19 Weekly positions on sex

From the very beginning, the Weekly covered sex and sexual politics intensively, and the stories we wrote on this topic over the years are some of the most interesting to look at. On many other subjects—politics, growth, the environment—the city has been remarkably constant through time, with some of the same people, issues, and attitudes appearing again and again. Not so with sex, which supposedly hasn't evolved since Adam and Eve. To reread these pieces is to see how much has changed—thankfully, in most cases. Nobody talks about "liberated marriages" any more, men for the most part aren't bewildered by the prospect of a female boss, and these days we could never get away with talking about our "intrepid girl reporter." Not even if we spelled it grrrl.

"UNCOUPLING" MEN. "We're doing what we can to help women come through uncoupling with a minimum of financial and emotional damage, and we think it would make our job much easier if the men they're uncoupling from had the same kind of resources." That was the sentiment that led to the founding of a Men's Resource Center, described in our very first issue. Thus were these men introduced to the world of consciousness-raising that probably had emboldened many of their exes to leave them in the first place.

SEX AND THE SINGLE PARENT. "Is there sex after divorce?" asked a 1976 cover story by Jane Adams, who subsequently wrote a book on the topic. The answer: Yes, but it's weird for the kids. "I just don't like it when my mom and her boyfriend are always hanging on to each other," said one teen quoted. Her sister was more bitter about their mother's boyfriends: "Why can't she go somewhere else with them?"

LIBERATED MARRIAGES. Jane Adams delved into this quintessentially '70s phenomenon with gusto in our founding year. Among the couples we met were Mike and Deborah, who after years of mutual adultery entered into a "conjoint marriage" with Burt and Marguerite. The two couples, and their five kids between them, all moved in together, which didn't work out because Burt let everyone down by "holding back," i.e., preferring one-to-one sex over group sex.

SEXISM SEATTLE STYLE. Something weird was going on in 1976, or so it seemed to us then. Women were quitting their jobs to have second and third children, even though they were "already" in their early- to mid-30s, way past the age when they had their first. That's how we figured out that women were getting frustrated by hitting the glass ceiling and were choosing baby-making as a way out of a no-win race.

WHAT TO DO WITH A LIBERATED WOMAN? It seemed a tricky question in 1978—especially if, "ohmygawd," you got one of these specimens for a boss. "Female bosses are a new experience to a lot of people, but that doesn't make them just-cause for quitting," the Weekly instructed (only semi-tongue- in-cheek). "Instead, listen to the words she's saying." Such was the cutting edge in the late '70s.

DISPLACED HOMEMAKERS. Remember them? They were the women who never expected to work, but suddenly found themselves needing or wanting to. As we reported in 1978, Bellevue Community College was the third academic institution in the nation, and the first in the Northwest, to open a Center for Displaced Homemakers. And the job training it offered was free of charge.

POSING FOR PLAYBOY. Inspired by Gloria Steinem, "our intrepid girl reporter" donned a bikini for a Playboy photographer traveling through town in 1978. After fessing up and getting a real interview with the man, she came away with a kinder view of the business than Steinem. Hey, at least it was a way for women to make some quick money.

FEMINISM DESTROYING FEMINISM? He wasn't the first and God knows he wasn't the last, but in 1978 author Tom Robbins accused feminists of Puritanism and a lack of humor in his own special way. As he saw it, politics had gotten in the way of feminism's real accomplishment: "the recognition in our time of the Goddess, the Great Mother."

SEATTLE'S EXPERTS ON COUPLEDOM. University of Washington sociologists Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein sparked a media sensation with their 1983 book American Couples. The duo reported that not much had changed (and at the time it seemed like it never would): Men still held the balance of power in marriages, were more likely to initiate sex than women, and treated adultery more lightly.

THE FEMINIST CASE FOR PORN. We made one in 1985. "The porn-busters' party line too often reads reality in black and white. Real people—and their sexuality—come in all shades and hues," wrote Kathleen Murphy. Case in point, some women use and enjoy pornography.

THE NEW MANLINESS. In 1986, the Weekly's Fred Moody explored the male identity crisis brought on by feminism. The world hated traditional maleness, and yet it loved it too. How was a man to behave? Clumsily, according to Moody. "His attempts at opening himself to other men, or to the woman he loves, often come across as the psychological equivalent of a woman trying to throw a baseball," he wrote. Men, by now, were supposed to love women as social, intellectual, and economic equals, but Moody said, "it has been obvious to everyone for years that nothing like that ever happened, or likely ever will."

GAY RIGHTS IN PERIL. The city's annual gay rights parade offers a false sense of security for gays, we asserted in 1986. In fact, precious little legal protection existed. What's more, the state Republican party was at the time pushing a ban on hiring gays at public institutions, and opposed any laws prohibiting discrimination against gays.

ENCOUNTERS WITH BISEXUALITY: "We know less about bisexuals than about almost any other group living in America," began a 1987 cover story. Yet, there are more bisexuals than gays. The Weekly set out to interview a cross section of them in Seattle. Said one: "I think of myself as a radio that receives a wider range of programs than ordinary radios can."

WOMEN'S STUDIES SHOWDOWN. All hell broke loose in 1988, when the macho son of hippie parents enrolled in a women's studies class at the University of Washington. After asking some tough questions, he was banned from the class, which raised a few more questions about the nature of the women's studies department.

THE DATE RAPE CONTROVERSY. We stirred it up plenty with a 1992 cover story by Kathryn Robinson arguing that, at least sometimes, women share in the responsibility for the hazy phenomenon known as date rape. Robinson wrote: "It is not at all simple for a feminist to determine where freedom begins and responsibility ends, when a woman exercises her twin rights to grope and fondle with her date in his car—then cry rape."

RIOT GRRRLS. They co-opted the values and rhetoric of punk and put a grrrlish face on them. As we reported in 1992, the Riot Grrrl manifesto declared: "We seek to create revolution in our own lives every day by envisioning and creating alternatives to the bullshit Christian capitalist way of doing things."

GAY PRIDE COMES OF AGE: "Thirty years of agitation have radically altered the terms of public discourse and helped millions of people to think better of themselves, but it hasn't changed the basic condition under which we live," wrote Roger Downey in 1999. So what's next for the movement?

SWINGING IN THE SUBURBS. In 1999, Weekly sex columnist Cherry Wong put on a clingy sweater and headed out for a suburban sex club. She was surprised by what she saw. "The swingers I met were married, they had jobs, they had kids. Yet they had this secret lifestyle—played out in a suburban resort close to the Alderwood Mall."

THE NEW SINGLES. They're rich, busy, and wired. But that doesn't mean they can get a date. We dived into the singles scene in the year of the new millennium, and found a maximum of desire but a minimum of opportunity. "These days the Scene—if one can call it that—is centered around the office." Good luck.

 
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