Friday, May 4, 2012


Sex Diaries: The Results

Remember when, way back in February, we asked if any of you would like to keep a sex diary for a week? Well, 330 of you did and now it’s sex diaries analysis time! First, let me just say thanks so much for a wonderful pile of reading; these were thought-provoking and really fun. And funny.

Before I dive into the SEX, one thing kept jumping out at me: there’s some really questionable sleep hygiene happening among the ranks! I know this because the diary entries are timestamped. And from the constant complaints about exhaustion. There are two groups: grad students, who sleep at all hours of the day (cycle: procrastinate, procrasturbate, nap, feel guilty); and worker bees, who go to bed at 10 p.m. one night, 3 a.m. the next, and 12:30 a.m. the third, and then can’t sleep the fourth night and have no idea why.

One time in college I did all the research for a thesis I never wrote on sleep, and the gist was that going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day is really really great.

Okay. Sex. I’m going to break this Official Hairpin Report into three sections: Sex, Psych, and Other.

My process here: I read the diaries and took notes, some of which are presented below. If there are questions about topics I missed here, hit me up in the comments.

The Stats: 330 women kept diaries. Ages: 19-44, median age 27, lots in the 26-32 range. Twenty percent married in their early twenties (20-24), hitched to a school sweetheart. Fifteen percent lesbian. Of course, this is a self-selecting sample set — I’m just reporting what came in.

I: Sex

a. These diarists have unusually creative sex.

One of the findings of  my book, The Sex Diaries Project, is that Americans are particularly prone to sexual interactions that go like this: kissing-oral sex-intercourse-done. Many skip the oral part. Over and over and over again. Not these diarists; they do what they need to do to get off. Just oral sex, start-with-intercourse-then-work-backward, finish manually, use lots of buzzy toys on both partners, etc. Everything goes.

b. Many are card-carrying clients of Babeland, She-Bop, et al.

More than half used toys in most sexual encounters. Ranked by appearance frequency:



Rope or handcuffs

That black tape stuff that doesn’t stick to skin

Least common: The $400 electric shock toy that leaves rows of tiny little zig zag lines.

c.  Sharing the Self-Lovin’

Those in relationships have a lot of mutual masturbation going on, which is great. In the book and wider project, I often read diarists who feel a loss of their masturbatory lives when they shack up together. In contrast, these diarists are, for one example, particularly fond of using their Hitachi magic wands while their partner is nearby, and letting them join in if they want.

d. A sizable minority are non-monogamous.

The majority of these diarists are happy monogamists — open minded, but attached to the idea of one-and-only. As one diarist put it: ”Monogamy makes me happy, but I can do casual if it’s been a while.”

But non-monogamy is also popular, among more than 60 diarists. Reasons range widely, from protecting a sense of choice and freedom, to feeling that their relationship is actually deeper and more developed due to constant communication around feelings and outside partiers. A dozen diarists are in open relationships but currently not exercising those options.

II: Psychology

There are two habits I read about that I wish I could make disappear with my Hitachi magic wand:

1. Diarists who consider sexual events to be a reflection of themselves/the relationship

So, this is how it goes: sometimes sex happens and it’s really great, and sometimes it doesn’t happen, and sometimes it sorta happens and then stops, and in all cases both people eventually go on to sleep with others, sometimes the very next night, though sometimes not for a year or two or four. It’s just another event. Like dinner. And yet it’s so easy to take it sooo seriously.

Smart, funny diarists often agonize over guys (and gals, but mostly guys) they don’t like that much. Or that guy who cheated on them a year ago and still makes them feel sad. Most times, the next sentence is something like, “I know this isn’t logical, but it’s how I feel.”

Sometimes I want to dive through the screen and write this note: Dear Diarist: His not getting it up/cheating/falling asleep/etc. isn’t a reflection on you! It’s a reflection that he’s drunk/a jackass/tired. 

2. Diarists who feel that their singleness is a result of deep-rooted personal issues

Half the diarists aren’t in relationships, and many have been single for a long while. This is totally normal. And yet so many diarists think it’s a reflection on themselves, saying things like “I’ve never been in a deep relationship and I think I have serious issues” and “I worry that no one will ever love me and I will continue to only like juiceboxes who treat me poorly.”

Think about it: 30-50% of all adults are single (depending what you consider ‘single’), and it’s not because they’re damaged or warped. They are single because they want to be, or because they value specific partner personality and relationship traits that they haven’t found yet. When they land on them, they are no longer single.

III: Other

a. Some of these diarists do drugs.

They write sentences about tripping balls and rolling hard and toking up. Thse sentences r often grammatically troubled/!

b. It’s a good idea to tell your partner what you want for presents and surprises.

They have no idea. Many folks kept their diaries over Valentine’s Day, which is how I know that a whole bunch of people got weird gifts that they didn’t really want.

c. GYN Issues

Almost every diary had them. Examples of issues diarists had during the week, so you can get the full breadth of what’s going on down below: precancerous cervical cell removal, spotting due to switching from one birth control to another, heavy gusher-like periods that go through super tampons in two hours, migraines from hormonal birth control, IUD insertion procedures, IUD removal procedures, herpes flares, suspected herpes flares causing deep anxiety, thrice-hourly bathroom trips due to water intake requirements around kidney stones, vulvodynia, and vaginismus.

d. An abundance of creepy dudes

You know That Guy who makes you uncomfortable due to, say, asking too many personal questions or following you home or a sense that he’s not so stable? Creepy guys! Everywhere! Based on verifiable, repeated behavior! Half the diaries featured one, almost all of whom were avoided-and-tolerated as needed. Direct, “Thanks but I’d prefer to be alone right now” communication? Rare.

e. Typos: You prefer things that are neat and perfect.

The diarying program only allows diarists to “write forward” — i.e., you write an entry, hit submit, and it’s submitted forever. And typos in those posts drove these diarists nuts. Sample feedback: “The ability to go back and edit for typos would be fabulous, though I’m a very meticulous person when it comes to spelling and punctuation, so maybe this is only a problem for me.” Nope, not just you. I got 150 pieces of feedback saying as much. You’ve been heard. And loved.

Thank you, Hairpin!

Arianne Cohen is the author of The Sex Diaries Project: What We're Saying About What We're Doing, which is just like this post, except dirtier, and about the whole country. She's currently developing a TV show based on the concept and writes for many magazines. She's also 6'3", the author of The Tall Book: A Celebration of Life on High and appears in the documentary Tall Girls.


161 Comments / Post A Comment


I have a creeper at work who is driving me CRAZY. Whenever he pops into my office I just want to punch his face. He is unable to process direct rejection, forced indifference, or polite indifference. Glad to know I'm not alone!


@FoxyRoxy Ahhhh, I'm having a creeper issue that sounds just like that! He keeps trying to invite himself over or find things for the two of us to do together and I always decline but he persists in finding ways! I submitted this to Ask A Dude, but perhaps there are ladies who have successfully dealt with people they just don't really like not being able to take a hint? It seems horrible to be direct to the point of "I actually find you to be a huge downer to be around," but "Thanks, I'm busy/not interested in doing XYZ" does not appear to work.


