Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the benefits of masturbation?

Masturbation is one of the best safer sex techniques: a way of pleasuring yourself that carries with it no risks of HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, or pregnancy. Sex therapists believe that if you are able to have a healthy sexual relationship with your own body, chances are that you will enjoy sex with another person more.

2. Is masturbation harmful?

Masturbation is an enjoyable and perfectly harmless activity. Both men as well as women masturbate. It does not matter how often you do it as long as it does not interfere with the other things you have to do or does not involve anyone else without their consent. Masturbation will not affect your sex life negatively. It is a legitimate sexual activity in its own right and does not cause weakness, stunted growth, pimples, or any psychological problem.

3. Does masturbation cause loss of semen, does it affect my ability to have children?

Semen contains sperm, seminal fluid and prostaglandins. The testes produce sperm regularly, and so masturbation does not affect the sperm production. Masturbation is an enjoyable and harmless activity and does not cause loss of semen. Therefore it does not affect the ability to have children. 

4. Is it true that men want more sex than women?

All people, regardless of their gender can have sexual desires and have the right to express themselves sexually. In some societies, it is believed that men’s desire should be considered before women’s and that only men should experience sexual pleasure. However, this is not true.

5. What are cunnilingus, fellatio and dry sex?

Cunnilingus: A partner uses their mouth/tongue to stimulate a woman’s genital area. Cunnilingus is often casually referred to as ‘going down on’. Fellatio: The partner uses their mouth/tongue to stimulate a man’s penis. It is also called ‘giving head’, ‘going down on’, ‘blow job’ and ‘sucking off’. Dry sex: Increasing friction of penile-vaginal sex by drying the vagina with cloth or herbs. The friction is said to increase sexual pleasure for the man. Also increases the opportunity for tears and scrapes in the vagina and therefore, the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection including HIV.

6. What do homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual mean?

A heterosexual person is a person attracted to people of a gender other than their own. In slang, they are also called 'straight'. A homosexual person is a person attracted to people of the same gender as them. Women attracted to other women may identify themselves as lesbian and men attracted to other men may identify themselves as gay. A bisexual person is someone who is attracted to people of their own gender and to people of another gender.

7. What causes homosexuality?

That question is as difficult to answer as 'what causes heterosexuality?' No one knows for sure. Some foolishly suggest that maybe a person turned lesbian because she had a bad experience with a man, or a man became gay because a woman mistreated him. If this were truly the case, then there should be many more lesbian and gay people, shouldn't there?

8. Who or what is an asexual person?

A person identifying as asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which is a matter of choice, asexuality is an intrinsic part of the person in question. There is significant diversity among people who are asexual; each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, and arousal in a manner unique to them. Asexual people have emotional needs and, like any one else, how they fulfill these needs varies. Some prefer being on their own, others are happier when with close friends. Some asexual persons desire more intimate romantic relationships, and are likely to date or seek long-term partnerships. They could well find themselves attracted to people who identify as sexual persons. Like any other identity - at its core, asexuality is a word that people use to most accurately describe their reality for as long as it makes sense to them. To learn more, click here.

9. Can gays and lesbians be cured?

Since lesbian, gay and bisexual people are not ill or abnormal, they don't need to be 'cured'. These are not abnormalities or perversions; they are orientations or preferences, just like being left-handed or right-handed. All people, whether they are heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual, have a right to live with dignity and in accordance with their preferences. Attempts to 'treat' them may succeed in temporarily changing sexual behaviour but can lead to emotional and other problems.

10.  We only have anal sex so that my partner does not get pregnant. Is that OK?

Anal sex has a high risk of transmitting infection and does not prevent pregnancy. This is because the distance between the anus and the vagina is not much and few drops of semen often spill into the vagina during anal sex. Also, the anal area is a breeding ground for a number of viruses and bacteria and there is more risk of injury in anal sex because it is less elastic and dryer than the vagina. These factors make transmission of infection from one partner to another easier. If you practice anal sex, always use a condom and a water- based lubricant, like KY Jelly. Using oil or cream causes infection and damages the latex of the condom.

