Q: Why is it that when you orgasm, you feel better (i. e., when you're sick)? How exactly does masturbation boosts the immune system? Is it just through masturbation, or orgasming in general?
A: Both masturbation and orgasm can help boost your immune system and make you feel better when you're sick. For one, the act of masturbating temporarily elevates \ levels of feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters, such as dopamine (causes feelings of elation and generally improved mood) and noradrenaline (causes feelings of relaxation and reduces inflammation throughout the body). After orgasming, the brain is then flooded with serotonin, which helps the body to relax and rejuvenate (sometimes driving the urge to sleep). Regularly orgasming has also been shown to boost white T-cell counts, which help the body fight off diseases. You can find a great video outlining these benefits here.
Of course, there are many other benefits of regular masturbation, such as generally improving mood, relieving stress and becoming more comfortable with one's body. You can find an article discussing other benefits of masturbation here.
Q: I'm a female who is into gay male porn. I love watching attractive men having sex. But when I told my friend my viewing habits she thought it was really weird. Why is it ok for straight men to watch lesbian sex, but its not ok for straight women to watch gay sex?
A: It's perfectly normal for a straight woman to enjoy watching gay men having sex. After all, if you're attracted to men, then why wouldn't you be aroused watching two men having sex?
This is actually very common in non-Western cultures. For example, in Japan, gay-male love stories (known as "yaoi") are very common among popular books, comic books (manga) and movies. The target audience for these stories are straight women. It's also becoming more common for straight women in the U.S. to enjoy these types of stories as well (check out this Cosmo article on the topic). So, it looks like you're just ahead of the cultural curve. :)
Q: Can you have a fetish for gay porn, but still be heterosexual?
A: I'm going to assume that you're talking about gay porn where the porn actors are the same gender as you (since most heterosexuals enjoy gay porn where the actors are of the opposite gender from them). The question of whether a person can be aroused by gay porn and still be heterosexual depends on how you define heterosexuality. If the term "heterosexual" means only being attracted to members of the opposite sex, then being attracted to people of the same sex (such as in gay porn) contradicts that term. However, sexual desire can be thought of as being on a spectrum, ranging from being completely heterosexual (only attracted to opposite gender others) to completely homosexual (only attracted to same gender others), with many people falling somewhere in the middle. It's not uncommon for someone to be primarily heteroseuxal, but to have homosexual fantasies or desires once in a while, or toward a small number of same-gender individuals. The opposite can be true of people who are primarily homosexual. There are also people who get aroused watching same-gender people having sex, but don't with to have sex with same-gender individuals themselves.
Regardless, you can choose to use whatever sexual orientation label you wish. It's completely up to you. I recommend using whatever label (heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, etc.) that you feel most describes you and your personal desires.
Q: How does one know they're bi?
A: The short answer is, if a person is sexually attracted to both women and men, then they're bisexual. Also, if a person can be attracted to women, men and transgender people (people who have transitioned from one gender to the other), then they're pansexual.
When it comes to bi/pansexual people, there can be differences in how much they're attracted to different genders; sometimes they will be attracted to one gender more than another. They may also be romantically attracted to only one gender. In other words, they may desire relationships only with one gender, even if they are sexually attracted to both genders. There are even some bisexual people who are more physically attracted to one gender, but more romantically attracted to another gender. There is a lot of variability within the bi/pan community when it comes to sexual and romantic desires. It's up to each individual to figure out exactly what's right for them.
Q: Daddy issues? Do you know of any scientific literature that has successfully correlated the stigma of queer men's daddy issue to father abandonment in response to their queer identity and, thus, seeking out a dominant male figure?
A: The idea that being a gay men is related with having an absent father is a very old one. It can be traced all the way back to views of homosexuality by Sigmund Freud, in the early 1900s. The belief was that if a boy didn't grow up with a loving, supportive, male role-model, he would never learn what it's like to "be a man" and would, instead, become effeminate (i.e., gay). This theory hasn't been well supported by modern research. It turns out that gay men have, on average, just as good of relationships with their fathers as straight men, as long as their fathers aren't prejudiced toward gay people in general. Of course, even in our modern world, many men are prejudiced toward homosexuals, so this can naturally cause a rift between some gay men and their fathers.
