Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

An Orgasm Is an Orgasm Is an Orgasm, Part 2

(Conclusion of “What’s all that Stuff Down There and What Does It Do?”)

“Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant” Henry Miller

Female/Male Differences

We’re actually more alike than different. Up until the 6th week of fetal development, all crotches look female. Around week 6, if the fetus is male, testosterone-related hormones begin to affect the male crotch, and it differentiates into a penis and testicles. If these hormones are prevented from being released, the crotch will develop as female. All mammals develop this way, and women and men share the same embryonic crotch tissue. It just looks dissimilar. Next time you’re thinking that men and women are from different planets, remember we’re all sisters under the skin!

There are a few responses unique to each sex:

1. A major difference between women and men is that generally, the clitoris needs constant direct or indirect stimulation, unlike the penis. In general, stimulation up and down the penis shaft results in male orgasm; but for most women, orgasm results from a constant circular motion around the shaft and glans of the clitoris. Once a woman’s orgasm begins, if the stimulation is removed, the orgasm will end; whereas, once men have that first contraction, not even a neutron bomb will stop their orgasm!

2. All male mammals experience a refractory (“recovery”) period after orgasm, during which no amount of stimulation will result in orgasm. During teen years, it may be very short. Age, physical health and genetics are contributing factors to the length of this period. But: just because you might not have another orgasm soon does not mean you can’t still enjoy being sexual. In fact, if you focus only on orgasm, you’re going to miss lots of the fun.

3. Conversely, women are capable of an indeterminate number of orgasms without resting. If a woman is receiving effective stimulation, she can stay up close to orgasm and keep “peaking” indefinitely. Many women experiment with this during self-pleasuring, only stopping because of fatigue, hand or foot cramps or decreased interest.

4. For women who experience cramps during their period, orgasms are a must. During your period, the uterus contracts to expel blood and tissue, and you get cramps. However, the uterus also contracts during orgasm, thus expelling any blood and tissue during a pleasurable event and alleviating cramps. The more orgasms you have during your period, the less pain you’ll have because you’ll get rid of all that built-up blood and tissue.

5. The G-Spot: Some women experience orgasm from stimulation of the tissue located on the top (front) wall of the vagina, about 1 inch inside the opening. Looking at the vaginal opening as a clock, this would be the area between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The G-Spot is not sensitive in all women, but many report intense orgasms accompanied by expulsion of fluid. Some women worry about the messiness of this fluid. If you’re concerned about this, keep plenty of towels or extra sheets to put on your bed, or have these orgasms in the shower, or outside. Be creative!

6. Why can’t I urinate when I have an erection? Uric acid can harm sperm; so when arousal begins, an internal sphincter closes off the bladder from the urethra, and it doesn’t reopen until erection goes down.

This concludes the four-part series, “What’s all that Stuff Down There and What Does It Do?” Now that we’ve covered the basics, we’re going to move on to what people actually do, and how they feel about it. Next week: Fantasies and Self-Pleasuring: Fun Facts

As always, the Doctor is in for your questions and comments.

With Pleasure,
Dr. J

Friday, September 15, 2006

An Orgasm Is an Orgasm Is an Orgasm
Part 3 of “What’s all that Stuff Down There and What Does It Do?”

“An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away”… Mae West

Our bodies don’t come with an instruction manual, so many of us are ignorant about their functions—particularly those having to do with sex. It’s very important to know how your body works so that you can enhance your pleasure and increase your options.

Until the mid-20th century, not much was known about how our bodies respond sexually. It was always assumed that as long as you were in love, sex would be great. Romance, not good sex, was the ideal, particularly for women.

The team of William Masters and Virginia Johnson (M&J) performed the original physiological research on arousal and orgasm described below. They found that as long as the body receives effective stimulation, orgasm will occur, regardless of the type of that stimulation. Why is this important? Before M&J, it was assumed that the only good orgasm was a “love” orgasm. How confusing to those who were in love but not having good sex—and vice versa! However, the body doesn’t care where the stimulation comes from—our hand, our lover or someone we absolutely hate. As long as it’s effective touch, and we’re willing, our bodies will respond. It’s like food: whether you’ve eaten a 99¢ cent burger or a $100 dinner, your digestive system will work just the same. Our bodies don’t put any moral value on their functions (even if our minds do).

