Wednesday, March 26, 2008

When He Can't Get It Up...

I've done a lot of work around sexual problems - in fact, in May I will be speaking at the Primary Care Sexual Dysfunction conference. One of my particular areas of expertise is erectile difficulty, and I find this particularly rewarding work because so often, the problem's easily cured. Here are some guidelines for both sufferer and their partners.

To him:

1: Relax. Often one occurrence of ED scares the life out of a sufferer - and then performance anxiety kicks in and there's no way forward. If ED has happened after a one-off occurrence, then take the pressure off by concentrating on foreplay for a few weeks. Once you aren't under stress, the problem often resolves itself.

2: If it doesn't resolve itself, don't delay getting help. The average man with ED waits years before consulting a doctor, but that's unwise, if only because ED can be a marker of medical problems such as heart disease or diabetes. See your GP right away; he's seen it all before and won't be embarrassed.

3: Be hopeful. Often it takes only a few minutes' consultation to get a diagnosis and effective treatment. Current medications - yes, the little blue pill and its brothers - can be the answer of choice and if not, then more exploration can often come up with alternative solutions.

To her:

1: Don't add more pressure by blaming yourself or the relationship. ED is rarely caused by partnership problems or infidelity that isn't already clear. Sure, if you are rowing daily then his ED may be a sign that you need to sort things out. But ED in a good relationship is almost always a sign that medical intervention's needed.

2: Offer support not challenge. A man who can't get it up is feeling bad about himself to start with. If you wobble, or do him down, this won't help. Instead explain - he may not know - that most ED is down to a physical problem which can be easily sorted.

3: Suggest he get help. You can give your partner permission and encouragement to go to the doctor, when he may be hesitating. You can also suggest he logs on to SortED in 10 for extra guidance.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Adrenalin junkie!

I really like giving one-off quotes to national newspapers and magazines. There's something incredibly rewarding about being 'flung' a topic at short notice - anything from the McCartney divorce to the efficacy of antidepressants via the Government's latest policy on teen pregnancy. Picking up the phone and instantly being asked to bring all my expertise into play to give insights at the drop of a hat brings with it a rush of pure adrenalin. Can anything beat that?

Well actually, something can. The adrenalin rush of an extended live radio phone-in is, I must admit, even better. My current drug de jour is a monthly co-presenter appearance on Jim Davis' late night Friday show on LBC. I arrive at 9.30. Jim and I enter the studio and pop our headphones on at 9.55. From then until midnight, anything goes. Responding to Jim's sometimes outrageous though always well-thought through questions is the least of my worries. The emails, texts and live calls from our listeners can mean that any topic is fair game.

Last week we began with 'dumping and being dumped' - and the phone lines swiftly started ringing off the hook. Tears, despair, fury - and that was just Jim and I! As to callers, there was the guy who had dumped his one night stand because she wasn't fit enough - and was now asking me to comment on his taking up with her again now she'd lost weight. There was the woman who was agonising over whether to leave her partner of nineteen years. There was the young man who had lost both his girlfriend and his brother at one stroke when he had arrived home early and found them in bed together. All human life was there.

Of course, it's not just the adrenalin rush that keeps me hooked into this kind of work. It's the incredible feeling when someone signs off with the words 'thanks... that's really helped" - or, as happened on my Heart106 programme earlier this year, when a listener emails to tell me that there's been a happy ending and "we took your advice... and the wedding's in June." That, truly, makes everything worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Ninety Day Plan

I love spreading the word about good new ideas in personal development. This one's courtesy of my friend Charley Ferrer, a wonderful American therapist whom I met at the World Conference of Sexology in Montreal in 2005. Charley suggests that, rather than wobbling about whether a new partner is The One for you - and particularly if you find yourself either treading on eggshells for fear you'll lose him (or her) - you simply put together a Ninety Day Plan. which is guaranteed to sort the wheat from the chaff, and the viable relationships from the ones that are never going to work.

Here's how to do it.

1: When you get together a new partner, make a judgment first whether they are obviously a 'no'no' - continuing track record of alcoholism, drug abuse, violence or infidelity. If you know they are - or if at any time you discover that they are - end the relationship immediately.

