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Sexual Losses 2007

Remembering sexual pioneers and icons who passed away in 2007


What follows is a very incomplete list of some of the sex educators, researchers, performers, and activists we lost in 2007. Each of the people listed below contributed something to the public discourse and private experience of human sexuality and it seems like the least we can do to take a moment to honor their memory and thank them for their contribution.

Harold Lief (1917-March 15, 2007)

If you go to your doctor and ask a sex question and your doctor doesn't flinch or turn bright red, it's thanks in part to Harold Lief. A leading sex therapist and psychiatrist Lief was a life long advocate for greater sexuality education and training in medical schools. In 1960 Leif organized the Center for the Study of Sex Education in Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. At the time sexuality education and training in medical schools was spotty to non-existent. By 1977 81 percent of American medical schools offered some instruction in human sexuality. Read the New York Times Obituary for Harold Lief.

Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge (1969 - October 9,2007)

The much loved life/art partner of music pioneer Genesis P-Orridge. In 2003 Lady Jaye and Genesis began a performance/action series called Breaking Sex which was intended to merge their identities and blur the lines of gender and duality, creating one identity Breyer P-Orridge. A friend of mine -- a television producer who shot a profile of them early in 2007 -- described them as a living piece of art, completely accepting of each other, and bravely engaging in a romantic and complicated life. Whenever I’m feeling particularly down or judged about my identity choices I go back and read some of what Genesis and Lady Jaye have written on their site and I’m reminded of why we fight.

Albert Ellis (Sept. 27, 1913 - July 24, 2007)

I read my first Albert Ellis book when I was eleven years old. My father was a sex therapist who was very influenced by Ellis' thinking (as were many M.D. sex therapists of my father's generation). Ellis was, in the words of the New York Times obit, "one of the most influential and provocative figures in modern psychology." He was also a great sexual pioneer and embodied both the extreme passion and rationalism needed to break through societies and academia’s resistance to talking openly about sexuality in the 50s. Read the New York Times Obituary for Albert Ellis.

Adelina Tattilo (1929 - February 1, 2007)

Adelina Tattilo, one of Italy's great pornographers, began in publishing with her husband in the early 1960s, but in 1967 on her own she launched Playmen, a magazine that is often compared to Playboy, but had clear philosophical differences. A 1971 Time Magazine article quoted Tattilo explaining, "I hope Playmen will contribute to changing, in an intelligent way, certain archaic attitudes toward love and sex among Italian men and women… It is possible that Mr. Hefner considers the women in his magazine 'objects' instead of individuals. This is certainly not my way. In our concept of eroticism, the woman is the 'subject' as much as the man."

Sidney Sheldon (February 11, 1917-January 30,2007)

Sidney Sheldon had over 200 television scripts, twenty-five major motion pictures, six Broadway plays, a memoir, and eighteen novels to his credit. It was in his novels (with over 300 million copies sold) that Sheldon created his great sexual legacy. Vague yet juicy, with plenty of space for the reader's imagination to flourish, Sheldon;s sex scenes felt like Judy Blume for grown ups. Fans will appreciate Mayank Austen Soofi's loving and funny homage to Sheldon's gift for erotic writing at BlogCritics.org.

Hailey Paige (December 30, 1981 - August 21, 2007)

Hailey Paige (not her real name) was a porn actor who appeared in hundreds of porn films and in 2006 began directing adult titles as well. Paige was murdered and her boyfriend at the time was implicated in her death, but he died before the police were finished investigating the crime. It seems unfair and problematic to honor our sexual losses without considering the (likely dozens) of people who pass away each year in obscurity after performing in the adult industry. As mainstream movie goers mourn the loss of Hollywood stars they never knew, so too should fans of X-rated entertainment. We may also want to take the opportunity to consider how we could affect a change in an industry that is often so cruel and unsupportive of its talent.

Jim Mitchell (November 30, 1943 - July 12, 2007)

The Mitchell brothers (Jim and Artie) were notable U.S. pornographers and club owners. They opened and ran the O’Farrell Theatre in San Francisco and produced one of the first big budget feature length porn films, Behind the Green Door, in 1972. In 1991 Jim shot and killed his brother Artie and was imprisoned until 1997 for the crime. Their story has been told in two biographies and one straight-to-video title starring Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen.

Barbara Gittings (July 31, 1932 - February 18, 2007)

Barbara Gittings was an activist and gay rights pioneer. She was an organizer and participant in the first gay rights demonstration in the U.S. in 1965 in Philadelphia and founded the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, an early American lesbian rights organization. Her focus was on removing the secrecy and stigma from queer identities and she radicalized many of the organizations she joined. She was involved in the removal of homosexuality from the DSM and in the addition of gay and lesbian literature to the American public library system. Entry for Barbara Gittings in the GBLTQ: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Culture.

Stan Dale (December 20,1929 - June 8,2007)

Stan Dale was the founder of the Human Awareness Institue. Since 1968 the Institute has offered "workshops dealing with intimate relationships and human sexuality" to over 75,000 people. Remembering Stan on his website, sex therapist and author Marty Klein wrote:
"He was constantly falling in love with the majesty of human intimacy. Ultimately, what Stan offered the world was not his ideas, but himself. He treated everyone magnificently. He was infinitely patient. He designed a workshop program that healed people and connected them to each other."

Lorraine Rothman (1932 - September 25, 2007)

Lorraine Rothman was a leader in the feminist women's health movement in the 1970s and a founding member of the feminist Self-Help Clinic movement. With Carol Downer, she worked on the concept of menstrual extraction as a viable women's home health care technique; and, in 1971, she invented the Del-Em menstrual extraction kit. Rothman and Downer founded the Feminist Women's Health Center in Los Angeles and opened a second FWHC in Orange County. In 1990 Rothman co-authored a book questioning the necessity and safety of hormone replacement therapy for menopausal women.Lorraine Rothman on the Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive and New York Times obituary.
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