Revitalizing and Maintaining Sexual Desire

The following is from an article that I, regrettably, can’t cite.  I apparently misplaced the pages referencing the author.  However, it’s very interesting……..

 

  1. The keys to sexual desire are positive anticipation and feeling you deserve sexual satisfaction in your intimate relationship.
  2. Each person is responsible for his/her desire with the couple functioning as an intimate sexual team to nurture and enhance desire. Revitalizing sexual desire is a couple task.  Guilt, blame, and pressure subvert the change process.
  3. Inhibited desire and conflicts over desire discrepancies is the most common sexual dysfunction, effecting one in three couples. Desire problems drain intimacy and good feelings from your relationship.
  4. One in five married couples has a non-sexual marriage (being sexual less than ten times a year). One in three non-married couples who have been together two years or longer have a non-sexual relationship.
  5. The initial romantic love/passionate sex relationship phase lasts less than two years and often only six months. Desire in an ongoing relationship is maintained by developing a comfortable, functional couple sex style.
  6. The essence of sexuality is giving and receiving pleasure-oriented touching. The prescription to revitalize and maintain sexual desire is intimacy, pleasuring, and eroticism.
  7. Touching occurs both inside and outside the bedroom. Touching is valued for itself and does not always lead to intercourse.
  8. Couples who maintain a vital sexual relationship can use the metaphor of touching consisting of “five gears” (dimensions). First gear is clothes on, affectionate touch, including hugging, kissing, holding hands.  Second gear is sensual touch, which can be clothed, semi-clothed, or nude (non-genital body massage, cuddling on the couch, holding and caressing, touching going to sleep or on awakening).  Third gear is playful touch which intermixes genital and non-genital touch, clothed or unclothed, romantic or erotic dancing, touching in the bath or shower, on the couch or in bed, whole body massage, playing strip poker or Twister.  Fourth gear is erotic touch (manual, oral, rubbing or vibrator stimulation) to high arousal and orgasm for one or both partners.  Fifth gear integrates pleasurable and erotic touch that flows into intercourse.  Intercourse is a natural continuation of the pleasuring/eroticism process.  Intercourse is not a pass-fail sex test.
  9. Both the man and woman value affectionate, sensual, playful, erotic, and intercourse experiences.
  10. Both the woman and man are comfortable initiating touching and intercourse. Both feel free to say “no” and suggest an alternative way to connect and share pleasure.
  11. A key strategy is to develop “her,” “his,” and “our” bridges to sexual desire. This involves ways of thinking, talking, anticipating, and feeling that invite being sexual.
  12. Sexuality has a number of positive functions for your relationship – a shared pleasure, a means to reinforce and deepen intimacy, and a tension reducer to deal with the stresses of life and the relationship.
  13. The average frequency of sexual intercourse is from four times a week to once every two weeks. For couples in their twenties, the average is two-three times a week, and for couples in their fifties is once-twice a week.
  14. Personal turn-ons (special celebrations or memories, feelings caring and close, erotic fantasies, anniversaries or birthdays, sex with the goal of pregnancy, initiating a favorite erotic scenario, being playful or spontaneous, sexuality to celebrate a career success or sooth a personal disappointment) facilitate sexual anticipation and desire.
  15. External turn-ons (R or X-rated videos, music, candles, sex toys, visual feedback from mirrors, being sexual outside the bedroom, a weekend away without the kids) facilitate anticipation and desire.
  16. Non-demand pleasuring can be a way to reinforce attachment, a means to share pleasure, or a bridge to sexual desire.
  17. Intimate coercion is not acceptable. Sexuality is neither a reward nor a punishment. Sexuality is voluntary and pleasure-oriented.
  18. Realistic expectations are crucial for maintaining a satisfying sexual relationship. It is self-defeating to demand equal desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction each time. Realistically, thirty-five to forty-five percent of experiences are very good (mutual and synchronous) for both people.  Twenty percent are very good for one (usually the man) and fine for the other.  Fifteen to twenty percent are okay for one and the other finds it acceptable.  Be aware that five to fifteen percent of sexual experiences are dissatisfying or dysfunctional.  Couples who accept occasional mediocre or dysfunctional experiences without guilt or blaming and try again when they are open and responsive have a vital, resilient sexual relationship.  Satisfied couples use the guideline of Good Enough Sex (GES) to promote positive, realistic sexual expectations.
  19. Contrary to the myth that “horniness” occurs after not being sexual for weeks, desire is facilitated by a regular rhythm of sexual experiences. When sex is less than twice a month, you become self-conscious and are in danger of falling into a cycle of anticipatory anxiety, tense and unsatisfying intercourse, and avoidance.
  20. Healthy sexuality plays a positive, integral role in your relationship with the main function to energize your bond and reinforce feelings of desire and desirability. Paradoxically, conflictual or non-existent sex plays a more powerful negative role than the positive of good sex.

Sexuality/Lifestyle Issues

This is one of my favorite topics; usually men but not always.

Typically, I see a lot of men struggling with chronic patterns of viewing pornography, exhibitionism (exposing oneself in public) and voyeurism (“peeping”/ spying on unsuspecting persons in various quasi-sexual activities).

Other issues I have worked with include:

Couples struggling with sexuality compatibility, i.e., premature ejaculation; present interference enjoying intimacy due to past sexual abuse; lack of interest due to constant fighting, not setting aside time/energy due to work or children’s activities, a past (unresolved) affair; excessive alcohol/drug use;  and decrease in performance due to aging, medications or medical conditions.

Emergence of homosexuality/transgender identity or cross-dressing issues.

These persons (and their families) struggle with extreme shame, guilt, fear of exposure and their unknown future lives.  They desperately want/need someone to talk to about such struggles but fear judgment and this keeps them isolated.  Further, they need a safe place to fully explore their feelings/actions (i.e., how they developed, what in the person’s life is maintaining them, etc.), referrals to good information about such conditions and assistance in making changes in their life and in their interactions with their family.

More so than in almost any other mental health situation, the spouse and children often need (at least as much) assistance as the person seeking help.  “Am I not good enough (sexually)?”, “Why does dad do this stuff….How will I tell my friends at school?”; these are typical questions I assist family members with.

