Why Pregnant Couples Should Totally Have Sex

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(And How To Do It Well!)

By Julia Guerra

A survey issued by the parenting website ChannelMum back in 2017 found that, on average, couples will have sex 78 times in a matter of six months (that’s 13 times per month) before they conceive. But what happens after they score a positive on the stick? Do they stop, for lack of a better word, scoring in the bedroom?

In life, and in pregnancy, it’s important to listen to your body and honor its needs. This includes any sexual desires that may (and usually do) arise. Of course, if you aren’t comfortable having sex while you’re pregnant, that’s perfectly fine. But while pregnancy is a lot of things, it doesn’t have to be a celibacy sentence.

The stigma around pregnant sex.

It’s one thing to put physical intimacy on pause if it’s uncomfortable or harmful to the mother, or if someone in the relationship feels genuinely uncomfortable having pregnant sex. However, there’s nothing inherently “dirty” or “wrong” about having sex while pregnant. But according to Sofia Jawed-Wessel, Ph.D., MPH, sex researcher and co-director of the Midlands Sexual Health Research Collaborative at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the taboo pitted on pregnant sex isn’t directed at the sex itself but rather at pregnant women having sex. 

“Our culture has a difficult time juxtaposing motherhood and sexiness without fetishizing—without objectifying the pregnant person,” Jawed-Wessel explains in an interview with mbg. “We have a difficult time seeing the pregnant person as a whole person beyond their pregnancy.”

It all comes back to the “why,” she says. In other words: Why is a pregnant woman having sex?

If it’s to meet her own sexual needs, a pregnant woman pursuing sex is often seen as an “aggressor,” as selfish. If it’s to meet the man’s needs, that’s another story, Jawed-Wessel says. “If [a pregnant woman is] having sex not for her own pleasure but for her partner’s, because nine months is a long time for men to be celibate, then we understand. If she’s partnered with a woman, well, we won’t even acknowledge that!”

How attitudes about pregnant sex can affect an expecting couple’s sex life.

In her most recent study, Jawed-Wessel and her team of researchers followed 116 couples in which one partner was between eight to 12 weeks pregnant. Researchers asked participants to complete four surveys over the course of three months, with questions focusing on their attitude toward sex before pregnancy, their attitude toward sex during pregnancy, how often they were having sex (with their partner and/or solo), sexual activities that gave them the most and least satisfaction, and so on.

The cross-sectional study, published last month in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that a couple’s attitude toward pregnant sex could actually affect their overall sexual satisfaction. Partners who shared a positive attitude toward pregnant sex were more satisfied overall than couples who went into the experiment with reservations toward pregnant sex.

Jawed-Wessel says a negative attitude toward pregnant sex can be a reflection of one or all of the following:

1. They’re choosing to believe pregnant sex myths over their doctor’s advice.

Jawed-Wessel says experts are seeing a “disconnect” between what the doctor prescribes and the negative attitudes couples have about pregnant sex because of myths about the potential risk of either compromising the pregnancy or harming the fetus directly.

For the record, there is little evidence to prove sex can induce a miscarriage, and experts say it’s highly unlikely. Doctors do suggest patients with very specific medical issues—such as placenta previa (when the placenta covers all or part of the uterus), and cervical insufficiency (when a woman’s cervix is weak and dilates too early in the pregnancy)—abstain from sex during their pregnancy. For the average pregnant person who isn’t experiencing a high-risk or abnormal pregnancy? As long as your doctor says it’s safe, you’re good to go.

And yet many couples are still apprehensive or just unable to shake off the fear of doing damage to their future baby.

2. Societally speaking, women are desexualized when they become pregnant.

As Jawed-Wessel points out, most cultures—definitely America’s—view motherhood as a kind of pure, moral, and exclusively family-oriented state, whereas having sex still carries overtones of being immoral or selfish. Even if they don’t recognize it, some men buy into this sexist dichotomy and struggle to find their partner sexually desirable during pregnancy, seeing their partner transitioning from “lover” to “mother.” It’s not about the physical bump or even the baby per se (though it may be the case for some men); it’s more about that psychological shift taking place in how they’re viewing their partner.

3. They’re viewing vaginal intercourse as the end-all-be-all of physical intimacy.

Most straight people tend to think sex needs to involve vaginal intercourse. Of course, there are numerous sexual behaviors and experiences that a couple can explore that have nothing to do with penetration, but because couples fall into a routine, they lose that sense of adventure and mystery in the bedroom. Then when pregnancy comes along and makes P-in-V intercourse perhaps less accessible or comfortable, they assume that means sex can’t happen.

What should sex look like for pregnant couples?

According to the team’s findings, sexual satisfaction during pregnancy was extremely contextual for each couple and for each individual partner. The paper outlines that kissing, intercourse, and using sex toys as a couple all led to more sexual satisfaction. But some sexual acts didn’t bring as much joy: For instance, men experienced high levels satisfaction using toys alone (likely while masturbating) and low levels of satisfaction from vaginal fingering (maybe because they couldn’t get off from it, the researchers posit). Women reported the opposite: They were most satisfied through vaginal fingering and actually less satisfied when they used sex toys on their own (perhaps because it was a last resort when they weren’t being satisfied by their partners, the researchers say).

Clearly there wasn’t one overarching solution to being sexually satisfied while pregnant, and more sex didn’t necessarily correspond to being more sexually satisfied. Specific sex acts were more enjoyable for some partners than for others. That being said, the researchers’ model showed one common thread: The more positive of an attitude a couple had toward pregnancy sex, the more sexually satisfied they felt overall.

Sexual satisfaction is important for a healthy relationship—yes, even for soon-to-be parents.

“Pregnancy does not suddenly leave a couple void of sexual needs,” Jawed-Wessel and her team write in their paper. “Sex is important to individuals and their relationships, and pregnant people and their partners are no exception. Relationship satisfaction has been frequently linked to sexual satisfaction among the general population, and pregnant individuals follow a similar pattern.”

They add that pregnant women also experience unique benefits from being satisfied with the state of their sex life and relationship: “Pregnant women with higher relationship satisfaction have also been found to be more positive about their upcoming role as a mother and experience less maternal emotional distress.”

In a recent edition of her newsletter, sex researcher and educator Dr. Zhana Vrangalova emphasized why it’s so important for couples not to lose sight of their sex lives due to a pregnancy: “I know that sex during and post-pregnancy may feel strange, or different, or awkward. But I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the health and quality of your relationship to maintain your sexual connection during this time. The longer you go without it, the harder and weirder it’s going to be to come back to it and reconnect in that way.”

Her advice?

“If you’re the one pregnant, give yourself the right to be a sexual being, and revel in your new body. A lot of women report that pregnancy sex was the best sex they’ve ever had!” she writes. “And if you’re the partner of someone who’s pregnant, please work on overcoming the harmful myths and negative feelings about pregnancy sex you’ve internalized, and make your partner feel beautiful, sexy, sexual, and desired.”

Communication is key.

Of course, this isn’t meant to put pressure on couples to do what they’re just not feeling. If a couple or partner just doesn’t want to have sex for whatever reason, Jawed-Wessel says there is nothing wrong with pushing pause. But she stresses: Communication is key.

“We see partners making assumptions or jumping to conclusions on what the other is thinking, and this is never good,” Jawed-Wessel explains. “[Pregnancy] can be a time to really explore each other’s sexuality and come to a closer understanding of one another so that when both partners are ready to push play again, it is easier to navigate and relearn each other’s needs and wants.”

As long as both partners have an open line of communication flowing and are being honest about their needs, Jawed-Wessel tells mbg, “there is no reason for sex or lack of sex during pregnancy to be harmful to either partner.” It’s only if either partner feels unsatisfied, or if the woman feels as though her partner does not find her sexually desirable, that may cause an issue.

Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., sex researcher and director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University–Bloomington, tells mbg that ultimately the importance of sexual intimacy during pregnancy will depend on the couple. For some, keeping things fresh in the bedroom during pregnancy is a priority. For others, sex is put on the back burner. “[New parents] have bigger fish to fry, focusing on staying and feeling healthy, caring for their pregnancy, getting things for their baby, napping more, doctors’ appointments, etc.,” Herbenick says. But she does suggest pursuing physical closeness in other ways: “Those who abstain [from penetrative sex] might find [satisfaction] connecting to kiss and cuddle to nurture intimacy.”

Overall, navigating the ways in which you and your partner can stay sexually satisfied during pregnancy is a personal process. As long as your medical provider gives you the OK, try your best to home in on how this experience can enhance your sex life and bring you closer, not only as new parents but as a couple. By keeping the communication flowing and maintaining a positive attitude, satisfaction will come—in and outside the bedroom.

Complete Article HERE!

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What To Do If You Want Sex To Last Longer

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By Erika W. Smith

There have been a lot of studies about how long sex lasts on average — but most of those studies focus on the length of P-in-V sex between a cis man and a cis woman, whereas we know that sex can encompass a lot more. When it comes to studies looking at how long sex — including foreplay, outercourse, oral sex, and any other kind of non-P-in-V sex — lasts on average, for people of any gender and sexuality, we have less data to go by. But even if we did have exact data, those numbers don’t really matter. Because the only real answer to “How long should sex last?” is “A length that you and your partner are happy with.”

In fact, studies and averages are “a comparison trap,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationships counselor who practices in New York. “It’s really more about what works in your relationship.”

Sex therapists generally consider someone with a penis to be experiencing premature ejaculation if they are ejaculating after less than two minutes of penetrative sex, Dr. Fleming says. The Mayo Clinic’s definition of premature ejaculation adds an important caveat: “Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like.” If both partners are happy with how long sex is lasting, then it’s not something to be concerned about — there’s a lot more to sex than penetration, after all. “How much does [the partner] enjoy penetration?” Dr. Fleming asks. “Maybe they already had an orgasm first because of foreplay, oral, or manual stimulation.”

But if both partners — no matter their gender or genitalia — want sex to last longer, they can try some different tactics to make that happen. Dr. Fleming divides these strategies into two groups: the physical and the psychological. On the physical side, there are masturbation exercises. In particular, people with penises can “learn to stay in the safe zone before the point of inevitability, which is ejaculation,” says Dr. Fleming. If sex isn’t lasting long because one person is experiencing pain or discomfort, see a professional who can see if there’s an underlying health condition. If you’d like sex to end more quickly, masturbation exercises also apply. And whether you’d like sex to last longer or end more quickly, you should be using lube it helps reduce friction, makes sex feel more comfortable, and feels great. Try experimenting with different amounts lube, or trying different kinds of lube, to see how that feels.

