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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!

Beginning Sex Play — Tips and Techniques

I most frequent hear from your average Dick and Jane, (or Dick and Dick, or Jane and Jane) who want to spice up their sex life. When they write to me they inevitably describe the kind of sex they’re currently having. And almost universally that description makes this grown man cry. Jeez, the boredom. How can they stand it? It’s a wonder any of them are having sex at all.

big funWhat’s with all the humdrum, run of the mill, we’ve always done it that way mentality? Are ya’ll afraid that if you add a little something new to your sex chore from time to time that the sky will fall? Holy cow!

Today’s tutorial is yet another attempt to motivate you to get off your butts and make something interesting happen in the sex department. We’ll begin today with what was once called foreplay.

First off, I hate the word “foreplay” because it suggests that all the really great sex play activities out there are only a lead up to a single — more important activity — that is fucking. It also implies that ya’ll can dispense with the one in order to hurry up and get to the other. And that, sex fans, is always a huge mistake.

From now on I want you to banish “foreplay” from your vocabulary. Instead let’s start using “Beginning Sex Play.” It says it all. It says it’s at the beginning, but there’s no suggestion that anything in particular must follow.amazing sex secrets

I’m of the mind that we’d all be better served if we thought of sex play as a continuum of pleasure with a beginning, middle and an end. If you ask me, our sex play ought mirror our sexual response cycles — arousal, plateau, orgasm and resolution. That way we’re less likely to overburden one particular activity at the expense of all the others. Get it? Got it? Good!

Experienced sex fans agree; the best sexual encounters include an extended period of sensual play at the beginning of most all sex play. This brings increased pleasure to both partners, and will make whatever else that might follow more satisfying. Just remember, beginning sex play can be a meal in itself.

Beginning sex play brings spice to the encounter because it gets our motors started. Even all you major sex athletes out there, who are perpetually primed for sex, will benefit from more beginning sex play. It will help cool your jets and make the encounter last longer than a firecracker. And I know that you know what I mean!

erotic talkIn our hectic rush-around-world, beginning sex play is particularly important. It helps us transition from the daily cares and woes to the realm of sensual pleasures. The workaholics among us need more time to become fully aroused. Our minds are still filled with the junk of the day, and not yet ready to give or receive pleasure. And pleasuring and being pleasured, I might add, takes a big attitude shift from that of the rest of the day. In fact, if you’re gonna try and approach sex and pleasure with the same mindset as you have on the job or with the kids, give it up now and be done with it. You’ll only walk away from the encounter disappointed.

Beginning sex play primes us for maximum pleasure. Us men folk will have the time we need to come to full erection and the women folk will have the time they need to properly lubricate. (By the way, this is called the arousal stage in our sexual response cycle).

When we stop thinking of beginning sex play as “foreplay” we realize there is no such thing as spending too much time giving and getting pleasure. If beginning sex play evolves into full-on fucking — SWELL. Both partners will be fully aroused and fucking will flow naturally and effortlessly from the pleasure enjoyed at the beginning of sex play.

Beginning sex play can include everything from chocolate and whipped cream to whips and chains. But let’s not get too far ahead of our selves. Let’s start at the beginning of beginning sex play, shall we? beginner's guide

Most people miss out on the pleasure of undressing with and for their partners. Stripping out of, or being helped out of our daily wear and into something sexy or nothing at all can be very arousing. It’s also a visual signal that we’re shifting out of our work-a-day world and entering the realm of sensuality. Stripping is an art form, ya know. We could all learn a lesson or two from the folks who do this for a living, but more about this in THIS tutorial.

Creating the right sex environment is important too. Make sure the room is warm. Proper lighting and music will surely add to the mood. Scents are also important. More and more people are incorporating erotica into their sex play — reading a sexy story together or enjoying some hot porn will make the encounter memorable.

Most women complain that their partners don’t kiss long enough and rush the kissing to get at their pussy. Guys, what the fuck? You want pussy? Use your mouth to maximum advantage kiss and nibble all over everything. Literally devour your partner with your mouth. Believe me, if you do this right, by the time you get to her pussy she’s gonna want to give it up big time.

Hanky Spanky Gift SetBeginning sex play is the perfect time for setting the mood for all that might follow. It’s a time for sharing fantasies, role-playing, dirty talk or some full body massage. Always have some nice lotion available then use your hands, forearms, feet and elbows to knead your partner’s muscles and naughty bits.

