Category: Hot, Healthy and Horny

How to Talk About Sex. I Mean REALLY Talk About Sex

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D.      I’m frustrated by hearing sex experts tell people to ‘communicate better’ about sex.  I’m impatient with advice to ‘tell your partner what you want.’  For one thing, many people don’t know what they want.  Even those who can be pretty specific tend to know only what they want OUT OF THE THINGS THEY HAVE ALREADY TRIED.   And the problem is, most people haven’t tried that much, and don’t have a good sexual imagination.           Specific sex conversations –  intimate discussions of sexual acts – are particularly helpful for couples stuck in a rut.  You may have done just fine for a while doing the same four things -touch skin, touch genitals, a little oral sex, put it in.   But now you’re bored, you want to mix it up to bring back some of the excitement, but you don’t know how.  You’d like to be adventurous – but you don’t know where to start.   If any of this sounds familiar, this article has your name on it.       A few caveats.  If your relationship in general is a train wreck, you probably want to sort that out before you worry about sexual enhancement.  If you can’t talk… Read more »

Esther Perel At IPG

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. “The bonds of wedlock are so heavy that sometimes it takes three to carry them” quipped Esther Perel, author of ‘Mating in Captivity,’ quoting Alexander Dumas. Acclaimed psychotherapist Perel did a workshop for the IPG staff in September. We love her because she always has a fresh and unique take on things.  One of the great things about Esther, who is one of the most mesmerizing speakers ever, is that because she was raised in Europe she brings a cross-cultural view to things.  In ‘Mating in Captivity’ she talked about the sad-but-true fact that passion tends to die in monogamous egalitarian relationships.  When she talked to our staff a couple of years ago about the book, she intrigued us by mentioning that Americans are ‘divorce tolerant and affair intolerant’ compared to Europeans, for whom the reverse is true. So when she came back last month, she spoke about her current book, working title ‘State of Affairs.’  These videos present some of her views, which amount to a revolutionary way for therapists – and everyone – to look at affairs, infidelity, intimacy,  monogamy, and transparency. Esther begins by reminding us that for most of recorded history, in the… Read more »

My Real Life “Sessions.” How a Sex Therapist Learned About the Limits of Talk Therapy

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Recently I was interviewed by Newsweek for an article anticipating the release of the film “The Sessions.”  I didn’t make the final cut, but I’m pleased that Lizzie Crocker wrote a pretty balanced article about the controversy over the use of sex surrogates, or surrogate partners as they are now called.  Vena Blanchard, the head of IPSA, the International Professional Surrogates Association, was sympathetically portrayed and cogently quoted. But I was disappointed that the only comments from a sex therapist in the article were from David Schnarch. Schnarch is well known and highly regarded, an acknowledged expert in sex therapy with couples.  But he represents the conservative wing of sex therapy, at least on this issue.  He made surrogacy sound a little smarmy, and implied incompetency on the part of any therapist who would have to ‘resort’ (his word) to using one. But there are sex therapists who find surrogates helpful, even though they are often reluctant to speak publicly about this, because Schnarch’s perspective dominates the field.  In fact, earlier this year the discussion of surrogacy on the listserv of a prominent sexology organization was disrupted by a participant who threatened to sue any therapist… Read more »

50 Shades of Grey: The Facts about BDSM and Kinky Sex

We thought last week’s blog was important enough to make a video.  Here’s Margie Nichols, Executive Director, and Courtney Zehnder, Media Coordinator, giving you the basics of what’s true and what’s stereotype about that stuff that Christian and Anastasia do.

50 Shades of Facts, Part 1

By Margie Nicols, Ph.D. There’s good news and bad news, imo, about the success of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ The good news is that women’s erotic life is getting a boost…..as in ‘validated’……as is women’s interest in kinky fantasy sex.  The bad news:  Christian Grey’s kinky predilictions are attributed to childhood abuse, thereby reinforcing (incorrect) stereotypes about BDSM.. So this prompt me to start a series of blog posts about kink aka BDSM.  I’m going to start with some definitions and a little truth about what it is – and isn’t. BDSM is an internet-generated acronym that stands for: BONDAGE AND DISCIPLINE DOMINATION AND SUBMISSION SADISM AND MASOCHISM Cute, right?  It’s an attempt to put an umbrella over a diverse set of sexual behaviors that have some things in common, one being – fewer people practice them than, say, vaginal intercourse or oral sex.  Usually when we talk about BDSM, or ‘kinky sex,’ we also include: FETISHES Fetishes are attractions to ‘unusual’ body parts or objects.  What is considered a fetish is pretty arbitrary – if you like big breasts you aren’t a fetishist, if you like feet you are – but you get the general idea. One more term… Read more »

