Thanksgiving: Sex Things to be Thankful For

In addition to family, friends, good health, and an enchanting world to live in, here are some things I am thankful for about sexuality and bodies and maybe you are too:

1) Vaginal tenting: The process by which sexual excitation causes the vagina to expand in length and width makes for more comfortable, pleasurable vaginal intercourse and vaginal penetration and that makes these types of sex better for many people the world over.

2) Lubrication: Here I mean both vaginal lubrication and store-bought lubricant, as each can make different types of sex and sex play more comfortable and pleasurable. Spending enough time doing exciting foreplay/sex play things in ways that enhance vaginal lubrication can also help to reduce the risk of vaginal discomfort, pain, and/or tearing. So much to be grateful for!

3) Erections: I hope to never lose wonder over the magic of erections. More blood flowing in than out keeps erections rigid, which can increase the possible ways that men have sex with their partners. Men: keep eating well, exercise regularly, and don’t smoke and you and your partner(s) can be thankful for this process for a long time to come!

4) Sexual medicine: Though I think (and research shows) that sexual health can be helped by any number of behavior and/or therapeutic interventions, I am still thankful that we live in a world where medicine can also help people’s sexual health. Vaginal moisturizers (prescription and over the counter) can provide vaginal comfort and wetness to many woman. Lubricants help make sex more comfortable and reduce tearing during vaginal and anal intercourse. Erectile medications can help boost men’s erectile function, giving them more reliable erections, which can in turn help to relax both partners during sex. Various hormones are used for contraception, for vaginal health, and to treat menopausal symptoms. Pretty good stuff.

5) Sharing sex information: I feel very fortunate to have been given opportunities to conduct scientific studies about sex and also to write books about sex, particularly as I wasn’t taught much about sex or puberty or bodies growing up. Teaching about sexuality at Indiana University, and doing so through books and columns (Kinsey Confidential, Men’s Health, Time Out Chicago, Salon, others) and public talks, is an absolute joy and has allowed me to meet so many interesting people.

6) Orgasm: Most women and men find orgasm to be highly pleasurable and to be an opportunity to experience something almost other-worldly. Orgasms aren’t important to every person all of the time, but they’re important to many of us during many of the times we have sex or masturbate. Orgasms can be easier to experience with people one really likes or loves, in connection with sexual variety, and/or with the use of vibrators (this is true for both women and men though we less often talk about men and vibrator use, even though nearly 1 in 5 men have used vibrators alone).

7) Intimacy: I don’t fully understand how intimacy and sexual response go so well together, but I’m fascinated by this intersection. Many women and men have experiences of no-strings-attached sex and enjoy that, and that’s all well and good. But most people will tell you that their most enjoyable experiences of being naked and sexual with another person are when that other person is someone they feel intensely connected to, in love with, intimate with. Feelings and emotion are a significant part of our human sexual make-up that probably deserve more personal, and scientific, attention than they often receive.

There are more things to be grateful for – love, of course; technology (condoms that keep us safer; sex toys that keep things interesting); latex (condoms, again!); family planning; sexual assault nurses; the sights, sounds, and scents of sex; love, again. What sex things are you thankful for?

About Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick

Dr. Debby Herbenick is a sex researcher at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, columnist, and author of five books about sex and love. Learn more about her work at www.sexualhealth.indiana.edu.