Episode 13: Sexual Problems


Sex Talk- Episode 12- Sexual Problems

Voice Over: You're listening to Sex Talk. A podcast all about sex. In this episode expect to hear some colourful language and conversations of a sexual nature. You may want to pop on a pair of headphones for some privacy during this podcast.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. Coming up on this episode of Sex Talk.

Sarah: I suffered with vaginismus myself so it's basically the muscles in your vagina that stop you weeing tensing up because your head told it so. I sort of became the therapist that I wish I had.

Peter: If you're in a couple relationship it's really useful to be talking to the other person. Trying to pretend it's not happening, trying to and hoping it will get better is generally not going to work.

Hannah: It's quite dehumanising in a way because you feel treated like an object basically, you're someone that's broken and needs to be fixed for somebody else. Sex talk. Starting a conversation about sex. -

Adele : Hello and welcome to Sex Talk. If you're new to Sex Talk, this is a podcast all about Sex presented by me, Adele Roberts,

Hilary : And me Hilary Ineomo-Marcus

Adele :So, if you've been keeping up with Sex Talk, you will have heard from lots of inspiring people sharing their stories, and sexperts educating us all about sex. If you haven't heard our previous episodes, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can go back through the archive.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. -

Hilary : We live in a world where sex is everywhere, but for many people, sex isn't as easy or as care free as some might think. 1 in 3 people experience sexual problems, and 1 in 5 people say low libido is putting a strain on their relationship.

Adele : Sexual problems can effect anyone, regardless of their age, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Hilary : In this episode we'll be hearing from Hannah, who will be talking about her own experiences with vaginismus.

Adele : We'll also be looking into men's sexual problems, and we'll be hearing from Peter Saddington, a sex therapist for Relate who will be talking from one of their clinics in Derby.

Hilary : We'll also be playing our favourite game, word porn, and Doctor Stuart Flanagan will be busting some more sexual health myths.

Adele : Joining us in the studio now is Sarah Berry. Sarah is a Sex and Relationships Therapist, and is here with us today to talk about women's sexual problems. Welcome to Sex Talk Sarah!

Sarah : Hello pleasure to be here.

Hilary :Hello Sarah.

Sarah : Hello Hilary.

Adele : Sarah could you start by telling us a little bit about the work you do and why you decided to get into this field?

Sarah : Well I work with anything that really comes under the banner of psychosexual relationship issues, so that could be anything from couples issues, the relationship itself or the sex. It can be sexual dysfunctions or problem with libido, problems with climaxing, intimacy, people rowing, people having compulsive sexuality, visiting lots of escorts. I also work with sex offenders, people who've been abused as well so all sides of it really.

Adele : And why did you decide to go into this?

Sarah : Well actually I suffered with vaginismus myself, so it's basically the muscles in the vagina that stop you weeing tensing up because your head told it so. I sort of became the therapist that I wish I'd had.

Hilary :What kind of problems do women usually come to you about?

Sarah : All of the above, but specific to that they would have maybe problems orgasming, maybe problems with intimacy so they might have lots of partners but not really be able to commit to relationships. Vaginismus is big and that's big for me because that's a real speciality, there's also other pain conditions that you can have in sex. Vaginismus is powered by the head, it's your body protecting itself but there are other medical conditions that are chronic pain related or the skin, endometriosis all sorts of things like that and it's being able to have a sex life where there's pain or being able to have a sex life where there's difficulty. Lots of things. I'm waffling sorry, I'm probably not making a lot of sense.

Adele : Not at all! And a lot of people that will be listening to this will be so happy that you exist and you decided to go into this. What sort of help is available for women?

