10 Most-Asked Questions About Sex

The questions and doubts about sex that plague the average man and woman run a wide-ranging gamut. But there are some that today’s sex counsellors hear more often than others. Here they are, along with the answers!

1. Is masturbation harmful?

This one of course tops the list. From acne to insanity, from impotence to memory loss – hardly any ailment in the medical encyclopedia has not been blamed on masturbation! Until the beginning of the 20th century even the physicians fell in line and prescribed “cures” ranging from leeches to suck out blood from the genitals, to “cages” in which children’s penises could be padlocked by parents and the key thrown away.

This was in the West. In India, although the amorous ancients joyously documented their masturbatory postures for posterity – the temples of Halebid in Karnataka flaunt masturbating males among their erotic carvings – the majority of Indian youth is tortured by crippling fears about the effects of masturbation on body and mind.

The fact is that no minister or medico has ever provided a shred of evidence to suggest that masturbation is harmful. To the contrary, current opinion among enlightened sexologists is that masturbation is not only not-harmful, it may be distinctly beneficial. To demolish the more common myths:

  • the penis has no muscles; hence there is no way that masturbation can lead to ‘weaknesses.
  • masturbation does not deplete the body’s supply of semen, leading to a scarcity situation. Semen is produced every day – and it’s produced in order to be used! As sexologist comments, “It is disuse, not use, that leads to atrophy.”
  • masturbation does not impair sexual intercourse or pleasure. In fact, there is growing evidence that lack of masturbatory experience may lead to problems like impotence and anorgasmia (difficulty in experiencing orgasms). Masturbation is the ultimate source of sexual self-awareness, and forms an important part of many sex therapy programmes. It seems the wheel has turned full circle!

Sexologists, however, do caution that masturbation may indicate some other underlying problem if it is indulged in compulsively and to the exclusion of other sexual outlets even when available.

2. Is there an aphrodisiac that works?

Not in the sense of directly elevating the libido. Many have been tried, but none proven. At best, they are useless, at worst they can kill. Some like rhino horn and ginseng appear to derive their reputations from little more than their physical resemblance to the penis – there is certainly no specific evidence of their alleged sex-enhancing qualities.

Others like yohimbine, from the bark of the yohimbe tree, increase the flow of blood to the genital area and thereby intensify the erection – but the effect is entirely physical, there is no corresponding increase in desire or pleasure. Spanish fly, made from dried beetles, has a similar effect – it can give a man an immense and immensely painful erection. It also causes irritation and inflammation of the urinary tract, sometimes even internal bleeding which can be fatal – and the dose that ‘works’ is about equal to the dose that kills.

Alcohol has the effect of causing inhibitions to slacken, and that may add some assertiveness, and even aggressiveness, to sexual performance. But, beyond a point (and this point is well below the level of intoxication), alcohol leads to fatigue and dissipation and may suppress rather than provoke an erection.

Cocaine also has a persisting reputation as a sexual stimulant, not only when taken orally but also when applied locally to the clitoris: the latter, say medical experts, is an especially puzzling belief when you consider that medically it’s used as a local anaesthetic – in the other words, to deaden physical sensitivity!

The very fact that people continue to believe that ginseng or ‘grass’ or whatever works, underlines one truism: if you believe it will work, it will work. After all, it’s the brain that’s the seat of the libido, not the penis or the vagina or the clitoris.

3. Is sex safer after a heart attack?

Most heart attack victims believe it isn’t, and the majority just decide to put “sex and all that” behind them. The fear of the heart “giving out” during sex is far too overwhelming among most of those who’ve suffered an attack.

But most cardiologists do not put a blanket ban, so to say, on sex for heart attack victims. There are, of course, certain categories that are at definite risk and would be advised extreme caution: Those with very poor cardiac reserve (indicated by treadmill test) or those with poor left ventricle functioning, or persons who’ve suffered repeated or major heart attacks i.e. in which a major portion of the heart muscle has been destroyed. The cardiac energy invested, on average, on one sexual episode appears to be the same as that involved in walking up two flights of stairs – but, for some heart attack victims, this may be much too much.

After even a mild, first-time heart attack, the person would be advised to keep physical activity to a minimum for the first two months. After that, a treadmill test would indicate his cardiac status, and his cardiologist should be able to guide him on whether he can safely engage in sexual activity. If he is prone to angina pain, it helps to keep a tablet of nitroglycerin under the tongue at the start of sexual activity.

