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Pride Issue: Why Don’t Lesbians Hook Up Online?

Ever since hookup websites (and subsequently apps) became the way gay men play, lesbians have been asking, “Where’s our Grindr?” But perhaps the better question would be, do lesbians want to bang or just hang with friends? And if you build a women-seeking-women app, will they come?

Women have been saying they want to be able to hook up the way the guys do at least as far back as 2001, when Elizabeth Perlman complained on a website called The New Gay, “I certainly wouldn’t mind competing with the gays to take back my right to be a slut if it meant being a normal person who collects vagina photos on my cell phone.” The reality, however, is that while gay men quickly monopolize new technology to find the fastest way to get laid (remember those AOL chat rooms?), lesbians tend to use social media to be more, well, social. That means holding out for the first few dates anyway, in stark contrast to those gay men for whom “date” means “fuckfest this Friday.”

Last year, Grindr, far and away the preferred cruising app for gay men, introduced Blendr for heterosexual users. Grindr founder Joel Simkhai tells the Voice he “just didn’t see a big enough demand” for a female-only version.

Even so, a new wave of dyke entrepreneurs are attempting to lure visitors by offering more than just nearby potential bedmates. Women want more than just the location and stats Grindr provides. If they’re virtually cruising, it’s for “that perfect soulmate they can enjoy the high life with,” according to Nicola Chubb, co-founder of FindHrr. Like Grindr, FindHrr, GirlDar, Dattch, and the forthcoming Parlez use geolocation to enable users to find and connect with others users in their immediate vicinity. All begin with a non-paying tier; FindHrr, Dattch, and Brenda (a chat app) offer upgrades for extra functionality like sending videos.

Unlike Grindr, however, they all take pains to distance themselves from projecting an explicitly sexual vibe. Brenda even makes users confirm that they understand it’s not to be used as a sex app. Krysten Milne tells the Voice that when she was building GirlDar, she wanted to give lesbians who live outside the major urban centers a way to connect with each other. It never even occurred to her that these women might have only been looking for sex.

What’s true in the hinterlands, however, may also pertain to the big city, where, for now at least, women still prefer face time. None of the new apps have attracted the critical mass needed to make them cruisable. On a recent Wednesday evening, only 21 FindHrr users were online—all far from lesbian-centric Williamsburg. True, the app only launched in February. But compare the 8,000 total users on FindHrr, one of the more successful lesbian apps, to Grindr’s claim of an astonishing 844,785 in New York City alone. If true, that means 10 percent of Gothamites are men who, at one time or another, have taken the time to upload personal information in pursuit of man-on-man sex.

Even the very few women using these apps are more likely to equate intimacy with a relationship. “Women know it doesn’t only take a few hours to learn about another body,” xoJane UK writer Lisa Luxx tells the Voice. “Hookups are fun, but in my experience women, including myself, prefer to have incredible sex rather than average ‘wham, bam, and thank you ma’am’ sex.”

Diana Cage, author of Mind-Blowing Sex: A Woman’s Guide, feels that current apps don’t go far enough in allowing users to define sex roles. “I’m a femme lesbian who’s attracted to butch lesbians,” she says. “So if the person has long hair, earrings, and lipstick, I know we’re probably not going to hit it off.”

As Kristen Ford, of lesbian website Autostraddle, tells the Voice, one of the biggest problems looming over all such women-centric endeavors is the failure of a neutral technology to screen out men. Luxx was appalled when one Brenda user offered her several hundred dollars in an attempt to lure her into a lesbian sex show for her boyfriend.

It’s the same problem lesbian-for-lesbians porn has long had to deal with. In back rooms or online, gay men have never had to fend off advances from women, but straight men have long fantasized about sex with lesbians—and inevitably, male looky-loos act on their porn-fed desires and invade women-only turf, overwhelming and eventually turning away the women themselves.

The creep factor has already infested apps like Dattch: Founder Robyn Exton estimates that one in 10 users may be a man posing as a woman. For single women living alone, this presents far more than a mere nuisance. Male stalkers are a real threat to their personal safety. When giving out their location, women are naturally going to be far more cautious than men—who have their own safety issues.

