Sexual Desire Issues in a
Sexualized Culture


Michael R Sytsma, PhD, LPC, CST, CPCS

Angela Landry, MA, LMFT, CST


Presented at AACC 2019 World Conference
Nashville, TN

Thanks for attending our breakout at the conference and for signing up for the follow-up.

This page has a link to download the slides, links to find us, and answers to the questions we didn’t get to.

I’d also invite you to sign up for CE’s on this website. As additional information is developed from the survey I will be presenting some of the information online. Signing up will keep you notified. Just use the form at the top of the page. (Click the arrow in the yellow box if you don’t see the form.)

We’d also invite you to share the link to the survey.

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Click to download the slides

You can download the slides from the talk here. See the graphs we moved quickly through up close.

You can find Angie’s private practice through this link.

Find Dr. Sytsma’s private practice through this link.

As promised, here are quick answers to the questions you submitted but we didn’t have time to answer. They are in no particular order (submission order).

Thanks for submitting them.

Do you help the couples define desire...and define arousal?

This is a great therapeutic task. After I’ve helped them learn effective communciation through education, guided experience, and modeling we discuss each. How do each spouse define it and then how do they want to define it in their marriage? Remember to attend to the attributions! What does their definition mean to them? What does their spouse’s definition mean?

Does prior sexual addiction cause a false desire?

I have no idea what “false desire” is. How can desire be false? Can the pathway to meet the desire be improper? Of course – pursuing sex with a stranger when one wants connection would be an example of this. Can they misunderstand what the desire really is? Sure – pursuing sex when the deeper need is affirmation would be an example here. It may be in the definition of “desire”, but in sexual addition the problem isn’t in the validity of the desire, it’s in the lack of discipline of the desire.

About the incorrect metric - What if porn culture has effected her desire issues. How he treats her in sex. Etc. therefore effecting the entire sample. So maybe the metric isn’t wrong after all

Thoughtful question. Falls apart quickly however.

  • First, this presumes there is a “normal” outside the population. This is a philosphical question way larger than can be covered here, but you would be hard pressed to find researchers or sexologists who might agree.
  • Second, it presumes porn hasn’t been a part of other cultures. We know from history this isn’t true.
  • Third, if “porn culture” is the cause (even moderator or mediator) we would see female desire differences based on the intensity of the “porn culture”. This doesn’t seem to be present.
  • Finally, it seems to presume a healthy female desire (not impacted by porn culture) would be like male desire. This doesn’t seem consistent with biology, God’s design as reflected in scripture (from my perspective), or or where the trending research regarding female desire lands.
You use husbands and wives. Does any of your work involve unmarried couples?

I haven’t. My surveys have been open to any couple, but at this point, I cannot figure out how to match n0n-married couples from anonymous survey responses. I am very open to suggestions.

How do you buffer or factor male desire prompted by pornography so the wife is not simply used as a sex toy?

This is not controlled for. We are really only beginning to assess the different types of and motivations for sexual desire. 

How do you help couples differentiate between quantity and quality? In other words, I want sex, but not the way (s)he does it....?

By helping them talk about what they want. Some individuals are only interested in quantity. If so, the couple will need to decide how they, as a couple, are going to handle the difference. Sometimes teaching a theology of sex can help them catch a vision for a healthy sexuality. See part 1 of the Passionate Intimacy videos for one approach.

Can we use these slides and stats with our clients?

Of course. As long as you follow copyright law and give credit. Please point them to my website where they can get the full information. (

Are men and women’s desires different before middle age?

We see women reflecting a more initiating (typically male) desire during dating, when they want to be pregnant, or during an affair. It is also possible to see fluctuations based on other life events or general health.

Does/how does desire change in older couples (post menapause/age 55 plus). Are there any different considerations?

Age can definitely affect sexual desire for both males and females. Again, like the answer to the question above, life fluctuations and general health are the first considerations.

If couple needs more than we offer, can we refer to you and can you do counseling remotely?

Angie provides intensive counseling for those willing to travel to her office in Nashville, TN.

Dr. Sytsma offers a package for those wishing to work on issues of sexual desire. It it a three month package including an intensive in his office in Suwanee, GA (approximately 10 sessions in 2 days) with 3 months of follow-up online. Please have the client contact us for more information.

What do women qualify as "intimacy"?

In our experience, both men and women can have a spectrum of definitions for intimacy. Best approach is to explore what it means with each individual. The concept of “intimacy” was not researched in Dr. Sytsma’s survey.

How do you work with a narcissistic spouse who struggles to admit that their perspective may not be entirely accurate?

This really depends on your theory of therapy and general approach. Sometimes, you cannot help an individual see their spouse might have a different perspective. When this is the case, the choice shifts to the spouse to accept this limitation or not.

The research- men don't make up the difference with masturbation and desire?

There are obviously different theories on why people masturbate. One theory is “compensation theory” that suggests individuals masturbate to bridge the gap between their actual sexual activity and their desired activity. If an individual desired sex 3-4 times/week, for example, but only had sex with their spouse 1 time/week, we might expect them to masturbate 2-3 times/week.

I roughly tested this with the current sample and found the theory was not supported. While this doesn’t disprove the theory, it was not supported with this sample of couples.

How do you rule out sex addiction /compulsive vs sexual desire in the relationship?

This requires training and supervision. Good CE workshops on the subject will train counselors in doing good assessments of compulsive sexual behavior. Please pursue training as we are continually frustrated with untrained counselors overlooking the issue or diagnosing sexual addiction inaccurately.

How do you work through religious views on sexuality and desire in the marriage that can cause conflict in the relationship?

This is an extremely broad question that really needs clarification. A broad answer is that God hates dissention (Prov 6:19). Scripture points out dissention comes from enforcing our evil desires (James 4:1-3) and are evidence of sinful selfishness (Gal 5:19-20). Demanding from one’s spouse is inconsistent with the message of the Gospel and counter how Christ treats HIS Bride. It is rare that I hear someone using their religious views to dominate or demand from their spouse that I don’t see a larger sin issue at play.

Finally, if you are looking for additional information on the subject of sexual desire in marriage, you might try Dr. Sytsma’s Passionate Intimacy Workshop. Dr. Sytsma and Angie present this weekend workshop to couples. The third talk in the workshop is “Passionate Husbands, Passionate Wives” and is about 1 hour on sexual desire. You can hear Dr. Sytsma teaching couples in this online video. Use code “AACC2019″ to receive 30% off purchase of any video (or the entire workshop) in the Passionate Intimacy course when purchased in the next 2 months (before 12/20/19).

Do you need continuing education? We are developing some unique CE opportunities approved for psychologists, counselors, AND MFTS. Make sure you keep an eye out for our email notifications.