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The Sex Issue

Tubcasting
By David King

Columbia County resident Anni Rudegeair’s Internet show might be like any other—except she does it in the nude

‘Douche bag,” says Anni Rudegeair, a resident of Germantown, who is better known to her Internet podcast audience as Soccer Girl. She rolls the ending of ba-a-a-g around her tongue, letting the word spill through her microphone and drip into its digitized format. She’s not saying the word for the fun of it. She’s saying it upon request. A dedicated listener wrote in specifically asking her to say the phrase. She says it a few more times—“Douche bag”—then, half embarrassed but mostly amused, she says, “You know, I don’t even really know what a douche bag is. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be for cleaning vaginas. . . .”

For almost a year now, Rudegeair has been recording podcasts and posting them on her Web site, www.soccergirl.podshow.com. Like a number of other podcasts, her show includes musings on life, sex, music and art, as well as her own musical numbers. Unlike most other podcasters, however, Rudegeair makes it a point to let her audience know she is recording her show in the nude, sometimes in the bathtub.

In a short time, Rudegeair has garnered herself a sizeable audience, which she says fluctuates between 10,000 and 50,000 listeners, as well as a number of critics who say her show is exploitative and claim that Rudegeair simply offers up an adolescent male’s sex-kitten fantasy. Some have labeled her the Howard Stern of podcasters. “Any reasonably self-respecting women should be ashamed that somebody like this even exists. I have no idea what her particular damage is, but if I had to guess, I’d say she was somehow abused as a child,” stated a rather lengthy post about Soccer Girl on www.bryancrawford.com.

Rudegeair claims, however, that her critics’ problems with her show are a symptom of our society’s ills. “It drives me crazy when people say that and can’t get past what I’m doing,” she says. “I realize that people have so many hang-ups about sex in our country. . . . I don’t see how [this] can be exploitative. I’m doing it by choice.”

While Rudegeair claims her naked breasts are secondary to the show’s content, she puts them to use in a number of different ways. She uses them to advertise other podcasts and Web sites by smearing words on them with different substances, including mud. She also uses topless pictures of herself to solicit donations from her fans. The captions of a collage on her Web site of her in different stages of undress playfully ask, “I’ve done things for you, right? Things that you’d usually have to pay money for, but I always love you for free baby. . . . So maybe you can give a little back? Remember I’m not asking for money cause [I’ve] sold out. I’m asking for money because I haven’t.”

“I have topless pictures, but I don’t have anything more than that. It’s not pornography; it’s erotica, and it’s just another element of my show,” says Rudegeair. In fact, she says podcasting has given her a form in which to express her art, which, she says, itself has sexual themes. “The parts of the show that are sexually oriented are part of who I am.”

Rudegeair has been featured in The New York Times and a number of other high-profile publications. And last month she was invited to Sundance to sit on a panel on podcasting. Thanks to donations from her listeners, she was able to travel to the event. “I got invited to Sundance because of the content of the show!” she says. “That’s the kind of publicity I get excited about. That’s legitimate.”

Along with attention from the media and the arts community has also come the opportunity to sign a deal with Adam Curry’s Podshow, Inc. Rudegeair says that earning money is not her objective, but that she would not mind making a living doing her show. “If it gets too generic, then I can always just go back to doing it my own way.”

However, Rudegeair has resisted changing the format of her show to be more “advertiser friendly.” And she received a smaller sum from Podshow because she retained the right to approve advertisers. Rudegeair says that her show has yet to turn a profit.

In some ways, Rudegeair says, her show stemmed from the isolation that comes from living in a small place like Germantown. It’s not that she’s stuck in her small town: A native of Massachusetts, Rudegeair decided to stay in the Hudson Valley after graduating from Bard College. She currently works as a librarian in Hudson. “I like small towns,” she asserts. “I like living in the country, but there’s a limit to the amount of activity going on around here. While it’s a great liberal area, I still sometimes wish I was in the city.” She says the Internet and her show have offered her connections she never would have had otherwise.

