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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

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

Oliver Sacks01     Oliver Sacks02

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

Thank you Dr Sacks and farewell!

I’m just along for the ride

Dear Dr Dick,
My husband (34) and I (31) are coming up of ten years of marriage, and for the most part our sex life has been what I would consider average. He’s pretty much been the aggressor in our relationship, which has worked out fine until now. I guess after ten years my husband would like it if I occasionally expressed interest and initiated and told him what I like/don’t like etc. I really have no idea how to do that! I told him that and his comment was that maybe I wasn’t even sure what I liked/don’t like and that I’ve pretty much just been going along for the ride all these years. He’s probably right.
We used to kiss and cuddle etc. to work up to sex and now it’s, “hey, you wanna have sex?” which completely turns me off (which he knows). I’m sure this is partly due to his work schedule and having a four year old so by the time we get to bed we’re wiped out most of the time, but I’m so not into the, “hey, you wanna…” approach.
Anyway, I guess my question is how do I get started in figuring out what I like and don’t like, how do I work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize it and especially verbalize or show him that I’m in the mood, and then how do I tell him I don’t like something without shutting him down. There are times, I know I don’t like something but I go along with it because I don’t want to shut him down.
I should preface by saying I’m not a very confident person and tend to be a people pleaser?
Thanks,
Brandi

You’re husband’s right. It is fuckin’ time you started lifting your share of the sexual initiation load. I mean come on! Most women would kill for a man in their life that would show an interest in what they like and don’t like. This going along for the ride stuff has got to end, darling.

female nude159How do you get started in figuring out what you like and don’t like? Masturbation! That’s the shortest and most to the point answer I can think of. Once you discover what turns your crank through masturbation you will have loads of very important information to share with you man. And hey, don’t forget toys, vibrators in particular.

How do you work up to feeling comfortable enough to verbalize what turns you on and verbalizing or showing him that you are in the mood? The answer to this question is as simple as the previous question. You masturbate for him.

Now I know that a lot of people, and that includes most women, have been socialized to think that masturbation is wrong, or at least it’s a private affair that one should keep to herself. But I’m her to tell you that’s just bull-hockey. And this is true for both women and men, gay and straight and everyone in between.

How do you tell him you don’t like something without shutting him down? Well, it’s probably much easier to tell him what you like and how you like it rather than approaching the tutorial from the negative. If he’s not completely brain dead, he WILL get the message. If, however, he starts to do something that is rubbing you the wrong way, so to speak, simply tell him as calmly as possible that he will get a much bigger and better rise out of you if he did it THIS way. And then show him…again.masturbation001

That fact that you sometimes don’t like something but that you often if not always go along with it tells me that you’ve socialized your man into thinking he’s an adequate lover when he perhaps isn’t. Its time for a confession, girlfriend! Be as gentle as you can, but for god sake, it’s time to come clean.

Take responsibility for keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem and show him what you need and how you need it.

If you indeed lack the confidence you need to be honest with the one you love and who loves you back, then frankly Brandi, you deserve what little you get. But if you can muster up the gumption to throw off the tyranny of that whole people pleasing bullshit you’ve been laboring under all these years, then you have a real shot at some happiness and sexual fulfillment. It’s gonna be up to you to make this happen. If you need some support find a sex positive therapist who will help you grow some balls.

Good luck

A Time For Every Purpose

Name: Pete
Gender:
Age: 22
Location: Ohio
Dr Dick: I am gay and I have no idea how to break it to my family. And they say, every time they see a gay guy, look at that fag glad he’s not my kid. I would disown him. Just wondering if u could help me.

Ain’t it a bitch being surrounded by a bunch of yahoos! Coming out is rarely easy, but doing so to ignorant, fearful, bigoted people is the worst.

Pete, you should know that such bigotry is deeply rooted in the bigot’s own fear about him or herself. It stands to reason, all irrational fears and hatred, like homophobia, are more indicative of the troubled psychological make-up of the one with the prejudice rather than the people he or she abhors.

christian coming out

Often people will use religion to back up their prejudice. It’s particularly galling when non-religious people do this. But it’s safe to say that authentically religious people don’t need to persecute or ostracize those who do not believe as they do. Any more than authentically heterosexual people need to persecute or ostracize people of other sexual persuasions. Let that be the standard by which you judge the worth of any message coming from a religious dogmatist or a moralizing heterosexual.

Before you start in on the self-disclosure thing with your family, Pete, I suggest you first try to clear a path for that discussion. Begin by challenging those around you who shame or denigrate those who are different. Ask them why they make such ridiculously uninformed and hurtful statements. Ask them if degrading other people makes them feel superior. And if it does, what does that say about their inadequacies. You could suggest that their intolerance of gay and lesbian people proves they have some hidden, unresolved sexual issues that they need to address. I mean — me thinks you doth protest too much — and all that, right?

If your family environment doesn’t improve with that tactic, you may find that, at least in the short run, discretion is the better part of valor. Sometimes coming out to one’s family is best done only after you’ve come out to friends and co-workers. This strategy will provide you a bank of support that you can fall back on if the family disclosure things turn out badly.

