laura fissinger

Close Encounters
By Laura Fissinger

Whither Pants? Whither Shirts? Whither Brains?

Part One: Synonyms as Headlines Decoder Kit

This is the definition of "compulsive sexual behavior" from the Mayo Clinic staff, posted on the clinic's very reputable web site:

"Sexual expression is a natural part of a well-rounded life. But if you're obsessed with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviors that affect your health, job, relationships or other parts of your life, you may have compulsive sexual behavior.

"CSB—sometimes called hypersexuality, nymphomania, or sexual addiction[italics and bolding, mine]—may involve a normally enjoyable sexual experience that becomes an obsession. Compulsive sexual behavior may involve fantasies or activities outside the bounds of culturally, legally or normally accepted behavior.

"No matter what it's called, or the exact nature of the behavior, untreated compulsive sexual behavior can damage your self-esteem, relationships, career, and other people.

"But with treatment and self-help, you can manage compulsive sexual behavior and keep your urges in check."

Part Two: Write What You've Learned (the Hard Way)

Through the early Eighties, I bought into the absurd Sixties-born idea that scoring more lovers meant you were more desirable. Supposedly, a robust number of lovers also meant that you were—get this—a more psychologically stable person, because you were able to enjoy sex as recreation with casual friends or strangers.

Not all of my female friends agreed that sex was supposed to be no big deal. Nevertheless, various groups of us had some obscenely funny nights counting the guys we'd bedded, telling funny stories about bad boudoir choices. At least we'd survived with some wild anecdotes to swap.

It took some time for me to cut my ties to that era's more witless sexual notions. But when I did, I really changed, in thought and behavior. For myself and some other women I knew, it felt like we were changing into our real selves.

Maybe because I'd cavorted with a lot of loose-living boys, I retained some sympathy for men who slept around. Right or wrong, I still do believe that it's generally tougher for men to keep their jeans up. But it's entirely do-able.

They can also learn to keep their shirts on—shirtlessness, away from places like basketball courts, being code for "I'm looking for some skin contact and general worship from the babes.” (See phone message below.)

I do believe that even given the power of the male sex drive, male brains have much more power. An average-IQ clump of grey matter can still do the job. I've seen very charismatic men with sleep-around pasts stop the boy-toy pattern and embrace monogamy. We've all seen it. 

Part Three: How Many Golfers, Filmmakers and ex-Politicians Does It Take To Screw In A Light bulb?

There's always some degree of applause for, and attraction to. the famous guy alleged to be a playboy.  As for who's definitely a player, that's supposed to be a private matter, right?

Brisk business is done at present by the endless media outlets that do a lot of talking about the sex lives of well-known men. The favorites list always includes actors, athletes, musicians, politicians and business powerbrokers.

john edwards

Currently, the large crowd of high-profile men being talked about the most includes legendary golfer Tiger Woods, ex-political golden boy John Edwards, and revered filmmaker/actor Warren Beatty. Although Beatty hasn't made a film since 2001, he's being enjoyed thoroughly as gossip fodder anyway, thanks to a new unauthorized biography by Peter Biskind, Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America .

Biskind, who's written about Beatty before, speculates that between 1956 and 1991, the busy Oscar-winning actor, screenwriter, director and producer slept with approximately 12,775 women.

The media is having a field day "proving" the impossibility of this number, especially since Biskind says the booty count excludes quickies.

The math looks deliciously goofball. 12,775 divided by 35 years equals 365 women per year. (Slate did a particularly mirthful job of tearing this speculation of Biskind's to shreds; Beatty's publicist states that the book is "full of baloney.")

(Even more generous to one's imagination is the math of late basketball superplayer Wilt Chamberlain, who claimed to have slept with 20,000 ladies from age 15 to age 55. I want the name of his chiropractor.)

No matter the real number of women seduced by Warren Beatty, he eventually got truly lucky, when actress Annette Bening agreed to marry him in 1992. He quit bed-hopping, had four children, and defied expectations.

He also dodged a big bullet. The digital age was just coming into being. Much of what this secretive man did, what he said, where he went, and whom he phoned remains unknown to everyone but Beatty, the women, and maybe a few confidants and a few enemies. People have speculated for more than half a century, and gossiped all they wanted. Almost surely, no one can illustrate the juiciest Warren stuff, ever.

warren beatty

For Tiger Woods, reality spins on a different axis. Several women he's allegedly been with can prove he called them or texted them, before or since his 2004 marriage to Swedish psychology student Elin Nordegren and the birth of their two children.

Going through Woods' phone and finding affectionate, sexual text messages to Rachel Uchitel began Nordegren's nightmare.

Her bad dreams could still worsen. It's widely believed that some of his companions photographed and/or videotaped him in the proverbial compromising positions. A lot of hush money is said to have changed hands. It's believable, given that Woods' mistress count at press time stood at about 14.

For some of Tiger's companions, money has come from the media. Almost everyone with a television or computer saw Jamie Grubbs holding her phone up, showing the name "Tiger" on its screen. Those same thousands have heard the message warning Grubbs that Elin was going through his phone, entreating her to take her name off of her own outgoing voice mail message. It was particularly damning, given that the message started with "Hey. It's Tiger."

Woods is one of the first Lotharios so completely hung out to dry by tools specific to the digital age—in particular, the ironically named "smart phone.” That may be one of the reasons why public fascination has been so intense since the story broke on Thanksgiving 2009.

A more substantial reason for the intense, lasting public focus: a lot of people keep trying to figure out how a man so brilliant in sports and business can be so middle-school stupid when it comes to dealing with females. Truly—whither brains??

