The sex toys

– “Doctor…My hubby gave me a dildo with a cute little tickling ear—such a sweetheart.”

When the time of Valentine’s Day came, most physicians would teasingly ask their lady patients if their “significant other” remembered the date. Usually they would start talking their heads off about beautiful flower bouquets, or bags of tasty chocolates or romantic dinners in smart restaurants. Or the three of them. But they would never dare to tell us what happened that night afterwards. Sometimes a giggle or a wink was all that we needed to know that they had had some fun; we never dared to ask for details.

Alicia X. is a very smart and gorgeous young clinical psychologist who happens to be my patient. She was never shy about her discussing her sexual preferences and frustrations, being a source of inspiration for many of the article in this series. Two years ago, she found her “soul mate”, a very nice businessman who adores her and literally lives for her and their one-year old daughter. Being an outspoken feminist, she proudly tells everybody that wants to listen that he is “super in bed” because he knows how to engage in the necessary foreplay to excite all her senses. Last year she told me that he had given her some saucy lingerie. But this year he went a step further. Way further.

Unfortunately, the malicious double sexual discourse of the perennial patriarchal society—on one hand exposing us to the more vile forms of pornography in the media and on the other hand playing prudish when the time to discuss healthy sexual behavior in the public forum—has blurred the significance of “sensuality” in our media. It originally refers to using all our senses—vision, hearing, smell, taste and touching—to potentiate our sexual experiences in an innovative way. The over-reliance of males in the issue of “penetration” in our phalo-centric cultures is based on the subconscious masculine fear of “not being able to satisfy her” in the bed and fail as a partner. If they would only know that her sexuality is not only limited to her vagina but distributed all over her body.

The concept of “sex” involves much more that a ready penetration of a cavity and empowered women are determined to remind and/or teach their partners about mind-spiritual connections. The sexual act begins when someone looks at another person in a different, original way and then approaches him/her for further contact. The mellifluous chat, the open flirting, the occasional touch, the furtive kisses, the sharing of exciting cultural and gastronomic events are part of the act. The ladies are shedding their traditional timidity and asking for more romance, more eroticism. Better listen, guys.

The sex toys are part of that ensemble of additives to make the sexual act more enjoyable for both. The special oils for relaxing massages, the online stimulation programs, the vibrating ring to prolong the erection, the provocative lingerie in black or red, the masks, the various vibrators, etc. Even though many men still consider them an unwarranted intrusion in their intimacy, which can distract their partners from the “business at hand”, more women are demanding their step by step inclusion. As it has been for centuries, the ladies are the ultimate arbiters in the intimacy of the bedroom.

What do you want me to say? I still can’t figure out what that cute little ear is supposed to tickle…

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Addicted to sex

– “Doctor…Got to make love every night—my husband has to keep up with me.”

Solange X. is a gorgeous thirty something lady that has a loving husband and a small child, besides working as a busy manger in a local communications company. She consulted me a few months ago due to a painful bursitis in the right shoulder that she attributed to a fancy sexual pose she had tried with her partner a few days before. When I prescribed some anti-inflammatory medication and rest for a few days, she forthrightly told me that she would not stop her nightly risky maneuvering in bed.

The issue of “sex addiction” is being contested in professional circles at present, which led to a fight whether to include that entity in the DSM III; the lack of clear cut evidence finally tipped the balance against including it as a new diagnosis in it. An addiction implies the existence of two main factors, which are the following:

  1. The search for a compensation or pleasure
  2. The existence of a conflict surrounding this behavior

An addiction is different than an obsessive-compulsive behavior because in the latter there is not the acquisition of pleasure as the final goal. Some psychologists argue that in addictions, the abnormal behavior can produce physical/psychological harm. The obsession for food and gambling were recognized as abnormal clinical entities.

Dr. Walter Guedin, a psychiatrist specializing in Sexology in Buenos Aires said: “in the addiction to sex the desire is mixed with the impulse, pleasure with anxiety, the temptation with moral values, danger or the risk sensation with the self-preservation. The addiction to sex is an irrepressible, repetitive behavior that carries the stigma of guilt and sensation of void that appear once the sexual tension has come down.”

After patiently listening to Solange’s explanation, I looked into her eyes and said:

– “Do you lift you baby in your arms to play with him or look into his eyes?’

