Friday, October 30, 2009

Let's talk about sex!

I was browsing through a college textbook on Ethics. As I read the Marriage section, I chanced upon this line: "Although much focus is being put on sex, sex is not that important in a happy marriage."

My initial reaction was the same as my beau Alvin's when he read it, a resounding WTF!?! Whoever wrote this book was probably a virgin, or wasn't getting any. Hence the need to justify the lack of sex in that author's life.

How can you even think that the act of lovemaking is not an important aspect in a relationship? Sex IS important. I read somewhere that it helps strengthen the bond between partners. When a man reaches an orgasm, his body produces a hormone of some sort that makes him feel more bonded to his partner. Isn't that a good thing?

In order to prove this incredulous textbook author wrong, I did some research and gathered a few facts that will show that sex is important. We're not just talking about marriage here, but also the overall health of an individual.


"A good sex life is an important part of an individual's overall health," says Mark Schoen, Ph.D., director of sex education for the Sinclair Intimacy Institute. "People who have a good sex life feel better [mentally and physically]."

Sexual activity is 25 percent to 300 percent greater for married couples versus the non-married, depending on age. The 1998 University of Chicago report that compiled available sex research also concluded that intercourse is more frequent among couples in happier marriages.

Strategies for Keeping the Spark Alive

* Treat your partner as if you're dating
* Romance your spouse outside the bedroom
* Plan a date night
* Talk with your partner
* Listen to your partner
* Understand your partner's sexual needs and desires
* Keep physically fit and attractive for your partner
* Maintain perspective on sex as life ebbs and flows
* Resolve any underlying conflicts as they will spillover to the bedroom
* Have fun and engage in foreplay, whether that's kissing, sexual banter or anything else
* Be adventurous and creative in and outside the bedroom
* Exercise, preferably together
* Stop smoking and get your partner to quit
* Watch your weight and cholesterol
* Consider seeking specialized treatment from a specialist if behavioral changes don't work

My thoughts on this: If sex weren't important in a relationship, why would researchers and doctors come up with strategies to keep the spark alive? They wouldn't even bother, nor care if your sex life died.


The Importance of Sex in a Happy Marriage

Within a marriage no other aspect of your lives together is as sacred as your sexual expression. If sexual relations diminish or disappear in a marriage, without an understanding and mutual agreement among the spouses, this is a major danger sign for the marriage.

Within your sexual relationship there is emotional healing to be found for both of you. Healthy sexual expression heals, restores, and energizes. The healing comes when the two of you permit each other to become the most vulnerable and emotionally expressive that each can be. Loving sexual expression is the place where you come together in joy, pleasure, gratitude, humor, and dancing bodies. The smart couple does not allow this sacred space to be assaulted. The partners in a healthy marriage protect this place above all because of its power and healing quality. Sexuality is the glue that holds the couple together when you would prefer to just walk away. Once sexuality is disturbed, emotional healing must occur if the marriage is to continue in an intimate manner.

From, Michelle Weiner-Davis, MSW:

Sex is very important to a marriage. Just ask the one out of every three spouses who's in a marriage where there's a sexual desire gap. That is, one spouse is desperately unhappy because this person isn't having sex nearly as often as he or she would like, and the other wonders, "What's the big deal? It's just sex." But for the spouse yearning for more touch, it is a big deal. Sex isn't just a physical release, it's about feeling wanted, connected and loved.

When this sort of misunderstanding occurs, intimacy on all levels fades. Couples stop spending time together, snuggling on the couch, engaging in meaningful conversation, laughing at each other's jokes. Friendship is replaced by resentment, hostility and a painful distancing. This puts marriages at risk of infidelity and/or divorce. But the good news is that regardless of the reasons for a sexual meltdown ‑- whether it's due to biological, personal or relationship issues ‑- excellent help is available. Anyone wanting a more robust and passionate love life can have it.

From, Dr. Ruth:

I think sex is the glue that holds a relationship together. If one or both partners is sexually frustrated, that's likely to wreak havoc on the relationship, often in ways that the couple doesn't even realize. They may be snapping at each other over other matters when the real conflict stems from problems in the sexual arena. The more discord there is in a relationship, the less likely it is that the couple is going to want to have sex. This in turn establishes a vicious cycle that causes not only the couple's sex life, but also the relationship, to spiral downward.

Another pitfall of an asexual relationship is that all physical contact can eventually cease. Hugs and kisses aren't a substitute for sex, but such physical contact is also a necessary component of a healthy relationship. If two people are acting like roommates, then after a while their reasons for staying together become increasingly questionable. For these reasons, it's vital for couples of any age to be proactive and to keep the fires of passion burning. If their sexual fires become completely extinguished, slowly but surely their relationship will die out too.

Don't get me wrong. Sex isn't the only important thing to consider for a marriage or relationship to work. There are other things like love, understanding, acceptance, support, faith in each other, compromise, etc. But for you to take out sex from the list of important factors that contribute to a happy and satisfying bond is absolutely absurd. To teach this to college students makes it even worse. There are wonders brought about by sex and intimacy. I think it's sad for a person (especially one in a relationship) not to realize this universal truth. Sex that is willingly shared by two people who love each other is magical, it strengthens the bond, it makes your smiles for each other sweeter, your hugs tighter, your laughter more frequent, your outlook more positive, your patience and understanding longer, and generally, your marriage life (or relationship, for those who are not married) better.

Now for those who are still dwelling in caves and think sex is taboo, here's something that might change your mind about it.


