‘not -talked-about’ themes in Human Sexuality – normalizing

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Quick summary – the topic of ‘normal’ or ‘day to day’ sex is perhaps not always given as much attention as could be helpful to the masses. As sexual education slowly decreases while pornography and celebrity gossip increases we find ourselves in a society that does not always know if they are more different or more the same as every one else. I will not pretend to tell you what normal sex is (though I could use a bell curve and list a bunch of stats), instead I am using this space to write about topics with brevity that happen in most people’s sex lives… to normalize events that people might go through.

 

note -there can be biological causes that lead to the below instances and there can be sexual difficulties that result from more involved psychological themes such as trauma – you can assume that I am not talking specifically about issues that arrive from those two disciplines in this blog post. If such is the case for you, it is a good idea to seek the help from a medical professional, a sex therapist, or a therapist who is trained in trauma recovery (most therapist are – but to different degrees).

 

Orgasm does not always happen – Many women seem to be aware of this as it pertains to female orgasm, but men and women alike can be unfamiliar that this can happen to males as well. Lack of orgasm can result in males and in females from: a need for greater emotional intimacy, hormone and libido cycles, normal aging, stress, and technique and duration of foreplay to name a few.

–         Foreplay is a misleading term as many women need continual clitoral stimulation throughout the sexual experience – so for some it is not the “before the sex play” it is the sex.

Not every woman can have a vaginal orgasm (penetration alone) – many women need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm, this can also change during the female’s life (some women require more stimulation later in life).

There is no “one size fits all technique” – different people need different methodologies to reach optimal satisfaction – this can also differ for the same person at different times. “Too hard” one day can be “too soft” on another day = keep communication lines open.

Many men and women cannot locate the clitoris– Even bookstore chains now have sections on human sexuality that can offer education in many different forms. “I will look at a diagram or ask my partner but about where is it?” – The vulva is the female genitalia – the vagina is the actual canal (can’t usually see it from the outside) the labia are the “lips” that cover the vagina (and sometimes the clitoris – all vulvas are different) the clitoris is the bean shaped entity above the vaginal opening and below where the two sides of the labia meet.

Women can orgasm second – as has been noted, clitoral stimulation is perhaps the more effective means for a woman to reach orgasm – so (if the woman so desires) she can attain orgasm through clitoral stimulation after the penis has found itself flaccid.

Many men have had or will have a time when they can’t get an erection – There are many cognitive factors that can lead to erectile dysfunction? One answer to this is very simple – many men can’t get an erection if they are “trying to get one.” This is like the walking phenomenon – try to walk “correctly” – you will find that you don’t know how to – which will make you walk funny. The same is true with the penis – an erection happens somewhat automatically… thinking tends to get in the way.

–         Stress and anxiety are huge culprits – this is a feedback loop as not getting an erection can cause stress and anxiety – which makes the erection less likely to happen – which increases the stress yet again.

–         The guy worries about what his partner thinks and the partner worries that it is his/her fault = more stress. Suggestion? – don’t over think it – it happens. try talking about it to relieve some of the anxiety – explain what you think the reason is (your partner will appreciate this) – “sorry I had too much to drink” …”I’m in my head…I’m over thinking it”… “I think I need to wake up more.”

–         It is a cardiovascular phenomenon – a muscle loosens and blood flows in.

  • So if you are having an ‘over-thinking’ problem… don’t think “flex” think “release”.
  • If your heart rate is low (morning or alcohol) – you might have trouble.

 

Not every one can “model” while having sex – Sex in the movies can give viewers the perception that people having sex can maintain Zen like physiological composure. Most people that are giving themselves freely to the sexual experience will not look like they are posing for a photo-shoot when they are mid-orgasm.

Sex is great sometimes, ok sometimes, bad sometimes, and good most of the time (relatively speaking of course) – It is normal for us to focus on the great and the bad (just think of the nightly news) – despite the stories that people tell, no one cooks up perfection on a regular basis – ups and downs are a natural part of life – someone would not have the reference to tell you that their sex life was great if they didn’t know what it was like when sex was not so great.

Most male penises are the same size (6 inches-ish) – In sexually explicit material they often prefer extremely large penises or else it is difficult to video both genitalia during penetration.

