You’re Not Alone: Using Social Media for Inspiration & Connection

People have this funny habit of comparing themselves to one another.  These comparisons can be either upward (feeling the other person is somehow better than you) or downward (viewing yourself as better than the other).  It is an incredibly common phenomenon, but not always the most healthy or helpful.  It used to be that the options for comparison were people from one’s own community and/or movie stars.  Now, people act almost as if their own paparazzi, sharing every detail of their life on social media; however, only with the best staging, filter, and lighting.  Anyone can find fame via social media, so the sheer number of options to upwardly compare yourself to has astronomically increased for better or, more likely, worse.

“The average person will spend more than five years of their lives on social media…”.  As we spend all of this time on these platforms full of people showing off ideal, unrealistic versions of their lives, we have a choice to make about how we interact.  Often times, the healthiest choice is to take a break or abstain altogether from certain or all social media platforms.  For some people, it means not following certain people, blocking exes, or not “friending” family members.  Gaming expert, Jane Mcgonigal, has found that using video games as a metaphor for conquering challenges in real life is actually beneficial to one’s mental health, especially when played in specific, brief time increments, like 10 or 20 minutes.  Similar to video game use, research results regarding the effects of social media on mental health are controversial and often paradoxical.  One might hypothesize that used in moderation with the right attitude, that social media use could illicit similar results. Of course, it’s always important to practice self-care, whatever that means for you in the given moment. 

One of the greatest aspects of social media is the way it can connect those who are isolated in their communities due to living outside of the mainstream.  It is common, especially for those in oppressed groups, to experience non-acceptance by friends, family, and their community based on religious, political, or personal beliefs.  Here lies the greatest opportunity for using social media in a positive, inspirational, supportive manner.

Starting out, make sure you have a solid self-care routine, which might include nutrition & exercise, self-reflection through journaling and/or psychotherapy, gratitude exercises, deep breathing exercises and/or meditation, relaxation techniques, and anything else that helps build you up emotionally.  Next, compile a list of what you want to explore or aspects of your life in which you’d like to feel more supported or understood.  Using keywords and hashtags you can search on any social media platform for topics that fit your list, perhaps words like polyamory and sex-positive.

Most importantly, listen to yourself.  Notice if you feel better after your social media use or worse, and make adjustments as necessary.  It might be a seemingly positive topic that triggers you in some personal way, like the yogi whose physique brings up your body insecurity issues.  Consider not engaging with that topic on social media while it has you feeling down about yourself, as you work on healing that issue.

Tori Buckley, PLPC works in New Orleans providing individual psychotherapy, sex therapy, and relationship counseling.

What Do You Do When You Did Not Get Chose This Cuffing Season?

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It is officially Christmas. You have bought all your presents, sent out cards, decorated the tree, snuggling up on the couch - by yourself. Unfortunately for you. You did not get chose for cuffing season. Cuffing season is defined as  "the term used to describe the period during autumn and winter months in which avid singletons find themselves seeking to be “cuffed” or “tied down” by a serious relationship" according to Independent.com. Urban Dictionary also writes  "During the Fall and Winter months people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves along with the rest of the world desiring to be "Cuffed" or tied down by a serious relationship. The cold weather and prolonged indoor activity causes singles to become lonely and desperate to be cuffed.

Because, who would want to be alone on Christmas? Better yet, what is the problem with being on your own? Are you listening to too much Holiday music that talks about the ultimate love, the Gift or how Bells will be ringing the sad, sad news because what a Christmas to have the Blues? Is it the amount of annoying Christmas movies that portray the best Christmas as being in love, with family because if you hear your mother talk about how she's not going to have grandchildren one more year you will be annoyed? Here are some things that you can do to not think about how 'Free'; you are this season.

