Moby on Klaus Nomi, the ’80s Club Scene, and ’90s Rave Drugs

NEW YORK - AUGUST 14:  DJ and Musician Moby poses for a portrait at his home on Mott Street on August 14, 1992 in New York City, New York. (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
Moby in 1992.

As told to Jennifer Vineyard

The clubs that we were going to in like 1980, 1981, were the Mudd Club, Danceteria, Peppermint Lounge. My friends and I were living in Connecticut at the time, and we would borrow someone’s car or sneak in on Metro-North and show up as this pack of scared 16-year-old suburban kids. What was really amazing was how just really odd and eclectic the music scene was. A perfect example would be, you would go to Danceteria to see Bad Brains in the basement, and then you’d go up to the second floor and there would be a hip-hop DJ, and then you’d go up to the third floor and there’d be a gay-disco DJ, and you’d go up to the fourth floor and there’d be someone playing New Wave videos. The Peppermint Lounge, that’s where the Peppermint Twist was invented. By the time I was going there, it was to see New Wave bands and punk-rock bands. The first time I saw Echo and the Bunnymen there, the DJ before and after was playing hip-hop and dub reggae. You look at a lot of the music that came out of this period, and it’s all informed by this bewildering eclecticism. A classic example is the Talking Heads. They moved to New York as this very nerdy, angular, academic, white New Wave band, and then a few years later, there’s ten people onstage and they basically sound like an African disco band.

There were certain people who were just mythical legends. My friends and I would read the fanzines and hang out in record stores and nightclubs, and someone like Klaus Nomi, as far as we were concerned, was a bigger rock star than Mick Jagger. He seemed so completely otherworldly. I think the first time I ever encountered something by Klaus Nomi, there was this very strange movie called Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video. It was put together by Mike O’Donoghue, and it was basically just a collection of weird, random video clips that he compiled into a movie. One of the clips was Sid Vicious singing “My Way.” And I’m pretty sure that he also had a Klaus Nomi video clip in there. I saw it when I was 13, and I went to this weird movie theater in Norwalk, Connecticut, with my mom. My mom and I sat there and watched Sid Vicious and this Klaus Nomi video. All I remember was this otherworldly Nosferatu style; it was like a benign operatic vampire. What I loved so much about the music and the culture back then is that on first glance, none of it made any sense. Part of the criteria by which it was judged was how effectively did it challenge the viewer or the listener. It’s one of the things I resent about popular culture now, is I feel like so much alternative culture now is accommodating. Like there was nothing about Klaus Nomi that was accommodating. You felt like it was your duty to try and understand what he was doing. I was so bored living in the suburbs, and so much of the otherworldly culture coming out of Manhattan seduced me so much, because it was just the antithesis of what I was experiencing on a day-to-day basis in the suburbs.

My friends and I were listening to punk-rock records, and we didn’t know anything about gay culture. We didn’t even know that it existed, because this was the ’70s, and nobody talked about gay culture. I remember one night, we were in the East Village, and we somehow ended up in this club, the Saint, and we didn’t know it was a gay club. It was this amazing, dark, degenerate disco, and at some point, we realized that there were no women in the club. So for us, gay culture was just this fascinating, foreign, and very anti-suburban thing. We couldn’t be homophobic, because the gay culture was amazing and it was also ubiquitous. There was no compartmentalization. The hip-hop scene was part of the dance-music scene, was part of the punk-rock scene, was part of the art scene. That to me was the ethos of the time. It’s the ethos by which I’ve judged every other counterculture movement.

As the ’80s progressed, things compartmentalized. Also, by ’86, ’87, New York had become like Sarajevo during the war. It was really exciting, but it was also incredibly dangerous. I don’t want to overglamorize it, but everything was dangerous. In the ’70s, leaving your apartment was dangerous. But in the ’80s, even just having sex with someone became dangerous. And drugs. All these things that had been relatively benign became life-threatening.

It’s hard to say when the first raves in New York really started happening, because rave culture in New York was an offshoot of the dance culture that already existed. I would almost presumptuously maintain that the first rave in New York took place at a bar on the corner of Avenue A and 7th Street. It was a Sunday night, and there was a DJ named Moneypenny, and she invited a whole bunch of the New York rave DJs who didn’t know each other very well, like Joey Beltram and Frankie Bones and Adam X. Storm raves were the first illegal raves in New York. They were in a warehouse, no alcohol was served, it was all just about ecstasy and techno music. They were a direct offshoot of Keoki playing at Limelight, who was kind of an evangelist for early techno records. At the time, a lot of the DJs in the club world were playing much slower house music, and rave music was a lot faster, a lot more electronic-sounding.

The reason music got more segmented, one of the reasons is really the tempo of the genres. Inner City records, their beats were 124 beats per minute, and house music was about 122 beats per minute. So if you were a DJ, you could very easily play house and techno at the same time. By 1992, the techno records had gone up to 140 or 145 beats per minute, and the house music had slowed down to 118 beats per minute. But there was a very supportive scene, regardless of what genre it was, because we all felt very marginalized. Outside of New York and London and Berlin, we didn’t think anyone was paying attention to what we were doing.

The two big things that led the scene awry were drugs and money. You can’t really talk about dance music and club culture without talking about drugs, but the drug use had been relatively benign. In 1990, a 19-year-old kid would go out to a rave or a club, and take one or two hits of ecstasy and have an amazing time. By 1993, a 19-year-old kid would go to a rave or a club, and take Special K and acid and crystal meth and ecstasy, all in the course of one night. People started getting really damaged by drugs. Every now and then I would run into Michael Alig on the street and I would see the consequences of drug use. In 1990, Michael Alig had been this like light and bubbly and happy-go-lucky club kid. And before he ended up going to prison, he became this vector, just trailing darkness around him.

For me, the apotheosis of the club scene would have been the summer of ’92. It was this event at the Ritz, organized by D.J. DB, and I performed. It was for Lifebeat, which was an AIDS charity, and it felt like the best of all possible worlds. It was before the drug use had started to take its toll. The worlds of house music and techno were cohabitating. Everyone seemed young and happy and healthy. We all felt like we were there for a good reason.

*This is an expanded version of an article that appeared in the March 24, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.

Get to know the nudists boarding your Google bus.

Get to know the nudists boarding your Google bus.

Nathanael Turner /New York Magazine


When New York Magazine came out with its recent package of San Francisco stories, the most intriguing part was the featured photo: Two nudists, a man and a woman, casually waiting to board a gleaming white Google bus. The jarring contrasts — between the nudists and the backpack-toting young man in front of them; between naked skin and the heavy steel bus — capture the sense of enormous change in San Francisco right now.

But, the real question: Is there a bus full of naked Googlers, and where can we get on it? Unfortunately (or fortunately), it was a staged photo shoot.

Local nude activist Gypsy Taub and her husband, Jaymz Smith, were happily at home in Berkeley when they got a call from the magazine. They arrived at the bus stop in downtown San Francisco to meet photographer Nathanael Turner, who said he thought nudists and buses were ideal symbols of the old and new city.

Taub and Smith, stunt nudity experts, wore clothing that could be taken off quickly. “The photographer said, ‘Once people start getting on the bus, get naked and jump in line and pretend like you’re getting on the bus,’” Taub said.

It took a few tries to get it right. They’d put their clothes back on and wait for the next bus.

“The drivers had mixed reactions,” Taub said. “They were mostly scared.”

But it was the Google-bound commuters who surprised Taub the most.

“They were quite uptight. Your average San Francisco bus — we would have gotten more of a reaction. People would clap or take pictures,” she said. “These buses, it was more like very uncomfortable.”

Jessica Powell, vice president of product and corporate communications at Google, said that this is not something Google condones.

“No, no nudes on the bus. It might interfere with the Wi-Fi.”

How Much Sexting Do Americans Do?


 Ask the British Surveillance State

A British program called Optic Nerve scooped up the sexually explicit images of an untold number of Americans.

Photo Credit: Kostenko Maxim/

The Guardian recently revealed that a British surveillance program called Optic Nerve had scooped up millions of web cam images. Without the knowledge or agreement of Yahoo (let alone the users), the spy agency copied, collected and analyzed one still and/or moving image every five minutes from Yahoo webcam user chats, including those of an untold numbers of Americans.

“In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery—including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications—from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally,” notes the Guardian.

The Optic Nerve revelations speak to two issues that have received little attention. First, GCHQ employees working on the program seem to have been deeply disturbed by the “explicit” images they analyzed. Second, the program’s findings appear to confirm other research suggesting that a growing number of adults are engaging in sexting, the sending, receiving and sharing of sexual explicit communications.

The total number of “explicit” communications GCHQ snared remains unknown. The Guardian notes that between 3 and 11 percent of the imagery contained “undesirable nudity.” Extrapolating from the report, one can project that during the three years in which the program apparently operated, 2008-2010, an estimated 10.8 million images were collected.

According to the GCHQ report, “Unfortunately… it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person.” It also suggests that such communication has become quite viral. “Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”

A recent followup analysis in the UK Mirror attempts to provide some detail to the GCHQ report. Extrapolating from “a sample 50 nude webcam images obtained from Google we worked out the relative frequency with different body parts occur.” Using a 7 percent figure of images containing “intimate body parts,” it projected such images as follows: breasts at 56 percent (1 million-plus images for 6 months), female genitalia at 28 percent (504,000 images), male genitalia at 26 percent (468,000 images) and female “bum” at 12 percent (216,000). For the full three years, the totals likely skyrocketed.

According to GCHQ officials, the “undesirable nudity” in Yahoo’s webcam imagery troubled employees. The Guardian reports that GCHQ “did not make any specific attempts to prevent the collection or storage of explicit images.”

The system also failed to stop these images from reaching the eyes of GCHQ staff. An internal guide cautioned prospective Optic Nerve workers, “there is no perfect ability to censor material which may be offensive. Users who may feel uncomfortable about such material are advised not to open them.” It blamed this shortcoming on the current “naïve” state of pornography detector technology that “assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography.”

The agency apparently sought to come up with a porn blocking or filtering solution but seems to have been unableto make the user interface “safer to use.” However, it “did eventually compromise by excluding images in which software had not detected any faces from search results—a bid to prevent many of the lewd shots being seen by analysts.”

Sexting is the 21st century’s first original form of pornography. It originated mostly among young people taking, sending and receiving explicit nude, semi-nude and provocative still images, video clips and/or text-messages of themselves and others. Estimates vary as to the number of teens engaging in sexting, but findings from a number of studies suggest that upward of one in five American young people have engaged in the practice.

The 2011 outings of a number of male politicians for sexting, most nobably former U.S. Congressmen Anthony Weiner and Chris Lee, precipitated a major political kerfuffle. The GCHQ findings suggest that more and more adults are engaging in the practice.

Two recent research studies, from Pew and McAfee/Intel Security, confirm GCHQ’s findings that sexing is going mainstream.

Pew, a nonprofit research firm, defines sexting as a “sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photo or video.” In a 2012 study, it found that 15 percent of adult cellphone owners had received a sext, a sexting message; that 6 percent had sent such a message; and 3 percent had forwarded a sext. It also reported that the level of sexting among adults had not significantly changed since its last survey in 2010.

In a 2013 report, “Love, Relationships and Technology,” McAfee, a computer security-software company, provides more of a snapshot of findings than a coherent analysis. Among its reported findings are:

  • 50 percent of adults have used their mobile device to share or receive “intimate content,” sexting messages;
  • 50 percent of people report storing intimate content on their mobile device;
  • 14 percent of all respondents reported having filmed sexual content on their mobile devices;
  • 16 percent reported sending a sexts to a complete stranger.

The report also reveals just how unsecured most people treat their mobile devices. Key findings include: 38 percent share their phone passwords with another; 40 percent share email login details and bank information; and 27 percent of people don’t even lock their phones with a passcode.

When GCHQ’s Optic Nerve program was revealed, senators Wyden, Udall and Heinrich (D-NM) declared: “We are extremely troubled by today’s press report that a very large number of individuals—including law-abiding Americans—may have had private videos of themselves and their families intercepted and stored without any suspicion of wrongdoing.”

The GCHQ program also reveals that a goodly proportion of Internet users are engaging in sexting. Welcome to the new normal.

Sex at the Satan Club

At the height of ’60s counterculture, the sexual revolution found itself an unexpected bedfellow: Devil worship


Sex at the Satan ClubA still from “Eyes Wide Shut”

A mining expedition in the South American jungle: Edward MacKensie, jealous of his business partner’s lover and wanting to keep the expedition’s riches for himself, engineers an “accident” that kills the partner and his lover. Twenty years later, MacKensie is a rich and successful man, married with a teenage daughter. Despite (or perhaps because) of his wealth and success, MacKensie finds himself bored with life, in particular, his sex life. He pays the office boy and secretary to have sex in front of him, and then cruelly mocks them when they do not perform to his expectations. He searches for hookers who might better understand his peculiar “tastes,” which center on sadistic forms of torture and humiliation, and longs for the Victorian era for the fabled abandon of its sexual underground. “Now there was an era,” he laments to himself, “when a woman like Mrs. Berkeley would earn a thousand pounds for inventing a whipping horse on which a pretty girl could be postured in a thousand different lascivious ways for the lash.” After another humiliating failure with a prostitute, MacKensie meets the mysterious Carlos Sathanas, a worldly, rich sophisticate. Their conversation quickly turns to “unusual pleasures.” “To put it bluntly,” he tells MacKensie, “for all this talk about the new sexual freedom, I for one fail to perceive it except in the huge dissemination of titallitory books and magazines and movies, which are nothing more or less than pure psychic masturbation. They depict fantasies that are not in existence, but perhaps were in another century.” Sathanas confides that he is the founder and sole proprietor of “the Satan Club,” an organization devoted to fulfilling the most bizarre sexual desires of its secret, exclusive membership. MacKensie joins eagerly and soon finds himself participating in a series of increasingly exotic sexual scenarios.

Three weeks into his membership, MacKensie anticipates what promises to be the most provocative show yet, the one that will make him an official member of the Satan Club for life. Encouraged to partake of a very special mixture of Spanish fly—an hallucinatory blend discovered by Sathanas himself—a blindfolded MacKensie is escorted into a basement and strapped into a strange device called “the chair of Tantalus,” guaranteed by Sathanas to enhance his sexual arousal to unprecedented heights. With the blindfold now removed, a curtain parts to reveal two nude women intertwined on a couch. Aroused to point of physical pain, MacKensie looks down to see there is a collar device attached to his penis making orgasm impossible: the chair of Tantalus! But his horror and despair are only beginning. As the effects of the Spanish fly begin to wane, he recognizes the two women on the couch as his wife and her recently hired personal masseuse. They mock him with contemptuous laughter as their sexual escapades become more intense. Worse yet, his teenage daughter now enters the tableau on all fours, eagerly mounted by the family dog! The agony of arousal and humiliation is overwhelming, and MacKensie begs for release. Calm and collected, Sathanas appears on stage to explain. He is in fact the business partner MacKensie left for dead twenty years ago in the jungle. Having been told of MacKensie’s murderous past and philandering ways, his family now hates him— utterly. All money and property have been transferred to the wife, who plans to divorce him and run away with the masseuse. His daughter no longer has any interest in men, only her beloved German Shepherd. His former partner’s revenge is complete. The show is over. Later, as the lights go up, MacKensie is alone but still strapped into the chair of Tantalus. He realizes the night’s spectacle has unfolded in the basement of his very own Long Island home—of which he is now dispossessed. Destroyed by material and erotic greed, he stares “unseeingly at that stage where all his life had collapsed about him.”

As a book trading in sexual fantasy, the very “psychic masturbation” so deplored in the text by Sathanas, “The Satan Club” is rather relentless in its emphasis on frustration, failure, and damnation. As one would expect from a “dirty book,” MacKensie’s saga links a number of extended and graphically rendered sexual interludes clearly crafted for the reader’s arousal. Yet the overall structure of the book, despite its “immoral” status as pornography, is strangely, even prudishly moral in its actual execution. We must assume until the very last page that Sathanas is in fact Satan himself, tempting MacKensie’s desire for ever more perverted sexual scenarios in order to take possession of his soul. In any case, MacKensie’s lust does lead to his “damnation,” broke and humiliated in Long Island if not actually burning in hell. Sexually adrift through most of the novel, MacKensie learns a powerful lesson about fantasy and desire, a lesson, in turn, that one would think might prove unsettling to the man who would seek out and buy a copy of “The Satan Club” for his own arousal. What exactly is the pleasure to be had in following the inexorable downward spiral of a man seeking to realize his own sexual fantasies? Moreover, what is gained by situating this prurient yet prudish narrative within the “satanic” conventions of temptation, trickery, and damnation?

