'Daddy Lover God' — Don Shewey's sensual sexual memoir

  • by Brian Bromberger
  • Tuesday July 18, 2023
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Author Don Shewey
Author Don Shewey

At a time when LGBTQ people in this country are experiencing renewed persecution both legal and cultural, it is no mean feat not only to affirm but also celebrate one's sexuality. Don Shewey's book, "Daddy Lover God," has seemed to arrive at a most opportune moment.

The book bills itself as a memoir and instruction manual, but it primarily chronicles Shewey's psycho-sexual-spiritual adventures. Shewey, who began his career as a journalist and critic writing primarily about the theater, now is a licensed psychotherapist whose private practice specializes in sex and intimacy coaching. He defines himself as a pleasure activist. His previous book is "The Paradox of Porn: Notes on Gay Male Sexual Culture."

"Daddy Lover God" charts his journey as a sacred intimate, inspired by the visionary teachings of Joseph Kramer and attending his pioneering weekend workshop at the Body Electric School for Massage in Oakland in 1987. He learned the basic principles of tantra, conscious breathing, and Taoist erotic massage.

Author Don Shewey  

Sacred intimate
Tantra builds up one's orgasmic capacity such that one is aroused to a state of sexual ecstasy without ejaculation or orgasm. Tantra helps cultivate one's own erotic energy that can be distributed throughout the whole body, the same energy that supplies your ability to love, pray, and be creative. Thus, ejaculation is seen as discharging precious energy that could be used in these other areas.

For Shewey, everything about his sex life changed after he met Kramer, even though they never had sex together. Sex had become a positive force in his life as a gay man and he wanted to share that joy and inspiration with others.

Shewey defines a sacred intimate as one facilitating self-knowledge through erotic pleasure. Kramer, a former Jesuit, noticed that certain people had an aura around them, a sexual generosity they could transmit to others as a kind of vocation. There was a long historical tradition stretching back to pre-Christian antiquity of sacred prostitutes or temple whores with sexual encounters in ritual space as selfless service or spiritual practice.

However, because most people had negative connotations to the word prostitute (which has since been renamed sex worker), Kramer met with a corporate image consultant and they came up with the designation "sacred intimate," first used in 1991.

Shewey claims sacred intimates combine the role of priest, prostitute, and psychotherapist, thus approaching sexuality as related to spirituality, seeing the body as sacred, desire as holy and sexual embodiment as an expression of the soul. Kramer through his school devised elaborate training for sacred intimates as a vocation/occupation for which one was paid.

Shewey notes that going to a professional for sex is one way to gain permission to experience pleasure in one's own bodies, a healing event in itself for some people.

For Kramer and Shewey, sex can be communion with God. Shewey draws an analogy with priests who are not God themselves but act as a go-between, channeling the divine presence to us (primarily through sacraments).

Shewey understands sacred intimates doing the same via sex. The sacred intimate is having sex with the spark of divinity that resides within his partner.

In that sense, sex is a form of prayer, invoking a kind of transcendence, activating the entire body with touch (massage) and breath from head to toe before zeroing in on the genitals, with some clients not ejaculating but others climaxing "going into spontaneous prayer exclaiming "Oh God, ohh God OHHH!" He even envisions payment for his service as a kind of tithing (Christian) or dana (Buddhist).

The Daddy component enters because Shewey had no love for his father, who was uneducated, bigoted, alcoholic, and abusive. Shewey's attraction to older men constitutes his search for a father figure he can love, to fill in a hole in his life created by his own absent lack-of-affectionate Daddy.

Shewey writes, "The reason I started doing erotic massage for a living is because my parents didn't love me enough. Therefore, I can never get enough love."

Thus in Shewey's practice of sacred intimacy he includes all three archetypes of Daddy, Lover, and God.

Case histories
The book is divided into three parts. Part One, 1993-1995 is his initial experiences as a sacred intimate (at age 39), attempting to construct his own roadmap in a practice that was sustainable both financially and psychologically. These chapters read like sexual case histories/vignettes of his clients, many of which verge on pornography in their explicit details.

