Resources for Improving Intimacy:  “The Art of Desire”

A review of the e-course “The Art of Desire” by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

By Celeste

This is the second half of my “Resources for Improving Intimacy” post.  Check out the first half about a book called “31 Days to Great Sex” here.

This post is part 5 of the series:  Improving Intimacy
Part 1:  How to Agree on How Often to Have Sex
Part 2:   Waiting for Sex Until Marriage- Can I Really Do It?
Part 3:  When Sex is Painful:  One Woman’s Story
       Part 4:  A Therapist Answers Your Questions About Sex First Half  and Second Half
Part 5:  Resources for Improving Intimacy:  “31 Days to Great Sex” and “The Art of Desire”

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The Art of Desire

This is an e-course from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, an LDS sex therapist written for Mormon women.

This course was so much more eye-opening for me than I ever anticipated.  I was expecting it to go something like, “for years you thought sex was bad and now you need to know sex is good, let’s discuss.”  But it was so, SO much more than that.  It made me take a good, hard, thorough look at myself, my relationship to desire and all sorts of masks and facades I may be hiding behind that I didn’t realize were there at all.

The course is divided into four classes:

  • Class 1:  Understanding and overcoming women’s cultural and psychological challenges to desire. (1.5 hours)
  • Class 2:  The art of desire:  How to discover and cultivate your authentic passion. (1.5 hours)
  • Class 3:  Understanding female arousal:  Physical and psychological factors (2 hours)
  • Class 4:  Sexual Self Development: (Including the how-tos of orgasm and sexual thought)  (2 hours)

She doesn’t even really get into talking about sex until Class 3.  Similar to the “31 Days to Greater Sex” book, she makes you tread through some uncomfortable water of what your psychological issues are, not only with desire but with yourself.  And you come out better and stronger for it.

Here’s a quote from another lady who went through the course and wrote about it on her blog:

“JFF’s perspective, and the introspection it’s incited, has completely changed the way I view real intimacy. It’s opened my eyes to the flaws in needing validation from your significant other and confusing that validation for real connection. We do this all the time, in all kinds of sneaky ways, and we sell our relationships short because of it.

We want our partners to see us at our worst and tell us they love all our imperfections as they are and wouldn’t want us to change a thing. We call that real love. So often when we’re dating, we fall in love, not with another person, but with the perfected view of ourselves we see reflected off them. …. [We must create] a space where we can be fully known and stand solidly, even if it forces us to acknowledge the ugly parts of ourselves.”

I know, right?  It gets all kinds of real.

Anyway, maybe my favorite thing from the course was that it called me out, it calls us all out on consistently defining our desire (women’s desire) only in terms of men’s desires.  Generally, we focus on men as the desirers (active) and women as the ones who are desirable (passive).  As LDS women, our relationship to desire is primarily REPRESSION (occasionally mixed with fear, guilt and/or control).  This focus on desirability instead of desire fosters non-identification with our self-knowledge and our desires and deeply undermines women’s strength and self-confidence.

For example, Dr. Finalyson-Fife says women who come to her wanting to improve intimacy so often say, “I owe my husband better sex!” and struggle to see a problem with negating any relationship to desire for themselves, which you kind of have to do to make sex better for both you and your spouse anyway.  Throughout the course, I had to keep reminding myself to focus on this course just FOR ME.  I had to own up to my own relationship with desire outside of just how it relates to my husband and my marriage.  Something I have never done before.

I’m starting to see sex in a totally new way.  I’ll be honest that throughout this month, in the back of my mind I kept holding on to the question, “Yeah, but do I REALLY need to explore this side of myself?”  Both Sheila and Jennifer pose the question that if our relationship to desire was supposed to be repression, why would God have given us a clitoris?  A part of our body that serves NO other function other than physical desire. A part of our body that contains 8,000 nerve fibers (twice as many as a man’s genitalia).

I’m now committed to figuring out and strengthening my own relationship with desire.  The homework assignments really help out with that, and I’m excited to read some of the books she suggests, such as Passionate Marriage and Slow Sex.

My one hold up with recommending the course full-throttle is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the format- which is a formerly “live” e-course with a little video of Jennifer talking in the corner, a power point in the center and a chat window where you can see the former live participants chatting below that.  I would prefer either being an active participant in a live course (being able to live chat and have her respond throughout the classes) OR just watching a lecture from Jennifer where she isn’t interacting with anyone- just speaking.  In any case, this issue doesn’t affect the QUALITY of her message, just the delivery.

The course is normally $145, but for a limited time only, Dr. Finlayson-Fife is generously offering a 10% discount to my readers by entering the code “ATHING10” at checkout!

The cost may sound like a lot, but it’s actually a great deal because not only does this include all four classes, but also 12 months of “office hours” which is a live, anonymous group meeting held once a month where you can call in and ask questions about any of the course content and questions specific to your situation.  She then sends you a recording of the whole “office hours” session.

Seeing that one session with a sex therapist will generally cost you $100 – $200+, this is actually a pretty phenomenal deal.  Buy it here. She also offers three other courses for couples on her site (which I hope to review in the future!).