Sex Trek: the New Generation Sex Carnival
by Bill Brownstein.
ECW Press, 2000
Reviewed by Gilbert Wesley Purdy
Two factors changed our relationship to sex in the past century. The first
was the introduction of cheap, effective
birth-control. The second, market capitalism, has become the
unchallenged law of the jungle. The results of these changes are
far reaching and labyrinthine. Markets led to the wide spread employment
of women (if you will forgive the pun), who were available in wartime,
and available, war or peacetime, at a favorable wage-rate. Wages led to
Virtually every aspect of life has undergone
market-induced changes - and it's still happening. Old moral codes,
which hindered the fastest possible growth of wealth, began to be
referred to as "mere superstition". They were preached against
with the fervor of a Baptist tent revival. They were the evil remnants
of a world once dominated by aristocracies bent on insidious,
internalized control. There are few in the industrialized western world
who aren't in agreement with this model to some extent.
Bill Brownstein was instructed by his publisher to "explore the
world of sex": the world, that is, of the sex industry. The author
was to have a gratifyingly free hand. His only requirement was to
"have fun". The result was his recent book: Sex Carnival.
Virtually every one of his potential readers need only walk through
the streets of a modern city to observe first-hand that there is little
that is fun about most of the sex industry. It is degrading,
manipulative, filled with drugs, violence and littered with victims.
Books that don't "have fun," however, don't generally sell
well. Predictably, Mr. Brownstein and his publisher have decided to look
elsewhere in the industry. They have gone where the money is.
Each chapter explores a different city: (in order) Las Vegas, Los
Angeles, New York, Amsterdam, Paris, Montreal. The final chapter samples
the remainder of Canada. When the author forgets that he is the comic
foil -- his favorite character in the book -- the text is solid.
Beknownst to him or not (who can say?), it is also revealing of un-fun
In the U. S. the conversation of the pornography elite is strewn with
the crudest language. The "jokes" are heavy and sophomoric.
The backdrop is garish. There is a spirited competition for the
world-record for the number of sexual partners in a single day. The
portrait is of a gargantuan rationalization-fest. No one is getting
hurt. Everyone is a consenting adult. They are actually trail-blazers of
freedom. They are therapists and a considerable number of them have the
university degrees to prove it. They are millionaires: contributing
members of society.
The moment the author crosses into Europe the crude language is
virtually gone. The jokes are witty. The backdrop is often off-plush,
rarely worse than store-front. The members of the profession make a
decent middle-class living. Canada predictably falls between the two.
But time marches on and takes us all with it.
The clear and simple fact is that, with present technology, market
morality, and a 55-gallon drum of industrial strength K-Y Jelly, a
liberated woman can accommodate 620 men in a single day and proudly
appear in the Guinness Book of World Records under her
nom-de-screw. In backward times, on the other hand, if she had sex with
that many men in a lifetime she would have 41 children, her sexual parts
would be the size of a circus tent, and she would collapse with a tiny
inverted puff of smoke out her asshole. Such is progress.
Gilbert Wesley Purdy's work has appeared in Grand Street, Poetry
and numerous other publications. His piece "Het niueve wereldbeeld: the Magical World
of Guy Davenport" appeared at www.elimae.com, where more work is