Davis, Michele Wiener. The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2003.
Couples underestimate just how many of their paired-up peers have mismatched sexual appetites. In these partnerships, both the higher-sexed and lowed-sexed partner hurt. Our sexual desires are partly stable and partly influenced by physical and psychological fluctuations (hormone shifts after giving birth, stress) or new realities such as a chronic illness. Davis writes this book to help couples talk about their sexuality more frankly and more productively about their sexual relationship. Each partner, whether the higher or lower-sexed party, has a duty to lovingly and vulnerably state their desires and the same duty to tune into their partner’s wants, needs, and feelings. Davis stresses action plans that can help you and your sweetie both feel safe and more satisfied (in all senses) with the relationship. Sometimes, too, borrowing from Nike, Davis we says we have to “Just Do It” as desire can FOLLOW arousal and not precede it as many people (even the scientific community) have commonly thought . This easy-to-read book is full of examples of real couples illustrating frustrating mismatched scenarios and accompanying emotions as well as solutions (action-oriented behavior, active listening, etc).
Joannides, Paul. The Guide to Getting It On: America’s Coolest and Most Informative Book About Sex, 9th edition, Goofy Foot Press, 2017.
This book is a textbook-non-textbook on human sexuality! Seriously, this has been used as a textbook for human sexuality courses! It is currently on the ninth edition. Our sexuality is approached with delight, humor, and accessibility for all readers. The “Bed of Contents” has something for everyone, from the purely physical realms of anatomy, all types of non-intercourse (“horizontal jogging”) sex play, including oral sex and manual stimulation, to the psychological and relational, from sexual fantasies to male/female experiences of orgasm to period sex to discussing sex with your partner or in answering children’s questions. The book also addresses abortion, adoption, circumcision, pornography, and making sex work with a disability. There are lots of excellent cartoons that illustrate anatomy or explain concepts. Joannides has inserted lots of additional resources as well – a glossary of human sexuality terms and lingo (online in newer versions, but an older editions will retain a glossary in-house one), organizations, books, and websites for various topics. Resource lists from significantly dated editions may suggest now defunct material, so keep that in mind! This book is also heavily skewed to heterosexual, cisgender sexuality with little mentions of LGBTQ. That aside, this is an enlightening and engaging comprehensive look at human sexuality.
Kerner, Ian. Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man. (Originally titled as He Comes Next). William Morrow, 2008.
Did a man come or come really hard? Kerner delves into male anatomy, arousal, and orgasm to explain the difference. Male sexuality is often centralized into the penis and its hardness when in fact relying on erection to indicate arousal is as naïve as taking female lubrication as guaranteed sexual arousal. A more global route to male pleasure lies in (initially) avoiding the penis and facilitating relaxation and arousal all over the male body. Kerner first discusses the body and how men learn from a young age to be constantly protective of their genitals. This literally closes the pelvis into itself and locks out intensity of sexual pleasure. Kerner also discusses how hormones, long term relationships, and fantasy can affect male sexuality. Because the pelvis is protective of itself, men need to focus on the entire body to have “out-of-body” climaxes, and that’s where Kerner spends the rest of his time. While some of the early chapters in this section (like Sexual Health) seem to be better focused in Part 1 (The Male Body) or unnecessary for the purpose of the book (Kerner judges real fantasies), readers can still get mostly techniques from Part II. Passionistas are ladies who take concern for their and their male sexual partner’s pleasure and don’t just give orgasm away easily! Many men masturbate quickly with a routine often involving rhythmic stokes, but passionistas take time to arouse all over the body and avoid focused penile attention early on. Specific techniques (massaging, kissing, oral or manual stimulation) and orders of techniques are provided to provide maximum arousal and avoid the point of ejaculatory inevitability to heighten the intensity of eventual release. These techniques can be a great place to start, and it’s also important to discuss together what individually feels the best for the couple. Readers also need to keep in mind that this is written from a heteronormative perspective. Overall, this is an engaging read able to intensify a man’s sexual pleasure if the emotional climate of the relationship is secure enough for sexual play. An additional bibliography for further reading is provided.
