I was watching Dr. Phil on television the other day with my wife. He was talking to a woman who discovered, after marrying her husband, that he was a cross-dresser, or at least had cross-dressing tendencies. Dr. Phil counseled the woman to leave the man because of his “perversion” and told her that no one could ever be sexually satisfied with a cross-dresser for a husband because he would always be masturbating while wearing her underwear, and so on, instead of sexually pleasing her. Mind you, the woman had three kids with this guy, so obviously they got it on occasionally, and she didn’t actually say that they didn’t have sex, only that he had brought up the idea of wearing her clothes and that she was repulsed. Then Dr. Phil got the husband on the phone and yelled at him for being dishonest.

From reading your column for a long time, I was under the impression that lots of people with fetishes live happy, productive, sexually fulfilling lives. Just because something turns someone on doesn’t mean that nothing else turns them on, does it? If I like blow jobs and my wife doesn’t, does that mean we are sexually incompatible? How is this different? Or is Dr. Phil just projecting?

–Perverts and Nylon Tights

As the mental image of a cross-dressed Dr. Phil is too horrible to contemplate, let’s assume he isn’t projecting. Besides, it’s more likely he’s simply doing what daytime TV talk show hosts are paid the big bucks to do: tell women in the audience exactly what they want to hear. In this case, he’s telling the wife of a cross-dresser and, by extension, all the wives of cross-dressers watching at home that their husbands are dishonest perverts, that they are wronged innocents, and that their husbands’ ho-hum sexual fetish is grounds for divorce.

Yes, yes: in an ideal world people would make a full disclosure of their secret sexual fetishes before getting married and making babies. But most straight people deny and suppress their fetishes for years in what almost always proves to be a futile attempt to live “normal” lives. (Out gay people, as a rule, don’t suppress their kinks. Compared to a desire for same-sex love, leather, dress socks, stuffed animals, spankings, piss, Ashton Kutcher, etc just aren’t that scary.) Eventually most straight guys with fetishes realize it’s impossible to suppress them, and they make the difficult decision to tell the wife.

And why are they keeping them secret in the first place? Because of people like Dr. Phil.

It’s the Dr. Phils of the world who run around telling people that anyone with a sexual fantasy wilder than whipped cream on nipples is a freak. It’s the Dr. Phils who spread the lie that people with wild fantasies are not interested in “normal” sexual activity, no matter how much normal sexual activity they’ve already had. It’s the Dr. Phils who tell women with small children that a run-of-the-mill fetish is grounds for divorce.

Gee, color me Bill Bennett, but it seems that the damage of divorce for all involved (especially kids!) is so great that the wife of a cross-dresser might want to take a stab at accepting or accommodating her husband’s fetish before filing for divorce. And perhaps the woman on Dr. Phil’s show might have gone there had the not-so-good doctor taken the trouble to do a little research before he stuck his big, bald head up his big, white ass. (Which he did right there on television, which is kinda perverse, don’t you think?) Then Dr. Phil could’ve told her that cross-dressing is a common fetish among straight men, that most cross-dressers are only interested in indulging themselves from time to time, and that most are capable of having normal sex with their wives. He also could’ve told her that there are numerous support groups for the wives of cross-dressers, books, and Internet chat rooms.

And he could’ve told her that while it may not be pleasant to contemplate her husband in women’s clothes (where is it written that he has to wear her clothes?), there’s no reason she has to. If she can give her husband permission to indulge on his own during solo masturbation sessions, and if his occasional indulgences take nothing away from their shared sex life, she won’t have to dwell on the whole husband-in-panties issue.

I’m hoping you have some ideas on this one, because I’m fresh out. I got pregnant back in June–intentionally, and very happily, with my husband of almost five years. The getting pregnant part was great, but since then he’s been totally uninterested in sex. There are no medical reasons why we can’t be intimate. I’ve asked my husband about it, and he doesn’t want to talk. I’ve passed along books and articles about how sex during pregnancy is a good and healthy thing that won’t hurt the baby. I’ve approached him while naked or suggestively wrapped in a towel, I’ve snuggled up to him when he comes to bed and in the morning when we wake up, I’ve told him how much I love him and want to be intimate, and the only result I’ve gotten is that he comes to bed after I’ve gone to sleep and leaps out of bed when the alarm goes off.

This morning I finally managed to lure him back under the sheets (for the first time in almost a month!), and after he’d gotten me off he got up and left, telling me I should be happy because he’d given me “what [I] wanted.” Well, hell, that’s not what I want–I want us to enjoy each other before we get completely overwhelmed with kid stuff! I’m tired and frustrated and hurt. I don’t understand what his problem is and I’m afraid he’ll keep behaving this way after the baby’s born, which is not going to make for a happy marriage. Aside from the sex thing I feel very close to him, but, well, “the sex thing” is kind of a biggie. –Momma Violates Poppa?

In the spirit of telling women what they don’t want to hear: has it occured to you, MVP, that your husband might not be attracted to you at the moment? While there’s no medical reason you can’t be having sex right now, there are men who simply aren’t attracted to their wives’ pregnant bodies and/or can’t get past the “presence” of their unborn children. If that’s the case with your husband, there’s nothing books and articles and nudity and towels and advice columns can do about it.

So what do you do? Accept the fact that your husband isn’t up for sex and take comfort in the thought that your sex life will return to normal once the baby comes. (Sure you’ll be busy, but resourceful couples can always carve out time for sex–and you sound pretty resourceful, MVP.) In the meantime, throw away the books and the articles and stop waltzing around the house naked. If that stuff hasn’t worked yet, it’s not going to work at all. And you’re unlikely to get any cuddling out of him if he feels like every move you make is an attempt to initiate sex.

So tell your husband that nothing is expected of him over the next few months but that you do need to be held. He may not want to have sex for the remainder of your pregnancy, but it’s cruel to deny you any physical intimacy. Once he feels like you’re not trying to initiate sex every time you come near him, perhaps he’ll start coming to bed before you go to sleep and lingering a bit longer in the morning.

There. It’s answers like that one that will prevent me from ever having a daytime TV talk show of my own.

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