Tag Archives: Sex Therapist

I’m just along for the ride

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Dear Dr Dick,
My husband (34) and I (31) are coming up of ten years of marriage, and for the most part our sex life has been what I would consider average. He’s pretty much been the aggressor in our relationship, which has worked out fine until now. I guess after ten years my husband would like it if I occasionally expressed interest and initiated and told him what I like/don’t like etc. I really have no idea how to do that! I told him that and his comment was that maybe I wasn’t even sure what I liked/don’t like and that I’ve pretty much just been going along for the ride all these years. He’s probably right.
We used to kiss and cuddle etc. to work up to sex and now it’s, “hey, you wanna have sex?” which completely turns me off (which he knows). I’m sure this is partly due to his work schedule and having a four year old so by the time we get to bed we’re wiped out most of the time, but I’m so not into the, “hey, you wanna…” approach.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I get started in figuring out what I like and don’t like, how do I work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize it and especially verbalize or show him that I’m in the mood, and then how do I tell him I don’t like something without shutting him down. There are times, I know I don’t like something but I go along with it because I don’t want to shut him down.
I should preface by saying I’m not a very confident person and tend to be a people pleaser?
Thanks,
Brandi

You’re husband’s right. It is fuckin’ time you started lifting your share of the sexual initiation load. I mean come on! Most women would kill for a man in their life that would show an interest in what they like and don’t like. This going along for the ride stuff has got to end, darling.

female nude159How do you get started in figuring out what you like and don’t like? Masturbation! That’s the shortest and most to the point answer I can think of. Once you discover what turns your crank through masturbation you will have loads of very important information to share with you man. And hey, don’t forget toys, vibrators in particular.

How do you work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize what turns you on and verbalizing or showing him that you are in the mood? The answer to this question is as simple as the previous question. You masturbate for him.

Now I know that a lot of people, and that includes most women, have been socialized to think that masturbation is wrong, or at least it’s a private affair that one should keep to herself. But I’m her to tell you that’s just bull-hockey. And this is true for both women and men, gay and straight and everyone in between.

How do you tell him you don’t like something without shutting him down? Well, it’s probably much easier to tell him what you like and how you like it rather than approaching the tutorial from the negative. If he’s not completely brain dead, he WILL get the message. If, however, he starts to do something that is rubbing you the wrong way, so to speak, simply tell him as calmly as possible that he will get a much bigger and better rise out of you if he did it THIS way. And then show him…again.masturbation001

That fact that you sometimes don’t like something but that you often if not always go along with it tells me that you’ve socialized your man into thinking he’s an adequate lover when he perhaps isn’t. Its time for a confession, girlfriend! Be as gentle as you can, but for god sake, it’s time to come clean.

Take responsibility for keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem and show him what you need and how you need it.

If you indeed lack the confidence you need to be honest with the one you love and who loves you back, then frankly Brandi, you deserve what little you get. But if you can muster up the gumption to throw off the tyranny of that whole people pleasing bullshit you’ve been laboring under all these years, then you have a real shot at some happiness and sexual fulfillment. It’s gonna be up to you to make this happen. If you need some support find a sex positive therapist who will help you grow some balls.

Good luck

Pride Goeth Before The Fall

Name: Jen
Gender: female
Age: 59
Location: North Dakota

I’m a widow and I am so sad. The fellow I’m going with, I really love him, but I can’t have an orgasm with him. I was able to have an orgasm with my husband who is passed away. And I can when I am playing with a toy by myself.

He has such pride and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, because it would take me about a half hour of foreplay to get there.

Thank you for your message, Jen. Your concern about your man and his inability to rock your world is, sadly, a very familiar complaint. I hear it from women all the time.pride

You say that your man is prideful and that you don’t want to hurt his feelings. But are you really willing to sacrifice your sexual wellbeing on that altar? I hope not. Even prideful men can learn something about pleasuring the woman they are with.

Let’s just say that this guy your dating knew how to pleasure all the women he has ever been with previous to you. That pedigree doesn’t make him an expert on pleasuring every other women he will meet, and that includes you.

