Monday, July 29, 2013

Virginia Johnson: A Tribute

          Today I am remembering and paying tribute to Virginia Johnson who passed away last week at age 88. I had the honor of training and working at the Masters & Johnson Institute in St. Louis, where Virginia played an important role in my professional development. This woman’s journey from big band singer and twice-divorced mother of two to sex researcher and creator of post-psychoanalytic sex therapy will be forever remembered.  It was Virginia whose charisma convinced many medical residents to volunteer for the lab to become part of the discovery of what really happens in the mind and body during sexual interaction.  It was Virginia who mined the social sciences to incorporate relational and short-term behavioral treatment methods into a new, brief sex therapy treatment model. And it was Virginia who transformed her own childhood experience of relaxation and bonding via facial tracing by her mother to create the foundation of sex therapy, sensate focus – a series of non-sexual touching exercises which allows couples to reconnect, rediscover, and reconstitute their sexuality.  Sensate focus experiences form the basis of sexual healing methods used by many sex therapists today, and is directly attributed to Virginia Johnson’s work.
          What do Marie and Pierre Curie, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Simon and Schuster, and Virginia Johnson and Bill Masters have in common? Synergy. A critical aspect of Virginis’a success was due to synergy, the whole of something being greater than its parts, creating an effect which could not have been produced singly.  Without the pairing of Virginia with Dr, William Masters, the stoic, professionally connected chairman of Washington University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the creation of the Masters & Johnson post analytic short term treatment for sexual distress could not have occurred. Together, like many other famous creative duos, their capabilities coalesced to create something which neither could possibly have achieved on their own. 
Hats off to you, Virginia! And our eternal thanks.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oral Sex & Oral Cancer

Oral sex and oral cancer - Blog Entry #2!

Michael Douglas’ announcement that HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) caused his throat cancer - and that he got HPV from performing oral sex on a woman (cunnilingus) - happened over a month ago. In our fast paced world, this makes it old news. However, the potential health consequences of HPV, which have been with us a while, are concerning enough that they deserve a little more time in the spotlight. 

You can find a number of quick facts about the HPV virus through great online resources (; Here’s my run down on the more important notes:

      • 70% of sexually active adults will have some strand of HPV in their life
      • Did you know there were multiple strands of HPV? Some are harmless and even go away on their own. Worrisome ones cause warts and various cancers.
      • You CAN get STIs (sexually transmitted infections) from oral sex! (Anal sex too for that matter, but that’s a conversation for another day.) This includes HPV.
      • You can protect yourself from passing these infections and diseases by using what’s called “barrier” protection: Before you put your mouth on someone’s privates, be sure to use the following:
        • A condom on a penis
        • A dental dam on a vulva/clitoris/vaginal opening/anus 
What’s a dental dam? Imagine a condom cut in half, laid over someone’s vulva/clitoris/vaginal opening (or anus!). Like condoms, dental dams are most often made of latex, although latex-free versions are available, and they come in a variety of colors and even flavors! About 6 square inches, they lay across the area that will be licked or kissed. They are thin enough that the receiving partner can still feel the sensations of the other’s mouth without the mouth and the genitals/anus having to touch. This is a great way to protect both partners while still experiencing oral sexual pleasure. (It also protects you both from transmitting cold sores, AKA herpes!)

Dental dams are not as widely available as condoms, but they should be! If you can’t find them at your doctor’s office, community health center, or pharmacy, you can order them online or cut a condom in half (lengthwise) and use it! Here are a couple options for online ordering:

Here’s the kicker - when was the last time you heard of someone using a condom or dental dam during oral sex? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. Numerous studies have shown that most people don’t use protection during oral sex. 

If it’s so uncommon, how are we supposed to approach our partners about adding this protective measure to our sex sessions?

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. Requesting that your partner protect your health and their own by using protection during oral sex is one of the most considerate and responsible things you can do.
  2. It’s always helpful to educate your partner. Share Michael’s story (and this blog!) and get them thinking! Explain that you want to protect both your health and theirs. Let them ask questions; if you don’t know the answers, explore the above resources together!
  3. Improve the experience: using flavored lube on both sides of the condom or dental dam will increase the physical sensation for the receiving partner and the taste for the giving partner! They even make warming and tingling lubes - these might be better for the partner receiving oral sex, unless you want your tongue to tingle! 
  4. Get the HPV vaccine. Called “gardasil,” it’s been approved for females and males age 11-26 - ask your doctor or community health clinic if it’s right for you. There are even financial assistance programs to help pay for the cost!
  5. Get tested - unfortunately, an HPV test only exists for females. Called a pap smear, it involves testing cells inside the vagina for the virus. Males find out they have it when the doctors diagnose a virus-caused symptom like warts or cancer.
  6. Stay informed - your sexual health is one of the few things in life you can control. Stay educated, stay healthy, stay safe!

More on Oral Sex, Oral Health and Orogenital Infections:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hello everyone! Blog#1

Greetings all!

As I begin my narrative on the blogosphere I wanted to first give a little information about myself. I hope to be a resource to many and all who are interested in the insights I can provide as a sexologist and certified sex therapist!

My passion is for workshops and other personal interactions (like coaching, therapy, seminars, training, and supervision).

My other passion is sex therapy - helping you and your partner connect (or reconnect) through sensual and sexual intimacy, coaching you as you work through any psychological or physical challenges as a team.

I am now turning more attention to research writing & publication. My goal is to reach a broader audience and initiate professional conversations about what works best for troubled couples & individuals

A little more about my professional life:

I have studied human sexuality for over 30 years, beginning at the renowned Masters and Johnson Institute, where I started studying human sexuality, practiced sex therapy, conducted research, and ran seminar and educational opportunities. 

I am an AASECT certified Sex Therapist and Supervisor; I provide supervision to professionals in training for certification. Recently, I have been working on several publications related to updating current literature on sex therapy techniques and updating. 

For the past 25 years I have practiced couples’ and sex therapy through my own private practice, Intimate Reconnections. I have hosted several couples’ retreats and seminars on sexual intimacy. 

Since 2003 I have been teaching Human Sexuality at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. I also visit various organizations, communities, and educational institutes around the country lecturing on sexuality topics.

I hope this blog can be a source of inspiration, exploration, and education. Please contact me with any suggestions or questions!

For more information about me, please visit my site: