Ask Our Sexpert

Our resident Sexperts is here to answer all of your burning questions, no matter how big, small, embarrassing or scary they are to ask. Having worked in sexual health for years, they have seen and heard everything.

Email us at Sexpert@lasttaboo.co.uk today and we will post your question and answer here anonymously. 

I don’t think I’m that great at giving oral sex. Do you have any tips for me that might help me?

Worry less… You probably aren’t that bad at it. Though your nervousness may be showing through so in order to be more comfortable going ‘down’ think about the lead up to oral. Perhaps have a shower together, slowly caress each other and then towel yourselves dry to get ready for foreplay. You might want to use something scrummy like chocolate sauce or whipped cream and then lick the area gently. If you’re worried about whether to swallow or not, then don’t. When’s your man is ready to come either slip a tissue in place to catch his junk or take it in your mouth and spit subtly into a cup that you’ve conveniently placed by the bed. Just make sure it’s not a glass!

My past partners have dumped me because I’m too small – does size really matter in bed?

Wow, they sound like horrible partners. Better off as exes I say! When it comes to sex, what’s most important is that you and your partner share your own style of sexual enjoyment, not size. Plus men on the small side are often better at foreplay because they make up for what they think they’re lacking. If you’re really concerned, choose positions that create the most friction such as doggy style. My advice, worry less and find a rhythm which works for you and your partner.

I had a one night stand a few days ago and didn’t use a condom. Things haven’t been quite right down below since – what should I do?

Without a second thought you should go to your nearest sexual health centre, GUM clinic or GP and have a full sexual health screen, including HIV. You just don’t know who the person is that you slept with, nor who they’ve been sleeping with. If they didn’t use a condom with you, most likely they don’t use protection. Fear not, most common STIs are easily treated – though testing is the first step for any successful treatment.

You haven’t said if you’re male or female – if you’re a woman, and don’t take contraception devices then you also need to be clear on when your last period was as you are at risk of becoming pregnant. If your period is late, take a pregnancy test and speak to your GP who will help guide you through the next steps.

I think I have an ingrowing hair ‘down there’. It’s really painful and itchy, but I can’t face going to a doctor about it. Is there anything I can do?

If you are ripping a hair out from the root, the new hair can be weak and unable to break through the skin causing it to grow back in on itself. If you do get an ingrown hair, before attacking it, it helps to make it warm by laying in the bath or putting a hot flannel on it for five minutes. Make sure the area and your hands are clean and gently squeeze either side to push the hair under the skin upwards. Once the tip is exposed, pull the hair upwards with some clean/sterilised tweezers trying not to break the skin.

Once it’s out let the air get to it for a while and you can put some antiseptic cream such as tea tree onto it if you feel necessary. Wearing cotton underwear can also help. Regular exfoliation (removing the dead skin cells) in the area can help longer term in the prevention of ingrown hairs (I sound like a beautician!) If a cyst or pustule develops that you’re worried about, go and see a healthcare professional as it might need to be drained and you might need antibiotics.

Which STIs are treatable are which are with you for life?

Many STI’s (bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis) are treatable with antibiotics (although ‘super’ antibiotic resistant strains are increasing). HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and herpes (and sometimes HPV) are with you for life but there are treatments that keep them manageable.  But you have to know you have an infection to get treated…

How do you know if you’ve got an STI?

Some STI’s have symptoms and some do not. It’s worth getting checked at a sexual health clinic regularly, if you have unprotected sex with someone whose sexual health you don’t know, especially if it’s with more than one person as this increases your risk.

If you have any lumps, bumps, itching, pain, discharge etc from your genitals – go and get checked at your local clinic. That way you can get any treatments you may need and avoid passing it on to someone else.

My boyfriend is trying to talk me into banishing the bush as he reckons it’s healthier. Does shaving/waxing make it cleaner down there?

