Q: When should one be worried about vaginal discharge? (cleansing vs STI)
A: There are a few things to note about vaginal discharge that may be indicators of an infection. First is smell. Vaginal discharge shouldn't have much of an odor (perhaps just a slight muskiness). If it begins to smell "fishy" or sour, this may be a sign of an infection (most commonly a yeast infection). Second is appearance. Vaginal discharge is usually clear. If it takes on a milky white or cloudy yellowish color, this is likely a sign of an infection. Last is how a woman's vagina feels. If the vagina begins to itch incessantly, burn or otherwise feel irritated, this can also be a sign of an infection.
For light infections (such as yeast infections), a woman can use an over-the-counter antifungal cream, such as Monistat. If these symptoms continue, then it's necessary to go see a doctor or gynecologist to make sure it's nothing more serious.
Q: I've heard that vaginal cleansers (such as ones made by Summer's Eve) are unsafe to use. Is this true? If so, what would be the correct way to cleanse the vulva?
A: You're right that many studies have found that vaginal cleansers are not only unnecessary for feminine hygiene, but can also be quite dangerous. Vulvas naturally clean themselves, so there is never a need to clean out the vagina.
Within the vagina, there are many "healthy" forms of bacteria. These normally fight off bad bacteria and viruses, keeping the vagina healthy and clean. However, if a woman "cleans out" her vagina by using Summer's Eve or other vaginal douches, this can flush out all of that good bacteria, which leaves the vagina vulnerable to infections. Studies show that using douching or vaginal cleansing products leads to much higher rates of bacterial infections (such as yeast infections), pelvic inflammatory disease, and even cancer. What's more, women who douche regularly are also more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV, have pregnancy complications, such as preterm pregnancies. All of this is due to vaginal cleansing products getting rid of the natural, beneficial bacteria that is present in the vagina.
If a woman's vagina does have a prominent, unpleasant odor, she likely has a vaginal infection and should see a doctor for treatment. Mild odors are most often caused by a collection of sweat in the public area. This can be easily solved by taking a regular shower.
For more info, check out these website:
Q: Hi, Dr. Sex. I am a queer male who LOVES flirting with straight men; like I get off on it af. Is this a product of commitment issues, a genuine kink, or am I just flirting with the idolization of toxic hetero/cis-dominant masculinity? Also, I've noticed straight men who have girlfriends are wayyy more comfortable 'jokingly' flirting with gay men - is there anything there? #PlsSendHalp
A: To summarize, it seems that you enjoy flirting with people who don't have genuine sexual interest in you. There could be a lot of reasons for that. It might because there's no pressure or consequences when you flirt with someone "just for fun," where you know that it won't actually result in sex or a relationship. It could also be extra exciting because of the "forbidden" aspect of flirting with straight men, especially those who are already partnered. You might also just be attracted to masculine guys (although, there are plenty of gay, masculine men out there too). The only person who can say exactly why you enjoy doing this is you.
I would say that this behavior isn't bad or unhealthy unless you feel that it's keeping you from establishing meaningful and satisfying sexual relationships. If you find that you aren't attracted to anyone who would be attracted to you, then you might want to talk with someone about that (perhaps a close friend or therapist). But, if you just enjoy flirting with straight men and your straight, male friends enjoy it too, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
Q: I haven’t had a girlfriend since I’ve been in college. I have talked to many girls while in college which seemed like it was going in the right direction towards a relationship. However, I always seem to lose interest in them or see them as unattractive when things are about to get “serious”. Which results in me ignoring them or cutting off the relationship all together. This happens when they start to get too clingy or when they start wanting to get sexually intimate. I don’t mean to lose interest in them or see them unattractive it just seems to happen of a sudden. Is this normal and can I do anything to change?
A: There definitely seems to be a problem here. Thankfully, you've clearly recognized that this is an ongoing pattern in your relationships, and that's the first step toward addressing it. There could be many reasons why you suddenly get "turned off" when women show romantic or sexual interest in you. It could be that you don't really want a relationship at this time, but are seeking relationships simply because you feel pressured to by friends or family, or because it's the "normal" thing to do. It could be that you're afraid of becoming intimate with another person, perhaps because you've had some negative experiences with this in the past. Or, it could be that you're not sexually interested in women, perhaps because you're more attracted to men or not sexually attracted to anyone (i.e., asexual). This pattern could be caused by a myriad of different reasons, so it's something you'll have to figure out for yourself.
It would probably be helpful to talk about this with a trained counselor. Thankfully, you can attain free counseling as a UC Merced student. Just visit the counseling website here. Since this is keeping you from attaining satisfying relationships, this is a good reason to seek professional help. I'm confident that you can figure out exactly why you're doing this and change this pattern in the future.
Q: My boyfriend asked me if I would be willing to swallow his cum. He claims that there are health benefits for swallowing semen. Is this true?
A: It is true that some research shows there are potential benefits to "ingesting" semen. For example, some studies have found that ingesting semen is related with lower levels of depression among women (but not gay men for some reason) and it may also be linked with lower levels of breast cancer. However, these findings all come from small studies. Also, they have only looked at women "ingesting" semen vaginally (not orally). Basically, they're looking at groups of women who have sex without using condoms (thus ingesting semen), vs. those who use condoms. In all of these cases, the effects were very small and other studies have failed to find these effects. So, while there may be some health benefits to ingesting semen, it's still pretty unproven and, if true, is likely to yield only small effects. Also, since semen ingested orally has to go through the stomach, which would break down the chemical components of semen, there's no way of knowing if even these small health benefits could occur through oral sex.
In terms of whether or not to swallow semen, it should really come down to personal choice. If swallowing semen is not a turn on for you, you shouldn't do it. There is no good reason to do it beyond that.
For a very well cited article on this topic, check out: http://www.soc.ucsb.edu/sexinfo/article/swallowing-your-partners-ejaculate
Q: Is it possible to have sex while on my period?
A: Yes, absolutely. Some women worry that it may be dangerous for them or think that it's "gross" to have sex while on their period. But, as long as it's okay with your sex partner, there's nothing unhealthy or wrong about it. Some women actually experience heightened sexual arousal during menstruation, due to fluctuations in hormones. So, sex may even be better for some women while they're on their period. Either way, there's no reason, other than personal preference, to not have sex while menstruating.
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.