Whether you're single or in a relationship, there are probably some niggling (and rather awkward) questions about sex that you still need answers to.
No matter how long you've been having sex, how frequently, or with how many different partners, there's probably still a lot of questions about the act of love making (ugh) that you've always been too embarrassed to ask. So, in the name of research, and for you, our dear Marie Claire reader, we've asked four top experts in the fields of sex, relationships, fertility and gynaecology to help us out.
We asked Dr Pixie McKenna, Superdrug's Health and Wellbeing ambassador and Embarrassing Bodies star, Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist, Alan Copperman MD, a fertility specialist and Annabelle Knight, sex and relationship expert, who also has her own range of sex toys for lovehoney.co.uk to answer those awkward questions about sex.
Can your partner tell if you're faking an orgasm?
'Most men in a sexual scenario can’t tell if a woman fakes an orgasm. Some women may show physiological signs like dilated pupils and quickened breath but they may also have these signs as they become more aroused. As the classic scene in When Harry Met Sally illustrates, women can convince their partners they’ve orgasmed because each woman may orgasm differently. Some may make a lot of noise, while others may stay quiet, have less movement or make noises she thinks will sound convincing,' Sari Cooper.
Does using a vibrator desensitise you?
'This depends on the level of power the vibrator delivers, how long you use it for and how often. Women who use their vibrators very regularly, on high settings for long periods of time do report issues with clitoral sensitivity. But most women recover fairly quickly and regain their sensitivity, if you're using your vibrator with your partner then you might experience less sensitivity if you're having a particularly lengthy session. There are plenty of specifically designed couples toy's out there designed to work alongside a couple during intercourse.' Annabelle Knight.
When presented with a small penis, what's the best thing to do? Really.
'Point and laugh. Kidding! This is a super sensitive area for a lot of men, if his penis is a little lacking in length then the worst thing you can do is bring it up on your first encounter. For most women size really doesn't matter, our nether regions are brilliantly designed with all our pleasure spots within easy reach. The clitoris is external and the g spot is about 2 inches inside the vagina on the front wall, so theoretically a large penis just isn't needed. But, if you are with someone and feel your sex life would benefit from a bit of a boost size-wise then try a penis extension sleeve, they come in a variety of different sizes offering extra length and girth. Remember though, the average penis size is around 5 inches when erect so a lot of men aren't lacking, merely average,' Annabelle Knight.
Does the withdrawal method work at all?
'I’m totally against the withdrawal method. Firstly, because of the risk of STIs, and, secondly, because scientific evidence suggests that by the time the pull out method has been used the sperm are already beating a path to your door. Pre-ejaculation contains sperm so do not be fooled into using the pull out method lest you want to fall pregnant!' Dr Pixie McKenna.
Is it possible to get too 'wet' during sex? How can you tell?
'That depends on the couple, lots of guys love it when they get their partner really wet, but for some it's just not their thing. Women get wet when sexually aroused, it's their vaginas way of preparing for intercourse. There's also female ejaculation to consider, this can leave you with wet bedsheets and a very slippy sex session. Female ejaculation is the expulsion of fluid by the paraurethral ducts through and around the urethra during or before an orgasm. It's caused by thorough stimulation of this area and doesn't happen to every woman. Personally I've never heard of a man complaining of turning his partner on too much.' Annabelle Knight.Is it possible to be allergic to sperm?
'It is. We call it Seminal Plasma Hypersensitivity and, although it exists, it’s rare. Symptoms include redness, swelling, pain, itching and burning in the vaginal area anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes after contact with sperm. Interestingly, it can be due to one particular individual's sperm or all sperm. It can even occur out of the blue with a long-term partner. The best way to gauge whether this could be affecting you is to see if you have symptoms when you use a condom, if you don't then sperm allergy should be considered.' Dr Pixie McKenna.
How long should sex really last?
'However long it takes for you and your partner to feel satisfied. Too many times I deal with couples who compare themselves to other people they know, have heard about or have watched in porn. But, on average, it takes 20 minutes for a woman to orgasm and seven minutes for a man. Just because that's the average doesn't mean it's you. Some women take less than minute while some men can take up to an hour. It's all about making sure you're having a good time.' Annabelle Knight.
Can having lots of sex stretch the vagina?
