Monday, December 31, 2012

The Sex Lives of New York Men

For reasons that are not too difficult to understand, debate about sexual behavior usually focuses on women.

It is generally assumed that in a hookup culture, men are getting all the sex they want, for free. It is also assumed that women are being taken advantage of... even if they are fully consenting.

To say that men merely want a steady supply of cheap thrills is demeaning. Almost as demeaning as saying that a woman's goal should be to offer such cheap thrills.

Until the new order arrives, what is bad for women is also bad for men. If women are being diminished by the hookup culture, then the men who happily participate are suffering too. 

Even if the immediate trauma of hooking up is more likely to be borne by a woman, at the end of the day when men and women put away the toys of their childhood they will discover that draining sex of its meaning is bad for both sexes.

When those of us who are older and presumably wiser tell those of you who are younger that today’s sexual culture is not a good thing, we are not, as you might assume, trying to be killjoys. We are trying to show you the way to a good sex life.

Now, psychologist Brandy Engler has written a book in which she will regale us with the case histories of the dysfunctional males who seem to gravitate to her office. I am sure that they will all be thrilled to receive the attention.

As a tease, or what the French call an amuse bouche, the New York Post has provided us with a few of the stories. Since the book is being published today, it’s the best we can do.

As titillating as these cases might be, they do come to us from the practice of a single therapist.

We are dealing with a self-selected group of men who consult with a therapist named Brandy, whose office is near Times Square and who has apparently had, as they say in NYC, some work done.

For the most part therapy with Brandy does not, as she explains in the New York Post, help them very much.

Has Engler isolated a cultural phenomenon?

She explains that these men have all grown up with internet porn. Whatever their sexual histories, some have clearly been diminished and demeaned by women, at home and at work. They have been having sex with women who know what they want sexually and who are assertive about getting it.

Today’s modern woman is sexually savvy and sexually experienced. It sounds good in the pages of Cosmo, but Engler found that it is not such a boon to the male mind. She says:

I was surprised at how many of my male clients were anxious to the point of dysfunction over their desire to satisfy a woman.

If you think it’s easy to make love to a strong, assertive, modern liberated woman, think again.

Of course, many of the men in Engler’s practice seem to be making the worst out of a bad situation.

Begin with the case of Charles. He had suffered the gross indignity of being dumped by his fiancée on his wedding day. At the least, it was a major trauma.

He now suffers from a peculiar sexual dysfunction. He cannot become aroused unless his girlfriend pretends that she is cheating on him.

It is not, dare I say, the most respectful attitude toward a woman. Charles’ girlfriend ends up cheating on him for real.

Is Charles repeating a trauma in order to exercise a fictitious mastery over it, or is he punishing his girlfriend for what his fiancée did to him?

In either case, his do-it-yourself approach to trauma management has not been a great success.

Then there’s Paul the banker. His desire for his wife is flagging so he affirms his virility by hiring prostitutes.

Perhaps he can only feel aroused by having sex with women he calls  “non-beings.” Or else, he might have learned that his interest in prostitutes is a sign of a mental defect.

As for Paul’s wife, Engler calls her “sexual, challenging and exciting.” The description can mean anything, and it probably does.

Trained therapist Engler gives Paul some homework assignments… simple and easy ones like limiting his physical contact with his wife to cuddling… the better to get a grip on what she seems to see as his performance anxiety.

You will think and I will agree: not the worst idea in the world.

Unfortunately, Paul’s “sexual, challenging exciting” wife was not interested in being cuddled. She declared that she was “too tired.”

End of therapy.

Does this tell us that Paul has a problem or does it tell us that the dynamic between him and his wife was hopelessly skewed? It would not take too much acumen to imagine that his wife might be part of the problem, not part of the solution,

Engler dismisses Paul as a “non-being.”

Another of her patients, David, is a player. He has the perfect model girlfriend, but he still goes out trying to pick up girls in clubs.

How does David describe the perfect girlfriend: “My girlfriend is absolutely gorgeous…. She’s tall and blond, a model with a perfect rack and rock-hard abs.”

We wish David all the best, but, be serious—describing a woman with a string of clichés you got out of Maxim magazine does not suggest that you are connecting with her.

Excuse me for being naïve, but when did the ne plus ultra of feminine sex appeal become “rock-hard abs?” Am I the only one who thinks that there is something bizarre about that?

