Lovehoney Sex Expert Interview: Dr Jenni Skyler
Jenni Skyler, PhD, LMFT, CST is an AASECT certified sex therapist, board certified sexologist, and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She has been the Director of The Intimacy Institute for sex and relationship therapy in Boulder, Colorado for over nine years. She holds a doctorate in Clinical Sexology and a Master of Education in Counseling Psychology & Marriage and Family Therapy.
Dr. Jenni has been featured in 5280 Health 2014, Top Doctors edition, as well as numerous national publications: HuffPost, Shape Magazine, Women's Health, Men's Health, PopSugar, Buzzfeed, and many more.
She is an expert speaker and workshop presenter locally and nationwide; and has written numerous columns including Sophisticated Sex for The Boulder Weekly; Sexy Shabbos for Boulder Jewish News; Sunday Sex Talk with Dr. Jenni for BuffSecret.com; Sexpress Yourself for Kraze Magazine; and expert advice for SexualHealth.com.
Dr. Jenni is a certified and active member of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). From 2008-2009, she served as a sexual health scholar at the Center of Excellence for Sexual Health (CESH) under the leadership of 16th U.S.Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher, at Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia.
During her time at CESH, Dr. Jenni consulted numerous non-profits on sexuality in the public health sphere, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on healthy sexuality and sexually healthy relationships.
1. What's your very favorite bedroom advice to give couples?
Ensure deep emotional safety. There can be unlimited sexual experimentation opportunities!
2. What do most couples need the most help with in their sex lives and what are the best ways for them to work on it together?
Most couples, especially heterosexual couples, first and foremost need help understanding the differences between how female and male sexuality work - how their own sexuality works and how the other's works.
The biggest issue I've seen in my office - and this is the biggest issue that plagues most couples - is a difference in desire.
There's a lot of psycho-social and biological leeway for this, mostly biological actually, and so just having this deep understanding of each other's sexuality and how it works and how to have empathy and compassion for where you're each at can make finding common ground way easier.
As far as learning about your biology, I'm in the midst of writing a book! A book I like for women that really downloads how women work is called Sex Matters For Women by Foley, Kope, and Sugrue. For men, The Guide to Getting it On by Joannides. He's super thorough, accurate, and funny. It's a good sexuality 101 (and beyond) book for most people that's really comprehensive in a fun way.
3. Tell us more about The Intimacy Institute! What are some common themes that come up with your clients that our readers may be able to relate to that you can help normalize? In this, what's a practical first step in addressing any issue?
We are a psychotherapy institute and we mostly help with relationships and sexuality. Our mission statement is to help all people have permission for pleasure and to optimize their emotional and erotic lives, whether single or in a relationship.
There are four of us on the team and we all do a little bit of something different, but most of us do couples. There are some people that do a little more male sexual health work, female sexual health work, or affairs - we cover the whole gamut of the majority of issues related to relationships and sexuality. We also do workshops, retreats, and speaking events in the community and nationwide. It's fun to promote the message of giving people permission for pleasure and how to get it!
As far as themes, desire discrepancy is real and super common and I think it's a sociological myth that low desire is a problem or should be pathologized. Women tend to have lower desires than men - generally, that is, although not all women. But we just don't run with the same kind of testosterone in our system.
This sentiment is more in general and in long-term relationships. Courtship is its own entity. So I think what's important is just normalizing that they're not broken, nothing's wrong with them, there's nothing necessarily to fix.
If you are in a partnership where you have a partner with a higher desire, how do you find common ground so that you can both feel comfortable, safe, and intimate, and know there's a space for both of you where there's not scarcity or obligation?
The very first step, and this is the very first step I give my couples, is psychoeducation. I educate on the biological differences between men and women. Normalizing why our drives specifically show up the way they show up, how our desires also show up, and the factors that go into each.
Psychoeducation is key because we're a rather sexually illiterate society and without this education, we go into relationships and think we know how to navigate them when we don't.
4. What are some of your very best practical tips to help couples fully express themselves to each other sexually?
Start with extreme ownership and extreme personal accountability. If that's your framework, then you're working with "I" statements, owning what's in the room for you, and what's in your body.
I even have couples practice things like, "Hey, I really want to have sex with you, I'm missing you, there's a part of me thats aroused, but frustrated about it, and a part of me that resents that we haven't had sex in a long time." It's really authentic and comes from a place of sharing all that's going on within and still asking, "Can we connect?"
If you own all of it and you're completely transparent and authentic with everything that's going on, then there's not an elephant in the room energetically that's felt by the other party like, "Hmm, they kind of want to have sex with me, but I kind of feel this resentment in the way they're inviting me!".
Ownership is key in sexual communication.
5. How can incorporating toys into the bedroom help strengthen and increase the level of play in a couple's sex life?
They're an extra entity that allows for creative outlet and just another pathway into pleasure!
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