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One does not exist without the other. With too much distance, there can be no connection. But too much merging eradicates the separateness of two distinct individuals. Then there is nothing more to transcend, no bridge to walk on, no one to visit on the other side, no other internal world to enter. When people become fused — when two become one — connection can no longer happen.

There is no one to connect with. Thus separateness is a precondition for connection: this is the essential paradox of intimacy and sex.


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At this early stage merging and surrendering are relatively safe, because the boundaries between the two people are still externally defined. It is all the space between them that allows them to imagine no space at all…. Otherness is a fact. You aim to overcome that separateness. But as we bridge the separateness, we shorten and eventually annihilate the distance between two selves that makes one desirable to the other, for the springs of desire are in the very possibility of a leap across the abyss of otherness.

The caring, protective elements that nurture home life can go against the rebellious spirit of carnal love. We long to create closeness in our relationships, to bridge the space between our partner and ourselves, but, ironically, it is this very space between self and other that is the erotic synapse. In order to bring lust home, we need to re-create the distance that we worked so hard to bridge. Erotic intelligence is about creating distance, then bringing that space to life.

Sex and Spirituality

Creating psychological distance within the comfort of closeness, Perel argues, is essential for sustaining desire in a loving relationship. She explains:. We seek intimacy to protect ourselves from feeling alone; and yet creating the distance essential to eroticism means stepping back from the comfort of our partner and feeling more alone…Our ability to tolerate our separateness — and the fundamental insecurity it engenders — is a precondition for maintaining interest and desire in a relationship.

In our mutual intimacy we make love, we have children, and we share physical space and interests. Indeed, we blend the essential parts of our lives. Bio-Ethological and Social-Psychological Explanations. Searching for Sexual Identity. Symptom Manifestation Within Relationships. Women's Relationships to Power. Developments in Sexology and Sex Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Factors Relevant to Treatment.

Learning From the Past—Thoughts for the Future. In Irigaray's conceptualization, then, female sexual pleasure appears in language as multiple beginnings, succinct diction, fragmented sentences, and illogical reasoning as well as a refusal to follow sequential patterns beginning, middle, end and a resistance to fixed definitions and positions. Of course, any theory that argues for some form of writing female experience, the female body so to speak, risks being charged with essentialism. Ann Rosalind Jones does exactly that in her critique of French feminism.

Jones contends that it is next to impossible for women to experience their bodies outside social constructions of their sexuality. She asserts that sexuality is developed, rather than fully present at birth, and that development is affected by cultural attitudes toward sexuality What this information seems to suggest is that biology may have less of an effect on sexual response than does training, or, to use Jones' term, "development.

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Jones also argues that theories of writing the body, such as Irigaray's, assume a universal sexual experience for all women. As I have just pointed out, not all women experience multiple orgasms and, as Jones notes, not all women experience their sexuality free of "phallocentric habits of thought and feeling" Neither can readers assume that female sexuality is the same for all classes, races, and cultures of women.

Women are different from men, but their difference is better. Such a construct, Jones believes, serves to reinforce male dominance because it still "leaves the man as the determining referent" Certainly, women need to shake off the mistaken and contemptuous attitudes toward their sexuality that permeate Western and other cultures and languages at their deepest levels, and working out self-representations that challenge phallocentric discourses is an important part of that ideological struggle.

Jones does acknowledge the "need to examine the words, the syntax, the genres, the archaic and elitist attitudes toward language and representation that have limited women's self-knowledge and expression during the long centuries of patriarchy" She does caution, however, that even with the concept of writing the body as "energizing myth," not as a model for all women, women's writing cannot be located in a "spontaneous outpouring" of the body There is always the danger that spontaneous writing may be tainted with cultural, more specifically patriarchal, attitudes.

Jones does pose a number of difficulties implicit in any discussion of female sexuality in language. However, her reading of Irigaray does not adequately register Irigaray's position. Irigaray's use of the phrase "the imaginary" leaves open the possibility that the imaginary is not solely a "spontaneous outpouring" of innate sexuality, but is also the result of cultural constructs.

