Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com
By msnbc.com contributor
msnbc.com contributor
updated 1/17/2008 1:44:57 PM ET 2008-01-17T18:44:57

Should special sex be reserved for special times, like Christmas? How can a sexually out-of-shape woman get back in the game? And do men really like bold, brassy women?

Sexploration answers your most intimate queries. Got a question? E-mail us .

Q: Is it normal for my husband to withhold a certain way of making love that really truly works for me? He knows it’s my favorite, but he told me once that it is only for special occasions. I feel I am so sexually deprived. Most of the time it’s all I think about, right down to having affairs in my head.

A: How can you leave us hanging like this? We demand details! Does your preferred technique involve major food groups? Audience participation? Not that the specifics would change this answer, we’re just curious.

It's lucky for you, I guess, that we are now in the giving season, that time of year when wishes are said to come true. So here’s hoping that your scroogey husband regards this, and the coming of the New Year, as special occasions.

And he is certainly being a scrooge. When a lover is lucky enough to have a partner explain just how they love their lovemaking — and judging from e-mails, an awful lot of people wish their lovers would ‘fess up — he or she ought to do their level best to give, and give generously.

Withholding for a special occasion, however he defines it, can be downright cruel. Every time we have sex with a person we love, it’s a special occasion. I’m not suggesting that if your fave involves heavy machinery and hours of construction he has to comply every time; sex shouldn’t always be hard work, either.

But this year your husband should forget the high-def TV, the cardigan, the new hubcaps or whatever he usually gives you and promise more of the action you crave year-round.

Q: I am a 54-year-old woman who recently became sexually active after a number of years of celibacy. Intercourse was painful and my doctor told me my vaginal muscles had atrophied. Is there help for this condition? Exercise? Lubricants?

A: Yes, yes and yes.

According to the medical literature, you are a prime candidate for vaginal atrophy: post-menopausal and newly sexually active. Menopause can alter the flora and the geography of the vagina, leading to painful intercourse.

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This is one reason why hormone replacement therapy (HRT) became so popular. HRT was advertised as a way to restore some of the estrogen women lose with age which, in turn, helps give back the lubrication and flexibility a vagina once possessed. HRT worked, too. But then the Women’s Health Initiative study revealed that HRT may have unforeseen risks, such as possibly increasing the risks of stroke and breast cancer.

Some findings of the study are still hugely controversial, but ask your doctor if you may be a candidate for short-term HRT.Also ask about localized estrogen supplementation. Using a vaginal estrogen ring, for example, can help.

There are drug-free treatments, too. Think of your vagina like a little person (naming it is up to you). Well, you are now asking that person, who has been sitting around watching "Oprah" and eating pizza, to suddenly play four quarters of bedspring football. Instead, put her on a fitness program. Start with dildos (or “vaginal dilators” in clinical ob-gyn parlance) and plenty of lubrication. A vibrating dildo will make this much more fun.

Sex is actually a treatment for atrophy — it and orgasm work a lot of muscles — but dildos will allow you to control the force and depth of penetration.Over time, your vagina should regain some of its former vigor.

Also, like every woman, and many men, too, you should be doing Kegel exercises for your pelvic-floor muscles. And be sure to exercise generally. A fit body overall is not just good for you, it’s good for your sex life.

Q: Do men like it when you are very bold about what you want or what you want to do to them in bed? Do they find big compliments sexy?

A: As long as you aren’t barking instructions like a drill sergeant (“Faster! Harder! Left, left, left right left!”), heck yeah, we like bold women.

And the compliments? Are you serious? Don’t you like being told you’re hot and beautiful?

MSNBC.com columnist and Glamour magazine contributing editor Brian Alexander’s book, “America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction,” will be published Jan. 15 by Crown/Harmony Books.

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