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5 Things I Learned From a Sex Therapist

Last fall I had the opportunity to attend the Rocky Mountain Sex Summit, a conference for sex therapists.
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It was fascinating! One of the main speakers was Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are, a fantastic book about the science of sex.

She covered so much information and these are a few of my favorite take-aways from the conference, her book, and her blog:

1. There is No Such Thing as Sex Drive

Instead of a “sex drive,” think of it more as a dual control with a brake and an accelerator. Some people have sensitive brakes (easily uninterested in sex because of other wants/needs) and some have sensitive accelerators (easily reminded and interested in sex). Traditionally we’ve been taught that people need more stimulation of the accelerator, when in reality most need less stimulation of the brakes.

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So in order for the accelerator to go, the brakes have to be let off. This means letting go or taking care of other wants/needs that are ahead of your sexual accelerator. What does this look like for a busy Mom with a sensitive brake? Kids taken care of, laundry and dishes done and nothing else going on (a rare occurrence). Your level of arousal is the balance of the brakes and gas.

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2. KY is Not the Only Lube

Did you know that there are SO many more options than what you can grab at the drugstore? So many BETTER options? The sexual pleasure industry has not been well regulated and many lubes contain ingredients you may not want on your most private parts. This has inspired a host of new companies to spring up offering better more organic and safe options when it comes to lubricant. Many of these don’t ball up and get sticky, work well with latex or silicone toys and will not remind you of a pelvic exam. Coconu and Good Clean Love are two lubricant companies I highly recommend. There’s also just plain old coconut oil-its edible, slippery and gets the job done!

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3. Pleasure is the Definition of Sexual Pleasure, Not Desire

Culturally we tend to believe that desire should be or normally is spontaneous when in reality responsive desire is just as normal and healthy. Desire is a response to pleasure. There is both responsive and spontaneous desire. Spontaneous desire is well-established, interest is already there and the response is in anticipation of pleasure. Responsive desire is when the pleasure comes first and desire follows as a result.

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Recognizing this can change your sexual goals from thinking you need to desire to have sex to just being willing to have sex…and see what happens. Realizing that your style of desire is more responsive than spontaneous means putting yourself in a situation that would allow possible response.

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This is a perfect analogy from Dr Christine Hyde:

> Imagine that a good friend invites you to her party, and you accept the invitation because she’s your good friend. The closer you get to the night of the party, the more you’re like, “Ugh, there’s going to be traffic, I have to get a baby sitter…” and even the night of the party you’re thinking, “Ugh, I have to put on real clothes and wear make up, this is such a hassle!” But you go, because you said you would, and she’s your good friend.

> And then you get to the party… and you have a great time! That’s responsive desire.It’s normal.

MORE: 10 Things You Need To Teach Your Girls About Puberty

And from Emily:

> Pleasure is complicated because the thing you like doing might require you to navigate some hassles and frustrations. You have to create a context that works for you, you have to decide that spending time skin-to-skin with your partner is more important than the dishes or that work project or watching Game of Thrones or spending time with all the other people you love.

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MORE: 4 Steps To Having Open And Honest Talks About Sex With Your Kids

4. The Essential Skill is Self-Compassion

From Emily:

> Self-compassion is being kind to yourself without reference to how you’re doing compared to other people, but rather simply because you’re a person and deserve respect and kindness. It motives you to be gentle and forgiving with yourself when you fall short – without letting yourself off the hook – but it doesn’t rely on other people failing in order for you to feel like you’re doing okay.

Self compassion is essential to having a happy and healthy sex life. If you do not truly love and forgive yourself, ultimately your other relationships suffer, including your intimate ones. Selfcare is an important aspect of having a happy sex life! Practice living in the moment and believe in common humanity. Self-criticizing can be toxic-realize that you are already worth loving RIGHT NOW. We don’t need to beat up ourselves to be better.

5. Believe and Know Your Sexuality Can Change

Much of what we do and know about sex is learned behavior and can be un-learned or re-learned. This is where the assistant of a Sex Therapist can be helpful in pinpointing disrupt in your sex life from your upbringing, past relationships and our society. Often we believe that we just are the way we are when it comes to sex and that’s just not true! In a lab study rats were left in a pool of water to tread water. The first time this happened, they fought and fought to tread. The second time they gave up much sooner and so on, creating a learned helplessness. This can happen in our sex lives-if things aren’t working or haven’t worked well in a long time we give up. Don’t give up-try some of these tips and believe and know that things can change.

Having a better understanding of these concepts has opened up my mind to the all of the possibilities when it comes to having a happy and healthy sex life and I hope this gets your brain thinking as well! Be sure to check out Emily’s book and her blog-she’s on a mission to improve sex for everyone and that’s a cause I can support!

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