Ideally, your doctor is someone you feel completely comfortable around — so much so that you could ask most questions that are on your mind. But there are probably some sexual questions you can’t even imagine bringing up without becoming flushed with embarrassment — namely, those questions about smells, size, sores, masturbation, lubrication and unconventional sex positions. So, to spare you the excruciating awkwardness, several urologists, gynecologists and sex therapists shared answers to these 13 sex questions you might be too shy to ask.
1. Is Sex Supposed to Hurt?
Sometimes sex is more painful than pleasurable. Is this normal? It depends. “The first time a woman has intercourse, it is not uncommon for it to hurt,” says certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg. “Taking it slow, using lube and having lots of foreplay can help mitigate some of the discomfort.” But if it’s a recurring issue, make an appointment with your doctor. It could be a sign of an infection or an STI.
Women are not the only ones who can experience pain during intercourse, though. Sex between two men can also be painful. “Anal pain is not something that they should just endure,” says sex therapist Michael J. Salas. “It can be a sign of hemorrhoids or fissures or an issue of an unrelaxed sphincter muscle as well.”
Read more: 9 Things You Should’ve Learned in Sex Ed
2. Why Can’t I Last Longer?
Rapid climax can be frustrating for both men and women. But Philippe Cote-Leger, founder of Premature Ejaculation Help, sheds some light on why some guys are one-minute men: “Recent findings show that lifelong premature ejaculation is a neurobiological and genetic disorder. For example, your level of serotonin (a neurotransmitter) or some hormones — such as oxytocin, testosterone, TSH or prolactin — will define how long you last in bed. So if you always ejaculate within a minute of penetration, biological factors are probably the cause. And this neurological or hormonal imbalance can be hereditary.”
3. How Can I Make Sure I Smell OK During Oral Sex?
When your partner starts to go down on you, ideally, you want to lean back, relax and think, “lucky me!” You don’t want to tense up and worry if your genitals are giving off an unpleasant odor. But as long as you keeping up with your hygiene (and maybe a quick pre-foreplay rinse), you should be fine.
“Normal genital fragrance stimulates healthy sexual enjoyment,” says Kyrin Dunston, M.D., board-certified OB-GYN. “To alter this by adding artificial scents could actually decrease a partner’s interest, arousability and pleasure in providing oral sex.” That said, if you do notice a lingering funky odor even after you bathe, it could be a sign of a health issue. Talk to your doctor about potential infections or other systemic issues.
Read more: 9 Foods for Better Sex for Women
4. Why Can’t I Stay Hard During Sex?
If there isn’t any other apparent mood killer, not being able to keep a firm erection during sex might point to erectile dysfunction (ED), says urologist Dr. Arash Akhavein. “Other symptoms of ED include not being able to obtain an erection in the first place and a decrease in sexual desire.” So what’s going on? Both physical and psychological factors can come into play here. “Contributing physical factors can include obesity, low testosterone, high blood pressure, pelvic trauma and more. On the psychological side, stress, anxiety, relationship issues and more can affect a man’s ability to become sexually aroused,” he says. So if this sounds like you, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your concerns.
Read more: The Top 9 Foods for Men’s Sexual Health
5. Is My Penis Small?
Men seem to be eternally concerned about where their penis falls on the grand scale of penises. So here’s your answer: According to a 2015 study published by the British Journal of Urology International, the average length of a flaccid penis is 3.61 inches, while the average length of an erect penis is 5.21 inches. The average girth (circumference of the penis at its widest section) is 3.67 inches for a flaccid penis and 4.59 inches for an erect penis. Urologist Kia Michel, M.D., says, “‘Is my penis small?’ is a question I’m commonly asked. In reality, most men are around the same size in terms of length, which is about six inches. So if you think you’re small, you might not be as small as you think. You might be well within the average.”
Read more: The Best Sex Positions for Every Penis Size
6. Is It OK to Masturbate Multiple Times a Day?
If you’re really into self-love, you may wonder: How much is too much? “Masturbation frequency varies, depending on gender, age and other factors like religion and culture,” says Michael Ingber, M.D., at the Center for Specialized Women’s Health, Division of Garden State Urology. “We know, based on several studies, that men masturbate more frequently than women.” But there is no “normal” when it comes to how often you masturbate.
“Masturbation becomes unhealthy if it becomes compulsive,” says Tzvi Doron, D.O., physician and clinical director for Roman, an app centered around men’s health and erectile dysfunction. “For example, if you prefer masturbating to maintaining friendships, if it’s causing you to constantly miss work or school or if it prevents you from having partnered sex, it may have reached unhealthy levels.”
7. Is [Blank] a Safe Sex Position?
There’s a whole smorgasbord of sexual positions you can try with your partner. But do any of them pose real risk for injury? “Most sexual positions are safe,” says Dr. Michael Ingber. However, he warns that penile fractures can occur when a woman is on top during rough sex. If the tip of the penis hits the pubic bone in the woman, causing the penis to forcefully bend while erect, you may hear a “snap” or “pop,” and then the penis will swell and turn purple. “We call this an ‘eggplant deformity,’ and it requires urgent surgery,” says Dr. Ingber.
