December 18, 2020
Former Playboy Advisor Weighs in on Full-Body Pleasure
After 46 years of writing about sexuality and the more than 12,000 sex questions answered, Michael Castleman is well positioned to weigh in on all things sex. He joins us to discuss his experience as the world’s most popular sex writer and together we address a buffet of questions including:
- What is sex like in your 70s?
- Why is full body pleasure so important?
- What were Brandon’s early sexual experiences?
- How can we master ejaculatory control and deal with premature ejaculation?
- What really makes a penis better in bed?
- What myths are destroying sex for men?
- What are the most common questions men (Playboy readers) had in the 90s?
- How do you spread arousal from head to toe?
- How do you replace genital focus with playfulness?
- What is sensate focus?
- How to get over penis preoccupation?
- Is sex addiction an industry or a diagnosis?
Check out Castleman’s upcoming book, Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age. Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
EPISODE 192: Former Playboy Advisor Weighs in on Full-Body Pleasure
You’re listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Sex and relationship advice you can use tonight.
Welcome to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, I’m your co host Brandon Ware here with my lovely other half, Dr. Jess.
Dr. Jess (0:25):
Hey hey, we’re coming at you today from Jamaica. We’re still isolated in Negril. I think we’re going on around thirteen days. And we’ve been asked to isolate for fourteen. And we’re going to be I guess seeing my family in a couple of days, which is making me a little bit nervous. Obviously I’m super excited to see them. Especially my cousin Annabella, but it’s an interesting time of course to see people or bubble with people. And I know babe you’re not feeling one hundred percent, like actually bubbling with the family and, there’s only five of them. I mean there are hundreds of them down here but five that we’ll be staying on property with. Not in the same house but on their property.
And it’s not that I’m not excited to see them. But I think our opinions of distance and safety are a little bit different. And let me be clear. I’m excited to see your family too. I’m excited to see your family at a distance, or with a mask on or outside.
Dr. Jess (01:35):
Well Jamaica makes it easy obviously to be outside, which cuts our risk. And I thought I’d this up, because I think it’s something that we don’t fully agree on. And I also don’t think it’s something that we’re necessarily going to meet in the middle on. So I’m of the mindset that I’m pretty comfortable seeing my family outside, even sitting at a dinner table outside. And that could change, I think that’s the thing with comfort levels. You know, if I see something happening with other people in the picture, and it makes me uncomfortable, maybe my perspective shifts. But oftentimes relationships, we think about, “Oh how do you meet in the middle?” And I’m thinking that anything I do, you’re essentially doing. So let’s say you decide to always stay six feet apart, or to wear a mask even when you’re outside, that sort of becomes irrelevant if I’m conducting myself differently. So I’m not trying to get into a debate here about masks or the virus or anything like that. It’s more about how we come to terms with the fact that your comfort level is different than my comfort level. And I kind of feel like in this case, it’s more my job to come to where you’re at because you are a little more cautious than me. So to further clarify, I’m kind of prepared to be outside at the dinner table with my family closer than six feet and taking my mask off to eat and drink obviously. And I think you would maybe like to still maintain a little bit more distance. And yeah, so I’m sort of feeling like maybe I should just respect where you’re at, because anything I do, I bring into our little shared space between the two of us.
Yeah, and it’s not the… I’m just laughing, because of course I’m gonna take my mask off to eat and drink and do all those things, but it’s about for me, it’s compromise. It’s number one, it’s willing to listen to the other person’s perspective and try to get an understanding. And it’s also a willingness too — not that I have to be flexible on what it is that I am comfortable doing versus what you’re comfortable doing — but again it’s just the willingness to have a dialogue, to communicate and to listen.
Dr. Jess (03:49):
Well what if I were to make a prediction?
Go for it. What’s your prediction? I wanna hear.
Dr. Jess (03:56):
I don’t know. I think that once you’re with the family, you’re gonna get comfortable and you might let your guard down. Having said that, if you saw like one of my family members maybe socializing with more people outside, like other guests in the vicinity. Maybe then I’d see you pull back. But I guess what I’m trying to say is my prediction is, you say that you’d like to keep six feet of distance, even if we’re outside. And I have a feeling you might not. And I’m not trying to call you inconsistent. I just, I don’t know, that’s my thought.
And I think in this particular case I’ve been the one who’s been more cautious around what we’ve been told to do and not to do about the virus. And I’m also “everything is fine until it’s not,” and I have said that even this existed when it came to business. It was like you know everything’s cool until it’s not cool, in which case you look back and retroactively feel like you would have done things differently. So I’m trying to take a step in the direction of looking proactively at, what if something were to happen? Would I look back and judge my decisions differently than how I’m approaching the situation before it actually happens?
Dr. Jess (05:05):
And I think my thought is, that it’s a small group of us being mindful. We’re still going to be outside, and again, this isn’t a debate about the virus. Because we all have access to the same information, and you can kind of interpret it as you may.
I think maybe, I don’t know if I should even say this. But I feel like this is a small risk I’m willing to take. Does that make sense to you?
Of course the risk and that willingness makes sense. And it’s something I need to continue to think about in advance of seeing them. And more importantly convey how I’m feeling to you, so that I don’t harbour any resentment over what we end up ultimately doing.
Dr. Jess (05:49):
Yeah I guess my bottom line is that because you’re on the more cautious side, I mean let’s be honest. We both fall on the very cautious end of the spectrum to begin with, it’s not like I’m throwing caution to the wind. I haven’t really seen people up close without a mask or indoors. But again I think I go back to on this side if you’re more cautious, I’m willing to kind of come over to your end. Which is really only like inching my way because we’re not that far apart. But I thought I’d bring it up because yeah, I think it’s just evident that it’s not always about meeting fifty-fifty on some issues. You’re gonna meet your partner at like ninety nine or hundred. And I guess maybe we’ll update a little next week. I do want to say thank you to our continued support from http://www.LetsGetChecked.com. They offer at home testing for all of your health needs from hormones and STIs to thyroid, liver, kidney, and more.
So go to http://www.LetsGetChecked.com, order your kit, get your sample, send it in, and get your results securely online. And please do use code “DRJESS” so that they know that you heard about them here. Now today we’re going to be talking with a sex journalist who has written so many articles, probably more articles than anybody else in the world on sex, answered more than twelve thousand sex questions for newspapers, magazines and online sites. And we’re gonna be talking about a range of topics from sex in aging, to full-body pleasure, to overcoming premature ejaculation, to sensate focus. So I’m definitely looking forward to this conversation. Joining us now is Michael Castleman, a journalist who specialized in sexuality for forty five years. The world’s most popular sex writer, with nine million views on his pieces, and author of a new book “Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age.” Welcome, thanks so much for being here Michael, excited to chat with you. You’ve been writing about sex for forty six years. How did you find yourself writing about sex forty six years ago?
Michael Castleman (08:17):
Well it’s a funny story actually. I was writing for an underground newspaper in Michigan, and I was doing health reporting, and Valentine’s day was coming up. And the publisher came to me and said “look, we need to put together a lot of advertising for Valentine’s day so we need a big cover story about sex and we want you to write a story called ‘How to Make Love.’” And I immediately refused to do this, because I was twenty three years old and really didn’t know very much about it. But the publisher said to me, “wait a minute, you live with your girlfriend. You’re having sex. You write about it.” I refused and I left the office and walked home, which was a ten minute walk away. When I got home, my girlfriend — who’s now my wife — said to me, “What do you mean you won’t write this article about sex? You have to write this thing. See the publisher knew Ann — my wife — and called her and said, “you gotta convince Michael to write the story.” So I said all right. Yeah, with my girlfriend/wife’s encouragement, I decided I would do it. And we were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the time. And there was a sexuality program there, at the university, so I interviewed a bunch of people, read a bunch of books, and that was that. And I really enjoyed it. I liked writing about sex, which was kind of a surprise. And people certainly are interested in it. So I’ve been writing about it ever since.
Dr. Jess (09:55):
Apparently. Now, the landscape must have been very different back then, where you know there were not hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of sex writers. How did it affect the way people approached you, your friends, your family? I would say people you dated but it sounds like you’re pretty locked down.