Sarah : There is help but it can be really hard to access it, specifically with vaginismus and pain issues with something like endometriosis which is actually a medical problem which can lead to infertility, it can lead to a lot of pain. It's very hard to get a diagnosis but problems of vaginismus where there is absolutely nothing to see on the vagina at all, it's not like that, but the way to diagnose it is if you put your finger up someone's vagina you might not even get there, they might jump up to the ceiling with tenseness… and that won't always happen in the doctors. Firstly, the woman might not make it there because it might be medical experiments… not experiments… medical examinations that led to a sort of trauma response. They might find it hard to even admit to anybody that they find pain and sex. They might think they're a wimp because it's documented that when you lose your virginity there might be blood, there might be pain, they might think it's part of that. Also when a woman is in the doctors, or a vagina owner is in the doctor's surgery, they feel this is a safe place and they trust the person so they might have a different response to a sexual partner, whether or not they trust them. So diagnosing vaginismus is very difficult. And it's a spectrum as well. So some people nothing is going up there, some people they can get a strap-on or a penis or a toy up there, or a finger, but it's tight and it hurts sometimes. It's sporadic. Some people have secondary vaginismus where they've had sex lots and lots then something changed. Whether it's a traumatic birth, whether they were assaulted, whether they've had changes in their body, early on set menopause or just traditional menopause, something going wrong or a change so very complicated. You found me through the vaginismus network which I'm so overjoyed to be a part of. There's these two amazing women have come into my life, I'm getting emotional, where they're trying to bring vaginismus people together in this forum and we're going to take over the world of vaginismus and anyone who wants to help can come. The idea that we're going to have, like the vulva pain society, we want to have our own smear test guide to help doctors understand that this is a phobia, that this is difficult, it's traumatic, I've had bad smear tests, lots of people have.

Adele : About that actually, on average the people that come and see you and especially the women that come and see you, have they been to see a GP first?

Sarah : Some. As I said endometriosis and other conditions can cause pain in the vagina and getting that out of the way, sort of understanding if it is just vaginismus, vaginismus can happen with other conditions as well. It is ideal that that would happen. I've had people whose GP is their family GP and they can't imagine opening up to that person so maybe going to a different clinic, so yeah going to the GP is really important for any dysfunction.

Hilary: Sarah, we talk a lot about sexual health, and HIV in particular in this podcast. Can a diagnosis of HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases such as genital warts or herpes contribute towards somebody developing a sexual problem?

Sarah : Oh absolutely. Those things can cause pain in themselves but in terms of having anything, whether it's a medical condition or anxiety or depression or something that's going to affect intimacy and trust and that you have to tell someone, all of these things can affect how comfortable you feel, how in the moment, how up for passion you are and all those sorts of things. And obviously at some point you might want to tell your partner, and when do you do that? Or somebody that you're just going to have a fun night with, the sense of shame can be difficult. The sense of feeling that you're dirty and these things define you is absolutely, it's so sad. And being able to understand how to talk, how to get your sentences in order, what do you want to say? So it isn't some big confessional but it can be a dialogue and the other person can ask questions is a better thing.

Hilary :I was just wondering Sarah there are some young people that are listening to this who probably have experienced some of these symptoms that you've mentioned…

Sarah : Of vaginismus?

Hilary : Yeah. But they've never spoken to someone about it or explored what could be the reason behind it. Do you think there is enough being done to raise awareness of this?

Sarah : I think there could be so much more. And it is very prevalent. I think as a nation we feel very open about sex. We've got all sorts of things going on on Channel 4, but I don't think we talk about issues to do with sex that affect everyone. There's a lot of 'ooh look at them', but in terms of issues that can affect anyone, it just isn't looked at. It's a very them and us thing that happens. I didn't know about vaginismus for many years, but we're talking a couple of decades ago before I was diagnosed. I was in my 20s when I was finally diagnosed with it and I think a lot of people are diagnosed quite a bit later because they don't know so I think it is a shame that in sex education things that can go wrong and be troublesome aren't talked about because it is extremely treatable. When people have tried and failed things there's a real sense of helplessness and a real sense of shame intensified, and if we were able to get these things as they develop it would be amazing. I think the thing about sexual dysfunction is it can be a thing that happens in the moment. Maybe you had a sexual experience that was a bit sore or quick, you weren't quite aroused enough, but it can also be contributed from childhood stuff. So it can go way back…

Hilary :And what are some of the treatments that you would say?

Adele : Yeah the work that you do once somebody comes to see you?

Sarah : For vaginismus? So there's a lot written about the insertables, so putting things up you in increasing sizes so that your vagina gets to be able to know that it can take things. The thing about that is it's not stretching the vagina which some people think it is, it's just letting you know it's okay. That's what most people with vaginismus get to find out quickly. There's a lot of other stuff around it to do with trust, to do with accepting something into your body so working on all the therapy stuff around it and talking about it. So sometimes the insertables is enough. Often times a little bit more is needed.

Adele : And other conditions, what sort of work do you do, so say… for men.

