The differences between the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) market for male and female sexual dysfunction therapies are severe, and Maria Sophocles, MD, doesn’t foresee the inequality lessening anytime soon.
The medical director of Women’s Healthcare of Princeton told MD Magazine® that a proven and profitable field of male sexual therapies has resulted in its continued funding and research, while a severely limited field for female sexual therapies leaves patients at the hands of a network of clinicians.
Sophocles explained the makeup of that treatment team, and what different specialists may bring to the table in female sexual dysfunction care.
What is the current standard of therapy for sexual dysfunction?
Well, female sexual dysfunction has been woefully underserved in the biopharma community and in society as a whole. I was just discussing last night what I call an androgenic model of sexuality in human culture for 4 centuries—which is that male sexual pleasure is sort of the ultimate goal of sexual interaction between men and women, and that female sexual pleasure has not really been prioritized.
This is reflected in the biopharmaceutical industry, if you look at Viagra and its overwhelming success and the numerous other drugs for male erection that have been marketed successfully. There is only one FDA approved medication that relates to or whose purpose is to enhance the female sexual experience.
And it’s also about money. When you have tried-and-true money makers that work to enhance the male sexual response, it’s cheaper for a pharmaceutical company to build another one like that than it is to sort of start from scratch and address female sexual dysfunction. It’s also, frankly, just more poorly understood by clinicians as a whole, by the lay public. As we said before, it’s not talked about. So, those are some of the problems.
The standard of care is really a multi-modal approach, a team-approach, behavioral therapy. Many therapists will address this, but there is a subset of therapists, psychologists, social workers who are certified by AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists). Clinicians and lay public can go on the AASECT website and find therapists who are certified in sex education and counseling, which is really beneficial, because the busy clinician just doesn’t always have time or expertise to sit and discuss sexual dysfunctions.
So, an AASECT-certified counselor is an excellent person to help a clinician address sexual dysfunction. Certainly if a clinician is comfortable taking a sexual history and addressing and treating sexual dysfunction, they should, but many are not. It’s a very poorly covered part of most medical training. So most clinicians, even if they have the time, lack the expertise or the comfort.
So, a sexual counselor or clinician to address for clinically treatable issues like vaginal dryness, and then sometimes a pelvic floor physical therapist. This is a physical therapist who has specialized training in treating the female pelvic floor, because some sexual dysfunction relates to problems with the pelvic floor muscles and nerves.
The body’s natural reaction to dealing with the trauma of sexual assault can have negative effects on a person’s long-term physical health.
by Leah Campbell
When Amber Stanley was 23 years old, a friend’s boyfriend raped her.
They had all been at a party together. She had fallen asleep in one of the spare rooms. When she woke up, he was on top of her.
“There were children asleep in the house, so I was afraid to scream,” she told Healthline. “I didn’t want to scare them or for them to see what was happening if they woke up.”
She told her friend what had happened the next day, and then went to the police. But there, she was essentially revictimized when the police officer with whom she filed her report questioned her story and credibility.
“He flat out told me that if he could prove I was lying, he would press charges against me. My rapist was in the army, a ‘national hero,’ so my word wasn’t good enough and he was never prosecuted,” she said.
Stanley says she’s been in therapy on and off for the last 13 years, trying to deal with what happened to her that night. And she still struggles with anxiety today.
“I don’t like feeling like I’m not in control of things. And I don’t like being around groups of people who are drinking, or alone at night doing things like shopping. I’m highly suspicious of strangers, even more so now that I have three daughters,” she said.
For Stanley, one of the worst nights of her life has turned into a lifelong struggle. And she’s not alone.
The many effects of sexual assault on health
A recent study presented at The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) annual meeting in October revealed that a history of sexual harassment was associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and clinically poorer sleep quality.
For survivors of sexual assault, there was an increase in depressive symptoms, anxiety, and sleep issues consistent with clinical disorders as well.
In other words, experiencing sexual harassment or sexual assault contributed to negative long-term health outcomes for survivors.
Sexual assault survivor advocates also report that survivors may be more resistant to going to the dentist and doctor, as both can require a fair amount of trust and invasiveness. This can contribute to health complications as well.
Out of 300 study participants, 19 percent reported workplace sexual harassment, 22 percent reported a history of sexual assault, and 10 percent reported having experienced both.
In light of the recent #MeToo movement, those numbers are only surprising because of how low they are.
A national study on sexual harassment and assault released by the organization Stop Street Harassment in February 2018 reported that 81 percent of women would experience some form of sexual harassment or sexual assault in their lifetime.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center also reports that 1 in 5 women will be raped at some point in their lives, 1 in 3 women will experience some form of contact sexual violence, and nearly two-thirds of college students will experience sexual harassment.
This means there are a lot of women potentially susceptible to a host of long-term health complications.
What experts say
Lisa Fontes, PhD, is a researcher, activist, author, and psychotherapist. She told Healthline that sexual assault and sexual harassment are both considered trauma. During trauma, the body releases hormones that help a person cope with the emergency.
“The body releases cortisol to avoid pain and inflammation, and it raises our blood sugar to help us flee from danger. Unfortunately, these physical responses become long-lasting for many survivors of sexual assault and harassment, contributing to poor health,” she said.
She explains sexual harassment is considered a “chronic stressor,” because it’s typically sustained over time. Child abuse and intimate partner sexual abuse also often involve repeated assaults, leading the survivor into a constant state of hyperalertness.
“Even a one-time sexual assault can produce long-term consequences as the survivor copes with intrusive memories that make her feel as if she is enduring parts of the assault again and again,” Fontes added.
Healthline also spoke to Elaine Ducharme, PhD, a board-certified clinical psychologist. She talks about the repeated trauma that occurs even with singular assaults.
“You have the trauma at the time the event happens,” she explained. “Then if it’s reported, there is repeated trauma because you are talking about it and dealing with it again and again throughout the process of pursuing charges.”
But even for those who don’t report or press charges, the trauma can continue.
“For people who have children, we often see a flare-up of trauma when the child reaches the age they were at the time the assault occurred,” Ducharme explained. “And even for women who think they are fine, years down the line they may see a movie with a rape scene and suddenly feel like they want to throw up.”
For many women, the recent #MeToo movement has proven to be empowering and healing. But for some, it’s resulted in having to relive those memories and experience the trauma all over again.
For those women, Ducharme suggests taking a break from media and considering a return to therapy.
“They may need to learn ways to manage the anxiety that can be triggered by some of this, and using mindfulness can be helpful,” she said. “I’m a huge believer in working with my clients to help them settle themselves down and be mindful and in the moment, trying to learn to stay present.”
“I don’t blame the #MeToo movement for the fact that we are hearing more about sexual assault these days,” Fontes added. “I blame the assailants and the years of cover-ups.”
When asked what advice she would have for women struggling with the mental and physical health implications of their past experiences with sexual harassment or sexual assault, Fontes said, “There is power and healing in numbers.”
If you’re currently struggling, Fontes suggests the following:
See if your local women’s crisis center has a discussion group you could join.
Speak with trusted loved ones about how you’re feeling.
She says those who return to therapy may not need a lot of sessions — just a few to figure out how to cope with the new landscape.
“Sexual abuse is so common. There is no reason any woman has to feel like she is alone, or to suffer alone,” Fontes said.
For millions of girls growing up in evangelical Christianity, sexuality is a sin. Girls are sexual “stumbling blocks,” they’re told—a danger to the relationship between men and God.
