Q: How long is too long to stare at a girl in the gym? I mean, we go to the gym to look good, but I hear girls complaining about men staring at them while they workout, even if they wear heavy makeup and a revealing workout outfit. Where does acceptable turn into creepy?
A: Staring at anyone too long, anywhere, can be creepy. The gym is a place that we go to focus on the aesthetics and functionality of our bodies. The end result is looking and feeling the best possible way that we can. For some, the gym is a social environment, a place to swap workout tips, compare healthy eating plans and spot each other. For others, it is an escape, a form of self-care and a solitary experience. Despite how sexy a woman looks when she is working out, you should never assume that she is inviting any type of interaction or attention. We are all attracted to beautiful things, so a glance is harmless. If you want to interact, try a glance and a smile. If the smile is returned, look again or approach her. If you want to initiate conversation, ask her to work into her sets or what she is working on that day. If she seems open and friendly, keep the interaction going. If she avoids eye contact, responds with one-word answers or doesn’t remove her headphones, keep on moving. It is important to respect everyone’s workout experience.
Q: I am in my early 30s and I have started to occasionally experience an inability to obtain and maintain an erection during sex with my girlfriend. I’m worried. Should I consider Viagra?
A: Erectile dysfunction, also called ED, is the inability to get and maintain an erection during sex. You are not alone in experiencing this, as about 40 percent of men struggle with ED at some point in their lives. There is a range of causes for ED, spanning from simple aging to psychological disorders.
First, it is important to note that while culture and media reinforce that the role of a man is to be a sex machine, ready and willing to have sex and generate an erect penis at all times, that is simply not possible. Just as women struggle with cultural, media sexual ideals and expectations, so do men. The reality is that there is a natural ebb and flow to an erection. Throughout the course of one sexual act, a penis may vary its rigidity.
When do you know if this is an issue to be concerned about? If ED, even intermittent ED, has been troubling you for 30 days or longer, it may be time to take a look further into its cause and possible treatment. Not treating ED may result in a negative impact on one’s relationship by means of quality of intimacy, lower self-esteem and the avoidance of sex.
The first line of defense is a trip to your general practitioner or urologist to rule out a biological or medical issue. Medical conditions that may cause ED include kidney failure, neurogenic disorders, diabetes and issues with blood pressure. ED may also be impacted by the use of certain medications, including anti-depressants. Sometimes a prescription change can help decrease difficulties with ED.
Lifestyle issues may need to be addressed at this point. Lifestyle factors that can play a role in ED include smoking, excessive drinking, the onset of type 2 diabetes and even eating habits. These can result in the layering of plaque on the walls of the arteries that feed the penis, initially resulting in intermittent ED. They are some of the smallest arteries in the body, so it’s no surprise they’ll build plaque long before other, larger blood vessels.
Once a doctor rules out a medical issue, we can then look at the psychological side of the situation. Psychological factors that may impact ED include anxiety and depression. Many men feel worry or fear about their sexual performance, body image or have other thoughts about sexuality that make it difficult for them to focus on the moment with their partner.
At this time, don’t worry so much, since that might just add to your problem. Get checked out by your doc, address your stress and anxiety issues (perhaps even relationship concerns you may have), and choose some healthier habits. Then your stiffy may not be so iffy.
Q: My girlfriend asked me recently to spank her during sex. I am not opposed to it, but I want to make sure that what I do is sexy. What is the best way to do this?
A: One of the best ways to make sex more fun is adding in a little kink. Spanking can range from a casual slap on the butt to involved role-play of domestic discipline. The best sexual tool is communication. Your girlfriend communicated to you that she wanted to be spanked. Consider yourself a fortunate guy to be dating a woman who can verbalize what she wants, as this will only make the sex better and more fulfilling for both parties.
You can return the favor by asking her what exactly she means when she says spanking. Does she want a firm spank during sex? Does she want to be told that she is “bad” or “naughty”? Ask her how firmly she wants it and how much she wants. Ask her to tell you her spanking fantasy. This can play into the eroticism that you share together and will also let you know what her expectations are.
Here are some beginner tips on erotic spanking. First, make sure that the spanking is consensual. Before getting down to bottom-reddening business, talk about if and how she wants to be spanked. Second, give your hands and arms a once over. Make sure to remove jewelry and to file down the nails. Third, play up the anticipation. Bend her over your knee or put her in a position for spanking that is comfortable. Expose her rear and caress it while you tell her what you are going to do to her. When you make the move to spank her, go toward the lower and more fatty part of the buttocks. Spanking too close to the spine or hip joint can lead to injury or excessive pain. Start lightly and ask her to tell you if it feels good. Ask her if she wants a firmer spank. Listen to your partner closely and respect her sexual boundaries. After the spank, caress the area to show affection.
If you want to advance your spanking techniques, you can check out some of the tools of the trade, such as floggers, crops and paddles. Of course, long before making the move to implements, learn the rules, agree on a safe word that will stop the entire process, and be safe, sane and always consensual.
Q: How do I tell my girlfriend to shave down there? I am not a fan of “bush,” and we are in the 21st century after all.
A: Let’s start by looking at why you are more attracted to a shaved look versus natural body hair. Cultural norms, media and even pornography encourage women to shave these days. Body hair, like other forms of grooming, can become fashion. Decades ago, large amounts of pubic hair were viewed as sexy, but somehow down the line, the razor was used more and more until many desired a bald pubic mound.
It wasn’t until around the 1940’s that women started trimming their pubic hair to accommodate bikinis and lower hemlines that started to appear. In fact, in 19th century Victorian England, hair, even pubic hair, was collected from one’s lover as a keepsake. While it is more common for younger women to trim their pubic hair to some extent, it is ultimately up to her how she wants to present her body. The pubic hair has a function: It protects and cushions the genital area.
If considering the functions and history of pubic hair don’t sway you to embrace hair, then you may start a dialog with your partner about hair. Ask her what she likes about her body and her pubic hair. Maybe having the hair arouses her or adds to some type of stimulation that she enjoys. You can always suggest that she try to experiment slowly. But be prepared to be turned down and be able to cope with accepting her the way that she is and the way that she chooses her body to look and feel.
Of course, she may agree, but on one condition: She may insist that you also start “manscaping” progressively more and more. Are you ready for that?
Q: I looked through my boyfriend’s phone and noticed that 90 percent of the photos were of him flexing. Should I be concerned?
A: My first concern is why you were looking through his phone? It is extremely important in relationships to prioritize and respect privacy. Looking through your partner’s phone not only betrays his or her trust, but alters your perception of what you’re are looking at and plays into your paranoia. If you are looking for something, you will find something. Do yourself a favor and stop doing that.
Photos of your partner flexing, especially if he is a bodybuilder or workout enthusiast, is normal. Imagine a guy picking up your phone and seeing a plethora of makeup-check selfies. These photos are a way to check-in for validation and progress of the work that he is putting into himself.
Amie Harwick is a therapist in private practice in West Hollywood, CA. She has her Master’s of Arts in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy from Pepperdine University. Amie is also the author of The New Sex Bible for Women.