What comes to mind when you hear “sex therapist?” Can you imagine doing therapy with a central focus on sex and sexuality? Shoot, most of us have a hard time even saying the word “sex” without whispering, much less talking about it in detail to a perfect stranger. Why is that? Well, one reason is because of how our shame culture works when it comes to sex and sexuality; but, another reason has to with the nature of the sexual relationship.
Our sexuality is a very intimate part of our existence; and, with intimacy comes vulnerability. I would argue that the sexual part of a committed relationship is the apex of intimacy and vulnerability in that relationship. So, if sex is the most intimate part of our relationships, then it is likely the part of our relationship that potentially could be the most painful. That level of vulnerability makes even talking about it a very difficult task. Couple that with shame culture……WHEW…… can we change the topic now?
The reality is that there is a need for sex therapists in our world and sex therapy in your relationship. Just like you might bring in a financial advisor to help you with your money, or a drug and alcohol counselor to assist you in your recovery, or a dietitian to help you with your poor nutritional habits, sex therapists are available to help you discover and/or develop your own individual and couple sexuality so that you can experience the pleasurable rewards that this ultimate form of intimacy can afford you.
In case you are still wondering if sex therapy is right for you, I have put together three simple, but important reasons you should consider finding a sex therapist. Here they are:
1. Sex is Fun, But Complicated
Sex is one of those things that we are simultaneously over and under exposed to. We receive a hundred different messages about sex each day. Starting from the time we are children, we are exposed to sex in music, advertisements, movies, and television. Oddly enough, while witnessing sexual content is a part of our daily lives, we are also embarrassingly uninformed about healthy sexuality.
In Oklahoma, there is no state mandated sex education. Often, the sex education we are exposed to is shame based and lacking in information. I mean, how many of us experienced Mean Girls-type sex ed?
“Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die! Don’t have sex in the missionary position. Don’t have sex standing up; just don’t do it, okay, promise? Okay, now everybody take some rubbers.” – Coach Carr (portrayed by Dwayne Hill in movie, Mean Girls)
These conflicting messages can leave us feeling like we are “supposed” to know how to be super sexy and also feeling like asking for information on sex is a big “no-no.” Then what do we do? Am I supposed to be a sexy freak in the sheets or a lady in the streets? How on earth do I do both? Should I be mad that my partner watches porn, or is that “normal”? What if I want sex once a day and I have a partner who is only interested in having sex once a month—how do we find a sex life balance that is satisfying for us both? What if I can’t manage to reach orgasm, even if I am masturbating? What if I have difficulty maintaining an erection? What if I really want to try BSDM but am unsure how to bring that up to my partner? Are my desires “freaky”? What does that say about me? Lions, vulvas, and bears—oh my!
Take a deep breathe. Assisting with these exact questions is the reason that sex therapists exist. If you’ve ever asked one of them, seeing a sex therapist may be a great option for you!
2. Breakthrough the Shame
“Sex is dirty. Sex is bad. Save it for someone you love.” ~Unhelpful Advice Giver
How many of us were raised with the thought that sex is “bad”—that sex is what “dirty” people do? Even if we are taught “sex is a great wonderful thing—in the confines of marriage”, we can be left feeling like our sexuality is a naughty, sinful thing when done “too soon”.
I have had so many people talk to me about shame-based sex education they have received that damaged their ability to have a happy, healthy sex life. An example of this shame based education you may be familiar with is the “tape example.” In this example, young girls are given a piece of tape. These girls are then told to take this tape and stick it on another person’s arm and then another, until it becomes dirty and loses its ability to “stick”. This lesson is supposed to illustrate that, just like tape becomes damaged after coming into contact with multiple people, so do we—as if we lose our worth as people when engaging in sex.
Having grown up being taught things like this—it can be hard to flip the switch in our minds from “sex is bad” to “it is okay for me to be a sexual being.” Often times, this shame associated with sex then harms our relationships—and harms our own mental and physical health.
It may be that the shame we feel around sex is not around sex in general—but a particular behavior or orientation. Maybe we’ve been taught that sex is fine—if it is missionary. Or we’ve been taught having same-sex attraction is shameful. Or that having more than one partner is inappropriate.
Talking with a sex therapist can help us break through that shame and open the possibility of having happy, healthy, fulfilling sex lives.
An Important Note: Sex therapists are not in the business of changing or undermining your value system. A quality sex therapist will understand the importance of your value system; thus, s/he will help you explore your individual and relational sexuality within the framework of your current value system. We are not here to change your morals, just support you in finding a happy balance within them.
3. Strengthen Your Knowledge and Understanding of Your Own Sexuality
Twenty-seven states currently mandate abstinence-only models be taught in schools, which means missing out on education about STIs and how to have healthy relationships. Only 12 states require that information provided during sex education be medically accurate—there are examples of students being taught you can get pregnant from a hot tub (you can’t, by the way—no matter what Glee tried to tell you). Only 8 states that require sex education be unbiased—meaning sex education can openly say that being gay is bad (Guttmacher Institute, 2016).
As stated above, Oklahoma (and so many other states) does not have any mandated sex education at all. There is a big potential that students coming out of Oklahoma schools will only have received education from TV and porn—not the two best places to find healthy sex.
What does this mean for us? It means we do not have a lot of information about our bodies, sexuality, or how to be sexual people. We simply haven’t been given the education.
The good news is, sex therapists receive an abundance of education and clinical training on sex and sexuality. They likely don’t have all the answers, but they are trained to help you find your specific and unique formula for healthy sexuality in your life and relationships.
It can be intimidating to reach out to a stranger to talk about something we have actively been taught not to talk about. Even if we are not experiencing shame around our sexuality, it can still be incredibly scary to become vulnerable with another person in the pursuit of health and happiness. Sex therapists understand that. They will work to have comfortable conversations and meet you where you are. They will provide support, validation, and care as you figure things out together. Most importantly, they help you get the sex you want; and getting the sex you want is a big deal.
In conclusion, if you feel like your life is lacking in the sexual arena, maybe it is time to seek out a sexpert to help you navigate through this part of your life, which can often be very messy. Are you in now? Excellent. Here are some resources for finding the right fit for you.
Licensed Professional Counselor Candidate
National Certified Counselor
Licensed Marital & Family Therapist
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist