Not just another sex story

What’s the problem, Bunky? Bedroom blues got you down? These PG-13 stories, historic glimpses and essays might inspire you to greater ecstasy.

The Cyprians in Reno didn’t likely work in circumstances as luxurious as those shown in this historic photograph.

The Cyprians in Reno didn’t likely work in circumstances as luxurious as those shown in this historic photograph.

Is there anything more fun to talk about than sex? Other people’s proclivities, our parents’ love lives, teen sex, good love gone bad—it’s all fodder for our prurient interests.

Too often, when newspapers (like this one) look at sex, it’s with a holier-than-thou attitude—teen sex, sex addicts, sexually transmitted diseases. It’s enough to make you want to keep your pants on. Not this time. This time, we and you get to rub our noses in the continuum, the kinkiness and the gut-wrenching glory of sex.

What’s that about gerbils?

Those sexy ladies of the evening

The two sides of the Cyprians
Probably the best remembered of the Truckee’s trollops was Mollie Forshay, a sprightly Irish lass first thrust into the limelight over the Christmas holidays of 1871 when she stabbed to death Thomas Kelly, proprietor of the Arcade Saloon’s lunch counter. Kelly, she tearfully told the jury, had made improper suggestions and threatened the jolly Cyprian. Sentenced to twenty-seven years by a jury that couldn’t bring itself to hang a woman, the unfailingly cheerful Mollie took up residence at the state prison in February, 1872.

Two years later, she created no end of scandal by presenting the state with twins and blamed the warden for adding illegitimately to Nevada’s prison population—high even then. Caring for children at a penal institution simply made a bad situation worse, and, in September 1875, Mollie was pardoned after serving an easy thirty months for murder. The good ladies of Carson City set Mollie up in a dress shop, but six weeks of honest labor was enough to convince the Magdalene of the error of her ways, and she headed for Winnemucca to start her own “house.”

By 1877 she was Queen Bee of Truckee, Calif., but late in the year returned to Reno. Once more involved in a drunken assault, she pulled stakes for booming Tuscarora and “grew up with the country.” Her partner in the lively silver camp was Mike “Maneater” McGowan, who forgot Marquis of Queensbury niceties in his frequent barroom brawls, biting off ears or other appendages from his foeman. Evidently, Elko County suited Mike and Mollie, for she died there long past 1900, a county pensioner.

La Forshay, however, was but one of a stable of wonderfully grotesque nymphs of the pavement—perhaps a misnomer since Reno boasted plank sidewalks and dirt streets—who came and went before 1900. There was Bodie Jake, a thirteen-year-old bacchant who terrorized Lincoln Alley with her revels. Mabel Grey was Chinatown’s Debutante of the Decade during the 1880s, alternating between champagne suppers and appearances before Justice Court. Sally Millsap specialized in buckaroos, limiting her trade to festive stockmen.

Occasionally, a buggy-load of courtesans and gin would tour God-fearing neighborhoods by night, treating listeners to a full repertoire of ribald ditties punctuated with gunshots. More frequent were fights between girls over lovers, the wages of sin, or precedence. Punishment for these transgressions meant a ten or twenty dollar fine in Justice Court, which collected most of its fees from misdeeds east of Center, and few of Reno’s “girls” ever spent the night in the pokey.

It’s probably a better idea to purchase an object that just looks and feels like live ammo rather than using the real thing.

There were exceptions. In 1898 Birdie Wilson came before Justice Richardson still glowing from a surfeit of booze and thought it a lark to shove the judge off his seat and run court to suit herself. She spent the night in the lockup and paid a fine. …

One statistical yardstick, suicides among Reno’s prostitutes, points up the grim desperation and self-disgust endemic within society’s outcasts. At least five Tenderloin women killed themselves between 1870 and 1900, usually with overdoses of opium, and there were many times that number of unsuccessful attempts. Such frequency is inordinately high, since the 1870 federal census showed only some 30-35 “girls” resident and 40-45 by 1900. By contrast, Kansas’ wild and woolly cow towns of Abilene, Caldwell and Wichita counted only half the number of prostitutes based in Reno during the 1870s—a decade of huge trail herds, Texas cowboys, and Dodge City advertising itself as the “biggest, wildest, happiest, wickedest little city on the continent.” The inference seems that the male “sport” might “double his pleasure” in Reno’s more populous fleshpots than in Kansas towns with a much more notorious reputation for sin.

A Reno murder-suicide in 1885 revealed life among the fallen in all its brutish squalor. The previous October, a young mother and two children checked into the Lake House. Several evenings afterward, a man disturbed guests by trying to beat down her door. Constable Pine restored order, and, after a private talk, both children left Reno in the male’s care. Their mother, Rhoda Ann Strong, 27, rented a crib in Lincoln Alley and turned hooker.

About 9:30 a.m. on the quiet Sunday morning of Feb. 8, 1885, Constable Nash and a deputy walked down the alley between Virginia and Center, heard groaning in No. 11, and found Simeon Strong wounded by two gunshots. At his feet was Rhoda Strong, dead and lying in a pool of blood. Strong was the woman’s husband and the same man who met her at the Lake House and took their children away. Constable Nash arrested Strong, 64, and found a letter to the deceased from her sister, advising that Strong was on his way to Reno and had threatened to kill the erring wife. An English Bulldog revolver, with three chambers recently fired, was found thrown down the crib’s privy. At jail, Strong was found to have two slight bullet wounds, while his wife died from a single shot through the head.

