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A Farewell to a great man


Dear sex fans,

I realize this is a bit off topic for this blog, but I want to acknowledge the death of famed British neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks.

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City.

In February, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

Earlier this summer I read Dr Sacks’s memoir, On the Move.  I love it.  It’s an interesting memoir by a fascinating personality.  And while reading I discovered that we had a dear friend in common, Thom Gunn.  What a small world!  So I decided to send him a note.

Dear Dr Sacks,

I just finished reading your memoir, On The Move.  What an amazing life you’ve lived.on-the-move-by-oliver-sacks

Of all the marvelous things you’ve done and all the fascinating people you mentioned in your book nothing surprised me more than your close friendship with Thom Gunn.  I was a friend of Thom too and I lived directly across Cole Street from him.  I moved to the flat at 1207 Cole Street in 1979.  At the time I was working on my doctorate in clinical sexology at the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.

I didn’t know Thom well at first.  However, I would regularly see him walking both in our neighborhood and elsewhere in town.  He was always in his leathers, rain or shine, and used to think to myself, “What a mensch!”

It finally dawned on me that he lived across the street from me.

Once he saw me in my roman collar.  (I was ordained a catholic priest in 1975 at the age of 25 in Oakland, CA.  I had come out to my local superiors; I was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, before I was ordained.  Like I said, I was working on my doctorate to become a sex therapist and prepare for an upfront gay ministry.)  Thom smiled at me when he saw me; I blushed and told him what I just told you.  He was fascinated, but I also believe he thought I was a twit.  He probably was right.

I knew nothing about Thom other than he was my neighbor.  Then one day I was in a bookstore on Haight Street and there was a photo of Thom in the window advertising a reading.  That’s when I started asking around about him.  Despite his cult status within the gay community, he was the most unassuming person.  I was honored to have a personal connection with him.small_front

I finished my doctorate in 1981.  My dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance was directed by Wardell Pomeroy.  A firestorm of media attention followed.  The media branded me as THE gay priest, as if.  I think Thom read about me in the New York Times because next time he saw me he clapped me on the back and said, “Well done.”

No sooner did I complete my doctorate, and because of the media attention my public coming out caused, the leadership of my religious community in Rome began a process of dismissal against me.  I was devastated and lost.  I was even getting death threats.  Thom was always so supportive and encouraging.

I fought the church for the next thirteen years in an effort to save my priesthood and ministry.  Alas, the writing was on the wall back in 1981 and it was only a matter of time till they had their way with me.  I wrote about the travail in a book that was published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction of an Oblate Priest.

Thom was always so solicitous about my wellbeing.  He knew how difficult life had become for me.  And both of us found ourselves on the forefront of caring for friends who were dying of AIDS.  One of my landlords died in 1986.

Thom introduced my housemate and I to Augie Kleinzahler and his girlfriend, Caroline Lander, who lived only a few blocks from us in Cole Valley.  We all became great friends and copious amounts of strong drink were consumed.  I wonder, do you know Augie?

When Thom turned sixty I surprised him with a homemade German chocolate cake.  I told him he was the oldest person I knew.  This made him laugh and he called me a whippersnapper.

In 1992 the surviving landlord sold the Cole Street duplex and I and my housemate moved to Oak and Ashbury.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see Thom as much as before.  I move up here to Seattle in 1999 because I could no longer afford to live in SF.  I was deeply saddened to learn of Thom’s death in 2004.  He was such a great guy, what a marvelous soul.

Again, thank you for your memoir; it was grand getting to know you on a personal level.  I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat when it came out in the mid-eighties and loved it.  But I never guessed you and Thom knew each other or that you actually visited him when I lived across the street from him.  What a small world.  I wish I had known you back then.

Anyhow, thank you for the bringing me this unexpected flood of memories of Thom.  I wonder what he would have made of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges).  I contend that we got marriage equality only because we walked through AIDS first.  I think Thom would have agreed with me.

All the best,

Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS

To my astonishment, Oliver wrote back; I mean that literally, a handwritten note.  Apparently, he never used a computer.

Dear Dr. Wagner (can I say Richard?),                                                          6/60/15

I am greatly interested and greatly moved, by your letter — your courage in being honest and forthright, at a time and on a subject bound, sooner or later, to cause your ejection from the priesthood. In another few years perhaps, with Pope Francis at the helm, these last bastions of Catholic bigotry may have fallen.

