Thanks to Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. — author of the new book, High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (2011, Prometheus Books). — for permission to reprint this interview from her blog, High Octane Women, on PsychologyToday. The interview is part of a longer article, Sex and the High Octane Woman.
Dr. Carter: Most high-achieving women are aware of the connection between stress and fatigue, stress and anxiety, and even stress and physical illness. However, there is also a strong connection between stress and libido, isn’t there?
Dr. Snyder: People forget that sexual arousal is part of the Relaxation Response. If you can’t relax, sex is going to suffer. The modern problem started with TV – which is passive, but for most people not really relaxing. The internet, email, and globalization have kicked this problem into another dimension entirely.
Dr. Carter: In The Nine Rooms of Happiness, Dr. Catherine Birndorf writes that being too tired for sex is “one of the biggest epidemics facing women today.” Do you agree?
Dr. Snyder: Absolutely. It’s true for men, too. Sex requires leisure time. But for most people I see in my Manhattan office the idea of leisure time is just a quaint memory. For such couples–and there are a lot of them–I recommend they cultivate frequent sexual arousal together, even when they’re too busy or tired to actually have sex. We sex therapists call it “simmering.” Simmering takes a couple of minutes at the most. It’s nice to simmer every day. Eventually leads to more sex, too.
Dr. Carter: I frequently hear a lot of guilt in high-achieving women over a lack of interest in sex or being too busy to have sex, which only adds stress to their already stressful lives. Any advice you can offer?
Dr. Snyder: The classic work in the field is Kathryn Hall’s Reclaiming Your Sexual Self. The heart of the book is the notion that there IS a sexual self, which needs to be honored. Sample advice: Don’t fake arousal. The sexual self doesn’t like it when you do. A more recent book I like a lot is Laurie Mintz’s The Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex. Sample advice: How can you expect to want sex if you never think about it? Give yourself permission to fantasize — when you’re at work, at the gym, etc. I spend a lot of time in my office talking with women about their erotic fantasies.
Dr. Carter: One common characteristic of high octane women is perfectionism. They don’t like to do something if they can’t do it perfectly every time, which makes some high-achieving women feel that sex has to be great every time they have it. Your thoughts?
Dr. Snyder: Don’t worry about having great sex. Just focus on having good sex. As I wrote in “Some open secrets about sexual arousal,” good sex is a usually a regression to a somewhat infantile state of mind. Most people love that feeling, and they end up loving the people they have it with. Stay very basic. Breathe together. Practice motionless intercourse. Look into each other’s eyes for a long time.
Dr. Carter: Many of the women I’ve worked with over the years are very conscientious about their dress and appearance, not wanting to appear overly feminine or sexual in any way out of concern that others will think that’s how they got to where they are. What are your views on high-powered women and sexuality?
Dr. Snyder: Culturally speaking, women in high-powered jobs are still pioneers. Most modern people still have deeply ingrained ideas about men being socially or sexually dominant, and women being socially or sexually submissive. Cultural transformation is something I don’t expect to see in my lifetime–but I hope my great-grandchildren get to enjoy it.