Sexploratorium Interview with Author, Sexologist Teacher Eric Garrison

Sexploratorium staffer Brooklyn sat down with Eric M. Garrison recently to talk about sexology, his best-selling book Mastering Multiple Position Sex, and more!



Eric Marlowe Garrison is a certified sexuality counselor, author, trainer, teacher, mentor, and international consultant in a variety of areas relating to public health, sexology, and higher education – including the training of medical students. A twice-awarded high school coach, he frequently works with college athletes on everything from time management to anger management. For almost two decades, Eric has promoted better communication and more healthful relationships…for individuals, couples, hospitals, NCAA teams, college health services departments, schools of public health, universities, our nation’s armed services, and international organizations.


Most people are probably familiar with the terms “therapist” and “counselor” as they relate to sex and relationships, but may not be familiar with what a “sexologist” does. Can you explain that role?

Sexology is the scientific study of sex and it has MANY branches. I work as a consultant sexologist (advising doctors, etc), a clinical sexologist (advising clients, couples, and poly groups), and a forensic sexologist (advising lawyers and police about crimes).

 

Why did you become a sexologist? What was the process by which you made the decision to acquire the education you did and choose the line of work that you have?

As a kid, I used to listen to Dr. Ruth, and knew I wanted to help people have better sex and relationships. Later, I would become a peer educator at Virginia Commonwealth University. It was there that I met Cydelle Berlin*, PhD, who said I should look into Penn or NYU’s PhD program. Seeing her STAR Theater group perform and talking to her one-on-one, along with my advisers there at VCU, made a huge difference in my life.

*Dr. Cydelle Berlin founded STAR Theatre in 1987 and is the Executive Director/Producer of The NiteStar Program, which is based at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in Upper Manhattan. NiteStar is a national multi-component theater based Health Promotion and Education program for young people, parents and providers which includes direct service, training, and technical assistance.

What is it about human sexuality that fascinates or interests you the most?

I love how diverse and fluid we are as sexual beings.

 

In your work as a counselor, have there been any particular issues between partners that you’ve seen come up repeatedly? Do you feel that those issues can be resolved before they become problematic, and how can partners “nip it in the bud”?

Differences in desire is a common concern for many. Before any couple commits to any partnership that has a degree of permanency to it, they need to know that there will be times when one wants it more than the other. If they spoke with a sex counselor early on, and learned how to cope and over come discordant desire, then that little stitch could save 9.

 

Do you feel that there are many people hesitant to seek the help of a counselor for sex and relationship problems? If so, why do you think that is, and how can people overcome it?

Yes, especially men and people who aren’t so enlightened. Cisgendered* men feel that things can improve on their own, and the unenlightened feel that one shouldn’t talk about such things.

Cisgender – Not transgender; identifying with the same social gender as most people with the same biological sex.

What should people look for in an effective sex counselor for their needs? What should they expect from their counselor and from counseling in general?

I’d look for an AASECT certification. If they are in a field, such as social work or psychology, that can be licensed, I’d look for a license too. They should also have a good feel for the person after the initial intake. I always try to do my intakes in person, but my phone clients can’t make that first trip – or any subsequent one, so I have to base everything on a phone connection…and so do they. People need to understand too that that they are part of the team, and not put everything in the hands of the counselor.

 

You sometimes work as a forensic sexologist. What exactly does that position entail, and is it something that you do frequently? How did you get into that?

Forensic just means “pertaining to the law” – and I can’t tell you how many people think it means “cutting people open for legal research.” So forensic sexology is discovering sexual aspects of cases and sharing those with the people who hired you. I have offered my opinion in the lawyer’s office. Sometimes it’s “Here are things to look for in the evidence.” “These are the 5 questions I would ask the perp.”  I have also sat in the witness chair in front of a judge. I even have assisted the US JAG corps. I have been advising lawyers and police departments for over ten years, it lets me help sexual assault and stalking survivors. I got into it by watching Quincy as a kid and combined that with my love of Dr. Ruth.

