The Year in Clinical Sexuality, 2012

How are they ever going to make this into a movie?

This year Fifty Shades of Grey flashed 1,2 and 3 on the New York Times bestseller list all summer long — only to pretty much disappear from the national consciousness with the arrival of Fall.    While it lasted, though, FiftyShades spawned a magazine,  a Katie Roiphepiece in Newsweek, a party game, and a great deal of attention among the commentariat regarding whether or not the book was a good thing for womankind.

A fan fiction spin-off of Twilight, FiftyShades generated a host of questions, such as —

“Is it an accurate portrayal of BDSM?”

“Why do women tend to get excited about the same thing as their friends?”

“How could Drew Pinsky have the temerity to discuss it on TV without reading it first?” and

“Should men read it, and why?”

No question about FiftyShades, though, got nearly as much attention as “Who will be cast as Christian Grey in the movie?” Would it be Ian Somerhalder?   Miley Cyrus’ fiancee Liam Hemsworth?  Or some other young man with a buff bod and a winning smile?

In the sex therapy world (especially after the FDA’s rejection of Boehringer-Ingelheim’s desire drug flibanserin)  many hoped the book would be of some benefit for low-desire couples.    Initial reports seemed promising, but the final verdict was expressed best by  HuffPo’s Julie Gerstenblatt, who wrote  — “My friends and I read the books and enjoyed them and experienced a momentary spike in our marital sex lives (‘for like a week,’ as my friend Kate said, rolling her eyes) and then we got bored.”

Guess these things are only useful while they’re hot.

As Fifty Shades crested and faded, we took one last look back and  asked the question, “What was that all about?” We concluded that the book’s nice ride on the bestseller lists probably wasn’t much due to to the kinky sex at all (though that certainly kept things moving — in between the descriptions of expensive gifts and designer kitchens.)

It was that Fifty Shades, like Twilight before it, showed people risking it all for the sake of  romantic love.   THAT story has been fascinating listeners since the dawn of language.


More on sex and love and magic

It was an interesting year for lovemaking in the movies.   The popular cinema broke some fresh ground with a story of one woman’s fight to resuscitate her sexless marriage in Hope Springs.   As I wrote in “Sexless in Nebraska,” Tommy Lee Jones’ portrayal of her passive-aggressive husband was unfortunately quite true to life.  As any sex therapist can attest.

The Sessions, which curiously passed without too much notice, told the story of sex surrogate Cheryl Cohen Green’s work with the severely disabled poet Mark O’Brien.   I felt bad about missing the chance to discuss The Sessions on these pages.   Seems before I could turn around, the film’s moment had passed.

Even if the movie doesn’t get any Oscar nominations, I’ll try to come back to it in 2013.   The Sessions had a lot to say — about sex, about love, and about courage.

This year we spent some time speaking with Slow Sex author Nicole Daedone, a former professor of semantics who’s become internationally famous for her workshops in what she calls Orgasmic Meditation (OM), a technique for cultivating the ability to truly pay attention during sex.

Paying attention during sex is not always a simple matter — as anyone can attest who has ever reviewed their shopping list during lovemaking.   Daedone’s work, though not for the squeamish, has some important things to teach us about the potential for erotic experience to be life-enhancing.  Even transformative. See “Slow Sex in Manhattan” for a beginner’s guide to Daedone’s work.

In 2012 I was named to New York Magazine’s  Best Doctors list, along with several colleagues from sex therapy, men’s health, psychiatry, and Mt Sinai School of Medicine.    It has been an honor to be included in such distinguished company.

This year saw the passing of one of New York City’s best doctors of all time — Daniel Stern, MD — a psychoanalyst who contributed ground-breaking research on the psychology of infants and young children.

We have long been occupied on these pages with the idea that good sex involves a regression to pre-verbal states of mind charged by recollections of very early infantile experience.  The occasion of Stern’s passing provided a fresh opportunity to think again about what gives love its magic — a topic I hope to return to frequently on these pages.

As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to thank the many friends, colleagues, and supporters who have contributed to the ideas expressed here.

And as always I would like to express my sincere appreciation to my patients, for your trust and confidence.

Together may we merit much happiness in 2013.


stephen snyder md author photo Stephen Snyder, MD

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