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Sex Therapy—What Is It and Who Needs It? – Part 2

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(Look for Part 1 of this series HERE!)

Of course, there are plenty of individuals—and couples—who haven’t waited until the last minute to seek help. These people want to be proactive about their concerns. Some people simply need some clear, unambiguous information about human sexuality. A surprising number of people are trying to piece together their sexual lives, but are hampered by misconceptions and misinformation.

Sometimes a momentous event motivates a person to address arising sexual or intimacy issues. The birth of a child, a disease process, a death in the family, or an accident can fundamentally alter the power dynamic of a relationship, which will require a rethinking of the entire relationship.

Or perhaps someone comes to a new realization about him or herself: Perhaps they are finally able to acknowledge their bisexuality, or that he’s gay, or she’s a lesbian. Maybe they are finally able to acknowledge a fetish—he’s a crossdresser, or she’s into another kink. Things like this obviously impact the individual, but if that person is in a relationship, the relationship is also affected. People in these self-revelatory situations are often unsure how to talk about their discoveries with a partner, which is another reason they seek counseling.

Some couples don’t fret when the sex vanishes from the relationship; other couples are devastated. What does one do when one partner still has sexual needs, but the other doesn’t? Often, there are unexplored options that can hold the relationship together, but will address the disparity in sexual interest and desire.

In this case, I can help the couple make compromises without losing their moral compass. Some couples navigate this with ease; others not so much. It can be extremely challenging, but there are ways to preserve what’s sacred about a primary relationship, while contemplating opening the relationship to include others. I can help a couple establish guidelines and ground rules for making the necessary adjustments.

Sometimes the relationship is really wonderful and fun. The couple really loves each other, but they’ve noticed their sex life together is pretty boring and stale. I’m often approached to simply help a couple spice things up. In this instance, my work is sheer joy. Mostly, I just give them permission to experiment and have fun.

You’ve probably noticed that a good portion of the work that I do as a sex therapist is merely giving permission. That may not sound like therapy at all, but when you consider that our sex-negative culture is so full of prohibitions; permission giving is often the front line of sexual rehabilitation. Most of the permissions I give are for an individual to educate him or herself about his or her body and his or her sexual response cycle. Personal exploration, such as masturbation, is the very best means to that education. I’m a huge proponent of partners masturbating together.

Happily, our need to reacquaint and reeducate ourselves about our bodies and our sexual response cycle is a life-long process. There is always something new to explore. As we age, our bodies change, and if we don’t keep up with those changes, we can become frustrated and disoriented. Older people, menopausal women and andropausal men, take longer to build up “a head of sexual steam,” so to speak. If they’re not attuned to the changes they’re going through, they can easily miss the important cues their body is sending to slow down and enjoy the sensuality.

Of course, I could go on and on, but now I want to leave you with what is the distillation of years my thinking about the role sexuality plays in our life:

I believe that sex is like food. We can enjoy it alone, or with others. We can be abstemious, or gluttonous. We can nosh or nibble; dine or devour. And we can be certain there will be both times of feast and famine.

Sex is like food. It can nourish and sustain us, or it can make us sick. We can consume all the available bounty, or restrict our diet. It can completely satisfy, or leave us devastatingly empty. We can employ it to express our highest aspirations, or allow it to rob us of our soul. We can give it as a gift, or use it as a weapon. It can be both bacchanal and sacrament.

One thing is for sure, whether purely physical or transcendentally spiritual, no one can live without food…or sex.

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Touched for the very first time…

Virginity is a very touchy issue in just about every culture. Curiously enough, it’s almost always exclusively about female virginity. This woeful double standard gives rise to emotional conflicts for both genders. But again, it is young women and girls who bear the brunt of it.

Let’s begin with Katelyn who’s 18 years old:

My boyfriend and I have been together for over a year. We’ve just started talking about having sex even though we both took a virginity pledge through our church. We love each other very much and plan on getting married in a couple of years. If we are practically engaged do you think having sex now would be like breaking our promise?

