When It Comes to Change, Nothing Beats Experience

Despite the era in which we live, where any information (right or wrong) can be found instantaneously at your finger tips via a Google search, one of the most common problems I hear in my office is the struggle of my clients to overcome sexual shame and accept their sexuality. You might wonder, how could one still be ashamed of being gay when positive messaging about homosexuality can be found all over the internet and mainstream media? How could one still be afraid to admit their fetish to a partner when Fifty Shades of Grey was a runaway best seller? These are important questions to ask since I believe they directly address the mechanism through which the change process occurs.

You see, it’s not enough to cognitively understand something. It’s not enough to have facts and figures in front of you. And it’s not enough to have other people around you convincing you to dispel your opinions. That’s because there’s a huge gap between knowing and believing. Knowing is having disposal to certain information. But believing is when that knowledge becomes internalized. And true change only happens when our beliefs become internally congruent with the things we know. And it is this process of changing beliefs that requires lived experience in order to take hold.

We’ve all heard the phrase “walk a mile in someone’s shoes”, or some other version, which basically means that you can’t truly understand another person’s experience without having lived it yourself. We are all familiar with these ideas because on some level, as we’ve all had the experience of having that “light bulb” moment when […]

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    Research Shows When It Comes To Sex, It’s Quality Over Quantity

Research Shows When It Comes To Sex, It’s Quality Over Quantity

Moving along with my review of key talks from the most recent Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR) conference, I will focus this particular article on the fascinating research on peak sexual experiences by Dr. Peggy Kleinplatz, from the University of Ottawa. In my previous review, I summarized the groundbreaking work of Doug Braun-Harvey and Michael Vigorito in creating a competing model to the sex addiction model in treating out of control sexual behaviors.

But before diving in, let’s first take care of some housekeeping. As many of you know, we just wrapped up the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference, which I created and co-produced with my colleague, Dulcinea Pitagora. It was a smashing success, in which over 150 attendees participated in a day long conversation around sexuality topics that are rarely discussed anywhere else. We had numerous media in attendance. New York Magazine just posted a nice summation, and additional reviews will be forthcoming in other media outlets. Feel free to continuously check the media page for additional updates.

Also, I am proud to announce that I am now blogging for Psychology Today, with my new blog entitled Standard Deviations. There is no content up there yet, as I am just getting started, and have been busy finishing up other matters, but feel free to subscribe there as well, as I will be posting a few articles to that blog in the next few weeks. I will still be blogging here, but my articles here will be more focused on clinical issues relevant to clients, while my writing for Psychology Today will be more big picture […]

A Different Perspective on Out of Control Sexual Behavior

I have just come back from Chicago, where I presented my latest research at the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR) Annual Conference. In the next few posts, I will point out a few key ideas that I took away from some of the other presentations, which were uniformly excellent. In particular, and that which is the subject of this particular article, I am going to focus on what I consider to be the groundbreaking work of clinicians Doug Braun-Harvey and Michael Vigorito and their approach to “out of control sexual behavior” or (OCSB). OCSB? What is that? Well, you may recognize this concept as “sex addiction,” which in my view is a problematic term that I’ve critiqued both here and here. So, the first thing to understand about these two guys is that they are working with the same sets of behaviors as sex addiction counselors, but without the addiction lens. Why is this so significant? Let’s take a look.

One of the most salient concepts from their talk is the central importance of therapist self-awareness. In other words, especially in the field of sexuality, it is very easy for any clinician to get carried away with one’s own prejudices and biases, which of course will inevitably interfere with treatment, often likely even causing great harm. This kind of bias may lead to a “premature evaluation”, in which a pre-established label (such as sex addict) is automatically assumed and foisted onto the client, stigmatizing him (and it’s often a “him”) for life. Braun-Harvey and Vigorito urge us to never assume etiology, instead approaching each client as […]

How Fluid is Sexuality?

