Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Do I need sex therapy?
  2. What is involved in sex therapy?
  3. How long should I last before having an orgasm?
  4. How long should it take me to have an orgasm?
  5. How do I tell my partner I have an sexually transmitted infection (STI)?
  6. What is oral sex and how do I do it?
  7. What and where is the G-spot?
  8. What is the average size penis?
  9. Will drugs solve my problem?
  10. Is my prescribed medication causing my sexual problem?
  11. How do I know if I am gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual?
  12. Is it okay to masturbate?
  13. How often is it normal to want sex? Have sex?
  14. What are the basics of good sex?
  15. Is it okay to have an affair or include others in our sex life?
  16. Does menopause mean I will loose interest in sex?
  17. What is sexual addiction and is it treatable?
  18. Does pornography do any harm?

1. Do I need sex therapy?

Answer these questions for yourself then add up your score.

  1. Are you well informed about your body, your sexuality and sexual practices?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  2. Are you happy with the quality of your sex life?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  3. Are you happy with the quantity of your sex life?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  4. Is your partner (if you're in a relationship) happy with sex in your relationship?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  5. Is your relationship a secure and happy one most of the time?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  6. Can you talk productively with your partner about sex?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  7. Do you get as much or more pleasure from sex as from watching TV?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  8. If you're male: can you usually get an erection when you want one?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  9. If you're female: can you usually get aroused when you want to?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  10. Are you interested in sex?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  11. Are you usually able to reach orgasm?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  12. Do you try something different occasionally?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  13. Do you usually find sex satisfying?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  14. If male- does your erection usually last for more than 1-2 minutes of stimulation?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  15. Are you able to get on with life without thinking about sex all the time?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0
  16. Are you mostly comfortable with your own and your partner's sexual habits/practices?
    Your score: Yes: 2 Maybe: 1 No: 0

Your total score is:

  • A score of 25 or over: optimal, keep looking after your relationship and it will give you great pleasure.
  • A score of 15-25: you may want to consider seeking help to get more satisfaction from this aspect of your life.
  • A score of under 15: sex therapy is definitely recommended.

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2. What is Sex Therapy?

If you're in a relationship its best that both of you come to sex therapy. Many therapists will want to start with a joint session: ie a meeting that lasts for about 50 minutes in which the therapist will ask you and your partner questions about your relationship, your concerns and the background to those. You get to keep your clothes on! There is no physical examination and no sexual activity occurs in the session. Often the first session will be followed by an individual one each. How many sessions are needed depends on the problem(s). Sex therapy can take from one to many sessions. Many therapists will give you homework between sessions.

If you have experienced psychotherapy, counselling or psychological treatment before, this will not be very different but it will be focused around your sexual concerns, sex will be talked about openly and the therapist will have a lot of knowledge and comfort in this area. Many people feel some initial discomfort in talking about matters of sexuality because it isn't something they are used to doing, but the therapist will quickly put you at ease.

Sex therapy costs vary according to the region you live in and the qualifications of your therapist. They range between $130 and $196 per session. To make an appointment you can either:

Fill out our self referral page, or phone us on 0800 739843 (0800SEXTHERAPY).

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3. How long should I last before having an orgasm? (This question is usually asked by men, so the answer will be aimed at them.)

This depends on several factors:

  1. Your age.
  2. What sort of stimulation you are receiving.
  3. How long it is since you last had an orgasm.
  4. Whether you worry about this or not.

It is normal to come after receiving 1-2 minutes of direct ongoing stimulation. This might be through intercourse of some sort, oral sex or manual stimulation. Generally speaking if you are 20 you can expect to ejaculate more quickly than when you are 50, so this average covers a lot of variation. The important question is - do you and your partner find the sex satisfying? Remember you do not need an erection to bring your partner to orgasm or to enjoy being sexual together. Also, the less frequently you have any sexual activity to orgasm, the more quickly you are likely to reach orgasm.

