Ah! some love Paris, And some love Purdue.
But love is an archer with a low I.Q.
-- Phyllis McGinley
Few words in the English language are more freighted with emotional baggage than "sex." Between the sexual poles of promiscuity and abstinence lie infinite variations on a theme -- casual sex, married sex, group sex, gay sex, tantric sex, fetish sex, and the dozen or more other bizarre options you probably receive e-mail spam about daily. Sex is one of the seminal forces in our culture. We are flooded with sexual imagery -- some of it subtle, some decidedly not. Music, film, literature, television, billboards, the Internet, all are saturated with the many varieties of that all-powerful human drive.
We decided this Valentine's Day issue would be as good a time as any to dip into the topic of sex in the old Bluff City. It would take more pages than we print in a year to really cover the subject, so we've dabbled here and there, sampling a few of the many aspects of sexual behavior hereabouts.
Does abstinence make the heart grow fonder? Can you find happiness at a swinger's club? Will anything really enlarge your penis (besides the obvious)? Does Internet dating work? Will oysters boost your libido?
Our staff really went to work on this project, digging deep into the mores of Memphis. I hope you enjoy their efforts. After you're finished, feel free to write us and let us know if, uh, it was good for you. -- Bruce VanWyngarden
Teaching "The Nasty"
by Janel Davis
Did you know that jumping down from the side of the tub onto the floor can keep you from getting pregnant after unprotected sex? Or your boyfriend can determine when you are ovulating, so he won't let you get pregnant on those days? Or you can just stand straight up immediately after sex to let all the sperm run out of your body to prevent pregnancy? Betcha' didn't know any of those tricks. But high school students "know" these things, although there's no truth to any of them.
Sex myths are nothing new among school-age children. While the stories have matured from "bumping butts together can get a girl pregnant" to "douching after sex can prevent pregnancy," the result is still the same: misinformation. To keep the misinformation from drastically altering the lives of too many students, sexual-education teachers are often the first line (and sometimes the only line) of defense in disseminating the truth.
In the Memphis City Schools system, health class not only has a new name but also a revamped curriculum. Lifetime Wellness, the official name of the yearlong class, is a required course for graduation. The class is offered during the ninth-grade year but is available to students through 12th grade. Part of the course is a six-week section, Family Life and Sexuality, an abstinence-based curriculum dealing with topics from reproduction to promiscuity.
Denise Wilson has taught the class since its inception in 1987. In 2001, Wilson was chosen as one of the teachers to revise the 14-year-old curriculum for the 2002-2003 academic year. "[With the revision] we focused on dealing with the spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional aspects of health," she said. "We also deal with societal issues like teen pregnancy, violence, and alcohol and drug abuse, because all those issues play a role in relationships and family. The abstinence [curriculum] fell in place with those issues that we were discussing and how it played a part in the rising rate of divorce."
With her classes at Hamilton High School, Wilson has noticed an increase in the number of single-parent families and, with the impact of television and media, that her students are more "worldly" than years ago. Unfortunately, this has not led to better knowledge of their bodies. "I don't really think they understand sex and relationships. A lot of them participate in sexual activities because they want to please their boyfriend/girlfriend. They didn't even understand their bodies and the human reproductive system," says Wilson. "Kids understood about abstinence, but they didn't understand what to do prior to the act. Refusal skills had to be taught, both verbal and nonverbal, as well as good decision making."
Although Wilson has seen a decline in the number of pregnant students in her classes, some are pregnant before they even take the class. (The MCS administration keeps no record of student pregnancies. Only when a female student withdraws from school citing pregnancy as her reason does the system note the event.)
"It's difficult to teach abstinence to students when many parents are engaging in various sexual and promiscuous activities," says Wilson. "Safe sex must be taught [in addition to abstinence] for those students who are just not going to abstain."
Abstinence isn't one way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, it's the only way, according to Ridgeway High School PTO president Betty Mallott. When her daughter transferred to Ridgeway from a private school, Mallott brought with her the information for using the Aim For Success Abstinence Education Program. Ridgeway became the first public school in Tennessee to use the program and is entering its third year of participation.
Aim For Success is an assembly program devised by a Dallas-based firm that is designed to keep students from making decisions that will keep them from reaching their goals. It promotes the benefits of waiting until marriage to engage in sex. During the one-hour assembly, students are presented with information on sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, as well as accounts of the emotional scars resulting from broken self-esteem.
"I'm an idealist," says Mallott. "If you teach a child there is a such thing as 'safe sex,' they see it as permission to have sex. It's like we're discounting the potential of our children by saying they can't wait for sexual gratification."
