Q: I have a “friend with benefits” whom I love to sleep with, except there is one issue. When I go down on her, there is an odor. I really want to keep this situation going, but I feel like I have to mention it. Is this normal, and do I tell her? —Herb C., North Hollywood, CA
A: It appears to be time for a Vag 101 course. The vagina refers to the passageway that connects a vulva to a cervix. Years ago, it was believed that to “stay clean” women needed to use hygiene products such as douching or other internal cleansing methods. But a women’s vagina is naturally self-cleaning. Introducing cleansing products to the vagina can cause yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or other issues including problems getting pregnant or a higher risk of contracting STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Unless she is having issues like colored discharge, pain, swelling, or smelly discharge, her vagina is probably A-OK. (If she is having any of those symptoms, she should see her doctor.)
The vulva is the external genital area, the whole lady-parts package that includes folds of skin (the labia), where she pees from (the urethra), and the clitoris. Just like the parts of a dude who works out, sweats, and runs around all day, the vulva can sweat and have a buildup of smegma, a white substance that forms in the folds of skin and can begin to smell. In extreme cases, the buildup can cause a problem, but otherwise it’s normal. The best way to clean a vulva is mild soap and water. As long as a girl showers regularly, there should not be an issue.
Now onto the communication segment of our lesson: No girl likes to hear that they smell bad. This must be a very careful conversation. First, you can encourage showering. Maybe you guys are hooking up at the end of a long day or after a workout. Tell her that you feel stinky and want to rinse off together. Tell her how you stay fresh for her, like showering before you see her or carrying wet wipes safe for genitals just in case the opportunity arises for some love making. Behavioral modeling is when you display the behaviors of how you want someone else to act. Sometimes they catch on. If none of this makes an impact, then it’s time to have the sit-down. You care for her and like the sex, but it’s an issue. Don’t shame her; just educate her on what you learned here. Chances are that if this is happening with you, it may have happened before for her. Congratulations! You have now completed Vag 101.
Q: My girlfriend squirts. It looks like pee to me. Should I burn the mattress? —Mike T., Tulsa, OK
A: Hold the matches and gasoline! Female ejaculation is a real thing, and yes, it may seem like urine to the untrained eye. First, pat yourself on the back for finding a girlfriend who is having real orgasms and hopefully able to talk to you about it. For some women, talking about female ejaculation is tough. It wouldn’t hurt for you to tell her that you appreciate her honesty and openness.
Now let’s talk about squirting. It’s real. But it is also fetishized by the porn industry. I am porn-positive, but some things are exploited for entertainment purposes. Most of what you see in adult films is not real female ejaculation. Female ejaculation is the expulsion of fluid from the urethra and ducts around the urethra before and during an orgasm. This is a hot debate in sexology, feminism, and the medical community, as no major studies have been done on it. Studies that have been done show that a range from six to 60 percent of women experience this at some point in their life. Tests on the liquid generally agree that while the fluid may come from the bladder and is released mostly through the urethra, the biological makeup of the fluid is different than urine. Therefore, when your girlfriend ejaculates she is not urinating on you. (Even if she were, it would not be harmful; urine itself is believed to be sterile.) So don’t burn that bed. Instead, place a towel down before having sex for easy cleanup. Another issue to consider is her comfort level. Many women feel shamed when they have more than what they feel is a normal amount of fluid. Ask her about her experience with it and how she feels about it. You may find that the visual experience of seeing it can be arousing.
Q: When is a good time to talk to my girlfriend about having a threesome? —Ryan M., Clearwater, FL
A: I am glad that you asked about talking, because that is what it is all about. A threesome is consensual non-monogamy. Because it is consensual, you must talk about it. Bring it up over a calm meal or night in. Ask her how she feels about threesomes. You can tell her that it is your fantasy and you want to know if it would ever be possible to turn into a reality. Ask her how she sees it playing out and what her fantasies about it are. Be prepared for an answer that includes other men or very strict rules. Threesomes are most effective when they are discussed in advance and rules are agreed upon. Some of these rules include:
• Where do you find the third person?
• What is the gender of the third person?
• What are the boundaries? Kissing? Oral sex? Penetration?
• Is this a one-time event or an ongoing adventure?
Before making the leap to a night of sexy swinging, consider the impact that it may have on the health of your relationship. Jealousy is a normal and natural feeling, even for couples that regularly swing. Can you deal with your jealousy? Can your partner deal with hers?
For some people, swinging is an important and meaningful part of their sexuality and relationship. If that describes you, initiate this talk right away. If you and your partner have drastically different views, values, and desires about sex, this may be a bigger issue.
Q: I recently met a guy on vacation, and the attraction heated up fast. The problem is that we live on opposite sides of the country. We have both agreed to be monogamous, but the distance is tough. How do I keep the attraction up and feel connected to him even though we can only see each other about once a month? —Nicolette N., Philadelphia, PA
A: All relationships are a choice. A long-distance relationship is a choice to be exclusive to someone far away and has both complications and benefits. (Yes, there are benefits.) The obvious complications include missing someone, infrequent sex, jealously, time-zone differences, travel expense, loneliness, fear of infidelity, and an uncertain future. Yeah, that is a lot to deal with. But if you found that extra-awesome person, there are ways to not only make it work, but to enjoy it. Many long-term relationships get a little boring and desire wanes. I tell my clients that one way to cope with this is to find ways to create a sense of longing. That longing feeling intensifies desire, and a long-distance relationship has a ton of it.
Fellow sex therapist, Moushumi Ghose, on her video blog, The Sex Talk, gives some tips on how to stay on the same page in the relationship and also keep up the lusty connection:
• Clearly define the state of the relationship. Are you monogamous, or are you sleeping with others?
• Talk about how much contact is needed. You may need multiple times a day, while he may need a couple times per week.
• With today’s technology, you can be sexual through texting, pictures, videos, Snapchat, FaceTime, Skype, and even old-fashioned telephone calls. Now we can even tag, tweet, Facebook, and Instagram sweet and meaningful things to our long-distance lovers. This this can help people start the sexual language and dialog that is important for any relationship.
• Get creative with your fantasies and share them.
Realistically, masturbation may become the primary sexual outlet when involved in a long-distance relationship, so do yourself a favor: Engage in regular self-love, and don’t be afraid to tell your partner about it.
Even with all the longing, desire, and creative ways to stay in touch, the sense of uncertainty can add to negative feelings about the relationship. Having an end goal in mind is helpful in staying positive and motivated. IM
Amie Harwick is a therapist in private practice in West Hollywood, California. She has her MA in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. She is the author of The New Sex Bible for Women.