The Female Condom: Will It Get Stuck Inside Me?

Photo credit: Micheal Grogan

Photo credit: Micheal Grogan

The FC2 female condom (a.k.a. the “internal condom”) is one of the most recent innovations in safer sex technology. The FC2 is the only insertable contraceptive available that protects against both STIs and accidental pregnancy. However, because it is so different from traditional roll-on condoms, many are weary of using female condoms.

One of the most common concerns is that the female condom will get stuck inside the body. Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, to the rescue, assuring us that it is impossible for the FC2 to disappear inside your body. In fact, she explains, there are many reasons to choose the FC2 over traditional latex condoms.

This post was originally published on Your Tango.

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

While the female condoms seems a bit confusing, it’s a great option for many women. We tell you why.

At Lucky Bloke, our mission is to lead you to the land of amazing sex with condoms. With a selection of the world’s best condoms at our fingertips, we’re here to prove that the right condom can actually improve your sex life. Got a question for the Lucky Bloke: Condom Experts? Let us answer your sex education inquiries so you can concentrate on having the hottest sex possible!

Dear Lucky Bloke,

I’ve heard that there is a female condom that you insert in your body and protects just as effectively as a regular condom. But why does it seems so large? And can it get stuck inside my body?

—Signed Perplexed in Pittsburg.

The FC2 female condom, which we prefer to call the “internal condom,” might seem oddly shaped at first, but that’s because it’s radically different from what we understand condoms to be. A female condom is actually similar in length to standard male condoms, but is a little wider.

When inserted, the condom forms to your internal walls and allows for movement of the penis inside the sheath. This is one of its many benefits. One size, actually, fits all!

Thus, penis size (nor knowing what condom size your man requires) is not a factor with female condoms making it an excellent option for those who find that traditional, roll-on male condoms never seem to fit quite right.

So contrary to your concern, there is absolutely no risk of the FC2 getting stuck or disappearing inside you. And you do not need to be fitted before use. There is an inner ring on one end that slips under your cervix. Then there is an open end with a soft ring which remains on the outside of the vagina. To remove the FC2, you simply twist the outer ring and gently pull the condom out.

The FC2 is growing in popularity. Many people like the advantage that condom size is not a factor for comfort and safety. Plus, it can be inserted up to four hours prior to sex, so no need to pause for intimate donning in the heat of the moment. And it’s latex free!

Another great bit of news is that the FDA is currently considering reclassifying the FC2 as a “class II” device. Why is this important? Currently, the FC2 is not in the same class as traditional condoms.

They are considered a “class III” medical device, putting them under the same safety restrictions as pacemakers and replacement heart valves, states the National Female Condom Coalition.

Moving FC2 into the new class would enable invention and testing of new and different female condoms designs. While the FC2 has made huge advancements in terms of non-latex offerings, it remains the only female condom currently available.

As we all know, product variety means safer sex option for all of us to choose and best suit our lives. What better reason than that?

Unsure what size

7 Ways to Make Sex with Condoms Sexier

orgasmNational Condom Week 2015 is here! From Feb. 14th to Feb. 21st, we are celebrating by providing a new article every day by prominent sexual health advocates focused on condom use and education.

Pleasure is an important yet seldom discussed feature in condom education. As Lara Worcester of Condom Monologues argues, “There is a difference between knowing how to put on a condom and knowing how to use them well.” When you know what condoms and lubes you like, which condoms fit best, how to put one on in sexy ways, how to talk to your partner about condom use, your safer sex is guaranteed to be hotter!

This article offers some creative ways to spice up sex with condoms.

In sum, the main tricks to loving the glove are:

  • Communicate
  • Take turns putting it on
  • Practice
  • Be prepared
  • Be playful and have fun
  • Lubricant!
  • Be aware of condom sizes and experiment with different ones

Continue reading for a more in depth discussion on sexy condom use.

This post was originally published at Condom Monologues

BY CONDOM MONOLOGUES | CondomMonologues.com

I’m sure you know, or at least have heard of someone who claims that condoms make sex feel less good.  Condoms (and other safe sex tools) don’t have the best reputation.  It doesn’t help that we rarely see safer sex happening in media representations of sex that is hot, fun, or romantic.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

As we discussed elsewhere, there is no solid empirical evidence to back up negative claims about condoms. Studies find that people who use condoms correctly and are used to using them tend to report greater pleasure with protected sex than those who go without protection.

This does not mean that people on an individual level do not experience problems enjoying protected sex.  There is a difference between knowing how to put on a condom and knowing how to use them well.  That is why it tends to be people who use them often and consistently that report greater sexual satisfaction.

It takes practice and know-how to feel confident and learn what feels good for you and partner(s).  Condoms can add a playful and sexy dimension to sex but, as with anything sexy, you need a positive attitude and a dash of creativity. In this post, we offer some ways to help spice up condom use.

Before we begin, the basics of condoms should be known.  Check out our user manual.  Once you understand these essential steps to condom care you can explore ways that may enhance sexual pleasure and make condoms a part of sex- rather than a disruption to it.

This post focuses on condom use for penis and sex toys, but some tips here can also apply to safer anal and vaginal oral sex using barriers including condoms, sex dams, cling film saran wrap, or latex/nitrile gloves. For more info on protective lesbian sex check out this sex column.  For specifically gay protective sex info, the Gay Men’s Health Charity is an excellent resource.

Introducing condoms to partners 

This isn’t something that should feel awkward no matter how casual or serious your relationship.  It can be as simple as just stopping what you are doing and handing over a condom.  Sometimes you won’t need to say anything at all.  Or, as suggested by Robin Mandell at Scarleteen, when you feel the heat turning up and sex might happen, take a quick break and retrieve condoms from wherever you keep them (ideally with easy access).  You can say something as casual as, “No pressure.  I just wanted to get these out just in case we need them.”

Condoms do not keep people from getting close- Silence does

Asking someone to use a condom is to show care for the well-being of you both. Communication really is key and talking about sex might mean explaining what you like, what’s your favorite position, or how to use condoms and use them in ways that work for you both.  Talking together about these things will cultivate intimacy and deepen your bond (not hinder it!), because you are sharing the responsibilities of sex and caring for each other.

Great sex is about sharing control  

As Heather Corinna explains, this is something that safer sex can help support.  Learning how to discuss condom usage and exploring sexy ways to put on a condom and what feels good together will make talking about other facets of sex a lot easier, such as how you’d like to try something new.  This also means that both people are making decisions and choices which are fundamental to both amazing sex and healthy sexuality.

Take turns putting on barriers

Related to the above- condoms can be a lot more erotic when one partner puts it on the other.  There are many ways to turn up the heat with a condom.  When done in a deliberately slow manner with some stroking, teasing, eye contact, putting on a condom can be exciting.

