Graduate School


To my knowledge no one has uttered the phrase, “I really enjoyed grad-school.” At least no one I have ever encountered. I certainly never imagined returning to school myself to earn an MA, let alone a PhD, which is my eventual goal. Most people contemplate this decision long and hard. I did not. It hit me suddenly, and once the idea took root in my brain, it sent delicate shoots around my heart, and I could see no other way forward. For many years my life has been one of purpose - helping individuals and couples find more pleasure and connection in erotic and emotional intimacy. As fulfilling as my purpose is, I often feel as if the impact I am making is not enough. I could do more. I want to do more. There is so much to do. Perhaps I have hidden these feelings too well from those closest to me, for each time I shared my intention to attend grad school, my confession was met with a blank stare and a long pause; followed by the inevitable, “Why?” Why, indeed. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Testosterone Rex by Cordelia Fine. Fine begins her book with a concise evisceration of the iconic 1948 bot fly experiment by Bateman. In her conclusion of this take-down, I was struck by this quote: “sexual behavior viewed through the lens of the Bateman worldview filters out our humanity.” Reading this statement was the impetus I needed to apply for the Sexuality Masters program at SFSU. For seventy years the “Bateman worldview” has supported the biased assumption of a gender binary as a scientific fact. Sadly, this bias is not the only misinformation routinely included in contemporary studies of human sexuality. Everyday, I address erroneous beliefs my clients have about sexuality that they learned from their peers, the media, and middle school sex-ed.

In addition to the perpetuation of bias and obsolete research in the cultural paradigm of normative sexuality, the medicalization and pathologization of human sexuality has removed context, thus stripping sex of its humanity. In a clinical setting, physiological and neurochemical responses can be measured to study arousal. This has lead to greater understanding of sexual health and brain chemistry, which in turn has lead to new forms of treatment for sexual dysfunctions. Enter the little blue pill. There is also pink version on the market now! Although current studies of arousal and the human sexual response cycle are laudable and necessary, they leave a key piece of the human sexual experience untouched - context. Desire is all about context. And we can not make a pill for context. As we are discovering with long-overdue developments in pharmaceuticals targeting female desire, even when a pill is designed to stoke physiological arousal, there is negligible effect on desire and pleasure. Despite it being unlikely that we can design a pill for context, desire is worthy of study and understanding. 

The people I work with are an assortment of genders, sexualities, ethnicities, cultures, ages, and socio-economic classes. Despite their diversity, there are a few questions that nearly everyone asks: “Is this normal?”, “What is normal?”, and “Am I normal?” Longing for normalcy is a common source of pain for my clients. I see two reasons for this struggle to be normal. First, the dominant cultural paradigm of normative sexuality is harshly narrow, making us ashamed of our desires. Faced with this paradigm, most people hope to shape their sexuality into something they believe is more acceptable. Secondly, when we try to shape our sexuality into what we believe it should be, based on external standards, we miss out on understanding and enjoying our true desires. A great deal of my work is focused on deshamifying, normalizing, and eventually celebrating people’s desires. My hope is that further research of human desires and turn-ons will redefine what is generally accepted to be normal. This, in turn, will create an inclusive paradigm that will provide more acceptance and safety for marginalized communities. By studying and understanding desire, marginalized populations can be embraced, feel more empowered and self-accepting, and be less likely to experience the negative health consequences of being in the margins. 

For these reasons, I believe this grad school is the next logical step for me to deepen my study of human sexual desire and develop the necessary skills that will enable me to conduct research. I am interested in exploring human sexual desires, in a psychological, sociological, and relational context, which makes SFSU program’s emphasis on current methodologies, research, and application particularly interesting to me. The program’s focus on social policy, and activism will also give me new insights into how to combat the dominant paradigm around what constitutes “acceptable” desires. After graduation, my intent is to continue my education in a PhD. My hope is that I will be able to take some part in creating a new lens for understanding and appreciating sexuality.

One of my mentors recently told me that I don’t need an MA or a PhD unless I want to be an expert or create great change. Well, I do. I want both of those things. I am formally outing myself as a person with great ambition and purpose. Thankfully, my ambition directly serves my purpose: The creation of an inclusive lens from which to view sexuality that focuses on compassion, acceptance, and pleasure and one that is free from judgment and shame. Although I do not anticipate experiencing a great deal of pleasure while earning my MA, the endeavor is worthy of my time. I am also heartened by the fact that every single one of my clients asked if I would continue to schedule sessions while in school. I’m even smiling while typing this out. To me, this question is evidence that the impact I am already making is positive. My work and time with people has value. I am on the right track. And I plan to go all the damn way.

Pride: My Coming Out Story


In my Grandma’s home, there is a family photo gallery adorning the wall parallel to the staircase. From a very young age my Grandma would tell me the stories of each person in every photograph; members of my family who I have never met, some long dead before I was born, distant Polish cousins; everyone was there. Step by carpeted step, we ascended the staircase as she taught me about our history. At the very top of the stairs was a small studio photograph of a group of distant adult cousins whom I will never know. I remember two things about this image. Firstly, that it was unmistakably from the 70’s, complete with blue eyeshadow and polyester suites. Secondly, I remember cousin Michael staring out at me from behind his huge glasses and bushy mustache. When we got to this picture my Grandma would invariably tell me that Michael was gay, but that I “needn’t worry” -- he was not actually related to me by blood. Those words were a gut punch every time. This is how I learned that being gay was bad. Bad in the blood. Thus, the tenderest wishes of my youth were devoted to the hope that my Grandma would never discover that I was gay.

For the record, I identify as queer, not gay. Bisexual fit for a while, but honestly I’ve dated so many gender nonconforming people, that I now find the label of bisexual restrictive. I was conscious of the fact that I am sexually attracted to women by the age of eight. In retrospect there was clear evidence by the age of four that I was not like other girls. For one thing, I was repeatedly stealing my father’s Playboy magazines and attempting to hide them in my room. An endeavor my mother routinely thwarted. If my parents suspected anything, they have never shared it.  Overall, the messaging I received as a young girl was that being gay was a choice, and since I had crushes on both girls and boys this misinformation made sense. I liked both, but I could choose to be good and only like boys. Later when puberty hit, however, I discovered that girls could like boys “too much,” which is an entirely different problem altogether.

Growing up, I recall my friends and family members repeatedly claim, “I don’t know any gay/trans/queer people”. A quiet voice in a dark corner of my brain would whisper - Yes, you fucking do.  I spent my childhood afraid that someone would discover my secret and I would be punished or cast-out. This experience of ineffable otherness that left me feeling lonely and depressed. By my late teens that whisper had become a scream so loud, my whole body ached trying to hold it in. So, I came out to my high school boyfriend. He was unenthusiastic (to put it mildly) and not the least bit supportive. His position was that I could no longer be trusted with men or women, that I was dangerously promiscuous and prone to infidelity. It was heartbreaking, and yet strangely fortifying. Despite not getting the acceptance I longed for, I was not abandoned - he still loved me despite this revelation. And, a new voice blossomed deep inside me. It said, “There is nothing wrong with you. Everyone else is wrong.” I really liked this new voice. Shortly after coming out to my boyfriend I told my closest female friends. Two of my friends looked away in silence, without acknowledging my confession. While one of them looked me directly in the eyes and told me I was disgusting. Crisply, she told me to never bring women around. Yes, this hurt, but I was not surprised and certainly not deterred.

At the age of nineteen I moved to San Francisco and finally felt comfortable living openly as a bisexual woman. In my new home, I found a level of acceptance and normalcy that I had never thought possible. But it was still limited, as my family had no idea who I was, and what I was experiencing. Even after I married a man that my family loved, I still did not feel safe to telling them that I was bisexual, or that my new husband was as well. It was a major point of bonding between us. Years after my marriage ended, I found that the gulf separating me from my family had grown a staggering amount. Every time my mother asked me if anything was new, I simply said, “No.” It hurt to lie, it felt lonely. And there was also the guilt when I heard my mother’s quiet reply, “Okay”. I knew she knew I was lying and I also knew that she had no idea why I would lie to her. She had no idea why I was shutting her out.

The final step in my coming out story occurred days after the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. I was filled with anguish and frustration that I could not seem to shake. A fear that I had long since forgotten took hold in my heart - I could have been in that club, and I could have been shot. Any safe space for the LGBTQ+ community is also a target for people who fill their hearts with hate. And my privilege of passing as a cis straight woman suddenly made me feel sick. So, I came out as publicly as I could - on Facebook:

I just took Scientific America's "How Gay Are You?" quiz... The magazine has labeled me "Predominately Homosexual" but I have always identified as "Equally Heterosexual and Homosexual". And now that most of my family is on Facebook, I would like to announce that I'm Bi-Sexual. For the past three years, every time my parents asked me if I was seeing anyone, I said "No". But that was a lie. I have been seeing women and men... I have been dating women since I was 18, and I don't plan to stop anytime soon. I always thought it would be easier to stay in the closet - for my family's sake. Bi-sexuality is so 'confusing'. Actually, it's not. I'm queer. And I want everyone in my family to picture my face every time there is a hate crime against someone who is gay, bi, trans, queer, different, difficult, colorful, or ugly... because I am one of them. Dear family, I am queer. This is on Facebook, which means it's forever ;)

My coming out was not a single graceful leap out of the closet, but rather a slow, sometimes awkward and often painful unfurling. An unwinding of cultural expectations, gender constructs, bigotry, fear, shame, and desire. It was also an act of courage and self-acceptance. This is why I love Pride month so much. Pride cultivates the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community. Pride promotes our legitimacy and normalcy. Pride helps those of us who feel a lone to become one of the many, rather than the one apart.  My hope is that anyone, especially young people, who live in fear of being discovered for how they are different than the people around them, will witness Pride celebrations and feel a little less alone and a little more hopeful about their future.


Defining Sex

I recently had a first session with a new couple that wanted to learn how to have creative and connective sex; specifically, without a bio-cock. For the purpose of this blog, let’s call the two women of the couple Zoe and Gwen. They were having trouble with everything from initiation to knowing when it was over. Not to mention figuring out who comes first, or how to negotiate toys. For the first twenty minutes of the session, Zoe and Gwen’s questions poured forth and so did my answers. Until a very important question broke our flow. I am asked bizarre and fascinating questions on a daily basis and it is highly unusual for me to become tongue-tied, let alone frozen like a deer in headlights.

Zoe asked me, “How do you define sex?”

No one has ever asked me that before. Why haven’t I asked myself this before?

“I don’t know,” I said in shock. “I need to think about this.”


I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I keep a running list of the people I sleep with. That list includes men, women, and non-binary people. All of the encounters were extraordinarily different, sometimes involving no penetration whatsoever. Yet all these people made it onto my list. Why? Recalling my sexual exploration in my teens, I remember my peers stating definitively that they, “Did not have sex. We did oral, and other stuff.” I myself had made similar comments in the past. Yet the first time I slept with a woman, I was delighted with the encounter and considered it sex. Why was oral sex with a woman ‘real sex’ yet oral sex with a man was not the same?

Prior to their current relationship, Zoe and Gwen had each dated men almost exclusively. As a result, they had a conventional if not narrow view of how sex worked. Conceptually, sex was coitus, or heterosexual intercourse. The apex of the sexual pyramid. There is a hierarchy of sex acts, implicitly agreed upon in our culture, that proclaims coitus as the most important sexual act. Everything else is at best a precursor, foreplay, or not really sex. At worst, other sex acts are relegated as perversions. This set of beliefs are deeply ingrained in our culture. If “third base” is oral sex or penetration with fingers (but not a penis), then what’s a “home run” for sex between two women?

The California Penal Code discusses and defines terms like: intercourse, sexual relations, assault, lewd behavior, etc… the list goes on and on. It’s actually quite an interesting read if you have the time. California law define sex as intercourse. Clear. Reductive. However, the term ‘Sexual Gratification’ comes up quite often. It seems, in the eyes of the law, the intent to seek sexual gratification is much more problematic than plain old intercourse. The desire and pursuit of pleasure, seems to be a key factor in law-making regarding sex. And you know what - I think they're on to something.

Merriam-Webster (the incontrovertible authority on the English language) defines sex as: “sexually motivated phenomena or behavior”. This definition is wonderfully broad, as it sites motivation to be a determining factor. And necessarily so, because many people never experience intercourse, yet we do not consider them virgins. Consider for yourself, the variety of sexual acts you have engaged in - do you have a favorite? If intercourse is something you have experienced - was it the most pleasurable? Do other acts arouse you more? Do other activities leave you feeling more connected to your partner? More cared for? More loved? Do other acts feel more valuable to you in a given moment? For each of us, there are sexual activities that make up our sex-lives. Everything on your list is part of how you define sex. And if intercourse was the definitive sex act, we would not also need legal or medical terms to define it. We would just call it sex.

