What is a Sexologist?
Like any ‘ologist’, you are a specialist expert in a particular field. A sexologist is an expert in the field of human sexuality. A sexologist really wears three hats: sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher. A sexologist can be adept at all three, or specialise in at least two of the three areas. I practice in my sexology consultancy, have done sexuality research for many years, and I am continually active in sexuality education. Many sexologists focus on particular areas within the field of human sexuality. My interest areas include adolescent sexuality, female sexuality, passion studies, couple relationships and communication, sexuality and the media, and sexual pop culture and trends.
How long has ‘Sexology’ been around?
Many have never heard of sexology until recently. In the post sexual revolution and Viagra age, people are talking about sexuality more openly, and the media has embraced sexuality as both a titillating topic, and forum for stimulating and interesting discussion and debate. In fact, sexology is not new. For centuries, researchers in the fields of science, medicine, law, humanities, sociology, anthropology, psychology and health have been investigating the dynamics, physiology, anatomy, behaviours, desires, and orientations of the personal and social aspects of human sexuality. Once dominated for centuries by both the medical and psychological fields, the vast experiences, motivations and influences of human sexuality are now recognised as a discipline of its own: the study of sexology.
Why do we need sex experts? Isn’t sex the most natural thing in the world?
The greatest myth about sex is that "It’s the most natural thing in the world that needs no study". If all we wanted to have a lifetime of basic bonks like monkeys in the forest, we might not need or want to turn to the experts, but humans are more complex than monkeys, and most people want to know how to spice up their sex life, and so they turn to the experts to learn how, and to answer those niggling worries, big and small, and get advice for their relationship dynamics. In fact, in many ways, sexual behaviour is not just instinct, but learned behaviour. We learn by doing, absolutely, but we also learn from messages we are given as we grow up - messages about what it is to be male, female, express ourselves as straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, androgyne and queer. We absorb values and messages about when to act on our sexual desires, how, why, and with whom. We are all sexual beings, but we are widely variant in our expression of our sexuality. Our sexuality is a fundamental and integral aspect of who we are. To really understand ourselves: why we love and express our sexual selves the way we do, the good, the bad and the ugly, over a lifespan, and how to enhance it, we need experts to research and inform the science of love and lust.
What is sex?
Sex might seem to be the simplest of definitions, but in actuality, the definition of sex is complex. The question of what is sex was brought more recently to the forefront of worldwide public discussion when Bill Clinton famously said, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman", meaning Monica Lewinsky. When revelations of their cigar and other sexual play hit public knowledge, many people began to wonder, well, just what is, sex, then? Is it just penile-vaginal (PV) intercourse? Can one be accused of sexually cheating if they do other activities besides PV sex? Are gay men and lesbians virgins their whole lives then? Is someone who spends years playing with oral sex, toys and mutual masturbation, not engaging in sex? As a result, there is no one publicly acknowledged and agreed upon definition of sex. It is not purely a definition of penetration, by finger, penis or toy, into any specific orifice. As a sexologist, I believe it is important to view sex in a broad perspective. We need to move away from understanding sex within the model of it being a goal-orientated penetrative sport. Rather than think of sex as a pump and thrust marathon than leads to both partners coming, preferably simultaneously, as is the widely believed and perpetuated goal, all sexual behaviours that are pleasurable should be celebrated and indulged in without the necessary goal of intercourse and orgasm. Sex can, and does, include a wide variety of behaviours, from mutual masturbation, to oral sex, sexperimenting, toy play and penetrative intercourse. Sex is about connecting with another sensually and sexually, and is far more than your garden variety PV intercourse.
What is sexy?
So many things are sexy! Sexy is feeling sexy. Feeling confident, loving who you are and loving sharing that with yourself and another. There are more turn-ons in the world than there are people in the world. Some would say sexy is a beautiful smile, Kylie Minogue’s bum, lacy lingerie, a belly laugh, fashion, a furtive glance, shoes, leather, corsets, red lipstick, cooking breakfast in the nude - and so much more - because sexy is what floats your boat! Sexy is feeling your sexuality, indulging in it, showing it, hiding it, teasing it, and sharing it.
Are there global differences about sex?
I get asked this question all the time! I think it’s because I travel a lot and consult on sexuality in many different countries. Yes, I would say there are of course cultural differences when it comes to sex and sexuality. Each country has its own melting pot of ethnicities, values, religions and people. To generalise in a short answer would be difficult, but our sexuality is often a reflection of our history, messages, values and interactions. There are some countries that reserve sexual expression for the private domain only; within relationships, or behind the bedroom door, and other cultures that extrovertly flaunt their sexual prowess openly. Some countries accept the existence of transgender as a valued alternative experience of gender, even celebrating a cultural third gender, while other societies are based strictly on a paradigm of two. Some are openly accepting of gay marriage, while others still regard homosexuality as illegal and unacceptable. Parenting messages about how and when to talk with children about sexuality vary widely also. I am a relativist who celebrates diversity, so I believe most legal expressions of sexual behaviour are valid and valuable (there are a few exceptions to this though, in my view, that have to do with circumcision, and sexual rights). I also get asked, are the French really the best lovers, the English the worst, Australians the most playful, Swedish the most sensual, the Americans the most analytically honest? I can only say that stereotypes don't appear from a vacuum, however most of them were formed far too long ago to hold true today as trusted and applicable generalisations. One of the only constant truths you can always count on is change, and our cultures do change over time. You might consider a country in the Middle East to be sexually conservative, but be aware the Middle East has a long, sensual history that celebrates sex and romance. Many Asian countries that might be considered sexually conservative today also have a long history going back thousands of years, which honoured sexuality in art and life. Some cultures considered progressive and open today were formed on ultra-conservative values. We are who we are, with unique histories and differences that we cherish as part of our identities, and sexual and sensual cultures.
How do I become a Sexologist?
With the current boom of development and interest in sexology, people are increasingly interested in studying sexology, and wanting to become sexologists, sexuality educators, researchers, therapists and forensic sexologists. The advancement of the field of sexology will benefit from the increased accredited training of people who want to work in this field. If you are interested in becoming a sexologist, you must study the spectrum of human sexuality, and attain skills training in sexuality education, training, research and consultation from an accredited, reputable institution, academy or university. As the field of sexology grows, an increasing number of Universities are offering education and training in sexology. To explore the avenues for reputable and legitimate sexology education and training, browse the Educational Opportunities in the Resources section.