Why Sex Education Matters

I read a question today posed to sex ed practitioners: Why does sex education matter to you?

My initial response is a petulant, "Because it does!"

My delayed responses are a bit more thoughtful :)

We are sexual creatures. We were created this way, born this way, experience pleasure this way, and connect with others this way. However, enjoying a fulfilling sex life doesn't necessarily come naturally. There's a lot of learn, understand, consider, and reflect on, that is, if you want to know how to please others and maintain sexual happiness.

Sex is a powerful life source of vitality and joy. However, because of its power, it's also wraught with complications, exploitations, shame, and hurt. Not talking about sex education does not make these negative aspects go away. It actually makes them worse. I'm reminded of the public service announcement that ends with a jingle and the phrase, "The more you know." Yes, it is the same with sex. The more we know the more empowered (not corrupted) we become.

When I approach sex education, mostly with adults, but occasionally with teens, I employ a holistic approach. Sex education is not just about condoms, the reproductive system, and avoiding STIs. Sex is a big picture topic, and warrants a complex approach including physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components. When we can feel safe enough to know ourselves sexually, be creative in exploring it, and share our sexual stories, we are all better for it.

(Fun image is from: http://sexeducationmatters.tumblr.com/post/7335562620/back-up-your-birth-control)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, College Sexual Health Speaker

Anal Bleaching! I'm open-minded, but this is ridiculous...

Anal bleaching is dying the skin of the anus a lighter color, for aesthetic reasons. It started in the porn industry and has moved into the mainstream a bit. It's a very sensitive area of the body, so there are some risks.  Need I say more?

Today (10/19) is National "Love Your Body" Day! Ok, so now what?

What exactly does it mean to love our bodies? In a few weeks I will speaking at San Diego State University about this topic. It's a tough one. How can we LOVE our bodies, amidst an onslaught of negative media messages about how we should be dissatisfied with them? Look around you - much of advertising to women is based on tearing down our self-esteem and body-image, so that we want to buy their products to feel better. It's insidious and disgusting.

There are lots of ways to approach this, so I'll mention two here. First, consume less advertising and mass media. That shit will eat you alive! I know it can be difficult to pull back, but just take small steps of removing a certain magazine from your home, or a certain reality show from your viewing.

My next suggestion is to take a "holistic" approach to reframing how you view your body. With a sheet of paper, walk yourself through these five categories: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. What are your strengths in each category? How does your body support you and help your thrive? Write down any examples you can think of, whether big or small, such as: physical - my legs are strong enough to get me out of bed this morning; physical - I have pretty eyes; mental - my brain is good at math; emotional - I feel love very strongly in my heart; social - I am good at dancing with others; spiritual - when I meditate my body feels like it blends into the universe. Now use this list to your advantage! Keep adding to it. Consult it when you feel down. Brainstorm with your female friends to assist each other.

In honor of this day, I am reposting one of my "classic" In the Den with Dr. Jenn videos, about loving our bodies. Take a look and see how it can help you!


If you'd like to read another commentary on Love Your Body Day, check out Feministing's blog.

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, & University Sexuality Speaker in San Diego, CA

20% off Sex Toys this October - Fun Factory joins Citygirlblogs to Support Pink Jams

Do you want to save 20% on quality sex toys while supporting breast cancer awareness? Two of my favorite entities have joined forces this October to support the Pink Jams! nonprofit in Washington, DC. And you can be a part of it!

Stef Woods, the popular sex and dating blogger of CityGirlBlogs, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37. She has recently completed her formal cancer treatment program and is actively involved with breast cancer charity events.

Fun Factory has long been one of my favorite sex toy companies, due to their emphasis on quality, safe materials, fun, and women's pleasure.

Together they are supporting Pink Jams!, an organization dedicated to increasing breast cancer awareness and early detection for those under 40 years of age. If you learn of this October collaboration through Stef's blog, work, or outreach (including this blog!) you will receive 20% off your Fun Factory purchase PLUS Fun Factory will donate an additional 20% of your purchase to Pink Jams!

Regarding this collaboration, Stef Woods stated, “Much of the available literature focuses on how cancer will harm your dating and sex life”, Woods said. “However, if a patient values his or her sexual health and there are no medical restrictions to doing so, that patient should be encouraged to prioritize his or her sexual health.”

What better way to spread your love? First to yourself, through purchasing a pleasure device, and second, by donating to a cause about education and compassion. All you have to do is use the code "Citygirl" (with a capital 'C') at Fun Factory to get the discount and make the donation!

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, & University Sexuality Speaker in San Diego, CA

Eating Sushi Off of a Naked Woman – When Fetishes & Feminism Collide

Would you eat sushi off of a naked woman? How about cake and fruit? Depending on your perspective, this experience might be: sexual or just sensual; demeaning or liberating; uncomfortable or light-hearted fun. There are times when my feminist philosophy is in direct opposition with my sex-positive beliefs.  These are confusing and uncomfortable moments, but moments when I see clearly that no belief system covers the full range and complexity of female sexuality.