'The vagina is created like a balloon to expand and contract as needed. Having lots of penetrative sex is not going to stretch the vaginal walls permanently. Strengthening the muscles that reside at the vestibule, or opening, and that surround your vagina by doing Kegel exercises can contribute to more friction on the penis during penetrative sex.' Sari Cooper.
Sychronised orgasms: is it actually possible?
'Yes. Usually it takes control to stop and start for each person to build their excitement or cool their excitement as the case may be. As long as it remains pleasurable and fun, couples may enjoy that experience of trying to let go together. Since women usually take longer to warm up, it would require a women to get her arousal up (either with the help of her partner or on her own) and then focus on his arousal. Partner would then have to let the other know that they’re approaching their climax so that they can release together. If the effort becomes too mechanical or one begins to get frustrated with the other, I wouldn’t recommend continuing and just take turns giving and receiving pleasure to one another. Sex shouldn’t be experienced as a competitive sport.' Sari Cooper.
When trying for a baby, is there such a thing as too much sex?
'The general rule for optimizing conception is to have sex early (before ovulation) and often (at least every other day). Having intercourse more than once a day can diminish the sperm count and probably doesn’t improve pregnancy rates for a given month.' Alan Copperman MD
How are you supposed to know if you smell a bit off down there?
'If you think it doesn't smell right down below then seek advice from your GP or local sexual health clinic. Bacterial Vaginosis is an incredibly common cause of a fishy odour down below. Other causes include retained tampons (you may gasp but this happens more frequently than you would imagine) or even cancers can result in an offensive vaginal odour. If in doubt, get it checked out.' Dr Pixie McKenna.
He won't go down on me. Help!
'Once you feel like you’re in a continuing relationship with a man it’s a good idea to talk about what you like in bed by having the conversation outside the bedroom. You can begin by asking him what his favourite sexual activities are and hope he returns the favour by asking you. If he doesn’t ask, you can pursue the topic by letting him know how much you enjoy receiving oral sex (among all the other things you love). The next time you’re having sex you can see whether he moves down south. If not, it may require another conversation in which you can ask him more directly why he hasn’t offered to give you oral sex. The answer may not be something you want to hear but at least you’ll have the information you need to decide what to do about the relationship. If the relationship is in its early stage you may want to cut your losses and begin dating again if oral sex is a bottom line for you. If this is a problem with a longtime partner or husband, you might want to ask him whether there is any room for him to compromise on this and integrate oral sex into your lovemaking since it gives you so much pleasure. You may ask him to go to a sex therapist to discuss the issue further if he shuts down and refuses to talk more about it.' Sari Cooper.
Should anal sex feel good? Really.
What can be done if you're too dry down there?
'The female hormone oestrogen helps keep the vaginal walls lubricated so anything that impacts your levels can have a drying effect. The most obvious cause is menopause, where dryness is a classic symptom. HRT can help but if you loathe to take pills or patches or are found to be unsuitable, it is possible to replace the lost oestrogen with topical oestrogen by means of a cream, gel or pessary applied locally to the tissues. Hormone levels can also dip post pregnancy, when breast feeding, or can be influenced by your choice of contraceptive. Skin conditions similar to those elsewhere on the body can result in vaginal dryness. Simple things like over washing the area or lack of foreplay can also play a role. Certain prescription pills or medical conditions can dry up the vagina so it’s important to consider the bigger picture when trying to work out a cause. Prescription treatments are often not necessary and even if they are, their impact can be augmented by other more simple measures. The golden rule is don't over wash and always use a PH balanced product. Avoid lengthy baths and steer clear of douches and perfumed feminine hygiene products. Use a water soluble starch based lubricant gel for intercourse and regularly use vaginal moisturising products (both readily available in Superdrug pharmacies). On a practical level remember sex is a marathon not a sprint so give yourself time to get into the mood which will help with natural lubrication.' Dr Pixie McKenna.
What can be done if you and your partner have mis-matched libidos?
'This can be frustrating to both partners. The partner who wants sexual activity less frequently commonly feels guilty for not wanting it more, yet the pressure they feel certainly doesn’t help them with their erotic attraction for their partner. The person with a higher libido may feel disempowered since they feel their partner holds the keys to their sex life. They may also feel hurt and angry at the many times their partner declines an invitation or initiation for sex, feeling rejected and/or abandoned. Sex like most other things in a relationship has to be discussed in an open, non-judgemental and empathic manner so that a couple can find a compromise that works for their relationship.' Sari Cooper.