Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fifty-Two: Salon Privé

A friend in London has been writing me about her visits to private sex clubs. She's been taken along to such places by various of the older, moneyed gentlemen in her life, and she's apparently done well there. She's been writing me about the clubs and sending me links to their websites.  I may have to raise an eyebrow about the websites, since I'm not persuaded that a truly elite private sex club would have a website (or at least a semi-public one) or would concern itself with marketing.Wouldn't word of mouth be how the truly elite clubs would operate? 

She began sending me her accounts of sex clubs in London just about the time I ran across articles in the archives of the New York Observer about similar clubs in Manhattan. The Observer  articles were written in 2007 by Candace Bushnell, who wrote the original columns that gave rise to "Sex and the City".  Ms. Bushnell found the clubs she visited to be depressing and charmless. She disliked the marketing--- just as with the London clubs, an extensive buffet was regarded as a major selling point. Isn't that a bit too like the marketing for Indian reservation casinos?

Most people, Ms. Bushnell writes, really shouldn't be at sex clubs. Very, very few people are stylish or attractive enough to be at sex clubs. Manhattan Rules, of course. She always insists on the need for Manhattan Rules--- there should be velvet ropes and door nazis gatekeeping pretty much everything.  She does have a point. Sex clubs are about walking into a fantasy zone, about being on a stage set for fantasy. The actual physical sex is secondary (and should be secondary) to the fantasy. Actual flesh takes away from the fantasy. It's not something Ms. Bushnell says outright, but it's certainly implicit in what she writes: actual flesh is usually a failure, and actual flesh takes away from the fantasy that makes sex really work.

And as Ms. Bushnell points out, naked people and a buffet line just don't mesh. 

I wouldn't go to a sex club in any case. I don't have an exhibitionist side, or at least not a physically exhibitionist side. I'm a gentleman of a certain age, and I don't need to be undressed, to shed the armour that comes with, say, jacket and tie.  It's also true that single males aren't welcomed at such places. Even those clubs that might admit single males do treat them with contempt and suspicion. And I certainly wouldn't go to a place where my flesh would ruin others' fantasies and keep me from engaging in any of my own. 

I grew up aspiring to be part of the world of hidden chateaux and private clubs in Story of O.  It's sad enough that such places probably never existed, and even sadder that trying to create such places would lead inevitably to disappointment and (perhaps worse) to aesthetic failure. 

 I'd never go into a sex club in New York, and not even in London, where aesthetic standards may not be so demanding. Such places should be stage sets for fantasy, for losing oneself in shared fantasy, for being to enact the stories that define one's sexuality. No one has managed to find a way to put together a place where that really works, though. My friend's stories make it clear that the clubs have their unspoken but ruthlessly-enforced class distinctions, and that the buffet line and the open bar seem to be much too important for these to be places where fantasies can really be played out.

I'd never go to any of the clubs I've read about or that my friend has told me about. My own flesh would ruin others' fantasies, and I won't risk mockery. And the clubs themselves wouldn't be places where I could lose myself. There'd be nothing Zen there, no sense of letting go of the self.

Would you go an upscale sex club? If you're reading this, have you ever imagined being in such places, or imagined what they'd be like? Could such places ever meet any of your own criteria? Perhaps more to the point, how much of a failure is flesh, when compared to fantasy? 

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