Is Sex Passé?
By ERICA JONG, July 9th, 2011
WHAT could be more eternal than sexuality? The fog of longing, the obsession with the loved one’s voice, smell, touch. Sex is discombobulating and distracting, it makes you immune to money, politics and family. And sometimes I think the younger generation wants to give it up.
People always ask me what happened to sex since “Fear of Flying.” While editing an anthology of women’s sexual writing called “Sugar in My Bowl” last year, I was fascinated to see, among younger women, a nostalgia for ’50s-era attitudes toward sexuality. The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers. The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy.
It makes sense. Daughters always want to be different from their mothers. If their mothers discovered free sex, then they want to rediscover monogamy. My daughter, Molly Jong-Fast, who is in her mid-30s, wrote an essay called “They Had Sex So I Didn’t Have To.” Her friend Julie Klam wrote “Let’s Not Talk About Sex.” The novelist Elisa Albert said: “Sex is overexposed. It needs to take a vacation, turn off its phone, get off the grid.” Meg Wolitzer, author of “The Uncoupling,” a fictional retelling of “Lysistrata,” described “a kind of background chatter about women losing interest in sex.” Min Jin Lee, a contributor to the anthology, suggested that “for cosmopolitan singles, sex with intimacy appears to be neither the norm nor the objective.”
Generalizing about cultural trends is tricky, but everywhere there are signs that sex has lost its frisson of freedom. Is sex less piquant when it is not forbidden? Sex itself may not be dead, but it seems sexual passion is on life support. The Internet obliges by offering simulated sex without intimacy, without identity and without fear of infection. Risky behavior can be devoid of risk — unless of course you use your real name and are an elected official.
Not only did we fail to corrupt our daughters, but we gave them a sterile way to have sex, electronically. Clearly the lure of Internet sex is the lack of involvement. We want to keep the chaos of sex trapped in a device we think we can control.
Just as the watchword of my generation was freedom, that of my daughter’s generation seems to be control. Is this just the predictable swing of the pendulum or a new passion for order in an ever more chaotic world? A little of both. We idealized open marriage; our daughters are back to idealizing monogamy. We were unable to extinguish the lust for propriety. Punishing the sexual woman is a hoary, antique meme found from “Jane Eyre” to “The Scarlet Letter” to “Sex and the City,” where the lustiest woman ended up with breast cancer. Sex for women is dangerous. Sex for women leads to madness in attics, cancer and death by fire. Better to soul cycle and write cookbooks. Better to give up men and sleep with one’s children. Better to wear one’s baby in a man-distancing sling and breast-feed at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him. Our current orgy of multiple maternity does indeed leave little room for sexuality. With children in your bed, is there any space for sexual passion? The question lingers in the air, unanswered.
Does this mean there are no sexual taboos left? Not really. Sex between older people is the new unmentionable, the thing that makes our kids yell, “Ewww — gross!” You won’t find many movies or TV shows about 70-year-olds falling in love, though they may be doing it in real life.
The backlash against sex has lasted longer than the sexual revolution itself. Both birth control and abortion are under attack in many states. Women’s health care is considered expendable in budgetary negotiations. And the right wing only wants to champion unborn children. (Those already born are presumed able to fend for themselves.) Lust for control fuels our current obsession with the deficit, our rejection of passion, our undoing of women’s rights. How far will we go in destroying women’s equality before a new generation of feminists wakes up? This time we hope those feminists will be of both genders and that men will understand how much equality benefits them.
Different though we are, men and women were designed to be allies, to fill out each other’s limitations, to raise children together and give them different models of adulthood. We have often botched attempts to do this, but there is valor in trying to get it right, to heal the world and the rift between the sexes, to pursue the healing of home and by extension the healing of the earth.
Physical pleasure binds two people together and lets them endure the inevitable pains and losses of being human. When sex becomes boring, something deeper is usually the problem — resentment or envy or lack of honesty. So I worry about the sudden craze for Lysistrata’s solution. Why reject honey for vinegar? Don’t we all deserve sugar in our bowls?
Erica Jong is the author of 22 books, most recently “Sugar in My Bowl.”
Sex Mores: The Happy Hooker
Readers of sexuality-themed books should consider it required reading to pick up a copy of the candid, groundbreaking book, The Happy Hooker. It is, simply, a breathtakingly frank, unabashed account of one free-thinking Dutch woman who took New York City by storm in the 1970s, becoming its most infamous madam.
