Monthly Archives: January 2012

Herpes: An Anonymous Letter

A friend of mine contacted me after my post on Herpes.  She wanted to anonymously share her experience as someone who has successfully dated and managed her outbreaks for years now.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to post her letter, directed to any girls who are currently struggling with their diagnosis and the storm it may cause in relationships.

To a friend who might need to hear these words right now – 

Just some background info – I am female, almost 30, and found out I had herpes when I was 24, before meeting my husband. 

Herpes – feels like such an ugly word. I once was convinced if they would only rename it, it would get a much better reputation. I knew little-to-nothing about herpes when I was diagnosed. I only knew that I couldn’t get rid of it; I would have it forever. If someone asked me today, almost 6 years later, I would laugh as I explained it as a cold sore or fever blister… on my vagina! While it is not the same virus exactly that causes coldsores, they are related. For more information about the difference between Herpes Simplex 1 (most often the culprit for oral herpes) and Simplex 2 (genital herpes) I suggest reading this great article: “Good” Virus/”Bad” Virus (http://www.mpwh.net/goodvirusbadvirusHSVHSV2ASHA.htm)

The first 6 months after I was diagnosed were the darkest. I felt quite hopeless and if it weren’t for two good friends I probably would have really lost my shit. These females were there to listen to me and lift me up. I have no doubt people who learn they have herpes should find someone to talk to about it. I was lucky to have these individuals to trust and confide in while they helped build me back up. If you don’t have someone you can directly share with then reach out across the internet. A quick search can turn up many support and dating sites, but I suggest starting with Antopia (www.MPwH.com). When I was cruising this site 6 years ago they were even hosting weekends for members to gather together.

Now, while I was quite active on Antopia I actually dated outside of the website dating pool. I live in a more rural area so the numbers were against me for the site. I tell you this because I want you to know that you can tell another person you have herpes and not be met with absolute rejection. I have done it more than once. My advice is this – the more upset you are about telling someone, the harder it will go. Think about it – if you take it upon yourself to have this discussion with someone else and you are crying and quite upset – they are going to take the cue from you that this is a very, very bad thing, rather than a manageable annoyance.

I want to leave you with one last thought; this change in your life can become a positive thing. I don’t know how it will play out for you, but I found there were several benefits to dating with herpes. First, I had to become a very good judge of character. I was still free to meet and socialize with many people, but I found I began to divide them into 2 groups: those I could trust with “the secret” and those I could not. Second, I found that I approached dating differently with those males I thought I just might be able to trust. Since I still felt like I was carrying around a bit of a time bomb, I learned to value myself enough to deal with the possible rejection from others. I learned how to stand on my own and prepared to welcome a partner, but not craving it as I had before.

Although I do admit to cruising the “success stories” located here. http://www.mpwh.net/herpes-dating-success-stories.sht

I hope that some part of what I had to say helps you feel like there is a silver lining.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

 

Thank you again, Anonymous, for sharing your struggle and triumph.

Contraception: Barrier Methods for Female Homosexual Relationships

Care should always be taken when in a new sexual relationship. Until you and your partner have been tested for STIs and you have agreed to be in a monogamous relationship, it is always best to use a barrier method of birth control to reduce the chance of transmission of STIs.

Male condoms (specifically, ones made from latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene) are great at preventing the transmission of STIs from one infected partner to another uninfected partner. They are especially great for female homosexual relationships (abbreviated hereafter as FHR).

Why Use a Male Condom?

It makes sense that women in an FHR would not think about using a barrier method during sexual activity. After all, biology tells us that there is no way for either one to become pregnant during this sexual activity, so why even bother?

One type of sexual activity in an FHR is the use of penetrative sex toys, such as vibrators. Because the toy could be used on both women, and it is rare to have purchased a sex toy for a specific partner, placing a male condom on the sex toy specifically for each partner should dramatically reduce the chance of STI transmission from one partner to the other. Of course, the condom should be changed between use on each partner, and the toy should be cleaned properly between instances of sexual activity.

Dental Dams for Oral Sex

Of course, another type of sexual activity that is common in an FHR is oral sex. To reduce the chance of transmission of an STI during oral sex, a dental dam should be used. Dental dams are a sheet of either latex or silicon. Examine the dental dam before using it, to ensure that it has not been punctured, and use a water-based lubricant to preserve the integrity of the material.

In keeping yourself as healthy as possible, safer sex matters for female homosexual relationships just as much as heterosexual relationships.

Sexual Acts: Female Masturbation and Orgasm

Masturbation is the act of achieving orgasm through manual stimulation. It is generally done alone, in private and is a normal and healthy part of a fulfilled sex life. Females achieve orgasm through direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris.

