Authors: Marco Vassi
Tags: #Fiction, #Erotica, #General, #Romance
To Betty Beverly Frances Linda Margo Pat Sheryl Uta
…for helping to create the legend
“Men and women are not different genders of the same species, but the same gender of different species.”
Were the Sixties put on earth so that Marco Vassi could happen? Or was Marco Vassi put on earth so that the Sixties could happen? To read his classic works of erotic fiction and his masterpiece of autobiographical fiction, THE STONED APOCALYPSE, is to realize that the man and the era were created out of the same fire and primordial elements. It is not, however, enough to say that Marco Vassi was a child of his age. It could just as accurately be said that the age was Marco Vassi’s fantasy, a fantasy so intense and compelling that it is impossible to read any of his books in one sitting: one must either jump into a cold shower, relieve oneself sexually, or go for a long contemplative walk to reflect on the profundity of his insights into human behavior.
Vassi had done many things before he became a writer, but writing was not one of them except for some translations from Chinese and critiques of manuscripts submitted to a literary agency where he was employed for a few years. He had also tried numerous identities on for size as he acted out and lived out the experiences that were to pour from his mind like water raging over the spillway of a dam. When in the late 1960s “Fred” Vassi announced that he was embarking on a journey, his friends knew that it was not to a place but to a state of mind.
The state of mind was what came to be known as the Sixties, and anyone seeking to live in that state must enter it through the vision of the author of these works. In cartographic terms it was a journey from the East Coast to California, a trip that resonates with meaning for every student of the American Experience. Speaking metaphorically, however, it was a trip into the heart of life, love, laughter, horror, and sweet pain. Fred Vassi came back Marco Vassi, having recreated himself in the name of the intrepid voyager to the ends of the known world hundreds of years ago.
Heart fecund with all that had happened to him, he started writing the work that was eventually to become THE STONED APOCALYPSE, a book that captured in coruscating words what others of his generation were capturing so brilliantly in music.
With no source of regular income he tried his hand at what were then popularly known as sex novels, a genre of tame pornography that pandered to the fantasies of repressed males still mired in postwar inhibition. With the wide-eyed innocence and self-deprecating humor that characterized every venture he undertook, he showed them to me, his friend and a fledgling literary agent. He merely hoped to raise a few dollars with them. I told him that they were the most incredibly arousing works of erotic literature since Henry Miller, and arranged for them to be brought out by Olympia Press, Miller’s publisher. Critics and reviewers confirmed my assessment. What distinguished his books from the rest of the pack was the application of Vassi’s intelligence. He knew that the mind is the most erotic organ of all. He termed this fusion of mind and sex organs “Metasex.”
For Marco Vassi, the liberation of sexual emotions, paralleling the liberation of so many others in the late 1960s and early 1970s, promised a new age of beauty, love, and honesty, and he lived his vision to the hilt—quite literally. For a long while it seemed to him impossible that this vision did not rest on the bedrock of reality.
But, in the words of Robert Frost, nothing gold can stay. The bloody hand of Vietnam and the corrupt fist of the Nixon presidency crushed the fragile beauty of the Flower Generation. The unbridled commercialism that became the 1980s captured and exploited the butterflies of Woodstock, enriching half of them and killing the other half with sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Finally, the horror of a new scourge, AIDS, visited death upon the bodies of those who had dreamed of eternal love, irresponsible fun, and self-realization. It was then that Marco Vassi awoke from his dream of the Sixties. When he did, the virus had entered his blood. The first malady of any consequence to come along, in his case pneumonia, conquered his defenseless immune system and made short work of him.
Marco Vassi’s body died, but not the body of his work, which lives again in these new editions. Like a rainbow over a bleak landscape, his dream of the Sixties shimmers above the depressing, sordid, and tragic decades that succeeded his. And, ultimately, it triumphs over them.
“Sex and art have as much to do with one another as they care to.”
