About Last Night :I feel overweight and unattractive: should I bother with New Year’s resolutions? 30-12-18

Q: I’m 34 with two children under five. I didn’t lose my baby weight before my second pregnancy, when I gained even more, and I have been unable to lose any weight since the birth, I’m not obese, but I feel unattractive. Last year, I bought a subscription for a gym and made a resolution to get back in shape, but I only ended up going three times. I have no willpower. Should I even bother to make any resolutions this year when failure is so depressing?

A: Sometimes, New Year’s Day can be a great day from which to date a major achievement, like giving up smoking, having some alcohol-free days each week, or cutting up your credit card. The trouble is that, often, we make resolutions that set us up for failure, and we make ourselves miserable.

I have mentioned Mark Manson’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F—, a couple of times. Its first chapter suggests your solution – “don’t try”.

Our consumerist society is fixated on self-improvement. After all, constantly chasing a better body, job, car, lover and so on is good for business. The trouble is that all this positive, aspirational goal-oriented thinking actually causes us to focus on what is wrong with us, what we lack, and where we are failing. We are not enough as we are, and this dissatisfaction causes us to care too much about things that do not matter.

Mark Manson says: "The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one's negative experience is, itself, a positive experience."
Mark Manson says: “The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is, itself, a positive experience.”

This leads us into what Manson calls “the feedback loop from hell”. In your case, you feel bad about your weight. Every time you try to lose weight, and fail, you feel bad for having no willpower. You get anxious, and then begin to feel you are a loser for obsessing about your weight. The images with which we are bombarded, of beautiful, happy, successful people, cause us to feel that there is something wrong with us.

Society’s fixation on positive thinking and self-improvement leaves us feeling overly stressed, neurotic and self-loathing.

Manson argues that the only way out of this loop is to stop giving a f—. As he explains: “The desire for more positive experience is, itself, a negative experience, and, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is, itself, a positive experience.”

This is what philosopher Alan Watts called the Backwards Law. The more you pursue feeling better all the time the less satisfied you become because the more you pursue something, the more you become aware of what you are lacking. Chasing wealth makes you focus on your lack of funds, regardless of how much money you actually have. The more you want a slimmer body, the more you focus on being unattractive.

You might argue that if you do not try, if you do not strive and dream and aspire, you will never achieve anything. Manson, however, points out another paradox, which is that we often do best at things when we are not anxious and trying hard. When you acknowledge and own your failings you often do better. When you do not hide the things you are ashamed of you have more confidence.

If you can stop giving a f— about your weight you are more likely to stop comfort eating, for example.

Not giving a f— does not mean being indifferent. It means saving your energy for the things that are really important to you. Richard Carson made the same point in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. You are more likely to be happy and effective if you choose your battles, and do not get ground down and emotionally defeated by every minor issue, like being cut off in traffic, or a waiter’s mistake.

Your weight is what it is at the moment, and that is all right. Your beautiful body has successfully produced two children. You are lovely as you are, and if a change is to occur that will happen, organically, as you go about living, and loving, the life you have. This year, make a list of all the things you like about yourself and for which you are grateful.


About Last Night :It is not for men to decide who is good or bad 23-12-18

Q: When I heard Hannah Gadsby’s speech at a recent awards ceremony I felt hurt and confused. At 42, I really do believe that I am a good man. I have never hit a man, let alone a woman. I like and respect women, and fully support their struggles for equality. My wife and I are equal partners, and we teach our daughters that they can be whatever they aspire to. Calling men “Jimmies” is as nasty and demeaning as men calling women “chicks”. How can we get past this sexist bitterness?

A: When I heard Gadsby’s comments I knew feathers would be ruffled. She did, indeed, speak sardonically, about “good men”, and there was bitterness in her tone. However, I watched the clip again, a number of times, and I invite you to do the same.

If it causes you to feel incredibly angry, hurt, or defensive, take some time to identify from whence that emotion arises.

Do you feel that women should appreciate, and be grateful to, men who support their struggles? Are you offended by the dehumanising effect of being dismissed as just one more “Jimmy”? Do you believe that there are good and bad men, and that you are in the good group, and resent being grouped with rapists, abusers, paedophiles and chauvinists?

