The Impossibility of Sex: Stories of the Intimate Relationship Between Therapist and Patient

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9780684864266: The Impossibility of Sex: Stories of the Intimate Relationship Between Therapist and Patient
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Through six case studies, this book explores the relationship between therapist and patient by suggesting a more involved role by the therapists in the healing process with regard to finding positive solutions for their patients' problems

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About the Author:

Susie Orbach is the cofounder of the Women's Therapy Centre in London and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. Author of Fat Is a Feminist Issue, she is also cofounder of the Women's Therapy Centre Institute in New York. Orbach lives in London, England, with her partner and two children.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Vampire Casanova

I felt twitches in my vagina, pleasurable contractions. It was a sunny Sunday morning in spring, two years after I had stopped seeing Adam. I was chopping some fennel when he not so much entered my mind as tapped on my body, as he had so many times during the course of a five-year therapy. Adam was a chef and from time to time when I was preparing food, his presence would insinuate itself and I would be back in the physical ambiance of our therapy time together.

Adam was a fornicator, a lover, a stud; a man whose daily life was shaped by sexual desire and sexual conquest in a spiral of infatuation, seduction and vanquishing. There were never less than one love interest and two or three gorgeous "girls" on the go, not of course counting on the previously conquered, who would return for occasional trysts when they were in town or between boyfriends.

The year before he embarked on therapy the then 36-year-old Adam developed a problem that jeopardized his perception of himself. He had started to ejaculate too soon. Desperate to make the problem go away, he came to therapy. "Too soon for whom?" I asked. "Too soon for me. You know, too soon for me to really give it to her. To fuck her real special. Like no one else. Take her places she's never been."

The imperative of his sexuality and the potency of his penis fascinated me. It was so present and insistent that I felt swept back twenty years to before my generation's encounter with feminism thought it had remade sexual relations both in and out of bed.

What did coming too soon mean to him? That it wasn't complete? That his orgasm was a squib rather than a release and a connection? Was he anxious? Did he have to concentrate too hard on giving to the woman? Was he insecure?

"All of those, sure," he said on his first session. "See, I really love women," he said, slowing down as he realized he was sobbing. "Take Sarah who I was with last week. Now she's something special." He paused another second. "While I was romancing her, I really believed, you know, that I loved her."

Before self-reflection could count, before he could register how hearing himself was a new experience, he pulled himself out of his pain and slowly spoke what would be ours to sort out over the next few years.

"I'm a physically passionate man," he said as he looked into my eyes and mimed Me Tarzan, You Jane. "It's just nature. But something is getting in the way of mine. So, figure it out, Doc. Come on. Without fucking what's the point. Fucking is my life."

The bluntness of his words and the flip between Southern American formality and crudeness jarred with the softness, almost a sweetness, in his persona. I wondered about the clash.

Adam began to tell his story. Although few feelings came through, the preliminary shape he gave his life had a certain coherence to it. He was born on Long Island in the working-class community of Huntington Station shortly before the end of the Second World War. His father and mother had been childhood sweethearts and she had become pregnant before he went off to serve in Europe. The photos Adam had of his father in uniform and the stories his mother told about him portrayed him as an eager, if somewhat naive, young man, ready to serve his country and see a bit of Gay Paree. War was a romantic moment rather than the reality of bombs, scarcity, cold and death. While he was stationed in England, Adam's father got involved with a Yorkshire woman, who also became pregnant. He promised to take her with him to the United States (Adam often wondered if his father had entered into a fraudulent marriage with her). On returning to New York, Adam's father moved in with his mother and him for a year but when it came out that he had fathered another child, there were terrible fights and eventually he left for California. He kept in sporadic touch with Adam for a few years, coming back once for a few months when Adam was six, but his father dropped out of his life after his eighth birthday when he turned from being a heroic husband and father to a maligned bigamist.

Adam grew up very close to his mother. He was her companion, her little man. At twelve he was making decisions for the two of them, carrying the money she earned as a beautician, telling her how much they could spend. They moved around a lot, from New York to Florida and then around the state, either to catch up with some new man she was after or chasing a job opportunity that did not quite pan out. He learned to make friends quickly and to let them go easily. He was distracted from the pain of his dislocations by the abundant dramas his mother wrought in their lives.

At seventeen, after finishing high school in Vero Beach, Florida, Adam went back to New York, tried butchering, his father's trade, then acting and moved on to selling art and doing exquisite dinner-party cooking. He found his way into a glitzy social scene and discovered how sexy he could be to neglected married women. Wonderful at paying them attention, knowing what they longed for and dressed like a man with twenty times his income, Adam became extremely desirable. In 1972 when he was twenty-seven he married Elizabeth, a wealthy divorcée.

Elizabeth misconstrued Adam's pursuit of her as true love (which it was at the time) and she was crushed by his philandering. She divorced him quickly, giving him enough money to start a restaurant. Designed by a friend, hung with paintings on loan from artists he used to represent, and given sufficient publicity as New York's coolest restaurant just at the time when food and eateries became a leisure pursuit of a large segment of New York's middle class, his restaurant soon took off. He became a respected chef and restaurateur. Meanwhile, his mother, who had moved to New York to be nearer to him after a failed love affair, died of cancer at the age of fifty-five.

Before Adam came to see me in 1980 his life was shaped by two preoccupations: being a celebrity chef -- rushing around judging competitions, doing guest-chef stints in other restaurants, creating beautiful tables for photo shoots, writing a cookbook with his assistant -- and having girlfriends, dozens and dozens of them.

His hectic life and pursuit of women worked well enough for him. He felt gratified by the attention he received, pleased to be the consummate lover and part of a glamorous set. There was plenty of excitement. He was always living in a mini-drama, often of his own making, where one or two of the women he was sleeping with would be on the verge of finding out about another. Concealment and the fear of discovery excited him enormously. I thought of the analyst Winnicott's observation: "It is a joy to be hidden but a disaster not to be found" and wondered what it foretold of what needed finding in therapy.

The scrapes Adam got himself into and the tension of his many work commitments helped him feel valued. He was clearly needed by others. If he had not hit this problem of early ejaculation, he never, he assured me, would be seeing me. "Everything was coming up roses till that point. Hell, I wouldn't have been here sitting with you, ma'am. I'd a been making you sweet sweet love." Extreme intensity exuded from him even in this play tease and I could sense how compelling the turn of his attention to a woman might be.

His discomfort in seeking help from a woman after many years of looking after women in one way or another was pronounced. He was awkward as he tried to give a fuller account of himself, to show some vulnerability, not to be the big guy who was always in charge.

Yet he settled well into therapy. He was relieved to be able to talk about his life, the ins and outs of his love affairs and the emotional patterns he wove. As we got to know each other better, more details emerged about sex and loving. He now frequently sought a different kind of sex, a m

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