Such is the way of the purity movement. Emerging out of white evangelicalism in the early 1990s, the conservative Christian movement—today promoted by both local churches and national organizations such as Focus on the Family and True Love Waits—emphasizes sexual purity and abstinence-only education. The cornerstone: If women remain virgins until the day they marry a man, they’re holy; if not, they’re damaged goods. To avoid the latter outcome, young adults are required to make promises—signified in the form of purity balls, rings, and pledges—to remain abstinent from puberty ’til “I do.”
In purity culture, both young men and women are taught that sex before marriage is wrong. But it’s teenage girls who end up most affected, Klein finds, because while boys are taught that their minds are a gateway to sin, women are taught that their bodies are. After years of being told that they’re responsible for not only their own purity, but the purity of the men and boys around them; and of associating sexual desire with depravity and shame, Klein writes, those feelings often haunt women’s relationships with their bodies for a lifetime.
Klein knows from personal experience. After realizing she couldn’t be the woman the church wanted her to be, she left the evangelical community in the early 2000s. It was at that point, when she began considering having sex, that the symptoms started. “It began when I took the possibility of having sex and put it on the table,” Klein tells Broadly. “From that point on, sometimes it was my boyfriend and I being sexual that would make me have these breakdowns where I was in tears, scratching myself until I bled and ending up on the corner of the bed crying.”
Klein knew immediately that the reactions were linked to her religious upbringing, but assumed it was specific to her. “I never wondered where it came from, I just wondered why it was manifesting that way,” she says. “It couldn’t be that everyone who was taught these things were having these experiences, because surely I would have heard about it.”
Eventually, though, Klein realized that she wasn’t nearly alone. In 2006, she began compiling dozens of testimonies from childhood friends involved in the purity movement and found that they were all experiencing similar feelings of fear, shame, and anxiety in relationship to sex. “Based on our nightmares, panic attacks, and paranoia, one might think that my childhood friends and I had been to war,” writes Klein. “And in fact, we had. We went to war with ourselves, our own bodies, and our own sexual natures, all under the strict commandment of the church.”
Today, Klein considers the phenomenon an epidemic. When she first realized the scope and severity of what she was researching, she decided to quit her job—at the age of 26—and dedicate herself to learning more about the effects of purity culture. She went on to earn an interdisciplinary Master’s degree from New York University, for which she wrote a thesis on white American evangelicalism’s messaging toward girls that involved interviewing hundreds of current and past evangelicals about the impact of the purity movement on their lives. Eventually, those seeds of research grew into Pure.
A 12-year labor of love, the resulting book is an eye-opening blend of memoir, journalism, and cultural commentary that masterfully illustrates how religion, shame, and trauma can inform one another. Citing medical studies, she lays out that evangelical adolescents are the least likely “to expect sex to be pleasurable, and among the most likely to expect that having sex will make them feel guilty.” And in comparison to boys, Klein observes, girls are 92 percent more likely to feel shame—especially girls who are highly religious. For many women, like Klein, that shame can manifest in physical symptoms.
Klein observes and cites an expert who found that many women who grow up in purity culture and eventually begin having sex report experiencing an involuntary physical tightening of the vagina—also known as vaginismus—that is linked to a fear of penetrative sex and makes intercourse extremely painful. This could also be considered a symptom of Religious Trauma Syndrome (RTS), a diagnosis developed by Dr. Marlene Winell, a psychologist in San Francisco and author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. According to Winell, as quoted by Klein, RTS is a condition “experienced by people who are struggling with leaving an authoritarian, dogmatic religion and coping with the damage of indoctrination.” The symptoms resemble those of PTSD, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorders, and can result in depression, sexual difficulty, and negative views about the self.
Perhaps more convincing than the medical research and professionals that Klein cites, though, is the wealth of testimonies she gathers from women. One woman she spoke to described having years of awkward, uncomfortable sex with her husband until she began to feel overcome by such extreme exhaustion, she had difficulty getting out of bed. Another shared that after her first sexual experience, her body began to shake uncontrollably. In one extreme account, a woman said that feelings of panic and guilt flooded her mind “like a cloud of locusts” after an early sexual encounter. Soon after, orange-sized welts broke out on her stomach, arms, back, and breasts and it became difficult to breathe. After jumping into the shower to find relief, welts the size of both of her palms formed on her vagina. “I would say it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” she told Klein. “I had no idea what was happening to me. My legs, my face, everything was bright red. It felt like I had absolutely no control over these horrific, nightmarish things that were happening to my body.” The woman was rushed to the emergency room, and though the doctors told her she went into anaphylactic shock, they couldn’t explain what caused it. While she knows something medical happened, she told Klein that’s she is certain something spiritual happened to her as well—the result of what happens “when you tempt Satan.”
Pure is a thorough and focused study on the effects of the purity movement’s rhetoric on women and girls, but Klein stresses that her findings aren’t relevant only to religious conservatives. Rather, they represent an extreme microcosm of a broader culture of gendered sexual shaming to which we should all be paying attention.
“The conclusion that I reached was that the evangelical culture is useful because it provides a mirror of what’s happening in other places in the culture,” Klein says. “You see what happens when you have high doses of this toxic messaging. But the reality is that this toxic messaging is everywhere and we’re all taking in unhealthy amounts of it.”
[T]he subject of straight-identifying men who have sex with other men is a fascinating one, in that it shines a light on some extremely potent, personal concepts pertaining to identity and sexuality and one’s place in society. That’s why some sociologists and other researchers have been very eager to seek out such men and hear them explain how they fit same-sex sexual activity into their conception of heterosexuality.
The latest such research comes in the journal Sexualities, from Héctor Carrillo and Amanda Hoffman of Northwestern University. They conducted 100 interviews, with men who identified as straight but sought out casual sex with men online, hoping to better understand this population. A big chunk of the article consists of snippets from those interviews, which were primarily conducted online by three female researchers, and at the end Carillo and Hoffman sum up what they found:
They interpret that they are exclusively or primarily attracted to women, and many also conclude that they have no sexual attraction to men in spite of their desire to have sex with men. They define sexual attraction as a combination of physical and emotional attraction, and they assess that their interest in women includes both, while their interest in men is purely or mainly sexual, not romantic or emotional. Moreover, some perceive that they are not drawn toward male bodies in the same way as they are drawn to female bodies, and some observe that the only physical part of a man that interests them is his penis. Men in the latter group do not find men handsome or attractive, but they do find penises attractive, and they thus see penises as ‘living dildos’ or, in other words, disembodied objects of desire that provide a source of sexual pleasure. Finally, as a management strategy for judging that their sexual interest in women is greater and more intense than their interest in men, they sometimes limit their repertoires of same-sex sexual practices or interpret them as less important than their sexual practices with women. That way, they can tell themselves that their sexual interest in women is unbounded, while their sexual interest in men is not.
All this contributes to their sense that they qualify as being called straight or heterosexual, even when some also recognize that their sexualities do indeed differ from exclusive heterosexuality, which in turn leads them to adopt secondary descriptors of their sexual identities. As indicated by the variety of terms that they used, those descriptors often reinforce a perception that, as a sexual orientation category, heterosexuality is elastic instead of rigid — that some degree of samesex desire and behaviour need not automatically push an individual out of the heterosexual category. And while some men are willing to recognize that their sexual behaviours might qualify their being called bisexual — and they may privately identify with that label — they feel that there is no contradiction between holding a private awareness of being bisexual and a public persona as straight or heterosexual. Again, this conclusion is strengthened by a lack of social incentives to adopt bisexual identities.
