Parenting, Anxiety and Differentiation of Self: What does Sex Have to Do With It?

 

Dr. Diana and her guest, Dr. Ashley Mader, reflected on the anxious times we are living in, where stress can either be an accelerator for sexual intimacy or a brake for it. The better differentiated each partner is, the better they can communicate their desires (or lack thereof). Differentiation involves learning to balance your individuality (separateness) with your emotional connection to someone else (togetherness). For some, there is a loss of self – especially in anxious times. “Me Time” is essential. You can’t feel sexy with someone else if you don’t feel sensual and relaxed alone. For one client, a way to hold onto herself was to go to a hotel alone for 24 hours to decompress and sooth her anxiety. This was a time for enlightened selfishness!

 

NOTE: Dr. Ashley Mader will discuss this topic at the upcoming conference PARENTING DURING ANXIOUS TIMES (www.TheBowenCenter.org) September 30,2022, 9:30-3:30 EDT.

 

Most women with low sexual desire want to want. Female sexuality is often contextual. Women can lose desire quickly when they don’t feel the right motivation. But because female desire is highly responsive to environment, it can also be ignited. As sex therapists, both Dr. Ashley and Dr. Diana hear couples say, “We love each other very much, but we have no sex. There is too much stress.” They feel like they’re living with a roommate and they start to desexualize each other.

 

Dr. Ashley says how important it is to create Sexy Time. Be sensuous with all your senses: seeing, hearing, feelings, and smelling keep us alive. They also feed and nourish romance and eroticism! Watch some sexy films, play sexy games, read erotica to each other. Schedule a Date Night, ending early enough to get home and have sex. Buy some pretty lingerie … Sometimes the hardest person to seduce is yourself.

 

What about parenting in these anxious times? It’s common for anxiety to be projected onto the child. A depressive marriage is grim for both adults and children. Children with a depressed parent are, on average, more likely to have behavioral and academic problems (even lower IQs!). To survive happily as couples, they need to place a higher priority on sex and erect boundaries to protect their intimacy.

NRE – New Relationship Energy. How To Keep It Going!

 

Therapist Dr. Ashley Mader – www.OurShine.org – sees clients who experiencing the euphoria of new relationship energy—NRE—as well as clients in the process of separation or divorce and wondering how they got there. Dr. Ashley and Dr. Diana have similar cases in their practices; so, a lively conversation ensued!

 

As with many things, the brain is involved, providing a biological reaction. In the early days of the relationship, the brain is pumping out dopamine, which plays a role in arousal and seeking out rewards. You’re focused on your partner and it builds the infatuation. Over time, oxytocin takes over, which promotes bonding and feelings of comfort. In the early days couples may feel like they’re on speed – later it may feel like they’re on an anti-depressant.

 

Michael Castleman, author and Psychology Today contributor, writes about dopamine, saying, “Novelty is a nutrient that nourishes relationships and enhances sex.” Couples that want to keep the NRE high need to trick the brain in producing more dopamine. Play out sexual fantasies – taking on new roles. Go to a hotel. It hits a lot of the stimuli checklist – new, different, a little danger/taboo if there’s a semi-private balcony. At its most basic, it’s away from home. There’s no pile of laundry that can highjack a partner’s mind. Good sex requires a person to be present; removing distractions gives that a chance.

 

Being fully present can be assisted by breathing. Dr. Ashley suggests putting your hands on the top of your head, fingers interlaced, eyes closed and breathing in and out slowly.

 

Other times a “thoughtful distance” is necessary: a time-out, a girls’ trip, maybe time to contemplate, Who am I?

 

Let there be spaces in your togetherness. This is accomplished with L.A.T. – Living Apart Together. Many couples who begin relationships later in life are keeping separate homes because they cherish private space and financial independence. This gives dopamine a chance to be in play because the couple can anticipate the emotional and physical intimacy! Building anticipation is its own aphrodisiac … which keeps the NRE freely flowing!

 

In therapy often couples discover hidden issues with control. This usually means that they need to feel more cared for and loved. Rather than getting involved in a power struggle, they can ask for what they need in a positive way. Partners who learn to say “yes” more often begin to see things from their partner’s point of view, as a result, are happier. Listening with curiosity is always a good idea!