“The reverse-cowgirl position has caused more harm to patients in my practice than any other position,” says Paul Gittens, M.D., urologist and sexual medicine expert. That’s due to the angle of the entry, curve of the penis and tilting of the vaginal canal. “As a result of this position, I’ve had many patients with penile fracture, Peyronie’s disease (curvature of the penis) and various other injuries.”
Read more: The Best Sex Positions for Any Kind of Lover
8. What Should I Look for in a Good Lube?
Lube can be a game changer. But with a slew of lubes to choose from, how can you find the right one for you? “It boils down to what the person likes to use and their specific conditions,” says urologist Arash Akhavein, M.D.
“For example, if infertility or low fertility is an issue, then sperm-friendly lubricants should be used. Water-based ones are most commonly used — and the best bet if you’re using condoms — but they may increase the rate of HIV replication and can also damage cells (e.g., rectal cells).” Rachel Gelman, clinical director of the Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center, adds that any lube you use should be free of parabens, glycols, microbicides and preservatives.
9. Is It Normal to Want to Do [Blank]?
There are a multitude of sexual fantasies, fetishes and kinks. If you’re into something that seems a bit stranger than usual, is something wrong with you? According to certified sex therapist Natalie Finegood Goldberg, absolutely not. “As long as you are practicing safe, sane and consensual sex, normal doesn’t really matter,” she says. “One of the gifts of the digital age is that it’s connected so many who thought they were ‘abnormal’ because their preferences weren’t discussed in an eighth-grade human-sexuality textbook.”
Here’s a litmus test: Are you being safe — not putting yourself or another being in harm’s way? Are you sane — making decisions while of sound mind (not intoxicated, sleep deprived, reactionary)? And are you practicing consent — ensuring your partner(s) are interested and engaged in what you’re doing? All yes? Then you’re good to go!
10. Is [Blank] an STD Symptom?
Itching. Burning. Sores. All are indicators that something is awry with your sexy parts. But do they mean that you have an STI? “For men and women, itching isn’t typically an STI symptom,” says Dr. Michael Ingber. “However, a painless sore or discharge might be a reason for concern.”
Dr. Tzvi Doron elaborates: “While you may feel well, it’s very important to see a doctor and be evaluated if you have a new lesion on your genitals and you don’t know where it came from. You can also transmit the disease to another person even if you are currently showing no symptoms.” And Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., co-director of the PUR Clinic, says, “If you notice discharge from your penis or vagina, you should get screened for STIs. And if you think you were with someone who may have had an STI and you have no symptoms, I would still recommend getting checked, so, if necessary, you can start treatment right away.”
Read more: Signs and Symptoms of STDs
11. Will Meds Affect My Sex Drive?
If you’re hesitant to take a particular medication because you’re afraid it’ll zap your interest in sex, you’re not alone. “Certain antidepressants are notorious for lowering sex drive,” says Dr. Michael Ingber. Fortunately, there are solutions, he says. Some women have low testosterone and can be given topical therapy. “There’s also a new FDA-approved oral therapy called flibanserin (or Addyi), which is now FDA-approved for women with a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder.”
Dr. Rachel Gelman adds that some birth-control pills may also mess with hormone levels and, thus, your libido. If that’s the case, talk to your OB-GYN about switching up your method of contraception.
12. Should I Try a Sex-Enhancing Supplement?
If your sex life is “meh” and you want to give it a boost, you’ve probably considered trying one of those sex-enhancement supplements you’ve seen in nutrition stores. But are they a good idea? “I don’t recommend trying supplements from the internet to enhance your sex life,” says urologist Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt. “If you have a problem, talk to a professional first. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so you don’t know what you are taking. Sometimes these supplements can have side effects on your heart, testosterone levels or other medications you may be taking. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
13. I Haven’t Had Sex in a Year. Will It Affect My Performance?
If you’ve been in a sexual drought, you may be concerned that everything will be a little rusty when you finally get back on the horse again (so to speak). “It’s normal to feel a little anxious in the beginning,” says certified sex therapist Kristie Overstreet. “Take a deep breath and try to relax. Don’t worry about what your partner may think. It’s important for you to focus on relaxing and remaining present in the moment. Your body hasn’t forgotten what to do, even after a long period of abstinence. Your body will naturally respond. It’s just like riding a bike: It may feel a little awkward at first, but you will get the hang of it quickly.”
What Do YOU Think?
What’s the most embarrassing sex question you ever had to ask your doctor? What was your doctor’s answer? Were you relieved you asked? Let us know in the comments below!
Michelle Spencer is a writer, music addict, and fitness devotee. Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, she moved to L.A. in 2007 and has tried nearly every type of Crunch workout class – from Pound™ and 2FLY to Jillian Michaels’ Bodyshred and Diesel. (Running, weights, yoga, and spin are her staples.) She has also written for Thrillist, Brobible/Guyism, and Dame.