Sexual curiosities crop up in the most mundane places, at least for those of us with sensitive noses for such things. The other day I received the insurance policy on my house, and there at the end of a long list of coverages, special provisions, notices and exemptions was something called "SEXUAL COND EXCL." What's this? I wondered, antennas twitching.
Flipping through the policy to the very last page, I find provision #12621: the Sexual Conduct Exclusion. It seems that with regard to potential liability claims against me, my insurance does not cover claims related to any "bodily injury, property damage or personal injury arising out of any sexual activity or conduct, whether intentional or unintentional, by any insured. This exclusion applies even though the activity is not in violation of any criminal or penal code or statute."
Now am I being oversensitive here, or is this one more example of sex being singled out as some kind of different-from-all-other-things-inlife bugaboo? Can it be that my insurance company is seriously worried about such an arcane possibility? Out of all the possible liability suits related to owning a home, why single out this one for exclusion?
I call my insurance agent, a friendly, helpful, and generally relaxed person, to ask what gives. She explains to me in detail what the exclusion says. If someone sues me for sexual harassment, for rape, or because they caught a sexually transmitted disease from me, I won't be covered. This I already understood. I assure her that I don't have any problem with the exclusion (I don't want her to think I'm running a massage parlor or something), but I'm curious about it. I'm being playful; I get the feeling she thinks I'm wasting her time. If she has any sense of humor about the absurdity of this little paragraph of paranoia, she doesn't show it to me.
She hypothesizes dryly that the insurance company must have gotten burned on a sexual harassment suit, or something involving an STD. "That's usually what happens," she says. "They lose a case and decide to tack on a blanket exclusion." Maybe it's a rider they only use for policies in California.
I call the Amco Insurance Company in Des Moines, Iowa, to see how they will handle my curiosity. "How can I direct your call?" the operator asks blankly. Fair enough question, though something of a stumper. "I have a question about one of the provisions on my homeowners policy," I open.
After one or two wrong turns, I get transferred to a man named Ross in the Customer Service Department. He goes over the wording with me, like a policeman reading me my rights. No sense of irony; no sense of humor. Human being face to face with the maze of rules and regulations. Slight taste of Kafka. Hello, Ross buddy, talk to me here. Property damage arising out of sexual activity? Get real with me. Or is s/m a whole lot more popular than even I have been thinking?
I make my voice as informal, as unthreatening, as I can. "I'm just trying to understand why an insurance company would choose these particular behaviors to exclude from a general liability policy. It's hard for me to believe that there are hundreds of people being sued for sex related injuries."
Ross has done his duty and wants to get on to whatever else is littering his desk. If it's all right with me, he'd like to check with the people in underwriting and have one of them get back to me. I assure him that will be fine.
A half hour later I get a call from a Tom Gobrantz. He is polite, better at dealing with strange callers with their quirky concerns, and totally at a loss as to what I'm asking and why. He responds by asking me for my policy number. For a moment, I wonder if they can cancel my insurance because I ask too many questions, because they think I must have something to worry about if I'm so concerned about this provision. I know that there are insurance companies who won't issue life or health insurance to anyone who has so much as been tested for AIDS, even if the test is on record as being negative. Just wanting to know makes you a potential risk. Gobrantz assures me it's just that there is certain information they give to policyholders but not to the curious-at-large. I fetch the policy and give him the number.
I explain that I'm a journalist who writes about sex-related issues and imagine that I feel Agent Gobrantz get a little more respectful but also a little more cautious. Has his company been the subject of a significant number of suits relating to sexual conduct? He doesn't think so (though he doesn't have the statistics on that), but he does know that the word is out in the industry about suits relating to sexual molestation as well as sexually transmitted diseases. He honestly doesn't know the story of this particular rider. He notes that I live in California. He tells me he'll check with a person who might know the background and get back to me. So far, I haven't heard from him.
There it is, boys and girls, sex in the Dangerous Nineties. If someone sues you because they get herpes from you in your house, you're on your own in personal injury court. If they sue you because they get food poisoning, staph, or hepatitis, you're protected. If someone wrenches their back while hanging upside down off the end of your bed in a state of rapture, your insurance company tells them to take a hike. But if you get pissed off and throw them through your plate glass window, your insurance company pays all damages. If a guest slips and falls taking a shower in your tub, your insurance takes care of them; if they slip and fall in the same shower while you're fucking, your insurance washes its hands of the matter, so to speak.
