Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vintage Vice

--by Juliet

As an adolescent in suburban Cupertino California in the 1970s, I had to keep on my toes if I wanted any shot at finding vice of any kind. Oh sure, drugs could be had at the high school, but I never liked the folks who used – if I wanted to sit in a corner and babble, I could do it without external influences. The vice I was most interested in was SEX.

But smut was hard to find.

Keep in mind: back then “Adult Content” was available only through “Adult Stores”. And those kinds of places did not exist on Cupertino’s leafy streets.

But then one day I was snooping, and I came across my dad’s stash of Playboy magazines.

It was a revelation. I know, I know, objectification of woman, yada yada yada. I get that. As an adult I can see that the women featured in these magazines were made out to be acted upon, rather than as independent actors in their own sexuality. But at the time all I could think was: these women appeared to be having fun. They seemed to like sex. They were smiling, sunny and happy in their nakedness.

I spent many delectable hours poring over these publications. And I didn’t just check out the magazines for the pictures. Oh no, I was there for the articles. Okay, not all the articles…but some of them were highly informative. For someone with almost no sex education at school, and very little on the homefront --my dear mother tried, but women from her background simply did not talk about such things-- this was all incredible information, ripe to be shared with friends. I especially liked the jokes at the back. They carried with them a wealth of cultural as well as sexual information.

Soon I realized that every home I babysat in was a potential gold mine. I don’t mean to disillusion anyone about a) what a nosy kid I was and b) what babysitters in your house might be up to, but I looked around. Usually you didn't have to go any further than a bedside table. And it wasn't just Playboy or Penthouse. I found The Kama Sutra. The Joy of Sex. Our Bodies, Ourselves. Wow. My young mind was blown.

Granted, now that so much more is available on the internet, I'm sure much of the motivation for snooping has been leached from our young. And it's worthy of note that much of vintage Playboy's "art" would be too tame for the likes of many fashion and gossip magazines, today.

As far as introductions to smut go, this was much gentler than what the average adolescent finds today when she Googles "sex" or anything of the ilk. Some of that stuff shocks the hell out of me, so I can only imagine what an innocent young mind might make of it all.

And no, 1970s "men's magazines" were not the best introduction a young woman could have to the world of sex and sexuality. But as far as smut was exciting, fun, and so, so naughty.

Oooh, the wonderful vice of it all.


Toni in Florida said...

I was about 7 years old when I saw my first pages from Playboy. (Extra points to me for not saying "my first spread in Playboy"!) A playground friend's brother found one in a dumpster near our apartment building and took great joy in letting us kids see this forbidden magazine. Most of us were young enough that we didn't even know stuff like that existed! What an eye-opener, that women could be naked and gorgeous and happy in their naked gorgeousness, even when in (for example) the stables! I mean, none of us had moms or older sisters who looked anything like the models, or who seemed to think being naked was OK anywhere but in the bathtub, so this was entirely new territory.

I'm glad I saw this before my grandmother's (extremely old man of a) neighbor groped me a few months later and scared the crap out of me. If *that* had been my intro to sexuality, I can't imagine how it might have warped me.

For the record, sex was my vice as a kid, too, in much the same way as yours. As a result, by the time I was 12, I'd read every non-fiction book in our public library on human sexuality. And by 13, I'd read The Happy Hooker. What can I say? There's more than one approach to every topic, right?

Sophie Littlefield said...

so...even as a babysitter you were an unstoppable vixen.

Anonymous said...

Two words: National Geographic. My dad didn't have Playboys, or at least I never found them, but we sure did have National Geographic. Decades later, I still get turned on by hunter-gatherer women!

William Doonan

Rachael Herron said...

I remember searching (and finding) for that kind of thing in every house I ever babysat. Does that make me sneaky? Oh, yes. But the girls were so pretty.... :)

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