The February 2010Vanity Fair cover story on Woods, photographed in 2006 by Annie Leibovitz and written very recently by Buzz Bissinger, didn't offer a satisfactory answer. Essentially, the highly regarded sports author and journalist finds Woods to be devoid of character and personhood. He sees the 33-year-old as a kind of idiot savant, brilliant at golf and bristling with ambition, but lacking essentials like conscience, heart, and adult relational abilities.

tiger woodsI think Woods has all those things, but they're underdeveloped, and in bad condition; he needs a whole lot of help from therapists, family, and whatever real friends he's got. I'm hoping the unconfirmed reports at press time are true, and that Woods is in a sexual addiction rehabilitation clinic, even sharing some sessions with wife Elin. Actor David Duchovny and his marriage appear to have been rehabbed in sex addiction rehab; I'll take that as a trace of hope. Whatever the truth regarding his therapy attendance, the whole truth of Woods' character has yet to be realized.

Many would argue that the story of John Edwards' character has been written, and that it's both repellant and tragic. Former aide Andrew Young has just authored his version of Edwards' rise and fall, The Politician. The New York Daily News ran an essay about the book's revelations with the headline quoting Darrell West of the Brookings Institution: "He makes Tiger Woods look like an amateur.”

The former Senator managed to do it with only one mistress. One mistress, and a reported sex tape (or two), plus a large number of voice mails and other digital data, saved by Young and his wife when they realized that Edwards' pledges of eternal loyalty to them might not hold up.

A very shortened time line: in 2006, John Edwards started an affair with videographer Rielle Hunter. In the spring of '07, Elizabeth announced that her breast cancer had returned in an inoperable form and that it had spread, as well.

The story of the Presidential hopeful's affair began to leak in the fall of '07. Right before Christmas, The National Enquirer published the news of Hunter's pregnancy; author Andrew Young supported Hunter's statement that he was the child's father, at John Edwards' request.

In the last week of January 2010, about a week before The Politician was scheduled to land in bookstores coast-to-coast, Edwards admitted that he is the father of two-year-old Frances Quinn Hunter. Elizabeth announced that she and John—whose union survived the 1996 auto-accident death of their older son, Wade, as well as her wars with cancer—are now legally separated. In North Carolina, couples must be legally separated for a year before divorce can be granted.

Part Four: Please Hold Your Applause Until All Our Participants' Names Have Been Read.

While writing this column, VH1 aired a rerun of a highbrow special called "VH1's 40 Naughtiest Celebrity Scandals.” With a slightly queasy hunch that the show might connect to this column, I stopped my pre-bed channel surfing and grabbed paper and pen.

I didn't take down all the names. I took down enough, all of them belonging to men who should have kept their pants and shirts on, who reportedly had enough brains to know better.

The list includes architect Peter Cook, ex-husband of model Christie Brinkley. While married to Brinkley, Cook had an affair with an 18-year old and supported an online pornography habit costing him thousands every month.

Talk show host Jerry Springer fell out of political life in Ohio when he paid a Kentucky hooker with a personal check. That's part of the reason he switched to television.

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer utilized the talents of a number of high-end escorts. He arranged for at least one of them to be transported across state lines for purposes of sexual services, which is against the law. At least he did not use a personal check.

Conservative talk show host Bill O'Reilly got nabbed leaving a woman graphic and unwanted voice-mail messages. She sued; they settled.

When Congress voted whether or not to impeach then-President Bill Clinton, then-South Carolina Representative Mark Sanford voted for impeachment, railing against Clinton's "reprehensible behavior.” In 2009, South Carolina Governor Sanford was caught in a long-term affair with an Argentinean woman he called "his soul mate.”  His wife, Jenny, lost no time in leaving him, never mind that he was still in office. Jenny let her husband "keep" the official mansion. Her book is due early in 2010.

Part Five: ‘Pants On the Ground, Pants On the Ground, Looking Like a Fool With Your Pants On the Ground...’

It's a new decade. What do you say that the finger pointing slows down a little so that some fingers can be used to pull on shirts and pull up pants?

As more than one person has said, the brain is the hottest sex organ of them all. It's also the smartest.



Columnista Inveighs Against Editor’s Suggestion That She Include Devendra Banhart in ‘Whither Pants, Wither Shirts’ Musings

(from a voicemail message left on the office phone of David McGee, editor of, by Close Encounters columnist Laura Fissinger. All dialogue guaranteed verbatim.)

“…the little bit of Banhart’s music I heard, David, it’s repulsive. It’s worse than bad. And his theories about life? You heard that part about blowing his nose into a Kleenex gave him the idea that his body was blowing his nose into his soul, or his soul was blowing its nose into his body? Eh…eh…I don’t know what drugs he’s doing, but they’re bad! They’re bad drugs! The guy strikes me as a categorical idiot, and you know I don’t say that about people very often. And not only that but his hair looks terrible! And I usually like long hair on men, but these three guys—Fitzsimmons and Bon Iver and Banhart—man, the hair is positively yucky! He could be a nice looking man if he groomed himself and got a brain. But really, he seems clueless. It seems like he’s making fun of the fact that people are looking at him as a heavyweight. I just get the feeling that he’s either so stupid that he doesn’t realize how stupid he is or he’s making fun of his audience. In which case…uuugghhh. Anyway, I will do everything I can to include him in this piece and eviscerate him appropriately. Sorry for the long message, but I figured you’d get a kick out of it.”

tricia helfer
To offset the dreadful apparition of Devendra Banhart, feast your eyes on Battlestar Galactica’s Number Six (Tricia Helfer). Isn’t that better?

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