 

NRE depends on having sex with your spouse! We want one who wants to have sex with us. The need to be desired is as important as the sex itself. Talk to your partner about sex and share how your needs may have changed over time. Be open and vulnerable when communicating – as well as kind and forgiving when misunderstandings occur.

 

Finally, consider this if you are contemplating a separation or divorce: “Remember, you had what it took to fall in love; it’s entirely possible you have what it takes to stay there!”

Funny, Irreverent, Intelligent Sex Educator and Author Of Guide To Getting It On

 

Dr. Diana welcomed Dr. Paul Joannides, the author of Guide to Getting It On, now in its 10th edition. This is what Dr. Diana wrote in her book Love in the Time of Corona, Chapter 8 – Learn More About Sex: “Guide to Getting It On is the first book I recommend to my clients. It’s possibly the best book ever written about sex. This comprehensive book is a fun read, filled with entertaining illustrations and detailed, hands-on information about all kinds of sexual practices … Rolling Stone Magazine called it “the only sex manual you’ll ever need!”

 

Dr. Paul has great blogs on his website www.GuideToGettingItOn.com and Psychology Today. He asks two questions in his blog Redefining Sex Education: “How do we deliver sex education to today’s teens and young adults on their turf and in ways they consume information? And, how do we make sex education effective for people whose main source of sex education is porn? It’s true, sex education today needs to help with the distortions of porn.”

 

A huge obstacle to any sex educator is that they are often not allowed to discuss sexual pleasure.  Dr. Paul laments that there is also no talk about women’s orgasms, and the importance of learning to tell a partner what feels good and what doesn’t. He warns that if we don’t make pleasure the cornerstone of sex education, nobody is going to listen.

 

Another blog entry is titled Access to Porn and Information About Sex Has Changed. Dr. Paul states that the average 8 to 10 year old has easy access to highly explicit images about sex. Misinformation leads to assumptions that this is how people really have sex (no kissing, no tenderness, no talking).

 

Dr. Paul spoke about giving a lecture on sex to 600 students at a major west coast university. Two of the students lingered afterwards, holding hands. The young woman said, “I can’t thank you enough for your talk. It’s going to make a big difference in my sex life.” And her male partner said, “Me too.” Women need to know that it can take up to 20 minutes or more of kissing, caressing, and fooling around with a partner before they are ready to have intercourse. In other words: foreplay! The young man assumed he had premature ejaculation and was glad to hear his lasting 8 to 10 minutes was above 1 to 2 minutes considered to be P.E.  Dr. Paul wonders how it is that we have done such a terrible job of providing competent sex education to young adults?

 

Please listen to hear Dr. Paul talking about his new project focusing on young men. How to reach them? Stay tuned because he promises to return in 3-4 months to discuss the outcomes.

Dr. Paul Joannides wrote a world-class sex manual. This is not surprising -- because Paul is a world-class human being!

 

 

Integrating Mind & Body and Past & Present for More Pleasurable Sex

 

Stella Resnick, PhD, has been a friend and mentor for thirty years. At a May 2, 1992 meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (informally known as “Quad S”), Dr. Stella spoke about Actualizing Sexual Potential, asking “How good can sex get?” New to the field, I was immediately enthralled by my colleague who focused on pleasure!  

 

In this episode, Dr. Stella and I covered a range of topics, highlighting some of her significant contributions to the understanding of the role of pleasure in healthy sexuality.

 

Attachment, Attunement and Sexuality

Attachment is how we bond; it is programmed in us from day one! The mother and infant are wired to connect; and this is foundational for his/her development. The baby automatically mimics the facial expressions of mother. If the child is wanted and born of a happy marriage, the mother smiles and looks into its eyes deeply. If, on the other hand, the baby looks like the dad … a man she dislikes … her eyes may narrow as she frowns. This is instant messaging – a body-to-body transference, and it can be intergenerational. If mother was traumatized, she likely has anxious or avoidant attachment.

