Sex & Pancakes

No matter what your pleasure, get health tips with our sex column by Melissa Fuller.

  • A Period Piece

    I love having sex when I’m on my period because I’m always really horny. Are there things I should be doing to be as safe as when I’m having regular sex?
    —Sexy Period

    For the most part, safe period sex is the same as safe regular sex.

    As a general rule, condoms are recommended during all penetrative sex. During vaginal sex, there’s a risk of STI transmission through vaginal and ejaculatory fluids. While on your period, an extra fluid is present and can increase that risk.

    Menstrual fluid can also make it more difficult to tell if you’re irritated or bleeding from penetration, and any irritation or small tear can be an entry point to STIs. Your cervix, which is the entrance to your uterus, is also more open which can increase the chance of bacteria entering the uterus.

    It’s not all bad news, however, since the extra fluid from your period can mean more lubrication, which can make penetration easier by reducing friction and preventing those same irritations.

    While unlikely, there is still a risk of pregnancy while on your period. Sperm can survive for up to 72 hours and, depending where you are in your cycle, some people mistake spotting for still being on their period.

    If you’re doing other things leading up to penetration, remember that minimal contact with menstrual fluid is safest.

    If you like being fingered or manually stimulated, your partner can wear latex gloves. If you like being orally stimulated, you can use a dental dam and you can try keeping a tampon or menstrual cup in if
    the stimulation is mostly external and you want to prevent the flow of fluid.

    You can even find black latex gloves or dental dams if either of you is uncomfortable with seeing too much fluid.

    Aside from physical safer sex practices, you and your partner’s comfort will play a role in how safe you both feel. Before having sex on your period with a partner, it can help to talk about what each of you is and isn’t comfortable doing and if there are ways to increase that comfort.

    Some people like minimal menstrual fluid, while some don’t mind it, and others love it. It’s good to know where each of you falls.

    If you want to avoid making too much of a mess, you can stick to lighter days in your cycle. You can also put down a towel and keep another wet towel close to wipe up after.

    Some people really like having sex in the shower when they’re on their period so that they don’t have to worry about making a mess.

    You can also keep whatever menstrual method you use in place during foreplay up until the time comes for penetration. Condoms can help with easier clean up since your partner is likely to have less fluid on them.

    When it comes to positioning, missionary can be a good one to prevent outflow but there’s no need to avoid certain positions if you’re both comfortable. It’s also worth mentioning that some positions that penetrate more deeply, such as ones from behind, could be uncomfortable during your period since your cervix is softer and may be sensitive.

    If you and your partner are both comfortable, then period sex can be both safe and a lot of fun. As you mentioned, some women get hornier during their period and there can be some great benefits to being sexually active during your cycle—with or without a partner.

    Orgasms can be a natural and awesome way to reduce menstrual cramps and physical discomfort, so doing whatever gets you there during your period can also be a great tool!

    —Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook.

    Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!

  • Too Big For Comfort?

    I recently started dating a new guy and I really like him but I think he’s too big for me. We haven’t tried having sex and I’m scared it will hurt or not fit in my vagina, so I get really stressed when we fool around. I don’t want this to be the reason things don’t work between us, so is there anything I can do? —Size Woes


    Absolutely! There can be some challenges to being with a well-endowed guy, but there are things you can do to overcome them.

    As a general rule, you will need to be relaxed. When we’re stressed, we tend to tense our muscles, which can make penetration difficult and painful. You’ll want to take some steps to create a less stressful situation.

    Before anything else, talk about it with your partner. This will help eliminate some stress, because the need to hide your fear from someone directly implicated in it is only going to make it worse.

    This can be intimidating in a new relationship, but you want to feel comfortable enough to speak up in case you do feel pain when trying to have sex. If he’s larger than average, he’s probably already aware of it and may have been through this before with another partner.

    Next, you’ll want to take control. There should be an understanding between you and your partner that you will decide when you’re ready to try penetration and you will be in control of it at the beginning. This is safer since you can stop as soon you feel pain without needing to communicate it first, and just knowing that might help you relax.

