Having sex (of any kind) involves partial or full nudity. So, whether you’re engaging in penetrative sex, or having some fun with oral or foreplay — one thing’s for sure, you’re going to see each other’s genitals. It’s common to be curious about whether yours are ‘working properly’ or worry about how they compare to others. Our resident health expert, Nurse Nettie, receives countless questions about genitals, bodies, sex positions, orgasms, and what’s ‘normal’ every week. So, we’re here to help.
When people talk about their vagina, often they’re actually referring to the vulva. The vagina is a passageway between the cervix and the vulva, while the vulva encompasses the external genitals we actually see like the clitoris and labia. So to answer this question, vulvas come in all different shapes, sizes and colours…‘normal’ is whatever yours looks like. Everyone with a vulva has a unique one.
If you’ve ever watched porn, you may think that what you see on screen is ‘normal’ — meaning if yours doesn’t look exactly like what you see, then there may be something wrong with you. This just simply isn’t true. Every body is unique. There’s a huge disparity between porn and reality, try not to compare your genitals to what you might see in porn.
If you’re worried about what your body parts look like, you may not feel confident and this can be distracting when you’re taking your clothes off…Communication about how you’re feeling can often give your partner the chance to reassure you that your body ‘looks’ fantastic. There’s no blueprint for what any body should look like, so we should all feel confident that our body is exactly how it’s meant to be. Body confidence and self-esteem comes from more than what you look like and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others because we’re all different. And that’s what makes you stand out. Feeling comfortable in a sexual scenario is one of the most important parts of sex. Remember, all vaginas, vulvas, nipples, penises and body parts are beautiful and ‘normal’.
If you have any other concerns or want to have a chat with a health professional, see a doctor or find your local sexual health clinic. You can also ring 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse.
An erection is usually a sign of sexual arousal for someone with a penis. It’s your penis standing to attention, saying it’s ready for sexual activity as all the blood rushes to this area. It refers specifically to the ‘stiffening’ of the penis when it becomes engorged with blood. It usually happens with arousal, before and during sex but it can happen at other times (sometimes even when you don’t want it to). A lot of people with penises can get ‘morning glory’ which is an erection when they first wake up, and it can happen whether or not they’re aroused. A rogue erection is nothing to be embarrassed about, it’s all part of life with a penis.
Sometimes the penis can stand erect and point upward, but sometimes it may point to the side, or out in front of the body. Some erect penises may appear to be larger than others but as we all know, it’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it…As long as it serves its purpose — causing the penis to be ‘hard’ enough to engage in oral or penetrative sex — then there isn’t anything to be concerned about.
Vaginas are self-lubricating which happens when a person is sexually aroused. Increased vaginal blood flow causes fluid to cross the vaginal wall and lubricate the vagina. As with the way your genitals look — the way they behave can be specific to each person too. Some may find it easy to ‘get wet’ and others may not. There’s no such thing as ‘too wet’ so if you’re worried about being a little slippery down there, don’t be. Foreplay before sex can help to stimulate the process of self-lubrication but sometimes it doesn’t happen, and that’s ok. Luckily, there are many different ‘lubes’ available to buy. Lubricant can make sex more pleasurable and take the pressure off having to ‘get wet’. Remember with lubricant always use a water-based lube (as oil based lubricants can reduce the effectiveness of condoms).
An orgasm is the peak of sexual arousal when all the muscles that were tightened during sexual arousal relax, causing a very pleasurable feeling that may involve the whole body.
Let’s be honest and also realistic, there are so many reasons that may mean this doesn’t happen for you or every time you have sex. Some can be high levels of stress, or anxiety, alcohol, drugs…just to name a few. These can all contribute to your ability to reach climax during sex.
It’s best not to put pressure on having an orgasm, because sex isn’t just about that. It can be enjoyable through the feeling of connectivity or even just the feeling of sex without orgasm. If you are having trouble with ‘the big O’, it’s best to speak with your partner about it first. Once you lay it all out on the table, you may find the stress has been taken away and you can have an orgasm. If not though, it’s important to know that it’s very common not to orgasm during sex (particularly if you have a vagina). If this is something you’re concerned about, try experimenting with yourself to find what feels comfortable and pleasurable for you, or speak to a trusted friend or counsellor. Above all, stay safe, have fun — know that your body is unique in the way it looks and functions — and that’s ok. That is ‘normal’.
There are always lots options available for you to manage your sexual health. See a doctor or find your local sexual health clinic if you have any concerns about STIs. Or you can ring 1800 451 624 between 9:00am and 5:00pm Monday to Friday to talk with a sexual health nurse. It’s confidential and free if you call from a landline, or ask Nurse Nettie, a real, qualified sexual health expert.