On male bisexuality — the Elle interview

On male bisexuality — the Elle interview

“I will dance with anybody. I’ve chased men and women. I like men and women both.”  —Boxer Emile Griffith, quoted in Sports Illustrated, 2005.   I’m not usually one to linger on obituaries, but this one held my attention all the way to the end:  The New York Times’ July 24, 2013 obituary of the 1960’s prizefighter Emile Griffith, during whose distinguished boxing career rumors apparently circulated that he was gay. Now at the time of his death a half century later, he is most remembered for having killed one of his opponents in the ring — a fellow boxer who had teased him about his sexuality. At the weigh-in before their 1962 match, his opponent Bennie “Kid” Paret had used a derogatory Spanish term to accuse Griffith of being homosexual.  In the 12th round, Griffith got even.  With his right fist pounding Paret’s head “like a baseball bat demolishing a pumpkin” according to ringside witness Norman Mailer, Griffith knocked his accuser unconscious.  Paret died 10 days later in the hospital from intracranial bleeding. Griffith maintained that he was bisexual — equally attracted to both men and women. But male bisexuality is a difficult label to make stick.  Even now when it’s reasonably safe in at least some parts of the developed world to be openly gay, and when female bisexuality is well recognized, there remains a great deal of skepticism about whether male bisexuality exists.   Many writers on the subject have wondered whether most self-identified male bisexuals are simply homosexual men trying to “have it both ways” — having sex with men while holding on to heterosexual privilege....
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...
Sexual Healing That Won’t Break Your Nose

Sexual Healing That Won’t Break Your Nose

  All things considered, the mental health profession comes off pretty well in this year’s new sex movie Hope Springs.  Marriage therapist and author Dr Bernard Feld, played by Steve Carell, is a fairly nice specimen by Hollywood standards. He’s likeable, intelligent, confident-but-not-a-shmuck, and commits no flagrant boundary violations.  You get the idea.   He’s an OK guy. He has one big problem, though — he’s a “destination therapist.”  Couples come to see him for a week of intensive marital work.  This has some obvious advantages, such as that the clients in his office aren’t too burdened by everyday concerns. The big disadvantage, though, of being a “destination therapist” is that you’re under time pressure.   This is a particular disadvantage when it comes to sex therapy. You see, the human sexual system doesn’t like working under pressure.   It’s naturally rebellious.  Put it under pressure, and it will be all too happy to disappoint.   In Hope Springs, Meryl Streep’s husband Arnold, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is a world-class passive-aggressive,  and hence is also happy to disappoint.  It would be hard to imagine a more reluctant therapy client. Dr Feld, trying to work quickly, chooses a forceful opening move.  He likens therapy to nasal surgery.   In order to open the breathing passages, one must first mobilize the bones of the nose by breaking them, then putting them back together. Surgical metaphors are rarely appropriate in psychotherapy.   And they’re virtually never appropriate in sex therapy.   Hit someone hard enough in such a sensitive place, and they’re not going to feel like making love. Feld’s forceful opening succeeds in knocking Arnold out...
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...
New York City Sex Therapy Diary:  Fifty Shades for Men

New York City Sex Therapy Diary: Fifty Shades for Men

OK, guys — By now you’ve probably noticed your wife or girlfriend has become more interested in sex since reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Have you thought of reading it yourself — to find out what all the fuss is about? I’m going to tell you a secret:  I read the whole thing.   All 3 volumes. It really isn’t so bad.  True, there are large sections devoted to clothes and shopping.  And the beginning of Volume 3 especially might make you feel like a prisoner at a crafts fair.  But there’s a lot a man can learn from Fifty Shades. Here are three lessons I think every man should absorb from this book.   1.   Be interested in sex. That doesn’t sound too hard, right?   Aren’t all guys interested in sex? Actually, no.   Not from a woman’s point of view.   You really have no idea what women go through to make themselves sexually appealing.    Women pay attention to every detail.   You take a woman out on a date, you can be sure that her hair, her skin, her outfit, even her shoes have all been studied very carefully. Christian Grey sweats the details in just that way.   He selects his clothes as a woman might — to highlight his best features.  And he makes sure he has great-smelling lotions and stuff in his (very clean) bathroom.   He’s interested in the whole sensory experience — the colors, the music — everything. Christian Grey is really interested in sex.   He has a whole room devoted to it.   OK, it’s full of implements of pain — whips and floggers and stuff.  ...