What is the SCAM (the Sexual Chemistry Attraction Myth)?

What is the SCAM (the Sexual Chemistry Attraction Myth)?

When so many women reach adulthood confused about their low libidos or unable to sustain sexual interest, it’s time to shift the focus and open the lens to include the societal and cultural context in which this so-called disorder develops. In a culture saturated with narrow and distorted ideas about what makes women desirable, it’s nearly impossible for any of us who emerge from our mothers as female babies to grow up free of crippling misconceptions about ourselves, our bodies, and our eroticism. Some lucky women may manage to stay intuitively connected to their erotic essence throughout childhood and adolescence, despite the social, relational and societal risks involved, perhaps even making it into adulthood relishing their sexuality on their own terms. A great number of women, however, wouldn’t have survived psychically or even physically without compromising or shutting themselves down erotically. Usually, this isn’t a conscious choice. It’s something girls learn to do within the context of their relationships as a way of maintaining caregiver’s love and approval. Even if you grew up in an open-minded family, fitting in with peer groups or feeling socially rooted can cost girls their connection to aspects of their sexuality. Girls may grow up lacking erotically vibrant, powerful female role models. Sometimes, their families and circumstances don’t allow them the luxury of a strong, healthy, intact relationship with their bodies. When girls suppress aspects of their deepest erotic impulses and experiences, layers of judgment and shame encase their core sexuality. Like a seed trapped in amber, a woman’s erotic potential can remain untapped as she develops and grows in other areas. It waits for the right circumstances to safely emerge. Women who carry this amber-trapped seed within them may not even know it’s there. The time and the circumstances need to be right for a woman to turn inward to face this aspect of herself. Society trains women in particular to look outside of themselves for situations and people to turn them on. Often, women enter into long term-committed relationships hoping the sexual aspect of their marriages will fall into place relatively effortlessly. It’s not unusual for women to discover at some point not too long after the honeymoon, the baby, the mortgage payments, the visits from in-laws, when there’s no more novelty to jumpstart desire, no cat-and-mouse dynamic to keep the prize elusive, that desire disappears: poof, just like that. Many women believe this is the end of their marriage. It's actually the beginning. When desire vanishes, or is never fully ignited with your husband, it can be a good thing. Truly. When sexual desire doesn’t follow the cultural script, the Sexual Chemistry Attraction Myth - the SCAM - can be seen clearly for what it is and exposed. For the first time in their lives, women who find themselves with no sexual interest in their partners or spouses have the opportunity to recognize that they’re out of alignment with an essential aspect of who they are. The fantasies they’ve gambled so much of their romantic hopes and dreams on have fallen short. For a woman with low sexual interest who desperately wants to want the man she has married—the man who is right for her in every way perhaps except sexually—for a woman, this can be the beginning of reconnecting with her true sexual power. This is the beginning of excavating the erotic treasure that has always been hers to claim, buried in her own back yard, dependent on no one and nothing but her own willingness to unearth it and cultivate it.The myth of sexual chemistry—the belief that a woman's desire is passive, receptive, unconscious, subject to changing events or circumstances or otherwise outside of her control—can be replaced with direct access to her own erotic power. The SCAM is an acronym for what I call the Sexual Chemistry Attraction Myth. I define the Myth of Sexual Chemistry as a complex of cultural beliefs and messages that insidiously shape and influence how women think about their bodies, their sexuality, and their sense of personal erotic agency or sexual soverignty. If you’re a woman, remaining cut off from your own personal erotic agency has far reaching costs and consequences: we’ll explore these in more depth later. For now, we’ll focus on how the myth of sexual chemistry limits women’s access to power, desire and pleasure. A scam is a dishonest scheme. It’s a fraud, a swindle, a racket, a trick, a con, a hustle. To scam someone means to cheat, deceive, trick, dupe, hoodwink, double-cross, gull, rip off, con, fleece, shaft, hose, sting, bilk, diddle, rook, finagle, bamboozle, sucker, stiff, shake down, and hornswoggle. Despite the fact that women and men are on far more equal footing than they've ever been historically, a newer version of an older scam established to perpetuate the status quo of women-as-subjects continues in new and insidious ways. Intelligent, autonomous, financially independent, sexually free, creative, outspoken women of all ages, across cultures and ethnicities, and from all walks of life are being openly, blatantly, consistently, regularly, shamelessly duped, hoodwinked, double-crossed, ripped off, hoodwinked, tricked, bamboozled, and hornswoggled when it comes to their sexuality and erotic power. If you’re a woman who suffers from a lack of sexual interest, you may already intuit the truth of this claim. You’ve been cheated, even if you can’t quite put your finger on how it has been done. Once you understand the SCAMP. and how it operates, it’s easier to assess the degree to which it has been interfering with your lack of sexual desire. From there, you can untangle yourself from the scam and make more conscious choices about how you view yourself and your desire. Later, I’ll provide you with a three-phase process for developing a successful desire discipline that will organize and operationalize approaches, methods, and techniques I’ve found helpful with empowering women to ignore the sexual chemistry myth and create a sustainable desire discipline to help them move toward sexual sovereignty. But for now, you’re right where you need to be. You’re perfectly positioned to crack the amber prison, reconnect with your erotic potential, and begin transforming your sex life.

