Summary: Sexual Wisdom


The sexual revolution promised to give people greater freedom and joy in their sex lives; but has resulted in record levels of sexually transmitted diseases, the legitimization and spread of pornography, greater hostility between the sexes, and critically high divorce and illegitimacy rates. Sexual Wisdom, a book by Dr. Richard Wetzel, M.D. offers a way to redirect this revolution.

Part I: Introductory chapter

The sexual revolution promised to give people greater freedom and joy in their sex lives yet has resulted in widespread, distressing consequences including increasing illegitimacy, record levels of sexually transmitted diseases, the legitimization and spread of dehumanizing pornography, evidence of greater hostility between the sexes (such as date rape), and escalating divorce rates. Most people are rightly ambivalent about what our nation has just lived through. We needed a sexual revolution but got the wrong one. The mistaken attitudes of the past have been, in large measure, replaced with worse ones. To redirect ourselves we must do two things.

First, we must expose Misconceptions about sexuality and accept basic realities. The greatest misconception about sex today is that people, especially men, have specific, genital, sexual needs. It asserts that men need to climax, need to fulfill fantasies, or need to have sex with a certain frequency, or in certain positions. Arguments which reveal the false nature of this "needs" misconception are presented, and arguments used to justify it are refuted. "Needs" must be distinguished from "desires." Some genuine needs are discussed.

The "needs" misconception is the fundamental attitude underlying abuse of sex in society today - it gives men unwarranted power and control over women. Widespread acceptance of this falsehood has popularized addictive (and therefore unhealthy) approaches to sex: men are thought to need sex like an alcoholic needs a drink. Further, the "needs" misconception changes the primary purpose of sex. The goal of sex should be to enrich or enhance a relationship, whether through holding hands or having intercourse. But when one person is perceived as having a need, the goal becomes to fulfill that need. If fulfilling the need conflicts with the partner's wishes the result is abuse, most commonly of the woman. How could a woman deny her spouse something that he needs?

Second, to get our society back on track we must acknowledge that the most healthy sexual relationships emphasize authentic love above all other priorities. Because priorities inevitably conflict they must be ordered. When other priorities, such as freedom or pleasure, are valued more highly than kindness or consideration, someone pays the price. There are many legitimate priorities in life but none should ever be more valued than love. Though difficult to define, love is a familiar and obvious concept even to small children. Five primary characteristics of love are introduced: respect, responsibility, discipline, commitment, and trustworthiness.

The truth about sex is that all people are free to love each other in the most genuine sense of the term; they can be free from addictive, harmful attitudes about sex. In this way the two above principals are inextricably linked.

Each chapter addresses a specific topic related to sexuality with reference to the "needs" and other misconceptions, and the priority of love. The first specific topic addressed is whether or not sex without love is an acceptable, potentially healthy alternative. It is not, because sex geared toward self, without serious concern for others, is the extreme example of deprioritizing love. It is a rationalization used to justify contrived needs. The concept of sex without love defies the natural, holistic foundation of sexuality and contradicts the obvious reality that sexual interactions, whether a kiss or intercourse, are meant to express affection and affirmation. Examples and ramifications are discussed.

Premarital sex is a lesser compromise on love than the idea of sex without of love. Its relative acceptability in the modern world is documented. Because of the inherent risks associated with premarital sex (psychological, medical and social) to engage in it is inherently unloving. These risks are detailed. To say that a couple engages in it to express their love is incongruous because true love calls for protecting-fully protecting, if possible- those for whom we care about. Four arguments commonly used to justify premarital sex are addressed and the manner in which acceptance of it fortifies the "needs" misconception is discussed. While sex within marriage can be just as unhealthy as premarital sex, marital sex has a potential for health not found in premarital relations.

The sexual revolution has been a male-oriented revolution directed toward fulfilling male sexual "needs." Those who have borne the burden of suffering of the new promiscuity include children, gays (because of HIV disease), grandparents, and most especially women. The irony of mainstream feminism supporting promiscuity is discussed.

