My Bed was ready. My crew was adjusting their camera levels as my guests were adjusting their stocking tops. Some thumbed through copies of Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin by my featured guest University of California at Berkeley Theater Professor Mel Gordon, its stunning vintage images of a lost world of free expression thriving in Germany on the cusp of the Nazi terror inciting our imaginations. Another Weimar prop, a “Female Self-Gratifier,” having made its way through time and space from the Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Institute to the Dr. SUSAN BLOCK Institute, awaited its moment of glory.
It was the night of December 23, 2000; 11 days after the U.S. Supreme Court had declared George Bush, Jr. to be President of the United States, nine months before 9/11, one year after “The Apocalypse” (our all-too-prescient turn-of-the-millennium erotic art exhibit), the eve before Christmas Eve and the third night of Hannukkah. Did we realize, as we assembled ourselves around an antique Sex Machine in our red and black velvet and lace, that we were winding up an American fin-de-siècle period of (relatively) peaceful pleasures and entering an Era of Perma-War? Not exactly.
We did know that we were momentarily stepping out of our everyday world, and into a very special, wildly sexual time and place in erotic human history: Weimar Berlin, right after the First World War and the collapse of the crotchety old Kaiser’s Germany, starting around 1919 when the Weimar Republic signed the Treaty of Versailles, and right before the Nazis stormed in and demolished it all. But in those zany years between the Kaiser and der Fuehrer, there blossomed in the City of Berlin a kind of Adult Disneyland poised like a tightrope walker between the extremes of pleasure and danger. A freewheeling world of madcap debauchery, kinky cabarets, potent aphrodisiacs, fresh and naughty Girl-Culture, prostitution at every economic and esthetic level of the game, and urbane gay and lesbian clubs catering to a veritable dictionary of desires, Weimar Berlin featured something for every desire, dominas of every sadistic style, transvestites of every fashion, multiple nudist societies for every political party, sex-themed restaurants for every gawking tourist, as well as serious sexological research and compassionate treatment for all sex-related ills.
Sex in the City was never so varied and so unfettered-unless you happened to have a fetish for fettering. Not all of the sex was good, of course (sex is never always good), what with the poverty-stricken child-prostitutes, the desperate hookers, the coke addicts and lust-murderers. Some of it was downright disgusting. But when Adolf and the Nazi boys kicked in the doors in 1933, burning the books, shutting down the clubs, closing the institutes, shooting the dissidents, segregating the Jews (who seem to have been the savviest cabaret owners, if not the classiest call girls) and packing them off to the concentration camps, exterminating the “undesirables” Well, that made the street crime of Weimar look like the small potato latkes that it was.
As for the SEX life of wicked Weimar, while it lastedif you knew where to go to get what you wanted, it was fantastic, glorious, diversified, voluptuous. Life was a Cabaret. Every form of pleasure was explored, expressed and exploited at every level of taste and class–from vibrant night life to nudist retreats to love-for-sale to the amazing Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld Institute of Sexology.
One of the most actively engaged icons of Weimar Berlin, Dr. Hirschfeld (1868-1935), “the Einstein of Sex,” presided over an unprecedented center of multi-disciplinary knowledge, compassion and research, an elaborate erotic museum and a haven for sexual minorities and women. Years before America’s Dr. Alfred Kinsey started hunting gall wasps, Hirschfeld was researching human sexuality via questionnaires, among other techniques. He was also a political activist, practically inventing the idea of Gay Rights, and a pioneer in public sex education. Some of his more famous visitors included Cole Porter, the Gershwin Brothers, Christopher Isherwood and Alfred Döblin, all of whom incorporated Hirschfeld’s progressive ideas about sex and psychology into their masterworks.
The Hirschfeld Institute (1919-1933) was also one of the first places that the Nazis destroyed, shortly after the notorious burning of the Reichstag, attributed to a terrorist’s bomb. In their moral crusade against sex, decadence, homeland terrorists, communists, gays and Jews, Hitler Youth burned all the books in the Hirschfeld Institute, except a few they kept for themselves, and thus for history. Usually, when we see newsreels of Nazis burning books, we are watching them torch Hirschfeld’s great library on Berlin’s Opernplatz, eerily foreshadowing the burning of bodies in the death camps.
