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Touch-a, touch-a, touch me 

Make your marriage pretty, with sex.

click to enlarge IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: When the sex is good, says therapist Jon Mourot.
  • IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: When the sex is good, says therapist Jon Mourot.

Mr. and Mrs. Bickerton have been going to couples therapy trying to save their marriage. But it hasn't worked, and their inability to see eye to eye makes divorce court look like the next stop. Yet, they do still love each other. Is there no help for the Bickertons?

Yes there is. It involves literally seeing eye to eye. Standing or lying down. Clothed or not.

When all else fails, there is sex.

There is but one certified sex therapist in Arkansas (which doesn't require certification), and he says he's only seen two couples who could not reconcile by following his program. The husbands in both couples, as it turned out, confessed during therapy that they had second families. They were in Florida, where such things happen.

But Jon Mourot can help other folks, whether in the throes of splitting up or just having problems in the sack. He's a Hall High School graduate who went on to get a doctorate from the University of Miami in counseling and did a three-year sex therapy certification program. (Between Hall and Miami he got a BA from Hendrix College, an MSJ from Ohio University, a JD from the U of A, but it was sex therapy that turned him on.) So what does he do?

"I don't touch my clients, and they don't disrobe in my office," Mourot said, smiling. Apparently, that is what some people think a sex therapist does. Nor does he set people up with sex surrogates for training purposes, which is against the law. What he does do is help people re-establish intimacy.

"I use sex as a way to address problems in the dynamics [of how the couple is relating]. How they relate sexually transfers to other aspects of the marriage," Mourot said.

Mourot gives his clients a series of exercises over six sessions. First, he asks them to get physical tests to rule out (or understand how to handle) medical problems. He'll meet with each partner separately. He'll tell them what the therapy involves, and asks if they'll agree to follow through.

Then, paradoxically, "I tell them, 'You cannot have sex until I give you permission,' " which usually gets a surprised response.

Then, it's time to touch.

The first step: Make simple physical contact. "Just reach out and touch" when passing one another in the house, when in each other's presence, Mourot tells his clients. That's a way to connect without comment.

Then, there's the gazing exercise referred to earlier. Mourot asks couples to gaze into one another's eyes while touching one another's hearts "and think back to when they first fell in love." It sounds corny. Some will laugh. But some will cry.

Eventually, couples move to the bed, where they are encouraged to explore, fully clothed, one another's bodies, "and be conscious of what emotions arise — sadness, guilty, anger." Find pleasure centers, which Mourot said will change over a lifetime. Take it slow.

Does the wife fall asleep during this exercise? Take note, frustrated husbands! Are you expecting her to become aroused after rising to prepare breakfast, driving the kids to school, working a job, cleaning and cooking and feeding the family at night and then walking the dog? No wonder her libido is low, mister! "She's exhausted!" Mourot said. In fact, low libido in women is the most common sexual complaint he hears, a fact that will surprise no woman reading this.

The last exercise is to lie naked and explore and not have sex. Mourot laughed. Nobody makes it to the end of that exercise without having sex. They come in to his office sheepish, confess, "and I say you're done!"

People who have experienced sexual trauma may need more than six weeks. Learning to touch again "is really powerful," Mourot said, especially for those who have experienced abuse or infidelity. He slows the process toward intimacy for them.

Mourot also works with single men who have performance anxiety, disabled veterans who want to satisfy their wives, transgender or gay couples. He's had clients who, because of their religion, would not disrobe in front of one another — a tough situation, he acknowledged. He's counseled threesomes.

He sees women who complain that their partners' technique is of the wham, bam, thank-you-ma'am variety. For these guys, Mourot said, he appeals "to their pride": See what affect you can have on your woman, he tells them, with your skillful foreplay — and he guarantees they'll have better sex when they do.

Mourot's technique especially for women: "The happy hoohoo." He tells his female clients to take time out for themselves. Run a warm bath, turn off the phone "and learn about your body."

"Orgasm is not the intent" of the exercise, but a surrendering of inhibition. Mourot said he's discovered that many women in Arkansas "have to be given permission to masturbate," to be convinced that it is not wrong or naughty. He doesn't always succeed.

And he tells men, stop watching porn if you think it's a guide to how sex should be. The penis-vagina orgasm "isn't real life." On the other hand, he says, there's another pleasure center that may not be known: prostate stimulation.

Sometimes, antidepressants hinder orgasm, which is OK if premature ejaculation is your issue, but otherwise unsatisfactory. He tells his clients who take antidepressants to ask for "anything but Zoloft."

Mourot had some advice for men on Valentine's Day. Skip the cheap chocolates. "Do something unexpected," he suggested. Give your wife coupons she can cash in: You'll change the cat litter. You'll change the sheets. Whatever.

Or, "go to Seductions or Cupid's," Little Rock sex shops, "together. Do not go by yourself and buy some trashy lingerie. Go with your partner." Consider strap-ons! The one he took to a Dirty Santa party — dirty as in people can steal one another's gifts — was far more popular than the potpourri and dish-towels under the tree.

If you're single on Valentine's Day — especially women — his advice is to "pamper yourself. Have a spa day, a massage. Be your own best friend."

Two super important things: One — sleep in the nude. It's healthier, shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol, improve blood circulation and, of course, can lead to sex. And two, Mourot said, "use a good lubricant." He's even done grand rounds with gynecologists on the issue. One of the best: a brand called Gun Oil. In Arkansas, Mourot has learned, it is best to make sure the client doesn't get the wrong idea. He's had a client who misunderstood. The man he reported back after using gun oil with his wife that he didn't like it much. "It didn't smell very good," he told Mourot.

Bottom line: Know thyself. Sex, Mourot said, "is a beautiful component of life." Don't forget it.

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