Ask Me Anything

I had the distinct honor of being part of the expert’s “mix and meet” at the first annual Sexual Health Expo, and it was my pleasure to offer you an AMA during this event! I received so many great questions, and it was a treat answering them for you!

Please note that while I do indeed offer therapy, this AMA is not therapy. It is intended for your education and enjoyment only.

“What do you do to get past the edge when you can’t?”
This depends largely on just where you’re getting stuck. There are three stages of the orgastic cycle that are at play here: charge, containment, and release. Orgasms are a release of built up muscular tension (charge). When enough tension is built and sustained, an orgasm is forthcoming.

So first off, factors such as fatigue or intoxication must be ruled out. Then consider if enough charge is being built. Sometimes we can become over-focused on a fantasy and get drawn too far from awareness of the body. Shifting focus to sensation can build more charge. There are also positions that are especially good for building charge, particularly ones which allow the quadriceps to be engaged. (This is why some people flex those muscles during sex.)

Sometimes the biggest challenge is allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to orgasm. You have to feel safe and comfortable enough to jump off, because it is pretty darn vulnerable to allow another person to see and hear you in that space. If you have a sense that this is what’s holding you back, there are many paths that you can take, and all involve introspection. You can practice masturbating in front of a mirror in order to get used to what you look like during orgasm. Notice what you like, and what you don’t like, and spend some time reflecting upon why for each. You should consider your partners. Do you genuinely like them? Do you feel safe with them? If you stay stuck, seek the support of a therapist.

“Do white guys do the best at cunnilingus?”
In short, no. But perhaps that’s been the case in your experience. If you’d like to say more about why you’re asking, feel free to email me or leave an anonymous comment below.

I did some research into cultural perspectives on cunnilingus, but I haven’t come up with anything substantial as of yet. I have noticed that there seem to be stronger opinions about fellatio than cunnilingus, which is interesting.

“How do you start to be comfortable with anal sex even though you cringe at the thought?”
Well, it matters a lot that you are genuinely interested in it. The sexual activities that we enjoy are ultimately no more complicated than our food preferences. There are just some things we like, and some we don’t. So make sure you’re approaching this from the standpoint that it may not be for you. That would be ok! Then consider what your blocks may be. Anal sex, probably more than any other sexual act, can be pretty tangled up in false beliefs, and you may need to process through some thoughts and feelings. That can take a lot of exploration and communication, so be patient with yourself and your partner, if you have one. Once you decide if you genuinely want to try it, seek out educational resources that will guide you through the process. The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, and The Adventurous Couples Guide to Strap-On Sex from Cleis Press are all excellent.

“What does somatic sex therapist mean? What degree did you get?”
Check out my “Home” and “About Heather” pages to learn about my background.  In some ways, specifying somatic therapy and sex therapy is redundant, because it’s all about the complete person. One’s sexuality is simply a clear way to see into their inner landscape. We are good at certain things, and we get stuck on certain things, and when you understand how the body is organized around those qualities, you will see the same enactments in all areas of a person’s life. If the realm of somatics seems a little elusive, you might like this article.

“Can you have anal sex with an exterior hemorrhoid?”
It’s possible, but this is a question that should first be answered by your doctor, so that your exact physical condition can be considered. I like this article from urologist Dr. Joe DeOrio. He addresses both what’s happening physiologically, and raises some important considerations about the question itself.

“Is oxytocin released when you touch yourself or only when someone else does?”
Oxytocin is released during and after any orgasm. Isn’t that cool? Check out Susan Kuchinskas’ book The Chemistry of Connection if you want to learn all about this amazing hormone.

“What is cunnilingus?”
In short: awesome. Cunnilingus is oral stimulation of the female genitalia. There is a wealth of excellent information about it out there, from books to instructional videos. For curated resources, take a peek at my resources page.

“What are some people so afraid of STIs? Most are very curable. Some people kill themselves with food, smoking, alcohol or skiing?”
I suspect that the answer has to do with the higher presence of shame and embarrassment when it comes to sexual considerations. Generally speaking, we are more private about our genitalia than we are about the rest of our bodies. Some of us even call them “private parts.” And injuries in particular are much more difficult to tolerate when they affect the genitalia. Even with fully curable STIs, one still has to deal with the negative impact on an especially sacred part of the body.

