Dr. Amy Cooper invites women to discuss sex openly at an upcoming workshop
Starting in high school, Amy Cooper, who now holds a doctorate in clinical sexology, says she has fostered open conversations about sex.
She took to impersonating Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the famous media personality sex therapist, so that her girlfriends could “call in” to share issues they faced regarding sexual arousal, orgasm, eroticism—all the giggly topics they were normally too timid to discuss.
“I loved hearing about people’s sex lives and giving advice—it was this natural thing for me,” she says, ”maybe because [sex] can be such a taboo thing and I was aware that I’m not afraid to talk about this.”
Cooper was raised Mormon but left the church at 18 years old.
“I’ve had a life full of sexual liberation,” she says.
Cooper’s partner, a marriage and family therapist, encouraged her to become a clinical sexologist because he noticed a lack of counselors and psychologists who were as comfortable talking about sex as she is. She says her job, which requires a Ph.D. on top of a psychology background, involves giving hands-on homework assignments and analysis specific to the sexual aspects of clients’ relationships. Cooper authored “The Everything Orgasm Book: The All-You-Need Guide To The Most Satisfying Sex You’ll Ever Have.”
While Cooper says all of her clients are experiencing some kind of sexual dissatisfaction, the women she sees tend to be dissatisfied with the quality, and the men with the quantity. She says approximately 95 percent of the women she sees are dissatisfied with the quality of sex they are having, and about 75 percent of those women also have issues with arousal. Roughly another 50 percent have desire issues, which she says is not uncommon when the sex is not enjoyable or has gotten too routine.
She says that 85 percent of men she sees are dissatisfied with the frequency of sex, and about 30 percent of her male clients experience erectile difficulty.
“The difference is that when men have arousal issues, they tend to not have desire issues—they still want sex,” Cooper writes in an email. “Whereas, when women have arousal issues, they tend to have desire issues, too—they don’t want sex.”
The most common frustration her clients encounter is with their sexual routines.
“The mind wants new experiences; we crave novel experiences,” she says. “The more we keep going back to the same experience, the less we actually feel them because our nervous systems numb out a little bit with repetition. So by introducing new behaviors, new fantasies and ideas, we can sort of show up and be more present around the sex we’re having.”
To help foster sexual openness among Santa Cruz’s women, Cooper will host a women-only workshop entitled “The Sex We Want: An Open Space Forum for Women,” on Saturday, Dec. 1.
“It’s really rewarding when I can go into a public, group setting like this workshop and get people taking and laughing and enjoying the freedom of talking about sex in a group,” she says.
The event is open to women of all sexual orientation, and LGBT ladies are especially encouraged to attend, Cooper says. It will consist of an open space format designed to stimulate dialogue between participants about their challenges, experiences, and the ways in which they derive pleasure.
Cooper notes that the workshop is a safe space and the level of participation is completely up to each individual. Nobody will be required to speak or share any information.
The exclusion of men is intended to help women feel comfortable sharing.
“By and large most women feel a lot more open and comfortable in a room with just women, and the dialogue gets to be a lot more juicy and interesting,” Cooper says.
Cooper says she decided to focus in on the feminine side of sexuality because she finds women are less familiar with their sexual preferences than men. She hopes the discussion will help female participants discern what does and doesn’t work for them.
“I think women often want a lot more [sex] than they’re getting,” she says. “We have a lot to offer in the arena of sexuality, and we just haven’t yet because we haven’t been free enough and liberated enough to do our own explorations or discover what it is that’s really meaningful and rich for us in sexuality.”
The most important part of Cooper’s job, she says, is to model how to talk about sexual pleasure with sincerity—something she sees as a necessary role in today’s society.
“Hopefully we’ll get to a place where we won’t need people like me because everybody’s comfortable and there aren’t so many taboos around just talking earnestly about what’s going on,” she says.
“The Sex We Want: An Open Space Forum for Women,” takes place Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information or to register, visit thesexwewant.com and loveyoursexlife.com.