“The Satan Club” serves as a reminder that of all the various avenues of morality policed by religion, none absorbs more mental and social energy than sexuality. Innumerable historians of religion, culture, and sexuality have discussed how civilization emerged (at least in part) from the social regulation of unfettered sexual expression, leading in the West to the eventual ascendance of property relations, heteronormative monogamy, and reproductive futurism—as well as all of this social order’s attending “discontents.” Playing on these repressions, Lucifer’s role within modernity has focused most intently on tempting the chaste to overthrow their superego masters, profane their faith, and reclaim forbidden desires and practices, forsaking the stabilizing institution of monogamous reproductive marriage for the entropic energies of “unbridled” lust. In modern fiction, this template is at least as old as J. K. Huysmans’s scandalous account of fin de siècle Satanism, “La Bas” (1891). Huysmans’s narrator, Durtal, a bored author interested in learning more about satanic sects said to be proliferating within the Catholic Church, infiltrates a Black Mass presided over by one Paris’s most respected priests. Like any good decadent, he assumes the rite will at least be diverting. Attending with his lover—the wife of a rival author—his bemusement turns to horror as the priest “wipes himself” with the Eucharist, women writhe in ecstasy on the floor, and the choirboys “give themselves” to the men. Escaping this “monstrous pandemonium of prostitutes and maniacs,” Durtal flees with his mistress (a possible succubus) to a seedy hotel, where he is then seduced (seemingly against his will) in a bed “strewn with fragments of hosts.” Satan makes no definitive appearance in “La Bas”—like much nineteenth-century fiction, Huysmans’s realism emphasizes the plausible horrors of clerical contamination over the gothic pyrotechnics of supernatural intervention—but the novel’s interlinking of power, profanity, sexual transgression, and shame remains central to the genre even today.

Published in 1970, “The Satan Club” stands at the threshold of the most recent wave of popular interest in Satanism, one that traces its beginnings to the social transformations of the 1960s, especially the baby boomer alignment of sexual, spiritual, and psychedelic politics attending the so-called hippie counterculture. By the end of the 1960s, “Satanism” assumed an increasingly public identity, traceable in large part to the efforts of Anton Szandor LaVey. Although neither a hippie nor a baby boomer, this former carnie and crime-scene photographer exploited the countercultural currents of San Francisco when he founded the Church of Satan in 1966 (see figure 9.1). Fluent in the art of self-promotion, LaVey garnered international press in founding the church, including pieces in such journalistic mainstays as Time, Life, Look, and McCall’s. LaVey also appeared as a guest on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson and as the devil himself in Roman Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968), a film that ushered in a decade-long wave of satanic fictions. “The Exorcist” (1973), “The Omen” (1976), and their various sequels further mined this vein, as did a made-for-TV movie asking the question: “Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby?” (1976). By the mid-1970s, Satan had become such big business that Alan Ladd Jr., then president of Fox’s film division, noted that “almost every movie company has five or six Devil movies in the works,” a sentiment echoed by Ned Tanen of MCA: “Devil movies” have “eclipsed the western in popularity all over the world.” The reason, for Tanen, was clear, a logic still invoked to explain any and all trends in moviemaking: “Devil movies play equally well in Japan, Ecuador, and Wisconsin,” he observed. A more “pop” Satan also became a staple of the Christian-publishing industry in this period, most notoriously in the widely read screeds of Hal Lindsey, including “The Late Great Planet Earth” (1970) and “Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth” (1972). Long before the “Left Behind” series transformed the Book of Revelation into an epic soap opera, Lindsey scoured the headlines for signs of the antichrist’s arrival and the onset of the apocalypse. Flirtations between rock music and Satanism are well know in this period, from Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page’s purchase of Aleister “the Beast” Crowley’s Boleskin House to the coded imagery of the Rolling Stones’ album, “Goats Head Soup.” The devil was such a ubiquitous presence in the American popular culture of the 1970s that minister C. S. Lovett even penned a diet book in 1977 under the alarming title: “Help Lord—the Devil Wants Me Fat!” “When You’re Watching tv, the commercial break is one of the devil’s favorite moments,” warns Lovett. He then suggests a script for warding off Satan’s “food attacks”: “I know you’re trying to dominate me with food, Satan. So, in the name of Jesus Go . . . get off my back!”

Beneath this sheen of Hollywood “black horror,” devil rock, and mass-market Satanism, however, lurked another circle of hellish cultural production. Shadowing “mainstream” Satanism was a cycle of sexploitation films, pornographic magazines, and adult paperbacks that—like “The Satan Club”—centered not so much on the gravitas of demon possession, the antichrist, and the apocalypse, but on a more licentious engagement of sexual tourism and erotic experimentation. As the dark overlord of a larger interest in occult sexuality, Satan presided over a ludic proliferation of transgressive temptation and “forbidden” pleasures in adult media of the 1960s and 1970s. Explicit paperbacks of the era promoted Satanism as a nonstop orgy in such titles as “Infernal Affair” (1967), “Devil Sex” (1969), “Sex Slaves of the Black Mass” (1971), and “Satan, Demons, and Dildoes” (1974), to name only a few. At the grind house, sexploitation movie titles also foregrounded the lure of satanic spectacle with such offerings as “The Lucifers” (1971), “Satanic Sexual Awareness” (1972), “Sons of Satan” (1973), “The Horny Devils” (1971, aka “Hotter Than Hell”), and the perhaps inevitable Exorcist knock-off: “Sexorcism Girl” (1975). In the increasingly targeted market for print pornography, magazines such as Sexual Witchcraft and Bitchcraft specialized in provocative images of occultists staging sexualized rituals (“Nudity in Witchcraft! The True Inside Story,” proclaims one banner headline). Even the infamous Ed Wood Jr. threw his hat into the occult-sex ring by appearing (most painfully) in the 1971 cheapie, “Necromania.”

Already a central figure in the West’s psychic economy of sexual prohibition (at least in its religious iterations), the devil’s historical relation to God, religion, and faith made “occult sex” a fundamentally perverse genre, even when tales such as “The Satan Club” ultimately sided with “real-world” explanations over the supernatural. As the Christian embodiment of evil temptation, Satan promised access to any and all sensual pleasures—an invitation to lustful exploration that resonated within the postwar era’s ongoing disarticulation of sex, marriage, and reproduction. And yet, as a product of the authority of religious morality, this eroticized occult could not, by definition, escape the very moral order it sought to evade, undermine, or destroy. Satan (or a surrogate such as Sathanas) is both a saboteur of morality and its most damning enforcer, the ambassador of temptation and the executioner of guilt. Drawing his prey from their moral orbit by appealing to their most base and selfish of desires, Satan—in his supernatural, dialectic relation to God—ultimately reasserts the very repression that a bored MacKensie foolishly believes might be overcome. Such is the essence of “taboo” pleasure—a desire to violate convention and custom that ultimately reaffirms the authority of the law on which the taboo depends. This dynamic made satanic sexploitation a doubly perverse genre—“perverse” in its appetites and its effects. Although such fare offered the lure of ever-more “exotic” sexual adventures, for both protagonist and audience, the horned ambassador of such indulgence demanded nothing less than the sexual adventurer’s eternal soul!

The “Black Pope”

As the author of “The Satanic Bible” and self-appointed spokesman of modern Satanism, LaVey frequently spoke to the press as the authority on Satanism’s history and future—a heritage LaVey often cast in terms of sexual indulgence. “The Satanic Age started in 1966,” LaVey explained. “That’s when God was proclaimed dead, the Sexual Freedom League came into prominence, and the hippies developed as a free sex culture.” Within the sweeping social transformations of the postwar era, LaVey’s brand of Satanism contributed to a significant rewriting of the devil, one that cast Satan more as a dandy or libertine than the Lord of Darkness. This “urbane” Satan was largely a function of growing secularization and new strategies for organizing erotic and social life within the so-called sexual revolution. Hoping to compete with the growing popularity of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy, Stanley Publications introduced Satan magazine in 1957, billing it as “Devilish Entertainment for Men.” The magazine only survived for six issues, leading historian Bethan Benwell to speculate, “There were limits to how far the ‘playboy ethic’ could be pushed.