Mallott succeeded in getting other schools to participate in the program. In addition to several private and religious schools, Central and Cordova high schools are following Ridgeway's lead.
Although Wilson and Mallott may not agree on all of the details of the curriculum, both agree that students need more reinforcement, with some sort of sex education being taught each year. "If we can teach alcohol and drug awareness every year, we should be able to do the same thing for abstinence education," says Mallot. "Many of my students have said that they are going to wait," says Wilson. "But without hearing [the importance of abstinence] on a continual basis, they can forget that in the heat of the moment. The old cliché of 'Do as I say and not as I do' doesn't work anymore."
by Bianca Phillips
At about 9 p.m. on a Saturday, couples begin to pour through the club's door. Some are all dolled up, the women in short, sexy dresses with spaghetti straps, their men wearing freshly pressed button-down shirts tucked into black or khaki slacks. Others are dressed in jeans.
Kid Rock's "Cowboy" is blaring through the audio system as a DJ in a booth at the back of the club monitors the crowd. Couples are dancing, sitting at tables talking, playing pool, and enjoying the finger foods provided on a table near one of the club's far walls. But none of the couples are engaging in sexual activity of any kind.
Normally, the lack of open sexual activity in a club would not be at all out of the ordinary, but tonight we're at the Treehouse Club, Memphis' largest lifestyle (read: swingers') club. And though you might expect to see wild orgies in every corner, that never happens at the Treehouse.
It's an off-premises lifestyle club, meaning couples interested in "playing" with other couples have to go elsewhere to commence their "play." Play is the term used in place of sexual activity, and it doesn't always mean full sexual intercourse. Some lifestyle couples prefer to go "soft-swing" (no actual sex, just teasing and kissing), while others go "full-swap" (couples switch partners). But, according to Treehouse rules, there's no playing inside the club.
"The atmosphere of an off-premises club is easier to deal with and it's less threatening to people new to the lifestyle," says the club's owner, who has asked us not to reveal his identity. "Being off-premises means everyone can be comfortable, relax, and just have a good time meeting some open-minded people."
Memphis has no on-premises clubs, but there are some in Nashville. One Nashville club, Menages, boasts "10,000 square feet designed for your erotic pleasure." With a voyeur room, a shadow box, a show stage with two brass poles, and "extensive playrooms for intimate activities," Menages is designed for couples who want to stay and play.
The Treehouse Club, however, looks much like any singles club, with several tables arranged near a DJ booth at the back of the club, a large dance floor, a pool table, and a bar that serves only mixers (the alcohol policy is BYOB). There are no private rooms for encounters.
The average age of couples at the Treehouse Club is 35 to 40. They tend to be professional types. Most who participate in the lifestyle are couples, but singles are welcome at the club as well. Some couples actually prefer to play with singles, especially single females.
"Most couples would rather get to know a female before a male because many of the women in the couples are bisexual," says the club owner.
Women's role in the swinger movement has changed dramatically over the years. What's now termed a lifestyle was known as "wife-swapping" in the '50s and '60s. Back in the movement's early days, groups known as key clubs would host parties in which the men would throw their house keys in a pile where they were drawn at random by the wives. The owner of the key would be the woman's partner for the evening. But today's swinging woman has as much say as her husband in what partner she chooses.
"Once a woman attends an event and realizes she has control over herself, her partner, and the situation, she finds it a very comfortable and safe environment. There's a very strict etiquette involved, and no means no," says Tony Lanzaratta, executive director of the North American Swing Club Association and a former Los Angeles police officer.
According to Lanzaratta, the number of swinging couples has increased by about 10 percent over the last 10 years. The Treehouse, although a private, members-only club, welcomes new couples, and the members are very receptive to new faces. However, the Treehouse urges couples with marital problems to steer far away from the lifestyle.
"The lifestyle can bring you closer together, but more than likely, if you have marital problems or jealousy, it'll tear you apart," says the owner. "But if you're a couple that's committed to each other and you trust each other, then there are benefits. The couple learns to be more open with each other, and they meet other open-minded couples with whom they can talk about life, ideas, experiences, and sex. You don't have to be in the lifestyle to come to our club. The Treehouse is a place for open-minded people to meet, converse, dance, flirt, and just have a good time."
A Bone To Pick
If man could have half of his wishes, he'd double his troubles. -- Anonymous
by Chris Davis
How far will a man go for a bigger pecker?
