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Sexual Objects as Artifacts

February 29, 2012 Culture, History No Comments

Japanese tortoiseshell sex toys on display in the Medicine Man exhibition in the Wellcome Collection

Sir Henry Wellcome was a very successful American-born, British entrepreneur in the pharmaceutical industry. During his lifetime, he was an avid collector of artifacts, in particular those related to medicine. But that’s not all he collected. … Continue Reading

Science Writer Carl Zimmer Publishes on Playboy, Internet Freaks Out

Should respectable authors publish in Playboy?

Carl Zimmer, a celebrated science writer, has published a piece about Neil deGrasse Tyson in the January issue of Playboy magazine (also featuring Lindsay Lohan!). Almost immediately after the article started making the rounds on the internet, the question of whether “respectable authors” should publish in Playboy arose. … Continue Reading

Happy 50th Birthday, Pill!

The Pill turned fifty years old this year and Time magazine has an incredible piece detailing our tumultuous, misunderstood relationship with it. If you read anything today, let this be it:

It was the first medicine ever designed to be taken regularly by people who were not sick. Its main inventor was a conservative Catholic who was looking for a treatment for infertility and instead found a guarantee of it. It was blamed for unleashing the sexual revolution among suddenly swinging singles, despite the fact that throughout the 1960s, women usually had to be married to get it. Its supporters hoped it would strengthen marriage by easing the strain of unwanted children; its critics still charge that the Pill gave rise to promiscuity, adultery and the breakdown of the family. In 1999 the Economist named it the most important scientific advance of the 20th century, but Gloria Steinem, one of the era’s most influential feminists, calls its impact “overrated.” One of the world’s largest studies of the Pill — 46,000 women followed for nearly 40 years — was released this March. It found that women who take the Pill are less likely to die prematurely from any cause, including cancer and heart disease, yet many women still question whether the health risks outweigh the benefits.

We take it for granted nowadays and its refreshing to take the time to stop and consider those who struggled for it and what the Pill itself helped catalyze. It almost makes us feel guilty for bitching about taking it every morning.

Then we read that Susan B. Anthony quote, here reiterated by Gloria Steimen: “Our job is not to make young women grateful. It’s to make them ungrateful so they keep going. Gratitude never radicalized anybody.”

Well, we’ll feel a little grateful just the same. Just today. Before we get back to bringing sex out of the closet and boobquaking.

Photo of the Pill used in the montage by Jenny Lee Silver. Information from Time magazine.

The Sexual Life of Pompeii

February 16, 2010 Culture, History No Comments

In the year 79 AD the Roman city of Pompeii was buried under twenty feet of ash from a two day eruption brought on by the looming Mount Vesuvius.

As with all Roman cities, the façade of Pompeii was glorious but a long hard look at the subculture of Pompeii reveals more than beauty. One can’t help but notice the frescoes depicting Priapus with a phallus large enough to fill any hole. Streetlamps designed in erotic display set to notify the random passerby of exactly where they were located, with brothels, prostitutes, and orgies all symbolized by phallic symbols.

It kind of makes one envious of the lifestyle, even with Vesuvius about to erupt.

Pompeii would have had a difficult time promoting this promiscuous culture at any other point in history.

Caligula, Claudius, and Nero reigned from 37 to 68 AD and it was the stance of the Julio-Claudian dynasty which was so against the objective morality and family values of the newly formed Christianity that allowed sex in the ancient Roman Empire to thrive.

Historians agree that Rome did have far more sex and overshadowed Pompeii in regards to brothels and prostitution. Relative to population though — with Pompeii only having 20,000 inhabitants — the promiscuous behavior that went on in Pompeii per capita was considerably more rampant and public than anything going on over in Rome.

Even with all the symbolism in Pompeii, it’s unlikely that it was seen as taboo or as something to be hidden. Sex was simply a part of everyday culture, with subtle distinctions among the social strata much like in contemporary Western society where there are apparent yet subtle differences between rural communities and urban communities in terms of values, promiscuity and what’s considered taboo.

In Pompeii the rich had private sex orgies and the poor typically paid for lower end prostitutes. At least 75 percent of the population at the time was considered poor so most of the focus in Pompeii was around the business of brothels. That’s not to say that the high end sex clubs had no special attention of their own. High class estates had rooms built solely for group sex. Carvings and frescoes in these rooms depict sexual positions and gratification. There were even small windows looking in on these rooms so others could watch in voyeuristic delight.

Needless to say that behind the tragedy of Mount Vesuvius and what Pompeii is so widely known for there was an underground world, taboo by our standards, going on in Rome that I’m sure all of us wish we could experience if even for a day.

Image, “A painting of Priapus found in the House of the Vetti,” is public domain. For more information about Pompeii, visit the History Channel.

Anthony Licari is the editor of Lounge Nouvelle, a subculture web magazine. When he’s away from the computer you can probably find him at your local dive bar controlling the jukebox, getting into hick fights and embarrassing himself to the point where women will actually laugh in his face.