Perhaps . . . the magazine’s title and allusions flaunted the libertine ideal a little too brazenly.” Certainly, not everyone saw this new sexual “ethic” as progress—satanic or otherwise. “Increasing divorce and desertion and the growth of prenuptial and extramarital sex relations are signs of sex addiction somewhat similar to drug addiction,” accused Pitirim Sorokin in his book “The American Sex Revolution” (1956). It was a claim that has resonated with moral reformers to this very day. Responding to Sorokin, Edwin M. Schur commented in 1964 that many sociologists of the era believed “there really may not have been any startling change in sexual behavior in the very recent years.” Schur located perceptions of a sexual revolution more in an ongoing redefinition of the socioeconomic relationship between the individual and the family, pushing this “revolution” back even further in time by citing Walter Lipmann’s observation in 1929 that once “chaperonage became impossible and the fear of pregnancy was all but eliminated, the entire conventional sex ethic was shattered.” Whether sexual practices were actually changing across the 1950s and 1960s was less important than the widely held perception that more people were having more sex in more “liberated” scenarios. This sense that individual desire, expressed in sexuality and selfishness had eclipsed familial and social responsibility and would remain a core moral debate of the twentieth century, creating the conditions not only for LaVey’s Satanism, but also the Moynihan Report, Thomas Wolfe’s “The Me Decade,” and Christopher Lasch’s “The Culture of Narcissism.”

Promoting the Church of Satan in 1966, LaVey frequently invoked the libertine connotations already attached to such satanic sophistication, even as he attempted to distance his new religion from mere hedonism. Sex might lure converts to the church, but LaVey’s ambitions for his “religion” were more about philosophical empowerment than licentious abandon. In truth, LaVey’s Satanism had little to do with Satan. Although he was never reticent to appear in the trappings of Christianity’s satanic dramaturgy—donning capes, horns, and pentagrams for the camera—LaVey took great pains to divorce his version of Satanism from any actual biblical entity, his devil having more in common with Zarathustra and Ayn Rand than Lucifer the fallen angel. Although aspiring to provide a new philosophy of the mind, LaVey’s background in carnie ballyhoo made him more than willing to hustle some flesh in publicizing the church. An early promotional event involved LaVey booking a San Francisco nightclub to stage an eroticized witches’ Sabbath, a theatrical piece concluding with then stripper and soon-to-be Manson murderer Susan Atkins emerging nude from a coffin. Ever the showman, LaVey sparked another round of national press by performing a satanic wedding ceremony in 1967, complete with a nude redhead serving as the altar. “The altar shouldn’t be a cold unyielding slab of sterile stone,” reasoned LaVey, but “a symbol of enthusiastic lust and indulgence.” He also cultivated a public relationship with sex symbol Jayne Mansfield, leading to the rumors of her conversion to Satanism, amplified in the wake of her untimely and gruesome death in a car accident in the summer of 1967. Yet despite the salacious aspects of the early church (“Phase One . . . the nudie stuff,” LaVey would later call it), LaVey also made several attempts to deemphasize the sexual abandon seemingly promised by the “religion,” no doubt to defend against the many “sex criminals” who apparently contacted him just prior to their release from prison in hopes of joining the congregation. Many potential converts, he reported, were disappointed to discover there were no “orgies” in the ceremonies; indeed, LaVey appears to have had only contempt for the type of orgiastic ritual imagined by Huysmans and, according to LaVey, allegedly still practiced in the “amateur” Satanist congregations of Los Angeles (presided over, according to LaVey, by “dirty old men”). The church made no judgment about the morality of any sexual pursuit, advocating “the practice of any type of sexual activity which satisfy man’s individual needs, be it promiscuous heterosexuality, strict faithfulness to a wife or lover, homo-sexuality, or even fetishism,” in short, “telling each man or woman to do what comes naturally and not to worry about it.” Those looking to affirm their sexual appetites, whatever they might be, were welcome at the church; those actually looking to have sex were not. “There are some beautiful women that belong to the Church,” claimed LaVey, “but they don’t have to come here to get laid. They could go down to any San Francisco bar and get picked up.”

Building on fantasies of libertine conquest and masculine sophistication, LaVey was savvy enough to recognize that one growth market would be sexual empowerment for women. Toward that end, he published “The Compleat Witch” in 1971, a manual teaching women how to seduce or otherwise manipulate men through witchcraft. Writing at the high-water mark of second-wave feminism, LaVey’s advice is strangely prescient of Camille Paglia and other postfeminist provocateurs. “Any bitter and disgruntled female can rally against men, burning up her creative and manipulative energy in the process,” he writes. “She will find the energies she expends in her quixotic cause would be put to more rewarding use, were she to profit by her womanliness by manipulating the men she holds in contempt, while enjoying the ones she finds stimulating.” No doubt such advice was appealing to women hoping to find a strategy for sexual success, and male readers fantasizing that they themselves might become the prey of such “sexual witchcraft.” LaVey’s practical advice for the aspiring witch included such tactics as positive visualization (“Extra Sensory Projection”), “indecent exposure” (showing as much flesh as legally possible—a “power” denied to men, notes LaVey), and not “scrubbing away your natural odors of seduction” (including keeping a swatch of dried menstrual blood in an amulet). As this is a book about witchcraft, LaVey includes some thoughts on the art of “divination,” but even here his comments are more in line with the art of the con than the art of the occult. A woman willing to follow LaVey’s sartorial and psychic program was promised an enhanced sense of personal power over the weak-minded male of the species, the book combining a rather conservative view of feminine seduction with a sexual will to power. Here LaVey put an occult spin on Helen Gurley Brown’s “Sex and the Single Girl,” another book notorious for allegedly empowering women by cultivating their essentialized wiles. Indeed, Dodd and Mead’s print campaign for “The Compleat Witch” dubbed it a study of “hex and the single girl,” suggesting the publisher saw the book more as a “relationship” title than a primer in black magic.

LaVey may have had his own detailed ideas about the philosophy of his religion and great ambitions for the future of Satanism, but he ultimately had little control over how the satanic 1960s and 1970s would play in the popular imagination; indeed, much of LaVey’s time as Satanism’s “official” spokesman appears to have been consumed in distancing his church from the atrocities of Satan-linked killers such as Charles Manson, “Nightstalker” Richard Ramirez, and dozens of cat-killing teenage boys in the Midwest—not to mention the general religious competition offered by the Process, the Raelians, the People’s Temple, and California’s other proliferating sects, cults, and “kooks.” Satan may have just been a convenient symbol for LaVey, but Lucifer’s very real presence in the lives of those hoping to either invoke or avoid him made it difficult for LaVey’s more “magical” form of Randian Objectivism to gain traction. Moreover, by building his church’s public facade, not on rock or sand but on images of a devilish libido and fantasies of a guilt-free eroticism, LaVey’s brand of Satanism could not help but be linked to the era’s larger transformations in sexuality, especially among those already intrigued or repulsed by the highly visible growth of various “countercultures” of the 1960s. As a “hot” new scenario promising unlimited sexual action and erotic power, LaVey’s bid to resurrect self-interested materialism became more naughty than Nietzschean, emerging as a prominent subgenre in the era’s developing and increasingly brazen pornography industry.

Excerpted from “Altered Sex: Satan, Acid, and the Erotic Threshold” by Jeffrey Sconce in “Sex Scene: Media and the Sexual Revolution,” edited by Eric Schaefer. Copyright Duke University Press, 2014. All rights reserved.


12 Things That Impact Your Sexual Satisfaction


Scientists have devoted numerous studies to gauge the factors that play a role in how gratified we are in the bedroom.

Most people consider a satisfying sex life to be one of life’s key pleasures and often an indicator of a good relationship. Yet defining sexual satisfaction is no easy task. To better understand this elusive concept, scientists have devoted numerous studies to gauge the factors that play a role in how gratified we are in the bedroom.

The scientific study of such a multifaceted and clearly subjective psychological concept is not easy. Nonetheless, here are 12 factors that scientists have determined impact reported levels of sexual satisfaction.

1. Pornography. It may be time to click the exit button on those X-rated sites, as pornography can curtail sexual satisfaction. Studies have shown a direct correlation between the amount of porn one watches and one’s level of overall sexual satisfaction. People who watch a lot of porn are less likely to be pleased with their partner’s physical appearance and sexual performance and more likely to compare their partners with porn models. Relationships can suffer, as porn can lead to a drop-off in the primary sexual relationship. This can often leave one partner feeling inadequate or unable to compete with what’s onscreen.

