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Is there a doctor in the house?

Hey sex fans,

I know I promised you a Q&A podcast for today, but I’m afraid I must disappoint. I’ve been experiencing technical difficulties all weekend long, so this charming exchange between me and a nervous mother will have to satisfy you till I can pull together the next podcast…this coming Wednesday, 12/05/12, I hope.

Name: Nora
Gender: female
Age: 26
Location: Mane
My husband and I are having a little problem with our 5-year-old son. He’s very bright and inquisitive and we encourage that in him. However, we’ve caught him playing doctor with playmates, twice in two months. Once with a 4 year old neighbor girl and most recently, a 6-year-old boy from his school. How do we handle this? We don’t want to stifle his inquisitive nature, nor do we want to send him the message that sex is bad or dirty. We weren’t raised like that and we don’t want to raise our son like that either. At the same time, he can’t continue to do this. If other parents discover this, there could be trouble. What do you think? Thanks.

Ya gotta love the curiosity and innocence of children, but I certainly understand your concern.

Reading your message took me back to one of my earliest memories. I must have been about the same age as your son at the time. A neighborhood boy, who was slightly younger than me, and I were playing in a vacant lot near our homes. We made a little fort in the tall grass. And there, out of the blue, I suggested that he, the neighbor boy, pull down his pants so that I could take his temperature with this little stick I was holding. He was perfectly compliant and, like it was an everyday thing, he bent over and I stuck the twig in his bum. I remember taking careful note of his little peepee in the process. He had one, just like me, which was a totally different configuration than my baby sisters. I had taken note of that when I watched my mother change their diapers. I remember thinking to myself, my god that is so weird. But I digress. The gist of the story is that I was a very inquisitive lad, just like your son. And the opportunity check out the neighbor kid was, just that…an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity.

A couple days later, pretty much out of the blue, my dad took me aside for a little chat. He asked me about my play with the neighbor kid. I wasn’t quite sure what he was referring to. Ya see the “doctor” incident didn’t register with me as particularly significant, or all the memorable. It just was what it was. But it sure did register with a nosy neighbor lady who witnessed the whole thing. Apparently she told my mother, my mother told my father and now he was telling me. You have to remember, this was the mid-1950s, so sexual experimentation at any age was a lot more taboo than it is today, or even when you and your hubby were kids.

To my father’s credit he wasn’t hysterical, but he was very firm. I got the unambiguous message that this sort of behavior was not OK. It’s funny, had no one seen me and the neighborhood kid in our innocent play, the incident wouldn’t have registered with me at all. I probably had the same level of interest in the kid as I would have seeing an interesting bug, or catching a glimpse of a rabbit or raccoon. It filled the moment, and then it was gone.

Like I said, despite my father’s mild manner, I did get the clear message that what I did crossed some line, a line that I didn’t even know existed beforehand. My father’s talk managed to instill a sense of shame where there was none before. And I remember realizing that my behavior wasn’t just wrong, like if I had hit someone, but it bad, like sinful. And even at that age, I understood to some degree what sin was. I had visions of Jesus and his blessed mother up in heaven crying their little hearts out over my indiscretion. So now, along with the shame I began to feel guilt.

Of course, even if my “doctor” play hadn’t been discovered at age 5 there certainly were dozens of subsequent opportunities for me to get the hardball message that sex was dirty and sinful — not just touching but even dwelling on the subject was enough to send one to hell. There simply was no escaping that fifty some years ago. Are things fundamentally different today? Probably not fundamentally! There are, no doubt, more parents these days who, like yourselves, are more enlightened than when I was a kid. But let’s face it; the predominant culture is still very sex-negative.

One of the biggest mistakes parents make when they are faced with the kind of situation you refer to, Nora, is they impose adult motivations onto their kid’s behavior. For the most part, young children don’t have a sense of shame about their bodies, nor do they have a highly developed sense of the personal space of another person. When their curiosity about their body and the bodies of others, both children and adults, turns to touching and exploration, it has no sexual connotation like we grown-ups understand.

Some years ago, I said much the same thing at a church sponsored workshop for parents. A mother in the audience stood up to tell me that I was all wet about this. She said she knew for sure that her pre-adolescent son had a sense of guilt about fondling himself, because when she caught him doing it one day he looked very guilty. Well, duh! But when we discussed the occurrence further, we were able to discover the truth. I asked her, to describe the situation. She said, “I happened to see my son, through the partially open door to his room. It was just after his bath. He was sitting on his bed touching himself impurely.” I had to chuckle at her vocabulary, but I asked her to proceed with her story. She said, “naturally, I threw open the door and said; ‘what in the world are you doing?’” I said, in a somewhat mocking tone; “Yes, naturally!”

I wasn’t hard to imagine the scene she was describing, because she was pretty agitated by just retelling the story. I could visualize the bedroom door flying open, her stomping into the room, hands on her hips, eyes glaring, nostrils flared, her voice pitched high. What she saw in her young son’s face was not shame; it was fright. I told her that she was the cause of the panic in his face. I explained that if she had barged in to his room that way, with her threatening body language and her “what in the world” screech while he was on his knees saying his bedtime prayers, the kid would have had the same look of alarm, which she interpreted as guilt. I also confronted the woman about the issue of privacy. Listen parents, even young children need and deserve their privacy. You don’t want to see embarrassing things? Avoid the temptation to walk in on your kids without knocking first.

The reason I tell you all of this, Nora, is I want you to realize that the way you address your son’s behavior is probably more important than what you actually tell him. If you approach the discussion all worried, or distressed, or alarmed, or agitated; you can be assured that your body language will tell him all he needs to know, even before you speak your first word.

If your son’s behavior doesn’t course correct all by itself, which it probably will, my advice is schedule a little family meeting. The key here is that you’ll want to talk about several things besides the bothersome behavior. You might bring up school, putting away his toys, playing doctor with the neighbors, and helping with some of the household chores. You’ll notice that the more difficult subject is couched between more mundane concerns. This will help keep the sexual issue properly situated…as part of everyday life.

When you ask him about his “doctor” play, and if you do it in a casual sort of way, he will probably tell you all about it as if he were telling you about his other play. My guess is he is not yet made the distinction between types of play. You might ask him why he’s playing this particular game. Maybe even ask him what he discovered, if anything. Once this part is over and you have some information about his motivation, you could add your perspective…the adult perspective. Here’s where you get to explain that some parts of our bodies are private. And now that he’s getting bigger he needs to understand the difference between public and private. You could make the distinction between bad and inappropriate — his play is not bad, just out of place. I’d be willing to guess that he already has a grasp on this concept.

You may not even have to tell him not to do it again. You could tell him that if he thinks he wants to play “doctor” again, he should ask for your permission. In the same way he would have to ask your permission to cross a busy street or stay at a friends house for lunch.

If after the family meeting you think you and your husband didn’t get it precisely right, just let it go. If the behavior continues you’ll have another opportunity to get it right. Here’s a tip, if you guys casually talk about body things, like personal hygiene…particularly if your son is uncut…on a regular basis you’ll have a foundation on which to build more complicated sex related discussions in the future.

Finally, keep all sex related talks firmly grounded in every day life. One good way of doing that is use examples from nature and apply it to human behavior.

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!

The Doctor is IN!

Name: Paul
Gender: male
Age: 32
Location: Seattle
I hope this isn’t the first time you’ve gotten this kind of question but I’ve recently discovered that I have a urine fetish. And I guess what I want to know is if among gay men I am in a minority or what? Do you know of other guys out there who share my fetish? Also I’m in a relationship and I don’t think my boyfriend shares my interests so I was wondering if you might have some ideas on how to break the news to him. Thanks a lot.

A urine fetish, huh? Ok! Are you talking about what those in the know call watersports or golden showers, right? I think you’re telling me you like to play with your pee, or the pee of other folks, right?

40.jpgOh my god, this is like a totally popular fetish, and not just common among the gays, don’t cha know. I’m surprised that you haven’t encountered loads of other pee queens before now. Folks of every sexual stripe and persuasion are known to enjoy piss play. There’s even a scientific name for it: urophilia. Doesn’t that sound fun? Honey, guess what? I’m a urophiliac and you can be one too!

Hell, this is such a popular fetish that it has a full subset of associated fetishes. There are clothes wetting, bed-wetting and diaper fetishes, and urinal fetishes. For the BDSM crowd there are humiliation scenes and bladder control scenes just to name a few.

