You are currently viewing Episode 434: Sex and Culture

Episode 434: Sex and Culture

Did you ever stop and think about why you view sex the way you do? Where did your thoughts and feelings on sex come from? In this episode, George and Laurie discuss how cultural influences affect our view of sex. Culture includes race, religion, sexuality, location you were raised among others. There are so many factors that make up your perspective of sex and relationships. Listen to our hosts share how their cultural experiences have shaped their worlds and the work they have done to expand their views. They share that a key to understanding cultural influences more is flexibility and creative thinking. George and Laurie discuss expanding beyond a dualistic way of thinking that says “either, or’ to ‘both, and.’ George reminds us we don’t have to have all the answers, we just need to start the conversation.

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Show Notes

The Intersection of Sex and Faith
– George Faller discusses the interconnectedness of love, sex, and God.
– The conversation touches upon John Paul’s teachings and aligning with a healthy image of God.
– Laurie Watson shares her personal journey through conflict between sex and faith.
Cultural and Religious Pressures on Gender and Sexuality 
– The hosts delve into how cultural norms and religious values affect gender roles and sexual expression.
– Analysis of the impact of these pressures within the context of a couple’s sexual relationship.
Personal Experiences and Therapeutic Insights
– Laurie Watson recounts an anecdote about assisting a religious woman facing sexual difficulties.
– Discussion on the impact of religious upbringing on individuals’ sexual expression and attitudes.
Embracing Desire and Establishing Boundaries 
– The importance of sexual desire in relationships and the positive messaging around it.
– Discussion on setting boundaries and the process of determining what is beneficial in relationships.
Training and Interaction

– George Faller highlights his training program that teaches practical approaches for therapists.

– Encouragement for audience participation through call-in questions and interactive learning.
Wrap-Up Discussion
– The “Foreplay Sex Therapy” podcast’s mission to address cultural impacts on sex and relationships.
– Addressing the significance of acknowledging diverse cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and identities.
– Reflecting on the hosts’ personal cultural influences, including their experiences with the church, and emphasizing the importance of maintaining an inclusive perspective in relationships.


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George Faller [00:01:28]:
Next up in the school of love, let’s talk about culture.

Laurie Watson [00:01:33]:
Ooh, culture. And how it impacted our sexual experience. That’s a lot welcome to foreplay sex therapy. I’m Dr. Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller [00:01:46]:
And I’m George Faller, your couples therapist.

Laurie Watson [00:01:48]:
We are here to talk about sex.

George Faller [00:01:50]:
Our mission is to help couples talk about sex in ways that incorporate their body, their mind, and their hearts.

Laurie Watson [00:01:58]:
And we have a little bit of fun doing it. Right?

George Faller [00:02:00]:
G listen, and let’s change some relationships.

George Faller [00:02:04]:
Yeah. We pay a lot of attention to family, of origin and our partner. And I think a lot of us fail to realize that bigger picture, that this is all not happening in a vacuum. Right? It’s been influenced by what we see on tv and what our peers are doing. And there’s so much that’s shaping us that we don’t even often take the time to think about.

Laurie Watson [00:02:23]:
Yeah, for sure.

George Faller [00:02:25]:
So, trying to get clearer, like, how does our culture influence the expression of how we relate to others, ourselves, how we do emotions, how we do vulnerability?

Laurie Watson [00:02:36]:
I think, you know, we need to break down what we mean when we say culture. I think there are cultural expectations for men and women that I’m very aware of. I grew up in the church. There were a lot of expectations from my faith experience about who I was to be sexually. Those are kind of my own historical influences of culture. I know that other people, certainly different races and how they are experienced. There’s biases and prejudices and toxicity, you know, for different races and how the general culture experiences them and expects them. I mean, I sat with black clients who, you know, there’s just been so much toxic stuff put on them from slavery on, you know, I mean, so.

Laurie Watson [00:03:26]:
But I probably can’t speak to that George, as well. You know, I probably feel more comfortable talking about my own experiences, and I’d love to have James Hawkins on again to talk, because I know he and I have talked about that extensively as a black man. You know, the different cultural experiences and expectations from his religious grandmother, who was the matriarch of his family, to, you know, pop culture and rap, you know, and all that. And what he experienced for that as a black man.

George Faller [00:03:56]:
I think a good starting point for all of us is to just get a little bit of practice socially identifying ourselves. Right. You know, what age are you? What. What ethnicity are you, what gender you identify with, you know, social, what sexual.

Laurie Watson [00:04:15]:
Orientation are you, right.

George Faller [00:04:17]:
Fate, religion, disabilities. Sometimes we just make these assumptions, you know, I see a client is another white guy. Just think, oh, he’s a white guy. Like, what does that mean? He’s a white guy. You know, he might have a totally different faith. He might. You know, he might be gay. I might think he’s straight.

George Faller [00:04:35]:
Like, there’s so many parts that kind of make us and inform how we do what we do. So just having that cultural humility and given the space to be curious, to just try to kind of let people identify parts of them that you might not recognize and the influence that these parts have on us.

Laurie Watson [00:04:56]:
Yeah. And I think because you and I are both straight and we’re cisgender, you know, we look and act the way that is typical for a woman and a man. I mean, sometimes, you know, our podcast kind of leans that way, and we know that we have queer people who follow us and sometimes also write in and say, you know, we’re not really being represented here. And, you know, that kind of breaks my heart, and I know that, and I love them, and I want them to feel included in this. And then sometimes it’s easier to talk about what I know, you know, and what I live exactly.

George Faller [00:05:35]:
And everybody wants to see reflected back something similar as them. You know, we are both byproducts of our culture. We mostly work with, you know, heterosexuals, cisgender, straight couples. So we do speak a lot to that, you know, and the culture shifted. Like, the way we were brought up is very different, the way my sons are being brought up, so they’re much more comfortable with non binary, non monogamous couples, fluidity and pronouns and how people identify themselves. And it’s that flexibility that I think is the key to any safe relationships.

Laurie Watson [00:06:13]:
I would like to kind of begin with a typical thing that I grew up with from my culture, which was being raised in the church. I actually had two church experiences. One was the Episcopal Church, and one was kind of the big box fundamentalist experience. And the Episcopalians were much more free about sexuality. So that was my basis. Like, both church experiences told me sex was good, that God loves sex, and that sex was a good thing, but it was definitely a thing for marriage. And that I think the Episcopal Church probably was not quite as strong on that. I don’t think that they.

Laurie Watson [00:06:54]:
Whereas judgmental, if couples were having sex before they got married. But definitely the fundamentalist movement that I was in when I became sexual, that was, you know, sex was for marriage. And my girlfriends and I are still processing our experience, you know, and the messages that we got around that. I mean, it was funny because it was this really exuberant, charismatic church where there was a lot of emotion, but then there was a lot of kind of invasive questions about what were you doing with your boyfriend? What were you doing with your girlfriend? Are you masturbating? Like, really, like, way over the bounds in my mind, in terms of wanting to know and wanting accountability for actual sexual relationships. Like, the leadership at the church wanted to know all that, which at this point in my life feels very inappropriate. You know, I think that that’s between a young couple and God and how they figure that out. But I’ve seen a lot of hurt, too. I know that I’ve worked with a lot of young people who.

Laurie Watson [00:08:02]:
That was when I first became a therapist, I was working with christian couples, and particularly about their sexual relationship. And many of them had been more sexual than they believed was right, but then they had married, and so they kind of locked down their sexuality almost as a, you know, unconscious punishment for having been too sexual before they got married. And then they. They couldn’t enjoy it when even they believed God thought it was good, you know, so that that was a big conflict that I had to work with early in my career.

George Faller [00:08:35]:
Yeah, I’ve certainly seen a lot of that, too. You get a lot of splitting, right? It’s like I had this sexual impulses, but I’m not supposed to have them. So I kind of watch pornography and deal with it on a sign, but I’m never going to bring that forward to my partner. And it’s like these separate lines, a lot of these messages, you know, through faith around bad or sin or wrong or not liking your body, as we get a lot of blocks when working with couples that can trace its roots back to some of these cultural influences. You know, I know for me, I grew up catholic, and, you know, I remember my brothers telling me stories of the nuns coming around with rulers and whacking them all the time because, you know, they touched their, even when anywhere near with their pants on, just their penis area, they would get whacked. And like, what messages does that, does that get? But, you know, the flip side of it, if everything is okay, I mean, there’s a reason why there’s some guardrails putting around, I think, religion, around sexuality, you know, and one of the most influential books I’ve read by John Paul II, the pope, was the theology of the body. And here’s this celibate guy who’s never had sex, and he has this beautiful image, you know, this description of what healthy, kind of full bodied, you know, spiritual sex looks like in committed, loving relationships. So, you know, it gave me a template of really healthy gas pedal sex that also can be found within the same church that’s doing all these kind of wild things that are given negative messages around sex.

