The Way of Making Love
Philip Toshio Sudo
The yin-yang principles of tension and release underlie every dramatic art form. The art of lovemaking is no exception. Play with the yin and yang, and build that sexual tension to the breaking point. When the moment comes: Let go.
Philip Sudo tells us that among the zen masters over the centuries there was a Ikkyu Sojun from the fifteenth century whose schtick was love, sex, passion. His poems were quite graphic, viz: "When my jade stalk wilts, she can make it sprout!/How we enjoy our intimate little circle."
Ikkyu's words form much of the thrust, if you will, of Zen Sex --- brought together in chapters like "What is Zen Sex?" "The Way of Anticipation," "The Way of Accepting," "The Way of Union." Along this moist path, Sudo quotes not only from the master, but Plato, Chinese Cosmology, "Poets of Asia," the Tao Te Ching, Mu-nan (1602-1676), Shoju (1642-1721), the Japanese tea ceremony, and, lord help us, Deepak Chopra, Kahlil Gibran, and the "Serenity Prayer," God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change... etc., etc., blah blah blah.
If you suspect, as I do, that Sudo has arrived at the landing with a garbage scow loaded with wood-
shavings, car parts, pop bottles, old tires, and broken furniture left over from many of the philosophies of the ages, you're right. If you are wondering if we should get on board, we'd have to say it would make about as much sense as, for instance, trying to figure out the sound of the one hand.
Zen means a great many different things to many different people, but ideally, it is an aesthetic view of life which demands harmony and restraint. To fill up the bean-bag with passion, sexuality, making babies and hot nights panting on the larder floor seems not quite in keeping with the single-
minded non- involvement of meditation and its mental discipline. To put it another way, Sudo has drifted somewhat far from cold mornings in the lotus position, and rather closer to the hot temples of popsex to be found on afternoon television: If you find your sex life to be the same old same-old....If you don't have a sex partner and would like to have one in your life.... With those kind of italics, it's not the mindset that we think of when we contemplate Soto, Rinzai, or Obaku.
The best that can be said for Zen Sex is that it has interesting illustrations. They're called shunga or "spring pictures," Playboy shots from Japan from 200 years ago. Admittedly, like everything else in this thin volume, they have absolutely nothing to do with self-realization and more to do with selling a few more copies of Zen Sex. But they are jolly good, even though the reproduction stinks.
We would suggest that Sudo, fresh from his successes with tomes like Zen Guitar and Zen Computer, abandon this effort to jam an honorable religious system into the old squeeze-box, and, instead, just give us a full volume of the shunga, blown up to a respectable size, in full color, so that us old bastards, without our specs, can figure out what the hell is going on in that gray area between those intertwined Oriental bodies. That would be something to make us forget this satori nonsense right off.
Sex, Drugs &
Paul Krassner Paul Krassner has been around so long that we perhaps should think of him as the most wrinkled and geezered acid-head around. I remember when I was in college a few decades ago, our bibles were Pogo, H. L. Mencken, and The Realist. Krassner's highest moment from those days I do believe was his disgusting fantasy having to do and LBJ and JFK's body being flown back to the funeral, but what fascinated me more at the time was his problem with Walt Disney.
A lawyer friend of mine worked for the corporation. Disney is famous for their vicious lawsuits against anyone who even hints at representing their cast of characters without permission and payment of heavy fees (they did a number on a minority-run child-care center in Watts that had the temerity to decorate the entryway with a crude drawing of Minnie Mouse). My lawyer friend told me that the Disney executives were incensed at a center spread in The Realist which showed Mickey Mouse and Donald and Daisy Duck and Goofy and the Seven Dwarfs tied up in bizarre sex acts but they were unsure as how to get Krassner.
Threats --- from the corporations or the FBI or the Thought Police --- never fazed Krassner because, over the years he was smart enough to never accumulate assets. He always jobbed out the printing of his magazines, which meant that he had no capital investment; thus nothing to lose in a lawsuit. He never got rich, but this gave him a certain holy freedom: he could be sued but would never lose his stock portfolio or his house because he didn't have any.
§ § §
Krassner revived the Realist not long ago, and then let it run down --- the last issue came out last year --- and it's just as well because most of his writers were just pale imitations of the master. For Krassner first and foreskin was and is a journalist and a reporter. His writing is clear and direct, and he marshals facts to make his point, no matter how bizarre: he trained himself to write in a snappy fashion, and he does his homework. In that way, we could say that he represents the New York Times of the acid set. People magazine had the temerity to say that he was the "Father of the Underground Press" which cleverly ignores other activists such as Milton, John Stuart Mill, Eugene V. Debs, John Steinbeck and all the samizdat magazine publishers.
