'Sex Talk': A Cure for the 'Panda Syndrome': Lexington Therapist
Helps Couples Reheat their Romance
October 29, 2002
By Jennifer Lord
Aline Zoldbrod found herself inspired by, of all things, a package
of gummy worms at CVS. They were a little bit sweet, a little bit
sour. Kind of like love.
Put a less-than passionate husband and wife on each end of one,
instruct them to suck and slurp it like spaghetti, and pretty soon
they'd find themselves kissing.
"People have been doing some pretty deep kissing - even here
in the office it can get passionate," said Zoldbrod, Ph.D,
a licensed psychologist and sex therapist. "It's a way to make
sex fun and goofy again."
Sex is Zoldbrod's business, but it's not something that should
be treated as strictly a serious act. That's why the Lexington therapist
teamed up with pal Lauren Dockett, a California erotica writer,
to create "Sex Talk: Uncensored Exercises for Exploring What
Really Turns You On."
With Zoldbrod providing the exercises and Dockett creating sexy
vignettes to demonstrate them, "Sex Talk" has been heating
up romance for couples who thought their libidos had gone cold.
Zoldbrod has a name for this: The Panda Syndrome. It's when an
otherwise loving couple, for one reason or another, just stop the
sexual part of their relationship.
"They love their partner, they're being treated nicely, there's
really nothing wrong with the relationship but they're not having
sex," Zoldbrod said. "At parties, when their friends are
joking about sex, they just laugh along with them and feel left
out. People don't come out and say 'Oh, I haven't had sex with my
partner for the last 12 years.' It's not something people usually
It is, however, something Zoldbrod talks about. Frequently. Maybe
the husband was having erectile problems and his wife felt she was
no longer attractive. Maybe the wife is going through hormonal changes,
through menopause or childbirth, and sex has become uncomfortable,
leaving the husband feeling unwanted.
Whatever the reason, their sex lives have gone into hibernation
- and it's a good idea to wake up that inner animal for a little
"Sex between two people who love each other, when it's good,
is very healthy and very relaxing and it brings them closer,"
Zoldbrod said. "Research shows it helps the immune system.
It's the glue that often keeps a marriage, a committed relationship,
A husband might think that all that's needed to solve problems
in the bedroom is a prescription for Viagra. While Zoldbrod said
the drug can work wonders, she stressed that he should probably
talk to his wife about it first.
"They want to go from having an asexual marriage ... "They
haven't touched. They haven't spooned, they haven't had romance
or kissing and suddenly he expects her to be ready because he is.
And let's face it, when a woman is going through menopause, there
are dry tissues to deal with, it can be uncomfortable - people don't
talk about that aspect of Viagra."
Zoldbrod frequently advises her clients to try loosening up with
some sexy tales or videos, recommending more soft-porn women-friendly
videos as opposed to the hard-core fare. For starters, there's Dockett's
stories in "Sex Talk."
"She wanted it to be equally applicable to gay and straight
couples," Zoldbrod said. "She really wanted it to be across
the board, whatever your orientation, for couples who have problems
"Sex Talk" is a bit of a diversion for Zoldbrod, whose
previous books include the more-serious "Sex Smart: How Your
Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What to do About It."
"Good parenting only affects people really well," Zoldbrod
said. "It's the people where (the family) was cold, there wasn't
a lot of touching going on, that has them wondering later on why
they don't enjoy sex."
Children of alcoholics are especially prone to sexual dysfunction,
she added. They learn it's not safe to trust people or lose control
and may develop contempt for the parent who tolerated the alcoholic's
And, of course, a large blame for sexual problems lies in the way
society treats sex. Even the "ideal" of sex in a committed,
loving relationship can backfire.
"If all the things don't happen just the way it is written
in Masters & Johnson, then we don't have sex right," Zoldbrod
said. "No really, that's how people feel! They'll feel guilty
about it. My personal feeling is, every single time you have sex,
it's a different experience. It's the process, the journey, not
bang bang bang, arousal, intercourse, orgasm you've just had sex
An estimated 40-45 percent of couples in sex studies are found
to have a sexual dysfunction of some type, Zoldbrod noted. But when
you ask them if they enjoy their sexual relationships, the majority
of those still say they have a good sex life.
"Good sex is when you get in bed with someone who loves you
and you trust them and you take care of each others' bodies and
you have some pleasure, some release, like taking a small vacation,"