I’m pretty sure that the creators of all those “abstinence only” and “virginity pledge” programs out there like to think they’re keeping kids like you safe from the unforeseen consequences of sex. I’d probably have less of a problem with them if they didn’t have at their base some pretty rank scare tactics.

Scaring people away from sex is a time-honored means of controlling people.

If you have sex, you well surely get a disease!

If you have sex, you will surely get pregnant!

If you have sex, you will be breaking the commandments and you’ll go to hell!

If you have sex, you will be a slut and no one will want to marry you!

And my all-time favorite: If he gets the milk for free, why would he buy the cow?

These sex-negative messages only frighten, intimidate and instill guilt. They certainly don’t teach people how to behave knowledgeably and responsibly. And they do absolutely nothing to prepare even those who wind up honoring their pledge of abstinence for the inevitable sex life they’ll have later in life. And that to my mind is criminal. Young people have a natural, healthy curiosity about their bodies and the bodies of others. Stifling this natural curiosity with veiled threats and fear-mongering does very little good—and a whole lot of harm.

But before I respond to your question, I have a question for you. I hope you’re not actually thinking I might help you rationalize away your impending behavior—Oh sure honey, if you’re gonna marry the lug anyway, why not give it up now?—because I won’t go there. Have the courage to make up your own mind. If you’re old enough to be considering sex, you’re old enough to take responsibility for your actions.

If you abstain from sex out of fear or religious duress, then where’s the virtue in that? It’s just as bad as having sex because you fear losing your boyfriend. Neither option suggests to me that you are behaving knowledgeably and responsibly.

Of course, it’s always easier to decide on a course of action when one has all the information. And that’s where I can be of some assistance. I’m not gonna tell you what you oughtta do, but I can offer you some timely information about human sexuality that you apparently aren’t getting from your family, church or your community.

There are many sexual alternatives to full-on fucking. And if you want to remain a virgin, at least technically speaking, you might want to explore these options.

Are you both masturbating? If not, then that’s a good place to begin. You should both be familiar with your own pleasure zones and sexual response cycle before you launch into partnered sex of any kind. I believe that the best sex is mutual sex, where the partners knowingly and without reservation gift themselves to one another. And I don’t see how that’s possible unless you are well-acquainted with the gift…your own body.

I can guarantee that your boyfriend won’t know how to pleasure you, especially if he’s still discovering the pleasures of his own body. And you’d be a very remarkable young woman if you understood the mysteries of male sexuality. So if you’re both unversed in the joys of human sexuality, why not discover them together? Mutual masturbation—as well as oral sex—will help you appreciate the particulars and uniqueness of each of your sexual response cycles. And just think how far ahead you’ll be when you guys actually decide it’s time for full-on fucking. You’ll already know how your bodies work.

Even so, the two of you should be familiar with several different means of birth control—and practicing at least two methods. This is a precaution because, in the heat of the moment, you may decide to escalate things to include vaginal penetration. And if you do, you’ll be prepared. Always have water-based lubricants on hand, even for masturbation. These lubricants work very well with latex condoms. Oil lubricants, like petroleum jelly, baby oil or cooking oil, can cause latex condoms to break. So stay away from them.

I realize that procuring all this stuff is gonna be a challenge for young folks like you. But don’t just blow them off just because they’re not readily available to you. This is a big part of being knowledgeable and responsible about your sexuality. If you’re not prepared to go the distance in terms of preparation, you’re not ready to have sex.

Young men and boys have their share of trepidation about impending partnered sex. Here’s 18-year-old Tabor.

I feel kinda silly asking a complete stranger this, but here goes. I’m a pretty normal 18 year old. I’ve had a few girlfriends over the years, nothing really serious, though. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of this one girl; she’s 20, a junior at my school. I really like her and we’re discussing taking our friendship to the next level, but there’s a problem. I’m a virgin. My girlfriend is way more experienced than me and that makes me a little nervous too. She wants me to decide when the time is right. My question is how will I know when I’m ready for sex?

