Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strapon Recommendations

Do you have a recommendation for a good vibrating strapon? – SS

Hello SS,

There are certainly a number of varieties of strap ons on the market. We don’t have a strong recommendation for which one to choose. However, what we do recommend is that you call or visit a sex shop and ask them if they have recommendations for those that are most popular, most durable, etc. The staff can usually offer pros and cons for each product.
Aside from Illini Arcade or Fantasies in Champaign-Urbana, national sex shops we like are Early 2 Bed and Good Vibrations. And, from what we could find online, it looks like the most common vibrating strap on is a vibrating thigh harness, avaialable at both and
Hope that helps!
Thanks for the question,
Jo & Ross
Doin’ It Well
Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 15:04:04 | Permalink | Comments Off

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reader Question About Anal Sex Prep

Hi, I just would like your advice regarding (anal) sex. I have been with my boyfriend just about a year now and have talked about engaging in anal sex. We actually have a hotel get away planned and have both agreed it will be a good opportunity then, which is about two weeks away from now. We had planned to eat dinner and stroll around a bit before heading back up to our room so how do I make sure my colon is clean for anal sex and to make sure we won’t have a mess down there? Do I eat a certain entree for dinner and is there an amount of hours after eating dinner to wait until we engage in it so that I won’t embarrass myself? Do I also have to make a bowel movement prior to? I would very much appreciate if you could answer my questions and concerns when you are able to. Thank you very much.

Dear Reader,

Thanks for the great question. Remember, the anus is the opening and the rectum is about 7-8 inches inside the body and the colon is even further up, beyond the rectum. So, the colon is not what is being penetrated. The colon stores feces and feces is only pushed through the rectum right before a bowel movement. Most of the time, there are only trace amounts of feces hanging out in the rectum.

As for how quickly food passes through you after eating, causing a Bowel Movement (BM), that is very hard for us to answer. But, our guess is that you have a better sense of this than we do, because we all tend to know what our daily BM look like (i.e., do you usually have a BM each morning? Or, do you usually have a BM in the evening after you eat?) This can vary from person to person but you may be able to notice the trends for you.

In addition to that, have you noticed in the past that seafood or Red Lobster specifically tends to pass through you quickly? If not, then the chances of a “mess” are lower, although we can’t guarantee that. You can try to have a BM before you begin sex play. If nothing happens, it probably means there is very little in the rectum to be pushed out. You can wash the outside of the rectum/anus with some soap and water and gently insert a soapy finger into the rectum as well.

Our final suggestion is to talk more with your partner about being a little bit flexible with experimenting with anal play. We know you have a weekend getaway planned and while it may be an ideal time to experiment, remember that you can always postpone it for another time if you aren’t feeling comfortable or you are having bowel movements.

You might want to start out with some fingering of the anus & rectum or inserting a sex toy, if that will help you feel more comfortable with how your body, including your bowels, is responding. If everything feels OK, you could move to penetration. If it feels off or you’re noticing any urges to “go” the you can stop that kind of play and move to other things!

Hope that helps. Remember that you should guide the speed & depth of penetration. Use lots of lube and go slowly. Have fun!

 Jo & Ross

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 16:13:02 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Meta-Goodbye, or a Last Sex Column About Writing Sex Columns

As we said last week, Jo and Ross are saying goodbye to Doin’ It Well this week. This has been an incredible six years for all the authors of Doin’ It Well, and we have been blessed with the opportunity to deliver weekly sex education through the Buzz and After almost seven years, we are tired, and we are excited about the budding sex educators and columnists who might write the next great sex column. In our final column, we wanted to take a moment to reflect and offer some unsolicited advice for aspiring sex columnists.  

Filling a Hole

When Doin’ It Well first set out, the authors made a few decisions. First, we would not use the column as a way to sensationalize sex. Sex sells just fine on its own; we wanted to open up a dialogue on sex and the even stickier topic sexuality. Second, we would provide medically accurate sex information in a sex positive way. Kim Rice and Jo Sanger both felt strongly that because there is so little “good” sexual health information out there and because people very often get mixed messages about sex, our column should be easy to understand.  Third, we would provide a space to think about the many different ways to think about and enjoy sex in our society. This was our niche.  

When you’re writing your own sex column, it’s up to you to figure out the voice that is absent – that can become your column’s voice! This could mean voicing your own personal experiences around sexuality explicitly, or using your own experiences to help shape the discussion generally. Doin’ It Well decided we weren’t going to use our own sex lives as examples; however we also know that many authors are able to incorporate frank conversations about their own sexual experiences in a very educational and supportive way.  