Part 2: Diseases

The seven most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are summarized in table form and statistics on disease prevalence are offered. Rather than confronting this epidemic, our society minimizes the problem. The primary misconceptions with regard to STDs can be summarized as follows: they are easy to screen for, diagnose, treat, and cure, i.e. they are not a serious problem.

Because our society has minimized the threat of HIV infection the epidemic of this most serious STD rages essentially unchecked. Multiple studies are reviewed documenting the ineffectiveness of the "safe sex" campaign. More realistic though politically unpopular approaches are suggested.

Part 3: Sex and society

Pornography encourages lesser priorities and is a primary source of harmful misconceptions/distortions about sex. The conspicuous connection between the "needs" misconception and pornography is examined and controversies related to censorship, modesty, and our society's obsession with sex are discussed.

Part 4: The regulation of fertility

There is surprisingly little discussion in today's society about the effect of contraceptives on attitudes and relationships. Contraceptives and sterilization affect couples' attitudes toward sex in significant ways. By allowing for spontaneous sex whenever the need arises, they reaffirm the "needs" misconception. By promising to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy, the risks associated with sex are minimized and sexual risk-taking is encouraged.

Artificial contraception promises to give people control over their bodies and to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions, yet the statistics suggest that their effect has been the opposite. This is perhaps because many people have unrealistic confidence in contraceptives, and so take inordinate risks. Further, many people ask contraceptives to bear partial responsibility for their actions. To truly impact the number of unwanted pregnancies we must address the underlying source: sexual risk taking and compromises on love. Contraceptives encourage compromises on love in favor of freedom and pleasure. The five characteristics of love are reviewed with respect to contraceptive use.

Natural methods of fertility regulation are described along with a review of efficacy rates. "Effectiveness" is a relative term. Modern natural methods are as effective as oral contraceptives and the IUD. More significant, however, is the effect of natural methods on sexual relationships. These methods directly repudiate the "needs" misconception, and emphasize the priority of love. The five features of love are reviewed with respect to these methods, and misconceptions used to discredit them are addressed.

In its discussion of abortion, the text restricts itself to aspects pertaining to relationships. Many people mistakenly isolate the issue of abortion from its antecedents. If a woman or couple is willing to consider an abortion, invariably a serious dilemma has developed, that of an unwanted pregnancy. Unwanted pregnancies are a problem no matter how they are handled. Further, the problem of unwanted pregnancies is a result of a more fundamental problem yet. If a couple is having sex without being fully responsible, then love has lost the edge to another priority. Ultimately, no matter what happens in the courtrooms across the United States and the world, the issue of abortion can only be resolved in the bedroom, through individual decisions.

Whether abortion should be legal or not is addressed with respect to the effect of the legal status of abortion on relationships. This issue is grounds for a classic conflict between the priorities of freedom ("choice") and love.

Part 5: Approaches to sexuality

Addictions are dysfunctional behavior patterns used to cope with stress even in the face of likely, subsequent harm to the addict or others. Addicts believe that they need to use, but what they really need is to manage their stress. To assist an addict in recovery often requires a comprehensive individualized treatment plan. The "needs" misconception is responsible for widespread addictive attitudes toward sex, especially among men. Analogies between sexual addiction and other addictions are discussed.

Each individual has a unique propensity to be sexually aroused by various stimuli. Terms such as "heterosexual" and "homosexual" are inadequate because all people lie somewhere on a continuum of gender orientation. Further, there exist continuums that describe individual preferences for children vs. adults, humans vs. animals or objects, and genital vs. nongenital orientation. The primary issue is not to "feel comfortable" with a contrived label but to respond to stimuli in healthy ways.

The gay lifestyle has many attributes in common with sexual addiction but it is simplistic to consider all gays as sexual addicts. The possible origins of a variant sexual orientations are discussed along with strategies for coping with them.

Sexual codependency is an unhealthy response to sexual addiction or dependency. The concept is examined with respect to women codependents who tolerate male heterosexual addiction and to the more general issue of our society's tolerance of psychosexual dysfunction and sexual disorientation. The first step in a healthy response to any of these is to acknowledge that a problem exists. The author suggests measures directed toward individual and societal codependency.

