Can It Be Beneficial To Kiss And Tell?
There are times when it’s alright to kiss and tell.
Recently a woman said to me, “why do I feel so obliged to talk about sex?” VIVA 1975 “What do you mean?” I asked. “If I describe an evening out with a man, I know I’m expected to wind up the story with a moist little tag line about what we did in bed.” “What I mean,” she added, “is, must one always tell?”
According to her, sexual privacy is approaching obsolescence, and it offends her. She explained further: “If two people are sexually satisfied with each other, why should anyone else care about the details? Of what possible interest could it be to an outsider whether or not we’re straight, kinky, get it off in a steamer trunk, or videotape the whole scene? I do not kiss and tell” she said emphatically.
Her views do make sense unless- and this is a weighty unless –both the man and the women do not mind or, as in some cases, actually invite public scrutiny. But if either one, against their mutual understanding, reveals privileged sexual information about the other, then that can really hurt.
A male journalist friend of mine agrees: “if there are nine million stories in the Naked City, then at least eight million of them are storied about who’s been to bed with whom-with no details spared about how often, how good, how bad, how famous, how anatomically impressive, and how do I know that someone isn’t talking about me now?”
The answer is that no one can know.
Call it dubious etiquette…quality gossip…even sexual betrayal. But kiss-and-tell as a universally acquired habit is simply a fact of life. It’s unavoidable.
What could be more obviously true – conversationally, the sexual anecdote is the most potent attention-getter. I’m not referring to the tiresome braggart who simply inspires irritation, or to some perpetually salivating groupie. But anyone! Talk freely, or allow yourself to be coaxed to talk, about your sex life and a rapt audience is guaranteed. Paradoxically, take note, few of us like being the offstage star of that particular show.
Download: Nymphomaniac Gets Her Fill
And weren’t we all “stars” not so long ago when women were little more than sexual subjects? Locker-room boys described a woman either as a ”great lay” or “nowhere-an ice maiden.” Body, beauty, and response to his technique formed a total image of a woman in a man’s mind. This one-sided pleasure experience, however, was finally leveled by the sexual revolution. Restrictions were lifted. Women could see, act, think and talk about sex without reprisals. And punishment, except for the self imposed hand slap, no longer existed. One consequence of the role reversal syndrome is that women can now kiss and tell, while men are just as harshly judged as we used to be.
Naturally, there have always been women who were independent thinkers and crusaders; spirited, lusty women who never forget the minutiae of a day, or of an affair. All the data of their various, and often famous, lovers was frequently and copiously recorded in book form. Though not exactly a crusader, actress Mary Astor became a cause célèbre when her husband discovered her diary with its scandalous entries about her paramour, bespectacled Broadway genius George S. Kaufman. She wrote, “twenty, count them diary twenty, I don’t see how he does it… he is perfect.” Kaufman, the “thrilling ecstasy,” quickly left town on a stretcher, wrapped in a crash victim’s disguise of blankets and bandages. (A cautionary tale for all you diary writers out there.)
Helen Lawrenson was an outspoken journalist who wrote a memoir and talked about Bernard Baruch, who “was not a passionate man,” and sexually naive. Both Helen and Mary, not strictly by her own choosing, both publicly exposed the vivid details of their famous lovers’ prowess. Before reading Lawrenson’s opinion of Baruch, it would never have occurred to me to think of this celebrated economist in sexual terms, and certainly some celebrities appear to be beyond erotic speculation. Others, like Warren Beatty or George C. Scott, seem particularly tantalizing. Understandably, stars like this are pursued with this goal in mind. Should such a superstar want to become involved with a normal civilian, these questions will probably come up: Does one tell? How graphically? And to whom? My own answers would be: yes, very, and to everyone; except, of course, if by talking the celebrity could be put in a compromising position.
One friend told me this: “As an interested listener to sexual adventures- mea culpa!” She contributed to open discussions as well, and she adds, “To kiss and tell can be constructive. Some women still need assurance, an exchange of vital information, and or simple sexual advice.” What disturbs my friend most are the malicious stories of a man’s impotence, snide references to some man’s “insignificant penis,” or female versions of the locker room boys whose only strategy has always been to impress others with a body count of those who have rumpled their sheets.
What matters, after all, is the motive behind the kissing and the telling.
Talking, as any analyst knows, can sometimes cure. But talking too much, as any lawyer will tell you, can be downright dangerous.
Continue reading from the August 1975 issue of VIVA.