Medically Accurate Sex Education

You don’t have to be a professional in the field of sexuality or violence prevention to write a good advice column or blog. But, make sure your information is accurate, which can be difficult in the ever changing world of medical and social science.  This can require quite a bit of research and staying current in the field.  Double check your facts to be sure you don’t unintentionally contribute to the wealth of misinformation that is out there about sex. (Like the time when Doin’ It Well misprinted the name of former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders twice.) If you use something off another person’s blog or website, be sure to give them a shout out and credit knowing you went to the experts to provide your readers with accurate information.  

Sex Positive

Writing a sex column also means a responsibility with your readers. We received serious questions from readers dealing with everything from size-discrimination to STD-diagnosis. However you write, know that your readers will be looking for themselves and their sexuality in your writing. If you’re hoping to reach lots of people, it means using language that’s inclusive and tolerant of many different sexualities, genders, and sexual behaviors.  

Often, people think being sex positive means “anything goes as long as there’s consenting adults.” But sometimes, the “anything goes” mentality only sexually liberates some, while putting down others. We decided to take a strong feminist stance with our column, frequently examining issues of fairness and access; that doesn’t have to be your angle.  Just keep it happy and healthy for everyone, not just some.   

At the same time, take care when writing columns about populations or behaviors you are either not familiar with or not a member of. For example, people really liked our column on furries or when Ross visited a bath house in Chicago, but we spent a lot of time making sure that we weren’t sensationalizing sexual behaviors for entertainment purposes.  In sex columns, there is a fine line between exposing readers to new things and presenting individuals or behaviors as a “freak show.” 

The Answer is Always Communication

Some people may shy away from writing a sex column because they don’t like to write.  We’ve learned that: 1) outlines help and 2) simple is better. Whenever we got stuck we’d reframe our approach by relaxing and asking ourselves, “What do we want people to know about this topic?”  Then we’d write down three to four key points to cover and bam! If you are passionate about sexuality and feel you have something to share, the writing will unfold on its own. As we found, writing with a partner can expand your column’s perspectives and also help balance the writing load. 

Picking Topics

Commonly, we would be asked, “How do you decide what to write about?”  It can be as easy as asking friends or family what questions they have or have heard. Or frequently, just telling people you write a sex column can create a great conversation starter! Keep a record of questions you keep hearing or topics you hear people talking about. When you get a good personal question, ask if you could write a column about it. Nothing is worse than feeling like you’ve unintentionally breached someone’s confidence by writing about their intimate question.  

We found that we sometimes would balance our “mechanical” columns with our “philosophical” columns. So we’d balance our column on sex-shaming language with a column on hand jobs later. This gives your readers and your writing a nice break from struggling with the hard stuff, so you can get back to basics.  


Jo uses a pseudonym, but Ross doesn’t. What we each found is that when our professional networks knew about our authorship of the column, we were viewed as a liability to those around us.  In fact, this pressure was what drove Kim Rice to discontinue co-authoring the column. When you’re thinking about writing, consider what the implications might be in your personal and professional settings.  

Have Fun

This is simple, right? Writing about sex is innately fun, right? Most of the time, definitely. But sometimes writing about sex is only as fun as you make it. Writing can be thankless; it can be difficult to know how or if people are reading. As you’re writing your column, have fun. Explore issues and areas that you’re curious about. Delve with wit and intelligence into the void. Most of all, enjoy yourself.  

Thank You!

Doin’ It Well owes our success to all of you. Thank you to our editors and staff at the Buzz and who took a risk on hiring non-students to write a weekly sex column in a campus community magazine. Thank you to all of our illustrators who rose to the challenge of illustrating our writing. Thank you to Kate Ruin and Kim Rice, the original authors of Doin’ It Well, who gave this column the shape and spirit that it has today. Thank you to all of our readers, including those who gave us questions, topics, or suggestions.  We were constantly inspired by the individuals who let us know that they were faithful readers! Doin’ It Well would have been just “doing it okay” without all of your support, reading, and feedback. You stay sexy, Champaign-Urbana. 

Sex 411: Sex Resources We Love

Jo and Ross can be reached at Become our fan on Facebook (Doin’ It Well), and look for us to post our favorite columns of the past seven years!

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 13:25:07 | Permalink | Comments Off

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sex in the Cornfields: The Sexual Health Scene in C-U

Reader Question

I’ll be moving to Urbana, and I’m hoping to work in some form of sexual health…or anything I suppose. I was wondering if you had suggestions for organizations that do sex positive health education at any level. Also, I’m interested in working in a sex shop. But I am only familiar with the Illini Arcade and Fantasy’s. I don’t know that either of those is necessarily motivated by politics so much as money. I’m moving from [someplace with two great sex shops], one being a self-proclaimed “feminist sex shop” (boutique, really), the other being a small chain of shops owned by a woman and focusing a lot on women. I’m wondering if what your views are on “the scene” in c-u.


