When you seated between a psychic and a former porn star, you sort of automatically become the voice of reason. But Dr. Mike Dow, a panelist on Logo’s That Sex Show, also has years of experience as a therapist to back up his talk.
The show, which airs weeknights at 11pm, sees Dow joined by former adult-film star Katie Morgan, gay spiritualist Dougall Fraser and lesbian host Heidi Hamilton as they answer questions about love, sex and relationships from audience members and callers.
And it’s all live.
“Unlike some other call-in shows, we don’t have any time to research or prep,” explains Dow, who specializes in couples counseling, and food and behavioral issues. “The producers don’t let us see the questions—they won’t even let us in the room when they choose what questions to air. We hear them when the audience does.”
We sat down with Dr. Mike, who’s also openly gay, and picked his brain about relationship red flags, navigating the top/bottom dichotomy, and how to avoid breaking up on Valentine’s Day.
I’m actually surprised at how open and frank we can be. One of the few words that’s off limits—and it’s one I know I accidentally used, and Katie used—is “cum.” It just sounds weird to keep saying “orgasm.”
What are some of the odder questions you’ve gotten so far?
Oh, what haven’t we gotten? One guy wanted to know about fisting and cancer risks—there are some correlations because of HPV—but we’ve had people ask if they can use chapstick as lube or mayonnaise as lube. You can’t just laugh those questions off, because if they’re calling us it means they’re either already doing it or seriously considering doing it. And with mayonnaise, there’s oils that can break down condoms. So we have to take all the questions seriously, even if we inject a little humor into the answer.
What’s been one of your favorite questions so far?
I love this questions we got on Friday from a gay couple who Skyped in: One partner is HIV negative and the other is positive. The positive one won’t have sex with his partner since he was diagnosed a year ago— he’s deathly afraid of transmitting the virus. That’s a very common situation [for serodiscordant couples], so I was glad we were able to talk it out. Even beyond helping explain risks and precautions to that couple, other listeners could see they weren’t alone in this.
On the show, you usually bring the clinical point of view. But you’re also a human being with a romantic and sexual history. Do you ever find yourself wanting to chime in with a personal anecdote?
Well, I’m still practicing, so I really feel like I should be a blank slate. It would be hard for patients to work with me if they knew too much about me, so I tend to not share my personal life.
The other day Heidi asked if i was circumcised—I just laughed and said, “I bet Dr. Drew never has to deal with this.”
We asked Queerty readers to submit questions as if they were on That Sex Show. The first one is “How long should a couple wait before opening up their relationship?”
I don’t like making rules about relationships because each one is unique. But if you’re opening things up in the first year, it usually spells trouble. In that first year the brain’s dopamine level is so high, and your serotonin level dips really low, so you’re kind of obsessed with that person and the high being with them gives you. So needing that kind of rush elsewhere early on is a red flag that the chemistry is wrong.
If you are going to open up your relationship, you need to have strict rules and lot of communication. But honestly, I’m not a big fan: Lots of times open relationships do more harm than good.
The problem with two men together is that we often don’t communicate about the parts of the relationship that can be spiritual and emotional. Am I opening the relationship because there’s something not right? If I fixed that would i not need to open it?
Okay, here’s another common concern: Are long-distance relationships a mistake?
I only recommend long-distance if you have a “soulmate” connection. If this is someone you just met, or just have some affection for, it’ll die a slow death. And ask yourself, “Is it feasible for us to be in the same city after a year?” I don’t think you can be in New York and L.A. for ten years and make it work. Oxytosin–the chemical of love—forms long-lasting relationships, and you need to have someone in your life regularly for it to be manufactured.
It sounds like a lot of your advice is based on brain chemistry.
A lot of the Freudian theories don’t have science behind them. I like brain-chemistry research because, when I give my opinion, it’s not just somehting I personally think you should do. There’s facts behind it. A rational, scientific explanation helps people feel more comfortable about their situation.
This is a question from a Queerty staff member: Is it a red flag is someone is living with their ex?
In a city like Manhattan, it comes with the territory. But if you’re in Austin, and you can get a place for $500, then you have to wonder why they haven’t moved out. There’s always going to be some nagging jealousy. “Are they still having sex? Is the ex talking trash about me?”
When you end a relationship, you need to make a clean break as quickly as you can. Studies have shown that people who don’t check their ex’s Facebook pages heal faster. When you break up, you literally go through withdrawl symptoms. You want a period to go cold turkey.
Here’s a question that’s kind of unique to the gay-male community: How important are top/bottom roles in a relationship? Can two tops make it work?
If you’re labeling yourself a strict top or a strict bottom, then it probably won’t work—because you’re too invested in the labels to try and compromise. But it’s not just about the sex act—there is something to the larger idea of dominance. We have to accept we have that in us. But how much of that is natural, and how much is social conditioning telling you being the passive partner is “wrong”? Again, the real issue is the labels.
We should also remember that not all gay men are into anal sex. We’re so concerned with penetration—there’s so much more to sex. I’m more “outercourse” than intercourse. It’s easier, and you significantly reduce the risk of STDS.
Lastly, how can couples avoid freaking out over having the “perfect” Valentine’s Day?
Lower the bar! New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day are the two times when we set these ridiculously high expectations for ourselves and our partners. Instead of trying to get reservations at the hottest place in town and tickets to a Broadway show, focus on one personal thing—even if its free. If partner is more concerned with where you’re having dinner than the love you’re expressing, that’s not a good sign for your relationship.
That Sex Show airs weeknights at 11pm on Logo, with uncensored clips available on the Logo website. Photos: Mark Davis/Getty Images for Logo