Hard to Bear

I have lived with Jeff for nearly seven years. We were both married before and each have two children. Mine live with us, and his live with his ex. Both divorces were caused by our spouses’ infidelities. For the first five years, Jeff was insanely jealous of me, but our sex life was great. We have a lot of other common interests. We experimented in the bedroom in every way, with vibrators, dildos, vacuum cleaners, and even cucumbers and bananas. But his jealousy was getting to be too much, and eventually I left him for a short time.

I came back when I realized how much I love him. But now his attitude toward me has changed. I ask him what’s wrong, and he says he’s grown up. His attitude in the bedroom has changed too. Even though I try everything to turn him on, he doesn’t keep an erection long enough for us to have intercourse. This is really bothering me.

He says it’s his blood pressure medication, but I don’t believe it. I asked him to see his doctor and have it checked out, and he said he did but nothing was wrong. I think there must be something his doctor could give him, but he won’t even tell the man what the problem is. Well, something is obviously wrong. Either it’s physical, or he just doesn’t desire me anymore. Either way, I have to know what the problem is.

Jeff promises me that we’ll start making love more often, but when I try to get him excited, he says I’m a nympho because I want it all the time. He now says there are more important things in life than lovemaking. I’ve tried playing erotic games with him. He used to love stuff like that. Not anymore. Now he says, “Grow up.”

I tried getting him away for the weekend without the kids around. We watched some erotic films, and he had no trouble performing. But when we got home, it was back to nothing again. He seems to have trouble performing at night, and sometimes tries to wake me early in the morning when he wakes up with an erection. But I’m the type that needs a cup of coffee to wake up, and I can’t totally enjoy sex at that hour. I try to go along with it, because if I don’t I know there will be another week gone by that I won’t get any sex. Occasionally when I get really angry about our once a week status, he’ll try to increase it to twice a week. But he’ll throw it back in my face the minute we get into an argument. Now he’s blaming his inability to get it up on my “aggressiveness.”

Sometimes I do think it’s a physical thing. But then, what about his reaction to the erotic films? Then I think it’s me. He tells me how much he loves me. I don’t know what to do, and I’m going out of my mind with sexual frustration.

J.A., Massachusetts

Editor’s Note: Well, J.A., it’s hard for us to analyze exactly what’s wrong without Jeff’s side of the story. You bring up some interesting evidence, though. For instance, did you know that Jeff may be right about his blood pressure medication? Many of these drugs work to relax blood vessels, and that includes the ones in the penis. Get Jeff to bring his specific problem up with his doctor. There are other drugs his doctor can prescribe. He may not have the same side effects with another drug.

Also, it occurs to us that the high blood pressure and the inability to perform could be linked, rather than cause and effect. Perhaps both are signs of an underlying problem, such as stress. We bring this up because of the evidence that Jeff was back to “normal” when you took your vacation and also because he has trouble getting an erection at night— after a stressful day— and less trouble in the morning— after a relaxing sleep.

You could ask Jeff to discuss the antidepressant trazodone with his physician. Recent studies show an improvement in the ability to get and maintain an erection in heretofore impotent men. There are side effects, however, as one recent episode of a popular television hospital drama showed. One possible side effect of trazodone is a dangerous condition called priapism, in which the man gets an erection that just won’t quit. We’re talking hours of painful erection. But this is only true of a relatively small group of users. Jeff’s doctor will be able to decide what’s best.

In the meantime, why don’t the two of you try a little counseling? It may help relieve Jeff’s stress, and will help you work out any jealous feelings you may have.

Know Your Body

By the time the next letter was written, in 1975, Forum was receiving many letters from women who were taking their sexual satisfaction into their own hands, literally. Many, like the woman who writes the letter, saw masturbation not as a poor substitution for intercourse, but as a sensual delight in and of itself.

I would like to relate part of my sexual history in the hopes that it will help any other woman play a symphony with the fine musical instrument that is her body. At almost 32, I have finally discovered what I searched for at 23. I consider myself attractive and am currently married to a successful man who is 38.

I married at 18 and it soon became obvious that I had married too young. While “playing house,” I became the mother of two boys. The sex life of this union soon became mundane, and I recall seldom reaching any great sensation with my first husband, but then I never communicated this to him, and he had an overbearing nature that intimidated me at the time. I resorted to manual techniques for relief. I was probably “masturbationally fixated” in the sense that I exclusively used finger contact with my clitoris to reach a climax.

During my divorcee years, I ran the gamut of sexual experiences, as I believe most young, attractive divorcees do. I kept busy dating men from all cultures and backgrounds (and, I might add, sexual experiences). Their ability to satisfy me sexually was a prerequisite. However, experiencing man after man in bed left me feeling empty. I needed real, lasting satisfaction. I married a man who was open in his communication, and so ours was a relationship based on a strong desire to please each other. We are ever open to new ideas and techniques, and your magazine has done much to further our imagination.