Her daring and insight into people is astounding, and her intellect and business sense would make any for-profit business proud. Your heart rate will quicken from reading certain passages, and the timelessness of her story could easily be set in today’s context, with meaning.
Women, in particular, have no good reason to hide their heads in the sand anymore about the opposite sex, if they know what’s good for them. The book is engrossing and, pardons the pun, hooks you from the very first sentence.
As fate would have it, I had a fortunate turn of luck in being able to interview The Happy Hooker herself about that time in her life. What follows is our exchange about the chapter that propelled her onto the world’s stage, a naughty one at that.
Miss Velvet: The stark rawness of the beginning paragraphs of The Happy Hooker vividly and immediately describe one aspect of prostitution, that of being arrested and jailed. What is your opinion on why prostitution is considered a crime in America?
The Happy Hooker: Because of all the side elements involved in prostitution: pimping, providing clients, hustling clients, drug abuse, drug dealing, blackmailing of clients, robbing clients.
There is a so-called hooker hierarchy: In Holland and Germany you have the Red-Light districts, women behind windows. There are the women on the street, the junkies who work out of cars or in parks. There are clubs like bordellos and bars, and so-called “massage parlors” where a lot of Asian women work and give great massages with a little something extra. Then you have the official call girls or escort girls who work for agencies. Finally, you have women who find their clients via the internet.
It is not especially true that each prostitute is involved with any or all of these activities, but often hookers do have pimps and young girls get involved as white slaves at a far-too-young age. They start off as harmless little hookers and may end up as diseased drug addicts.
Miss Velvet: In the transaction of sex, there is the madam, prostitute, and john. Why are men called johns, especially since “john” is also a slang word for toilet?
The Happy Hooker: There is an old adage that goes, “Once a John always a John.”
The same is true about married men signing the hotel registry with “Mr. Smith” instead of their own name. It is just a commonly-known expression.
Miss Velvet: In The Happy Hooker, you wrote that “the swarthy man with the moustache sure looked like a john.” I find this statement interesting because there’s an implication that one can identify a john by certain characteristics. If this is so, what are they?
The Happy Hooker: If they have that restless horny look about them, that clearly shows they want a different pussy each time they walk into a brothel. Their motto is, “Variety is the spice of life.” Then you have a typical john.
Miss Velvet: In your days as a prostitute and madam, you made it quite clear to readers that you loved giving pleasure to men and women and that you were very happy in the business. What percentage of working girls do you feel share the feeling of happiness in prostitution? Why?
The Happy Hooker: I think about 25 %, that is, if they try and have some fun with the people they sleep with. People like my friend Annie Sprinkle used to have as much fun with her clients as I had. We entertained them with all sorts of odd fantasies and tried to make them happy for a short while. What makes them happy made us happy and the money was good, so all the more reason to not be unhappy.
Some under- or unloved, frustrated housewives became hookers or porn stars and LOVED what they were doing. They got laid and paid, and that’s more than their stingy husbands could or would do.
Miss Velvet: When you discussed your parents and how they were constantly devoted to you, is it fair to say a connection existed between wanting and even needing attention from men and women because of the early adoration you experienced which prostitution gave you?
The Happy Hooker: Yes, of course, to a degree. We all like to be patted on the head and praised. It is terrific to hear a man say, “Honey, you are the greatest!” and have him tip you handsomely and ask for more the following time he comes to your establishment. It is also a matter of ego. That’s why women who work for pimps all do their best to score highest and take the most money back to him, like the proverbial horse that gets given a carrot after it has given a nice ride.
Miss Velvet: To what degree do you still believe that men are basically selfish in their urges, insisting on the right to make love when and how they want it?
The Happy Hooker: The client is KING, he pays and he gets what he wants. He behaves himself and is clean. We can make a man feel like a king, which is more than the average nagging housewife does. We also offer expertise and give better blowjobs than they ever get at home and a wide variety of positions. It is nice if a client shows his appreciation, of course. I don’t think most johns are selfish. They often ask: “Did you come, honey?” And we often lied, “Yes, of course, dear.”
Miss Velvet: A healthy percentage of women find it difficult to communicate their desires to men in their lives without coming across as emasculating. Would you mind sharing a few details on how you’ve taught men to make love properly?
The Happy Hooker:
Cleanliness is next to godliness. Respect for the woman. Patience.
Inventiveness in bed. Not too much babbling.