My counsel to those just starting the coming out process is to reserve the good news about you and your sexuality for the audience best situated to receive it. Celebrate your queerness with open-minded people first. Nowadays there’s way more acceptance of alternative lifestyles in the popular culture then ever before. Younger people, particularly, seem to have more tolerance for diversity. But however you choose to handle this difficult yet important developmental task, don’t sink to the lowest common denominator. Don’t cave into the bigotry that surrounds you. Don’t let it intimidate you into a life of shame, repression, or self-loathing. Live authentically, Pete. And live proud! Because when you do, you are a shining example of a happy, healthy and integrated and well-adjusted human being.

Read other people’s coming out stories; they may offer you strategies for your own coming out.  Then consider sharing your story to help others.

Finally, just remember you are not alone. Sex positive and gay positive organizations abound. If you need help with any of your coming out, if you’re feeling isolated and alone — turn to one of them. They are there to help. And there are even support organizations for your family members too. Turn them on to: PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians).

Good luck

Pride Goeth Before The Fall

Name: Jen
Gender: female
Age: 59
Location: North Dakota

I’m a widow and I am so sad. The fellow I’m going with, I really love him, but I can’t have an orgasm with him. I was able to have an orgasm with my husband who is passed away. And I can when I am playing with a toy by myself.

He has such pride and I don’t want to hurt his feelings, because it would take me about a half hour of foreplay to get there.

Thank you for your message, Jen. Your concern about your man and his inability to rock your world is, sadly, a very familiar complaint. I hear it from women all the time.pride

You say that your man is prideful and that you don’t want to hurt his feelings. But are you really willing to sacrifice your sexual wellbeing on that altar? I hope not. Even prideful men can learn something about pleasuring the woman they are with.

Let’s just say that this guy your dating knew how to pleasure all the women he has ever been with previous to you. That pedigree doesn’t make him an expert on pleasuring every other women he will meet, and that includes you.

Allow me to share with you the exchange I had with another woman in your situation. Perhaps my advice to her will be helpful to you. This is from…

Name: Zoe
Gender: female
Age: 25
Location: Boise
I learned how to masturbate when I was 12. From that first time I’ve loved how it makes me feel. No matter how good my lovers are; they never come close to the pleasure I feel when I’m touching myself. I like the intimacy I have with my boyfriend, but he’s not very good in the sack. I’ve been trying to get him to watch me masturbate, or we could masturbate together, so that he’d know how to touch me and make the bells ring. Unfortunately, he’s really straight-laced and he thinks my suggestion is perverted. He resists every time I bring it up. Sometimes after we have sex, I wait for him to fall asleep then get myself off. Is this selfish?

selfish-man

You betcha it’s selfish, selfish as all get-out. Not you, Zoe, but the bonehead you’re fuckin’. This is a classic, “you can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” sorta deal. Only here we have a “you can lead the horse’s ass to the mysteries of pussy, but you can’t make him appreciate them.”

I gotta ask, what makes a sexually enlightened chick like you hook up with and stay with bozo like him? Do you actually think that he’s gonna magically come around one fine day and let you lead him to nirvana? I think not. You know why I think this? It’s because you’ve created a monster — an “all I need to worry about is me gettin’ off in my girlfriend’s snatch” kinda monster. And that’s one scary kinda monster.

I am of the mind that it’s fruitless to try to get an obstinate partner, like your guy to do something he doesn’t want to do. The nagging alone will harden his resolve to resist. This does not mean you’ll never get your way. It just means that you have to go about this in a completely different way than, “oh honey, won’t you please cum and watch me jill-off? In the numbskull’s defense, he may be missing the point completely. He may not understand why you want him to watch you pleasure yourself. So if your agenda is to get him to be a better lover, that’s how you’re gonna have to approach the big lug.

First off, he needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that he’s not the Hercules in the boudoir he thinks he is. This is gonna sting his ego like crazy and it might very well be the end of him and you altogether. But I assure you, risking this is much better than maintaining the status quo. Because, with each passing fuck, he will be more convinced then the fuck before that he’s da man.im_da_man

Once you burst his bubble, you’ll need to immediately inflate a new one for and with him. Us men folk can’t live very long with out our illusions. Begin this inflation process by taking some responsibility for this predicament. Own up to keeping him in the dark about his lack of sexual prowess. Then tell him that there’s a very easy and fun fix for the problem. Maybe if he understands that you want to jill-off for him as a tutorial, he’d be more compliant.

I’d be willing to guess that if you made this presentation more of a game or a role-play scenario then a seminar he’d be more receptive. Why not try something like this. Introduce a blindfold into your sex play. Have him strip down to his jock for you, then blindfold him. It’s gonna be his job to get you off without using the magic wand he has stuck in his jock. The blindfold will necessitate that he use his hands (and mouth) to find and pleasure you. While you tease his dick inside his jock guide his hands to your pussy. He’ll no doubt be fumbling around at first, so you’ll have to encourage him with some dirty talk, or actually use his hand to jill yourself off. Just remember keep it fun and playful and keep his dick safely tucked away.

You can see how this little exercise could be educational for him without being emasculating. Once he figures out that there’s more to sex than the old in and out, he might actually cum around, so to speak. Similarly, you might, on another occasion, submit to the blindfold yourself and have him use your hand to jack himself off. In time, you be able to do away with the blindfold altogether. But then, you might want to introduce restraints of some sort. While he’s buck naked and restrained put on a hot and horny show for him. Tease him with your self-pleasuring, but don’t let him touch you. Maybe rub yourself with his stiff cock. Since he’ll be unable to resist, it will be like masturbating with his pecker. Doesn’t that sound like a load of fun for all concerned?

Good luck

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