Munich-based sex therapist Heike Melzer believes that we’ve never faced a sexual revolution quite like this one before. She discusses the scale and nature of the changes in her new book “Scharfstellung: Die Neue Sexuelle Revolution“ (“Sharp Focus: the New Sexual Revolution”). Speaking to O*Diaries, she talks about how the Internet, dating apps and sex toys have made a lasting impact on our sexual lives – and in positive ways.
O*Diaries: How have our sex lives changed?
Heike Melzer: Our instincts are increasingly separated from our relationships and love. Today, it’s easier to experience sex alone, or with non-committed, virtual or commercial partners. Sex in a relationship has become just one option among many. However, new problems are arising – they are often old sexual dysfunctions in fresh disguises. The gap between an ever-increasing number of the “untouched” and the promiscuous continues to widen. Voyeurism, exhibitionism, fetishism and BDSM have arrived at the center of our society. Pornography permeates our culture and high-tech sex toys transport us into unimagined spheres of lust.
O.D. What effect does the Internet specifically have on our sex lives?
H.M. The Internet has become a focal point for pleasure. Pornography is aimed at our central sexual organ: the head. Sex can now be safely approached from the comfort of one’s home. We can cheat on our partner using our smartphone at the same time as being in bed with him.
O.D. Which changes may be problematic?
H.M. Sexual super-stimulation makes us insensitive to a partner’s natural stimuli. Sex continues to decouple from love. In my practice, I frequently encounter the issues of sex and porn addiction. It’s an illness you would not wish on your worst enemy.
O.D. Do we still need a partner to have sex?
H.M. Do you know the joke: My wife wants to have sex in the back of the car whilst I’m driving it? Today women climax when their partners take care of the children for a few hours, and men get back to sexual pleasure as soon as their wives go to sleep or leave the house for their Zumba class. Love and eroticism have always had a vexed relationship. Eroticism needs distance, love requires intimacy. Sexual stimuli have become so strong that a partner and even a committed partner are finding it hard to resist the attraction of alternatives.
O.D. Sex toys can have great benefits, especially for women. Can you tell us more?
H.M. Many women don’t actually orgasm from penetrative sex alone. In order to climax, it’s essential that the clitoris is being sufficiently stimulated. However, the clitoral orgasm is in no way inferior to the vaginal orgasm, even if some women do have this crazy idea that the reverse is true. Today women are more emancipated and have become more self-confident with their orgasms. While in the past it was the male orgasm that tended to be in the foreground, the number of women who now prioritize their own climax and personal pleasure is growing. Menopausal women have always been good at this. Today, younger women are following their lead. And what could be better for men than a lustful woman who knows exactly what she likes and can communicate it?
O.D. Can sex toys help women to work on their physical and sexual self-awareness?
H.M. It requires a certain strength of mind to incorporate a sex toy into a relationship, because it’s not always easy for some men to accept. Around a third of women rarely or never experience an orgasm during sex. Women who experiment with sex toys and know how their orgasm works are able to develop their personal as well as inter-personal sexual self-confidence.
O.D. How healthy is masturbation in a relationship?
H.M. Masturbation is always a part of it – at least somewhat. It helps to compensate for different libidos or when a partner is absent or ill. Additionally, masturbation is a different sexuality compared to a partnership. In order to develop a healthy and good relation to your own body, masturbation is something that can be approached positively. However, it’s not an all-purpose weapon. If the stimuli are too strong and we subsequently become used to it, at some point we will no longer be receptive to a partner’s stimuli. It’s all a matter of dose.
O.D. How has the term “loyalty” changed – especially in regards to dating apps? Is it enough to mute your profile when in a new relationship or should one keep the door open for other opportunities?
H.M. Well, that’s where the trouble begins. There’s a big difference between deleting a profile and muting it. Loyalty has increasingly become a matter of perspective. Being true to oneself is now a bigger trend than being true to one’s partner. You only have to take a quick look inside dating apps and portals. What you’ll find are countless people in solid relationships who are in search of an adventure that their partners know nothing about. Therefore, it’s worth discussing loyalty more closely. Love needs clear boundaries. And couples should define where such boundaries lie. Today, we can have sex with strangers, but still remain loyal to our partners. It’s all a matter of definition.
O.D. Does a changing sexual behavior affect the understanding of love?
H.M. There will always be love. However, core areas of love are changing, because reproduction and sexual instinct are gradually separating from it. Just as there is a movement towards a hedonistic lifestyle, there will also be a countermovement to more traditional partnerships. It’s moving toward more delimitation in an age where for every “yes” there’s also a “no”. Self-control will become a central factor that is positively connoted in a relationship. Have you ever heard of sex fasting? These new tendencies are increasing in order for people to remain sensitive to the charms of a loved and equal partner.
O.D. In your own opinion, what makes a desirable, normal sexuality?
H.M. I like the World Health Organization definition from 2006: “Sexual health is an integral part of overall health, well-being and quality of life. It is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality, and not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all people must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
O.D. In previous interviews you’ve spoken about the “sex gourmet”. What does that mean?
H.M. It refers to people who view sexuality as a stimulant. They seek beautiful stimuli in comparison to “sexaholics” who can’t switch off and ‘consume’ sex in an effort to mask negative emotions and consequently get stuck in repetitive addictive loops. It’s all a matter of dose and timing.
O.D. Thank you for the interview, Ms Heike Melzer!
You can buy the book of Heike Melzer here.