– “Of course, all the time… When I come back from work, it’s the first thing I do.”

– “Well, there you are…If you don’t wear a sling for a few days and avoid stressful situations for your right shoulder, you might not be able to do it in the future…”

She demurred for two seconds and then replied: “all right…I’ll follow your advice.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Toxic feelings of guilt

– “Doctor…Whatever I do or say to my boyfriend is always wrong—I’m exhausted.”

Isabel X. is a gorgeous young graduate student that has had a longstanding conundrum. She fell in love with a dashing fellow student two years ago and they started living together six months ago. Initially she felt that her dream had come true: a handsome, intelligent and romantic guy. However, she found out that the pretty packaging was concealing a particular personality trait: narcissism.

It is easy for a woman to fall in love with a narcissistic man: they are so much fun as a company. They are very sociable, eager to meet new people, have wonderful conversations, show courtesy. However, there is a telltale sign that trouble lies ahead: they talk too much about themselves. Living with him under the same roof, Isabel found out that her partner was not listening to her. Worse, every time she opened her mouth to share something big or small, he interrupted her. Her emotional frustration was gnawing slowly but readily her self-esteem, which negatively affected her studies.

Her strong romantic bondage and high level of expectations for her partner, prodded Isabel to take his sickening attitude in stride, which was obviously worsened by her big fear of abandonment. Her girlfriends and her mother, who occasionally dropped by in her campus dorm apartment, got it right from the start; they all encouraged her to drop that relationship and clean her slate quickly. She continued to give, give, give…In return she was getting nothing except toxic feelings of guilt.

“Is it my fault?” “Should I talk differently?” “Am I asking for too much?” “Do I deserve him?”

Jeffrey E, Young said that the only way to break off negative life patterns is to re-evaluate your relationships and start to appreciate those persons, who, in spite of appearing boring, listen to us. Oftentimes a companion that sits down or snuggles in the sofa next to you is very precious. The always fun-always attractive-always romantic hero of so-called “chicks’ movies” is a total fake. Wait a minute. With my daughter, we did enjoy watching the film “Leap Year” where the central character found out that the rough Irish guy she met on vacation was better than her NY boyfriend. Amy Adams fortunately found out that Matthew Goode was a better match for her. He listened.

Isabel did ask me what to do. My answer: “move out immediately and cut all contact with him.” When she left my office, I didn’t think that she was going to follow my tough advice. She did. She later told me that the same evening she said to him; “we need to talk.” Like Nora had done before in “House of dolls”. Her boyfriend became very aggressive and refused to even listen to her. But she stood firm. In the morning she gathered her belongings and moved out with a girlfriend living in the same dorm. She re-connected with her network of friends and went back home for a long week-end. Despite his frantic attempts to contact her, she was shielded by her circle of friends and family.

After a month, she finally accepted that she had engaged in an extremely damaging relationship. She vowed never to repeat the same mistake. She found a boyfriend who was willing to listen. Exhilarated with her blessed happiness, she learned how to cook. Compared to the sorry version of herself I had witnessed, she was simply radiant.

And she brought me delicious cookies. What do you want me to say? If most men only got a glimpse of the strategic advantage bestowed unto others by just listening more.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

Bodily image and self-esteem

– “Doctor…I don’t want him to see my belly scars—I undress quickly and plunge in bed.”

Sandra X.  is an old acquaintance of this page already. She’s the brave lady that decided to set up a painter’s atelier in Miami’s Wynwood section and has a boyfriend who’s 20 years younger. However, she can’t help feeling a little ashamed of the small striate that she has in her belly after having had two children, a common anatomical hallmark that post-partum women carry in earnest. Even for a daring lady like herself, who has defied many social conventions, she cannot detach herself completely from the ridiculously perfect image of women’s bodies that social media promotes.

Women have a much more integrated, holistic vision of their own bodies than men usually do. They can scan themselves quickly in the mirror and soon detect “something that’s not quite right.” It could be the color of their hair, the size of one of their breasts, the symmetry of their thighs, etc. As a result, they will try to conceal that supposedly “weak aesthetic feature” and worry about it. The hurried pace of modern life and the oftentimes erratic choice of sexual partners will enable those ladies to avoid the necessary sexual foreplay altogether and jump straight into “the business.”

Institutes like the “Body Positive” in Berkeley, California, have been teaching women for years how to accept their own bodies, defects included, and develop a positive social attitude. We already discussed in our previous article called “The Fat Girl” how the social pressure to conform to a certain idealized, trimmed version of the feminine body, which is a relatively recent enslaving tool of the patriarchal society to keep women at bay, can seriously harm those that don’t conform to it. A cowered, uninformed and diminished  individual is much easier to manipulate for a tyranny’s oppression. The upcoming new film based on Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” is a testimony to that resilient truth.

Dr, Walter Ghedin, a Buenos Aires psychiatrist specializing in Sexology and a dear friend, said: “all the body can be an object of internalized critique and camouflaging. When the malaise progresses, it is impossible to remain open and free to engage in a sexual encounter. The experience of undressing together (a practice that is generally being dropped due to the daily haste), of touching ourselves, of allowing us the time to discover our bodies, becomes a feared event that must be avoided, recruiting the bed sheets and the bedroom darkness as our allies in the conceit.” He claims that our attention becomes fixated “in that thing” and distracts us from enjoying sex. Our anticipated anxiety about our “defect” makes us second guess our partner’s thinking as we feel that he/she/sie shares our obsession and does not speak out in order to avoid hurting us more. Unfortunately avoiding this touchy subject can only prolong the agony for the concerned partner.

What do you want me to say? Even though I have been overweight for many years already, I never gave it too much thinking at the time of sexual arousal…We, men, are definitely less complicated.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

Yours, mine, ours

– “Doctor…Choosing ice cream flavors can be a real challenge—takes a lot of negotiation.”

Maria X. is a nice middle-aged lady that has been married twice already and has offspring from both relationships. She has two teenage daughters for her first marriage and Victor, her present husband, has two teenage sons from a previous bonding; they both had had a small daughter. Nowadays the family relationships cannot be solely explained by the traditional tree as there are more crossed relationships from remarried partners, homosexual marriages and adopted children.

The typical image of the stepmother as “a witch bent on mischief on her adopted children” is far from the reality sur le champ where young kids get oftentimes more attached to a close mother figure that their more distant biological one. Similarly, young children often revere more a father figure that helps them with their homework or plays baseball with them than their biological one. Sometimes the breakup of relationships entails the forced adaptation of children to another hearth and to another company without having much say in their parents’ sexual and amorous choices.

The assembly of these composite groupings occurs rather spontaneously as there is not a rational pre-planification of “who will be who”; the gregarious nature of humans makes us seek company. Everything is not always rosy as there are power disputes as in any large human grouping, eventually creating internal cliques and sub-groups; their genetic similarities will not guarantee that Maria’s two teenage daughters will see eye to eye in all their daily choices and dilemmas. She told me that one of them is much closer to the eldest son of Victor and supports him passionately.

Planning their daily chores, their weekend leisure activities, their yearly vacations and something as mundane as who gets to enter the bathroom first in the morning must be negotiated carefully. The members of the group must develop varying grades of tolerance for each other all the time. First of all, the parents must learn to love and show their sincere affection for children who are not biologically related to them but share the same hearth besides present and future family objectives. The siblings must learn how to be equitable in their dealings with each other, avoiding clannish attitudes that might damage the overall trust that young people demand from those close to them.

According to Maria and Victor, sometimes they have rough moments but so far, they have been able to avoid intractable situations that would poison their daily interactions; the fact that they are both professionals earning good income and with extensive social connections made a difference. They claim that their extended family is just a microcosmos of the much more problematic and larger inter-ethnic and multi-cultural environment of South Florida where we all live at present.

We wholeheartedly agree that this family constitutes a great example of how people from different backgrounds can eventually learn how to coexist in a closed environment for the common good. It is only natural that we tend to seek the company of people who are similar to us in the private sphere, especially when we are seeking a steady couple relationship. Things run much smoother. However, we should take a more open and tolerant attitude when we enter into the public sphere.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

Friends with benefits

– “Doctor…An occasional tryst won’t break our marriage—on the contrary.”

Patrizia X. is a nice, attractive middle-aged professional woman with a nice family of four: a loving, considerate husband and three teenagers that are excelling at their studies. Who could ask for more? Well, she does. A few months ago, she sat down with her hubby and discussed together the decreasing eroticism of their relationship and ways to improve it. Being both Italian-Americans, the solution was not an easy one.