4. Is sex safe during pregnancy?

Sexual activity is distinctly unsafe during pregnancy if a woman:

  • has a history of miscarriages (the more, the greater the risk).
  • is at risk for miscarriage/premature delivery in the current pregnancy.
  • suffers vaginal or uterine bleeding or pain during the pregnancy.

The reason is the risk from uterine contractions that results from orgasm. Masturbation that leads to orgasm can be even more risky than intercourse because the uterine contractions following masturbation are greater than those following intercourse.

Barring these conditions, sex during pregnancy is considered to be generally safe, although some doctors caution that orgasms in late pregnancy can cause premature delivery. Each woman is best advised by her own gynecologist, taking into account her medical history and the status of her current pregnancy.

5. What is the best cure for impotence?

That depends on what’s causing the impotence. Almost all men, at some time or the other, have difficulty getting an erection, or getting a satisfactory erection. These experiences occur as isolated episodes arising from fatigue / overindulgence in alcohol / guilt in an extramarital encounter or similar causes.

But in many men, a one-time failure can instil performance anxiety, which can itself lead to failure the next time round, and increasingly over and over again, setting the stage for psychological impotence, which is the kind that roughly half the numbers of impotent men suffer from.

In the other half, impotence is caused by organic (bodily) factors. These may range from clogged penile arteries (in those who suffer from arteriosclerosis), to leaky veins in the penis, to a deficiency of testosterone. Such cases can be helped by penile bypass surgery (similar to a heart bypass, except that it’ done in the penile area); penile injections that improve blood flow to the area and help bring on an erection; venous ligation (surgery to tie up leaky veins); and the latest option, penile implants, which give a man a synthetic erection.

6. Does vasectomy make a man impotent?

This fear arises largely because of the persisting confusion between impotency and infertility. Infertility (in a man) is the inability to fertilize the egg; and this is what a vasectomy produces. Impotence, on the other hand, is the inability to have an erection, and this is in no way affected by a vasectomy. Here’s the reason why:

Vasectomy involves snipping and tying off the vas deferens, the tubes that carry the perm from the testes. But, while sperm are produced by one variety of cells in the tests, the male hormone, testosterone – which is responsible for sexual desire and potency – is produced by another variety of cells in the testes, and it goes directly into the bloodstream (not into vas deferens). So, vasectomy does not in any way affect a man’s ability to have an erection.

7. What I can do to increase the size of my penis?

That question is best answered by another: Why do you want to? Most men feel that they’d be Olympic performers in bed if only their penises were “a little” longer, or a little broader… Although there are wide variations in the size of penises in the flaccid state, erection is said to be the great equalizer because penises that are small in the non-erect state enlarge proportionately more than penises that are longer or broader in the non-erect state. And of course the size of the flaccid penis is irrelevant to sexual performance!

What’s more, even during erection, not more than 5 cm of penile length is necessary or for reproductive purposes. The outer one-third (i.e. about 5 cm) of the vagina has the most concentrated nerve ending, and this is the portion that is sensitive to the thrusting penis. As for reproduction, man only needs enough penis to be able to deliver the semen into the vagina – from there on, the sperm speed upward with a momentum of their own!

8. Can I get AIDS from kissing an infected person?

There’s kissing, and kissing. Dry kissing, i.e. where the tongue or, more precisely, saliva doesn’t come into play is described as safe-sex activity even with an infected person. One study of households with AIDS-infected members showed that they kissed one another, on the cheeks as well as the lips, without passing on the virus to a non-infected member.

Can you get AIDS from tongue-kissing? So far, although there’s no scientific evidence of the virus being transmitted via the saliva during kissing, the fact is that the AIDS virus is transmitted through bodily fluids – and those include, in addition to blood, semen and vaginal secretions, also urine, tears and saliva. Although the opinion of scientists is that the amount of saliva that comes into play in deep kissing is insufficient to transmit enough of the virus, you are certainly better off not trying to find out if that’s so!

9. Is oral sex dirty and perverted?

Oral sex brings the tongue, lips and mouth into play in the genital area, and in that sense brings an added dimension to sexual activity: all the senses are now involved. In those who are at ease with it, it can heighten arousal, providing the final surge of excitement leading to intercourse; it can even directly bring on orgasm.

But not everybody is comfortable with oral sex; guilt and awkwardness are felt even by several of those who indulge in it. One reason for considering it ‘dirty’ is that most people are conditioned to think of the genitals themselves are dirty. But, from a scientific point of view, oral sex is no more unhygienic than mouth to mouth kissing.

