Episode 26: Getting Real…a discussion about sex and how the media affects our sex lives with Judith Steinhart

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In this episode, Dr. Lori and Dr. Judith Steinhart discuss sex, sex education and communication, how the media affects our sex lives, and how our expectations can affect our sexual experiences.  Judith Steinhart’s wonderful insight and knowledge can change the way you think about sex forever.

Transcript

Woman: This program is intended for mature audiences only.

[musical interlude]

Dr. Lori Buckley: Welcome. You are listening to “On the Minds of Men”. I'm your host, Dr. Lori Buckley, and I'm here to day with Judith Steinhart who I'm so thrilled to be here with. We're in Manhattan, so don’t mind the sirens. We're going to be talking about sex, we're going to be talking about the media, we're going to be talking about how the media affect your sex life.

[musical interlude]

Judith Steinhart: Men think they need to be ready to have sex at a moment’s notice, whether they want to or not and there's no such thing as not.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right, because that’s what we're taught, that’s what our men supposed to do, and that’s what they do do. But we know that’s not true.

Judith Steinhart: Well, they're human beings.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right.

Judith Steinhart: They're not machines. Although I do remember talking to a man in his mid-twenties, he said with a lot of pain, “But I would like to be more of a machine.” Men have an idea of how sex should be, and how they should respond, and how they should react. Then what they do is look at themselves with a magnifying glass and a club because they beat themselves up for not meeting an image which is unrealistic to begin with.

People get enveloped in sexual silence; and as a result, you have no idea where the other person is. You haven’t really checked in with where you are except maybe you're either being [++] under the sexual feelings, or your anxious about what the other person is thinking, what the woman is thinking, what will happen in 10 minutes, will you still be friendly afterwards, are you going to come too quickly or are you going to lose your erection? What happens to the condom?

Men would again, literally as figuratively, measure themselves against the men who weren’t in the porn films and their penises will be unnaturally huge and then real men will feel inadequate. But then, it's not just the size of a person’s penis that makes them a good lover, and it's hard for men to feel that.

[musical interlude]

Dr. Lori Buckley: First, Judith, can you tell our listeners more about you and what you do and what you've done?

Judith Steinhart: Well, I started in the sexuality field after I was an English teacher. I had a shift in my career, where a ninth grade boy after class one day came up and at first he wanted to know if “I would want to buy some pot.” I said, “No, thank you” thinking it was the end of the conversation. But I didn’t know that he was testing the water, so he said, “Well then, do you know a place that will sell rubbers and not the kind that you were on you feet, to young boys because at that time, it was illegal for anyone under 18 in New York State to buy condoms.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Wow! Now, what year was this?

Judith Steinhart: I'm not going to tell you.

Dr. Lori Buckley: You have to tell us, it's for historical purposes.

Judith Steinhart: That’s right. It was historical.

Dr. Lori Buckley: [laughs] Well, there you have it. She’s not giving us [++].

Judith Steinhart: [laughs] It absolutely was.

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK, fair enough, we’ll leave it at that, but it was a long time ago.

Judith Steinhart: It was not the dark ages but it seemed like that.

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK. Yes, oh, yes.

Judith Steinhart: In the meantime, I had no idea because I wasn't prepared for teaching human beings, I was prepared for teaching subject matter.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Because you were taught to do it that way?

Judith Steinhart: You teach material, you don’t teach a human being.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right.

Judith Steinhart: So I asked him--to stall--if he could tell me a little bit about what was going on, and he told me that this was the weekend of his church retreat.

Dr. Lori Buckley: [laughs] OK, so the weekend of his church retreat…

Judith Steinhart: He wanted to be prepared.

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK.

Judith Steinhart: I had a tremendous amount of respect for him. The only resource I knew was Planned Parenthood. I called them up and said, “I know that you're committed to women’s reproductive health care. What can you do for this young boy?” And the receptionist told me that she’d never heard of a question like this, no one had ever asked her and it was way before male involvement project, way before. So she said she would ask and she did and I knew at the time they sold condoms for two for $0.25. She set for him to come down and asked for Lucille and she would take care of him. So I gave him the information the next day. So I realized [++] and beings needed to have resources at your fingertips to be able to be helpful to kids.

Dr. Lori Buckley: It's great. So that was the start of your passion to help kids…

Judith Steinhart: Exactly.

Dr. Lori Buckley: …about sex. Let's talk a little bit about your history with the “Go Ask Alice”, I think that’s a huge thing which falls right into this.

