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Getting the Goods
By Miriam Axel-Lute

Where to go in the Capital Region for sex toys and other supplies

Where do discerning Capital Region shoppers go for their erotic goodies and safer-sex necessities? We surveyed a sampling of the Capital Region’s very own establishments. Here’s what we found:

Amazing, 516 River St., Troy. Nestled under the ramp of the Collar City Bridge, Amazing from the outside projects the kind of atmosphere of sleaze that makes towns want to ban adult-movie stores from their limits. Not that Amazing is doing anything wrong, mind you. But a windowless build- ing with a steel- reinforced door and turquoise and purple signage that announces “En hance your life!” and “Video Arcade” is less than welcoming to many of us, shall we say.

But if you’re in the market for some of what Amazing sells, take a deep breath and get over it. Inside, except for the right-wing talk radio, it’s nothing to be scared of. True, its expected clientele is clearly male, as evidenced from the buxom models on all the sex-toy packaging and sign describing its movie categories (gay/bi = anything with male-on-male action. The men apparently don’t need to be warned about women getting it on with each other). But that doesn’t mean others can’t shop there in peace.

Amazing was definitely tops among the places we visited for variety and selection in penis pumps and blow-up dolls. And if you’re doing some serious dildo or vibrator shopping here, you’ve also got loads of options; however, caveat emptor. The selection includes a fair amount of cheap hard plastic on which you may have to file down uncomfortable seams, and jelly rubber, which gets tacky and sticky after a few uses. Silicone, the highest quality sex-toy material, is barely in evidence.

Adult World, 1100 Altamont Ave., Schenectady, has a slightly more welcoming ambience than Amazing from the outside, just for having windows (even though they are tall and narrow and you can’t see anything through them, as they’re covered in signs saying “videos,” “magazines,” etc.) and a normal looking door. A sign outside the door lets you know you’re in a city that’s had legal fights over “adult” stores: “Only persons having a scientific, governmental, educational, or similar reason for viewing or purchasing any of the items herein, may enter.” Of course all of the items therein are very educational.

Take a deep breath after your chuckle, however—Adult World reeks of smoke inside. It offers much of the same merchandise as Amazing, with a slightly less varied selection, except for a more complete (though still not too huge) selection of kink supplies—crops, restraints, etc. No talk radio here—instead the background noise is soundtracks of moaning women floating out of the “video arcade” in the back of the store. You could consider this free aural stimulation, or an annoying distraction, but you’re not likely to ignore it.

Leather lovers of any stripe can’t pass up a trip to Russ and Rebel, 922 Troy Schenectady Road (Route 7) in Latham. They’ve got leather motorcycle jackets, handbags, wallets, etc. in abundance. But in the corner one set of shelves also sports a relatively comprehensive set of kink equipment: collars, masks, crops, lashes, paddles, and gags, plus strap-on harnesses and a few non-leather pieces of equipment, such as handcuffs and nipple clamps. They have a few brands of lube to go with it all, including one of silicone for the glycerin-sensitive. They do have a very small selection of dildos behind the counter (because of the kids. I know—it sounds weird at first, but if you don’t know what the kink stuff is, you wouldn’t know what it is, if you know what I mean, while the dildos are all in X-rated packaging).

Also in the back of the first floor you’ll find a healthy selection of fetish/drag/stripper clothing, from bikini underwear in every color under the rainbow to thigh-high spike-heel boots and feather-boa-edged robes.

The atmosphere at Russ and Rebel couldn’t be more different from Amazing and Adult World: It’s just a classy, friendly clothing store, with some bondage stuff in the corner.

If atmosphere is everything, nothing says sex is normal and unshameful like having your sex supplies scattered among the other merchandise. At Romeo’s Gifts on 299 Lark St. in Albany, you can pick up a painting of a cluster of asparagus for your kitchen, some X-rated greeting cards, earrings, statuettes, dildos and butt plugs, classy home decorations, and a couple of bottles of lube or a game of erotic dice. You get the picture. Compared to the stores that specialize in the sex stuff, the selection is not huge, but it’s quality, and for Albanians who don’t want a drive, it’s probably your best shot.

If you’re as picky about your lube as you are about your food (or about your sex toys!) you may want to check out the Honest Weight Food Co-op, 484 Central Ave., Albany, which stocks a few “all-natural” varieties in its health-and-beauty-aids section. There you can find lube with all organic ingredients (think aloe vera, for example), as well as homeopathic formulas that are supposed to relieve irritation and provide some protection against yeast infection and others that are supposed to help with the effects of menopause. We didn’t, however, see any sex toys—made of organic rubber or otherwise.

The closest thing to comprehensive the Capital Region has may be Déjà Vu, in the Wolf Road Shoppers Park, amusingly a neighbor of the Chapel of St. Francis. There the ambience is one of fun and play. It has a normal storefront, from which the front half of the store, full of hippie clothing and paraphernalia, is visible. The back half is devoted primarily to sex supplies.

Sex novelties like bachelorette-party penis-shaped drink stirrers and “koochy combs” mix with some pretty serious sex toys, and their safer-sex supplies, unlike the other places we’ve mentioned, actually include female condoms and dental dams, not just condoms. Much of the merchandise is higher quality here—silicone dildos are common, and they also carry high-end, handcrafted solid glass ones. Your humble researcher even saw something completely new to her: glass dildos with attachments on the end for fitting into a power drill. I choose to believe that the drills they have in mind come with a “low” setting.

Déjà Vu also has a wide range of slings and swings for creative positioning, Kama Sutra sets and a good amount of kink supplies, including some no-nonsense wooden paddles. (Please sir, may I have another?) The staff is young and of both genders, and the colorful signs saying “Buy a sex toy, get 30% off a lube” and the how-to books placed next to the relevant equipment reinforce the idea that the proprietors don’t feel that they’re engaged in a seedy business.

If you’re looking for condom variety, drug stores like CVS and Eckerd still have all of these shops beat, offering dozens and dozens of types to the others folks’ average of three or four. And the lube selection is picking up a little too: The drugstores (or maybe it’s K-Y) have gotten a little less uptight about pretending what K-Y is or is not for. New offerings like K-Y “warming” jelly are really just this side of Kama Sutra jellies. On the other hand, if price is driving your search for safer-sex supplies, don’t forget Planned Parenthood. Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood (, sites in Albany, Troy, Latham, and Hudson) sells condoms, female condoms, and dental dams priced on a sliding scale.

Of course, don’t forget to look in unlikely places as well, from bondage rope at Home Depot to battery-powered “massagers” at Sharper Image.

If you’re looking for some really specialized stuff—thigh-mounted dildo harnesses, violet wands, male chastity belts—you may still need to take a trip to Boston (www.grand or New York City (www.babe or turn to the Internet (, But the good news is, if you want something to have fun with tonight in the Capital Region, you’ve got a pretty good chance of finding it in your own backyard.

 You Said It

The highlights of Metroland’s 2005 sex survey

Describe the circumstances of the best sex you’ve ever had.

