About last night: Get past your fear by talking about sex and having a massage 08-07-18

Q: I would love Tess to reciprocate foreplay with me, but it seems she only wants to receive, not give. After 15 years of me actively showing her attention and pre-intercourse play, is it now too late for me to seek some pleasuring from her? I know it’s not about having to be always 50-50, but it’s been a long time since she focused on my body and I don’t know how to raise it with her. I’ve never strayed from our bed, although I wonder if I’m missing out?

A: At the heart of your issue lies the telling phrase, “it’s been a long time since she focused on my body and I don’t know how to raise it with her”. No matter how long a couple have been together, or how much they love each other, it is often excruciatingly difficult to talk about sex.

Our sexuality is linked to many powerful emotions. It can be embarrassing. There is fear involved – fear of rejection, of hurting someone’s feelings, of saying something that haunts the relationship, or, worse, ends it. Get past fear, and talk to Tess.

Right now, you are making up stories that trigger your emotions, but may not be true. Is it true that Tess never reciprocates? Can you know for sure that she only wants to receive, not give? Is she knowingly being unfair, or causing you to miss out? Is your best option for getting more sexual attention infidelity?

Byron Katie invites us to challenge the stories that cause us to suffer. She teaches strategies to escape our unhelpful thoughts in her powerful audiobook, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. That is a big claim, but I have personally experienced to benefits of doing ”the work”.

Even the most loving long-term couple can find their lovemaking becoming formulaic, predictable, and a little repetitive. Also, in times past, men were expected to pursue the woman, and to initiate sex. It still does not come naturally for many women to be proactive, or to take control. Tess might be oblivious to your frustration. Is it reasonable to be resentful if Tess is unaware you have a problem?

Tell her how you feel, but avoid sounding critical, self-pitying, or as though you are giving an ultimatum. Nothing blocks the ear, and the heart, better than defensiveness, or perceived injustice.

Find a time when you two are getting on well, but are not in bed, and say something like, “I love you and our lovemaking. I would really enjoy it if I could lie back and have you caress my body. Is that something you would be willing to try?”

Only when you listen to her response will you learn the truth of the situation.

Because many women are not used to doing the seducing, Tess might have no real idea what to do, and might feel inadequate, or foolish. That is where massage can be useful. Massage does not have to be sexual, but it can be a great way to explore, and get to know your lover’s body, and the kind of touch they enjoy.

Consider getting an inexpensive massage table. Trying to massage someone on a bed can be awkward, and uncomfortable. Also, when your partner lies on that table they are surrendering to your touch, which can be empowering.

Use a good quality massage oil, as this makes touch far more sensual. If you dislike feeling oily, or are worried about mess, use pure maize cornflour It can easily be shaken out or vacuumed.

Rubbing someone all over, or caressing their genitals, might seem to be a no-brainer, but an online search under ”learn sensual massage” will bring up numerous sites offering tips on how to achieve even more subtle, pleasurable, and erotic results. For example, who knew the sensual possibilities of the front of the neck, the lower back, behind the knees, or that dip on your ankle? Check out, ”9 Tips for Giving Your Partner the Hottest Massage Ever” (

Do not allow your imaginings to spoil your relationship. Instead, talk, clear the air, negotiate, and move into a better future.

About Last Night: What to do when sexual intercourse is painful 01-07-18

Q: Lily and I met last summer, and are crazy in love. The problem is that Lily can’t have sex. Her muscles clamp shut if I even try to use a finger, and persevering hurts her. It’s driving us both nuts. Last weekend, after we’d had a few drinks, she asked me to tie her up, and have sex with her, just to get it over and done with. I was shocked and upset. I could never do that. Help!

A: Lily might be suffering from vaginismus, which is an involuntary spasm, contraction or reflex of the muscles surrounding the entrance to the vagina. It can make penetration painful, or impossible. The severity of this response varies from woman to woman. It can be triggered by attempts to have sexual intercourse, as well as attempts to insert a finger, a tampon, a speculum … The danger is that, if it is impossible to take a pap smear, or perform other pelvic examinations, medical problems might be missed.