Hello, Class! Today We’re Going To Talk About Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2010 Culture, History No Comments

Allow us to introduce you to Margaret L. Wade, an adult educator and co-author of Reclaiming Eros: Sacred Whores and Healers. She will be giving you a little background on this here holiday:

My Catholic Lives of the Saints makes no bones about it: St. Valentine’s day became the day of lovers only because it was the day before Juno Februata’s day. Juno Februata was the goddess of passionate love, or febris. To celebrate properly, well, what could you do? Erotic rites, of course. Young men each drew the name of a young woman, who then became his partner in the festivities. If chance was kind, perhaps the young couple would marry that June, the month that celebrates another of Juno’s patronages, that of marriage.

Other accounts claim the festival on the 15th was Lupercalia, an ancient cleansing festival centered at a temple near the cave in which the twin founders of Rome had been raised by a wolf. It was dedicated to either the she-wolf mother of Romulus and Remus or to Lupercus, who is associated with the Roman Faunus and the Greek Pan, the sexy goat god. Whichever it was who inspired the partying, the celebration gave young noblemen a chance to run around the town naked. They sacrificed goats and, in later years, started wearing loincloth skins à la Pan and Faunus. They made strips of the sacrificed goat’s skin and used them to flay others, mostly lightly and in jest. For women, it was to bless their marriage and fertility.

St. Valentine, on the other hand, was reportedly beaten and beheaded in 270 C.E. when the Romans were still beating and beheading those who were Christian (as opposed to a few years later when they killed those who weren’t Christian). Seriously un-fun by comparison to the Pagans’ activities. Sadly, he was an unsung hero until centuries later; he was not mentioned in a list of acknowledged Roman martyrs produced in 354. In fact, no mention of him was made until 496 when Pope Gelasius I claimed he was one of those saints that men didn’t know but God surely appreciated, so now he’s an official church saint. And oh, by the way, Pope G continued, his feast day is the day before that lewd festival that’s now illegal. So St. Valentine became the Patron of Greetings. Yeah, that’s even less exciting than being martyred. [An interesting tidbit (coincidence?) in the story is that the list of Roman martyrs produced in 354 was financed by a wealthy Roman named Valentius.]

Want more? We thought so. Wade is a veritable fountain of sex related- historical and cultural noms. Addictive as they get. Go check out her column on Carnal Nation.

Information from Carnal Nation.

Sid Vicious Died Today, 31 Years Ago

February 2, 2010 Culture, History, Music, Vitals No Comments

Sid Vicious, bassist for the Sex Pistols: a kid, an icon, a tragedy, a legacy. He defined a generation and the radiation from its zeitgeist-shattering explosion can still be felt today.

You know, if you look hard enough under the VersaSpa tans, over-processed vocals, and senseless Top 40 hits.

Oh, who are we kidding? You can’t. It’s mostly shit. Glittering, beautiful shit, but shit. The only motif that persists is drugs, but even that doesn’t really hit us the way it should — the paparazzi bulbs are too bright. It’s an expected disaster, all of it.

Other generations were defined by their music — it was the battle cry, the unifying force. We’re too bored, ADD and apathetic. It’s like we have nothing to fight for; we grew up with too much handed to us and now all we can do is sit around and bitch on Twitter. That’s our legacy. Bitching on Twitter.

Yeah, we saw your Grammy tweets. At least Taylor Swift is singing. At least Pink is swinging. At least Lady Gaga is pounding a piano and Beyoncé is hair-swishing.

We here at Sex and the 405 have an assignment for you today: do something. Actually take a stance by doing. Kiss someone, punch someone, make something.

Just, you know, don’t stab anyone.

Image from Mudkiss Magazine. Reminder via Robert Ebert.

Menu of Delights

January 12, 2010 Culture, History No Comments

OMG! Remember when you could get laid with a finger up your ass from $3.50?! Me neither. I think that’s what makes vintage finds like these so much fun.

ENTER WITH CASH IN HAND AND TOOL IN THE OTHER. Uh huh, right to the point–just the way we like it every now and again.

Menu via Kinky Delight.

If TMZ Had Existed In The 1950s…

JFK may have never been president. They might have known better. Look at this photo:

This is what TMZ said about it:

We believe the photo was taken in the mid-1950s. It shows two naked women jumping off the boat and two more naked women sunning on the top deck. Just below the top deck — a man appearing to be John F. Kennedy is lying on a deck, sunning himself.

TMZ had multiple experts examine the photo — all say there is no evidence the picture was Photoshopped. The original print — which is creased — was scanned and examined for evidence of inconsistent lighting, photo composition and other forms of manipulation. The experts all concluded the photo appears authentic.

There are numerous articles and books on President John F. Kennedy which mention a 2-week, Mediterranean boating trip that JFK — then a Senator — took in August, 1956, with his brother Ted Kennedy and Senator George Smathers. The trio reportedly entertained a number of women on the yacht. Jackie Kennedy was pregnant at the time and was rushed to the hospital while JFK was on the boat. Doctors performed an emergency C-section, but the infant was stillborn.

