The H-spot: Your Sex Questions Answered

June 24, 2013

                                     Art by Ryan Huertas,

Welcome to Hyphen’s The H-spot column, where Hyphen drops mad knowledge on readers’ questions about the nasty and other prurient delights. Our experts consist of sex goddess Nadia Cho, intrepid medical doctors Monica Hahn and Dharushana Muthulingam, and diva extraordinaire Barbie. Each week, we’ll feature questions that cover health, LGBTQ, and various other burning topics that our prudish parents would disown us from asking.

Feel free to send over more sex questions to Abigail Licad, our fledgling editor-assassin of all things repressed and taboo, at abigail.licad [at] (abigail.licad[at]

Ready to straighten out the kinks in our thoughts on sex and sexuality?  Let’s do it!


I know a few people who are in an open relationship. For example, while my aunt's girlfriend does not want my aunt to sleep with other women, she doesn't mind my aunt sleeping with men. I also have a few straight friends who sleep with several partners. My question is, how do open sexual relationships work? How can couples be ok with dating other people?

--Legs Wide Shut

Dear Wide Shut,

The central idea behind making open relationships work is that a partner’s
sexual or emotional intimacy with another person  doesn’t always mean that your partner cares
any less about you. Oftentimes, it’s possible to be attracted to more than one
person. The fact that your partner is attracted to another person doesn’t make
you any less attractive or lovable.

Monogamy makes love seem like a finite resource and we’re conditioned by
media representations of love to feel jealous when a partner is remotely
attracted to someone else. But just as you’re capable of loving many friends
and family members, it’s possible to love multiple people in the romantic sense
as well.  

That being said, non-monogamous partners acknowledge that they have desires
to date or have sex with other people, and understand that their partners’
extra desires don’t reflect any personal inadequacies. Commitment does not
always equal sexual exclusivity. Honest communication is crucial, especially
with regard to boundaries that draw what each partner is not comfortable with.
Monogamy works for some people, but it doesn’t for many others. Both people
have to believe it’s possible to love more than one person and if you believe
it really is, it will be.


                Sex goddess Nadia Cho

Nadia Cho is an undergrad at UC Berkeley majoring in psychology, with strong interests in sociology, Asian American Studies and gender and women’s studies. She was a Sex on Tuesday columnist at UC Berkeley’s student paper The Daily Californian. She continues teach sex positive thinking and living at her blog Her hobbies include drinking coffee, playing with cats and being sassy. She secretly loves Tumblr and kale. 


Can sex be a form of exercise? I heard you can burn calories through sex. If so, how do I do that and what's the average amount of calories I can burn?

--Let's Get Physical

Dear Let's Get Physical,

Great to hear you are working on both your cardiovascular and sexual well being!

The number of calories burned during physical activity varies from person to person, depending on factors such as body weight, duration of activity and strenuousness.

In the past, these numbers have been overestimated. Recently, a New England Journal of Medicine review estimates that an “average” 150-lb man in his thirties burns only 3.5 calories per minute, and that an “average” sexual encounter lasts only 6 minutes. Therefore, the “average” sexual encounter burns only 20 calories. Another study in the American Journal of Cardiology compared heart rates during sex versus treadmill workouts. They found that people do not reach the same heart rate level via sex that they would have achieved through treadmill exercise (men reach only 72% and women 64%).

So although sex fans the fire of your loins, it only modestly lights the fires of your metabolism (For variations in sexual positions, the Sex Calories Calculator App provides more precise estimates).

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise for preventing cardiovascular disease. If this is attempted through sex, you would need to have aerobic, heart-rate raising sex for at least 30 minutes per day for 5 days a week. If this is your usual regimen -- GOOD JOB! However, many find a zumba class more convenient.

Bottomline: "Sexercise" doesn’t burn as many calories as we’d like to hope, so don’t swap out your gym membership for other pleasurable undertakings just yet. We encourage working up a sweat both at the gym and between the sheets -- evidence shows that getting to the gym can improve sexual enjoyment, as better blood circulation means better-functioning sex organs. Good luck!  

--Monica and Dharushana

Doctors Monica Hahn and Dharushana Muthulingam

Monica Hahn (L) is a resident physician at the UCSF Family and Community Medicine Residency at San Francisco General Hospital.  She received her MD from UCSF School of Medicine and her MPH from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.  She has been involved in community-based youth empowerment advocacy, as well as HIV prevention projects.  She is currently interested in adolescent health, HIV prevention and sexual health. She enjoys capoeira, Afro-Latin dance, and Brazilian percussion.

Dharushana Muthulingam (R) is a resident physician in the department of Internal Medicine of the Kaiser Medical Center in Oakland. She studied medicine at UCSF and public health at UC Berkeley.  She is interested in infectious disease, healthy aging, health justice and working with patients to live the good and flourishing life. In her spare time, she has been attempting to read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. After two years, she is happy to report she is almost half way done. 


I am a lesbian who lives in Portland and I am having trouble in the dating scene. I am attracted to femme lesbians, but it seems that everyone I encounter strives to be more masculine. What's so wrong with being feminine and putting on some lipstick once in a while? Do you agree that there’s something inherently sexist in these folks’ desire to be more masculine? Or am I being totally transphobic?

--Lipstick Lesbian Lover

Dear Lipstick Lesbian Lover,

Portland has got to be the queerest place on earth, right? It’s one of the
lesbian sweet spots -- a place where women of endlessly varied persuasions converge.

Nothing is wrong with preferring “feminine” women to more “masculine” types,
but keep in mind that conceptualizing sexuality in such a feminine-masculine
binary conforms to narrow, oppressive gender norms currently dictated by
dominant society.   

There might not be a lot of lipstick around but have you tried

In other words, have you considered diversifying? Go explore the queer
rainbow. If you haven’t tried dating more “masculine” lesbians, perhaps you
should give it a try and see what happens. You may be surprised.  

On the other hand, don’t force yourself to date other types if this really isn't your thing. At the end of the day, the bottom line is that your
preferences are your choice and your business, so do what makes you happy.
Don’t fret too much about the meanings and
implications of what you prefer. Remember, how you choose to experience and
enjoy your existence is subject to nothing else except your own power and self-opinion.
So long as you take pride in doing your own thing, you are a big TURN

To increase your chances of meeting someone you are into, DO explore
non-competitive group activities from community organizing, working-out, hiking
to crafting. Come off-line from PDX femme web portals and go out clubbing,
karaoke or join a community-supported agriculture (CSA) group. Attend art walks,
burlesque shows, cocktails and sleepovers with galpals on the go. Believe me,
there are lots of feminine-presenting lipstick lesbians I’ve known who have
found their more “femme” dates this way. Love comes your way, because you live your
life your way.


Barbie is your sister and pal in all things love and taboo. NYC-based, she loves long walks on city streets, watching sunsets over the river, farming and looking for the next big thing. She's your wellness connector, media maker, and fellow troublemaker. She loves her food homestyle, hands down. If you're ever in NYC, look her up to chat and chew.


Abigail Licad


Abigail Licad is one big FOB and damn proud of it. She grew up in the Philippines and immigrated to San Leandro, CA at age 13.  She has a BA from University of California, Berkeley and a master's degree in literature from Oxford University. Her poetry and book reviews have appeared in Calyx, Borderlands, The Critical Flame, and the LA Times, among othersShe has formerly served as Hyphen's editor in chief.