What was the most important insight I had regards Laura Berman’s ‘Real Sex For Real Women: Intimacy, Pleasure and Sexual Well-being’ (2008).

As I journeyed through Laura Berman’s text, imbued with a hope for enlightenment on the fraught complexities and promise of female-male sexuality, I traversed familiar territory of hurt feelings, trepidation, fear, mistake, regret, guilt, rejection, pressure, acceptance, forbearance, shame, opportunity, joy, excitement, and hope. For contained within were examples of the commonality of faltering human experience, down to the disconcertingly familiar fine detail driven by our inherent human natures, desires and needs, combined with what appears, at first reading, the knowledge with prescriptive do’s and don’ts for couples to able to navigate successfully to sexual fulfilment. This book provides a compass pointing the way to the knowledge of and delightful appreciation of self, body and mind as well as that of the partner. It also shows that communication is the wind in the sails.

Laura Berman’s contribution to the realm of human sexual happiness is to seek to broaden the boundaries, to achieve a more beneficial sustainable sexual experience by having us understand the landscape of the inherent nature of the opposite sex’s sexuality as well as our own, know intimately and delight in the geography of our bodies rejoicing in whatever time period, setting aside time to explore and love the plateaus, flat terrain, valleys, caves and craggy bits. At the same time she cautions awareness of the drivers of emotional stability, the promotion-maintenance of self-esteem of both partners, recognition of the type of relationship framework within which we currently exist, and how we may change the framework energized by increasing effective communication and psychical emotional intimacy. Communication is fundamental to Berman who argues that listening and asking questions underlie all aspects of unlocking a couple’s sexual fulfilment combined with a sense of adventure.

Berman informs us of what most of us experience when communicating with our partners about sexual matters, even if we may be consummate communicators in other domains, and that is making our sexual needs known can be very problematic. Berman discusses the different communication styles of men and women, saying that men seek to solve and provide immediate answers whilst women are reflective. These communication styles mean that both men and women possibly have different expectations and needs, which may lead to emotional distress if not handled sensitively by both partners. Berman suggests that both parties should select an appropriate moment to have these conversations, just through the door may not be appropriate. She emphasizes that it is not about winning, it is about listening empathetically, encouraging one’s partner to express their needs, confirming perception of those needs and responding in a manner which accords with your own needs, taking account of, but not being subverted, by the other partner’s viewpoint.

One of the potential difficult areas of communication relates to mismatched libido. Berman indicates that mismatched libido can lead to one partner feeling pressure, while the other feels neglect: one partner not touching the other for fear of rejection and the other not touching for fear of exciting sexual feelings which will not be satisfied. Libido is not constant, however, common causes of low libido are hormonal disturbances, antidepressants, antihistamines, emotional-stress levels, menopause transition, eating habits and lack of regular exercise. Helpful for resolving what is possibly a highly emotional subject requires being courageous and forthright sharing desires openly seeking alternatives to address differences, actions to increase intimacy – verbalizing what is sexually pleasing foreplay-kissing, bath, candles, walk in the woods; fantasies, new techniques, positions, and possibly guidelines to set times for intimate sexual fun.

While sexuality is so familiar, prescriptive, and obvious in excitement, delight and benefit for our relationships and self, why do we humans continue to find it so difficult to have our sexual needs met in a meaningful way particular to our own needs? If it were only so simple, the questions of surprise regards similarity of fine detail, nature, and perceived simple prescriptive paths would suffice if one is an individual entity whose own perception is all that matters. A sexual relationship demands more than one perception of the sufficiency of any prescriptive path to sexual excitement, happiness, and fulfilment. Though the complexities of cultural imposition combined with personally lived experiences frame the boundaries of the possible, Laura Berman’s text may help some of us navigate the emotional shoals to a happier life where sex becomes an exciting delight, particularly if one follows Laura’s maxim: listen and ask.

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