All About Anal: Why Anal Sex Feels Good

Megan Andelloux of the CSPH

Megan Andelloux of the CSPH

Why would someone enjoy anal sex?

This question is posed to Megan Andelloux of the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (the CSPH).

Many people are skeptical of anal sex; some fearful even. And that’s understandable. The butthole is more fragile and less flexible than the vagina, and it doesn’t lubricate its self. It’s been taboo for centuries. It’s a sexual act never shown in today’s blockbuster romances; but only featuring in the “adult” section. It’s been made to sound painful and dangerous by scores of people who have had bad experiences.

Yes, anal sex can hurt. But only if it’s done wrong. This is a very intimate act that requires preparation and an active want to experience it. There are, in fact, many biological and social reasons why taking it from the back door feels extraordinary.

In this 2 minute :30 second video, Megan explains the joys of the anal anatomy. Here’s what she says:

  • The prostate gland can be stimulated by anal penetration which causes more intense orgasm.
  • For those without a prostate, know that most of the clitoris nerves are inside the body. So if something goes into the butt it can stimulates a portion of the clitoris.
  • It’s considers a “naughty” act which, for some, makes it even more of a turn on.
  • For others, it’s a way to explore their body and expand upon their pleasure.

So resist being judgmental of anal sex. Lots of people have it; it’s no big deal. In the 21st century, discussing anal shouldn’t be taboo. The pleasures of butt sex should be discussed openly with the same freedom we use when talking about shaving.

View this video on the CSPH channel

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

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.

You’re Doing it Wrong!: 4 Ways to Mess Up Masturbation

Photographer Thomas Hawk

Photographer Thomas Hawk

We know today that self-love does not cause blindness, infertility or make one a deprived loser. Contrary to historical falsehoods, masturbation is not bad for you emotionally, physically or sexually.

It is a normal, healthy part of sexuality. It is absolutely common that all genders masturbate.

Knowing how to masturbate and knowing what you enjoy is to take initiative of your own sexuality. And yet masturbation remains a topic often mocked or underestimated.  In this post, sex educator JoEllen Notte identifies four unhealthy, misdirected attitudes and assumptions that run amok today.

Here are the important points she raises:

  • Not everyone enjoys masturbating, and that’s OK.
  • If you enjoy it, devote time and resources to it. It is important to your well-being.
  • Experiment and try new things with yourself.
  • Many people are anxious that something is permanently wrong with them if a certain method of masturbation doesn’t please them. This is nothing to be anxious about. “You Are Not Broken!”

You can read the original article here.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Found on the RedHeadBedHead.com

Found on theRedHeadBedHead.com

It’s Masturbation May, a time to celebrate the wonder that is self-love. It has come to my attention that there are some fairly common practices that can make masturbation not-so-fun, so I have put together this list of 4 things I’d like to see eliminated from the masturbatory playbook.

Assuming everyone must like it

I recently got a message from a reader who wanted toy advice because “I don’t enjoy masturbation. Whenever I ask friends, they think I’m just shy or embarrassed by my body or something but I’m not, it’s just not my thing. I enjoy sex. Should I try a g-spot toy or a rabbit instead of just a clitoral vibrator? Would I like it more then?”

I started off by asking if they actually wanted to be masturbating and tell them that it was okay if the answer was “no” and then gave the rest of my input. The response I got back was incredible: “No one has ever told me it was ok to just not be interested! I thought I was weird because I have plenty of drive for partner sex but no real interest in masturbation, it just doesn’t feel pleasant. Maybe I’m just not into it.”

That’s right folks, just like any other sex act, masturbation is not everyone’s cup of tea. I can hear you now “But the learning! The exploration! THE ORGASMS!!!” I know, masturbation has a lot of benefits and I sure as heck love it. You know what else I love that has a lot of benefits? Kale. Not everyone’s into that either. It’s okay. (Somewhere, someone with a Hitachi in one hand and a Vitamix in a the other just screamed out in anguish)

If masturbation isn’t your thing, that’s cool. If someone tells you masturbation’s not their thing, listen to them instead of telling them why they are wrong or gasping and shuddering like a fish out of water. No shame either way.

While we’re on the topic of shame…

Continue reading at The Redhead 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

Let’s Talk About the Cervix and Pleasure For Once!

Jenelle Notte: The cervix looks similar to the bagel. Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

Jenelle Notte: “The cervix looks similar to the bagel.” Photo credit: Denis Wilkinson

The cervix seems to have become synonymous with HPV and cancer. Yes, today HPV is the most common STI in the United States. According to the CDC, “HPV is so common that most sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.” So it is no surprise that there is a lot of information out there about threats to the cervix.

There is more to the cervix than only being laden with medical health problems, yet very few of us know about the cervix outside of reproductive health issues. In fact, there is little discussion of the cervix just as it is with no external forces affecting it.

This realization comes to us from JoEllen, The Redhead Bedhead expert. Departing from the main discourses on cervixes- that is, it’s role in pregnancy, HPV and cancer- JoEllen writes about how the cervix relates to pleasure. We’ve also included at the end a helpful video from Megan Andelloux about how people can avoid their cervix getting bumped or causing pain during sex.

The main points of this piece are:

  • The cervix exists independently of any cautionary medical tales.
  • It functions to channel things like menstrual blood from the uterus and sperm to the egg.
  • The cervix changes in it’s texture and shape, and moves throughout the menstrual cycle. When it’s enlarged it can be easier to bump during sex, which explains why sex can feel different at different times! Interesting!
  • There are certain sexual positions and toys that will reduce the chances of bumping the cervix (unless you like it bumped!). See video at the end for tips!

Read the full article on The Redhead Bedhead.

BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Recently I got curious about my cervix. Why, you ask? Well, I’ve been having a lot of fun sex (hooray for cute boy who makes me smile) and I noticed that a certain position that I enjoy thoroughly was resulting in my cervix getting bumped some times but not others. I realized that I didn’t know much about the cervix and so I decided to do some research which quickly became frustrating when I realized that 99.876% (rough estimate) of the talking that gets done about cervixes involves either getting pregnant or cancer. I wanted to know about my body, just existing- what the heck, maybe even experiencing pleasure- but it seemed that unless it was part of a cautionary article about HPV….or an instructional post about how to get knocked up no one wanted to discuss it.

