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Q: What is the clitoris, and what’s it for?

A: The clitoris is a part of a woman’s genitals that for many women is the most sexually sensitive part of her body.

When we were developing in our mother’s womb, our bodies weren’t well differentiated by male and female characteristics. Certain genital flesh for males become a penis and the same flesh for females becomes a clitoris, also known as a clit. There are an incredible number of nerve endings per square inch in the clitoris, and it usually becomes an important part of female sexual response.

Research in the last few years has shown that the sensitive clitoral tissue is not just the flesh that is externally visible. In fact, that flesh is like the tip of an iceberg: most of the total volume is under the surface. The clitoral tissue and associated nerve endings extend in a larger area, such that some G-spot stimulation and anal stimulation for women may be in part because of the complexities of nerve endings associated with clitoral tissue.

Since the majority of women are unable to achieve orgasm solely with vaginal stimulation (for instance, in penis-vagina intercourse), understanding the clitoris is often the key to orgasm and sexual satisfaction in women of all sexual orientations.

Every woman likes different types of clitoral stimulation, and the only way to determine what you or your female partner enjoys is to experiment. If your partner is female, ask her what she enjoys. However, she might not know yet, so this is a great opportunity to experiment.

Some women like direct stimulation: touching the clitoris with your finger, tongue, or a vibrator. Some women only like indirect stimulation: touching the area around the clitoris or touching the clitoris covered by the clitoral hood, a small bit of flesh comparable to a man’s penis foreskin.

Some women like a light touch. Some women like a firmer touch. Some women like slow clitoral stimulation. Some women like very fast clitoral stimulation in the form of fast tongue licks or the fast vibrations of a vibrator. Some women like additional vaginal stimulation, but others find it irritating and prefer focusing on the clitoris. Some like to start slow and increase speed when approaching orgasm. There are infinite variations that women enjoy, so try lots of techniques.

If you are playing with your partner’s clitoris, ask her what she likes and be prepared to listen to what she says. It’s a very sensitive area, so if she says that she needs you to press less firmly or go slower, do what she says and make her very happy … or else it may cause pain. In time, with experimentation and communication, you will learn how to make her very very happy.

Men who want to learn about their partner’s clitoris often learn a lot from experimenting with oral sex. We provide an article about cunnilingus for your use.

For more information…

  • Female Anatomy : an introduction to women’s genital region from Scarleteen
  • Becoming Orgasmic from San Francisco Sex Information
  • Learn about another sensitive part of women’s body, the G-spot.
  • Clitical.com – A good web site about female sexuality, including anatomy (with pictures), masturbation, and other sex topics

Q: What is the prostate gland, and what’s it for?

A: Men have sensitive internal tissue called the prostate gland, which is often compared to the female G-spot. Many men really enjoy stimulation of it, which can be stimulated most directly through the anus. Even lots of straight men enjoy it.

Although some people call the prostate the “male G-spot”, that isn’t a good name because the prostate is not even in the same place as a woman’s G-spot. The function of this gland is to produce a fluid that helps produce semen, and to close the urine duct to allow for safe passage of sperm. It also serves as a source of pleasure for many men. The prostate can be found a few inches inside the opening of the anus, and can be stimulated through the rectal wall. When the prostate is stimulated, some men orgasm whether or not they have an erection.

Assuming for now that the man is on his back, slip a finger or two into the anus facing upward (fingernails down). Then curl your fingers (what some people describe as the “come hither” motion). Most men claim they like it stroked or massaged.

When you stimulate the prostate by hand, be sure your nails are trimmed. The anus is a sensitive body cavern that can tear and scrape easily. It’s not as durable for penetration as the vagina. You may want to snap a latex glove on your hand, found in many drug stores or sex shops, which will make rear entry a smoother process. There are also finger cots you can purchase that serve the same purpose. In addition, don’t forget the lube. The anus doesn’t naturally secrete slippery, sexual fluids conducive to easy gliding. You can buy commercial “personal lubricant” in most pharmacies. If you are using latex gloves or condoms for STD protection, remember to never use oil or petroleum lubricants like Vaseline or massage oil as they destroy latex.

