Sex toys ? Why would a pastoral counselor want to talk about sex toys ? Perhaps providing some context would help.
Being Sex Positive
An important theme throughout my career has been to allay the false guilt and shame engendered by religion and our sexist culture. My goal has been, and continues to be, to promote positive attitudes about sex. That is, as young folks say, to be sex-positive.
Religious and Cultural Bias
First, it needs to be understood that being sex-positive flies in the face of thousands of years of religious and cultural bias.
To be sex-positive, one must feel free to have sex just for its pleasure. While this view may seem obvious, for many, it’s not. For many, especially older folks, enjoying sex is complicated. A cloud hangs over the notion that sex can be enjoyed just for fun. Hedonistic enjoyment is suspect and guilt ridden. That’s because religion has often portrayed sex in a quasi-sacred way that confusingly combines erotic experience with the spiritual mystery of procreation.
Indeed, traditional religious beliefs have negatively influenced our culture’s attitudes toward sex. Condemning normal practices like masturbation as sinful has created unnecessary guilt and shame for older generations. masturbation | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (revmichaelheath.com)
Pernicious Myths Ignore Single People and Older Adults
The indisputable fact is that conservative Christianity is and always has been uncomfortable with sex. (See St. Augustine) It sees it primarily as the means for procreation. (See Thomas Acquinas) In doing so it refuses to acknowledge the legitimacy of sex simply for pleasure or outside of the bonds of marriage.
As a result, the church’s outlook toward sex ignores and fails all single folks and seniors who are beyond child-bearing years. Further, through its silence, the church implicitly promotes false notions about sex and aging.
For example: we are led to believe that sexual interest wanes with age and becomes less and less important the older you get. In fact, barring serious medical limitations, interest and enjoyment of sex is a lifelong entitlement which actually can increase over the years.
That said, aging does change certain things about the way folks can have sex. The loss of flexibility or increased discomfort may require that some things be done differently. Unfortunately, this general discomfort with sex prevents many couples from even talking about sex much less exploring new, more adaptive and exciting sexual possibilities.
What about Sex Toys ?
So what’s the big deal about sex toys? They are just toys. And toys are things with which we play that give pleasure. It seems that the problem is, in this case, some folks are uncomfortable with mixing sex and play.
For example, in a recent article in Slate online. Sex in your 70s: I’m not sure how to ask my husband to use sex toys (slate.com) The article described the sexual concerns of a 73 year old woman.
She stated that, although she regularly enjoys sex with her similarly aged husband, she worried how he would react if she introduced a sex toy into their love making. She wanted to know how to raise the topic without upsetting him. I wish to respond to her with some supportive and sex-positive remarks:
— She is sex-positive ! This woman is not hindered by false guilt.
- She feels comfortable with sex.
- She also is realistic about the physical changes she and her husband have experienced.
- And, she is open to finding new ways to adapt to those changes.
— She is empathic and mindful not to offend her husband or embarrass him.
- Many, especially men, are insecure about their sexuality and worry that they may be no longer sexually desirable. Lots of young men worry about the size of their penis and other physical concerns. Likewise, many women stress-out over their looks. As we age, those fears can become worse, especially, as stiffness and pain increase.
- A suggestion from a spouse about using of a sex toy could be interpreted by the other partner as a personal criticism but … it doesn’t have to be.
- Be Confident. Anything that enhances our pleasure and does not offend or harm anyone is not only okay but valuable.
- Be Patient Don’t begin a conversation with sex or a toy. Instead, address the underlying anxiety. Ask your partner how it feels to get older and what changes they have noticed. Eventually, you will get around to sex and specific areas that are different or a problem.
- Be playful and have some fun when introducing the topic of sex toys. For example, you could mention how surprised you were to learn how widely available sex toys are. So much so that even places like Target or The Vermont Country Store had large sex toy sections.
- Ask if he* has ever looked at sex toys on-line or read any of the reviews. Most folks, after an initial reluctance, find looking for sex toys or reading the reviews of the various products, a. hoot. Looking at the online websites is also a safe way to introduce the topic and measure your partner’s interest.
- Reassure When you feel confident enough talk about getting a sex toy, make sure that you reassure your partner, that your interest is not because of something he lacks or has lost. Stress that your goal is to increase his pleasure as well as your own. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is anything that he would like that would make things better or more fun.
- Don’t Give Up Finally, if his initial reaction is unpleasant or conflicted, don’t give up. Seek out professional help. Talking to an experienced counselor can be enormously helpful.
Good sex is a fundamental ingredient a good relationship. In order to have good sex, couples need to be able to talk with each other, honestly … even about embarrassing topics like sex. With a little practice, you will be amazed by the progress you can make. Enjoy !
Rev. Michael Heath. LMHC, Fellow AAPC 7 2 2022
- A part from this heterosexual couple, my comments apply to all relationships as well,
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