Today we’re talking cervical facts, what it looks like, feels like and does and even why mine sometimes gets hit in that one position and sometimes doesn’t. So here goes-

What does is look like?

Picture a puffy disc with a depression (a dimple, if you will) at its center. True to form I, in looking for images to illustrate the appearance of the cervix, landed on food:

This is a bialy. Basically a bagel with a dent instead of a hole. It is delicious. It also looks like a cervix.

Read the full article at The Redhead Bedhead.

condom ad condoms too tight

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

Study Finds Men Who Use Condoms Can Still Enjoy Sex

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Studies in the past have falsely argued that male sexual health and condom use are incompatible.

Researchers from the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Center for Sexual Health Promotion noticed that these studies simply compared “pleasure” reported by test subjects with and without condoms with no consideration for the other circumstances of their sexual encounters.  They proposed a different kind of study. The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health takes a look at their results.

Here are the important findings from the Indiana University study:

  • Earlier studies ignored other behaviors involved when using condoms— what sex acts men engage in, how they feel about the sex they have, their demographic characteristics, etc.
  • A number of factors in the span of a sexual event shape whether or not the experience itself is pleasurable.
  • Lower levels of sexual pleasure were associated with erection difficulty, perception of partner discomfort during sex and perception of penis width and hardness.
  • One limitation of the study is that it does not allow for any comparison between the beliefs, behaviors or reported pleasure levels between men who do and do not use condoms.

This original article is published on The CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Researchers from the Section of Adolescent Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University noticed that there was a void in the current sexual health literature on condom usage with regards to sexual pleasure. In general, studies tend to just compare the pleasure reported by men who either do or do not use condoms, and often wind up with results claiming that condom usage is not compatible with male sexual enjoyment. However, these studies ignore the other components of sexual pleasure or the various other characteristics and behaviors of men who use condoms, such as what sex acts they engage in, how they feel about the sex that they have, or their demographic characteristics. To combat this deficiency in data, the investigators of this study proposed this research to examine the association between condom use and sexual pleasure when all participants use condoms consistently, correctly, and completely, allowing for an understanding of the range of factors that affect sexual pleasure and enjoyment.

Participants were enrolled as a subsample of heterosexual-identified men from a larger US-based study of event-level condom behavior (a phrase used to indicate condom usage for one act of intercourse), with representatives from all fifty states. Of the 1,599 participants, 83% were white; about half had received some college or technical education; about a quarter were married, with 30% partnered and 41% single; and the average age was 26 years old. Diary reports of sexual behaviors and condom use were requested of participants, and then “complete condom events,” where the condom was applied prior to intercourse, used for the duration of intercourse, and removed only after intercourse had ended, were analyzed according to measures of subjective rating of sexual pleasure and a number of predictor variables. Some of the important considered variables included: partner type (casual/main); sexual-situational factors like intercourse duration, intensity, and lubricant use; physiological factors including perceived penis width, length, and hardness; ejaculation; and perception of condom comfort.

A number of factors were found to be correlated with higher reports of sexual pleasure during complete condom use. Ejaculation had the strongest association, with a four-fold increase in reported sexual pleasure. Other strong correlations with sexual pleasure included higher intercourse intensity (41%), longer intercourse duration (40%), performing oral sex on a partner (34%), receiving oral sex from a partner (21%), and receiving genital stimulation (13%), as well as a modest increased association with older age (4%). Additionally, lower levels of sexual pleasure were strongly associated with erection difficulty (75% reduction) and perception of partner discomfort during sex (72% reduction), while perception of lower penis width and hardness were also linked to lower sexual pleasure.

The results of this study indicate that sexual pleasure is not simply something that cannot coexist with condom usage; instead, it is a fact that can still be very much a part of these men’s sexual encounters. As the authors of the study address in their discussion, what this data shows is that there are a number of factors in the span of a sexual event—how a man feels about his genitals, how his partner reacts, what acts other than vaginal penetration occur—that shape whether or not the experience itself is pleasurable. It is important not to permit or perpetuate the stereotype that just removing the condoms would make intercourse better. Rather, the authors of this study believe there are better solutions to decrease the negative factors linked with lower sexual pleasure, such as visiting a doctor to take care of erectile difficulties or ensuring that one’s partner is equally comfortable and pleased with the sex.

Unfortunately, this study was somewhat limited, in that by only focusing on condom use, it does not allow for any comparison between the beliefs, behaviors, or reported pleasure levels between men who do and do not use condoms. Additionally, heterosexual men are not the only individuals who could benefit from research into the pleasurable associations of safer sex. However, work like this is so important because it not only advances the importance of pleasure and safer sex, but it also shows how the two can work together. Safer sex devices like condoms are so clearly important in limiting potentially negative consequences like pregnancy and STIs, and knowing how to make such things sexy and fun—really, one of the majors draws of any sex play—is key in making sure people are willing to do what they need to do in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.

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.

6 Ways To Make Safer Sex Sexy

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BY JOELLEN NOTTE | theRedheadBedhead.com

Sometimes, in the heat of the moment it can feel like safer sex is a huge, unsexy wet blanket, taking sex from something steamy and fun to something clinical and full of fumbling. It doesn’t have to be that way though! You can engage in safer sex practices and keep it fun and sexy. All it takes is a little preparation and a little know-how. Here are 6 things you can do to have the sexiest safer sex ever!

Learn your options

When it comes to safer sex, there are so many options available to you. Condoms come in various sizes, thicknesses and materials. Check out the variety of condom samplers available online. (Note: Many men who face erection issues with condoms are trying to wear ones that are too small!). Don’t know your size? Check out this handy condom size chart.

Dental dams and condoms come in a variety of flavors. There are tons of lubricants to choose from and you can mix and match to find your ideal pairing! Get educated as to what your options are. Here are lube samplers worth exploring. That’s what’ll help you determine what makes sex both sexy and safe for you.

Learn what your like

Now that you know so many options exist it’s time to find the ones that will make up your sexual toolbox. Whether it’s condoms that feel fantastic, lubes that make things glide more smoothly, or the dam that comes in a flavor you actually enjoy, get out there and find favorites. Enlist a partner to help you hunt. Best. Testing. Process. Ever.