Allow me to share with you the exchange I had with another woman in your situation. Perhaps my advice to her will be helpful to you. This is from…

Name: Zoe
Gender: female
Age: 25
Location: Boise
I learned how to masturbate when I was 12. From that first time I’ve loved how it makes me feel. No matter how good my lovers are; they never come close to the pleasure I feel when I’m touching myself. I like the intimacy I have with my boyfriend, but he’s not very good in the sack. I’ve been trying to get him to watch me masturbate, or we could masturbate together, so that he’d know how to touch me and make the bells ring. Unfortunately, he’s really straight-laced and he thinks my suggestion is perverted. He resists every time I bring it up. Sometimes after we have sex, I wait for him to fall asleep then get myself off. Is this selfish?

selfish-man

You betcha it’s selfish, selfish as all get-out. Not you, Zoe, but the bonehead you’re fuckin’. This is a classic, “you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” sorta deal. Only here we have a “you can lead the horse’s ass to the mysteries of pussy, but you can’t make him appreciate them.”

I gotta ask, what makes a sexually enlightened chick like you hook up with and stay with bozo like him? Do you actually think that he’s gonna magically come around one fine day and let you lead him to nirvana? I think not. You know why I think this? It’s because you’ve created a monster — an “all I need to worry about is me gettin’ off in my girlfriend’s snatch” kinda monster. And that’s one scary kinda monster.

I am of the mind that it’s fruitless to try to get an obstinate partner, like your guy to do something he doesn’t want to do. The nagging alone will harden his resolve to resist. This does not mean you’ll never get your way. It just means that you have to go about this in a completely different way than, “oh honey, won’t you please cum and watch me jill-off? In the numbskull’s defense, he may be missing the point completely. He may not understand why you want him to watch you pleasure yourself. So if your agenda is to get him to be a better lover, that’s how you’re gonna have to approach the big lug.

First off, he needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not the Hercules in the boudoir he thinks he is. This is gonna sting his ego like crazy and it might very well be the end of him and you altogether. But I assure you, risking this is much better than maintaining the status quo. Because, with each passing fuck, he will be more convinced then the fuck before that he’s da man.im_da_man

Once you burst his bubble, you’ll need to immediately inflate a new one for and with him. Us men folk can’t live very long with out our illusions. Begin this inflation process by taking some responsibility for this predicament. Own up to keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem. Maybe if he understands that you want to jill-off for him as a tutorial, he’d be more compliant.

I’d be willing to guess that if you made this presentation more of a game or a role-play scenario then a seminar he’d be more receptive. Why not try something like this. Introduce a blindfold into your sex play. Have him strip down to his jock for you, then blindfold him. It’s gonna be his job to get you off without using the magic wand he has stuck in his jock. The blindfold will necessitate that he use his hands (and mouth) to find and pleasure you. While you tease his dick inside his jock guide his hands to your pussy. He’ll no doubt be fumbling around at first, so you’ll have to encourage him with some dirty talk, or actually use his hand to jill yourself off. Just remember keep it fun and playful and keep his dick safely tucked away.

You can see how this little exercise could be educational for him without being emasculating. Once he figures out that there’s more to sex than the old in and out, he might actually cum around, so to speak. Similarly, you might, on another occasion, submit to the blindfold yourself and have him use your hand to jack himself off. In time, you be able to do away with the blindfold altogether. But then, you might want to introduce restraints of some sort. While he’s buck naked and restrained put on a hot and horny show for him. Tease him with your self-pleasuring, but don’t let him touch you. Maybe rub yourself with his stiff cock. Since he’ll be unable to resist, it will be like masturbating with his pecker. Doesn’t that sound like a load of fun for all concerned?

Good luck

Hold on there, girlfriend!

Name: Joanne
Gender: Female
Age: 25
Location: Toronto

I’m 25, 5-foot-7 and weigh 105 pounds. I take care of my body by eating right and exercising regularly. My problem is that I hate the way I look. I am actually repulsed by my body. I take very brief showers and avoid the mirror as much as possible. I’m not a prude. Others being nude is fine with me. But my body image issues are hindering my sexual encounters. I always want to wear a shirt or have the lights off.

My current boyfriend says that if I trust him enough to sleep with him I should trust him enough to let him see me naked. He also has told me that we can’t continue seeing each other if this doesn’t improve. But I let him see every part of my nude body — just not all at once. So he knows I’m not hiding some monstrous deformity or anything. I guess I thought my boyfriend would be more sensitive to my fear and let me stay covered up. Do I owe him nudity?

