LONG BEACH — The telephone call raised a few eyebrows in the office. Not because it was unwelcome, but because it was unusual.
A female caller to the Christian radio talk show had a major concern: How important is it, she wanted to know, for Christian women to experience vaginal orgasms?
Seated behind a microphone in a soundproof, carpeted room, John Jolliffe listened with closed eyes for some time as the woman described her husband's dissatisfaction with their sex life. Finally he rendered an opinion.
"You want to have an orgasm (to fix your relationship)?" he said. "Go tell your husband you had one. I'm suggesting that many women are very satisfied whether or not they have orgasms."
'Just Another Issue'
A moment later he was doing his standard transition to a station break. "Vaginal orgasms," he said somberly into the microphone. "Just another issue of life."
For two months, Jolliffe, a licensed marriage and family therapist, has been pioneering a relatively new field from a studio in his Long Beach office.
Welcome to "The Issues of Life," a live call-in radio show broadcast Monday through Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. over KKLA-FM (99.5), a Christian station based in North Hollywood. While clinicians on secular radio stations offer psychological advice supposedly untainted by ideology or creed, Jolliffe, 39, says he offers psychological advice with a twist. "My objective authority is the Bible," he said.
It is something of a new format on Christian radio, according to Dan Nicholas, director of news and information for National Religious Broadcasters, a 1,200-member trade association based in New Jersey. Although Christian radio stations frequently feature live talk shows hosted by pastors, he said, he knows of only one show besides Jolliffe's--a nationally syndicated program originating in Dallas--that regularly offers live on-air counseling by qualified professional clinicians.
"Christians have problems too," said John Newton, operations manager of KKLA, which on Feb. 1 added Jolliffe to its usual fare of Bible study and religious music. The station has been operating since October, when it took over a frequency previously held by television evangelist Gene Scott.
"To say that once a person becomes a Christian they've got the world by the tail is not correct," Newton said.
Jolliffe, who describes himself as a "clinician who's proud to be a Christian," said his advice differs from that of secular therapists only in that it assumes Christian values. In counseling troubled couples, for instance, he would advise changing the relationship before terminating the marriage. Homosexuals, he believes, are that way due to some major frustration of their normal human needs. And when unmarried couples tell him they want to live together, he advises them to consider marrying first.
"I'm challenging people to be more active in (living) their faith," he said. "People in religious circles are too passive."
In the case of the woman concerned about her lack of orgasms, he said, the focus should be on the warmth and affection between husband and wife rather than on the precise nature of her sexual response, advice he believes incorporates sound clinical advice with basic Christian principles.
But David Viscott, a Sherman Oaks-based psychiatrist whose thrice-weekly radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KABC and in more than 80 cities nationwide through the ABC radio network, said his approach to the same question would have been somewhat different. "I would tell her that there are many ways of achieving orgasm and that she should discover which ways work for her," Viscott said. "And (that) it's always a bad idea to lie."
Jolliffe, who said he has long had an interest in "integrating" his faith and his clinical practice, first got on the radio in 1983 by refinancing his home to raise $30,000 to buy regular time slots on another station. "I'd listened to Toni Grant and thought I could do the same thing," said the family therapist, who has a wife and two children.
Later he was a guest on another KKLA talk show hosted by a non-clinician, after which KKLA executives, impressed by what they had heard, asked him to host "The Issues of Life."
For the first month, Jolliffe commuted daily from Long Beach to the station's North Hollywood studios. Then the station installed a $10,000 sound room and control booth in his nine-room office suite near Memorial Medical Center.
Though Jolliffe is not paid for his time on the air, he does occasionally refer callers to his offices in Long Beach, Brea and Orange which, employing the services of 22 various psychological professionals, handle a whopping 3,000 patients a month. He doesn't consider the referrals unethical, he said, because they are made off the air and because callers are given a choice of referrals. "It's entirely up to them," he said. "This is not a marketing tool."
Opinion on the matter, however, seems to be somewhat mixed in the broadcast community.
No Ethical Code