Our culture is pretty sexually open (or, at least, we’re getting there), but there are still some questions you’re not comfortable asking your buddies. Here are the answers to 8 potentially embarrassing sex questions you'll probably have in your lifetime.
1. Is it possible to get addicted to porn?
There’s no doubt that heavy porn usage can ruin relationships—but is it a drug? Not exactly, according to neuroscientist and sex researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D. “The main biomarker of ‘addiction,’ enhanced cue reactivity, is actually absent in studies of sex films,” Prause says. “Men may watch more than they want to, but it’s not a real addiction.”
2. Can I break my penis?
Technically no—your penis doesn’t have a bone inside it, so you can’t actually break it. But you can tear the tissue and end up with what’s called a penile fracture (which is still not a bone fracture, but we doubt you’ll be nit-picking if this ever happens to you). When your penis is erect, you can—if you hit it at the wrong angle, with just enough force—rupture the tissue surrounding your penis and end up in the emergency room.
3. Can I get herpes if I receive oral sex from someone with a cold sore?
Yes. While there are two types of herpes—HSV-1, which typically causes oral herpes, and HSV-2, which typically causes genital herpes—HSV-1 can cause genital herpes and vice-versa. According to The New Zealand Herpes Foundation, up to 40 percent of genital herpes may be caused by HSV-1. In other words, it’s best to forgo oral sex if one of you has a cold sore (or an outbreak of genital herpes, but that’s usually a given).
4. What are some signs I might have an STI?
The obvious signs you should get checked out include sores, lesions, or a rash on or near your genitals; odd discharge from your penis; or a burning sensation when you pee, according to Los Angeles-based urologist Philip Werthman. There’s no shortage of places to get checked out—an STI clinic, a urologist, or your primary care physician will be able to test you for infections. But it is possible to contract a sexually transmitted infection without exhibiting any symptoms—only 11 percent of men with chlamydia show symptoms, according to research—so Werthman suggests getting checked regularly, or any time you have unprotected sex.
5. Does size matter?
Are you bigger or smaller than average? Judge for yourself: New research published in urology medical journal BJU International finds that the average erect penis is 5.16 inches long and 4.59 inches in circumference. The good news is that no matter which side of the bell curve you’re on, your penis size almost certainly matters more to you than it does to her—this study of over 50,000 men and women found that while 85 percent of women were satisfied with their partner’s size, only 55 percent of men felt they measured up.
6. Can we have sex while she’s on her period?
There’s no medical reason not to have sex during her period, Werthman says, unless she happens to have a blood borne disease such as HIV (if she’s bleeding, you’re at a higher risk of coming into contact with her blood and thus contracting the disease). Still, it’s best to let her take the lead—while many women enjoy period sex (and may even be hornier and more sensitive), many women don't. If you do end up getting down during her period, remember to practice safe sex—though it’s unlikely that she’ll get pregnant while she’s having her period, it’s not impossible.
7. Can we have sex while she’s pregnant?
Same here: There’s no medical reason not to have sex while she’s pregnant, assuming you’re both healthy, disease-free adults. But again, the ball is in her court—each pregnancy is different, but many women feel most up to sex during the second trimester (after morning sickness has passed and before the baby starts pressing on all her internal organs), Werthman says. If you do happen to have an STI and she does not, it’s best to abstain until it clears up or the baby is born, because STIs can affect pregnancy and can be passed from mother to child.
8. Why is my libido lower than hers?
Her sex drive is off the charts and yours is…not so much. This might make you feel like a failure (thanks a lot, societal pressure), but don’t stress—because stress is a big sex drive killer, Werthman says. It’s never a bad idea to get your testosterone levels checked, as low testosterone levels are often responsible for a low sex drive. While some factors that affect testosterone, such as age, are beyond your control, others—including diet, exercise, and sleep—are not.