If you’ve been struggling with this personally, it would probably be very useful to explore how you talk to others about your STI. Effective communication is paramount. In conversations with potential sexual partners, make sure that you don’t brush off their concerns by being too relaxed. That can just heighten their fears. You will best assuage their worry through empathy and education.

Your question invites an exploration that I think is pretty important. It can be very difficult to teach children about the sacredness of sexuality without creating a culture of secrecy, which can breed shame. Privacy and secrecy are quite different.

“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a cock-pop (or cunt)?”
Well, I’ll tell you one thing. Please don’t stop at three and then bite. Unless she’s requested that you do, of course.

“What % of heterosexual women have bisexual and/or lesbian fantasies?”
This depends on the particular research experiment, of course, but if we just lump together any fantasy involving a woman had by a heterosexual woman, the average seems to land between 30 and 40%. Bisexual or homosexual fantasies are both normal and common, for persons of any gender. And they don’t always mean anything about one’s ultimate sexual orientation.

Here are a few studies that you might find interesting (you may need to hit up a grad student friend to access the full journal articles):

“Do you think that hand-written love letters are a dying art?
I most certainly do! Rather, I believe that it’s on the decline. But hand-written anything has been on the decline for some time, and I don’t think it will even actually die out. We like tactile, non-verbal, and non-digitized things far too much for this to be the case. Look at the explosion of Emogis, for instance. The more we text, the more we want and need to include images to fill in the gap left by removing all those non-verbal goodies. Language can be limiting enough without subjecting it to the generic nature of typed text. Of course, you did ask a person who choose a profession that is rooted in deeply intimate interactions!

“What do you do if you get jaw locks as you’re giving your man blowjobs?”
This depends on what’s causing the locks. A jawlock is the body’s way of saying no. So ask yourself if you’re just wearing yourself out, or if there may be a psychological cause. If you sense that psychological factors may be at play, then it’s important to take a step back from the situation and consider what you’re feeling. I encourage you to allow this process to be supported by a therapist with whom you are comfortable. If it seems to be strictly the former, there are lots of physical techniques to make fellatio easier. To start, know that you don’t have to be thrusting him into your mouth and throat over and over for the whole performance. Variety is key, and most men really enjoy this, as it can really build up a lot of charge. Use your hand to stimulate the base, or even his scrotum and perineum if that’s something he enjoys. You can also use your tongue to stimulate just the more sensitive parts of his penis without having it fully in your mouth. You can even stick your tongue out between your teeth, giving your jaw a solid rest. There are some excellent books out there, such as Violet Blue’s Ultimate Guide to Fellatio. If you’d like some in-person coaching, Sex Nerd Sandra often teaches free classes on fellatio at The Pleasure Chest.

“How do I become a sex therapist?”
Fun, you want to be a sex therapist? Lemme tell ya- it’s a wonderful career. There is both simplicity, and infinite complexity.

If you haven’t been a client of sex therapy, start there. You absolutely must know what the work is like. Then you can begin to decide just what you’d like to do in your own career. What fuels you? What population would you like to work with? For example, I have a psychotherapy practice wherein sexuality is a specialty. But there are sex therapists who deal more in education and technique than with psychological exploration. These are hugely overlapping realms, but knowing how you’d like to spend most of your time will guide you in finding the appropriate education.

You might start with checking out what AACAST, AASECT or the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS) have to offer. Talking to graduates can be a great way to see if a particular program a good fit.

“Does anal sex make a woman’s gluteus maximus larger?”
Not directly. If the positions you use are working those muscles or you tend to flex them during sex, then you may be doing some strengthening. But anal sex does not automatically engage the gluteus maximus, and this goes for individuals of any gender.