A sex therapist can help you learn to control ejaculation but do remember that sex is far more than just a performance and maybe the most important thing you can do is to stop putting pressure on yourself, stop worrying, relax and enjoy the closeness. Don't forget to enjoy whole-body sensuality. Don't try to tune out of your body; tune into it and get to enjoy and understand the different stages of arousal. When you can learn to identify the ‘point before the point of no return', then you can learn to be able to stay at or before this stage rather than rushing to orgasm. This takes practice of course. If you are a reasonably confident person and your relationship is sound then all you may need is a self help book such as Zilbergeld's New Male Sexuality.

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4. How long should it take me to have an orgasm? (This question is usually asked by women, so the answer will be aimed at them.)

There is a lot of variation in the time it takes women to reach orgasm. This will depend on:

  1. How aroused you are at the start.
  2. The type of stimulation being used.
  3. How engaged you are in the process.
  4. Possible medical factors.

Some women can reach orgasm in a minute or two, on average it takes at least 15 minutes of stimulation. Only about half of all heterosexual women can reach orgasm during intercourse and for most of those, the woman on top position or the CAT (coital alignment technique) are the most successful position to provide enough clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm.

Some women and a few men have never experienced an orgasm. There can be lots of reasons for this including a lack of understanding about what is required, childhood messages about sexuality and a lack of confidence and ease with sexual matters. Lots of books have been written on this subject but you are likely to find it more productive to seek the guidance of a sex therapist.

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5. How do I tell my partner I have a sexually transmitted infection (STI)?

It is upsetting to learn you have a transmittable disease and often people are reluctant to tell their partner- for a variety of reasons. It is ESSENTIAL that you do as you can pass the disease on. The first step is to make sure you are well informed about your disease so you can answer any questions that may arise. Be kind, direct and honest and you may get the same in return. Be prepared however that your partner may react with shock, revulsion, pity, anger or denial. Give it time for you both to come to terms with what this will mean for you. It may be as simple as seeking medical treatment that will cure the problem or it may mean that you both will have a lifelong, recurring disease.

If you are in a long term relationship, the appearance of the disease may raise the subject of infidelity. This is a topic that often leads people to seek help in sex / relationship therapy. It is painful to come to terms with broken trust but some help to do this may mean that a relationship can become stronger than it has ever been before.

If you are about to have sex with a new partner and you have an STI: do tell your partner before anything sexual happens.

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6. How do you do oral sex?

Oral sex is using your mouth to pleasure your partner's genitals. Many men enjoying having their penis licked and sucked by their partner and many women enjoy having their clitoris licked and sucked. Ask your partner exactly what they like- you can't be a mind reader. Its helpful to get ongoing directions like "harder", "slower", "higher". Generally speaking the penis can take more pressure than the clitoris, although once a woman is aroused she may want firmer stimulation. If you repeat the same motion for too long the genitals can become insensitive to it or even numb, so do vary the pace, style and site of stimulation.

On the underside of the penis, just beneath the head is the frenulum- many men find it exquisite to have this area licked and flicked with the tongue. Running wet lips up and down the shaft of the penis is pleasurable - you can use your hands to be stimulating the testicles or penis at the same time. It's important for the man not to thrust his penis into his partner's mouth as it is most uncomfortable for it to hit the back of the throat. Despite oral sex on a male being called a "blow job", most men do not like their partner blowing into their penis and this should not be attempted.

In most women, the clitoris is highly sensitive and direct stimulation to the tip of it can be painful or uncomfortable - moving your tongue to the sides and backwards and forwards just above the tip is most pleasurable. Some women enjoy the sensation of their partners tongue moving all over their inner thighs, the whole vulval area and inside the vagina; others have little sensation outside of the clitoral area and prefer stimulation to be focused here.

Remember that oral stimulation can be accompanied by other types of stimulation too and don't forget the rest of your partner's body and all of your own. Many couples enjoy taking breaks during their sexual activity to cuddle, talk, kiss and just generally prolong and enhance a pleasurable time of closeness.

