For shame, you filthy perverts! You ought to wash out your mouths with soap!

Allan Fotheringham May 30 1977

For shame, you filthy perverts! You ought to wash out your mouths with soap!

Allan Fotheringham May 30 1977

For shame, you filthy perverts! You ought to wash out your mouths with soap!

Allan Fotheringham

The funniest magazine article I have ever read is a piece by a woman, some 70 years of age, that deals with a certain way of pleasing the male sex organ. It is in the May Esquire, it is by Helen Lawrenson and is entitled How Now, Fellatio! Why Dost Thou Tarry? It is the first magazine article ever to deal with that tricky art and Lawrenson somehow, by the ruse of artful innocence, manages to reduce the whole practice to high farce to an extent the reader is left, uh, limp with hilarity. The lesson that can be drawn from this is that there is now no aspect of sex that cannot be made fun of publicly.

I mention all this because of the now famous quote by John Memer, the 59-yearold Canada Customs official who explained why he, in his bureaucratic wisdom, had made the decision to ban the May issue of Penthouse from our pristine borders because of 12 pages of naughty pictures. The Canadian public, he explained, speaking for all of us, “is anti oral sex.” Just when several million people on this continent are laughing their heads off at Lawrenson’s deflation of the oral subject, in detailing her experiments with it over 40 years, Memer is taking it all much too seriously.

The whole thing reminds me of what James Thurber said in 1929 in explaining why he and his confrere E. B. White had written a book called Is Sex Necessary? Thurber explained that “the experts had got sex down and were twisting its arm, and someone had to restore the subject to the levity it so richly deserves.” I don’t know where Memer does his deep research into the Canadian public’s preference in the bedroom and automobile, but he obviously hasn’t been hanging around movie houses and bookstores.

One of the greatest audience reactions in recent filmdom came in Shampoo when Julie Christie announced that she’d like to perform that specialized deed on Warren Beatty under the table at a political banquet. The current hit movie is Slapshot and Paul Newman spends what seems like half of it talking about the same supposedly verboten subject, women to women, men to men. The movie is billed, as you’ll notice, as the comedy hit of the year.

What poor Merner doesn’t realize is that real pornography is boring after 10 minutes and the only way to stretch the interest is with humor. Do the Customs guardians of our morals know that the Governor General’s award for fiction in Canada this year was awarded to a book that details a woman’s sexual encounter with a bear?

(Even more pertinent, when the Governor General presented the prize to Marian Engel, did he read a precis to the august spectators, explaining the book Bear is about a female almost getting it on with an animal? Does Canada Customs know about this?)

The English gentleman who said long ago that sex is highly overrated explained that “the pleasure is purely temporary, the price is exorbitant and the position is ab-

solutely ridiculous.” The reason Deep Throat made $40 million and enabled Linda Lovelace to get into the enclosure at Ascot is that it was the first porno film made with tongue-in-cheek, as it were. The breakthroughs are not being made in technique—since nothing really new, beneath all the whipped cream and black whips, has ever been invented—but in the humorous ways of treating it.

Everybody thought a semi-underground book, Terry Southern’s Candy, had exhausted all the comedy aspects of eroticism until Gore Vidal gracefully swept the best-seller heights with Myra Breckenridge. We assumed that Philip Roth, with Portnoy’s Complaint, had left nothing more to deal with after making male masturbation funny. Now? He looks old-fashioned and humorless after Erica Jong.

Critic Robert Fulford complains that Jong writes “pornography for people who have gone to college.” Perhaps, but doesn’t everybody have rights? Why discriminate against the poor deprived PhD? Should he have to buy his own dirty raincoat to get his jollies? Ms. Jong, who taught women about zipless things in Fear Of Flying, is now soaring to the best-seller lead with How To Save Your Own Life, which ad-

vances women’s liberation yet another hilarious step on the road to somewhere. She is of the school of raunchy old Henry Miller, who thought that sex was delicious but also very funny, and Erica romps through lesbianism, group sex, aids such as champagne bottles and other subjects too droll to dwell upon.

You can’t pick up anything these days without finding sex wrestled to earth. A copy of Toronto Life, which all the trendy people consult before buying their goldplated bathtub faucets, deals with Rape Fantasies by Margaret Atwood, contraception advice by Germaine Greer and a third piece on the new Parameters Of Porn. New West, the California equivalent for the upwardly struggling middle class, has a cover story on Sexual Power—explaining why certain males can get girls into the sack and why certain others flame out on the launching pad. Even the wife of the Prime Minister brought a hint of Krafft-Ebing to Swift Current with her lessons on the turn-on qualities of garterbelts.

In this decade of liberation, when any self-respecting career girl can’t make it through coffee break unless she knows all the words from Slapshot, it is even more imperative for the male to have a sense of humor about the most ludicrous sport of all, since there are indications he is going the way of the wombat. Ms. Greer is marching about the lecture halls of the globe advocating that women use a new birth control method—abstinence—until male society is forced to devise a more acceptable contraceptive device than the pill.

Moving right along, the new folk hero of the feminist movement, Shere Hite, says there is a solution to the dearth of female orgasms: do it yourself. In the newest book sensation, The Hite Report, she takes the Mr. Fix-it rage of the 1960s, when everyone was taught one could do one’s own plumbing, to the ultimate extreme. It’s the newest cottage industry. The male animal, with his attachments, is superfluous in the Hite world and any imaginative woman who owns a shower nozzle can get along without him very well. A man reading The Hite Report gets the sort of queasy feeling a buggy-whip manufacturer must have felt when he saw the first quarterly sales figures on the Model-T.

If Ottawa is missing all this, it’s hard to imagine how it can cope with the nuances of inflation. Just when sex is getting funnier, the government is taking it more seriously. Censorship is not the answer. Laughter is.