2. Communication and intimacy. While it’s common to feel shy or intimidated when expressing sexual wants and needs, studies have shown that sexually assertive people experience much greater levels of sexual satisfaction than those who hold back. Unsurprisingly, intimate, loving relationships coupled with good communication equate with high sexual satisfaction. The ability to express preferences in the bedroom, negotiate exchanges and ask about sexual history play a major role in how a woman feels about sex, according to the Essential Handbook of Women’s Sexuality.

3. Single versus relationship. Casual sexual encounters tend not to be as satisfying as sex within a relationship, with some studies suggesting the more sexual partners a person has, the less sexually satisfied they feel. One explanation for this is that casual sex partners are less focused on pleasing one another and voicing their sexual needs, with women more likely to orgasm from sex within a relationship than during a hookup. While many women feel fine about engaging in casual sex, according to one study, many felt disrespected or cheated by the behavior of their partner the morning after, which impacted upon satisfaction levels, even when there was no desire for the one-night stand to lead to a relationship.

4. Rewards-to-costs ratio. Under the rewards-to-cost theory, when the level of “rewards” in a relationship exceeds the level of “costs” or there is equality between both rewards and costs, sexual satisfaction is high. Rewards refer to the positive aspects of a relationship that bring joy and satisfaction, versus costs which are things that ae likely to cause pain, anxiety or require effort. Therefore, if your sex life brings you more fun than pain, the fun level exceeds expectations, or the pain level is lower than expected, you are likely to be sexually satisfied, according to Psychology Today. As a general rule of thumb, women are more likely to consider the psychological aspects as rewards, such as security and love, and the physical and behavioral aspects as costs, such as having sex when not in the mood.

5. Age. The issue of age and sexual satisfaction has been fraught with conflicted data. On one hand, research shows sexual satisfaction and libido decline with age, as do thoughts and frequency of sex. This is a result of both biological and health factors that arise later on in life as well as a natural decline in desire over longer periods of co-habitation with the same partner. On the other hand, there are equally as many studies showing that older people are satisfied, if not more so, than their younger counterparts with liberal men having sex into their 80s. A Durex study revealed that those over 65 are still having sex more than once a week. After all, age brings confidence and experience.

6. Self-esteem.Feeling sexy in your skin is the ultimate key to sexual satisfaction. Negative thoughts about your appearance can often detract from your sexual experience, with younger women said to have more positive attitudes about their bodies than older women.  Those with positive self-esteem and body image report high levels of sexual satisfaction, irrespective of objective weight or shape. The impact of weight gain on self-esteem remains apparent for women. Studies show overweight women are more likely than men to avoid sexual encounters, say they don’t feel sexually attractive and are reluctant to be seen undressed. Sexual self-esteem is at its highest among those in happy, long-term relationships which equate with greater satisfaction. For those struggling with low self-esteem, experts suggest exercise is a helpful way to feel better about yourself as well as increase stamina and improve the ability to orgasm.

7. Exciting sex life and frequency. It may be time to break free of the missionary position and bring out the whips and chains for those who feel their sex life is borderline average. Fifty-three percent of people who introduced experimentation into their sex life through role-play, massage, sexual fantasies or bondage saw an increase in sexual satisfaction according to Durex Global Research. Having sex frequently along with sufficient foreplay is also an essential driver of satisfaction.

8. Health.It comes as no surprise that healthy people are more sexually satisfied than those who suffer from physical ailments such as heart diseases or diabetes, or psychological problems like depression and anxiety, according to a 2013 literature review of 197 scientific studies on sexual satisfaction. Certainly, those who have healthy functioning sexual organs also experience greater sexual satisfaction than those suffering from sexual dysfunction. For men, erectile sexual dysfunction is the most common problem hindering satisfaction. For women, vaginal dryness, which 34 percent of women have suffered across all ages, tends to impact upon pleasure.

9. Stress.Freedom from stress is one of the greatest drivers of sexual satisfaction, as is achieving an orgasm. Stress impacts directly on the quality and ability to orgasm and can lead to a whole bunch of mental and sexual disorders. Those who suffer from financial and family worries have reported lower levels of satisfaction and desire than those who are stress-free. Stresses related to biological factors like hormonal changes, pregnancy and childbirth also affect levels of gratification. Women who have high amounts of anxiety and anger also reported low sexual satisfaction.

10. Socio-economic status. According to a Spanish national sex health survey, socioeconomic factors like income, higher levels of education and occupation influence how satisfied people are likely to feel in their love lives. Those with higher socio-economic status had greater awareness of their own needs and therefore a greater capacity to develop their sexuality, Daily Mail reported. Lower socio-economic status affected sexual health negatively overall. Those who were economically disadvantaged were less likely to practice safe sex (with higher pregnancy levels) and experienced less pleasurable and safe sexual experiences due to the lack of resources and access to help and social support.

11. Sexual abuse. It’s no shock that those with a history of sexual trauma commonly experience problems related to sexual satisfaction. Sexual abuse has been associated with low self-esteem, lower levels of social support, decreased levels of passion and a reduction in satisfaction in sex-related behavior. A recent American study showed that men and women with a reported history of childhood sexual abuse were likely to report dissatisfaction in their sexual relationships and disrupted marriages. With proper healing and time, those who have been sexually assaulted are capable of experiencing sexual gratification.

12. Sexual guilt.Sexual guilt, which often emanates from a puritanical society that does not celebrate sexual liberation, can also impact sexual pleasure. Studies have shown that those who experience sexual guilt or negative attitudes, such as a person who views premarital sex as immoral, will experience lower sexual satisfaction than those who are socially liberal and have relaxed attitudes about sex.

E-condoms: The next big thing in safe sex is digital

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation put out a call to design a better condom. Behold, the Electric Eel VIDEO


E-condoms: The next big thing in safe sex is digital
This article originally appeared on The Daily Dot.

The Daily Dot

On the spectrum of things that lots of dudes hate, using condoms falls somewhere between getting stuck in traffic and watching a Nancy Grace marathon on HLN. Because of the widespread belief that condoms reduce sensitivity and overall pleasure during sex, many men are resistant to using them, which is why the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a call to inventors last year to design a more user-friendly prototype.

Fortunately, a better condom might be in the cards sooner than we thought. Georgia Tech’s Fraz Peer and Andrew Quitmeyer have invented what sounds like one of the greatest sex hacks ever: the Electric Eel, an open-source digital condom designed to enhance pleasure for the wearer.

Most of the submissions to the Gates Foundation’s competition, such as an ultrathin polyurethane barrier device or this doohicky made out of cow tendons, have focused on improving the geometry, or actual structure, of the condom. But Peer and Quitmeyer built a prototype with a conductive fabric and a Lilypad microcontroller. It delivers short, mild electrical impulses down the underside of the shaft, which increases pleasure for both the user and his partner. The impulses are controlled by various sensor inputs, such as the rise and fall of a partner’s breaths.

The Electric Eel is only a prototype, so you won’t find any high-tech condoms in your local CVS anytime soon. But the inventors hope that with the right support and funding (they just launched an IndieGogo, if you’d like to toss ‘em a buck or two for their research), condoms in the future will come equipped with this sort of technology. Next time your boyfriend makes a fuss over using protection, tell him to just buck up, strap it on, and be patient: Gates, Peer, Quitmeyer and Co. are working on making him a better one.

What’s the defining artwork of the Obama years?


From “Django Unchained” to “Breaking Bad,” what will remind us of his presidency years from now?


What's the defining artwork of the Obama years?
(Credit: Reuters/Chuck Kennedy)


As we’ve cruised past the five-year anniversary of his first inaugural and mark another day honoring his predecessors, it’s as good a time as any to ask: What mark has Barack Obama’s tenure so far left on popular culture?

