"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 21 July 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Taboo Who?



The French perfected the art of

love in countless ways, but

their greatest donnée

d'amour may have been the

Resistance practice of shaving

women's heads and running them

naked past a jeering, spitting

crowd. This was a punishment

that fit the crime; in this

case, the crime of sleeping with

the German occupiers. In many

cultures - including, from time

to time, our own - a roll in the

hay with the wrong person can

get you killed. Only the

inventive Gauls thought to

flavor a regrettable one-nighter

with that special frisson of

public shame and humiliation.


After years of tiring polemics

about the loss of shame in our

culture, petty moralizing may

finally be making its red-hot

comeback. Betty Beedy,

commissioner of El Paso County,

Colorado, recently heated up the

state's political discourse by

declaring that welfare mothers

are "sluts." Beedy's sharply

focused views on welfare, gay

rights, and even the Centennial

State's celebrated "Ski Naked

Day," have, in turn, earned her

the monikers "embarrassment,"

"buffoon," and "clown,"

according to The Denver Post.

That's a style gaffe for Beedy:

In some hinterland areas (like

El Paso County), teenage

stylists still like to

épater la bourgeoisie by

painting the word "slut" on

their clothes or bellies. What

are the odds that any

in-your-face grrl will be

fashioning herself a "buffoon"?


Melody Martin, a judge in this

year's Miss New York pageant,

should have held her tongue

before deploying the S word

against contestant Sallie

Toussaint. In a scandal that we

predict will have pageanteers

everywhere doing some heavy-duty

soul searching, Martin was

barred from the pageant for her

colorful tirade. "She said I was

pure trash, that I had evil in

my eyes, I looked like a cheap

slut; she went on and on for 10

minutes. I was shocked," a

lovely but blubbering Toussaint

told the New York Post last

week. Given that the 24-year-old

contestant had already made her

bones as Miss Manhattan, you'd

think she'd be a little more

thick-skinned about this sort of

thing (it's a sign of the

Giuliani-niceness campaign that

simpering milksops like this one

can pass themselves off as New

Yorkers), but read Martin's

invective back to yourself, and

you'll see why these punches so

misaligned Toussaint's dainty

chin. It's exactly the kind of

high-calorie vituperation that

cheerleaders around the nation

use to make busty but unpopular

girls bawl. The only way Martin

could have cut Toussaint down

any more effectively would have

been to make her laugh and spit

milk out of her nostrils.



But who knew that teeny-boppers

were still using "slut" as an

all-purpose putdown? We'd

assumed that the mopping-up wave

of mooning nincompoops like

Naomi Wolfe and Elizabeth

Wurtzel had "co-opted" and

"defused" all those hot-button

words like "bitch" and "ho." Is

this one of these new

death-of-feminism happenings we

keep reading about in Time? Or

are those goofy kids - so quick

to glom onto hoary cultural

effluvia like Titanic and swing

dancing - just getting back to

the good old days when sex was

dirty and the air was clean?


The dictionary defines "slut" as

a woman with poor hygiene. It

may be mere spite that revived

the word as an insult for women

with tenacious appetites for

sex, but behind the cloud of

Schadenfreude lurks the cigar

smoke of Doktor Freud, who

reminds us that the tension

produced by sexual guilt is

everywhere accompanied by

pleasure. You don't have to be a

loose woman to develop a

pounding headache every time you

hear the oxymoron "safe sex." It

seems pretty unlikely that a

community called "Bianca's Good

Clean Fun for Grownups Shack"

would have attracted an alleged

80,000 members. It's even less

likely that Zapata - fishmongers

to begin with - would have been

interested in spending an

undisclosed sum to acquire

Bianca Troll. Whether this will

earn Zap damnation in the Circle

of the Lustful rather than

oblivion in the Circle of the

Sugar Daddies, well, we'll let

the market decide.


But for all the snarchaisms and

backlashes to backlashes, it's

getting harder to put the X

back in Sex. "I am the devil

that transforms women into

angels," said the young Rome

fashion designer Gai Mattiola,

introducing his "One thousand

years of sin" fall line last

week. The runway extravaganza

featured a sort of

anti-Victoria's Secret Angels

showcase of sin and punishment,

and Gai's use of Wrathful

supermodel Naomi Campbell may

have given the show a certain

zing, but what use is a fall

line in Hell, where all the

sinners are supposed to be buck

naked anyway?



Asceticism with a better

pedigree is being pushed by

everybody's favorite Different

Thinker, the Dalai Lama, who has

gone on record condemning oral,

anal, and manual stimulation. So

much for escaping the clucking

morality of your father's

religion. Indeed, while His

Holiness lays down the law on

laying down the law, Rabbi

Shmuley Boteach has come out

with some comparatively mild

prescriptions in his book Kosher

Sex. The hand-picked successor

of almost-Messiah Menachem

Mendel Schneerson, Boteach has

written an open-minded manual

that leaves married couples a

tremendous amount of leeway in

their sex lives. One of the few

marital acts he declares

unkosher is masturbation, which

raises the obvious question - Is

it OK to choke the chicken, as

long as you don't slam the ham?


Boteach's book will come as a

surprise to goys who believe

Hasidim are only willing to

screw through a hole cut into a

bedsheet - just as Jews who

believe the same thing about

Muslims would be surprised by

the considerable attention paid

to gratification of Islamic

women in Geraldine Brooks' book

Nine Parts of Desire. But the

point here isn't the sex lives

of the semitic peoples. It's

that, while supposedly

enlightened leaders and fashion

industry sybarites sound as

uptight and sin-obsessed as Miss

Clavel, the rabbis and imams are

letting their gold chains hang

out like outer-borough

Gucciones. If you can't depend

on the inventors of circumcision

to make sex seem gross and

dirty, what's the world coming




More to the point, what's the

country coming to? The most

treasured myth of all Americans

(after the one about how we're

all a bunch of TV-swilling

imbeciles) is that our country

is hopelessly straight-laced,

naive, and hypocritical about

what goes on below the belt.

That puritan straw man is always

good for a kick (especially in

comparison to the head-shaving

enlightenment of Europeans), but

as the list of unpunctured

taboos hits rock bottom, the

torch song is sounding

distinctly like a broken record.

In the country or the town, your

chances of finding an American

bluenose in 1998 are about as

good as your chances of pricing

a Shaker dildo on Antiques



But if the open society really

has any enemies, one of them may

be good old-fashioned, raunchy,

guilt-ridden, hypocritical

screwing. What's less sexy than

a country with boundless sexual

tolerance? When everything is

guilt-free, then nobody is

innocent. You can't blame a few

bleeding-edge Tartuffes for

trying to make sex X-cruciating

once again. Which may be just as

well. Anybody who claims to be a

virgin is probably a liar


courtesy of the Vicki Lester