 

As Dr. Stella said in her first book, The Pleasure Zone: Why We Resist Good Feelings & How to Let Go and Be Happy, “Intercourse is not the main event.” There is so much sensual pleasure to enjoy all over the body! Use all five senses; for example, really taste the kisses. Scent is the key when we smell our clean partner.

 

Sex and the Science of Mind-Reading – Empathy and the Sex Drive

Discussions of sex play, mutual regulation, dysregulation, understanding or misinterpreting the other’s signals … and sexual inter-neurobiology. We feel the other and want a “lubricated process.” Bodies are in tacit communication … If you’re in your head, you’re not in your body. Or, as Fritz Perls said, “Lose your mind and come to your senses.” Body attunement enhances empathy … discovering yourself in another’s presence.

 

The principle of Relaxed Excitement: the secret of great sex and success in everything is to be excited, stimulated and relaxed at the same time.

 

The ABCs of Romance: breathing together, eye contact, smiling, and kissing.

 

This is a fascinating show! Dr. Resnick has much experiential wisdom, backed by her Gestalt orientation and endowed by contemporary neurobiology. She invites all to experience a greater, more playful, more creative form of love!

 

Go to www.DrStellaResnick.com where you’ll find information about her three books The Pleasure ZoneThe Heart of Desire, and Body-to-Body Intimacy. In addition, her Embodiment Exercises help to get in touch with feelings and release tension or numbness in your body.

 

Finally, a quote from Dr. Stella’s 1988 SELF magazine “Sex without Sex”: “When pleasure is made a priority and sexual energy is channeled wisely and lovingly, you can know a new ease and joy in your intimate relationships.”  

Mark Twain Meets Don Juan

 

“Mark Twain meets Don Juan—a delectable fusion of brains and balls!” is an observation made about Howie Gordon’s book HINDSIGHT: True Love and Mischief in the Golden Age of Porn. It’s true that Howie Gordon – aka Richard Pacheco – is unafraid to experience the wilds, both inner and outer. He writes with huge humor that will keep you laughing throughout his fascinating journey!

 

On Love, Lust and Laughter, Dr. Diana interviewed Howie in 2013 and in 2015. The first time he was on a panel with Nina Hartley and Candida Royalle. In 2015, sadly, he and Nina joined Diana on air grieving the death of Candida.

 

His longtime friend Whoopi Goldberg noted in her Foreword that he wrote in a time of storytelling with an X Rating. And what a storyteller he is! Howie spoke about his peak experiences working in the Golden Age of Porn (1969–1984), as well as what lessons he learned.

 

Hot & Saucy Pizza Girls” was one of his first porn films. He recalled that Candida Royalle was young and wild (she was an actress before she started her own production company Femme Productions in 1984) and he was ten years older. Howie was learning about himself and his anxieties. Even though they’d had a “rehearsal” the day before the filming when he had no problem with his erection, that was not the case when they began the shoot. Many years later, he had a chance to redeem himself as he starred with Nina Hartley in Candida Royalle’s “Sensual Escape”. Even so, Howie still had a “power outage” – E.D. not noticed by most. Perhaps there was good editing!

 

Ten years later, twenty-five-year old Nina Hartley new to the porn business, asked for an “anal rehearsal” when she was cast in “Little Anal Annie.” Howie knew Nina Hartley was different – calling herself a pro-sex feminist in an era when angry, anti-porn feminists had largely highjacked the feminist movement. He called her a “mindful wild child!”

 

Howie told more porn movie stories including a poignant one involving “Talk Dirty to Me.” Please listen to the entire program. You will laugh and be enlightened! For example, Howie says “When sex is accepted and celebrated for the goody that it is and can be in this life, it takes on a much less obsessive place than when it is denied, vilified, or repressed.”

 

Howie is wise and humorous. He can write funny – something he realized when he studied at the Northwestern School of Journalism, a high school summer program in 1965. Read his book HINDSIGHT – www.hindsightbook.com. Also check out his newest book “Return to Squirrel Hill: A memoir – Growing up Howie” – www.returntosquirrelhill.com and for the audio version – www.howiegordon.bandcamp.com. He reads it in his own voice.

