So what exactly is a sexologist?
Just like a biologist studies biology, a sexologist studies sexuality. We are interested in what people do sexually and how they feel about it. Sexology encompasses many different fields such as biology, psychology, medicine, gender studies and many more. You can be involved in research, sexual education, or as in my case, counselling.
Describe your working day?
I work with men, women and couples who have sexual issues in a relationship. Usually these are one-to-one sessions. Occasionally it’s a one off session – if someone has a specific question they need answering – usually something like “it takes me a long time to get aroused or to have an orgasm. Is this normal?” Then they just need to hear that they are normal.
But for most people, I like to see them over a six-month period. Often their whole lifestyle is not set up for sexual pleasure. First there must be the intention to do something about that, then there is trying to implement that change. When this happens, other parts of their life are invariably affected too. Sex is complicated and it affects all parts of a relationship.
What is the most common issue you deal with?
In women it’s low desire for and little enjoyment of sex. Often, they find it hard to experience orgasm during sex or when self-pleasuring.
For men it’s rapid ejaculation. Men say they find it difficult to control their ejaculation and are not able to last as long as they would like to. This then is often coupled with finding it difficult to get or keep an erection.
For couples it is that they are best friends but not lovers. Or that they have different levels of desire – one wanting sex more than the other.
What is the advice you most often give?
All change starts within oneself. So the focus is really on creating a loving relationship with yourself first. By this I mean making love with oneself, self-pleasuring.. This is the key for sexual healing and for keeping one’s sexual desire awake.
How does a therapy session work?
When people start the coaching process we start to talk about sex. Even just voicing what they have never had the chance to talk about before is very healing. Often when people start to feel comfortable about talking to me about sex, they are then able to talk about it with their partner.
So first it’s just talk. Then we look at what the sources of the problem could be. Normally that’s many factors – past experience, a belief system you may have grown up in where a woman actively pleasure was seen as wrong or dirty, or that a woman’s role is to give.
Then we look at how to reframe those beliefs and look for ways to achieve pleasure. In between the sessions there are home assignments. I will get a woman to explore self pleasure, to watch a video, read some erotica. Then we talk about that in the next session – what did or didn’t go right? For a man it could be him practicing lasting longer by himself.
When it comes to couples, most get very anxious if they run into sexual problems thinking they are not normal. But the opposite is true. If a relationship carries on for a long time, it is almost inevitable that sexual desire might become an issue at some point.
As a relationship evolves there will come a point when that natural attraction is not as strong as it was. The good thing about a couple that comes to see me is that they want to work together. I give them homework to find time for themselves, go on date nights, go to bed early with intention of simply exploring and touching each other.
How did you become a sexologist?
When I was younger, I certainly never thought that I would work as a sexologist. Like so many other health practitioners or therapists, I work in the field that I first turned to for myself. When I was in my early 20s I got married to a man I was madly in love with but sexually it didn’t work. Sadly we got divorced and this inspired me to go on a journey of healing, exploring my own sexual energy.
Inspired by the results I began to run women’s circles to help other women and got into it from there. It then became clear to me that sexuality, love and relationships is really what I am passionate about. I still study at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, which is based in San Francisco.
What really inspires me is meeting couples where there is so much love there, but the one thing that is not working is sex. Often there is a lot of shame around this. I want to help them get through that so that sex no longer standing in the way of them having a fulfilling relationship.
Have you seen an increasing interest in your profession?
There are not many sexologists in the UK but there are many sex and relationship therapists and other practitioners who work with sexuality and sexual concerns. And there certainly has been a rise in the number of professionals working in the field of sexuality because there is such a great need for their services.
How do people respond at dinner parties when you say what you do?
With lots of questions! They don’t understand what it is. They may have also have fantasies about what I do and what I don’t’ do. I am a great supporter of hands-on body work and sex surrogacy. I think that is very important work, but I don’t work in that way.
What does your partner/family think about your job?
My partner is very supportive. He thinks I am doing great work as I am empowering people to take their lives in a positive direction.
Do more women than men come to see you?
I see about the same number of men as women.
Are there any male sexologists?
Not as many as there are women.
What is the best part of your job?
Witnessing the transformation that my clients go through. It is a very fulfilling career.