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When A “Good” Marriage Isn’t Good Enough

When A “Good” Marriage Isn’t Good Enough

It’s ten o’clock at night. You're happily married to a wonderful man you love. You brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, and crawl into a cozy Queen-size bed. Your kids are asleep in the next room. Your husband closes his book, takes off his glasses, and turns off the light, then scootches down under your comforter and drops his head back onto the pillow. You allow your thoughts to wander after a busy day . . . Life is good. And then, suddenly, it isn’t. The movements are subtle, but you feel every shift. The sounds, barely audible, may as well emerge full-volume from a loudspeaker. You're wide-awake. More than awake—you're vigilant. The comforter rustles. The sheet catches on something at the foot of the bed—a toenail? Deep in the mattress, springs compress. Your husband changes position, rolling onto his side. Although your eyes are closed, you know he’s facing you. You can hear him swallow—not a good sign. What will he say? “Are you awake?” He’ll sound casual but there will be nothing casual or relaxed about the moments. It will be packed with combustible emotions: longing, anger, fear, shame. How long has it been, this time? A few days? A week? If someone asked you, you might shrug. “Last weekend.” If someone asked him, he'd respond with a wry half-frown. “Can’t say, my long-term memory doesn’t go back that far.” Maybe it has been longer than a week, but who’s counting? Well, actually, he is. Your normally absent-minded husband knows the precise number of times he’s tried to enlist your sexual cooperation this month. You're beginning to think he uses some kind of primitive mathematical formula to calculate his chances of sexual satisfaction on any given night, a calculus of desire levels, flirtation, and foreplay added to the square root of your humdrum daily routine, multiplied by the glimpses he’s caught of your lingerie air-drying on a rack in the shower. He reaches out and places a hand on your shoulder. Your breath stops. Think fast. What are your options? “Yes” and resent him or “No” and argue. Which will it be? Can you muster up the willingness? Can you stand the contact, the focus on touch, moans, body parts and fluids you’d rather ignore at this point of the day, of your marriage, of your life? Which is the least undesirable of these two choices? His fingers are warm and slightly rough on your upper arm, brushing against the fine hairs, cupping your elbow. How much time do you have before there’s no escape—no way of avoiding, yet again, the frightening reality of your mismatched sexual desire? One of your children coughs in the next room. “Let me check on them.” You bounce out of bed. Your husband exhales, retracts his hand, and rolls onto his back. Saved by the bell. For now. *** In The DSM-V, Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder is characterized by a lack of sexual interest and/or a lack of sexual arousal for at least six months. Whether or not a woman is upset or distressed by this lack of interest or arousal is a crucial criterion for the diagnosis. The disturbance can be moderate, mild or severe, lifelong or acquired, generalized or situational. Estimates on how many women suffer from this disorder vary widely, but according to the National Journal of Sexual Medicine, roughly 1.6 million women suffer from Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder, which means roughly 1 out of 10 need help with low desire in the U.S. alone. What makes a DSM-V disorder so pervasive and systemic? According to the DSM V, “women in relationships of longer duration are more likely to report engaging in sex despite no obvious feelings of sexual desire at the outset of a sexual encounter compared with women in shorter-duration relationships.” If you’re dating and you find yourself consistently uninterested in sex, or not particularly aroused by it, you may be able to chalk up your disinterest to a variety of plausible reasons: you’re not in the mood, the guy or gal isn’t quite right for you, you’re not feeling sexy, it’s wintertime, there’s stress at work, etc. Sometimes, it’s not until you have a consistent partner that you run out of excuses and the stark truth of your low sexual desire are revealed. When your partner consistently complains about your sex life and grows increasingly irritable and withdrawn, you can’t keep pretending the problem is just situational or temporary. You’ll find yourself faced with the couples issue therapists sometimes refer to as “desire discrepancy.” Lack of sexual interest is an issue many women wont openly admit to, even when it’s their daily reality. There’s often a lot at stake. Just as a man’s sexual identity and sense of competence can be tied up with his ability to pleasure his partner to orgasm and/or maintain an erection, a woman’s sense of sexual self-worth can be intricately connected with her ability to both stimulate and quench her partner’s sexual desire. Once she loses the capacity or the drive to engage in sex with her spouse, a woman’s sense of sexual self-confidence may waver. It can feel as if she’s failing at an essential aspect of her being: loving and being loved sexually. It can also inspire terror. Will she lose connection to her spouse? How will this affect her marriage? Is this a prelude to something worse? What changes lie around the corner as a result of her inability to match her partner’s sexual needs with authentic sexual responses and initiatives of her own? When a situation isn’t working, acknowledging that there’s a problem is a key first step. Once you admit to a problem, you can find solutions. This isn’t as easy as it sounds for women who struggle with low sexual interest. Many of them have come to experience their own desire as beyond their control, outside their sphere of personal influence. They may fear they themselves are the problem, outliers on the graph of normative human sexual desire, doomed to disappoint and frustrate the person they love and need the most. At this point, traditional sex therapy can be helpful to many couples. Women can also make it the first order of business to locate their long-forgotten or deeply buried erotic compass. They can dust it off, do the work necessary to allow its magnetic needle to regain it's sensitivity and responsiveness, and begin to pay close attention to where their compasses direct them.

