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Do-it-yourself help

Q: If a woman masturbates often, will her vagina loosen? I hear men telling each other that they like girls with tight vaginas. I am a virgin; if I spread it often, will it seem that I am not a virgin? Some people say that a tampon is for nonvirgins. I know this is false, but can fingering yourself make it seem that you are not a virgin? Would people be able to tell? Would your vagina be unaffected by masturbation? Can masturbation cause anything like a penis can? What is the wetness I feel down there after rubbing myself?

A: It is possible to break the hymen (the virginal membrane) in many ways, even by riding a bicycle, so having or not having one will not be proof of anything. If you are careful about what you insert — that it's clean, has no sharp edges, is easily retrievable, and you are not using it anally and then vaginally without washing — you will be perfectly safe and you will not stretch yourself. The wetness you feel is the natural lubrication of arousal. I’d suggest getting a good basic sexuality text and reading it for answers you might not even yet have questions for. I like The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex by Winks and Semans, The New Our Bodies, Ourselves by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective and the little-known but much-loved The Cartoon Guide to Sex by Gonick and DeVault.

Q: I am 61 years old and my wife is 57. We have been married for 37 years. My sex drive is still very strong and I don't need medication to help me perform. My wife's sex drive has slowed down almost to a halt. We have discussed the matter and she is aware of my need for more sex. The lack of sex is affecting both my mental and physical health. I don't want to have an affair, so I have been checking out escort services in my area. The going rate for a "companion" is around $300 an hour; the money is no problem for me. What I am concerned about are safety issues. No doubt the women will insist on the use of condoms. But what about oral activities? Would I be taking too many risks to get involved with escorts?

A: Most high-priced sex workers take better precautions with their health than amateurs do. Their body and its upkeep, after all, is their stock-in-trade. If a woman didn't require you to use a condom, she certainly won't prevent you from doing so. There is some risk of infection from your receiving oral sex — herpes, candida and a few other nasties. For you to perform on her there is also the risk, again small, of contracting HIV and hepatitis as well. You can eliminate the risk when performing on her by using a latex sheet, a dam or even plastic wrap. Not all that romantic, I know, but safe. Since whomever you rent will be an attractive woman, there is always the risk of becoming emotionally attached. The final risk is being busted. You will know how much attention your local vice squad is giving commercial sex in your area by reading the newspaper.

Q: Is there anything dangerous about shaving pubic hair?

A: If you can live with the possibility of razor nicks or pubic itch, no.

Q: I am a 24-year-old woman and have been in a monogamous relationship for four years. About a year ago something interesting began to happen after sex. We’ll be all spent and happy in bed after making love, with perhaps a full minute going by, and then, midsentence and completely unstimulated, I'll come again ... and again. I'm not complaining, but I have never heard of or experienced anything like this before. Is there a name for this? How many women share this ability?

A: I've never heard this phenomenon referred to specifically, so I don't know about other women. Living in San Francisco, I'm used to earthquake terminology; when this happens to me, I call it an aftershock. 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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