Most of all remember to relax and enjoy yourself. Your pleasure and arousal adds to your partner's arousal. As with all sexual activity, if you do not enjoy oral sex, then you should not engage in it. Some people prefer that their partner wash their genitals or whole body just before oral sex, others are not concerned about this. Some partners are happy to swallow the semen, others prefer to remove their mouth before ejaculation and continue with manual or other stimulation. You decide what is right for you.

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7. What and where is a G-spot?

There is some disagreement about the exact site of the G-spot or if it even exists. It's important not to make a big deal about trying to find it! The term refers to a place on the ‘roof' of the vagina (as the woman is lying on her back) about 1/3 of the way in. You or your partner can find it by inserting 1 or 2 fingers into the vagina when aroused and pressing firmly against the upper wall until you find a small lump that may increase in size as it is stimulated. A few women reach orgasm in this way, others do not find it at all arousing or pleasurable. Some find no lump or sensitive area. All are normal!

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8. What is the average size penis?

This question is often asked by people who think that size matters. Many factors contribute to sexual satisfaction: the main ones are the level of intimacy, attention paid to sensual activities that create arousal, trust in a partner, feeling wanted and valued, sexual technique, for women - clitoral stimulation. None of these are determined by the size of the penis, which on average will be 85-100 mm (3.5 -4") flaccid and 125-155mm (5-6")erect. As with any average figure, there are many normal variations on either side of these sizes. Penis size is only a problem if you allow it to be, just as breast size is for women.

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9. Will a pill solve my problem?

There are now several drugs available to help men achieve erections; the best known one is Viagra. Only your GP or specialist can determine if it is safe for you to take these drugs - they are not indicated for some men with certain medical conditions. There are many reasons why a man may experience problems getting or maintaining an erection. These may include:

  1. Lack of interest, desire or arousal.
  2. Insufficent stimulation.
  3. Anxiety about losing your erection.
  4. Grief.
  5. Relationship problems.
  6. Organic (medical) problems.

If the only cause is medical problems then drugs may well give you an erection that you wouldn't otherwise achieve. However drugs will not address the other causes and ignoring them may make them worse. Sex therapy can be a very effective way to resolve these problems and strengthen your relationship. Remember not to put all the emphasis on having an erection - sexual and sensual loving can occur without one and what is between the ears can be just as important if not more so than what is between the legs! Many men who try using a drug find that their partner does not respond well to the idea - sex therapy can help couples come to terms with any relationship changes such as this.

Pharmaceutical companies are now working on developing an equivalent drug for women and in the sex therapy literature we are seeing some work to create new categories of diagnosis of sexual problems and lots of debate about whether there is a need for this. Each individual has to make the decision of whether drugs are the right solution for them. A skilled sex therapist can do a comprehensive assessment to identify all possible causes of any sexual problems and outline the treatment choices.

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10. Are drugs or medication causing my sexual problem?

Some commonly prescribed medications (and non-prescribed drugs) do impact on sexual functioning for a percentage of those who use them. This impact may be a loss of libido (interest in sex) or difficulties reaching orgasm. Listed below are some of the kinds of drugs that may have this impact - remember they do not affect all people in this way. If you think they are affecting you, talk to your GP and find out if you can use an alternative medication.

  • Hypotension/Hypertension drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-epileptic drugs
  • Anti-psychotics
  • Lithium
  • Chemotherapy
  • Alcohol, marijuana
  • Diazepam
  • Morphine based drugs.

Although this has not been scientifically proven, some people report finding that Ginko Biloba (purchased from a health food shop) resolves anti-depressant related difficulties reaching orgasm. Talk to your GP about the advisability of you trying this.

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11. How do I know if I am gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual?

Although we talk more openly about variations in sexual orientation nowdays, it is still not seen as acceptable by some groups to be anything other than heterosexual. This puts a lot of pressure on anyone who thinks they may have another sexual orientation. It also means that many homosexual and bisexual people hide their sexual orientation so that young people have few role models to help them learn to be comfortable with being themselves. No-one knows for sure when or how sexual orientation is determined. Some men and women talk about knowing from early childhood that they had a sexual interest in the same sex or opposite sex. Others want to experiment to learn about themselves and find out what meets their needs. Many people become clear about their sexual orientation by late adolescence - they find they are attracted to one gender, their fantasies and arousing dreams feature this gender and if they are sexually active then this is the gender they seek out and find most stimulating. Some people discover they can be attracted to and enjoy sex with either gender- these people may call themselves bisexual. Some people who have had bad sexual experiences with one gender choose to only have sex with the other gender. That way they have no negative associations so can enjoy the sex.