There’s also the psychological side of sex. Along with trying out positions and types of sex, “that might mean including fantasy, or talking dirty,” Dr. Fleming says. It can also mean reframing what you think of as sex to include sexual activities outside of penetration — and if there’s a cis man in the couple, it can mean rethinking the idea that sex ends when he has an orgasm.

Dr. Fleming also suggests trying new sexual activities more than once — even if the first time you try a new position doesn’t have an effect on how soon your orgasm happens, that might be different the third time you try it. “When you try something new, you want to try, try again,” she says. She refers to the safe word system of red, yellow, and green, where red means “stop,” green means “go,” and yellow means “slow down” or “give me a moment.” “If it’s awful, ‘red light,’ then obviously don’t” try it again, she says. “But if it’s more like a yellow, then hang out and see if it turns green. Sometimes we have to do things enough to really be present and relax, and relaxation is the foundation of arousal

Complete Article HERE!

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What is autosexuality?

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A growing number of people are pledging undying love to themself

A newspaper interview by a woman who is planning to marry herself has triggered fresh debate about this growing phenomenon of self-love.

Talking to the Metro, self-described autosexual Ghia Vitale, a writer from New York, said: “I’ve been attracted to myself for as long as I’ve been cognisant of attraction.”

The newspaper notes that this sexual identification has been “seldom talked about” – so what does it mean?

What is the definition of autosexuality?

In 2013, Psychology Today blogger Leon Seltzer described autosexuality, or autoeroticism, as “one of the ‘fuzziest’ concepts in the entire field of human sexuality”, with “little consensus on what it actually means”.

The Medical Dictionary defines autosexual as “characterised by sexual physical self-contact (e.g., masturbation, erotic fantasies or rituals)”.

According to Seltzer, autosexuals “are attracted primarily – sometimes exclusively – to their own bodies”, and autoeroticism “involves a whole range of sexual behaviours and attitudes”.

“Many individuals fitting this designation might self-stimulate only when other alternatives aren’t feasible,” he adds. “Some might find themselves turned on both by themselves and others. Others might be aroused (or arousable) solely by themselves – whether through sight or touch.”

It may involve “being autoromantic – experiencing the relationship with yourself as romantic”, says Metro.

“It can mean being turned on by your own look and nudity, getting butterflies when you think about yourself, being excited to spend time alone, and masturbating to the idea of yourself. It’s all the feelings we get for a potential new suitor but for ourselves,” the newspaper continues.

Is it a new concept?

No. In his book Freud and Autosexuality, sychoanalysis researcher and professor Michel Herve Bertaux-Navoiseau writes that although “the Greeks didn’t have a word to designate autosexuality”, philosophers of the time “did not make any difference between making love with one’s clitoris or foreskin or with two sexes”.

Psychology Today’s Seltzer also cites the Greeks. “As the original Narcissus of Greek mythology became enamoured of his own image (as reflected in a pool of water), so can pronounced autoerotics be physically attracted to – or titillated by – themselves,” he says.

What else do psychologists say?

Seltzer argues that autosexuality “isn’t a one-dimensional phenomenon”, adding: “Moreover, it cannot be overemphasised that very few individuals do not – to whatever degree – exhibit certain autoerotic elements in their sexuality.”

Dr Michael Aaron, author of Modern Sexuality, tells lifestyle site Refinery29: “It is very common for people to be aroused by themselves [to varying degrees]. Some experience it more like an orientation, in that they feel more aroused by themselves than by others.

“In fact, if you bring a mirror into your sex life, you can transition those feelings of arousal into an experience that you can enjoy with partners. And if you’re really into having sex in front of mirrors, there’s actually a name for that fetish – katoptronophilia.”

Self-outed autosexual Vitale claims that sex researcher Bernard Apfelbaum was the first to coin the term. In an article on blogging platform Medium, Vitale argues that the true number of autosexuals is underestimated and understudied.

She asks: “Is it because it’s still so stigmatised nobody ‘believes’ it’s real and thus, never sincerely studies it? Or is it because autosexuality is actually quite rare and there aren’t enough folks who manifest behaviour in the same way to properly qualify it?”

Complete Article HERE!

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When Sex Workers Do the Labor of Therapists

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BY Carrie Weisman

Sky is a professional escort. She’s been working at Sheri’s Ranch, a legal brothel located in Pahrump, Nevada, for a little under a year. A few months back, a man came in asking for a group session with Sky, who prefers to be identified by her professional name, and one of her colleagues. He had come around a few times before. He made it a point to keep in touch through Twitter. This time, however, the session took a dark turn. He came in to tell them he was planning on killing himself.

“We see a lot of clients who have mental health issues,” she tells In These Times. Though, this experience was markedly more dramatic than her usual run in with clients who going through a depressive episode. She and her colleague were eventually able to talk the guy down. They sent him home with a list full of resources that specialize in matters of depression. They asked that he continue to check in with them through social media. 

Research suggests that upwards of 6 million men are affected by depression every year. Suicide remains the seventh leading cause of death among men in America. While it’s impossible to gauge exactly what percentage of that demographic frequents sex workers, the experiences of those in the field can offer some insight. During Sky’s last tour at the Ranch, she scheduled about seven appointments. Out of those bookings, only one involved sex. “We do a lot of companionship and intimacy parties,” she says. “The clients who sign up for those bookings are the ones struggling with loneliness.” 

And people with depression aren’t the only neurodivergent individuals sex workers encounter on the job. Those suffering from anxiety, a common accompaniment to depression, show up frequently. They also see a lot of people who fall on the autistic spectrum. In fact, Sky says she sees men who fall into the latter demographic relatively often. 

Sky first got her start in the industry working as a professional dominatrix. While she has since pivoted her position in the industry, she’s found ways to incorporate that expertise into life at the brothel. Sure, she offers standard escort services, but she also books sessions dedicated to BDSM, an acronym that can be broken down into three sub categories: Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. Each dynamic refers to a specific form impact play that participants can find deeply pleasurable. That kind of tactile experience, she suspects, might offer a certain special appeal to men with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). And she might be right.

Among the many symptoms of those diagnosed with ASD is a resistance to physical contact. According to the CDC, early signs of the disorder may present in the form of an aversion to touch. At the same time, touch is an important sensation to experience. A lack thereof can lead to loneliness, depression and even a more secondary immune system. Researchers have determined that therapies designed to nurture regular sensory integration can help in this regard. 

Goddess Aviva, who also prefers to be referred to by her professional name, is a lifestyle and professional dominatrix based in New York City. Like Sky, she sees a good amount of clients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and also men dealing with depression and anxiety. She takes certain measures to screen clients. After all, violence against sex workers is an ongoing issue in the United States, and the wavering legality of the trade doesn’t exactly help combat the issue. In the wake of new federal legislation that has largely kicked sex workers offline, and with them, the ability to vet clients from afar, sex workers must be more vigilant than ever about whom they decide to take on. The clients who are neurodivergent or live with mental health conditions don’t seem to be the ones sex workers are worried about.

“You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to be a shitty person, and some of my clients who do deal with mental illness are wonderful, kind people with good intentions,” says Aviva. “I’ve never felt unsafe with a client that makes it all the way to a session. What matters most to me is that someone is respecting my boundaries, time and protocol.”

Sky, too, has encountered a number of undesirable clients throughout her career in the industry. But, similar to Aviva, these experiences don’t seem to be driven by those suffering from mental health or neurodivergent conditions. “My most uncomfortable moments in the industry have always come from men who would be told by a professional that they were completely sane,” she explains.

Fortunately, for Sky, it’s much easier to weed out problematic clients in places where prostitution is legal. According to her, the brothel has a security team monitoring the property. She also says there’s a sophisticated screening mechanism in place. Before booking a session, all clients have to provide ID and agree to an intimate screening to rule out immediate potential health risks. These aren’t typically privileges those operating independently have access to.

Throughout her career, Sky has encountered clients who have been pointed to the brothel by concerned friends, or family. She even knows of a few who have come by at the suggestion of a therapist. Though, not all mental health professionals would advise that kind of thing.

“Certainly, there are individuals that struggle with social anxiety, which prevents them from finding a real-life partner, and in those cases engaging with a sex worker can be both therapeutic and pleasurable,” says Dr. Michael Aaron, a sex therapist, writer and speaker based in New York City. “But the best option for a therapist that is looking to provide a patient with real-life experience is to seek out surrogates, who are trained and certified by the International Professional Surrogates Association.” The organization he’s referring too, also known as IPSA, operates around a triangular model of therapy involving a patient, a surrogate and a trained therapist. Together, the three work to improve the patient’s capacity for emotional physical intimacy through a series of structured, sexual experiences. The legal status of the practice is largely undefined in most of the United States. 

And maybe it’s not just in the interest of clients to see someone trained to provide the level emotional support they may be after. “It can be heavy,” says Sky. “I’ve had days where I have to take a minute for myself and get myself back together.”

Still, it seems as though few in the field shy away from providing the emotional labor that clients demand. “There’s this huge misconception that at the brothel we just have sex all day,” Sky explains. “But there are a lot of people who come in to work out some serious emotional issues. It’s really a good chunk of what we do.”

“I love my job,” she adds. “But there are certain parties that make us feel like we’re actually making a difference in the world – that we’re actually doing good things and not just providing a good time. And that can be super fulfilling.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Understanding Erotophobia or the Fear of Sex

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By Lisa Fritscher

Erotophobia is a generalized term that encompasses a wide range of specific fears. It’s generally understood to include any phobia that is related to sex. Erotophobia is often complex, and many sufferers have more than one specific fear. Untreated erotophobia can be devastating and may lead sufferers to avoid not only romantic relationships but also other forms of intimate contact.

Specific Phobias

Like any phobia, erotophobia varies dramatically in both symptoms and severity. It is a very personalized fear, and no two sufferers are likely to experience it in the same way. You may recognize some of your own fears in this list.

  • Genophobia: Also known as coitophobia, this is the fear of sexual intercourse. Many people with genophobia are able to begin romantic relationships, and may quite enjoy activities such as kissing and cuddling but are afraid to move into a more physical display of affection.
  • Fear of Intimacy: The fear of intimacy is often, though not always, rooted in a fear of abandonment or its twin, the fear of engulfment. Those who fear intimacy are not necessarily afraid of the sex act itself but are afraid of the emotional closeness that it may bring.
  • Paraphobia: The fear of sexual perversion is itself a complicated phobia. Some people are afraid that they might be perverted themselves, while others fear the perversions of others. Some people with paraphobia are able to enjoy traditional sexual relationships that fit well within their personal moral code, while others are afraid that any form of intimacy might be perverted.
  • Haphephobia: Also known as chiraptophobia, the fear of being touched often affects all relationships, not just those of a romantic nature. Some people recoil from even passing contact by a relative, while others are afraid only of more protracted touching.
  • Gymnophobia: The fear of nudity is often complex. Some people are afraid of being naked, others of people being naked around them. This fear may signal body image issues or feelings of inadequacy, although it may also occur alone.
  • Fear of Vulnerability: Like the fear of intimacy, the fear of vulnerability is often tied to a fear of abandonment or fear of engulfment. Many people are afraid that if they are totally themselves, others will not like them. Fear of vulnerability may affect numerous relationships, both sexual and non-sexual.
  • Philemaphobia: Also known as philematophobia, the fear of kissing may have many causes. It is often tied to physical concerns, such as a concern over bad breath or even germ phobia.