Certain areas on the body are more hot-wired than others. It’s your job to find each and every one your partner has. As you massage vary your strokes and touch to stimulate your partner. Roll your fingertips across his or her nipples and behind his or her ears as you kiss him and tease her with your tongue.

If you’re doin things right, your partner will be moaning with pleasure. If she or he starts getting impatient it’s time to bring out the restraints. There’s nothing like some hot erotic bondage to punctuate the beginning sex play.

While your darling is subdued and possibly blindfolded, crank things up a notch. Add different sensations and stimuli, a warm chocolate sauce followed by ice cream. A fur mitt followed by a Loofah. Introduce some sex toys — a vibrator, tit clamps, or an anal simulator.

Don’t forget to check in with your partner from time to time. Ask for some feedback and direction. Do you like this? Or do you like this better? If you presume that you know what your partner likes simply because he or she liked it before, that, my friend, is a recipe for boredom and the dreaded bed death. If words fail you, SHOW your partner what you want. Then encourage your partner to do the same.002

Beginning sex play is not about pressing the right buttons in the right order. It is about understanding what makes your partner tick and supplying and applying those things to their greatest sensual advantage. There are many ways to give your partner extreme pleasure, and it all begins in your brain. Beginning sex play is as much of an art form as it is a necessity. Finally, the basic premise behind all of this is that the great lover is one that gives pleasure because it is its own reward, not a means to getting something else.

Good luck

When did sex become shameful?

By Hanna G Ruby

Once upon a time sex was enjoyed without shame, as a gift of God, Goddess, the Great Spirit – an act of joy, of devotion, something perfectly natural and wholly divine – all at the same time.  Once upon a time the goddesses were venerated as the embodiment of love, passion, and sex, which were considered holy when performed in reverence for and in service of the female divinity.

But the mindset of patriarchy killed off the Goddess more than five thousand years ago. She was constrained to submission at worst, or virginal purity and celibacy at best; her divinity denied. With that, the idea of sexuality as spirituality, as something inherently divine, was eradicated for all women – young and old. Indeed, for all men as well!  Sexuality was severed from spirituality and became its extreme opposite; sex was dirty, primitive, and instinctual (and feminine in nature), while spirituality was pure and clean and transcendent (and masculine in nature).

In the West, however, it was only from our Bible onward that sexuality became a sin, the means by which the devil could tempt mankind into damnation, a shameful necessity of physical gratification that was obscene and dirty. Only from our Bible onward, were women considered inherently sinful and destined for eternal punishment.

Even before Eve bit that apple, there was poor, feisty Lilith (born initially as one with Adam – “male and female created He them” says the first Biblical reference), who, according to legend, preferred to have sex on top. Lilith represents lunar consciousness (waxing and waning, death and rebirth), sexuality, body, and intuitive wisdom – all of which patriarchy degraded and denied. She got a terribly bad press.

Previously, the Goddess had ruled the mysteries of sexuality, birth, life, and death. Now the patriarchal God took control of life and death, and split procreation and motherhood from sexuality and “magic and mystery”. Lilith refused to submit and flew off in a rage. Until recent decades, she has been universally demonized as seductive, witch, outcast – the enraged, avenging goddess, wife of Satan.

Solar was split from lunar; psyche from soma or physical, corresponding to a general disassociation from the body. Mind and body, spirit and body, soul and body were split entities, and unequal. The body was inferior, an unfortunate necessity – together with its most basic of functions, sex; and it was associated with the feminine. (I once read an old text that described women as “bags of filth”. The males’ organs of excretion were not referred to.)

Male and female were unequal; spirit and nature were unequal. Man headed the chain of command – after God. As women, and as a culture, we have paid dearly for this division. The misogyny of the patriarchy affected all cultures in the last 2000 years, one way or another.

The fierce, sexual, independent-spirited wise dark goddess aspect of Lilith was replaced by submissive Eve, who was yet blamed for the whole messy business anyway. She was the sinful one, secondary to Adam, and cursed forever to give birth in pain. (Medieval midwives were sinning when they alleviated the pain of childbirth.)

As long as Eve is sinful and physical matter corrupt in any way whatsoever, our sexuality is compromised – and our liberation incomplete. This split must be healed.

