Photos By Lief
can’t drive a cold car without warming up the engine, so...
moaning, sweating, grunting—no, you hornball, we’re not
having sex here. This is the prelude—the overture—the preface
to the main event. The feel of skin on skin, lips on lips,
fingers tangled in each other’s hair, touching, kissing,
sucking, caressing. . . . To quote Glenn Frey, the heat
comes later. Right now, we’re concentrating on foreplay.
Men, women, straight, gay, bi—everyone needs to be turned
on, right? (Unless you’re a 15-year-old boy, that is.) But
. . . but, you’re saying. . . . OK, admittedly, women may
have a space chiseled a little higher on their list of sexual
priorities for foreplay than men may, but c’mon—no one can
deny its pleasurable practicality.
logic is simple: Foreplay is often needed to get you hyped
up for sex. Of course, there is a place and a time for the
occasional quickie, but the preshow generally makes the
experience more intimate and involved. A little kissing
here, a little rubbing there . . . anticipation builds,
and voilá! You’re on your way to mind-blowing sex!
order to explore this topic in depth, I surveyed a bunch
of friends and colleagues to get the skinny on what the
layman (or woman) thinks about foreplay. They willingly
provided me with enough dirt to blackmail them for years
to come, but I’ll be nice and just use their responses to
drive this point home: People, for the most part, love
foreplay! They are willing to learn, teach and accommodate
strange requests, all in the name of great lovemaking. Men,
in particular, seem to be enthusiastic about guiding their
partners along if their skills aren’t up to par. One guy
says teaching “is necessary . . . without it, you’ll only
be disappointed after a certain amount of time. Blind, all-engrossing
lust and beginners’ luck can only last so long.” It seems
that the ladies aren’t as eager to go to all the trouble:
One woman says, “No one wants to hold someone’s hand through
a sexual encounter; it’s a real turn-off.”
a common belief that foreplay is much more important to
women than it is to men. Though some politically correct
responders say that statement is wholly untrue, most men
and women who answered my poll verify the rumor: Women need
more affection and physical contact before actual intercourse;
men are generally more results-oriented, and often, though
they enjoy foreplay, view it as a means to an end.
many of those questioned have less-than- adequate prehump
fun in their sex lives. In fact, when asked how often their
foreplay experiences are satisfactory, the percentage that
kept popping up in their responses hovered at a semi-disappointing
65. Sure, some gave an optimistic 99 percent, and there
was one very frustrated 38 percent, but at least we can
say that the majority of my pals are getting their sufficient
foreplay kicks more than half the time.
is foreplay always a prerequisite to sex? An unexpected
trend in female responses was this: More times than you’d
think, they just want to get to it! As one sassy female
points out, “At times, my impatience for intercourse shines
through.” She goes on to explain that although she enjoys
foreplay, she “doesn’t need an orgasm every time, so if
I say, ‘Come up here please, I want sex now,’ that doesn’t
mean you’re doing a bad job—it just means I want sex.” Another
girl says, “Foreplay can sometimes be overrated—I really
just like to fuck.”
prescrew-play occur subliminally? Most of those surveyed
said yes. How, you ask? Almost everyone claims that eye
contact—flirty, sensual eye contact—falls under the category
of foreplay. I also received a scattering of other let’s-not-quite-touch-yet-and-still-set-each-other-on-fire
answers. My buddies (especially the guys) say that certain
innuendos, body language and speech can get them going.
One guy ventured to say, “Anything can be eroticized. Leaving
aside the pheromonal, biochemical, animal-instinct-type
frisson that people can share, there’s the mysterious issue
of style.” The way she holds her drink, his scent, the way
she tosses her hair, his way with words (it helps if he’s
speaking French)—all of these things can add to the eroticism,
therefore, they qualify as foreplay.
to get the general consensus on whether or not bad foreplay
could actually turn someone off to the point that they deny
their partner humpery. Most say, “Deny sex? Are ya kidding
me?” However, the one thing that seems to turn people off
the most is being landed with a bad kisser. In fact, it
makes people stop dead in their tracks. One guy says, “I
was once removing the sweater of a drop-dead gorgeous woman
when I realized that she was, without question, the worst
kisser I had ever kissed. She had very shapely, attractive,
movie-star lips, but [she had] no clue how to use them—it
was like kissing something with a beak. I abandoned the
whole project, and left her with her sweater up over her
my pals to provide me with their best foreplay stories.