The funniest thing he ever wrote, by my lights, appeared in Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut. It's a record of his testimony for the Chicago Seven while stoned out of his gourd on a tab of acid. The present volume is made up of fifty essays on the likes of "The Persecution of Lenny Bruce," "John Lennon and the FBI," "Who killed Bobby Kennedy." There is, too, an extended essay on the murder of the George Moscone and Harvey Milk, which not only provides us with excerpts from the trial of Dan White, but, as well, tells
- Where the Twinkie Defense came from (it came from "a former Merry Prankster who had become a lawyer" by the name of Dale Metcalf);
- A brief history of Twinkies (the world's largest Twinkie was unveiled in Boston in 1981. It was 10 feet long, and weighed more than a ton);
- The contradictions in the prosecutions case (too many to list); and
- What it was like to get caught in the middle of the riots that followed the jury's decision in the White trial (Krassner got banged in the knee and in the ribs by billy clubs, resulting in a fractured rib and a punctured lung).
It is in this reportage that Krassner shows his most beguiling side. If you and I were innocent bystanders who had gotten beaten up during a police riot, we'd probably spend several years in court trying to either get vengeance on those who beat up on us or, at least, extract a few thousand dollars from the state. Krassner says,
The city of San Francisco was sued for $4.3 million by a man who had been a peaceful observer at the riot following the verdict. He was walking away from the Civic Center area when a cop yelled, "We're gonna kill all you faggots!" --- and beat him on the head with his nightstick. He was awarded $125,000. I had wanted to sue the police myself, but an attorney requested $75 for a filing fee, and I didn't have it. I was too proud to borrow it, and I decided to forego the lawsuit.
Although he says, "This was one of the dumbest mistakes of my life," that's a throw-away line. According to those who know him, Krassner does not cultivate what we call a "venge personality." (Translation: Life's too silly to waste in lawsuits.) He does tell us that after six weeks of celibacy "while the healing process took place,"
I thought I was ready for sex again, but when my partner embraced me tightly during her climax, I felt a sharp pain and groaned. She got turned on by what she interpreted as a moan of pleasure, and she squeezed me even tighter, which only make me groan louder, turning her on even more.
Bound and Gagged
Pornography and the Politics
Of Fantasy in America
(Duke University Press)This Laura Kipnis is no shrinking violet. In two hundred or so pages, she takes us through fat people's sex, the works of Larry Flynt, Transvestites ("Clothes Make The Man"), a tale of two men in prison for spilling out their sex-murder fantasies to the FBI, and --- in general --- some discussion of how feminists might better and more honestly deal with pornography.
In the summing up last chapter, entitled "How to Look at Pornography," Ms. Kipnis repeats one of her central themes: that is, that pornography is there to take us to the furthermost reaches, well beyond the limits of what we might think of as "acceptable." In the process, it might well be able to teach us something very important about ourselves:
Like the avant-garde's, pornography's transgressions are first of all aesthetic. It confronts us with bodies that repulse us --- like fat ones --- or defies us with genders we find noxious...In a culture that so ferociously equates sexuality with youth, where else but within pornography will you find enthusiasm for sagging, aging bodies, or for their sexualization.
There is indeed a subgenus of porn --- both gay and straight --- devoted to the geriatric. The degree of one's aesthetic distress when thumbing through magazine with titles like 40+, with its wrinkly models and not-so-perky breasts, or Over 50, with its naked pictorials of sagging white-haired grandmothers (or the white-haired grandfathers of Classics, with their big bellies and vanishing hairlines, and, turning the page, the two lumbering CEOs in bifocals and boxer shorts fondling each other), indicates the degree to which a socially prescribed set of aesthetic conventions is embedded in the very core of our beings...It also indicates the degree to which pornography exists precisely to pester and thwart the dominant.
Ms. Kipnis has put together an astounding thesis. She has evidently immersed herself in no small amount of lurid literature in order to deliver the message that the reaction of most of us (sneering, shutting our eyes, calling the police) means that we are missing the vital truths that pornography can give us.
For instance, in the chapter entitled "Life in the Fat Lane," Ms. Kipnis points out that
There is a higher concentration of body fat the lower down the income scale you go...According to the National Center for Health Statistics, almost 30 percent of women with incomes below $10,000 are obese, as compared with 12.7 percent of those with incomes above $50,000 a year.
