Does pornography present problems for women too? I’m not addicted, I probably look at stuff once a fortnight or so without telling my that a problem?

Pornography has traditionally been a male preserve, but is beginning to become an issue for women too. In a survey of more than 1,000 Christians in Northern Ireland in 2010, 12% of female respondents under the age of 35 had intentionally accessed pornography compared to 2% of those over the age of 35.

The problem with pornography is that it separates arousal from intimacy. Sex without intimacy has the propensity to become more and more addictive and less and less satisfying.

We also need to face some questions about what we believe about human dignity. Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived several Nazi concentration camps, observed that the beginning of evil is when we separate the body from the personality of a human being. It is the basis of ethnic cleansing, racism and many other societal problems. Frankl would talk with the guards about their tastes in music, their families and hobbies. Whenever it was his turn to be sent to the gas chambers they could not face sending him. Pornography turns someone’s son or daughter into skin and bones.

Using pornography can muddle the arousal pathways of the brain, so that they become geared to that form of stimulus and disorientated when we seek to get turned on by a real person. As Christians, we believe that God created sexual intimacy as a beautiful and powerful bonding between a husband and a wife to strengthen and enliven their relationship. Matthew, in chapter 19:6, says, ‘what God has joined together, let man not separate.’

Pornography can separate us in a relationship by bringing an external arousal pathway into that place of desire.

If you want my advice: I would make the most of not being addicted yet and stop now.

When you’ve been married a long time, how can you keep your marriage alive when working long hours, looking after teenage kids and being committed to the church? Sex has got pushed out and becomes an afterthought.

Build in a rhythm of quality time together: try date nights, missing church once a month and having ‘breakfast’ in bed instead, or finding some secluded woods and making love in the car under a blanket. Don’t be always at the beck and call of everyone else!
Plan in your head how you would like to make love: where, wearing what? Think about what would make you look forward to it. Put date time into your diary before anything else. If there isn’t room for everything, something else needs to go. At the end of the day, it will be your marriage that is more important.
We married in our late 50s and have always found penetrative sex very painful. We can both enjoy each other’s bodies but during penetration the pain is too much. We have tried lubricant, taking more time etc. The doctor says it is ‘psychological’. I feel like a failure and we haven’t made love in months.

Pain can be caused by a variety of non-psychological conditions. I would ask for a second opinion from a gynaecologist as these things can be hard to diagnose.

A condition that can cause penetration to be painful for women is if your husband has a curvature in his penis – Peyronie’s disease. It is a rare condition affecting older men where fibrous scar tissue develops under the skin of the penis. If they only examine you, this could go undetected.

If everything is physically healthy, your pain may well be caused by vaginismus. This is where we go into an involuntary spasm of the muscles around the vagina. Previous pain or fear can cause this to happen. Ask your GP for a referral to see a psychosexual therapist who will get you using vaginal dilators and support you psychologically in rewiring what is an involuntary response into something you know how to control.

It is not your fault that it is painful and the body is designed to draw back from pain, so don’t feel a failure for not wanting intercourse. Until you can get some professional help, why don’t you just agree to be sexually intimate without doing anything that triggers the pain and rebuild your confidence in that bonding? God was clever when he put the clitoris outside of the vagina – get back to enjoying each other’s bodies as an exclusive gift for the two of you.