Besides the books, they also threw Hirschfeld’s voluminous files, priceless art and innovative sex toys on the sacrificial bonfire. The original Female Self-Gratifier was one of those sex toys. Preceding the modern Intruder, Predator, Drildo and Probe by several decades, Hirschfeld’s original “Fucking Machine,” or Sex Machine, was developed in 1926 by Russian-Jewish engineers in Leipzig before finding its home with Hirschfeld. Professor Mel’s Machine was a prototype of the original. I’m not sure what they did with it over at the Hirschfeld Institute, but being women of action here at the Block Institute, we weren’t satisfied with simple observation of The Machine. We had to give it a test-drive.
Our first Female Self-Gratifier Guinea Pig was Porn Superstar Teri Weigel decked out in a red lace slip, red heels and nothing else. With her German last name, athletic physique, Heidi-blonde curls and independent attitude, Teri was more than ready to be a Weimar Girl.
“This was a revolutionary idea,” Professor Mel continued with mounting excitement as Teri mounted The Machine, “and it was the thing that most upset the nationalists and the Nazis, the idea of this liberated woman, the Weimar Girl, a woman who could choose her own sexuality”
Teri hopped on The Machine like a Valkyrie ascending her stallion, and you could see how the Nazis might have been concerned; after all, how can a Female Self-Gratifier help the Fatherland? Professor Mel explained how the pulley system allowed the foot pedal to push the dildo in and out of the vagina, kind of like a sex bike, but with just one pedal. We had to admit it was quite energy-efficient; no need to plug it in or gas it up, just put your pedal to the metal and go, go go! The problem was that with just the one pedal, it got a little rough on the right leg.
Nevertheless, after a few minor bloopers, Teri rode that pony to a rip-roaring orgasm, inspiring her husband to step out of the audience and into the Weimar World. Murrill Maglio, known to Jenna Jameson fans as Teri’s “suitcase pimp,” deftly proceeded to remove his pants, announcing to one and all that it was their 14th wedding anniversary, whereupon he made passionate vigorous love to this Weimar Girl, his wife. Whether Murrill and Teri were pumped by the idea of that amphetamine-laden Berliner Luft to which Berliners attributed their high sex drives, or the appreciative Speakeasy crowd, they rocked. Professor Mel was impressed. “Instead of just talking about sex,” he observed professorially, “you put it in an environment where we can be entertained by it, learn from it and be aroused.”
Next up on my Bed were two 21st Century Weimar Girls: Porn Starlets Monique deMoan, slinkily attired in a little black dress, heels and nothing else, and spunky, saucy Mika Tan, a U.S. Navy brat outfitted in a red velvet and white marabou Frederick’s of Hollywood version of a Christmas elf. A bit more coy than Teri about tackling The Machine, Mika and Monique engaged in a little Weimar-inspired femme-femme foreplay, known as “tribadism” in the Jazz Age, which consisted of Ms. Tan using her considerable oral skills (no doubt learned out at sea) to help Ms. deMoan live up to her name.
Not that we required any further stimulation at this point, but Professor Mel offered everyone a bit of a mysterious Chinese “Aphrodisiac” called Tzepao Sanpien which he claimed was a vital key to unlocking Weimar Love. He explained that the Hirschfeld Institute often tested the effects of aphrodisiacs like these on volunteer subjects. That was reason enough for us here at the Block Institute to test Tzepao Sanpien, even though it tasted like a chocolaty ball of dirt.
The box said the stuff contained “Herbal Extractives” including honey, angelica root, ginseng root, rehmannia root and cypress root. But the Professor insisted it had other special ingredients that could not legally be listed on the box. He paused pregnantly before listing these ingredients (if you’re disturbed by references to mutilated animal genitalia, skip this part): ground-up penises of deer, dog and antelope. I couldn’t bear to believe him, though that might have accounted for the taste.