Following is a brief summary of M&J’s research.

During sex, the body goes through distinct phases of physiological change. As soon as you become aroused, if you’re male, blood flows to your crotch, which results in erection. If you’re female, blood flows into your crotch and your vagina begins to lubricate. (Have you ever felt like you made a questionable decision during sex? Maybe it’s because all the blood has left your brain!) This phase is also characterized by an increase in muscle tension and heart rate as well as nipple erection in both sexes.

In the next phase, if the penis is stimulated, erection will become stiffer. If the clitoris is stimulated, lubrication will increase. Two important things happen during this phase: In women, the clitoral glans (head) retracts under the hood (Where’d it go? I lost it!), which means it needs more intense stimulation. In men, a small internal sac, the Cowper’s Gland, sends a slippery fluid down the urethra and out the end of the penis to clean out any remaining uric acid. However, this fluid may contain sperm. That’s why the “withdrawal method” of birth control doesn’t work. I have a special name for people who use this method: Parents.

If effective stimulation continues, orgasm occurs. This is characterized by a series of involuntary muscle contractions in the crotch, occurring every eight-tenths of a second. In men, orgasm occurs in two stages. The first stage could be called the “point of no return.” You can sense an orgasm is imminent, but if you remove the stimulation, breathe and relax, you can delay it and begin to build back up to orgasm again. Once you decide to orgasm, you’ll proceed through the second stage, during which the contractions will cause ejaculation of semen. In women, orgasms begin with strong contractions in the clitoris and the outer third of the vagina. The uterus also contracts. In both women and men, the anal sphincter contracts, heart rate and muscle tension increase and…toes curl! Some curl up, some down. Have an orgasm right now to find out if you’re an “uppy” or a “downy.”

After orgasm, if no further stimulation occurs, the body returns fairly rapidly to its unaroused state, or more slowly if no orgasm has occurred. The blood leaves the crotch and returns to the rest of the body, including the brain (rational thought resumes!). Erection goes down. Sometimes, men’s penises feel very sensitive and even ticklish, while other times, they may enjoy continued stimulation.

A Word about the PC Muscle: This is the same muscle we use to stop or start the flow of urine. It also contracts during orgasm. A toned PC muscle will contribute to the intensity of your orgasm, as well as help you control its timing. So what can you do keep it in shape? Kegel exercises, named after the physician who developed them. Very simple: while sitting down, practice clenching and unclenching your PC muscle. Do these exercises daily for the rest of your life. Start with a few and build up to as many as you wish. You can do quick, flutter Kegels, or slow rhythmic ones. A healthy PC muscle will benefit you all your life!

This discussion has been limited to physiological changes; everyone’s subjective experience is different. For more information about sexual response, check out any basic sex education book available at such excellent resources as
www.Libida.com or www.GoodVibes.com

Next week concludes this four-part series with some practical information about female/male differences in sexual arousal, and then we’ll move on to the fun stuff: Sexual Fantasies and Self-Pleasuring.

As always, the Doctor is in for your questions and comments.

With Pleasure,
Dr. J

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lost… and Found Again! All about Vulvas for Women and Those Who Love Them

“Our own physical body possesses a wisdom which we who inhabit the body lack. We give it orders which make no sense.”
Henry Miller

Men have a penis, and women have a…what?

If I tell you this post is about women’s crotches, what word comes to mind? Vagina? Most of us think that the vagina is analogous to the penis/scrotum, but that’s inaccurate. The vulva is the analogous organ, and the vagina is just one part of the vulva. The vulva consists of the crotch and everything that lives in it—most importantly, the clitoris, which is the epicenter of women’s arousal and orgasm.

So where does this misconception come from? I believe it stems from a history of reproductive bias in our sexual attitudes. Many people have been taught that the main purpose of sex is reproduction. And the vagina is primarily a reproductive organ. The clitoris has only one function—sexual arousal and orgasm. However, it’s been ignored for so long that women think their most important sexual part is their vagina.