If you listen to the speech objectively. you will see that Gadsby does not say that no men are good. The point she makes is that it is not for men to decide who is good or bad, where the line dividing them should be drawn, or to which category they belong.

In order to illustrate her point, I draw a parallel with racism. I detest racism, and strive to be a “good” white person. I have never mistreated anyone because of their race. I protested against apartheid, and for the national apology to the stolen generations. My children are all in interracial marriages, and I have mixed-race grandchildren … whoopty do.

I was born into an England that still had the remnants of an empire, and the high standard of living I enjoyed was built on the prosperity that flowed from colonisation. As a family, we moved to Hong Kong, in the Far East [sic], taking with us our white privilege.

It was only 12 years after World War II. For every Allied service person who suffered under the Japanese, hundreds of nameless, faceless, “coolies” also suffered and died.

I remember my mother giving cast-off clothes to my Chinese Amah (nursemaid} for her children. It shocked me to learn that she had children who were with someone else while she waited on me.

Even today I feel like apologising for the Opium Wars when we visit our Chinese in-laws.

Similarly, in Australia, many people resent being held responsible for historic crimes against the Indigenous population, but we have all benefited from the prosperity that this land has given to its settlers. Even today, white privilege is reflected in our living standards.

No amount of good deeds lets me off the hook. I do not get to decide if I am a good or bad white person, and I also cannot demand that people of colour see me as good. It is for them to draw that line, and if they are angry, resentful, and dismissive of my desire to be given their seal of approval, tough luck. The same principles apply to men in a patriarchal world.

More broadly, it is invidious to talk in terms of good and bad human beings. The world is not binary and there are no absolutes. We are all on a spectrum. Like the yin/yang symbol, we contain a struggle between dark and light impulses. Some light exists in the darkest places, and vice versa.

If it was possible for good men to identify bad men we could simply eliminate the baddies, and live in an egalitarian utopia.

If you can take comments like Gadsby’s on the chin, with goodwill and humility, you are part of the solution.


About Last Night :the medical exam that challenges masculine stereotypes 16-12-18

Q: I’m 55, and have been having some routine health checks. After a recent blood test, my doctor asked me to come in for a digital rectal examination. For some reason I thought of digital displays – a machine thing. When he pulled on latex gloves, I realised which digit was involved. The examination proceeded without an issue, but, on my way home, I realised that the experience had shaken me. Intellectually, I know this is ridiculous, but I did feel a little traumatised.

A: Your reaction is not uncommon. For many men, the idea of being penetrated is deeply confronting. This irrational response can be intense, and visceral, as generations of gender stereotyping kicks in.

A hundred years ago, in the wake of World War I, society underwent radical cultural changes. Women had gained the vote, and access to contraception. Old certainties about race, and class, were being questioned, and sexual mores, including the taboo against homosexuality, were shifting. These cultural upheavals caused widespread uncertainty, anger, fear, and soul-searching, but the coming of the modern era could not be stopped.

A century later, we are facing another turn of the cultural wheel. Once again long-held beliefs about gender, race, religion and society are shifting. The clearest example of this struggle was seen during the debate over marriage equality. The fact that changes to the law were supported by a majority of the population demonstrates how things are changing. Those who opposed same-sex marriage expressed profound anger and outrage, but they were left behind by the tide of history.

Women’s lib encouraged women to question many deep-seated beliefs about femininity and the role of women. Old notions still persist, but we are used to them being challenged.

Today, men are being asked to question deeply held assumptions about masculinity, and what it means to be an admirable man.

One of the emotions that can be triggered is a form of homophobia. This is not necessarily projected out, towards gay men, but is turned inwards. For example, how many men are truly comfortable with the colour pink. The same reflex can be triggered if the integrity of their backside is threatened. There is a deep fear that, if a man enjoyed penetration, that would mean he was gay.

In her controversial book of 1999, The Whole Woman, Germaine Greer made the dogmatic pronouncement that all men see penetration as inherently oppressive, and only suitable for women. However, at the same time, there was a growing market, in the heterosexual community, for sex toys that women could use to penetrate their male partners.

It is becoming more widely known that the prostate is an erogenous zone, and that sexual pleasure can be experienced when it is stimulated. Increasingly, we are becoming comfortable with every part of our bodies. This is a healthy development.

