This Week in Sex: 8.27.99

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This Week in Sex   
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August 21–27, 1999

Clap Rooms

For years, online chat rooms have been tagged by Net hysterics as the root of all evil — they’ve been held responsible for everything from adultery to pedophilia, from kidnapping to murder. But the latest development is a shocker: apparently, chat rooms can give you syphilis.


Well, sort of. It seems there’s been a recent outbreak of the disease among gay men in San Francisco, with seven new cases reported in the last two months alone. (If that doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that the city has had only seventeen cases of syphilis — gay or straight — all year.) According to a New York Times report, when health officials investigated the trend, they discovered that all seven infected men had one thing in common: they had each hooked up with their most recent partners through online chat, with six of the men making their connections through a single AOL chat group, SFM4M (San Francisco Men 4 Men). The San Francisco Department of Health is calling it the first time in history that a disease cluster has been traced to cyberspace.


And while each of the seven were diagnosed and treated fairly quickly, the situation could have some dangerous consequences. For one thing, the chat room has launched multiple sex meetings; all told, the men say they’ve had ninety-nine sex partners in the past three months. Also, five of the seven men are HIV-positive. And, oh yeah, one more thing: the identities of the ninety-nine unlucky partners are unknown; the infected men know them only by their chat room handles, and AOL declined to reveal their real names, citing privacy concerns. So health officials sought help from Planet Out, a gay online service based in San Francisco. Marshaling a crew of sixty volunteers, Planet Out helped spread the word online about the outbreak; according to Jeffrey Klausner, director of the sexually transmitted disease unit at the health department, a third of the men who were directly exposed to syphilis have been contacted and tested, and an estimated thirty-three more have been tested on their own. The remaining third, apparently, are still unaware of their situation.


Go ahead and insert the computer virus joke of your choice here; we’re not going near that.

Putting the Man Back in Manners

A new etiquette guide has British breastfeeding advocates up in arms over a passage which calls mother’s milk unfit for public consumption. John Morgan, author of Debrett’s New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners, calls the practice of breastfeeding in public bad form, pointing to the “many people” who are put off by the sight of a nursing mother. A spokeswoman for the National Childbirth Trust blasted the book’s stance as “ridiculous and nonsense,” and cited such famously mannered public breastfeeders as Scary and Posh Spice. Morgan defended his stance. “It is bad manners to expel any liquid from any orifice in public,” Morgan writes in his book, “and breastfeeding is no different.”


How about spouting drivel?

Mickey Puts His Foot Down

Mickey Rooney is no stranger to animal films. But the seventy-eight-year-old actor — veteran of nearly 200 features, among them National Velvet, The Black Stallion and last year’s Babe: Pig in the City — has seen a few furry films of late that rub him wrong, way wrong, and the diminutive star is hopping mad about it.


What’s got the erstwhile Andy Hardy so heated is the fetish phenomenon known as “crush films,” in which leggy women are seen smashing frogs, mice and other small animals underfoot — or more specifically, under-stiletto. Rooney, an animal rights activist, wants to stamp out the practice, and he’s joined forces with California Congressman Elton Gallegly to push for federal legislation on the issue. “What are we going to hand our children?” Rooney said at a press conference this week. “This is what we’re going to hand down, these videos, crush videos? God forbid.”


It’s currently a felony to produce crush films, but not to sell, buy or possess them, making prosecution all but impossible. Under a new law proposed by Gallegly, it would be illegal to create, sell, or possess any “depiction” of animals being tortured, maimed or killed for commercial purposes, though it’s not immediately clear whether that includes nature videos or such classic Hollywood fare as Old Yeller. According to Jeff Vilencia, who makes and sells crush films of insects, the distinction is a slight one: “What about the fur industry, what about fishermen, what about the cattle industry?” Vilencia asked the Associated Press. “The concern is you can kill anything you want, basically, in any manner you want if it’s for food or for sport or for fashion, but you cross the line when you do it for sexual gratification.”


Good point, we guess.

All Straight Roads Lead to Athens

Everybody knows that the ancient Greeks were some of the most sexually free, man-boy-lovin’ people in the history of the civilized world. But now comes a new book that suggests that everybody is dead wrong — and it’s flying off the bookshelves in Athens.


Love, Sex and Marriage — A Guide to the Private Life of the Ancient Greeks disputes nearly every widely held belief about classic Greek social mores. Author Nikos Vrissimtzis claims that, contrary to popular assumption, homosexuality, pederasty and even masturbation were severely frowned upon by the straight-backed Athenians. “Ancient Greece was not a liberal society,” writes the sociologist. Then again, the Greeks weren’t totally without their wild side; Vrissimtzis admits that dildos were in regular use by prostitutes and slaves. The racy tome is burning up the sales charts in modern Greece, selling out even at the Athens Hilton, one of the city’s more socially conservative hotels. “Forget the great philosophers,” explains Markos Voutsinos at Athens’s biggest bookstore, Eleftheroudakis, “it is books about sex, women and food in the ancient world that are really selling.”

Female Masturbation Quote of the Week

“I do not need a man. I am devoted to masturbation. I think it’s probably one of the most pleasurable experiences in life. I had and have no guilt whatsoever when it comes to pleasuring myself.”

— Eighty-nine-year-old actress Gloria Stuart, who played the elderly Rose in Titanic, writing in her steamy, soon-to-be-released autobiography, I Just Kept Hoping.

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©1999 Dan Reines and