NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

Many clients who come to see me for sex therapy talk about how intimidating it is when their partner(s) ask them what they like to do sexually. This is daunting for many people whether it's a new relationship or a long term relationship (see my article: Finding Your Sexual Voice).

It's not just that they find it difficult to talk about sex, which can be hard for many people, it's also that they don't know what they like sexually and might not have ever thought about it before (see my articles: How to Talk About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

Know That You're Not Alone
A lot of people assume everyone else knows what they like to do sexually and they're having swinging-off-the chandelier sex every night.  So, when they hear that being unsure about what's sexually pleasurable is a common problem for many people, they're relieved.  

The first step for many sex therapy clients is to overcome their fear, shame and guilt about sex so they can start to get curious about what they like without judgment (see my article: Exploring Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).

Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

This is no easy task.  It often means overcoming whatever negative messages they got in their family of origin, their culture or religion where talking about sex was either forbidden or shrouded in mystery.  It can also mean overcome the traumatic effects of sexual abuse.

The next step in the process for many sex therapy clients is to get curious about what they like, don't like or might like to try (see my article: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self).

Depending upon what you're curious about, this could mean exploring beyond whatever sexual experiences you've had so far.

So, for example, for a heterosexual man or woman who has only experienced penis-in-vagina (PIV) sex in the traditional missionary position, this could mean getting curious about other sexual positions or exploring non-penetrative sex, which is often referred to as "outercourse" (see my articles: What is Your Sexual Script? and Changing Your Sexual Script).

Once sex therapy clients give themselves permission to get curious and even feel excited about other sexual possibilities beyond their personal experience, they're often ready to think about and explore many other sexual possibilities.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach in sex therapy for everyone, so there are many ways to explore sexual possibilities.  

Your particular sexual exploration will probably be different from someone else's depending upon many factors including whether you're questioning your sexual orientation or gender, what your experiences have been so far, whether you're in a relationship or relationships and what kind of relationship(s) you're in, if you tend to be cautious or bold, how your attachment style affects you sexually and many other issues (see my article: What is Consensual Non-Monogamy?).

The point is that you and your sex therapist can tailor a sex therapy approach based on your particular needs.

Sex Education in the U.S. is Inadequate at Best
Before we go on, I want to say a word or two about sex education in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most adults didn't get adequate sex education in school--assuming they got any sex ed at all.  This is because most sex education is focused on the negative aspects of sex, including avoiding getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), avoiding pregnancy and so on.

It's not that these issues aren't important because they certainly are.  It's just that sex is so much more than avoiding negative consequences.  It's also about pleasure, which isn't covered in a most sex ed programs in the United States or in many other countries as of this writing.

How Can You Begin to Explore Sexual Possibilities?
Before you can create a sexual menu for yourself, which I'll discuss in Part 2 of this topic, you need to know about what types of sexual possibilities exist, so it helps if you do some exploration on your own.

The following are a few possibilities for exploring sexual possibilities you might like:
  • Watching Ethical Pornography: Traditional pornography gives very skewed, misogynistic and misleading information about sex. Aside from that, traditional porn has been known to include underage actors and victims of sex trafficking who are forced to make these videos against their will.  In addition, it's important to remember that actors in traditional pornography are acting based on what the makers of these videos think most men want so this often doesn't include what women might like. On the other hand, ethical porn, which is often made by women who are feminists, usually gives a more realistic portrayal of sex and includes not just what men might like sexually but also what many women might like. The following list includes ethical porn sites in no particular order and no personal preference on my part. These sites are considered sex positive sites (see my article: What is Ethical Porn?)
    • Bellesca: This site is designed to help women explore their sexuality in a diverse  atmosphere where they are respected and valued in their own right.  Women are celebrated and not portrayed solely as sexual objects to be conquered.
Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

    • Lust Cinema: Developed by filmmaker and feminist, Erika Lust, this site portrays sex with diverse bodies, genders, age, racial identities and sexual preferences.
    • Make Love Not Porn: Cindy Gallop makes films that portray sex in real life that takes into account diversity with realistic scenes instead of the contrived portrayals in traditional porn.
  • Reading Erotica: There is so much variety in erotica today. A basic Google search will provide a lot of information about erotica you can read or, if you prefer, you can listen to on sites like Dipsea.
Creating Your Sexual Menu With a Yes, No, Maybe List

  • Listening to Sex Podcasts: There are many excellent sex podcasts that provide sex education, including:
    • Sex and Psychology podcast
    • Sex with Dr. Jess
    • Sexology Podcast
    • Sex with Emily
    • Sluts and Scholars
    • Foreplay Radio
    • Ester Perel's Where Should We Begin? 
    • Pillow Talks (Vanessa and Xander Marin)
  • Exploring Examples of Other Yes, No, Maybe Lists: If the thought of creating your own Yes, No, Maybe list feels too intimidating, you might find it helpful to explore examples of other Yes, No, Maybe Lists created by sex therapists and sex coaches. Be aware that these lists are made up for a diverse population and everything on there might not be to your liking, but it might pique your curiosity and give you ideas about what you might want to include on your own list:

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individuals and couples of all ages, races, sexual orientations, genders and diverse backgrounds (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Individuals and couples come to sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

A skilled sex therapist can help you overcome the obstacles that keep you from enjoying sex, so if you're struggling with sexual issues, seek help in sex therapy sooner rather than later so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.