I have a question for you, Tabor, and I hope it doesn’t sound flippant. When do you know it’s time to eat, or sleep? I know many of us eat even when we’re not hungry and sometimes we don’t sleep even when we’re tired. That aside, I suggest that the same bodily signals that alert you to hunger and exhaustion will let you know when it’s time for sex. You’ll want to have sex when you feel the desire to be sexual. I’m not trying to be evasive; I’m trying to get you to listen to your body, because that’s how you’ll know. To be perfectly frank, that’s how all of us know it’s time for sex. We get a hankerin’ for some pleasure and we pursue that till we’re satisfied. Sometimes that’s solo sex and sometimes it’s partnered sex.

If I were to advise you further I’d want to know how much sex you’ve already had with your GF. Has there been any sex play at all? Probably some, right? Otherwise how would you know you like her well enough to consider taking things to the next level?

Penis/vagina intercourse, or as I like to call it, “fucking,” can bring more intimacy and more pleasure than other forms of sex, but it’s not the be-all end-all either. Fucking also carries far more responsibility, particularly for fertile young puppies like you and your honey.

Is it safe to assume that you are well-versed in the complexities of the human reproductive system? I hope so. Not everyone is, of course, even some otherwise smart people. If you’re not clear on the whole concept, there’s no time like the present to do a little boning up, so to speak. Being responsible about sex is as important as being sexual. And being informed about health risks and contraception is the beginning of taking responsibility for your sexual activity.

Remember what I said earlier—that you’ll want to have sex when your body says so? Well, if you take the time to prepare now, you’ll not need to interrupt the moment when your body tells you I’m ready! You should discuss birth control with your girlfriend in advance of any foolin’ around. You should have condoms and lube available. Don’t expect that you’ll have your wits about you when your dick is hard. Remember, you’re not the one who’ll get pregnant if ya’ll screw up. I’ll bet your sweetheart will be impressed with your forethought, too.

Remember, even if your girlfriend is on the pill or has a diaphragm; condoms are a must. One in every ten sexually active teens carries one or more STDs or as we call them nowadays, STIs (sexually transmitted infections). You can consider dropping the condoms only when you’re in an exclusive relationship.

Good luck!

More SEX WISDOM With Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Harel — Podcast #308 — 11/09/11


Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

I’m so excited, because my friends and colleagues, Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Harel are back to dispense more of their signature SEX WISDOM. This is Part 2 of their appearance on this show, don’t cha know. We had such a good time together last week; I simply had to insist that they return today and they were kind enough to comply.  So yay for that!

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of our chat, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #307 and PRESTO! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Celeste, Danielle and I discuss:

Celeste and Danielle invite you to visit them on their site HERE! Look for their amazing blog HERE! Find them on Facebook HERE and Twitter HERE!

(Click on the book cover below to buy their book.)

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Check out The Lick-A-Dee-Split Connection. That’s Dr Dick’s toll free podcast voicemail HOTLINE. Don’t worry people; no one will personally answer the phone. Your message goes directly to voicemail.

Got a question or a comment? Wanna rant or rave? Or maybe you’d just like to talk dirty for a minute or two. Why not get it off your chest! Give Dr Dick a call at (866) 422-5680.

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Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Fleshlight & FleshJack.

Between a rock and a hard place

Name: Adam
Gender:
Age: 34
Location: UK
I have been attracted to male children for years. Having been arrested for viewing child porn I realize that I need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I realize that celibacy is a demanding lifestyle. What advice would you offer me?

You present a particularly touchy issue for our culture, Adam. But before I respond, I’d like to help you with some of your vocabulary. You say you need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I think you mean to say you need to pursue a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The two concepts — celibacy and sexual abstinence — mean different things. Unfortunately, way too many people use these terms interchangeably. This is not a good thing and only serves to muddy the waters further.

Celibacy has a very specific meaning. Let me whip out my trusty, handy dandy Funk & Wagnalls dictionary. Celibacy: the state of being unmarried. Some people infer, especially those of a strict religious bent, that celibacy also connotes sexual abstinence. Ya see, religious people are of the mind that there is no legitimate sexual expression outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. Legitimate or not, unmarried people have always been and always will be sexual, so making that unfortunate connection between celibacy and abstinence ill advised.