11. Yeah, but doesn't thickness matter?

The thickness or circumference of the penis is really not of concern for sexual satisfaction and also having babies. This is because the walls of the vagina are muscular and elastic and they can stretch or contract to accommodate anything that ranges in size from a little finger to a baby's head. In fact, a very thick penis may scare your partner or put her off. Some degree of curvature of the penis is also normal.

12. My breasts are small and sagging. How can I increase their size and improve their shape?

The size of a woman's breasts has no bearing on her interest in sex or her ability to give or receive pleasure. So don't fret! Exercise and massage do not increase the size of breasts; they strengthen and tone the muscles around the breasts. Perfectly hemispherical breasts can be created through surgery and other techniques only. Your sexuality is not confined to certain parts of your body. Your whole body, regardless of size, shape, colour and weight, is sexual. Enjoy it.

13. What should be the ideal size of one’s penis in order to satisfy a woman? I am nervous that I will not be able to satisfy my partner because my penis is not big.

If the penis is about two inches long when erect, a man is perfectly capable of arousing and satisfying his partner. This is because it is in the first one and a half inches of a woman's vagina that there are the maximum nerve endings. These nerve endings are responsible for sensation. And, more than the vagina, it is the clitoris (located above the vaginal opening, just where the inner lips meet) that is sensitive to sensation. So if you and your partner were to concentrate on how you do what you do, whether it is with the penis or fingers or mouth, rather than the length of your penis, chances are that both of you will enjoy sex much more. Incidentally, the length of your penis has nothing to do with your ability to enjoy sexual pleasure either. It is technique, not size, that matters.

14. What is erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or impotence is the inability to maintain or achieve an erection. ED can result from physical conditions such as chronic illness, diseases or aging of the body, or from psychological causes that can range from dislike of sex or sexual partner to effects of abuse. Impotence can occur at any age and has different manifestations.

15. Is there any treatment for premature ejaculation? Do exercises or medicines such as the many ayurvedic and alternative medicines advertised everywhere help at all?

First of all, please consult a qualified doctor before you take any medicines, Ayurvedic or otherwise. Premature Ejaculation is most often described as being an inability to delay ejaculation to a point when it is mutually desirable for both partners. Premature ejaculation is subjective. Ejaculation time differs from person to person and also from time to time for the same person. Many men feel insecure about their sexual staying power when they compare themselves to the fantasy standards of ‘blue’ movies. The reasons for premature ejaculation can be many, ranging from over excitement, anxiety over sexual performance, stress, or relationship problems with partner. Here are a couple of things you can do to last longer. Masturbate to orgasm 1-2 hours before you have sex. Many men find that this helps them stay longer when they have sex with a partner. It helps to get to know your body and to teach yourself to last longer through masturbation. Most men report that there's a point during arousal when they know they're about to ejaculate. The idea is to stop or slow down for a few seconds before this point while masturbating. This technique is called the stop-start technique. You may find that you need to practice this for some time before you see results. Also, if you want to pleasure your partner for longer, you can also use other techniques like digital stimulation (using your fingers) or perform oral sex.

16. What are RTIs and STIs?

RTI stands for Reproductive Tract Infection. It refers to infections that affect the reproductive tract. RTIs are caused by an overgrowth of organisms that are normally present in the vagina or when bacteria or micro-organisms are introduced into the reproductive tract during sexual contact or through medical procedures. STI stands for Sexually Transmitted Infection, refers to infections transmitted through sexual contact.

17. How can one know if one has a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? How long does one take to become sick after getting an STD? Which is the best place to get it diagnosed in Delhi?

As the name suggests, an STD is transmitted through unsafe sex with an infected person. Symptoms of STDs vary and can appear within 1 week of exposure to 3 weeks. Symptoms of STD for men are quite easy to spot, usually appearing in/around the genital area. In women many STDs may not manifest symptoms initially. In men, symptoms include, a yellow/white discharge from the penis, inflammation of the testicles and prostate gland. A common symptom in women is a change in vaginal discharge - it may increase, become yellow or greenish, or develop a foul smell. Other symptoms common to all include boils/ blisters/ rashes, burning during urination and irritation and/or discharge from the anus. You can get a blood test for STDs at any government hospital or reliable pathology laboratory in the city. Untreated STDs can cause cervical and other cancers, chronic hepatitis, pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other complications. However, when diagnosed and treated early, almost all STDs are completely curable.

