Palagia and I had another wide-ranging and fascinating conversation on the terrace of her Chelsea apartment this afternoon. The creator and CEO of One Leg Up, a floating erotic country club which has been staging elaborate fantasy parties for a decade--Palagia is an astute observer of the sexual/cultural scene. I asked if the economic crisis was impacting her business.
"No! I had an eat-in soiree at the end of last week, crash week; and it was packed. People need a little economic pleasure in times like these."
Our burning question today: What's happened to male sexuality?
SCB: The significant changes in sexual behavior in the past decade have been led by women. We have already agreed on the major trends:
- The rise of the Cougar [older woman/younger man];
- Bi-Girls [young heterosexual women who play with girls too];
- His porn/her sex toys ["In the latest sexual revolution, men got internet porn and we got better vibes," Lori Perkins, literary agent and author.]
- The mainstreaming of "kink"
- The New Monogamy ["cheating" with mutual consent through polyamory, group sex, consensual affairs, swinging]
What do you see most often in your work?
PALAGIA: What I hear most often from couples is: "Where can we find a girl?" Couples are looking for the threesome with a bi girl. I don't hear, "Where can I find a boy?" Are there no couples who want a threesome with a boy? Whatever happened to the androgyny of the Seventies?
SCB: Good question! The New York Dolls, David Bowie, Mick Jagger--all androgynous boys of that decade. Male bisexuality was celebrated, but women were supposed to choose sides. You were a lesbian or you were straight. The feminist power structure was fairly strict on that point. Bisexual women were in the closet just as bisexual men are on the "down low" today.
PALAGIA: Now girls feel pressured to be bi. Boys think there is something wrong with a guy in his twenties who hasn't had a threesome with two women. The culture is selling female bisexuality. Have you seen the big Remy Martin billboard? Two smiling sexy girls appear to be tipsy; one is grabbing the necklace of the other. The caption reads: "Things are getting interesting." How suggestive is that? Girl-on-girl is the fantasy America is promoting now.
SCB: How appropriate to link it with alcohol--since sex is largely fueled by alcohol in this country.
PALAGIA: I have a rule against excessive drinking at my events. I want people to enjoy their sensuality and spin their fantasies with a clear mind.
SCB: Speaking of fantasies, you said before that you were able to stage more elaborate fantasies in the early days of One Leg Up than you can now. Why is that?
PALAGIA: Kink is more mainstream now than it was a decade ago, but people are still conservative. They are "open" to what they find acceptable like female bisexuality and spanking, but closed to what they don't, especially male bisexuality. I invited a gay couple to the last party; and people kept whispering to me, "they're gay." Some thought having them there was great; others were discomforted by their presence. In the early years, I had a real mix of people at events: gay, straight, bi, trannies.
SCB: Do you think fear of HIV-AIDS has played a role in that dynamic?
PALAGIA: To some extent, but it's more than that. Women seem to be in charge sexually. One of the gay boys commented on how the women's sexual energy drove the event.
SCB: That makes sense. Women are the gender writing widely about sexuality; women talk about sex to their friends; women are pushing the boundaries. Men seem to have retreated into porn.
PALAGIA: Women have only had a gateway for exploring their sexuality for the past decade or so. Men always had access to deviant, underground sexual retreats. What will happen to female sexuality in the next fifty years?
SCB: Hmmm....maybe we will retreat into our own vibe world.
PALAGIA (laughing): Maybe. But I think women crave physical and emotional connection more than men do. Porn has done men a real disservice. They think the fantasy of porn should be the reality of sex. I've been with men who use so much porn that they can't come with a woman.
SCB: Yes, I've heard that from other women--and men have confessed it to me. We must keep talking about this subject. What has happened to male sexuality? Guys out there, will you weigh in on that question for us?