The second in a series of the most unusual questions ever sent to the Playboy Advisor (est. September 1960). In this edition, the Advisor answers questions about hair loss, merkins, and the odds of getting an STD from a pair of used underwear.
Q: My lover's bush is thinning. Can Rogaine bring it back?—G.C., Banning, California
Advisor: We doubt your lover will find it enticing if you bring Rogaine instead of lube to bed—and it likely won't have any effect, says Dr. William Rassman of New Hair Institute in Los Angeles. "There's maybe a 10 percent chance it would do anything, and even then it wouldn't be substantial growth," he says. Are there other options? Believe it or not, some people have pubic hair transplants. Rassman completes one or two of the procedures each year, taking follicles from the back of the head and replanting them near the genitals. Although he can't explain it, Rassman says straight hair from the head usually grows wavy (but not curly) below the waist.
Q: Aren't merkins, or a pubic toupee, also an option for thinning pubic hair?—J.M., Memphis, Tennessee
Advisor: True, a merkin may do the trick. Pubic wigs, which date back to at least 1450, were originally used by prostitutes and the elite to cover syphilitic pustules and gonorrheal warts, which tended to be more visible after ill-advised treatments with mercury. Some women also shaved to prevent or treat crabs. With the introduction of penicillin, merkins are now just fashionable. Crafted on the Isle of Merk from nylon or hair (human or yak) and secured with spirit gum or a G-string, they sell for anywhere from $40 for basic curly black to $200 for imported designer shapes such as a heart, strawberry or padlock.
Q: Why does the Advisor perpetuate the myth that women in ancient Greece routinely removed their pubic hair? This fiction is contradicted by centuries' worth of vase paintings and other Greek art showing the thick black pubic hair characteristic of Mediterranean women. The single source that historian Paul Brandt cites for this no-hair canard is a scene in Lysistrata in which a character says she singed her hair with a lamp. Relying on an ancient comedy for credibility is like historians 2,500 years from now citing Jon Stewart as the authority on American grooming habits.—T.C., Lynnwood, Washington
Advisor: You're right on the point—the evidence suggests that women did not routinely go bare. This is according to classics professor Martin Kilmer, who in 1982 argued in The Journal of Hellenic Studies that the Lysistrata passage translates as "short-haired." Likewise, Greek vases show only trimming. Kilmer traces the idea of bare Greeks to a 1968 book that argued men at the time feared the vulva and so made women shave clean, which makes no sense. Instead, women likely plucked, singed and trimmed their pubic hair to expose the vulva, which was considered to be sexually attractive—and still is.
Q: Last summer, before going on vacation, I gave myself a Brazilian. It was painful, but my wife loved it and I kind of liked it too. My wife has been asking if I'm going to do it again, so I found a salon. However, my wife may be upset if another woman touches my penis. What should I do?—W.K., Kansas City, Missouri
Advisor: Tell your wife you want another Brazilian but would rather have it done professionally, and ask if she would arrange it and go with you. We're guessing she isn't as concerned as you think about a waxer wearing latex gloves repositioning your penis, especially since it's for her benefit. But if she is, she can move it herself.
Q: The skin around my asshole is sort of brown. My boyfriend says it's normal, but he's just trying to make me feel better. I am a very clean person. Is there a way to make my anus go back to its natural pink? I've heard you can bleach it.—L.T., Houston, Texas
Advisor: Do not bleach your anus. Despite rumors that asshole brightening is the latest Hollywood craze, it's a stunt that belongs in the next Jackass movie, not in your bedroom. Your boyfriend is right. Brown is your natural color, though your anus may appear more pink when you're aroused.
Q: What's the protocol for reusing sex toys from a previous relationship? A few years back my girlfriend at the time was into anal play, so I purchased several butt plugs. My new girlfriend is also into anal, but I would hate to break out the toys and hear something like, "Has that been up another girl's butt?" Is it acceptable to use sex toys across several relationships? For what it's worth, I have washed them after each use with warm water and soap.—E.J., Chicago, Illinois
Advisor: Spring for new butt plugs, and let her see you unwrap them. Then go shopping; buying toys together is half the fun of a new relationship.
Q: Over the past year I have bought several pairs of used panties offered by women at an online auction site. The panties are vacuum-sealed and shipped through UPS. Are there any health risks? I'm most concerned about the more durable diseases such as chlamydia and genital warts.—G.H., Laramie, Wyoming
Advisor: It's possible you could catch a sexually transmitted disease from a pair of days-old panties, but not probable. According to Peter Leone, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of North Carolina, the most likely STD to survive would be genital warts (there are concerns that warts can be passed via sex toys that aren't sterilized between users). But in this case, you would have to rub the fabric against a skin abrasion to have even a remote chance of infection. A more realistic concern would be intestinal illnesses such as E. coli, especially if you touch the panties to your lips. We suggest you microwave your purchases.
Q: My girlfriend claims that an old boyfriend once gave her poison ivy while they were having sex, before he had any symptoms. Can this really happen?—D.B., Dallas, Texas
Advisor: Why not? Many men who get poison ivy inadvertently spread it to their genitals when they hold their penis to urinate, and from there it can spread just about anywhere. One physician who misdiagnosed a patient's burning, swelling lips as herpes later discovered that she'd gotten poison ivy when she gave her boyfriend a blow job after he'd been hunting. She spent the next few weeks battling a rash and blisters on her lips. His case was more severe.
Q: Can you get an STD from masturbating?—M.S., Katy, Texas
Advisor: No. That's what's so great about it! Although, on further reflection, we suppose a communal sex toy could do you in. In a case reported in Genitourinary Medicine, a skipper contracted gonorrhea from a sex doll he found in the bed of the ship's engineer, who had left in a hurry after ejaculating into it to attend to engine trouble. So avoid doing that.
Q: Why can't you get HIV from a mosquito bite?—R.S., Toms River, New Jersey
Advisor: For several important reasons. First, mosquitoes don't inject you with blood. They inject saliva to stop your blood from clotting so they can suck it out. If you don't smack it dead, the mosquito digests the blood (and any virus in the blood) over the next day or two before looking for its next meal. Hypothetically, a mosquito could be interrupted as it feeds on an HIV-positive person and then, with the virus on its mouth, proceed immediately to another victim or be squashed into a cut. But even then, scientists point out, not enough of the virus would be present to initiate an infection. In fact, by one calculation you'd have to be bitten by 10 million mosquitoes that had just snacked on an HIV carrier to receive a single unit of the virus from an insect's mouth.
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