Celeste and Danielle, Creators of the Somatica Method of Sex Therapy and Relationship Coaching

One of our clients sent over this series of emails she wrote to her close female friends about working with us to address her low libido. We are so delighted that she is willing to open up about her journey, and we’ll be sharing it with you as a series of blog posts.

The Problem

In this first post, we will share with her absolutely on point description of what most couples experience when the woman in the relationship has lower desire and how they try to solve it. Our client writes:

“Over the course of the 19 years that I have been with my wonderful husband, we have had the great fortune to grow together in many ways. However, one thing that has been constant over the years is his sexual appetite has always been greater than my own. Sound familiar? That’s because a ridiculously huge proportion of women face similar issues in their relationships.”

Is Good the Enemy of Great?

“It wasn’t that I couldn’t have GOOD sex with my husband. Despite my self-diagnosed ‘low libido,’ we still managed to have sex on a moderately regular (albeit less than he would have liked) basis. But it was routine. I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, crawled into bed with him and we did the things we knew would please each other and we had sex. It was good. But GREAT sex required stars to be aligned. It required vacations, or alcohol, or a particularly perfect week at work and a kid who went to bed early or slept in late. It required me to get out of my head for a second and to not be annoyed that his loving overtures weren’t coming at a time where I was already in the mood, but to have them put me in the mood. It required a small miracle.”

Looking for the Quick Fix

Many couples try to resolve the issue with “quick fixes,” “hot tips,” and all sorts of short-cut solutions that generally don’t do much to shift people’s habits or change their sex lives and relationships. Our client continues:

“We’d had discussions over the years about this topic, and as a result of these emotional conversations, we’d stumble upon various tactics that would work for a SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. We’d decide to have sex every Wednesday, and it worked. For a month. We’d decide to be more amorous to each other outside the bedroom, and that worked. For a couple weeks. He would buy me sexy lingerie. That wouldn’t work (does that work for anyone but a guy?!?). We’d think that “Oh when the baby is older, we’ll get back in the groove” or “Oh, it’s the birth control pills, that’s it. After the vasectomy and I’m off the pills, we’ll magically want to jump each other’s bones all day long.”

Sound Familiar?

Some of you are probably nodding your heads emphatically right now, totally able to identify with our client’s situation. Society tells us that sex is easy, especially when you’re in a happy, loving relationship. In reality, many women suffer from occasional to frequent low-libido, making them frustrated with their relationships and themselves.

In our next post we’ll continue following our client on her journey as she searches for an answer to her low libido.

Jennifer LawrenceBetween cell phone cameras, dash cams, nanny cams, internet hackers, and all that Facebook and Google mine from our accounts and emails every day, it is no surprise that celebrity photos of Jennifer Lawrence recently surfaced on the web. While we, as a culture, may feel that we have a right to privacy, the facts of modern life mean that we don’t much have a reality of privacy anymore.

This is a mixed bag – on the one hand it means that police brutality and campus rapes have been caught on camera making it possible to prosecute people who probably would otherwise have gotten away with their crimes. It also means that when you take nude photos and store them on your computer or online, or send an intern a dick pic or send your boyfriend that hot beaver shot, it is safe to assume the intended audience might not be the only audience.

We believe the end of privacy has potential to change our society drastically, especially around sex and relationships, which will continue to be more and more under the purview of the public eye. Will this make us more open and less prudish as a culture? Possibly. Will it continue to spark debate and raise consciousness about rape and objectification? Hopefully. And as for Jennifer’s and her nude photos, she appears to be a deeply sexually empowered woman. While we should all be outraged that they were published without her consent, we hope she will not be ashamed of them. We think they are gorgeous.

Here is a question we received from a reader:
Hi, I was going through your blog. I have a peculiar issue, maybe. I am 31, a mother of 2, and my husband is 34. He is very interested in sex — anywhere, anytime, — but me, I don’t know why, but I totally dislike it. He loves me a lot. And I feel bad that I discourage him, which hurts him a lot, but anytime he comes to me, even for a small kiss, I feel he is proposing sex. I have posted my problem in many blogs, but no luck till now. It’s been almost 3 years since I have let him near me. I feel sad for him. Please help.

The longer a couple goes without having sex, the more difficult and awkward it can be to start again. Your body actually forgets what it liked about sex. The good news is that a sex drought can make getting it on again even more exciting! We’ve helped many couples out of their sexless ruts, and find that the reasons they stopped having sex usually fall into three main categories.

Low sex drive – Some women naturally have a lower sex drive than they’ve been led to believe is “normal.” If your libido has always been lacking, it can be increased by simply spending more time thinking about sex! Tune in to the sensuality of the world around you, explore your turn-ons with erotic movies and books, and don’t forget to masturbate!

Emotional disconnect – For women in particular, misunderstandings and unresolved conflict in the relationship can cause a lack of connection and and make intimacy difficult. You and your partner must learn to effectively communicate your feelings and bridge the divide between you, because relationships are about repair.

Pushing the wrong buttons – Women frequently confide to us that their partner doesn’t know how they’d prefer to be approached, seduced, and pleasured, but they’ve never said anything to him! It’s crucial that you talk about your turn ons, even if you think they’re a little weird. Once your partner knows what you like, we can help him perfect his technique.