Sarah : There is a great book by Bernie Zibagild called the New Male Sexuality I think it's called, it's not very new, I think he was going in the 60s, but there's masturbation exercises in there. So you basically want to know that your erection can go up and down, it's not a case of 'oh my god I've got an erection put it in quickly before it goes', it's being able to take your time in sex. So if you cannot get an erection when you masturbate, some people can but not with a person, some people can't on their own. What you want to do as Bernie writes, is play with your flaccid penis and just get used to it being flaccid and not just a thing that's down there that's not doing anything that you hate, so get used to it. When you find out ways of getting it up, watching something stimulating or it could just be enjoying the touch. When you're able to get it up to a certain degree let it go down again. Then up, then down then up. And on the third time you may come. And if you do that three times a week it's not… some people see it as an endurance test, some people come in and say it went well, I'm like what does that mean? It's just being able to do that so that you know it can go up and down.

Adele : Just knowing it's okay to do that as well.

Sarah : And then what you want to do is change hands with it, add lubrication with it, if you have a partner or somebody that you are able to get to then do that for you, you're then building up trust.

Adele : Thank you so much Sarah for talking to us about the important work you're doing. Are you ok to stick around for a little longer?

Sarah : Yes.

Adele : Great. So Sarah, we were wondering if you'd like to indulge in a little bit of word porn?

Sarah : Oh why not, who doesn't want to do that?

Hilary :I'm sniggering because this is my favourite part!

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. Word porn. -

Adele : I feel like Sarah's going to be really good at this. So what we've got is we've got a dictionary of sex, we're going to flick through the pages, you're going to give us a letter and we're going to stop on a word, we're going to read out that word and you have to try and guess what that means.

Sarah : Okay.

Adele : She's up for it, she knows she's going to slay this.

Hilary :A walking sex dictionary, I know you're going to get it.

Sarah : That's no pressure at all.

Adele : Okay so could you give us a letter?

Sarah : S for sausage.

Hilary :Oh yes! You have a great mind.

Sarah : So do you Hilary!

Adele : Okay your word Sarah, Scoptophilia.

Sarah : Scoptophilia. So it's a fetish. Philia. Scop – SCOP?

Adele : What's a Scop?

Sarah : I think I had a good scop the other day… A scop… I'm just thinking of hop scotch.

Adele : Here you go this will give you a clue so optic…

Sarah : Okay something to do with glasses?

Hilary :Something to do with eyes?

Sarah : Something to do with eyes.

Adele : So what could you be looking at that would give you pleasure?

Sarah : The eyes? Doesn't everyone get pleasure from eyes?

Adele : Yeah but there's other bits of the body that are a bit more sexy.

Sarah : Well I can only see your eyes… So eyes… Not the eye of the penis?

Adele : Well it's the condition or act of gaining sexual pleasure from openly looking at sex organs or acts.

Sarah : Nice.

Hilary :Half a point Sarah.

Sarah : Thank you.

  • -- Voice Over: Word porn. -

Adele: Ok, now we've got that out of system back to today's talking point, sexual problems. Sarah, you spoke before about Vaginismus, and the Vaginismus network.

Hilary: Joining us on the line right now is Hannah, who has received support from the Vaginismus Network herself. Welcome to Sex Talk Hannah!

Hannah : Thank you very much!

Adele : So Hannah, you have been diagnosed with Vaginismus, and have received support from the Vaginismus Network. Let's hear about your journey with the condition.

Hannah : Yeah so I think it's been an on and off condition for me since I was relatively young. I think obviously you find that it's difficult to use tampons and things like that and you know that something's difficult and I think it really came to light in the first relationship that I was in and yeah finding myself unable to have penetrative sex in that relationship.

Hilary :Some people tend to shy away from things like this and don't seek help until sometimes too late. Why did you seek help?

Hannah : So I went to my GP about 6 months into that first relationship, so that wasn't the best experience because my GP basically said to me the whole thing is supposed to hurt the first time, just go and have a glass of wine and it will be fine… and that was the start of quite a long treatment journey so I think for me I kind of had the issue that my heart wasn't really in the treatment at first, I was under a lot of pressure from my partner to go through the treatment and so it wasn't necessarily coming from me so I was given eventually after a lot of pestering going back to doctors and doing my own research online with some dilaters which are basically plastic cone shaped tools and they gradually increase in size and you use them to train your vagina to accept penetration, so I got those and was using them half-heartedly in this difficult situation with my boyfriend and it wasn't really until I broke up with him and decided to do the treatment for myself and not for him that I could move forward and complete the treatment, so it's been a long path.