Men’s phobia about being penetrated has not only been irrational, it has also proved to be deadly. In 2016 the results of some comprehensive research were published. Studies in the United States and Britain discovered that the rate of prostate cancer was very high in the Afro-American and Caribbean communities because the men were so reluctant to have the necessary examination. We know that cancer treatment is most effective when the condition is diagnosed early, so it is tragic if men are losing their lives because of their outmoded beliefs about masculinity.

The fact that you are aware of your reaction, and are able to examine and discuss your feelings, shows that you have progressed along the path of cultural change. Your willingness to interrogate, and talk about, the emotions that were triggered means that you are doing a great service to men in general. Overall improvements in men’s health can only be achieved when the issues can be brought into the open, and discussed.


About Last Night :Yeast and sexual health: Recurring thrush is ruining my love life 9-12-18

Q: I’m 28, and am being driven crazy by recurring yeast infections. The pattern seems to be that I feel aroused in the middle of the month, around ovulation. When I have sex, I immediately get an outbreak of thrush, so I stop having sex to treat the symptoms. By then I have PMS, followed by my period, so, basically, I’d be lucky to enjoy carefree sex once a month. How can I break this cycle?

A: Ah, thrush – that little bird that flies in the window as love walks out the door. This annoying yeast infection is very common, with 75 per cent of women affected at some time. It is usually the result of an overgrowth of Candida albicans in the gut. This harmless fungal condition occurs naturally and only causes problems when things are out of balance.

Thrush occurs in the vagina, and in the mouth, but is not a sexually transmitted infection. It is safe to have sex during an attack, although some men do experience some itching. However, the uncomfortable symptoms usually make the idea of having intercourse unappealing.

The main symptoms are a burning, itching feeling around the vulva, and a white, yeasty discharge that resembles cottage cheese. The symptoms are easily treated with antifungal medication, used both internally, and topically. The problem is that, as you have found, recurring outbreaks can turn this into a vicious cycle.

Factors such as being on oral contraceptives or antidepressants, hormonal changes, and pregnancy can make outbreaks more common.

Antifungal creams and pessaries can be bought without a prescription, but even if you are sure that you have thrush, it is still important to see your doctor. These outbreaks can be a symptom of other health conditions such as an STI, or diabetes, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis, especially when the symptoms recur.

There are simple steps that you can take to improve the situation, or to relieve the symptoms. One of these is something that all girls should be taught at toilet training. As the fungus lives in the bowel, she should always wipe backwards, away from the vulva.

Try to wear natural, breathable fibres next to your skin, and avoid tight pants, especially in warm weather. A moist, humid environment makes the fungus flourish. Do not use soap when washing your genitals. Avoid highly scented products such as essential oils, douches, deodorisers, and laundry products, particularly fabric softeners, as these can cause irritation.

Not a lot of research has been done on dietary factors, but, anecdotally, it might be a good idea to cut back on your sugar intake, and eat a good quality natural (unsweetened) yoghurt. Some woman find the yoghurt soothing when applied topically.

As I have said, if you are up for it sex is possible at this time. You need to use a lot of personal lubricant, but look out for cheap brands. Many of these contain sugar, which feeds yeast. Also, if you use condoms, be aware that the antifungal treatments can weaken them, so use these treatments after sex.

If you follow all the precautions, but this cycle continues you can ask your doctor about a treatment that deals with the fungal load in your gut. Called fluconazol, it is designed to be swallowed. This is a stronger treatment that is not recommended for pregnant women. It is quite expensive, and would not be used as a first level treatment, but it can be effective when the condition keeps returning.

The pattern you describe can have a negative impact on your relationships, your libido, and your sexual self-esteem. Talk to your partner about what is happening, and listen to how it is affecting each of you. It can be useful to get informed about the condition together. There are innumerable medical websites online, but not all of them are accurate. The Victorian government has a site which is trustworthy. It is called the Better Health Channel, and is your best health information resource. It also offers a list of resources and support organisations in the local area. Visit

Email: abtlastnight

About Last Night :Women need to make assertiveness and self-respect the norm 2-12-18

Q: My mum and I have always stood up for ourselves. Mum will not hesitate to object if someone skips a queue. I will speak up if there is an issue with my meal. We don’t go about looking for problems, or being rude to people, but the initial response from others is usually, “Oh no, don’t make a fuss!” Surely being comfortable about standing up for yourself is a skill all women need so that they can react appropriately to prejudice, inappropriate touch, and injustice?