The second aphrodisiac was a lot easier going down. Whereas the first was heavy on “male sexual energy” (what with all those penises), this one was more “female.” Naturally, it came in liquid form: Agavero Tequila Liqueur with damiana flower, a traditional aphrodisiac. If that didn’t work, it contained enough tequila (64 proof) to do the trick. Also known as the Wild Bride Drink, Mexican grandmothers give Agavero to their granddaughters on their wedding night. “The reason is to get them wet,” explained Professor Mel, trying not to wet himself as Monique opened her legs to reveal her own high level of lubrication in response to the Agavero. Or was it the antelope dick? Or was it Euro Porn Pioneer Lasse Braun’s expert manipulation of her large and chipper nipples? It’s all in Weimar Love: The Movie.
Whatever was motivating her Mexican liqueur, Chinese penis parts, Weimar imagery or playful exhibitionism Monique mounted The Machine (after, of course, cleaning and putting a fresh condom on it). Based on foot power, even an energy crisis couldn’t stop our Weimar Girls from using the Masturbation Machine “Do you feel in control of The Machine?” my Butler Max intoned. “Is it like a Hewlett-Packard? A Sony?”
Meanwhile, Mika Tan was locked in passionate embrace with Slave Gary (self-appointed Block Institute “wetness tester”) and the Duchess du Sade, formidable and kinky in her authentic SS cap and leathers. Thrashing, moaning and experiencing what she and the Duchess later described as a “big orgasmvery big,” Mika rolled her big brown eyes to the back of her very pretty head and threatened several times to “pass out” (another common pastime in Weimar Berlin). Somehow she managed to compose herself enough to mount The Machine, riding it into another delicious climax. “They destroyed these Machines during that Holocaust,” Max mused. “They destroyed a lot of knowledge during that Holocaust. They destroyed a lot of people during that Holocaust.”
Then Block Institute Curator Kim Mendoza got on (and off on) The Machine, with a suitably artistic flourish. Finally, it was my turn. “Go for it,” Max encouraged, “It’s like a German gun bombing Paris.” I’ve always loved sex toys, but this one was a little different, especially with Lasse and Axel Braun whipping me like crazed camp guards. I made them stop (something actual prisoners and detainees can’t do, of course), then pumped on and found my stride. “This machine is so happy,” declared Professor Mel, “I always told it, ‘One day you will be loved and used.’ And today is that day,” he proclaimed as I pedaled off into orgasmic history.
“The spirit of Hirschfeld was here tonight,” he summed up, “in that things went slightly over the top, which is a good thing.” Indeed, on this heady holiday eve, we could all feel the Spirit of that Big Old Semitic Father Christmas of Sexual Compassion, smiling, twirling his moustache, wearing a dress and stockings, beaming goodness, wisdom and horniness upon us. We danced, whipped, played, and Mika Tan performed a little netherlips cigar-smoking trick she’d picked up in a Filipino bar. Lots of people smoke after sex, but with this orifice? They must have done it in the racier cabarets of Weimar (after all, they did it in the White House), and surely Hirschfeld had a category for it (smoked salmon?). As his contemporary, Dr. Sigmund Freud (who despised Hirschfeld for being so liberal, commercial and open about his own homosexuality and transvestitism), famously said, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” But sometimes it’s a dildo.
But the real question is: Does smoking a cigar with any orifice lead to burning books and/or fellow humans? The conventional Puritan interpretation is yes, the decadence of Weimar led inexorably to the horror of the Nazis. Professor Mel vehemently refuted this idea, between aphrodisiacs, reminding us of the multiple forces, economic turns and political twists that led to Hitler’s ascendance. No, pleasure is not an automatic gateway to evil.
Yet pendulums do swing. And a dip into Weimar history reminds us ethical hedonists, evolutionist pagans, secular humanists and everyone else Pat Robertson and Bill O’Reilly blame for everything, that even if our libertine liberal ways don’t directly cause fascism, fascist forces nationalist, corporate or religious – are always with us, always ready to take advantage of our tolerant, democratic, Weimarian ways.