Having a particularly horny time of the day at 10 a.m., I take advantage of the peace and quiet of my home to experiment.

The vibrator that my husband purchased became a diversion for a time but kept me from connecting the orgasms I reached with it with the actual climactic moments with my husband. I soon abandoned the vibrator for the water technique and now alternate this with manual stimulation, depending on my mood. I get comfortable in the tub and adjust my position so a stream of warm water plays on my labia and clitoris. After several exasperating sessions that ended with quick climaxes, I began to learn to control my pelvic movements so I could move in and out of the stream of water as I wished. Now I begin by concentrating on the previous night’s sex. I feel there is a strong similarity between his fantastic tongue and the lapping sensation of the stream of water. Sometimes a tiny adjustment in the stream will take me over the edge to a glorious climax. This was at first a method of sexual release from tension, but as I practiced controlling my orgasms, I learned to relate this to our sexual encounters.

As a result of my efforts, by thinking about water stimulation at the right second during lovemaking, I have thrilled my husband with intense orgasms during his. This is due in part to my husband’s patience as a lover. He does not readily go limp after his climax and has learned to stay inside me and wait. If I have not made it with him, I am not far behind. I just need to think of the sensations I feel during masturbation and I am soon convulsing in his arms.

If I masturbate digitally and think of our most recent sex session, I can climax quickly. Now I have learned to stay in the tub and wait until my orgasm subsides and then begin the fantasy of me and my husband again, or if that is overused, thinking about some other man will do. Lo and behold, the orgasms will repeat themselves, strong as ever. I now realize that the slight tremors I never knew before as orgasms are in reality such, and that I have always been multi orgasmic. This may jolt the other women who thought one was their limit. When I was younger I never dreamed I could be orgasmic, let alone turn myself on at will.

In closing, may I say, women, know your bodies. Study them. Work hard and the business of categorizing women will soon melt away as we all become attuned to our own bodies’ capabilities. Choose only the man who is willing to wait for your senses to awaken from years of dos and don’ts, conditioning, and previous disappointments.

J.M., West Germany

Tubal Ligation

I would like to address this letter to all the women who are considering sterilization.

I recently had a tubal ligation and I would like to share my experience with other Forum readers.

I am 34 years old and have three children whom I dearly love. After my last pregnancy, my doctor told me that it would be dangerous for me to have more children and advised my husband and myself of all of our options concerning sterilization. We had of course practiced birth control in the past, but one of our pregnancies was unplanned, so I knew no method was foolproof.

My husband very seriously considered getting a vasectomy, but felt uncomfortable with the idea. He couldn’t shake the idea that it somehow made him less masculine. I had no problem with the idea of sterilization for me— I feel completely fulfilled with my three children, and my husband has always let me know how sexy he found me to be. We decided that I would get a tubal ligation. My doctor was extremely helpful and insisted that we go to a number of counseling sessions together to make sure that it was the right choice for us. It was, and we scheduled surgery.

The morning of the operation, I was nervous. My doctor came in and explained to my husband and me exactly what he was going to do, and used a big chart of a woman’s body to be sure I understood. He told me I could back out then and there, but I said I wanted to go ahead with the operation. Everything went well, and within a few days I was throwing out my maternity clothes and feeling great about it. I still have sentimental feelings about my pregnancies, but I’m glad they are in the past. Now I can concentrate on the family I have now.

A tubal ligation is not for everybody, and if a woman has even the smallest desire to become pregnant, she should use another method of birth control. If a woman does have the operation, it is very important to go to a doctor that she feels comfortable with. If the first, second or even third doctor she sees doesn’t make her feel comfortable, she should postpone the operation until she finds someone she can trust. This is not just a medical issue it is an emotional one as well, and a woman needs to feel secure in her decision.

My husband and I love the fact that we can make love wherever and whenever we like without the fear of our getting pregnant. It has made our sexual life much more spontaneous, and we both love that.

T.W., Illinois

Stratagem

Then as now, knowledge was power, and as women learned more and more about their own sexuality, some men felt threatened by this power, even in secure, monogamous relationships. The woman who wrote the following letter in 1972 relates her experiences when she tried to introduce Forum into her marriage. The editorial response at the conclusion of the letter is the original one.

I am a new discoverer of Forum. I first learned about its unorthodox concepts in a newspaper article which spoke of the magazine’s belief “that an end has finally come to the days when women can be told what they ought to feel.” That statement intrigued me, and I bought an issue. I wasn’t disappointed! I was impressed by the outspoken way you handled letters usually considered taboo, and was especially drawn to the letters from your readers, particularly those from married women with varying views about sex, marriage, etc.

