The role of relationship therapists & counsellors

Adults are embarrassed about sex because of their emotional insecurities. Our emotional needs include a need to impress, a need to belong and a need to be valued. Some people lack self-esteem, which stems from anxiety. Women tend to be much less confident than men, which is quite natural.

We avoid discussing relationship issues for various reasons. We want to avoid conflict. We don’t want to admit that we have behaved badly, that we have said things we shouldn’t have or that we were wrong. We may want to continue behaving in a way that suits us but that we cannot justify.

We assume that there must always be a solution. But some situations don’t have a solution. They are just way they are. Full stop. People find that hard to accept. So they keep asking ‘experts’ “How can I make a woman orgasm?” and “How can I orgasm from intercourse?”. People just can’t accept that no one knows the answer to these questions. Because there isn’t an answer that is acceptable. The answer is “You can’t”! But people won’t accept that. So they continue to pay for therapy or perhaps reassurance.

Some people define sexual satisfaction in terms of orgasm frequency and others in terms of a quality experience. As with all things in life, the less we expect, the more content we are. A woman can get pregnant regardless of whether she has an orgasm. So women are only thought to be ‘dysfunctional’ because of a few orgasm claims. Most so-called sexual dysfunctions rely on the idea that women orgasm from intercourse, yet this belief is not supported by research. People who advise on orgasm rarely admit to having difficulties themselves so it’s unclear how they can advise.

Women may talk about their sexual experiences in terms of orgasm but this does not mean that they truly have one. Women are told they should have orgasms so naturally some think they do. Even if female clients talk about orgasm, counsellors still focus on relationship issues. Sex therapists talk about relationship issues from the perspective of what the woman needs to feel amenable to offering the sex that the man needs. Men’s relationship issues are easy. As long as they get regular sex, men tend to be happy.

Therapists often assume that their work qualifies them as objective observers of sexuality in the general population. But a therapist is trained in techniques that help resolve relationship issues. A therapist’s clients may provide sexual histories but a therapist cannot easily challenge a paying client. Sex research is quite different. A researcher needs the personal qualities that ensure they can challenge and question. A researcher should be politically independent, free from personal loyalties and prejudices.

Many women enter relationship counselling because they are looking for answers themselves. They may feel that by obtaining a qualification, they validate their own experiences. The sex industry is dominated by male beliefs about how women should respond to male sexual initiative. So a responsive woman is highly unlikely to obtain any rational explanations for the contradictions in our society’s portrayal of female responsiveness.

There is of course money to be made by insisting there is a condition that can be cured or a problem that can be solved. People are inclined to believe what other people say even when it conflicts with their own experience. So we assume that other couples have discovered something we have not.

A sex therapist cannot, any more than anyone else can, help a woman achieve orgasm. If we are capable of orgasm, then we discover it for ourselves. A woman may benefit from understanding how orgasm is achieved. If a woman does not orgasm it is because she lacks the necessary responsiveness. This is very common and quite normal for most women.

The first misconception is that women have a sex drive. Women are told that they should be driven to want intercourse as much as a man is. This is incorrect. A woman does not have a sex drive. Women do not orgasm with a lover regardless of the stimulation a man provides. A couple needs to understand this. Telling a woman that she should naturally want sex, when she doesn’t, means that she can only conclude that she is abnormal or dysfunctional in some way. This causes embarrassment and silence.

The second misconception to overcome is that a man is not responsible for providing a woman’s sexual pleasure. Women are not aroused with a lover. A woman needs to put conscious effort into sexual activity of any kind (even when she is alone). She has two options with a lover. She can either engage proactively on providing her lover with sexual pleasure. Or she can give him permission to explore her body and allow him to try to provide her with some sensual and possibly erotic sensations that she might enjoy. If she does this, she needs to give him some encouraging erotic feedback.

To us men, sex is sex. We want it, let’s do it, we’re done. For many women it isn’t always that simple. You need to be in tune with her emotionally if you want to make her more receptive sexually. (Stephan Labossiere 2012)