A few years ago most of the women I dated were reluctant to have casual sex. Now many are quite willing. Has casual sex made a comeback? Or am I better at seduction than I used to be?—A. R., East Meadow, New York.
Practice makes better (if not perfect), so changes are you've improved over the years. But yes, casual sex is on an upswing. At least that's what Samuel and Cynthia Janus found in their recent "Janus Report on Sexual Behavior," a survey of the sex lives of 2765 Americans, about one third of whom were single. When asked how sexually active they were compared with three years ago, about one fifth of the singles—both men and women—said more, and about one quarter said much more. Some said they were less or much less active—but only about half the number who said they were more or much more active. The januses say fear of sexually transmitted diseases is less of a deterrent to casual sex than it was a few years ago. Single respondents said they could prevent disease through safe sex and, as a result, saw no need to limit their sexual activity.
Why do women have hymens? What good are they if all they do is break?—C. R., Washington, D.C.
No one knows for sure, but naturally there are theories. Many cultures consider the hymen—a flap of tissue that partially covers the vaginal opening at birth—nature's seal of approval for brides. Tradition holds that a woman who remains a virgin until her wedding night will feel discomfort and bloody the sheets when her hymen ruptures. But sex researchers long ago established that, in many cases, there isn't much pain or blood when the hymen breaks, or that it stretches but remains intact, or that the woman doesn't have one to begin with. As for its practicality, researcher Charles Panati reports that some anthropologists believe children in much earlier eras learned about sex through mimicking adults, and that the hymen may have developed to grip a boy's small penis. (Those same anthropologists need more to do.) The ancient Greeks actually elevated the tissue to deity, as they seemed to do with everything they didn't understand. Hymen was the god of marriage. A new husband, upon entering his virgin bride, would shout, "Hymen, O Hymenaeus!" In her book "Female of the Species," Bettyann Kevles suggests the hymen may still have a purpose among modern mammals—but only in whales (it keeps the water out).
My son likes to play DJ and create rap tracks. How can he do it like the pros while minimizing damage to the LPs he's using?—J. P., Chicago, Illinois.
Since he needs to slide records back and forth, and sometimes spin them backward quickly on the turntable, the usual rubber mat won't work. Buy a yard or two of smooth felt at a fabric shop. Cut it to fit the turntable platter. Now the records will slide easily. Most major phono-cartridge companies offer special replacement styluses for many cartridge models. These have a spherical tip rather than the higher-performance elliptical tip. Although you can use an ellipticalstylus, it will eventually wear the record groove, since it's shaped like a snowplow. The spherical tip is shaped like a ballpoint pen, so it cues easier and does less damage. A few major manufacturers sell CD players that imitate some of the features of LP turntables. You may have to search to find them, and they cost more than regular models. With CDs you can toss the felt: The scratching takes place electronically.
Recently, while recovering from a severe cold, I sucked on mentholated cough drops for my scratchy throat. When my girlfriend and I went to bed that evening, I went down on her as usual, but my breath was still affected by the menthol. To my surprise, she went wild, screaming so loudly I thought the neighbors would hear. She had the most intense orgasm I have ever witnessed. When she recovered 15 minutes later, I blew lightly on her and she immediately had another orgasm. After further exploration, we concluded that the cough drops were the spice in this incredible experience. Can mentholated cough drops cause any medical problems?—J. B., Brookhaven, Mississippi.
You can use cough drops to enhance your sexual pleasure to your heart's content, as long as you lick the plate clean.(Otherwise you might upset the pH balance of the vagina.) We don't mean to detract from your discovery, but there are couples already familiar with these oral pleasures. Other items known to have a similar orgasmic effect are Pepsodent toothpaste, Binaca, Pop Rocks and chocolate body paint. Bon appétit.
When I unpacked my gear after moving, I found my VCR and receiver had died in transit. I'm far from the store where they were purchased, so where do I take them for repair?—E. A., Phoenix, Arizona.
