Boing Boing 

Vasopressin, pair-bonding and male fidelity

Last week's episode of Quirks and Quarks, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's national science radio program, had a fascinating segment on the role of vasopressin in monogamous commitment. Males in some species of pair-bonding mammals have their lifelong attachment triggered by vasopressin release, and studies of men in monogamous relationships find a correlation between low vasopressin levels and high levels of marital strife.

The whole program is really fascinating, covering the science of pheromones, the role that estrogen plays in female fidelity, and many other romantic elements of science.

Your Brain on Love

MP3 link

XKCD explains the baseball metaphor for sex

Today's XKCD nerd-toon has a fantastic, profane chart explaining the "base" system as it pertains to romantic entanglement. I'd always been pretty familiar with the main touchpoints (as it were) -- first, second, third base and home run. But I must admit that I have wondered from time to time where on the notional diamond one might find "Downloading Star Trek fanfiction and replacing Riker's name with your crush's." Oh, and Joel? Fursuits are on there, big fella.

Base System

TED2009: Make Love not Porn


Just announced at TED2009: a new website, Make Love not Porn. Cindy Gallop announced the website, and she said she created it because she has sex with younger men and they learned about sex from watching hardcore porno Make Love Not Porn

Hospital fetish restaurant in Latvia

Marilyn points us to Hospitalis in Riga, Latvia, a hospital themed restaurant where, "the food is served in syringes, flasks and operating-room dishes, and customers can be tied up in straight jackets." The waitresses all wear fetish-nurse outfits and Milla-Jovavich-in-Fifth-Element red wigs:

The food is served in flasks and operating-room’s dishes and isn’t that cheap (7 and more lats per meal), but this is a bizarre experience that is worth breaking the bank. Besides, the place is owned by local doctors, but unfortunately, the president of Latvia, who is also a doctor, declined his appearance at the opening once he realized how weird this place actually is.
Hospirestaurant - Hospital Themed Restaurant in Latvia (Thanks, Marilyn!

Fox News "sexpert": Obamas Do A Lot of "Fisting."

Susannah Breslin sends in this clip, and says even she has no idea what this so-called "sexpert" on Fox News is implying. Whatever it is, it's TMI.

Update: Our well-lubed commenters are probably correct in guessing that the Fox analyst [snort] means "making happy-fun terrorist fist-jabs in the air" when she says "fisting." This just makes it funnier.

Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster


Our friend Craig Yoe, an illustrator, designer and comic historian has a new book called Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-Creator Joe Shuster.

Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster showcases rare and recently discovered erotic artwork by the most seminal artist in comics, Joe Shuster. Created in the early 1950s when Shuster was down on his luck after suing his publisher, DC Comics, over the copyright for Superman, he illustrated these images for an obscure series of magazines called Nights of Horror, published under the counter until they were banned by the U.S. Senate. Juvenile deliquency, Dr. Fredric Wertham, and the Brooklyn Thrill Killers gang all figure into this sensational story.

The discovery of this artwork reveals the "secret identity" of this revered comics creator, and is sure to generate controversy and change the perception of the way we look at Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and Jimmy Olsen forever. The book includes reproductions of these images, and an essay that provides a detailed account of the scandal and the murder trial that resulted from the publication of this racy material.

Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman's Co-creator Joe Shuster

Funniest Condom Ad I've Seen All Year (for Durex, by Superfad)

This is not okay for kids to watch, but it's potentially safe to sneak-watch at work. Durex: Get it On. YouTube, and here it is at the designers' site with hilarious "out-takes." (Via Clayton Cubitt, thanks Susannah Breslin!)

A Brief Essay on the Sad Lack of Imagination in Invertebrate Oriented Erotica with Brief Notes on the Lascivious Nature of Both the Lophotrochozoa and Ecdysozoa, or, Getting Beyond "Hur hur! That Squid Tentacle Looks like Penis!"

Loligo Lothario sez, "With all of the recent postings on cephalopod oriented erotica (or tentacle porn, as it is coarsely called), I had wondered if you had not stumbled on this musing on why those fixated on tentacles really lack imagination, and how other invertebrate oriented erotica can be really really hot. Invertebrates are amazingly kinky, as pointed out in some lovely marine science blog The Oyster's Garter as it looks at the sex lives of tunicates, slugs, and more. So really, why can't we get beyond the tentacle, I ask?"
Taking a step to the side, let us briefly consider phylum Mollusca class Bivalvia. Yes, bivalves at first seem boring - little sessile clam-like things that they are. However, bivalves engage in the one behavior that heretofore I think sounds like the most delightful sexual activity ever. Free spawning. I mean, seriously, think of it, you catch a sudden whif of the right scent, the right temperature, or a little shake, and then EXPLODE in pleasurable gamete release. I, myself, have had this happen right in my face in an orgy of mussel bukkake, but picture the potential for some nubile nymphet subjected to the experiments of a dastardly doctor in fusing the sexual needs of a scallop with the body of his scientific muse.

