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Review: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner

Hey sex fans!

I have another swell sex-positive book to tell you about today. Anyone who frequents this site will already be familiar with my dear friend and esteemed colleague, Cheryl Cohen Greene. If ya don’t believe me type her name into the search function in the sidebar to your right and PRESTO!

Not only will you find the fabulous two-part SEX WISDOM podcast we did together, (Part 1 is HERE! And Part 1 is HERE!) you will find a posting about the movie The Sessions. You’ve seen it right? It’s the award-winning film staring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy. It’s the story of a man in an iron lung who wishes to lose his virginity.  He contacts a professional surrogate partner with the help of his therapist and priest. Ms. Hunt plays Cheryl, the surrogate partner in the movie

Cheryl also contributed a chapter on sex and intimacy concerns for sick, elder and dying people for my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying.

With all that as a preface, I now offer you Cheryl’s own story: An Intimate Life: Sex, Love, and My Journey as a Surrogate Partner. The first thing I want to say is this book is it’s not a clinical or technical tome. It is an easily accessible memoir. And that, to my mind, is what makes it so fascinating.

She writes in the Introduction:An Intimate Life

I started this work in 1973, and my journey to it spans our society’s sexual revolution and my own. I grew up in the ‘40s and ‘50s, a time when sex education was—to put it mildly— lacking. As I educated myself, I found that most of what I had been taught about sex was distorted or wrong. The lessons came from the playground, the church, and the media. My parents could barely talk about sex, much less inform me about it.

What follows is a candid and often funny look into the personal and professional life of a woman on the cutting edge of our culture’s movement toward sexual wellbeing.

Cheryl comes out of her conservative Catholic upbringing and her often tortured family dynamics with what one would expect—her own sexual awakenings as well as the conspiracy of ignorance and repression that wanted to stifle it. This is a common story, the story of so many of us.

Starting when I was around ten, I masturbated and brought myself to orgasm nearly every night. … If my nights began with anxiety, my days began with guilt. I became convinced that every earache, every toothache, every injury was God punishing me. … I couldn’t escape his gaze or his wrath. Sometimes I imagined my guardian angel looked away in disgust as I touched myself and rocked back and forth in my bed.

The miracle here is that this troubled tween would blossom into the remarkable sexologist she is today.

rsz_1greenecherylSome of the chapters in her book describe one or another of her hands on therapeutic encounters as a surrogate partner, but equally important and compelling are the chapters that describe Cheryl’s own sexual struggles as she moved to adulthood and beyond. Cheryl’s acceptance of her own sexuality enables her to build a career out of helping others do the very same thing.

Everyone has a right to satisfying, loving sex, and, in my experience, that most often flows from strong communication, self-respect, and a willingness to explore.

Despite the frank discussion of sexual topics within the book, there is no prurience or sensationalism. For the most part, Cheryl’s clients are regular people, mostly men, who have pretty ordinary problems—erection and/or ejaculation concerns, dating difficulties, as well as self-esteem, guilt and shame issues. Cheryl helps each of her clients with the efficiency and confidence of the world-class sex educator she is. Most of her interaction involves her supplying her clients with some much-needed information, dispelling myths, and giving them permission to experiment. As she says;

I continue to be amazed at how solid education delivered without judgment can eradicate much of the guilt and shame that turns life in the bedroom into a struggle instead of a pleasure.

Her most famous client, Mark O’Brien, the 36-six-year-old man who had spent most of his life in an iron lung after contracting polio at age 6, was the author of How I Became a Human Being: A Disabled Man’s Quest for Independence, in which he writes about his experience with Cheryl. This, of course, was adapted into a film, The Sessions, which I mentioned above. For her part, Cheryl delivers a most poignant remembrance of Mark early in her book.

I explained Sensual Touch to Mark. Although he was paralyzed, he still had sensation all over his body, so he would feel my hands moving up and down. … I encouraged him to try and recognize four common reactions: feeling neutral, feeling nurtured, feeling sensual and feeling sexual.

An Intimate Life chronicles Cheryl’s life-long interest in human sexuality. Her life and sometimes-turbulent loves are on display, but in the most considerate fashion. She teaches by example. She’s even able to speak with great compassion of her time living with and through cancer.

As I inch toward seventy, I appreciate more and more how much I have to be grateful for and how fortunate I’ve been. I was lucky to find a wonderful career and to be surrounded by so many smart, adventurous, caring people. My personal sexual revolution auspiciously paralleled our culture’s, and in many ways was made possible by it. I am eternally grateful to the pioneers, rebels, and dreamers who made our society a little safer for women who embrace their sexuality.

There is so much I loved about this book, but mostly it’s the humanity I found in abundance. Cheryl’sdr.-cheryl-cohen-greene enlightened soul shines brightly from every page. Her no nonsense approach to all things sexual is an inspiration. And her perseverance to bring surrogate partner therapy into the mainstream is laudable.

…what separates surrogates from prostitutes is significant. When people have difficulties grasping [that], I turn to my beloved and late friend Steven Brown’s cooking analogy that I’ve so often relied on to help me through that question: Seeing a prostitute is like going to a restaurant. Seeing a surrogate is like going to culinary school.