It’s interesting to keep that interpretation in mind as you read the interview snippets. Take, for example, the men who sought to make it very clear that while they sometimes got with men, they really liked women:
I know what I like. I like pussy. I like women … the more the merrier … I would kiss a woman. ANYWHERE. I can barely hug a man … I do have a healthy sexual imagination and wonder about other things in the sexual realm I’ve never done … Sometimes I get naughty and explore … That’s how I see it. [Reggie, 28]
Women are hot … I can see a beautiful woman walk down the street and I instantly can become hard and get horny. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy walking by and got a boner. Also, I would not want to kiss or make out with them or love them. They would be more like a sexual experience. [Charlie, 32]
Some of the men did think that their behavior possibly qualified them as bisexual, but didn’t quite want to take the step of identifying as such:
I think everybody is a little bi. Isn’t that what this research is about? There’s the Kinsey scale … It’s not like Bush saying you’re either with us or with the terrorists. I think I’m probably bi but what I present to the world is a heterosexual man. Internally I’m bi, but that’s not something most people know. I’m not ashamed, but the majority of people are ignorant and close-minded. [Simon, 27]
I am not openly bisexual to society except in sexual situations … I don’t have relationships with men; I am in a relationship with my wife and only love her. [I’m bisexual] only with men behind closed doors. [Dustin, 28]
In addition to being perhaps the first instance in recorded history of someone comparing their sexual orientation to George W. Bush’s counterterrorism doctrine, Simon’s statement contains an important point: Carrillo and Hoffman note that many of their respondents simply “see no real personal or social advantages that would stem from publicly adopting an identity as bisexual or gay.” In many cases, it may not be in their interests to do so — hence the compartmentalization of their same-sex encounters.
Another reason for such compartmentalization is that it allows some men the opportunity to explore parts of their identities they feel they couldn’t safely in heterosexual settings:
For most of my sex life I’m in control of things. I’m not a boss at work anymore but I’ve been in situations where I’ve managed a hundred people at a time. I take care of my family. I take care of my kids. I’m a good father. I’m a good husband in providing material things for my wife … I’m in charge in a lot of places … There’s times when I don’t want to be in charge and I want someone to be in charge of me … that’s what brings me over [to] the bisexuals … it’s kind of submitting to another guy or being used by another guy. [Russell, 54]
“Interestingly,” write Carrillo and Hoffman, “being dominated by a man seemed to them less threatening than being dominated by a steady female partner, perhaps because it could be construed as a temporary fantasy, instead of meaning a permanent change in the gender balance.”
This same dynamic popped up the last study on this subject I covered — the idea that men “get” something about sex that women don’t, and that because there’s a fully mutual understanding that what’s going on is just sex, same-sex experiences can be set off safely away from the rest of one’s (heterosexual) identity. You can be a “good father,” which many men imply to mean being a strong, straight man, while still messing around with men on the side. From these men’s perspective, they can have it both ways — the privileges of identifying as straight and the pleasure and excitement of same-sex relationships on the side — without their identity being threatened.
As assimilation into more mainstream culture increases, many gay men are shifting their attitudes on non-traditional relationships—becoming less accepting of them.
[F]ull disclosure: I’m polyamorous. After being in a year-long, tumultuous monogamous relationship, I fell into polyamory by accident. After giving it a shot, I realized that I am better equipped to handle the struggles that come from polyamory than monogamy. Clearly, both setups come with a myriad of issues, but what makes me happiest, most comfortable, and most satisfied, is polyamory. Polyamory, ironically, also alleviated my jealousy issues and relationship-induced anxiety, simply because I trust my current partner unconditionally.
Like most people, I knew nothing about polyamory when I stumbled into it. I believed the false misconceptions that surround poly life. I thought people use polyamory as an excuse to screw around. I thought all polyamorous relationships are doomed to fail, with one person being left out. I also thought that poly people are insecure, given that they need validation and support from various partners. While I have encountered all of these things and people in the poly community, I can safely say, these hurtful stereotypes are false and don’t accurately capture the true spirit of polyamory.
I write about consensual non-monogamous relationships often. Without pushing any agenda, I try to help others by offering another option to monogamy. It’s worked for me, and I wish I had known poly was a viable option sooner.
But I also know I’m not special. I’m like many other queer men out there. My experience, struggle, and identity are undeniably mine, but once I stopped believing I was the center of the universe, I was able to realize that my journey mirrored many queer men before and after me, and I now think that other people could benefit from being in a monogam-ish, open, or polyamorous relationship.
Still, when I even hint at the idea of not being 100 percent monogamous, guys throw more than hissy fits; they have full temper tantrums. I’m not even saying go out and date a million people; I’m saying that if both you and he are exclusive bottoms, maybe it’s worth it to consider bringing in a third. “Consider”—that’s the world I’ll use. But that’s enough for guys to become furious, taking their comments to every social media platform. In these comments, I’m ruthlessly attacked, accused of knowing nothing about relationships, giving up on men too early, being sleazy, horny, and incapable of love, amid a bunch of other totally outlandish claims.
These comments never bother me because I know they’re wrong. They have, however, led me to repeatedly ask the same questions: Why does the mere mention of a non-monogamous relationship make these guys’ blood boil? I understand it’s not for them, but why do they get so angry that open relationships work for other men? Why do they feel that it’s important that everyone be like them, in a monogamous relationship, when it doesn’t affect them? Is it a matter of arrogance? Do they assume everyone is like them? Have these men been cheated on? Have these men been taken advantage of by men who use the “open” label, and instead of realizing that that guy was just an unethical person, they think that all guys in open relationships are unethical people? This shouldn’t be such a sore subject and source of unrelenting rage.
I’ve tried engaging with the monogamy-or-bust folks, going straight to the source, but I’ve never learned anything useful. They are so consumed by anger, that they can’t speak logically about why something that has nothing to do with them provokes such outrage. Honestly, they sound like the anti-marriage equality crowd. They say the same things repeatedly about how it ruins the sanctity of marriage (or in this case, relationships), but when you ask how it affects them personally, they don’t have an answer. But for whatever reason, this remains a source of animosity.
That said, here’s what I have noticed.
1. People in satisfying monogamous relationships don’t have reason to be angry.
When I speak to gay men who are in satisfying monogamous relationships, they’re never angered. Confused? Absolutely. Do they know that an open relationship would never work for them? Yes, very aware. Are they skeptical that it will work out? Sure. But angry? Never. The only people who are actively angered are men who are single or unhappily committed in a monogamous relationship. This had led me to believe a main reason for their anger is displacement. They’re unhappy with their relationship (or lack thereof) and are taking it out on men in happy, open relationships.
2. The angry folks have reason to be insecure and jealous.
These are people for whom a polyamorous relationship would never work, because they struggle to believe in their own self-worth. They fear they aren’t worthy of love. Because of this, these insecure men think that their partner will leave them in the dust if someone comes along who seems “better,” instead of acknowledging that a person can love two individuals. These guys are usually single.
