Opinion
3 min

Pega Ren wraps up a decade of sound advice on sex

Ask the Expert looks back on some of the hottest topics raised by readers’ questions

After a decade of solid sex advice, Dr Pega Ren is retiring her monthly Ask the Expert column for Daily Xtra on sex and relationships. Credit: Courtesy of Pega Ren

Dear Readers,

Yes, this time the Ask the Expert letter is from me, Dr Pega Ren, to you.

I have been enjoying the privilege of answering your questions about sex and relationships for 10 years now. This column has become an integral part of my life. I look forward to what you are curious about, what troubles you, what you need a bit of help with.

It’s become not only a vehicle for my staying connected with the community, but also a worthwhile reminder that information about who we love and how we love is ever sought and appreciated.

A decade is a good run.

I’ve watched Xtra grow from a regional paper as Xtra West to a national news source as Daily Xtra, and now from print to digital format. Throughout all the changes, Ask the Expert has been consistent and regular.

I will continue to manage my private practice, Smart Sex Talk, where you can continue to contact me with your personal issues or problems. Though I now specialize in helping those in our more marginalized sexual communities, I’m always happy to talk about sex. Email me at sexdoc@smartsextalk.com if you have questions and don’t know where else to go.

I will also continue to write for Daily Xtra, but now as a guest columnist on relevant and current topics relating to sex and relationships. I will be seeking out news relating to our communities and how those new products, perspectives and events relate to sex and/or queers. When I find sexologically noteworthy news, I’ll share it with you.

In other words, though the Ask the Expert column will disappear, I’ll still be around, but from a different perspective and with a new format. I do so hope you’ll stay tuned.

For your part, you’ve been a wonderful audience.

Your letters have been relevant, specific and smart. You have been political, vulnerable and accountable. You identified your issues and knew how to ask for help resolving them. You made my job easy.

That said, you also catalyzed me to be scrupulous about giving you the best possible response. With each column I learned more. I loved it!

This is what I learned from you over the last decade.

Of the readers who wrote to me, most were gay men of all ages. Lesbians wrote in about 20 percent of the time. About a tenth of my columns directly addressed bisexual issues, and about five percent of my columns addressed trans issues. Asexuality claimed only two columns over the years.

Of the questions written by men, roughly half of them involved physiological concerns. There appears to be a lot about our bodies we don’t understand, and we lack resources to get simple, understandable and reliable information. A shout-out here to all the community clinics offering such advice.

The other half of those questions centred on dating. We discussed desire and intimacy overwhelmingly, and alternative sexualities, including kink, got considerable airtime. We talked about HIV and other STIs, homophobia and coming out, and communication and negotiation skills.

Getting along and getting it on — we spent a lot of time there.

Many of you are also concerned about come and coming. Most of your fears (too quick, too slow, too small, or too soft) proved to be easily resolved. I loved being able to reassure you about the vast differences that are all “normal.”

You asked lots of uncommon questions, too, such as questions about body changes with pregnancy and aging; pharmaceutical concerns relating to sexuality; and questions about uncomfortable desires and attractions, like being attracted to minors or even your adoptive parents or children.

Unsurprisingly, hot-button topics like domestic violence patterns, cheating protocols, and troubling turn-ons provoked the strongest responses. A few of you even wrote me back with appreciations and updates. Thank you.

Working for Xtra was marvellous. I felt supported, encouraged, uncensored. This last is critical. When I learned, for instance, of the potential for permanent erectile dysfunction following use of Propecia (a remedy for baldness), I sent the news to a number of publications. Only Xtra published my column about the medication (after making sure I really had my facts right). Fearless reporting in the interest of our community. Kudos to you, Xtra.

So this is me signing off as your Ask the Expert columnist. Watch for upcoming columns, and follow me through my site, smartsextalk.com, or on Twitter @smartsextalk. Thank you all for an unforgettable decade. It was a blast.