Tristan Taormino talks to Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen about the recent HIV scare in the adult industry and her decision to go condom only. Check out the video piece here and the longer written article here.
Recently, three adult industry performers tested positive for HIV, and there are unconfirmed, conflicting reports that there may be other performers who’ve tested positive. My heart goes out to all of them because it’s a life-changing diagnosis. I’m not interested in debating whether they contracted it on or off set, and I’m dismayed that people within the industry continue to engage in assumptions and finger-pointing about the now HIV positive performers. The important thing is that in the (albeit short) window of time between contracting the virus and receiving a positive test, they could have exposed other performers. These revelations—along with the recent syphilis scare and rumors that a male performer with Hepatitis C has been working without disclosing his status—have once again stimulated the public discussion about condoms in porn. These events, along with feedback from performers who said they’ve felt pressured not to use condoms in the past out of fear of losing work, have caused me to rethink my position.
From now on, I will require all performers I work with to test for STIs according to industry standards and to use condoms in their scenes. Until now, I have adhered to industry standard STI testing and my sets have been condom optional, which, for me means that performers truly can choose to use condoms or not and I always have condoms available. I’ve shot several scenes with condoms (and other safer sex barriers), but the majority of the scenes have been condom-free. Because I want to empower performers to make decisions about all aspects of the work they do, I have respected their decisions in the past not to use condoms. I still want performers to have choices, and they can choose not to work with me if they don’t want to use condoms.
As a feminist pornographer, part of my mission is to support fair labor practices and create a positive work environment on my sets. The health, well being, and safety of the performers is my priority, and I believe that using condoms in addition to rigorous testing is the best way to prevent STI transmission. In the past, I have publicly spoken out against Measure B (as in this piece for The Huffington Post). I am still against mandatory condoms and government regulation of the adult industry. I still believe that the current fight is all about politics, not workers’ safety and rights. But my position on the use of condoms in my own productions has changed. I am not leveling judgment against producers, directors, or performers who choose not to use condoms. I am making the best decision I can based on my dedication to feminist and ethical production practices.
Condoms are not the only answer and not without issues. Performer, registered nurse, and activist Nina Hartley gives a compelling argument about why she believes that condoms can do more harm than good (briefly: she argues that condom use on porn sets causes “condom rash” leading to internal tissue damage that could increase the chances of STI transmission). Condoms don’t protect against every STI including herpes, chlamydia, and HPV, but they are an effective barrier for others STIs including HIV. Some people have latex allergies or sensitivities, and some can develop an allergy after repeated exposure to latex. There are several non-latex condoms, which many people report don’t have the same abrasive qualities as latex. Unfortunately, these alternatives don’t come in the range of sizes that latex condoms do, and, let’s face it, one-size-fits-most doesn’t apply to porn guys. I have always consulted with performers about what I can do to make their job safer and better. I will do the same when it comes to working with condoms. I will strive to find creative ways to decrease the amount of intercourse they have, thus decreasing wear and tear on their bodies (especially the bodies of female performers). I will consider requests by fluid-bonded couples who don’t want to use condoms. I will be a part of an open and ongoing dialogue and adapt as testing technology changes and safer sex practices evolve.
Safer sex issues have been a part of my professional life since I became a sex educator. But the news of HIV in the industry has a very personal dimension for me. My father, a gay man, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1993, and he died in 1995. That was before the good drugs, the cocktail, when AIDS was a death sentence. This hits far too close to home for me, and I’ve got to make a change as a result. Plenty of people say that no one wants to see condoms in porn. That no one cares about the safety of the people who make the images they masturbate to. I hope to prove them wrong, and I hope you, my audience, will help me do it.
P.S. On this subject, I’m quoted in this piece by Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on CNN.
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Because this is ultimately about the sex workers, their bodies, and their labor, I think it’s important to feature their voices in this discussion. This week, I publicly asked performers to anonymously respond to this question: If the choice was entirely yours—not a mandate, not law, not what viewers want, just completely up to you—would you use condoms when you perform? Why or why not? Here are some of their responses. Some of them have been edited and excerpted for length.