I received so many wild tales that made me blush and giggle
out loud—one guy had his girl writhing so ferociously that
she banged her head off a wall, and he made a different
girl puncture her knee on a sofa-bed frame! (Ouch—remind
me to stay away from him!) I received stories about
foreplay beginning in the car, foreplay lasting for hours
before goodbye-I’m-never-going-to-see-you-again sex, stories
of erotic massage, interesting ways to perform oral sex.
. . . The list goes on and on. However, there’s not nearly
enough room for all these stories here, so you’re just going
to have to use your imagination.
people—no matter what sex or preference—can be a little
clueless about what their partners want during the preshow.
What are the biggest things you people want your partners
to get on the ball about? Straight guys, listen up: Women
surveyed bluntly say, “If you ask for it, there’s a good
chance you’ll get it. . . . Please be gentle and take your
time. . . . There’s never enough kissing, sucking and licking.”
What’s the one thing guys want their partners to know? A
resounding “No teeth!”
Can Get Anything You Want
Internet outing of peculiar sexual practices calls into
question the validity of vanilla
any lately?” That’s the way a former coworker, Lou the maintenance
guy, used to greet me when I arrived at work—day in, day
out. And just as regularly, when I offered up my noncommital
response, “Oh, a little here and there,” he’d ask the follow-up,
“Ya getting anything weird?”
it turned out, I never was. Or nothing I thought weird enough
to satisfy his leering curiousity. Weird, like how? I mean,
I wasn’t knowingly breaking any laws; I was barely out of
high school. At that age, simply having sex regularly was
still unusual enough to count as weird.
thanks to the Internet, I now know exactly the kind of thing
he was talking about. And, be honest, so do you—everyone
does. We’re all point-and-click Kinseys. Which leads to
the question, “Where’s the fringe these days?” If you can
access graphic images, chatrooms, personal ads, bulletin
boards and the like dedicated exclusively to, say, ponyplay
(for those of you not yet in the bonus rounds, I’ll explain
later) as easily as you can file share a remixed “Mesmerize”
or order a new rollneck sweater, does it count as out-there
behavior? And, perhaps more to the point, is attaching value
judgments based on the statistical prevalence of phenomena
a sensible approach when it comes to sexual preferences
or behavior? Have these acts become more acceptable because
they are more easily accessible as images or topics of chat?
Were they somehow worse when they were comparitively hidden?
it seems that there is still a lingering Puritan legacy
in America that prioritizes a sexual conformity, the commonplace—it
must be pointed out—is not necessarily good. For example,
by some estimates, sexually active women who do not regularly
achieve orgasm represent the greater portion of sexually
active women. Would anyone contend that because that is
the norm, it is good and should therefore be reinforced?
Probably not, no.
ask you, seriously, in that light, is the grown man who
is sexually aroused by balloons really all that weird?
yes. At first blush, anyway. As is the woman who gets an
erotic charge from dressing in a full-body badger suit,
and the guy who gets off being trussed like a turkey, garnished
with vegetables and confined in an oven (it’s called “vore,”
and it’s real). But according to Katherine Gates, the motivations
underlying these proclivities—let’s not call them perversions—are
fairly easily understood, once you get past that first blush.
is the author of Deviant Desires, a book in which
she analyzes the psychosexual roots of fetishism, and she’s
the head honcho of a Web site of the same name that is essentially
an expanded and updated version of the book. At the Web
site, Gates presents a Fetish Map that groups fetishes and
illustrates the interrelated nature of many seemingly disparate
she dismisses hoary Freudian explanations (no castration
anxiety here, so women are free to join in), it is her contention
that fetishistic behavior can be organized in sets or categories
such as “engulfment and containment” and “return to childhood.”