Kerner, Ian. She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. William Morrow, 2009.
She Comes First is to female pleasure as The Elements of Style is to writing instruction: rules and principles, only the former is a guide to the language of cunnilingus instead of English. Most women are unable to orgasm during penile-vaginal intercourse due to anatomy. While certain intercourse positions can stimulate the clitoral head, oral sex provides the direct and constant pressure that builds sexual tension and has the potential to tap the entire clitoral network (the clitoral network has 18 parts! 18!), making it a true labor of love for the giver. Instead of being relegated to foreplay, Kerner advocates for cunnilingus as coreplay; that is, a significant and total sexual practice in its own right. Because oral sex can inspire anxiety and insecurity for women, givers should reassure women that oral sex is a gift that they want to give and have all the time in the world to give. The book is divided into three parts: laying out the why for becoming skilled at giving cunnilingus, female sexual anatomy, and taking techniques and principles into specific sexual play routines. The book mimics its own calling for building up sexual tension: short chapters, bursts of technique description before tapering into interludes before a next build-up of technical content designed to take women to the heights of multiple orgasms. Clear illustrations supplement the written anatomy descriptions and sexual techniques. Part sex manual, part remedial sex education, this book is sure to please in multiple respects.
Kerner, Ian. So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex: Laying Bare and Learning to Repair our Love Lives. Grand Central, 2021.
Kerner has given us a gender-inclusive, incredibly sex-positive masterpiece of sexuality inviting readers into the universal system of the sexual script that is common enough to be something everyone has in their relationship but opens up to incredibly different possibilities for each relationship. There is a wide sweep of sexual ground covered, and while not all the content is going relate to every reader, no content is superfluously out of place. Part instructional sex-manual, part workbook with end-of-chapter homework, part bibliography recommending further resources, part informational overview of many sexual subtopics, and part historical journey into the underpinnings of sex-negative and sexual shame came to be more active to learn to override rather than the reverse. Kerner is the Sherlock Holmes of sex as he sees clients: understanding how a couple’s sexual script evolves from beginning, middle, to end. The sexual script is a throwback concept from Kerner’s days as a college playwright, and it encompasses who initiated and why and how to the physical behaviors of the sexual encounter (and the order) to who had orgasms to the emotional terrains and shifts of the sexual encountering. A wide sweep of research, ideas, and information resources from a wide variety of sexual researchers and educators stuffs the book with fascinating data and research-backed suggestions. It’s a Who’s Who of sexuality research and scholarship that has moved the field forward and, through research and later clinical application, has helped innumerous people. The late Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Dr. William Masters, Virginia Johnson, Dr. Emily Nagoski, Dr. Justin Lehmiller, Dr. Lori Brotto, and Dr. Laurie Mintz are just a few of the sexuality academic powerhouses whose work is featured. While sexuality is the heavy area covered, the work of prominent couple’s therapists include Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Sue Johnson can also be found. Other books and other online resources (such as OMGYes.com which is reviewed here on TCS) are also recommended through the text itself where applicable. The book is divided into five parts. All five parts serve the sexual script: developing it, giving it meaning and joy, and troubleshooting with guidance physiological, relational, or behavioral concerns that can interfere with a partner’s willingness or ability to participate in the sexual script. The first three parts correspond to the sexual script chronologically. In the first part, we learn about the cornerstone fundamentals of desire: spontaneous desire (which Kerner actually calls “highly reactive desire” which is highly reactive to sexual cues) and reactive desire (which Kerner would say is less reactive and has