How fluid is sexuality? This is a question I often hear both from clients and from my peers. In my upcoming book, I argue that much of sexuality is either inborn, or influenced by innate factors. However, that doesn’t mean sexual expression is fixed or static. After all, as we all have heard, much of human behavior comes down to a mix of “nature” vs “nurture.” Rather, even the fluidity itself I believe is influenced by as many genetic as social factors. Let me explain further.

There is an expression I like to use– you can have ten different people in a room engaging in the same exact behavior, but for ten different reasons. Where we often go awry is making judgments or conclusions based solely on external markers, in this case behaviors. But, as I’ve written about before, when it comes to sexuality, it’s all about intent. And we have no idea what that intent really is comprised of without having a greater understanding of the inner workings of that particular individual’s mind.

Let’s take same-sex behavior as an example. Psychiatrist Fritz Klein created what is called the Klein Sexual Orientation Grid, which divides orientation into seven distinct categories– Attraction, Behavior, Fantasies, Emotional Preference, Social Preference, Lifestyle, and Self-Identification. Those are a lot of categories! In other words, according to Klein, someone, let’s say in this case a man, may have a sexual attraction to a man, but only feel an emotional preference for women. Or that man may find a deep emotional connection with other men, but not find any desire for sexual interaction. […]

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    Book Review– The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss

Book Review– The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss

This review is a preview of a more formal review which will appear a few months from now in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy. I will start by putting this book into context and then I will address the content before going into other aspects of the book, such as structure, quality of writing, etc. The author, Neil Strauss is a Rolling Stone Magazine journalist, and known for co-authoring books by rock stars such as Marilyn Manson, Dave Navarro from Jane’s Addiction, and Motley Crue. These names will all be familiar to those who were into rock music in the late 80s through the 90s. He then came to more prominence by documenting his rise from a journalist nerd who couldn’t “score” even when traveling with rock stars to a guy who learned to “pick up” women in the The Game. The Truth is marketed as a sequel in which this ladies’ man is now trying to learn how to maintain a great relationship now that he can find willing partners to form one. I happened to get my hands on a copy after a social media discussion I had with the author, in which I stated I was willing to provide an honest review in exchange for a copy of the book.

While The Game has received criticism for its portrayal of attitudes towards women within the “seduction community”, as it is called, I found The Truth to have more broad appeal to a variety of different groups. Off the top of my head, the following individuals would probably find at least something of interest within this book: Individuals who are […]

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    Research Study: How Does BDSM Differ From Self-Harming Behavior?

Research Study: How Does BDSM Differ From Self-Harming Behavior?

As some of my readers may know, in addition to my work as a therapist, and writer, I also conduct research in the field of sexuality. It is important for my work to be well-rounded, as both my work with clients and my writing is reflective of and informed by current research within both psychology and sexuality.

With this in mind, I have put together a high-level research team to investigate areas of sexuality that continue to remain question marks within the field and that may fall within the blind spots of clinicians when they come across clients that they may not accurately or clearly understand.

In this particular study, my team and I are investigating the murky area of BDSM, specifically intense sensation play, such as spanking, flogging, and whipping, etc, which is a common activity within the BDSM community.

I have written much on the topic of BDSM/kink/fetishes since it is so poorly understood and often unfairly pathologized by well-meaning, but misinformed clinicians, as well as the public at large. For some further reading and additional context, you can take a look at these other articles I have written on this subject:

Kinky Sex or Paraphilia?
Facing Your Shadow
Ecstasy Through Surrender
The Use of Role-Play as a Means of Identity Exploration
Sexually “Deviant” Fantasies: A Concept Without Credibility
New Study: “Unusual” Sexual Fantasies Not So Unusual
Is It Possible to Eradicate a Fetish?
More on Working with Fetishes: Important Considerations
BDSM or Abuse? Cash Slaves
Gray Areas in Sexuality: When is a Fetish “Too Extreme?”