Even if it seems like your partner is always in the mood, he’s probably suffering from feelings of rejection and insecurity. He may fear that he won’t be able to perform well once you do start having sex. You need to make sure you keep communicating, reassuring one another, and working together to rebuild your sex life.

All this advice may be overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to begin again, a kiss is always a good start.

Don-Jon-e1408325538806While inelegant, heavy-handed, and simplistic at times, the overall message of the movie Don Jon is a good one. Written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film takes us on a tour of sex and relationships in modern times. In the beginning we see Levitt’s main character, Don Jon, watching porn constantly, sleeping with a new woman every night, and complaining that real sex never measures up to the porno standard. He then enters into a relationship with Barbara Sugarman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who plays by the old fashioned rules dictated by female “porn,” aka romance movies. She holds off on sex and begins grooming him to be the perfect financial provider. Once they do have sex, Don Jon slinks off to masturbate immediately afterward, and continues to rely on internet porn to achieve his sexual highs.

The message Gordon-Levitt beats into us like a dead horse is simply Porn is Men’s Porn, Romance Movies are Women’s Porn and neither one shows any form of real connection or intimacy. Eventually Barbara discovers Don Jon’s porn history on his browser and leaves him for being a “pervert.”

Enter Esther – a recently widowed “cougar” played by Julianne Moore with whom Don Jon eventually begins an honest sexual and intimate relationship. The fact that Moore is a widow points to the way that the romantic fantasy of finding someone and living happily ever after without a hitch is also always a lie, because eventually one person dies and one way or another we all lose.

While this might seem sad, we believe that the message of the movie is actually quite hopeful. The relationship between Don Jon and Esther is not dictated by the trajectory of meet-date-cohabitate-marry-breed-die. They are exploring their connection in the moment and Don Jon begins to experience the vulnerability, depth, and freedom, as well as the arousal that comes from the authentic erotic connection available in this relationship. We found the message in Don Jon to be infinitely more hopeful than either porn or rom coms – it offers us a glimpse into what’s possible if we stay true to ourselves and our relationships in the present moment.

Don Jon points us to a vision of sex and relationships that aren’t based on the rom com’s promise of forever happiness or porn’s perfectly uninterrupted, faked orgasm trajectory of male arousal to ejaculation. Sure, once in a while it’s fine to go ahead and get our porn or romance fix as long as we realize that they are fantasies, not reality. In reality, there are no guarantees of happily every after or hot sex forever, there are just two (or more) people experiencing the ups and downs of life, and the joys and frustrations of the places we meet and the places we miss each other. When we can do this with love, honesty, and room for disappointment, so much more is possible.

The Sessions is a movie about sexual surrogacy — a form of sexual therapy in which a psychotherapist, surrogate, and client work together as a team to support the client in overcoming emotional and functional sexual difficulties. The story is based on the experience between a young Cheryl Cohen Greene, an actual surrogate who still lives and practices in Berkeley, and one of her clients, Mark O’Brien, a Polio sufferer who was paralyzed except for some movement in his fingers, toes, face, and eyes. While it was a wonderful idea to tell the story of surrogacy and how it actually helped Mark, who eventually married a woman and who stayed in connection with Cheryl until he died, it was an unfortunately unrealistic depiction of their relationship.

Within Hollywood’s relationship lexicon – a lexicon that cannot imagine intimate sexual connection outside of the romantic trajectory where you meet, fall in love, and then must either marry or part ways forever – the idea that a man and a woman could “practice” sex, feel affection and connection, and not fall in love is impossible. Unfortunately, instead of showing the actual relationships that surrogates have with their clients – a relationship of non-judgmental acceptance, supportive care and affection where the client can explore, heal, and expand around their own sexuality – Hollywood had to make Cheryl and Mark start to fall in love and, as a result, have to end their relationship. This is not the true story of Cheryl and Mark and it is not at all representative of a surrogate-client relationship.

We feel this is an important distinction because, as with any experiential practices around sex, our cultural misunderstandings about sex and relationship can get in the way of accessing important tools for learning and growth. The truth of sex and relationships is that there are as many different ways to combine them as there are people who engage in them and, while we try to fit these connections neatly into the expected trajectory, they do not stay within these culturally expected boundaries. People have sex without intimacy, marriages without sex, and affairs even when they still love their partners. In our upcoming book for couples, we will be talking about how to have a real, honest relationship that accounts for the beautiful uniqueness of every human being and every relationship, a beautiful uniqueness that was impossible for Hollywood to depict in The Sessions.

Some people choose to stay virgins until they are married while others who are interested in sex lack the skills and opportunity to lose their virginity, even when they feel ready and would like to. For these people, unfulfilled urges can combine with societal pressure, leading them to either resign themselves to a celibate life or settle for very subpar sexual encounters, in an effort to lose their virginity at any cost.

