Sexual Health

In this episode of our addiction and recovery podcast, Jackie Pack introduces you to her colleague and friend Rachel Allen. Rachel is a certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT) at Healing Paths, Inc.

Jackie and Rachel talk about sexual health and what clients are working towards in their healing process.  There are a lot of barriers to sexual health, so this topic will be a series you won’t want to miss.  

TRANSCRIPT: Sexual Health

Jackie Pack

This is the Thanks For Sharing podcast. The podcast where we explore all things recovery, healing, and relationships. Remember to subscribe, and download episodes in the iTunes store, Google Play or on the Podbean app. While you’re there, I’d love a review.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Thanks For Sharing. I’m your host, Jackie Pack. Today. I have a guest with me, and this is a guest I’ve talked on and off with about coming and being on an episode about a lot of different topics. This is somebody that I work with, and can have some great conversations in between sessions. It’s been talked about for multiple different topics, but she’s coming on, her name’s Rachel Allen and she’s a therapist here at our Bountiful, Utah clinic. We are going to be talking about sexual health.

Before we do that, let me introduce you a little bit to Rachel. Rachel is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), also a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist), and also has her own podcast if you want to plug that, go ahead plug that.

Rachel Allen

Yeah, so my podcast is Reality In Fiction, and I talk about fictional stories, and characters and how they relate to things that we experience in real life. I feel like fiction is a reflection of real life, and so sometimes it’s easier to look at ourselves through that lens.

Jackie Pack

I’ve done multiple therapy groups with Rachel, and we’ve shared clients before. Like, she works with one and I work with the other member of a family.

Rachel has a reputation. She’s our resident nerd. That podcast really fits her personality and the way she thinks. She often comes up with some great analogies from fictional things to what’s being talked about. Whether it’s in the group or whether it’s in a couples sessions. Check out that podcast over on iTunes. Where else is it at?

Rachel Allen

 It’s on iTunes, Google Play. You can get it on Podbean, and I’m trying to get it on Stitcher right now.

Jackie Pack

Okay, cool. Check that out. Now, let’s talk about, Rachel and I have been having a couple of conversations. Most likely, just because sexual health, I think, can be a broad term, we’ll probably do a couple of episodes to address everything we want to. Otherwise, we’ll be here all day. It’s Friday, and we both want to be able to start our weekend.

Rachel Allen

Yeah, sounds good. Yeah, I think with sexual health, it is a very complex thing, and it’s very individualized, right?

Jackie Pack

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Rachel Allen

Each person has a different arousal template and different things that they bring to the table so you can’t just say this is sexual health, and make it very specific. I think that part of sexual health is saying, “Let’s take some of the rules out, and see where you can go, and explore, and be in a safe relational environment.”

Jackie Pack

Right. Let’s talk for a minute about how that looks when we’re talking to a male client about that, or even a male sex addict client about that, versus when we’re talking to a partner or just a female client. Well, this might make this series really long, but we could also interview a female sex addict. Maybe, we’ll do a whole episode on female sex addiction, and sexual health.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. Yeah. Probably a good idea.

Jackie Pack

Since we also are presenting, or we’re going to be putting it in. We’re going to propose that we present that at this year’s, or 2020’s symposium, for IITAP (International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals).

Rachel Allen

Yeah. For me, I find that working with male clients, and sexual health looks very different than working with females. Mostly because, I think societal constructs show, men are sexual, and men are allowed to be sexual, and they’re allowed to explore that and ask questions. Whether they’re able to ask questions or not, it’s there for them. Our society has set that up, right? Most porn is made for men, by men. There’s a very small margin of that, that’s made for women, by women. It’s funny because even looking at lesbian porn is made by men. It’s made to-

Jackie Pack

A lot of our male clients view that.

Rachel Allen

Right. It’s made to hit a male arousal template. For me, a lot of my work with males is about, let’s undo what the world has told you is okay, and good-

Jackie Pack

Normal.

Rachel Allen

… normal, and let’s find what is actually normal for you. I think that there is some other social shame in that, depending on the population that you’re working with. We tend to work with a lot of conservative, and religious backgrounds, so you can have the dual information highways coming in from the social constructs. Where the church is saying super, super, super rigid things, and then porn is not.

Jackie Pack

Right, their secret life was the opposite of the rigid message they got in their religion.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. Both are extremes, and neither one of them are super relational. I start working with men about the relationship of sexual health, and what that looks like. How do you connect sexually?