Too far, of course. Why beat around the bush? I'm a man, damn it, and I wish I had a bigger do-jigger. A real thigh-slapper. Who wouldn't trade a Little Smokie for a Ball Park Frank, given the opportunity? Now, when you get down to the physics of sex, you have to understand that size only matters in a relative sense. One person's feast is another person's snack, and someone will surely say, "Yo baby, come on back when I need to pick my teeth." That's the long and the short.
But common sense be buggered, the burning need for a bigger tool has very little to do with sex. Freud forgive me, but I can't shake the suspicion that a larger package would bring about supreme self-assuredness, improve negotiation skills, and increase the likelihood of hitting all life's biggest jackpots. At the very least, it would be one less thing to worry about. Like a house note paid in full. Still, I get depressed while scrolling through my e-mail, poring over countless reams of spam, each promising to add "up to three inches" to my manhood. But can you really take a product called Enlargeo seriously? For me, the answer is no, but that answer has less to do with scientific principle than with history.
In the 1920s, commercial radio was coming into bloom, and through that medium a quack doctor named J.R. Brinkley discovered a way to make the most out of his mail-order diploma. He invested in a radio station and began to broadcast lectures touting innovative surgical techniques that promised to restore male vitality. He didn't promise extra length, only extra oomph, and the suckers came running. Brinkley reinvested his profits in radio, until his signal became so strong that the federal government, by way of the newly formed FCC, had to step in and impose significant restrictions. Brinkley, already wealthy beyond belief, flipped Uncle Sam the bird. He moved his operation to Del Rio, Texas, placing his monstrous towers just across the border in Mexico, creating the world's first superstation. Talk about potency: His seminal signal impregnated the Americas and shot deep into the Atlantic. Between musical interludes, news, and other entertainment, Brinkley's message was clear: "A man is as old as his glands. All energy is sex energy! Of all afflictions that men are heir to, impotency is the worst. Who wants to be made young again?"
Brinkley's most radical cure was right out of a mad scientist's handbook. He would surgically graft the sex glands from goats onto the testicles of a man. You may now squirm in your seat, if you are so inclined. Infection was common. Death was not unheard of. Needless to say, results varied.
No matter how many testimonials they may include, any e-mail promising to help me grow as a, well ... as a person, somehow morphs into a 21st-century variation on Dr. Brinkley's goat-nut cure. Is any of it real medicine?
If you've read your spam carefully, you know that in addition to pills, creams, and penile exercise programs designed to crank things up a notch, you can also dangle weights from your Willie. This is a time-honored method that dates back to the days of the pharaohs, and it can definitely give you a longer John Silver. But as things get longer, they get thinner. If you don't believe me, get thee to a Play-Doh factory. Even worse, if you go too long, it can impact the vascular system, leading to necrosis. That's tissue death to you and me. No, thank you.
Of all the gizmos designed to give you gigantic genitals the vacuum pump seems to have the most credibility. You can buy one at an adult theater, sure, but you can also pick one up at the corner pharmacy. The best require a prescription. Still, it's hard to get past the perv factor when you put the cold, clear plastic tube over your peter and begin to pump away. But lo, it grows, because you've got an erection, stupid. Any actual growth one may experience can probably be chalked up to swelling. Ouch. Over time, the suction can also cause bruising of the penis. And how sexy is that?
But what about surgery? For starters, if you can afford to throw away $10,000 or more on your ding-a-ling, you should save your cash, invest in diamonds, and lower your expectations. Still, it's pretty much the only way to permanently increase your penis size, if only by an inch or so. But since enlargement surgery really amounts to the cutting of a tendon that keeps part of your penis inside of you, you aren't really getting more dick for your dollar, only more visible dick. And who needs illusion? Besides, the stories of failed operations are gruesome. As Doctors Richard Milstein and Julian Slowinski say in their book The Sexual Male: Problems and Solutions, "Some members of the medical profession, generally regarded as unscrupulous by their colleagues, have advertised that they can increase the length of the penis." Hardly a glowing review.
Concerning injections of fat from other parts of the body into the penis for that all-important extra width, I refer you to Milstein and Slowinski. They claim that, after the fatty deposits have settled, a penis can look like a "misshapen kielbasa." Pepperoni, anyone?
Now, friends, join with me. Go open your e-mail inbox. Press delete. Repeat as necessary. You'll be a better man for it.
Getting Personal -- Online
by Mary Cashiola
Everybody's doing it. Really.
Last year, 17 million people checked it out, making it one of the most lucrative enterprises in paid Internet content. And it's not horny housewives, not Russian brides, not teenage sluts. It's not porn at all.
In the past year, online personals have dropped the desperate stigma of the old print ISO ads. Once the equivalent of "What's your sign?," personal ads have somehow become totally acceptable through the power of the Internet. Just last December, The New York Times lauded the online dating sites as "cool."
