DR. IAN KERNER ON UNDERSTANDING MALE SEXUALITY

This in an article that I came across again last night. It was originally published by NEWSWEEK ON 2/13/06 AT 7:00 PM. "Valentine’s Day can be a lonely time for singletons. But it seems many couples aren’t feeling the heat either. Dr. Ian Kerner, sex therapist and author, first set out to change that two years ago with his book, "She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman."  But take heart, fellas. His new book "He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man" (Regan Books) is all about you. Drawing on his experience counseling couples at his private practice in New York City, Kerner argues that male sexuality is far more complicated than we’ve been lead to believe. NEWSWEEK's Pamela Hamer spoke the author to find out why. Excerpts: NEWSWEEK: Why did you write this follow-up to “She Comes First?” Ian Kerner: So many women came up to me about "She Comes First' and said, "I love it, but how do I get my guy to read it without hurting his feelings?' On a pragmatic level, having the two books together sort of makes it about exploring stuff together as opposed to it just being a criticism of him. It’s a sneaky way to get the first book in. Magazines and sex manuals often portray male sexuality very simplistically: men are dogs, men are walking erections, their sexuality can be turned on or off. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I thought it was important to start connecting technique to psychology and understanding what is really going on inside the male brain and body. Are most couples having bad sex? I have a phrase: People change, relationships change, why should sex stay the same? They’re growing as individuals, they’re growing as a couple; but in some ways their sex scripts, the ways in which they have sex, remain static. Is it true that you became a sex therapist because you struggled with sexual dysfunction? Absolutely! I did not grow up dreaming of being a sex therapist. How does your personal experience affect the way you write about sex for men? In "She Comes First,' the first chapter is called "Confessions of a Premature Ejaculator,' which was probably the hardest sentence I ever had to write. But I thought it was important to put myself out there and I think that’s what helps me to connect with my readers. Does analyzing our sex lives take the romance or excitement out of them? We’re a culture that’s so far away from being sexually uninhibited, communicative, creative and open that I don’t think there’s any danger of us overanalyzing our sex lives. Here we are living in the wake of “Sex and the City,” and for all the sexual attitude that was in that show, rates of women faking orgasm are as high as ever. As a society, it’s one thing to wear T-shirts that say “porn star” or for Paris Hilton to get naked at parties, but it’s another to actually translate any of that attitude into action in our own lives. You believe that fantasizing is crucial to being able to fully relax and let go, yet most men and women feel guilty about doing it. Why? I was just working with a couple yesterday that’s been married about 15 years, and their sex had become very routine and predictable. I gave him a very simple assignment, which was to go buy some erotica and read it to his partner in bed. He read it first to himself, became very aroused, but felt guilty that this story and its narrative element had turned him on. I think that’s a good example of how our fantasies are often in contrast to our values and our upbringings. On another level, a lot of women tell me they fantasize about partners other than the person they’re with and they feel incredibly guilty about that. Is fantasizing ever harmful? There are plenty of couples who can enjoy porn or erotic literature together. But if you are both going off on your computers to engage in Internet fantasies as a way of avoiding the fact that you’re not sexually contented in your primary relationship, then that’s not healthy. You say women are lucky that they haven’t been targeted as consumers of pornography. Why? Ask men: 'When you self-pleasure, how do you do so?' The lion’s share of them are going to say they do it in conjunction with some form of stimulus--either a magazine, a video, or a website. Whereas women will very often retreat into their own imaginations in situations that are coming from their lives or from their brains. In that sense, women are more in touch with what I consider their "love maps,' their innate sexual templates. The typical fantasy involves men being aggressors and women being passive, but you say that’s because those roles are more socially acceptable. I think men feel a tremendous anxiety to perform. I was a little startled to find that so many male sexual fantasies were about wanting to submit and be dominated. I’m not talking about whips and chains, but just to be able to abdicate control and surrender to an experience that they weren’t in charge of. So how does feeling that pressure to perform affect how men approach sex? It creates a condition called "spectatoring," where you’re so concerned with your performance during sex that you start to feel distanced from the act itself. That leads to men who are emotionally disconnected from sex and to all sorts of dysfunctions: premature ejaculation, erectile disorder, delayed ejaculation. Is it true that men can often divorce sex from emotion? Men are very capable of divorcing sex from emotion when they are in situations that require it, like casual sex. But that doesn’t mean that when they’re in a relationship with someone they love that they don’t want sex to be emotionally meaningful for them. You have to remember, women have so many more emotional outlets than men. You used the term 'love map' to describe our sexual templates. How are those created? That’s the $64,000 question. Why do some people grow up with a penchant for bondage? Why are some people attracted to tall, busty people and others to petite, rounder people? Maybe there’s some truth to the idea that when a guy or woman first self-pleasures, the world of orgasm is so new, so enjoyable and so powerful that whoever he or she happens to be thinking of at the time forms a sexual imprint, but I think that it’s a confluence of social, personal, cultural and biological factors. How do we figure out our partner’s love map, or, for that matter, our own? It’s about being committed to going on a sexual journey both individually and together. That’s why I said women are lucky not to have been targeted by porn, because I think many guys don’t even know their own individual tastes and preferences because they’re so formed by cultural images. I hear that your life is being turned into a sitcom for next fall? It’s from the producers of “Two and a Half Men” and Warner Brothers. Do you remember the original Bob Newhart show? It’s sort of that concept but based on my life, my marriage and being a sex therapist. Wherever I go, people are always coming up to me, talking about their sex lives. I’ll come home and my wife is like, "The UPS guy is on our couch. He wants to know what it means when his wife says he’s emotionally disconnected during sex." Does your wife consider herself lucky to be married to a sex therapist? I’m a less-is-more kind of guy and she’s more of a thrill seeker. I think she would say that I’m great at talking to people about this stuff, but I’m a little more on the inhibited side than she’d like me to be."   You may find Dr. Kerner here, or on Twitter @sexpodcast20

