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8
Dec


Men make love more intensely at 20, but make love better, however, at 30.

What could be more encouraging than a professional opinion agreeing with Catherine — unless, of course, it’s confirmation that you can expect the same into your 40s, and 50s, and perhaps, into your 60s?

“Passion knows no age,” says psychologist Bernard Apfelbaum, Ph.D. ”People are amazed that when they’re in their 60s, they can get a crush on someone — be in their 60s and feel like they did in high school.”

But does aging affect a man’s sexual performance? We asked Apfelbaum, who’s director of the Berkeley Sex Therapy Clinic in Berkeley, Calif.

“If a man is healthy and doesn’t have any relationship problems, his sexual functioning shouldn’t be affected. This usually doesn’t come into play until a man reaches his 60s. Actually, the differences between men themselves are greater than what happens with age,” he stressed.

“You can look at it as sexuality vs. sensuality,” he added, confirming that men peak sexually in their late teens and early 20s. ”Earlier on, men are more hormonally driven. As they age, what arouses them is more psychological. They’re looking at being in the moment, in touching and connection in a relationship, and for lack of a better term, less interested in getting off.”

Then what makes so many men turn to younger women? we asked. Apfelbaum’s answer:

“The problems come up when men try and recapture the sex of their youth. Many men get anxious if they can’t perform in exactly the same way they used to. They look for younger women, fantasies, and even pornography as a way of going back.”

Finally, we asked Dr. Apfelbaum whether he would agree with the following statement:

“There will be sex after death, we just won’t be able to feel it.”

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1
Dec


Sexuality education starts in infancy and continues through childhood. It’s in adolescence, though, that we develop conscious models of proper sexual functioning, sexual goals and sexual relationships. Many people, unfortunately, retain that adolescent model throughout their lives, even though both our relationships and our bodies have changed by adulthood.

So although we may want something different from sex, and are probably using different equipment, we’re making love using the same old conceptual model. And that often leads to disappointment. Perhaps we don’t function as we used to, and we don’t know how to create satisfaction. Or even if we function the way we used to, we don’t get the satisfaction we expected.

Thus, it’s crucial to update your internal models of sexuality. You wouldn’t run a new computer on old software; well, all adults need an updated version of their sexual software. That might include:

  • New assumptions about what you need to get excited
  • New criteria for choosing a partner
  • New expectations about your sexual functioning
  • New ideas about what “good sex” includes
  • New communication skills for when sex doesn’t go the way you want

Ultimately, we all need adult ideas about how our adult bodies should function sexually, and the kinds of emotional communication we want with a partner. As we age, our bodies often become less dependable, and our sexual functioning more vulnerable to disruption. It’s critical to de-emphasize the role of our genitalia in sexual satisfaction.

Being stuck with the old software limits how well our sexual hardware will work – and no amount of anger, shame or regret will change that. What makes it hard to change our software?

We don’t want to admit we’re getting older. We’re afraid we won’t be sexual if we can’t depend on our genitalia. We don’t have exciting models of adult sexuality, so we’re stuck with adolescent ones. We’re afraid we’ll be abandoned.

Change your software so your body’s hardware can work as well as possible – and so you can get the emotional satisfaction that adult sexuality has to offer.

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24
Nov


Midlife Myth: Your sex life has seen better days, and decline is all you have to look forward to.

If sex is just about raging hormones and feats of stamina, youth takes the prize.

But there is so much more to the complete picture of sex and intimacy, says Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld, author of The New Male Sexuality.

Zilbergeld believes the following are more important than age:

  • The quality of openness, sensitivity and communication in your relationship.
  • The ability to focus on both giving and receiving.
  • The level of comfort and trust shared by you and your partner.
  • Your ability to be “present in the moment” without letting expectations or goals rule you.

With experience can come ever-increasing pleasure. “The lucky ones who have had the benefit of a sensitive, longtime partner — or a number of such partners — know they can keep growing sexually,” says Zilbergeld.

From a “performance” standpoint, there is a difference between young, old and those in between, says Zilbergeld, an Oakland-based sex therapist who currently is working on a myth-busting book about sex in later life.

“What is important is to be a great lover, not a great performer,” he says. “That takes years or decades to get really good at it.”

People in their early adult years tend to leave a lot to be desired in the “great lover” department, he adds.

