Category: Rowan Peelling's Sex Advice


The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: My husband and I have an almost non-existent sex life; we’re lucky if we make love once a year. I’ve tried to talk to him about it, but he just says he doesn’t have a very high libido, and he doesn’t want to discuss it with anyone.

Three weeks ago, an attractive younger man in my office asked me out for a drink after work. We went to the pub and, in short, he said he wanted to have a ‘no-strings’ affair with me.

The truth is I can’t see many reasons not to, although I worry about my two teenage children finding out.

Man and woman chatting in office

Rowan: It must be flattering that someone young and attractive desires you… But I worry about anyone who leaps in with offers of ‘no-strings’ affairs

ROWAN SAYS:

This is a sad but familiar tale. Probably the most frequent problem cited by couples in long-term relationships is that of incompatible libidos.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having sex once a year, once a decade, or not at all, if both lovers are happy with that. But if one side of the partnership feels desirous on a far more regular basis and is constantly rebuffed, they will come to feel rejected and angry (while their less libidinous partner will likely feel put upon and accused).

All that frustration works up an ugly head of steam, which can, as we know, blow the lid off the saucepan. You’re clearly at boiling point, but this is not the moment to act precipitously. So much is at stake here: your marriage, your children’s happiness, your own peace of mind.

You may feel that you’ve raised the topic of your faltering sex life frequently enough with your husband and that he must darn well take the consequences. But it’s amazing how ostrich-like men can be about important emotional issues.

You need to spell out in black and white the ultimate consequences of his lack of ardour. Tell him that you feel desperate; spell out the fact that his behaviour will drive you into having a love affair.

You need to try and shock him into talking the situation through. Some people only act when the executioner’s step is heard on the stair. If your husband still refuses to tackle the situation head on you are left in a truly invidious situation, particularly if you still love him and other aspects of the marriage are good, such as your parenting of your children. There is nothing healthy about a household where one person is bubbling with resentment and reluctant martyrdom.

There are women  –  and men  –  who claim that under these circumstances a discreet affair can actually help maintain the fabric of a marriage. But the logistics and lies involved always come at huge personal cost, and there’s the continual fear that discovery will result in a painful divorce.

In my observation, this kind of arrangement works better if the less libidinous spouse is not deceived and has agreed to an arrangement whereby their spouse looks for sex elsewhere, while the emotional hub of the marriage remains unchanged. This, however, is a notoriously hard act to pull off.

Few people have the requisite lack of jealousy. Now let’s turn our attention to this handsome man at work. It must be flattering that someone young and attractive desires you. I understand the seductiveness of the situation. But I would feel extremely wary about anyone who leaps in with offers of ‘no-strings’ affairs. That appears practised and manipulative.

Do you really want to engage in intimate sexual acts with someone who sounds as if he makes a habit of targeting older, vulnerable women? A man who, from the offset, makes it clear that he wants no emotional engagement or commitment?

Women tend to find it harder than men to switch off their emotions when they have sex. Do you really think you can stop yourself from feeling involved? How will you feel if you have a brief fling and then carry on working alongside him, quite possibly having to witness him seduce someone else?

And, believe you me, your work colleagues will find out. It’s almost impossible to keep that kind of secret from every watchful eye in an office. Do you want to be gossiped about, or hauled over the coals by your bosses?

In fact, if you are hell-bent on having a love affair, it’s best to assume that everyone will find out and to assess the consequences. Will you be able, for example, to face your children if they believe you have betrayed your husband? I have to say I think it would be disastrous if you leapt into the arms of this predatory male.

If you were attracted to a man whose domestic arrangements were similar to your own he would at least understand the delicacy of the situation  –  but you would still be putting all your family relationships at risk.

When you consider the likely high price pursuing an affair, might it not be best to assess whether you and your husband should really remain together?

It may be more destructive to pursue hidden agendas than to separate and retain respect and affection for one another. Few people flourish when they live their lives in the shadows.

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The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: I have been married for six years and I have two small children aged five and two. We look like a happy family from the outside, but the truth is I haven’t had sex with my husband since our second child was born.

Most nights my husband ends up sleeping with the older child, while I sleep in our big bed with the younger one.

My husband keeps begging me to resume our sex life. The problem is that although I love him, I have no desire for him any more – I haven’t really since our eldest was born – and find his constant requests for sex an imposition.

Unhappy coupleLove lost? Women’s priorities often change after childbirth – with sleep climbing up the list and sex taking a back seat

ROWAN SAYS… This is a desperately sad and all-too-familiar story. Giving birth and raising small children can undoubtedly wreak havoc on the libido. Up and down the country, couples with young children find their sex lives have been torpedoed.

If I had a tenner for every friend or acquaintance who has outlined a similar situation, I would be able to set up a small trust fund for my sons. And generally (though by no means always) it’s the woman who loses enthusiasm for sex, while her husband is as pent-up as Vesuvius before it erupted.

It is tempting at such moments for women to play the domestic martyr card and, indeed, we often have significant justification for feeling hard done by. Our bodies undergo debilitating wear and tear in childbirth, and breastfeeding also takes its toll. And females are still more likely to be the primary nurturer and to do most of the housework.