18. How is HIV transmitted?

There are four routes of transmission for HIV:
1. Unprotected sex with an infected person.
2. Infected mother to child, either during pregnancy, delivery or through breast feeding.
3. Through contaminated blood and blood products (including organ and tissue transplants).
4. Sharing of unsterilised used infected needles, syringes and other medical equipment like dentists’ instruments.

19. What is the window period?

HIV tests do not look for the presence of HIV in the body: they look for the presence of antibodies produced by the immune system when it encounters HIV. It may take up to 3 months for the body to produce enough HIV antibodies to produce a positive test result. This three month period between infection and a positive test result is known as the window period. During this time a person is already infected and can transmit the infection.

20. What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that slowly, over a period of time, destroys a person's immune system, if present in their body. Because of a weakening immune system, the person may develop infections and diseases and that is called AIDS. There is presently no cure for AIDS. One can however, protect oneself from being infected by following some simple precautions like: Always having sex with a condom, getting blood tested before having a transfusion, using only disposable syringes and not sharing needles.

21. I have a lot of pain during periods. What should I do?

Pain or heaviness in breasts, lower abdomen, lower back and/or thighs before or during periods is quite common. It might help to use a hot water bag and/or gently massage the lower abdomen. Gentle exercise like walking and doing routine daily activities is helpful in preventing muscles from cramping up. In case of extreme pain, excessive flow or irregular cycles, please consult a gynaecologist as soon as possible. Avoid taking medicines on your own to hasten or delay periods.

22. Is it true that using a tampon could tear the hymen? Would that mean that I am no longer a virgin?

The hymen is a thin and highly elastic membrane present in the vagina. Using a tampon does not tear the hymen, as it is elastic. The hymen may however break or stretch during the course of running, cycling or exercising, at any point in life. So, the presence or absence of an intact hymen does not indicate whether or not a woman has had sex. There is no 'proof of virginity' for either a woman or a man.

23. I am a student and I live in a hostel. I tried using tampons once. I developed rashes, and it hurt. Why? I had heard that they are better than pads. I applied cream and a few days later it became OK. It was embarrassing and there wasn't anybody to ask?

Some women prefer tampons to pads. You should use what you find most comfortable. Although it might take some time and effort to learn how to use a tampon, it is safe and convenient if used properly. A tampon can cause discomfort if it is not correctly inserted and/or positioned. If you are tense while inserting a tampon, it might hurt you. Read the instructions manual carefully to insert a tampon properly. Tampons must be changed every four to six hours to prevent infection. You might have developed a rash because you had not changed for a long time. Some people are also very sensitive to the material used in the tampon. In future, avoid using any cream near or in the vagina without a doctor's prescription.

24. My periods are irregular. The cycle varies between 14 and 20 days. Is there any safe period for me?

To begin with there is no absolutely 'safe period' during the period cycle if you mean safety from conception. This is especially true for those with irregular cycles like yours. The maximum chance of conception usually occurs 14 days before the next period. That’s the day when ovulation takes place (an egg is released in the woman’s body). If a woman has unprotected sex with a man at that time, she can get pregnant. If you do not know for sure when you will have your next period, it is not possible to calculate when ovulation has occurred. So, you will have to be on a contraceptive pill or your partner will need to use a condom every time you have sex if you want to avoid getting pregnant. Bleeding twice a month is not always a healthy sign. You may want to consult a gynaecologist to discuss the frequency and irregularity of your periods as well as get a prescription for a contraceptive pill.

25. Can a woman get pregnant from pre-cum or if a man ejaculates near her vagina?

Yes, a woman can get pregnant anytime sperm enters the vulva or is inside the vagina. This means that ejaculation near the vagina can also lead to pregnancy. This is possible when the vaginal lubrication (wetness) in the woman provides a medium for the sperm to swim into the woman’s body. There is no way of knowing the probability that pregnancy will occur when semen comes in contact with the vulva or vagina. Pregnancy can be determined using a home pregnancy test or more accurately through a pregnancy test done in a laboratory.

