Episode 25: Dr. Michael Bader - What Is He Thinking? Sexual Intelligence

Listen Now
RSS: Subscribe
RSS: iTunes

Continue the conversation on sexual fantasy, and the usage of porn and cybersex. Have you ever wondered what's "real" about sex in the virtual world? What appeals to men so much so that it can lead to obsession, disconnection, and dishonesty at times? What are the benefits of online sex, particularly for men who partake of it, that are powerful enough to have them risk being caught?

Hear a case study during this episode of a client with fantasies about lactating women. Taboo? Wrong? Shameful? Or a healthy outlet for his hidden shadow feelings? What's your particular view on this, regardless of what you've accepted or believed before?

Men and women sometimes have the notion that a man being aggressive and uninhibited in his desire will hurt the woman or the object of his affection. How can we as a culture get over this fallacy? Walk the path towards satisfaction and connection in this fascinating discussion.

Transcript

Announcer: This program, brought to you by personallifemedia.com, is suitable for mature audiences only and may contain explicit sexual information. This is Part 2 of a two-part podcast. If you’d like Part 1, you’ll find it at personallifemedia.com

Beth Crittenden: Hello everyone and welcome to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews.” I’m your host Beth Crittenden on Personal Life Media coming to you from One Taste Urban Retreat Center, San Francisco. Welcome to the show. Today we have
Dr. Michael Bader, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst from San Francisco. Welcome, Dr. Bader.

Michael Bader: Good to be here.

Beth Crittenden: We have Dr. Bader as a guest tonight in our hybrid practice lecture series, which we have every Tuesday night at One Taste. If you haven’t heard about One Taste before, there’s a whole world of ways to play. There’s yoga every hour on the hour. There’s an organic café. There is a broad education network around sensuality and connection and purpose and spirituality and all of those wonderful things that seekers are hoping to find and digest. So, we’re glad that you’re joining us.
Dr. Bader has actually, in addition to his practice, written quite a bit. He’s the author of the book “Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies” from 2002, and the upcoming “What is He Thinking? Pornography, the Internet and the Sexual Intelligence of Men.” That’s coming out early next year. He’s also published over 15 articles in Tikkun that talks about integrating psychoanalysis and social theory. One of my favorite titles from his articles is “Post-Traumatic love Syndrome.” It cracked me up when I saw it. What we’ll actually be talking about today is a combination of things. We’re going to get into sexual fantasy, what the function of fantasy and how does it work, and what can get in the way sometimes, psychologically. In the second part of the show, we’ll also be talking about Internet sex and pornography: what’s the appeal and what are some of the misconceptions that we currently have in the zeitgeist around it.

[music] 

Beth Crittenden: Join us today on “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews” as Dr. Michael Bader talks about sexual fantasies as elegant solutions instead of objects of shame. Hear about his work in clinical practice with people and finding the root of their sexual fantasies. Hear what gets in the way of psychological arousal, because we all want that gateway to be open, and hear about the key to male pleasure in porn--what works about Internet sex and what’s the value of it.

Michael Bader: There’s a lot of gender switching, and people that don’t like Internet sex or don’t understand it, don’t understand as they’ll say, “How can you have sex with someone online if you don’t know that Vixen69 might be a 16-year-old boy from Poland?” When in fact, the people that enjoy this kind of thing -- it doesn’t matter to them, because they are…
Beth Crittenden: That fits your sexual fantasy theory, too. Whatever you think is what your body is going to follow.

Michael Bader: That’s exactly right, and you’re in fact entertaining in your mind two contradictory thoughts. One is that this is entirely real, this is a woman, we’re having this sex, and secondly, it’s not real. The “not real” is important because then I don’ have to feel worried or responsible for her, or concerned that she’s not going to like me. The fact that it’s real enough satisfies my need to have a connection to somebody.

In fact, what I’ve found is that the other thing that men feel, besides burdened with responsibility a lot, is that they feel quite lonely and disconnected. That’s no news flash to any of your listeners because it’s obvious in this culture that men are cut off from each other, and they’re cut off from women. That psychic state of isolation also interferes with their pleasure. Imagine, then, that they are able to find on the Internet sexual pleasure, a feeling of sexual connectedness, and a momentary freedom from guilt and responsibility. Voilà! For at least the short term, you have a perfect solution to the kinds of problems that plague men. I think that they’re problems that women have, too, but in this culture they’re especially salient for men.