Absolutely not, when pubic hair is shaved or waxed it leaves microscopic open wounds in the skin membrane which means bacteria can enter. Given the warmth and moisture down there, it’s a perfect environment for bacteria to breed and there are a rising number of infections, including some nasties such as Streptococcus A and Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA, the antibiotic resistant strain of Staphylococcus aureus).

Boys and girls develop pubic hair as they start to produce hormones during puberty and it’s a sign of sexual maturity. Shaved hair means there is no barrier against the bacteria mentioned above and they can be transferred from skin to skin, this can lead to cellulitis infection (a bacterial infection of soft tissues) of the labia and scrotum. Because of the small tears and damage made to your skin during waxing or shaving, you’re also more vulnerable to herpes and HPV (genital warts).

Shaving and waxing can cause damage to the skin membrane but the hair follicles themselves are often irritated and can become inflamed, especially with frequent hair removal which is necessary if you want to stay smooth.

The follicle shape is oval not round (which is why pubic hair is curly) and there is a likelihood of an odd blocked hair follicle which can develop into a pustule or abscess – occasionally these need to be lanced and the infection treated with antibiotics – but they’re not life threatening!

I’m recently single and I’ve started seeing a few people (why not?). How often should I get a STI check and how is it done?

It really depends. If you’re starting a new relationship with someone it is a good idea for you both to go and have an STI check to make sure you’re all clear – remember things like HIV, hepatitis B & C and syphilis can take up to three months to get an accurate test result. If you’re single and sexually active, especially if you’re having sex unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, I would advise you have a regular STI check – as often as every three months.

For a full STI screen the process is quite straight forward. A nurse will ask you a series of questions about the sort of sex you have and then take some blood samples to test for HIV and hepatitis. You will also be asked to take one or more swabs of the inside of your genitals (for both men and women) and provide a urine sample. The nurse might also check your throat. They’ll probably send you away with some free condoms as well! It’s nothing to be worried about – these people have heard everything you can think of and won’t make you feel embarrassed. Most people feel relieved after visiting a sexual health clinic.

Results are usually provided over the phone or via text message within a week and if anything shows up you’ll be asked to go back for a follow-up appointment.

There are loads of options for taking STI tests though, and if you really are worried but don’t want to see a doctor or nurse, you can self-test yourself at home for HIV, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. You can get these via the NHS’s Freedoms Shop https://www.freedoms-shop.com/testing-kits/.

One of my mates told me that STIs were nothing to worry about as you won’t get any symptoms from most of them. Is this true?

HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can all be fatal if left untreated. They eventually cause irreparable damage to your immune system/liver, however there are really effective treatments available to prevent this damage. There are very often no symptoms, so it is really important to get tested if you have any doubts and start treatments to protect yourself; making sure you don’t pass it on to anyone else

STIs can also make you infertile – especially in women. The most common infection to cause infertility is chlamydia because over time it causes the fallopian tubes to irreparably scar and block the release of eggs. Chlamydia usually doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms, so testing is really important. Syphilis and gonorrhoea can also adversely impact fertility.

I’m a single mum and I’ve recently started going on dates again. I was seeing a guy for a few weeks and after we split up I found out I had herpes. I’ve seen a doctor and I’m getting it sorted out, but I read online that herpes and other STIs can also be spread through kissing. Have I put my kids at risk as well?

Through normal contact it is very unlikely you can pass an STI on to your children, but herpes can be spread through kissing. Also hepatitis B and HIV can be transmitted to an unborn child during pregnancy and there is a strong likelihood of an unborn baby contracting syphilis from the mother, especially during birth if there are any sores.

I’m 17 and I’ve just come out as gay. I’ve started seeing a bi guy and everything is going great. He really wants us to start having sex, but I don’t feel ready. It’s completely safe for us to masturbate together without condoms though isn’t it?

Good for you – you should only take the plunge and have a sexual relationship when you feel comfortable and ready for it. Talk to your bloke about it and explain your fears and if he really likes you, he’ll understand and you can take things at a pace you’re both really comfortable with. Speaking of masturbation being safe – it depends what you are mutually masturbating with. If you’re using your hands there is not really any risk, although there is a very low risk from using your hands on someone else and then yourself, the same with sharing sex toys. Always wash them before. But genital to genital masturbation can leave you exposed to things like herpes, HPV (genital warts), pubic lice (crabs) and syphilis.

