Relationships Podcast Post

Sexual Health with Dr. Holly Richmond

George Grombacher March 6, 2022

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Sexual Health with Dr. Holly Richmond

LifeBlood: We talked about sexual health, what sex positivity is, how to better understand sexual consent, what you can do to take an integrated approach to sexual health, and the importance of doing so, with Dr. Holly Richmond, Certified Sex Therapist, Somatic Psychologist and author.  

Listen to learn three things you can start doing immediately to better connect with your partner!

You can learn more about Holly at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening!  If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and subscribe as well. 

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher


Dr. Holly Richmond

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Come on wouldn’t let this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Dr. Holly Richmond. Dr. Holly, are you ready to do this?

Holly Richmond 0:19
I am. Thank you much so much for having me, George.

george grombacher 0:22
Oh, excited to have you on. Dr. Holly is a certified sex therapist. She’s a somatic psychotherapist, she is the author of reclaiming pleasure, sex positive guide to moving past sexual trauma and living a passionate life. Holly, tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Holly Richmond 0:41
Ah, gosh. So I am a late in life Mom, I have two little boys six and eight. married for about 13 years now and very, very busy. So since the pandemic began, I’m sure you’re hearing this from all the therapists you talk to just people have been struggling for the last two years. So with anxiety in general, which I kind of treat through that somatic psychology lens. So for any of your listeners who don’t know, somatic psychology, so that’s body psychology, so I’m really listening to the nervous system, taking cues from the body talking to the body when I can instead of just the brain. But then of course, couples have really been struggling since the pandemic. So just been, you know, really looking at those two, two pieces of my work pretty intensely over the last few years.

george grombacher 1:30
Yeah, I can only imagine, I can only imagine. I mean, so six and eight, we have a five and a two year old. And it’s, I think, well, we don’t need to necessarily comment on whether or not that’s made it easier to make it through the pandemic or harder. It’s probably true and false in both ways. So, but dealing with, with everything that that that the pandemic has brought us but then even before how are how are we doing we as as Americans with with with sexuality, and our sex life just lately, maybe even pre pandemic? Yeah.

Holly Richmond 2:14
So George, it’s getting better. So there’s the hopefulness piece. Young people have so much more access to sex? I think in general they are they’re coming into the world and they’re, you know, adolescence and adulthood with a sex positive perspective. So to me, sex positivity, all sex is good sex as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable. So the 20 and 30 Somethings are talking about consent. They know what consent means. And they’re really starting to understand hey, sex should feel good to versus someone like me. You look a good bit younger than I am, but I just I didn’t get those conversations. It was just don’t get pregnant, don’t get an STI. Don’t be slutty. Don’t be all of these things. Right? No one ever said, oh, yeah, you should be liking this.

george grombacher 3:00
Yeah, that’s fascinating. So I’m 43 years old. Holly, and I don’t think we there were jokes about, you know, sex ed classes. But I honestly don’t recall ever having sitting through one in school. And I don’t recall too many conversations with my mom about it either. So it’s fascinating. What is what is motivated that? Is it just just sex is in the ether? We have access to pornography really easily? Or our schools talking about it? How is how is that shift happened?

Holly Richmond 3:34
It’s definitely not the latter. Schools are not talking about it, that that piece of sex ed is not any better. I think it’s just there’s been some great platforms out there that we’re really seeing this gap. Yes, we’re talking about sex. But I think sex has always been in the media. We just didn’t have context for it. And you’re right with kind of the ubiquitous access to porn now younger people. So the average age kid sees kids see porn is 11. That’s just way too early. So then they think, Okay, this is normal. This is how you have sex. This is what it’s supposed to be like. And then it’s really our jobs as parents and educators to say no, that’s just a performance. That’s literally naked people acting. That’s not what sex looks like, this is what sex should be consensual pleasurable, and then anything else that your child has a question about. Got it.

george grombacher 4:27
So sex positivity, the idea of I don’t even know if I’m, if I’m saying the idea of consent or the reality of of consent. That’s not an obvious thing.

Holly Richmond 4:45
Right. Right. It’s, it is so nuanced. And it’s not that gendered but in general, girls are taught to be nice, right? So using their nose like as in yeses and noes like that often doesn’t come easy for young women. So it’s really creating communication within the system of Yes, I’m ready to move forward or no, I’d rather take this slower. And of course, this can come from the guy side, too. But he’s got all those cultural tropes about, yes, you should be always trying to have sex or, you know, whatever that story is, I think where we are in history right now is there’s again, people stepping in sex educators stepping in parents who are really involved now in in their kids upbringing that no, you know, I have to have the sexual health conversation. So that is changing.

george grombacher 5:39
I had a conversation with, with, with my wife about. And, you know, these are things that that I take for granted, as you know, I’m six foot one, I’m 200 pounds, and I feel like I can walk anywhere. And so that’s, you know, I don’t necessarily like the term privilege, but that’s, that’s a privilege that I have, I’m not concerned about my physical safety or well being. And now listen to do you share that? Certainly. When I’m in a scenario, intimate scenario, and I’m, besides that I am, and my female partner is considerably smaller, potentially, whatever. I’d never necessarily thought about the dynamics, that that that’s bringing up, but it’s obvious now that I think about it.

