Women, Sex Power and Pleasure

Women, Sex Power and Pleasure

What can you tell us about your new book Women, Sex Power and Pleasure?

The book has been in the making for many years. After listening to so many stories from women about their feelings about sex and especially their disinterest in sex, I began to realize that there were important themes that were surfacing repeatedly; overly-scheduled lives, a commitment to perfection, excessive focus on parenting and their children’s needs, and an anemic relationship with pleasure in general, not just sexual pleasure. The more I listened to what women had to say, the more compelled I felt to write about it and to put it in the context of a whole-life approach to sexuality. The book is written to help readers reinvigorate their lust for life - and sex - and to explain how both depend on our relationship to all of life’s pleasures. I also wanted to point out the medicinal values of pleasurable living and why pleasure is so important to our health over all.

You have been a midwife for over 15 years, so what made you want to work in this profession?

When I was a child I attended a farm camp. One day, I saw a calf being born and was fascinated by the process. The way my mother tells the story, I told her that the most interesting part of the entire experience was the placenta! I don’t remember that but I do know that mammalian reproduction and the process of being born have always held a kind-of magic for me. I wanted to witness, facilitate, and experience the process in my professional and personal life.  And, I always saw it as a normal experience. Facilitating and safeguarding what was normal was something I wanted to learn how to do. That is why I became a midwife and not an OB/GYN physician.

When did your interest in counseling in sexuality begin?

My interest in sexuality began early on in my midwifery practice. I found it interesting and challenging to help women manage the complex clinical problems that arose from the decisions they made about sex (i.e. unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and intimate partner violence.)  As time went on, I realized I wanted to know more about human sexuality in general and how and why people made the decisions they did about sex. The more studying I did the more I realized that sexuality counseling – especially in combination with my background in women’s health – was a discipline all its own. Sexuality and health care over-lap all the time.  My graduate education is in public health and health education has always been a large part of my practice. Many patients I saw for midwifery care made poor decisions about sex because of limited sexual knowledge and low sexual literacy. There was no one to talk with about their fears and concerns and it is difficult to assimilate and cipher through much of the information about sex available in books and on the internet. I have always done health education in my clinical practice. I have seen time and again how powerful knowledge can be in improving people’s overall health and sexual health is no exception to this. This is how and why I started focusing more and more on sexuality counseling.

You have also written The Secret Lives of Teen girls, so what can you tell us about this for fans of your new book?

I launched my writing career with this book. As I look back, I realize that its genesis was entirely personal: I was doing my own psychological work to resolve sexual experiences I had had as a teen, helping my teen daughter with her emerging sexuality, working with teen girls in my clinic, and adult women who came to see me for sex counseling. I needed an outlet to sort-through the sexual struggles that were coming at me from every direction of my internal and external life!  My life was the ultimate living- laboratory – every issue being played out on a stage all its own. I have always found writing to be helpful in any emotional sorting process.  I thought that perhaps this could turn into a meaningful book for people who were also raising teen girls and trying to resolve problems from their own adolescent years. I also wanted mothers to know more about their daughter’s sexuality and to do all I could to normalize sex and reduce women’s fears about their daughters making the choice to have sex. Parents often confuse normal sexual activity in teen girls with promiscuity. Not every girl who is sexual is promiscuous. The book was my first formal effort to do public health education about sexuality in book-form.

Why is it important that women have it all if they want it?

A profession, marriage, and children are all deeply meaningful to women. I don’t feel women should forfeit any one of these things if they truly want them.  But, I don’t believe they can have them simultaneously and do them equal justice.  From my personal and professional experience, when women do this and start to feel the strain of trying to juggle all three, they can’t help but short-change something and the first element in the trilogy to take the blow of neglect is their intimate relationship. I feel many modern women make poor timing decisions when it comes to marriage, children, and a profession. Women now tend to focus on career development first and postpone marriage and children. Putting a career before motherhood doesn’t allow us to capitalize on our biology/fertility, and brain power– the latter of which comes later on in life. It also doesn’t allow us to rely on a certain degree of self-centeredness that is a remnant of our late adolescence and which can be protective to women and marriages.  Women in their early to mid-twenties are less self-sacrificing and therefore less likely to make their children the epicenter of their worlds. For the woman who wants to “have it all,” I think having children first and building a career second is safer for all three – marriage, children, and profession - than doing it the other way around. When I tell people this they will often say that they weren’t ready to make a commitment in a relationship at such a “young” age. Personally, I think this has more to do with the social pressure NOT to and the advancement of women in the work-world which discourages them from doing so, versus an actual lack of developmental readiness. Also, children are most expensive the older they get so the argument about economic stability has some real holes in it. When kids are babies – in the absence of daily childcare – they are comparatively inexpensive to what parents face when they are in their teens and in college. If women were to have children first, work on building their careers part-time during their kid’s early life, by the time they were facing the biggest expenses they would still have had time to reach greater economic stability to cover those expenses – especially if they were partnered. In my own life, I waited to have my daughter until I was 31. In looking back on this, I wish I had been 25.     

