Sex

A Proven Path to Solving as Many as 80 Percent of Sexual Problems

Permission, basic information, and suggestions.

Posted Dec 28, 2020

It's exceedingly rare for a person to go through their entire life and never encounter a sexual problem. Sadly, however, due to the shame surrounding sex in general and sexual problems in particular, people often suffer in silence. Even sadder is that many sexual problems that could have been easily addressed are allowed to fester and turn into worse, more complex problems. This doesn't need to be the case because the vast majority of common sexual problems can be remedied without professional assistance.

In fact, there is a longstanding model of treating sexual concerns, called the PLISSIT model, first written about by Jack Annon in 1976 and still relevant today. It posits that 80-90 percent of sexual problems can be solved without intensive therapy (the IT in PLISSIT). Instead, this model says that most sexual problems can be resolved by:

  1. Permission to keep doing what one is doing and not feel ashamed of it (the P in PLISSIT).
  2. Some basic information on sexuality (the LI, for limited information, in PLISSIT).
  3. Specific suggestions (the SS in PLISSIT).  

To provide a few examples:

  • The other day a client told me that she thought she was "warped" and "broken" because she liked BDSM. My response included "permission," informing her that this was a viable sexual interest. I also provided her with "information," specifically, research showing that people who are into BDSM are actually psychologically healthier in many ways (e.g., less neurotic, more open to new experiences) than people who don't engage in kink.
  • I often get phone calls from potential clients wanting to see me about premature ejaculation.  When I ask them how long it takes for them to ejaculate, I often get answers like "five minutes after putting my penis in her vagina." I tell these clients that they don't need to waste their money on therapy, and instead simply reassure them (a.k.a. "permission") that they are well within the normative range and provide even more detailed "information." Specifically, I share the results of a study finding that across about 500 men from five countries, the average time from putting a penis in a vagina until ejaculation is 5.4 minutes.
  • When working with women who've never orgasmed, I start by providing "information" on genital anatomy and the fact that 80-95 percent of women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm. I then "suggest" they masturbate, even providing them "information" on how most women do so. I often "suggest" a vibrator, sharing "information" that women who use them have easier and more frequent orgasms than those who don't.  I also "suggest" mindfulness, in life and during masturbation and partnered sex, and once they've orgasmed on their own, I "suggest" getting the same type of stimulation with a partner as when alone.

These suggestions are all in my book, Becoming Cliterate, which research shows actually increases orgasm — as well as satisfaction, lubrication, sexual assertion, body-image and other aspects of sexual functioning — in women who read it. Mine isn't the only book with research showing it works for sexual problems. Indeed, the fact that sexual problems can be resolved with permission, scientifically-accurate sex-positive information, and straightforward suggestions is the reason that, according to one review of the evidence, self-help interventions (books, videos, internet-based interventions, etc.) are effective in remedying sexual concerns. According to this same review, one form of self-help, bibliotherapy (the reading of self-help books), is a cornerstone of resolving sexual concerns. According to another analysis of the research, those who read self-help books end up with about a 68 percent increase in their sexual functioning from before to after reading self-help books. 

Following is a listing of some other recommended self-help books for sexual concerns:

Low Sexual Desire in Women

Mismatched Sexual Desire

Orgasm Issues in Women

Erectile Dysfunction

Premature Ejaculation

Another book I love for general information on sex is The Guide to Getting It On. And one I love to learn mindfulness and how to apply it to sex is Better Sex Through Mindfulness. The author has published several studies on how mindfulness can enhance desire and arousal. 

How about exploring some of these resources and making 2021 the year you enhance your sex life and solve your sexual problems? If these books don't do the trick or your problem is more complex (e.g., recovery from an affair or sexual trauma), seek out a certified sex therapist.

2020 was a pretty bad year for most of us. Better sex is one way to make 2021 a more pleasurable one.