Historically speaking, people have been drinking their own urine as an alternative medicine for as long as…well, as long as there’s been pee to drink. Bathing in urine is also very common in some cultures.

Curiously enough, watersports is not necessarily always a sexual fetish, although it can be sexual in nature. Activities where piss is taken internally (swallowed or received anally or vaginally) can be risky. The pee-ee will no doubt ingest any and all un-metabolized drugs — pharmaceutical as well as recreational — which were consumed by the pee-er. In some societies and in some situations, this is the actual intent — for example intensifying and prolonging the effects of a hallucinogenic drug.

Prospective pee drinkers should be aware that there are a few drugs that pass through the body either partly unchanged or entirely unchanged, like those nasty amphetamines and their derivatives. So it’s all together possible to get really high from drinking a druggie’s piss.

Finally, how do you come out as a pee-queen to your boyfriend? I’m of the mind that the direct approach works best. There’s less room for misunderstandings. You could come right out and ask him for what you want. Darling, meet me in the bathroom. I want to show you something really festive and entertaining. I mean, what homo’s isn’t gonna fall for that?

A less assertive way would be to visit several golden shower oriented websites, they abound on them internets, ya know. Leave the page open for the BF to find. That will stir things up. And unless he’s as dense as a post, he’ll begin to get the message. You could also “accidentally” rent a watersports video. That would, no doubt, open the desired discussion. “Holy cow honey, look what I picked up by mistake. You wanna watch it? Isn’t this hot? Oh my god, I think I just wet my pants. Wanna see?”

Name: Maria
Gender: Female
Age: 24
Location: California
Hi Dr, My question is a little strange. My boyfriend has this weird fetish about cumming on me…not just on me but all over me. On my boobs, on my face, he likes to get it in my hair, on my feet. I’m practically swimming in the stuff. Most of the time I don’t mind it and sometimes it gets me off. But I’m just wondering what’s this all about. Why does he have this desire to cum all over me? Most of the time he wants me on my knees waiting for his gift, tongue sticking out like a dog. Any thoughts why?

Maria, darling, this is absolutely precious! I love it!

Did you ever see the brilliantly funny Mel Brooks movie, High Anxiety?

In the movie Mel Brooks plays Dr. Richard H. Thorndyke, the new administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous. He goes to San Francisco for a conference where he is framed for a murder. Mid-way through the movie there’s a scene where Thorndyke is on the lam. He phones his new friend, Victoria Brisbane, (played by the amazing Madeline Kahn) from a phone booth to ask for her help. Victoria is in her hotel room when she answers the phone. Just at that moment, the real killer attacks Dr Thorndyke and has him by the throat. Because of all the heavy breathing and choking sounds on the Thorndyke end, Victoria thinks she getting a prank sex call. She protests but then is drawn into the call. It’s comic genius. Dr Thorndyke’s struggle comes to an end when his attacker is impaled on a shard of glass. His death gasp makes Victoria think her caller just shot his wad. She responds with disgust, “You animal!

That’s where my mind went, Maria when I got your call. The description of your boyfriend’s spooge fetish made me think of Victoria Brisbane and her exclamation, “You Animal.”

p10.jpgYa see, Maria, us boys think all the world is as enamored with our spunk as we are. And so we think we’re doing everyone a big favor by spreading our junk around. We’re particularly fond of getting as much of our joy-juice as possible on our partners and the messier the better. We’ll tell you that we do this because we love you and we just whipped up this tasty little batch of seed just for you. That’s bullshit of course.

What we’re really doing is marking our territory. Did you ever notice how pleased with himself a male dog is when he’s blissfully lifting his leg to pee on everything in site? I’d be willing to bet you’d see a similar shit-eatin’ grin on the BF as you’d see on that dog. Your BF is marking his territory, but he’s marking you with his jizz.

The upside of this is that our little nut concoction is heavily protein laden, so you’ll not find a better skin emolument. Just make sure he doesn’t get any in your eyes. That shit burns! Enjoy!

Name: Jim
Gender: male
Age: 23
Location: Sydney
I’m addicted to porn. I look at porn for hours and hours at a time at work at home on my cell phone whatever. I am noticing that the more porn I look at the more I want and now I’m searching out some real weird shit the weirder the better. I’m afraid this is taking over my life, but I can’t stop. What should I do?