The problem would appear to be intractable. FindHrr requires a photo, but has accepted a photo of a dog, which would seem to defeat the purpose. Exton requires an active Facebook account and said she has other security protocols to verify gender (transpersons self-identifying as women are welcome).

Even so, some women would still like more mystery than the TMI other lesbians require before even a coffee date. “Part of the fun was meeting someone who didn’t know me and who I knew very little about,” says Brooklyn attorney McCormack-Maitland, who tells the Voice she found her current partner online.

Some sex-positive lesbians believe they’ve located the real reason why so many of their sisters won’t try to hook up virtually: Sinclair Sexsmith, the blogger known as Sugarbutch, tells the Voice lesbians are often “deeply afraid” of making the first move. That’s why New York lesbian event producer Milly DuBouchet plans to offer talking points in her forthcoming Parlez to boost come-ons. “If an app came around that took away the awkwardness in lesbian hookups,” Sexsmith says, “it would help hundreds get laid.” ❤

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Grub Love

For Anna Lappé, food activism is her birthright: her father, Marc Lappé, was a medical ethicist and toxicologist, while her mother, Frances Moore Lappé, authored the classic Diet for a Small Planet. Continuing their tradition, she’s co-founded the Small Planet Institute (smallplanet institute.org) and Small Planet Fund (smallplanetfund.org), and recently co-authored Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen with Bryant Terry, which urges an end to “agricultural hubris” and encourages readers to eat locally and organically. In this manifesto/cookbook, the 32-year-old Fort Greene resident, who’s also a Food and Society Policy fellow at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, calls the actions of the pesticide and food industries “groupthink,” warns of the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, and fast food, and includes a community food audit form to share food co-op and farmers’ market sources with your neighbors.

Eric Schlosser writes that you have “been challenging the logic of industrialized agriculture since practically the day [you] were born.” My work is definitely inspired by the values instilled in me by my parents. I remember going with my mother on a research trip to Ohio with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee in sixth grade. I saw the depths of inequality within our borders and the lack of fairness when it comes to providing farmworkers a just wage.

Did you ever have a rebellious, fast-food-eating period? I wouldn’t say I ever had a “fast-food eating period,” but the year my high school boyfriend worked at The Scooping Station in Oakland I had a real thing for Philly cheesesteaks. In general, though, I don’t feel that following the grub diet, choosing healthy, whole foods, is some kind of sacrifice that I need to rebel occasionally against. I love eating this way.

What is “grub”? We’ve appropriated “grub” as our slang for local, sustainably raised, fairly made food. In an ideal world, you would find this everywhere, and factory-farmed meat, chemically grown produce, and genetically modified foods would be hard to find.

Where can we find it? We have dozens of farmers markets to choose from, many open year-round. During harvest season, you can visit the Red Hook Community Farm’s farmstand and select produce that was harvested that very day. Community supported agriculture membership farms, where you invest in a farm each year and in exchange get fresh produce and sometimes dairy, meat, and honey, such as Just Food, which has helped start more than three dozen CSAs across the city. You can also find grub at restaurants where enlightened chefs get it that local, fresh, organic food tastes better.

You write that “Eating is the most essential act of every living creature . . . Today, eating is also unquestionably a political act.” We make a huge difference with the dollars we spend on food. It’s our money that big food corporations use to lobby against federal safeguards for public health, fight against state-based policies that would cut out junk food from our schools, and to fund their multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns targetting us to buy into the high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar junk food. But it’s important to stress that this is only one part of the answer. In an era when corporate-funded lobbyists outnumber elected officials, we have to be sure our voices get heard.

What’s the biggest myth floating around about organic food? One of the biggest myths⎯circulated by a well-oiled propaganda machine funded by the chemical agriculture industry⎯is that we couldn’t possibly feed the world if we went organic. It’s naïve to think we can continue to feed the world without radically changing our production practices. Our current system is entirely wedded to petroleum—from petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides to the petroleum-guzzling transportation needs of our far-flung food—and is one of the worst contributors to climate change, with methane emitted by livestock and their manure in the U.S. equaling the global-heating impact of 33 million cars. Organic farming, in contrast, contributes only a third to half of the CO2 emissions of chemical farming.