This is of course not to mention the abilities for bivalves to form threadlike attachments with their byssal gland, and the ever shape-changing, muscular, pulsing, turgid, bivalve foot. Or, the bizarre, soft, delicate anatomy of free swimming shell-less bivalves who, if airborne, could wreak erotic havoc on an entire countryside if presented by the proper author or animator.

A Brief Essay on the Sad Lack of Imagination in Invertebrate Oriented Erotica with Brief Notes on the Lascivious Nature of Both the Lophotrochozoa and Ecdysozoa, or, Getting Beyond "Hur hur! That Squid Tentacle Looks like Penis!"

The New Yorker reviews the new edition of The Joy of Sex


Chelsie Gosk says: I thought you might be interested in Ariel Levy’s review of the new edition of The Joy of Sex as well as the piece’s accompanying slide show (illustrations from the 1972 edition, the new edition, and Our Bodies, Ourselves) and podcast."

[Joy of Sex author Alex] Comfort had a tendency to focus single-mindedly on a given notion or project at the expense of any kind of balance: while he was a student at Highgate School, in London, he became convinced that he could concoct a superior version of gunpowder. He blew off much of his left hand. By the time he was finished with his experiments, his thumb was the only remaining digit. Later in his life, when he was practicing medicine, he said that he found this claw he’d created “very useful for performing uterine inversions.” After he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, his enthusiasms led him to accumulate six degrees, including a doctorate in biochemistry.

The review appears in the January 5, 2009 edition of The New Yorker.

Susie Bright: My Little Chat with Playboy Today

This morning, I got a note from the "Playboy Advisor" - yes, the man who, for every generation, knows how to tune your stereo, tie a Windsor knot, and find the g-spot with a blindfold on:

Hi Susie,

Our new issue, on newsstands next week, includes a list I compiled of the "55 Most Important People in Sex" of the past 55 years.

I wanted to see if you might like to respond with a letter to the editor that addresses anyone you feel is ranked too high or too low -- and/or argue for anyone who isn't on the list but should be.

We plan to publish responses in the April issue. Thanks for considering it.

Chip Rowe
Senior Editor
Playboy Magazine

Hi Chip,

You should be on the list. So should I!

I'm sure you can guess; your list pissed me off - it has way too many sad pin-up girls, who are only there because of some Svengali in their lives, not because of their own efforts or sexual initiative. There's not a single man of that ilk on the list.

And how about Terry Southern?...

I do like the many scientists you included, because people will be amazed to know their achievements. The real question is, who does one have to sleep with to get on the list?


(Keep reading -- there's much more after the jump!)

Read the rest

Susie Bright: Raising the Minimum Age for Porn


A Modest Proposal:

Raising the Minimum Age for Porn

"Can a girl of 21 really know what she is consenting to when she signs a release form for a pornographer? Does she really understand what the ramifications might be later in life?

"That is why I propose that we raise the minimum age of consent to participate in pornography to 65..."

Jon Swift, the author of this proposal, is perhaps the hardest working satirist in the English language since his redoubtable namesake.

(Susie Bright is a guest blogger)

The Best of Sexology: Hugo Gernsback's Sex Mag


Craig Yoe says:

My new book that I edited and designed, The Best of Sexology collects the wackiest and most unintentionally funny articles from America's first sex magazine, Sexology, The Illustrated Magazine of Sex Science. "Homosexual Chickens", "Adolph Hitler's Sex Life", "Sex and Satan", "Twin Beds or Single?", "Sexual Tattooing", "When Midgets Marry" are just a few of the subjects covered...or should I say uncovered?

The publisher of "Sexology", started in 1933, was Hugo Gernsbach, who published the first pulps of science fiction (the term originated in his pubs) and the science fiction award The Hugo is named after him. Gernsback used his science fiction writers and artists (like Frank Paul) to produce Sexology. There's a peek at the book here and I'll be on Fix TV's Red Eye show Fri. nite/Sat. morn at 2:00 a.m. to talk about it.

