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Sexual Myths

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sexual dysfunctions - information, advice and treatmentSEXUAL MYTHS

There are more false notions current about the way we respond sexually than in most other areas of sexuality. These are some of the common ones:

  • mutual orgasm is the ideal for each couple
  • lack of multiple orgasms is a sign of a sexual problem
  • as men and women age they usually lose their desire for sex
  • if a person desires more than one orgasm during a sex act they are probably oversexed
  • a few drinks and a relaxing setting will take care of any problems with sexual desire in both men and women
  • couples should work at getting their sexual response cycles identical
  • orgasm is necessary for sexual satisfaction
  • masturbation does not produce as much excitement and satisfaction as sexual intercourse
  • in general women and men understand their sexual response cycles
  • proper orgasms are explosive feelings
  • during menopause women do not usually reach orgasm
  • it's best to find a few favorite sex positions and stick to them rather than try different sex positions

AGE and SEX

The ability to respond sexually continues until death. So does the ability to enjoy sex. Those two facts are far more important than the effects that aging has on people's sexual responses, but there are effects nonetheless.

 They vary enormously from person to person, so the number of years a person has lived is a very poor predictor of their sexual responses and behavior. For many elderly people the death of a spouse, for example, can mean the end of active sexual expression, but this need not be the case.

Health, too, is very important - a number of chronic illnesses are often accompanied by reduced sexual activity, even though the response potential is still there and functioning.

It seems that the most important predictor of how people will behave sexually in their later years is how they behaved when they were younger.

If they had an active, fulfilling sex life through their earlier years they are likely to continue it through middle age and after.

But as you would expect, the physical changes of aging affect sexual responses to some degree in most people. These are the ways in which most people change.

Men and sex - the changes with age

A middle-aged or elderly man takes longer to get an erection, and to attain it he probably needs more direct stimulation of his penis. On the other hand, having got an erection he is likely to be able to sustain it longer.

Once he loses an erection, after ejaculation or otherwise, it will take him longer to get another.

Aging tends to reduce both the force of ejaculation and the intensity of orgasmic sensation. It seems also that the need to ejaculate with each and every erection also diminishes.

The satisfaction and fulfillment that come with orgasm remain just as important however. The volume of semen ejaculated is less, it contains fewer sperm and fewer of those sperm are able to fertilize an ovum.

However, a man will still be ejaculating so many sperm, and so many of them will be healthy, that at any age he will still be entirely capable of causing a pregnancy.

Male hormone (testosterone) levels do not reduce significantly until a man is into his 60s and 70s. Even then, they are unlikely to fall so low that he loses either his desire or his potency.

The biggest sexual problem that many men experience with aging is that they don't accept natural physical changes. Rather than accept slower erection, slower recovery and reduced ejaculation they sometimes avoid sex altogether, denying themselves and their partners fulfillment.

This is pointless and may be psychologically damaging. Sexual satisfaction at any age depends upon your acceptance of your own desires, needs and abilities.

SEXUAL DESIRE AND RESPONSE

Women

As women approach menopause and their later years their ovaries produce gradually less estrogen. After menopause, they produce very small amounts indeed, but some comes from the adrenal glands.

This reduction in hormone output has several physical effects. However, orgasmic fulfillment remains the same, the capacity for multiple orgasm is unchanged, and the clitoris remains as sensitive as ever.

The physical changes are these: when the woman is stimulated, her vagina takes longer to become lubricated than it used to. Orgasmic contractions are fewer in number and so the duration of each orgasm is reduced.

Myotonia, the general muscle tension that goes with being sexually excited, also reduces, and following orgasm the body returns more rapidly to its unstimulated state than formerly.

Another effect of the reduced hormone supply is that the labia and vagina thin out - they don't swell up as much as they used to under stimulation - and so intercourse can sometimes be painful. A safe lubricant takes care of this problem though.

The psychological or emotional problems that women may have with sex in their later years tend to concentrate around menopause, when fairly rapid changes occur in sexual responses.

Once that sometimes difficult period is passed the responses of most women remain relatively unchanged and the potential for fulfillment and pleasure is as great as ever.

A couple in their 70s can still get it on like they always did. It is perfectly possible for them to have intercourse as frequently and as pleasurably as they always did.

