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Doing Sex Wrong | Dr Stephen Snyder #594

On the Regular version of today’s show …

Today is an encore of an older episode of SMR.

Dr Stephen Snyder joins me again to talk about all things sex.

Namely, what if we’re doing it all wrong?

Could it be that what we think makes sex good – isn’t actually a good qualifier to use?

To learn more about Dr Snyder check out his site

On the Xtended version …

Stephen and I shift the conversation to the statement he’s made before about how better communication can ruin sex.

But I thought we were supposed to learn how to communicate better? Nope.

Enjoy the show!

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Corey Allan: So today, it's a pleasure to welcome back to the show Dr. Stephen Snyder, who, you may not remember this, Stephen, but you were on August of 2018, eons ago, before pandemic, when life had a normalcy. Now, we're anything but. But it's so great to have you back on the air with me.

Stephen Snyder: Thank you so much, Corey.

Corey Allan: And Stephen has a book, Love Worth Making, which is a fabulous read, I highly recommend it.

Stephen Snyder: Thank you.

Corey Allan: He's not paying me for that by any means. But Stephen, last time you were on here, we kind of unpacked parts of your book and just kind of went through it, and today, I want to go a little more hodge-podge with you, I guess we could say.

Stephen Snyder: Great.

Corey Allan: So let's just go all things sex.

Stephen Snyder: Excellent. Excellent.

Corey Allan: Kind of a great title, I think. But a couple of things that have kind of stood out to me just following along with your journey, some of the other stuff that I've heard or seen that you've written, we come into this topic as human beings with a lot of naivete, a lot of misinformation, a lot of, "What's supposed to be normal?" We've always got this measuring stick, if you will, and I'm curious, what are some of the biggest things that you see with the people you work with and the conversations you have that you're like, "Okay, hold on. Let's get some good information in front of you first, and then we'll go from there." What are some of these repeated messages you keep coming across?

Stephen Snyder: Yeah. Well, for me, the most important one is the one I put on page one of my book because I think if people don't read any farther than page one, they're going to get this message. And page one of my book is a couple comes to see me and I say, "Okay. Tell me about foreplay. What kind of foreplay do you like and what do you usually do?" And she says, "Well, I touch him and then he touches me." And I go, "Wait a minute. What are we talking about here?" You and I know what they're talking about, it's that she strokes his genitals and he strokes her genitals, and then they have intercourse.

Corey Allan: Right.

Stephen Snyder: Which is unfortunately how many, many couples do foreplay.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Stephen Snyder: The thing that's wrong with it is that it's goal oriented. Towards the goal of taking the genitals from a quiet state to an aroused state. And that's not what you want to be doing.

Corey Allan: Okay.

Stephen Snyder: Don't have any goal at all.

Corey Allan: Right.

Stephen Snyder: Because as you know, I'm sure, we have two basic mental activities as people. We have thinking and doing on the one hand, which are active, and we have experiencing and awareness on the other, which is not active. It's mentally passive. So the first thing I like to say is that you don't want to just be doing when you get into bed, you want to be experiencing, you want to be opening your senses. So I tell people a couple of minutes of just lying there doing nothing at first and just taking your own temperature and seeing how your body feels. That can make a remarkable difference.
And when you get into foreplay, you really just want to experience and enjoy your partner's body as it is. You don't necessarily just want to be accomplishing a goal. That's the first thing that's wrong with that kind of sex. I joke in the book, I say, "As I'm listening to this, an image creeps into my head from my suburban childhood before I moved to Manhattan where there was a guy trying to start up a gas lawnmower, and he kept pulling the cord, and pulling the cord." So the section is entitled "Your Wife is Not a Lawnmower". It's not just a question of trying to pull a cord the right way to get the whole thing to start.
The second thing that's wrong with that is that it's fixate on the physical body. So let's get some hardness, let's get some wetness, and that way we can do it. And the problem with that is you can get hard and wet and still have really bad sex.

Corey Allan: Totally.