Nyotaimori - Naked SushiNyotaimori, which means body sushi in Japanese, is not new, but I recently experienced it for the first time at a small birthday party. A very clean, naked woman, who was face-up and blindfolded, lay on blankets on the living room floor.  Six of us gathered on cushion around her, placing sushi roles around her body. Using the woman’s body as a table, and even referring to her as “table” was initially shocking.  When I’d heard about nyotaimori before, it seemed demeaning to the woman, and objectifying.  However, I was in a household where alternative sexualities were embraced, and BDSM and fetishes freely explored among consenting adults.  The blindfolded naked woman on the floor had clearly consented to be our table for the party. Was it right for me to judge that her blindfold and silence seemed so submissive? I wondered within what paradigm of female sexuality she consented?  A submissive woman, from a feminism perspective, is oppressed and disempowered. A submissive woman within the BDSM/fetish/kink world is potentially pleasuring herself and experiencing liberation or healing. Can both be correct? I’m not saying I am a slave (pun intended) to either of these belief systems, but that I like to think critically about both, as they inform my world view.

So the six of us decorated the blindfolded nude woman with sushi. Gratefully my vegetarian philosophies were not ALSO challenged here, as there was veggie sushi! Then we ate the sushi from her, with hands, chopsticks, or our mouths.  I felt very conscious of wanting to be respectful of her body and feeling of touch, yet I wasn’t sure what motivated her to be our table.  The dinner conversation was of the normal variety, albeit with more themes of body image, nakedness, and sexual beliefs in America.  At the conclusion of dinner, the hosts cleaned the woman with warm washcloths. On to dessert! 

For dessert we gingerly placed a full sheet cake (I kid you not) on her torso, and covered the rest of her with vanilla frosting, sprinkles, fruit…and little plastic animals and toy soldiers (once again, I kid you not). I would not have imagined that plastic figures would be appropriate, but I actually loved that part.  We created a path of evolution (from foot to breast) of dinosaurs, to barnyard animals, to the mingling of both on the cake top.  The “table” giggled at times, such as when a blackberry was placed between her toes, or when we made amusing comments while decorating.  Once our masterpiece was complete, we ate from her body with our hands. The cake was quite tasty, with a creamy pudding filling.  Later two of us smeared the rest of the cake and frosting over her body, in a thick mélange of color and sweetness.  Our “table” eventually showered to clean up and warm up.

Did I enjoy myself? I actually did, quite a bit. One, for the simple reason that I like sushi and cake. Second, I appreciate opportunities to practice what I preach and step outside my comfort zone regarding sex and bodies. Third, I loved the creative aspect, feeling like a child with food and toys and a new terrain. We laughed a lot, within a sensual, appreciative, and respectful context. 

And now that I’ve experienced that, it feels like not such a big deal.

P.S. I’ve received some questions regarding sushi and soy sauce. No, we did not use her belly button for dipping :)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus -- Sex Therapy, Marriage Counseling, & University Sexuality Speaker, in San Diego, CA

Regain Your Relationship Soul

"We sell our soul in spoonfuls."

A client once paraphrased this quotation and it resonated deeply with me both personally and professionally. He was speaking to that seemingly incomprehensible transition from a wonderful, connected relationship, to one with walls, deceit, and hurt. How does this happen in such a loving context? One spoonful at a time.

It is often hard to see this deterioration happening in a relationship, until you are far down the path. A powerful foundation to set at the beginning of a relationship is regular check-in times. Even just 20 minutes every week, or one hour every month, can ensure you are on the same page. You can rate your satisfaction or awareness level in areas such as closeness, needs being met, fun, resentments, and feeling heard or understood. Use a 1-10 scale which allows you to quantify your feelings and monitor changes over time. This helps you notice potential problems earlier. The environment of each check-in should be compassionate, open-hearted, and non-defensive, while understanding that this context may take time to build.

If you're at the other end of the spectrum, in a long-term relationship and asking, "How did we get here?", you can still implement a similar structure. It's never too late. I suggest starting small, with each individual choosing one topic area that concerns the other, and making a commitment to work on it (e.g., communicate more, touch more, increase household chores, listen attentively, ask about your partner's day, share deep thoughts, plan quality time, etc.). At your weekly check-in, rate how much effort you put into your task and your partner can rate how much they perceived your efforts, and vice versa. Be kind with each other, as this is sensitive terrain. Clarify with specific ideas and suggestions if it feels like you're using different language, and commit to small daily actions.

Without structured accountability and feedback, it can be difficult to stay on target to shift and create new patterns. Creating a safe, nurturing environment once a week to bare your soul can give your relationship new life. And a spoonful at a time, you can feed each other's soul.

(Photo props: Found on this site.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, Sex Therapist, Marriage Counselor, & University Sexuality Speaker -- San Diego, CA