You can’t look at the paranoid thrillers of the 1970s — “Klute,” “Three Days of the Condor” and the like — without thinking of the influence of Richard M. Nixon and the nation’s malaise. Bill Clinton’s 1990s, with a young leader in charge of a nation at peace, were defined by the time-killing, privileged youths of MTV. And George W. Bush’s 2000s were decadent in their treatment of material wealth (consider, say, the more fashion-oriented seasons of “Sex and the City” and all of “The Simple Life” early in his presidency, and the rise of the “Real Housewives” franchise past its midpoint) as well as unflinchingly assured of America’s right to maneuver however it wanted in the world (the torture-glorifying “24”). And every 10 years or so in the second half of the twentieth century, John Updike put out a “Rabbit” novel summarizing, in order, post-fifties anomie, wild late-sixties unrest, early-eighties gluttony and the passing of a generation torch in the nineties. Perhaps it only works in retrospect, but there are certain discrete periods of time that appear entirely defined by the personalities and philosophies of the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But the Obama era, one that has coincided with greater-than-ever atomization of entertainment such that no one can be assured that anyone is watching the same stuff, has not lent itself very well to artwork that gets at the national mood.

“If you were thinking of a literary counterpart to the Obama presidency’s evolution; I don’t see one — and certainly don’t see a novel cycle that encapsulates the Obama era in a ‘Rabbit’ way,” said the literary critic Liesl Schillinger.

But that’s, perhaps, not coincidental. The Obama years have seen what may be the final collapse of leisure reading as a mass pursuit. What book could be said to summarize the Obama years in America, when such a small subset of the nation can be expected to have read it?

And that’s to say nothing of how diffuse the issues at play here are. The ideas underpinning, say, the Bush years were fairly straightforward and easy to digest. What novel or movie could possibly take on the issues we’ve been dealing with — the long recession, the rise of awareness among the “99 percent”?

Television brand analyst and film critic A. S. Hamrah cited, too, works that were self-consciously muddled as ones that people will point to of this era — movies like “Django Unchained” and “The Dark Knight Rises” that strenuously attempt to make all manner of points, all at once. “The confusion is part of the work.” He cited, too, the books of Sheila Heti and Tao Lin and the art of Ryan Trecartin as emblematic of the era for how willing they were to indulge that era’s confusion.

But Heti’s “How Should a Person Be?” or Lin’s “Taipei” would be consumed by a very limited subset of America. What can we extrapolate, say, from the success of the Marvel movie franchise or of a backward-looking show like “Mad Men” during Obama’s presidency?

Probably not that much. People will always like action and nostalgia.

Even the art you think might be about the present morass studiously disavows ties to reality — “Homeland” and “Scandal,” for instance, preserve outlandish elements so they can’t really be seen as any sort of comment on the present occupant of the White House. Even Richard Blanco, whose poem at Obama’s second inauguration was widely praised, said that his poem should not be considered as an explicit comment on the president or world events: “I didn’t sit back and say ‘what has he done that i can write about?’ Every work of art looks forward.”

David Greenberg, an associate professor of history, journalism and media studies at Rutgers and the author of “Nixon’s Shadow,” said “You can take anything popular, extract themes and claim it represents the culture. And in some sense, it will, because it strikes a chord with people. There’s likely to be correlations between what is popular in a culture and what is popular in a presidency.”

That may be bad news for us. Maybe the works of art that say the most about America now weren’t made as explicit responses to the Obama years, but they got popular as a result of just how well they chimed — and things aren’t looking pretty. Asking what’s popular in culture that correlates to the Obama presidency got responses invoking confusion, desperation — Schillinger cited “Breaking Bad” — and the frustrations of learning that political horse-trading is a necessary evil. Per Greenberg, “‘Lincoln’ is a rebuke to the image of Obama in 2008. It’s the recognition that governing involves politics and trade-offs.”

Said film historian David Thomson: “‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ and ‘American Hustle’ are both symptomatic of something that I think is there in the culture. Yes, we know there is corruption on a major order, but we don’t think anything can be done about it.” Yikes!

Speaking about the issues of the past five years, Hamrah said, “the one thing they have in common is that they speak to the collapse of institutions. This has affected how art is produced. Culture is produced more and more by a single class of person, and the amount of things that can be expressed by culture become less because of that.” This is hardly Obama’s fault, but has been concurrent with his presidency in a way that ensures people will remember the late 2000s and early-to-mid-2010s as a time of ever-foreshortening options.

In other words, if it’s no longer viable to be an artist unless one is independently wealthy or backed by an ailing corporation, who will speak for those without those advantages? Sure, some art that defines its era is backed into accidentally — “The Simple Life” as symptomatic of Bush-era avarice and laziness. But the closing-off of certain options in the Obama era for would-be artists may mean that the defining art of the era, the stuff that gets at the issues of the time not accidentally but on purpose, is that art that was never made.


Daniel D’Addario is a staff reporter for Salon’s entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

America’s Continued Sexual Immaturity

February 12, 2014, 12:16 PM

French president Francois Hollande might be upset that his alleged affair with actress Julie Gayet became public, but one thing that has not changed is the French public’s perception of him. While his personal approval rating has been on the decline in general, it had nothing to do with his love life: a poll revealed that more than 80% of French respondents did not judge him because of his recent actions.

That would never happen in America.

As Bill Maher pointed out on his January 31 show, Lis Smith did not receive a job with the Bill de Blasio administration after working on the campaign because it was discovered that she is in a relationship with Eliot Spitzer. Not a sordid affair, not sending naked pictures of herself over Twitter. Simply his girlfriend. As Maher then asked,

Why is everyone in the world better about sex than America?

He specifically called out Left-leaning Americans, especially in the city boasting the country’s most progressive mayor. De Blasio allowed the taunting of the less than reputable New York Post to decide the fate of his staffing decisions because the once-disgraced Spitzer decided that he’d still like to be human.

The contradictions in our media are stunning. We rightly applauded the mass marrying of gay couples during the Grammy awards as Mackelmore rapped his affirmations of marriage equality. Liberals nationwide helped push forward legislation to help couples achieve just this in state after state. Yet as Maher stated,

Acceptance of gays is the new ‘having a black friend.’

I noticed this mindset as the Huffington Post grew more popular a few years ago. This supposedly innovative publication was making its name through biting editorials and a dedicated staff seriously covering national politics, yet its Entertainment section might as well have been pulled from People or Page Six. How could an online newspaper trying to gain credibility with social and political issues fail so miserably when it came to entertainment? Put another way, why do we treat entertainment as an aside with little artistic merit, a section where we can get our gossip fix sated and nothing more?

That’s how we inevitably treat all public figures. As Maher pointed out, Spitzer did more to reform Wall St. than any other politician, yet was taken down by an overzealous libido. Today he’s remembered for sexual misconduct and not civil actions. In fact, we recall his prostitution affections while forgetting the questionable financing of his own campaign, so pressing is our passion for all things sex-related.

I’m not advocating for quick forgiveness of sexual misconduct. That is something that should be worked out between the parties involved. Yet this puritanical trend carries over into every public sphere of influence. In the yoga community, sex scandals are equally ogled at. Some merit attention: Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury is accused of sexually assaulting students. If he is found guilty, the man should be prosecuted, and practitioners of this style should at the very least question the morals of their founder and whether or not they want to continue with this particular discipline.

In that case, it is former students directly pressing charges. Yet a recent ‘scandal’ broke out due to complete hearsay. The accuser did not have any relations with the teacher in question and yet the ‘story’ still made Page Six, as well as a number of prominent yoga blogs. All of the articles were mere rewritings of the original blog written by the accuser with no actual reporting involved.

Yoga practitioners talk about the necessity of virtues in their practice, yet apparently integrity is not among them. Half the time the yoga and health blogosphere is filled with TMZ outtakes that have nothing to do with the discipline. In such instances, the ethics and morals—the yamas and niyamas—are suitable only when it does not contradict what you’re personally doing.

Should we hold such public figures accountable for their actions? Certainly. Can we give them the benefit of the doubt until all sides of the story are heard? Apparently not.

Maher suggested that Smith should sue the de Blasio administration for sexual discrimination, and chastised the Left for its ‘slut-shaming.’ We’ve reached a point where we, as he said, root out not only adulterers, but those who date them. As open-minded as progressives claim to be, forgiveness is not among the accepted possibilities for those who have done wrong.

When Maher suggested that New York City is acting like ‘Salem-on-the-Hudson,’ he wasn’t far off. Our inability to conceive that we are sexual animals somehow remains a repugnant, archaic feature and not an integrated component of being human. We decry the sexual repression of burka-clad and homophobic cultures, yet when it comes down to it, our sexual maturity is in no better standing.


Are modern marriages stronger or suffocating?


