Sex therapy is a party subject,” says Avodah Offit. “It keeps people entertained.”
She should know. Offit started practicing sex therapy around the same time as Masters and Johnson — long before it was an accepted psychiatric practice.
“My first job, before I had my private practice, was as a psychiatric consultant for the Lighthouse School for the blind. When I would go to parties and tell people what I did, people would rapidly change the subject, as if blindness was contagious. When I began working as a sexual therapist, parties were more fun,” says Offit.
While she doesn’t get out as much as she used to, Offit notes that the common denominator at social functions has always been queries about sex — her patients, her practice and the act in general. That’s partly why she wrote her first novel, “Virtual Love” — the story of two sex therapists in different parts of the country who develop an erotic relationship through E-mail conversations.
“The book was a way to show people that a lot of serious sexual discussion and behavior goes on in this office. The sexuality that I deal with and write about is intended to fascinate people. The book shows that sex can be a pursuit in understanding people’s personalities, philosophies and backgrounds,” says Offit, shifting gently on an antique chair in her Manhattan office.
The author has been both a champion and pioneer of newly developed subjects. First sex therapy, and now, E-mail relationships, which she admits, are still in the early stages of development.
“When I was starting out, sex therapy wasn’t an accepted service for my residency. I had to study and work on my own time. People used to say, ‘Offit, what are you doing down there in the basement.’ Now, E-mail is a somewhat new field and is just as entertaining a topic as sex therapy was when I first started out,” she says.
Combining the two in a book was something that Offit — who has written two works of nonfiction, “The Sexual Self” and “Night Thoughts: Reflections of a Sex Therapist” — saw as a very natural union.
“The written word is very erotic. It’s erotic enough to cause storms of censorship; erotic enough to fill book stores; erotic enough that I often suggest people read or write to each other. We don’t get courses in how to talk or write erotically. It’s a tool people would profit by having,” she notes.
“If you write well, you’re likely to be perceived as more lovely. When somebody writes a handsome letter, I experience that person as attractive. The mind is the most erotic organ. In itself, sex is very boring. Scientifically speaking, eating is more interesting. What makes sex fascinating is the relationships between the people.”