DID YOU SEE…?: Michael Pollan on psychedelics in the New York Times Magazine

Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling book How to Change Your Mind, had a big impact on my life. His article “The Trip Treatment” in The New Yorker in February 2015 alerted me to the renewed clinical research on the use of psychedelics for medical treatment. What I read about how effective it’s been to treat cancer anxiety with psilocybin excited me so much that I went looking for any available programs for training psychotherapists to do this important work. Lo and behold, I discovered that the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco has launched the country’s first certificate program in psychedelics-assisted psychotherapy. At the Psychedelic Science 2017 conference in Oakland, California, organized by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), I met the woman who envisioned and oversees the program, Janis Phelps, along with many participants in the first cohort of trainees. Altogether these experiences inspired me to enroll in the year-long program (officially called the Certificate Program in Psychedelic-Assisted Therapies and Research, or CPTR), which I’m halfway through.

Michael Pollan sat in on our first weekend of training in March and incorporated his observations into an article (“My Adventures with the Trip Doctors”) adapted from his book that appeared in the Sunday New York Times Magazine in mid-May. It offers a good summary of his book and the state of psychedelic research. How to Change Your Mind and Tom Shroder’s book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy, and the Power to Heal impressed upon me the rich potential of psychedelics for treating depression, addictions, and post-traumatic stress disorder as well as for “the betterment of well people,” in the words of Bob Jesse, creator of the Council on Spiritual Practices.

Readers of this blog may look forward to more posts on this subject.

Advertisements

DID YOU SEE: New York Times on sex after cancer


Following on the heels of my last post, I was struck by an article that Susan Gubar published in the New York Times about how cancer patients deal with developing or maintaining a sex life after their diagnosis. Gubar knows whereof she speaks, having been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and written a lot about the subject. What impressed me about the article is how the cancer patients she talks about articulate a broader sex of what constitutes sex beyond intercourse-to-ejaculation.

We all have limitations in our capacity to engage in pleasurable and satisfying sex, even though we may be reluctant to admit it. But for cancer patients, there’s no getting around the reality of facing those limitations head on. Everybody handles the situation in their own way. Reviewing a new book called “Sex and Cancer” by gynecologic cancer specialist Saketh R. Guntupalli and Maryann Karinch, Gubar writes:

The capacious term “sex” should not be conflated with penetration or intercourse, according to Dr. Guntupalli and Ms. Karinch. “There is no dysfunction if both members of the couple are happy with the level and style of intimacy they enjoy.” Kissing, hand-holding, cuddling, caressing and massaging bond couples by kindling arousal and ardor. The authors do not mention the useful word “frottage” which comes from the French for rubbing or friction; it neatly bundles together many forms of stimulation that prompt tenderness and excitement.

Gubar goes on to mention her cancer support group and the wide range of challenges its members deal with on a daily basis when it comes to sex and intimacy.

The youngest member of my support group nevertheless found herself “less easily aroused and less orgasmic.” Her explanation of how she cultivated “the art of desire” strikes me as illuminating for women and also for men. She uses exercise to appreciate her body’s tremendous resilience; acknowledges that she is anatomically, psychologically and hormonally changed; experiments with solo sex and also extended foreplay with her partner; and samples the shared stimulation of movies, concerts and travels to create a sense of closeness. Since her marital bed had been her sick bed, she refurbished the bedroom with sensory stimulants. It now promotes joy in her partner’s life and in hers as well.

Check out the whole article online here and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: the New York Times on A Frenchwoman’s Guide to Sex After Sixty

Judith Newman writes a monthly column for the Sunday New York Times Book Review about self-help books. In yesterday’s paper, she led with a capsule review of Marie de Hennezel’s A Frenchwoman’s Guide to Sex After Sixty that so beautifully articulates a philosophy of sex at any age that I can’t resist quoting that passage in full. The book, Newman writes,

immediately catches your attention because the cover shows a woman of a certain age glancing coquettishly over the bedsheets. But that age isn’t 40. It’s perhaps 75. So this isn’t the American version of old; it’s the French version, which is to say: old. And that’s what makes this volume uniquely French: It’s deeply un-American in its realism. Aches and pains, medications that reduce libido, a diminution of hormones that mean friction is tougher on our naughty bits and of course the occasional urge to cover all the mirrors in the house: Aging ain’t pretty, Hennezel admits. Yet for many of us, Eros lives, and Eros wants its due. What’s called for, then, is a revolution in the way we look at sexuality: a de-emphasis on orgasms in favor of kissing and caressing, more solo play to connect with our erotic selves and “making affection” as an alternative to making love. Feeling good through exercise and a healthy diet is paramount; looking younger through plastic surgery is mentioned not at all. Reading the stories of septuagenarians and octogenarians who are finding love or intimacy or sometimes just sex, one is reminded that the very French concept of joie de vivre — a sense of joy that comes from curiosity and playfulness, from looking outward instead of inward — is its own form of Botox.

You can check out Newman’s whole column online here.

DID YOU SEE…?: New York Times on Women of Sex Tech

In last Sunday’s New York Times, reporter Anna North wrote a fascinating story called “Women of Sex Tech, Unite” about the savvy female entrepreneurs — many of them millennials — who are pouring their attention, energy, talent, and skills into developing sex toys and related products and helping other women who are marketing and distributing them.

North writes:

In 2017, women entrepreneurs in the field still seem to be very much in the minority. Today around 70 percent of sex product companies are run by men, according to an analysis by Unbound. But women, many of them millennials, are starting to harness their economic and social power to disrupt the industry, both on the business and on the consumer side, Ms. Fine said. Millennials can be more comfortable talking about sex than their elders, explained Helen Fisher, an anthropologist and research fellow at the Kinsey Institute. “It’s a transparent generation that’s practical, go-getting, tech-oriented and eager to have it all.”

Besides providing surveying the modern history of sex toys without the usual sniggering tone, the article mentions a whole bunch of resources (products, companies, websites, publications, podcasts) that I’d never heard of but that I’d like to know more about, in the interests of supporting women in expanding their access to greater sexual pleasure and erotic awareness.

North leads with Janet Lieberman and Alexandra Fine, two Brooklyn-based entrepreneurs (above) who started Dame Products, the first company to receive Kickstarter funding to develop a sex toy.

If the movement has an ideological center, it’s probably Women of Sex Tech, a group founded last year by Polly Rodriguez [pictured below center, with her team], 30, the chief executive and co-founder of Unbound, a Manhattan-based sex toy company that sends subscribers a box of products every quarter, and Lidia Bonilla, 38, who started House of Plume, which sells storage boxes for sex toys. Based in New York, the group has since expanded to include more than 70 people, including members in California, Spain and China. New York City-based members include Meika Hollender, the co-founder of Sustain, which makes organic and fair trade lubricants and condoms; Mia Davis, who created a sex education app called Tabú; and Bryony Cole, the host of the popular podcast, Future of Sex.

Check out the whole article here and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: The Atlantic on the impact of pornography

In the latest issue of The Atlantic, Sophie Gilbert writes an excellent thoughtful piece about the impact of pornography, as it is reflected through Tom Perrotta’s novel Mrs. Fletcher and a podcast called The Butterfly Effect.

“It’s a surprisingly simple argument, and yet a shocking one, in a culture that’s as polarized over porn as it is over everything else. What if porn is neither good, nor bad, but both? What if it enables some people to feel less isolated even while it conditions others to do things they regret?”

Check it out here and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: The Guardian on Laura Dodsworth’s MANHOOD

I’m always fascinated by the differences between American and British newspapers, especially how they handle discussions of sex and depictions of nudity. The Guardian, the most progressive of London’s daily papers, recently published a feature about photographer Laura Dodsworth and her latest book Manhood, for which she photographed 100 men naked from the waist down and interviewed them about their penises. (The book is a sequel to Bare Reality, in which women talked about their breasts.)

manhood

In addition to talking to Dodsworth about her book, the Guardian published several excerpts of the interviews and every single one of the photographs. I can’t imagine any daily newspaper in the United States running pictures of 100 penises, can you? Above and beyond the initial titillation, the article (and the book) do a great public service by exploring a subject that men think about all the time but don’t talk about much at all, even to their closest friends and loved ones.

The men range in age from 20 to 92, and their bodies take many sizes, shapes, and colors. Unless you are an enthusiastic naturist and spend time on nude beaches or in other environments where naked bodies are the norm, you may not have seen very many penises in your life — outside of pornography, which almost exclusively features penises that are large, erect, and intimidating. In my experience, it’s almost always revelatory and healing for men (and women!) to see a large quantity of penises and realize how varied and individual they are. And the men in Dodsworth’s book talk very honestly and intimately about their private parts. Check out the excerpts online here and let me know what you think.

DID YOU SEE: Washington Post column on what to do when marital sex wanes

Scrolling through the Washington Post website, I couldn’t help noticing a headline that reflected a sentiment I’ve heard from many a client: “Husband who hasn’t had sex in years wonders, ‘Is this normal?'”

I was impressed with columnist Carolyn Hax‘s answer, the gist of which was this:

What’s “normal” in a marriage is less important than what’s mutual.

If you’re worried, then, yes, you should be; if you’re not worried, then you shouldn’t be.

By that measure, the cause for concern at home is that you and your wife aren’t talking or touching.

Talking and sex are a fickle combination, though, with couples just as often cooled off by it as warmed up. If you tend to the former, then try this, first: Introduce more fun, physical but nonsexual activity to your lives together. As it stands now, you’re not touching, you’re not passionate, you’re putting on weight — this is about more than sex, no? It’s about losing your connection to your own bodies. When was the last time you and your wife hiked, biked, paddled, danced?

Using your body is the best way to wake it up — and not coincidentally, movement is a known emotional conductor. Get yourselves going, together, in a way that you both enjoy, and you stand to improve your connection (1) and communication (2) as much as you do your blood flow (3), all while adding an (I’m guessing) urgently needed shot of novelty (4) to your marriage — thereby accounting for the four cornerstones of passion. So. Take her hand, and go.

She has a few other things to say that make sense as well. Check out the whole column here and let me know what you think.

get-naked-emotionally