Birds do it. Bees do it. Only humans take workshops
to see a perfect male body?" Stan Dale asks the sixty-odd
participants in his
"Sex, Love, and Intimacy" workshop. Sixty
heads scan the room. An equal number of men and women -- most
of them naked or nearly
so -- sit, lie, or sprawl on the carpeted floor of a cozy
wood-paneled resort lodge in
northern California, wondering which specimen of virile
pulchritude the teacher will anoint. Could he be thinking of
the curly-haired surfer from Santa Cruz? The long-haired,
multiply-tattooed, blissed-out hippie
it is!" Dale struggles out of his seat and stands in
front of the room with
his arms outstretched. He does a slow spin so everyone can
take a good look at his
pale, round, 63-year-old body. His beard is gray, and so is
what's left of his hair. He has
watery blue eyes behind thick bifocals. His teeny
weenie practically disappears underneath the flabby belly that
hangs down from his hips.
Watts, Dale's co-teacher for the weekend workshop, beams up at
him from the next chair.
Big bright eyes, big smile, big gleaming teeth -- she reminds
me of some Disney cartoon animal, maybe a goldfish. She's got
little hands and little
feet, and in height she's tiny, not more than 5-foot-3. But
her breasts are huge, her thighs
are immense, her buttocks positively elephantine.
I'll admit it. At the beginning of the workshop, I take one
look at these two, and
here's what goes on in my mind: "Colonel Sanders and Miss
Piggy are going to teach me
about sex, love, and intimacy? I don't think so."
at the end of the weekend, I walk away convinced that she's
The Goddess and he is
course, by then I've had a few adventures of my own. I've
inspected four different
vaginas. I've definitively established where the clitoris is
located -- for a 38-year-old
homo, better late than never. I've spent the night
with a married couple. And I've made friends with a 350-pound
woman in a wheelchair.
bad for a weekend's work, n'est-ce pas?
do it. Bees do it. Only humans take workshops to find out if
they're doing it right.
That's at least partly why 30,000 people have taken some
version of Stan Dale's
"Sex, Love, and Intimacy" workshop since he first
started doing it in 1968. Back
then, Dale was a Chicago DJ ("Stan the All Night
Record Man") and talk-radio personality dabbling in
Chalk talks in hotel conference rooms led to weekends in
private homes where the
clothes could come off. But the workshop really took root when
Dale moved to California, Land
of the Hot Tub, with his wife Helen and their four
sons in 1974. For the last 14 years, Dale's Human Awareness
Institute has presented
its workshops at Harbin Hot Springs, a 1100-acre
two and a half hours north of San Francisco. This year the
staff of HAI --
pronounced "Hai," like the Japanese word for yes and
the Hebrew word for life
-- will put on 27 workshops at Harbin and another 20 or so in
Los Angeles, Michigan,
New England, Australia, and Japan.
workshop draws an audience almost entirely through word-of-
mouth, which is
how I learned about it. Over a long catching-up-on- our-lives
dinner in San Francisco,
I regaled my hard-boiled writer friend Sandra with tales of
hanging out with Robert Bly and
the Radical Faeries, my yoga meditation retreats
and my all-male trainings in tantric sex. She surprised me by
confessing her own "shvindoo"
escapades, including this nude workshop for men and
women exploring the overlap between sex and spirituality. My
friend Chuck, a flight
attendant and former Mormon missionary, confirmed the
spiritual bent of the
Stan Dale workshop and recommended it highly, though being a
diehard cocksucker like
myself, he added, "After about six hours, I wanted the
women to put their
clothes back on."
through men's gatherings and communing with seekers for the
last few years, I've noticed the
same questions popping up again and again: what
does it mean to be a man? how do I find purpose in my life?
how can I make peace with
my spiritual yearnings if organized religion makes me want to
hurl? I've also noticed that
sooner or later all these roads lead to sex. Sex as
a source of power, of pleasure, of divine mystery. Yet in the
Wonderful World of
Workshops -- that all-purpose paradise for baby boomers who
have considered suicide
when cable TV was not enough -- sex is still the last taboo.
hands-on sex, that is. Of course, you can talk about relationships
'til you're blue in the balls. You can giggle at Dr. Ruth. You
can get into massage and all
kinds of bodywork -- O Feldenkrais, yes! Qi Gong, right
this way. That stuff is as acceptable and ubiquitous as
healing the inner child
and swimming with dolphins. All major credit cards accepted.
