An Ordinary Man

Or, Men 101

Month: May, 2014

Male Infertility

We hardly need more fuel on the misogyny fires but ABC News reported on a new book by Liberty Walther Barnes, Conceiving Masculinity, under the headline Male Infertility: Guys Deny It; Wives Carry the Burden anyway. While every doctor-patient relationship is different, this headline runs directly counter to my experience in the mid-to-late 80s when my wife and I battled infertility.

After passing through the Clomid stage, we consulted another specialist who told us that close to half of the infertility cases he dealt with were due to problems with the male and he instructed me to take “a sample” to the lab at my first opportunity. It’s not quite as invasive as what the females go through, but it IS a bit embarrassing to masturbate into a cup, keep it warm under your jacket, and hand it to the friendly young receptionist at the lab, who smiles and, you’re certain, winks, as she says “thank you” with you wondering if other guys leave more.

Even scarier is the post-coital, where you have sex with your wife and then haul her down to the lab so that the techs can see how well your sperm cells are doing in her reproductive tract, exposing you to the very real possibility that if she was sleeping with a real stud, she’d be pregnant by now – and what will that do to your sex life if it can’t be fixed? But our doctor insisted on both before he went forward with treating her, and I submitted to both – as I suspect did every other man involved with his very active practice. The guys did not deny it, and we carried the burden right there with our wives. This headline is sensational and unwarranted.

Isla Vista Tragedy

Sexual frustration lead to an insane act of violence in Isla Vista the other day when a 22-year old virgin killed and injured innocent people in “retribution” for his inability to get laid.  By coincidence, I happened to watch a movie the next night, Irreversible, in which a young woman, in bed with a new lover, scoffed at his comment that he had stolen her from his best friend by saying, “the girl always decides.”

This is dangerous ground to comment upon, because nothing justifies what happened in California, but there is an ineluctable connection here. Females have what males want and many of those males have no way of getting it unless the female decides to give it to him. Not so true the other way around; take any random female and any random male and I would guess – and it’d be just a guess – that she is ten times more likely to find a socially-acceptable one-night stand than he is on any given night.

There are of course other inequalities between the sexes that might more than balance this out in the long run, but Isla Vista was not about the long run. My point is that there may well be many more men out there than we are comfortable acknowledging who may understand what happened better than we’d like them to, even though they may never do that themselves.

Sex is very serious business, a fact that my novel An Ordinary Man attempts to explain. This guy was not an ordinary man in any sense of the word, but yet, he wasn’t quite as far from it as we might like to believe.


Dr. Lauren Streicher, a clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, has released a book for women who have thrown their sex lives away because of treatable physical symptoms. The book, Love Sex Again, apparently coins the term sexability to reflect a woman’s ability to physically enjoy sex by getting past common – and treatable – issues. The target audience is presumably the post-menopausal woman, who might be running into those problems exactly when her like-aged husband is more dependent than ever on his own sexuality to define himself, so obviously, it could be an important read. I like the quote from her website: “turn sexual agony into sexual ecstasy,” which is as it should be. I also like the title; I suspect when you first got married, it had a lot to do with love and sex and she is trying to make it possible for this to be the situation now – again – and also because while you can have sex without love, it’s pretty tough for a man to have love without sex. Richard, an ordinary man, attempts to explain it in my novel, An Ordinary Man.

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