Shewey excels here in revealing how he created a safe space, conducted as a kind of ritual (that Catholic background again) for these often uptight, wounded men to explore their erotic feelings in an environment where they didn't have to label themselves (many were married to women).

Shewey enabled them to satisfy their curiosity of touching men, especially since they had socio-cultural and religious reasons for keeping their sexuality hidden. Clients were then able to trust Shewey with their fears, desires (in all forms, including kink), grief, and anxieties. Some of these stories are quite moving, even if they sometimes read like tales from old gay erotica magazines like First Hand and Honcho.

Part Two, 1964-1994, is the heart of the book, with autobiographical details through a primarily sexual lens, whether it was tea room, bath house experiences, or acting as a midwife to dying people with AIDS. Born in Denver, he spent his childhood as an Air Force brat, son of a military father. He studied at Rice University and Boston University, eventually moving and living in New York City.

Part Three, 1995-2002, feature more client case histories but through the lens of professional issues that arise, such as when to have sex or not to have sex with a patron and figuring out where love feelings play a role, as well as questioning his calling and whether he should continue this work, especially now that he had a husband at home.

Sexual self-knowledge
The book concludes with an appendix containing an invaluable 63-page interview with Joseph Kramer, excerpts of which appeared in the April 21, 1992 issue of The Village Voice. This in-depth deeply personal conversation touches on Kramer's background (especially his Catholicism and leaving the Jesuits after two years once he came out as gay), workshops and his vision of sacred intimate plus his understanding of erotic consciousness.

Whether or not one agrees with the philosophy undergirding sacred intimates, one can applaud Shewey for his brutal honesty, as well as his willingness to be self-critical especially in his early years when he had to deal with impatience, frustration, insecurity, body snobbism, skepticism, fear, and ego.

Whatever you may think of his methods, one cannot deny his sense of compassion, especially in assisting people trying to bridge the gap between sexuality and spirituality.

Shewey envisions his book as a quest for self-knowledge through sexuality, charting his sexual healing by naming his sexual wounds, then applying what he's learned to clients in helping them connect in a healthy way with their sexuality. He wants to address the wounds caused by sexual abuse, body shame, sex shame, religious guilt, internalized homophobia, stunted desire, inability to speak of desire, fear of AIDS, addiction, or repression, but also acknowledges the fun, pleasure, and vitality of sex.

Shewey in his introduction notes how there's much pressure to "clean up" homosexuality and hide the sex.

"It's okay to be creative, funny, arty, religious, domestic, but not a shameless cock-sucker who has lots and lots of sex with lots and lots of people."

He wants his book to atone for the culture's lack of encouragement of gay men's sexuality and self-esteem. Many straight allies are supportive of LGBTQ people yet become squeamish when any sexual specific details are forthcoming, which Shewey interprets as a subtle putdown of queer sexuality.

The book might be helpful for young adults coming out, especially those who have some ambivalence concerning their sexuality, perhaps due to religion or socio/cultural background. Shewey's gift of compassion and patience shines through some of his wounded client's dramatic often distressing stories.

One wishes Shewey would have explored more deeply some of the objections raised about sacred intimates and how they differ from sex workers, who are also paid for their 'services.'

Also, a discussion of how one separates one's personal desires from that of your client's would have been beneficial. In addition, Shewey doesn't address the critique that hiring sacred intimates reeks of elitism, because only privileged queer people can afford their services or attend expensive weekend workshops.

Finally, Shewey's almost pornographic description of his services to clients might be a hindrance for some in any professional recognition of sacred intimacy as a legitimate form of therapy.

Even if you object to this whole concept of sacred intimates on moral grounds, when so many queer people feel under assault, Shewey's practical guidebook in enhancing erotic pleasure as a means of bolstering one's queer identity, might not only be a form of sexual healing, but a vital means of strengthening emotional and psychic resilience.

'Daddy Lover God: A Sacred Intimate Journey,' by Don Shewey. $20. Joybody Books www.joy-body.com

Meet Don Shewey, somatic sex educator JoJo Bear and adult video actor Allen Silver (author of "Man of Use") at 'Sex Worker Story Hour' at Fabulosa Books, Tuesday July 25, 7pm. 489 Castro St. www.fabulosabooks.com

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