I have worked with men struggling with pedophilia (engaging in sexual activities with children and viewing child pornography) but typically these persons have been arrested and are in legal trouble. I typically refer them to certified sex offender treatment providers (The courts recognize treatment services for sex offenders from only certified sex offender treatment professionals.).

Change IS possible, with these problems!

Rethinking Your Lousy Sex Life

The following are highlights from an article in Men’s Health Magazine (May 2016) on the frequency of sex within a relationship and what this frequency could mean.

Stated simply, a low frequency of sex in a relationship, while previously thought to be a universal “bad” sign of the health of the relationship, may not necessarily be a bad sign.

The article explains a number of why and a number of situations that cause the frequency of sex in a relationship to drop.  So…if this is happening to you, take heart.  You are not alone.  You may still need assistance in increasing your intimacy but there is comfort in numbers, you are not alone.

Take a look…….

 

“How often are you supposed to have sex in a healthy marriage?  I immediately say you’re thinking about sex wrong – there’s no magic number for any given couple.” Brian Willoughby, Ph.D.

Fine, but what if this not-so-magic number is slouching perilously close to zero?  This can’t be healthy, right?  Wrong – it can, say the researchers and the therapists who listen to stories of low-sex marriages.  It just happens, though few couples will admit it except in therapy sessions, says sex therapist Stephanie Buehler, Psy.D.

Few are confessing to researchers either.  Nonetheless, two major studies have made educated guesses: Somewhere around one in six American marriages are “sexless,” depending on how that term is defined.  One study found that 16 percent of married couples hadn’t had sex in the month prior to being contacted for the National Survey of Families and Households.  And another study by University of Chicago sociologist Edward Laumann, a leading researcher in his field, concluded that about 14 percent of married men and 15 percent of married women had had little or no sex within the previous year.

If you’re squirming with recognition, maybe you should relax.  It’s possible that sex droughts are hitting younger couples these days, but generally, if you’ve settled into a comfortable pattern, your therapist would nod understandingly.  It’s called married life.  Infrequent sex may be a vestige of our evolutionary past, when sexual shutdown naturally occurred in what is now early middle age.  Then there’s passion-sapping 21st century life: work, distractions, children, stress, medication, porn, and that murky cocktail of exhaustion and indifference.  All of this can conspire to make both of you roll over and fall asleep without even thinking about sex – except, foolishly, to compare yourself to everyone else, who you’re sure is having more than you………..

Laumann says, “Only 5 percent are having sex four or more times a week.”  Fully one-third of people 18-59 have sex less than once a month (or not at all because they lack a partner).  For another third, it’s about once a week, and for the rest maybe twice a week or a bit more.

Moreover, Laumann thinks rates of sexual inactivity have remained steady over recent decades.  Some problems have persisted since the invention of marriage: health disorders that make sex impossible, loss of desire, and relationship conflicts that douse smoldering embers.

All expected.  What may be new is that these troubles are starting sooner, among couples in their 20s and 30s, some therapists report.  Their frequency is dropping to a rate where we feel like they’re sexually inactive.  Desire has dropped too.  “I’m seeing it in young, attractive, energetic people in their 30s who should be f*#@!ing like bunnies,” says sex therapist Isadora Alman.  “they’ve got a roof over their head.  They don’t have any major problems in their lives; but they’re just not interested”…………..

…In a relationship, women and men say sex fosters emotional closeness and mutual affection, helping solidify their commitment.  Less lovey-dovey facts:  A woman may initiate sex to keep her husband satisfied (and deplete his sperm count), preventing him from impregnating rivals.  A man may subconsciously do something similar – overwhelming any rival’s semen with frequent copulation.  Both sexes report a host of other less-than-lofty motives for having sex – an affair to punish a partner, or for money, social status, or job promotion.

Given all this, sexual frequency isn’t necessarily a good barometer of relationship health, says UT Austin’s Daniel Conroy-Beam, Ph.D©.  “Human long-term mating is about much more than just sex, and our motives for having sex are not always good,” he says.  “Sometimes we have sex not because we want to but out of obligation, duty, or fear of losing our partner.  If the decline in sexual frequency within a marriage is driven by a decline in these more negative emotions, it’s possible this might even be a good thing for the state of the marriage.”

So what’s ailing American sex lives?  Let’s have a look.

Your Past

Walking around with our Pleistocene-epoch genes can be tough, especially on a college campus.  “The average college freshman sees more attractive females in a single day than our hominid ancestors saw in an entire lifetime,” says UT Austin psychology professor David Buss, Ph.D.

Combine this with social media and dating apps, and mate choice seems limitless.  Willoughby, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, says today’s 20-somethings are showing anxiety, “terrified about making a mistake.  There’s this pressure to pick the perfect person who will make them happy and fulfilled for the remainder of their lives.”

So sow your wild oats and get it out of your system, right?  Maybe not.  Willoughby’s research has found that the more pre-marriage partners people have, the lower the sexual quality, communication, and relationship stability is during marriage.  Possible reasons:  The more relationships you’ve had, the easier it is to cut and run; skills like communication and compromise aren’t developed.

This can lead to the “comparison effect”.  If you were once a player, “it’s easy to compare in your mind all these previous experiences you’ve had,” he says.  This sense of missing out can erode sexual satisfaction with your long-term partner.

Plus, we’re living unimaginably longer than our ancestors did.  “Even 200 years ago,” Buehler says, “people married young, had kids young, and were dead by the time they hit 40.  Today, we’re outliving the natural life of our hormones.”

Modern men can procreate decades longer.  Or pretend they can.  Which brings us to the cast to thousands of imaginary partners in today’s pornography.  This may affect marital relations – a bit.  “We do have enough research now to suggest a weak negative relationship between viewing pornography and relational and marital sexual satisfaction,” Willoughby says.  “It’s not strong, but it’s there.”

The negative tug, so to speak:  It’s about expectations.  The porn star is “willing to do anything and everything the male partner wants her to, and taking great pleasure in doing so,” Willoughby says.  “After watching all these clips, he starts thinking, “Gosh, why is my wife not in the mood?  Why is she saying she’s too tired or she had a long day?”