But sex work is off the
map, just past where it says "Here be dragons." Why?
You can talk circuitously
about centuries of Judeo-Christian puritanism and capitalist
society's need to control citizens through sex-negative
conditioning, or you can cut to
the chase: AIDS.
few brave pioneers have refused to accept AIDS and erotophobia
obstacles and hung out shingles as sex educators. Betty Dodson
has been teaching women the fine
art of pleasuring themselves for a couple of decades
now. Former pornstar Annie Sprinkle has recently joined the
field with her
"Sluts and Goddesses Workshop." Ex-Jesuit Joseph
Kramer founded the Body Electric
School in Oakland, which offers classes to men in erotic
massage and sexual
healing techniques. But those classes are all segregated by
sex. What intrigued me
most about this Stan Dale person was that, outside of the
community, his were the first ongoing sex workshops I'd come
across that were coed.
I spoke to Dale on the phone, he was quick to reassure me that
the workshop was
"not an orgy." First disappointment. Slap horns on
me and call me satyr, but
as a veteran of the New York gay safe-sex underground and
partner in a 14-year
non-monogamous relationship, I'm always down for getting naked
and sweaty in groups. Willing to
expand my skills, too. Something Sandra told me
suggested this workshop might be an ideal opportunity for a
game fag to acquire some
expertise in eating pussy. Second disappointment. "No
tongues, no lube, no
penetration" would be one of the weekend's unspoken
I'd never read anything about Dale or the Human Awareness
Institute, it didn't surprise me
to find him hungry for publicity. After extracting
a promise not to reveal names of participants or specific
exercises, he said, "I
trust that you'll write favorably about the workshop."
I said, "my interest is in writing honestly about
write honestly about it, I'm sure you'll write
favorably," he said.
This man is dangerously naive, I
OK" reads the license plate of the white Subaru that pulls up
to the conference center
in front of me on Friday afternoon. Two smiling roly-poly
people get out. They remind me
of my Midwestern aunts and uncles. I correctly intuit
that this must be Dale and his wife Helen.
you a hugger?" are his first words to me. Like I'm going
to say no, right? He gets
a perfunctory I'm-friendly-but-I-don't-know-you squeeze from
me. Helen takes my money and
assigns me a numbered plastic coffee mug for the weekend.
I have a couple of hours to kill, so I tour Harbin Hot
Springs, soaking up the
last few rays before the sun disappears over the hill and
thinking very spiritual thoughts
about the callipygian gentlemen climbing in and
out of the hot tubs. I pass the spa's general store, where a
couple of young Deadheads
listen to reggae tapes while selling snacks and New Age books;
on the bulletin board are posted
Polaroids of new residents with names like Cat,
Barnacle, and Dugbunny.
I get back to the workshop site, the first order of business
is dinner, which is like
a college mixer. What's your name where ya from howdja hear
about the workshop. It's an attractive group, regular folks in
their thirties, a few men
in their 50s or 60s, one woman with salt-and-pepper hair
and the kind face of an ex-nun.
One mainland Chinese, one Native American, no Negroes.
The $300 fee (for two days and two nights) undoubtedly plays
some part in explaining
who's here. Every second person seems to be named Susan or
chat with shy Jenny, whom I assume to be a dyke only because
she looks like an even
prettier k.d. lang, and a vivacious, super-Californian couple,
kinky-haired blond Miranda and
swarthy Sam, who teach workshops on racism to kids
in the East Bay. Tatiana, a tall, tan woman with feathers
braided into her hair,
turns out to have taken all six levels of the "Sex, Love,
workshop and keeps coming back for more. Only two other queers
I can spot, white-haired
Jay and his baby-faced Israeli lover Rennie. An engaging
young woman named Joanne who can
rival Al Gore for smart talk about sustainable
communities turns out to be an elected official in a chic
north-coast town who, for political reasons, has to keep quiet
about going to pagan ceremonies
and nude workshops.
dinner the two facilitators introduce themselves. Stan gives a
precis of his radio career and
the history of the workshop. Anne started out as
a participant in the workshop nine years ago. But in addition
to teacher training, she
has a prestigious background of her own; her grandmother was
the first American woman
to be ordained a Zen priest, and her father was the philosopher
Alan Watts, whose writings brought Zen Buddhism to a wide
American audience. That
must be why she waves her little hands and says "Yay!"