I think there should be a law against treating sex different from everything else, like there's a law against treating black people or women or old people or people with AIDS different from everyone else. This is sex discrimination -- discrimination against sex and people who associate with sex. Let's start collecting signatures for a constitutional amendment. We might lose the first few times around, but think of the consciousness raising we could do....
Annie Sprinkle Meets Pieman Mike
Carol Queen has already written about Annie Sprinkle's Solo Mio performance, Post Post Porn Modernist, so I won't get repetitious with my own thoughts, but one of the fine moments of the evening came during the intermission, when members of the audience lined up and lined up and lined up for Polaroid pictures with Annie's tits on their heads. One of those on line was Pieman Mike (profiled in a recent Spectator article), whose turn on is getting pied in the face by beautiful women. Spreading a tarp on the floor to protect the stage carpet, Pieman offered Annie two cream pies, which she happily smushed into his glowingly happy face. Annie, who is no squirmer when it comes to messes on stage, seemed a little taken aback when Pieman bent his pecan-covered face forward to kiss her exalted tit, but just for a moment. "Messy, isn't he," she laughed to the audience as Pieman rolled up his pie-covered tarp and the audience applauded.
Ode to the Female Flower
Joani Blank's delightful new book, Femalia, is hot off the press -- a simple and compelling ode to the beauty of the female form, meaning (for once) vulva, not breasts. The book is nothing more (and nothing less) than 32 stunningly diverse color cunt portraits by photographers Michael Rosen, Tee Corinne, Jill Posener, and Michael Perry.
The cover blurb correctly claims that "therapists, sex educators, women's health clinicians -- and all women -- will find this volume a welcome addition to their libraries." It neglects to mention that Femalia will also be a delight, not to mention a distinct turn on, to all devoted admirers, male and female, of the intricate folds, curves, textures, wrinkles, smoothnesses, and general delicious succulence of the magic lips and caverns, large and small, light and dark. Pardon me, I do tend to get carried away on this particular subject, particularly when I am holding 32 inviting examples in my hand, so to speak. (Try thumbing quickly backwards through the pages of Femalia like an old-time flip book; it's positively dizzying.)
The rich color reproductions are magnificent, as are the particular pudenda so proudly displayed. What a great leap forward for the embryonic form I have been tentatively calling cunt art. Femalia is available for $14.50 at Good Vibrations; or $18 postpaid from Down There Press, 938 Howard Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.
Saudek Comes to San Francisco
I have long been a fan, admirer, and devotee of the provocative, mysterious, mystical, work of contemporary Czech photographer Jan Saudek. Saudek's intricate mix of the conscious and the subconscious, the real and the surreal, the beautiful and the grotesque, is nothing short of fascinating, and it has been a pleasure to follow his slowly growing appreciation in this country.
A first book of Saudek photographs, The World of Jan Saudek, was published by Aperture Books in 1983, followed by the larger, lusher collection of his work, Saudek: Life, Love, Death and Other Such Trifles, published by Art Unlimited in 1991. Postcards of Saudek images have been popping up in quality card stores everywhere, and the Robert Koch Gallery in San Francisco had a wonderful show of his work a year ago (including what must one of the few fisting photos ever shown in an upscale American art venue). Now the Bay Area is being treated to two simultaneous exhibits of Saudek's work -- at Good Vibrations and at Vision Gallery.
The exhibit at Good Vibrations includes 16 Saudek prints, mostly recent work (1992-93). I was particularly moved by "The Kiss" (a young pretty girl, her back to the camera, watching an older couple kiss through an open window), "The Matchmaker" (an older woman standing behind a young girl, spreading wide the girl's fleshy cunt to entice a husband), "It Touches My Very Soul" (a woman's mouth close to the immense breast of another, milk dripping down her chin), and "The Musicians" (a diptych giving two views of a musical band, clothed and naked). The show at Vision Gallery is even more extensive, with some 40 prints on the walls, and at least as many more to be perused and pondered in the bins.
If the complex nature of eroticism and sensuality intrigues you, don't miss either of these two shows. Saudek has a way of reaching inside and stirring up erotic shadows and mysteries unlike any other imagist. The exhibit at Vision Gallery (1155 Mission Street) runs through December 4th; the show at Good Vibrations (1210 Valencia Street) through the end of the year.