Primary Vaginismus occurs where a woman has never been able to have pain-free vaginal penetration, or intercourse, whereas with Secondary Vaginismus, a woman develops the condition after having been able to engage in these activities previously. In many cases, it is not clear what causes vaginismus. For other women the cause can be located in sexual abuse, persevering with intercourse when it is painful, surgery, or emotional trauma. It could be more common that the statistics suggest, because shame and embarrassment can lead to under-reporting.

Apart from any health risks, vaginismus causes personal distress for the sufferer, and puts a strain on relationships. The frustrating thing is that most of these women, like Lily, are able to get sexually aroused, and desperately want to have intercourse.

Fortunately, it is treatable, and the sooner it is diagnosed, and treated, the better. Lily needs to see her doctor, who will examine her in order to eliminate other health issues. Some questions may also be asked to try to identify what has caused this.

The most important thing to remember is that treatment can take time, so be patient.

There also can be a counselling component to the treatment, so be prepared to be involved with this if required. Having the support of a loving partner can be invaluable.

One treatment option involves a specialised form of physiotherapy, and Lily might be advised to use dilators. Often made of glass or smooth plastic, these consist of a set of rods, or “fingers”, that go up in size.

Using plenty of personal lubricant, the woman practises getting relaxed, then, taking it slowly, attempts to insert the smallest dilator. Over time, she tries to go up a size, but only when she feels comfortable.

The smallest is the size of a little finger, and the largest, penis sized.

At first, this needs to be practised alone, as it is essential to be as relaxed as possible. Further down the track, as her confidence increases, Lily might choose to incorporate these exercises into your sex play.

This journey will be easier if your relationship is in a good place, and you continue to enjoy pleasure and desire. Please stop saying that Lily cannot have sex. Too many people equate having sex with having penetrative intercourse, but that is only one aspect of enjoying great sex.

Agree to avoid any attempts at vaginal penetration. Psychologically, Lily needs to separate sex play from pain and disappointment. This can be very erotic if you are both willing to use your imagination. Sensual massage, passionate kissing, caressing and fondling, oral sex, mutual masturbation, role play, restraint games, anal play, and experimenting with clitoral stimulating sex toys … whatever appeals to you.

Once Lily trusts that you will not initiate vaginal penetration it is likely that she will enjoy having her vulva touched.

If, in time, she feels ready for sexual penetration, proceed slowly, with a little finger, your tongue, or a tiny vibrator. Vibrators massage the vagina, encourage engorgement, and can enhance sexual pleasure, but you must start small.

Enjoy fabulous sex today, whilst embarking, together, on this healing journey.


About Last Night: Joni Mitchell’s thoughts on long-term love 24-06-18

Q: My partner and I met in the mid-’70s. We’ve shared blissful highs, awful lows, and bumped along through the dull times. We’ve always loved each other, but haven’t always liked each other. At times, anger and resentment have separated us, and, occasionally, it’s been tempting to run away, be free, and experience new thrills. Yet, life’s challenges have also made us close ranks, and nothing has become a deal breaker. When asked the secret to a long-term relationship I have no answers. Do you?

A: When you two met I was an undergraduate, and one of my idols was singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. Her lyrics resonated with many young women of my generation.

Feminism, sexual liberation, and the ideal of pursuing alternative lifestyles brought their own challenges, and Mitchell articulated these, with her themes of multiple lovers, hitting the road, betrayal and loss, and the getting of wisdom.

Today, I also find that I have been with my partner for more than 40 years, and I reflect on how we got here. I was, therefore, fascinated to read what Mitchell herself had to say on her website, earlier this year:
“I don’t know if I’ve learned anything yet! I did learn how to have a happy home, but I consider myself fortunate in that regard because I could’ve rolled right by it.”

Often, part of the “secret” is knowing when you have found love, and committing to it.

Mitchell then describes the aspects of our modern world that make finding love so tricky.
“Everybody has a superficial side and a deep side, but this culture doesn’t place much value on depth – we don’t have shamans or soothsayers, and depth isn’t encouraged or understood. Surrounded by this shallow, glossy society we develop a shallow side, too, and we become attracted to fluff.”