The groups are not exclusive, and individual preferences
may turn up in more than one category: Ponyplay, for example—which
involves the use of tight corsets or actual equestrian gear
and/or horse masks to provide the illusion that one is in
some way partnered with a horse—is listed in both “engulfment,”
for its use of confining props, and “return to childhood,”
for its evocation of the piggy-back rides you loved so as
a tot. (Ponyplay, by the way, is sometimes referred to as
the Aristotelian Perversion, because it is said that the
Greek philosopher was ocassionally mounted and trotted about
by his wife, Phyllis.)
some cases, there are cross-fetish hybrids: If you are a
macrogynophile, one who fantasizes about giantesses, there
is a decent chance that you may also be a “crush freak,”
one who is excited by the prospect of being trampled underfoot.
But don’t be fooled: You can’t always second-guess this
kind of thing. Don’t assume that the body inflationist who
gets hot and bothered by the image of Violet Beauregard
in Willy Wonka is necessarily a fat admirer. He
or she may, in fact, prefer the sensation of pressure sustained
by being contained in a rubber suit slowly filling with
air. And the messy fun of the sploshers who cover themselves
in pudding, mud or baked beans is not the same thing, by
any means, as more widely known watersports. Believe me,
that would be quite a faux pas.
most common dynamics of fetish play, says Gates, are those
of animal transformation, unusual growth, object transformation
(the eroticization of inanimate objects such as robots,
dolls or stuffed animals), and taboo (which most often involves
the violation of childhood rules of cleanliness, and may
be made manifest as outright infantalism). All of these
categories, Gates points out, may and often do involve elements
of dominance/submission or fear as triggers for arousal.
all of them have their own Web pages. From Amazons to women
in peril, asphyxiation to vampires, there’s a full gamut
out there—much of it available at sites obviously constructed
to have mainstream appeal. With a subtle motion of the wrist
(get your mind out of the gutter), you can leap from “wholesome”
Baywatch porn to depications of acts that may confuse,
as much as arouse, you.
just between you and me, are you getting any lately? Anything
of the Deal
the signs of the subtle, maddening give-and-take that is
two agreed to meet at the movie theater, a movie neither
particularly wanted to see. It’ll be dark, good for groping,
he thought. He hoped they would grope, touch, feel one another
during the movie. They’d been out a couple of times, and
he wanted to get to the next level.
hadn’t wanted to meet at the theater. Why had she? He wished
she would let him pick her up. That way, he’d definitely
make it back to her front steps. At the very least, he’d
have to make it to the front steps this time, or else he
wouldn’t be seeing her again.
made sure to be on time—it all had to go well tonight. Why
he hadn’t gotten in the door previously, he wasn’t sure.
But he would cover all the bases tonight. He wore his favorite
clothes—not the newest or hippest, but his favorite. He
looked good, he thought, while glancing in the mirror, and
sucked on some mouthwash.
much he knew: He wanted to sleep with her. He was attracted
to her, physically, and they got along pretty well. It’s
just so hard to tell what someone’s really like after
a few scheduled meetings chock-full of politeness and the
ever-present desire to make a good impression. But, aside
from getting to know her better, and becoming involved physically,
he didn’t know what he wanted. It would reveal itself in
time, he thought. He was aware that things can get messy
after sex; he wasn’t born yesterday. But he’d put that off
for now. Maybe it’ll be cool.
no clue about what she wanted. Was she playing it
cool? Did she even like him? He knew she mustn’t hate
him, unless she had a debilitating habit of hanging
out with people she abhorred. No, she liked something. She
could be playing with him, but he discounted that. It’s
too early to tell. Was she attracted to him? It frustrated
him that he could not answer these questions.