@Beaker I could use this advice too. I have tried everything. He asks me to go on trips with him. He hovers. He barges in. He is always trying to talk to me about my writing and to get me to read his work. He asks me out to dinner at least once a week and when I say no he says things like, "Well, you shouldn't have to eat alone." He just..assumes that if I'm not going out with him, I am alone waiting around. It's all very frustrating. I don't want to be rude but I will never ever in my life spend time with him socially and it seems he cannot... hear this. Anyway. It's remarkable how, "No thank you," doesn't mean the same thing, in English, to every person who speaks English.


Human resources. Or your boss. Somebody. If telling him point blank that he needs to back off doesn't work, of if you're unable to say that to him, enlist help from someone above you. This it harassment, and it's making your work environment unhealthy.


@FoxyRoxy @Beaker I am in possession of something that I refer to as my "bitch forcefield." Despite being short, female, and in a service profession, I do not get harassed by random strangers on the street or creepers at work/in bars/etc. Hell, I'm massively pregnant as I write this and I have had a grand total of one belly toucher in the past 40 weeks. Sometimes this bothers me (I'm cute, too!) but, mostly, it's very peaceful.

I think the 9V battery that powers the glowing orb that is my bitch forcefield is my complete lack of compunction about saying things like "get. the fuck. away from me." Embrace it. Rock it. Also, know that you aren't doing anything to attract this creepy attention and, like PotatoPotato says, it's HR time. Or, hell, go ovaries out and call the cops. That'd be fun.


@FoxyRoxy A Known Creep is starting at my office in June and I'm not looking forward to it. At least I have a whole month to practice. "I'd rather not talk about that." "I need to focus on my work, please go away."


@FoxyRoxy Mine is not a super creep but just a little uncomfortably over-friendly & complimentary. I keep my responses to his overtures EXTREMELY short, just teetering on the point of rudeness. I think with unwanted interaction it might be interesting to try just repeating yourself if it hasn't worked - like, just "No thank you" over and over to whatever he's ssaying?


@FoxyRoxy @Beaker I feel you ladies, as a small non-threatening looking lady, I used to be a magnet for creepers and (even worse in my opinion) older women who want to talk to me for HOURS in the airport about every fucking thing I don't care about or find vaguely offensive.

THE KEY: I have learned to state a "fuck off" in my sweetest, politest voice: "I'm sorry, but I don't feel like having a conversation right now." "Thank you for the invitation, but I have no desire to spend any time with you that I don't have to." "I have enough friends. I am not interested in making a new one." Don't raise your voice, don't get excited, make eye contact. I have found people get shocked and then back off. Soon you will radiate a vibe that will say "Don't fuck with me," and people will stop doing it.

Remember: You're not being rude or bitchy. You tried to be subtle before, but you have been pushed into a position where you have to make your thoughts very clear. Unless there is something truly wrong with their mental functioning, these people are depending on your sense of politeness to push you into a place where you don't want to be. We all know someone who has followed through with a creeper just in the vain hope that they will leave them alone (it doesn't work). CREEPERS CREEP BECAUSE CREEPING WORKS. Don't allow it to work. Don't let them push you. Don't let them think it's okay and try it on someone else.


@MmeLibrarian Do you give lessons?

Hello Kidney

@MmeLibrarian & cardiganboots: You two need to get together and start a workshop. I would attend.

17th Floor

@MmeLibrarian HA! My mom finds this skill of mine highly amusing. I have never labeled it such before, but I WILL NOW. I usually employ it in airports or with super pushy retail salesfolk, and it works with remarkable effect. A pinch of haughty, sunglasses still over the eyes no matter that you are inside places, and a slightly pinched nose like everything you smell is covered with sock cheese.


@FoxyRoxy there is this older guy in my yoga class that keeps trying to pick up all of the girls. if that was it it would be ok, but he seems to think that breathing hard and grunting till make yoga easier? or showing off? i don't know, but it's super super annoying. there are other guys in my class who are awesome and non-douchey. but THIS GUY, ugh. his line to me was asking about my 'sweet tat' and wanting tot show me his, which would have involoved pulling up his skin tight ensemble. NO THANK YOU!

Ham Snadwich

@LeafySeaDragon - There's one of those dudes in every class. The one in mine wore green spandex shorts and no shirt.


@FoxyRoxy @Beaker: My tried and true response to creepers: "You're making me very uncomfortable. Please leave." Said firmly but not aggressively (unless the situation warrants it). The usual response will be "No, I didn't mean to..." to which you respond, "Well, you did. Please leave." Sometimes this works as is; sometimes it will be followed up with abject apologies and desire for forgiveness; sometimes some variant of "Geez, lighten up, can't you take a joke?" Don't engage with any of it. Firmly but politely repeat (or even better, silent direct eye contact) that they made you uncomfortable and you want them to leave. My friends think this is hilarious, but it has been remarkably effective, in both office and street-harassment situations.


@FoxyRoxy I think I need to try this with more conviction, or just not get demoralized about it. I was run/walking (couch to 5k!) the other week in a nearby cemetery (sounds creepy, but it's very pretty) and I kept noticing this guy on a bike. Finally he comes up alongside me and tells me he noticed that I'm running and walking and can he ask how long I run and how long I walk. I have my headphones on, so I pretend like I can't hear him at first. Then he asks again and I say, "I'm sorry, I'd prefer to be quiet." So then he makes a face, grumbles something about just making conversation, and spits in the sidewalk in front of me as he bikes away.

Typing it out now again makes me furious.


@DillyBean But you're a girl (I'm assuming) and a guy showed you attention. You are expected to fall all over yourself and then fall in love because that's how meet-cutes work! Also you are supposed to not sweat and wear full makeup when you run, which I'm assuming you already were because a guy was paying attention to you.

(In all seriousness: that sucks and he is awful. Good on you for being direct!)


@Beaker You don't want to do the old have a bouquet of flowers delivered to yourself? Or invent a fake boyfriend, whom you talk about?
I just picked up "Why Men Love Bitches" and her advice is to tell Mr. No you want tons of babies right away. I dunno about this. I might lean towards a Miss Manners and get all frosty and say, "I believe we're supposed to be working while we're here." Or just always turn the conversation to the most boring parts of the job possible.- I mean, what have you tried?


@DillyBean He had no right to disturb your peace like that. He was wrong to do that! Obviously he doesn't have an understanding of boundaries or social contract and he was wrong wrong wrong. I am sorry that happened to you.


@Myrtle PS. I'm also fond of getting the incident to HR in writing, as in, it looks like something I could just as easily give to an attorney. And I've reported a man to the police. Just saying.


Such a beauty .. @t


Amazing! I did not do one, because it would have been sooooo boring.


@Megano! I know, right? I haven't had a date in almost two years, and my commute is so insane that I basically come home, eat dinner, watch a little TV, have a small glass of wine, hop online to catch up on stuff, smoke a bowl, read a few chapters of something, and pass out so I can get up and get ready for my morning commute.

Seriously, though, I'm fascinated by these kinds of studies! It's just really cool.


@Anji Man, I don't even get that much done.

Cat named Virtute

Oh, I'm sad I didn't do this! I thought about it, decided mine would be too boring because I'm pretty single and don't have much sex, then decided that was stupid and I should do it anyway but forgot to sign up! Alas. Reading these results made me really happy--especially that blindfolds and mutual masturbation are so popular, and that there are lots of us worried single ladies out there and that we're not that weird or unusual. Thanks for doing this, Arianne!