Kids

“Kids are the most effective libido squashers I know of,” says Alman.  Wee ones have a tendency to hang on to their caregivers like monkeys, providing so much physical touch that the last thing you want is more groping from a partner.

Touch, notes Fisher, releases oxytocin, further bonding parent to child while temporarily suppressing dopamine and libido.  Breastfeeding and general exhaustion can further deplete desire.  In one study, Laumann surveyed women in their 20s about their desire for sex.  In those without children under six, 34 percent reported no interest; in those with kids, the number soared to more than 95 percent.

A man may find himself at the end of the queue for affection.  It’s easy for him to feel unappreciated and even a smidge resentful, says Alman.  Buehler says it’s not surprising “that couples with children under age 5 have the least sex and report more sexual dissatisfaction than any other group.”

The recent trend toward delaying pregnancy may further exacerbate all this, Buehler says – obviously, parents in their 30s and 40s are not as energetic as they once were.

Stress

If both partners work, finding time to be intimate can be hard.  In a time crunch, sex may not be a priority, a study in the Journal of Marriage and Family reports.  Different shifts, child care, aging parents:  These stressors can trigger a cascading hormonal response that can affect libido…….

Another huge bedroom buzzkill:  A whopping 11 percent of Americans take antidepressant medications.  Alas, research shows that these drugs can cause and worsen many forms of sexual dysfunction, from fading libido to the inability to climax to “emotional blunting.”  Though these medications can smooth out the emotional lows, they also seem to cap the highs, putting the brakes on sexual excitement, passion, and maybe even love……………………

Comparisons

If you’re thinking about leaving this article on your wife’s nightstand, hold off.  Take a moment:  Is anything truly broken?  If both of you are okay with your sexual frequency, be it nonstop, middling, low, or none, then from  Alman’s point of view there really is no problem.  “If you’re happy and your partner is happy, those are the only votes that count,” she says……

“The reality is that more couples live happy lives, even with no sex between them, than most people would imagine,” adds Alman.

Even sexually active couples should resist the urge to compare.  When researchers at the University of Colorado asked more than 15,000 people about their sex lives, they did find a link between sexual frequency and happiness.  But that happiness was relative:  If people knew their peers were having more sex than they were, their happiness dipped……………

Mismatches

Discord often has less to do with the frequency than with a discrepancy between how often each partner wants it.  A partner who is feeling sex-deprived can wonder if a mate’s lack of interest is evidence that the love is gone.

Both partners should acknowledge that dry spells happen.  “It is completely normal for a couple’s sex life to have peaks and troughs,” says Buehler.  “The important thing is to discuss the troughs.  Do you both understand why sexual frequency has slid – the birth of a child, perhaps, or the innless of a parent?  If so, accept it and make a pledge to get back on track when the period of extra strain has passed.”

Clients roll their eyes at one of Buehler’s suggestions for kick-starting sex: scheduling it.  “They resist the hell out of doing this because they want to be ‘spontaneous.’  I say good luck with that.”………………

It’s better to plan to share pleasurable experiences with your partner without necessarily making intercourse the goal.  “Our desire to initiate sex itself diminishes more quickly than our capacity for pleasure,” Tamar Krishnamurti, Ph. D., of Carnegie Mellon University, explains.  “Focusing on creating pleasurable experiences may allow an increase in sexual intercourse frequency to happen more naturally.”

Alman adds: “Sex doesn’t always have to equal penis-in-vagina intercourse.  Cuddling, kissing, and rubbing against each other in ways that are pleasurable and can result in orgasm to either or both, or maybe no orgasm but certainly pleasure.  Aren’t these sex too?  In my book they are.”  And don’t discount the power of affectionate touch.  One study found that the more cuddling, kissing on the lips, and hugging couples engaged in, the more easily they were able to resolve their conflicts………..

 

 

Source:  Irwin Goldstein, M.D., Director of Sexual Medicine, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center, San Diego, Men’s Health Magazine, May 2016

 

 

The Complicated, Contradictory Messages Young Girls Are Getting About Sex

The attached link is to a broadcast of the Diane Rehm show, aired on September 5, 2016 during which Ms. Rehm interviews Peggy Orenstien, author of “Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape” and clinical psychologist, Peggy Joseph.  Orenstein interviewed over 70 girls and young women on everything from the pressures of social media to the impact of online pornography and what she found disturbed her.  Orenstein says that while girls have more opportunities today than ever, when it comes to sex they’re getting mixed messages.  Diane and her guests discuss the complicated and contradictory messages young girls are getting about sex.

 

It’s always been hard for parents to talk to their kids about sex. But author Peggy Orenstein says, particularly with daughters, it’s more important than ever. For her new book, “Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape,” Orenstein interviewed over 70 girls and young women—on everything from the pressures of social media to the impact of online pornography—and what she found disturbed her. Orenstein says that while girls have more opportunities today than ever, when it comes to sex, they’re getting mixed messages. Diane and her guests discuss the complicated and contradictory messages young girls are getting about sex.

Guests

  • Peggy Orenstein author
  • Nicole Joseph clinical psychologist in private practice

Copy the below link to your web browser.

Link:  https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2016-09-05/the-complicated-and-contradictory-messages-young-girls-are-getting-about-sex-rebroadcast

Losing a Loved One to Porn (and What You Can Do About It).

This is an article I’ve recently found on-line, authored by Dr.s Stefanie Carnes and Sue Johnson.  I think it is pretty good one. It puts porn use in perspective, defines porn addiction in understandable terms, described how porn use can effect sexual functioning and what you can do if you feel you are loosing your partner to porn. Take a look…

Losing a Loved One to Porn (and What You Can Do About It).

“It’s no secret that the internet is bursting at the seams with porn.  Sure, we also go online for information, interpersonal communication, dinner reservations, music, shopping and much more. But porn is without doubt a primary online activity.  In fact, search engine data neuroscientists Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam analyzed 400 million workwide seaches representiong more than two million Internet users and found that 13% of all searches were porn-related. So, yes, lots of folks are looking at pornography!

Given the above, it is perhaps unsurprising that the porn-related question we most often hear in our therapy practices relates to the amount of porn people use.  Much of the time this question is posed by wives worried about their husband’s online endeavors.  In short, these women want to know: How much porn is too much: And when does it cross the line from use to addiction?

This, of course, is a bit like asking how much alcohol makes a person alcoholic – there just isn’t a set answer.   In other works, addictions (to both substances and behaviors) are not about the amount of something; rather, they’re about obsession, loss of control, and the creation of life problems as the result of it’s use.  People qualify as addicted if:

  • occupied with a potentially addictive substance or behavior (thinking about it, pursuing it, etc.);
  • they’ve lost control over use (using even when they don’t want to, not being able to stop once they’ve started, etc.);
  • Their lives are falling apart as a result (relationship issues, trouble at work, financial problems, legal woes, depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem, social/emotional isolation, etc.).

These are the benchmarks therapists use to diagnose porn addiction-and every other kind of addiction.  So the amount of porn a person is looking at is not a defining factor.  Nonetheless, research does suggest that porn addicts-those individual who meet the criteria above-typically spend at least 11 hours per week searching for and looking at porn (with or without masturbation).  And it’s not uncommon for use to escalate well beyond that level-reaching 20, 30 or more hours per week.

Signs and Symptoms of Porn Addiction

There are numerous other signs and symptoms, beyond the conditions above, that often indicate compulsive porn use:

  • Escalation-increasing amounts of time that a person spends on porn, and/or an increased intensity of the material they view (moving from “vanilla” porn to hardcore, fetish or violent porn).
  • Withdrawal-becoming restless, irritable and discontent when porn is not available.
  • Dishonesty-lying and keeping secrets about porn use (amount of time, content they view, etc.),
  • Disconnection-loss of interest in family, friends, work, and previously enjoyable activities.
  • Sexual Dysfunction-loss of interest in real-world partner sex and/or problems with delayed ejaculation (DE), erectile dysfunction (ED) and/or anorgasmia (inability to reach orgasm).

Over time, many porn addicts will link their porn use to other forms of compulsive sexuality-sexting, webcam masturbation, anonymous and/or casual hookups, serial affairs, prostitution, sex clubs, strip clubs, voyeurism, exhibitionism, online sex games, etc. This is the equivalent of substance abusers escalating in their addiction, ingesting any mind-altering substance they get their hands on.  Still, many porn addicts are strictly porn addicts, just as many alcoholics are strictly alcoholics.

Porn-Induced Sexual Dysfunction

As you may have noticed, we list sexual dysfunction as a common sign/symptom of porn addiction-and with good reason. One relatively large-scale survey of sex addicts found that more than a quarter (26.7%) experienced ED, DE or anorgasmia.  Smaller studies suggest that sexual dysfunction is a common sex addiction side effect-17% of sex addicts reported problems in one study, 58% in another.

Unsurprisingly, the primary sexual dysfunction issue is ED-even among younger porn addicts in their teens and twenties.  Much of the time, these men report that they have no trouble achieving and maintaining an erection when looking at porn, but they struggle with real-world partners.  Compulsive porn use seems to create a psychological disconnection that manifests physically in some men as ED.  After, all, when a guy spends the vast majority of his sexual life engaging with endless amounts of constantly changing, hyper-stimulating online imagery, a single in-the-flesh partner can’t exactly compete-even if the porn addict truely loves that partner.

This, of course, is one of the true paradoxes of sexual addiction: Sex addicts, especially porn addict, often struggle to perform sexually with their real-life partners. And this is not because they’re not interested in great sex, or they don’t want to be with their partner.  It seems that their sexual response has become conditioned to function only in the context of stereotypical porn images.  So they struggle to get hard, stay hard, and reach orgasm with actual people. Sometimes they can only manage to perform fact-to-face when they replay in their minds the videos and images they’ve seen online.  Over time, they often come to desire pron sex more than partner sex.

This becomes a huge issue for the partners of porn addicts.  When a man turns to porn and then cannot perform sexually with his partner, this undermines not just his own sexual pleasure but also his partner’s .  More important, it undermines the very security of the bond between partners.  After all, sex is also a bonding behavior.  Worse, partners may take this on themselves, resulting in significant sexual self-image problems.

If you believe you are losing your partner to porn, what can you do about it?

1. Ask your partner if he thinks that the time he spends looking at porn is getting to be a problem or interfering with his ability to really be with you in bed. If you can manage to do this with curiosity and concern, it usually works better than accusing or blaming.  It may be that your partner can soothe your fears. For many, occasional porn use does not become, in any way, addictive and there may be other things going on, such as unresolved conflicts in your relationship, that reduce a partner’s sex drive or cause him to withdraw physically for a while.

2. Step aside from the shame and fear that arise when you feel less than desired by your loved one.  Try to keep in mind that someone can become caught in a less than functional habit for many reasons and in many ways.  Gerry helps his wife Anne by telling her, “Look, I started watching porn as an escape from bad feelings way before I met you.  It kind of stopped when I met you, but then we were getting into fights and going to porn just made me feel better-less stressed out.  This isn’t about you.  It’s just the way I’ve learned to cope.”

3. Seek help from a couples therapist who can help you and your partner talk about this calmly and cooperatively.  Partners’ perspectives often differ wildly.  John says, “You are overacting.  All I am doing is typing and watching people have sex.” Mary counters, “But you don’t have sex with me any more and your head is full of your onscreen girls.  It’s like you are having an affair.” The couple’s therapist can the porn-watching partner decide for himself if his habit is a problem, and also help the anxious partner talk about her fears and her perceptions of the porn use.  There are also educational resources that can help, such as the video, “Your Brain on Porn,” or the Wendy Maltz book, The Porn Trap. If it seems appropriate, the porn-watching partner can also seek out a sex addiction therapist for an evaluation.  They can also join a peer group, such as SA (Sexaholics Anonymnous) or SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) to get a perspective on how (un)healthy his or her relationship with porn is.

