Interview with Vânia Beliz, Psychologist and Master in Sexology

​Do you consider the Portuguese people as more acknowledged now on the concept of sexuality?
Yes, sure. Even though there is still much unawareness and many taboos left to demystify. The Portuguese people are still very much embarrassed to talk about their intimacy or to look for help to solve any challenge or problem.
Sexual education still stumbles upon many obstacles and in school all attention still goes essentially, with a somehow negative perspective over sexuality, to the dangers of pregnancy and infections. There isn’t much or any space to talk about pleasure. There’s still a long way to go.

Do you think today’s adolescents and young adults are more prepared to start their sexual life than previous generations were?
I believe they have all the resources for that. Sexual education, although still mainly focused on reproductive health, is a gateway to clarification, but most can’t even do it within their families.
Internet access frequently poses a disadvantage, since the information that can be found is not reliable.
Which are the biggest dangers of anal sex and why has its practice gone up? Are foreplay and vaseline means that have helped to dilute the resistances to its practice?
Anal sex doesn’t offer any danger if the couple is aroused and if proper lubricants are used alongside other cautions.
Of course foreplays help to relax appropriately, and state of the art lubricants replace the old vaseline tube. Today we have silicone base lubricants, which assure a more effective lubrication…
There is still the need for some cautions in the practice of anal sex. For example, as far as penetration goes, for a heterosexual couple there shouldn’t be a direct shift from the anus to the vagina, as bacteria can cause other complications.

What are the biggest mistakes made on porn movies?
In my opinion, it’s the banalization of sex and of the woman role. The nonexistence of condoms, the illusion that everything provides never-ending pleasure and the lack of foreplays… There is a lot of phoniness in pornography, even the shooting angles can magnify a least endowed penis by several centimeters.

Do you think bad habits and porn actors and actresses mistakes can have a negative influence on who’s watching?
Yes, of course. Some scenes are absolutely surreal and cannot lead to any pleasure, but only serve to visually arouse without teaching much in reality.

In your opinion would it be feasible to create pornography aimed at teaching and helping couples, individuals, …?
Yes, of course. We all have to understand that every person is unique though, and what excites and pleasures one person may not work for another.

Which are the most frequent questions you get in your consults?
Women look me up mainly with questions linked to desire and challenges reaching orgasm. Men are more concerned with performance and being able to extend erections for longer and making it more effective.
Usually, the common man laughs at the questions on the sexology page of the Vidas do Correio da Manhã and Maria magazines, amongst others.
Is there any sense in the deprecation endorsed by most Portuguese or is this a way of showing how much of a taboo sexuality still is?
There are many questions revealing a lot of ignorance and we should respect it, even when it comes as a surprise.
There are many ways to enlighten others and very different target audiences.
There are still people who think they can get pregnant by wiping themselves to a towel previously used by a man, or that they can get pregnant in the tub because sperm moves around in aquatic environments. The most important thing is to gradually demystify certain doubts, what is not always easy.

Where did this interest and will to work in sexology come from, to end up choosing this as your expertise area?
I’ve always been interested in the sexology field and I remember myself as always having much curiosity in figuring out how did it all work, even though I had a very conservative education.
I had a hard time with my family when I chose the specialization degree and some people judged me when I started working with erotic material and showing up on TV.
Have you ever experienced not being able to clarify someone, even after trying a myriad of explanations, with drawings and all?!
I cannot guarantee that people will always understand, but I always try to do everything so that those who come to me leave as clear as possible. That is my main goal.
I would like to do much more. If I could I would work exclusively in this area, but so far that hasn’t been possible. I really enjoy group work in the clarification area and that is why I’m starting a new project, which will allow me to reach a much wider number of people. I can’t wait.

Is there still much obliviousness about the use of condoms, lubricants, or how to perform sexually with the partner?
Yes, unfortunately… There are still those who think of the condom as an enemy and of lubricants as only meant for menopause… Both should be conversation topics much sooner. Condoms are taken to school but there is rarely a real approach to the importance of lubricants and an explanation to when it might be needed.
It’s a shame that there are still many women who don’t have a gratifying sexual life because they don’t know such thing exists. There should be a lubricant on every nightstand…

How as the work carried out in the Salões Eróticos been? How did this cooperation start? As it been going well? Is there a positive result in terms of teachings to the general public?
I’m no longer working in the Salões. It was an important experience. I had contact with very different realities and had the opportunity to clear many people who were very welcoming.
It was an experience with some unique moments, and it taught me a great deal. There were people from different fields, from the porn actress to the prevention groups. Unfortunately the concept didn’t evolve and I didn’t want to be linked to the content that in my opinion became too ordinary. Sex deserved more.

What do you think of your participation in Curto Circuito?
Curto Circuito made me aware of the new generation real doubts and concerns.
I enjoy very much doing television and the way in which it reaches people. I can’t wait to get back.

What is your opinion concerning the high number of divorces in Portugual? What can we do to decrease this number or to make relationships more stable?
We should stop selling the happily-ever-after story… Nowadays people are demotivated. There are serious problems burdening families and intimacy is certainly disturbed by it.
Is it not easy to feel desire when we worry about basic things, as not having enough money to take our child to the doctor or to feed him.
Credit crush aside I believe nowadays couples don’t settle any longer for an unhappy life, and when something goes wrong they easily pack their bags and leave. Nevertheless I think we should always try to do everything we can to work out and find solutions to avoid putting an end on the relation.
In my opinion divorce and breaks are most of the times drained out relation symptoms, not to talk about all the frustration that comes from a failing investment.

How do you see the contrast between national porn and international porn?
There’s good and bad in every thing. We aren’t neither better nor worse than most of the porn out there. Unfortunately, even though there are some very interesting foreign projects, as is Erika Lust’s direction work, the truth is that no-quality porn still sells a lot… Here and abroad.
Do you know the Red Zone Danish program, Academia do Sex in Portuguese? If so, did you watch it? Could it work in Portugal?
For it to work it would have to be done on a much different format, I believe. We aren’t yet ready for it. It would definitely need to be done very carefully and the content could never be as explicit. There would have to be a very natural atmosphere and approaching sex as such could lead to a wrong interpretation.
There are colleagues who have opened the way but there’s a lack of people investing in this area. I don’t think this format could work but other typologies could be very interesting.

For The Pleasure Genesis
Interview by: Pedro Marques
Translation and correction by: Paulo Pereira

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