“What’s the best way to get my wife to try a vibe?”
You’re an awesome partner for asking this question! Vibrators can be the source of so much pleasure. I have known several women who never orgasmed before they used one. First of all, make sure that the two of you are on the same page. Does she want to try one? And why would you like her to? If she doesn’t want to try one, you can respectfully ask her why. The “why nots” are almost always the source of the answers to this sort of question. Make sure that you create a safe environment for her to answer. Be warm, curious and non-judgmental. She has a reason for her hesitation that makes sense to her, so join her in that before you try to pull her somewhere else. Perhaps she’s tried one and found it overstimulating or understimulating. Maybe she associates vibrators with something unpleasant, like abuse or a negative belief about masturbation. If you’re male, maybe she’s embarrassed that you’re “ahead” of her on this. Once you’ve established solid same-pagedness, then you can start your human-vibrator calibration. Informed sex stores (including those online) offer information about the typical sensations of different toys, and how/ when to use them. Check out my resources page for a list of recommended places to shop.

“I think I was sexually abused, but I don’t know. What should I do?”
Find a therapist that you click with. If this is a question that continually plagues you, you are likely to get a lot of relief from addressing and processing it with support. It will indeed require you to face some uncomfortable feelings, but it will not be like reliving them. Sexual abuse is too big to hold by yourself, and you deserve to be free from this. And remember that you are you, no matter what you discover in the process. Often what we think abuse looks or feels like is quite different from the reality of the experience. All of our experiences shape us.

“What is the procedure to prepare for anal sex?”
I’m guessing that this means that you are ready to try, and I think that’s awesome! Preparations and execution can be different depending on what type of parts you have and your particular body’s needs, but here’s the relatively universal stuff:
-Have a whole lotta lubricant. And no skimping- your body deserves clean, high-quality lube. If you’re using a toy, make sure that your lube is compatible with your toy’s material composition (silicone and silicone don’t get along, for instance). And expect to be surprised by how much you need! I’m a fan of keeping it in a container with a pump for easy access.
-Evacuate your bowels. You want that rectum free and clear to play in! Some people recommend douching, but this isn’t necessary for comfort as the rectum only contains feces just prior to a bowel movement.
-Relax, especially if you’re on the receiving end. There’s a reason we call some people “anal retentive.” The anus closes right on up when the body is tense, and sometimes just because. It’s a lot like a cat. You really can’t predict what it’s going to do. You can only attend to it as needed.
-Keep everything clean and contained. Traces of feces are often left in the rectum (even after douching), and it can cause infection or illness if transferred into any other openings.
-Communicate. And keep communicating. Anal sex should never be painful, so stay on the same page by speaking up, checking in, and trying new positions, angles and rhythms.

I recommend that you get yourself a couple of books. The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men, The Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Women, and The Adventurous Couples Guide to Strap-On Sex from Cleis Press are all excellent.

Have super amounts of fun! It’s wonderful to expand your sexual toolbox, and I hope that you very much enjoy your first experience.

“Is female ejaculate pee? All pee? Some pee?”
Actually, the jury is still out on just what makes up female ejaculate. We do know that it’s not just urine, but urine does show up fairly regularly in studies. Female ejaculate seems to come from the Skene’s glands, which are surrounded by tissue that swells with blood during arousal. These glands drain into the urethra, so we’d expect to find some bladder fluid in the mix.

I think it’s pretty cool that this fascinates us, and that it has for such a long time. In the 16th century, Dutch physician Laevinius Lemnius referred to how a woman “draws forth the man’s seed and casts her own with it.” A little heteronormative, Lemnius, but I commend you for being interested! I assume Mrs. Laevinius Lemnius was a pretty satisfied gal.

“Does attraction mean sexual attraction, or are there different types of attractions?”
Yes, I believe that there are indeed different types of attraction, with each sharing in common the experience of being pulled to something. What you’re pulled toward or in need of defines the type of attraction.

I believe that this is a conversation that is nearly synonymous with the theories on the different types of love. There are six types of love according to ancient Greek wisdom: agape, eros, ludus, mania, pragma and storge (categorization and terms vary a bit). The Wikipedia page on these has a nice little synopsis.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed that there are components of love: intimacy, passion, and commitment. This triangular model gives you seven different types of love, depending on the particular combination of these elements.

I imagine that my answer may fall short of what you’re particularly interested in, so I’ll offer this: If you’re struggling with the types of attractions people have to you (as with “nice guy syndrome”), then consider your sexual archetypes and what blocks you may have to embodying them. Chelsea Wakefield’s book, Negotiating the Inner Peace Treaty, is a great resource for this exploration.