 

Your book, ‘Mastering Multiple Position Sex’, has become an international best seller. How does that particular achievement make you feel about the work that you’ve done?

I love getting emails from different countries where my book is sold in English, Polish, or Dutch. And the little negative criticism is also very helpful as well, even when it is not constructive. I am happy with where I am now, but not complacent. There is SO much more work to do, workshops to hold, people to reach.

And one of the things that made the book sore in sales had nothing to do with me, but rather with a grandmother in Pataskala, OH who challenged the book. It got me on the ALA list of Banned and Challenged Books – along with Hemmingway, Anne Frank, Maya Angelou, etc. So in turn, my book title and name were on posters, on library listservs, on the news, on Facebook and college websites. For my parents and friends – all progressive – and for a small portion of my family, it was a proud moment indeed.

Eric’s book, Mastering Multiple Position Sex, is an international, multi-language best-seller that was once the #1 Sex Instruction Book on Amazon.com and still ranks in the top 99.99% of their American sales. You can watch the book’s trailer here:



How did the book come about, and was there a process or method by which you created it?

I had done a couple of radio show on Sirius Maxim channel with Dr. Yvonne Fulbright* – a wonderful teacher, a prolific sex and relationship author, and a friend since I don’t know when, and the publisher called her to ask if she knew an expert – they might have asked for a male – who could write, entertain, and educate. I had been working on a similar book in my head and on paper, but here was a chance not to have to use an agent, as they were asking for my assistance. I gave them a chapter to review, and it was a done deal. I was a sex counselor in NYC, and by extension via phone and Skype from Philly to Boston, so I asked my clients to try these positions out. I tweaked and honed them, and thanks to my clients – mostly those in Manhattan and Boston, the book was tested. A couple great chapters were cut – I loved the one I wrote on sex positions for in your car, and the acrobatic sex chapter was written to replace it.

*Dr. Yvonne Kristin Fulbright is an Icelandic-American sexologist, author, and television personality.


Click to buy a copy of the book!


The couples photographed for the book are all apparently cis gendered men and cis gendered women, portraying ostensibly heterosexual couples. Do you think that there is still a lot of information for LGBTQ folks in the
book?

The couples are indeed cisgendered/cissexual, and the publisher had looked at demographics to determine the audience. Because Quiver is known for their beautiful photography, it was a key point for them to have the couples they had. And one couple was a real love-bonded couple for five to six years before they walked on the set.

There is lots of information in there that is NOT cisgender/cissexual specific, because I wanted it to mimic all the fun and education people have when they see me. For instance, there is advice on finding a high quality sex educator, counselor, or therapist near you. There is advice (though brief) on the importance of nutrition and sleep and the importance of adding some variety to the bedroom. But it is for M/F identified couples. I have received praise from bi women and men, and even a great email from one lesbian who late in life fell in love with a man. The response from my trans fans was strong too.

Look, there is often times some great food or preparation info in a “how to BBQ” cook book, but no vegan is going to pick it up for those tidbit, no matter HOW mazing they are.

If I were ever asked to write a non-cis book, I would do so in a heartbeat, and with the same dedication, humor, and intellect that went into the first one. I may wish to reach everyone, but a publisher is going to hire everyone who buys books.

But – periscopes up! – my next book and upcoming novel are not cis-specific, so I was able to unleash the non-cis advocate inside of me, and whoever publishes me will have to know that is my stance.

 

In addition to all of your other work in human sexuality, you spend time raising awareness of sexual assaults and intimate partner violence. As a man, have you ever encountered criticism for your dedication to what are often considered “women’s issues”, even though these issues affect all kinds of sexualities?

