Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I'm a Sex Expert!

I was just doing an innocent little search on the web for the name of a woman a had heard was now the newest sex expert. Two hours later, I've surfaced from a sex-advice surfing session that took me through an absolutely crazy array of 'sex experts'. I know that everyone thinks that they have something to say about sex but are you really someone that should be giving out advice on the net? My search marooned me in AOL's 'coaches' section where I did not find any mention of the woman I was searching for but found no less than 12 love and sex experts and even more relationship experts. Do we really need this much advice? How could you possibly decide who's advice to take? The experts range from people who actually have education and professional experience in human sexuality such a Yvonne Fullbright, to people who have some counselling experience and seem to think that makes them sex experts like John Gray, to Star Jones who, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why she's there. Star Jones is a lawyer and a talk show host. Why on earth does she qualify as a sex expert?

So after sampling some of the pearls of wisdom from these 'coaches', I have some expert advice - on how to choose a sex expert.

1. Read their bios. What is their educational and professional background. Have they actually studied sexuality in the area that they claim to be an expert on? Do they have professional experience in sexual health research, counselling or sex therapy? Personal experience does not qualify you to give advice. Most of have had sex - are we all experts?
2. Do they give real, thoughtful answers rather than soundbites? It's hard to find good information in the sex advice world because most of the articles, particularly on the internet are very short and to the point. A soundbite is not going to tell you anything that will really help you.
3. Do they allow for differences in individuals or do they focus on generalizations and sexual stereotypes? John Gray has built an empire based on sexual stereotyping and people eat it right up. There is always a sliver of truth in a generalization but not all women are from venus and not all men are from Mars. A really good sex expert understands that people are unique and advice should either focus on the individual, or, when that's not possible, allow for individual differences amongst the generalizations.
4. Is their advice based on research and fact or personal values? Dr. Laura anyone? For some sex and love 'experts' their job as an expert serves no other purpose than to allow them to push their personal agendas. If an expert is constantly telling people what is right or wrong, they are more interested in their own opinion than on actually helping. Good sex advice offers suggestions, not moral imperatives.
5. Do their values and focus fit with yours? It's impossible to be free of values when you talk about sex. Every expert has their values around what sex means and what is and is not healthy sexuality. Some experts believe that open marriage is synonymous with infidelity, some think that internet porn is dangerous and leads to addiction, some actually believe that homosexuality is a mental illness. If you're going to go surfing for advice on the net, you need to realize that all of these experts have values around sex and you just need to pick out what those are. Don't take advice from someone who's values are not consistent with yours - you'll only end up frustrated.
6. Are they selling you something? Watch for subtle or not so subtle attempts to get you to buy something. Are they sponsored by a drug company or toy company? Are they pushing their latest book? It's not such a bad thing to buy books or toys to enhance your sex life but posing as a sex expert just so you can push a product is dishonest.
For more information on how to choose an expert, buy my book, 'Sexperts: How to Find the Best Bang for Your Sex Advice Buck!' ........ just kidding!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Blended Orgasms are the New Black

Ladies, we have a winner! It appears a we have a new greatest sex thing that you simply must try. A few years ago it was female ejaculation. That's old news now. Now we have......the blended orgasm! I've heard this term several times in the last few months. Lots of women at my parties have been asking me about the blended orgasm and how to have one. I've heard that term in reference to a lot of different things so I didn't really think much of it and just talked about orgasms in general. But it appears that the Blended Orgasm has now been deemed by the popular media as a very specific thing, that being a combined G-spot and clitoral orgasm. Laura Berman was talking about it on Oprah about a month ago and today I found an article in Cosmo all about this latest greatest new orgasm. According to certified sex therapist Dr. Ava Cadell, quoted in the Cosmo article, "By simultaneously having your clitoris and G-spot stroked, you mix the unique sensations of each peak into one, resulting in a longer, deeper experience." Wow, who wouldn't want that?

So really, I have to admit, the article isn't so bad. For many women, rubbing the clitoris while stimulating the G-spot is very pleasurable - and they gives some good ideas for how to do that. My problem is this, the article and this 'blended orgasm' trend in general make women think we are all the same, and we just aren't. I have talked to hundreds of women in my eight years of work in this field and I have met women who have never had an orgasm, women who don't orgasm with partners, women who don't orgasm when they masturbate, women who only orgasm through oral sex, women who hate oral sex, women who have ejaculated, women who hate G-spot play, women who hate vibrators, women who love vibrators, women who have their strongest orgasms during anal play, women who can only have orgasms during penetration, and women who can have orgasms by just thinking about it. So how in the world can we describe one very specific sexual act and say that every woman will have a shattering orgasm from it? What happens then is that the women who try this and find it doesn't work for them think they are either doing it wrong or there's something wrong with them. It's just not a fair and accurate description of sexuality. I wouldn't have a problem with it if it was framed as 'something to try' but these things never are. They are always presented as the very latest and greatest way to have sex that you simply must try now.