Causes

As a highly personalized fear, erotophobia may have innumerable causes. In some cases, it may be difficult or impossible to pinpoint a specific cause. Nonetheless, some people may be at a higher risk due to past or current events in their lives.

  • Sexual Abuse: Although not everyone with erotophobia has been raped or sexually abused, those who have been traumatized are at increased risk for developing some form of erotophobia.
  • Other Trauma: People who have been through major traumas have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders including phobias. If the trauma was physical, you may be more likely to develop a touch-related erotophobia, while those who have been through psychological or emotional abuse may be more likely to develop intimacy or vulnerability-related fears.
  • Personal, Cultural, and Religious Mores: Although many religions and societies frown on sexual intercourse except for procreation, following these restrictions does not constitute a phobia. However, many people experience difficulty when trying to balance past and current beliefs. If you have moved away from a restrictive background but are afraid to change past patterns of thought and action, you may at be at risk for developing a phobia.
  • Performance Anxiety: Sometimes, it isn’t actually sex that we fear at all. Instead, we may worry about our own ability to please a partner. Performance anxiety is particularly common in those who are young or inexperienced but may occur in all ages and levels of experience.
  • Physical Concerns: Some people worry that sex will hurt. Some wonder if they will be able to perform due to a physiological condition. Fears that have a legitimate medical basis are not considered phobias. However, some people experience fears that are far out of proportion to the reality of the situation. If your fear is inappropriate to the current risks, you might have a phobia.

Treatment

Because erotophobia is so complex, professional treatment is generally required. Sex therapists are licensed mental health professionals who have completed additional training and certification, and many people feel that they are the best choice for treating sexual concerns. However, it is not generally necessary to seek a sex therapist, as most mental health professionals are capable of managing erotophobia.

Erotophobia generally responds well to treatment, although complex erotophobia may take time and effort to resolve. Depending on your therapist’s style and school of thought, you may need to face difficult and painful memories in order to heal and move forward. Because the nature of the fear is so personal, it is critical that you find a therapist with whom you truly feel comfortable.

Although beating erotophobia is never easy, most people find that the rewards are worth the effort. Be patient with yourself, and honest with your therapist. Over time, your fears will lessen and you can learn to enjoy your personal range of sexual expression.

Complete Article HERE!

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The Bored Sex

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Women, more than men, tend to feel stultified by long-term exclusivity—despite having been taught that they were designed for it.

The “distracted boyfriend” meme gets reversed.

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Andrew Gotzis, a Manhattan psychiatrist with an extensive psychotherapy practice, has been treating a straight couple, whom we’ll call Jane and John, for several years. They have sex about three times a week, which might strike many as enviable, considering that John and Jane—who are in their 40s—have been together for nearly two decades. Based on numbers alone, one might wonder why they need couples counseling at all.

But only one of them is happy with the state of play. And it isn’t Jane.

“The problem is not that they are functionally unable to have sex, or to have orgasms. Or frequency. It’s that the sex they’re having isn’t what she wants,” Gotzis told me in a recent phone conversation. And like other straight women he sees, “she’s confused and demoralized by it. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.” John, meanwhile, feels criticized and inadequate. Mostly he can’t understand why, if his wife is having sex with him and having orgasms, she wants more. Or different.

Despite “fears of seeming sex addicted, unfaithful, or whorish” (Gotzis doesn’t like these terms, but they speak to his patient’s anxieties, he explained), Jane has tried to tell John, in therapy and outside of it, what she’s after. She wants to want John and be wanted by him in that can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-way experts call “limerence”—the initial period of a relationship when it’s all new and hot. Jane has bought lingerie and booked hotel stays. She has suggested more radical-seeming potential fixes, too, like opening up the marriage.

Jane’s perseverance might make her a lot of things: an idealist, a dreamer, a canny sexual strategist, even—again channeling typical anxieties—unrealistic, selfish, or entitled. But her sexual struggles in a long-term relationship, orgasms and frequency of sex notwithstanding, make her something else again: normal. Although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.

Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.

But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.

“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.) And a Finnish seven-year study of more than 2,100 women, published in 2016, revealed that women’s sexual desire varied depending on relationship status: Those in the same relationship over the study period reported less desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Annika Gunst, one of the study’s co-authors, told me that she and her colleagues initially suspected this might be related to having kids. But when the researchers controlled for that variable, it turned out to have no impact.

Many women want monogamy. It’s a cozy arrangement, and one our culture endorses, to put it mildly. But wanting monogamy isn’t the same as feeling desire in a long-term monogamous partnership. The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. “The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.” Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.

What does it all mean for Jane and the other straight women who feel stultified by long-term exclusivity, in spite of having been taught that they were designed for it and are naturally inclined toward it? What are we to make of the possibility that women, far from anxious guardians of monogamy, might on the whole be more like its victims?

“When couples want to remain in a monogamous relationship, a key component of treatment … is to help couples add novelty,” Gordon advised. Tammy Nelson, a sex therapist and the author of The New Monogamy and When You’re the One Who Cheats, concurs: “Women are the primary consumers of sex-related technology and lubricants, massage oil, and lingerie, not men.”

Of course, as Jane’s example shows, lingerie might not do the trick. Nelson explains that if “their initial tries don’t work, [women] will many times shut down totally or turn outward to an affair or an online ‘friend,’ creating … a flirty texting or social-media relationship.” When I asked Gotzis where he thinks John and Jane are headed, he told me he is not sure that they will stay together. In an upending of the basic narrative about the roles that men and women play in a relationship, it would be Jane’s thirst for adventure and Jane’s struggles with exclusivity that tear them apart. Sure, women cheating is nothing new—it’s the stuff of Shakespeare and the blues. But refracted through data and anecdotal evidence, Jane seems less exceptional and more an Everywoman, and female sexual boredom could almost pass for the new beige.

It’s not uncommon for women to let their straight partners play in a “monogamy gray zone,” to give guys access to tensional outlets that allow them to cheat without really cheating. “Happy ending” massages, oral sex at bachelor parties, lap dances, escorts at conferences … influenced by ubiquitous pop-cultural cues, many people believe that men need these opportunities for recreational “sorta sex” because “it’s how men are.” It’s how women are, too, it seems.

Women cannot be pigeonholed; the glory of human sexuality is its variation and flexibility. So when we speak of desire in the future, we should acknowledge that the fairer sex thirsts for the frisson of an encounter with someone or something new as much as, if not more, than men do—and that they could benefit from a gray-zone hall pass, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s What Sex Therapists Really Think About Netflix’s ‘Sex Education’

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The show gets a lot right.

By Kasandra Brabaw

When Netflix’s new show Sex Education dropped earlier this month, it became an instant hit among basically anyone who has sex or thinks about sex. The show follows an awkward teen, Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield), who knows a lot about sex thanks to his sex therapist mom, Jean Milburn (Gillian Anderson). Otis teams up with school outcast, Maeve Wiley (Emma Mackey), once they realize that Otis’s sexual knowledge means they can both make some major cash from their peers via “therapy sessions.” In each episode, Otis addresses a new classmate’s sex and relationship issues, all while dealing with his own sexual inhibitions and his mom’s serious prying.

Those who love the show love how relatable it is in showing the awkward situations and weird sexual questions that teens are inevitably going through but aren’t usually talking about. And with Otis as acting as a sex therapist for his classmates, we get to see what it would be like if teenagers actually had a thoughtful, insightful outlet for talking about sex and relationships.

It also broke barriers in a lot of ways, like showing teens finally having honest, progressive conversations about sex and sexuality. And also showing a full vulva on TV. Of course, that doesn’t mean every bit of Sex Education is 100 percent accurate. This is still TV, after all, and TV shows tend to rely on clichéd tropes and unrealistic drama to make the show entertaining.

So we talked to six real-life sex therapists about their thoughts on the show. Here’s what they had to say.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched the whole season!

1. The show’s portrayal of an actual licensed sex therapist—Jean (Otis’s mom)—is a little clichéd.

“Sex therapy is a bit unconventional as a job, but it’s still a job to us,” Kate Stewart, a licensed mental health counselor based in Seattle, tells SELF.

Although some sex therapists may constantly talk about sex and have lots of sex with lots of people, the majority don’t. “I rolled my eyes at the trope of the mom banging all these people because she’s a sex therapist,” sexologist Megan Stubbs, Ed.D. tells SELF. “Banging people all over the place is not a job requirement.”

Then there’s the issue of the job itself—Jean makes it look like being a sex therapist is a cakewalk. It’s not. “For the most part, sex therapists don’t just sit around in big houses barely doing anything and looking gorgeous all day,” Rosara Torrisi, Ph.D., a sex therapist based in Long Island, tells SELF. “We see clients, we write articles, we give talks, we lecture, we teach, and so on. Looks nice, though.”

2. But her dildo-filled office is pretty realistic.

“I want to say that I don’t have nearly as much crazy sex art, but I do have two nude paintings and a bunch of crystal and stainless steel dildos decorating my office,” Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and creator of Finishing School, tells SELF.

3. Most sex therapists are generally better with personal and professional boundaries.

Not only does Dr. Milburn openly hold therapy sessions in her home—breaching her patient’s privacy, as well as her and Otis’s potential safety—she also pries into her son’s sexuality and disrespects his wishes on a few occasions. Sure, lots of moms do this and it gives us the kind of drama that makes TV interesting, but it’s not exactly how you’d expect a sex therapist to act.

“Many of the sex therapists I know have children, and they are all very respectful of their children’s space and ability to explore sexuality in their own way and on their own time,” Stewart says. “I think we would all talk to our children about our work if they were interested, but we wouldn’t get into such graphic detail about our clients being interested in pegging.”