In short, women tend to be exhausted during the child-raising years and sleep often becomes a higher priority than sex. Furthermore, children often seem to be in competition with their father over ownership of the mother’s body.

This, I am sure, is why you describe your husband’s requests for sex as an ‘imposition’. An angry, drained part of you is thinking: ‘How dare he burden me with one more demand?’ Once you have reached this mindset, sex becomes yet another unpalatable domestic duty.

But it’s incredibly perilous to ignore the gravity of the situation, or to dismiss your husband’s pleas as if he were your third insistent child – something that women are inclined to do in these situations. Put yourself in your husband’s shoes. He is doubtless exhausted, too – sleeping alongside a five-year-old is no picnic.

He’s probably treading on eggshells around you, and your constant rejection must feel emasculating.

The very lifeblood of your marriage is at stake here, and if you find yourself in a divorce court two or ten years from now, you will look back at this moment as the one when you could, or should, have taken decisive action.

This is why when exactly the same situation unfolded in a friend’s house, her mother descended and kidnapped the children for the weekend, telling her daughter in no uncertain terms that it was time to don a sexy slip and invite her beleaguered husband back to her bed.

The daughter was furious at this ‘bullying’, but admitted later that it was the best advice her mum had ever given her.

Women often feel ambivalent or negative about sex with their spouse until they find themselves in the throes of lovemaking; afterwards, they almost always declare themselves happier for having re-established that intimacy.

And they benefit hugely from having a cheerful, equable man around the house again. Most men will tell you they are pretty simple beasts: they need food, work and love to keep their lives ticking over. And by ‘love’ they generally mean sex. The two things tend to be synonymous in the male brain.

If you continue to reject your husband, one of two things is likely to happen: he will become increasingly frustrated and quick to anger (bad for you and your children), or he will simply seek comfort elsewhere.

I am afraid it is simply not realistic for one partner in a relationship to expect their more libidinous other half endlessly to acquiesce to a no-sex pact.

I am not suggesting you become a domestic geisha, but is it really such a burden to try to initiate sex once a month or so? It doesn’t sound as if your husband needs complex seduction. Any reciprocation will clearly be fallen upon like manna from heaven.

Don’t neglect your own sexual preferences. My guess is that he’ll be happy to perform endless foreplay if you show willingness to make him feel desired. If this really feels an impossible feat for you to contemplate, you would be well advised to see a qualified relationship counsellor.

It seems to me that women’s struggles with their capricious libido are a lot like their struggles with their weight: let it slip a little and it won’t be too much effort to restore; but let it slip a lot and the task of regaining your youthful mojo becomes Herculean.

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: I’m a bit of a nature girl and have always liked the idea of making love outdoors, in a forest or field, but my boyfriend is quite inhibited and always behaved like I’ve suggested we have sex in the shop window of John Lewis when I suggest the idea. How can I bring him round?

A couple making out amongst some undergrowthHorses for courses: Al-fresco sex has a long and proud tradition but for some people the prospect is simply mortifying

ROWAN SAYS: How timely that this arrived in my inbox during one of the loveliest springs of recent years.

There’s a traditional English ditty that goes: ‘Hurrah hurrah the first of May/ outdoor rutting starts today.’ And it’s true that for many people the verdant glory of the British countryside acts as a powerful aphrodisiac. It’s not just the rising sap, it’s the song of courting birds and those tempting beds of moss.

Al fresco sex has a long and proud tradition. The historic overcrowding of rural labourers’ cottages meant that many a baby was conceived outdoors, and just think of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, where nature provides a metaphor for the lovers’ sexual release.

But, of course, for a different cast of character the notion of al fresco sex is mortifying.

The thought of bright sunlight exposing every flaw of your gleaming white body is enough to make any shy person wither. Then there’s the fear that a twitcher’s long lens might target your rump.

For some people, the very thought of bracken or long grass and the insects they harbour is anathema. In celeb land, the outdoor act of love also arouses polarised opinions.

Earlier this year Amanda Holden told a gawping world that she and her husband, Chris Hughes, had had sex in a forest near Maidenhead while ‘wearing pink cowboy boots’.

Jennifer Ellison, meanwhile, says: ‘I’m too scared to have sex outdoors – I’d be paranoid about CCTV cameras catching me and ending up on Crimewatch.’

For some exhibitionist types, the risk of getting caught is precisely what gives al fresco sex its frisson. I know one couple who made love in a London park; the woman sitting astride her spouse as he lounged against a tree and her long peasant skirt concealed the nature of their intimacy.

The legality, or otherwise, of having sex outdoors taxes some people. British law does not, in fact, as some believe, criminalise all al fresco sex, it all depends on the circumstances.

I remember hearing about a middle-aged couple, both accountants, who got carried away on a car bonnet in Hampstead and were discovered, and cautioned, by the police.

But if you’re sensible, not to mention sensitive to other people, and make sure you stray far from the beaten track, then all should be well.

A friend of mine swears by cemeteries. She finds the proximity of death an erotic stimulant. Others I know would find this deeply disrespectful to the dead.