Stephen Snyder: In order to understand that, I don't get to this until chapter nine in my book, which is different ranges of arousal. If you can clock how aroused you are in terms of, let's say, how many IQ points you've lost. So if you're very, very aroused, you've lost a lot of IQ points, you don't know what time it is, you hardly know what your name is, if the phone rings, you don't care if the person on the other end is dying, you just want them to go away immediately.

Corey Allan: Right. "Why are you interrupting my state of being right now?"

Stephen Snyder: Exactly, because you're functioning at a very infantile level. It's like a two year old. They're at a birthday party with the ice cream in their mouth, wearing a funny hat, and they want everybody to go, "Yay!", and that's basically where we all live when we're very aroused.
In order to really get to that state, let's say on a scale of zero to 100, we're talking about 40 or above. So that's really important. You're not going to have good sex unless you're at that level of arousal. It's really got to be someplace special. Unfortunately, most people do that lawnmower sex where they're getting to a state of arousal where the genitals respond, and that's usually a level of about 20. So you can get hard and wet, and you're still not really into it, and a lot of people have that experience. They get hard and they're wet, they're still not really into it, but everything's functioning and if they're wired that way, maybe they can each have an orgasm that way, but the orgasms are not really much to write home about because the quality of an orgasm is usually dependent on the degree of arousal that went into it.
So if you have an orgasm at an arousal level of 60, now that's an orgasm. If you have one at an arousal level of 20, it's not going to be for much. So a lot of couples do this kind of thing, where they just focus on this goal of, "Let's get hard and wet, let's have sex, let's get an orgasm so we can get to sleep." And then they miss the whole thing and they wonder why they don't have sexual desire. The reason is because the sex that they were having isn't worth desiring.

Corey Allan: Well, of course. The way you're describing it is it's mechanical. It's all just a process of function.

Stephen Snyder: You and I know about this, because we're professionals, but a lot of people don't know this. I always ask guys in my office because I'm a guy and there are not that many male sex therapists, and I always say, "When you're touching your partner's body, you're touching your wife's body, are you touching it for your pleasure or for hers?" And they all say, "For her pleasure. Isn't that what you're supposed to do?" I go, "Well, you're supposed to know what she likes, but you don't want to be motivated by a desire to do a good job." Instead, you want to be motivated by passion and passion is really kind of selfish because it's infantile.
One of the big steps forward that happened in the sex world over the last couple of decades is that men found out what the clitoris was and where it was and that it was important. And that's really nice. I wouldn't want to go back. However, the problem now is you've got a lot of guys in their 20s and 30s who are the children of feminists, who feel very responsible for giving their partner pleasure, and they've read all the books that say you should do this and you should do that and you should do this, and I've got an unending series of women coming into my office going, "I am bored out of my mind." And the problem is that there's no passion in it, and most women want to experience a man's passion. And you don't experience the man's passion if he's just trying to technically get everything done right.

Corey Allan: Right. No, that, again, falls in the mechanical category, right? We'll be right back with more of our conversation, right after this.
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Have you come across the phrase, because you kind of started off with this conversation on let's talk about foreplay and describe it. Have you ever come across, this is a phrase I love, is, foreplay is the determinate of the type of sex that's about to follow.

Stephen Snyder: Absolutely. It comes from the late David Smarsh.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Stephen Snyder: He died just a couple weeks ago.

Corey Allan: I know.

Stephen Snyder: Right. And he says foreplay is where the level of intimacy in the sex gets started. And by that, I imagine what he means is the level of openness to experience and opening yourself to the other person and really enjoying the other person. So absolutely, I absolutely agree with that statement.

Corey Allan: Right. And you're already putting a little line of demarcation in a sense. Or actually, better stated would be a fork in the road of, I can either go into this part of my process with my partner mechanically, or I can go into it experientially.

Stephen Snyder: Yeah. Absolutely. Many people have had the experience where they're having sex or they're involved in some kind of intimate thing, and at some point, they may look their partner in the eyes and meet the gaze and go, "Wow! There's really another person here."