How are New Yorkers affected by biotechnology? The vast majority of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are grown in just four countries, the U.S. chief among them. GMOs make up 85 percent of soy grown here, 76 percent of cotton, and 40 percent of corn. One of the only ways you can be assured you’re not eating GMOs is to choose organic since the U.S. doesn’t require foods with GMOs to be labeled, even though surveys have found that as many as 94 percent of Americans agree that these foods should be labeled, as they are in most other countries that grow GMOs (even China!).

What was the biggest surprise you encountered when investigating biotechnology companies? I was surprised at how no solid, non-biased research was conducted on the long-term health and environmental impacts of the technology before GMOs entered our food system on a remarkably large scale.


The Small Planet Fund will host its annual live auction in New York City on December 12th, along with an online version. For ticket information about the auction, email rsvp@smallplanetfund.org. For more information about Lappé’s work, visit eatgrub.org and smallplanetinstitute.org.

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Life of the Party

Amy Sedaris, best known for playing hooker-turned- high-school-student Jerri Blank on Strangers With Candy, offers up her sweeter side with I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, out now from Warner Books (also available as an audio book). Sedaris mixes hilarious one-liners with practical advice (there should be an even number of items on any plate, don’t show up with flowers) and recipes for Blue Balls Cheese Ball and Chicken Snatchatoree, all interspersed with photos galore of the comic, in assorted attire, along with what can only be described as food porn. From caring for invalids to lunch with a lumberjack and munchies suggestions (popcorn in bacon grease), this former Southern waitress’s got you covered. Look closely at the photos and you’ll see touches of the hospitality she’s seeking to convey—like the salt and pepper shakers labeled “cocaine” and “heroin.”

You write that you live your life “like a deaf person.” I like to communicate visually but without wearing words on my clothing.

How long did the book take? One and a half years to do the whole thing. We shot through the summer, which is why all the cakes are melting and some food is covered with tin foil. The whole process was challenging.

On the back you’ve dedicated the book “from one artist to another.” That’s a joke. I think it’s funny when people refer to themselves as an artist—I’ll tell you if you’re an artist or not. I think entertaining is very artistic and creative and giving. I don’t think you have to be naturally artistic to do it, even if you are just catering an event. You need to be good at telling people what you want. You have to be a good Mr. Slate, a good foreman.

When did you first learn to be a hostess? Does it ever feel like a burden? Living in the South, being a waitress, watching people—sometimes it can feel like a burden, especially when you are running all over the city buying different things at different stores and then you bust open a bag full of lamb chops and canned tomatoes and red potatoes and watch them roll everywhere, you just want to cry and wonder why the hell you are doing it.

You’re known for disturbing imagery and costumes. I don’t think “oh, I want to make this gross or ugly.” I want it to look real and interesting; people relate to that. Who doesn’t roll their ear of corn in the stick of butter on the table?

Your book’s subtitle is Hospitality Under the Influence, and dealers and drugs are mentioned throughout the book. The chapter I have on drugs is about what a pain in the ass it can be when people get too drunk or take something that makes them feel like they are the life of the party, because they never are—they are the death of the party.

You advocate making almost everything from scratch, even ice. When is it okay to cheat and go store-bought? Just don’t try to hide it or complain about how hard you have to work when all you are doing is warming up a can or boiling a bag. It’s okay if it’s store-bought. It’s probably better, especially if you can’t cook. Go with what you know.

What’s your advice for entertaining people you don’t necessarily like but want to impress? Don’t waste your time. I think it would be transparent what you are trying to do. If I don’t like somebody I would never use food to impress them—it would ruin the food for me.

How has living in New York influenced your taste in decorating? I can find cooler things here in New York and talented friends who can make things on a minute’s notice.

Who would be your dream dinner guest and why? Juliet Low, who founded the Girl Scouts. I would like to talk to her about all that happened and let her know that the Girl Scouts really shaped my life. It was a good idea.

Any advice for the budding host/hostess? Know when to say good night.

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Hope Blogs

Writer Stephanie Klein specializes in sentences like “Metrosexuals and their Eurosexual cousins can’t kiss worth their weight in manscaping supplies.” In her sometimes schmaltzy, sometimes bitchy beach read, Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir, she proves she can be funny, too (“I sensed his idea of talking dirty was telling me he had a cock”). In this recently released tell-all, the 30-year-old blogger recounts her Jewish doctor husband’s indifference and cheating and her later misadventures in Internet dating, all with a self-help sheen. On the lighter side, she scorns her fellow supermarket shoppers, drops name brands, and showers affection on her dog, Linus.

