Have you ever heard of the man who received oral sex from his partner and ended up with a rotting penis?
While lovingly nibbling on his genitals, a woman accidentally made a tiny cut on the tip with her teeth. Unfortunately for the recipient, this wound soon became infected and eventually saw the skin go black and necrotic.
It’s a nightmare scenario but don’t fret, doctors were able to save his precious penis.
Why are we telling you this gruesome tale? Firstly, it’s a good lesson in being cautious when giving head. More importantly, this is just one of many experiences that doctors deal with on a daily basis and by knowing about it, you could avoid a similar fate.
When it comes to sex, there’s no shortage of awkward stories. While they can be useful, sometimes these stories are twisted and retold, and the truth is often lost along the way.
This is partly due to shame around talking about our bodies and the weird things they do during sex, which is perhaps unsurprising when you consider that sexual health was only first defined by the World Health Organisation in 1975.
There’s also a lack of education in schools, although things have improved in recent decades, with the introduction of important areas such as consent and female pleasure, for instance, though this mostly applies to the western World.
Overall, sexual health is still a hush-hush topic.
“Due to the fact that sex has historically been a taboo and rarely discussed topic, this then puts sexual challenges into an even rarer category and leaves many people feeling isolated in their experience, and many often describing feeling ashamed and/or embarrassed,” explains Kate Moyle, LELO’s sex and relationships expert.
“This is why we often see a very slow uptake or accessing medical or professional advice when it comes to sexual problems.
“Even though medical care is confidential, the anxiety about that person knowing, can still leak into the rest of our lives, and that may be a fear for some people.”
“There were even myths about people going blind if they masturbated, and many of these are rooted in the times of sexual experiences being saved for within a marriage only, and used as a deterrent for people.”
Not to worry, we’re here to debunk the myths.
In this doctor’s edition, we discuss some of the awkward things that happen during sex that you’ve always wanted to ask about – from sweating too much to premature ejaculation and whether condoms really can disappear into your body forever (quick answer: no).
We also hear from others about their most embarrassing moments between the sheets, because well, it’s fun.
‘I once lost a condom inside my vagina during sex’
“I once lost the condom inside my vagina during sex,” Tara tells us.
“We ended up having a far less sexy discussion about who was going to have to fish it out because it was up there pretty high (thanks high-rising cervix). Ended up having to be him.”
Don’t panic but yes, condoms can indeed slide off and get lodged inside the vagina. However, they don’t ‘disappear’ or move around inside your body. Nor do they disintegrate into your bloodstream (it takes up to four years for a condom to decompose so you’d be waiting a long time).
“If the condom gets lodged in the vagina, you should lie down and try to relax your vagina muscles with some deep breaths, reach inside with a clean finger and feel around, once you find the condom, take two fingers and pull the condom down towards the vagina opening,” says Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and online doctor for Prescription Doctor.
“This should be quite easy to do yourself, try not to panic and just ensure you are relaxed and lying down, or in the shower when you do this.”
“The condom can become lodged close to the cervix or lodged in a vaginal fornix, which is essentially a pocket of tissue located near the cervix.”
“If the condom gets stuck in your anus, you can either try to locate it using a clean finger or try to push it out as if you are trying to go for a poo.”
“If you are unable to remove the condom, you should go to the doctor or gynaecologist right away.”
‘The mattress was completely soaked’
“So I end up squirting when we do it from the back,” says Angela*, 23.
“Usually it’s not that much but the other night my partner and I were in that position for a while and I ended up squirting like, a lot. It went on for at least 30 seconds, to the point where even I wasn’t sure if I hadn’t just peed myself.”
“His sheets, mattress cover and even the mattress were completely soaked. We took the sheets off but had to spend two hours using fans and a hairdryer to dry off the other two so we could go to sleep.”
Squirting, or female and non-binary ejaculation, isn’t talked about nearly as much as sperm ejaculation, which shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise given sexual health research has centred around male issues and pleasure since its invention.
However, unlike male climax, a woman can squirt without having an orgasm; a study in Sexuality and Culture from 2009 revealed only 14% of the 233 women involved ejaculate every time (or during most) orgasms.
And it’s not a new practice; according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, female ejaculation was first recorded some 2,000 years ago.
“Squirting can be experienced differently by every woman, with some only excreting a small amount of liquid and some squirting so much that it can be assumed that you have peed,” says Dr Aragona.