At an experimental arts event next to a giant flaming sculpture, the love of my life and I sat on the ground with her in my lap wearing a dress but no underwear. We pulled my pants down just enough so that her dress would still conceal our private bits. In the height of our passions a few people noticed and came over to sprinkle fresh rose petals all over us.

Completely in love, outdoors in the spring, in back of Olana.

First time with my then-new girlfriend. She came into the bedroom; I figured she’d have a nightgown or robe, but she was totally naked. It was such a vulnerable act, it gave me chills.

Brand new porno, 10 minutes jerking it, no talking, no cuddling.

Blow job in back of Dodge Omni.

My girlfriend at the time called me at 3 AM drunk and horny. She promised to let me do anything I wanted to her if I picked her up right away. It was a crazy night, and the best part was she asked me to do it all over again when she was sober the next day.

I was 16; I went bar hopping in Schenectady with a 23-year-old hottie. None of the bartenders questioned my age because I was with such a looker. We ended up back at her place. Probably because of my age and level of excitement I never ended up losing the wood. We went for two hours and I must have come at least five times.

A penthouse studio in Manhattan . . . long rainy Sundays . . . silence but for the motions of our bodies . . . smoke . . . wine . . . hungry natural instincts sated.

Fucking my love in the ass while she was masturbating with a vibrator. She turned into a 5-foot-4 warm, squishy, writhing vibrator for me.

69 with wife tied to the bed.

Both of us married (not to each other), a motel room, and a long lunch.

My place, longtime boyfriend, Apocalypse Now in the background (sound turned down), living room floor and sofa, deeply, deeply in love.


Describe one fulfilled sexual fantasy.

Sex with someone I looked at for 20 years.

Being fucked in the ass, while on Ecstasy, by a sexy girl in a pretty strap-on.

I was having sex with my girlfriend when my roommate walked in on us. We asked him to join and we all took turns fooling around.

Having sex outside while it’s snowing, just outside our condo in Lake Placid.

My husband hired two guys with incredibly big dicks to pleasure me for two hours while he took pictures.

I had a threesome with two of my roommates. It wasn’t all I thought it could be. The two girls were so into each other that I felt like a third wheel.

Sex on a tropical ocean with a man I love.

Being with two bi men.

Coming on my wife’s tits while she played with her pussy.

Once my love and I discovered a waterfall, took a dip in the pool at its base, and then made love in the dirt and mud on the bank of the stream.

Anal. . . . The young, conservative, Ivy League, suburban woman insisted. What could I do?


What fantasy of yours would you most like to enact?

A threesome—myself and two men.

I would really like to have my wife taken by another man.

I want to do Albany River Rat Ilkka Pikkarainen after a game with his skates still on.

Two cops at the same time.

Double penetrating a girl with another guy or a girl with a strap on.

To have a bunch of good-looking guys masturbate into receptacle and then mix all the semen together. Refrigerate it and use it as lube when I’m masturbating.

Photographing Teri Hatcher nude in her shower.

Sex on public transportation.


I don’t have fantasies, I make plans.


What fantasy of yours is best kept a fantasy?

Being a rock star—I’d die of AIDS.

With a porpoise.

The “training” of a virgin guy of 16 or 17.


Fisting the wifey.

Watching P. Hilton having sex. Those lips are annoying.

Having sex with many many many many many male partners as a woman. (I’m a guy.).

It involves 10 women.


What’s the worst situation sex has gotten you into?

A full-scale divorce with all the trimmings.

We were attracted to each other, had much in common, and got along real well. All of which was perfectly obvious to her glowering, big husband watching nearby.

My current lover and my just-dumped lover wound up getting jobs at desks facing each other three feet apart. My office was 30 feet away.


When I was 39, I fucked nine college guys on a boat in Cancun until their girlfriends came back from shopping and caused a major scene. The pictures ended up on eBay.

I once fooled around with a couple who I thought were old hands at the multiple-partners thing. They weren’t, and were, in fact very uncomfortable about the whole thing and they had some real problems afterwards.

Seven days of antibiotics.

When she said “There’s something I have to tell you. . . . I’m a she-male.”

Feeling like a creep after fucking an ex-girlfriend while visitng her as “a friend.”


What’s the most inappropriate sexual situation you’ve ever been in?

Full-on sex while driving down the freeway. Made me realize why people have tinted windows, and why I need them.

A one-nighter with a man I despised. Ugh.

Having intercourse up in a loft over the living room at my girlfriend’s parents house during a family get-together. The living room was filled with all of her extended family, kids and old folks alike.

I was with a married man who was the father of one of my students. We were both out one night and ran into each other. Not appropriate, but very hot.

Sex with a much-older professor in college.

Having sex with an intern at my company who was nine years younger than me.

A friend and I started getting really physical at a party, in the host’s bedroom, with a woman we just met. He threw us all out.

Banging the girl next door who just happened to also be my older brother’s girlfriend.


What’s the best come-on you’ve ever heard?

“I can’t wait to tell you how good you feel inside me.”

“I’ll help you move” (as in, to a new apartment).

“Hey, I might not be the cutest one here. . . . But I am the only one talking to you.”

A guy spoke Russian to me—I had no idea what he was saying, but it really turned me on!

“If I flip a coin, what do you reckon my chances are of getting head?”

“Come in our [girls’] locker room and staple papers for us.”

“I’m not into the whole bar scene. I enjoy a good movie and a bottle of wine.” (Only to later find out he has been kicked out of every bar in the Capital District.)

“Do you have a Band-Aid? Cos’ I just scraped my knee falling for you.”

“I’m really drunk, but if I were sober, I’d rock your world.”


What’s the strangest?

“Can we just lie together naked, no touching?”

“Seriously honey—sex is like pizza. Even if it’s bad it’s still pretty darn good.”

At a Chinese restaurant, while I had a mouthful of food, another patron walks past, drops a business card and says, “Call me.”

“If I beat you at pool, I get to shave you.”

“I want to wrap your legs around my head and wear you like a feed-bag.”


What’s your craziest sex story that your friends still don’t believe?

A man walked nearly a mile, barefoot, to get to me.

A guy I knew was a detective and took me on a “sting” as part of his cover. We were at a bar, hanging out with another “cop couple,” and after they busted the guy, we had hot sex in the bathroom of the place.

Sex in Washington Park many times, never caught.


Tell us your best story about getting caught in the act.

Caught by a cop with my legs wrapped around my partner’s face—and I knew the cop.

I’m a senior in high school, and haven’t come out to my parents yet. I live in a dorm. Mom comes for an unannounced visit and walks in on my girlfriend and me making out in my room. We jump apart and stare at her like deer in headlights. She runs away. My girlfriend is still there when Mom comes back a few minutes later. My girlfriend, terrified, literally HIDES IN THE CLOSET for the entire time I process with Mom.