A: I agree. If we want tomorrow’s women to be confident, decisive, and able to ask for what they want, we need to teach them how to be assertive. We must stop rewarding little girls for being biddable, and self-effacing. The squeaky wheel gets the oil, so, squeak up, girls!

It goes without saying that patriarchal and misogynist cultures in work, sport, and politics must change, and boys need to be educated, validated, and supported when they make these changes.

Women need to be encouraged to challenge and reject the patriarchal messages that they have internalised. Chief among these unhelpful instincts is the “rabbit in the spotlight” reaction to a perceived threat, the belief that if you make yourself very small, stay still, and attempt to detach from an unpleasant situation, it will go away. Rabbits get shot.

It is important to differentiate between assertiveness and aggression. Being assertive is a constructive way to handle difficult people, achieve your goals, and solve problems. It differs from aggression because it involves a constructive and polite attitude. Aggression involves speaking rashly, insulting people, and not paying attention to the other’s point of view.

Aggression, both active and passive, is what comes after freezing. The cornered creature has to get extremely frightened and angry in order to fight back, but by that time emotion has taken over, often on both sides, and what transpires does little to defuse or resolve the conflict, or promote clear communication about the underlying situation.

Many of the sexual harassment cases that have been in the news lately have involved competent, professional, well-educated women, who say things like: “He rubbed my back/kissed me/touched my breast … and I just froze. Afterwards I was very distressed/had to go and see mum and dad/hoarded it as a long-term trauma, but did nothing about it”.

This mystifies many people.

I am not victim blaming here. Historically, women have been at an enormous disadvantage. Usually, there was a power imbalance. Systems have not been strong enough to allow complaints, while protecting the complainant. Privacy and anonymity were not protected, and gossip further damaged the victim, especially with the rise of social media. It is scary to be the pioneer of change.

Some people recommend self-defence training for girls to build confidence in their ability to protect themselves from violence. This is a great idea, but we need to be careful not to fill their minds with fear, or cause them to expect to be victimised.

Becoming comfortable about being assertive takes practice. This is why women need to be encouraged to speak up in a variety of situations, so that it becomes second nature.

When a problem arises, take a deep breath, and pause a moment to gather your thoughts, and calm your emotions. Try to achieve a lightness of touch, smile, or use disarming humour in your initial response, and use “I” statements when you speak, such as: “I feel uncomfortable when you touch me.”

In most cases, that will be enough, especially if there are witnesses. You will have made your point without the person losing face. If they persist, firmly warn them that you are prepared to make a complaint.

The fear that prevents many women from asserting their wishes is that they will lose their job, fail to get promoted, or become the subject of spiteful gossip. These are reasonable fears, but doing nothing will not protect you. As we have seen in recent, well-publicised cases, victims have lived with pain and anger for decades.

It will take time to solve these issues, but assertiveness, and self-respect can become the norm.


About Last Night: I’m turned off by the thought of physical intimacy 25-11-18

Q: I think our society is obsessed with sex. The pressure to look sexually attractive, same sex relationships, sexual abuse, assault and harassment, controversy about contraception and abortion, infidelity, sex-ed in schools, worries about porn, or STIs … it seems to be everywhere you look. I think I must be a freak. I am not sexually attracted to anyone, of any gender, or body type. I have had deep friendships, bordering on what I suppose is love, but I have absolutely no inclination to become physically intimate with people. Is there something wrong with me?

A: The short answer is no. As you observe, our society can give the impression that you must have a robust sex drive in order to be healthy, but sex is really not compulsory. People have varying levels of libido. Some experience low libido at certain times in their lives, such as when breastfeeding, when depressed or on medication, and in old age. We are all on a sexual spectrum of desire. At one extreme are so-called “sex addicts”. At the other, are asexual people (or “aces”) who do not experience sexual attraction at all. This is simply one way to be normal.

What all human beings actually crave and need is connection, relationship, love, and positive validation from other humans. Asexuality only becomes a problem when it impacts on our ability to connect authentically, with others.