a much lower sensitivity threshold than spontaneous desire). Kerner places spontaneous and responsive desires on a continuum rather than a polarity. We learn about Erick Janssen and John Bancroft’s dual control model, where excitors accelerate our on-ramp to sexual activity and inhibitors which put the brakes on the journey to sexual turn-on. We have unique patterns of accelerators and brakes to sexual activity. We also learn about sexual motivation. Rounding out part one (and this review admittedly is not doing them justice for review length), the origins of our society’s sex-negativity, psychogenic stimulation (how we turn our brain on), kink, and the intersection of sexuality and shame is discussed. Part One focuses highly on the psychological beginnings to the sexual script and its experience. The second part of Kerner’s book, dubbed the Middle, focuses on the beginnings of arousal and physical stimulation and play. Kerner touts outercourse for moving readers beyond PIV sex (slang for penis-in-vagina intercourse, our often Rorsharc ink blot association to hearing the word “sex”) into greater diversity and pleasure of sexuality. Robust diagrams of genital anatomy supplements Kerner’s chapters on getting to know the large physical (it’s not just what is seen on the outside) and central scope of the clitoris for pleasure, arousal based in male genitalia, and how female and male desire is as similar as it is different. The third part focuses on extending the plateau phase of the sexual response cycle into a trance-like, blissful state and learning to edge close and retreat from orgasm multiple times to exponentially drive arousal rather than a straight line. Kerner also expounds on the value of entrainment…that is, not only developing a steady rhythm of stimulation for your partner but also helping them use that entrainment for their own trance-like enjoyment in the moment. Essentially, develop these rhythms in giver and receiver scenarios. The sexual script slides can slide into a give and take dance flow state, so enchanting partners take turns doing nothing else but enjoying their own sexuality. Part four molds together all the previous content to help readers build their own sexual script, even a few, for the relationship. Consider and account for willingness to engage in sex, desire generation, excitors and inhibitors, ways to drum up arousal, both physiologically and psychologically, how best to entrain and give pleasure in the plateau and orgasm phases, and how to keep eroticism flowing even between execution of the sexual script. The sexual script becomes the world’s sexual oyster, able to hold sexual creativity to your negotiated sexual script while structured enough to be a container. Problems and solutions fill the final, fifth part of the book. It’s a broad brush of relational dynamics and sexual problems (erectile unpredictability, delayed or early ejaculation, trauma, pain, porn, and gender dysphoria are some of the covered topics). Here you will plenty of topic overview, medical information where appropriate, and clinical experience distilled into brief chapters (usually between 5-10 pages). Superbly inclusive, showing both Kerner’s own expertise while incorporating a wide body of knowledge, and compassionately integrating the biopsychosocial model into a couple’s sexual script, this book is highly recommended for all readers who want to elevate the sexual script in their relationship.
Klein, Marty. Sexual Intelligence: What We Really Want from Sex – And How to Get It. HarperOne,2013.
Sex therapist and marriage counselorKlein writes an incredibly down-to-earth and refreshing work on human sexuality. Instead of lamenting our changing sexuality as we age, Klein invites people to accept the changes and roll with the punches. Acceptance is a prominent theme: acceptance that sex changes as we age, acceptance of our own sexual preferences and ignoring what prominent researchers like Master’s and Johnson define as “normal”, and acceptance of your partner. We become sexually intelligent when we accept sexuality won’t always be the same throughout our life cycle (and doesn’t need to be). When we avoid the”shoulds” for ourselves and our partners, we become sexually intelligent. Great work in the field of human sexuality. Klein’s principles can help couples in and out of the bedroom. I would love to see society take this more laissez-faire approach to sexuality.
Lehmiller, Justin. Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Da Capo Press, 2018.