 

Howie admits the only reason he had a career in porn is that he can act. That made a difference because he experienced terror masturbating in front of a camera, he was not an exhibitionist, and had many bouts of E.D. performing through the years on film/video tape. As his friend (and mine) Candida said, “Richard Pacheco wasn’t your typical ‘porn stud’ and thank Goodness for that. He became a much beloved and sought out performer during the golden age of porn.”

 

Good Sex Education Can Prevent Having Bad Sex – PLUS: May is National Masturbation Month 

Who better to talk about masturbation than Dr. Carol Queen, Staff Sexologist at Good Vibrations, a company that created the Masturbation Hall of Fame. As a member, Dr. Carol explained that the Hall of Fame was founded in response to Dr. Joycelyn Elders being fired in 1994 for suggesting that masturbation be taught in the schools.

Dr. Carol and Dr. Diana know many ways to prevent bad sex.  They discuss surefire ways to not get what you want sexually. What follows are their top ways to have bad sex:

Compare yourself to others: Sexuality may be the most subjective aspect of human experience. If you want to do something useful for your sex life, focus on yourself and the person you’ve having sex with – and don’t turn away. We need self-knowledge on a sexual level. How do we learn about ourselves, explore ourselves? How can we gain more sexual confidence?

Ignore your body:  None of us have perfect bodies. It’s not always easy, but working with the body you’ve got is one crucial part of improving your sex life. Knowing your body and its responses leads to more pleasure! Tons of surveys show that guys are not complaining about their partner’s rear end. If he wants to sleep with you, he finds you attractive. Don’t talk him out of it! If there’s any way to free your energy from body anxiety – and put it into having fun with him –  you’ll enjoy many more good times ahead. Some people struggle to get fully into their bodies and remain stuck in their heads. Some have trouble relaxing enough to enjoy any kind of sex. Learning to massage and be massaged (Sensate Focus Exercises) might help your body put down its armor.

Stop paying attention: Sexuality is as much about awareness as it is about action. Our bodies and minds keep changing, developing over the years – and so does our sexuality. When you stop paying attention to your personal sexual feelings and experiences, you shut yourself off from aspects of your sexual self. The goal is to become less sexually ignorant as we age, not more.

 

Grow up, get serious: Sex is the closest thing adults have to the kind of play we engaged in when we were kids. (The native Inuit people of Alaska call sex “laughing time.”) If you make sex just one more thing that’s serious and routine, you lose much of the power and the magic of sex. Perhaps sex doesn’t need to have a beginning, middle and an end. Don’t start with penetration … laugh and play together!

 

Believe that ignorance is bliss: Learn something about sex that’s relevant to your own life from someone who is qualified to teach you!

 

Confuse sex entertainment with sex education: Good Vibrations offers classes and training that provide sex education. Porn can be a problem; for example, boys watching porn and expecting their experiences to mirror it. If you are feeling genuinely stuck and distressed about your sex life, be sure and turn to a qualified sex counselor or therapist.

 

Let fear be your guide:  Sex can be scary … in part because sex demands that we give up control and expose ourselves. Thus, many don’t talk about their desires, don’t tell their partners what they really want to do. If you’re in a safe relationship where there is trust, there is less to fear.

 

The show turned back to masturbation. What are some of the best-selling sex toys? Dr. Diana’s newest favorite toy is the Lelo Sona Cruise, a sonic “clit sucker.” Dr. Carol talked about the recent clit sucking revolution in toy technology. It’s a different kind of stimulation – perhaps closest to oral sex.

 

There is a wealth of products and educational material available at www.goodvibrations.com. In addition, check out Dr. Carol’s book The Sex & Pleasure Book. It a magnificent guide for great sex for everyone!

 

Comprehensive Sex Education Often Prevents Unwanted Pregnancies

 

Studies by the federal government and others show that young people’s sexual risk-taking is actually promoted by ignorance, not knowledge. Social liberals and conservatives appear to hold polar opposite views on sex education. Conservatives often present the idea that sex for teens is dangerous.

