Hellion Magazine - Dr. Donaghue Exposes the End of Sex Norms: Our Dysfunctional Culture and Being on a Social Justice Mission

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(Photography By Lalonie Davis)

Dr. Donaghue Exposes the End of Sex Norms: Our Dysfunctional Culture and Being on a Social Justice Mission

By Grecia Aviles

February 9th 2017


Discovering Sex Outside the Lines: Authentic Sexuality in a Sexually Dysfunctional Culture. Going into this, I wanted to take a unique approach as to how I was going to interview Dr. Chris Donaghue, the very renowned sexologist and doctor. I was a bit nervous. I came to find out that in many ways Dr. Donaghue is definitely not what you would call a typical doctor. “Diagnosis is not for me, I undiagnose” he says. A highly well-known doctor of clinical sexology, of human sexuality, a licensed clinical therapist, certified sex therapist, author, feminist, international speaker, educator, co-host ofLoveline with Amber Rose, and a frequent co-host on The Doctors TV show his list of accomplishments seems to go on almost forever.

Dr. Donaghue carries a lot of power. The power of knowledge and the power ofsexpertise. Initially, I was intimidated by his remarkable resume, but with the availability of social media, I was able to prowl his Facebook posts, Twitter photos and links. Dr. Donaghue is a kind of the progression and inspiration that we’ve all been seeking. I immediately trashed my questions and without even already having a conversation I realized how much he had already made an impact in my life.

It was a Thursday afternoon and 3 pm sharp to be exact when I was buzzed into Dr. Donaghue’s Los Angeles condo. At this time traffic begins to stir up a bit with a honk over here, an accident over there and considering all of that as I walked in his homely condo there was nothing except pure silence. Quickly Dr. Donaghue rushes over to his kitchen and generously offers me a fresh pressed hot cup of coffee. Wasting no time we dove right in.

When did you become interested in sexology?” I asked the doctor. His response to me was, “I started as a general licensed clinical therapist 5-6 years ago, it just wasn’t dynamic enough. I’m always trying to think about what’s wrong with what we’re doing and where we need to go. Who is being oppressed by what we’re doing? That’s not the way a lot of people think about psychology or therapy. A friend asked me if I wanted to work in a sex addiction center. I was like ‘yeah that would be something so interesting’. It was so pathologizing, so sex negative. I was then trained in sexology; sex therapy and my career became a pushback between the sex addiction world & general psychologies, it all just evolved out of my adult clinical work.”

Growing up in a largely immigrant Mexican household, both of the terms ‘sexologist’ and ‘therapy’ just frankly didn’t come up that often if at all. When asking my family members their thoughts about a sexologist some were stunned to even think that was even a profession. It’s not just my family; we all live in culture where sex is a topic we avoid talking about. It is what it is. We can’t avoid our sexual needs, our choice to express affection and we shouldn’t need to squirm or hush-hush when talking about sex.

Dr. Donaghue defined healthy sex and sex-positivity to me as “If it's consensual and you’re considering all the impacts of it, determining if it's going to negatively impact you. No matter how many people, no matter how you’re doing it, consider that then determine if it’s healthy.”

He states that a lot of the things in psychology are sex negative, “Its very 2 people, monogamous based, hereto-centric and doesn’t allow space for other genders and identities to be healthy & meaningful.”

I was hesitant to write this article, dancing around it, debating whether to tell my parents this is okay to talk about. I instantly caught myself in a negative pattern. It’s not just the word sex anymore. People connect sex with shame, perversion, addiction, dangers or bad habits. “Can you describe perversion?” I asked Dr. Donaghue and he quickly responded, “Yeah I don’t use that word. It’s an attempt to say I know what the right way is and if you’re not following it then so I am going to call you sick and perverse. Who has the right to make that decision?” He went on saying, “Yes, you telling them is sex positive, its appropriate, its intelligent, its meaningful and its okay.”

Sex addiction has been rejected by every mental health governing body, The American Psychological Association, the diagnostic manual which determines what’s real and what you can bill for, has determined it is not real.” Dr. Donaghie told me.

For Chris Donaghue what we often call sex addiction is normal, healthy, creative, interesting and diverse. It might be someone learning about sex or figuring sex out.

I’ve listened to therapists shame masturbation ‘What do you think is a healthy amount of masturbation’ every therapist will give you a different number. Most of us are not having married sex or trying to have a baby, when you look at the keywords that people are looking up porn its not ‘my pretty married wife, vanilla sex at 9 p.m. after we’ve showered and brushed our teeth’. We use kinky words.” explained Dr. Donaghue/

As Donaghue confidently curled in his sofa, he crisscrossed his legs looking right at me and this very well-spoken feminist spoke of social justice. He spoke of body shaming, promoting diverse identities and sexualities too. He has new projects, and of course sex tips. With such clarity Donaghue explained, “No matter how you define healthy sex there is no right way or right gender.”