I think for women, women tend to connect more intimately. They want to have that intimate connection, but in our society, we usually don’t let women explore sexuality.

Jackie Pack

Right. If often say: The messages that most women get as young girls growing up into womanhood is that we are supposed to be desirable, but we shouldn’t have a desire, because those are bad girls. I think that really creates difficulty as women move into relationships that are going to be sexual, and they’re just supposed to be desired. They haven’t spent much time thinking about, or even they feel a certain stigma if we’re asking them to think about their sexual desire, and starting to own that.

Rachel Allen

I think a perfect example of that in pop culture is Sandy from the movie Grease.

Jackie Pack

Okay, yeah. Yes.

Rachel Allen

Sandy is this virtuous, virginal…

Jackie Pack 

Sweet, yes.

Rachel Allen

There’s even a song about how virginal Sandy is. She doesn’t really step into her own sexuality. She becomes what Danny wants, and what his friends would admire.

Jackie Pack

Yes.

Rachel Allen

The growth that we see, and Sandy doesn’t really grow so much as her shifting into what other people expect. I think that happens for a lot of women. I think that the question of, how do you do both or be both?… I think for me, specifically, like with Grease, growing up I remember my aunt being like, this is women power, this is female sexuality. She’s taking her sexuality back. As an adult, I’m like, that’s not what was happening at all. I do think that we get that with females. With females there is a lot more, “Okay, but what do you want? What do you like? What do you desire?” That’s harder.

Jackie Pack

I think oftentimes with our male clients, if they’re married, and they’re married to one of these “good girls,” they turn to porn for novelty, they turn to porn for excitement, they turn to porn for things that they actually don’t experience. In pornography, women like whatever’s happening to them, right? That’s the depiction in porn, is that women just love whatever’s happening.

Rachel Allen

Even if they don’t, even if they’re in pain, even if they don’t like it, they still have to take it.

Jackie Pack

Right. I think that’s a whole other thing, right?–Where sex, and anger, and all of that stuff starts to fuse. I think when we start talking to men just about what they’re looking at, even if … We both typically, when we get somebody in as a new client, male sex addict, we will ask them what kind of porn are you looking at? It’s not uncommon for us to get the response: “Just normal porn.” Both you and I are like, “What is that? I don’t even know what you’re talking about right now.”

Rachel Allen

Can you please define normal porn?

Jackie Pack

Right. Even in your so-called normal porn, right? Just a woman…

Rachel Allen

Male/female.

Jackie Pack

… male/female, whatever, having–

Rachel Allen

Missionary position.

Jackie Pack

Yeah. I have some men who would say, “normal porn”, and it’s naked women masturbating, or in this act of seeing a woman in pleasure is what they’re seeking, and what they really like. I think when we start to look at, and start to educate them and walk them through the messages that, on the one hand, they want a sexual partner, but on the other hand they don’t know how to partner in their relationship because of some of the patriarchal constructs that we still have in the United States.

Rachel Allen

Right. I think about, because I have these conversations often with many people, but I have experienced where I will be talking about sexual health, just in my regular life, I’ll be talking about what healthy relationships look like. I have had husbands actually say, “Don’t teach her that. Don’t tell her that.” There’s some enjoyment in having the sexual information or the sexual power of the relationship, and her being naïve, and him being the guide in that, I guess.

Rachel Allen

That doesn’t really allow for two fully developed, fully functional individuals to show up and say, “This is what I like. This is what I want. This is who I want to be in this partnership.” I think that’s ultimately what we’re trying to get in sexual health, is two fully functional, sexual beings bringing what they have, vulnerably, to the table. Instead of there being some kind of power dynamic.

Jackie Pack

I work with a lot of women who will even, as we’re talking about this, they get some anxiety and some angst about this portion of the work. Really looking at what is their sexuality, how would it look if they owned their sexuality, what would that mean for them in their work, in their relationship? We’re pushing on a lot of things for them when we’re starting to ask women to start looking at her own sexuality.

Sometimes I will say to them, “Look, I grew up watching the same movies you grew up watching, and they haven’t changed a whole lot.” I can remember some of the early movies that I saw that were maybe like some romance novels. Just that feeling of being desired, and how intoxicating that was for me as a teenager watching that on the big screen play out, right? Then, I didn’t have to do anything. It was intoxicating, and there was little risk for me. Or, when I’m talking to these clients, for them. It also keeps that sexuality undeveloped, and immature. We ask the men to take all of the power, or control, or risk that comes with that.