The epitome of this is to be found in soap operas, such as my personal favourite, The Bold and the Beautiful. In this world a misplaced kiss can lead to divorce, most characters have been married multiple times, often to the same few people, and intrigue and misunderstandings are key.
Mitchell explains that, “… this culture sets up an addiction to romance based on insecurity – the uncertainty of whether or not you’re truly united with the object of your obsession is the rush people get hooked on. I’ve seen this pattern so much in myself and my friends and some people never get off that line.”

One way to avoid getting hooked on “fluff” is to cultivate some depth in your own personality, Mitchell says. “Along with developing my superficial side, I always nurtured a deeper longing, so even when I was falling into the trap of that other kind of love, I was hip to what I was doing.”
Esquire magazine might seem an unlikely source of insight on this topic, but Mitchell quotes its article entitled “The End of Sex”.
With a long relationship, things die, then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love.
Joni Mitchell
“If you want endless repetition, see a lot of different people. If you want infinite variety, stay with one.”

Mitchell’s interpretation of this statement is powerfully insightful. “What happens when you date is that you run all your best moves and tell all your best stories – and in a way, that routine is a method for falling in love with yourself over and over.

“You can’t do that with a long-time mate because [s/he] knows all that old material. With a long relationship, things die, then are rekindled, and that shared process of rebirth deepens the love.”
She acknowledges that this can be difficult to sustain.

“It’s hard work, though, and a lot of people run at the first sign of trouble. You’re with this person, and suddenly you look like an asshole to them, or they look like an asshole to you – it’s unpleasant, but if you can get through it you get closer, and you learn a way of loving that’s different from the neurotic love enshrined in movies. It’s warmer and has more padding to it.”
A relationship is like playing see-saw. The game lasts as long as both players are willing to make the necessary adjustments.


About Last Night: Monogamy doesn’t necessitate sexual exclusivity with just one person 17-06-18

Q: Some weeks, reading your column makes Mark and me question if we’re off the spectrum of normal and beyond adventurous. We both enjoy (safe, consensual) penetration and play from a variety of adult partners, and sophisticated sex toys, yet we are still deeply in love with each other. Monogamy doesn’t necessitate sexual exclusivity with just one person, and we want like-minded consenting adults not to feel judged as perverted. Are we beyond normal?
A: No, and I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to share your positive experiences. It is a timely reminder of what is possible.

The secret lies in being able to share fantasies and learn about each other’s desires.
They say that no news is good news, but it can seem that, for many commercial media outlets, good news is no news.
People love exciting stories. Someone once challenged me to name a successful novel that featured a happy relationship, and I could not think of one. Plot is driven by conflict. The media’s imperative is to boost profits, and confecting outrage, playing on fears, and focusing on violence and suffering have proved to be effective ways to generate sensational headlines that sell their offerings.

This is why we need independent alternatives, such as a national broadcaster. It is important to have platforms where lateral thinkers, challenging commentators, and people who are prepared to allow the truth to get in the way of a good story, can seek to redress any imbalances.

When it comes to human sexuality, the issue is complicated, and our emotions are heightened by our sexual anxiety and shame. There is a deep-seated notion that sexual adventuring will all end in tears, and an expectation that transgressive women, in particular, will get punished. For the media, that means that most of the stories that involve “swinging”, promiscuity or infidelity have headlines such as “The body in the boot”, or “Shooting at swingers’ nightclub”.

Our negative attitude is reinforced by the nature of much of the sex-related social issues we face: the sexual abuse of children, violent rape, attacks on sex workers, domestic violence, the trafficking of sex slaves, STIs, and so on. When doctors, the police, therapists and social workers encounter situations involving sex it is usually to deal with something damaging.

The reality is that most people have untroubled sex lives, but their natural reticence and discretion prevent them talking about their private lives. My years running Bliss for Women enabled me to hear a more accurate, nuanced, and varied range of normal sexual experiences. The truth is that many people enjoy experimentation and adventurous sex play with no ill effects.