Stan and Anne lay out the ground rules for the weekend. Trust.
Risk. Keep your sense of humor.
Be present. Include yourself; don't isolate. Park
your "comfort zone" at the door. Use the workshop as
a lab to try on new behavior.
Ask for 100% of what you want 100% of the time; be willing to
hear no; negotiate for a
win-win solution. Most of all, Anne emphasizes, "This
workshop is about choice."
Don't do anything you don't want to do.
here," Stan advises, "to be revered."
further ado, we form a big circle and plunge into the first
exercise of the workshop, making
maximum use of our primary sex organs.
talking, of course, about our eyes. Once
we're standing so we can see everybody else in the room, the
selection process inevitably
kicks in: who is The One for me? And all the judgments
begin. Ugh, he/she's way too fat. Bag that face. She/he's
never going to look at
me, so don't even bother looking that direction. Some enchanted
form two circles facing each other. We put one hand over our
hearts, then open it to
our partner palm up. Clasp hands, and kiss the other person's
hand, making eye contact -- then
step to the left and begin again with a new partner.
So simple. So courtly. So corny. The most rigid rule-followers
stand at attention, hand
over heart, like they're about to say the pledge of allegiance.
yet -- diving into this sea of eyes is like slipping into
Something ancient in there reflects something ancient in you.
You get a glimpse of
stuff that doesn't necessarily show on the outside. Animal
grace. Mountain wildness. Sheer
terror. Mischievousness. Each pair a little different.
"The eyes are the landing strip of the heart," Stan
coaches. I keep thinking
of that dreamy Laurie Anderson song where she keeps repeating,
"Your eyes...it's a
day's work just looking into them." Is this sex?
not too much of an exaggeration to say that this exercise is
the cornerstone of the
workshop. Direct eye contact, especially with strangers, is
always loaded. You look, they
look, you both look away quickly. Even when there's
mutual attraction, it's sometimes hard to tell lust from
hostility. Permission to
look in someone else's eyes, what the Sufis call "the
glance of love," is
definitely the beginning if not of sex then certainly of
intimacy, which Stan Dale
translates as "Into-me-you-see." All weekend long we
do exercises in groups of
two, three, four, and six with different levels of closeness
and touching, but all of them start out from and return to the
eyes, 'til you think
you're going to get dizzy and fall down.
tells a story about a truckdriver who delivers a huge block of
marble to a sculptor. A week
later he returns to find a magnificent stone angel
in its place. "How did you do that?" asks the
truckdriver. "Easy," says the
sculptor. "All I had to do was brush away the bits and
pieces that weren't the
we move around the circle, Stan urges, "Look for the
angel behind these
eyes." He defines angel as "a messenger of
love" or "a servant of God." A
little trendy, this angel talk, but it doesn't bother me too
much. I'm not that
cynical or I wouldn't be here, would I? But when he strays
farther into New Age
bibble-babble and starts talking about "the Star
Child" in each of us, even
my gag reflex kicks in.
the first night's eye-gazing gives us a sneak preview of the
angels in our midst, the
next day when we get naked the room really fills up with
spirits -- angels and demons
both. At the first invitation to strip down, everybody
does except for one woman who bursts into tears and won't drop
a stitch. Cool, babe.
There's plenty of card-carrying nudists and exhibitionists
to make up for the modest. I
don't mind baring my hairy butt. I notice, though,
that by the end of the workshop more and more people have
retrieved some shred of
cover-up, most but not all of them women.
atmosphere is innocent and fun. Still, judgments run riot.
