Saturday, October 6, 2018

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

"Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter," she said. As a neurobiologist and a survivor of verbal, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, I knew exactly what she meant. As Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the judiciary hearing, a flood of similar images washed through my own mind. My own personal hell, displacing joyful memories my family so easily remembers, on "repeat" in my mind.

Anything resembling these many memories triggered impromptu trips down memory lane hell.

Unexpected and unwanted touch.

Anything of a sexual nature.

Music I listened to regularly during times of intense trauma.


Calvin Klein's Obsession continues to make me feel faint, makes me want to vomit. Makes me shake uncontrollably.

I think I have an idea how to fix this.


Sexual problems are one of the most common reasons for couples to divorce.

My husband told me just last night that the only time he thought of leaving was during our 13th year of marriage, 2009.  At the time, he had just been laid off from his job, the lead-up to which was eight years of rockstar-like performance for various unappreciative companies which either used him as a scapegoat after his departure, or threw him out like a broken tool as they closed locations, divisions.

"You are being eaten by the machine," I told him.

A friend warned me that starting a business together can often spell divorce for married couples. I blew it off.


 I was quite young when I first found him - the little man in the boat.

Alone in my room in the partially-finished basement, I would listen for footsteps in the kitchen above to know if it was safe to play with him.

The floor in the old bungalow was fairly creaky and gave me ample warning so I could quickly pull my hands out from between my legs and adjust my underwear as if nothing had happened before my mother found me.

I didn't hear the old wives' tale about getting hairy palms until well after I had shared these experiences with a few of my young girl friends. We laughed at the idea while laying together, one on top of the other, imagining what it would be like with the boys we pictured in our heads.

"You be the boy this time."

"Okay, but it's your turn next time."


I had sold my soul at such a young age to play with my Nautical Friend, and girl friends, so joining the church seemed like the wrong thing to do. I was a sinner, and I was okay with it. When I told my poor mother that I wasn't joining, and she offered to buy me the new tennis racket I wanted (since I made varsity tennis as a freshman, thank you very much), I went ahead and sold my soul again. Church? Sign me up. Love-love.

It was 1992 and the Presbyterian Church of the USA was embroiled in a debate over the morality of gay and lesbian people in the ministry when I was the first youth member of our particular church's government. On the agenda of this particular meeting was a debate about whether or not to support a national resolution in favor of gay and lesbian clergy.

The congregation was split on the matter. We would have to decide it as the church leadership.

I was on session with adults who were parents and grandparents of my peers.

Our Presbytery Liaison came out as a Lesbian during the meeting. She was a paid member of the church staff and could lose her job if the resolution failed at the national level. She was a respected member of our ministry.

I wrote and gave a speech in favor of the resolution. I was the only person under 20-something, maybe 30-something years old, to speak out on the matter.

The resolution passed, but we lost half the congregation to more conservative churches in the area.

I never ever imagined that people in my very liberal Denver church, at that time home to Colorado NARAL, and the Denver Gay Men's Chorus, would be split so evenly on this particular matter.

The resolution failed at the national level, and such policy would not be enacted until 2011, nineteen years later.


Fields of Gold by Sting and Linger from the album Everyone Else Is Doing it, So Why Can't We by the Cranberries were our favorite CDs to listen to while we explored each other's bodies in college. My boyfriend's dormitory roommate had moved out when we came back from our first Christmas Break together, so I moved in.

I caught mononucleosis sometime in the later part of the Fall Semester 1993, so I scaled back my class load to 12 credit hours in the Spring of 1994, the least I could take without losing my scholarship. I took "easy" things like Cultural Anthropology, Drawing I, Deviant Behavior, and Flute. My classes were chosen to optimize the rest I needed to beat the virus. Nothing started before noon. The classes all fed my soul in some way.

Between classes, I laid in bed and read the necessary assignments. I read about sexual practices of the Hopi Indians and I read about United States kink. We had pushed the two twin beds together, so there weren't many other places to be in the small room.

We didn't kiss that whole semester, because I didn't want to give him mono, but it didn't keep us from intercourse.

College was stressful.

I was his medicine and he was mine. Why not take advantage of an early awakening? Got five minutes before you have to go to class? Sweet!! We don't have to leave for dinner for 20 minutes. If you know what I mean.

I have looked it up, and the frequency with which we enjoyed each other was certainly in the realm of addiction.

Not to brag, but we both graduated with honors. And I did it in three years.

The summer after graduation, we married.

I think the sex kept us motivated and happy.


I never understood people who put their children to sleep in another room. All I had to do was sleep topless in our giant bed, and just roll to one side when either of my young children stirred in the night.

I was the She-Wolf, nurturing her pups.

