Stanley Siegel : How Sex Heals: Embarking on the Journey of Intelligent Lust

Scientists agree that frequent sex can improve heart health, build a more robust immune system, and increase the ability to ward off pain. Sex changes brain and body chemistry, boosting certain hormone levels that keep us young and vibrant. Sex can also alter our mental state by releasing endorphins that act as antidotes to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Healing Power of sex

Healing Power of sex

 

But among the greatest miracles of sex is its most secret – its capacity to help us work through deep-seated emotional conflicts and satisfy unmet childhood needs.

The human body is designed to heal itself. We have an immune system that protects us from disease and repairs us when we are damaged. Pain acts as an alarm, alerting us to the problem. In response, all of the body’s systems, including the mind, are called into action to aid in the process of self-recovery. Similarly, when we encounter emotional conflict, we also experience pain. The mind mobilizes its own defense to assist in repairing the emotional wound in the same way we release an army of antibodies to heal a cut finger. Whether it’s physical or psychological, we are hard-wired to lessen pain, helped by innate mechanisms.

Among the mind’s most inventive weapons in the battle for emotional recovery are our fantasies. We create them to counteract anxiety or pain, substituting pleasure where conflict exists.

As children we use imaginative play to help us gain mastery of challenging events. We try out roles as sports stars, princesses, police officers, and superheroes, enabling ourselves to feel powerful in a world in which grown-ups are in charge. In play, we find comfort often returning to the same games or stories again and again because their familiarity provides a zone in which we feel safe and increasingly competent. This same mechanism will apply later in adulthood when “playtime” occurs in the bedroom.

As we grow out of childhood and societal expectations and norms gradually restrict our imagination and behavior, we begin to apply lessons learned toward navigating the harsher realities of adult life. Yet, fantasies remain an essential part of helping us cope with life’s myriad conflicts. Now we imagine being billionaires or CEO’s or celebrities, rewarded with power or fame for our accomplishments, or we fantasize writing the great American novel or producing a film, becoming the pillars of our community, or simply winning the lottery. We have learned to convert painful feelings of disappointment, helplessness, failure, or loss into manageable and sometimes even pleasurable ones.

Just as fantasies of great wealth or status serve to help us feel less powerless in an ordinary lives, sexual fantasies are the minds way of helping us gain mastery of unresolved conflicts or unmet needs. They are not simple random imaginings as we are led to believe. At their base lies fragments of our history, that reach far back into the forgotten past. By the time we leave adolescence, most of us have eroticized some aspect of unmeet needs from our childhoods, encoding them in our sexual fantasies. These encoded sexual fantasies, which continue throughout our adult lives, transform the pain associated with old wounds into sexual pleasure.

As a society, we have yet to appreciate the healing nature of sex. Instead we have a complicated relationship with sex, simultaneously promoting sexual images in popular culture – movies, television, and advertising – while demonizing those of us who enjoy it, especially women, with labels like “whore,” “slut,” and “player.” As a consequence, many of us internalize these confusing or unrealistic messages, so by the time we reach adulthood, we have no idea of what sex actually means to us. We suppress or erase our sexual desires and fantasies from our experience, if not from our consciousness altogether, creating a condition of alienation and inauthenticity – a disconnection between who we really are and how we behave. We enter a process of disengaging our minds from our bodies and souls, which often lasts a lifetime.

But if we learn to identify our sexual fantasies and true desires, where they come from and what they mean, we can unleash their full healing power. Embracing our sexual truth reverses the corrosive influences of guilt and shame, and enhances the sense of self-worth and wholeness that is essential to leading a fulfilling life. It allows us to reclaim abandoned parts of ourselves and integrate them into our being, also crucial to health. And equally important, our true desires can also became a diving rod that leads to choosing partners with whom we can build a respectful, honest and trusting relationship, whether it is for a single night or a lifetime.

By following the steps of Intelligent Lust we embark on a journey of self discovery in which we uncover our true desires and then use those secrets to create powerful change.

