The Sex Gurus

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Excerpted from Sunday Life, The Sun-Herald Magazine (part of Sydney Sun-Herald newspaper, June 23, 2002, p. 27-30)
When an actress from a top-rated television show writes a book about how to have an orgasm, you know the sex-therapy industry is thriving. But, asks George Epaminondas, just how expert are the sexperts?

Dr. David Schnarch, one of the world's preeminent sex and marriage therapists, commands an almost god-like presence in the sexpert world and, with a new book out, he's heading to Australia this month. An American clinical psychologist with 20 years' experience providing therapy to couples and the author of two paradigm-smashing books, Passionate Marriage and The Sexual Crucible, Schnarch is the Encyclopedia Britanica of sexperts, the rightful heir to William Masters and Virginia Johnson. Schnarch has probably affected more people through his books and workshops than any motivational speaker you can think of.

In his new book, Resurrecting Sex: Resolving Sexual Problems and Rejuvenating Your Relationship , the bible of conjugal rapprochement. The premise of the new work is that every couple encounters sexual problems at some point.

There are women who never feel highly aroused, those who have difficulty with orgasms, and other who experience pain during sex. Many men have problems getting or maintaining erections. A perennial complaint is that one person is less interested in sex than the other. Or maybe neither want to do it at all.

It's a complete system for a couple in trouble, says Schnarch, speaking from his clinic in the bucolic surrounds of Evergreen, Colorado, where he lives with his wife, Ruth Morehouse, also a therapist. Couples from around the globe seek out the pair for private tutelage. Schnarch prefers a non-pathological approach, and avoid ascribing blame to unhappy childhoods.

Another way his method differs from traditional therapy is his reasoning that communication alone is not enough to save a partnership. The Masters and Johnson approach is 'ask for what you want,' says Schnarch. And the expectation was that your partner was just dying to give it to you. But in marriage there's lots of withholding that goes on, lots of resentments that build up and sex is one of the places it is easy to do that kind of withholding.

With his silvery hair, long nose, and genteel manner, Schnarch, 55, has the countenance of an elder statesman in the sexpert kingdom. In the past decade, there have been countless other exponents biting at his heels. Consider the dizzying array of sex manuals with trumped-up titles and quick fix solutions writhing on the shelves: The Complete Idiots Guide to Amazing Sex; 203 Ways to Drive A Man Wild In Bed; When Someone You Love Is Kinky; and a new release by two gay American men with a so-called mouth on expertise of sword swallowing, Going Down: The Instinct Guide To Oral Sex.

Being a sexpert does not mean having a seamless personal life. They suffer from the same insecurities and upheavals as everyone else. Other sex experts like Jo-Ann Baker has been in a monogamous relationship for six years, Tracey Cox is currently single, so too Gabrielle Morrissey. As a married man, I know what it's like to have sexual problems, writes Schnarch in Resurrecting Sex. Asked to elaborate, he says, For me to say that I've had every sexual difficulty there is, I'm not telling the world that Ruth and I have bad sex. I'm not telling the world anything inadequate about me because that's the point of the book. The book is for couples who have sexual difficulties, which means all couples at least some time in their relationship.