Better Sex is focused on helping all couples create and enjoy their best possible sex life. Better Sex is hosted by Jessa Zimmerman who is a couples’ counselor and nationally certified sex therapist.
Each episode will dive into one topic related to sex. Some will be devoted to addressing sexual concerns like sexual dysfunction, differences in sexual desire, and intimacy problems. Some will help you develop realistic and helpful expectations. And some will offer information and approaches that can just make your sex life better.
The information and discussion on the podcast should not be taken as medical advice or as therapy. Please seek out qualified professionals for medical and therapeutic advice.
172: Male Survivors of Childhood Sexual Abuse – Dr. Stephen Braveman
To bring awareness and break the myth around male survivors of childhood sexual abuse, Dr. Stephen Braveman joins me today. He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an early pioneer in working with the population of male sexual abuse survivors as well as women and transgender people. Stephen shares his knowledge on the history of male sexual abuse, the surrounding cultural myths, the impact on the victim, how to receive help and get started on the healing journey.
History of Male Sexual Abuse Awareness and Stephen’s Role
Dr. Braveman gives us an account of the history of male sexual abuse and the progression of its awareness. It started in the 1950s and 60s when sexual abuse of men was just a myth. It progressed through the years with sexual abuse of women coming into light in the 60s and sexual abuse of children, specifically girls coming into light in the 70s and 80s. The perception of viewing them as survivors brought a huge shift in the field however, the talk of male sexual abuse remained minimal. Stephen started the first-ever group for men sexually abused as children in the 1990s. In the two years of running this rare group, Stephen realized there wasn’t much conversation going on about this subject anywhere in the world.
Dr Braveman decided to educate people on the subject by making a documentary, Boyhood Shadows- I Swore I’d Never Tell. This one film, conceptualized and spearheaded by Stephen and the men in his group, was developed while he was working at the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center, has helped thousands of sexual abuse survivors come to grips with the emotionally crippling effects of abuse they suffered at the hands of others.
Myths Around Male Sexual Victimization
Stephen talks about some of the biggest myths surrounding male sexual victimization, including the belief that men/boys cannot be abused because of society’s idea that “men are tough”. In the case of abuse, they are told to “man up” and take it, which is damaging because the impact of abuse lives on. The second myth is that if a boy is molested by a man, the boy must be gay or causes them to become gay. This leads to boys questioning their sexuality for the wrong reasons. The third myth is that if a man molests a boy, the man must be gay. Stephen debunks this idea by giving an example of the Semen Warriors of New Guinea.
Another prominent myth that exists is that men cannot be abused by females. People don’t consider other forms of abuse that cannot be inflicted without an erection, such as fondling, b*****b, or encouraging them to touch inappropriately. Stephen points out that it’s often not believed because of the idea that men overpower women. This is a false idea, as most of the molesters are someone close, and they molest in a loving manner that obstructs a victim from overpowering them. Stephens discusses briefly the myth of abuse by teachers. This is particularly difficult to clarify because it’s often romanticized. This type of abuse leads to expressing symptoms like the belief that these sexual practices that are illegal and morally wrong don’t apply to them, that they’re an exception to the rules.
Stephen talks about Vampire’s syndrome as another myth that people believe – that people who were abused as children grow up to abuse others just like how people who are bitten, in turn, bite others like Dracula.
Pedophile vs Child Molester
While talking about a child molester being gay as a myth, Stephen gives the difference between a child molester and a pedophile. A pedophile views children solely as their sexual orientation and hence most of them have a preference between male and female children. Child molesters are most commonly someone close to the child – their mother, father, a teacher, priest, or a coach. They are sexually attracted to children and the power they could display o
171: God Wants Us to Have Pleasure – Rachel Alba
Our topic today is about getting closer to God through pleasure. I’m talking to Rachel Alba, who is a sex coach for people raised in Christian traditions that are struggling with shame or negativity around sex, and are at a point in their lives where they’re willing to take that on and try to transform that into something positive.
She shares her personal story of her journey around this, and a lot about the idea of faith development. And opening up to new ideas about sex and then how to explore that and reduce the kind of shame response that people can have.
Rachel works as a sex coach specifically for people who are coming from Christian backgrounds. And she got into that specifically because she was raised Roman Catholic and was led to believe sex is a space for us to really come back to the Garden of Eden and very much experience union with each other, union with the divine, even a fuller union with ourselves at the same time. And that’s a really positive viewpoint that Rachel was exposed to in her particular parish, this sense that sex is really good and pleasure is really good. And we can experience God’s grace through those things.
Sex, Pleasure, Shame, and Christianity
Our discussion dives deep into the history of attitudes surrounding sex, pleasure and shame within Christianity. And how so many people come from a place of spirituality. One of the first things Rachel does, is to remind people is that shame is actually a positive thing, which can sound a bit crazy.