Simon*, a gay man I interviewed, supports this notion; he thinks open-relationship shaming is a matter of projection. “…I find that there has been an increase in hypocritical slut-shaming that comes from the queer community. [We’re] always eager to feel morally superior. I think this happens because it’s easier for [some queer men] to project insecurities and/or personal issues onto someone who doesn’t seem to feel guilt or remorse for exploring their sexuality with other partners, than to be honest with themselves about their own desires and ‘deviant’ curiosities, polyamory among them.”
3. The angry gay men are homonormative AF.
In my experience, the gay men vehemently opposed to open/poly life tend to be the same men who think bisexuality is a stepping stone to gay and that being transgender is a mental illness; men who don’t see the value in the word “queer” and don’t believe gays should be supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Their perception of open/poly life isn’t an isolated issue. It’s rooted in a larger ideology that’s riddled with entitlement and privilege.
However, as one gay man I interviewed, Noah, said, “I also think that (white) gay men’s attitudes on polyamory are shaped very heavily by our successful assimilation into mainstream culture. Remember, one of the most widespread arguments against gay marriage was that it would lead us down a slippery slope towards legalization of polygamy and other ‘deviant’ (read: alternative) relationship structures. Accepting polyamory as a positive force in the gay community means pushing back against the core world views of those naysayers. But the gay community has mostly opted for assimilation, so it’s not surprising that as a poly person I’m frequently viewed with suspicion.”
Though Noah said he hasn’t faced direct discrimination, he mentioned that a growing number of gay men refuse to date him because they think, “I am inherently unable to give them the level of intimacy that they crave or the level of commitment that they desire.” When he says he’s polyamorous, “…I lose value in their eyes since there is no chance for me to be their One True Love.” He understands the need for boundaries and respects people for realizing polyamory or open relationships aren’t for them, but at the same time, this puts him in a very precarious position when it comes to dating.
Another man I interviewed, Rob, said he has hasn’t received much discrimination aside from a snarky comment here and there. “Let’s face it,” he said, “open relationships are as common among gay guys as bread and butter!”
While I think that is true, and open relationships are quite common in the queer male community, this relates back to what Noah was discussing. With assimilation into more mainstream culture and the acquirement of rights, including that to marry, many gay men are shifting their attitudes on non-traditional relationships—becoming less accepting of them.
With all of that said, I still can’t help but see the irony in a gay man critiquing how someone else loves. Love is love—isn’t that what we’ve been preaching this whole time? And if love does conquer all, which I believe all gay and queer men believe, then we, as a community, need to be supportive of other queer men. Instead of buying into this boring, oppressive, homonormative gay culture, or losing our sense of openness as we continue to assimilate into the heteronormative mainstream, I’d like to see gay men expand their notion of what gay is, what love is, and what a relationship is.
I’m also hoping that we can think outside ourselves. Just because a certain non-traditional relationship style wouldn’t be our first choice, doesn’t mean it can’t be the ideal relationship style for our gay brothers. We’re not only being arrogant and close-minded; we’re beginning to sound a lot like the Republicans who work so hard to take away our rights.
So if you’re one of those gay men who are vehemently opposed to every type of relationship but monogamy, I ask you to ask yourself: “Why?”
Sex education in schools worldwide is so “out of touch” with pupils’ experiences that they find it irrelevant and switch off, research of young people in 10 countries including the UK shows.
Many students find lessons about sex and relationships negative, moralistic and too scientific to help them deal with the feelings and situations they are encountering, according to an analysis of young people’s views published in the journal BMJ Open.
The study, led by Dr Pandora Pound of the school of social and community medicine at Bristol University, found a surprising consistency in young people’s views on sex education regardless of whether they were in Britain, the US, Iran, Japan, Australia or elsewhere.
“It is clear from our findings that SRE [sex and relationship education] provision in schools frequently fails to meet the needs of young people,” Pound said. “Schools seem to have difficulty accepting [that] some people are sexually active, which leads to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”
Pound and her colleagues reached their conclusions after examining 55 previously published studies that set out young people’s views of sex education between 1990 and 2015. It also included pupils and ex-pupils in the Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Brazil and Sweden.
SRE lessons too often left female pupils at risk of harassment if they participated and male students anxious to hide their ignorance about sex, they found. Some young men were disruptive in class in order to disguise their inexperience.
Many pupils believed that schools saw sex as a problem to be managed, that there was too much focus on heterosexual relationships and that females were often portrayed as passive and males as predatory, the researchers found.
Many pupils also found it uncomfortable and unhelpful that teachers they had for other subjects also taught them SRE. “They expressed dislike of their own teachers delivering SRE due to blurred boundaries, lack of anonymity, embarrassment and poor training,” according to the study.
A 2013 report into sex education by Ofsted, the schools inspectorate for England, found that just 19% of 18-year-olds believe that SRE should be taught by a teacher from their own schools.
For their part, teachers themselves often admit to “discomfort” at teaching SRE. Ofsted’s review also found that one in three English schools delivered poor quality SRE.
Schools could tackle these problems by instead holding some single sex SRE lessons and using sex educators from outside to deliver lessons, the authors suggest.
They also suggest that schools should be much more “sex-positive” – open, frank and positive about sex in a way that challenges negative attitudes in society to sex.
“It is disappointing that the pattern of inadequate sex and relationships education is repeated from country to country, with young people in England and elsewhere saying that SRE starts too little and too late and is often too biological with little attention to relationships, and lessons fail to reflect the reality of young people’s lives,” said Lucy Emmerson, co-ordinator of the UK’s Sex Education Forum.
“Teachers have repeatedly said that they need subject-specific training so that they can teach good quality sex and relationships education, but in England there has been a failing on the part of government to require that SRE must be taught in every school, so there are huge gaps in provision with some schools not teaching the subject at all,” she added.
The study, which was funded by the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research, also found that SRE often does not give pupils practical information such as what to do if they become pregnant and the pros and cons of different methods of contraception. In addition it found that sex education is often delivered too late for some pupils.
Without an overhaul of SRE, “young people will continue to disengage from SRE and opportunities for safeguarding and improving their sexual health will be reduced”, the paper warns.
“The international evidence is clear, comprehensive SRE taught early by trained educators results in improvements for young people’s sexual health and reductions in sexual violence,” added Emmerson. “But too many countries are failing to respond and take action and provide children and young people with the education they need and deserve.”
More to be done to help with ‘sexual function’ as well as advice on STIs and pregnancy, say authors of survey
Large numbers of young people experience sexual problems such as pain or anxiety during sex, the inability to climax and finding intercourse difficult, a study has found.
A third (33.8%) of sexually active teenagers and young men aged 16-21 and 44.4% of sexually active young women the same age experienced at least one problem, which lasted for at least three months, with their ability to enjoy sex in the past year, according to the research.
Experts say the results, from the latest National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3) study of sexual health in Britain, show that young people need help with their “sexual function” as much as advice on avoiding sexually transmitted infection or unintended pregnancy. They experience problems almost as much as older people, it emerged.
For women, the most common problem was difficulty in reaching climax, which 21.3% of female participants said they experienced. The next most common problems were: lacking enjoyment in sex (9.8%), feeling physical pain as a result of sex (9%), an uncomfortably dry vagina (8.5%), feeling anxious during sex (8%) and no excitement or arousal (8%).
Among men, the biggest difficulty was reaching a climax too quickly, which 13.2% had experienced. Smaller numbers reported difficulty in reaching a climax (8.3%), difficulty getting or keeping an erection (7.8%), lacking enjoyment in sex (5.4%) and feeling anxious (4.8%).
