Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ian Kerner, Ph.D. GuestBlog: What Every Woman Deserves

Contest!!! One lucky commenting Bella wins a copy of "He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Pleasuring a Man," by Ian Kerner, Ph.D.!
When I stumbled across the books of Ian Kerner, Ph.D. I realized immediately he's a guy who approaches human sexuality the same way romance novelists do: with humor, empathy, and, most important, a deep respect for the importance of sex to a woman's physical and spiritual health.

His books, columns, and advice are backed in solid research, and speak to folks of all ages, who are in all states of relational inimacy. You gotta love a guy who writes a book about sex and relationships that follows the famous writing tome, "Strunk and White." Gives special meaning to the S & W mantra "vigorous and concise."
Bellas, ciao and buongiorno to a man who makes the world a much cooler place to love in...

“Dear Ian,I feel terrible. I frequently find myself fantasizing during sex about men other than my husband. Is that abnormal? I feel so guilty, but I can’t help it: Fantasizing helps me enjoy sex, especially after seven years of being together. Sometimes, in the middle of sex, my husband will ask me what I’m thinking about (I guess he can tell I’m in another world), and then I lie and say I’m not thinking about anything. Should I tell him the truth? Won’t he be hurt? I love my husband, but in a weird way, I feel like I’m cheating on him when I fantasize; so much so that I’m starting to avoid sex.”--Ellen, thirty-six, interior decorator

Relax. You’re not alone. Speaking as a sex therapist and researcher, I can assure you that more than 80 percent of women report that fantasy plays a vital role in enhancing sexual excitement during masturbation or love-making. As a husband, I can also tell you that my wife often has a smile on her face during sex that I’ve come to realize, (and respect), is more about what’s going on in her head than anything to do with me.

Studies have shown, time and again, that people fantasize during sex, and not necessarily about the person they’re with. Not only is it normal, it’s healthy. Sexual fantasy, in and of itself, should never be construed as a sign that your relationship is in trouble or that you’re dissatisfied with your partner. Quite the contrary. Sexual fantasy is an indicator that you’re alive and kicking.

Fantasy, a close cousin of dreaming, allows your brain to be stimulated and entertained so your body can relax. As neuroscientist Mark Solms, a leading expert in the field of sleep-research, explains: “[D]reaming does for the brain what Saturday-morning cartoons do for the kids: It keeps them sufficiently entertained so that the serious players in the household can get needed recovery time. Without such diversion, the brain would be urging us up and out into the world to keep it fully engaged.”

Fantasies, much like dreams, free your brain to explore secret, extraordinary realms without the compunction of practicality, morality, or logic. Flooded by a barrage of images, memories, and thoughts, your body can, basically, kick back and enjoy the show. Trying to block, censor, or edit those images, on the other hand, can lead to self-consciousness and inhibition, or even preclude orgasm altogether.

More importantly, fantasy also helps your mind to shut down, an important component of the female orgasm. A recent study in which male and female brains were scanned during sexual arousal revealed that women virtually fall into a ‘trance’ during orgasm, and that this brain “de-activity” is necessary to female orgasm. The scans showed that in the female orgasm, activity is reduced across all the brain regions--conscious and subconscious.

It’s my personal opinion that the female penchant to fantasize during sex enables the parts of her brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety, and emotion to relax and reduce activity. A big part of female arousal, much more so than men, seems to be deep relaxation and a lack of anxiety. Fantasy helps that happen. Says Dr. Gert Holstege of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, “What this means is that deactivation, letting go of all fear and anxiety, might be the most important thing, even necessary, to have an orgasm.”

So keep fantasizing. Your body and mind are doing what comes naturally in order for you to experience orgasm. Every woman deserves to have a smile on her face during sex.

Michelle asks: What do you think, Bellas? Let's not talk how reading romance "makes our men happy." How do you synthesize the feelings you get reading romance, erotica and erotic romance into your fantasies? How has it affected the way you view your sexual self?
Please visit and listen to his Sirius COSMO Radio show Thursdays at 9 pm (ch 111). You also can read Ian's advice at iVillage, accessible from Romance: B(u)y the Book.


Pamela Clare said...

