Sexy Sex Newsy News–Week of January 3-10, 2014

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Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner–Goin’ to the Chapel of Love!
Wedding bells rang this New Year’s for one of lesbian America’s most beloved couples, the culture/comedy team of Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner. They met, the story goes, when Tomlin was looking for someone to help her develop the iconic Edith Ann character–and the next thing you know, 40-some years have flitted by, and the women have made it legal. Back when I was a waitron/grad student, in another life altogether, I served Lily Tomlin and her crew lunch, and if I’d known then what I know now, the drinks would’ve been on me! Big congratulations to these brilliant women and their lasting love. People, LA Times, Huffington Post, NJ.com, and many other sources brought us the news of the Tomlin/Wagner duo’s happy day.

HBO‘s Back in the Sex-Show Business!
No, I don’t mean Game of Thrones; this week Salon‘s indispensible Tracy Clark-Flory interviewed Chris Moukarbel, the creator of new series Sex/Now, by some lights a riff on the venerable and groundbreaking series Real Sex. I was part of that series back at the dawn of time (I believe I’m on Episode #2, right after the Toronto stripper who owned her own tiger–hey, kids, those were the days)–the HBO crew actually built a peep show booth to look (sorta) like the one at the Lusty Lady because the producers didn’t want to pay to shut down the peep show long enough to film a segment there. I, of course, played myself, then a Lusty Lady Private Pleasures booth girl; they didn’t want to use the guy I found to be my “customer” because he had a ponytail (“He’ll read like a woman in the Midwest,” they said, probably saying a lot more about what New Yorkers projected onto Midwesterners than the actual perceptions of Midwestern folk themselves),  so they hired me an actor who was too wussy to actually masturbate. Sigh.

In any case, I learned from Clark-Flory’s discussion with Moukarbel that many teens, including themselves, had watched Real Sex all through the ’90s and ‘oughts as a mash-up of sex ed and porn, and just as important as the segments themselves were the interstitial man-and-woman-on-the-street interviews in which ordinary-ish people told their own stories and opined about all things sexual. Vulture.com‘s oral history of Real Sex is linked in this article and is very worthwhile–our friends Betty Dodson, Annie Sprinkle and Tristan Taormino make appearances. (Apparently Dodson, in particular, blew the minds of the HBO production team so much that the collaboration practically ushered in another sexual revolution). Vulture also did one that addresses just the Person-on-the-Street interview element of the show.

So stay tuned; as Moukarbel says, “I think a show like this has relevance now almost more than ever. It’s not so much about exposing young people to ideas around sex that they couldn’t access otherwise. Everybody knows it’s all available online and young people have come of age in that culture. What our show sets out to do is essentially curate the Internet.” And without the Internet, sexual cultures today barely have a medium in which to develop; let’s see who this team can bring together, or bring out of the shadows.

Sexy Naked vs. WTF? Naked
Maybe the nudity on Sex/Now will please the TV critics more than the nudity on HBO‘s Girls; this week Lena Dunham was queried–or, really, more like criticized–at a press event by critic Tim Molloy, who couldn’t wrap his head around the frequent nudity on Girls (particularly Dunham’s) which, unlike the naked flesh expanses on Game of Thrones, isn’t there to titillate. And, like, what other purpose would nudity even serve?

Dunham was pretty suave in her reply; her fellow executive producers Judd Apatow and Jenni Konner were mainly more pissed off; the latter referred to a “rage spiral,” and the former said of the question (which wasn’t really a question, even, more a “I don’t understand why…” disquisition wrapped around kind of an insult), “It’s sexist and offensive, it’s misogynistic.” Commentators Amanda Hess at Slate and Katie McDonough at Salon, both of whom are used to this sort of thing, had at it, the latter cutting right to the chase in a post titled “TV critic mad because the nudity on Girls doesn’t titillate him.” Oh, snap!

We read about this in MarqueeBlogs.com and USA Today as well as Slate and Salon. 

