- Sex therapist Ian Kerner created a model for improving couples’ intimacy called the “sex script.”
- Kerner uses sex scripts with patients, and outlined how to make your own in his new book.
- Journal about the last time you had sex, compare notes with your partner, and explore new ways to feel pleasure.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The pandemic intensified a sex drought among Americans, with reports of sexual frequency and relationship satisfaction declining over the past year.
Global crisis aside, long-term couples often experience obstacles in their sex lives, like mismatched libidos, performance anxiety, and feeling disconnected from each other throughout their relationships.
To help couples work through their intimacy issues, sex therapist Ian Kerner wrote his new book, “So Tell Me About the Last Time You Had Sex.” In the book, Kerner, who has counseled couples for 20 years, details how he helps people transform their lackluster sex lives.
“When somebody would tell me about the last time they had sex, that sexual event told a story. It had a beginning, middle, and an end. It had a sequence of interactions that were psychological, physical, and emotional,” Kerner told Insider. “And very often, that sequence was reinforcing, perpetuating, or even creating the problem.”
He found that hearing about this cycle of events from a couple first-hand revealed a “sex script.” After analyzing each couple’s unique script, Kerner is able to help them find areas of disconnect and tweak them. The result is a sex script that fulfills both partners’ sexual, mental, and emotional needs and acts as a framework for every time they have sex, said Kerner.
Since not every struggling couple can see Kerner, he wrote about ways you and your partner can collaborate on a sex script together to improve your intimacy.
Start your own ‘sex in action’ journal
To fix your sex script, you’ll have to first create one that captures how you currently engage in sex with your partner.
Kerner suggested you and you partner start separate “sex in action” journals, where you individually reflect on a recent time you had sex.
Answer the following prompts about that experience:
- When and where did it occur? Who initiated? Did it feel mutual?
- What was the context? Waking up in the morning? Coming home from an evening out?
- Were you in the mood for sex at the time? Was there a reason for having sex, like knowing your partner wanted it, or it had been a long time since you last had sex? Did desire come from an internal feeling or an external motivation?
- Once you decided to have sex, how did things get going? Did you undress each other, or undress yourselves? Was the lead-up sexy, erotic, fun, predictable, or routine?
- What happened next? How did you create sexual excitement and arousal?
- Was there any psychological excitement? Did you feel desired? Did you use language you reserve for sex, or share or engage in a fantasy?
- What was off-limits and why? Was there a focus on intercourse (penis-in-vagina or penis-in-anus)? Or were there outercourse activities (oral, hand, or other non-penetrative stimulation)?
- To what extent could you disconnect from the outside world? Were you distracted or preoccupied?
- What had orgasms, and who didn’t? Did it matter?
- What was the emotional and psychological impact on the experience?
- At what point, if any, did things stall? Were there any anxieties that popped up during the experience? Did any wounds, injuries, or vulnerabilities get exposed?
- Was it a success? Was it good sex? Just OK? Bad sex? Can you think of what would have made it better?
Once you complete your sexy homework assignment, read over your answers and then compare them with your partner, said Kerner.
Explore new ways to freshen up your sex script
After sharing sex scripts with each other, you and your partner may realize you aren’t on the same page sexually.
Instead of passing judgment on yourself or your partner, consider your journal entries clues into your exciting sexual future. That’s what Kerner tells his patients when he employs the sex script model in sessions.
“Every session, we’re either working our way towards creating a working sex script or we’re encountering obstacles that are interesting. They represent turn ons and turn offs, discrepancies, clashes, sexual personality, and issues related to history and trauma,” Kerner told Insider.
In taking a curious approach, you can give your partner what they need, and get what you need in return.
To start, Kerner suggested reflecting on your personal turn-ons and turn-offs and sharing them with your partner.
If you’re unsure how to start pinpointing your sexual needs, dedicate time every week to partnered sexual exploration, said Kerner.
He said activities that focus on pleasure, not orgasms, are helpful for keeping the experience fun and stress-free. Mutual masturbation, making out, and watching ethical porn together are ways to start, Kerner previously told Insider.