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Engaged couple may need professional counseling to overcome woman's fears


Q: I recently got engaged to a wonderful woman. She is virgin and I am not. She is afraid of losing her virginity, even to me. I am sure she loves me enough, but I believe that her family never spoke much to her about sex. The question is: What can I do to allay her fears and allow her to experience sex?

A: Since losing virginity is a rite of passage too significant for you alone to handle, gather some expert help. Talk to a couples counselor together. Get a copy of the book "The Joy of Sex" by Dr. Alex Comfort and read it -- slowly -- together. Going through its drawings and words together is an enormous step toward resolving your woman's anxieties and putting in their place facts and explanation. You might also buy her a copy of "The New Our Bodies, Ourselves" (updated for the '90s), by the Boston Women's Health Collective, to help her get in touch with her own sexuality.

Most important, handle this issue with tenderness and patience, never forcing or hurrying your lover. You two have a lifetime to enjoy each other sexually.

A: I am often amazed at how narrowly some men can view women. Don't they realize that women are just as insecure, frightened and shy as they are?

To those men complaining about women being in control of the dating situation and having the ability to choose the person they want to date, I am willing to bet that they are referring to the few women in their work-social circle who conform to society's very narrow standard of physical perfection. They are a small percentage of all women, and yes, they do seem (at least to the rest of us) to always have men approaching them and thus to be in control.

But what of the other 90 percent of women? For every man gazing wistfully at Ms. Beauty, wishing she would look his way and resenting it when she doesn't, there is very likely a woman gazing wistfully at him, wishing the same things of him. Maybe she's a little over weight, or wears glasses and is a little plain. I know plenty of good women who try and try and are rejected time after time for superficial reasons.

Open your eyes, men. Women are just people, not much different from yourselves.

A: You remind me of a stage cameo in an old show, "New Faces," a circle with four people walking around pursuing one another: the older man chasing the young beauty who is chasing the handsome man her age who is chasing the older woman who is chasing the older man.

Their chain of pursuit illustrates perfectly the dating game, where everyone is seeking everyone else -- and very few find what they want. It is a game of hurt and of being hurt, of pursuit and of being pursued.

To this day I wonder about that staged chain of disappointment, and wonder what would happen if someone in it turned around and became available to the pursuer . . . the game would be over because the prize would be won. Trouble is, the game and the search can become an end in itself. Sigh.

Q: One of your readers believes that the "men in New York are of the poorest quality and are very disrespectful toward women."

I agree. Although I have been married for 17 years, when I was in my early 20s (in the 1970s), I came to the same conclusion (and I am also from Queens). My solution: Date only men from out of town.

I joined a USO-type organization as a volunteer hostess, and I was lucky to meet a young sailor from Massachusetts. He was on active duty, stationed on a ship. After writing to each other for a year, we became engaged. I met his family on holidays and was very impressed at the respectful way the family interacted. When he was honorably discharged, we married.

So: Keep your eyes open when on business trips, vacation, or visiting out-of-towners. There is a difference in the way out-of-town males are raised!

A: The issue still boils down to one person and his relationship with the women in his life. I find that men who love their mothers are more respectful and loving toward women. (And it is the same for women and their fathers.) But I recoil at the generalized thinking that tars and feathers all the men in New York.

Thanks for sharing a resourceful solution.

Q: In regard to which side has the advantage in the dating game, I have this to say:

Dating is an opportunity to explore each other's ability to "mesh." Each individual has unique preferences for behavior. This is where flexibility by both parties influences the outcome of a relationship. In dating, therefore, the advantage would go to the honest and insightful party rather than to the role-player. And if both are honest . . . it could be beautiful!

A: Since dating is at best a total stab in the dark, a gamble for both sides, it is a puzzle deciding which side has the edge. Yes, men usually do the asking, but women share that privilege more and more -- and so men will know what it is to say Yes or No to an invitation. Among open-minded men and women, neither side monopolizes the advantages. But in the low moments, periods of social famine when all looks bleak, the tendency is to blame the other sex for having the odds on their side.

Not so.

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