26. I have had sex once with my boyfriend? Can I get pregnant?

Yes, a single sexual contact can lead to pregnancy or infections like HIV (which leads to AIDS), and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), even if it is the first time for either or both the partners. A girl can get pregnant even at the time of first intercourse because getting pregnant is dependent on whether or not an egg has been released in her body (ovulation). Since there is no 100% guarantee that the egg will be released on a particular day or time, one cannot say for sure that she will or will not get pregnant. Similarly, one cannot tell whether or not one will get any infection because just by looking at a partner one cannot make out whether or not the partner has an infection. Also, many infections (including HIV) do not have symptoms. Sometimes one takes the risk of having unsafe sex assuming that the partner belongs to a 'respectable' family and therefore will not have engaged in risky behaviour. People's socio-economic status is no shield against infection as infections do not pick and choose their targets. These reasons make it essential to use a condom each time one has sex or engage in activities that pose no or a reduced risk to self and partner.

27. How can I protect myself from pregnancy and infection?

Regular condom usage provides protection from both pregnancy and infection. Washing, douching, urinating immediately after sex, using special positions, antiseptics, creams etc, DO NOT prevent pregnancy or infection. Precum (few drops of clear liquid are formed at the tip of the penis much before ejaculation) contains sperm (that can lead to pregnancy), and HIV (if your partner is infected). Therefore, a man should wear a condom as soon as he gets an erection. Your partner can practice wearing a condom during masturbation.

28. Can you tell me more about female condoms?

A female condom is a polyurethane pouch that has a flexible ring at both ends. It is approximately 3 inches wide and 7 inches long. Its efficacy is known to be around 79-95%. It reduces the risk of STI and HIV transmission. It can be used by those with latex allergies and can be inserted up to 8 hours prior to intercourse. It can increase pleasure for both partners because the rim of the outer ring stimulates the clitoris and testes during sex. It does not affect fertility. However, it can be expensive and sometimes produces a crackling sound during intercourse. Also, some women find it difficult to insert. Usage: Add lubricant. Insert the closed end of the condom deep into the vagina to cover the cervix. The open end stays outside the vagina to partially cover the labia. After sex, remove the condom by twisting the outer ring and pulling it out gently to avoid spilling any semen. Precaution: Do not use the male and female condom together. Recommendations for the female condom indicate a single usage for each condom. However, there is research being done to study whether disinfecting and cleaning a female condom can allow for multiple usage.

29. I’ve heard that it is not good to have sex during pregnancy. Is this true?

Though penile-vaginal intercourse is sometimes not advisable in the first three and the last two months of a pregnancy, pleasure can be given and received through activities other than intercourse. It is important for any sexual activity to be consensual and also that care be taken. Unless there are clear instructions from the doctor to abstain as in the case of a difficult pregnancy, there is no reason a couple cannot be sexually active throughout the woman’s pregnancy. Activities like mutual masturbation and oral sex can be engaged until the end of term.

30. What is low sperm count/motility?

Low sperm count: There are not enough sperm in the semen to travel through the fallopian tube to fertilize an egg. Normal sperm count varies from 20-150 million sperm per millilitre. The normal volume of ejaculate varies from 1.5-5 millilitres. Low sperm count is affected by physical or psychological stress, too much heat around the genitals from tight clothing, saunas or hot-tubs, use of tobacco/alcohol/drugs, medications, testicular injury etc. Low sperm motility: It refers to the inability of more than 50% of the sperm in the semen to move forward through the vagina and cervix to the fallopian tube to fertilize an egg.

31. What is Artificial Insemination?

Artificial Insemination (AI) is a general term used for assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). AI is a procedure in which a qualified reproductive health specialist injects sperm into a woman’s reproductive tract. There are different types of AI: intracervical (in the cervix canal), intrauterine (in the uterine cavity), intrafollicular (in the ovarian follicle) or intratubal (in the fallopian tubes) injection.

32. What are induced abortions and spontaneous abortions?

An abortion is the induced or spontaneous termination of a pregnancy. A spontaneous abortion occurs when a pregnancy terminates without any medical or surgical intervention, as in the case of a miscarriage. Induced abortions involve surgical or medical procedures for termination of the pregnancy.

33. My colleague’s sense of humour is considered unusual at my workplace. He likes to tell sexually explicit jokes and uses language that is sexually explicit.

