"Sex in Knoxville"

Could such a thing possibly exist? We assemble a panel of writers to sift through years of personal experience in search of an answer.

The Wages of Sin

Recalling frightening tales of sex in the '60s

by Betty Bean

In the fall of 1966, I was working in the Junior Department at Miller's (the big red-glazed brick building facing Henley that is now the University of Tennessee Conference Center). Newly-married and living across the Clinch Avenue viaduct in Fort Sanders with my UT student husband, most of my days were pretty much the same at the big department store, except for the day that Dick Andes came through. When the word went out that he was in the building, every female employee under the age of 30 either ran and hid or went looking for him. I, of course, was in the latter category.

He was hard to miss—tall, dark and handsome, the former East High football star wore monogrammed shirts, had a blue Chevy Malibu convertible and was a slow-walking, fast-talking sex machine boogeyman—an urban legend before the term was invented. Even being in the same room with him was asking for trouble (or so I heard).

For girls who came of age in '60s-era Knoxville, Dick Andes pretty much epitomized our notions of sex—dangerous and dirty and laden with consequences. One of the daily papers editorialized about him, deploring the fact that he wasn't behind bars for rape, which was where he eventually ended up, years later.

There were other stories about who was doing it, but "it" was shrouded in mystery, at least for my peers and me. We had our suspicions, though, fed by rumors of mythic proportions that we didn't need the Internet to spread.

Like the one about the spectacularly gorgeous beauty queen who retired from the pageant circuit and crowned her career by marrying a doctor from upper East Tennessee. Things didn't work out real well, however, and the story of how her doc husband gelded some guy with a scalpel after coming home unexpectedly and finding him getting busy with Mrs. Doctor spread across the state like kudzu. Never mind that the logistics of the story were impossible to imagine—we believed every syllable of it.

Another urban legend combined our darkest, dumbest beliefs about sex with the volatile issue of race. It involved Highland Folk School, as it was called in those days when it was located over on Riverside Drive in East Knoxville. More scandalous than Dick Andes or a two-timing beauty queen, Highland was Communist as the day was long, or so I heard when I dialed the number of something called the "Liberty Bell Lobby" to get a recorded message denouncing the place as a "nest of Red spiders." It was where people like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Woody Guthrie visited to take lessons on race-mixing and labor unions and other commie stuff, and it made the front page when KPD busted a Highland party and found an interracial couple—white girl, black guy—coupling. They had to be surgically de-coupled, according to the story I heard from a fast-food heiress in my English class at Holston High.

But the most gruesome urban legend of all was that of poor Mary Jo Huffstedler, whose murder by strangulation made the cover of the Police Gazette, which reported that the killer, whom she met at the Indian Rock Grill on Rutledge Pike, didn't use his hands. A teenager from an outlying county, she had the misfortune to run into Leroy "Sprout" Young, aka "Rattlesnake Daddy" at the Indian Rock one fateful Saturday night. He took her out for a bite to eat and then proceeded to a lover's lane where she ended up dead. The autopsy report said her stomach was full of Blue Circle hamburgers.

From that day forward, every time we drove past the Indian Rock on our way to church on Sunday mornings, I thought about Mary Jo Huffstedler and the wages of sin.

Book Lust

Are Knoxville's libraries its true dens of iniquity?

by Kieron Barry

I defy anyone to spend more than 20 minutes in a library without beginning to feel the latent sexual tension that hangs about the place. Where does it come from? Are pheromones pumped in with the air conditioning? Or is it that being surrounded by books written centuries ago serves as a reminder that nothing of us will survive unless we either create or procreate?

I suppose it's all that repression. The library is a social world as restrained as Imperial Japan. One communicates with hushed tones and ambiguous glances, and in the aisles every elaborate side-step and swish of fabric seems laced with significance. Compare these heightened emotions to those sustained during a walk across Market Square during Sundown in the City. There, given the thickness of the crowds, you can't go five yards without being subjected to a bit of exuberant frottage-by-proxy from some young nymph in two items of clothing, yet the wanton mood of the place means the process never seems more than a dull trudge. But in an environment where even speech is forbidden, how delicious seems the prospect of touch.

