Subcultures: Killer Sex

It was the perfect tabloid story: a former Penn Ph.D. student caught up in a violent S&M love triangle. But the really shocking part may be how much the Internet is changing our sex lives

I told her about college-age people buying the services of dominatrices throughout the city. The laptops, the lonesome socializing. Real-life relationships evaporating in the heat of online passion. Perhaps 10 years ago, Jade Vixen and Veronica Bound would both have finished their doctorates and become brilliant engineers. What does that mean for our society?

She sighed. “I think the Internet and all this media can be helpful. I don’t want to demonize it,” she said. But the key, she said, is to “make time for real intimacy.”

For most of the history of Haverford College, when a male and female student were together in the same room, the school’s rules demanded they keep both feet on the floor at all times. The rule held through the 1960s. Would it surprise Professor Wright to learn that Veronica Bound has taught workshops at Haverford? That she instructs the daughters of Pennsylvania’s Quakers how to enact their boyfriends’ very specific desires?

“No. It wouldn’t surprise me,” Wright said. “I do think it’s a time of experimentation. And it is associated with women being allowed to play different roles.”

“And I hear you, as a professor,” I said. “But as a mother?”

She smiled. “I’m very concerned.”

throughout Philadelphia, of course, with or without cash.

Every two weeks, a couple named Rich and Satine — the names they gave —­ organize a sex party in the area. A recent one was in a hotel overlooking William Penn, on his perch at the top of City Hall.

As a couple, they’re attractive enough, in a busy way. Rich is thin and bird-like, and Satine speaks in forceful declarative sentences. They’ve been arranging sex parties for about six months.

Hold on, you might say. Swingers have been around forever. Fair enough. But there’s something new happening in the city, driven by easy access to the online sexual buffet. Parties are cropping up all over Philadelphia, according to Rich and Satine, in just about every major hotel, with couples paying around $75 to get in.

“When you attend one, you go for specifically what you want,” Satine said. “Do you want a biracial couple? Do you want a bisexual couple? Do you want a couple that’s just African-American?” That element of specificity turns the act itself — as Fromm predicted — into a commodity to be traded. To keep their party from losing its attendees to other, newer sex groups, Rich and Satine have turned to outright branding. They give away a certain sort of necklace as a party favor, in hopes their attendees will remember the atmosphere, or even recognize one another on the street. I wanted to ask whether this sort of self-centered sexuality damages relationships. But Satine arrived there first, describing how difficult the experience can be for women. She said, “As a woman, you always think, ‘There’s a reason this person is bringing this up to me. Obviously you’re unhappy, because if you were happy, why would you have to do that?’”