If recent trends are any indication, Rudegeair may not feel so isolated in her town for much longer. “It’s been only recently that I’ve been recognized on the street,” she recounts. “It really freaked me out! I expected that might happen, and it didn’t happen for such a long time, and then one day I’m in Hudson and a guy ran across the street and was like, ‘Oh my god! Are you Soccer Girl?’ ”

Rudegeair acknowledges that nudity may draw her audience in, but insists it’s the content of her show that keeps them there. “I’ve had people say, ‘I came to look at your site ’cause of your boobs but I stuck around ’cause I like the show,’ ” she says. “It’s an audio show. . . . They wouldn’t stick around if the show sucked.”

dking@metroland.net

You Think What Can Make You Pregnant?
By Miriam Axel-Lute

Myths about sex and sexual health as told to the region’s sex educators

What do high-school students, college students, people in treatment for substance abuse, and people getting certified as teachers have in common? Apparently, a plethora of misunderstandings about how sex, STDs, pregnancy, orgasm, etc., work. Below are some of the most common, and some of the most outrageous, collected by several of the too-few people on the front lines doing sex education.

“Here’s one urban adolescent girls occasionally come up with: If you have anal sex your butt will get bigger. Not the hole, the cheeks. They think if you have a flat butt, maybe not as attractive, and you have anal sex, you’ll increase the ‘junk in the trunk.’ Having anal sex does not do that!” —Carol Kim, substance-abuse projects manager, AIDS Council of Northeastern New York

“If we legalize gay marriage, or if we sanction gay relationships, then all of our youth, all of them, will go out and have sex with same-sex partners.” —Kim, as heard in teacher candidate trainings.

“There is no HIV or AIDS in Latham or Loudonville.” —Diana Lezette, trainer, AIDS Council of Northeastern New York, from an adolescent treatment group.

“I had sex once—I can’t be pregnant. I know my partner, I couldn’t get an STI.”—Terri Kersch, health educator, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“If I’m having anal sex or oral sex, I’m not having sex. I’m a virgin still. I’m not at risk.” —Kim

“Straight people don’t have anal sex. Having gay parents makes you gay.” —Kim

“So for a while women were using Coca Cola [to douche], and they heard that sugar causes infections in the vagina, which it does. So they switched to diet soda, because there’s no real sugar. Douching in general is one of the worst things women can do for themselves. It’s hugely, hugely unhealthy and it doesn’t prevent pregnancy or STDs. It increases your risk.” —Kim

“HIV cannot be transmitted via oral sex.” —Lezette

“You have to take your birth control pills in the morning so that you’re protected all day. The morning after pill has to be taken the morning after. A girl can get pregnant from eating another girl out. You are more likely to get pregnant after using condoms for a year or more. You should keep a condom in your wallet.” —As heard by UHPP STARS (Seriously Talking About Responsible Sex) high-school peer educators from other teens at school or from clients at UHPP’s Teen Clinic.

“Condoms spread AIDS. You can get AIDS from kissing.” —UHPP STARS

“You can tell what people look like when they’ve got HIV and AIDS.” —Kim

“Chocolate pudding and peanut butter make good lubricants.” —Kersch

“Boys can’t be forced into sex.” –UHPP STARS

“Having sex during your period is painful. The G-spot doesn’t exist. People in relationships shouldn’t masturbate. Women shouldn’t have sex during pregnancy. Men have bigger sex drives than women. If a girl doesn’t bleed the first time she has sex, she isn’t a virgin. If a girl’s hymen breaks, she isn’t a virgin.” –UHPP STARS

“Minors can’t get an abortion. Abortions are deadly. Abortion leads to breast cancer.” –UHPP STARS

“I think there are men who are under the impression that you’re supposed to put a condom on and not feel it at all, or it’s supposed to be loose and droopy. Even the magnum size condoms—the difference is millimeters. One or two millimeters at most. People’s think it’s much more significantly larger.” —Kim

“The more condoms someone wears, the safer they are. This is false, as the more condoms a person wears, the greater the friction between the layers and the greater the chance of that condom breaking.” —Kim

“Squatting over a shaken can of soda, the carbonation will burn all the sperm away. Jumping jacks will prevent pregnancy ’cause sperm can’t travel up. Condoms don’t work because they break all the time.” —Matthew Newman, an Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood health educator and case manager with Youth Empowerment Services, from his teen clients.

“When I was pregnant, I was explaining some of the processes of gestation and birth to someone. This person expressed surprise that the cervix didn’t ‘fall out’ of the vagina along with the baby.” —Kim

“Withdrawal is still a big issue; they consider it a safer practice. One guy said to me, ‘It’s gotta be safer. I don’t mean to [be] visual or gross, but it’s not ejaculation where it’s flying out like a projectile.’ I said yes, but there’s still some, and the vagina is designed to move those sperm up.” —Donna Barkhuff, nurse practitioner, Sage Colleges

“I have a friend who is gay, and he thought that vagina is where the stomach is. He thought that people were getting poked in the back when they were having sex. We almost had to demonstrate for him so he could understand the female reproductive system.” —Christina Frare, head peer advocate at the Center for Sex and Gender Relations, Skidmore College

“One of the biggest misconceptions is people feel that the pelvic organs are much bigger than they are. Women tell me, ‘I must be having problems with my ovary’ and point up toward their belly button. People are always surprised when I say that the uterus is the size of a pear. They think [from the feeling of] menstrual cramps that it’s this huge muscle.” —Barkhuff

“A lot of people don’t realize women can have orgasms.” —Frare

“A girl told me she has taken Plan B 15 to 20 times in the past year. I told her maybe she should go on birth control and told me she couldn’t go on birth control because she has a kidney disease and the hormones would affect her badly. I had to tell her all Plan B is is eight doses of birth-control hormones.” —Frare

“The government administers AIDS (a modern Tuskegee experiment) and is actively trying to hide a known cure because the government makes too much money off of AIDS to make the cure public. Magic Johnson is cured.” —Newman

If you masturbate too much you’ll dry up and won’t be able to get an erection because of the excess usage.” —Newman

“Men are under the impression that the vagina is as long as whatever they need it to be. The vagina is 4 to 5 inches long at most. It doesn’t matter how long you are. You’re going to hit the end, and that’s it.” —Kim

“If you pee after unprotected sex you can avoid pregnancy because it washes the sperm out. You can get pregnant from sitting on a toilet seat. You can’t get pregnant if both people have an orgasm. You can’t get pregnant while you are menstruating.” —As heard by UHPP Health Center Staff from clients.

Where does such a torrent of misinformation come from? It’s not that people are dumb, say the sex educators—there’s just a void of good information out there. The people who shared the ideas above were the ones brave enough to be seeking the real answers. Family Planning Advocates of New York State are hoping to improve the flow of information, and therefore sexual health (and, we figure, people’s sex lives down the line), with their campaign “Real Sex Ed Saves Lives” at www.getthefactsny.org.

maxel-lute@metroland.net

Not Your Father’s Porn
By Bill Ketzer

If you haven’t sampled smut for a while, today’s Internet offerings will give you cultural whiplash

The first time I ever thought about male fertility was during one of the Naked Gun movies. The nurse hands Leslie Nielsen a cup, a smut rag and a towel, and tosses him into a small white room, which he promptly trashes with unseen acrobatics. This is consistent with how I learned everything else about sex: I saw it on television. So I intrinsically trusted this common-sense approach to sperm analysis (How else would you get it into the cup?), but at the same time swore a solemn oath that it certainly was something I’d never do. And then I got married.

As for many couples, having kids wasn’t a hole-in-one for us, and finally at my wife’s suggestion, we visited her gynecologist to discuss the strange art of fecundity. Like everything else, I discovered that the first order of business was to determine if the guy was to blame for everything. This occurs much in the same way he is fingered for not noticing that his girl’s vehicle inspection sticker expired seven months prior because he changes the car’s oil in the driveway. (“Jiffy Lube would have noticed it,” she said, handing me the traffic ticket.)

So the good doctor handed me a ditto sheet guiding me through the delicate process of, well, beating off into a sterile collection jar. “No sex for three days,” the sheet directed. “Use only the masturbation method. Use only plastic sterile cup provided. No potentially toxic lubricants.” And my favorite: “Notify technician if any spillage occurs.”

Spillage? By god, they wanted to reduce me to Leslie Nielsen, sweating to the oldies with a dog-eared issue of Oui to determine my sexual viability! I couldn’t see myself exactly (ahem) rising to the occasion. It wasn’t really the locale that bothered me; I just couldn’t imagine triumphantly emerging from my love cave, a fresh bead of sweat at my temple, hoisting my anointed chalice eye-level to the knowing attendant, who had been reading The New Republic next to a centrifuge while I satisfied a fabricated carnal urge.

Thankfully, having finally acquiesced to the confounding American shame of clinical sexuality, I could avoid this experience somewhat by doing it at home. The final bullet on the ditto said so: “Deliver sperm, at room temperature, no more than an hour after ejaculation.” So, one cold November morning after my wife left for work, I finally checked out some Internet porn.

And why not? If it’s good for Lt. Frank Drebin, it’s good for me. And unlike a 1986 Pearl DLX 16-by-16-inch floor tom, it took me only 4.2 seconds to find some online. And what porn! I guess Girls Gone Wild infomercials should have been some indication, but nothing prepared me for the unbelievable transformation . . . no . . . the steaming, writhing metamorphosis the porn star has undergone since my teen years with eighth-generation VHS hardcore.

Back then, the starlets were encouraging, almost patriotic, their names engendering visions of wide-open spaces and new theology, women like Christy Canyon and Traci Lords, with actual pubic hair and the occasional blemish.

The mediums were also coveted; one had to endure many personal hardships to attain such filth. You had to have an older brother rent or buy it. You had to steal it. You had to sneak into the old Aust Drive-In in Glens Falls to see it (yes, there was drive-in porn). But now it’s at the fingertips like a sexy booger.

And this new breed, these judicious, studio-tanned young succubae, pursue their lust with a stern delight that is both Roman in fortitude and Teutonic in delivery. There seems to be a premium placed on buoyancy, the bodies of ringleted starlets sleek and nonporous, like some sort of studio-tanned baby seal, replete with hard, fake boobs mounted to the ribcage as if set and fastened by rivet gun. Pow! Every orifice is pierced and polished like a soft Glohaven peach, yet oiled and conditioned like a trusty catcher’s mitt.

Even the feistiest women of the early porn years had only a sort of possessed look to them at best, as if they were resignedly surrendering to some forbidden carnal fire in their loins, but these young starlets on my computer were enlightened, endlessly available, gleefully drooling and slapping shoe-sized members to their cheeks, batting them around like cats with pole-sprung catnip rats, bouncing them off their foreheads, holding on for dear life once mounted as if they cut their teeth working a jackhammer for Lancaster Development.

This goes far beyond commercial cultural liberation. Why, this is sport fucking. This is Survivor Season 10: Caligula Decimates Aruba.

The traditional fetish categories still exist, but now there are all these bold, new ventures like the traveling “Bang Bus” and the fearless “MILF Hunter.” We get “Blacks on Blondes.” We get “Please Bang My Wife.” Gagging. Bootylicious. Mother-and-daughter tag-teams. Twins. (I mean, that’s incest, right?) There’s also this totally wrong thing called Hentai, which is basically Japanimated cartoon geishas getting literally plowed by big, cackling gargoyles with three heads. Why, there’s even a guy walking around Spring Break resorts coaxing coeds to take one on the kisser with a rubber gorilla dong filled with heavy cream.

Holy crap, we have become the Roman Empire, a nation of overmedicated, spoon-fed baboons with a sold government; when the Rhine freezes over we will be conquered by barbarians.

But hey. I’m not going to sit here and feed you a line. I enjoyed every minute of it. I laughed, I cried, I liked it better than The Producers. Hilarious, awe-inspiring, fascinating, disturbing and finally . . . well, you know. It’s just like shopping for a bike: You find one that gets you from point A to point B and then you wash your hands. I slammed the cap on the jar and stuffed it deep inside a Charles Craft oven mitt, tossed it in my messenger bag and off I went, victorious. And lo, my sperm count came back normal. Remarkably, my wife—perpetually inquisitive in a police interrogator kind of way—never asked for a single detail when we got the results.

