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Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
21 October 2010 @ 09:25 am
This column originally published on Carnal Nation, March 31, 2010
Among the many clever ways to jump-start your erotic energy is to put some jiggle in your wiggle. In certain tantric circles, this is called the “Shakti Shake.” Hop, vibrate, writhe, preferably to music - don’t worry about looking graceful - and you too can get that kundalini juice snaking up and down your chakras. Wow!
The other day I was interviewed on a Texas radio show hosted by a conservative yet personable man. I was invited on the show to talk about a couple of things: links between hot sex and business success, and after that, objectum sexuality. During the course of the show, I invited the good people of the Dallas-Ft. Worth area (those who weren’t driving, anyway!) to partake of a root chakra exercise, breathing up through the perineum and... “I don’t think our listeners know where the perineum is,” said my host. “They can google it,” I said, and then, not knowing what kind of sexologically accurate language I could get away with on the air, I gave a little hint: “it’s ‘down there.’” 
Funny to be a disembodied voice, talking about sex and intimacy, bringing some of that good ol’ down-home SF/Berkeley sex radical vibe into an entirely different area of the country. I don’t know what the listeners made of it, but I had a blast doing this program. I still experience this fact with some degree of giddy surprise: I really, really love talking about sex! 
Writing about it too, in case you haven’t noticed! In fact, the minute I finish my weekly column, I can’t wait to do it all over again! I’m actually kind of... insatiable!
And that leads me to this week’s topic: female sexual power, its glories and mutations. And of course I want to disclose my personal biases here - I’m writing as a cisgendered female who identifies as heteroflexible, tantric and poly but currently lives monogamously. Oh, and did I mention that in choosing between the Carnal Nation t-shirts that flank my column, I feel far more affinity for the whip-wielding “top”? (And just because I write from this framework doesn’t mean that I leave others out of the bigger picture.)
So what follows are autobiographical musings on female sexual power which I have come to identify closely with Shakti, sometimes called Shakti Kundalini, said to be the primordial cosmic energy and creative power, identified in some way as “female”. There is a saying among tantra practitioners that Shiva (the “male” counterpart) “is a corpse” without the enlivening power of Shakti. There are, of course, numerous ways to interpret that!
I’ve played with concepts and feelings of female power, conceptually or otherwise, for most of my life. As an overly imaginative youngster of seven or eight, I lived a great portion of each day as either Captain Nemo or a pirate queen. To me, being a “pirate queen” meant I had all the glamour and power I could ever want. Plus, the idea of menacing the high seas, either by submarine (ala Nemo) or sailing ship, was immensely attractive to me, as was the thought of commanding minions. The minion role was of course enacted by my younger siblings and/or other neighborhood children. I never actually tied a minion to the palm tree in the front yard (which doubled as a ship mast), but I thought about it.
What’s really sad is how much of that feisty, little girl bravado - which represents first glimmerings of glorious, chaotic Shakti energy - gets lost or beaten down during late childhood and adolescence. There are reasons for that: hormones, social pressure, a desire for acceptance, sexual abuse and rape, and so on. Remnants of that bravado sometimes emerge as a young woman’s exploration of her own powers of seduction. Lots can be said on this topic, but I’m going someplace else with this. 
Of course all of us - of all genders - practically swim in an atmosphere littered with countless personifications of female power and seduction, through tales and images of queens and princesses, outlaws and pirates, courtesans and strippers, movie and television stars, free-thinking writers, porn actresses, savvy business women, and celebrated singers, especially the rock goddesses who incite us to rebellion with their shame-free sensuality... all icons of potent possibilities. But as girls and women (cisgendered or not), do we live vicariously through these personifications or do we make this turf our own? Do we live into this power authentically, or do we just imitate it with the trappings of fashion? 
As a young woman, I cycled through various subcultures: hippie; leftist radical; feminist; glitter/glam; strip clubs; and punk. Each one provided me with archetypes of female power and oppression (as well as potent archetypes of blended gender). While designing a series of punk sci-fi costumes, I had an epiphany about outer space as “the feminine frontier” and began to articulate a philosophy of “the feminine dynamic” as opposed to that old Yin-Yang principle that equates female with passivity. The upshot was, I ditched punk fashion design and co-founded a non-profit organization to promote outer space as the perfect frontier for intrepid female explorers. All this was just prior to Sally Ride’s historic shuttle flight. (Looking back, I see a definite link between imagining life in Captain Nemo’s submarine and my vision of the future in an L5 space colony.)
This was in my mid-twenties. At the same time, I was seeing a somewhat kinky boyfriend who decided it would suit his needs to introduce me to female dominance. He signed me up for a weekend workshop with Kat Sunlove. Female dominance was a revelation to me and felt like a homecoming of my own soul. For me, the combined energy of sexual female dominance with my philosophy of “the feminine dynamic” was electrifying. I experienced a process somewhat like coming out, when I wanted to shout my new orientation to the world and use my newly recognized energy in various, interesting ways. I think my serious and enthusiastic acceptance of my dom self was somewhat startling to the boyfriend - all he’d wanted was a little dress-up and light bondage. 