The last chapter of this part discusses how to achieve "Good Sex" in detail-how to make sex one positive experience after another-to make it "something great, deep, and mysterious." The author presents a hierarchy of seven levels of psychosexual functioning. The goal is Level Two but always with an eye toward the ideal of Level One.

Part 6: Sexual morality

There is great confusion today about the concept of morality. The term is defined and explained and the three most prominent misconceptions associated with it are discussed in detail. These are: 1) Morality means something different to everyone, 2) Morality and religion are the same thing, and 3) To contend with modern dilemmas we need a New Morality. Traditional morality was based on love. The New Morality or moral relativism is a set of rationalizations which allow the displacement of love from its natural position of primacy. The five primary characteristics of love are discussed in relation to moral relativism. The "New Morality" has been associated with a moral decline that we have been unable to respond to for fear of imposing religious beliefs on others and of being "judgmental." A balanced view of these concerns is presented.

Part 7: Teaching sexuality to children

These chapters first discuss the critical issue of teenagers having premarital sex. Many professional sex educators argue either that premarital sex is not wrong or that it is wrong but "teenagers are going to do it anyway." These two approaches are implemented in same way, mainly by encouraging the use of contraceptives. Contraceptive promotion among youth has been shown to have no effect on the pregnancy rate but does lead to higher rates of promiscuity (and, presumably, sexually transmitted diseases) and abortions, and to a loss of self esteem. The studies that document these effects are reviewed in depth.

The mixed message of contraception promotion tells teenagers that they, like addicts, cannot control themselves. They cannot be fully loving so we must teach them how to "sort of" love. Research demonstrates that programs emphasizing abstinence and resistance skills have some positive effects.

Three problems inherent to all sex education, including abstinence-only courses, are discussed. This book is an effort to educate parents and other primary care givers so as to enable them to fulfill their duty as primary sex educators of their children.

Parents can influence their children to have healthy attitudes about sex through example, by being involved in their children's day to day life, by encouraging their children to be virtuous, and by discussing specific issues with them. The author discusses why parents have trouble talking about sex with their children and makes recommendations to improve communication on sensitive subjects. The text describes what subjects parents should raise with their children and when and how, and what parents should do if a child becomes sexually active or homosexually oriented.


Appendix A is a unique discussion directed toward physicians about how to discuss sex with patients. The text offers examples of actual patient interactions and discusses the preferred circumstances within which to raise issues.

No matter how forceful one's criticisms are of sexual "liberation," there are those who insist that the currently prevailing attitudes in the United States have worked well in other cultures-most commonly Sweden.

Appendix B discredits this idea by characterizing the state of sexuality in Sweden.

Appendix C presents an alternative, realistic view of the issue of world population in the form of an editorial by syndicated columnist Ben Wattenberg.




Wetzel, M.D., Richard. "Summary." In Sexual Wisdom (Proctor Publications, 1998)

Sexual Wisdom is available from Proctor Publications (800) 343-3034, P.O. Box 2498, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Sexual Wisdom is produced by and copyrighted to Sex Education For Advanced Beginners, a non-profit California corporation (#33-0584794) dedicated to teaching the truth about sexuality. Dr. Wetzel receives no financial compensation from the sale of this book. All proceeds from sales go toward promotion of Sexual Wisdom and related endeavors. Book Price: $12.95 US / $17.95 CAN


Richard Wetzel, M.D. is a family physician in private practice for over ten years and is an internationally recognized expert on sexuality. He is a graduate of Albany Medical College in New York and is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists; the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States; and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He teaches a wide variety of audiences including parents, physicians, young adults, and adolescents. He is a regularly featured guest on television and radio and is an advisory board member of Mary's Shelter, a shelter for pregnant teenagers.

Audio and video tapes of Dr. Wetzel are available though St. Joseph's Radio at (714) 744-0336, Fax: (714) 744-1998, P.O. Box 2983, Orange, CA 92859

Copyright © 1998 Richard Wetzel Sexual

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