It is extremely uncommon for a person to never encounter a sexual problem at any point in their life. But, due to our widespread cultural silence surrounding honest sexuality, a vast majority of people with sex
ual concerns suffer quietly and shamefully. The sad result is that sexual issue that could have been solved instead fester and turn into more difficult problems. This is an unfortunate downward spiral. But it is not an inevitable outcome. In fact, most sexual issues are solvable—without medical or psychological intervention.
Indeed, one well-known model, Jack Annon’s (1976) PLISSIT model tells us that all but 10 – 20% of sexual problems can be solved without professional assistance, including psychotherapy. In other words, this model says that we don’t need “intensive therapy” (the IT in PLISSIT) to heal sexual concerns. Instead, according to its author, most sexual issues can be alleviated through:
Permission (the P in PLISSIT). Basically, this is simply being told to not be ashamed and instead, if it’s consensual, it’s ok to keep doing whatever one is already doing.
Limited Information (the LI in PLISSIT). This is simply accurate, science-based facts about sex, many of which run counter to common societal myths.
Specific Suggestions (the SS in PLISSIT). This is just as it sounds. Giving people suggestions to enhance their sexual pleasure.
Here are some examples of these types of interventions:
A student revealed to me that she thought something was terribly wrong with her because she liked rough sex, despite identifying as feminist. I told her that this was a viable sexual interest (aka, “permission”). Additional “information” I gave included research finding that people who are interested in “kinky” sex are just as healthy (and in some ways, including openness to new experiences and sexual communication, healthier) than those who engage in “vanilla” sex.
A few days ago, a young man called and asked if he could see me in therapy for premature ejaculation. I asked him under what sexual circumstances (e.g., masturbation, partner sex) and how long it takes him to ejaculate. He told me that he orgasms in a little less than five minutes after putting his penis in his partner’s vagina. I told him that this is well within the normative range, sharing the findings of a study of about 500 couples from five countries: The average time from putting a penis in a vagina until ejaculation is 5.4 minutes. In short, I gave him “information” that alleviated his worries.
When working with women who've never experienced orgasm, I provide "information" on genital anatomy and the fact that only 4 – 15% of women can orgasm from penetration alone, with the remainder needing clitoral stimulation. Follow-up “suggestions” include masturbation, including with a vibrator, given that research shows that that women who use them have easier and more frequent orgasms than those who don't. I also "suggest" learning mindfulness to turn one’s often worried brain off during sex, as well as getting the same type of stimulation with a partner as when alone.
These “suggestions” are all in Becoming Cliterate, which research shows increases orgasm (and lubrication, satisfaction, body-image, and good communication) among women who read it. Such findings (i.e., that sex can be enhanced without therapy and just with information and suggestions) is why, according to one review of the evidence, self-help (e.g., books, videos) can help solve sexual concerns. In fact, one analysis of the research found that those read self-help books end up with about an almost 70 percent increase in their sexual functioning from before to after reading such books.
Given this, below you will find a list of books that I recommend to clients, grouped by sexual concern:
Diminished Sexual Desire in Women:
· Reclaiming Your Sexual Self: How You Can Bring Desire Back Into Your Life. One study found that women who read it increase their desire, as well as some other aspects of sexual functioning.
Mismatched Sexual Desire
Orgasm Issues in Women
· Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women This is an older book, but several studies show that it is effective in increasing orgasm rates
Another book I recommend is Better Sex Through Mindfulness. The author has published several studies on how mindfulness can enhance sex.
I hope this blog has inspired you to check out some of these resources and to make 2021 the year that you make sex more satisfying and even solve some issues that have been worrying you. And, then, if these books don't actually solve the problem or if your concern is more complicated (e.g., recovery from an affair or sexual trauma), go see a certified sex therapist.
2020 was a difficult year for most of us. Let’s make 2021 better, including better sex!