I’ve been a sex therapist for 39 years. That’s over 40,000 sessions with individuals and couples—from every conceivable background, with every imaginable problem.
And yet all those sessions, with all those people of every color, orientation, and identity, all come down to a pretty small group of issues. Those are what every sex therapist talks about, over and over, year after year.
If people would do the following things, the sex therapy business would dry up overnight. Do even one of these and your sexual satisfaction will almost certainly increase.
* Talk to your partner
Does your partner usually orgasm? How do you get someone to touch you just right? How do you know when your partner is in the mood? Do women like when you pull their hair? Do guys really like to go down on a woman? The answer to many, many questions is simply “talk to your partner.” And do it more than once.
* Accept your body the way it is
The next time you undress, your body will be the same as it was the last time you undressed. Whether you’re self-conscious about wrinkles, your weight, too much hair here or not enough there—it’s WAY easier to accept your body than to change it.
If you’re 50, you won’t wake up with a 25-year-old’s body next week—or ever again. If you’re waiting to lose 15 pounds before you have sex again completely naked, or with the lights on, you’re wasting precious time. Don’t disqualify yourself from sexual pleasure just because you wish your body were different. Most people who enjoy sex do so with bodies they wish were different—they just don’t let that stop them.
* Stop judging (and therefore fearing) your fantasies
Fantasy is a way to “experience” things without any real-world consequences. Thus, fantasy is a library of human sexual imagination. No one fantasizes about things they can easily do in real life; of COURSE you fantasize about things that are illegal, immoral, or ill-advised.
What do your fantasies say about you? Absolutely nothing.
* Ask your doctor
Concerned that your penis, breasts, balls, anus, vulva, or other body part isn’t normal? Go to a doctor, take off your clothes, and show them. If you don’t believe them, go to several doctors. When they all say the same thing, believe them.
Do remember that many common prescription drugs can affect us sexually. Ask your doc about this before you start taking a new medicine; alternately, call your pharmacy (disguising your voice if you wish!) and ask. They actually love answering questions.
* Don’t have sex when you don’t want it
I don’t just mean “resist coercion.” People have sex when they’re too tired, too grumpy, too drunk, too self-conscious, too gassy, too turned off, too anxious, too just not in the mood. Looking at someone and saying “no thanks, let’s just hang out” or “no thanks, I’d like to do something else (sleep or otherwise)” is MUCH better.
A lot of the sexual “dysfunction” that people think they have is actually their body working just fine—by refusing to cooperate when the circumstances aren’t right.
Note: you don’t need a good reason to say no, and you don’t need to negotiate. If someone gets whiny about it, be clear: “I’m sympathetic, but we need to stop talking about this NOW.”
* If you want intercourse but can’t have it, do other stuff
Obviously, not everyone wants penis-vagina intercourse. But if two people do, and then they can’t have it (undependable erection; dry, tight, or painful vagina; etc.), turning away from each other in frustration or resentment is foolish. Five minutes ago you were going to do this really personal thing—and now you abruptly disconnect, just because a body part won’t jump through hoops?
If two people want to have sex, and they can’t do the thing they planned to do, there are plenty of alternatives—with hands, mouths, toys. Too shy, too inexperienced, too unimaginative, too “religious” to investigate or enjoy these? Don’t blame your uncooperative genitalia for the lack of sex.
* Accept the desire differences you chose
If you want sex twice a week, and you coupled up with someone who wants sex once every few months, you can expect that a lot of negotiation will be necessary. More to the point, you can assume there will be many weeks when you want sex but won’t have it. And if you’re the one who wants sex once every few months, you can assume your partner will be frustrated and disappointed month after month, year after year.
This will be true no matter how much two people love each other.
An amazing number of people who pair up despite their contrasting desire levels are genuinely surprised with the predictable result of such a decision. “But we love each other” is supposed to explain the decision, and then fix the consequences. It doesn’t.
What should people do about such a situation? For starters, accept that neither partner is going to be 100% happy with whatever arrangement the couple creates. With those lowered expectations, people can start having a more realistic—and yes, loving—conversation.
* Acknowledge that how someone treats you affects your sexual interest
If someone is mean to you and an hour later wants to go out to dinner, or a show, or for a hike, of course you hesitate. And yet many people don’t think being treated poorly should affect them sexually.
While holding a grudge for days is unhealthy, some people complain that “I already forgot this morning’s quarrel, but you’re still too upset to have sex”—as if harsh words or accusations or nagging or lying should quickly melt away over and over.
When people tell me their desire is unstable, I ask about chronic conflict—and frequently find it. When people are disappointed about the lack of fuss on their birthday, and then lose their appetite for the sex they’d been planning (or promising) all week, it’s understandable. That situation, especially if it happens often, shouldn’t need a sex therapist to unravel.
But this is what we’re here for—to help people communicate about things so they can create the circumstances under which desire, pleasure, and connection flourish.
Like YouTube? See my video “quickies” at www.YouTube.com/c/DrMartyKlein1