Today on the podcast, I'm talking with Chantelle Otten, a Melbourne based psycho-sexologist who is passionate about empowering people to feel great about their sexual health, self-esteem, communication and education.
Chantelle is a real wealth of knowledge, holding a Bachelor of Psychological Science, a Masters of Science Medicine and Sexual Health/Psychosexual Therapy from the University of Sydney, and certifications from the ESSM School of Sexual Medicine, European Federation of Sexology and European Society of Sexual Medicine.
As most Talking Clean With Irene listeners will know, I grew up in the 80s. Talking about sex was a taboo and sexual pleasure was something to be ashamed of (I've spoken about the AIDS campaign I lived through on the podcast before!), and the majority of my sexual education came from Dolly Doctor!
Chantelle Otten was brought up very differently. Australian, but hailing from a Dutch family, Chantelle studied in Amsterdam where talking about sex was encouraged. Chantelle's qualifications and certifications span both Australia and Europe, giving her a really well-rounded understanding of sexual health- so you can imagine how excited I was to pick her brain!
Chantelle is really passionate about normalising sexuality, and has helped everybody through her practise, no matter their persuasion. "Everyone will have a sexual question or concern at some point," she tells me. In this episode of the podcast we took a real deep dive, and I seriously believe that just about everyone can learn something from her.
What is a sexologist?
Chantelle tells me that she considers herself to be "a detective in people's sex lives," working to answer her client's questions and solve their sexual problems and concerns. Think of a sexologist as a therapist or psychologist who works specifically to change and normalise the conversation around sex. Chantelle has worked with all genders, orientations, relationship statuses and ages, working in hospital and in her private practise.
She realised almost immediately on her return to Australia 5 years ago that sexologists didn't really exist over here, despite how normal sexology is as a profession in Europe. Part of the issue? Chantelle explains that, in Australia, there's little to no regulation around sexology. Despite the fact that science medicine, psychology and counselling are all parts of sexology and sexual therapy, Chantelle tells me that many people call themselves "sexologists" purely because they have an interest in sex. She explains to me that much of sexual therapy involves looking at how a person thinks and feels, telling me "the brain is the largest sexual organ,"- so seeking advice from someone without a science degree doesn't make all that much sense! Chantelle's advice is to really look at a person's qualifications and certifications when choosing a sexologist.
Sexual self esteem
Chantelle tells me that some of the more common concerns she deals with in her practise are sexual pain (technically called vaginismus, and something that affects 1 in 5 women), low libido and, almost overwhelmingly, sexual self esteem.
Chantelle tells me that many women (and men!) often don't feel great in their own body and, in turn, don't feel great in the bedroom. This is often because, as women, we have been told that pleasure is not for us. We're taught that male masturbation and fantasies are a fact of life, but never about female masturbation or the clitorus.
No matter how self conscious you feel in the bedroom, Chantelle assures me that your partner doesn't care how you look. "It's about feeling desired," she explains, "and that has to start with yourself."
The solution, Chantelle tells me, is to be present. We are on the run all the time and exert so much time and energy taking care of everyone else and often neglect our own needs. We need to accept that taking time for ourselves is not just okay, but necessary, so take time to do things that make you feel good. Put on some great music, take on an alter ego, and enter the bedroom with confidence!
Where does the spark go?
Wondering why that sexual "spark" often dissipates with time? Chantelle has the answer.
What many of us refer to as the "honeymoon period" is actually called "limerence," which lasts for about 18 months and is the technical term for the early period of a relationship when everything feels new and exciting. It's natural for that to fade, as many of us begin to lose our sexual imagination and creativity as we devote more and more of our energy to work and our children.
Sex and stress are incompatible, so Chantelle's advice is to strip things back and let go of expectations- indulging in aphrodisiacs (and upping your zinc intake) won't hurt either!
Listen to episode 45 of Talking Clean With Irene to learn more about how to fall back in love with yourself and your partner, and visit Chantelle's website for details on her Sexual Self Esteem course and private consultations.