was running late, having tried on a dizzying number of clothing
combinations. She had hand-washed her favorite panties merely
hours before they met at the theater. She’d try her best
to make everything right tonight. She still wasn’t sure
how she felt about sex with him, but, she thought again,
she hadn’t ruled it out. It wasn’t prudishness that kept
her from sleeping with him. She was attracted to him. Not
passionately. Well, she wasn’t repelled.
things were deal-breakers for her when it came to sex: She
had to enjoy his smell, for example. She had a sensitivity
to smell, and certain smells—ones she couldn’t even decipher—turned
her off. Not sweat. She generally liked the smell of sweat—she
had to like the smell of someone’s sweat to get it
all over her. His breath needn’t be laced with mint or some
other sweet smell. But it had to contain something that
drew her toward rather than away from him.
controlled her lust index in many ways, mostly in imperceptible
ways. She was a slave to it. For while it could keep her
from bedding one person, it could throw her into the arms
of another. She didn’t need a strong sexual attraction,
and strong smell attraction, to sleep with someone. But
it helped. It was smell, she believed, that would cause
her to fantasize of hot sex with a person standing in front
of her. She didn’t even need to see a face. Those times
could end in nameless, faceless lovemaking sessions. Some
of the most passionate of her life. No, it wasn’t prudishness
that had kept her from previously inviting him in, although
he’d have made it in on date No. 1 had he aroused her olfactorily.
was the fact that she was loath to invite into her life
the mess that can accompany sex when feelings and expectations
are lopsided. Did she want more than sex? She did not know.
She didn’t really know what drew her to attempt these encounters.
She wasn’t the marrying sort—that’s for sure. But she was
certain, staunchly so, that she didn’t want to get bogged
down in a conversation about the politics of sex and dating
with someone she barely knew. She’d just have to figure
out for herself, through polite conversations, offhanded
remarks, and his actions, whether or not he’d be too sensitive
about the whole thing—or insensitive, as the case may be.
Sex creates strange attachments, she thought, and she wasn’t
up for the drama that could ensue were she to back away
from him, or become attached to someone who wanted no more
than sex. What a complicated mess, she thought. But she
got in her car and headed to the movie theater.
was a bit late, but not to a bothersome degree. She looked
pretty, and she looked nervous, he noted. He could tell
she’d made a special attempt to look good. But her feelings
betrayed her, at least hazily. Why was she nervous? What
goes on in her head?
exchanged pleasantries. Her smile was wide and genuine.
She seemed glad to be there, perhaps glad to be with him
was surprised by how happy it made her feel to see him waiting
in that lobby. She loosened up, perhaps instinctively due
to her ever-increasing attraction to him. He seems so at
ease, she thought, so sexy. The fear of the mess may have
made an instant decision to release himself from his insecurities
that evening. They didn’t help him any anyhow. Who cares
if she doesn’t want anything to do with me, he thought.
It’s her loss. But, by her arm on my shoulder, it seems
as though she does. They walked into the already-dark theater,
and when they sat, she placed her hand on his thigh and
gave it a squeeze.
fear of the mess, he thought, will have to wait.
Gather ’Round the Vibrator
Tupperware of the 21st century: sex-toy parties for women
a commercial for the Oxygen Channel, the hip version of
Lifetime, Candice Bergen asks viewers if sex toys are the
Tupperware for the new millennium. Well, after my first
experience at a Passion’s Party, I can respond: “Why yes,
Candice, they are.”
Parties, Inc., based in Brisbane, Calif., was founded in
1994. The company’s mission statement reads, “To share the
opportunity that any woman can experience the prosperity
of owning her own business; to share the products that will
enhance any woman’s relationship; and to share the philosophy
of women helping women.” Sales consultants stress that the
company promotes monogamy and safe sex, pointing out condom
compatibility of some items. It also donates to charities
such as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
and offers college scholarships to daughters or granddaughters
of distributors. Passion parties provide an alternative
to sleazy sex shops that are geared towards men. Many women
may not explore their options because they are embarrassed
or feel uncomfortable going to a store with neon lights
and painted windows where the man behind the counter has
that crazed Charles Manson look in his eye.
