Afternoon Delight

Every weekday from 3 to 7 p.m., KLAT's Carlos Martinez loves to talk about sex. Many in his Spanish-speaking audience adore him. But not everyone's happy with what he has to say.

It was at age 18 that Martinez left Boys' Town. Barely educated, but with a persistent belief he wouldn't always be poor, Martinez didn't know what to do. He played congas for a while in a band, then got a job advertising household goods on one of those deafening stereo systems attached to vans that rove Mexican neighborhoods. Then in 1971, he drove across the border with two companions in a giant green 1968 Dodge. Someone had given him a fake passport, and the immigration officer didn't look twice.

The owner of the Dodge was a friend of a friend, a guy who Martinez remembers only as Robert. "I wish I knew where he was now," Martinez says. "I remember having a long talk with Robert during the drive. He said to me, 'Carlos, if you never change how you are now, you could conquer Houston.' " Somehow, Martinez says, what Robert said made sense to him. But it was hard to discern, back in those days, how a sharp restlessness and an education in Boys' Town could translate to success in Texas' largest city.

The calls keep coming in, nonstop, for four hours. Today, only one male is among them, a youth wanting to meet a couple who on an earlier show inquired about forming a threesome. Martinez puzzles briefly about what to do, since he doesn't keep any identifying information about callers. Here's what we'll do, he tells the youth. They're most likely listening. We can have them call in today and leave their address, and you can call the station later, after the show's over, and get it from me.

"Thanks, Carlos."
As far as Martinez is concerned, the people who object to his show have a problem with everything he condones -- threesomes, open discussion of sex, anything that challenges traditional Latino culture, which he believes is filled with repression and misinformation. After all, this is a man who has discussed the symbolic significance of the rectum on the air ("We Latino men," Martinez explained, "fear we are gay if we let someone touch it"). He also harps, over and over, on a women's right to enjoy sex, or "buy herself Chiclets," as he sometimes likes to put it.

"The language that I use is colloquial," he says over lunch one day before his show. "That disturbs some. But I talk to people on their level."

Indeed, it is the blunt, barroom vocabulary that Martinez uses so exuberantly that puts many listeners off. "It's common," says one middle-class Mexican-American matron. "He loves to be disgusting. He's just vulgar."

But that's not the only reason people talk about Martinez. To some, what's more scandalous is that he has no official training in sexual subjects, no university degree to back up the suggestions and facts he so blithely scatters over the airwaves. Although he had a year of naturopathic study in Spain and a bit of psychology course work in Mexico, Martinez's vast, unflappable knowledge of all matters intimate is self-taught. And although he and KLAT carefully label his program opinion, not medical treatment or advice, Martinez, his critics say, is nothing more than a quack.

To be sure, it's hard to find a professional -- either in radio or medicine -- who wants to attack him publicly. Some in the medical profession say they're afraid of committing libel, and in the radio industry, as one colleague of Martinez's points out, criticism can sound like sour grapes from the competition. Still, despite Martinez's unconventional style, it's also hard to pin him down on real infractions.

Take, for example, a recent call from "Maria" (by far the pseudonym of choice for Martinez's listeners, and for which he likes to tease them).

"Maria! Que original! What can I do for you?"
This particular Maria has two daughters, she tells Martinez, and wants to know how to have a baby boy.

Well, he advises, do this. Calculate the first day of your period. It's the 20th of the month? Now counting that as day one, count 13, 14, 15 days from that day. Got it?

Maria's a little confused, but Martinez patiently starts again and walks her through the equation. For a baby boy, he explains, Maria should have sex exclusively on those three days. Not one day before, not one day after. Do this, he directs the delighted Maria, "It's given us very good results."

That may well be, says Dr. John Buster, a reproductive specialist at Baylor College of Medicine. But, Buster says, any success with this scheme would likely be a product of luck.

"First of all, [the idea] has not been proven right or wrong," Buster explains. "No one knows." Martinez's advice, he says, derives from an old notion about how male sperm swim faster than female sperm, but don't live as long. So if a couple has sex close to the time of ovulation, the male sperm have a better chance of reaching the egg. The technique was first promulgated by a physician several decades ago, although it was never proven. "But [given a] lack of good sex-selection technology, this is all people have," Buster says. "I know that popular books on sexuality say that this may be true." For a talk show host, he adds, this is about the only information that can be offered up about how to have a male child.

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