  1. Think of all the money you have saved. Better yet, think of all the things you can spend on you. Wouldn't be great to wake up Christmas morning to a gift that you bought, for yourself and exactly what you wanted? You won't be in line returning gifts this year!
  2. Be grateful for the people in your life. Gratitude goes a long way and has been proven to boost motivation and happy feelings when we acknowledge all of the good things that have happened. Do you have your health? Is your bank account stable? Are you surrounded by family and friends?
  3. Plan. We all spend New Year's day thinking of what we want to accomplish in the new year. Unfortunately, we don't properly plan these goals and that is why people no long believe in New Year's Resolution. Make this time your planning time. What do I want to accomplish? What will make 2018 amazing? Set SMART goals for yourself, make a Vision Board. And prep so while others are trying to think about fitting back into their jeans while in a hungover stupor Jan. 1, you will actually be ready to put yourself into action (after you deal with that hangover).
  4. Low Stress: There is less that you have to think about when you are worried about your darn self. Go see as many people you want, or don't want. Call and talk to people you like. Share pictures and make sure that you take lots of containers with you because the left over game is REAL.
  5. Travel. Christmas with family is so important that the idea of traveling someplace for vacation during this time may seem unfathomable. However, this is becoming a major thing now. So many people are spending their holidays around the globe, with friends instead of just with family.

Interestingly, all these things have one thing in common… DO YOU! As your therapist, I would focus on gratitude. It is surprisingly a great coping skill, and great for putting things in perspective. The world does not revolve around your love life. Make your own happiness. And if you must, attempt Cuffing season part 2 so that you can at least go to  a movie Feb 14th.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

 

Catharine Swain is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Pre-marital Counselor in New Orleans. She will spend this Christmas traveling to see family, collecting left overs and drinking stress free.

You’re Talking, But I’m Not Hearing You: Improving Communication in Your Relationships

Good communication is one of the core foundations of any relationship, and it often isn’t easy for a lot of us. Many people fall into the common cycle of “listening” but not really hearing their partner, and instead planning what your own next move is going to be. For most people, listening and communicating with each other takes a great deal of practice. Fortunately, there are some small steps that can be taken to work towards better, more effective communication.

Check in with your partner. Picture this - you’re a morning person and spring out of bed immediately, grab coffee, and prefer to resolve issues before heading off to work. Your significant other hits snooze six times, takes an hour to wake up, and can’t function before the second cup. Checking in with a simple “Is this a good time to talk about [blank]?” is a great way to gauge how your partner is feeling in that moment. Timing is key! If your partner declines this invitation, make a plan for a mutually agreed upon time where both of you feel you can effectively listen and respond to one another.

Ask questions. After your partner has sent his or her message to you, don’t rely on your own interpretations and assumptions of what you have just heard. After all, our minds can play tricks on us and lead us to believe some pretty irrational things! Ask for clarification on points that may have confused you, or ask your partner to elaborate on the issue further. This will lead to further insight and help you understand where he or she is coming from more clearly.

Don’t ignore the non-verbals. It is said that more than 50% of a message being sent is conveyed through non-verbal communication - posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and eye contact are just a few examples. Take time to look at your partner and understand where he or she is coming from - you will learn loads more than if you simply listened to their words.

Dana Koonce, LMFT is a therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy.
 

Avoiding Unnecessary Stress this Holiday Season

With Hanukkah in full swing and Winter Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanzaa just around the corner, the holiday season is most certainly here in full force.  For many, this time of year causes old familial wounds to surface and anxiety and/or depression to peak.  There are numerous reasons one might find themself stressed this time of year, as well as many ways to support yourself through your holiday blues.  

Many of the tips out there involve self-care, and focusing on building up your emotional reserve will always be worth your time.  Still, with rushed holiday shopping and large family gatherings, interpersonal conflict often appears.  If you feel tensions rising as you interact with others, try asking yourself, "What if this has nothing to do with me?"  

As a therapist who practices Rational Emotional Behavior Therapy (REBT), a major focus with my clients is helping them to identify what beliefs, expectations, or assumptions are causing distress.  One of the most common ways people get themselves worked up is in making egocentric assumptions.  Perhaps a coworker you recently had a disagreement with gets you a little holiday gift and you convince yourself it’s actually meant as a snarky dig.  Or, maybe your sister-in-law brings up a topic of conversation at a family gathering that you just know is aimed as a low blow at one of your recent failures.  When stress levels are high, it is harder to think clearly, and easy to be more defensive.  After all, stress is an innate warning sign of potential risk or danger.  A stress response is what is often referred to as a fight-or-flight response, as those are the behaviors it manifests.

So, when two or more stressed out folks get together, it is incredibly likely their interaction will lead to more negativity as they trigger one another back and forth.  Keep this in mind as you navigate this holiday season.  Rather than starting a text battle due to your friend’s one-word response of “cool.” to your holiday plans, consider the possibility that 1) they might mean what they say, and 2) if they are upset, it might have nothing to do with you.  They could be upset they don’t have plans, that someone in their family just passed, that someone at work just pissed them off, or a thousand other possibilities.  Try taking yourself out of the equation and see if it releases you from unnecessary additional stress.  

 

Tori Buckley is a counselor intern who enjoys helping clients find ways to break through their habitual patterns.  She offers relationship counseling, individual psychotherapy, and sex therapy in New Orleans.

Sensate focus and its use in relationship counseling

Sensate Focus

The vicious cycle of sexual dysfunction: the more you try to get your body or mind to work during intimacy, the less successful your results. In order to combat this, sex and relationship therapists use a series of exercises called sensate focus. These exercises consist of four stages which build trust, communication, and mindfulness in intimacy. With a therapist, partners customize these exercises for their needs and intimacy style. The partners go home, try the exercises, process the experience as partners, and again with a therapist. Sensate focus exercises were originally developed in the 1960s by sex researchers Masters and Johnson. The exercises were created with cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous couples in mind, but can be modified to fit many different sexuality, intimacy, and relationship styles.

 

Stage one: Partners take turns touching each other, avoiding genital areas or the areas typically stimulated during your relationship’s intimacy. In this stage, focus on what feels good to touch and practice open communication with your partner, both verbally and non-verbally. Examples: Moan if it feels good to have your neck stroked, state “I like it when you touch my stomach”, ask “How touch it feel when I touch your hands like this?. The purpose of this stage is to practice being in the present during intimacy and also take the pressure off any party to become aroused or engage in intercourse. After sessions in this stage, partners can process what the experience was like, what worked for them, and what emotions were felt during the process. With a therapist, they can decide if moving onto the next stage is appropriate or if the partners need to spend more time in stage one.

 

Stage two: Partners again take turns touching each other and may include all body all body areas. The concepts of communication and mindful touching are the same as in stage one. It is important before this stage to have a conversation about what sexual behavior is permitted if one or more parties become aroused.  Will more involved intimacy be in the cards or will it be avoided regardless? One of the benefits of sensate focus is it can take pressure off any partner to perform. Just like the first stage, the partners and the therapist process the experience together and make needed adjustments.

 

Stage three: Partners touch each other at the same time. The same concepts from the previous two stages roll into stage three. This stage can be more complicated as partners are focusing on touching the others as well as how they are being touched. Again, try the best to keep yourself in the moment and continually communicate about what is working and what can be changed. This stage can spark some productive conversation between partners and the therapist.

 

Stage Four: Intercourse (or whatever the “main” sexual activity is between partners) is allowed to happen. Depending on the reasons for engaging in sensate focus exercises, it may be wise to ease slowly into intercourse. The specifics of this stage need to be discussed between partners and the therapist.

 

The goal of sensate focus is to reconnect partners. Often, especially in cisgender, heterosexual relationships, the principle of “penis in vagina” sex can become king. This mindset can perpetuate sexual dysfunction. Sensate focus allows each partner to explore their sexuality beyond their standard and develop new and more varied sexual connections. With the assistance of a therapist, sensate focus exercises can bring a new spark to relationships.

Amy is a provisionally licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist in New Orleans. She enjoys making macaroni and cheese and understanding the effects of privledge in relationships. 