At a hotel in Saratoga, fucking a friend of my husband on the pool stairs, in heels, while my husband took pictures. Then all the lights came on and the night manager and security guard confronted us, and pointed out that the security cameras were running 24/7. They kicked us out and told us never to use the hotel again.

In high school I was eating out a female friend when my mom got home. We managed to get our clothes back on, but I had to explain why my face was all crusty.

My mom telling me she had to turn up the television to drown out the noise of my boyfriend and I having sex.

What is your most common source for new fantasies and new ideas of what to do in bed?

Best Bisexual Erotica series.

X-rated videos, especially ones that are polished and inviting.

Metroland, of course.

I’m never monogamous, so I am always learning from new people and disseminating the information gleaned.

DVDs, videos, and Savage Love.

The Internet.

The Metroland sex survey.

Reading “letters” supposedly sent in by subscribers to mens’ skin mags.

My own dirty mind.

Books of old erotic art.

“How-to” books.


What’s the minimum sexual activity that counts as cheating?

Lustful desire.

Sensual kissing.

Contact with penis or vagina.

Heavy petting.

French kissing and petting without partner’s permission.

Oral sex without a condom.

It depends on what you and your partner are OK with. To some, full on intercourse is not cheating but to others not keeping every part of your skin covered when out of the house is a betrayal, let alone a small smile.

Kissing with sexual intent.

If your partner knows and is OK with it—do anything you want! If you haven’t talked about it, anything shared by both “cheating” parties that really turns you on is going too far.


If you have an “arrangement” with a long-term partner that allows for sex with others under limited circumstances, what are those circumstances?

No anal sex. Oral sex is OK, but with a condom.

Everybody has to use latex. Our family is top priority, and any outside involvements that would destabilize the family are not OK. But low-intensity sexual relationships outside the family are OK.

Be honest. Don’t like them better. Don’t bring any STDs home.

As long as the other one gets told about it, it’s not cheating.

My husband makes all the arrangements for me to have sex with other men. They must be willing to allow him to be in the room and to take photos or they do not get me.

It changes all the time depending on how we feel and what the specific situation is. Basically we just talk about how we are feeling and do what we are both OK with.

No $$ paid.


What’s your most embarrassing masturbation story?

My mother wondered why the water bill was so high, and then she caught me masturbating with the water spigot in the bathtub.

I was driving home from college and it was a long ride so I decided to play with myself. Everything was going good until I noticed a truck driver staring at me. I freaked out and sped away and he gave me a “honk honk.”

That I never masturbated until I was 20.

Watching porn and masturbating to it when my grandma walked in and thought I was playing guitar. The porn had a really cool, new-age guitar background sound.

One of my roommates walked in on me masturbating and I managed to cover up for the most part. He stood there chatting for about half an hour then went “Oh my” and walked out.

Friend knows about how I masturbated into socks (and I don’t know how he knows).

I went to the hot tub outside our hotel in Myrtle Beach. It was closed and no lights were on, so I took off my bottoms and had a good long orgasm to the forceful jets. When I got out, clapping and cheers broke out—there were 20 or more golfers out on their balconies watching. Turns out, with the full moon reflecting off the ocean, they’d been able to see everything.


Tell us about the best sexual surprise you’ve ever had.

My boyfriend in red underwear on Valentine’s Day—with a hole cut out.

The first time I was with two lovers at the same time and it was easy and comfortable. I figured it would always be a little awkward. But when you all know each other well enough sometimes it’s just simple and sweet and yummy.

I went to use the bathroom, and came back to my boyfriend’s room where we had been chatting and having wine and he was gone. All of a sudden his closet doors open and he jumped out wearing a wolf mask and boxer shorts! It was great sex with lots of laughter too.

Straight-laced-seeming girlfriend using quite erotic language.

That a woman’s orgasms after I come can be extremely intense, so keep going at any cost or method.

We were both camp counselors. When we finally “got down to business,” I found out he was like Billy Fucillo—HUGE!


Tell us about a dream come true that went bad.

Sex with another girl. No go.

My first experience with two guys together. It turned out they were so homophobic that they were worried about even touching each other. I ended up kicking them out.

One evening after a romantic dinner, my girl decided to treat me by eating me for dessert. She had me wear a condom. Then the metalwork on a tooth bridge hooked on the top of the rubber, slowly pulling it off. So it became a race—would I come before it came off? I did, but it turned a great time into a tense race, and a tricky clean-up job.


What’s the strangest place you’ve had sex?

On a deserted baseball diamond.

Airport ladies’ room in Phoenix on a very short break between flights.

Roof of Exit 9 Denny’s.

An airplane lavatory at 30,000 feet.

In a porta-potty with the stench of old piss.

In an above-ground swimming pool with her little brother nearby.

Outside Harris Bay, Lake George, on an old dock on the opposite side of a boat slip on Mother’s Day while people were walking to their boats, just enough lower that passersby would have to look down to see us.

On a car hood.


What’s the strangest place you’ve masturbated?

NYC subway, midday, vibrator inside my jeans.

At work, in the beer cooler, with a green pepper.

The tanning hut. I just can’t help myself: I’m naked, and it’s so hot.

The grocery store.

While fishing along a beautiful trout stream.

In the arboretum in my undergraduate colleague with a straight (or at least I think he is) friend.

In the john at the Chicago airport.


What’s your favorite sex toy?

A lovely little black-rubber dildo.

“Woody” dildo from Good Vibrations. Mine is sparkly gold.

Butt plug.

My hand.

A leather cock-and-ball harness.

My good old-fashioned vibrator.

The mind.

Fleshy-textured vibrator.


What’s your favorite sex toy that wasn’t intended to be a sex toy?

An electric toothbrush.

Plastic zigzagged swizzle stick.

The glass stopper to a fancy antique bottle. The end that fit into the bottle was smooth and about the size and shape of a penis head; the other end was a sphere a bit bigger than that.


A grapefruit.

Soiled panties.

Shower loofah.

Roll-on deodorant. When I was about 10, I used to rub it on my penis prior to pulling the pudster. For some reason I got it through my head (no pun intended) that the deodorant is what made me come.

Corn on the cob with a studded condom.

A one-pint plastic Poland Spring water bottle. Fill with warm water to the top and put the cap on tight. Remove the green label and clean. If it begins to lose its effect, move up a size.


What sexual discovery has changed your life?


That everyone is completely different sexually in what they like to do and how they feel and respond to different stimuli.

Web cam!

Being exposed to gay sex and muscular, hot guys.

Monogamy isn’t necessarily the only way.

I went through a period of about two years, after a painful breakup, when I’d all but lost interest in sex altogether. Fortunately, and occasionally unfortunately, I found it again.

Unlocking the back door.

A member of the clergy recommended that I meditate and masturbate daily as part of my spiritual practice. That cleared up any residual shame I might have had about masturbating!

The fact that I come extremely quickly if someone plays with my ass.

That sex is the perhaps the greatest gift God gave us.

Sex is not a technique learning like cooking, but an expression of one’s emotions toward your partner.


What is your favorite kink, and why does that turn you on?