In between real orgasms and fake fainting spells, Professor Mel told us another smoky story: the mysterious 1933 Burning of the Reichstag was said to have been set by a Jewish Communist Terrorist, though later historians believe the Nazis themselves (probably Goering) set the fire. This being nine months before the 9/11 attacks on America’s two biggest buildings of phallic power, we didn’t fully understand how the Burning of the Reichstag, a large important edifice of German power, could have provided a symbolic excuse for then German Chancellor Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party to seize full control of the German government and suspend German civil liberties; German invasions of foreign lands, the devastations of World War II and the horror of the concentration camps followed.
How could the German people let it happen? We couldn’t fathom it that night of Weimar Love. Now that we’ve been through 9/11 and the bizarre, bloody *response” that is the invasion and occupation of Iraq, maybe we can better understand how a shocking assault on a big important building can set off a chain of events leading to loss of liberty at home and war abroad.
Of course, Bush is not Hitler (Adolf was a war veteran). Karl Rove is not Joseph Goebbels (Goebbels was a university graduate). The Bushies aren’t the Nazis (how could they be, with so many Jewish Neo-Cons?). Abu Ghraib isn’t Auschwitz (unless you’re one of the innocent detainees being tortured to death). Dick Cheney isn’t Hermann Goering, another war vet, who so famously observed in his last days at Nuremberg, “Why of course the people don’t want war. But it is the leaders who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
So why do Goering’s words seem to *fit* America’s Perma-War predicament like a Luftwaffe leather glove? Because that awful castrating assault on our great buildings (with all due respect to the innocent people inside of them), created an opportunity for a peculiarly American gang of phony saviors to take us into another Dark Age, where Chickenhawk-Devised Perma-War, Big Lies, massive bombings, murder, torture, detentions and disappearances are more and more commonplace, where government officials warn citizens to “watch what you say,” where the chilling effect of such policies may have an impact on the arts, the media, education, general culture and our erotic world for years to come.
The 9/11 Attacks were a lot worse than the Burning of the Reichstag (which didn’t kill anyone and didn’t even destroy the Reichstag), and Perma-War America isn’t nearly as bad as Nazi Germany (unless you happen to be one of those innocents being killed in the Terror War). Nor are we Rome before the Fall. Nor are we the British in Iraq in the 1920s (not quite). But if we don’t learn our lessons from history, we are indeed “doomed…” I don’t know about you, but I find that history always goes down easier with a little erotica. Like Emma Goldman, I don’t want a revolution I can’t dance to.
The lesson of Weimar Love is to dance, etc., but be vigilant (at least until you pass out), especially to irrational calls to patriotism, prejudice or God. The evidence that 9/11 was committed by extremely violent religious fanatics very much like our own extremely violent religious fanatics, but taking orders from a slightly different God, didn’t and doesn’t stop our leaders from blaming and punishing the atheists, abortionists, hedonists, Darwinists, socialists, gays, uppity women, liberals, professors, pornographers, peaceniks and other Weimar-types among us.
On the other hand, you are free to choose from several hundred new, technologically advanced kinds of Female Self-Gratifier (though it’s debatable as to who’s being most gratified by some of these things) and have them delivered to your home in a plain brown box with easy-to-assemble instructions. Even Amazon carries vibrators now. World sexual cyber-culture picks up where Weimar Berlin left off. And yet, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, after giving the green light to torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib is now busy busting pornographers who make movies with and for consenting adults.
How easily it all goes up in smoke. Don’t let 9/11 become another Reichstag. And don’t turn the other butt cheek when the fundie fascist liars screw your sexual freedom. Because your freedom of speech is next, your religious freedom is next, your freedom of movement is next, and your life is next.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, host of The Dr. SUSAN BLOCK Show and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her main website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
Send all comments, love letters, hate mail, questions, confessions, endorsements, enticements and testimonials to her at firstname.lastname@example.org