The only thing we ought to be able to say for sure when someone identifies him/herself as celibate is that he/she is not married. To assume a celibate person, even one who has taken a vow of celibacy, is sexually abstinent is quite a dangerous stretch indeed. Need I point out the very unfortunate sex abuse scandals that continues to plague the Roman Catholic Church?

In the same way, if someone identifies him/herself as sexually abstinent, the only thing we ought to be able to say for sure is that he/she is not engaging in any type of sexual expression. It would be false to assume that a sexually abstinent person is not married, because there are a lot of married people who are indeed sexually abstinent.

In your case, Adam, I believe you are telling me that you are both not married (celibate), and because of your particular sexual predilection — young boys — you must also be sexually abstinent. If I’ve got this right…and it is very important that I not misinterpret your words…then I think there are options you may not have considered.

I firmly believe that we learn all our sexual expression. I hasten to add that sexual orientation and sexual expression are not one in the same thing, just like celibacy and abstinence are one and the same thing.

Everything we eroticize, in your case boys, is learned behavior. You learned to eroticize boys at some point in your life; you can now learn to eroticize a more appropriate group of people. This isn’t a particularly easy thing to accomplish, but it’s not impossible either. Again, I am not saying that you can reprogram your orientation, but I am saying that you can learn to redirect your erotic attentions elsewhere.

Anytime any one of us discovers that the object of our desires is someone inappropriate, we need to adjust our eroticism immediately. This is the better part of being a sexually responsible person. In our culture, pedophilia is just one such inappropriate eroticism, but there are many other taboos. A father for his daughter, a mother for her son, a boss for a subordinate, a man for his neighbor’s wife, a teacher for her student, a counselor for his/her client, a congressman for his page…are you getting the picture? I hope so. And the list goes on and on.

I believe learning to readjust your eroticism to a more appropriate outlet is a much better option than trying to live a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The reason I believe this is that having a more appropriate outlet will at least help you channel your pent up sexuality. If you have no outlet, or limit yourself to masturbation, you will most likely intensify your longings and further fixate on the inappropriate object of your current desires.

Like anyone trying to wean him/herself off a bad habit, the task ahead of you Adam, will be challenging. But it will also be enriching and life-affirming. I hasten to add that you ought not try to do this on your own. Work with a sex-positive therapist.

You’re a relatively young man with many years ahead of you. These years can be filled with happy, healthy and appropriate sexual expression. Make it happen.

Good luck

meat substitutes or give me the beef

Name: Carol
Gender: female
Age: 32
Location: Scottsdale, AZ
I’ve got an odd question. You know how there seems to be no end to the methods and devices available to bolster a man’s equipment. Everything from cock rings to Viagra. I know guys are all ego involved with their stuff and everything, but it seems to me that instead of all this gadgetry and pharmaceuticals why don’t they just strap one on? Most women I know wouldn’t much care if was the “real thing” and a dildo. I mean, is the “real thing” all that superior? I don’t think so, because a woman could choose the girth, length and texture of her “object of desire” or change it depending on her mood. The guy would not have to worry about being “worn out,” “premature” or not being able to “get it up” at all. Best of all, both could enjoy sex for longer periods. I’m quite serious. Let’s face it; the male refractory period is really a drag. It seems to me that strap-on sex would be a great way to put off ejaculation, extend the time we have for lovemaking and “keep the fire burning” for as long as the woman wants and needs.

OUCH, Carol! For a chick who says she understands that us guys are all ego involved with our stuff, you sure are rough as hell on us penis owning people. Holy cow!

You’ll get no argument from me — most us men folk are way to obsessed with our cocks. If only we spent a fraction of the time we fritter way worrying about the size and shape of our poor willies on something worthwhile, something that would actually make us more interesting; the world would be a much better place. But let’s face it, that ain’t gonna happen. And when all the boys out there get a load of your message, which suggests that most women would actually choose a strap on over the real thing, well…you know for sure the anxiety level is gonna go through the roof.