In addition, women’s crotches are not as visually accessible to them as men’s. And few women have been given permission to explore their vulvas, so most of us have no idea about their structure and function.

On the other hand, when boys are very young, they're given a positive endorsement for touching their penises! All boys eventually learn to urinate standing up, during which they hold their penises (“What a big boy you are!”), helping them to essentially claim the penis as their own.

What do girls learn? They receive either no message at all (which is the same as receiving a negative message), or they are given two washcloths—one for their body, and one for “down there.” Now there’s a negative message for you: It’s so dirty, you can’t touch it with the same cloth you’d use on the rest of your body!

As a result, many women don’t “own” their vulvas, and this estrangement is a major contributor to sexual concerns.

About the term “crotch”: I don’t use the term “genitals” because it actually means “organs of generation (reproduction),” and that reinforces the idea that there’s only one appropriate use for our crotches. Crotch is a function-neutral word that merely describes a location on the body.

When I introduce the subject of vulvas to women, I often use this little scenario:

“You’re at Macy’s, and the public address system announces ‘We have 20 vulvas in our Lost and Found. If yours is missing, please claim it.’ How many of you could actually claim your vulva?” Are our vulvas as important as our faces? Certainly. Isn’t it sad that so many of us don’t even know what ours looks like?

The first step in claiming your body as your own is to learn about it and take responsibility for its care and pleasure. Here’s some brief but useful information about women’s crotches:

Crotches are as varied as noses and come in a vast array of sizes, shapes and colors.

Clitoris: Actually consists of three parts—the glans (the small “head” which is most visible), the hood which covers the glans, and the shaft which extends into the pelvic area. The glans is packed with as many nerve endings as the head of the penis, but in a much smaller space. It is extremely sensitive, and that’s why it’s protected by the hood. If we didn’t have hoods, we’d be distractedly twitching in pleasure with every movement. Even walking would be delightfully difficult!

The nerves associated with the clitoral structure are actually a vast network extending into the pelvis, so it’s erroneous to describe the clitoris as a smaller version of the penis, because though not visible, the actual subcutaneous structure is just as large.

Clitorises vary slightly in size and shape—some women have a glans that’s divided like two pearls—but all have the same capacity for arousal and orgasm.

Inner and outer lips: Also referenced by their Latin term, “labia.” These vary widely in size and shape. Some women’s outer lips are smaller than their inner lips and vice versa. And, like our faces, they are asymmetrical; one lip may be smaller and shaped differently than the other. The inner lips may meet at the clitoral shaft—or they may end somewhere below.

Just above the vaginal opening is the urethra, which passes urine from the body. Many women are surprised to find out that the urethra is separate from the vagina.

Vagina: Only the outer third of the vaginal barrel has enough nerve endings to generate much sensation; however, in some women there is an extremely sensitive area called the “G Spot.” If we were to visualize the vaginal opening as a clock, the G Spot would be about 1 inch deep in the vagina, between the hours of 10 and 2.

The vagina is a self-cleaning organ: since it contains fewer bacteria, it’s cleaner than your mouth. A healthy, clean vagina has a mild odor. Because of “unclean” myths discussed above, some women feel they must deodorize it with commercial douching solutions. These are unnecessary and can be harmful because they often contain alcohol-based perfumes, and alcohol can irritate delicate tissue and alter the healthy vaginal environment by ridding it of its natural mucus that protects against infection. Women do not need to douche to wash away blood, semen, or vaginal discharge. The vagina routinely flushes it out. Your physician will probably tell you that you should only douche if it’s recommended for some medical reason. For cleansing the crotch, use only water and mild, unperfumed soap. Some women’s clinics recommend douching with acidophilus yogurt, which can be helpful after infection for restoring the vagina’s chemical balance.

The most empowering thing we can do as women is to learn about our crotches: 1) Do a self-exam: Get a good mirror, sit down, find all your parts and get to know them. Look at your unique colors and shapes and revel in this wonderful gift you’ve been given! 2) Look at photos of vulvas. Excellent books are available from
http://www.libida.com and http://www.goodvibes.com/

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Next week, we’ll explore men’s and women’s crotches in more detail and investigate how everything works and why it’s important.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J