This in an article that I came across again last night. It was originally published by NEWSWEEK ON 2/13/06 AT 7:00 PM.

"Valentine’s Day can be a lonely time for singletons. But it seems many couples aren’t feeling the heat either. Dr. Ian Kerner, sex therapist and author, first set out to change that two years ago with his book, "She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman."  But take heart, fellas. His new book "He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man" (Regan Books) is all about you. Drawing on his experience counseling couples at his private practice in New York City, Kerner argues that male sexuality is far more complicated than we’ve been lead to believe. NEWSWEEK's Pamela Hamer spoke the author to find out why. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: Why did you write this follow-up to “She Comes First?”

Ian Kerner: So many women came up to me about "She Comes First' and said, "I love it, but how do I get my guy to read it without hurting his feelings?' On a pragmatic level, having the two books together sort of makes it about exploring stuff together as opposed to it just being a criticism of him. It’s a sneaky way to get the first book in. Magazines and sex manuals often portray male sexuality very simplistically: men are dogs, men are walking erections, their sexuality can be turned on or off. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I thought it was important to start connecting technique to psychology and understanding what is really going on inside the male brain and body.

Are most couples having bad sex?

I have a phrase: People change, relationships change, why should sex stay the same? They’re growing as individuals, they’re growing as a couple; but in some ways their sex scripts, the ways in which they have sex, remain static.

Is it true that you became a sex therapist because you struggled with sexual dysfunction?

Absolutely! I did not grow up dreaming of being a sex therapist.

How does your personal experience affect the way you write about sex for men?

In "She Comes First,' the first chapter is called "Confessions of a Premature Ejaculator,' which was probably the hardest sentence I ever had to write. But I thought it was important to put myself out there and I think that’s what helps me to connect with my readers.

Does analyzing our sex lives take the romance or excitement out of them?

