Mortifying sex moments (and how to survive them)

Illustration by Shana Kaska

The mood is just right. They look into each other’s eyes and finally, desperately kiss. The intensity rises as they tear off each other’s clothes. They move towards climax and — oh, God, no, maybe he didn’t hear it. Maybe we can just pretend it didn’t happen… But it was undeniable. Her vagina had farted. The sound echoes to her very soul.

TV, movies, books, magazines, pornography and friends’ highly edited stories lead many of us to develop rosey expectations when it comes to sex. But an erotic experience without at least one less-than-sexy moment is rare, whether it be a first-time hook-up or an encounter with a long-term partner.

Even though many of these embarrassing or awkward happenings are super common, we may be more likely to confess them to third-party confidants than talk them over with our partner(s). But airing our embarrassments not only eases the tension and potential for shame, it helps normalize the experience. One of the most common questions I hear in my practice is, “Is that normal?” More often than not, the answer is yes.

I asked some fellow Iowans to divulge their most mortifying sexcapades, and boy, did they deliver. I’ve included some of these stories below, along with some tips and context.

Unexpected Sounds

The more powerful the orgasm, the more likely I [am to] fart. I’m not even kidding. I fart about 30% of the time that I orgasm and if it’s a really great full body all out orgasm (usually this is not while someone’s face is down there because I can’t let myself) I’m going to fart and it’s not going to be a little, sweet, demure fart. I’m going to all out power fart in gratitude. Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Nope, you’re not the only one! Passing gas during sex is super common because you tend to be relaxed and there is pressure on the abdomen. It is also common for air to gather in the vagina and, if you are having penetrative sex, for the air to be released, making a farting noise also known as a queef.

Hell, if it’s a sign of a good orgasm, it may even be reassuring to your partner!


My metalhead musician, sometimes really crass college boyfriend and I were messing around one evening after dinner, and I was giving him a blow job. He was getting really into it and started pushing my head onto his dick farther than I would have gone down on him on my own. It was his bad and karmic justice when he activated my gag reflex and got served with a big load of just eaten Kraft Mac ’n’ Cheese all over his belly and crotch. Literal gag to very funny sight gag, and I told him he’d need more than a sock to clean that up with. I actually wasn’t embarrassed, because it was so goofy you couldn’t do anything except laugh. And he was so crass and not into propriety that he also found it hilarious and was not one bit bothered by getting covered in puked-up mac ’n’ cheese. I appreciated him for not having sexual hang-ups, and he always made me feel unselfconscious when we had sex. It is actually a memory I am fond of. Ah, college student food…

Gagging is likely going to happen to some extent when you’re giving a blow job, and if you go too far, you may even puke. This can send you into a shame spiral, or, like this woman, you can laugh it off and let it be a vehicle for more intimacy. Of course, you should never let a partner push you further, literally, than you feel comfortable going.

Screeching Halt

After getting out of a long-term relationship I had my eye on a sexy man who kept appearing places I was at. We flirted and I really wanted some hot moving-on sex. He was into it. He even ripped my panties off (my faves — but he was instantly forgiven because it was hot!) and just as we were starting to have sex… He. Fell. Asleep. I had been in an emotionally abusive relationship where my boyfriend ignored me, so I wondered why anyone would want me and THE FIRST PERSON I TRY TO SLEEP WITH PASSED OUT WHILE HAVING SEX WITH ME. So, yeah. P.S. he was drunk.

Unfortunately, sometimes not everyone involved in the erotic experience is totally present, especially if drinking is involved. It’s hard not to take it personal, and if you’re post-break-up you might be even more vulnerable.

Check your motivations for having sex. Are you having fun? Are you doing it to feel better about yourself? Are you proving to yourself you are still desirable, wanted, loved? Attempting to use sex as a way to build your self-esteem can easily backfire. So, with self-compassion and curiosity, be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re prepared to shake it off if the encounter should turn out to be so-so or even a bit embarrassing.

Hold the Door

My boyfriend’s oldest walked in on us when I was giving his dad a Father’s Day blowjob. He was cumming right as the door swung open and his 7-year-old walked in… we’re hoping he forgot!