4. The therapist can help improve your communication and emotional connection.  The cycle of relationship distress-withdrawal from physical and emotional connection by one partner and anxious complaining and anger by the other-can then become contained. This distress can be either the result of, or the trigger for, a growing addiction to porn.  Tim tells Lucy, “After we had the twins, I just felt left out-like I didn’t matter to you.  And when I looked at porn, I felt male ans strong and calm.  I didn’t feels so bad that there was this big space between us.” Lucy responds, “Well, I need you Tim.  I want you to come back to me, not go to those girls on the screen. I want you to come to me for comfort and for sex.  I never meant to turn away from you.” If you and your partner are really caught in a demon dialogue of criticism/accusation and evasion/withdrawal, then you are both isolated and stressed and really need to change this dance, which simply maintains relationship distress and any porn problem.  It is easier for your partner to turn to the screen that is at the command of his fingertips than to deal with you, an enraged partner.

5. You can find a therapist for yourself.  Bonding science tells us that feeling shut out and rejected by the person we depend on registers in our brains in much the same way as physical pain.  Plus, that rejection is a danger cue that can send us into panic.  A therapist can help with such feelings.  If finding one is too hard, then finding other ways to de-stress and find comfort are crucial for you.

The best answer to an over-activated relationship with porn is a secure, engaged emotional and sexual relationship with a partner.  We are getting better and better at helping people find this (To read about how the new science of bonding can help, read my book, Hold me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.).

Finally, it is perhaps worth noting that we do not use the word “addiction” in this article to, in any way, dismiss or judge the many forms of eroticism or the diverse ways that people explore their sexual desires.  It is used to refer to a growing pragmatic, clinical reality and to further the discussion about how to deal with it.  For referrals to a certified sex or porn addiction therapist, visit www.sexhelp.com. For couples counseling information and refgerral, visit www.iceeft.com”

Dr. Stefanie Carnes / www.itap.com/about-us/dr-stefanie-carnes

D r.Sue Johnson / www.drsuejohnson.com

Does Watching Porn Affect Intimate Relationships? (Part One: Men)

Another article I found and thought was interesting.  It was written by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S.

 

There is a documented relationship between the amount of adult male porn use and spousal/partner interest. The more frequently he uses porn and/or the longer the periods of his viewing porn, can cause detachment from his partners, to the point where he is ‘dating’ porn and his need for a partner dwindles.

Increased and consistent porn use in heterosexual men will cause the following to occur:

  1. Reduced interest in sex and physical intimacy with long-term spouse/partner.
  2. Increased overall sexual objectification of strangers – checking them out more, seeing them visually more as body parts as individuals with lives/roles, etc.
  3. Increased overall view of all females as sexual objects, but not just physically (as above), but also in terms of a lower regard for women as people in general (i.e. he becomes less respectful, less considerate of feelings). A man who is viewing a great deal of porn will show a reduced empathic connection to women.All of the above will return to the man’s baseline after he significantly reduces or eliminates his porn use and this is true for males in general, not specifically sex or porn addicts.

Most healthy men, as they mature, do feel over time that porn is secondary to actual sex and while some will have times of increased use – perhaps when a partner is away, when under stress or when single, most adult men experience and use porn as a substitute for the real thing. They “get” and accept the two-dimensional aspect of the porn and use it as such. That being said, there is a small percentage of men (women as well), who can become addicted to the intensity and emotional arousal the porn provides – approximately 3-5% of the total male population. These men use porn as a means of emotional self-stability, comfort, anxiety reduction, etc. And for them – the relationship consequences are far more long-term in terms of reduction in partner intimacy (on all levels), lying, keeping the porn secret and often using it to progress to sex with those met online.

This leads to the age old question – “Does viewing porn and masturbating a few times a week cause men to not be able to climax with their girlfriends during “normal” sex?”

This is very specific to the individual male, his age and sexual relationship of the couple. Some men briefly look at porn 2-3 times weekly and masturbate without any specific negative affect on their relationship or couple intimacy. Consider the difference between the 27-year-old man in a 2-year relationship to a woman he adores and with whom he enjoys having a lot of sex vs. the 44-year-old man with 3 kids and a wife of 21 years.  The effect that the porn use has on each of these men and their relationship is going to differ because of age, life circumstance, relationship connection, etc.

More destructive to relationships than recreational porn use, is the keeping of secrets. Infidelity can be defined as the keeping of secrets in an intimate relationship. So, if a man looks at porn a few times a month and masturbates to it, doesn’t tell his spouse – is that a problem? Only likely to be so if she has strong moral/ethical or other principals about this, has previously asked him not to look at it, if they don’t have sex themselves, and she is understandably jealous of the porn and/or she is afraid that the kids will find it.  But if a man is looking at porn multiple times weekly or daily for extended periods of time and doesn’t tell his spouse – BIG PROBLEM! He is now keeping her out of a part of his life that is likely affecting both of them and if/when she finds out,  it will be worse and she will ultimately feel betrayed.

In general, men want to have that porn experience on their own, perhaps it substitutes in our ‘modern age’ as an affair or infidelity of the mind so to speak – but some bring the porn into their relationship sexuality to “spice it up” or to see if they can interest their partner in doing some sexual act that he has been seeing in the porn. Some female spouses enjoy watching the porn as well, so this is really about each partner and the couple together – hard to answer in generalities. Certainly, the increased access to all kinds of porn without having to go out to buy or rent it or even pay for it online, has increased the amount of porn that men and couples are viewing separately and together.

Part One serves as a segway to Part Two of this post, focusing on women and porn use. Stay tuned!

 

The Complicated Truth About Girls and Sex

Perhaps you’ve come to terms with high school girls’ having sex.  But if you knew what kind of sex they’re having, says author Peggy Orenstein, you’d be sitting your teen down for a big talk (even if he’s a boy).  by Rebecca Traister, MORE Magazine, April 2016

When it comes to sex, the kids are not all right.  Or at least not as all right as they should be in 2016, 50 years after the sexual revolution and at the height of a feminist revival among women under 30.

The journalist Peggy Orenstien knows this turf.  Her last book, Cinderella Ate MY Daughter, was an eye-opening look at the way a pink sheen of sexualized passivity is sold to young girls.  Now, in Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape, Orenstein reveals what’s happening to those tiara-topped tots – as well as their male counterparts – as they move past puberty.

