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Merryl Sloane is a sex empowerment coach and adult sex educator. Raised in New York, Sloane moved to Tucson in 1998, six years after she started her coaching practice. She offers individual coaching, consulting, seminars, workshops, support groups and an advice column.

How did you get into this line of work?

When I started being curious about sex, it started as a self-help thing. I had had two relationships that were incredibly wonderful, loving and successful from all outward appearances, but they didn't have the passion that I wanted. When the second one ended, I said: I am the common denominator. There is something I am not understanding about this thing we call sex. And so I started doing all kinds of research. I went to other people's classes; I read; I attended workshops. Then people started asking me to lead discussion groups. Then they started asking me to lead seminars É and it happened more and more. So I decided to see if I could help more people get to the place that I got.

What does your work entail?

My job is to help people have the greatest sex that they can imagine. I don't have an agenda about what the greatest sex is. What I want is for each person to decide for him or herself what their greatest sex is. You just have to be clear on what you want and express it, ask for it, learn how to do it well and safely. I believe that every adult human is capable of having great sex.

So how do we achieve that?

What I keep encouraging people to do is to do their own self-discovery. And then, once they start to learn about themselves, we practice speaking it out loud. If you don't say what it is you desire because you don't know, or because you are afraid, you are going to get whatever that person thinks, which may be what you like--(or) it may not be.

Who do you work with?

I work with people of all sexual orientation. I work with gay couples, lesbian couples, heterosexual couples. I work with trans people. É I believe all of us deserve a vibrant sexuality. I don't have any judgment about it at all, as long as people are telling the truth, they're being respectful of each other and they come with a good heart. I don't like cheating; I don't like lying. I think that faking orgasms is totally counterproductive. How is anybody going to learn how to do it if you fake it?

So why do people fake it?

My clients tell me a couple of things. One is that they are bored and they just want it to be done, which is just heartbreaking. The other is that they don't want to hurt the feelings of their partner. I have men who fake orgasms, too.

What other problems do couples have?

Boredom is the No. 1 thing. People think their sexuality is this very small thing. Instead, I think our sexuality is this huge thing. There are a lot of people who are formulaic--you do this, you do this, boom, you're done. I think the second biggest problem I see is shame--that if people have acknowledged that they don't want what's in the little box, they're afraid to say it, because they think they will get ridiculed.

What are the most common misconceptions about sex?

I think the No. 1 incorrect assumption that all people make is that all men respond the same and all women respond the same. That question of "tell me how to make love to a woman" is absurd. It's preference; it's taste. That across-the-board is the first thing that I want people to stop thinking--that what I did with one lover is going to work with another lover. Once you stop assuming that, it makes a huge difference.

Are there any other common mistakes?

The biggest mistake men make is that they move too fast. The average American man has an orgasm within two to four minutes of direct stimulation. The average American woman needs 20 minutes of stimulation. Doesn't that explain a lot?

Yes. So foreplay is important then.

I don't actually like the word foreplay. Because I think from the minute you start being intimate, you're having sex. It's just different kinds of sex. The goal is not orgasm; the goal is an intimate, creative, joy-filled experience. Sex starts now, and then it just keeps on going. Where it ends up is up to you.

What else do you want to teach people?

The biggest thing that I want to communicate is that each individual human has different sexual desires, different preferences and different responses, and it's not wrong. It's just different. We don't have to be alike. We're not alike. All we have to do is find a space that works for both of us.

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