She points out that fat is "a predictor of downward mobility:"
If fat, you have a lower chance of being hired, and if hired a lower chance of being promoted....Researchers studying the psychology of body image report that fat is associated with a range of fears: from loss of control to a reversion to infantile desires, to failure, self-loathing, sloth, and passivity. Substitute "welfare class" for "fat" here and you start to see that the phobia of fat and the phobia of the poor are heavily cross-coded...
Ms. Kipnis discusses magazines that you and I have probably never dreamed about, much less read --- for instance, fat pornography publications like Dimensions, Plumpers and Big Women, Bulk Mail, along with hard-core videos like Life in the Fat Lane, Jumbo Jezebel, and Mother Load and I. These are "a safe haven" for the defiance of social norms and proprieties, she tells us:
in fat pornography, no one is dieting. These bodies aren't undergoing transformation. Cascading mounds of flab, mattress-sized buttocks, breasts like sagging, overfilled water balloons, meaty, puckered, elephantine thighs, and forty- to fifty-inch waistlines are greeted with avid sexual enthusiasm. The more cellulite the better.
Ms. Kipnis is a hell of a good writer; even better, she has a very important tale to tell. For this reviewer, the high point of Bound and Gagged was the excellent chapter "Disgust and Desire: Hustler Magazine." Remember --- to report is not to love; Kipnis walks the fine thin line of telling the truth without hectoring, scorning, or idolizing. She points out that it was Larry Flynt --- not The Washington Post, or Time, or even Playboy --- who forced the courts to make far-reaching and significant rulings opening the doors to freedom of the press. And she is not shy in pointing out that for the rest of the magazine/newspaper establishment in America, it is a embarrassment to having Flynt carrying the torch for them. But even more interesting to contemplate, there is the revolutionary aspect of Hustler:
The catalog of social resentments Hustler trumpets, particularly against class privilege, makes it by far the most openly class-antagonistic mass-circulation periodical of any genre. (After all, class privilege is the dirty little secret of all national and electoral politics: face it, no welfare moms, homeless, unemployed, no blue-collar workers represent the nation in those hallowed legislative halls of our 'representative' democracy.)
Ms. Kipnis compares Flynt and his magazine to the 16th Century satirist, Rabelais. For, in opposition to the Playboy/Penthouse body, "the Hustler body is often a gaseous, fluid-emitting, embarrassing body..."
Ms. Kipnis says that we are in a strange place with our pornography, or ersatz pornography: "Museum curators are put on trial. Parents are arrested for taking naked pictures of their kids. Sex and AIDS education are under assault. The National Endowment for the Arts is defunded by Congress..." She calls it a panic --- and sees it as a particularly ironic one, since movies, TV, and advertising are constantly stealing the techniques of pornography to sell their wares.
We would like to think that someone out there in the law business should listen to Ms. Kipnis. We would want to hope that some of those dull-bulb professors of communications would make her chapter on Larry Flynt required reading. But the truth is that the very wisdom of her words --- and the very unflinching ability of hers to look at all the wild and weird and up-against-the-wall videos and publications we call "pornography" --- is going to work against her. Ms. Kipnis is so honest, and direct (and, on top of that, mirabile dictu, is such a persuasive writer) --- that our guess is that like the world she is trying to reveal to us, Bound and Gagged is going to be shoved under the table. What it has to tell us is so excruciatingly real and important, that we must --- as with Rabelais four hundred years ago --- hide from it, bury the messenger not in obloquy, but in ignorance.Sex and Violence and
The Federal Communications CommissionAccording to press reports, the Federal Communications Commission is about to embark on another hearing on "broadcaster's programming obligations to children." William Kennard, Chairman of the FCC, said that as a Commissioner and as a parent he was concerned with the "sex and violence" aired by the nation's television stations.
Thirty-five years ago, when I was operating broadcast stations of my own, there was a similar concern. To address these, I appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee in hearing in connection with license terms for broadcasters. Among my suggestions was one which would address the issue of sex and violence without the government having to venture into the delicate area of censorship.
In brief, I suggested that the FCC create a fee schedule which would be applied to each program that involved mayhem or explicit sexual content. I called it a "Sex and Violence Fee."
Each broadcast licensee would be required to keep a log of all programs in which contained, in all or in part, sexual innuendo, lewd and lascivious acts or descriptions, violence, and/or drug use. The FCC would create a fee schedule appropriate to such broadcasts.
At the end of each fiscal year, station operators would forward a list of programs which fit these categories, and remit the appropriate dollar amount to the Commission, to become part of its general fund.
