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How to Handle an Erection Fail: There is a right way and a wrong way

* Valli is quoted; article is by Meagan Drillinger, Published in Men’s Health Magazine, March 2017.

As a woman, I understand that a man’s main point of pride hangs between his legs. And trust me: Straight women love it as much as you do. Which is why it’s definitely disappointing for all of us when your main man sometimes fails to show up for duty. But before we all go holding a funeral for your manhood, let’s recognize that erection failure is part of nature and life, and as such, can happen from time to time. We know this is embarrassing for you, and we are more than sympathetic. Trust us. There’s absolutely no reason to cry over the occasional flaccid penis. Should you fall victim to this more-regular-than-you-think occurrence, here’s how I, as a woman, would like you to handle the situation.

Tell us it’s not about us: (Unless it is. But if you’re trying to sleep with a girl you’re not attracted to, it calls into question some of your greater life choices.)

But on the whole, let’s assume you are sleeping with a woman whom you find attractive. Women (all people, really) are insecure, especially when it comes to sex and being intimate. So if you’re having sex with us and then all of a sudden you’re not, we might become a little self conscious. But the first thing you can do is assure us that you are, in fact, attracted to us, our bodies are banging, our minds and plethora of educational degrees rev your engines, etc. Assuring us that this is not our fault is something many of us might need to hear.

“A frequent mistake women make when their partners experience erectile dysfunction is to assume it’s about her,” says Holly Richmond, a somatic psychologist and certified sex therapist. “Ninety-nine percent of the time it has nothing to do with her. What I hear from my male clients who have experienced ED is that they are, in fact, very turned on by their partners.”

Richardson explains that the majority of the time ED is because of anxiety, maybe because this has happened before and they’re afraid it will happen again, or he is situationally anxious, meaning he is overwhelmed by the moment and is doing too much thinking with the big brain, and not enough with the little one.

Don’t over-internalize it: We know you are going to be embarrassed, and that’s an okay feeling to feel. We can’t stop that. But you shouldn’t be embarrassed, or at least, not for too long. Getting overly depressed about it, apologizing excessively, or, even worse, stopping sexy time altogether, are some of the worst things you can do.

“Many see intercourse as the go-to gold standard and view anything different as second-class sex,” says Jennifer Valli, a certified sex therapist. “They don’t realize that most men can orgasm with a semi rigid or moderately rigid penis, and most women don’t orgasm with intercourse. Because of a fear of failure, the man and his partner end up missing the whole intimate connection. The more relaxed the man’s partner is sexually, the easier it will be for him to relax, and anxiety is contagious.”

Don’t let the pleasure stop: To my earlier point, the worst thing you can do is end the whole interaction all together. You might have lost the wind in your sails (and we really do feel for you), but we certainly haven’t. You still turn us on. We still want to get off. There are many, many other ways for us to enjoy being together without actual penetration. And, more importantly, you might find yourself getting re-aroused in the process.

“We have hands, fingers, tongues, toes; we are all erogenous beings from head to toe,” says Lawrence Siegal, a clinical sex therapist. “It can also be a good opportunity for both partners to learn to pleasure each other without the driving imperative of orgasm, when the focus should be on pleasure.”

If it becomes chronic, don’t shy away from seeking help: The fact of the matter is every man will experience ED at some point in his life, and as you guys get older even more so. It’s one of the many unfortunate things that happen to your penis as you age. But if this keeps happening, there’s nothing wrong with seeking medical or psychological assistance to figure out (and cure) ED.

More often than not, ED in younger guys is situational, says Ian Kerner, a licensed psychotherapist and nationally recognized sex counselor. “If a man in his 30s is experiencing ED and it’s not situational, it could be a side effect of medication or an indication that something else might be going on in terms of health. For example, men with heart disease often show erectile disorder as one of the first symptoms. Some men that over-masturbate may also experience situational erectile disorder. Lifestyle also plays a factor: smoking, drinking, diet, exercise.” There are several treatment options out there, so talk to your doctor to see if you can pinpoint the cause and a solution.

Better Health Through Better Sex

By Jennifer Valli,  Published in Memphis Health and Fitness, December 2016

Someone once said, “With sex, all roads lead to shame.” Society sometimes tells us that women are supposed to be sexual, but other times it is frowned upon. Some religions approach sexuality with fear and shame and rarely talk about pleasure. Many people carry guilt for fantasies that are not considered socially acceptable. With all this socialization— have you thought about sex as something that is healthy?

Studies show orgasms help relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve sleep. According to The British Medical Journal, orgasms boost the immune system and increase life span. Those who orgasmed two times a week or more added eight years to their lives. A recent study showed that 50-to-89-year-olds who engaged in sexual activity in the past year had higher levels of cognitive functioning. Self-stimulation and meditation both promote mindfulness, teach people to quiet their minds, and focus on one thing, even when they are not directly engaging. Here is how can you gain these benefits and establish a lifetime of sexual health.