But she points out that our initial shame response is actually meant to protect us. So, it’s positive in the sense where it was meant to protect us. And a lot of times what happens is we just didn’t ever actually like grow out of that shame response that we had around sexuality.
God created your body for pleasure.
Rachel says that God didn’t give us nerve endings simply because we need them to be able to like, feel textures on trees. She believes God gave us pleasure and the ability to experience pleasure, because God wants us to experience pleasure.
Rachel is a certified Clinical Sexologist and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology and Ministry from Boston College. She comes to Clinical Sexology (sex coaching) with a decade of experience as a massage therapist and extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology. Her work combines: developmental spirituality, sexology & anatomy, sex-positive theology, and mindful sensuality to help clients from Christian backgrounds let go of any lingering sexual shame, experience more pleasure, grow in their communication and sexual skills, all while deepening their spirituality. Other things I love are: sangria, playing piano and singing, and the 1970’s film version of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Links and Resources:
Instagram – @rachel.alba.coaching
Website – https://www.sexwithspirit.com
[Where you can find a Free Three Keys to Releasing Sexual Shame mini–class]
Sex-Positive Christian Feminists Podcast with Rachel Alba & Lurie Kimmerle – https://podcasts.apple.com/si/podcast/sex-positive-christian-feminists/id1549622305
Training video – https://jessazimmerman.mykajabi.com/video-choice
Sex Health Quiz – https://www.sexhealthquiz.com
The Course – https://www.intimacywitheasemethod.com
The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com
170: Orgasmic Expansion – Serena Haines
Serena Haines joins me on this episode to talk about orgasmic expansion – a hybrid technique developed by fusing techniques she used working as a Somatic Sex Educator and Sexological Body Worker. The goal of orgasmic expansion is to maximize pleasure and experience. It aligns perfectly with the Intimacy With Ease method when couples reach the point of having an enjoyable sex-life but wanting to expand their pleasure.
Definition – Orgasmic Expansion
Orgasmic expansion is a fusion of slow sex techniques, breathing, orgasmic potential, and neo tantric exercises melded into one. Serena states that, unlike what people may assume, it’s a practical and tangible approach to expand one’s potential for pleasure in a safe and connected relationship.
It starts by guiding her clients to practice a few intimacy and neo tantric exercises. These exercises involve eye gazing, touching, sitting back to back, and breathing deeply which allows a deeper connection to form between the couples.
Phase 2 & 3 – Intimate bodywork
Then the couples do guide intimate bodywork on each other which involves erotic massage that isn’t necessarily therapeutic or sexual. The massage is for them to relax and receive pleasure sensations from giving and receiving touch. While the partner receiving the touch focuses on breathwork, the other partner focuses on the sensation of the touch.
Genital Mapping and Genital Massage
Then they move down to genital mapping, genital massage, and end with pleasure. Genital mapping is where the partner who is receiving the touch is focused on their feelings, sensations, and erotic responses of their body, disregarding the expectation to reciprocate afterward. The giver is guided into exploring their partner’s body and focused on the sensation, feeling of the partner’s different parts of the body, even the color and visual of the vulva. While the receiver enjoys pleasure, the giver enjoys the erotic visual which is extremely important.
Physiological Changes and Responses
The next step after making sure they both feel the pleasure is to guide the partner to notice and observe the physiological changes and responses in their partner’s body. Serena gives an example of looking at how the labia swells and changes colors and the time it takes. Serena points out that for most partner’s it’s uncomfortable to let these changes happen with their partner observing. However, this process allows the other partner to explain and talk through
the changes they’re observing. This encourages the receiver to express what feels good and tell the partner to do that. The goal of genital mapping is for the partner to understand the physiological responses happening in their partner’s body and for the other partner to relax and let the time be taken for the energy to flow through their body.
Serena then guides the process to go up to the clitoris and apply slow sex techniques like orgasmic meditation. Orgasmic meditation is working with the clitoris to map out the pleasure points. The partner goes through these points like clockwork while receiving and giving feedback until they find the most sensitive spot. Serena explains the process to be followed to reach an orgasmic point. She guides the partner to let the orgasmic potential move through the breath and expand the heat generated in the g******s through her body instead of quick orgasm. Serena says. It’s about prolonging and expanding the pleasure potential.
Giving and Receiving Feedback
The partners are guided to speak up about their experiences throughout the session. They are encouraged to give and receive feedback and it’s prompted by Serena’s questions such as, “How does it feel, how does it look?”. It allows the conversation to flow that creates a medium where they feel comfortable to tell each other if something feels...
169: Out of Control Sexual Behavior in Women – Jessica Levith
Today’s guest Jessica Levith, is a Licensed marriage therapist from California and is here to talk about the “Out of Control Sexual Behavior Model” which is a view of compulsive, out-of-control sexual behavior. A treatment model is developed around this, and Jessica extends it to cisgendered women with challenging and problematic sexual behaviors. She provides treatment for people who think they exhibit out-of-control behavior. The episode also discusses sexual health and its influence on our sexuality.
