Nineteen-Ninety-Sex: A Blast From The Plast


We got our hands on a copy of Time Out New York‘s Sex Issue — from 1996. Let’s take a look inside to see what sex was like when business was booming and “hookup culture” hadn’t been invented yet.

The cover alone is pretty amazing. Hustlers! Sex gear! And look at those nails!

A feature on New York’s strip clubs includes many that are now closed (Baby Doll Lounge, The Harmony Theatre) and a few that remain open (Scores). Gia Kourlas writes about attending such clubs as a woman: “We go because we enjoy women, but we don’t see it as a feminist statement. It’s more about titillation, about showing up where you’re neither expected nor desired.” She also quotes a stripper on recommended attire for female patrons: “Satin jeans — that would be the thing for a girl to wear.” I’m pretty sure there’s no venue today where this would be the case.

Time Out 199sex boasts an early interview with call girl/writer/sex worker advocate Tracy Quan, who went on to write for Salon and The Guardian. Cathay Che writes that Quan is “taking a sabbatical to work on a book proposal” — her first novel, Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, came out in 2001. That year, the Observer described businessman and legalized-prostitution advocate Hugh Loebner as Quan’s “best friend.” Loebner is also interviewed in TONY 199sex, saying, “I’m divorced, and now that I’m over 50, most of the women I’m attracted to won’t have sex with me unless it’s for money. That’s fine, except that it’s a crime.”

TONY devotes a two-page spread to the peep shows, porn theaters, and prostitutes of Times Square, now replaced by Applebee’s and a sense of heavily shellacked despair. Change was already afoot in 1996 though — transsexual sex worker Jamie Martin tells Time Out she lost her peep show job when the Disney Store came to the neighborhood. No mention of vaunted/hated cleanup king Rudy Giuliani, however — at least in 1996, maybe his desleazifying influence was second to Disney’s.

Who’s that guy suggesting a porno mag featuring natural breasts should be called Saggy? Why, it’s Joel Stein, who recently regaled the nation with tales of all those weird Indian people in his hometown. At the tender age of 25, Stein was already hilarious!

Pre-Viagra (which came out in 1998), dudes had to rely on “Stiffy Pills” — sadly, “a novelty item only.”

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