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...
Slow Sex in Manhattan

Slow Sex in Manhattan

“I want to know what became of the changes We waited for love to bring. Were they only the fitful dreams Of some greater awakening? –Jackson Browne, The Pretender   The cultivation of sexual mindfulness One rainy Friday afternoon in mid-summer, I traveled uptown to speak with Nicole Daedone, a former professor of semantics who now devotes herself full-time to teaching what must be one of the world’s most curious mindfulness techniques. At Daedone’s OneTaste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco, and at workshops she conducts around the world, practitioners gather together to do “Orgasmic Meditation” (“OM for short”) —  a simple technique, really, but an odd one. OM is done in pairs.   In OM, a woman undresses from the waist down, lies on her back and receives direct clitoral stimulation from her (male or female) partner for fifteen minutes.   Not to achieve sexual climax necessarily, though that might occasionally happen.   Rather, just to practice sexual mindfulness for its own sake. That’s it.   That’s OM. So why is this strange practice  suddenly so popular?   And why is Daedone’s book, Slow Sex:  The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm currently getting 4 and 1/2 stars on Amazon?   Sex in the 21st Century Daedone’s work arrives at a curious point  in modern sexual history. With erotica flooding the internet, sex has become pretty much just another consumer commodity.   Most Americans today are either overworked (not particularly conducive to good sex, which requires leisure) — or else unemployed (DEFINITELY not conducive to good sex).   Many young people’s experience of sex seems to involve drunken...
Eros, Spirituality, and Crying During Sex

Eros, Spirituality, and Crying During Sex

Most recent in a series of articles  and interviews based on the new book Slow Sex by Nicole Daedone.   This is article 4 in the series.   My fellow sex journalist Tracy Clark-Flory was a guest at one of  Nicole Daedone’s weekend retreats  for women at Le Meridien in San Francisco last year.   One of the events was a live demonstration of Daedone’s technique of what she calls Orgasmic Meditation (OM) with a female volunteer.  (See references 1-3 below) During this public OM session, the volunteer apparently experienced one or more sexual climaxes, accompanied by loud vocalization. Writing later about the experience for Salon, Clark-Flory described the experience as having been “both arousing and deeply bizarre.” She also noted that during the demonstration two women in the audience were silently crying. I’m not surprised that Clark-Flory found the experience arousing, or bizarre.  But I’m disappointed she didn’t inquire more why those two audience members were crying. I would love to have asked them.   My guess? These women were crying because the scene, strange as it was, touched something profound inside them.   Not unlike what might cause one to cry during especially satisfying sex. Say what one will about Daedone, one must credit her with having followed an intuition that there is something profound about deeply felt sexual desire. Peak desire involves a sense of specialness, of connectedness, even of sacredness, that shares something with peak religious experience.  It’s not hard to imagine eros and spirituality sharing some special part of the human self. In her book Slow Sex, Daedone writes about her clients coming in saying that they’re...
Why Fifty Shades Leaves Women Wanting More

Why Fifty Shades Leaves Women Wanting More

Can’t Fail Sex Recipe for Erotic Romance 5 cups Twilight 1 cup Marquis de Sade 3 cups raw sex — finely diced Yield:    Fifty Shades of Grey   Two virgins It’s well known that Fifty Shades of Grey began as a work of “Fan Fiction” published online, closely based on Twilight.    The resemblance between Twilight and Fifty Shades is indeed striking. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Fifty Shades is loaded with graphic sex, while the Twilight characters never saw each other naked until volume 4.   The romantic and erotic ingredients of Twilight are closely copied in Fifty Shades. Like Twilight’s Bella, Fifty Shades’ Ana Steele is a sexual and romantic tabula rasa — a virgin in the purest sense of the word.   Ana has never before felt sexual attraction, never been in love, never masturbated, and never had an orgasm. Like Bella, she comes from a silent, unexpressive father and a childlike, disorganized mother who have long since divorced — and from whom she can expect very little. In an interesting twist, given what’s usually assumed about the importance of women’s social networks, both heroines are fairly solitary.  They are bookish creatures, somewhat out of step with the popular crowd. The emotional solitude of the female lead has been a  staple of the romance genre since Pamela in 1740. Twilight and Fifty Shades are no exception.   As discussed earlier on these pages, there’s something compelling about virgins locked in towers.   (More on that later.)   Team Christian Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey is a near-clone of Twilight’s Edward.  Like Edward, Grey is uber-sophisticated, plays the piano...
Sex Therapy NYC: Fifty Shades of Grey

Sex Therapy NYC: Fifty Shades of Grey

 One Quiet Night   It is 22 year old Anastasia Steele’s first night alone with Seattle billionaire sex-god Christian Grey,  in his high-tech mansion in the sky. Page 85.  She is about to experience sexual climax, for the first time in her life.  Let’s hear her tell it — “Let go, baby,” he murmurs.  His teeth close around my nipple, and his thumb and finger pull hard, and I fall apart in his hands, my body convulsing and shattering into a thousand pieces.   He kisses me, deeply, his tongue in my mouth absorbing my cries. Oh my.  That was extraordinary.  Now I know what all the fuss is about. “You are very responsive,” he breathes.  You’re going to have to learn to control that . . .” Huh?  Learn to control WHAT?   Her responsiveness? Why?  It’s not his body — it’s hers.  Who made him the boss?   Of Human Bondage Welcome to the world of Fifty Shades of Grey Where the hero and heroine’s first kiss consists of his attacking her in an elevator, pinning her to the wall with her arms over her head. Where she falls in love with him despite his informing her that he can’t stand to be touched or to sleep in the same bed with her. The book’s hero, Christian Grey, is a Dominant.   He loves her, but he can’t be satisfied unless he’s forcing his will upon her. Doesn’t seem very appealing, does it?  So why are hundreds of thousands of women hurrying to read this book? Well, for one —  it’s sexy.  Very sexy.    Many American women are crediting the book...