“Perhaps I was delusional, but there was a time where I really trusted everyone in porn. I thought we all had this secret handshake, like none of us would ever jeopardize each other’s health and we all agreed to the same code of conduct off camera. I will admit I was pretty sexually irresponsible before porn; I had a lot of partners and I rarely used condoms. Once I started doing porn, all of that behavior stopped. I knew I couldn’t do that anymore because I didn’t just have to think about myself anymore. For some reason, I assumed everyone else was the same way. I felt really safe in the industry for a long time and if anyone were to ask me about using a condom on set I would have laughed, and said they would be uncomfortable and unnecessary. Condoms to me were things that you used if you were having a one night stand with someone you didn’t know—not things you used with people you knew and trusted. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that way anymore. I think condoms are necessary now. I wish it wasn’t that way but it is. I blame a lot of this on piracy. All the tube sites and the torrent sites have made all the studios make less money. A lot of people feel less inclined to adhere to a certain code of conduct, because they just aren’t working that much or they are working for less than what they want, etc. It’s a bad domino effect. I don’t love the state that porn is in at the moment and perhaps these HIV outbreaks were a good wake up call to anyone who is irresponsible, but I think we have to adapt with the times, and now, I think condoms are necessary.”
“I don’t think this question can be answered in a vacuum. If you were to ask me whether I prefer to have sex with condoms in general, the answer would be, ‘No.’ It’s not even the sensation. I don’t like the smell. That said, I’ve had plenty of condom sex. Prior to porn becoming a significant part of my life, I always used condoms. They were never a deterrent from sex. I feel like porn has allowed for condom-less sex as a sort of privilege. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s been over three years since I’ve had sex with someone who wasn’t a recently tested, industry performer. As a man who has sex almost exclusively as a top (at least in regards to who is penetrating who) at this point in his life, I’m honestly not too worried about contracting STIs like HIV or Hepatitis. However, I understand that my partners may feel differently. Women who do boy/girl scenes in straight porn (and men who bottom in gay porn) are at a higher risk of contracting non-curable, potentially life-threatening STIs like HIV. So I have to ask myself whether using condoms is going to benefit the industry as a whole. I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. The industry is in flux and many things have yet to play out. All I can say is that I’m happy to use condoms when it is an option and my partner feels safer with them. I don’t believe hot sex and barrier protection are mutually exclusive. However, I don’t see a direct correlation between a lack of barrier protection and the current problems plaguing the adult industry. STI exposure incidents will continue to put a hold on production regardless of whether condoms are used or not. It is my opinion that economic disruption of adult media is driving many performers to unregulated forms of sex work that put them at higher risk for contracting STIs. The testing system is doing its job to keep these performers—once infected—from re-entering the talent pool. It just so happens that major flaws were discovered in the system over the past six months. As a result, testing protocol has become increasingly strict. While the kinks are being worked out, I commend producers who will allow performers the option to use condoms.”
“I’m not interested in performing with condoms, though I occasionally do so, whether it’s my scene partner’s preference, the producer’s rule, or (rarely) because I don’t trust my partner’s lifestyle choices. In that case, or if she doesn’t seem well, or depending on the freshness of her test, I have requested condoms, and I have never experienced pushback from a director on my choice. All-natural sex on camera is more intimate, exciting and trust-based. That’s what I look for in a scene as a viewer and that’s what I try to create as an artist. I want to be a safe place for my scene partner to let her sexual instincts express themselves. With condoms there is literally something between us, and the instinctual fantasies are dulled. HIV is not a major concern for me. In 500-plus scenes, I have never contracted an STI, though I tend to shoot with established and/or professional, safety-conscious scene partners…We need standards. Agents and producers are betraying their talent when they promote performers who don’t respect the work we’re doing. I think performers doing privates/prostitution and heavy drug use is a far bigger issue than this current condom debate.”
“If the choice were completely mine, I would use a condom for EVERY scene/performance. I believe that it is safer for performers to use condoms, period. I do not accept the arguments put forth by FSC and other industry leaders/lawyers that condoms are more dangerous to a performer’s health. I do not accept that condoms being used in our industry would significantly hurt sales, in fact I believe it would benefit our industry’s image. The only reason I do not request condoms, outside of Kink.com or Wicked (who support condom use), is because I know I will not be rehired IF they even honor the request at the time. I have witnessed talent blacklisted by companies because the girl has asked to use a condom. I think it would be more responsible for our industry and our industry’s reputation to promote safe sex practices to the general public. Personally, I don’t feel that the anti-condom sentiment expressed by the industry reflects the true feelings of the performers, especially female performers.”
“If the choice was mine and when the choice is mine, I choose to use condoms. I still think testing is critical and that testing should be much more frequent. An STI test that was taken the week of the production coupled with condoms and gloves would be ideal and would be closer to mirroring what I want from a new partner in my personal life. I think condoms can be sexy. Safer sex can be sexy. I want condoms and a test when I’m having sex with a partner on or off screen. A couple of reasons play into this including greatly reducing risk of STI transmission, doing what I feel is necessary to protect my body, feeling confident and turned on by the fact that we are being healthy and aware of our bodies, feeling turned on by communicating, stating boundaries, and sticking to boundaries and limits that are set to protect both myself and my partners, and lastly feeling a certain obligation knowing that the sex I’m having will be viewed by others and that if I can make safer sex sexy then I can encourage the use of gloves and condoms (on cocks and toys) for the general viewing/porn consuming public.”
