Finally, a fun, comprehensive, refreshingly readable sex guide that offers something for both men and women. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Amazing Sex is not for idiots at all; on the contrary, it's for the smart folks out there who recognize the importance of a healthy sex life! Our Family and Relationships editor had the chance to speak with the author, sex expert and TV commentator Sari Locker, about her latest book.
barnesandnoble.com: What do you say to people who wonder why anyone would need a book to teach them about sex, when sex is a natural thing?
Sari Locker: What makes amazing sex is when people are totally in the moment and it is just natural. But the reason why many people need more sex education in order to get to that point is that there are a lot of issues that come up when people have sex. One is body image; a lot of people can't get past the inhibitions they have about their body in order to feel natural and free during sex, and I teach them ways that they can do that in this book. Another big issue is the fear of pregnancy and STDs. If people don't have education, then they can't have sex in a free way, because they will find that sex becomes problematic. Similarly, if they have any kind of sexual dysfunction, it doesn't just resolve itself naturally; in many cases, they need education or treatment to get over it. But when it comes to things like sexual positions or variety of locations or alternative sexual lifestyles, for some people those things do come naturally, and some people do have that natural sexual creativity, but other peoplemightreally be seeking new ideas.
bn: How does this book differ from your first book, Mindblowing Sex in the Real World?
SL: My first book was aimed at people whose sexual activity is fairly new to them, while this book is very comprehensive, covering all aspects of sexuality, from body image to sex and aging to the fun stuff like positions and location.
bn: You were only 18 when you started working as a sex educator. How did you begin your career so early?
SL: I started college when I was 16, at Cornell. By the time I was 17, I was taking a lot of psychology courses, and I got interested in the psychology of adolescence, and through studying teenagers, I realized that I was interested in helping teenagers sort through their issues about sex and relationships. [At that point] two years into college, my major was educational psychology. I started giving lectures in schools, and by the time I graduated, I had already been published for some scientific research I had done. I went to Penn grad school and got my master's degree in sex education. I was 22. I came to New York, having known all along that I wanted to go on TV to talk about sex and write books for the general public. My feeling was that I was trained as an educator, and as an educator I wanted to educate as many people as possible. The best way to do that is through the mass media.
bn: What does the title of this book mean? Is this book for people who have no idea what they're doing?
SL: People should understand that the title of this book is just that a catchy title. There is no such thing as being an idiot because you want to know more about sex.
bn: What part of this book was the most fun to write?
SL: I loved writing the sexual fantasy chapter. I liked explaining the top ten sexual fantasies, and talking about the steps people can take when they want to share their fantasies with their partner, and whether or not they should act their fantasies out. I liked the activity I came up with in which you think of ten fantasies, your partner thinks of ten, and then you sit down together and choose ten out of those 20 to be acted out. I think that's a solid way for couples to try new things and really communicate about sex. I also like explaining how to have sex online.
bn: What do you think of cybersex?
SL: I think that cybersex falls into a few different categories, and I like to address them differently. I think that writing a sexy email to someone who you're in a relationship with or who you're just starting to date is a lot of fun and is an alternative to phone sex. But when you write very sexually explicit emails, it gets a little dangerous, because emails can so easily be forwarded for years. You always have to remember that your relationship might not last forever, but that your email on your ex's hard drive might! When it comes to anonymous sex chats, when you go into a chat room and instant-message with a stranger, to me those are like phone sex, but you have to work more because you have to type. But some people like to type the words rather than say them, so for those people the chats work very well.
bn: Is there a downside to this?
SL: For some people, they'll stay in on a Saturday night and go to a chat room instead of going out to meet somebody face-to-face. And I don't mean going out for casual sex; I mean going out just to talk to somebody. What we always have to remember is that human relationships are about connecting, and while the Internet is a terrific way to connect, it doesn't give you the intimacy that face-to-face contact does.
bn: What do you think is the connection between sex and love?
SL: Sex is the most special and intimate way that you can be with another person, and I think that when two people are in love, it strengthens the meaning of sex and it strengthens the meaning of their love. I think if people can enjoy having sex without being in love, then that's perfectly fine for them. But I think that everyone needs to be sure that he or she really doesn't need love and just wants to have casual sex. No matter how good the [sex] is, if afterward you feel guilty, or feel like you shouldn't have done it, or shouldn't have done it with that person, then I think it wasn't good sex. I think good sex has to feel good before, during, and after.
bn: What sexual myths will this book help dispel?
SL: I think that on the most basic level, there are still some people who think that sex is wrong, or dirty, or bad, perhaps because they grew up with some negative values about sex either from their parents or, perhaps, from religion. So certainly the section in this book that discusses sexual myths will help them understand that sex is a beautiful, natural, wonderful part of life. Also, I try to break a lot of the gender myths, such as that men always want to have sex and women always have to be convinced. Or the myth that men can't be monogamous any man can be monogamous if he wants to be. Also [the myth] that sexual pleasure does not last throughout your life. [Sex] can be great until the day you die.
bn: Is there such a thing as a "normal" amount of sex in a relationship?
