Dr. Victoria Zdrok is an ex-lawyer, international model, author, webmistress and clinical psychologist, and she has agreed to share her insights into the sexual psyche with Mind Hacks.
Providing a unique perspective on the amorous mind, Dr. Zdrok talks about her influences as a psychologist, her views on the current state of sex research and her own studies into the psychology of sexual fantasy.
Victoria Zdrok is not your average psychologist. Despite her fame as a model, she has remained committed to understanding the human mind since she first became fascinated by it during her teenage years, gaining her undergraduate degree in psychology at the precocious age of 18.
Her subsequent work in psychology has encompassed a number of issues and theoretical approaches, with her doctoral thesis applying experimental methods to understanding the cognitive psychology of the courtroom.
After completing her doctorate in clinical psychology, she went on to specialise in sex therapy at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and now focuses on the psychology of sex, love and relationships.
Victoria recently added ‘webmistress’ to her CV after starting several successful websites, including the playful www.SexySexpert.com, a developing project Love-Sex-Dating.com, and the X-rated (and definitely not safe-for-work) PlanetVictoria.com.
Who have been your major influences in psychology ?
I discovered psychology back in the USSR where it was banned as a “petite-bourgeois” domain, relegated to Pavlovian reflexology. My mother who worked at a research institute brought me Freud’s “Totem and Taboo” from the library’s special access only secret archives. I was immediately hooked.
Later I became fascinated with Jungian archetypes. During my graduate school I trained mostly in cognitive behavioral therapy, which is what I would use to treat patients, and lately I have been reading a lot of evolutionary psychology. But I am a humanist at heart, driven by existential angst!
If you could commission research into one area of psychology, what question would you want answering?
I am fascinated with sexual paraphilias, particularly rare and dangerous ones, like necrophilia. I think we need to know more not only how they originate but what propels some of the individuals with these fetishes to act them out while others are able to keep them under psychic control, relegating them to fantasies.
When writing a previous article for Mind Hacks, I discovered there is more research on the neuroscience of hiccups than orgasm. Considering that sex is one of the most important human activities, why do you think there is so little good research in this area ?
The question of why there is more research on hiccups than on orgasms is an easy one: because the fear of human sexuality, engendered by religious dogma which portrays sex as “sinful,” has caused scientists and researchers to fear studying sex.
Not only do many of them feel a personal fear in exploring a topic which may bring down the wrath of the repressed religiously-cowed multitudes, but they cannot realistically expect to receive any funding for research into this area.
Politicians are notoriously paranoid about having public funds being used for sex research – think of the furore over the display of the Robert Maplethorpe photos in a public museum; and even private foundations shy away from any association with sex, even from an academic interest in it.
It is the same reason that sex education in America is deplorable; that ignorance about human sexuality is commonplace among adults and nearly universal among post-pubescent children; and that AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, especially teen pregnancies, are far more prevalent than they have any reason to be in a technologically-advanced, highly developed society.
Thanks to a group of uninformed medieval religious “scholars” – all of whom were male and many of whom were advocating celibacy – the modern Judeo-Christian-Islamic world is dominated by medieval theories of human sexuality.
Ironically, from a psychologist’s standpoint, the major theologians responsible for this debacle, such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, were major league libertines for most of their lives – even bi-sexual libertines!
It was guilt over their own behavior that drove them to pronounce sex as “evil” and “sinful,” to proclaim women as the cause of this evil (the “Eve and the apple” doctrine), and to preach celibacy and sex ‘only for procreation in church sanctioned marriages’.
You have mentioned in a previous interview that you are writing a book on the psychology of sexual fantasies. What has surprised you most during your research ?
I was amazed on how early some of the sexual fantasies originate and how rigid and constant they remain across a person’s lifetime.
It seems that there is a critical period for the sexual fantasy formation, usually in late childhood, and they seem to be incorporated in what has been called our “lovemaps”. It is very hard to alter what turns someone on, no matter how much psychological insight or behavioral reprogramming one undergoes later in his life.
In magazine articles on sexual attraction, there’s always a throw-away comment on the mind – usually that a ‘sense of humour’ or ‘confidence’ is important. In your opinion, what are the most under-rated aspects of the mind that people find attractive ?
Empathy – ability to take another person’s perspective, to understand and relate to another one’s pain. I believe that high degree of empathy requires intelligence and insight, both of which are inherently sexy qualities.
Evolutionary psychologists have shown that kindness and empathy is one of the main qualities we look for in our prospective mates as well as display to gain someone’s sexual interest. Intelligence is incredibly sexy. I can attest to that as I was always falling in love (mostly platonic) with my old and ugly but very intelligent and erudite professors.
How would you like to be remembered ?