I write this blog with the hope that my personal story, matched with scientific knowledge, will help you to better understand who you are sexually. Learning about the places in life where Sex, Science and Nature come together can empower you to find fulfillment in the unique sexual person you are, as well as acceptance of yourself.
Science has answers to some of the most delicate and often overwhelming questions we ask ourselves and one another about sex, but sometimes it can be very difficult to access good knowledge about what is normal or how to approach sexual challenges.
I am a Reproductive Physiologist and the inventor of Pre-Seed, the world’s first “fertility” lubricant. My posts share reviews and commentary on science that illuminates or impacts human sexuality to make the science behind our functioning as natural sexual beings accessible.
Some of you may know me as “Dr. E” from my work helping infertile couples. You may have seen me in the National Geographic special “Sizing Up Sperm” or heard me on National Public Radio talking about my research (with the UPS man delivering semen for breeding my pet 900 lb pig). As a scientist in the field of Andrology (Male Fertility), I’ve spent 30 years studying how to protect sperm to optimize male fertility, among other things. Along the way, my National Institute of Health (NIH) funded research focused on how the female’s Fallopian Tube cells select and nurture the best sperm so they can fertilize the egg.
I’ve learned that human conception is not the “battle” between sexes it is often portrayed as — but rather it is an intricately timed collaboration between the male and female.
The ovaries and Fallopian Tubes work together to provide everything sperm need in order to preserve their DNA (genetic material) and their motility (swimming capacity) so they can create a healthy baby.
During this research, I learned that the leading vaginal lubricants on the market were killing sperm — even the ones labeled “non-spermicidal.” My research revealed that many trying-to-conceive (TTC) couples were using lubricants to try to make “having-to-have sex while conceiving a baby” (“Baby-dancing” in the TTC vernacular) more comfortable, without knowing that these products damage sperm. As my work increasingly moved towards helping infertile couples, I also faced significant challenges conceiving my second son. My life and work came together as I experienced personally how the stress of TTC can adversely impact a couple’s love life.
Following my completely serendipitous discovery of a natural plant sugar (arabinogalactan) that provides antioxidant support for sperm, I teamed with a committed group of colleagues to invent Pre-Seed, the world’s first “fertility” lubricant. It is uniquely and specifically designed to support sperm and provide an optimal environment for their journey to the egg. Since Pre-Seed was launched in 2003, we have sold millions of doses around the world, providing “seriously fun baby-making” for TTC couples, and learning a great deal about the sex and nature of human sexuality.
While doing all this science I am also just like “every woman” who makes her way through life, sex, and intimacy. Each of us feels empowered at times and ridiculous at others — as we move into and out of confident sexual selves. In my case, I can talk about reproduction on national TV but am deeply embarrassed to buy “personal items” at the store (I always try to bury them under other things in my cart, even picking up items I don’t need to cover them up). Just like most of you, I have had to work to maintain a fulfilling intimate life. While doing my scientific work in the science of sex and reproduction, I have also been a mother, wife, and sexual partner navigating prolonged and significant health issues and the emotional stress of attempted hostile company takeovers, as well as divorce, remarriage and blended families. My science is, thus, my life.
From my work as a Reproductive Physiologist I know most of us want a more fulfilling, enthralling sex life, but we often don’t know how to find it.
I have encountered many people, who have experienced deep emotional pain around sex in their daily lives. Whether concerned with fertility, or just with keeping everyday love alive, knowing our sexual self is an important key to human happiness. We each have this self, but finding correct information about it and connecting with it confidently is not always easy.
Science can help us nurture and enjoy this self, especially when we consciously integrate an understanding of scientific findings with an acceptance of our human nature.
My aim is to help you discover science that makes sense of our human sexuality and understand yourself as a natural, sexual person.
Millions of couples suffer from what we reproductive scientists call sexual discrepancy.
It can manifest in different levels of need or desire for sexual activity between two partners, and in different levels of sexual satisfaction for the two parties (within the sex they do have).
Much of sexual discrepancy between the two halves of a whole couple is, at its foundation, genetic or DNA based—an expression of the differing sex steroid secretions between the individuals that make up the pair.
This is important to realize so that we don’t consider our partner to be “messed up” because they want different levels of sex than us. It can also to keep from constantly considering ourselves flawed or unattractive if our partner is not as sexually active, excitable, or interested as we are.
At the same time, sexual discrepancy can also be a result of emotional, relational, or physical difficulties in the pair-bond.
Health issues for one person, tension and stress between the pair or for one person, poor sexual fulfillment for either and yes, infidelity of one of the pair, can all create sexual discrepancy.
Sexual satisfaction—the most easily treatable part of sexual discrepancy—is our feeling of pleasure, joy and excitement (without anxiety or negative stress) during sexual intimacy.