I’ll bet she will now.

Erotic and Eco-Friendly
By Miriam Axel-Lute

Sex-toy shopping for the environmentally concerned doesn’t have to crimp your play

So you’ve stopped microwaving your food in plastic. You have a chlorine filter on your showerhead, you avoid sneakers made in sweatshops and take cloth bags with you to the co-op for your organic produce.

But when it comes to the nightstand drawer, often all those noble and self- protective thoughts go out the window. There you’ve got petroleum-laden, chemical-leaking implements of pleasure made god-knows-where, piled on top of a mound of dead batteries and some distinctly leathery items. Well, the good news is, that drawer doesn’t have to be your one dirty little secret. At least not in such unfun ways.

On the health front, jelly dildos—the most common, and cheapest—are a nightmare. They’re absorbent, so they’re hard to clean well, and they leak toxic phthalates, which have been banned in diapers and children’s toys. I’ll spare you the details.

Luckily for your bloodstream, if not for your pocketbook, most higher-end sex-toy retailers now carry silicone toys, which dispatch with both of the above problems in a single, brightly colored thrust. High-end props are also made from stainless steel, wood, and glass (though some people question the wisdom of that latter one on other grounds).

Nontoxic, and even homeopathic lubes have also become widespread, allowing for a tiny, slippery dip in your petroleum consumption, and probably more noticeably, a less irritating experience for your own slippery surfaces.

If you don’t eat meat or wear leather, jonesing for a good harness or collar for your sweetie can be difficult. After all, it’s not called the “leather community” because of people’s tough skins. But if PETA can stage so many nearly naked protests, it’s clear that vegans are not afraid of a little kink. And indeed, look no farther than www.veganerotica.com or vegsexshop.com. Rubber and pleather galore!

Concerned about your battery hog of a vibrator? At blowfish.com under “alternative power vibrators,” there’s a vibrator that charges in the sun! The folks at Blowfish say they got at least an hour of high-vibration fun from seven hours of solar power. They caution that this is a solar-charging vibe, not a solar-powered vibe—you can’t use it while it’s charging. But that might be just as well, given the exposure laws in your neighborhood.

There’s just something terribly unsexy about the idea of sex-toy sweatshops in impoverished nations. The folks at Coco de Mer (www.cocodemer usa.com) and Womyns’ Ware (www.womyn sware.com) agree, and they get their toys from either local cottage industries and artisans (that’s local to them, being the United Kingdom and Vancouver, British Columbia, respectively) or through international fair-trade arrangements. At Coco de Mer, this philosophy comes draped in a sensuous, gothic sensibility and a good deal of lingerie. At Womyns’ Ware you can get dildos shaped like Lilith and whales, and all the info you ever didn’t want to know about why they don’t sell what they don’t sell. Tell me you’re surprised.

The folks at Bass Ass Paddles (www.tirepaddle.com) may just have hit the trifecta though: sexy (for those into serious spanking at least), sustainable, and a sense of humor. Yes, they really do make paddles out of recycled tire treads. Somehow that says satisfying reuse in a way that shredding and burning tires in Ravena never will. Forget naughty schoolgirl—you know you and your raunchy overworked conscience want to play mechanic.

These Swingers Don’t Need Vines
By Glenn Weiser

Primates at play mirror human sexual behavior (or is it vice versa?)

Bisexuality? Masturbation? Gangbanging? Prostitution? Checking out porn? All well within the range of normal human behavior, you’d probably say, if you were a blue-state type at least. What may surprise you, though, is that scientists have observed all these erotic pastimes and more in monkeys and apes, which share a common biological ancestor with humans.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution remains under assault by the religious right and, according to polls, is accepted in its purely secular form by an appallingly low 18 percent of the American public, so the visionary English naturalist needs all the help he can get these days. The familiar-sounding lusty monkeyshines of our primate cousins provide anecdotal and often amusing indications that—despite the ranting of television evangelists—the thesis laid out by Darwin in his The Descent of Man remains right on the money.