The Scene

Thanks for the fabulous question, RB. Jo and Ross have been in Champaign for long enough that we know we will never be able to capture everything that is going on in Champaign-Urbana at one time around issues of sexuality. But at the same time, we love highlighting some of the wonderful work that is going on! Champaign-Urbana has some amazing resources providing college students, teens, and adults with medically accurate sex education. So in no particular order, RB, here is the CU Sexuality Scene.  

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood of Illinois runs a local clinic on campus that provides sexual health medical services, including gynecological exams, STD testing, and non-surgical abortion. Those resources are great. What excites Doin’ It Well most of all, though, is the Teen Awareness Group, or TAG. TAG is a group of trained youth educators who provide sexual health workshops for their peers, as well act as a referral resource to services around town. They provide an amazing point of contact for their peers who may not always get accurate information at home or in school. Planned Parenthood of Illinois has a number of internships and volunteer opportunities, so check out their website to find out more! 

Sexual Health Peers

On campus, a student group called the Sexual Health Peers, provides workshops, education, and awareness raising events – such as the Illinois Sexual Health Awareness & Guidance week, cleverly acronymed as “I-SHAG.”  Sexual Health Peers work closely with the campus health center to connect Illinois students with medical services and information.  

Champaign-Urbana Public Health

Public Health provides a number of services, education, and medical outreach. From reproductive healthcare (including birth control) to a STD testing service that travels around Central Illinois, CUPHD does a lot for Champaign County residents and beyond.  

Organizing for Good Sex Ed

Historically, there has been a lot of activism in CU around making sure that schools were providing scientifically based sex ed. Currently, there aren’t any community organizations doing that work, but you will occasionally see a bumper sticker for the Campaign for Comprehensive Sex Education, one such community organization that helped get sex ed curriculum change for Champaign and Urbana schools.  

Sex Shop Shopping

So what do we think of our local sex shops? There are a number of really great things about Illini Video Arcade and Fantasies. Both are boutique-style shops, which makes them easier to walk into and browse, and both carry a pretty extensive selection of lubes and toys. The videos, magazines, and books, however, may leave something to be desired if you’re used to a sex shop that has explicit feminist or women-centered roots. One cool note, however, all employees of both shops are required to read Sex Toys 101, which was written by women-owned, New York-based, Toys in Babeland founders.  

Although one or both of these stores are women-managed, they are part of a larger corporation, so they carry the same items and are organized in relatively the same way. The video and print material – like mainstream porn – is vastly focused on a white, heterosexual male consumer. When we did a meticulous review of the materials, there was very little women-created porn, and there was too much (in our opinion) material on themes like incest, humiliation, and degradation (in contrast to more consensual displays of power play/BDSM). Because these are the only two shops in town, though, the more knowledgeable people who work there, the better!  

As you check out the local scene, RB, good luck. CU has a lot of hidden gems and potential; you might just start the very thing you’re looking for! 

Say Goodbye

After 6 wonderful years of writing Doin’ It Well, Jo and Ross have made the hard choice to stop writing the weekly column. We are so thankful to our wonderful readers, supporters, question-askers, and editors over the years who have helped make writing Doin’ It Well fun and challenging. On Facebook this week, you can find our own retrospective of our top columns of the past six years. Next week in our very last column, we’ll give our readers a DIY look at writing your own sex column.

Sex 411: Resources for the CU Scene

Planned Parenthood of Illinois:

C-U Public Health:

Sexual Health Peers (find them on facebook)

Find Doin’ It Well on Facebook, or e-mail Jo and Ross at

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 02:35:47 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rock Your Socks Off: Exploring fancy feet and toe turn-ons

Some of you may have seen a recent viral post on Facebook about Quentin Tarantino and his supposed kinky foot fetish. Reading it got us at Doin’ It Well thinking about the turn-ons of the feet, why a sexual attraction to feet or footwear is even considered “kinky,” and why we, as a society, care so much about other people’s sexual preferences.

Stepping In
Finding the foot or both feet sexual arousing is mostly experienced and reported by men. The attraction could be to the foot itself or the footwear. And let’s remember, just because someone gets turned on by feet or footwear, it doesn’t mean they have a “foot fetish.” The term fetish gets thrown around a lot but should be reserved (if used at all) for people who cannot get aroused without the presence of an object, material or body part. There’s a difference between something that enhances sexual arousal (kink) and when a person cannot get aroused without it (fetish). Either way, if feet are your thing and that doesn’t bother you or your partner(s), enjoy it; many people are turned on by feet!