Whatever your sexual orientation - learning to like yourself, to be comfortable with your sexuality, to enjoy being sexual and to incorporate sex into a loving, respectful relationship are popular life goals.

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12. Is it okay to masturbate?

We mostly have got over the myths that masturbation makes you blind and causes hair to grow on the palms of your hands. Some people are still uncomfortable with the idea of pleasuring themelves sexually however 95% of men and 75% of women are thought to masturbate. As with any sexual practice (in fact with behaviour of any kind) we can use it positively or abuse it. Masturbation is a good way to meet your own sexual needs when you do not have a partner, when your partner doesn't feel like sex or when you simply feel like being sexual with and for yourself.

The times when masturbation may be destructive include:

  1. When it is excessive - eg masturbating several times a day, every day may suggest that you are abusing your sexuality, using sex to meet or try to avoid other needs.
  2. When you repeatedly ignore your partner's sexual needs and masturbate instead.
  3. If you have become ‘addicted' to masturbating to pornography.
  4. When you use it to avoid intimacy.
  5. If your body becomes accustomed to your masturbation technique and can no longer repsond or reach orgasm with your partner's touch. In any of these circumstances sex therapy can help you to identify the causes of this behaviour and resolve them.

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13. How often should I have sex?

There is a huge variation in the preferred frequency of sex or lovemaking. There's often also a discrepancy between how often people want sex and how often they get it. So many other demands of life can get in your way, and use up your energy. The important factor to consider if you are in a relationship is: are you and your partner happy with the quantity and quality of your lovemaking? Many couples have a discrepancy between their levels of interest and this can change over the years of you're in a long term relationship. Stage of life, age and life circumstances can all impact on libido. Some couples enjoy sex every day, others are happy having sex once a month. If there's a big gap between your levels of interest and this causes serious conflict or tension in your relationship, this would be a good reason to seek sex therapy.

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14. What are the basics of great sex?

There are many different definitions of what constitutes great sex! For some people it's sex that is highly erotic, exciting, even dangerous. For other's nothing is better than loving sex that involves closeness and communication. Some prefer the novelty of lots of different partners, others do not want to consider having sex outside of a committed, loving relationship.

For many people finding a loving, lifelong partner is an important life goal. If a relationship is to remain vitally alive and satisfying, making sex enjoyable within this relationship is important. Some people find that sex helps them to feel close to their partner, others do not want sex without closeness. If you and your partner have very different definitions of what is good sex you may want to discuss this with a sex therapist to find ways to bridge the gap between you. If sex is not going well, it can feel like a huge problem. When good sex is occurring then sex fits into place as one of life's pleasures that enhance individual and relationship happiness.

For sex to remain great it's essential to separate out sexual and non-sexual closeness. Make sure that you and your partner can be physically close and affectionate without either of you feeling pressured to have sex, or without any attempt to initiate sex. That way you can get closeness, love and reassurance when that's what you need and save sex for when you're both feeling sexy.

Asking for what you want is another important requirement for great sex, as is accepting that you won't always get it! Partners cannot read your mind so each person needs to take responsibility to get their sexual wants and needs met. Sometimes this may mean meeting them yourself. Giving feedback helps a lot- when someone else is touching you they cannot know what that feels like for you; you need to tell them. If your feedback is negative give it gently and lovingly, with suggestions for what would be better.

Talk together, experiment together, read together, make sure you put time and energy into your sexual relationship (in proportion to all the other important things in your life) and it will reward you with lifelong pleasure and intimacy.

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15. Is it okay to have an affair or include others in our sex life?