Fast Facts:
The clitoris contains over 8,000 nerves.
The clitoris is the only human organ designed exclusively for pleasure. It has no other purpose.
Women can have multiple orgasms during sexual activity. With a few notable exceptions, men are limited to one orgasm during sexual activity.

Vaginal Orgasms: Are They Real?

With the recent studies that have been done regarding the clitoris, it has now become apparent that it is a much larger organ than previously thought. In fact, one of the walls of the vaginal canal is the back side of the clitoris, and may be what is commonly referred to as the “G-Spot”. Despite what pornography would have you believe, it is very rare for penis-in-vagina sex to adequately stimulate this area. It is possible for a woman to have an orgasm through vaginal penetration, but it still all comes down to stimulating the clitoris!

But My Body is Gross!

Masturbation is a topic that few people discuss with young girls, except to impart that the act is dirty, immoral, and that “good girls don’t”. As a result of this attitude, it is common for girls and women to think their entire genital area is dirty, smelly, ugly, or gross. The exact opposite is true. Unless the woman has an infection, the vaginal area is not dirty or smelly, and it certainly isn’t ugly or gross.

Have you ever taken the time to look at an orchid blossom? They are considered one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. They also resemble a woman’s vulva and clitoris.

How Does This Thing Work?

Everyone has a different method of masturbation. Female masturbation generally involves massaging the clitoris, either with fingers or with something that vibrates. There is a build up of tension, and then the muscles in the vaginal canal will contract. Sometimes there are several contractions, sometimes there are just one or two. Your whole body may spasm, or just the muscles in the vaginal canal. Orgasms are not the same for everyone, but they definitely feel good.

Just Do It

I personally believe that it is important for a girl to take the time to explore her own body and to know how to make herself orgasm before she engages in sexual activities that involve another person. If you don’t know what feels good to you, how can you expect another person to figure it out when you engage in sexual activity with a partner? Get comfortable with your own body, use a mirror and take a look at yourself, everywhere. Find the different parts of your vaginal area, and explore different sensations. Orgasms are awesome, and you should have as many as you’d like.

Sexually Transmitted Infections: Herpes

Herpes is the general term for the Herpes Simplex Virus, Types 1 and 2. Herpes is characterized by painful blisters that turn into sores on the genitals or the mouth, and is highly contagious. It is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, the virus does not have a cure, and it can stay in the body indefinitely, but so does chicken pox, and no one makes a huge fuss about being in a sexual relationship with someone who has had chicken pox! Outbreaks do lessen over the course of time, and there is at least one medication that is available (through prescription) to help prevent outbreaks, and there is a vaccine that is being developed in Europe. It is required, by law, that a person who knows he or she is infected with Herpes to tell any potential sexual partners, before the act of sex has occurred.

Although Herpes can be incredibly embarrassing, on the spectrum of STIs, it really isn’t that big of a deal. Recent studies have shown that at least one in six of the population of the United States has a form of Herpes, and in Europe the numbers are even higher. From what I understand, in some European countries, Herpes is viewed much the same way as the common cold. It is an unfortunate affliction, and one should take care to not transmit the virus, but it does not reflect on the moral character or intelligence of the afflicted.

If you think that you may have contracted Herpes from a sexual partner, the best course of action is to make an appointment with your doctor to confirm that infection, and then to contact your previous sexual partners. It is very common for someone to have an infection, and to have no symptoms of the infection. This is actually more true for males than it is for females.

Safer Sex to Prevent Transmission

The best way to prevent the transmission of Herpes between sex partners is to take care to avoid sexual contact during an outbreak, and to use a barrier method (such as a condom or a dental dam) in-between those times. This is not a guaranteed way to prevent transmission, because there is still the possibility of skin-to-skin contact, but it does lessen the risk.  A person who has contracted Herpes could be asymptomatically shedding the virus (meaning they could be contagious without any outward signs), but they are not always contagious.

If you are told by a current or potential sexual partner that they have Herpes, don’t freak out. The best reaction to this information is compassion. They have given you information that is potentially embarrassing to them, and it is your duty as a good sex partner to not make them feel bad. Acknowledging the information by saying “thank you for telling me that”, a shrug, and suggesting other types of sexual intimacy that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids or direct skin-to-skin contact with the infected area is a response that will make your partner feel the less uncomfortable. You should never share this very personal and private information with another person as gossip. That would be incredibly rude and insensitive.

There are other types of sexual intimacy that are less likely to transmit the virus, such as mutual masturbation, and manual stimulation of the other partner. It is best to ensure that if there is an emission of fluids from the infected partner, the other partner is careful to immediately wash any skin that has touched the fluids and to avoid the fluids touching a moist area of the body, such as the eyes, the mouth or the genitals. This will also lessen the risk of transmission.