In most cases, you and your partner can work on sexual satisfaction even if other parts of the marriage are floundering.
This is very important work because research from around the world—in many diverse cultures—reveals that sexual satisfaction is highly related to overall relationship satisfaction and, thus, marital longevity.
If the two individuals’ sexual needs in a couple are satisfied, the couple will tend to stay together longer and/or will have a more satisfying marriage, even if they don’t have psychologically textbook perfect communication skills, or they fight frequently.
So, dealing with sexual satisfaction can be a way of finding treatment for marital distress both from the viewpoint of the chicken and the egg (so to speak).
If you have a high level of sexual discrepancy in your relationship, prioritize finding out who YOU are sexually, so that you don’t confuse for example, chronic anger at your partner with “low sex drive.”
Be a bit selfish. Focus on what satisfies you and ask for it.
Discuss why you want more or less sex, and what particular activities you want more or less of. This may feel very scary, but leaving this discussion until after irreparable harm to the bond has occurred will be even harder. You have nothing to loose in being honest.
Listen to what you are saying in this conversation with your partner.
“Sex is uncomfortable.” “It hurts when you touch me.” “I am worried that my erection will go away.” These are all medical reasons for avoiding sex, they are NOT low sex drive.
“I keep thinking about work when we make love.” “I am worried the kids will need me or hear us.” These suggest that external factors need to be better managed. For women especially, a secure environment away from day-to-day hassles, during the middle of the day with relaxing massages or foreplay, can turn “have to sex” to “want to sex.”
“I really dislike you right now and don’t want you touching me.” “I find it easier to masturbate with porn than to deal with trying to figure out how to turn you on.” These suggest that there are some underlying hurts and disconnects in the relationship that warrant counseling to figure out if the pair can be sustained.
Remember if one of you is always having or most always having “compliant sex” this can create resentment in both partners, and poor sexual fulfillment even for the “receiving” partner. It can eventually lead to relationship failure.
Having sex out of a sense of duty is not too unusual. Studies show that 55-65% of women and 35-40% of men say they have said yes to sex they didn’t want. And during a 2-week window in one study, 50% of women and 26% of men consented to compliant sex at least once. There is nothing wrong with this in a partnership—it is part of the compromise that keeps a marriage strong.
But when sex is only or mostly compliant for one member in a couple, the bonds of the relationship will weaken.
Sex is, literally, like a glue (think of the fluids transferring between you as physical, spiritual, and emotional glue) that helps relationships survive and thrive.
If you are feeling some kind of sexual compliance as a constant in your relationship, or feeling sexual discrepancy or low sexual satisfaction of any significant kind, figure out if it is medical (physical), situational, emotional or if you truly have very different sex drives. If so, you need to discuss how this will be navigated and if you are wanting to work through it together or if the differences are too great to make your pair bond work long term.
Remember “there ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys”….Our sex drive is just a part of who we each are.
Humans by their very DNA and biology are sexual, but as with everything in life, there is a bell-curve range to their compatibility of sexual desire.
Our sexual drive is individually unique based on the amount of sex steroids our body makes (e.g. levels of estrogen and testosterone). We can imagine a benefit for human communities to have a mix of people with high and low sex steroids, and therefore high and low levels of sexual desire.
A few people are outliers—having very low or high levels of whatever we are measuring (e.g. sexual desire). But most people are average for the population. The “normal” (average) people make the large cup of the bell, and the outliers make the flared edges of the bell.
This bell curve of desire is good. Our ancestors needed people who “lived for sex” to keep procreation of the species going even through fighting, famine and floods. Yet, they also needed people who would prioritize hunting for food or inventing a new spear over having sex.
Most of the people in these early villages had a normal amount of sex. But that didn’t make either the high or low outliers in the group “bad” or “wrong” or even “abnormal” in a pathological sense.
Sex was sex, people had sex as much as they needed, wanted, or could get within their social hierarchy.
But when humans brought culture, marriage and religion into the equation, things changed.
Instead of a person with a high sex drive seeking out a willing partner to fulfill their sexual need at the moment, now two people who were contractually partnered had to negotiate each other’s different sexual desire levels for life!
Often, inevitably, one or the other of the couple might have sexual needs that were outside of the larger bell part of average human sexual desire while the partner was average.
Millions of couples suffer from what we reproductive scientists call sexual discrepancy. Much of sexual discrepancy between the two halves of a whole couple is, at its foundation, genetic or DNA based.
Our sex drive is individually unique based on the amount of sex steroids our body makes. Humans by their very DNA and biology are sexual, but there is a bell-curve.
Improve sperm count, quality, and motility with these tips for men in TTC couples. Dr. E shares positive life changes that may help as you are trying for a baby.