To be tied to the bed, a chair, etc. You can’t get involved, and it’s all about you.

Anal sex, because it’s all about trust.

Female squirting.

Role-playing. Most of the roles I choose are ones where I am submissive. I love being dominated.

Double penetration. I think it’s because I love to see women come really hard and I also love anal sex.

Other people’s kinks. Everybody has something they are afraid to ask for because people might laugh, or be disgusted, or just not care enough to want to do it. I love it when people trust me enough to tell me what they want, and I love doing for them what most people won’t. Maybe I’m just a romantic trapped in a pervert’s body.

Being peed on.

Watching a guy’s dick spurt come. I love having control in my hand, knowing I control the outcome of when he comes and how far.

Bald beavers. Nothing interrupts cunnilingus.

My wife acting like a sex-crazed slut.

Being used by two or more people. I think I like it because it becomes much more, for lack of a better term, organic, cooperative.

Ejaculating into a used condom that my partner ejaculated into. Saves money, and allows my semen to mix with his, creating an “out-of-body” union.


What’s the most unusual thing you do to get yourself in the mood?

Eat vanilla pudding, in a hot bath.

Wander around unlikely places (someone else’s house, a grocery store, etc.) looking for things whose shape would be fun to masturbate with.

Listen to a Social Distortion CD.

Save up sperm for three days. (Abstinence.)

Answering the Metroland sex survey waiting for my lover to get ready for bed.

I’m almost always in the mood.

Go to Thruway rest stops and engage in “dick peeping” in the men’s room. I hate bathrooms with partitions between urinals.


What’s your best story about watching or being watched?

Being invited to watch my boyfriend’s best friend jerk off in the kitchen. His dad came home and almost caught us.

I was once dating two girls; one liked to watch, it worked out well. It was like her own little interactive porn.

One of my girlfriend’s friends is an artist and wanted to do a charcoal of us nude. While she was drawing us I started eating my girlfriend out. When the friend was done drawing us, she masturbated and we all came.

I was at college on the fourth floor of the student union. A couple went at it in the woods below, then went at it again. I doubt they realized they could be seen from above.

Being hired out by my husband for a bachelor party to fuck the groom on stage. All the guys then chipped in $25 for a chance to have their name drawn out of a hat for a second show. The best man’s father was the name drawn.


What’s the best response you’ve gotten to delivering challenging/unexpected news to a potential sex partner (e.g. you’re HIV positive, married, or passing for a different gender)?

My wife told the guy she had a crush on that she was interested in him, but also married. He said “Oh, that means you’re polyamorous! I am too!” and they hooked up. Later I joined in.

“Good, me too.”

A blow job.

“No thanks!”


What would your utopian sexual society look like?

We’d all be allowed two partners—one for every day and one for special occasions.

Sex in the City and all the soaps combined.

No STDs, coupling upon arousal.

Less concern about sex and sexual activity and more concern about relationships between people. The friendships, love, and trust are the things that make the sex worthwhile.

Everyone being considered sexy and desirable regardless of race, size, orientation, etc. Then safe sex for all!


Rooming with 10 to 15 “free” single women.

Everyone in shape and mature enough to handle sex in a nonjudgmental fashion.

There would be “sex rooms” in virtually every building, just as there are restrooms, and people could have sex whenever they wanted in those rooms (provided they were of legal age and it was consensual).

An embedded bar code in the body that could be scanned for sexual profiles for ease of hooking up.

Universal nudity, so you wouldn’t be so curious what’s under those clothes.

The most important values would be honesty and caring for how our actions affect others.

Can You Feel It?
By Jo Page

Some of cinema’s most erotic scenes could score a PG rating—sometimes it’s what you don’t see that turns you on


My mother had big knuckles, so when she clapped her hand over my eyes there was still enough space between her fingers for me to get a pretty good glimpse of what was happening.

They were doing it, though I didn’t know what “doing it” was.

If there was skin I didn’t see any. What I did see was a close up of Anouk Aimee’s face. She looked distraught, as if something was hurting her a substantial amount. Or maybe it was just that she looked sad. Either way it didn’t seem to me that doing it had all that much to recommend it.

I have never been able to figure out why my mother brought me to see A Man and a Woman. It was already a few years old, its reputation well-known. Maybe she figured I’d forget what I had seen. Maybe she figured I’d forget what I had heard.

But I didn’t. That was my first erotic scene—though I didn’t have a word for what to call it—and it stayed with me. Very early on I began to discover that there is a difference between the erotic, the explicit and the romantic.

A romantic scene charms you—John Cusack with his boom box in Say Anything, Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll handcuffed to each other in The 39 Steps.

An explicit scene startles you, but also distances you: Think of the mechanistic orgy in Eyes Wide Shut, where more is really less, or the pretentious brutality of Blue Velvet.

But an erotic scene invites you right into it.

Erotic scenes are nearly tactile, often wordless. There may be a lot of skin involved, or little. There may be sex or not. That’s all beside the point because an erotic scene is more participatory than voyeuristic. It’s not about what the characters show or what the characters do; it’s about what the viewer feels.

So where will you find some truly erotic scenes?

It isn’t necessarily to be found in what you see.

You won’t see anything at all in A Very Long Engagement. That’s because Audrey Tautou removes one article of clothing at a time—and that happens only in the darkness between the matches that Gaspard Ulliel, her lover, strikes. We hear the rasp of the match. We see a flash of light. She has taken off another garment. The match goes out. But the darkness itself promises more.

That’s the funny thing about genuinely sexy movies: They leave you hungering for more. So often sex in movies seems like the plastic sushi in the windows of Japanese restaurants: bright, perfect, fake.

By the time Nicole Kidman and Jude Law finally get the chance to have sex in Cold Mountain, the Civil War has destroyed their lives. Plus, they’re supposed to be dirty. They haven’t flossed, brushed or put on clean underwear in a dog’s age. And on top of all that, they’ve never even done it together before.

So why do they move around that cold twig-and-wattle hut as if they were old hands in a featherbed at the Ritz-Carlton? I didn’t believe a bit of it. And so it wasn’t erotic at all.

(On the other hand, watching Sam Neill wash Nicole Kidman’s hair aboard their sailboat in Dead Calm is totally erotic. I’ll have some of that shampoo, please.)

But unlike the single-wrapped sliced-cheese feel of the sex in Cold Mountain, Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in Indiscreet manage chemistry fully-clothed, with their characters on opposite sides of the English Channel.

In the split-screen scene they lie in bed talking to each other on the phone between London and Paris. She rests her hand on top of where his would be if he were lying beside her. He reaches out and pats the place where her bottom would be if she were lying beside him. You know what would happen next if they were side-by-side.

And there is no on-screen kiss as plainly erotic as Cary Grant’s and Ingrid Bergman’s in Notorious.

They stand on a balcony in Rio. It’s dusk. You can hear the ocean. They’re talking about dinner. About eating in instead of going out. She’s talking about making a chicken. You can tell she’s no cook.