The first rule is to take your gear to the manufacturer's repair facility. If you live in the vast void between repair centers, call the manufacturer for its nearest location and ask for a repair authorization. Most companies provide 800 numbers. Then ship your shocked units to that repair center. While manufacturers are often outrageously expensive—and sometimes incompetent—you usually have recourse if the unit is returned unfixed. Furthermore, manufacturers can obtain their own parts faster than most independents. If speed is of the essence, you can ship next-day air. A few companies will give these shipments priority. Seek in-home service for large TVs. If you choose to patronize an independent service center, look for one that has been in business at least 25 years and is authorized by the manufacturer. Ask your new friends and colleagues for suggestions. Insist that servicers use identically branded parts when possible and that the defective replaced parts are returned to you. One last rule: If the component is more than ten years old, give it to charity and buy a new one.
Back in college, I fell in love with an extremely attractive Southern woman. One day, in the midst of a baby-oil back rub, she casually remarked that she was glad I didn't have hair on my back. "I could never love someone with a hairy back," she said with a shudder. Now, several years later, I have a back full of hair and a complex. While I try to accept it as natural, my ex-girlfriend's comment haunts me, and I can't help suspecting that most women feel as she does. Are there any permanent corrective options, or should I enroll in a New Age class to help me accept my inner (and outer) wild man?—B. B., Portland, Oregon.
Better to throw that demon off your back than to resort to corrective hair-pulling. Rest assured, there are women out there who will love the wild—and natural—you. Just as there are women who like them short and others who like them tall, some like them wild and woolly.
After hearing for years that condoms are the best protection against AIDS, I read that they don't block transmission of HIV. Do they or don't they?—E. N., Amherst, Massachusetts.
They do, but not perfectly. Recently, researchers stretched latex condoms over a penis-shaped form and subjected it to the temperatures, pressures and other conditions of intercourse. Then fluid containing particles the size of HIV was released from the tip of the penile form in to the condoms. Twenty-nine of the 89 condoms tested leaked some of the particles. But the researchers said that even the leakiest condom offered 100,000 times more AIDS protection than no condom at all. Condoms are like automobile brakes: They fail occasionally, but that's no reason to stop using them.
Down in our little corner of Texas, things are heating up at the local adult theaters. It seems that quite a few couples, including us, are engaging in the time-honored tradition of show-and-don't-tell when the lights are low. These are mostly planned performances, which can range from the relatively tame showing of skin to raucous gymnastics over the seats. We were at one recently where the audience of ten or so gave the couple a standing ovation as they left. Do you know if this is a trend in other parts of the country? Is it legal?—J. O., El Paso, Texas.
Hello, does the name Pee-wee Herman mean anything to you?
Should I bother to take my radar detector along on my next trip to Europe? Will it work overseas?—G. K., Boston, Massachusetts.
It's better than nothing. Cincinnati Microwave advises that it does sell radar detectors in England but warns that overseas cops sometimes use different frequencies. Here, the FCC mandates frequencies for police radar guns. Overseas, these can be changed by the police, so a U.S. radar detector that's fixed on several specified bands may not pick up the correct signal in, say, Germany or France. A tip: Motorists in Europe, especially in Italy and France, will often flash their lights if the policia stradale or gendarmes are lurking around the next curve. You can call them in England at 011-44-634-388-755 for specific information on which bands work in which countries.
I have always wanted to make love in a whirlpool, but my girlfriend can't seem to get lubricated enough for me to insert my penis into her vagina. Do you know of any products that we can use to help us? Also, can you catch a venereal disease from the water in a public hot tub?—E. P., Ann Arbor, Michigan.
You need a lubricant that doesn't dissolve in water, as petroleum jelly and K-Y jelly do. Slippery Stuff Gel is a non-water-soluble lubricant made expressly for your purposes. It's available through Adam and Eve for $9.95. Call 800-765-ADAM. And you can't catch a sexually transmitted disease from a whirlpool, just from what you do in one.
