The Year in Clinical Sexuality, 2011

The Year in Clinical Sexuality, 2011

 December 26, 2011 As we get ready to leave 2011 behind, I would like as always to express my gratitude to family, friends and colleagues for your support and encouragement over the past year; and to my patients for your trust and confidence.   May we all merit much happiness in 2012. Here’s my list of 2011’s most interesting happenings in clinical sexuality and related disciplines. Vampire Lovemaking This year, in Twilight:  Breaking Dawn Part 1, Bella finally consummated her relationship with Edward, after three years of cinematic foreplay — and immediately ended up pregnant.  By the end of the movie, she’d become both a mom and a vampire.    Shows what can happen. In SexualityToday at the Movies:  Breaking Dawn, we continued the discussion of the “integrative” aspect of ordinary female desire that we began in Twilight and the Art of Foreplay and in The Nine Rooms of Happiness:  What Does a Woman Want? Elsewhere on the paranormal sexuality front, The NY Times Magazine featured a cover story on the new MTV series Teen Wolf —  “We Are All Teenage Werewolves.”  In Wolf Love in the New York Times, I discussed how the human-to-werewolf transformation works as a metaphor for sexual arousal — especially its primal, selfish aspect. Australian writer Katherine Feeney picked up on the idea in Unleashing the Animal Within.  And Cosmo ended up interviewing me for an article in the December issue entitled “The Fierce Sex Every Couple Should Try.”    Shows what can happen.   What Can Google Teach Us About Sexual Motivation? This year saw the publication of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, an interesting report on what must be the world’s largest...
Lessons from the World’s Largest Sex Experiment

Lessons from the World’s Largest Sex Experiment

Photo credit:  Pedrosimoes7,  via Creative Commons.   Mapping the Erotic Mind This year saw the publication of A Billion Wicked Thoughts, a book that among other things discusses its author’s independent analysis of 55 million sex-related Google searches. Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, the two computational neuroscientists who wrote A Billion Wicked Thoughts, appear to have had enough data to produce a decade or two of scholarly publications in the sexuality field — but instead decided to try to write a best-seller.   This so far has distracted people from the book’s rather new and interesting theory of human sexual motivation. I agree with the book’s critics who say the project is quite flawed.   But I believe it would be foolish to ignore the authors’ ambitious theory of sexual motivation, or their huge and unique set of data that supports it. I’ve attempted on these pages to place the work in cultural and scientific context, and to show its applicability to the practice of sex therapy.    It’s turned out to be a larger project than anticipated, and I still haven’t completed it.   But for anyone with the time and interest, here are the links so far: Part 1:  The Strange New Science Behind A Billion Wicked Thoughts “Heterosexual men generally suppress the impulse to stare at other men’s penises.   But on the internet — where no one but Google is watching — penises get looked at.   According to A Billion Wicked Thoughts, these men are simply responding to an ordinary male desire — to check out and admire the sexual anatomy of a man who is perceived as dominant or...
What Turns Men On, Really?

What Turns Men On, Really?

Fifth in a series of articles discussing A Billion Wicked Thoughts, a controversial new book by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam that uses the internet to study human sexuality in some new and unusual ways. Photocredit:  Pedrosimoes7 via Creative Commons   As Simple As It Gets “Wolfgang likes to look at images of female derrieres.  He prefers certain poses:  bent over, legs splayed, leaning on her knuckles.  He like these images so much that he is willing to pay for the privilege of looking at them.   Sometimes he pays several times a day.  This might seem excessive, though not exactly remarkable, except for one fact:  Wolfgang is a monkey.” — A Billion Wicked Thoughts, p. 23. Of course.  A monkey in an experimental lab, where his sexual preferences are being studied. Monkey or man, the phenomenon is instantly familiar, right?  We discussed the subject last year in these pages, in “Men and their computers, alone together.” The principal sexual cues for male humans,  just like for male monkeys, involve visuals of a prospective sexual partner’s anatomy.  The principal male sexual cues are anatomical, and visual.  Young and old, gay and straight, all around the world, men seem to want to look at body parts. Which parts? Both gay and straight men want to see something good in the chest area (breasts for straights,  pecs for gays), something appealing between the legs, and a good butt. In addition, straight men seem to have a thing for small feet.   Huh? Small feet? Sure, of course. Remember Cinderella?  A Billion Wicked Thoughts quotes psychologist Donald Symons:  “In the Cinderella folktales the prince is...
The strange new science behind “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”

The strange new science behind “A Billion Wicked Thoughts”

     A Shocking Discovery It’s not so unusual these days for a woman to discover pornographic pictures on her husband’s computer.  But the images that one wife found recently were especially shocking.  Her first thought when she found them was, “This is the end of our marriage.” Her next thought was, “This is the end of civilization.” The pictures were of nude women, ordinary looking women, except with big erect penises where their female genitals should be. Some were clearly computer-manipulated photographs.  Others seemed to be some kind of Japanese cartoon.  She’d wasted no time in calling her therapist. Was he gay? No. On the internet, there are enough images of real men with erections, in all possible guises and permutations, to satisfy even the most novelty-crazed gay man. Was his nature in some way secretly feminine?  Absolutely not.   Women don’t go looking for pictures of erect penises. A woman may appreciate it when a living, breathing male partner has become erect out of desire for her.   But only after he’s proven his worth in other ways. So what was the husband’s problem? When I polled colleagues, their response varied from “Never heard of it, but it sounds pretty sick,” to “Steve, you don’t get out enough. This kind of stuff has been around forever.”   Some Light on the Subject Last month I received an advance copy of a new book of sexual research, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, that explores the matter of women with erections and many other sexual subjects using an interesting new method. In the space of a single year, using publicly available data, authors Ogi Ogas...
The Perfect Vagina — Why is Genital Cosmetic Surgery Suddenly So Popular?

The Perfect Vagina — Why is Genital Cosmetic Surgery Suddenly So Popular?

  Detail from “Modesty,” by sculptor Jamie McCartney. Reproduced by permission of the artist. www.jamiemccartney.com   Why Are More Women Choosing to Have Genital Cosmetic Surgery? After viewing a recent Channel 4 film “The Perfect Vagina,” by British Documentary Director and Producer Heather Leach, I understood why. It’s the explosion in the last decade of print and online close-up images of young women with, in the words of the film, “hairless, neat, pink, tucked-in” genitals.   That and the fact that young women in everyday life are increasingly expected to go hairless as well. Young women’s pubic hair has been steadily disappearing over the past decade.  In a recent study by sex researcher Dr Debra Herbenick, 58.6% of young women sampled reported going hairless at least some of the time. Dr Herbenick tells me that among the college students she talks to, most do it by shaving.   Their slightly older counterparts in my Manhattan sex therapy office tend to do it by waxing.   It’s something many young men these days expect a woman to take care of.   Tight, Tucked, and Hairless In an earlier article, “Contemporary Sexuality and the Brazilian Wax,” I worried that this new standard of genital beauty was bad news for young women, who hardly needed another item on  their list of grooming rituals.   Or another part of their bodies to obsess about. As the film “The Perfect Vagina” shows, many of today’s newly-waxed young women don’t find their hairless vulvas very attractive.  Especially the inner lips of the vulva, the so-called labia minora.  These inner parts often protrude more than the “tucked-in” bits of porn...