Erotica Across America

saa12232013(12/23/13)  What is erotica?  Is it art?  Is it porn?  Is it neither or both?  Some say the answer lies with the intent of the subject while others opine that it’s whatever the social majority says it is.  If you randomly ask any 10 people, you’ll likely get about 47 different answers.  Defining erotica is very much like firing a floppy rubber band at an ever-zipping target.  The definition not only fluctuates depending on where you happen to be at any given moment, but also when that given moment happens to be.  You would think that something that’s been around since cave dwelling days might be more solidly classified by now, but if anything it’s become fuzzier in the modern era.  Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing though.

Paraphrasing Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart’s famous 1964 statement supporting the Court’s overturning an Ohio obscenity conviction, “…I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced, but I know it when I see it.”  It’s one of those rare, elegant occurrences where intentional ambiguity and sharp precision collide in a way that’s just perfect.  By leaving the “erotica bin” deliberately vague, much more freedom is preserved when it comes to what’s Constitutionally protected as free expression.  That said, the political and legal skirmishes hardly ended there.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in a California obscenity case, resulting in a three step assessment to resolve whether a written or visual artwork was Constitutionally protected or classified as “obscene” and therefore not covered by the First Amendment.  The so-called “Miller Test” offered these guidelines:

1.  Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

2.  Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and;

3.  Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

While many states still have laws that would apply in defining obscene material, the issue of “contemporary community standards” is both vague and constantly changing.  As they’ve essentially become more liberal over the years, particularly with new and expanded forms of media, the Miller Test has increasingly helped to protect many forms of erotica when challenged in the justice system.  Accordingly, the uberstuffy types had to up their creativity when instigating clashes, but not necessarily achieving the intended results.

In 1989, for example, Robert Mapplethorpe‘s art exhibit, publicly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, came under attack by conservative special interest groups under the guise of opposing public subsidies for art that they deemed obscene.  Applying powerful lobbying tactics, they managed to influence withdrawal of support for Mapplethorpe’s show along with a subsequent obscenity prosecution of a venue that proceeded with the exhibition.  While their strategy initially appeared to succeed, it ultimately backfired massively when the venue (the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio) was found not guilty in the resulting jury trial and the entire escapade elevated Mapplethorpe to celebrity status, significantly increasing both the exposure and monetary value of his art.

These days, erotic artists are thriving as the mainstream has widened its view of what is considered–and accepted–as art.  This isn’t to say that opposition camps have dissolved completely, of course, but it does seem that a greater degree of tolerance is now in the air.  It’s a positive trend that not only solidifies freedom, but ironically owes itself to the lack of a clear, universal definition.

However, you do know it when you see it.

Stripping Across America

(11/25/13)  Let’s get this out of the way right up front:  We love strippers!  There.  We said it.  We love the people.  We love the artistic glamour.  We love the exotic beauty.  Having covered the stripping lifestyle extensively throughout Fallen Angel’s Dirty Dancer series, we believe we have a pretty well-informed view of what actually goes on both inside and out, so if any of what follows comes off as a bit bias, oh well.  That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Yes, we love strippers, but we fully recognize that not everyone shares the love.  Indeed, there are some perfectly reasonable arguments against ecdysiastical pursuits and, in any rational debate, these do need to be part of the conversation on the topic.  However, with one camp firmly promoting the art, entertainment and self-reliance aspects and the other entrenched in beliefs of exploitation, subjugation and deviancy, the opposing forces will no doubt repel each other for all eternity.  When a country like Iceland of all places bans stripping, you know you’ve reached a critical mass in terms of digging in on a subject. So, let’s just get past all of the rhetoric and see what’s this and thus in the profession these days.

Generally speaking (as there’s no universal set of parameters defining the culture of stripping), the basic numbers look like this:

-As you might imagine, over 90% are female.  However, it’s interesting to note that percentage is down a few points from census statistics reported following the 2000 survey as more males are now entering the sector.

-A little more than 10% have less than a year of experience, with a median age of about 24.  The bulk, more than 50%, have been performing for 1-5 years while about 20% have up to nine years of experience.  About 15% have over 10 years invested in the industry.

-The number of clubs in the U.S. with some form of stripping: Over 4,000.

-The annual revenue of strip clubs in the U.S. as of 2012: Over $3 billion.

Without a doubt, stripping is big business–with big opportunities for those truly committed to their craft.  Many a student loan has been paid off and professional careers launched from the profits of exotic dancing.  This is even more impressive when you consider that tip rates haven’t kept up with inflation; generally remaining the same over the past 30 years.  In any event, while haters are going to no doubt hate, today’s trends show that they’re having little to no effect in slowing down this niche industry.

Though there is a wide range of forms (mostly due to confusing legalities which, in many cases, vary from town to town), the most common aspect we’ve found is that the people who work in this industry genuinely enjoy what they do and take immense pride in it.  Sure, there are some who are just in it for the money (much like any other kind of job), but most will tell you that the money is less of a motivation than the more self-actualizing factors.  In essence, they feel empowered through the work they’ve chosen and, like any other artist, tremendously fulfilled through the appreciation they receive for their performance.  Most would certainly prefer to do without the negative judgments and intolerant stigmas, of course, but oh well. 

That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Sources:  U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor


Sex Tech Across America: Can We Still Connect?

SAAgraphic11182013(11/18/13)  With just about every advance in technology, a creative application towards sexuality occurs.  No sooner did the electric light bulb catch on that powered vibrators began hitting the market (yes, yes, for “muscle aches” and such.  Sure.)  No sooner did the plate camera debut that porn was born.  No sooner did the BetaMax arrive that everyone could suddenly star in their very own skin flick.  No sooner did a PC appear on desks everywhere that cybersex in all of its forms become all the rage–well, at least until the next big thing (pardon the pun) came along.

