05/10/2013 10:47 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2015

Questions About Sex: Embarrassing Things Couples Want To Know


By Corrie Pikul

We brought these questions to the experts so you two can stop stressing and start ... you know.

1. My partner wakes me up to have sex in the middle of the night, but then he acts like he doesn't remember anything about it the next day. What's going on?
He may have a condition called sex-somnia, says Debby Herbenick, PhD, a research scientist at Indiana University's Center for Sexual Health Promotion and the author of Sex Made Easy. Waking up in the morning with no memory of initiating sex or masturbating in the middle of the night isn't especially common, but Herbenick says she has been fielding more questions about it lately, especially from women talking about men. Monogamous couples may be able to laugh this off -- one woman told Herbenick she kinda likes it when her usually reserved boyfriend is sexually assertive in his sleep -- but it can become a serious problem if the sex-somniac approaches the wrong person. Herbenick says this isn't so much a sex issue as a sleep disorder and recommends consulting a sleep specialist.

2. Should I feel guilty if I secretly prefer sex with a vibrator to sex with my partner?
For many women (and men), masturbation is easier, faster and simply more reliable -- like taking the highway versus the scenic country road, says Yvonne K. Fulbright, PhD, sexologist and certified sexuality educator. You'll be heartened to hear that research has found that women in relationships tend to masturbate more than those who are single. This could be due to many reasons, Fulbright says. "Maybe they're left hanging, or they're exposed to more testosterone through sex, or their partner is unavailable when they're in the mood." That said, partnered sex is an essential part of any intimate relationship, so it can become an issue if one of you is regularly sneaking off to find pleasure solo. Fulbright suggests occasionally introducing your favorite sex toy to your partner so that he doesn't feel left out -- and bringing him along for the ride.

3. Could I be allergic to my partner's semen?
A true semen allergy often involves burning, pain, swelling and sometimes breathing problems, says Lauren Streicher, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Nearly one-half of these allergic reactions occur after the very first time someone has sex, but some women report symptoms after being with a specific partner. In lieu of an allergy, you could have a semen sensitivity, or you might have a yeast infection or a case of bacterial vaginosis (a common infection that often causes odor and discharge) that's becoming exacerbated by sex. If this is a persistent problem, Streicher advises that you bring it up with your doctor.

4. Are we the only people in the world not having crazy, kinky, bondage-S&M-upside-down-frosting-covered sex?
Kink tends to be over-reported, Fulbright says. Even the number of people having anal sex, which seems to have increased over the past few years, is still pretty low compared with how often we hear about it, she says: about 21 percent of women in their late 20s and 30s, and about 12 percent of women in their 40s; 21 to 27 percent of men in the same age groups, according to data from the Kinsey Institute. "Whatever kind of sex you're having is terrific, as long as you -- and your partner -- feel good about it," says Fulbright.

5. Are we the only couple in the world not having sex at all?
About 7 percent of married people and 17.7 percent of partnered people in their 30s and 40s said they haven't had sex in a year, according to the 2010 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior. Whether you find that comforting or alarming, Fulbright wants to remind you of the fringe benefits of getting busy: Sex improves the muscle tone of the pelvic floor, lubricates the vaginal tissues, can help prevent yeast infections, releases stress, and eases migraines, chronic back pain and PMS-related cramps. Sex also has the potential to lower your risk of developing heart disease and can boost your immune system.

As a reminder, always consult your doctor for medical advice and treatment before starting any program.