I’ve written much more on this topic, but this will give you enough material for a little while! Hopefully these items will be a good resource to […]

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    What the Buddha Had to Say About Love (and What That Means for Sexuality)

What the Buddha Had to Say About Love (and What That Means for Sexuality)

In a previous article, I brought up a broad overview of Buddhist psychology and its implications for understanding sexuality. In this article, I want to expand on that a little bit more and talk about some more specific ideas that the Buddha taught. Specifically, I’ll be drilling down to focus on four key concepts (what the Buddha called the “four qualities of love”) which lay at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings, and that also hold specific implications to modern sexuality.

Let’s begin. The first quality is called metta- translated as loving kindness. And by this we mean actions, not just thoughts and feelings. The thought that comes to my mind about acting towards others in a manner of loving kindness, specifically when it comes to sexuality, is the importance of consent. Indeed, as I’ve written about before, what often separates sexual “deviance” from just simply kinky non-normative sexuality is consent, or lack thereof. This is a very trick and thorny issue because consent is often quite complex. Unfortunately, in most relationships, the issue of consent is never adequately addressed or discussed in matters of sex, or otherwise. Great sex, however, requires the trust that comes from a direct discussion of defining what is consensual and what is not. Terrible sex, on the other hand, often involves no discussion, no negotiation, and just either carrying one’s desires in secrecy or acting out on them non-consensually.
Next is karuna- translated as compassion. And not just compassion for others, but also compassion for oneself. As I’ve written about here and here, self-compassion is one of the hardest lessons to learn when it […]

An Ode to Hedonism

An ode to hedonism? What?!? That might seem like an unusual posting coming from a therapist, particularly in a field which usually pathologizes behavior we might consider to be too extreme. Too commonly, when we think of the word “hedonism,” we conjure up images more akin to a similar, yet different word, “debauchery,” symbolic of sexual, alcoholic, or drug excess. In other words, being out of control, unbalanced, and again, just too extreme. But when you look at the dictionary definition for hedonism, the first thing that comes up is simply, “the pursuit of pleasure,” and with no further commentary on how unbalanced or extreme that pleasure is experienced.

It is this more pure definition of hedonism, as simply meaning “pleasure” that I would now like to focus on, because far often than not, unhappiness, depression, anxiety, and sexual difficulties are more correlated with too little pleasure, rather than too much. For, far too often, when we are stuck on a negative cycle, we lose all perspective and only notice the negative. The things that trouble us, that worry us, that cause us pain and anxiety. And that negative cycle continues unabated in part precisely because we lose sight of the other areas of life that bring us pleasure.

Look at it this way. Imagine a magnet, it has two poles, one negative, the other positive. That negative pole symbolizes all the things that cause us pain. These are the things we seek to avoid. The positive pole on the other hand symbolizes all that which provides us pleasure, these are the things that we strive […]

The Intersection of Buddhist Psychology and Sexuality

I have written much about mindfulness practices and sexuality here in this blog, but I would like to expand a bit more on it to also include a discussion of a broader Buddhist psychological perspective on sexuality, especially as it has so much to offer on the subject. Before I begin though, I would like to point out that by discussing Buddhism, I am approaching it more from a philosophical and psychological perspective rather than as anything spiritual or religious. My viewpoints here are purely secular, and in no way am I endorsing any specific religious or spiritual viewpoint or way of life. Indeed, Buddha himself (who was a real person) did not view his teachings as spiritual, but rather a middle ground between purely idealistic and materialistic viewpoints.