“My ideal situation is presenting a clear, basic STI test of 14 days, being able to communicate with my co-star about any other known sexual health concerns, AND the use of safer sex barriers such as condoms and gloves. I prefer testing AND condoms, and I want this preference to not only be the choice made by me and my co-star, but also be a choice that is fully supported by the production team. My experience with the majority of productions that were “okay” with condom use for heterosexual scenes have demonstrated to me that condom use is uncommon in porn at best, and discouraged/prevented at worse. I’ve shown up on sets where no condoms were available, and once a crew member offered one of his own, stored in the hot glove compartment of his car. (For obvious reasons, I immediately started bringing my own safer sex kit to shoots.) In queer/feminist-minded (what I’ll simply call “GOOD”) porn environments, condoms were not only allowed, not only encouraged, but actually SUPPLIED…Ultimately, how I shoot is up to me, yet I often have to compromise safer sex practices due to perceived marketability. It has always been a disappointment. I would appreciate the opportunity for myself—and anyone else—to work the way I want.”
“Most mainstream companies are not willing to allow performers to chose whether or not they use condoms in their scenes. Burning Angel has decided with all of the recent unfortunate happenings in the industry, that it should be at performers’ discretion as to whether or not they want to use condoms in their scenes…I am super appreciative that they have made this choice to benefit their performers’ health and safety at any cost. I feel that this choice demonstrates a lot of what I stand for in this industry, which is to promote boundaries, consent, and healthy sexual choices.”
“If the choice was entirely mine, I would not use condoms when I perform. Condoms and my vagina don’t get along so well. I always get very irritated internally after shooting a scene with a condom. From what I understand, this makes me more, not less, susceptible to STDs and infection. Also, I don’t completely trust condoms to prevent STDs. Condoms break and fail. I would never have sex with someone, on or off camera, with just a condom and no test.”
“To me, the idea of using condoms—or not—is a very personal choice. When used correctly, condoms do lessen the spread of HIV and certain STIs, but they don’t protect against everything. While there are a select number of companies that will “allow” talent to use condoms (and one company that has been 100% condom ONLY for 14 years) many companies discourage the use of condoms because their sales will suffer. I also think it is VERY important to realize that no one entity can possibly be the voice for all performers and say that ALL talent wishes they were condom only. For example, even on a condom-only set, performers complain about having to use condoms and try to remove them during the softcore portion of the filming, citing discomfort for both players, as well as a struggle for the male performer to stay erect. I would like the choice to use condoms without the government mandating what I must do with my body while I am engaged in a very intimate act. I think that educating performers will be the key to enabling them to make informed decisions about their personal safety.”
“If the choice was completely up to me, I’d use condoms in porn with almost everyone, and use my discretion with the partner I’m fluid bonded to. Frankly, I’d *still* want to get tested, and have any sexual partners get tested (condoms break, after all); but hormonal birth control messes my body up and I’d rather use condoms as a form of barrier. Plus, I like to be an example to others and prove that safer sex can and is hot in the context of sexual experiences! I honestly find it sexy and want to demonstrate why on film so others can see that for themselves. I wouldn’t want to be forced to wear condoms without testing being required, which is what could happen, or have porn companies not hire me because I prefer to use condoms, which is what happens now. I’d prefer to make my own decisions.”
Industry standards for testing are constantly evolving. Currently, a performer must test negative every 14 days or less for gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis A and B, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and HIV. The testing period was decreased from 30 days to 14 days just this week.
I really like licking my wife’s ass a lot. We just got into it because I was going down on her and decided to venture to her backdoor and see what happened. It turns her on immensely, even more than licking her pussy, it seems. I just want to make sure what we’re doing is safe. After licking her bare anus and probing with my tongue, should I rinse with a certain mouthwash to kill possibly harmful bacteria?
Welcome to the wonderful world of rimming! Tonguing someone’s butthole is lots of fun, but it does have some risks. You said you’re married, but I don’t know how long you’ve been married and I don’t want to automatically assume that you and your wife are monogamous, since many couples have open relationships. There may be readers out there who are not married or monogamous, so I want to address all the angles in response to your question. It’s important for people to be tested for sexually transmitted infections, since asslicking can put one at risk for gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, syphillis, HPV, and hepatitis A; there are no recorded cases of HIV transmission through rimming. In general, the giver is more at risk than the receiver, but if the giver has a cold sore, bleeding gums, or cut on their mouth, that puts the receiver at greater risk.
