When Psychologists Ignore or Dismiss the Body.
Eric Amaranth’s response to the lack of mind and body integration in psychology ‘s view of what makes us orgasm.
Below is a response I wrote recently to an article on www.psychologytoday.com by Stanley Siegel, LCSW. Click here for his full article. I semi-support his theory, however, I disagreed with a position he takes that I’ve seen taken too often by the psychology-based sex therapy community at large. One that supports a mind-as-center-for-orgasm message that cheats the audience of that message of a tremendous portion of their sexual capability and birthright.
Read on for my response, slightly re-written for this blog entry:
First of all, I agree with other commenters who support how Dr. Siegel does not have as an agenda pertaining to the eradication of all sex fantasies and points of erotic attraction and intensity as compared to many other psychologists, as indicated by Dr. Siegel’s commentary.
I agree with another comment: “Human sexuality is so infinitely diverse that it’s absurd to apply one theory to it.” That said, I also could see that there are cases where Dr. Siegel could be correct in a proclivity’s origin. I don’t agree that everything, sex or otherwise, comes down to childhood and family. There are more factors in a lifetime than being a kid and affected by the family that raised you.
This line of reasoning also leaves out nature’s pull on us to favor things like wide hips, big breasts and pretty symmetrical faces to produce and feed the best quality offspring with the best genes, and on the other side, big muscles means he can defend the cave and kill sabertooth whatevers for meat. Oh, and that he’s athletic enough for intercourse for more said offspring. However, we can’t prove that 100% either.
What is most problematic in this theory is this: Dr. Siegel placed a great deal of emphasis on what triggers mental-based erotic arousal to orgasm than he does physical-based. This is a fantastic error that I see the psychology world make way too often. There are even times when I see psychology-based sex therapists (because everyone in the public refers a professional specializing in sex info or trauma resolution a “sex therapist”) make the laughable mistake that sexual pleasure techniques and skills are not important– that it’s all up to your mind.
Body -and- mind, people. What if we mastered both? I know psychology training doesn’t have 400-level undergrad classes for mind-blowing, or psychologists across the world wouldn’t be spreading the all-mind party line because they would know better as a group. This is, in my view, one of the biggest shortcomings (no pun intended) of the psychology-based sex therapy community. I do understand though. It’s not their training. I’d love to see psychologists finally admit this. Similarly touted is the role of the relationship to a sex life. While obviously important, it is not the whole story even when you have a great one. Having a great relationship means a great sex life falls in your lap is not true. I have a lot of clients and past clients who began their sex life coaching with great relationships that got even greater. If the body doesn’t matter, then why is my brand of sex life coaching producing such results?
Yes, there are times where mental arousal due to the hot porn or sex context provides the primary (or very speedy) push up and over the edge to orgasm in spite of mediocre to good sex stim. However, there is also the role of the body, its neurology, the given neurology’s stimulation requirements, and the quality/sophistication of sexual stimulation it is receiving. My clients have brought issues to me that indicate precisely this: you may be watching the best porn of your choice or doing your hottest partnersexual theme, but without the proper physical stimulation, you too often won’t have your orgasm.
To clarify, you could be with your partner role-playing and all tied up to a tee, but if a given primary erogenous zone that you reliably climax with is receiving inadequate stimulation due to your or a partner’s lack of sexual skills, awareness, and communication, orgasm is not going to happen, will be very difficult, or a long time in coming if it does come at all. (Yes, those orgasms that do finally happen can be big ones, but that’s due to the build up of physical arousal that is just shy of optimal over time.) Imagine if you had the sexual sophistication to create that kind of orgasm, or send a partner straight there if desired. Then add to that the hot mental erotic. What would we have then?
How many of you out there have been lying back while receiving sex stimulation of some sort that wasn’t good enough, so you had to fantasize to give the sex some more juice? (To say nothing of the tremendous role of the law of diminishing returns in long term relationships). What if that extra mental juice isn’t enough and now you have to start communicating but you know/think they won’t take it very well?
There are paths to orgasm that have nothing to do with mental arousal– all physical. Physical stimulation that feels so good, the body can’t help but climax. Another example is when the body “learns” a new form of orgasm like G-spot orgasm that will not happen without proper physical stimulation for the vast majority of women, no matter how mentally aroused they are by their favorite scenario. Therefore, it is very detrimental to our continued understanding of human sexuality to forward a theory that orgasm is brought on only/predominantly by potent mental arousal (feelings) triggered by a scene, thought, or situation.
Yes, there are people who climax only or predominantly from mental arousal that has very little to no physical sexual stimulation involved. Those people are in my and my mentor’s experience in the minority. Still, I say to those individuals, imagine you developed a greater understanding and mastery over your body’s capabilities and added that to your mind’s sexual strengths.