Of course, nothing is compulsory, and the success of your intimate life is not measured by the scope of your activities. The secret lies in being able to be open, and able to share fantasies, and learn about each other’s desires. For many, talking and sharing are erotic enough.

Unlike sky divers and rock climbers, most people who enjoy “extreme” sex games realise that their friends do not want to hear them banging on about their exploits, but if, somehow, something does come to light it is not for others to judge, and there is no need for shame.

Of course, as with other extreme sports, there are always risks. Responsible participants understand these risks, take all known steps to minimise them, and undertake to balance the risks and the rewards. In terms of sex play this means respect, and getting enthusiastic consent, observing safer sex protocols, and maintaining good communication. However, it is irrational to be more freaked out by the idea of a couple having group sex than by their plans to free dive.

The word “monogamy” is the opposite of “polygamy” and really means being married to one person at a time, and, if both partners are willing, does not necessitate sexual exclusivity with just one other person.

I wish you and Mark well, and thank you once more for sharing a good news story that might be useful for others who would like to push their boundaries, but who are limited by fear and ignorance.


About Last Night: Why we shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed 10-06-18

 Q: Bill Cosby’s conviction triggered memories of a drink-spiking incident I experienced. An older married man, who I’d volunteered with for ages, got me a drink at a volunteers’ function. After two wines, I couldn’t talk, or move properly. He tried to take me to his house in a taxi. I managed to call my husband, who found me, stumbling, beside a freeway, where I’d been dumped. Shock, anger and shame stopped us going to the police. When I told my father, he blamed me, bringing back childhood memories of his own dubious transactions with women. I feel like a loser.

A: What you experienced was not your fault. Engaging with the police when you are in shock is difficult, and it would have been better if your husband could have put his feelings to one side, backed you up, and encouraged you. Your father’s unfair victim blaming, combined with your memories of his own misbehaviour, served to compound your own doubts about your judgment. It might be too late to pursue the matter with the authorities, but you would benefit from talking to a therapist so that you can overcome your low self-esteem.Shock anger are natural emotions to feel after such an attack, but shame has been used as a tool of control for too long, especially against women. Many cultures, and religions, place a ridiculously high value on virginity, sexual purity, and a woman’s virtue. Women are often disempowered in these societies, and yet they carry all the blame for rape, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancy.

In some cultures, female rape victims can be charged with a crime, are shunned and know that no man will marry them. Until this year, Irish women were banned from terminating a pregnancy that resulted from rape or incest. Women who dress provocatively have been described as meat put out for cats.

Often the men involved close ranks to preserve male privilege, to save face or guard their honour, or to avoid taking responsibility for their own misogyny or bad behaviours. The tool that is used to maintain these injustices is shame.

Sexual guilt or shame refers to a feeling of grave responsibility and deep remorse associated with participation in or even thoughts and fantasies about sexual activity. For some people, this reaction is so deeply entrenched that they are incapable of enjoying healthy sex lives with their partners, resulting in depression, relationship strain, and the passing on of unhealthy attitudes to their children.

This indoctrination goes very deep and is not just a gender issue. Women who have internalised the patriarchy can be the harshest enforcers. Also, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse revealed that thousands of boys were victimised.

Any form of abuse is traumatic, but for many survivors it was their sexual shame that was ultimately most disabling. Their indoctrination kept them silent, allowing the perpetrators to continue with impunity. I encourage everyone to take stock of their own levels of sexual shame.

The opposite of feeling ashamed is not shameless promiscuity, immorality, a loss of self-respect, or the abandoning of modesty and good taste. It is a healthy respect for, and appreciation of, the human body. It is being comfortable looking at your naked self in the mirror, including your genitals. It is being able to fully express and enjoy sexual desire and intimacy. It is also being comfortable getting medical help when necessary. Too many people compromise their health because they are too embarrassed to have a pap smear, or a prostate examination.

As a first step, take a look at these videos. For men, Overcoming Sexual Shame and Guilt (, and for women, Overcoming Sexual Shame ( Having heard what these doctors have to say, you might decide that it is too difficult for you to tackle this issue alone. Seek out a sex therapist to help you. They are particularly qualified to assist with a topic that even some medicos, psychologists and counsellors find confronting.

In order to do better in future, it is also vital that our children get a healthy, accurate, and emotionally balanced sex education.


CORRECTION: Last week’s column mistakenly said that Jamie McCartney’s artwork The Great Wall of Vagina was at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart. There is a similar work at MONA by Greg Taylor and friends called C—-… and other conversations, 2001–11.

About Last Night: it’s a Vulva not a Vagina 03-06-18


From time to time, a lover has told me I have a pretty vagina. I know that they are trying to be respectful by not calling it a ‘pussy’ etc, but it irritates me that nobody seems to understand the the external, and visible part of a woman’s genitals is called the vulva. Most people are familiar with the terms describing a man’s genitals.Why do people find it so hard to get this right?


Yes, this is an annoying error that is made again and again. When sex-ed expert, Virginia Hamilton ( wrote an article

about teaching children the facts of life, she provided a chart which labeled all of the body parts with their correct name. You can imagine her disgust when, in the published piece, she found that ‘vulva’ had been changed to ‘vagina’.

Hamilton’s insistence that we teach children the anatomically correct terms is not ‘political correctness gone mad’. She believes that using euphemisms for sexual parts gives children the idea that there is something bad, dirty, or shameful about sex. Children need to feel comfortable talking to a doctor, and able to communicate issues such as sexual abuse.

In spite of our apparently liberal attitudes to sex, there is still a taboo surrounding female genitals. Even in pornography, women are often favoured who have featureless vulvas, without prominent labia, or idiosyncratic features.


My ‘millennial’, neighbours, who are avid gamers, told me about a lighthearted computer game called ‘Genital Jousting’ (Google it if you do not believe me). In it, players try to insert stylized penises into cartoon anuses. When you succeed, the penis ejaculates confetti. I asked them how the game would be received if the anuses were vulva’s, and they were taken aback. They agreed it would be confronting, and, possibly, banned.I was surprised by this uncomfortable response.

The one thing most Australians know about Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is that it has a ‘rude’ exhibit – Jamie McCartney’s ‘Great Wall of Vagina’. McCartney explains,

:“… I cast, over the course of 5 years, the vaginas (well the vulva area in fact) of hundreds of volunteers. The Great Wall of Vagina is an exploration of women’s relationships with their genitals”.

His motivation to do this is very worthy,”… vulvas and labia are as different as faces and many people, particularly women, don’t seem to know that. Men tend to have seen more than women, who have often only seen their own, and many have never looked that closely. Hence the exposure of so many, showing the variety of shapes is endlessly fascinating, empowering and comforting. For many women their genitals are a source of shame rather than pride and this piece seeks to redress the balance, showing that everyone is different and everyone is normal”.

This is certainly laudable, but it is a pity that he perpetuated a prevalent error just so that he could make a bad pun.  Would anyone accept casts of penises being entitled ‘A Forest of Testicles’?

The problem with this inaccuracy and ignorance is that it serves to perpetuate shame, discomfort and fear about women’s sexuality. Whilst it might be considered vulgar, few people are outraged when comedian, Adam Hills tells someone not to be a ‘dick’, or if a nasty person is described as a ‘prick’, but it is still totally unacceptable to call someone a ‘c—t’, in fact, I cannot even use the word here.

So, guys, show your respect for the women in your life by getting it right. The external parts of a woman’s genitals, including the labia, that unique flower that is to be honoured and admired, that part that you might want to describe as ‘pretty’, is her VULVA (not to be confused with the Swedish motor vehicle). Her ‘vagina’ is the internal passage that leads to the neck of her womb, or ‘cervix’. You will be able to put your female partners at ease when you can talk, comfortably and accurately, about this perfectly acceptable part of her body.


About Last Night: I’m used to having the house to myself 27-05-18

Q: Barry and I are an average couple. He’s a plumber, and I do a few shifts at the local pub. I’m used to having the house to myself during the week, and to doing things in my own way, in my own time. Last month, Barry was made redundant, and is looking for work, so he’s at home most of the time. I love him, but having him around all the time is driving me nuts. He disrupts my routines, and questions what I do. Shouldn’t a happy couple enjoy having more time together?