If you’ve tested negative for all STIs and are monogamous, then the only other concern you have is that bacteria live in the rectum and anal canal. Not all of it is harmful, but some of it could be, especially intestinal parasites or EColi. If you are both in generally good health, then the risks are pretty minimal. Make sure your wife bathes before your asslicking sessions; a warm shower with a mild soap can lessen the amount of bacteria around her anus and just inside the anal canal. She can also have an enema, which will flush out a lot of the bacteria inside her lower rectum. There is no research about using mouthwash after rimming, but it certainly won’t do any harm and it does kill some germs.
I gave my Sexploration lecture at Bucknell University on Tuesday April 23, and there was a huge crowd. I often do anonymous questions at college events where students write their questions on notecards and everyone has to write something, even if it’s “no question.” The anonymity gives folks the freedom to ask their most pressing questions. I only had time to answer about 60% of the questions, so I’m answering the rest here. I’ve combined some questions that are on the same topic.
Is it weird that I want sex all the time even though I’m a virgin?
No. It’s common to have sexual desires regardless of your sexual experience. Remember what I said about the problematic concept of virginity? I encourage you to define sex as broadly as you want and not buy into the cultural construction of virginity.
Recommended: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
How often do most people masturbate?
It varies wildly from person to person, and how often just one person masturbates can vary depending on their energy level, desire, stress, opportunity, etc. There are some interesting stats you can check out. In general, I don’t think masturbation is ever a bad thing. Everyone should have a sexual relationship with themselves, and it’s a great way to figure out what you like.
I masturbate so much it’s turned into a chore; any tips for spicing it up?
Masturbation shouldn’t be a chore! But people can get into a repetitive rut. Don’t think of it merely as a quick way to get off, think of it as a date with yourself. Try changing positions, experimenting with new stimulation techniques, adding lube and a toy to the mix.
How long does it take to give a guy a blow job?
There is no set amount of time that it takes anyone to do anything sexual. If you’re giving the blow job, take charge of the situation and do it for as long as it feels good, for as long as you want to. If you get tired or overwhelmed, switch to using your hand or doing something else.
Recommended: The Expert Guide to Oral Sex 2: Fellatio
How long should a guy last during a blow job?
I hate to repeat myself, but: there is no set amount of time. Depending on the guy, the stimulation of oral sex could bring him to orgasm slowly, quickly, or not at all. Blow jobs do it for some people and not for others.
How nutritious is semen and how can I convince my girlfriend to swallow?
Semen has little to no nutritional value because you don’t ingest all that much of it. You don’t want to convince anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. You can share your desire with her and tell her why it turns you on, but ultimately, it’s her choice to swallow or not, and you’ve got to respect it. Also, swallowing semen is a riskier practice in terms of safer sex than not swallowing, and I am a fan of condoms for blow jobs.
How do you improve oral sex?
Since you didn’t specify, I’m going to make some statements that apply to all kinds of oral sex (cunnilingus, fellatio, and analingus), then give you some particulars. Enthusiasm, focus, tenacity, and paying attention to your partner’s body language are all good qualities to have when giving oral sex. Use your fingers and hands along with your mouth. For cunnilingus, experiment with different techniques using your lips, mouth, and tongue, and ask your partner to tell you what she likes (if she doesn’t know, explore and ask her to alert you when you’ve stumbled on something great). For fellatio, concentrate on the head and the sensitive frenulum on its underside (remember our anatomy lesson); experiment by applying different amounts of pressure with your mouth along the head and shaft. For analingus, use your tongue and lips to get into the folds of the sensitive anus.
Recommended: The Expert Guide to Oral Sex 1: Cunnilingus, The Expert Guide to Oral Sex 2: Fellatio, and The Expert Guide to Advanced Fellatio
I don’t think I enjoy sex at all. The picture of the vagina (in your presentation) made me squirm, and I have one. What can I do to be comfortable and enjoy the experience when my partner wants to have it?
First, this is a question I can’t answer with a pithy one minute (or three sentence) response. It was a line drawing, but an explicit one, of a vulva, and we are not used to looking at those images on the big screen or in public, so it can make some people uncomfortable for a number of reasons. But you said you don’t enjoy sex at all. Could you be asexual? If you have sexual desire, then it’s a matter of getting comfortable with your body and with sex. Do you masturbate? It all begins there, so I’d start with establishing a sexual relationship with yourself before you address sex with a partner.
Recommended: Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving
What is the best way to have sex in a long distance relationship?
I assume you mean when you and your partner are apart? Use technology to keep you connected. Dirty text messages, naughty instant messages, steamy emails, and Skype with mutual masturbation. I caution you against sending naked or sex pictures to each other, however, since we’ve seen all the trouble that can cause.
