Monday, August 25, 2008

Are You a Retrosexual?

This checklist will help you decide. We liked the reference to Barbasol, and especially liked the third item on the list: "a retrosexual never acknowledges he is in a relationship." Spoken like a true male, we thought. And speaking of retro sex, we were tickled to learn recently that that great absurdist illustrated manual of '70s sexuality, The Joy of Sex, will soon be published in updated fashion. You had to be a kid in the repressed '70s to appreciate how wild and lascivious that book seemed when we adolescents first came upon it, complete with those weirdly compelling pencil drawings of the amorous couple engaged in, well...coupling. I don't know how girls felt about it (if indeed they felt anything at all), but I can safely say that millions of adolescent American boys treated it like illicit samizdat literature, to be hungrily glimpsed in bookstores or (if you were really lucky) consumed at greater leisure in a friend's home, snuck from their parents' hiding place when the coast was clear. It's hard to imagine today, with the ubiquity of porn on the Internet, how electrifying this all seemed at the time. I had forgotten all about it, in fact, until I came across the aforementioned news account, which included a reprinting of one of those iconic sketches. For just a moment, it vividly reminded me of what it felt like to be a 15-year-old, peach-fuzzed, girl-crazy kid.

36 Comments:

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

Never saw the sketches, but I'll take your word for it.

I guess we know what your wife will be giving you for Christmas.

The book. I meant the book.

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, I must confess that the book would no longer hold quite the interest that it did when I was a naive, virginal teenager. I'm afraid you can't turn the clock back to the age of innocence. You can only reflect on how it was at the time. As for those sketches, they were weird and oddly compelling because they depicted normal, hairy, somewhat paunchy people, not the glamorous models one comes to expect after a lifetime of consuming advertising. I think it was a smart touch.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Christ awmighty, Ettore, what is going on here?

The first thought I had was "A Retrosexual knows the value of a freshly Martinized suit."

Hello.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That made me laugh. But your first question suggests more than you've outlined, so please expand the thought if you care to.

 
At 3:10 PM, Blogger Dan said...

so funny...My dad had this book and I remember pouring through it. Those pencil drawings were very well done :)

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Excellent. A fellow member of the one-time rapt audience for J.O.S. Did you have to sneak peeks, or did your dad share it with you openly?

I meant to add that whenever I think of that book (not often), a companion '70s tome comes to mind: a book called Our Bodies Ourselves, published by a women's health collective in Boston, which seems to still be going strong, judging by its website (link below). It was a feminist track on women's health and childbirth and other subject of interest to adolescent boys, though mostly when it intersected with the crucial issue of female nudity. But I think of it in the same way as the Joy of Sex for one main reason: it too offered illustrations (though in their case they were photos rather than sketches) that intentionally sought to depict average-looking people rather than model-perfect types. It seemed fresh and interesting in the '70s, and certainly broke through the clutter.

www.ourbodiesourselves.org

 
At 3:52 PM, Blogger Dan said...

He never tried to hide it from me. He was a Phys Ed teacher, so I guess it wasn't a big deal. I do remember that the woman depicted in the book was very againsty "shaving"... :)

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Yes she was. That was a very '70s progressive kind of thing to be against. And good for your dad.
By the way, welcome, since I think you're a first-time commenter. Love to know (only if you care to share it) if you're a new reader or long-timer, if I might know you (guessing not) and finally if you're a Northeast Ohioan or based elsewhere. In any case, thanks so much for reading, and especially for joining the conversation.

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Well, when I stop over here, I expect everyone to have their clothing on (as you know, such a status is touch-n-go over at my place to say the least).

Instead, I scroll down only to find some book about Hugh Hefner back in the day when his 24-hour pajamas were sexy instead of, well, age appropriate, joyous sex (in the women's section of an online paper no less), links to the Bearded Man and people talking about enjoying sex and vacuum cleaners.

Then I'm faced with the heady image of a teenaged Ettore with eyes peeled betwixt the
pages of a sex manual.

I practically had to take a powder for cryin' out loud!

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Oh and let me add that I found Dan's blogger profile to be sexually arousing as well.

 
At 4:39 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Okay, now I understand much better. I found it funny that you were razzing me on this issue, given the fact that you have the nerve (I almost said balls) to put a half-naked photo of yourself on your blog. But then, you're more of a Sixties Wild Child and I'm a Repressed Seventies Guy.
And let's clean up that spelling, Erin, and get in the habit of putting two R's in Ettorre. It'll help my search results.

By the way, please keep us updated on the status of your Scene column. I was pained to learn it's back to being in question.

 
At 4:40 PM, Blogger Dan said...

New reader John. And thanks Erin - I do need to spruce up my profile a bit ;)

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Awesome. Welcome. And obviously, we'd love to read your blog if you have one, and choose to include a link.

 
At 4:45 PM, Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

Actually, Dan, I thought the mystique of it was quite charming.

And okay, Mr. Ettorre, I'll keep repeating the mantra TWO t's TWO r's ... TWO t's TWO r's ... TWO t's TWO r's ...

On the bright side, although my RDW column languishes, I am at work on a long piece of nonfiction. It sure feels good to write something long without interuption.

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Good news. You've done more than your share of shorter stuff. Longer stuff takes somewhat undivided (or at least less divided) attention.
Come to think of it, why don't you consider joining us for the weekend writing retreat the first week of October? It's close by and modestly priced. I can't remember if I sent you that flyer or otherwise mentioned it when I saw you last, but you'll find a description by scrolling down to the August 5th entry.