I was so serious about my connection with dominant female energy that I began to resent the insistent focus on BDSM stereotypes of dom women, which were cool and sexy and all that, but I didn’t want MY energy or imagination confined to an erotic box which had been shaped by someone else (especially a male someone else). I wanted to do bigger things with this energy too, like creating a whole new human future in space. 
Still, I continued exploring in a mild way until I was blindsided by fate. I met the man who would become my husband. Suddenly I was happy snuggling in a vanilla world of young love, no longer fierce and angry but also - though I didn’t know it at the time - no longer potent and free. Without realizing it, in setting aside my explorations, I had broken up with an essential part of my own nature. 
We make trade offs in life. For many years I led a stable life with someone who loved me. We even started a business together. I became the mother of two children and I adore them with all my heart. There’s nothing about this that I would change. But when environmental illness and chronic fatigue showed up to kick my ass, I became unable to muster more than an occasional remnant of my original erotic self. In essential ways, I could no longer “get it up.” Desire was dim, and so was my sense of self. I hauled myself through each day on willpower alone - just trying to take care of the kids, sometimes doing a little volunteer work. My husband - I thought - could take care of himself. I didn’t realize what this would cost us. The most extreme phase of my condition lasted for several years. Perhaps you can guess the rest. 
Way back in 1966, sex researcher Mary Jane Sharfey made several stunning discoveries regarding women’s sexuality. For one thing, she found that women “must be stimulated continuously, especially during the plateau and orgasmic phases, or the level of sexual tension will drop almost instantaneously. Contrary to the male’s, the female’s muscles of orgasmic response will not continue to contract involuntarily.” In other words, women do not have a “point of no return” as men do. I believe that most men do not realize this, and so as a woman begins to show signs of coming close to climax, they often unconsciously back off or switch technique, thinking that nature is just gonna take its course, because it happens that way with their own bodies. Big mistake. Oddly, I seldom hear this basic fact mentioned. 
Sharfey also made this important statement about women’s sexual potential: “It should be stressed that the intensities of the multiple orgasms do not abate until fatigue of the responding muscles has set in. Each orgasm is followed promptly by refilling of the venous erectile chambers, distention creates engorgement and edema, which creates more tissue tension, etc. The supply of blood and edema fluid to the pelvis is inexhaustible. Consequently, the more orgasms a woman has, the stronger they become; the more orgasms she has, the more she can have. To all intents and purposes, the human female is sexually insatiable in the presence of the highest degrees of sexual satiation.” 
Is there any woman who hasn’t read an account of Empress Messalina’s antics and thought, “gee, I wonder if I could do that?” Well, it sounds like muscle fatigue is the only thing holding us back. That, and our ability to tap into the source of our sexual energy in order to self-ignite. What I mean by this is that convention, habit, a history of abuse, constraints of all kinds - including chronic illness - keep us from reaching inward and tapping our own wellsprings of abundant sexual energy. 
I did not begin to heal from environmental illness until I stumbled across some Huna “mana gathering” exercises. (You could say that mana is life energy.) In the beginning, I could only do these simple breathing exercises laying down - I was too exhausted to do them sitting up. With increased energy, I began to wake up again sexually. One day, the slow incremental process of waking up unexpectedly turned into a roaring furnace. I experienced what I now understand was a spontaneous burst of Kundalini energy. It blew me apart and then put me back together again in a whole new way. It was a real “Shakti Shake” - equivalent to a 9.5 on the Richter Scale. I felt the fierce energy of Mother Kali or Tutu Pele flowing through me. For the next ten months I lived in a profoundly accelerated and intensified state of desire, anticipation and spiritual yearning, accompanied by lucid dreams and other revelations. I was “alive again, in a body!” and though there is much more to this story than I can talk about here, it was both frightening and exhilarating to be so atavistically embodied. There is no question that during this period I could have relished the kinds of opportunities given and taken by a Messalina, had they appeared before me. I’m not bragging - it’s just that things were inwardly that intense. 
Unfortunately, my physical and sexual healing was more of a turn-off than a turn-on to my husband. The manner in which all this happened turned me into more of a stranger to him than a lover renewed. It was all just too weird. What had happened propelled me into a series of cultural and spiritual explorations that were not of any interest to him. I was passionate about these things because I was gaining so much benefit. Alive, alive oh! But my enthusiasm was off-putting. Alas that it was so. 