Sex positivity works when “Allowing people to be there sexual self very confidently. Usually isn’t needed for people whose sexuality meets majority’s definition of sex being okay. That’s usually needed for people whose definition fall outside the norms, who are having sex outside the lines. Your sexual style is open, polygamist, not gendered, gender, fat bodied and you want to be sexual. For those individuals who’ve been told that are not okay, that’s not attractive. Sex positivity is for that crowd. ”

The question really is what is the deviance and stigma in sexuality. Using sexual language and discussing sex isn’t traumatizing. When I asked Dr. Donaghue about deviance and stigma in sexuality he responded with, “No one has ever been truly traumatized, suffering from PTSD because someone said the word penis or vagina too much. But we treat it like it is, because ‘be careful there’s children around’, children need to know the word penis or might even have the word vagina. They need to be comfortable talking about it.”

Girls are not raised to be comfortable, asking for what they want and to acknowledge they are sexual. They are trained to believe that sex is something only boys want, they have to fight off and that they’re bad if they enjoy and ask for it.

I work with so many women that say to me ‘I don’t know what I like sexually because I have never been allowed to be sexual or ask for something’, They’re marriages in where they don’t even orgasm because they’re not sure how or feel afraid to ask their partner. Because ‘what would he think if I ask to have sex in a certain way.” Dr. Donaghue explained to me about women and sexuality.

If you don’t know how to be honest and authentic in the streets you don’t know how to do it in the sheets.

When your big moment comes twice a week at 9 pm you think all of the sudden someone has the confidence to say ‘I actually orgasm better if you go down on me versus pounding me out’ No way. Sex is everywhere I try to explain this to people, sex isn't just in the bedroom sex is how close I am sitting next to you right now, sex is the clothes you choose to wear, sex how much eye contact you make with a guy at Starbucks, what you watch, what music you listen to, how you move to the music, it's even based on who is in the room with you. It's everywhere, we tried to act like it's not in the room right now.”

It isn't common to\ find someone sitting you down and tells you hey sex can actually feel good and be fun sometimes. It's always STDs and babies, right?

If you have sex with multiple people, people can't handle that. That’s the one thing we panic about. But if you're a boy well that's a different story.” Donaghue has become the voice channeling the end of sex norms. He has worked in the inpatient, outpatient models and understands very deeply the scope of sex in medicine. “My work against it isn't out of fear or to pick a fight but, because having done the work I realized I was shaming and diagnosing people that were doing healthy things as unhealthy things sending people to 12 step programs. I would work with a client and tell them what they were doing was wrong, sickening, and addiction. Then I was going home and doing the same thing, and so were my friends yet we were healthy people.” Chris said.

Carrying the load of criticism can take toll, for Donaghue he only has respect to give. “When it comes to sex and religion, things are always political. How do you handle that?” He went on, “It’s a big battle, because I can’t fight God. Meaning nothing I say will take that away or let me say ‘what is really true or let me challenge God’. I can’t do that. I have to wait for them to be willing to do that or for them to have something that does that for them, lastly I present other options, ‘I understand that’s what your religion says, have you thought of doing this, could you look at it this way’ just lovingly trying to help them to see it another way”.

Having just completing his 2nd book, Dr. Donaghue has taken up a bigger mission. “The second book is so different, it has sex in there but it’s more social justice based, looking at environment and spirituality, sexism, racism and how psychology actually supports a lot of that. I’m continuing my social justice mission to promote diverse identities and sexualities as healthy, because health lives outside the binary.”

He’s been shattering down all rules unfolding his message of sex positivity. Dr. Donaghue currently took over a big role co-hosting “Loveline with Amber Rose” podcast, which is also on Facebook live. With the success of the show, which is on Facebook live every Thursday at 7 pm, Donaghue sets bigger projects. One being the voice for the disabled community. As an active SLE (Lupus), disability rights advocate I appreciated the incredibly kind words he said to me; “Shocker, people that are disabled want to have sex and are sexual! The problem is we don’t talk about that. This is a newer part of what I want to do. The ways I try to advocate is through Loveline, using all my media platforms to normalize and talk about these topics. Because for some people they haven’t been told its okay or it exists. I am a big advocate for the Neuro-diversity movement: Neurotypical means there is no right kind of brain to have. When we say to someone you are autistic or you have ADHD, we are basically shaming their brain just as we shame bodies, appearances. ”

As our time with Dr. Donaghue diminished, we’ve drifted into a greater sense of authenticity, confidence and sex positive wave. I asked Dr. Donaghue for our readers’ sake, “Can you tell me about sexual compatibility, and relational success?”

I break it down to 3 levels. A: Sexual scripts. What you’re into. Leaning into a kinkier, diverse kind of sexuality and your partner or the person you want to date is more vanilla and then we don’t meet on that level. But there are two other levels. B: Amount of sex I like to have. C: Affection. If you like a lot of eye contact, hand holding, cuddle and all of that and they don’t then you’re not compatible on that. Ideally you look for someone with all 3, if not, you hope for two but if you only have one its not really good if you’re going to be monogamous for long term, you can pull it off but you’re going to be frustrated.” explained Dr. Donaghue.

Understand that sex is powerful, we are all sexual beings and its okay to say sex is a suitable area to study and explore. There shouldn’t be a filter on the language, media and expectations of sex norms. We can move forward knowing you’re not alone to decide, “Relational and sexual issues require us to transform, grow and develop a new consciousness.”