I spoke to Josh Muller, who is a psychologist specialising in gender and sexuality, working with LGBTQIA+ clients at the Mind Equality Centre in North Fitzroy ( He says, “Asexual people are normal, they are not broken. Often the issues asexual clients and I work on are about discrimination and erasure, or relationship dynamics.”

Many couples struggle when one is more interested in sex than the other, as Dr Rosie King explains in Good Loving, Great Sex: Finding Balance When Your Sex Drives Differ. Aces do form strong, loving connections. They just do not want to have sex. It is natural that this could be a source of conflict when only one partner is asexual.

It is horrible to feel like a “freak”, like you are the only person experiencing something challenging. Connecting with a community of people in the same situation can be an enormous help.

Muller recommends AVEN (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) as the best resource for Asexuality and Aromanticism ( He also says that David Jay, the founder of AVEN, has a great TED talk on asexuality (

There was a time when society understood that a powerful relationship could be platonic and non-sexual. Today, when we read about the Bible’s King David and his love for Jonathan, or the connection between Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, we assume they must have been gay lovers. Similarly, we doubt that men and women can be “just good friends”, but the sexual element is not a given.

The problem is, as Jay explains, love and sex are inextricably “Velcroed together” in our thinking, with romantic, sexual relationships given the highest priority and value. This can lead us to believe that, if someone really loves us, they will also desire our body. It is this misunderstanding that can cause us to engage in “mercy sex” to please or reassure a loved one.

I asked Muller if aces ever have sex for the same reasons. He responded: “The answer is sometimes! Some aces describe their experience as sex-repelled, while others are maybe more indifferent. I also tend to normalise this by noting that most people find some sex acts repellent. For some it is ‘scat’ play, others just oral sex. Aces can and do have sex with partners to please them, and have a mixture of feelings. Asexuality is more about the sexual attraction, rather than arousal or behaviour itself, as these things can align or not with each other.”

I think that we could all benefit from disentangling love from sex. The strength and depth of a loving relationship is not measured by how often we have, or enjoy, sexual intercourse.


New Product Advice: Introducing the unique and beautiful Ava original

Brand New from our friends at Made Downunder. Unique, thoughtful and very effective!

the unique and beautiful Ava original

See it on our site here.

Click on the images below to see larger versions



We have been friends and in a supplier / retailer relationship with the principles of Made Downunder toys for 22 years.We are so happy to be able to offer our customers the first in an exciting brand new line of personal pleasure products

The principle is simple and commendable, make a quality base unit and create extra ‘skins’ and add-on variants to suit every taste. And that also means sustainability .We all want to consume less and have less waste. Ava is the way of the future, as a sustainable base unit means one base unit might replace multiple other products!

And here she is and what a beauty!

What you see in white is the base unit, and the blue is the ‘skin’

The base unit houses the motor, powered by a rechargeable LiIon battery. There are 5 vibrational settings to choose from. The first 3 are speed settings, which are then followed by 2 vibration patterns.

The lovely handrawn images on the left show how ergonomic and satisfyingly Ava fits in your hand, becomes an extension of your touch.

The handset is waterproof.

The price is very reasonable considering the quality and the fact that you’ll save with different skins

Click on this link to go to the Ava original page in our shop Ava Original

Always use a small amount of a quality lubricant to enhance your experience, AVA is compatible with organic water or oil based lubricants. click on the links below for the various products

Astroglide Natural,   Pjur Woman,  Pjur Aqua WaterbasedPjur Med Vegan glide




About Last Night: talk to your lover about your fears 18-11-18

Q: I’m an active and healthy man (80). My last three significant relationships lasted about 10 years each, and I didn’t handle them well. Now, I’ve met a younger woman, and we’ve found instant mental and physical attraction. She cares for a husband with Alzheimer’s, getting her needs met with casual lovers. I, too, am a carer. Now we have fallen in love, having never experienced a relationship as full and complete. I’m worried I’ll destroy everything, as in the past. I’d be heartbroken and desolate. I’ve already annoyed her with my responses. Help.

A: It is clear that you are self-aware enough to know that you are capable of self-sabotaging your relationships by returning to unhelpful patterns of behaviour. However, this awareness is likely to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you cannot change your responses. At the moment, your greatest enemy is fear itself.

My husband is an experienced motorcyclist, and one of the fundamental principles of travelling on two wheels in safety is to keep your eyes on where you want to go, not on what you want to avoid. If you focus on that massive pothole, that is where the bike will go.

