Back on the Raunch

040306 article doon Back on the RaunchMy mind is in the toilet. For the past week, I have been totally obsessed with smut. It all began on March 22, with the Environmental Protection Agency’s jarring revelation that Manhattan is now the dirtiest town in America. It started me thinking about grime and filth, and I cannot stop. The annoying fact that the air is less skanky in L.A. has only fueled my arousal.

Within the recently released statistics, there are, however, some supposed bright spots: According to Ray Werner at the E.P.A.’s New York City office, we Manhattanites are less filthy than we used to be.

Does this ring true? Not really. My gut tells me that the picture may be a tad more complex. In fact, I suspect that we may be just as dirty as we used to be, if not more so—only now we have found freaky ways to camouflage our sordid goings-on.

Back in the 1970’s, the filth in New York was highly visible; it was one giant, smutty kink-fest. Take it from me, 42nd Street was every bit the cesspool it appears to be in Midnight Cowboy. Movie-house marquees thought nothing of boldly advertising productions like Deep Throat and my personal favorite, Pink Clam. While the whores were working Eighth Avenue, we gays were going crazy downtown, whooping it up at places with names like Crisco Disco, the Toilet and the Cock Ring. You straights were just as bad: New Jersey swingers, looking for kicks, would flock to the Vault and Plato’s Retreat and then tell everyone about their S&M sessions over Thanksgiving dinner. People were out and proud and filthy. Pre-AIDS smut was worn like a badge of honor.

The fact that sleaze and salaciousness are no longer as visible doesn’t mean they are extinct. All the lewd goings-on have retreated to the cyber-world, where they have become infinitely more nasty and baroque and specific than Ratso Rizzo could have ever envisioned.

With the really raunchy stuff safely stowed on the Internet, a new soft-core sexiness is blossoming in mainstream culture. But it’s all very P.T. Cruiser, if you know what I mean. It’s Madge kissing Britney and not really meaning it. It’s P.G., with a dash of bouncy jukebox nostalgia. It’s Gretchen Mol as Betty Paige, as opposed to Robin Byrd or Annie Sprinkle. It’s more of a doily than a crotchless panty. Hence the return of burlesque and the fan-dancing phenomenon that is Dita Von Teese.

As somebody who is horrified by the idea of a decaying, shagged-out, chlamydia-riddled sex-industry worker, I applaud the fresh-faced image of erotica presented by the fabulous Dita. Ms. Von Teese, née Heather Sweet, is so squeaky clean that she even has a spread—a wedding album of her recent marriage to Marilyn Manson—in the March Vogue. This week, she braves the filthy New York air to promote her book Burlesque and the Art of the Teese (published by the smut-lovin’ imprint Regan Books). If you’re wondering what it’s like to wake up next to Le Manson every morning, you can risk the lady’s wrath by asking Ms. Von Teese to her face. On Thursday, March 30, she’ll be signing copies of her book at the Virgin Megastore Times Square from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Jealous of Dita? If you’re an attention-starved porno chick who is craving the kind of fan worship and media coverage which is currently being accorded to this lovely specimen, you could do worse than head to your nearest college campus. Enrobe your sleaze in identity politics and you will find a warm welcome waiting at any American college. New York University, for example, is sponsoring an event entitled “Fat Porn—Tipping the Scale” on Tuesday, March 28. By the time you read these words, I will have attended it. (Sincere apologies for not having alerted you in my last column.)

Heather Boyle, a 400-pounds-plus fat model and Web mistress, will officiate over “a frank discussion about fat porn and fat admirers.” She will discuss everything “from cheesecake to hard-core fat porn, and hopefully put some stereotypes to rest.” It’s nice to know that, despite the current global turmoil, important work continues unabated in our academic institutions.

Since you have probably missed this opportunity to have your fat-porn stereotypes “put to rest,” why not check out Ms. Boyle’s extensive site at bigcuties.com—“Not just any big girl site—Quality Content—no smut!”

What a relief!