Jessica Maxwell, Ph.D.: The Role of Sexual Empowerment in Well-Being | Doing Well #26

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by the esteemed Dr. Jessica Maxwell, a social psychologist specializing in the factors that contribute to satisfying sexual and romantic relationships

Sexual empowerment is vital to one’s overall well-being. How you take care of yourself sexually can have a significant impact on your relationship and quality of life.

Meet Jessica Maxwell

Jessica Maxwell is a social psychologist (Ph.D., University of Toronto, 2017). Her research aims to shed light on the most important factors in maintaining satisfying sexual and romantic relationships.

She examines individual differences in expectations and perceptions that influence sexual and relationship well-being, examining factors such as how individuals expect to maintain sexual satisfaction best, what they expect from casual sex encounters, and how accurate they are in detecting their partners’ feelings and sexual preferences.

She was also a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland (2019-2022) and recently returned to Canada for her new role as an assistant professor at McMaster University. 

About the episode

In this episode hosted by Lu Ngo, Jessica defined well-being as a state of physical, mental, and emotional ease and peace. She believes it encompasses various aspects and is difficult to define precisely. 

When discussing sexual empowerment, Jessica emphasized that the term can have different interpretations for different people. However, she defined it as feeling comfortable, confident, and assertive in one’s sexuality, including being able to communicate preferences and be authentic in the bedroom. 

Sexual empowerment is closely linked to overall well-being, according to Jessica. She explained that research consistently shows that a satisfying sex life is tied to increased happiness and life satisfaction. Conversely, if someone is dissatisfied with their sex life, it can negatively impact their sense of well-being.  

Jessica also highlighted the bi-directional relationship between stress and sexual well-being. While stress can reduce one’s desire for sex, the absence of sexual activity can also lead to stress due to the potential loss of relational benefits and hormonal boosts. 

According to Jessica, many people struggle with sexual communication. While couples claim they are comfortable talking about sex, the reality is that few actually engage in such conversations. It is a vulnerable topic with significant meaning and beauty.

Jessica suggested several strategies for improving sexual communication. Non-verbal cues during sex can be effective in conveying what pleases you. Additionally, she emphasized the importance of general communication skills outside the bedroom, as being good communicators overall benefits sexual communication as well.

If discomfort arises from sharing specific desires, Jessica mentioned websites or apps where couples could independently answer surveys about sexual acts, which later generate a list of potential interests to explore. However, she emphasizes that relying solely on these tools is insufficient, and genuine honesty with your partner is crucial.

In conclusion

When discussing sexual matters, sensitivity and kindness towards your partner are vital due to the vulnerability involved. Considering the long-term benefits and being willing to have uncomfortable conversations with your partner is vital to fostering better sexual and romantic relationships and overall well-being. 

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