Side of raunch



Sex as entertainment? Snore (after the obligatory post-coital cigarette, of course): Been there, seen that. But sex as serious topic of journalistic investigation? Snort.

“Sure, give me that assignment,” cry legions of writers. “Let me be the one to go to Amsterdam’s red light district, Montreal’s strip shows, Paris’ burlesque theaters, even the porn Oscars (such as they are)! Pretty please? I’ll lick your boots ...”

Lucky-duck writer Bill Brownstein managed to convince some editor that he was just the man to investigate the juicy details and give the lowdown on the global sex world. Or at least a limited, Eurocentric version of such. Hindered by the size of his, um, budget, he never gets to go on any Asian sex tours or even get a quick buff and shine at his rumored local erotic car wash. Hell, he doesn’t even get to rent a companion and expense it to his publisher.

Instead, he gets to go to the adult film industry’s annual awards night, sit in on some how-to-give-a-blowjob classes, spend some time watching S&M bartenders dominate their patrons, and lurk online in some rather mundane sex chat rooms. Still not a bad gig, you say?

Sure, but he doesn’t even sound, throughout the whole book, like he really had a lot of fun. He’s written it well, and doubtless more than a few copies will fly off the shelves, but you gotta feel bad for Brownstein, who seems so concerned with maintaining his journalistic objectivity that he never, ahem, jumps in and gets his hands dirty, not even the time he’s invited along to the filming of an orgy on a porn producer’s yacht.

Poor guy, all theory and reportage and no practice. When he reports the comment made by a visitor at one of Amsterdam’s two sex museums, that even with all this sex around he doesn’t feel turned on, it’s easy to understand why this was the comment that pricked up Brownstein’s ears. Certainly nothing else of him was going anywhere but south.

Alisa Gordaneer is MT features editor. E-mail her at