Whether you’re in a long-term relationship or hooking up with someone new, it’s always fun to experiment with your sex life. And since food brings your taste buds so much pleasure, it makes sense to wonder whether it might amp up things for yourvagina, too. But raiding your kitchen in search of unconventional sex toys isn’t always a good idea—in fact, it can lead to discomfort, chemical burns, or even infections.
The thing is, you can incorporate food during sex as long as you follow one key rule. “Normally, we tell people if they’re using food during foreplay, they can place it on any part of the body minus mucous membranes like the vagina and rectum,” Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D., board-certified ob/gyn and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Vista East Medical Center in Waukegan, Illinois, tells SELF. But if you do get food and drink on your mucous membranes, some kinds are more dangerous than others. Here, ob/gyns discuss how people use certain foods in ways your privates would warn you about, if only they could talk.
If you’re bringing food into the bedroom, you want to avoid:
1. Any sweet spreads or sauces
When it comes to the vagina, Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center, has seen “all kinds of things put up there.” Her rule of thumb is that anything you put in, you should be able to completely remove intact. But some of the most intriguing foods to use during sex don’t fall into that category—think jelly, honey, peanut butter, etc. Hutcherson has even seen patients whose partners inserted the nozzle of a whipped cream can into the vagina, then let loose. “These things can change the pH of the vagina,” tells SELF, and that leaves you primed for some less-than-fun outcomes. “Sugar can serve as a food source for bacteria and yeast,” says Abdur-Rahman, meaning these foods can boost your risk of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
2. Fruits and vegetables
First, there’s that whole what-goes-in-must-come-out issue, which can be a problem, especially with smaller produce. “The sphincters around the anus and vagina can involuntarily contract,” Abdur-Rahman explains, making whatever’s in there hard to get out. Hutcherson can personally attest to seeing this. “I don’t know what it is about grapes, but I’ve seen lots of them,” she says. Sometimes they get stuck in the vagina, people forget they have them in there, or the fruit in question gets pushed so far inside it’s tough to remove, warranting a trip to the doctor’s office.
There’s another potential complication you should consider before strolling down the produce aisle. “Even well-washed fruits and vegetables have bacteria,” says Abdur-Rahman. Although your GI tract often handles this bacteria just fine, your vagina isn’t used to it, which can lead to an infection. If you’re set on trying this out, Abdur-Rahman recommends putting a condom or latex glove around the food in question.
3. Anything spicy
That covers the obvious peppery spices—“You’ll find out pretty quickly that’s not a good idea,” says Hutcherson—but sweeter spices also fall under this umbrella. “People think cinnamon or nutmeg might be something to try, but they can irritate mucous membranes,” says Abdur-Rahman. “They’re desiccants, so they tend to dry tissue out very quickly.” Since healthy mucous membranes are wet, this can lead to chemical vulvovaginitis, a condition that’s basically a chemical burn down below.
4. Anything either of you is allergic to
Yes, it sounds mind-numbingly obvious, but it’s worth putting out there. Although Abdur-Rahman hasn’t seen a case of this, he’s read about people having allergic reactions to foods they use during sex—you don’t necessarily have to eat whatever you’re allergic to for things to go wrong. Sometimes inhaling food particles or the food just coming into contact with your skin is enough.
5. Oily foods or oil itself
Oil can degrade latex, which is a problem if you’re using condoms and/or dental dams for safe sex. But like honey and other liquid options, it can also be difficult to fully remove from the vagina. “Oil being so thick and viscous, it can trap bacteria and increase the risk of vaginal infections,” says Abdur-Rahman. But that slipperiness is exactly what might tempt you into using oil—of the coconut variety, especially—as lube when latex isn’t involved. While you may be able to do it without incident, both doctors advise against it. “It’s a thinner oil, and some people can use it without having any complications, but my own opinion is that you should avoid oils because they’re more difficult to remove—they sit there, and it’s a set-up for infection,” says Hutcherson.
OK, yes, maybe you got a promotion and would like to celebrate by pouring champagne all over yourself and asking your partner to lick it off. Have at it. That is some applause-worthy, celeb-level stuff. Just keep it away from your vagina. “Alcohol is very irritating, so you run the risk of chemical vulvovaginitis,” says Abdur-Rahman, and that danger applies to your butt, as well. Definite buzzkill.
7. Anything that’s too far on either end of the temperature spectrum
Temperature play during sex can be, well, hot. But mucous membranes are often sensitive to extreme heat or cold, potentially leading to a lot of discomfort. “They can get traumatized quickly,” says Abdur-Rahman. Even if it doesn’t cause any long-lasting effects, it can still feel terrible in the moment.
The bottom line: Use food during sex if you want, just be careful about where it goes.
“I believe that food can add spice to sex, but keep it on the vulva, not inside the vagina,” says Hutcherson. To illustrate, take her example of putting a little peanut butter on your clitoris before a rousing bout of cunnilingus. Just know that once it’s on there, it all has to come off. “That takes a long time, so you have to find the person who’s willin