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What I'm Reading
  • If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path
    If the Buddha Dated: A Handbook for Finding Love on a Spiritual Path
    by Charlotte Kasl
  • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
    Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
    by Therese Anne Fowler
  • Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes
    Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes
    by Tom Rath
Thursday
Jul312014

5 Ways to Celebrate National Orgasm Day

It's July 31, 2014, and that means it's National Orgasm Day! I honestly don't know which nation claims this day, but I'm fine treating it like an International Orgasm Day :) Here are five suggestions for making the most of this day...

1. Go for a personal best in the number of orgasms you have in one day.

2. Become more intimate with your knowledge of what an orgasm feels like to you, e.g., the number of muscle contractions, a feeling of spreading warmth, positive thoughts, genital swelling, tension, etc.

3. Try out a new position, technique, or toy, either alone or with a partner.

4. Ask three of your friends to describe what orgasms are like for them.

5. Decide once and for all to never fake an orgasm again.

This day has come! And hopefully you will too :)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus - San Diego Sexologist, Sociologist, & Sexuality Speaker

Thursday
Jul172014

How Hollywood Movies Set Us Up for Disappointment in Relationships

It's true - the romance of Hollywood, whether a RomCom or a dramatic love story, sets uprealistic expectations for relationships, sex, and marriage. And many folks don't seem to realize this has happened until they're facing their own relationship problems and haven't learned the skills to handle concerns in a responsible and productive way. I discuss this on Channel 6's San Diego Living this week.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- San Diego Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker

Thursday
Jul102014

Are You Feeling Pressured? A New Way to Ask for Sexual Consent

I’m recently single after the end of a 5-year monogamous relationship, so negotiating sexual interactions with new men is back on the table. I’ve started dating, moving slowly to get my bearings and allow things to unfold at a pace that feels right. This matters to me both emotionally and sexually. During a recent sexual encounter with a man I’d been on a few dates with he surprised me with the question: “Are you feeling pressured?” It was our first time doing anything sexual and we were slowly progressing through a sensual evening. His question gave me pause. Was I? I did not want to have intercourse, but how far did I want to go, and was he pushing those boundaries? I appreciated his willingness to check in with me.

Compare this to another recent situation with a different male friend, where I blatantly stopped his sexual progress. He acquiesced, but had an odd look on his face. When I questioned him, he stammered a bit. “You stopped me like you didn’t want me to do that, but I think you do want me to do that.” “No,” I said, “I didn’t.” While I was experiencing sexual interest and arousal, that didn’t mean I just wanted to charge ahead.

Men and women often perceive sexual interest and consent in different ways. Recent research (1) on gender and consent found that men seemed confident they knew how to read their female partner’s consent, and relied on nonverbal signals. However, women responded that they were more likely to use verbal indicators to actively give consent. Another research (2) study found men where more likely to perceive sexual interest from women in situations where it was not present, especially if they deemed her physically attractive. Women, on the other hand, underestimated the sexual interest of men. In addition, males are socialized to be the initiators and aggressors in sexual situations, so pushing boundaries is how they learn to make sexual activity happen. Females are often socialized to be nice, non-confrontational, and “good girls,” so rocking the boat by slowing down or halting intimate situations can feel so uncomfortable and inappropriate, they will avoid it. Combine all of these factors and we can see how sexual miscommunication can be the norm.

I highly admire and appreciate being asked, “Are you feeling pressured?” for several reasons. He asked for verbal consent, instead of making assumptions. He noticed I was not rushing the process and wanted to check in. His tone of voice conveyed care and concern, and a genuine interest in my well-being. And he stated it as a passive question, compared to asking, “Am I pressuring you?” I was asked to respond to how I was feeling, instead of being asked to make a direct accusation. This language made a big difference to me because I felt more comfort to respond honestly. This subtle but critical difference helped accommodate the socialized “good girl” in me.

Was I feeling pressured? After a pause, and a quick emotional and physical scan of the situation, I responded, “No, you’re not pressuring me. I’m OK. And thank you for asking.” Even with my self-awareness and comfort around sexual conversations, I still had to pause and reflect. An important part of consent is knowledge of self in any moment, which includes one’s sense of safety, desire, arousal, attraction, fears, expectations, identity, and alcohol consumption. These are complex topics. I appreciated his awareness that helped me reflect on mine.

