Evelyn Resh

Sensual and sexual health and satisfaction for teens and adults

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Pleasure, What’s That?

Pleasure, What’s That?
by Evelyn Resh

Women juggling activity icons

Modern women are amazing.

We have high-powered careers, smart kids, terrific partners, lots of exciting friends, beautiful homes, and financial savvy. We seem to know how to manage big money, big responsibilities, and big orgasms with the partners of our choice, and all on our own terms. The exterior is a high-gloss, showy, and impressive pattern with markers of success that women appear to handle effortlessly and with the utmost finesse.

But there’s so much more to the story. The women who come into my office dispel the myth of the she-has-it-all woman on a daily basis. Beneath this shining exterior, many women are feeling far from successful and are living in asensual, sexless relationships, wishing desperately that they actually had the lives we all assume they’re leading.

As a sexuality counselor and midwife, this is the side of the story that I see most often. It is in the privacy of my office that the true state of matrimonial unions and the modern American woman’s psyche are fully disclosed. I commonly encounter exhausted, furious, overextended wives and mothers who, for all intents and purposes, are tortured by a metastasized lack of pleasure in anything, especially sex. Many face nearly constant battles with their mates because they have disparate appetites for sex, are bored by sex, never liked it in the first place, or can’t identify with the idea of its general importance and its relationship to healthy living.

What these women – and possibly you – are missing is not just sex, but pleasure in general. They live lives focused on “getting the job done”—whatever the job is – and rarely, if ever, take time to enjoy the moment they’re in or the pleasures at hand. They also aren’t feeling as emotionally healthy and empowered in life as they seem to be to the casual observer, nor do they always speak the truth to some of their closest confidantes.

Women in these binds have often unknowingly misappropriated their commitments to themselves and their intimate partners, giving priority instead to their professional worlds and their children. They have lost track of the pleasure they once had, including the pleasure they had with their sexual mates. They become sexually sedate and don’t even notice what’s missing. Then, sex ends up being just one more thing on their to-do lists. After years of subterranean sexuality, they acclimate to a pleasure-less and sex-less life, and when anyone brings this to their attention, the tension becomes untenable or all hell breaks loose.

A less than satisfying sex life, or the lack of one altogether, is one of the most painful manifestations of a loss of pleasure, and it’s also one of the touchiest subjects to address. When our partners ask for more sex – or any sex, for that matter, perhaps by noting that it’s been two weeks, two months, or even two years since you made love, kissed passionately, or slept skin-to-skin – within milliseconds we turn into she-devils right before our beloveds’ eyes, spewing forth the barbed commentary, “Is that all you want from me? Sex?! How can you ask for such a thing, after all I do for you, for this family, and in my job?” What I know with certainty from listening to so many women’s stories is that when women are pissed off, tired, and estranged from life’s pleasures in all forms, we won’t put out sexually. It’s simply not in our biological makeup to do so, nor does it jibe with our complicated psyches.

When these scenarios show up in my office, I always wait to see just how disturbed the expression on a woman’s face becomes when I make note of the fact that what she does for her family, career, and friends falls into a different category from what she does in the name of a healthy sexual relationship or a healthy relationship with herself. Much to her dismay, and sometimes at the risk of enraging her, I become the first and only person to point out that all three relationships are not equal or synonymous. Are they related? Yes, but we’re talking apples and oranges and pears.

A woman’s self-appointed mandates, tasks, jobs, or obligations have more to do with choice than she often realizes—and for the most part they have almost nothing to do with the maintenance of genuine emotional wellness. They’re also frequently a by-product of an anemic relationship with life’s pleasures. As a sexuality counselor and a woman who believes that flirting with hedonism is one of the best and most important parts of life, what I look for is just how unhealthy, unpleasant, and therefore unsexy the life of that woman is. There is nothing sexy about being busy every single moment of your day and telling people you like it this way. There’s also no way to find any form of pleasure if you have low self-esteem or are experiencing a spiritual crisis, hating your body, feeling like you just can’t come back into who you are, or losing all of your creative juices. And let’s not even start on the drain your lifestyle has on your compassion and empathy over the long haul. Living this sort of life completely squelches one of the greatest sources of pleasure – and one of the strongest aphrodisiacs of all – being present in the moment and giving your undivided attention to yourself or your mate.

Women of all ages often mistake pleasure for happiness. While experiencing happiness may be related, it’s not the same thing as experiencing pleasure. Pleasure-seeking practices contribute to and fortify happiness, but they are also distinctly different from happiness itself. Pleasure is an inbody state. Happiness isn’t predicated on sensory input and sensate response. They do have an intimate, sometimes dovetailed relationship, but they are not identical or even synonymous. Pleasure by definition includes sensuality, while happiness does not. This is a critical distinction.

There is currently an entire industry based on helping people feel happy, but rarely, if ever, have I seen a discussion on the value of pleasure, sensuality, and sexuality as part of the matrix of factors that contributes to women’s happiness and joy. Strange isn’t it? Yet countless times I have seen that when pleasure is nowhere to be found, neither is happiness. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that pleasure begets pleasure – sexual pleasure included – and that when it comes to keeping your pleasure quotient high and your sexuality accessible, you are the master of your own destiny.