DON’T WAIT FOR PERFECT:  With lack of interaction, partners lose emotional and physical connection and eventually communication. Make pleasure your goal, not the orgasm. In long-term relationships, women tend to find their desire “during” rather than “before,” so don’t wait until desire is overwhelming to engage. A lack of drive at the start doesn’t mean a woman is dysfunctional, hormone-deficient, or not into her partner. Men, however, frequently withdraw from engaging intimately altogether because they don’t want to feel or appear incompetent. They may wait for the perfect erection and think anything less than 95 percent rigid is not good enough, but with direct stimulation, and piggy-backing their arousal off of their partner’s, men can orgasm without being fully rigid.

FREQUENCY IS YOUR FRIEND: A lack of intimacy over time results in resentment or couples relating like friends. If you haven’t been sexual recently, add intimacy in slowly but engage often, which will not only lower the pressure for everything to go perfectly but also increase testosterone and estrogen production.

BE FLEXIBLE: Many people narrowly define sex as intercourse and everything else as second-class sex. Consider broadening your definition.

DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY: It can be very difficult if your partner never initiates, or if you are repeatedly turned down. Rather than wonder if you are the problem, communicate. Remember that lack of desire or sexual dysfunction is usually due to a combination of physical and psychological causes, with both elements impacting one another. Intimacy is a complex issue with many layers and addressing only testosterone levels, for example, will not solve the complex dynamics involved.

SHAME-FREE ZONE: A desire discrepancy where one person’s drive is higher than the other is very common between couples and neither partner is dysfunctional. Don’t label the lower desire partner as dysfunctional and the higher drive partner as an addict. “Sex addict” is an overused term by the general population and addiction therapists, but the medical community does not recognize it as a diagnosis. The 12-step method of treatment, at least for sex, comes from a place of shame, often framing the partner as the enabler, and labeling any “out of the box” erotic interest as pathological.

CONSENT, EQUALITY, AND MUTUAL RESPECT: Enthusiastic consent, equality, and mutual respect are key elements to keeping sex emotionally healthy. Without these, sex becomes damaging. One out of four females and one out of seven males has experienced sexual trauma. Bring these three elements to every intimate relationship, whether you are just dating or with your partner for a lifetime. If you can’t be kind to a person before, during, and after being intimate, you shouldn’t be with them at all.

As a therapist with extensive training in sexuality and sex therapy, I emphasize that healthy sex is not everything going perfectly each time. It is more about feeling desired and connected with another, and handling barriers as they occur with maturity.

 

Avoiding Common Mistakes for Life-Long Intimacy

By Jennifer Valli, Published in Memphis Health and Fitness, September 2015

Sexual health throughout one’s lifetime is achievable, but many couples make the mistake of defining sex too narrowly, thinking sex is intercourse. For them, the goal of sex is orgasm, and if possible, orgasms occurring simultaneously. This idea actually originated from Greek and Roman times, when people believed that simultaneous orgasm helped couples conceive.

Couples that maintain intimacy know they can engage in other sensual ways. The majority of women orgasm with clitoral stimulation, while only 30% of women reliably orgasm from intercourse alone, so there are several reasons to view intimacy in a broader sense. Consider a menu of possibilities that includes penetration on some nights, or genital touch or oral stimulation on others. These elements don’t just constitute foreplay; they can be a goal unto themselves.

Remember that with sex, giving and receiving does not have to be equal in every encounter. One night may be about both partners, but another night may be about only one person. Measure equality over time, work to feel more comfortable as both a giver and receiver, and keep in mind that the most important aspect of sex is allowing yourself to create a space to connect with another intimately.

Another important concept that is often misunderstood is a women’s sexual response. Although sexual response can play out in many ways for women, after the honeymoon phase of the relationship, women often initially engage with a neutral feeling rather than because of a biological urge for sex. Many times, women are motivated to be intimate from an intellectual space, wishing to connect with their partners, but as they proceed they feel physically aroused in the process.

Frequently it is not until after a woman feels aroused that she experiences the sexual thoughts and fantasies we associate with desire. This is very different from what we see in the movies, with women first feeling biological desire and then bursting into orgasm. A woman can feel shame when she doesn’t feel overcome with desire prior to sex and many hormone clinics capitalize on this anxiety. If a woman is not becoming aroused in the process, then hormones should be checked, but don’t label yourself as dysfunctional just because you are not overcome with a biological drive for sex prior to interacting.