My husband and I really want to try something new in the bedroom and I get really turned on by the thought of anal – he’s well up for it but keeps telling me how dirty it is. Is he right?

Anal sex is not dirty.

Some people worry they will get faeces (poo) on them, but faeces are held in your colon not your anus and only move down when you want to have a poo. It can however carry a higher risk of contracting an STI, whether you’re a man or a woman, as the tissues there are pretty delicate and can be easily damaged. There can also be a risk for a woman if you are going to have vaginal sex after anal sex, as there can be a transfer of bacteria. It is a good idea to use a condom for the anal sex and throw it away or change it before vaginal sex as this will prevent any bacterial transfer.

Penetrative anal sex whether you’re gay or straight carries a higher risk of STI’s because the tissues inside your anus are thinner and they don’t self-lubricate so can be damaged more easily. There is a much higher risk from HIV, gonorrhoea, syphilis, hepatitis B, herpes and HPV.

It’s even more important to use condoms if you don’t know each other’s sexual health status and always use water based lubricants as it will help stop tissue damage and prevent condom breakage.

In saying that – if you’re both up for it and really comfortable with each other and follow the advice above… what’s stopping you?

Is it normal to be sore after sex?

There are quite a few reasons you can be sore after sex, usually this is just down to friction and possibly bruising, especially if you’ve had a lot of sex in a short space of time. It can be worth using lube for longer sessions.  Thrush and cystitis (which is not an STI but can be spread through sex) are two of the most common infections that cause soreness after sex in women.

I’m seeing a really adventurous girl and she loves it when I lick her bum. Can I catch any disease from rimming?

Yes, you can catch diseases from rimming because, however clean your bum hole is, there is always going to be lots of bacteria because it is how your body works. Bacteria such as e-coli and salmonella can be present and make you really ill if you ‘eat’ it and there is also risk of Hepatitis A. Shigella (which causes very bad diarrhoea and cramps) is also on the increase, with the main cause being attributed to faecal/oral transmission.

There are things called dental dams, which are thin sheets of plastic or latex that are placed between the mouth and anus, that protect you from ingesting bacteria. I have also heard of people using cling film, but a word of warning – sometimes this has tiny holes in it, which bacteria can get through, so use a double layer.

Another tip – if you put some lube on the anus first it can hold the dam in place.

What should I do if I get a rash down there? If it gets itchy does it mean I have an STI?

A rash can be caused by a number of different things, including shaving or waxing and even friction. If you have any discharge, pain or burning, it is worth going to get checked and avoid any further sexual contact to prevent spreading any potential infection. Herpes, syphilis and HPV can all cause rashes that itch but they generally look like blisters, sores and small growths, respectively. Pubic lice (crabs) and scabies can also cause an itchy rash and it’s not uncommon to get itchy fungal infections in your nether regions. All of these things are treatable (not all are contagious) so it’s worth getting some advice if you’re worried

I’ve always been a ‘spitter not a swallower’, but I’m feeling more experimental now. How many calories are in sperm and can it make you put on weight?

You’d have to eat a lot of sperm to put on weight! A teaspoon of sperm (about the usual amount for ejaculation) contains between 5 and 25 calories, depending on the amount of protein.

Is spotting normal or could it be a sign of something more serious?

Spotting (or bleeding in women between periods) is really common and usually nothing to be worried about. It can be caused by hormonal changes, such as taking the pill.  Spotting after sex is less common though and may be due to damage to the vaginal wall from friction (and possibly vaginal dryness). If you bleed every time after vaginal sex that is more worrying and could be a sign of an STI (from lesions that bleed), or cervical or uterine cancer.

If you have any concerns you should visit your GP or local sexual health clinic.