The book is sure to be controversial, since Orenstein dives straight to the problem:  Teenage girls may be having more sex 9 or at least different kinds) than their mothers and grandmothers, but it seems few of them are having good sex.  In interviews with more than 70 girls ages 15-20 nationwide, she’s learned that for them sex has been neither fulfilling nor mutual and that neither they nor their partners recognize or prioritize female pleasure.  What she’s laid out is a nuanced read for anyone who remembers being a young woman and anyone who is raising the generation of girls (and boys) for whom we hope the future holds sexual satisfaction, not pain or disappointment.  Here, Orensteinm, 54, discusses the new ways we should be talking to our daughters and sons about sex – and what’s at stake if we don’t.

Some headlines say today’s kids are having less sex than earlier generations; others say more.  Which is it?

It depends on what kind of sex you’re talking about.  Girls are not having intercourse earlier; they’re having oral sex.  Or more precisely, they’re providing it.  By the end of ninth grade, nearly one in five children has engaged in oral sex.  By age 18, about two thirds have.  That [trend] is part of my push to redefine what we think of as sex and how we talked to girls and boys about it.  IF we keep focusing on intercourse as the line in the sand between experience and inexperience, we’re not acknowledging this huge area of sexual activity that kids are engaged in at earlier ages than ever before, often without reciprocity and with the risk of getting hurt.

So why has oral sex begun to dominate as the preferred sexual activity?

What we’re talking about are blow jobs, largely, because while most girls will say they have experienced giving oral sex, they don’t feel good about receiving it.  Many of them are grossed out by their own genitals and worried that guys are disgusted by the idea of going down on them.  At the end of the 20th century, there was a confluence of three key things:  abstinence-only education, which defined sex as intercourse; the Monica Lewinsky scandal, where the message was that they “didn’t have sex,” the implication being that oral sex was not really sex; and the rise of AIDS, which made it feel as if intercourse could kill you, so people turned to oral sex instead.  All together, this led kids to think that oral sex is no big deal.  During my research, girls would say blow jobs were a way of satisfying a boy without having to compromise themselves.  They’s say, “I feel like I’m in control.”  Like they were the ones doing it, as opposed to the ones being done to.

Why is the goal of satisfying boys still a central mission for girls?

I was disturbed that girls felt boys were entitled to be satisfied.  A lot of boys were not coercive about intercourse but could be coercive about oral sex.  The girls talked about the “shoulder push” – you’re kissing and the boy puts both hands on your shoulders and pushes you down.  But girls would say that when boys traveled down on them, they would take the boys’ shoulders and scoop up.

So what happened to girls’ impulse to prioritize sexual pleasure of their own?

There’s a phenomenon I call the psychological clitoridectomy – the idea that women’s sexual pleasure, anatomy and identity are not important, and if we don’t tell girls about them, they won’t find out about them.  Which is true!  But lack of entitlement to sexual pleasure doesn’t keep girls from being sexually active. [The psychological clitoridectomy] starts early:  For example, parents of young kids don’t tend to name their girls’ genitalia.  With boys they say, “Here are your toes, your pee-pee,” but they ignore the whole genital area with girls.  Then kids go into puberty-education classes, and you see all the boys’ external anatomy and hear about wet dreams.  And girls hear about periods, and you see the outline of the ovaries and the uterus, but they gray out the clitoris and labia.  So girls and boys don’t learn about those.  Then girls are supposed to go into intercourse with some sort of entitlement to sexual pleasure, but no one’s even named their sexual body parts.  So we collude in their sexual inequality.

But we’ve been doing this for a long time, right?  It’s not new that women’s sexual pleasure comes second to men’s.

People say to me all the time, Is this really any different from how it used to be?  But there are ways in which it is different.  There is the tremendous influence of Internet porn; one recent study said 60 percent of college students watch porn to figure out how sex works.  And that’s very, very, very bad.  But for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s not different from how it’s always been.  Then why isn’t it?  Why have we advanced in other areas, told girls to lean in, yet not made sex better for them?

Can you talk about the mash-up of young feminist “sex positive” empowerment and what you found about teenage girls’ real experience of sex?

Young women who identify as feminists and are highly educated are sold the idea that to be openly sexual is empowering.  And it can be.  It can be empowering in that you can get a lot of reward if you fit that image.  One girl said to me, “I never feel more liberated than when I’m wearing a bandage skirt and five-inch heels.”  But when she gained weight, she didn’t feel so liberated.  So the liberation was only if you fit the right body type, which is not liberation – it’s conformity.  If all the confidence comes off with your clothes, then what’s the point?

What is your advice?  How should parents be talking to their daughters?

This is not just about how we talk to girls.  If we want our children to grow up and have respectful, mutually satisfying sexual relationships, we need to speak to our boys, too.  And we have to start talking to boys and girls earlier.  You can start with a discussion about anatomy but also about affections and how you don’t hug somebody who doesn’t want to be hugged and how touching your clitoris is good, albeit something you do in private.  Keep the conversation going.  It can be integrated into everything else.  We have to get over our own sex education, or our own lack of education, and be aware that we live in an era saturated with pornography and that both boys and girls need to be told those images are harmful.  They need to be talked to about sexual mutuality; they need to know what an orgasm is.  These things are not going to make kids have sex earlier, but they might make them have sex better.

 

From an article in MORE Magazine, April 2016, by Rebecca Traister

That is someone’s daughter: Looking at what should be seen…”Men’s bars”

Recently, I had lunch with my office assistant at a local “men’s bar” (a bar/restaurant that features waitresses in skimpy outfits).  Monthly, I take my office assistant to lunch to show my appreciation for her hard work.  She suggested the restaurant and I agreed.

The food was good and the outfits were, in fact, skimpy.

As we ate lunch, I became increasingly uncomfortable…not just because I was with a woman around women who were barely clothed  but more importantly because I was seeing things I shouldn’t be seeing.  It took me a while to fully understand what this was about.  These young women were, as a function of their waitress outfits, exposing/displaying parts of their bodies that, in my opinion, should be only exposed to/seen by a lover or husband…not the public in general.  The principle is this….with my lover/spouse, I will expose the most intimate parts of myself….my body, my past experiences, my goals, my fears, etc. after I feel safe with them…safe from being ridiculed, maliciously exposed, etc.  Herein is the difference between being “seen” and being “looked at”.  With my lover, I feel safe that she will see my intimate parts without judging or using me…hence, she will “see” me; I will be “seen”.  When the general public is the audience, they don’t know me like my lover.  They don’t know my past life, my struggles, my fears, etc.  They don’t care about or know me…so they only “look”.  In the bar, I saw parts of these young women’s bodies that, in my opinion, should not have been exposed to me or seen by me given I didn’t know these women.  The body and the spirit of the person is sacred and these outfits violated this principle.