Beth Crittenden: how long do you find that that’s a satisfying connection? Do some people just continue to choose that or do they hit a certain wall with it?

Michael Bader: I think sometimes people hit a wall, but it doesn’t mean they then redirect their interests into the external world or social world. Sometimes they hit a wall and it makes them have to seek out more and more risqué, extreme forms of fantasy and play, because they almost become a little bit inoculated to the level of danger that they’re incurring originally.
For instance, I saw a guy whose fantasy -- doesn’t distinguish him from a lot of other men -- he really liked women with big breasts. That was his thing. We talked about why he was so fixated on this. It turns out what that meant to him was that these were women who had a lot to give and enjoyed giving it. That’s probably not actually true, but it was what he imagined when he saw these women and engaged in either online sex with them or with pictures.
Now, he came from a family in which he had a mother he grew up with who was a hypochondriac who was often in bed, he often had to take care of. He worried all the time that he was demanding too much, that he needed too much; she was so frail. So for him, he was always worried his needs would be too great for women, until he found this fantasy solution to it in the form of women with big breasts. After a while of exploring this world he started to discover, ‘Well, gee, there’s other things on the Internet. This is no longer exciting enough.’ So he found Internet sites of lactating women, and that was very exciting to him. Then he went to more frank incest scenarios in which it was directly addressing his particular worry about mothers. In these fantasies, a mother was seducing him.
So, you can see where, for some people, when they hit the wall they escalate It’s rare that somebody gets bored and decides, ‘Ah, you know, the real world is so much more interesting than this. I’m going to give up all porn.’ 

Beth Crittenden: We’re going to take a short break to support our sponsors. This is on Personal Life Media, “A Taste of Sex:Guest Speaker Interviews.” We’re talking with Dr. Michael Bader, the author of “Arousal: The Secret Life of Sexual Fantasies” and the upcoming “What is He Thinking? Pornography, the Internet and the Sexual Intelligence of Men,” which we’ll be talking more about after our break. Dr. Bader, if people would like to work with you or find out more about your work, how can they contact you?

Michael Bader: First I’d suggest, and invite them to go on Amazon, or one of the bookstore online services, and take a look at the book on arousal. Then they can contact me by emailing me at [email protected]

Beth Crittenden: Great. Thank you. Join us when we return from the short break.

[short break]

Beth Crittenden: Welcome back to “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews” on Personal Life Media. I’m your host Beth Crittenden, coming to you from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. We’re speaking today with Dr. Michael Bader

Michael Bader: There is something I’d like to talk about a little bit more – about pornography and the Internet, because I think it’s misunderstood. There’s a very powerful critique of pornography that comes out of the women’s movement. It says that when men enjoy pornography that it’s based intrinsically on objectification and fetishizing the woman, dehumanizing her, and that it increases the likelihood that the man is going to act out these scenarios with women in his real life.
I now it’s a very powerful critique. I’m sure it sometimes happens, but I did take the plunge one summer and read everything there was to read about the research on this. The research actually is quite equivocal. It doesn’t generate that conclusion at all.
The sum of what’s misunderstood is this: For many men, in straight heterosexual pornography where women are treated like things, are treated in an objectified way, the key to the man’s pleasure lies in the fact that in the pornography the woman is enjoying it. It doesn’t mean that a real woman would enjoy everything being done to these porn stars, but it means the fantasy that the pornography represents has it that the woman is treated in an exclusively sexual aggressive way; and rather than be hurt, the woman is turned on.
The reason that’s so important to many men is that they go around worrying that their wish to be aggressive in bed, their wish to not worry so much about the woman, is going to hurt her feelings; is going to make her feel used; is going to make her feel devalued. That often really inhibits men sexually. In pornography, what happens is that these women are being used left and right, but instead of feeling used and devalued, the woman gets excited – meaning the woman is not hurt.
So, even though in real life that might end up looking like a rape myth, in the pornography, it’s not at all. The key to the success of it in exciting the man is the fact that the woman gets excited and feels pleasure; and it’s not because it’s fundamentally a sadistic wish on the man’s part to hurt women. It’s actually an overly worried man who’s too responsible and guilty about hurting women who finds in this kind of pornography a certain kind of relief.

Beth Crittenden: Are you saying if there were to be scenarios where the woman enjoyed -- received his advances, made it entirely clear to him that he was not hurting her, that that would then take away the need for pornography...