I LOVE the art on these covers, Michelle.

I also love the message. It seems to me that good sex requires a deep kind of thoughtfulness of both partners toward each other. And, yes, I think she does come first!

I hadn't heard of this author/expert, so thanks for the post!

Stacy~ said...

Ian, can I just say that though we've never met, I love you? LOL. No, seriously, I do. You are telling people, women, that it's okay to fantasize, and that a fantasy doesn't have to be "politically correct" or just about the person you love. I believe women especially need to hear this, and not feel guilty about it. We should revel in them, and be proud that we're sexual beings who are also intelligent and fun and interesting. Fantasies can be sweet and romantic (rose petals and wine) or raw and earthy (Michelle's UATW (up against the wall) is a good example) and neither one of them is wrong. In fact, why not one of each? And then add to the repertoire.

Sorry that this post is so rambling and all over the place - I'm practically on my way out the door but didn't want to miss out on this topic. I love what you're doing for women's sexuality - we need to spread the word :) And remember ladies, no blocking *g*

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Bellas, and thank you again, Ian, for joining us today, for "giving us permission," as it's said, to fantasize.

The women who hang here have heard me hawk your wares, as it were, often, which I do because your work is important and as much fun to read as to practice.

I recommend your books not only because they're well-written and witty and insanely smart, but also because you convey your thoughts with kindness and respect. Those are central to how we connect here.

Reading romance fiction, especially erotic romance, changed my life and totally encouraged me to embrace a sexuality that had been done a number on growing up Catholic. I wish I'd started reading romance in adolescence instead of in my late 30s. I would have learned about healthy intimacy and relationships.

Although I probably wouldn't have been savvy enough to work out the Old School alpha male, forced seduction, etc., fantasies, so I guess I'll bump up that beginning age to early 20s.

I see a lot of things clearly at 41, and one of them is that I love the way my body feels when I read this stuff. I like knowing that whenever I'd like, I can feel turned-on by erotic romance's synthesis of intense sexual imagery and gorgeous, humane intimacy shared by a couple who are in love, or falling and not quite aware.

Like Kate Duffy, Sen Editor at Brava/Kensington said Monday: we've got to know they're in love before the hero/heroine (h/hn) do, or else the sex ain't hot.

Which isn't to say that good erotica w/out humane emotion can't be titillating, but that's a post for later...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, I read in one of Ian's books that women fantasize about situations, men kind of fantasize about an available, great looking chick. Did I get that right?

I wonder, though, if men read romantic fiction and erotic romance if their fantasies would become more complex.

Stats show # of men reading romance fiction increased by more than 15% in the last 2 years, perhaps w/ the increase in romantic suspense and "thrillers," romances w/ Navy Seal and NASCAR heroes, etc.

And GuestBlogger laureat Eloisa James says her novels are assigned to vets w/ PTSD. They're read because they follow the specific form that allows no surprises, are free of violence, and help the men work toward discussing feelings.

Beverly Rae said...

Hi All,

Do you believe men don't fantasize about situations? I think they do. At least my hubby does. Of course, he doesn't mention who the woman is within his fantasy situation, lol. But that's okay with me. After all, I do the same both in and out of bed. When I write, isn't that a form of fantasizing? When in bed, I tend to fantasize about what I've written. Often, I think about my hubby as a character in one of my books.

So I say, "Fantasize away, everyone!"

Beverly Rae -

amy kennedy said...

Michelle has been talking about you forever, Ian, and with good cause. I learned more in one of your chapters than in all of my years having sex. Sad. But happy now. Your books are so knowledgable and non-judgemental, and funny. Thanks.

Fantasy has always been huge for me, unfortunately with the first marriage it was most of my waking life. Now, though, sometimes I fantasize about what my husband is fantasizing about, and by that I do not mean Hallie Berry, I mean I visualize myself as so alluring--

stop laughing Michelle

that he can hardly contain himself.

TMI perhaps, but oh well.

Anonymous said...

Where were these books back in the dark ages when I got married??? It was in the early 70's when women were beginning to shed the old-school thoughts about sex just being what you did to please your husband, but not quite to the "it's okay to fantasize" stage. So the years have been a process of trying to figure out what works without damaging his fragile little ego in the process. I honestly think it's too late to get him to read your book now.

