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Archive for May, 2010

We are learning more and more about what motivates women to have sex — enough to know that we still don’t know that much.

We do know that our motivations change with our situations. What motivates us when we’re young and single is very different from what motivates us when we’re older, and in long-standing relationships, or older and single.

So when we suffer from lack of desire — are we missing the sort of drive we had when we were teenagers? And is it possible we just haven’t found a new motivation for sex?

The more we learn from women, the more it seems that for us sex doesn’t always begin with lust, but instead starts in our hearts and minds. We engage in our heads first, decide to have sex, and then with enough mental and emotional stimulation, our genitals respond. The older we grow, the more this is true. Age and maturity bring a new game into the bedroom.

For us, having sex is less an urge than a decision. One we can choose to make and then act upon. When we decide to say yes instead of no, decide to schedule sex instead of waiting (perhaps for a very long time…) for our body to spontaneously light on fire, decide to engage with media or methods that will put us in the mood rather than wait for romantic moments to happen along, we’re using our heads to keep sex in our relationships.

Deciding to be intimate unlocks the pleasure. And the more sex we decide to have, the more sex we will feel like having. That’s the secret to regular bonding.
Why just decide to do it? This much we know:
* Sex leads to a longer life.
* Sex, like all exercise, helps protect us against heart attack and possibly stroke.
* Hormones released during sex may decrease the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
* It bolsters the immune system.
* Sex before bed helps us get to sleep.
* Of course, sex burns calories.
* Sex can help relieve chronic pain, including migraines.
* An active sex life is closely correlated with overall quality of life.
* Good sex can protect us against depression.
* Good sex reduces stress and increases self-esteem.
* Sex with your significant other stimulates feelings of affection, intimacy and closeness.

Making sex a focus in your life as you get older doesn’t make you unusual. A study by AARP found that 66% of women age 45-59; 48% of women age 60-74 and 44% of women over the age of 75 believe that a satisfying sexual relationship is important to their quality of their life.

We think those numbers would be higher if women knew they could engage in thoroughly satisfying sex without waiting around for desire. Just by using their heads.

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So you arrive home from a hectic day at the office, and there’s the box you’ve been waiting for, with your new lube, a vaginal moisturizer, and those dilators that have promised to return your sex life from painful to normal. “Oh boy!” you think. “Orgasm tonight!”

Please, please, please, slow down. I know it’s hard to wait when you’ve been anxious to find an answer.

The conditions that cause painful intercourse in the first place can be comforted and in many cases reversed, but only with practice and time. Practice and time that are worth taking, when the result is the kind of sexual intimacy you want.

Picture a young athlete. She is powerful, flexible, supple, and graceful. She practices her sport every morning and night. Then she graduates, gets a desk job, has a couple of kids, spends nearly every waking hour sitting at her desk or in her mini-van, carpooling. Her fitness slowly drains away.

One day, she decides to get back into shape. If she tries to complete a workout at the level she did when she was in peak condition, she will get hurt. No doubt about it. She knows, or will soon realize, that she must start slowly. She’ll get her fitness back, but only if she works within her comfort zone. When things start to hurt, she needs to back off. Keep moving, but slow down, decrease the intensity.

Please approach your new sexual aids, your vibrator of course, your vaginal dilators, especially, with this same understanding. Pushing too hard, going too fast, will hurt you. You are trying to restore pleasure, and I recommend letting comfort and pleasure be your guide.

As always, if the pain just won’t resolve, do discuss it with your doctors. Finding the real reason for the pain is the fastest way to resolve it.

Meantime, put the box down. Have a healthy dinner. Take a nice bath. Relax. Then begin, slowly.

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Turning 50 is like walking through a doorway into another world. Suddenly we notice our bodies, primarily because they are not functioning as effortlessly as they used to.

Welcome to the maintenance years. So many things we used to do without effort or thought now require both. What we used to take for granted, we don’t any more. The best part about being our age is no longer wasting our time on things that aren’t very important to us. Now the game is maintaining our ability to do the things that do matter.

In my practice, I see so many women who are struggling to maintain their bodies, to age gracefully even as they are fighting to keep their good health: Women fighting cancers, auto-immune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure. Or perhaps their partners are fighting these illnesses. The fight requires treatments that are known libido-killers. Treatments that sap our strength, surgeries and therapies that leave us in pain. When this happens, our sex lives can take a back seat pretty quickly.

Without meaning to, without even realizing it, illness can leave couples growing physically distant just when they need physical affection more than ever.

The best cure I know for this situation is talking. Maybe you’ve never openly discussed it. Maybe it embarrasses you. But try to move past your embarrassment, because this is an important topic. To be at our healthiest, humans do need emotional support. Physical affection helps sick people get well and caregivers remain committed. If you need help broaching the subject, your clergy, a good couples counselor or sex therapist can help you comfortably move through that conversation.

One thing I like couples to consider when facing a debilitating illness: Consider expanding your notion of sexual contact well beyond intercourse or orgasm. Holding, snuggling, looking into one anothers’ eyes, kissing, fondling. All of these can do wonders for both of you, elevating your mood, keeping the ties strong, making a sick person feel like getting well!

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Painting by Christine Stephens

I hate to be the first to break it to you, but your Mom had sex. She did. And it’s possible she even enjoyed it.

Take a sip of water. A deep breath.

It’s just possible that she’s still enjoying sex. That is, if you’re lucky, and she’s also enjoying good health.

There does seem to be some wierd social taboo that prevents many of us (Not all! Yay!) from seeing our moms as sexual creatures. And it’s odd that we are able and willing to self-hypnotize. We can perform on ourselves and among our siblings a kind of surgically precise amnesia that allows us to imagine our moms without a sex life, without genitals, okay, we may be able to grant them their vaginas, but we must draw the line at clitorii. They have no nipples on their non-functioning breasts, of course, beyond the obvious pillow-when-you’re-sick-or-hurting function.

But mom as an object of sexual appeal? Mom as a lusty lover? Mom enjoying a romp? Maybe YOUR mom, but certainly not MY mom.

And that’s pretty much how I thought until I realized that those pretty orbs by my mother’s bedside were not really hand-exercisers but ben-wa balls. And that vibrator wasn’t actually to treat her stiff neck. That the marble egg collection my grandmother passed down to us? Quite possibly her collection of kegel weights.

I have another keepsake. A fabulous picture of my mom in an early prototype of a bikini (no stretch fabric in those days). She’s posing, bending backward over a rock on a rocky beach in Lausanne. I think in the photo, she’s possibly 18 or 19. She took the photo to give to my dad, to carry in his wallet as he went off to war. The way young girls do still to this day.

And this painting, above, is done by my friend, Christine, from a photo of Mom around the same time. She’s eating watermelon with my Dad. And, well clearly, she’s not worried about where the juices may fly.

We didn’t invent sex. Our moms did. You might think about that this coming mother’s day.

(Say, we’re having a nice mother’s day sale, too. Great gifts for the sexy moms you know.)

Now, about Dad…..

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