The Best of Sexology: Kinky and Kooky Excerpts from America's First Sex Magazine

Two new books from Feral House

Feral House, one of my favorite publishers of outré history, recently released two excellent books. Dope Menace has hundreds of color photos of sleazy drug paperback books, and The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People is a re-issue of the Wallace Family's (The Book of Lists, The People's Alamanac) fascinating history of the bedroom proclivities of famous folks, past and present.
200812031119 While we now enjoy this exploitative genre for its campy kitsch, gloriously bad writing, and outlandish misinformation, drug paperback books were once a transgressive medium with a perversely seductive quality.

Dope Menace collects together hundreds of fabulously lurid and collectible covers in color, from xenophobic turn-of-the century tomes about the opium trade to the beatnik glories of reefer smoking and William S. Burroughs’ Junkie to the spaced-out psychedelic ’60s. We mustn’t forget the gonzo paranoia brought on by Hunter S. Thompson in the ’70s, when anything was everything.

200812031124 For its initial edition of The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People in 1981, the legendary Wallace family read 1,500 biographies, pored over rare correspondence, legal transcripts and medical reports, and interviewed lovers, confidants and associates of many distinguished men and women in world history.

This 600-page illicit encyclopedia of the private lives of writers, politicians, athletes, popes, rabble-rousers, composers, rock stars and sex symbols has been revised and enlarged, with a dozen new entries, including ones on Kurt Cobain, Malcolm X, Wilt Chamberlain, Ayn Rand, Jim Morrison, Nico, Aleister Crowley, and more.

The Dancers’ Private Dressing Room

Strip club pan crop.jpg

The New York Times takes a peek backstage at the Hustler Club in Manhattan with an interactive panoramic shot of the unglamorous dressing room that lies beyond the stage lights.

In any act of fantasy – from a feature film to a political campaign – there is a hidden place where the dirty work gets done, where the make-believe is made.

In Hollywood, this is the editing room; in Washington, the spin room. At Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club, a strip joint on Manhattan’s West Side, it is the dancers’ private dressing room where the image of available sexuality and the naked facts collide.

Tucked behind a closed door upstairs from the dance floor, the dressing room is a shrine to female beauty – to the tireless attempts to tease the hair into a proper state of sultriness and adjust the bosoms upward at just the right incline. It is a small piece of the contemporary demimonde (strippers nibble take-out food in thongs and gold lamé). Near a plastic bowl of pretzels, a topless beauty steams the wrinkles from her ball gown with an iron. A tall brunette in nothing but a G-string wanders by. She is brushing her teeth.

"Where the Dancers Dress to Undress."

Saturn's Children: Stross's robopervy tribute to the late late Heinlein

When Charlie Stross -- the mad, gonzo antipope of science fiction -- told me he was working on a Heinlein-esque novel, I wasn't surprised. Old Robert A. Heinlein's classic fiction was some of the best action-driven sf ever written. Then Charlie told me he was working a late Heinlein-esque novel and my eyes bugged out.

Towards the end of his career, RAH's novels got very long, very meandering, explicitly sexual, and very weird. Turned out, he had a tumor that was blocking the flow of blood to his brain (really!) and after it was removed, his fiction (and, reportedly, his personality) really changed again.

And it was those giant, pervy books that Charlie was setting out to pay tribute to.

Saturn's Children is that novel. It's the story of Freya, a sex-bot who was engineered (along with her untold legion of near-identical, near-immortal sisters) to be the perfect pleasure-toy for human masters. Unfortunately, the human race went extinct before Freya was ever booted up, leaving her (and the rest of the robots that comprise galactic civilization) with no purpose in life.

Robot society is sick -- because it was created in the image of our own. Robots are hardwired to obey humans and to serve them and their governments. When humans let themselves go extinct, the robots divided into two castes: those who wired to be empathic and those who were not. The non-empaths seized the moment: they formed shell corporations that bought their robot bodies from their dead and absent owners, and effectively owned themselves. Once this aristocracy of "free" robots was established, they ruthlessly enslaved the rest of robot society, seizing their deeds and slave-chipping them into obedience.

The robots yearn for -- and dread -- the reappearance of humans. The hardwired robotic obedience to humans means that the robots clique that successfully engineers a new human (preferably without releasing the dread "pink goo" -- the robotic bogeyman of self-replicating organic material) may be able to liberate robotkind, or enslave it forever.

Against this backdrop, Freya lives and (nearly) dies as she finds herself embroiled in a series of interplanetary intrigues, shuttling from world to world in realistic (and therefore slow and miserable) spaceships that can take a decade or more to reach Eris and the rest of the outer system. In a book laden with science-fiction in-jokes, philosophy and sly critiques, this may be the very best fillip. Stross puts the terrible lie to the idea of sub-lightspeed space-travel and explores the only way a species could effectively colonize our own system: by turning into robots, willing to amputate limbs to reduce payloads (or, in extreme cases, to simply ship "soulchips" bearing copies of their personalities around), willing to perch atop highly radioactive fission reactors, willing to take a one-way ticket to the outer reaches of our system.