Fingers aren’t the only anal pleasure enhancers. The receiving male can try butt plugs, vibrators, dildos or, of course, 100% nature-made penises if that turns you on. Use your imagination on which toys you can buy, adapt, or make. If you use any toys, make sure it has a flange. A flange is a base that prevents the anus from devouring your toy, making it hard to expunge without medical services. The anus is a powerful internal mechanism that can work as a mighty suction device. Trust us. So, if you don’t want to go to the hospital emergency room, don’t use sex toys without flanges … and don’t use household objects without flanges either.

Another thing to remember about prostrate stimulation is that not all men like it like that. Some find it irritating and painful. Some men really enjoy light pressure, others prefer it hard. Some like constant pressure, some like a fast “pulsing” motion. Some men love the sensation, but only like it once they are already very aroused. The best way to ensure your male sex partner enjoys himself is communication. Ask him how it feels. Or tell him to grunt three times. Find whatever works for each of you, and do it.

Many men call our phone switchboard worried that enjoying anal play or prostate stimulation might imply they are gay or somehow make them gay. That’s not true. Although it’s a taboo subject for many people, many straight men enjoy pleasure from this rarely-discussed sex organ they were born with, and enjoy it both with their partners and during masturbation.

It’s your body: enjoy it!

For more information…

  • Anal Pleasure & Health: A Guide for Men and Women by Jack Morin [Buy]
    An excellent book that helps men and women of all orientations appreciate anal pleasure. Topics include getting used to your own body, anal intercourse, rimming, and health and safety issues.
  • Bend Over Boyfriend
    Educational video about anal pleasure for men, in the context of a heterosexual relationship.
  • Anal sex tips from San Francisco Sex Information

Is my penis too small?

Q: Is my penis too small? Is there something I can do to enlarge it?

A: The only way to enlarge a penis is with surgery. All other technologies that claim to permanently enlarge your penis–-pills, creams, herbs, special exercises, pumps, and stretching devices–do not work. If you are interested in penis enlargement surgery, talk to your doctor. However, it is important to remember that these surgeries, like any surgery, can be risky and may have complications, and many doctors would not consider you a candidate for surgery unless your penis is extremely small. Possible complications of surgery include lumps, scars, loss of sensation, loss of function, or just plain disappointment. Questions about penis size are common at our switchboard; many men worry that their penises are too small or that they could give their sexual partners more pleasure if their penises were longer or thicker. Although this is occasionally true, there is usually something else going on, often completely unrelated to penis size.

First, let’s take a look at some facts about penis size: 90% of erect penises measure 5-7 inches (12-17 cm) in length, and 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) in diameter (some experts consider these estimates too large). If you’re concerned that your penis is too small, ask yourself, “Too small for what?” Many people prefer different penis sizes for different activities. Some people say they like large ones for oral sex, medium ones for vaginal sex, and small ones for anal sex. Some people like the sensation of fullness that a larger penis can provide but are content to get this sensation some other way. And, for some people, penis size doesn’t matter at all. In surveys about what women and men want in a lover, most people are looking for qualities like connection with their partner, their partner’s sensitivity to their body, and their partner’s ability to respond to their individual needs. In other words, if you want to please your partner, take time to learn about your partner’s body and what she or he wants. For men who have sex with women, remember that most women do not have orgasms from vaginal penetration alone. Many women need additional clitoral stimulation during intercourse–or oral sex, fingers, or vibrators–-in order to come.

Q: Is female ejaculation real?

A: Yes, it’s very real. Not all women do it, however.

Many women who ejaculate only do so with g-spot simulation. This does not mean that all women enjoy g-spot stimulation, or that women who do enjoy this stimulation will always ejaculate. For more information about g-spots and female ejaculation, check out our Frequently Asked Question about the G-Spot.

Female ejaculation is a perfectly natural thing, and there is nothing to be embarrassed about if you or your female partner do this. Some women report increased pleasure and/or release when ejaculating, and some women report no increased pleasure when ejaculating: only moisture. Some women enjoy the extra moisture, and some don’t enjoy the extra moisture.

