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Sexual Satisfaction: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?

A few years ago, I had a dirty little secret. I was disconnected with my sexuality.


Sure, I had gotten boudoir photos for my husband for his birthday. And we went to Burning Man where I wore sexy costumes. I didn’t talk to friends about how I was actually feeling underneath the image I was portraying, and I certainly didn’t talk to my doctor or therapist about it. The only person I talked to was my very frustrated husband who wanted sex more often than I did. But as long as I’m being honest, those “talks” were more like “arguments”.

After two decades of such “talks” with my husband, and all of the excuses had come and gone: “maybe when I am off the pill”, “maybe if we took a relaxing vacation”, “maybe when our child is older” or “maybe if I had a different job.” I was feeling depressed. I knew he wanted more sex, but I simply didn’t desire it. I went to my doctor for an annual physical and shared some of my complaints without directly talking about sex. I was “tired” and “stressed”. The doctor asked all sorts of questions about my lifestyle, but not one single question even tiptoed close to the edge of the taboo topic of sex.

I later found that even within the OB-GYN community where they care for vulvas and vaginas all day long, less than one-third of OB-GYNs ask their patients about sexual satisfaction! This is a big problem when you pair that data with results from another study that showed nearly all women have sexual concerns including lack of interest, difficulty with orgasm, pelvic pain, body image issues and unmet sexual needs. And if you think these concerns are limited to women, think again.

The reality is, this paradigm of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ isn’t working for us. We need a better model. We need to be able to talk with our friends, doctors, therapists and coaches about our sexual concerns. Did you know sexual health is such a basic need that it is the only item to show up on multiple levels of Maslow’s hierarchy?


If you aren’t yet ready to confide with someone about your sex life, I get it. I was stuck in that place for years. However, thanks to the internet, there is now a ton of information available online. Resources such as SFSI.org and Reddit Sex can help start to answer some of your questions around sex, and may give you the courage to eventually talk to someone about it.

Over the last few years, I’ve gotten more and more comfortable talking with people about sexual challenges in my own life and relationship. Along the way, I’ve discovered a few things that I wish I would have found out a long time ago. I’ll share them here in an attempt to help neutralize any guilt and shame you may be feeling around sexuality:

  1. We Are All Normal. As Emily Nagoski shares in her book Come As You Are… no matter your gender, who you are attracted to, what type of sex turns you on, or what your anatomy can or cannot do… we are all normal. If you or your partner are struggling with emotional or erotic connection, know that you are not alone. There are so many others struggling with the exact same thing.
  2. The Baseball Metaphor Sucks. The baseball metaphor sets up sex as a place where there is a winner and a loser and penis-in-vagina sex is the ultimate goal. Al Vernacchio challenges this old metaphor in favor of a new pizza-based metaphor. What I really love about this metaphor is the focus on shared pleasure, variety and choice… all of which are easy to forget about in both short term hook-ups and longer term relationships.
  3. “If they really loved me, they’d know how to please me” is a Myth. It would be so amazing if this was how the world worked. But the world just doesn’t work this way. We actually have to learn what we want and then teach our partners how to give it to us. The best part about choosing not to believe in this myth anymore is that suddenly, a whole new conversation opens up with our partners. Out go the assumptions we held about each other, and in comes surprise… which as it turns out, can be quite an aphrodisiac.

So please… Ask and Tell. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your partner in the process, and in all likelihood, have a much more satisfying sexual life as a result. I know it worked for me.

Pam Costa

Pam Costa

After a decade and a half at Apple and Facebook, Pam left her career in high tech to found Down to There to share her story of struggling with desire in her marriage in order to inspire others to seek out improved intimacy and connection in their own relationships. Through her writing and coaching, she facilitates open discussions about challenges surrounding sexuality, including the negative impact of the cultural beliefs and social messages we receive about sex. She is optimistic that these challenges can provide surprising pathways for renewing and deepening intimacy in relationships.

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