Words get in the way

Q: As an early-30s heterosexual couple, my wife and I are mostly a great match sexually. We tend to enjoy the same things in bed and elsewhere. Even some of our (relatively minor) kinks correspond. The problem is in communication, specifically verbal communication: My wife cannot talk about sex, during the act or otherwise. She never articulates even the most general of statements, e.g., "that was great," "a little to the left." For some people that might be OK, but I find the mental/verbal part of sex as important as the physical. It would be my dream to have her ask me to do something, anything, sexual to or with her. She's told me she feels nearly phobic about talking about sex, which is odd considering her lack of repression about all other things sexual. I really don't want to make her uncomfortable by insisting she talk about sex or during sex, but this leaves a big hole in the makeup of our sexual life. Any suggestions?

A: I presume you have told her how you feel and she has told you how she feels ("I want you to ..."/"I don't want to ..."). There the matter sits until you can somehow stop wanting what you want or motivate her to change her ways to what you want. Which do you think is easiest? I can guess which each of you might prefer. Have you tried bribery? Lightly, because you don't want to make this into a power struggle of major proportions, offer her something she likes — an hour of back rub or watching a sappy movie for instance — if she would say "I like when you do that" or some other simple phrase you feel would make a good start. Model what you want more frequently, telling her, in bed and out, what you like and what you want. You could write and rehearse a simple script that might amuse you both: "When you feel yourself becoming aroused would you please say, Ooooh baby, I like it lak dat"? There are two very good books on the topic of erotic talk, Carol Queen's Exhibitionism For The Shy and Bonnie Gabriel's The Fine Art of Erotic Talk, which she might want to peruse. A favorite tool of my own for reluctant sharers is Gregory Stock's The Book of Questions on Love & Sex, tame enough for a (very interesting) dinner party among friends.

Q: Letters you recently printed confirmed my biggest fear. I am an intelligent, talented, open-minded, attractive, sexy, bisexual woman. I am also a woman with a lot of thick, dark body hair beginning at the pubic line. I hate my hair and have had no luck trying to "embrace" it, therefor I shave, wax, tweeze, use depilatories, electrolysis and so forth. Within a few hours of shaving I feel rough and scratchy. When I wax I wind up with horrible ingrown hairs. Electrolysis is financially prohibitive for large areas. I am so paralyzed with fear that a new lover will shriek at the feel of my rough legs that I've avoided sex most of the last five years. Mostly, I miss spooning and cuddling with someone. I used to be a free-spirited, healthy, sexually active, kink-friendly person. Now I loathe sexual encounters, whether with men or women. It makes me feel very unattractive despite the fact the I appear otherwise when clothed from the waist down. The letters from your readers who were repulsed even by men with body hair cause me to think there are even fewer people out there willing to accept us who are not perfect. Now I'm even less hopeful about the future of my love life.

A: Did your body hair suddenly materialize after you were a healthy, sexually active person? What has probably changed is not your hair growth but your mind-set, a far more unhealthy turn of events than the appearance of hair. The two letters I printed from body hair-phobic women represent a very small minority. The other end of the spectrum can be found at the Web site Hair to Stay (www.winterpublishing.com) by and about particularly hairy women and those who find that specifically sexy. Almost everyone else falls somewhere in between on the matter of body hair, neither phobic nor fetishistic. Consider going to public beaches and baths and clothing-optional resorts, first of all to see how very few (if any) perfect bodies exist, and also to share your big secret right out front with any potential lover. That way, anyone with any interest will have no big surprise to deal with if things heat up. If you simply can't, your time and money would be better spent not necessarily embracing your body hair, but accepting it. Psychotherapy can be far less painful than hair removal and often yields more permanent results. Isadora Alman is a licensed marriage counselor and a board-certified sexologist. You can reach her online at her Sexuality Forum (www.askisadora.com) or by writing to her care of this paper. Alas, she cannot answer questions

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