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Talking sex with sex therapist Stefani Threadgill

On Friday night at The Shops at Legacy, Ra Sushi attracts a crowd of diners, very few of which are thinking about sushi.
Courtesy of Stefani Threadgill’s website

On Friday night at The Shops at Legacy, Ra Sushi attracts a crowd of diners, very few of which are thinking about sushi. There are first dates fumbling with chopsticks on shared plates; girls’ nights out; older couples yelling, “What?” at each other over the baseline; 20-somethings on group “hangs”; and at least 10 people scrolling on Tinder.

In this relationship jungle, I meet The Sexologist for rosé. Even in the commotion, Stefani Threadgill and her long blond ponytail draw eyes. It’s largely because of her confidence, though she’s totally open about having a bit of botox here and some microblading there. According to her, she styles her fashion after Kate Moss and her aesthetic after Kate Moss’ photographer. And perhaps one can’t study sex and be shy.

“When I was in first grade I was in Mrs. Spells’ class, and for our open house we were all supposed to draw a picture of our parents and put it on the wall,” Stefani says and pauses to order us a bottle of wine. “I guess she didn’t review them beforehand. All the parents came to open house and there was my picture: two stick figures and a bed. Above it I’d written, ‘My mom and dad sleep naked.’” She bursts out laughing. “And here I am at 40, telling people to sleep naked to create alchemy in the bedroom.”

Stefani is the silent partner in the bedroom, there to help you unpack the insecurities and intimacies of romantic life from kinks to cooling marriages, fertility, consent and erectile dysfunction.

Stefani raises her glass. “Here’s to sex.” And then, she launches into the basics between the sheets.

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Stefani Threadgill earned her Master of Science in Counseling with honors in 2014 from Southern Methodist University. Her business is The Sex Therapy Institute and her brand is The Sexologist, where she utilizes social media to reach people that are less likely to come into her office.

While she gets her share of prank calls, the people that come to see her are very serious about the help they need, whether it’s patching an existing relationship or dealing with personal shame and insecurities. Her office is a judgement-free space.

“There is a lot of shame attached to sex for a lot of people.” Stefani leans forward and lowers her voice. “I’ve had some people with very taboo fetishes, just asking if they’ll ever find someone who can accept them. There’s humanity behind it.”

Much of her work begins by simply dispelling myths that affect the way we feel about sex and encouraging healthy, safe sex. Stefani is concerned by how much misinformation and misconceptions are out there.

“Whatever they read, they take to heart. Maybe they read that women want partners who can last 40 minutes or that size is a barometer of pleasure.” While she’s in favor of pornography as a tool, she reminds her clients that it’s a terrible source of sex-ed. “It’s not real. How can you hope to match that in reality?”

More and more clients are coming in saying that stress is interfering with their sex life, reporting problems that they’re too ashamed to talk about to their friends or even their spouse. Sometimes clients arrive secretly devastated because their spouse couldn’t perform, and they feel like it’s their own fault. One issue for heteronormative couples is that men and women simply work differently.

“There’s a common idea that women hate sex,” she says. “We normalize that for each other. You get girlfriends talking, ‘I took one for the team,’ or, ‘All my husband wants is sex.’ Most women have never taken a mirror and looked at their vulva. Listen, how do you expect to enjoy sex if you don’t know what’s down there?”

She calls it “an emphasis on male pleasure and female shame.” In female clients she sees many women who have been taught that sex is wrong, but later have difficulty flipping that switch on their wedding night. On the other hand, she sees many men substitute sex for validation, admiration and affection, because they aren’t taught how to ask for it otherwise.

“Men want connection too, contrary to popular belief. Men fall in love faster, have a harder time getting over break-ups and want to commit earlier. Men and women have sex for physical pleasure and emotional connection,” she explains.

In fact, Stefani has kept detailed records throughout her career and estimates that 95 percent of her inquiries are men. The difference is largely because women have resources for bedroom tips and tricks when they need it—friends, mothers, sisters, red wine and, of course, Cosmo. Men tend to be far less likely to talk to their friends about their struggling sex life and have fewer safe places to turn.

Most of Stefani’s couples come to her when their relationships have cooled, reporting that they’re bored.

“At first you might be like, ‘He’s super messy but he’s perfect on paper and my mom loves him and everyone loves us on Facebook,’” Stefani says drily. “Then two years later, he’s still messy and it drives you insane.”

Infatuation hides all kinds of potential relationship snags. Around the two year mark, however, people get comfortable with each other. In the safety of a longterm relationship, they shave a little less and leave their socks on the floor a little more. Stefani thinks that’s a common mistake.

“If you were putting in 100 percent when you met, put in 125 percent,” Stefani says. “What I hear a lot is ‘my partner doesn’t turn me on anymore.’ Well, what are you doing to turn yourself on? What does your bedroom look like? Do you have kids? Babies? Dogs? Laptops? That stuff in your bed is not sexy. What makes you feel good? You don’t have infatuation creating that alchemy anymore. You’ve got to do it for yourself.”

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When she sees a couple, in her mind she is seeing three clients at once: the couple and each individual. “I’m a big believer in that. We start at the beginning. We look through the years at what has influenced you. Whose poster was on the wall of your bedroom when you were 13? Those things stick longer than you think they would and maybe they’re irrelevant; maybe they’re not.”

Stefani’s most important advice: It’s all about your inner sexuality, honest communication with your partner and being true to yourself. As Alfred Kinsey, the controversial sex researcher and father of sexology, said, “The only unnatural sex act is that which you cannot perform.” And, of course, good health, exercise and sex are the best aphrodisiacs known to man.

“It’s so fascinating to me,” Stefani says. “Sexuality is in everything we do; from what we wear, to our tolerance for eye contact and personal space, how we carry ourselves, and what our homes look like. I can see 50 cases and none of them are the same.” She pours herself a second glass of wine. “My goal is to help people keep it sexy.”

Originally published in Plano Profile‘s February 2018 issue.