Hold on there, girlfriend, you think your boyfriend is being insensitive because he wants to enjoy your body in the buff? You think that he’s sticking around just to needle you about your phobia? Honey, get over yourself! Do you honestly think that your body-positive BF oughta facilitate and participate in your pathology? Yeah, like why don’t we all just sink to the lowest common denominator? And here’s a tip: you do have a monstrous deformity. Perhaps it’s not a physical deformity, but it sure enough is a psychological one.

I concur with your boyfriend; your relationship is on the line here. You need to get a handle on your hang-ups, darlin’, or you can just say good-by to whatever sex and intimacy you may currently be enjoying.

Listen, I have a thing about sex and intimacy being a gift one gives to another. So I ask you, how can you give yourself as a gift to anyone if you are disgusted with the gift you’re giving? And you’ll never convince me that your body issues aren’t seeping into and sabotaging the sex you may be having with your long-suffering BF. I’ll betcha you don’t let him get too close to the body parts you’re willing to expose to him when the lights are out.

Joanne, like I suggest above, being repulsed by your own body is a sign of a much deeper psychological problem. I’d suggest you get to the bottom of this with a sex-positive therapist right away. When I encounter this sort of thing in my practice, inevitably my client and I discover a past body related trauma to be at root of his or her current disgust. Left untreated, this aversion could easily morph into a desire to do yourself harm, if it hasn’t already. It’s a common enough phenomenon; so don’t let that happen.

And to your closing question about do you “owe” him nudity; what the fuck is that? Is your sexuality and the intimacy you share with your partner something to be bid and bargained for, like beads in a bazaar? Sex and intimacy is either a gift freely given or it’s coerced. If you’re feeling coerced about being naked with the man who loves you, you’d better set him free and get thee to a nunnery.

Good luck.

Consider the beauty of the female form

The Yin and Yang of Desire

Today I’d like to talk about: The Yin and Yang of Desire — Dopamine, Prolactin and Testosterone.

Let’s talk about love, lust and desire. But instead of looking at these things as social phenomena, let’s look at the chemical reactions going on inside our bodies that make us feel and behave the way we do.

sex-on-the-brainThere are clear links between certain chemicals and our most basic drives, which explains, for example, why we feel horny one moment and utterly disinterested the next. Or why our sex drive peaks after exercise. At the core of our sexual and affectional interests and behaviors lie the two chemicals — dopamine and prolactin. In many ways they are complimentary to one another; dopamine turns on desire and prolactin turns it off.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. This is basically your body’s pleasure and reward system. Our brains releases dopamine, to one degree or another, when we see, read or think about something sexy, taste something sweet, puff a cigarette, or come into skin-to-skin contact with another person. When dopamine levels are high, our libido goes into overdrive. Sometimes levels can be so dramatic that a person will neglect other essential bodily functions like eating and sleeping. Some “street” drugs —meth and coke among them — can mimic the body into thinking it’s dealing with dopamine.

Dopamine is critical to the way the brain controls our movements. If there’s not enough dopamine, we can’t move, or control our movements. If there’s too much dopamine, we are plagued with repetitive moments like jerking, tapping and twitching.

Get this; novel situations can increase dopamine releases. For example, hooking up with someone for the first time triggers especially high levels of dopamine. Curiously enough, these same high levels will not occur again during subsequent hookups with that same person. This is called the one-night-stand phenomenon; it’s why you can be attracted to someone at first encounter but not afterward.hormones and the brain

However, falling in love with someone can sustain high dopamine levels for a longer period of time. This explains why physical infatuation is at its peak in the beginning months of a relationship. Also dopamine floods the brain when we get drunk or take certain drugs, which is why drinking alcohol can make a potential partner look more attractive.

Prolactin is dopamine’s foil. It causes dopamine levels to plummet. Prolactin is a hormone, as opposed to a neurotransmitter, like dopamine. It floods the body during orgasm, virtually shutting down the sex drive, which is nature’s way of allowing us to attend to other essential bodily functions like eating and sleeping. Prolactin release in men will temporarily disable our ability to have an erection. This is called the refractory or recovery phase of our sexual response cycle. And prolactin is at least partially responsible for that happy, relaxed state after we cum. This is precisely the release women get while breastfeeding; in fact, the word “pro-lactin” directly indicates its role in milk production.

growing larger and largerProlactin primes the mind for long-term attachment — a role that helps the mother bond with her suckling child as well as lovers to each other. This means that if you stick around cuddling with your partner right after sex, you may actually start to like him/her more and more. This is called the pair-bonding effect. But prolactin’s dopamine-reducing action has a darker side. It cancels the tolerance you may have for your partner’s flaws.