Adele : So you mentioned there that your boyfriend initially encouraged you to seek help. After you split up with him why do you think it was easier for you to deal with it on your own? Was it that he didn't quite understand?

Hannah : Yeah. I think it is really difficult for a lot of partners of people with vaginismus to understand what's going on. I think the difficulty that we had is with my ex-boyfriend he would always bring our relationship back to the fact that we couldn't have penetrative sex and he behaved like that was something owed to him and all that mattered in the end of the relationship was whether you could have penetrative sex, and that's quite dehumanising in a way because you feel treated like an object, or someone that's broken and needs to be fixed for somebody else, and I think that having a partner who's really pressuring you into doing the treatment instead of thinking about you as a whole person who might find the treatment difficult and needs to be supported rather than pressured was really difficult. It's not exactly a great motivator to do the treatment as well if it's coming from such a negative place, so when I broke up with him I felt ready to do the treatment for myself and that was a good motivator.

Hilary :Going into a new relationship after your ex-boyfriend, had you disclosed that information to him? How do you have that conversation – or don't you have the conversation at all?

Hannah : Yeah it was really difficult and I think I was thinking two things. I was nervous about disclosing the reasons behind having the condition and stuff like that, and also thinking I don't know how long I'm going to have this for or if I'm every going to complete the treatment and if I'm ever going to have penetrative sex, so that was a really difficult thing and luckily he was really understanding and supportive and I wrote it all down because I would have forgotten what I wanted to say and stuff like that and he was really good about taking it all on my terms, not pressuring me to go through the treatment faster than I needed to go through it so that was really good.

Adele : Out of all the support you've received it's good to know you've found happier times. What's been the most useful?

Hannah : I think for me actually the most useful thing was finding other people through the network that had come out the other side of it and had completed the treatment and been able to have penetrative sex because there's so little information out there that I really didn't know that was a possibility at all. I didn't know it was possible to recover and have pleasurable sexual experiences after vaginismus so meeting people was really, really fantastic. I know it's something I could look towards as a realistic goal for me as well.

Adele : Well thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. I think you will be bringing comfort to a lot of people that are suffering from the same thing. Maybe the bit that they're waiting for you to talk about, the question would be how long did it take for the treatment to work for you?

Hannah : The really important thing to remember is it's going to take as long as it takes for you and that's fine, that is the time that it's going to take, it's nobody else's business how long you'll take, you'll take the time that you need. For me in total I'd been in treatment for about 4 years but including the time that I was in a really difficult toxic situation with my boyfriend when the treatment was never going to work, so I think I really felt ready and I started using the dilators consistently and felt really motivated and felt really well supported by the people around me it took about 5 or 6 months to finish the treatment.

Hilary :Hannah can I ask when it comes to treatment with things some people have relapse, is there such a thing with this condition?

Hannah : There's not enough research. We don't know much about relapse or how often in happens and there needs to be more research in this area I guess.

Adele: We're joined in the studio today by Sex and Relationships therapist, Sarah Berry, do you have any questions you wanted to ask Sarah?

Hannah : Hi Sarah!

Sarah : Hi Hannah! Well done for saying such an informative wonderful call, you're very brave. I think on the thing of relapse the idea that someone is better and the idea that when someone is better their vagina is always going to be available for them to have sex whenever they want, some people will always have to bear in mind, they might have to check with a finger or a dilator if their vagina's relaxed and the more you welcome in the idea that sometimes it might not be, the easier it is to be with it so it's a management of it. I think the more you accept that your vagina is linked to your head and like a hiccup, sometimes it might be interrupted, the more you can then work with it and the less the vagina will be the nemesis so it is really understanding the conditions and understanding sometimes when it might not work. So if it does not happen it doesn't mean that you're then going to have to go through four years of therapy again. You've already got four years of experience, of knowing what to throw at your vagina and your relationship and your life. And it might just be that you're stressed, it might not be vagina related.