Zilbergeld alludes to a study of middle-aged people in which nearly four out of 10 rated their sex not as equal or inferior to when they were young adults, but as “better than ever.”

Naturally, there are important health considerations that may be thrown into the mix. But healthy adults of all ages have the ability to grow sexually.

Bottom line: Sex is more about relating and mutual pleasure-giving than about objective standards of performance.

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23
Nov


Enlightened couples are coached to perpetually ask: “how does that make you feel?” We’re taught to believe that an intimate relationship is about active listening and highly evolved communication — all the time.

While we shouldn’t throw those ideals out altogether, sometimes couples say crappy things to each other. And so what if they do? Maybe it’s time we reined in our New Age urge to say everything just so, and learned the fine art of letting it go.

In a close, healthy relationship, off-color comments are more likely a reflection of a negative mood than a true crisis, according to Richard Carlson, a psychologist and author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What.

Let’s assume for the moment we’re not talking about a pattern of hostility, or true passive aggressive behavior that shouldn’t be ignored.

There is a reason unfortunate remarks are a normal part of couplehood. When you live with someone through it all — solving problems together, traveling together, sleeping together and cursing the bills together — you experience the person sans social politeness.

“The more time we spend with someone, the more likely we are going to see them in their low moods,” writes Carlson.

Don’t overanalyze the specific words and phrases made offhandedly by your mate, urges Carlson. “So often, just letting others alone while they are in a low state of mind is all they need,” he says. “The last thing they need or want is someone questioning or arguing with them.”

Not every imperfect exchange needs to lead to a therapy session, says self-esteem author Jerry Minchinton.

We tend to be more courteous and sensitive around the people we don’t know so well, he says. This is because nearly all occasions with friends and acquaintances are by definition more formal and circumspect than those with a loved one.

When we stop worrying about politeness and flattery, we start to get at the good stuff. “[Heated discussions] aren’t all bad,” asserts Minchinton. “Getting the raw material — even if some of it has to be discounted — means you are at a deeper level.”

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17
Nov


Reader Question:

I used to have an active sex life, but lately I have no interest in sex with my girlfriend. Part of it may be because I feel criticized and unappreciated by her. She often compares me to ex-lovers. I’ve turned to magazines and fantasies to fulfill my needs. Is something wrong with me or what?

My Answer: Your question seems to be, “Since I’ve been feeling sexually pressured I’ve lost my desire for my partner. What should I do?”

This is a common experience. Of course it’s alarming. But it’s only confusing because, like many people, you assume that your sexual desire for someone should remain constant in the face of strong, repetitive, unpleasant emotions. This is simply unrealistic.

You mention many reasons to be turned off to your girlfriend: feeling criticized, unappreciated and compared to ex-lovers. I’m sure you feel angry, hurt, powerless and defensive.

Notice, however, that your sexuality has not turned off altogether: You still masturbate and fantasize about other women. It sounds as if you are functioning quite reasonably under the circumstances. You feel sexual, but you hesitate to connect sexually with a girlfriend with whom you don’t feel safe.

There is important information in this experience. When you stop desiring someone — or your body stops cooperating — there’s a reason. It’s a good sign that you’re sensitive enough to be so bothered by the hostility and lack of intimacy in this relationship. What should you do? First you need to decide if you want to try to repair the relationship. If you do, ask your girlfriend if she will do it with you. If she insists that the problem is all you, or demands that you fix it yourself, ask her again — urgently and without criticism. If she still won’t agree to work with you, the relationship is shot and it’s time to move on.

If she is interested in working on things with you, a couples counselor may be able to help. Go see one right away. Fortunately, there’s plenty two people can do without a counselor. Talk honestly about the kind of relationship you each want. Talk about what you need from each other. Talk about what gets in the way of giving that to each other.

For example, you can tell her that you love sex with her, and imagine having it, say, once a week or so. If this contrasts too drastically with what she wants, it’s time to separate. But if she’s interested in great sex about once a week, or you can imagine wanting sex more often when you’re feeling close, then you two can talk about how to create that. In your case, feeling accepted for exactly who you are and establishing friendly ways of talking to each other are important aspects of feeling sexually alive and available.

