Where do I get birth control and which one should I get? What does an orgasm feel like? How the hell do you do butt stuff? We answer all these questions in our new column about sex. Say hello to The Big O.
By Trisha O’Bannon
The only time most of us think about genital health is under the threat of an infection or disease—but by then, it can be too little, too late. This article isn’t about preventing major STDs, but the little ways you can keep your fun bits happy, healthy, and, well, still fun. Remember: do right by your genitals, and they’ll do right by you.
Embrace your vagina – smells and all. A lot of women are really concerned about how they smell or taste down there. Vaginas aren’t supposed to smell like flowers; a slight muskiness is completely normal, especially after a long day or around the time of your period. As long as the smell isn’t particularly rotten or yeasty, and doesn’t linger even after washing, you’re probably fine.
Wash, but don’t overdo it. You only really need to wash with soap or feminine wash once a day. Using soap can upset the delicate pH balance of your vagina, and can actually cause bacterial imbalances and infections. If you feel icky about just wiping after going to the bathroom, just wash thoroughly with water.
Never go back to front. This applies to both wiping and sex. You don’t want to move anal bacteria into your vagina – that can cause all sorts of problems.
Stay away from douches. I mean, the vaginal kind. Douching gets rid of bacteria, yes, but it also gets rid of the good kind. It actually increases the chances of bacterial overgrowth and leaves your vagina more vulnerable to infection. Douching has also been linked to higher risk of ectopic pregnancies and other health issues.
Use the right kind of lubricant. Having unlubricated sex is the worst: think cervical lesions, abrasions, and all sorts of pain. But using the wrong kind of lubricant can be just as bad. Petroleum jelly and baby oil are NOT designed with your sensitive parts in mind, and using them can result in irritation or even infections.
Spring instead for a lubricant that fits your needs. Silicone is great for women who are extra dry, but not so much for silicone-based toys. Oil-based lubricants can break down latex; never combine them with condoms. Water-based lubricants are mild and good for general purpose fucking. And if you experience any pain or discomfort, switch to a brand that doesn’t contain parabens or glycerin.
Change pads/tampons/menstrual cup as necessary. The heavier your flow, the more often you should change your pads. Pads and tampons should be changed every 4-8 hours. You can keep a menstrual cup in as long as 8-12 hours, depending on the cup.
Let it breathe. Air it out once in a while. Tight clothes and underwear can cause sweat and increase bacterial growth and infections. Go commando if you’re just at home – or even outside, if you’re brave enough.
Put down the powder. Bacteria thrives on moist areas, so by all means, dry your penis after washing. But powder can clog your pores, cause inflammation and a host of diseases. Just a quick towel dry will do.
Foreskin means more work. If you’re uncircumcised, you’ll have to pull the foreskin all the way down and clean more thoroughly than most. Be extra thorough after sex or masturbation, since smegma gets easily trapped under there.
Take a shower. Or at least make sure you clean not just your penis, but your testicles too. Ball sweat is gross, but easily avoidable (or fixable) if you bathe frequently enough.
Wash your hands. Before and after you touch yourself down there, for whatever reason, clean your hands! But not with alcohol. That will sting, no matter what kind of parts you have.
Avoid scented soaps. These usually contain chemicals that are too harsh for your genital area. Choose a mild, unscented soap instead. If you have an infection or disease, you’ll just be masking the odor instead of fixing what’s really causing it.
Schedule a check-up. If you’re experiencing any discomfort, pain, weird smells/discharge, unusual bumps, soreness, itchiness, or burning sensations, see a doctor ASAP. Early treatment and diagnosis can spell the difference between a manageable STD and a fatal one. Sexually active people should go at least once a year.
Practice safe sex. It’s the best way to avoid the general nastiness and paranoia and fear that comes with most STDs. Use a condom, and change them between sexual acts and partners. And remember to wash up before and after sex!
Change your underwear everyday. Sometimes you forget, or you’re just too lazy. We get it. But do your junk a favor and dump the day-old undies in the laundry bin. Or, you know, just stop wearing underwear altogether.
Trim your pubic hair. Pubic hair is there for a reason – it reduces friction during sex and protects against bacteria. But it can also trap sweat and nasty smells. Trimming helps keep it manageable and easy to clean. You can also shave or wax, but pubic hair removal can cause skin irritation and leave you more prone to catching STDs.
Image by Grace de Luna