I think when I talk to male clients, one of the things that I hear often is they don’t want to always be initiating it. One of the things that’s most arousing to them is when their partner likes, and enjoys sex. That’s some of what they’re looking for, is this isn’t just me doing this to a woman, even though that’s a lot of what they’re watching in porn. It’s, I want somebody who enjoys this as much as I do. Unfortunately, they turn to porn for that, and I think they get a bad education about women and sex drive.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. Absolutely. I also think men want to be desired too, right?

Jackie Pack

Right.

Rachel Allen

That is part of that relational piece of, we want to want each other, and we want to want each other sexually. If it’s one-sided where the guy is desiring, and the woman is desirable, he doesn’t get that. He doesn’t get that back. That is a, insert prints here.

Jackie Pack

I think it just makes them feel like, again, some of the messages they get like, “Boys will be boys,” right? Boys have the sex drive, and we just have to deal with it. I think that’s a harmful message from men, and I think that’s a harmful message for women to think about male sex drive that way.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. There’s a lot that comes out of that, and that’s probably a whole other episode of talking about the cultural constructs of, how did we get so toxic in our sexuality in the first place? Sex is supposed to be about relationships. It’s, at its core, an extremely vulnerable act between two people.

Jackie Pack

I’ll often add to, when I’m talking about this I’ll say, “You’re creating something in that moment.” Creative processes require something from us. In order to create with another person, we have to collaborate, we have to really show up, we have to invest who we are in the creative process. I don’t mean to say that as though, then it sounds like sex is heavy, or a lot of work. I think that the creative process is often fun, and it’s exciting, and people come alive when they are creating.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. I don’t know. As a creative, I think it is more of a stress-reducing thing if you’re doing creativity correctly, right?

Jackie Pack

Mm-hmm (affirmative) —

Rachel Allen

It’s more about that space of growing, and changing, and developing, and seeing what we can do, and seeing what we can be. I don’t know that a whole lot of our clients experience stress-free sex. It’s very intimidating. It’s very confusing, and overwhelming, and has a lot of tension, and anger, and pressure. I don’t know that that’s ever what it was meant to be.

Jackie Pack

We get clients in too, just because we advertise, we market on our website about sex addiction, and partner betrayal trauma and all that kind of stuff. We also get clients in who are saying, “We haven’t had sex in a really long time, and that’s something we need to work on.” Maybe they’ve gone to other marital therapists, but that issue didn’t really get touched or resolved in a way that they could reclaim the sexuality between the two of them. We also get some of that sexual anorexic piece coming in, where people have just, because of the tension, or because of the discomfort or the awkwardness, they just stopped doing it.

Rachel Allen

Again, we are relational beings. We are born to be relational. From the time that we are born, our society, the grownups, so to speak, are hopefully teaching us how to function in society. When I was growing up, because I am from the Southeast United States, I was taught, “yes ma’am, no ma’am.” I was taught how to say “sir,” and “ma’am,” and “thank you.” Those were social graces. That’s how you interacted with people.

We don’t do that with sex. We don’t have conversations about, this is what it looks like to engage this, or look at that. I would say that’s a really difficult conversation to have. It’s hard to be that vulnerable and say, “I don’t know how to talk about sex.” It’s hard to be that vulnerable and say, “Okay, sex is really messy.” It doesn’t have a pattern that we just follow.

It’s going to be very individualistic, and there’s going to be mistakes. You might hurt each other. You might have some bruises or some bumps and we may have to come back and be like, “Okay, that didn’t work,” or, “I don’t know how to initiate.” That’s what I hear from women a lot, “I don’t know how to initiate, because I’m scared that he’s not going to like it,” or, “If I put my sexual fantasies on the table, is that going to be harmful, or damaging to my partner?”

Really, it is about that conversation. We have a lot of sexual fantasies, and some of that is really positive and can be really relational. When it becomes a part of ourselves that we have to hide, that we have to keep from our partners, it then grows into something completely different. Those are hard and messy conversations.