On top of that, we discover that Jean and her ex-husband (also seemingly a sex therapist) had a toxic relationship complete with a lack of boundaries that probably led to Otis’s own sexual inhibitions (specifically, his inability to masturbate). Remember that scene when young Otis sees his dad having sex with a patient? “Completely against our ethics and care for a client,” Megan Fleming, Ph.D., a sex therapist in New York, tells SELF. Later, we see a scene in which Jean explains to young Otis that sex can be wonderful but can also destroy lives. “So it’s not that Otis is just inhibited,” says Fleming. “He was taught and conditioned by his own mother that sex is destructive

But then again, nobody is perfect, even therapists. And Jean’s behavior shines a light on that fact.

“Otis’s mother was one of my favorite characters,” sex therapist Megan Davis, M.Ed, tells SELF. “She shows the reality that even though we are therapists, we’re sometimes at fault for crossing boundaries with those closest to us (by writing a book about Otis’s sexual difficulties), being unclear in our communication, and reacting in stressful situations.” She adds, “I can admit, I am sometimes guilty of not taking my own advice or keeping my cool.”

4. But Sex Education does a great job depicting real sex and relationship problems—and solutions.

“My favorite scene was when Otis counseled the two lesbians in the pool,” Dr. Torrisi says. “At some point one of them remarks that the issue can’t be the relationship, that it’s just the sex. I hear this a lot. Yes, having a good relationship can help sex. And having good sex can help the relationship. But often as a sex therapist, I see people scapegoat the sex in order to hide their fears about the relationship.”

In fact, pretty much every therapy session Otis has with fellow students rings true. “Otis addressed issues such as low or no desire, pain during sex, lack of orgasm, erectile dysfunction, and sexual orientation issues,” Davis says. “We have a tendency to shame and silence discussions of sexuality and sexual issues, but Otis was able to help his peers to remove the shame and begin openly talking about their bodies, their sexuality, and their issues.”

The way people react to his advice is realistic as well. “There is an immense power in just being able to talk about sex out loud. In the scene in the bathroom with Adam, you can practically see the weight coming off of his shoulders when he acknowledges that he’s having issues with his erection and orgasm,” Marin says. “I see that same kind of relief with my clients, too.”

5. Ultimately the program shows that sex therapy—or at the very least better sex education—can be helpful for pretty much anyone.

“Otis debunked many myths about sex during his sessions with his peers. For example, the myth and expectation that men should last 30-45 minutes before orgasm, when in fact most men only last three to five minutes. And the myth that vaginas [or, more accurately, vulvas] are supposed to look a certain way, particularly the labia,” Davis says.

Despite the TV tendency to solve complex problems in 30 minutes or less, Otis uses very real sex therapy tactics to help his fellow students. “He provided education to his peers, homework (i.e. when he sent Aimee home and encouraged her to masturbate on her own in order to tell her partner what she likes or doesn’t like in bed), brought in both partners to work on communication strategies, worked with couples on conflict resolution skills, and encouraged experimentation individually or as a couple,” Davis explains.

Although the show portrayed sex therapy in both realistic and unrealistic ways, it’s strides ahead of similar teen shows about sex. In Sex Education, sexual issues like erectile dysfunction and sex injuries aren’t laughed off—they’re given serious thought and discussion.

If after watching the show you think you might benefit from sex therapy of your own, here’s how to find out more about it.

Complete Article HERE!

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Forget couples counselling,

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it’s all about sex therapy now

More couples are going straight to sex therapy to support the relationship.

By Thomas Mitchell

A friend recently told me that he and his girlfriend had been seeing a sex therapist. Their sex life had been sliding, and they were struggling to connect, so they booked in for a few sessions. Fast forward to our conversation, and it had worked wonders for their relationship.

“It was the best thing we’ve ever done,” said Scott*, with the obvious glow of someone having top-shelf sex again. “But you should’ve seen my dad’s shocked face when I told him.”

For context, Scott is close to his dad and had wanted to share this development with him.
While he hadn’t predicted his dad’s disbelief, I was less surprised. Scott’s father was the kind of man who would say things like, “Come on now, that’s enough” if the conversation drifted towards sex at the dinner table.

But rather than focus on his old man’s failure to appreciate the value of sex therapy – that would be akin to being shocked by the sun rising each morning – I was delighted.

In the last six months, I’d heard many tales of people I knew employing sex coaches, attending seminars, working with sex therapists.

Adding Scott’s story to this pile, I was convinced I had (anecdotal) evidence of a pattern. As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off the mark.

“We certainly notice that people are more comfortable talking about their sex lives and that has been reflected in people using different sexual services,” says Fiona Barrett, a counsellor with Relationships Australia.

“I put it down to a cultural shift, Masters and Johnson did their groundbreaking sexual research in the late 1950s, but it takes a generation or two for people to get comfortable.”

“My parents wouldn’t have gone to a sex therapist,” adds Fiona.

“But today we’re finding middle-aged and young adults seeking out these services because sexuality is in the media, it’s talked about at dinner, people are open about their desires and needs.”

It’s a trend that Lisa Torney, a practising sex therapist with more than twenty years in the field, has witnessed.

“We’ve seen a cultural shift, people are aware that pleasure and intimacy are important aspects of their relationships,” says Lisa.

“And if that’s missing, they don’t want to just get help, they want to get specialised help.”

While some people still hear the words “sex therapy” and picture candles, blindfolds and soft music, the reality couldn’t be further from it.

“Sex therapy typically involves getting history on the couple or individual, to understand what their relationship with sex is like,” explains Lisa.

“We’re looking to decipher what factors are impacting on them – things like lack of confidence, having kids, age, illness, disability, previous negative experiences – and realising how that might affect their intimacy levels and how we can improve and work through that.”

As well as being a sex therapist, Lisa is the national chairperson of the Society of Australian Sexologists, a body that is growing as supply attempts to keep up with demand.

“Our membership keeps increasing, and we now offer two Masters degrees in Australia in sexology,” she says.

Meanwhile, sex education and intimacy coaching is also becoming popular, as couples and individuals look to prioritise pleasure. It differs from sex therapy in that there is less of a focus on counselling and more on coaching, to help people achieve the fulfilling sex lives they want.

Organisations catering to the carnally curious are popping up all around the country offering individual classes, group sessions or weekends away.

“More people than ever are looking for a better connection with their sensual self, they want to get back into their bodies because they have felt out of touch for far too long,” says Georgia Grace, a Sydney-based sex educator and coach.

At the mention of the ‘sensual self’, I can’t help but think of Scott’s disapproving dad frowning his way through a session.

But while he may not find anything useful in being coached, others do.

“Couples need education and training in how to relate, increase pleasure, ask for consent, practice boundaries and understand who they are as sexual individuals,” she says.

Now everyone knows there’s nothing sexier than statistics, so let’s heat things up with a little data.

The Australian Study of Health and Relationships is our most important study of sexual and reproductive health, only carried out once-in-a-decade, it delivers a snapshot of where we’re at sexually.

The most recent study, completed in 2016, found that while Australians are more experimental and open than ever, the frequency of sex in relationships has dropped. Perhaps that explains our desire to seek out help from therapists and coaches.

“We’re more at ease with sex, but there are also more intrusions now, even in the past two years since that study,” explains Georgia.

“People take their devices to bed, we’re living vicariously through our phones and it becomes hard for people, and couples, to switch off, so they can turn on.”

Both Lisa and Georgia admit that – “what’s a normal sex life?” – is one of the most common questions they hear from clients and both also agree, there is no such thing.

But in light of our increasing desire to explore, improve, understand and enjoy sex, it’s clear that
what’s not normal is the reaction of Scott’s father.

Eventually, I asked Scott what he said to his dad and his response was priceless – “come on now Dad, that’s enough.”

  • Scott’s name was changed to protect his privacy.

Complete Article HERE!

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The 5 Most Common Sexual Complaints That Couples Have

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By Jessa Zimmerman

As a sex therapist, I see an amazing breadth of presenting issues and concerns in my practice. Despite the fact that I talk about sex all day, there is an incredible diversity in the people I work with, the stories they share, the goals they want to achieve, and the ways in which sexual difficulties show up and affect them. However, there are themes that emerge in my work. While every couple is different and their path to my office unique, there are several common problems people encounter in their sexual relationships. Here are five of the ones that appear the most, as well as ideas about how you might approach the situation if this is where you find yourself:

“We disagree about how often to have sex.”

For most of the couples that come to therapy, sexual desire discrepancy has become an issue. When a couple is counting how often they have sex, treating their intimate life as a math problem, that’s my clue that they have been having the wrong conversation. The answer is not about finding an average or creating a quota; it’s about creating a sex life that can be truly engaging for both people.

In every relationship, there is one person who wants more sex and one who wants less. That isn’t a problem by itself, but it can become one when people don’t know how to manage that tension and don’t know how to handle their part well. The person who wants more sex tends to take their partner’s level of desire personally. They tend to feel rejected, undesirable, and unimportant. The person who wants sex less feels pressured. They can either feel like something is wrong with them (that they are missing a “natural” sex drive) or resentful that their partner can’t accept them for who they are.

What to do

The more desirous person needs to stop treating sex as an affirmation of their worth. They need to separate their own sense of worth from their partner’s level of desire. If sex has become something that needs to happen to make you feel better, it’s lost its appeal. It’s not sexy to have sex out of neediness rather than an authentic desire to connect with each other. It’s also important that the more desirous partner continue to advocate for what they want. So many higher desire partners start avoiding the topic or waiting for the other to volunteer sex. Keep talking about the importance of sex and your desire to share that experience with your partner. At the same time, handle a “no” graciously.

The less desirous partner should start by identifying obstacles that are in the way of the desire they may otherwise have. Identify and address each barrier you find. Resolve the relationship issues that keep you feeling distant. Manage the environment to help you relax and shift gears into sex, whether that’s cleaning up or putting a lock on your door. Speak up about what you need in sex itself, especially if you haven’t been getting it.

It’s important to understand that you may also have what I call “reactive desire.” This means your sexual desire doesn’t show up until after you’ve started. This means you need to create opportunity to get aroused and interested. Instead of saying no out of instinct, consider saying “maybe.” Start talking, kissing, touching…whatever you like. And if you end up turned on and interested in sex, great! If not, that’s OK too. Either way, the less desirous person should take an active role in creating a sex life that they can embrace.

“I do all the initiating.”

There are two basic reasons one person ends up doing all or most of the sexual initiation. First, the desire discrepancy I described above tends to result in the higher desire partner being the one to suggest sex. The lower desire person often ends up accepting or rejecting the other’s invitations. Second, the more desirous of you also tends to be someone who experiences what I call “proactive desire.” This is the spontaneous desire that most of us think of as libido. This person thinks about sex, experiences spontaneous arousal or interest, and wants to seek it out and make it happen. This makes it easy to initiate. If your partner has “reactive desire,” though, they may almost never think about sex. It legitimately doesn’t cross their mind. This makes it more challenging to initiate sex.