SL: No. There are lots of statistics and I go through them in the book about how often some people have sex in their relationships, but what's normal for your relationship is what feels right for you and your partner. If you want to have sex once a year, and that's okay with your partner, then that's perfect for your relationship. If you want to have sex three times a day and so does your partner, then that's perfect for your relationship. The only problems that do come up are when one person wants to have sex once a day and the other wants to have sex twice a week. It's very common that people have differing desires, and at the beginning of the relationship it might be the same, then change later on. Then they need to find a compromise or see a sex therapist to see if there is a way to compromise.
bn: Who do you think have sex more often, married people or singles? How does marriage affect the sex lives of people who have been together and unmarried for a long period of time?
SL: Married people have sex more often than singles, simply because married people have greater accessibility to a sex partner their spouse. Singles who have casual sex might not know from one day to the next when their next sexual encounter will be. When a couple is living together but not married, they have sex with the same frequency as a married couple. When that couple marries, their sex life is usually not affected by their rings and their marriage license. Keep in mind, this is all based on sex research, and individual experiences may vary.
bn: How can people tell if they are in love versus just being attracted to someone?
SL: The difference between love and lust is that love is a peaceful, grounded feeling. When you're in love, you feel safe, and you feel happy content. When you're in lust, you feel scattered, lightheaded, often jealous and possessive. Lust brings out more insecurities; love brings out more feelings of security.
bn: If people want to wait until marriage to have sex, is there any way they can know if their mate is going to be a good sex partner for them?
SL: You can't tell if someone is an amazing lover just by the way that person dances or eats food, or what somebody says people will tell you how wonderful they are in bed, and they're not! You really need to be intimate to know how someone is sexually. But if you do want to wait to have sex until you're married, you can get some sense of whether the person could be a [good] lover for you. First of all, if the person generally doesn't have a lot of inhibitions, and generally feels comfortable with his or her body. That doesn't meant that you have to be naked together; you can tell from how a person carries him- or herself. If you have the opportunity to go to the beach together, you can get a sense of that person's body image. Another indicator is how that person generally talks about sex. If that person refers to sex as something that's bad or dirty or something that people shouldn't be doing...talking about people having sex in a really derogatory way, then that person probably has some issues and might not be able to be sexually expressive. You also might want to see if the person you're involved with has a sense of fun and adventure is this somebody who loves to laugh with you? Also, you want someone who knows or who will learn how to use condoms and birth control properly. I think that's really important.
bn: Is there any statistical correlation between when couples introduce sex into their relationship and if the couple ultimately marry?
SL: I mention a study by Dr. Edward Laumann on page 35 in one of the "sextistic" sidebars. Dr. Laumann found in the course of his research that the longer you wait to have sex, the more likely you are to get married to your partner. He found that only 10 percent of couples who have sex during their first month of dating end up marrying. Forty-seven percent of those who wait a year or more end up getting married. This was not my research, but I included it because although I try not to push my values when I teach about sex, there are times when I want to remind people of certain things. One of these things is that they call it a one-night stand because it lasts for one night.
bn: So having sex too soon can undermine the development of a relationship?
SL: When people have sex on the first date, it can change the dynamic so much that it's awkward afterwards. I think the issue of having sex too soon is that when you get to know somebody physically before you know them intellectually and emotionally, things become out of balance.
bn: You mention that if someone is uncomfortable with his or her own body, it can have a negative effect on that person's sex life. What steps can people take to make themselves more comfortable with their bodies?
SL: For some people, learning to love their body takes time and effort. In this book, I devote a whole chapter to improving your body image. One of the activities that I describe step-by-step is a method of looking at your nude body in a full-length mirror to find the things that you like about your body. The exercise is meant to help people understand that it's very possible that they can love some aspects of their body. Finally, in order to improve body image, remind yourself of all the things you are besides a body. Tell yourself that you're loving, fun to be with, and worthwhile. Neither thinner thighs nor ripped abs are the answer to all of life's problems. Happiness in life comes from more than your body.
bn: Another topic you address is making one's home more romantic. What are some easy tips?
SL: The first thing to make your home more romantic is to clean it up. It's never romantic to have a pile of dirty laundry in the bedroom or to have dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. Even though you might have some fantasy about doing it on the dirty dishes like they did in Fatal Attraction, I think when it comes down to it, it's much more sensual to have a clean home. Little touches can really make a difference, like candles at the table during dinner, or a candle in the bedroom. Everyone looks great in candlelight. Also, big soft pillows, plush fabrics. Some people like satin sheets, but sometimes I think they can be slippery instead of sexy. Fresh flowers are great to have in your home to brighten things up. Look for the most fragrant flowers, like lilies, freesia, or sweetheart roses, because they make the whole room smell good. I also think to make your bedroom more sensual get the TV out!
bn: What are the most important things you hope your readers will take away from this book?
SL: For readers who have any inhibitions about their bodies or about having fun with sex, I hope they can feel more comfortable with their sexuality than they did before they read this book. For readers who already aren't inhibited, I hope this book can help them be even more creative with their sex lives. I'm sure this book has information about new positions, locations, and specific techniques. There is so much about all of the creative aspects of sex that even the person who thinks they've done everything can find something new here.