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    A Troublesome Turn-on

    tomQ: Dear Tom: I’ve been with my partner for two years and I love him deeply. He wants to get married, but for me the problem is that we have a good sex life, but not a great one. It’s nice, but there isn’t a lot of passion in it. With my last boyfriend, the sex was off-the-scale hot, but I finally broke up with him because he could never make up his mind that he wanted to stay with me. He was always taking “time outs” and saying, “I’m not sure,” and no matter how much I jumped through the hoops, I couldn’t get him past being forever on the fence. I know that this is a pattern that goes back to my father. My dad left the family when I was very young, and he went through the motions of having to continue a relationship with me, but his heart wasn’t in it. Whenever he visited me, he just seemed to be in a hurry to leave, no matter what I did to get his attention. Chasing guys who aren’t emotionally available has been my pattern my whole life. Now, when I finally do have a guy who totally wants me, there isn’t a lot of passion. Am I settling if I stay with him? – Robert

     A: Robert: I think that some of the insights of sexologist Jack Morin may help to explain your predicament. According to Morin, what turns us on is governed by our “core erotic theme,” a template or scenario that is usually learned in response to the emotional climate of our formative years. In your case, your core erotic theme appears to be about pursuit. You may have eroticized the struggles and challenges of trying to win over people who are indifferent or only mildly interested.


    This kind of core erotic theme is what Morin called a “troublesome turn-on” because what causes intense sexual excitement makes it hard to meet other important needs. Some people, for instance, long intensely to be in a relationship, but are only attracted to others who are already committed. Others are only turned on in situations in which they’re in potential physical danger. It seems that you acquired your core erotic theme in your struggle to get your father to pay attention to you, and now you are used to chasing guys who aren’t interested. When you’re in a relationship where there aren’t obstacles and struggle, you just don’t get as excited.


    One interesting thing about troublesome turn-ons is that, even when the childhood situations that created them are long in the past, the turn-on can remain as strong as ever. It seems that once sexual arousal has been paired repeatedly with a particular theme, the momentum of the conditioning makes the core erotic theme highly resistant to change. In your case, it sounds as if you’ve stopped chasing emotionally unavailable guys and have let yourself love someone who loves you back. That’s a huge gain in self-esteem that finally means you can find happiness in your relationships. The trouble is, you’re just not as turned on in situations where you don’t have to fight for love and attention.


    So what do you do? You could dump your current boyfriend and find another guy who will frustrate you emotionally, so that you can have hot sex again, but I’m assuming you agree with me that this would be self-destructive. Here’s another option: stop thinking of the “hot sex” you had with former boyfriends as the gold standard against which all other sexual experience must be measured, and start to pay more attention to nurturing the “warm sex” you have with your current partner.


    Relax into what it feels like to be held by a man who already holds you in his heart, without your having to do anything to earn it. Let yourself take in the sensual subtleties and the deep safety of caressing and holding someone who wants to be right where he is. My hunch is you’ll find that, while warm sex is a different “flavor” of sex than you may be used to, it has a depth and a joy all its own.


    Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. For more information, please check out his website: tommoon.netemory serves? Ann, how hard would it be to check on the Supreme Court’s time allotments? Are you really that lazy? Do we mean so little to you?”

    But friends, I write to you from the front seat of a car, hurtling north on IH 35 on my way from Austin to Topeka. There’s no checking anything until our next rest stop, maybe two hours from now after we cross the Red River. (Confirming that memory served me right! Oh, and they have pretty decent margaritas at the Applebee’s in Ardmore, Oklahoma.)

    Just Say No to Ax Murder

    Happily, I have taken some notes, so I am not without fodder for our journey through recent GLBT news. Take, for example, the link line of an article on the New York Daily News website that reads as follows:

    “A Michigan pastor is in hot water after comparing gay and transgender people to ax murderers in a sermon.”

    I was struck by the use of the expression “hot water,” a term that already sounds like something my grandchildren will think of as dating from the 19th Century. Where did it even come from to begin with? Cannibals? Lobsters? I will look it up after the Red River. It’s called the Red River, by the way, due to the orange-colored clay characteristic of southern Oklahoma.

    At any rate, the Michigan pastor was musing about homosexuality to his parishioners, and attempting to argue that once you think you might be gay, the best thing to do is simply not to act on the offensive discovery. Much as if you suddenly come to see yourself as an ax murderer, you would presumably want to squelch the instinct. If you’ll allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment, I think there’s a distinction between making this (assuredly unpalatable) point using the analogy of an ax murderer and “comparing” gay and transgender people to ax murderers in the sense of saying: “gay people are almost as bad as ax murderers!” Not much of a distinction, but a small one.

    As for the use of “hot water,” it’s the sort of thing you say about a husband who forgets his wife’s anniversary, or a high school kid on prom night who comes home at three in the morning. It’s a little jarring used here, don’t you think? It’s like: “Frat boys in the doghouse with school authorities for racist chant.”

    It just occurred to me that in a few hours I will be driving past the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, scene of the frat boy chant. Shortly thereafter, I’ll be in close proximity to the state legislature in Oklahoma City, perhaps spittin’ distance from Emily Virgin and her colleagues. It’s as if I’m driving through my column! At present, for the record, I am passing the exit into downtown Ft. Worth. Cowtown. Mooo.

    (Postscript: an expression involving “hot water” was first documented in the 1500s, but it referred to “costing” hot water. In our case for example: “Bad analogy could cost a Michigan pastor hot water.” That’s all I got.)

    Marching Madness

    What else is new? Well, much was made of the fact that we finally got a gay section into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boston. This whole thing reminds me of the Boy Scout issue. For one thing, we took both conflicts to the Supreme Court back in the day and lost. For another, by the time the institutions caved, nobody cared. Strike that. I personally didn’t care. Maybe lots of other people did.

    Here’s the thing. Back in the fin de siecle, we GLBTs were surrounded by hatred and exclusion. Yet things had been getting a little better, making continued prejudice less tolerable. Those smarmy nasty parade people were infuriating. The pompous scouts with their holier-than-thou all American pretensions made you want to slap them. With more people coming out, we were able to corral scores of openly gay Irish and dozens of current and former gay Eagle Scouts and off to court we went.

    We may have been too hasty in the case of the Parade. In its ruling, the High Court said parade organizers control the speech of the formal participants, a decision that makes sense for us as well. Individual gay marchers have always been allowed in any parade. It was only an official gay float that was banned in Boston. Yet, would we ourselves want to be forced to welcome a Westboro Baptist Church float into a pride parade? Of course not. Well, whatever. The Boy Scouts ruling, in turn, was a travesty, a tightrope walk over freedom of expressive association that saw gay bias as a virtually harmless coincidence of laudable scouting fellowship.

    Ironically, both the Boston parade and the scouts have had to tread water in the public disgust that rose up and eventually subsumed their so-called victories. Now they’re drowning in negative media and trying desperately