The aging process has the greatest impact on the arousal stage of sexual response, rather than orgasm. When engaging with a partner, the right lubricant is critical. Silicone lubricants are the best choice for those going through menopause. Uberlube is an excellent choice as it is glycerin-and paraben-free, and has a healthy Ph balance. Also consider a vaginal moisturizer, such as Luvena or Replens; these are different than lubricants and should be used regularly as a part of maintaining sexual health. If you are having pain with sex, contact a pelvic floor physical therapist and also a psychotherapist that is certified by AASECT to discuss a plan to integrate sex back in, so that you can have success when intimately connecting.

Recently, the FDA has approved a new medication, Flibanserin or Addyi (trade name) that may help treat low sexual desire in some women. Even though this medication has been referred to as the “female Viagra” in the popular press, it works in a very different way. Unlike Viagra, which increases blood flow to the genitals, Flibanserin works on neurotransmitters in the brain, and must be taken daily. Based on clinical trials, the FDA estimates that only 8-13% of women with low desire may be helped by the drug.

Understanding any differences in how you and your partner approach and respond to intimacy is an essential element of lifelong sexual satisfaction. It’s never too late to let go of myths and embrace your own needs and desires.

*information protected by copyright

Will the new Female Viagra help increase a woman’s desire?

By Jennifer Valli, Published in the Memphis Flyer

Is there a magic pill? Addressing Low Sexual Desire in Women

The FDA has approved 26 sex-related drugs and treatments for men. Finally, women get one for themselves. But does it work?

As a psychotherapist who specializes in sexual health, I work with couples and individuals to improve their emotional and physical intimacy, and I have been asked this question since the announcement of “the female Viagra” Flibanserin, or Addyi. This drug, however, works very differently than Viagra, which treats dysfunction by increasing blood flow to the genitals. Addyi, in contrast, works on neurotransmitters in the frontal cortex in the brain, increasing desire and decreasing sexual inhibition.

So what is the drug’s effectiveness? According to the FDA, only 8-13% of the subjects were helped by the drug, reporting an average of one more sexual experience a month compared to placebo. Some medical groups felt like the benefits of the medicine didn’t outweigh its side effects, as it may cause low blood pressure and loss of consciousness, especially if consumed in combination with alcohol. Others advocated strongly for the drug, seeing the lack of FDA-approved drugs for women as an issue of inequality.

As I have often seen in my practice, sexual response is often misunderstood and therefore women may be inaccurately seen as dysfunctional. Female response is complex and related to a variety of factors that may impact desire. Many times, women are motivated to be intimate from an intellectual space, wishing to connect with their partners, but as they proceed they feel physically aroused in the process.

A woman can feel shame when she doesn’t feel overcome with desire prior to sex and many hormone clinics capitalize on this anxiety. Addyi is also trying to elicit desire on the front end, a response more likely to be consistent with more males than females, but one that can vary between people and even within one person from experience to experience.

Many women will be willing to take this pill despite its side effects, but hopefully they will address the other factors that impact desire. For example, some women experience larger barriers to connecting related to past infidelity, or other difficult relationship dynamics. One out of four women prior to age 18 has had some past sexual trauma and that plays into how they see themselves as a sexual person.

Many women aren’t comfortable with body image and this directly affects their desire and ability to orgasm. A University of Texas study showed that 70% of women cover some part of their bodies during sexual activity, rather than tuning into the moment, and researcher Thomas Cash found that body image impacted how women experience sex itself. Body-conscious women reported experiencing orgasms 42% of the time, compared to body-confident women who experienced orgasms 73% of the time. The insecurity about body image doesn’t stop there – common irrational fears of women include thinking that their genitals may not look or smell normal. This is yet another thing that impacts desire; we each need to feel comfortable when connecting intimately.

Often couples present with a desire discrepancy where one person’s drive is higher than the other’s. The lower drive person is labeled “the problem”, while the higher drive partner is labeled the “sex addict”. But are they really an addict? Do they have a history of substance use, gambling or any other addictive behaviors, or is it just that he or she has a stronger sex drive? This asymmetry can create resentment with the higher drive partner feeling rejected after initiating sex fails repeatedly, and the lower desire partner feeling used. If the couple is still waiting for that initial desire in the woman to kick in, she will likely see sex as a task. All of this results in both partners feeling angry and resentful, and certainly hoping there is a medicine to fix all of this. Sex offers a powerful, non-verbal way of communicating. The question remains, do women need a medicine to achieve what is a normal sexual response?

Have drug companies had trouble creating a successful drug because desire in women is a complex issue or do companies spend less money on women, as a more marginalized population? Certainly we are less comfortable thinking about sexuality in women compared to men. Seeing ourselves as sexual is deeply rooted in religion and culture, and taking a pill isn’t going to override that. Women may take the pill, wait for it to work, and then feel more inadequate when they don’t feel overcome with desire. With or without the pill, those individuals and couples who examine sexuality in depth and continue to engage regularly despite hiccups will enjoy quality intimate interactions.

*information protected by copyright