She uses the phrase in reference to both male and female sexuality. As well as the imaginary that is governed by too much sameness, Irigaray refers to the imaginary that governs Western sexuality and argues that it consists of "the more or less exclusive. When imaginaire is used in French to describe a place, as Irigaray seems to be doing with her play on the noun form of the adjective, one of the possible connotations of the word is fictif or fictive , implying false or fictitious.

How much of the imaginary can be the result of essential biology with this constructed sense of the term imaginaire?

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If Irigaray views woman and man as culturally constructed, at least in part, then she would also acknowledge the differences not only between women and men, but also between women. Different cultures produce different versions of woman, which in turn results in a "multiplicity of female desire and female language" Irigaray is also aware of the dangers inherent in merely reversing binary oppositions. If, Irigaray argues, women, primarily heterosexual and bisexual women, withdraw from engagement with men to foster lesbian relationships with each other, as tempting as that might be, then women run the risk of losing out in the power game.

It would leave room neither for women's sexuality, nor for women's imaginary, nor for women's language to take their place" Consequently, Irigaray contends, woman is never " simply one "; she "always remains several" By refusing singular definitions, by resisting one or the other side of a binary construction, by foregrounding plurality, women move beyond simple male or female categories.

Even though Irigaray's position resists many of the difficulties with essentialism that Jones finds in French feminism, Jones does point out the risks involved in writing and reading the female body in language. If the female body is the basis for female knowledge, then the female body can also be the basis for female oppression. With Jones' criticisms, but also her realization of the need to write the female body, I wish to adapt Winnett's and Irigaray's theories to my study of female sexual desire. In what follows, then, I examine "the words, the syntax," the challenges women's prose poetry makes to "the archaic and elitist attitudes toward language and representation that have limited women's self-knowledge and expression," rather than examine a universal, innate female sexuality through women's texts Jones The first section contains what appear to be eleven "sentences" [9] : Only you could carve a pumpkin and make it look aloof.

Neck up, it doesn't suck. The more she began to love her, the more she avoided that word. Signed her letters 'Yours,' and she was. Embouchure blown out of proportion. Whet with an 'h' is wetter. If language really were transparent, I would like the bathing suits. Always horning in on his own thoughts. As we dance, as wet as. Call your dog 'Toot' or 'Chutney' and it won't grow any bigger.


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  • Consider the whistle blown. The first three sentences are grammatically correct. Sentence four, however, breaks with grammatical convention. At first glance it appears to consist of two independent clauses, but the first clause, "Signed her letters 'Yours,'" does not name the subject who signs "her letters. These sentence fragments break the linear grammatical progression of subject-verb-object, and, as a result, figure the movements of female desire.

    Female desire is also evident in the numerous challenges to referentiality throughout the section. Pronouns rarely signify a known noun. Who "could carve a pumpkin" 24? What "doesn't suck" 24 , the pumpkin, the neck, you? Who is "she," and whom does "she" love? Who does "his" refer to?

    Individual words or phrases also resist stable definitions. For example, what word does "she" avoid, "neck," "suck"? The word "love" does not become a possibility until we read the next line: "Signed her letters 'Yours,' and she was" Signifiers are rarely anchored long enough to determine meaning. Throughout the passage, syntax works to interrupt linearity. Each sentence defies logical progression either within the sentence itself, or without in its relationship to the sentences that precede and follow it. This is a processural poetic, driven by association, a form of thought Marlatt calls "erotic because it works by attraction" "Musing" Proposals, then, are thrown over in favor of a mobile unravelling of propositions.

    This erotic associational movement is also evident in Holbrook's works.

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    Rather than follow a sequential narrative movement beginning, middle, and end , the sentences, indeed the sections themselves, in "as thirsty as" relate to each other through erotic association. In the first section, each sentence moves into another by word association. If the stem of a pumpkin can figure the neck, then when the pumpkin is carved, the stem becomes part of the top of the jack-o-lantern - the neck is "up. However, the "I" of "I would like the bathing suits" is ungendered and just as likely to be female, especially if the "I" is one half of the "she began to love her" relationship.

