Sexual Etiquette

Contraception and STIs

Performance problems

Serious Sex-related issues


Sex myths

Gay and Lesbian sex

Everyday couples, exceptional sex

Dear Diary, I had great sex today


Appendix: A Sex Dictionary

Hot And Cold In Sex


Contraception and STIs

Avoiding pregnancy and the lumps, bumps, and things that itch in the night

Sex can give us the most pleasurable moments of our life- and the most painful. Getting pregnant by the waiter in Greece who did more than lay your table or discovering a T-shirt wasn't the only thing your ex left behind are both very real consequences of not treating sex with the respect it demands. Don't kid yourself: having sex can be dangerous. Terminating an unwanted pregnancy is not fun. Getting very, very sick from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is not fun. Dying from AIDS isn't ever on the top of the our "things I want to do this year" list. And if you're not careful, all can happen to you, no matter how "nice" you are.

 Have I put your today sex for life? If you're not prepared to take the associated risks seriously, I truly hope I have. But the fact is, most of the "nasties" of sex can be avoided. With all the contraceptive choices available today, you'd have to be a complete dud not to find a method that suits both you and your partner. That removes the pregnancy risk immediately. Condoms (used properly and every single time) significantly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infection. Add a good dollop of common sense and sex education and your chances of catching one drop to almost zero. At the risk of sounding like your mother, reading this chapter will not only save you heartache, it could say your life.

How not to get Pregnant

The ideal contraceptive is 100 percent effective, easy to use, and economical- with no known side effects. Unfortunately it hasn't been invented yet. But here's the good news: not only are traditional methods of contraception being constantly improved, there's some new kids on the contraceptive block that you may never have heard of. So while there's no such thing as a perfect contraceptive, for most women there's one that comes pretty damn close! This is a list of the latest and greatest contraception around, to help you find a hassle-free method for your personality, lifestyle, and relationship. Since most women take responsibility for contraception, I've devoted this section to them. I've listed the prices for contraception as a comparative guide only. They were correct at the time of publication but may increase over time.

The symptothermal method

It sounds complicated, and it is, but if you're the "herbal" type- drink green tea, own CDs of whales singing, and recycle everything (including what the cat threw up on the carpet)- this could be the method for you. It's totally natural and completely cost-free but, alas, only for the truly dedicated: "fussy," "messy," and "time-consuming" are adjectives that immediately spring to mind.

How it works
              The symptothermal technique aims to pinpoint ovulation (the most likely time to get pregnant) by reading the body's signals. You use a combination of the calendar, mucus, and temperature methods to work out what days to avoid sexual intercourse. By combining the three natural methods, you up the effectiveness rate considerably.

The calendar methods
              Ovulatory cycles are usually around twenty-eight days. It is assumed that ovulation takes place mid-cycle, that the released egg will die after twenty-four hours, and that sperm live for no longer than three to five days. Not I said assumed. One of the problems with this methods is that everyone's body behaves differently. To be totally accurate, you should write down when you start and finish your periods for at least six months (eight to twelve if possible) to work out your own personal menstrual cycle. It's then a matter of counting up the number of days between each period and doing some rather complicated math. If you're truly devoted, in vest in a book detailing the Billings method (the name of the people who formulated it). It's far too complex to summarize here- and not terribly reliable even if you do master it.
The temperature method:
               There's a minute increase in our body temperature following ovulation (in the range of 0.36 to 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit). The theory is that by taking your temperature daily with a thermometer (either in your mouth or vagina), you'll know when ovulation has occurred and shouldn't have sex for three days after your temperature has risen.

The mucus method:
               Around ovulation time, vaginal mucus (the clear or whitish discharge that comes out between periods) is clearer and thinner; after ovulation has occurred it becomes sticky and tacky and stretches like chewing gum. Recording changes in your mucus, again over a period of months, helps pinpoint when in your cycle you tend to ovulate. Some months, the mucus may change from clear to tacky on day 14 (day 1 is the first day of your period ), others on day 18. If a pattern forms, you can get a rough idea of when ovulation usually occurs (and avoid sex around those days in the future). It's best to test mucus at night, just before you go to bed.

What's good about it
               By combining three natural methods, you up the effectiveness rate considerably. It's natural and involves no chemicals or equipment.

The bad news:
              It requires a lot of effect and it's horrifyingly easy to miscalculate. The method relies rather optimistically on ovaries and sperm behaving in a predictable manner; infection, viruses, and other health problems can cause false readings for both temperature and mucus.

Best suited to:
              Long -tem couples trying to space a family.

Protection against HIV and STIs:

The failure rate:
              The theoretical failure rate is 2 to 5 percent but the actual failure rate is more like 15 to 20 percent.

Do I need to see a doctor?:
              No, but you might like to buy a few books on the subject so you know exactly what you're doing.

How easy is it to use?:

              It's complicated.

Is it expensive?: Price of a thermometer.

How enthusiastic will he be about it?:
              If you're long-tem and it doesn't
matter if you have "an accident," very. Sex is totally natural, and he doesn't have to do a thing.

How it works:
              You probably used this method when you were a teenager. He removes his penis from your vagina before ejaculation (coming), so there's no sperm inside you and little chance of you getting pregnant. Preejaculatory fluid ( the stuff that comes out before he orgasms) does contain some sperm, but it's unlikely to cause pregnancy. This method requires strong self-control on his part and many couples find it emotionally and physically unsatisfying, for obvious reasons.

What's good about it
              If he's experienced, it can be quite a successful method of contraception. It's natural, has no side effects, and effects, and costs nothing.