I like to think of you as living across the street when I visited Thom, and glad to know that he appreciated you and your works. I still miss him deeply — there were not too many people with whim I could be entirely open — and I like to think that his ghost is pleased that my title came from his poem. (I find it a huge relief being open now to all and sundry {Oliver came out earlier this year} — I am so glad I completed my book before I became ill).

And what a liberation, an affirmation for us all that the Supreme Court voted as it did. I suspect that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, quite ill now, stayed on to ensure the 5/4 decision.

Thanks for your letter and my very best wishes,


Oliver Sacks01     Oliver Sacks02

Click on this link to see a copy of Oliver Sacks’s note.

Thank you Dr Sacks and farewell!

The Naughty & The Nice

Just in time for the holidays, here’s my Naughty and Nice list.




Happy Holidays!

Vatican Roulette

Name: Ricardo
Gender: Male
Age: 20
Location: Miami
I have understood that there is a certain period while women have their period that they can have unprotected sex without risk of getting pregnant, is this true? And if it is when is this period? After or before the PMS? And how long does it last? Thanks.

Nope, darlin’, there’s no such thing as a 100% foolproof, absolutely certain period in a woman’s menstrual cycle that she can have unprotected sex without the risk of gettin’ pregnant. This is a myth, and a mighty risky myth at that. If you’re considering this practice as an effective means of birth control, you’re playing Russian Roulette, or better Vatican Roulette, with your dick.

Ok so here’s the low-down on the rhythm method also known as “fertility awareness.” It is not a reliable way to prevent pregnancy for most people. Over 25% of couples that rely on the rhythm method to prevent pregnancy will accidentally conceive. Ya see, one has to be a freakin’ rocket scientist to use the rhythm method correctly and consistently. A woman is generally infertile around 10 days a month. Make one slight miscalculation on when that infertile period begins and you gonna be toast.

The rhythm method is dependent on the couple not have sex around the time of ovulation. But the trick is accurately determining precisely when ovulation happens. Couples can try to track this by using a calendar and a thermometer to measure body temperature. A woman’s temperature will rise a coupe of degrees just before ovulation. But very few women are as regular as clockwork. And lots of things, like stress, prescription medications, even antihistamines can throw a woman’s cycle of by a day or two. The fertile period around ovulation lasts 6 to 12 days. So absolutely no unprotected fucking during this period.

Even when used perfectly, the rhythm method is a highly ineffective means of avoiding a pregnancy. That’s because the methods formula makes several assumptions that are not always true. Sure, one can keep track of past menstrual cycles to predict the length of future cycles. However, the length of the pre-ovulatory phase can vary significantly, depending on a woman’s over all health. Like if for some reason she ovulates early, this will fuck up the rhythm method formula big time. The formula will indicate she is still infertile, when actually she is quite fertile. Look out!

The rhythm method also assumes that all vaginal bleeding is true menstruation. But that’s simply not the case. If you incorrectly identify the onset of menstruation, even by one day, you’ll render your calculations inaccurate. Again, you will be toast, pup.

And consider this, sperm can live in a woman’s reproductive system for up to 7 days. And fertilization may occur even days after fucking. I mean with risks like these, wouldn’t it be safer and easier just to slip on a condom?

If by chance you are trying to reconcile your religious indoctrination (the rhythm method is the only means of family planning embraced by the Catholic Church) and your youthful libido, you may be playing with fire. In the final analysis, it’s not only your life that’s on the line here. Think about it; wear a rubber.

Good luck

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Weighty Matters

Name: Seattle Guy
Gender: Male
Age: 27
Location: Seattle
Dr. Dick – Were you really a Roman Catholic priest? I’m Catholic – and trying to figure out where I stand sexually. I’d be gay in a second if I had confidence that was my authentic self. I’m definitely bi – somewhere in the middle. Anyway, have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality? But I guess I should ask, do you still believe in God? How did you find your way to producing porn? How does God figure in everything, in your opinion? Do you think a soul has a sexuality? Are these too many questions? Any response you have would be very appreciated!

Yes, Seattle Guy, you have way too many questions! But because you asked so nicely, I’ll do my best to answer each and every one. Because I’m such a friggin sweet guy.