Anyway, let’s get on with it, and take a look at one of the first major points, which is that in Buddhism, there exists no concept of sin. Sure, there are various precepts of proper behavior, and the eight-fold path encompasses such elements as “right speech,” “right action,” “and right intention,” but these principles are meant to be contextual and much different from our Western views of what constitutes “sin.” In Buddhist thought, there is the concept of determining what is the right action or speech for the specific situation at hand. These are considered matters of wisdom and self-development, rather than some rigid notions of good and evil. Why this is important is that, in Buddhist psychology, there is no concept of evil thoughts or evil behaviors, there are simply right thoughts and right behaviors. A thought […]

Book Finished and Other News

I was in the middle of writing another post, this time about the intersection of Buddhist psychology and sexuality, but then I figured, you know it’s the holidays and the end of the year, I got so much other news to share, so why not save it for the New Year. So, with that thought process in mind, I’ve decided to hold back on that post and others, and instead share it with you in the coming months. In the meanwhile, there’s a ton other stuff going on, so let’s try to prioritize for a moment, and start at the top.

First, I’m finally finished with my book! Well, at least the first draft. But my editor has already gotten back to me with her comments on the first half of the book, all with mostly positive feedback, so I think it’s safe to say we’re coming down the home stretch. I still think we have a few rounds of technical edits and then picking out the cover and title, etc., but the main ideas are there, the chapters with the possibility of some tweaks are on the page in black and white. Looks like we are headed to a late 2016 launch, so I’ll keep everyone posted. Be sure to sign up for the mailing list on the right sidebar to keep updated about the book’s release date.

Next, I’m putting together a conference on alternative sexuality, the first of its kind in NYC, with my colleague therapist Dulcinea Pitagora on April 22, 2016. Here’s a quick rundown of the sessions below and if you’re interested in […]

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Men’s Fitness: April “Sex Files” Q&A Column

MensFitness_April2016-1In the April edition of my Men's Fitness 'Sex Files' Q&A column, I answer questions about anal sex and porn. Hurry and pick up a copy before it's off the stands! April Sex Files

Women’s Health: 5 Sex Moves That Flow Seamlessly into New Positions

womens-health-logoI was asked by Women's Health Magazine to provide some advise on how to incorporate some new positions to spice up one's sex life. With a bunch of pictures and diagrams, I'm sure you'll find something that will intrigue you.  

AlterNet: A Surprising Number of Men are Renting Digital Girlfriends

AlternetI weigh in on this piece on Alternet about technology and the future of relationships. It's a good read overall, and here's a choice quote from me that may peak your interest: Psychotherapist Aaron says, “A lot of men may feel ashamed or embarrassed or uncomfortable talking about or revealing certain sexual fantasies that they have with a partner. For a lot of men, porn is a private way to explore their own sexuality. It’s nonjudgmental, and it’s not shaming. I think that’s a big draw.” According to Aaron, landing a virtual girlfriend provides the same kind of appeal.

New York Magazine Covers the 1st Annual Alt Sex NYC Conference

New York MagazineNew York Magazine sent a reporter to attend the conference I created and co-produced, the 1st Annual Alt Sex NYC Conference, and came away with three key things they learned from the event. Enjoy!

Yahoo News picks up Reuters article on Sexual Perfectionism

yahoo_news1Looks like Yahoo News picked up the Reuters article on women's fears that their partners expect sexual perfectionism. Check it out.

Reuters: Sex is No Fun When You Think You’re Partner is a Perfectionist

ReutersMy latest interview with Reuters, this time about social pressure on women to be perfect sexually. "Our society is filled with sexual myths and misconceptions, mostly stemming from a combination of our culture's puritanical roots, as well as rampant consumerism, which feeds off individual insecurities to sell unnecessary products," Aaron said.