Someone once noted about sex that nothing else in the world takes so little time and causes so much trouble. It has been analyzed, written about, and visually depicted for thousands of years. From The Kama Sutra to Deep Throat, we have shown our obsession with the primal itch and the ways in which we scratch it.
Sometime in the early 1960’s, there began a psychic phenomenon, which was transformed into a social movement, a psychological climate, and a political upheaval. The period was given many explanations and many names, although it was most popularly known as “The Age of Aquarius.” It was connected with such manifestations as psychedelics, long hair, Eastern religions, and an orgiastic sensibility. It embraced new psychotherapies, changes in diet, and an awareness of ecological necessities. It was also a time when photos of war atrocities appeared on the front pages of our daily newspapers.
Many believed that the Millennium had arrived. And while that viewpoint proved to be exaggerated, a valid awakening did take place and a vital vision did seize millions upon millions of people. It was one of those moments in history such as give birth to movements which change the world. It reached a peak in the late 1960’s, and then the bubble burst, leaving us with a worldwide depression, Watergate, and the end of a war which forced us to realize how ruthless and how evil we had been for so many years in trying to “bomb the Vietnamese back to the Stone Age.”
However, after we had swung from mania to depression and begun to climb back to something approaching sanity, after the vibes had settled and we took a look around at the new soulscape, it was obvious that certain seeds had been planted and were beginning to grow. America would never be the same. From the most superficial level, having to do with clothing styles, to the most profound, where self-appointed authority was totally rejected, a new age was in the making. There was a back-to-the-land movement which promised to return people to some recognition of planetary perspective. The draft had been ended. Both right and left wing joined in a demand for decentralization of power. Meditation ceased being a weird word and became a daily reality for people everywhere.
In the realm of eroticism, the same initial burst of energy had been known as “The Sexual Revolution.” We passed from a stuffy puritanism into what seemed like an overnight explosion of riotous licentiousness. Everyone came out of the closet at once. Erotic magazines, books, movies, and organizations proliferated. It became possible, in a country where ten years earlier one couldn’t use the word fuck in a book, to see people in every imaginable metasexual act on the screens of neighborhood movie theaters. And in newspapers one could find ads for swingers, orgies, sadomasochistic relationships, and enema enthusiasts. It appeared that all the customs of nation might be changed in one fell swoop.
However, only the most shortsighted believed that (although I must admit to wanting to believe it). What actually happened is that what already existed came out into the open, and the emergence of so much diversity against the backdrop of our official attitudes made it appear that the fabric of the culture was coming apart. Something was indeed coming apart, but it was merely the hypocrisy of social dishonesty. The revolution was not one of inventing new forms but of becoming more open about the forms which had been operating all along behind the locked doors of the nation’s bedrooms. It was then that the true purpose of pornography was realized, which is to discharge the erotic unconscious of the race, to relieve the pressure of “forbidden thoughts.”
Erotic literature underwent its own metamorphosis. For more than two hundred years, there had been no recognition that pornography even existed. We promulgated the idea that “sex was dirty,” and so anything written about it shared the same judgement. We spoke of dirty words, and dirty books, and dirty movies. Lenny Bruce screamed himself dead trying to show the absurdity and stupidity of this sensibility.
The first breakthrough was in the 1950’s, when erotic novels began to be published openly. These were tedious travesties on literacy, which skirted the edge of legality by not using any four-letter words. The books were cheaply produced and sold in bookstores, which gave one the impression that fucking was something one did only in a sewer. It wasn’t precisely a blow for erotic truth, but for the first time in history there was a mass market opened up for pornographic writing.
When the great flowering took place in the middle 1960’s, a “golden age of porn” was born. Scores of serious writers produced works which ranged from the excellent to the brilliant. Suddenly, the full range of erotic expression found a voice, and America found itself ready to recognize eroticism as a valid genre, and its exponents as genuine artists in their field.
When the general depression took hold, erotic literature pretty much closed shop. Good works continued and still continue to appear, but the heyday of the movement is over. And when the civilization enters its next period of upswing, the medium which will assume primacy is film. In these times of breathtakingly rapid change, literary pornography went from illegality to being somewhat passé in just about ten years!
The Devil’s Sperm Is Cold was written just before the last glow of pornography’s fiery epoch died out. It was first published as The French Job by an editor who changed the title without my knowledge, and appeared without a dedication or epigraph and with a key passage deleted. I am happy to see it appear in its complete form and under its original title. Done at the time that erotic literature was coming down off its five-year high, it encapsulates that period into a single story. On one level, it is a straightforward genre novel, with the standard number of fuck-and-suck scenes, but it is also a picture of the industry. Also, for those who were in the scene, there are a number of references which ought to raise a wry smile.
In the two years since its publication, the number of books I’ve had published has risen to nine, and I’ve attained some recognition beyond the circle of my immediate peers. Michael Perkins, perhaps the only serious critic of erotic literature in America, will have his groundbreaking Critical Review of Modem Erotic Literature published at about the same time that Devil’s Sperm appears. His book will undoubtedly serve as the standard text for the courses on the subject which will soon be found in college curricula. He has done me the single honor of devoting an entire chapter to my work and I suppose I can look forward to the day when Ph.D. candidates will be writing theses on the way they think my head works.
Given all this, we ask: Now what? Most of the closets are empty. The major statements have been made. The movies are being shown everywhere. The revolution has been accomplished as much as it’s going to be. Then, is there any real difference in our lives from the way it was, say, twenty years ago? And what can we look forward to in the future?
There is no doubt but that we have greater erotic liberty than we did a few decades ago. In any city or large town in the nation, it is possible to find an ad hoc red-light district, with its book shops, movie theaters, massage parlors, and dildo shops. But liberty is one thing, and freedom is another. To examine the latter, we have to look into the actual lives of people, the day-to-day activities and thoughts and feelings. We have to ask: Are we erotically happy? Not stimulated or titillated or prey to different experiences, but utterly and deeply content?
Instead of going to either extreme of looking only at myself or at some opinion poll, I examined some fifteen or twenty erotic artists who live in New York City. These are painters, writers, film makers, sculptors, conceptual artists who have made significant contributions of the world of erotic art over the past ten years. And taking this group as a whole, I would say that the basic mood is one of defeat. All the brave visions have vanished and all the experiments have proven to be exercises in futility. The limitations imposed by physiology, conditioning, and social intransigence have rapped Eros on the knuckles and told it to be a well-behaved child. And with two exceptions, none of these very sensitive and intelligent people have admitted to themselves that the forms which held so much glitter in the 60s are of no value now.
One other element enters, and that is money. They all earn their living by turning erotic experience into erotic product, and it has become rather difficult for any of them to remember what it was like to make love without having to turn the event into an idea.
Among them are a couple who have been preaching swinging for years, only to discover that while they are not affected by activities which would turn others green with jealousy, they are bound by a psychological rigidity which is downright Sicilian in its fierceness. Thus, she is at liberty to take on four men at once if she wants, but she has to be very careful as to how profound her appreciation of her orgasms is. And yet, they continue to feel that they have an “open marriage” and are superior to “squares” who don’t swap or swing.
A well-known painter, after trying every conceivable variation on the erotic act, including a three-month non-stop orgy, fell in love with her dildo, and then abandoned it for a German shepherd.
On one hand, artists are not representative of the population at large and so do not offer a good sample; but if it is true that we are, as someone once noted, “the antennae of the race,” then any deep currents in the national psyche can be prefigured among the artists. In terms of my own situation, I find that I cannot attain the highest vision which ever possessed me, that of an instantaneous and uninhibited erotic interaction between any number of people, anywhere, at any time. One goes mad or lands in jail or fumes in frustration. Any viable ideal must incorporate time/space realities as they are found, which includes one’s capacity for self-delusion.
