Sex Therapy: A Look into Female Sexuality

After a plethora of failed attempts (and millions of dollars later) at making a female Viagra, one can only wonder what it is that such medication is addressing in men that it isn’t in females. Where erection-enhancing drugs assist in matching a male’s physiological response to their psychological arousal, for females, the medication would need to be the opposite.  A woman can be physically aroused, even have an orgasm, but not have an interest (desire) in sex. 

Being that frequency of sexual intercourse and arousal has little to do with sexual desire in females, let us further define what exactly is sexual arousal and desire: 

  • Sexual desire (also coined ‘sex drive’ or ‘libido’), is controlled by the brain and is the innate force that makes us think about sex and act sexually.

  • Sexual arousal (also coined being 'turned on), is referring to physical response such as vaginal lubrication, increased blow flow to the vagina and rapid heart rate.

In the past women’s sexuality was misunderstood and unexplored until the women’s liberation encouraged a curious stance and growing awareness in the ways in which women’s sexuality differed from men’s. Still, there still are many unanswered questions to the multifaceted complexities of female arousal.

It is still neurologically unclear how desire works or what triggers it (as this varies per individual). What is easier to examine is the reason behind desire's loss or absence. As described by Esther Perel in her informative book “Mating in Captivity”, the very things that boost sexual desire, such as risk, excitement, and newness, are contradictory to what we gain in committed long term relationships, such as safety, stability, and comfort. This confirms why desire is more likely to diminish in long-term relationships, however, it has been found that for women the loss is more severe.

A sense of mystery and thrill of the unknown that is often experienced at the beginning of relationships can get lost in domestic life. With this in mind, although there may not be an exact solution, consider how a little distance can go a long way in terms of promoting desire. Spending all your time with someone is great and all but does not leave much room for lust. Sex gets easily put on the back-burner because, well, ‘you’re both tired and it’s no biggie to do it tomorrow, next week, or next month’-Get the point?

Communication is sexy and will help you and your partner better meet your sexual needs. What does desire look like to you? Is there something you want from your partner or for yourself that you are shying away discussing due to fears/anxiety regarding your partner (or societies) response? Well, you don’t know what you don’t know and until you ask, you won't know! 

The infamous sex educator Betty Dodson discusses how negative consequences, such as high levels of anxiety, result in low levels of sexual desire. She writes, “When we are anxious, and concerned about our well being, sexual arousal is quiet. Anxiety turns libido off. The interesting idea here is that from the brain's perspective, individual survival is primary, and sexual survival secondary.” This is a prime example of how mental health and wellness are correlated with sexual health. 

Working with a sex therapist will provide the support and encouragement to develop the tools necessary to make changes in your life, to reframe sexual dysfunction, and to improve experienced desire. A sex therapist and relationship counselor will help you to reframe the way you look at sex and desire by disputing any irrational beliefs (“I should always feel desire when I am with my partner and if I do not then I must be in the wrong relationship or something must be wrong with me”) that are hindering you from having the sex life and sexual connections you want.

MyTherapist New York provides relationship counseling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Are you ready for insight and change?

How to Help a Loved One Who Might Need Therapy

Suggesting that someone may be struggling and needs professional help can be tricky business. Using the wrong wording, or tone means the conversation can potentially turn ugly. Mental health is just as important as physical health, however it is frequently less prioritized and often overlooked. Although it may be difficult, this can be an important and often life-changing conversation to have. Here’s some things to remember before diving in.

1. Don’t attack. The easiest way to communicate that you care about someone, without immediately causing them to feel the need to defend themselves, is avoid “you” statements. Stick to “I” statements, and reflect back how you feel and what you have been observing - for example, “I feel worried and scared when I see behavior that seems isolative and secretive”. Remember to label facts as facts, feelings as feelings, and opinions as opinions.
2. Choose a good time and place. It wouldn’t be the best idea to start this conversation while out in a crowded bar, or at a family function, or Monday morning before a busy workweek.  Plan ahead for this conversation - try to pick a time and place where you both are relaxed and as stress-free as possible. Although it may be tempting to bring other friends or family members as reinforcements, this may cause your loved one to feel “ganged up on”, and they may become angry or defensive due to that.
3. Be a role model. If your loved one is highly resistant to seeking help, do some research for them on the process. Maybe even consider seeing a therapist yourself. Once he or she realizes that it isn’t something to be ashamed of, they may come around and be more open to the idea. Many people cite financial difficulties as a roadblock to seeking help - MyTherapist offers a sliding scale fee structure for this reason!
4. Try to stay future oriented. Rather than rehashing the past, it may be helpful to focus on what will change and how life will be better - for both of you - once these issues are dealt with. Doing some research on the benefits of therapy can be helpful in this situation. Explain what the process is like, and what will change, and it may be easier to get your loved one on board.

Dana is a therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Are you ready for insight and change?

 

Difficulties Dating in the Digital Age

We are living in a digital age where accessibility is a norm and privacy is limited. The Internet has significantly affected how we communicate and connect with others so it is only fair to consider the impact this has had on relationships – and risk of infidelity. With the delete button at our fingertips, it is quite easy to (or one may presume) get away with cheating. So, how do you help your relationship remain a faithful one when opportunities are endless?

Firstly, consider whether there is a mutually definitive understanding of what cheating is in your relationship. What is acceptable to one partner may not be to the other. Without communicating these expectations and boundaries you are increasing the likeliness of finding yourself and the relationship in a disappointing, hurtful place on more than one occasion. It is possible that, for example, one person in the relationship deems flirtation as innocent fun, while the other believes it is crossing the line. The important point to remember is that neither are wrong, rather, what worked in one relationship will not necessarily work in all, and that is OK. It comes down to being able to effectively communicate your needs (without blaming or shaming), express empathy and validation, and being open to compromise.

An option to explore when you and your partner are having difficulty agreeing on terms of fidelity is that even without the internet factor, consensual non-monogamy and non-traditional relationships are a thing (yes, there are open relationships beyond being the side piece) – and although they may not be for everyone, it might be worth considering whether your relationship’s wellbeing is solely based on it’s sexual exclusivity and where such a concept originated. If your relationship is comprised of other parts you both find meaningful, maybe reconsider how not restricting sexual boundaries could encourage openness, honesty, and support.

If non-monogamy is not your thing but the temptation of endless dating apps is still playing on you or your partner's mind that does not signify you are in the wrong relationship. Familiarity and domesticity decreases the sexy in relationships. Instead of going on a guilt-trip for your wandering eye, try something effective such as evaluating the cost-benefit ratios of acting on these desires. A few moments of satisfaction may be more costly than you anticipated in the moment, but because we can’t alter what is already done, applying this decision making model when temptation is heightened would be a useful tool. 

Cognitive behavioral therapies, including evidence-based REBT, offer an effective means of exploring infidelity, understanding the origins of jealously and working towards a relationship resolution of sorts. A relationship and sex therapist can assist you in discussing boundaries, roles and rules that work for your unique relationship’s needs.

Lauren is a Therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Are you ready for insight and change?