Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: Weed for More Sex? Maybe. Cucumber for Vaginal Cleansing? No.

Martha Kempner

Smoking may boost your sex life. Pediatricians have a new guide for working with young people. And please just add cucumber to your salad, not your sex toy collection.

This Week in Sex is a summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

A Sensual Side Effect of Marijuana?

The more marijuana you smoke, the more sex you might have. This may sound counterintuitive; we think of weed as making people blissed out and sleepy rather than revved up and raring to go. But a new study found a strong correlation between the amount of weed smoked and the frequency of sex for both men and women.

The study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 50,000 people between 2002 and 2015. Participants were asked how many times they had smoked marijuana recently and how often they had sexual intercourse, among other behavioral questions.

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Researchers found that people who reported daily use of marijuana had more sex than those who never used the drug. Specifically, women who consumed marijuana every day had sex an average of seven times a month compared to six times a month for women who never smoked. Same thing for men: Men who smoked weed also had sex seven times a month compared to almost six times for men who never smoked. And this correlation went unchanged when researchers controlled for other variables including cocaine use, alcohol use, age, religion, and having children.

The study authors can’t say why weed consumption might leads to more sex. There is the possibility that cannabis itself makes people feel hornier or sexier. Studies have shown that injecting rats with cannabis can induce sexual behavior. And studies in human women found that many were more aroused while watching an erotic film if they had cannabis in their system.

This makes sense if you think about how weed heightens sensations overall. Mitch Earleywine, a psychologist who studies cannabis at the University of Albany but was not involved in the new study, told NPR: “It gets people to appreciate the moment more anyway. They like food more, find humor in things more easily, so it wouldn’t be stunning to think they would enjoy sex more.”

Of course, there are other possibilities. Other traits in people who smoke daily could make them likely to have sex more frequently. Earleywine says this has been found before: “In some surveys, we saw that people [who used cannabis] did have sex more, but it seemed to be mediated by this personality type that’s willing to try new things or look for thrills.”

The idea that weed leads to more sex seems to contradict some previous research on the effects of cannabis on sexual function. There are cannabis receptors in the brain, which may mean that marijuana increases sexual desire. But there are also cannabis receptors in the penis, which could decrease erectile function. There’s a lot we still don’t know about how marijuana affects sexual desire or performance.

So men who smoke may be hornier with less rigid erections, but they are doing it more. Women who smoke are also doing it more, and they should remember that marijuana can dry out mucus membranes. So when you’re reaching for the potato bong, also reach for a bottle of lube.

Pediatricians Tell Kid Docs to Start Talking About Sex

A new report by the American Academy Pediatrics (AAP) is designed to help pediatricians make confidential sexual and reproductive health services a routine part of the primary care they offer. The report, published in the October issue of Pediatrics, says that pediatricians have an important role to play in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancy in their adolescent patients.

It suggests that pediatricians can use regular office visits as a time to both educate patients about reproductive and sexual health, get information from patients about their sexual behavior, provide counseling, and offer services.

The report focuses on a number of areas where pediatricians can improve their interactions with teens:

  • A teen-friendly office: Some of the suggestions focus on changing the office environment, which is often set up for much younger kids. Adolescents might feel more comfortable if pediatricians set up a separate waiting room with age-appropriate magazines; a television playing something other than SpongeBob; and brochures about STIs and other issues.
  • An LGBTQ-friendly office: Having brochures about gender identity and sexual orientation is one way that pediatricians can show they are a safe person to talk with LGBTQ youth. But the report offers additional suggestions, which include using forms that allow young people to write in their own gender rather than the standard “just choose from two” approach. This can show support for patients who may be trans or questioning their gender or sexuality.
  • Confidentiality: The report recommends that providers should go over the office confidentiality rules at the beginning of the visit with both the parent and the young person. The goal is to reassure the parent that any life-threatening conditions will be shared while making sure both parent and patient understand that some information stays between the doctor and the adolescent.
  • Alone time with the doctor: Whenever possible, the provider should signal during the visit that the adolescent—not the parent—is the primary patient. This includes introducing themselves to the young person first and addressing all questions to them. At some point after initial introduction, the patient should have a chance to be alone with the provider. The AAP recommends starting this format at the 11-year-old visit when young people get a number of vaccines.

The report explains the types of discussions pediatricians should have about sexual attraction, relationships, sexual abuse and assault, STIs, and contraception. It also includes sample questions that providers can ask to get information and signal they are open to further discussions. It suggests services including breast and genital exams, STI screening when necessary, provision of contraception, and pregnancy tests.

The report concludes: “Provision of sexual and reproductive health care is an essential part of well-rounded health care for adolescents and young adults. Pediatricians should be prepared to educate adolescents and young adults on sexual development and promote healthy behaviors in relationships and prevention of STIs and unintended pregnancies. Pediatricians should be prepared to address these issues with preventive counseling for adolescents and young adults and their parent(s) or guardian(s) and provide sexual and reproductive health services or a referral to a provider who can provide the services (e.g., adolescent medicine specialists in-person or via telemedicine).”

No, a Cucumber Is Not Good for Cleaning Your Vagina

We doubt that cucumber douches are really a trend, but they have made the news lately in much the same way that mugwort vaginal steaming permeated our culture: One or two misguided bloggers suggested it, and sexual health experts started screaming “NO” at the top of our lungs.

Apparently, the latest suggestion is that women peel a cold cucumber and stick it in their vagina for about 20 minutes, rotating it occasionally. According to the original uninformed source, the veggie acts as a cleanser and your “lady parts” feel refreshed.

Sticking a cool cucumber in your vagina may feel good (especially if you’re rolling it around for 20 minutes), but it’s definitely not necessary. Vaginas are self-cleaning. They require no specials soaps, perfumes, or sprays. And as we all have probably heard by now, douching can disrupt the delicate balance of good and bad bacteria in your vagina, which can make you uncomfortable and cause yeast infections or bacterial vaginitis. It’s best to just rinse what you can in the shower and don’t bother with anything else.

As for using a cucumber for fun, we can’t tell you for sure whether it’s safe. Apparently, there are bacteria that adhere to the phallic vegetable, but they’ve been implicated in food poisoning, not vaginal infections. Nonetheless, it’s probably better to stick to a nice, clean sex toy.

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