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O: What about women who just don't have the desire?
LB: Desire is much more than the sum of hormones. Psychological factors play a huge part. Women should keep in mind that there are good times and bad times in one's sexual life. And we change—how we define ourselves as women, the pressures we're under, the goals we're working toward. How we experience life is very different when we're single as opposed to when we're married or in a long-term commitment, different after our first child as compared to our second, different at the end of our childbearing years. As our experience of ourselves and the world around us changes, our sexuality changes, too.
O: What do you tell women who have no problem with desire but who want better orgasms?
LB: A lot of things. For instance, a lot of people aren't aware of a little-known use for Altoids, those very strong mints. You can put one or two in your mouth and use them during oral sex. (The menthol causes a tingling sensation, which can enhance excitement for both men and women.) That's a free sex tip. And of course, any kind of lubricant can enhance pleasure.
O: And what about the gadgets—is there a less embarrassing way to get them than going to the Pink Pussycat Boutique in Greenwich Village?
LB: There are actually a range of female-friendly erotica shops—for instance, Eve's Garden in Manhattan and Grand Opening in Brookline, Massachusetts. These places are oriented towards women. They're run by women who are, in effect, informal sex educators. These women are not shocked by anything, and they have a lot of really useful knowledge. You can also get information and products through the web. There's Babeland.com, there's GoodVibes.com.
O: How do you know if you're not having as much fun as you should be?
LB: One of the biggest mistakes women make is to compare themselves with other women, especially with those they see in the media. For instance, on Sex and the City, the women are swinging from the chandeliers every time they have sex. The expectations have to be realistic. You get yourself into trouble when you start asking yourself, Am I having as much fun as I should be? The question should be, Am I having fun? Do I enjoy my sexual relationship with my partner? Are there things I would like to improve upon? Usually there are. There's nothing wrong with that. But constantly saying to yourself, Maybe things can be even better, is counterproductive. There's a difference between chronic dissatisfaction and taking positive steps to enhance something that's already pretty good. Certainly, women shouldn't be ashamed to use whatever tools are available.
O: Is sex better in a monogamous relationship?
LB: I think it depends. One study that came out of the University of Chicago found that married people had more satisfying sex. And because women are conditioned to experience sexuality in a context of intimacy, most women will say they feel greater satisfaction within a relationship. They feel more comfortable exploring and asking for what they want. They feel safer, less vulnerable. But on the other hand, a single woman has a unique opportunity to really grow: She doesn't have to attend to children, doesn't have to attend to her spouse, doesn't have to divide her attention. She can just enjoy her own connection to herself, do things that help her develop emotionally and spiritually, and all of that adds to her power. If you're centered and strong, that's a major aphrodisiac.
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