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The Sensuous Psychiatrists

Two New York doctors, whose patients were interviewed, were involved in creating a primal patriarchal family empire, consisting of one male guru (themselves), and many "wives" (female patients, legal wives, mistresses). Both men used their female patients to do menial chores. Both men kept odd office hours, and even odder treatment hours. "Sessions" lasted from ten minutes to four hours, and no questioning of this arbitrary "spontaneity" was brooked, even from other patients who had to wait long beyond their scheduled appointment times. Both men were married. Both described their wives as "crazy," "hopeless," "dependent," and "too old." Both men were cold and/or inadequate sexual partners and lovers. Both apparently had sex with as many of their female patients, simultaneously, as they could, often presenting it as either necessary for the "cure" or as a unique instance of "love." (If a woman acted this way, people would call it nymphomaniacal and suggest she see a psychiatrist.)

Both these therapists prescribed drugs for everyone for anything. Both were very authoritarian in directing and ordering their patients' lives: they told them whom to sleep with and when; what jobs to leave and what jobs to take; where to live and with whom. Both thundered at sexually reluctant female patients about how "unhealthy" their sexual "repression" was and how they'd "better start making love a lot" if they wanted to get rid of their "hang-ups." Both therapists insisted that only they could "help" or "save" their patients, and they warned their unhappy or rebellious female patients to leave only at their own risk.

". . . Candy finally realized, as many women never do, 'Good grief, it's Daddy!' . . ."

All eleven women interviewed were superficially unambivalent about being "feminine." They were all conventionally and frantically "attractive"; they were all economically and intellectually insecure; they were both heterosexually fearful and heterosexually compulsive; they were paralyzed by actual and feared loneliness and self-contempt; and they all blamed themselves for any "mistreatment" by men.

Those women over 35 seemed the most worldly, hiding behind sophistication and compassion. They were the most vocal advocates of "pity" and "understanding" for the therapists—and for all men. They insisted that they were to blame; they were the real seducers.

Melissa: "I think that he finally couldn't resist me any more. I think I just put too much pressure on him. I was making moves from the very beginning . . ."

Donna: "I had a fantastic tan . . . and I was high, and I'm very attractive when I'm high. I'm irresistible. I wanted to look nice for my therapy sessions. I always took off my glasses and combed my hair before I went."

Roslyn: "Actually, in a certain way, I was seducing him all along . . . unconsciously. I wasn't aware of it until one time he came to a party at my house. I always had to seduce every man."

Martha: "He was really attracted to me, and I was attracted to him before-hand. The night he gave me flowers, was hoping he'd make love to me. But I wasn't conscious about those things then."

Yet these women described as many fantasies of love and marriage about their therapists, and felt as little-girl-betrayed, as the younger, less "sophisticated" women did.

Ellen: "I wanted him to marry me but he wouldn't. His wife and children, his reputation, and his failing health made it hard for him. I haven't been able to shake the relationship and it's been eight months. He won't see me at all now."

Martha: "I guess I really wanted another husband. I was still looking to romantic love for security."

Roslyn: "I thought, I fantasized, that he would leave his wife and marry me, that he was going to give up his other life and start a new life with me. I was so happy that my therapist loved me."

Stephanie: "I finally asked him if he would marry me, and he just laughed and said no. He was more interested in my typing for him." Joyce: "I know I needed him very, very badly. It was like he was God. He was mistreating me, and I didn't want to admit that, because I needed him badly. I loved him. Then he offered me a job as his typist but he wouldn't sleep with me any more. I was so depressed and upset and I wanted some help and I called up, hysterical. 'Please talk to me on the phone,' and he said, 'I can't talk to you now, I'll call you back.' And he never called back. I felt deserted and all alone and usually when I talk about this with my shrink (now) I'm just in tears."

Helen: "For about two months I was pleased enough. I had the man I wanted most. I would go to his office once a week for a session, pay him my twenty dollars, and have sex throughout the hour. Then I began to complain. He was on his second marriage. He admitted I was right in wanting to transfer the affair to my apartment but if I loved him enough I would 'give him time.' After a year I began to demand that he do something. He got a Mexican divorce, came back, and said, 'Let's cool it.' Then, after a few months, he announced he was marrying someone else. I went mad with pain. He was willing to continue our relationship as it was, though."

Even though many of the women felt that they were "mistreated" by their doctors, it was generally the therapist who ended the affairs. The women were hurt by the abandonment. Two lapsed into severe depression. One tried to kill herself. A fourth woman's husband, who was also in treatment with the same therapist, killed himself shortly after he found out about the affair.


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