SEXPLAIN'S ELLEN KIELY WENT to meet EVA NOGALES, A LIVERPOOL-BASED SEX THERAPIST.
"Sex therapy is a lot about sex education" Eva tells me as soon as we sit down to talk. Eva Nogales has been a sex therapist for three years, after studying for a degree in Psychology and then a masters in Sexology. She works primarily in Liverpool but sees clients from around the world. She has agreed to meet me because of her passion for good quality sex education.
HI EVA! SO TELL US, WHAT IS SEX THERAPY?
“During sex therapy we basically create a healthy model of sexuality where we connect our heart, brain, skin and the world. In the sessions there is a lot of unlearning, we learn, but mostly we unlearn. We explore emotions. We explore the deep root cause of any difficulties. We become very reflective, experts in spotting myths and challenging what society wants us to believe. Therapy is not just about talking and reflecting, is also about experiencing, so clients will also work with their bodies at home between sessions".
AND WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MYTHS ABOUT SEX?
Challenging myths around sex is not only a huge part of sex education in the classroom, but also in the therapy room.
For Eva one of the biggest myths is that sex is ‘natural’.
"Think of penetration as eating and sex as cooking. Eating is natural, we have the reflex of chewing and swallowing, we know how to do it; all the animals know how to eat. But cooking is not natural, it’s something that you learn. If you want to enjoy a meal, you need to know what ingredients to mix or someone needs to cook it for you. Sex is the same. The reproductive function (penetration) of sex is natural, but the erotic function is learned, we have to learn how to do it, and unfortunately we can learn things incorrectly. If we think that sex is natural and everyone knows instinctively how to do it, we feel terrible when we have difficulties, as if we were unnatural, inadequate, broken.”
Another myth that Eva wants to challenge is that real sex is penetration and the rest is secondary “we are missing the point of sex, why are we having sex? Why don't we take the 'fore' out of the 'foreplay'? Thinking that intercourse is the only kind of valid sex is a very reductionist way of experiencing your sexuality and will eventually bring difficulties to your sex life. Again, we are confusing the reproductive function with the erotic function”.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN REASONS PEOPLE COME TO YOU FOR SEX THERAPY?
"I’m totally amazed how every new client is different’ Eva says. 'Lately I’m having many people with loss of desire, or people in relationships with mismatched desires, people not wanting sex for totally different reasons". Eva is quick to add that this applies to men just as much as women. "If you read old books of sexology, you would see sections about lack of desire in women and then maybe a small section on lack of desire in men. And that is actually part of another myth, that men want sex all the time, no matter what, they don't have conditions and never experience lack of desire, or at least not as much as women. But yeah, I actually see both men and women, maybe even more men".
“I would say that another main reason people contact me is because of issues related with performance anxiety in men. From men in their 20s to men in their 70s ".
How Eva works with an individual will be specific to their needs but she wants them to know that they have sexual rights.
"I want them to become sex positive people, experts in assertiveness and consent. If you’re not assertive in sex, you won't be able to engage in consensual sex and you will be having sex that you don’t really like or want. Consent is beyond the mainstream yes-no, that simplification is part of the problem”. Eva gives some examples of this. "Sometimes we engage in sexual interactions, not realising that we’re not practising consent with ourselves. For example, when you have sex because you want to be accepted but you don’t really want to, or when you do something because it’s what you think the other person’s expecting".
WHAT DOES SEXUAL ASSERTIVENESS MEAN IN PRACTICE?
"Being able to say yes and no. Being able to decide this is what I want, or this is what I don’t want. Knowing that you can engage sexually and you can stop whenever you feel like. Understanding that your pleasure is as important as the other person’s pleasure, that you’re not more important than the other but you’re not less important than the other."
Being assertive is also about being able to communicate what you do want. "As long as it is consensual between the people involved it’s okay to want things out of the norm".
FINALLY, WHAT IS THE KEY TO A GOOD SEX LIFE?
It’s not about sex tips, techniques or exciting positions. “It's about being able to listen (verbal and non verbal) and empathise. The ability to tune in with your lover and see whether they are actually enjoying it or not. The ability to let go and to trust. A degree of self-confidence helps, of course."
“It seems nowadays that the only way to be sexually healthy is having sex, the more the better, but actually having a good sex life is more about having the right to choose, even if what you choose is not engaging sexually with anyone, ever." There is a difference between not wanting to have sex because of fear, shame, or trauma, and making a free choice not to have sex because 'I don’t want to. I’m not interested'.
“That’s also sex positive.”