Female sexual power and energy are the true “wish fulfilling gem.” I contemplate its glittering facets when I read books like Insatiable Wives by David J. Ley, which deals with the “hot wives” and cuckold phenomenon, or Passionate Enlightenment by Miranda Shaw, about the dakini tradition of Tibet, or any book about female dominance and BDSM. It’s clear to me that many people are fascinated by the allure of unvarnished and unrepentant female potency and also that many others are scared to death of it. 
I know that this wish-fulfilling gem is not “of” me, though it’s “in” me, and the power of it can be tapped by anyone. In times of depletion and sorrow, we can use it to renew ourselves. In times of loving and pleasure, we can ride its revelations and delights. Most importantly, once a woman experiences the true extent of her erotic power, the genie is out of the bottle for good.
As I write this column, week by week, I’m also allowing the sister djinn of creativity to emerge. I draw upon the most expansive experiences I’ve had - sensual, sexual, spiritual, intellectual - and I offer them to you, the reader. I revel in the revelations of writing, because there is no going back. It’s all out there now. I’m speaking truth to whoever reads this. The words are indelible, they’re on the internet, they cannot be erased, and I want to repeat the pleasure of this exchange again and again. I am my own magical djinn and I’ll never again accept confinement. I have the practices now that keep me whole. And even if my pleasures are sometimes whittled down, at least my potent sense of self is once again intact - a gift from that little Shakti pirate of long ago. 
Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
14 October 2010 @ 09:12 am
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis. I just found the longest word in the English language, along with some of the shortest and most frequently, among the pages of my youngest child’s Spanish language textbook. For at least 4,000 years (or as long as alphabetic writing has existed) human beings have enjoyed the sneaky thrill of inscribing vulgarities and insults in public places and on publicly accessible things (like dollar bills and textbooks). Modern teenagers are no exception.
I saw the inside back cover first, as it opened onto a pencil sketch of a torso sporting three breasts and two penises. Whoa, dude! That’s triple “X” stuff (for this age group, at least). In stark contrast to the torso and other scrawls, one kid had spelled out “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis” and exclaimed in large letters, “ONE WORD. I can’t believe I’m not the only person who knows that word. Ya!” I was amused by this endearing evidence of nerdy linguistic glee, found in such close proximity to “pussy,” “poop” and “Ric sucks!” While the mom in me felt dismay over the vandalized condition of my child’s textbook (and by extension, the woeful state of California’s educational budget), the sexologist in me was utterly fascinated. I was also thrilled by a serendipitous delivery of another timely column topic. Sexology is where you find it.
The late Loretta Haroian, Ph.D., was an important figure at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. Her recorded lectures and a manuscript, “Sexual Development in Children and Adolescents” (circa 1985), are part of the institute’s sex educator and clinical sexologist curricula. I felt very drawn to her work, as a mother as well as a student. When I saw the drawings and graffiti in my son’s book (which I’ll call “Textbook XXX”), I immediately thought of her. 
Dr. Haroian said that “understanding the sexual components or meanings of heretofore nonsexual words and actual sexual vocabulary is a major task of the pubescent child. It is a rite of passage that separates childhood and adolescence.” She also wrote, “it is remarkable that despite their inaccuracies, sex jokes and stories are perennial, resurfacing at the same age generation after generation.” I think Dr. Haroian would have found Textbook XXX a terrific example of opportunistic underground transmission of the kind of sexual lore and humor enjoyed by this age group.
However, Dr. Haroian says that children in early adolescence can also be very embarrassed by sexual situations or jokes, particularly if they are found to be naive or ignorant “in the midst of others’ knowing.” This kind of embarrassment can be horribly memorable. I have never forgotten an incident from sixth grade, when I was alone with two other girls in a classroom. They had drawn a rounded “w” on the chalkboard and asked me, with sniggers, if I “wanted to join the W club?” I understood, dimly, that the rounded “w” was supposed to indicate a body part but in my ignorance I thought they were referring to buttocks. It was only later that I realized the girls were snickering over breast development (which I hadn’t experienced yet). Ouch! So while Textbook XXX and its ilk might provide something of a shock to a sexually naive student (even in middle school, they do exist), it might also be doing the kid a favor - giving the student a sort of “secret password” or a short-cut to some measure of peer group “knowingness.” This is not a bad thing - kids who don’t know it all, but who know enough to “pass” are treated far more kindly than the poor kids who don’t know anything. School age kids are truly cruel to the “clueless” ones.   
Now my son says he “didn’t do any of it” - meaning none of the drawings or naughty words are his work. The only reason I actually believe him is he’s still at the age where he’s drawing swords, guns and anime-style armored warriors (often in the margins of his homework). Depictions of things that go smash and blow up seem to provide most of his entertainment and inspire much of his conversation. However, I know sex is very much on his radar - because he’s been watching some pretty steamy rap videos lately and he can’t get enough of “Family Guy,” which makes him laugh uproariously. 
