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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Sex expert analyzes shifting perceptions

When it comes to sex today, more is better, preferences differ and there is a good deal more to consider than "ripping off your clothes and rubbing your genitals together," according to Dr. Randye Cohen, Ph.D.

In a speech yesterday entitled "What Drives Your Sex Drive," Cohen discussed personal sexuality and shifting perceptions of sex.

"The meaning of sex changes from culture to culture. In the 19th century, Kellogg's Cornflakes were promoted as a way to lower sex drive. People used to be worried about people being too sexually active."

"This contrasts with the prevailing outlook today," she said. "There is a lot of pressure to have more sex and better sex and multiple orgasms. Everybody struggles with sexuality. It is not uncommon, even though we feel like we are going through these things alone."

She mentioned seven categories of forces behind a person's sex drive: biology, interpersonal, cognition, imagery, sensation, affect and behavior.

One biological factor was the amount of alcohol a person had consumed.

"Alcohol is not a friend to sexuality," she said, noting that inebriation makes it "harder to get an erection."

In the imagery category, Cohen mentioned the positive role that the media can play in providing a way to channel fantasies, saying that "a man interested in science fiction may be able to use sci-fi imagery and fantasy to increase sex drive."

She cautioned, however, that the media can have a negative influence, noting the lack of contraceptives in movies.

She also said that Bob Dole and Bill Clinton had a major impact on the view of sexuality.

She described a picture that she once saw to illustrate the perceived difference between male and female sexuality.

"Male sexuality was represented by a toggle switch, simply up-down, or on-off. Female sexuality was a big board with lots of dials and switches."

She noted the diversity of sexual desires and preferences that different people express, saying that she has seen couples who are satisfied engaging in intercourse once a month, while others have sex three times a day and are unfulfilled.

Also, some people view foreplay as essential, while others see it as the "tollbooth on the highway of sex."

Cohen discussed the role that Sigmund Freud played in the modern perception of sexuality, arguing that Freud interpreted many things incorrectly.

She called Freud's view "phallocentric."

"Freud believed that women who required direct stimulation of the clitoris had 'immature orgasms.' In fact, most women need direct stimulation."

The increased volume of literature on the topic shows how the perception of sexuality has evolved.

"It used to be that there was only one book on sexuality in the library," Cohen said. "Now there is an entire wall on sexuality at Borders."

She noted though, "Even though our culture is saturated with sexuality, people still feel uncomfortable talking about it."

While discussing the history of sexuality, Cohen said that, "It is funny what people thought were aphrodisiacs, including moose testicles. Many animals have been sacrificed in the interest of sexuality."

She brought with her a number of books which she recommended to people who are interested in further exploring sexuality.

These included "A Guide to Getting It On," which she called "very entertaining," and "Kosher Adultery."

The talk was part of the "Let's Talk About Sex" series.

While only a small audience attended the lecture, the numbers allowed for a more interactive discussion.