Jackie Pack

I often will say, when I’m talking with individuals, or couples who are coming in for therapy when we’re at this point in doing this work, which I would say this is some advanced work. We might hit on it briefly earlier in the therapy process, but really this is some putting it all together, and picking up the pieces that we had to take out and look at, and now how do they fit back into this relationship, or your life?

One of the things that I will often talk about is this relationship in sexuality between novelty and certainty. I think, for people who are single and they’re in the dating process, one of the things that I hear from them is, there’s too much uncertainty, and it’s all new. There’s too much novelty and not enough certainty. So, “I don’t know if I’m going to like this person, I don’t know what this is going to look like.” Sometimes, that shuts them down, and they’ll just take themselves out of the dating scene.

On the other hand, sometimes with married couples, they have way too much certainty, and they’ve lost the novelty. They’ve lost the newness and the novelty that really leads into some passion. I think it’s a delicate balance between those two. One of the things that I will say to them is, “You can create some novelty through lingerie, or toys, or positions.” It’s not that I’m against that, “Fine, go ahead and do that, but you’re going to reach the end of those options.” Lingerie eventually all looks the same. There are certain variations of it, and then we’re like, “Okay.”

Again, sexual positions. There may be quite a few of them, but the human body can only do so much. We’re going to reach the edge of that universe of novelty. If we don’t keep creating who we are as an individual, then when the novelty runs out, we may go outside of the relationship.

This is one of the things porn does is, it’s constantly trying to create new things for people to watch to hit that novelty thing. If we’re not creating ourselves, which I will say to them, “You’re 35 years old. Next year, you’re going to be 36. You’ve never been 36 before. You have this opportunity to evolve yourself. Not drastically, usually, but evolve yourself.”

Sometimes, we get lazy as we get older. We might not be learning new things. We might not be thinking about new things. We may not be trying new things. All of a sudden, that novelty, or newness falls out, and there’s not much new about me to see. It’s up to each individual to be looking at themselves, and evolving themselves so that there is some newness continually, throughout their life, right?

Rachel Allen 

Yeah. I tell clients this all the time. I love this analogy because I think it shows up in our world in so many ways. If you aren’t growing, and changing, and developing, you’re dying. If trees stop digging roots deeper, if it stops growing rounder, if it stops growing higher, it’s dying, it’s dead. That’s how plants work. The same with animals. We know that if they start to lay down more, and sleep more, or finding a place to hide, they’re dying. When they’ve hit this space of, and there are animals that hibernate and things like that, and I totally believe in human beings taking rest periods too, but those have seasons.

Jackie Pack

Those are intentional.

Rachel Allen

Those are intentional. Sometimes we need that in our sexual health. Sometimes we need to take a pause to figure out who we are, or where we’re going. Ultimately, we have to come out of that. If an animal sleeps forever, it will die. If an animal goes into hibernation and never comes out, it will die. If you’re not growing, if you’re not pushing your boundaries, whatever those are, you’re dying; Whether it’s emotionally dying, whether it’s physically dying. If we’re not learning something new, our brain will literally start to prune their synapses, because it’s not using it anymore.

What’s cool about that is this is the human body, human emotions, human sexuality is supposed to be expansive. It’s not supposed to be rigid, it’s not supposed to be–“this is the box that we live in.” Sexuality for me, in my practice and in my life, is a reflection of who we are emotionally, who we are physically, who we are spiritually. If those things are growing and developing, and we’re able to shift that into our sexuality, that becomes something beautiful, and new, and vibrant.

Jackie Pack

I would say, you recently did just a little video blurb. I’m not sure if it’s up on our website yet. If not, it will be soon. Talking about this subject, and talking about how plants can get root bound, which is not healthy for them, and it cuts off their ability to continue to grow because they’re stuck in a space that they’ve outgrown, or doesn’t fit them anymore. I think that’s a great analogy to get people starting to think, what box are you living in, and how long have you been, and if it’s still fitting you, why? If we’re evolving, and we’re growing, we should be expanding ourselves, not just comfortably staying in one place and saying, “I’m good forever.”

I think, having that analogy, and talking about, yes, there are parts of us, and knowing who we are, I think, is like your analogy with trees, sinking those roots deep. I don’t think that’s a one-and-done process, that we get to this place of, I know who I am, I like who I am and I’m finished. I think we still are evolving human beings, hopefully, and so our roots are going to continue to sink deeper, and deeper, and need additional space just like with trees, and plants.