We are busy people and many of us have kids that need our time and attention. Maintaining a healthy sex life with children in the house can be difficult, so while precautions should be taken to maintain your privacy, it’s not the end of the world if your kid should find their parent(s) in a compromising position. What can turn an awkward situation into a traumatic one is if we project anger, shame and confusion on the child.

Try to use the encounter as an opportunity to have a sex-positive conversation. Sex is nothing to be ashamed of. Let them lead with any questions they have; you don’t need to give them more information than what they want to know.

Illustration by Shana Kaska

A Scratchy Surprise

My cat licked my friend’s balls once.

There’s more than one kind of surprise visitor. Animals are curious and want to be near us, too. I heard several stories involving intrusive pets, including a dog who laid his head on a woman’s chest while she was getting head.

We might be in the throes of passion and suddenly feel like someone is watching us or trying to snuggle up to their favorite spot at the end of the bed. This is yet another opportunity to laugh and build intimacy. (And maybe find another spot for your pet to chill.)

Sex Sprains

So, my college b/f and I were having a lovely morning until his bits slipped and crushed my taint. I thought I was broken, so did he. The worst part was I was running a 5K that day. I’ve never been in so much pain. But I had to run it because my dad was cheering me on. I couldn’t exactly tell my dad my sex that morning had injured me.

We might get really excited to try a new position, with painful consequences. Check in with each other verbally every step of the way, and pump the breaks if anyone’s bits are hurting. Don’t be too eager — you can always try again later!

Burning Sensation

When I was 22 and working at my first job out of college, my out of town boyfriend came to visit me. One of our favorite inside jokes was, he had great hands. We enjoyed a wonderful evening making chili. After dinner I enjoyed a skilled gentle massage from his “great hands.” I received more than I planned on when the jalapeño residue from his hands created an intense burning sensation on my clit that lasted for several hours. Word to the wise: wear gloves when cooking chili and you want things to get a little hot with your partner.

Gloves — not a bad idea. You might also try washing your hands with grease-cutting dish soap, hot water, milk or vegetable oil to neutralize pepper residue before touching down there.

Illustration by Shana Kaska

Bad Choice of Words

One night I ran into a young lady who I dug. We were out, I don’t remember where, maybe at a bar or just on the street. I was about 23 at the time. She and I went to my friend’s apartment who was out of town. He had a nice apartment downtown and didn’t care if I used it, so I had a key. She and I sat down on the couch and started making out. We were both a bit drunk or tipsy but not shit-faced. After a while shirts were off and we were lying down next to each other. I was fingering her for a while and then it occurred to me that she seemed to be asleep. I didn’t feel comfortable touching her if she wasn’t awake/conscious so I thought I better make sure she’s awake. So I said, for some reason, “What’s my name?” just to see if she’s awake. She bolted right up and said, “What!???” I immediately felt really embarrassed. Why did say that? Why didn’t I just say “Hey, are you awake?” She must have thought I wanted to do some dirty talking or something. I explained that I thought she was asleep and I just wanted to make sure that she was awake. She seemed to accept my explanation but still seemed weirded out by my question. I don’t know where “what’s my name” came from. I know my instinct was right to make sure she was awake and I’m sure she agreed, but my choice of words seemed to put her off. It was no harm done and awkward and at any rate we never hooked up again.

Checking in with your partner and paying attention to both verbal and non-verbal cues for ongoing consent is vital. Some of us are not totally sure how best to do this, but establishing unequivocal consent is never the wrong choice. It can even be sexy — who doesn’t want their partner(s) to make sure they’re comfortable, happy and getting the most out of the encounter they can? When in doubt, stop what you’re doing and stick to the basics: “Do you want to __?”, “Are you into this?”, “Should we stop?” and, when the situation calls for it, “Are you awake?”

Natalie Benway LISW is a psychotherapist in private practice in Coralville. She has a certification in sexuality studies from the University of Iowa and is currently pursuing additional licensure with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 262.