Even Single People Seek Sex Therapy
Most men face a combination of communicative and internal issues when they think about or attempt to pursue sex therapy. There's the general complexity involved in understanding feelings about sex, pleasure and intimacy. A further problem arises when someone realizes they can't talk about them even if they do understand them because they don't have the vocabulary.
"So now you have to talk about feelings, which you're not comfortable with anyway and don't have a language for, and you're going to have to talk to another person about the fact that the thing that you define as your core masculinity, your core identity as a male, is not working," said Lawrence A. Siegel, M.A., a sexuality educator, consultant and therapist in Boynton Beach, Florida. He is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT).
He pointed out that men's learned behavior differs significantly from how women often learn to relate to their emotions and their sexual needs and experiences.
"Women are not only taught but expected to have a relationship to their emotions," he said. "[Men] are basically taught to completely disconnect from our emotions. And the problem is we all have the same emotions, we feel everything that anybody else feels, but we don't know how to identify them. We don't know how to name them and we certainly don't know how to express them."
Sex therapy and the single man
Does that put single men at a disadvantage cognitively and socially when it comes to sex therapy? Maybe, especially since many men are not necessarily introduced to therapy at their own behest. But Siegel said single men do seek a sex therapist for one aspect of personal sexuality, and not surprisingly, it has to do with the act of self-pleasure, something that still carries a taboo across genders despite an undeniable increase in products and open discussion endorsing masturbation, especially for females.
Siegel places part of the blame for American men's attitudes toward sex on what he calls the script that has developed. The script states the word "sex" automatically implies partner: partner and intercourse, partner and penetration. That's what too many people think of when sex is mentioned.
"So guys that are on their own…if, say, there's a sense of guilt because of masturbation, then they would definitely go [into therapy] as an unpartnered individual," he said. "But you know, for the most part, anything other than that, they're not likely to come in, and even if they are partnered, they're likely to come in only because their partner's dragging them in."
Essentially, couples are taking up a lot of the therapeutic space for dealing with sex. Plus, it's possible one partner in many of those couples is at least a semi-unwilling participant. Meanwhile, single men who do want sex therapy are too ashamed of or too far removed from sex therapy to access it.
Think of it as coaching
"Actually, this might be surprising, but I've had more single clients than partnered clients," said certified sex coach Shannon Burton, offering a different but parallel perspective as someone who sees a different portion of male clientele seeking consultation and/or counseling concerning sex.
"I think in the therapeutic world, you get a lot of married couples, and a lot of married couples who feel like their marriage is falling apart," added Burton (they/she), whose business is based in New Orleans.
Burton speculated that partnered and single people face the same internal and conditioning obstacles to pursuing sex therapy, but when people are single, they may have already undergone a fair amount of therapeutic work, either individually or in past relationships. If so, the idea of "coaching" as an alternative might bear some of the appeal for approaching sex as an area of improvement.
"I get single people [as clients] and they might still have the same hesitations as other people who are looking into sex therapy," Burton said. "They're scared to be honest about their sex stuff. They think they're weird for wanting what they want sexually, or they think they're broken for their body not responding the way they've been told their body is supposed to respond."
A lot of the reasons people hold back from seeking sex therapy or coaching are tied to shame.
"I think people hesitate to go to either sex therapy or sex coaches because they think they're supposed to already know this stuff, or they've been told they're supposed to already know intuitively how to have sex," they said. "When I do get single people in coaching who had put it off for a while, it's usually because they thought they could solve the problem on their own."
Other barriers to singles sex therapy
The mindset that prevents single men from seeking sex therapy is one thing, but other obstacles such as finances and geography are worth noting, as well.
Siegel pointed out a lot of insurance plans don't cover sex therapy. That's why many therapists won't say they do sex therapy. If they can say a patient is suffering from depression or a motivational issue or something else they can diagnose that's covered by insurance, it can help with economic challenges.
"Even if they do have some kind of insurance, even if the work can be billed, maybe the therapist that's available to them doesn't take their insurance. So there is an economic factor," Siegel said. "However, that being said, most therapists will usually work with their clients and patients if there are economic issues."
Some therapists work on a sliding scale, and remote counseling is an increasingly accessible option for men everywhere.
Even men who are single and actively want to address their sexual issues but don't have access to a therapist due to economic or geographical challenges can explore sex coaches as an alternative. Experts offering coaching and consultation as opposed to therapy are sometimes less limited by third-party influences such as insurance or lack of transportation. If you are stuck in the middle of nowhere without the financial means for therapy, there might be a coach or consultant who can help you remotely or otherwise.
"A lot of the first session is coming together," Siegel said. "And so often, my clients…you can just see the defeat in their eyes. They're just so tired, they've been trying to solve the problem on their own."
Whether you're working on your sexual concerns with a therapist, counselor or coach, you'll often find out quickly that you are not alone and do not need to feel isolated because of sexual function problems or concerns related to sexual interests.