Excerpted from Women, Sex, Power, and Pleasure: Getting the Life (and Sex) You Want by Evelyn Resh, published by Hay House, available in bookstores or at www.hayhouse.com.

Creation Magazine

How sex can make you more powerful.

March, 2013 –

Describing something as powerful  is often a way we caution people about its fundamental essence or properties and imply they pay close attention should they come in contact with it; Powerful drinks are a bit naughty and dangerous, powerful people are high-risk, powerful medicine is something to be taken  judiciously.  But what about sex – is there a way that sex can render us more powerful, and if there is, is this something to be wary of or grateful for?
When sex is free of coercion, involves mutual agreement and participation, and is respectful of each partner’s preferences and presence it has the potential to raise self-esteem in a way nothing else can. Feeling good about who we are gives us confidence and confidence is the most powerful thing of all.
What could be more meaningful and reassuring to an individual than the experience of intensely satisfying sensations simply because they are who they are in psyche, flesh, and bone?  When we are able to surrender in safety to the fusion of skin and soul through self-pleasuring or in the company of a partner, the effect is alchemic and leaves us dazzled by what can happen by being fully present in the bodies we live in each day and yet take for granted more often than not.
Magic happens when we give our undivided attention to sex as opposed to simply showing-up for the event to say we were there or quiet the protests of our hungry mate. The former improves our sense of self and boosts our self-esteem. The later erodes it.  When our self-esteem is high, we have greater self-agency, and are more likely to feel optimistic about life and believe that we were instrumental in making things so good.  And yet, despite the magic potion qualities that non-coercive, respectful sex can hold, it’s a rare woman who will turn to it to lift her mood; an even rarer one who will look to her body as a comforting home base and a reminder that having sex can be a tonic for feeling better about who she is.
I say stop and feel the treasures to be had and behold in the experiences of your flesh. Use your skin as your greatest sexual organ and be grateful for all the good sensations you can feel simply by being you.  Walk into your sexual experiences with mindfulness and deserved expectations for respect and pleasure and you will be more likely to walk away feeling more powerful because of it.

Copyright, 3/2013 E. Resh

How to Help Your Daughter Manage College Stress

Sending your daughter out into the world can be tough—especially if she moves far from home. Luckily, Evelyn Resh has six loving ways to help you support her through the stress of living independently at college.

I spent the better part of 20 years as a college student. This was as a result of going to school while working and raising a family. The pressures were intense at times, compounded by my drive to graduate with the highest GPA possible. What I didn’t realize through the entire experience was that, as a well-educated professional in my field,

none of my employers would ever ask me what grade I received for any of the classes I took in college. This has proven to be an important fact to refer to when advising my own daughter. At the first glimpse of a rise in her temperature over the demands and rigors of her college curriculum, I remind her of this truism, and a relaxation effect begins to take hold.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a parent who says, “Hey, don’t worry about your grades, as long as you pass.” Nor am I unaware of the importance of an impressive transcript should my daughter decide to apply to graduate school. As the CEO, Bank of Mom, holder of graduate degrees and a professional person, I do have a vested interest in my daughter’s achievement and academic success. However, I am a realistic parent and experienced adult who knows better than to ride my daughter about maintaining a 4.0 in college to the detriment of her own health and sanity.

At almost 20, my daughter is facing many developmental tasks as she advances into normal, healthy adulthood. What concerns me most as I watch her navigate through the high seas, rogue waves and occasional Bermuda Triangle of classes in college is how she manages the successes and failures she will undoubtedly face. Will she attribute all her good grades to her own skill and acumen while blaming her failures on her professors? Does she always have an excuse for why she didn’t do as well as she wanted to, or does she humbly acknowledge that she didn’t work hard enough or spent too much time partying? I know that good grades are often an indication of organized living, a sense of responsibility and diligence. But I also know plenty of outstanding students who are shiftless cheaters and plagiarists who spent their undergraduate educations mastering their manipulative skills.

6 ways to be supportive

That said, here are my suggestions for helping your college-age daughter manage the stressors of academia while fostering her growth into a healthy, well-rounded adult:

Don’t Intervene

Don’t get overly involved with her assignments or in the middle of any disputes between her and her professors. Success in college is her responsibility, and you need to let her accomplish this on her own steam.

Reward with Praise

When she tells you she received a good grade, ask her what she loved about the assignment or the class. Then, validate the new and exciting things she’s learned and remind her of the relationship between interest, effort and success.

Be a Health Advisor

If she expresses feeling overwhelmed or stressed by the demands of school, review the benefits of adequate sleep, eating well, exercising moderately and effective time management. And, if she’s involved with many extracurricular activities, help her prioritize while keeping in mind that she needs downtime from studying too.

