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Good Vibrations Sex Summit

In this space, we talk about aspects of sexual health and how they affect our patients. While this includes clinical conditions, such as diabetes or an enlarged prostate, it also includes communication. Sex isn’t always easy to talk about and it takes practice to get the conversations going.

These discussions don’t happen in a vacuum, of course. We need to put them in the context of our current culture. But how can we get our bearings on the sexual climate around us?

Targeting that question, the Good Vibrations Sex Summit was recently held in San Francisco. Presented by Good Vibrations, a California-based retailer of sex products and education materials, the conference featured a number of speakers and educators to “explore our sexual state of the union.”

While we were unable to attend the conference, we wanted to highlight the planned panel discussions, as we think they offer some excellent jumping-off points for putting sexuality in a broader context.

Below, we share the panel descriptions from the conference press release and offer questions to consider for our own patients. Please keep in mind that our discussion is our own and that these questions were not necessarily brought up during the panels themselves.

“Regulating Pleasure: Sex, Politics, and Censorship”

“Sex is regarded differently from other elements of life and is arguably regulated more than anything else, whether it’s restrictions on sex education, limited definitions of relationships, censorship of sexual images, laws against certain kinds of sexual expression, or circumscribed civil liberties. The opening panel will explore some of the causes and effects of this social bias, including trends in censorship and sexual politics, and how some people are bringing a more sex-positive slant to this anti-sex playing field.”

How might these issues apply to your patients and practice? Your patients may include the following:

  • an adolescent boy who wants to learn how to use condoms correctly, but has no sex education at school and feels he can’t talk to his parents
  • a mother angry that her daughter’s English class is reading a “sexually-explicit” book
  • a man who wants to marry his same-sex partner but is facing legal challenges on partner benefits
  • a couple who wants to try an open relationship, but is unsure of what parameters to set and how to explain their arrangement to their families and friends

Can you think of other ways sex regulation impacts your patients?

“Outspoken/Unsaid: Sex & Media”

“How does the use of sex to sell products affect sexual attitudes? When movies and TV become substitutes for sex education, what happens to our relationships? Why does porn get blamed for becoming more explicit, while sexy images elsewhere get a pass? Our media experts will explore these and other questions and discuss what they see happening on our screens and in our publications.”

Your patients are likely bombarded with sexual messages. To what extent do you think they’re influenced by what they see and hear about sex?

  • Do your patients believe that buying a certain car or using a certain hair care product will attract a sexual partner? Is that true?
  • Do your patients believe that safe sex practices are important if they don’t see movie and TV characters following them?
  • What are your patients’ thoughts on “adult” fashions for young girls? Do they buy them? Why or why not?
  • Are sexual images and storylines in the media realistic?
  • What becomes the reality and how do patients reconcile what they see with what they feel and believe?

What are some other ways patients may be swayed by sex in the media?

“Pills, Profits & Pleasures: Sexual Health & Pharmaceuticals”

“The increase in pharmaceutical and medical treatments for sexual concerns has shifted the definition of “sexual health” even further towards a performance model. But for all of the challenges that sexual medicine creates, it also can have the potential to change lives and improve sexual experiences. This panel will explore how our sexual lives are shaped by the medicalization of the erotic body and the workings of the medical industry, what benefits and challenges medical science can offer, and how alternative perspectives can contextualize the pharmacological point of view.”

Here at, we often cover medical treatments for sexual problems and always hope our readers benefit. However, we know that such medical treatments are not without risks and concerns. Here are some questions your patients might be thinking about:

  • If my husband takes medication for erectile dysfunction, will it increase his libido? Will I be able to satisfy him? Will he have affairs?
  • How will my partner react to my penile prosthesis? Do I have to tell her or him? What is the best way to do that?
  • If I’m not interested in sex, is there something wrong with me? Do I need treatment?
  • Intercourse has always been difficult for me because of pain. How can I explain this to my new partner? Will he end the relationship?

What are some other questions your patients might ask in light of treatments for sexual problems?

“Sexual Stargazing: Sex and Popular Culture”

“Cultural attitudes about sex are changing faster than ever before and popular culture, fueled by technological changes, help create these shifts. This panel asks, what is it about celebrities that makes us so interested in their sex lives? Do we really want them to serve as role models? How can we use the contemporary folkways of mass culture to create different representations of sex?”

  • Why do celebrities and their sex lives make headlines?
  • Why do people care about who is cheating on whom?
  • Do celebrities’ sexual issues make us feel better or worse about our own?
  • Do we compare our lives to theirs?
  • Do their actions lead to acceptance and become the new norm?

While these might not be questions we’d ask our patients directly, it helps to consider them. Changes in cultural attitudes can play a large role in how our patients approach sex.

The Big Picture

We may work with our patients on the smaller aspects of sexual health. But even the smallest of issues are part of a big picture, shaped by culture. Keeping an eye on the wider context can help us better serve our patients and clients.


Good Vibrations

“About Good Vibrations”

 “Good Vibrations 2012 Sex Summit”

“Good Vibrations: Making the World a More Pleasurable Place”

PRWeb via San Francisco Chronicle

“Sex and Media, Medicine, Politics and Pop Culture Get their Due at Good Vibrations’ 2012 Sex Summit Conference”

(Press release. October 4, 2012)