You're looking kinda lonely girl
Would you like someone new to talk to ... ?
I'm feeling kinda lonely too
If you don't mind can I sit down here beside you ... ?
If I seem to come on too strong
I hope that you will understand
I say these things cause I'd like to know
If you're as lonely as I am
And would you mind
Sharing the night together ... ?
Popular song, Dr. Hook, 1978 (c) Alan Carter Music, Inc. BMI-Shoals Music Mill Publishing ASCAP
Sex and California. The two seem to go together. Tanned, oiled bodies glistening in the sun. Waves lapping, palm trees bending. Restless souls always up for the latest pill, therapy, turn-on.
It's the home of the mellow and laidback too. Massage oils. Esalen, Sandstone, Black's Beach, Elysium. Casting Couches. Surfers and Hell's Angels. Singles bars. Bachelor pads in the Hollywood Hills. Chevy vans, psychedelics and good grass.
Somewhere the craziness or perversion that will emsh with your private fantasy.
Sharing the night together. And tomorrow? Don't make demands. Somehow a good many people east of California have a collective fantasy of California as a hotbed of hedonism. A place where sensual always means sexual, and orgies take the place of football games on Sunday afternoons.
But while sex in all its versions and perversions is more visible here, there is no evidence that the sex lives of most Californians differ very much from those in St. Louis or Minneapolis or Atlanta.
Or that the much-touted sexual revolution, a revolution more of style than substance, has changed the basic desire for sex in a context of caring and commitment.
Some experts, in fact, say we are entering a period of sexual conservatism:
"What I see are cycles, sexual permissiveness followed by relative sexual conservatism," says Dr. Joshua S. Golden, director of the human sexuality program at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"We are clearly in a permissive reaction to previous convention, but there's already some indication that we are coming back toward a more conservative position both in Callifornia and elsewhere."
Morality, thanks to birth control and antibiotics, has shifted some since a biologist named Kinsey turned his attention from the gall wasp to the sexual habits of Americans 30 years ago.
"I don't think there's been a revolution," said a nationally known psychiatrist who has studied sexual perversion for the past 15 years. He conceded, however, that "there have been real, important and measurable changes in sexual practices in our society."
Among them: women's increasing freedom t have sex in or out of marriage -- and to enjoy it, the fading of the double standard, more relative openness and permissiveness throughout society, sexual activity begun at an earlier age and indulged in more frequently, more tolerance for deviant behavior, including homosexuality, and a willingness to experiment with sexual techniques and positions.
But much has not changed: Many men still feel pressured, although now in a slightly different way; the young are still confused about sex and don't seem to communicate any better than their parents did, family stress often centers on conflicting values between parent and child over what is sexually appropriate; prostitutes are still popular, and promiscuity is viewed as an attempt to find with many what you've failed to achieve with one.
Sex problems in adults are measured in terms of sex dysfunction and unhappiness; in the young sex problems show up in the form of public health problems like teen-age pregnancies, abortion and venereal disease.
And where we once -- unhealthily -- repressed sexual feelings, we now express them -- but often still feel guilty, ashamed, uneasy or disappointed afterward.
Why? "Because nothing can erase the significance of caring," says Dr. Daniel B. Borenstein, president of the Southern California Psychiatric Society.
"More people engaged in sexual activity and at an earlier age and with a wider variety of sexual activities," UCAL's Golden said.
"It is appropriate for kids here by their standards, to get (sexually) involved in the mid-high school years," added his wife, Peggy, also a sex therapist and educator and family-planning consultant.
"But direct conversation between sex partners is still extraordinarily difficult. They want it to happen 'naturally.'"
"Parents think it's a question of whether their children will engage in sex. That's unrealistic. They do, but not in a responsible way," golden said.
Golden's work focuses on sex in California, but a survey of 1,000 New York City teens of all ethnic and income groups (completed last year and reported recently in "Sexuality Today") also found that 76 percent of the boys and 64 percent of the girls had "gone all the way" at least once, most of them by age 16.
