Eros by Any Other Name
Assuming that a diamond heart pendant and a Dairy Queen cake were not going to cross my path this week, I took it upon myself to prepare an independent report on the state of eros in the Twin Cities. Turns out frosty, stoic Minnesotans are talking about sex in ways that would curl your lefse. Somebody call HBO.
Yale University grad and Dr. Laura crony Maggie Gallagher is preaching to the proverbial choir. Addressing privileged, affluent University of St. Thomas students and Center for Catholic Studies faculty on the relationship between poverty, illegitimacy, and cohabitation seems a bit unnecessary. Nonetheless, nearly every seat is occupied, many of them by 18- to 22-year-old women who are at this very moment missing Ally McBeal. The room resembles a casting call for a teensploitation flick; with no strain at all I spot a jock, a priss, a tease, a band nerd, a pothead. Almost everyone looks to be here to fill a class requirement, though I do note two tough-looking women with their henpecked mates, and a well-dressed gentleman perched in an inconspicuous corner.
Gallagher gives an overview of her recent book, oblivious to the sexy blond vixen in the front row who's giving lengthy hugs to several of the male classmates who surround her. A row of young women sporting identical ponytails and Frost & Tips drain Aquafina bottles in perfect unison before analyzing one another's manicures. Unfazed by Gallagher's dire views regarding the correlation between the crime rate and children of divorce, her audience remains unmoved, focused as they are on their giant lollipops and games of hangman. Her assertion that "you have better sex, more often, if you're married" does elicit a few smothered giggles. Suspecting that this is the climax of the lecture, a geeky kid stops taking notes on his laptop and commences playing some complex-looking video game. A subsequent comment involving couples "in the bedroom" prompts the two young men flanking the front-row hussy to whisper suggestively in her ears.
Forty-five minutes into the lecture, not one person under the age of 30 is paying attention. Most are sleeping; the rest are working on their homework. The adults, meanwhile, seem enraptured at hearing a validation of their hatred for sexual freedom. During the question-and-answer period the generational divide becomes even more bizarre, as a few of the grownups broach the subjects of gay and polyamorous marriages while drowsy coeds feel around for scarves and stocking caps, oblivious. When one lucid student asks Gallagher for some good courtship strategies, the Aquafina squad, Marlboro Light 100s at the ready, takes its cue to lead the rest of us out into the night.
EVERY YEAR THE corporate powers behind Valentine's Day are faced with the daunting task of convincing Twin Citizens that Temptation Island and a case of Grain Belt does not a romantic evening make. In its own efforts to lure local lovers on the big day, Slam MN holds its sixth annual Erotic Poetry Slam at Kieran's Irish Pub.
Promptly at eight o'clock, a throng of die-hard erotic-poetry fans swarms the Titanic Lounge, pints of ale and cigarettes in hand, oblivious to the fact that many of the tables are still occupied by couples who had seven o'clock reservations to share a romantic meal. One slamgoer plants himself beside a couple still eating dessert, possessively leaning against their tabletop. "If I didn't call your name and you want to be a poet, jump up and down and scream real loud!" yells a Slam cohost clad in Catholic-school duds. A few downtown couples, still in power suits, squeeze into the crowd, politely silencing phones still strapped to their waists. In less than ten minutes the ambient lounge becomes every server's worst nightmare: thirsty, horny people, hip to hip. "We are packed in above capacity! The fire marshal is having a coronary!" shrieks the other emcee.
After explaining the scoring system ("One is the worst poem ever; ten we were all brought to a mutual orgasm"), our hosts bring out the contestants. Whereupon two white-haired gentlemen squashed in next to me on a bench near the doorway commence a nonstop commentary, wresting the limelight from an ode to panties and an angry white boy's rant that includes the romantic phrase "donkey punching."
IN A LITTLE auditorium, on a public university campus, in the midst of a snowy nowhere of a state founded by repressed Scandinavian Protestants, dozens of well-heeled young ladies are revealing to one another what their vaginas would say if they could talk. This is the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group's benefit production of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, and this auditorium on the U of M's West Bank is packed with women (and five men). The hip, collegiate crowd eagerly fills out the survey included in the programs, which is then collected by ushers for incorporation into the performance.
In the restless sea of J. Crew pea coats, Doc Martens, and shiny hair, responses rise up like colorful buoys. "Mine smells like cherries!" shouts a pretty cheerleader type. "Yours would wear stilettos?" giggles a bookish brunette several rows down. Though I fear there'll be some sort of spontaneous combustion at the moment during the performance when audience members are encouraged to shout a four-letter word, when all is said and done the production is received in middle-class Minnesota fashion. Which is to say: polite guffaws and reverent silence in the appropriate places, nervous coughing at anything remotely off-color, and a big standing O at the end.
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