    Heading into physical steps you can take, a basic understanding of the physiological changes during female sexual arousal will help. During arousal, the vagina lubricates, the external genital organs swell due to increased blood flow, and the vaginal canal enlarges.

    The lubricating and enlarging is what allows a vagina to accommodate different penis sizes, including larger-than-average ones. In explaining this process, I like to compare the vagina during arousal to a sock.

    When not aroused, the vaginal walls touch and the vaginal canal is short—the sock is closed and folded onto itself. When aroused, the uterus rises and lengthens the vaginal canal, while the vaginal walls lubricate and separate from each other to create space—the sock is stretched and ready to be filled. This process of creating space happens during arousal, so the more aroused you are, the more space your vagina will create.

    This makes foreplay central to comfortable penetration since it opens you up. You’ll want to take your time and be thorough. Some people like to have an orgasm before penetration to relax, but this can also backfire since your body could quickly return to its un-aroused state after orgasm.

    It can help to check your arousal with your fingers throughout foreplay to see how much space there is and what your vagina feels like when fully aroused.

    If you’re ready to try having sex, a store-bought lube will be your best friend. Regardless of how naturally lubricated you are and even if you’re using a lubricated condom, there’s no such thing as too much lube in this situation.

    Finally, positioning can make all the difference. Certain positions may be difficult because of the angle or depth of the penetration.

    It helps to start out in a position you can control, such as you on top. From there, you can test other ones once you’ve warmed up. Positions from behind might be more difficult with a longer penis since they will hit deeper, but it really is a process of trial and error.

    While larger penises get talked up a lot, they can present challenges to full sexual expression for one or both partners. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work out for some couples, but this situation is pretty rare. The key is to not give up too quickly and to take a break when feeling frustrated.

    A positive attitude goes a long way in keeping you calm, but if you’re in pain, it’s time to take a breather. These tips will help in most cases but if ever you try them and it doesn’t work out, write back and we’ll see what else we can do!

  • Nothing Cum-ing Out

    • Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

    I’m a 25-year-old healthy, white male, and I haven’t been able to ejaculate for two years. I can feel the rush and experience of orgasm, but nothing ever comes out. This started happening at a time when I was feeling quite good about my life. I came back from an international exchange and then didn’t masturbate for a month, because I didn’t feel like it. I was caught up in the joys of my life at the time. I guess I’m wondering, what might be going on and should I be concerned? —Ejaculate-Free


    Before getting into your question I need to clarify something for this and future questions. While I’m well-educated on sexual health and sexuality issues, when it comes to most physical health questions, my answer will always be to go see a doctor.

    As a sex educator, I have no medical training and can’t examine or diagnose anyone. Sure, I can speculate on what might be the cause, and I will in case something clicks, but that just makes me a slightly more comforting version of a Google search.

    Providing a general overview of best- and worst-case scenarios can freak people out and there’s no way for me to follow up and know if someone found the solution they needed. In this case the main message to take away is to find a doctor, possibly an urologist, as there is
    no substitute for a physical examination with a health professional.

    I know it can sometimes be difficult to address sexual health issues but two years is a long time to have waited after such a significant change in your sexual response. Generally speaking, the sooner you tackle health issues, the more options you have and the lower your risk for long-term consequences.

    Being unable to ejaculate, with or without the sensation of orgasm, is called anejaculation. There are different possible causes, both psychological and physical. Not having masturbated for a month is unlikely to have been the cause—ejaculation, thankfully, is not something you’ll lose by not doing it.

    In terms of physical causes, the first thing to consider is if you are or were on any medication at the time. Many medications can have an effect on sex drive and sexual response, so you’ll want to start by looking into your medication’s side effects.

    If you’ve ruled out medication, another possibility is a condition called retrograde ejaculation. This is when semen exits through the bladder instead of the urethra, often due to a weakened bladder sphincter. When you ejaculate, the bladder sphincter usually contracts to force semen out of the urethra, but if the muscle is weak, semen may flow into the bladder instead. This will usually result in a consistency or colour change in urine since there will be semen present, so keep an eye out for this.