Social psychologist Lehmiller (research fellow, Kinsey Inst.; The Psychology of Human Sexuality) looks at American sexual desire on a large scale to see what people want to do with whom and how. When it comes to sexual desire and fantasy, we quickly judge what is acceptable and deviant. Incomplete or inaccurate sexual knowledge mixed with a society that pathologizes desire outside the narrow window of”normal” keeps people from fully enjoying sexuality consensually, legally, and ethically. After unpacking survey methodology, the author discusses common sexual fantasies and explores gender differences.Readers also learn the risks (STIs, rocky emotions) and benefits (greater intimacy and acceptance in our relationships, greater sexual satisfaction) of disclosing and acting out our passions so long as they are consensual and legal. Lehmiller closes by encouraging readers that their sexual interests are probably normal but that professional help exists if our desires cause us angst. He also advocates for comprehensive sexual education and suspending judgment on ourselves and others. VERDICT An excellent choice for readers wanting to know more about their own fantasies as well as those who are simply curious about American sexual desires in general
The above review was published in Library Journal and reproduced here with permission from its owner, Media Source Inc.
Mintz, Laurie. Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters – and How to Get It. HarperOne, 2017.
Orgasm is sadly a wildly disparate experience in cisgender, heterosexual sex. The word “sex” itself associates and restrictively stands for penis-in-vagina intercourse (PiV). PiV is too often accepted and prioritized as what sex really is. Data supports this assertion: Women orgasm 57% of the time in a partnered sexual experience, whereas men orgasm 95% of the time. As Dr. Mintz asserts, society overvalues PiV which is a reliable route to orgasm for men while undervalues the wider scope of sexual behaviors that reliably bring women to orgasm.
If you don’t believe men’s pleasure is prioritized over women’s, consider how strange it is to imagine a sexual encounter where a woman had an orgasm but the man did not. That strangeness highlights the existence of the pleasure gap, of how society is ill-cliterate.
Consider also that a 2017 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that while straight and bisexual women orgasmed in partnered sex 65% and 66% of the time, lesbian women orgasmed 86% of the time (much closer to the 95% of straight men). One of the defining behaviors of the women who orgasmed most frequently was those who received oral sex, which involves plenty of clitoral stimulation.
According to Dr. Mintz, the overvaluation of PiV has insidiously embedded into our culture as both a cause and symptom of ill-clitertacy by women’s magazines which suggest ways women can orgasm from PiV (due to anatomy, orgasm from intercourse is a biological impossibility for many women), a double-standard against women’s sexual pleasure, poor sex education that erases the clitoris, and misinformation from popular media and porn that depict women having earth-shattering orgasms from PiV. Even the academic literature itself clitorally restricts; upon parsing out the data in meta-analyses, some of the women who orgasmed during PiV used sex toys along with PiV intercourse. In other words, a thrusting penis alone did not bring women to orgasm, so the number floating in society of how many women orgasm from intercourse alone (“you can train yourself”; “those women are the luckiest of the lucky”) is inaccurately higher than true reality. When even the academics inadvertently fall into illcliteracy, the cycle of misinformation and erasure of women’s sexuality continues to be reinforced even further culturally.
Becoming Cliterate is a manifesto for orgasm equality, both as an argumentative piece as well as an educational treatise. Mintz provides real photos of real vulvas and many anatomical illustrations so women (and men) readers see the wide scope of vulva visual “normalcy”. The analogous functions of male/female genitalia and development are that the tip of the penis is to the head of the clitoris, eye-opening the importance of the clitoris in women’s sexual pleasure. Women are guided by Mintz in walking through their own anatomy and experimenting with different motions and sensations to learn about their own bodies, which the knowledge of the body can be passed into partnered sex.
After defining the problem of the heterosexual, cisgender orgasm gap and familiarizing one’s self with anatomy, Mintz also address getting mentally in the mood for sexual behavior, including feeling entitled to pleasure, and she also devotes an entire chapter to making men more cliterate. Much of the information in the Cliteracy – For Him chapter is the rest of the book abridged into shorter sections covering anatomy, sexual communication, arousal, and sexual repertoires.