Judith Steinhart: Right. I worked with college students for a long time and, for instance, when Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Dr. Ruth left Brooklyn College, I took over teaching her classes. So I have a lot of experience and where I was really involved with women’s this and women’s that in the women’s movement, and here I married a man and have two boys, now men. So I had to shift gears pretty quickly and learn a lot about men and develop compassion which wasn't really hard because I kept thinking about the boys in that kind of a situation.

Dr. Lori Buckley: You know, it's true. The girls are usually the focus, and this is the purpose of my show. The men are often left out and certainly are impacted in some really negative ways in our society, and by women, let's just face it.

Judith Steinhart: Exactly, exactly. When you wanted to talk about media, it's so clear that what gets perpetuated is the macho man, and that is something that doesn’t change. Men think they need to be ready to have sex at a moment’s notice, whether they want to or not, and there's no such thing as “not”.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right, because that’s what we're taught. That’s what a man supposed to do and that’s what they do do, but we know that’s not true.

Judith Steinhart: Well, they're human beings, they're not machines.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right.

Judith Steinhart: Although I do remember talking to a man in his mid-twenties, he said with a lot of pain, “But I would like to be more of a machine.” I wanted to explain, “She wants to be with you because of who you are, not because of what you can do.”

Dr. Lori Buckley: This is an important point because this is a problem that we had. It's not just the men, it's the women that we think that were supposed to be performing much like machines.

Judith Steinhart: I think one of the problems, Lori, is that men have an idea of how sex should be and how they should respond and how they should react. Then what they do is look at themselves with a magnifying glass and a club because they beat themselves up for not meeting an image which is unrealistic to begin with.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Exactly, exactly, yes. So what you saying and what I'm saying is it's so important to realize really realistic expectations. Also that we don’t want machines as lovers, we want a lover, we want a human, we want a person. To realize that these messages that we get from the media which brings us to the topic of our interview. How does the media really affect how we think that we're supposed to be, men and women?

Judith Steinhart: Well, what’s funny, too, is this symbol of how people have had sex for years with the bases, first base, second base, third base and homerun which is intercourse. Then there are people now who are doing research on whether or not oral sex is the new third base. I remember talking to groups of people and they say, “Third base!” because in their friendship that work, it could be second base, it could be first base, way before oral sex to kissing.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right, oral sex might even be first base to certain people.

Judith Steinhart: That’s right, that’s right.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, because I think in some ways for the kids, we could say oral sex is less intimate than kissing I've heard.

Judith Steinhart: Which is very different from how it was when many of us grew up.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, it's isn’t it kind of sad?

Judith Steinhart: I don’t know whether it's sad or not, it's just what is.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I know, it seems tragic to me. Anyways, how…

Judith Steinhart: Excuse me, let's talk about that for a minute. What's being lost?

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK. You know, this sense of excitement, this sense of intimacy like something special about putting someone’s penis in your mouth or having your penis in somebody’s mouth! That is an intimate--I think ideally--a very intimate wonderful act. When we just kind of expect it, we're expect that we're supposed to do it because that’s what we do and we're expect that we're supposed to just have it done to us. Where’s the joy? Where’s the excitement? Where’s the passion?

Judith Steinhart: What's funny, Lori, is you're talking about a different framework, a different way of looking at sex. Some of the people who are having sex at first or having oral sex at first base are not looking for animosity, they're not looking for joy. They're looking for experience, they're learning for opportunities to develop their own self-esteem, they're looking for practice, they're learning to be able to be big in somebody else’s eyes.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, you're right, and I suppose I need to be careful and not invalidate that, and yet…

[laughter]

Judith Steinhart: OK.

Dr. Lori Buckley: …because we all have sex for different reasons.

Judith Steinhart: Yes.

Dr. Lori Buckley: How does that affect our future sex lives, our future intimate relationships?

Judith Steinhart: That we’ll have to see with research, where this is going with some of the people who are changing the model of first base, second base, third base.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, I don’t know. I think from the people that I've seen in my practice, I think already I'm seeing it has a bit of a negative impact because where do they change that mindset from “I'm supposed to be this machine” and “I'm supposed to perform and this is the expectations.” How does that switch to what we know sex can be?

Judith Steinhart: OK. What’s often missing now is the opportunity for men and women to get to know each other. That was the function of dating, that was the function of keeping company. You would see if you wanted to be with that person, if you wanted to spend more time with them, if they were interesting to you and you wanted to get to know them, and you would spend time doing things together.