You can put the condom on together.  For example, one person takes the condom out of its package and places it over the head of the penis (make sure that you unravel it the right way down, not inside out).  The other person pitches and holds onto the reservoir tip of the condom as the other unrolls it down the shaft of the penis with one (or two hands).  This can also help ensure that the condoms is put on correctly.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learn how to put it on.  You can use the ol’ fashion banana, or the aid of a dildo or willing partner to practice how to unravel the condom.  It should unroll downward to the base without too much pulling or stretching.  If any exertion is needed to get the condom to the base then it is probably the wrong size.  Practicing by yourself will relieve any worry about losing an erection or the uncomfortable pressure of being judged on your condom skills.

Ladies and guys, you can always practice when you masturbate.  This will also help you learn your pleasure spots and what feels best with protection.  Or practice with your partner.  When the time is right, either you or the other can put on the condom, so it’s good for everyone to know how.  For many couples, this also helps to naturalize the process. It’s not about “making” a guy do something; it’s about something people do together for each other.

Be Prepared

One of the great advantages to condoms is that they are readily available for anyone to buy without a prescription or an age limit, and they are relatively cheap- even free at some health clinics like Planned Parenthood.  So equipping yourself with this contraceptive takes far less time, research and planning.

Also, it will help things run a whole lot smoother and greatly reduce the buzz-kill if you can reduce condom-hunting time.  So keep condoms (and lubricant) in a dedicated, handy place next to your bed where you are sure to find it.

Be playful

Keeping condoms in an easily accessible place is helpful, but that does not mean that it’s always best to rush through the process of putting one on. Great sex is to have fun with it.  When you introduce condoms have a sense of play.  And if things get awkward as you’re learning how to do safer sex, let yourself laugh about it.  This helps take the pressure off.

Buy some glow-in-the-dark condoms and leave your partner in suspense until the lights go out!  Or incorporate condoms into erotic foreplay.  Try slipping it on his penis with your mouth. If you are using gloves, get some props and play “Doctor”. Spice it up by carrying a condom with you in your handbag or pocket and discreetly show it to your partner to hint what’s on your mind.

Lubricant

This is really important. Especially, if you or your partners complain about reduced sensitivity, lubricant will improve sensation immensely.  Put two drops of water-based lubricant inside the tip of the latex condom before putting it on.  Even if dryness is not a problem for a person, lubricant that is made for condoms will lasts longer than the natural stuff.

Experiment with different lube samplers and flavors.

Know Your Condom Size & Experiment

Two points here.  First, make sure your condom fits well.  Condoms aren’t one-size-fits-all, and a condom that’s too small or too big is likely be difficult to put on, very uncomfortable, and much more likely to malfunction.  If you are not sure what will fit, check out our Condom Size Calculator or view this handy trick provided by Lucky Bloke (you’ll need a empty toilet paper roll).  If you experience certain discomforts, such as condoms being too tight, or too long, we have suggestions at our condom guide.

If you’re providing the condoms, it is useful to have a variety of types and styles so you and your partner can choose what feels right. Variety sample packs can be found online, and at some drugstores.

Second point, if you are in a longer-term relationship, you have the advantage to experiment with different types of condoms and lubricants together to discover what suits you both best and have fun while doing it!  There are many different styles of condoms out there from thin, to thick, to wider in certain spots, snugger in other spots, etc.  There’s variety in texture: ribbed, studded, contoured, pouched; variety in non-latex condoms; and there is plenty of variety in lubricants that can enhance sensation dramatically.  You could buy a variety pack of condoms to find the best ones.  Or make a date out of it and visit a sex shop and choose together (like this Condom Monologuer).

If we haven’t convinced you yet about the sensual side of condoms, take this with you:  Everyone needs to accept this reality.  If you’re sexually active and not practicing safer sex then you are likely to transmit an infection and/or get pregnant.  To prevent this from happening, to experience healthy fulfilling sexuality, you have to learn how to use protection.

condom ad condoms too tight

condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES Affirming safer sex and sexuality one story at a time… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships.
Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue

How Do I Bring Up Sex Toys With My Partner?

Team Sex Ed!

Team Sex Ed!

“I’d like to bring a sex toy into my relationship but I’m not sure how to bring it up with my partner.”

Looking to introduce sex toys in the bedroom? Kate and Louise over at Team Sex Ed answer this question and offer some tips and tools to make the conversation more easeful.

Many women and men are curious about sex toys but feel reluctant to talk with their partner about it for fear of offending them. One misconception is that sex toys act as replacements or make up for a partner’s inadequacies. As Kate and Louise discuss in the video below, it’s important to be prepared for this reaction. Be sensitive and stroke his or her ego a bit. As with any relationship, good communication goes a long way in solving any problem.

To start the conversation with your partner, consider these strategies:

  • Make sure you start the conversation in a relaxed and comfortable environment so it doesn’t feel rushed or pressuring.
  • Reassure your partner that the toy is not making up for any inadequacies, but simply is a fun addition to sex.
  • Go sex toy shopping together and pick one out that you both like. Kate and Louise offer recommendations for toy shops.
  • Select a toy that is proportional to your level of experience. Smaller toys are a good place to start if you are new to using sex toys.
  • Maintain a playful attitude and keep it fun. This will go a long way in nurturing your connection with your partner.
  • Check out our articles on body safe sex toys and how to safely share a dildo.

This video was originally published on the Team Sex Ed channel

BY KATE MCCOMBS & LOUISE BOURCHIER | Team Sex Ed! Kate & Louise

condom ad condoms too loose

kate_mccombsKATE MCCOMBS is a NYC-based sex educator, writer, and maker of puns. Ultimately, all of Kate’s work is about helping people feel more comfortable talking about sex. She believes that meaningful conversations + accurate information can help us create a healthier and more pleasure-filled world. Kate writes articles and teaches workshops about sexual health, pleasure, and communication.
Follow Kate on Twitter @katecom

louise bourchier 150 150LOUISE BOURCHIER, MPH is a sex educator who knows health and pleasure. She teaches workshops to adult audiences throughout Australia and New Zealand, where her mission is to facilitate access to information that allows people to experience healthy and pleasurable sex lives. She works closely with D.VICE: the toy shop for grownups and is a proud emissary of Sex Geekdom Melbourne. Follow her on Twitter @louiselabouche

How to Safely Have Sex with a Yeast Infection

yeast infection“My girlfriend sometimes has yeast infections.  Is it bad to have unprotected sex?”

This question was posed to the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) as part of their weekly Q&A series. It is a common misunderstanding that sex causes yeast infections. The fact is that sex alone is not the culprit. However, shifting from oral or anal sex to vaginal sex without changing protective barriers (or not using barriers at all!) can initiate the spread of bacteria and cause an infection. As explained below, there are multiple reasons why a yeast infection occurs. Also, vaginas aren’t the only ones susceptible to infection. All genitals, as well as the mouth, can experience yeast infections.