    Thus, the fantasy of being able to see through swim suits at the beach or swimming pool is, at the very least, both male and female and, even more likely, only female, the desire of a woman, who horns in on male territory, for another woman. Thus, readers should "[c]onsider the whistle blown. It hardly seems necessary to point out that many of the words that build the associations between sentences also have strong erotic connotations.

    Not only does the syntax speak a form of female desire, but also the words in the section give voice to a female sexuality.

    Facing the Complexities of Women's Sexual Desire

    Grammatical and referential disorder build throughout the prose poem collection of "as thirsty as. Holbrook continues to challenge referentiality with sentences such as "Would you swim through it for money? Swim through what? Who or what is "they," and who is "you"?

    The syntax also foregrounds ambiguity. For example, the fourth section begins, "She gave her lip" The sentence could be a fragment that could be completed by stating to whom or to what "she" gave her lip. Or, the sentence could be a colloquial expression to suggest that "she" was disrespectful to "her. As possible readings blur into each other, female desire surfaces and floats through the collection. Associational erotics also functions between the sections in the collection.

    For example, the interrogation of transparent language from section one reverberates in section two with "[I]f the figurative does precede the literal, what about falling in love" and "Meow Mix the heteroglossia of cats" It is repeated again in section three with "I'd like to be a gumshoe so I could put my foot in my mouth," in section four with "When you think of a horseshoe is it on a horse," in section five with "The mop was floored," and in section nine with the sentence "With crown taken, what's the synecdoche for you," to list a few of the more obvious points of connection 26, 27, 28, The adverbial fragment s that echoes the title "as thirsty as" repeats throughout as well.

    The movement, however, is never from point A to point B, but is always, to use Irigaray's words, setting "off in all directions.

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    Pressed up against desire, intention speaks a dogged morality; aren't we asked, when our desires are discovered, to declare our intentions? She repeats this interrogation of intention in the last section of "as thirsty as": "The proper mode of proceeding based on intention, not desire. Tutti patouti. We are asked, when our desires are discovered, what are your intentions. As tutti as" misled From its inception, it intends to end. Female desire in "as thirsty as" follows no such pattern; it moves independent of a controlling, ordering logic.

    The multiple associations generated by the insertion of "Tutti patouti" and "As tutti as" between and after the two sentences about intention and desire subvert the controlling power of intention and construct a space within which desire can freely circulate. As gum, the phrase then works its way through the collection, picking up all of the words associated with gum: "gumshoe," "gummy bears," "gumption," as well as words related to eating, mouths, and sexuality 26, The phrase also connects to "embouchure" with the connotation of playing a musical instrument, to "toot.

    Of course, "As tutti as" takes readers through every similar phrase to the title itself, "as thirsty as," as well as conjuring up "tittie" and "titter" With each association, the fragmented movement from word to word in any direction in the collection both enacts and connotes female desire. In Hilary Clark's prose poem "Tomato," a similar associative erotic as well as grammatical and referential disorder speaks female desire. Each section of the prose poem is a rewriting of the previous section. The sections, however, do not proceed through a logical order where one idea moves rationally into the next, but find their movement, instead, through association.

    The first section reads as follows: Eat it, snuff it, cup it. Pomodoro, the word rolls off the tongue, pulp, seeds and all. Golden apple spurt.

    Mormon Matters

    Little pumpkin. Red ruddy rotund, fall fires and the days quickly darkening. One perfect blemish, one shadow elongating. Flesh, the soft parts of bodies frighten me, vegetable animal, inner water. Cut the rim of skin remains red; paler tissue, cloud of juice or albumen. Whiter veins branch, disappear; lakes open. Faint smell of sour earth, salt. Greenish slime sac, amniotic, tomato babies cluster and wait.

    Faint spines cross our vision, fetal extensions. The heart at the rot of it. Loveapple, skin closing over. Two wet seeds on a white plate.