Hell, sometimes I just fantasize that he'd bothered to shave beforehand and I won't have razorburn from hell. LOLOL!


Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I may not have gotten that exactly correct, Bererly, but I couldn't find the passage on a quick sweep and had to get the kids fed and off to school.

My life is one big erotic fantasy, no?

amy kennedy said...

Stacy, you weren't rambling--perfect sense, girl.

Beverly, I'm wondering about the situational fantasy as well--but I think the guy still needs the visual, and maybe that's where Michelle's quote with the cute chick comes in.

Camille, sometimes if you change he'll come along for the ride, yes?

Pamela, I loved what you said about good sex requiring a deep kind of thoughtfullness--beautiful.

Vivi Anna said...

Welcome Ian to RBTB! I think that's interesting about the woman's brain during orgasm...I think I'm going to use that in a book. It's awesome!!

Thanks for being here. Thanks for writing such awesome books. Your wife must be one extremely pleased woman! ;-)

Portia Da Costa said...

Yes, that's intriguing, Ian. That the woman's brain needs to trance during orgasm... Makes perfect sense to me. 'Switch off and feel...' Wasn't that once a lyric in a Frankie Goes to Hollywood song? I think it was 'Welcome to the Pleasuredome'... ah, the happy days of 80s power pop. :)

I might use it in a book too, Vivi! LOL

Vivi Anna said...

Portia!!!!! lOL, now we'll see who can write faster...LOL

Nikki Magennis said...

Hi all. This is fascinating stuff. I'm right into what happens when we get aroused and during orgasm. (Um, it's a hobby...)

I suspected we went a bit brain dead at critical point - now I know for sure! And I'll be looking into these books (- particularly love the title 'be honest, you're not that into him either.' Ha!)

Anybody else think that chasing an orgasm is sometimes like trying to find a word on the tip of your tongue? You need to kind of look the other way and let it happen - perhaps that's what Ian means by fantasies allowing us to turn off our usual thought processes.

Julie in Ohio said...

LOL, Nikki!! I have felt that way, too, but I couldn't put my finger on how to describe it. That was perfect... :o)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Absolutely, Nikki; perfect way to state it. Truly, it's tought, this idea of being in the moment, I think, especially when one is living life, worrying about family, kids, job, boyfriend, etc., all day, with mind spinning all the while. I'd like to know how any women stops that spinning, let alone can do it on a dime, then shift to sensuality mode. I mean, yeah, it can be done and to wicked good ends, but that takes a little time, no?

So, learning we need to de-activate our brains makes it all makes sense, that, "OK, now I have to concentrate on not concentrating" mode that can accompany the shift into orgasm.

I wonder if female orgasm isn't just a bit more precarious than male because of what Ian talks about.

Ease of earth-shattering orgasm in romance fiction is something I always giggle over, because I think it's more fantastic than magnificently well-endowed heroes who last for hours. I mean, those chicks never lose the orgasm. Oh, they're always "straining" for it, it's "surging just out of reach," but they never say, "Oh, Percival, my love, it's not you, but could we just stop and talk a while?" or "really, Dirk, you can keep rubbing me that annoying way all you like, but it just ain't gonna happen unless I think about my UPS guy."

With the caveat that we always say there's no such thing as TMI here at RBtheBlog, I will say that I love my early 40s. The hormones are wild! Coupled with reading romance and erom and erotica? I'm SO flippin thankful to be experiencing life right now, to be feeling my body zinging and taking advantage of that within my relationship.

Portia Da Costa said...

I'm not in a race, Vivi... It'll just turn up sometime, when it seems just the right thing to say... :)

LizbethSelvig said...

Good morning! Such a fantastic topic. I admit I’ve not yet read Ian’s books but I hav’ta say I’m planning to run out and get one -- or all! Having said that, can I brag (oh so very mildly) on my man of many many years (okay, 32) and say that from day one he’s been willing to discuss many of the concepts of fantasizing Ian is talking about, and this has made for a lot of guilt-free nights! We’ve known who each others’ fave fantasy crushes are all along (his current is Ali Larter from Heroes; mine is a cutie Iditarod dog musher named Cym – don’t even try to figure that one out…) Anyhow, neither of us is shy about saying “Wow, he/she could eat crackers in my bed anytime.”

