(Photo: Getty Images)
Sex, and the body parts involved in it, can be quite messy. Everyone opinions about cleanliness down there but there are some basics that apply to every man. While run-of-the-mill scrubbing up is important, sexual hygiene entails much more than that.
Related: 10 Ways to Spice Up Your Sex Life
"The definition of sexual hygiene, as far as I’m concerned, expands into a lot of other areas," says Bill Taverner,executive director of The Center for Sex Education, "including communication with partners." With that in mind, here are 10 suggestions for how to keep your life between the sheets hygienic and healthy, no matter how dirty it gets.
Related: 9 Ways to Increase Sexual Stamina
(Photo: Mark Lund / Getty Images)
Related: Six Ways to Get Your Sex Drive Back
Wash and Dry
Skin in a man’s genital region is not all that different from other areas of the body, so cleaning once a day is just fine. To avoid jock itch, men should take care to dry off well after swimming, bathing, and sweating. It’s also a good idea to wash up before any intercourse where the penile penetration is involved. This is nowhere near the best way to prevent the spread of infections but it may cut back the chances of transmission to some extent. For men who are uncircumcised, it is important to clean under the foreskin, making sure to wipe away any residue that has built up there. This is mostly a cleanliness issue but it can be more serious. “If there is a lot of accumulation, then it becomes a substance that can also hold onto bacteria, so the risk of a sexually transmitted infection is inflated,” says Taverner.
(Photo: Getty Images)
The Underwear Rules
Let’s hope this tip doesn’t surprise too many people but men should change their underwear daily. This can help avoid infections, irritation, and odor. If you’ve engaged in a particularly sweaty activity, a midday change may even be warranted. Cotton is a good choice to let the boys breathe but not such a smart one for athletic situations, where something with moisture-wicking and good support is recommended.
Related: The 10 Rules of Body Grooming
(Photo: Olaf Tiedje / Getty Images)
Check Them Out
It’s good practice to get into the habit of checking your penis and testicles for any irregularities. Things to look for include bumps, redness, sores, blisters, and warts (although any thing that strikes you as odd is worth bringing to the attention of your doctor). Changes down there can indicates STDs, cancer, and other problems. Many lumps that men find are not serious but they should always discuss them with a medical professional to make sure.
(Photo: Chad Baker / Jason Reed / Ryan McVay / Getty Images)
Communicate With Your Partner
Quality communication between sexual partners is a big part of sexual hygiene. It may be uncomfortable but talking about STDs and sexual health issues from the start can make a big difference down the road. Ideally, partners use protection until they can both get tested and discuss the exclusivity level of their relationship. Even if this isn’t possible, using protection (and using it correctly) is a huge first step in the right direction.
Talk to Your Doc (and Don’t Lie)
It’s recommended that everyone gets a routine physical exam once a year. “The general idea is to have rapport with your doctor,” says Taverner. “Get routine check-ups, don’t let things just happen.” With a whole year’s worth of living to catch up on, it’s vital that patients are open and honest about their sexual history and concerns during these visits. For people who are sexually active, requesting STD tests at this time is a good call too, regardless of if they’ve been using protection. It’s important to note that a woman’s pap smear is not the same as a full STD test, so just because she got a pap, doesn’t mean you’ve both been tested.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Pubic Hair Has Its Purpose
In the last couple of decades, body hair for both men and women has become a grooming battleground. “People didn’t do this in the past, you just accepted the way your genitals naturally had hair,” says Tavener. Women are still significantly more likely than men to go bare down there but most everyone admits to some trimming. While this is a fairly harmless personal preference, people should know that pubic hair does serve some purpose. People believe that pubic hair may help your stuff stay clean and warm, while also adding some comfort during intercourse. Pubic hair (and armpit hair) is also believed to hold onto and diffuse pheromones, helping people attract each other.
(Photo: Jonnie Miles / Getty Images)
Ignoring more extreme activities, many common sexual practices involve some level of skin tearing and bleeding. This includes vaginal and anal sex. “If someone chooses to engage in either behavior, then it’s recommended that they use a condom,” says Taverner. Don’t depend on seeing bleeding in order to know when you might be in trouble. Many of these tears are tiny but even microscopic openings in the skin can contribute to STD transmission. For this reason, condom use is strongly advised for most sexual activities.
(Photo: Frederic Cirou / Getty Images)
Keep Cleaning Simple
Just about everyone has some kind of odor going on down there, no matter how much they clean. Follow the rules of cleaning once a day and after sweaty activities and you should be fine. Soap and water is all that’s needed for the job (even soap is a questionable choice for women), so don’t go hunting for any special products or deodorizers, which could simply create irritation without helping a whole lot. Anything beyond basic washing is unnecessary.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Whether we’re talking about underwear or pants, a looser fit is better for your functioning down there. Restriction and overheating can both affect fertility and contribute to infection, like jock itch. It’s still important to wear supportive clothes during sports but wash yourself and your clothing if you’ve worked up a sweat in order to stay as hygienic as possible.
(Photo: Adrian Samson / Getty Images)
Check Each Other Out
Intimate partners can care for one another by checking each other for signs of infections or other sexual health problems. Oftentimes, partners are the ones who find lumps and bumps that could use attention from a medical professional. Just as with men, women should be notified of any redness, lumps, blisters, or warts. It’s important to note, however, that many STDs do not show any visual symptoms. So, that yearly test is still warranted, even when all looks well.
By Taylor Kubota