SEX IN THE THEATER: Mae West

According to the Writer’s Almanac, it was on this day — April 19 — in 1927 that actress Mae West was sentenced to 10 days in prison for her starring role in the play Sex, which she also wrote and directed. It was her first Broadway show. Sex got terrible reviews but attracted huge audiences. It had been running for 41 weeks when the police showed up and arrested the cast and crew — although only West was sent to jail. She was charged with “producing an immoral show and maintaining a public nuisance.” She said: “I wrote the story myself. It’s about a girl who lost her reputation and never missed it.”

In jail, West was forced to turn over her silk stockings, but allowed to keep her silk underwear. She got her own private cell, and she charmed the warden and his wife so much that they invited her to eat dinner with them in their home each night. She befriended the other inmates while she made beds and dusted. In her down time, she read business articles comparing various Hollywood studios. She was released two days early for good behavior.

The following year, she wrote and starred in the play Diamond Lil (1928) on Broadway, and it was a big success. She went to Hollywood, got a part in Night After Night (1932), and was allowed to rewrite her scenes. In her first scene, a hatcheck girl says to her “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!” and West says, “Goodness has nothing to do with it, dearie.” It was a hit, and the next year she co-starred with Cary Grant in I’m No Angel (1933). By 1935, she was said to be the second highest paid person in the United States, after William Randolph Hearst.

mae west

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: the birds and the bees

“Birds and Bees”

When my daughter starts asking I realize
I don’t know which, if any, birds
have penises. I can’t picture how swans

do it. I’m even confused about bees:
that fat queen and her neurotic workers,
her children grown in cells. I’m worried

by turtles and snakes: their parts hidden
in places I have never seen. How do they
undress? Long ago, awash in college

boyfriends, I knew a little about sex.
I understood the dances and calls,
the pretty plumage. Now, I am as ignorant

as a child. We have gone to the library
to find books though I know sex
is too wild for words. The desire to be

kissed is the desire to live forever
in the mouth of pleasure. My God
I can never tell my daughter the truth.

It is a secret the way spring is a secret,
buried in February’s fields. It is a secret
the way babies are a secret: hidden

by skin or egg, their bodies made of darkness.

— Faith Shearin
birds and bees

DID YOU SEE: New York Magazine on butt-licking

ny mag butt illo

I admire Maureen O’Connor, New York magazine’s current sex columnist, for having the lady-balls to address the subject of rimming in a major mainstream publication. At the same time, I’m kind of appalled at her ignorance and misinformation about the intersection of pleasure and hygiene in this department. It’s one thing to start off with a certain amount of squeamishness about merging the hole you eat with and the hole someone else poops with – we’ve all been there. But O’Connor’s column begins and ends without making any distinction between butt-munching and shit-eating. The latter is a fetish that has its adherents – the clinical word for the practice is coprophagia – but they are very few and far between, virtually all of them “mentally ill, retarded, or otherwise missing a few teeth off the main sprocket.” Analingus is a whole other story, and its enthusiasts know perfectly well how to make a tasty meal out of eating ass without unwanted guests showing up for the feast.

Of course, as with every sexual practice under the sun, not all practitioners apply the same standards. For instance, not every heterosexual man loves to perform oral sex on women (nor is every guy equally adept at it), and although there may be some pussy-eaters who will go down on a woman who is menstruating, I think it’s fair to say that’s not the majority. Similarly, I think it’s fair to say that most people who are into eating ass take steps to make sure their partners are reasonably clean. Not everyone is that meticulous. My friend Eric had a knack for picking up macho construction workers, and he loved burying his face in their musky buttholes. The way he dealt with the hygiene issue was to ration his rimming – he only allowed himself four analingus episodes per calendar year. That worked for him. For me, that’s way too risky. I would prefer the option of unlimited butt-licking, as long as the butt is clean.

How do you determine cleanliness? Some people employ the smell test, either sneaking a finger down there and discreetly sniffing it or waiting until your face is close enough to get a good whiff. You can usually tell. Sometimes I will ask my partner, “Is your ass clean enough to eat off of?” You have to know your partner well enough to know if those words mean the same thing to both of you. I’m always happiest rimming someone who has just stepped out of the shower. (Certainly, that is the best way to engage in butt-licking with close to zero risks to your health. See Cecil Adams’ frank and characteristically informative Straight Dope column for the list of possible diseases that you can get from ingesting fecal matter.)

I want to mention something about rimming scenes in porn. Nowadays you can spend all day watching rimming scenes online, some of it pretty hot. Some commercial porn producers make it a point to model safer sex practices, but many don’t. Maybe especially because it’s ridiculous to expect porn film to take responsibility for educating the public about sexual hygiene, I want to mention that as a sex educator myself, I cringe when I see scenes in porn where someone is rimming, then plays with the partner’s asshole, sticks his finger(s) inside, and then goes back to eating ass again. People do it all the time, but it’s not advisable – even a rectum that’s been recently cleaned out can have traces of fecal matter sloshing around inside, and you don’t want to pull what’s inside out to where it can get in your mouth. If you do, you run the risk of picking up parasites or hepatitis. That’s probably why some people abstain from ass-eating altogether. The closest thing to completely risk-free rimming is covering your partner’s ass in Saran Wrap – you’ll never see it in any porn film, because it’s not especially photogenic, but it can feel fantastic for both partners, and it has the added appeal of removing the possibility of unwanted smells and tastes, not to mention any health risk.

