Before the holidays, and my mother’s death, I recorded a whole bunch of new audio shows so I could sneak in a vacation. Now it all seems like a hundred years ago now, but one of them is just out, and I remember how much I liked it!
Here it is: In Bed with Susie Bright 187: “Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex.”
In this show, daring to make a mockery of Oprah-style solutions, we talk about what it takes to see a sexual relationship thrive, over time. My interview this week looks at the gritty details, where no smug self-help book or dopey platitudes apply.
First, I talk with Jennifer Lehr, the author of the new memoir, Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex. This story chronicles Jennifer and her now-husband John's struggle to enjoy sex equally, even from the early days of their relationship. In their case, he was the one who didn’t want to; she was the one who yearned. Then, in my mailbag, we both tackle a letter from a man who says he's addicted to Internet porn to make up for the lack of sex with his wife, who he believes is completely oblivious.
(If you've never heard my show before, you can listen to this particular show for free, within the coming week. No strings attached!)
Usually when I do interviews, I travel to big cities and do marathons all day in a studio. This time, Jennifer was kind enough to come to Santa Cruz, where I got to spend the afternoon with her. You may remember I was captivated by her book from the first time I saw it.
Couples write in to me about this subject (conflict between their desire) more than any other... and it reminds me of a story about a sexual advice column I used to write.
I was the first “online” sex advisor for Playboy, when they first started their web site. I asked the editor if he wanted me to make up some theoretical questions to get the column started, but he told me he had hundreds of emails already. I was so curious, that I told him to xerox and send them all. It's not often you get such an intimate glimpse into a wide audience.
At this point in my career, I had written sex columns for Salon, (lefty yuppies) On Our Backs (uppity dykes), Penthouse Forum (square on the outside, swinging fantasists on the inside), and BUST (Sassy Grows Up). I had also counseled women and men of every kind, from nuns to Olympic figure skaters, in my days working at Good Vibrations.
But this cache of letters was revelatory. It was the audience I’d never been allowed to counsel, that I would have been locked up if I’d even tried to approach. It was hundreds of young teenage boys.
90% of them wanted to know one thing: "Is my penis was all right?" They meant, whether its appearance and behavior on their body was normal. At first I was laughing, at this unexpected cache of virgins, but then I was quite touched and even upset. There is an epidemic of insecurity and ignorance— And I thought girls were bad!
Here’s the rub— Playboy’s editors didn’t want me answering those kind of questions online, because it would betray their demographics. And of course, they wanted to appeal to the adult, affluent man, the kind of model you see in their subscription advertisements.
I had never addressed an exclusively male audience before. Penthouse had a lot of women readers who wrote in.
In the Playboy stash, the second most popular question was, “How can i get any girl— or a particular girl— to go to bed with me?” I would say young women have that same kind of question too. In fact, old geezers of both genders have that question; it’s eternal!
Finally, the third most popular question was the one I opened this entry with, the struggle over sexual frequency, and desire between a couple. It’s as relevant today as when I first started writing as a “sexpert,” because it’s one of the question that people are likely to look in all the wrong places to answer. Sure, it starts with chemistry or conquest... but things can get pretty self-deluded from there. I hope you find Jennifer’s candor as refreshing as I did!