Sex advice is a trap.
When it comes to relationships and sex I believe that there really is no such thing as an "expert". Sure, there are facts to be known and interesting techniques to be shared. But the only true expert in terms of what you need can only ever be you. I used to be an expert at terrible, demoralising sex. That's what eventually brought me to work in this area.
I find it wonderful (because it’s fun) but also a little problematic to be writing about sex and relationships. As a psychotherapist and someone who publishes their writing, I am aware that my articles and blog posts have the air of coming from an “expert”. Yet when it comes to relationships and sex I believe that there really is no such thing as an expert. Sure, there are facts to be known and interesting techniques to be shared. But the only true expert in terms of what you need can only ever be you. There simply is not a one size fits all approach. And there is an absolute abundance of tips and suggestions about sex and relationships, much of which is contradictory. That’s why I am writing this- this text is my disclaimer to say: don’t believe anything I write (or anyone else)- check out what fits for you.
Mixing it up
I know that there are times when it is incredibly helpful to have someone who can just point you in a useful direction. I work in the area of sex and sexuality also because I have struggled and suffered and searched and tried. For a long time I was indeed an expert- but at having demoralising, unsatisfying sex. I reached states of despair during which I felt like I would never be able to feel free enough and skilled enough to actually experience genuine, meaningful sexual pleasure. Not surprisingly, it is this personal journey that also drove me to work in this area. What really made the difference for me was a combination of many things- discovering my own internalised oppression and the script I was operating on (you know- such as the assumption that a good relationship is only between a man and a woman who are married until happily ever after; and good sex looks like penetrative sex after a little bit of foreplay and then both partners come, ideally at the same time); as well as many practical experiences that helped me. Yes the latter is a euphemism for having sex; but only in part. It also refers to professional trainings, teachings, reading.
It’s the collective that needs advice !
The area where advice is needed is on the collective level. I don’t know how your sex education was, if indeed you were lucky enough to receive any. Mine focused on medically correct language and pregnancy and disease prevention information. Not a single word about consent. Or pleasure. We are operating in an environment that is ill-informed, embarrassed and shaming. We have all internalised this one way or another- so therapy and exploration around sex and relationships frequently involves finding, questioning and letting go of internalised ideas of right and wrong and freeing ourselves from the many stereotypes and terrible ideas that are around. (“Sex should come ‘naturally’”. “Men always want it” “Women are frigid” “People are either men or women, nothing else is natural etc etc). As a collective we are still babies when it comes to learning how to have and respect boundaries; how to welcome and experience pleasure, and how to negotiate relationships.
When I work with people around sex, sexuality and relationship I draw on my professional and personal experience and find what is needed in the moment- it may be conversation, it may be witnessing, it may be recommending some resources, or experiential exercises, or supporting embodiment and setting boundaries. The key learning always comes back to this: supporting you to be present in your body, with your desires on your own terms. The aim is for you to feel free enough and able to live your experience- whether that is as part of a heterosexual monogamous marriage, in a polyamorous arrangement with several significant others, being celibate or in a full time D/s relationship, enjoying casual sex or any of the many other ways in which we humans might choose to love and experience consensual pleasure. No matter where you are currently- whether you experienced trauma or are struggling with shyness or feelings of incompetence or shame about your desire- I wish for you that you find a way to embrace who you are and experience safety and joy in your body.