While dopamine and prolactin are good indicators of the immediate workings of sexual pursuit, it is testosterone that best explains long-term changes in courtship. Testosterone is responsible for the masculinization of the adolescent male body during puberty. And it increases the dopamine levels that regulate our sex drive. But testosterone leaves its fingerprint on the body as much as the brain. It’s the catalyst for changes in skin tone, fat distribution, musculature and demeanor, which are signals to others that this individual male is sexually mature and in good health.

However, if you get a fever or become depressed, your testosterone levels can drop significantly. Malnutrition or high levels of anxiety or stress will also interfere with testosterone levels. The most immediate effect of this is a decrease in libido, and a noticeable drop-off in energy levels as well as confidence. There’s no doubt about it; testosterone levels will signal to potential mates that you are in the throws of depression, stress, anxiety or malnutrition. You will appear a little less attractive to people subconsciously. That’s why a confident, dominant male with high-testosterone levels generally enjoy more mating success.tits

Testosterone levels are highest in the morning, then wanes throughout the day. It’s also much higher in men in autumn and lowest in the spring.

However, sexual desire is still more complicated than is known to science, and there may be multiple archetypes of partners we’re drawn to — there is evidence that aggressive high-testosterone men appear sexier to women and gay men for a one-night stand. But softer, more sensitive balanced men are more likely to tug at our heartstrings in a relationship. Scientists reason that the bulkier mate is more likely to be physically powerful and carry good genes to create strong children. While the slimmer guy is a more loving, reliable partner likely to help raise the kids so they survive to adulthood. The effect of this strange contradiction seems to be a biological predisposition against monogamy and sexual exclusivity.

But none of this is carved in stone. A man’s hormone’s levels increase when he is in a competitive environment or carries out acts of aggression, which can explain how guys seem to bulk up quickly when they go to prison or join sports teams. These levels decrease when he feels intimidated or humiliated, which might explain why those who get picked on at school stay skinny and mild-mannered compared to their peers. This in turn made them easier targets and only increased the likelihood of them being bullied.

butt shakeThis is not uncommon behavior among primate colonies that have huge alpha males looming over a population of smaller, submissive males and females. While this is not a perfect parallel to human social groups, it does go a long way in explaining how a social environment can be a precursor to physical body changes. And just so you know, our testosterone levels also drop during long-term relationships, giving the male brain a sense of stability and mellowness, easing off the drive to forage for new sexual partners.

Science alone lacks a moral element, and fails to explain, in a modern context, why we should desire to be masculine, aggressive, potent or dominant in the first place. In nature, the alpha-male is the most likely to enjoy reproductive success, but that isn’t what gives our lives value today. We might have more success being an average male that falls in love and becomes a good provider. And in the modern world it’s probably the more stable and sensitive man who is most likely to sire children.

Still, science gives important clues to what’s going on in our minds and bodies and that of our potential partners. A lot of our basic inclinations are out of our control, but when we know what causes them or what to expect, we can work with them for the best outcome.

Review: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner

Hey sex fans!

I have another swell sex-positive book to tell you about today. Anyone who frequents this site will already be familiar with my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Cheryl Cohen Greene. If ya don’t believe me type her name into the search function in the sidebar to your right and PRESTO!

Not only will you find the fabulous two-part SEX WISDOM podcast we did together, (Part 1 is HERE! And Part 1 is HERE!) you will find a posting about the movie The Sessions. You’ve seen it right? It’s the award-winning film staring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. It’s the story of a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity.  He contacts a professional surrogate partner with the help of his therapist and priest. Ms. Hunt plays Cheryl, the surrogate partner in the movie

Cheryl also contributed a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder and dying people for my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.

With all that as a preface, I now offer you Cheryl’s own story: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner. The first thing I want to say is this book is it’s not a clinical or technical tome. It is an easily accessible memoir. And that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating.