But all the while their lips are touching, moving, kissing as they speak. It’s a very long kiss, a breathy kiss, a talky kiss—not that any of the talking makes any kind of sense. Because it’s all prelude. A literal amuse-bouche, as the French call their appetizers. And by the time they are finished kissing we—and they—are hungry for so much more than chicken.

Everybody knows that not all nudity is necessarily erotic. But Nicolas Roeg’s murder mystery Don’t Look Now, based on a Daphne du Maurier short story, has the sexiest nude love scene I’ve ever watched. With Pino Donaggio’s moving score, it’s a series of jump cuts between Donald Sutherland’s and Julie Christie’s candidly naked bodies in bed and the domestic gestures of their shared bathing, dressing, grooming, We are drawn into these intimate moments as if they were our own moments, shared with someone well-known and well-loved.

We don’t see any sex in The Girl on the Bridge. Here the erotic is unfolds as metaphor. But what a metaphor: Daniel Auteuil is a sometimes blindfolded knife-thrower and Vanessa Paradis becomes his human target.

Because he loves her, Auteuil’s character must be at his best—keen, strong and accurate. Anything less could kill her. But for him to be at his best she must trust his ability no less than she trusts his love.

With each knife he throws we feel almost palpably the pattern of trusting and risking that makes love so strong a bond. And maybe that’s what makes a scene truly erotic: to feel that ultimately there is safety in daring to find sanctuary in the body of the lover.

Three’s Company, Too
By John Brodeur

Threesomes are an ever-present fantasy—and for some, they’re a living arrangement

‘I had a threesome with two of my roommates,” says Mike, a 32-year-old computer engineer. “The two girls were so into each other that I felt like a third wheel. As they were gratifying each other, I attempted to enter one of them, and really just felt as if I was getting in the way.”

Two girls at the same time—it’s every straight man’s fantasy, they say, although relatively few actually get to fulfill their wet dream. When and if they do make the big score, they’re oft left less-than-thrilled with the results. (Obviously, it works in other ways, too—two guys and a girl, three guys, three girls—but none of the women we spoke with shared any negative memories of their experiences, and we didn’t reach any all-male threesomes, so for the sake of the argument . . . )

That’s not to say the concept of a good, steamy, Penthouse Forum-worthy group-shag is a complete fallacy. Django, a 26-year-old ad executive, recounts his own experiences. “I went home with one girl and . . . her roommate was home when we got there. The next thing I know, the two of them start making out right in front of me. One thing led to another and . . . well, it was pretty great. I’d do it again anytime.”

Of course he would.

The two girls, on the other hand, had a slightly different view. “We planned the whole thing out,” recalls Staci. “We just wanted to have some fun with a boy.”

Michelle (Staci’s roommate) continues, “Yeah, I think he got the wrong idea. He called, like, five times after that.”

Others who have not had the experience themselves relay a more utopian vision of what their ultimate threesome would be like. Alejandro, a 45-year-old novelist, says, “The true ménage-a-trois fantasy? I’m having sex with someone who’s really hot, while the third person is cleaning my house and taking care of my bills.” Not necessarily a P.C. point of view, but perhaps he’s onto something.

While many folks might think of a threesome as a one-night stand, a growing number of relationship risk-takers have adapted the concept into a lifestyle. Dear ol’ Dubya might have a coronary imagining this, what with that whole “sanctity of marriage” business he’s been going on about, but three-partner relationships (triads, triangles, triples, triumvirates, threesomes—all the terms sound awkward, really) tend to thrive, in part due to the very concept of a “third wheel.”

Scott, Harry and Jenn have been involved in various romantic permutations for almost 10 years. Scott’s version of the brief history: “Jenn and I went to college No. 1 together. Harry and I went to college No. 2 together. Jenn moved to the Albany area and things slowly coalesced over a number of years. Jenn and I got married in 1998. Harry and I shared various dwellings between 1997 and afterwards. Harry moved in to Jenn’s and my house in 2001.”

Things were more complicated than that, of course. Jenn explains, “Scott and I did great at school for one-and-a-half years until he moved to a university here (in Albany). . . . We had about three years of this long-distance thing. . . . Then I moved to the Capital District to be closer to a woman I was planning on living with. That didn’t work out at all, but Scott and I spent a ton of time rebuilding our emotional (and sexual) ties.”

In the 18 months that led up to Scott’s and Jenn’s wedding, the couple began spending more and more time with Harry. “We remained very close, and a few times I would make out with one or both of them,” says Harry.

“[Harry] gave us matching hickeys two weeks after our wedding,” Jenn recalls.

Harry continues, “One day Jenn asked me to move in, since I was looking for a new place, so three months later I moved in with them.”

“I realized I wanted Harry to stay,” says Jenn, “that he was a part of the family, and I’d be devastated if he left.”

Horace explains the circumstances that led to his relationship with Stella and Rachel. “The girls were together for years before they met me; we were all living in or around NYC. They and I had independently found and hung out with the polyamorous network down there.” (Polyamory is defined as “the theory and practice of openly maintaining multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships,” according to The relationship began with Horace’s romantic overtures toward Stella, and shortly thereafter, a bond also blossomed with Rachel.

“I was spending tremendous amounts of time at their place. After a couple of months, the travel time . . . just became an annoyance. . . . [They] found they were both feeling the ‘center of gravity’ of the relationship shifting to somewhere between the three of us. So from a very early stage, I was kind of let in as a full member of this household.”

A three-way relationship has the built-in potential for plenty of three-way sex, but, as Scott points out, there are many more reasons why it works. Finances, for example, and “one more person to take care of the kids, one more person to send out to do errands, another car.”

“[We’re hoping that] splitting child care three ways [will] help avoid parenting burnout,” says Horace. “[Having] more role models for kids is better, too, in my book.”

He continues, “Beyond that, it keeps you sane. A third person is . . . an extra perspective that can stop crazy ideas before they take hold. If both your partners are saying ‘no, really, you’re just completely off base,’ you kind of have to start listening. I’d say upward of 85 percent of arguments between couples come down to communication issues—people are talking past each other, not really answering each other’s concerns. . . . A third partner [can] spot those misunderstandings and expose them.”

That seems to be the common thread: honesty and communication. (Funny, those things are generally regarded as the cornerstones of any relationship.) Scott says, “From an emotional standpoint, the other two people serve as a reality check. If one of us gets way out of line, the other two can have an intervention.

“As for disadvantages, there are plenty of those. At this point, introducing one’s same-sex partner is not necessarily as completely alien as it once was, but introducing two partners is looked at somewhat askance.”

Horace adds, “Lots of negotiation—couples may get by without really talking about anything . . . but that can never fly for us. We spend a lot of time working things out.”

Is polyamory for you? Everyone interviewed agreed that it’s something that needs to happen completely naturally, that can’t be rushed into or forced, but if you’re curious to find out more, or perhaps become involved in a three-or-more-partner relationship, there’s plenty of information available online at alt.polyamory. Also, the PolyLiving 2005 conference will take place in Philadelphia Feb. 18-20 (more details at

Of course, if you’re just going for one of those Penthouse Forum type of things, we kindly recommend saving up some money, because odds are your bar tab is going to skyrocket.