On a very drunken Christmas night out, I happened to have a chance encounter with another woman (and ended up going down on her). It was pretty good, but then a ‘friend’ I confided in, told me people were more likely to have mouth cancer if they give a lot of oral sex to women – I’ve done a bit of research and I’m seeing a lot of mixed messages. Can you set the record straight and tell me if I can get mouth cancer from giving a woman oral sex?

HPV (human papiloma virus) is associated with cancers and it is possible to contract HPV from oral sex, however it is really difficult to prove whether HPV can cause throat or mouth cancer – there are studies that suggest that giving oral sex to more than six women in a lifetime increase risk of oral cancers, but this is in no way comparable to the risks of smoking, drinking and stress.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Cervical cancer very often doesn’t have any symptoms until it is quite advanced, but the main one is usually abnormal bleeding (especially in post-menopausal women) and possibly a change in discharge where is becomes more watery and smelly. HPV can be a precursor to cervical cancer and it is really important to know the symptoms (small growths around the genitals which can clump together to form cauliflower like clusters) Girls are now vaccinated in schools to prevent HPV infection.

I’ve just had a dreaded letter from the doctor telling me I have to go for a (first time) cervical smear. Does having a smear test hurt?

No, it doesn’t hurt and it’s a lot easier if you relax. It only takes about five minutes. You lay on a bed, undressed from the waist down, put your feet together and relax your knees out to the side.  The doctor or nurse then inserts a speculum into your vagina, which holds the vaginal walls apart and they then take a sample with a swab or brush, from your cervix. That’s it.

This sample is then sent off to a lab and you get the results a few days later. Some women find this embarrassing, but it is really necessary as it’s the only way to check the health of your cervix and get anything diagnosed that may be symptom free. NHS screening is offered every three years to 25-49 year olds and every five years to 50-65 year olds. It is not routinely offered to under 25’s as cervical cancer is very rare, but if you have any concerns you should speak with your doctor.

 

I’m a single HIV positive female and have found some online dating websites specifically for people with HIV. Are they a good idea for someone thinking about getting back into the dating scene?

In my experience, which is predominately with HIV dating sites, I believe websites which match people which are open about their STI status serve a really good purpose and offer a place which provides the opportunity, particularly those with currently incurable STIs like HIV, to re-enter the dating scene in a safe environment where taboos are broken down and conversations can be normal, like any first date interaction, from the very beginning. Because of this they can help people feel comfortable and more inclined to re-enter the dating scene. People I’ve spoken to who have used these sorts of sites say they provide hope for the future. For example, we must remember HIV is only three letters, not a sentence; so there is a whole life after diagnosis, even children. Though, as with any online dating website, it’s important to stay safe when making the decision to meet anyone you’ve been talking to online. Aim for a public place and make sure a friend or family member know where you are going to be.

I’ve seen lots of information about how dating apps like Tinder are increasing STI transmission. Is this true? Should I try the old school way of dating instead?

We need to be careful of ‘passing the buck’ and saying that dating apps are to blame for increases in STI contraction because this removes responsibility from those actually having the sex. Every person should take responsibility for their own sexual health; knowing that it is always necessary to use condoms – for both oral and vaginal / anal sex – as it’s the only way to prevent STI’s contraction.

You should choose any dating method that works for you. And ultimately, STI trasmission can only increase when people avoid using protection. If you always practice safe sex, or you and your new sexual partner know your STI status, then there is very little risk of contraction.

 

Recently I’ve been struggling to ‘get it up’ for my wife. She thinks it means I’ve lost interest in her – but this is not the case. What will I do?

Having difficulty maintaining an erection (sometimes referred to as erectile dysfunction) is also commonly called impotence.

Most men experience occasional difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, usually as a result of tiredness, temporary stress or excessive alcohol consumption. Temporary loss of erections every now and then might feel stressful or embarrassing, but is not something to worry about. Difficulty getting and maintaining erections is more common among the over-60s, but it can affect men of any age.