NY Post Picks Up Reuters Article About Kinky Sex

NYPost-logoRemember that Reuters article about kinky sex (see below)? Looks like the NY Post is also covering it as well. Check it out:

Reuters: Lots of People Like Kinky Sex Psychologists Call Abnormal

ReutersI was asked by news agency Reuters to weigh in on a recent Canadian study of 1000 inhabitants of Quebec, in which nearly half of respondents stated that they enjoyed some form of kinky sex. I pulled no punches with my comments, found towards the end of the piece. Enjoy! The original academic journal article can be found here: The news article can be seen here:

Sex with Timaree Podcast: Discussing the 1st Annual AltSex NYC Conference

timaree_podcastWant to know more about what the AltSex NYC Conference is all about? I appear with my co-organizer, Dulcinea Pitagora, on the Sex with Timaree show, a popular podcast, to discuss numerous things including how the conference was created and what attendees can expect. Click on the link below to check it out:

Prevention Magazine: 9 Sex Secrets Every Sex Therapist Knows (And You Should, Too)

PreventionI was featured in this very eye-catching article in Prevention Magazine. Typical relationship stuff. You gotta spice it up, keep things interesting, schedule dates, etc. Some interesting tidbits, but overall, it's worth checking out.

“The Sex Files”: My New Monthly Q&A Column in Men’s Fitness Magazine

jan-feb-cover-matt-bomer-mainHead out to the newsstands and grab a copy of the Jan 2016 issue of Men's Fitness Magazine to see the premier of the new monthly "Sex Files" column in which I answer readers' sex questions. In this month's issue I answer a question in which a guy is looking to help his girlfriend enjoy more pleasure when she is having sex on top. Check out the screenshot below to see my response: AskSexJan-Feb

CNN: What It Means to Be Pansexual

CNNI was asked by CNN to weigh in on what it means to be "pansexual." Here's an excerpt from my interview:

"It is a broad word, and that is because people want to have the freedom to self-identify any way they want without being labeled by anyone else," said psychotherapist and sex therapist Michael Aaron.

"It has cultural resonance because it is so broad and allows for so much flexibility and choice."

For the entire story click here:

Love&- 5 Things Wives Want Their Husbands to Know about Sex

Love&Love& is a new magazine about relationships and sex. They interviewed me about common things that women may want their guys to improve upon in the bedroom. One of the big ones is touch, as a lot of men are way too rough and don't know how to adjust their touch to what their partner wants. For more on this, and other pointers, check out the article itself below:

Thrillist: 5 “Terrifying” Sexual Disorders You Didn’t Know Existed

thrillistDespite the alarming headline, I was asked by lifestyle website the Thrillist to discuss a bunch of sexual issues that folks out there may encounter, such as Persistent Genital Arousal Disorder (PGAD), sexsomnia and phimosis (when the foreskin does not fully retract and may cause pain). Much of what I said was cut out (as sometimes happens) but I get in a few good points on phimosis at the tail end. Phimosis is an issue I've encountered frequently enough with my male clients, so it's definitely worth a read. Cash Slaves

Vice_Media_Logo_2015I am featured in the newly released Vice documentary, "Cash Slaves." This is a very edgy and provocative look at the underground world of Financial Domination (Findom). As usual, I wanted to provide a fair and balanced portrait of the subject matter and make sure that the material was not pathologized. Findom is regarded by many to be an extreme fetish and definitely touches upon some very gray areas. Take a look at the video below and you can come to your own conclusions!  

Men’s Fitness Magazine Advisory Board

mens-fitnessI have recently been chosen to be on the Advisory Board of Men's Fitness Magazine. As part of that, I will be popping in now and then to answer reader questions. It's possible my role will expand in the future, and there have been discussions to that effect, but for the meantime, I will keep everyone posted when they can pick up an issue to see my responses in print.

Wall St Journal: The Future of Virtual Reality Porn

Wall-Street-Journal-LogoMarket analysts predict that new virtual reality technology will revolutionize the way we experience media, and will specifically boost the porn industry to unprecedented levels. This detailed article covers a lot of ground, addressing both the technology, business and social ramifications of virtual reality porn. I was asked to give my take on the issue and somehow a 20 minute phone conversation was distilled to a brief paragraph at the end of the piece, but nonetheless, it is still a worthwhile read.