Here are the must-know basics about yeast infections:

  • Yeast infections are incredibly common and almost every woman will experience at least one in her life time.
  • They are caused by a number of factors including stress, diet, menstruation, hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases, some medications.
  • While they are incredibly uncomfortable to endure, yeast infections are easy to treat.
  • Sex alone, including sex with multiple partners, does not cause yeast infections.
  •  They can pass between partners during unprotected oral and penetrative sex. So it’s important to use barrier methods when one is experiencing a yeast infection.

This article was originally published on the CSPH.

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Yeast infections, sometimes known as “thrush”, are the result of an overgrowth of the candida albicans fungus.  Although Candidiasis can occur throughout the body, the infection is prone to occur in warm, moist areas, such as the mouth.  In particular, vaginal yeast infections occur when yeast, which already exists within the vagina in small amounts, overgrows, resulting in an infection.  Vaginal yeast infections are actually quite common, occurring in as many as 75% of vagina owners throughout their lifetime. They are also easy to treat, usually only requiring an antifungal cream, vaginal suppository, or oral medication.

Symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include burning, itching, redness around the vagina and/or vulva, pain when urinating, pain during sex, and a thick, white discharge like cottage cheese.  Many factors can raise the risk of yeast infections, such as stress, illness, lack of sleep, poor dietary habits, pregnancy, menstruation, hormonal changes, certain medications (such as oral contraception, antibiotics, and steroids), autoimmune diseases, and poorly-controlled diabetes.

You can help avoid vaginal yeast infections by practicing habits that result in a clean, healthy vagina.  These habits include:

  • Avoiding douches, which disrupt the natural balance of bacteria in the vagina
  • Avoiding scented hygiene products, such as perfumed genital powders, sprays, pads, and tampons, which disrupt the vagina’s natural balance of bacteria and can result in irritation, especially in those with fragrance sensitivities
  • Changing tampons and pads often during one’s period, because menstrual products can be a breeding ground for bacteria.  Changing tampons often also helps prevent Toxic Shock Syndrome
  • After using the toilet, wiping front to back in order to prevent the spread of fecal bacteria into the vagina
  • Avoiding underwear made of synthetic fibers, which provide poor ventilation and trap moisture
  • Wearing cotton underwear and pantyhose with a cotton crotch, which will allow one’s genitals to “breathe”
  • Changing out of wet swimsuits and exercise clothes as soon as possible, because warm, moist body parts and clothing are perfect hosts for bacteria
  • When switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, always using condoms and changing condoms between acts to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria into the vagina
  • Unless the product is glycerin-free, steer clear of using flavored condoms and lubricants in/with a vagina.  Glycerin (also termed glycerol) is a sweetening agent that, when introduced to the vagina, can trigger yeast infections, especially among those who are prone to them.

Yeast Infection As an STI?

Although yeast infections are not known as sexually transmitted diseases, it is in fact possible for yeast infections to pass between partners during unprotected oral and penetrative sex; this is why yeast infections are often discussed alongside STIs in classes.  Furthermore, it is important to note that any type of genitals can get yeast infections, not just vaginas.  Therefore, I recommended that someone who has a yeast infection use barrier methods when engaging in sex play.  These barrier methods include external condoms, internal condoms, dental dams, and even gloves, which are ideal for manual stimulation.

Furthermore, it’s important to note that sex itself is not to blame for yeast infections, nor is there a relationship between the number of sexual partners and the occurrence of yeast infections.  That said, those who are prone to vaginal yeast infections may find that oral sex without a barrier method is a contributing factor.

Lastly, I want to stress the importance of using barrier methods during sexual activity.  Not only are barrier methods useful while a partner has a yeast infection, but they’re also great at offering protection against STIs as well as preventing pregnancy.  This protection can be especially meaningful to those whose concerns about STIs and pregnancy are distracting during sexual activity, hindering full enjoyment.  Furthermore, barrier methods, along with sexual lubricants, can add variety to one’s sex life due to the vast array of textures, slickness, and flavors available.  I suggest using lube not only outside the condom, but also placing a drop of lube inside the condom, which can add/heighten sensation for the penis-owner.  That said, I recommend steering clear of spermicidal lubricants, which shorten the shelf-life of condoms and can result in irritation and micro-tears that increase the risk of STI transmission.

Finally, I want to share my personal favorite condom trick, which I learned during Megan Andelloux’s Study Sex College Tour: how to put an external condom on with one’s mouth!

1. Make sure the condom is safe to use by checking the expiration date and pinching the middle to feel for an air bubble, which will ensure the package has not been punctured.  When the condom is opened (with one’s hands, not with teeth or scissors), the condom should not be sticky or brittle.  If it is, throw it out and get a new one.

2. Sit the condom on the tip of one’s finger.  Do not unroll it.  The condom should look like a little hat, with the brim curling outwards.

3. Put the tip of the condom in one’s mouth and hold it in place by lightly sucking on it.  Use one’s tongue and the suction to keep the semen reservoir flat, as to not trap in an air bubble.

4. Place one’s pursed, closed lips against the head of the cock, and slide one’s head down.  Feel free to use a hand or two to aid the process and unroll the condom fully.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Sex School: Condoms = Cancer? Uh, No. (Part 3).

Image from the CSPH Sunday Sex School Series

Image from the CSPH Sunday Sex School Series

We’ve spoken out against the condom company, Sustain’s irresponsible marketing ploy which insinuates that many condoms cause cancer. The truth is there is no scientific evidence that any condoms are laden with harmful carcinogens.

Now the greater sex education community is standing up against Sustain condoms.  The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (the CSPH) has featured a three part series that exposes Sustain’s confusing and misinformed messages. Here is the final part of that series. You can read the first part here.

In response to Sustain’s fear-mongering attempt to smear other condom products, here’s a refresher on all the wonderful things to know about condoms:

  • Condoms are the only method that protects against both STIs and accidental pregnancy.
  • Correct condom size is essential for the most pleasurable safer sex possible.
  • Adding lube both eases condom application and increases sensitivity.
  • Many condom companies are involved in socially responsible campaigns. When you buy condoms from companies like RFSU, Glyde and Lucky Bloke, you are also helping contribute to aid organizations such as UNICEF, Planned Parenthood and the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS.

This post by Erin Basler-Francis was originally published at the CSPH

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Over the last two lessons, we have discussed the science of nitrosamines and their suspected link to types of cancer, dispelled myths around nitrosamine levels in condoms and their link to reproductive cancers, and ran down how we got to the point of having this discussion.

So, now let’s look at condoms in a better light: Condoms—what to do with them and what they are doing for you. Note: in this discussion, the terms internal and external condoms are used rather than “male” or “female” condoms.

Condoms: Some Basics

Image from Condom Monologues.com

Image from Condom Monologues.com

There are two main types of condoms, internal and external. Internal condoms are the latex sheath for use over a penis or sex toy that people tend to envision when they use the term. Internal condoms (i.e. the FC2) are inserted into an orifice prior to penetration. Condoms are made from a host of materials, including latex (most common), polyurethane, lambskin, polyisoprene, and nitrile.