Keep a stockpile handy

One of the biggest spoils to good intentions is lack of preparation. Suddenly folks find themselves about to get down without a condom in sight. Cue frantic late-night runs to the pharmacy or (perhaps more likely) someone just saying “What the hell?!” and forgoing the safety measures altogether. So always be prepared.

Once you have found something you like, make sure you have a ton on hand or nearby at all times. Build a safer sex toolkit. Find a fun, convenient way to store it. I use a cool, glam, 1950s make-up case and it is STOCKED: Regular condoms, female condoms, flavored condoms, dental dams, nitrile gloves and two kinds of lube – all at the ready. This kind of set-up saves you from the frustrations of being unprepared.

Learn about your partner

I’m constantly saying that I think we need to talk more about our sex. Thankfully, I’m not the only one. Check out beforeplay.org, a website devoted entirely to the concept of talking openly before sex. LOVE this!

Something I recommend all the time is Safer Sex Elevator Speech. It’s an amazing tool for initiating the safer sex conversation. it comes from sex educator Reid Mihalko of ReidAboutSex.com. I love the Elevator Speech because it is quick and easy, allowing both partners to get on the same page and quickly get on their way to getting it on.

Find out what everyone is comfortable with, what everyone’s safety needs are and how you will meet them. Most importantly, do not argue about safety. That’s not sexy! If your partner wants more safety measures in place than you do go with that. Why? Because if you are right and the safety measures were unnecessary, well then, nothing happens. But if you are wrong, don’t use them and it turns out that you should have, well, you will have a problem on your hands. If you really don’t feel comfortable with the precautions a partner wants to take, you may want to consider alternate activities or exploring whether you and that partner should be playing together at all.

Make it sexy

It’s important to treat safer sex measures as a part of your sexual play rather than a speed bump along the way to real fun. Don’t let your sexual energy drop just because you need to put on a condom. Keep kissing, keep touching, keep talking. Use it as a means of building sexy anticipation.

Enjoy yourself

Sex is play time for adults, so make sure you have all the fun! Try ALL the condoms! Play with how you use that dental dam. Giggle with your partner when you snap on nitrile gloves (silliness can be hot). Experiment. Try things. Enjoy both, yourselves and each other.

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

10 Of The Best Things You Can Do For Your Sexual Self (At Any Age)!

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When you stop to think about birth control, infections, relationships, feelings, logistics and everything else, sex and sexuality can seem overwhelmingly complicated. Scarleteen, the internet’s source for comprehensive, inclusive sexual education to the rescue with 10 things you can do for your sexual self!

This article is meant to help you remember the human element of sexuality, and keep the essentials in the forefront of your mind.

Here are main points for how you can best care for your sexual self: 

  • Get to know your body and what you like on your own – be your own first partner!
  • Learn to talk openly about sex.
  • Be honest with yourself and your partners.
  • Remember, drama isn’t love.
  • Use and trust your own best judgment.
  • Love your own body.
  • Own and respect your feelings— even when it’s not fun.
  • Don’t try to make your sexual identity your WHOLE identity.
  • Become sexually educated— know your stuff!
  • Enjoy yourself and your sexuality.

View the original article on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

10 thingsIf we look at our sexuality one way, it looks a million times simpler than it actually is. If we look at it another way, it appears a million times more complicated. While it’s important that we bear everything in mind we need to in terms of infection and disease, birth control, our relationships, our bodies and the whole works, now and then we need to remember the bare bones and the human element of the thing, and keep the essentials in the forefront of our minds.

Choose yourself as your first partner

We hear a whole lot about who should be our first partner. Most of the time, we’re told it should be someone we love and who loves us back, someone committed to us long-term, perhaps even someone we plan to spend the rest of our lives with. I agree completely, because you, all by yourself, have all of those qualities, more than any other person ever can.

No one is ever going to know your body like you are, and no one else is ever going to be able to GET to know your body well unless you do to begin with. Really claiming and recognizing yourself as your first and foremost sex partner is a powerful thing. It equips you with some tools for healthy sexuality and balanced relationships for the rest of your life: it can help you to best determine when it’s the right time for you to have solo sex (like when you’re just plain horny) and when it’s right to take a partner (like when you’re wanting deeper intimacy, or are able to account for another person’s feelings and desires). Getting to know your own body and sexual identity through self-evaluation, through masturbation, enables you to find out a good deal of what you like and dislike physically, to see and feel what your genitals and the rest of your body are like in a healthy state, to discover how your individual sexual response works, explore your orientation and gender identity, and to gauge your sexual expectations realistically.

All too often, young men and women — more often young women — may rush into sexual partnership simply because they think a partner can give them something on a sheerly physical sexual level that they can’t give themselves because they haven’t become their own first sex partner. And many times, that results in hurt feelings, overly high expectations, and careless treatment of sexual partners, especially when a person just isn’t ready for all that sexual partnership requires. All too often, “hormones” are said to be why a teen feels the drive to partner with someone else, but the truth is, your “hormones” and your physical body do NOT know the difference between your fingers and someone else’s. Your mind and your heart might, but your clitoris or penis do not. Spending dedicated time being your own lover first helps you be able to know the difference.

Let’s talk about sex, baby

When and if you’re sexually active with a partner, communication is typically the biggest hurdle in those relationships. If we feel awkward or uncomfortable — or unable — bringing up issues about birth control, safer sex, sexual boundaries, sexual satisfaction or dissatisfaction, things we need to be emotionally or physically safe, we not only greatly limit the mileage of those relationships, we put ourselves and our partners in positions which can be very detrimental to all of us. At best, being unable to communicate can greatly limit our pleasure, enjoyment or emotional well-being. At worst, they can get us deeply hurt emotionally or physically or hurt others, or be the root of an unwanted pregnancy, disease or infection transmission. Being able to talk openly about sex can’t just protect our hearts, minds and bodies, it can save our lives.

We can all learn to talk about sex, even in a culture where that is a major handicap. Start simple: talk to friends or family about sexual issues or questions. Learn to ask your doctor when you’ve got questions or concerns about sexuality or sexual anatomy, even if it feels embarrassing or a little funny at first. And well before you get sexually involved with a partner, start establishing meaningful dialogue about sex: about both of your expectations and wants, about your readiness levels, about birth control and safer sex practices, about how you’ll plan to deal with friends and family regarding your sexual relationship, about what relationship model you’d like to build, the works.