At her blog Greek Tragedy (stephanieklein.blogs.com), she reigns over a feisty comments section, shares photos, fears and confessions, and asks for waxing recommendations. Klein’s me-me-me writing even prompted a parody site, Tale of Two Sisters (goldsteins.typepad.com). Currently settled in Austin with a fiancé, she’s writing an NBC pilot based on her book, about to go on tour, and preparing for “babies and more books.”

How soon after your marriage ended did you start writing the book? Technically, I waited three years. But I’ve always kept a handwritten journal. The hardest part of the process was re-reading my journal entries, seeing where my head had been. Of course, recounting the details of my abortion wasn’t easy either.

The biggest transition finds you going from being in love with your husband, eager to have his baby, to feeling utterly betrayed by his extracurricular activities. Was it as sudden as it’s portrayed? YES! It’s what I now call “whiplash.” My life was plugging along, and then WHACK. Everything changed.

What was the biggest dating lesson you had to learn being single the second time around? To be with the guy because I actually like him, for him, and not for how much he likes me. Too often I continued to date someone I didn’t really like because of how well they treated me. It was subconscious, of course, because I got my esteem from men instead of from myself.

How do you feel about the Carrie Bradshaw comparison? Yawn. Is it flattering? Yes. Is it old? Hell yes. Carrie Bradshaw is a fictional character (one I adored, by the way), but you’d never know she had a family. I highlight the importance of family, and I write honestly about my life. Not a fictional life involving stacks of shoes, but a real life full of frizz and picking dog shit up off my floor.

How has the process of blogging your daily life changed your closest relationships? It hasn’t. At first, close friends expressed feeling “cheap,” because stories and feelings I usually reserved just for them were now being shared with everyone. But they got over it, and now if I confide something, they’re the first to say, “You have to write about this on the blog.”

You write in the acknowledgements that success is about “inspiring change.” Do you see yourself as a role model for your readers? Man, what I went through just plain sucked, but it did, in the end, make me grow, make me happier, make my dreams come true. I hope it gives readers strength to listen to their gut and follow through, even when it’s hard.

Why do you think you’ve inspired so much ire amongst your fellow bloggers, as well as devotion from your faithful readers? I don’t think there’s been a lot of wrath actually (and when there has been, I never respond). The ironic bit is, like Howard Stern, those who love to hate me probably tune in to my site twice as often as those who just enjoy what I have to say. It’s easy to attack a woman who writes “chick-lit” using the phrase “vomit in my mouth” to describe it. My faithful readers appreciate that I’m willing to write openly about my vulnerabilities, mistakes, and successes.

What do you hope readers take away from the book? That you’re not a failure if a relationship ends, that change happens sometimes by choice, and sometimes it’s thrust upon us, but it’s how we respond that defines us.

Is it a cautionary tale? Yes. It’s a book I wish someone had handed me when I first got engaged.


Straight Up & Dirty: A Memoir (ReganBooks) is available now. Klein will be signing books at Borders, 10 Columbus Circle, on Wednesday, August 2 at 7 p.m.

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Model Behavior

Didn’t get into Pratt? Work on Wall Street but secretly long for a gallery show? Local illustrator Molly Crabapple wants you! Using burlesque performers, roller derby girls, and hunky topless men as models, she hosts Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School on alternating Saturday afternoons. For three hours, you can wield the implement of your choice to immortalize these bodacious beauties. Want to draw a feather-laden, half-naked girl hunched over a toilet? No problem for the tipsy curiosity seekers who pack the Lucky Cat saloon with their sketchbooks. Expect to find snarling clowns, glitter, pasties, swords, hula hoops, and more to inspire your next masterpiece.

How’d you get the idea for Dr. Sketchy’s? Two years of twisting my back for 15 bucks an hour as an artist’s model convinced me that modern sketch classes weren’t nearly as sexy as they were cracked up to be. Where was the romanticism? The booze-and-hot-chicks fantasy so many of us went to art school for? I wanted a sketch class that jived with my daydreams and rewarded models for their talent. I plotted with my friend A.V. Phibes, hired Dottie Lux to model, and Dr. Sketchy’s was born.

