Recently I went to the Spring meeting of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) organization that I have belonged to for over twenty years. What a wonderful group we have in Wisconsin. We learned more about complicated topics such as diagnosis and treatment of women's pelvic and sexual pain; sexual desire and arousal difficulties and methods to resolve these issues; and resources to facilitate sexual health, arousal and communication about sex.
The setting of our workshop is so special that I want to share it with you. We met at A Woman's Touch Sexuality Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Our hosts, Ellen Barnard, M.S.S.W. and Myrtle Wilhite, M.D., M.S., co-own this wonderful place. A Woman's Touch (AWT) is so much more than just a store.
AWT is truly a resource center for healthy sexuality. Ellen and Myrtle are some of the most sex positive people I know. They are also some of the most knowledgeable about the current resources for women and men's healthy sexual functioning. They and their well trained staff at this store and their store in Milwaukee are able to comfortably answer any questions about sexuality. And if they do not know the answer they have an extensive referral and resource list that they will share with you so you can find your answer. Customers are put at ease that all questions are invited and embarrassment is just not necessary.
People who visit the store are young and older, women and men, singles, couples and groups. How great to be able to go there with lovers as well as friends and to be open rather than closed and secretive about sexuality. In my work with clients, I have found that secretiveness and shame about sexuality are contributors to pain and sexual difficulties.
It is common – and even welcome – for people to listen in on the teaching that Ellen and Myrtle do with customers as they answer questions and demonstrate how products work . After all someone else may ask something we too were wondering about.
This is a hands on store. You can touch everything. I like their attitude. Why would you buy it if you couldn't check it out and see how it works or feels.?
They have every kind of lubricant with not only samples to try but also scientific explanations of why one lubricant is more effective than another and what to do if you have allergies or other physical conditions that require a different ph.
They select the materials in their store to reflect the wide range of ways that people express their sexuality. They don't judge. They teach about how to use these products to enhance respectful safe sexuality.
I feel so confident in Ellen and Myrtle as safe resources that when I was running a group addressing the sexual issues of women survivors of sexual abuse, we took a field trip to AWT. Ellen took us on a private tour of the store – letting just us be in the store before opening the store to the public. The brave women survivors were able to get more comfortable with their sexuality in an environment that was sex positive – so different than the abusive experiences they had endured.
A Woman's Touch website is more than just a listing of their products. There are free downloadable brochures that they have written on a range of topics such as "All About Libido" , "Othercourse", "Reclaiming Sexuality After Cancer Poster". They have advice columns "Ask Dr Myrtle" and "Ask The Sex Counselor". And of course movie reviews.
I don't own stock in AWT or get a kickback from referring clients there. I refer people to AWT because they provide such a wonderful service for my clients. I know my clients will get the most current resources – books, toys, games, media, as well as pretty and fun sensuality and sexuality related materials. Their pretty lingerie is in real women sizes not limited to the restrictive or unreal body types pushed on us by media.
When you walk in you feel like you are in a gift shop- nothing x-rated in the front of the store. As you walk further in you can decide to go to the areas of the store that have more sexually explicit material. All parts of the store are open, well lit and comfortable to shop in. This is not like the XXX adult super stores you cringe about as you drive by on the interstate or that you feel uncomfortable walking by.
AWT is truly a gift to our community. I encourage you to check out their store and their website. And when you go to the store you may have the pleasure of being greeted by one of their wonderful friendly dogs who make everyone feel welcome. How can you feel quite as anxious about asking your sexual question when you have a big furry sweet dog helping you feel loved unconditionally?
P.S. Because I not only do sex therapy but also do sex addiction therapy, I am adding this PS for my clients who are struggling with sexual compulsivity or addiction or whose partners are dealing with this issue. I encourage sex addicts to wait to consider going to AWT until you are into the rebuilding healthy sexuality phase of your treatment. And even then to only go there after discussing it thoroughly with your spouse, therapist, sponsor, support group and therapy group to determine if this will be triggering to you and if coming here fits into your sexual safety and sobriety plan. If you do go, I would also suggest going only with your partner with specific shared goals and in depth discussion after. AWT is great place but someone who is sexually addicted and in good recovery needs to be cautious about protecting their sobriety and for some people this environment may be triggering.
Shari Cohn, LCSW, CSAT is a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist providing Sex Therapy, Sex Addiction Therapy and Psychotherapy to the Madison, Wisconsin area for over twenty years.
Shari specializes in helping sex and porn addicts, partners of sex addicts, abuse and trauma survivors, ptsd and sexual problems.
"Reclaiming Sexuality…Reclaiming Your Life…One Step At A Time"
Visit Shari 's website and blog at www.ShariCohn.com
Find Shari on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SexTherapyMadisonWI