Thu | Jan 18, 2018

What is 'petting'?

Published:Saturday | March 5, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Q Hi, Doc. I am a girl in my mid-teens and boys seem to be getting attracted to me. The thing I want to ask is: What exactly is 'petting'? I know that a number of my friends do it with guys, but they never explain what it is.

I am aware that it is something to do with sex, probably involving the hands. But can it make you pregnant, or can it give her an infection?

A: These matters are quite confusing for young people. Let me try to explain simply. Petting is an American word which first came into widespread use nearly a century ago. It used to mean stroking or patting a pet animal. But after a while, people started using it to mean erotic caressing associated with kissing.

So, 'to pet' means to stroke any part your partner's body, usually while you are kissing each other. When women 'pet' men, they might stroke and pat the shoulders, back and arms. To be frank, though, as the session progresses, it is extremely common for the guy to want the young lady to caress his penis. This is widely known as 'deep petting'.

What about when a male 'pets' a female? Well, after initial hugging and kissing, petting almost always includes stroking and squeezing the woman's breasts. If matters progress to 'deep petting', then the guy will stroke the area around her vaginal opening, or maybe even put his finger inside her.

It is also possible to do oral petting, which involves using the mouth on the sex organs, but I will deal with that on another occasion.

As far as I understand, you do not yet have a boyfriend and so you have never done any petting. Honestly, I feel that is quite a good thing because a girl should never rush into petting.

Now, you ask me whether petting can get you pregnant. That is most unlikely - but it is not totally impossible. The only way in which it could happen would be if the girl stimulated the boy until he orgasmed (climaxed), so that he produced his 'man fluid', and then some of the fluid accidentally got transferred into her vagina.

That can happen, but I do not think I have ever seen a case in which a woman actually became pregnant in this manner.

Next, you ask me whether petting can give you a sexual infection. Well, it is possible to transfer germs with the hands, but it is really not very likely that a sexually transmitted infection could be transmitted from one person to another by hand-petting.

Finally, should you do this? Should you go in for petting?

Well, the time will eventually arrive when you will meet a nice young man who wants to be your boyfriend. He will, undoubtedly, want to kiss you and probably touch your breasts, too. You may be surprised to learn that some boys do not want to go any further than this, but many other guys do.

You may also be surprised by my concluding piece of advice. I would suggest to you (and to other teenage girls) that you do not go in for 'deep petting' (that is, petting involving touching of the genitals) until you are in a safe and stable relationship.

The reason I say this is the fact that in 'deep petting', stimulation of the genitals arouses very powerful emotions and frequently causes orgasms. Often, the young couple gets so carried away that they progress to sexual intercourse - either that night or soon afterwards.

And I remind you that sexual intercourse is liable to cause all sorts of problems - most notably, unwanted pregnancy.

Q I am a guy of 19 and I really don't think that I will ever want children. Could I get a vasectomy here in Jamaica?

A: I doubt if there is a surgeon in the world who would do a vasectomy on a 19-year-old guy. Certainly, you would not get it done in Jamaica. Look, you are far too young to be sterilised. It is very possible that you may change your mind in (say) 10 years' time, so please forget this idea for the moment.

Q Doc, I am afraid that I am very far from being a virgin. Last Saturday night, I had sex with my new boyfriend and began to bleed afterwards. In fact, I have continued to lose a little, bright red blood every day since then. No pain. What is going on?

A: The likelihood is that this young man has accidentally cut you. It is real common among young couples for the guy's fingernail to cause a little 'nick' in the vagina. Fear not! All will be well, but you should let a doctor take a look at you this week.

Q Doctor, my girlfriend is planning to go on the Pill this month. Can you give me an absolute and complete assurance the hormones in the Pill will not harm me?

A: Yes! I can put my hand on my heart and promise you the Pill does not harm the male partner. You can quit fretting.

Q I am female, 17. My mother knows that I am sexually active and so she wants to force me to go on that contraceptive injection.

Is she entitled to do this?

A: No, she is not, and no doctor will give you the jab against your will. It would be illegal.

Please sit down and talk with your mom about this. Obviously, she wants to protect you against pregnancy. Maybe you could decide to choose some contraceptive method that is acceptable to you.

Also, please consider the risks of being sexually active at your young age. Could you simply try and stop for a while?

Q: I am a guy of 16 and I have to admit to you that I can't help masturbating - around once for the week. Will this affect my ability to have sexual intercourse, as I have heard?

A: No, it will not. I don't know who has been telling you this story, but it is just foolishness.

Q I recently went to bed with a much older lady (around 32, in fact), and she put some sort of peppermint thing inside herself before she let me enter her. Doc, this produced some nice 'fizzy' sensations, I admit, but, the next day, I developed a real itchy rash on my penis. Why?

A: This is almost certainly an allergic reaction to the peppermint product. People should realise that human sexual tissues are pretty delicate, so it is not a good idea to put unusual substances in contact with them. Please let a doctor check your organ, but the itchy rash will probably go away real soon.

Q Doctor, could I get chlamydia from a vibrator?

A:This is unlikely, but just possible if the vibrator had been inside someone else. If you suspect you have chlamydia, please ask a doctor to fix you up with a urine test for this germ.

n Email questions to Doc at and read more in the 'Outlook Magazine' tomorrow.