Unfortunately, you have continued to behave in ways that do not serve you for decades, so the pattern, or tangle, is well established, and you do not have a lot of time to straighten things out. Fortunately, you do not need to.

Steve Biddulph says that you have two options when you are confronted with a tangled, knotted mess. Either you can spend hours trying to undo the knots, or you can decide to cut out the knotted section, splice the two ends together, and get on with using the rope.

So, how can this be achieved?

Firstly, challenge the way you think. The past, including your failed relationships, does not exist. The future, where you see yourself spoiling this new relationship, does not exist. All that we ever have is this moment, and it is in this moment that your relationship is developing. Do not allow regret over a non-existent past, or fear about an imaginary future, impact negatively on the now.

There is a powerful resource you can use to help you to change your thoughts and feelings, without taking years to do it. That tool is called “The Work”, and it has been developed by American writer Byron Katie (

Using a deceptively simple technique involving four questions, “the work” helps you to understand the stories that you are telling yourself that trigger your anxiety or unhappiness. By turning your thinking around, you lose the pain.

The best introduction to her approach is to listen to her audiobook, Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life. It is important that you listen to the entire book. It is also most effective if you use the worksheet template she provides. When you write things down it concretises them, getting them out of your head, and making it easier to work on them.

One word of warning: if you find American modes of expression irritating and off-putting, please persist. The introductory chapters that explain Byron Katie’s back story are spoken by her husband, and grated on me at times, but are important. Push through until you hear the live dialogues with real people.

Although “the work” is simple, the ideas can be slippery and elusive. I have listened to the audiobook three or four times now, and the way of thinking is bedding in.

Meanwhile, talk to your lover about your fears, your habitual patterns of behaviour, and your hopes for the future. She is more likely to understand what is going on, and to be willing to be patient and supportive, if you have opened your heart, revealed your vulnerability, and asked her for her help. My partner and I found it enormously helpful to listen to Loving What Is together.

You are at a time in your life when you can choose to reject self-destructive habits, and enjoy the full, rich, sustaining love for which you have been yearning.


About Last Night: How will I find a partner if I don’t enjoy sex? 11-11-18

Q: I’m 19, and have had three boyfriends. I’ve never really enjoyed sex, but try to be a good lover. My last boyfriend was a bit full-on and wanted to experiment which sometimes left me sore. I was devastated when he dumped me for being frigid. I love my current boyfriend, and don’t want to lose him, but having sex hurts all the time. How will I ever find a long-term partner if I can’t enjoy sex?

A: Sexual intercourse should never be painful! Enduring pain to please a partner will only make things worse. Sex should be pleasurable for both of you. Nobody should be pressured to do things they do not enjoy in order to please, or hang on to, a lover. Do something about this immediately to avoid the problem becoming entrenched.

First, see a doctor to make sure there is no medical cause for your discomfort. If you feel uncomfortable about consulting your GP, or if you are told there is nothing wrong with you, do not give up. Both the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Monash Medical Centre have free sexual counselling clinics where you can get accurate advice and information. Book now, as there can be a waiting list.

At the Sexology In Practice Symposium 2018, Dr Anita Elias spoke on “Painful Sex: a biopsychosocial-cultural approach”. Painful sex used to be a problem encountered mostly by older women around menopause. New research suggests that, today, the biggest group presenting with this problem are 16-to-19 year olds.

Sexuality education in Australia is patchy, at best. It is done well in some schools, but thousands of teens are not getting accurate, frank and nuanced information about having safe, respectful, equal, and mutually fulfilling intimate relationships.

At the same time, children are being exposed to pornography at a younger and younger age, often inadvertently through pop-ups. It can be illegal for teachers to talk about porn before year 10, so there can be nowhere where kids can get a perspective on what they are seeing.

Pornography is fantasy. A variety of activities are featured, in a short space of time, for the purposes of entertainment. This can give the impression that a sexual encounter should be like a decathlon, and include vaginal penetration, oral and anal sex, and more extreme activities. People might experiment with different things over a lifetime, but each encounter will be different.

Much porn puts little, or no emphasis on the woman’s arousal and pleasure. Sex is done to a woman, often aggressively. Using porn as your source of information about sex is like using the Tokyo Drift Boys movies as a driving lesson.