Amanda Holden
Jennifer Ellison

To romp or not to romp: Amanda Holden, left, said she had sex with her husband in a forest near Maidenhead ‘wearing pink cowboy boots’ whereas Jennifer Ellison said she’s be terrified of being caught on CCTV

Whatever your choice of location, the question remains how you can persuade your reluctant boyfriend to your cause.

I can’t promise you success in this matter. There’s a reason why people talk about British reserve. It would be unwise to unnerve your man with too much rhetoric.

You need to create the ideal circumstances in which his more spontaneous side can express itself. With British men, that generally involves alcohol. Why don’t you assemble a seductive picnic and lead him to a secluded spot – again, I stress the need to avoid upsetting passers-by – where you can lay out a picnic blanket, food and the requisite amount of wine or beer.

Don’t make any amorous moves until he’s fully relaxed. With luck, he won’t have time to fear WI members on a nature trail and will succumb to the beauty of the place and sensuality of the moment.

If you choreograph all this and he still freezes up then I think you may have to admit defeat. If you browbeat him about this area of reserve, you may well find he becomes more inhibited in less threatening situations. Some people simply need the sanctuary of their bedstead to unfurl properly.

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: I’ve never seen the problem with having sex on a first date. Surely in these post-feminist days women can follow their own honest desires. But my best friend says that’s why I can’t make a relationship last. Do you think there’s any real benefit in playing by ‘the rules’ and holding off?

ROWAN SAYS: Let’s get one thing straight here: of course I don’t think the fact someone has had sex on a first date axiomatically means they are a romantic disaster zone.

When lust is too easily sated, there's a greater chance it won't metamorphose into love, says Rowan Irresistible? When lust is too easily sated, there’s a greater chance it won’t metamorphose into love, says Rowan

We are not living in the 19th century and the feminist movement and improved contraception has won Western women welcome sexual latitude.

But it doesn’t matter what I think – you’re not trying to date me or, come to that, Germaine Greer. What we’re trying to do here is penetrate the psyche of your average male of the species.

And, at the risk of sounding like some kind of rabid evolutionary psychologist, I believe most men are hardwired for the chase.

Nice through it is to come across a stationary gazelle who obligingly offers herself up to the hunter, men tend to be more thrilled by the exertion of bringing down a fleet-footed prey.

When lust is too easily sated, it seems to me there’s a greater chance it won’t make the complex metamorphosis into love. Talk to any psychologist and they will tell you that desire is often triggered and inflamed by subtle forms of frustration.

It’s true of life generally that people tend to place a higher value on what they find rare or hard to obtain. Women are hardly immune from this tendency. How many times have I heard female friends voicing suspicions about men who proclaim love too readily?

The only difference between the sexes resides in the territory men and women find most suspicious if yielded too easily: men believe they have to hone all their charm and skill to persuade a woman to sleep with them, women think they have to deploy every weapon in their armoury to persuade a man to love them.

Of course, there are no fixed ‘rules’ when it comes to sex or love, whatever millionaire American relationship gurus might tell you. I know people who had sex on their first date and ended up blissfully spliced, just as I know men who made declarations of love at first sight and found their passion reciprocated.

You don’t want to become so robotic in your response to a man’s advances that you crush any form of spontaneity in a relationship.

So perhaps the questions you should be asking yourself here concern your own emotions. Do you feel miffed when a man doesn’t contact you after you’ve had sex on a first date? Do you mind if you sense you’re just another notch on his bedpost? Do you worry that your sexual intimacy far outstrips your emotional intimacy?

Do you think you might ratchet up greater erotic tension with a new romantic interest if you hold back from making love for a while?

If the answer to all these questions is ‘yes’, then wouldn’t it make sense to refrain from leaping into bed with new suitors until you feel more certain your affections are returned? Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but among my friends, the longest-lived relationships have been the ones where the women held off having sex for a while.

When I worked in an office full of young women, I couldn’t help but notice that sex on a first date generally resulted from a skin full of alcohol, and was the root cause of sobbing in the loos about: ‘Why hasn’t he called me?’

There’s a good reason that so many people fall deeply in love with work colleagues. (Yes, I met my husband in an office.) In a professional situation, you have a good chance of getting to know one another, of learning whether you can rely upon the beloved, of developing shared jokes and intimacies.

By the time you go to bed with one another, the sexual tension is sky-high, plus you have the reassurance of knowing this is no fly-by-night interest.

So my advice to you is why not have a go at a little light courtship before moving a relationship on to a sexual footing. What have you got to lose?

It’s safe to say any man who ditches you because you won’t have sex on a first date has zero interest in your personality or talents.

And who wants to be with a creep like that?

Is it hormones, husbands who’ve got tubby  –  or just boredom? To help find out, 100 couples kept a brutally honest sex diary for a year.The results surprised even this usually unshockable expert…

After 12 years of writing about sex, I felt pretty confident that nothing could surprise me. I thought I knew it all. I’ve been agony aunt for Company Magazine for many years. I’m one of Scarlet Magazine’s ‘Pleasure Aunts’ (not as questionable as it sounds) and have written countless features and five books on the ins and outs of making love.

I even had a radio phone-in show, where the producer and I regularly had hissed, frantic exchanges over what the next caller might be about to reveal and whether it could potentially shut down the station.

