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Putting Instrumental Sex on the Couch

Putting Instrumental Sex on the Couch

Introduction & objectives: Presented results are the
part of a broader study on the mainstream and marginalized
sexological approaches in the Polish practice of
diagnosing and treating sexual problems. In the presentation
we will focus on the therapists’ attitudes towards
the instrumental use of the body.
Method(s) & Sample: 46 in-depth interviews with
Polish sex therapists representing various therapeutic
approaches were carried out to elucidate the influence
of diverse concepts of healthy sexuality on the sexological
Findings & discussion: We have observed a great variety
of norms regarding sexual health. The topic of
instrumental use of one’s own or partner’s body emerged
as one of the most controversial and important for defining
a sexual norm. Within this topic we identified three
threads: body use for mercantile purposes (sexual surrogates
and workers), for purposes resulting from internalized
social expectations as to the role of the spouse, and
for satisfying the needs of one partner only (e.g. instrumental
use of other’s body for one’s own pleasure).
Limits in the acceptance of these various forms of
body use were strongly conditioned by therapist’s
leading moral values, adopted psychological theories or
medical norms, and personal attachment to cultural
prescripts regarding sexual activity in marriage.
Recommendations: The goal of sexological treatment
is regarded by various therapists as unambiguous:
the client’s well-being. Despite this ostensible consensus,
our research shows that the client’s well-being may
be interpreted in very different ways. The phenomena
perceived by some sexologists as pathological and
requiring treatments, by the others are treated as normative
and even worthy of affirmation. The chosen
topic of instrumental body use spotlights these essential
differences and reveals that there is no common set of
sexual norms on which all sex therapists would agree.
Keywords: sex therapy, instrumental sex, sexual norm
Source of Funding: The work is a part of the project
“The concept of norm in sexology – analysis of origins
of diagnostic criteria and their social and ethical consequences”,
financially supported by National Science
Centre, Poland 2016/21/D/HS1/03401
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None