Learn to make good animal-like grunts and sounds when fucking.
Don’t shoot your load in two seconds like a rabbit.
Learn to give as well as receive a sensual massage.
Be obedient and follow her advice. Show some genuine interest in her well-being.
Keep an erection or get it up again after orgasm number one.
Double your pleasure and double your fun but don’t forget to double the price!
Enjoy sex with more than one woman and ask for a nice threesome.
Do not forget to use your mouth for more than just talking. Suck that pussy!
Miss Velvet: Throughout The Happy Hooker you recall advice received from your beloved mother. While you were living in South Africa and in love, you remembered your mother’s words: "Never live with a man because you’d give away the best years of your life letting him have his cake and eat it too without getting anything in return, because a man never marries a woman who allows him to live with her". What are your thoughts about this sentiment today?
The Happy Hooker: I have come a long way and lived with quite a few men and, strange but true, at this very moment I enjoy a rather conservative, monogamous marriage and love it. Marriage, to me, is no longer like an institution.
Miss Velvet: Looking back on your engagement with the American man you met in South Africa, your subsequent move to NYC to marry him, and the mutual dislike between you and his mother, what would you have done differently? What do you think is the single most important action a woman should expect from a man who says he loves her and wants to marry her? In what ways does a man show he really loves a woman?
The Happy Hooker: A man shows he really loves a woman by keeping his promises. If a man proposes to marry a woman, don’t let her wait an eternity. Don’t lie that he is a single man while he is, in fact, still married. A man has to choose his woman’s side and not the side of his mother. By treating her as an equal, sharing the same thoughts and ideas and, of course, differ enough with one another to have a few interesting arguments. Always make sure the libidos are matched, the desire for each other still is there, even if after a few years the flame gets a bit lower. Have compassion for one another and be there for each other through thick and thin. My present husband has all the qualities I always wanted in a man -- he is caring, considerate, loyal, loving, and a great lover in bed. And he has a great sense of humor.
Miss Velvet: A friend of mine has said to me, “There are two kinds of people in your life; those who will worship you and those who will deconstruct you.” What is your opinion on this statement and which of these would you say describes your then-fiancée’s behavior towards you?
My present husband is the adoring type, something I never really had before.
The love of my life 25 years ago, John Drummond, a brilliant and boisterous Scotsman with a Thatcheresque accent had, especially under the influence of a few Scotches, beers, or wine, become quite destructive towards me. He is the only one who managed to deprive me of my self-esteem or identity, temporarily. He used to say that an Englishman’s way of saying “I love you” is to put his woman down. We had numerous heavy-duty verbal fights, much like in Virginia Woolf, yet I loved him to bits in my own masochistic way until I could not take it any longer. We often had the best sex right after a screaming match that led him to say, “What do you want, a fight or a fuck?” To which I answered, “both” so we started off fighting and then making passionate love.
Miss Velvet: What was the reasoning behind your mother saying, “Never accept money from a man unless you are married to him?”
The Happy Hooker: She did not want me to get a reputation as an easy lay or “Flying Dutchman.” She would have preferred it if I married a nice respectable man as a virgin, like she did when she married my dad -- she was still a virgin.
Miss Velvet: Briefly describe for a moment Evelyn St. John and his role in your life. He said to you, “You have all the qualities a man should pay for.”
The Happy Hooker: I was young, horny, and bright, had a good job at the Dutch consulate with a lousy salary, had fun in life but was desperately lonely and looking for Mr. Goodbar. I was naïve and believed I had fallen in love, realizing that he was married and lived in Paris, with me alone in New York. He meant that someone as frivolous, charming, mostly enthusiastic and spontaneous as I was, should find a nice sugar daddy I could fall in love with, have fun and sex with, and get rewarded for it with cash. I preferred to become a callgirl and call my own shots rather than sit and wait for the phone to ring in case your sugar daddy wanted you on duty. Remember in those days there were no mobile phones.
Miss Velvet: Soon after Mr. St. John went home to Paris, you met a Dutchman named Dirk. What was his influence on you?
The Happy Hooker: It was the beginning of a lot of often unemotional, sexual short-term relationships; sometimes kinky, sometimes rude and short, and sometimes fun with repeat performances, but usually rewarded by payment. I learnt to enjoy sex for the sake of sex and tried to exclude my emotions with clients, though sometimes I would have massive crushes on some of them and then I found it most difficult to take their money after a while.