“The amount of ejaculate that is released varies completely and can range from a smaller amount, for example 0.5ml, to up to 150ml. Both are completely normal.”
“However, the reason that women think they have peed is understandable as the fluid that comes out is similar to urine, as it is a combination of uric acid, urea and creatinine, which is released by the skene’s gland located at the end of the urethra.”
Note that being extremely wet during sex isn’t the same as squirting. Natural lubrication is produced by Bartholin glands, and how wet you get is tied to both your body and mind, as well as your monthly hormone cycle.
But an unusually wet vagina (by this, we mean unusually wet for each individual) could be a sign of something else, such as a yeast infection.
Dr Sarah Welsh, a gynaecology doctor and co-founder of HANX, adds: “The vagina naturally lubricates itself on a regular basis, but during sexual arousal there are glands that produce more lubrication.
“There are a host of factors that affect how wet a vagina gets, including our hormones, certain medications and stress levels. Hence, why we need lube!”
“However, certain infections may also make your vagina feel wet due to discharge, such as bacterial vaginosis or vaginal thrush, so make sure you don’t have any symptoms and require treatment for an infection.”
“The majority of the time, vaginal wetness without any other symptoms is not usually a problem.”
One in five men will suffer premature ejaculation
For men and non-binary people with penises, premature ejaculation can be an incredibly stressful experience. The issue sometimes becomes a vicious cycle as the fear of climaxing ‘early’ can cause performance problems or feelings of failure.
Between 30 to 40% of men experience premature ejaculation at some point in their life, says Navin Khosla, a superintendent pharmacist at From Mars, who further notes that according to the American Urological Association, it is the most common sexual dysfunction among this group.
“About one in five men between the ages of 18 and 59 report incidences of premature ejaculation,” explains the pharmacist, who shockingly also reveals “it is not something I have been asked about directly in over 25 years, which suggests it is a topic men are not comfortable talking about.”
The case of premature ejaculation could be due to a number of factors, whether physical (prostate or thyroid problems or use of recreational drugs) or psychological (depression, stress, relationship issues etc) – or something else entirely.
Don’t suffer in silence, because there is treatment available, from medication to therapy.
A few top tips from Navin include masturbating for an hour or two before sex and taking breaks during, wearing a thicker condom and taking a deep breath when you feel you’re about to climax.
Avoid household solutions – like rubbing toothpaste on your dick to last longer – because these rarely work and can harm your genitals.
‘He was sweating so much it dripped into my eyes’
“I was once having sex with a guy, he was on top and the sweat was dripping off his hair into my eyes,” Laura*, 24, recalls.
“It just ruined the mood. He didn’t feel awkward about it at all but afterwards I hopped straight into the shower and told him to get in too. I also turned over the duvet because it was soaked.”
“I’ve never experienced an excessive sweater before.”
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with sweating during sex, it’s a physical exertion like any other. The smell of fresh sweat can actually be a turn-on; male sweat contains a pheromone known as androstadienone, which has been shown to heighten sexual arousal in women.
“Sweating is perfectly normal during sex,” says Navin.
“I wouldn’t be too concerned if you feel like you’re sweating excessively during sex, but if you feel like it’s affecting your sex life, then I’d advise speaking to your GP about the possible underlying factors behind this.”If you’re sweating excessively outside the bedroom or gym – such as night sweats – it could be a sign of something more serious, however.
When to worry about smelly genitals
Admitting that something smells funky downstairs can be difficult, because bad smells are harder to hide than, say, a lump on your penis or vagina (get those checked out, please).
But ignoring a concerning scent won’t make it go away.
There could be a whole host of reasons for the odour; from diet, if you’re a smoker, alcohol intake, hormones, infections, personal hygiene, STDs, etc., the list goes on.
Speaking about smelly sperm especially, Navin says: “As soon as you notice any discharge starting to appear, it’s important you go and get tested at your local sexual health clinic or contact your doctor for advice.”
“You should refrain from having sex until you have discussed it with a medical professional.”
“A change in the smell of your sperm is normal but a very strong smell or fishy odour could be a sign of an infection or a sexually transmitted disease. A particularly sweet smell could be a sign of diabetes.”
Women’s odour works a little differently, in that there is generally more variation due to the menstrual cycle.
