Category Archives: Sex

1000 Words: Why Complain?

Before I get into today’s screed, I have to admit there’s little I can say or write that hasn’t already been said or written regarding the US Supreme Court’s impending decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. If you’ve read me in these precincts over the last ten years, you likely know precisely where I stand on the subject of abortion. I will, though, contribute this to the discourse: There are tons of people in this holy land who are scared to death of the reality that many, many, many American women in the 21st Century like to fuck.

Is that too coarse a concept for you? It doesn’t matter because it’s true.

Okay, that’s out of the way. Now let’s talk about the weather. A fellow on Chicago radio the other day said only one of the last 43 days had been sunny. The skies have been similarly blah down here in South Central Indiana.

Now, there are those who say what’s the use of complaining about the weather? Why clog up social media with posts moaning about rain, carping about the cold, and other harrumphs about something none of us can do a thing about?

And that’s all true, except there’s a necessary therapeutic benefit to belly-aching about two-and-a-half weeks straight of overcast days or a week’s-worth of dreary drizzle. This country — and, for all I know, the world — right now is in the midst of a deep malaise. This pandemic era in which we try to sleep at night while cognizant of a mean-spirited social polarization, the panic that the war in Ukraine may be a harbinger of an eventual nuclear conflagration, the realization that we’re frying our planet due to our addiction to fossil fuels, and any of a few dozen other threats, menaces, rational or irrational fears, and fantasized bogeymen has created within us a dread, an absence of hope, a mass depression, for pity’s sake.

We Should See Each Other Three Times A Week.

A recent study revealed Americans are having less sex than at any time in this century. Researchers are scratching their heads trying to figure out why. It doesn’t take a peer-reviewed, double-blind study conducted by Ivy League PhDs to get it: We don’t see much of a future right now. The world’s going to burn up, the political parties are going to war against each other, and who in the hell knows what virus is going to kill us next? Having sex is a celebration of the now — an indulgence in bliss — as well as a statement of belief in the future — we do it to have children or to express love for someone who just might become The One. Making love or simply having good old-fashioned casual sex is a luxury we can indulge in when we’re not terrified that the world’s coming crashing down all around us.

And that world, to be sure, seems indeed to be collapsing every which way we turn.

Hey, hon, whaddya say we head for the couch for some one-on-one?

Nah, I’m just not feeling it right now.

Yeah, y’know, neither do I now that I think about it.

We are, I’m certain, hip-deep in a global psychological depression. And when we in the Midwest see the sun about as often as an ivory-billed woodpecker, that depression can turn downright pathological.

Yeah, it’s true complaining about the weather fixes nothing. Yet venting about it gives us a degree, no matter how minuscule, of relief. If we whimper about, say, the end of Roe v. Wade, guaranteed there’ll be some kind of blowback, somebody somewhere is going to challenge us and gloat that at long last the Court is doing the right thing. If we whine about the Ukraine, somebody’s going to blame Joe Biden for it. If we sob about climate change and wildfires and disappearing ice shelves, somebody’s bound to say it’s all a hoax. If we howl about COVID, someone’s going compare mask mandates to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Everything’s a fight nowadays.

But should we gripe about the endless succession of grey days, at least everybody’s going to agree with us. And that company, that solidarity, helps us cope. The weather’s the only thing we can agree upon (save for those lunatics who think ice and frigid temps are wonderful — what in the hell’s wrong with those people?)

We need each other more than ever right now and maybe, just maybe, a month and a half of sunless afternoons is the only thing that’ll keep us from tearing each other’s throats out. That is, if we can resist tearing our own out.

What Kids Know

The other day I posted a thing on social media saying something on the order of the term guerrilla came to mind…. Oh hell, here’s a screenshot of the post:

The post, apparently, triggered a lot of people’s memories. They too, had been confused by the homophones. And isn’t that a great and useful word? Homophone.

Anyway, the whole thing got me to thinking about the bazillions of misconceptions I had as a child. The world, people, and life in general were utterly baffling to me. I suppose I should concede that they all still are, even at my advanced age, but the years (okay, decades) have taught me one thing — that I can pretend to understand a few more things today than I did when I was seven. Maybe I really do but if so let’s put emphasis on the word few.

Anyway, part deux, I figured I’d gather a few more goofy ideas I had when I was wee here on the pages of this global communications colossus. So here goes.

Shriver (L) & Kennedy.