2: If there are no obvious danger signs, then make a commitment that for Ninety Days, you are going to commit to this person as if the relationship was going to work. Let them know that is what you're doing and that you're not going to back out before that period or over. (Also let them know that this doesn't mean you are assuming you will marry them or have their babies, just that you're theirs for three months.)

3: Now relax. Be kind, generous, loving and caring, without worrying whether it's being returned - give and take may even out over time. Don't worry or wobble - again even if there are slight glitches, love takes a while to bed down. Hang on in there, and give it time to develop.

4: But also, be authentic. Be open, honest, the real you without trying to impress or win your partner over. If you think something, say it. If you want something, say so. If you have an impulse to do something, do it. Within reason (no truly bad behaviour) do what you feel like.The Ninety Day Plan gives you the stability to do this.

5: At the end of the ninety days, take audit. Are you disillusioned with your partner? If so, then walk away - but don't reproach yourself; you have absolutely given it your best shot. Is your partner disillusioned with you? If he is, then best for him to walk away now rather than do it years down the line when you're married or pregnant.

But if you are both happy, then this is good. He has seen the real you and he knows who you really are. That means you have a really solid and hopeful basis to go forward - for the next Ninety Days.

If after four sets of Ninety Days, things are getting better and better, you'll probably find that nice things will happen - like you'll move in together or buy a ring!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Teenage pregnancy - always a disaster?

Did you know that teenage birth rates in the UK are no higher than they were in the pre-Pill 1960s? Or that in those Sixties it was seen as normal for women to be married and mothers by the time they were 18?

Both of these stats pop up in a recent Times article covering an upcoming Channel 4 Cutting Edge about teen Mums. Because for all the horror stories about profligate younger Mums, this article, and the documentary, paints a much rosier picture.

Sure, teen pregnancy without the support of a caring partner is hard, much harder than for older and more mature working women. And I'm not saying that all teens step up to the challenge with mature courage and perfect parenting skills.

But I've felt for a while that we catastrophise teen pregnancies unecessarily. Often, having a baby is - in the words of the Channel 4-featured midwives - the 'making' of a girl. They stay with their partners, they grow into fulfilled and supportive parents. And actually, there is not only nothing biologically wrong with a woman giving birth at 14, 15 or 16. We are programmed to produce early; by 30 we are way past our maternity sell by date; the programme even suggests, with reason, that 30-somethings often make more selfish, less dedicated mothers than their younger counterparts.

So no, let's not argue with the Government's 'reduce teen pregnancy' programme. But equally, let's not demonise the teen Mums. On many levels, they do a super job of bearing and bringing up their kids - after which, they go back to education and spent the rest of their lives in productive, fulfilled careers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Exciting news!

I've hinted more than broadly in this blog on several occasions that I've been working on a new and significant publishing project concerning sexuality. Sadly, I still can't spill the beans too publicly - the publisher concerned has issued a total embargo on coverage until the summer, when books will be available and the publicity campaign can begin in earnest.

But that doesn't mean to say I can't tell you about - make that crow about - all the work that I and my team have been doing to prepare for that campaign. Since our first publicity meeting six weeks ago, we've actually been working flat out.

Laura has been putting together list after list of names that the publishers can approach for coverage, comment and endorsement. Not just contacts in print, radio and television. Not just other agony aunts, media medics and columnists. But academics who might want to put it on their reading lists, academic journals who might want to review it, and counselling organisations who might want to invite me to speak at their conferences. (I"m already speaking about the project in Rome in a few weeks' time, but more about that later.)

In the meantime, Joy has been doing 'projects'. Commissioning a special postcard to be handed out to all and sundry... talking to bookshops and venues to arrange a Cambridge launch... liaising with certain Universities to organise debates on the topic... briefing the publisher's Special Sales department on whom they could approach to get tie ins or merchandising.

My role - along with working on the next stage of the project - has been quite simply to gather as many contacts as I can. If I speak to a journalist, I ask them if they want to be including on the mailing list. If I do a show, I ask the presenter if I can let him know nearer the time. When I talk to anybody and everybody who might have a professional interest, I tell them the bare bones and ask if they want to be kept informed. They all do.

If you're reading this as a journalist, academic or columnist who might be interested in covering the story - without yet, of course, knowing exactly what the story is :) - let me know. I shall put you on the mailing list and, nearer the time, the publishers will send you a press release and, if relevant, a review copy.