Why can it cause arguments with partners?

More often than not, men will tell me they miss their wives when their wives are professionals and mothers because sex becomes so infrequent or non-existent. This causes an enormous amount of strife in relationships.  Women’s busyness renders them unavailable to their male partners (or female.) Men look to sexual intimacy as a means of expressing their devotion, loyalty, love, and commitment in a relationship. Women, in turn, feel that their expressions of love are evident in their doing things for their marriage and their families - this is where the argument starts. I had one man in my practice tell me that after the children were born, he felt “deceased” to his wife because she was so involved with doing things for her work and kids and there was no time left for him. Women feel as though having sex is one more thing on their list of things to do and believe men wanting sex is a sign of disregard. But, women themselves are the ones to take on all those tasks and they’re often unnecessary. They are reluctant to delegate to their workmates and children and instead assume ridiculous amounts of work on behalf of everyone in their lives BUT their partners. That’s when sexual starvation for the couple starts and the tension mounts.

Despite changing attitudes, do you still think that some believe that women still belong in the home?

We will always have some folks that believe this whole-heartedly.  As a mother and a midwife, I think mothers do need to be with their children for healthy development during certain phases of their development. For example, I feel this way for the first 6-12 months of life because I am such a strong advocate of breast-feeding on-demand in the first year. There were times in raising my own children when I made the decisions to stay at home fulltime, and others when I worked part-time. This depended on my child’s age and my financial needs – not wants. Having children is a huge commitment and one I think is hard for people to fully understand until after their children are actually born.  And again, many modern women are fully vested in their professional lives by the time they have their babies and find it very difficult to pull away from their careers after their babies are born.

Many say that sex as you get older wears off and that life sometimes gets in the way, so why is it important to prevent this from happening?  

I don’t believe that sex always wears off through time but I do think we have to put more energy and effort in keeping it alive and well and not becoming complacent or dismissing its importance. I have been with my own partner for almost twenty years and I have never worked harder on keeping sex alive and well as I do now. I expect this will be the case as time goes on and we age together. Who we are as sexually active people needs to evolve with us through time and we have to take care not to use anachronistic reference points for our sexual activity. What worked for us in our 40’s won’t necessarily work for us at 65 and onward. I have found that it’s very difficult for people to allow their sexual expression to shift and change as they age, I am not sure why this is exactly but I see it all the time.

What made you want to write your expertise down in a book?

Actually, I don’t think of myself as an expert on sex. In fact, I write at the end of my introduction and the end of the last chapter in my book: “And remember, I am right in there with you.” I too have my own process of discovery around sex and my sexuality.  What I most wanted to accomplish with this book is to use my writing skills to put a real woman’s voice to sexual issues I know so often plague and upset people in so many ways. My writing about sex is my public health mission.

What is a normal day like in your world?

I start almost every day with uninterrupted coffee with my beloved – no computers are on, no phone calls, no tasks. If it is a day I work at home, then I go to my office soon after and write, have a phone or Skype consult with a client,  or work on marketing my book and public speaking. I take breaks throughout the day to walk with my dogs and have lunch at home or do an errand. Then back to work for the afternoon. I go off-line by 7pm to enjoy the evening with my partner. I take real care NOT to over-load myself. Nothing is so important that I sacrifice my emotional or physical health. Neither money nor fame is my muse or master, but pleasurable living is.

What is next for you?

I have been considering a book idea that would explore the medicinal value of pleasure on health in general, not just sexual health.  In medicine and psychology, there is a fledgling paradigm shift to the importance of positive thinking and living which dovetails nicely with my work. My thought is to integrate evidence-based research coming out of the positive psychology and integrative medicine movements into more accessible content for the general public. Right now, I am doing many articles and short pieces for my blog, FB page, and Internet sites. I also want to keep practicing as a women’s health care provider and sexuality counselor. In addition, I would like to expand my speaking career. I really enjoy talking to audiences about the value of pleasure and the importance of sexuality in our lives.


by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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