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23919322

(2) http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/The%20Misperception%20of%20Sexual%20Interest.pdf

(This was originally published to The Good Men Project.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- San Diego Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sociologist

And he stated it as a passive question, compared to asking, “Am I pressuring you?” I was asked to respond to how I was feeling, instead of being asked to make a direct accusation. This language made a big difference to me because I felt more comfort to respond honestly. This subtle but critical difference helped accommodate the socialized “good girl” in me.

Was I feeling pressured? After a pause, and a quick emotional and physical scan of the situation, I responded, “No, you’re not pressuring me. I’m OK. And thank you for asking.” Even with my self-awareness and comfort around sexual conversations, I still had to pause and reflect. An important part of consent is knowledge of self in any moment, which includes one’s sense of safety, desire, arousal, attraction, fears, expectations, identity, and alcohol consumption. These are complex topics. I appreciated his awareness that helped me reflect on mine.

 

(1)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23919322

(NOTE: I could only find the abstract available online.)

 

(2)

http://homepage.psy.utexas.edu/HomePage/Group/BussLAB/pdffiles/The%20Misperception%20of%20Sexual%20Interest.pdf

- See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/feeling-pressured-new-way-ask-sexual-consent-gmp/#sthash.oGMS2xMv.dpu
Monday
Jun232014

Online Dating - Tips for Women

Having recently experienced online dating for the first time, I was happy to discuss some of the research and ideas about it on Channel 6 News this morning. I offer some suggestions for women who want to do things differently. View below!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- San Diego Sexologist, Sexuality Speaker, Sociologist

Thursday
Jun192014

How Good It Feels When Another Human “Knows You”

Do you know that feeling when you’re talking to someone new and they understand something deep and complicated about you that others don’t easily understand? Or you’re talking about something abstract that you don’t know how to explain clearly, and yet you know they just get you? Perhaps you’re chatting with someone at a party and after a short time you’re joking to others that this is your new BFF. To quickly feel like a new person knows you can feel deep, important, and special. I think it eliminates the boundaries between us and another human. We’re not alone because it’s like they’re unexpectedly in our head with us.

The allure of feeling known has been on my mind this week since reading the novel “Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen. It’s historical fiction based in New York City in the mid-1840s, about Edgar Allen Poe, his dying young wife, and another poet, Frances Osgood, with whom he had an alleged affair. Poe was drawn to Mrs. Osgood (who was married to a philandering, absent artist) because of his respect for her poetry. This led to conversations in which he felt understood in the complexity of his existence and worldview in ways his wife didn’t and others couldn’t. For example:

He caressed me with a grateful gaze. “How well you understand me. I cannot say I have ever felt this from another person—I knew it the minute I met you. Thank you.”

Poe believed that their professional relationship, friendship, and eventual sexual relationship were meant to be, because their connection was unique and special.

He looked down at me. “You and I, we need no devices or codes to communicate over distance. You feel it, don’t you?”

I rested my cheek against his arm, storing up his scent and the feel of his shoulders as I gathered the strength to part from him. “Yes.”

His chest rose against my back. “I can be at work on a story, or walking to my office, or just brushing my coat, and I can feel your longing for me. If you ever need me, just bend your thoughts toward me, and, Frances, I shall come.”

For a tortured soul like Poe, haunted by his insecurities, loneliness, and obsession with death, I think this was deeply reassuring. Just like we all have our demons in one way or another, Poe was no longer alone in the world with his demons.

This book resonated with me because one way I feel known is through intellectually stimulating conversations. I’m drawn to people with whom I can hash out intellectual, philosophical, and emotional topics, in a respectful manner, building off the knowledge and insights of each other. It’s about the challenge of the discussion—challenging myself to think broader and more creatively, and challenging the other person with my additions. It’s building on each other’s worldviews, and considering the meaning and practical applications of our insights. It’s also play and fun. Feeling in sync with another human, like our minds are working as one, feels like someone deeply gets me. These are peak experiences. 

What’s the opposite of feeling known? Feeling lonely, isolated, disregarded, dismissed, misunderstood, shut down, or silenced. These feel bad. For me, the former two feel sad, and the latter five feel powerless. I’m curious to hear about in what contexts others feel known? Certainly sexual intimacy is a realm ripe for such connection, but as I’ve explored here, there are many ways this can happen. How do you most feel known and understood?

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker