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The Sensuous Psychiatrists

Many of the women described being humiliated and frustrated by their therapists' emotional and sexual coldness.

Cindy (fictitious names are used throughout) told the following story: "He'd interpret everything I said as 'transference love' or sexual desire for him, but there was very little affection between us. We started having a drink after the session was over; then one night he said he wanted to see what my place looked like. We got undressed all at the same time and we went to bed together. And it was a very strange thing, there was almost no tenderness or prelove play. I remember thinking afterward when I said 'That was great' or 'That was very good' . . . thinking that it wasn't, really. . . . Then, all of a sudden, he said, 'Excuse me I have to make a train,' because his wife was sitting out in the Bronx with his kid. I'd never slept with a married man before. It was probably the coldest affair I've had in my life."

Joyce: "He was always on top of me. And he said things to me, too. Dirty things. And he wanted me to say them back to him. It was extremely stimulating. I was being very whorey. I was depraved and he was a beast, he grunted and groaned louder than any animal I had ever heard. He asked, 'Does the thought of having another couple watch stimulate you?' 'Should I smack you on the behind?' He said he wouldn't hurt me, not in the face, but in the behind. I was beginning to get terrified."

Stephanie: "It took ten minutes. He jumped up, washed in the bathroom and was back at his typewriter. I thought we'd talk till four in the morning. If anyone should know what he's doing, a therapist should. If I don't have an orgasm here, then it's really my fault."

". . . Some doctors use patients as secretaries, typists, babysitters, errand runners . . ."

I am opposed to sex between female patients and male therapists not out of puritanism but because such affairs generally seem to do more to harm patients than to help them. One crucial problem with such affairs is that they reinforce the female tendency to be what has come to be considered as "feminine"—to love Daddy and to violate the incest taboo. In our society, little girls are taught to respect, depend upon and try to please their fathers. When they marry or have relationships later on, they are generally expected to choose men who in many ways are father-like—men who are older, wealthier, stronger, taller, and better educated than they are. Most doctor-patient sex is a psychological form of such "incest" as well as being medically unethical and legally questionable.

Most seductive therapists are father figures. The eleven women interviewed ranged in age from 22 to 45, with an average age of 31. The average age of the male doctors was 47, making them an average of sixteen years older than their patients. With the exception of one woman, the earning capacity and educational levels of these women were never more than a fraction of those of their therapists. Two were students, three secretaries, two housewives, one a waitress, one a recreational counselor, one a saleswoman, and one a sociologist. Candy, in a book by that name, was, like the women I interviewed, in search of soul-healing. Being female, she found sex, not God or herself, with the "help" of her various male spiritual teachers. But Candy finally realized, as many women never do, "Good grief, it's Daddy!"

The patient may be in search of a father and/or happiness, but what is the doctor in search of? Dr. Charles C. Dahlberg was one of the first to break into the sometimes Victorian learned journals with an article on this hypocritically forbidden subject. In a study called "Sexual Contact Between Patient and Therapist," published in 1970 in Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Dahlberg concluded that the seductive therapist is generally "withdrawn and introspective, studious, passive, shy . . . (more) intellectually (than) physically adventurous . . . This adds up to being unpopular with the opposite sex. None of this stops a person from having fantasies of sexual conquest. It may even encourage sexual fantasies." Such typically "deprived" men now find themselves in a professional position where many young women may be expressing fantasies of sexual desire for them. They can't help being flattered.

Dahlberg draws a composite portrait of the "seductive" therapist, who is usually over 40; from 10 to 25 years older than the patient; always a man; the patient is always a young female; most are married; many experience premature ejaculation with their patients; some terminate therapy or payment for therapy once sexual contact begins but others continue both therapy and payment.


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  • Archive: “Features
  • From the Jun 19, 1972 issue of New York
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