Back in those days, a fellow named R. Sargent Shriver was a big dude in the Kennedy administration. He was the first director of JFK’s brainchild, the Peace Corps, from March, 1961 through February, 1966. Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon B. Johnson then tabbed him as the director of the federal Office of Economic Opportunity sometime during Shriver’s Peace Corps directorship, meaning he had two big jobs at once. LBJ must have figured the workload might be too much for him so the then-prez gave him instead the ambassadorship to France, a post, I’m sure, that is the equivalent, in dream job terms, of being in charge of eating pizza, drinking bourbon, and watching Arrested Development reruns and being paid scads o’dough to do so.

Before Shriver went to Washington, he was president of the Chicago Board of Education. Born and raised in Maryland, Shriver as a young man was an assistant editor for Newsweek (for you younger folks that was a thing we fossils called a magazine; people actually read about the news in newspapers and mags, if you can believe it). In that position, he’d somehow oiled up the Kennedy family and actually reviewed the late Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr.’s diaries at Kennedy Pere‘s behest. Next thing anybody knew, Shriver was getting hitched up to Eunice, the middle child of the mob of heirs and heiresses to the Kennedy fortune. As such Shriver became a Famous Person, although those born in succeeding generations wouldn’t have been able to identify him if he was sitting in their lap. His star by then had been outshone by his daughter, Maria Shriver, a network news reader and eventual wife of Arnold Schwarzenegger, either of whom today wouldn’t be identifiable to anyone under the age of 30.

They Were Somebodies, Once, A Long Time Ago, I think.

These are all things I learned as an adult.* When I was a child, all I knew was he was (sorta) from Chicago and now was a big deal pal of the president. I just assumed when the local newsreader said his name, he (invariably he) was saying Our Sargent Shriver. Y’know, because we were all proud of our hometown guy being such a national big shot. Chicago newsreaders, after all, didn’t call JFK Our John F. Kennedy, did they? ‘Course not; he was from the foreign shores of Hyannis Port.

Isn’t that the way kids hear things? Sort of the way radio listeners heard song lyrics in the ‘50s and 60s. Like S’cuse me while I kiss this guy, and There is a bathroom on the right.

Speaking of song lyrics, in 1967 Aretha Franklin had a big Top 40 hit called “Natural Woman.” Listening to it with half an ear, as I did all the songs I heard on WLS and/or WCFL at the time, I heard her sing, You make me feel like a Manchuria woman, which I found a puzzling way to be made to feel, indeed.

Okay, you get the picture. Here’s more.

I had a weird worldview, natch, as a kid. I might have confused R. with Our and natural with Manchuria, but I also knew a tiny bit about geology, among other things. For instance, I knew the Earth was covered by a thin crust on top of a thicker layer of stuff that, in turn, lie upon a molten ball of metal. Mind you, I was five at the time. I’d been sick throughout much of my kindergarten year so, sequestered at home, I spent much of my time reading the World Book Encyclopedia, so missing school actually made me smarter than my peers, who were busy memorizing the letters of the alphabet.

Alright, the Earth’s crust. Living in Chicago, I concluded that the entire globe was covered by concrete and asphalt pavement. Observing this and watching workers break up concrete on occasion and exposing the muddy, claylike stuff beneath it, I concluded said concrete and pavement was, yep, the Earth’s crust. The lawns and backyards in front of and behind my family’s and all our neighbors’ houses? Why the adults of the world had simply broken up and disposed of the Earth’s crust lying over them so that their kids, when playing therein, wouldn’t break their heads open if and when they fell. Mighty thoughtful of them, no?

They Set Fires, Then They Raced To Put Them Out.

How about this? There was a firehouse on North Natchez Avenue, about three quarters of a mile north of our home on that street. While I was in bed in the still of the night in the middle of the summer, with the windows wide open, I’d actually hear the firemen starting their trucks’ engines, turning on their sirens, and commencing to speed to wherever the hell they were going. It’d take a few moments for them to drive down Narragansett Avenue and take a right on North Avenue, whereupon the trucks’d blow past our house, seemingly yards away from my bedroom window. All this time, I’d wonder where they were going and why they were so fortunate enough to be awake in the middle of the night so that they could actually go somewhere. I suppose I might have heard some adult joke about firemen starting fires or something but, being a kid, I had no ability yet to distinguish between adults’ bullshit and real information. Y’know, the same way a lot of grown-up Americans today can’t tell the diff. between facts and bushwa.

So, I came to the conclusion that firemen, becoming bored by sitting around the firehouse all the time, actually started fires so they could crank up their engines, turn on their sirens, and speed down Narragansett Avenue. I mean, why in the hell else would anybody want to be a fireman? On top of that all, most of the lucky firemen got to ride on the outside of the truck, hanging on to shiny silver bars as the truck barreled down the street. Good god, I’d have done that job for free! Same with the garbagemen who, similarly, often rode on the outside of their trucks, holding on to bars, albeit a lot less shiny and certainly not silver.