into this experience not knowing what to expect. The closest
I’ve ever come to a sex-toy party was when a bunch of friends
hired a stripper for another girl’s birthday. Yes, I have
been in a sex shop, so I am familiar with the equipment,
but the variety and options blew me away.
were four of us willing to brave the unknown. One friend
was using the party as an excuse to take a break from studying
for law school; another, our “in,” baked brownies to bring
as a party gift. As we drove to the party I began to feel
nervous. I wondered if this would be cheesy, like the stripper,
or a memorable learning experience.
arrived and met the party hostess, my friend’s cousin, who
was already tipsy. There was an assortment of food and wine
being served. I have no idea if alcohol is a staple at these
kinds of events, but I would not be surprised. Besides heightening
the comic factor, the wine helped loosen up the more timid
I was introduced to the other guests. There were about 20
other women, mostly in their 30s, and as I was about to
find out, many were schoolteachers (brings a whole new meaning
to show and tell). As the women kept arriving, they joked
about having to tell their husbands where they were headed
or the lies they had told to babysitters. One woman told
her sitter that she was at a church event.
sales consultant unloaded her three suitcases of treats
and spread them out on a table at one end of the living
room. She began by having us fill out nametags with erotic
names based on the first letter of our first name. I was
“Titillating Tanya.” She started off with some bath and
body items, explaining the purpose of each and passing them
around to smell, or—if edible—to taste. The Romanta Therapy
lotion, perfume and shower gel selections are made with
pheromones to act as an aphrodisiac. Other goodies offered
were Ready to Go gel for clitoral stimulation, complete
with the disclaimer that it works only on 80 percent of
women, and D’Lickious Edible Head Gel to calm the gag reflex
(available in Tingling Mint or Tangerine Tango flavors).
a break before we moved on to the fashion and fantasy section,
we played a game to see who was the luckiest bitch in the
room. Based on sexually oriented questions, we were awarded
points, and whomever had the most at the end won free lube.
Ten points if you had sex last night. Nope. Twenty points
if you have ever left a rose petal path to your bed. Fuck
no. I believe I scored a measly 60 out of a possible 200.
we delved into the toys. The vibrators, cock rings, and
bullets. Bullets are metallic, egg-shaped toys inserted
directly or as an attachment to a vibrator to provide the
clitoral stimulation that 70 percent of women need to achieve
orgasm. The Jelly Osaki is the best seller due to its rotating
shaft and G-spot massage. One woman pointed out the unappetizing
animal theme to the toys, such as Super Beaver, Pink Pachyderm
and the Waterproof Dancing Dolphin. I mean, really, they
sound like goddamn feminist superheroes. I can’t fantasize
not on display at the party but available through the catalog
included anal beads, a butt plug that looks like a pacifier,
the notorious love swing, and Ben-Wa balls. Surprised by
that last one? According to the consultant, even doctors
recommend using the balls to tone and tighten the Kegel
muscles in the vagina (ladies, you know, the ones used to
fake an orgasm) to improve bladder control, and for soon-to-be-mothers,
to strengthen pushing ability.
the fun and games, each person had the opportunity to confidentially
order any item. In a separate room, the consultant and client
discussed the client’s options. The law student swore me
to secrecy; another friend is looking forward to her Nubby
G; and a third is toying with the idea of becoming a consultant
is exactly how our consultant got her start. “It started
as a joke. I went to a party and was in awe at how she [the
consultant] carried herself.” But it took her three parties
to work up the nerve to attempt doing it herself. She does
not broadcast her part-time job: “Due to the nature of my
job and being a mother, I have to be careful how it’s perceived.
I have to be discreet.” According to the consultant, even
though most of her business is through word-of-mouth, her
services are in such high demand that she can’t keep up,
so she recruits at every party she does.
been in business only since October, the consultant hasn’t
since regretted her decision: “I look at it as educational.