Yet, the expressions are maybe the leaves, how well the tree is doing. The health of the tree is reflected in the leaves of the tree. I think looking at ourselves and saying, “If I know myself, and my roots are pretty deep, what do the different branches look like in expressing that?” What does it look like sexually? What does it look like emotionally? What does it look like socially? Probably, there’s going to be some continuity between all of those.

Rachel Allen

Yeah, you hope so, right? Especially, again, using the tree analogy, because we can. We recently had a tree that we had to cut down because half of it was dead. The other half was growing really, really well but half of it was dead. When you get a tree that’s lopsided like that, it’s more likely to cause a lot of damage, because it’s more likely to fall, or split. We had to cut down the whole tree.

That can happen too if we’re really over-developed in one area. Maybe not even over-developed, but if we’re under-developed in one area the rest of our life is going to struggle too. We can say we have this one piece, but just like with trees, if you have one half of the tree or one really big shoot-off that’s not healthy, you might be able to prune that and restructure it. Sometimes, it gets too bad you have to take out the whole thing.

I’m not saying we should take out the whole person. What I am saying is, we have to address it. We have to be willing to say, “That doesn’t look so good,” and not just ignore it and be like, “Well, the rest of this over here looks great.” I think that we do that a lot with sexuality, and I think it can be really hard to know, how do we move forward with sexuality? It is messy. We like rules. We like a lot of structure, we like people to tell us what to do as people.

Jackie Pack

That also hampers the creative process.

Rachel Allen

Yeah, absolutely.

Jackie Pack

You mentioned over-developed. I think, for the addicts coming in, whether they’re male or female, there is a part of them that got over-developed. That sexual part got over-developed for, we have to look at those reasons why, often with female sex addiction there is sexual trauma.

Rachel Allen

Yes.

Jackie Pack

With males, maybe sexual trauma, maybe other types of trauma, but we’re looking at, why did this get so over-emphasized, and over-developed, but without the root system. There’s not really a foundation of who this person is, and knowing of the self. We have to get them to figure out, and know, and get comfortable with who they are, and expressing that in a multitude of ways. That can help to balance out the sexuality piece. Sexuality is an important piece of us, but when it becomes the most important piece of us, it’s typically not going to play well with the other parts of who we are.

Rachel Allen

Right. I think one of my favorite parts of this is, when I have a client coming in and they’re saying, “How many times a week is healthy to have sex,” or, “Is it healthy to do this,” my first response is, “For who?” I don’t know, because I’m not you. We have to dig deeper into… Go into the root system of, why is the number important? Why is the position important? Why is this showing up for you? What does that look like? A lot of times there is a lot of vulnerability, there is a lot of wounding. You mentioned that for female sex addicts, there’s a lot of sexual abuse. I think that, in general, our culture is sexually neglectful. We know —

Jackie Pack

While at that same time, being hyper-focused on sexuality.

Rachel Allen

Right. It’s funny to me, because I grew up, I was the generation that first got all of the tobacco warnings on everything. When I was a kid, Joe Cool was a thing, and they were making cartoons for the cigarettes. All of a sudden, that wasn’t allowed, that was banned, and there was all these tobacco-free commercials that would come on everywhere. I think we’ve done that with sex. We’ve made it really appealing, but we don’t really tell you how to use it, or what to use it with, or how it’s dangerous, potentially, or how it’s good. It became this, “Just don’t do it,” or, “Just do it this way,” instead of us really saying, “Okay, wait. Let’s take a look at this, and talk about it.” We’re all sexual beings, so why won’t we talk about it?

Jackie Pack 

Right. I’ve taught various teens, mostly female teens about sexuality, and one of the beliefs that I have, and it’s never changed with whatever group of teenage girls I’m talking to–I truly believe they are hungry to have conversations with older women who have figured out sexuality. They want to ask questions, and they want to know.

If we can’t have those conversations with them, they will go to Google. What they type into that search engine bar can be scary. You and I were at symposium several years ago when Gail Dines was the keynote speaker. She talked a lot about how young women are also learning how to be desirable from porn. They may not be going to porn for their own sexual pleasure the way the teenage boys are, or young boy are. They’re going, and they’re seeing —

Rachel Allen

They are more, and more too.

Jackie Pack

Yes, they are more, and more.

Rachel Allen

That’s the other thing you have to —

Jackie Pack

They’re also going to figure out:

How do I attract the boys?

