Can you learn to be passionate about someone if there's no chemistry at first?

If a couple like each other, have fun together, and basically have a good relationship, they shouldn't call it quits if everything is there but the sex. Chemistry can grow if you give yourself permission to learn about yourself as a sexual human being and to communicate your desires. That's probably better than falling for someone in a mad, passionate heat. Because when you realize you don't actually like each other, sex is the first thing to go. And then you have nothing. — Sue Johanson, RN, host of Oxygen's Talk Sex with Sue Johanson and author of Sex, Sex, and More Sex (Regan)

What's the best time to raise delicate sexual issues with a new partner?

If it's something like "I have herpes," you tell the person even before you become intimate. When you're alone together, and in a nonsexual moment—though preferably not when you're driving—you say something like "I enjoy being with you, and I have the feeling that this has the makings of a relationship. But before we go any further, there's something I need to tell you, although I'm scared it might affect the way you feel about me." But let's face it, a lot of partners hear herpes and they're out the door. If what you want to talk about is that you most enjoy sex swinging from the chandelier, wait until you've made love a few times. Then you don't say, "I want this because it always works for me." You say, "I have a fantasy that might be fun. Why don't we try it?" — Sue Johanson, RN

Is there anything women still don't get about masturbation?

There's still the perception that it's "lesser"—what you do if you can't get a date. But masturbation is a sexual relationship you have forever. Lovers come and go, but you always have yourself. Masturbation is also a wonderful way to explore your responses. There's no performance anxiety. Nobody else to please. You can let your mind wander, try things out in fantasy, and see what works. It's a way of staying in touch with what makes you hot, and a great way to pass the time. — Rachel Venning and Claire Cavanah

Can you be happy without sex?

As a sex therapist, I can tell you that when a couple who haven't been sexually active suddenly have a good experience, you can see the difference. They come in laughing and talking; there's more physical affection between them. It's better than any therapy session. It would be great if we could package the feeling, although it usually lasts only 24 hours, and you have to do it again. On the other hand, there are women out there who simply don't care very much about sex. And there are more sexless marriages than you'd think—relationships that can be bonded, loving, companionable and devoted. Single women may find that what they most miss is a close relationship, not sex, and they can often find that closeness with friends. That's why women do so well alone. — Sandra Leiblum, PhD

What's the real story on midlife sex?

Sex isn't the same at 50 as it is at 20—but neither is anything else. We're finally going public with the fact that men go through a midlife transition, too, characterized by change of body shape, loss of muscle tone, and reduced sex drive. They may need help achieving erections, and they may lose erections halfway through intercourse. Don't take it personally. Mad, passionate love will come and go at this age, but you can still have fun. If you've stayed close and connected with each other, it's a lot easier. If the spark is absolutely dead, though, I think you know it. Give the sexual relationship a decent burial, and try to enjoy yourselves as partners. —Sue Johanson, RN


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