What to do

The two of you need to accept that no amount of sexual desire is “correct” and that reactive desire is normal. Nothing is broken. You have to find a way to work together and collaborate on your sex life. To achieve more balance in your sex life, the person who struggles to initiate may need to do it on purpose. If you have reactive desire, you aren’t going to initiate sex because it’s on your mind and you’re horny. You can do it from a more intentional place, thinking about the value of your sex life in general and the importance of taking a more active role in your relationship. It’s OK to start with an engine that’s cold; take your time, get going, and see if the engine turns over. If you end up turned on and interested, you may want sex—when you couldn’t have imagined that just a few minutes ago. If you don’t, that’s fine, too. At least you connected with your partner and took some responsibility to tend to your intimate relationship.

We each have sexual preferences and desires that interest us and turn us on. Early in a relationship, we tend to migrate toward the common ground, the things we both enjoy and that don’t make either of us uncomfortable. Later in a relationship, though, this can become a problem. One or both of you may want to explore some of the sexual behaviors or activities that were held back or neglected early on.

What to do

It’s worth trying to get out of your comfort zone and experimenting with some of the things that interest your partner. If you think about it, everything we’ve done sexually started off as uncomfortable. We have to develop comfort with things over time, whether it’s French kissing or oral sex. So experiencing some discomfort or anxiety can be OK, if you’re able to approach it as a willing partner and as an experiment. Of course, it’s OK to have some hard no’s (or to discover some), too. You do need to take care of yourself and not violate your own integrity or bottom line. You’ll want to find a balance of saying no when you need to and yes when you can.

There are other ways to incorporate some sexual desires, too, if you determine that you can’t do them with your partner. You may be able to talk about them and bring them into your experience in imagination. You may find a “lite” version that works for both of you. If nothing else, you can use that erotic material in solo sex, fueling your fantasies and arousal there.

“My partner masturbates and/or watches porn.”

It’s perfectly normal to masturbate, whether you’re single or in a relationship. Solo sex and partnered sex are really apples and oranges. Sex with a partner is a collaboration, a give and take between two people. Solo sex is an opportunity to have a simpler experience, a quick release, or an exploration of your own eroticism. As long as masturbation is in addition to your sex life, not instead of, it is not a problem.

It may challenge you to think that your partner finds sexual arousal in anything besides you. We don’t stop finding other people attractive just because we’re in a relationship. And we don’t stop finding sexual behaviors interesting just because our partner doesn’t enjoy them. We don’t own the thoughts in each other’s minds, and it is futile to try to police what our partner is thinking about.

What to do

As long as the sex life you share is fulfilling and enjoyable, let go of the worries about what your partner finds arousing. And if your sex life needs work, focus on that rather than controlling their sexual thoughts.

Now, actually talking about the viewing of pornography and how you each feel about it can be a difficult and loaded conversation. For some, pornography is just another erotic medium that provides stimulation and fodder for the imagination. For others, it can become a compulsive and problematic behavior. Some people can enjoy watching porn; others cannot accept it at all based on moral, social, or ethical complaints. It’s not that viewing porn is either “right” or “wrong.” It’s about having a conversation where you can truly be curious about each other’s perspective and then coming to an agreement and understanding that works for you both.

“We find ourselves avoiding sex.”

If you and your partner have struggled with sex, with any of the problems I’ve already described or any of the many others, it’s likely you’ve started to avoid sex. It’s natural to avoid things that make us feel bad. Once sex has become loaded, stressful, disappointing, or negative, of course you aren’t looking forward to the next encounter. In fact, sex may feel like a test or an ordeal—one that you expect to fail.

What to do

You can take a two-pronged approach to addressing sexual avoidance: Deal with the things that make sex seem negative, and address your sex life together rather than avoid it.

The first step in dealing with what makes sex negative is to challenge your expectations. If you have the idea that sex should be easy, that sex should go a certain way, or that you have to perform, then you set yourself up to be disappointed. But if you adopt a view that sex is just about experiencing pleasure and connection with your partner, that anything you share sexually is a win, and that there is no way to fail at sex, then you set yourself up for success. Second, you can take steps (many that I’ve outlined in this article) to improve the sex you’re sharing with your partner.

The more you can treat sex as a collaborative process and endeavor, the more enjoyable you’ll find your sex life. Communicate openly with your partner about what’s working and what isn’t. Keep talking about what matters to you in sex and what would make it more engaging for you. Resist any urge to hide and avoid rather than deal with your issues.

It’s normal and common to struggle in your sex life. A long-term, committed relationship takes work—in the bedroom and out. If you’ve encountered any of these issues in your relationship, take heart in the knowledge that they’re common—and totally workable.

Complete Article HERE!

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8 Signs a Sex Therapist Might Improve Your Life

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(and How to Find One)

People are trained to make your sex life better! What a world.

By Sophie Saint Thomas

You may have joked to friends that you don’t need therapy—you have them. But sometimes working through the hard stuff requires help from a neutral party who happens to be a licensed professional. If your hard stuff is about sex, a sex therapist may be your best option. Here are eight signs a sex therapist could be a great addition to your life, and after that, advice on actually finding one.

1. You’re experiencing pain or physical difficulty when you try to have sex.

It’s important to see a medical doctor first to rule out any physical conditions behind this, somatic (body-based) psychologist and certified sex therapist Holly Richmond, Ph.D., tells SELF. Unfortunately, a ton of things can cause horribly painful sex, like cervical inflammation from a sexually transmitted infection, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. In that kind of situation, medical treatment may help ease difficulty having sex.

If you see a medical doctor and there is no physical issue at the core of your trouble with sex, that doesn’t make what you’re dealing with any less significant. Seeing a sex therapist to discuss any psychological components at play can be helpful, Richmond explains.

For instance, vaginismus, which causes painful vaginal muscle spasms during penetration, can stem from anxiety about having sex, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (That could include anxiety about it being painful even if any condition causing the pain has been treated.) It can also happen due to issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder from a sexual assault. Stress is one of many possible psychological causes behind erectile dysfunction, too.

Point is, the mental and physical are often so closely intertwined that painful sex is a very valid reason to see a sex therapist.

2. You’re processing sexual trauma.

It’s a misconception that trauma leaves all survivors incapable of being sexual beings. Enjoying sex after an assault is possible, and a sex therapist might help you get there.

Of course, recovering from a sexual assault is a different process for everyone. But for some people, a sex therapist is a better option than a more generalized mental health professional. “Oftentimes therapists will talk about the trauma, but there’s no resolution on how we move forward as our sexual selves,” says Richmond, who treats many survivors. “[Sex therapists] process the trauma and move forward to help you have sex with your partner. We can help you move from survivor to thriver.” That’s not to say a therapist who doesn’t specialize in sex can’t help you heal after an assault. But if you’d like to specifically focus on the sexual aspect, a sex therapist may be ideal.

3. You’re in a partnership with mismatched desires.

This can mean many things, like one person having a higher libido than the other or being interested in exploring a kink such BDSM, sex therapist Liz Powell, Ph.D., who often sees partners with mismatched desires, tells SELF.

While having a kink is generally becoming more accepted, disclosing one can still be scary. This is where a sex therapist can help. For instance, Richmond recalls a couple who came to her because the male partner was struggling with the female partner’s urge to explore her submissive side in a specific way. “She wanted to be called a slut, a whore, and her partner just could not do it. So, we had to figure out other ways for her to work within her fantasy,” Richmond says

If necessary, a sex therapist can also guide you through the realization that the partnership isn’t working due to incompatible desires. “So many people are just petrified of breakups [and] they choose to stay even when they’re not happy,” Powell says. Seeing a therapist together may help you figure out whether to salvage the relationship or bring it to a respectful end.

4. You want to explore opening up your relationship.

This is another scenario Powell, who specializes in LGBTQ+ communities along with kink and polyamory, sees quite often. A sex therapist can help a couple in this situation craft a relationship format that allows both of them to feel safe and fulfilled. That can mean everything from the freedom to have a one-night stand once a year while in another country to dating multiple partners.

Having an impartial, trained person involved can help ensure that no one is simply capitulating to something like an open relationship due to pressure (even the internal kind) and that both partners are respecting each other’s boundaries—even if that means splitting up.

5. You have questions about your gender identity.

The gender revolution is making progress. In one recent win, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a provision that creates room for a third gender, X, on birth certificates.

But there are setbacks, too, as evidenced by the recent news that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to define gender as a fixed identity determined by a person’s genitals at birth. (It’s not.)

In light of the continued fight to have everyone’s gender identity respected, figuring out the right words or expression for your gender can be a daunting task. A sex therapist, particularly an LGBTQ+ friendly one, may be able to help you alone or with a partner, Powell says.

6. You’re exploring your sexual orientation.

As with gender, a sex therapist can help you navigate questions about your sexual orientation, reassure you that there’s nothing wrong with you, and aid you in your journey of self-discovery. This can be especially helpful if you’re in a monogamous relationship and experiencing sexual curiosity for people of genders other than your partner’s, Powell says.

A sex therapist could also be useful if you’re wondering whether or not you’re asexual or would like to talk about being asexual. “Some people think it’s a sex therapist’s job to make people have more sex and crazier sex, and [it’s] definitely not,” Richmond says. “You don’t have to have any sex. As long as you’re OK with it, I’m OK with it.”

7. You’re a current or former sex worker or dating someone who is.

Richmond says she frequently sees couples in which one person is or used to be a sex worker. A good sex therapist can help people uncover and eradicate any kind of internalized stigma around the profession. “In many people’s minds, because of our cultural lens, that’s something to be ashamed of,” Richmond says. “That’s not my view

Another important component may be helping the person not in the adult industry separate their partner from their sex work, Richmond says, explaining that people who are dating sex workers sometimes fetishize their partners accidentally. “Helping separate the person’s identity from [the adult industry] can be tricky because of the shame, but at the end of the day, you’re just dating another person,” she says.

8. You want to overcome sexual shame.

You may have noticed a theme here. From gender identity to surviving an assault to sex work and more, a sex therapist can help you deal with something that brings you shame even if that emotion is totally unwarranted. (As it is with everything on the above list.)

Both Powell and Richmond say that, deep down, most people who see them want to know if they’re “normal.” Shame has a funny way of making you feel like you’re not, and it’s the opposite of conducive to enjoying a healthy sex life. But it can also be almost impossible to escape. “Having grown up in a culture with so much shame, I think most of us could benefit from seeing a sex therapist,” Powell says. If anything is keeping you from having the love or sex life you always wanted, a sex therapist might be able to help you work through it.