Live in the real world

Honesty, like most things, starts at home: in other words, with yourself. Sex can be a veritable minefield when it comes to game-playing, delusion, manipulation and control, even when no one intends any of those things. Being willing and able to be honest about your sexuality is your biggest asset when it comes to being happy, healthy and whole in this regard.

Be willing, for instance, to take a deep look at what you want and what you need and to make choices based on the real deal when it comes to those things. For instance, if you know that you’re not entirely sure about a sexual partner in terms of furthering your activity with them, don’t shove that feeling in the closet for fear of losing them if you don’t agree to what they want. If you know you’re questioning your sexual orientation, be clear on that with potential partners.

If you know you can’t be sexually active without lying to friends and family, consider putting a hold on things until you can be honest about that. If you aren’t as into someone else as you know they’re into you, let them know, don’t lead them on or take advantage. Don’t make promises you can’t keep: of eternal love (even if it feels that way), of monogamy, of sexual favors you aren’t sure you want to, or can, deliver.

Insist on honesty from your partners as well as from others involved, even tangentially, in your sexual life: friends, family, your doctor, and learn to accept that honesty, even when it’s not so easy. Being in an environment of honesty sometimes means that the people we’re involved with tell us what they really feel, rather than what they think we’d like to hear, which isn’t always comfortable, but which, both long and short term, is the best thing for everyone.

Break down your drama addictions

It’s easier than any of us would like to think to mistake high drama for love or passion, especially when we’re younger. Most of us are pretty restless in our teens: maybe school is just utterly boring, maybe we’ve had the same social circle for years, maybe our towns or cities don’t offer us much to do, maybe we’re just feeling ready to move on with our lives, but can’t because of our age. So, it’s not at all surprising that when a love affair enters our lives, we’re going to be pretty excited about it.

But it’s very clear that a lot of teens (and older people, too!) confuse drama with love, affection or real connection. The higher the level of drama gets — parents disliking a partner, promises of marriage, a profound age difference, even emotional or physical abuse — the more a feeling of love or passion is interpreted because the emotional stakes are raised and the tension is elevated.

That’s not unreasonable, after all, writers have been using that exact same device to elevate their readers emotions for thousands of years. But. It isn’t real, even when it very much feels real. We’re simply reacting to those escalated circumstances, and all too often, that drama can keep young couples together, not love or real bonding.

So, when the drama kicks in, try to learn to see it and know that then, more than ever, is NOT the time to leap in with both feet, but to step back and really look at what’s going on. To take a break to do that, if need be. To do whatever it is you need to to get a good, solid reality check. One of the best tests of love, really, is if it still feels like love when it’s at its quietest and calmest, not just its loudest and most tumultuous.

Be a smartypants

Let’s be honest: very few of us, whether we’re 15 or 65, can be truly objective when we’re head over heels in love or in lust. So, it’s a bit of a given that when making sexual choices, we can rest assured that our judgment is bound to be a little colored from the get-go. Being in love, having a crush, and sexual partnership is heady stuff. That’s some of why it can feel so nice. Colloquially, some of us call that space NRE, or new relationship energy. It’s great stuff, and it feels fantastic, but it can do quite a number on our analytical or critical thinking.

It’s important to recognize that when we’re in that space, we probably need to use a little more caution than usual when making decisions because those feelings can really do a number on our heads as well as our hearts. Other additional factors may also be at play which can impair sound judgment: body or self-image issues, feeling pressured to be sexually active or have a sexual or romantic partner, performance pressures, rebellion or conformity issues, and even simple curiosity.

And by all means, handicapping your judgment intentionally from the outset with alcohol or drugs which impair your critical thinking is just never a wise idea.

Start a revolution: Stop hating your body!

We live in a culture that is obsessed with appearances, in which lookism and ableism are epidemic. The messages we’re sent via our culture and media about our bodies are almost always about how they look or how perfect they should be, and more specifically, how they look to the opposite sex (despite the fact that some of us aren’t even interested in the opposite sex, all of the time, or ever). Advertisements for gyms or exercise regimens rarely talk about feeling increased energy, getting sick less often, getting better strength or balance, but all too often, instead work to sell us on trimmer thighs, tighter bottoms, or washboard abs because those things fit our current physical ideals of beauty and attractiveness.

That isn’t to say we have to ignore how our bodies or faces look. People are amazing creatures, great to look at, and sexual attraction is part of our physical nature. But it’s only one part of many. Our bodies enable us to do everything we do each day: to go to work or school, to build cities and cultural movements, to create and nurture families and friends, to live out our whole lives. And the state of our bodies effects the state of our minds: when we’re physically healthy, it’s a lot easier to be emotionally healthy.

So, take good care of your body in every way you can. Give it healthy food, the rest and activity it needs, the healthcare — sexual and general — it requires, both preventatively and when you become ill. Don’t sacrifice your health or well-being for appearances with fad diets or starvation, with obsessive focus on physical perfection, with conformity to ideals which not only may not fit you, but which change almost as often as most of us change our underpants. Understand that when it’s right for you, be it by yourself or with a partner, sex can also be part of honoring your body, whatever it looks like, however it works. If any sex you have with someone isn’t about your bodies just as they are, it’s not likely to feel very good or leave you feeling very good about yourself….

…Screw magazines that tell you to focus on what you’d like to improve about your body. Heck, if you’ve got one, burn it. If you’ve got health issues to deal with, or need to make some healthy changes in terms of what you’re eating or not getting enough activity, do that. But your body is not a home-improvement project. Most of it is perfect as-is, right now. So, document that. Sit down and make a list of all of your favorite parts, and write down why they’re your favorite. Maybe you like your eyes because they’re aesthetically beautiful, or your legs because they get you where you need to go. If you need extra help when it comes to appearances, instead of comparing yourself to fashion mags, get some pictures of your relatives, as far back as you can go, if they’re available to you. In them, you’re going to find your arms, your hair, your face — you can discover where a lot of you came from and see yourself a bit differently when you’re looking at you in someone else.