The Natsal surveys, the funders of which include the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health, are seen as the most in-depth portraits of sexual behaviour in Britain. This latest edition has been carried out by academics from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University College London and NatCen Social Research. Natsal-3 is based on 1,875 sexually active and 517 sexually inactive men and women aged between 16 and 21.
“Our findings show that distressing sexual problems are not only experienced by older people in Britain”, said Dr Kirstin Mitchell, the lead author of the study. “They are in fact relatively common in early adulthood as well.
“If we want to improve sexual wellbeing in the UK population, we need to reach people as they start their sex lives, otherwise a lack of knowledge, anxiety or shame might progress into lifelong sexual difficulties that can be damaging to sexual enjoyment and relationships,” she added.
Among the sexually active, 9.1% of young men and 13.4% of young women said that they had felt distressed about a sexual problem that had troubled them for at least three months.
Natsal-3 found some significant differences between men and women in the sexual problems they encountered. Far more women (9.8%) than men (5.4%) lacked enjoyment in sex, felt anxious during sex (8% compared with 4.8% of men) and experienced no excitement or arousal during sex (8% compared with 3.2% of men).
The same stark gender divide was also apparent in those who professed no interest in having sex. One in five (22%) of women said they lacked interest, while far fewer men – 10.5% – said the same.
Young people are very unlikely to seek professional help for their problem. Although 36.3% of women and 26% of men said they had sought help, this was usually from family, friends, the media or the internet. Just 4% of young men and 8% of young women had turned to an expert such as a GP, psychiatrist or sexual health professional about their sex life.
Prof Kaye Wellings of LSHTM, a co-author, said: “UK sex education is often silent on issues of sexual satisfaction, but these are clearly important to young people and should be addressed. Sex education could do much more to debunk myths about sex, discuss pleasure and promote gender equality in relationships.”
I have a really big problem. I can’t keep a girlfriend because once I’m in a committed relationship I lose my desire for sex. I don’t mean it slacks off; it just totally stops. I’ve always been this way. I can have casual sex with women, but when things get serious sex goes out the window. This has been the demise of every relationship I’ve ever had. I’m currently dating this really great woman, but I’m afraid my problem will drive her away too. Is there anything I can do to stop this from happening?
Whoops, looks like another case of dreaded LBD…Lesbian Bed Death.
Ya know it’s pretty common for lovers in long-term relationships to gradually lose interest in sex with each other. But lesbiterians are particularly susceptible to this malady. Some couples, but lesbians in particular, end all sexual expression between them; yet stay very committed and loving toward each other. Thus the somewhat humorous term, “lesbian bed death.”
You Karen, apparently suffer from a particularly nasty case of LBD. May I ask, is this an issue for you because, and only because, it kills off all your relationships way too soon? Or are you concerned about this because you yourself are uneasy about the complete cessation of sex once you nest? The reason I ask is, if your only reason for changing is to please someone else, even someone you like a lot, the likelihood that you’ll actually change is considerably less than if you yourself desire a change.
Let’s say you really want to change for yourself, but you just don’t know how. I’d advise working with a sex positive therapist. If you and I were working together, for example, I’d want to get to the bottom of what triggers your attitude shift toward sex when you nest. Is there some disconnect for you between sex and intimacy? If there is a disconnect for you, you’re not alone. People with self-esteem issues, or body issues, people with extreme scruples about sex, the kind that translates into guilt and shame often have a similar disconnect. And gay and lesbian people who have not resolved their internalized homophobia will frequently have a sex and intimacy rift.
Sound familiar? I would guess so. Reversing this is unhappy trend is not an insurmountable task. But it will take a concerted effort to heal the rift that you may have between your sexual expression and intimacy needs.
You say you’re met this really great woman and you want this relationship to last. FANTASTIC! Is it safe to assume that she has a healthier appreciation of sex then you? If she does, I suggest you engage her in your healing process. However, you gotta be totally up front with her about your past pattern of disconnect. Marshal her sex-positive energy to help you resolve your issues. She will need a heads-up on the impending sex shut down so she can help you resist it. With her help, the two of you could move through this.
Location: Olongapo City, Philippines
I want to know if I am a gay or not. I don’t know if I’m a straight man because every time I see a nude pictures or videos of a guy my penis is erecting. It makes me feel horny too when I saw a pictures or videos of girls but most of the time I enjoyed looking naked men. I am always comparing myself to what I am watching, like the size and the look of my penis, the abs and muscles, etc. Does that mean I am a gay? And if I am a gay what should I do to remove it. I don’t want to become a gay for a lifetime. I want to have a family and how will my dream girl love me if I am a gay? So please help me.
Whoa, pup! You got it bad and that ain’t good. And I’m not referring to your latent homosexuality.
Yeah, I’m gonna go way out on a limb and guess that you are indeed gay, or at least bi. But I think you know this already, right? The thing that concerns me is your terror about being gay. And what are you doing asking a big fat flamer, like me, how you might rid yourself of something that is authentically you?
I think you already know that there is no getting rid of “it”. You can deny it, you can disown your own feelings, you can persecute yourself for what you find lacking in yourself, you can even pray and whimper and cry and call out to your god. But you are who you are. And I believe that who you and what you feel is god-given. So maybe you don’t want to piss off the god that made you by suggesting that your god makes defectives, right? Get it? Got it? GOOD!
Here’s what I know for sure; it will be much easier to heal yourself of your self-inflicted and internalized homophobia that it is to try and alter a totally natural aspect of your personhood. And listen, no one “becomes” gay. You either are or aren’t. And if you are, there’s no reason that you and your male partner can’t raise a family. Loads of us gay folks are doing a fine job in the parenting department, thank you very much.
Lose the self-pity, get the sex-positive help you need to learn how to embrace yourself and your eroticism and grow up to be a happy, healthy and integrated person so that you can be an effective role model for all the frightened and ashamed young men that will come after you.
Is there such a thing as an asexual? The reason I ask is that I think I am one. I’m happy and well adjusted, but sex does nothing for me. I can’t orgasm. My genitals are icky. My marriage seems fine. I love my husband; we share the same values. And even if there’s nothing in it for me, I’m apparently pretty good at fellatio. We don’t do intercourse. Is this normal for some people? Are some people simply not wired to be sexual? I have no problems with love. I’m passionate about my husband and my friends, but it’s more of a cerebral thing.
Yeah, Marti, I do believe there is such a thing as an asexual. But I don’t think you’re one. Ya know why I say that? It’s because an asexual has an indifference toward sex. You, dear lady, exhibit disgust toward sex and things sexual…including your very own pussy. And that tells me you have an aversion to sex, which is completely different from what an asexual feels about sex.
I’d also have to challenge you on your statement that you are happy and well adjusted. I just don’t buy it, darlin’! And here’s a tip, if you have to go out of your way to tell someone you are happy and well adjusted, you’re probably neither.
In my estimation, a young married, albeit preorgasmic, woman who denies her hubby the old in and out, but begrudgingly blows him when absolutely necessary is NOT happy or well adjusted. SORRY! I don’t fault you for this, mind you. It’s just that since you have never known the joys of sex, you can hardly dismiss them as unimportant.
If we had access to your long-suffering husband I think he would tell a different tale than you, Miss Marti. I’ll betcha he’s withering on the vine for lack of nookie — the odd semi-obligatory blowjob he gets doled out to him on occasion not withstanding.