For a civilization that historically seems so hung up on sex, we sure do have a long track record of creatively–and successfully–tweaking geekdom in pursuit of orgasms.

In any event, repurposing technology for sexual gratification is just part of the game and there’s no reason to think that it’ll be slowing down anytime soon.  If anything, it’s probably about to gain speed exponentially.  We’re not quite to the realm of the “Orgasmatron” fictionally foreseen in the 1970s, but we’re pretty close with medical devices designed to read and manipulate brainwaves and nervous system functions.  While such items may have been originally conceived to treat things like head traumas and spinal cord mishaps, you can bet that there’s a little pervy R&D type tucked away in a dark corner somewhere musing, “Hmm…wonder what else we can use this gizmo for?”  How long do you think it’ll take for someone to figure out that there’s millions more to be made simply by slapping on some slick marketing?  Case in point:  The medication, sildenafil citrate, was specifically developed to treat conditions such as hypertension and cardiovascular disease.  Ah, but guess what else they figured out it could do?  So, just tint the pill blue and give it a snazzy, virile-sounding name and ta-daaa:  Viagra.  It’s capitalism at its finest.

So, what lies ahead?  With advances at a fever pace, it’s not even just a matter of technocycling, but also redefining what we thought we used to know.  Simple concepts like “relationships” and “intimacy” have suddenly exploded well beyond what was once clear cut into a blurred digital realm where both can easily occur without the people involved having actually met or even touched.  No doubt, there will be a period where some (likely older generations) classify such developments as “fake” or “bad” while others (probably those brought up to employ virtual technologies as a perfectly natural part of their lives) will be more accepting of them as “real” or “good”–with all sorts of subtle shades in between.  For a time, there will continue to be debates as to whether “cyber-cheating” is a “real” act of infidelity while others will trumpet the premise that there’s nothing phony about actual sexual gratification through digital means.  No doubt many will classify one end of the spectrum as detached fantasy while others will tout actual benefits such as precluding unwanted pregnancies and STDs.  As with most things in a major state of flux, there’s no universal answer, but it is pretty clear that it’s going to continue to evolve, perhaps in ways we cannot even conceive of today.

In a world where technology has enabled greater democracy while simultaneously turbo charging capitalism, the possibilities for sex tech are literally endless.  Where do you think it will go?  What kinds of items do you think will appear on the horizon within the next 50 years?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sex Across America’s Recommended Reading List

SAAgraphic11042013(11/4/13)  It’s almost that time of year.  The holidays are a’comin and while we’d love to recommend a shiny new toy or two as a stocking stuffer from Fallen Angel’s new toy boutique (hint, nudge, wink, kiss), we feel that as sex-positive educators and activists, it’s equally important to promote knowledge and literacy.  Besides, bookworms are sexy too, right? Accordingly, we’ve scoured our own library for titles that mean something special to us and asked for additional suggestions from some of the nation’s most respected sexologists, therapists and counselors.  The result:  The highly concentrated list below that we hope has at least something useful for everyone.

We would like to note that some of these suggestions are classics which may be hard to find or are no longer in print.  As such–and to provide third-party reviews for your consideration as well–we’ve linked each title to its product page at, which may have a limited amount of used editions for certain books that may interest you.  Additionally, some of these suggestions may be available in electronic form.

General Sexuality/Relationships: 

The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday

Nina Hartley’s Guide to Total Sex by Nina Hartley with I.S. Levine

She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kerner

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Dr. Patricia Love and Steven Stosney

The Good Vibrations Guide to Sex: The Most Complete Sex Manual Ever by Cathy Winks and Anne Semans

Loving and Lasting: How to Stay Tuned In and Turned On in Your Marriage by Ande Lyons and Michelle Preast

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex by Dr. David Reuben

The Goddess Orgasm by Eve Marx

Partners in Passion by Mark Michaels and Patricia Johnson (available to the general public in early 2014)

How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do by Candida Royale


How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss

The Rape of the A*P*E* by Allan Sherman

One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History by Larry Flynt and David Eisenbach

The Government Vs. Erotica: The Siege of Adam & Eve by Philip D. Harvey

Leatherfolk by Mark Thompson

The Red Queen by Matt Ridley

Inside Seka by Seka with Jim Norton and Kerry Zukus

Plays Well in Groups by Dr. Katherine Frank

Alternative Sexuality/Kink Oriented:

SM 101 by Jay Wiseman

Screw the Roses, Give Me the Thorns by Phillip Miller and Molly Devon

The Loving Dominant by Dr. John Warren (out of print, but copies still available on Amazon in short supply)

The Ethical Slut by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy

The ABCs of BDSM by Dama deNoche

The Gospel of Kink by Dr. Richard Wagner


Ultimate Sex by Miranda Forbes

The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice (A.N. Roquelaure)

Candy by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg

X: The Erotic Treasury by Susie Bright

If you have comments about any of these recommendations or specific suggestions of your own to share with our readers, please leave a reply to this posting.  Your thoughts about this–and all of our topics–are not only important to us, but potentially beneficial to other readers as well, so sound off and join the conversation.

As we move into this year’s holiday season, all of us at want to take a moment to thank everyone who’s supported our efforts and promoted us within their own social and professional circles.  We hope you’re enjoying our direct, if somewhat off-beat-on-occasion coverage of various sex trends around the country and look forward to hearing suggestions regarding topics you would like to see covered in the future.  Just shoot us a quick email and we’ll be sure to get it on our upcoming schedule.