George Faller [00:10:08]:
So I think this is a complicated conversation, and we’re just trying to make room for, you know, what are healthy messages you got from culture that kind of inform you? And what are the unhealthy messages that really can block your expression or your sexuality? And the more that we can reflect upon this, the more progress I think we can make.

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Laurie Watson [00:11:28]:
Yeah, and I want to be careful, you know, we dont consider ourselves spiritual leaders, you know, so some of this is something that you have to deal with in your own church and in your own life with, you know, how you worship God and all of that. But I think that my sense, and I am actually not religious anymore, even though we do talk about it and I have a history of faith history. I think that my sense was always that the intention of religion and the intention of how God was interpreted was that the body was good. I mean there’s the Old Testament book of the song of Solomon. It’s this incredibly sensuous book. It reflects a reference to oral sex and this juicy, sexy kind of relationship. So I mean, I remember reading that when I was eleven years old.

George Faller [00:12:28]:
George early erotic novel poem.

Laurie Watson [00:12:34]:
Yeah, you know, it was really sexy stuff and it was like, wow, what is this all about? So, I mean, obviously people for years and eons have been struggling with their sexual relationship and, you know, how to make it good and how to keep it in a way that is healthy for the relationship. And I mean, I know some people think, you know, lots of things are off limit. Even sex acts are off limits. I, I was working with a young woman once who had not been orgasmic and she had been married for twelve years. She’d had sex three times a week for twelve years. You know, we talked about how to help her reach an orgasm. And they struggled and they struggled. And finally she said to me, what about a vibrator? I’m like, oh, we are so good to go.

Laurie Watson [00:13:26]:
But I just thought because she was religious she would, you know, say that that was off limits. But it turns out that she, you know, vibrators were invented after the scriptures that she followed were written. So it was fine, you know, but anyway, I just found that an amazing breakthrough and she was very shortly orgasmic.

George Faller [00:13:50]:

Laurie Watson [00:13:51]:
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George Faller [00:16:49]:
So for me, Laurie, my faith is super important to me. And, you know, my image of God. If God is love, then sex is a healthy part of what love looks like, right? So it’s not something to want to hide from God. It’s something that he made us to be doing. But I think that image of healthy love is a lot what the science says healthy love looks like. Peggy Kleinplatz and the great lovers. What do they do? They communicate. They feel safe.

George Faller [00:17:24]:
They trust. They’re vulnerable. They can take risks. They can play. To me, that’s exactly what John Paul was talking about, that same creating an atmosphere of safety and connection where we can be more authentic and real and take risks. So I don’t find a lot of the splits within me around faith and religion.

Laurie Watson [00:17:44]:
I think that is so great.

George Faller [00:17:46]:
It’s pretty integrated, and I think it helps me want to help people where their faith is important, to see the strengths in a tradition. Like, you’re saying there’s plenty of history here, of healthy images of sex, just like there’s plenty unhealthy images, like in all our cultures. And if you look at all the main religions, you know, there’s. There’s all this pressure around monogamy and, you know, not masturbating and, you know, so you can see the stresses that can send people underground with these things. Right? And how do we just continue to have conversations to get curious? Like, when you said vibrate, I was like, I can’t even imagine, like, some people thinking about that as an option, you know, because they’ve been so trained to think about external things as bad and not to bring that in. And yet that could be a simple solution that can kind of really help a lot of couples out. So, you know, if that’s against their values, great. It’s up to them to decide what their values are.

George Faller [00:18:49]:
But we’re just inviting people, like, challenge some of these values because a lot of them, we take them on without even really owning them. Like, they’ve just been given to us, like, the air we breathe. And we just assume this is true, and it might not actually be our truth, and we might need to examine it to kind of discover that.

Laurie Watson [00:19:08]:
And I would also clarify that we’re not saying change your values. We’re saying maybe examine your beliefs about your values. Like, are they really congruent? Like, would a vibrator violate anything in your faith tenet? And why? I mean, that’s just an example. We’re not pushed vibrators this episode, but we could push them on another episode. But, you know, I just think beginning to examine, like, do I really need to feel guilty about this? Like, I remember when I was first married. George. No, it was before I was married. My pastor’s wife told me that you shouldn’t touch yourself when you were having sex with your partner.

Laurie Watson [00:19:52]:
Like, because a. I mean, there was a. There was a positive part to that, that she was saying, your partner needs to learn how to touch you, but somehow or another, you will short circuit that if you touch yourself. And I really believe that when a couple is making love, whose hands are touching what genitals and what parts, you know, that’s all good. You are the two backed beast. There’s four arms, four legs, the way you touch, and it’s all one thing that’s happening. Maybe it’s more convenient, if you’re on top, to touch your own clitoris. It’s like, why would that be a bad thing? But I just think that, to me, is an examination of the beliefs that I was taught that somehow or another were about God, when it was really just maybe her own experience.