The letter describing a couple who tell each other their sexual fantasies while making love fascinated me, as I have always used fantasy during lovemaking and have felt terribly guilty about the fact that my fantasies haven’t always centered around my husband. Actually, I’ve lived with the feeling that there is something wrong with using fantasy at all, that just my husband’s presence and caresses should be enough to arouse me if I really love him. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to finally learn that other people use fantasy without guilt.

I showed the magazine to my husband, not pointing out anything in particular, just asking what he thought of it in general. He looked through it for a few minutes and then asked me suspiciously why I’d bought it. “Because it looked interesting,” I answered vaguely. “Well, I don’t want you to read it,” he said. I was amazed. My husband had never “ordered” me to do anything before, but he was adamant about my not reading Forum. I got angry and the result was quite a battle, during which I remember shouting, “What are you afraid I’ll learn?” Afterwards, it struck me that he was scared: that he somehow felt threatened by the knowledge offered to us in the magazine. And the awareness of his fear awoke in me a sense of his vulnerability which I had never before experienced.

Like a great number of American women of my generation (I’m 38), I was a virgin when I got married, so that all I learned about sex I learned with and from him. Now I was looking elsewhere for information and he saw his position as my sole authority endangered. The fact that what I learned might enrich us both was unimportant. I worked all this out calmly afterwards, and decided that the best course would be to follow his dictum outwardly, but to continue to read Forum and to bring what I learned to bear on my marriage. My hope is that when he comes to feel the benefits of what I learn, he will accept the magazine as eagerly as I do. So for now I read it only when my husband is not around. I don’t like secrecy, but in this case I feel that the end justifies the means. Already I feel more in tune with my own needs and more understanding of my husband’s. Might I suggest other American wives in my position try this patient approach.

R.C., California

Editor’s Note: Someone as intelligent and sensitive as yourself does not need advice— you have given excellent answers to your own questions— but perhaps you need someone else to tell you that you are right in wanting to know everything about sex which can only increase your and your husband’s fulfillment, and right in taking care not to make your husband feel inadequate. If he reads this (and the fact that he ordered you not to doesn’t mean he won’t), I hope he’ll think himself lucky to be married to a woman with such passionate potential directed by such a tender heart. I feel certain he has no need to fear that you will become too much for him.

You use one expression we must cavil at: “my husband’s presence and caresses should be enough to arouse me if I really love him.” There is no doubt that you love him, but there is hardly anyone for whom this is enough, because sexual arousal depends on a whole complex set of factors, most of which are buried deep. It is ridiculous to say something should be enough. It either is or isn’t, it isn’t your fault. What more impeccable use of sexual fantasy on any subject that works could there be than to help a wife respond better to the husband she loves?

Lower Sex Drive

My husband reads Forum and masturbates to it frequently, but I like it more for the actual dialogue that you publish. The magazine is a kind of sexual “Dear Abby,” and I’ve always been addicted to these kinds of columns.

I would like to reassure women (and men) out there that not everyone is like the people who write in to Forum talking about their vital sex lives (or their desire to have one). I am satisfied with very little sex. It isn’t that I’m frigid— sometimes I am really in the mood and can’t wait to make love to my husband or go into the bathroom and play with my shower head. But I have to say that most of the time, sex is the last thing on my mind. I have my kids to keep track of, the house to run, my job to take care of, and a full social life. Sex just never enters my mind.

I think a lot of people think as I do, but because sex is so central to the American lifestyle, they are ashamed to admit it. I am certainly not promoting a new celibacy movement, but I consider my low sex drive to be a simple fact, not some huge problem.

J.G., Illinois

Editor’s Note: Every person has to find the level of sexual intensity that satisfies them and their partner. We are glad that you are happy with your sexuality, although you also seem to have a good sexual base that you could use to build on. You write that you enjoy sex, but that other distractions keep you from having it often. You might want to think about whether you would be happier or feel less stress if you indulged a little more often in what is widely considered to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

What is of more concern to us is your mention of the fact that your husband masturbates often to Forum. Masturbation is a healthy and normal part of anyone’s sexual life, but in your case it might be replacing intercourse instead of supplementing it.

Is your husband really happy masturbating more often than he has intercourse? You should care about your husband’s sexual satisfaction, as you are a primary part of his sexual life. If you are not willing to sleep with him on a regular basis, you should make certain that that is all right with him. He may be satisfied by primarily masturbating, and perhaps you are already sure of this and that is why you didn’t mention it in your letter, but it does sound to us as though there may be something fundamentally wrong with your relationship.