Generally, condoms and other barrier methods are recommended as the most effective method to avoid STIs if you are choosing to have genital contact with another person. They prevent the transfer of fluid based STIs (such as HIV and Syphillis) and reduce risk of contracting STIs that spread via surface contact (like Herpes and HPV).

Condoms: What Can You Do With Them

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Condoms come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors…and they can be used for many sexual activities beyond penile/vaginal intercourse.

For oral/genital contact, flavored condoms can be an added sexy treat. If going over a penis, adding silicone lube to the inside of the condom can keep the sensation slick, but the act safer. To make safer sex even sexier, one can put the condom on using their mouth. Flavored condoms, on a penis or cut open and spread over a vulva, can add a sweet bonus to going down.

When penetrating an anus, condoms can keep things clean. For people who are squeamish about poop, darker colored condoms will camouflage and fecal residue that might appear. Internal condoms can be used for anal intercourse by removing the insertion device (e.g. the ring in the FC2) and will offer both the security of a built in flange for the condoms and additional stimulation to the nerve endings in the anus and surrounding area. And, like a gift that keeps on giving, the ring removed from the tip of the FC2 can double as a cock ring.

If you are planning on only having sex with yourself, condoms are great for easy cleanup. Slide a condom on the penis or over a sex toy, and you aren’t scrambling for a sock/tissue/towel or a potentially awkward walk to a communal bathroom to wash your dildos in the sink. If premature ejaculation is a concern, condoms can help by changing the sensation of intercourse slightly.

On the size front, the old safer-sex educator trick of fitting a condom over the head, up the arm, or onto a summer squash (or maybe that one is just a fun party trick) gives the message that no one is too big to wear a condom. So why make them in different sizes?

Well, you can buy a suit off the rack and look incredibly dashing, dapper and nail a job interview, or you can decide to go with a bespoke suit and feel like James Bond or Tilda Swinton every time you put it on. Condom sizes are like that—they will function pretty great if you aren’t using the perfect size, but finding a condom with the optimum fit will make it feel even better.

What Are Condom Doing For You?

Many condoms companies—both distributors and retailers, participate in social responsibility campaigns. For example, Sustain, fear campaign aside, launched 10%4Women, in which the company contributes 10 percent of their pretax profits to women who lack access to reproductive health care.

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Currently, ONE is running its #LustforLife campaign, in which the company partnered with NYC street artists to bring awareness to and raise money for Lifebeat, a NPO that provides HIV education in urban areas, through social media and an auction of original art pieces.

Glyde, aside from being a vegan, sustainable B-Corp, runs the Red Ribbon Campaign, which distributes condoms to sex workers in Southeast Asia as well as providing HIV prevention education abroad and at home in New Zealand.

Sir Richard’s Condoms employs Buy One, Give One. Global Protection (parent company of ONE Condoms) donates a significant number of condoms to reproductive health clinics and providers around the US. Durex, Trojan, Lifestyles…all of them have run significant awareness campaigns that, combined with the condoms they donate, make sure people are having safer sex.

Aside from reducing your personal risk of STIs and unintended pregnancy, it’s safe to say that when you strap on a condom, you are giving back to the world at large.

Do your part. Wrap up.

condom ad condoms too tight

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

How To Avoid 6 Common Condom Problems

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

Condom trouble? First, don’t give up. Second, make sure you’re using the right condoms the right way.

Condoms are incredible little devices. They are one of the most effective forms of birth control and the only form of protection against many STIs. With correct and consistent use, condom are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. However, taking into account common misuses of condoms, researchers estimate that with “typical use” condoms are 85% effective.

In the article below, Bedsider and Melissa White team up to explain what exactly are those common condom mistakes that reduce condom effectiveness. Turns out, much of it has to do with condom size and people wearing the wrong condom.

There are many ways to reduce the risk of condom malfunction. The first step is to be aware of those common mistakes:

  • Condoms breaking? Check the expiry date. Store them properly. Did you leave room at the tip? Are they too small? Are you using lube?
  • Condom leaking? Are you pulling out and removing the condom promptly after ejaculation? Is the condom too big?
  • Condom slipped off inside you or your partner? It’s probably the wrong size condom.
  • Lost the erection? Sounds like you need a more tailored condom. Or you might need to add some sexy tips to your condom repertoire.
  • Itchy and irritated? You may be sensitive to latex.
  • And please, never use anything (like a plastic bag) to substitute a certified condom.

This article was originally published here.

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

We’ve all been there. Things are heating up and you both know exactly what you want to happen next. One of you whispers those five crucial words: “Do you have a condom?” and the other produces one (or, better still, several) triumphantly. You’re happily getting it on when you realize the condom tore or slipped off…

Condoms are easy, cheap, and offer protection against STIs and accidental pregnancy. Here’s the thing—they only work if you use them the right way. To help you do that, we’ve teamed up with Melissa White, CEO and founder of Lucky Bloke, to tell you how to avoid the six most common condom problems.

1. Help—the condom broke!

The good news is there are many ways to reduce the chance of a condom breaking. If you find yourself dealing with a broken condom situation, here’s what to do.

What now? If you realize right away (before anyone has gotten close to climaxing) that the condom broke, you can throw out the broken condom and try another one. Before you start again though you should make sure there isn’t something wrong with your condoms. Are the packages intact? Are your condoms expired? Were they exposed to extreme heat or cold? If not, you can use a new condom and just watch out for breakage.

If there’s a possibility of preejaculate or ejaculate, the safest thing to do is take emergency contraception (EC). You can take EC up to five days after you have unprotected sex but most kinds work better the sooner you take them. Here’s how to get some. You may also want to get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you’re not sure of your partner’s status. (And remember, you definitely can’t tell if someone has an STI just by looking!)

So it doesn’t happen again: Condoms can work very well when you use them right. If you’ve had a condom break, here are a few things to check to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  • Size. When someone repeatedly has experiences with condoms breaking, it may mean the condom is too small. This doesn’t always mean a guy requires a large condom, though. A different kind of standard (or medium) size may work.
  • Lube. Using lube can make using a condom a lot more pleasurable. Pro-tip—apply a small amount of lube to the penis before applying the condom. (If you are using the proper size condom, this should not cause the condom to slip.) Use a generous application of lube to the outside.
  • Packaging. It’s important to make sure you’re opening the condom package carefully. We know you may be tempted to rip it open or use your teeth to get things going asap, but opening the package the wrong way can tear the condom.
  • Putting it on. To make sure you put the condom on correctly, be sure to pinch the tip while rolling it on. It’s important to leave room room for the finale!

2. Uh oh…looks like the condom leaked.

If you notice semen anywhere outside the condom during sex or after, it’s time to take extra steps to make sure you don’t get pregnant.