How are the sessions set up? At Dr. Sketchy’s, you draw scantily costumed models and compete in art contests. My models wear G-strings and pasties because the law says no naked chicks and alcohol in the same room. Why contests? ‘Cause they’re fun! Especially the drinking contest, invented by my wino friend Leavitt, where the “winner” downs a double shot of chartreuse to the sounds of ecstatically whooping art monkeys. Leavitt’s as sadistic as Gawker.

What kinds of people come to Dr. Sketchy’s? Are newbies welcome? Everyone from retired art teachers to undercover burlesque babes has stopped by Dr. Sketchy’s. While we’ve had some established, amazing artists—like East Village Inky writer Ayun Halliday—we’ve had many more enthusiastic amateurs. I don’t care how good you are.

How does holding it in a bar spice up the atmosphere? Drunk people take themselves less seriously! Having it in a bar subverts the grim sterility of standard life classes.

How has your experience as an art model affected the way you run Dr. Sketchy’s? Two things annoyed me about art modeling: the low pay and the anonymity. Our models get paid top rates, plus tips. On a busy day, they can earn enough to make the average cubicle-jockey jealous. Plus, they’re treated like stars. We make CDs based on their style, cheer after poses, and plaster posters with their faces all over Williamsburg.

How do you pick the models, and what makes for a good model? Most of my models pick me! I look for beautiful, fascinating men and women with distinct looks, strong ideas, and good costumes. My favorite model, Amber Ray, is a veritable chameleon, coming in as topless Madame de Pompadour one day and an anime kitty the next. I’ve had a ton of burlesque dancers; now I’m looking for contortionists, snake charmers, tattooed ladies, and bodybuilders

Dr. Sketchy’s is moving beyond the confines of New York to Portland, Phoenix, Denmark, and Australia. Does the flavor of it change when you’re not there? What do you hope to see from the burgeoning Dr. Sketchy’s empire? The Norfolk Sketchy’s is a paragon of chastity. In Denmark, venues demanded topless models. Dr. Sketchy’s varies depending on where it’s held. But it always has contests, mayhem, and hot, costumed models getting treated like the stars they are. What do I expect? Well, illustrators don’t attract the hot groupie action you might imagine. Maybe I’ll get it running sketch classes.

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Love Actually

For Ken Tanabe, a 28 year old designer of Belgian-Japanese descent, June 12 is sacred. That’s the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against laws that would have made his own parents’ marriage illegal.

Until 1967, states could ban interracial marriages and even send the bride and groom to prison. In 1959, the Virginia Circuit Court found Richard and Mildred Loving—she’s black; he was white—guilty of violating that state’s ban. The Lovings were sentenced to one year in jail, which was later suspended on the condition that the couple leave the state and not return for 25 years. They moved to Washington, D.C., and were later vindicated on June 12, 1967, by a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision. Ruling in Loving v. Virginia, the court struck down all state laws barring interracial marriage and held that denying “this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes” was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Today, Tanabe has now made it his mission to educate his fellow Americans about the history of miscegenation laws. To that end, he created Loving Day in 2004. Part annual holiday celebrated on the decision’s anniversary, part educational website, lovingday.org offers an interactive legal map, real couples’ testimonials, short videos celebrating interracial couples, and the courtroom history of key miscegenation laws.


Define Loving Day. Loving Day is the anniversary of Loving v. Virginia, which reversed all the state laws outlawing interracial couples. A lot of people fought it. In Alabama, the law against interracial couples was on the books until 2000.

Loving Day falls just six days from Juneteenth. Any relationship? Juneteenth celebrates the liberation of slaves in the U.S. It’s not officially recognized by the government or a Hallmark holiday, but it’s huge. Churches, families, social groups, and organizations get together. I thought, “That’s the way to do it.” I wanted to take something historically negative and make it into a positive, to structure it around an event people can use every year to be reminded of this case and celebrate it.

Interracial couples have been legal for some time, but these are old wounds. People have a hard time talking about this subject because it seems so personal. They don’t see it as part of the civil rights struggle.