STEP ONE: Getting in the Right Frame of Mind

Like any traveler, we must prepare. Following the steps of intelligent lust requires having the right attitude. We must be willing to open our mind to our deepest thoughts and to get past social taboos and psychological prohibitions that cause us to limit our sexual experience. It will help us put aside what you have been told is “normal” and discover what our real sexuality is beyond the prescribed conventions we may feel compelled to follow.

We can begin by creating the time and space for quiet contemplation. Chose a private space free of distractions to navigate the exercises to follow. A neutral place, absent of personal history, prevents contaminating the experience with negative associations or memories – a garden, park bench, beach, backyard deck, front porch, or even the back seat of a car – to navigate the exercises. Designate it as a place to return to. Keep a notebook or diary handy to record your experience.

Trust Your True Desires

Have faith in the healing power of your desires. Keep this mantra in mind. Our fantasies are antidotes that have meaning and purpose. Whether it’s a wish to be dominated, or to be tenderly made love to, our sexual fantasies convert painful, confusing, or unresolved feelings from the past into manageable and pleasurable ones in the present. We use them to transform helplessness into power, loneliness into emotional attachment, inadequacy into competence, weakness into strength. If properly understood, we can use them to find energy and direction to reconcile old conflicts and satisfy unfulfilled needs. Honor them as you would a friend.

Give Yourself Permission to Explore 

Even experts vary on what a definition of healthy or normal sex should be. Why should we then accept someone else’s ideas about sex before we identify and understand our own desires and ideals? Instead, we should dig deep into our souls and psyches and examine what we truly feel about sex even at the risk of feeling disloyal to our families or churches. Following the steps of intelligent lust requires giving ourselves permission to be different.

Be Compassionate Toward Yourself

Suspend all self-judgments, tone down the moralism, draw from our reservoir of compassion, and direct it toward ourselves. Life is full of contradictions and paradoxes, which, with maturity, we learn to accept. To become whole we must fully embrace and integrate all parts of ourselves and our desires, however contradictory, dark, or difficult they may appear.

Confront the Consequences of Change

Choose to act courageously, acknowledge the discomfort that comes with change, and still move forward. By confronting our fears, we have the potential to not only discover the many truths about ourselves, our relationships, and partners, but also a passion for life itself.

Commit to Maintaining Openness and Self-Acceptance

Following the steps of intelligent lust requires a commitment to maintain openness, honesty, and acceptance regardless of the outcome while we sort through what we really feel, think, and believe in relation to sex. There are often vagaries to our thoughts at first. It may take time for them to solidify and for us to feel certain and secure with what we believe is true.

Accept and Honor Your True Desires

Our fantasies and desires remain relatively constant throughout our lives because the unmet needs from which they originate often goes unsatisfied or the underlying conflicts remains unresolved. Many women focus their sexual attention on the desires of their partners and simply don’t know or place value on their own.

By accepting and honoring our true desires, we take responsibility for their gratification and create the opportunity for them to truly serve their healing purpose.

Stanley Siegel, LCSW, is a psychotherapist, author, international lecturer, and former Director of Education at New York’s renowned Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. With over 36 years of experience, Siegel has developed an unconventional and highly regarded approach to psychotherapy. Stanley's latest book, "Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life" is out now!article by: Stanley Siegel

This weekend featuring Alessio Romero and Logan Rogue

HOT Summer Party! Alessio and Logan

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It is HOT everywhere but especially at RentMen! Alessio and Logan are not only well known on film but are truly professional, experienced top rung companions. Looking for something special? All you have to do is ask! Design a dream with them or make your dreams come true with any of our other 1000’s of other RentMen!

Forbidden Desire: The Cost of Living Without Sex

Why do some of us choose to live without sex? What is the emotional cost of sexual abstinence to parts of our lives?

The secret life story of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, a closeted gay man, told in the new Clint Eastwood bio-pic, tragically depicts how self-denial eroded his soul and how the projection of Hoover’s self-hatred destroys many other lives.