Brian Battjer, vice president of product development for Springstreet Networks (which, incidentally, powers online personals for Nerve.com, Salon.com, and even MemphisFlyer.com), thinks some of the growth is due to a familiarity with the Internet, especially among their users. "Our audience," he says, "is more Web-savvy than some of the other people who use the larger sites. They grew up in chat rooms. They don't see it as a stigma to meet other people online."
When two Flyer reporters conducted their own experiment last February, we found some guys who made us want to forget our boyfriends and some we just wanted to forget. But when my last fling ended, I started looking at the ads a little more seriously. Now, countless responses, one cyberdump, and a married man later, I'm not sure the online personals are for me.
I don't blame anyone for trying to get lucky. There is a reason, I suspect, why it's called getting lucky in the first place. It's not that all the men who wrote me were creepy or desperate or too nice for their own good -- most were just regular guys looking for a way to meet regular girls -- it was the sheer amount of the creepy and unattractive and too nice that began to wear on me, especially the creepy. I guess if you've got 17 million users, there are bound to be a few bad seeds.
Like the one guy who said he was looking for Internet models and that in his bedroom I could find a digital camera and a computer. Yeah, that's happening.
Then there was the adventurous Sassyluv, a red-headed scamp looking for a little sumpthun-sumpthun. He told me he'd be in Memphis for a few days and was looking for someone to show him around who would be "open to starting a fire if any sparks are flying." Arson? No, thanks.
My favorite, however, was a guy who wrote and sounded sweet and unsure of himself at first. He said he was new to the whole online personals thing and kind of liked my profile.
Before I even had a chance to respond, he sent me a second e-mail -- one that was not shy, not sweet, and (I hope) not meant for me. "Here's the bullshit behind the personal ads," the message read. His friend had been doing the Internet personals for some time, and my writer said he had seen a few of his friends' dates -- "huge redneck women" who looked like they worked at the 7-Eleven. The friends bet that the guy who wrote me could do better.
"It's not something I'm proud of," the message continued. "It's just something that happened. I think it equally funny that you somehow saw it, [I did?] not knowing what the hell was going on, thinking the worst, and still not knowing the truth was actually worse. [Can anything be worse than the worst?] The deal had nothing to do with getting sex from a stranger, just to see who could win, who could lure somebody besides huge heifers -- the guy with the obnoxious comments or the guy who played the right song."
I'm not completely sure if he was supposed to be the guy with the obnoxious comments or the guy with the right song, but I think I have an idea.
I could go on, but it would depress you and I'm out of words. Not everyone I met was awful; there were even a couple I met in person and liked. But in the biggest meat market in the world, not everyone is going to be filet mignon.
"After the dot-com fallout," says Battjer, "one thing that the Internet proved very successful at was linking buyers and sellers. Online personals are essentially the eBay of people." Caveat emptor.
What's Going on for Valentine's Day
Maybe you've nabbed a Valentine date with that special someone you've had your eye on, or maybe this is your 10th Valentine's Day with your soulmate. Whatever the case, here's a sampling of V-Day activities around Memphis.
"For the Love of Art" -- South Main art galleries and businesses open house, featuring blues by Kingfish and Whitey and refreshments. (South Main St.) 5:30-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
"Works of Heart" Valentine Auction and Exhibit -- Benefits the Memphis Child Advocacy Center. Features hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. Memphis College of Art (1930 Poplar Ave., 888-4342). $30. 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14 (exhibit) and Saturday, Feb. 15 (auction and exhibit).
Men's Club Annual Sweetheart Dance -- Features music by Not Natchez, dinner, and set-ups. St. Philip Episcopal Church (3980 Davies Plantation Rd., 373-5486). $40 per couple. Saturday, Feb. 15.
Singles Valentine's Dance -- Rogers Gym inside Christ United Methodist Church (4488 Poplar Ave., 261-4311). $7 at the door. 7:30-11:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
Sweetheart Dinner Cruise -- Romantic cruise aboard a Memphis Queen Line boat. Features a buffet and music by Jim Mahanna. Reservations only. MemphisQueen.com for reservations and information. $99.94 per couple. 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
Four-Course Dinner at Equestria -- Includes champagne and a long-stemmed rose. Equestria (3165 Forest Hill-Irene, 869-2559). $75 per couple. Friday, Feb. 14.
Valentine's Tasting Menu at Wally Joe -- Special menu with four courses. Wally Joe (5040 Sanderlin, 818-0821). $69 per person. Friday, Feb. 14.