Frankly, I don’t believe that most women would choose a dildo over the real thing, even though the “real thing”, as you so generously point out, has its deficiencies like the pesky male refractory period.  And if I had to guess, and it would indeed be a guess, most women would prefer the animate thing, with all its shortcomings, no pun intended to the inanimate things with all their variety. I guess this because most of the women I know think that there is more to sex and intimacy than penetration sex, even though penetration sex is all fine and dandy. I’ve also had my share of women tell me they’re not overly disturbed when the hubby or BF can’t get it up, because that means less barkin’ at their front door, or (god forbid) back door…if you catch my drift.

I also get loads of letters from women who complain that the dudes in her life don’t know squat about how to use the dick nature gave them. It’s hard for me to imagine how awkward and clumsy penis/vagina sex would be if the guy pluggin’ the chick couldn’t feel the thing he was pluggin’ her with. I’d be willing to wager that there’d be a whole lot more bruised pussies out there if men were strappin’ their tool on, instead of using the one that came “standard issue” with their birthday suit.

But let’s just say you’re right; let’s say that most women would prefer to have fake as opposed to real, how would these women break the news to their benighted men? I mean, would she just come right out and say, “hey mister, tonight we’re gonna have you strap on old junior here.” As she pulls out some big vibrating monster wang and a harness. How do you suppose that would affect the guy’s ego? I suggest, not very well. Like I said at the beginning, us guys are already nervous about our adequacy. How are we supposed to compete with something that never loses its boner and can vibrate all at the same time?

No darlin’, I don’t think that’s gonna fly. Imagine for a moment if the shoe were on the other foot, so to speak. And men started to bring home blow up dolls to compensate for all the times their women were too tired, or too headachy, or too pregnant or too turned off to the idea of giving their man some well-deserved head. Imagine the female consternation if their male partners asked them to move over in bed to make way for Missy Blow-up…you know the one with the eveready mouth, pussy and asshole, the one that never complains and has those really perky tits, albeit made of plastic.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t ‘cha? Most of the women I know can’t even bear the idea their man might be jerkin’ off to porn let alone having to share their bed with an inanimate object that is there simply for the sexual gratification of their male partner.

Now that I’ve debunked the idea of real verses fake, I do believe that most couples I know — straight, bi, gay, what have you — would benefit from adding a sex toy…or six to their love making. I mean that’s why I hawk all those fabulous “marital aids” in the Dr Dick’s Stockroom for my kinkier friends  and my other, more vanilla toy emporium HERE.  I’m a big advocate of spicing up things with all this stuff, but never at the ego expense of one or the other partner.

So by all means Carol, if you’re bedding a man that has the ego strength to hear you suggest he strap one on when his peters out…so to speak…good for you! Knock yourself out! But then you’d have to be as agreeable to his toy suggestions too, right? I mean turn about is fair play, right darling?

I am of the mind that most people, both women and men are still too skittish about the whole notion of toys, at least as part of partnered fun. And that’s really too bad. For the most part, us Americans, particularly straight Americans, are not particularly adventurous when it comes to sex in general, and partnered sex with toys in particular. And those who are including toy play in their sex play generally use toys that are no threat to the ego of their partner. They tend to save their dildos and masturbation sleeves for when they are alone, again, too bad about that. I think that more people would have more enjoyable sex — together, if they were more comfortable jerkin’ off and jillin’ off WITH their partner and their toys. As it is now, most masturbation is still a furtive, solitary affair, again, too bad about that.

In the end, the answer to your query might reside with the kind of guy you fuck, Carol. Hopefully he, or they are open minded and fun loving sex freaks who are dying to try new things. If he, or they are, you’re in luck. All you’ll have to do is come up with a politic way of introducing “old junior” and his harness to your man. If by chance, the guy or guys you fuck aren’t quite so enlightened, maybe you’ll have to introduce the idea of toys first by getting him one. Imagine his surprise if you showed up in bed one day with a vibrating masturbation sleeve, one that looks like a real live pussy. Then you could tell your man to have a ball and bust a nut while you watch with joy. After he’s spent himself on the inanimate pussy, you could whip out the strap-on and tell him to go to town on your real thing.

Good luck!