“Were you really a Roman Catholic priest?” I were, I really were! I was a Catholic priest for 19 years. Technically I still am a priest, but I no longer practice in that capacity. Here’s a little known fact, I am the only Catholic priest in the whole wide world with a doctorate in Clinical Sexology. How about them apples?  That and a $1.50 gets me a ride on the bus.

I completed my doctorate with the publication of my thesis concerning the sexual attitudes and behaviors of gay Catholic priests in the active ministry in 1981. This was unprecedented research back then. Hell, it’s groundbreaking even now. Needless to say, there was a firestorm of international publicity upon publication. I was soon to be known as “The Gay Priest.” Like if I was the only one. This notoriety (some would say infamy) effectively ended my public priesthood. I fought the Vatican for the next 13 years, from 1981-1994, in an attempt to salvage my priesthood and ministry, but they would have none of it. I published a book about my ordeal, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest. It came out last summer. (Click on the title for more information about the book.)

I was kicked out of  the religious community I belonged to, but I was never defrocked. So, like I said, technically I’m still a man of the cloth. Scary huh? And what a difference 30+ years makes. The political climate in the church is even more repressive than it was in the early 80’s, but now openly gay men serve as priests all over the world. I can’t explain it either.

So you’re a Catholic too, OK. But you’re still (at 38) trying to figure out where you stand sexually. I’m not sure I know what that means. You say you’d be gay in a minute if you thought that was your authentic self. You’re bi for sure…somewhere in the middle. In the middle of what, may I ask? You’ll pardon me, darlin’, but you sound suspiciously like a mugwump. Do you know what that is? A mugwump is a fence-sitter, someone with his mug on one side and his wump on the other. The reason I say that is if your were authentically bi, you’d leave it at that, as do all authentically bi men.

“Have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality?” You betcha I have! But I have a completely different take on this then you apparently do. Ya see I would have phrased the question in the reverse. How does our sexuality fit into god? The way you have it, suggests that the infinite can fit into the finite. And this is precisely where most religious people go very, very wrong. We do god a disservice by trying to stuff the divine into the mundane.

My sexuality fits into god when I am honest and authentic with myself about who I am and acknowledge my insignificance in the greatness of creation, I fit into god when I honor my sexuality, when I celebrate it, when I give it as a gift. I do not fit into god when I am dishonest with myself, or others, when I falsely claim my own significance in the mind of god and when I belittle god with my pettiness and insecurity.

You’ll notice that I was careful not to mention anything about sexual orientation, even though I think that’s what you were ultimately asking me about. Mugwumps are so predictable. Ya see sexual orientation, as we currently understand it, is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. And all of human history barely registers in cosmic history. Why do you suppose we’re so consumed about something so irrelevant to the big picture? And god is the ultimate “BIG PICTURE.” What concerns me is that you’ve come this far in your life and still haven’t been honest to god…or yourself.

Do you still believe in God? Yes, in a manner of speaking! I tend not to use the word “god” as much as I used to, because it comes with too much cultural baggage. I prefer the term, “divine. But whatever I call it, I’m positive my god is nothing like your god. Your god is made in your image. My god is not made in my image. In fact, my god so unlike me — a mere fallible, insignificant mortal — as to make my god incomprehensible to the likes of me. But that doesn’t mean there’s no appreciation. There is!

“How did you find your way to producing porn?” God led me! Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding.  It all started back in 1981, believe it or not. My career as a therapist in San Francisco coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS . Not surprisingly, my practice evolved into working primarily with sick and dying people. In the mid-90’s I founded a nonprofit organization called, PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach and resource for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. Despite the fact that this was brilliant cutting-edge work, I couldn’t find the funding I needed to keep the nonprofit alive. This precipitated a massive mid-life crisis and a rather sudden move to Seattle in 1999.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here. I developed programming for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and men with prostate cancer. This lead me to develop concepts for videos for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses; to help them deal with reintegrating sex and intimacy into their life post diagnosis. But I needed to find funding for this ambitious project. I soon realized that no mainline foundation would fund an overtly sexual project like this. I would have to fund this on my own. But how? Friends prevailed on me to start by making porn. I’d make a load of money and then I could turn my attention back to the original project — death and dying work. Thus Daddy Oohhh! Productions was born.  Unfortunately, the load of money has yet to materialize. But while I was shooting porn, my focus is to create projects that are different in style and tone from what currently rules the marketplace.