Listen darling, you got issues…big fuckin’ issues that need to be addressed ASAP. Don’t go trying to cover your shit with a happy face like asexuality. You’ll give all those real sexual ascetics a bad name if ya do.
Begin by resolving your anorgasmia, or as other call it preorgasmia. Because that, my dear, is the root of your sexual aversion. Work with a qualified sex-positive therapist. Learn to masturbate in a way that will bring you sexual satisfaction. Once you and your trusty vibrator slams yourself your first screamin’ meme of an orgasm, I believe you will change your tune about the rest of sex and your much maligned pussy too. I’ve written on this topic a lot. Use the search function in the sidebar, search for “preorgasmic,” and you’ll find it all. My posting: Hey, Where’s My Big “O”?, is one fine example.
We can only hope that your deprived spousal unit will stick around during this remedial period. But you’re gonna have to level with him. Tell him you’ve finally accepted the fact that you have a problem that you need to get to the bottom of it, so to speak. With his help and support and that of your therapist, you’ll find your way to real happiness and being an authentically well-adjusted person, not just someone who says she is.
Anything short of this kind of honesty will continue to rob your husband of the full-fledged sex life he ought to be enjoying with you his wife. If ya don’t you can be sure ‘ole hubby will find his satisfaction in a more welcoming pussy than yours…if he hasn’t already.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and his girlfriend, the singer Ciara, recently announced plans to remain sexually abstinent until marriage.
It was a vow that came as a surprise to many. After all, sexual purity is a commitment that is historically expected of, associated with – even demanded of – women. However, sexual abstinence is not something assumed of men, especially men like Russell Wilson.
Wilson, an accomplished, attractive athlete, embodies contemporary ideals of masculinity, which include style, wealth and, yes, sexual prowess.
So how does a man like Russell Wilson navigate a commitment to abstinence while upholding ideals of masculinity? Wilson’s status as an athlete and heartthrob is likely giving him what sociologist CJ Pascoe calls “jock insurance.” In other words, due to his celebrity status, he can make traditionally nonmasculine choices without having his masculinity questioned.
But what does it mean for a man who isn’t in the limelight, who makes a similar type of commitment to abstinence? And what does it mean for the women they date, and might eventually marry?
I’ve been researching men who pledge sexual abstinence since 2008, work that comes out of a larger scholarly interest in masculinities, religion and sex education.
While men make this commitment with the good intentions for a fulfilling marriage and sex life, my research indicates that the beliefs about sexuality and gender that come hand in hand with these pledges of abstinence do not necessarily make for an easy transition to a married sexual life.
Who’s Pledging “Purity?”
Comedian Joy Behar recently joked that abstinence is what you do after you’ve been married for a long time. Here, Behar makes two assumptions. One is that sexual activity declines both with age and the time spent in a relationship. This is true.
The second is that abstinence is not something you do before marriage. For the most part, this is true as well: by age 21, 85% of men and 81% of women in the United States have engaged in sexual intercourse.
If we compare these numbers to the average age of first marriage in the United States – 27 for women, and 29 for men – we get the picture: most people are having sex before marriage.
Still, some in the United States are making “virginity pledges,” and commit to abstinence until marriage. Most of the data that exist on this practice show that those who make the pledges will do so in high school, often by either signing a pledge card or donning a purity ring.
Research on this population tells us a few things: that those who pledge are more likely to be young women, and that – regardless of gender – an abstinence pledge delays the onset of sexual activity by only 18 months. Furthermore, taking a virginity pledge will often encourage other types of sexual behavior.
Virgins In Guyland
But little is known about men who pledge and navigate this commitment to abstinence.
I was curious about how men maintain pledges in light of these statistics, and also balance them with expectations about masculinity. So in 2008, I began researching a support group of 15 men at an Evangelical church in the Southwest. All members were white, in their early to mid-20’s, single or casually dating – and supporting each other in their decisions to remain abstinent until marriage.
The group, called The River, met once a week, where, sitting on couches, eating pizza or talking about video games, they’d eventually gravitate toward the topic that brought them all together in the first place: sex.
On the surface, it would seem impossible for these men to participate in what sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “Guyland” – a developmental and social stage driven by a “guy code” that demands, among other things, sexual conquest and detached intimacy.
Rather, the men of The River approach sex as something sacred, a gift from God meant to be enjoyed in the confines of the marriage bed. At the same time, these men struggle with what they describe as the “beastly elements” – or temptations – of sexuality. And it is precisely because of these so-called beastly elements that these men find each other in the same space every week.
The men of The River grappled with pornography use, masturbation, lust and same-sex desire, all of which can potentially derail these men from their pledge.
It raises an interesting dilemma: to these men, sex is both sacred and beastly. Yet the way they navigate this seeming contradiction actually allows them to exert their masculinity in line with the demands of Guyland.
Group members had an elaborate network of accountability partners to help them resist temptations. For example, one had an accountability partner who viewed his weekly online browsing history to make sure he wasn’t looking at pornography. Another accountability partner texted him each night to make sure that he and his girlfriend were “behaving.”
While these behaviors may seem unusual, they work in ways that allow men to actually assert their masculinity. Through what sociologist Amy Wilkins calls “collective performances of temptation,” these men are able to discuss just how difficult it is to refrain from the beastly urges; in this way, they reinforce the norm that they are highly sexual men, even in the absence of sexual activity.
The River, as a support group, works largely in the same way. These men are able to confirm their sexual desires in a homosocial space – similar to Kimmel’s research in Guyland – from which Kimmel notes that the “actual experience of sex pales in comparison to the experience of talking about sex.”
A ‘Sacred Gift’ – With Mixed Returns
The men of The River believed that the time and work required to maintain these pledges would pay off in the form of a happy and healthy marriage.
Ciara, in discussing her commitment to abstinence with Russell Wilson, similarly added that she believes such a promise is important for creating a foundation of love and friendship. She stated that, “if we have that [base] that strong, we can conquer anything with our love.”
So what happened once after the men of The River got married? In 2011, I followed up with them.
All but one had gotten married. But while the transition to married life brought promises of enjoying their “sacred gift from God,” this gift was fraught.
Respondents reported that they still struggled with the beastly elements of sexuality. They also had the added concern of extramarital affairs. Furthermore – and perhaps most importantly – men no longer had the support to work through these temptations.
There were two reasons behind this development.
First, respondents had been told, since they were young, that women were nonsexual. At the same time, these men had also been taught that their wives would be available for their pleasure.
It’s a double standard that’s in line with longstanding cultural ideals of the relationship between femininity and purity. But it’s a contradiction that leaves men unwilling to open up to the very women they’re having sex with.
These married men and women were not talking to each other about sex. Rather than freely discussing sex or temptation with their wives (as they had done with their accountability partners), the men simply tried to suppress temptation by imagining the devastation any sexual deviations might cause their wives.
Second, these men could no longer reach out to their support networks due to their own ideals of masculinity. They had been promised a sacred gift: a sexually active, happy marriage. Yet many weren’t fully satisfied, as evidenced by the continued tension between the sacred and beastly. However, to open up about these continued struggles would be to admit failure as masculine, Christian man.
In the end, the research indicates that a pledge of sexual abstinence works to uphold an ideal of masculinity that disadvantages both men and women.
After 25 years of being told that sex is something dangerous that needs to be controlled, the transition to married (and sexual) life is difficult, at best, while leaving men without the support they need. Women, meanwhile, are often left out of the conversation entirely.