Sowing the Wild Barley
By Devon Kirkpatrick

Far from the stereotype of ultra-monogamous lesbians, college-age dykes are experimenting with open relationships, and with new perspectives on monogamy

I landed on the East Coast in 2000, a naïve 18-year-old dyke-in-training, flown in from the tropics and ready to absorb a liberal-arts education. When I moved from Honolulu to New York for my freshman year of college, not only had I never experienced a winter, I’d never experienced a woman. I had XXX-tra curricular activity dancing on the back of my eyelids when I dreamed at night, but by daylight, my sex life was fresh from the closet and smelled of clean laundry. My budding sexuality glowed as white as a blank canvas begging to be splattered with rainbow paint.

Finding myself in the company of other dykes my age, I felt giddy and excited to try new things in this permissive atmosphere. And lo and behold, before my first year was complete I owned my very first pair of long underwear, and beneath those, my very first (and thankfully, only) glow-in-the-dark mail-order dildo.

Liberal-arts colleges are generally a safe setting for young queer folk to define and express their sexuality as they see fit. During my tenure as an undergrad, Skidmore College threw an annual DIVA night, where all students were encouraged to express sexuality through costume, and dance the night away in a gymnasium with gay, straight and lesbian porn projected on televisions in the corner, while being showered with condoms and dental dams by scantily-clad contraceptive fairies. I arrived at DIVA with an entourage of penis-packing girls in drag. We proceeded to gyrate and proudly shake-what-our-mommas-didn’t-give us, and I thought, Eureka! This is it! We were brilliant because we were kinky, perverse, and pushing sexual boundaries.

These brazen exhibitions only symbolized the real stuff, however. The juicy stuff was the boundaries my friends and I expanded, retracing them between the sheets. We challenged not only the idea that sex should be limited to after heterosexual marriage, but the idea that it was even limited to any sort of long-term partnerships or exclusive partnerships, or that casual sex would “ruin” friendships.

In the interest of admiring our exploits, a friend of mine and I once sat down sketched a web, similar to the one (for those Showtime fans out there) drawn by the character Alice on The L-Word, which mapped, through liplock or more, all the dykes we could think of in our community. As we stepped back to observe the final product, my friend exclaimed “Good God! You’re like Chicago O’Hare!” But when I looked closer, I saw that most of the lines growing out of my name united me with friends with whom I’d had no “real” romantic relationship, just casual erotic encounters or a little smooching.

I felt a surge of pride when I looked at the marked-up sheet of yellow construction paper. The climate of my social life was brilliantly charged with sexual energy. It brought me back to the early 90’s, when I was playing doctor with my friends and telling girls on my soccer team to call me Pierro the Lovah, only now I had the added advantage of having gone through puberty. A game as adolescent as Spin the Bottle, when initiated in the right setting, allowed us to test the boundaries of our comfort zones, and expectations about how we should or should not act with our friends.

It generally worked well. At one such party the atmosphere overcame me and I ended up in bed with a visiting lover I had met while traveling in Spain, and a couple made up of two of my best friends. The mood of the party said “You’re attracted to these people, you know you’re safe with them, now scoot to the bedroom lickety-tit!” Luckily, these good feelings translated to the next morning, and I think the sex enhanced my friendship with the couple, by allowing it an added intimacy. And as far as their relationship is concerned, what we did contributed to their developing a polyamorous element to it.

We didn’t just do this stuff; we theorized about it. One woman decided that she has many hearts with which to love. In that way, she can give her whole heart to her girlfriend and express love to other friends and family without ever diminishing her love toward one person. “There is always a part of me that is not accessed by one person,” she explains.

Consciously or unconsciously, we were trying to shatter the stereotype of queer women as knee-jerk masters of monogamy. “What does a lesbian bring on her second date?” “A U-HAUL!” Ha ha, hoo. Ha. I’ve heard that one before. Doesn’t apply here.

All this freedom from the pressures of enforced monogamy is great. But sometimes it can become its own kind of pressure. As young queer women, we exist in a world where gray boundaries are not only accepted, but often encouraged. I know girls who desire monogamy, but admit to it in hushed voices, like it’s a dirty little secret. “My name is ***** and I like monogamy!” It’s as if they’re in an AA meeting admitting to a psychological disorder.

Perhaps it’s because our freedom to fuck openly as young queer women was fought for so dearly. Am I not taking advantage of the doors that opened so that I could live outside of tradition? Should I feel ashamed if I don’t choose to push boundaries further? I say keep this discussion alive.

To those queer women out there having sex that works for them, as traditional or otherwise as it may be, I raise my glass up my ass, stomp my handcuffed feet and smack my vaginal lips to you. As for me, after four years of college, I finally settled on a sensible strap-on, and one beautiful girl who understands how I work on many levels. For now, at least, we are monogamous, and I’m not distressed by that. Somebody cue the organ music, please!

Sometimes I wonder if I should still be out there strapping it on for a plethora of ladies and sowing my ovarian seed, but I’ve learned to appreciate comfortable and creative as well as hot and sexy. I still have eyes, I still have an imagination. And I still get butterflies in my stomach when I look at her. And that’s still awfully radical.

For the Girls
By Kevin Abbott

Straight guys aren’t the only ones who enjoy watching female strippers

You’ve been to the same bars over and over again for months now. The scene has gotten stale, and somehow you keep seeing the same damn people again and again. There has to be an alternative that still involves the booze, but has nothing at all to do with bowling—something exotic, exciting. You call up the guys for ideas.

They suggest a strip club. You say, “Hell, why not a strip club?”

This is more or less how it went down for Alexis, who has been to two other strip clubs since the first time she went with her ex-boyfriend and some male friends of his.

“It’s not that I’m attracted to girls, I’ve never even kissed one,” Alexis says. “I actually wanted to go before my boyfriend at the time even invited me.” The curiosity was built on hearing the guys talk, movies, and the Sopranos.

This may seem odd at first, but Alexis has her reasons. She went to a club again with male and female friends on two occasions. She says it’s more about the atmosphere and the music. It’s “like a bar, but with entertainment.” Not so much for the dancers themselves, but the general feel of the place.

The dancers weren’t the only entertainment. She got a kick out of watching her guy friends around them. “One of them had never been to one before, so he was like a shy, little boy, when this girl came up and hopped on his lap,” she remembers. That’s a situation most women haven’t seen their male friends in, and it can be revealing, or amusing.

Alexis isn’t sure if she’d go without any of the guys though. “I think it wouldn’t be as fun. I really like watching them,” she says. She explains that it’s often obnoxious when a man is making passes at women in bars, but in this particular environment, the dancers are by far the dominant ones, turning the tables somewhat.