    While quite rare, some men also have decreased amounts of ejaculation due to an ejaculatory duct obstruction. This is a physical blockage of the ducts that carry semen to the urethra. However, in this case, it’s more common to have some ejaculation fluid since it’s rare for the ejaculatory ducts to become fully blocked.

    You can do more research on these possibilities on your own, but I still urge you to make an appointment with a doctor as soon as possible. If this situation has been going on for two years already, it’s unlikely that it will go away on its own.

    If you’re a Concordia student, you can get an appointment pretty quickly with Concordia health services by calling 514-848-2424 ext. 3565 for the Sir George Williams campus and ext. 3575 for the Loyola campus.

    You can also call Info-Santé at 811 from any Quebec phone line for health information or to find a CLSC or walk-in clinic.

    —Melissa Fuller @mel_full

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook.

  • Finding Your Baseline

    Last week, I shared my experience going off hormonal birth control (HBC) and finding my baseline. This week, I’ll be sharing some tips on how you can do the same.

    What do I mean by baseline? I’m referring to your natural monthly uterine cycle, unaltered by hormonal medications or supplements. Your baseline can be a key component to finding the birth control method that is right for you by giving you a starting point for identifying possible side effects when you are on one.

    So let’s get to it! If you’re not currently on HBC, you can skip to step 4.

    Step 1: If you’re currently on any hormonal birth control, you’ll need to go off it. Why? HBC uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone, or sometimes progesterone alone, to alter your cycle and prevent ovulation. It also thickens the cervical mucus, making it difficult for sperm to pass through the cervix and into the uterus. Some types also prevent the lining of the uterus from thickening during the cycle so that if an egg is somehow released it can’t attach to the uterine wall.

    It’s important to note that stopping HBC isn’t for everyone. People use hormonal contraceptives for many reasons aside from pregnancy prevention. Before deciding whether this is right for you, take some time to reflect on why you might want to find your baseline.

    Step 2: Set a date. Going off HBC can be difficult, especially if you’ve been on it for a long time. While fertility returns quickly, it takes your body some time to adjust to the new hormone levels. You might have some unpleasant side effects, such as the ones I wrote about last week. Try to be open to the process, and prepare in the ways you can, such as keeping something on you in case your period catches you by surprise or painkillers in case of cramps.

    I originally set a goal of one year off HBC, but two years just flew by. Your experience may not go as well so remember that you’re not tied to any timeline you set. If you experience serious discomfort and realize it isn’t for you, you can always start your method again. It’s always best to evaluate as you go!

    Step 3: Choose another method and commit to it. Many unplanned pregnancies occur in between methods or when taking a break from birth control. Decide on a backup method and know how to use it. Condoms are a great option since they offer protection from both pregnancy and STIs.

    Step 4: Track it! Download a cycle tracking application – I recommend Period Tracker for Android or iPhone. I love this one because it doesn’t force a 28-day cycle and instead calculates your next cycle based on previous ones, letting you manually set the default. Once you have a few months of data entered, it can help you track and eventually predict ovulation and period start and end dates.

    It also lets you enter symptoms and feelings, with a large bank of pre-loaded ones and the option to add others. Every night I would sit down and reflect on symptoms I noticed that day. Some days there wasn’t much, but other days symptoms were obvious. The app identifies patterns in this data and generates charts that help you discover which symptoms are associated with which parts of your cycle.

    It can be difficult to maintain this daily habit. It could help to think of it as replacing the time you would normally take your pill. You might also prefer an old-fashioned paper system, in which case you can get a cheap daily agenda and keep it by your bed as a reminder.

    Step 5: Share with people close to you. Telling close friends or a partner what you’re doing can be helpful. They may be more supportive if you’re having off days, and they may even be able to help you identify recurring symptoms.

    Finally, remember that this is meant to benefit you. If you find after a while it isn’t helping, then don’t feel like you need to continue.

    I decided to try this because I was unhappy with the side effects of every method I tried and I felt desperate. In speaking to close friends I realized this is a common experience and that my process may be useful to others.