"In contemporary marriages," says Eli Finkel, "Americans look to their marriage to help them 'find themselves' and to pursue careers and other activities that facilitate the expression of their core self." (Credit: pickerel yee/Flickr)





Today Americans are looking to their marriages to fulfill different goals than in the past. But although the fulfillment of these goals requires especially large investments of time and energy in the marital relationship, on average Americans are actually making smaller investments in their marital relationship than in the past, say researchers.


Those conflicting realities don’t bode well for the majority of marriages, according to Eli Finkel, professor of psychology and professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


But today’s best marriages—those in which the spouses invest enough time and energy in bolstering the marital relationship to help each other achieve what they seek from the marriage—are flourishing even more than the best marriages of yesteryear.


(Credit: risa ikeda/Flickr, font by Vernon Adams)
(Credit: risa ikeda/Flickr, font by Vernon Adams)



Many scholars and social commentators have argued that contemporary Americans are, to their peril, expecting more of their marriage than in the past. But Finkel disagrees.


“The issue isn’t that Americans are expecting more versus less from their marriage, but rather that the nature of what they are expecting has changed,” Finkel says.


“They’re asking less of their marriage regarding basic physiological and safety needs, but they’re asking more of their marriage regarding higher psychological needs like the need for personal growth.”


According to Finkel, these changes over time in what Americans are seeking from their marriage are linked to broader changes in the nation’s economic and cultural circumstances.


Love wasn’t the point


In the decades after America’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, the nation primarily consisted of small farming villages in which the household was the unit of economic production and wage labor outside the home was rare. During that era, the primary functions of marriage revolved around meeting basic needs like food production, shelter, and physical safety.


“In 1800, the idea of marrying for love was ludicrous,” Finkel says. “That isn’t to say that people didn’t want love from their marriage; it just wasn’t the point of marriage.”


Starting around 1850, the nation began a sharp and sustained transition toward urbanization, and the husband-breadwinner/wife-homemaker model of marriage became increasingly entrenched. With these changes, and as the nation became wealthier, the primary functions of marriage revolved less around basic needs and more around needs pertaining to love and companionship.


“To be sure,” Finkel observes, “marriage remained an economic institution, but the fundamental reason for getting married and for achieving happiness within the marriage increasingly revolved around love and companionship.”


Starting with the various countercultural revolutions of the 1960s, a third model of marriage emerged. This third model continued to value love and companionship, but many of the primary functions of marriage now involved helping the spouses engage in a voyage of self-discovery and personal growth.


“In contemporary marriages,” Finkel notes, “Americans look to their marriage to help them ‘find themselves’ and to pursue careers and other activities that facilitate the expression of their core self.”


Do we expect too much?


Finkel is generally enthusiastic about these historical changes, as having a marriage meet one’s needs for self-discovery and personal growth can yield extremely high-quality marriages. Yet, he has doubts about whether the majority of American marriages can, at present, meet spouses’ new psychological expectations of their marriage.


According to Finkel, when the primary functions of marriage revolved around shelter and food production, there wasn’t much need for spouses to achieve deep insight into each other’s core psychological essence. As the primary functions shifted to love and then to self-expression, however, it became increasingly essential for spouses to develop such insight.


“However, developing such insight requires a heavy investment of time and psychological resources in the marriage, not to mention strong relationship skills and interpersonal compatibility,” Finkel says.


Those marriages that are successful in meeting the two spouses’ love and self-expression goals are extremely happy—happier than the best marriages in earlier eras.


The ‘suffocation model’


Yet, according to Finkel, divorce rates remain high, and average marital satisfaction among intact marriages is declining slightly, because most spouses simply are not putting the amount of time and psychological investment required to help each other’s love and self-expressive needs. Spouses with children have reallocated much of their time to intensive parenting, and spouses without children have reallocated much of it to longer workdays.


Indeed, Americans are, on average, spending much less time alone with their spouse than they did several decades ago. As such, there’s an increasing disconnection, on average, between the needs Americans are looking to their marriage to help them achieve and the resources they are investing to make such need fulfillment possible.


The good news is that there are relatively straightforward ways to allow your marriage to breathe. The suffocation model is all about supply and demand.


“You can demand less from your partner, focusing less on resource-intensive self-expressive needs, or supply more time and other resources into the marriage,” Finkel says.


He points to a seemingly simple, but very effective, option, a 21-minute writing intervention that he and his colleagues developed that could help preserve marital quality over time in which spouses wrote about conflict in their marriage from the perspective of a third party who wants the best for all involved.


“The idea is that you can use limited resources better,” Finkel says.


“In general, if you want your marriage to help you achieve self-expression and personal growth, it’s crucial to invest sufficient time and energy in the marriage. If you know that the time and energy aren’t available, then it makes sense to adjust your expectations accordingly to minimize disappointment.”


Finkel and graduate students Ming Hui, Kathleen Carswell, and Grace Larson will report their findings in Psychological Inquiry later this year. Finkel will also present the findings at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago on Sunday, February 16.


Source: Northwestern University

“Tales of the City” author Armistead Maupin: “The Google Bus is the emperor’s carriage”



Maupin on how San Francisco has changed, and ending the series that made the world fall in love with it


Few writers have seen their work as wholeheartedly loved as Armistead Maupin. His “Tales of the City” series, the saga of an assortment of unconventional characters searching for love and self-understanding in San Francisco from the late 1970s on, began as a hugely popular local newspaper serial. When the first of nine novels derived from the serial, “Tales of the City,” appeared in print, the rest of the world fell for Maupin’s vision of the city as the joyous capital of self-expression, too. People (gay and straight) have moved to San Francisco under the influence of the “Tales,” and one fan reputedly even asked to be buried with the books.

Maupin has published a couple of novels touted as the final installment of the “Tales,” but this time, with “The Days of Anna Madrigal,” he really means it. Anna, the wise, pot-smoking one-time landlady of the legendary boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane (an address almost as fabled as 221B Baker Street), is 92. She has a legal prescription now, and a live-in caregiver, a trans man named Jake, but 28 Barbary Lane has fallen into the hands of dot-commers who have “made it look like a five-star B and B,” and Anna herself is contemplating the art of “leaving like a lady.” Her former tenants — what Anna calls her “logical family” — still cluster around her. There are plenty of young folks, too, like a bisexual blogger who’s written a novel composed of text messages, but even as the characters make a hedonistic pilgrimage to the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert, the story retains a mellow, retrospective glow.

Which is not to say it’s nostalgic — nostalgia being a sentiment Maupin has avoided ever since he first arrived in San Francisco in 1971 and read Herb Caen’s misty-eyed newspaper columns about the city in the 1930s. As if to prove that he doesn’t look back, Maupin and his husband, Christopher Turner, recently moved to Santa Fe, seeking closer contact with nature and a quieter life. I met with him during the international book tour for “The Days of Anna Madrigal” to ask him about moving forward and the recent major changes in the city that has been his muse.

By now, you’re probably tired of people telling you how much your work has meant to them.

How could I possibly get tired of that? I just try to appreciate it and take it in while it’s going on, at various book signings. To feel it all. That’s the best of it. Beyond that, there’s the beauty of people sharing some part of their own lives. I was in Albuquerque the other day and a Navajo kid told me that his family had accepted him not on the basis of Michael Tolliver [the series' central gay character], but on the basis of [transgender landlady] Anna Madrigal. Native Americans revere the “two-spirit” person. And because Anna accepted Michael, they accepted him. Chris and I went to a dance not far from where we live last winter, and the whole thing was led by the two-spirit person.

Anna is seriously old in this novel. As long as the sweep of “Tales” has been, and with the original characters now mostly in late middle age, the energy of it has been so youthful. The stories have always found something new and hopeful to explore. Eventually time does run out, though, but Anna approaches it very gracefully. What’s it like to write about someone at that point in her life, with so much more behind her than ahead of her?

Well, I had to imagine it because I still have plenty of panic about dying. She’s always been my higher self. I tried to crawl inside that and imagine how she’d handle it, how placid she would be. I had a grandmother who had been a suffragist in England all those years ago, in 1913. She was in her 90s when I saw her for the last time. She had on her nice suit and hat with her nice cane, sitting in a chair as if she were waiting for a bus to come take her away. She was ready.

A lot of the fey, spiritual side of Anna came from my grandmother. I always adored her. I grew up in a Southern household rife with prejudice, and she was the free, forgiving spirit.

