Advice on manners and morals.
July 24 1998 3:30 AM

Drawing upon her rich experience of life, Prudence (Prudie to her friends) responds to questions about manners, personal relations, politics, and other subjects. Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Queries should not exceed 200 words in length. Please indicate how you wish your letter to be signed, preferably including your location.

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Dear Prudence,

The words sex, impotence, and Viagra are certainly very public today, therefore I feel comfortable writing this. I am a male in my 60s. Five years ago I had a radical prostate operation that left me impotent. During this time my wife used other men to satisfy her sexual needs. I recently obtained some Viagra, and it works for me. Self-satisfaction was required to prove this, as my wife has chosen not to participate. I now face the following problem: My sexual desires have been restored, but to act on them will require my involvement with women other than my wife, who does not see things this way. I think I should do as she did. Do you have an opinion on this?

--Ed in Washington

Dear Ed,

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Prudie is fanning herself. Let's see if she has understood this: When you were impotent your wife was on the town, as it were. Now that you are operative she is not a willing partner but has decreed that you may not see other women.

Prudie certainly does have an opinion. It is that your wife is a four-door, gold-plated harridan who most likely is using you as either a bed and breakfast or a bank. Her stepping out then forbidding you to do so, even though she is an unwilling sex partner, makes her sound like a perfect candidate for the single life. Prudie suggests you take your newly operative self to a divorce lawyer and after that find a nice woman who genuinely cares about you.

--Prudie, potently

Dear Prudence,

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Please help me. I am 18 years old and face a serious problem. I am addicted to thinking about sex. Every time I do something--watch television, play tennis, swim, take a bath--all I can think about is sex. I am even distracted from studying. I open the book, read a little, then whoosh, all these thoughts about having sex start pouring in from everywhere.

To make matters worse, I have never had a girlfriend. Actually, I don't even want one, because I am not very open and friendly toward girls. Thus, I have never even touched a girl, much less kissed one. I am not gay. Second, I am Pakistani-American, which means that I belong to a culture in which the only way to have sex is to get married, which I don't think I will be doing until I am 28. So I will remain a virgin until then.

Now you have the whole story. Please advise me how I could overcome this addiction--and please don't advise me to get a girlfriend or get married early, because that is out of the question. Please don't print my name because I want

--Extreme Privacy

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Dear Extreme,

Prudie will not advise you to get a girlfriend, but rather, a therapist. You can accomplish this either through your university health service or getting recommendations from friends. Since you 1) have never gone out with a girl and 2) basically think you don't like them, Prudie does not know how you are going to turn your feelings around at the magic and preordained age of 28. As for your obsessive and unbidden thoughts about sex, they make it clear you need a professional's counsel.

You are fixated on an activity that you feel is verboten but which, in fact, is normal. But do not feel that your wheels are coming off. You are, after all, only 18, and beginning to tackle the problem will surely ease the situation. As a stopgap measure, you might try to make friends with a few girls so they will not seem like such alien and forbidden creatures.

--Prudie, certainly

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Dear Prudence,

Whether the Department of Justice thinks it is legal or not, do you think Microsoft is being rude by installing the browser without asking? Or just the opposite: Are they being polite by offering people another option without having to be told? Like giving a person cream for his coffee and letting him decide whether or not to put it in.

--Southern Courtesy

Dear South,

Prudie, for no particular reason, is quite fond of Microsoft and, perforce, their browser. And she very much likes your analogy. From now on, Prudie will think of the Microsoft browser as the cream in one's coffee. Following this continuum, how could you think someone rude who is trying to enhance your computer's "flavor"?

--Prudie, tastefully

Dear Prudie,

I must admit I was surprised by your response to the person who helped a friend and co-worker draft a letter to the co-worker's neighbors. The letter writer had urged the playing of the "race card," suggesting that the reason the friend's neighbors were complaining so frequently about his behavior was because the friend was black. The letter writer asked you whether you thought playing the race card was appropriate. Expecting you to reply "No," I was most surprised to read your advice to the contrary.

In my opinion, raising race as the motivation behind the neighbors' complaints, in the absence of evidence to support the charge, is quite reckless. Even if we accept the friend's protestations that he does nothing to offend, we still have no basis for charging that they are acting out of racist hatred. It could be that they have ultrasensitive hearing or that they are obnoxious or nosy. Perhaps the neighbors are simply bored busybodies with nothing better to do than complain about every little thing that annoys them. Charging that the neighbors are racist, let alone--gasp!--urging the letter writer to get the American Civil Liberties Union or the Anti-Defamation League involved, is very serious business. Based on the information the letter writer provided, there is no reason to conclude that the neighbors are racist.

--Hopefully optimistic,Stephen J. Konig

Dear S.K.,

Prudie does not agree with you that there is no basis to conclude that the neighbors are racist, having found a number of indicia to the contrary. As Prudie's hero Henry David Thoreau observed, "Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk."

--Prudie, confidently