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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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”?
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?
What would you say to someone who is struggling with their gender identity or sexual orientation?
What do you think is a good first step for a couple (or single person) looking to explore consensual and ethical non-monogamy?
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?
What is the easiest way you know to make safer sex even sexier?
Who is YOUR favorite sex superstar – educator, academic, author, researcher, porn star, advocate, counselor, or general all-round sex champion?