A: Being a happy couple does not mean being joined at the hip, and it is stimulating to come together at the end of the day with different experiences to share. You probably get on fine when you go on holiday, but Barry is not on holiday.

Although it might be nice to have a couple of days off, he is probably too anxious about the future, and out of his comfort zone right now, and this is bound to put a strain on things. Try to remember that this situation is probably temporary, and try to be patient and supportive.

Because you both live in the same house it is easy to forget that it is usually your workplace. If circumstances meant that you had to hang around Barry’s workshop, or go with him to jobs, you would probably drive him nuts too.

Try to see this as an opportunity to take stock of your relationship. If you fine-tune things now you will be ready for the future.

Many couples have a challenging and stressful time once they retire. After years of being busy and preoccupied, they face the rest of their lives alone together and realise they barely know each other.

Your relationship is like your car. If you want it to last, and want to have a smooth ride, you need to regularly service and maintain it.

What that means for a relationship is to make sure that you stay in touch. Notice any glitches, listen to one another with love, not judgment. Beware of allowing your relationship to slip down the list of your priorities. Paying bills, caring for children, keeping a tidy house and garden, and pursuing hobbies are important, but so are regular date nights, respectful conversations, and physical intimacy. You might not feel like swinging from the chandeliers, but make a point of hugging, kissing, and giving each other a cuddle.

It would be helpful if you could talk to Barry about how you feel, and listen to how he feels in return. It is easy to be so caught up in your own feelings, or to make up stories about what your partner is feeling or thinking, that you lose contact with that vulnerable human being in your life. Barry might be feeling inadequate, or a failure. He might be frightened of letting you and the family down. He might feel guilty, and want to help you without realising that he is going about it the wrong way.

Once you have listened to each other, without interrupting, criticising or giving advice, you will then be able to brainstorm some solutions that might ease the strain.
For example, you might not want him to try to help with your chores, but there might be a few jobs he is qualified to tackle that you have been too busy to get to. This does not need to be wasted time.

On the other hand, take some time out for some fun – go for lunch, take a drive together – and give him some space. If he watches some sport, or plays a computer game, let him be. I am sure that you enjoy breaks during the day, reading a magazine, having a coffee while you are shopping or watching some daytime TV.

If you are able to use this time to support one another, the quality of your relationship will be better when Barry is back at work. If you can continue to maintain your connection you then will be better equipped to enjoy retirement when the time comes.


About Last Night: The struggles of a stay-at-home mum 20-05-18

Q: After years of career success, I’m now the stay-at-home mum of Robbie (2½), and Mia and Ava (10 months). I love my beautiful children to bits, but I often feel trapped, miserable, and a failure. When James gets home from his demanding job I ambush him on the doorstep because I’m so desperate for adult company. Sometimes, he gets cranky, because he wants time to unwind from his own stressful day, and I get weepy, which causes him to shut down. I fear losing him because I’m boring, negative and unattractive.

A: Research into human happiness has revealed the unhappiest phase of life is the one you are currently enduring. We undertake this challenge because we want the richness of having a family, but in the early years, it can feel like the epitome of delayed gratification.

New parenthood can be particularly trying for people who have been competent, high-achievers, because they are used to being in control, and infants are an unpredictable force of nature.

Be kind to yourself. You are facing the biggest challenge of your life, and you are doing the best you can. Do not beat yourself up in the belief that other mums are doing it better. Staying sane is more important than having a spotless house. It would be good to talk to your GP to make sure that you do not have post-natal depression, which can be devastating.

Popular and commercial images of radiant parents with adorable cherubs are often nothing like the reality of caring for the relentless, unreasonable bundle of survival instincts we call a baby. The reality is often boring and thankless.

Remind yourself that it is in the interests of commercial businesses to exploit your insecurity. You are likely to buy their products if you are convinced it would be neglectful not to, or if you lack confidence in your housekeeping skills, (“What does your loo say about you?”).

