Danger! Danger!

Dear Andrea:

Being in my second trimester, I’ve read volumes about the so-called danger of air embolisms caused by blowing air into the vagina during oral sex. Now, I can’t imagine I’m part of an elite few who have had the somewhat embarrassing, occasional “vaginal farts” during or after sex. What do you suppose is the risk of the infamous air embolism occurring from simply getting air forced into the vagina from your basic act of intercourse?

Love,
Airy Mary

Dear Mary:

I’ve actually looked into this subject some while in the process of putting together a talk on all the horrible things that can happen to you while having what you thought would be nice, normal, even salubrious sex. You can break your penis or someone else’s penis! You can burst a previously unsuspected ovarian cyst! You can well, never mind. You can do all sorts of horrible things to yourself or someone you are quite fond of, but chances are, you won’t.

A few years after essentially pooh-poohing the embolism issue (“Don’t sit on an air compressor,” I believe I wrote), I had the opportunity to interview and then work with Dr. Charles Moser, the unchallenged expert on how to avoid killing yourself or others in the pursuit of sexual gratification, and he succeeded in convincing me that air embolisms really are a potential danger, even (occasionally) in nonpregnant women. But not even the good doctor suggested that intercourse was likely to cause one, except in certain very specific circumstances that we will get to shortly. A quick review of the literature turns up many articles on air embolisms due to (poorly executed, one assumes) oral sex, although the cases themselves are pretty scarce and often not fatal. You get to go to the hyperbaric chamber, like Michael Jackson!

Since “vaginal farts” are caused by air pumped into the vagina during intercourse, not, heaven forfend, into the uterus, there is likely no correlation whatsoever between your propensity for producing them and any possible danger to you or your fetus. The air has to get into your bloodstream, and the most likely route for that would be through the (open) cervix into a (possibly damaged) uterus. You will, of course, have had a thorough exam, including an ultrasound, to clear you for any cervical or placental abnormalities, before taking my word on anything like this. If you haven’t, we are not having this conversation.

Now, those few fatalities. They were mostly due to intercourse too soon after delivery, a thought that makes me cringe anyway, although I have spoken to women who felt ready to go as soon as the doctor cleared them for takeoff. Doctor and cleared would be the operant words there.

Love,
Andrea

Dear Andrea:

My girlfriend and I always have sex with a condom, and only when she is on birth control, to play it extra-safe. Recently, however, she’s been noticing the antiabortion displays that show up on our college campus sometimes. She now refuses to have sex, because she is so freaked out about becoming pregnant and needing to have an abortion, and she talks about seriously never having sex again because of it. I obviously want to talk to her about this and reassure her, but everything I say, no matter how understanding, makes her think I’m just trying to persuade her into giving me sex. How should I help her calm down about this situation?

Love,
Out in the cold

Dear Cold:

You realize your girlfriend’s reaction is way out of the norm, right? That is to say (not that I recommend putting it this way when you do have that conversation), she’s gone a little off-plumb, at least where her risk assessment abilities or lack thereof come into play. Or was she always a little nutty on this topic, as evidenced by the doubling-up of pill plus condoms, which is borderline nutso overkill for birth control purposes (although perfectly rational for disease prophylaxis)?

Look, I have walked through those antiabortion displays. Quite recently I arrived at the restaurant where I was meeting my husband a little pale and shaky from having to walk through two rows of giant, dismembered-fetus posters. They were stationed outside of what I believe was an obstetrician’s convention, and I confess I could neither eat nor engage in small talk until the ghastly images, mixed with my anger at the fact that these assaultive theatrics were aimed at doctors who provide essential health care to women, had faded. But, dude, I got my groove back. There is something going on with your girlfriend that cannot easily be laid at the feet of the antichoice brigade, not that it wouldn’t give me great pleasure to heap blame upon them.

Suggest that your girlfriend go see a nurse practitioner or someone who can calmly walk her through the actual risks (essentially nonexistent) of condom-wrapped, hormonally blocked intercourse. If that plus taking a different route across campus when the crazies are afoot don’t work, well, I hope you like blow jobs. I hear they’re quite popular.

Love,
Andrea

Andrea Nemerson has spent the last 14 years as a sex educator and an instructor of sex educators. In her former life, she was a prop designer. Visit www.altsexcolumn.com to view her previous columns.