There is much discussion in the medical world about where the fluid comes from exactly. There seems to be some consensus about the fluid called “female ejaculate”:

  • It is NOT the same as urine, although it contains some similar components
  • It is created mostly in what are called the Skene’s glands.

If the amount of liquid during female ejaculation is too much for you or your partner, you want to consider purchasing “chuck pads”, which are super-absorbent pads that you can put on your bed (or wherever). They are available in many pharmacies and drug stores. They were intended originally for incontinence, but many happy women use it to absorb extra moisture from female ejaculation.

Q: What are Intersex conditions?

A: Intersex conditions are a set of medical conditions that features congenital anomaly of the reproductive and sexual system. In other words, a person with an intersex condition is born with sex chromosomes, external genitalia, or an internal reproductive system that is not considered ‘standard’ for either male or female.

How common are such things? It’s hard to get exact numbers because many doctors perform unrequested surgery to cover up some genital differences, and shame and secrecy do not encourage good record keeping on the subject.

The number of intersex conditions is high and each condition has different statistics. For instance, babies born with chromosomes that are neither XX nor XY is about one in 1,666 births. The total number of people whose bodies differ from standard male or female one in 100 births. The total number of people receiving surgery to “normalize” genital appearance one or two in 1,000 births. For some more detailed statistics, I refer you to the Intersex Society of of North America’s frequency page.

For more information…

  • Intersex Society of North America
    ISNA is devoted to systemic change to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for people born with an anatomy that someone decided is not standard for male or female. They urge physicians to use a model of care that is patient-centered, rather than concealment-centered.
  • Bodies Like Ours
    Online forum providing information and peer support for people with atypical genitalia.
  • Transgender SF
    Group for transgender persons, cross-dressers, transsexuals, and their partners. Has referrals database of trans-friendly providers. Although many people in the intersex community believe that transgender is an entirely separate category from intersex, TGSF provides community, support, and education for transgender persons and their partners, and explicitly include intersexed people in their organization. Monthly meetings last Thursday of month in San Francisco, CA, and occasional educational programs on Wednesday evenings.

Q: Are curved or bent penises a problem?

A: It’s not usually a problem. Men’s bodies, including their penises, go through physical changes as they grow. Some penises are straight, some point up, some point down, some curve to the left, some curve to the left. Some grow bigger, some don’t. The size of a fellow’s penis is probably genetically determined, in other words it depends on his grandfather’s body and his grandfather before him. It is quite customary for guys to look at their naked bodies in the mirror, and when they see something that looks “different” from other fellows, they become alarmed. Again: some bending up/down/left/right is common.

If you are over twenty years old, it is possible that you could have a physical condition known as “Peyronie’s Disease” where a penis changes its direction because of a formation of what is called “plaque” beneath the skin. In advanced cases, it causes pain and difficulty with vaginal intercourse (and also being the penetrating partner in anal intercourse). See a doctor if you think you may have this.

If you are under twenty years old and you have noticed a change, start keeping a weekly “log” or diary. Note its behavior, and if it continues to change its shape then you should ask your parents (or school authorities) to have you visit a qualified urologist. He (or she) will have the appropriate advice for you.

No matter what age you are, if there is any pain or discomfort, see a urologist soon.

It’s worth repeating that for most people who ask this question, what is happening is just the normal growth of the individual penis.

For more information…

  • Learn the facts about penis size.

Q: Can I tighten my vaginal muscles with Kegel exercises?

A: Yes, there is a way, and all the side effects are positive. You can strengthen vaginal muscles (your “PC muscles”) with simple exercises called Kegels that you can do at home, at work, in the car, or anywhere else.

To learn what muscles to tense and contract, many women find it helpful to experiment when they are peeing. When urinating, try to stop the flow of urine for a few seconds, and then release those muscles and let the urine flow again. Try that several times.

Now that you know which muscles to tense and relax, you can do those exercises several times a day wherever you are at home or even at work at your desk. It’s best not to do these exercises regularly while peeing, as in the long term it would not be good for your bladder. However, the peeing trick mentioned above is a safe and effective way of discovering which muscles to target.

What are the effects of doing Kegel exercises (also known as “Kegels”) several times a day on an ongoing basis?