I presented a suggested schedule of fees, with the caveat that it was not complete. "I am sure that the FCC," I said, "with better investigative resources than my own, can come up with a more comprehensive list." For instance, even now I'm not exactly sure how one should categorize some of the more exotic acts of violence, such as one I saw not long ago on Los Angeles TV, in which a woman was shown in the buff, in a shower, being eviscerated by a portable electric drill.
§ § §I listed the following program categories, with suggested fees:
*Class I words would include "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "screw," "dork," "penishead," "pantywaist," etc., and all ethnic slurs.
**Class II words would consist of all the remainder.
Language Sexual innuendo $2,500 Dirty Words (Class I)* $5,000 Dirty Words (Class II)** $10,000 Sex, Nudity Naked body (above the waist) $5,000 Naked body (below the waist) $10,000 Intercourse (Simulated: Oral, etc) $15,000 Intercourse (Actual: Oral, etc.) $20,000 Onanism $30,000 Incest $40,000 Bestiality $50,000 Drug Use Smoking $5,000 Snorting $10,000 Injecting $20,000 Violence Bodily blows with fist or "blunt object" First blow $5,000 Each blow thereafter $3,000 Shooting, knifing, stabbing (without blood) $7,500 Shooting, knifing, stabbing (with blood) $10,000 Bludgeoning, kicking, stomping, garroting, strangling, general mayhem $15,000 Torture: gouging out eyes, eviscerating, beheading, cutting off private parts, etc. $25,000 Bombing National or International: CIA, FBI, ATF, or U. S. Military None National or International: Terrorist $100,000 § § §The merit of this Fee-based Schedule is that it neither contemplates nor requires censorship. It is, rather, a system that depends on the good-will of American broadcasters to report their activities honestly --- in much the same way that they report income, expenses, and depreciation to the IRS.
Since, according to the FCC's own records, American broadcasters enjoy well over 25% return, annually, on invested dollar (one of the highest of any industry), they should welcome this relatively elegant method of self-regulation which will have the dual advantage of helping to fund their appropriate regulatory commission and, more importantly, stifling the ever increasing, strident demands for censorship.
Sex, Monsters, and
The Middle Ages
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen
(University of Minnesota Press)Any academic who can write a book about medieval monsters, and, in the process, bring in the Jolly Green Giant, The Amazing Colossal Man, the Lincoln Memorial, The Texas Chainsaw Massacres, and King Kong --- while making Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales accessible --- has our undying love and devotion. Such is J. J. Cohen.
It goes without saying that this academic is enamored of monsters, and devotes much of this work to analyzing such medieval texts as Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Le Chevalier au lion, and The Tale of Thopas. In the process, he comes up with a theory as to why we are fascinated by big folk (and Bigfoot).
Cohen is a fan of Jacques Lancan, and so sees in the medieval monster romances a reflection of historical, not to say hysterical, events in the Middle Ages. For instance, there is usually, in these giant stories, the ritual decapitation --- Gilgamesh "decapitates the monster's corpse, displays the head to the gathered gods, and is divinely transfigured." The same happens with Perseus, Arthur, and Beowulf.
Cohen sees in this cultural fascination with the body in pieces coinciding with other developments in the 1300s:
First in Italy and then elsewhere in Europe, autopsies were performed to determine legal cause of demise, transforming dead flesh into living narratives...Sacred hands, fingers, hearts, and hair were enclosed in reliquaries shaped like the bodily fragments that they displayed. Royal corpses were routinely eviscerated, boiled, and divided in Germany. Lepers were increasingly looked upon as morally reprehensible, mainly because their bodies were caught in the process of disaggregation. Juridical torture was revived in England around 1300, and bodily mutilation was being practiced more frequently as punishment for serious crimes. At about the same time, romance was gaining a particular ascendancy in Middle English.
I suspect what most of us readers will come to love about Cohen is that he can take something simple --- say, The Bible --- and give it a twist, not unlike the lemon in a good, dry Martini:
The Bible could be described as the collective discursive unconscious of the West, its stories providing the palimpsests that medievals used in making real their own experience of history.
But he does not limit himself to Bibles and medieval Grendels. The good professor points that acculturating a modern child is similar to creating a monster. He quotes from Lacan: "The child, itself so recently born, gives birth to...a statue, and automaton, a fabricated thing." (He seems to miss the chance to point out, however, that all of us experience, during puberty, a similar process of monsterization and fabrication. Between twelve and fifteen, the body grows upwards and outwards, and we come to tower over adults --- sometimes even our parents. The giantization process may include shame --- shame at what we have become, shame that we appear in the mirror as a stranger, a monstrous one.)