Bedroom Blues: Navigating Intimacy Challenges in Relationships

When choosing a romantic partner there are often several variables one may consider prior to commitment, with sexual compatibility often not being an exception. But what happens when the person who compliments you in many valuable ways, does not seem to match you sexually? This can weigh heavy on the potential of the relationship and may even hinder each partner’s experienced happiness despite the many other aspects of their partner that elicits joy. But fret not lovers; sexual compatibility is not an inflexible concept. Firstly, keep in mind that neither partner is wrong for how frequent or infrequent they desire sex. Placing an expectation in relationships that because two people stimulate each other mentally and emotionally that they also are ‘supposed’ to want the same things sexually can negatively impact the wellness of the relationship. It creates an idealistic platform when entering relationships that, if not met, will result in disappointment, judgment, shame and/or blame. Even the most passionate of partners will experience waves of uncertainty and differing sex drives at certain points in their relationship. With that in mind, a goal for couples would be to begin to remove such unrealistic demands and instead highlight the importance of communication and compromise in all aspects of a relationship, including sex and intimacy.  Communication can be challenging if partners are in defensive and offensive mode due to built up frustration over ‘incompatible’ sex drives. If possible, seek a couple’s counselor who specializes in sexuality to aid in identifying and revising cognitive distortions including– “My partner ‘must’ want sex every time I do or we are not compatible enough.” A professional is a great resource to help couples come to a compromise on what a happy and healthy sex life looks like for their UNIQUE relationship. Don’t be afraid to explore your sexuality together so you can create your own love language. A little direction goes a long way, so keep in mind the benefits of positive reinforcement when your partner is pleasing you in a way you want to encourage for the future. A satisfying sex life most greatly begins and ends with compromise. This may include one partner having sex even when they are not in the mood or the other using masturbation as means of feeding their sexual hunger. Consider whether sexual exclusivity, familiarity and lack of novelty are negatively affecting sexual intimacy in the relationship. Engaging in a new sexual activity together may spark that previously experienced passion; or some simple distance may also do the trick. The key is not to adhere to a socialized norm of what relationships and sexuality looks like; to create your own love story that leaves you satisfied with no apologies necessary.

Lauren is a Therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy for individuals and couples. Are you ready for insight and change?

Home for the Holidays: Dealing with People that Don't Understand You

It's that time of the year again... When we think about heading home for the holidays. For many, this time of the year can be particularly anxiety provoking and stressful. Often times the comfort of home is not really all that comfortable. We are met with judgmental parents, misinformed aunts, old-school uncles, sweet but clueless grandparents, and even old childhood friends that just don't understand or accept the "new you".

Over time we all grow and mature and learn more about ourselves as people. Who we were as children is not always/not usually who we are today. We may have evolved academically or politically or sexually or socially or in any number of other ways. Part of being away from "home" is finding yourself and the life that works for you. Then living that life out as YOU see fit. BUT not everyone is going to understand or accept that... so what to do about it?

First and foremost we need to have acceptance and love for ourselves. We need to be proud of who we are and not ashamed or embarrassed. Secondly, we need to understand that not everyone is going to understand us or even like us AND that's OK. We do not need everyone to understand or like us. The third part though might be the hardest, we need to still be kind and polite to those around us that do not understand. Perhaps we can try engaging them in a polite conversation to teach them.

The three aforementioned things are not always easy, and they take continuous work. Linked here is an article with tips on how to deal with this at the holidays. The article is written for LGBT, that being said, the information can be extrapolated for many other situations. Additionally, therapy is an excellent option to do some of that work and gain some of the tools needed to be able to handle dealing with people that do not understand or accept us for who we are, both at the holidays and year round in our day to day lives. 

Anoosh is a therapist in New York offering individual psychotherapy, relationship counseling and sex therapy.

Source: http://smartgaylife.com/lgbt-home-for-the-...

On Social Labels, Reframing, and Feminine Autonomy: Inspired by She’s Gotta Have It

"Who decides when a woman is “out of control”? Appropriate follow up questions might include: “what, exactly, is control?” or  “whose control is the woman out of?” The best answer, I believe, is the simplest: control is subjective, and everyone retains the right to assert self-control in their own ways."

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The Importance of Therapy for Us All: A short discussion on an interview with Jay-Z describing his mode of therapy.

Therapy is helpful, and important. However, we don't treat it that way. It is brushed on the back burner, until something happens to disrupt the functioning of our lives. Then we say: 'well, this is important'. Jay-Z recently opened up in an interview about the different meanings of his latest album, 4:44, including his relationship with Kanye West and explaining his infidelity in his marriage. He stated that he was not able to fully express his emotions and instead, withdrew from expressing them with his wife, and found coping in an outside source. This is a typical form of cheating, commonly seen when couples seek therapy for infidelity. I recently read comments from readers and listeners about his interview. The general consensus was 'He should have dealt with his feelings before he got married.'