Never forget that a woman’s pleasure is as important as a man’s. He can be as ready to go as soon as he has an erection. Women need more time. During arousal, the blood vessels become engorged, and the woman gets an internal erection. The body releases natural lubricants, and the vaginal canal lengthens. Vigorous intercourse when you are not aroused can easily become painful. Enduring painful sex acts like aversion therapy. Some women end up with vulvadynia (acute pain around the vaginal opening), or vaginissmus, where the pelvic floor muscles spasm, making penetration impossible. These conditions are treatable, but prevention is much better than cure.

There were no good old days. When I was a teen there was unreported abuse, backyard abortions, and the inhumane treatment of unmarried mothers. Sex was forbidden fruit. However, apart from the fear, guilt and shame, things did often go more slowly. Holding hands, long sessions of passionate kissing, heavy petting – these served to allow time for both partners to get aroused. There is something to be said for taking things more slowly at times.

Sadly, men are also being short-changed. The emphasis on physical performance and prowess is causing anxiety, with the result that very young men are experiencing erectile dysfunction. Also, being trapped in the body, without engaging the heart, impoverishes the spirit and leads to a shallow and superficial kind of pleasure that is little more than glorified masturbation.

About Last Night: Be patient with yourself and your partner in new sexual relationship 28-10-18

Q: At 46, I am no athlete but I am reasonably fit, although I could lose a few kilos. Since my divorce I’ve had some sexual relationships, with mixed results. Although my ex and I didn’t have a lot of sex, when we did I had no trouble performing, but I’ve been unable to “rise to the occasion” with some recent lovers, even when I find them very attractive. This is embarrassing, and I notice I’ve started to worry about this when sex seems likely. How can I stop this from becoming a real issue?

A: It is not unusual for men over 45 to start to notice some decline in their sexual function. In order to eliminate the possibility of this being a symptom of an underlying health issue, such as vascular disease, it would be a good idea to see your doctor for a thorough health check. If you get the medical all clear you can then focus on other factors that might be contributing to this situation.

You and your ex partner had a relationship that broke down, but you did have the benefit of familiarity and a certain security. Starting new sexual relationships means stepping into unknown territory, which is daunting.

With a new person it is not always easy to be yourself. You want to give a good impression, you want to be able to live up to what you think the woman is expecting, even though she might not be thinking what you imagine.

When the anxiety kicks in take some slow, deep breaths, and bring your attention to your feet. This will bring you back into your body in this moment. You cannot be swept away with passion when your analytical mind is in control, or the “flight or fight” reflex has kicked in.

Men are often goal-oriented, but try not to get fixated on penetration and orgasm. The encounter will be more enjoyable for both of you if you can savour every part of the sensual journey. For many women penetration is not the most pleasurable part of sex.

Few people are athletes, and many of us are sedentary, and overweight. This can negatively affect our mood and our energy levels. Make a point of eating a healthier diet, and take some exercise, even if it is only some brisk walks. This will help with the anxiety, and improve your overall body function. Now is the time to “use it or lose it”.

Your psychological health can also affect your sexual life, so take steps to eliminate your stressors. The divorce process is stressful, and there can be a lot of blame, and much focusing on the other person’s faults. Now is the time to identify, and own, your own failings and issues. If you find this overwhelming, a professional counsellor or therapist might be helpful.

To fully enjoy a sexual relationship you need to communicate with your partner. Most women do not expect a man to be a superhero, and many find that their hearts open to someone who can be honest, and show their vulnerability.

If you are in the habit of masturbating frequently, try abstaining for a while. Too much stimulation from porn and fantasy can be desensitising, leaving you jaded. Allow your sexual energy to build up, and savour experiencing desire.

If you are the sexual partner of someone who is having difficulties, try to be patient and reassuring. Chastising or criticising them will only make things worse. Let them know what attracts you to them. Tell them how good they make you feel. Listen carefully to what they say, without offering suggestions or dismissing their fears. Sex works best when there is trust.

There is a popular misconception that a man gives a woman an orgasm, but you are responsible for your own orgasms. Every woman is different, so you need to know what works for you in order to be able to guide a partner. Practising having orgasms on your own will help you to better understand how your body works.