Society can become more cliterate and clit-inclusive from multiple fronts: comprehensive sex education where female anatomy and its mechanisms for pleasure are taught, adjusting our cultural language by divorcing “sex” from meaning PiV and getting comfortable with partnered sexual behaviors practicing sexual behaviors that pleasure the clitoris, and by creating cultural norms where women are entitled to sexual pleasure and ignoring the clitoris is not rewarded or even tolerated.
Murray, Sarah Hunter. Not Always in the Mood: The New Science of Men, Sex, and Relationships. Roman & Littlefield, 2019.
Consumed with sex. Always initiating and begging for sex against the always lower-desire female in heterosexual relationships. Impervious to sexual rejection. These myths in addition to others obliterate the best, most healthy sexual relationship between couples in heterosexual relationships. Inaccurate pictures of male sexuality lock men into a gendered prison where authenticity and intimacy surrounding sexuality is blocked. These inaccurate pictures have sadly not been limited to popular media…Murray developed her doctoral research based on seeing gaps in the academic literature on men’s experiences and discussion of their sexuality. Not only were men not being asked to discuss their sexual desire, most of the research was being done on 18-25 year old men. Murray found her niche in interviewing men from all decades of life about their qualitative experience of sexual desire. These interviews have yielded rich information and normalcy for the authentic, nuanced view of male sexuality as compared to the our culture’s mythology. After the introductory chapter, Murray devotes each subsequent chapter to reality-checking each myth. Each chapter cites scholarly research, insights, and profiles a real (or composite) couple Murray saw in therapy that dismantled the enduring myth. The quickest summation would be that men are susceptible to stress and fears in expressing and acting on their sexual desire. They also need to feel loved for who they are as people in order to truly have the best sex. They need to feel desired and aren’t happy to just be desiring of another. This book opens up the possibility of freedom and integrated human sexuality for men and couples who open this book.
Nagoski, Emily. Come as You Are: The Suprising New Science that Will Transform you Sex Life. Simon and Schuster, 2015.
Nagoski rattles against the men-as-default model of female sexuality that sustains enduring inaccurate myths about female sexuality. These myths rest on the presupposition that how men’s sexuality operates is the appropriate model for women’s. Therefore, if women don’t orgasm during intercourse, something is wrong. If they don’t have a spontaneous sex drive, something is wrong. If they are physically lubricated but don’t subjectively feel aroused (nonconcordance), they must not know how to interpret their body’s signals, and those women are doing something wrong. Nagoski splices all the ways (the three domains are medical, moral, and media messages) women and men receive and hear reinforcements of these messages, and then unpacks how they are both incorrect and do a lot of damage toward women’s relationship with their sexuality (and hence the relationships with their partners). The book is organized in a logical flow and lots of research to back up her points. Nagoski discusses anatomy, sexuality in the content of emotions (stress, attachment) and culture (body dissatisfaction, porn, unrealistic images). Readers are introduced to the dual control model of arousal: our sexual accelerators (sexual excitation system) and our sexual breaks (sexual inhibition system) which give people unique sexual personalities as the systems interact in different ways. It then switches to sex play itself. Genital lubrication is an indicator of something is being seen in the mind as sexual relevant to the body (we expect sex) and not as commonly understood as not being an indicator of subjective arousal (enjoyment and eagerness). Nagoski’s echoes the common refrain that the most important sexual organ is between the ears (the brain!), and she illuminates how. Just as valuable as the sexuality information is the notions of meta-emotions and emotions coaching as it relates to sex. The biggest thing women can shift to is mindfulness and compassionate non-judgment with themselves and their sexuality. Composite patients based on real people Nagoski has helped also feature throughout the book, and readers see their successful sexual stories. This is an excellent work that educates and gives women a framework to have a healthier sexual wellbeing.
Nelson, Tammy. Getting the Sex You Want. Quiver, 2008.
