Let’s talk about sex, baby

Pelvic pain

Interview with a sexologist (part one)

We know that if you’re experiencing chronic pain and pelvic health issues,sexual health is quite often at the bottom of the priority list. But here at The Pelvic Hub we believe that managing pelvic health means treating the whole person. And we want more people with chronic pelvic health problems to get the help and support they need to have healthy, fulfilling and fabulous lives.

So, we sat down with sexologist Jodie Dunne, from Kintsugi Sexual Education to find out what sexology is all about and to talk about one of the most important aspects of health, sex.

*This is part one of our interview, you can find part two which focuses on sexual health and menopause over here.

Jodie, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and what you do?

Sure thing! My name is Jodie Dunne and I’m a sexologist. I’m also an artist, a woman living with chronic illness, a wife and most importantly a Mum. I’m passionate about helping people have healthier and happier sex lives, and honest conversations about sex, intimacy, chronic illness, pain and traumatic health events.​

I’ve been involved in various rehabilitation, counseling, coaching and education roles for longer than I care to admit and women’s health and chronic illness advocacy since 2012 (Co-Founding Endometriosis Australia, now a volunteer with QENDO and Lupus Foundation of Australia).

I’ve faced my fair share of health obstacles over the past forty years and during my journey I came across a gap in services that care for the whole person and address quality of life issues such as sexuality and pleasure. So, I decided to become a sexologist! Now I work with a network of professionals that can address other aspects of your sexual health as a whole.

I have a Bachelor Degree in Health Science and post-graduate qualifications in psychology and sexology. I am a qualified professional in sexology with a passion for learning and I will always be learning.

What is a sexologist? Is it just a word you made up so you can sell stuff on the internet?

Nope! I don’t just say I’m a sexologist just for the shock value, although I have to admit it is fun to see reactions sometimes.

A sexologist is someone who has studied all areas of sex including anatomy, physiology, sexual development, sexual orientation, the dynamics of sexual relationships, as well as the mechanics of sexual contact/acts. Sexology is the scientific study of sexuality.

What does a sexologist actually do?

A sexologist uses counseling methods to identify dysfunctional myths and beliefs surrounding sexuality. Through sex education and couple’s counselling a sexologist works to empower clients to experience sexuality in a different way. A way that allows more confidence and understanding of their own sexuality, freeing them from sexual misinformation and increasing pleasure, intimacy and connection. Sex is complicated and it affects all parts of a relationship.

I work primarily with women and couples in one-on-one (or two-on-one in the case of couples!) consultations. It’s less common, but I have worked with some men as the primary client. Occasionally, I’ll have a one-off session with a client, for example, if someone has a specific question they need answering, like “it takes me a long time to get aroused or to have an orgasm. Is this normal?” But for most clients, we’ll see each other over a longer period of time. It’s very much client driven.

Why would someone be referred to see you?

Women are often referred to me for low desire and little enjoyment of sex. Which, with the clients I work with, is more often than not linked to health challenges.

Often, they experience pain, problems with lubrication and arousal or find it hard to experience pleasure or orgasm during partnered or solo sex, they feel disconnected with themselves or feel as though their body is medicalised, they can also experience changes in body image and self-esteem as a result of treatments.

Men are more likely to be referred for conflicts in what they desire or fantasize about and what they think is acceptable in their relationship or social environment. Men can also be referred for performance issues such as rapid ejaculation.

Couples are generally referred to help with issues around sexual dynamics. The couples I see often feel that they are best friends but not lovers, or sometimes a carer-patient dynamic has been created during a period of medical treatment. Another biggie with couples is that they have different levels of desire – one wants sex more than the other. A major influence for couples I have worked with has been the impact of a health challenge that one partner has faced.

If I’m getting into the specifics, I would say I mostly work with women, or vulva and vagina owners that are living with chronic conditions (endometriosis, pelvic pain) or recovering from treatments that have negatively impacted their sexual function and pleasure. I help these people and their partners redefine pleasure and communication post diagnosis and treatment.