Some studies or philosophies have put forth that young people, especially young women, who are sexually active suffer from low self-esteem in ways those who are not do not. The usual assumption made about that premise is that sex, especially sex when you’re young, must be bad for you, but I’d posit that that isn’t so. Instead, what I’ve seen a lot of over the years is some people who seek out sex or sexual partnership to try and fill a void in terms of self-esteem or positive body image reinforcement that already exists before they seek out the sex, and then most of them discover — alas — that the sex or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t fill that void and get even more depressed and self-hating, thinking something must be wrong with them.

Honor your feelings

Sometimes it takes a lot of tries before we meet someone whose needs and wants are the same as ours. Because of that, it’s tempting to try and compromise things we really shouldn’t compromise, like limits and boundaries, relationship models we know we don’t want or can’t deal with, or sexual velocity that is just too fast.

Sure, part of any relationship is compromise, but we should not and cannot compromise our essential character or nature, nor what we know we need in a relationship to participate in one healthily and happily. If we find we’re sticking in a relationship where we know our partner wants things we can’t or don’t want to give, for instance, we’re likely not honoring our feelings, perhaps because we don’t want to hurt them, or because we’re afraid of being without a partner, or because we just don’t want to make a huge mistake. But, you know, in relationships that are right for everyone, we can safely voice our feelings and work with them, and we need to be able to do that to be in good relationships. Most of us adults have been in relationships where we’ve voiced deeper feelings than our partner felt, or asked for more than they could give, and that’s resulted in a split we didn’t want. Or, we’ve had to tell a partner they were asking for more than we had available and either pull away from the relationship or take it back a few paces. While at the time, none of that is ever fun, in hindsight, we’ll all know that was best for everyone. As well, most of us have happier tales of honoring our feelings that brought about far better outcomes than we would have had had we not voiced our true feelings. Sometimes, when you love someone deeply and tell them, they tell you — and mean it — that they love you just as much back.

A big part of honoring your feelings is being able to first look at them and recognize them yourself. So, take a good look at them, even if they’re not so realistic. If you have a good idea of what they are, in a given situation or in general, you’re in a better place to honor them, to see how they may or may not be creating obstacles, to get a good idea of what you really want and need so you’ll be able to recognize when those needs can be met and when they can’t.

And while we’re at it, don’t talk yourself into a situation that isn’t really right for you, especially when it comes to casual sex. That isn’t to say that casual sex can’t be okay for some people sometimes, because it can. But much of the time here at the Scarleteen community, we see people clearly talking themselves into believing they’re okay with no-strings-attached or friends-with-benefits scenarios when they truly want more than that, but have convinced themselves to settle for less because they feel it’s better than nothing, or think that sex with someone casually will make that other person develop romantic feelings after all. Bzzzt. What you don’t want isn’t better than waiting for what you do want, and sex can’t change anyone’s real feelings. To boot, saying you’re okay with casual sex to a partner suggesting it when you know you aren’t in your gut makes YOU the bad guy for being manipulative and dishonest, not them for wanting less than you do.

Don’t try and use sexual identity as your whole identity

Part of our development in our teens and twenties is seeking out and discovering our self-identity. It’s why it’s not uncommon for teens to be very enthusiastic about something one month that’s completely forgotten the next. A little embarrassing when we have to backpedal sometimes, but it’s all normal, and we’ve all been through it (some of us way more times than we’d care to admit).

So, it’s also not unusual to do the same with sexual identity.

Sexual identity, is, by its nature, somewhat fluid. While some portions of our sexuality are at least somewhat fixed, like our sexual orientation (whether we’re attracted to men, women or both/all gender), parts of our gender identity as well as some of our preferences, many aspects of our sexual identity will develop and shift all through our lives. So, while your sexual identity is an integral part of who you are, there’s never any hurry to claim or label it, nor is it a good idea to make your current sexual identity your whole identity — because when it shifts and evolves — and it always will — you may find yourself feeling utterly lost in terms of knowing who you are. As well, sex is only part of our lives. If every part of us is completely wrapped up in it, we’re likely to miss out on other equally enriching and fulfilling parts of our lives.

Who are you, besides so-and-so’s girlfriend/boyfriend or Jane or John, queer or straight person? Jot it down, and make note of what accompanying activities you engage in to support all those other aspects of your identity. Are you a musician? If so, how much time are you getting to play and practice? Are you a good friend? Spent much time with yours lately? Are there aspects of your identity that keep getting shoved on the back shelf, even if you would really like to explore them? Look at your time during the week, and carve out some for those parts. Sex is great, and having a partner equally great, but if we aren’t more than our sex lives or sexual identity, not only are those aspects of our lives going to peter out fast, the rest of our lives are going to seriously suffer for that.

Become a sexpert!

Obviously, no one needed a book to figure out how to put Tab A into Slot B when it came to sex. If they had, none of us would be here today, because our eldest ancestors certainly didn’t have The Joy of Sex hidden under a straw pallet in the back of the cave. While there are some things we don’t need books or media for — and some it’s best we learn on our own anyway, like discovering what a partner finds pleasure in — there are others we do. We live in a different world than our hunting and gathering forebears. We have longer lifespans, different and more complex health issues, we choose not to procreate, we have factors in our lives and culture that make our relationships more complex. As well, we simply know things now we didn’t back when that really can benefit us, like understanding how our reproductive cycles really work, how disease or infection may be spread, like that our sexual or gender identity doesn’t have to be what is prescribed for us.

So, dig in and educate yourself! Hit the library or the net and read up on your body, the body of your partner if they’re opposite sex, on safer sex practices and disease and infection news, on birth control options. Fill your mind with material to help you start to evaluate things like orientation and gender identity, the quality of your relationships, and your own wants and needs when it comes to sex and sexual partnership.

Do yourself a favor, though, and be selective with that media. Look for sources that offer you real information, not salacious tips on how to bring someone else to orgasm or how to achieve firmer breasts. On websites and with books, look for mentions or endorsements by credible organizations or resources in sexuality and sexual health. We get enough garbage and misinformation on sex from television, movies and popular magazines as it is — none of us needs any more of that gump.

