NYC Sex Therapist Earns “New York Magazine Best Doctors” Spot for 3rd Consecutive Year

NYC Sex Therapist Earns “New York Magazine Best Doctors” Spot for 3rd Consecutive Year

  In the end, your patients’ opinions are the only ones that really matter. But when you’re a sex therapist, your patients tend for obvious reasons not to thank you in public.  So one relies on the judgment of colleagues. In New York City, the central clearinghouse for colleagues’ opinions has for many years been the New York Magazine Best Doctors issue, published each year in June.  After 25 years in the trenches, my time finally came in June 2012.     In 2013, it happened again.       Now that it’s happened 3 times in a row, it’s clear I have a lot to live up to. It’s my honor again to be listed together with distinguished colleagues Harold Bronheim, Joseph Goldberg, and Deborah Marin from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt Sinai, as well as with colleagues Jesse Rosenthal and Todd Feinberg from the newly-established Mt Sinai Beth Israel.  And a special honor to again be listed together with my longtime Mt Sinai colleague sex and infertility urologist Natan Bar-Chama. There’s only one small problem:  the crying baby on the cover.  According to the caption, the baby is just-delivered Baby Emilie.  Looks as if she’s doing just fine. But people consulting a physician for the first time about sexual problems tend to be fairly anxious. I worry if I put her image on my office wall (as we New York doctors tend to do), that it won’t do much to help them relax. Well, at least it will be a reminder of what can happen as a result of good sex! Thanks again to my...
Can a man make love like a woman?

Can a man make love like a woman?

Sex therapist in the ‘hood  Several years ago, a merchant in my neighborhood learned that I was both an MD and a sex therapist.  The next time I was in his shop, he asked me if I could get him some Viagra. “How long have you had erection problems?” I asked. “I don’t,” he answered.  “But my wife and I have been married for 30 years.   To tell you the truth, sometimes I’m too tired or preoccupied to get hard without the Viagra.” What was this man’s problem, exactly?   He wanted to have sex with his wife, even though he wasn’t feeling that strongly turned on.    Evidently there were other reasons he wanted to do it. Sound familiar?  Of course:   He wanted to make love like a woman.   Things women take for granted about sex Women can have sex with their partners any time they want.  They don’t have to be very excited.  Sure, some lubricant might be required, especially over 50.  But the absence of peak excitement isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. A woman can make love for other reasons besides strong desire.  To feel close, or emotionally connected to her partner.  To promote loving feelings.   Or just for the simple pleasure of the experience.   Even occasionally to keep a partner happy even though she might be too tired or preoccupied to be really into it.   A useful book on the subject calls it “Good enough sex.” One wouldn’t want ALL one’s sex experiences to be like this.  But once in awhile it’s OK.   Especially if the alternative is not to make love at all.   If there’s one thing that sex research repeatedly shows about successful long-term couples, it’s that they keep having sex even when if...
Sex therapist at the Academy Awards:  Helen Hunt in The Sessions

Sex therapist at the Academy Awards: Helen Hunt in The Sessions

    A Strange Thing, Mystifying How many of you saw The Sessions?  Good – I see some hands. Did it lead to much discussion?  Well it didn’t in my house either. And in the popular press the same thing.  A few early reviews saying it was very moving, and well done.  Then nothing more. A movie about a severely disabled man — the poet Mark O’Brien — who enlists a sex surrogate to help him experience physical passion, and about the emotional and religious complexities (he’s Catholic) that ensue.    It would seem this film would prompt endless discussion, with so many possible points of entry. But it didn’t.  Everyone agreed that the film was “very moving,” but no one seemed to have much to say about it. Maybe it’s that The Sessions involved things we’ve learned to keep quiet about —  such as that the world might be a better place if we could all give and receive sexual pleasure a whole lot more freely.   Such an idea of course generally meets with polite silence.   Even in our sex-saturated times, sexual surrogacy as a profession still hardly dares speak its name. Or maybe that’s not it.   Perhaps it’s something else.  Maybe the movie prompts feelings that are simply too difficult to express with words.  That wouldn’t be surprising — given how sexuality reaches into the most primitive parts of our minds.  Maybe we’d all really love to talk about this movie, but we lack the necessary vocabulary. Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the artist who shows his work at a gallery opening.   Someone comes up to him and...
Before the last word is said about Fifty Shades

Before the last word is said about Fifty Shades

Here’s a question: Does anyone have any idea why Fifty Shades of Grey has sold so many millions of books? I’m asking because in all that I’ve read about this book, I haven’t seen one mention of what it’s really about.  And why it’s been such a runaway success. Is it because of the explicit sex scenes? (No, I don’t think so.) Is it because of the BDSM? (Not likely.) No, the reason Fifty Shades has captivated so many American women is this: It’s a book about impossible love – made possible by courage, persistence, and luck. Just like Twilight: A young woman falls in love with a vampire.  Impossible.  But they make it work. In Fifty Shades a young woman falls in love with a deeply damaged man who is a sexual dominant.   He needs a submissive woman, and he’s had many such women.   But he hasn’t been able to fall in love with any of them.  So he’s deeply lonely. He meets the heroine, who of all the women he’s met, does not have a submissive bone in her body.    So it’s impossible. She too has never been in love before. But by the end of Volume 1, she has against her will fallen deeply in love with this tormented man.   In the first book . . . At the very end . . .  in a moment of profound tenderness, she tells him she loves him.  His response is brief.  “Oh, no,” he says. She leaves his place immediately, goes home, falls on her bed and is wracked with sobs.  She is broken. Except...
Sexless in Nebraska:  Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs”

Sexless in Nebraska: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs”

  A strange thing, mystifying In this new movie, Tommy Lee Jones plays an Omaha accountant named Arnold who won’t have sex with his wife — Kay, a sixty-something Everywoman played by a very likeable Meryl Streep. No sex, no physical attention, minimal eye contact, separate bedrooms.  The marital estrangement combination platter – with fries. True to life?  Absolutely.  It would be awfully nice if this were just a Hollywood dramatization.   But in fact it happens all the time in real life. Now what, one might ask, would cause Hope Springs’ Arnold to hang a “no trespassing” sign on himself, especially with such a nice woman as Kay for a wife?   The answer is surprisingly simple.  (Skip the following if you’re about to see the movie).   True to life Years ago, it turns out, Kay was feeling unhappy that Arnold wasn’t more fully involved during sex — that he seemed “ to want it, but not me.”   (True to life?   Absolutely.  It’s one of the more common complaints among married women in my sex therapy office.) Frustrated that Arnold wouldn’t listen when she tried to express how she felt, Kay briefly withheld sex, hoping to get his attention.  The plan backfired.  Feeling criticized and hurt, Arnold too went on strike.  Permanently. Before I became a sex therapist, I would have thought this incredible.  Now I find it utterly believable.  It’s the kind of emotional stalemate that often happens to individuals who can’t express themselves very well.   That includes a lot of folks. But notice something:  Even though the problem involves sex, it’s not really ABOUT sex. It’s...