Wishing you could teleport to a sex therapist’s office right now? Here’s the next best thing: advice on finding a great sex therapist you can afford.

Finding the right therapist can feel like dating. Despite their qualifications, therapists are humans, too. You might run into a therapist with their own sexual hang-ups or old-fashioned views, or just someone you don’t gel with. But when you find “the one,” there’s no feeling like it. Here are a few steps to try
1. If you have insurance, call and ask for help finding a local sex therapist. You can also look through their online directory. Since that may not allow you to filter specifically for sex therapists, you might still need to do some digging on the therapists’ backgrounds.

2. Richmond suggests looking into the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). They have an online directory of local professionals. Not all of the professionals list their insurance policies, though, so you’ll need to visit their websites or get in touch with their offices to ask about that.

3. Online services such as ZocDoc and Psychology Today have filters that allow you to get more specific about what you want. For instance, on Psychology Today, you can drill the results down to sex therapists who specialize in gender identity, take your insurance, and participate in online therapy. (Even if it seems like you’ve landed upon your dream therapist, it’s always smart to call the office and verify that all the information you’ve found is up to date.)

4. Try asking your potential therapist’s office if they ever accept payment on a sliding scale and, if they do, which income brackets qualify. Unfortunately, not all therapists take insurance. Even if they do, your insurance may not cover your One True Sex Therapist. If your therapist accepts payment on a sliding scale, that can be a great way to lower your financial burden.

5. If price is still an issue, consider seeing a sex educator or a counselor instead of a therapist. Someone with a degree such as an M.S.W. (masters in social work) may have a lower rate than someone with a degree like a Ph.D., but should still be highly skilled.

6. Google “sex-positive therapist in [insert your city here].” You may find a network such as Manhattan Alternative, which lists sex-positive therapists in New York City who specialize in areas such as kink, ethical non-monogamy, and sexual assault survivorship.

7. If you’re looking for help specifically related to an LGBTQ+ issue, check out SELF’s guide on how to find an LGBTQ+ friendly doctor. Much of it extends to finding a sex therapist as well.

8. Ask about virtual sessions. If the best therapist you find isn’t in your city, remember that many are open to coaching you over the phone or virtually with a service like Skype or FaceTime, Richmond says. For all its potential ills, technology can be a beautiful thing.

Complete Article HERE!

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Building Strength And Resilience After A Sexual Assault: What Works

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Psychologists find that cognitive processing therapy — a type of counseling that helps people learn to challenge and modify their beliefs related to a trauma — can be useful in healing the mental health problems some experience after a sexual assault.

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The wrenching testimony of Christine Blasey Ford, who is accusing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault years ago, raises questions about the long-term emotional and physical toll this kind of trauma takes on survivors and how our society responds to those who come forward long after the assault.

Emily R. Dworkin, a senior fellow at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, studies how the social interactions of trauma survivors can affect their recovery. She was also the lead author of a paper published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review in 2017 that looked through more than 100,000 studies conducted in the last 50 years and found nearly 200 relevant ones on the relationship between sexual assault and mental health to analyze.

What she found, Dworkin says, is strong evidence that sexual assault is associated with an increased risk for multiple forms of psychological harm “across most populations, assault types and methodological differences in studies.” Too many survivors still face stigma and internalize that blame, and that can make it harder to seek help. And while some types of therapy have been shown to be helpful, she says, more information on evidence-based treatments for survivors “is critically needed.”

Dworkin talked with NPR about her research findings and offered her perspective on where society and science need to go next to prevent assaults and help survivors heal. Our interview was edited for length and clarity.

You looked at a lot of studies about the mental health impact of sexual assault, but it’s not an area as well-studied as say, heart disease. So what do we know?

Sexual assault [any type of sexual activity or contact that happens without the consent of both people] began getting research attention in the ’70s as society as a whole was going through a feminist awakening, and it kind of developed at the same time as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder], which was then known as “combat trauma.” Many things can lead to depression or anxiety. People with PTSD relive the trauma in the form of intrusive memories, nightmares, or even flashbacks. They avoid things that remind them of the trauma.

The symptoms that people were showing when they were coming home from war were the same as victims of rape trauma — recurring memories and a wish to avoid triggering them.

These days, lots of people are doing research, but there’s still a lot left to understand. What we do know is that sexual assault is associated with a higher risk for a lot of different mental health problems, including PTSD [and depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicidality] … especially PTSD.

What do we know about how ethnicity and education affects the mental health of survivors of sexual assault?

We need to know more. Some of my past research on queer women shows that ongoing forms of stress can compound stress. And we know that people from marginalized groups are just at greater risk for sexual assault [and a number of other health problems]. So it’s likely that these groups experience more trauma — but I don’t think we can completely say for sure.

How does sexual assault compare with other forms of trauma, in terms of effects on mental health?

We never want to have the Olympics of trauma. But compared to other types of life-threatening trauma, survivors of sexual assault do seem to be more likely to get PTSD. In my preliminary look at the data from 39 studies on this topic, it seems like 36 percent of survivors meet criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD in their lifetime, versus 12 percent of people who don’t have a history of sexual assault.

My thinking is that sexual assault is a unique form of trauma. It is highly stigmatized, and when people go to seek help for it, unlike in a car accident — well, the police are not going to ask you if you’ve really been in a car accident.

Also, people don’t always do the most effective job of supporting sexual assault survivors. Sometimes they do things that can actually compound the trauma. In the ’70s it was known as “the second rape” when you tell the police, undergo a rape kit exam and explain it to family and friends. They don’t always know how to help.

What can survivors who are feeling overwhelmed, depressed and traumatized do to recover, and how can friends and family help?

It’s important for survivors to know that they can regain a sense of power over those triggers, and that the most natural response is to push away the triggers. Self-care isn’t about turning off those bad feelings, but feeling those feelings so that they can subside naturally.

It’s kind of a counterintuitive idea, and it’s not what we usually think to do for our loved ones. When somebody’s in pain, all you want to do is to take that pain away. It’s understandable to try to distract them, take them out for a drink, but it’s better to be a shoulder to cry on. You don’t need to cheer somebody up in the moment. Be there for them as a witness to their pain.

What about the professionals — the police, the lawyers, the therapists — that survivors need to talk to? How can they do a better job?

This all comes back to … dealing with the false beliefs we have around sexual assault — blaming the victim, challenging the victim’s choices. Changing these cultural norms is important.

One of the evidence-based treatments for PTSD is overcoming the trauma by sharing the story. That’s a very different thing than being forced to tell it in public.

I don’t want to imply that it’s the survivor’s fault they have PTSD. And they feel like they don’t want to relive it again, which is totally natural. But our bodies can’t sustain that intense emotional response for long — those feelings come down naturally.

In my clinical work, a woman came to me with her story of sexual assault. The first time she told it, she was crying. By the fourth time, she was almost yawning. Her story is not one that has power over her anymore. She has the control over whether she’s going to have her life altered.

Has the public’s perception of sexual assault changed since the Kavanaugh hearings?

I think about this stuff every day. I’ve been thinking it about every day since I was 18 and beginning my research. It takes me awhile to catch up and realize that everyone else is thinking about it now.

My hope is that we’re changing some of the cultural conversation around this.

It’s important to know that most of the disorders are very treatable conditions. I do feel like if survivors can get connected to evidence-based treatments, they can be helped — even years later.

What are the resources and treatments that work best for survivors who are experiencing PTSD or other mental health symptoms?

First-line options should be things that we know work well. What I recommend is prolonged exposure therapy [helping people gradually approach trauma-related memories and feelings] or cognitive processing therapy [a specific type of cognitive behavioral therapy that helps patients learn how to challenge and modify unhelpful beliefs related to the trauma]. Both have been around since the ’80s and were developed to treat survivors of rape. They have really strong evidence of reducing symptoms or eliminating the diagnosis [of a mental health disorder].

For resources, look for a good therapist who offers cognitive processing therapy. Also, you can check out the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies [for more information about the treatment].

As a society, what should we focus on to help survivors of assault?

Ending some of our stigmatizing beliefs about sexual assault and our mistrust for people that come forward is huge. It’s always up to survivors as to whether they disclose. The fact that we’re having these conversations in the public sphere gives me hope.

In schools, [to prevent unwanted sexual advances and sexual assault in the first place] we can teach respect for others and their autonomy. We’re not comfortable with the idea of hearing about these sorts of assaults. Our cultural norm is to avoid uncomfortable experiences. … But we need to keep talking.

Complete Article HERE!

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Rekindling the spark

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– how older couples can rediscover the intimacy of the early days

‘Poor communication is one of the main causes of discord’

A lifetime together can make some couples complacent, uncommunicative, or changed so much that they no longer recognise the person they first fell for. Here, in week three of our Be Your Best You series, Claire O’Mahony asks the experts how older couples can revitalise love and rediscover intimacy

By Dr Damien Lowery, Annie Lavin, Margaret Dunne

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus maintained that change is the only constant in life, and this is clearly evidenced in romantic partnerships: they are not static entities. If you’ve been part of a couple for a long time, neither of you may recognise the people you once were, and likewise your situation will have changed, all of which is played out in your relationship.

It’s also a truism that good relationships require work and that they take an effort to maintain. Long-standing couples can potentially face a variety of challenges: they may have grown apart or they might have communication issues. Even couples who are very much in love sometimes acknowledge that an element of complacency can be found in their relationship and that a certain frisson is lacking. For those in the 55+ demographic, other factors can emerge, affecting how partners relate to each other. For women, menopause can bring side effects such as loss of libido and weight gain resulting in negative body image. Men’s sexual function, meanwhile, can be affected by declining testosterone levels and sometimes ill health. Major life changes at this time can impact on relationships, whether that’s dealing with empty nest syndrome or adjusting to the dynamics of retirement. “There is a lot of change occurring and we aren’t accustomed to change,” says consultant psychologist Dr Damien Lowry, whose practice is in Rathgar, south Dublin. “We are highly adaptive individuals and capable of adaptation and adjustment but it doesn’t come easily and it really puts a strain on our capacity to cope. If there are any cracks in relationships, it’s likely that it will be exposed by these marked changes in our lives.”