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The Desire Bypass Marriage

The Desire Bypass Marriage

An older couple is trying to recover from an infidelity. Newlyweds fight over their expectations of each other at home. A woman feels emotionally dropped by her female partner. It can be hard to see root commonalities in these couples when their concerns, circumstances, and life stories appear to be so varied. What emerges as a root problem in a great many couples is a woman’s inability to feel, know, and articulate her own desires. This is an essential relational ability which women in particular have been discouraged from developing in a variety of complex ways from birth onward (see “What Is The SCAM?”). To a greater or lesser degree, many women come to their romantic relationships with limited access to their deepest desires, wants, and yearnings. So what happens when a woman can’t know, feel, identify and express her desires in a marriage? A phenomenon I’ve come to call Desire Bypass. Desire Bypass is a woman’s compensatory way of avoiding the experience of her own desire. It occurs at the fringes of a woman's awareness so she is typically not conscious of it happening. Have you ever injured yourself and changed the way you sit or walk to minimize the discomfort? For many women, desire is that place of injury. Through a lifetime of accumulated micro-aggessions that directed at a woman's expressed desires, she learns that to feel desire is risky, dangerous, wrong, and unacceptable. She comes to associate desire itself as the painful experience she must intuitively, self-protectively learn to avoid it whenever possible. Women quickly learn and often repeatedly relearn that directly feeling and expressing desire is shameful, wrong, self-defeating, bad and possibly also dangerous. For women, it’s an experience that can be loaded with layers of fear, shame and grief, with old, buried traumas, personal, intergenerational, and historical. Many women transition from childhood to adolescence, and from adolescence to adulthood, by becoming more and more skilled at Desire Bypass. It’s part of a woman’s socialization process, part of how she learns to forge an identity in the world. Desire Bypass can, albeit temporarily, help a woman feel in control and safe. It can help reduce the internal threat of a woman’s own emotional discomfort and minimize a variety of external threats, real or imagined. So how does it impact a marriage when a woman resorts to Desire Bypass? Imagine you injure your foot and ignore the pain. You might deal with it by walking a little differently, on the arch of your foot - or more on the ball of your foot than on the heel. You might put a little more weight on the uninjured foot to reduce the discomfort. It may even appear to others that you’re walking normally and comfortably. You still do all the things you did before. Nothing appears to have changed. Over time, however, avoiding the injury will affect other parts of your body. You might hyperextend your torso or certain muscles in your legs and grow rigid or inflexible in other parts of your body. Your muscles, bones, ligaments and joints will all be impacted over time as they strive to compensate for and adapt to the unequal distribution of physical pressures and stresses. If the injury in your foot fails to heal or worsens, and you continue to compensate through avoiding treating the root problem with your foot by adjusting your stance or posture, other physical issues will arise. Your avoidance of the inital problem will result in new aches and pains