@Cat named Virtute Me too! As soon as I saw this, I was like "awww I should've done it! Damn my fears!"


@fabel As a single lady, whether or not my entry was exciting would have DEFINITELY depended on what week (more importantly, weekend) it was! Sure I'm not the only one like this...

sarah girl

Excerpts! I want excerpts! (Anonymous, of course.)


@Sarah H. Excerpts! We want excerpts!







@Sarah H. You mean sexcerpts (rimshot)

Porn Peddler

@Sarah H. YES PLEASEEEEE I want to see some interesting passages!

Hello Kidney

@Sarah H. Yes! Excerpts. Show your work, Arianne Cohen.


Neat. I wish this had happened after I discovered pinning. And after I dumped my husband. My sex life is infinitely more interesting now.

And this "They write sentences about tripping balls and rolling hard and toking up. Thse sentences r often grammatically troubled/!"

Made me laugh. Out loud.


@Kirs What do you mean by "pinning?" All I can think of is Pinterest, but idk how that would make your sex life more interesting!

Emma Peel

To address the most boring, least sexy part: Anybody have good sleep hygiene tips? I have been WAY out of whack lately -- well, always, really. I default to about 8.5 hours (ie that's how long I sleep if left alone, if not longer; I can sometimes do 9 or 10[!]) so should I just go to bed at 10:30 every night and get up at 7 every day or can I train my body to need just 7 hours if I do it consistently or what? Help!


@Emma Peel Man, I definitely wish I had tips. My dude's sleep schedule is beyond fuckety right now, with him sleeping pretty much random hours whenever he can and thus us never getting time in bed together because when I'm sleepy he's wide awake and when he's sleeping I'm...in class. Or at work. SLEEP SCHEDULES MATTER. If someone has ways to fix this, please do tell me too.


@Emma Peel It seems like if you're sleeping that long, your body probably needs it? Ideally I need about 9 hours a night to feel really great, but I usually sleep about 10.30 to 6.30 during the week and manage okay.


@Emma Peel

In my experience (insomniac who needs less than the normal amount of sleep anyway and looked into some of this stuff) you cannot "train" your body to need less, or get more, sleep. If you're an 8-hour person, you're an 8-hour person.

I'm a 6-hour person, which means there are people who have known me for YEARS and never seen me asleep.


@Emma Peel let me know if you find out. I sleep 8-10 hours if I'm left to my own and I'm not too sleep-deprived. I typically get by on 6-7 hours M-F, and try to make up the deficit over the weekend.

Emma Peel

@City_Dater Lucky you! I told my doctor that I usually get 7 hours, and her response was "Oh, that's good, most of my patients say 5 or 6!" OH DC. (This was, unsurprisingly, not helpful to my sleep hygiene, since I now feel abnormally sleep-needy as it is.)


@Emma Peel Whatever, some of us just need more sleep! Also, I am a big fan of routine. I usually go to bed about 9.30 and read for an hour, and I find it really helps! Except right now I'm reading a really intense book about like, vampire Hunger Games and it's stressing me out a lot!


@City_Dater Same here! I have a friend who is a twelve-hour person and I just...I have trouble getting things done as is. I can't imagine how I would function if I lost a third of my waking hours to sleep.


@City_Dater I have a similar experience. Annnnd I'm basically a 9 hour person. Which would mean going to bed at 10 every day. On days where I accomplish this (and feeling like a loser in the process) I feel great the next morning! However I usually go to bed at 12, so.

And then sometimes I try to go to bed at 12 but I had a can of coke at 7 and can't fall asleep until 2 GREAT JUST GREAT


@Emma Peel I'm also a 9-hour gal and to make matters more confusing, I teach morning classes M/W and afternoon classes Tu/Th. I also work from home a lot and like to go out with my friends on the weekends.

TLDR: My sleep is screwed up.

What works for me is to go to bed when I'm tired. Which sounds stupid, yes. But if I'm tired at 9:30? Bedtime! If I'm still going strong at 11? We can stay up. If I'm overtired or wake up early the next day, I just compensate that evening. Not everyone's life lends itself easily to a consistent schedule.

Also I never drink caffeine after 2pm unless I'm purposefully trying to stay up late. Thanks helps.


Hm how does one know how many hours of sleep they need? I can (begrudgingly) be up and function completely fine on just a few hours' sleep, but when left to my own devices on the weekend I will totally sleep for like 10 hours (usually I'll wake up earlier but if I don't have anything to do just be like, "fuck it, I don't wanna get up" and I'll fall back asleep), but I'm not sure I NEED all that sleep time. I would like to make myself follow some sort of regular schedule so I guess I prob need to figure out how long I require?

@missvancity Vampire Hunger Games, you say? Title, please!


@Emma Peel My mum had chronic sleep problems, here are some things she does.
- Nothing except sleep happens in the bedroom (she's single - this may have to include sex for other people) - ie her work desk/computer and craft things and TV are all in other rooms.

- Same bedtime every night (as much as possible)
- Some winding down routine like reading, brushing teeth, washing face etc. so when you start that your body remembers oh this is what I do before sleep, time to start going down.


@Emma Peel ooooooh sleep. I've been dealing with chronic problems my whole life and have much, much accumulated wisdom on sleep to share. Most of what I've read suggests that the amount of sleep you need to feel rested is more or less fixed at any time, though it changes as you age. Unless you try something like the superman sleep schedule, which I wouldn't recommend, personally. I need about 7.5 hours, which for me means falling asleep shortly after 11 and waking up around 6:45. BUT, I am also terrible at falling asleep, and need to be in bed in the dark by like 10:00 for falling asleep at 11 to happen. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, because staring at the ceiling in the dark for an hour is not awesome. I feel kinda like a boring loser sometimes, but man I'll take boring over my former sleep-deprived misery.

Important sleep hygiene principles:
going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, as mentioned. The best thing that ever happened to my sleep schedule was getting a 40-hour-a-week office job and I love it. School and unemployment and working from home are all TERRIBLE for me.
Avoiding bright light and screens as much as you can after sunset (I am so not good at this, but I'll use my computer in a dark room with the screen brightness turned all the way down and pretend it's better). Not using your bed for anything but sleep and sexytimes.
Avoiding caffeine in the evenings - I can't have anything stronger than a weak tea after like, 3 pm, or it's all over. I read somewhere that hormonal birth control increases the half-life of caffeine in your blood, which is not widely reported but it sure would explain how I lost the ability to do things like drink coffee all through class and then take a 20-minute nap right after it ends.

When I still have problems, I'll take melatonin. It doesn't work for everyone, depending on what your sleep problems are, but if you have trouble becoming sleepy at the time you want to fall asleep, it can help. My problem is a mild Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome mixed with occasional hormone-related traditional insomnia, so it's usually effective for me. You can also use it to shift your sleep schedule in advance of daylight savings time or travel to mitigate jet lag! Important thing to know here is that's much easier to shift later than earlier, which you probably all well know, but the rate of shifting earlier is typically limited to about an hour a day.

