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Healing the shame

Q: I am a male survivor of sexual abuse. From age 6-13 my stepfather would touch me in unwanted sexual ways; at times he required me to perform oral sex on him. This has created an incredible amount of anxiety and depression for me. For years I was an alcoholic. I have also had frequent nightmares and my sexual relationships with women have not been fulfilling. At times, it's easier to have casual sex because as a relationship develops I sometimes can't perform with a girlfriend. It's difficult to admit, but I have also had sexual thoughts about men, although I don't really feel that I am gay. Are these experiences normal? What can I do to begin to recover from the frightening past that seems to haunt me?

A: Your feelings and experiences are quite typical of many men and women who have been taken advantage of sexually. One of the few good things to come out of all the recent Catholic Church scandals of pederist priests is public awareness of how many boys and young men have suffered indignities hitherto seen as problems only for young women. Recently I have received notices of at least five therapy groups for men who were sexually victimized. Phone your city health department and ask around for therapists dealing in men's issues. You can get much-needed help in laying to rest your ghosts in the company of those who suffer similarly. You have already taken the first step by naming the problem. Good luck.

Q: About five months ago I started a new relationship with a man of 36; I'm 29. I went through a horrible divorce four years ago. Since the divorce I have shut down romantically and sexually. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would find a man so sexually experienced and intense. He is literally into everything you can think of sexually; he has done it all at least once. I am intimidated because I am not on his level sexually. It has taken a toll on the relationship. I want to open up to him, want to satisfy him in every way. Please help. Can you give me information about Web sites on better sex?

A: The expression "You can't go home again" does not relate solely to visiting Mom and Dad. It speaks to lost innocence as well. Having been kicked in the teeth by a first marriage, only an idiot would approach another love affair without caution. There is appropriate caution, and there is that which keeps you from taking the risks you decide to embrace. Allow your boyfriend to teach you what he knows that you are also interested in knowing. That's what most lovers do — teach the other what they know and like. Though you may feel intimidated by his sexual know-how, you have valuable things to teach him too — what you already know about your likes and dislikes and how strongly he should push or not against your resistance. Rather than a Web site (other than an educational one like my Forum), I would get hold of some of the instructional sex videos by Sinclair (www.bettersex.com), watch them together, and comment freely about what’s appealing and what isn't.

Q: I have bumps and hair on my penile shaft. I was wondering how common this is and if it goes away.

A: Hair on the penis shaft is relatively common and nothing to worry about. So are various sorts of bumps. But some kinds may need attention. Would you really want someone to diagnose you through a newspaper column? I'm going to give you the same advice I have given for years to people with worries about a possible body abnormality: swallow your embarrassment and have it looked at by a health care provider. 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 via this paper or askisadora@aol.com. Her Sexuality Forum is at

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