Finally, An Intimate Life is the culmination of Cheryl’s life as a sex educator, her surrogate partner therapy practice being just part of that mission. I highly recommend you read this book. You will, I assure you, come away from it as I have, a better person—enriched, informed, as well as entertained.

Cheryl, thank you for being in my life and being such an abiding inspiration. Thank you too for this marvelous book; now you can be in the lives of so many others who need you so that you can inspire them along their way.

Be sure to visit Cheryl on her site HERE!

Review: The Ultimate Guide To Sex After 50

Hey sex fans!

2015 is turning out to be a banner year for sex positive books. Here it is still only January and this is my second review of a noteworthy book about human sexuality.

A few weeks ago, January 8th to be precise, I introduced you to Cooper S. Beckett’s book, My Life on the Swingset.  In that review I mentioned that Cooper had been a guest on my Sex EDGE-U-cation Show.

Today’s review features a book written by another guest on my show, but this time it was the SEX WISDOM Show. Today’s book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty: How to Maintain – or Regain – a Spicy, Satisfying Sex Life, was written by the brilliant, Joan Price.

Joan is on the forefront of our culture’s discussion on ageless sexuality. She is the author of Ult+Guide+Sex+50+covertwo other books, Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty and Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex. She is a sought-after speaker and workshop leader. And, if that weren’t enough, she’s also a fitness expert. This woman is a ball of fire, sex fans, and an absolutely charming interview. Be sure to listen to the two-part interview I did with Joan, you’ll find them archived HERE and HERE!

Joan and I talked about some the many myths that surround sex during life’s second half; she covers this topic more in depth in her new book. The misinformation about sex after 50 is so pervasive that even many of us seniors and elders perpetrate it. And, of course, we’re often the butt of jokes.

1. We lose interest in sex as we age.
2. Senior sex is boring.
3. Dating as a senior/elder is depressing and hopeless.
4. Seniors with arousal issues just give up on sex.
5. Sex becomes more frequent as we age.
6. Real sex must involve intercourse and orgasm.
7. Health concerns and menopause will end one’s sex life.
8. If you’re interested in sex after you turn 50, you’re a dirty old man/woman.

The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty is the perfect antidote to the dismissive and degrading way that so much of the popular culture deals with senior and elder sexuality. Joan celebrates not only the existence and appropriateness of sexual desire for seniors and elders, but how sex can and does increase the health and wellbeing of older people.

Joan states her credo in the Introduction.
“…being sexual at this time of life means:
• Enjoying arousal and orgasm, with or without a partner
• Having a zesty, sex-positive frame of mind
• Being open to new possibilities
• Giving pleasure to this body that is capable of great delights
• Making a commitment to myself to be sexually aware and healthy”

Joan invites her readers to join her in conversation. And a big part of that conversation is being aware of what’s going on with our body as we age. Being attuned to that, and being able to communicate that to a partner, is key to great senior/elder sex. (To be frank, it’s the secret of great sex at any age, but I digress.) To that end, Joan includes in her book actual comments from real people that she has encountered in her work. These anecdotes reflect an array of feelings that underscore the conflicts, successes, and complexities of real life situations. And this being the Ultimate Guide, Joan includes the input from many of our colleagues who weigh in with their expert opinion on the topics she is addressing.

I love that Joan often makes the point that having a fulfilling sex life is not dependent on having a partner. Lot of seniors and elders are without a partner, but that ought not be an impediment to sexual enjoyment. Self-pleasuring, with one’s hand, or any of the myriad toys available to us, is the foundation of a rich, healthy, rewarding, and ageless sex life.

Joan also examines a topic near and dear to my life. In my book, The Amateur’s Guide To Death And Dying; Enhancing The End of Life, I took great pains to include a chapter about the sex and intimacy needs of sick, elder, and dying people. Joan does something similar in her chapter — Cancer, Cancer Treatment, And Sex. I am so grateful that Join addressed this timely topic, suggesting, as she does, that people challenged with cancer, or any other chronic condition for that matter, take their sexual performance questions to their doctors. I think we both believe this will go a long way to underscore the notion that wellbeing is not merely about absence of disease, it’s’ about quality of life. There’s also a marvelous section about sex and grief too.

And, just so you know, this isn’t a hetero-centric book. Joan includes all sexual orientations and lifestyles.

I highly recommend Joan’s new book, The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty, to everyone. If you are a fellow senior or elder, this book is chock full of important and practical information about things we care about. It also provides much needed support and encouragement as we make our way through this season of life. If you’re not a senior or elder, this book is an indispensable resource for you too. Not just so that you will be sensitive to the needs of others, but that you’ll grow in appreciation of the fact that sex is for a lifetime. And hey, you just might learn a little something new from someone who isn’t “new”.

I want to say a special thanks to Cleis Press, Joan’s publisher, for sending me this review copy of The Ultimate Guide to Sex After Fifty.

Kudos to Joan! Your book is a marvel.

Be sure to check out Joan’s websites: joanprice.com and NakedatOurAge.com.