I’ve had sackfuls of letters detailing every kind of female sexual worry, demand, hope and confusion.

ALLAN SANDERSA new book by Australian sex therapist Bettina Arndt, The Sex Diaries: Why Women Go Off Sex And Other Bedroom Battles, charts the deepest, private emotions of both genders – and reveals a hidden world

At parties, I’m often asked what the most common problem is, and I always say it’s: how can we spice things up in the bedroom? Women write wondering why they’ve gone off sex, and what they can do to get their missing mojos back.

I’ve written the answer to this a thousand times – get a babysitter, book a hotel room, buy some new underwear – basically, remind yourself that you’re sexy. And as sex writers seldom get any reports on whether their advice worked, it’s easy to assume that the world is full of relieved couples rekindling their dormant passion over bottles of pricey room service wine.

Or at least it was, until I read The Sex Diaries.

Australian sex therapist Bettina Arndt persuaded 98 couples to reveal all in personal diaries kept over the course of a year. And far from the cosy, all-girls-together whingeing I anticipated-Ooh, men! They always want it, don’t they?’), the book charts the deepest, private emotions of both genders – and reveals a hidden world that’s truthful, painful and sometimes inspiring.

‘The twentysomething women are much more sexually confident than past generations’

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The diaries aren’t really about sex at all, but about the emotions that surround sex with someone you love – fear, intimacy, gratitude, guilt, resentment, loneliness, hope. In fact, the last thing these real couples are worried about is ‘spicing it up’, new positions, or the size of his equipment.

They’re more concerned about why their wife doesn’t seem to love them any more, or why their husband still hopes for sex when he won’t even take out the rubbish to show he cares.

As a ‘sexpert,’ I didn’t expect such brutal honesty. Letters to problem pages tend to be brief, often focusing on practical – even technical – sexual issues. And it’s a rule of thumb that any sex survey must be taken with an entire Dead Sea- sized teaspoon of salt, as people exaggerate, downplay, and just plain lie in order to appear ‘normal’.

These diaries prove, repeatedly, that there is no ‘normal’. There’s only ‘I’m having the sex life I want’ or ‘I’m not’. But the act of writing privately, rather than ticking boxes, obviously encourages reflection and honesty.

Exploring the limits of sexual potential has little to do with clever techniques,’ says Bettina Arndt, ‘but a lot to do with how two people feel about themselves and each other outside the bedroom.’

And reading many of the extracts forced me to question plenty of my assumptions. That the twentysomething women are much more sexually confident than past generations, for instance.

We may assume that all the post-Sex And The City openness, the brazen behaviour and the one-night stands mean they’re happily in control – but one diarist is already tired of her partner’s sexual expectations at the age of just 20, while others struggle to have their needs met, with no idea how to ask.

Flic Everett and husband SimonFlic Everett and husband Simon

I may get letters which suggest that the average 25-year-old girl’s biggest worry is how to fine-tune her new man’s performance for maximum orgasms, but on a deeper level, younger women are clearly longing for intimacy and understanding – just as men are.

Writing for women – and talking to them during radio phone-ins and at events – it’s often tempting to dismiss their pestering partners as sexually voracious testosterone-driven factories. My past, attempted- ego-boosting advice to women has tended towards the ‘He’s lucky to have you, he should be grateful for anything he can get’ variety.

But The Sex Diaries reveals a much more tender, intimate truth about men in relationships. Men who aren’t, in fact, surfing internet porn every night, or resentfully putting up with the middleaged wife while they fantasise about the hot 21-year-old next door.

It comes as a poignant surprise, in fact, to discover that the majority are still deeply in love with their wives; they just want the chance to be physically closer to her, and to feel loved and accepted in return, despite their balding heads or round tummies.

‘Every day I received page after page of eloquent, often immensely sad diary material,’ reveals Arndt, ‘as men grasped the opportunity to talk about what emerged as being a mighty emotional issue for them.’

One typical fiftysomething male correspondent writes: ‘I still find my wife sexually attractive and would love to make love to her. I understand that we are getting older, but I miss the affection and the closeness. I could just sit down and cry – [but] a male my age does not cry, nor does he speak about the problem.’

It’s not only men. Several women also express a sadness that their levels of sexual desire are so ill-matched with their partners.’

Bombarded with sexualised adverts, suggestive TV and feisty articles (some, admittedly, written by me) suggesting that the key to great sex is simply a noholdsbarred approach and a satin thong, it’s no wonder so many suffer in silence. Who wants to be the lone voice in a world of smug sexual satisfaction?

Few would dare to admit they feel vulnerable, or unloved in their own bed, and that they don’t understand why their spouse no longer desires them. But, plainly, they do.

Sometimes, just a few simple words can entirely change your attitude – and I felt mine, feisty feminist that I am, shift at the sad question from one male diarist: ‘What happened to this lover I married? Where did she go?’

It’s been too easy for me to counsel women to have sex only when, where and how they want it, regardless of their partner’s feelings. The sudden awareness that, often, this isn’t just about thoughtless men expecting sex on tap has made me far more aware that, as women, we use sex to punish, to withhold and to send coded ‘You’re not getting it right’ messages instead of communicating our true feelings.