Some people are put off by the genital odours, or the genital secretions. But the secretions themselves are relatively clean; and the odours partly reflect the kind of foods that the person eats. And, a good bath before engaging in oral sex should ensure cleanliness.

Nobody has yet been able to come up with a valid reason why oral sex is dirty or unhealthy or perverted. Yet, the feeling persists among many, and the most worrying thing about oral sex is the worry it causes. What it finally boils down to is that it’s just a matter of taste!

10. How can I make sex more satisfying?

Make sure you are:

  • with right partner. Someone you’re comfortable with and care about. Emotions are an important part of the sexual experience.
  • not over-tired or under stress. Both are poor starting points for good sex.
  • not plagued by fears about sex itself. This particularly applies to women – and the fears range from the fear of pain to the fear of pregnancy. Inhibitions or anxiety are instant passion-poopers.
  • ready to experiment and to innovate. Different positions, different places, even different roles (alternating between aggressor and passive partner) bring in the variety that puts the spice into sex.

Varicocele And Kindred Disorders

This is a fairly common male disorder, consisting of a swelling or enlargement of the veins of the spermatic cord present in the scrotum. The enlargement of the vessels may be slight and insignificant or so prominent that the scrotum also becomes quite swollen and pendulous. Usually it exists in mild degree, and is said to occur in about one in every ten young men. Many of those with mild varicocele give the condition more thought and worry more about it than some with a pronounced degree. The condition results from disturbances of the local circulation.

In some cases there is fullness and twisting of the spermatic veins in which there is no definite varicocele, the veins being normal and the functions normal. Varicocele is one condition which charlatans and quacks in the past have utilized to increase their revenue – at the expense of the peace of mind of their patients. They often make much of insignificant degrees of varicocele. Unscrupulous physicians often claim that every other possible sexual ailment except venereal disease results from or can result from varicocele.

The spermatic cord is a sheath-like structure suspending the testicle on each side, and containing the duct of this gland, the vas deferens, the spermatic arteries and the spermatic veins, which take the form of a network. A poor general circulation and any condition which results in local congestion in the parts, general low tissue tone, constipation, lifting of heavy weights, long standing on the feet, bicycle riding and certain jars and stresses may cause varicocele.

Symptoms: Upon palpation of the scrotum there is felt within it a mass resembling earthworms. These may be few or many. There may be no other signs (other than the enlargement of the scrotum) or symptoms. The scrotum also usually hangs very low, particularly on the left side, and in pronounced cases or in nervous individuals there is a sensation of weight and a dull dragging sensation. Sometimes an aching pain is quite pronounced. There may be tenderness in the veins of the parts involved, or of the spermatic cord or of the testicle.

There are several reasons why varicocele is more commonly found on the left side. First, the left cord is longer than the right; second, the left spermatic vein opens at right angles into the left renal vein, which does not favor ready return of blood on that side, while the right spermatic vein empties at a pronounced angle; third, the left spermatic vein runs behind the sigmoid colon, with the result that in constipation there is pressure upon and obstruction of the vein, which produces the stagnant circulation in the scrotum. Therefore the person who is habitually constipated is much more likely to develop varicocele than the one whose bowels are functioning normally.

Long standing does not have the effect of producing varicocele, unless there is defective circulation or general weakness and lowered tone of the tissues. One who is physically active and energetic may remain on his feet for long hours daily without the development of varicocele, provided other factors also do not tend to produce it. General debility and lack of nerve- and muscle-tone is one of the prominent causes and is necessary, in fact, to the development of a pronounced degree of the condition. Another important factor is continued or frequently repeated congestion of the parts due to too much sexual excitement, especially in early life. Masturbation, through its effect in causing frequent engorgement of the veins and a state of more or less general debility, may be a factor in the development of the condition. Many believe that all cases of varicocele result from masturbation or some sexual excitement, but this is far from a fact.

Sometimes a truss worn for the relief of a hernia may cause varicocele. Sometimes the hernia itself will result in the condition through direct interference with the return circulation. Any other type of tumor located in this region may have a similar effect. Lifting of heavy weights, especially when certain of the abdominal structures are not on guards may produce it; also sedentary habits.