How do I be desirable?

What is necessary for me to do to be accepted sexually?

That can be pretty dangerous. You’ve taught online classes with your friend down in Alabama at her university, just about that issue, and talking with college-age females about certain types of sex that really aren’t healthy for female bodies, but they’re all over porn and they think, “I have to do that.”

Rachel Allen

Right. Even that, I think that there’s such a skewed line for that. Especially for me, like when you’re talking to young females, or when I’m talking to young females, I guess. It’s always amazing to me, the misinformation that they get. Like, that’s not accurate, that’s not right. I go in that kind of, like Gail Dine said, that whole presentation I think was amazing.

One of the things that she said, and I loved it, and as someone who is super pro-sexual health, I think it was very powerful. She said, “You should be angry that the capitalist sex industries are hijacking your arousal template. They’re telling you what to desire, and how to desire it, and why.” Yeah, I think that we should be angry about that.

Jackie Pack

Instead of letting it develop from within. Again, sometimes it’s hard to let it develop from within because we’re neglecting sexuality as a society. I think in therapy that’s one of the things that we’re looking at and saying, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. I know all the messages, I live in the world that you live in,” but is that yours, or was that hijacked and just handed to you, and because you didn’t have something else you picked it up?

Rachel Allen

Yeah. I love that concept. Especially when we’re talking about, again, because I am a creative and I love art, and I love just everything that comes with creativity. One of the things that I think is so profound in that is, if you look at that in terms of art, Andy Warhol did that. Andy Warhol took something that is supposed to be beautiful, and precious, and creative and he capitalized on capitalist society. In some ways, he was mocking capitalist society and saying, “Anything can be art.” He got the Campbell Soup cans and things like that. Very little of that was actually Andy Warhol’s own creative expression. I think that’s what pornography and sex industries have done with sex. It’s not really their creative expression either. It’s marketed, and it sells.

Jackie Pack

Right, and it’s profitable.

Rachel Allen

Which is very different than a lot of artists who put their heart and souls into their artwork, and their paintings. A lot of times they’re not worried about selling. Van Gogh was one of the greatest artists to ever exist, and he only sold one painting in his lifetime, but his own self-expression changed our world. I think that’s what sex does. Good, healthy sex changes an individual’s world. It helps us be expansive, it helps us be creative. I work with a lot of people who are like, “I’m not creative, I’m not an artist. I’m an accountant, or I’m…”

Jackie Pack

— an engineer.

Rachel Allen

“… an engineer.” There are some rules, and some rigidity to that, but there’s also a lot of beauty to that, right?

Jackie Pack

Mm-hmm (affirmative) —

Rachel Allen

There’s just a lot of really cool things that happen with physics. There’s just a lot of really cool things that happen in that structure. There are some really beautiful things that happen when we are willing to even express creatively, and understand that’s how we express creatively. Engineers, architects, and accountants–there is an art to that as much as there is a science.

Jackie Pack

I had to figure that out for myself too, because I used to think I’m not very creative. I don’t sing, I don’t draw, I have a hard time doodling. I can paint walls and things, but I’m not a painter. I had to learn to appreciate, just because my creativity maybe wasn’t the most obvious, that didn’t mean that I wasn’t a creative person. I had to dig a little bit deeper to find the ways that I create, and what that means for me, or where that comes from within me. I think you’re right. Everybody, all human beings are creative.

Rachel Allen

Yeah. I think that the fact that all human beings are sexual in some capacity, right?

Jackie Pack

Right.

Rachel Allen

There’s variations of that, just like there are variations in types of creativity, in types of artists, in types of architects, in types of intellectuals. As varied as there are people, so is sexuality.

Jackie Pack

Oftentimes, I think we’re being good, and we’re keeping this pretty non-explicit by not using the words, but both Rachel and I, in sessions, use the words. When we’re talking about what sex looks like, and how a person engages in sexuality, sometimes I’ll ask, “Why is another person necessary in how you’re approaching sexuality?” That doesn’t sound, to me, like another person is necessary. Often, they’ll stop and look at me like, “I don’t even know what you’re saying.”

Rachel Allen

What are you saying?

Jackie Pack

What are you telling me, right? I have to explain, again, you’re not necessarily being creative, and maybe you’re having an orgasm and that’s what you’re desiring. Sex, simply for the sake of arriving at orgasm really isn’t the best kind of sex.