Navin adds: ““Changes in the PH of the vaginal fluid can cause changes in the smell.”
Not all smells are bad either; your genitals won’t and shouldn’t smell like roses, so don’t fall for the recent trend in vaginal ‘cleaning’ products. Your vagina is self-cleaning, so let your body do its thing.
What kind of sex you have can also be a factor, such as if you swap between anal and vaginal sex (you’re best off cleaning off or swapping condoms between sessions).
Speaking of anal sex… have you ever heard of ‘painting’?
John, 27, retells the time he went to a wedding and decided to have an anal threesome with his husband and a guest, and it got a little messy.
“We woke up the next morning and to my horror, I noticed a brown stain on the white linen hotel bed sheets,” he tells us.
“In the gay community, it’s called “painting”, which refers to not being squeaky-clean during anal sex. There can be a lot of shame around it if your sexual partner isn’t understanding about the situation and of course that can be internalised when it happens.”
To put it plainly: anal play comes with the risk of getting poo in places one does not want poo, but there are some precautions you can take to avoid it, such as douching.
“The rectum stores poo and if the rectum is full, you have the sensation to open your bowels,” Dr Welsh says.
“If you have weak anal sphincter muscles (the muscles that control your bowel movements), you’re also more likely to leak during anal play.
“Make sure you empty your bowels before anal sex, and take things slowly. Warm up with a lower back and bottom massage, use fingers or tongue to stimulate the nerve endings around the anus. Talk to your partner throughout sex, and only go as far as is comfortable for you.”
“An anal douche can help you feel more confident about anal sex and help prevent any poo leakage, so some people choose to douche. However, it is not necessary and is something to do only if you’re comfortable with it.”
And remember, lube is your best friend.
‘Queefing’ – what is it and why does it happen?
Speaking of things our bodies do that we don’t intend, ‘queefing’ falls right into that category. In short, it’s vaginal farting – but unlike actual farting, it’s not caused by gas and there’s no smell involved.
“Queefing happens when a trapped pocket of air escapes from the vagina,” explains Dr Welsh.
“Unlike normal farting, a queef is not air coming from your bowels, that has travelled through your gut, and therefore does not have an odour.
“Air can get trapped in the vagina during penetrative sex, during exercise, or when you’re putting in a tampon or menstrual cup. Sex and physical activity are also often times that queefing happens as you’re applying pressure that pushes this trapped air out from the vagina.”
It’s nothing to worry about, so just laugh it off and keep going.
‘Why can’t I get it up?’
For our final doctor’s question, we tackle one of the biggest and most common problems that occur to men and non-binary people with penises: erectile dysfunction (ED).
Just like premature ejaculation, ED can have serious effects on a person’s mental health, however it’s extremely common. A survey conducted in 2020 by LloydsPharmacy found roughly 1 in 4 men in the UK have experienced the condition.
Many turn to online forums or groups for help and while it’s great that these conversations are being had, every experience is different. ED can be caused by a myriad of reasons, including but not limited to, high blood pressure, diabetes, nerve problems, tight foreskin, smoking, stress, depression, trauma and more.
You’re always best off talking to a medical professional, who will do tests to find out what is going on, instead of turning to the internet.
“ED can be caused by a variety of different things, both physically and psychologically,” says Dr Gigi Taguri, a director of medical technology at LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor.
“Often it’s nothing to worry about and can be easily treated, but it can sometimes be a sign of more serious problems.”
“There are a variety of treatments out there for the condition. And it’s thought that most men have about an 8 in 10 chance of medical treatment working.”
That’s it for our doctor’s edition this time around. There is an endless pit of awkward bodily functions to explore and sadly, we can’t cover them all in one go.
But you know who can? (You know what we’re going to say, so we won’t say it).
“As a culture and a society, sex is so commonly attached to feelings of shame, and this impacts our ability to address problems or ask for help when it comes to our sex lives, even in a professional context,” explains Kate.
“Our instinct is to avoid things that make us feel uncomfortable, shame or embarrassment and this is a barrier to people talking about these issues even in a professional context.”
“We also fear the reaction of the other person in the same way and so opening up to a doctor or medical professional, particularly if they aren’t one specialising in sexual health or medicine, can be really intimidating.”
Even if you’re scared or embarrassed, tackle sexual health problems head-on. Your body – and genitals – will thank you for it.