To get them to sleep, I read them several stories and then nursed whoever was youngest until we all fell into breathing synchrony. Often the love took me, too, and I would wake later than I hoped - 11 PM or later - to join my lover-husband downstairs. I carefully removed myself from between the children like a magician removing a tablecloth from a set table.

We were never interrupted by crying.

We learned to be creative in our love making.

Shower, unfinished basement, kitchen. Anywhere was fair game.

We connected in silence.


In an episode of Vox Explained that we watched two weeks ago, a memory of something extremely significant from my past was prompted. "K-o-m-i-s-a-r-u-k. Koh-mis-a-rook." I said. "Why do I remember that name?"

We were watching the episode on Female Orgasm, and a neuroscientist named Barry Komisaruk was interviewed extensively.

"Oh, crap." My eyes were like saucers.

"What?" my husband asked.

"Pause it."

We have a system now. We pause, no questions asked, knowing that we may get so caught up in some huge episode of armchair philosophy that we forget we were watching television at all. These interactions have been so amazingly healing for our relationship that we now view them as sacred.

"That's the lab I would have been in had I chose Rutgers instead of Ohio." I recalled, shocked.

"Holy shit." he said.

The onion was peeling itself again. Layers of fear peeling away at a rapid pace for the last two years led to this moment. Another significant realization.

I chose to research Alzheimer's Disease rather than Female Orgasm.

Despite my lifelong reverence for it.


By 2015, the fog of depression had finally made itself visible to me. I don't know how long I had been living under it, even though it was something I struggled with off and on for years.

I tried Saint John's Wort in graduate school and didn't like how on the first day I stubbed my toe hard enough to bruise the nail and shrugged it off. "That's not right." I thought. "I still want to be able to feel. I should still care."

When my son was young and I was pregnant with my daughter, an also pregnant friend told me she was dealing with some depression and wasn't sure what to do because she didn't want to take any prescription medication while pregnant.

I asked her what it was like to take antidepressants, and said she didn't really like them because they made her feel "vanilla."

"Ew," I groaned.

"Yeah," she replied.

It seemed like all of my friends were on antidepressants, and many of them weren't having sex, except one friend who was always chipper and who made sex with her husband an every other day event. They're probably the only couple I know who make "paperwork" a priority.


There was something electric in his energy. The eye contact drove me wild. Sometimes I didn't even hear what he said because all I could think about was grabbing his hand to sneak off somewhere like the restroom or the supply closet. There aren't very many hidden places at school. I don't know how people have affairs there.

I hadn't felt that way in so long. So very long.

Was I blushing? Probably.

"I can't help myself." I told my therapist later. "I'm touching my hair, licking my lips, my heart races..." I felt like I was a sex mechatron being operated by a demon. And I loved it.

What I didn't tell her is that it the anticipation was so incredible that I would start having that feeling as soon as my alarm rang in the morning. It continued in the shower as I passed the time waiting for my conditioning treatment. I needed a release or I was going to lose my mind. I could barely concentrate on my son's discussion with me in the car on the way to school, where I would see the object of my affection.

He was like a virus.


Female copulatory vocalizations, scientists believe, serve to increase sexual satisfaction in males and females.

Our house has three bedrooms upstairs, in close proximity to each other. Years and years of shushing my inner goddess had taken a toll on my soul. I associated my dear husband with arguments, agendas, compulsion. I had to pair our sexual activities in my mind with a new stimulus in order to heal. Luckily, when it comes to sex, he has an open mind.

"I'm moving my bed away from my neighbor's wall to the other bedroom," my crush said.

"Oh..." I thought. "Why the hell did he tell me that?"

And... another fantasy was born!

Unwittingly, in my creative and curious mind, he planted the seeds of fantasy.

Of revolution.

Without kids around, maybe I could have again what used to heal me?

Was it real?

Does it matter?


 I knew my depression was bad when I dreaded mornings.

"Aw, you know - it's like Green Day everyday," I would say to friends I hadn't seen in a while when they would ask me how things were going.

Giant piles of laundry were everywhere. I hadn't wiped the sink or cleaned the bathrooms or mopped the floors in forever. Anything that didn't stay done once I did it sucked the tiny bits of soul right out of my chest each time the tasks reappeared.

Were it not for the angry scolding my physician administered regarding my surreptitious use of thyroid hormone to treat my depression (yeah, I'm naughty like that), I was at the point where "vanilla" would have been welcome. But even thinking about my doctor gave me a panic attack, so I couldn't go ask him for psychoactive medication.

But one day, in the shower, I realized it had been forever since I had a date with the man in the boat. Like maybe since before the days of Sting and the Cranberries.