But there is another option for those looking to get into the game: sex and intimacy coaching. As sex coaches, we don’t just help people improve their existing sexual relationships, we give people the tools to start their sex lives with confidence, openness, and optimism. One of the virgins we worked with, we’ll call him Calvin, was afraid that women would be turned off by his inexperience in the bedroom. After taking our Erotic Intensive, his date said to him, “You dangerous, bad man” when he was seducing her for the first time. Here he was a virgin and she thought he was some kind of player, his approach was so good.

The research out there talks about inherent and social predictors of adult virginity, like race, weight, alcohol use, and education levels. In our practice, we have worked with many virgins to help them gain experience with women and lose their virginity, and we have noticed some personality traits that seem to go along with adult virginity. For example, some of the men who we have helped don’t understand women’s sexual cues, can’t approach or seduce women, and feel easily rejected or do not have much resilience around rejection. Other men, like Calvin, are worried about performance or do not have confidence about their sexual skills and fear that potential partners will be turned off if it seems like they don’t know what they are doing.

We have worked with adult virgins from age 21 to age 72 and would love to help any man gain the confidence, skills, and understanding they need to take their sexual experiences with women to the next level. Since men are expected to be the initiators of sex, practicing first with a professional can be extremely helpful. In our sessions we focus on everything from getting dates to initiating contact, as well as the chemistry of attraction. We help men with seduction and technique, and teach them how to show women their desire and passion. Like Calvin, some men who have worked with with us decide to keep their virginity private and we feel you have a right to your privacy and a right to have a fulfilling sexual life.

As this recent article on men’s experience of low sexual desire points out, women are not the only ones who suffer a lack of desire in their relationships. We see men in our practice suffering from low sexual desire for a number of reasons.

Can’t Come Through with the Goods

One of the main reasons we see men experiencing low desire that is talked about in the article is the fear that they won’t be able to perform. Usually they will say something like, “I don’t want to initiate sex if I’m not going to be able to come through with the goods.” Because they fear they won’t be able to get or maintain an erection or control their ejaculation, they start to distance themselves from their desire altogether. Of course, it is difficult to tell which comes first, it may be that men who have low desire have trouble getting an erection or it may be that erectile difficulties cause men to shut down their sexual desire – the answer is likely a reciprocal relationship and that a negative downward spiral is created as a result.

When we work with men who have sexual dysfunction, we teach them that there are many ways to come through with the goods and that, more than just a hard-on or a lasting session of intercourse, what many women want out of sex is to feel some kind of intensity and emotional connection. Once men accept that there are many ways emotionally and physically to come through with the goods without ever having intercourse at all, they can get back in touch with their desire.

If at First You Don’t Succeed (and then again, and again, and again), Eventually You Might Stop Trying

Another reason that’s not covered in the article is a long-term experience of rejection. This feeling of rejection may come from a lack of confidence when approaching women or from the experience of being with a partner who has low sexual desire. If a man makes pass after pass after pass only to feel rejected over and over again, his desire will start to wane and can even shut down completely. Generally, at the same time he also builds feelings of frustration and negative self-image.

When we see men who are dealing with feelings of rejection and incompetence, we help them in a few ways. One is to see if there may be some things they are doing that are increasing their likelihood of rejection. We help them learn how to seduce and erotically connect with their lovers and partners. Second, we help them get back in touch with their desire as something inherent to them that no one can take away, and help them see the ways that their partner’s rejection might not be personal or about them at all. Third, if their partner is willing to come in, we help them work through differences in desire, share openly about their sexual needs, and learn how to be great lovers to one another.

Lack of Attraction to Their Partner

As this article points out, some men never had or lose attraction to their partner over time and this can cause low desire for men in long-term monogamous relationships with a partner to whom they aren’t attracted. The loss of attraction can be due to familiarity or changes in their partner’s looks or body. Many times, men do not want to lose their long-term relationships because of the many wonderful aspects in the relationship, but have lost attraction to their partner. We have had many men confide in us that they no longer have or have never been attracted to their partner. They feel very stuck because they feel like communicating this would be devastating and, at the same time, they are not interested in sex.

For some men, this lack of attraction can shift by becoming more embodied and connected with desire that has less to do with visual stimulation and more to do with embodied arousal. Another option that some couples choose in this situation is to try non-monogamy, outsourcing the sexual part of the relationship in order to be able to enjoy a lasting and supportive long-term emotional bond.

Low Testosterone

Low testosterone can also lead to men having lower desire. While many men who have low testosterone immediately jump to taking testosterone replacement therapies, which can have some nasty side-effects, there are actually ways to build your testosterone naturally, including getting more in touch with pleasure in your body, masturbation (sometimes without orgasm), and lowering shame. To find out more about natural ways to build your testosterone, read our blog on The Big T.

And Many More…

Other reasons include emotional shut-down, exhaustion, chronic pain and other desire-inhibiting medical conditions. When we work with chronic pain, what seems to help the most is learning to focus the attention on the pleasure as opposed to the pain. And, of course, there are many ways that we work with emotional shut-down to get people to allow themselves to feel their bodies, their emotions, and their desire again. As for exhaustion, learning how to care for yourself is a life-long process. Everything you do affects you in all areas of your life, so the more you eat right, rest, take breaks, exercise, nap, take vacations, breathe, etc. the more desirous and healthy you will be!