Listen Jim, there’s no such thing as an addiction to porn! PERIOD!

Nowadays people bandy about the term addiction as if it could be applied to any and all obsessive behaviors. I have an addiction to chocolate, I’m addicted to shopping, or I’m a sex addict. NONSENSE!

Let’s be clear about this. An addiction is a very specific condition. It denotes a dual dependency, physical as well as a psychological. A physical dependency occurs when a substance is habitually used to a point where the body becomes reliant on its effects. The substance must be used constantly, because if it is withheld it will trigger symptoms of withdrawal. Psychological dependency occurs when the substance habitually used creates an emotional reliance on its effects. There is no functioning without it. Its absence produces intense cravings, which if not fed will trigger symptoms of withdrawal.

What you report about yourself, Jim, is not an addiction. Your behaviors, however, are a classic example of a severe fixation or obsession. Just because out of control behavior isn’t an addiction, doesn’t mean it’s not serious.

You may say to yourself, “What the fuck, doc, fixation, addiction it all sounds the same to me.” Well, sounding alike and being the same are two very different things. Besides, if one doesn’t properly identify the problem; how will one find the proper intervention? And you, my friend, need an intervention ASAP.

n.jpgYour relentless pursuit of pornography, your obsession with more and more graphic and extreme depictions of sex is clearly interfering with you living a normal life. And at such a tender age, what’s up with that? This has got to stop, pup. You can’t continue to take refuge in fantasy material in lieu of having healthy interpersonal relationships.

I’d also challenge your suggestion that you are enjoying the porn you consume. When consumption of anything — porn, food, whatever — is this unrelenting, there is no enjoyment factor anymore.

If you have the psychological capacity to limit your porn consumption on your own, great — Do it! Be strict with yourself. Deny yourself access to the materials that fuel your fixation. Channel that energy into connecting with other LIVE humans.

If you are unable to monitor your behavior on your own — seek professional help right away. Look to a sex-positive therapist who will assist you in creating boundaries for yourself. Your therapist will help you learn how to reward your successes and not reward your failures. You will, in time, be able to put this obsession behind you. But you must act now. Your humanity hangs in the balance.

Good luck, ya’ll!

Awakenings

And now for something completely different. I’d like to welcome my friend and colleague, Vivian Slaughter, who has some interesting things to say about becoming the brilliant young sexologist she is today.

Becoming a feminist was a big deal for me; in high school I was very anti-feminist, I was the Cool Girl, I didn’t like doing my hair and felt giddy when people told me I “wasn’t like other girls” (the today me would have snapped back: “What’s wrong with other girls? Who are these mythic other girls you speak of?”) I would smile cruelly at people when they used the term, laugh a wide-open mouthed, high-pitched laugh. “No,” I’d correct them. “I don’t hate men!” Then, I’d usually follow with something like, “I’m not a feminist, but I believe (in something that literally fits the definition of being a feminist).”

Vivian SlaughterWhen I packed up and moved further South for college I found myself drawn to a sexual health education group that presented interactive workshops on sexual assault, dating violence and enthusiastic consent. This was a sex positivity group. This was a feminist group. It was a hard transition, and my first term with my new colleagues left a bitter taste in my mouth. What was happening to me? I’d come home from our meetings and rant to my roommate. “Ugh, it’s like…I agree with everything they say but do we have to call ourselves feminists? No one is going to take us seriously!”

I hate to say that I had an epiphany – because besides sounding cliché, it also mitigates the months of mental anguish and cultural upheaval I went through – but one night while I was walking home from a workshop late at night someone who had sat in the audience approached me.

“Uh, hey,” he said, running up behind and motioning with his arm that he wanted me to stop. “Can I tell you something?” I nodded, looking around to see if any of my group mates were around, I was used to being approached after workshops and asked disgusting, personal questions. Back up from my mates would have helped me feel safe. “I’m not a bad person,” the guy continued, “but I’ve done a lot of bad things. But I never knew they were bad. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with everything that I was doing, the way I acted. Thank you for coming tonight. Thank you for making me realize that I was wrong, and that I was behaving like a turd, and that feminist isn’t a dirty word.”