Another thing to keep in mind is how long your sleep cycles are - they tend to be 90-120 minutes long, and if you wake up in the middle of a deep-sleep phase you're going to be way groggier than if you wake during a light phase, regardless of whether your body "needs" more sleep or not. Mine seem to average out to 90 minutes over the course of a night, so if I wake up after 6 hours or 7.5 I can wake up easily and get going, but if I wake up in between, or more than 7.5 and less than 9, I'm groggy and unhappy. The best way to find out the length of your cycles is to do a sleep study, but I used trial and error via extensive napping experience during college.

oh! another cool tip: bright light resets your circadian rhythm, through a connection between your retina and your pineal gland, so if you want to sleep in a lot on the weekends without screwing yourself over for Sunday night/Monday morning, one thing you can do is set an alarm for your normal wakeup time, spend a minute or two staring at a bright light at that time, and then go back to sleep. It's not perfect, but I swear it helps. Especially during the winter in Seattle when sunrise is like 8:30 and my body would be happy sleeping till noon every single day.


@boom_itsashley I've figured out nine hours just based on how I feel. After nine hours I feel AMAZING. More or less, and I start to feel less amazing. The book is http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/The-Hunt-Andrew-Fukuda/9781250005144-item.html?ikwid=the+hunt&ikwsec=Home


@boom_itsashley You basically need to experiment. It can be difficult to do since (as you've found), being sleep deprived means you will sleep a LOT when given the chance, but that amount of sleep isn't likely to be what you need if you're not sleep-deprived. If you don't have several obligation-free weeks, try to get as much sleep as you can, knowing what your body likes when given unlimited sleep. You'll be going to bed super-early for awhile, but once you catch up, your body will start needing less sleep. So you'll start waking up earlier, at which point you can adjust your bedtime.


@EternalFootwoman Yea I've heard that the best way to figure out your sleep cycle is to go to bed early and not set an alarm for about 10 days. In the beginning you'll be catching up, but eventually, you'll be sleeping your natural set amount. Of course this is not conducive to real life, but on vacations I've found that I like a good 8.5 - 9 hrs.

There are studies out there about the people who truly only need 3-5 hrs of sleep a night. It's estimated it's about 1% or less of the population. Apparently, they are way happier than the rest of us, and are naturally "do-ers" meaning, they are very busy. Man, some people have all the luck.

And melatonin. Yes. It works for me, as someone without insomnia, but often has trouble falling asleep.


@Emma Peel I think we are dating the same person. It is really quite an issue. I'm pretty nocturnal, going to bed between 1 or 2 is early for me, but my boyfriend is, like, a vampire. He's tired all the time, even when he's slept for 12 hours, and he often doesn't end up places he's supposed to be, and then is frustrated that he didn't get anything done, because he's sleeping while the rest of the world is awake.

And he doesn't think his sleep schedule is a problem. Sigh.


@Emma Peel Everyone in my life has the most fucked up sleep habits & I yell at them (in a loving way!) constantly. I generally need 8 or 9 hours to feel tippity-top, which means, yeah, I go to bed at 10 (sometimes 9!)

You just need to...put yourself to bed? Like, shut out all the lights and crawl under the blankets & be like "bed time!" This is what I do, but I also don't really have insomnia issues (like racing thoughts that make me unable to sleep? This tactic might not be helpful if you're prone to things like that)


@Emma Peel i don't believe in sleep training. i NEED my 8.5-10 hours. NEED IT! i sleep about 11pm-8am every day. if i try to sleep less than i end up needing a nap.


@Emma Peel in terms of developing a schedule, I have heard that the best way is to wake up at the same time every day (and not pressing snooze). Go to sleep whenever you're tired, and as long as you're consistent in waking up at the same time, your body will get used to that schedule. This isn't about changing how much sleep you need, but when you sleep.
(it's harder than it sounds, so I have never been sucessful at testing it for long enough to see if it works).


@Emma Peel this is way late, but for late-night computer users, there's a program called "Flux" that I just the brightness and contrast of your screen based on the time of day, so at night it's a much less harsh sepia tone. They have it for PC but I'm not sure if there's a Mac version

New Commenter Name

I am 1 of the 330. I'd also like to see some excerpts. Anonymous excerpts.

And now that I've seen the word "excerpts" so many times it has started to look funny. Is that really how it's spelled?


@Curiouser and curiouser Yes :-)

And why do our brains do that?

Anita Ham Sandwich

@Curiouser and curiouser
I want excerpts, too! Mainly so I can recognize myself and titter. And because I'm very curious what other hairpinners wrote about!

New Commenter Name

@Anita Ham Sandwich
Yes, those are my exact reasons as well.


@Curiouser and curiouser It's that "rpts" at the end with all the consonants piled up in a row.


@Curiouser and curiouser sexcerpts!!!

fondue with cheddar

I totally wanted to do this but didn't, and I wish I had. I forget why but I know there was a reason.


@jen325 i wasn't getting laid at the time. that's my reason :(


@jen325 Ugh, I was in a relationship at the time and just got dumped a few weeks ago, so I'm dreading seeing excerpts. It'd be like some kind of bizarre replay.

fondue with cheddar

@EternalFootwoman OH, NO. Maybe you should try not to read them?

@redheaded&crazie I hope you're getting laid now, or will soon!

OH, it was in February! Now I know why I didn't do it. I had issues at the time so wasn't having much sex.


@redheaded&crazie That was my reason too, and I'm married. :(

ms. alex

@jen325 I thought about it and changed my mind. My sex life is either all the time or not at all, and what if I ended up keeping the diary during a not at all time? FAILURE.
Oh, marriage to a grad student.

fondue with cheddar

@ms. alex That's why we should keep diaries of our own at a time of our choosing! That way we can make sure it's a good week. :)


YEAH GIRLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


@redheaded&crazie I'm only as far as toys in frequency of appearance


@redheaded&crazie I was surprised blindfolds were used more than vibrators. I thought vibrators were pretty normal?


@beanie Okay. Okay. I am going to say this because where else would I? I don't understand vibrators. It shames me to say this because I think I'm pretty progressive and sex-positive, but I just don't understand what they are for and/or why they're good.


@EternalFootwoman some people don't get off from P in the V (to use the scientific term), and do from clitoral stimulation, which is one way people use vibrators.


@beanie I mean, I get that much. I don't get off from penetration, but I just...is it better than using your hand? I guess I also always envision super heavy-duty vibration, which seems like...a lot?

God, I am way too old to be asking these things.


@EternalFootwoman Most of them have varying speeds. They go from VERY subtle to like, SUPER HEAVY DUTY, so you can find something that works for you!

saul "the bear" berenson

@EternalFootwoman This question can only really be answered by getting one and trying it out. Just get a cheapie bullet and see what you think.


@EternalFootwoman It's just different from using your hand. For me, it's not better -- less precision, quicker-onset numbness -- but it's nice for variety.

Porn Peddler

@EternalFootwoman As your friendly neighborhood sex maniac, please don't even worry about it- I have tried vibrators and they get the job done but I would prefer basically anything else in the world. I orgasm at the drop of a hat/dick/finger so I'm not surprised that vibes just do. not. make me happy. However, a lot of people need prolonged, direct, intense stimulation to orgasm, and it's very difficult for any human to provide that. And orgasms are fun. And if you have never had an orgasm, and you manage one with a vibe, that's a great step toward MORE OF THEM in MORE WAYS.


