Renowned Sexologist, Dr. Mitchell Steven Tepper, sheds NEW LIGHT onto his research which gives fresh hope to those seeking to “Regain that Feeling.” With over 30 years as a sexuality researcher, educator, counselor, coach, advocate and a person with a disability, Dr. Tepper draws on his years of experience and research to provide a guide that is well worth your time if wanting to learn more about how to love…and love yourself.
This new book by Dr. Tepper goes beyond what we have learned previously: Yes, we can “do it” and do it well. It goes right to the heart and soul (…yes, SOUL) of what it takes to be the best lover you can be. Not only to your partner but equally as importantly, to yourself.
This deeply connected and profound love he is referring to is based on his newest research, and is what we should all be aspiring to. Forget about your physical body for a moment, ignore what you can or cannot feel (we will come back to that). Give yourself a gift that will bring you more joy and fulfillment than anything that could be achieved by even the most athletic, award winning, marathon sex session. Don’t get me wrong, his book talks about desire and how to get your groove back but, wait for it: it’s all about the layers. They go a little deeper in this book.
This was my second interview with him, the first being before his book was published. It came at a time when I was at an emotional impasse, exploring what love really is and whether my idealized version was really what I should be aspiring to. In a sense, I felt it wasn’t giving me the results I sought and might be just a pipe dream that I shouldn’t be putting so much energy and faith into. Divorced for over a year and, at the time of writing, his words resonated and gave me a new sense of balance.
And the recipe for love from the good doctor?
“Real love requires conscious intention, energy, work, and time.”
The investment in keeping love alive is a commitment that consists of these elements:
- Trust fully.
- Share openly and honestly, without fear of reprisal.
- Spend time together.
- Allow room for each other to grow and change.
- Respect each other.
- Accept your partner for who they are.
- Risk being vulnerable with them.
- Pay sexual attention to them
Some of the highlights that readers will gain from Dr. Tepper’s years of research and counseling include:
- Spinal Cord Injury & Sexuality 101
- Stories of Sexual Healing
- Process of Sexual Self-Discovery Connectedness
- Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Sexual Pleasure
- Top Seven Myths That Are Holding You Back
- Seven Secrets Revealed
Using the personal profiles of women and men, he offers us deeply private discussions that you may not otherwise have the opportunity to hear, simply due to the fact that you don’t have access to others who, like you, may be discovering what works in their lives.
For example, here is a really enlightening and exciting personal experience from a man, who has a spinal cord injury. He relates how he feels when he is with his partner.
“The intensity is through my connectedness with my partner…It’s about being aligned in this. It’s sort of a sensual dance…I find that I have the ability to be aware of my partner’s responses and those are arousing for me. What do they call it when you get behind a big truck on the freeway, when you get pulled along? Drafting…I sort of latch onto their orgasms. If I can’t have it fully myself, then I’ll sort of share it with them…I think a lot of sexual response just comes from the sheer energies that come out of just being with a person.”
Dr. Tepper’s research demonstrates that the best sexual experiences—peak sexual experiences—happen in the context of trust and emotional safety and lead to a deeper sexual connection, more pleasure, and even orgasm. While some may not experience sexuality in the same way that they did pre-injury, the benefits are still profoundly impactful and rewarding.
His interviews revealed the following benefits:
- the excitement gained from pleasing or satisfying a partner
- feelings of connectedness or complementary sexual energies
- identifying sex as an intimate expression of love, rather than as just a pleasurable release.
“I think a lot of it has to do with how much he’s enjoyed it. If I know it was pleasurable for him, it’s easy for me to find pleasure in it. I love it. When my husband has an orgasm, that’s very pleasurable for me, not only emotionally, but physically. It does a lot for me.”
It is more about emotional “connectedness” than it is about sexual intimacy alone
Yet, Dr. Tepper is clear that just finding a partner to have sexual intimacy with is not the only challenge. “The daily presence of other people still doesn’t guarantee the absence of all emotional emptiness. We all yearn to connect on a more intimate, spiritual level. Interpersonal connection helps us feel valuable, desirable, lovable, and whole.”
