Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Rose on the Thorn

“You can complain because roses have thorns,
Or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.”
Ziggy (comic strip by Tom Wilson)

Look Up!

When it comes to sex, attitude is everything. You’re much more likely to encounter a positive outcome if you approach things with a positive attitude (and doesn’t THAT feel good!). When you operate under lots of rules and conditions, sex probably becomes a chore for you (poor baby). On the other hand, if you allow yourself to be open to new perspectives and possibilities, you’re setting the stage for a lifetime of fun and surprises.

Look Around

In the coming weeks, we’ll be examining how we function in the “Socio-Sexual Response Cycle” or SSRC. We’ve previously discussed the Masters and Johnson model of the Sexual Response Cycle (SRC)—that is, the physiological responses of our bodies to sexual stimuli. Now we’re going to take it one step further and look at how we respond socially to sexual stimuli; in other words, how we manage this thing that we sex experts like to call your individual sexuality. For example: how do we make the decisions that become our sexual choices, how do we negotiate them (if we do indeed negotiate them), and more importantly—how do we handle what happens in that all important “post-orgasm” aftermath?

One of the great myths of our time is that great sex is—and should be—spontaneous. You know what that means: you have sex without any forethought, planning, contraception, discussion, etc. This is the kind of sex that only exists in romance novels and commercial erotica. Here where we all live (the real world), most good sex takes a certain amount of forethought and planning. Face it; you’re no longer a horny 16 year old ruled by raging hormones (a mixed blessing, to be sure!), so you do, in fact, need to take a moment to think and plan.

Look at the Man with the Plan

Let’s have some fun in the coming weeks. Most people don’t think that planning for sex is fun (and OMG, are they missing out or what?). Why? Because sex is something that’s just supposed to HAPPEN—magically. Where does this negative notion come from? Who said that sex isn’t important enough to plan? Are they the same people who feel we’re not supposed to think about sex because sex is somehow distasteful, bad and unless it’s for reproductive purposes, just plain wrong? This kind of thinking implies that if sex is planned, it can’t possibly be fun. And yet, all evidence continues to point to the conclusion that sex is actually very much fun! So, if sex is fun and you feel bad about it, it must be that you have a silly attitude about sex! To be sure, spontaneously discovering a new restaurant can be fun too, as can spontaneous sex, but if you make a reservation at a restaurant, the meal tastes just as good as if you stumbled on it accidentally, doesn’t it? And sometimes the planning and anticipation can be almost as pleasurable as the act itself.

Look What’s Been Happening

This message that sex shouldn’t be planned or thought about seems to be more pervasive in women. We don’t think about what’s going to happen, and very often it’s the women who end up disappointed because they didn’t get what they wanted. It’s as though you EXPECTED that someone would know you want that chocolate-covered cherry, but since you never said anything, you ended up instead with a caramel (eww), and now you’re disappointed and resentful because someone didn’t read your mind. Another trap: since sex is considered an inappropriate topic, so as long as it happens spontaneously, women seldom have the opportunity to take any responsibility for it. Is this a vicious circle, or what?

So if women lack the skills to talk about sex or negotiate parameters, then it’s not surprising that women often end up with unintended consequences (did someone say “unplanned pregnancy”?). Is it any wonder that women tend to convince themselves that now that you’ve had sex, you’re in love, you’re a couple, etc.?

Look at Things This Way

Let’s examine the individual steps of the SSRC. We can see that the first step is desire. You’re on a bus, someone gets on who looks kind of hot, you begin to think about what they look like naked, and pretty soon, voila! You begin to want something—really, really WANT it! What do you do when you have this feeling? How do you experience desire?

Once you desire sex (or pizza, or whatever it is that you desire), the next step is to consider your options. Let’s take the bus scenario. You actually have quite a few options, don’t you? You could:

a. Fantasize about the person until you get to your stop (of course, walking might be difficult!) and then rerun the fantasy during self-pleasuring.
b. Slip them your business card when you’re getting off the bus.
c. Approach them and start up a conversation.
d. Stay on the bus and follow them.