“Tales of the City” was so prescient in many ways. Anna’s history came as huge surprise to many readers. It just didn’t occur to people that she might be transgender.

Nope. I told the editors of the Chronicle about it and they said, “You can’t reveal that for a year.”

So you knew it from the beginning?

I did. They said if I revealed it, that would scare away the readers. And of course, in a way, that’s been the journey. Now I have Anna talking to Jake, who asks her if someone is “T,” and she gets annoyed by all these new terms for their “once-exotic species.”

She liked her mystery.

She liked her mystery.

Do transgender people tell you that she was an important character for them?

They do. Obviously I can’t speak for every transgender reader and there may be people who have issues, but I do hear that a lot. I’ve also been hearing from trans men for the past eight years. I had a trans man come up to me at Burning Man to tell me about an important moment in his life. He said, “I was in a tent full of naked men and I was not ashamed of my body.” That was moving.

Writing about Anna’s youth is the first time you’ve included a lengthy flashback and a historical setting, isn’t it?

First time ever. It was exhilarating, especially, to write about a time I didn’t live in. It was like a complete escape, like crawling into Narnia, if Narnia was a whorehouse in Nevada in 1936! The Internet was tremendously useful. I could Google “1936 whorehouse menu” and up it would pop.

You’ve been working on this long narrative for years, and sometimes events just come along and hijack it. AIDS is only the most obvious example of that.

Absolutely. People didn’t want me to deal with it, but I had to. And sometimes in the telling of the story, the details take control. I wanted Proustian sensory triggers to send Anna back to her past. One was the smell of an old book. Another was rose water, which would be a cheap perfume in a brothel. And the other was Lysol, which you would obviously have to keep around in such a place.

So you didn’t already know about it being used as a contraceptive douche?

[Shakes head in amazement] No! I Googled Lysol just to make sure it was around in 1936. I found out not only that was it around, but it was being used as a spermicide!

You learn about that in women’s studies classes.

You do?

It’s one of the horror stories from the days before contraception was widely available.

Well, it is a horror story! And then they started advertising it as a “freshener.” With a picture of a husband scowling and it says, “For the problem even your husband won’t tell you about”! Doesn’t it seem like the problem would be smelling like the kitchen floor?

I think the real problem would be that husband.

The husband — yeah, pretty much! So Lysol went from being a little detail to a pivotal plot point.

This really feels like a desert novel.

It is a desert novel. People have tended to connect that with my moving to Santa Fe but I had it in mind before we did that. Because of both Burning Man and Winnemucca. I wanted to go to Anna’s past, and then Chris dragged me kicking and screaming to Burning Man.

And you liked it?

I did. We’ve been twice now. Usually when he gets me off my ass, it turns out right. We have adventures.

How did Chris talk you into Burning Man?

I’m not sure I remember. Everything he said was putting me off. I’d have to wear earplugs. Then there was the dust and the white-outs. He said, “Let’s do the naked bicycle pub crawl!” and I said, “My big white ass on a bicycle seat — drunk?” And I actually didn’t end up doing that, but I waited in the bar for it to come around. Our camp was the cosmo camp. We made cocktails out in the desert.

So I had to be persuaded. And we did have to wait in that long line of cars. But you get there and you do sort of cave into it in a nice way. You think, there’s no escaping this, so you might as well relax, and oh yeah this sarong does feel kind of good. He also seduced me with his seamster abilities, if that’s the male word for it. He touched me by going out and buying a sewing machine and taking a lesson from a lady in the Marina and then he was sewing outfits for both of us. That was pretty irresistible.

Burning Man is just such strange, hallucinatory experience. At some of my Bay Area book signings, fellow burners have shown up and at first we didn’t recognize them. It’s such a … they refer to this as the default world. Everything else is the default world.

You know the burning question that everyone wants to know when they learn you’ve moved to Santa Fe?

[Apprehensively] What’s that?

Have you met George R.R. Martin yet?

I’ve not only met him, he’s a friend! I’m going to do an appearance at the Cocteau Theater, which is the theater he owns downtown. He’ll be interviewing me. A friend from V-Day [an international organization to end violence against women] mentioned to me that they needed a theater to premiere a movie, and all I had to do was ask him. He said it was an issue that matters a lot to him. Great guy.

Have you found a literary scene in Santa Fe?

Well, I didn’t have one in San Francisco. I knew a few writers there, but not a scene per se. For us, living in Santa Fe is more about having a house in the country with uninterrupted views and privacy.

I’m sure I was far from the only person who was crushed to learn that you’d left San Francisco.

[Laughs] I’m required to live there for life!

Perhaps you’ll write a “Tales of the Desert”?

We’ll see. The first few months of living there, I was thinking in gothic terms. There’s something about it — the black skies, white stars and coyotes. One thing Chris talked me into was performing at the Crown and Anchor, a nightclub that’s largely full of drag queens and singers in Provincetown. I had 300 bears in a room listening to me telling stories. That got me thinking I should put together a one-man show. I’ve admired a number of people who have done this, from Quentin Crisp to Elaine Stritch and Spalding Gray. I like the life that would come with it, the ability to connect with people after 40 years of sitting in front of a word processor. I’ve also thought about writing a memoir that would dovetail with the one-man show.

What is it like not to live in San Francisco anymore?

We do miss it. We miss our longtime friends, and the chance for street life. So we’re making a serious effort to find what I call a “pied-à-merde” there. It’s going to have to be pretty humble.

Real estate has gotten so expensive there.

A realtor was on my Facebook page telling me he’d love to help us find a little place in the city. I told him what we could pay, and that it needed to be dog-friendly and have a parking place. He wrote back one line: “You may have to put out for that.”

It’s brutal, but we’re working towards it. We’ve learned how to swap apartments with friends. I couldn’t sever myself from that city if I tried. It’s inside of me. And I love being identified with such a beautiful place.

What was the attraction of Santa Fe?

Santa Fe is full of interesting people and it has its own singular beauty and peculiarity. I like the peace and quiet of it. I hate traffic, let’s start with that.

I’d like to have both, if we could afford it. My Social Security pays the mortgage in Santa Fe, such is the cheapness of real estate there. That’s another thing. It’s a very affordable place.

One touch I especially like in this novel is the passage where Michael reflects on how the economic changes of the past 40 years have affected his friendships, slowly sifting them into two different categories.

Yes, he says they’ve become separated from their wealthier friends “by embarrassment.”

It’s one of those phenomena where you’re aware of experiencing it, but you haven’t put it into words yet, and then someone spells it out for you. That’s something “Tales” has always been good at. I haven’t lived in San Francisco for a while, but from everything I’ve heard, it’s gotten pretty extreme there.

It’s in many ways a different place. There are high-rise condos marching up Market Street towards the Castro.

And then there are the Google Bus wars, which from outside make it sound like the city is tearing itself apart.

The Google Bus is the emperor’s carriage.

With the disgruntled rabble throwing muck at it!

It’s become symbolic of that. If you look at it logically, it’s a courteous thing for Google to do, to not have all those people driving in and parking in the city, but it represents the intrusion of enormous wealth. On one level I can’t blame a 35-year-old millionaire for wanting to have a cute little place in San Francisco. It’s just that there’s no room for the rest of us.

When I moved there 40 years ago, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me that any neighborhood would be off-limits to me as a fledgling reporter for the AP. Maybe if you wanted Pacific Heights you had to settle for a cute garage in a garden, but every other part of the city was completely possible. My little pentshack on Russian Hill was $175 a month, with a sweeping view of the bay and all the charm you could possibly want. But times change, cities change and people change.

The characters in “Tales of the City” were able to be, essentially, bohemians.

Yeah, they are. I never really put that label on them, but they are.

Mona and Anna most of all, though of course Mary Ann goes in and out of it.

She does. Michael is without a job for some years, but he can go win the jockey shorts dance contest and still pay the rent!

He couldn’t pay the rent with that now! How can it go on being such a wonderfully eccentric city if people like that can’t afford to live in it?

Well, it can’t. That’s the answer.

That’s sad.

Yes, it’s very sad. It can’t be that city anymore. Of course, it’s more beautiful than it’s ever been. They’ve torn down the freeway so they have the waterfront again, but it’s not that city anymore.


Laura Miller is a senior writer for Salon. She is the author of “The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia” and has a Web site,