The Relationship Blog

The Joy Of Unsatisfactory Sex – Dr. Bruce Derman, Sex Therapist, Los Angeles

As a sex therapist, in Los Angeles, I notice that most sex therapy, as well as most sex therapy books, contains an inherent bias that favors one thing over another. Sexual satisfaction is favored over unsatisfactory sex, being potent is favored over impotence, being able to have a lengthy period of time before ejaculation is favored over premature, or sexual interest is favored over disinterest. To counter this way of viewing things, I wrote in my first book, “We’d Have a Great Relationship if it Weren’t for You”, a chapter on what I call the joy of unsatisfactory sex. In my approach to sex, I wanted to address this bias that exists by changing several things about sexual relationship thinking. Instead of defining sex as being based solely on intercourse, and considering intercourse to be the only form of sex, I proposed that sex include recognizing and accepting all aspects of your humanity as sexual energy between you and your partner. There is nothing that you do, whether it’s being scared, being awkward, etc., which I don’t consider part of the sexual bed, and part of my definition of what sex really is. This is very far removed from the typical narrow definition: it’s either intercourse or not.

In my approach you would never ask the question, “Do you feel sexual tonight?”, because I view everything as sex. The only people who are not capable of having sex are people who are buried in the cemetery. If you’re alive and you’re with a partner, you have some sort of sexual energy to offer, even if it’s sexual disinterest. In my system that counts too.

How Does Sexual Disinterest Count As Sex?

Sexual disinterest involves energy. You have to express energy to have a disinterest. In my system that’s valid, and I don’t reject it. Especially since in my view of all sexual problems that occur between couples is a result of our tendency to favor some things over others. The behaviors that are not accepted by the couple are shoved under the bed and only certain behaviors are allowed above the bed. This creates a definite problem when they don’t know what to do with their unacceptable parts, like disinterest when it shows up. The usual choice is to put it underneath the bed. It can get very crowed there due to the amount of disinterest. In the end they cut off that part of themselves, rather than bringing that part into the bed, and exposing all that our unacceptable parts have to say.

Secondly, In my desire to change our narrow thinking about sex, I changed the definition of orgasm to seeing orgasm as 100% of anything. The typical, more biased, approach is that orgasm is one particular picture. Either you’re able to do that or not. But in my system, since orgasm is 100% of anything, all I care is that you passionately express whatever you have to offer. The key to how excited you will be depends on your willingness to express your passion in whatever form a 100%. Even something like obligation which occurs in a lot of sexual beds, but we usually hide that underneath the bed as a no no. In my system it’s placed above the bed and I support people in expressing their feelings of obligation passionately, and living this experience fully as I would any other part of your humanity.

Author: Bruce Derman Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, and Santa Monica, California who specializes in working with people in all stages of relationships. You may reach Dr. Derman by calling (818) 375-7194.

For more information on sex therapy in Los Angeles, contact Dr. Bruce Derman PH.D. at

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