  • Increased strength in vaginal muscles.
  • Better bladder control, especially important with older women.
  • A “tighter fit” during vaginal penetration, which tends to be preferred for male partners during intercourse.
  • More frequent and more intense orgasms.

You can do these exercises successfully on your own with no extra devices needed. For those who want to maximize muscle strength and control, you may find that inserting something to “squeeze” can help. For instance, you could use fingers or even a dildo if you wish.

Additionally, there are special optional products available that claim to be even better for targeting the important muscles: here is one option called the Kegelcisor.

For more information…

  • Good Vibrations Guide To Sex by Cathy Winks, Anne Semans, published by Cleis Press [Buy]
    A wonderful guide to sex for people of all ages and interests. An excellent introduction to lots of subjects about sex for men and women. Brought to you by the people who run the excellent store Good Vibrations. Discusses physical as well as behavioral aspects of sex.

Q: What is the G-spot?

A: The G-spot is a small area of spongy tissue reached through the upper wall of a woman’s vagina. Many women report that this area is more sensitive to stimulation than other parts of the vagina. To find the G-spot, put your finger or fingers in the vagina and, with your fingers curving upwards (toward her belly) , make a “come here” motion, stroking the upper wall of her vagina with a firm, upward pressure. You may or may not feel anything you can identify as a G-spot – - rely on your partner’s feedback to find your way – - and she is more likely to find the stimulation pleasurable if she is already aroused. Some women have orgasms and/or ejaculate from G-spot stimulation, but not all women ejaculate and not all women find G-spot stimulation pleasurable. In fact, some women find G-spot stimulation irritating. If you are stimulating your partner’s G-spot, encourage her to communicate about how it feels and what type of stimulation is most pleasurable for her.

For more information…

Good books that discuss the G-spot and G-spot play are:

  • by Cathy Winks, Anne Semans, published by Cleis Press [Buy]
    A wonderful guide to sex for people of all ages and interests. An excellent introduction to lots of subjects about sex for men and women. Brought to you by the people who run the excellent store Good Vibrations. Discusses physical as well as behavioral aspects of sex.
  • The G-Spot and Other Recent Discoveries about Human Sexuality by Alice Kahn Ladas, Beverly Whipple, and John D. Perry, published by Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1982 [Buy]

Several resources on female ejaculation are also available:

  • Female Ejaculation and the G-spot by Deborah Sundahl, published by Fusion Press (2004) [Buy]
  • The above books and videos are available from Good Vibrations, as well as many other sources.

Q: Why can’t I get an erection with my partner?

A: Well, at least you know what is causing the problem! It sounds like you have a good understanding about what is happening for you. This is common — getting used to a new partner sexually can take a while. New situations and new sensations can create anxiety.

It’s also common not to have a full erection sometimes. This is true for every man sometimes. It’s especially common in a situation that is new, exciting and therefore stressful, like being with a new partner that you really like.

First some simple things that might help next time:

  • Try slow deep breathing, and bring some of your attention to your breathing. That can help send a message to your body and your brain to relax. Relaxing and thinking about relaxed breathing can reduce anxiety, and bring your attention away from anxiety-producing issues.
  • Take your time with your new partners. If becoming sexually comfortable with your new partner takes time, try being naked and touching each other for a longer time. Maybe a few hours, or maybe an entire evening or two before trying intercourse. For instance, you could spend more time on using your hands and mouths on each other and appreciating other parts of your bodies. Not only will that be fun, it can give you confidence… and more time to get comfortable with your new partner in bed.

If you have a specific fear in bed, it may help to talk with a therapist about it. A therapist may be able to teach you some relaxation techniques that will work for you, or it could even be that just talking about it will give you all the help you need. Having a fear of erection problems that causes an erection problem is quite common. Most sex therapists will be familiar with your situation and should be able to give you some help.

For more information…

  • If the problem is persistent, you may want more information about erectile dysfunction.

Q: What are erectile dysfunction and impotence?

A: It is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection, and is more correctly called “erectile dysfunction”.

It is important to understand that most men will have at least a few times when they want an erection, but are unable to get hard. This is entirely normal, and is nothing to worry about. Often, an occasional failure to get hard can be related to stress, fatigue, insufficient stimulation, or intoxication.