Michael Castleman (10:13):
Well, it really didn’t have that much effect on my life, actually, I mean I was a journalist and I wrote about a lot of things. I wrote about health and I wrote about sex, and you know it happened more on the page than in my life. You know, I would talk about it, but journalism exists in its own little bubble, and I didn’t really bring it up with friends that much. Actually I still don’t. A lot of my friends, all my friends know that I write about sex, but it’s not like they’re reading my blogs and they’re all over me, “what are you writing about today?” It just doesn’t work like that.
Dr. Jess (10:57):
It’s interesting ’cause you know Brandon, since he’s joined this podcast, and he doesn’t have a background specifically in sexology or sexual health, he does find that people approach him with questions.
People gravitate to me. And they’re looking for my take on things, and I’m surprised that your friends don’t overtly pull you aside over drinks and say “hey what do you think about this” or “what do you think about that?” Because in the hockey dressing rooms, at events that we’ve hosted, I always have people who come up, and will say, “I know Jess focuses on the education and you know really driving home the importance of healthy sexual relationships and relationships in general. But tell me more about this, about this resort,” or “about this toy” or something like that, and they want to know really what I think. So do you get that? You must get that.
Yes sure, that happens when people of my acquaintance have sexual issues. They know that I write about it. They know that I’m a sex expert. And so they do ask. In fact, I had an old friend email me last week about a sexual issue. So you know, it happens regularly, but it’s not like, I mean I’m not famous. It’s not, I’m not Dr. Jess, I guess I’m a little quieter than a lot of media people around it. But certainly I’m happy to talk about it and I do talk about it and we’re talking about it right now.
Dr. Jess (12:32):
I love it. And I think that difference probably has to do with the landscape being so different for journalists. If you look back in the seventies, eighties, nineties, you didn’t have to create the same brand on social media, and pump out, and be responsible for the number of clicks. The way you do. Now you’ve answered twelve thousand sex questions for newspapers.
Michael Castleman (12:52):
At least, yes.
Dr. Jess (12:54):
And you were the Playboy adviser.
Michael Castleman (12:58):
Well I was the Playboy advisor for sex. They had other guys for cars, and etiquette, grooming and things like that. But I answered all the questions for five years.
Dr. Jess (13:10):
Yes I love that. So what is the most memorable question that comes to mind that you had to answer as the Playboy adviser? Because I read that column, I loved it.
Michael Castleman (13:18):
Well I would say the biggest explosion that happened was when Magic Johnson announced that he was HIV positive, in the mid 1980s. Well no I wrote from 91 to 95. So as early on around 1991 to 1992, Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive. And then there was an explosion of Playboy readers who wanted to know all about HIV. So that was the single biggest sort of earthquake moment in my Playboy advisor career. But you know day to day, it was all the usual questions young men ask. I mean they asked about masturbation, premature ejaculation was the single biggest subject, because young men often lack ejaculatory control, and they want it, they want it bad. So I often answered questions about that, and then just the full range of issues that young men faced. Playboy was very focused on the eighteen to thirty four year old demographic, and so we didn’t get too many questions about how heart disease is going to impact your erection function, because that’s for older men. But it was the young guys who came too fast, couldn’t come at all, some of them had erection issues. A lot of them were clueless about women’s sexuality, and wouldn’t know a clitoris from their elbow, you know. But we tried to, the whole point of it was to educate and enlighten with a sense of humour, and I tried my best.
Dr. Jess (15:20):
Okay, so when you talk about premature ejaculation. What would you say most people get wrong? Or what advice would you offer based on your experience and research that might surprise people?