10 Surprising Health Benefits of Sex

When you're in the mood, it's a sure bet that the last thing on your mind is boosting your immune system or maintaining a healthy weight. Yet good sex offers those health benefits and more.

That's a surprise to many people, says Joy Davidson, PhD, a New York psychologist and sex therapist. "Of course, sex is everywhere in the media," she says. "But the idea that we are vital, sexual creatures is still looked at in some cases with disgust or in other cases a bit of embarrassment. So to really take a look at how our sexuality adds to our life and enhances our life and our health, both physical and psychological, is eye-opening for many people."

Sex does a body good in a number of ways, according to Davidson and other experts. The benefits aren't just anecdotal or hearsay -- each of these 10 health benefits of sex is backed by scientific scrutiny.

Among the benefits of healthy loving in a relationship:

1. Sex Relieves Stress

A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, according to researchers from Scotland who reported their findings in the journal Biological Psychology. They studied 24 women and 22 men who kept records of their sexual activity. Then the researchers subjected them to stressful situations -- such as speaking in public and doing verbal arithmetic -- and noted their blood pressure response to stress.

Those who had intercourse had better responses to stress than those who engaged in other sexual behaviors or abstained.

Another study published in the same journal found that frequent intercourse was associated with lower diastolic blood pressure in cohabiting participants. Yet other research found a link between partner hugs and lower blood pressure in women.

2. Sex Boosts Immunity

Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections. Scientists at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., took samples of saliva, which contain IgA, from 112 college students who reported the frequency of sex they had.

Those in the "frequent" group -- once or twice a week -- had higher levels of IgA than those in the other three groups -- who reported being abstinent, having sex less than once a week, or having it very often, three or more times weekly.

3. Sex Burns Calories

Thirty minutes of sex burns 85 calories or more. It may not sound like much, but it adds up: 42 half-hour sessions will burn 3,570 calories, more than enough to lose a pound. Doubling up, you could drop that pound in 21 hour-long sessions.

"Sex is a great mode of exercise," says Patti Britton, PhD, a Los Angeles sexologist and president of the American Association of Sexuality Educators and Therapists. It takes work, from both a physical and psychological perspective, to do it well, she says.

4. Sex Improves Cardiovascular Health

While some older folks may worry that the efforts expended during sex could cause a stroke, that's not so, according to researchers from England. In a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, scientists found frequency of sex was not associated with stroke in the 914 men they followed for 20 years.

And the heart health benefits of sex don't end there. The researchers also found that having sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack by half for the men, compared with those who had sex less than once a month.

5. Sex Boosts Self-Esteem

Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex, collected by University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, Mass., although she finds that those who already have self-esteem say they sometimes have sex to feel even better. "One of the reasons people say they have sex is to feel good about themselves," she tells WebMD. "Great sex begins with self-esteem, and it raises it. If the sex is loving, connected, and what you want, it raises it."

6. Sex Improves Intimacy

Having sex and orgasms increases levels of the hormone oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, which helps us bond and build trust. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and the University of North Carolina evaluated 59 premenopausal women before and after warm contact with their husbands and partners ending with hugs. They found that the more contact, the higher the oxytocin levels.

"Oxytocin allows us to feel the urge to nurture and to bond," Britton says.

Higher oxytocin has also been linked with a feeling of generosity. So if you're feeling suddenly more generous toward your partner than usual, credit the love hormone.

7. Sex Reduces Pain

As the hormone oxytocin surges, endorphins increase, and pain declines. So if your headache, arthritis pain, or PMS symptoms seem to improve after sex, you can thank those higher oxytocin levels.

In a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine, 48 volunteers who inhaled oxytocin vapor and then had their fingers pricked lowered their pain threshold by more than half.

8. Sex Reduces Prostate Cancer Risk

Frequent ejaculations, especially in 20-something men, may reduce the risk of prostate cancer later in life, Australian researchers reported in the British Journal of Urology International. When they followed men diagnosed with prostate cancer and those without, they found no association of prostate cancer with the number of sexual partners as the men reached their 30s, 40s, and 50s.

But they found men who had five or more ejaculations weekly while in their 20s reduced their risk of getting prostate cancer later by a third.

Another study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that frequent ejaculations, 21 or more a month, were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men, as well, compared with less frequent ejaculations of four to seven monthly.

9. Sex Strengthens Pelvic Floor Muscles

For women, doing a few pelvic floor muscle exercises known as Kegels during sex offers a couple of benefits. You will enjoy more pleasure, and you'll also strengthen the area and help to minimize the risk of incontinence later in life.

To do a basic Kegel exercise, tighten the muscles of your pelvic floor, as if you're trying to stop the flow of urine. Count to three, then release.

10. Sex Helps You Sleep Better

The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep, according to research.

And getting enough sleep has been linked with a host of other good things, such as maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure. Something to think about, especially if you've been wondering why your guy can be active one minute and snoring the next.

See where I'm getting at? Sex is an amazing thing. And a good, healthy sex life definitely makes a difference among couples in a relationship or marriage. So lights off, drapes down, lock the doors and unplug the phone. Let the lovemaking begin! Here's to a great sex life and a happier, healthier you! Cheers!



My doctor-friend, Doc Harry, advises not to go beyond 3x a week though. Too much sex can take its toll on your health. The immune system weakens is one thing I remember about this topic. You can catch Doc H on Wave 891's The Breakfast Duo with Anne and Jada, Mondays and Wednesdays at 8AM.

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