I am proposing that sexuality and spirituality are aspects of the same thing; that the split between psyche and soma (the physical) is resolved in the energetic unity of a higher order. “We have lost contact with what unites them,” says Alexander Lowen in The Spirituality of the Body.  Sexuality is psychosomatic – and by that I mean, not that it’s some kind of illness, in the more common meaning of the word, but that it overtly operates on both the physical and the psychic level.

Where science and religion are finding rapprochement in the infinite wave world of quantum physics, we find fresh metaphors for the lost unifying element. Waves of sexual sensations that emanate from the body can be visualized as cosmic, psychic energy, high-frequency vibrations that bridge us to higher consciousness.

These metaphors indicate possibilities that have profound implications generally, and more so for aging women today.

Complete Article HERE!

Mean Girl

Name: Fay
Gender: Female
Age: 23
Location: LA
I met this guy on the Internet and he seemed nice and all, but I wasn’t that turned on to him. All I remember is he was pretty nerdy and had really sweaty palms. We went out a couple of time, nothing serious. He just wasn’t my type. So I stopped responding to his calls. Last week I was out at this club with some friends and I saw Mr. Nerdy with this other chic. And I was like, wait a minute, that skank’s hornin’ in on my stuff! I know I wasn’t returning his calls, but still, I saw him first. It was like totally freaky, how they were all kissy-kissy right there in everyone’s face. What should I do?

mean girl

Seriously? What should you do? How about getting a life your vacuous twit? And I mean that in the nicest sort of way.

If you could just pull your head out of your ass for a minute and listen to yourself, your misguided notions about dating and your fundamental lack of respect for the feelings of others would surly grate on you as much as it does me. Your chatter is like fingernails on a blackboard. I mean REALLY!

Think about what you are suggesting here. You’re gettin’ all territorial about some guy you could barely bring yourself to give the time of day to and then blew off like he was excess baggage. You didn’t bother to take the time to look beyond his nerdy-ness and his sweaty palms, like this other woman have done. Had you, you might have discovered what this other “skank”, as you so lovingly refer to her, has found.

Like most nerds, this guy probably has developed other means of making himself attractive and interesting to compensate for his nerdy-ness. Maybe he’s got a big dick, or he’s great in the sack. Maybe he got a big bank account or maybe he simply has a handle on the basic social graces, something that you, my dear Fay, have yet to grasp.

Your jealousy is neither cute nor charming. It does, however, mark you as self-centered and childish. For the most part, jealousy is a byproduct of a person’s lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Here’s a tip. Try and develop a healthier sense of self, so that you can mature into someone who can interact with others in a respectful manner that is befitting other human beings.

Oh, and have a nice day! Sheesh.

A Boy’s Own Story

What follows is an exchange I had recently with a young Catholic Canadian man.

Hi Dr. Wagner

My Name is Jack, I am a catholic teenager who is wondering if the act of masturbation is still considered to be a sin. Also is it really considered to be gravely disordered and always morally wrong? I am 18 years old and I am somewhat late going through changes physically. I do believe that it is a natural way to find out about ones body and how it can be used. I have heard that it is not a sin but a natural and healthy thing to do. I have also heard that it is a sin. I have heard mixed reviews I have heard that a vast majority of both boys and girls do it. I can understand if one does it while thinking about other people then it is a sin but if one is doing it to get rid of old stuff then does it count as a sin. I have done it recently and I am going through puberty. There are no thoughts, images or fantasies involved. I do think that it is better then having a nocturnal emission and having to clean your underpants and to hide it so no one think that I wet the bed. I also believe that it is better to masturbate rather than waking up to find a sticky mess in my underpants, which has happened to me, and it was not fun. I don’t want to have to go to bed worrying about a mess in the morning. I have also heard that it can help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Is it normal to feel confused about it after doing it? I am planning to talk to my parents and a priest to see what they think of it. If my parents say that it is natural and a normal thing to do does that mean it is all right to do. The only tricky thing is that I am not entirely sure how to approach the subject with them. I have mentioned it to my mother and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. She said that it is better to do that than to be out having intercourse with girls. I haven t done it in 3 weeks and I feel conflicted over it I see both views on the issue and I am not sure. I don’t want to feel guilty for doing something that has been labeled natural and normal. I love and believe in god and want to know what the views are on it. I do not have any addiction whatsoever I have very good control over myself nor do I need counseling or therapy. I am just a curious teenager wondering if masturbating is a sin or not.

