Kaylee Wolfe is a sexuality educator, advocate for survivors of sexual and relationship violence, clinic escort, and birth doula. She thinks you should get tested.

Not every sex question takes a whole column to answer. This week, I’m reaching into a stack of miscellaneous questions from past events and workshops to bring you a rapid-fire rundown of three queries.

“When someone with a penis comes inside someone with a vulva, is it normal for it to come out hours after ‘the deed’? Even if you pee.”

Yup, that’s 100 percent normal.

Although sex is good for far more than just procreation, successful reproduction is still one of the goals around which human bodies have evolved. For microscopic lil sperm to have a shot at traversing the relatively vast distance between the vagina and fallopian tubes, they need some time to get going. If semen containing sperm was to immediately run out of the body after sex, they wouldn’t stand much of a chance at all.

The front-facing human anatomy cross-sections you might remember from your high school biology textbook can be pretty misleading when it comes to understanding reproductive anatomy in three dimensions, as they tend to give the impression that the vagina is a straight, downward baby chute. Actually, the vagina is angled gently downward within the pelvis. And at the deepest part of the vagina, right around the cervix, is a little pocket called the fornix where semen pools after ejaculation during intercourse.

That’s why it takes a while for all of your partner’s semen to leave your body after sex — parts of your own body are actively working to keep it there. Some of it might come out while you urinate because of the relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles, but since your vagina and urethra are separate tubes it doesn’t have the effect of flushing things out.

“Why is it so hard to pee after sex?”

When a person is aroused, blood flow to the genitals increases. In people with a penis, the result is an erection. In people with a vulva, the clitoris engorges and the labia may swell, open slightly, and even change color. But those changes are just what we can see from outside the body. The answer to this question lies with what’s happening within.

The spongy erectile tissue of the penis originates inside the body. When an erection occurs, those internal tissues also fill with blood, which puts pressure on nearby internal structures--including the urethra. Both semen and urine exit the body through the same route, but they don’t play well together. Sperm require a basic environment to survive, and urine is highly acidic. To keep them separated, those internal erectile tissues essentially pinch off the portion of the urethra that leads to the bladder. This keeps sperm safe, but can make it hella difficult to pee until the erection subsides and the segment of the urethra that leads to the bladder is open again.

If you have a vulva, a similar mechanism can make it feel like a struggle to do your UTI-prevention due diligence and pee right after sex. Spongy tissues analogous to the erectile tissues of the penis engorge during arousal, putting pressure on nearby structures, including — you guessed it — the urethra.

If you’re having trouble peeing immediately after sex, don’t stress too much. Just give yourself a few minutes for your body to switch out of sex mode and try again.

“How long does it take for cum to dry in open air? (And become non-potent, I mean.)”

To survive, sperm need warm, wet environments. Once they begin to dry out, they lose motility (the ability to move) and die pretty quickly. Exactly how long they can survive in open air will vary based on the circumstances, but about 20 minutes is generally accepted as the maximum interval they can make it. If semen is completely dried on bedding, clothing, or a surface, you can safely assume that the sperm it contains are no longer viable.

While they’re fairly wimpy in the outside world, it’s important to remember that sperm are much hardier inside the body. They can survive up to five days in the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes, sticking around to potentially cause a pregnancy even if ovulation occurs days after unprotected sex. That’s just one reason why it’s so important to work with your partner(s) to correctly and consistently use effective contraceptive methods if you want to avoid pregnancy.

Have more questions about cum? Send ’em to kayleewolfetwss@gmail.com and you just might get an answer in a future column.

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