So when we urge abstinence in place of healthy conversations about sex and sexuality, we may be undermining the relationships that are the driving goal of these commitments in the first place.
Once upon a time sex was enjoyed without shame, as a gift of God, Goddess, the Great Spirit – an act of joy, of devotion, something perfectly natural and wholly divine – all at the same time. Once upon a time the goddesses were venerated as the embodiment of love, passion, and sex, which were considered holy when performed in reverence for and in service of the female divinity.
But the mindset of patriarchy killed off the Goddess more than five thousand years ago. She was constrained to submission at worst, or virginal purity and celibacy at best; her divinity denied. With that, the idea of sexuality as spirituality, as something inherently divine, was eradicated for all women – young and old. Indeed, for all men as well! Sexuality was severed from spirituality and became its extreme opposite; sex was dirty, primitive, and instinctual (and feminine in nature), while spirituality was pure and clean and transcendent (and masculine in nature).
In the West, however, it was only from our Bible onward that sexuality became a sin, the means by which the devil could tempt mankind into damnation, a shameful necessity of physical gratification that was obscene and dirty. Only from our Bible onward, were women considered inherently sinful and destined for eternal punishment.
Even before Eve bit that apple, there was poor, feisty Lilith (born initially as one with Adam – “male and female created He them” says the first Biblical reference), who, according to legend, preferred to have sex on top. Lilith represents lunar consciousness (waxing and waning, death and rebirth), sexuality, body, and intuitive wisdom – all of which patriarchy degraded and denied. She got a terribly bad press.
Previously, the Goddess had ruled the mysteries of sexuality, birth, life, and death. Now the patriarchal God took control of life and death, and split procreation and motherhood from sexuality and “magic and mystery”. Lilith refused to submit and flew off in a rage. Until recent decades, she has been universally demonized as seductive, witch, outcast – the enraged, avenging goddess, wife of Satan.
Solar was split from lunar; psyche from soma or physical, corresponding to a general disassociation from the body. Mind and body, spirit and body, soul and body were split entities, and unequal. The body was inferior, an unfortunate necessity – together with its most basic of functions, sex; and it was associated with the feminine. (I once read an old text that described women as “bags of filth”. The males’ organs of excretion were not referred to.)
Male and female were unequal; spirit and nature were unequal. Man headed the chain of command – after God. As women, and as a culture, we have paid dearly for this division. The misogyny of the patriarchy affected all cultures in the last 2000 years, one way or another.
The fierce, sexual, independent-spirited wise dark goddess aspect of Lilith was replaced by submissive Eve, who was yet blamed for the whole messy business anyway. She was the sinful one, secondary to Adam, and cursed forever to give birth in pain. (Medieval midwives were sinning when they alleviated the pain of childbirth.)
As long as Eve is sinful and physical matter corrupt in any way whatsoever, our sexuality is compromised – and our liberation incomplete. This split must be healed.
I am proposing that sexuality and spirituality are aspects of the same thing; that the split between psyche and soma (the physical) is resolved in the energetic unity of a higher order. “We have lost contact with what unites them,” says Alexander Lowen in The Spirituality of the Body. Sexuality is psychosomatic – and by that I mean, not that it’s some kind of illness, in the more common meaning of the word, but that it overtly operates on both the physical and the psychic level.
Where science and religion are finding rapprochement in the infinite wave world of quantum physics, we find fresh metaphors for the lost unifying element. Waves of sexual sensations that emanate from the body can be visualized as cosmic, psychic energy, high-frequency vibrations that bridge us to higher consciousness.
These metaphors indicate possibilities that have profound implications generally, and more so for aging women today.
Dear Dr Dick,
My husband (34) and I (31) are coming up of ten years of marriage, and for the most part our sex life has been what I would consider average. He’s pretty much been the aggressor in our relationship, which has worked out fine until now. I guess after ten years my husband would like it if I occasionally expressed interest and initiated and told him what I like/don’t like etc. I really have no idea how to do that! I told him that and his comment was that maybe I wasn’t even sure what I liked/don’t like and that I’ve pretty much just been going along for the ride all these years. He’s probably right.
We used to kiss and cuddle etc. to work up to sex and now it’s, “hey, you wanna have sex?” which completely turns me off (which he knows). I’m sure this is partly due to his work schedule and having a four year old so by the time we get to bed we’re wiped out most of the time, but I’m so not into the, “hey, you wanna…” approach.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I get started in figuring out what I like and don’t like, how do I work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize it and especially verbalize or show him that I’m in the mood, and then how do I tell him I don’t like something without shutting him down. There are times, I know I don’t like something but I go along with it because I don’t want to shut him down.
I should preface by saying I’m not a very confident person and tend to be a people pleaser?
You’re husband’s right. It is fuckin’ time you started lifting your share of the sexual initiation load. I mean come on! Most women would kill for a man in their life that would show an interest in what they like and don’t like. This going along for the ride stuff has got to end, darling.
How do you get started in figuring out what you like and don’t like? Masturbation! That’s the shortest and most to the point answer I can think of. Once you discover what turns your crank through masturbation you will have loads of very important information to share with you man. And hey, don’t forget toys, vibrators in particular.
How do you work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize what turns you on and verbalizing or showing him that you are in the mood? The answer to this question is as simple as the previous question. You masturbate for him.
Now I know that a lot of people, and that includes most women, have been socialized to think that masturbation is wrong, or at least it’s a private affair that one should keep to herself. But I’m her to tell you that’s just bull-hockey. And this is true for both women and men, gay and straight and everyone in between.
How do you tell him you don’t like something without shutting him down? Well, it’s probably much easier to tell him what you like and how you like it rather than approaching the tutorial from the negative. If he’s not completely brain dead, he WILL get the message. If, however, he starts to do something that is rubbing you the wrong way, so to speak, simply tell him as calmly as possible that he will get a much bigger and better rise out of you if he did it THIS way. And then show him…again.
That fact that you sometimes don’t like something but that you often if not always go along with it tells me that you’ve socialized your man into thinking he’s an adequate lover when he perhaps isn’t. Its time for a confession, girlfriend! Be as gentle as you can, but for god sake, it’s time to come clean.
Take responsibility for keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem and show him what you need and how you need it.
If you indeed lack the confidence you need to be honest with the one you love and who loves you back, then frankly Brandi, you deserve what little you get. But if you can muster up the gumption to throw off the tyranny of that whole people pleasing bullshit you’ve been laboring under all these years, then you have a real shot at some happiness and sexual fulfillment. It’s gonna be up to you to make this happen. If you need some support find a sex positive therapist who will help you grow some balls.
I got email from a friend of mine that I haven’t had contact with for ages. We worked together on a couple projects in the past so I was delighted to hear from him. What follows is the exchange we had concerning his love interest. (All names have been changed.) I share all of this with you because I know other people, gay and straight, who have found themselves involved with someone they probably shouldn’t be involved with. Perhaps my friend’s dilemma will strike a chord with others in my audience.
Hello Dr. Dick
I think it’s been about 13 years now since we worked together. Ahhh the good ol’ days, and oh how I miss them.
I came across a recent post of yours on Google + and it reminded me I could use some of your professional guidance.
I don’t want to bias my story any or waste your time with unimportant details as to the nature of events. I would like you to hear (read) my situation word for word, exactly as it has been playing out.