We’re a culture that’s so far away from being sexually uninhibited, communicative, creative and open that I don’t think there’s any danger of us overanalyzing our sex lives. Here we are living in the wake of “Sex and the City,” and for all the sexual attitude that was in that show, rates of women faking orgasm are as high as ever. As a society, it’s one thing to wear T-shirts that say “porn star” or for Paris Hilton to get naked at parties, but it’s another to actually translate any of that attitude into action in our own lives.

You believe that fantasizing is crucial to being able to fully relax and let go, yet most men and women feel guilty about doing it. Why?

I was just working with a couple yesterday that’s been married about 15 years, and their sex had become very routine and predictable. I gave him a very simple assignment, which was to go buy some erotica and read it to his partner in bed. He read it first to himself, became very aroused, but felt guilty that this story and its narrative element had turned him on. I think that’s a good example of how our fantasies are often in contrast to our values and our upbringings. On another level, a lot of women tell me they fantasize about partners other than the person they’re with and they feel incredibly guilty about that.

Is fantasizing ever harmful?

There are plenty of couples who can enjoy porn or erotic literature together. But if you are both going off on your computers to engage in Internet fantasies as a way of avoiding the fact that you’re not sexually contented in your primary relationship, then that’s not healthy.

You say women are lucky that they haven’t been targeted as consumers of pornography. Why?

Ask men: 'When you self-pleasure, how do you do so?' The lion’s share of them are going to say they do it in conjunction with some form of stimulus--either a magazine, a video, or a website. Whereas women will very often retreat into their own imaginations in situations that are coming from their lives or from their brains. In that sense, women are more in touch with what I consider their "love maps,' their innate sexual templates.

The typical fantasy involves men being aggressors and women being passive, but you say that’s because those roles are more socially acceptable.

I think men feel a tremendous anxiety to perform. I was a little startled to find that so many male sexual fantasies were about wanting to submit and be dominated. I’m not talking about whips and chains, but just to be able to abdicate control and surrender to an experience that they weren’t in charge of.

So how does feeling that pressure to perform affect how men approach sex?

It creates a condition called "spectatoring," where you’re so concerned with your performance during sex that you start to feel distanced from the act itself. That leads to men who are emotionally disconnected from sex and to all sorts of dysfunctions: premature ejaculation, erectile disorder, delayed ejaculation.

Is it true that men can often divorce sex from emotion?

Men are very capable of divorcing sex from emotion when they are in situations that require it, like casual sex. But that doesn’t mean that when they’re in a relationship with someone they love that they don’t want sex to be emotionally meaningful for them. You have to remember, women have so many more emotional outlets than men.

You used the term 'love map' to describe our sexual templates. How are those created?

That’s the $64,000 question. Why do some people grow up with a penchant for bondage? Why are some people attracted to tall, busty people and others to petite, rounder people? Maybe there’s some truth to the idea that when a guy or woman first self-pleasures, the world of orgasm is so new, so enjoyable and so powerful that whoever he or she happens to be thinking of at the time forms a sexual imprint, but I think that it’s a confluence of social, personal, cultural and biological factors.

How do we figure out our partner’s love map, or, for that matter, our own?

It’s about being committed to going on a sexual journey both individually and together. That’s why I said women are lucky not to have been targeted by porn, because I think many guys don’t even know their own individual tastes and preferences because they’re so formed by cultural images.

I hear that your life is being turned into a sitcom for next fall?

It’s from the producers of “Two and a Half Men” and Warner Brothers. Do you remember the original Bob Newhart show? It’s sort of that concept but based on my life, my marriage and being a sex therapist. Wherever I go, people are always coming up to me, talking about their sex lives. I’ll come home and my wife is like, "The UPS guy is on our couch. He wants to know what it means when his wife says he’s emotionally disconnected during sex."

Does your wife consider herself lucky to be married to a sex therapist?

I’m a less-is-more kind of guy and she’s more of a thrill seeker. I think she would say that I’m great at talking to people about this stuff, but I’m a little more on the inhibited side than she’d like me to be."

 

You may find Dr. Kerner here, or on Twitter @sexpodcast20