My boyfriend of four years thinks something is up since I don't get wet like I used to. Before, he could touch me and I'd drip with ecstasy, but now we have to be in the act before my body responds like he wants. I care for him, but he can behave insecurely at times. I would never mess around on him, though, and I tell him this. I'm STD-free. Do you think it could be stress or what?
— Dry Coast
Dear Dried-Up Well,
In the '90s I had a girlfriend who named her dog "Bill Clinton" so she could blame him for everything. Who got in the garbage? "Bill Clinton." Who ate my homework? "Bill Clinton." Who soiled this perfectly good dress? "Bill Clinton."
Your Bill Clinton is estrogen — you can blame it on everything. Except it's not soiling anything. A drop in estrogen levels is the most common cause of vaginal dryness.
Normally, estrogen helps maintain a thin layer of clear fluid that lubricates the walls of the vagina. It keeps the lining healthy, thick and elastic. A drop in estrogen levels reduces the moisture and can make you drier than yesterday's toast. Eventually, the loss of estrogen makes the vagina thinner and less elastic.
This is what gynos charmingly refer to as vaginal atrophy.
So what causes this drop in estrogen? Mainly, menopause. You don't say how old you are, but menopause can hit as early as your 30s and as late as your 60s.
There could be other reasons, too: childbirth, chemotherapy, douching, allergy and cold medications, some antidepressants and urinary tract infections.
Your first step is to have a doctor check you out. There is a very high likelihood that there's a medical explanation for what you're going through.
You asked if stress could be a cause. Does Park Atlanta have parking ticket quotas? Please. Of course stress affects sexual functioning! Ask any guy. Stress makes our penises like cement — it takes us two days to get hard.
You may be suffering from the female equivalent of "situational impotence" — a temporary inability to have your groin do your bidding. If that's the case (and I doubt it is — go to your doctor, girl) then you've got two issues: 1) the stress that's causing it and 2) the anticipatory stress that you won't get as wet as you want. It's the second "stress overlap" that's more insidious.
The tendency is to go into thought overdrive when sex presents itself: "Am I wet enough? Am I wet enough? Am I wet enough?" Standing sentry over your vagina with a moisture detector and a clipboard is the surest way of keeping yourself as dry as my jokes.
The answer is to relax. How, you ask? Try my favorite de-stressing visualization exercise. Picture yourself near a stream. Birds are softly chirping in the crisp, cool mountain air. No one knows your secret place. You are in total seclusion from that hectic place known as the world. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity. The water is clear. You can easily make out the face of the person you're holding under the water.
Got a burning or a why-is-it-burning question for the Sexorcist? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike Alvear is the author of a line of How to Meet Guys on Facebook and teaches monthly blogging workshops with Hollis Gillespie.
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