Michael Bader: Yes.

Beth Crittenden: …or are you saying that it feeds different nutrients?

Michael Bader: No. I think that if a man could get over this cockamamie notion that many men have and that many women reinforce, but which they don’t really believe either, that a man being aggressive and uninhibited and not worried about the woman, is going to hurt a woman. If he could get over that notion, and if women gave more evidence that actually that was true – that it wasn’t going to hurt them – that the man would be much more satisfied and fulfilled in his everyday real sexual life. Maybe he’d look at porn, and maybe not, because probably that element of anonymity you can’t ever recreate in a real relationship, nor would you ever want to.
There’s a fantasy in our culture that great sex is based on empathy, and in fact, empathy is really important for great sex, but there’s something else that’s important for great sex, too. I call it ruthlessness. What I mean by ruthlessness is the ability to use the other person and not worry about them, and surrender to your own internal states of pleasure and excitement without an undue concern about the inner states of the other person. 
What happens when people are together a long time is that they love each other, they become more intimate, they get to know each other, they become very familiar with each other’s good and bad sides, and they see each other in all sorts of uncomplimentary situations and positions. It becomes difficult to be ruthless, because you’re so aware of the other person’s inner life that you can’t for a moment forget about it.
What I think has to happen in many people’s sexual lives is to restore a sense of separateness and ruthlessness that enables them to play, to objectify, to use each other in the best possible sense of the word, while not losing a feeling of awareness and sensitivity to the other person’s well-being.

Beth Crittenden: How do you translate it for the sexes? It sounds like that could be a really long, intense process of work. How do you recommend people start that journey? You hear of couples where he’s kind of sneaking around looking at porn, and she finds out and feels like he’s cheating on her. How can each sex explain it to the other one, to let the other person know that they don’t need to be personally offended or feel like they’re being replaced?

Michael Bader: When I get them together in couples, I try to basically demystify what’s going on. I try to help them articulate their feelings and beliefs in a way that enables the other person to, what I call, disconfirm them. So, I get the man to be able to talk about his concern that he has to worry about her pleasure all the time. More times than not, she’ll come out with a similar feeling. She’ll say, ‘Well, I worry about your pleasure all the time. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish you’d just throw me on the bed and fuck my brains out.’ And he’ll say, ‘I didn’t know you felt that way. I wish you’d throw me on the bed and fuck my brains out.’ I’m reducing this to a simple-minded formula, but…

Beth Crittenden: That sounds good to me. [laughs]

Michael Bader: Yeah, it turns out that there’re these myths that exist between people. Sometimes if you articulate them, get them on the table, you enable the other person to correct them, even though the person’s not going to believe it initially because they’ve been so socialized and so ingrained. Then you can actually give them exercises and help them create different kinds of experiences that counteract what their expectation is.
A lot of traditional sex therapy, which used to be the standard years and years ago, is you would have people lie together and touch each other without having to perform, without having to bring each other to orgasm. That’s a way of trying to counteract the sense that I’m supposed to please you all the time. You see, I can enjoy, I can touch, I can be touched without feeling like I have to anything for you. That’s a very vanilla example of the kind of thing that people have always intuitively done. This way of thinking I’m describing can dictate more specific solutions.

Beth Crittenden: We’re about out of time for our show. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. Is there anything you’d like to add for the listeners?

Michael Bader: Yes. I think that the main problem in our sex lives is shame. I that it’s about time people came out of the closet in all sorts of ways. Not just in the traditional way we think of when people come out of the closet, but that people quit judging each other’s and their own sexual preferences and fantasies, and instead try to use them as ways of deepening understanding. I think that that’s the real royal road to a better sex life.

Beth Crittenden: Thank you, Dr. Michael Bader.

Michael Bader: Thank you.

Beth Crittenden: this has been “A Taste of Sex: Guest Speaker Interviews” on Personal Life Media. I’m your host, Beth Crittenden from One Taste Urban Retreat Center in San Francisco. If you’d like to learn more about One Taste, you can visit our website at www.onetastesf.com. If you would like a transcript of this show, or to download other shows, you can visit www.personallifemedia.com. If you’d also like to ask any questions or email us feedback, you can email [email protected]. Just a reminder once again: Dr. Bader, your email is?

Michael Bader: [email protected]

Beth Crittenden: Great. Thanks for joining us and stay tuned.