Award-winning Sexologist Chantelle Otten is legendary. Full stop. There’s no need to go into an exhausting list of whys.
Okay, fine we will. Firstly, she’s helping educate, empower and inspire a swelling community through her Sexology clinics, online resources, and Instagram, oh, and she’s just finished writing a book. Wow! It’s a wonder that she has any time for … Well, anyway we think she’s on a one-woman mission to normalise conversations around sexual wellness. We’re particularly inspired by how she and partner, professional wheelchair tennis superstar Dylan Alcott, are smashing taboos around sex and disability. Settle in and read this thoroughly enlightening conversation with Otten. TLDR: yes, we asked her how often we should be having sex.
STUFF: How did you fall into sexology as a career?
Chantelle Otten: “I always wanted to help people. Sexology wasn’t around when I was at university. So, I did psychology to start with. I finished psyche and really loved business, so I went into Organisational Psychology and focused on helping teams work together.
Then I started getting bored of that and my mum sent me Ester Perel’s Ted Talk on Infidelity and that sparked a new interest in sex and relationships. I did some research and spoke to a few sex therapists. I noticed that they were much older. Not to be ageist, but from my own personal experience, I feel that in order for people to open up it’s important to have a health care practitioner that’s very in-the-know about current things, someone relatable. So, I thought, I’m going to be that person who talks about sex. Because we need it for the upcoming generation. I also wanted it to be in a hospital because none of [the current ones] were working in hospitals at that time. From my Psycho-Sexology point of view, I wanted to make sure that we were focusing on the bigger sexual organ — the brain — and bringing that in as a wholistic part of health care.
I went on to complete my science-med degree at Sydney University, specialising in sexual medicine. Then I moved to Amsterdam (both my parents are Dutch) because I needed to go to a place where Sexology was liberated, to feel encouraged. Australia is still working really hard on not being sexist, and misogynistic and all of those things were going on 12 years ago when I was studying. Then I came back to Australia about four years ago and started my own clinic.”
What are some common misconceptions about your vocation?
“I’ve had quite a few people think that I was a sex worker. That’s completely okay, being a sex worker is a great thing! I’ve had to explain this a few times: I don’t touch my patients. I work with them from a therapeutic point of view. There are Sexologists who are qualified Sexological Bodyworkers: with permission from the patient, they can teach them how to touch their body. That’s not what I do. However, some of my staff are qualified to do that."
Has social media been a big help when opening up the conversation around sexual wellness?
“Absolutely. I started the clinic, and it was just me and now there are 15 staff there and it’s getting bigger and bigger. And getting on social media and Instagram was a really amazing thing. It’s changed the way we talk about the world; it’s changed the way we talk about feminism, sexuality and eroticism in general. For me, I’m able to provide my community (92K Instagram followers) with access to free information around sexuality which then enables them to make up their own minds about which direction they want to go in with their eroticism. That is an extremely powerful thing.”
How important is sexual health to our overall mental health? Have you come across any interesting stats around this that you could share?
“Yes, there’s one that’s come out from Lovehoney from research in 2019. They surveyed around 3000 people online in the US, UK and Australia, ages 18-65+. This segment was also a mix of genders, ethnicities, sexual orientation, big cities, small towns and rural areas etc. Two thirds of people surveyed said that sex plays an important role in their overall happiness. Other key takeaways: nine out of ten men orgasm during sex, whereas seven out of ten women. Half of those surveyed said that the biggest benefits of sex were strengthening their relationship, 45% said that it puts them in a good mood, 43% said it helps with stress and tension, 33% said it helps them sleep at night, and 25% said it helps improve their mental health.”
Is this saying that we should all be having more sex?
“I think it’s more about sexual satisfaction. There are plenty of people that I see who say they have sex every day. It’s really about quality over quantity. There are a lot of people out there having really average or bad sex every day. What if they made it special and had better quality sex every few days so that it’s more of an experience instead of something that they feel that they have to do. One of my most asked questions is: how often should we be having sex? That’s completely up to you and the person you're having sex with. We really want to work on the quality of sex and make sure that it feels great. The hardest person to talk to about sex is often your sexual partner because it’s emotional and so connected to your relationship. There’s a bit of work to do around transparency and having conversations that are meaningful.”
Do you have any tips on how to bring sex up with your partner?
“There are loads. It’s starting with yourself. A lot of people come in to see me and expect that it’s their partner who needs to do all the work. That’s not the case. You need to change, and you have to look inside and work out how you can first of all be a better communicator so that you're able to lead the way.
If your partner is not motivated to change, you cannot force it. All you can do is change yourself. Maybe that means growing, or maybe that means outgrowing. I don’t know. That all depends on the relationship. If they want to be with you then they will have to step up and be able to learn how to have a hard conversation.
I think the best thing is to come from a place of kindness. When you're talking about sex or wanting to change something then come in from a ‘compliment sandwich’ point of view: compliment, suggestion and then end again on a compliment. And make sure you have this conversation outside the bedroom. If they say no, you don’t take that as a no forever, it’s a no for now and you don’t force it. You could also ask them if it’s okay to send them some more information.”
There are lots of toxic stereotypes out there for men around sex and virility. What can we do to make changes in this space?
“I think you have to start with the parents. If you’re someone reading this and you have children, then you need to think about what you want them to learn. Do you want them to feel as though they’re never leveling up to what’s masculine? Or maybe you don’t want them to have jobs that are stereotypically reserved for women, such as being a nurse, because you think that’s not going to make them manly enough. But you need to realise that it could make them really fucking happy and fulfilled.
Our generation needs to change to be able to help the younger generation. It’s not just wives, mothers, partners and girlfriends, it’s dads and the penis owners. And it’s celebrities like Harry Styles telling the world that he is who he is and leading the way. I think we need to focus on inner fulfilment quite a bit more. As well as changing the representation of what a masculine man looks like in the media, for example, those stereotypical perfume ads where they’re all chiselled with six packs. I don’t want that. I want and love a dad bod. These are conversations that we actually need to have. For young men in particular, it’s about having role models who are positive. People such as my partner Dylan! A disabled athlete who’s changing the world. And we need more TV shows like Normal People and we need more female-friendly porn that are made with love or desire storylines.”