There is a point to that: I know and believe (and am glad!) fantasy is important and, I might add, inevitable, but, in my experience the only way to make it really work in a partnership is to be sure it’s never treated cavalier-ly (is that a word?) or like entitlement. The bottom line is respect. I think Michelle is right – romance novels rarely have the heroine stopping and saying “move that finger,” because the hero always gets it right automatically. Hey, that’s part of the fantasy! In real life, a real life hero is the man who, if it takes you twenty minutes and six moves of the finger some nights (I believed you when you said there’s no such thing as TMI!) he will be there making sure that elusive orgasm happens – he wants it as much as you do.

The sexiest line a man can say is (after it’s been good for you) “wow, that was fun.” And not ask who or what helped him get you there!!

Thanks - I think this has always been such an important subject!!


amy kennedy said...

Nikki, you are so right. The harder we try, the less likely it is to happen.

Michelle, that is part of the fantasy, perfect lover from day one--the one who knows intuitively if I want it rough or sweet today, the one who knows my clitoris is not to be rubbed-out like some damn spot.

Lizees, my husband and I are lucky too, we always feel pretty darned comfortable talking about fantasies and what works sexually.

And Michelle, I am so there with you--I'm in my late forties and it's stronger than ever before--yes and thank you.

LizbethSelvig said...

I'm just over 50 -- see, there are some things about getting a little older that ain't so bad.

amy*skf - yes, lucky you, too!

Oh, yeah, this is something "empty nest syndrome" only enhances too. You don't have to be an example for anyone! And you don't have to shut doors - why is THAT such a turn on?

Julie in Ohio said...

You ladies are giving me ALOT to look forward to. Unfortunately, I seem to have a few years to go yet. :o\

Nikki Magennis said...

Any of you girls read a poem called: 'The Did-you-Come-yets of the Western World'? It's worth looking up. Hilarious.

Oh yes, and the most cringeworthy line that makes me toss (ahem) any book aside? 'And then she came over and over'.

Really? Just like that, huh?

...I'll have whatever she's having...

Michele said...

I read this book in the summer. Loved it and found it incredibly helpful.
Thank you Ian, for writing a book that needed to be written.

As for one of your questions, Michelle, "How has it affected the way you view your sexual self?"

I've touched on that in the past here. Basically, reading romantic/erotica romance helped me accepts myself. Now I'm much more comfortable in not only how I look, but in my feelings towards the sexual part of my relationship. It's healthier, freer and am no willing to "try" something that I've read about in one of the romances. And feel OK about doing do.
Sure, I get that prudish twinge every now and again. Hard to buck over 30 years of parental dire warnings and guilt.

And let's face it, my fantasy life got a HUGE boost from reading some of those scenarios.
A certain Cover Model kinda has a certain charm too. *wink*

I think Ian's "voice" in his books reach many more women than the bland preaching that many books have. I couldn't take Dr. Ruth seriously, but I do with Ian.

Robin L. Rotham said...

Michelle said: I wonder, though, if men read romantic fiction and erotic romance if their fantasies would become more complex.

My husband can sit in front of the computer all day watching amateur porn with the sound off, so my answer to that is: They could hardly get any LESS complex, LOL! I've been reluctant to let my husband read my novels, but after reading Ian's post, I think it's time. I've never really come right out and admitted to him that I fantasize during sex, thinking he might feel inadequate, but of all people, Mr. Robin really ought to understand where I go when I check out during key moments (key hours...days...)

It would be fun to see if he'd go there with me once in a while. (Can you just see a farmer doing a little role-playing? :D)

amy kennedy said...

Robin, if I were a betting woman--I'd say he would go there with you, and more than likely with a smile on his face.

Nikki, me too.

Liz said...

alot more open, and receptive
i have him reading some of my erotic romances now

Ian Kerner said...

Thanks everyone for the fantastic comments -- it was a pleasure to join your community and I look forward to checking back soon -- in the mean time VIVA LA VULVA!