@missvancity @Moxie @Canard @Third Wave Housewife Thanks ladies! I am pretty quick to orgasm with manual/oral stimulation, so I've never considered something different. 2012: The Year I Got A Vibrator.


@EternalFootwoman this is a thing you should not worry about. People learn about sexy related stuff at the pace they learn/think about/care enough to wonder about.

Your stance on/familiarity with sex toys is morally/socially/intellectually/whatever else neutral. The only person it should matter to is you.


@PistolPackinMama You're right. You're so right. I spent several years with a group of friends who were SO PROGRESSIVE to the point that saying you hadn't experienced and/or weren't interested in something meant you were somehow repressed.


@EternalFootwoman Agree with @Canard - for me, vibrator-orgasms are different than manual-orgasms, so it can be nice for variety? But mostly they're not as fun. Like, with vibrators it's over too quickly, compared to using my hand. And the orgasms tend to be less intense/shorter.

Porn Peddler

@EternalFootwoman I had one friend like that and to this day, she talks about sex/relationship things in a way that sets me off so fucking fast, I can't even. I firmly believe that attitude is why I was a slightly late bloomer (nothing in the world could have made someone like me a truly late bloomer, given what lay beneath my inexperienced surface...)


@Third Wave Housewife Yes! I feel like for a long time, I was afraid to have sex that wasn't somehow crazy/unconventional because I thought it meant I was boring and sad.

Cat named Virtute

@EternalFootwoman Man, I am juuuust now starting to tease all that crap out of myself and it's so toxic, but getting it out is GREAT, even if it's sometimes painful and takes forever.


Dude I'm so just going to pop my head in here to say that I pretty much always get things done digitally. my vibe is like, a treat to myself when i've gone a sadly long period of time without certain things (my vibe is actually a vibrating dildo i guess) and yeah, it's just a totally different orgasm. but it is usually over preeeeeeetty quickly so that's kind of a bummer.

related, guys, please stop getting offended when i use my fingers to get myself off because, i still like your dick a lot.

/most overshariest overshare of my comment history and that is saying something

Hello Kidney

@EternalFootwoman I have a question that I feel I should already know the answer to as well! Mutual masturbation: what does it meeeean?? Are we each diddling ourselves in close proximity or is there cross-diddling going on? At the same time? Different times? Single-file line please? What?


@Hello Kidney I think it just means giving each other hand jobs. My feeling is that if if something is "mutual" is no longer masturbation, amirite?! I think we should call it "digital sex," but that term totally hasn't caught on, I guess because it sounds too much like cybersex. (Ha, cybersex. Not like I'm saying I've never let things get steamy over IRC.)


@EternalFootwoman To me, the advantage of a vibrator is just that my wrist doesn't cramp up at a crucial moment.

fondue with cheddar

@phenylalanine I'm with you, vibrator orgasms do tend to be shorter and less intense. Using a vibrator during sex is great, though! The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Basically, vibe on clit + other things = BLISS


@EternalFootwoman Google the "Lelo." One hundred fifty dollars and a triumph of German engineering.


@Hello Kidney I always thought it was two people diddling themselves, but together. Like, I do myself and you do yourself, but we're in bed together and maybe kissing?


fun! glad to hear everyone else is also having a ton/not at all having sex with their healthy/problematic ladybits and monogamous/nonmonogamous partners


I know, right? It's science! It's idle curiosity!

fondue with cheddar

"Just oral sex, start-with-intercourse-then-work-backward, finish manually, use lots of buzzy toys on both partners, etc. Everything goes."

Yes! I've experienced the kissing-oral sex-intercourse-done monotony, and don't plan to revisit it. At least not regularly.


@jen325 Aw, there's nothing wrong with doing things the vanilla way!

dj pomegranate

@frigwiggin There is room in the sexytime world for all these things!


@dj pomegranate vanilla done right, is not so vanilla. Are we talking about ice cream? It is orally delicious.

fondue with cheddar

@frigwiggin @dj pomegranate @whizz_dumb You're all right! My experience is that when I do it the same way all the time (even if it is the best way), it becomes routine and loses its spark. Heck, even non-vanilla sex could get boring it it becomes routine. It's that way for me, and I know it's that way for some other people, but that doesn't mean it's that way for everybody.

Using the term "vanilla" to describe sex always bothered me. Vanilla is delicious! And yeah, vanilla sex can be too. I just happen to prefer toppings on mine sometimes. ;)


I did one and it was so much fun! It kind of inspired me to start writing my thoughts down more (I will not say journaling, that will not happen) and it's incredibly therapeutic to see it all written down in front of you. I like getting all the thoughts out of my head. It really does help when it comes to sorting through all the feelings. And I have lots. Of feelings, that is.

And I wanna do it again! Can we do it again!


You guuuuyyyssss, (wimmenz) stop saying "creepy!" You'll hurt the men and their feels! All their feels!

Reginal T. Squirge

@JessicaLovejoy Oh, I'm not even going near this one.




@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Jessica Lovejoy never jokes. Especially not when it comes to wimmenz, menz, and feels.

That shit is serious bizness.


this is such an inspiring project.. I think I would like to try keeping my own sex diary (even though it may end up being full of a lot of solo time and fretting about my Relationship Problems.)

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

Oh dear. For some reason I thought questionable sleep hygiene means we've got some dirty sleepers here. Apparently not (in the snoozing sense, anyway).


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose My immediate first thought was that people were confessing to, like, never washing their sheets or something.


@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose And I thought it was people chronically not "taking care of" sex aftermath before going to bed.


@EternalFootwoman I know, right? I was like, let's bring over A Clean Person, asap.


@robyn.andrews Get rid of your one night stands, they are disgusting.


@EternalFootwoman And then I double checked the author to see if Jolie was getting in on this. SHE KNOWS, Y'ALL. SHE KNOWS.


Em, this may not be the forum for this, but seems as good as any: does anyone have any recommendations for good internet advice for people who are in a relationship and are not having the orgasms as frequently as might be preferred? ("asking for a friend", you know).


@questingbeast Do you mean, not doing teh sechs enough with your partner? Or not having orgasms when you do teh sechs at intervals appropriate to your desires?


@PistolPackinMama Not having the orgasms. Sex is plentiful.

Porn Peddler

@questingbeast Have you tried adding a toy into the mix? Or asking your partner to stimulate you manually/orally/somehow before or after the actual coitus? I need more information but I am full of orgasm related advice.


@Third Wave Housewife I was sort of hoping I could be directed to some amazing site that would tell me the answers secretly! But, I guess it doesn't make much difference. Basically, I'm not that old and this is my first serious relationship. I've never had any trouble having orgasms on my own, and have occasionally (maybe three times) with random guys I've slept with (with fingers/oral). But I can't replicate it with current man. He seems to realise it's a problem (always telling me if there's something I want him to do I should let him know), but the problem is partly that I'm not sure what I should be telling him to do, and also that he seems to find being giving directions during the act a turn-off; he says he feels upset because he's not making me happy, but then I'M annoyed because I feel he should be making more of an effort. So, sorry, TMI, but yeah if you have any advice would be great!