OK, that last one was creepy with stalker overtones, but you get the idea. I wonder how often we actually stop and consider our options? Sometimes, we’re unaware that we can make our own sexual decisions. When one person initiates sex, the other one (or ones) has the option to take a minute to consider what they’d like to do and whether they would actually like to do it. If your partner tells you he wants a pizza, you think about whether you’re in the mood for pizza too, right? You have options: you can share a pizza or tell him to just get enough for himself, and you’ll eat something else. However, when it comes to sex, many of us aren’t aware that we have options and that we don’t have to just go along with whatever our partner wants. Of course, if you talk about things and negotiate what you both want before hand, well let’s just say you can have your pizza and eat it too :}

Look before you Leap

Now comes the next step: Examine these first two stages of the SSRC, Desire and Consideration of Options, and reflect on which are challenging and which are easy for you. Perhaps you function well in both and can easily recognize your desire and look at your possibilities. Or perhaps you’re uncomfortable with those longings and suppress them. Or maybe you can recognize longing, but don’t feel comfortable identifying your options. Once we can begin to identify which phases of the SSRC are problematic for us, we’re on the path to finding creative solutions.

Ah, but we’re not done yet. Next week, onward and upward to the next phase: Negotiation and Agreement. See you then!

With Pleasure,

Dr. J

Friday, July 18, 2008

Summer of Love

“In summer, the song sings itself.”
William Carlos Williams

What comes to your mind when you think of summer? Swimming pools, barbeques, white dresses and sandals, lemonade, camping out… And how about one more: outdoor sex! I’m reminded of an old poem: “Hooray, hooray, it’s the first of May. Outdoor fucking starts today!”

Where was I? I sort of drifted off there for a minute. Oh yes. I wasn’t anywhere. That's what happens to me in the summer: I get distracted. Some people get spring fever; I get summer fever. I become more romantic and dreamy, and I really don’t want to work at all—just throw off my clothes, hang out in the garden, drink good wine and soak up the sun.

Which gets me to our next post. For the next few weeks, we’re going to examine how we function in what I call the “Socio-Sexual Response Cycle.” Previously, we discussed the Sexual Response Cycle (SRC) as documented by Masters and Johnson—that is, the physiological responses of the body to sexual stimuli. Now we’re going to take it one step further and look at how we respond socially. For example: how do we make our sexual choices, how do we negotiate them (if we negotiate them), and how do we manage the “after-orgasm” aftermath?

In preparation for our journey, I suggest you bone up (as it were) on the SRC by re-reading this post from September 15, 2006:


See you here at Summer Central next week for the beginning of our next journey.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J

Friday, July 11, 2008

Turning On: Taking an Interest in Desire*

"Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained."
William Blake

As Seen on TV

Just about every time I turn on my TV, I hear someone use the term “sex drive,” and every time they do, it means something completely different. Of course, as a professional sexologist it’s up to me to clear up all this confusion. Why? Because everyone thinks that everyone else knows exactly what they’re talking about, when in reality everyone else has their own individual idea of what they think you mean. Kind of like when I say the word “sex,” you get a mental image of what that word means to you—and yet when I say it, it may mean something quite different to me. In fact, I guarantee it does. (Remember our motto here at Dr. J’s House of Fun: When it comes to sex, there’s no standard operating system.)

Is This Thing On?

The term “sex drive” was coined in the early 20th century. Sometimes it’s also referred to as “sexual instinct.” There’s this notion that instincts—or drives—were supposed to be what “drives” animals to behave in certain predictable ways. Specifically, that certain drives are what prompts an animal to avoid certain types of discomfort, like hunger or thirst. One favorite notion seems to be that animals release their pent up physical tension through sexual activity.

This Just In

Some psychology textbooks still use the term “drive” to mean a basic urgent need that impels us to take action (like hunger and thirst). However, when it comes to sex, this concept actually makes very little sense. First of all, sexual activity is necessary for procreation–but it’s not necessary for survival. A lack of food or something to drink will lead to death, but a lack of sex has never been known to kill anyone (it just feels that way!). Second, the strength of an individual’s sexual desire does not depend on the degree of sexual deprivation they’ve endured. If that were true, the streets would be overrun with people trapped in sexless marriages who’ve been driven mad from their lack of access to sex! Similarly sexual abstinence doesn’t always increase sexual desire, and neither does frequent sexual activity always diminish it. On the contrary, some people who have been abstinent for a long time eventually lose all interest in sex (certain religions actually rely on this eventuality), while others who are extremely active manage to continue to be easily aroused (you can see proof of this at your friendly neighborhood swing club). While feelings of hunger and thirst can be unpleasant, sexual arousal actually feels good, and that tingling sensation can even be considered its own reward, even if the arousal remains “unfulfilled.”