Everyone is having sex in one way or another, but are not
comfortable talking about it. I want to put them at ease
and in-tune with their own bodies. I hope that I can teach
them something and open up a line of communication with
their partner.” Most of her clients are married women who
need something new to spice up their sex life. “I’ve met
people from all walks of life. I’ve even had mothers and
daughters at the same party. Now that’s cool,” she marveled.
favorite part is during the middle of the party, when people
relax and say things they never thought they’d say,” the
consultant said proudly. “These are normal people. They
don’t have a third eye in the middle of their forehead.”
because you’re eligible for the senior discount doesn’t
mean you have to discount your sex life
Moms Mabely, who was herself older than 60, used to quip
in performance, “The only thing an old man is good for is
to bring me a message from a young man,” she was perpetuating
a misconception that is still going strong today. It is
a common belief that sex and attractiveness belong to the
young and not the old. You don’t want to think about your
parents’ (or grandparents’) sex life, much less talk about
it. The truth is that we don’t change all that much as we
move through the stages of our lives. Sexuality is an essential
element of one’s identity. Who you are, your habits, your
preferences and your sexuality will carry through. If you
have a vital sexual life now, you surely will want one later.
the population ages, more studies speak directly to the
physical and emotional issues particular to sex after 70.
Researchers Leslie Barnes Fluharty and Daniel Jones of the
College of Wooster developed a list of facts everyone should
know about aging and sexuality:
Though the amount of sexual activity generally decreases,
the amount of sexual interest and ability remains fairly
If one’s sexuality is constant throughout life, the biological
changes associated with aging are less pronounced and sexuality
is usually less affected.
Understanding that sexuality is normal and natural in old
age is an important step to becoming more comfortable with
one’s own sexuality.
There is more to sexuality than vaginal intercourse. There
are many forms of intimate expression ranging from holding
hands to kissing to masturbation to oral sex. Sexuality
is about intimacy, and these options can enrich sexual expression.
Sexual activity is possible and takes place through the
70s and beyond. Sexual health can be beneficial to the overall
health of an elderly individual.
The physical exertion associated with sex is near the equivalent
to walking up two flights of stairs. With this in mind,
it is easy to understand that sex for the patient of a heart
operation would rarely be dangerous.
dysfunctions have many of the same causes regardless of
age: disease, depression, medication, lack of a partner.
Surgeries and strokes, etc., have their impact on late-in-life
sexuality. The changes related to age are mostly physiological,
compounded by the attendant personal reactions to those
changes. But nothing influences sex more than attitudes.
Consider the assumptions of someone in their 70s today.
They were born in the 1920 or ’30s, before the sexual revolution,
before readily available contraception and abortion, when
gender roles were more narrow and solidly predictable. Speaking
with a man and woman in their mid-’70s from my community
led to some stimulating insights.
“I made the inference that sex was over after 60. When a
man over 60 fathered a child it was a scandal. There have
always been guys who knew that sex goes on, but they didn’t
especially talk about it.”
changes in aging women include decrease in sex hormones,
vaginal lubrication decrease, fewer orgasmic contractions
and rapid “decrescendo” in arousal after orgasm. Menopausal
women can attest to physical changes, such as the need for
lubricants like Astroglide. Changes in men include the loss
of the inevitability stage—the feeling of necessity to have
an orgasm just prior to climax—and changes in the ability
to achieve an erection. It may take longer to achieve and
it may not be as firm as in youth. However, as in youth,
most causes of impotence are psychological. Embarrassing
and discouraging, it is usually a temporary condition.
“Performance was always the most important issue, not whether
you had a good time. I tried Viagra, thinking ‘this will
make certain I have no problem.’ I didn’t notice much difference,
so I stopped. I decided to get away from worrying so much
about performance. Age doesn’t matter overall. You don’t
have the same endurance, but even that doesn’t matter because
it’s totally adequate.”
is difficult to separate what issues are specifically related
to aging and those that are part of a human condition. When
the woman comments, “Ego—the fear of not performing is an
issue for the man. It’s like, if he doesn’t work, everybody
will know,” she could be referring to anyone at any age.
a woman ages, she may become more anxious about her appearance.
