Bruce Herschensohn; Bill Clinton; Sexologists in San Diego; Future Sex 2
Ok, this may be my first and last chance, ever, to line up behind Bruce Herschensohn, and I'm going to take it, for the sheer perversity of it as much as anything else. Don't get me wrong: As far as I'm concerned the man is scum and I'm as delighted as anyone that Barbara Boxer squeaked through and helped force the Senate leadership to have a women's bathroom installed near the Senate floor for the first time ever. (Would you believe that Nancy Kassebaum and Barbara Mikulski have been migrating one flight down to a public restroom all these years, while the 98 Big Boys use the toilets just outside the Congressional chamber reserved for Senatorial relief.)
But the red flags still go up for me whenever someone starts jumping up and down in mock horror, telling the teacher that somebody's been doing something bad (meaning something sexual other than fucking their spouses in the missionary position), oh isn't it awful, tee hee, tee hee. So the Dems put some kind of heavy tail on Herschensohn and caught him going to a strip joint once and purchasing porn more than once. I mean, the irony's delicious of course, and the contortions that this fierce defender of somebody's notion of Family Values went through trying to explain himself were positively hilarious. (Herschensohn claimed, for example, that he went to the club for a drink, not to see naked women, although it turned out the place didn't even serve drinks and was certainly not the kind of place you'd go to for genteel ambience.)
The hypocrisy of the supposedly virtuous bachelor, caught with his hands in what he would call the sewer, is a campaign issue worth addressing. But Democratic Party hack Bob Mulholland was not screaming "hypocrite" when his eyes were bugging out with self-righteous glee. He was screaming "pervert," and whenever someone is at the butt end of a sexual slur, be it "slut," "whore," "pervert" or "queer," for that moment at least they become my political sibling. Even Bruce Herschensohn.
Even, for that matter, Clarence Thomas. (I realize I'm sticking my head in a noose here, and that it's possible that none of my friends will ever talk to me again.) Of course, I have no use whatsoever for Clarence Thomas, Boss-Pig Sexual Harasser. It's been a long time since I've wanted to see someone skewered as badly as I wanted to see Thomas left to die on a stake during those hearings. But I still turned queasy when the issue shifted from his abuse of power to his fascination with porn videos, women's breasts, and Long Dong Silver. I actually take some comfort in knowing that there's at least one Supreme Court Justice who knows his way around porn, seeing as how they're all going to be passing judgment on it again and again over the next twenty years or so. I only wish that Thomas hadn't been made to feel so guilty about his porn pastime that he'll now have to bend over backwards just to assuage his embarrassment. (Now if we could just bend him over forwards, but that's another story....)
I have a friend who served for a while on the local City Council, a very fine, thoughtful, progressive, unnaturally politically correct, feminist man. He confided to me one day how strange it was to not be able to simply buy a Playboy from time to time, because if anyone saw him it would be the end of his political career. (I dare say he would have had the odd privilege of being tarred and feathered from the left and right simultaneously.)
There it is: the politics of moralism, which as far as I'm concerned is entirely antithetical to real political morality or ethics. We call upon our public figures -- our heroes, our leaders -- to be onedimensional saints, and then we become horrified when they turn out to be regular old human beings under all the image-oriented trappings.
My dad used to say that everyone's the same when they're putting on their underwear in the morning, to which I would add: and when they're jacking off. Masturbation and lust, The Great Equalizers. Yes, Virginia, even priests and rabbis, even Fundamentalists, even family doctors and therapists and Sunday school teachers and day care workers and non-sexual massage practitioners, even mommies and daddies, masturbate and get turned on -- sometimes at the damnedest moments. The issue is not what we feel, but what we do with our feelings, and it's when we're too embarrassed to acknowledge what's really going on with us that someone's most likely to get hurt.
That's why I always vote Sadeian. Honesty forever, piety never. Cleanliness is next to duplicity. The best things in life are messy. See you at the polls in '94.
Which brings me most of the way to Bill Clinton, the first even moderately sexy man in the White House in a very long time. Jimmy Carter did confess that he lusted in his heart from time to time. As I remember, it had to do with looking at pictures of naked women. Playboy, wasn't it? And I do believe Ron and Nancy were sexual, in a Norman Rockwell sort of way. All I know about LBJ is that he had this thing about showing Ho Chi Minh whose cock was bigger, an ambition for which hundreds of thousands had to die.
But it's been a while since there's been any free-flowing sexual energy at the White House, which probably explains more about what's been happening in this country than most people are willing to even think about. As Barbara Ehrenreich says, "Try to think of a recent president who has not been among the erotically impaired." I mean, can you even imagine George asking Barbara to spread her legs a little wider so he can get it in, or Dick wetting his fingers with spit because Pat was too dry?
It's not since Jack Kennedy that we've had an energetically sexual human being running the country. Even if JFK actually neglected state business so he could take 20-minute breaks and get it on with some waiting, spread-legged blonde, even if he and Bobby both got it on with Marilyn at the same time (brothers, no less), even if the bastards really did kill her when she threatened to spill the beans, at least we could be comforted to know that there were a few molecules of genuine sexual sweat wandering around the Oval Office in those days. And I dare say, there will be some heartwarming sexual heat humidifying the White House bedrooms over the next four years. Bill just has that look, and the walk of a person who doesn't have a ramrod up his ass. Barbara Ehrenreich, no sighing groupie, notes (only half in jest) the potency of his "flared nostril, the finely curled lip, the studly angle of head," admiring "the restraint of the women in the audience [at the second televised debate with sexless George], who neither shrieked nor rushed the stage."
