A Psychologist and a Sex-Design Researcher Walk into a Bar…

I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with a Melbourne-based Sex-Design Researcher by the name of Victoria Cullen. Victoria is a Workshop Facilitator and Sex Educator at Passionfruit: The Sensuality Shop. She also lectures for RMIT University in the Future Sex Studio where she teaches students about consumer-centered design for sex products, aids and services. And, she has recently started a great sexuality blog called The Lubrarian.

So, when a Psychologist and a Sex-Design Researcher walk into a bar, what do they talk about? Here’s a little summary of our interesting chats.

1) Regulation of the Sex Toy Industry.

Victoria told me all about her passion to get the sex toy industry more regulated. At this point in time, health policies have not gotten into bed with the Australian sex toy industry and this means that toxic substances are commonly used in sex toys, and that sex toy marketing can make false and ludicrous claims with zero repercussions.

Victoria has some great ideas about advocating for greater regulation, although we both concede it will be a long road ahead – business is business of course.

2) Sexual Aids for Cancer Survivors.

Both Victoria and I are interested in the sexual needs of cancer survivors. For example, due to chemotherapy and radiation treatment, breast and gynecological cancer survivors often experience vaginal dryness and pain during sex. And prostate cancer survivors are often adjusting to erectile changes after treatment.

As well as psychological support, these groups can benefit from sexual aids and devices such as vaginal dilators/trainers to help with sexual pain, and vacuum pumps and penile bands/rings for erectile difficulties. But more design attention is needed in this space!

3) Common Barriers to Condom Use.

Victoria is working on a campaign to help bring awareness around the common barriers to condom use, and practical strategies to increase safer-sex practices.

We chatted about some of these common barriers to condom use:

  • Not knowing how to ask for condom use without “wrecking the mood”;
  • Finding it difficult to insist on condom use in the face of a sexual partner’s resistance;
  • Erection loss, difficulties ejaculating, less sexual pleasure with condoms;
  • Eroticising sex without condoms (e.g., “Sex is so much hotter/naughtier/sexy if we don’t use condoms”) rather than eroticising safer-sex (e.g., “I get to have hot and carefree sex with new people, and condoms make that possible!”);
  • Believing that sex is better without condoms;
  • Underestimating your personal risk of pregnancy or contracting an STI;
  • Trusting your sexual partner/s to take responsibility for your sexual health.

4) Sex Positive Research.

So often, research and guidance around sexual wellbeing and pleasure is based on information gathered from a clinical population – ie. people with sexual difficulties, people seeking treatment.

This is very important information, but it is equally valuable to gather information from people who are having a great time in bed. And people who have managed sexual challenges in positive and resilient ways. Victoria and I are both scheming up new research projects to look into people’s sex lives from a sex-positive and positive-psychology perspective.

So there you have it. A Psychologist and a Sex-Design Researcher walk into a bar and talk all things sex. No surprise.

Warm regards,

Dr. Alice Hucker

Clinical Psychologist


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