@questingbeast Ok, first, I love your handle so much. SO MUCH!

The basic advice, I think, is do what you do when you are on your own and then slowly transition into the desired orgasm act. Like, let's say for the sake of argument that you use a vibe by yourself and would like to transition to intercourse with this guy. First use the vibe by yourself with him in the room, then use the vibe on yourself while he also does stuff to you, then he uses the vibe on you, then you have sex while the vibe is involved.


@questingbeast just try different things! talk about it at a time that is not sexy-time, frame it as an issue that is not anyone's fault but that you would like to address together. You can even negotiate what you would like to do, since you say he seems to find it a turn-off to have guidance or directions during the act.
In my experience, this helps put the focus on exploration (since you are saying you're not sure what you should be telling him to do) and takes the focus off of any negative feelings (like performance anxiety, etc.) When the clothes are off and you're in a sexy-times mindset, it's natural to feel more vulnerable and take things personally when they're not meant that way.

You can also try turning it into a game: one thing that I've heard is a good way to experiment (but I have yet to try) is to play the "hot and cold" game, just saying the words "hot" when you like something and "cold" when you don't, and taking turns exploring each others' bodies to find what you like.
Good luck! The situation you describe is totally normal. I am also having this problem and it doesn't necessarily go away as you get older. Good communication is key to all sexual encounters, and yet we never see it happening in the media and aren't really socialized to understand it—we go through adolescence with the expectation that we will just know what to do, and so will our partners, and when this turns out not to be the case. So don't sweat it (easier said than done, I know!)


@questingbeast It can be one of those things that improves with age, too. Your body learns how to have the sensation (I've read somewhere that orgasm's a type of overloaded circuit from the pelvis to spine to brain) you learn how to get that feedback loop going by positioning yourself. Sometimes I've mumbled along and actually thought I wasn't going to be able to get it, then one of us tilts a pelvis half an inch and Zowee! And try language that helps steer, such as "Oh! I love it when you do that" or "that's delicious" I mean who could object to that? But if either of you are feeling clunky or stupid, of course that's a turnoff. I blame porn and our weird culture for this but, we're just people and it's just sex. Let yourselves learn.


@OhMarie @Myrtle @planforamiracle Thanks guys! I think I am being encouraging, but maybe my annoyance is getting in the way- after saying 'stroke gently' for the sixth time and he's still acting like he's rubbing down a sweaty horse I feel incredibly irritated, but I guess I just need to relax a bit and we'll work it out. OhMarie: that's really good advice, I've started trying that. I don't know if he's getting the point, but at least I'm less wound-up. I like what you say about expectations- I think after my years of slagging around I thought that being in love would make it happen just like that. But I've probably got that from Dawson's Creek or Nicholas Sparks or something.

Passion Fruit

@questingbeast How long have you two been together? It took my boyfriend and me about six months or so of solid practice before he could give me a real, as-good-as-or-better-than-I-can-give-myself orgasm. In the beginning it was, "Hmm, that felt nice and we're in the right ballpark," but with time it became, "Oh my god, I need a few seconds to reorient myself to time and space."

I do remember feeling annoyed sometimes in the beginning, like "Ah, you're so close, but not quite, how can I be more clear??" I've found that using less words and more body language and sound has really helped guide the action without deflating his ego.

Another suggestion is, similar to what OhMarie said, maybe have him watch you get yourself off or have him put his hand over your hand as you do so?

Anyways, in sum, don't get discouraged, keep following what feels good, and keep practicing!

ETA: I see that this is from a week ago; my bad!

Roaring Girl

I am laughing, because there is a specific reference to my diary here, and I am amused as hell about that being the noteworthy part.

Porn Peddler

@Roaring Girl I may have died when I saw a somewhat direct reference to something from mine.

Genghis Khat

@Roaring Girl I saw something from mine and it bummed me out.


Speaking of creeps, you know what's creepier than somebody who gets hundreds of strangers to keep a sex diary, so they can thereafter sell the diaries on the internets and in bookstores? Well here's what's creepier: somebody who manipulates the aforementioned sex diarists to cover similar ground day by day, contentwise, constantly intruding with prompts so that the "diary entries" (And what are they actually? They are fill-in-the-blank sex diary forms, only just freer and more individual than a pack of Sex Mad Libs.) that come out will be uniform enough for numerical comparison, generating easily marketable percentages and factoids that will possibly get written up by a lazy journalist or lazy blogger, generating publicity and sales.

Still creepier yet? Somebody who is clearly eager to tell you how to fuck.


@Tulletilsynet That doesn't strike me as creepy. Everyone is interested in this information, and anonymity/form-filling makes us feel less embarrassed about sharing or reading it.


@Tulletilsynet If you have a legitimate criticism of this project or how it is being carried out, let's hear it in plain language.
Otherwise, please don't assume that the project is "creepy" just because you would not feel comfortable participating. Judging from the comments here, it is stimulating healthy discussion about cultural mores and personal neuroses surrounding sex, and that is enough for me to consider it far, far away from "creepy" territory.


Sorry about the plain language thing. Guilty as charged! You sound like my editor.

In plain language, then, this project bills itself as "diaries," implying that a relatively large number of diverse people participating in the project happened independently to have a number of common issues on their mind, which they chose to write down and share with the maker of the project.

In fact, this is what was happening throughout the week (and I quote, because as you see I did participate):

"... [Day 3, morning question:]
Fill in the blank: 'When I look at the past two years of my life, I feel _________. Because ________. Thinking about this is making me realize ______________.'
[Day 3, evening question:]
How have your looks and ethnicity affected your relationship choices?
[Day 4, morning question:]
Is there any sort of sexual activity you wish you'd explored more? Anything you think you might like, but you've just never tried? Why? ..."


So in fact, this is very little like what most people think of as "diaries" and very much like a questionnaire that a journalist might make up to get fodder for a pitchable project. But when the author (and her method makes her more author than editor) retails the content that the participants produced in response to her prompts, she does not characterize that content as responses to a questionnaire, like an old-fashioned magazine survey piece would more honestly have done. She doesn't mention the questions and prompts at all.

I didn't say there was anything creepy about "stimulating healthy discussion about cultural mores and personal neuroses surrounding sex." Many people happily and freely do that on The Hairpin, all the time! This here is different. This is using false pretenses to get people to put their sex lives into conveniently marketable form.

That's what's creepy.

(In addition to the patronizing bit, getting people's habits to disappear with one's Hitachi magic wand and so on.)


@Tulletilsynet Hmm. That methodology does seem sort of odd (in that it contrasts with how the project is described.) And I see what you mean about the 'leading' sort of questions.

Thanks for taking the time to articulate this clearly. I *am* (occasionally) an editor—guilty as charged ;)

Genghis Khat

@planforamiracle Well, I did one, and yes there were those questions, but there was also a diary part where you just wrote what you were thinking about sex and relationships throughout the days. So the questionnaire was more of an extra.


Okay I jumped down here before finishing this great read to say that the part about singleness (psychology subheading 2) is a great point and something that bugs me when I hear others express that self-deprecating sentiment. I have been in and out of numerous relationships and each time I find myself single (most recently at age 30) I look at it with optimism and excitement. I don't think it matters that I'm a dude because I think it's important for everyone to not dwell on their own personal faults when single, regardless of age or gender. Be self aware, yes, we should always be trying to improve ourselves, but draw a reality line to keep your self-esteem at healthy levels. It matters.