So, Textbook XXX seems developmentally healthy, even with the additions that would alarm most adults. I am puzzled by one thing though - the textbook graffiti is entirely in English, which would seem to indicate a dearth of Spanish language learning. My kid has already looked up Spanish profanity on the internet and now sprinkles his conversations with phrases which his father solemnly and seriously tells him could get him stomped if he uses those words in public. Therefore, I guess I could consider my child ahead of the curve, at least in initiative and enthusiasm for the language. And so far he has avoided the getting stomped part by using these phrases only with friends - translating for those he considers his closest associates. (I expect their mothers will be pleased...)
So it is with a nod to the late, great sexologist, Loretta Haroian, that I describe the embellishments that adorn Textbook XXX. It’s a sort of erotological and sexological inventory of the adolescent mind at work, and it’s all I can do to stop myself from whipping up a research project and asking my son’s teacher if I can see all the textbooks - which my kid says are pretty much in the same shape as his.  
Inside Front Cover: 
“This book is the property of...” offers space for students to write their names and the year they were issued the book. “Josh Dicksucker” had the book in 2007. “Pussy” had it a year after that and wrote the word “dry” in the column headed “Issued.” Underneath it says, “PUPILS to whom this textbook is issued must not write on any page or mark any part of it in any way, consumable textbooks excepted.” Teachers, supposedly, can record the condition of the book each time a student returns it. Such has not been the case with Textbook XXX - probably no teacher wants to admit to having let such a book fall into teenage hands.  
Students were encouraged to “add somethin [sic] to the bok [sic].” Others obliged: “Riley likes boys,” “Ivan owes me $40,” “pussy,” and  “1-2-3-4 get ur[sic] booty on the floor. 5-6-7-30 Aaron [last name] is not a derrty [sic].” Here someone has crossed out “not a derrty” (whatever that is) and has written “really fruity.” The second version scans better. 
Front Page:
Drawings include one of a rooster, marked “cock” and one of a kitty cat, marked “pussy.” The next drawing shows the rooster’s beak in the pussy’s mouth and the drawing is marked “sex.” Another drawing shows a hermaphroditic figure with large breasts, enormous phallus and featureless round head. It looks almost Neolithic in its stark, primitive authority. Next to it is another enormous phallus, with very small balls. Another drawing is captioned, “I’m a happy cow,” and shows the happy cow having happy fun with what looks to be a rather passive sheep. (I cannot tell if the sheep is happy.) There’s a headless torso with breasts. a number of smaller penises, another set of breasts, and quite a lot of hearts. “Devo” and “Melanie” and “Nicky Poo” and “woot*Leah*woot (ugly)” all get their own hearts. 
“Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicavolcanoconiosis” appears again, this time surrounded by “fuck pervs” and “pussy” and “LOSERS!” and “got sex, got milk?” and “homies” and “sex is so cool.” There’s more, but these are what stand out among the scrawls. On the next page we are warned again that Ivan owes someone $20.00 and that “Ivan is a bully please help!” (Sex isn’t the only source of teen angst!)
The book is illustrated with photographs of people doing various things in their daily lives, like having “conversacions” and grooming themselves and playing sports. Middle school students have found a deal of inspiration in these photographs, though not the kind the author or publishers had in mind. Students have added word balloons and/or extra anatomical features to the photographs, and have proudly provided an index of their work: a long column of page numbers (written in various hands) on the inside front cover. I looked everything up.
Page 28 features three teenage boys. The boy in the background, looking at the other two, was given a word balloon which says (I think), “yummy.” Page 114 portrays two teenage boys in a classroom, one white, one black. Someone has drawn (with pen) an average size erect penis in front of the white boy’s jeans, and a baseball bat sized penis in front of the black boy’s khakis. Page 189, which received an editorial comment of “ha” from some later reader, shows four boys playing soccer. An arrow points to one boy’s bulging shorts and says “boner” and another boy, with eyes on the ball which just happens to be photographically in line with the bulging shorts, is thinking “nice dick.” (Don’t the people who photograph and create these textbooks have any sense at all of what these pictures suggest to teenage brains?) Page 356 introduces camping trip “vocabulario” but students have added dialogue to the picture of two grinning boys in sleeping bags, “Last night was fun!’ and “yeah!” Somehow, I don’t think the boys are talking about last night’s S’more fest or the campsite weenie roast. 
Page 432 features giant breasts penciled over a girl’s blouse. Page 274 shows two teenage girls and handwritten word balloons: “take off your skirt” says one, “let’s play” says the other. On page 293, a woman in a beige suit has linked arms with two men. She says, “bitch,” and one man says to another, “you lookin’ at my woman?” The older couple in front has the woman saying “5 dollars” and the man responding, “let’s fuck.” But my favorite is page 33, which reproduces an old portrait of a handsome young Simon Bolivar y Jose de San Martin. Someone has drawn a tiny little penis on the front of his pants, and a rolled up map on a chair is designated as “a condom.” 
You get the idea - the book is sprinkled with penciled breasts, cunts, cocks and spicy dialogue: “he’s good on the bed” or “that’s a big...” But there are occasional dud pages. Page 285 was disappointing: “fuck pants!” is written in red ink. That’s all. 