In my clinical experience, while religious or societal prohibitions account for why some people choose to forego sex, shame is the primary reason we starve ourselves of sexual pleasure. Hoover, a man deeply entangled with his fanatically controlling mother, as shown in the film, suppressed his homosexual desires rather than suffer her disdain. ”I would rather have a dead son than a daffodil,” she tells him.

In annihilating his sexuality, while conducting a life-time campaign against “alien” influences on the nation as an architect of the communist ”red scare” Hoover sought to cleanse a perceived dirtiness which haunted him.

When Hoover, at 29, took over what would become the FBI, during the Coolidge administration, he installed Clyde Tolson as his second-in-command with whom he then carried on a chaste love affair until the day he dropped dead in his bedroom during the Nixon presidency. Enthralled with each other, Hoover and Tolson pledge to lunch and dine together daily. They join private country clubs, vacation at the horse track and rub elbows with Hollywood celebrities on the red carpet,  their meticulous appearance just so much armor cloaking their secret bond. Hoover’s prospective marriage to the actress Dorothy Lamour results in a violent episode with Tolson nearly walking out and Hoover desperately promising his aide to never abandon him and make him his heir.

Hoover’s grandiosity stemmed from his early childhood. Powerless under his mother, he  used his cunning to convert his helplessness and rage into an authoritarian fervor that allowed him to blackmail presidents and persecute his perceived enemies. Hoover’s covert investigations of Eleanor Roosevelt’s suspected love affair with a female journalist, John F. Kennedy’s frequent sexual affairs, as well as Martin Luther King’s sexual peccadilloes, made him untouchable.

As a result, no one dared to out Hoover. He thus achieved dominance over what he believed was the nation’s moral chaos and at the same time over his own internal turmoil and the erotic secret behind it.

Sexual denial never succeeds and sexual desire can never be buried. Sexual truth always finds self-expression, whether in surreptitious acts or in its beholder’s preoccupations. All kinds of sexual desires – not just homosexual ones – that people consider sinful or perverse undergo such internal policing, in large measure due to a self-image at war with itself. The male CEO who by day is the master of his corporation and who by night masturbates to domination fantasies – but will never hire a dominatrix – is a man who is an impostor to himself.

Such patients wind up in therapy after the their sexual self-denial takes a significant toll on their lives.

My patient Aaron, for example, worried about his lack of interest in sex. He even attributed his straight As in college to avoiding sex.

But sex was not the reason Aaron thought he came to therapy. Exhaustion was. Despite sleeping eight hours nightly, in the mornings he awoke wrecked, often nodding off at his well-paid job as a network engineer.

After a physician ruled out a physical problem, I wondered if disturbing dreams were robbing Aaron of the rest he needed to live a normal life. His answer to my question was the key that began to open the door behind which he had so firmly locked his sexuality.

Aaron told me: “I usually read until I’m groggy then I turn the light off. I’m dead out. The next thing I know it’s morning. The alarm rings and I can’t open my eyes. I hit the snooze button and wake up when it goes off. I feel like I haven’t slept at all.”

After some more gentle questioning, Aaron disclosed that sometimes he did in fact wake up, albeit briefly,

“I never remember dreaming but I know I must,” he said.

“How do you know?” I asked.

Aaron was silent for a moment before replying. “Because either I am jerking myself off in my sleep or I’m having wet dreams,” he said with an embarrassed smile. “I’m sticky down there.”

“So you may be having a whole other life when you’re asleep,” I said. “Do you have sex or masturbate at other times?”

“Not really. I don’t have much of a sex drive.”

“Well, apparently you are when you’re sleeping,” I replied and we both laughed.

It seemed obvious that Aaron had so thoroughly repressed his sexual desires that whatever was truly exciting to him must have seemed so unthinkable that he could not allow it to surface to his consciousness. The challenge became to discover what was behind his amnesia. I suggested that each night for a week, he set his alarm to wake him at different times, and with paper and pen  handy, record what he dreamt.