What's more, Stross manages to find the narrative juice hidden in this constrained version of space-travel: to tell a tightly plotted, Maltese-Falcon-esque thriller with reversals and surprises galore, spread out across decades of objective and subjective time.

It's quite a remarkable trick. It's one that neither Heinlein, nor Asimov (the other author to whom the book is dedicated -- as is only proper, given Asimov's prominence in society's conception of what a robot is) managed. This is a fabulous book, a witty and deep critique of the field's shibboleths, and well worth the price of admission.

Saturn's Children

Spitzer Won't Be Charged In Call Girl Scandal


The New York Times reports New York governor turned Luv Gov Eliot Spitzer won't be charged for his part in the call girl scandal that ended his political career.

On March 6, 2008, this office announced the filing of criminal charges related to an international prostitution ring known as the Emperors Club V.I.P. The investigation which led to those charges began when this Office learned of payments made in a questionable manner by former Governor Spitzer to a bank account in the name “QAT Consulting.” After the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division, the office determined that the QAT Consulting account and a similar account at another financial institution had been used to launder more than $1 million worth of criminal proceeds derived from the Emperors Club V.I.P.’s prostitution business.

Eliot Spitzer has acknowledged to this Office that he was a client of, and made payments to, the Emperors Club V.I.P. Our investigation has shown that on multiple occasions, Mr. Spitzer arranged for women to travel from one state to another state to engage in prostitution. After a thorough investigation, this Office has uncovered no evidence of misuse of public or campaign funds. In addition, we have determined that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against Mr. Spitzer for any offense relating to the withdrawal of funds for, and his payments to, the Emperors Club V.I.P.

In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this office, as well as Mr. Spitzer’s acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter.

In a statement, Spitzer responds:

I understand the office of the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York has decided that it will not bring criminal charges against me. I appreciate the impartiality and thoroughness of the investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office, and I acknowledge and accept responsibility for the conduct it disclosed.

I resigned my position as governor because I recognized that conduct was unworthy of an elected official. I once again apologize for my actions, and for the pain and disappointment those actions caused my family and the many people who supported me during my career in public life.

I asked my friend Debauchette, a blogger and ex-courtesan, for her thoughts on the news. She writes:

It's definitely annoying.

I suppose my immediate response is that it seems like a pretty typical case of the john being released while the prostitute, or in this case, the agency, gets punished. It's sad to think that Emperors would have been left alone if it hadn't been for Spitzer. He's the one they were after, and now he gets off while the agency owners get god knows what kind of punishment. Put this within the larger context that Spitzer saw prostitutes while actively seeking their imprisonment, and that Emperors was only attending to his requests, and the whole mess strikes me as a distortion of justice and a sickening waste of resources. But that's nothing new.

Related: "Letters from Johns."

(Image credit: Barbara Kruger's award-winning cover for New York Magazine.)

Letters From Johns

Letters Logo.jpg

In January of this year, on what amounted to a whim, I created an online project called Letters from Johns. To be perfectly honest, I can't even recall exactly why I did it, but I've been writing about the sex industry for years, and I suppose I was curious about why men pay for sex. Rather than hearing someone else's version of their stories, I was interested in collecting their stories. So, I put out a call on my blog for exactly that, and that's exactly what I got.

Every so often, another letter from a john would show up in my email box. They were state investigators, lonely, single guys, married men, enlisted, world travelers, virgins, and thrill-seekers. When Spitzergate hit, I got more letters than ever. (I wrote about the project here.) Eventually, though, the call girl and john coverage slowed. These days, I get fewer letters than I used to.

Last night, I got a new letter from a john. It was more sad than most, although many of the letters are somewhat sad. More often than not, the emails are testimonies to loneliness, and the lengths people, men, in particular, will go to be anywhere but alone. This letter, though, was particularly sad, and my guess is it came from a Boing Boing reader. Seeing as I hadn't gotten any letters in a while, and this one rolled in the night I started guestblogging, it's likely he came across the project from here.

Of course, I don't bring this up to out him. He's a John Doe, and all letters remain anonymous. Sometimes, though, there's a tendency to see stories like his, or those of the others, as belonging to lives that are nothing like ours, to "Other-ize" them, when, in fact, the themes of these letters -- the desire to transcend one's internal abyss -- are not so unlike the stories of most who have experiences that require them to find out what's hidden in their darkest places.

"I Wanted To Kill Myself."