Inside Back Cover: 
The word “poop” is drawn as a neckless and headless torso, each “O” a breast! (It looks like the work of the same person who did the triple-nipple torso.) There’s a “Hot List” with spaces numbered one through ten and “not Riley” is number one. The rest of the spaces are blank. (Not much of a hot list, in my opinion, though I guess “not Riley” could mean most of the student body.) “Ric sucks” (mentioned previously) was written in fairly large letters. I note a stick figure man licking a stick figure woman’s vagina. Someone else has added a word balloon (in pen). I think she might be saying “ooh ah” but it’s pretty hard to read. The same person also added an erection to the stick figure man. And, as I mentioned before, again I find the English language’s longest word (which is the name of a disease caused by silica inhalation).  
As you can see, most of what I found in Textbook XXX were mostly run of the mill crudities, but the torso with three large female breasts and two penises, as well as the longest word, were both very unusual. 
What inspired the torso? A dream? A desire to come up with the most shocking image he or she could think of? Japanese anime? Whispers about intersex conditions or “hermaphrodites?” The triple-breasted characters in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Star Trek V? I am very intrigued by the story behind this drawing. Though I’ve seen thousands of erotic images and dozens of images of sexual or physical curiosities, I’ve never thought about people having multiple breasts or double penises (not to mention all of the above). If it hadn’t been for that kid’s drawing, I doubt I ever would. 
The Guinness Book of World Records is often the first place a kid discovers things that are unusual or weird. Elementary school libraries often have a copy. But I went to the website and found it rather tame, devoid of multiple genitals or breasts. The human body category included longest fingernails, most piercings (so nineties!), longest ear hair (also rather nineties, but as in age, not decade), and most spoons balanced on a face (sixteen, in 2008). The “furthest eyeball popper” photo is deliciously weird, but it’s not what I call sexy. It’s more like what I imagine a PTA president would look like after finding Textbook XXX in a kid’s backpack. However, the longest tongue (9.8 cm/3.86 in) and the world’s tiniest waist (38.1 cm/15 in - “about the same size as a regular jar of mayonnaise”) might be interesting to a hormonally active teenage mind. (That tiny waist is the result of twelve years of corset training, which is pretty darned kinky, but I don’t expect the kids to pick up on that.)
And what about finding the longest word in the English language scrawled in a Spanish textbook? The kid who wrote that word might have made a hobby of collecting long words, odd words, or words for strange medical conditions. If so, that kid might have picked up a Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary and stumbled over “diphallia” (or “diphallus”) and “polymastia.” Diphallia is the condition of having two penises. (It can also mean a doubled clitoris.) Polymastia is the condition of having more than two breasts. These unusual words just might have inspired the drawing.
Oddities and deviance do seem fascinating to teenagers, perhaps because the biggest question for many young people is, “am I normal? (and will anyone want me?)” Dr. Haroian says that thirteen year olds often have questions about twins, multiple births, birth defects and “ask the age-old questions about cross-species fertilization.” (I am not sure what those age-old questions are, but I guess as a sexologist I’d better find out!)
Dr. Haroian wrote about adolescent sexual behavior and development with honesty and common sense, in spite of an atmosphere of (continuing) social hysteria which surrounds the topic. Dr. Haroian also described four categories of culture: sexually supportive, sexually permissive, sexually restrictive and sexually repressive, and places the sexual development of the individual within this context. She said, “the erotic response consists of a complex interplay of physiological and psychological factors that are highly susceptible to familial, religious and cultural folkways, mores and attitudes. The styles of acceptable sexual attitude and expression fluctuate historically and culturally between generally positive and generally negative polarities. At this time, our own restrictive culture time is still preoccupied with imposing sexual constraints rather than promoting sexual competencies as a value system.” 
In 1985, I am not sure Dr. Haroian would have foreseen the strange combination we have today: an unprecedented access to an array of sexual material (including massive amounts of misinformation), courtesy of the internet, combined with politically and religiously entrenched resistance to providing comprehensive sex education to young people. But young people have always chafed against restraint, and have created underground ways to express themselves, exchange information, and get the experiences they need to grow and learn. 
Even with my background, I sometimes feel knee-jerk alarm at the thought of what my son is learning as he watches Family Guy on the internet. But then I have to remember my own cherished collection of Zap underground comix, my uncensored copy of Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations to  Lysistrata, and the way my best friend in ninth grade was always scribbling “banana ladies” and “watermelon humpers” - which we’d all laugh at during lunch break. This was our own version of Textbook XXX. I realize now that what we were doing was deeply necessary, though no doubt the adults in our lives would have been appalled. 