And just to be little picky here, trying to reach the G-spot with a penis is definitely possible but not easy. The fancy position described in the Cosmo article in which the woman dangles her legs off the bed and he stands between her legs can work, but usually only if maintains some distance and does not insert his penis all the way, or if he is careful to go more slowly so that there is movement of the head across the G-spot. The article doesn't mention the fact that this spot is located close to the opening of the vagina.

I'm not even going to get into the fact that this article assumes that all women have male partners. That's an entirely other issue.

Newsflash! Teenage Girls Have Sex!

I was watching Tyra Banks' talk show a few weeks ago because she had a feature about a survey she had done on the behavior of teenage girls. Rather than being an informative discussion about teen sexuality, it was her usual fare of taking women onto her show, exposing their sexual behavior and then taking turns with her audience berating and judging them. So I didn't think too much about it and turned it off when the judgemental rants became too much for me to bear. But today, in sifting through my usual sites that I watch for sexual health news, I discovered that this survey that the Tyra Banks show did, is actually being reported as real news. Both the New York Post and MSNBC featured stories on the 'shocking' results of her survey. The Today show had an interview with Tyra in which she clearly positioned herself as an expert on this topic and offered her thoughts on the results and what should be done about them. What a sad state we have come to when we are looking to a supermodel with not one shred of experience in this area for comment about what to do about risky teenage behavior. True, they claim the survey had 10,000 respondents, which is a fairly large number, but I have some major issues with reporting this information as if it can be generalized to the whole population. I also can't stand the way it's being reported. It's framed as if it's legitimate news when really all it is is a simplistic and sensationalized attempt to get viewers for the Tyra Banks show and the Today show.

So here are my questions about this survey:
Why is it being generalized when the survey was conducted solely through the website for the Tyra show? Isn't it very likely that this is a self-selected group? These are obviously girls who watch Tyra, which has to represent a particular segment of the population. And I don't think it's unreasonable to assume that at least some of the girls who responded to this survey were looking for a chance to appear on her show - as a small group of them did. These girls are not stupid and would understand that they're not going to get on the show by saying that they are responsible young women who make careful decisions about sex and use condoms consistently. Who wants to hear that? No, they would know that their best chance of getting on the show lies in saying that they participate in risky, outlandlish behavior. I'm not saying that the young women that were on the show were lieing about their behavior, I'm just saying that the survey was likely to attract girls with 'a story'. Girls who don't have a story probably wouldn't feel so compelled to fill it out - what do they have to say?

Next, what's new about this? The 'stats' gleaned from this survey are not all that different from other national surveys that have been done in the US. It's being treated as if it's so new and shocking. Young people have always had sex and many of them don't use birth control. It's not new. And since this is not a controlled, representative study, there's no way to say that this indicates things are getting worse - which seems to be the implication Tyra is making. The survey indicated that 14% of the respondents had sex at school. This information brought gasps of horror from the audience on the show. But why? Where can you have sex when you're a teenager? You don't have your own place, options are limited, you spend a lot of time at school - why wouldn't that be a place you choose?

And why are we focusing only on the girls? These girls are having sex, not using condoms, and getting pregnant with someone. Why are the boys not on the show? Tyra likes to frame herself as an advocate of young womens' self-esteem and claims this is why she did the survey and the show. That would explain why it focuses on girls rather than boys. But does she really think it helps a girl's self-esteem to bring her on a national talk show and call her out as a violent, stupid, drug-addicted slut?

And finally, where does all this get us? The claim that this is done in an attempt to understand and helps girls is so paper-thin it's laughable. If it was an attempt to understand, she would have focused on the girls' stories of how and why these things happened to them and talked to real experts in teenage sexuality and counselling about what can be done to prevent risky behavior. Instead all she did was race through each girl, have them give an account of all the terribly slutty and horrifying things they did, ask them each why and then call down their explanations as stupid and immature. That's very helpful. I'm sure each of these girls has been reformed.