in other parts of your body: in your knees, shoulders, spine or hips. You might develop chronic neck pain or migraines. Physical therapists know this phenomenon well. Avoidance of an issue in one part of the body can lead to another issue in a completely different, seemingly unrelated body part. It’s the same thing in a marriage. Desire Bypass can contribute to any number of relational issues that create suffering between a couple. Many of the problems couples struggle with are just the most visible aspect of other, submerged dynamics between them and within them individually: the “tip of the iceberg” of what needs to be explored and addressed to bring about a positive change in their connection to one another. Whether it’s infidelity, frustrated role expectations, a deadening of sexual attraction, or a sense of emotional isolation, couples need to be willing to look beyond the obvious issues in their relationship at what’s hidden. If there's a pain in one part of the relationship, couples need to consider underlying root causes within themselves that may have contributed to creating this issue over time. For women, Desire Bypass is one of those root causes that can be addressed and explored to bring about radical positive change in a relationship. The first and most important step is recognizing the problem. Women need to be willing to take responsibility for their own relationship to - or lack of relationship to - their own deepest desires.

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Sexual Destiny vs. Sexual Journey

Sexual Destiny vs. Sexual Journey

The SCAM is a modern chastity belt, though its reach goes far beyond whether or not a woman is sexually active. It puts a lockdown on a woman’s capacity to fully experience pleasure, use her pleasure as a compass, and understand the power of her own desire. It teaches that desire is something that happens to women, unpredictably and randomly, rather than a force within them. It saps a woman's energy and power, conditioning her to think her erotic experience rests in the hands of another. If she wishes to experience it, the SCAM suggests, she must continue to be worthy of it, make sacrifices and live in a cloud of uncertainty and doubt. It leads her to believe in erotic fulfillment as a sexual destiny rather than as a sexual journey. In order to awaken desire in a marriage, one of the most important perspective-shifts women can make has to do with relinquishing the comforts of sexual destiny beliefs and reframing the unpredictable and mutinous interplay of erotic energy with a committed partner as a sexual journey. This trajectory of this journey isn't a random, magical event that either happens or doesn't, if the "chemistry" is right. It's a path we can choose. In her article 'The Laws of Attraction' in the July issue of Psychology Today, Wendy Paris quotes Glenn Geher, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at New Palz and co-author of Mating Intelligence Unleashed: "We can overcome an initial, unwise attraction, no matter how powerful, and be drawn to a great partner, even if it isn't lust at first sight." Our sex appeal, our attractivness, our youthfulness, and our seduction skills may affect or add spice to the adventures that unfold on our sexual journey, however the richness and depth and scope of our what we learn will be shaped far more by qualities not traditionally linked to our sexual prowess as women: courage, vulnerability, curiosity, compassion, and willingness to open to the parts of ourselves and our mates we push away, deny and reject.

