Life Beyond Therapy
I’ve been an openly gay, San Diego-based psychotherapist for about 20 years. Before that, I was a middle school counselor in San Francisco, preschool teacher in the Bronx, social worker for terminally ill children and their families at San Diego Hospice, helped parents regain custody of their kids for Children’s Protective Services, was as an intern for “Sesame Street” and – shortly after I came out – enjoyed a brief career as a go-go boy in a popular gay club in NYC (but that’s another column).
I give you this background to let you know that I’ve been helping people of all ages with their mental health for about 40 years, in some way, shape or form. Recently, a friend asked me, “As a mental health professional for San Diego’s LGBTQ community, what is one of the most popular questions you get asked?” I thought that was a good question, and it didn’t take me long to answer it…
“How much sex should I be having?” quickly came to mind.
It’s a good question; one that most of us are curious about. We want to know if we are “normal”; are we having the same amount of sex as most people in our situation? We want to know if we are having more than the average person (if so, “yay!” for us) or if we’re having less than the norm (in which case, what are we going to do about it?)
Leaving the comparison factor aside – which is a challenge – how do we know how much sex we should be having? To help you answer this question, here are seven sex-related questions I encourage my clients to ask themselves (I encourage you to write down your answers).
- “How fulfilling is my sex life? Rate it on a scale of 1 to 10.” Be honest, no one else has to know.
- “What about sex do I really enjoy?” Be specific.
- “What about my sex life is lacking?” Another way to ask this is to say, “What’s missing?” or “What do I want more of?”
- “Do I want to have more sex more often? If so, with whom?” This may sound obvious – “Hell, yeah!” – but bear with me here. If I’m going on Grindr on a regular basis, am I meeting guys I really enjoy hooking up with? If I am going out to Gossip with my posse, am I meeting women I’m actually interested in?
- “Am I using sex to avoid something?” Some of us use sex to avoid feeling lonely, angry, scared, confused…you name it. Sex can be a diversion (like food, alcohol, drugs, etc.) and we use it to avoid feeling uncomfortable feelings. We think it’s easier to just get laid than it is to face what’s behind all that mediocre sex (it’s rarely great sex if it’s sex-as-avoidance). Maybe it’s time to face your unhappiness and do something proactive about it, instead of trying to screw it away…just sayin’.
- “What does sex really do for me?” Get me closer to my partner? Distract me from the job I hate? Make me feel attractive and desirable? Help me feel connected with another person/other people? Check your motivation.
- The last of these seven questions may be the most productive: “Now that I know what I want, what am I going to do about it?” Do I need to tell my partner/friends with benefits/booty calls/Grindr hookups? If so, how will I ask for what I want?
Sex is a fascinating subject. I love helping my clients explore it and see how they can make their sexual/erotic life the way they truly want it to be without shame.
We all deserve a rewarding and meaningful sex life. Every one of us has her/his/their own preferences, desires and pleasures. It can be a lot of fun to explore yours, whatever they are.
Feel free to use these questions – and any other way(s) you can learn about/experiment with/be curious about sex – to make sex an enjoyable and important part of your life…because you deserve it.