Miss Velvet: You discuss the wives of your customers, how they lead lives of luxury, but don’t give their husband sex, which is where prostitutes come in to satisfy a need. Why are wives not having sex with their husbands, and is it related to the madonna/whore complex?
The Happy Hooker: It was just not done in those days that wives really liked sex . The last thing they would do is suck cock or swallow the sperm of their man, do anal sex or anything in bed with more than her own man, so no threesomes or moresomes.
A man would also loose respect for his wife or fiancé if she really did like these activities; for that he wanted his whores. Nowadays those things have changed. In the late nineties women started taking the lead in bed more and . Often almost emasculating their men, their men started to develop penile problems, erection problems, as they were worried about not living up to their woman’s expectations. Now we have Viagra. And the chance of failure has diminished.
Swinging was not in, neither were kinky S&M parties. Key-swapping parties started in the 1980s . As a hooker I noticed how often men talked about their wives in a horrid way; “My wife, she is as cold as a starfish, etc. or…. She is a d.i.b. – dead in bed. “ So I taught them that there is no such thing as a frigid woman, only the case of a lousy lay -- the man. I was the one to teach them how to please a woman and often told them, “now go home and practice what I preach on your wife.” Some had given their spouses such great lessons, that their wives indeed learned how to please their man and vice versa and then I sometimes lost them as clients. Once a man, who hasn’t a “john” mentality (he needs a different pussy each time), is happy and gets what he wants at home, he will not wander around as much as a man who is frustrated and not satisfied, who then starts looking for sex elsewhere .
Miss Velvet: You learned a great deal about sex, the male psyche, and the know-how of pleasing men & women.You also mentioned that your clientele became “better quality” – please elaborate on what “better quality” means…?
The Happy Hooker: Man sticks to the rules of decency, has a better fantasy, lets me play certain role games, uses his imagination and initiative and, in fact, also learns how to please me sexually. I was one of the few hookers I have ever known who insisted on having some real fun as well. “An orgasm a day keeps the doctor away” was my slogan.
Miss Velvet: What do brothels represent psychologically to men? And why don’t bordellos exist that cater to women?
The Happy Hooker: A safe harbor where just about anything goes: their wish was our demand, or vice versa.
There are certain countries where women do get what they want, certain Caribbean islands have loads of handsome dark men who cater to elderly schoolteacher-type Caucasian tourists in exchange for money or favors or clothes, etc. In Montenegro, the former Yugoslavia, there are some of the handsomest men in the world, who all cater to elderly women, so-called gigolos. In London there was even not only a butler school but also a gigolo school!
Miss Velvet: You mentioned a very horny guy named Jim Watney who once came with 7 girls. Did you witness this extravaganza? I can’t imagine how it’s physically possible…any juicy details on how this happened?
The Happy Hooker: You can fill many holes with hands and tongue and cock at the same time. Use your imagination: one on top of your face, one on top of your cock, one in each hand and some doing it together.
Miss Velvet: In your experience, why would lesbians, who hate men be able to have intercourse and even perform fellatio?
The Happy Hooker: Lesbians are not deformed. It is a business for them like any other business. As long as they don’t derive any pleasure from it, they switch off the emotional button and go home and make love to their girlfriend and there they have the real fun. Sex with men is just like washing hands, and only for making money
Miss Velvet: What are the differences between a prostitute and a courtesan, if any?
The Happy Hooker: The hierarchy. A time and place for everything, but it is still the same act, just in a different ambiance.
LAST MINUTE THOUGHTS AND ADVICE
No matter what age or weight I am, I never lied about the truth. I am 64 years young.
Grey hair, svelte body, crowfeet and all, but much like Judy Christie in her latest superb movie: "What you see is what you get."
For me no botox, face or boob lifts. I don't smoke cigarettes, nor do I drink booze, but sure love my sweets and I am not just referring to my lover. I still know how to enjoy life to its fullest. I am a survivor and am constantly reinventing myself. Working right now with some musicians on a new project; a musical based on my book the Happy Hooker. There is also a documentary that has just been made.
My marriage is working out superbly well. We are planning on traveling the world extensively in this coming year.
Miss Velvet: I once had a slave approach me at a NYC nightclub who said his mistress had given him permission to seek another mistress while she was out of town. Being completely clueless myself, what might have been an appropriate master response?
The Happy Hooker: “On your knees dog…now lick my boots and quickly!”