Awesome question. I consider myself a product of the post-modern movement, and often find myself advocating for sexes and groups to which I am not a member, but serve as a member of the human race (watch: some pro-ET group will say that my human race comment was anti-extra-terrestrial). In a gym you need a spotter, on a tight rope you need a net, and in our movements we need allies.
The saddest thing about the “we can do it ourselves, thank you very much” mentality is it can alienate some great helpers. Oddly, I was in NYC in the 90s, and a group of cis-males wanted to march in Take Back the Night. We were told that we could report to a meeting room in the library and talk there. None of these men – some of whom knew or related to SA/IPV survivors –  wanted to talk; they wanted to march. So when most of the men skipped the “talk it out” and went home the response was exactly what the organizers wanted to hear: “See, men aren’t interested in helping at all.” Sadly, a friend of mine marched in the event with her physically abusive cisgender female ex-partner ten feet behind her the entire way.

 

What is your stance on various sexual activities being classified as “paraphilias” by the mental health community, even when practiced by consenting parties? Particular examples being fairly common practices like BDSM, certain fantasies about another’s or one’s own gender or presentation, piercings and tattoos, talking dirty, and the like.

People love to label things, don’t we? Even people who don’t love it will still classify themselves: “I’m anti-labeling!” On page 13 of MMPS (I have no copy near me, but I quote this all the time), I write that the only abnormal sex is that where consent is absent and/or coercion is present. This can be very tricky for people with forced chem fantasies, as those under the influence of mind-altering substances can’t consent, but I work with couples into forced chem and we talk about setting boundaries.
Again, if we share our boundaries, then people can work within those without judgment. Also, so long as people are informed and not persuaded, great and pleasurable things can happen.

 

Your website mentions “sex surrogacy” as a controversial method of sex counseling, and specifically that it is outside your code of ethics to engage in such a method. What is “sex surrogacy”?

Sex surrogacy is explained in my book too, as I get many requests for referrals – and I have no surrogates in my Rolodex, so readers, please don’t write or call me. Sex surrogates are people who help others learn to have sex and do so, eventually, by engaging in sexual intercourse with their clients. These people are not commercial sex workers – another group, by the way, whose rights I wish were protected and whose services were legal, taxed, medically sound, and protected by law enforcement. Where a CSW is likely to have one encounter with a client and have sex with that person, a sex surrogate might never have sex with a client or not until 15, 20 or 30 sessions. The surrogates whom I have met are all highly educated, physically healthy, and serious in their desire to help others.

 

Many men who identify as heterosexual are very hesitant to engage in prostate massage or other forms of “ass play”, either alone or with a partner, believing that the practice is “only for gay men”. Why do you think this is? And what do you think they’re missing out on, if anything?

Hell, let’s move that hand up a few feet and say many hetero–identified men are afraid of a fully clothed male-male hug! I feel bad for anybody who won’t explore – even once! – their entire body as a sexual organ. My first chapter of MMPS is all about personal sexploration, so you know what you like and don’t, before you acquire (or return) to a sexual partner or partners. If somebody has a responsive anus or prostate, he is missing out on a lot. For somebody who was sexually assaulted or is incapable of taking in all those sensations, that man is not missing much.
And of course there is the whole anal taboo – it’s dirty, etc. Those concerns can easily be, shall I say, rectified.

Check out our selection of prostate massagers and other anal toys in our webstore! Even more in stock at The Sexploratorium’s South Philly location!

 

What would you say to someone who is struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation?

As many times as I could listen to Rebecaa Drysdale sing “It Gets Better” or watch the YouTube videos of the same genre, I am going to go out on a limb and say, “yes, and not always.” People have to have agency to make changes. Tell a person with high cholesterol that “it gets better” but don’t show them the strength within themselves to exercise, eat with mindfulness, and take their niacin, and that cholesterol will do anything but get better.
So to people who are struggling, I’ll say this which is what I tell college students and everyone else: “It is a sign of strength to seek support sensibly.” If you look inside you and don’t have what it takes to make the changes yourself – and most of us don’t, then reach out to somebody face-to-face, by phone, text, whatever, and say, “This is very hard for me and I’d appreciate your help.” Once you are are connected to yourself and to others, OMG, it gets better.

 

What do you think is a good first step for a couple (or single person) looking to explore consensual and ethical non-monogamy?