When a partner is available and interested, and when physical and emotional well being are maintained, age makes very little difference to sexual desire and activity.

Research continually confirms that the best predictor of an active, happy sex life in later years is an active, happy sex life in earlier years.

Sexual Relationships

The majority of couples do not have simultaneous orgasm, nor is it necessary that they should. However, during the sex act each person has the right to be fulfilled and each has the responsibility to help create a climate in which that can occur. Knowing what is happening in your own body and in your partner's can help you both to express your own feelings and to provide the stimulation your partner requires to ensure a complete response.

Ignorance, fear of inadequacy and selfishness frequently contribute to unsatisfactory sexual experiences. It is not uncommon for men to move rapidly through their excitation phase to orgasm.

After orgasm many men reduce the stimulation they are providing, or they sometimes end the experience altogether, leaving the woman in the excitement or plateau phase and sometimes feeling frustrated and angry about what has happened. Recently women have begun to express their dissatisfaction with this situation; they too would like to arrive at a point where they are adequately satisfied. Other emotional difficulties can be resolved by using modern derivatives of neurolinguistic programming such as emotional freedom technique tapping - EFT tapping for short.

Some men are upset by such expressions of frustration, but ultimately they get the message and become more sensitive partners. In the past - and for some women even today - sexual acts produce chronic pelvic congestion (analogous to "blue balls" in men).

This is the result of diminished stimulation or no stimulation at all once the woman is highly excited and moving toward orgasm. The actual physical discomfort combined with the feelings of frustration in this situation sometimes lead women consciously or unconsciously to avoid sex. This results in some cases in the woman's partner accusing her of being "frigid" or of having another sexual partner.

Counseling has often been of considerable help in such cases. Information about men's and women's sex response cycles, decisions about one's responsibilities to oneself and to one's partner, and suggestions on ways to change have resulted in many improved sexual relationships. Usually called therapy, much of this assistance is really educational in nature, but the new, enlarged understanding has a therapeutic impact on the couple.

Sexual Questions

Q: After several years I finally told my lover that I just wasn't satisfied with our sex life. I'm getting the silent treatment now and I wonder if I did the right thing?

A: It is important that you should have an understanding with your partner about your needs. Expressing dissatisfaction with a sexual relationship that has been going on for a long time is especially difficult because it calls into question the quality of the relationship from the beginning. Your lover may find it hard to believe that all the time it has been unsatisfactory. Continue the dialog in a sensitive way.

Reach out to your partner, and be sure you discuss the strengths and positive aspects of your sex life. Working at your sexual relationship in a constructive way will eventually overcome the sense of inadequacy and vulnerability your lover probably feels now. It is not easy to do what you did, but since you are taking responsibility for yourself I believe you are acting for the best.

Q: A couple we know always tell us how wonderful their orgasms are now that they are simultaneous. Is it a good idea to follow their method so we can have simultaneous orgasms too?

A: No. Working on some sort of routine to achieve simultaneous orgasm is not a good idea. The point of a sexual act with your partner is to express the feelings you have for each other in a way that is enjoyable and satisfying.

Trying to time your efforts in some special way removes the spontaneity and creativity from your experience and can easily make each of you a spectator at your own event. If you are happy with your sex life as it is, there is no need to try to pattern it after others. They may be trying to express different things in their relationship and their needs are unlike yours and your partner's.

Q: Ever since my wife told me that having an orgasm each and every time we had sex was not the most important thing for her our sex life changed drastically. I feel more relaxed now and I don't work as hard so that she will have one when 1 do. She also taught me something about the real meaning of being intimate with someone.

A: Frequently men and women work so hard at achieving certain sexual levels during their lovemaking that they forget who they are with and why they are there together.

 When the performance goals are eliminated from lovemaking and couples cease their efforts to have orgasms that resemble seizures some wonderful, exciting experiences result. Women and men have been so orgasm-oriented that all the wonderful feelings and meanings of their acts together before and after orgasm get devalued and trivialized.

When couples reeducate themselves to appreciate their sexual acts together as total experiences their orgasms become a delightful aspect of a stimulating and enjoyable total sexual act.

Q: Sometimes I feel like I'm so quick when I have sex with my wife. She doesn't complain or anything like that, but I'm just not sure if it's OK. Is this a common feeling?

