They're tabulating bestsellers, theatrical chart toppers, the hottest songs
and the stinkiest television season of the century. The statisticians and
cultural pundits have wrung the best and worst out of 1998, but you'll
notice that there's one area that everyone is avoiding with a 10-foot
cigar: the year in sex.
1998 is the year that the topic of sex went from being an exhilarating
taboo-breaker to an annoying little stunt. Wearing a lampshade on your head
has been replaced by having sex while holding public office. At my Christmas tree-trimming
party this year, my dear neighbor Helen gifted me with a foot-long,
hand-painted glass ornament in the shape of a Cubana. If you hadn't lived through this last year, it could be mistaken for a giant turd. "Helen,"
I said, "I can't believe you would sink to this."
"Yes, I know, it's taste-free," she said gleefully.
My tree's decorations were emblematic of everything that happened in the
sexual limelight of '98. We turned my now-empty Viagra prescription bottle
into an ornament, lovingly trussed in tinsel. Since I only took one tablet
and handed out the rest to certain people (who shall remain nameless and
indebted to me for the rest of their lives), I have never been able to
resolve the issue of whether my libido was increased by its miraculous
properties or by the mere fact that I haven't had a Monday morning off just
to fool around in about five years.
There was a fabulous uterine lining to the whole Viagra controversy last
year that I predict will create even bigger news in 1999. First of all,
every woman in the country who uses birth control pills was amazed to
discover that men were by and large getting the cost of their Viagra habit
covered by their health plans. Meanwhile, contraceptives are still the most
widely excluded prescription in American health-care coverage.
Yes, men get a break on erections, but women are expected to pay top dollar
to ensure against accidental pregnancy. We have brilliant defenders of this
policy, like former Republican Assemblyman Bernie Richter, in my home state of
California, who said, "Being fertile for a woman is not a disease. We might
as well insure for combs, brushes and toothpaste."
For men like Richter, an ounce of prevention is something you ought to
pay for through the nose and be grateful. You know, I think the government
should give us free toothbrushes too -- and a cordless vibrator,
while they're at it. Just think of all the cavities and bad moods that
could be avoided!
The second big femme flame ignited by Viagra was that, thankfully, women
did speak up for their own sexual interests. Seeing Viagra become a
respectable treatment -- thanks to Bob Dole -- has made a lot of medical
researchers reconsider what might be helpful (and profitable) to offer
women, who certainly have their own ups and downs when it comes to sexual
arousal. I haven't talked to one woman over 40 this year who hasn't been
interested in testosterone creams, experimenting with hormones -- and in
one instance, figuring out how to synchronize menopausal hot flashes with
orgasms. I can't wait to try that one myself. Sounds like it would be
worth foregoing the whole estrogen replacement program just to experience
In any case, if there was a wonder pill for women's sexual arousal, I
wonder who would be the famous female political figure to endorse it. In
this context, you can see how far the girls are lagging behind the boys.
Dianne Feinstein? Liddy Dole? Anyone Lucianne Goldberg could dig up? I
think women in politics are still far too concerned about their saintly
images to ever let it be known that they have physical needs as well. After
all, we're being prepared for the upcoming female presidential and
vice presidential candidates, whose platform will rest on: "We're nice
girls -- we don't fuck anyone." Spare me the millennial mainstream
When it comes to young people, as you know, it's now virtually a crime to
have sex in your teens. In some states, they've gone beyond propaganda and
are actually prosecuting high school-age kids for having sex with each
other. As I listened to the concerns of incoming college freshman at the
various campus appearances I made in 1998, I've come to believe that there
are probably more freaked out 20-year-old virgins than at any other time
in history. Cranky old folks don't want young people to have sex until
they're at least 15 years out of puberty, and they've spent a fortune on
advertising and public relations programs to convince the hot, youthful and
horny to keep it in their pants.
Obviously, the hip, young backlash response to the neo-Puritan boomer patrol
is to have sex anyway. The biggest secret that high school and college
kids told me last year wasn't "I'm gay," (yeah, you, Michael Huffington,
and everyone else) or "I smoke pot every day" (they probably have a
prescription for it), but rather the ultimate in private revelation: "I have a lover."
This year I am making plans to spend more time with my own lover. I will
seize Monday mornings without Viagra but with plenty of ingenuity. I've got
two new books coming out, "The Best American Erotica 1999" and a book on
sex and creativity called "Full Exposure." New books mean that I get to
travel across the country again, listening, watching -- and who knows,
maybe hot flashing -- on the last blast of 20th century sexual
consciousness. No more politicians, please! I might make an exception if it
means meeting Bob Livingston's dominatrix, though. Didn't I just hear about
the Million Mistresses March coming up in Washington, D.C.? I'll pack up my
toothbrush and any promising pharmaceuticals and meet you there.