Only this time the
critical eye looks inward. If someone's looks makes it hard
for you to relate to
them, chances are you've got issues about your own body. At
this workshop all the
standard forms of self-loathing rear their ugly heads. Danny,
a handsome, bearded folksinger
who everyone can see has already fallen madly in
love with a quiet waif named Kwan-Chi, stands up and confesses
that he's always felt
like his dick was too small. Karen, the quintessential
fat-girl-with-a- nice-face, weeps at her inability to look at
herself in the mirror below
the neck. Before you can say "Get over it,
girlfriend!" the facilitators thrust
upon her a hand mirror and have her practice saying "I
love my belly! I love my
thighs!" in front of the whole room.
hatred -- it's the pink elephant in the corner that you're not
supposed to notice. As if that
very metaphor has occurred to him, Stan Dale suddenly
gets up and walks to the back of the room where Sue-Ellen
sits. This enormous woman
with long brown hair, blue eyes, and a sweet smile has been
parked in her wheelchair,
wearing a loose blue dress, all day long without saying
at this woman," he says to the assembly. "This
person is in this body
for a reason. She may not know that reason. You may not
either. But I want you to
come close. Look at her. Touch her."
room moves in waves to surround Sue-Ellen, sitting or kneeling
at her feet, standing
behind her, standing in front. There's an awkward sense of
circus sideshow here -- here we
are, staring at the freak. This is not exactly who
you expect to meet at a "Sex, Love, and Intimacy"
workshop. If you're shopping
for a mate or a model of successful sexuality, this is
probably the funhouse
mirror opposite of what you think you're looking for. At the
same time, this feels
like a scene out of some cartoon fable where all the members
of the animal kingdom --
squirrels, rabbits, foxes, deer, owls -- come out of the
woods to gather in worship around The Mother of Us All.
starts bawling. Her sobs grow raw and rattle the room. Then
they subside. "I've never
felt more loved in my life," she says. "And I've
never felt more wounded."
"How can we give you what
you want?" Stan asks.
is it for now," she says. She composes herself and says,
"I've had a lot of
near-death experiences, and I know that the only thing that
matters is what's inside,
under the surface. And I have a lot of rage at the media for
not even suggesting that you
look below the surface."
like to do something," Stan says, "that I do with all
gets down on his hands and knees and kisses her feet. That's
when I realize that only a teacher who looks like Stan Dale
could perform this kind
Dale was born in the Bronx and grew up fat and friendless on
23rd Street in Manhattan.
At 16 he played Louis Braille in a radio drama and got hooked.
By the time he was 21, he had
regular gigs as announcer for some of the top-rated series on
the air: The Lone Ranger, The Green Hornet, Sgt. Preston of
the Yukon. In the course of his
19-year career as a disk jockey in Chicago, by his
account he launched the phenomenon of talk radio when, in
1968, he started putting
callers on the air during his midnight-to-5 shift. Along the
way he earned degrees in
psychology and sociology from Roosevelt University. But none
of his book-learning or
professional back-chat contributed nearly as much to his
training as a sexologist as his apprenticeship in a geisha
a 27-year-old PFC stationed in Japan during the Korean War,
Dale spent his free time
exploring the local sex scene like any red-blooded American
male away from home. "There were places in Tokyo that
were called Sex Drugstores.
They were the sexologists of their time, generally older men
and some women," he
recalls one afternoon after the workshop when I visit him at
home in suburban San Carlos.
"I thought I knew everything about sex. I just went
in out of curiosity. You go in and sit down, they give you a
cup of tea and talk to
you. If you have any problems, you talk about them, and they
have these wonderful
erotic toys to play with it -- dildos and vibrators and
potions and aphrodisiacs. I'd
never heard of these things. So I learned a lot.
where I learned more than I dreamed I could know about female
reproduction, male reproduction,
and pleasure. I didn't know about clitorises. This
was the '50s, after all."
he and his Army buddies patronized an establishment called
Miyoshi's, "a beautiful
geisha house, not for real geishas but prostitutes, who
by the way had the right to say yes or no. When I went there
with my major, he wanted
this woman to give head. And she screamed and hollered. He
forced her: 'Suck my cock, you
bitch!' Well, she virtually bit it off. She threw
him out of that place and caused a furor. I'm in the next
room, and he says, 'Dale,
let's get the fuck out of here.' I was with this wonderful
woman who was gentle and
kind, so I said, 'Sorry, sir, I'll see you tomorrow.'"
speaking voice has that ingratiating radio-announcer's
resonance, and his
personality oozes the milk of human kindness, so it does my
heart good to hear him
talk dirty once in a while. He's not a vulgar man in the
slightest, but I wouldn't
mistake him for a wimp, either. He drops enough hints
from his background ("teenage street gang...Mafia
to make it clear that he plays sweetness-and-light by choice.
