Archives for Sex & Sexuality

Relationships

Dealing with Sexual Betrayal: 6 Things Therapists Need to Know

In the wake of the recent Ashley Madison hack and data dump, sexual infidelity is in the news more than ever. Because of this, a growing number of spouses are actively checking up on what their partners are doing with their free time. Smartphone apps, texts, emails, and the like are being surreptitiously (and sometimes overtly) checked, and countless scores of cheaters are being found out. Plus, some unfaithful spouses are using news of the hack as an opportunity to come clean about previously hidden sexual behavior by voluntarily disclosing their infidelity. As a result, therapists of all stripes are encountering a rising tide of betrayed spouses, nervous cheaters, and couples in crisis. For clinicians who don’t specialize in this type of work, the loaded, swiftly changing emotions that surround sexual and romantic betrayal can lead to a lot of clinical second-guessing. To help alleviate some of this anxiety, I’ve created a short “Infidelity FAQ” for therapists, presented below. This list is created based on existing research and more than 20 years of clinical experience – specializing in intimacy issues such as infidelity.
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Sex & Sexuality

Homosexual Identity and Early-Life Trauma/Development

Can you remember the days when The American Psychiatric Association labeled homosexuality as a mental illness? I can, as can just about anyone over the age of 50, as the APA only abandoned this indefensible stance in the early 1970s. And even after the APA grudgingly chose to recognize homosexual attractions and behaviors as a natural variant of human sexual expression, many jurisdictions continued to criminalize same-sex sexual activity. While those antiquated laws are for the most part off the books in this country and other first-world nations, social discrimination nevertheless continues, with many people feeling that the “heterosexual norm” is the only right way to do things, and anything different is either immoral or just plain disgusting.
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Addictions

Recovery from Cybersex Addiction: Part One – Initial Action Steps

For the last five years (at least), Jerry, a handsome 36-year-old office manager, has put the search for sex ahead of all else – even though he’s not having any in-person sexual encounters. Instead, he looks at and masturbates to hardcore pornography for several hours each weeknight and all day on the weekends, and occasionally he engages in mutual masturbation with strangers via webcam. Until a few years ago he tried to also date in real life, usually going out with nice women who were interested in a long-term relationship. He says that he really liked one of them, but that he was never really present with her and she eventually broke things off. He admits that on their dates he was usually more focused on going home and going online than on her. As it turns out, she broke up with him because she thought he was cheating on her (and in a way he was). That was three years ago, and Jerry has not been on a date since. He has tried several times to quit using porn, and sometimes he manages to do so for a day or two. But before long he feels depressed and lonely and he goes back online as a way to escape the pain. Recently, he’s started using his office computer to access porn during work hours – a situation that he knows will not end well. And yet he continues.
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Sex & Sexuality

The Viagra Conundrum

I’m of a certain age – if you don’t know what “certain age” means, then you’re not there yet – and I tend to watch television programs geared toward my demographic. With these shows I am inevitably treated to a barrage of commercials featuring impossibly attractive middle-aged and older couples looking unusually romantic in some wonderfully bucolic setting. Most often they’re either cuddling by a lake at sunset or sipping Chardonnay on the veranda of a remote mountain cabin. Whatever the locale, these doe-eyed twosomes are very clearly in the process of kindling and/or rekindling the flames of their relationship. Suddenly, before I can start to feel too badly about the fact that neither of these people has even an ounce of extra belly fat, they look into one another’s eyes and they experience “the moment” – the instantaneous realization that a bed is nearby and they both want to use it for a purpose other than sleeping. Then the ad’s voiceover screams: “Hey old guy! Yeah, you with the aching back! If you take one of these pills, you can become the sexual dude that you were 30 years ago!”
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Sex & Sexuality

Out of Control Sexual Behavior: Addiction or Offending?

When It Comes to Sex, Confusion Reigns After more than two decades spent treating both sexual addicts and the occasional offender, I’ve watched the field of sexual disorders assessment and treatment come very far in its understanding of both sexual addiction and sexual offending. Nevertheless, the general public is often wildly misinformed on both topics, as are at least a few clinicians. One of the most common misperceptions is that sex addicts and sex offenders are one and the same. This is most definitely not the case. In reality, there are significant differences between sexual addicts and sexual offenders. Sex addicts are people who engage compulsively in one or more consensual sexual behaviors, continuing those behaviors despite directly related negative consequences - relationship woes, problems at work or in school, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, lack of self-care, declining physical and/or emotional health, financial issues, and more. Sex offenders often have similar symptoms, but their sexual activities are nonconsensual, violating the rights of others, breaking the law, or both.
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Sex & Sexuality

The Truth about Gay Conversion Therapy

Therapists are Trained, Governors are Not A few weeks ago Texas Governor Rick Perry, speaking in San Francisco, defended his state’s Republican Party Platform endorsing gay conversion therapy (also called reparative therapy), essentially stating that homosexuality is a choice. So once again this topic is in the news and in need of intelligent discussion. Somewhat amazingly, the basic questions being asked about homosexuality and conversion therapy haven’t changed much in the last 50-plus years, despite the almost incalculable progress we’ve made in our scientific understanding of human sexuality and romantic attraction. The two primary questions seem to be: Is homosexuality a psychological disorder (or the result of a psychological disorder)? Can homosexuals be repaired (i.e., converted into heterosexuals) via psychoanalytic treatment or any other methodology? The answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO. Yet here we are again, fighting off painfully misguided, highly moralistic efforts to judge healthy forms of sexuality.
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Sex & Sexuality

Discussing Casual Sex: An Interview with Dr. Zhana Vrangalova

Zhana Vrangalova is a human sexuality researcher with a PhD in Developmental Psychology from Cornell University. Currently she teaches in the Psychology Department at NYU. Her research focuses on sexual orientation, consensual non-monogamy, and the effects of casual sex on emotional wellbeing. She is the originator of The Casual Sex Project, a forum for real stories from real people detailing their experiences with hookups, one-night stands, friends with benefits, and the like. Her recently published study, Who Benefits from Casual Sex: The Moderating Role of Sociosexuality, is generating a great deal of discussion among not just sexologists, but the general public, primarily because the research finds that casual sex, for people who are emotionally and socially “into it,” may actually benefit emotional and psychological wellbeing. (Previous studies looking into the effects of casual sex on wellbeing have been largely inconclusive.) I recently had the opportunity to speak with Zhana about her groundbreaking work, and I wanted to share the transcript of our conversation here.
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Sex & Sexuality

The Reality of Bisexuality

Sex is Not a One-Way Street I had thought that in writing this long-overdue blog on bisexuality I could offer a straightforward, readily understandable overview of some issues that are very basic to human sexuality. I was wrong. Research, literature, and societal attitudes about bisexuality are all over the board. Part of the issue is that there’s not even a universally agreed upon definition. After doing a lot of reading and thinking, I’ll propose - for purposes of this blog - the following: To be a bisexual man or woman means having a personally significant and meaningful romantic and/or sexual attraction to both males and females. While some readers will find the definition above to be too broad, others will feel it is lacking. Please note that I fully understand this. This language is posited merely as a starting point for the discussion that follows, and not as the be-all, end-all of what it means to be bisexual.
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