Ultimately, it is up to each of us to decide for ourselves what constitutes sex. Not only is it our prerogative to decide which acts to engage in, it also the only way we can determine what kind of sex we want to have. To fully understand our sexual preferences and have truly mind-blowing sex, we must know what we like, and guide our encounters in that direction. For myself, it comes down to the feeling of being fucked. Whether I am the one receiving or giving, I want my encounters to to end in a haze of undoubted gratification. I want to smile to myself and think, “Yeah… I really got fucked.” Or, “They got properly fucked.” I define sex by the way that I feel, and this is what that I shared with my clients.

Making Time


Making time for sex and intimacy is difficult - and nearly impossible for those of us living in the Bay Area. Add children to the mix and forget about claiming a moment for yourself, let alone getting busy with your partner! Most couples that I work with have many practical explanations as to why they don’t have time to connect. In some respects, my life is similar to the lives of my clients, as I myself suffer from being over-scheduled and overextended. I run my own business, have a thriving social life, exercise several times a week, co-parent a teenager, travel, and find time to rest… oh, and I have a ton of sex! Having time for sex is not actually an issue of time, but rather an appraisal of priorities. We make time for what is most important to us. Full stop.

I’ve been dating my partner for over two years, and if we are sleeping in the same bed we are probably going to have sex. On an average week, we have sex at least seven times. We double up on some days when we feel inspired, and rest on days we have less energy. We have this much sex because it is a huge priority for both of us and we place it before many things that others may prioritize first. The truth is that sex does not just happen. We have to make it happen, and that could include scheduling time.

When couples come to me with the goal of reigniting their sex lives I inevitably recommend they schedule time for intimacy, nurturing connection and even sex - then I brace for their cringe. I wouldn’t be surprised if you also felt resistance while reading the previous sentence. The most common response to my suggestion of scheduling is that planned intimacy lacks “spontaneity and romance”. There is also a concern that planned sex will feel forced or unnatural. “Sex should just happen,” my clients often inform me. And although sex isn’t ‘just happening’ for them, they have a deep-rooted belief that it should.

I find it fascinating that this belief is so pervasive, yet in direct conflict with our culture’s most common mating ritual, dating. Planning time to have sex is actually a huge part of American culture! In the early stages of most relationships we schedule dates, and after a certain number of dates, sex begins to happen during the date. This can go on for weeks, months, and even years. Thus, even though we may not be consciously aware of it, we are scheduling sex into these dates much like we schedule the dinner or movie beforehand. When the relationship progresses to cohabitation, there may be a spike in sexual activity because once again things are new and exciting. But after a while, couples become accustomed to each other’s presence and take certain aspects of the relationship for granted; namely sex and romance.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you find this post to be the rallying cry that I have intended. This is the time to reassess priorities. If you want to have more sex in your relationship, the first step is to create more opportunity in which sex is a possibility. That means scheduling date nights a couples times a month, meeting at home for a midday quickie, skipping happy hour with coworkers, and watching your latest Netflix obsession after you and your sweetie get busy.

I know you're tired, I’m tired too. And sometimes it won’t happen. Even when you make time, get the kids to bed early, and finish those final emails before 9pm. Sometimes you are just too tired. And that’s okay. If you don’t have the energy to play, you can use that time to connect intimately with your partner in other ways such as cuddling, massaging each other, etc. Although these activities aren’t sex, they will strengthen your bond and create intimacy that will support future attempts to connect sexually.



As a sex & intimacy coach I work with a colorful demographic of people who come to see me for all sorts of issues, ranging from bizarre to mundane. Despite their many differences, the most common emotional state that most of my clients share is the feeling of loneliness. Loneliness does not discriminate between genders or orientations; loneliness does not spare those in relationships, and loneliness can affect us when we are surrounded by people. Loneliness is experienced by anyone who lacks the intimate connections they crave.

Many people feel lonely even while in a romantic relationship. This happens when one or both individuals in unable to share themselves fully with their partner(s), which creates a sense of isolation within the relationship. You might experience that feeling of isolation despite being in a crowded room, or feeling hurt and helpless after an argument with a partner. Loneliness leaves us feeling trapped within ourselves and unable to connect with people sitting right next to us.