The husband lamenting his lost ‘lover’ had decided that rather than pester his wife for sex and be met with egocrushing refusal yet again, he’d wait until she felt like initiating it. He’s been waiting eight years so far – but he loves her too much to leave.

CoupleNot in the mood: Many women don’t understand what has caused their once-passionate desire for their spouses to wither and die

Maybe growing up in the Seventies, with a mum who read Spare Rib, subconsciously convinced me that men were the new second sex – that they’d had their own way in bed for thousands of years and that now women should set the pace.

And, yes, most sexual abuse is still perpetrated by men. But most of my correspondents – and the couples in The Sex Diaries – are just ordinary, loving partners for whom sex is an expression of intimacy and love.

It became clear reading the diaries that my sometimes knee-jerk response (‘Well, it’s his fault for pestering’) was lacking in compassion for at least one half of the couple in question, and that truly valuable advice should take both their needs into account.

But while some women go on an undeclared sex strike through resentment over unwashed dishes, neglected duties, anger or disappointment, plenty more don’t understand what has caused their once-passionate desire for their spouses to wither and die.

After years of fairly comprehensive research, I have generally concluded – and declared – that it’s simply the waning of the ‘in love’ hormones which bond couples in the first 18 months, and that sexual passion can generally be rebooted by a free night without kids, dirty washing or work deadlines.

This may be partially true, but it may also be way too simplistic. Because what Arndt surmises, after reading her couples’ diaries, is not that most women are ardent lovers whose passion is gradually crushed by domesticity and boredom, it’s that many women don’t have a particularly high libido to begin with.

‘It’s surprising – but most men are still deeply in love with their wives’

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It’s given a huge boost by the hormonal cocktail of falling in love – and lust. But when the endorphins ebb away, she simply reverts back to normal, leaving her passionate partner bemused, stranded and wondering where the sex went.

The women, meanwhile, are often longing for tenderness – and don’t know how to ask for it. They worry that a tired cuddle will be misconstrued as a sexual invitation, so withdraw altogether.

My own response might once have been: ‘You’ll just have to tell him exactly what it means, and he’ll have to respect your boundaries.’ But perhaps the biggest revelation of all is that sexual desire – for women, at least – is seldom sparked, magically, by gazing upon their partner’s slightly sagging physique, investing in new bed linen or launching an Ann Summers trolley dash.

According to The Sex Diaries’ happy couples, it’s a simple matter of Just Doing It. A combination of husbands scaling down the pestering and giving more practical help with children and housework, and women simply choosing to have sex, rather than waiting for lightning to strike, was the unexpectedly simple key.

Initially, of course, like some reluctant diarists, I was shocked at the idea that women should engage in a modern version of ‘lie back and think of England’. I have always railed against women feeling sexually obligated, or ignoring their own needs in favour of his. But the crucial point is that, unlike men, women often don’t feel sexual desire until they’re physically touched.

The Sex Diaries features honest admissions from many women that unless they simply decide to do it, they’d probably never have sex again. But when they do go for it, the sex is often as good as it used to be.

‘I’m definitely a “just do it” person,’ admits one diarist, Glenda. ‘I never have any problems once we start. It always feels good.’

Previously, I might have dismissed these women as born-again Stepford Wives – women who needed their consciousness raising before their libidos. But as I’ve got older, my past certainties about what makes successful sex have been challenged by anecdotes from friends, by my own changing feelings and now by The Sex Diaries.

TheSexDiariesThe new book by Bettina Arndt

It’s not as simple as ‘spicing it up’, or telling him to back off till he’s completed his chores check-list. And it’s not as easy to dismiss men’s desires in favour of our own.

Couples with good sex lives, it transpires, meet each other half way. Sometimes one isn’t in the mood, but does it anyway and ends up enjoying it. Sometimes a cuddle is enough. But what really struck me was the revelation that in long-term relationships, sexual frustration isn’t usually about sex at all: it’s about loneliness and rejection.

And maintaining desire isn’t all about hormones and hotel rooms: it’s much more a matter of choosing to show your partner you love them – even if you don’t always feel like it.

Maybe to an ordinary couple that sounds simple enough. But to a sexpert who’s become used to a rarefied world of tricks and toys, positions and pulsations, it can be difficult to imagine what’s really going on in people’s bedrooms.

Piecing together a general idea from letters requesting help with esoteric erotic problems, or bemoaning ‘boring-in-bed’ boyfriends, it would be easy to think the whole country’s at it every night.

The Sex Diaries is proof that it isn’t. And a timely reminder to me – and my fellow sexperts – that sometimes, feelings are much more important than facts.

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: My boyfriend is a perfect ‘new man’, raised by a feminist mother. He’s a really attentive lover, who always devotes hours to foreplay and my orgasm. I know I’m going to sound really maddening, but the trouble is that he’s just too caring and sharing. Sometimes I just fancy a good, old-fashioned quickie or a bit of caveman-style sex, where it’s not all about his grade-A sex technique. What should I do?

Bored of foreplayBored of foreplay? Give him permission to be more visceral and he’ll surely respond

ANSWER: No wonder men can’t answer the question: ‘What do women really want?’