Erectile dysfunction can become a problem when it is persistent or frequent.

Some men have situational erection problems. For instance, they can get hard when they are masturbating, but are unable to get an erection when they are with partners. This usually means that the problem is primarily psychological.

“Performance anxiety” is a common problem. If a man is more focused on how well he is performing with a partner than he is on enjoying the sensations of sex, it may be quite difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. This can become a vicious cycle, where the anxiety about whether or not he will become erect becomes so intense that he is unable to become erect, which leads to more anxiety, and so forth.

The way to fix this kind of problem is to relax. The more you relax and enjoy the experience of sex (whether you’re hard or not), the more likely you are to be able to get hard.

Other men are unable to become erect in any situation, whether alone or with a partner. This usually suggests that the problem is primarily physical.

Physical causes of erection problems may include reactions to medications (especially blood pressure medications and antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs), diabetes, or other vascular problems. If you are unable to become hard in any situation, you may want to talk to your doctor about treatment options, including medication.

Most men will, in the course of an extended sexual experience, become hard, become soft, and become hard again. This is normal (although you don’t see it in porn movies), and is nothing to worry about.

Non-prescription drugs, herbs, and supplements that claim to improve sexual functioning or cure erectile problems are not effective.

Some non-prescription drugs that claim to cure such problems are essentially caffeine (or equivalent) pills. These are effective in waking up men’s minds, but are not effective at treating persistent erectile dysfunction.

If you have persistent erectile dysfunction, see a real doctor in person. Doctors that specialize in issues with the penis may be listed as Urologists. These problems are better understood now, and there may be therapy or prescription medication that will help you, possibly including the medication Sildenafil (also known as Viagra®). Your doctor will help you determine what’s best for you.

For more information…

Q: Any tips for shaving, waxing, and other ways to remove pubic hair?

A: Sure! First, we’d like to say there’s nothing freaky or abnormal about having pubic hair, and there is nothing freaky or abnormal about removing this hair. There is no “right” way to have your pubic hair. Everyone feels differently about this issue. Shaving is a preference. Whether you choose to shave or not, it’s all good.

Some people who remove their pubic hair do it for their own pleasure or fun, some people do it for their partner’s pleasure or fun, and some do it for both reasons. Some people remove a small amount of hair because of a new small bathing suit, and some people remove 100% of their pubic hair.

People shave legs, trim pit hair, pluck eyebrows and likewise many love to shave their pubes. Think of the genitals as another body part you have the choice to pamper. There are several ways to remove public hair: the most common is shaving, but you can also use wax or chemical depilatories.

For all of these methods, it’s important to know that everyone can have skin or hair reactions that don’t feel good. That’s why it’s important to test an area (a “test patch”) and wait a few days to see how it works for you. See “Possible Drawbacks” below for more info.

Waxing

You can also get pubic hair waxed professionally, which involves adding strips of hot wax on some cloth. When it hardens, the cloth with the wax and your hair is ripped off quickly. You can also buy kits at pharmacies — although you might need a friend to help you with it. If you wax regularly, the hair does not come in as quickly, nor as thick, so if you try this you might want to try it a few times (separated by a few weeks) to get the best effect.

Shaving

If you decide you want to do a little pubic shaving, whether you’re a male or female, grab a fresh razor and pay close attention to the following steps to avoid in-grown hairs and infections, which can appear as itchy or painful bumps.

Trim It. To make this process easier, trim the genital area before applying the razor! You’ll save blades this way. Electric razors, clippers (with safety guards) or scissors work well. To get a closer cut and avoid unwanted nicks, pull the hair up then trim away. If the art of pubic shaving is new, you may want to let the hair short for a couple of days. This allows the genitals to become comfortable the transition you are about to make.

Soak it. Soak the pubic area in warm to hot water, or lay a warm cloth over the area for about 10 minutes. This softens coarse pubic hair and makes it easier to shave and style.

Lather it. Never dry shave your pubic area! If you do pain and irritation will most likely follow. Use shaving cream or gel to lather the pubic area. A thin layer of petroleum jelly will foster a closer shave. Soap doesn’t make the best lather for pubic shaving. (Note that some people may have allergic reactions to certain lathering products.)