This kind of conversation is often difficult, time-consuming and frustrating. But grown-up relationships cannot thrive without such conversations. The only alternatives are an angry, drama-filled relationship, or a very quiet, lonely house.

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3
Nov


This week’s topic is cunnilingus — pleasuring a woman’s vulva with your mouth.

Although there are lots of slang names and funny stories about the practice, it’s something that many, many people love. And since both parties frequently enjoy it equally, I don’t usually talk about “giving” and “receiving” cunnilingus. I prefer discussing how people share it.

One of the best things about cunnilingus is that it’s a kind of sex that requires neither an erection nor birth control. Many women say it’s the best (or only) way for them to orgasm. It can, of course, be extremely intimate, and for people with chronic pain in their wrists, hips or elsewhere, it may be a particularly comfortable way to be sexual.

Another thing people like about oral sex is that it’s a chance to stimulate the clitoris directly, which can create intense pleasure for one or both partners. And believe it or not, ladies, your partner probably enjoys your smell and taste — in some cases, wildly enjoys it. If your partner says this is true, believe it. Why else would s/he be so enthusiastic?

While some people who do the licking are quite proud of their technique, others feel uncertain or insecure. As with virtually all things sexual, the main trick is to ask your partner: What do you like? How, exactly, would you like me to do it? How can I tell when you’re really enjoying it? Will you please tell me if you’d like it differently?

Another trick is to make sure you’re comfortable when you start. A neck or knees that start out bent at a funny angle will soon ache — and make you wish that your partner would hurry up and climax. A woman whose body is chilly while she’s being nibbled will find it hard to let go and really enjoy the attention.

Many women shy away from cunnilingus. Why? Various women report that they feel self-conscious about their smell or taste, fear that their vulva is unattractive, feel pressure to orgasm quickly, don’t like losing face-to-face intimacy, or simply don’t believe their partner enjoys it too. This is a shame. You don’t have to look like a model to taste good.

You and your partner can create plenty of intimacy with sounds and caresses. And most of us — male and female alike — could use some practice just lying back and sharing our body. It’s hard to tune out that voice that says, “I’m being selfish, and my partner’s bored,” but good sex depends on it.

Never blow in the vagina, as this could cause medical problems. Other than that, pretty much anything goes — licking (every which way, varying the pressure), gentle sucking (very gentle), chewing (more gums than teeth), humming (deep notes are best), and the occasional finger for variety.

If your partner smells stronger than you’d like, get a warm, damp washcloth and prepare her shrine for worship. Thank her for the opportunity to serve her. She’ll never forget it.

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27
Oct


Role-playing involves a special relationship to sexual fantasy. It requires that you consciously acknowledge your fantasy, and that you share that fantasy with a partner who consents to participate in it.

The simplest kind of role-playing involves a person pretending to be different than he or she typically is. A meek person may pretend to be demanding; a voracious person may pretend to be inhibited.

Some role-playing involves specific roles or even scripts: doctor/patient, queen/foreign prince, Barbra Streisand/Ross Perot. Couples can simply imagine themselves in these roles and speak a sentence or two about them. “You haven’t had a checkup in two years. I better examine your prostate.” Or they can get more involved, speaking in role for most of the sexual encounter. A few simple props such as an apron or baseball cap can make these games even more engaging.

Erotic role-playing requires certain psychological and relationship tools. You have to believe that you’re eligible to step outside the usual limits of your everyday personality. You have to not care how you look or sound. You have to transcend the idea that certain words, behaviors, or attitudes belong only to people who are “sexy.” You and your mate have to trust that you won’t be judged by each other.

Another challenge involves reentering real life after role-playing. The couple who can look at each other after playing mentor’s wife/apprentice and agree that “we can do anything we want, now let’s go make dinner” have an important tool for keeping their relationship exciting.

Role-playing contains no predictions about how people really wish to behave; in fact, the contrary is often true. Role-playing is a safe arena in which to live another life without any of its disadvantages.

Ultimately, erotic role-playing is a way to celebrate two of our most divine gifts: imagination and sexuality.

Tips:

  • If you’re not sure how your mate will handle your fantasies, ask about it when you’re not in bed.
  • If your role-play involves power games, decide on a word that means “I need to stop the game for a minute.”
  • Don’t assume you know what your mate really wants in life based on fantasies or role-play.

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