DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My girlfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. I love her and the sex is ok, could be great except for her fear of germs. She keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer next to the bed. She stops in the middle of changing positions and goes for the sanitizer. After I finger her ass or clit or vagina, she stops everything to clean it up. After I give her head or analingus, she makes me use a strong mouthwash before I can kiss her.
It’s quite frustrating and I’ve tried to talk to her but she’s scared of infection.
This constant stopping and going really puts a damper on enjoying the moment and keeping up my erection. If we have anal sex, I don’t go back into the vagina… I will go wash but she insists on smothering the cold gel on me anyway. After we’re done, she runs to shower. She’s not a germ freak except in bed. I don’t know what to do.
Hand Sanitizer Isn’t Lube
DEAR HAND SANITIZER ISN’T LUBE: Quick question, HSIL: has your girlfriend ever had a urinary tract infection before? People with vaginas are especially prone to them, and they can be incredibly painful — like, “take me to the hospital right the hell now” levels of pain. One of the most common causes of UTIs is sexual intercourse — bacteria gets transferred from hands, mouths, penises and barriers and end up in the urinary tract, leading to an infection. I’ve personally taken several friends — men and women both — to the emergency room because of these and helped nurse them through the early stages of recovery. I’ve heard about just how unpleasant and painful the experience is from folks who were going through it in that moment. Trust me when I tell you: if she’s had a UTI before, it is entirely understandable that she might be mortally terrified of ever going through that again.
Whether your girlfriend has had a UTI or not, she’s right that keeping things clean is an important part of sexual health. The only real issue is that some of what she’s doing is taking things a little too far. Hand sanitizer isn’t really a substitute for old-fashioned soap and water, and it can bring on its own problems if it gets used excessively.
And to be honest, constantly using the hand sanitizer isn’t the best practice in terms of preventing UTIs — or of avoiding other bacterial infections for that matter. Washing your hands thoroughly with unscented soap before sex, while urinating afterwards and taking a post-sex shower work perfectly well for keeping things clean and avoiding infections. I don’t think you need to stop to clean things off just because you’ve switched positions… with one exception.
She is right to have you clean your hands and mouth after any sort of anal play; going from her anus to her mouth or her vagina without washing your hands thoroughly is a great way to transfer a number of nasty organisms, including e.coli. If you’re incorporating some form of anal play during sex or your fingers or mouth are coming in contact with her anus while rolling around, then yeah, you’re going to want to clean things up. I also can’t necessarily blame her for wanting you to rinse your mouth after rimming her. If she’s keeping things clean and douching before anal, then the odds that you’ve come in contact with any fecal matter is very low… but I can absolutely understand why she’d want to be sure.
The same goes for any form of anal penetration.I don’t think you need to slather sanitizer on your junk after anal, but you do want to give it a very thorough cleaning, especially if you intend to have sex again soon.
(Also: I’d think that the sanitizer would sting like a motherf--ker on your balls…)
So, while I think some of this is a little over the top — possibly for very understandable reasons — she does have the right idea. I think there are areas where you and she could find a certain amount of compromise, like not requiring hand washing between every change of positions or slathering sanitizer on your penis even after you’ve cleaned up, but for the most part, this isn’t entirely unreasonable. You can also help avoid transferring bacteria after anal rimming or oral sex by using a dental dam or other barrier methods that keep your mouth and tongue from coming in direct contact with her anus or vulva and clit.
I think it may help to talk about how you can streamline things so that there aren’t as many hard (as it were) interruptions. Similarly, demonstrating that you’re being diligent about cleaning before and after sex may help ease her worries.
I’d also suggest picking up a copy of The Vagina Bible by Dr. Jenn Gunter. This is an excellent no-nonsense resource about vaginal and vulval health that separates myth from science and demystifies a lot of mistaken ideas about what is or isn’t healthy for vaginas. Both of you reading this may go a long way towards helping your girlfriend not be as terrified of possible infections and help you find some best practices to help her avoid painful infections.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org