However, it is worth the effort to find the right person to share your time with, as many of our basic human desires innately crave this feeling of connectedness.
“Being in love, and feeling connected to others, makes us less focused on our own problems. All of the world’s major religions emphasize the importance of humanity’s intrinsic connectedness. Whether you believe in evolution, in creationism, or in something somewhere in between, taking a closer look at stories from the Judeo/Christian Bible reveals universal messages. For many people in a state of post-injury recovery, feelings of anger, frustration, jealousy, loneliness, low self-worth, and loss of control can suppress their ability to move forward and to be open to giving and receiving love – love of God, love of self, and love of others. Such suppression only leads to even greater isolation.”
When looking for a partner, remember not to rule out those who you may not feel initially attracted to.
“Lasting attraction is made of numerous other defining qualities and virtues that have nothing to do with outward appearances or physical abilities. Intelligence, personality, humor, creativity, kindness, goodness, integrity, spirit, and deeply reflective thought can all be catalysts of intimate connection.”
Common Myths about Sexuality and Desire
In chapter seven, Dr. Tepper discusses the common myths many believe about their sexual ability, desirability, and what the necessary ingredients are for creating the love that they want. For example, we all know that self-esteem can take a beating when a disability conveys an image that falls short of what society considers most attractive or desirable, or when an injury to our body results in the loss of function and control.
But do we need to have a high level of self-esteem to still feel good in bed?
He says no. In fact, the sexual success you can achieve with a partner can boost the other aspects of self-esteem.
On the flip side, even if you feel good about yourself, and have high measures of self-esteem in other areas, e.g. you feel good about yourself as a wife, mother, athlete, and at work, this self-esteem doesn’t necessarily equate to feeling good about yourself as a sexual person.
His point is, if you want to have sexual self-esteem and confidence, you need to directly address the sexual component of your life. You can’t set that part on the shelf while you only work on the other important aspects.
Myth #5: If you have high self-esteem, everything else will follow. High self-esteem is all-inclusive.
Truth: Sexual-esteem is uniquely independent of self-esteem. In fact, the most referenced scale for measuring self-esteem, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, has 10 questions, none of which asks about sexuality. If you want to experience your sexuality in a satisfying and enjoyable way you need to invest time and energy into sexual healing.
After dispelling the Myths, we learn the “secrets” to giving and receiving sexual pleasure. Here are some sneak peaks:
Secret #4. The calling card of intimate connection is desire:
“Desire is not just about what your body wants, or what your hormonally influenced mind wants. It’s about what your heart wants, what your soul needs, and what your gut says. You desire to be accepted and unconditionally loved by someone who recognizes you as a sexual person. When your desire for intimate connection is fulfilled, you feel energized, revitalized and fully alive, as a valuable person who matters.”
Pleasure and orgasm after serious injury are the result of a process of sexual self-discovery: The participants in my research improved over time by believing that more was possible, that sexuality was their responsibility, by learning more about their SCI bodies, by introducing fantasy, and by embracing the disability and rejecting sexist/ableist ideals of sexual expression.
While many men and woman with disabilities still have partial or full sensation in their bodies, another issue for many who are newly injured is how to continue enjoying the full pleasure they could experience before, even when they have lost sensation due to injury or illness. Here, Dr.Tepper shows us some interesting laboratory results, proving what is still possible.
“In a laboratory setting, we demonstrated that by using specific and targeted mechanical stimulation, it is possible for women with no feeling in their genitals and no voluntary movement below their level of complete injury, to experience “real” or “true” orgasms. In a related finding, we also learned that women with complete spinal cord injuries could experience orgasm by stimulating a sensitive area right above their level of injury. We documented our laboratory results using both physical (blood pressure, heart rate, and sensitivity to painful stimuli) and perceptual (self-reported) measures and included Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans and functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) of the brain.”
For more on this topic and a Question and Answer Session with Dr. Tepper, be sure to subscribe now so you won’t miss Part 2 of our Interview with Dr. Tepper, coming soon.
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