Transforming Sexual Narratives

Transforming Sexual Narratives

From Dysfunction to Discovery

By Suzanne Iasenza

January/February 2016

If you want to rekindle your sex life, put desire aside—at least for the moment. Instead, start by telling each other intimate stories.

This is the cornerstone of my approach to helping partners revive a sexually empty union. Most recently, I used this model with Justin and Kris, a strikingly attractive couple in their early 40s. Married for 10 years, they’d once been passionate partners. That was history.

“We haven’t made love in more than a year,” said Kris in our first session, her voice barely audible.

Justin, occupying the other end of the couch, stared miserably at the rug. “I don’t have a clue where to go with this,” he finally said, popping his shoulders in an approximation of a shrug.

The Tyranny of Orgasm

Ever since Masters and Johnson introduced the renowned four-phase Human Sexual Response Cycle (Excitement-Plateau-Orgasm-Resolution) and Helen Singer Kaplan revised it with her Triphasic Sexual Response Model (Desire-Arousal-Orgasm), sexual desire has occupied a central place in the psychological-medical-cultural imagination, defining the template for what’s supposed to be a healthy sexual life for couples and often determining whether they have sex at all. In my experience over 25 years as a sex therapist, however, these models impose a rigid, linear scheme on what’s actually a messy and multidimensional process.

Most sex therapists, myself included, were trained in a version of…

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