There by the check-out line in the local King Soopers was a Cosmopolitan Magazine with the big white words on the lavender cover, “Find your erogenous zones.” Well, it was the 70s and love was free, “Strangers in the Night,” kind of thing. It was kind of a kinky King Soopers (Kroger) in what my boyfriend, Peter, called the “gay ghetto of Denver.” It was such an interesting King Soopers that LONG before I knew Peter, friends and I would hang out there to “watch the freak show,” which is to say, some pretty outrageously decked out transvestites on a Saturday night.
Erogenous zones and similar libidinous mapping were a big deal back then. It’s fun to watch movies from those times. My favorite is Shampoo with Julie Christie and Warren Beatty, but Woody Allen’s, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask is a hilarious send up of that histrionic I mean historical moment.
The “sexual revolution” coincided with the Women’s Liberation Movement. Magaziines carried articles explaining that sex was something that women could enjoy TOO and that’s where the erogenous zones came (ha ha) in. I guess someone had to teach the men, but first someone had to teach the women.
I don’t know how it was for my peers reading this blog, but in my case it all started at age 9 (terrified my mom). The moment was met by a lot of stuff but no fanfare or congratulations as happens today. Ultimately, my mom handed me a little book from Metropolitan Life called “Your First Period.” She sent me to my room to read it saying, “Don’t come out until you’ve read it.” I read it. It was some bland anatomical graphics in the favorite colors of 1961 — turquoise and tangerine, maybe? It explained how babies were made but said nothing about sex. For my mom, that was all I needed to know EVER. She was a typically repressed WASP woman about this stuff. My dad was afraid I’d grow up like that and put his OWN book on the subject lower on his bookshelf a few years later when he decided I was old enough to care. He inscribed the book in his barely legible MS hand, “I pray you never need it, but if you do this book will help you. Don’t be afraid to talk to your beloved…” and some other lovely words that I don’t remember. It was a very dry, very detailed, textbook-like volume on, yes, you guessed it…erogenous zones. The key (as my dad clearly understood) was “…talking to your beloved.” Even Cosmo got that.
My friends were similarly clueless. I remember walking to high school with my best friend at the time. She had a date with a zoomie (Air Force Academy Cadet) and she was worried they would kiss and stuff. “What’s a French kiss, Martha?” she asked me.
“Well, you put your lips together, and then you stick your tongues in each others mouths.”
“No, it’s nice.”
“But HOW?” So I demonstrated by making a “mouth” (circle) with my thumb and forefinger and “kissing” it.
“No way I’m doing that.”
Yeah, right. She clearly didn’t know about erogenous zones.
I guess I ultimately figured this out in the way of animal species throughout time. HIV-AIDS put the kibosh on free love and sexual liberation. My international students sang a grim little melody in the early 90s, “Strangers in the night; AIDS in the morning.” I’ve never thought about this until now, but that DID bring the erogenous zones down from the supermarket checkout line.
Tigers. It can happen that in the moment of coitus a male tiger can (accidentally) kill his mate. Some species of anglerfish females absorb (permanently) their mate’s body into theirs. Sandhill Cranes have to go off alone in couples to do the wild thing and hatch their eggs. We all know about black widows and mantids. Many animals have a one off with a mate they never see again, the females go have the cubs and once the young are born, their father is a big danger to their future lives. The coot kills most of its young and raises only one or two. Many animals only “nurture” their young so long and then it’s “Sorry, Sweet Cheeks, I know you’re young and vulnerable, but I’m done.” The whole “mate for life” thing that people get sappy about is often more about the nest than about the mate.
It’s a jungle out there.
P.S. Cosmo is still writing on the topic of erogenous zones. As I “Googled” looking for a good cover photo, I found a recent article… Well, at 69 I’m sticking with my early assessment. Sex is weird. Good, but weird. I’m not speaking for myself in particular but all the time I’ve spent watching animals and learning about their sex lives…