Hit the Gas!
Pedal pumping is the term used when a woman is shown pumping the gas pedal to start a car or truck. The motion of the foot “pumping” up and down on the pedal, combined with a foot with sexy toenail polish in a high heel and an engine revving gets the motor running for some men.

That’s one example of a particular type of foot turn on. But there can be as many variations as there are people. Some like small feet, some big, some like bare toes; others get turned on by flashy polish. Often, a high arch or high heels or boots turns someone on, although for another person, seeing a foot in a flip flop could do the same.

Exploring foot play can include stimulation of the genitals by the feet or toes or it may only include worshipping someone’s feet by kissing, licking, washing or providing a pedicure. Some people just want to have sex with their partner wearing high heels or leather boots; others might visit a dominatrix and develop a whole “scene” around feet or footwear. There’s even a foot parlor in Chicago that specializes in this:

Open Mind, Insert Foot
Sometimes, when a person does find feet, footwear or stockings arousing, they are afraid to tell their partner or experience their arousal because they are worried they have a “foot fetish” or that they are somehow perverted or into “kinky” sex. It can feel risky to share with a partner that wonder what it would be like to suck on her toes, or to ask your partner to wear her leather boots during sex. By framing it as something that would turn you on, ask your partner if they’d be willing to give it a try. It may open the door to really exciting sex, which can sometimes scare people because we are raised to suppress our sexual desires.

Keep in mind, you might try something once and not have the desire to experience it again! If nothing else, adding new stimulation, props or clothing (fishnets, stockings) to your sex life can be fun and break up the routine. If someone shares with you their desire to experiment with foot play or to pay special attention to the feet in a way they normally have not, keep it fun but be sensitive to teasing about them having a “fetish.”

Toe and Tell                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      So why are we so worried about Quentin’s feet? Our voyeuristic nature may cause us to be intrigued about, a little fearful of, but definitely interested in what other people do in the bedroom (or shoe store). Anything outside of the regular, run of the mill, penis-in-vagina- vanilla sex seems to widen our eyes and perk up our ears. But when it comes to preferences or actual fetishes of the foot, it’s not actually that uncommon. In fact, feet are the most commonly preferred non-sexual object or body part that causes sexual arousal! Hopefully, this column will allow people to explore their desires in a way that feels safe and normal – because they are!

Stay tuned next week as we explore the sex positive scene of Champaign-Urbana !

Sex 411: Foot Play Glossary
Crushing or squishing: the act of crushing things like grapes or squishing applesauce by the feet or between the toes.
Shrimping: slang for toe sucking.

Jo and Ross are experts in the fields of sexuality and violence prevention. Contact them at

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 19:26:53 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ask Your Doctor if Anal Sex Is Right For You



I am a non-homosexual male, 53 years old, and I am asking about medically safe way of strap-on sex. Well, that is about it!


Dear Kontes, 

That is a fabulous question, and one we believe a lot of heterosexual males might be asking. Anal sex the penetration of the anus and rectum for sexual pleasure, and most specifically pegging, the name given to a female anally penetrating a male with a strap-on dildo, have been discussed frequently. Many men and women – queer and straight – incorporate anal stimulation into their sexual lives. At the same time, anal sex is still viewed as taboo or dirty, or seen as a sexual act for gay men (who are sometimes maligned as taboo or dirty). This week, Doin’ It Well wants to penetrate the myths about anal intercourse! 

Anal sex often describes the penetration of the anal sphincter with a penis, finger, dildo, or other object. In a recent column, we also discussed rimming – using the tongue or mouth to stimulate the outside of the anus – which would also be another form of anal play. Pegging is a fancy name for a woman anally penetrating (or pegging) a man with a strap-on dildo, coined by sex columnist Dan Savage who saw this behavior rising in popularity.  

What Goes Where

So let’s be clear what we mean when we talk about the “anal” in anal sex. The anus is the entry to the rectum; it’s about two inches long and surrounded by two rings of muscles: the external sphincter and the internal sphincter. The external sphincter can be controlled at will, whereas the internal sphincter is an involuntary muscle. The rectum is the canal inside the body and is about eight inches in length.  