“Is it possible to have the feeling of a ‘phantom limb’ even if it was never ‘lost?’ I feel like I have, or should have had a penis & when it’s aroused it’s extremely frustrating because I am biologically female, so stimulating myself even to completion doesn’t help. It feels like a different part of me. Sometimes, mentally fantasizing helps.”
It is indeed possible. It’s a condition called a “supernumerary phantom limb.”  This is one of those things that makes the body-mind connection so very apparent. It seems that phantom limbs are caused by what is essentially a mapping issue in the brain. There have been many successful experiments in which subjects are put through exercises which “rewire” their cognition, and the phantom sensation diminishes or disappears, or the subjects were able to gain control of its action (which is probably what you’re needing). The usual course of treatment involves creating an optical illusion wherein a subject with a missing limb perceives two limbs before them. The existing limb is stimulated or the subject is asked to move it, and the illusion creates the perception of sensation in the phantom limb. Similar experiments have been done with subjects who have no missing parts! The brain is powerfully adaptable!

Since you said that mentally fantasizing is sometimes helpful, I feel a lot of hope for you that you can successfully do some re-mapping of your own. If you haven’t already, you might try getting a strap-on to wear while you masturbate, or simply while you fantasize. It could give your arousal a physical place to land, and then you can do with it what you please. The kind of strap-on that vibrates or rubs against you in a pleasant way, or a double dildo is probably what you want in order to have enough physical stimulation. If you have a male partner, you could do a little “reverse cowgirl” straddle so that his penis is visible between your legs as if it were your own, and then stimulate yourself and him at the same time. I’m betting that you’d need to repeat these experiences many times. Masturbating in a new way isn’t the worst homework ever, eh?

You might consider creating a relationship with a neurologist who will run some experiments with you. I’d be very happy to help you find someone here in Los Angeles, as well as to support you through this. Don’t hesitate to call or write. And keep me updated, if you’re comfortable doing so.

“When/where does one draw the line between reclaiming sexual freedom & expression, and when is one re-enacting trauma? Trying to figure out promiscuity!”
Great question. I believe that the answer is extremely dependent on the person, but can be pretty easily found by tuning into the body. Ultimately, your body knows what’s up. You just have to listen. Freedom and open expression are exhibited through relaxed muscles, deep breathing, a sense of groundedness, awareness of what’s happening in the moment, etc. In regards to sex, do you feel authentic most of the time? Does the sex bring a feeling of lasting satisfaction? People who are re-enacting trauma exhibit symptoms of it, such as shortness of breath, increased heart rate, chronic muscle tension, chronic nervous system hyperarousal, extreme cold, etc. It’s also common for someone who is unhealthily promiscuous to feel dettached, disgusted, disocciated, shameful, etc. directly after orgasm or the next day. Such a person is likely re-enacting negative experiences, and the healing process for them would likely be to feel safely vulnerable in deep intimacy. It’s not always easy to track what’s happening in your body in each moment; you may need and enjoy the support of a therapist. If you’d like to aid your exploration with some reading on this topic, treat yourself to The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy.

“Why do women feel more connection after sex than before? And why is the connection more intense with women than men?”
Hormones, baby, hormones! Oxytocin is released in the bodies of any gendered person both during and after sex, and it’s role is to increase intimacy and bonding. (It actually does all kinds of kick ass stuff, and I highly recommend Susan Kuchinskas’ book The Chemistry of Connection if you’d like to read up on it.) But there is a slight difference between males and females. Males also release vasopressin, a hormone that differs from oxytocin by only two amino acids. Vasopressin actually activates some get-up-and-go (which is believed to be about protection, not about running away from intimacy), where oxytocin stimulates more snuggly, nesty feelings.

If you’re finding that you and your partner(s) differ in terms of what you want in your post-coital time, I suggest that you communicate your individual needs in order to find something that works for each person. It doesn’t have to be a big deal that your desires are different, but because this is such a vulnerable space, it can bring up a lot of past issues around invasion or abandonment. Be specific about what you want and why so that you can get on the same page.