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Erotic Maturity: Women Turning On

Erotic Maturity: Women Turning On

Our societies, educational systems, and families groom us to grow up and become independent. We are encouraged to move through developmental stages toward maturity. Maturity means we are able to understand and take responsibility for our feelings, needs and behaviors while remaining aware of and sensitive to others. And yet the idea of erotic maturity is rarely if ever discussed. It seems paradoxical. Our choice, if we believe the cultural mainstream, seems to be between hot, wild, mindless attraction or tame, responsible, controlled and rather uninspired sex. Which would you choose? Why hasn't the idea of erotic maturity entered the mainstream as something more desireable that knee-jerk-reaction passion? Why are sexually soverign women rarely glorified as ideals for our daighters? What could be more inspiring than a woman who stands in the full power of all aspects of her being, with these parts integrated and balanced rather than split off and separated? Erotically mature women can be mothers and lovers. They can be innocent and sexual. They can be caretakers of themselves and nurturing through clear boundary setting and respectful refusal. They can be fierce and tender. They know what they want and they seek it. They are proactive and empowered. Erotically mature women are looking to realize themselves, embody their sexuality and mine the erotic potential in their marriages

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Three R’s To Erotic Empowerment: RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE

Three R’s To Erotic Empowerment: RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE

The acronyms RISC, REAP & RE-WIRE crystalize the theme of each phase of erotic empowerment. Phase I, RISC, focuses on Replacing Introjects with Sexual Curiosity. This phase involves embracing the risk of challenging your beliefs about your own sexuality. It involves moving through the shame of family and cultural conditioning. Phase II, REAP, centers on Researching Erotic Adventure and Pleasure. This is a phase where research into what pleases you, turns you on, and delights you leads you to gather information about who you really are versus who you think you are or should be. Phase II, RE-WIRE, integrates Phases I and II through Relating Erotically With Intention and Releasing Expectations. In this phase, the focus is on practicing new ways of connecting to yourself and your partner erotically. Over time, new behaviors result in new ways of being, thinking and experiencing your sexuality. The Three R’s organize and operationalize approaches, methods, and techniques which can be helpful with empowering women to ignore the sexual chemistry myth, create a workable desire discipline, and recalibrate their erotic compasses.

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Born to Desire

Born to Desire

Woman, you were born to desire. At birth, you cried for the sun. Your yearning was boundless. Your hunger was fierce, it's face stained with dirt and berries. Your longings made snow angels in the garden singing lullabies. Good or bad, you knew what you wanted. You dared to know. Girl child, knowing is more powerful than you know. It's your greatest daring, remember? It will shift the balance of power in a world that needs your truth to guide it. The blood money is yours. The blood is your mother's and your daughter's, the blood of birth, seeking the ocean, pulled by the moon. There's no future in a house of mirrors. Turn the trick around, Lady. Don't give yourself away, waiting for completion for a flash of sensation to rescue you from your heroine's journey for a set of distant eyes to certify your absence. Your perfect lover doesn't exist or if he does, he's a double agent, paid by the state a hologram place-holder for your own self-love. Remember what was always yours. Stop asking for less and less, more and more quietly. You've given away your beauty far too often to someone who sells it back to you with interest, in exchange for your own inalienable power. Warrior, know what you want. Step into the spaces you avoid. A universe of hungry angels is starving for your love for sunlight and stars. You are desire waiting to be known explored unraveled.