Why ‘Sex at Dawn’ is a Game Changer

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. Recently, there’s been renewed buzz about the 2010 book “Sex at Dawn” but it’s unclear whether people appreciate the book’s true importance.  Authors Ryan and Jetha assert “Like bonobos and chimps, we are the randy descendants of hypersexual ancestors” and although much of the book makes the case for nonmonogamy, their arguments about our sexual origins have far broader implications.  So broad, in fact, that before I tackle BDSM I want to explain why ‘Sex at Dawn’ is a game changer. When the book first appeared, Dan Savage called it the most important book about sex since Kinsey, and that’s only slightly hyperbolic. Subtitled “How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships,” authors Ryan and Jetha’s purpose is to skewer the idea that monogamy is in any way ‘natural’ or ‘evolutionarily sound.’  But in fact they do much more:  perhaps without realizing it, they’ve provided the basis for a new paradigm for viewing human sexuality, one that validates the existence of all variant forms of sex and gender expression. Let me explain.From the birth of the field of sexology, marked by the publication of Kraft-Ebbing’s Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886,  sex researchers… Read more »

HOT, HEALTHY AND HORNY: Introduction To This Blog

by Margie Nichols, Ph.D. This blog is named after a workshop designed in the  1980’s by Luis Palacios and Michael Shernoff, two gay social workers and friends who worked with GMHC- Gay Men’s Health Crisis-  in the early days.  Their workshop was subtitled ‘Eroticizing Safer Sex’ and – it did exactly that.   Gay men in 1985 were terrified and bewildered, feeling doomed to celibacy or death.  Michael and Luis were responsible for helping hundreds of thousands of men learn they could enjoy sex without becoming infected with AIDS or infecting others.  R.I.P., my old buddies. The 1960’s and 70’s were times of expanding sexual freedom in America for everyone, not just gay men.  For a time it seemed we would throw off the restrictive sexual values of our past. But our Puritan roots run deep.  The inevitable backlash against sexual freedom that arouse in the 1980’s was fueled to a dangerous pitch by AIDS.  It is not surprising that many saw AIDS as a punishment, or that public response to AIDS was so hysterical and virulent.  Deep down, we mistrust pleasure in general, bodily pleasures even more, and sexual pleasure most of all.  We Americans have a peculiar two-pronged attitude towards… Read more »

What About Venus?

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. In an earlier blog post  we wrote about the distinct characteristics of male sexuality.  With the caveats that men and women are more alike than different, and that we don’t know if the differences are cultural or biological- here are some things we know about women’s sexuality: 1) Women are less sexual than men – with some important distinctions.  Women are less likely than men to orgasm regularly – 50% versus 75% – but they are MORE likely to be able to have multiple orgasms.  Moreover, many women have no ‘refractory period’ after an orgasm – that means, if the desire is there they can continue to have sex indefinitely. 2) Moreover, women may be more inherently arousable to a wider variety of sexual stimulation than men.  In a famous series of experiments Meredith Chivers and her colleagues found that men responded narrowly to pornography – heterosexual men only to heterosexual porn, gay men only to gay porn – while women responded to all kinds of erotic depictions, no matter what their sexual orientation. 3) Women definitely fuse sex and love more than men do.  Not only that, many women can’t seem to grasp how anyone… Read more »

The Truth About Male Sexuality

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D. MARS AND VENUS? REALLY? The answer is – yes and no.   John Gray’s ‘Mar/Venus’ books maintain that men and women are so intrinsically different that they might as well be from different planets.  Critics of Gray point out – truthfully – that the differences between men as a group and women as a group, in general, aresmaller than the differences that exist within each group. But that misses the point.  As a woman, my sexuality isn’t much like the sexuality described by people like Rosemary Basson when they describe a female desire cycle quite unlike that of men.  On the other hand, as a sex therapist and human observer I know that I’m an outlier, that Basson has nailed it for an awful lot of women.. So I guess the answer is yes with a three caveats.  I’m going to describe some of the most well-documented differences between men and women.  But please understand that the traits and behaviors I’m describing apply to about 2/3 of men and women.  That’s a majority – but a hefty 1/3 of each gender fall outside the stereotype.  You can’t use the generalities I’m going to make about male and… Read more »

Love Versus Sex/ Romance Versus Reality

By Margie Nichols, Ph.D.  IN OUR LAST BLOG, WE DESCRIBED THE MOST COMMON ROMANTIC MYTHS THAT DESTROY SEX LIFE.  HERE WE TELL YOU WHY THEY ARE WRONG. Most people are raised with a lot of romantic myths about sex, and like the women above, we refuse to see, hear, or talk about evidence that contradicts our beliefs.  These misconceptions can be grouped into a few categories.  Here are some broad categories and why these romantic beliefs are wrong: 1) Sex and Love are Intertwined:  we seem to think that once we are in love our sex drive will be focused only on our beloved. While this may be true during the initial infatuation phase of a relationship, over time we revert back to our true ‘animal nature.’  And believe me, animals are NOT monogamous.  You may have heard that some animals, like swans, mate for life.  What you probably don’t know is that swans and other ‘monogamous’ animals are connected to one partner for the purpose of child-rearing – but they all sleep around.   Monogamy is kind of – UNnatural. We can make our behavior monogamous, but not our desires.  Once we accept this reality, our partner’s attractions or fantasies about others, or ours, are not… Read more »