his Army job entailed news reporting for the Armed Forces
Radio network, Dale got
invited to the wrap party for an American film called Joe
Butterfly shot on location in a
first-class geisha house called Hakunkaku. He spent
three hours in intense conversation with an old Japanese man
who turned out to be the
proprietor and who invited the young G.I. to come live in the
house. He stayed seven months
and left a changed man.
was a marvelous turnaround from what I was learning at the Sex
Drugstore and my experience as a
27-year-old American male, knowing it all, fucking
like everybody else fucks," Dale says. "A true
geisha has no sex. You'd
have an audience with them. They were like queens, and you
were there to be treated
like kings, to be revered. They did it with the realm of the
senses. The smells. The colors.
The geisha would perform, would sing, would pour
tea for you, a tea ceremony that would last maybe 45 minutes.
She would listen to your
conversation. Might not understand your language but was
trained from the age of 5 to
understand the intonations.
geishas would say, 'Look. Look. What do you see?' They'd make
for what seemed like hours. Suddenly I'd see something, and
do you see?' I guess my eyes were darting all over the place
American and we're always in a hurry. This was about slowing
me this stone just to be with for hours, to get its pure
I thought it was crazy. But as you sit there and meditate with
something magical happens. Everything comes alive because
You're blocking out everything else. I learned to have a
more fun and more body orgasms in the realm of the
returned to Chicago burning to open a geisha house but
to make it from." It took him ten years to build enough
his first sex workshop. Even that was a two-day conference on
held in a hotel function room, with a mini-lecture on
would laugh. I'd pull out the blackboard and draw stick
A goes into Vagina B. This is where the clitoris is.'"
For a while, the
Dale Sex Workshop was a spinoff of the Sex Drugstore in Tokyo:
Your Sex Toys. "The next step was showing movies from the
Advanced Study of Sexuality. People would talk about their sex
answer questions. The next one after that was in a private
house, where I
the balls to say, 'It would be best if we could do this in the
the time Dale was a long-haired hippie. He'd covered the 1968
convention in Chicago and lost his radio job for describing it
police riot." He knew firsthand how fiercely the battle
lines were drawn
the mainstream and the counterculture, so naturally he had
about the legal ramifications of a butt-naked sex workshop.
But he was
The closest he got to trouble was lecturing to 250 Parents
"I said to them, 'If you're hung up on the word fuck,
fucking up your fucking.' It was supposed to get a laugh. This
out of her chair and says, 'If there was a man in the
you in the mouth and throw you out for using language like
that in front
us ladies.' And six or seven other women stood up to say,
'Yeah, I didn't
here to hear that kind of filth.' From the back of the room,
'Shut up, ya bitch. Let him talk.' Pretty soon they're shoving
of the way, and they're ready to come to blows. I go, 'Whoa!
What have I
what Dale created was his own version of sex education for
Vibrators 101. Intro to the Kama Sutra. Advanced Sensuality.
of the breast. Can you say "fellatio"? When Dale
moved to California
started teaching in resort centers where people could stay
moved away from the stiff, clinical, oh-so-adult tone and took
playful elements of summer camp, albeit with explicit lessons
safe sex. Over the years it has continue to evolve -- or
By now it's practically a sex kindergarten.
partly the morning warmups ("Do the hokey-pokey!"),
attitude of the interns (they walk around during breaks
saying "Five minutes to workshop!"), and partly the
of the teachers that makes us all feel a little bit like
When the room gets chatty during an exercise, Stan or Anne
the shush, please," which signals everyone to go "Sssshhh"
In other words, "Pass the shush" is a kinder,
gentler New Age way of
"Shut the fuck up."
this kid stuff gets a little icky for my taste. What hath John
wrought? I guess that's my Punishing Parent talking, though.
speaks up and says, "Can you give me a tiny little break
here? Do you
to be so serious all the time? Don't you ever get tired of
so knowing and ironic? I don't even know what those words mean
they bore me to tears. Can't we just play?" Maybe he's
right. Maybe I'm
a jaded New Yorker, overly accustomed to the Robin Byrd show
aspiring Jeff Strykers get their buttholes shaved on cable TV.