Just as we’ve convinced them that the correct response is ‘hours of sex, then you turn into a box of chocolates,’ every female I know starts moaning about the lack of ‘real men’.

I blame in Gladiator (and pretty much every other film he’s starred in, come to that) and ’s refreshingly Neanderthal performance as DCI Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes.

A whole generation of women have started longing for a bit of old-fashioned emotionally inarticulate muscle.

So, yes, you are being maddening and it’s a good thing that the veil of anonymity stands between you and the baying mob.

There are millions of women who would give their eye teeth to have a partner who really cares about their sexual pleasure and is adept at bringing them to orgasm. And we certainly don’t want men to believe that sexual prowess resides in reverting to the loathsome old motto: ‘Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen.’

Nevertheless, I do have sympathy for your cause.

Sex is not a one-note activity and even the most satisfactory forms of love-making can pall a little if there’s no variation.

Although it seems ungrateful to confess it, there can be something rather wearisome and guilt-inducing about a man labouring away to make a woman climax when she’s simply not in the mood for a lengthy sex session.

Most of my female friends confess to there being days when they prefer quick, vigorous, thrusting sex and don’t necessarily care if it doesn’t end in orgasm.

Often that preference coincides with a particular stage of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Just as ovulation is known to heighten the female libido, many women find this fiercer brand of sex suits them when they’re pre-menstrual, as it fits in with their fiery mood.

It is equally true that it’s sometimes satisfying to simply give sexual pleasure, rather than receive it or be religiously reciprocal. In certain moods, women can feel that they gain sufficient erotic satisfaction from seeing the intense erotic excitement they conjure in their beloved.

Of course, part of the problem you describe stems from the fact that sex in the modern Western world has become so goal-orientated.

There can be a misplaced sense that someone has failed as a lover if their partner hasn’t had their orgasm. While reaching a climax is undoubtedly an important part of lovemaking, it’s not always essential for either men or women.

There are times when the body simply doesn’t need to orgasm or refuses to – and times when delayed gratification seems sweeter than the instant variety.

As they say: ‘It’s better to travel than arrive.’ It sounds as if your boyfriend is so proud of his ability to push a woman’s buttons that he’s become a wee bit insistent that you gratefully submit to his tender ministrations. You need to demonstrate that there is another way and that women can respond to dynamism as well as delicacy in the bedroom.

What you don’t want to do is criticise the way he makes love, as you may leave him so wounded and confused that he’ll no longer have the confidence to initiate sex.

The easiest way to cajole your boyfriend into the pleasures of a quickie is to engineer a situation that demands a swifter and more animalistic form of sex.

Making love outdoors often affords that kind of opportunity, since the high chance of passersby disturbing your romp means that anything other than a quick tumble tends to be out of the question.

Another thought might be when you’re seductively dressed for an evening out and there’s 15 minutes before the taxi arrives. Basically, you need to find situations that encourage the swift lifting of a skirt and an enthusiastic seizing of the moment. You need to show him that sex is satisfactory at all kinds of tempos and that sometimes his pleasure is your pleasure.

You say your boyfriend has been influenced by his feminist mother. It sounds as if he’s been taught to subjugate his passions to some gender-politics-authorised norm of human behaviour.

But few things can be deemed normal in the wide sphere of behaviour that constitutes human passion. Clearly, you need to give him the confidence to see that sex can occasionally be a little more fierce and visceral on both sides without it compromising anyone’s ethics.

It’s all about permission and making the other person feel safe. My guess is that since your boyfriend’s mission is to make you happy, he’ll quickly pick up the message that changing gear can be thrilling.

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

Rowan PellingRowan Pelling: The problem may well be old-fashioned male insecurity

QUESTION: I’ve been with my boyfriend for six months, we’re both 34 and I am fairly sure he’s The One. The other night we ended up having a conversation about how many lovers we’d had. He told me he had slept with eight women and suddenly I felt nervous about confessing the truth  –  I had a lot of flings at university and in my first job at an ad agency, so my tally is closer to 40. But I found myself saying ten and even then he looked horrified. I hate being untruthful with him, but don’t want to be judged either. What should I do?

ANSWER: I have to say that if this man is so censorious and delicate that he crumples when faced with a 34-year-old unmarried career woman who confesses to ten lovers, then he’d better take the Tardis back to 1900.

When even the leader of one of Britain’s major political parties, Nick ‘Clegg-over’, can coyly admit to ‘no more than 30 lovers’ in GQ magazine (and he has been with his wife, Miriam, some years now, so one presumes the majority of those conquests happened, like yours, at university), surely the rest of us can admit to some youthful indiscretions.

To be honest, if your man really loves you he should be able to take the full tally with equanimity. But then that would presume that he’s secure in his own skin and, as we all know, a great many people aren’t. What you perceive as censure may well be old-fashioned male insecurity.

Your boyfriend may feel daunted at the prospect of you being more sexually experienced than him and may also worry that you will compare him unfavourably with previous lovers.

There’s still a lingering machismo in society that dictates men should be more sexually sophisticated than women.

And women are conspiratorial in this scenario, as few of us want to feel like über-madam Cynthia Payne breaking in a timid punter.