Finally they decided that they could each have an occasional date and sexual encounter with a partner of their choosing with the acknowledged aim to refresh their sexual desire. They could not lie or hide the romantic escapade to each other and they were not supposed to repeat the same escapade. Usually they chose mutual friends that would keep the secret or, in this time of extreme social connectivity, an old flame from the past that landed in the USA to visit or even an inconclusive high school relationship. The fact that they were not residents of the same city supposedly precluded any attachments.

They are not swingers. They do not profess the mantra of free love. And they don’t cheat. They assume, as informed and responsible adults, the need to revitalize their relationship with “un souffle au coeur” as the French had pointedly defined this novel arrangement. In order to properly function both members of the couple must be willing and ready to accept it; it cannot be the result of one of the partners co-opting the other one for a needed change. Once they complete their escapade, they erase that episode from their minds altogether.

Even though this kind of arrangement is rarely seen, it has become progressively more common, especially in young and middle-aged couples that are often educated and well off. The cross-fertilization of social habitudes in our multi-faceted, hyper-connected society has pushed out into the open something that had been an accepted practice for the closeted; when the LGBT community pushed for equal rights for marriage, they brought us a present. Homosexuals, unencumbered by the traditional view of the couple based on marriage, breeding and the patriarchate, have been tolerant of an occasional third party in their couples, as long as there was no lying, hiding or the break-up of their amorous relationship.

It all sounds very exciting and adventurous with the possibility of maintaining the status quo. However, we must respectfully disagree with the apparent “civility” of this increasingly common agreement; we will reluctantly play the part of “devil’s advocate” in this honorable court of bloggers’ forum. It is never that easy to keep a clear mind.

Long, long time ago (before I became a monk of Medicine) I had the rogue predisposition to establish clandestine friendships with duly married ladies, without any guilt or remorse. Each one of those felt like an exhilarating roller coaster ride that would jump-start our hearts. It was fun. It was invigorating. It was fabulous. But a Damocles’ sword was always hanging above us. After guilt-free sexual encounters with somebody you really liked (it’s only natural to want more of it) the bug of emotional attachment buzzed. Inevitably we tended to fall in love. And then what were we supposed to do, eh?

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave us alone.

The cordial cohabitation

– “Doctor…It’s tough living under the same roof sometimes—we’re doing it for the kids.”

Kim X. is a very nice middle-aged nurse that has been separated from her husband for a few months already; they decided to stop their relationship because they weren’t in love anymore. They did it on good financial terms and decided to stay in separate rooms of the same house; considering that their two children are only 5 and 10 years old, they are threading carefully. For the time being they have reached an “entente cordiale” where they discreetly pursue their loving affairs outside the house but inside it they both emotionally support their young ones every day.

She confided that fact to me because she knew that I have been separated from “the mother of my children” since the beginning of the millennia but we have stayed very close all the time, with some ups and downs of course. Our two children were very small then and we made the conscious decision to relegate our personal lives a little in order to keep a watchful eye on them. I recently saw “Wind River”, an action film where the main character suffered because his daughter had been assassinated by a straggler when he had been fulfilling his duties as an Alaska park ranger. He admonished the female FBI agent that was helping him: “when you have kids, you can’t even blink. Not once.”

A few days ago, I listened to a panel discussion in “France Inter”, the leading private radio operator in France, where they discussed precisely this cohabitation arrangement. In general, the French have been quite permissive in their sexual and loving relationships, never doubting to change their spouses and or companions at the slightest hint of marital malfunction. However, the recent experience of thousands of young women, many of them working poor and members of Minority groups, has rekindled this perennial question: “do women need men to raise kids?”

Of course, they don’t, all the panelists agreed. But the presence of “the father figure” is needed. Most of the ladies confessed that raising a male child with a lot of love and dedication sometimes produced uncontrollable brats that felt entitled to anything. “Mom will give it to me” they said. The limits set by the vigilant presence of “the father” helped the youngster learn some basic civic virtues like respect and tolerance of the others, so necessary in our convulsed modern times. They even suggested that the rising crime rate of the “quartiers peripheriques” full of immigrants from Northern Africa and Eastern Europe could be countenanced by more social services. The present configuration of Paris entails the creation of a peripheral circumvoluting road that keeps those “undesirables” out of the more sanitized, clean and touristy “centre de la ville.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.