‘sexual desire’

Sex, Secrets, & Shame

As an everyday therapist, shame isn’t some abstract idea—it’s quite real to me. It’s why people keep secrets. It’s why they do exactly the opposite of what they want to—to prove that they don’t want it. It’s a big reason people behave self-destructively—unable to talk about their impulses, their feelings, or their curiosity, they act them out, despite the consequences. (Note: When the behavior involves sex, this may be mistaken as “addiction.” Nonsense.) There is no part of being human about which Americans feel more shame than sex. Predictably, that leads to sexual secrets, sexual violence, sexual acting out, and…

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Sexually, Is Pleasure What Motivates You?

If you ask most people what they want from sex, they’ll say some combination of pleasure and closeness. And yet people’s decisions around sex are clearly about other things. The way men and women select partners; choose to initiate or decline sex; relate to their preferences or fantasies; obsess on how they look, sound, or smell; and remain present or check out during sex—all of these decisions make it clear that for many people, their sexual agendas go way beyond pleasure or closeness. In fact, pleasure and closeness may be quite far from what people are really going after in…

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Should Prison Inmates Have the Right to Masturbate?

I was interviewed about this on Public Radio yesterday. Since it’s a subject I hadn’t given a lot of thought, I prepared by reading up on it just a bit. And I was shocked. It’s actually against the law to touch yourself sexually—in private—if you’re in jail. Sounds barbaric, doesn’t it? OK, you’re behind bars, your body is no longer your own. But if you’re not allowed to masturbate, neither is your soul. Worse, if there’s any disagreement about whether you’ve done it, you automatically lose the argument. There are many cases in which guards either misinterpret prisoner activity and…

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