Hannah : Thank you I think that's really good advice and I think as well one thing that I've definitely learned is so many people have really wonderful fulfilling sex lives that don't involve penetrative sex at all and there are so many different ways to experience pleasure that don't involve penetration, and in a way that's been the experience of having the condition, it's opened up and given me more knowledge of all the different always there are to experience pleasure in that area and that's another thing that makes me feel less worried if things feel a bit painful or tight you know it's not the be all and end all.

Sarah : You will never take your sex life for granted as so many people do so it's always going to be a wonderful happy event… or a bit crap but it's okay but there is help out there and the network will hopefully help people, partners, their friends, to really understand what's going on so it can be discussed.

Hilary :And Hannah I just want to say on the point of advice for someone who's suffered yourself and overcome it, do you have any advice for somebody who's suffering with vaginismus and how they can go about getting help?

Hannah : Yeah. Don't suffer in silence. It's very much possible to fulfil the goals that you want to fill in relation to your sex life and to have a pleasurable sex life with penetrative sex if that's what you want, definitely don't be afraid to go and talk to your doctor and there are lots of good resources online about how to talk to your doctor and how to get them to help you to access the support you might want to access and I think also partners are an important part of the treatment and everything like that so it's important to talk to your partner and make sure they're being supportive and obviously acknowledge that it's a difficult thing.

Adele: I'm sure you have a lot to say on partners and how they can support people.

Hannah : I think even if it is difficult to be in a relationship with someone with vaginismus to make sure you don't make the person with vaginismus feel like that, because at the end of the day they're as disappointed as you, and trying to find that balance between being supportive but not pressuring and being respectful of boundaries and just that reassurance that you can be there for that person and support them through their treatment.

Adele : Wonderful. Hannah, you have been amazing, thank you so much for coming onto Sex Talk today and for talking so openly with us about Vaginismus and I'm sure you've helped a lot of people listening today.

Hannah : Thank you.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. –

Adele : Sarah how can people get in contact with you please?

Sarah : Through my website www.sarahberrytherapy.co.uk.

Hilary :Fantastic Sarah. We're wondering if you'd be able to come back on the podcast in the future to be our agony aunt?

Sarah : I would adore that.

Hilary :We've got Dr Stuart and now we're got super super Ms Berry.

Adele : We'll feed you sweets when you come back.

Sarah : I love sweets. I'll do most things for sweets, don't broadcast that… Or do…

Adele : So if you've got any questions you'd like answering about sex email us at talk@sextalk.radio.

Hilary: You can also find use on Twitter, we're @SexTalkRadioUK and we're on Facebook as SexTalkPodcast – all one word!

Adele : Sarah, thank you again for coming in and joining us on Sex Talk today. You've been an amazing guest! We'll see you again soon for our new Agony Aunt feature!

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. Starting a conversation about sex. -

Hilary : We mentioned earlier in the episode that sexual problems affect 26% of men in the UK but did you know that over half of men with erectile dysfunction will ignore the problem rather than seek help?

Adele : No. So over half of men ignore the problem? Is that because it's not obvious, they think it's natural to them, or do you think it's something they're ashamed of?

Hilary :I think it's more the shame, probably not knowing how to go about seeking help mainly.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk with your hosts Adele and Hilary. -

Adele : Peter Saddington is a sex therapist who works for the charity Relate, the UK's largest provider of relationship support. He is based in one of their centres in Derby.

Hilary: We're going to hand over to Peter now to take us round the centre and talk about the different sexual problems which men face.

Peter : My name's Peter Saddington, I'm a councillor and therapist working in the centre and I offer counselling for families, couples, as well as sex therapy. Currently in this centre we have lots of adult councillors but we also have a number of sex therapists. I've been a sex therapist for about 12 years now I think it is, and so I work with couples or individuals coming to talk about sexual difficulties and today I'm going to focus much more on difficulties that might affect men rather than women per say.

Sexual difficulties might have a significant impact on our role and our identity. What I notice is that men, if they do have a sexual difficulty or a sexual dysfunction, it can have an impact on how they see themselves as men. If we're offering sex therapy then we're looking at a psychological intervention as opposed to a physiological, looking at it as a physical thing that's going on. There can be real physical reasons why somebody's got a sexual dysfunction so the first appointment is always an assessment and we're looking really to establish two key things. One, is it a sexual problem? And two is the relationship in a good enough place to undertake therapy? So if the couple relationship is under pressure or there are difficulties there, we'd say get the relationship so it's stabilised before approaching the sexual problems.

