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The New Sexual Underground: Crossing the Last Boundaries (John Warren Wells on Sexual Behavior Book 10), Page 2

Lawrence Block

  Bisexuality has shown a distinct increase in recent years, far more so than exclusive homosexuality. It has become evident to a substantial number of people that the normal human being has within himself the capacity to respond sexually to members of either sex, and bisexual impulses on the part of predominantly heterosexual individuals are accepted in the general and in the particular. This is especially the case with female bisexuality. Among the swingers, occasional lesbianism is taken for granted, and even square society has changed its outlook to the point where the female is close to being recognized as a genuinely bisexual animal. This is less noticeably true in respect to male homosexuality; in both swinging and square circles, male homosexual contact is more apt to be thought of as demeaning. (Several theories may be advanced concerning this dichotomy, but we need not examine them here. The interested reader might refer to my recent book, The Taboo Breakers, in which it is suggested that the distinct attitudes toward male and female bisexuality derive from basic differences between the sexes.)

  Wife-swapping, still the most widely employed term for systematic permissive mutual adultery, in many respects best exemplifies the scope of the sexual revolution. The practice first attracted widespread public attention in the fifties, when married couples first began advertising for partners in several Canadian tabloids. Shortly thereafter several of the male-interest pulp magazines began carrying articles on the topic, and in due course it was examined at exhaustive length in any number of mass-market paperback books. Since then, the number of couples engaging in wife-swapping (or swinging, as it is most commonly called by its devotees) has increased quite dramatically. At the present time, dozens upon dozens of correspondence clubs exist for the sole purpose of bringing swingers into contact with one another. These clubs publish bulletins and magazines, some of them very well printed and illustrated, many of them enjoying very large circulation. Furthermore, the actual pursuits of these swingers have changed radically. Primitive wife-swapping was just what the name implied—two couples would meet, exchange partners for the evening, repair to separate rooms or houses, and copulate, presumably to their mutual satisfaction. Since then great refinements have been worked in the games swingers play. Troilistic and pluralistic contacts are less the exception than the rule for most swingers, exotic sexual practices are more often sought than not, and coteries have sprung up for those with a special interest in fetishism, bondage, sadomasochism, et al.

  Marital sex itself has undergone its own revolution. To appreciate this change fully, one must realize that it was not so many years ago when the notion of sexual activity being a source of enjoyment to the wife as well as the husband was a fairly radical concept. For a majority of married couples, foreplay was generally unsophisticated, sexual relations were strictly coital in nature, and coitus itself was invariably conducted in the most common posture. Since then, even those couples who confine sexual relations wholly to the marriage bed have evolved into what an earlier generation would surely categorize as out-and-out perverts. Newlyweds take it for granted in most cases that their marital relations will include fellatio and cunnilingus as well as any number of experimental techniques. The standard marriage manual, which did little more than instruct its reader in the fundamentals of physiology with an eye toward schooling him to satisfactory copulation, has given way to the sophisticated marriage manual which aims at showing the reader all possible variations on the standard theme. My own book, Eros and Capricorn, was written in response to the demand for a manual which would discuss at length the sexual techniques of various cultures so that the reader might enrich his own sexual repertoire as he wished.

  Prostitution, the world’s oldest profession, has predictably undergone any number of changes in the course of the sexual revolution. For years sexual libertarians have held that true sexual freedom would lead to chronic unemployment for prostitutes. It seems, however, that no more prostitutes have been forced out of work by the sexual revolution than have dentists been laid low by fluoridation of water. On the contrary, the prostitute continues to thrive, and earns on the average more money than ever before. Among the interesting phenomena of the sexual revolution, the contemporary scene offers the housewife who supplements the family income through part-time prostitution (often with her husband’s approval) and such new facades for the old-time brothel as the model agency and the massage parlor. Also, through the medium of the correspondence clubs, we have the prostitute who advertises.

  Orgies also play a definite role in the new sexual underground. The nude party, in which guests ball at random for the duration of the evening or weekend, may well seem like the ultimate in the pornographer’s fantasy. It is, however, a very real occurrence, often openly advertised and almost invariably well attended.

  • • •

  Just the other day it was my pleasure to read an article in a magazine called Trans-action, a respected sociological periodical published under the auspices of an established university, in which the author cited a variety of statistical surveys to demonstrate that the sexual revolution is a myth and that the sexual behavior of adolescents has not changed to any appreciable degree. The statistics which the author presented, while surely impressive in graph form, derived from so minute a sample as to render the whole project instantly suspect. Nevertheless, they were offered to show that American teenagers are not having sexual experiences at an earlier age or a greater rate than they did in the past, that their actions do not reflect their somewhat more liberal attitudes, and, finally, that things have not changed much from earlier times.

  Since this same sort of statistical proof has demonstrated scientifically that the bumblebee is incapable of flight, it may well be a waste of time to belabor the point. But it seems that one must take special pains to offset the effects of the statisticians and poll-takers. Another recent survey has assured us that only four out of a hundred college students have ever smoked marijuana, and anyone who believes that one is fully capable of believing that the world is flat.