Alexis is far from alone—in fact, most accounts pinpoint the mid-’90s as the beginning of a trend, still going strong, in which women began visiting strip clubs in much greater numbers than they had previously. “I’d be curious to see what it’s like, I’ve never been before,” says Abbie. “I might go with only other girls, but I think it would be better with guys.” She doesn’t believe it would be preferable to going to a normal bar, but rather it would be a “different experience.”

Abbie says she expects she’s probably get a lot of attention from the guys she went with, their hormones raging from the dancers. “I’d even get a lap dance, why not?”

Kelly also has been to a couple of strip clubs, but just looks at it as something to do. “I don’t necessarily go out of my way, but if other people are going and I’m not doing anything, I’ll go.” She went to an all-nude club once and didn’t find it as entertaining as the topless bars. “I like there to be a bar. Otherwise, all it is, is sitting around watching some girl.” She can see how men may enjoy it only for the show, but according to Kelly, “If a woman is going to go to a strip club, she should really go to one of the ones with a bar.”

Again, viewing the guys’ responses is one of the attractions. “I wouldn’t go to pick up guys,” adds Kelly, “but it is interesting to see their reactions.”

While some straight women may not be sexually attracted to the dancers, making their experience different from the male clientele, something about the sexually charged atmosphere of a strip club seems appealing in its own right. The female form is considered by some to be more aesthetically pleasing than the male body, which may make the idea of a straight woman watching female dancers and enjoying it more plausible than a straight man heading out to an all-male revue. (One straight woman puts it bluntly: “Breasts are nicer to look at than scrotums!”)

And some women, straight women included, do get an erotic charge from the experience—sometimes unexpectedly. In the uninhibited and sexually heightened atmosphere of a strip club, women who already enjoy looking at other beautiful women can find themselves swept away in the sensuality of the moment. Furthermore, it’s an open secret that some female strippers get “friendlier” when performing lap dances for women. Consider this, from a dancer writing in the June 2003 Private Dancer Monthly:

“I’ve looked over more than once while dancing for a woman and seen a look of awe on her husband’s face that told me he was seeing a side of her he hadn’t realized existed. Sometimes the look on her face tells me that she hadn’t realized it, either. More and more women are realizing that sex play is a delicious part of life, and that the erotically charged, lively and libertine atmosphere of a topless bar can be exciting and oddly freeing and not the den of degradation they had always pictured.”

Liana has been to a strip club and says she wants to go again. She has no problem going, but thinks it is partly because sexual politics make it not as much of an issue for women to explore same-sex interactions as it is for men. “It’s not shameful for a woman to be curious about women, but most men still find it way too much of a stigma,” she says. The idea of a straight woman being in a club where other women are naked doesn’t pose the same social obstacles that would arise from a man visiting a club with male dancers. “Plus, even men reinforce it themselves, by approving of women and women, but scrutinizing men and men,” she adds.

If exploring the world of strip clubs seems like a relatively new and daring approach by straight women, remember that burlesque shows and cabarets, where women would be expected in the audience, offer a similar sexually charged atmosphere with less stigma. The roles the human body can play change under what context the anatomy is portrayed in and who is observing it. Whether it’s for a night of entertainment laughing at the guys, a chance to hang out with some friends, pure curiosity, or a sexual charge, some women do enjoy strip clubs. They are comfortable with the idea and unashamed. Bring on the ladies!

Toys Are Us
By Glenn Weiser

Dildos and other sex toys are very, very far from being newfangled results of the sexual revolution


Quick quiz: Which was invented first, the wheel or the dildo? You guessed it: The wheel could wait. Our remote ancestors clearly had, well, more pressing concerns. Ever since the prehistoric discovery that certain objects could enhance sexual pleasure, people of all times and places have used them. And while a look at the history of sex toys can amuse as well as dismay, it above all shows us something about ourselves.

Upper Paleolithic art from more than 30,000 years ago clearly depicts penis-shaped objects being used as dildos (the wheel, in case you were wondering, was invented in Mesopotamia around 3500 to 4000 B.C.). Some archeologists speculate that these troglodyte prototypes were made of dried dung coated with resin. By the fifth to third centuries B.C., dildos—now crafted of stone, wood, leather, ivory, or ceramics and used with olive oil as a lubricant—had appeared in Greek art and literature. Surviving examples include a vase emblazoned with a double-ended model and a third-century play in which two women extol the unrivaled quality of dildos produced in the city of Miletus, then the sex-toy capital of the classical world.

Dildos—it’s not certain whether the term derives from the Latin “dilatare,” meaning to dilate or open wide, or the Italian “diletto,” meaning “delight”—and other toys were widespread in other ancient cultures as well. Roman women are known to have turned to dildos when their husbands were off to war. In China, dildos dating back to the New Stone Age (12,000 B.C.) had been found before the recent discovery of seven cast bronze examples in a Han dynasty (206 B.C. to A.D. 25) tomb in Xian. Evidence collected there by archeologists suggests palace maids used the finely wrought tools to satisfy neglected imperial concubines or noblewomen. And the Kama Sutra (A.D. 200 to 300) mentions that metal cylinders were used as penis extenders in India.

During the Middle Ages (500 to 1450), new devices debuted, proving that human ingenuity is as limitless as lust is enduring. Ben-wa balls, invented in Japan around A.D. 500 to provide women with prolonged stimulation, originally consisted of three small spheres linked by tiny chains and tied to a silken retrieval string. Some models had clappers that rang the balls like bells as they rolled about their merry way. Over time, Japanese women used them in pairs to strengthen their pelvic floor muscles, much as Kegel exercises are done today.

An old Turkish proverb holds that “If man had created man, he would be ashamed of his performance,” and some in medieval China clearly would have agreed. To increase staying power, the cock ring was introduced there around 1200. The earliest known ones were made from goats’ eyelids with the eyelashes left intact and then hardened to increase the mans’ pleasure during intercourse. By 1600, they were made of ivory and often elaborately carved in bas-relief to depict dragons. Some rings even sported a nub on the dragon’s tongue that a skilled lover could apply to the woman’s clitoris.

By the Victorian era, in the English-speaking world at least, popular understanding of female sexuality had sunk to a level that might have appalled even a Paleolithic-era cave dweller: Conventional wisdom held that women had no carnal desires. Lust in females was termed “hysteria,” a Greek term meaning “suffering uterus,” and treated as a medical condition. Women complaining of irritability, anxiety, sexual fantasies, and “pelvic heaviness,” sought relief from physicians, who treated them by massaging the clitoris until “paroxysm,” or orgasm, was induced. Not unsurprisingly, many doctors’ offices became de facto massage parlors as repeated visits for such attention became immensely popular among the ladies.