I wasn't really feeling it, but I made myself do it anyway.

And it was so. Fucking. Amazing. It was so amazing that I wrote myself a prescription for a daily date with the man in the boat.

The fog, of which I was at least now aware, was finally dissipating.


"These are like the best years we've have ever had," said my husband earlier this year.

"Really?" I said. We laid there, breathing heavily, hearts racing and hypersensitive.

"Why are you so happy?" he asked. "I think it's because you are doing art again."

"Wha? Oh yeah... maybe..." I said. Could it have been that? I was making art, again, and it was unlike any I had ever made. Everything I made felt like I was filling up another crack in my broken heart. I felt creative. Alive. In love.

And so horny.


If I am remembering correctly, there was not a sound from us as she kneeled, leaning back passionately with her jeans on, beautiful full head of curly blonde hair bouncing, moving her hands between her legs and moaning. At least a dozen of us were sitting on the floor in a circle around her, mesmerized by her writhing.

It was the cast party after the last night of our high school Drama Club's performance of Paint Your Wagon. I think she was Mormon, too, and we were playing Truth or Dare.

She was the dramatic sort, ever willing to put on a performance, and this one did not disappoint.

Mirror Touch can be a burden, sure, but it can also be a gift if I choose to use it that way.

I can "remember" with my whole body, just from sight.


"God dammit," I said to my husband one morning in July, "Why the hell would you pick that ringtone for your alarm? Are you trying to kill me? I am trying to forget him! You think I bought a whole different shampoo and conditioner when I still had plenty of the old stuff just because I like the new smell?"

I had to cure the "virus" in my mind. It was making me feel "bad crazy." (As opposed to "good crazy" which is pure bliss, "bad crazy" is the depths of sorrow).

My fantasies, I felt, had led to despair.

My therapist said that crushes were okay, unless they turned to obsession.

God dammit. That happened. I don't know when.

"Have a nice life." I texted him. It killed me that I did that.

(Anyone want to sign a petition to remove all of Selena Gomez' songs from the radio? Back to You. Bad Liar. Get them out of my head. Please! Fuck. Crushes when you are 43 are NOT the same as when you are a teenager.)


Dr. Barry Komisaruk's office was brand-spanking new in the winter of 1996 when a group of prospective graduate students and I interviewed at the Rutgers Newark campus. Dr. Komisaruk was kind, fascinating, and very clear that he wanted me to work in his lab.

For years, the story I told of why I didn't attend Rutgers involved getting gas in Newark near campus with a graduate student host, and seeing a man with a gun. A gun. A gas station. My mind was triggered back to the gas station near my house in Denver, and the man with the gun, standing over my car.

Newark was too full of trauma. Ultimately, I would go to the rural school and research Alzheimer's Disease under Dr. Robert Colvin whose wife was homeschooling their two boys. He was a gentle Christian man and I felt safe with him.

Also, I worried about what to say to people about my research. What should I have said? That I researched cumming? How was that going to go over when just a few years before, I saw a large urban church lose half its membership over the idea that their clergy might be anything but figureheads.

I wanted to do important research I could be proud to talk about.

Plus, I just didn't see the importance in Female Orgasm research, because it wasn't something I had a problem with.


This morning Google's news service alerted me to the idea that women may release DMT - dimethyltryptamine - also called "the spirit molecule," during orgasm.

La petite mort - another name for orgasm - is French for "the little death." According to Wikipedia, it refers to "the brief loss or weakening of consciousness" and as such is in effect a path to ego death. Think about it - in that moment of bliss, after orgasm, you have transcended yourself, punctured the layer of maya, or fear, that keeps you from enlightenment. You are at one with the Universe. You are Peace.

People take a lot of drugs to get a feeling like this.

I was taking my medicine daily in the shower.

My friends all commented on how I was radiating an alluring sexuality.

I was exuding bliss, and attracting all sorts of interesting experiences and people.


We conducted our experiment for a few weeks, stroking the backs of female C57/B6 mice, to see if they exhibited lordosis behavior (downward arching of the back as to upwardly present the vagina for copulation). My mentor in 1992 at Tulane was the incredible Dr. Arnold Gerall, who was involved in the discovery of sex differences in the brain. I consider him an original feminist. He empowered many female students to pursue behavioral neuroendocrinology. It was Dr. Gerall who recommended that I apply to Dr. Komisaruk's lab.

Mice, like humans, are spontaneous ovulators, and are most sexually receptive around ovulation. In mice, this happens every 4 days, and in humans, it happens every 28 or so days, which also happens to be the same length of the moon cycle.

Males are sexually available at all times.