“Is there any way a woman would ever notice a testicular cyst?”
Yes, I do think this is possible. Many scrotums like to be played with, so if you find yourself with a woman who takes it upon herself to stimulate yours, then she could certainly notice. But what you’re feeling about this is probably more important, and the truer aim of your question. If you haven’t already sought the help of a medical professional, do so immediately. But if you already know all the facts about what’s happening in your body and the cyst isn’t removable or you just want to know how to handle sex before its removal, then I encourage you to take steps to feel more relaxed about this. Arousal and orgasm is greatly aided by muscle relaxation, so it would go a long way for your enjoyment if you weren’t preoccupied with imminent cyst discovery. A lot of women wouldn’t be bothered by a cyst as long as it’s not bothering you. Try telling them about it before your sexy time. You can also let your partners know that you don’t enjoy having your scrotum touched, or that you don’t enjoy having certain parts of it touched. They’ll likely appreciate your openness about this.

“Why are some women nervous of blowjobs? What are they afraid of?”
It depends on the individual. There are obvious cases where a person has had a bad experience with fellatio, whether in an abusive situation or not. Some people associate it with degradation, which is unfortunately too often perpetuated by media portrayals. Others don’t care for the taste or the texture of semen, but don’t want to ask you to warn them before you ejaculate (and to those folks I say find a way to get comfortable communicating this). Others aren’t sure what to do, and don’t want to disappoint. Some people purport to simply not enjoying it. One of my question askers gets jaw locks (see my answer to those). And there are probably infinite reasons beyond that.

If you’re in a relationship with a woman who’s nervous about this, start by acknowledging her fear. Be non-judgmental, and help to make it easy for her to share what she’s experiencing. Then get a little vulnerable and tell her what you’d like about having her go down on you. In the case of a person who considers it degrading, it could go a really long way to hear how you actually see it. A lot of men feel quite vulnerable when receiving a blowjob. Your penis is in a mouth, after all! There are teeth in there! She might really like to hear that from you. But whatever her hesitation, successfully communicating to her what you would like- and making it a gentle request- is likely to go a long way.

Thank you all for being willing to ask me your intimate questions. It is my pleasure to support you. If you do not see your question listed, please shoot me an email. Two of the questions were not legible.

11 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything

  1. I recently started seeing someone who knows I don’t have much sexual experience. I am feeling very self conscious about us eventually having sex because I’m afraid I won’t be experienced enough, and I’m afraid I will feel too inhibited to stay connected and present. Do you have any techniques or practices you can recommend for staying more grounded during sex?

    • Great question! First of all, you are a sexual creature by the very nature of existing. And if you masturbate, then I’d consider you sexually active for as long as you’ve been doing so. Our understanding of “what to do” must begin with ourselves, because it’s our own body that is the tool we use in sex. Keep that in mind going in. You probably already know a lot! In fact, while it isn’t a small thing, I’d say that the only difference between masturbation and partner sex is that the presence of another person calls for you to be much more vulnerable. Since you already disclosed your history to your potential partner, I’m guessing that means that you already have some level of comfort with her or him. You already practiced being vulnerable by your disclosure! Keep it up. The only way to get more comfortable with intimacy is to become incrementally more vulnerable. It sounds like you’re already on a very progressive path in that regard.

      In terms of techniques for staying present and grounded, yes, there are a few essential things that you can do. I recommend that you begin with practicing deep breathing, which you can later exercise in the moment. Many people have success with the rhythm of counting to four while inhaling, and to eight while exhaling. I personally like to focus on filling my lungs all the way, and then releasing all the way. Allowing your throat to vibrate and make sound while exhaling can also deepen you breath. Play around with what works for you, but remember to always give yourself at least three of these deep breaths in order to give your body the hint. If you would like something with more guidance and you aren’t already familiar with mindfulness meditation, check out for a really great and easy introduction into the practice. I’m being specific about mindfulness meditation, because it keeps you rooted in your body, which is essential for good sex. And if you are aware of other resources that keep you feeling sensations, absolutely use those! Each of us responds slightly differently to different techniques, so it’s important to use the ones that work best for your particular body. Practice these things enough so that you can recognize when you need them, and conjure them up in the moment. For instance, if you develop shortness of breath when you feel inhibited, this is the time to consciously bring in those breathing techniques. Or maybe the first sign of anxiety in your body is an icky feeling in your stomach. The moment that you notice that’s happening, take a step back and practice one of your tools. The key is to build resilience so that you can stay in your body.