Shave it. Now your pubic area is ready to meet the razor. There are many different ways to style this area. Think about it before you start and be as creative as you desire. It is recommended to shave the same way the hair grows. However to get a closer shave you may want to also shave in the opposite direction. Some state this causes red bumps and ingrown hairs, but everyone is different. If you feel comfortable, try it. In addition, don’t constantly stroke the same area during the shave, this may irritate the skin. Two to three short strokes are ideal. Lastly, stretch the skin to reach the difficult hairy spots.

First-Timers: The pubic area is sensitive and may take time to adjust to the razor. Four to six is common. In addition, slowly acquaint the genitals with shaving. Once a week is plenty for your first month. Don’t worry about a smooth shave the first month.

Exfoliate (remove dead skin) One thing that people forget that is very important is to clean your skin after shaving. The best way is with a “loofa sponge” and your normal body soap. Due to sensitivity of this area, rub lightly with the sponge to prevent skin irritation. This will help remove anything that might clog the pores.

Moisturize it. After the shave is completed rinse, dry and moisturize the freshly shaven pubic area. Baby oil and aloe Vera are two suggestions. It’s best to avoid moisturizers that contain fragrances and colors, since this may cause irritation. In addition, you may want to powder the area afterwards for comfort. Don’t use products that include talcum, it causes irritation.

Upkeep It. Wash shaven genitals on a daily basis. This helps remove unwanted oils and sweat. In addition, you may wish to moisturize and powder the area daily to avoid irritation. If you keep the hair short, you’ll avoid stubbles, which causes itching. Try to wear cotton underwear and to stay away from tight fitting cloths pants. The lack of air circulation and friction of tight cloths may lead to in-grown hairs.

There are a few products that that seem preferred by our callers and colleagues to reduce irritation and in-grown hairs. Your experience may be different. They recommend the Gillete Mach 3 razor, Edge Shaving Gel for Sensitive Skin (with the orange top), and Lubriderm moisturizing cream.

Chemical Depilatories

Chemical depilatories “melt” the hair off using foul-smelling chemicals. If you buy waxing kits or chemical depilitories, it’s very important you buy one that it is advertised as safe for pubic regions. Even if it says it’s safe for pubic reasons, some people believe these chemicals are dangerous to get too close to your genitals, so they might be safer for “bikini waxes” that don’t get too close to your genitals. Read the boxes carefully and use your judgement on these products. Remember to do a “test patch” to see how your body deals with these chemicals and wait a few days to see if there are any side effects.

Electrolysis and Laser Hair Removal

Electrolysis uses electricity on your hair follicles to remove hair permanently (or at least a very long time). Laser hair removal uses laser light to do the same thing. There are commercial salons that can do these services.

Both are very effective, relatively painless, much less likely to have in-grown hairs. The downside is that both processes are fairly expensive.

Downsides of removing pubic hair

For some people, pubic hair is always easy and fun. However, for many other people it presents problems. When the genital hair begins to grow back, itching often occurs. Red bumps and ingrown hair may appear. To relieve the irritation, you can apply cortisone cream to reduce inflamation, but use with caution as too much cortisone causes irritation and ingrown hairs in some people! If any side effects cause you stress or don’t go away, see a doctor immediately.

Some people have allergic reactions to certain shaving products, soaps, moisturizers and powders. As a solution, try hypoallergenic creams, moisturizers, or soaps. If this fails, don’t shave or trim your hair.

Some women have noted genital sensitivity during menstruation. If shaving becomes uncomfortable for women during their periods, they should time pubic shaving around their menstruation cycle.

And if one type of hair removal gives you trouble, you might consider trying a different type or hair removal. For instance, shaving might irritate your skin, but waxing might not cause as much irritation or in-grown hairs.

Keep in mind that your pubic area is not the only body part than can experience red bumps, ingrown hairs, allergic reactions to products and razor burn when shaved. In other words, be aware of the warnings but don’t let them scare you off.

If you want to trim or remove your hair and feel comfortable with the idea, try it!