Anal sex (and pegging) is pleasurable for several reasons. For men and women, the sphincter has lots of nerve endings that are sensitive to different kinds of stimulation. Because of all the nerve endings, it can also be an erogenous zone.  The rectum runs parallel to the back of women’s vaginas and very close to men’s prostates. During anal penetration, these areas are indirectly stimulated, which can create pleasurable sensations for the receiver! 

Our Sexual Anus

Each person is different in the ways their bodies respond to stimulation, and a great deal of what we experience as pleasure is enhanced by the emotional and psychological dimension of how “turned on” we are in the moment. In general, the ass – including but not limited to the buttocks, thighs, perineum (skin between the penis or vagina and anus), anus, and rectum – is a sexy area for people.  

When we talk about pegging, it’s always fascinating that there had to be a special word for straight men enjoying anal sex. In part, this is because anal sex gets framed as a gay man’s sexual act (or with anal sex’s popularity in porn, the act of a “slutty” woman). No one is inherently skilled at anal sex; anal sex for most people takes time, practice, and lots of communication with a partner to be good. It is up to each individual – regardless of gender or sexual orientation – to determine what sexual behaviors they would enjoy or want to try.  

Safe (Butt) Sex

So how can we encourage good and safe pegging? Like all anal penetration, pegging requires three main ingredients: preparation, lube, and communication.  


In the hours leading up to anal sex, expel your bowels and pay attention to your diet; you don’t want any surprises when the moment happens. To clean in preparation, get in the shower and take soap and wash the external area, using a soapy finger to wash just inside the anus. Some people want to use enemas (chemical or just water), but just soap and water can get everything pretty clean.  (If you do use an enema, read the labels. Especially chemical enemas can sometimes cause diarrhea symptoms, which would be no fun!) Then, grab some condoms (or latex gloves if you’re going to use fingers), lube, and a towel.  You are ready! 


Because the anus doesn’t produce much lubrication like the vagina, lube is a big ingredient in the recipe for good anal sex. Select lubes that are thick and water soluble, because you’ll want a lube with some staying power. Our friends at Chicago’s Early To Bed recommend Maximus or Slippery Stuff. If you have questions, we recommend going to a sex shop/boutique and asking for their thicker, water-soluble lubes. Lube early, lube often! 


Jo and Ross realize we’re a resounding gong on this issue, but communication is key. Your partner cannot know what feels right or good to you unless you talk. When using a strap-on, the giver has less sense of the pressure they may be applying. Additionally, unlike what you may have seen on TV, anal sex often requires going slowly. Going slowly will also allow the sphincter to relax to accept penetration. Take your time, talk to one another, and discover what angles, positions, speed, and depth work well for both of you! 

Thanks again for the great question, Kontes! And good luck! 

Jo and Ross love hearing your questions. E-mail them at 

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 15:32:28 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sex with the Ex: A XXX experience or one to be ex-d out?

Can partners move from a dating relationship to a purely sexual one without difficulties? It may depend on the individual as well as the length and depth of the relationship.
Plenty of us can recall a time when we hooked up with someone after we were no longer “officially” dating them. Maybe we wanted to hold onto the relationship. Maybe “sex was great, but we weren’t good together.” Or maybe our ex just got exponentially hotter when they became “off-limits”. Folks who have done this say sex with the ex can be charged with energy and emotion. Some insist it is “definitely the best sex I’ve ever had”, while others regret how it complicated matters, and left them feeling hurt.

Trying to decide if it’s right for you? Here are some questions that could be helpful to consider… the key is to answer honestly.

What needs are you looking to fulfill with ex sex? Is it purely physical? Do you want sex without the romantic or emotional attachment? Will you be able to do this? Be sure to let your ex know what your expectations are, and find out theirs as well. If you state your needs openly & directly and they continue to have sex with you, at least you can say you’ve been honest. Or, are you visiting your ex because you want to stay emotionally attached or connected to them? Are you secretly hoping it will rekindle the flame? It can be hard to separate sex from emotions especially when you have a history together.

What are the pros and cons? If you’re both on the same page it could be fun! You probably know what turns each other on, and the idea of “just sex” can be an added kink factor. It can also be “easy”-you are familiar with each other and you provide each other with an available sexual partner. But if one of you is looking for more emotional attachment it could turn messy as old emotions resurface. Sometimes the person seeking the NSA sex may end up feeling bad if the other person wants more. If you think it’s possible you’ll end up feeling guilty or “used”, move on.

If you are looking to fulfill emotional needs ask yourself if your ex is the best person to provide a sense of intimacy, connection and closeness. Weigh this against the reasons you broke up. While it’s natural to gravitate to those you care about, remember that if you are feeling vulnerable, your ex may not be able to give you the emotional support you need. Often, we deny our emotional needs or do not recognize what the are. Remember, the best sex happens when we can be honest with ourselves and our partners.