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It would be great to be getting ahead of the game and know how relationships might grow and change in the future. Sadly, life doesn't happen that way. We deal with things as they come, and in relationships, we often co-create the situations that might lead to emotionally shutting down, sexual infidelity, etc. It would be great to unpack the stuff before it happens, but sometimes you don't have the stuff to unpack until it's happening. 

Don't mistake me. This isn't a comment promoting infidelity, and this isn't victim-blaming. Sexually acting out is a consequence of his own thoughts, beliefs and feelings or insecurities of his situation- but the situation was created by two people involved in the relationship. It could have manifested in all sorts of emotional withdrawal, disrespect, self-medicating, gambling, etc. But these things are the consequences of the problem, not the problem in and of itself.  The problem he discusses in his album and some in interviews is this inability to express his emotions properly and talk about the 'stuff' that he needs to discuss. It's about changing that focus from the past tense to the present.  

In the African American community, there is a disconnect with therapy. There is no trust in it. Also, the male characteristic of not showing (or learning how to express) emotions is promoted. Jay-Z writes: 'we all screwed when we never had the tools'. AA communities sometimes promote keeping negative situations in the family, or through gossip before they trust an outsider (who they are used to being of a different race) tell them how to do something that is completely different from what they are used to, or is outside of their cultural experience.

Jay-z also mentioned that their albums 4:44 and Lemonade were their therapy. They expressed their emotions through song to each other. As a relationship counselor on one hand, I don't have a problem with this. Making music, or listening to music is a good way of expressing emotions. This is exactly what artist do. In fact, most artist's greatest albums come from their healing through writing (reference to No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom). Also as a relationship counselor,  I believe there is a great benefit in seeing a counselor where I can learn more tools to verbally discussing problems in my marriage, with me individually and how I can verbally discuss my emotions with my partner to further intimacy this way. This way I am 'unloading my stuff' and using a coping tool like writing or making music would be dealing with my initial emotions and beliefs in a healthier way then destructive such as being sexually unfaithful. If you aren't willing to change the initial problem, or your attitude to the problem, well, I'd bet we are going to see another album of this kind in the future!

 

Catharine Swain is a licensed marriage and family therapist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She specializes in couples counseling and pre-marital counseling. She likes to discuss current social issues and stories, and is no way related to The Bey-hive or Jay-z fans. 

3 Ways to Navigate Different Sex Drives & Desires for Smoother Sailing

Let's face it. You and your partner may not always be sexually in sync, however there are ways to address the imbalance without feeling like you have to abandon ship. Here's how:

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1. Talk about it. Communication is key. If you don't address the issue, it won't get resolved. Communicate what you want, don't complain. Communicating about your sexual desires and needs is different  than complaining. Avoid blame and simply make requests. And don't be afraid to ask your partner what you could do differently to help you both be more aligned. Also, communicating makes us feel more connected and understood, leading to deeper intimacy.

2. Schedule some sex on the calendar. Lack of time and energy is the most cited reason as to why physical intimacy is lacking in the relationship when couples see me for counseling. Carve out time each week to make a concerted effort to spend quality time with your partner. It's important to not fall back into the same routines so rituals like "date night" help prevent setbacks. People schedule going to the gym and cooking class, isn't your relationship worth the time commitment? Remember, you can certainly always add spontaneity into the mix.  But sometimes ya just gotta work on the time management and schedule a time to try to be erotic with each other.

3. Work, work, work on it.  Listen to and implement feedback that your partner has given you and allow yourself to explore deeper sexual intimacy. Compromise is imperative in order to maintain a healthy relationship, so if you and your partner's libidos don't always sync up, there are intimacy exercises that you can do that won't necessarily lead to sexual intercourse but can be satisfying for varying levels of sex drives. Couples can increase their passions for one another by engaging in playful touch, massaging, implementing use of toys or reading erotic novels to each other, or other novels in an erotic way, to name a few. Intimacy is also emotional, so sharing feelings and having empathy for your partner will help strengthen the bond. If you are empathetic to each other, you might be more open to allowing your partner to express their sexual desires without judgement and then be willing to set goals to compromise and meet those needs, making navigation of different sex drives more effective. Couples therapy (relationship counseling)  can also be beneficial in helping couples to work on those issues with insight and clarity.