The bad news:
              You need to trust your partner implicitly to withdraw at the right time.

Best suited to:
              Couples in long-term relationships who could cope with an unexpected pregnancy.

Protection against HIV and STIs:

The failure rate:
              It depends on whether he withdraws every single time. Family planners put the failure figure at once every four years with experienced couples.

Do I need to see a doctor?:

How easy is it to use?:
              There's no effort required on your part.

Is it expensive?:
               It's free.

How enthusiastic will he be about it?:
              He may feel "robbed" of the grand finale of orgasming inside you. Good self-discipline on his part is must.

The condom

Condoms, as well as diaphragms and cervical caps, prevent pregnancy by providing a physical barrier between the sperm and egg. Each is an ideal alternative if you don't want to, or can't, take the Pill and are prepared to do a little preplanning.

For maximum effectiveness when using a condom, use a spermicidal as well- possibly one containing the purported AIDS-fighter, Nonoxynol-9. (In the laborator, Nonoxynol-9 had some effect against the HIV virus but no one knows if it's equally effective in the human body? Still, there's no harm in hedging your bets!) You can buy spermicides from any pharmacy.

Number of condoms sold by a popular bicoastal condom shop per month: upwards of 30,000. Number of different varieties stocked: 300.

How it works:
              The condoms was virtually ignored when the Pill appeared on the scene; now it's back in vogue because of AIDS. A very thin but strong latex (rubber) sheath, it's designed to fit over his erect penis and catch the sperm in a pocket at the tip. The main complaint? Intercourse doesn't feel as pleasurable. For this reason, scientists are currently researching a plastic condom that conducts heat more efficiently and feels much more like the "real thing." A condom with a looser end (which apparently feels better for him) is also in the trial stages.

What's good about it :
               It's a great germ stopper. Not only does it stop sperm, it helps prevent you catching viruses like HIV (which can lead to AIDS) as well as blocking bacteria that carry other nasties like gonorrhea.

The bad news:
              Condoms only protect you against pregnancy and diseases if they're used properly, each and every time you have sex, and if they don't break. Breakages and tears are usually your fault not "the bloody manufacturer." If you haven't put the condom on properly and squeezed the air out of the end tip, an air pocket can form that heats up (as you two do) and expands during intercourse, causing the condom to burst. Use plenty of water-based lubricants like K-Y to prevent splitting but avoid oil-based lubricants like baby oil and Vaseline, which can weaken the latex.

It was the first guy I'd ever slept with purely for sex. We used a condom but he obviously didn't put it on properly because it kept sliding off. We put on a new one but when he withdrew, found it had a huge tear in it. I was scared stupid. It wouldn't have been so bad with a boyfriend but a guy I didn't know and sure as hell didn't want a baby with? I got the Morning After Pill and a checkup for STIs that week, then waited three months for an AIDS test. Now I provide the condom, I put it on and make sure we use lubricant." Jenny, 26, secretary

Best suited to:
              Couples prepared to were a condom every single time they have intercourse and put up with a decrease of sensation; anyone who's single and planning on having more than one sexual partner.

Protection against HIV and STIs:
              Condoms will protect you against HIV if you use them each and every time you have sex and they don't break. As HIV can be present in prejaculatory fluid, you must put the condom on before any kind of penetration and before it even touches your genitals.

The failure rate:
              Somewhere between 1 percent and 60 percent because it all depends on how often they're used and how; 30 percent is probably a realistic figure.

Do I need to see a doctor?:  No.
              Condoms, I hate them. I can't stand them. I use them for safety but can't wait to get to the point where we're serious, can get tested and dispense with the damn things." Philip, 27, promotions manager

How easy is it to use?:
              Some couples complain that condoms interrupt the "flow" because they have to stop sex to put them on. But it can become part of foreplay if you put it on for him (go on, at least try to do it with your mouth); besides, a seasoned condom used needs only a few seconds to prepare.

Is it expensive?:
              Around $5 to $10 for a pack of twelve, one-use only, depending on the brand and whether it's prelubricated or has spermicide. A tube of spermicide costs between $8 and $17.

How enthusiastic will he be about it?:
              Probably not very. You've heard the jokes (it feels like having sex with a raincoat on).

How to use a Condoms

1. Be careful when you're unwrapping it. Don't rip the packet open with abandon (and don't even think about doing it with your teeth). Rings and fingernails can snag and while condoms are tough, they're not that tough.
2. Wait until he's erect. Put the condom on before the penis touches the vagina but only when he's hard.
3. Leave the condom unrolled and squeeze the tip to get rid of any air. Hold it against the tip of the penis, then.
4. Gently unroll the condom, all the way down to the base of the penis. Smooth out any air bubbles once it's on. Apply some extra water-based lubricant on the outside of the condom even it it's been prelubricated.
5. Have fun- guilt-free!
6. Withdraw the penis immediately after ejaculation while it's still erect. One of you should hold the condom firm at the base of the penis while he withdraws, to stop it slipping off or any sperm leaking out.
7. Point the penis downward and slip the condom off carefully.
8. Remember you can only use a condom once. If you want to have sex related issues, get him to wash his penis and use a new one.
Tie a knot in the used condom., wrap it in paper, and put it in the trash. Don't flush it down the toilet - it's not biodegradable. Do you enjoy catching your toes on used condoms while walking on your local beach?
10. Score full marks for putting it on with your mouth. If you can cope with the taste, unwrap it and place it (unrolled on the top of your tongue, the open end facing upward. The first time, cheat and use your fingers to position it over the penis head, then use your tongue and mouth to unroll it.