"And today these are not the 'bad' girls, but the 'good' ones, leader kids with good graces and jobs," Mrs. Golden added. By age 25, one national study found, 95 percent of males and 81 percent of females had experienced sexual intercourse.
"But there is a disturbingly low incidence of the use of contraception even when they know about it -- often not until they have been sexually active for a while and at risk (of pregnancy)," Golden said.
"It's a reflection of their confusion and discomfort and ambivalence about whether it's appropriate to be sexually active, in a moral sense."
Recent research on the almost epidemic number of teen-age pregnancies, abortions and repeat abortions, Mrs. Golden said, suggests just that -- that young women get into these problems when they're confused about whether they should be sexual. "They make a short-term decision when a long-term decision about contraception is too confusing. Sexual confusion is the real trouble."
That confusion is not solely the province of the young. Their parents, who grew up in the 1940s and 1950s, are caught in the cross-currents of the women's movement, chuman potential" philosophies that emphasize finding and doing one's own thing, new information about sex, and a general loosening of a structured society in which, whether through the church, community or family, large numbers of people shared a similar avlue system.
Most parents grew up at a time when it was bad to have sex before marriage, and they don't want their children to either: "Don't ever let me hear that you..." or "never in my house." Yet the values of the peer culture are such that most do.
"Parents have a right to tell their children the sexual values, preferences and moral standards of the family," Mrs. Golden said. "Many are uncomfortable with the new standards, but they're not able to express any standards to the kids other than 'Don't do it.' They should be able to say, 'This is what we think and why.' But there is no way they can truly enforce controls on sexuality."
Families play "coded games" with their adolescents, she said, in which fights about what hour they're due home and which friends are "had influences" mask underlying concerns about bugeoning sexuality.
But some parents, particularly in California, seem to a bit overboard in the opposite direction, in trying to show their kids just how hip and tolerant they, too, are: a 45-year-old doctor, for example, was stretched out with a companion in front of the fire in his rambling old Venice beachhouse after a day of sailing when his 17-year-old daughter appeared unexpectedly in the doorway. His partner grabbed her clothes, he merely nodded a casual hello. "It's Okay," he explained. "We acknowledge each other as sexual beings... anyhow she's probably just picking up some things -- she's spending the weekend at her boyfriend's place."
Among the adults, sexual liberalism appears to have affected the singles and divorced, but it has had little impact on marriage. A survey on "Sexual behavior in the '70s" conducted by the Research Guild for the Playboy Foundation, interviewed more than 2,000 persons in 24 cities.
Forty-one percent of the married men said they had committed adultery (fewer than Kinsey estimated 30 years ago), as had 18 percent of the married women.
Among those under 25, however, about a fourth of the women and a third of the men have had at least one extramarital experience. The study found that "contrary to popular belief, sexual liberation has had little impact on traditional attitudes toward or adherence to the ideal of marital fidelity." In Kinsey's time, married people had only two alternatives to lifelong exclusivity: divorce and secret extramarital relations.
"Since then"... the study said, "Sexual liberation has made the divorced far freer in postmartial sexual behavior, but it has had little effect on secret extramarital sex. As for the new alternatives about which there is so much talk -- open marriage, mate swapping, group sex, group marriage, etc. -- the data suggest that they are mostly just talk."
Fewer than 2 percent of the married couples said they had ever practiced mate-swapping (sex exchanges with other couples); 10 percent of a national sample of college students said they might try it.
It may not happen any more frequently here than in colder climes, but it does seem somehow more natural and open against a California backdrop. One newcomer to the sensuous state was surprised when a professor's wife casually mentioned the sexual pleasure the couple enjoys with friends. "Why don't you come by for a hot tub tonight?" she suggested to him, "just the three of us." Why not: It's California.
But swinging as a way of life seldom lasts more than two or three years. Exswingers cite reasons ranging from jealousy to boredom. "Most casual sex is not very satisfactory," Golden said. People always have "romantic" expectations (and one tends to idealize what to the other is merely a casual conquest).
"A lot of people react to sexual dissatisfaction by seeking other partners: They think it will be better with somebody else. But they have no notion of what it takes for a successful sexual realtionship and how difficult it is to create a situation of intimacy."