I have about 50 pages of text messages compiled in PDF format over the past year or so between me and a guy I really like. I don’t want to walk away from him too soon, also don’t want to wait around for something that may never materialize (It’s been 3 years since we first started having sex).
Could I ask you to review these texts and give me your thoughts about it all?
Thanks for your time
(PS this 40y.o. guy I like identifies as being STR8, he is a total redneck, he is married to a younger 27-year-old female, he loves to fuck me and be fucked by me, he loves to suck cock and get his sucked too, he is hard from minute he walks in my door…it is the best sex of my life no question about it. And that’s sayin’ something.)
So nice to hear from you after such a long time. Yeah, I hear ya about the good old days. Unlike you, however, I don’t really miss them.
I would be happy to help you. Are you sure you just want me to read what you’ve compiled? Or do you want to talk about it?
Without prejudicing my appraisal of your document, what you tell me is very indicative of a problem that I have seen over and over throughout the years. And it sounds like you’ve got it bad.
Anyhow, how do you want to proceed? We can set up a Skype call, if you’d like. I do a lot of remote counseling these days, and Skype makes that possible.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
Great to hear back from you. A quick note on ‘the past’, I think what I miss the most is the social life I used to have. I had a lot of friends and always made time to see them.
The last 7 or so years have been very stressful but it’s paid off in the end. My home was foreclosed on; I fought hard, went to court many times and it took over two years but I did manage to save it. In 2010 (About a year after getting my home out of foreclosure) the state began a road construction project literally right outside my back door. It caused major damage to my 100-year-old home during the 3+ years the project went on. I am still fighting the state in an effort to resolve the issues that the construction caused.
Lol, I am not all negative like everything is all bad, or I never get a break from the weird stuff, it’s just been very unusual for me to have such a string of bad luck.
So back to Kevin & I. Would it be all right if you just read one short recent conversation, and then you tell me if you feel you could help? I imagine it will only take a couple minutes. Basically we are at a point where we get along amazing well in person, sex is incredible, & he loves everything the way it is. (We see each other for sex, nothing more). I, on the other hand, want to hang out sometime besides sex. This text exchange comes after not seeing or talking to him in about 10 days, which is pretty common.
Let me know Dr. 🙂
[Attached to the above email was a lengthy document that contained the contained the transcription of this latest text exchange between Jackson and Kevin. I’ll spare you the gory details.]
There’s a lot goin’ on here…beside the fact that the last part reads like a porn script. 😉
Here’s what I see. I see two men who have a “hook” in one another. One is happy on the hook the other is tortured on the hook.
Kevin, despite, or even because, of the hot sex you guys are having, is at a crossroads. If things continue as they are going, he will have to make adjustments to his life and have to make some very painful admissions about who he is at least to himself. He doesn’t sound even remotely ready for that. And even if he wanted to make this life-altering decision, he is probably ill equipped to do so. I’m guessing that he has been running from facing his true identity for decades.
You, on the other hand, know exactly what you want and how to get it. For you falling in love with this guy and living happily ever after would be as easy as falling off a log. You’re in love and you know how to handle yourself when love happens. We both know this is not your first time at the rodeo.
It’s like you’re dating a Martian. He only knows how to be a Martian. Despite, or even because, you appeal to him to stop being what he is (straight) and be this other thing with you (gay), he is petrified. And he may actually hate the very thing that you love about him.
Another thing that is really obvious is that Kevin’s sex with you is shame-based, not affection-based. He probably does get off on the hot monkey sex you guys have together, but he’s also probably crippled with guilt and shame afterward.
Stop and look over the document you sent me. Choose any one of those pages and count the words that you typed and then count the words that he typed. I’m sure that you will immediately see that you overwhelm him. You bare your soul; you write paragraphs of self-disclosure. He responds in monosyllables. I’m pretty sure he can barely stand the barrage. He’s trapped between what he wants and what he will allow himself to have and it is sheer torture.
Despite the fact that is wants, maybe even desperately wants, what you have to offer, and not just the sex, he can’t allow himself to have it. It would shake his world to its foundation. And since he can have the hot sex without the emotional attachment, he’s getting everything he (thinks) he wants. You, on the other hand, are living a life of non-to-quiet desperation. You’re at heaven’s door, but he won’t cross the threshold with you.
If I had to guess, I’d say there’s no future beyond the wham-bam-thank-you-sir part bumpin’ you’re already getting. And I also speculate that this arrangement has a half-life. I’d be willing to guess that ya’ll are already past the mid-point. Your dissatisfaction will grow and begin to manifest itself in the way you treat him. There will be an ultimatum. Then there will be an end. With a little luck it will end well, but there is also a big chance that it will end very poorly indeed. Violence is not unheard of in situations like this and I think you know this already.
In his defense, I don’t think Kevin is holding out on you. He probably would if he could. But he simply can’t. And if I had to guess, he’s not ever gonna turn this around. You said he’s in his 40’s, right? That’s a lot of life lived falsely, no? I’d be willing to wager that you aren’t the first man he’s fooled around with over the years and I don’t think you’ll be the last. He’s gotta have his fix even if it compromises his perception of himself.
I don’t envy you this conundrum, my friend. You are in anguish; I hear that. This is not a happy place for you and all I can say is, I hope you don’t give up any more ground.
Let me know if you want to talk about this at some point. No need to walk through this on your own if you don’t want to.
That gave me chills… Its like you were here the whole time. You identified every detail exactly as I have been living it.
One part in particular, Kevin said pretty much word for word as you did. He said, “I’m not holding out on you. I would if I could, but I simply can’t.” I got to admit I don’t understand.
Tuesday I sent him this text:
“Why is this normal social shit so awkward in your mind? All I want to do is hang out sometime. Let me repeat, I want to do something other than hookup one time. That’s it, if you don’t like it I won’t ask again.
I know you like the other shit more, I likely do as well. But is it that big of a deal to just hang out like regular dudes as well?
I’m not asking for anything else whatsoever no emotional connection or expectations of any kind.”
“I can’t. I’m sorry.”
His response blows my mind; it makes no sense. Sounds like an adult telling a child NO! I don’t have to explain, no means NO!
I think the truth is he just doesn’t WANT to do anything, even though he surely could. Ughhhh anyway.
I want to talk more with you about this Richard. I’ll hit you up later about the Skype thing. Thanks for being a sounding board for me.
Wow, that is interesting. Poor guy!
Again, in Kevin’s defense, he does have a wife. Maybe he thinks if he keeps his sex with you on the down low it’s not really infidelity. You know, guys doin’ guy things together. An emotional attachment to you would blow that delusion out of the water. It’s like being between a rock and a hard place. He can’t win for losing.
Anyhow, thanks for entrusting your woes with me. I look forward to connecting with you on Skype in the near future. All the best till then.
My inbox is overflowing, so it’s time to turn our attention to the sexually worrisome in our audience. I have another swell Q&A show in store for you today. Each of my correspondents is eager to share his or her sex and relationship concerns with us. And I will do my level best to make my responses informative, enriching and maybe even a little entertaining.
Bluetail Man ain’t gettin’ any at home so he’s thinkin’ about takin’ his needs elsewhere.
Mike is saddled with a meth monkey and we have an exchange about that.
Hanson is into pain; he wants to know if that’s normal. He and I have an exchange about that.
Ted wants his GF to give up her booty; she doesn’t want to. We have an exchange about that
Sean is afraid his kinks will get him in trouble. He and I have an exchange about that.