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.
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 sex experiment — an analysis of 55 million sex-related Google searches. The book has a new and rather interesting theory of human sexual motivation, but the theory gets lost in its popular book format.
As I wrote in The Simple, the Complex, and the Still-Forbidden, A Billion Wicked Thoughts hasn’t had an easy time in print so far. The New York Times Book Review assigned the book not to a sex researcher but to a cultural critic, Wesley Yang, who called it a “farrago.” And most sex therapists I’ve spoken to so far have been unwilling to read it.
I’ve argued that it would be foolish to ignore the book’s’ ambitious theory of sexual motivation, or the huge and unique set of data that supports it. I’ve attempted, in a series of articles loosely based on A Billion Wicked Thoughts, 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 one I still haven’t completed. But for anyone with the time and interest, Lessons from the World’s Largest Sex Experiment contains the links to the series of eleven articles I’ve written so far on the subject.
It’s still politically tricky to discuss the ordinary differences in sexual psychology between men and women. Yes, I know, there’s lots of intra-gender diversity as well. But that doesn’t make the inter-gender differences less important.
So I was pleased recently to find that Dr Meredith Chivers’ Sexuality and Gender Laboratory (Sagelab) at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, a leading center for research into gender differences, has also taken up the challenge of communicating the results of this new research to the public – both on the web and on twitter. That’s good company, and good news for the rest of us working in this politically slippery area.
Male Sexuality and Men’s Relationships
Even now, 13+ years since Viagra was introduced, few people understand the physical/psychological complexities of male sexual arousal. In Diary of a Manhattan Sex Therapist: The Other Side of Saturday Night we discussed some of the psychological issues in younger men with erectile dysfunction (ED.)
The past year saw publication of two important professional articles highlighting the risk of sexual side effects from the chemical finasteride, used in the hair-loss medication Propecia and the prostatism medication Proscar. In Diary of a Manhattan Sex Therapist: Propecia, and Another Look at Sex and Propecia we discussed the common and often devastating side effects that can occur in men who take finasteride.
Premature Ejaculation (PE), the most common sexual problem in young men, still gets surprisingly little publicity despite the significant impact it has on men and their partners. Johnson&Johnson’s PE drug Priligy (dapoxetine) was rejected by the FDA in 2006, but has been approved in many other countries now worldwide.
Will the FDA be considering Priligy again? It doesn’t seem imminent. In the meantime, men seeking medication for PE can be treated off-label with any of the Prozac family of so-called SSRI’s (Priligy is just a short-acting SSRI). But until a medication is specifically approved for PE here, few MD’s in the US will be motivated to become skilled in doing this kind of treatment.
Take a look at 2010’s The Latest News About Premature Ejaculation. Not much has changed since then.
Monogamy and Near-Monogamy
Problems with monogamy continue to fascinate modern readers. In the wake of the Anthony Weiner episode, The Search for Sexual Sanity Continues discussed the controversy over how to evaluate and treat what one might call “Impulsive/Compulsive Courtship Behavior.”
Is strict monogamy often not worth the emotional cost? That’s the opinion of Dan Savage, quoted in Mark Oppenheimer’s Married, with Infidelities in The New York Times. In What’s So New About the New Non-monogamy? and Still Further Along the Road Less Traveled, we responded to the Oppenheimer piece, as did Ross Douthat, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, and many others.
Sex at Dawn, whose lead author Christopher Ryan has claimed that monogamy for humans is about as natural as a Big Mac and fries (and about as healthy), continues to be the decade’s most interesting and talked-about sex book, and clinched the Society for Sex Therapy and Research‘s Consumer Book Award for 2011.
Will Sex at Dawn influence sex therapy? Well, at least it might increase our empathy for people who find monogamy particularly difficult.
We reviewed the related book Bonobo Handshake by Vanessa Woods in Sex in the Wild, discussed some of its implications for our era in Empathy’s Magic, and ventured a bit into the evolutionary psychology debates with Eros, Thanatos, and Sunday Afternoon.
Technology, Sex, and Relationships
The most interesting sex article of the year, in my opinion, was Jonathan Franzen’s New York Times article about the sensual charms of his new Blackberry device.
As Franzen notes, electronic machines can now supply some of the self-affirmation that humans have traditionally only been able to obtain though intimate relationships. He writes, “our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful . . . a world so responsive to our wishes as to be, effectively, a mere extension of the self.”
In the past, one of the few ways an adult could experience this kind of automatic, effortless self-affirmation was through the magic of really good sex. But that’s no longer entirely the case. As I discussed in Eros and Technology, Franzen’s essay alerts us to the still-difficult “problems of actual love” – including the challenge of relating long-term to someone who, unlike a piece of electronic equipment, was not designed specifically to meet our needs.
What’s ahead for sex and relationships in 2012?
For the sake of my many patients with adult ADHD who keep asking me for reading materials (OK, it’s usually their spouses who ask for the reading materials), I’d like to continue the series on adult ADHD that began with ADHD, Marriage, and the New York Times, Alvin? Alvin? Alviiin!!!!, and Dr Laura Muggli on ADHD in Women — plus deliver my long-promised reviews of The ADHD Effect on Marriage, and Is It You, Me, or Adult ADHD?
Plus we’ll continue the series on sex therapy fundamentals that began with Some Open Secrets About Sexual Arousal, Sexuality, Simmering, and the B Train Back From the Beach, and Sexual Arousal for its Own Sake.
That’s assuming nothing else comes along in 2012 to distract us. A dubious assumption, I know.
Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD 2011
New York City