5 Things that sex therapists think you should know about sex

Jun 17, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. ET

With the abundance of advice about sex and relationships out there, it can be difficult to know where to turn to for expertise. SheKnows sexpert, Gia Ravazzotti, asks clinically-qualified sex therapists to answer your questions about intimacy and love.

Usually, when people discover that I am a sex therapist, there is a flurry of questions and comments. In Australia, it is still a relatively young profession and many people don't know much about what a sex therapist actually does. And then, there are those people who quietly wait until the activity has subsided and sidle up to me posing a hurried, whispered question. I decided to investigate what kinds of questions my colleagues most encounter and how they would answer them.

1. What is normal sex?

Everyone wants to know if they are normal or not. They want to know if the sex that they are having is normal, or if they should be doing something different. Alison Richardson, sexual health counsellor and director of the Australasian Institute of Sexual Health Medicine, says, "We expect sex to be a natural thing and that everyone 'just knows' how to do it. But I have regularly had young couples who have come to me because they cannot consummate their marriage and they feel great shame because they feel sex should come naturally. For some, it's not a natural thing at all and they need reassurance and education. Like any life skill, being a good lover takes practice, too."

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2. Why doesn't my partner know how to make me orgasm?

All too often, we expect our partner to be able to give us pleasure, even when we aren't quite sure what gives us pleasure ourselves. Nina Booysen of Nina B Sex Therapy says, "Most people go into sexual relationships with the only possible sign of success being measured by orgasms. We have also been programmed to think that we must be skillful in providing our partners with these gifts. This thinking mostly leads to anxiety and disappointment. Be responsible for your own orgasm by being present in the moment, in your body and not your head. Know your body well, understand what triggers orgasm for you and what puts the safety on. It is important to communicate with your partner about what you do like, more than going through a list of what you don't enjoy."

3. Are we sexually compatible?

Sex therapist Katiana Shaw of Symbiotic Therapy answers, "Groundbreaking, earth-shattering sex does not just happen. Often, couples will claim that they have bad sex, one of them is bad in bed, or that they are not compatible in bed. This is simply not true. Good sex requires couples to work together to figure out what each other likes and doesn't like. This takes time, and often a little bit of experimentation to open up your sexual repertoire to find new moves and positions. Couples need to communicate more effectively about sex and let their partner know what they like, what is working for them or what feels terrible. Only when this is achieved will new heights of pleasure be reached."

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4. Why have I lost interest in sex?

Many factors impact on our sexual desire and Elaine George of Sexology Australia says, "Our biological or physiological status is important and can influence our sexual enjoyment and health. This includes our hormones, which can be affected by age, relationship status and our overall health, including diet, exercise and other illnesses or medications. Also, our psychological wellbeing plays a huge role and this includes stress, anxiety, depression, past grief and or loss and our overall state of happiness and contentment. Other influences include where we were born, the country in which we now reside, our religious and educational background, our spirituality and our culture. A final component that I believe is critical is our brain. Our brain is the computer which dictates and drives everything — our thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, feelings and behaviour — and is an integral part of our emotional and sexual wellbeing."

5. Why do I feel so self-conscious during sex?

So many women are influenced by what they see in the media when it comes to sex that it's no wonder they feel a bit self-conscious. Sex therapist Somerset Maxwell explains, "It is important not to be influenced by the media's depictions of sex. A lot of women, in particular, feel pressure because they aren't climaxing every time they have sex, or through penetration, and at the same time as their partner. This is how television and movies portray sex. It is rarely how it happens in real life. It's also important to realise that we don't all look like movie stars when we do it. We aren't all privy to airbrushing for those roles when our legs and bodies are in precarious positions. Try to remember that it's not how you look, but more important to be involved in the moment and enjoy the sensations."

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