The female Vulva (genitals all together) looks very different from female to female – pubic hair, the labia, and the clitoris etc. all very in size, color and shape naturally.

People of all different body types are sexually arousing – We, as people in a society; vary in the degree to which our perception of “beauty” or “sexy” is determined by social influences. We all can struggle with accepting that how sexy we are in the eyes of our partner is separate (and perhaps more important) than how sexy we are in relation to current social trends – which are just that – trends.

People have very healthy sex in their later years – we as a society have an unfortunate prejudice against people who are older having sex. For many, sex continues their entire life.

Many people in relationships do not talk about sex specifically or openly with their partner – no one every taught you how… don’t be hard on yourself because you can’t give anatomically specific direction to your partner… and if you would like more open and specific communication, the resources are available (books and specifically trained therapists).

Many men and women in and out of relationships practice masturbation – female number are getting closer to male numbers in terms of percentages.

Sex means something different to everybody – ask ten people what it is and you will get 10 different responses.

I could go on but this blog is getting too long – you may comment if there is another theme that you would like me to cover.

 

My next blog on the topic of sex will be about why misinformation is quite understandable… or I will write about how expectations influence the experience…

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Why might we be misinformed about human sexuality?

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Quick summary: Why might we be misinformed about human sexuality? I will isolate some themes to help people to understand why our at times distorted view of sexuality is actually quite understandable given the circumstances. 

We talk more about interesting story lines – I go skiing quite often and I have some stories that my friends have probably heard a few times… it seems that the stories I tell most often were either the really bad days – “I got way out of bounds and had to hitch hike back to the mountain”… “I tore apart my left shoulder” etc. the other stories are the really good days … “I hiked up in the middle of the night and had a fresh powder run under a full moon”… “Vail pass was closed and I had the whole day with zero people from the Front Range and two feet of powder” etc.

–         It is normal human behavior to tell stories that are abnormalso the sex stories that you hear from your friends, family, or from the media are probably more often the awesomely good or the particularly bad stories – we therefore don’t get to hear about everything in-between – which can distort our perspectives about what sex is like most of the time.

Education is very limited considering the frequency of the Activity – How many hours did you spend reading and sitting in class learning about chemistry or history or calculus?… now how many hours in a month are you involved with any of those subjects? How many hours have you spent reading and sitting in a class concerning human sexuality? How many hours a month are you involved with that subject?

–         Where are we getting out knowledge about human sexuality from… is it a trusted source?

–         What is our reference point for deducing whether or not what we hear in the media is accurate? It is easy for many of us to point out a flaw when a subject is being presented that we know something about (ex. if you watch a movie and your profession you can generally say if the actor is doing something that is not normal), it is more difficult if you do not have a good reference point.

Porn –though we don’t talk about sexuality – many people are watching porn. Porn is not always bad in relation to human sexuality – there is a degree of benefit at it relates to technique (though much of the technique is adjusted for the camera), experimentation, and exploring different types of arousal etc – but if the only sexual education that is widespread in our country is coming from pornography then we are missing the emotional and spiritual components of the activity (the medium can also have a negative effect on how women are viewed and treated). 

Cultural constructs or rules – in many cultures it is inappropriate to talk openly about human sexuality or human anatomy in general. – This can make it hard and/or inappropriate to share important information.

If no one talks about something then it can be awkward to talk about – would you be comfortable saying words such as vulva, vagina, scrotum, or penis in a classroom filled with your peers? Even if you were comfortable, how many people in the classroom would feel a bit awkward?

There seems to be a belief that if you don’t talk about sex then our youth will not engage in the behavior – withholding sexual education and promoting abstinence practices (without sexual education) – can actually increase risky sexual behavior and unwanted pregnancy (if the youth do not understand human reproduction it makes sense that they will be less able to avoid it. This practice also creates an unwanted consequence being a teenager believing that –“it is not safe for me to talk with my parents or to adults about certain subjects so I will get my information from my friends”).