Michael Castleman (15:32):
Well mainly premature ejaculation is usually a bad habit that is caused by you know misinformation about sex. I mean a lot of men, particularly young men, think that sex is all about intercourse, that it’s only about your penis and what it goes into. And that puts tremendous pressure on your little friend, and the little guy just can’t take it, and so he comes quickly. What men don’t realize is that love making is less about the penis than it is about whole body massage. And if you’re penis fixated then you’re at high risk for premature ejaculation. If you expand your definition of lovemaking to basically be about extended, whole body massage, that eventually focuses on the genitals, then what happens is you spread the arousal from head to toe all over the body and it takes pressure off the penis. And so I would always encourage men and still do, and sex therapists, I’m sure you do too, encourage men to be less genitally preoccupied and more playful and more massage oriented. Because for two reasons. One is that it’s a lot easier to gain ejaculatory control when you make love that way, but the added benefit is that many, many, surveys show that most women prefer a whole body massage oriented style of lovemaking as well. And so it’s a win win. Men can come when they want, and women have more fun too, and men get higher marks as lovers from these women and everybody’s happy.
I wish somebody would have told me that when I was younger, just like you said the idea that “slowdown, take your time, that twenty minutes that you’re spending working up your partner is really gonna make them think that you’re a rockstar.” Because again I think initially, when I was younger it was just like “okay, the penis has gotta get in there,” right? And we gotta get down. There was such a focus on that. And then if it didn’t lead up to the thirty minutes of sex like you were told should last to result in orgasm for both parties, it was a bit of a letdown. And I’m not gonna pretend like the first few times that I had sex that I was a rockstar at it. I think the third time was a bit of an outlier and a fluke, it took forever. But you know the first couple times, let’s be honest, a twenty minute massage of my partner would have probably made them think that I was a lot better than I than I was.
Dr. Jess (18:34):
And would you have enjoyed it more?
I think it would have been exercise in control. Just like Michael had said, where trying to focus in and not just get to that, would have been the biggest challenge. But if somebody just said, “hey man take your time, your partner’s going to really enjoy it and you’re going to be better. You’re going to be perceived as a better lover because you’re paying attention to your partner.” Then you know, I hope that the younger version of me would have heeded that advice.
Dr. Jess (19:09):
I wonder too why there is such a focus on how your partner perceives you. You know, so Michael your new book is coming up, it’s called “Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age.” I like the language of “pleasure.” Like can we just focus more on the pleasure itself, and less on the performance, less on looking like a rockstar, less on having a partner who says good stuff about you.
Michael Castleman (19:37):
I think that women are intuitively better at sex than men. Women in general, enjoy gentle, playful, sensual touch. Men, young men in particular, just wanna get some. For young men in particular, but men of all ages, you know sex is a penis focused thing. That’s how they were raised. That’s what they believe. And learning to enjoy giving and receiving massage for a lot of men is kind of an acquired taste and takes awhile. I know it was when I started writing about sex, I had premature ejaculation. And when I wrote that first article, I read Masters and Johnson, who had developed a cure for premature ejaculation. And I was astounded. I thought “oh my god, I could get better.” So I went to my girlfriend and I said, “all right you talked me into writing this article. Now, I’ve got this situation. Can you work on it with me? She said sure.” So we started doing what Masters and Johnson recommended. They called it “sensate focus,” the jargon term for whole body massage. And we got into some erotic whole body massage together. And I was surprised. I thought “whoa, this is actually okay. I like this.” And so I think that my experience is not that different from a lot of men, that the transition from penis preoccupied lovemaking, to whole body massage. It’s kind of an acquired taste, but once you acquire it you’ll never go back. You think, “god you know, why didn’t I figure this out earlier?” That’s how I felt anyway. And I think that’s how a lot of other men experience it also. And then when the woman you’re involved with is enjoying sex a lot more because she’s getting a lot more massage, like I said it’s a win win and everybody’s happy. And so that’s becomes a very quickly self-reinforcing way to make love because everybody benefits.
Dr. Jess (22:05):
Right. And I know we’re talking right now just to folks listening out there, from a more heterosexual I think context than we usually do. But this is your experience. This is what you’re sharing. And you know, in writing this book, you must have learned so many other things. What were you most surprised by in doing the research for your upcoming book?
Michael Castleman (22:24):
I was surprised by the controversy over sex addiction.
Dr. Jess (22:32):
Let’s talk about that.