      Again, remember that you have tons of experience simply from being alive. When it’s time to become intimate, use your senses to tune into your partner. Notice their breathing and muscle tension. There are no real rules except for those that unfold in the moment. Gasps and moans and writhings around are all little messages about what’s going on for them. And remember that they have to learn as much about you as you do about them!

      Best wishes to you for this exciting new chapter in your life. Enjoy it!

  2. I recently reconnected with an old friend who I have always been attracted to. I think we may be on our way to dating, or maybe just more overt flirting, or maybe a sexual encounter. This person lives about 90 minutes from me and when I find myself questioning the accuracy of my assessment of our current relationship status (IE – courting), I think I use the distance as a sort of safety blanket, as an excuse to not pursue the relationship, as a guise for poor confidence. Any thoughts on addressing this issue psychically? Somatically?

    • Wonderful questions! It sounds like you already have an intuitive sense that the distance between you is a convenient way to not consider other factors, and that insight will really serve you in going deeper. Consider what reasons you have for needing this safety blanket. We don’t develop such things just because, but rather in response to our environment. What has happened that would necessitate this protection? And be cautious not to look at recent history, or even to get too literal. The patterns in our bodies can be very nuanced. Becoming attracted to someone so far away could in itself be a way to avoid deep intimacy. We’re very crafty at keep ourselves safe! Even weight gain can be about keeping others at a distance.

      There are a few things that you might try if you’d like to get clearer on where you’re stuck somatically. First of all, if you’re not already familiar with tracking your sensations and emotions, I recommend mindfulness meditation. The free Headspace app is a great mindfulness tool, and it’s pretty easy and non-threatening. From a grounded and present place, see if you can notice what happens in your body when you get physically closer to others. Play with the distance. Where is your comfort zone? When it’s breached, what do you notice in your body? What do you think of when you feel that? If you have a friend or family member who will be interested in this with you, ask for their participation. Whatever happened in your body just as you read that last sentence will likely give you information. Cool, huh?

      Bear in mind that this exploration is best supported by a therapist. It can be very difficult to see our own stuff clearly by the very nature of it being our own stuff. You deserve to have help, especially when the task is to identify old wounds. If you haven’t before seen a therapist, know that the work will not be focused on rehashing pain, but about healing and finding new, more effective ways of getting your needs met.

  3. So there have been several times throughout my life (more often than not actually) that I have misread my relationship with other women. I am attracted to them and I even flirt a little but mostly I am just a respectful, fun-loving guy and so I make friends easily. They think we are friends, I think we are headed towards romance. I am wrong, I am embarrassed, the friendship is strained or ruined, I am heart-broken.

    This is how it generally goes down and it has happened too many times for my liking. Why am I continually attracted to those who just want to be friends? Full disclosure: some of these attractions have been considerably younger than I (not illegal young, just younger).

    • This is tough, and I feel for you. It’s hard enough to have this happen once between you and a friend, let alone repeatedly. I have two thoughts, and just see how they land for you. Often the particular way someone feels about you can be picked up in their nonverbal communications. So becoming more acquainted with these things may prove very useful for you. Reading about social psychology and etiquette may be a good route. But as this has been an ongoing occurrence throughout your life, I get the sense that a deeper exploration of what’s going on for you internally would be useful. I’m wondering if you might have “nice guy syndrome.” While it can be a great strength, sometimes people who make friends easily are doing so because they aren’t particular, or don’t show certain parts of themselves that they consider undesirable. This can lead to nice interactions with others, but ones that aren’t deep enough to create much intimacy, and therefore not enough sexual charge. People are pretty good at picking up on when someone isn’t being fully authentic. Worse, if these repeated disappointments are leaving you extra hungry for romance, that can build up and push people away. Unfair, isn’t it?! My intuition is that you would greatly benefit from a process group. This particular type of group therapy allows members to express how others affect them, and to get feedback from others on how they themselves come across. It is challenging, and also profoundly healing. I highly recommend it for your situation, and would be happy to help you find something in your area, if you’d like.