A beautiful woman I was passionately in love with recently broke up with me and I feel like hell. She says she knew how strongly I felt about her, but that she could never return my emotions. I am heartbroken. Whenever I've been dumped, my friends have said, "She feels as bad as you do." I would take comfort in knowing that she also feels like shit, but I'd find it hard to believe. Women seem to walk away so easily.—D. A., Cambridge, Massachusetts.
As much as we'd like to tell you that she's sharing your misery, the truth is that your ex is probably relieved. Being the object of such rapt attention can be uncomfortable. A recent Case Western Reserve University study found that men are more likely than women to fall in love with someone who does not return their feelings. (Makes us wonder what happened to the women who loved too much.) But look at it this way: How much satisfaction can there be in a one-way relationship? Stop obsessing over what you can't control. It's time to move on.
When I used to play LPs, I shelled out big bucks replacing needles. Experts terrified me that a worn needle would wreck my records. Now I play only CDs. Should I worry about the laser burning out? Will it damage my discs if it starts to fail? How long do lasers last?—K. E., Denver, Colorado.
Forget the claim that a diamond is forever. Diamonds used in phonograph needles wear out, but lasers are forever. Or at least as forever as transistors and other solid-state devices. CD player manufacturers estimate lasers last from 5000 hours to eternity. They agree that CD players have not been around long enough to determine the laser failure rate. The mechanism that moves the laser along the disc will fail long before your player's electronics. Unless a defect in manufacturing causes premature failure (usually in the first 100 hours), your laser may outlive you.
My 36-year-old boyfriend can get an erection about a half hour after he comes. I'm not complaining, but I thought men over 30 took longer—like at least a few hours—to get it up again?—K. B., Glenbrook, Nevada.
Some do, but some don't. Sex experts from the ancient Chinese to Masters and Johnson have observed that as the years pass, men generally have a longer refractory period— the time it takes to raise a new erection after orgasm. The key word here is generally. There are no absolutes in sexuality, including the time from orgasm to next erection. Want to really shorten the refractory period? Use your mouth and hands.
This is weird. Lately I've been having a little trouble ejaculating. Are there any sexual moves you know that could help?—S. W., Asheville, North Carolina.
University of Missouri psychologist Joseph LoPiccolo suggests you experiment with different orgasm triggers. These include: squeezing scrotum and testes, caressing your scrotum, stimulating your anal area, contracting pelvic muscles, holding your breath, tensing muscles in your legs and throwing back your head. In addition, check with your physician or pharmacist about any drugs you might be taking. Many prescription and over-the-counter medicines can impair ejaculation.
Do some masturbation techniques better approximate intercourse than others?—J. K., Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The "Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices" suggests stimulation techniques that resemble the kind of things a partner might provide: thrusting against a pillow, rubbing with fingers, use of lubricants and anal and nipple stimulation. The book lives up to the name "unusual" by also suggesting the use of liver in a milk carton.
I've heard that vasectomies might be linked to prostate cancer. Is this for real? What should I do?—I. S., Freehold, New Jersey.
Relax, and see your urologist regularly. Two studies that were recently published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" showed an increased risk of prostate cancer in men who have had vasectomies. But doctors call the association "weak." Two other studies have shown no increase in post-vasectomy risk of prostate cancer. And scientists see no biological reason why the two should be connected. The purported link between vasectomy and prostate cancer may well be an example of the selection bias inherent in these two studies. Most vasectomies are performed by urologists, and urologists diagnose most prostate cancers. Men who have had vasectomies are more likely than average to see their urologists frequently, and as a result, to have their prostate cancers diagnosed. Early this year researchers who reported the vasectomy-prostate cancer link published info from the same study showing that men who have had vasectomies have a lower overall death rate than men who have not. Urologists urge men not to get too worked up over these studies. Just visit your urologist regularly for a digital rectal prostate exam, and possibly for a prostate-specific antigen blood test, the latest advance in prostate-cancer screening.
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