Liability issues and the few ruining it for the masses – unfortunately child abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual abuse are real problems in this country.  The unintended effects of protecting our communities from perpetrators is that we can be hyper suspicious of those who are not perpetrators. Because of this many people have no interest is offering education on human sexuality as doing so can pose a huge liability issue.

Institutionalized Sexism – Much of the early science on human sexuality was distorted in that the work was done solely by males – many of whom had a fairly overt bias. Justice and equality for females in something that we are still striving for in this country… it was not that long ago in our history that woman began to have a greater influence on the literature pertaining to human sexuality – as such there is still a whole lot that the scientific community does not know.

The nature or nurture (biology or learned) issue concerning human sexuality is indeed confusing – it is hard to arrive at what aspects of our sexuality are related to learned behavior and agreed upon social beliefs – and what aspects are more related to our biology.

 

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Relationship Sexually Stuck? – A look at your unwritten rules of engagement.

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Quick summary: a simple tweak to the unwritten rules surrounding physical intimacy can recharge the sex life in a relationship. Most people have set rules regarding sex in their relationships… “It has to be…” or “it is only appropriate when…” or “sex is supposed to be for…” A simple suggestion is to write down with your partner why, or for what reason, you usually have sex; then follow this exercise by writing a list of all the various reasons sex is a useful activity in general… use this information to generate different reasons for sex.

There are thousands of reasons why sexual activity can change in frequency and procedure over the years… children, work, libido, time etc. Many people express secondary positive outcomes to the experience of sex (reduced stress, increased relationships satisfaction, more hopeful etc), which encouraged me to write a blog concerning how you might improve your sexual relations.

First of all we usually get in our own way by unconsciously following ‘rules’ concerning sex that we might not even agree with. Rules come from many different places; you might have picked them up from your family, you might have heard a rule expressed in pop culture, or you might have misinterpreted something that your partner said to you etc… either way, I suggest that you might want to look at your rules and see if any of them are not so useful to you (though they might have been very useful in your past).

For example –

“I am too tired to have sex” – unwritten rule – ‘don’t have sex when you are tired’

“I am not in the mood for sex” – unwritten rule – ‘don’t initiate sexual relations including foreplay before you are ready to have sex’.

“I don’t feel very sexy or romantic” – unwritten rule – ‘sex is supposed to be for romance so do not have sex until the ‘romance’ check list is completed’.

“I have a lot going on at work.” – Unwritten rule – ‘life must be less complicated for sex to take place.”

‘My partner did not do the favor that I asked of her’ – Unwritten rule – ‘sex is something that is earned from meeting an expectation.’

Now it is your turn – finish the following sentences (you can use them more than once)

I only have sex if…

I never have sex if…

Sex is supposed to be for…

I don’t have sex because…

Now try and offer to yourself a reason why this rule might not always be true… you can do this using ration or you can simply look for times in your life when your rule was not true – note -critique your rules and not you partner’s rules. For example if your rule is ‘I don’t have sex when I am stressed” you might reply to yourself -” the times that I have had sex when I was stressed were always good once we started and I always feel better after”. 

We tend to be very well aware of the reason why not to have sex, but we are not always as aware of the reasons to have sex.

Before reading the list I have provided below try jotting down all the reasons why you would ever have sex with your partner.

Below is a selection of Reasons to have sex that I have heard or read about along my therapeutic journey –

1.) Physical release/orgasm

2.) Reproduction

3.) Emotional intimacy

4.) Romance

5.) Exercise

6.) Reproductive health

7.) To encourage a healthy libido (some studies suggest ‘use it or lose it’ is true)

8.) For play/ humor/ to have fun

9.) To help one partner sleep

10.) For stress of anxiety reduction

11.) Fantasy, role-playing, or experimenting

12.) To feel comforted in times of sadness

13.) To express an emotion

14.) To celebrate something

15.) To feel close to someone (we all have different ways by which we feel ‘loved’ by another).

16.) To be visually stimulated

17.) To connect spiritually

18.) For an activity when you are bored

19.) For passion

20.) For pleasure

21.) Conflict Resolution

You can have as many reasons as you would like to have sex – you don’t need to pick just one.

There is a subtle difference between ‘rules’ and ‘expectations’ – I will cover expectations in a future blog as this is also an important theme.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.