Everybody's doing it 

A safari through the pinkest heart of Little Rock's sexual hinterland

click to enlarge Fantasy Fashions' Betty Fason and daughters
  • Fantasy Fashions' Betty Fason and daughters

It's 12:45 on a Sunday morning, and at the Little Rock dance club Discovery, a man in a red dress and a redder wig is lip-syncing country queen Reba McEntire's "Fancy" for a packed house. Like the people on the dance floor outside the large show hall, the crowd is a mishmash, gay and lesbian couples laughing over drinks, straight married folk from Searcy ducking when the trash-talking transvestite emcee comes their way, drag queens, muscle men in tight shirts and beer-bashing frat boys in ball caps. Once a club that exclusively served a secretive gay and lesbian clientele, Discovery has become in recent years one of Little Rock's most vibrant night spots for gay and straight alike. Anyone who lived in Little Rock as late as 20 years ago might call it a quantum leap of tolerance that instead of being hidden away, accessible only by password, Discovery is in the phone book, has a sign above the door, and is open to anyone who wants to pay the $8 cover. Though it calls a fairly non-descript warehouse space home, it still stands out as the only place in the city where a gang of Monticello-bred sorority girls out to howl, two well-dressed women holding hands, and a middle-aged man in fake eyelashes and a skirt can feel equally welcome.

While getting caught frequenting such a place might have once gotten you a trip out of town on a rail if you were lucky, Little Rock has become a bit more cosmopolitan. For even the most buttoned-down among us, it's probably not news that we've got our strip clubs, our lingerie stores, our escort agencies, our dirty-talking radio DJs. Go looking, and we've got porn movie rentals, sex therapists, a gay rodeo association, the world's most famous groupie, and in-home "Passion Parties" - something like Tupperware sales for sex toys. For someone who wants to look even deeper, you can even find a thriving community of dominatrices, a chapter of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, swinger's groups, and at least one club for those who relish a good spanking.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

As one resident recently pointed out to this reporter, sex is only an issue in this town when it becomes too tacky to stay off the front page. The Starr Report notwithstanding, the fact of the matter is, as long as your sexual bent doesn't draw attention from the politicians, the preacher, or Jerry Springer, what you do between the sheets in Little Rock usually stays there. Still, our most recent sexual flap - the controversy over a new porn palace going in on 65th Street near a daycare, and a spate of city rezoning that rose to meet the outcry - got us thinking: in a city that still tends to crucify anyone hapless enough to get their sex caught in the printing press - the capital of a state with an ordained minister at its head - what is the sexual climate? The answer is: Our relationship with the S-word is by turns funny, secretive, torturous, confused, guilty and ecstatically vibrant. A bit like sex itself.

 By all appearances, Susan and Phillip (not their real names) are normal suburbanites slipping gracefully into middle age. They're both good looking and smart, well-spoken and white collar, residents of a small bedroom community outside the city limits. They have kids, and grandkids, which they will gladly show you pictures of. Coming into the new West Little Rock IHOP for an interview after a windy evening of last-minute Christmas shopping, they could be any couple there, grabbing a quick bite before re-entering the fray.



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