 
At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

On the topic of absurdist '70s sexuality, a used record store find: The Sensuous Woman.

The lady voicing the tracks (not the original book author, "J") gamely (or is that "gamily") mixes "sensual" talk with anatomical correctness, backed by swooning strings. It would surely be just the thing put on the turntable for that special date.

Another county heard from...

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I've been hoping you would weigh in on this subject, with your south of the Mason-Dixon line persepective and clear-eyed take on the more absurd side of the '70s. She sounds like the female equivalent of the late Barry White.

Erin says, by the way, that she never once came across or even saw that book Our Bodies Ourselves. I maintain that it would have been pretty hard to live through that decade and not to have at least known about it, especially women. The only defense can be that she was cocooned in an opium den for the entire time, or perhaps studyign abroad for 10 years.

 
At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

The Sensuous Woman or The Sensual Woman? As a word guy, you undoubtedly know about this distinction from Common Error in English:
---
“Sensual” usually relates to physical desires and experiences, and often means “sexy.” But “sensuous” is more often used for esthetic pleasures, like “sensuous music.” The two words do overlap a good deal. The leather seats in your new car may be sensuous; but if they turn you on, they might be sensual. “Sensual” often has a slightly racy or even judgmental tone lacking in “sensuous."
---
So is that "rich Corinthian leather" sensuous or sensual?

 
At 3:01 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

Reminds me that Woody Allen likes to use the incorrect word, "nauseous," in the phrase, "I feel nauseous." It should be "nauseated."

 
At 3:03 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I applaud you on your careful word choice. Those words are indeed near the top of the list of word pairings that most people think of as mere synonyms. They do indeed have the related but clearly different meanings you outline. So I suppose you'd have to go with sensuous when it comes to Corinthian leather, unless of course it's used in an S&M context, and there'd be no reason to use it that way around here!

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

But heck with that, Bluster. I'm more interested at the moment in your take on the McCain veep choice. I'll post about that perhaps tonight, but it certainly is a shocker.

 
At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

The choice seems intended to bag the elusive PUMA (disaffected Hillary supporter,) and play to the base.

But the latest Gallup poll has the PUMA on the endangered list, and the enthusiasm of the base may be tempered by the would-be VP's gender and electability.

I'm Mr. Bluster, and I approve of McCain's choice.

 
At 3:20 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

If he thinks a conservative Christian anti-abortion lady is going to capture more than a handful of rabid female Hillary fans, then he's on some weird new drug. This is simply a classic Rovian tactic of playing to your base. It pretty much spells the end of the centrist maverick McCain (I know, I must have been one of the last people who held out any hope that that version of the man would return). How naive I was.

 
At 3:25 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

I find it hard to believe Rove approved of this. If it is his handiwork, and somehow works to McCain's favor, I will be forced to tip my hat to the odious Mr. Rove.

The rumor was that Rove was trying to steer McCain toward Romney. Did the old cuss just flip his wig and "go with his gut?"

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That last suggestion could well be right. And by "Rovian" I wasn't so much referring to The Odious One himself, but to a protege of his, Steve Schmidt, who's now largely running McCain's election strategy since a shake-up in the campaign a few weeks ago.

 
At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

I've got a hunch Mr. Schmidt has a fistful of memos with the header "From the desk of Turd Blossom."

 
At 4:25 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think so. Turd blossom, for the uninitiated, is the impossibly weird (if fitting) nickname that George W. Bush bestowed upon Rove, the man often referred to (including in one book title of that name) as Bush's Brain.

 
At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

FWIW, Rove said this morning on Fox News Channel:

"(The choice of Palin) would be a clear sign from the McCain campaign that they were going to be making a very strong bid for the women whom they see up for grabs -- both the traditional, swing independent suburbanites and then the Hillary Clinton supporters who remain disillusioned."

 
At 5:55 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

As I suggested a few comments ago, that kind of thinking is self-delusional. Most women I know can tell when they're being patronized, and they react accordingly. And a conservative Christian anti-abortion activist will never appeal to the broad swatch of American women. Period.

 
At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

I agree. I think he's just trying to polish a turd not of his own making.

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Turd-polishing is a hell of a way to make a living. But Rove deserves far worse than that.

 
At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

The GOP has some funny ideas about how the female mind works.

In '88, they thought, "Hmmm, this Quayle guy looks a lot like Robert Redford. Let's add him to the ticket. He'll bring in the women's votes." Quayle was more of a drag on the ticket than a help.

In '08, they thought, "Hmmm, a flock of these women voters are mad because one of their own didn't get the nomination. Let's put in a woman---they'll go for it."

We'll see how that works out for them.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Judging by my wife's reaction, not very well. She was big on Hillary, but very anti-McCain. And this conservative lady isn't remotely enough to begin to change her mind. You're married, aren't you, Bluster? I think I've asked you this before. If so, please forgive my early onset of Alzheimer's.

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

By the way, Bluster, I laughed at the mental image of you watching Fox news. It must give you heartburn. As for me, I've never taken it seriously enough to be upset by it. It just seems like cartoonish propaganda.

 
At 10:39 PM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

Yes, I'm married. My wife is about as impressed as your wife.

I didn't subject myself to Fox News. A trusted site gave the Rove quote.

 
At 7:49 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's good to hear. I wouldn't want you to be subjected to their propaganda dressed up as news. Indirect exposure is less toxic.

 

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