By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune Newspapers
3:52 PM EDT, July 17, 2012
A great cultural irony of our day, says New York-based sex counselor Ian Kerner, is that hot sex is in our faces but perhaps not in our bedrooms. In a survey on his website GoodinBed.com, 50 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or extremely bored in their relationships, sex being the prime source of their malaise.
"For the last decade there's been a lot of sexiness in the media, but I haven't really seen thought becoming action," he said.
In their new book "The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book" (Gallery Books), Kerner and co-author Lisa Rinna, the actress whose 20-year marriage to actor Harry Hamlin thrives on good sex, encourage couples to bring boldness back between the sheets (or on a kitchen counter), with how-to advice on everything from dealing with premature ejaculation to the art of the quickie to why you shouldn't fake orgasms.
Q: What's the big deal about sex? Are we putting too much pressure on it, and ourselves, by worrying that we're not having enough of it?
Kerner: A healthy sex life is a barometer of an overall healthy life. If you're not engaged in a healthy sex life with your partner, it probably says that not everything is perfect with your relationship or in your lifestyle. Studies have shown people with healthy sex lives have better relationships, happier kids ... and do better at work. When the sex starts to go in a relationship, it can really speak to complacency.
Q: What have been some secrets to maintaining a thrilling sex life in your marriage after 20 years?
Rinna: We'll take a night and go to a hotel, and we'll create a really romantic atmosphere. Whether that means dressing up or watching porn together, it's about making the effort and being open. Certainly there are times when it's spontaneous, but sometimes when life is so busy and so fast, you have to schedule a moment, or else it tends to not happen.
Q: How can we restimulate those neurochemicals that make us so sexually excited about our partners in the beginning of a relationship?
Kerner: Studies show that engaging in novel acts together stimulates dopamine (a neurochemical related to pleasure and reward) transmission. It doesn't even have to be new sexual things, it's just about doing new things with our partner outside the bedroom. In our book, Lisa and I advocate 30-second hugs. There are some studies that show when you hug for upward of 30 seconds, it increases (the bonding neurochemical) oxytocin levels, especially for women. Men have to hug even longer to get the effect.
Q: What are some common mistakes people make that have a counterproductive effect on their sex lives?
Kerner: People do often live too long with sexual issues or secrets or discontents. As a society, we're good at talking about a lot of different things, but not sex. When people finally do talk about their sex lives, it's hard to do it in a way that doesn't cause defensiveness or come across as heavy-handed. Working on your sex life should be sexy and fun. ... A great time is when you're starting to fool around with your partner, and your inhibitions are starting to lower. You can expand the whole concept of foreplay to include way more fantasizing together, and talking dirty. At a certain point, you're both really aroused, and then you can go into what you know works. But you're bridging it with something new and exciting.
Q: The book has a nice section on role-playing. Can you talk about that and other ways to spice up your sex life that I can print in the newspaper?
Kerner: I have found that the power of fantasy is so important. There are things that my wife and I may never do in reality, but we love to talk about them. Fantasies wouldn't be fantasies if there weren't a taboo element.