Define – Out of Control Sexual Behavior (OCSB)
Jessica defines Out Control Sexual Behavior as the client’s perception of their sexual behaviors, feelings, and urges being out of their control. What makes OCSB different from the Sex Addiction Model is that OCSB is a sexual health-focused treatment where people establish their vision of sexual health without giving up a part of their sexuality. Jessica mentions a history of conflation of non-consensual sexual behaviors in the OCSB model. She debunks a theory in the Sex Addiction Model that it is believed that when a person’s sex addiction goes untreated they fall more towards non-consensual behaviors. However, in OCSB when a patient presents a sign of non-consensual sexual behaviors, they have to be ruled out as they’re more suitable for specialized treatment from a therapist whose practice deals with non-consensual behaviors.
In OCSB model treatment, they are on the lookout for patients with a genuine interest in changing how they view their sexuality. This treatment is not for those who may be simply motivated to escape the shame of exposure to their family or partner by labeling their behavior as a disease. This aligns with the perception in the OCSB model where sexual addiction is viewed as a behavioral problem that can be regulated in all parts of life. In contrast to that, the Sex Addiction Model views sexual addiction as a disease that allows the patient to step back from their responsibilities of change.
How to broaden what people see as out-of-control sexual behavior.
To broaden the view of what one would consider being an out-of-control sexual behavior, they have to process the cause behind their belief. To explain where some of these beliefs originate from, Jessica explains how women have been socially imprinted through history on how we should look, feel and act. She gives a historical context of parallels of women’s behavior being dictated in religion, art, and even science and the instance where the change started. Through Doug’s book and his model, Jessica points out the concept being based on Human Behavioral Theory which prompts for change and adaptability especially in women.
Steps in the clinical journey of OCSB model treatment?
Initial screening is the first step in the process of OCSB Model treatment where clients are screened to rule out non-consensual sex, for internal motivation, presence of any acute issue that could disrupt the treatment like being a physical threat to self or others, substance use, and abuse, mental health issues or physical health issues. In the next step, an assessment is done with a series of courses such as Adverse Child Experience (ACE), Sexual Symptom Assessment Scale (SSAS), Sexual Inhibition Scale (SIS), Sexual Excitation Scale (SES), and semi-structured assessment. During the process, the therapist learns a lot about the client as a person. In the end, the therapist helps the client to use sexual health terms instead of pathology terms, which means, they stop viewing it as a disease. Then the therapist and the client together make a sexual health plan by using this information.
Sexual health in OCSB is upheld by six principles – consensual sexual activity, non-exploitative, honesty, shared values, protection from STIs and STDs and unwanted pregnancies, mutual pleasure,
168: Moving Past Shame – Tilly Storm
Today’s conversation surrounds sexual shame and negativity and how that leads to a loss of desire and pleasure in sex. Tilly Storm, a sexual coach, helps such women whose desire has been lost due to the burden of shame and negativity around pleasure. She is here today to share her knowledge on how to reclaim your sexuality, get familiar with your own body, and experience pleasure like never before.
How did you get started?
Tilly grew up in the suburbs of Louisiana in a conservative, religious environment with shame around her body and sexuality was hanging over her. It lasted until she gave birth at the age of 23 when she realized everything she was taught about her body, sex and pleasure was utter nonsense. She then set out to help other women rediscover their sexuality that was lost after giving birth. Some courses she offers are sexual relationship coaching, ancient tantric wisdom, and Taoist practices. Tilly started her journey as a sex coach by first working on reclaiming her sexuality and body and by losing the shame and guilt she was taught.
Where does sex-negativity stem from?
Sex negativity can show up in both men and women. Tilly says a lot of her clients relate to her story of developing shame around sexuality while growing up in a conservative and religious environment. She says being ridden with guilt and shame registers as trauma to which people give out a hypo-response or a hyper-response. While women respond by shutting down and losing the desire to have sex, men respond by developing an addiction to sex and porn.
Tilly says sex-negativity can also stem out of the fear of STDs, STIs, and unwanted pregnancy. Our culture also conditions us to feel shameful and guilty of becoming pregnant young or contracting an STD or even for harboring controversial desires and eroticism. What people find desirable and erotic are so limited normalized that everything that sounds too foreign than usual is associated with shame.
What opened up your beliefs?
Tilly’s time of giving birth brought her closer to understanding her body’s potential and capability. She said it started with realizing that there was nothing inherently wrong with her body. After going through a stage of body image distortion, she found the right mind to look at her herself. Jade egg practice helped lift her shame and guilt around sexuality and pleasure. It’s a practice where you take an egg-shaped stone made out of jade and use it internally to do squeezes, releases, and breath work practices. Tilly says, “It’s yoga for your vagina”. It helps you to connect with your body and what’s down there.