In a Country that Loves Monster Trucks, Could Monster Porn Be Far Behind?
Probably not, but the legions of Midwestern housewives who’ve been penning bodice-ripping explicit tales starring Sasquatch, making a mint on Amazon.com (is that what those ads offering to teach you how to make money from your kitchen table are really selling?), are about to get a pay cut. Someone narked that there were books featuring sex with monsters, and Amazon, which really does have a conservative, or is it prurient, streak, banned ’em. (Remember, they’re the mega-company that managed to screw with their LGBT titles a few years back; they’ve got a little censorious streak even if they are named after legendary one-breasted warrior women.) The monster lit is cropping back up again, but the whole situation has given commentators an opportunity to muse about Sasquatch porn. One, John Horgan at Scientific American, has a grand time of it, riffing on Freud, name-checking Jesse Bering, and smacking down evolutionary psych folks. As I myself have noticed–perhaps you have too–“Evolutionary psychology is hard-pressed to explain homosexual lust, let alone lust for Godzilla.”

Catching Up with Previous Stories
Utah’s stance on marriage equality is back in the news–for one of the country’s most conservative states to let same-sex marriages go on without a fight was too much to hope for, of course, and the weddings have been stayed for now. My Utah friends will visit the Supreme Court next, I expect, and so it goes. But Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder made a point of saying that the marriages that were solemnized will be federally recognized; game ON, homophobes! We’ll be following this story for some time. MSNBC, USA Today, and Business Week kept us apprised. (The latter publication covered Australia’s problems with marriage equality too; the Chapel of Love is boarded up Down Under, at least for the nonce.)

We reported several weeks ago on the gossip surrounding UK diver Tom Daley’s sexual orientation. This lovely young man is dating a fella and says he still fancies the ladies; this is confusing to many, because apparently the term “bisexual” has too many syllables in it to be easy to learn. Or some damn thing. The New York Times tartly tackled the situation in a must-read column, however. “Bisexuality, like chronic fatigue syndrome, is often assumed to be imaginary by those on the outside.” As a long-term insider, or perhaps I should say fencesitter, may I just say it’s nice to have the great Grey Lady on the side of the non-biphobes.

Finally… 
Salon was all over sex talk and news this week. Laverne Cox (from hit show Orange is the New Black), it reports, was asked invasive questions about trans genitalia and reassignment surgery by none other than Katie Couric, and apparently put her right in her voyeuristic place. Porn perpetuates myths about men’s sexuality, another Salon piece (reprinted from Alternet) notes, not just women’s (the article dealing with porn myths about women appeared in Alternet in September if you want to look up the both; very worthwhile from the splendid pen of Anna Pulley). And! I have not said a freakin’ word about Duck Dynasty, and it is one of my New Year’s resolutions to maintain this silence. BUT! Salon did! And it’s a strong argument for the importance of a story many considered too fluffy by far. Ties it into Republican politics and the culture wars–its tentacles go quite deep.

Finally finally–Stereotude has run a very worthwhile photo gallery of men dressed like Miley Cyrus. Why exactly does this make me happy? It’s hard to explain. And the Daily Beast has a compelling little article about men who dress as dolls–the “maskers” are the subject of a new documentary, Secrets of the Living Dolls. I spent some time last year commenting for a Discovery International series called Forbidden (it hasn’t aired in the US yet, will let you know when it’s coming); one of the topics that show covered was also the fetishistic and pretty secretive world of these dolls, a variant of crossdressing that can leave unfamiliar observers trying to find their way out of the Uncanny Valley. Can’t wait to see the doc.

Oh, and are you feeling the need for 2014 sex resolution guidance? Just ask Vice; “how to Have Better Sex in 2014” is waiting to show you the way. I’ll cut to the climax of Monica Heisey’s terrific piece: “Instead of wasting time wondering whether or not Beyonce’s slutshaming you, just figure out what’ll make you happy. Actually, you want to make ONE SINGLE CHANGE for better sex in 2014? Stop feeling ashamed of yourself, and don’t cause shame in others.” Word!

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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