just anxious because I don't know the same nursery rhymes as
Okay, little guy, this one's for you: "Do your boobs hang
low, do they
to and fro?/Can you tie 'em in a knot, can you tie 'em in a
throw 'em over your shoulder like a continental soldier?/Do
workshop has evolved in other ways, too. "What we did was
Dale explains. "But early on it was more sexually
with instructing people on what could pleasure them. As I
I learned that sex has very little to do with genitals. It
more sensual. I think what became apparent to me is that true
sex is some
of vehicle to the spirit. There was a spiritual evolution
the sexual revolution. People were looking for something more.
was so opposed to the concept of God," he admits,
his first wife, a born-again Christian fanatic. "Even
saying the word God,
choked. So the concept of anything spiritual eluded me. Then I
in the workshop, looking in each other's eyes and stroking the
tears would come. What was that? The more I observed, the more
that we human beings are more than our bodies. We are energy.
messengers of love. How do we know? The clinical mind looking
can't find it under a microscope. It's like the three blind
men at the
end of an elephant trying to figure it out. But you can find
That's why I thank the heavens for the geishas. I was locked
typical 27-year-old soldier, and they opened up my feelings
through the workshop, and I am in pain. I came here as a
watch and take notes. I came here as a sex expert, a sacred
slut, an erotic
to see how the other half lives. Now all these feelings are
and I don't want to deal with them.
like to think of myself as sexually free, frisky,
of a gay social context, I'm surprised at how locked up I
feel. One of
most impressive teachings Dale's workshop offers has to do
homophobia. You do all these touchy-feely exercises with the
then you do them with the same gender. The facilitators make
"We're not here to change anybody's orientation."
What they're after is
awareness; for men to understand women's experience, for
should know what it feels like to touch whiskers and muscles.
advocates abolishing "gay" and "straight"
in favor of "naturosexual,"
naturally sexual. "I'm your actual naturosexual," he
confides to me during
interview. "I love sucking cock as well as I love sucking
pussy. To me
both just delicious."
my head, I'm going, "This'll be great for those straight
guys to get
their hang-ups." But here I am sitting face-to-face with
Southerner named Jess, and I can't believe how uptight I am
him. I feel like the whole time he's sending out signals:
cock don't touch my cock don't touch my cock. Everybody here
and that just raises the stakes. A gay man touching a straight
with this fear: "He's not going to like this, and he'll
punch me out." A
man touching a gay man lives with this fear: "I'm going
to like this,
then I'll be a fag and have to leave with rings through my
realize that I've built picket fences marked "Don't
Touch" around all
men in the room -- partly because I'm a horny bastard, I do
want to dive
their dicks, and I'm ashamed of my capacity for
compulsiveness. I also
that I've drawn similar "Hands Off" signs around the
women. I'm totally
that women are physically invaded by guys all the time, and I
add one iota to that legacy. So here I sit all by myself,
pretending to be
while inside I'm screaming for contact. Why does this feel so
Some family drama is replaying itself. When did my parents
my face with affection? When did I touch theirs? When I review
of touch in our household, 99% of it is punishment. No wonder
and locked-up at the same time.
guess my angel consults with the other angels in the room,
Miranda and Sam invite me to share their sleeping bag. We
my face buried in her golden curls, his hairy hand on my hip.
we fool around. His fist surrounds my hard cock while she
rod. Three tongues meet. The teachers have recommended that we
from sex during the workshop. We get a secret thrill at
Is this sex? For me it's a sweet fantasy of cuddling with sexy
undemanding mommy. It's very healing.
a function of how psychologically safe the workshop is that
deep-rooted feelings float to the surface. I'm hardly the only
to. Clearly, many women have some history of abuse and come to
hoping to work through their mistrust of men. One woman
amount of animal rage at the doctors who performed a
invasive surgical tests, telling her all the while, "This
A very young, tall and thin redhead named Sylvia tells about
her when she was 4. Just the memory makes her tremble and
Dale gets out of his chair and stands in front of her.
a father," he says, "I'd like to apologize for what
your father did
statement sends powerful shock waves through the room.
extremely healing for women to hear a man say such a thing.