Sophie is a therapist in New York providing relationship counseling and sex therapy. Are you ready for insight and change?

The Seemingly Impossible Task of Explaining Your Depression

Getting people to listen and understand you can be tough.  Think of all the misunderstandings you've had with someone over the years. Now think about trying to be heard and understood when you're not at your best and going through something like depression where you're struggling to understand what's happening yourself, let alone trying to explain what's going on with you to others.

This often leaves us feeling lost and lonely. "There is no one that understands." "This is never gonna feel better or go away." People just tell you to shake it off or try to give advice that ends up sounding pointless or harsh. Where do you go from there? 

Though the idea sounds scary, it's probably time to think about therapy. There are different styles, of course, but one particularly effective tool in the fight against depression is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). In therapy we want to help you come to terms with all human emotions- even the bad feelings. But equally important is to learn how to recognize the thoughts and beliefs that lead us to those feelings. Over time we learn to identify exactly which thoughts  aren't working for you, and we teach you how to challenge them so that new ways of thinking can be achieved. Thinking that results in more constructive feelings and behaviors. Like anything, this is a practice that develops over time, but one that we hope will lead to something we call a radical philosophical shift to better cope with future pains and conflicts that are inevitable parts of being alive on the planet.

Anoosh is a therapist in New York offering individual psychotherapy, relationship counseling and sex therapy.

 

This week in sex negativity: "No-Nut November"

It's been quite a month for the critical analysis of the concept of "sex addiction" as a useful model for human sexuality.  Sometimes in the very real discussions of sexually predatory behavior and harassment, there can be a general tone of sex negativity. So quick reminder- sexually predatory behavior, non-consensual sexual behavior, sexual harassment, etc is not sex positive- and calling those things out is not sex negative. Want an example of sex negativity? Let's look at "No Nut November", the new,  partially tongue-in-cheek,  internet meme from Reddit.  Read that, then come back here.

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Yeah? You good?  Okay.  We have opinions.

#imasturbate project for the documentary "Sticky: A (Self) Love Story"

#imasturbate project for the documentary "Sticky: A (Self) Love Story"

Sex is a basic human drive.  Period. But for generations, there have been institutions that aim to dictate what sex is,  who gets to have sex and who does not. In short, straight white men get to define and then have sex- the rest of us do not. This whole No Fap (and their Nazi counterparts, No Wanks),  "brain on porn", TedTalk, what-it-is-to-be-a-man crowd are the latest in a long line of sex shaming, starting with Patrick Carnes in his 12-Step propaganda book "Don't Call it Love" from the early 1990's- not that sex shaming didn't exist before then, but we're talking recent history, here.

This sex shaming has historically been directed at women (think masturbation as symptom, and treatment of hysteria, genital mutilation- removing the offending clitoral organ to prevent too much desire- still practiced in some cultures, nymphomania, etc). Though finally women are starting to be heard over the din of mansplaining and they're saying:  NOPE. We can be sexual and be ethical slutsWe love pleasure. We're actually REDISCOVERING our clitorises (clitori? Clitoratti?) We're reclaiming our vulvas. We're celebrating masturbation. We're saying clitoris on tv. (Okay it's clitorises or clitorides- thanks google). We're Pussy Rioting,  we've got a pussy manifesto, and we're not havin' any part of your fascist, guilt-ridden, anti-circle jerk boys club. (Which is also just super homo-erotic, by the way, but that's a rant for a different day.)

So what's a real man's man to do? They start mansplaining to themselves

Save for a few of rational thinkers who, for years,  have been railing against the concept of sexual outlet as addiction and 12 step model to treat it.   Marty Klein. Joe KortDavid Ley.  Darrel Ray.  Christopher Ryan. But we have so much further to go. The world's first documentary on masturbation just came out in 2016! Can you imagine?! No one thought to make a feature documentary on the topic? Yet there's been a whole lot of propaganda about how terrible it is?

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So let's break it down for you. Again. 