It’s glorious to be seduced by a man confident enough to show a little mastery in the bedroom  –  however, there’s no prerequisite that the bloke in question should have had scores of lovers. Nevertheless, in order to generate this kind of sexual charisma, men often exaggerate the number of women they have slept with, while women are inclined to leave a few dismal lays off their list.

I am amused by how frequently both genders appear unaware of their own mendacity in the numbers game.

For example, I have a dear male friend who I kissed very passionately when I was 22.

Years later I discovered that he had inflated the embrace when talking about it to a mutual acquaintance and now recalled the incident as fully fledged sex. When I took him to task about this inaccuracy, he looked at me as if I was mad and declared: ‘Of course we slept together.’ But I knew with absolute, cast iron, swear-on-the-Bible certainty that our encounter had gone no further than a snog and fumble.

Meanwhile, a close female friend is given to describing herself to any new beau as a virgin (she’s 36). When the poor man looks at her in utter disbelief, she says: ‘I have no recollection of a love life before you. Time starts now.’

The truth is that there’s no normal, correct or acceptable number of sexual partners for men or women. It all depends who you’re talking to.

For some people, anything more than one lifelong soul mate is indecent, for others anything short of 50 shows a woeful lack of libido and romantic curiosity. But just so as you know, the average adult Briton claims to have had around ten lovers in their lifetime. So your boyfriend shouldn’t have batted an eyelid at that figure.

But the real issue here is should you be bolder and tell your boyfriend the truth about your early love life?

The answer to that is almost certainly yes. Honesty and trust are at the cornerstone of most relationships, and if you start dissembling now, you are setting a bad precedent.

If your chap is insecure about your tally, can’t you reassure him that those early flings were shallow, unsatisfactory and didn’t have the depth and erotic fulfilment of your own earth-shattering encounters?

In this age, where sex often seems like just another consumer commodity, with numerous opportunities for instant gratification and seemingly infinite choices of partner, most of us need some reassurance that discretion has been at play when we are chosen by our partner. And if your man is a little prudish, surely it’s best to air this seismic difference in your sexual mores, lest it causes strife later?

Having said all that, I think most lovebirds should steer clear of going into the minutiae of previous conquests.

And if a man is unwise enough to ask a woman how many lovers she’s had, can I suggest the following response: ‘Let’s just say I won’t wear white at the wedding.’

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

QUESTION: I have been with my boyfriend for nearly seven years. I love and trust him, but we have one squabble in the bedroom: he wants to film us having sex. He promises he’ll give the only copy to me. But I feel pretty uncomfortable about it. He says it will be incredibly erotic and that I should loosen up.

ANSWER: I have two cautionary words for you: . You can bet your bottom dollar that Hilton’s former boyfriend Rick Salomon reassured her there would only be one copy of their sex video and no one else would ever see it.

Umpteen million internet viewings later, there’s lamentably few people on the planet who don’t know Ms Hilton will happily carry on a mobile phone conversation mid-coitus.

Not a good idea: Letting your boyfriend film you having sex could have disastrous consequencesNot a good idea: Letting your boyfriend film you having sex could have disastrous consequences

As Hilton herself reflected recently: ‘It’s a big learning lesson, because I think a lot of girls, when they’re in a relationship, they will love someone and trust them and maybe let them do that – and you never know what they could do with it.’

Ho hum, I think we know exactly what they could do.

lost her job on the Richard And Judy show when a hardcore recording involving the TV presenter surfaced.

And last year’s X Factor winner, , faced the devastating news that her ex-boyfriend was trying to hawk a film of her having sex. True, when you’re not a celeb the chances of global humiliation are scant, but most us would find it mortifying if even one stranger viewed our most intimate trysts.

You don’t have to be famous for an ex to post intimate footage of you online. I’ve even stumbled across a website where jilted men are encouraged to place pornographic footage of the lovers who spurned them.

Of course, only a handful of men are that rat-like and unscrupulous. But even the nicer kind can prove careless. A friend of mine allowed her generally dependable 40-something lawyer boyfriend to film them both having wild sex.

He gave her the ‘only’ copy. However, he omitted to say he had the rough cut on his hard drive. Three years later he said in amusement: ‘Look what I’ve just found!’, and showed her the original footage. Her first horrified thought was that the computer had crashed twice in the intervening time and been sent away to engineers.

‘Just imagine how many techies have seen me having sex!’, she wailed to me. ‘How do I know that one of them hasn’t posted it on the web?’

An even greater hazard is spur-of-the-moment erotic footage on mobile phones – probably the most common form of home-porn nowadays. A writer friend and her husband took some naughty footage in a hotel and hours later the phone was stolen.

The trouble with intimate films is that they’re like diaries: both are always supposed to be deadly secret, but the very act of putting down words anticipates a reader, just as film footage anticipates an audience. The evidence may be found years after the event.

A 20-something acquaintance recently told of her mate’s terrible shock at putting a tape into the video machine and finding steamy footage of his churchgoing parents at a swingers’ party.