It truly is best to educate yourself about sex and sexuality BEFORE you leap in headlong, especially with a partner or partners. All too often, people only start educating themselves during or after a crisis (such as a pregnancy scare, an acquired STI, or being physically or emotionally hurt during sex), and while late is always better than never, in advance is always better than after the fact.

Most of all…

… don’t forget that sex and sexuality are supposed to be pleasurable and bring you joy and richness. So many of the messages sent out to young people are about the dangers of sex or dating, are about saying no to sex based on very general and arbitrary ethics that may not be your own, and make sex out to be the Big Bad, when really, it doesn’t have to be. If you aren’t ready for sexual partnership, then no, sexual partnership isn’t going to be right for you right now. But even if you try something out and discover it isn’t, it’s unlikely to cause you lifelong trauma. We all err sometimes; we learn, we move on. We’re an adaptable species like that.

Your sexuality is yours to have, explore and enjoy even all by yourself, and yours to share with partners, when and if you’re ready and willing to do that. When you respect it and you, it’s a wonderful part of who you are, one that has the power to enrich your life and make you feel physically and emotionally great. And it can be great responsibly and healthfully: a lot of the time, we plop sex and adventure into the same pile, and assume that for sex to feel great, it has to be risky or we have to feel “naughty” doing it, and that just isn’t the case. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that if our culture could ditch a lot of the taboo and shameful attitudes it has about sex, the whole lot of us would be a much healthier people, physically and emotionally.

So, if you’re engaged in sex in any way that makes you feel bad, stop and look at that. Sometimes, sex can be disappointing, either alone or with partners, that happens the same way any aspect of life can be disappointing or just plain lame. But if that’s the case continually, it’s time for a change, be that by splitting from a partner, pulling back on something you’re doing or asking for things you want but aren’t getting, taking better care of your sexual health or spending more time getting to know your own body, reevaluating your sexual identity or taking a break from sex altogether for a while. If you can’t feel or experience the joy of sex, then it’s just not worth doing. And when you can? Let yourself enjoy it. That’s what it’s there for.

To sum up?

1. Be your own your first partner, before anyone else.
2. Learn to talk openly about sex.
3. Be honest. For real.
4. Ditch the drama. Save it for the movies.
5. Use and trust your own best judgment.
6. Respect your body and yourself.
7. Honor your feelings, even when it’s a bummer.
8. Be your whole self, not just your sexual self.
9. Further your sexual education.
10. Enjoy yourself and your sexuality.

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).

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

He Said, She Said: 10 Things We Wish Sex Ed Had Taught Us

17- he said she saidOur attitudes about sex and sexuality are formed at a young age. For many of us, primary school is a hub of attitude shaping as parents, peers and adults all contribute to how we perceive ourselves and others. Comprehensive sex education is key in helping children develop healthy attitudes about their bodies, relationships, sex and sexuality. But what should that include?

Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, asks 10 renowned writers and sex educators what they wish sex education had taught them. The answers may surprise you!

This article is intended to help you understand what information may be missing from your child’s (or your own) sexual education.

Reclaim your sexual health know-how! Here are some main points to take away:

  • Only 22 states in the U.S. require sex education, and of those, only 12 require that it be medically accurate.
  • It’s confirmed that teens who were taught comprehensive sexual education develop healthy sexual attitudes and safer sex practices.
  • The gaps in our current education system are plentiful- check out the list to see what folks wish they had learned!

The original article was published on the Huffington Post.

BY MELISSA WHITE

In a recent Huffington Post article, “So, You Think You’re Cool Because You Hate Condoms?,” I cavalierly stated, “No matter how high the stakes, most adult attitudes surrounding safer sex are formed (and stuck) back in high school.” Which is true.

However, more often than not, what is learned “back in high school” arrives via friends or porn. For most of us, official sex education was mediocre or simply non-existent.

Fast forward 20 (or so) years and the situation hasn’t really improved.

It may surprise you to learn that only 22 states in the U.S. mandate sex education, and of those, a mere 12 mandate sex ed that is medically accurate!

And if your position happens to be that you don’t want teens having sex at all, rest assured: many teens aren’t taking your position into account — and are doing what comes naturally, instead.

As many teens go on to become sexually misinformed adults, they’re likely to experience sex ranging from less than satisfactory to hazardous to their health, often simply for lack of awareness about how to make better choices in their sex life.

On the other hand, teens with comprehensive sex education develop healthy sexual attitudes and practices — and as adults, enjoy healthy sexual attitudes and relationships. As confirmed here and here.

By opening up a public conversation about just what kind of sex-positive information is essential for shaping healthier attitudes around sex, we will educate each other while empowering teens to more satisfyingly and safely navigate the increasingly sexualized world they face.

To help get this discussion started, I began by speaking to friends and sex educators in my circle about the sex ed curriculum they wish they’d been given.

Here is our first take: Sex Ed 101: Safety & Pleasure for the Real World — (and yes, my quote is #3):

1. Build Upon a Foundation of Consent and Positive Sexuality
“I want to see holistic sex education that teaches us creative, sexy ways to respect our bodies while encouraging us to practice safer sex. We need to teach that active, enthusiastic consent must be central to every sexual relationship. I wasn’t taught consent can be fun, consent can be sexy. When young people are getting terrible messages about what sexual relationships are or should look like from the media or our peers, we have to create a more transformative, more sex positive ethic in sex education.” – Jamie Utt

2. The Difference Between Gender & Sex
“The difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, and that both are spectrums, not binaries. [Education] about sexual practices, at least a few of the more common ones, and some uncommon ones, too, all taught with the same lack of judgment. That if you’re being safe, sane and consensual, you are doing it right.” – Justin Cascio

3. Condoms Should Be About Pleasure First. 
“If your condom feels good, you’ll use it. First, make sure you or your partner is wearing the right size condom. (Here is how you figure out your condom size.) Next, don’t rely on free or cheap condoms. By spending $1 on a premium condom you can have a greatly improved experience. And if you don’t know where to start, beginning with a condom sampler is a great, affordable option.” – Melissa White

4. Use lube. 
“Don’t listen to the myths that say that vaginal lubrication = arousal. There are lots of reasons why that’s not true, including hormonal changes, medical issues, medications and drugs or simply because that’s how someone is. Plus, lube is great for hand jobs and you definitely need it for anal play. Use lube. Use a lot of lube.” – Charlie Glickman, PhD

