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Sometimes Limp Is Hard

One reader feels like she's tried everything to feel like her partner is physically attracted to her, but she just can't seem to get him up—to open up about the problem. She asked the 4-way panel for the hard truth.

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Dear 4-Way,
I’ve been dating this great guy for about a month now and I really like him. We see each other about twice a week, we spent New Year’s Eve together, and we talk about every other day, so it’s more than just casual. He told me he wants to take the physical part slowly and get to know me. I thought, wow…so nice to finally date a mature man! The problem is, he’s taking it so slowly I feel he’s not attracted to me because he’s not trying much. I did the “cop-a-feel” thing once, and I think that’s the only time he’s been aroused around me, and I wasn’t even sure it was at full attention, either. Recently, we were at a costume party and I was dressed as a rocker (I looked like a hooker) and I think that turned him on.

I’ve been wondering, could he have erectile dysfunction? Is it his age—forty-seven? Why isn’t he bringing this up (no pun intended)? Lately, I’ve been expressing myself to him and he’s been pulling away. Finally, I asked, “When are we going to have sex?” His reply was “soon”—not encouraging. He continues to take me to nice places and says he really likes me, but he’s not showing his affection. In fact, when we kiss, he pulls away first. I think he’s self-sabotaging the relationship because his heart’s not open and doesn’t want to bring up the lack of arousal…..or could he be gay? Or, could he just not be that into me? Then I think, forty-seven, never been married, or been to therapy… should I run?

I guess my question is how do you bring up why a guy isn’t getting aroused?—Sincerely Frustrated

The gay woman’s perspective: Jody Fischer
Of the four of us, I will go out on a limb here and say that I've had the least amount of “hands-on” experience in matters of the penis.

That being said, a woman on a date with another woman has to assess the other’s arousal level too, and we don’t have such obvious markers, but there are other ways.

You mention that you’ve been expressing yourself to him, yet perhaps you need to find an alternative mode of expression—like talking and really listening to him. He’s obviously got a story to tell and he is either not comfortable enough with himself or with you to share it yet.

Remember, people have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, we should listen twice as much as we speak. Slow down, breath and really listen to this guy—not just his words but his beliefs, feelings, and his spirit.

I am sure that the penis can be quite fun, but take the focus off that for a while and see what else pops up for you.

The straight woman’s perspective: Rebecca Brown
He’s obviously into you since you’re getting a lot of face-time and scored the most primo of the prime time date holidays. So I think you’re secure on that front.

It would be the understatement of the century to say that men think about sex differently than women do. I think a lot of guys would have trouble keeping their pants zipped if you expressed even the most casual interest in having sex with them while wearing a sexy rocker/hooker outfit—regardless of whether he was into you. Clearly, he’s got an issue and it doesn’t seem to be that he doesn’t like you.

My (sometimes questionable) experience with men has been that they don’t like to talk about their problems, for fear of potentially looking weak, and that they don’t like to discuss feelings because focusing on emotion makes them go all deer-in-the-headlights. It seems that whatever is at the root of this problem is going to fall into one of these categories so I think you’re going to have to initiate (again) what every man fears: a conversation. (Horror of horrors!)

No more sexy outfits. No more copping feels. No more asking for sex. It’s time to ask, let him talk, and see what he says. Tell him you like him and that you’re ready to be closer but you sense he’s holding back for some reason. Does he feel comfortable talking about it? That way, you’re not trying to pin him down and get an answer; you’ve given him an out. His response probably won’t be limited to just “I’m not comfortable.” I bet he’ll throw a few extra words out there, “My last girlfriend was really pushy.” Whatever. I think you’ll at least have a better idea of why. If you don’t like the answer, get your rocker ass out of there ASAP. But if you feel his issue has some weight and your gut tells you it’s just a normal, whacked-out relationship issue, and you still like him, he might be worth a very small wait. Life is hard. People sometimes get a little fucked up by all of it. I suggest you give yourself a time limit on how long you’ll wait (One week? Two?), otherwise you’ll be stuck with a double-whammy problem: no sex and a man who can’t talk about it. And nothing about that feels good.

The gay man’s perspective: Darren Maddox
I say get in his pants if you want to know what’s really going on down there. Once you’re south of the belt line, if things aren’t on the rise, it will make it very easy for you to bring up the lack of attention from the little tin soldier if he’s a softie! If that’s too much to think about, rest easy in the possibility that he could have an insane ex or two at that age and he may be a little freaked out by relationships at this point. What could be even worse for him is the feeling of having to end it if he gets into something that he feels is going downhill.

Now about the gay thing, unless you feel like a real trophy gal strapped onto his side for guest appearances, I’d give up on that theory.

My advice is to give him a few more weeks, continue to be the aggressive one in the relationship and see where it goes. Dress up, go out, and have fun! And if you continue to notice you are more into him than he appears to be into you, don’t wait for him to be the one to say things aren’t working out. You’re in control and as long as you remain that way, you’ll come out on top no matter what happens.

The straight man’s perspective: Chris Kennedy
Run. Run as fast as you can in those rocker/hooker heels. By the way, which rocker were you dressed as? Joan Jett? Pat Benatar? One of the Heart sisters? Nancy or Ann? (This plays heavily into his arousal factor.)

Regardless if you dressed like one of the Wilson sisters (who make up the group Heart, by the way) they have the answer in the form of a question in their hit title, “What About Love?” They sing, “What about love? Don’t you want someone to care about you?”

I assume your answer to their refrain is yes.

I, like you, can’t get around his arousal, or lack thereof. You’ve already tried to bring it up and he didn’t really respond—in every sense of the word.

You’ve made it clear you want to “get physical” (wait, did you go as Olivia Newton-John? Sorry, I digress). So he knows you want to hear his body talk and he won’t even tell you what’s up, or what’s down, with him. (Sorry the puns are just too easy.)

Great guy or not, is that what you want? There are plenty of “great guys”—just ask their buddies—elsewhere who will have much less trouble giving you what you want, what anyone should want: to feel they are desired by their mate.

You don’t mention your age but I’m assuming you’re quite a few years younger. I understand you may like many aspects of a mature man: he’s respectful, you have good conversation, and he probably has a little extra cash. I actually look forward to becoming a mature man someday myself. But if disinterest in sex is a component of being mature, I’ll borrow another Heart title, I “Never” want to be that mature. Tell this geezer to fly to the early bird special. 

In matters like this, go with what Heart tells you.

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