Did you catch that brief moment on the evening news, the day Clinton came to Washington to meet with Bush, when he said goodbye to Hillary after getting off the plane? He looks her right in the eye, she smiles back at him warmly. Then he leans toward her, cups her cheek in his palm, and kisses her, quickly but not superficially. I was watching very carefully because I believe that if you watch these little moments carefully enough you can know a whole lot about a person. And what I saw was that this is a sexual man who has real affection, respect, and more than a little pelvic attraction for his wife.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but the man comes with references. Gennifer Flowers, no pal of Wild Bill's these days, gives him a "9 out of a possible 10 as a lover," calls him "sensitive and caring" in bed, and says he "ate pussy like a champ." And I say if the president knows how to eat pussy like a champ, we're all likely to be better off.
Sexologists in San Diego
I spent a weekend in San Diego at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, the leading organization of sexologists in the country. There were some 600 people there, a very mixed group of professionals ranging from young to old, from radical to conservative, from playful to deadly serious, from scholarly to trivial. I must say that I have remarkable affection for this group of people, who are as much a community as a professional association, easily stigmatized and ridiculed, even those who spend much of their time wooing status and respectability from a skeptical and often hostile world. There may be almost as many homophobes, erotophobes, Republicans, ego maniacs, and neglectful parents among SSSS members as anywhere else, but one way or another, these are all sex-curious people ("intellectual sluts" in the words of Program Chair James Weinrich), and I leave SSSS meetings feeling deeply confirmed and nourished, even though I wish the general stance of the Society were more daring, more radical, more... well, sexy.
Workshops I particularly enjoyed included Peter S ndor Gardos speaking about the "history and theory of the come shot in porn films" (honest to God). Gardos finds that the men who get most turned on by watching come shots are the ones who have positive attitudes toward women. So much for the theory that coming on a woman is an act of misogynist domination. Paul Okami's well-researched paper on sex and children noted how most researchers almost deliberately confuse pedophiles with child molesters, and how the current media-hype concern on sexual abuse means that kids in day care centers are now almost never hugged, kissed, or held, and even held less in their families because parents are afraid of "bad touch" accusations.
Beverly Whipple ran down the current information on g-spots, g-spot orgasms, and female ejaculation. Briefly, ejaculate is simply not urine, all 400 women her researchers examined had g-spots, though for many the area was identifiable only when the woman was aroused. If you or your partner want to pursue g-spot orgasms, practice exercising your PC muscle (the one you would use to stop peeing in the middle), working up to three-second contractions, 150 times a day.
One of the most delightful experiences of the conference for me was hanging out with Andrew Martinez, the young man who's been pushing people's buttons by running around Berkeley naked. Andrew is a supremely sweet, modest, and sincere guy who just wants people to look at their fears of the naked body. Just as wearing a suit is an exercise in enforcing class barriers, Andrew comments, wearing clothes all the time is an exercise in enforcing Christian morality. SSSS, by the way, asked Andrew to wear clothes in public for the conference ("not that we have a problem with nudity," one board member explained, "but we're concerned because members of the press will be present"). Not surprisingly, Andrew was glad to pose nude for me on the patio outside my room, while three different women tagged along, to give him "moral support." Maybe we should print up Andrew Martinez posters and sell them to raise money for his legal defense fund....
Future Sex 2
The second issue of Future Sex is hot off the press and I have to say that the magazine is definitely coming along. It's still a mixed bag, but the photography is getting more interesting (especially images by Egon, Spencer Tunick, Tracy Mostovoy, and Steven Knoll), and some of the writing is delightful. Editor Lisa Palac's primer on anal sex is a good introduction to the subject. Richard Pacheco's honest tale of performance anxiety on a porn set is funny, human, and hopefully reassuring to all the guys who wonder why their cocks aren't as springloaded as cocks appear to be in sex flicks. The reviews of books, films, recordings, and software are intelligent and informative (I'm biased: Laura Miller was quite generous with my new book The Erotic Impulse). Doing a feature article extolling the products of an advertiser is questionable, and they need a good proofreader, but this is all part of getting the bugs out of the system.
Much of this issue really is about futuristic sex (up-coming erotic computer software, high-tech virtual reality machines, new age aphrodisiacs), which leaves me scratching my head and feeling decidedly of another generation. When software developer Mike Saenz says that "people want to remove excessive human contact" from their lives and that virtual reality sex is great because it "will free up some people and give them sexual adventure without the trappings of actually having a relationship," I begin to feel like I've stepped into a Brave New World that reflects my greatest fears rather than my greatest wishes.
Editors Palac, Miller, et al, certainly have a way to go in shaping and defining what they want to do with their magazine, but that's the way it is when you set about carving out new territory, especially new erotic territory. Their freshness is as infectious as it is unformed, so I for one want to encourage them to keep exploring and see where they end up. I just hope their vision of the future includes human beings, skin, touch -- you know, flesh and blood.
Spectator, November 13, 1992
Copyright © 1992 David Steinberg
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