Rachel Allen

No.

Jackie Pack

If that’s the most you can do, you’re selling yourself short. You’re really missing out on what it could be. Especially when you involve another person who is able to show up as a person. Not just be submissive to you, or follow your lead, but actually now we have two people doing this sexual dance with each other and creating something.

Rachel Allen

Even in that, when you said we aren’t using words, I think we are being really good on this podcast. One of the things that stands out for me too is, sexuality isn’t just about sex. How we present ourselves to the world, how we identify as male, or female, or non-binary or whatever that is, that is part of sexual expression. What we watch on TV, how we engage in hobbies, how we address the world is tied to our sexuality because we are sexual beings. We don’t just leave that at home when we walk out the door. It doesn’t just stay in the bedroom. There’s so much of our expression of who we are that is tied to our sexuality, and that is very individualized before we even add another partner to it.

Jackie Pack

I think going along with that, a lot of times clients are surprised when we start talking about the fact that your sexual development did not start at puberty. They’re like, “It didn’t?” It’s like, “No, it came on board in a big way at that point, but the messages, and the beliefs, and your approach to sexuality starts way younger, and really isn’t sexual in nature.”

Rachel Allen

Yeah. I love watching kids because I think that kids are just fun, and they haven’t been ruined by the media yet. Most of them haven’t, anyway. You watch kids, and they’re already developing individual self-expression. Some of that is tied to the rules and the responses that we give on whether or not they’re male or female, or what that is. In and of itself, there is their own personality developing in that, and that matters. That shows up in a big way. Our personalities should show up in our sex. The things that we love to do, that are uninhibited, and unattached to rules and social regulations should show up in sex.

Jackie Pack

I’ve talked, particularly with women, because I think men are more socialized to allow their strong, confident self to show up in sexuality, and women are a little bit more hesitant to do that. I remember, years ago I was working with a client who was a marathon runner. I’ve never run a marathon, and I really don’t have a desire to run a marathon, but I have worked with a lot of people who run marathons. I know their language, and I can talk their talk without having to run that run.

One of the things I was asking her, I said, “After a marathon, when you finish that, I get that later in the day you’re exhausted and it takes days for you to recuperate and get your body back to where you can go to work or whatever.” I’m like, “When you finish a marathon, what is that feeling?” She was describing this as: “I feel amazing, and I feel like I conquered.” She’s coming alive talking about this feeling, like when you cross that finish line.

I said, “How does that show up in your sexual relationships?” She was just like, “It doesn’t.” I was like, “Why? Maybe not every time. Maybe you don’t want that strong, I’m amazing, I conquered, and I can conquer you. Maybe you don’t want that in every sexual encounter, but it’s never come out, and you run a lot of marathons? What’s that about? You’re not really, fully showing up in your sexual relationships if that important part of you has never made a debut in the sexual scene.”

Rachel Allen

Right. I think that the flip side of that for men too, like we were talking about men don’t always want to initiate, they don’t always want to be the conqueror, or to feel like the powerful one, or all of that. When I talk to men, they want their emotional side to come out, they want to be able to be soft, and be gentle, and do that.

Jackie Pack

Right. They may not know how to do that, and that’s things that we work on in the process of therapy. When we talk to them, even if they’ll say, “I don’t know how to do that,” they talk about, “I do want that.”

Rachel Allen

Right. I think the piece of that, and ultimately, probably the biggest piece of healthy sexuality for me is people are extremely multifaceted. We are extremely complex. There’s not A plus B equals C with people. We have a lot that goes into who we are, and who we become, and why we become what we become, and that’s true in our sexuality. If a male can sit, and be kind, and be soft with his children, he can sit, and be kind, and be soft in sexuality. That can show up there, but a lot of times our society doesn’t give space for that, or men feel shame about that, or they don’t know how to even present that.

Brené Brown‘s research (I can’t remember which book it is) but she’s talking about the fact that when it comes to shame and vulnerability research, men will approach her and be like, “Women don’t want this.”

Jackie Pack

It’s in Daring Greatly.

Rachel Allen

Daring Greatly, yeah. That set her back, right?