rimming cartoon

I wasn’t always an aficionado of ass-eating. When I was a young gay guy in my twenties, I couldn’t imagine doing it or enjoying it, partly because anal eroticism was not my strongest interest and partly because of the poopy connotations. It was a mid-‘70s porn film that changed my mind completely, I can’t remember the name of the mustachioed performer or the film I was watching, but his tender ardent tonguing made rimming look like kissing, which was a revelation for me. I’ll always be grateful for that life-changing celluloid moment of adult sex education. If you approach rimming the way you approach kissing – that is, if everybody makes sure to freshen up in advance — it can’t help but be sweet, tender, juicy, exploratory, and intimate.

EVENTS: Living Soulfully, Sunday April 6, 4-6 PM

I will be the guest speaker this Sunday April 6 at Living Soulfully, the monthly gathering of local guys who have been to Easton Mountain Retreat Center in upstate New York or who have an interest in belonging to the extended community of soulful gay men.

My topic is CREATING RITUALS FOR INTIMACY AND CONNECTION. Habits, patterns, and routines bring comfort and stability to our everyday lives. But what happens when those routines grow stale and we feel trapped in same-old same-old? Whether you’re partnered and puzzling over how to keep sex juicy or single and pondering new ways to make contact, what does it take to “get outside the box”?

get-out-of-the-box

In this lively interactive presentation (a preview of the workshop I’ll be conducting at Easton Mountain April 24-27), I’ll talk about using creativity to devise rituals that enliven intimacy and promote connection. Although often associated with religious services, a ritual can be any kind of intentional ceremony. It can be cooked up on the spur of the moment and be done in ten minutes, or it can involve elaborate preparation and go on for days. I’ll talk about what goes into creating a powerful ritual, then together we will explore how to identify habits we have and things we do that don’t serve us anymore and practice imagining new ways of connecting with each other that involve verbal communication, and touch, and artistic expression (music, movement, pictures).

photo by Adam Seymour

photo by Adam Seymour

Living Soulfully usually meets at the LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street, but because of construction, the meeting will take place at Ripley Grier Studios 520 Eighth Ave. 16th floor,
(8th Ave. b/w 36th and 37th Street). Tell the desk you are going to Ripley-Grier and proceed to the 16th Floor. Living Soulfully’s room will be listed on their board. The meeting goes on from 4:00 to 6:00. Newcomers are welcome. Bring a friend. See you there!

GLOSSARY: on intimacy

What is intimacy? We talk about it all the time. We long for it. We fear it. But what do we mean when we talk about intimacy? There’s some part of it that is physical and erotic, but what part? Sex can be intimate, but it’s not automatically. Intimacy can include sex, but it doesn’t have to. Some part of intimacy is emotional – just having feelings, expressing them, sharing them with another person is pretty intimate, not necessarily something you do on a casual basis with just anyone. Some part of intimacy is verbal – it may not be easy to define, but you know the difference between an intimate conversation and one that’s not especially intimate.

At some personal growth seminar years ago, I heard intimacy defined as “Into-Me-You-See.” I know, it’s a little corny. But it gets to the heart of what constitutes intimacy – showing yourself to someone else, with all the openness, tenderness, courage, vulnerability, and individuality that requires. It’s great when you’re able to relax and feel free to be yourself with another person.

intimacy

I’ve learned through personal experience and through my professional practice that intimacy can be created. You can build it by hand, step by step, on purpose. That’s the essence of the workshop for gay men that I’m facilitating at Easton Mountain April 24-27, “THAT’S AMORE: Creative Rituals for Intimacy and Connection.” Starting with the process of creating ritual space, formally and informally, we will explore a dozen different ways of cultivating intimacy by devising intentional ceremonies and experiments involving verbal communication, physical touch, imagination, and artistic elements (music, pictures, movement, food, meditation, the natural environment).

The program is intended for single or partnered gay men who would enjoy spending a weekend in a structured environment that supports the quest for authentic love and affection. Each participant will leave with not only tools for connecting more deeply with other men but also a greater appreciation for yourself as a lover.

The cost of the workshop is $495-695 (depending on your choice of accommodations). For more information and to register online, go to http://bit.ly/AmoreEaston.

LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX: adult sex education, comic book-style

One of the best things about having a self-proclaimed Big Honking Geek for a boyfriend is that he is thoroughly conversant with the wide world of web comics and frequently turns me on to artists whose work is hilarious, outrageous, beautiful, and/or instructional. Latest example: Oh Joy Sex Toy, the blog by Erika Moen who reviews sex toys for a living and writes up her responses in posts that are delightfully graphic in every sense of the word. She recently posted the most thorough, accessible, user-friendly guide to pleasuring a female partner I think I’ve ever seen. Check out “How To Eat Pussy” — like everything on her site, it’s decided NSFW but adult sex education at its finest.

vulva by moen
The artist is from Portland, Oregon (wouldn’t you know). Here she is talking about her work and how you can both benefit from it and support her: