Laurie Betito on The Pleasure Principle: The Secret to a Better Sex Life at TEDxMontrealWomen (Transcript)

Okay. Anyone remember who talked to you about sexual pleasure? Does anyone talk to us about sexual pleasure? Did we learn it in sex education class? Or did we just learn about STDs or how not to become pregnant? Did our parents talk to us about pleasure? No.

Now, as babies, all we know is pleasure. Hands down the pants, it just feels good! It has nothing to do with sex until somebody says, “Don’t touch yourself! Don’t touch yourself.”

Then as we get older, if we’re teenagers and we express an interest in sex, what are we called? Sluts, right? And we still, even today, surprisingly, even today, we still hear those kinds of comments. We celebrate male gratification, but we shame women for the same. We still have negative messages that come to us, from our families, from our culture, from religion; they’re still out there.

And then, as we grow up into adults and have relationships, we’re magically supposed to love it. I cannot tell you how often I see women in my office – and that’s women of all ages – who come in saying they have an issue with orgasm. Either because they’re not seeing fireworks and they expect it, or because they’re not having orgasms with intercourse, and they come in saying, “I have a problem.” And then I ask them about their own pleasure when they self-pleasure, and they say, “Okay, no problem with that.” But yet, they still think they have a problem with orgasm.

Then there’s the issue of desire – another common issue. Desire is not constant, for most of us. It doesn’t stay static throughout a life cycle; it fluctuates. And sometimes quite, quite drastically. Unfortunately, I all too often see women who come and see me because – or talk to me, even – who tell me they see sex as a chore, something that they have to give, not something that they share, not something that they even take.

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That usually happens when one partner has a lot more desire than the other. And in situations like that, women will avoid sex, they’ll avoid intimacy, it leaves them feeling frustrated, it leaves them feeling lonely, it leaves their partners feeling frustrated and lonely, and they wonder: what’s wrong with me? Do I not love my partner? Am I not attracted to my partner?

But of course, when we start talking, they are attracted to their partner, they do love their partner, in fact, when they have sex, they do enjoy it. So, what’s the problem? Obviously, if you’re in a lousy relationship, or a dysfunctional relationship, or you’re resentful with your partner, you’re not going to have any desire for your partner. But what about those of us who are in relationships that are happy – generally speaking. What’s going on? What’s going on is that we need to understand how desire works in women.

Mostly women, I’m going to tell you – not that it doesn’t change like that for men, but I would say about 75% of women and 25% of men. Desire for women is no longer spontaneous in long-term relationships – for the most part. And long-term relationships, that could be at any age. And studies have shown us, a long-term means six months to 18 months, when that in-lust feeling kind of goes away. So, we lose that spontaneous desire, the feeling of being horny, that feeling below the belt, and it starts to matter more above the neck, really – or above the waist, the heart and the head.

And our desire becomes more responsive, which means when our partner stimulates us, we respond to that stimulation and our desire kicks in. That’s what triggers the desire.

So what do we do? We have to commit to it; we have to choose sexuality. You have to choose it, knowing that it’s good for you, knowing that you’re going to feel good with it, and that it gives you pleasure. But it’s a conscious effort to choose sexuality.

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I’m going to give you a little example, which will give you an idea – at least it works for me. So, how many of you here love going to the gym, especially, like, before your day? All right, a couple of people. I mean, really, those are the gym rats in the room. Most of us, I think most of us it takes quite an effort to get going to the gym, right? So your alarm goes off at – I don’t know – five or six o’clock in the morning, and you know you got to get that workout in before the day, you get out of bed, you’re, like, oh, do I have to go to the gym? Then you get your gym clothes on, once you have those on, you’re not going back to bed, you generally go.

So you go to the gym, you work out. That workout always feels good. It feels good, you feel energized, you say, wow, that was great, I got to do this again tomorrow, I love it. Okay. Tomorrow comes and your alarm bell goes off at five am. Are you going to spring out of bed? No! Even though you loved it, right? You don’t have a spontaneous desire to go to the gym. Make sense? All right.

The next step to achieving a good sexuality is an understanding of our bodies. There’s mostly ladies here, right? How many of you – and I want a show of hands, be honest – if we lined up all your vulvas in a lineup, that’s like the whole bit part, we line them all up naked, how many of you would be able to pick yours out? Okay, a handful. There’s a few guys – I see a couple of guys in the room.

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