Sexual identity and female desire

Lovemaking begins the second the previous sexual encounter ends, according to Laura M. Brotherson, author and licensed marriage, family and sex therapist.

Brotherson was one of the keynotes for this year’s Mental Health Symposium on human sexuality held in the Sorensen Center Feb. 3.

Her presentation “Fuel for Female Desire and Arousal,” addressed arousal difficulties for women. She discussed healthy sexual relationships and how women are more responsive and build up their sexual desires. This differs from men, who can get aroused spontaneously.

She discussed her model, “How to Get Women in the Mood,” with the four critical steps for how women reach sexual desire. Before the process begins, connection and emotional trust is a must. They are not actually ready for sex until women reach desire, which is step four of the model.

Brotherson referred to the 1966 William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson linear model of sexuality as four basic steps: excitement, plateau, orgasm, then the resolution phase. Brotherson said that this model leaves out foreplay, which is one of the most important parts of female desire.

She also stressed auditory arousal and the importance of maintaining a strong connection outside and inside the bedroom.

“Talk is the primary means by which we connect emotionally. It’s another type of stimulation,” Brotherson said.

She also mentioned how communication is stereotypically one of the hardest for men, while women are starving to open up and talk.

Brotherson wants to help long-term couples have “sextraordinary” marriages. She hopes to change the air of sexuality by providing positive sex education and helping religious communities embrace their sexuality.

“As a conservative, religious person myself, I actually see no negative correlation between embracing one’s sexuality within marriage and living up to one’s values. That is exactly the message we need to hear more, which is why I was so thrilled that UVU was willing to hold such a symposium specifically highlighting sexuality. There is too much silence on the subject of healthy and appropriate sexuality,” she said.

In the session titled, “Sexuality and Sexual Identity,” professors, therapists and social workers provided case studies in order to illustrate different approaches to therapy with clients.

Members from the Reconciliation and Growth Project, a group of professionals that meet to discuss topics on sexuality within religious communities and counsel families, spoke at the session.


David Matheson, psychotherapist and counselor, talked about self-determination as part of his core principles.

“As part of the right to self-determination, individuals can choose to privilege sexuality over religion, or they may choose to privilege religion over sexuality,” Matheson said.

Marybeth Raynes, social worker and family therapist, shared her perspective on how an individual can identify as gay and still remain part of their religion.

“I don’t see that spirituality, or religion, or church and sexuality, that they need to choose one over the other. It’s the central paradox of how you choose both,” Raynes said.

Jerry Buie, assistant professor of the University of Utah’s college of social work, discussed the importance of clinicians not associating gay identity as a mental health disorder and mentioned  the nine ethical principles that are a part of their project.

“One of those principles is that these issues don’t suggest a developmental problem or a pathology. Historically, in the mental health world, homosexuality was a diagnosis. People have been institutionalized for being gay,” Buie said.

Organizer of the event, Toni Harris, assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, mentioned that 225 tickets sold out for attendance. Harris explained why this year’s focus was on sexuality.

“Human sexuality is influenced by the interaction of biological, psychological, social, economic, political, cultural, legal, historical, religious and spiritual factors, all of which have [an] impact on the overall mental health,” Harris said.
The next symposium will be organized March 10 and will focus on addiction.