Sexual "urges" are a normal part of daily life for most people- just like the other basic human drives in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. You eat. Breath. Drink water. Poop. And you get horny. You're "eating urge" doesn't affect your daily life- you just get hungry and eat. Refrain and you starve. Can you overeat and put a lot of meaning into eating that is based on distorted thinking? Absolutely! Food doesn't solve problems- food just fuels your body. Some people overeat to the point that their bodies reach a limit of what is physically healthy. Fair enough. But consider the people who luxuriate in food and eating. We call them foodies. They may or may not be the most physically fit, and they may or may not spend entire paychecks on imported organic black garlic from the south of France. Foodies! Yay! We have a whole channel for them on the teevee! They throw great dinner parties! We have expensive schools for them to attend so they can become world-renowned chefs who yell at and sexually harass their staff.

What about those of us who luxuriate in our sexuality? We're "porn addicts", "sex addicts", "masturbation addicts", and if only we (largely men, especially gay men, by the way), could control those pesky sexual urges, well just look at how much work we could get done, or how many sick weights we could lift. Well folks,  what if you want to build your life around sex? We say, let's be "Sexies"! 

What do sexies like? What do they want? Who are these animals? Well... buckle up. We like porn. We like fantasizing.  We like masturbation.  We like fucking.  We like hooking up.  We like making love.  We like dirty talk. We like sexual adventure and variety.  We like role-playing, dressing up, and experimenting to do that. We want to hear sex and see sex and smell sex and feel sex. We like to have consenting partners who can actually give consent (animals, children and certain other people who rely on us or see us in positions of power can't give consent). We like encouraging others to enjoy sex.  We like to show off our sexuality.  We like to sext.  We like to make sex videos.  We want work through feelings of guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, jealousy and anger surrounding sex. We like to accept our bodies as sexual regardless of how our bodies change throughout our lives. We like to pole dance. We like to twerk, and jerk, and werkwerkwerkwerkwerkwerk (sorry- you'll have that song in your head now.)! We like to bond with some people through sex, whether that bond lasts seconds or a lifetime. We like to have sex when we want to have sex - even if that gets in the way of our scheduled cubicle clock-in time, or even if we made plans for dinner but decided at the last minute to stay in and masturbate. We like to teach people how to give consent so when they reach the age of consent bestowed upon them by their government overlords,  they can make a real,  informed choice to give and receive pleasure themselves. We want to learn how to give and receive pleasure. We want to MASTER how to give and receive pleasure.  We like to have stability.  We like to have families, and roots and connections and social networks. We like to have spaces to be sexual with consenting adults. We like to be sexual at home in beds. And on beaches (here, too) And in parks.  And on roofs. And in cars. And some of us enjoy people with similar genitalia or with different genitalia. Some of us pay others for consensual sex. And we know the difference between thinking it's okay that "I asked the women before I got my dick out and masturbated in front of her",  and real, exuberant consent with someone who want to be sexual with us. Some of us get paid for consensual sex and do our work voluntarily and with glee while fighting human trafficking and sex abuse. And we know the difference between thinking it's okay that "I asked the women before I got my dick out and masturbated in front of her",  and real, exuberant consent with someone who want to be sexual with us.We understand the health risks involved in sexual expression, and we take appropriate steps to stay healthy and pregnancy-free. And then we want to go home and schlick and fap and bate and wank while thinking about it all.  And we want to smoke weed or sniff poppers, or drink wine while we're doing it. Masturbating, which is no different than any other kind of sexual stimulation, isn't spending precious bodily fluids or hormones.  We want to do it again. And again. And again- clearly we're not going to run out of juices, as it were.  Betty Dodson is masturbating away in her 80's and Hugh Heffner (problematic though he was), was doing his thing until his recent departure from the planet.  