Another awareness I had…these women were someone’s daughters.  My office assistant knew one of the waitresses.  She babysat for her when she was a child.  I could not look at these women without thinking about my own daughters…and the thought, “Would I want a man look at my daughter the way I was looking at these young women?”  No, of course not!

These awareness’s are not new. Opponents of pornography have been making these points for years.  Another point that could be made is that these girls are putting themselves in situations in which they are being “looked” at.  They could have taken a job somewhere else.  True.  But, do we as a community wish to allow such a situation to be made available to our daughters….if enough people objected, the restaurant could be shut down. And if you patron this restaurant, you support and encourage our daughters to be in positions to be “looked at” versus “seen”. But you can’t control the actions of adults, whether they be the public in general or your daughter, once she is of legal age. True.

My point is, however, you can control what you “see” or “look at”.  Do you have the self-control/restraint to not look according to your values. Honestly, it was hard to not look at the waitresses when I were there.  Nature, in part, makes men this way.  We are visually-oriented and sexually-oriented to look at women (with respect to the gay among us). But there in lies the rub…we are physiologically oriented to look…we could also be intrinsically oriented (by our values) to not look.

More later…

“My sons are looking at porn…What do I do!”

A few…days ago, I received a rather frantic call from one of the people who see me.  She, the mother of two early adolescent boys said, “My two boys are looking at porn, what do I do?”

First, I had her take a deep breath.

She explained the situation.  She was in the habit of looking randomly at her son’s phones.  She discovered via the history, that her youngest, 11, has spent most to the day before exclusively on porn sites (She also indicated she had been noticing him spending more time in his room and taking very long showers!).  She then looked at her 13 year olds phone…or tired to.  He asked what she was doing.  “I want to look at your history.” He hesitated and looked panicked.  “What will I find on it?”, she asked.  “Porn.” She’d taken her younger son’s phone.  She took the older boy’s phone.

The older boy had begun crying after he indicated she would find porn on his phone.  The younger boy started to argue about her looking at his phone without asking permission.  When she told him what she found on it…he got quiet.

“What do I do about this!!!”

“What have you done so far?”  She indicated she had told them, in a controlled voice, that looking at porn was not ok, that they knew that, that she knew it was natural for them to want to look at it as was it natural for them to masturbate (“MOM!!!”).  “I am going to keep your phones for now and think about what I want to do about this.  Then we will talk.”

I congratulated her on that last move.  So often today, I find parents expecting themselves to know what to say in response to all the different things kids do.  That is impossible and puts pressure on the parent.  So, I like, “I’ll think about your consequences and get back to you!”.

She didn’t know what to do now.  She believes that chronic use of porn will warp/skew a young man’s view of women and intimacy and relationships…I agree. “But how do you stop them from looking at it.  How do I prevent them from developing a skewed view of women/intimacy and relationships.

A few suggestions:

“Boys, this is not the time for you to be looking at this stuff. There will be a time for this later but not now. I expect you to not look at this and will be monitoring what you look at when you are on the phone/computer in this house. I can control what you are exposed to in this house.  You are responsible for what you expose yourself to when you are away from this house and me. This is like your bike is in the garage and it catches on fire.”  The garage is not fully on fire yet and you think to yourself you can get in and get your bike but your dad and I and firemen have repeatedly told you to never go into a building that is on fire.  You have to decide if you resist the urge to save your bike or take a chance. Just like the fireman is serious when he tells you to stay out of the building, I’m telling you to stay away from porn. Increasingly you are getting to an age where you are away from me and beyond my direct control and you have to make these decisions on your own. I know these images satisfies a curiosity and physical urge but looking at this can mess up how you look at women and sex and I don’t want that to happen to you…so I expect you to stay away from this stuff.”

“Looking at this can mess up your view of women, sex and relationships.  It’s like thinking that all of playing basketball is making jump shots from watching LeBron James.  There is a lot of positioning, reading strategy, conditioning, etc. that makes up a championship basketball player…not just the ability to shoot from 20-30 feet out. Looking at porn can make you think the only thing that counts when it comes to women or relationships is how to have sex and it is not. It involves much more.”

“What you see in these videos or magazines is not the way real women look/act/think/interact with men.  These women’s bodies are fake, their reactions are fake. It looks real but it is not.”

“Consider this…these women in these videos/pictures are always “ready” for sex.  All you have to do is turn on the video or open the site (or page in the magazine).  Real women are not like this.  Real women are busy, tired, focused on school, homework, work, etc.  None of these women in the videos are like that. They are ALWAYS interested in sex and THAT IS NOT THE WAY REAL WOMEN ARE.  And if you approach women that way, real women will break up with you.  They, if you treat them that way, will feel used…used only for sex…which is what in fact you are doing when you access that material…you are using them to masturbate with.”

I can see these or any young man saying or thinking, “But the girls I sext with or make out with don’t seem to be offended by my sexual comments. They talk that way too!”  My response would be to ask him how he feels about himself after to talks to her in such ways.  I would point out that if he feels bad about his behavior, it suggests he has violated his values/principles…this is the body’s way of saying “You have just done something wrong!”.  Further, while such talk is very physically exciting, it may cognitively/emotionally make you feel very bad.  So, just because it feels good means you should do it…which is the basic lesson during most of adolescence.

“Further, opportunities to be intimate/sexual with your partner DO NOT happen the way they are depicted in these videos.  Seriously, would you have sex with a stranger.  No.  You know all about the risk of diseases.  But, in these videos, they don’t show that and because there is no risk of catching a disease while watching a video, that promotes the ideas that women are only there for sex, only interested in sex or that a real men must have sex with any woman whether he knows her or not, likes her or not, etc.”

“These videos/pictures don’t show any of the feelings/thoughts/consequences that occur before/during/after the act.  Normal/mature/health/typical people feel guilty/ashamed/confused/scared/etc.. when they have sex in public, with a stranger, with your boyfriend’s best friend, etc.”

“Your urges and curiosity are incredibly strong and will lead you to do things that you will later regret and see how they were wrong.  So, you need to be aware of that and watch/stop those urges before you follow them.  It is like being a the mall and seeing something you like/want but you don’t have the money for it.  You may have the urge to steal it but you also know this could get you in trouble…so you don’t take it.  You have developed the skill of self-restraint in the area of stealing.  Now, this situation is challenging you to develop self-restraint in the area of sexuality.”

I suggested she keep the phones for about 2 weeks and then give then back with stipulations…”I will look at them at any point, any further use of porn will result in further consequences (i.e., loss of the phone for 4 weeks, you will look internet service on your phone and household work consequences, etc.) and I will review your histories at suppertime”.

I also suggested she tell the boys examples of the struggles she has had resisting inappropriate behavior but that she developed self-restrain and she expects them to do the same.

 

More later…

 

 

 

Adolescent boys and porn…How do I stop him from looking?

I recently a request for my comments on this topic.  Thank you for the request.

The following are excerpts from a 9/28/07 article by John Russell Powell from a site call The Part-Time Geek. The article is entitled, Help! How do I Stop My Kid from Looking at Porn? I don’t know John Russell Powell or The Part-Time Geek but from reading the article, I endorse what he has to say on this topic.  The article is structured in a question/answer format and I have added my own comments to Mr. Powell’s original text.

Q: So, How do I stop my child from looking at this filth (on-line porn)?

A: Well, to be entirely honest, I don’t think you can….If they really want to access porn, I promise you, they will.

Q: So why don’t they work (referring to computer security programs)?

A: The devices used to restrict access to objectionable material are, in essence, just types of security.  And like all security, they always have flaws, holes and weak points. Now, whether or not these flaws are big enough for someone to get around depends on a number of factors, but the most important of those being the skill of the person trying to break them and their level of motivation. The fact is that your son at 15, probably has 10 times as much knowledge and skill with a PC than you ever will.  And as far as motivation, well, can you imagine anything more motivated than a hormone-driven 15 year-old in search of porn? I can’t ( This is not to suggest such security programs don’t have a role in decreasing the opportunity/availability of porn.  They do play a role but not the whole role.  They are a part of an overall approach.  The only sure-fire way to stop your male is to not have internet service in your home at all. Another idea, that is part of an approach to this problem, move the computer to a public area in the house.  Still another, put a password in the access steps to access the internet.  Again…these are parts of an approach; not a complete approach by themselves.).   In the age we live in, you will only be doing a great disservice to your child’s academic performance and social life, not to mention your own personal productivity by choosing this route. Also, consider the fact that the internet is available through other electronic devices other than your PC.  So, you would have to get rid of them also…and probably your and all your other family’s electronic devices if you go this route.  Consider for a moment this scene; your 13 year-old daughter can’t use her smart phone because you decided to disconnect all internet access due to her 15 year-old brother’s personal interests! As I say to people I see who are considering taking a step in life that has disaster written all over it…. “Let me know how that works out!” And what about his friends and using their phones/PC? My point is, even if you get rid of the internet in your home, they will just access it somewhere else instead.  You can make it more difficult but you can’t totally prevent them from accessing it.  HOWEVER, you can you influence how they view it once they view it.

Q: What can I do then?

A: The same thing parents have done for years….talk to them about it. Pornography is not something new.  The internet didn’t invent it.  Before, it was on TV; before that, it was nude photographs in magazines and pin-up calendars; and even before that, there were pornographic drawings.  Now, what the internet has done is made it enormously available and wide varieties of it enormously available; that is new!  What you can do is make sure your child has a positive view of sex.  Help them to understand what is normal and healthy and what is not.  Talk to them about it…… porn…the porn they are looking at.  They need to know that what they see on the internet is not real.  Explain to them that these people are paid “actors” at best or unwilling sex-slaves in many other cases.  What they may appear to be enjoying what they are doing on screen, the reality is that their lives off screen are probably much, much different.  Help them to understand that sex is a wonderful thing that is normally shared between two people, that it is just one part of the overall interactions between these two people; that it plays an important role in the relationship but is just that, just a part of the relationship.  Talk with him frankly about how powerful his sexual urges are and his want to understand about this new and emerging aspect of his life; that this part of him is so strong that it will cause him to violate his values or the values of his family.  The primary and most commonly reported response of most young men to looking at porn is a shameful excitement.  The excitement is his sexual urges emerging.  The shame is about his knowing at a deep level that he is looking at something that he should not be seeing. Said another way…he is violating his values or the values of his family. Talk with him about his want to look at such images. Explain that his want to look at such images reflects his emerging sexual curiosity and sexuality; explain how he could address such a want…through masturbation (depending on your personal/religious beliefs) and distraction/channeling of such energy to other, positive pursuits.  This can go a long way to decreasing the strength of the urge to look at the images (so he is and/or feels less out of control about such urges) and helps him feel less ashamed of his sexuality. It is possible for them to grow up with this stuff around and still end up as adults with a healthy view of sex.  It all depends on you though.  If you refuse to talk to your kids about it and try to hide it from them, they are only going to seek it out more and determine their views about what “normal” sex is on their own; a dangerous proposition for a teenager to say the least.

The sex conversation will probably be a bit embarrassing at first for you and him but once you get past that, you will find that he has real questions.  And don’t let it just stop with the one conversation.  This should be a regular topic of conversation and should never be considered taboo for the.  As they get older, they are just going to have more and more questions and I’m sure that you would rather that they get those answers from you and not just take as fact something they saw on a video they found on the internet.  Now, this doesn’t mean that your 15 year-old son will stop gong on-line and looking at things that you prefer he doesn’t loo at.  He is a teenager and has hormones that are in SUPER over-drive  A room full of wild dogs and a ruler-wielding nun probably couldn’t stop him! But, at least this way, he can find out from a relieable and trusted source, what is real and normal and what is not.  It can make a lifetime of difference.

More later…