This column was originally published Dec. 2, 2009 on Carnal Nation.
Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
14 October 2010 @ 08:55 am
For the last year I've been writing a weeky column on an amazing array of sexual/cultural topics, published on Carnal Nation. As of yesterday, this great website has discontinued publishing new content. I'm very saddened by this development, as many of us are, yet want to continue my work as a columnist.

I've decided to continue my weekly column as
Love's Outer Limits, publishing new columns every Thursday on Blogspot. Here on Live Journal, every week I'll repost a column which was originally published on Carnal Nation. I am doing this because I don't know how long Carnal Nation will stay online with the old material and I want to offer new readers a chance to enjoy my previously published columns. 

This blog was originally named "Sexologist in the House". I've left some of the old postings up. From time to time I will include new material here too. 

Have a great time reading!
Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
Last week, in the middle of preparing for a spot of skin cancer surgery and my eldest child's transfer to a four year college, I received an offer to fly to New York to appear as an expert sexologist on the Tyra Banks Show. The topic was "people who love objects," and as I already have a track record commenting on Objectum Sexuality (last April's Good Morning America appearance, among others), I readily accepted. 

However, not being a television watching person (we don't have an HD set, let alone cable - a fact bemoaned by my youngest teenager), I was not very familiar with the Tyra Banks Show, and only vaguely aware of what I was letting myself in for! Don't get me wrong - it was a very pleasant experience and two days later I still bask in a lingering afterglow of delightful memories (plus a need to catch up on my sleep!).  It's just that -- how can I say it? - the pace of the experience was more akin to speed dating than of the slow courtship and lingering contact I've come to prefer. 