For the medievals, giants came from the cold world outside --- a world of stone, of ruins, the chaos of the fens and bogs and wind-swept hills. Civilization existed in the warm hall --- in the case of medieval England, a "mead" hall --- which was set apart purposefully from the world out there created by distant and vague giants. One might compare this inner world of civilized, albeit boozy and smoky warmth with the primitive, chilly, monster-run world outside the artificial buildings.
Giants, said Edmund Burke, represent "tyranny, cruelty, injustice, and every thing horrid and abominable." How far we have travelled, says Cohen, when the present day monster is "a jolly green corporate emblem, assuring the consumers that a certain brand of frozen vegetables is fresh and enticing."
He takes us through Gargantua, Orgoglio in the Faerie Queen, and Milton's Satan, to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C.,
where the centerpiece statue yokes giantism to a public spectacle of ideological authority; Paul Bunyan, the corporate mascot of a logging company who was manufactured as an "authentic" legend of the lumberjacks to increase paper sales, even that frustrated, hirsute Romeo of celluloid fame, King Kong...This duality of the giant, this sublime dread crossed with an enjoyment that plants itself deep in the body, is mainly a medieval inheritance.
Professor Cohen has constructed a fine world here, and --- as is true of the genuinely creative --- his by-ways are fun and often funny. His reading of Chaucer's "Tale of Sir Thopas" --- for those of us who struggled with it, uncomprehendingly, long ago --- is an eye opener, especially when the comic character Thopas is seen as a doppelgänger of Chaucer himself. And his precis of the 1957 film The Amazing Colossal Man --- with the "expandable loincloth" and the monster's head made bald by radiation "giving him that retro-futuristic look of which the fifties were so fond" --- is a true knee-slapper. It's enough to make some of us willing to journey to George Washington University where Cohen teaches, to listen in on one of his master classes in giantism.
We regret to point out that the University of Minnesota Press poop-sheet didn't deign to tell us how tall and monstrous the good professor is. We'd give him eight feet --- and five heads --- at the very least.Sex Tips
From Men Who
Ride the Sexual
Jo-Anne Baker, Editor
(Fusion)Twenty-seven male sex therapists offer their advice on everything having to do with the bush patrol: breathing, position, courtship, the do's and the don'ts.
Some of the do's are a bit off the wall. For instance, on sex during pregnancy, the editor opines that couples cease having intercourse "when the contractions reach every 10 minutes.
After the baby has been born I always say a gentleman waits till I deliver the placenta. For some couples this is an extremely emotional and sexually charged time, and many couples can hardly wait to get home so they can make love. I remember a particular French couple, he told me afterwards he was so turned on he had an erection during the whole labour and birth.
One of the featured writers, Michael Castleman, has been a Playboy advisor. He calls himself "a major missionary for lubricants." He says that women often do not "self-lubricate." His language might be confusing for your average automobile nut:
I think everyone should use a lube every time...That's why I've become a professional lube missionary. Someone has to spread the good word.
Claiming not to be well-endowed, he has some terse words for those who think that a large member is important enough to write home about.
I discovered that there's a great deal more to penis size than the sex books and advice columnists explain. I also reaped an unexpected dividend: I made peace with my penis. You can, too.
Good advice --- especially for those of us ladies who lack the divining rod.
Dr Jules Black of Australia tells us about doctors who are uncomfortable discussing sex with their patients. He reports a magazine article that described a woman having sex with her dog. There was some feeling that this magazine should not be in his hospital library. It turns out it was an article abstracted from the highly-respected American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, reporting on a "heavily pregnant woman whose man had left her and she was feeling extremely sexual, so she had sex with her Alsatian."
She went into anaphylactic shock from the dog's sperm. I do not condone sex with animals [says Dr. Black], but it does happen out there in the real world, and I just wanted to point out there are very real risks.
Kenneth Ray Stubbs owns an erotological publishing house, and here he speaks at some length about techniques of touch. He then tells us,
I had a neck injury when I was 46 years old, which came about from a sexual energy experience. I had been working for many years on expanding my orgasmic energy through meditation and yoga, and one day had an orgasm that was so intense that my body couldn't stand it. I fell and hurt myself severely, injuring a ligament in my neck.
§ § §
Our concern with Sex Tips is threefold. One is to question why Ms. Baker chose to limit the articles to male sex therapists. This gives the whole a heavy masculine bias that is in no way balanced, even with a few occasional timid inserts from the editor.