Me! He thought I was a feminist? I wanted to correct him – “I’m not a feminist, but I could see how you think that! I just believe that men and women should be treated equally, and that we have in place long standing and deeply rooted infrastructure that puts women at a systematic disadvantage – but! Whoa? Feminist?”

I realized then that I was a feminist, that I had been duped into believing falsehoods about the word, the movement, the people who identified as such. I realized in the dark, smiling up at this stranger whose name I never knew but who had credited me with changing his mind, that I was a feminist and it felt good and I was going to help people realize they were too. We changed each other’s mind.sex-positive-feminism

Almost immediately after that night I started working at an adult store. I was a sex positive feminist! I annoyed all my co-workers by asking all our guests their preferred personal pronouns; I put cards up on our counter with the information for a local crisis line; a local doctor who specialized in working with survivors of sexual assault. Couples would shyly slink into my shop and I would joyously greet them, stretch my arms to embrace them, help them pick out a pair of pink handcuffs, a soft whip made of braided silk, crotchless panties. “I love helping people love sex!” I would think to myself, naively thinking that all the world’s problems would be solved if only we used the word sex more openly.

Then one day a woman came into my shop, her face red from tears and her bangs matted to her temple from sweat. “What can I help you with?” I inquired.

“I don’t like having sex,” she began, her words coming out in short gasps. “I don’t like having sex,” she repeated, looking at everything around her, taking it all in. “My boyfriend says there’s something wrong with me because I hate it and can’t orgasm, and that you need to fix me.” She fixated on me, her eyes angry but her bottom lip trembling. “Can you fix me, please?”

I didn’t know what to do, didn’t even know how to begin. Telling her that sex was natural and fun wasn’t what she needed to hear, because I knew that’s what she had always been told. “What do you mean you don’t like sex?” so many people had gasped at her. “You must be prude. You must not have been fucked properly. You must be weird. You must not know what you’re talking about.” I found myself getting angry imaging all the horrible things this woman had been told, I found myself angry because I thought I was open minded and didn’t know what to do.

sex+positive“There is nothing wrong with you,” I spat out, sounding angrier than I wished. “Please, I’m so sorry… there is nothing wrong with you, but there is something wrong with your boyfriend. You don’t deserve what he dished out, you don’t have to like anything you don’t want to like. I’m so sorry.”

A few days later a pimply faced young man approached me in the shop, pointed to a book on the shelf. “Will that tell me where the clit is? I don’t know where it is, I’m afraid my girlfriend will laugh at me if I ask her where it is, but how should I know? Like, what, I’m supposed to know everything about fucking?”

“I hate giving blow jobs,” an older man confided in me, a stack of DVDs in his hand and an empty shopping basket sitting at his feet. “I hate having to swallow, but if I spit they all think I’m being a baby. Can you give me something that makes it bearable? I don’t know, that would numb my throat or make it taste okay? Just something to make it less awful.”

Learning what it meant to be sex positive was even harder than learning to embrace the word feminist.

I had been lead to believe it meant just liking sex, liking sex a lot, and not being shamed of it. Sex positivity was a young, pretty face flashing small, white teeth and nodding enthusiastically at whatever you suggested: “Sure!”

I learned while crying with a stranger telling me she hated sex, sitting on the floor explaining to a red faced 18 year old what a vagina looked like, and holding a man’s hand in front of a movie that featured Jesse Jane in her first girl on girl scene that sex positivity meant more than liking sex; it meant not liking sex, it meant having boundaries, being able to say “no,” not being coerced into trying things (“You have to try it just once, come on!”), being respected. Sex positivity meant having a kink. Trying a new kink. Saying no to a kink. Saying yes! Saying no – don’t stop, our safe word is barnacle! Saying no.

I realized that as an educator I had failed.sex positivity

I began asking around at workshops; asking my co-workers, classmates, hallmates, wondering earnestly what “sex positivity” meant to them. Some were confused: “Uhh, being positive… about sex?” Others were excited to share with me what sex positivity meant for them, how it fit into their lives. I found everyone’s answers – so varied and all across the board – interesting, but in the end what stuck with me the most were the people who were “sex positivity” critical. “What does it mean?” one person sneered to me. “It means people feel better about sexualizing my body; it means people call me a slut when I’m at the bars and they look at me like I should be empowered by it.”