Even though Darwin’s groundbreaking book was published in 1871, modern research into how primates interact didn’t begin until the 1920s, according to the 1963 book Primate Social Behavior, an anthology of early field studies of monkeys and apes around the world, edited by Charles H. Southwick. It was in the jungles and mountains of Asia, Africa and the Caribbean that scholars first saw an abundance of human traits, including a variety of sexual activities, mirrored in primates.

First, sex and power are frequently linked in monkeydom. In many species, the biggest adult male in a tribe has the first choice of the estrous, or sexually receptive, females, as well as food. Sound like politics? Consider this example: In observations of the Japanese macaque, researchers found the females and their young clustered in the center of the tribe with the adult males, while the adolescent males were relegated to the fringes of the group. As the adolescents grew, they would approach the mothers and hug their infants in hopes of romancing the females. Now, think of politicians running for office kissing babies while working a crowd. Score one for Darwin.

Mating habits vary among primate species, and remind one of different types of people. The typical male gibbon, for example, is a respectable family man, having a largely monogamous relationship with his mate and raising their young with her. That’s more than you can say for a lot of human fathers. The howler monkey is a free-loving hippie, sharing females communally with his fellow males. On the other hand, the adult baboon is a despotic lout—he will copulate forcibly with unreceptive females and keep harems for himself, leaving the younger males deprived until they are old enough to challenge the authority of the adult males.

Humans can be, if anything, more extreme. Many of history’s famous rulers have kept harems, the most celebrated being that of the Ottoman Turkish sultans in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which numbered up to 800 concubines. As for mass rape by a dominant male, 16 million people in Asia today can genetically trace their ancestry back to an overgrown baboon named Genghis Khan who impregnated thousands of women during his bloody conquests in the 13th century.

Having a stable of lovers is not just for male primates. An aroused female rhesus monkey will have up to three males in a row. Still, that pales next to the purported record racked up by American porn actress Lisa Sparxxx of fucking 919 times in a single day, Oct. 16, 2004, in a three-woman contest at the Eroticon Convention in Poland.

Monkeys and apes don’t limit themselves to heterosexual copulation. Although no exclusively gay primates are mentioned in Southwick’s book, scientists noted homosexual primate activity in the form of oral sex. Males did not stimulate each other to the point of ejaculation this way, though—they reserved that for mating with females. And although males were also observed masturbating (remember the old phrase “spanking the monkey”?), that too was never taken to climax.

Among humans, famed sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey found in the 1940s that 37 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women he interviewed stated they had least one homosexual encounter resulting in orgasm, and that 92 percent of the men and 62 percent of the women admitted to having masturbated.

Primates have a penchant for vice, too—some like porn, and others will pay for sex. Last year, researchers studying male macaques found, that, given the choice between seeing photos of low-status males and getting a greater amount of juice or viewing butt shots of female macaques and receiving lesser quantities of juice, the monkeys opted for the derrieres. (Strangely, a study published last year in the journal Biological Psychology found that human women—but not men—were sexually aroused by watching films of monkeys getting it on.)

In another 2005 study, scientists taught capuchins how to use inch-wide metal discs as money that could be cashed in for fruit. A male was seen giving a coin to a female, who mated with him and then promptly handed in the token for food. Maybe the world’s oldest profession is much older than anyone thought.

The horniest monkeys of all are bonobos, or pygmy chimpanzees, which have sex roughly every 90 minutes. (They also have 98 percent of our genetic makeup.) With their habit of easing social tensions by rubbing their genital areas together in same-sex as well as opposite-sex pairings, bonobos are also the lap dancers of the primate world.

The striking sexual parallels between people and primates give us a glimpse of how the hand of evolution has shaped our desires over the ages, and suggest that much of what some call sin is in fact only the innocent sport of Nature.

Dirty Come Back
By Alan Bennett Ilagan

Has gay sex become sterilized, or does it just look that way?