Still, I did my best to keep up. I did fly to New York and back within twenty-four hours. And I did do the show on about three and a half hours of sleep. So it helped that the producer, assistants, make up artists and stylists -- all energetic young people -- did their best to accommodate me, and to accommodate Erika Eiffel too, who was the main attraction on our segment (second only, of course, to Tyra). The staff were all quite wonderful and took care of us very nicely. As did the drivers. They were a high spot in my trip! You just cannot believe how wonderful it is to have a driver, unless you too are a mother who spends a good portion of her life transporting children. It's almost better than a spa!

I have a few favorite memories, including one of Erika while we were in the middle of the hair/makeup/wardrobe flurry. She sighed a little, tugging on a petalled, green silk tunic, and said, "I don't have to dress up for the objects..." 

So being a guest on the Tyra Banks Show was a rite of passage, as well as an adventure. The cool part is, now that I've done one national talk show, I feel ready for more! And I will share with you a few valuable lessons from "my first time":

1) Ask for a complete briefing of the stage choreography during your short time on camera. Ask ahead of time for exact instructions about sitting, moving, talking. If I'd known to ask for a full briefing, I wouldn't have committed a very embarrassing guest faux pas. All I can say is, thank heavens the show was taped, not live. I am left with a sort of lingering, post-virginal shame at "not knowing how to do it right."

2) Warn makeup artist about lipstick creep in the upper lips of older women. Refuse advance application of really gooey gloss. If I'd known, I could have avoided a backstage meltdown and panic over getting on camera with smeary lips. Fortunately, the make up artist did show up in the nick of time...

3) Ask the staff person booking the flight to make sure that you're in an aisle seat, round trip. If you're a woman, you understand the importance of this during a long flight. 

4) Make sure you do not leave your comfy, ugly, Berkeley-esque sandals behind. No one who finds them will love them like you do, and they are more likely to chuck them out with a pair of tweezers than Fed Ex 'em back. 

I realize now that just as with good sex, a good talk show encounter depends on a critical skill -- knowing what you want and need, and asking for it!

Oh, the show will air sometime in September. In the meantime, check out this article on Objectum Sexuality in the Canadian newspaper, the Globe and Mail. I'm in it too.

Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
14 August 2009 @ 12:05 pm
With some fanfare I announce my scale of human/object intimate relations. I call it the Marsh Spectrum of Human/Object Intimacy - from sex toy use to Objectum Intimacy. May it be useful in expanding our understanding of Objectum Sexuality. It's not the last word, by any means, but it's a start!
Email me at if you want a PDF file of my copyrighted "meem." You can also download it from links on three of my websites.

Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist

Catch my act! I'm talking about Native Hawaiian sacred sexual traditions on Francesca Gentille's show, "Sex-Tantra and Kama Sutra." The episode will be available from now on, in the podcast archives. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Plus, I had fun! Francesca was a wonderful interviewer.

Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
09 April 2009 @ 04:49 pm certainly evidence of a dysfunctional, sex negative society that has no capacity for critical thinking! On April 9th, I was asked to appear on the Dom Giordano show to discuss Objectum Sexuality, on a CBS radio station in Philadelphia. Naively, I thought that we would actually have a discussion - even if I couldn't expect a sympathetic or understanding host or audience. 

He played an edited sound clip from the Good Morning America show, which had aired the day before, and then after introducing me, launched straight into a tirade about "values" and how dare I suggest that the OS folks weren't sick. He also had a beef with ABC news running the Objectum Sexuality story at breakfast time but managed to ignore the stunning hypocrisy of his own program running the same OS story in the evening! I mean, he was so worried about the rival network contaminating good American homes with news of this dangerous new sexual orientation, that of course he felt compelled to bring news of this contagion into even more American homes.