Going to the movies and see different kinds of movies and can you agree on common ground? Going to a museum and seeing if you can find interest that where there's synergy, where you build on each other’s interest and excitement.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That is exactly right. I think that that’s something that’s missing and we're going to have a quick break. But what I just want to say before we take a quick break that I want to talk about--after the break--is that same kind of interest, synergy. It's not just about going to the movies, I think we lose that in the bedroom as well. I think it creates a lot of sexual hiatus, that we're we’ll just say sexual dysfunction, certainly, sexual dissatisfaction. We're going to talk about that right after the break.

[radio break]

Dr. Lori Buckley: We're back. You're listening to “On the Minds of Men”. I'm your host, Dr. Lori Buckley, I'm here with Judith Steinhart and we're talking about really so many different things. One thing is our expectations about what sex should be, the difference between being a machine and being a human. Also some ways that sex is looked at differently now than it has been in the past.

Judith Steinhart: It has different meanings.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, and how it affects our future.

Judith Steinhart: Exactly.

Dr. Lori Buckley: And I wanted to talk we were talking about before the break which is this sense of synergy that you talked about and how does that affect our sex life.

Judith Steinhart: Well, part of what makes sex rich is the idea of trust, and trust fills with knowing somebody else or with taking risks with people that you don’t know very well, “I'm feeling like the stakes are low, so it doesn’t matter”. You can risk being yourself and you have some choices there. But what meaning does each person bring to the sexual experience? This is the conversation that’s often missing because what will happen is you will assume that your touching and kissing will go right through this sexual response cycle and right through the bases, and that there's no stopping or checking in or saying “How is this going? Is this OK for you? I just want to make sure we're doing what we both want to be doing and that you're feeling pleasure because I'm feeling pleasure. Or, checking in and saying, “What can we change?

What happens is people get enveloped in sexual silence, and as a result, you have no idea where the other person is and you haven’t really checked in with where you are except maybe you're either being [++] under the sexual feelings or you're anxious about what the other person is thinking, what the woman is thinking, what will happen in 10 minutes, will you still be friendly afterwards or are you going to come too quickly or are you going to lose your erection? What happens to the condom?

Dr. Lori Buckley: And when you're thinking about all those things, erections are problematic, orgasms are something that probably aren’t going to happen.

Judith Steinhart: And the quality of the time together changes, so what is the point?

Dr. Lori Buckley: So the problem is we're so focused on the quality, we want so badly to be a good lover. We focus so much on being a good lover that what ends up happening is our sexual experience becomes much less than satisfying or less than it could be.

Judith Steinhart: Right, exactly. What's interesting is to think about what people could do to be better lovers. I did a talk with men where I asked them at the end of the presentation to write down on index cards what they would do. What's one thing they could do, based on our talk, that would make them better lovers. I looked at the index cards afterwards, and one of them that was so telling to me said that this person, this man would take more showers.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Well, that’s interesting.

Judith Steinhart: It is, because you tend to forget about things that are so basic. The idea of not just criticizing a woman for the way she smells, but making sure that you're up to speed, too. That you've taken the shower, you've taken good care of yourself, that your hair has a string to it, that you've put on deodorant, and that you've really cultivated and are presenting your best self, too.

Dr. Lori Buckley: You know what? I think that’s so great. Well, let's talk about communication and how important it is which it is. We're not going to trivialize that, communications is important. But, your right, cleanliness and just the fact that you're taking…

Judith Steinhart: Pride.

Dr. Lori Buckley: …pride in yourself.

Judith Steinhart: Taking care of yourself.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I think being a considerate lover as well.

Judith Steinhart: Right, and often, it's not something that we think of.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes. So, we were talking about how we need to communicate in that way. We were checking in with our partners where we're finding out what's going on. So we're not…

Judith Steinhart: And we're checking in with ourselves to make sure that what we're doing is something that we want to be doing.

Dr. Lori Buckley: It's so important.

Judith Steinhart: Even if it isn’t, to be able to say, “OK, this isn’t working” and not to have an “all or nothing” philosophy or incident where you're doing it and it's OK but not great and you feel like you should continue or stopping and you're on either sides of the bed furious with each other. There's an opportunity for a lot of middle ground that can be pleasurable, satisfying, fun, playful if only we had what the imagination, the experience, the practice and the courage to talk with each other in a different way.

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK, that, right there, you hit the nail on the head because I was going to say to you, “OK, we know that this is all important, the knowing, the talking, the checking in, what do we need encourages something we even though we might be fearful. The truth is that we're afraid to talk about sex. We're afraid to check in with ourselves sometimes. We're afraid to talk to our partner and tell them what we need or ask them what they want, and to do it anyways. I think that’s such an important thing.