PS:  This book would make a fantastic Valentine’s Day gift.

Sexual Tension or Domestic Tranquility

Name: Barbara
Gender: Female
Age: 48
Location: Santa Cruz, CA
I’ve been with my current lover for 5 years and I dearly love him. A couple of years ago he had hemorrhoid surgery and was in the hospital for a month. When he got home he refused to have sex with me but once a month of so. After two years his sexual interest is less and less. We have a wonderful time together, except for the sex. He’s a great guy and I know he loves me. We talk about it, but he tells me that he doesn’t need sex and he wants a platonic relationship. He’s not open to therapy. If he doesn’t want to be physical, I don’t want to force it but I’m masturbating all alone and I’m very frustrated. I don’t what to leave him, but I can’t stand the status quo.

This is a classic lament, Barbara. So many couples struggle with much the same thing. Love, intimacy, and sex—three very different things—yet we are socialized into thinking that they should always come to us as a package deal. And anything that doesn’t is less than optimum and often downright bad or sinful. What a tiny little box we’re all supposed to fit in.

sexual-FrustrationI believe there is a fundamental difference between love, sex, and intimacy, but so many people confuse or conflate these very different needs to their detriment. Some go so far as to destroy an otherwise good and vibrant relationship just because it doesn’t conform to what we perceive as the norm…ya know the big package deal I just mentioned.

I don’t know how we got it into are head that the only legitimate or wholesome sex is the sex that happens in a loving relationship, or that if there is no sex in a loving relationship, then that relationship is somehow flawed or defective. That’s simply not the case.

The way I see it, passionate sex is dependent on a good deal of sexual tension. Ya know, like the grips of hot monkey love that happens at the beginning of a relationship. In time this sexual tension dissipates. I might add that it takes a great deal of work to keep that kind of tension alive. Most couples don’t invest that kind of energy, even though they may pay lip service to the desire for it.life is too short

Intimacy, on the other hand, is dependent on domestic tranquility, in other words, the elimination of tension in the relationship, which often also includes sexual tension. And since most couples desire intimacy over sex they choose (either consciously or not) the domestic tranquility option. But the result is the kind of sexual frustration you report, at least for some.

Those who wish to have both sexual passion and intimacy need to be creative in developing both. It simply isn’t enough to believe that loving someone is enough to make it happen. It takes a lot of very hard work.

That being said, Barbara, if your partner refuses to join you in any effort to find a solution to the problems that plague your relationship, he is telling you that your sexual concerns are unimportant to him. My counsel is always the same under these circumstances. If your sexual needs are as pressing as you say they are, then confront him in no uncertain terms. No beating around the bush, darlin’, it’s ultimatum time. Tell your partner that dragging his feet, or obstructing all together your efforts to solve your relationship problems signals to you that the relationship, at least as it is currently configured, is in desperate trouble.

As I’ve suggested earlier, you can tell him that there are several ways of keeping the relationship going without expecting he fulfill all or any of your sex needs if he’s gonna be fulfilling your intimacy needs. But living without sex in your life is a deal breaker. He needs to know that you are serious about the crisis that exists. Of course, if you do this you will have to follow through on the ultimatum. To do otherwise would tell him that you don’t believe your concerns are all that important either.

If you ask me, life is too short to be living with all that sexual frustration. Don’t tolerate the frustration make it work for you. Your sexual frustration could be the very thing that motivates you to create better your situation for yourself and possibly your old man too.

Good Luck

What do you think about sex work?

Ravishly invited me to contribute to an online conversation they are sponsoring on sex work.  They allowed me 500 words.

The Conversation is in the lower right-hand corner of their site.

ravishly

The question posed:

 

Is female sex work empowering or enslaving?

Current and former sex workers, a clinical sexologist (me), a lawyer, an author-activist and a community advocate debate the sex work industry.

My contribution is titled:  Sex Work Is!

I invite you to take a look at all the contributions and add your thoughts.

More SEX WISDOM With Katie Querna — Podcast #427 — 09/10/14


Hello sex fans! Welcome back.

As you remember from last week, this week marks the end of my podcasting career. I’ve done 427 shows in just under eight years and I’ve decided that’s plenty. While I am exceptionally proud of the quality programming I’ve brought to you, my international audience, it’s time to call it quits. But I’m happy to report, all my podcasts are archived right here on my site and they will remain so for the foreseeable feature. So I hope you will visit often.

For my last show I welcome back my good friend, colleague, social worker, and real life neighbor, Katie Querna for Part 2 of her appearance on this the SEX WISDOM show.IMG_6200

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of this conversation, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because, like I mentioned above, all my podcasts are archived here. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #426 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Katie and I discuss:

  • Sex pairings and sex role stereotyping;
  • Gayle Rubin’s “Charmed Circle”;
  • The disparity in access to reproductive and sexual health care for women and men;
  • Fear of sex and sexuality;
  • Children, teens, sex, and gender;
  • Learning is a lifelong process.

Katie invites you to visit her on her site HERE!

BE THERE OR BE SQUARE!

Look for all my podcasts on iTunes they will remain archived there as well. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Stockroom.

drdicksstockroom.jpg

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