I feel sorry for kids today, not in a caring, concerned way, but in a detached, patronizing, figure-of-speech kind of way. Just look at all the cool TV we had when we were kids: "Bewitched," "Gilligan's Island," "The Brady Bunch," none of it high art but all of it endearing enough to be integral to our pop-culture history. But with reality TV, the future of reruns looks pretty dim. Outside of "The Osbournes," what might still be a curiosity in 20 years? "Big Brother?" "American Idol?" Maybe "The Rerun Show?"
Anyway, since current TV is so fabulous I found myself watching a rerun of "Seinfeld," the infamous "The Contest" episode in which the pre-"Friends" friends make a $100 bet to see who can go the longest without masturbating. Only they don't all make a hundred-dollar bet. The guys make the lone girl pony up an extra $50 because girls don't get as horny as guys.
Hopefully there's a bunch of girls who won't finish this story because they just tossed the paper aside after reading that sexist idea. (I love the show but didn't finish watching it.) Women may be more selective; they may not behave like jackasses at strip shows in the numbers that men do or catcall them on the street, but women have extremely healthy, horny, voracious appetites for skin, just like men do.
Up until about 40 years ago women had more social pressure and less access to birth control, so they had to guard their pearly gates pretty defensively -- probably one of many reasons we got the rep of being colder than we really are. I'd have lost that contest in the time it takes to say, "Place your bets," and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only girl with a Good Vibrations catalog who feels that way. We don't show it sometimes because we don't want to invite the attention of every man in the room who might mistake "healthy" for "blind." But horny women, like other juicy things, are a gift of nature.
They traditionally haven't gotten a lot of respect, though. The female version of the playboy, a la Samantha on "Sex and the City," isn't given the same winking "atta girl" reception as her male-counterpart bad boys get. I'm not dumb enough to think this will equalize in our culture anytime soon, but there is some research afoot suggesting that, just as there is believed to be a biological drive for men to spread themselves around, there are good reasons in some cultures for women to try to catch as many of them as they can. Samantha, then, might not be a bad girl, just another product of evolution.
In a fascinating eye-opener of an article, "The Virtues of Promiscuity" (alternet.org/story.html?StoryID=13648), Sally Lehrman writes that research in many tribal cultures is revealing that women proudly take multiple lovers, all of whom then have some stake in her offspring, and who will help to take care of those children. The men in these cultures benefit also and not just by getting laid. Theirs are short life spans, and they know that if they die, one of the other fathers on the suspect list will take care of the kids.
Eventually traders came to these tribes and brought goods, "introducing the idea of exclusive ownership." Then, of course, religious types brought in guilt and really pissed on the party. Before this nuisance, it sounds like sex in these tribes was just fun, an accepted recreational activity with lots of participants, and a way to keep the tribe strong and healthy. And not just the boys got to play.
I'm not advocating that girls screw everything in sight, and I'm not much of a Samantha myself -- I'm too tired and it's too scary. But I sure do like the picture of the women in these cultures as creatures of equal sexual stature, in both desire and power, able to be honest about their appetites for both sex and care, even expected to be seeking it out -- all the women, not just the recognized Madonnas of the tribe. Sex as a normal activity, a fact of life at once exquisite and mundane, a source of pride instead of neurosis -- for a primitive idea, it's more advanced than a lot of the stuff we come up with.
Note from Liz: After a luxurious decade of getting to say exactly what I want to say, this is my last Juice column. I'm moving along to pursue my free-lance writing career -- so I'll still be out there.
To all my readers who've kept my motor running with their overwhelming support, a simple "thank you" seems like a small gesture, but what am I supposed to do -- sleep with you?
I'll still be on these pages occasionally, and my address will stay the same, so keep in touch. And thank you.