Whenever someone is "abandoned" by a parent, whether physically or emotionally, it can be very painful and can results in a wide variety of compensatory behaviors. This behaviors can be positive, such as turning toward others for support and acceptance, or they can be negative, such as turning to alcohol/drugs or entering into abusive relationships. This can happen to anyone, regardless of their sexuality. If someone is dealing negatively with parental abandonment, they should turn to counseling for help. Thankfully, all UC Merced students can receive free counseling services at counseling.ucmerced.edu.
Q: I think I am interested in non-monogomous relationships/lifestyle, but every time I try to act on it I feel a sense of guilt/shame/wrongness due to monogamous socialization. Any advice on how to decolonize myself to pursue my innate desires?
A: It sounds like you're interested in either a polyamorous relationship, in which you are having relationships with multiple partners at the same time; or an "open" relationship, in which you have a primary relationship partner, but have sex with other people as well. Either type of relationship can be perfectly healthy and beneficial for all members, as long as everyone has consented to having this type of relationship right at the beginning. I think one way to lessen feelings of guilt/shame when having a non-monogomous relationship is to find people who completely share your desire to have these types of relationships. If you have relationship partners that are enthusiastic about having a poly or open relationship with you, then it becomes easier for you to express your own desires without any fear that your relationship partners will judge you negatively. After all, they want the same thing.
Any relationship (and non-monogomous relationships especially) require a lot of communication. When having poly/open relationships, you want to talk a lot with your partners about what everyone expects, and wants, out of the relationship. It's good to set up everyone's expectations and boundaries early on. This lessens the chance of later misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Also, the more you talk about your desires with people who like and respect you, especially those who are also into the poly/open lifestyle, the less guilt/shame you will feel about it. Try to surround yourself with people who are poly/open, both as relationship partners and as friends. This will greatly help you feel more normal and accepted, just as you are.
Q: What should you do if you feel self-conscious about the number of people you've had sex with? Should you ask someone how many people they've had sex with?
A: The number of people you've had sex with is really just your business. If you feel uncomfortable sharing that with others, then you don't need to; even if it's with someone that you're currently having sex with. You really shouldn't feel any guilt or shame about "your number," because there is no right or wrong number to have. People vary in the number of sex partners they have in their lifetime from zero all the way to a hundred or more. How many people you've had sex with depends on many factors, all of them in your past. It may be that none of these factors define you as a person now. Instead, it's best to concentrate on what type of person you want to be at this time in your life, and have your current lifestyle reflect that.
If a partner is insistent on knowing "your number" and you don't wish to share that information, then it's up to you to set proper boundaries with that person. For example, you could simply say, "I don't want to talk about that." If they continue to insist, you can say, "That's something I don't want to share. If you want to be with me, then you need to respect that." It's perfectly within your right to say this.
On the other hand, if you're concerned about how many sex partners your partner has had, then just try your best to let this go. Take the above information and apply it to that person. How many sex partners someone has had doesn't necessarily reflect the type of person they currently are. Too many people get hooked on "numbers." In the end, it doesn't really matter, as long as a person has been responsible and has protected themselves physically and emotionally. It's important to respect people's autonomy and allow them have the type of sexual lifestyle that makes them happy.
Q: Can someone get addicted to having sex?
A: Yes, sex addiction is a real thing that some people suffer from. The technical diagnosis is Hypersexual Disorder. It is defined as someone having recurrent and intense sexual fantasies, urges or behavior that significantly disrupt their life for at least 6 months or longer. People with this disorder tend to spend most of their day, most days, obsessively thinking about sex and are almost never sexually satisfied. Such people also usually suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD or some other mental illnesses. Often, a person's sexual addiction is just a way of coping with other mental illness issues.