Michael Castleman (22:35):
There’s an industry in North America, the sex addiction industry, that diagnosis’s this supposed scourge, and then treats it. There’s just one problem, that it doesn’t really exist. In fact, DSM-5, the diagnostic and statistic manual that was updated and released in 2013, so that’s seven years ago, eliminated all references to sex addiction. You know people who identify as “sex addicts,” they don’t have any more sex or any weirder sex then most other people. It’s just they’re a lot more upset about it, usually because they were raised in a very repressed cultural or religious backgrounds, that demonized masturbation, demonized casual sex, insisted on virginity at marriage. And so a lot of people grow up with these messages reverberating in their heads and then they’re normal people, they masturbate, they have casual sex, they’re not virgins when they marry, and they think they must be horrible, and on their way to hell. So really, sex addiction is not about sex. It’s really about anxiety. And the treatment that works for it is cognitive behavioural therapy, that says to people, “hey it’s ok, you’re normal. You’re okay, everybody’s pretty much like you. It’s okay to masturbate. It’s okay to have a premarital sex. It’s okay.” And so to me, that was the biggest surprise. I had not spent all that much time delving into the controversy over sex addiction, but now that I have I just I feel sorry for people who consider themselves sex addicts because they took some you know random internet survey and then they think there’s something horribly wrong with them and then the irony is that they just get more uptight. It becomes a vicious cycle. And it’s the place of sexuality professionals and cognitive behavioural therapists to say, “Wait a minute. Your beliefs are mistaken. It’s okay, you’re all right, you’re okay.” So much of being in the sexuality field as you know Dr. Jess, is just giving permission to people to be who they are. I mean apart from illegal sex acts, you know things that are crimes. Pretty much everything else is okay. People get very upset about it, but often needlessly. And so much of what we do is just to say “you know what, you’re alright.”
Dr. Jess (25:46):
Absolutely, yeah. And even some of the acts that are crimes, some are perfectly healthy too right? We have some behaviours that are still labeled as criminal, which are perfectly healthy for some people. And oftentimes, it’s rooted in sex work phobia, rooted in homophobia. Some of those laws are still on the books. I’m really glad you brought up sex addiction, because sex addiction is an industry, not a diagnosis right? We have research showing that sex addiction is what we call iatrogenic, which means that someone who self identifies as a sex addict, it’s the identification that actually increases the symptoms of distress. So the label and the treatment are actually what caused the illness. And what I see, I’m sure you’ve seen this in your work too, is that the label of sex addict is often scapegoated to avoid personal responsibility and accountability. So you know, if somebody cheats, they turn to sex addiction to avoid acknowledging the real reason they decided to cheat. And in other cases, the term sex addiction is used to condemn behaviour that we subjectively judge to be inappropriate. So for example, you know if somebody has sex with many or multiple partners, sometimes they’re accused of being addicted to sex, despite the fact that they may be in engaging in a way that’s really healthy for them. So I’m happy to hear that you’re covering this in your book. And once again, your book is coming out very soon. It is “Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age.” And you included “at any age.” So I’d love to get your thoughts before I let you go, on sex and aging, and maybe what you’ve learned personally about sex, that you perhaps could not have fathomed forty six years ago?
Michael Castleman (27:45):
Well I’m glad you asked about it, because after forty six years of sex writing, I’m now seventy years old, so I mean I’m elderly. And there’s no expiration date on sex. People are sexual for life, and sex changes as you run through the life span. So the kind of sex you have at age seventy is not exactly the same kind of sex you had at age twenty. I mean it’s similar, but it’s not the same. And the key to enjoying lovemaking throughout life is just like living throughout life. You have to adapt to the changes that age brings. And the key thing for older couples I think is to realize that intercourse, vaginal intercourse usually drops out of the picture. Men, almost all men, develop some kind of erection issues, many of which are not treatable with drugs. And meanwhile, older women, postmenopausal women, develop vaginal dryness and tissue thinning of the vagina, that’s called vaginal atrophy, that can make intercourse uncomfortable, even if there’s copious lubrication. Ao you’ve got guys who have problems with erections, women who have problems having men inside them. At a certain point older couples generally look at each other and say “you know what, the intercourse thing, it’s just not working anymore.” But older couples can still have what sexuality professionals call outercourse, instead of intercourse. Which is everything else, kissing, hugging, cuddling, oral sex, maybe some anal play, maybe some kink, whole body massage, there’s a huge playground of sex that older people can enjoy. And there’s just one little corner that becomes problematic, which is the vaginal intercourse part. But everything else is totally open to older people. And I talked to a lot of older people who say that, their older sex, their sex after seventy, is the best of their life. Because they’re relaxed, they understand whole body massage, they’re not intercourse fixated, they enjoy oral sex. Maybe they’re playing with some you know blindfolds or whatever, a little kink stuff, whatever they can have fun. And like I said there’s no expiration date, so you can have a great sex in your late eighties, nineties, a hundred. Because it’s really about whole-body touch and massage closeness, that eventually focuses on the genitals.