Got any good positions?
Each position has its pros and cons, and experimentation is key. If you like Missionary, try Flying Missionary where the person on their back puts their feet on their partner’s chest. If you like Cowgirl, try Froggie where the person on top balances on their feet. If you like Doggie Style, try Tailgate, where the receiver lies on their stomach and the penetrator then lies directly on top of them.
Do you have tips for using a toy to stimulate the G-spot?
Pick a curved toy like Pure Wand, and always aim the curve toward the front of the person’s body. Many G-spots respond to deliberate, firm pressure rather than gentle stroking, so don’t be afraid to apply pressure—just make sure your partner is aroused and ready before you do.
Recommended: The Secrets of Great G-Spot Orgasms and Female Ejaculation and The Big Book of Sex Toys
Does size matter?
The easy answer is no. People are way too wrapped up in penis size, when most folks want a compassionate, responsive lover more than a particular size. But I don’t want to deny that everyone has different tastes and turn ons, and some people do like penetration with big stuff. But that’s why God created dildos.
How do I get a vibrator and which kind do I get?
If possible, visit a sex-positive store like The Smitten Kitten, Good Vibrations, or Babeland. When you shop in person at stores like these, the toys are out of their packages, so you can see and feel them, feel the vibration, hear how quiet or loud they are, plus you benefit from the advice of experienced sex educators who work there. If that’s not possible, try one of their websites; they all have detailed product information and customer reviews.
Recommended: The Big Book of Sex Toys
I’m a girl. Do I need to shave my pubic hair before I have sex?
Your pubic hair is your business! It’s a matter of personal taste, just like how you cut and style your other hair. Some people let it grow, others trim it back, and others wax or shave some or all of it off.
As a female, how do you know if you’ve had an orgasm?
I want to say, “Oh you’ll know!” but I want to be more specific. Some of the physiological responses include: a feeling of release; muscle contractions of the uterus, vagina, and sphincter muscles; other muscle contractions and muscle tension throughout the body; involuntary muscle responses that cause you to make strange faces; and cramping of hands and feet. Talking to your peers about what their orgasms feel like is a great way to open up a conversation and hear from real people about their experiences.
Recommended: The Expert Guide to Female Orgasms and The Ultimate Guide to Orgasm for Women: How to Become Orgasmic for a Lifetime
How long does it take a woman to climax?
There is no set amount of time, and I hesitate to even say there is an average amount of time. Women often put pressure on themselves about this (I hear all the time “It takes me a really long time,” or “It takes too long”). Concentrate on what’s going on and how it feels, and don’t think about the clock and how you measure up to it.
Do you have any suggestions for mixing things up during sex?
Lube. Sex toys. Role play. Analingus. New positions. Porn. Do anything except intercourse. Mutual masturbation.
Recommended: What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
Do you poop when you have anal sex? How do you have “clean” anal sex?
When you have a bowel movement, feces stored in the colon pass through the rectum, down into the anal canal, and out the anus. The colon is the storage area, and the rectum and anal canal are pathways. If you have good bowel habits and plenty of fiber in your diet, then there should be very little fecal matter in the rectum and anal canal. When you play with fingers, a toy, or a penis, you’re not going beyond the rectum. Go to the bathroom before anal play. In addition, take a warm, soapy shower or bath before anal sex to make sure your genitals are clean. You can even slide a soapy finger into your anus. Always use the most mild soap you can—either a castile or pure glycerine. A trip to the bathroom and a shower will go a long way toward you having relatively clean anal penetration. I say “relatively clean” because I want you to be realistic. There are no guarantees in life, and some amount of fecal matter may be present in someone’s rectum. If you want to go the extra step to make sure you’re totally cleaned out, you can give yourself an enema beforehand.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women
How safe is anal sex and how do I avoid anal fissures?
I always recommend that people use safer sex barriers if they are not currently tested and in a sexually monogamous relationship. You can transmit most sexually-transmitted infections (including gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, HPV, genital warts, herpes, and HIV) through unprotected anal sex, especially penis/ass intercourse. In addition, as I said in my presentation, the ass is made of delicate, sensitive tissue which is susceptible to small tears or anal fissures. The best way to protect against them: use gloves to make your fingers butt-friendly, use plenty of lube, focus on warm up and don’t rush penetration, and, as the receiver, listen to your body.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women
Is it inappropriate to go up to someone and say, “Wanna fuck? Right here, right now?” (I’m female.)
I like people being direct about what they want. I appreciate shameless assertion of your desires. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate to speak your desires in the right context with potential lovers. But, that said, there are repercussions for women who speak openly about their sexual desire, so you’ve got to take those into account, knowing that reactions to your honesty will be mixed (see next question).