5. Orgasms. What Are They? And Did I Just Have One?
“Left to rely on what I heard, I expected to feel something akin to a sonic boom followed by that sparkly thing twilight “vampires” do. When that didn’t happen, it took me forever to even identify my orgasms. I was convinced there was something wrong with me and I was broken. And many people parroting the line “If you you’re not sure you’ve had an orgasm, you haven’t,” didn’t exactly help. (So really, don’t say that. It’s condescending, wrong and obnoxious.) In her “Girlgasms” class, Ducky Doolittle says “If you are aren’t sure but you’ve felt involuntary muscle contractions during masturbation, you’ve probably had an orgasm.” Hearing that earlier would have been a game-changer for me.” – JoEllen Notte

6a. An Overiew of Genital Health
“I wish I’d learned more about genital health. Not just STIs but also bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, typical discharge, cervical mucous and things like that. An owner’s manual, if you will.” – Ashley Manta

6b. “What a “normal,” healthy-looking penis and vulva look like. A wide range — sizes, colors, states of arousal, age, circumcised/not circumcised — in real pictures. Our young selves have no frame of reference, except for Playboy and porn. Even as adults, our reference points are often limited. This could help young adults with body image, as well as, not be shocked/surprised with future partners.”  Marrie Lobel

7. Sex Is Fun
“I wish they taught me that sex didn’t have to be so serious like it is in the movies. It took me many years to realize that the best kind of sex for me is messy, loud and often not very conventionally pretty. We can still be hot as hell with one false eyelash stuck to our cheek, socks still on and laughing our ass off because we just fell off the bed having an orgasm. I wish they taught me that sex was supposed to be fun.” – Sunny Megatron

8a. Masturbation Is OK
“Don’t be embarrassed about masturbating, and for god’s sake, use lube!” – Cooper S. Beckett 

8b. Sex Toys Exist. (And pleasuring yourself isn’t weird or wrong.)

“In popular culture, guys masturbating is considered “ha ha funny” (think the movieAmerican Pie) whereas when it comes to women pleasuring themselves, it’s still looked upon as something slightly shameful. When I finally worked up the nerve to go buy a vibrator in university it was like this big, secretive deal. Now that I own a whole drawer full of them I realize it’s not a big deal at all. Toys are actually really empowering. I wish more girls knew this.” – Simone K.

9. Women Have Sex Drives. Women Like Sex. (Enjoy That.)
“In this day and age, the trope that women don’t enjoy sex as much as men still exists. What a fallacy. Our bodies are built to enjoy this natural part of being human… the difference is we’ve been taught it’s “slutty” to fully demonstrate and embrace our sexuality. If I hadn’t believed women who pursued sex were desperate and easy, I’m certain I would have chosen my partners more wisely and discovered the pleasure in sex that is the right of each and every one of us.” – Elle Chase

10. Teaching Healthy Boundaries & Consent Starts Way Before Puberty
“Children need to learn to be able to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and to know how to accept the answer when someone says “no” to them without negotiating, nagging, or persisting. Children also need to learn the importance of “Do No Harm” as it relates to someone or something else. Teach them if it doesn’t feel good then they have the right to have the activity stop. Think about this in terms of when kids are roughhousing or tickling — if someone is tickling and it’s too much, sometimes, adults forget and persist until the child is disturbed or upset. Kids need to know when to stop and when to speak up as well. Learning about consent is a skill they’ll use throughout their lives.” – Lanae St. John

So now, we’d love to know… what do you wish you’d been taught in Sex Ed?

5 Things I’ve Learned from Teaching People about Sex

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BY KATE MCCOMBS | KateMcCombs.com

Even before I got my first formal sex ed job, I was teaching friends about how to use safer sex methods.

Like most Americans, I didn’t get much in the way of sex ed in school, so it was up to my budding sex geeky research skills to get information I needed on my own. With this knowledge, I became an unofficial peer educator, sharing what I knew with friends (and even their friends) at after-school hangouts and parties.

In college, I became an official peer educator and continued teaching about safer sex and birth control, this time in one-on-one counseling sessions and workshops. It was a great training ground for the sex ed career I have now where I specialize in educating adults about the intersections of health and pleasure.

Through the research I did during my masters of public health, workshops and lectures I’ve taught on two continents, and through years of causal conversations with folks about their sex lives, I’ve learned five key things from teaching people about safer sex

1. Health and pleasure are not mutually exclusive.

The single most common reason people give for not using condoms is that it “doesn’t feel as good.” There is some reality to barriers diminishing sensation for some people, but the research doesn’t back up the claim that it ruins sex. In a study carried out by Indiana University, they found that on the whole, people’s sexual pleasure and satisfaction were not diminished by condom use.

There are many things people can do to increase their pleasure and satisfaction during sex, regardless of whether barriers are used. For some people, using barriers allows them to relax more fully, which increases their enjoyment of the overall experience.

2. Finding the right lube is paramount.

I am a lube evangelist and I still marvel at how many people aren’t aware of the benefits of using lube with condoms. Lube helps transmit more sensation, reduce uncomfortable friction, and keep condoms form drying out. It’s also handy to have around for other types of pleasure, like mutual and solo masturbation.

Not all lubes are created equal. Finding a formulation that feels best to you and your partner’s body is essential and experimenting with lubes can be a fun thing to sex lab too.

3. One size does not fit all.

I remember one of the first times I saw someone teach how to put on a condom. The educator stretched a condom over his whole arm and said, “No one is this big!” and that men who complained that condoms were too tight are just making it up. This is neither helpful nor true.

Condom fit is hugely important in pleasure and safety. A condom that’s too tight can break more easily and a condom that’s too loose can slip off. A bad fit can make using barriers less pleasurable too. Get a sampler pack from Lucky Bloke and find one that fits you like a glove.

4. Communication is key.

For many people, talking about sex at all can be really challenging – especially with the people they’re having it with. Learning to talk, listen, and learn about sexuality is a key adult skill, but there are few opportunities for people to learn the things about sex that help build an amazing, healthy sex life.

