Psychotherapy can be a strange profession at times. It is designed perfectly for people to talk about sex.
When talking amongst themselves parents often recount their horror and “OMGs” when the kids ask about sex. From those parents who are just plain uncomfortable with the topic to those who agonise over how much to say and not too say, so as to not have their child twenty years later sitting in a therapist’s office talking about the day mommy or daddy told me about sex and the resultant trauma it caused.
If such traumatised people are unlucky they can also get a therapist who is uncomfortable with the topic of sex. Lets face it, it is a difficult topic and therapist’s are humans just like everyone else and some of them are just not comfortable talking about sex. Some therapists report that their clients never seem to talk about their sex lives which is probably not a good thing. The client probably picks up on the therapist’s discomfort about it and then gladly changes the topic as they are uncomfortable as well.
I was twenty two when I first ran my therapy groups and I too was probably uncomfortable and unsure of what to say and how to react when a client wanted to talk about their sex life. Over time that discomfort subsided as more and more people talked about sex and now it is no different to a client talking about how they clean their house obsessively.
On a personal note for therapists, having this happen is a good thing as it desensitises them to talking about sex. I have heard a lot of people talk about their sex lives, what they do and don’t do, what they think about during sex, fantasise about, their wants and sexual desires, pornography and so on. And I can tell you, there is not much that people have not thought about doing when it comes to sex.
Some of the straightest looking people have done a lot of very unstraight things in the bed room. The most unlikely looking people can have the most voracious sexual appetites and the most adventuresome of sex lives. On the other hand when the lights go out the Don Juan man and super model woman can be as boring a bats**t in bed and have little interest in sex. From what I have heard over the years there is no correlation between physical beauty and performance in the bedroom. Indeed if anything there is an inverse correlation. I am sorry guys, but the most beautiful and sexy women in the world are more likely to be bad lovers than good ones.
As I said therapy is perfectly designed for people to talk about sex. The confidentiality allows people to open up much more and the setting is designed to for people to talk about concerns, fears and problems they might have about anything including sex. Sometimes client’s say that I am the only person they have ever told this to.
This places the therapist in a unique position. They get a view of human nature that it is rare, namely a cross sectional view of peoples most intimate thoughts and feelings about their sex lives. In a similar vein we have the prostitute or sex worker who also gets such a unique view into human nature but it only relates to the male side of the sex equation. If I ever see a sex worker who comes to me as a client, invariably at some point I will ask her for her views and observations about male sexuality and their sex lives. Sex workers have a unique perspective on male sexuality on this clandestine topic.
Not so long ago I counselled a 30 year old guy who had found a lovely woman and they were probably going to get married. He had a great concern though. He found that sometimes when he was having sex with her he would think about a past girl friend. He was very worried about this. He thought that he was being unfaithful to his fiancé to be and that this must mean that he is still really in love with his prior girlfriend.
My first step was to alleviate some of his fears with information about what others have told me they think about when having sex. By some standards his thoughts were very innocuous. Indeed his fiancé to be maybe thinking of other things her self. When you think about it orgasm and sexual arousal are quite narcissistic acts. It’s all about me and what I find erotic. Some people seem to need a lot going through their mind to orgasm whereas others need very little. For some there are just a few thoughts which they find erotic, yet for others they can be many and varied and they can change considerably over time. Thus we arrive at the point of sex and psychological diagnosis.
As sex is such a personal and intimate act involving very close physical contact with another it is heavily influenced by the psychology of the individual. This may be why for some stress can have such a significant and quick effect on the libido. However it also can be a very useful source of diagnostic information psychologically. The type of sexual acts they engage in or want to engage in, differing sexual positions, their sexual fantasises and what they find erotic, the type of pornography they find arousing all can provide very good insight into the psychological status of the individual at quite a ‘deep’ level.
So much for the life of a therapist!