Holly Richmond 6:27
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. It’s just these these inherent dynamics that we don’t think about and, and now we have more language around empowerment sexual empowerment agency, what we want that to look like, I mean, in just changing the conversation about what sex is, it doesn’t always have to be penetration. You know, I know, you know, for me, and my generation growing up, it was just like, oh, sex is penis and vagina. And of course, now I know, as a sex therapist, it could be that but it certainly doesn’t have to be that it can be any iteration of what the couple decides it’s going to be

george grombacher 7:01
agency that that’s, that’s one of, I think, one of the most important words that I think about, and the more we can promote people to have agency. That’s, that’s such an empowering thing. So and if I never think about what my sexual agency is, then then I never think about it. Right? So is how do you talk to people about that? Is it this is who I want. This is sort of the identity I want to have sexually? How does that conversation go?

Holly Richmond 7:35
Yeah, so So in my studies way, at the beginning, when I was writing my dissertation, I studied Maurice Merleau Ponty, who was one of the first philosophers in the 40s and 50s, who read really studied sex in the body. And what he came to, and what I believe wholeheartedly, is that sex and self are not dualistic. So there’s not me. And then there’s not me having sex, their sex and their me. So I don’t have sex, but I am sex in a way. So really sexual health as is as integrated into ourselves as our mental health as our physical health as a relational health as our familial health. But I think in our society, Western society, it’s just like, no sexual health as a bonus, and we don’t think about it, we think it’s just supposed to come naturally, we think all the parts are supposed to work. And that’s just not true for a lot of people. So it’s really integrating this idea of choosing what we want our own sexual and relational life to look like. Because to your point, most people just haven’t taken time to think about it. But oh, my gosh, they spend six weeks researching what washer to dry, or what workout program to go, you know, to try or what diet they’re going to do. Yeah.

george grombacher 8:45
Which is just such a such a human thing. So that’s, that’s, that’s true of so many of the important things that we do. So the idea that sexual health as a bonus is, is flawed, that the idea that that Georgia is here, and then George having sex or a sexual life is over here, when in fact, it should be treated more. How do you think that the conversations we’re having run mental health could be a precursor to, to this sexual health?

Holly Richmond 9:17
It is. Yeah. And you nailed it with that. I think, again, most people are now like, oh my gosh, my mental health is really important. There’s really no other health if I’m severely depressed, severely anxious, struggling with any personality disorders. So again, that part of it has been integrated. That’s the word I like. So we’re integrating ourselves, our mind and bodies are on the same page. And we’re not living in parts of ourselves. And I liked how you did that with your hands. I know our listeners can’t see us but you know, there’s not George here George having sex. George being a dad George being a husband. If we can get all of us all of our integrity on the same page, we really move through life. So much healthier and with agency.

george grombacher 10:04
So is it? Is it going to be harder because people think sex is is more taboo. But you told me at the beginning that younger folks are more comfortable talking about it.

Holly Richmond 10:20
It and it’s still taboo. So if they’re growing up in households that never talk about sex, it’s gonna be hard for them to learn to talk about sex, yes, they have their peers. But I really think there has to be a systemic shift in us understanding how integral sexual health is to our lives.

george grombacher 10:38
And how integral is sexual health to our lives?

Holly Richmond 10:41
I don’t think we can be our fully realized Self until we have these conversations just with ourselves or with a trusted person about what sex means to us what we want it to feel like what we want it to look like. Certainly talking to our partner about it. Yeah.

george grombacher 11:02
So having the right tools to have that conversation, I think that’s if I don’t know how to do something, then I’m probably not going to do it for a million different reasons. So is it just a function of what do I want my sex life to be like? How do I want it to feel? Can you just help me to help the audience to ask themselves those questions? And then potentially, how do I have that conversation with with with a partner?

Holly Richmond 11:31
Sure. So in my practice, I treat sexual trauma. So I promise I’m wrapping this all together. So I treat a lot of survivors of sexual trauma. And it’s really interesting with them, because we can see clearly how sexual trauma lives in contrast to sexual help. So there’s an easy access into what do I want my sex life to look like? And George, I’m completely fine. If someone says, You know what, I think I’m really asexual. That’s a choice about sex. That’s not thinking about it, right? Or you know what, I feel best if I’m having sex with my partner, once a day, or four times a month or twice a year is fine for me, but have that conversation. And then so the first conversations you’re having is with yourself, What does sex mean to me? How is it important to me? What do I want that to look like? Where’s my self pleasure practice in there? And I’m not saying masturbation, because it can look like masturbation and it can just like look like self pleasure. So when we say masturbation, there’s usually like the end of an orgasm. You know, that’s there’s we’re usually working towards an orgasm. With self pleasure. I feel like that gives us a little bit of a broader range of what that 20 minutes what that hour can look like for ourselves, is it just time with ourselves in a sexual way. The other thing I’d love to do with my couples and individuals is help them understand their sexual template. So we will have a session or two that looks at desire, which is the psychological process of wanting and arousal, which is the physiological process of wanting, and I walk my clients through step by step, some specific questions. These are in the book about really how they can start to think about these things because it is it’s scary if you haven’t thought about sex before, jumping right in and thinking about it. So I do it through the five senses. It’s erotic, not necessarily sexual. So eroticism, vitality, lifeforce vivacity, agency, co creation. And again, we can be working towards that sexual element. But for some people, it’s just too scary to jump into the deep end with it.