And this is what seemed to be so threatening - that I claimed that OS was very possibly an orientation, not a disorder. The sexological subtlety of that distinction is somewhat lost on him, and others, and I hadn't realized that "orientation" is a political "button" that can be felt and pushed. 

At one point I had to tell him, "Dom, I don't think you need to worry about Object Sexuals overrunning the country - there aren't that many of them." Or something to that effect. (And I loved calling him "Dom," because in these here parts, that word has a rather exotic, frolicksome meaning...)

But it got boring pretty quickly. Dom merely wanted to spew. At another point I said, "it sounds like this is scary for you, would you like to talk about it?" He didn't keep me on for long...

Perhaps he was ticked at ABC as the Miley Cyrus segment was, frankly, a bit upstaged by Erika La Tour Eiffel's story. Miley, of course, is wholesome American fare...  

My dear, departed friend and Tantra practitioner, Michael Rossman of Free Speech Movement fame, used to listen to hours of right wing talk radio. He felt honor bound to keep tabs on his political adversaries. (He had a stronger stomach than most.) He'd be laughing his head off right now, at my predicament - poor little Amy Marsh, Clinical Sexologist, innocently inciting hundreds of right wing blogs and media sites to a frenzy of self-righteous indignation. (And I do wish he were here to laugh - among other things!)

I turned down Laura Ingraham of Fox Network earlier in the day, but maybe I should have done it after all. It might have been the same kind of fun. And Michael would have appreciated the superb irony of it all.
Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
08 April 2009 @ 10:57 am
The story on Good Morning America was respectful and I thought, very good. Erika La Tour Eiffel and I are both pleased. To read and watch, go to the links below. The segment is called "In Love with the Eiffel Tower."

My comments on my research into Objectum Sexuality are included in both the filmed segment and the printed news story.

Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist


Objectum Sexuality (OS) refers to a rare emotional and/or sexual attraction to objects that seems to be qualitatively different from a fetishistic use of objects or from the use of sex toys. OS people say they experience their relationships with beloved objects as interactive and reciprocal, to varying degrees. OS attachments may encompass feelings that are emotional, romantic, and/or sexual. Beloved objects may include large structures, machines, smaller objects, tools, statues, cars, and so on. 

For OS people, their relationships with objects feels normal and natural. However they are aware that their relationships are often misunderstood or ridiculed. Some people in the OS community - but not all - have been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome or Autism. 


According the people who love objects, the answer is "yes." They object to being referred to as "fetishists" or being told they are simply "obsessed." A key point for OS people is that they experience and feel emotions for the "being" of an object.

So what is "sexual orientation?" The definition of "sexual orientation" found on the website of the American Psychological Association comes close to the ways in which OS people experience and describe themselves and their relationships. The APA definition (with references to heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality deleted) is as follows:

"Sexual orientation is an enduring emotional, romantic, sexual, or affectional attraction toward others. It is easily distinguished from other components of sexuality including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female), and the social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior). Sexual orientation exists along a continuum... Sexual orientation is different from sexual behavior because it refers to feelings and self-concept. Individuals may or may not express their sexual orientation in their behaviors." 


With regard to Objectum Sexuality, sexological understanding is in its infancy. Likewise with the psychological and medical communities. A key difference is that sexology is less concerned with pathologizing sexual behavior. Sexologists do not feel that having a unique sexual orientation or preference automatically indicates the presence of mental illness. 

However, whatever our training, we can all begin by respecting the ways in which Objectum Sexuality people define themselves, their experiences and their community. OS people deserve decent treatment and consideration. 

More research is needed. Dr. Marsh has created the first sexological survey of English speaking people in the international OS community. Results will soon be available.

For more information, please go to the Objectum-Sexuality website:

Dr. Amy Marsh, Sexologist
The Good Morning America taping is over!  The two men from the film crew were extremely nice, and very good at their jobs. I felt quite comfortable having them around, and very appreciative for their kokua (care).

It's an interesting thing to be on the air promoting a study and consideration of Objectum Sexuality, a unique form of human sexuality and intimacy. On the one hand, I am bracing for some interest (clients!) and on the other, hoping that I can avoid the hate mail and crank calls. 

We'll see...