Couples, lacking a framework for discussing sexuality and possibly even comfort with tackling the topic, can drift along with a routine sexual playbook. What is delightful (knowing one another’s bodies) runs the risk of becoming stale, leaving little room for sexual diversion, play, or expansion. Interia precludes new ways of acting in the bedroom as time persists. Nelson looks to puncture the balloon of the mundane with the Imago couple’s therapy method scaffolding a couple’s discussion of sex. Once she illustrates the mirroring, validating, and empathizing structure that is an Imago conversation, she segues into using Imago to explore one another sexually. Nelson shows readers how to find previously unknown delightful touches – where on the body and how can slowly be uncovered. Discussing and holding space for sexual fantasies often boosts emotional closeness which in turn boosts desire. Rating our sexual curiosity level on fantasies allows us to understand where our partner enjoys a fantasy and where their deepest desires lie (and how it merges with ours). Anatomy, often the beginning of learning about sex, is the last chapter, an apt reminder that our brain is our most important sex organ. If we can communicate what feels good and support one another’s sexual interests, we can use that as a scaffold for using understanding of anatomy to our advantage. At times the structure of each exercise is going to sound repetitive, but it emphasizes how critical holding space for our partner’s sexual attitudes is to our sexual blossoming as a couple and a key to erotic passion.
Price, Joan. Sex After Grief: Navigating Your Sexuality After Losing Your Beloved. Mango, 2019.
Joan Price provides a much needed book striking at the heart of grief and sexuality and their intersection. Self-help books on grief often discuss emotions, longing, and the construction of an acceptance of the loss and a new normal. When they do discuss missing physical contact, they most often discuss seeking out nonsexual touch channels such as massages and hugs. Grief against the loss of a sexual relationship is stunningly absent, which seems absurd when the loss of a spousal relationship is often the immediate (or a gradual loss in the case of a preceding illness) loss of a sexual relationship with another person. Joan Price began her work as a sexuality educator for older adults in the mid-2000s. She has educated thousands about senior sexuality through her website, blog, webinars, and speaking engagements including reviewing sex toys for adults and couples with an older adult focus in mind. Her narrowed journey into grief and sexuality (and Sex After Grief) began after her unexpected and tragic loss of her husband. Her own crisis and healing propelled Price into thinking about how sexuality unfolds after grief and how after her healing she can support other people who are figuring out their sexual path after the loss of their beloved partner. No sexuality stone is left unturned. None. Price mythbusts common misconceptions, discusses masturbation, and normalizes people who want friends-with-benefits arrangements, “pilot-light lovers”, and those entering the dating scene seeking love before having sex again. Price even discusses how one might go about erotic massages. Some of what’s in the book might shock some readers and be something that they would never consider. Price’s message is know thyself, and some of the ways to express sexuality might absolutely not work and be unhealthy for some readers. However, Price wants to normalize grievers jumping into their sexuality at their own pace (quick or slow or maybe-at-some-point-but-not-yet) with their own moral compass so long as the sexuality is legal, ethical, and consensual. Price includes vignettes from real grievers throughout the book on these many topics, most with those who are well past the early stages of grief and can look back with perspective through their healing journey. While Price is not a mental health clinician, she closes her book highly supportive of grief counseling, including how grief professionals helped her process her grief, as well as sharing how readers can find a grief counselor or seek other ways of receiving grief support is finances are a barrier to professional grief counseling.
See Also: Grief
Solomon, Alexandra. Taking Sexy Back: How to Own Your Sexuality and Create the Relationships You Want. New Harbinger, 2020.
