Scene from a Sex Conference

The Second Annual NOW Sexuality Conference

We discuss the effects of our experiences, we raped and molested liberated women. They vary. One woman, a 20-year old virgin when she was raped while on holiday in Europe, found it was several years before she could be alone with a man again. Another says she feels an instant rage at street hasslers that startles her with its ferocity. There is one feeling we all share. "When I'm with a guy. and he comes on too strong, I just flip," says one woman, and eyes meet around the room. For the first time, I understand why I've never had a rape fantasy, why the whole notion of the female rape fantasy, supposedly so common, has always seemed alien and absurd to me. There's nothing like being raped or mauled to give you a taste for gentle men.

SCENE FIVE. Sunday morning. Sex movies. Mixed audience. I get there late, rush in to see two men on the screen making love while romantic music plays in the background. Birds twitter, flutes wail softly, and the two men, who are lean and young and curly-haired, gambol about in a woods, smiling and kissing and patting each other's bare chests. Somehow, from one shot to the next, their jeans come off, and as the screen grows misty, one man lovingly pulls down the other man's jockey shorts. My mind boggles again. Jockey shorts?

SCENE SIX. The lobby, where everything from Billie Jean King t-shirts to bumper stickers that say Castrate Rapists is on sale. I go to the Eve's garden table ("We grow pleasurable things for women") where a pleasant-looking woman is selling vibrators. Several times the day before. women have mentioned vibrators in laudatory terms. Furthermore, several of my friends have vibrators; they also speak of them laudatory terms. At last, a chance to buy a vibrator without having to go into a drugstore and get leered at. The following dialogue ensues between me and the pleasant-looking woman:

Me: Where is the part you put inside you? (I can't figure it out. This vibrator looks like a small portable hairdryer with a small blue knob on the end, a very small blue knob. There are other attachments beside the knob, but none of them looks like a penis.)

Pleasant-looking woman: Oh, you don't put this inside. This is for clitorial massage. Best to use a towel - the vibrations get a little heavy. (She demonstrates the vibrator on my hand, and I understand she's not talking like a hippie; the vibrations are a little heavy.)

Me: You don't sell penis-shaped vibrators? (I say this with some trepidation, wondering if she will tell me I'm phallocentric.)

PLW: Frankly, they don't work very well. The vibrations are too weak for vaginal use, and the battery's always conking out when you need it most.

The woman is extremely nice. So I take an order form and say I'll think about it. I don't know; the vibrator, which has attachments for use on scalp, back, and feet, as well as the small blue knob, nevertheless costs $17.95, and for $17.95, I think I want a vibrator that does everything.

SCENE SEVEN. Sunday afternoon. A mixed workshop on intimacy, friendship, and sexuality. The turn-out is high; perhaps 70 people are crowded into the room, sitting on chairs and desks and tabletops. There are more women than men (a conference gatekeeper later estimated attendance for the weekend at about 1600, with 300 men). There are two black women in the room, a black man, an Oriental woman; everyone else is white. Ages range from late teens to mid-50's. The atmosphere is relaxed, the conversation surprisingly unconstrained. A woman says, "It's nice to hear men's voices." "We'll see," another adds. and everyone laughs. A gray-haired man says that friendships with women are new to him, that they never seemed possible before. The conversation has a slight Esalen flavor; people talk about "working through relationships." Still, it all feels friendly and pleasant.

As I leave, a handsome woman with graying hair comes up and peers at the handwritten sign posted on the workshop door.

INTIMACY, FRIENDSHIP, AND SEXUALITY FOR WOMEN AND MEN

"Ah," she says in a Middle-European accent, "zat's vot I vant."

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