She writes in the Introduction:An Intimate Life

I started this work in 1973, and my journey to it spans our society’s sexual revolution and my own. I grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a time when sex education was—to put it mildly— lacking. As I educated myself, I found that most of what I had been taught about sex was distorted or wrong. The lessons came from the playground, the church, and the media. My parents could barely talk about sex, much less inform me about it.

What follows is a candid and often funny look into the personal and professional life of a woman on the cutting edge of our culture’s movement toward sexual wellbeing.

Cheryl comes out of her conservative Catholic upbringing and her often tortured family dynamics with what one would expect—her own sexual awakenings as well as the conspiracy of ignorance and repression that wanted to stifle it. This is a common story, the story of so many of us.

Starting when I was around ten, I masturbated and brought myself to orgasm nearly every night. … If my nights began with anxiety, my days began with guilt. I became convinced that every earache, every toothache, every injury was God punishing me. … I couldn’t escape his gaze or his wrath. Sometimes I imagined my guardian angel looked away in disgust as I touched myself and rocked back and forth in my bed.

The miracle here is that this troubled tween would blossom into the remarkable sexologist she is today.

rsz_1greenecherylSome of the chapters in her book describe one or another of her hands on therapeutic encounters as a surrogate partner, but equally important and compelling are the chapters that describe Cheryl’s own sexual struggles as she moved to adulthood and beyond. Cheryl’s acceptance of her own sexuality enables her to build a career out of helping others do the very same thing.

Everyone has a right to satisfying, loving sex, and, in my experience, that most often flows from strong communication, self-respect, and a willingness to explore.

Despite the frank discussion of sexual topics within the book, there is no prurience or sensationalism. For the most part, Cheryl’s clients are regular people, mostly men, who have pretty ordinary problems—erection and/or ejaculation concerns, dating difficulties, as well as self-esteem, guilt and shame issues. Cheryl helps each of her clients with the efficiency and confidence of the world-class sex educator she is. Most of her interaction involves her supplying her clients with some much-needed information, dispelling myths, and giving them permission to experiment. As she says;

I continue to be amazed at how solid education delivered without judgment can eradicate much of the guilt and shame that turns life in the bedroom into a struggle instead of a pleasure.

Her most famous client, Mark O’Brien, the 36-six-year-old man who had spent most of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio at age 6, was the author of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence, in which he writes about his experience with Cheryl. This, of course, was adapted into a film, The Sessions, which I mentioned above. For her part, Cheryl delivers a most poignant remembrance of Mark early in her book.

I explained Sensual Touch to Mark. Although he was paralyzed, he still had sensation all over his body, so he would feel my hands moving up and down. … I encouraged him to try and recognize four common reactions: feeling neutral, feeling nurtured, feeling sensual and feeling sexual.

An Intimate Life chronicles Cheryl’s life-long interest in human sexuality. Her life and sometimes-turbulent loves are on display, but in the most considerate fashion. She teaches by example. She’s even able to speak with great compassion of her time living with and through cancer.

As I inch toward seventy, I appreciate more and more how much I have to be grateful for and how fortunate I’ve been. I was lucky to find a wonderful career and to be surrounded by so many smart, adventurous, caring people. My personal sexual revolution auspiciously paralleled our culture’s, and in many ways was made possible by it. I am eternally grateful to the pioneers, rebels, and dreamers who made our society a little safer for women who embrace their sexuality.

There is so much I loved about this book, but mostly it’s the humanity I found in abundance. Cheryl’sdr.-cheryl-cohen-greene enlightened soul shines brightly from every page. Her no nonsense approach to all things sexual is an inspiration. And her perseverance to bring surrogate partner therapy into the mainstream is laudable.

…what separates surrogates from prostitutes is significant. When people have difficulties grasping [that], I turn to my beloved and late friend Steven Brown’s cooking analogy that I’ve so often relied on to help me through that question: Seeing a prostitute is like going to a restaurant. Seeing a surrogate is like going to culinary school.

Finally, An Intimate Life is the culmination of Cheryl’s life as a sex educator, her surrogate partner therapy practice being just part of that mission. I highly recommend you read this book. You will, I assure you, come away from it as I have, a better person—enriched, informed, as well as entertained.

Cheryl, thank you for being in my life and being such an abiding inspiration. Thank you too for this marvelous book; now you can be in the lives of so many others who need you so that you can inspire them along their way.

Be sure to visit Cheryl on her site HERE!

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