At Relate the sexual problems, dysfunctions that we look at for men specifically is problems with erections, either getting them or maintaining them. Problems with ejaculation, so a guy that ejaculates too quickly, it used to be called premature ejaculation. Or inability to ejaculate, not being able to ejaculate during sexual intercourse or not being able to ejaculate at all. We look at loss of libido and the other one that we will look at is pain. Painful sex is something that men as well as women can experience too. After we have an assessment we see each individual on their own. It's the opportunity to say whether we think therapy is going to work, whether it's appropriate to do, and that's where we might be talking about the need for having blood tests rather than just thinking about therapy on its own. Within the penis the veins are smaller than anywhere else in the body. If you have got a heart problem then it's going to show up first of all in the quality of your erection so it could be the forerunner, the early signs that you've got heart problems, so we'd always be wanting to get a health check associated with that. If it's loss of libido we also are thinking about thyroid problems, stress, depression, or lack of testosterone. If it's associated with pain then we might be talking about the need for a check on whether circumcision is important or whether it's psychosomatic – it's something that you get worried about and therefore you feel that you've got those symptoms or you imagine you've got that pain, or whether it's real pain and if so it's looking to see what the cause of that's going to be.

So men naturally produce testosterone every day and there should be a certain percentage of that testosterone that's available to be used as your libido, but one of the drawbacks about working hard, working long hours and stress is that your testosterone rather than being used for your libido can be used by your body to cope with stress and so sometimes what we're noticing is men have actually got high enough levels of testosterone but because you're coping with stress your body is using the testosterone to manage your stress levels. Equally an increasing proportion of the population are experiencing depression and depression too has an impact on libido and going to the GP and talking about feeling low and getting it checked out to see whether they have got depression might have a significant difference in their sexual relationship and their sexual dysfunction. But I guess what we start noticing is when sex doesn't work in the way you anticipate it should, for many men anxiety starts creeping in. Our biggest sexual organ is our brain so if everything's as it should be then the brain sends out signals and what happens is you get blood pumping through to your penis and you get a good erection. If you become anxious, if you start worrying about whether it's going to work, that anxiety releases a different chemical in the brain and it's a bit like radio signals. The anxiety starts creating static or problems in the signal so the signal doesn't get through so clearly, so of course you don't get strong signals saying your body's turned on so you don't get the blood rush down in the way that it should do, or it's a half-hearted attempt and so the very thing that you dread, or you suspect's going to happen starts happening, so learning to understand anxiety and how to manage it is part of some of the work that we do.

When somebody's been experiencing a problem sexually I guess the first thing I would start encouraging him to do is to pay a bit more attention to it. Rather than ignore it or avoid it, start paying attention. Work out how often you're noticing the problem, what it is specifically that the problem's about so that if the problem continues and you do need to go and see the GP or you are going to see a therapist you've got specific information to talk through. If you're in a couple relationship, it's really useful to be talking to the other person. Trying to pretend it's not happening, trying to hope it will get better is generally not going to work. I really encourage you to do something about it. Do go and seek help. That's what therapy's about, the people are trained to work specifically in this area and what I will do, what they will do, is help you to feel comfortable about the whole subject so that you can talk about things.

One of the things to do is to phone your nearest Relate centre. You can find it on the internet. You can search and there's a website, the Relate national one which will give you information, and in fact on there there's some really useful tips and suggestions about how to rekindle your sexual relationship. One way in which some couples or individuals approach sex therapy is they can't make it to the centre at the times when the therapists are there or there's a struggle about how they can attend, so it is worth thinking that certainly for most Relate centres doing a session by phone, doing all your sessions by phone, or Zoom or Skype is another possibility. Don't just think it has to be face to face, do remember there are other options in which you can do it.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. Starting a conversation about sex. -

Hilary: Erectile dysfunction in men, as Peter said there, is connected to men being stressed and that takes a lot of testosterone and therefore you can't perform in the bedroom. I think a lot of that is true.

Adele : I think the unfortunate thing about stress is you don't always know you have it and then it will show itself in certain ways that you can't relate back to stress, so erectile dysfunction, a guy might think that's totally something else, like maybe he thinks he's not attracted to his partner anymore and might not realise where it's coming from and that's the really tough thing about this, so it's good that people like Peter exist so that these men can get guidance on what the problems are, but also I think it's harder for men to seek help. There must be so many men that are suffering like this but not realising that stress could be the problem and it makes me so sad to think that men will think that it's a weakness or a negative thing when really it's just…

Hilary :And I think a man would rather talk to their mates about having an STI rather than talk about having erectile dysfunction.