To better alleviate hysteria (and probably save his fellow practitioners from repetitive-motion disorders as well), an American doctor, George Taylor, invented the steam-powered vibrator in 1869. Battery-driven models with attachments allowing the physician to vary the sensations were in use by the 1890s, and by 1921, magazine ads appeared promising men they could keep their wives “young and pretty” with home vibrator treatments. (To its everlasting shame, the medical profession considered hysteria an ailment until 1952.) In the 1940s, though, the vibrator had to go underground, as its appearance in pornography had made its true function obvious. It later resurfaced during the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

The Victorian era also saw the advent of butt plugs, which were originally egg-shaped and prescribed to “help prevent loss of sperm through wasteful ejaculation,” and the first rubber dildos. Modern versions of these became available after the invention of latex rubber in the 1930s.

Sex toys made headlines last July when a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, upheld a 1998 Alabama law banning their sale in the state. To the dismay of civil libertarians, the judges ruled that the Constitution doesn’t include a right to sexual privacy. Similar laws have long been on the books in a few other Southern states, including Georgia and Tennessee.

In another recent development, a hardy group of Russians gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “whatever floats your boat” when, for the second year in a row, contestants in the Bubble Baba Challenge near St. Petersburg competed in a whitewater rafting race using inflatable sex dolls. Some priceless photos of last year’s event can be viewed online at

One suspects that our Russian rafters, as well as the ghosts of those virile Chinese ringmasters and lonely Roman women, would agree that a few moralists like the state legislators of Alabama will always try to spoil everyone else’s erotic fun. But the long and varied saga of sex toys reveals the popularity of the belief that when it comes to how consenting adults choose to pleasure their partners or themselves, the ends justify the means.

Diary of an Aphrodisiac Tester
By Cinnamon Stroke

When I took this assignment, I began to prepare to write a standard piece on what foods are considered aphrodisiacs and find research on each individual item, to provide me with reasons to either dispel myths or support theories on effective foods. But I figured it would be a more useful piece if I were to test out all these so-called aphrodisiacs myself.

Day One: Spanish Fly

The sexperts at say:

“Spanish fly (cantharides) is a substance made from pulverized beetles found in southern Europe. For centuries Spanish fly has been considered an aphrodisiac. Spanish fly poorly mimics arousal by irritating the urogenital tract and causing the genitals to burn, swell and itch. Side effects can include pain, nausea, vomiting, and death.”

My experience:

Peanut-butter-and-Spanish-fly sandwich on marble rye. Yum. After experiencing said burning, swelling and itching, and the astonishing pain each brings, I nearly forgot about the death I was expected to experience. Sadly, death would have been welcome compared to the retching that came instead.

Arousal Level: -3 (Death as a side effect just isn’t sexy.)

Day Two: Oysters

The sexperts say at say:

“Scientists scoffed at oysters’ sexual reputation until nutritionists discovered that they are rich in the essential trace mineral, zinc. Zinc is not a magic love mineral, but it’s crucial for men’s sexual health. Men with zinc-deficient diets are at risk for prostate problems. Men and women with zinc deficiencies suffer infertility and libido loss. University of Rochester researchers have restored sperm counts in infertile men using zinc supplements. Processed foods are often low in zinc. In addition to oysters, whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables contain this mineral.”

My experience:

After a near-death day-one experience, I decided to take myself out to dinner to try to forget about my miserable Spanish Fly incident. I headed out to the local seafood joint to chow down on the raw oyster bar. The oysters were mighty tasty, but there was a setback. I found that I happened to develop a near-deadly allergy to shellfish. Fabulous. At least my sperm count is restored. Oh, wait a second . . .

Arousal Factor: 5 (The oysters get points for resembling female genitalia.)

Day 3: Chocolate

The sexperts at say:

“This ubiquitous treat contains mild central nervous system stimulants that help heighten mood and yearning. According to legend, Montezuma drank 50 cups of chocolate every day to boost his virility before visiting his harem of 600 women. A small amount of quality chocolate can set the mood just as easily.”

My experience:

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend. They lied. Any girl will tell you it’s chocolate. And after days, I decided to stick to my tried-and-true snack and raided my secret stash of milk-chocolate Hershey Bars I keep in a shoebox under my bed. Arousal jackpot! No need for oysters or dead beetles, one bar of this blissful treat and I was beating down the door of the Republican next door.

Arousal Factor: 8.5 (So what if he voted for Bush?)

Day 4: Alcohol

The sexperts at say:

“Alcohol is another substance that most people believe increases their sexual responsiveness. This is partly because alcohol has a disinhibiting effect—it lowers the sexual inhibitions a person may ordinarily have, thus allowing sexual desire to emerge. Alcohol’s reputation as an aphrodisiac also stems from advertising and cultural myths.”

My experience:

OK, sex with a Republican. Beer for breakfast, anyone? Martini for lunch? And maybe a Mai Tai for dinner. What can be better than washing the mem- ory of my choco- late-induced semi- nightmare than a few cocktails? Alcohol. I drank myself into a stupor on day four, leading to very arousing dreams, but not much more.

Arousal Factor: 6 (Diminished by the impending hangover.)

Day 5: Powdered Rhinoceros Horn

The sexperts at say:

“Continuing belief in the potency of rhinoceros horn has brought the single-horned African rhinoceros to the brink of extinction. In fact, the horn consists of fibrous tissue, similar in construction to hair and nails. Like them, rhino horn contains the protein keratin, and the minerals sulfur, calcium and phosphorus. The addition of these elements to a poor diet might improve vigor, but a cheese sandwich would do just as well.”

My experience:

Day five called for a much-needed break. Powdered rhinoceros horn was on the menu, so I ground up a horn I had handy and added it to my daily dose of green tea, and waited to see what would happen. Nothing much. . . . All that came of day five’s test was a surge of guilt for helping contribute to the diminishment of the species. I’ll stick to the cheese sandwiches.

Arousal Factor: 0

Day 6: Ginger Root

The sexperts at say:

“Whether served raw, cooked, candied, or crystallized, ginger root is a circulatory system stimulant that adds tangy flavor to any meal. Because ginger increases circulation, it improves sensitivity to your body’s erogenous zones. Candied ginger is a light, delicious way to complete a romantic dinner while simultaneously improving post-meal breath.”

My experience:

I threw together a stir-fry heavily laced with ginger. It was a good meal, but not a turn-on by any means.

Arousal Factor: 0

Day 7: Avocado

The sexperts at say:

“The Aztecs called the avocado tree Ahuacuatl which translated means “testicle tree.” The ancients thought the fruit hanging in pairs on the tree resembled testicles. This is a delicious fruit with a sensuous texture.”

My experience:

Avocado was scheduled for my seventh and final day of testing. I took it easy and ate a whole lot of chips and guacamole. Not much of an effect here, except for bloating from overeating. Avocado is a tasty snack, but it won’t do much for your libido.

Arousal Factor: 4 (At least it’s got the looking-like-a-testicle thing going for it.)

Well, it was a great seven-day aphrodisiacal whirl. I almost died, hate-fucked a Republican (which is worse), was responsible for the death of a rhino, drank myself into a stupor, overate, and in the end, all I had left was bad breath, and a strange itch I’m hoping the oysters can explain. My conclusion? Don’t depend on food to get you in the mood. It’s just too risky.


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