Loneliness is genuinely dangerous for one’s health. The impacts of loneliness on the body include heart disease, impaired immune system, and substance abuse; as well as psychological effects. People who suffer from loneliness have less regulation over emotional responses. We have less impulse control and an impaired ability to cope with stress. People who feel profound isolation often fall into depression, which is an emotional state that makes people feel alone, which downward spirals. Luckily, breaking free of that loop is possible.

The cure for loneliness is connection.

Healing loneliness and isolation begins with an intimate connection with one person. Sharing your fear, shame, vulnerability and hope with a single person can suddenly make one feel no longer alone. For the majority of my clients I am that first person. When someone sits on my couch and shares themselves with me, they are no longer alone. And supported by our connection nearly all of my clients have been able to reach out to others, reconnect with their partners or begin to form new relationships. Like learning to dance, you can train yourself to let in connection and let out vulnerability. Even if you and I never meet I hope you will reach out to someone you trust. All it takes is one connection - a therapist, a mentor, or another coach.


Image by Maghan McDowell

In life, we have obligations and responsibilities. One of mine is to write a blog post.  Not just any blog post, but my first post ever. There is a voice telling me that I had better write something helpful, interesting, intelligent, sexy, and new… or everyone will think I don’t know what I’m doing.

I have performance anxiety.

Nearly all of us have experienced the anxiety associated with public speaking on some level, whether it was a book report in front of your eighth-grade English class, or a presentation at work. Someone probably offered you advice like: “Just picture everyone in their underwear, or even naked.” I do not understand this at all, since nudity tends to make even the most confident people uncomfortable.

Although not inherently sexual, nudity is inexorably tangled with sexand our culture’s attitudes about sex are incredibly anxiety producing. First, we are expected to be really good at it, but what does “good” even mean? Secondly, we are only supposed to experience it with very specific people in a very specific context - ideally, with a spouse in a heterosexual marriage. Third, there are right ways and wrong ways to do it, although no one ever sat us down and explained what is right and wrong. Men are supposed to constantly want it, while women are supposed to demurely protest. Then there’s the whole issue of orgasms. Which is the goal, right? We are supposed to have ALL the orgasms.

So. Much. Pressure.

Have you experienced the electric thrill coursing through your body as you and the person you desire move closer and closer to that perfect moment? It may be after hours of seduction, or days, maybe weeks and in some cases years, but eventually you reach the moment in which you both know that something is about to happen. You move from words, to gentle touch, then to passion and the shedding of clothes. All the while, feeling arousal move through your body and propelling you forward, until something happens, or maybe something doesn’t happen. And it all falls apart so much faster than it took to even reach this moment.

We are taught, that when two consenting adults decide to engage in sexual activity - everything is just supposed to work. I am turned on – my cock should be hard. I want to have sex – but my pussy isn’t wet. I have waited so long for this moment – but something doesn’t feel right. Performance anxiety is not just about prowess and skill; it can also be about basic functioning. And the pressure to have a mind-blowing sexual experience can be overwhelming for the body. Let alone the pressure to provide a mind-blowing sexual experience for another person.

So. Much. Pressure.

The anxiety that floods our brain has a knack for overflowing into our bodies and disrupting our experiences. The anxiety itself is enough to disconnect us from our bodies, limiting our capacity for pleasure and connection. Unfortunately, this is a ubiquitous experience for many people. Fortunately, it is totally normal and you are not alone. Everyone I encounter in my practice has had this experience at least once, both men and women.

While there are innumerable practical guidelines written on ways to deal with anxiety, I can leave you with an option that is often overlooked – just feel the anxiety. That’s it. And I promise, it won’t kill you. In fact, it will make you stronger. Way before sex, when you first started experiencing anxiety as a child, you found ways to avoid the devastation that feeling anxiety in your body caused. Some people learn to disassociate, some people dull the feeling by seeking out more intense feelings, some people mastered shutting down feelings all together. And although these strategies worked then, they are preventing us from getting what we want now.

What helped me the most in writing this blog post was writhing around (sometimes on the floor) feeling my anxiety, and telling other people about the anxiety. Then, once I allowed myself to have the experience, and even had a few witnesses, the anxiety passed away like every other feeling I’ve ever had. Just try it once; stop resisting the feelings you do not want to have. Name them, feel them, then watch them move on.