And if they are blessed at all with the kind of libido I can have around ovulation, being in a household with a tired, cranky female has to be incredibly frustrating. Some sort of healing is needed after a long day in a thankless cubicle farm. Why else, evolutionarily-speaking, but in the modern era, would a man choose to be married to the same woman his whole life if not for the potential of regular release of the ego?

Being the sensitive and giving soul I am, that means that over the years, I, like many other housewives, have "taken many for the team."

"Wifely duties," indeed.

When there's too much duty, and not enough joy, extinguishing female desire completely is easy.


So. YES. I owe a huge hug to all the women who came out during #metoo. It is through this dialogue, and through Christine Blasey Ford's testimony that my husband now knows the struggle.

We're unwrapping that onion along with the world.

In the realm of Love Languages, his is definitely touch, and mine is listening. (Maybe I don't actually have a love language, because I have a busy mind an active imagination and can be a terrible listener). So, poor guy... he loves to sneak up on me when I'm at the sink or the coffee maker frothing milk, or folding laundry, or...

"FUCK!!! You scared me to death! Please stop touching me because it makes me feel like I am being chased by a bear," I said numerous times over the years.

Of course he was hurt. Who wants to think that their touch is so repulsive to their spouse as to elicit panic?

"Okay. It is not you. It is my PTSD. It gets triggered pretty much anytime I feel violated - like I don't have control over my own body. It gets triggered by feeling I don't have control over how I am touched, or where I am, or who I have to be with. I want to be with you. But I need you to ask to touch me, or at least don't surprise me with touch." I pleaded, calmly.

He finally got it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I can finally breathe again.

I can finally enjoy his touch again.


It was time for my annual exam, and I had just a few concerns for my doctor (a wart on my palm, and a skin lesion from sun exposure). But I left feeling like a broken liability.

"I can't find your cervix." she said.

"Oh yeah, I have a retroverted uterus," I explained.

"Is sex ever painful?" she asked.

I knew where this discussion was going, as I had been researching whether there was a connection between retroverted pelvis and retroverted uterus, and had run across the connection to painful intercourse just weeks earlier.

When a woman is fully sexually receptive, after enough foreplay, the cervix shortens and moves out of the way. In women with retroverted uteri, the penis can bruise the cervix.

I usually feel better in a day or so, but the awareness has helped my husband and I be more mindful of foreplay.

Anybody have a spare $1200 laying around so I can get a mammogram? I'm kind of high maintenance that way.


"I was under the impression she was a Lesbian. Then she goes and marries some guy and has a baby." he complained.

"Yeah. Sorry." I responded.

But what I was really thinking about was how I was tired of my "Wifely Duties" and the resulting painful and exhausted sex, how I sometimes can be attracted to women, and how I think labels are stupid and confining - precisely because of what he said. Plus, two close friends of mine had identified as Lesbian in their 20s and had serious life partners for several years before eventually marrying men and having babies.

Lesbianism makes total sense to me. It gives a young woman the opportunity to know her body in new ways through shared experience with someone like her but not her, without the risk of pregnancy. That's my egotistical rationalization, but if I'm being honest, I find the female body so beautiful and captivating. We women really are this miraculous, healing, protective, life-giving, love-embodying safe space for humanity. Whether my attraction is reverence, or something more, I do not know.

I don't think it matters.

Labels are stupid.


"So?" was my response in 2000 when a male family member came out of the closet.

When I thought about it, I should have known. "He was able to hold conversation when Selma Hayek was on the television," I explained to my husband.

The amount of change that occurred in our family in response to our gay family member coming out was interesting. Because I firmly believed, from studying under Dr. Gerall, that sexual preferences were rooted in biology, it was just a non-issue for me. It was harder for others to understand. I think on some level I was worried about judgment from our family if I ever even hinted at being attracted to women, because even when it was becoming acceptable to be gay or lesbian, bisexual or even bicurous people faced even more stigma.

Yeah, Selma Hayek is a goddess. <swoon>


The way I see it, I was born with this amazing healing resource at my disposal - wherever I go. I don't need to see a doctor to know when to use it, I just listen to my intuition. Being attracted to men or women just means that my fantasy world is at least twice as active.

It opens up all sorts of possibilities for fighting the aging effect of impotence, and saving my marriage. It keeps things fresh.

An open approach to sexuality is totally doable if we choose to see our lovers as independent individuals, rather than possessions. All we really want as humans is intimacy and freedom. Each of us has to be mindful of that in all our interactions in order to change the world, because each of us has the power to provide both intimacy and freedom for others. It is the most loving thing we can do.

A healthy marriage is one where both partners are dedicated to each others' pursuit of bliss.

Welcome to my healthy marriage, deep in the onion, beyond ego, where love is unconditional, and we heal each other.

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