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Age is just a number

Q: I've got a problem with video pornography. I am offended by most of it, although I have tried to watch it with an open mind. I find the degradation and tendency toward subtle hate deeply hurtful. In addition, my boyfriend watches it almost excessively and he seems more interested in it than in me. I've tried watching it both alone and with him. Now he watches without me. Our physical contact has diminished over the course of a year, so porn is not a stimulant for us. I'd consider ending this relationship if it were just him, but now I feel inadequate as an older woman when compared to the young women in the videos. Men my age all tell me this desire is obvious and normal in all men. I am so self-conscious of a man's critical assessment of my aging body that I can't enjoy sex the way I used to when I wasn't so aware of how men like young, perfect bodies. Can you suggest a way to come to terms with this?

A: There are several problems here — your relationship, your feelings about yourself, your beliefs about men's desires and pornography itself. The most important one is your feelings that you are not only in competition with porn actors, but that you lose out to them. Ask the men you know not whether they find young bodies sexy, but what they find desirable in a real partner. Recently when someone posed the question on my Web site "Would you prefer a younger partner or an older one?" as many men said "older" or "the same age" as said "younger," citing shared tastes, life experiences and sophistication — qualities that come only with years. It would be easier to feel sexy if your man helped you feel that way, but you cannot base your self-worth on what may well be his psychological problem. Begin gathering information, flirt a bit, talk to your man and let him know the two of you have a problem — not just him, not just you. Last of all, if you care to, there are many erotic videos made by women for women, that may help the two of you get back in sync.

Q: I am a 35-year-old male married to a wonderful, beautiful lady. Even though this lady I love is so wonderful to me, when we're in bed having sex, she just lies there as if to say, "hurry up, so I can go to sleep." Her reply to my asking her what I can do to turn her on is, "I am turned on by you," and that's it. I masturbate a lot and have even considered stepping outside our marriage for some pleasure. Is there any advice you can give?

A: Don't whine, don't blame, but do make sure she hears how unhappy you are and what you want specifically — more sex, more enthusiasm on her part or different activities. Hear her out. Maybe it's very hard for her to talk about sex. Maybe she doesn't know what she needs or wants or is afraid to ask for something you can't or won't provide. If your wife is really so wonderful, then she will willingly go with you to consult a sex therapist for both of your sakes.

Q: In the past three years, I have encountered a strange situation several times. My vagina became swollen while I was engaged in foreplay. For two or three days following this, my vagina remained inflamed, causing me great discomfort. I went to the doctor the first time this happened; he said nothing was wrong with me. The issue still concerns me. Is this vaginitis? What causes it? How can it be treated? Is it possible I have chlamydia?

A: The only thing I can tell you for sure is that your doctor is a dolt. A painful, inflamed vagina is not a nothing and could be several different somethings. The next time this happens, visit a more sympathetic gynecologist. Isadora Alman, author of Doing It: Real People Having Really Good Sex, is a board-certified sexologist and a California-licensed marriage-and-family therapist. Contact her at askisadora@aol.com. Her Sexuality Forum is at

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