Cat named Virtute

@whizz_dumb Right, but there is a different between in and out of numerous relationships, and having been in no relationships or only very short relationships or a small number of relationships or a really toxic and damaging relationship that overshadows other relationship/single experiences or only casual sex but never a relationship or a relationship(s) but never sex or anything else from the litany of things we carry around with shame and humiliation. I'm 24. I've had one boyfriend in high school. One friend with benefits that didn't start til I was 22. I was in my 20s when I lost my virginity. I have MANY friends that I will not discuss sex and relationships with except in a very general/non-personal way because I'm so afraid of being judged. It's getting better, but when every tv show wants to tell me I'm a hopeless spinster and all my so called sex-positive radical friends act like there's something wrong with people who aren't sluts (nb: I'm totally on board with sluttiness) are repressed or awful.

I am maybe taking this super personally, but it is wayyy more complicated than "don't dwell, have self-esteem."


@Marika Pea@twitter You're right. Everyone's sexual history is different. It can be tough. I guess I was just trying to encourage a forgiving self-assessment, however vague. Some situations need more work to get past.

Also, if TV is treating you that way, tell it to fuck off. I hear there are some people who don't even own one. But really, there are a lot of people/potential partners who are understanding of and can handle any baggage that is chucked their way. If they can't handle it, F them (F is for forget).

Cat named Virtute

@whizz_dumb I mean yes, but every partner is a Schrodinger's box of acceptance. I personally won't put up with anyone who makes me feel like crap about my sex life, hence the less active sex and relationship history, but you don't really know for sure until you tell the person, right? And if you like someone sooooo much, and maybe it's been a while or they're especially different or special, you don't want to have the bubble of their apparent awesomeness burst. And telling tv to fuck off, yeah, I'm aware that it's limiting and I have a low threshold for that. But also I enjoy watching tv and being involved in that part of the cultural zeitgeist, y'know? There's not a lot of spinster-positive programming available (shout out Miss Marple?)


@Cat named Virtute Judged?! That sucks and I'm sorry that happened to you. How do you feel about being envied? I've got many female and several male friends who had sex forced on them before they were ready. One friend told me she wasn't even 10. Oh, I burn with rage at how betrayed those dear friends of mine were. I wish they were you and they'd been allowed to grow up and experience sex with someone they chose, and when they were ready. Hell I wish I were you. I'd question the validity of anything said to me by someone who was working to Shame me for My choices. Pfft to those freaks. You're awesome.


Can we go back to the vulvodynia/vaginismus mention for a second, please? Just last week I saw my super amazeballs gyne and her exact words to me were, "vulvodynia is as common an issue as getting migraine headaches." Migraine headaches! But then I thought, wait, if so many of us have it, WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT IT? So...can we talk about it? Because it really friggin sucks, and I would LOVE to know how other people are handling it. (If you ARE handling it that is - if not, I UNDERSTAND.)


@rosieandiknowit Delurking to say: I have vulvodynia! And I want to talk about it! Do you have it? How did it start? How long have you had it? (Um, if you don't want to answer any of those questions, that's fine - I realise they're really personal...)

A couple of years ago, I started getting pain for a couple of days after unprotected sex. (It was the first guy I'd had sex with and I'd been on the Pill and having sex for a while before the pain started, so it just started one day with no apparent cause.) My vulva would be sore for two or three days after contact with semen. So I saw the doctor, and he said it was thrush and prescribed thrush treatments, which didn't do anything, but then I broke up with the guy and was single for a year so just hoped it would go away. Then about a year and a half ago, I got a new boyfriend and it came back, so I saw the doctor again. He diagnosed thrush (a few times) and gave me various treatments, but nothing helped. So I changed Pill, and then went on the Mirena coil to see if that would help - it didn't. Then the doctor started to think that maybe it wasn't thrush, and so started trying other treatments, for diagnoses that seemed to be just random guesses. Around this time my vulva stopped being in pain just after unprotected sex and started being sore all the time. The doctor suggested other treatments, some of which helped a bit (like steroid cream), some which didn't help at all, and then suggested it was psychological (it isn't) and suggested I go on anti-depressants. So I went behind that doctor's back and saw a specialist, who diagnosed me with VIN1, the first stage of precancerous cells, and prescribed a course of imiquimod cream, which is really painful, but cleared up the VIN1 and made the pain much better. So now I'm still in a bit of pain but much better than I was.

I've been single since before starting the imiquimod treatment, so I have no idea if the pain will come back if I start having sex again. I didn't deal with it well for a long time - I spent months where I'd just cry for ages at night as it was just so horrible, and quite a few of my friends didn't know how to respond when I talked about it, so would just talk about how great their sex lives were, which made me feel even worse. And the two boyfriends I had when it was really bad didn't really believe me when I said I was in pain, so weren't very sympathetic. So things were crap for a while, but now the pain isn't so bad I feel much better. And I talk about it lots with people I know, and a couple of friends/friends of friends have said that they have the same thing, so it's nice to know I'm not alone.

Genghis Khat

@leonorasaur They didn't believe you? What epic juiceboxes!


@Genghis Khat Aww, thanks! I completely agree. One just seemed to think I was making it up to make him feel bad, and with the other one it didn't seem to register. Like, he understood intellectually that I had constant pain, but didn't translate it into being aware that I was in pain at that moment in time and so wasn't very sympathetic when I said I was in pain.

I think it's partly because there's no information about it anywhere, really. No one seems to know anything about it unless they have it. Thus in the last couple of months I've started going on and on about it, so that more people are aware of it. And talking about it makes me feel better, though for ages it made me feel worse. Now I know other people who have vulvodynia I feel a bit better, but what really made me feel better was the pain not being as bad. I have no idea how I'd manage if the pain were as bad as it was six months ago.


@leonorasaur Yay, a reply! So, so, so glad to hear about your vulvodynia issues, especially because they sound a lot like what I've been through. I've actually never once had non-painful sex - I don't even know what that would be like - but I went way too long without knowing what was wrong and assumed it was some kind of psychological defect. My boyfriend (now husband) and I just figured maybe we just needed to just push through and hope that it went away. Of course, I know now that is so not how it works, and I ended up with a pretty intense case of vaginismus for a few years. Forget about penises, I couldn't even have a pelvic exam or even insert a tampon. Like you, I got the yeast infection diagnosis time and time again, was tested for all kinds of STDS (even though I'd only ever had one sexual partner), and then was basically told I'm just nervous and need to relax. One doc I saw even suggested he prescribe a sedative to take before trying to have sex. Needless to say, I never went back. I had another doc talk to me about "the complexities of the female libido", and yet another flat out suggest that I'd need to dump my bf because obviously he was the problem. UGH.

I didn't properly get the vulvodynia diagnosis until the beginning of 2010 when I met my new (amazing) doctor. She tried to refer me to a new gyne, who was useless, but then opted to treat me herself. We tried some creams, which helped a little, and then I did actually try the antidepressant thing (Celexa) which also made a bit of a difference as well - together, i'd say they were key in at least helping me get over the vaginismus. After that, we could actually sort of manage penis-in-vagina sex, but the pain and burning was so awful, and I began having panic attack-like reactions during our sex attempts (talk about killing the mood!).