What now? Again, taking EC as soon as possible is the best way to reduce your risk of accidental pregnancy. Getting tested for STIs is a good idea if you don’t know your partner’s status.

So it doesn’t happen again: If a condom is leaking from the base it’s probably too big. This happens more often than one might think, as 35% of men require a smaller than standard condoms. Smaller condoms are rarely available at your local store but you can get them through websites like Lucky Bloke, Condomania, and Condom Jungle. By simply switching to a condom that fits properly you will avoid this situation in the future. If you’re using a standard condom, try small. If you’re using a large condom, try standard.

If the condom is leaking from the top or the middle, it could have a tear—see the section above on broken condoms.

3. The condom fell off…and got stuck!

This one can be scary, especially if you have trouble finding and retrieving the condom. Don’t panic.

What now? If the condom falls off, once again it’s time to take EC and go for STI testing. If it gets stuck inside you or your partner, here’s Cosmo’s advice: “lie back, relax, and insert one or two fingers inside of you and try to pull it out”. Don’t panic if you have trouble getting the condom out—hopefully it will come out on its own after a bit. If it doesn’t, head to your health care provider to remove it.

So it doesn’t happen again: This is another situation where the condom is probably too big—try a smaller size.

4. The condom doesn’t feel good and he can’t get hard.

If a condom is too tight or uncomfortable, he can lose his erection. It’s not you, it’s the condom, so don’t feel embarrassed—you can still save the night!

What now? There’s always the classic midnight condom run to get a different kind of condom, but if that’s not an option, opt for a cuddle and a movie and next time you hang out, come prepared.

So it doesn’t happen again: Again, it’s all about the fit. Even if a condom is not too tight, sometimes the fit is just uncomfortable. A good way to avoid this is to try out different kinds of condoms. (We like the sound of that!) Lucky Bloke has a “Not Sure What Size to Buy” condom sampler if you think size could be the issue. They also offer lots of other samplers if you just want to explore your options. You can also get variety packs through a bunch of other online retailers like Amazon, Condom Jungle, Sustain, and Condomania.

5. I think we’re allergic to condoms…

If you’re getting down and dirty and one of you starts getting itchy and irritated, it may be an allergic reaction to the condom you’re using.

What now? Give it a rest for the time-being and ditch the condom you’re using—no one wants to feel irritated! Go see your health care provider to find out what’s going on down there.

So it doesn’t happen again: If you’re allergic to latex, there are some great alternatives out there that protect from STIs and pregnancy and offer amazing sensitivity, heightened feeling, and heat transfer. Note that lambskin condoms, while in the non-latex category, are not ideal for everyone since they protect against pregnancy but not against STIs like HIV. Other non-latex condoms provide dual protection from pregnancy and STIs.

6. But won’t this cling wrap do the same thing?

Everybody knows someone who knows someone who used a plastic bag that one time. This is not a good idea. It seems like a no-brainer, but if you are turned on and can’t find a condom anywhere, cling wrap starts to sound more appealing. If you find yourself facing a spontaneous decision about whether to use anything for a condom other than a real condom, here’s what to do.

What now: Stop right there. Any material other than an actual condom will not work to prevent pregnancy and protect you from STIs. Go on a spontaneous condom run—you’d be surprised where you can find condoms!

So it doesn’t happen again: Your best bet for preventing this problem in the future is to carry condoms with you. They’re easy to tuck away into pockets and purses and it’s sexy to be prepared. Just make sure you don’t keep them too long in a pocket or purse or expose them to extreme temperatures.

What we’ve learned…

Most of these mishaps could be avoided by using the proper size condom. If your partner needs a snugger-fit condom, you might feel uncomfortable about approaching the subject. “I’d always suggest focusing on the pleasure aspect—you both will benefit.” says Melissa. “If you are using a condom that fits, your focus will be on each other and not on the condom.”

If you are having condom woes, a better fit condom—or a higher-quality condom—is going to be the solution in most cases. And if you’re looking to explore your condom options, Lucky Bloke is offering a 25% discount for all their products with the coupon code BEDSIDER.

Unsure what size

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

How Do I Share A Dildo?

 

72- how-to-share-a-dildoHow safe is it to share a dildo or use the same dildo on yourself as on your partner?

This question is posed to Megan Andelloux of The Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health (the CSPH). Sharing sex toys can be very safe with low risk of passing on STIs (sexually transmitted infections). However, in order to maintain that safety, you need to use a body safe toy  that can be sterilized- made of silicon- and/or use a condom.

In this video, Megan breaks down the things to be aware of when you’re using dildos on others.

Here are key points to sex toy safety. Enjoy your toy!

  • The material of the dildo matters. Stick with silicon!
  • If you don’t know what the sex toy is made of, use a condom.
  • Wash the dildo or change the condom each time you switch activities, such as anal to vaginal play.
  • Using condoms with sex toys means less time in the bathroom washing and more time playing!

BY MEGAN ANDELLOUX | ohMegan.com

If you have a question for Megan Andelloux about anything from sex toys, to gender, to fantasies and sexual health and reproduction – Just ask!

megan_andellouxMEGAN ANDELLOUX is a Clinical Sexologist and certified Sexuality Educator, listed on Wikipedia as one of the top sexuality educators in America, her innovative education programs, writing, social media presence, and ambitious speaking schedule has made her one of America’s most recognized and sought-after experts in the growing field of sexual pleasure, health, and politics.
Follow Megan on twitter @HiOhMegan

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

3 Questions About Taking The Birth Control Pill

Photographer Monik Markus

Photographer Monik Markus

Knowing how to use the birth control pill in the most effective way can seem confusing, especially considering all the different brands and varying information out there. The most common questions tend to center around the risks of pregnancy if the pill is not taken at the same time everyday, as well as what to do if you miss a pill.

In this article, Heather Corinna clears up all confusion, explaining the basic, must-knows about this form of contraception. She clarifies how to take the pill, when it’s most effective, and when it may not be.

Here are the key points discussed in detail below:

  • It is strongly advised to use the “dual method”, coupling hormonal contraception with condom use.
  • The Pill provides no protection against STIs.
  • If you aren’t using condoms and you are just starting the Pill, wait one full cycle of active pill taking before using it as your only form of birth control.
  • Ideal, perfect pill use is taking it at the same time of day within a few hours difference.
  • A “late” pill varies more in definition among sources, and to some degree from pill to pill. For all birth control pills, if you have taken a pill more than 12-24 hours late, you should consider using a backup method of birth control (i.e. condoms) for the rest of your cycle.
  • A “missed” pill is one that has not been taken within 24 hours of the last pill you took. Read below for what to do if you miss a day or more.
  • Do your research. How birth control pills are taken, when effectiveness is compromised, and what side effects and risks are most prevalent can ALL differ from pill to pill. So make sure to read the pill packet information in full and consult your health provider with any concerns.