george grombacher 13:42
Got it? I think it’s, I think having a template and having steps or, or process or, you know, do this, then then do that is so helpful. That’s I think, Maybe I’m just a linear thinker, but I imagine it’s probably helpful for everyone, which is why templates exist. Yeah. And the idea of erotic versus sexual. I mean, that’s, these are concepts that I I don’t know that I’ve ever necessarily considered the difference between those two things. And then self pleasure versus masturbation. Again, I think we’re gonna have to have you back on to dig deeper into these things. Dr. That sounds

Holly Richmond 14:21
great. I’m happy to do it. But yeah, it’s just really getting to know ourselves better. And again, many humans put so much time and effort into their work or into family oriented nutrition or into exercise. There’s just I don’t meet that many people who are like, Yeah, I’ve taken some time to think about and cultivate my sexual health.

george grombacher 14:43
So and there’s there’s not a right or wrong amount of time that should be earmarked for this. It’s however long it takes to get these thoughts concepts clear that But to get clarity on

Holly Richmond 15:01
them. Yeah, exactly. So for someone who has experienced sexual trauma, so let’s say that their first sexual experience was a non consensual one, they are probably going to take a little bit longer to really settle into what sexual health looks like for them. Whereas someone who is maybe in their 30s, and it’s like, yeah, I’ve kind of always had that idea of, of sexual pleasure in my head and what feels right for me, and I’ve done some exploration, doing their sexual template, I might only need an hour or two with

george grombacher 15:30
them. Makes sense? Or are women more open to this than men? Is that a fair thing? Are there differences?

Holly Richmond 15:43
I think that’s fair. I think that’s fair with men. If there are sexual, I’m going to say predilections a little bit more intense with that would be kinks or fetishes. Men are reticent. They’re like, Oh, my gosh, is this normal? Right. So that will take a little while for me to parse out? I haven’t. I love I haven’t been shocked in a long time, I can be surprised by people’s Kingson fetishes. But usually they’re not even half as different as people think they are. So we really have this internalized sense of shame about what I like sexually. And again, we think we’re alone out there. And no one has ever had this thing or thought about this thing that we do in this way. And that’s most often not true.

george grombacher 16:30
So much. This must come down to shame, like, like all of our other problems.

Holly Richmond 16:36
Right, right. And yeah, so if you’re a survivor of sexual trauma, I can guarantee there will be a lot of internalized shame. But for just most of us moving through the world, again, if our parents never gave us the language to talk about sex, first of all, it’s taboo. And then we learn Oh, my gosh, I guess no one’s comfortable talking about this. I’m just going to internalize it not have words for it, and feel bad about it.

george grombacher 17:00
Yeah. Well, thank God, you’re here to help people through this process, Ali? Oh, wow. I think thank thank you so much for coming on. Do you have a difference making tip you’d like to share with us?

Holly Richmond 17:16
I do. I do. Um, the healthiest couples do three things. And it’s number three that I want to highlight. So the healthiest couples give each other active appreciations daily. So they say thank you, and they express gratitude to their partner. Please say good morning. That’s part of this. I George, I can’t tell you how many people how many couples I talked to, I’m like, tell me what happens in your morning routine. And they just get up and start barking orders about get the cereal, get the kid dressed, get the you know, I’ve got to race out the door and like, well, where’s the Good morning? Where’s the hug? Where’s the kiss? So active appreciations? Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Most often arguments occur because of Miss attunement, not malice, right? So your partner isn’t trying to irritate you or piss you off. They’re just miss attuned, or they’re being mindless in the moment. So give them the benefit of the doubt. And my third tip is to talk about sex. We know the couples with the best sex life talk about sex, which you and I have been doing for the last 20 minutes. So I’m hoping that your listeners will take piece of pieces of this away. First start asking themselves those important questions and then having really productive conversations with their partners.

george grombacher 18:31
What the good that is great stuff that definitely gets Come on. Thanks. Thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they take advantage of I know that you have obviously the book and coaching program and courses where can they find all that?

Holly Richmond 18:49
Absolutely. So my website is Dr. Holly Richmond, calm Dr. Ho, ll y ri ch mo MD calm. And I would say most of my social media presence is on Instagram and that’s just Dr. Holly Richmond. Perfect.

george grombacher 19:06
Well if you enjoyed this as much as I did show Dr. Holly your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to Dr. Holly Richmond comm it’s Dr. h o l l y Ric HMO, MD calm. Find her on Instagram as well install those in the notes of the show. Thanks again, Holly. Thanks, George. And until next time, keep fighting the good fight. We’re all in this together.

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