This month I am writing about women and sexuality. It is a big and important topic and I will cover one part of it with each blog. I have seen many women come into my office with or without their partner concerned about their lack of interest regarding sex. The first thing I want to say about this is that the most recent Diagnostic Manual for those of us in the mental health field has combined female arousal and desire/interest together because for many women you cannot separate the arousal process from having sexual desire. In other words, for many women, having desire is a circular process where they are responding to the partner and the environment and getting aroused can precede desire as opposed to first having desire and then going to arousal (Men generally have a more linear process such as that).
Depending on culture, family role models and the religion you were brought up in, you may have learned some ideas about sex that deprived you of what I call a healthy sexual selfishness. Many women have learned that sex is about pleasing the man especially when in a committed relationship. I have heard phrases almost always from women that sound something like this: “I have sex with him so that he does not complain.” Now that does not sound like a whole lot of fun! The mindset is a chore/obligation/problem avoidance mindset. What I like to see in all people is a mindset that includes mutual good feelings. What is missing from that very common “obligation” mindset is that sexual pleasure is for the female just as much as the male. With a little education in my office (or virtually) I have seen some women say ask themselves for the first time in their lives- what do I want that would make me feel good sexually. They often share how weird that seems to ask themselves that question (at least at first).
I have had male partners learn that by being patient and less pushy and allowing for the female partner’s sexuality to emerge via her own questions and explorations about her body, he gets a better sex life with her. There is no difference in many of the gay couples I have worked with as well; often one is more comfortable with his or her sexuality than the other and needs to slow down and be patient as the other person learns how to be more healthily selfish in the sexual arena.
Here are 7 things to consider as you explore your own sexual preferences and desires:
1) Your desires are probably different in many ways from your partner.
2) It is not only ok but also necessary for your partner to adapt to your needs.
3) It is important for you to continue giving and being tuned in to your partner’s sexual needs but you need to make it a choice and not an obligation. Healthy sexual relationship is about both people considering each other’s different sexual needs and preferences.
4) Dare to live outside your comfort zone, which may break some prohibiting rules you learned in your family of origin, culture religion, etc.
5) Find a good sex therapist (such as myself) to help you breakthrough your fears and resistance on the path to more sexual pleasure and satisfaction.
6) Remember that your interest in sex will increase when you and your partner set up conditions for increased arousal.
7) Communication and openness is key. You need to develop a safe interpersonal space for sexual self-expression.