Feast and Famine: The 1970s to the 1980s

By Will Seagers

 

As I have pointed out in prior blogs, gay life was really unbelievable in the 1970s. This was particularly so in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and many others.

Bath houses and bars with their notorious "back rooms" were all the rage across the country. A sexual society had developed over that decade. I know for myself as a steward for a major airline, any "port of call" would have a Club Baths there and that would be pretty much a guaranteed good time. That chain was spread out all across the country... much to my pleasure. I will never forget an escapade I had in Miami. Towel-clad as usual, I was wandering the mostly outdoor and tropical grounds when I heard a voice softly call out my name. I turned around to find a childhood bestie that I had not seen in decades. He and his mother had moved from N.J. where we met and were pre-teen play pals. I had always had my suspicions about this "buddy" even though nothing had ever happened back then or that night.

 

Men in a bath house from Drive (1974)

Men in a bath house from Drive (1974)

 

Fast forward to the later part of the 70s when I moved to San Francisco. Besides the legendary baths like The Barracks, The Brothel and many many more, the Club Baths of S.F. was just two blocks from my South of Market apartment! My partner and I had a very open sexual relationship. We both loved to go "down the block" as we called it! For most of our years together we both had night time jobs. Most of the people that worked the bars and clubs that closed at 2AM would head down to 8th and Howard (the location for Club Baths S.F.) to "unwind" after work. There was sort of a social scene that had developed over the years. The big event, however, was on Tuesday nights when they had very discounted rates. There were literally lines around the block to get in. Once you got in, you quickly realized it was worth the wait! It was like being on a porn set. Being familiar with that... it sure felt like home to me! Lol.

Similarly, NYC had its bath house smorgasbord, too! Two of my favorite were the St. Mark's and the Continental Baths. The St. Mark's was one of the older facilities in town and well attended in the hours after the bars and clubs around town had shut for the night.

 

St. Mark's Baths interior St. Mark's Baths interior

Continental interior sign and men dancing from Jack (1973)

Continental interior sign and men dancing from Jack (1973)

 

For me, I would sometimes make a whole night of it there and skip the clubs and bars! Oink!

 

Cartoon pig

 

All of this came to an abrupt end. A scourge had hit the gay communities around the country. It was both frightening and sad to be losing friends and family to a disease that no one understood at the time. Almost immediately, openly sexual venues were forced to close. It sent a shockwave through the community. Being undaunted, a lot of the community went to "monitored" sex clubs. While visiting a friend in NYC, we went to one of these venues. I was surprised at how packed it was... given that people remained mostly clothed. There were actual monitors that wandered through the crowd admonishing and extracting individuals that went beyond the basic (hand-job) tolerated behaviors. "Lips above the Hips" was the chant that could be heard from these monitors as they walked the floor. For some people this might have worked. But, for me it was like the fast-food version of sex! It left me hungry.

It was at this time I noticed that porn was really taking off again. The industry literally exploded. After all, what could be safer than being a voyeur in the comfort of your own home? And, that was true again when COVID reared its ugly head just recently. Not only condoms but masks were featured in porn - ostensibly to set a good example. The almighty sexual drive of my fellow man was not to be daunted!

So, at nearly 72, I have seen the "Lavender Wave" rise from seemingly nowhere during the years of the sexual revolution. I have participated in it myself with great memories of the freedom I felt. The great cosmic pendulum swung back. I am now seeing the adjustments. But, Men being Men - there will always be a feast ahead.

 

 

Bio of Will Seagers:

Will Seagers (also credited as Matt Harper), within his multifaceted career and participation in numerous gay communities across the country in the '70s and '80s and beyond, worked as a print model and film performer. He made iconic appearances in releases from Falcon, Hand in Hand, Joe Gage, Target (Bullet), J. Brian, Steve Scott, and more, including in lead roles in major classics like Gage's L.A. Tool & Die (1979) and Scott's Wanted (1980). He brought strong screen presence and exceptional acting to his roles and was scene partners with many fellow legends of classic porn.

 

Will Seagers, present day image

 


You can read Will Seagers' previous blogs for Bijou here:
Welcome Matt/Will
What's For Dessert?
On and Off the Set of L.A. Tool & Die
Wanted, Weekend Lockup and Weekends in Hermosa Beach
Honeymoon in the Palms
Birds of a Feather
The Stereo Maven of Castro Street
The Pass Around Boy
The Ecstasy and the Agony
Fitness and Fantasy: The Early Gyms
Chasing the Boys and Chasing the Sun: My Story of Sun Worship and Where It Got Me
Becoming Invisible
The Reverse Story of Dorian Gray
Pin Money
One Organ Leads to Another! Part 1
The Wheels of Steel

 

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Sexology in 1965

By Madam Bubby 

 

March 1965 issue of Sexology

 


In March 1965, the sex education magazine Sexology, which came out in the early 1930s as the brainchild of Hugo Gernsback, addressed still at that time risque subjects such as female orgasm, lesbianism, homosexuality, and, showing the increasing interest in Eastern culture, the Kama Sutra. 

The physical culture movement, which really took off in the early part of the last century and which fed into the homoerotic muscle/physique magazines of Bob Mizer and others, had condemned prudery about sexual issues but still held up heterosexual marriage as the ideal situation in which to enjoy sex. 

Sexology reflected most of the psychosocial attitudes of that time, but after the famous Kinsey Report, when this issue came out, previous views about sexuality that relied on social conceptions of "normality" and prudishness about the body's physical functions were beginning to come under serious scrutiny. 

Gernsback, actually more famous for publishing the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, was still the publisher and editor-in-chief when this issue came out. 
 

Issue of Amazing Stories

In 1965, the United States was beginning to more fully experience a cultural revolution, especially in larger cities. The Baby Boomers had become young adults who were questioning the 1950s ideals about gender and sexuality, while the dissemination of the birth control bill created, especially for women, a view that emphasized the pursuit of individual happiness (which could mean a healthy, enjoyable sex life) rather than traditional values that emphasized church, kitchen, and children. 

Homosexuality was still a taboo subject, and homosexual acts still illegal in many states, but under the influence of a more confessional culture that was beginning to allow for a more open discussion of feelings, people were finding an outlet to seriously discuss it in magazines like Sexology. It was no longer just a “dirty” subject to titillate or even shock as in the pulp fiction of the 1950s or the gossip rags like The Hollywood Reporter

Even though the medical consensus, more specifically psychologists and psychiatrists, still considered homosexuality a “condition” or “problem” or even “disease” which needed to be treated, there were glimmers that this interpretation could be misguided, and that a homosexual person could not pretend to be or become a heterosexual. The letter discussed below (which is the question of the month, “Homosexual Anxiety”) from this issue shows that so many gay and lesbian persons ended up in heterosexual relationships and then marriages because it was the social norm, to often disastrous results. 
 

Sexology's Question of the Month: Homosexual Anxiety

A 23-year-old man writes to Dr. Rutledge, concerned that even though he is sexually active with women, he has often masturbates while thinking of men. He also notes he did not have gay sex while in the military (interesting, which could imply it was not unusual to do so!). He is afraid he will “fall” into homosexuality, and he wants to experience “normal” feelings again. 

The doctor's response pretty much shows that the idea that sexual orientation is learned or conditioned was still prevalent, and sadly, for him it is still a “problem” with three possible causes. He claims gender confusion because of emotional problem in childhood (thus the boy thinks he is a girl), a typical stereotype during that time. Remember, this was long time before medical science began to understand transgender people, and that gender identity could be something different from sexual orientation. 

He then claims - and this is where he could be grasping at the idea that maybe, just maybe, being gay is not a choice - that because of a problematic heterosexual family dynamic that “they turn their natural sexual interests toward the same sex rather than the opposite sex.” He does blame the family, but perhaps he is hinting that one could naturally be gay, and that a person could who identifies as gay is doing so to make one's life easier (quite a claim in this period!) because one does not have to worry about pregnancy and financially supporting a family. (Those are also reasons why many people, especially women, had been joining religious orders for centuries, but the price was no sex at all!) 

Rutledge finally claims that extreme stress could cause one to have gay sex, in that case, a temporary aberration. Overall, he wants the person to get psychological help. 

Now, this response these days doesn't particularly strike one as being enlightened in light of our medical discoveries, but just ten years later the American Psychological Association declared that being gay was not a problem or condition or abnormality, and that steps should be taken to remove its social stigma, which the writer of the letter (one might assume in these days he was bisexual) definitely feels. 

And one should also take into account that another article in this issue affirms the physical and especially psychosocial importance of the female orgasm, long a taboo subject, and quite revolutionary for a generation whose mothers and grandmothers were taught to see the sex act as something fundamentally “dirty” and revolting to be endured only for the sake of producing children. 

And, more significantly, one of the lead stories is an actual interview with a lesbian, even if the title, “How I Became A Lesbian,” implies that it is more a learned or developed behavior than an orientation. 

Sexology ceased publication in 1983 after Gernsback sold it to another publisher, but its legacy lives on in countless other sex educators who counsel many, encouraging an open, diverse climate that celebrates the amazing spectrum of sexual and gender expressions and relationships - even while their work is hampered or put at risk by the recent upsurge in regressive reactionary movements against sex educational classes and books, against legislation protecting the rights of transgender people, against reproductive rights, and other anti-LGBTQ/anti-sex/anti-bodily autonomy agendas.
 

By the 1970s, the sexual revolution that had begun in the 1960s was in full swing, and in the heady days after Stonewall, gay men were beginning to interpret and share their sexual experiences and relationships on film. Check out some of our titles from that period on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com!   

 

Article updated 5/10/24 to reflect the current political climate

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