A: Yes, and too many men and women keep quiet about it. Talk to your wife about how you feel, tell her your concern. What she says may reassure you or it may be helpful in improving the way you relate during sex. Silence about this issue is difficult to overcome, but sensitive discussion can ultimately lead to a more satisfying and trusting sexual relationship.

Q: My lover just won't talk about his sexual feelings and desires. Is that a sign of a problem in our relationship?

A: In general, men have been socialized not to express their feelings. Many men believe that discussing their feelings will make them inadequate and vulnerable in an area that they feel they should be comfortable in.

Many men want and need to discuss their sexual feelings, but they have had so little experience in doing so that it is very difficult for them. If you accept and understand that your lover probably has this problem it may make it easier for him to share his thoughts. I believe the inability of many men to talk about their sexual feelings is a powerful sociocultural barrier, not a sign of a relationship problem.

SEXUAL PROBLEMS

There are problems both of sexual desire and of sexual response, and they affect both men and women, whatever their sexual orientation and whatever their relationship circumstances.

Some people are worried that they simply don't want to have sex for long periods at a time and some people want to have sex but either can't or find it difficult. Problems with both desire and response can arise for numerous reasons.

There may be one cause of a particular condition or there may be a number. Some problems may be rooted within an individual and others may be the individual's response to something that is wrong in his or her relationship. Because of the complexity of this area it is possible here only to illustrate the kinds of problem that exist, not to discuss them in detail.

Q: Is it true that most couples have some sexual problems?

A: No-one really knows for sure, but Masters and Johnson have speculated that about 50 percent of American couples have some sexual problem. Whether or not they have serious problems, it is clear to me that most couples have questions about their sexuality in general and their sexual expression in particular, and 1 believe answers to these questions would significantly enhance their sexual fulfillment.

Q: What problems do sex therapists deal with best?

A: In general, qualified sex therapists who have a thorough background in psychotherapy can deal with the whole range of sexual problems and personal and relationship difficulties. For this reason it is desirable to seek sex therapy services from individuals with broad psychotherapy training and skills, as well as a proper background and preparation in sex therapy.

Q: Is it true that the best sex therapists are medical doctors?

A: No. There are many psychologists, clergy, social workers, educators, nurses and others who have the proper training and credentials and who provide sensitive and ethical sex therapy.

These people are generally associated with physicians and/or a medical center in order to be able to have patients checked for organic causes of sexual problems. You will be able to find a therapist with proper training to meet your needs.

Be careful when choosing a sex therapist: quality control standards are almost nonexistent and many nonprofessionals without training are promoting themselves as therapists."

Q: How helpful are the ebooks that instruct you on overcoming sexual problems?

A: In general, I am extremely enthusiastic about the use of books, DVDS, tapes and videos to deal with specific sexual problems.

And I believe a trained therapist can help the person or couple work through personal problems, resistances and relationship issues.

Sexual problems are frequently linked to personality factors.

The self-help movement in health care and in sexuality has led to the publication of some books that have educated people and given them permission to learn about their bodies.

Q: Is the use of sex surrogates helpful or is it really just a fancy name for prostitution?

A: Therapists  have used and are using trained surrogates, and when they are trained and under the supervision of qualified therapists they appear to have a positive effect in helping overcome sexual problems.

Surrogates are used most frequently by therapists when the patient has no partner.

The use of surrogates is usually not advertised or discussed openly, since in law they might be construed as prostitutes - they are, after all, accepting money for having sex, even though it is in a clearly defined therapeutic context. It is therefore impossible to assess the success of surrogate use.

All that one can say at this time is that the welfare and rights of the patient or couple must be safeguarded in all treatment programs.

Q: I find that I enjoy sex about once a week. It is satisfying and meets my needs. My partner enjoys sex two or three times a week. Things are starting to get strained. Is it a good idea for me to see a therapist to get myself checked out?

A: What are you going to get checked out? You enjoy sex once a week and your partner enjoys it more - that does not mean you have a problem and your partner is normal.

More does not mean better or healthier; less is not better or healthier. Why not try to work it out yourselves and negotiate this in the same way you do other things in your relationship? If this does not work out satisfactorily a qualified therapist may well be able to help.