14 Sex Questions You’re Too Embarrassed to Ask. Find out whether your intimacy issues are no cause for alarm or require medical attention.
Ever wonder if what you experience between the sheets is “normal”? You’re not alone. We’ve asked the experts for their take on some common sex concerns we’ve heard from women. Here’s what they had to say.
ONE – “Sometimes, when I’m having sex with my husband, I start off aroused and then lose interest. I want him to feel good and to ‘finish,’ but I feel awkward and would rather stop. Why does this happen? Is it normal?”
Don’t worry—you don’t have some undiagnosed sexual dysfunction just because you lose interest, occasionally, during sex, says Amy Levine, a New York City–based sex coach and certified sexuality educator. “The key for you is to figure out what is working the other times,” says Levine. “Perhaps your husband makes certain moves when you don’t lose interest that you find pleasurable. Knowing your body and communicating your wants, needs and desires are paramount when it comes to connected and satisfying sex.” But what to do in the moment when you lose interest? “Let him know how you want—or don’t want—to be touched,” says Levine. “If and when this does happen in the future, don’t be hard on yourself. You can stop having sex, and tell him you want to satisfy him in other ways. After all, switching things up may be the pleasure prescription to keep you engaged.”
TWO – “Sometimes I feel emotional after sex and actually cry. It’s embarrassing, but is it normal?”
Absolutely normal! “Sexual behavior can trigger a range of intense emotions, from euphoria to sadness to anger,” notes Kimberly Resnick Anderson, LISW, AASECT-certified Diplomate of Sex Therapy, and the director of the Summa Center for Sexual Health in Akron, Ohio. “Every woman experiences a sexual encounter through her own lens and attaches personal meaning and context to it.” For instance, she explains, you may be asking yourself questions like: Is our love as strong as it once was? Will I ever have a baby? Am I truly satisfied with my sexual life, my marriage? “All of these ‘wonderings’ can trigger intense affective experiences,” Anderson says. “In addition, the physiological experience of orgasm releases neurochemicals, such as oxytocin, dopamine and norepinephrine, in the female brain that can activate a host of unexpected, powerful emotions.” However, if sex or the thought of sex makes you feel emotional or the type of emotions you face after sex are severe and debilitating, speak to your doctor or a certified sex therapist.
THREE – “I feel like I have a very strong vaginal scent. There’s been no change in discharge over the years, but I worry that the smell isn’t normal. Should I be concerned?”
“Probably not, especially if nothing has changed,” says Anderson. “Many women are self-conscious about their vaginal scent and are probably much more focused on it than their partners are.” In fact, she adds, many women who believe they have a strong or offensive odor are surprised to hear that their husband or boyfriend is either unaware of a scent or finds it appealing or erotic. “Societal messages and cultural norms have done a disservice to women by inducing shame and embarrassment about natural scents,” she continues. “Evolutionary research shows that scent is a key factor in erotic response and that ‘blocking’ natural odors actually interferes with evolutionary efficiency and long-term sexual satisfaction.” Still, if you or your partner notice an obvious change in vaginal odor or discharge, consult your physician to rule out infection, adds Anderson.
FOUR – “Sometimes after sex, I experience bleeding—not much, just a little. Is this normal?”
It’s best to talk to your doctor about any post-sex bleeding, even light spotting. “Bleeding after sex—or postcoital bleeding, as it’s called in the medical world—can often be a sign of something abnormal, most commonly an infection or cervical polyp, but sometimes something more concerning, like cervical cancer,” says Lisa Stern, RN, MSN, a nurse practitioner who works with Planned Parenthood in Los Angeles and blogs at gynfizz.com. But sometimes such bleeding turns out to be nothing—even natural. “Occasionally, women, especially teenage women or pregnant women, notice light bleeding after sex, which is due to normal developmental changes of the cervix.” Still, any bleeding should signal a visit to your doctor to rule out any underlying problems.
FIVE – “Is it normal to experience cramping after intercourse—even when you’re not expecting your period?”
Yes. “Cramping after intercourse can be normal, especially if the cervix—the bottom portion of the uterus—has been jarred at all during sex, through contact with a penis, fingers or a sex toy,” notes Stern. “A cramping sensation can also, sometimes, be the result of discomfort in the bladder or urinary tract.” To reduce cramping during and after sex, try emptying your bladder before and after sex. Still, says Stern, if you experience persistent cramping after intercourse, it’s best to see your doctor to rule out any underlying health conditions like endometriosis, fibroids or a urinary tract infection.
SIX – “It’s so embarrassing, but sometimes I pass gas during sex. I can’t help it! Why does this happen, and does it happen to other women?”
It’s normal and natural, says Stern. “This happens to a lot of people,” she says. “The female reproductive organs—the uterus, ovaries and vagina—are located in very close proximity to the colon, the largest portion of the gastrointestinal tract. During intercourse, any movement of these organs can also provoke movement of the colon, which is then able to release trapped gas.” And sometimes an orgasm can even trigger gas, thanks to relaxed muscles right before climax. Embarrassing? Yes, but it’s great to know that we’re all in the same boat here.
SEVEN – “One of my vaginal lips is bigger than the other. I’m worried that my husband thinks I have an ugly vagina! How do I know if mine is normal-looking?”
Every woman’s vagina is unique, and many are asymmetrical, says Stern. “There aren’t any ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’ vaginas,” she explains. Still, if you do notice that your vagina has changed—for example, if there’s a lump on or a change in color of one or both of your vaginal lips—see your health care provider for an evaluation.” But if one side has been bigger since puberty? It’s just your own normal variation, she says. Embrace it!
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