Home Social aspects of sexuality Committed relationships The role of relationship therapists and counsellors

The role of relationship therapists and 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. 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 logically.

Relationships involve a balance of power, with each partner negotiating (even if only by using silent or moody behaviour) to get what they want. We don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we might feel under moral pressure (because the force of logic is against us) to consider changing our behaviour just to please a lover. Men worry about losing out on sexual opportunities. Women worry about having to give more than they feel they should need to.

As with all things in life, the less we expect, the more content we are. Most people never question their sexual experiences. Many unresponsive women are not bothered about a lack of orgasm. Others assume there must be a solution. So they pay for therapy hoping for reassurance. But some situations don’t have a solution. They are just way they are. We find this hard to accept. Any facts or logic, that might explain why women cannot respond as men want, are ignored because they do not help solve the issue. This search is endless because no one can accept the evidence of their own experiences.

As long as they get regular sex, most men are happy. So sex therapy focuses on relationship issues that are important, if a woman is to be amenable to offering the sex a man needs. Men want women to be enthusiastic about intercourse because it provides them with so much pleasure. Women also want to know how intercourse could be pleasurable because men expect it.

Therapists assume that their work qualifies them as objective observers of sexuality in the population. But a therapist uses counselling techniques to help with relationship issues. Many women tend to talk about their sexual experiences in terms of orgasm but this does not mean they truly have one. Women 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 intellectually independent, free from political bias and prejudices.

There is, of course, money to be made by suggesting that there is a recognisable condition that can be treated in some way or a problem that can be solved by a sexual therapist. We are easily persuaded that other couples have discovered something we have not. However, one has to ask why such vital information is not made available to everyone. If such information existed, it would surely not be secret for long? Therapists provide reassurance rather than explanations. Many so-called solutions do not stand up to scrutiny but we are all much too embarrassed to complain.

A woman can conceive without ever having an orgasm. So-called female sexual dysfunctions rely on the idea that women should orgasm from intercourse, yet this belief is not supported by research. The only real evidence (if you can call it that) of women apparently being sexually aroused with a lover comes from erotic fiction. The sexual bravado of a few individuals of both sexes adds to the confusion over how and when female orgasm is achieved (a woman must first be sexually responsive). Women are only thought to be dysfunctional because of a few bogus orgasm claims.

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 does. 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, silence and taboo.

The second misconception to overcome is that a man is not responsible for his partner’s orgasm. Some men are motivated to try to pleasure a woman sexually because they assume that if they could succeed, she would be more amenable to having sex. Unfortunately women are not aroused with a lover. The few women who are responsive only orgasm by masturbating alone. Orgasm is a personal pleasure that we create in our own minds. First, a person must be responsive. Next, they need the appropriate circumstances.

Women can never be a penetrator so (regardless of orientation) they are much less proactive than men. Women generally dislike genital display and manipulation. Most women engage in sexual activity only as a response to a man’s initiative. Women are essentially on the defensive. They need only to accept a man’s instinctive desire to explore their bodies. Some women are motivated to offer proactive pleasuring because they enjoy pleasing 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 can assist her lover by giving 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)