Other considerations:
Hormones are powerful! Are you totally swept up in the moment? Have you thought through to the next morning, or the next time you see each other? How will you feel afterwards? Will this cause either of you pain or interfere with “getting over” each other and moving on? What if your ex tries to re-ignite the relationship after sex? What if sex makes you feel like you want to do this? How would you feel if they started dating someone else or if you saw them out flirting with someone? Considering all of these questions can help you take care of yourself emotionally.

If you get turned on thinking of your ex, but your mind is saying, “don’t go there”-trust your gut; sex with your ex may not be the wisest choice. For those times when sex sounds good and it seems like the ex is the only option… remember that your own hands or that new toy can do the trick, too. You can be your own best lover!

Finally, keep in mind that the world is big and there are plenty of hotties just waiting for you to find them! Whether it’s sizzling sex, emotional intimacy or both that you seek, you may want to channel your energy into adventures with new people.

Above all, be honest with yourself, and be honest with your (ex) partner.

Ex-Sex 411
• Pay attention to both your physical & emotional needs. Sex with the ex may or may not meet those needs
• Don’t fool yourself! Even if your ex is having sex with you, it does not necessarily mean they care about you or want to get back together
• Most people are vulnerable after a break up. It can be easy to be hurt further by someone who has moved on emotionally, but stays with you sexually
• Breaking up usually means that both parties see other people. Don’t assume that your ex is only sleeping with you. Even if you didn’t use protection before the break up, it’s a good idea to do so now as the risk of getting an STD is higher.

Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 20:40:51 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Talk Dirty To Me: The Art of Pillow Talk

Ross attended a conversation with about 75 college-aged men focused on sex and consent. After the panel had discussed some the definitions of consent – that consent meant an actively and enthusiastically communicated “Yes!” – a man in the back of the room raised his hand. “How are we supposed to ask?” he demanded. He wasn’t angry; he was desperate. He had no clue how to begin talking to a sexual partner. We don’t think this reaction is unusual, and in fact, many of the men in the room were also very curious to know the answer to his question. Most of us have attempted to talk sexy to a partner, but we may not be sure what to say. This week, Doin’ It Well wanted to look at pillow talk – before, during, and after sex.

Laying It Down
Although “pillow talk” usually refers to the relaxed conversations couples may have after sex, we wanted to talk about the whole shebang – the conversation before sex, the talk during sex, and the conversation afterwards. These can be very different, or they may look similar, depending on what all parties want and need.

We want to respect that being sexual is an intimate and vulnerable experience. Much unlike the sexually “wild” or “empowered” experiences we may see represented in TV or porn, sex is filled with life complications not present in our fantasies. Talking openly about sex may be fraught with anxiety and insecurities. It might feel easier to just push into sex without much communication, or use alcohol or other drugs to make these conversations feel easier. We get that. We also know that everyone is much more likely to get their needs met if they can communicate as openly as possible. (line?)

Chatting Up
In the flirting and closeness that may proceed sex, you might feel a pressure to put on an act and pretend for your partner that you’re someone else – someone who they might be more likely to have sex with. In our opinion, “being sexy” doesn’t have to mean being someone else. During this time, try to be yourself. Use this time to find out more about your potential partner. If you have the opportunity, you can take time to find out what “turns-on” your partner – situations, positions, behaviors, words. Talking about what gets you hot will likely get you both hot! Especially if you haven’t been intimate much, this is a great time to be gathering information for when you actually get at it.

Heat of the Moment
You’ve made it. You’re getting down to it together. Now what? During sex, it might feel especially taboo to start talking, but this is the moment when you can talk even more about what you like about your partner, what you find sexy about them, or what you enjoy about this moment. Say your partner’s name when you’re talking to them. Or even describe the sensations you’re experiencing in the moment.

Consent doesn’t need to be a show stopper, either. While you’re getting hotter and heavier, ask your partner what they would enjoy doing, or even if they like what you’re doing right now. Remember, this isn’t about your ego, this is about gauging your partner’s interest and presence. If they don’t seem to like what’s happening, ask them what they would like. Or slow it down and take turns taking the lead with each other. Or let each person stimulate themselves while each other watch. Or if they aren’t into it, stop.

Hold on Loosely
Because we might be so focused on keeping the moment “sexy,” we can get hung up on having a certain kind of talk during and around sex. However, this kind of hot, breathy conversation isn’t for everyone. If we lighten up, we might find the sex even more enjoyable. Why work so hard on holding off a laugh? Or a fart? Sex is not what it looks like in the movies, so lighten up and enjoy the experience.