My current situation is that of a modified monogamy. I am living with a woman and do not have metasex with any other person, except when in the company of my mate. That is to say, we take other people to bed with us, and only under those circumstances do I have anything erotic to do with anyone else. As an interesting side note to this, we are going to—under the guidance of a teacher—experiment in a seven-week, then a three-month, and finally a thirteen-month cycle of celibacy.
Superficially, there is what social commentators will call a swing to the right. Already, in popular art, romance is supplanting raw eroticism as the rage. I doubt whether we shall return to the absurdly chaste idealizations of the Fifties, but on the other hand we will back off from the beaver-shot enthusiasm of the Sixties. In the same way that the planet has just so many resources and if we use them up there is nothing left, so the human psyche has just so much potential for experience, and if we mine the vein of erotic ore too deeply, we inevitably reach a point where we have to shut the operation down.
After the alcohol, marijuana, LSD, amphetamines, Quaaludes, and amyl nitrate; after all the variations in activity, from sucking assholes, being whipped and stuck with pins and having clamps applied to one’s nipples; after the enemas, dildos, fist-fucking and dressing in rubber; after the numbers game, with three, four, six, twenty, many, all men, all women, men and women, endless indiscriminate slidings among the slippery bodies in the posh pads where ghouls seek warm flesh; after the books and magazines and films; after the countless fantasies in which impossible and indescribable happenings transport one to supposedly transcendent realms; after all the liberations and the marching of homosexuals and transsexuals and prostitutes and sadomasochists; after every single last act has been acted and thought thought and word spoken, and when the complete circle of erotic exploration has been traveled and one is right back where one began, with nothing to show except a bit of wear and tear…well, then, what do we do next?
I think that we have learned that the quality of any given erotic act, including the feeling of content and the sense of caring between or among the people involved, is far more important than any gymnastics or antics. It seems to me that any consideration of eroticism has to proceed along three lines: freedom of expression within the act itself, the social matrix within which the person behaves, and the sense of human dignity, which serves as a corrective to mindless excess.
In the first area, that of freedom of expression within the act itself, such contradictions have to be taken into account as the fact that most orgies do not allow for a release of inhibition in the participants. One rarely hears true cries of passion, or sees exuberant movement, or feels any deep letting go. At orgies, people continue to mind their manners as much as at cocktail parties, and are usually less relaxed than an old married couple doing their 2.3 by the light of the TV tube. If the central function of metasex is, as I believe it is, to regulate the psychophysical system—whether one thinks of this in terms of the Reichian orgasm or Tantric consciousness or the simple ability to “go wild”—then there is no point in piling on the bodies or the perversions if one is going to stay stuck in one’s characterological tension anyway. All the so-called liberated activities are meaningless if they are performed without the actual freeing of the organism by those activities.
To underscore the point, it is fairly safe to say that the freedom of an individual is usually in inverse proportion to the “kinkiness” of the behavior he or she indulges in. Healthful, joyous, ecstatic fucking is straightforward. The bulk of what we consider erotic is based on resistance, and most of our erotic “art” is a description of the curlicues made by erotic energy as it hits that resistance. True eroticism leaves no trace.
The second avenue of understanding is that of the social matrix within which the activity takes place. This involves the establishment of a truly pluralistic society in which a wide range of life styles is cultivated. Homosexuals require homosexual communities. This doesn’t mean that homosexuals can’t or shouldn’t live among people with different orientations, but that they ought to have a homeland, a place within each city, each town, each village, where they can touch the sources of their identity. The same is true of bisexuals, heterosexuals, monogamists, swingers, coprophiliacs, and so forth. The first requisite for this is that people know what their structures and preferences are and accept them without fear or undue pride. We must look forward to a world of erotic tribes. For only in the fullest development of variety can we experience freedom, and the growth of erotic tribes would allow us that diversity within the context of continuity that such identity bestows.