    Sometimes just hearing other people’s experiences helps, so I’d love to hear from you whether you try this out or not! Share your positive or negative experiences with me on the Sex & Pancakes Facebook page and we can start the conversation around making birth control work for us.

    -Melissa Fuller @mel_ful

    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!

  • Knowing the Baseline

    I started with a combined oral contraceptive pill, a.k.a. “the pill,” then switched shortly to the patch because it was harder to forget a dose.

    Eventually I developed rashes wherever I placed the patch so I switched methods again. And again. And again.

    Some pills gave me horrible mood swings, making me a completely different person on some days. One made my breasts swell two cup sizes and become painfully sensitive. One made my period last four months. Another made my sex drive disappear and eliminated the need for birth control altogether.

    By the time I was 24, I’d tried a different option almost every year but found myself no closer to getting it right. Despite being equipped with all the information I would need to find the right method, I couldn’t seem to make it work.
    I had been looking to treat the severity of my menstrual cramps, but that’s when it hit me—after being on one or another method of birth control for so long, I no longer had any idea how severe my menstrual cramps were, and was relying on a memory of what they were like a decade ago.

    So I decided to take a break from hormonal birth control. Most people will tell you it’s “out of your system” by three months, but I decided on a year-long break because I wanted to see what my cycle was like if it had enough time to fully regulate itself.

    What followed was an experience that has changed the way I relate to my body, my cycle and even my identity as a woman. I know it sounds extreme, but it’s true.

    I became highly aware of the way my body functions and it fascinated me to no end. I downloaded a cycle tracking app and obsessively entered every symptom I had. By six months I was able to identify patterns and know where I was in my cycle based solely on the symptoms I was experiencing.

    Huge pimple on my forehead? I’ll be ovulating in the next few days. Feeling absolutely gorgeous and full of energy? I’m ovulating. Hate how I look in everything I own? I’m getting my period tomorrow.

    My period also began to show its true self—it was much lighter and shorter than I had previously experienced. It never lasted more than four days, and most days all I needed was a pantyliner.

    I still had cramps, but they rarely lasted more than an hour, and I learned to identify when they were coming on so I could take a preemptive painkiller and avoid them (I recommend Aleve). I also noticed a pattern in which my cramps were less severe if I’d been exercising and eating less greasy foods recently, and this motivated me to take better care of myself.

    As awesome as some parts were, I’ll admit some discoveries weren’t so pleasant. My skin would break out at the same time every month, which was often painful and annoying. More and thicker hair began to appear in places I didn’t want it, like my arms and face (I’m not a werewolf, I promise).

    Both of these changes coincide with the drop in estrogen associated with going off birth control. Estrogen tends to reduce skin complexion issues and inhibit hair growth so going off can result in a sudden change that takes some time to even out.

    I also still experienced mood swings before ovulating. Still, they were easier to handle as I could associate them to a specific time in my cycle thanks to my tracking.

    After two years and much thought, I decided to return to hormonal birth control. It’s only been two months so far, so I still don’t know how it’ll turn out. However, I do finally have a strong sense of my baseline, which puts me one step closer to finding what works for me.

    We all have variabilities in our cycles and hormonal levels. Some women have a 25-day cycle, while others have a 30-day cycle. Likewise, some women naturally have lower or higher levels of estrogen and other hormones.
    While hormonal birth control methods can be awesome for certain reasons and people, they force everyone into a 28-day cycle and the doses of hormones are not tailored to your individual hormonal composition.

    Some women find themselves to be incompatible with this “one size fits all” approach to regulating their cycle, which can result in negative side effects like excessive mood swings and weight fluctuations.

    In evaluating what method is right for us, we take several things into account—the ability to take a pill daily, its effectiveness, the minimization of menstrual discomfort, etc.—but we rarely take into account the loss of our body’s natural cycle and how gaining an intimate knowledge of it before trying to alter it can help us better understand if a method is working for us or not.

    Check out next week’s Sex & Pancakes for a how-to on figuring out your baseline!
    Submit your question anonymously at sex-pancakes.com and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook. Quick health question? Just need a resource? Text SextEd at 514-700-0445 for a confidential answer within 24 hours!