Laurie Watson [00:20:42]:
It wasn’t even based in scripture, but because it came from a religious leader, I was very confused by that.

George Faller [00:20:50]:
Yeah, that’s what we’re encouraging, just to become critical thinkers. I think that’s the whole idea of education. I love when I go to Israel because they want to, like, argue and just examine everything. That’s their way of fully embodying it, like, and I just. I appreciate that we’re wanting people to just examine their beliefs, see how aligned they really are with who they are, because sometimes when you examine them, you recognize, well, that was good for me 25 years ago, but I’ve changed a little bit, and maybe my belief needs to shift a little bit, you know? And, yeah, like, I know if I look at myself, the way I was raised in a really tough blue collar town, you know, that really pushed for masculinity and really pushed me to be, you know, strong. That that helped shape kind of how I, you know, went through the world. And. But there were a lot of costs to that.

George Faller [00:21:39]:
I mean, there were strengths in that, and I could stay calm under pressure, and it helped me with a lot of professional things that I’ve done, but it really challenged me in the areas of vulnerability and kind of doing emotions. You know? Now I look at my sons and, like, they’re almost getting the opposite. Like, overcompensated. Like, they’re getting so much emphasis on openness and expression, and everything’s like, you know, masculinity is toxic. Like, they don’t want to express these kind of more stronger kind of sides of themselves, and they put that on the ground, and they have the whole other host of problems like that this generation has to think about. So, I mean, I think both. Both generations needed critical thinking to be able to find a better balance, and that’s what we’re trying to encourage here for our listeners.

Laurie Watson [00:22:25]:
Yeah, it’s funny, because you said that my sister was just in town, and she’s married to a man, and my family comes from Montana, and he was saying that boy, he need to cowboy up. It’s just like, I mean, he was also talking about. And. And we were discussing that the way he was raised was to blunt and stop his emotions. And I was saying, well, you know, that that is so important. Just like you said, george, in certain circumstances, being able to manage and man up and, you know, control your emotions is really important in life. I think it’s important for women, too. But there are other times, like, you’ve always kind of preached to us that it’s flexibility, like, in.

Laurie Watson [00:23:10]:
In our marital relationships and maybe even sexually. Right? This is the place to be vulnerable, to talk about feelings, to express things. And maybe there’s other places that you do need to kind of cowboy up and keep it inside to get the job done. I, particularly as a woman, felt a lot of conflict in our culture about sexuality. Like, wanting to be sexual, even doing this podcast. Right. As a woman, there’s this part that, you know, I kind of cringe at myself. Like, oh, my God, I’m so open.

Laurie Watson [00:23:44]:
I’m talking about this. Maybe I shouldn’t be. I mean, there’s still kind of this cultural pressure that I live under that says to be so open sexually that I like sex is somehow or another a bad thing as a woman to admit, you know, it makes me a slut or a whore or something terrible, you know, even though, you know, I’m in a committed relationship, it’s like, I don’t know. I think there are pressures. You know, there’s kind of this be really, really sexy and opening up about this in our culture for women, you know, that it’s okay to want orgasms, it’s okay to desire sex. But then there’s. I don’t know, there’s this other thing that I still feel I live under.

George Faller [00:24:27]:

Laurie Watson [00:24:28]:
I mean, I. When you talk about the freedom that you feel, both from your faith and just as a man, about sex, like, I kind of envy that. That’s lovely. That’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you that you feel that kind of freedom to go forward with, you know, and that sex is good.

George Faller [00:24:47]:

Laurie Watson [00:24:47]:
I mean, that’s amazing.

George Faller [00:24:48]:
Well, thank you. And it’s just a privilege, and we’ll talk more about that, but I think we’re striving with that critical thinking to create an environment of an end both. Like, you can be both masculine and take care of business and cowboy up when you need to. And when you can let your wall down and be vulnerable and enjoy the intimacy of that. That’s a rich life. That’s. That’s what we want to. That’s the target we’re aiming for.

George Faller [00:25:13]:
Right. A lot of us are raised in these either or. Like, if you don’t cowboy up, then you know, but then you don’t know how to do relationships. And, like, why are we settling for this dualistic way when we can have the best of both worlds, when we could have that flexibility?