In a great many cases worry has done more to reduce the general health than has the varicocele itself. There is no occasion to worry over the condition, and nothing need be done in the very mild cases. Some cases become so pronounced, however, that there is failure of development of the involved testicle; or if there is development It may gradually atrophy because of the failure in its circulation. In this case there is more or less “sickening” ache in the testicle itself during the process of atrophying. In these cases the testicle function becomes much impaired, but the other testicle may maintain normal sexual vigor and productivity.

Treatment: Since it is poor general tone, vigor and circulation that make the condition possible, whatever factor or factors may have been responsible for its immediate development it is necessary that the treatment include those factors which have to do with building up the body and the quality and circulation of the blood to the highest degree possible. One of the most important of all factors of treatment is cold applications. The cold sitz-bath is the best single factor in the treatment of this trouble. Sometimes through the draining of the vessels by the cold bath and the improved local tone, there will be an eradication of the trouble if causes have been removed. In any case, however, the cold will have the effect of removing the feeling of tension and bearing down so common to this affliction.

The hot sitz-bath should not be taken in this condition unless there is pain or unless there is inability to react from a cold sitz-bath. In this latter case, the hot sitz-bath may continue for a minute or two in order to improve reactive powers. The cold sitz-bath may and should be taken morning and evening. The colder the water the more valuable will the treatment be, but reaction is necessary, of course. At any time the hot sitz-bath is taken, it should always be followed by the cold sitz.

Another excellent bath is taken as follows: Seated in three or four inches of cold water in an ordinary bath tub, after two or three minutes use the cupped hands in the order of a water wheel between the flexed knees to splash the water quite vigorously against the scrotal area. A modification of this treatment is to have the arms on the outside of the legs (knees flexed), which gives a more pronounced splashing effect against the perineal region. Still another very excellent cold water treatment is the cold spray with a portable hand spray.

While seated in the bath tub, or while supported over the side of the tub (so that the hips are suspended inside and the back leaned against one side of the tub while the knees support the body on the other side), one may play the cold spray as long as desired with less chilling effect upon the body as a whole, thus resulting in more prompt reaction. After this spray has been given to the scrotal, perineal, and lower abdominal regions, it may be given also to the lumbar region of the spine. This is the sex center of the spine, and treatment at this region will have a good tonic effect upon the circulation throughout the sexual system and pelvis. The alternating hot and cold sprays may be given to this region with benefit, terminating with the cold.

Exercise is very necessary for the correction of this trouble. While standing may aggravate the condition, walking and running will tend to drain out the veins of the scrotum through the effect upon the entire general circulation. Running while in one place, rope-skipping, moderately fast walking and running, or any one or more of these should be included in every system of treatment for this trouble if there is no contra-indication. Other exercises of value are those taken reclining, either on the level or, especially, on the slanting table – such as were recommended for rupture. One may lie on the inclined table several times daily without exercise, but at least once a day exercise should be taken, mainly on the back^ but also some movements face down – all taken head down.

Diet is of considerable value in this condition also. It is important that a diet providing ample bulk and laxative foods be provided so that bowel functioning is maintained at normal or is re-established. The milk diet is one of the best diets for the condition. It gives the blood all the elements that are required, but it gives ample fluid also, and the circulation in general is pronouncedly increased on this diet. This is what is required for the correction of varicocele. Naturally if the milk diet is constipating, the enema must be used, or bran, bran muffins, figs or prunes in sufficient amounts to secure at least two good evacuations daily. If the milk diet is not used there should be considerable milk in a diet otherwise composed of natural foods.

The wearing of a supporter with elastic straps is advisable when there is pronounced distension of the veins, or when there is tenderness and pain or a dragging sensation. Within a comparatively short time these sensations will be reduced, but it does no harm to wear the support. After the cold water treatment by any of the methods suggested above, the sac of the supporter may be wrung from cold water before putting it on. This, with the outer clothing, has somewhat the effect of a heating compress.

One remaining leading factor of treatment, and in some cases the most important of all, is the avoidance of sexual excitement and erotic thoughts. So long as physically or mentally one is maintaining a congestion of these parts, it is impossible for any combination of treatments that do not include surgery to correct the trouble.

Keeping the mind on other subjects and free from worry over the existing condition, adopting a blood-making diet of vital foods only, with ample fluid, exercising sufficiently to develop good muscle tissue and muscle-tone, securing enough relaxation that there is no enervation, and also employing local treatment, will do wonders in this condition and often in time will completely restore the parts to normal. Whether or not they have this perfect effect, they will prevent aggravation of the condition, will remove unpleasant sensations resulting from it, and will maintain functioning of the sexual glands.