(The Levity Ball) When it comes to sex, and everything to do with the topic, Hollywood’s a-list turn to one lady to help… Dr. Holly Richmond!
Growing up in the Finger Lakes region near Rochester, Dr. Richmond has become one of the top Somatic Psychologists and Marriage & Sex Therapists in the country, who now works with some of the biggest celebrities and notable figures. Additionally, she is a published author and has actually been the leading voice/expert on how new types of technology (such as virtual reality adult entertainment) is a positive key factor for relationships and one’s personal health.
The Levity Ball sat down with Dr. Richmond to learn more about her career, experiences in New York and about the burning question we all have: What’s Next For Sex?!
1. You are a Somatic Psychologist and a Certified Sex Therapist… for those who do not know, what exactly is a somatic psychologist?
How I explain it is that I pay as much attention to the body as I do the mind. So, while I’m focused on what my patients are telling me, I’m also noticing their body language, and aspects of rigidity or laxity. One of my favorite questions to ask is, “What is your body saying that you cannot?” I’ll do a thorough assessment of chronic pain issues, injuries, surgeries, nervous system concerns, and especially anything that is getting in the way of pleasure in everyday life and with their individual and relational intimacy/eroticism.
2. You grew up in Finger Lakes near Rochester… did you always know you wanted to work with people and become a therapist?
Not even close! Although it’s interesting when I go through my book collection from over the years, there are a ton on psychology and sex! So maybe my gut knew and it just took a few decades for my head to catch up. I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a CIA agent, modeled some…and then I got real and became a journalist, and finally a psychologist and sex therapist. I am keeping this job!
3. We heard that you used to be a “Kodak Girl” and appeared on the billboards in Times Square… how was that experience?
It was surreal, to be sure. And it’s surreal now—I’m old and there’s basically no such thing as film anymore! I was a shy teenager so modeling pushed me a bit outside my comfort zone. Confidence wasn’t high on my list of attributes at that time either, so seeing myself on something that big didn’t really sink in. I remember standing in the middle of Times Square with my family looking at the Marriott marquis, and I was ready to move on way before they were. I thought, “Ok, that’s nice, let’s go.” The experience of shooting the photo was amazing though. Kodak rented a horse-drawn carriage for the “groom” and I, and we shot throughout Central Park and at The Plaza. Quite an event for a 17-year-old.
4. These days you work with a lot of celebrities and notable figures… Do you ever get star struck by some of your clients?
I am impressed and in awe of what they do, but my job is to be interested in who they are. So, no, I don’t think I get star struck. At the end of the day they are just people who need help and are brave enough to ask for it. I have immense respect for that given the prominent positions many of them are in.
5. You have offices in Southern California and the Portland, OR area, but you also offer tele-therapy and sexual health coaching nationally and internationally. How has technology changed your way of doing business and connecting with your patients?
It has changed everything. I know many therapists believe person–to–person therapy will be a hold-out and untouched by technology, but I categorically disagree. As more people learn about tele-therapy (via phone or a web-based platform like Skype) and how effective it is—and you don’t have to battle traffic—the more they are opting for it. The subtle anonymity a screen provides also helps some people, particularly sexual assault/abuse survivors I work with, to relax and open up more quickly. It takes getting used to, but the benefits are remarkable and I believe it’s the direction most therapies are headed.
6. Speaking of technology, you are strong advocate for new types of sexual pleasure through technology such as Virtual Reality (VR). Why is technology important to enhancing one’s sex life?
My first response is, because everyone’s using it anyway! That’s not going to change. People go online to meet many of their sexual needs, particularly self-pleasure. With this understanding, I think my responsibility as a sex therapist is to do my part in making the content better and the use of technology more effective. Technology is great in the sense that it normalizes sexual behaviors and preferences, and can be a good source of information for sex education. The big piece for me is distinguishing between entertainment and education. Almost all porn is entertainment—it’s not real life and people are not supposed to take it, or do it, literally. These are the Olympic athletes of sex. This is their job. It’s not most people’s. Enjoy porn for the entertainment and pleasure it offers, but don’t view it as education. The educational component is where the content needs to improve. With the emergence of VR, now is the time to make those changes.
7. You are writing a book about the new age of technology in relation to sex… what can readers expect?
My colleague, Stephen Duclos, and I are answering the question, “What’s next for sex?” We want to deliver a book that looks at the future of sex in a way that’s empowering, constructiv e, and potentially paradigm-sh ifting as we confront both societal trepidation and intrigue with thought-provoking insights. We’ll talk about VR, AI, teledildonics and sexbots. Yes, the sexbots are coming! We’ll present coherent explanations of these new technologies and provide solutions for how they can be used most effectively to benefit our sex lives, personally and relationally.
8. Working with so many types of different people, what are some of the more ‘unusual’ types of fetishes you have heard about?
This is a tricky one. In sex, there’s really no norm, or better put, variance is the norm. So, to say something is unusual just means that I don’t hear about it much. It in no way means it’s weird or wrong. Unusual is fascinating! People have body part fetishes or object fetishes that are compelling, such as elbows, tongues and rubber gloves. You’d more likely hear about shoes, boots, feet, leather and ears, to name a few. I actually really enjoy working with patients who have, what I consider, “artistic” fetishes like furries, cosplay and hentai. There is such an element of creativity with theses. Often, we’ll look into the etiology of these fetishes, but sometimes it just is what it is. You like elbows and Super Girl? Ok, you like elbows and Super Girl. The world isn’t going to stop spinning.
9. What is the best advice anyone has ever given you about life in general?
F**k it. Sarcasm there—come on, it’s my job to talk about it! I’m just trying to make the world a better place, one orgasm at a time. But, if you’re looking for something a bit deeper (see, it’s hard to talk without sexual euphemisms!) I’d say this: Bet on possibility, not probability. With probability, you know what you’re going to get, with possibility, there’s a risk but also the potential for great reward. Life is always worth the bet to me.
10. Why do you feel so many people in America are usually shy about talking about their sex lives or sexual things they like / are interested in?
Because it’s America. We were founded on puritanical values and patriarchy, and that takes a long time to change or shift. It’s very different in Europe and Australia. They have sex education (good sex education) at a young age, and that education continues at home. Parents aren’t afraid to talk about sex with their children. I wish we could change that here, because I believe that’s the foundation for how we feel about our own sexuality, as well as other’s. If we could transform the discourse from abstinence (don’t do it or you’ll catch something, get pregnant, etc.) to pleasure (you’re going to do it anyway, so here’s how to really enjoy yourself), we’d be so far ahead of the game.
11. And final question: What do you want to be remembered for?
Broadly, for being kind. Specially, for helping to change how we think about and talk about sex. Everything I do is based on this belief: All sex is good sex as long as it’s consensual and pleasurable. If we can take the judgement out of sex and sink into the pleasure, it will be a big, beautiful step into the future.
Learn more at: sexandthesoma.com