What was the craziest moment in reporting my new book "America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction"? Did anything scare me? Were people reluctant to share details of their sex lives? And what was it like to squeeze into those PVC pants?
Read on for answers to these and other questions that readers e-mailed me after reading an excerpt of the book .
Q: PVC pants!? Not a great idea. I hope you kept your mouth off them as I've heard that PVC is coated with lead! What was it like wearing them, anyway?
A: Rest easy. I wasn’t, umm, chewing on them and neither was anybody else.
The pants were part of my effort to fit in at the Wet Spot, a sex club, a couple of nights after the "fire play" seminar . A fair number of other people were wearing PVC, too, PVC being a kind of fetish uniform.
In my case, the only problems with the pants were that they were pretty cold in the wintry Seattle air and that they were so tight I could have sung for the Vienna Boys Choir.
Q: Were you ever scared of anything?
A: Not in the way you might think. I was leery about myself, mostly. How would I fit in?
When I worked in the adult store, would I make a good salesman? How to promote Sphincterine A**-stringent? How could I have the conversations with customers I anticipated having about love dolls?
I was also pretty nervous about trying to sell erotic toys to women at a Passion Party in Missouri. It was a tough crowd.
Q: Were people shy about talking to you?
A: A few people were (see the Missouri reference above), but amazingly to me, most people were remarkably open. I was actually shocked at how open most people were, and how nice they were. From porn producers to middle-class swinging couples, to sex club attendees, to fetishists, most people were friendly, warm, not at all the scary stereotype from an episode of "CSI."
I think they were so welcoming because they are used to being treated as those stereotypes and they felt I wouldn’t do that. The people in the book are, literally, some of your friends and neighbors.
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Q: Since humor is a reaction against inflexible and authoritarian behavior, could the sexual "looseness" you’ve seen be a reaction against puritanical and hypermoralistic behavior?
A: I have no doubt this is one important factor. (There are others.) Here’s a little quote from the book:
“You need the religious right to condemn you, don’t you?”
“Oh yeah,” she says… “Both sides need each other. We give them people to be afraid of….”
The more condemnation there is, in an age of unprecedented sexual availability, the more people will be seduced by the thrill of disobeying. The more deviancy the sexual moralists find, the more ammo they have to justify their argument that the nation is facing a morals meltdown.
Q: So what was the craziest moment of your romp around America?
A: Just one? Wow. So much of the book, and the people in it are funny. It could be discussing the aches and pains of ball-gag-induced TMJ with a professional bondage model. Or watching the production of an extreme BDSM video involving electricity and about a gallon of lubrication. The crazy part about that was that somehow it didn’t seem extreme, a reaction I try to explain in the book. Or maybe it could be the time a group of women asked me to try a stimulating lotion on my … well, that story’s better left for the book.
Q: After seeing and hearing so much, do you think anything about sex could shock you now?
A: Yes, sort of. If you mean some particular consensual activity among adults, not so much. Once you’ve seen fire play and a working operating room in a sex club, you’ve kinda seen it all and that’s where a lot of the humor in the book comes from.
But I was shocked by how wide open we really are in this country. Think about it: Almost exactly four years ago we were in an uproar over Janet Jackson’s boob. I don’t think there would be such an uproar today and that is a shocking change in just four years. We spend billions on porn and sex toys now. Despite some of the heated rhetoric that still goes on, we are not the same country as I thought we were when it comes to sex.
Having said that, as I discuss in the book, I don’t think this is entirely a good thing. Part of the book is really about how all the sex is really a symptom of, not a cause of, the culture in which we live.
MSNBC.com columnist and Glamour magazine contributing editor Brian Alexander’s new book is "America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction."
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