Masturbation is good and delicious, but musterbation is evil and pernicious
— A. Ellis

This is why the addictions folks love to indoctrinate people with their model- there must be something wrong with feeling too much desire.  GASP! ADDICTS! FIENDS! NYMPHOS! It's don-juanism, or satyriasis or spermatorrhea or hysteria or neurasthenia! Thanks Freud! "But noooo," they argue, "it's not about sex negativity at all- we just want to help people who tell US they have a problem. Is it their sex affecting other areas of their lives? Do they feel BAD about the sex they're having or the jerks they're jerking?" Well, the sane response is - of course they feel bad about it. There's this cacophony of sex addiction quacks, sex scandals and moralizing and more than enough TERRIBLE sexual role models messing it up for the rest of us! They FEEL bad about it because of this No Fap nonsense. They FEEL bad about it because of how they see men in power treat women. They FEEL bad about it because they have monogamy shoved down their throats as their only path to "settling down".   They use it to self medicate because it feels good and it's an outlet they have even when they're broke or unhappy or alone. But welcome to every other case in therapy. We can attach meaning to ANYTHING to make us feel better. And sometimes that meaning is unhealthy. Remember the food analogy back there? Food doesn't solve problems.  We eat to fuel our bodies, and eating without intention, or eating with the intention to harm ourselves isn't going to help anyone live a very happy life for very long.

Sound familiar? Welcome to being a human being. We're experts at making ourselves miserable over one thing or another. And here we are, making a big to-do over masturbation, porn, consensual sexuality and the like.

The first step in accepting your rediscovered humanity, dear Sexies? It's demanding that the sexual choices we make on how we express our sexuality do not come second to someone else's religious choices.  Religion is not the arbiter of morality. Nor is the cult of politics. Nor the cult of celebrity.  Reject the use of archaic, pseudo-scientific psychobabble and "brain scans" meant to moralize, normalize, and pathologize us back into the forced-monogamy-for-everyone paradigm of conformity.  It's never worked for us as a species, and when we recognize these things as tools of control, we're on the way to actually enjoying a healthy, balanced sex life that helps us move towards the top of that hierarchy of needs-  being self-actualized humans. Accepting and working with our humanness instead of demanding super-humanness (then labeling as sub-human when we're inevitably disappointed).  Instead of declaring how things must, should and ought to be, let's work with what is.  All of those sexual things I mentioned up there- they're just things people do already. Real human.  Just like me.  Just like you.

Otherwise, feel free stay the course! The sexual healers and mental health counselors among us will keep paying our bills! And so will the churches and quacks that are making billions off of making YOU feel like you need to not masturbate. Especially in the month of November.

 

 

Dr. Michael DeMarco is a board certified clinical sexologist and psychotherapist and chronically addicted compulsive masturbator in New Orleans and New York.

Online Therapists - OMG, IDK, FML

onlinetherapists

There's no shortage of new, slick apps offering cheap therapy with therapists seemingly accessible at any time of day (or night). But remember those nail salons in New York a few years ago that weren't paying their nail techs a livable wage and some of them were trapped in this sort of indentured servitude? Imagine that, but with therapists.  

These apps, which I won't name here, but all of which have slick iphoney sounding names promise a decent financial payoff for therapists.  The catch? The time requirements are excessive, the payoff for clients is questionable, and the upsells and reviews pushed by these apps teeters on unethical.  (And unfortunately one of them has a domain name very much like ours. womp womp)

To be a therapist, you have to have been accepted into a masters program, complete that masters program, hopefully having had therapy yourself, as well as do supervised clinical work with clients. You continue that clinical work under supervision for anywhere from 2-5 years, take a licensure exam, and possibly become licensed.  Once licensed, you can then strike out on your own in your very own private practice. These apps do not do justice for people with this very specialized education, experience and training- and though it might feel good to rant to a therapist via text at 4am, it may or may not actually help you GET better in the long run, and it may or may not be keeping a good therapist from doing good clinical work and get paid what they are worth. You pay your plumber, you pay your mechanic- you might get health insurance to pay for some of your medical bills- fair enough - but therapists are people who do difficult, specialized work - for your mental well-being.  It's probably good to pay them what they are worth, too.

Find a therapist you like, work out a sliding scale with them, and see if you can make real, lasting changes through having real, human interactions. At the VERY least do a video session - but at some point- you've got to put the phone down. And therapists- when you take pennies on the dollar for your work that requires extensive post-graduate education, experience and in-vivo training, you're kind of diluting the whole field.  Don't fall for it.

 

 

 

Dr. Michael DeMarco is a human therapist in New Orleans and New York.