The emphasis on youthful physical beauty can interfere with
the ability to enjoy sex. Woman: “At 60 I was thinking,
I don’t feel very sexy. I think this is all ego too. Oh
the hell with it, I might as well give up my ego for a while.
It’s not springtime anymore.”
“You can’t think of your former body, the way you looked.
That patronizing idea of beauty, youth, and what is sexy.
Sexy is what you project. If he likes and admires you, that’s
may require an examination of what lovemaking is. As we
age, lovemaking may become a more intimate experience, a
deeper connection with a new emphasis on communicating,
physicality and affection. Woman: “He is crazy about my
belly. He likes to rub it from side to side and it goes
from side to side. It’s like we are both saying, this is
great, this is fascinating. We’re old.” She laughs.
“I had one of the biggest laughs of my life, after, when
we were done. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was so delightful,
couples have the same concerns that affect people of any
age. Many find that they are not much in the mood at the
end of a long day. One older couple described their matinee
plans: They maintain separate beds for sleeping but prearrange
a rendezvous in her bigger bed every Wednesday. They cuddle,
talk and allow the mood to overtake them. Waiting for the
mood to strike may mean waiting for weeks or months (observe
the recent flood of books about sexless marriages). Most
sex manuals advise couples to learn to enjoy the physical
and emotional intimacy without striving for orgasm quickly.
Making an effort to improve communication and explore ways
of pleasing each other leads to satisfying sex.
anything can be a turn-on at 20, but at 70, after years
of sexual experience, sexual expressions are more refined.
Sex can be an artist’s masterwork after years of study.
“I’ve slowed down. I’ve done it a million times. More concentration
is where it’s at. When my mind wanders, it’s no good—I may
as well be somewhere else. All of sex is mindset. Dirty
thoughts, clean thinking—it’s all in your head.”
“I am far more focused in the experience rather than judging
the experience, like how am I doing. It’s freer, with fewer
olden days, absolute power permitted rulers to indulge their
say you had unlimited money and power with which to satisfy
any and all of your lusts, and no moral constraints to stop
you. You could, without censure here or damnation in the
hereafter, have sex in any setting with any number of men,
women, or both. How wild would you go? History provides
some clues in the lives of the monarchs and emperors of
the pre- Christian Roman Empire, and what you learn is that
ancient heads of state often went to such lurid excesses
that it strains belief.
source of what we know about the amorous indulgences of
ancient omnipotents is The Twelve Ceasars by Gaius
Suetonius Tranquillus, who was chief secretary to the Roman
emperor Hadrian (who ruled 117-38 A.D.) Suetonius had access
to the imperial annals, and was able to draw on them in
his biographical sketches of Rome’s first dozen emperors.
Although it is his only surviving work, we know he also
penned what had to have been an at least equally juicy volume,
The Lives of Famous Whores.
starts with Julius (100-44 B.C.), the first Caesar. Even
as a general conquering Gaul, Julius’s profligate ways were
sung of in this ribald Latin verse back in Rome, as rendered
by Robert Graves in his landmark translation of The Twelve
we bring our bald whoremonger:
lock your wives away!
the bags of gold you lent him
his Gallic tarts to pay.
he got back and became emperor, he did exactly what the
quatrain warned of by helping himself to the wives of numerous
Roman patricians. For a husband so cuckolded, though, the
price of complaining was prohibitive—angering an emperor
could be fatal. Julius was also bisexual (sex with male
slaves was common among Roman men, but for a married man,
adultery with women other than prostitutes was frowned upon),
being described by a contemporary as “every queen’s man
and every man’s queen.” But as it turns out, Julius was
tame in comparison with some of his successors.
(42 B.C.-37 A.D.) had an entire island converted into a
pleasure garden and peopled it with “bevies of young women
and men, from all over the world, who were adept in unnatural
practices,” who would perform for the emperor in groups
of three. Rooms decorated with pornographic paintings and
statuary and staffed with concubines of either sex who were
required to study Egyptian sex manuals were available for
the ruler. And for al fresco debauchery among the forests
and glades of the island, boys and girls attired as Pans
and nymphs stood waiting outside of caves and grottos.
probably was the most sexually depraved of the early emperors
on account of his pedophilia. Translators of Suetonius before
Robert Graves simply refused to include passages like this:
“Some aspects of his criminal obscenity are almost too vile
to discuss, much less believe. Imagine training little boys,
whom he called his ‘minnows,’ to chase him while he was
swimming and get between his legs to suck and nibble him.
Or letting babies not yet weaned from their mother’s breast
suck at him-such a filthy old man he had become!” After
all, there was nothing to stop him, and the Romans had no
concept in their pagan religion of an afterlife with possible
punishment for earthly sins.
Rome for a moment, Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra VII (69-30 B.C.)
had a robust libido on steroids. Known by sobriquets such
as “the great swallower,” and “she who gapes wide for ten
thousand men,” she was said to be highly skilled at fellatio.
Tradition holds that she performed oral sex on a hundred
Roman noblemen in a single night (blow jobs evidently were
a national pastime in the land of the pyramids—it’s worth
mentioning that lipstick was first worn there by women wishing
to advertise their fondness for giving head). But that feat
pales in comparison with how quickly Cleopatra met the eligibility
requirement for becoming a High Priestess of Aset, which
was having fucked 1,000 men. The story goes that it took
her only 10 days to accomplish this, although some hyperbole
may be assumed.
of the worst emperors, Nero (37-68 A.D.), was seduced by
his mother, Aggripina, and is remembered for fiddling while
Rome burned (the fiddle actually didn’t come along until
the Middle Ages). According to Suetonius, Nero would stage
elaborate fantasies like having temporary brothels built
on the banks of the Tiber with noblewomen posing as madams
waiting outside them, and then sailing down the Tiber and
taking his pick of the women. Or this: “Nero practiced every
kind of obscenity,” Suetonius writes, “and at last he invented
a novel game: He was released from a den dressed in the
skins of wild animals, and attacked the private parts of
men and women who stood bound to stakes. After working up
sufficient excitement by this means, he was dispatched—shall
we say?—by his freedman Doryphorus. Doryphorus now married
him—just as he himself had married Sporus—and on the wedding
night he imitated the screams and moans of a girl being
deflowered.” Both men had been castrated and forced to undergo
what are described as sex-change surgeries, reminding us
that the lasciviousness of some of the emperors was nothing
next their cruelty.
bisexuality among the emperors was the rule, with their
complete freedom to follow their fancy, there naturally
were exceptions. Of the first 12, only Claudius (10 B.C.-54
A.D.) was purely heterosexual. Suetonius remarks, “His feelings
for women were extremely passionate, but men and boys left
him cold.” On the other hand, the emperor Galba (3 B.C.-69
A.D.) was gay: “A homosexual invert, he showed a decided
preference for mature, sturdy men. It is said that when
Icleus, one of his trusty bedfellows, brought the news of
Nero’s death, Galba showered him with kisses and begged
him to undress without delay, whereupon intimacy took place.”
what sense do you make of it all? In a 1959 essay on Suetonius,
Gore Vidal, author of the novel Julian, wrote (and
here we may include Cleopatra), “From the sexual opportunism
of Julius Caesar to the sadism of Nero to the doddering
pederasty of Galba, the sexual lives of the Caesars encompassed
every aspect of what our post-medieval time has termed ‘sexual
abnormality.’ It would be wrong, however, to dismiss, as
so many commentators have, the wide variety of Caesarean
sensuality as simply the viciousness of twelve abnormal
men. They were, after all, a fairly representative lot.
They differed from us—and their contemporaries—only in the
fact of power, which made it possible for each to act out
his most recondite sexual fantasies. This is the psychological
fascination of Suetonius. What will men so placed do? The
answer, apparently, is anything and everything.”