My guest, Dr. Carol Queen, is Staff Sexologist at Good Vibrations, a nationwide chain of sex toy stores. Since 1990 Dr. Carol has enjoyed a unique platform to focus on sex education and women’s pleasure. Dr. Carol has lived in San Francisco for 35 years, and remembers that her city lost twenty thousand residents due to AIDS in the 1980s and 90s. This led San Francisco to institute a comprehensive sex-education program in grades five, six, and seven. Even so, this program never mentioned sex without intercourse, such as hand jobs and oral sex. The belief was that the idea of teaching pleasure would be too much of a risk.

Parents need sex education, too. When they are more confident, they are better at sexually educating their kids. The Journal of Sex Research published a study demonstrating that the likelihood that adolescents will have intercourse decreases as the number of sexual topics they discuss with their parents increases. This study was repeated by entirely different researchers the following year, with the same results.

When sex education (through the schools and/or parents) is comprehensive, teens examine their sexual decisions far more carefully and wisely. Studies show that many with better information choose to postpone intercourse and to use contraception when they do begin to have intercourse.

Sex education that simply teaches “just say no” to sex is unrealistic and ineffective. A CDC study shows that only 12% of those who take virginity vows keep them – a failure rate of 88%. Research about teen pregnancies in all 50 states showed that abstinence-only sex education is ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy and may actually contribute to it.

Dr. Carol recommends this excellent book by Heather Corinna: S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens & Twenties. She also suggests “A Sexplanation” a movie by Alex Liu. “In his quest for a good sex education, health reporter Alex Liu meets with educators from Planned Parenthood to Porn-Hub to strip away shame from sexuality.” 

Dr. Diana and Dr. Carol also discussed the criminalizing of bodily autonomy because Roe v. Wade may likely be overturned. Anti-abortion laws have wide-ranging public health, economic, and social consequences. It’s been shown that women denied abortions experience more poverty, have more anxiety, and their existing children experience developmental consequences. Anti-abortion laws can also be deadly: research asserts that overturning Roe could lead to a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

Bodily autonomy is a human right. Abortion is essential health care. Period.

Cannabis for Couples

 

Jordan Tishler, MD, is a cannabinoid specialist physician based in Boston (although he sees patients from anywhere via telemedicine visits). He’s the perfect guest for today—April 19th—one day short of the annual cannabis celebration of “4/20”! Dr. Tishler graduated from both Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. Bryan Brewer, Dr. Diana’s husband, joined as the cohost.

 

Dr. Tishler was quoted in a recent New York Times article titled “Cannabis for Better Sex? Here’s What the Science Says.” Although the research has room for improvement, some studies indicate that using cannabis can help with sexual concerns such as low desire, inability to reach orgasm, erectile and ejaculatory dysfunctions, and others. Dr. Tishler recommends trying cannabis alone for the first few times and masturbating, in order “to understand what it does to the body and sensations.” Then introduce its use with a partner.

 

A key piece of his advice is to “start low and go slow.” Finding the right dosage is critical. Too little and you won’t feel much of the effects. Too much and you can become overwhelmed, which can eventually lead to the development of tolerance. (Don’t worry—you can’t die from an overdose of cannabis!)

 

To find the right dosage, Dr. Tishler advises patients to start with inhaling one puff from a cannabis flower vaporizer (not cannabis oil), which would typically deliver about 5mg of THC, the main psychoactive molecule in cannabis. He suggests that most people will benefit from a dosage ranging between 5mg and 20mg of THC. (Edibles and tinctures are too slow to take effect for sex, and smoking cannabis is not good for the lungs.) He also maintains that there is no particular “strain” of cannabis that works best for sex (or any other purpose).

 

There are many pleasures to be found by combining cannabis and sex. It can help with orgasms. The more intense orgasms you have, the more it strengthens the bond between the partners and motivates you to have even more sex!

 

Dr. Tishler is an articulate and tireless advocate for patients seeking to take advantage of the benefits of medical cannabis. His blog site has more than 200 articles exploring many aspects of this topic. In addition, he is the founder of the Association of Cannabinoid Specialists, an organization of professionals offering evidence- and experience-based education for patients, cannabis clinicians, referring clinicians, and lawmakers to help them understand cannabis medicine and make informed decisions. You can also view the site’s listing of cannabis clinicians to find a provider near you.