Miss Velvet: Is it folklore or fact that you can judge a man’s penis size by his nose, hands, or feet? If so, which of these is the most reliable indicator?
The Happy Hooker: Noses are, nine out of ten times, the best way to measure a man’s cock size, hands next.
Miss Velvet: Very recently in the anything-goes town of Amsterdam, its most famous high-class brothel, YabYum, was closed down in addition to the as-famous live-sex show nightclub, Casa Rosso. Why do you think this is taking place?
The Happy Hooker: They have just decided not to close YabYum down but to convert it into an escort service. A lot of mafia and drug money is behind it and that’s what the main concern is, I think, not the hookers. Nothing against prostitution, but apparently they were filming the clients and blackmailing some for a lot of money.
Miss Velvet: If you could have sex with one contemporary man, who would it be? Which one woman?
The Happy Hooker: Brad Pitt, or Jack Nicholson, if he were 10 years younger.
Glenn Close, if she were 10 years younger.
Miss Velvet: Where are those erogenous zones on the back that electrify our sexual organs if given little chews?
The Happy Hooker: Shoulder blades, middle of the neck where the hair starts growing, earlobes…
Miss Velvet: For square, prudish women, is it really possible to earn good money strictly as a non-sexual escort for social-business dinners?
The Happy Hooker: NO.
Miss Velvet: What is your opinion on the state of relations between the sexes these days? In which ways do you think life is now better for both men and women after the sexual revolution? In which ways do you feel life might be worse?
The Happy Hooker: Today, anything goes, there are no more taboos. Life gets boring sexually when there is little more to discover. In Sex and the City all questions about sex are being discussed. On porno websites and Playboy channels sex is being played out ad nauseum -- there is just nothing new to discover anymore. The more money there is to be spent, the kinkier the men get and the more blasé they become. Gone are romance and sneaky trips to the park or woods or beach to discover sex with your young lover-to-be. Dad and Mom hand out the pill to their 14-year-old before their teenaged daughter even wants it. Prevention is not always better than precaution.
Subject: Baby Boomer Barbie
These are a bit more realistic...
1. Bifocals Barbie. Comes with her own set of blended-lens fashion frames in six wild colors (half-frames too!), neck chain and large-print editions of Vogue and Martha Stewart Living.
2. Hot Flash Barbie. Press Barbie's bellybutton and watch her face turn beet red while tiny drops of perspiration appear on her forehead. Comes with hand-held fan and tiny tissues.
3. Facial Hair Barbie. As Barbie's hormone levels shift, see her whiskers grow. Available with teensy tweezers and magnifying mirror.
4. Flabby Arms Barbie. Hide Barbie's droopy triceps with these new, roomier-sleeved gowns. Good news on the tummy front, too-muumuus with tummy-support panels are included.
5. Bunion Barbie. Years of disco dancing in stiletto heels have definitely taken their toll on Barbie's dainty arched feet. Soothe her sores with the pumice stone and plasters, then slip on soft terry mules.
6. No-More-Wrinkles Barbie. Erase those pesky crow's-feet and lip lines with a tube of Skin Sparkle-Spackle, from Barbie's own line of exclusive age-blasting cosmetics.
7. Soccer Mom Barbie. All that experience as a cheer-leader is really paying off as Barbie dusts off her old high school megaphone to root for Babs and Ken, Jr. Comes with minivan in robin-egg blue or white, and cooler filled with doughnut holes and fruit punch.
8. Mid-life Crisis Barbie. It's time to ditch Ken. Barbie needs a change, and Alonzo (her personal trainer) is just what the doctor ordered, along with Prozac. They're hopping in her new red Miata and heading for the Napa Valley to open a B&B. Includes a real tape of "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do."
9. Divorced Barbie. Sells for $199.99. Comes with Ken's house, Ken's car, and Ken's boat.
10. Recovery Barbie. Too many parties have finally caught up with the ultimate party girl. Now she does Twelve Steps instead of dance steps. Clean and sober, she's going to meetings religiously. Comes with a little copy of The Big Book and a six-pack of Diet Coke.
11. Post-Menopausal Barbie. This Barbie wets her pants when she sneezes, forgets where she puts things, and cries a lot. She is sick and tired of Ken sitting on the couch watching the tube, clicking through the channels. Comes with Depends and Kleenex. As a bonus this year, the book "Getting In Touch with Your Inner Self" is included.