This article was originally published on Scarleteen 

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Anonymous asks:

I had sex with no condom 3 days before I started my period, AND 1 day after I started my period. I’m on birth control BUT I was at the end of my 1st pack I have ever took (taking the non-active pills) and I don’t exactly take them at the exact same time every day but pretty close. I was wondering what’s the possibility of me getting pregnant considering the circumstances, birth control doesn’t take effect until the first month is up, but I’m already taking my inactive pills so that technically means the month is up doesn’t it? Also, I was getting ready to start/was on my period, and I have a regular cycle so I don’t think there’s any way I could have been ovulating but I’m really worried, please help!

And Gail asks…

I’m 16 years old, and I’m on the pill. I’ve been on it for little over a month, and recently me and my partner have been doing it without a condom (we’re clean) since I’ve been on them for a month now. Question is, I’m not a perfect user. I take my pill within a 30 min. range, never exactly right on time, what’s my chance of pregnancy?

And Hockeylover asks…

I’ve been on the pill for about a year now and I’m sexually active with my boyfriend. This past month I had sex with my boyfriend and the condom didn’t break but may have leaked or something because my boyfriend seemed to think that something minor could have been wrong. A few days after that I forgot to take a pill until about 12 hours after the fact. Now, my pill pack is finished and it is time for me to have my withdrawal bleed which has always occurred at the same time. Today, however, I have experienced nothing but minimal spotting, which is unusual.

Also – just for future reference as I was always curious – I know that it is extremely difficult to become pregnant while on the pill as long as it is taken properly. However, if pills were forgotten or whatnot I realize that it is possible to get pregnant but I was wondering whether one would still experience the withdrawal bleed or whether this would not occur (just like a period doesn’t occur if someone is pregnant). Does any blood that comes during a withdrawal bleed while on the pill signify that no pregnancy has occurred? Am I at risk?

Heather Corinna replies:
Since there are so many different pill brands, so much information to sort through, and since with adolescents and/or young adults information on some aspects can vary slightly, and we get so many questions about the pill, it seems it’s high time to give the most basic rundown I can speaking to concerns about how to take the pill, when it’s effective, and when it may not be.

Let’s start with a super-simple summary of how combination birth control pills work.

First, take a look at our piece which explains how the fertility and menstrual cycle works, so you have some context. Got the gist?

So, the pill acts to alter that natural cycle so that you don’t become pregnant, via synthetic hormones (usually estrogen and progesterone) to contradict your real ones. The pill works to do that in three ways:

  • by keeping your follicles from maturing and your body from ovulating (releasing a mature),
  • by thickening cervical mucus so sperm have a terribly tough time getting anywhere near an egg if by chance one is still released, and
  • by preventing implantation of an embryo by keeping the endometrium thin in the event that both somehow still manage to happen.

At the start of your pill pack, the hormones in your pills effectively have a little chat with your pituitary gland and tell it to suppress FSH — your follicle-stimulating hormone — so that an egg doesn’t mature, nor will the cells around it grow to form a follicle that releases estrogen at the beginning of your cycle, which would stimulate your body to prepare thicker endometrial lining through the cycle to sustain a pregnancy.

Your pituitary gland (being highly impressionable, you know the type) steps it up and doesn’t produce that FSH, so that maturation doesn’t happen and the lining of your uterus doesn’t thicken the way it would to sustain a pregnancy. At the time your LH surge would normally happen — around halfway into your cycle — the way the pill controls progestin keeps that surge from happening, too, which suppresses ovulation. Thus, no egg is released to be fertilized by sperm. As a backup, it’s at the same time keeping cervical mucus thick: to get why that matters, imagine trying to push a piece of thread head first through school paste: that’d be quite a challenge, and is what it’s like for sperm to try and move through that mucus to get into the cervix.

When you go off your active pills, and into the placebo (inactive pill) period you get your withdrawal bleed, because taking those hormones away allows for the breakdown of a thin uterine lining you had there (and because the pill keeps it thinner, often people on the combination pill experience lighter, shorter periods).

And when you start your next pack, you start that cycle all over again.

But while we know that the pill, in perfect use, is highly effective, we also know that a) some people do become pregnant while on the pill and b) in typical pill use, lower rates of effectiveness have been shown in studies for adolescents than for adults. Here’s the scoop on what perfect use is, how to have the pill be as effective as possible for you, what a missed pill is and what you should do, when it’s time to worry about pregnancy and when it’s not.

First starting the pill and birth control backups

With all BCPs (birth control pills), to be as safe as possible, and in the interest of having as much protection as possible, it is strongly advised to back up the pill with condom use when using the pill as birth control.

Most effectiveness rates for the pill are lower for younger women, usually because plenty of younger women are having to hide the pill and/or be sneaky in taking them, so it’s more likely that younger women, rather than older women, will miss pills and/or take pills late, which can reduce effectiveness. Too, younger women who don’t tell their general doctors they are using the pill may not be warned in advance about drug interactions with the pill and general medications (usually that’s only the case with one class of antibiotics and some herbal supplements) or that some illness can reduce effectiveness.

STIs should also be a big concern, especially when you’re under 22, since adolescents and young adults are both at the highest risk for STIs of any group, and younger women also are at higher risks of long-term complications from STIs. The pill provides no protection against STIs… and also often seems to provide a bit of a sense of false security in terms of infections, since so many women are most worried about pregnancy. Condoms provide that protection, and in addition, the one-two punch of the pill AND condoms (so long as one is used perfectly, and better still if both are used properly) almost guarantees you will not become pregnant.

If you are NOT going to back up with condoms, and are just starting the pill, we strongly advise you to wait one full cycle of active pills before using ONLY the pill as birth control, even though for many people, the pill may likely be fully effective within seven days, and for some, even sooner. If you have gone without a backup method in those first seven days and had sex with only the pill, it is advised to call your healthcare provider and ask about emergency contraception. You may also want to consider doing so if you went without a backup in that first cycle.

Two ways to start taking the pill for the first time

A first day start means you start taking the pill on the first day of your menstrual period. With a first day start, the pill may be effective as early as that first day, but waiting one full cycle before going without a backup is strongly advised.

A Sunday Start is when you start the pill on the first Sunday AFTER your period begins (or, if it starts on a Sunday, on that Sunday). When you start with a Sunday start, the pill may be effective as early as within one week, but waiting one full cycle before going without a backup is strongly advised. The Sunday Start method was devised primarily for women who would prefer they have their withdrawal bleeds (your period wile using the pill) on a weekday, rather than on weekends, as it makes that more likely.

Unless your healthcare provider suggests one way of starting is better for you, how you start is your call, based on your preferences. These two ways are ONLY relevant when you first start taking the pill. For every cycle thereafter, you’ll start your new pack when you finish the pack before.

What’s taking it on time and what isn’t?

