When was the last time you had a good, long conversation about sex?
No, we’re not talking about the kiss and tell type tales that come out after a few too many drinks at the pub -- but an honest, adult, constructive conversation about what you enjoy (and don't like) about sex?
“We have this weird relationship with sex in our society. Weirder than most people realise, sex therapist Jacqueline Hellyer told The Huffington Post Australia.
“Imagine that we couldn't talk about food. Something that we all do that brings great benefit to us -- imagine if we really didn't discuss it. Imagine if you felt like you couldn't talk about food with your partner. Imagine if you didn't know whether your partner liked dessert. What if your partner couldn't say to you 'You know, I would quite like for us to have morning tea, and actually I would like to have two teaspoons of sugar in my tea'."
Illustrated in that way, it does make it seem silly that we don't have more open conversations about sex -- something we do often and that is good for us. And why aren't we taught more about it’s role in relationships from adolescence?
“Growing up, imagine we couldn't talk to our parents about food. And imagine that at school we only got a little bit of education around the fact that food is good for us, how to try and choose the right food etc, and that's about it.”
“Very very few of us in our society actually have the capacity to be able to talk about sex comfortably,” Hellyer said.
Communication barriers are formed from a young age that are hard to break down as sexual adults, and Hellyer said this is society's fault.
“Because society does not value sex we are locked into the thinking that sex is bad or dirty when we should be honouring sex as a beautiful thing. This is part of the shift that I have to help people make. For so long society told us that sex was bad and shameful, then we had the sexual revolution, and then sex was more widely discussed, but it was still ‘naughty’,” Hellyer said.
“There are very few helpful resources, and even with the few resources there are, it’s hard for them to get their message out. For example, I can’t advertise on Facebook. Because it’s the topic of sex, Facebook won’t let me advertise. My clients can't get medical or even health rebates because it’s to do with sex. I have more qualifications than some other medical practitioners, but it comes down to the fact that it is sex therapy.”
Hellyer believes that the sooner society shifts it view of sex, and talking about sex, the better off our our relationships will be.
“As a society we need to be able to say that sex is good. It's playtime for adults and it is a way that at no cost, two people can keep themselves bonded and feeling happy and healthy. It's actually not that hard to have a good sex life,” Hellyer said.
“When clients come to me there is a wide range of issues they might have, though talking comfortably about sex underlies 99 percent of them. Couples come to me who have fabulous communication skills and a wonderful relationship but they can't talk about sex. What I find really crazy is that most marriage counselors or couples therapists are not trained in sex. So many clients come to see me and they have seen all these other ‘helpers’ who haven't been able to deal with sex.These professionals themselves need to be comfortable talking about sex to be able to help their clients.”
Hellyer also emphasises that the many sex myths around what's ‘normal’ are false, and put unnecessary pressure on both couples and individuals.
“We are told that men are supposed to be a certain way, women are supposed to be a certain way. Old people, young people, others, fathers. Most of it is not true.”
“Too often (people's sex issues) are either treated as a medical problem or a psychological problem when generally it's not either. It’s just a knowledge problem or a lifestyle issue. I very rarely see people who have psychological problems,” Hellyer said.
Maybe it’s time we all got talking.