Is there a timeline to be rid of sexual shame?
She points out that it takes time to get rid of all that shame and to “undo the narratives you were taught”. It also takes time to process that and get it out of your body. Sexual problems cannot be fixed just through talking because, as Tilly says, sexual problems don’t just stem from thinking. They’re deeply rooted and if you want to do things differently, along with insight you have to experience things differently by working on your body.
How to get out of your head & away from sex-negative thoughts?
Tilly starts by helping her clients with transformational breath work, where she uses the gentle trauma release method to release tension and trauma from their bodies. She guides them to feel unstuck and to open up. The next step is to “rewrite your sexual narrative”. She makes her clients write down scenarios of what would happen if they grew up in a sex-positive environment. They write it down, record it and listen to it for 10 days straight. While she acknowledges it’s a challenging process, she offers a solution to entangle it piece by piece.
She talks about inner child dynamics where it’s vital to work on trauma encountered by your inner child. She warns that the inner chi
167: Awakened Intimacy – Maci Daye
Maci Daye joins us today to talk about awakened intimacy and share some of the practices she uses with couples. This episode discusses awakened intimacy in the context of mindfulness, being present and attentive during sex. There’s talk of effective practices on how to use what happens to increase passion and grow in the face of challenges.
What is Awakened Intimacy?
Maci defines awakened intimacy as a willingness to expand your idea of sex to include aspects you haven’t tried before – pleasure, joy and even a little bit of suffering. We’re used to the assumption that sex is pleasurable, and it becomes easy to have that assumption. So when people have confusing and triggering experiences, as Maci says, it gives a window of an opportunity to learn from what happened to heal and grow. This is what awakened intimacy is – a transformational path.
Awakened intimacy for everyone
Awakened intimacy is not just for couples who want to overcome challenges in their relationship, but it’s also for people who want to love themselves better. Maci states awakened intimacy is useful because you want to be more compassionate, loving and wise. And sex is an integral part of it.
Sex & intimacy are a part of your healing process
You don’t have to put off resolving issues of your sex-life on hold while resolving issues of other parts of life. Maci says all of these are interlinked and sex is an integral part of it. You bring yourself into every experience in your life, and sex is an experience through which you connect the most with your partner. So, if you don’t include sex, no matter how much resolve and connect with your partner, it won’t transfer into your sex life and intimacy.
How does awakened intimacy differ from mindful sex?
Maci defines mindfulness as a tool to be used in the process of awakening. She defines it as a practice to modify your sexual process by including a “quality of attention that is present, curious and exploratory”. She also points out that other than opening you up to an awakening journey, mindfulness also improves your sexual functioning and genital health. Mindfulness also brings out the pleasure of passionate and attentive sex in couples who’ve been together for a long time. She suggests couples connect with their conscience to explore and discover new things while they’re making love. We’re wired to repeat patterns in life and in the bedroom which go unnoticed. With mindfulness, we can recognize these patterns in the bedroom and make changes to break the pattern. Maci calls it “updating your sexual operating system”.
Practices for couples facing a challenge in the bedroom
For couples who reach an impasse in the bedroom, should research their experiences during sex to examine and repair the wounds. Maci shares a three-step process she does with couples where they stop and share their experience instead of getting stuck in a repeat loop of avoidance. It allows couples to pause when they identify a trigger signal and research into the experience to recognize patterns and habits. ”The only place to heal a past wound is in the present, we can only heal wounds that are visible”, says Maci. While it’s difficult to describe these patterns to your partner, when met with support, you can move onto the next step of adjustment.
The next step is to make an adjustment by sharing your experience with your partner and together figuring out a solution to make changes. Maci also suggests rapid-fire interrogation attached with receptive curiosity and mindfully check in to make adjustments for a better outcome. Going a bit further Maci also suggests “co-designing” that went wrong in the past, with the added adjustments and mindfulness.
Advice for people unaware of their own experiences
Often people are not in tune with their experiences and power through their sex-l
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Finally…open conversations about Sex
Jessa Zimmerman is clear that everyone wants to talk about sex…but so rarely is it done in a candid and transparent way. The reality is that there is no ‘normal.’ This is a diverse subject as there are relationships. Jessa navigates it with ease and is connected and genuinely interested. Great information to get perspective through the murky ideas about what is ‘normal.’ Enjoy.
Fantastic information in most of these podcasts, especially the one from Michael Castleman. People are sexual as long a they live and he had a lot to say about that.Dr Jessa is a great interviewer.
Love this podcast about sexuality
I love that Jessa normalizes issues about sexuality. She discusses so many topics and reminds us that sexuality is so much more than just a physical act.