Do you think it’s about sex? It is and it’s not. The laws were about marriage, but often also about sex. The laws would talk about unlawful fornication, adultery, concubinage, and cohabitation. Sex is a part of the conversation.

Do you have to be part of an interracial couple to attend Loving Day parties? The way I like to think about that is: If you wanted to march with Martin Luther King Jr., did you have to black? No. The holiday or idea is open to anyone who’s against discrimination on the basis of race. It focuses on the relationship side of it, but it’s really about racism and being against it. Also, these laws prosecuted everybody—regardless of face. People who value freedom and equality are offended and outraged at the idea that the law could discriminate this way.

Is there a specific goal you’re trying to achieve? The goal is for the Loving decision to become a part of our civil rights history and be as well recognized as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. We need to make this part of our household language and everyday vocabulary. We know about Brown, Plessy, and lunch counter sit-ins, but relatively few know about Loving.

Do you get hate mail? Yes. Here’s one of my favorites: “Pathetic site, what’s next? Marrying your dog? You can’t mix humans with black filth.” One of my top five referrers was a white supremacist website advocating laws against interracial couples. It had burning crosses and Confederate flags. I was totally shocked.

What’s the relevance of Loving v. Virginia today? Prejudice and racism are quite alive and well when it comes to interracial couples. People think it’s a preference thing—as in, “I don’t care what everyone else does but my daughter is not marrying a black man.” Loving Day speaks directly to that.

The more interesting stories are where people are working through their issues. One woman is white, her fiancée’s Asian, and her uncle is racist against Asians because he fought in the Korean War. Because he loves his niece, though, he decided he’s going to have brunch with her future husband every Sunday until he gets over it. In America, we’re used to the black/white angle when you think racism, not necessarily Asian/white or Native American/white.


Celebrate Loving Day at the Delancey, 168 Delancey Street, on Sunday, June 11, from 3 to 7, 21 plus. Visit lovingday.org for more information and other events around the country.

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Of Human Bondage

If you aren’t used to seeing sex on the big screen, in all its natural, nude, and very normal glory, you may squirm during Michael Winterbottom’s
9 Songs, which just opened at the Angelika. We usually watch porn from the privacy of our homes, but here Matt and Lisa appear larger than life, engaging in blowjobs and cunnilingus, bondage and vibrator-play, with the camera close enough to show all.

Sexually, Matt (Kieran O’Brien) and Lisa (Margo Stilley) are a recognizable, though slightly boring, couple. They debate the need for condoms; they experiment, tease, take baths. We don’t know much about them except that they like to fuck—a lot. Sex is how they communicate, and their frenzied greed is realistic.

Unlike in porn, they’re not thinking about the camera or viewer, but only about their erotic needs. In that regard, their physical passion probably doesn’t differ much from yours. They’re so wrapped up in each other that everything else is an afterthought. Early on, Matt licks Lisa’s pussy, relishing her naturally hairy bush. Later, she fully claims her sexuality, sucking his cock and writhing against her vibrator with all the youthful vigor of the newly sexual, too ripe with potential to be at all self-conscious.

In the hottest scene (also the longest), Matt ties Lisa to the bed, encouraging her to let go as he blindfolds her. She does so, lustily, hungrily, struggling against her bonds even as she enjoys them. Props to Winterbottom for not going the easy route; we only see his cock entering her in brief glimpses, while most of her arousal and climax are
shown on her face. It’s the first time the animated, devil-may-care, sometimes
coked-up Lisa fully loses herself in the sensation of getting fucked, and we watch her desire build every step of the way.

9 Songs may or may not get you off. There’s nothing shocking about it, nothing that will make anyone who decides to see it cover her eyes or exclaim, “I can’t believe people actually do that.” Viewers may be reminded of their own sex lives—not the wildest or craziest times, not that drunken public threesome or anonymous hookup, but of quiet weekends locked away, lost in an interior, private passion. Yet, perhaps the very normalcy of the fucking, unadorned and often without context, is what the film has to offer. Or perhaps you could make a home video and achieve the same effect.

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Books

Novelist Jonathan Ames explores sex changes as the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis, gathering pieces from photographer Loren Cameron, former Bond girl Caroline Cossey, and professor Jenny Finley Boylan.

