By Nichi Hodgson, Originally published in Women’s Health Magazine, 2015. Edited by Dr. Elna Rudolph.
Things we love about vaginas: they have more names than Snoop Dogg. People have written poems, songs and plays about them, and in our overexposed, overtly sexualized world, vaginas still hold the power to appall, enthrall and excite. Oh, and give birth. But it turns out we still have a few tricks to learn…
Oral sex how-to (for him)
A guide you might want to subtly leave on his bedside table…
“While you’re kissing, press a thigh between her legs,” says sex expert Midori, author of Wild Side Sex (like Madonna, she only needs one name). “Now, grind in, moving up and down. It’s the washing-machine-on-spin-cycle principle – the overall vibration has a greater effect than just using a finger or two.” Noted.
“Next, start to nibble through her skirt as a teasing prelude – she should soon start grinding on your face. But before her panties come off completely, try breathing and licking her through them. It’ll make for a truly explosive touchdown when your tongue finally makes direct contact with her clitoris.”
Now to master your technique. “If you want to practice clitoral stimulation, put a Tic Tac in a sandwich bag. Learn to suck the mint between your lips without using your teeth, then keep it there, while using your tongue to tease it.” Well, that’s something they never mentioned in the advert.
Things you never learnt during high school sex ed…
Q. Can my Rabbit give me an STI?
A. If you’ve had one before, yes, you can get it again from your vibrator, says sex educator Kate McCombs. “Toys made from porous material can harbor infections. Choose silicone, glass or stainless steel and clean them in soap and hot water.” Non-electric silicone ones can even go in the dishwasher. Just watch out who unloads it.
Q. Can his cold sore give me genital herpes?
A. In a nutshell: yes. According to Dr Natalie Hinchcliffe, “The HSV 1 type (usually the oral kind) can be passed to your genitals, even if lesions aren’t present.” Cold sores on your cooch? Not ideal. Dr. Elna Rudolph adds that “the notion that HSV1 is an oral infection and HSV2 is a genital infection is no longer true. You can get “cold sores” on your genitals and genital herpes in your mouth and on your lips. If he has ever had a fever blister, he can give you genital herpes! The chance is slim, but not zero. In SA 80% of people have HSV1 in their mouths – it leaves a very small minority that can safely have oral sex!”
Q. Could I become vibrator-dependent?
A. Afraid so, says sex therapist Sarah Berry. “Too much vibrator use can desensitise you. If you’re struggling to orgasm with a partner, cut out the toys until you get used to manual stimulation again.” Turn off to get turned on. “If your brain gets used to reaching orgasm in a specific way, without variations, it becomes learned behavior and deviating from that becomes difficult”, says Rudolph. “Make sure you love yourself in many different ways to keep your clitoris (and brain!) sensitive to all kinds of stimulation.”
Q. Is it possible to grow a vagina?
A. Actually, yes. US scientists have pioneered a way to lab-grow a vagina from a woman’s own cells. It can then be implanted into her body. The process takes just six weeks and the vagina even has full sexual function. But what do they do with the old one?
Three things your vajayjay would veto
Treat your vagina with kindness and it will return the favour.
The risk of cervical cancer is about double in smokers,” says Hinchcliffe. “Smoking also puts you at greater risk of certain STIs, including trichomonas – you know, the one that gives you a horrible, foul-smelling discharge.” Stub it out for the sake of your vag. Rudolph adds: “It is much more difficult for your body to fight off the damage cause by HPV infection if you smoke. Women who already have abnormal pap smears have a much higher chance of it getting worse and worse, even up to the point of cervix cancer, if they smoke. Some infections like the foul-smelling Trichomonas is also more common in smokers.”
“Your vagina actually cleans itself, so there’s no need to douche it with anything,” explains Hinchcliffe. “In fact, bacterial vaginosis is significantly more common among women who douche, as is general irritability in the area. Your vagina is not meant to smell like a rose, so stop trying to make it.” But if you insist, for gynae’s sake put down the lemon verbena soap on a roap and use a specially formulated wash with the right pH balance. FEMAGENE products won’t upset your beaver’s balance, BUT only if you use it externally. Never ever use any soap inside your vagina and definitely don’t squirt anything into your vagina. It kills all the good stuff and makes your situation worse in the long run. Bacterial Vaginosis, a condition where one or more of the natural bacteria in your vagina overgrows and cause a smelly discharge, is much more common in women who douche or try to wash inside their vaginas.
3. Penetration-only orgasms
Too many of us still prioritise the hole as the goal – to our sexual detriment. A study by neuroendocrinologist Dr Kim Wallen found that seven percent of women can climax from penetrative sex alone. What’s more, he calculated the “C-V ratio” to show it’s the distance between your clitoris and vagina that likely determines your ability to have a hole-in-one orgasm. The perfect pump-to-pleasure measurement was found to be 2.5cm. If yours is longer than that, don’t let him think it’s only his magic wand that counts.
For when your hoo-haa isn’t feeling hunky dory…
Find out when your lady garden needs some love…
> Symptom: Burnt skin thanks to a bad bikini wax
Unless the skin is blistered, this doesn’t require medical attention. Just treat as you would any other burnL run under cold water, apply cream such as E45, avoid intercourse until healed and, most importantly, get yourself a new beautician, pronto!
> Symptom: Discharge after intercourse
As long as there’s no strange colour or sudden change in consistency, it’s normal. Discharge increases with sexual arousal and the amount varies from woman to woman. And if a guy ejaculates inside you, expect to leak.
> Symptom: Soreness or irritation after exercise
A dragging sensation could indicate vaginal prolapse. Cycling is one of the worst culprits for beaver-bruising, as a study in the BMJ found female cyclists were at particular risk of infections and swelling. Saddle and handlebar positions are important – German scientists found sitting with your upper body at a 30-degree angle to the bike frame can reduce blood flow to your vagina by up to 70 percent. Stand up on your pedals every 10 minutes to avoid this.
> Symptom: Pain during and after sex
One in five women experience pain during intercourse. There can be various reasons for this from serious gynaecological conditions to hormonal imbalances, infections to muscles spasms and nerve abnormalities. These need to be excluded and then managed by an experienced multi-disciplinary team that can also address the psychological aspects of suffering from painful intercourse. Treatment might involve using vaginal dilators, physiotherapy and various creams as well as sorting out any infections and gynae problems.
> Symptom: Bleeding between periods
This warrants some form of medical investigation, as it can be caused by infection, cervical cancer or ectropion (also known as cervical erosion). Ectropion is a normal response to hormones and usually occurs in women of reproductive age, especially those using hormonal contraception. It can be scary, but as long as your smear tests are normal, it’s unlikely to be a long-term worry.
> Symptom: Pain at the top of your pubic bone
Generally means pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an ovarian cyst or endometriosis. PID symptoms include fever, unusual discharge and bleeding between periods. Cysts cause acute pain on one side, but often go away by themselves. Painful sex, severe period pain and pain going for a number two could be endometriosis, which can be eased with oral or hormonal contraceptives.