Practice Listening First

If your daughter sounds like she’s completely falling apart from pressures related to school, before you tell her to hop the first bus or plane home, remind her that nothing is more important than her health—mental and physical. Talk her down without taking over for her. This is a great opportunity to help her develop coping strategies.

Laugh with Her

Look for the humor in what she’s telling you and help her see it too. Adding some levity doesn’t mean you’re dismissing her distress; you’re helping her see things from a different perspective.

Beware Perfection

Keep an eye out for persistent perfectionism and unrealistic goals. No one is good at everything. If perfectionism is ruling her life, suggest she talk with one of the counselors at the student health services.

College is a time to for expanded thinking, learning and setting goals in life. It’s also the time when the foundation for sturdy adulthood really takes hold. As a parent, remind your daughter of all of the above, and if she’s struggling with her GPA for realistic reasons, remind her that her future employers won’t ask about her grades. And, there’s always next semester or a different class that she can look toward to bump up her GPA if need be. Your concerns as her parent shouldn’t be just about her grades; they should include her development into a well- rounded, happy adult who can take pride in knowing she did her best in college—whatever her grades end up being.

Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Evelyn speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk about but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.

Does My Daughter Have an Eating Disorder?

 According to the National Eating Disorders Association, as many as 11 million Americans suffer annually from eating disorders. That’s why Evelyn Resh wants to make you aware of six warning signs to watch for when it comes to your teenage daughter’s relationship with food.

The parents of teen girls have plenty to worry about: high school grades, college expenses, unsafe sex, drugs and alcohol—and whether they or their kids will

even survive adolescence in the first place. The teen years are demanding on kids and on parents. And then, in addition to all these worries, throw in the risk of an eating disorder and you might as well push parents off a cliff before their daughters turn 12—just to spare them the years of angst!

Bulimia, anorexia and obesity are serious health problems that often begin in adolescence and can affect girls throughout their lives. It’s sad but true that these problems often become remitting relapsing conditions; in other words, problems that hang around forever, rearing their ugly heads repeatedly when life’s stressors get overwhelming. While parents need to loosen the reins on girls as they pass through adolescence and give them increasing amounts of independence, this doesn’t mean ignoring what they’re doing; it means paying attention with a consistent and watchful eye from ever-increasing distances.

Here are some things to watch for to determine whether something is going haywire with your kid’s relationship with food and eating:

Her definition of a normal weight

When you talk to your daughter about what a normal weight would be for someone her size (and you should definitely have this conversation), if she disagrees with the numbers over and over again, you both have a problem. Girls who dispute what’s considered normal for their height and frame—give or take 5 to 10 pounds— have traveled to another planet and have lost their grip on reality. If this is reemphasized by her LOVE of ultra- thin models or her rebuking of Queen Latifah as an example of plus-size and healthy, then you need to address it and not waste a moment getting help.

What and how she eats

Skipping breakfast and lunch and having only small salads for dinner every night is not normal eating. Also, if she is obsessed with the calorie content of food, then your ears should perk up. Investigating calorie content is not one of life’s details that teen girls with normal eating habits are thinking about. On the other hand, eating three large meals plus snacking reflects an indulgence with food that may be problematic in the opposite way.

4 other warning signs to watch for

Her dental health

Make sure your daughter goes to the dentist every six months for preventative checkups. If she’s frequently vomiting or starving herself, it will show up in her mouth.

Her clothing choices

Look at the clothes she’s wearing. Girls who conceal their bodies in clothes that are way too big or girls whose excess fat is spilling out beyond the slight “muffin top” need intervention. You can get meaningful clues by looking at what your daughter chooses to wear and how she looks in her clothes.

Her menstrual cycle

Do your best to track her menstrual cycle. I don’t suggest putting it on the family event calendar. But, you could make a note in your personal calendar after you’ve casually and privately asked her about her period. If your daughter had started her period and then stops for three months or more, you should be concerned.

Her exercise habits

If your daughter has created a training schedule to match that of Lance Armstrong, she may be overexercising, which may be an additional manifestation of an eating disorder.

The thought that your daughter might be starving herself, vomiting after meals or oblivious to her ever-increasing girth is terrifying. As a healthcare provider to teen girls and as a woman who has struggled with being overweight her entire life, I empathize. I know only too well from personal experience the feelings of both attachment and disdain for my favorite cookie. Neither adults nor kids need to be paragons of virtue when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. After all, no one is perfect. But keeping an eye on our developing teens and how their relationship to food and eating is taking shape is critically important.

Reflect on your own relationship with food, as this will influence your daughter. If you always complain about your weight or are beyond thrilled with new low-cal foods, then you too need some fine-tuning when it comes to your own eating habits. Unprocessed foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean meats and fish or a sound vegetarian diet with portion control is the way to go for lifelong health. Adopt healthy habits of eating, and your chances of influencing your daughter to do the same will increase dramatically. Take advantage of being your daughter’s best teacher when it comes to a healthy relationship with food.

Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year- old daughter. Evelyn speaks all over the nation on topics related to women’s health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn’t Talk About but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.

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