However, there are strategies that can be employed that can help older couples revitalise their union and strengthen their relationship, and some of them are even fun:

Better communication is key

Many studies have indicated that poor communication is one of the main causes of discord in relationships. According to Dublin-based dating and relationship coach and psychology lecturer Annie Lavin, clients often have a particular need that they want to express but in trying to do so, end up criticising the other person instead. “Generally when it comes to the effectiveness of any conversation, it’s determined by the tone that we set,” says Lavin, who works to empower people to achieve relationship success by transforming their relationship with themselves. “There’s a huge difference between saying something like, ‘I’m sick of doing everything’, and explaining to your partner that you’re feeling whatever that might be.” She suggests coming to the conversation with a calm demeanour and starting with how you feel but not attributing blame. “Instead of saying, ‘You don’t care about me’, it’s better to say, ‘I’m really upset and I’m really hurting about this’. We have to describe the problem neutrally without criticising the person, so you have to be specific.” Dr Damien Lowry agrees that the use of ‘I-messages’ is an effective way of communicating your needs. “An I-message is saying, ‘I am struggling’ or it’s even linking to behaviour – ‘I feel upset or ignored when you arrive home and ask where your dinner is’. Ultimately, it’s a way of avoiding falling into the trap of criticism.”

Getting Sex back on track

Growing older does not necessarily mean a decline in sexual activity and intimacy. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing 2017 found that the majority of adults aged over 50 in Ireland are sexually active, with 59pc reporting they had sex in the past 12 months. The study noted that those who are sexually active have a higher quality of life and tend to have more positive perceptions of ageing. Margaret Dunne is a specialist psychotherapist in psychosexual, fertility and relationship therapy, based in Glenageary, Co Dublin. She has found that couples often come to her because they hadn’t been making time for each other, as life might have been so busy with children, which led to an absence of sex. These couples almost need to know how to start again. “When people come to me and say they want to get their sex life and their relationship back on track, it can be very exciting but it can be daunting as well,” she says. The first thing she will ask clients to do is to get tested medically – erectile dysfunction, for example, can be a sign of a heart complaint, high blood pressure or diabetes – before progressing any further.

“The challenge is to change what they have been doing all the time, which may not be working anymore and as our body and mind develops, our sexuality develops too and sometimes people forget and think, ‘If I do A and B, I’ll get to C’ whereas in actual fact, sometimes things change and what worked once mightn’t anymore,” she says. The intimacy aspect is also crucial. Dunne explains that there are four stages of intimacy: operational, where two people live in the same house and divide out tasks; emotional intimacy, where they feel close; physical intimacy and sexual intimacy. It’s difficult for couples to move onto sexual intimacy if there is a disconnect between any of the other three areas. The psychotherapist gives couples a series of exercises called sensate focus where they will touch without having sexual intercourse. “It works very effectively because it almost brings them back to maybe years previously when they were going out together and it was a little bit of touching and being quite intimate but not maybe going the whole way, as it used to be known. It brings back that sense of excitement, and they explore each other’s bodies,” she says. “If you’ve someone who’s not really in the mood or worried that they’re not able to perform, this takes that pressure off, and there’s a huge amount of trust involved.” She also gives couples individual exercises where they explore their own bodies and realise what’s sensitive for them, something that can change over time.

What constitutes a healthy sex life at this stage in life? “Whatever the couple are happy with,” says Dunne. “It’s when one or the other isn’t happy with it and doesn’t enjoy it, that’s when it becomes problematic. I often encourage them at the same time to push themselves out of their comfort zone. They may have never discussed their sex life before and it’s a chance to almost reinvent themselves and to be able to enjoy sex. A lot of them mightn’t have been having sex before marriage, maybe there wasn’t a huge amount of experimenting. For some, they’re at the stage where it’s become very mundane, repetitive and functional. I know there’s a hesitation in talking about it, but it helps tremendously if they can instead of looking outside of themselves for how to earmark whether their sexual relationship is healthy or not.”

Accentuate the positives

We will often hone in on the ‘don’ts’ of relationships – don’t get defensive, don’t give the silent treatment, don’t go to bed angry. But it’s vital to focus on introducing positivity into relationships too. Relationship coach Annie Lavin points to the work of author Gary Chapman who categorises the expression of love into five love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time and physical touch. “Some of us can rate highly in maybe one or two of those love languages, so if we understand how our partner likes to be appreciated, then we can meet them there, and that goes both ways obviously,” says Lavin. “Expressing appreciation is something we sometimes forget in partnerships and to be thankful for the littler things that your partner does for you. Affection can wane over time and that may need to be reintroduced and to realise that they still admire their partner and what is it about their partner that they now admire, which may have changed from the beginning.” The same goes for establishing caring behaviours such as showing encouragement. According to Lavin, the three universal needs of any relationship are belonging and companionship; affection, either verbal or physical, and support or validation. “The most caring thing you can do in a relationship is to discover your own patterns and really know your own relationship history, to know the things that can really set you off or trigger you. Having this knowledge will help shortcut any relationship issues that can show up so you can then begin to realise, ‘Is this my issue and is this something I’m bringing to this relationship?’ Once you’re then aware of any variations you might have under those three needs, you’ll be less likely to blame your partner when you feel they’re not giving you that extra thing you need.”

Re-establish your identity as a couple and not just parents

Once the children have left home, parents may struggle in their new configuration as a unit of two. Lavin says that the key here is to remind yourself what made your partner tick before children came along, and to become an expert in your partner again. Finding an activity that you both enjoy whether that’s golf, cinema nights or any other, is a good step towards strengthening your connection. It’s something that you can both revel in. “Make sure that you have the time to spend together that’s enjoyable as opposed to just the chores and the routines,” says Lavin. “The idea of dating could be long gone for couples who have been together for a long period of time, so set aside some time every week, even if it’s just to sit down together, have a dinner together. Make it a time where they bring a newness to the relationship by reflecting on their past, how they got together, and maybe just getting to know how the other person thinks. It’s about getting curious again about the other person as opposed to thinking they know everything about them already.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Performance issues in the bedroom are not just an older man’s problem

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[A] study has revealed that 36% of young men between the ages of 16 and 24 have experienced sexual performance problems in the last year.

The figures are higher for men between 25 and 34, with nearly 40% of those surveyed admitting to having issues in bedroom.

Sexual dysfunction is often linked to older men and Viagra use in the public consciousness, but it’s not just the over 50s who can have problems with sexual function.

The Sexual Function in Britain study shows that men of all ages are experiencing a range of sexual issues, including lack of interest in sex, lack of enjoyment in sex, feeling no arousal in sex, experiencing physical pain, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection and difficulty climaxing or climaxing too early.

Between 36% and 40% of men under 35 are experiencing one or more of these problems.

An honest conversation around these issues is long overdue.

The lead author of the study, Dr Kirstin Mitchell from the University of Glasgow, believes that sexual problems can have a long term impact on sexual wellbeing in the future, particularly for young people.

‘When it comes to young people’s sexuality, professional concern is usually focused on preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. However, we should be considering sexual health much more broadly.’

Due to the sensitive and potentially embarrassing nature of the issue, it’s likely that many young men are not confiding in their partners or friends about it or visiting their GP.

Lewis, 32, has suffered from several of the problems mentioned in the Sexual Function study. He tells Metro.co.uk: ‘It can become a real issue in the bedroom but being completely open with your partner is always the best solution’.

After Lewis discussed what was going on with his girlfriend, they talked about how they could take the pressure off him to perform. Just being able to communicate the problem made it feel ‘less of a big deal’ and in turn made sex easier.

Men are far less likely to visit the GP than their female counterparts, with men only visiting the doctor four times a year compared to women who go to the GP six times annually. This can be potentially devastating for physical and mental health, and it also means that there are likely to be many men suffering in silence from serious sexual dysfunction issues who don’t feel able to reach out for professional help.

Last year, the government announced plans to make sex and relationships education compulsory for all schools in England. If young people are taught about the importance of consent and healthy relationships early on, it’s much easier for them to communicate with their partners without embarrassment and have positive, respectful sexual interactions.

Aoife Drury, a sex and relationships therapist based in London, blames the rise in sexual dysfunction among young men on easy access to porn without high-quality sex ed to offer a more balanced perspective on relationships.

She tells us: ‘Young men who lack sex education may be comparing themselves to porn stars on a physical and performance level (size of penis and how long they seem to last).

‘This can cause anxiety and self-esteem issues and can make intercourse with their sexual partner difficult. Erectile dysfunction may be the result alongside low libido.

‘The younger the age of the male when they begin to regularly watch porn, the greater the chance of it becoming their preference over partnered sex and the likelihood of developing a sexual dysfunction increases.

‘These is still more research needed around sex education, the ease of access to porn, potential for viewing preferences to escalate to more extreme material and the consequences for the younger generation.’

However, not everyone sees a direct correlation between porn viewing and problems in the bedroom. Kris Taylor, a doctoral student at the University of Auckland, writes for VICE: ‘While searching in vain for research that supported the position that pornography causes erectile dysfunction, I found a variety of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction.

‘Pornography is not among them. These included depression, anxiety, nervousness, taking certain medications, smoking, alcohol and illicit drug use, as well as other health factors like diabetes and heart disease.’

According to a 2017 Los Angeles research study, sexual dysfunction may be driving porn use, not the other way around. Out of 335 men surveyed, 28% said they preferred masturbation to intercourse with a partner. The study’s author, Dr Nicole Prause, concluded that excessive pornography viewing was a side effect of a sexual issue already being present as men who were avoiding sex with their significant others due to a problem would watch it when masturbating alone.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with masturbating or watching videos of consenting adults having sex. The issue is choosing this because you’re unable to perform with a partner and feeling too ashamed to talk about it or seek help.

24-year-old Jack from London agrees. He told Metro.co.uk that he’d experienced sexual problems when he was with new partners.

He said: ‘After one month, you think you’re worthless and that she will leave you – this can cause a downward spiral and once you start thinking negatively, you’re even less likely to perform.

‘I talked with my partner about this (she was relieved it wasn’t something she’d done wrong) and opened up to my trusted friends. It felt like I really needed to do both of these to stop a shadow following me around.’

Jack spoke about growing up with male friends who wouldn’t talk about their feelings.

‘It was considered “gay” to do so. This whole culture needs to change.’

It’s absolutely essential that young people are given access to comprehensive sex and relationships education that emphasises the importance of communication and mutual respect. Partners who can effectively communicate with one another are more likely to have pleasurable and rewarding sexual experiences.

If you can’t ask for what you want in bed or speak up when there’s an issue, there’s a risk that sex will be dull, awkward, uncomfortable or worse.

Toxic masculinity also plays a role here, preventing men from opening up to friends or partners, or going to seek professional help. This can keep young men trapped in a cycle of sexual dysfunction and propagate the myth that sex issues are something that only old blokes need to worry about.

It can be a tricky subject to broach with your mates or your partner, but it doesn’t need to be. If you’re struggling in the bedroom, you’re certainly not on your own.

Ben Edwards, a relationship coach, is clear that the stigma around sexual dysfunction needs to change.

‘We need to accept that mental illness, anxiety and sexual difficulties are not weaknesses,’ he tells us. ‘They’re actually very common and should be dealt with. Admitting you need help is a great step and you’ll reap the rewards.

‘Men often feel they shouldn’t show their emotions, but it’s important to put egos aside and fix these issues for our own benefit.’

Basically, stress and shame are huge boner-killers. Ditch them in favour of openness, honesty and mutual pleasure.

Complete Article HERE!

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Performance Anxiety Doesn’t Mean the End of Your Sex Life… Here’s Why

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Sometimes sex can be stressful, but these steps may help you get your groove back.

by Stephanie Booth

[A]fter her first sexual partner belittled her in the bedroom, Steph Auteri began second-guessing herself when it came to sex.

“I felt self-conscious and nervous about being a disappointment to the other person,” the 37-year-old says. “I found myself never feeling sexual, never wanting to be intimate, and never initiating anything.”

Even with different partners, Auteri “went through the motions” of sex, always hoping the act would be over quickly.

“I felt broken,” she admits. “And more than anything else, I felt guilty for being weird about sex. I felt that I wasn’t someone who was worth committing to. Then, I would feel resentful for the fact that I had to feel guilty and would want sex even less. It was a vicious circle.”

“Sex anxiety,” like Auteri experienced, isn’t an official medical diagnosis. It’s a colloquial term used to describe fear or apprehension related to sex. But it is real — and it affects more people than is commonly known.

“In my experience, [the incidence] is relatively high,” says Michael J. Salas, LPC-S, AASECT, a certified sex therapist and relationship expert in Dallas, Texas. “Many sexual dysfunctions are relatively common, and almost all of the sexual dysfunction cases that I’ve worked with have an element of anxiety associated with them.”

How sex anxiety manifests can occur in a wide variety of ways for different people. Women may have a significant drop in libido or interest, have trouble getting aroused or having an orgasm, or experience physical pain during sex. Men can struggle with their performance or their ability to ejaculate.

Some people get so nervous at the idea of having sex that they avoid having it altogether.

However, Ravi Shah, MD, a psychiatrist at ColumbiaDoctors and assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, suggests one of the keys to overcoming sex anxiety is viewing it as a “symptom” instead of a condition.

“You’re getting anxious around sex, but what’s the real diagnosis?” Shah asks.

The link between anxiety and sex

If it seems like just about everyone you know is anxious about something these days — well, that’s because they are. Anxiety disorders are currently the most common mental health issue in the United States, affecting about 40 million adults.

When a person senses a threat (real or imagined), their body instinctively switches into “fight or flight” mode. Should I stay and fight the snake in front of me, or book it to safety?

The chemicals that get released into the body during this process don’t contribute to sexual desire. Rather, they put a damper on it, so a person’s attention can be focused on the immediate threat.

“In general, people who experience anxiety disorders in the rest of their lives are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction, too,” says Nicole Prause, PhD, a sexual psychophysiologist and licensed psychologist in Los Angeles.

Additionally, trauma — such as sexual abuse or sexual assault — can trigger apprehension about sex. So can chronic pain, a change in hormones (like right after giving birth or when going through menopause), and even a lack of quality sex education.

“Abstinence-only education tends to create a stigma and shame around sex that can continue into adolescence and adulthood,” says Salas. “Sex education that focuses only on pregnancy ignores the importance of sexual stimulation and pleasure. This can leave people looking to porn for their sex education… [which] can increase myths of sexual performance and increase anxiety.”

“Some people may have anxiety around sex because they have unrealistic expectations about what healthy sex is,” agrees Shah. “Across both men and women, that has to do with low self-esteem, what sex is like in porn and movies versus in real life, and how much sex they feel they ‘should’ be having.”

“People wrongly believe everyone else is having sex all the time and it’s great and no one else has problems except them,” he adds.

How to alleviate sex anxiety

There are plenty of benefits to maintaining a healthy sex life. Sex improves your bond with your partner, gives your self-esteem a boost, and can lower your blood pressure and strengthen your immune system.

The “feel good” hormones released during sex can even help combat feelings of stress and anxiety.

So how do you get past your current anxiety about sex to reap those benefits?

Talk to your doctor

First, rule out any physical problems.

“Many physiological problems can increase sexual dysfunction, which can then increase sex anxiety,” Salas says. These include chronic health issues like arthritis, cancer, and diabetes. Certain medications, such as antidepressants, can also do a number on your libido.

Explore intimacy in different ways

“Sensate focus” exercises, which involve touching your partner and being touched for your own pleasure, are meant to help you reconnect with both your sensual and sexual feelings.

“Initially, no genital touching is allowed,” explains Prause. “More touching is gradually added back in as exercises progress, which are often done with a therapist between home sessions. These are done to help identify sources and times of anxiety and work through what those might mean.”

Since anxiety “most often is about something failing around the moments of penetration,” says Prause, you could also choose to avoid that specific act until your confidence builds back. That way, you can learn how to enjoy other pleasurable sexual activities that still provide intimacy, but without the pressure.

Just make sure you talk with your partner if you decide this direction is best for you. As Prause cautions, “There’s no skirting good communication on this one.”

Be mindful

During sex, you may find yourself trying to read your partner’s mind or worrying that you’re not living up to their fantasies. “Mindfulness can help keep you in the present, while managing negative emotions as they arise,” says Salas.

To do that, he urges his clients to view the signals they get from their body as information, rather than judgments. “Listen to your body, rather than try to override it,” he says.

For instance, instead of worrying why you don’t yet have an erection — and panicking that you should — accept that you’re still enjoying what you’re currently doing, like kissing or being touched by your partner.

“Noticing without judgment and acceptance are key aspects of lowering sexual anxiety,” says Salas.

Make sex a regular conversation

“It’s a fantasy that your partner should know what you want,” says Shah. “They don’t know what you want for dinner without you telling them, and the same goes for sexual activity.”

Choose a private moment and suggest, “There’s something I want to talk to you about in regards to sex. Can we talk about that now?” This gentle heads-up will give your partner a moment to mentally prepare. Then approach the heart of the matter: “I love you and want us to have a good sex life. One thing that’s hard for me is [fill-in-the-blank].”

Don’t forget to invite your partner to chime in, too, by asking: “How do you think our sex life is?”

Talking openly about sex may feel awkward at first, but can be a great starting point for working through your anxiety, Shah says.

Don’t discount foreplay

“There are so many ways to get sexual pleasure,” says Shah. “Massages, baths, manual masturbation, just touching each other… Build up a repertoire of good, positive experiences.”

Explore issues of shame

Maybe you’re embarrassed about your appearance, the number of partners you’ve had, a sexually transmitted disease — or perhaps you were raised to believe that your sexuality is wrong.

“When it comes to sex, shame isn’t very far behind,” says Salas. “The problem with shame is that we don’t talk about it. Some of us won’t even own it.” Identify which aspect is causing you to feel ashamed, then consider opening up about it to your partner.

“When people survive sharing the information that they’re most ashamed about, the fears of sharing it lessen,” says Salas. “They realize that they can share this, and still be accepted and loved.”

Seek professional help

If your anxiety isn’t confined to the bedroom, or you’ve tried without success to improve your sex life, seek professional help. “You may need more robust treatment with a therapist or even medication,” says Shah.

Life after sexual anxiety

Steph Auteri didn’t find an instant cure for her sex anxiety. It stuck around for 15 years. Even when she met her current husband, their first sexual encounter was marked by Auteri’s tears and a confession that she had “weirdness” about sex.

An accidental career as a sex columnist helped her slowly start to realize that her anxiety wasn’t so unusual. “People would comment or email me thanking me for being so open and honest about a thing they were also experiencing,” says Auteri, who’s now written a memoir, “A Dirty Word,” about her experience. “They had always thought they were alone. But none of us are alone in this.”

When she and her husband decided to have a baby, Auteri was surprised to find that the more she had sex, the more she desired it. A regular yoga practice also helped her improve a sense of mindfulness, and she started asking her husband for more foreplay and nonsexual intimacy throughout the day.

“I also became more open to intimacy even when I wasn’t necessarily ‘in the mood.’ Although let’s be real,” Auteri adds, “sometimes I’m really not in the mood, and I still honor that.”

And honoring our own feelings is often the first (and biggest) step toward overcoming sex anxiety.

Complete Article HERE!

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6 Essential Resources for Victims of Sexual Assault

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This Sexual Assault Awareness month, share these resources who a friend who may benefit from them.

By Katie Mitchell

[I]n the past year, more people have felt empowered to speak openly about sexual assault. As most survivors know, sexual violence is an all too common of an issue and rape culture permeates our everyday lives. As we continue to consume stories about sexual harassment, rape and violence, it’s important to not forget that survivors deal with the aftermath of assault long after an article goes viral or an interview is aired. Often times, it takes survivors decades to heal properly, but healing is possible. Ahead, find six resources for sexual assault survivors.

National Sexual Assault Hotline

RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, has an online hotline for survivors, their friends, and their family. When you call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area. The trained staff member will give you confidential support and connect you with local resources, referrals, and provide basic information about medical concerns.

On Campus Resources

In recent years, there have been changes regarding how sexual assault on campus is handled. If you’re a student on a college campus, consider visiting the Center for Changing Our Campus Culture, which is an online resource that provides student-specific information regarding rights, instructions, and guidelines for when a sexual assault happens on campus, from how to file a complaint against a school, to how to help bystanders.

Anti-Violence Project

The Anti-Violence Project (AVP) is an organization specifically for LGBT and HIV-affected folks. AVP offers support groups, legal assistance, and even “arts expression groups” for victims of hate violence, sexual violence, and intimate partner violence. AVP’s direct action work is primarily in New York City.

The Network/La Red

The Network/La Red aims to end partner abuse in LGBT, BDSM, and polyamorous communities. Survivors can read through their manuals, which outline  how to identify partner abuse — especially how to distinguish consensual BDSM behavior from abuse. This organization even provides free, short-term housing for those in need residing in Boston.

Therapy

Therapy can help sexual assault survivors with their healing journey by acknowledging what happened and learning new coping skills. Most therapists have specialities, so when you’re choosing a therapist, consider asking them if they have experience working with sexual assault survivors. Therapy for Black Girls is great resource to find therapists in your area.

Healing Retreats

While most healing retreats aren’t specifically focused on sexual assault, it is so common that it’s likely to be what led several participants to the retreat. At healing retreats, you can relax, meditate, journal, do yoga, and much more in a non-judgemental environment with others who are focused on healing themselves as well.

This Sexual Assault Awareness month, share these resources who a friend who may benefit from them.

Complete Article HERE!

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