Lovehoney Sex Expert Interview: Dr Jenn Gunsaullus
Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus is a sociologist, sexologist, sex coach, and frequent speaker about sexual consent, healthy relationships, body image, erotic play, sexual health, and mindfulness.
She has presented two TEDx Talks, is a writer on sex and relationships, and a recurring intimacy expert on the San Diego morning news.
Dr. Jenn is also an active philanthropist and the founder of World Sexual Health Day: San Diego and on the executive team for Sex Positive San Diego.
Her In the Den with Dr. Jenn educational video series has 1.5 million hits on YouTube and she is an expert in the documentary on masturbation called Sticky: A (Self) Love Story.
What does it mean for a couple in a committed relationship to have mindful sex?
There are a lot of ways to practice mindful sex with a partner. One is to cultivate presence in the moment when engaged in sexual activities.
This means choosing to focus on your sensations in the moment, both internal and external. And when you're distracted - whether by body image insecurities, performance concerns, or other life priorities - choosing to bring your focus back to noticing your senses.
Having mindful sex can also means noticing "negative" patterns and triggers you have around sexual topics, communication, and intimacy, and cultivating a gentle curiosity about them, instead of shutting down, lashing out, distracting yourself, or numbing from the discomfort.
It's about choosing to stay present with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions, in order to create space for new choices and possibility.
In many ways, mindful sex can help individuals and couples move through blocks to intimacy and communication, and also experience greater pleasure and connection.
How can incorporating toys into the bedroom help strengthen and increase the level of play in a couple's sex life?
It's not unusual for folks to feel some awkwardness or embarrassment around sex toys. So even starting a conversation about them (let alone going to a store or shopping online for them and then trying them!) may feel daunting.
Doing this as a couple, however, and choosing to make it a non-judgmental and fun co-experience, means it has the potential to bring you closer together before you even use the toy!
To enjoy sexual play and creativity, it's important to be able to laugh at yourself and laugh together with your partner. Sex toys are perfect for this because they are called "toys" for a reason!
They are about trying something new, learning new things about yourself and your partner, and being a team in the exploration of pleasure. Cultivating a spirit of laughter and play is important in maintaining a long-term, satisfied sexual relationship.
Tell us about your work around consent. Are there any factors about consent that show up differently inside a relationship that couples should be aware of?
I believe there is a lot of coercion in sexual interactions and that this is considered relatively normal, despite its negative impact.
Sometimes one person in a relationship assumes that they should be able to have sex whenever they want. Sometimes one person feels obligated to engage in sexual activity because their partner wants it.
The only way you're going to know what's going on for each of you is to talk about in an open and safe way.
What are some of your very best practical tips to help couples fully express themselves to each other sexually?
One tip for sexual expression that is really fun is to take one of the free quizzes online about sexual interests.
You and your partner can take the quiz separately, answering a large variety of questions about sexual activities that you may or may not be interested in. Then you can share the results with each other, and see where you overlap.
For many folks, there will be topics and activities that you've never heard of, so it can also be a fun way to learn more about sexual possibilities. One online resource that I particularly like is Mojo Upgrade.
What's your very favorite bedroom advice to give couples?
Talk and laugh and laugh and talk! Sex at its best can be a lot of things - beautiful, loving, procreative, intimate, vulnerable, silly, pleasurable, and fun. But this means that it's more complex than most folks realize.
If you're able to approach sexual intimacy as a fun adventure, then you can better navigate that complexity as a team through whatever ups and downs you may experience (pun intended!).
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