Sexy Time: Talking About Bad Sex with Chris Donaghue [Interview]

    Posted in Lifestyle

So, in between endless reruns of A-List and RuPaul’s Drag Race, LOGO airs a gem called Bad Sex. Ten people with varying levels of sexual dysfunction all seek help, but unlike most other “tough love” type reality shows, the person from whom they’re receiving therapy is a) sex positive and b) a certified sex therapist. Last week, I had the opportunity to interview Chris Donaghue, star of Bad Sex, and ask him about some of the sexual dysfunctions featured on the show.

CC: What is the premise of Bad Sex?
CD: It’s an exploration of the sex lives of 10 different participants, ranging from every gender, every sexual orientation, every age group. Bi, gay, straight, questioning. From sex addiction to sexual anorexia, love addiction and coming out stories. It’s not a gay show. There are only 2-3 people who are gay. It’s the kind of show that can tap into the heterosexual.

CC: How do you approach your patients?
CD: I’m not gentle, but I’m not penalizing.  You have to oscillate. It’s important to hold these people accountable to some of their bad behavior, but then you have to show up with empathy, and be loving and care-taking around more vulnerable patients.

CC: How do you identify a sex addiction?
CD: We’re at a time — culturally, socially, psychologically — where everyone is wanting to identify out of the norm and classify hypersexual behavior as a sex addiction. It’s kind of shaming some people’s sexuality. You can be hypersexual without it being addiction. Addiction is not about quantity. There’s no magic number. Everyone has an individual comfort level. It’s about the outcome. If your sex life is creating problems in your daily life, it’s a problem. If your sex life is creating shame and guilt, it’s a problem. If it’s impairing, it’s a problem. If you’re feeling confident and there are no negative consequences, it’s great. But, especially for women who enjoy sex, they may be labeled a slut. If you acknowledge that you love sex, and know you’ll be called a slut, you’re not going to carry around protection for fear of being labeled and you’re setting yourself up for negative consequences. The word “slut” needs to be eradicated.

CC: On the flip side, what is sexual anorexia? 
CD: Instead of acting out sexually, it’s a fear and avoidance and discomfort and rejection of sex.  It mirrors food anorexia. Sex anorexics don’t want to consume or talk about sex. There is a difference between a sexual anorexic and a late bloomer. A late bloomer is someone who holds off on sex, but they’re confident in their choice and they can own it and talk about it. Sexual anorexics have anxiety — they don’t want to think about it. It is usually born out of trauma.

CC: What is the most common sexual dysfunction?
CD: If I’m working with couples, disparate sexual desire — one partner wants sex way more than the other. Also, love and sex addiction, which is usually encouraged by the internet in that it is always accessible and confidential. Women and men are cheating online via webcams and sexting. It’s becoming compulsive and impulsive. They get caught up in it to the detriment of a healthy sex life.

CC: How does that happen?
CC: Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder. Sex became more attractive as a way to cope or check out. Their sex isn’t wholesome, healing or pleasure based. They have shame and guilt. They’re not having happy relationships. It happens when people get into a relationship, and they can’t handle another level of intimacy, so they get it taken care of out of the relationship. More men are sex addicts, more women are love addicts — obsessively reading romance novels, watching certain tv shows, starting online relationships, their whole life shrinks to one addiction.

CC: What role does self-esteem play in sexual dysfunction?
CD: Self-esteem is the basis of everything. It’s at the core. Getting more self-esteem is how you start to raise the bar and demand better, and don’t allow unhealthy behaviors or addictions.

CC: How do you start re-building self-esteem?
CD: Isolating problematic behaviors. Take a break and recover. Restructure life. Building a nurturing social circle. Engaging in romantic relationships that feel wholesome or nurturing. Finding a purpose in life.

CC: What is the neurology of sex?
CD: Everything that happens has a neurological aspect. Every change in our behavior creates a change in our brain. Love addiction or sexual anorexia reshapes your brain and you set up your brain to not welcome a relationship or it wants constant stimulation. You have to rewire your brain through changing your behavior.

CC: Why is our culture so sex-negative.
CD: We use words that show/imply embarrassment. We don’t say vagina, we say “down there.” I’m a fan of correct language. It’s okay to talk about sex and sexuality. Get the words out there so people don’t shudder. There’s so much shame in our bodies and our sexuality. Our culture, religion and education dump our issues on us and they teach us which words to use. Using “slut” and “down there,” I have to stop and say “do you mean…?” and don’t shame them.

CC: How do you communicate effectively?
CD: A lot of couples operate from a place of mind-reading. If sex isn’t feeling good or you’re interested in trying other things, tell them. It’s about getting comfortable having a conversation. At first your partner might be awkward, but you have to do it. Coming out is scary and it isn’t just for gay people. You come out over and over again, because your sex life might change. You have to work to express the range of your sexuality. Vocalizing how you feel.  Relax and allow yourself to receive. It’s okay to be self-absorbed. Sex challenges our body esteem. Get comfortable with your body and what it looks like and feels like.

Are you totally obsessed with him yet? A guy on TV promoting healthy, positive, non slut-shamey attitudes toward sex? I am! Catch Bad Sex on LOGO Fridays at 9:00pm. You can also stream the episodes at logotv.com!

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