How can I, as a woman, express wanting to have sex without looking like a slut?
Just do it. Own it. Don’t let anyone shame you for your sexual desires, experience, or consensual behavior. And don’t shame other women for theirs. Don’t buy into our society’s double standards that applaud men for their sexual prowess and punish women for the very same behavior. (Easier said than done, I know.)
Recommended: He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know and What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide to Sex and Safety
How do we as a society combat false sex information like the “What Not To Do Guide to BDSM,” aka Fifty Shades of Grey?
You’re right, Fifty Shades of Grey is not an instruction manual, it’s a romance novel with some kink thrown in. But lots of people have read it and it’s opened up conversations about kinky sex, which is ultimately a good thing for society. If a friend mentions reading it or being inspired by it, be ready to let them know that it’s not a how-to and have recommendations for other resources that give solid information about BDSM.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Kink and SM 101: A Realistic Introduction
I am really into bondage. How do I bring it up to a casual hookup without being scary and intense?
It’s all in the way you present it. Be direct and put it out there (“I want to tie you up” or “It would turn me on if you tied me up”) and make it clear that it’s a suggestion that your partner is welcome to embrace or turn down. If they agree, be prepared to give them information about safety before you start and always use a safeword.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Kink and Midori’s Expert Guide to Sensual Bondage
How does a girl approach the idea of being a dominant with a guy?
Talk about roleplaying fantasies and see what kinds of scenarios you each come up with. Suggest some scenes where you play a dominant role and see what he says. Context is everything.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Kink
Why do I have rape fantasies? It feels problematic.
Our fantasies often do not reflect our politics. Rape fantasies can be about exploring submission, masochism, surrender, objectification, control, and a slew of other dynamics. Although “rape” is the hot-button word in this question, the operative word here is fantasy. It’s a fantasy where you create the script, imagine the details, call the shots, and know how it ends—which is an entirely different thing than actual rape.
Recommended: Toybag Guide to Playing With Taboo and Mollena Williams’ two chapters in The Ultimate Guide to Kink
Any advice for a woman who wants to peg her man? Techniques, a particular toy, a particular position?
Pegging is strap-on anal sex where the woman is the giver and the man the receiver, and it can open up a whole new world of erotic exploration for couples. Great anal sex is all about the warm up. You’ve got to take your time, relish each sensation, and tease your partner into a frenzy before any serious penetration begins. As for toys, I love the Mistress dildo by Vixen Creations and any harness made by Aslan Leather.
Recommended: The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women and The Expert Guide to Pegging
What are your thoughts on tantra, sexual ecstasy and spirituality?
That’s a big question on a big topic. More and more people are getting interested in sacred sexuality, the intersection of sex and spirituality, sex magic, and Tantric sex. I want to refer you to two of the best, most accessible books on the subject: Urban Tantra: Sacred Sex for the Twenty-First Century and Tantra for Erotic Empowerment: The Key to Enriching Your Sexual Life.
How do you feel about porn, which often portrays false or fantastical situations? How realistic is porn? Is it misleading?
Well, it depends on the porn! Much of mainstream pornography portrays a fantasy and a performance, so there’s a lot of athletic positions, high energy and high libido, heightened reactions to stimulation, and earth shaking orgasms (both real and performed). You don’t often get to see honest communication, awkward moves, enough warm up before intercourse, a focus on other kinds of sex besides intercourse, partners being shy or quiet, stopping and starting, and much more. I like to portray more realistic sexual scenes in my films, where people verbally negotiate, ask for what they want, use lube and sex toys, focus on activities that turn them on rather than a “script” of how sex should unfold, get into positions that feel good for them, and allow enough arousal time and stimulation to allow female performers to have real orgasms. There are lots of feminists who make porn, and you may want to check out their films as well as films featuring real couples including Make Love Not Porn.
Recommended: The Feminist Porn Book
How can gender identity affect a sexual experience or a sexual relationship (even mentally)? How can we avoid gender identity becoming a point of contestation? We are both doms.
This question requires a longer answer, so I gave it its own Ask Tristan post.
There has been a lot of talk about HPV recently with the release of the new vaccine. But most of what I read for women concerns HPV in the vagina and PAP smears. As a girl who’s way more into anal sex than vaginal sex, what do I need to know about HPV? Can a person get HPV in their ass, is there a test for it, and how is it treated?