Corey Allan: "When'd you get here?"

Stephen Snyder: When'd you get here? Yeah.

Corey Allan: Right. I mean, you're kind of painting this picture of this otherworldly kind of experience, this out of body spiritual awakening. There's a lot of different terminologies I think we could put to kind of help capture it, and there's probably not a real clean one to capture it all.

Stephen Snyder: I'm anticipating, give me the question.

Corey Allan: Yeah. So my question is, how do you move from mechanical to that beyond just the, slow down, take my temperature, kind of ease into it, don't be formulaic, let it unfold, follow the connection? There's a lot of different things, and it almost seems like we're all feeling around in the dark out there.

Stephen Snyder: Okay, and I would say you're not. Especially if you're a religious person. And I was thrilled to hear that so many people in your audience are religious people because I'm a religious person myself, and the book is a religious book, as you know from having read it. And I got a lot of heat from that in my own community, which is a very, very leftist community. I'm not a leftist, but the community of sex therapists is very, very leftist.

Corey Allan: Right.

Stephen Snyder: I was up for a book award and it didn't get it because it had religion. That's a no-no. You can't do that in the sex therapy community. But I did it. And the reason I did it is because as a religious person and a married person, I think they're very, very similar activities. So you get married, you meet your partner, you're inspired. It's the same thing when you've found religious inspiration, you're inspired. It comes naturally, everything seems magical, the world seems kind of all of a sudden, you're illuminated and you understand everything. And as everybody knows who's religious, it doesn't last forever. Eventually, you're sitting there in your place of worship and going, "What am I doing here?"

Corey Allan: This has become very formulaic and mechanical.

Stephen Snyder: Exactly. So my own approach when that happens, when I can remember, because I'm human, obviously, what I can remember is I say, "God, I know you're out there somewhere. Hit me. I've got nothing here." So what you do is you open yourself up to it. So what I define in my book, it's in chapter 16, which I think is called "Mindfulness, inaudible and Prayer" or something like that is like a lot of people who think about religion, people have noted, there's something very paradoxical about prayer if you think of it traditionally as asking for something you want because, presumably, the creator already knows what you want.

Corey Allan: Yeah.

Stephen Snyder: So what are you doing?

Corey Allan: Right.

Stephen Snyder: So I think a more interesting idea of prayer is that the blessings are around you all the time and what you're doing when you pray is you're making yourself into a inaudible vessel to receive them, saying, "I would like to receive the inspiration that I know is there all around me, and let me see what I need to do to tune myself up so that I can receive it." And I think it's the exact same thing for this.
The technique, which I talk about in the book I call the Two Step. Instead of inaudible. And instead of making a date 10:00 PM, Thursday night after the kids go to bed to have sex, you make a date Thursday night, 10:00 PM, you go to bed, take off your clothes and do nothing. And you're just there and you're just going to turn from thinking and doing to just awareness and experiencing, and you're going to just see where you're at and find the moment, because we don't usually think in terms of moments, so find the moment. That's step one. And then step two, you turn to your partner. So, we're going to bed to do stuff.
And to me, it's the exact same sequence as in prayer. The first step is, where am I? What am I doing here? Where can I find inspiration in this moment? And then, once I find it, then I can pray.

Corey Allan: Yeah. And I love that, I remember reading this, and I love the sophistication of that because you're talking about the concept.

Stephen Snyder: Thank you.

Corey Allan: This is one of the things on a religious side, how often do we get caught up in this mess of, "Okay, I've got to get myself in order before I then come to the Almighty to pray," rather than, "No, no, no. It's all part of my experience. He knows. It's going on, so why don't I own it? Acknowledge it? Even if it's not all good, bring it." And then, open yourself to, "Okay. What is my relationship here? What's going on? What's my urging? What's my prompting? What's my drive or desire?" There's a lot of different things that could come out of those experiences, rather than thinking, "I've got to get everything in order before I can actually bring it." Which, don't we do that in sex too often too? Like, "Wait, I've got to get my mind right. I've got to get the atmosphere and everything perfect." Rather than, "No, no, no. Why don't I just bring myself to it to start and then see what happens?"

