.  A man may notice that if ejaculates frequently (once a day or more) that the amount of his ejaculate  is generally less than if he lets a day or more pass between ejaculations.  If a man ejaculates several times in the same day, he will definately see his ejaculate reduce in amount, but he won’t run out – the body is always making more!

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Q: If you give a guy a handjob and he has cum on his hands, (if he has any on his hands), and then he fingers a girl, can a girl get pregnant?  What are the chances?

A: This is a very common question.  Good for you for being brave enough to ask it.  Anytime semen (that’s the fluid that comes out of a guy’s penis at ejaculation) has access to the vulva or vagina, there is some risk of pregnancy.  After all, sperm swim, and to get pregnant they have to swim up the vagina, into the uterus, and then into the fallopian tubes.  Obviously the more semen that comes into contact with the vulva and vagina, the greater the risk of pregnancy.  If a boy has some semen on his hands and he fingers a girl (puts his hand onto a vulva or into a vagina) there is a small risk of pregnancy, probably very small, but it’s there.  There are not many cases of pregnancy happening this way, but since it is possible one must be conscious of it.  I don’t have a percentage I can give you for how likely this is, but I’d say the risk is present but small.  Obviously, the solution to this is to make sure the guy cleans off his hands before touching the girl’s vulva or vagina.

One other good rule of thumb to know is that sperm cells are alive until the semen dries.  So, if a boy had semen on his hand but it dries, the risk of pregnancy from fimgering a girl is even lower.  Still, washing your hands is the safest thing to do.

 

 

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