Dirty Mouths
Everyone is different about what kinds of dirty talk they like (or hate) in the bedroom. For some people, calling each other (or each other’s body parts) names or taking on various roles with each other might be hot. For others, it is going to kill the moment. If you’re not sure what your partner might like, ask.

After sex, the pillow talk is often much more relaxed. Physically, after an orgasm your body releases hormones that calm you down and also increase a feeling of connection. At this moment, you may lie together and hold each other. Talk about how you feel about this person, or what you enjoyed about the sex you just shared. You might even talk about experiences (sexual or otherwise) you’d like to share with them in the future, like a vacation or going to breakfast. Stay present with your partner (although it may be tempting to fall asleep or go do something else); this moment can be an important one for building connection.

Pillow talk takes practice, and entirely depends on the individuals. But being able to be sexually open while being true to yourself can open up new possibilities for you and your sexual experiences.

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Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 15:26:31 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cheating Yourself? Exploring Infidelity

Cheating occurs when someone is pursuing a relationship without the knowledge or consent of their exclusive partner. Relationships are often agreements and “promises” with one another. When we’re in a relationship with another person – unless otherwise defined – we are often committing to an implied or perhaps explicit monogamy.  But sometimes, one or both partner breaks that promise and goes outside of the relationship for sexual and intimate fulfillment. This week, Doin’ It Well explores the complex topic of cheating.

Why They Do It

Of course each situation is different; everyone has their own ideas about what causes cheating in romantic relationships. It might be the thrill or “rush” that cheating provides. Another motivation could be idealization of the partner you’re cheating with: they always want sex; you never fight; the “relationship” is intense, but easy-going; and you don’t feel all the pressures and worries of a longer term relationship. And perhaps a person in a committed relationship doesn’t actually want to be and wants to still “play the field.”

Research shows that predictors of infidelity list problems within the primary relationship and degree of commitment (satisfied, fewer alternatives, invested in relationship) as factors. In addition, motivation to cheat on a primary partner can be based on desire for variety, sexual dissatisfaction, feeling neglected, or opportunity. Sexual attraction is often a reported motive, followed by absence of a primary partner. Sometimes, revenge or hostility because of being wronged in the relationship is listed as a reason to cheat. Interestingly, there are few gender differences given for the reasons people go outside of their relationship for sex.


Yet another aspect of seeking intimacy outside of your relationship can be about the unfair expectations we have about our partners, about relationships, or about sex. We might expect that foreplay – and the intense arousal response – will always be as long and romantic as it was in the beginning of a relationship. We might expect that we will never find another person sexually or romantically attractive (or that our partner won’t, either). We might expect that regardless of work or family stress, our partners will shower us with attention and romance. We might have an unrealistic idea of how our partner’s looks will (not) change over time. The list goes on and on.  Regardless of the circumstances, we hear some common justifications for cheating.

Sometimes just as large an issue as these circumstantial expectations is the “cheater’s” internal desire to be wanted, cared for, or soothed. Blogger Hugo Schwyzer, who has written insightfully on the issue of men and cheating, says, that we have to “get past that adolescent hunger for affirmation, that insatiable longing to know what they don’t need to know.” When this insecurity is the root – and it often is underneath the surface expectations for hotter sex and hotter partners –we have to look at that empty hole we’re trying to fill to understand how and whether our desires should be satiated. 

If we can understand these motivations and perhaps, some of the loss we experience when they can’t be met, it can remove some of the power they have. It can also open the door for us to identify the reasons we enjoy the relationship, our partner, and our sex lives – or why we need to end the relationship. This awareness can also point us in the right direction of where to make improvements, if maintaining the relationship is something we desire.

Be Responsible

Most people agree that cheating on a partner is wrong, but often, the person being cheated on blames themselves or receives criticism from others, as if they caused their partner to cheat. Jo has heard both male and female students say things like “Women do things to make men cheat” and “You have to keep your partner satisfied or else they’ll get satisfied from someone else.” Both of these comments falsely assume that we can control another’s person’s actions. In reality, the only person who can decide or determine if they will cheat on their partner is that person.

Society also plays into gender stereotyping by reinforcing the idea that men are wired differently or need sex more than women. This can lead to an acceptance of cheating behavior for men. But women have always had affairs, too. Recent studies show two interesting things: infidelity among woman is on the rise and they are better at hiding it – probably because their sex lives are judged more harshly! (Can you imagine a female politician explaining her infidelities on national television while her husband stands by her in loving support?)