Plus there's the boredom factor. It's difficult to concentrate in the 21st Century, even in a library, and however passionate we feel about our research it's never long before even the most chaste of us will begin to wonder if there's something more stimulating in the offing.

The humblest of Knoxville's libraries offers this capacity for frisson. But it is the Hodges Library at UT that takes its readers to Olympian heights of temptation. It's like the Playboy Mansion in there. Regardless of your sexual calibration, at least one person in three who walks past is sufficiently beautiful to make you burst into tears or, in extremis, flames. Where do they find these people? Is there some policy that grants borrowing rights only to third-generation supermodels? Crossing the lobby of the Hodges is like entering a safari park of dazzling, convex beauties with thick, tuggable blonde hair and perfect teeth, their skin a deep Krispy Kreme tan glazed with the sheen of youth.

But never mind the aesthetics; what of the ethics? There are those who would consider such a superabundance of breathtakingly impregnable starlets as anything but a force for moral good. I am not of their number. On the contrary, I see this improbable display of relentless, tyrannical beauty as proof that monogamy is the only route through life that doesn't end in madness. The Hodges Library reminds us that once you start chasing after the next pretty young thing there's no logical stopping point. One is forever tied to the wheel, and just when you think you've found the ultimate example of flawless physical splendor an even more dainty morsel is destined to flutter by.

That's my theory, anyway. I just wish I knew where to find a book on the subject…

Knox Vegas. Literally.

A guide to giving Knoxville back its edge

by Chris Buckner

It seems like Knoxvillians only want to add their same-ol' two cents when discussing downtown Knoxville development. "Oh, we need more pet-friendly events," I hear frequently. "I wish we had more chain restaurants," is another classic. Now it's my turn. I've developed some sensible ideas to increase tourism and create more jobs, while appealing to my own more prurient tastes. Though they're not for everyone, these ideas would definitely make downtown a better place—for me. Plus, I'm tired of driving to Clinton Highway for my smut fix.

Guerilla Gay Bar: For a city with a high-profile road named Gay Street, it's simply inexcusable not to have one decent gay bar downtown. Several have come and gone over the years, but what does it take to get one to stay? Hell, even Johnson City has a couple. It's not that the straight bars and clubs are necessarily threatening or unwelcoming—they're just not the same. For the meantime I propose that Knoxville's GLBT community take a cue from some resourceful Los Angeles gays and organize a downtown Guerilla Gay Bar once a month; create a Facebook group, pick a straight bar downtown, order some cosmos and watch the straight folks run.

Take Me To The Movies: It seems perfectly reasonable to me that if we are going to have a multi-screen cineplex downtown, we should at least have one theater dedicated to showing only the finest adult films. Or maybe it would be better suited at the Tennessee Theatre—imagine ol' Bill Snyder rising behind the Mighty Wurlitzer to a packed house there to see a double feature of Playmate of the Apes followed by Everybody Does Raymond. It would sure beat watching "Meet Me in St. Louis" for the umpteenth time.

Pants Down In the City: Knoxville seems to have a new festival or gathering downtown every week, so with summer approaching it seems natural to have some clothing-optional events. For instance, who could resist a Naked Booze-n-Cruise bike rally, starting in Market Square and proceeding through local bars from Fourth and Gill to Cumberland Avenue?

Bliss X: Shopping on one's lunch hour would reach new pleasurable heights if we had one of those adult mega-stores in the Square. Great for those pesky lingerie showers and even bachelor parties, life would certainly be a lot simpler. Add a small café for some intimate reading time, and maybe a video or toy department, and you would have the perfect escape from work-a-day stress. Kinda like shopping at the old Watson's department store, only better.

P&G Sex Ed

Teen pregnancy? There's a Visine for that.

by Elaine Evans

School's out. That means your "rising" Knox County public school sixth-grader probably got the puberty show some time in the last three weeks. As with Field Day and certain contentious school-board decisions, the puberty show is dealt out near the end of the academic year to minimize response—but evidently also to maximize deodorant sales.

Procter & Gamble brings the show that Knox County—and 85 percent of the nation—currently uses. It's "Always Changing"—in all of the wrong ways and not enough of the right ones.