 

Dr. Diana, author of Love in the Time of Corona: Advice from a Sex Therapist for Couples in Quarantine, offers a free download of the bonus chapter entitled “Cannabis for Couples” at www.DearDrDiana.com.

 

 

Transgender Acceptance in Our Culture

 

How do cultural issues affect sexuality and sex education? Dr. Mark Schoen, founder of Sex Smart Films—the “Netflix of Sex Education”—has the answers. The website, with more than 650 films, is divided into sections on Research, Therapy, and Education. We focused on Education, which provides accurate information on a very wide range of sexual and gender issues. The 3-minute animated film “’What’s Gay?’ Asked Mae”, directed by Mark Schoen and based on the book of the same name by Brian McNaught, recently won the award for BEST ANIMATION at the 2022 LGBTQ+ Toronto Film Festival. (The answer to the question: It is a way to love.)

 

Cori, an M-to-F trans person, joined the conversation. Offering her articulate and poignant personal observations, she spoke of her transitioning journey. She shared her motivations, fears, and lessons of self-evolution. Cori had viewed Dr. Mark’s award-winning film “TRANS” and was brought to tears. For so many others the film truly resonated: there are more than 250 reviews (average 4.5 stars out of 5) on the Amazon page for “TRANS” (available on DVD and Prime Video). One reviewer observed, “One of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched. For anyone with a loved one or someone they care about who is transgender, this film will educate and inform you. It also happens to be very moving. Nothing is sugar-coated here, but I also did not walk away with a feeling of despondency.”

 

Yes, there is hope!  Especially if you have more information which can be empowering. One academic observed after viewing “TRANS”: “Who the fuck would choose this?”

 

There are, of course, roadblocks. The Florida legislators recently passed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It has been used as a vehicle to marginalize and attack LGTBQ people. And it sends a terrible message to our youth that there is something wrong with them. Now the bill is standing between children and their teachers and doctors.

 

Please tune in to hear two authentic, passionate guests – Dr. Mark and Cori! Mark Schoen asks, “What can we do to make it more acceptable?” The program is filled with ideas. An important one is that sexual orientation education should be taught early on. (The Scandinavian countries have sex ed for children five and up.) Then, we might enjoy more acceptance and less anxiety!

 

 

 

THE ONLINE DATING SCENE for THOSE OVER 50

 

Dr. Diana and Dr. Linda De Villers (www.DrLindaDeVillers.com), longtime friends and colleagues, brought different perspectives to the conversation. Dr. Linda is recently single and has just begun online dating. Dr. Diana was widowed in 2000 and was on and off dating sites until 2010 when she met her man, now her husband! As sex therapists, both docs have single clients wanting guidance around online dating.  With patience and persistence, you can find a wonderful partner – and enjoy the search in the meantime!

 

For setting your online expectations, it can help to run the numbers: MEET 9 PEOPLE. Our brains are best equipped to handle five to nine options – or there may be cognitive overload. Pick nine, meet in person, then take a break while you get to know at least one. GIVE IT THREE DATES, even if you don’t feel the chemistry. Attraction is important, but if someone meets your needs, you may find the attraction follows.

 

Writing your Profile. This is the place where potential dates get a sense of what kind of personality you have. Show your heart – people are looking for authenticity. What do you really want out of life? What’s truly important to you? But don’t give your life story. Focus on what you’re looking for in a partner, in a relationship, and what you enjoy doing. Give interesting examples of where you like to go and what you like to read. You want to give off an air of confidence and positive energy.

 

Protecting yourself both online and offline. Do your due diligence, perhaps with some online searches. Set up meetings during the day in a public place. Do try to smile, laugh, and be pleasant. You can talk about why you liked the person’s profile and note the similarities between the two profiles. Do mention something really interesting about yourself. Listen and ask questions about what the other person says.

 

Some older women fear he’ll want sex right away. The reality is that plenty of people don’t mind waiting, and someone who is right for you will respect your boundaries. You can say, “I’m attracted to you, but I want to slow this down” … “I don’t have sex with someone this soon, so for now why don’t we just kiss and cuddle.” Dr. Linda described how important TOUCH is in general; sadly, many older people have real skin-hunger.

 

Persevere! An estimated one-third of marrying couples in the U.S. met online!

 

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