“How does God figure in everything, in your opinion?” Once again, I think you’ve got that backwards. The better question, to my mind, is: How does everything figure into god? And here my answer echos my previous answer. If there is a god, then everything figures into god with ease and grace.

“Do you think a soul has a sexuality?” Nope, I don’t. Sexuality is part of the finite material world. It’s a bodily function that apparently goes away when our body dies. A soul, as it is popularly understood, is something other. What precisely? I can’t really say. Hey, maybe something else takes the place of sexuality in the spiritual world, if there is a spiritual world. I guess you and I will just have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be great if you freed yourself up to be exactly who you are? And not wait on someone, especially someone of a religious bent, to give you permission to do so, or tell you what you can and cannot be.

Good luck

Hey dr dick! What’s that toll-free podcast voicemail telephone number? Why, it’s: (866) 422-5680. DON’T BE SHY, LET IT FLY!

Between a rock and a hard place

Name: Adam
Age: 34
Location: UK
I have been attracted to male children for years. Having been arrested for viewing child porn I realize that I need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I realize that celibacy is a demanding lifestyle. What advice would you offer me?

You present a particularly touchy issue for our culture, Adam. But before I respond, I’d like to help you with some of your vocabulary. You say you need to pursue a celibate lifestyle. I think you mean to say you need to pursue a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The two concepts — celibacy and sexual abstinence — mean different things. Unfortunately, way too many people use these terms interchangeably. This is not a good thing and only serves to muddy the waters further.

Celibacy has a very specific meaning. Let me whip out my trusty, handy dandy Funk & Wagnalls dictionary. Celibacy: the state of being unmarried. Some people infer, especially those of a strict religious bent, that celibacy also connotes sexual abstinence. Ya see, religious people are of the mind that there is no legitimate sexual expression outside the confines of heterosexual marriage. Legitimate or not, unmarried people have always been and always will be sexual, so making that unfortunate connection between celibacy and abstinence ill advised.

The only thing we ought to be able to say for sure when someone identifies him/herself as celibate is that he/she is not married. To assume a celibate person, even one who has taken a vow of celibacy, is sexually abstinent is quite a dangerous stretch indeed. Need I point out the very unfortunate sex abuse scandals that continues to plague the Roman Catholic Church?

In the same way, if someone identifies him/herself as sexually abstinent, the only thing we ought to be able to say for sure is that he/she is not engaging in any type of sexual expression. It would be false to assume that a sexually abstinent person is not married, because there are a lot of married people who are indeed sexually abstinent.

In your case, Adam, I believe you are telling me that you are both not married (celibate), and because of your particular sexual predilection — young boys — you must also be sexually abstinent. If I’ve got this right…and it is very important that I not misinterpret your words…then I think there are options you may not have considered.

I firmly believe that we learn all our sexual expression. I hasten to add that sexual orientation and sexual expression are not one in the same thing, just like celibacy and abstinence are one and the same thing.

Everything we eroticize, in your case boys, is learned behavior. You learned to eroticize boys at some point in your life; you can now learn to eroticize a more appropriate group of people. This isn’t a particularly easy thing to accomplish, but it’s not impossible either. Again, I am not saying that you can reprogram your orientation, but I am saying that you can learn to redirect your erotic attentions elsewhere.

Anytime any one of us discovers that the object of our desires is someone inappropriate, we need to adjust our eroticism immediately. This is the better part of being a sexually responsible person. In our culture, pedophilia is just one such inappropriate eroticism, but there are many other taboos. A father for his daughter, a mother for her son, a boss for a subordinate, a man for his neighbor’s wife, a teacher for her student, a counselor for his/her client, a congressman for his page…are you getting the picture? I hope so. And the list goes on and on.

I believe learning to readjust your eroticism to a more appropriate outlet is a much better option than trying to live a sexually abstinent lifestyle. The reason I believe this is that having a more appropriate outlet will at least help you channel your pent up sexuality. If you have no outlet, or limit yourself to masturbation, you will most likely intensify your longings and further fixate on the inappropriate object of your current desires.

Like anyone trying to wean him/herself off a bad habit, the task ahead of you Adam, will be challenging. But it will also be enriching and life-affirming. I hasten to add that you ought not try to do this on your own. Work with a sex-positive therapist.

You’re a relatively young man with many years ahead of you. These years can be filled with happy, healthy and appropriate sexual expression. Make it happen.

Good luck

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