However, if difficulties getting or maintaining erections becomes a long-term problem which interferes with your sex life, you might want to do something about it. In most cases men who have difficulty staying hard are still interested in sex, but their worries about staying hard can mean they begin avoiding sexual activities. If you think your difficulties have a physical cause, ask your doctor to explore this with you further. S/he may want to refer you to a specialist who may carry out some tests. If there is a physical problem, you may be offered some medical treatment such as prescribed drugs. If there are no medical problems, then it may be useful to consider psychological factors and how they can affect erections.

I lose my erection when I put a condom on. Should I stop using them?

No. Condoms are still the best protection from sexually transmitted infections and HIV. It’s not the condom that causes you to lose your erection. It’s the fact that you put it on just before penetration. If a man is experiencing loss of erections, the point of penetration is often when it happens therefore try wearing a condom from the beginning. Engage in foreplay with it on and when you’re hard then penetrate. Although many men find using condoms tricky at times, the more you use them the easier it becomes.

What is genital herpes and what are the symptoms?

Genital herpes is caused by a virus – herpes simplex virus (HSV) – and there are 2 types, type 1 and type 2 that can cause cold sores around both the mouth and on the genitals. In the UK around 50% of sexually active adults carry the type 1 virus and 3-10% carry Type 2. There were over 32,000 diagnoses in England in 2013.  Often there are no symptoms but when the virus is active some people can feel a bit run down and flu like. Cold sores often start as a tingling or burning sensation on the genital or anal area. Small fluid filled blisters can then appear on the skin around this area, including your penis or vagina and also your bottom, thighs and rectal area. It is less common, but blisters can also occur inside your urethra and if you’re female, on your cervix.  Some people get frequent cold sores, some people can get one cold sore and never get another and some people never get a cold sore because the virus does not become active.

If you have symptoms of genital herpes for the first time you should visit your GP or a sexual health clinic where they can prescribe you antiviral tablets, which will help stop the virus reproducing. You can also get antiviral ointments, that can really speed up the healing time and ease symptoms. If a cold sore does become established you can get gel patches that can help the healing process. For really severe cases you doctor might prescribe a long term course of tablets.

How is genital herpes caught and spread?

Most transmissions occur from oral, vaginal or anal sexual contact with someone who carries the virus. It can be passed from person to person even when symptoms are not visible, including skin to skin. The easiest way to protect yourself is to always use condoms or dental dams if you are with a partner who has not been tested and cleared for STI’s, even if there are no symptoms. This will not give total protection as the virus can be present on any uncovered skin. If you have any symptoms or cold sores you should not have sexual contact with another person.

If a cold sore bursts, this is the most contagious time and the virus can be spread until they are completely healed. It’s worth knowing that the virus can spread to other parts of your own body so it is really important to be aware of this especially with things like sex toys and look out for secondary infections. Always keep the blistered area clean with plain or salt water to prevent infection and Vaseline or an anaesthetic cream (such as Lidocaine) can reduce pain and stop affected areas sticking together.

I’m a 26 year old guy and I’ve just started seeing a new girlfriend – problem is that when we get down to business – I find myself getting over excited and coming too quickly. Why does this happen and how can I make it stop?

Occasionally there are physical causes, for example medical conditions such as prostatitis. But it’s far more likely to be caused by one of the following:

  • Worrying about your performance, particularly with new partners or when one or both of you is inexperienced (this is sometimes called performance anxiety);
  • Worrying about catching or passing on sexually transmitted infections (including HIV);
  • Feeling guilty (many men have grown up believing that sex is sinful, dirty or shameful);
  • If many of your experiences of having sex have had to be rushed and/or secret;
  • Relationship issues, for example if there are unresolved arguments, or pressure to have sex;
  • Differences between partners’ sex drives or expectations about how long sex should last; and
  • Other worries or stresses, for example about work or money.

The key thing to remember is there is nothing wrong with your penis, and therefore you should try to focus on the erotic sensations and feelings when you’re in sexual situations. It’s more important to enjoy giving and receiving pleasure than it is to try and judge how well or badly you performed.