Adele : Wow. After hearing Peter speak, be honest with me, if you had a problem, because these problems can come at any time in life, would you seek help now?

Hilary :Absolutely. Absolutely. It does a lot for your emotional, physical well-being to get help and seek help.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. -

Hilary :Thank you so much to this episode's guests, Peter, Sarah and Hannah, for talking about the problems that many people deal with.

Adele: Unfortunately we're nearly out of time today. But before we go, we've got another myth for our resident sexual health expert Dr Stuart Flanagan.

  • -- Voice Over: Sex talk. Myth busters.

Hilary :As always I'm joined by sexual health and HIV specialist Dr Stuart Flannagan. Welcome back to sex talk Dr Stuart.

Dr Stuart : Hi Hilary, you're going to test the limits of my knowledge I can feel it.

Hilary :Absolutely and are you ready to tackle another myth?

Dr Stuart : I'm ready. I'm ready, I'm pumped! Go for it.

Hilary :Fantastic, so actually this one is one of my favourites and this episode's myth is, on average sexual intercourse lasts about 20 minutes, and it's caused quite a few chuckles when I asked the public when I asked the public whether they thought this was true or false.

Hilary: On average sexual intercourse lasts about 20 minutes. True or false? And I'm not asking from your own experience here.


Hilary :At least you were honest.



I'd probably say true on that.

Hilary :Is that from experience?

Depending on the situation, sometimes it's been a lot longer and sometimes it's been a lot less.

Probably false.



Hilary :Sorry so many giggles in that one as you can imagine it was actually one of my favourites, but overall they were honest, Adele what do you think?

Adele : Is this male or female?

Hilary :Both.

Adele : Adding them together okay… it's got to be false, 20 minutes? I wish!

Hilary :Right Dr Stuart what's the answer to this one, true or false.

Dr Stuart : So the answer as far as we know is false. And to explain that I have to get a little bit graphic actually because the best study that we have suggests that the most common time from the start of vaginal penetration until male ejaculation is about 5 minutes.

Hilary :Yeah that's about right.

Dr Stuart : So we only really have figures for heterosexual sex, and if you're defining sex as the time of penetration until sex ends which is ejaculation or male ejaculation then yeah it's about 5 minutes and the study involved about 500 heterosexual couples, a lot of stopwatches, a lot of people watching curiously, and that's what they found. About 5 minutes was the average but we know that what our expectation is and what our experience is very different and it can be very different for every single couple and every time they have sex but yeah that's what the studies say so maybe if you want to know for sure we have to do a few more studies.

Hilary :If you want to know for sure get a stop watch. Thank you for putting that myth to bed Dr Stuart.

  • -- Voice Over: Myth busters, with Dr Stuart Flanagan. -

Adele : Unfortunately that's all we've got time for on this edition of Sex Talk. If you have been effected by any of the issues discussed in this programme, you can contact Relate by going to their website www.relate.org.uk where you can find your nearest relate centre, and use their live chat facility.

Hilary :You can join the Vaginismus network by going to www.thevaginismusnetwork.com and if you'd like to speak to Sarah Berry, her website is www.sarahberrytherapy.co.uk

Adele: It's always best to go to your GP as your first port of call, to make sure there isn't an underlying medical issue behind your sexual problem. You can visit www.nhs.co.uk to find services in your area.

Hilary : Don't forget to subscribe to our podcast to keep up to date with the latest episodes, and to follow us on Twitter, we're @sextalkradiouk

Adele : You can join in the conversation using #SexTalkPod

Hilary : We'll be back in the next episode where we'll be talking about what life is like in 2018 for a gay black man

Phil: Before I came out there was all stereotypes about how I was supposed to be this hyper masculine, angry, aggressive thug, but then once I came out people were expecting me to be extremely feminine. And it's like, why can't I just be me? What's wrong with me?

Adele : Until next time Stay safe

Hilary : And keep talking.

Voice Over : Thanks for listening to sex talk. The conversation doesn't stop here. Search hashtag sex talk pod and keep talking. Sex talk.

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