Stephen Snyder: Wherever you're at. One of the ways I developed these ideas is I was one of these guys who, after we had kids, I was acutely miserable because as almost every man knows who is heterosexually married, after you have kids, you're not going to get as much attention as you did before kids. And I didn't get any attention at all. So what I discovered is in order to have a good physical experience with my wife, I really need 10 minutes of complaining to begin. And she was patient enough and insightful enough to know that I needed this. crosstalk just lie there and complain for 10 minutes, and then I felt fine and we could do whatever we were going to do. But that was where I was at. Wherever you're at. Whatever you need.

Corey Allan: Which, you're not going to find that on a Hallmark card. Here's the optimum way to great sex, 10 minutes of complaining.

Stephen Snyder: I actually put that in the book, it's in chapter 10. It's a chapter about when women lose desire, and she literally finds that she has to really complain for a while before she can really get in the mood. That's just what she needs to do.

Corey Allan: Because this is the thing that I hope that at least people in the SMR Nation are, if they're not familiar with you and your work and just this conversation is their first entry into it, I hope they start recognizing, this has nothing to do with formula other than starting, if you will. It's just kind of opening yourself up, engaging, seeing where things go. I don't have to always put a roadmap of, "Okay, here's step one, here's step two, here's step three, and then I'm off to euphoria," or whatever. But it's just recognizing that a lot of times it's just, this is what you alluded to with [Smarsh's 00:25:07] work, which I absolutely love is that idea of when you open your eyes and realize, "Whoa, there's another person here," that's an experience, that it isn't just an act, it's an experience.

Stephen Snyder: One problem, though, is that there is a formula. In my book, I call it The Conventional Script. And the conventional script is a little bit like the conventional script for traditional couples' dancing. The woman is going to look beautiful and alluring, and the guy is going to be a great dancer, he's going to ask her to dance, he's going to initiate everything that they do, and he's going to twirl her around and everything's going to be fabulous. And that's the script.
If you find yourself deviating from that script, usually you experience anxiety. The guy says, "Oh, I'm just going to kind of lie here and just enjoy your body." And many women will say, "Oh, that sounds very nice." And some women will say, "Wait, aren't you going to do something?" The conventional script is always there, hovering. For instance, I encounter some men, many men in my practice, whose principal problem in their marriage is that they are passive. They tend to be kind of passive people. That doesn't work very well in the conventional script.

Corey Allan: Not at all.

Stephen Snyder: Not at all. So it's a real thing. And the guy can say, "We're just going to lie here and we're just going to enjoy each other." And the woman goes, "Oh, what are you doing?" We really have both things going on at the same time, people trying to live out the conventional script and at the same time, they're trying to actually feel authentically aroused, and they don't always go together because a lot of times with guys, the guy will be nervous, maybe even worried about his erection, and then his wife says, "You know, my period just started." And he feels fabulous. He loves that because now, he's not bound to the conventional script. Now, he can just kind of enjoy her and so forth because guys, usually they're bound to that script.

Corey Allan: I mean, you're talking about a lot of just generational ... There's so many different factors I think that play into this, right? Because we all come into things, even if we don't really know, we still have an idea or a hope or some conventional thought of, "Yeah, this is what's supposed to happen."

Stephen Snyder: I don't think it's just social, I think part of this is our hardwired brains.

Corey Allan: No, I agree. I agree. So before we wrap up this segment of it with you, I'd love for people, if they want to find more of you, point them in the right direction. How do they find you?

Stephen Snyder: Just Love Worth Making. So it's lovemaking with the word worth stuck in the middle. So Love Worth Making, you just google that and you'll get to me and you'll get to my book.

Corey Allan: Perfect. Well Stephen, it's so good to connect with you again thus far, and I look forward to pivoting here in just a minute, okay?

Stephen Snyder: Excellent.