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The Tiger Cure

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Nothing happened. I was too nervous. I couldn’t even get mildly erect. I felt impotent and laughable. She told me to get over it.

We talked more, and I took off, leaving $125 on the coffee table. It was still raining outside. I walked to the bus stop, letting the water pour over me, cooling down my inner turmoil.

How long is this supposed to take, I asked my psychiatrist. He shook his head. There is no schedule, he said. I was disappointed. I so wanted to please him, and the world, by changing. It only now occurred to me that change might not come. I shook the thought away. It will happen. It has to.

The next sessions followed the same routine. The first hour was talk. Tiger was a good conversationalist, and we chatted easily about everything from current events to psychology, but most of all we were both avid sports fans, although she was an inveterate bettor, and I was more of a statistics freak. Sometimes I talked about work, but my job as an editor at a book-publishing company held no interest for her. “You work with a bunch of snobs, right?” she once asked. I nodded.

The second hour was sexual conditioning. To acclimate me to being with a woman, Tiger had me take off my clothes, and then hers, and I lay down on the bed next to her, where she lightly caressed my thighs, stomach, chest, then my balls and my cock. My chest was strangely numb, but my stomach, thighs, and balls were electric.

I was still having difficulty getting an erection and masturbating. I was ­convinced I was doing it wrong because I preferred humping the bed, the way I had learned when I was young. I expected her to find this odd.

“Odd?” she snorted. She told me that few of the men who came to see her knew how to masturbate in a way that she believed was healthy. She elaborated (she never gave out names of her clients but often told stories about them): the teacher who lay on his stomach and stroked himself with the knuckles on the back of his hand, a habit he had adopted as a child to hide the act from his parents. The jeweler who masturbated while picturing himself as a snowman as a woman drives her car into him. During winter storms, he kept his shades down to avoid a perpetual erection. Another man wouldn’t take off his clothes—he made Tiger wear surgical gloves. And another man was legally blind—he couldn’t reach orgasm until ­Tiger stood next to him and said “Ah.” She did, he came. His sexual fantasies involved human orifices and their sounds, like a fart, a burp, or a sneeze.

But these men were seeing Tiger for different reasons. They were trying to have healthy sex. They weren’t trying to change their sexual orientation.

On the third session, I was finally able to come, filling me with joy. It only occurred to me on the bus going home that sex with Tiger was not transferable—few women were going to welcome a man into their bed who needed an hour of conversation followed by another hour of caressing to reach orgasm.

“Small steps” was my new mantra. Small steps.

By the sixth session, Tiger decided that to familiarize me with a woman’s body, we would shower together. I took off my clothes, undressed her, and then we went into the shower. First I washed her hair. Then I lathered her body. Next I had to give her a douche. I hadn’t a clue what to do. She told me to put my finger into her vagina. I didn’t know where it was. She suggested gently that I do it by feel. I first found her clitoris, a frightening discovery—this piece of the female anatomy, something I had heard about, almost mythologically, with no more reality than a unicorn, and here it was, so foreign to my own being, so important in the world. Then, I found her vagina, and pushed my finger inside. I shut my eyes and put in the douche and let the water run in and out. Then she soaped my body all over while I shivered.

After toweling each other, we returned to the bedroom, where she lay down on the bed and told me to rub lotion over her body. She lay on her stomach, and I smoothed the cream over her back, rear, legs, stomach, breasts. Then she told me to lie down and rubbed the lotion onto my body, instructing me to fantasize.

“What about?” I asked.


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