–Concerned Anal Citizen
There are more than one hundred types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and more than forty different strains can be sexually transmitted and affect these areas: the vulva, vagina, cervix, penis, scrotum, anus, and rectum. HPV is a virus most closely associated with genital warts, although not all forms of HPV cause warts. Some of the strains of HPV are low risk and resolve themselves without treatment. High-risk types of HPV can cause abnormal cell growth and cervical cancer. According to Planned Parenthood,
At any time about 20 million people in the U.S. have [genital HVP infections]. Between 10 and 15 million have high-risk types that are associated with cervical cancer. HPV is so common that about three out of four people have HPV at some point in their lives.
The most common way to spread HPV is through vaginal and anal intercourse, but it can also be spread through rubbing, fingering, oral sex, or sharing sex toys. Condoms protect against HPV, but HPV may be present in the skin not covered by a condom, which is why gloves and dental dams should also be used.
Yes, you can get HPV in your ass. If it is a kind of HPV that manifests as genital warts, they can appear in as little as three weeks or as long as six months after infection. The warts begin as small pink bumps that look like cauliflower florets in or around the anus and rectum; they tend to spread rapidly, forming clumps of bumps that may be itchy. The bumps could be painful if they are irritated. Their incubation period is usually one to six months, but they can grow more rapidly if you are pregnant or have a compromised immune system. Remember, in many cases, someone with HPV may have no visible symptoms at all; in these cases, a physician will be able to see them during a rectal exam with an anoscope. Genital warts can go away on their own; or, they can be removed from the skin by applying chemicals to them (usually acids), burning them with an electric needle (electrocautery), freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) or with laser treatment. Even after visible warts are removed, HPV remains in your body, and the warts can recur.
The strains of HPV that can cause precancerous lesions on the cervix can be detected through a pelvic exam and PAP test. If you have HPV in your ass, it’s less common to have treatable precancerous lesions present since there is no cervix or cervix-like place for them to develop, though it’s still possible to have pre-cancerous cells which precede rectal cancer. To test for the presence of HPV in the ass when there are no warts, a physician takes a swab of the rectum and sends it for laboratory analysis (similar to a vaginal PAP test). If you regularly engage in unprotected anal penetration and think you have been exposed to HPV, you can request a rectal exam and an anal papilloma screening (also known as an anal PAP test). If the PAP results come back abnormal, then you should have an HPV test which tests the cells for the HPV virus. If the HPV virus is detected, you can have a colposcopy where they take a biopsy and can look closer at the cells. You can spread HPV from your ass to your vagina and vice versa, so if it has been discovered in one place, it’s advisable to get the other place checked. People diagnosed with HPV should have regular exams to monitor recurrences and prevent complications.
In 2006, a vaccine for girls and women was released that can prevent four strains of HPV: two of the strains account for 90% of cases of genital warts and two account for 70% of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine, currently marketed under the name Gardasil is recommended by the FDA for girls and women aged 9-26. However, women over 26 who have never been exposed to one or more of the strains of HPV can also benefit from the vaccine. Researchers still know much less about HPV infection in boys and men, including its long term effects, risk of cancer, early detection, and potential treatments, although several drug companies are (including Merck, makers of Gardasil) are conducting clinical trials on the vaccination of boys and men.
It’s embarrassing for me to write this letter to you because this is the first time I will admit to anyone that my husband and I have anal sex. I actually am getting past the pain, and learning to enjoy it. A friend told me that you can eventually get colon cancer and other things from letting a man come inside your butt, is this true?
–A Little Scared
Please don’t be embarrassed by your admission and know that there are tons of other people having anal sex out there! Let’s talk about the risks of a man ejaculating inside your ass. The ass is made of delicate tissue that can have minute tears in it, allowing easy access to the bloodstream. If you are monogamous and he has tested negative for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), then he can come in your ass. If you are not monogamous or don’t know his STD status, then, by having unprotected anal sex and ejaculating in your ass, he can transmit gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, human papilloma virus (HPV) also called anal warts, HIV, or hepatitis.
There isn’t any definitive link between semen in your butt and colon cancer. However, according to the National Cancer Institute, contracting HPV in the ass (anal warts) can increase your chances of colon cancer. Some studies suggest that other STDs and trauma to the anal canal and rectum — the kind that would result from not using lube or warming the ass up properly — can also lead to rectal or colon cancer.
A new study in Australia shows the risk of contracting HIV while engaged in the practice of topping or taking the “insertive role” in sex. This practice is thought by many to be a lower risk activity when engaging in unprotected sex, but the research is indicating otherwise. How is the virus being transmitted from the receiver to the person on top?
During anal sex, HIV can be transmitted to the insertive partner when a bodily fluid containing HIV from the receptive partner, such as anal mucus, enters the body of the insertive partner. This can occur through the foreskin and surrounding areas, the eye of the penis to the urethra (also a mucous membrane), or through tiny (often invisible) breaks in the skin of the penis.
