What does a sex therapist even do?
I get some very funny reactions when I am at dinner parties and people find out what my job is. So many wonder what I actually do in my sessions, followed up quickly by;
“What kind of people do you see?”
“What kinds of things do they want to talk about?”
The truth is it really varies. A lot. Unlike online programs and articles (which I create a lot of) that offer you an introduction to sex and relationships (which certainly have their value getting you up to speed on new ideas), tailored consultations offer unique and individualized approaches to sex and relationship problems that meet you right where you are at.
No two people are alike. Sounds trivial but it really is true. What you enjoyed, were able to do or even interested in at 18 is not what you experience now, nor is what you will experience in 20 years. For this reason exploring your sexuality is a process. It shifts and it changes over time. In this sense, sexual energy is more like water than fixed like stone. It fluctuates according to the environment it’s in. It heats up, it cools down. Sometimes it freezes and sometimes it dries up, but never completely – even if it feels like that.
And like water, it gets in everywhere. Wherever there’s an opening (no pun intended) there’s an opportunity for water to get in. And given that we are around 75% water, we’re never without it too long.
Just like the moon on oceans, the influence on your sexual energy is you. All of you. Your relationships, your lovers, your upbringing, your history, your experiences, your beliefs, your values, your identity and most of all your sex education.
What’s sex-ed got to do with it?
Sex ed is for everyone, especially for those whose sex education was lacking in complexity, variety and essentially, truth (which let’s face it is most of us). Culturally speaking, heterosexuals are not accustomed to questioning sex and sexuality because it is assumed that they will all have penis-in-vagina sex and they will like it, in much the same way that it is assumed that all gay men have anal sex and like it and that all lesbians enjoy oral sex. But the truth is what we do in bed and how we identify are not the same thing. For example, straight men can enjoy receiving penetration and gay men can find themselves attracted to hetero porn and conservatives can find themselves wanting to explore rough sex and bondage. Then, just when you thought it was settled, that can all change at any moment.
All this can be a source of inquiry for many people. I meet a lot of queer women who want to know more about their desires. A lot of straight women who wonder why they don’t enjoy intercourse and a lot of gay, bi and straight men, who have trouble understanding why their erections are unreliable or why blow jobs feel boring. Others want to know what their fantasies mean, some are questioning gender and gender roles and a lot of people want to talk about porn and how they feel about what they like and don’t like to watch. Many want to know what to be aware of in an open relationship and a lot want to keep it just between them and their one beloved while others again want to know how to reconcile their sexual interests and their religious beliefs. You can see why a one size fits all approach just does not work.
The trouble is that for a lot of people sex is not nearly as fulfilling as it could be because most of us simply do not have the tools to explore and communicate it . If you didn’t learn it at school and you haven’t experimented much or you have experimented but have come up against a road block, this is exactly where I can help.
People will defer to doctors, psychologists and social workers as a first port-of-call for such knowledge but the fact is, if these professionals haven’t studied and explored sex and sexuality at length and in-depth, or take a sex-positive approach, they could be operating on the same limited ideas the rest of society is. This is often why I hear stories from folk who have been to their well-intentioned health professionals only to be told;
“Oh it’s OK, you’ll just get used to it” or
“It’s just a phase, it will pass” or the classic
“well you shouldn’t be thinking or doing that”
without providing the opportunity to explore it further.
Let me say that I have heard many tales over the years and it’s highly unlikely that your tale will freak me out. What you do need to know is that this processes needn’t be heavy nor difficult and unlike traditional therapy, it’s usually not a long process either. No stuffy analysis and assumptions of how you ‘should’ be. In fact people describe private sessions as liberating, relieving and most of all, affirming.
They often wonder why it took them so long to come.