How do the more recent memoirs differ from the older ones? It was almost a family tree: The earlier books were groundbreaking and left a legacy for the later authors.

What surprised you the most? Transsexuality is a real condition and there are symptoms all these people shared. I was moved by their courage, the scorn they had to face, including rejection, ridicule, physical pain. They had to see this through.

As someone who is not transsexual, but has been attracted to transsexuals, how did this affect your reading of the memoirs? I’m not attracted to transsexuals per se. In my distant past, as I was sorting out a variety of Freudian issues, I was attracted to pre-op transsexual prostitutes. I found them to be beautiful in this otherworldly way. I liked watching them in their clubs—it was theater, it was criminal, it was underground. To me, they were mythical, and being around them was my escape into a world of risk and eros and beauty and tragedy. My old attraction didn’t affect my readings of the memoirs. What the authors in this anthology described was a separate issue from what I had experienced in the demimonde of early-1990s Times Square.

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Specific Drinks Inspire More Passion Than Specific Boyfriends

Twenty-four-year-old Zailckas’s memoir of slurping countless cocktails isn’t pretty or unique. Blackouts, hangovers, booze-fueled shenanigans, and self-hatred mine familiar territory, but her poetic language and activist agenda move Smashed beyond the typical drunk’s memoir.

Alcohol is an active player here, a chameleon-like, multi-hued seducer. Her drinking is “fetishistic” and makes her yearning “swell.” Zailckas describes the 14-year-old friend she shares her first drink with as having “deflowered” her. “Natalie is tender afterward, the way I imagined she’d be.” A college trip to Canada allows her group to “consummat[e] our lust,” i.e., drink legally. Specific drinks inspire more passion than specific boyfriends.

Zailckas is by turns loner and conspirator; fresh from a stomach pumping at age 16, she feels helplessly lost. (On a bender with a friend, she breaks into a frat house and steals valuables.) Zailckas emphasizes her gender as a culprit, suggesting that women are more vulnerable to alcohol’s (c)harms, examining specifically female motives—to impress guys, to make sex easier, to look and feel hotter. However, Zailckas too often mistakes her own fears (of romance, dating, “the real world”) for every woman’s.

Most jarring is how clear-eyed and eloquent a narrator Zailckas is, often making it hard to picture her as a sloppy drunk. She leaves the reader hanging as to exactly how she moved from adult drinker to wise, abstaining sage. By inserting statistics about teenage drinking and examining drunk-girl porn sites to make her point, Zailckas detracts from her vivid personal story. Teenagers don’t care where they fit along national norms, only among their peers. To Zailckas’s credit, her compelling prose and searing but imperfect analysis make up for the occasional know-it-all tone. While her rant on the word whatever is unnecessary, her no-holds-barred look at her problem drinking and the culture supporting it is the wake-up call she clearly intended.

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Pulp Nonfiction: Home to Licentious Libations and Big Boobs

Walking into Tainted Lady Lounge, with its glitter-filled, pinup-plastered walls, is like stepping into a more elegant, glamorous era. The slightly naughty atmosphere is both sexy and cozy. Your eyes are assaulted by attention-grabbing bare-breasted art culled from owner Deb Parker’s (Barmacy, Beauty Bar) collection.

Perhaps because it’s a short walk from the subway, though located on burgeoning Grand Street, Tainted Lady lures a mix of bikers, dykes, and artists, with the fewest possible stereotypical hipsters, and hosts events such as a weekly baby-friendly storytelling happy hour for parents, an all-girl roller-derby benefit, and vintage-lingerie fashion shows. Sit by the bar and ogle the wall of photos of misshapen boobs and enjoy $3 Budweisers and mid-priced cocktails such as margaritas and Alabama slammers; for the adventuresome, channel your favorite tainted lady, a/k/a the zombie (three kinds of rum, brandy, sugar, and fruit juices; $7) or the Marlene Dietrich-inspired Blue Champagne (blue curaçao and champagne; $6).

The eclectic jukebox, filled with female vocalists from Tammy Wynette to Gal Costa, adds ambience, while the sensual, laid-back vibe and no-pressure waitstaff make it a perfect date spot.