Practise eliminating words like “must”, “ought”, “should” and “got to” from your vocabulary. These words trigger guilt and anxiety, and imply that there is a standard that you are constantly failing to reach. If these imperatives are coming from your family, or from friends, try not to buy into it. Their advice might be well-meaning, but only you can know how to raise your children.Stop looking at the bigger picture, and avoid comparing your current lifestyle with the one you were living before. Similarly, banish stories about how you will never return to the old you. You cannot know that, and the future will take care of itself. All you have to do is navigate the “now”. This moment is the only reality, and it is often the stories we make up that cause us the most distress.

Being a “stay-at-home” parent can be very lonely. Some women suffer from “baby brain” and feel like they have become dumb, and out of touch with the big issues. Others realise that they have nothing very interesting to add to a conversation.

Find somewhere to go at least once a week, even if the logistics are daunting. Join a local playgroup, meet up with friends who also have kids, and go to story time at the library. Talking to other parents helps you to get things in perspective, and they are interested in the minutiae of baby rearing. They are also a great resource for tips and ideas to make your life easier, and you can get a little space while the children socialise.

Prioritise your own needs. Self-preservation is not selfishness. When you are sleep-deprived, have almost no alone time, and are permanently on call, it can be too difficult to shower and wash your hair, let alone pay attention to what you wear. Cut yourself some slack.

If you are the parent who works outside the home, and you recognise this situation, try not to feel guilty, inadequate, or resentful. How you both deal with this time is crucial to the future of your relationship. Your patience and kindness are the best support. Give your partner some time, and some attention. The most loving gift can be a regular sleep-in, an hour alone, or 10 minutes of your undivided attention.

Talking to other parents helps you to get things in perspective, and they are interested in the minutiae of baby rearing.


About Last Night: Is it old-fashioned to want kisses and cuddles? 13-06-18

Q: After 20-plus years together, for the last few years my wife spends first thing in the morning and last thing at night on her phone. Is that what marriage in the 21st century looks like? Am I old-fashioned looking for kisses, cuddles and pillow talk instead?

A: Two decades ago, you had to find a telephone if you wanted to speak to someone, but the invention of the mobile phone has made it possible to be in contact anywhere, and at any time. Very quickly, we became reliant on this ability to stay in touch, and it could be argued that some people have almost become addicted to their devices, unable to turn them off for an instant.

Recently, I attended a residential workshop at a rural retreat that had no phone, or internet signal. Many of the participants were almost hyperventilating with panic at the idea of a few days without their devices. While everyone coped, a cheer did go up on the bus to the airport as soon as they got a signal.

I do not believe society is doomed because everyone is on the phone, social media or sending emails. You cannot stop history. However, I do think we all need to examine our dependency on this technology, and take stock of its effect on our interpersonal relationships. Last weekend, at a cafe, my partner observed that every person in the room was looking at a screen. Perhaps we need to consider scheduling “no device” time each day, in order to be in this moment, with those who surround us.

You probably feel hurt and rejected by your wife’s constant use of her phone. You would like to spend some intimate, one-on-one time with her. You want to bookend the day by connecting with your life partner. Make sure that the words and tone you use to communicate your pain and loneliness actually do communicate your true meaning. When we feel wronged, it is easy to invent a self-pitying narrative that makes us angry.

Your words can be read as an accusation, or as passive-aggressive resentment. If that is how your wife hears it she is likely to become defensive, or to close down.                                     Would you want to snuggle up to someone who spoke to you in that way? She needs to feel loved to want to be intimate. Guilt-tripping someone is counter-productive.

Instead, allow yourself to express your vulnerability. Find a positive, loving and respectful way to say what you mean, for example: “I feel disappointed and sad when you go straight from sleep to talking on the phone. I love you, and crave one-on-one time with you. I feel hurt because I fear you are deliberately avoiding me, or that you are no longer interested in having an intimate relationship with me.”

