Yes, Northwestern, we know: Sex can be confusing. Maybe amid all of the porn stars, documentaries and free AstroGlide and glow-in-the-dark condoms, Sex Week just isn’t doing it for you when it comes to what you really want to know — no, not where you can go on Friday night to get laid, but answers to those rumors that you’re still pondering. Rest assured, our sexual-rumor round-up is here to help.
Does a cold sore really mean I have herpes?
Yes. According to the American Social Health Association, Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV-1), or oral herpes, usually presents itself as cold sores around the mouth or face. Because of its similarity to HSV-2, genital herpes, the two types can appear in either location, so avoid the oral sex if you’ve got a cold sore. Neither form likes being away from its preferred location, though, so outbreaks tend to be milder and less frequent.
“If somebody has HSV-1 and they have oral sex with someone, they can transmit HSV-1 to that person’s genitals,” according to Kathryn Guilfoyle, director of Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators and a health-services administrator at Searle. “The thing is, HSV-1 doesn’t grow and flourish in the genital region … it isn’t the same as HSV-2.”
Herpes is also transmitted through the skin, so don’t think you’re safe just because you avoid sexual fluids. There’s also something called “asymptomatic viral shedding, where your skin fluffs off the virus even if you don’t have any symptoms of an outbreak,” Guilfoyle said. But as long as you’re not using your herpes-infected friends’ Chapstick or freshly used towels, you’ll be okay. Washed towels and water bottles are safe.
Should that blowjob come with nutrition facts?
You’re not going to find a black-and-white label on your partner’s penis, but don’t worry: You won’t get fat from too much swallowing. According to Columbia University’s health services Q&A Web site, one teaspoon of ejaculate has about 5 to 7 calories. In addition to sperm content, it also contains fructose sugar, vitamin C, protein and other compounds used to give sperm energy to swim. But it’s certainly not going to fulfill your percent daily value for any of those.
Are flavored condoms and lube just more harmful than non-flavored?
One of the favorite phrases of the Howard Brown Broadway Youth Center is, “Flavors are for sucking, not for fucking.” In case that isn’t self-explanatory, you should only use flavored condoms or lube for oral sex, because the sugar and flavoring can set girls up for nasty yeast infections.
Since other causes of yeast infections include tight clothing, thong underwear and not changing out of damp clothing immediately, you’re probably at risk enough.
Is there any kind of “suction effect” that can happen if you have sex in water?
“I’ve never heard of a suction effect,” Guilfoyle said. “The only thing that I can think of is a suction effect inside the vaginal canal where water would be sucked up.”
And that isn’t completely harmless, since the water could contain salt, chlorine or bacteria that would get forced into the vagina and could lead to infection. There also hasn’t been research on condom effectiveness in water. “Unless the water was extremely hot or really acidic, I can’t imagine it would really affect the performance of the condom,” Guilfoyle said, but cautioned that it could make it easier for the condom to slip off.
If you still want to get it on in next year’s Ski Trip hot tub, be warned: sex in water means that any water-based lubricants, as well as natural vaginal lubricant, will be washed away — ironically enough, your sex could actually feel drier. Use a silicon-based lubricant to avoid this one. And definitely not an oil-based lubricant: Those are usually massage oil or something else not intended to be used as sexual lubricant, and the oil breaks down the latex in condoms.
What are all of these infections I keep hearing about? And does peeing after sex mean I won’t get them?
Three main things can go wrong with your genitals if you’re female. If you think you have any of them, get checked out by a doctor. No, your hallmate who insists he knows all about this stuff because he’s totally into WebMD doesn’t count.
Urinary tract infections are the ones that people think peeing after sex will prevent. These happen when bacteria get into the urinary tract through the urethra — which, problematically for members of the fairer sex, is very short in women. “Anything you can do to flush out foreign bacteria is a good thing,” Guilfoyle said, and this includes peeing after sex.
Bacterial vaginosis is the same basic concept, only instead of getting into the urinary tract, bacteria get in your vagina.
Yeast infections are similar in that they occur in the vagina, but happen when normal yeast levels in the vagina get out of control. While physically incredibly durable, vaginas are chemically incredibly delicate. When the natural chemical balance gets upset, infections happen. Some lucky people are more naturally prone to them, while others need to have seriously aggravated circumstances. According to Guilfoyle, sex can contribute to yeast infections because you’re “getting foreign material into the vagina.”
Other strategies, to sum up previous points, include not douching because it removes normal yeast and bacteria, avoiding things that are scented or flavored, wearing breathable fabrics like cotton, avoiding tight clothing and thongs, and changing your underwear regularly, especially if you’ve been working out. Don’t use your lack of desire to do laundry as an excuse to not change your clothes – damp environments are like bacterial breeding grounds.
And for the exhibitionists among us: “Any times that you can go without underwear, do so,” Guilfoyle said.
Can you still get pregnant if…
…you’re on top? Yes. Assuming you’re not on birth control and not using a condom, your odds are equal to what they would be in missionary. Sperm are determined and travel in large groups. Just because a few of them might not make it up there, some will.
…he pulls out? Also yes. Pre-ejaculate, commonly known as pre-come, can still contain sperm. The risk is even higher if your boy hasn’t peed since he last ejaculated, since sperm from his last orgasm could be lingering inside the urinary tract.
…he eats or drinks something specific? Sorry, but they haven’t invented a magic vasectomy food yet, and sugary drinks won’t decrease your sperm count. They are developing a male birth control pill, so rejoice, girls: Soon your boyfriends will be the ones who get fat and break out.
…you douche after sex? Yes. And not only are you not even remotely preventing pregnancy, you’re also altering the pH levels of the delicately balanced systems of your vagina, which can cause yeast infections. If anything, you might push sperm farther up into your vagina.
…you do jumping jacks after sex? Yes. And you don’t even need the exercise.
…it’s your first time? Yes. By the time you’re having sex I sincerely hope you’ve had your period for at least a few years, so you are physically capable of getting knocked up. Your ovaries aren’t just going to say to themselves, “Nope, can’t release an egg this month, she’s going to lose her v-card to that cute boy from Calculus.”
…you’re having anal sex? There’s no way for sperm to travel from the rectum to the vagina: the two passages aren’t connected. If, however, semen were ejaculated near the vagina during anal sex and managed to somehow make it in, then there would be some potential pregnancy risk, Guilfoyle said.
“While not impossible, it is really very unlikely,” Guilfoyle said. “But anal sex has plenty of risks associated with sexually transmitted diseases, so it’s not the option with no risks.”
Basically, if you are having unprotected vaginal sex sans birth control, you could get pregnant. If you’re a girl who hates condoms so much that you refuse to use them, get yourself on some form of hormonal birth control and be prepared to risk STIs. If you’re among the male condom-hating masses, the STI thing still applies. And nothing kills the afterglow like oozing genital sores or monthly child-support payments.
Is using Plan B ever going to make my ovaries shrivel up and die?
No. Plan B is just a higher dose of the hormones that are found in regular birth control, which are synthetic versions of natural female hormones. “The worst side effects are cramping or nausea, things like that,” Guilfoyle said. “[Plan B] works to prevent pregnancy the same way regular birth control does, it just does it later.”
It also isn’t an abortion pill and won’t do anything to an established pregnancy. It works by preventing your ovaries from releasing an egg if they haven’t already for the month. If ovulation has already occurred, it alters the lining of the uterus so that even if an egg comes into contact with sperm, it won’t implant. However, after 72 hours, its effectiveness is greatly decreased, so if you think the condom might have broken, get thee to a drugstore.
But if you’ve had to make seven trips to Searle or CVS for Plan B in the past month, you might want to investigate regular hormonal birth control. Considering that Plan B costs around $40 at CVS and the care and feeding of a child costs around $120,000 just for one of them, it’s probably cheaper in the long run.