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Although we live in an era when just about anything is an acceptable topic for debate or discussion, I think conversations about sex are still taboo. We seem happy to talk about all sorts of other things, but when it comes to what happens between the sheets, we are often strangely silent. I am not proposing that we should feel the need to openly discuss every detail of our bedroom encounters, but being brave enough to ask for help or advice when you’re not sure, or when things are going wrong, is definitely to be encouraged.
Here are some things you might want to know, but were too afraid to ask, whatever your gender or sexuality:
What is virginity?
Being a virgin means you have never engaged in consensual sex. So if you have been assaulted or abused (when someone has forced you to have sex against your will), you can definitely still consider yourself a virgin until the time you choose to have sex on your own terms. Physically, it is not possible to tell when someone has “lost their virginity,” so the age-old practice of “testing virginity” before marriage in certain cultures is a load of rubbish!
What is a hymen?
People often think that the hymen is a membrane that effectively covers the entrance to the vagina. It’s not! The vagina is a stretchy opening, and the elasticised hymen surrounds it, much like a scrunchy you might put in your hair. This means that you can use tampons, have sex, and give birth without damaging your hymen. It also means that the first time you have sex, there is usually no bleeding or pain.
Why is sex sometimes painful?
There are lots of reasons why sex can be uncomfortable, but the most common is when there isn’t enough lubrication. This might be because you haven’t been “turned on” enough during foreplay, in which case you need to talk to your partner. Some people never get much natural lubrication, so using a lubricant such as KY jelly is a really good idea, especially if you are having anal sex. If trying different positions or using extra lube doesn’t help, you should probably talk to a doctor or nurse. They can help rule out certain conditions such as infection, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts that can cause painful sex.
What happens when you can’t get an erection?
Every now and then, all men will experience this. Our bodies are sensitive to many different factors, and any of these can lead to erectile failure or impotence. Alcohol, drugs, stress, tiredness, depression, diabetes, and anxiety all contribute, and unfortunately the more men worry about it, the worse the problem can get. Nip it in the bud is my advice—talk to your partner, explain and reassure them, then book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to advise you, rule out anything serious, and provide you with helpful medication if needed.
Why don’t I enjoy sex?
Sex should always be fun for both parties. No matter what gender you are or what type of sex you enjoy. That doesn’t mean that it has to reach a Hollywood-type, rip-roaring orgasm every time, but it should certainly feel pleasurable. If it doesn’t, I would ask yourself the following questions. Are you having sex with the right person? Are they checking you are having fun, or are they just worrying about themselves? Are there other positions you could try that might feel better? Do you need more lubrication? Are you engaging in plenty of foreplay? Are you taking any medications that might interfere with your libido or enjoyment? Are you ready for sex—if you feel pressured in any way, stop. Sex needs to be entirely consensual. All the time. Every time.