He returned in a week with a journal in which he had written the following:
“Thursday 3 am: Dream. Feet. Beautifully sculpted, deep arches, soft gentle smell, natural toenails. Kissing them gently rubbing them, massaging them. Hard on. Lots of pre-cum. I am incredibly excited.”

Then: ”Saturday 3:30 am. I’m sucking toes. No body or face attached. Just feet. Beautiful toes. I’m really hard. I rub my cock against the sole of the feet and start to fuck them. They grab my cock.”

We sat in silence for a moment.

“How do you feel about what you discovered?” I gently asked.

For the first time Aaron felt safe enough to open up.

“A mixture of being freaked out – shame and relief. I mean, it wasn’t a total shock to me. I remember having more than the usual interest in feet and shoes as a kid. I loved going to buy new shoes. I didn’t know what it meant. But the whole feeling of the shoe store, watching people take their socks off, the smell, trying on shoes, measuring feet. I would drag my mother into any shoe store when we were out shopping. After a few times, she must have sensed something. She told me it was odd. We stopping buying shoes in stores. She would order them for me from catalogues. I’d hide the catalogues under my bed and read them at night. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know it was erotic, but I just couldn’t wait to look at them. I also felt really ashamed. Later, in high school, when I took gym class, I tried not to look at the other kids’ feet. At first, I couldn’t resist, then after time and a lot of bargaining with God, I made myself stop thinking about it.”

“You said you felt a combination of shame and relief.”

“I feel like a freak. I’m turned on by feet. Not a pretty face or breasts. Feet. That’s kind of humiliating.”

“Why relief then?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I think it’s because at least I’m sexual. I think I was already feeling like a freak because I had no interest in sex like every other guy in his twenties did. But what happened to that sweet little kid who just so happened to love feet? It’s so sad.”

Aaron began to cry. I waited until he calmed himself and then told him stories of other patients and their true erotic desires – the young man who got excited whenever someone sneezed, the rabbi and Kaballah scholar who masturbated while thinking about women wearing eyeglasses. I talked about how our erotic desires had meaning and how we could together discover the poetry in the purpose of his fantasies.

Like Hoover, Aaron denied his sexual desires. He, too, came from a family of deeply controlling parents. Both suffered a form of alienation. Where homosexuality was dirty to Hoover, intimacy overwhelmed Aaron. Feet were preferable to engaging with a whole person.

Our sexual desires, in themselves, carry no real threat to our well-being. It’s how we judge those desires that make the difference between life-affirming action or soul-killing self-denial. The stories of people like Hoover and Aaron share the theme of shame. Adam will likely transcend it and eventually find satisfaction in aligning his secret desires with authentic behavior. Sadly, J. Edgar Hover had no such opportunity. The tyranny of shame had disastrous effects on his and the nation’s life.

Article by Stanley Siegel

 

RentМen’s choice: Provincetown, МА

You just can’t skip this place if you want to have the greatest vacantion!

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Once a sleepy Portuguese-speaking fishing village, Provincetown has reinvented itself over the years, first as an artists’ colony and then as New England’s gay playground. At the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is a favorite destination for gays from around the country, as well as around the world.

Quiet throughout the winter months, Provincetown’s bustle returns at the end of May, when the crowds make their way to the seaside town for Memorial Day weekend. The height of the season is Carnival; an anything-goes festival in mid-August. The pace slackens after Labor Day, but the line- up of special weekends and bargain shopping draw visitors into the fall season. Winter here has its charm for those who prefer the peace and quiet of snowy sand dunes.

During the summer, Commercial Street is the place to be to watch the colorful parade of visitors who descend on this town, from drag queens dressed as Cher to gay men on the prowl to lesbian couples pushing strollers. The relaxed vibe is appealing to many straight families as well. However, they are most often day-trippers, meaning gay people pretty much have the place to themselves once the sun sets.
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Herring Cove is the gay beach, all the way at the west end of town. Often overlooked by gay visitors, Race Point Beach (just beyond Herring Cove) is popular with families, yet gay friendly. The beach is much wider and sandier than Herring Cove and there’s a great lookout from where you can sometimes spot whales. This is the beach for enjoying spectacular sunsets. Long Nook Beach in Truro is a spectacle of dune and surf that is officially open only to Truro residents, but you can bicycle there and enjoy it no matter where you’re from. One of the best beaches on the Cape, Long Nook is dramatic and private, and even has an au naturel section if you walk far enough to the right.

How gay marriage helps fight AIDS

By Perry Halkitis, New York Daily News

The Supreme Court’s overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act has rightly been celebrated within and beyond the gay community.

But, as many anxiously awaited a ruling on the United States vs. Windsor since the high court heard the case in March, attention shifted away from a more vital issue for gay Americans: AIDS.

I am an HIV-positive man. I have been living with this virus since the 1980’s, a reality I publicly revealed for the first time in a recent Times article about HIV and aging.

With some 30,000 new infections per year among gay men in the United States, one wonders what has gone wrong after 30 years of prevention efforts. Behavioral programs have fallen short; new biomedical advances hold promise, but these, by themselves, will not solve our dilemma.

In fact, many AIDS activists maintain that the gay-marriage fight has come at the expense of the three-decade war on the affliction. ACT UP’s Peter Staley recently wrote that “we’re so caught up in the giddiness of the marriage-equality movement that we’ve abandoned the collective fight against HIV and AIDS.”

But this perspective, while well-intentioned, misses the mark. The successful fight for marriage equality is not a siloed triumph, but, rather, another vital battle in the war against AIDS. Any money, time or effort directed towards creating marriage equality is also money, time and effort directed at HIV prevention.

Here’s why.

Research has already demonstrated that to curtail ongoing new HIV infections, we must effectively merge behavioral and biomedical approaches with changes in laws and policies that improve the lives of gay men. Marriage equality is surely one such structural change that will help us combat this disease.

With the overturning of DOMA, gay people can, more than ever, be truly seen as equal and valued by others. Consequently, we will also see more value in ourselves — something we do not talk about enough in the larger LGBT community, but is a reality we must acknowledge in fighting HIV.

Studies have consistently shown that low self-esteem, being closeted, family rejection and internalized homophobia all contribute to increased risk for contracting HIV.

Gay men who experience discrimination, who are denied their rights, and who live in societies that diminish and ridicule their existences are saddled with psychosocial burdens — burdens that in turn engender risk. This should come as a surprise to no one.

However, researchers have also long recognized the benefits of social policies and laws in improving public health. Consider the impact of seat belt laws on accident-related fatalities or smoking bans on tobacco addiction.

My colleague Mark Hatzenbuehler at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health has documented the beneficial effects on the mental health of gay men after the enactment of marriage equality in Massachusetts. After the defeat of DOMA, similar effects will be manifested nationally.

Quite simply, diminished psychosocial and mental health burden should lead to less risk-taking, including less sexual-risk taking, in gay men.

On the day of the historic Supreme Court decisions, I paused and thought of my life and all of those whom I have loved who have lost their battles to AIDS. I thought about how the gay male population continues to suffer because of this horrific disease.

But mostly I thought of the baby boy being born that day in the United States who will one day be a gay man, and whose life will be less emotionally burdened and in turn less risky and healthier because of these decisions. Unlike those who came before him — including those like me who are part of the AIDS Generation in the 1970’s and 1980’s — he will grow up in country that recognizes his love relationship as equal to that of a man and a woman.

Marriage equality doesn’t pose a threat to our war on AIDS. It provides us with a weapon for fighting this diseas — a socially constructed weapon as powerful as any behavioral program or medication.

Halkitis, PhD, MPH, is a professor of applied psychology, public health, and medicine at New York University and author of the forthcoming “The AIDS Generation: Stories of Survival and Resilience.”