Talk about the pros and cons from ALL sides. Not just the health side or not just the emotion side or not just the religious side, but all sides. As I say in my next book: “Sex is a diamond, it is harder than we think AND we have to respect and admire all its facets, even the ones that are not within our view.”

 

What advice would you give parents out there who are about to have one of the most difficult discussions of their child’s upbringing, “the birds and the bees” talk? And furthermore, how do you feel about sex education in schools, whether abstinence-based or not?

Start immediately – there is always some aspect of sex that you can teach at any age – and that includes talking to people in their 90s too. Sex education has no endpoint!
Be available – questions arise at all times of the day, so be available and approachable.
Withhold judgment – if you can’t do this yet, speak to a sex counselor for help on talking to your kids.
Don’t withhold information or force an agenda – and use appropriate vocabulary when you do all this. No child ever benefited from the “egg in mommy’s tummy” lecture. Hell, that phenomenon happens when most people have the $1.99 breakfast special at Denny’s. Imagine a child asking its mother about the Eggs Benedict she’s eating – two eggs AND Hollandaise sauce. A triple pregnancy threat!
Finally, be comfortable in your uncomfortableness – it’s ok for you to laugh, and feel nervous too.
American sex education is getting better thanks to people like Bill Taverner, Peggy Brick, Joan Garrity, Betsy Crane, Melanie Davis, and the people at SIECUS, Answer, Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth. My fear with the new regime that took over in 2010 is that many of them appear to have been educated not in evidence based sexuality education, but rather fear based sex ed. When I consult with private schools on sex education, my advice is always: “Unless you are teaching a literary course on how to write a horror novel, nobody should ever teach fear.”

 

What is the easiest way you know to make safer sex even sexier?

Awesome question! Know your own health and that of your partner(s). Often, that’s impossible, as we want to have sex before  we have all that information. Once you know your own health status and that of your partner to a degree of certainty with which you feel comfortable, then ask yourself, “What are we protecting ourselves from?” Some safer sex methods are great for HIV, and terrible for HPV. Others prevent pregnancy, and allow most STIs to be transmitted. Some natural methods to prevent pregnancy require lots of education and self-monitoring, and some people feel that their sex or gender or sexual activities are so protected, it’s as if to say a moisture barrier were 100% unnecessary.
Also, it is very possible that you have a life long STI and your partner doesn’t (or vice versa), and you find that you love somebody more than you fear the disease. You have to weigh all the pros and cons, the pleasure and the discomfort, the chance of a break up, and it still might turn out that the method you chose might make others cringe, BUT you both came to that conclusion with your head, with your heart, and with some hedonism thrown in for good measure.
By the way, for first timers, it’s amazing how much safety – and sensuality one pair of underwear can afford (and by that I mean wearing them, not as a gag or blindfold!)

 

Who is YOUR favorite sex superstar – educator, academic, author, researcher, porn star, advocate, counselor, or general all-round sex champion?

My Double C hands down – clients and colleagues. My clients are always forcing me to think in new ways and my colleagues – the good ones, such as those mentioned above in your sex ed question, encourage me to grow and advance in ways I never thought possible.
But if I had to give one name, just one person who I would drop everything for to watch or listen to, then it would have to be…
Oh, sorry, Brooklyn! I see we are out of time. These were amazing questions – so thank you, and I look forward to seeing the Passional fans in February and March in your store!
Thanks, Eric, for a fun interview! Like what you read here? Check out Eric’s Book, come to a book signing, or take one of Eric’s classes:

Sunday February 27, 1-3PM
Meet author and sexologist Eric M. Garrison and get a copy of his new book signed. Eric is available for private consultations by appointment this afternoon. Call 215-849-7444 for information.
Visit Facebook or Fetlife and invite your friends!

3/18 7PM Sexual Vacations with Eric GarrisonRegister online, then visit Facebook (available 2 weeks before class!) or FetLife and invite your friends!

3/20  Eric’s book signing and consultations


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s