When I left school, I knew I wanted to stay in the field of sexual health education, but I didn’t know what that meant for me. Continue working on crisis lines? Go back to school? Explore a degree more centralized to education? Throughout my last term I pensively reflected on my four years and wondered what I should do next.

I remembered vividly all the people I helped in my shop, all the questions asked during workshops. I realized I wanted to continue reaching out to people on a personal basis and learn more from them. Feminism, sex positivity, kink positivity and LGBTQIA+ rights have been trending topics in the last few years, and I’m interested in exploring the aftermath of what some are calling our new sex positive culture.

And so it is: I come home from work and in the few hours before I leave the house again to pick up my partner (we both go to work at noon, he gets home close to 13 hours later, so it’s safe to say that we have both become the human equivalent of an owl) I sit at my desk and I write. I write about the experiences I’ve had over the last few years, the stories shared with me and how they’ve helped me grow. I conduct interviews, via phone or e-mail, with a wide array of personalities, all with the intention of sharing the unique perspectives passed on to me.

We all have our mark left on us from the culture we grew up in. What I want to know is: what impact has this life had on you? I reach out to you all and ask that you share your story with me, the story of what feminism and sex positivity (or: sex negativity) means to you, the impact it has had on your life and the mark it has left.

I would appreciate hearing from you. We all have stories to share, and my favorite thing to do is listen. Below is a link to my website, which explains more about my background in education, my goals in reaching out to community members, as well as outside links to my personal blog.

vivslaughter14.wix.com/sexpositivity

Take care,
Vivian

Don’t Try This At Home

And now for a couple of very disturbing questions…

 

Name: Abe
Gender: Male
Age: 31
Location: NV
what will happen or is there any side effect if i put a single ball in the ass, but won’t come out?

Abe: let me ask you a question: Do you think your rectum was designed to hold man-made spherical objects? Leading doctors say NO.

All kidding aside. What the fuck were you thinking? Were you loaded on some substance or just bored to death? And why didn’t you include your email address so that I could actually respond to this pressing inquiry in a timely fashion?

By now you’ve either shit out the ball or you took your sorry ass to the hospital to have it removed.

Sex fans, NEVER, and I do mean NEVER put anything in your ass that you don’t have tethered to something that will not be going in your ass. You’re just asking for serious trouble if you do.

dont-try-this-at-home

 

Name: Sandy
Gender: Female
Age: 45
Location: California
During sex, I got an object stuck in my rectum. It went past the small outlet in the top of my anal cavity. To be honest, I’m scared. I cannot “fish it out.”  It is up past the holding area. We were using a hangable broom handle (plastic), which has a tip on it for hanging. I keep a rubber on it so it won’t come off in me, well the rubber broke; the lube I used caused the breakage. So what can I do? The tip/cap/hanger thing is as wide as a broom and about a half inch deep, but has the capability to act like a suction cup if it gets stuck. Next time I will make an air hole so it cannot get adhered in me. But how can I get it out? I have no insurance, so I cannot go to the DR. Help!

Sandy, I sincerely hope you haven’t been waiting patiently by the computer all week waiting for my response.

Again, this person didn’t include her email address with her query, just like Abe above.

This distresses me no end! There are so many things wrong here; I simply don’t know where to start. You’re 45 years old and yet you don’t know better than to fuck yourself with a broom handle? Holy cow! And you are using an oil-based lube while you have your broom handle, with its plastic hanging doohickey rapped in a latex condom? My god, teenagers know better than that.

And what is this about NEXT TIME you’ll make an air hole so it cannot get adhered in you? Are you completely out of your mind? If this one extremely embarrassing, if not downright dangerous stunt hasn’t taught you a lesson; then I suppose there’s no hope for you.

Like said to Abe above — By now you’ve either shit out the thingy in bum or you’ve taken your sorry ass to the hospital emergency room to have the object removed.

NEXT!

