With toys and porn at our disposal, we're increasingly reliant on artificial stimulation to get ourselves off. Here, sex therapist Janet Eccles Crompton helps two writers get back to basics for a sex refresher...
GARETH MAY, 33
‘Porn is the easy option’
‘I’ll admit it. I’m a porn geek. If I’m ever on Mastermind it will be my specialist subject. Over the years porn has taught me a lot – from the virtues of dirty talk to the sartorial faux pas of white socks – but it’s also taken a lot, too. I’ve been in relationships where I’ve passed up morning sex, with all its lazy-limbed awkwardness, for a sneaky peek at Pornhub once the front door clicks shut. It’s the easy option – and one which I am increasingly taking, passing up my physical need for sexual stimulation with human beings (with wonky teeth and mood swings) for a fix in Porno Land.
Could a sex therapist’s programme save my saucy soul? The rules were simple: no porn, no sex or masturbation, lots of exercise and self-care. I was also asked to keep a journal, chronicling those moments when I had the urge to go looking for smut. By day three I recognized the triggers of my porn-watching habits – a combination of loneliness, work-related frustration and raging horn – and subsequently rather than give into hard-core afternoon viewing, I instead stored that energy up, kept tabs on it, and distributed it elsewhere. On day four I was finally allowed to masturbate. Wahoo! No wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am deed either. I was required to soothingly get myself aroused, control that arousal and allow the moment to build. As a result, I had one of the best orgasms I’ve had in a long time.
By the end of the week, I understood my sexual self better than I have done in years. You know when you just snack on biscuits all day and don’t sit down for a proper meal? That’s my sex life. Porn is endless Hobnobs when what I really need is the comfort of cottage pie. It doesn’t offer intimacy, it offers escapism and that’s OK, sometimes. But when it replaces real sex with real people (with real boobs!) it’s time to shut the laptop and walk away.’
REBECCA REID, 26
‘I didn’t miss my vibrator at all’
‘Like a lot of women, I struggle to orgasm from penetrative sex. But that changed a couple of years ago when I discovered the joy of bullet vibrators. Suddenly I could slip this miracle toy between me and my partner and bam: mutual synchronized orgasms. I felt like I’d learned the secret to brilliant sex, and suddenly I was enjoying penetration just as much as my partner was. But when my partner and I went on holiday recently, sans vibrator, worryingly I missed the extra buzz. So when we were offered help to recapture sexual bliss without toys, I was curious.
Janet asked my partner and I to each speak for five straight minutes about sex, our relationship and any minor irritations. Then we had to separate for half an hour before we came back together to discuss, which stopped any knee-jerk reactions. It was probably the most useful aspect of the programme. It forced us to contribute equally (rather than me talking and him listening). It’s a tactic that we’ve continued using since, and one I’d recommend.
The programme’s sexual aspect involved three massage sessions over three days. The massage meant having access to your partner’s body, and being allowed to touch them however you wanted to. My partner surprised me when he chose to rub my stomach – my least favourite area – but the fact he wanted to touch me there stripped away some of my insecurity about it.
In the first massage we weren’t allowed to touch each other’s genitals, in the second we could touch but couldn’t orgasm, and in the third we were allowed to orgasm as much as we wanted. And after a week of foreplay – trust me when I say we did – the programme reminded me how fun it can be to touch your partner without a goal. And the “back-to-basics” approach was so successful, I didn’t miss my vibrator at all.’