‘People feel so ashamed and embarrassed if they’re having any problems’

Sex is seemingly ubiquitous in everyday life, yet there is one topic within the discussion that’s conspicuous by its absence: sexual problems.

“What’s out there often gives the impression that everyone’s doing it all the time, and it’s always fantastic, and so people feel so ashamed and embarrassed if they’re having any problems,” says Dr Anita Elias, head of the Sexual Medicine and Therapy Clinic at Monash Health, and our guest on the latest episode of Good Weekend Talks.

“I actually tell my patients that my job is kind of like Sherlock Holmes, looking for clues,” Elias says. This includes examining physical health, psychological problems, emotional matters and relationship issues. “We do a really, really thorough assessment, getting to know the whole person and their circumstances, to make sense of why they’re having this sexual issue now.”

Normalising conversations about getting it on – from the heavy and heartfelt to the hilarious – is the subject of our cover story this week, Frisky Business, about sexologist Chantelle Otten, a high-profile champion of the sex-positive movement. She’s also the partner of tennis star and Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott.

“The sexologists I spoke to – including Chantelle – suggested that a big part of their job is reframing expectations for the people who see them,” says Good Weekend senior writer Konrad Marshall, who penned the feature. “They often think there’s something wrong with them, when there’s not – they just need to reframe their sense of normal.”

Hosting the podcast chat this week is Katrina Strickland, the editor of Good Weekend, asking questions about everything from the most common sexual ailments, to the sometimes-problematic intersection of sexology and the wellness industry, to the place of pornography in sex education.

“We need to educate people more than what porn does, to let them know that that is a movie, it’s not real-life sex,” Elias notes. “I often say to my patients, ‘I enjoy James Bond movies, but I’m not going to jump out of a plane without a parachute.’ ”

Good Weekend Talks offers readers the chance to delve even deeper each week into Good Weekend’s most intriguing stories, with lively insight from writers, editors and experts. Listen to more episodes by subscribing to Good Weekend Talks wherever you get your podcasts.

For the full feature story, see Saturday’s Good Weekend, or visit The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Times.

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