The Bottom Line

Herpes is very common, and is not necessarily a deal-breaker for sexual contact. The choice is up to you as to whether or not to engage in sexual activity with someone who has said they are infected. If your potential partner is a responsible person, they will respect your decision either way.

Edit: “A person who has contracted Herpes is always slightly contagious, whether or not there is an outbreak that is evident.” is untrue.  A person who has contracted Herpes could be asymptomatically shedding the virus, but they are not always contagious.  Thanks to D for the correction.

Contraception: Condoms For Heterosexual Couples

Let’s start with the most basic form of contraception: condoms. Condoms are also referred to as prophylactics. The particular act of using a condom is also sometimes referred to as “The Barrier Method” of contraception.

There are two basic types of condoms: male and female. Male condoms are the most commonly available, but female condoms have all the same benefits as male condoms.

Effectiveness: STIs and Pregnancy

When used properly, condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. They are also the only form of birth control that offers any form of protection against STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). The effectiveness varies against different STIs, but it ranges from 70% to 95%. For more information on the rates of effectiveness against specific STIs, go here: Latex Condom Effectiveness. They are the form of contraception that is easiest to obtain. One can find both male and female condoms at drugstores, convenience stores, grocery stores, and sex-specific stores.

How to Use

It is very important to use a condom properly. Improper use will dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the condom. Breakage and leaking are rare when the condom is used properly, but can occur. A water based lubricant can assist with the comfort of both types of condom. Silicone based lubricant will stay slick longer, but be sure that any lubricant used does not have any sort of an oil base (such as Vaseline). An oil-based lubricant will compromise the elasticity of the condom, and can cause breakage.

Male:  Male condoms are packaged individually in small packets. They are rolled up for easier application. For the best fit and most comfort, condoms should only be applied to a fully erect penis. They should also be applied by hands that have not been touching any seminal fluid. Unless the condom has ribbing, there should be no difference in the feeling of a penis with or without a condom.

To apply, the rolled up condom should be placed on the head of the penis, and then unrolled over the shaft. Care should be taken to ensure that there is ample room at the head of the penis for the seminal fluid after ejaculation. For the most effective removal, holding the base of the condom during withdrawal and removing the condom immediately is essential. Male condoms are only good for one use.

Female:  Female condoms are also packaged individually. They require a little more foresight and some practice to apply correctly. Female condoms have two individual rings, the smaller ring is placed on or near the cervix, and the other larger ring is placed near the outer lips of the vulva. Female condoms can also be successfully used for anal sex, with the smaller ring removed. Applying an additional form of lubricant is essential for this type of sex, as the anus does not produce any natural lubrication. As with the male condom, the female condom is one-use only, and should be removed immediately after sexual intercourse.

Condom Myths, and the Truth Revealed!

There are many myths related to condom usage. I’ll de-bunk a few here.

Double bagging”, or using two condoms instead of just one, increases the effectiveness of the condoms. Using two condoms causes increased friction, and will often cause the condoms to tear, thus compromising the effectiveness for preventing both pregnancy and STI transmission.
“I can’t feel anything with a condom!” or “Condoms feel like a raincoat!” This is an excuse given frequently to avoid using a condom. Sex with a condom is not the same as sex without one, but I can promise that your and your partner will still feel pleasure during the sex act.
“Condoms are unsexy and will ‘ruin the moment’!”.
If you’re worried about this, and you are the one wearing the condom, offer it to your partner to apply; if you are not the one wearing the condom, offer to apply it to your partner. There is nothing unsexy about sharing an intimate moment like this, and you’ll feel better afterward, knowing that you have dramatically reduced your chance of an unplanned pregnancy or an STI infection.
“Condoms never fit me!” Condoms come in a wide variety of sizes. If a particular condom size is too big or too small, there are other sizes to choose from. There are several videos online of people putting a condom on their heads (the one above the shoulders!), or sticking their entire fist and forearm into a condom. If there is no condom that is big enough for you or your partner to wear, then you may have other problems to worry about!

How to Choose a Condom

As you can see if you go to your local drug store, there are a lot of different types and brands of male condoms. There are big, medium, and small condoms. There are condoms that are regular, thin, and ultra thin. They may have ribbing on them. There are condoms with regular lubricant, spermicidal lubricant, warming lubricant, and lubricant that produces a numbing sensation to allow sex to last longer (please inform your partner if you are using a condom with either of the last two, as they can be an unpleasant surprise if your partner is not warned!). Female condoms may be a little more difficult to find, and I have personally only seen one brand. I encourage you to purchase a variety pack and experiment to find out which one you like the best.

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