Finger Your Hole For Your Health

Name: Gordon
Gender: male
Age: 67
Location: Florida
I guess I have more of a comment than a question. I’m 67, a widower and have been recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. I never was very adventuresome when it came to sex. In fact before my wife died two years ago I never had sex with any other woman. I never gave prostate cancer a thought, never gave my prostate a thought either. Now I’m mad as hell that I didn’t. You see when I started to go to a prostate cancer support group I discovered I could have monitored myself better with a simple self-examination. Why don’t doctors tell us about this? Women are supposed to examine their breasts why don’t men examine their prostate? It’s so easy actually and yet it’s this big secret. Why don’t people talk about this? It makes me so mad because it could have made a big difference in my own life. Do you know about this self-examination Dr Dick? If you do why don’t you tell other people about this? I think it would help a lot if you could get the word out on this. Now that’s all I have to say. Thank you.

No, thank you Gordon. Thank you for sharing your concern with me…with us.

I’ve been an active proponent of prostate self-exam for many years. Let me explain. My career as a therapist began in San Francisco in 1981. As you may recall, that was precisely the same year a mysterious new disease began showing up among gay men. Back then it was being called gay cancer, but soon it would have another name — HIV/AIDS.

give prostate cancer the fingerNot surprisingly, my private practice focused down almost exclusively to working with sick and dying people. Luckily, I discovered that I was well suited for the job and I liked it very much. So much so that 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. This was brilliant cutting-edge work and I learned so much from the people I was working with. One of the things that struck me most was that regardless of the disease — cancer, HIV, MS, you name it, or aging process for that matter — there was always a woeful lack of information about regaining a sense of sexual-self post diagnosis, or sexual wellbeing for seniors in general.

This was such an important topic for me that I decided to include a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder, and dying people in my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.  I am proud to say that it is one of the only resources of its kind available in print.

I recall one PARADIGM group in particular, there was a man much, like you, Gordon, who had fingering his assprostate cancer. And, like you, he was mad as hell with the indifference of the medical industry toward prostate self-exam. One day during a group session, John was railing against his doctors and cancer associations for their lack of interest in promoting prostate self-awareness. He pointed to the success of the cultural campaign to get women to do breast self-exams. Like you, Gordon, he couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a similar campaign for men.

Another group member, Marie, a senior woman in her 70’s and a breast cancer survivor, helped put things in perspective. She reminded us that breast self-awareness in our culture is a relatively new phenomenon. Her mother, aunt, sister, and a niece all died of breast cancer before the self-exam campaign began in earnest. Clare went on to say that it was only through the hard work of individuals and grassroots organizations that actively campaigned for breast self-exams that things began to change. Eventually, this movement changed the cultural mindset. Clare said that it was these individuals and grassroots organizations that helped all of us — medical industry, the cancer lobby and women in general — overcome the denial, shame and embarrassment that was associated with women touching themselves, even to save their lives.

prostate examThis is an indication of just how ingrained the sex-negativity and body-negativity runs in this culture.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here in Seattle. I had a brief gig at a local cancer center where I developed an NIH (National Institute of Health) funded program for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I was also working with a group of women with breast cancer and another group of men with prostate cancer. Again I realized that just about every therapeutic intervention I encountered — government funded or foundation funded — was woefully lacking in any clear and unambiguous information about sexual health and wellbeing and intimacy issues.

To remedy this, I began planning a video series for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses. Videos that would help them address reintegrating sex and intimacy post diagnosis. One of the first videos was going to be Public Service Announcement showing men how to do a prostate self-exam. By the way, this particular film was to be dedicated to my friend John, the guy I mentioned earlier. He died shortly after the PARADIGM group he was in ended. But he died self-aware. He was militant to the end about the pressing need for prostate awareness among men.

Once again the stumbling block I encountered was funding. My grant writing efforts turned up nothing. I did get a whole lot of, “what a fine idea, Richard. Good luck with that…” brush-off letters though. No foundation would be caught dead funding sexually overt pattern films, even ones with the laudable intent of assisting people with the very information they needed most.

I’m sorry to have been so long-winded in my reply, Gordon. I just wanted you to know that many have preceded you with outrage at the conspiracy of silence regarding prostate self-exam. Let’s face it; our society is so ass-phobic that we’d rather see men die than offer them simple instructions how to finger their butt, find their prostate and keep tabs on their prostate health.

If we want this to change we all need to speak out…as well as stick a finger in our ass.

Keep up the fight, Gordon! And please, stay in touch.

Good luck

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