So, most of you will know that I am now doing a weekly podcast with the award-winning US podcaster, Zibby Owens. For those who would rather read than listen, an edited, written version of the podcast appears as a column on the Medium platform.
I know it’s a hassle to have to go into different places to read stuff, so I thought I’d put this week’s Medium/podcast column as a blog, so you could all get a taste of what it’s like. (And decide it is worth the effort!)
Each week, I answer three sex questions, giving lots of honest analysis and practical tips that you may find useful.
Have a read and if you like it, you’ll find a link to the latest column on my home page (scroll down until you see the Medium logo).
Q: I just split with my partner and am back out there dating again. I’m up to speed on online dating but what’s the etiquette with pubic hair now? Do I have to take it all off? I’ve always found the completely hairless thing a bit creepy, and not to mention hard to maintain.
I had a Brazilian for years — until I met my husband. He took one look at it and was horrified! He totally found it creepy and does not get why adult women want to look like prepubescent girls.
Pubic hair has a purpose, of course. It helps regulate body temperature, it stops dirt and debris from getting in there and it also traps moisture, keeping the vulvar skin hydrated. But we’ve been removing our pubic hair as far back as ancient Rome and Egypt and the practice is unlikely to stop anytime soon.
I’d say the “norm” depends on how old you are. Around half of all young women in the U.K. and the U.S. still admit to taking it all off and a survey last year found 80% of women aged 18 to 65 remove some or all of their pubic hair.
Some younger women aren’t even aware there is an alternative. My stepdaughter said going bare is just what everyone does even though she hates it doing it. For good reasons, too: hair removal is expensive, time-consuming, and itches when it grows back. Waxing causes ingrown hairs, shaving causes irritation.
I feel like a Brazilian — aka: getting it all off — is something younger women do; the older the woman, the more likely she is to have at least some hair. Of course, the main reason why a lot of people remove their pubic hair is that it stops hair from getting in your mouth during oral sex.
I would say the current pubic hair etiquette is that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to treat your pubic hair — it’s all down to individual choice. I don’t honestly think your decision to keep it or not is going to impact what your date thinks of you.
The more important issue here for you being newly single isn’t pubic hair etiquette; it’s condom etiquette. As in, yes, you must wear one.
Q: I never want sex unless I’ve had some wine. It relaxes me and gives me confidence. Is this wrong? My new partner gets annoyed with me but I find it difficult to get in the mood unless I’ve had a few.
There was an experiment conducted in 2000 in Helsinki that found alcohol significantly increases the level of testosterone in pre-menopausal women around 45 to 90 minutes after having a drink. Given that testosterone governs our libido, it can definitely make you more interested in having sex.
But that’s a few drinks. Any more than that — three or four or more — and the disadvantages start to outweigh the advantages.
Drinking does strange things to our mood. It makes us happy and relaxed, to begin with, but plenty of people turn dark when they’ve been drinking. Sex makes us feel vulnerable, so sometimes this isn’t a good combination. Physically, too much alcohol can reduce sensitivity, interfere with erections, and make it harder to orgasm for both of you. That “pleasantly numb” feeling extends to the nerve endings in your genitals as well.
It’s also very limiting on your sex life if you can only get in the mood when you’ve had a few drinks. That means morning sex is off the list. It also means afternoon sex is probably off the list too — unless you’ve been for a boozy lunch.
You’re also restricting yourself to only having a certain type of sex. Drunk sex is very different than sober sex. You’re more likely to try something a little out there drunk but you’re also more likely to try something more energetic sober — like sex outside or a challenging new position. Orgasms usually feel stronger if you’re sober, so you’re missing out on that as well.
I’m guessing your partner may also find it insulting that you need wine to get in the mood, implying you don’t find him sexy or sex with him exciting enough without wine.
Not being able to do any activity without drinking first is an alarm bell because it suggests emotional dependency. So, if I were you — and this is coming from someone who really loves a drink! — I take it as a bit of a wake-up call.
I’d start to do things to increase your appetite for sex without relying on alcohol. Start by masturbating more. The more orgasms you have, the more likely your body is to tap you on the shoulder and say, “Hey, how about you have sex? I miss it.” Then think about how to reduce anxiety before sex.
Finally, take baby steps to have sex sober. Have long, snoggy kisses sober. Give him oral sex sober. Get him to reciprocate. Get your body and your brain into the habit of having sex sober because having sex only after alcohol is a habit as well. I think you’ll end up enjoying it just as much. Believe me, the orgasms are much better!
Q: How often should I be having sex? Is once a week enough? Some of my friends say they’re having it three times a week. Are we being pathetic only doing it weekly?
I could give a one-sentence answer for this one: Find your own normal!
It doesn’t matter what all your friends are doing because the right amount of sex to have is what makes you and your partner happy. For some couples, normal is once a day. For others, it’s once a month.
There is no such thing as a magic number of times a happy couple has sex.
Daily sex is a big ask for most people, and more sex isn’t necessarily a good thing. One study that asked couples who had sex six times a month to double the frequency to 12 times a month found it had a disastrous effect on their sex life! They enjoyed sex less and were in worse moods!
It’s all very contradictory because another survey — by three well-respected U.S. scholars — drew from thousands of surveys to find out what frequency of sex makes couples happy and found that 3-4 times a week was the perfect amount of sex for prime levels of happiness.
The good news is only having sex once a week isn’t the failure lots of couples think it is — it’s the range most fall into.
Why? Because it’s a realistic goal. Because it’s not too much pressure but not so little that it reduces desire. (The less you have sex, the less you want sex.) There are also massive health benefits to having regular sex and sex once a week is enough to reap all of those as well.
Instead of feeling pathetic, you should be congratulating yourselves. So long as the two of you are happy with the amount of sex you’re having, that’s really all that counts.