Jackie Pack

Mm-hmm (affirmative) —

Rachel Allen

In fact, it opened up a whole side of her research that she wasn’t even willing to do until that point. I think there is, like when we socialize men we socialize them to take the sexual front, and to be that strong, conquering person. They don’t always want that, and women don’t always want to be the soft damsel in distress that has to be rescued. Sometimes, they want to be the warrior. Sometimes, they want to conquer. Sometimes, they want to step into that role. If we have space to grow, and change and develop that, we can safely start to try that on with ourselves, we can safely start to try that on with our partners, but we have to get to a place where that is safe. I think that this is advanced therapy stuff. We do this at an advanced level, but we start talking to our clients when they come in the door about the idea–“This is where we will eventually need to go.”

Jackie Pack

Because, so much of this is underneath whatever sexual problem they’re coming in with. All of this stuff is underneath that, and if we don’t let them know that up front, like, “This is the journey we’re going to be taking, and it’s going to include all of these different pieces,” I don’t think clients would stay as long as they do in therapy. They’d get sober and stop, or they would… Whatever happens there. Our clients tend to stay with us for a pretty lengthy period of time because they want to finish the work, and be able to then go out and keep going on their journey.

Rachel Allen

Right. I think that one of the things, and this is something I think I push for and struggle with in my own life is, I don’t even want my client to feel like they’ve graduated, and they’re done. If they leave me, or if they’re in a good place to go out on their own that’s great. I just don’t believe in, “Here’s your certificate, you’re healthy.” Right?

Jackie Pack

Right. Check that box. You’re done.

Rachel Allen

If we look at things that really have come into light as holding a lot of spiritual meaning, or restorative meditation practices or whatever, they’re practices. Yoga is a practice. Meditation is a practice. Sex is a practice. If you look at cultures that embrace sexuality, which we don’t have a whole lot of those currently, that haven’t been hijacked in some way. There is this, “We practice.” We don’t ever arrive at healthy. We’re constantly growing. We’re constantly picking things up, and putting things down, and shifting. Different ages, and different periods of our lives require different things. My hope and goal for my clients is that we go from being root bound potted plants to, “Hey, there’s this big field with a lot of space to grow, and you get to choose how you use that.”

Jackie Pack

I think so too. I think it can be… I find when clients get to this level of work, they’re excited. They feel like all the work they’ve done previously finally is starting to pay off, and they’re having the sex that they want to, and they’re having the relationships that they want to. Internally, they’re feeling the way that they wanted to. This is such an important piece of the work that oftentimes, I think gets covered up.

As CSATs we get a bad rap for being sex-negative, or sometimes it gets covered up by just focusing on sobriety or something like that. There’s so much more to it, and when people can find their balance with sexuality as well, I think they step into their being in a different way. It’s a way that does not limit them and they don’t outgrow it.

Jackie Pack

I think there’s a couple of episodes. We’ve talked about doing a podcast specifically on sexual beliefs and religion. I think that’s one that we want to talk about. What else did you mention earlier?

Rachel Allen

We talked about female sex addicts.

Jackie Pack

Oh, yes. Female sex addicts.

Rachel Allen

That, in and of itself, is a whole episode.

Jackie Pack

Right, and I think some of that, with female sex addiction we’ll be talking about purity culture. Those things have an interesting relationship with each other; the purity culture and female sex addiction. As a listener, if there are questions you have or something specific that you would like Rachel and me to address in an episode, please email, or you can comment on the podcast and let me know. Those go to my email as well, so that we can be sure and cover that.

Rachel Allen

Ooh, yes because I love questions.

Jackie Pack

Yes, right?

Rachel Allen

I think that’s the fun part of answering, being a therapist, is answering sexual health questions. We can talk about the stuff that we want to talk about, but sometimes you have very specific, like, “Okay, that makes sense, but what about this?” I think that those questions need to be answered, and honestly, what better place to get it answered than here?

Jackie Pack

At the end of this episode, I want to remind you that your story matters. Remember, there’s something meaningful in every chapter. Don’t wait to show your story until it’s finished. Until next time, Jackie.

The Legal Stuff

This podcast is solely for the purpose of information, and entertainment, and does not constitute therapy. Nor should it replace competent professional help

The Prayer of the Perfectionist

Nobody has time for perfection. We are pursuing progress. Help me to remember the only step I need to focus on is the next right step for me. Help me to remember that life is a journey. Help me to be able to separate all that I am learning from all that I have to do. Help me to remember that I am not alone. I can ask for help. Help me to strive for frequent awakenings, not mastery. I am enough. Amen.