The version I endured decades ago, during a simpler petroleum crisis, began with a flickering bulls-eye countdown followed by 20 minutes of beating a yellow party dress into metaphorical corn pudding. After the film came Q&A, of which, from horrified silence, neither arose. I remember thinking: They shoot teachers, don't they? And girls—like Dana King—with boobs? To this day I wonder what they had rolled out for the boys. A tree-felling demo? Just… driver's ed?

P&G's "Always Changing" package grants boys a travel-size sample of Old Spice deodorant—because nothing reassures a prepubescent boy like a merchant marine with a piercing whistle—and a booklet containing questions about male sexual development ("Does it matter what size my penis is?") and answers ("Not at all!").

Girls get sanitary napkins; a booklet containing questions and answers about female sexual development, and a handy Always-brand product-selector chart; a brochure to give their mother; a hygiene quiz; and Secret deodorant.

While I understand that children are entering puberty prize privacy—or at least the ability to control it—I also know that the girls are an average of 9 years old. They're just under 12 when they start their periods, younger in the case of African-American girls. So what better time than the end of fifth grade to begin informing boys about what girls are, or will be, going through? It's not as though they don't snigger anyway. For that matter, why not throw in a few facts to sensitize girls to what boys experience?

It's no big deal, I realize. And hardly the fault of the 14th-most profitable company in the United States. "Always Changing" offers a co-ed version of the puberty show; it's just, that's not necessarily what gets aired in Knox County Public Schools. Plus, let's be fair: in a state where nine percent of children have sex before age 13, we ought to be proud of any sex education they get at all. Procter & Gamble invented the soap opera. Maybe we'll get lucky and they'll take a run at JustWait, the abstinence curriculum in exclusive use at Tennessee public high schools.


A series of letters to exes who no longer speak to me

by Charles Maldonado

The idea behind these essays was supposed to be sex in Knoxville. But the thing is, I'm still new to Knoxville. I've only been here a few months. That being the case, the most important parts of my personal life are wrapped up in the places I've lived before. So for right now, I thought it might be nice to wipe clean all the unresolved stuff still floating around in my head from my pre-Knoxville life.

Now that I'm here, now that I've adopted Knoxville and it's started to feel like home, it's time to put all of it behind me. It can only get better from now on, right?

Dear #1:

I have to be honest with you, the whole thing was pretty much a terrifying blur, and I'm a little fuzzy on the details. It would be nice to get your name or have a more specific idea of what you look like. What I do remember is a bar, a short conversation about your trip to Ireland, and then an overpowering sense of shame. By the way, I don't see why it was necessary to steal from me.

Dear M.:

I knew you in high school. I didn't see you for a while afterwards, and then you just kind of showed up on the doorstep of my first apartment. I think my mom must have given you the address. You stayed there for a couple weeks, ate my food, ran up my electric bill, and then you took off all the sudden. I saw you about a year and a half later. You weren't looking so great. Are you dead now? You also stole.

Dear J.:

The greasy spoon family craphole we both worked at probably wasn't an ideal place for romance. Still, it was a comfort, given how depressed we both were about it. Remember how we thought some food was rotting in your house, and we tried to find it for like 20 minutes before we realized it was just the caked-in special sauce on our work clothes? That is the fondest memory I have of that entire period. I'm not going to think about that anymore.

Dear M2:

I hate you. I still scream myself to sleep thinking about you.

Dear L.:

You were great, but you had one flaw: Your room was really disgusting. I realize that sounds mildly shallow, but, trust me, being in there was torture. Plus it was really hot. And you had farm animals living right outside your window, which didn't do anything to improve the smell. Your life would get 1,000 percent better if you bought a hamper, a trash can, and an ashtray. I think someone ought to tell you that.

Dear M3:

That was terrific how right after I moved into a brand new town and barely knew anybody, you stopped taking my phone calls for no reason. And then when I ran into you a month later and you took off without even saying hello. Also wonderful stuff. I guess it's common knowledge that it's a death knell when somebody takes a vacation less than a month into a new relationship. At least that's what everybody told me afterwards. You will never amount to anything.