A common misunderstanding often lies behind the kind of behaviour your wife is showing. Be clear and honest with yourself – is there a subtext here? When you say “kisses and cuddles”, do you really mean ‘”sex”? If so, that’s fine, but say that.
When someone is reluctant to have sex, does not know how to deal with their lack of interest, and wants to avoid conflict, they can avoid all signs of affection, and all kinds of loving touch, fearing that any positive response will be taken as a green light for sexual intercourse.

If this is what is happening, this is what you need to address.
A technique that can help to break this kind of deadlock involves negotiation and patience. Can you agree that, if, for one week, she is willing to begin and end each day with a cuddle, you will not try to take it further? This might allow her to relax and enjoy getting closer to you.
If the two of you can break the ice, communicate positively and build goodwill, there is a much better chance that you can repair any gaps in your togetherness, even if that means agreeing to get some relationship counselling.

About Last Night : Prostate issues affect my orgasms 6-04-18

Q: I’m a healthy male (aged 55) who exercises regularly, doesn’t smoke, carries no extra weight and who’s been doing Kegel exercises for 10 years. My wife and I have always enjoyed a pleasurable and interesting sex life. Although the frequency and strength of my orgasm isn’t affected, recently I’ve noticed that I produce less ejaculate I’ve searched online, but have found no real information. Joan says it’s just ageing, but I’m worried it could be benign prostate enlargement (or worse). I’ve heard about pills for increasing ejaculate. Any ideas?

A: As we age, many of us do notice changes in how our bodies respond sexually. It is always wise to get a medical opinion about such changes, but it is also a good idea to be willing to work around those changes that are a natural part of the ageing process. Melbourne sex therapist Lynda Carlyle is a registered nurse who specialises in male sexual function ( I asked her about your inquiry, and she started by observing that, “It sounds like things are going really well here. He sounds fit, is still having pleasurable, meaningful and interesting sex with his wife, has strong erections and pleasurable, frequent, strong ejaculations. Just like hanging a wet towel off his erection, this may be a ‘those were the days’ kind of thing that he has to learn to reminisce about, once he stops grieving.”

She goes on to explain the medical facts. “Many studies show that somewhere around half of healthy men over 50, and up to three quarters with benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) complain of reduced semen/ejaculatory volume. It is significantly associated with advancing age, prostatic disease, obesity and erectile dysfunction, as well as diabetes, depression, vascular disease, drug use and poor health. Other risk factors include decreased thinking about sex, a non-committed or non-exclusive relationship; relationship concerns, and less frequent sexual encounters.”
Fortunately, very few of these risk factors appear to apply to your situation. However, Carlyle suggests that, “As he is worried, he should mention it to his GP and have a prostate check, and maybe see a urologist.”

Carlyle says that, having eliminated any sinister causes for this decline, “There are some options he could explore to see if he can build up a better semen volume: He could masturbate daily but only choose to ejaculate every week or so. Some people go for a month!”
Human sexuality is not an exact science. You are unlikely to be advised to use fish-slapping, or crystals to treat a broken leg, or a tumour, but Carlyle says it is possible to get positive results from alternative, “sacred” sex practices.
“He could explore tantric or Taoist practices to teach him how to cultivate and build up his sexual energy.”
Being a motivated person, you might learn from Mantak Chia’s classic text, Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy.
Carlyle continues, “He might consciously simmer sexual thoughts and daydreams during the day. Explore prostate stimulation or massage with his wife, or buy a prostate massaging device. Even ‘edging’ a few times during sex or masturbation, where he gets close to ejaculation and then backs off for a bit might help.”

Unless your doctor offered medication for this, it is almost certainly not worth seeking out commercial pills and potions to increase your volume of ejaculate.
After being in the sex industry for more than 20 years, I can assure you that the majority of products that claim to harden, enlarge, stimulate, arouse, or otherwise improve sexual function are, at best, gimmicky rubbish with as much value as most dietary supplements, or, at worse, unregulated and untested concoctions that could even cause harm.
At the end of the day, it is important that you do not worry about this. Stress and worry are the worst things for destroying sexual pleasure. Enjoy your relationship, and the fabulous sex life you already have. Your strong relationship is your playground. Foster it, and you can continue to enjoy sexual intimacy for many years.