Where have all the dirty fucks gone? I’m talking about the throw-down, break-the-lamps, sprain-your-ankle, rug-burns-on-your-back sexual savagery that once constituted gay sex. Those kinds of sinfully salacious acts that once burned up the backrooms and bedrooms of gay men (not to mention the bars, bathhouses and public restrooms) seem in short supply these days. In the last few years, gay sex has cleaned up its act and gone suddenly sterile, and not quite for the best.

Today it’s all about love and romance. Our relationships are serious business now, with talk of marriage and families, and immaculately kept country homes with adopted babies from China. Much like the downfall/cleanup of Times Square, gay sex has undergone its own cleansing, as much a by-product of the current political climate as it is a result of the growth and evolution of a minority group.

Perhaps it was the threat of AIDS and STDs that clamped the handcuffs on our Bacchanalian sexual abandon. Or maybe the pressures of society to transform us into something acceptable and palatable for mainstream America have finally found fruition. Whatever the reason, gay men seem to be tied up in ropes of puritan morality culled straight from the prim and proper heartland, completely devoid of sex, dirty or otherwise.

In our pressed khakis and clean-cut coifs, our SUVs and neighborhood-friendly gardens, we have whitewashed ourselves, and our lifestyle, taking the sex out of the homosexual. The seediness is gone, and with it the nasty edge that once made our sexual proclivities such an illicit thrill.

What happened to the days when we used to fuck like dogs, taking and giving it up the ass or drunkenly going down on someone with a nameless face? Such quaint scenes are in short supply these days, replaced by images of cuddling in pristine white sheets on the floor of some impossibly stark loft with nothing-less-than-flattering lighting.

Even personal ads, once the domain of the raw and raunchy where we could be as ruthless and nasty as we wanted under the anonymity of a box number, have succumbed to the ban on all things randy. Where is the blunt honesty, the delicious desperation of our most base desires? Instead of piggish demands and pussy-whipping pleas, we have guys looking for snuggling and sharing. If that’s the kind of sick, twisted behavior that the gay world is coming to, I want no part of it.

This new clean and crisp image of the gay man has become epidemic. Hairless, oiled-up pecs of perfect pumptitude peek out from the papers, the black-and-white frat-boy Abercrombie ideal steamrolls its dull mediocrity through malls nationwide, and the idea of anything dirty or real has been airbrushed away. What’s worse is that we’re spreading such sterility to the straights. Our Queer Eye Fab Five (and the latest Fab Four for the ladies) have been making over the very dirtiness and rough edges that make straight men so hot. If anything, we need to let up on the high-maintenance quest for perfection and delve into the deep, dark joy that comes from the greasy and sleazy.

I miss that dirty aspect of sex. There is too much deodorant and douching going on for real men. I want stank. I want a good, old-fashioned rim job. Take your pristine perfection and give me the dirt any day.

Despite this sorry return to morals, I do not believe that we have completely lost our way. While we’ve outwardly cleaned up our sexual acts, I have the feeling we’re still sordidly slutting it up behind closed doors. The dirt-free image that gay sex has assumed is simply that—an image. We still get down and dirty; we just don’t talk about it as much. A little mystery is good, but hypocritical, two-faced grandstanding is not.

Then again, as a wise wolf once said (and I paraphrase), “Two faces are all the better to sit on, my dear.”

I’ll Take the Fifth
By Jo Page

In music, there’s sexy—and then there’s Beethoven

Voices are sexy. When I heard Tina Turner singing “Proud Mary” when I was a kid way too young to know what sexy was, I learned what sexy was. The fringed miniskirt and accompanying thighs were only visual aids.

Elvis Costello is sexy. I know, nerdy, too, but it really doesn’t matter. When I hear him sing “My Funny Valentine,” I start thinking yeah, maybe each day really is Valentine’s Day.

I knew a guy in college—the roommate of my boyfriend—who used to sing like Johnny Hartman: You are too beautiful/And I am a fool/For beauty. My boyfriend was really brainy and a good cook. But his roommate made me feel beautiful.