Until the year 1967, I was vaguely aware of professional sports. The Cubs games were always either on TV or the small transistor radio my mother kept next to her in the kitchen. Because of that I formulated an understanding of how Major League Baseball worked. A bunch of teams played each other in two separate leagues, the American and the National, through the spring and summer. In October a team from the American League would play a team from the National. The winner would be the champion of the whole world. Even at that tender age, I thought whoever played baseball in Egypt or China was getting a raw deal because they never got to play for the championship of the whole wide world. Thus, I was starting to become aware of the intrinsic unfairness of the world.

In any case, throughout the entirety of my short life, the Cubs never came within a light year of playing in the World Series. So, I began to conclude that the rules forbade such a possibility. The Cubs, by decree, were ineligible to ever play in the World Series. Their purpose, in the scheme of things, was to play practice games against the real teams of MLB, so they could get ready to, potentially, play in the World Series, should fortune look so kindly upon them.

I’m not the only one who though in such terms. For example, I had a friend, a few years older than me, who grew up in New York City. He told me once that his sister, a few years his junior, understood the World Series to be an annual contest between the New York Yankees and whichever other team was deemed good enough to take them on that particular year. See, the Yankees played in the Series 15 times in the 18 seasons between 1947 and 1964, so what other conclusion could a kid come to?

Alright, here’s the last one (for today). Even as late as the age of 11, I remained blissfully (frustratingly?) unaware of the mechanics and justifications for sex. All I knew was people were dying to do it. As was I, whatever it was. Almost up to that point, I envisioned sex as being some bizarre ritual wherein a girl and I would take our clothes off and stand there looking at each other. I’d seen Playboy magazine and one or two other men’s publications and the women just stood — or lie — there doing nothing but be unclothed. Ergo, sex.


Then one afternoon after school, I dashed down to Amundsen Park to play baseball. One of the guys brought along a deck of pornographic playing cards, the backs of which portrayed couples engaged in the act that Mark Twain so aptly called “a refreshment.” None of us was sophisticated enough to know what in the hell these couples really were doing. The game was lengthened by the fact that each team at bat was busy poring over the cards, studying the couplings as intently as world-renowned scientists examining some heretofore undiscovered species of butterfly. “Hey, c’mon you guys,” the team coming off the field would yell, “get out there!” They were eager to hit and, in truth, even more eager to study the cards themselves.

I was particularly fascinated by one card portraying a couple, the woman straddling the man while his business was attached to her business. Being that the cards were static pix of the action, not filmed records of it, I took this particular image to infer that people engaged in the act simply remained motionless. “Hmmph,” I though. “That doesn’t seem like much fun.” The whole idea seemed to me to be rather uninspiring, except for the seeing-the-girl-naked part.

She Fell On The Bathroom Floor.

Which brings to mind the testimony of the son of an old friend, the late, witty author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Amy and her husband had three small children at home at one time. As such, the couple’s opportunities for “refreshment” usually bordered on nil. Being clever folk, they came up with the idea of locking themselves in the bathroom when the urge struck so they might refresh w/o the young’uns bursting in on them. Except one day they forgot to lock the door. Their kid threw the door open and there they were, on the tile floor amid a jumbled mass of discarded clothing and towels, locked in a position similar to that of the couple on the aforementioned playing card. The kid quickly withdrew (as, I imagine, Amy’s husband did). Nevertheless, the image seared itself into the kid’s memory.

Not long after that, the kid came up to Amy and said, “Mom, what is sex?” Amy replied, “What do you think sex is?”

He  stated, confidently, that sex was when Moms and Dads took their clothes off and fell on the bathroom floor.

And you know something? He wasn’t terribly far off the mark.

Forgotten History.

[ * For pity’s sake, I forget to even mention that Shriver had run for Vice President in 1972 on the George McGovern ticket. He replaced McGovern’s original choice, Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, after it was revealed Eagleton had undergone electroshock therapy during mental hospitalizations, a fact he and his wife had decided to keep mum about when McGovern came calling. Actually, describing Eagleton as McGovern’s first choice palters with the truth. McGovern had asked — nay, begged — any number of better-known, more qualified fellows to be his running mate but all had turned him down. They’d read the writing on the wall — incumbent Richard Nixon was well on his way to winning one of the biggest landslides in United States history that fall.]

Steamy Hot Air


Way to go, Illinois! Legislators in my old home state yesterday passed a same-sex marriage bill. Huzzah!

Chicago Tribune Photo

Chicagoans Celebrate

The scoreboard now stands at 15 states allowing same-sex marriage and 35 not. So, the New Civil Rights Movement is approaching the one-third landmark in this holy land. That would seem to be a tipping point after which same-sex marriage would fast become, under the law at least, just another norm.

Of course, many, many, many folks in those 35 states (as well as holdouts in the enlightened 15) feel we’re no longer a holy land because we’re allowing men to marry men, women to marry women, and, next thing you know, 60-year-old lechers to legally molest kiddies and wacky old crones to hitch up with their cats.

Image from Forbes

Man, some people sure have scary imaginations.

I’ve been around lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered people, and those questioning their own identities all my life; that is, until I got to Bloomington which seems oddly bereft of such folk. I would have figured that this burgh, being one of the last outposts of the former Soviet Union and, even worse, a college town, would be a haven for what society has heretofore considered sexual outlaws.

Perhaps I’m wrong. If so, my pals Carol Fischer and Helen Harrell over at WFHB‘s bloomingOUT radio show for the LGBTQ gang can set me straight on that matter (pardon the pun).

Speaking Of Sex

Sex geek extraordinaire Debby Herbenick put in an appearance at the Book Corner yesterday.

Photo by Kevin Donahue

Research Scientist Debra Herbenick

No, she wasn’t doing a signing or reading; the BC doesn’t go in for that kind of thing (and least not yet). Herbenick simply was looking to buy a book. Naturally, she walked out of the place with a half dozen.

Doc Herbenick told the Pencil she just scored a deal for is working on yet another book. I’m telling you, this dame can find more ways to ponder sex than the average 14-year-old boy. Only her pondering elevates the science of bonking. She is, for all my non-Bloomington readers, one of the most acclaimed sex researchers on this happy planet.

Here’s a short list of Herbenick’s previous publications:

Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered—For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex

Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction

Read My Lips: A Complete Guide to the Vagina and Vulva

Go check out her advice page on the Kinsey Confidential website. She helps jes’ plain folk come to grips (you’ll pardon the expression) with their sex dilemmas and misunderstandings. For instance, one of her recent posts answered the question: My penis is slightly curved; will this affect intimacy?


Honestly, this poor chap’s idiosyncrasy probably vexes him more than all the philosophical disputes conjured by women and men since the beginning of time. Me? I would respond to his plaint thusly: That all depends on which way it’s curved.

Which, of course, is why a noted professional like Debby Herbenick should help guide him through the thicket of penile geometry rather than some snot like me.

Then again, after a careful reading of the good doctor’s response, it turns out I was right! Sheesh.

Anyway, Herbenick’s looking forward to hunkering down and writing the new book. “It should be fun,” she said.

I’ll bet.

I Feel Love

The Meaning Of It All Hot Air

I Think, Therefore I Am — I Think

I like pretending to be a philosopher — ergo, this blog. Funny thing is, I’m spectacularly bored by guys who are acclaimed as philosophers. And yes, philosophers usually are guys; maybe if more women got into the racket, it’d be more compelling.

Anyway, I sold a Foucault book yesterday and, being the smart-ass I am, I asked the cust. if he was suffering from insomnia. He laughed. I was serious.

I like the old (I mean +2000-year-old) definition of philosopher: That is, someone who thought about what was then considered science. Once science became divorced from questions of the divine and Why? and subsequently married to the questions of What, Where, and How?, the Why guys slunk away and dedicated themselves to telling the rest of us unwashed, unread slobs about the meaning and purpose of life.

Let me save you a lot of time and eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-your-head boredom. The reason we’re alive boils down to two words: Just Because.


The Great Philosophers

You’re welcome.

Then again it can be said that all the books ever written really are philosophy books. That entails a fairly broad definition of of the term. Even so, I can’t muster up much of an argument against it. Even I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell postulates a philosophy of a sort. Of a heinous sort, sure, but of a sort.

That’s why, I suppose, the list-fetishists at BuzzFeed compiled a roster of 28 “Favorite” Books That Are Huge Red Flags. The idea being, if someone tells you that one of these titles is the best or most important or greatest book in the world and/or you don’t have to read another thing after reading it, you should run like the wind away from them.

How many of these have you read? Have you ever gushed over one or more of them?

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • The Stranger by Albert Camus
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  • On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Any Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Exodus by Leon Uris
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
  • Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea by Chelsea Handler
  • Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  • The Game by Neil Strauss
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
  • Any Narnia book by C.S. Lewis
  • Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

So, back to philosophy. One of my fave philosophical pontifications has been Never trust people who don’t have books in their homes. Which, BTW, I thought of long before I read John Waters‘ notorious epigram, If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.

Funny thing is, I’ve always lived by that Waters rule. I can’t recall ever initiating an intimate relationship with anyone who didn’t proudly display their books or who hinted that they didn’t read. That was true even when I was a dopey 21-year-old.

See? I’m a born philosopher.

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