Most recently, I've been on a treatment of Nortriptyline (a cyclic antidepressant) along with Cymbalta (an SNRI antidepressant used for chronic pain), as well as an Amitriptyline and Ketamine cream applied twice a day. This is probably the best it's ever been in that my husband and I are actually having fairly regular successful sex without me bursting into tears! I still can't last that long and it has to be completely vanilla missionary sex, but the actual sex part doesn't hurt that much anymore (definitely nothing compared to what it used to be!!!). The only thing that still really sucks is that afterwards, my vulva burns like crazy for about an hour or two (Advil helps, as does a strategically-placed ice pack).

I've been trying to be pretty open about it to spread to word, but I have yet to come across anyone else who has it. Instead, like you said, it's just hearing a lot about other people's amazing sex lives! I know at least for me, part of what's the most difficult is feeling like there's something wrong with my body, that I can't do this one little thing that everyone else can do, and even though my husband is supportive, I can imagine it must be hard for him too. Of course, we try and squeeze in as much non-intercourse sex stuff as possible, but it's hard to even keep that from being affected by all the hurt feelings and arguments and disappointing doctor's appointments we've had to endure over the years. Hoping that my good recent progress will continue though. Next step apparently is physiotherapy.


@leonorasaur Oh! Also did the Mirena thing and all the various birth control pills, but they either did nothing, or made the vulvodynia worse. Having to leave class early because of my constantly burning vagina? Yeah, no thanks.


@rosieandiknowit Hey, just to say that I have problems (although there are signs of progress) with vaginismus, and painful sex, and low libido (althrough, frankly, who is really going to be up for sex when it hurts?), and . . . hang in there. Everyone *doesn't* have an amazing sex life, and this thing you're going through is not forever. You've made progress, and I have a feeling that things will continue to get better. Also, if it's any consolation, studies have shown that a good sex life can't save a marriage or relationship -- it's the other things, like thinking of yourselves as a team, shared goals and values, and good communication, that help people to go the distance.


@rosieandiknowit Oh no, that sounds awful. I'm so glad that things are better than they were, and it's great that your husband has been so supportive. I hope the treatments keep on working and you get better - it's such a horrible thing to have.

It makes me feel like my body's against me somehow.

I wish doctors weren't so fixated on yeast infections and birth control as reasons for it. Obviously they often play a part in vulvodynia, but the doctor I saw for ages refused to consider any other possibilities (other than it being psychological). He was so convinced that I had thrush that he wouldn't test me for it as it was so obvious I had it, and then he was surprised when the treatments didn't work. Ugh.

What I've found with talking about vulvodynia with people is that people seem to have it in different ways. I haven't met anyone with the exact same symptoms or that developed in the same way as me, even though I know two other people who have vulvodynia. And that makes it difficult to compare symptoms, as theirs has different causes and presents in different ways.


@rosieandiknowit @leonorasaur I know I'm a little late to the game, but I have vulvodynia, too (oh, hey world...I guess you know now, too). I think I've finally got mine under control-ish. First, I will say, I am VERY into alternative cures, vitamins, etc. I have googled the shit out of it and found a few things that have helped me. My vulvodynia, I think, started from a bacterial vaginosis infection that WOULD.NOT.GO.AWAY. I had 5 rounds of treatment and six months of pain from an infection turned into pain all the time. I had two vulvar biopsies (which, long story, made my pain so much worse), but only turned up "chronic inflammation". So, I tried to tackle the inflammation, using lots of Omega-3's. I also take some probiotics. This is kind of hassle, but colloidal oatmeal packets mixed into a paste and put on the vulva for 15 minutes and then gently washed off was also really helpful for me whenever the pain would be unbearable. Witch hazel can be pretty soothing (although, it slightly burns first...but a good burn...like vodka down the throat). But seriously, the only thing that has made my pain go away 95% was to stop taking hormonal birth control. If you aren't on the pill, I guess this advice is not helpful, but within four days of stopping, I felt it ease up, and two weeks later, it was pretty much gone.

So, to any other vulvodynia Pinners out there, do you have any thoughts on the non-hormonal IUD? I'm really considering it, but I am nervous to do anything that could make my pain come back.


so relieved to read so many pinners are like me! i'm not alone!


@charizard Unless you're using the $400 zig-zag sex taser. Then you might be.


I always appreciate projects like this, of which I am an unrepentant beneficiary (since I don't participate, but frequently observe). It's funny; I don't really want to know what goes on in my friends' bedrooms, or reveal what happens in mine, but the activities of strangers can be alternately thought-provoking, comforting, illuminating, frustrating. I suppose it's b/c, due to their anonymity, the lives of these women becomes stories that we can immerse ourselves in, w/o getting hung up on social convention.


@D.@twitter This is very true. A few weeks ago during easter, I was sitting down to lunch with the female in-laws having the most TMI conversation about contraception and sex. It was a real eye-opener, but possibly the most uncomfortable social interaction of my life.
I then realised that if that conversation had been a thread on The Hairpin I would have joined in happily and without reservations! WIERD!


@D.@twitter It's because they're hypothetical vaginas, not "vaginas sitting next to us at brunch."


Okay, the articles recently have been SPEAKING TO ME. It's lovely. I have had a little bit of a'all of the above' from the diaries in my life the last bit. Got out of a 3 year relationship with an aspie who lost his sex drive a year in to the relationship (OMG), had a threesome, had a one night stand, one partner from the threesome is now being a SUPER CREEP to me (and yeah, I've been direct in communicating GTFO, and am now no longer responding to him), and also....found a lovely casual dating sitch and having the hottest sex of my life. This has all been in a 2 month period. Ooh! And I got my septum piercing caught in a guy's prince albert while going down on him! Longest minute of my life. Yay sex!

NuckingFux Nix

@Glasses I feel like getting your septum piercing caught in a guy's prince albert is the ultimate "getting braces stuck together while kissing" moment. Also, congrats on the hottest sex of your life!


@NuckingFux Nix Right? It's the adult version for sure! And thanks, hot sex is rad.


Yes! I have been waiting for this. Although I was hoping there would be more direct quotations/a sampling of 10-ish diaries like your site offers. Next installment?


I missed out on this when it was current. But this would be my Sex Diary:
"The first day of my Sex Diary, I woke up. Then, I went downtown. To look for sex. Then, I hung out in front of the drugstore.
The second day of my Sex Diary, I woke up. Then. I went downtown. To look for sex. Then, I hung out in front of the drugstore." (Apologies to Cheech and Chong)

Ham Snadwich

@Myrtle - Then you got a job keeping people from sexing in front of the drugstore?


Oh, man, it's so weird to see myself quoted in this article.

I'm the one Cohen cites as complaining about typos. But honestly, I was so highly-strung that week (too-close examination of your life does that to a girl, m'kay?) that I'm surprised I found the energy to reflect on the fact that I'd made typos at all.

Meanwhile, back in BigBangBaby-ville, I'm facing the same problems I had when I wrote my diary. Oh, what a cyclical, sex-obsessed web we weave.


I like this weblog so much vigrx

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