Act Now, Operators are Standing By

In light of these facts, modern sex researchers have practically abandoned the general concept of a sex drive. Instead, we tend to look at the components that make up our sexual behavior, including these three basic factors:

1. Sexual interest or motivation (what you want to do): Your desire to engage in sex may be influenced by the level of certain hormones in your body, but it’s mostly dependent on psychological and/or emotional factors as well as social conditioning and the special circumstances inherent in any particular situation. Therefore, we all vary greatly in terms of our individual levels of interest or desire.

2. Sexual capacity (what you are actually capable of doing): This varies depending on physical conditions such as age, health, appetite, stamina, etc.

3. Sexual performance (what you actually do): We use the term “performance” to mean what you actually do, but not in the negative sense of, “have-to-get-it-up.” What you do depends not only on physiological and psychological factors, but also on opportunity. And as we all know, in its extreme, performance is limited by capacity.

But Wait, There’s More. . .

So, now we all understand that there’s no such thing as a human “sex drive” and that we are actually quite a bit more complex than the term implies. Keep in mind that sex researchers are only now beginning to explore sexual motivation; that is, arousal to certain stimuli versus arousability, or the physiological ability to become aroused.

Once we dip our toes into the complexity of human sexual behavior, we truly see that when it comes to sex, there are no “one-size-fits-all” concepts – or answers.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J

* Inspired by the work of my honored professor and colleague, Erwin Haeberle, Ph.D.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Dr. J’s Declaration of Sexual Independence for a New Age

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Declaration of Independence.
This is an update to last year’s July 4th post. It’s now 2008, and I’m still pondering those weighty words above–-and of course, I feel compelled to add women to that very important and eloquent equation. I’ve often wondered: what if the writers of the Declaration of Independence considered sexuality as an unalienable right? They might have included our right to the pursuit of sexual happiness, including:

  • freedom to pursue mutually satisfying sex (anyone up for a fantasy involving hot leather and lace?)
  • freedom to pursue sexual knowledge in all its manifestations (what would all the 16-year-olds have done without Go Ask Alice?
  • freedom to have sexual thoughts and fantasies (keep the sex police out of your head)
  • freedom to talk about sex (wouldn’t it be great if the culture began to endorse the idea that it’s OK to talk openly and honestly about our sexuality? Come to think of it: how many of us grew up in homes where our parents discussed sex with us—not in an overbearing way, but calmly and non-judgmentally?)
  • freedom to identify with whatever gender or nongender works for us (femme women who also like to “top”: step out from behind those tired old clichés and into the Authentic You)
  • freedom of sexual self-determination (I want what I want when I want it!)
  • freedom from persecution, condemnation, discrimination, or societal intervention in private sexual behavior (can’t we all just get along and let each other be happy? And, yes, vibrators are STILL illegal in Texas!)
  • freedom to have nonjudgmental sexual health care (when you absolutely, positively need a doctor who understands your devotion to ben-wa balls!)
  • freedom to control reproduction (will we EVER have a male birth control pill?!!!#@@#$##$#$)
  • freedom from political, legal or religious interference in sexual expression (until that day comes, I guess that’s what Showtime and HBO are for, right?
  • And finally, the recognition that our society needs to have mechanisms in place whereby the opportunities for socio-sexual activities are made available to disabled or chronically ill people; those incarcerated in prisons, hospitals or institutions; those disadvantaged because of age, lack of physical attractiveness, or lack of social skills; the poor and the lonely.
As I look at the above list, I’m feeling somehow optimistic that next year’s post will have some good news about sexual freedom. Stay tuned, because the winds of change are swirling. In the meantime, I’m sure you can all find something on the above list that pertains to you and your life, so here’s to you: Happy Sexual Independence Day!

The barbeque is already heating up and the Bellinis are chilled and waiting on the bar, so it’s time for your friendly neighborhood Dr. J to head off for yet another celebration. For now I want each of you to go out and exercise your own individual unalienable Right to pursue your particular Happiness. See you next week!

With Pleasure,

Dr. J