Solomon argues that bereft of complete sex education and bombarded with outside-in cultural messages about female sexuality, despite all women have achieved in equality and opportunity today, a profound and healthy relationship with their own sexuality is needed. Sexual scripts, such as her sexual fire must be tamed while at the same time making her mate’s pleasure of utmost priority, fracture women’s desires from themselves. Harsh messages about sex as unclean, irreverent in all but the most perfunctory of purposes, and relational/sexual trauma set fear and shame ablaze in a woman’s heart. Where shame lives, love and self-compassion cannot coexist. Getting in touch with our sexy means we understand how our sexuality functions (from anatomy to sexual desire), and we springboard off that understanding for a pleasurable expression of our sexuality that is authentic to who we are. Honoring our sexy means we renounce outside-in messages about our sexuality. Society, the media, family, friends, sex education; none of these entities can tell us what is ultimately authentic and healthy for us. Through self-awareness, we need to connect with our emotions and live out our sexuality from what Solomon calls an inside-out manner; that is, our values and fundamental authenticity drives how we express and act with our sexy. Love guides our actions when we are in sync of our sexy. Worrying about rejection or teeming with insecurity and acting-out sexually clue us into fear-based use of our sexy. Seven domains map out the journey to inside-out sexuality and self-awareness: readers explore their sexy among relational, developmental, physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, and cultural realms. None of the chapters is very long, but the brevity belies the value of hope and experience provided. Solomon blends personal disclosure with clinical wisdom. Solomon’s Name-Connect-Choose and the great love equation (my stuff + your stuff = our stuff) provide easy-to-remember frameworks of self-growth and emotional and behavioral influences and bi-directional dances in a unique relationship based in individual influences. Powerhouse relationship and sexuality researches and clinicians such as Justin Lehmiller, Sue Johnson, John Gottmnan, Emily Nagoski, and Tammy Nelson are well cited in endnotes. Solomon closes out her book with a final chapter to men supporting the women in their lives who are working on more intentional, authentic, and self-compassionate relationships with sexuality. This last chapter was quite a surprise and fully appreciated as a facilitation to spur on dialogue between a couple as well as keep goodwill close. Women seeking healthier and more integrated sexuality who also want a book to feel a little like hanging out with their most down-to-earth friend but with the expertise of an experienced psychologist specializing in relationships need to find a copy of Taking Sexy Back.
Watson, Laurie J. Wanting Sex Again: How to Rediscover your Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage. Berkley Books, 2012.
Many dynamics derail sex lives. Physical influences from low hormones to heart conditions to menopause to physical pain during sex, emotional disconnection, mental health conditions like depression or anxiety and their treatments, family of origin abuse or neglect, and omitted or incorrect sexual health information chip away at a couple’s sex life or block it from even being well established. Newly marrieds must learn how to please one another and negotiate how often sex (and what “sex” means) occurs for both party’s satisfaction. Early misunderstandings can grow into mountains of disconnection and avoidance of discussion with well-paved habitual acts keeping each other from full erotic exploration. Unevenly distributed household responsibilities and turning away or against scenarios invite resentment and more disconnection. Incorrect information about human sexuality, such as desire that blooms in response to sexual touch rather than desire that just happens, can start and reinforce shame cycles that table sex as an off-the-discussion-list item or something to be endured. The important of trauma and family of origin abuse or neglect creates fear and attachment concerns that prohibit vulnerability and sexual play. A relationship where misunderstandings and hurts pile up and remain unaddressed is not a relationship where sexuality can be safely expressed. AASECT-certified (American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) couple’s therapist Laurie J. Watson creates composites of real cases she has seen over the years illustrating how different dynamics impact sexuality and also how she helped people (many times with referrals to other professionals) address roadblocks to living a more authentic life and working toward a more satisfying sex life. Her writing is clear for general readers. Watson’s book goes deep on scenario illustration and also spends brief time in medical education, such as the effects of antidepressants on sexuality and sexual pain. The medical information, while a basis for understanding, should be taken as a general framework that may be slightly dated as more and more time passes and advances are made in sexual medicine. Watson invites readers to always investigate sexual problems that result from physically-based medical ailments and to not ignore any physical or psychosocial origins that may need addressing. Her style is non-blaming and shaming in describing and illustrating any of these origins or resulting sexual dysfunctions. Watson writes easily for readers to keep an open mind at what dynamics might be blocking their own full expression of sexuality. Very valuable questions for self-reflection and possible couple discussion wrap up each topic. Endnotes and a further reading bibliography are also presented. This book is geared toward and written toward women within a framework of a heterosexual, cisgender marriage. However, male partners may find this book valuable as a conversation opener with their female partner about patterns of disconnect or conflict within the relationship that have led to sexual disconnection.