Judith Steinhart: It's what we do on other parts of our lives, we're fearful and we do things anyway. We're fearful in business and we take risks. We're fearful with family situations and we take risks. We're fearful with shopping and we take risks.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Well, maybe not so much shopping. [laughs] We got to return those shoes!

Judith Steinhart: Now, we're on our final sale.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Well OK, that takes a tremendous amount of courage. When you talk about, “It takes practice, it takes experience”, we can't get that practice or experience if don’t act with courage. If we don’t do it anyways, take that risk because we know that it's worth it. We know that when we do that--we’re telling you, you just have to trust us--that when you do these things, the experience, we're not even talking about after the experience and the practice. We're talking about at that moment can be such a wonderful thing.

Judith Steinhart: When you are able to say where you are and have your partner listen and be with you at that moment instead of running their movie about how things should go.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Right, right. OK, speaking of movies, I wanted to take a very quick break, one more quick break. But when we get back, I just want to talk a little bit about how movies are affecting our sex lives negatively or positively.

Judith Steinhart: Perfect.

Dr. Lori Buckley: OK, so we’ll be right back.

[radio break]

Dr. Lori Buckley: We're back, and you are listening to “On the Minds of Men”. I'm your host, Dr. Lori Buckley. I'm here with Judith Steinhart and we're having a great conversation.

Judith Steinhart: I was just about to say we're having a wonderful time.

Dr. Lori Buckley: We're having fun. Right now, we're going to talk about the media - movies, TV. How is it impacting our sex life? Judith.

Judith Steinhart: OK. I think about in the thirties, Clark Gable in the movie “It Happened One Night”, took off his shirt, there was no undershirt underneath and the sales of undershirts plummeted from that moment on.

Dr. Lori Buckley: It's true.

Judith Steinhart: So that was a very specific example. Another example years ago is that they weren’t the kind of sexually explicit films that would be educational, that some people like Mark Shawn (?) have developed for years and years.

Dr. Lori Buckley: “A Better Sex” films [++]?

Judith Steinhart: He’s definitely been for years in the forefront of this area. And as a result, the only thing that men could learn from was traditional porn, with funny bodies and black socks. Men were starving for information about what to do sexually because the expectation was so great that they would know what to do. Women were supposed to be sexually naïve and men were supposed to be a heterosexual model, sexually experienced, knowledgeable and able to run the show.

Dr. Lori Buckley: And have really big penises.

Judith Steinhart: Right.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Did the sales of black socks go up? [laughs]

Judith Steinhart: I don’t think so.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Good, good, but there were other problems.

Judith Steinhart: Yes, because for example, as porn developed, men would again, literally as figuratively, measured themselves against the men who weren’t in that porn films and their penises would be unnaturally huge and then real men would feel inadequate. Again, it's not just the size of men’s penis [++] that makes them a good lover, and it's hard for men to hear that because even if they hear my words, they're more likely to wipe me out and disagree with me or wipe out my words. They believe it's important for women, and I want to say it's probably more important for men.

Yes, there's some people who have invested in penis’ size, but there are some people who invested in breast size, and some people invested in shoe size, some people invested in height. There will always be people who are attracted to some part of another human being’s body or fragrance or scent or visual essence.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That becomes problematic when we judge ourselves based on what other people want, and that is a big problem of what's happening. When we're judging ourselves by what we're seeing in movies or on the media--magazines, TV--these perfect bodies who have hours of make up and…

Judith Steinhart: And airbrushing.

Dr. Lori Buckley: …airbrushing, choreography, lighting. Let's just face it--we've said it before, we're going to say it again--that is not reality, that is not what sex looks like and it's not like what real people look like.

Judith Steinhart: Similarly, you don’t have anybody in the movies that I've heard, when they're about to have sex, have guest or say, “OK, I need to go to the bathroom” or “Where’s the condom?” except maybe recently.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, the condom, not the guest.

Judith Steinhart: Condom, and there's the lobe, and where is the conversation about what you might like to do sexually. “OK, we're here, that the lights are out--and where the movies are--how do we get from a standing position to laying down with no clothes without removing clothes, without the buttons, without the zippers getting caught. Do you fold up your clothes afterwards? Do you toss them? Do you rip them off? What exactly do you do and how does it make you feel?

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, those are such great questions, and those were things that we would like to be spontaneous and wonderful. But the truth is, they're not, although when we're in a relationship for a while, it becomes very routine. You can probably tell us exactly what happens every single time that you've been in a relationship for longer than six months, I think. Who takes off the clothes? Where do they go? What area are you in? What part of the bed are you in? What position are you in? Who touches what? So it's almost this choreographed sex that you have after you've been in a relationship, but it's just not very exciting.