Three-Course Dinner at Mélange -- Features cabaret act "Love Journey" with Bill Burtch. (948 South Cooper, 276-0002). $40. Sunday, Feb. 16.
The Valentine Leather Ball featuring The Zach Myers Band, The Kirk Smithhart Band, and The Friday Night Gigolos. Benefits Memphis Ronald McDonald House. The Lounge (145 Lt. George W. Lee Avenue inside the Gibson Beale Street Showcase, 544-7998, ext. 4080). $25. 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
Valentine's Dinner Concert with Billy Gibson -- Includes five-course dinner and champagne. Reservations only. Zanzibar (412 S. Main St., 543-9646). 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
Sweetheart's Shindig featuring The Reigning Sound, The Chiselers, La Paloma, and The Turnstiles -- The Hi-Tone (1913 Poplar, 278-TONE). $6 at the door. 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
Clanky's Nub Valentine's Bash -- With special guests the Verbs. Murphy's (1589 Madison, 726-4193). 10:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
"Love Force Axis" featuring Grunt, DJ Record Player, Idiot Patrol, and Sitar Wars -- Full Moon Club (above Zinnie's East at 1718 Madison, 274-7101). $3 at the door. 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
"Heart & Harleys"-- Benefits the International Children's Heart Foundation. Features music from Di Anne Price & Her Boyfriends, a cash bar, and complimentary desserts and coffee. Palm Court in Overton Square (869-4243). $20 per person. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14.
Madonna Learning Center Annual Valentine's Gala -- Benefits special needs children. Features music from Backstage Pass, food, and silent and live auctions. Heffernan Hall at Christian Brothers High School. (5900 Walnut Grove Rd. 752-5767, $25 per person in advance or $35 per person at the door. 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15.
-- Bianca Phillips
The Foods of Love
by Simone Barden
What will you be eating on Friday, when Cupid is shooting his arrows into the hearts of mortals? How about a glass of champagne, some oysters, lobster, chocolate mousse, or figs? The Greek goddess Aphrodite is at the root of all aphrodisiacs. The very word is derived from the goddess of love's name, who turned the hearts of many gods and mortals.
If you ask modern chefs about aphrodisiac food and its effect, they are quick to name the most typical -- oysters and chocolate. But do they believe in aphrodisiac food?
"No, it's ridiculous. All this stuff is rooted in myths," says Wally Joe, executive chef at Wally Joe restaurant. José Gutierrez, chef de cuisine at Chez Philippe, cites a historical perspective: "Even before Napoleon, those guys really believed in aphrodisiac food. But lovers then were expected to perform all night. There was no distraction, no television, so they probably needed all the help they could get."
Asparagus, vanilla, bananas, licorice, and two dozen or so other foods, including okra -- more gumbo, anyone? -- are listed as aphrodisiac foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies aphrodisiac as a food, drug, scent, or device, that can arouse or increase sexual desire, or libido. In a broader definition, it includes products that improve sexual performance. But the FDA also states clearly that the reputed sexual effects of so-called aphrodisiacs are based in folklore, not fact.
Many substances or foods thought to be aphrodisiacs are just aromatic, astringent, or antiseptic essences, such as vanilla, wine, and ginger. During Napoleon's time, dental problems were unavoidable. And who wouldn't agree that bad breath is among the greatest turn-offs? But it was nearly impossible to find anyone over 15 who didn't have rotten teeth and inflamed gums. Too much sweet chocolate? Probably not, even though Napoleon would have had no problem getting the lady of his heart oohing and aahing with something as simple as a Hershey's kiss. In those days, a piece of chocolate was expensive and highly sought after. Nutritious food wasn't as readily available either, and perhaps a man's performance could be enhanced by a serving of oysters, which are high in zinc, a nutrient that was lacking in people's diets. And don't forget okra, rich in magnesium, a natural relaxant, and full of iron, folate, zinc, and vitamin B.
Food and eroticism have long gone together. Remember Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 Weeks -- in which he teases her with a gin-soaked ice cube? Or the refrigerator scene, in which she is blindfolded on and opens her mouth to sample spoonfuls of cherries, chunks of Jell-O, and streams of honey. Not really the romantic candlelight dinner at Paulette's, is it?
Of course, you could try this spell, apparently still practiced in certain rural areas of Great Britain: Women knead flour, water, and lard, moisten the dough with their saliva, then place it between their legs to endow it with the form of their secret parts. After baking the bread, they offer it to the object of their desire.
The chef's take? "I think the best aphrodisiac is a sexy woman," says Gutierrez.