Having meaningful conversations about sex with our peers can be great practice for having challenging conversations within our romantic relationships. By fostering curiosity, learning compassion, and creating safe spaces within our relationships, we can more easily negotiate the kind of pleasure and health we desire.

5. It’s important to meet people where they’re at.

Early in my sex ed career, I was very absolutist in my opinions about condoms. People should just wear them! As I’ve listened, learned, and taught more, it’s become clear to me that this message doesn’t land with some people. It’s not empathetic and it doesn’t reflect understanding of the complexity of people’s feelings and desires.

All humans make calculated risks and meeting people where they’re at to help them reduce their risk is a more fruitful strategy then telling them what they “should” do. What I can do is give people information and support them in making choices that align with their health goals.

 

kate_mccombs

KATE 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

The CSPH: Difficulty Maintaining Erection with Condoms

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It’s a common tale: the minute a condom goes near a penis an erection is gone! Some just use this as an excuse to not practice safer sex, but for others it’s a genuine issue interrupting their sex lives. Difficulty maintaining erection with condoms is a common problem, but doesn’t have to get in the way of great sex.

There are plenty of options and this article by The Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health (The CSPH) goes into depth to talk about:

  • How the problem is more common with newer partners or when engaging with others who may have comparably less sexual experience.
  • How worry or unease may be causing the issue.
  • The need for the condom to be the right fit and how you can go about finding that with condom samplers.
  • How a drop of lube inside the condom helps increase stimulation of erection.
  • Letting your partner put the condom on.
  • Accustoming yourself to wearing a condom by using it during masturbation.
  • Using a internal condom (aka female condom) as an alternative to the penis condoms.
  • How suitable partners may be able to engage in condom-less sex if they are fluidly bonded and regularly tested for STIs.

This article was originally published on The CSPH website.

BY The CSPH | theCSPH.org

Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted through Formspring and Tumblr. This week’s question is:

So…”sexual pleasure & health” – How does a guy get both, if he wants to — or, more accurately, needs to have unprotected sex (no condom)?  No cop-out/excuse; but, the moment I or my partner even begin to try and put a condom on me – my erection is gone … for the rest of the night – gone! How do I/we get around that … and we’ve already tried all the basic “remedies”?

You may be surprised to learn that this issue—losing an erection when putting on condoms—is not so uncommon.  A quick survey of sex advice message boards reveals that many penis-owners encounter this, especially with newer partners, when engaging with others with comparably less sexual experience, and with those who have experienced some sort of change in their lives and/or sexual encounters, leading to nervousness and unease in sexual situations.  Fortunately, one does not need to choose between having sex and using protection.

To begin, I’m curious as to what “basic remedies” you and your partner have already explored.  Without knowing this, I cannot safely assume what you have attempted, since what is deemed “basic” by some may be less obvious to others.  Therefore, I am going to discuss a number of options that I hope will be helpful.

There are a few basic aspects that I attribute to your difficulty maintaining an erection while putting on a condom: ill-fitting condoms, a momentary loss of focus, the relative novelty of using condoms at all, and nervousness.  These issues may be related, but they also may not be;  what’s important here is that you take a moment to consider the root of your difficulties, which will help you narrow down potential solutions.

My first suggestion is that you make sure you are using condoms that are appropriately sized for your penis.  While most condoms are sold as one-size-fits-all, the fact of the matter is, penises come in a variety of lengths and girths, so what fits one person may not fit another.  Indeed, personal fit is essential to solving a number of condom-related issues, such as discomfort and even minimized sensitivity.  To find out your condom size, visit The Condom Review by Lucky Bloke.  The Condom Review also sells a fantastic array of condoms and sampler packs, which will allow you to better determine what brands and styles suit you and your needs. Furthermore, another condom trick is to place a dollop of lubricant inside the condom before placing it on your penis, providing extra stimulus for your erection.

Assuming your condoms fit well, my second suggestion is very simply for you to not put on the condom, but rather that your partner put it on for you.  Doing this may help circumvent potential nervousness and the momentary loss of focus that leads to softening erections.  What’s great about this option is that it can be incorporated into existing play, after it’s already been agreed upon that sex will be happening.  For example, while kissing and touching each other, perhaps with your penis being continually stimulated, your partner can roll a condom onto you.  Your partner may also want to try to put the condom on you using their mouth.  You can find instructions at the bottom of our article, Q&A: Yeast Infections & Sex.  YouTube also has a number of videos you can turn to if you’re a more visual learner, such as this one by Angel Walker.

Another recommendation is that you grow more accustomed to condoms in general by incorporating them into your masturbation.  This may help increase your comfort with this barrier method and/or otherwise desensitize you to its role in your sex life, in that rolling one on prior to partnered sex will no longer be new and strange.  Additionally, this may help if the reason you have difficulty maintaining an erection when putting on condoms is due to anxiety over what the condom represents, such as partnered play and/or the risk of pregnancy.  By re-navigating what your brain associates with condoms, you may find yourself more easily able to use them for sex with your partner.

That said, should you find yourself unable to maintain erections even after attempting these suggestions, you can also look into another barrier method: vaginal condoms, more commonly known as “female condoms.”  Vaginal condoms are contraceptive devices that fit inside the vaginal canal and over the vulva, covering a greater external surface area than condoms that fit on penises.  This makes vaginal condoms better for protecting against sexually transmitted infections such as herpes and HPV, which can be transmitted through skin to skin contact, regardless of penile condom usage.  You may find vaginal condoms to be more suitable for you and your partner, since they can be inserted up to several hours in advance of sexual activity and therefore allow for barrier-protected penetration without disrupting play time.  With that said, vaginal condoms may feel different than penile condoms for both you and your partner, so experimentation is encouraged.

Finally, depending on your relationship with your partner, it may be worthwhile to discuss having sex without barrier methods.  Partnered sex without barrier methods is best when limited to individuals who regularly get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, are otherwise using contraception (as to limit the chances of unintentional pregnancy), and who are in relationships in which bodily fluids are shared only between partners who practice safer sex.  You can read more about this in the Q&A: Sex Without Barrier Methods.

When it’s all said and done, however, just remember that sex should be enjoyable and fun, and is frequently more than a little silly. Try not to worry about the condom, and just focus on getting down with your partner!

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.