This may or may not be sexual harassment depending on how the office workers feel about his behaviour. Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual behaviour, advances, use of language, showing inappropriate pictures, etc. The key word is 'unwanted'. Therefore, one person may find a situation uncomfortable and threatening while another may not. This can also change from context to context. E.g. Telling the same jokes at an office party may be acceptable to co-workers versus telling them during a work meeting, which may upset them.

34. A man believes that he has the right to have sex with his wife whenever he wants and that it is her duty to provide it. Even when she refuses, he insists on having sex with her. Where do we classify such behaviour?

If a man forces his wife to have sex against her will, it is marital rape. Just because they are married does not mean that either partner can force the other to have sex. Each sexual encounter even between spouses should be consensual. Being married or in a relationship with a person does not mean one is always willing to have sex; there are times when they may not want to and this should be respected.

35. I have heard people use the terms sex, sexuality and sexual orientation, but I don’t know what they mean?

Sex refers to the biological, anatomical, physiological and chromosomal difference between females and males present at birth such as the presence of a vagina or penis, menstruation or sperm production, difference in genetic make-up etc. Sex can also be used to describe physical acts of sex that include but are not limited to penetrative penile-vaginal intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, masturbation and kissing among other acts. Sexuality, according to WHO draft working definition 2002, is a central aspect of being human throughout life and encompasses sex, gender identity and roles, sexual orientation, eroticism, pleasure, intimacy and reproduction. Sexuality is experienced and expressed in thoughts, fantasies, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviours, practices, roles and relationships. While sexuality can include all of these dimensions, not all of them are always experienced or expressed. Sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, ethical, legal, historical and religious and spiritual factors. Sexual orientation, on the other hand, describes how individuals consider themselves based on whom they are sexually attracted to, whether to people of the same gender, a different gender, or to more than one gender and which category of these identities they want to adopt for themselves.

36. So then, what is gender and how is it different from sex?

Gender is how societies view men and women, how they are distinguished, and the roles assigned to them. People are generally expected to identify with a particular gender, that has been assigned (gender assignment) to them, and act in ways deemed appropriate for this gender. While gender roles are based on expectations that a culture has of behaviour appropriate for male or female, gender identity is an individual’s sense of belonging to the category of men or women or neither of the two. We attribute a gender (gender attribution) to someone based on a complex set of cues, which vary from culture to culture. These cues can range from the way a person looks dresses and behaves to the context in which they do so, and also on their relationship with and use of power.

37. What is the difference between transsexual, transgender, transvestites and intersex persons?

Transsexual person: An individual who wants to change from the gender they have been assigned at birth to another gender. Some have surgery, hormonal medication or other procedures to make these changes. They may or may not identify as homosexual, bisexual or heterosexual. They maybe male-to-female transsexuals, female-to-male transsexuals or choose not to be identified as either.
Transgender person: An individual who does not identify with the gender assigned to them. They may or may not consider themselves a ‘third sex’. Transgender people can be men who dress, act or behave like women or women who dress, act or behave like men. They do not, however, necessarily identify as homosexual.
Transvestite: An individual who dresses in the clothing that is typically worn by people of another gender for purposes of sexual arousal/gratification, transvestites are often men who dress in the clothing typically worn by women. They are also known as cross-dressers.
Intersex person: An individual born with the physical characteristics of both males and females. These individuals may or may not identify as men or women.

38. What is meant by the terms peri-menopause and climacteric?

Perimenopause: The period before a woman reaches menopause. During this time, the ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen, a hormone that helps regulate menstruation. Perimenopause can begin to occur a few years prior to menopause. Within the last two years of perimenopause, oestrogen production decreases more rapidly, which can lead to menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, changes in libido, and vaginal dryness. Perimenopause and menopause are often thought of as a time when women experience diminished sexual desire. While libido (sexual desire) might decrease, this idea may have more to do with prevailing social attitudes that look down upon women’s expression of sexuality, after they have fulfilled their reproductive responsibilities towards the family.
Climacteric: When men begin to produce decreased level of testosterone, usually around the age of 45-65. This has been linked with the female menopausal process. Unlike menopausal women, this is not often accompanied by decreased sexual libido.