The world is overflowing with sex advice.
A small part of it is actually helpful. It focuses primarily on helping people relax, accept themselves, and communicate.
The rest of the sex advice out there frequently addresses the wrong problems. Typically, attempting to reduce people’s sexual symptoms without addressing their actual problems is foolish—lucrative, but still foolish.
In many cases, today’s sex advice takes distressing experiences—say, lack of erection while drinking, or lack of orgasm while feeling frightened or angry—and agrees that these are problems to be solved, rather than expressions of reasonable functioning under anti-sexual conditions.
Most people seem to prefer sex advice that doesn’t challenge their world view—say, the idea that male and female sexuality are dramatically different; the idea that everyone should feel desire for someone they love; that desire should feel the same whether a person is 25, 50, or 75; and that if you don’t like how your body behaves during sex, that must be a mechanical intervention which can tame it.
In over 30 years as a sex therapist, I’ve learned that most sexually dissatisfied people would rather focus on almost ANY solution rather than an approach involving relaxing, accepting themselves, and communicating. It’s like I’ve told my own physician: “Doc, I’ll do anything to lose weight, other than change the way I eat and the amount I exercise.”
A lot of my clinical work involves helping people discover which problems they really have, which are expressing themselves in sexual symptoms. Then we fix those problems. But if we don’t agree on what the real problems are, we can’t agree on how to fix them.
So here are some solutions to sex problems that you probably DON’T need:
Erection drugs like Viagra can be helpful for people with medical problems like diabetes. And a small daily dose of Cialis is now often prescribed after prostatectomy to help support the reintegration of nerves.
But Viagra is not an aphrodisiac, and it won’t help you get or stay hard if you’re drunk or with someone you dislike. Your body isn’t designed to get an erection under such conditions.
I especially discourage young adults from using the drug unless they have a medical issue, like certain medication side effects. Instead, most young men will benefit from figuring out how to create the circumstances under which they get erect easily. Understandably, once guys start using Viagra it’s hard to get them to stop if they haven’t had a history of “natural” erections.
Tantra is a centuries-old tradition that purports to harness sexual energy rather than allowing the spontaneous expression so common among the undisciplined masses.
Tantra’s program has rules for exactly how to manage various sexual interactions. This is absolutely the last thing most people need—as they struggle with their anxieties that they’re not doing sex right, leading to sexual misery.
Tantra can be a nice addition to a sexual repertoire that’s already based on a relaxed celebration of bodies and eroticism. But people like that aren’t looking to fix sexual problems. Tantra is something people can enjoy, but it isn’t a solution for people who are struggling.
As a desired recreational experience, this was unheard of just 10 years ago. Women who wet the bed during sex were ashamed, and even tried to prevent the orgasms that were so messy. Unfortunately, most women still feel that way.
A small number of women have now proclaimed squirting—propelling fluid out of the vagina during orgasm—one of life’s great pleasures. And indeed, some women who learn how to relax deeply while getting sexually excited, and who can explore and enjoy stimulation in various places deep in their vagina (more often by fingers or toys than a penis), do report entirely different orgasmic sensations, often accompanied by some literal flooding.
Do you or your partner need to do this? No. If you have trouble climaxing, or sex is painful, or lovemaking is boring, should you do this? No. There are much easier aspects of orgasm women can learn. More importantly, difficulties around orgasm often involve self-consciousness, actual criticism, unrealistic expectations, and having sex in unwanted ways (pace, emotions, etc.). Consciously trying to squirt won’t solve any of those.
Shaving/waxing pubic hair
If you want to do this, go ahead. If you think you SHOULD do it, don’t. If you think you should do it because someone else thinks you should do it, consider whether or not you’re in a healthy relationship.
If both partners think a shaved/waxed pubic area is sexy or more convenient, and is worth the hassle, go right ahead. But if your partner is unenthusiastic about going down on you and blames the hair, talk it over. For more access to your genitalia, either of you can easily use your fingers to move the hair aside.
And if your partner tells you that you’re ugly down there, consider getting a new partner.
Testosterone shots or gel
Testosterone treatment does not improve erections (or much else) in men with normal testosterone levels. In fact, it typically doesn’t help men with low testosterone to have better erections or more desire either.
Men (and their physicians) tend to like testosterone as an intervention because it’s tangible, and doesn’t require any changes in lifestyle (such as increasing non-sexual intimacy). But extra testosterone doesn’t cure anything, it doesn’t boost the body’s organic manufacture of it, and withdrawing from testosterone can be quite unpleasant.
The pseudo-testosterone boosters advertised on late-night TV are pretty worthless.
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So if these common interventions mostly aren’t helpful for sexual problems, what is?
For more on how to create any of these, see my 2012 book, Sexual Intelligence.