Most of these articles are going to be free online. If the article is not freely available, I will indicate that. In that case, check with your local librarians! Please first ask your librarian at your local library before buying online – many times you can get an article at no cost through one of your library’s databases or interlibrary loan.
Aristone, Carolynn. “When the Urge is Uneven: Understanding the Universe of Sexual Desire.” GoodTherapy, 6 Feb. 2018, https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/when-urge-is-uneven-understanding-universe-of-sexual-desire-0206185
Castleman, Michael. “7 Myths About Masturbation.” Psychology Today, 2 Sept. 2013, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201309/7-myths-about-masturbation-and-the-truth-about-solo-sex
Castleman, Michael. “The 9 Keys to Great Sex in a Relationship.” Psychology Today, 15Nov. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201711/the-9-keys-great-sex-in-relationship
Castleman, Michael. “Great Sex without Intercourse.” AARP, n.d., https://www.aarp.org/home-family/sex-intimacy/info-12-2012/great-sex-without-intercourse.html
Fugere, Madeleine A. “Why Marital Satisfaction is Closely Linked with a Woman’s Sexual Desire.” Psychology Today, 5 Sept. 2019, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dating-and-mating/201909/why-marital-satisfaction-is-closely-linked-women-s-sexual-desire
Gaspard, Terry. “How to Nurture Emotional and Sexual Intimacy.” Patheos, 18 Dec. 2019, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/terrygaspard/2019/12/how-to-nurture-emotional-and-sexual-intimacy-and-fall-in-love-again/
Johnson, Sue. “Attachment and the Dance of Sex: Integrating Couple and Sex Therapy.” Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, 2016, Washington D.C.. 2016. Dr. Rebecca Jorgensen, https://drrebeccajorgensen.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Attachment-and-the-Dance-of-Sex.pdf
Johnson, Sue. “What Does the Sex Recession Tell Us About Today’s Sexual Landscape and Emotional Isolation?” Dr. Sue Johnson, 17 Jan. 2019, http://drsuejohnson.com/relationships/what-does-the-sex-recession-tell-us-about-todays-sexual-landscape-and-emotional-isolation/
Lehmiller, Justin. “How Does Sexual Satisfaction Change in Older Age?” Sex & Psychology, 11 Jan. 2017, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2017/1/11/how-does-sexual-satisfaction-change-in-older-age
Lehmiller, Justin. “How Many Sexless Marriages Are There & Why Do People Stay in Them?” Sex & Psychology, 22 Nov. 2013, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2013/11/22/how-many-sexless-marriages-are-there-and-why-do-people-stay-in-them
Lehmiller, Justin. “How Sexual Satisfaction Changes in Long-Term Relationships.” Sex & Psychology, 25 Sep. 2019, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2017/9/25/how-sexual-satisfaction-changes-in-long-term-relationships
Lehmiller, Justin. “How to Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Fantasies.” Sex & Psychology, 25 Jan. 2019, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2019/1/25/how-to-talk-to-your-partner-about-your-sexual-fantasies
Lehmiller, Justin. “What the Most Sexually Satisfied Couples are Doing in (and Out) of Bed.” Sex & Psychology, 9 March, 2018, https://www.lehmiller.com/blog/2018/3/9/what-the-most-sexually-satisfied-couples-are-doing-in-bed
Ley, David J. “3 Ways to Meet Your Partner’s Sexual Ideals and Why You Should.” Psychology Today, 15 June 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/women-who-stray/202007/3-ways-meet-your-partner-s-sexual-ideals-and-why-you-should
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