NORMALISING SEXWhen I’m asked what I do for a living and I say I’m a sex therapist, most of the responses I get are quite funny. It’s usually a look of disbelief, a nervous laugh, or an embarrassed giggle – usually people don’t know how to respond. It’s quite astonishing that so many of us find it difficult to talk about sex; it’s a sensitive, awkward topic that may raise feelings of embarrassment, shame or inadequacy.
This probably shouldn’t be a surprise, given all the negative messages most of us received about sex when we were young. Unfortunately a lack of proper sex education means many of us haven’t even received relatively basic information. In our society sex is just not an acceptable topic for conversation; not too many people will talk openly about their sex lives at a party or the dinner table.
The clients I see, couples and individuals, usually take a long time before they make an appointment. “I have never done this before,” they say nervously. Some couples suffer for years before they seek help and by then it is often too late. Many clients tell me they think they are the only ones who have difficulties. “All of my friends have great sex lives,” they say.
When I see couples who struggle in their relationship or haven’t had sex for a while, they tell me they don’t know how it happened. When I ask how much sex education they’ve had, the answer is always the same: not much. And have they had any advice on how to have a relationship? Nothing at all.
So we can’t really blame ourselves for not being ‘good at sex’. We are led to believe that having sex is easy and natural, but it’s not. We are taught from a young age how to perform most basic human tasks and, when older, we learn how to study and get a job. But when it comes to knowing how to have sex or a good relationship, we are just thrown in at the deep end. I’m not surprised that many relationships end in separation or divorce.
So what can a sex therapist do to help couples and individuals? The answer is simple. The goal is to help you make your relationships and sex lives as enjoyable and fulfilling as possible. I believe the best way to do that is by normalising sex and providing accurate psycho-sexual education; sex should be a pleasurable experience.
Talking about sex and intimacy may initially feel awkward, but sex therapists are trained to put you at ease and are skilled at identifying and exploring concerns. Through sex therapy you can learn to express your concerns clearly, and be taught how to understand your partner’s and your own sexual needs better.
Sexual confidence is difficult to achieve with so many unrealistic expectations of what normal sexual behaviour should be and is complicated by the lack of discussion around sexual problems. That’s why it is so important to have the right information. Talking to a sex therapist could save your relationship.