We here at Sexploration HQ have left a couple of stories hanging, and since you deserve a break from the economy, salmonella, octuplets, Alex Rodriguez, Afghanistan, Iraq, North Korea and Iran, I thought it’s a good time to provide updates.
Actually, I am providing two updates and a bit of news about a man who is probably the most popular person ever featured here.
That man would be Joe Beam, the evangelical preacher turned love, marriage and sex adviser to Christian couples. Beam was featured in my special America Unzipped series and he plays a prominent role in my book “America Unzipped.”
Readers responded to the way Beam tries to balance his belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God with the facts of human sexuality. He tried to use the non-profit organization he founded, Family Dynamics, to help conservative Christians shed guilt over enjoying vibrant (monogamous and married and heterosexual) sex lives.
Toward that end he has been studying for a Ph.D. under the mentorship of University of Sydney sex researcher (and fellow Christian) Patricia Weerakoon. That study has challenged him. For example, when Weerakoon explained the phenomena of intersex people (those born with ambiguous genitalia who are often raised as a gender different from their genetics), Beam’s view on homosexuality was shaken.
“It blew my mind,” he told me recently. “We,” meaning fundamentalist Christian teachers, “are making judgments — this is right and this is wrong — and we do not have all the facts.”
It takes a brave man to question his own beliefs. Some aren’t so brave.
The details are sketchy, partly because Beam has signed a non-disparagement agreement, but it seems my story about Joe Beam, our subsequent appearance on the TODAY show and a flurry of media interview requests that followed gave the Family Dynamics board of directors and some old guard Christian “leaders” the jitters about Beam’s frank sex talk and the attention it was getting. Both Beam and Family Dynamics made innocuous-sounding statements about “amicable” and “different directions,” and in the end, Joe Beam is no longer there.
He has started a new business — a for-profit without a need for a board of directors — called Love Path International.
Now let’s turn to the case of the “intimate lawsuits” I featured last October, specifically, the trial of Bridget B. v. John B.
If you recall, Bridget and John fell in love and got married in 1999. On the honeymoon, both of them began to feel ill. Upon their return, Bridget made an appointment with John’s doctor who gave her the devastating diagnosis of HIV infection. She told John, who was also tested. He was positive, too.
John and his doctor both told Bridget that she must have brought the virus into the relationship. She was racked with guilt for infecting the man she loved and for placing her new marriage at risk.
But then she found e-mails that, according to court filings, proved John had “engaged in promiscuous, unprotected homosexual sex and solicited homosexual sex over the Internet.”
She sued. The case was hard fought, but late last November, a Los Angeles court found in Bridget’s favor to the tune of $12.5 million. Bridget’s attorneys at the firm of Grassini and Wrinkle, aided by the judge’s finding that John acted “with fraud and malice,” will aggressively pursue his assets.
Last December I answered a question from a 50-year-old woman with lichen sclerosus, a condition that can make intercourse, or even most kinds of genital touching, painful. Apparently frustrated by the inability to have an adequate sex life, the woman and her husband separated. He began dating a younger woman, leaving his ex despairing of ever having an intimate relationship again.
I answered by punting the issue to you, the readers, especially those of you who have faced sexual limitations due to illness or disability. Your response made me proud.
Understanding is the key, you said, but as some pointed out, understanding starts with the person suffering the pain. “Before you date anyone,” wrote a young woman in her 20s who suffers from painful vulvodynia, “you should take steps to become more comfortable with and confident in yourself.” That includes being as well versed in your condition as possible — including seeking second opinions from doctors — so that when the time for a conversation arrives, you will be prepared with answers.
Then, she advised, “date for a short time” first. “Later, when you feel comfortable, tell him about your condition. …Then you can also have a conversation about the sexual activities in which you can participate. Let him know that this does not mean you envision a life without sex. I had to have a few glasses of wine before I was comfortable disclosing this condition to my current boyfriend.”
Good communication is vital, reader after reader said.
Jim from North Carolina did not have good communication with his wife, who also suffered from a painful vaginal condition. After suggesting alternative sexual practices like manual stimulation, he pointed out that sufferers should cooperate in developing work-arounds rather than bemoaning how unfair it is. That failure to do so, rather than the condition itself, is why he and his wife separated.
Finally, there was this practical advice from a fellow sufferer, 52, who has had lichen sclerosus for 18 years. “I have a very healthy sex life by using petroleum jelly after showering or washing up and I stay away from chlorinated water (including hot tubs). I tell my partners that I have very delicate skin, so when I say ‘ease up,’ or ‘I’m finished for now,’ they understand this means we can enjoy more later.”
As I have before, let me also recommend a book: “The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability” by Miriam Kaufman, Cory Silverberg and Fran Odette.