  4. What do you do when your partner has emotional scars that can inhibit your sex life?? What is the best way to pursue help in the form of therapy? Is there something that can be done in the moment to reset the course? I am a very devoted partner and just want to help.

    • You sound like a very devoted partner, and yours is lucky to have you. Emotional scars can really get in the way of connection in the moment, and it can feel so unfair. The two of you might consider couples therapy, though it’s possible that your partner needs to do some one on one therapy first or conjointly. Our histories are not always time-stamped as history, and swoop up in the moment when something familiar happens. The hippocampus, which is responsible for giving our experiences a context in space and time, are overstimulated during trauma, and it leaves us with the sense that then is now. Or worse- that then is always. Therapy for such experiences will focus on separating the past from the present, which eventually allows a person to feel safe enough to tune into sensations and be present for enjoyable sex.

      There are indeed things that you can do in the moment, but you’ll need to know some specifics from your partner. What is getting brought up? What are the triggers? Remember that “triggers” can be very subtle, like colors or smells. I encountered a situation in which one person was triggered by the partner’s hand gesture, because it was similar to that of an abusive ex. This is why therapy can be required for this process- it takes professional expertise to uncover some of these things. Even more important is to find out what helps your partner to return to the present moment. A lot of people respond to a specific type of touch, or eye contact. Because they are being flooded by the past, things like this can actively invite in the present. Eye contact with you or a solid squeeze on the arm can remind them that they are in the room with you, and that they are safe. But this is not always the case, and you must work this out with her or him.

      I highly recommend the book Healing Sex by Staci Haines. It beautifully describes what’s happening in the whole person when it comes to sex, and is relatable and informative even if you haven’t experienced any or many negative sexual experiences. And it’s focused not just on moving through trauma, but on getting back to having awesome sex. You can find it online, or at The Pleasure Chest.

      As you two move through this together, remember that it’s entirely possible for those emotional scars to become faint and barely visible. Especially with someone so devoted in the mix, I feel confident that the two of you will have wonderfully enjoyable and meaningful sexual experiences in the future.

  5. I recently started dating a great guy. He’s kind, intelligent, affectionate, sociable, and an open and generous lover. I don’t have a problem getting turned on during sexual encounters with him, but I’ve been having a problem generating desire or wanting to engage him sexually, on account of how he kisses me. I’ve explained to him on a few occasions that I really can’t stand wetness on my face, but he seems not to be making the connection and often neglects to swallow or wipe the excess from his mouth before going in for the kiss. This continued slobbering is beginning to result in a rather distressing visceral aversion to his kisses. I am wondering how I might communicate more effectively to him that I really am serious about it being a problem without damaging his self-esteem or hurting him. He is otherwise a lovely partner, and I would hate to have this one issue just ruin everything. Any thoughts?

    • Well hello there! Forgive the delay, but I wasn’t expecting new questions here!

      I hope you haven’t suffered too many more slobbery kisses since you wrote. It sounds like you’ve been doing just about as much as you can do on your end if you’ve been clear with him. In terms of this specific issue, you can probably only repeat yourself to him. Especially since you started building an aversion more than two weeks ago, ensure that you speak matter-of-factly, and stick to the effect on you rather than making any interpretations about him. And be specific, in case he didn’t actually make the connection that the “wetness on [your] face” is caused by his saliva. If you both feel comfortable and excited by the notion, offer to demonstrate your version of an ideal kiss. You sound like you’re naturally gentle, so I bet it’s unlikely that his feelings will be hurt by you. He could indeed be embarrassed, but that’s a temporary state and so should be the unpleasant kisses.

      If you are as clear as “When we kiss and your saliva gets around my lips and on my face, I feel turned off. It’s just a sensation thing for me. Would you be comfortable swallowing first or giving your mouth a quick wipe?” and he still doesn’t get it, then you may want to consider what’s going on in the undercurrent. Is he not present with you? Is your discomfort hard for him to tolerate/ care about? Sometimes these things are acute, and simple. Sometime they’re symbolic. You can ask yourself similar questions: Is this just a sensation preference? Does it remind me of something? I’ve had so many couples bring up similar “little” things like this in session to later discover that deeper emotions were being evoked. If those things are never addressed, we stay a little bothered.

      I hope that it is simple and goes smoothly for you.

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