  There have been changes, and sweeping ones at that, in the entire fabric of American sexuality. One could very profitably write at length on the changes in the surface of our sex lives, in the new attitudes accepted throughout society. But in the pages to follow we will be less concerned with the general aspects of the sexual revolution than with the particular form and shape of the new sexual underground. To continue an earlier political metaphor, our focus will be not on the provisional government but on the ongoing vanguard of the revolution.

  Why? For several reasons, actually. Most obviously, it is considerably more interesting to study extremes than averages. More important, it is fairly well evident that the sexual revolution, whatever its long-term effects may be, is at the present time a continuing process. In a very real sense, the swinger of a generation ago has become the average man of today’s society. While it may or may not be so, as today’s swingers proclaim, that this year’s sexual underground will be the over-ground a few years hence, it seems undeniable that this is the direction the sexual revolution is taking at the present time.

  • • •

  The bulk of this present volume is made up of case histories of various persons who might be categorized as denizens of today’s new sexual underground. It has been my good fortune to develop considerable contacts throughout the swinging society, and have been able to interview quite few individuals and couples in depth. In the majority of instances, the interviews have been quoted verbatim, with extraneous material excised and, needless to say, all names and any personal or geographic particulars which might facilitate identification carefully altered. Every name given in the pages to follow is wholly fictitious and any specific resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is outside the author’s intention and most likely a figment of the reader’s imagination.

  In a sense, the term case history may be a poor one. It inevitably implies value judgment—i.e., one can scarcely avoid regarding the subject of a case history as a patient of one sort or anoth
er. Furthermore, the standard case-history approach of examining the psychological backgrounds of the subjects involved with an eye toward detecting whys and wherefores is an approach I have generally eschewed in the pages to follow. A psychoanalytical probing of these individuals might or might not be of interest and/or value, but such an examination is outside the book’s scope and the author’s field of expertise as well.

  Let the reader think, then, of the persons whose stories follow as representative of certain aspects of the new sexual underground, with the idea that an understanding of who they are and what they do will shed light on any number of facets of contemporary American sexuality. This is not to say that these subjects are all “typical” or “average” members of the underground, but that taken together they comprise what one would hope is a good partial picture of current sexual trends. The subjects of these interviews have, to an extent, written the book which follows. If the reader feels so inclined, he may judge the morality of their individual ways of life. For my own part, I am not at all inclined to offer moral judgments of this nature. My own feeling toward these interviewees is one of gratitude to them for sharing their experiences with me and with the reading public.


  Making Ends Meet

  Floyd and Rita Polk live in an attractive split-level house in Nassau County, on Long Island. Both the Polks and their home look like an advertisement for the Affluent Society. The house itself is luxuriously furnished and appointed. The basement recreation room, recently finished, boasts an elaborate stereo system and extensive motion picture projection equipment. The attached garage holds two new cars. Floyd Polk drives one daily to New York City, where he works as a product manager for a major manufacturer of household products. He is in his early thirties, a little taller than average, with dark brown hair, gray eyes, a lean build, and attractive if unremarkable facial features.

  Rita, several years younger than her husband, is a striking blonde, but admits that her hair’s original color was a less dramatic “mouse brown.” A tall girl, she has a slim waist and boyish hips which contrast sharply with her full breasts. She has a long face, high forehead, and slightly prominent front teeth. While not beautiful in the classical sense, she is an extremely attractive young woman with a considerable aura of sexuality.

  The Polks have been active swingers for almost four years. When I interviewed them at their home, they readily told me how they had first become involved in swinging and the form their participation took. As the interview progressed, it gradually became apparent that there was some aspect of their sex lives which they were keeping hidden: occasional significant pauses and glances suggested as much. Eventually they decided that concealment was unnecessary, and the rest of the story emerged.

  Rita Polk, who lists herself on the family’s joint tax return as housewife, has another occupation as well.

  She is a part-time prostitute.

  • • •

  FLOYD: I’ll tell you exactly how it started. It was I suppose two, two and a half years ago. As you know, we’d done all of our swinging through correspondence. Neither of us was keen on the idea of getting involved sexually with people we knew socially. It seemed awkward, so we always worked it through the correspondence clubs, replying to advertisements in the bulletins and magazines.

  RITA: The trouble was that it cost a fortune.

  FLOYD: It really does, if you do it on any kind of scale. You know how the clubs operate, I’m sure. What it amounts to is that they run the ads free, ads from ladies and couples, that is. Single guys have to pay, but that’s the way of the world, isn’t it?

  RITA: That’s the whole idea.

  FLOYD: Right. Anyway, for couples, the ads run free. But to answer the ad you have to send a dollar to the club for each letter you want forwarded. Some clubs charge two dollars, but a dollar for each letter is more or less standard. Now admittedly a dollar isn’t going to bankrupt anybody, but after a while we found it was running into a lot of money. We would swing on the average of once a week, and I’m sure we sent out at least ten letters for every contact we made that we would eventually swing with.