When does it ever happen?
engages Sylvia in a therapeutic dialogue and encourages her to
to Stan as if he were her father. This unleashes a torrent of
hate you!" she screams. "You've ruined me forever! I
hope you rot in hell!
hated you for going off on your pot trips and not paying
attention to me!"
moved by this tableau and impressed at Stan's ability to
wrath. It takes a very clear channel to let that poison go
without stinging. But then he's been doing this for many years
the target for his share of personal abuse, as I learn over
day with him and his wife Janet.
his wife Helen. His wife Janet. Did I mention he has two
is a real character. Are you keeping track? Lone Ranger, star
pioneer, American male geisha, sexologist, man-with-two-wives
where are you?
it's a sweet story. Yes, Helen has been his wife, his partner,
mother of his children for 35 years. Then 17 years ago he met
workshop. Stan and Janet fell in love. Stan didn't stop loving
loved Janet, too. So rather than play out the familiar scene
they all lived together. Then ten years ago, as
gift of love, Helen surrendered her marriage license; a legal
possible for Janet to have an official status other than
spiritually they consider it a three-way marriage.
a year or so they did go on all the talk shows, proud of their
love. But the hosts asked sleazy questions and the audiences
them sinners. Worst of all, workshop enrollment took a dive.
idea that "Sex, Love, and Intimacy" was a front for
for open marriage and free love. So they bowed out of the
circuit. But Dale still introduces his two wives at every
proof in favor of asking for 100% of what you want 100% of the
bowtie pasta and salad nicoise at a swanky hotel on Twin
Drive, Stan and Janet agree that their workshop would be more
successful without the nudity. And while at the beginning
titillated by a workshop with "sex" in the title,
now more people are
to be turned off. Times are more prudish. AIDS is a big
factor, and so
the hyper-awareness about incest and abuse. It's easy to blame
and body-hatred of fundamentalist Christians. The media is
scapegoat for overwhelming us with soft-core porn to sell us
making us feel like shit unless we look like Cindy Crawford or
Much harder, more uncomfortable to talk about is the abuse,
and self-violation that occurred over the last generation in
of sexual freedom.
the beginning, the workshop attracted hippies, people willing
the limits," Dale says. "People in their 20s and 30s
are much more
now by the fallout from the sexual revolution. In the '60s and
talked a big game, but there was no sexual freedom. People
getting diseases, breaking up marriages. All the horror
on the floor, women lying there and letting every guy just
'em in the name of free sex. The heroin addiction -- 'Come on
Have some coke.' At almost every workshop we get people who've
the 'debauchery' they went through in the name of being
have permission to talk about it except in a protected
workshop ends the same way it began -- a double circle,
and eyes with a kiss. Into-me-you-see. Then there's dinner.
dark. Most people have a long drive back to the city. Still,
goes on. This is community building in the '90s.
can't resist taking one last soak in the hot tub. We don't
the Upper West Side. Poolside is deserted except for a
wheelchair. I join
in the almost-scalding water.
feel awkward at first, avoiding the question "How'd you
get so fat?" I
the answer is some out-of-control eating problem or glandular
left to the imagination. Fat people know what you're thinking,
doesn't hesitate to blurt out her story. Yes, she was always a
but then there was the car accident, the year in the hospital,
failure, the misprescribed drugs -- a medical nightmare that
to 450 pounds. At 350 now, she's practically svelte. She has a
who likes her the way she is. She lives in the country with
has made her level-headed.
than being pathetically grateful for the attention she got
she has her own critique of the workshop. The teachers'
betrays the weak side of Stan's background as smooth-talking
Their eagerness for instant transformations, she points out,
process of healing to a hand mirror and an affirmation. But
she got what
came for, a step out of isolation toward human contact.
silhouette on the patio joins us in the pool. It's my Southern
For him the workshop's been a roller-coaster. He's pooped but
brings up the awkwardness of our touching. It wasn't
(Not just homophobia, I think.) His mother once said something
him feel his cock was dirty, so for someone to touch it
brought up buried
he's ready now to discard. His confession surprises me, clears
of the puzzle, and knocks down some of that
three of us compare notes about the weekend. After a while we
Sharing the pool is enough. The night seems bright. We look
up. It's a
moon. Our eyes meet it. Is this sex?
published in Steam Magazine, 1994
For more information on the Human Awareness Institute and its
workshop, see here.