A Quickie With A Sex Therapist
A couple of weeks ago a survey was published by a condom company naming the 50 sexiest states in the US. It listed in order how often people in each state were having sex. The article was everywhere and it was very popular. Why are we so interested in how often other people have sex?
I believe articles like this become highly popular because they generate reader’s curiosity and desire in a socially acceptable way. But while it’s natural to compare studies such as this to the frequency of their own sex lives, it’s important to keep it purely for entertainment value and not as a means of sexual ‘normality’, given everyone's sexual preferences are different.
2. Recent evidence suggests that teenage boys are getting their sex education from online porn while teenage girls are getting theirs from magazines, (online and otherwise). Can you see anything problematic about this?
Absolutely! I think it’s important to recognise that teenagers in general (boys and girls) are becoming more aware of online pornography, and given its high accessibility, they are indirectly gaining a sex education that is not always in line with healthy sexual ethics and values.
What many regular pornography viewers can lose is the differentiation between ‘real sex, ethical sex and fantasy sex’, which ultimately can lead to repercussion on their sexual relationships. The majority of pornographic footage depicts an unrealistic sexual encounter, which stimulates the sexual fantasy. Imagine the subliminal expectation this is forming on our young teens! The person watching porn can become accustomed to 'getting off' on the fantasy sex - impacting their ability to maintain arousal when having ‘real sex' with their partners.
Even though porn culture is starting to accommodate a more ‘female-friendly’ attitude, porn is still predominantly geared for a male audience, where the women can have a more sexually submissive role. This is not teaching our younger generation about sexual equality, communication, roles or ethics.
The problem with teenage girls who are receiving the majority of their sex education via magazines and social publications is similar to porn. Articles on sex can be presented with unrealistic expectations and formulate pressure as to how one should be as sexual person. Whilst some titles do produce sex positive articles which can be a healthy influence on young women, the majority need to be read in the context of the individuals overall understanding of their sexuality.
3. How helpful do you think magazine coverlines such as “the sex trick to make your man go wild’ are?
I think it comes down to how the individual can adapt the advice to suit the circumstances of their own sex life.
For example; if a women who is currently in a sex-less marriage relies solely on an article promoting advice in how to sexually please her lover, to rekindle her sex life, it’s problematic, considering a sex-less relationship needs to factor in a combination of things to support the couple. It's important to recognise that whilst sex tips can be advantageous to readers in enhancing their sex lives, they are not the sole answers to issues in the bedroom that fall outside how to solve them.
Furthermore, articles offering practical sex advice can place a lot of emphasis on mastering a certain technique. So if the technique is unsuccessful when used, the reader may assume that he or she is and unsatisfactory lover’ or that they are ‘doing it wrong’.
4. Feminist author Naomi Wolf has spoken a lot about how porn is changing the culture of sex. What is your view on that?
I am aware of Wolf’s ideas on the effects of pornography and whilst I won't comment if she is overacting, I will agree her concerns are valid and that yes, pornography has the potential to be a real threat on an individual’s sex life. On a broader level, I too have concerns on how certain pornography can objectify women and strongly believe the adult entertainment world have an ongoing responsibility to be held accountable for this by this.
5. What, in psychological and emotional terms, defines ‘good sex’?
To me, ‘good sex’ can only be defined in psychological terms! Even though the majority of us have the physical mechanics to sexually perform, it does not mean we are always having ‘good sex’. As a sex therapist I would encourage people to consider ‘good sex’ as an exchange between two (or more) people that facilitates trust, consent, equal communication, sexual equality and respect. With these key aspects in place a healthy foundation is created from here to have any kind of sex you want! Whether it be adventurous, spontaneous, experimental, inclusive of toys or games, or focused on making love, it has the opportunity to not only be ‘good sex’ but ‘exceptional sex’.
6. Intimacy and familiarity are often blamed as sex killers. How true is this? And what can be done?
If we look at the typical evolution of a long-term relationship, we will see certain sexual stages that can take place. Stages are based around: Attraction, Infatuation, Intimacy and Falling in love and Stability. The stages are by no means linear and can revisit a relationship at any time if desired by the couple.
For some couples, when a long-term committed relationship is formed, some of these stages can be misplaced by familiarity and routine which is where a decrease in sexual libido can occur. Sexual maturity grows along with the relationship and fear of rejection is replaced with trust and security. Furthermore, given the level of security and establishment built, infatuation can be replaced with comfortability and sexual connection replaced with emotion connection.
It's also common for a couple's sex life to decrease or be ‘put on hold’ after having a baby due to a low libido from exhaustion, being overwhelmed, a dramatic change in lifestyle and anxiety about having sex again after giving birth.
The only smart solution in exploring these changes is through acknowledging them and can be resolved with clear communication and a commitment to work on them together. Be mindful of how this is approached: talk about what ‘you are wanting’ as oppose to ‘what you are not getting’. For example, “ I am wanting to invest more into our sex lives” and not "You are not giving me enough sex". Instead of finding someone to blame, invest your energy into finding strategies to support each other in how to reclaim sex lives that accommodates both partner’s needs and desires in their current life situation.
7. Women are under an enormous amount of pressure via the images they see in advertising and in celebrity magazines to look a certain way, ie slender, big breasted, hairless. And increasingly, men are facing the same sort of pressure – to look fit and muscular. Have you seen this sort of pressure affect couple’s sex lives at all?
I think this kind of pressure can indirectly affect a couple’s sex life through an individual’s idea that they do not meet the media’s perception of ‘being sexy’, therefore may not be able to sexually connect with their partner due to self esteem issues.
When this happens, the individual needs to be reminded as to why their partner is attracted to them in the first place and have this ground them back into rational self body image as oppose to the irrational self body evaluations influenced by social media. Social Media has over sexualised public figures to a point where it is difficult for people not to be affected by this.
8. If the sex goes ‘bad’ in a relationship, or if couples stop having sex, what does it say about the relationship? And what can be done?
There are many variables to consider before naming why a couples sex life has decrease, which may have more to do with the individuals as oppose to the actual relationship. It’s important to acknowledge why this has happened before focusing on how to fix it. Common reasons as to why a couple’s sex life has stopped can be due to life responsibilities (children, finances, work, family) alongside physical and emotional health and if a person is happy within the relationship. The good news is, lots can be done in regards to increasing a couple’s sex life. Once the problem is established, a mutual plan can be verbalised that supports both people working towards a satisfying sex life.
9. Can an affair ever be blamed on a lack of sex?
Whilst I don’t believe an affair can ever be blamed on a lack of sex, I’m aware it can often be seen as the cause. An affair is a choice a spouse makes over raising the issues they are having in their relationship or personal life that led them to cheat in the first place. Whether they feel they have an inability to communicate one’s own needs or desires, or acted out of curiosity or impulse, they need to be held accountable for their actions, and if they blame a lack of sex as the reason why they strayed, I dare say choosing to cheat is not the right way to get their sexless relationship back on track.
10. What’s the biggest falsehood out there about sex?
The notion that males are available and willing to have sex at any given time!
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