Secondly, the opening quote, featured prominently, is Polonius' advice to his son Laertes, from "Hamlet." It reads:
to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
The character mouthing this gem is no other than Polonius. This creep is a notorious meddler, a profesional back-stabber, an a liar and gossip. Thus, Shakespeare made these words heavily ironical, a good laugh since they come from the mouth of such a charlatan. I'm not quite sure why they would be featured so prominently in a book that purports to present writings on honesty in sexual relations, except to give a bit of purported class to the whole jumble.
Finally, given the weird advice that predominates, especially that bit about intercourse both before and after parturition . . . wouldn't it have been better to entitle it Bizarre Sex Tips from the Far Edge?Exposed
The Victorian Nude
(Watson-Guptill)As always, it's that old Pushme-Pullyou --- the nude. Is it art? Is it pornographic? What's the difference? Can we define Art as "a realistic representation, concerned with love and technical excellence?" And porn: "unreal, brutal, ugly?"And, because of Victorian sensibilities (did they clothe bare legs of pianos as rumored?) --- how did the exhibition of nudes by artists such as Millais, Rosetti, Burne-Jones, Whistler and Sargent sit with the public? Were they shocked? Did they call in the sex police?Martin Marone tells us that the English laws of the time --- especially the Obscene Publications Act of 1857 --- were the first to isolate sexuality "as a cause of social disorder." In other words, seeing a figure deemed to be obscene contributed to a public chaos, might cause the gentry to go out and commit the unspeakable. Smith cites the accusation that Victorian artists --- not Hugh Hefner --- led us inexorably into 20th century soft-core pornography.Kenneth Clark's study The Nude defined our view of the Victorians actively suppressing the naked ("the raw, awkward, unclothed body") as opposed to the nude ("æsthetic, idealized"). However, Myrone points out that the worst of Victorian prudery came about at the same time as the most prolific production of nudes --- not only in painting, but sculpture, drawings, and photography. Foucault claims that Victorian repression was productive of sexuality --- for it generated "description, analysis, and repression," which in turn accelerated "the discourse of sexuality."
§ § §
The singular characteristic of the more than 200 pictures represented here --- some exquisitely colored and enlarged --- might be described as painters, sculptors, sketchers involved in a game of Hide and Go Seek: where the most delicious of the private parts are shielded from the eyes of hungry viewers by a myriad of devices: hands, shadows, scarves, wings, leaves (especially fig), branches, drapes, boa feathers, general murk, the edge of the canvas, hips and legs, the body being half-turned away --- and, in one case, half-obscured by a giant snake.
On the occasions where there is no barrier to obscure what Restoration songsters dubbed the furbelow, it is rendered as a flesh-colored humplet --- with no more hair than a clam, without even the trace of a cleft.
Nudity in art, according to the editor, was traditionally permitted because of the classical influence --- women in pastoral settings, or in a classical pose: Eve in the garden, Psyche and Cupid, the Rape of the Sabines, the Sirens, Phyliss and Demophoon, Phryne, Dædalus and Icarus. As long as the art work was stitched in the Classic mode, there was implicit permission to abandon all garb --- suggesting rustic harmony, female virtue, and perfection.
Viewing nudity brought sexuality out in the open; this was thought to create an intolerable disorder in society. This mode of thinking survived for over a hundred years, terminating --- in England --- in the Longford Report of 1972. That closely written document concluded that there always has been pornography, there always will be pornography, and there is scant evidence that it creates public harm.
The usual excuse for censorship is that pornography is harmful to children, but the report suggested otherwise, which makes some sense: if you and I were allowed to join the discussions, revelations and exhibitions that take place daily in your typical schoolyard or behind the barn, we would quickly be dispossessed of the view that sexuality is not a part of the child's world view. Juvenile innocence is something that the adult world has dreamed up --- and has a powerful vested interest in sustaining.
Be that as it may, as a result of various Anti-
Pornography laws on state and national books, being caught with representations of children in the buff is nigh about fatal. Several recent cases have defined this New Victorianism. Leading public figures including a military chief in Virginia and an appellate judge in California were nabbed downloading lurid images from the Internet --- and were whisked away by the authorities (who were quick to notify the working press). Long before their trials, the accused have been convicted in the newspapers and on radio and television, and thus have a good chance of enjoying considerable sabbaticals in the Greybar Hotel.
Which set us to thinking, as we were thumbing through the last few chapters, "The Modern Nude" and "The Artist's Studio." There are several full-page paintings, sculptures, daguerreotypes, and photographs of children in the buff, including Guglielmo Plüschow's explicit shots of street girls of Rome, alongside paintings of unadorned pre-pubescent boys by William Stott and John Sargent.