You want to do your level best to take your pill as close to the same time every day as is possible, ideally within a window of a few hours: if you do that, every day, then you’re a perfect pill user — that doesn’t mean you get a gold star (unless you want one, in which case, by all means, star yourself!), but it does mean that unless you have any other misuse you can rest assured you have the highest effectiveness in terms of pregnancy protection possible from your pill.

To simplify that, what’s important is not that you take the pill at the EXACT same time every day (as in, “Oh god! I usually take it at 10:32, and it’s 11:03!”), but at the same time of day: for instance, always in the morning, or always before you go to bed. That gets pill-taking into your regular routines so that you’re most likely to remember to take them. For instance, Gail says she’s not a perfect user, but, in fact, she is, and it sounds like our user with the first question is, too. For that matter, even Hockeylover isn’t that far off: with combination pills, while you probably don’t want to get in the habit of taking them with a 12-hour difference, just because it can be easier to space out pills that way, but she hasn’t put her effectiveness at risk.

A “missed” pill is one that was not taken within 24 hours of the last pill you took. A missed pill should always be taken as soon as you realize you have missed it, but there is likely no risk from one missed pill or a need for EC. A “late” pill varies more in definition among various sources, and to some degree from pill to pill, but with any type of pill, if you have taken a pill more than 12-24 hours late, you may want to consider using a backup method of birth control for the rest of your cycle to play it safe.

With ALL pills if you have missed a pill, the right thing to do is to take that pill as soon as you know you missed it. If it’s on that same day, take it when you realize. if you realize you missed a pill when you go to take the next day’s pill, take both pills at the same time. If you realize you messed up and missed a pill days later — while still taking the other pills on time — then take that pill then. The same goes if you’ve missed two or three pills rather than just one. When you miss a pill, we advise using a backup method of birth control for the rest of that cycle.

If you’ve missed more than three, with most pills, you’ll want to wait to take any more pills until the following Sunday, then just start a new pack entirely, but use a backup for that cycle as well as the time in between. If you have missed several pills and have had sex in that cycle without a backup method, we advise emergency contraception. When in doubt, always contact your healthcare provider or pharmacist and ask what to do.

How do you know if you become pregnant while on the pill?

The same way you would if you were not: you’ve really just got to take a test. The most common symptom of pregnancy is a missed or late period, or a period that comes around the time you’d expect it but is very unlike what your period (or withdrawal bleed, when you’re on the pill) is usually like. So, when on the pill, if you become pregnant, you most likely will NOT have your withdrawal bleed. But ultimately, you’re unlikely to become pregnant while on the pill unless you have not taken it properly, so if you know you have not and are concerned about pregnancy, just take a pregnancy test (and the pill, for the record, doesn’t get in the way of pregnancy test accuracy).

I always tell women that I personally feel like a box of a few pregnancy tests in the cabinet is about the cheapest therapy there is: for a pretty small investment, you can have a real sanity-saver handy right when you need it. Even if you think you’re just being paranoid, there are times when spending that ten or fifteen bucks to verify you’re being paranoid is seriously worth it.

Read up and play it safe

With ALL pills, read your pill packet information. Pills — how they’re taken, when effectiveness is compromised, what side effects and risks are most prevalent, and the best ways to take them — can ALL differ from pill to pill. So, be sure if you’re on the pill, to read those inserts and to talk to your healthcare provider prescribing the pill for you and ask ANY questions you have: there’s just no reason to fly blind with your birth control.

Please understand that more often than not, we DO err on the side of caution here at Scarleteen, both because in many aspects the population we serve is unique (and largely underrepresented in many studies on everything to do with sexuality and sexual health) and because while we are not legally liable for information here, we are certainly accountable for the information we give you and want to be sure we’re doing the best we can to help you stay as safe as you want to be if you’re going to be sexually active. We always review a myriad of credible sources with our information, and do our level best to look at that information as a whole and draw whatever conclusions from all of it which we feel the most confident will help you to be the most safe.

As usual, we will always encourage you to seek out a second opinion from your healthcare provider whenever you like or feel a need. Don’t forget that part of the service your healthcare providers provide is information: when you’re starting any medication — be that the pill or something else — ask as many questions as you have, don’t hold back! It’s your doctor or nurses’ job to be sure you know how to use your medication properly and understand all you can about it.

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award (2013).

What Does Sexual Consent Look Like?

Image from Bedsider

Image from Bedsider

When it comes to sex, consent is essential. As JoEllen Notte of the RedHeadBedhead.com writes, consent is to sexual play as a doorbell is to a home. We do not question the validity of houses having doorbells. And yet, the topic of sexual consent generates heated debate.

What does consent actually mean? What does sexual consent look like? Do I have to sign a contract with my partner about everything we do together before we take our clothes off?

This confusion is not surprising. Movies typically portray sizzling sex scenes without any talking. The characters are so in sync with each other that communication seems unnecessary. In the article below, JoEllen points to ways in which “enthusiastic consent” is the brunt of media jokes that poke fun at anti-harassment activists as out-of-touch, over-the-top PC mood killers.

How did we get to this political climate around consent?

According to JoEllen, it all begins from a faulty model taught from a young age: The “no means no” model.

In this clever piece, “I Got Your Consentlandia Right Here“, JoEllen runs through the flaws and harmful effects that longstanding approaches to consent have had in our media, our legal system and our personal well being. Then she demonstrates practical ways that consent takes place and how it looks in different contexts. When you’re done reading, you’ll never think of consent as a drag again.

Here are key points to take away:

  • “No means no” perpetuates the stance, “They never said no”, as a valid response to sexual harassment and rape charges.
  • The new model, “Yes means yes”, implies collaboration. Real consent happens only once there is an active, voluntary “yes” or “F*ck Yeah!”.
  • Consent is an on-going process that requires constant communication.
  •  “Yes means yes” allows for no confusion, no mind reading, and much better sex!

This article was originally published at theRedheadBedhead.com

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

The topic of consent has been weighing heavy on my mind this last week. I’ve watched people wrestle with it, spring into action around it, snark about it, debate it, discuss it and even mock it, dismiss it and reduce it to a meme. A conclusion that I’ve come to (a conclusion that I’ve come to many times before) is that most people— even the ones who want desperately to help— don’t really get consent. The fact that the topic breeds debate and frequently causes people to get angry (“What, do I have to fill out a form before I touch someone now?!”) is actually absurd because when it comes down to it, consent is just about not violating boundaries. That shouldn’t piss us off. We’re not outraged that houses have doorbells rather than coming with the assumption that we can all just walk on in, right? Right. But somehow when you suggest to people that they may want to ask before stomping all up into another person’s space, there is backlash. So how did this happen?

Think back to how you were taught about consent. Odds are you weren’t really. You were more likely taught about “no”. If you were born with a vagina, you were probably taught to be careful because people might rape you and you should say “no” or, if you were born with a penis, you were told that “no means no” and if you hear “no” then you should not proceed because, rape¹. What has happened here is that you learned a couple of things:

  1. One partner should charge ahead until they get the red light from the other.
  2. Listen for a cue to stop, rather than a cue to start.
  3. If you don’t hear a “no”, you’re good to go.

This model has proven disastrous in myriad ways. From lawyers who argue that unconscious victims weren’t raped because they didn’t say the all-important “no”, to people who have no idea how to communicate sexual needs because everything we’ve been taught is based in negatives (i.e. what DON’T we want), to the general pattern of blaming victims not rapists because, obviously, they didn’t “no” hard enough, to the fact that no one knows what the hell “yes” looks like, to this bizarre idea that if we ask people if we can touch them before we touch them we will never touch each other again/it will be super-awkward and not fun.

Folks, it’s a steaming pile of horse shit. All of it.

Seriously.

As you may have noticed, I’m a bit consent obsessed and, while consent is not always about sex (in fact, a lot of what we’re talking about applies to most non-sexual situations and, ahem, communities), I’m happy to report that my own life got way easier, more comfortable, more fun and, frankly, sexier once I figured this consent business out….

Continue reading at The Readhead Bedhead.

Unsure what size

JoEllen-NotteJOELLEN NOTTE is helping to share the gospel of better living through better sex ed (amen!) – serving as both the Education Coordinator & Lead Sex Educator for the Portland Academy of Sex Education and a co-Emissary of Sex Geekdom Portland. Working as an adult retail consultant, she is working to help promote better sex through better adult retail. JoEllen first began fighting sexual mediocrity on her site theRedheadBedhead.com. Follow JoEllen on twitter: @bedheadtweeting

Warts and Worries. What To Do?

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

If you were recently exposed to genital warts would you know what to do? Do you know what to ask your doctor? What tests and treatments are available? Are genital warts curable?

As part of their weekly Q&A series, the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explains what to do if you think you’ve been exposed to genital warts, a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is so common, it has been called the “common cold” of STIs in the United States.

According to the CDC, the United States is facing an HPV epidemic, in which 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms. Yet not enough people know what is HPV, what are it’s sympotoms (if any!), and how it can be treated and prevented.

In this post, the CSPH explains that:

  • About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life.
  • Because genital warts spreads by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing transmission.
  • Unlike many STIs which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. However, not everyone shows symptoms.
  • About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.
  • You can reduce the risk of HPV with consistent use of sex dams and condoms, creative outercourse that doesn’t put you in direct contact with genitals (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), and regular STI testing to keep your status up-to-date.
  • Still confused about testing? Check out our post about when to get tested for STIs.

This post was originally published on the CSPH

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Each week, The CSPH answers questions asked on our site and through social media outlets like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. This week’s question is:

Hi! I just recently found out that I was exposed to genital warts and might have it, though I am currently not showing any symptoms. I have a pap smear coming up at the beginning of August and I plan to bring up my concerns then (while abstaining from sex until then). Do you think that they’ll be able to test me although I don’t have any symptoms, only reasonable concern?

Genital warts is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids. About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life. Unfortunately, this sneaky virus can be passed along even if you use a condom—for example, if your genitals touch during foreplay, or if your partner masturbates before fondling your naughty bits. Condom use is still recommended, as safer sex practices can significantly decrease risk, but it should be remembered that barrier methods are not a genital force field.

While HPV is a family of viruses often linked to cervical cancer, the particular strains that cause genital warts are different and distinct. With more than 100 permutations, the volume and variety of HPV could rival Nicki Minaj’s wig collection. Most genital warts, however, are caused by HPV types 6 and 11, which are lower risk but highly contagious. About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.

Thanks to high school health class, some people might associate genital warts with magnified images of mutant cauliflower, but in most cases these warts are inconspicuous, subtle, and benign. They can be flesh-toned or gray, raised or flat, singular or in clusters. For vulva-owners, these growths tend to appear on the vagina or cervix or around the labia majora, anus, or inner thighs. A pelvic exam is often necessary for diagnosis, since warts do not usually cause pain or discharge and can reside internally. Genital warts in penis-owners may surface on the shaft, scrotum, testicles, anus, or general groin area.

Unlike HIV and syphilis which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. No lab results can indicate the presence or absence of HPV 6 or 11 before genital warts appear. Once a skin growth is present, a biopsy may be required for confirmation since smaller warts can be difficult to distinguish from normal genital bumps or ingrown pubic hair.

Although there is an HPV test on the market, it was designed to detect high-risk, pre-cancerous strains of the virus (types 16 and 18) in women over thirty. Similarly, a pap smear would not reveal whether or not someone has genital warts. Due to a lack of effective screening and testing, it is hard to know if you or a potential partner might have this contagious, but harmless, skin condition; an estimated 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms.

Fortunately, the Gardasil vaccine can protect against the HPV strains responsible for 90% of genital warts, in addition to the high-risk types associated with 75% of cervical cancers. No longer restricted to empowered women and girls who engage in radical activities like playing drums, skateboarding, or living in designer lofts, this vaccine is now available to members of all sexes and genders. While there are risks and benefits associated with Gardasil (or any vaccine), the recommended age of inoculation is 11 or 12, or prior to becoming sexually active.

The CDC recommends that vulva-owners ages 13 through 26 get HPV vaccine if they have not received any or all of the three doses when they were younger. Likewise, CDC recommends the vaccine for penis-owners aged 13 through 21 years if they have not been received it already.

If you happen to have genital warts, there are several treatment options available, including podophyllin solution, cryosurgery (freezing), and electrocaudery (burning). You can also wait and give the warts some time to disappear on their own; within three months, 20 to 30 percent of all cases of non-cervical warts usually clear up without medical intervention.

When genital warts are treated, symptoms often resolve within one to nine months. Although the virus is most easily spread when active warts are present, you may still be contagious following treatment or removal, especially during the six months immediately afterwards. If you have been with your current partner since a few weeks before the genital warts appeared, more than likely your partner has already been exposed to the virus and abstaining would not prevent an outbreak. However, before engaging with new partners, it would be important to discuss the risk of viral transmission (in addition to what turns you on!), and to use condoms until everyone is comfortable with the potential consequences.

Unfortunately, there is no way for your doctor to conclusively diagnose you with genital warts unless physical symptoms are present. However, it’s wonderful that you’re being responsible in the meantime by abstaining from sex and initiating dialogue on these important issues. Through consistent use of barrier methods, creative outercourse (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), open communication, and annual exams with a qualified healthcare provider, you can take several proactive measures to help reduce your risk of genital warts and other STIs, while enjoying safe and sexy pleasure adventures.

Special note: Human papilloma virus (HPV), the underlying agent that causes genital warts, actually has over 100 strands, about forty of which can lead to genital warts. Other strains of HPV can also lead to cell division, which may be responsible for a number of throat, genital, cervical, and anal cancers. According to the CDC, nearly all sexually active adults will get at least one strain of HPV at some point in their life; however, when we state the “one person in ten” statistic, we were referring to having genital warts specifically.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.