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Sexual Matters: "I haven't had sex in a long time."

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Q: I haven't had sex in a long time. Now that I've started dating again I'm somewhat nervous, which of course makes sex a little painful. How can I calm down and enhance the experience for me and my partner?

A: There is no truth to the saying Use it or lose it. If you want to get your groove back, you'll need to do a little mind and body work. First be certain that you want to have sex and are not simply trying to please the man you're with. If you're at all ambivalent about sharing your body with your partner, it may be difficult for you to relax.

Next give yourself permission to enjoy sex. To boost your sexual self-confidence, get to know your body. Stroke your skin and admire the softness of your curves. Notice the warmth you radiate. Discover your erogenous zones and what gives you pleasure. Good sex should not be rushed. Prolonged foreplay increases your arousal and gives your vagina time to prepare for intercourse by becoming longer, wider and more moist. If need be, intensify your sensations by using a water-based lubricant. And always make sure your partner wears a condom. Tip: Put a small amount of lubricant inside the tip of the condom to increase his pleasure.

Happy lovemaking!

Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., is the author of What Your Mother Never Told You About S-e-x (Perigee).

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