Whether we’re in an exclusive or an open relationship, respecting our partners and the “agreement” we have with them means that we have to be honest with ourselves and them. This honesty might mean more work, it might mean parting ways, or it might just leave to conversations that strengthen the relationship, our enjoyment and our sex lives!

Check out Doin’ It Well next week as we explore the art of pillow talk.

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Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 05:14:14 | Permalink | Comments Off

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Mourning After: Sex, Sadness and Healing

Ross recently spoke to someone who had a miscarriage. At the follow-up doctor’s appointment, the doctor informed the couple that they could have penetrative sex again. However, neither she nor her partner had any interest in having sex together at that point. The loss of the promise of a new baby, the physical trauma of the miscarriage and medical intervention, and the shock of the whole experience left both partners uncertain of how or if they would ever be intimate again.

We have been pondering for a little while about how to talk about the issue of sex and sadness. Usually, when we talk about sex, people want to talk about all the “fun stuff,” like hand jobs and multiple orgasms. However, we all know there is a lot more to why, when, and how we have sex. (Don’t get us wrong, orgasms are great.) For many of us, we know that experiencing a trauma or loss can impact our libido. Depending on feelings about the loss, it can be difficult to know where sex fits into the healing process. This week, we’re wanting to talk about sex and the blues.

Singing the Blues
Loss and trauma are often unplanned and unexpected. A loss could be many things such as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or relationship, or a miscarriage. Even if some losses have been a long time coming, our cognitive understanding of the loss is very different than our emotional understanding. Just because our head knows it doesn’t mean our heart does. A trauma – on the other hand – is an emotionally and/or physically violent experience. It could happen suddenly, like a car accident, or over a long period of time, like serving in active combat.

Blues’ Clues
These emotional experiences affect our lives in any number of ways. We may experience a number of disruptive phenomena such as difficulty focusing on tasks. Some of us may also feel numb and withdrawn. We might even engage in behaviors that will help us stay numb or disconnected – or behaviors that help us “feel” like we felt before the trauma. At times, the same behaviors function as both numbing and “feeling.”

To try to get back to equilibrium, we may engage in a variety of behaviors. Some folks might lose their appetite, while others may eat compulsively. Some people may use exercise to cope, while others might engage in more sedate activities, like watching TV or playing video games. Sex may operate similarly; some people may use sex as a way to feel/numb while others may feel shut down sexually.

Sexual Healing
Sexual healing from loss or trauma is a complex process. If the loss was experienced by both partners, then each individual will have their own unique path to recovery while also attempting to reconnect. Recovering from trauma is a process of building physical, emotional, and cognitive understanding of the experience and incorporating it into one’s life. If there was a sexual component to the loss – like sexual violence or the death of a lover – then the sexual aspect of the healing process may be particularly disrupted. One or both partners may be experiencing self-blame, anger, despair, and frustration – all of which can get in the way of being sexual individually or with a partner.

Sexual healing requires paying attention to yourself and your body first. Staci Haines, author of The Survivor’s Guide to Sex, recommends a series of body (not particularly sexual) exercises to help ground and understand one’s feelings about their body and sexuality. For instance, use breathing exercises in a quiet space to help ground yourself. These activities, as well as talking about the loss with friends, family, lovers, and professionals, can help you along the healing journey.

So when is it a good time to return to sex after loss? Every person has their own healing timeline, and where sex fits into that timeline is unique for each of us. In a couple, both people have to navigate each other’s desires and needs to find the time and ways that they can reconnect sexually. Be patient with each other.

Another Note on Sadness
Beyond any specific loss, some individuals may also experience sadness immediately after intercourse. This is a condition called post-coital tristesse. Some researchers suggest that this is the result of the release of prolactin during orgasm which plays a role in shutting down other hormones (therefore abruptly shutting off the good feelings experienced during sex) and producing sadness or depression in some.

Sadness may also be experienced following sex depending on our expectations of sex. If we imagined sex would produce some magical connection or evade other feelings, then there may be a disappointment after the big O. If this describes your experience, consider talking with your medical doctor or a therapist.

Emergency Clarification
Our eagle-eyed reader, PM, pointed out an error in our column on emergency contraception (“Taking the Emergency Out of EC,” June 9, 2011). As she pointed out, progestin-only emergency contraception pills (ECP) “prevent pregnancy by keeping the egg from leaving the ovary or keeping the sperm from joining the egg. While it is possible that ECPs might work by keeping a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterus, the most up-to-date research suggests that ECPs do not work in this way.” Thanks, PM.

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Posted by Jo Sanger & Ross Wantland in 18:57:08 | Permalink | Comments Off