Right, that’s quite enough cautionary tales. Fear of exposure isn’t your only consideration in this matter. It is clear you simply don’t share your boyfriend’s erotic fantasy about making a sex film, which is understandable and reasonable. Many people feel uncomfortable having their photo taken or being watched while they undress, let alone exposing their most intimate anatomy to the camera lens.

Your boyfriend’s comment that you should ‘loosen up’ appears to be a mutt-headed attempt to persuade you that the great majority of women harbour panting ambitions to be amateur porn stars. But most of us are quite happy to keep our sexual expertise a secret between ourselves, our lover and the bedroom ceiling.

I don’t necessarily place all the blame squarely on your man – men’s magazines have been propagating this kind of nonsense for years; but it’s a great mistake to think of Jordan’s or ‘s behaviour as normal. It goes without saying that the making of any erotic film should be an entirely consensual activity and it sounds as if you’re being emotionally blackmailed.

But the truth is your qualms are entirely judicious; if your partner truly loves you he won’t implore you to put yourself in any situation where you feel inhibited, unhappy or vulnerable. You need to put this point to him.

You could also perhaps consider offering a compromise, such as bringing several full-length mirrors into the bedroom – placed strategically they can provide a cinematic dimension to sex and would allow you to explore how comfortable you feel about your lovemaking being on display. If this does embolden you to make a film, I have just one piece of advice – keep the darn thing in a bank vaul.

The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…

Couple in bedroomBetrayed: My girlfriend has never climaxed during our six year relationship (picture posed by models)

QUESTION: I’ve just discovered that my partner of six years has been faking orgasms throughout our relationship.

I’m in shock that she could have lied to me for this long. She says she has experienced a climax only once, during sex with one of her former boyfriends, and can’t explain why that was, but she insists she enjoys having sex with me.

However, I feel devastated and am not sure I can carry on seeing her.

ANSWER: I understand why you feel shocked and hurt. The natural first reaction is to feel as if your love life has been a charade.

Modern romance has become distressingly target-orientated, with great emphasis in magazines and the media about how to achieve an orgasm, multiple orgasms or even the nearmythical ‘continuous orgasm’ (no, I’ve never had one nor have I met anyone who has).

TV dramas and films perpetuate the ludicrous notion that couples find it easy to climax together in photogenic, breathy ecstasy.

The inevitable result of all this talk of ‘red hot sex’ is that many people beat themselves up about falling short of orgasmic perfection.

You clearly felt that part of your role as a lover was to deliver a plentiful supply of orgasms to your girlfriend and she clearly felt under equal pressure to achieve them- or why would she fake it for so long?

What you see as lies, she probably viewed as vital measures to reassure you as a lover.

If you can stop focusing on your wounded feelings, you will realise that clearly she has long been terrified about revealing what she sees as a fatal sexual flaw.

I would bet my bottom dollar she was scared you would ditch her if she revealed her secret and now the cat’s out of the bag you are threatening to do exactly that. Please don’t!

In other words, you may be feeling vulnerable and inadequate, but is it a patch on what she’s felt for six years?

Surely she’s the most exposed person in this scenario. She has no complaint with you as a lover and says she’s always enjoyed the sex you have together.

If it were a matter of tactfully suggesting you change your technique, clearly she would have told you what buttons to push.

You’ve both enjoyed your physical and emotional connection enough to last six years together, which is an endorsement of your mutual attraction and understanding.

It would be ridiculous if you thought all that was invalidated because your girlfriend hasn’t experienced an orgasm.

After all, most of the women I know cite kissing and foreplay as the most erotic aspect of lovemaking.

The truth is the female orgasm tends to be far more elusive and complex than the male variety.

I watched a TV documentary on this subject a few years ago that featured a woman who could orgasm at will, just by thinking sexy thoughts, and another who’d never had a climax – no amount of sex therapy or practical advice seemed to rectify the problem.

Though stimulation of the clitoris is central to most women’s experience of orgasm, I know those for whom a large element of fantasy is key. For some, it may be attainable only in certain positions, such as on top, where the woman controls the pace.

It’s not unusual for a woman to experience problems reaching a climax. Your girlfriend’s difficulties admittedly sounds more entrenched than most, but that’s surely because she’s tried to conceal the problem, rather than talking to you or a qualified
sex therapist.

I’d recommend that she seeks professional advice on the matter -try the British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy website, basrt.org.uk

The very fact, however, that she has experienced an orgasm during sex – albeit only once some years ago – gives grounds for optimism.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if your partner had a mental block caused by excessive anxiety over the issue.

This kind of anorgasmia can happen to anyone. A raunchy friend recently started a
relationship with a lovely, sexy man who was so mustard keen to make her come the first few times they slept together that she said she seized up for the first time in her life.

She told me: ‘I could see it was a big deal for him, which made it a huge stress for me. The more stressed I became, the more difficult it was to come.’

If you and your girlfriend could only remove the terrible libido-throttling performance anxiety from your lovemaking, there’s a good chance that she’ll feel relaxed enough to let go, and that you won’t mind if she reaches an erotic plateau instead.

It’s entirely possible she derives quite enough pleasure and satisfaction from sex with the man she loves (yes, you) without needing to orgasm.

As the Taoist proverb says: The journey is the reward.