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Desire As A Discipline: A Daily Practice

Desire As A Discipline: A Daily Practice

We grow up learning that discipline is part of how we achieve excellence, and yet we rarely consider being disciplined about how we learn about, explore and develop our sexuality. We may feel ashamed about not feeling sexual or about wanting to be more sexual, or we may judge sexuality as wrong, troublesome, dangerous or unimportant. We may view it as the one area where discipline is counterproductive because things just “are the way they are” when it comes to arousal and desire. Connecting to our sexual selves takes discipline and commitment. To grow and develop erotically we must value our erotic growth as something important and valuable in and of itself. We must be prepared to experience emotions and judgements related to eroticism and sexulaity from a bit of psychological distance, so that we can make space for curiosity, learning and a new perspective. Our eroticism is tied up with how we view and feel about our bodies, our genders, our gender identity, our power, our worth, and our desirability, so creating this space takes a particular type of courage: the courage to question. A pre-requisite to this courage is the courage relinquish certainty and step into the tremulousness of the unknown. It can be a challenge to allow for the possibility that what we've come to believe about our own and others sexuality may be questionable, based on judgment and fear, or self-sabotaging in our marriages and relationships.

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Raw Sexual Chemistry: Not the Only Gateway to Marriage

Raw Sexual Chemistry: Not the Only Gateway to Marriage

What do we gain when we marry based on sexual chemistry? What do we lose when we divorce based on a lack of it? Women still grow up today, for the most part, conditioned by the media to believe that their attractiveness is something defined by others, and that attractiveness somehow correlates with their capacity to desire. They’re told and taught that sexual chemistry underlies our best romantic adventures and greatest loves, that it’s the holy grail of romance, the key to ecstasy, the ultimate prize of womanhood. Women are also taught that if you want to be happy, you better marry the person with whom you have it. If you don’t, your marriage will very likely die a slow and sexless death. Even sex and couples therapists cringe when couples admit they don’t have a strong foundation of sexual chemistry undergirding their marriage. It’s generally accepted that sexual chemistry is as close as you can come in the risky venture of marriage to a guarantor of happiness, or at least to ecstatic, orgasmic, sexy unhappiness.

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Sexuality, Shame and The SCAM

Sexuality, Shame and The SCAM

Shame about sexuality perpetuates the SCAM by reinforcing silence. If something can’t be identified, explored and understood, it can’t be challenged or known. Many women unwittingly continue to accept the myth of sexual chemistry as an alternative to truly exploring and knowing the power of their own fully embraced sexuality. The rewards of getting to know what's under the surface of our insecurities, compliance, sexual shut down, or sexual acting out seem to outweight the risks of doing our own slow, painstaking work on understanding our sexual preferences, our bodies, our peak desire experiences, and the circumstance that optimize and galvanize our desire. The taboo surrounding women's sexual self-discovery may have shape-shifted into something new and subtle, but it hasn't gone away. We as women try to do as we're expected socially and sexually for many reasons but one of our main motives for stifling our drive explore our sexuality is fear of other's judgment. In the October 2017 issue of Psychology Today, Carlin Flora notes in her article 'The Hardest Word' that "research has shown that when women act assertively in pursuit of their interests... they're punished by both men and women for violating gender stereotypes." Sometimes, it's not safe to challenge to status quo of norms we've been raised to believe and accept. It can also be hard to challenge something you're not aware of, can't see, and have always accepted as a given. A veil of confusion, silence, ambivalence and shame continues to surround women’s sexuality in the culture at large. The women and girls of today still struggle with welcoming, celebrating and owning the truth and beauty of who they are, independent of others' appraisals of them. Women and girls continue to struggle with mixed social and cultural messages related to their bodies, and to find themselves trapped in the 'mind-forg'd manacles' of false and destructive beliefs. Sexual chemistry that erupts within us, seemingly out of nowhere, as a pre-requisite, and necessity, for desire and atttraction is one of these beliefs we can examine, explore for ourselves, and challenge.

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About us & our mission

The mission of marriedtodesire.com is to debunk common myths related to women, marriage and desire while offering fresh personal insights and guidance on self-authored womanhood, erotic empowerment, and creating a passionate marriage.

Alicia Muñoz is a licensed marriage counselor and desire expert in private practice. She lives with her husband and son in Falls Church, Virginia. She’s also a speaker, author, blogger and a contributor to Counseling Today, GoodTherapy.com, YourTango, PsychCentral and other print and online magazines. For more information or therapy-related questions visit aliciamunoz.com.

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