Anal mucus is increasingly being mentioned in Australian campaigns as the infectious body fluid potentially infecting the insertive partner during unprotected anal intercourse.
This is a significant piece of the puzzle which reminds us about how HIV can be transmitted during unprotected anal intercourse. I recommend everyone read it to stay informed about transmission and share it with your lovers, partners, and friends. Full article here: It’s Time To Talk Top: The Risk Of Insertive, Unprotected Anal Sex
My piece about why I oppose Measure B, which would make condoms mandatory in porn in LA County, is up on Huffington Post. Please read it, comment, and share with everyone you know who lives in Los Angeles County—it’s very important!
My husband and I engaged in some experimental anal fingering recently, myself being the receiver. While it didn’t hurt, it wasn’t the most mind-blowing experience I’ve ever had either, but I’m willing to give it another try. When I went to the gynecologist recently, she found that I had a very small number of possibly precancerous cells due to a virus. It is similar to the human papillomavirus that causes genital warts, only without producing the wart itself. It’s a fairly minor issue as many women don’t develop anything and can go years even without diagnosis. But, as my doc already demands a biopsy every time “just to be sure” on the front hole, that doesn’t mean I want to have to endure it from the back as well.
We know it was my husband that passed this virus to me because he’s been my only partner, so you can understand my concern. Is it possible for me to have similar problems anally, or does this virus only pertain to irritating the vaginal area? I don’t relish the idea of having to explain to my doctor why I may need an anal probe. I’ve researched everywhere I could find on the net and have not been able to find an answer. Please help!
–No Samples Please
There are more than one hundred types of the human papillomavirus (HPV), and more than thirty different strains affect the genitals, including the ass. HPV is a virus most closely associated with genital or anal warts, although not all forms of HPV cause warts. Many of the strains are potentially cancerous including several that have been directly linked to anal and cervical cancers. It is estimated that as many as one in ten people in the United States has HPV. The development of HPV and precancerous cells is much more common in the vagina because the cervix provides an excellent breeding ground for such cells.
There’s no cervix-equivalent area of the rectum, so it’s much more rare to have pre-cancerous cells there, although you can absolutely spread the virus there. Since just your husband’s fingers have been in your ass (and not his cock), you are only at risk if he fucked your pussy first, then went directly to your ass. If he did, it’s important for you to be thoroughly checked. If you continue anal play, I’d recommend he use a glove for his hand and a condom if he’s going to fuck you with his cock. If you begin having anal intercourse (especially without a condom), as embarrassing as it may feel, you must be honest with your gynecologist, so she has all the facts and can test and treat you accordingly.
My girlfriend saw some ass to mouth scene (ATM) in a porn movie and went crazy for it. Now she wants to do it. I am afraid that it might be unsafe for one or both of us. We’ve only been dating a short time and I have the feeling that the reason why she likes anal sex so much is that she actually likes shit. I also think she would like to felch herself since she often plays with the liquid spilling out of her anus and licks her fingers. I’m not sure I want to kiss her after she does it. Should I be concerned?
–Curious But Scared
First let me say that nearly every activity you describe in your letter, including anal penetration without a condom — which isn’t specifically stated but implied since you’re coming in her ass — puts both of you at risk for HIV, hepatitis, herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and other sexually-transmitted diseases. You should both get tested or you should be using a condom and not swapping bodily fluids.
That said, let’s begin with your girlfriend’s ass to mouth fantasy. You’re smart to be concerned about the safety, since there are health concerns with going directly from someone’s ass to their mouth. There is bacteria and fecal matter in her ass that really shouldn’t go other places. The best way to do ATM safely is to pull your dick out of her ass, wipe it with a baby wipe, then stick it in her mouth.
It sounds like your girlfriend is into anal sex, and likes “nasty” stuff like anal creampies, playing with the cum in her ass, and even eating it. I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that this means she likes shit. It sounds to me like she enjoys all things anal, and there’s a big different between that and being into scat (shit play). You said you don’t want to kiss her after she’s been shoving her ass-and-cum soaked fingers in her mouth. It sounds like maybe she’s also into a couple other butt fetishes: felching and snowballing. Felching is where a guy comes in someone’s ass, then sucks his come out of said ass. Snowballing is when the person who did the felching then “swaps” the cum with their partner through kissing and/or spitting. Safety-wise, both are risky for both partners: if she swallows your come, she can catch an STD from you, and if you get bacteria or fecal matter from her ass in your mouth, you can get an STD from her.
Beyond the safety issues, it seems that you may not enjoy the same things that she does, and that is an equally important issue. I encourage you to talk to her about your health concerns as well as your desires to see if there is some middle ground that the two of you can explore which you’ll both enjoy.