I almost wish that we were presented with this kind of information younger in our lives because it seems like sex can be so incredible as you get older but when we’re younger, we’re not really taught the outercourse right? The idea of playing with different things, rather than just focusing in on sex. And I think if somebody had once again, presented this or encouraged this when I was younger, it would have made my initial foray into sex so much better and probably so much more comfortable. And I just I love hearing that as you get older, you’re more open to trying different things. Because one door closes, but it sounds to me like fifty other doors open.
Dr. Jess (31:19):
And better doors perhaps, because you know when you started describing sex as you get older, I think from the dominant lens of PV sex, I’m like, “oh well so you can’t have that thing that we’re expected to have.” And so it sets it up as a problem when in fact, the so-called problem is leading to greater fulfillment, greater exploration, deeper intimacy, more pleasure, more intense orgasms, less performance pressure, and all of those great things. So it seems disappointing to me that we have to wait for these so-called problems to arise, in order to look for solutions. When in fact they weren’t solutions to begin with, they were just options. So I’m definitely excited to continue learning for years to come. Excited to check out your book as well, “Sizzling Sex for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age.” And the last few words are the most alluring to me. So thank you Michael Castleman, thanks for being here. And I wish you all the luck with the release of your new book. And how long are you gonna write for? You’ve been writing for forty six years. How much longer do we have in you?
Michael Castleman (32:25):
I don’t know, I’m hoping to die in the saddle.
Dr. Jess (32:29):
I love it. Maybe we can get you to come write for our blog.
That can be interpreted in many ways, based on what you just said.
Michael Castleman (32:37):
Thanks for having me Dr. Jess, nice to talk Brandon, and hope we can do it again.
Dr. Jess (32:41):
Really appreciate it. And Brandon with the dad joke to close things out. So many gems in here and the biggest for me is the reminder that we do not need to wait until we encounter challenges or problems to explore sex from beyond the genitals. We don’t have to wait until something is labelled a problem to broaden our horizons and explore full-body pleasure, you know if you end up dealing with painful sex, you end up dealing with erectile issues. You will need to broaden your repertoire, continue to explore pleasure and orgasm. But why wait? Start now, it makes sex better than ever, regardless of your age, of the ways in which your body responds during sex. And Michael also mentioned that some, or I think he said most or many, older couples opt out of penis in vagina intercourse on account of issues with erection and lubrication and vaginal atrophy. And I know that’s the hetero perspective, not the way that all of us are always having sex. But I do want to highlight that also, no experience is universal because some couples in their seventies and eighties and beyond continue to have all types of sex, and continue to have erections, to experience lubrication, to enjoy penetration. So we really just want to honour the huge range of experiences that we can enjoy across the lifespan. So thank you Michael, for giving us more to look forward to. Thanks babe for being here. Thank you to you for listening, and a big thanks to http://www.LetsGetChecked.com, do head on over if you have any health tests that you would like to try out from home, and use code DRJESS to save. Thanks for chatting with me babe.
Thank you that was great, really informative, and allowed me to reflect on my younger years.
Dr. Jess (34:42):
More of that on an upcoming episode. Folks wherever you’re at, hope you have a great one and hanging there. The holiday season is coming up. I’m not sure if that’s a positive thing for everyone, but I do hope folks are keeping healthy and happy and that relationships are feeling relatively harmonious at this time.
You’re listening to the Sex With Dr.. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life, improve your life.