Sex Expert Jennifer Gunsaullus doesn’t have orgies on the weekend
I do not sleep with my clients or watch them have sex.
I am not a psychologist or a marriage and family therapist.
I do not have orgies on the weekends (although I’m not opposed to the idea!).
I’m not ungrounded or “woo-woo,” although I do take a holistic approach to my work.
I am not a man-hater, although I identify with feminism, and I do not take sides in my counseling work.
I do not make people feel bad about being sexual under their own terms and
by their own definitions.
There are a lot of assumptions about my kind of work, so it’s fun to be able to articulate,
off the bat, what I am not!
How doesn’t someone become a sex expert?
By being judgmental and close-minded. By taking a fear-based approach to sex. By thinking sex is dirty, wrong, and something to be controlled.
Someone does not become a sex expert by imposing their version of sex on others.
And you don’t become a sex expert by not challenging yourself to understand the complexity and beauty of human sexuality.
You got your start in the sex and relationship field 19 years ago as a sexual health peer educator at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. What didn’t you know about sex therapy back then that you know now?
I didn’t know pretty much anything that I know now! I was a good girl with little experience of life, relationships, sex, or the world.
I definitely didn’t have an understanding of my own body and pleasure, or how to understand, honor, and transform uncomfortable emotions (e.g., hurt, jealousy, fear).
I didn’t know how to respect the differences between women and men, nor did I grasp how deeply complex sex and sexuality are.
The most profound changes since then have all been personal, which serves as the foundation of my honoring, understanding, and appreciating the people who show up in my office to work though their concerns.
Since then you’ve made a name for yourself as an authority on sexuality and contribute to a number of different media outlets, as well as running your own blog and video show. How wouldn’t you describe your podcast In the Den with Dr Jenn?
In the Den with Dr. Jenn is not reverent, boring, or serious (although we do cover serious topics at times).
I like to be silly and wear costumes and laugh, while teaching, learning, and talking about sex topics. It’s “sexy” in topic but not “sexy” in presentation.
That’s the feminist in me that wants to keep that separation. I’m struggling to say what
it’s not otherwise, because it’s designed to be its own unique entity and not like anything else, so I don’t even know what to compare it to.
Well, one unfortunate thing that I can say that it’s not, is a big hit, with a lot of followers! We
had a large following years ago when we started, but took two years off from filming and lost all our momentum.
How shouldn’t couples approach intimacy?
If you want to blame you partner for something, that is not a good place from which to approach intimacy. Your partner will likely be defensive and the conversation will deteriorate.
Don’t assume that your partner wants and needs intimacy in the same way that you do, and don’t take it personally that they are different.
Not talking about intimacy concerns never makes them better, so even when it’s uncomfortable, awkward, or scary, clearly stating your needs and making gentle requests is an important starting point.
Couples also shouldn’t approach intimacy without reflecting on their beliefs and upbringing around sex, vulnerability, needs, desires, communication, and knowledge. We all have a lot of assumptions and norms around sexual topics, so reflecting on what you learned and think, gives you space to grow and evolve.
Especially in the United States, we learn a lot of bullshit around sex, from guilt, to myths, and shame. This baggage gets thrown at our partners and interferes with intimacy, if we don’t start unpacking it.
What don’t most men understand about sex?
Regarding sex with women, most men don’t understand that in the long run, many women need a lot of “priming the pump.”
This helps women get out of their heads and into their bodies to enjoy the pleasures and sensations of sex.
Many men want foreplay to be as simple as their partner grabbing their penis. Many women want the opposite of that – no touching of breasts or genitals until they are warmed up by having other areas touched.
This is a common mismatch in approaches I hear about in long-term relationships.
Priming the pump is also an emotional component, of feeling close to your partner, having deep conversation, and feeling stable. Sometimes priming the pump is a 24-hour awareness!
And what’s something most women don’t know?
If a man you’re with has some sort of “performance” concern in the bedroom, such as losing an erection, it almost never has to do with him not being attracted enough to you.
I hear over and over again how women perceive that to mean that their body isn’t good enough. That’s not the case!
Ironically, I’ve heard from some men that the MORE attracted they are the woman, and the more they care about impressing her and her liking them, the more likely they are to have problems getting or keeping in up. So it’s the opposite of what you’re assuming, ladies!
And it’s super important that you play it cool if this happens, so that you don’t create more anxiety around the situation, and increase the likelihood of it happening again.
You’ve claimed that sometimes women choose not to have orgasms during sex. Why on earth not?
Orgasms are complicated! Just ask any man who has developed performance anxiety.
It is a natural physiological process, but humans have so much mental and emotional meaning around sex, such as our need to please a partner, to feel loved, to feel competent, to feel worthy, to prove oneself, etc.
I think this is more about women choosing to hold back parts of themselves to protect themselves from becoming too attached to a man or situation that isn’t stable or a good emotional match.
Sex, orgasm, and the release of oxytocin can bond a woman to a man, before she’s mentally determined if it’s a good idea.
Surrendering and releasing to orgasm can feel very vulnerable to some women, so they may choose carefully who they feel “safe enough” to come with.
To finish, could you give us an anti-blurb of your book Am I Normal? A Woman’s Guide to Female Sexuality?
This is not a comprehensive guide to female anatomy, or an examination of how an orgasm is achieved.
It’s not a long book that will bore you with too much detail. It’s not a printed book, as it only exists in ebook format, although you can download the worksheets on their own to fill in.
What it does do is provide an overview of female sexuality and the concerns young women might have about whether they are normal in their sexuality, thoughts, body image, and anatomy.
We learn lots of negative things about our sexuality, so this workbook helps women reclaim and define their sexuality under their own terms.