With such heavy penalties being doled out to those who possess such suggestive art, it gave this reviewer sufficient pause and, thus --- in the interest of personal freedom --- immediately after completing this review, we mailed off our copy of Exposed (I swear to you Judge, it was our only copy) to the Curators at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum with a brief note stating that it was a gift from "A Friend" (with an appraised value of $45).
We did this in the hopes that the gentle librarians there in Simi Valley would not be shipped off to the pokey by the contemporary Victorian thought police because of what some might consider dangerous paintings and photographs hiding at the back of an otherwise worthy book of Art of the late 19th Century.The
(Twisted Spoon Press
Box 21, Prague)Franz Polzer works in a bank, noting and filing papers. He speaks to no one, goes from his room to his work, and then back to his room. He eats a simple meal prepared by his landlady, the widow Klara Porges. He then sleeps, gets up and goes to work, arriving at exactly the same time he has for the last seventeen years.But the widow craves affection, finally gets him to take her for a walk, and then seduces him --- much to his shame. Meanwhile, he meets with his friend Karl Fanta who has turned from being a handsome young man to a cripple who has lost both legs and one arm.Karl whispers to Franz that his wife Dora is plotting against him, wants to steal his money, has hired on an attendant to kill him and take the inheritance. To get away from his wife, Karl and the attendant, Sonntag, move into Franz's apartment, and everything falls apart.
Well, not really. Like a Kafka novel, everything has been falling apart from the very beginning. Franz Polzer (the word means "weenie") worries about his fellow workers in the bank laughing at him; he worries about the widow stealing sheets of paper from him; he worries about how yellow and hairy she is; he worries about a hole in the knee of his best pair of pants; he worries --- as all good neo-schizophrenics must --- about worrying.But with Sonntag and his knife (he used to be a butcher) and Karl his nutty ideas about people wanting to steal from him and kill him --- with all these right down the hall, things go from being screwy to being downright scary. Klara Porges gets pregnant, and Karl, lying next to her in bed, thinks,
The child in her belly was breathing, the living child. Soon her belly would be opened and the child would lie before Polzer, naked, with tubular limbs and deep creases in the flesh at the joints, a girl, with a line between her legs...He did not want it, it should never be.
This meditation on his soon-to-
be-born daughter leads him into a threnody on ugliness --- a song that is repeated again and again:
She was ugly and everything was a torment, But everything had to be a torment and everything had to be ugly.
"Everything had to be ugly:" Franz with his "big red hands." Karl with his stumps and suppurating wounds. Sonntag with his blood-stained apron. Frau Klara, with
the swollen belly, her breasts which fell to the side when she lay down, the hairs between them, her fat face, the hands that had grasped all over the bodies of the men.
§ § §
This is an absolutely riveting tale, told with an absolute minimum of detail --- filled with quick, impressionistic sketches. With its repeated horrors out of the daily grind of life, it reminds one of the post WWI art of Weimar Germany known as Die neue Sachlichkeit --- "the new matter-of-
factness," or "the new resignation," possibly even, "the new blah" --- with painters like George Grosz, Georg Schotz, Otto Dix, Otto Griebel, and Heinrich Maria Davringhausen.
The Maimed is thus first cousin to Die neue Sachlichkeit. There are no flowers here, no trees, no happy children, no happy people. The characters are trapped in a miserable merry-go-
round, desperate for an escape and yet afraid of any escape that is offered to them. One is reminded of Sartre's La Nausée, West's Miss Lonelyhearts, the plays of Eugene O'Neill.
Kafka --- a contemporary --- is merry and bright compared to Ungar. At times, the world of The Maimed is so drab, so bleak, so miserable, so misogynistic that one wants to lay it aside, especially when the cripple Karl starts in to talking about Klara's body,
Her stomach is ugly, isn't it? Covered with folds of fat? You must be able to see it when she bathes...You say she is not very fit. Her breasts, her fat stomach, slap slap, flabby as boiled pork. Just like that, Polzer, slap slap, the mother sow!
But The Maimed works on several levels besides one of naked disgust. There are the tiny details that tear the characters apart (and hold the novel together): the butcher's knife, and the blood-stain on his apron; Polzer's hat that people seem to laugh at; the Saint Christopher painting that hangs over his bed (that falls crashing to the ground); the suit that a stranger buys him; and --- again and again --- "the white part in Klara's hair." These are themes that bind the story tightly, symbols that come banging together at the very end when Klara Porges' head is found, in the stairwell, wrapped on a dirty cloth, chopped off at the neck.