Unfortunately for David, his perfect model girlfriend had been cheating on him. Does this tell us that she got fed up with his philandering or does it mean that he was philandering because she was just not that into him?

We don’t know. Engler does not raise the question. She knows so little about human relationships that she cannot understand why a man who is dating the most beautiful woman in the world would cheat.

Then there is Alex who complains that it’s difficult making love to his girlfriend Kasha because she is unresponsive, “like a mannequin.” (That’s a sophisticated term for a model with a perfect rack and rock-hard abs.)

Why would Kasha be unresponsive to Alex? It turns out that she has been cheating on him.

Engler blames it on Alex. He’s too nice a guy and does not know how to keep lust alive.

For all we know Alex is a crashing bore. But we do not know whether Kasha was turned off by Alex’s poor technique or whether she was not present for their lovemaking because she was elsewhere.

Engler tried to teach Alex how to be more romantic. It worked for one night, but then it didn’t.

Alex ended his therapy.

And then there was Oscar. Feeling belittled and demeaned by his wife Alex began an affair with his much younger assistant.

Here, Engler is right to point out that many men who do not feel appreciated or valued by their wives seek validation elsewhere.

Oscar eventually decided to separate from his wife. Immediately thereafter, his mistress left him.

Not a great success story.

Then, there’s Casey, an “enlightened soul,” a professor, who is the son of a feminist.

He has a girlfriend named Amy whom he calls a “porcelain doll.” (Have you noticed how many of these enlightened New York men treat women as less than human?) Instead of making love to his fragile girlfriend, Casey spends his evenings watching internet porn. He prefers the tapes in which women are the most degraded. 

Apparently, his feminist mother did not teach him how to respect women.

Finally, there’s Mark.

Mark works at a magazine that is run by women. The women who run the magazine bully him mercilessly; they diminish and degrade him.

To compensate he hires prostitutes and tortures them.

Engler thinks that he needs to resolve his Mommy issues.

In truth, he needs either to find a more effective way of dealing with the abuse he is receiving at work or else to find another job or even a new career path.

The moral of the story: Brandy Engler is now living in Los Angeles. She is "happily married."


Anonymous said...


I suppose this is your last entry for the year. Given that our culture, especially male culture, is short on acknowledgement, I thought I'd provide a little...

Thank you for all you've written on and shared with us in 2012. Your blog is first-rate, and truly one of a kind. It's the only one I actually post on. I mention this as a compliment to the level of conversation you invite here. I apologize if my sarcasm and sometimes silly reflections (and their length) detract from this most powerful attribute of what you built here. You talk about what matters.

You've closed with something that you've been hitting on for some time now: men and the view of what masculinity is/means in our modern culture. Please keep it up. It is a view that is rarely heard, but which needs to be lest we lose our society and civilization in the wake of a nearly-bankrupt culture. The consequences of the hook-up culture are becoming more evident. The most chilling was the tale of the young woman at Amherst who came out about being raped. Nothing I read this year gave rise to so much emotion within me.

I view this blog as a frontier outpost/garrison, with the mission to bring some light and wisdom back to American civilization. I regard it that highly, so thank you.

Keep it up, my friend. Happy New Year and best wish for a prosperous 2013!

Be great,


Sam L. said...

What I'm getting here is that men and women in NYC are messed up. Probably reading too much weirdness in the papers and watching too much TV.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you, Tip, as always for maintaining the right level of discussion and debate. It's much appreciated.

And, of course, Happy New Year to you and yours.

Both Sam and I forgot one of the other salient reasons why people are so messed up in NYC-- they learned about relationships by watching the Clintons. When you worship at the altar of the Clintons, you are not headed in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

My daughter's boyfriend does not believe in sex before marriage. I can hardly believe there is still a man alive who thinks this way. If they marry (and it appears they will) I know their lives together won't be w/o troubles, but I also know they will not be facing the monumental problems that many young couples will.

Happy New Years, Stuart!

Anonymous said...

I should have mentioned that my daughter is 26, living on her own, right outside Washington, DC. Her BF is 27, living on his own, and works in DC.

Living in a major city did not screw them up.

OffTheCuff said...

There's "not believing in sex before marriage" and then there's "both being virgins at the altar" which are entirely different things since our beliefs don't always line up with our actions. The risk of divorce actually has been clearly shown that it's not premarital sex that causes the problem, if she actually sleeps with her eventual spouse, its the breakup and moving on to another man. Marrying as a virgin is unfortunately hopelessly naïve today.

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