the dark undiscussed corner of male sexuality

March 4, 2010

Why is libido the dark undiscussed corner of male sexuality?  If you read Dana Jennings’ blog on the The New York Times website, he talks about libido as distinct from erectile function, but not many other men who are prostate cancer survivors do. And yet, women who suffer from sexual dysfunction talk mainly about their libidos. It would seem that for men sexuality is forever linked to the mechanics of the penis, so much so that libido is cast aside and forgotten.

There is a great difference between the desire to have traditional sex and the ability. Of the two, the greater and subtler challenge is desire: without it, even a man who has solved the problem of mechanics via pills, a prosthesis or a vacuum device is likely to have a hollow or ironic experience.

Out of the corner of his eye, my husband saw me in a revealing blouse, and it did something. But the lovely moment vanished, and we haven’t been able to get anything like it back for months. Dana Jennings describes similar moments. That’s how it is. There are a lot of guys out there with zero motivation on account of hormone ablation, which keeps the body from producing testosterone. In some men the loss of libido post hormone treatments is permanent; in others temporary. Nobody knows why.  Only recently have some  doctors begun to discuss these effects frankly with their patients before treatment. Each of us—both Pca men and the partners who live with them—has a different thing to struggle against…what an intricate process cancer survival can be.

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From the Wife’s Perspective

February 3, 2009

"Man Sitting — Back View" (1964) Wayne ThiebaudLeonard Lopate on WNYC FM (93.9), just interviewed a gifted writer, Dana Jennings, who has been speaking — through columns/blog in The New York Times — with alarming frankness about the effects on his life of prostate cancer treatment protocols. Much of what he said yesterday (January 28th, around 1:30 PM) struck me as familiar and moving, almost a mirror image of what I’m trying to do with my book, How We Survived Prostate Cancer — a mirror in the sense of everything reversed. His story is the patient’s, while mine is the partner’s.

As someone who came to write a book about prostate cancer from the wife’s perspective, I first went looking for something to read that would get Dean and me through the treatment crisis; not finding that story, I wrote it. Jennings seems to have begun writing about prostate cancer for much the same reason. Read the rest of this entry »


Female Sexuality and Post-Treatment Challenges

February 3, 2009

"Reclining Nude" (1917) by Modigiani“What is Female Desire?” by Daniel Bergner in the Sunday section of last week’s New York Times (January 5, 2009) intersects with prostate cancer post-treatment challenges in some interesting ways.  The author quotes Meredith Chivers, a researcher who notes, “…Certainly women are very sexual…but one possibility is that instead of it being a go-out-there-and-get-it kind of sexuality, it’s more of a reactive process.  If you have this dyad and one part is pumped full of testosterone, is more interested in risk taking, is probably more aggressive, you’ve got a very strong motivational force.  It wouldn’t make sense to have another similar force.  You need something complementary.  And I’ve often thought that there is something really powerful for women’s sexuality about being desired.  That receptivity element….” Read the rest of this entry »