§ § §
This is one of two novels written by Hermann Ungar before he died in 1929 at the age of thirty-six. The present edition contains a brief fragmentary final chapter that the author himself rejected when the book was published in 1923. It should not have been included here; in four pages, it undoes much of the ambiguousness that lends such power to this story of cruelty and unrest and anxiety.
The translation by Kevin Blahut is fine. The design of the book is a gorgeous, subtle work of art all on its own.
The Instinct Guide
To Oral Sex
Ben R. Rogers,
(Alyson)In the publicity sheet that came along with Going Down, under "Advance Praise" from book reviewers, the authors say that
Unfortunately no one would return our phone calls.
(or the books...)
We can understand why. It's no-holds barred disgusting, and impossible to stop reading. We suspect that fellatio itself --- about which, of course, we know nothing --- would be a no brainer. You just do it, right?
According to the authors, no. They go into intimate detail stuff you don't want to know about and stuff I'm not going to tell you about position and angle and size and lubricants and, gleek, genital piercings (which can be found on 2% of gay men, they tell us --- and we want to know how they know).
The real interest in Going Down is that amidst all this foreplay and the ridiculous puns --- "Foreskin and Seven Years Age," "The Head of the Class," "Blow His Mind," and "Location, Location, Location" (ten years ago under a table in a crowded T.G.I. Friday's in Charlotte, North Carolina?) --- are the facts. There is for example a short essay (with a repulsive drawing) of how the gag reflex works when you are doing something called "deepthroating" which we always associated with the Nixon White House:
The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage at the very back of your throat in the pharynx that normally rests in a somewhat upright position so air can go from your mouth or nose into your windpipe (trachea) and to your lungs. Or lung, if you've lost one to smoking. Ew. Anyway, when you swallow --- and deep-throating counts as that --- the epiglottis is pushed down to cover the trachea so food (or whatever) is directed toward your esophagus and stomachward. That's why you can't breathe when you're deep throating. Duh.
Then there are the minifacts sprinkled around on every page:
Largest penis in the animal kingdom Blue whale Length of blue whale penis 11 feet An 11-foot stack of pennies is equal to $22.44 Average number of erections per day for a man 11 Average number of erections while sleeping 9 Largest functional human penis recorded 11 inches An 11-inch stack of pennies is equal to $1.87 Average number of sperm per ejaculate 280 million Population of the United States Approximately 280 million Average total lifetime ejaculate Approximately 14 gallons Average speed of ejaculation 23 - 28 mph Estimated number of times a man will ejaculate in his life 7,200And then there is the list of contents of semen :
Ascorbic acid, blood-group antigens, calcium, cholesterol, choline, citric acid, creatine, DNA, fructose glutathione, hyaluronidase, lactic acid, magnesium, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, purine, pyrimidine, pyruvic acid, sidiom, sorbitol, spermidine, spermine, urea, uric acid, vitamin B-12, and zinc.
which sounds suspiciously like the contents listed on the back of our One-A-Day vitamin pill bottle.
This beastly book, all 133 pages of it, includes a list of where you should "Take the Plunge:"
- Every room in the house.
- Including the basement.
- Including the attic (watch out for that insulation!)
- Someone else's house.
- In the department store dressing room.
- Behind a billboard.
- While he's trying to talk on the phone.
- At the drive-through.
- Inside a tank.
- In the police station.
- In the House.
- In the Senate.
- In the Oval Office.
- Under a Supreme Court justice's robe.
What Rogers and Perry don't bring up (they should be studying their Genet) is that fellation constitutes an act of naked courage. One is placing what most men think of as their most prized possession into an orifice that Gray's Anatomy refers to as the "Temporo-mandibular Region."
At the back of the lower jaw are found some of the most powerful muscles in the human body --- the Masseterm --- which are joined to a bone that holds hard, sharp, and durable incisors. Thus, one is entrusting a highly sensitive instrument of pleasure to what is, in effect, a reversed guillotine.
To say that this insertion is an act of faith is an understatement. It's passionate, blind, unequivocal faith. A man's most private and prized possession, the membrum vitale, could be quickly severed by a sudden and vicious snap of the teeth. Perhaps this is the source of what the authors claim is the supreme pleasure of it all.
If the authors are looking for a plug for their next press release, the best we can offer is the phrase that, in our mind, applies most succinctly to this thin but flagitious volume.
It's very spunky.
They can quote us on that.