Judith Steinhart: Well, I was going to say it that itself is not bad. Sorry?

Dr. Lori Buckley: It's different points of view. [laughs]

Judith Steinhart: Different points of view. In itself, it's not bad. If you're going through the routine that you have and it's comfortable for you, and if there are true moments of connection, if that’s what you want, where you really are looking at each other and you really are in that moment with your partner, that can make a difference regardless of whether the routine is the same.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Very true. I agree with that, I agree with that. So we talked about how it's fun to add some adventure do some different things and try different positions, and I believe that that’s true. But I believe with what you're saying as more true. Sex becomes better ideally as relationships go on because we do feel we're comfortable with ourselves, with our partner, and we're able to connect with our partner in a way that just feels natural, it's comfortable and it is the most satisfying sex that people really ever have. It's much more exciting than hanging from a chandelier.

Judith Steinhart: Right there's [++] about the chandelier.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Or try some crazy position.

Judith Steinhart: That’s right.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes.

Judith Steinhart: That’s right.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That is a really important thing, and of course, we can't get that information from movies or television or magazines.

Judith Steinhart: Exactly, exactly. Those moments of connection.

Dr. Lori Buckley: I’ll tell you one thing, and I think you’ll agree with me on this, Judith, because we mentioned it briefly. An advantage of the media is we can use it as tool, whether it's a TV show or whether it's a movie or a book or a magazine article. We can look at with our partner and we can talk about it. It's a way to talk about some sex, to talk about our relationship in ways that maybe don’t feel so comfortable right away, but we can use that as a tool.

Judith Steinhart: Can you give me an example of that? I'm certain you're right.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, so for example, you're watching a movie and you see what you described. You see the couple come in and they're ripping off each other’s clothes and they're throwing each other on the bed and they're doing whatever they're doing. You could say, “What do you think about that?” Does that turn you on? Is that something that interests you at all? Your partner will give you some information, they’ll say, “You know, it's looks good on the movie but it's really ridiculous. If you did that to me, I'd probably smack you!”

Judith Steinhart: Or, you could take the risk first and say, “You know, when we saw this in the movie, I thought I would feel uncomfortable, but I was surprised that I didn’t and I wondered how you felt?” Because rather than unnecessarily put your partner on the spot, you just close something. You talk about your own feeling. You take the risk first.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes, which is a really good communication tip. When you use that courage, sum it up and you disclose in some way, that does give your partner permission and a little bit more freedom to speak more openly and a little bit more comfortably.

Judith Steinhart: Because you've taken the risk first, rather than put them on the spot.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Yes. So to sum up because we are out of time, but I want to sum up what you've said because you've said some really wonderful things.

Judith Steinhart: Why, I couldn't have done it without you?

Dr. Lori Buckley: Thanks, Judith. We did our part and we talked about really how does media affect or lives, our sex lives, our relationships. What about our expectations? Can we look at sex and our relationship in a more realistic ways? Get rid of some of these expectations that are just really ridiculous and communicate to our partner. Take some risks and really just be connected, be yourself.

Judith Steinhart: To yourself and to your partner, inside and outside.

Dr. Lori Buckley: That’s a really important point. Now, this is not just to our partner, for our partner. We need to do it for ourselves. When we do that, we become fuller people.

Judith Steinhart: We become authentic. We become ourselves.

Dr. Lori Buckley: We become authentic, that’s the word, and when we're authentic, we're not machines but we are people, and we're so much more attractive. So authenticity and passion and communication and courage, I think that about sums it up, what do you think?

Judith Steinhart: I absolutely agree, Lori, this is great.

Dr. Lori Buckley: It's been a pleasure having you with me.

Judith Steinhart: I feel the same way.

Dr. Lori Buckley: How can people find out about you or hook up to your website? What information can you give our listeners?

Judith Steinhart: JudithSteinhart.com is the way to reach me.

Dr. Lori Buckley: And how do you spell Steinhart?

Judith Steinhart: S-T-E-I-N-H-A-R-T.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Great, and we will have Judith’s website linked up on our website. If you have any questions for me, please me at [email protected]. If you'd like transcripts of this show or any other show on Personal Life Media, you can go to PersonalLifeMedia.com.

Thank you.

Judith Steinhart: Thank you so much, Lori. This was great.

Dr. Lori Buckley: Thank you, listeners, for taking the time to listen to our show and we’ll see you again. Bye.

Woman: Find more great shows like this on PersonalLifeMedia.com