I live in Ontario where the ministry of education has released a updated sexual education curriculum where it mentions that masturbation is natural and normal. There is a part of me that really wants to do it as I feel it takes the edge off. I have heard that some catholic organizations are backing it. This leaves me confused if it is still considered to be a sin. I also believe that it is a crucial part of understanding how ones body works and learning about oneself. I do find it a little hard to understand that we can somewhat accept the sexual orientation of people but people still consider touching ones genitals to be a sin.

Thank you
God Bless

Dear Jack,

Thanks for your question. Might I add, you are exceptionally articulate for a teenager.a boy's own story

If ya ask me, Jack, and you are actually asking me, you’ve pretty much answered all of your own questions. And that tells me you are on the right track.

You ask about Catholic sexual ethics. Before you wrote, did you know that I was a Catholic priest for 20 years? And, not to boast, I am the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in human sexuality. This later part explains why I no longer practice as a public minister. It’s a real long story and I’d be happy to tell you all about it sometime, but for now know that I didn’t go quietly. I wrote my doctoral thesis, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance, back in 1981. And once word got out about this groundbreaking research, the writing was on the wall, so to speak, for my public ministry. I fought for my priesthood and ministry for 13 year, but it all pretty much came crashing in on itself in 1994. If you’ve got nothing better to do, you can read about it HERE.

Enough about me, let’s get back to you and your questions. Although, I wanted to mention that when I was in seminary, way back when god was young, in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, enlightened spiritual directors were already beginning to advise us seminarians that masturbation wasn’t sinful or disordered. Of course, even now you’ll find orthodox hard-liners who insist that self-pleasuring is a moral sin, but they think all sexual expression is sinful. Here’s a tip: you’re never gonna find consensus on any sexual matter.

Like you, I found it difficult to believe all that mortal sin stuff that the hardliners promote. I mean, if mass murder and genocide are mortal sins, how could a little wank be their equal. It just don’t make no sense, right?

However, I can’t agree with you that masturbation might be sinful if there are fantasies involved. Remember, using your mind is an essential part of learning about your sexuality. That being said, most teenage boys are randy at the drop of a hat, so maybe you don’t need to be all that specific with your sexual mental imagery.

I also caution you to be careful when tossing around words like normal and natural. What’s normal and natural to some may be abnormal and twisted to others. But you’re right; few people, professional as well as lay people, these days would consider self-loving anything but normal and natural.

For you edification I suggest you use the search function or CATEGORY pull-down menu in the sidebar of my site and search for pertinent topics, like masturbation, wet dreams, sexual response cycle, etc. You’ll find a wealth of information about all these topics in both written and podcast form.

the shadowI too reported, back in 2011, on the startling new data that came out of Australia about masturbation. Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 men who had not, about their sexual habits. They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer. The protective effect of poppin’ one’s nut was greatest while the men were in their 20s. And get this; men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

I also contend that masturbation is the most basic building block to all of our sexual expression. When you know how your body works; when you are familiar with your sexual response cycle and are confident about talking to others about it; you’ll be better situated to be a good sexual partner to another.

In the end, I encourage you to continue to think for yourself when it comes to things sexual. I can see that you are already doing that, so keep it up. Continue to ask questions and consider the input you get from others, myself included; but then make up your own mind. When you own your sexuality and your sexual response, you’ll be a grown-up. Notice I didn’t say you’d be an adult. That’s because there are lots of adults out there who don’t own their sexuality and sexual response and despite being grown up, they’re not grownups.

Good luck, pup

Hi Richard,
Thank you for responding. You have cleared come of the confusion. I guess I got confused because when I would masturbate I would feel like I let my self down.
Thank you again
God Bless

One thing you should know is there is generally a sort of “let down” phase after orgasm. (See information about the refractory phase of the sexual response cycle HERE.) Your body can’t stay in that heightened state of arousal so there’s often a “deflated” feeling.

There’s even a name for if. It’s called post-coital tristesse. And you should know that it’s a physiological phenomenon rather than an emotional one.

Feelings of elation and wellbeing that accompany arousal and orgasm can sometimes morph into a sense of shame during this “deflated” phase. People with lot of scruples about sex are particularly vulnerable to this.

Thank you for clearing that up and for the reassurance that it is natural and normal and not considered to be a sin.
— Jack

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