TMZ is, however, wrong.

They have posted a correction, reporting that the man is not JFK:

We’ve now confirmed the photo was part of a Playboy spread in 1967. A rep from Playboy tells TMZ the photo ran as part of story titled, “Playboy’s Charter Yacht Party: How to Have a Ball on the Briny with an Able-Bodies Complement of Ship’s Belles.” She says the photo was taken on one of the islands that make up the Grenadines (Petit Rameau).

Image and information from TMZ, via OpenSalon. Thanks to Rita Arens for the tip and Sara for the update.

Pleasure Without Borders: East Germany After The Fall of the Berlin Wall

November 1, 2009 Culture, History No Comments

“Pleasure without borders”–that’s what West German headlines called the exodus of East Germans to their sex shops 20 years ago, when the Berlin Wall fell. From couples to grandmothers–everyone wanted to take a look at what the West had to offer.

vibratorCommunist East Germany had suppressed pornography and pleasure instruments, labeling these “bourgeois decadence.” Of course, there is something to be said for riding the edge of the forbidden.

“In a rigid state that wanted to control everything, citizens were more emancipated with respect to their sex life, women in particular,” recalls Kurt Starke, a sociologist and sex expert based out of Leipzig, eastern Germany.

Polls at the time seem to indicate that women took the initiative more often than their male East German counterparts and reached orgasm more often than women in West Germany.

“Eastern women did not talk about their orgasm for hours, they just let themselves go,” Starke said.

Thought provoking, isn’t it?

Image by Guido Alvarez. Information via IOL.

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Gamers Won’t Be Seduced, Will Stare At Random Cleav Instead

That Steam allows the objectification and sexualization of female characters in a variety of its games but refuses to accept a game about actually engaging with women in a more interactive fashion is astonishingly backward.

FetLife Is Not Safe for Users

That the site doesn’t take measures to protect user content and has shown incompetence or negligence in regard to user privacy, all the while prohibiting victims from warning others about predatory behavior creates an environment where it is nearly impossible for members of the community to take care of themselves and one another. By enabling FetLife to continue espousing a code of silence, allowing the spinning self-created security issues as “attacks,” and not pointing out how disingenuous FetLife statements about safety are, we are allowing our community to become a breeding ground for exploitation.

Why You Should Vote No On Prop 35

Should people who benefit (parents, siblings, children, roommates!) from the earnings of “commercial sex acts” (any sexual conduct connected to the giving or receiving of something of value) be charged with human trafficking? Should someone who creates obscene material that is deemed “deviant” be charged as with human trafficking? Should someone who profits from obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should people transporting obscene materials be charged with human trafficking? Should a person who engages in sex with someone claiming to be above the age of consent or furnishing a fake ID to this effect be charged with human trafficking? What if I told you the sentences for that kind of conviction were eight, 14 or 20 years in prison, a fine not to exceed $500,000, and life as a registered sex offender?

Pretty and Calls Herself a Geek? Attention Whore!

If you are a woman, you might be given a chance to prove yourself in this community. Since there is no standard definition of what a “geek” is and it will vary from one judge to the next anyway, chances of failing are high (cake and grief counseling will be available after the conclusion of the test!). If you somehow manage to succeed, you’ll be tested again and again by anyone who encounters you until you manage to establish yourself like, say, Felicia Day. But even then, you’ll be questioned. As a woman, your whole existence within the geek community will be nothing but a series of tests — if you’re lucky. If you aren’t lucky, you’ll be harassed and threatened and those within the culture will tacitly agree that you deserve it.

Cuddle Chemical? Moral Molecule? Not So Fast

Zak’s original field, it turns out, is economics, a far cry from the hearts and teddy bears we imagine when we consider his nickname. But after performing experiments on generosity, Zak stumbled on the importance of trust in interactions, which led him, rather inevitably, to research about oxytocin. Oxytocin, you might remember, is a hormone that has been linked previously to bonding — between mothers and children primarily, but also between partners. What Zak has done is take the research a step further, arguing in his recent book, The Moral Molecule, that oxytocin plays a role in determining whether we are good or evil.

How to Avoid Pissing off a Stripper

Let’s talk about the strippers. Whether they like to be half-naked or not, whether they enjoy turning you on or not, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re working. Whether you think that taking one’s clothes off for money is a great choice of career is really beside the point (is it a possibility for you to make $500 per hour at your job without a law degree? Just asking). These women are providing fantasy, yes, but that is their job. And as a patron of the establishment where they work, you need to treat them like you would anyone else who provides a service to you.

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Editrix-in-Command:
AV Flox

In-House Theologian:
Robert Fischer

Eros and Desire Scholar:
Dawn Kaczmar

Scientific Consultant:
Jason Goldman

East Coast Liaison:
Jackie Summers

Arch-Nemesis:
Barbie Davenporte

Read about the contributors we've had over time on our staff page.

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...