You may have heard the term “sexology” or “sexologist”, and wondered what these mean— and whether they’re legit! Well, they are indeed. Sexology is the scientific study of human sexuality, in all of its breadth and complexity. It is an interdisciplinary field that taps knowledge gleaned through medicine, the life sciences, social sciences such as sociology and anthropology, psychology, and numerous other disciplines.
Why would anyone put all that thought and effort into a subject that’s so hush-hush and “unspeakable” in social circles? Well, for starters, because sex is fundamental to our existence as human beings; it is, in effect, our “life-energy”. It’s good to seek understanding of any force that exerts that kind of influence in our life.
In any society, sex, procreation and pleasure are topics that are the focus of much attention. Because these are centrally important themes, governments, churches and other organizations seek to control and channel these forces by establishing “mores” that reflect the moral views of that society. In our Western Judeo-Christian dominated societies, sexuality is viewed with suspicion, and as a powerful and inherently negative force that must be kept in check by reason. Sex is undeniably powerful— but it certainly need not be presumed to be negative, and thus in need of repression. Letting fear guide our attitudes toward sexuality can lead us to “throw the baby out with the bath-water”, damping the joy and good that healthy sexuality can bring into our life.
Sexologists see sex as a natural facet of humanity that must be accepted as such. Sexologists avoid making moral judgments about sex; like any other human activity, sex can be a source of either good or bad, depending on how it is exercised and experienced. By helping people understand that their sexuality is an inherent part of who they are, and in helping them to understand how sex affects their body, mind and emotions, sexologists give people a powerful tool for responsibly managing their life. Personal knowledge is personal power— and we’re all better off, if we have what it takes to make informed personal choices!
Professional sexologists can help their clients in several different ways:
- Sex therapists are typically psychologists or psychiatrists who also have sexological training. Such therapists work with their clients to diagnose sexual dysfunctions, and they do so by pursuing a deep understanding of the client’s past, as the basis for prescribing corrective actions or behavior changes. Sex therapists are licensed professionals.
- Social workers who have sexological training can focus on delivering sexual education, or on helping a client address sexual dysfunction, or both. Social workers come from diverse disciplines, and utilize differing approaches; however, they share the common goal of seeking to improve the quality of life for individuals, couples and larger groups. Social workers are licensed professionals.
- Sex coaches come from diverse backgrounds, but they share a deep knowledge of sexology with the use of coaching techniques as their method of engagement with a client. Sex coaches address not only sexual dysfunction, but also a client’s desire for enhancement of their sex life and intimate relationships. Sex coaching is an emerging profession, and the training of such coaches can vary widely. Reputable sex coaches have certification from an established and properly accredited training institution.
These three kinds of sexological workers engage with their clients in rather different ways:
- Therapists work as experts who assess a client and offer prescriptions; they observe and diagnose the client’s possible issues from “outside”, gathering information from the client but not engaging with the client as a peer.
- Social workers also work as expert assessors of and consultants to a client. Like therapists, social workers do not link with the client in a peer-to-peer relationship; they observe the client and his/her interactions from “outside”, and then recommend behavior and attitude changes that can enhance the client’s life.
- In contrast with these first two categories of sexological workers, sex coaches rely on establishing a peer-to-peer connection with a client, in order to act as an expert advisor and an objective “mirror” for the client. In a sex coaching relationship, the coach provides tools and powerful guiding questions, but it is the client who sets the course of the coaching work, and who also does the work necessary for advancement. A sex coach is not in any sense “above” or “apart from” the client.
Now that you know what sexologists are, think about how they might fit into your own life. Would you like a more sensual, sexually fulfilling and intimate life? Would you like to better understand yourself, so that you can make better personal decisions for yourself? Would you benefit from having a caring and knowledgeable partner to help you make responsible relationship decisions that can enhance your pleasure and satisfaction in life, without inappropriate guilt or shame? If so, consider reaching out to a qualified sexologist for help. You might find that to be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made!