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Laurie Watson [00:26:24]:
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George Faller [00:26:27]:
But that’s the one.

Laurie Watson [00:26:28]:
You don’t want sex. You don’t talk about that. You know you shouldn’t want it. A lot of women still feel that.

George Faller [00:26:35]:
I think we both come from an attachment frame that focuses on our universal what unites us, these longings to love and to be safe and to be seen and be wanted. And we work towards that goal, which I think is the most important part of our mission, is we have more in common than what separates us. But that doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention that this is an equal playing field. Right. That there are. I do recognize, and I love that our culture has grown into the ability to give more voice to people. Like, you’re saying that have been marginalized, that have been oppressed, that have, you know, it hasn’t been so fair. And that takes its toll.

George Faller [00:27:13]:
Right. It’s. If I fight with my wife, but I go to the store and I got to worry about how I’m, like, that’s going to influence what happens in my home, you know? So recognizing that I might have some privilege in certain areas, I mean, I’m always surprised as a male is the thing. Like, I just assume people want to hear what I have to say, right. But if people are not listening to your whole life or telling you to shut up, you don’t have that same feeling. Right. So I think that’s part of this critical thinking. I know, recognizing, if I was in this person’s shoes and their skin with their experiences, the world’s probably going to look a little different than someone else’s experiences.

Laurie Watson [00:27:53]:
Yeah, exactly. I would just say again, as a woman, I would speak to the women out there, you know, desire is a good thing, girlfriend. This is a force for attachment and bonding. It’s natural. It’s like the way you’re built, the way you’re made. I hope you can learn to enjoy your body to its fullest. And I know that I have struggled. George has been very encouraging.

Laurie Watson [00:28:19]:
Sometimes it’s like, publish it. Just publish the part of you that can enjoy sex, you know? And even when I feel anxious about that, I do hope that there is a new message out there because of our work, right? Us saying that desire is good, sex is good, that it’s a force for attachment in relationship. And, you know, this is. This is part of our romance. It’s a deeply important part of our romance. So, yeah.

George Faller [00:28:49]:
Amen to that. That’s the part that feels spiritual, that if. If your sex or your desire leads to growing love, then that’s a good thing, you know? And if it doesn’t, it’s also healthy to put some boundaries up around that, right? If your desire is heading you away from your partner and it’s heading you towards other areas that are gonna make you feel worse about yourself. Like, there’s reasons why we need some boundaries up to protect us from that. And I think that’s. That’s some of the health that religion has provided. And sometimes those boundaries have been too restrictive, and, you know, we need to loosen them up. But I think the opposite is also true.

George Faller [00:29:28]:
Not having enough boundaries where, you know, everything’s okay and before you know it, I don’t see the evidence in that making people happier when they, you know, they start going all over the place and, you know, so. So we’re just starting some of these conversations. We don’t have all the answers, but we do. We’re united and believing that need to examine and reflect. Is this working and not working? That’s all we’re inviting you all to think about.

Laurie Watson [00:29:56]:
Yep. Thanks for listening.

George Faller [00:29:59]:
Keep it hot, y’all.

Laurie Watson [00:30:01]:
Okay, so tell us about your cutting edge training that you’re doing on success and vulnerability.

George Faller [00:30:07]:
We just keep pushing it. Coming up with a new module on the playbook of a pursuer, playbook of a witcher. Really practical moment by moment moves of what a therapist can use. We’re so focused on what’s happening in session enough. There’s talk about theories and these global things I think most therapists are looking for. What do I do in this moment? Give me a tool, George. So that’s what we’re trying to do.

Laurie Watson [00:30:33]:
Awesome. I am so glad you guys are doing this work. I think it helps us be organized to see you do it. You do demos, you do explanations, teaching. It really is interactive, and I think that so many trainings that we sit through don’t give us an opportunity for that. So what you’re doing is really important.

George Faller [00:30:52]:

George Faller [00:30:52]:
We try to emphasize the teach it, show it, do it model of learning. You need to have some ideas. So we try to teach those, and then we try to show what it looks like implementing those ideas. But most importantly, you now got to practice it. That’s how they become yours. And that’s what we want our listeners and watchers to do, is become their own moves.

Laurie Watson [00:31:10]:
Find George and his call in.

Joe Davis – Announcer [00:31:15]:
Your questions to the foreplay question. Voicemail, dial eight three three my. Foreplay. That’s eight three three my. The number four play. And we’ll use the questions. Thanks for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.

Joe Davis – Announcer [00:31:34]:
This podcast is copyrighted by Foreplay media.

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