Ry Cooder makes molten lava out of John Hiatt’s “Lipstick Sunset.” But when John Hiatt sings “Feels Like Rain” I know there is nothing that can melt me more than his voice.

Voices are sexy.

But there’s a difference between sexy and sexual. They’re a world apart, though don’t ask me to describe just why.

Sexy is lovely—really lovely—but somewhat more commonplace. We know sexy music when we hear it.

Sexual is different.

It’s the root chakra, the nakedness underneath the skin, the sigh too deep for words. You don’t necessarily recognize it right away, partly because even in our impolite society, it’s too, well, impolite.

And when it comes right down to it, I can’t think of much music that is simply and essentially sexual.

But there is not a whit of doubt in my mind that the most sexual piece of music I know is the third and fourth movements of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5.

I’m not talking about the da-da-da-DUM of the first movement (which seems to morph its way, quite hidden and without cliché, throughout the symphony).

I’m not talking about the second movement, either. Here you spend a lot of time strolling in the green fields of Beethoven’s gray matter, which is a wonderful place to be.

But the last two movements? I realize there is no way to write about them without resorting to puns and clichés. I’ve tried to explain this to my friend, Karen, the oboe player. I’ve known Karen for more than a dozen years and there’s not much I’m embarrassed to tell her. But when I tried to explain to her about the girth of the Fifth, I think she thought I had a screw loose.

The first and second movements just don’t prepare you for what is to come.

See what I mean? Puns and clichés already.

They’re really not like two movements at all since there is no telltale break between them, no pause for coughing or a shifting in your seat.

Because there you are, gripped quite hard by the third movement. It’s roiling around inside your chest and brain like some kind of potent little intoxicant. And you keep thinking it’s going to subside for a bit, give you a little rest stop. But then it begins again, like an insomniac lover not content with sleep. And you waken into its insistence willingly—you can sleep when you’re dead, right?

So you stay on a kind of fierce but equal footing when you’re in the third movement. There is still enough of you left to hold your own. You listen, rapt and gripped, but not undone. Besides, you assume it can’t get any bigger, louder, deeper, stronger. It is big and loud and deep and strong enough.

Only—just as you are thinking that, the fourth breaks in with brass that confounds all metaphors. It’s kind of silly to even try to describe this in words. You can’t. Or anyway, I can’t.

But how else can I convey it?

It is sexual, but there is no narrative that drives it, no air-brushed images, no sense of anything other than force. We’re so used to thinking of force as something militant, something malevolent, that it’s easy to forget that force can be a font of strength and brilliance. The force of the fourth movement is that it annihilates despair not by meek persuasion, but by the powerful tyranny of hope.

It is politically incorrect to say, of course, but for me the sheer and generous masculinity of the fourth movement has nothing at all to do with gender politics and everything to do with strength and hope—and the procreating of both.

And there is no place in the fourth movement where that is more true than at the end—except that the movement seems to end any number of times. No matter how many times I hear it, I am always surprised by how long it lasts, how it builds and subsides and builds and subsides and finally, when the end must come, it is not with reluctance, but with still more force, still more insistence. It is as if the music is saying This will end the way a symphony ends, but it will be nothing at all like what happens when a symphony ends.

OK, OK. I’ll stop. I’ve committed a few cardinal sins.

I’ve tried to describe in words what words were not designed to say.

And I’ve made a fool of myself besides. Yes, I suppose I have a great big crush on Beethoven.

Lastly, it’s probably not a good idea to talk about art in such traditional gender language—man as powerful progenitor kind of went out of style with D.H. Lawrence. Mostly these days to talk of male power is to talk of threat.

But you know what? This is sexual music and that doesn’t have to mean that it is threatening.

Compelling, yes. The last two movements of the Fifth Symphony overwhelm me. If I am in the car and the Fifth comes on the radio, I drive around listening to it until it is over. I can’t not listen.

Sexy music is fun. It’s what you can turn on and turn off at will.

But in the sexual insistence of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony I experience the deepest kind of hope, a hope I cannot summon on my own nor will myself not to hear, a hope that both embraces and transcends the flesh.


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