  RITA: More than ten, I’d say. At least half of the time you never receive a reply from the advertiser. And a good percentage of those who did reply were just looking to get their kicks from horny correspondence or pictures. Then there were some that just weren’t our type, or vice versa, so there was no point in meeting.

  JWW: So, like a great many other couples, you decided to run an ad of your own.

  FLOYD: That’s right. It wasn’t just the money factor, although as I said I guess we must have been spending five hundred bucks a year on postage and forwarding fees. We had talked with other couples, and we had the impression that you could do much better by advertising. With the good clubs, a well-worded ad accompanied by an attractive photograph brings a high percentage of replies. We felt we would be saving money and would have a chance for a higher proportion of interesting contacts.

  RITA: So to make a long story short, we ran an ad and we were deluged with replies. Floyd took a post office box in the city, and every day for a month he came home with the attaché case full of letters. And the reason that we got so much mail is that we forgot those all-important three little words.

  JWW: Three little words?

  RITA: Uh-huh. “No single men.”

  FLOYD: I guess neither of us had realized before what a high percentage of single guys will reply to an ad placed by a couple. Our first ad was straightforward enough, the usual bit about a couple looking to meet other couples and so on, and the way it was worded you wouldn’t think an unattached fellow would answer it. But they did.

  RITA: A few of them were cranks. Literary exhibitionists, I’ve heard them called. They wrote the usual dirty letters, none of which I’d care to talk about, and there was one jerk who sent a naked picture of himself. He had a huge pot belly and a bald head and he was hung like a chipmunk. It was so comical it wasn’t even offensive and we just laughed at it.

  JWW: Did you reply to any of these letters?

  RITA: From the couples, yes, and we found out that it does pay to advertise. Since then we’ve done all our swinging by placing ads instead of answering them.

  FLOYD: I think John means from the single-o’s, honey. No, we didn’t answer any of them, not at the time. I might add that most of them just wanted to meet Rita alone, but there were some who wanted to get together with us for a threesome. We weren’t interested, though. When we ran our next ad, we specified that we weren’t interested in single men, and that cut down the replies from them. But we still got some, and wouldn’t you know it but this one guy sent along a head-and-shoulders shot of himself and Rita here thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  RITA: That’s not fair. As it happened, we had just swung with a couple and the husband had been very unattractive, although Floyd enjoyed himself with the wife. All I said was that I would have preferred this fellow to the husband. It was a perfectly innocent remark, but we started talking about it and I guess the conversation got me a little excited. The fellow had written a very intelligent letter and sounded like the sort of guy we would like, except that he didn’t have a girl. We let it lie for few days, and then finally we wrote him a note and said we’d like to get together with him if he got himself a suitable girl later on.

  FLOYD: Two nights later he was on the phone. He didn’t have a girl, but he said he’d like to come over and get acquainted. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea but said all right. He came over and he was a really decent guy just as the letter had indicated, and he was honest enough to admit that he wasn’t single after all but was married to a woman who didn’t swing. He was afraid to get involved in an actual affair because of that. He said he’d had some luck swinging with couples, and the rest of the time he went to call girls.

  RITA: We had already made it plain that we weren’t interested in a threesome, and that one of us wouldn’t swing if the other wasn’t in on it, so it
was just a social evening and we talked. I was very interested when he told me about going with call girls. I guess every woman has a streak of hooker in her—

  FLOYD: Sometimes it’s more than a streak.

  RITA: Mr. Comedian. No, I admit it, I was interested. I asked him what the girls were like and how much they charged and what they did, things like that. Then I told him that he should bring a call girl along for Floyd and I would be glad to swing with him in return. It was just joking, really, but Floyd picked up on it right away. He said that since Gary was already here, he could just pay me the money and then Floyd could spend it on a call girl during his lunch hour.

  FLOYD: To this day I maintain I wasn’t serious. I haven’t been with a pro since I was in the service, and nothing would make me go to one now. Frankly, I’d rather masturbate. The girls who are in the business perform with all the enthusiasm of robots. But this guy, Gary, picked up on the suggestion like a shot. He leaned across to Rita and asked her if she would go to bed with him for twenty dollars.

  RITA: I thought he was kidding. I kidded right back and told him I never put out for less than twenty-five, and the next thing I knew he was taking two tens and a five out of his wallet.

  FLOYD: He gave them to me.

  RITA: And I took them away from him. I said if I was going to do it then it was my money. I was beginning to realize Gary was perfectly serious about it, and I was so strangely excited that it shook me. I took Floyd into the other room and asked him what he thought.

  FLOYD: I told her she obviously wanted to get this guy into bed anyway, and what the hell, twenty-five dollars is better than a kick in the teeth. I went downstairs and sat in front of the television set with a couple of cans of beer.