Nice Girls Do, Says Expert Irene Kassorla, Whose New Best-Seller Tells Them How
How do women rob themselves of sexual pleasure?
By remaining prisoners of their upbringing. Most girls are raised on a diet of myth and dogma. Terrible things are pounded into their heads: "Boys won't respect you if you say yes...They'll never marry you if you do...It isn't feminine to have sexual feelings or, perish the thought, express them." Ironically, it's often those parents who care the most about protecting their children who do the most damage. They overteach and overcriticize, and thereby rob their daughters of their birthright.
Are most sexual problems psychologically based then?
There are no firm statistics, but from my own work and that of several researchers, I would estimate that about 95 percent of sexual dysfunction is rooted in psychological problems.
How far back in childhood can these problems be traced?
Often to the first year of life. In a strictly unconscious way, children have a much richer sexuality than people realize. Studies have shown that even infants in the crib are capable of achieving orgasm. But society too often forces female sexuality underground.
Do male and female sexual desires differ?
The big news is that in basic ways they don't. Of course functionally and anatomically they're different, but in the fetus sexual differentiation doesn't occur until the seventh week. Emotionally, I find that the needs and concerns of men and women are the same.
What are those needs?
Approval, support, cuddling, fondling. Put another way, we're all looking for validation of the child still within us. The skills I teach my patients—the "Pleasure Process," as I call it—help bring out that buried child and release the gift of love in all of us.
Is sex a matter of "skills"?
We've been indoctrinated to believe that only someone who makes a living from sex would want to be skillful at it. Well, baloney! To borrow a quote from the art critic John Ruskin, "When love and skill work together, expect a masterpiece."
Where does your "Pleasure Process" begin?
With hugging. That's all, and don't underestimate it. Other than being fed, being held and touched is probably the most significant interaction that produces the sense of security and comfort. As a therapist, I've noticed that patients who were deprived of physical affection as children are less able to tolerate it and give it as adults and are often prone to sexual dysfunctions. My male patients frequently confide that they're having intercourse more often than they desire to. They admit what they really want is to be hugged and stroked, but they are afraid that asking for it won't be manly. Women too use genital sex as a way of getting the simple cuddling they need.
How much hugging is enough?
I tell couples that I can guarantee them incredible gourmet sex if they will slow down and indulge themselves in pure hugging for just seven days. For 15 minutes each of those seven nights they should undress and silently nestle together in bed. I tell the women, "Be a baby again, feeling cared for. Focus just on your own sensations—maybe a nice feeling in your shoulders, a pleasant tingle in your fingers. No planning, no expecting, just enjoy the sweet closeness." After seven nights—they don't have to be consecutive—the couple is ready for Step Two, which I call "fingertipping."
What is "fingertipping"?
It's running your fingertips over your partner's back with a touch as delicate as a spider's. Again, this should be done for at least 15 minutes over a total of seven nights, with the couple lying on their sides touching each other simultaneously.
Why is touching so important?
Most people don't realize that the skin is the largest organ of the body. Containing over 640,000 sensory receptors, it is also an amazingly sophisticated agent of communication—not just the erogenous zones but every square inch.
What does fingertipping achieve?
It has a hypnotic effect. The easy, rhythmic motions help you regain memory of the first erotic sensations of childhood: being oiled after your bath, being rocked and cradled.
Wouldn't a plain massage do the same?
No. In a massage, one person is the doer, the other the receiver. It's a performance, which is what we're trying to avoid. In fingertipping, the partners share equally in the doing and the receiving, so performance anxieties abate.
What comes next?
Next you add a big freedom: talking to each other. Society allows us to talk about food, beautiful sunsets, cute little babies and so forth in sensuous terms; but about our own bodies? Never. Yet as you learn to unlock your voice, saying whatever comes into your mind, unconscious erotic associations will rise to the surface. Don't worry about feeling foolish or saying illogical things. Anything you say that is positive and keeps the mood happy and sensual is fine. During sex silence isn't golden.
Are most women able to do this?
Many find it difficult, so I prescribe two exercises to help them. One is to sit before a mirror and practice verbalizing statements about your sexual feelings. Another is to repeat out loud, and then write down, every four-letter word you can think of. Then shout them. This may sound silly, but confronting these old "no-nos" is a way of declaring your erotic independence. The effect is contagious.
Guilt is like a traffic jam—it holds everything up. As children we react to parental disapproval by assuming we've done something reprehensible—like enjoying our erotic feeling—and blocking out any remnant of those "naughty" feelings. But the more skilled you become at recalling the past, the more your bedroom will become a kind of erotic playground.
What about memories of traumatic events?
Often patients stumble across shocking incestuous incidents, which they had almost repressed. The only way to break the hold of guilt is to bring the memory to the surface.
Is such a deliberate pace really necessary?
There's instant tea and instant coffee, but instant sexual excitement in women is rare. Usually their bodies don't get turned on until their heads do. Yet most foreplay is genitally oriented. Before a woman is ready for that she needs to be cuddled. She needs to establish a real emotional intimacy with her partner.
When are women ready for what you call the "Loving License"?
After the earlier steps. The Loving License consists of allowing a woman to focus totally on her own erogenous pleasure. Many women will have orgasms in this stage, as their lovers concentrate on pleasing and caressing them. Then follows what I call the Loving Experience, in which the focus turns to the man. This leads, finally, to intercourse, freed of hang-ups and pressure. Here a woman may achieve multiple orgasms, as many as 100 in two hours.
What pitfalls do couples encounter along the way?
They may ask for what they want in a hurtful, critical way instead of in a warm, reassuring way. The reason is that emotional intimacy brings with it a tremendous vulnerability, and sexual intimacy carries an added threat—that of losing ourselves.
Would you explain what you mean by "losing ourselves"?
Fear of loss is buried inside all of us. Anyone can remember, if they try, how good it felt when their mother diapered and kissed them, and how upsetting it was to be put back in the crib and left. In sexual intimacy we achieve a feeling of oneness, so that "me" becomes "we." Although this is an ecstatic experience, it is also threatening to our basic sense of identity. Many people unconsciously try to protect themselves from these threats by quarreling and being critical. Once they see, however, that such behavior only short-changes them in the end, they are able to overcome it.
Is monogamy threatened by this kind of sexual liberation?
Many husbands embarking on the Pleasure Process with their wives worry about that. They fear their spouses will become bar-hopping copulators. Actually, the reverse happens. Women who learn the joys of orgasm with their men want to stay near them because their husbands are the source of their joy.