It is quite common now for both men and women to have sex with someones(s) else during a committed relationship. This happens for a range of reasons including difficulties sustaining intimacy, lust, boredom and lack of confidence (ie feeling a need to feel wanted, attractive, sexual enough, man or woman enough). If you are in a committed relationship and considering having an affair or sex with anyone else including a sex worker, you should understand that you will inevitably detract from your committed relationship. Even if you manage to keep it a secret you will have to carry that knowledge and keep this part of you separate from your partner; you may also have to carry guilt. You may develop a bond with your lover and then someone, maybe lots of people, are going to get hurt.

Sexual relationships are only as good as you make them. Much dissatisfaction occurs when people hold back because for a lasting good sex life we need to allow emotional connection with our partner. Part of that involves accepting the things about them you would prefer were different. If you are unhappy in your sexual relationship, getting help to address what you can do to improve it is much more likely to meet your needs than looking around for someone else to repeat the same mistakes with.

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16. Does menopause mean I will loose interest in sex?

Menopause does not necessarily lead to a loss of libido so although it is one potential factor it may or may not be an important one as far as sexual interest goes. Post menopausally a woman's production of estrogen lowers and that leads to vaginal and vulval tissue becoming much more sensitive and less elastic. It also means that lubrication doesn't happen naturally anymore, even if highly aroused. So it's important to get an estrogen cream from your GP that is used vaginally twice weekly in order to keep the tissue healthy and elastic enough to have sex painlessly. This is reputed to be 'good' estrogen, so you need have no concerns about the impact on the rest of your body. Also, be sure to use a lubricant for any vulval touching and for intercourse. Some people find saliva is a fine lubricant, others prefer to buy a commercial preparation. Monitor that your vulval and vaginal tissue does not react to whatever you use.

There are many other factors that could contribute to loss of interest in sex including relationship wellbeing, your physical wellbeing, your emotional/ psychological/spiritual wellbeing amongst other things. Sex therapy is like doing a jigsaw puzzle and by talking about your sexual concerns the answers are able to be found.

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17. What is sexual addiction and is it treatable?

When someone's sexual behaviour feels out of control and destructive they often describe themselves as having a sexual addiction. Professionally we talk about compulsive sexual behaviour. Neither description takes away responsibility from the individual to deal with this as until you take responsibility, nothing will change.

Sex therapists often work with sexual addiction, helping an individual to discover what underlies their urges to act sexually in ways they know are going to be destructive for themselves and others they care about. Often we find that sex addicts are sexualizing their needs for love and closeness and that they have been using sex (masturbation, sex workers, partner sex, pornography, internet sex etc.) to soothe and comfort themselves. Usually alternative skills need to be learned to be able to achieve non-sexual intimacy and self-soothing. Boundaries need to be understood. Sometimes past abuse needs to be come to terms with.

Along with this therapeutic work there needs to be a practical focus to identify early warning signs of compulsive behaviour and learn to take responsibility to ensure destructive behaviour cycles are not continued.

Download relevant article for Free: pdf Sexual Addiction Article (0.03MB) 

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18. Is using pornography ok?

This is a topic which causes tension for many couples. Most often there's a gender split of men enjoying and women objecting but not always. If you're in a relationship it's important to realise that you may well both have quite a different view and that both need to be listened to and understood. Of course that's difficult on a topic that generates powerful reactions of disgust, hurt, anger and even rage. Different values need to be explored and explained; as hard as it may be listening with an open mind is essential. No-one is going to happily lay themselves open to rejection and harsh criticism. When you're judgmental you lose an intimate knowing of your partner.

Often a key issue couples discover in discussing this topic openly is the urge to be the centre of your partner's attention, rather than having them masturbating to a picture of someone else. Of course sometimes our urge may be for a private pleasuring of ourselves, not requiring any attention to anyone else. That's valid and not to be seen as destructive. It may or may not involve the use of erotic or pornographic material. What creates problems is if the material is deeply offensive to the partner or masturbation is chosen to such an extent that the partner feels shut out or neglected. For some people, the excitement of viewing pornography becomes ‘addictive' and they get into a habit of viewing it frequently or for long periods of time. Any addictive behaviour is destructive and needs professional help.

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