In & Out
Q: I have an unusual question. My boyfriend gets extremely turned on and hard during the beginning of fooling around and/or sex, but sometimes get soft right in the middle of it. What’s going on?
A: That’s not so unusual—he’s a man, he has a penis and sometimes penises get soft. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he no longer likes, loves or lusts for you, nor does it otherwise spell doom. It may be an age-related erection change; however, if he’s relatively young, healthy, a nonsmoker and sober, frequent difficulty getting or maintaining an erection is often related to performance anxiety. Men are often under the assumption that they should get a good, hard erection any time they or their partner feels ready for sex, but rarely can a penis be controlled. Erections come and go as they please and may be influenced by hormones, sleep, stress, medical conditions, drugs (legal or your own stash), anxiety and even the temperature in a room. Most guys experience occasional erection problems, but some men freak out at the slightest unexpected softening of their penis. They have a fluke erection problem, then they worry, and that anxiety keeps them from having a good erection the next time. Then the fact that they have difficulty again only reinforces their belief that they must be—ack!—the new face of Viagra. The solution often involves both of you taking the pressure off his penis. Love, touch and kiss it when it’s soft, hard or in between, and never with the expectation that it grow on demand. Find or invent new sex activities that don’t require a hard penis (trust me, there are many). Tell him how good he is at things that don’t involve his penis (kissing, back massages, getting you off via hand or mouth). The New Male Sexuality (Bantam, $16) is one of my favorite books about men and sex—it’s often used in sex therapy, and it helps debunk many myths about sex while providing tips for pleasure. Finally, men often find it difficult to get an erection shortly after a recent ejaculation (which is related to the infamous refractory period). It’s possible that he is masturbating more often these days and that his penis is tired by the time sex with you rolls around. If his masturbation habits have remained the same, maybe his age is catching up with him. Even if he used to be able to masturbate in the morning and come with you at night, he may now only be up for one go-round per day. It happens. If that’s the case, work together to create a sex plan that works for the both of you, one that includes room for shared sex and solo sex, two important aspects of many men’s sex lives.
Q: I get defensive when my friends call me a “fag hag” because I have a lot of gay male friends, but to tell you the truth, I don’t even really know what the phrase means. Am I right to be offended, or is it okay?
A: There are probably as many definitions for fag hag as there are fag hags themselves. The little work that has been done on relationships between gay men and women suggests a few possibilities, including: women who want to play “mommy” to gay men and care for them; women who always seem to fall in love with gay men, either not realizing they are gay or wanting to turn them straight; or women who simply have gay friends and go to parties or events with them, even though they may have a romantic/sexual partner at home. Fag hags are almost always, as far as I’ve heard the term, straight-identified women. Though I don’t fall into the first few fag-hag categories, I have occasionally been lumped into the latter. For whatever reason, I have quite a few gay men as friends and they’re often up for good times whether it’s a night out at a bar exchanging torrid secrets or a black-tie affair. Some gay friends take me as their “date” because they don’t have to deal with relationship drama and we have a great time together; not because they’re straight-acting and trying to pass me off as their partner. That’s not so different from a woman who brings a girlfriend as her date to a wedding. In this sense, being called a fag hag isn’t bad—it simply refers to women who are surrounded by gay men, and are often their “dates.” A more condescending use of the term is when it’s used to refer to women who hang on—rather than hang out with—gay men, like some girls who say they want to find a gay friend to go shopping with, as if he were an accessory rather than a person. For a stereotypical take on friendships between women and gay men, check out the cult hit, “Gay Boyfriend” (www.ryantown.com/gayboyfriend) with lyrics like “you don’t care how big my ass is, just how fabulous my dress is.” Or scour the archives at www.perezhilton.com for photos and stories about young female celebrities and their “main gays” (primary gay-guy friends) who—not surprisingly—are often out doing the two things celebrities seem to do best on camera, aside from having painfully boring sex: shopping and grab bing something at Starbucks.
Q: My girlfriend doesn’t want to swallow. What’s the best way to warn her I’m about to blow?
A: She probably cares less about your word choice than the fact that you give her a heads-up. “I’m gonna come,” an excitable “okay” or even “here I go” will work. Silence will not.
Send letters to Debby Herbenick, MPH c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to email@example.com.