NY Times: Women of the World

ny times logoDoes Bill Cosby have a fetish for unconscious women? Who knows? He's not a client and I've never met him, so I cannot say for sure, but this provocative piece in the NY Times tries to get to the bottom of his alleged bizarre behavior. The reporter did a great job dealing with some uncomfortable material,  so be sure to click the link below to see what I had to say on this issue:

Men’s Fitness- July 2015

men's fitnessI was recently asked by a reporter from Men's Fitness magazine to discuss reasons why a heterosexual man might refrain from having sex with a willing woman. The questions were basically soft balls, seemingly aimed at a younger, more inexperienced, male audience, but hey, I managed to drop a few decent pointers, relating to finding out if the woman is in a relationship, and if so, what kind of relationship she is in before diving in. If you want to take a look and poke around more, you can go directly to the article below. You are going to have to click to page 3 to see my quotes, btw.

Huffington Post: Most Common Sex Problems

imgresI was recently interviewed for a piece in the Huffington Post about common sex problems. Entitled "The Most Common Problems People Have in Bed, According to Sex Experts", the article interviews a number of sex therapists about the most common cases they see in their practice. I indicated that lack of sexual desire rated pretty high, and they kind of bunched it up under the the umbrella of "mismatched sexual desires", which when it comes to couples is definitely fair enough. Solid piece all around, and written by a gifted writer who has a number of other interesting articles on the site. Definitely check it out:

Men’s Health- Building the Perfect Sex Machine

Men's HealthI was recently interviewed for a Men's Health article on sex toys designed for men. They wanted to know my take on these "robotic masturbators" (as they called them) and as always, I tried to take a fair and balanced view of things. I pointed out that they could be used as a way to get better acquainted with one's sexuality (as well as get some much needed relief), but an over-reliance on technology may also limit guys from developing the necessary skills that would help them form romantic relationships. At any rate, hurry on over to the article here-- Building the Perfect Sex Machine-- and you can form your own conclusions and decide for yourself.

Upscale Magazine- May 2014 Issue

SwingersGo check out a great, and I mean GREAT, absolutely fascinating article in the May issue of Upscale Magazine, entitled "Secret Lovers," in which I am interviewed regarding the hush hush world of the swinger subculture.  The writer does a really good job of trying to understand the psychology of folks who practice consensual non-monogamy and I think the piece is very even-handed, with some practical tips for couples who are curious about dipping their toes in the lifestyle. I'll leave you with a quote from one of the swingers profiled in the piece, which I think gives a good feel for the tone and depth of the article-- "I love to see her with two guys and two girls at once. I enjoy submissive women, and there is no sexier submission than to watch my wife please me by pleasing others."  If that sounds interesting, then I suggest you head out and grab a copy. It's well worth the read.

Cosmo- April 2014

cosmoI am featured in the Sex Q&A section of Cosmo's April 2014 issue, in which I get asked about BJs, Plan B, sex in hot tubs, and all kinds of other tittilating reader questions. They did a good job of adding all kinds of humor, including a silly picture of tea bags-- need I say more? It's a can't- miss hoot. Go and check it out at news stands now!

Sex For Smart People Podcast

sex for smart peopleI just recently did an interview for a cool podcast called Sex For Smart People. Here is their description of the show: Sex therapist/psychoanalyst Dr. Michael Aaron is our guest of honor this time. Hear his and our perspectives on things like: What to do when you feel less ravenous about sex than your partner feels? Is it really honestly possible to feel coziness/familiarity and also sexiness/mystery/excitement in a long term partnership? How do you begin to talk to your partner about your interest in power play? (Trigger warning, around the half hour mark, we talk explicitly about rape fantasies.) And did you know that *just this past year*, kinky behavior was officially de-pathologized in clinical psychology terms (we think it is about f*****g time)? Plus, Dave is super silly and time)? Plus, Dave is super silly and loopy on NyQuil, and he and Stephanie share their favorite pick-up lines. [audio mp3=""][/audio]