Last night, I was talking to a woman I never met before about her engorged pussy. In public, in a bar, with people all around us. She was pitching me a story about something called orgasmic meditation, which requires a man to sit next to the meditating woman and stroke, very lightly, for a period of exactly 15 minutes, the “upper left quadrant” of her clitoris.

In this practice, men don’t get touched. So naturally I asked, “What's in it for the man?”

“Lots of things,” she said. “I get so aroused that when a cock enters my engorged pussy, my whole vagina is quivering.”

She had my interest. Did it matter that I found her extremely attractive, with her adorable big glasses and dark intense eyes, the cute baby face and the generous cleavage she exposed when, about 15 minutes into the conversation, she leaned forward and unraveled her scarf?


If she'd been a big, hairy gay bear talking about his big, hair gay cock, the effect would have been much different.


But also, not so different. The intensely sexual nature of this conversation with a total stranger, combined with my slavish attraction to her—and doesn't attraction always enslave us a little?—unsettled my sense of where the boundaries were. Was it okay to flirt? (Maybe a little). Was it okay to look at her cleavage? (Better not. Stick to those dark eyes.) Why are the eyes better, because damn they're nice eyes? (Stop thinking about this nonsense and focus on what she's talking about, idiot!) And so on. During the whole conversation, which centered on the benefits of sexual honesty, I was carrying on a hidden inner-dialogue with my own weird shit.

That's what we do to that hidden dialogue instead of actually listening to it. It's confusing. It's disturbing. Best to put it in a box and get on with the “important” stuff.

Which brings me to the subject of politics. The last couple of weeks has been a cornucopia (or a hornucopia) of public sexual insanity. Here are some highlights:

(1) The former head of the South Carolina Republican Party, a fellow named Todd Kincannon, shot out a tweet in favor of concentration camps. “There are people who respect transgender rights, And there are people who think you should all be put in a camp. That’s me.” He wasn't joking. As Salon reported, “Kincannon further opined that transgender people are “sick freaks” who should be “locked up in mental institutions and their care paid for by the state.”


(2) At an event to promote unity among the various tea parties, a prominent Tea Party leader and former Baptist minister named Rick Scarborough suggested a class-action lawsuit against homosexuality itself. “Homosexuality is much more likely to lead to AIDS than smoking is to lead to cancer. And yet the entire nation has rejected smoking, billions of dollars are put into a trust fund to help cancer victims and the tobacco industry was held accountable for that.”

(3) On Fox News, in response to the controversy over the rape of two teenage girls by high school athletes in Maryville, Missouri, a pundit named Joseph DiBenedetto practiced the ancient art (so popular in places such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan) of slut-shaming. “What did she expect to happen at 1 a.m. after sneaking out? I’m not saying she deserved to be raped, but…”

(4) Herman Cain again! This time telling a rightwing website that the Devil was behind the many women who accused him of sexual harassment. And that's all the attention I want to give that “attention whore,” except to point out how sexualized the term “attention whore” is. (Wonder if there's a reason for that?)


(5) Finally on my list—not really, because this stuff is endless—a preacher in North Carolina suggested to parents that if their toddlers have “limp wrists,” they should hit the little proto-homos, maybe even “crack” those bony little wrists—on the theory, apparently, that violence will make you straight.

I mention these incidents not just to attack the right wing, though it’s a fringe benefit. God knows, I've been “man-shamed” by a certain type of feminist my entire adult life—I was in college during the heyday of Andrea Dworkin and “all men are rapists, all heterosexual intercourse is a form of assault.” And the “men are pigs” formulation is eternal. “You only have one thing on your mind,” etc. etc. etc. I'm here to tell you that the fear and hatred of sex goes in every direction and poisons us all.

But my conversation with the orgasmic-mediation practitioner reminded me of why. Even with a person like her, so beguilingly frank, warm and sex-positive, the subject of sex aroused one of the most primal human urges. And I'm not talking about the only thing on my mind. I'm talking about boundary issues. When you're talking about fucking with a beautiful woman, is it okay to say you want to fuck her?


No, actually. Explicit sex talk from women is like tight dresses and skimpy tops, a human prerogative in this confusing modern world. Though it's unlikely she would have been quite that explicit if there wasn't some kind of spark—isn't it?

Also, you know, I'm married. This is actually kind of a relief, another kind of safe barrier. Until you consider that 80 percent of humans cheat and the others are lying about it, so it's really just a boundary that lets you feel safe and righteous until the temptation gets overwhelming.

We'll save the discussion of open and poly marriages for another day, but trust me, they have complications of their own.


This, I believe, is the essence of the problem. Boundaries are scary. On a national level, we protect them with armies, razor wire and walls. On a personal level, we go to psychiatrists or take drugs to deal with the overly touchy or abusive parents who violated our boundaries or the cold distant parents who made violating boundaries so tempting. Or we get married and stage the ordered retreat that kills so many marriages. Once we leave the indivisible monism of the amniotic bath, puzzling out the dialogue of inner and outer is almost everything we do.

This is also the secret dialogue of a great deal of our political life. The right supposedly is all about “conserving,” which, almost by definition, means protecting one kind of boundary or another. Some of them might be fine talking to the orgasmic-mediation practitioner about her engorged pussy, but talking to the hairy bear puts them in a frenzy of boundary defense. Which they translate to a political agenda on a subliminal level faster than thought: If the hairy bear can talk openly about sex in my presence, what will happen to … to … the institution of marriage? If a black guy can move into my neighborhood, what's to stop him from fucking my daughter? If women can vote, what's to stop them from voting to let black guys move into my neighborhood to fuck my daughter?

And so on. Those women might even vote for Democrats who vote to raise taxes to help the poor, and we all know what squalor the poor live in—all those babies, most of them born out of “wedlock” (emphasis on “lock”). Call out the Ku Klux Klan! Call the D.E.A.! They might get all hopped up on that locoweed and fuck our daughters!


Am I being reductive? That's what people always say when you look into their hidden sexual motives. “We are higher beings, we are minds not bodies, we are not defined by our carnal natures,” etc. And soon these same people are caught in a motel or a bathroom stall doing something they quickly repent, in public, with their stoic wives standing by their sides—the modern version of a public burning.

Liberals aren't immune to any of this, of course. They're often as obsessed with relaxing boundaries as the right is with policing them, and their sympathy to the poor, minorities, transgender people or tax policy is just as intertwined in their views on sexuality as the most “hidebound” Baptist. The difference is they want everything to be nice. As long as the gays are getting married or watching sunsets in matching cable sweaters, liberals can forget about the anal sex. This hunger for a pastel reality is also a major reason why so many of them refuse to admit that abortion really is a form of baby-killing, however justifiable in some cases. It's just not pleasant.

At least conservatives know sex is dangerous—which is why they are so obsessed with hot, kinky sex. People who describe themselves as family-values conservatives also watch more porn, and the Old South's favorite kind of porn is—you guessed it—“ebony.”


That's what this column is going to be about: The secret fears that hide behind what passes for our national dialogue. The sex panic that drives us all. The private burning behind our public burnings. Check in on Thursdays, while you're planning your weekend. We'll have fun, I promise.

John H. Richardson is the author of My Father The Spy, In the Little World and The Vipers Club.


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