Q: For the readers–how do you define the term “Sacred Intimate”.
The goal of sacred intimacy is to facilitate self-knowledge through erotic pleasure. Sacred intimates approach sexuality with the understanding that it’s related to spirituality. They help people identify, embrace, and practice desire as holy, to see sexual embodiment as an expression of the soul. They hold the body as sacred and view erotic energy as a crucial component of human life and spiritual health. Their primary intention is that of healing — not just addressing the wounds to the spirit and the flesh caused by sexual abuse, addiction, or disease but also acknowledging that the fun and the pleasure, the vitality and the divine mystery of sex have nourishing properties in and of themselves.
Q: How would you compare being a critic (career #1) to being a sacred intimate?
When I started my practice offering nourishing bodywork, I thought it was a radical departure from my life as an arts journalist. Surprisingly, friends reflected to me that they saw it as a continuation. Maybe it has to do with paying attention. Theater and sex are two things I feel passionate about, and both of them require being exquisitely present.
Q: How has the work of Joseph Kramer transmuted after decades of practice by hundreds of practitioners?
Last night, watching NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert featuring the artist known as Fred again…, it occurred to me that dazzling electronic music like that could not exist without the pioneering example of Laurie Anderson. Similarly, the burgeoning interest in the study and practice of tantra and sexuality-as-energy – especially in the gay world – owes much to the example of Joseph Kramer, who started the Body Electric School out of a commitment to healing the split between sexuality and spirituality in Western culture.
Q: Your journey coincided with the AIDS crisis. How did that change the generation of men (like us) in the middle of things vs. those who came after?
Those of us who lived through the AIDS epidemic had to face mortality at a much earlier age than we otherwise might have done. Paradoxically, men of my generation who survived retain the memory of sexual liberation and erotic community as alternatives to the shame and social disapproval we grew up with. Whereas the generation that followed us grew up terrified of sexual connection, associating it with sickness and death. Working free of that terror has been challenging for many.
Q: Being so detailed about your own sexual desires and practices must have taken some courage–why did you decide to write this book now?
I wrote most of the book many years ago, before the internet and smartphones. Writing has always been the way that I understand and digest my own experience. I tried publishing an earlier version of the book maybe 20 years ago but mainstream publishers wouldn’t touch it. I put it away for a while, occasionally bringing it out for revisions. Then a few years ago I self-published The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture, and I found it so satisfying not having to answer to anyone else’s qualms about the material that I decided this would be a good time to bring out Daddy Lover God: a sacred intimate journey.
Q: Do you get massage regularly? What do you look for in a good therapist?
Nobody I know, including myself, gets massage as regularly as they would like. I’m overdue for a session with my favorite masseur. As a practitioner, I’m extremely particular about who touches me. I want someone who is skilled, trained, warm, intuitive, and personal.
Q: With the LGBTQ community under fire politically AGAIN, and the trans community and drag performers particularly under attack–how does that affect your clients? Do you work on trans clients?
I live in a bubble in New York City where LGBTQ+ folks have a lot of power and protection. We view these legal and social attacks on trans kids and drag performers as reports from another planet where people watch too much Fox News. In my psychotherapy practice, I have worked with many people still dealing with the crippling legacy of religious teachings about sex and homosexuality. Anyone who’s lived an openly gay life has had to deal with shame and with fear of physical harm. The current climate may trigger past episodes of abuse and harm, but today there are also way more positive, hopeful, transformative messages available supporting freedom of sexual expression and gender identity. I pride myself on making my space safe for trans and non-binary clients to take a break from constant hypervigilance about bodily protection.
Q:I turned over one page in your book so I would remember one section:
“…MAKING LOVE TO GOD through having sex with a person. Sexiness is close to godliness. In other words, when I have sex with someone who’s not my intimate partner, if I have any consciousness about it, I’m choosing to have sex with the spark of divinity that he is. In that sense, sex is a form of prayer, no less precious for being abundant.” I love the idea of “spark of divinity.” Can you talk about that idea a little?
In my understanding, the Sanskrit-derived greeting “Namaste” carries the sense that “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” That’s what I’m talking about. There is a recognition that we are both drops from the same ocean of love and connection.
Q: Did you anticipate the possibility that your book would become banned on Amazon? How does that make you feel?
I had an intuition that this book would stir up some trouble. I just didn’t know exactly how. It seems absurd that, after selling the book for a month, Amazon – through its Content Review Team, consisting of almost certainly overworked, underpaid gentlemen in Bangalore – decreed that my book violates its content guidelines. Here’s what Amazon deems objectionable: “hate speech, promotes the abuse or sexual exploitation of children, contains pornography, glorifies rape or pedophilia, advocates terrorism, or other material we deem inappropriate or offensive.” My book contains none of those things, though you and I could easily find titles for sale on Amazon that do. I’m not interested in speculating as to what Amazon finds “inappropriate” or “offensive.” It’s up to them to say so, and they won’t. And there is no avenue for appeal. I feel insulted that my book is being characterized this way by the world’s largest bookseller. And yet I’m reminded that there are lots of other ways to obtain books these days. It’s hilarious to think of Barnes & Noble as more enlightened than Amazon. It’s an opportunity to cherish independent bookstores, all of whom can order the book from my publisher. I’ve decided to take “Banned By Amazon” as a badge of honor.
Q: There are so many details about your clients and individual sessions over the years. Do you keep a diary?
I keep many forms of journals, diaries, and logs. From the very beginning of my bodywork/sacred intimate practice and continuing with my therapy practice, I have written notes on every session, partly as a way of digesting each encounter but also to remind me of the details of someone’s life. Unlike regularly scheduled therapy clients, people who come to me for bodywork or sacred intimacy will sometimes let weeks, months, or years go by between sessions, and it’s an important piece of skillfulness for me to refresh my memory of how previous sessions went, what went well and what didn’t, and what seemed like fruitful avenues for future exploration.
Q: As a married man, how do you handle the allocation of what must be (as man over 40) limited amounts of erotic energy? How do you avoid burnout?
I learned early on, as every professional practitioner must, that if I’m working properly, I’m not expending my own energy when I’m working, I’m channeling energy between the client and the earth through my own body, hands, breath, and skilled awareness. That doesn’t happen automatically. It took me a while to figure out how to make my practice sustainable. I’ve learned to ground myself through daily meditation practice, a healthy diet, yoga and exercise, frequent breaks, and increasingly longer vacations. Plus I’m blessed to be in a relationship where we replenish each other with love, touch, music, and laughter.