Let us guess: when you hear the word sexologist your mind redirects automatically to some talk show from the 90s or 00s, where a rather quirky person would take calls or questions related to sex and sexuality from an audience and answer there and then. Are we right?
If we are, it is safe to say that these talked shows were generally light-hearted and even funny, and sometimes even straight-up embarrassing. Still on the right track?
So, then, you’ll have to admit that among the giggles and laughs, the facepalms and the memes, you probably have learned at least one thing from these sexologists.
Talk shows and awkward questions aside, the topic of today is sexology and when you should consider paying a visit to a sexologist’s office.
Should you see a sexologist?
Is sexology a real, important thing or is it more of a pseudo-science? And what are sexologists? Real therapists or just charlatans? Let’s clear it up.
What is sexology?
Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality. It focuses on behaviours, functions and sexual interests of humans, namely sexual development during puberty, sexual orientation, gender identity, sexual relationships, sexual activities, paraphilias, and sexual dysfunctions and disorders, among others. Sexology is interdisciplinary, meaning it uses tools from other scientific fields like biology, medicine, psychology, epidemiology, sociology, and criminology. Many countries recognise sexology as a clinical speciality.
What is a sexologist?
As such, a sexologist is a professional whose academic formation was focused on the study of human sexuality. The definition of sexologist, and even the denomination, vary slightly from country to country. In some places, “sexologist” is more of a common word, while the official title is sexual therapist, sex therapist, clinical sexologist, among others. We will refer to these professions as sexologists, for simplicity.
In practice, a sexologist is a licensed professional with specific knowledge and skills on sexuality – both the psychologic and the physical aspects of it – namely, a therapist whose area of expertise is sexuality.
How can a sexologist help?
Therapy with a sexologist can be helpful in many, many ways. Just like “regular” therapy, sex therapy can be life-saving, or as necessary as surgery. Sex and sexuality are extremely important for our health, that is, a good relationship with sex and a good understanding of our own sexuality are crucial for a sound body and a sound mind.
Although sexologists and sex therapy are, to this day, surrounded by taboos, if you leave prejudices behind, sex therapy can change your life for the better. In the best-case scenario, it can really help you cope, deal with, or even cure severe sexual dysfunctions. At the very least you get a bunch of useful tips.
9 signs its time to set that appointment
Everyone has doubts, fears and sometimes some struggles with their sexuality at some point. Not all cases require the help or intervention of doctors or therapists. However, some cases do. These are 9 signs you should book an appointment with a sexologist:
1. You are experiencing an abnormal sex drive
This one goes both ways. An abnormal sex drive, or libido, can be abnormally low, or abnormally high. Remember it is normal to feel some variation in sex drive during the different phases of your cycle, but a radical change is generally not normal. Learn more about sex drive and what causes it to plummet or to skyrocket.
2. You suffer from vaginismus
Vaginismus is a condition that causes muscles of the vagina to contract or spasm whenever something is entering it. Sometimes it only happens with penises, some other times it is also triggered by tampons, for example. The causes for vaginismus are not exactly known, but it is almost always linked with fear and anxiety. The treatment of vaginismus includes pelvic floor exercises and therapy with a sexologist.
3. You can’t have an orgasm
This is also known as anorgasmia and is more frequent than you’d think. Anorgasmia is the inability to achieve an orgasm with adequate stimulation. It is considered a psychiatric disorder but can have physiological causes. The treatment for anorgasmia includes medication, psychotherapy, manual therapy and sex therapy with a sexologist.
4. You experience painful intercourse
It is not normal to feel pain while having sexual relations; if you do, something is wrong. Most causes for painful intercourse (dyspareunia) are physiological, but anxiety, fear and anticipation can exacerbate the pain. In this case, therapy with a sexologist is very much advised.
5. You and your partner are not “in sync”
Sometimes the problem isn’t a condition but rather a lack of sync between you and your partner. A sexologist may help you both by giving you tips to improve your communication and to become more creative in the bedroom and relationship. Sometimes, the “lack of sync” goes much deeper and consulting with a licensed sex therapist can even save a relationship.
6. You need to explore your sexuality
There are many reasons to explore one’s sexuality, and one of them that is not that much talked about enough is the inability to have pleasure from “normal” sexual acts. Whatever the reason, some people just can’t have pleasure from penetration or even by genital stimulation. Take as example persons who suffer spinal injuries and lose feeling in their genitals – these persons can still be sexual, but their sexuality involves other erogenous areas.
7. Your sexuality is causing you distress
This is much more common than any of us would like, the shame, guilt or feelings of disgust that are often associated with sex and sexuality. This can happen in highly religious contexts, in very conservative cultures and environments.
8. You have sexual trauma
Sexual trauma can be a real block when it comes to sex and sexuality, sometimes even in the display of affection and the ability to give or receive affection. It can cause PTSD, among a myriad of others, which can, in turn, manifest through sexual dysfunctions. In this case, therapy is a must, specifically sexual trauma therapy, which will in principle be conducted by a sexologist specialising in sexual trauma.
9. You are having trouble with your gender identity
Gender identity might not be easy to figure out. The good news is sexologists are a prioritrained in subjects like sexual orientation and gender identity and can offer insightful advice and support to someone who is struggling.
Sex therapy myths debunked
• Sex therapy is only for bored married couples.
No, it isn’t. It’s also for not boring married couples, for unmarried couples, and for boring and not bored singles. Sex therapy is for anyone who needs it, not just for people who want to rekindle the relationship.
• If you don’t have a sexually satisfying relationship, you should change partners.
What if you really, really love your partner? Wouldn’t it be better to try and talk to a sex therapist, a sexologist that is, in order to fix the issue rather than throw away the whole relationship?
• There are no sexual dysfunctions, only people who are bad in bed.
Again, no. Sexual dysfunctions exist and affect all genders. They can stem from pre-existent physical conditions or psychologic or emotion perturbations, like vaginismus. But hey, if someone is “bad” in bed, they can also benefit from tips from an expert! It’s a win-win situation.
• It is not ok to share such intimate details of your life with a sexologist.
This is really up to you and to what you feel comfortable with. However, just like some very personal details of our lives are shared with “regular” therapists, very personal details of our sex lives and sexuality can be shared safely with a sexologist. Sexologists are not there to judge you; their primary goal is to help you.
• Sexologists aren’t doctors, and therefore not qualified to help with sexuality troubles.
While it is true that sexologists are not normally doctors, they are in the overwhelming majority of cases licensed therapists. These are professionals with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree or even a PhD in the topic and who have earned their qualifications and certifications.
What are your thoughts on sex therapy and sexology? Have you ever visited a sexologist? Let us know your opinions and experiences!
Take good care. Of your vagina. Of yourself. Of our planet.