Sex and/or masturbation can become addictive, because having sex releases a large amount of dopamine into the brain. For some, who are prone to addiction or are otherwise suffering from a mental illness, this can drive a person to become obsessively preoccupied with getting this "high" over and over again. This can also drive a person to become more extreme in their sexual behavior over time (e.g., having risky sex, having sex with strangers, sexual assaulting others). If someone is suffering from sex addiction, they should seek counseling. Thankfully, all UC Merced students have 24-hour access to counseling services, which can be found at counseling.ucmerced.edu.
Q: If you have HIV, can you only have sex with other people with HIV? Does having sex with people with HIV while you yourself having HIV worsen your HIV?
A: Just for a bit of background information, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that gradually weakens the immune system over time, making people more vulnerable to other illnesses. HIV eventually turns into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) when a person's white-blood cell count drops to dangerously low levels. Thankfully, modern medicine has greatly reduced people's risk for both of these diseases. People can now take a daily pill (PrEP) that greatly reduces their risk of contracting HIV, and there are a host of medications that prevent HIV from turning into AIDS.
Because of these advances in modern medicine, it's actually quite safe for people with HIV or AIDS to have sex with people who are HIV-negative. It's always recommended that if you are having sex with someone who could be HIV-positive, that you should use condoms. Just using condoms greatly reduces a person's risk of contracting the virus during sex. If you know that you are having sex with someone who is HIV-positive, then it's also advisable to take the daily pill, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which further reduces the risk of transmission. By doing both of these things, it's very unlikely that the virus will be passed along.
If both sex partners are HIV-positive, then there is no risk to either of them if they have sex with each other. If they both already have the disease, then there is no way they could "re-catch" it or make it worse. Once you have HIV, you have it. At that point, it's a matter of managing the disease with proper medications and a healthy lifestyle. If someone manages their HIV in this way, it's likely that they will live a healthy, full life, even with this disease.
For more information on this topic, click here.
Q: If, for the longest time, there was a negative view of the clitoris, then why was it created (evolutionarily) in the first place?
A: For those who haven't taken my class (or need a refresher), here is a quick review of the history of people's views about the clitoris.
For a very long time (dating back to the Middle Ages), it was believed that women do not (and should not) enjoy sex. It wasn't until the 1700s that some writers began to propose the idea that some women can enjoy sex in the same way men do (e.g., sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, etc.). This movement came largely from sociologists/anthropologists who traveled the world and discovered that women from non-Western cultures often did enjoy sex. This was the first indication that the reason Western women weren't enjoying sex could have more to do with their culture than their bodies.
By the early 1900s, it was beginning to be more largely accepted that women could enjoy sex and even experience orgasm. However, it was still believed that having a "clitoral" orgasm (stimulating the clitoris during sex) was not appropriate and perhaps even dangerous. It's difficult to say why people were so down on the clitoris during this time. It may be that stimulating the clitoris during sex was seen as a form of masturbation, which was very taboo at the time and even believed to potentially lead to mental illness. It could also be that men were intimidated by the fact that women could enjoy sex and have orgasms, just like men did, because this would then mean that men who couldn't give their wives orgasms were inferior or lacking in some way. For whatever reason, it wasn't until the 1960s, with the women's liberation movement, that most people began accepting that stimulating the clitoris during sex was perfectly fine, and actually beneficial for women's sexual enjoyment.
We now know that at least 65% of women cannot orgasm without the use of direct clitoral stimulation, including during penile-vaginal sex. In fact, a recent study found that up to 80% of women experienced increased pleasure from direct clitoral stimulation during sex. Furthermore, women who can attain orgasm from penile-vaginal stimulation alone often have clitorises that are very close to their vaginal opening. This means that these women are orgasming precisely because their clitoris is being directly stimulated (in this case, by the penis). In other words, ALL orgasms are clitoral orgasms! This makes sense, given that the clitoris is, by far, the most sensitive area of the vulva. Attaining an orgasm without clitoral stimulation would be the same as a man trying to have an orgasm without stimulating the head of his penis. Thankfully, the times of degrading and ignoring the clitoris are largely over (at least in Western cultures), so women can now enjoy sex just as much as men always have.
You can find a good review of this topic here.
Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.