At the age of fifty-nine, Jake Richardson has become concerned about his lack of ability or desire to perform sexually. His family physician refers him to a psychologist named Proinsias Rosenberg, who begins therapy using a number of techniques collectively called “inceptive regrouping” and an apparatus known as a “nocturnal mensurator.” Jake is instructed to complete a questionnaire on his aberrant sexual proclivities, to use pornographic magazines for the purposes of masturbation, to write out a sexual fantasy, and to engage his wife in petting sessions described as “non-genital sensate focusing.” The therapy fails. Reading through the questionnaire, Jake realizes that he has no aberrant sexual desires, although he is careful to give answers which will not identify him as a prig. The modern pornography he buys is too explicit for his taste and effectively decreases rather than increases his sexual desires. The fantasy he concocts in six drafts of literary effort is transparently disingenuous. Finally, the “sensate focusing session” with Brenda seems to be merely a series of mechanical operations which Jake sneeringly calls “a feel-up by numbers.”
Rosenberg sends Jake to a psychiatric hospital which runs an experimental sexual therapy program. There, Jake is subjected to further humiliations. Naked from his shirttails to his socks, he sits before an audience of male and female medical students while the female doctor in charge of the program shows him a series of pornographic pictures and measures his sexual response. The experiment yields no new insights into his problem, but Jake’s embarrassment at having his genitals exposed in public convinces Rosenberg that Jake is inhibited by the guilt and shame conferred by his “puritanical upbringing.” In yet another psychiatric...
(The entire section is 740 words.)