Sexual Health 101:  A New Online Resource for Students

Sexual Health 101: A New Online Resource for Students

Young Adults Make Better Sexual Health Decisions When They Understand Their Own Feelings In the summer of 2015, I was honored to be asked to contribute to a new interactive online resource for young adults, Student Sexual Health 101. As an office practitioner who spends most of his time counseling individuals and couples, I appreciated the chance to bring the knowledge I’ve gained over the past 25+ years about sexual health and sexual feelings to a wider audience online.  Especially since the target audience of Student Sexual Health 101 are young people just getting started learning about their sexuality. I was pleased to have this opportunity to help young adults make some of their first and most important decisions — such as when to start being sexual with a partner.  And especially happy to join my distinguished sexual health colleagues Dr Marty Klein (author of Sexual Intelligence and many other books) and Dr Aline Zolbrod (author of Sex Smart and Sex Talk) who also contributed content for this project. Here are the initial questions and answers with the writers and editors of Student Sexual Health 101 that eventually led to my part of the site’s content: SH101:  What ARE the essential questions to consider when you are deciding whether to be intimate? . SNYDER:   First off, you don’t just want to have physical intimacy.  You want to have GOOD physical intimacy. How to tell when it’s good? The concept is simple:  It’s good if it makes you feel good about yourself. Sounds pretty basic, huh? Well it would be, if sexual feelings were simple.  But they’re usually not. Sex can produce many confusing feelings:    Feeling...
Addyi (Flibanserin): 25 Things You Need to Know

Addyi (Flibanserin): 25 Things You Need to Know

October 16, 2015  Getting the Facts Right Flibanserin—the long-awaited “pink pill” for women with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)—was finally approved by the FDA last August, after years of debate. But so far the only women who’ve actually been able to try it have been subjects in clinical research trials. No woman has yet to be able to get a prescription for it from her doctor. . That’s going to change at the end of this week. Starting October 17, a woman will actually be able to take a prescription for flibanserin (which is marketed by Sprout Pharmaceuticals under the trade name Addyi) to her pharmacy. . What’s the best way for a woman to know whether flibanserin/Addyi would be safe and effective for her? Good question.  There’s a lot of misleading information out there. (More on that in future blog posts). . Your best move is usually to ask your doctor. But there aren’t many doctors yet who know much about this new medication. . So I’ve prepared this list to get you started:  25 things a woman should know before considering taking Addyi.   1. What is Addyi/flibanserin, and why is it such a big deal? Addyi is the trade name for flibanserin, a new non-hormonal prescription medication for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) in women.  Addyi/flibanserin is the first medicine ever specifically approved to treat loss of sexual desire in either men or women. It’s also potentially important for sexual science — since FDA approval of flibanserin is likely to lead to much more research on the neurochemistry of desire.   2. Does Addyi really work? Flibanserin doesn’t work for everybody....
Sexual Healing, Shame, and the Religious Impulse

Sexual Healing, Shame, and the Religious Impulse

A Book About Sexual Healing In a recent article in PsychologyToday, we began to discuss a new book, An Intimate Life, by Cheryl Cohen Greene — the sex surrogate whose treatment of the profoundly disabled poet Mark O’Brien was the subject of last year’s film The Sessions.  Those of you who saw The Sessions may remember the scene where Cohen Greene and her disabled client discover that they are both transplants to Berkeley — that they’re both originally from New England and were both raised Catholic. O’Brien has kept his Catholic faith.  “I need to believe in God,” he quips, “so I have someone to yell at.”   In the film, Cohen Greene says she’s given up on the Catholicism of her childhood because of its negative sexual messages. In her book An Intimate Life, we learn much more about what these messages were.  We meet her as a teenage girl in the late 1950’s — terrified that her nightly masturbations are going to condemn her to Hell.  We meet her a few years later, regularly having unprotected sex with boyfriends — terrified of pregnancy but lacking the self esteem to insist on birth control. Paradoxically, her shame and terror of her own sexuality serve to keep her more sensible impulses silent and locked away.  Unfortunately, this is a common phemomenon among people who are strongly shamed when they are young. It accounts for a lot of excessive sexual risk-taking. The memory of this early shame about her sexual self provides the fuel for her later career as a sex surrogate — working hard to help her clients find sexual...
Interviewing Sex Surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene

Interviewing Sex Surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene

      What is a sex surrogate?   And how is a sex surrogate different from a sex therapist?   These questions go all the way back to the origin of both professions in the 1960’s.  The simple answer is that sex surrogates get naked with their clients, and sex therapists don’t.  (One might say sex therapy is the lecture course, and sex surrogacy is the lab). Actress Helen Hunt received an Academy Award nomination in 2013 for her performance as sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene in the movie The Sessions.  The film wasn’t a perfect account of either sex therapy or sex surrogacy.  But it took on sex, love, disability, religion, and a host of other issues with courage and grace. A few months after writing about The Sessions, I happened to hear from Cohen Greene herself, the sex therapist whose work had been the subject of the film.   She had recently written a memoir,  An Intimate Life, about her life and work.  We spent some time afterwards on the phone discussing many subjects of mutual interest.   Here’s an excerpt— – – – – – – – So you do have orgasms with your clients? Yes, I do.   When I’m feeling like I can.  But the client has to be ready. Ready? He’s usually still trying to perform for me.  It’s hard for men just to be for themselves.  They need to be able to do that, before I can let myself go with them. Where did you learn about men needing just to be for themselves?  My husband Michael was the first man I met...
Sexual Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and What I Learned on TV

Sexual Anxiety, Social Anxiety, and What I Learned on TV

What It’s Like for People With Social Anxiety on a Third Date Referrals for sex therapy often include some mention that the individual has some kind of “performance anxiety.”   The problem isn’t always anxiety.  In fact, any negative emotion can cause sexual trouble.  It can just as easily be guilt or shame or sadness.  But anxiety is right up there as one of the commonest. Some people seem to have sexual anxiety because they’re extremely shy — what we psychiatrists call “social anxiety.”  At the core of social anxiety is a dread of being the center of attention. Sounds odd, right?  Attention is something most of us enjoy.  But it can also make us nervous. Last summer I was asked to field some questions about sex on CBS This Morning.  It was my first time on national TV, and  I was deeply worried that 3 million people were going to see me make a total fool of myself.   As I waited in the Green Room, my heart pounding, I suddenly thought, “This is what it’s like for my patients with social anxiety — on a third date.”   Sexual Anxiety in a 70 Year Old Virgin In her new book An Intimate Life (which we’ve been discussing at some length on these pages and on PsychologyToday), sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Greene (the one portrayed by Helen Hunt in The Sessions) describes her treatment of Larry, a 70 year old virgin who has been terrified of sex his whole life. When Larry was in his thirties, he finally got up the courage to court a woman.  Sitting on her bed and kissing her...
Sex Therapy and the New York Times:  The New Bisexuality

Sex Therapy and the New York Times: The New Bisexuality

The following article continues a discussion of new findings in sex research concerning bisexuality, prompted by the recent New York Magazine article, “Bisexuality Comes Out of the Closet,” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis.  See also— On Male Bisexuality: The Elle Interview Why is Male Sexuality Like the Higgs Boson? Bisexuality:  Out of the Closet at Last?   Male bisexuality isn’t yet a hot topic among heterosexual couples.  But it should be, because it’s a big deal. As I explained to writer and editor Holly Millea in Elle Magazine recently, the fact that male bisexuality is still a third rail in traditional heterosexual relationships — touch it and you die — causes much suffering for straight couples.  All of it completely unnecessary. Kinsey famously classified men’s degree of bisexuality on a scale from 0 to 6.  It’s still a crude but workable system.  Kinsey 0’s are capable of responding sexually only to women.  Kinsey 6’s only to men.  And men in between are bisexual to varying degrees. Let’s say Paul is a Kinsey 2:  “Mostly straight.”  He loves his fiancee Laura very much, and they have great sex together.  He had very satisfying sex with previous girlfriends too.  And once in college he had a brief thing with a male classmate.  They kept it secret. Laura his fiancee had a gay relationship in college too.  Chances are that unlike Paul she didn’t feel the need to keep it a secret.  “Lesbian Until Graduation” (LUG) is so accepted that it has its own acronym.  Laura told Paul about her lesbian relationship when they were dating, and he accepted the fact of it without any...