An autopsy at Sanders’ morgue on February 10 and a later inquest established that Strong had a Bulldog pistol with him in October and that he had threatened his wife earlier as well as mistreated her to the point that she left him. Incredibly, the autopsy was performed with loafers looking in from open windows as the physicians sawed open the victim’s skull, removing the brain for the edification of the coroner’s jury, which was called in to personally view the cause of death. The body was exposed to public gaze for a number of hours until prepared for burial.

The late John Townley, author of several books on Nevada history, was the director of the Nevada Historical Society. This article, which demonstrates the way prostitution’s colorful side can conceal its stigmatized and dangerous side, is excerpted from his 1983 history of Reno, Tough Little Town on the Truckee. The “Cyprian” reference is a term once commonly used by journalists of the 19th century to refer slyly to prostitution without clearly spelling out what they were talking about. This article was reprinted with permission of the author’s widow.

Sex in the ER

“I’ve seen parts of people’s lips bitten off, nipples bitten off and things in places that don’t belong, like flashlights, drinking glasses, vibrators, cocaine bags and avocados,” said Dr. Susan Ramos, an emergency room doctor.

Ramos is not talking about Mafia crimes or violent crimes of passion. She’s talking about the kinky aftermath of sex play that gets to be too much push and shove.

The removal procedure of the aforementioned “things in places that don’t belong” is her most memorable part of romance-gone-wrong run-ins. Extrication sometimes sends her into the operating room. She recalled one instance where a drinking glass had been shoved so far up a butt that stomach surgery was needed to remove the object.

Oftentimes, objects like glass ketchup bottles can’t be easily extricated from vaginas or rectums because air trapped between the object and the body creates a vacuum.

“The colon wrapped around the end of the glass,” Ramos said. “It was like a snake that swallowed a watermelon.”

Not every mishap requires the victim go under the knife. Often objects can’t be extricated easily because air becomes trapped between the object and the body, creating a vacuum. Sometimes the removal is as simple as pumping air into the space, allowing the object to slip out. If that doesn’t work, a few other creative procedures can be employed. If the inserted object has a textured form, a plaster cast made inside the patient will adhere to it. A corkscrew is also modeled into the cast and can be used to maneuver the object out.

Some of the procedures are even simpler and just take the know-how of an ER doctor.

“The vibrators are kind of cute because you just deliver them like a baby,” she said. “You push them out.”

Ramos has seen a range of creativity when it comes to finding places to shove items.

“More than once, we’ve had guys putting candles up their penises,” Ramos said. “Not a birthday candle, but a six-inch taper.”

She also had a bit of advice for sex-toy companies: “I think they should either put a lip or a little ring [on the toy],” Ramos said. “That would make it so much simpler.”

Ramos’ best story wasn’t even her own, which suggests that not even doctors are immune to the fascination of sex and the interesting ways people go about having it. Ramos’ cousin, who was an intern at a hospital in Boston, told her a story about a man who came into the emergency room with a long-handled flashlight stuck in his rectum.

“She told me that his chief complaint was that ‘the light went out,'” Ramos said. “I guess you could see the light coming from inside the stomach.”

ER rooms seem to maintain bustling activity in the sexual-calamity department. During the four years that Michael (whose name has been changed) worked in the emergency room, he saw a few peculiar comings and goings (mostly through the rectum). The most common objects included shampoo bottles, dolls, baseballs and pool balls.

Years after the Stockade was shut down, the cribs became low-income housing.

RN&R File photo

“There’s been about 100 people with a baseball up their ass,” he said. “People come in with all kinds of crazy things. I’ve seen just about everything at least once. Just use your imagination.”

Michael said sometimes people wait too long to come to the emergency room, and that can be dangerous. He has seen serious cases of autoerotic asphyxiation.

“Couples get kinda kinky, and they hurt themselves,” Michael said. “They’re usually pretty embarrassed, but I think of it as a medical problem that has to be dealt with.”

But after all the stories have been told, there’s still one question left unanswered.

What about the gerbils?

“I have heard stories about it, but I’ve never seen a case,” Michael said. “It’s kind of an urban myth.”

—Natasha Majewski

Reno is Sextown

In the 1920s and ‘30s, Reno was ruled by two political bosses, James McKay and William Graham. They had their fingers in many financial pots and were as dangerous as cobras (a former City Council member scheduled to testify against them in a federal fraud trial vanished and was never seen again). Among their holdings was a company called Riverside Securities that owned the land under a Reno landmark—the Stockade.

After the Stockade was shut down at the request of Reno Army Air Base officials, a health notice was posted on the gate.

RN&R File photo

The Stockade was a board fence that enclosed Reno’s prostitution cribs. There, a rather ordinary but more or less legal version of harlotry thrived.

By most accounts, it was a strictly utilitarian place. There were no four-poster beds or red-velvet wallpaper. The rooms would have made dandy jail cells. They were built of red brick, contained a stove and were divided by a curtain. They had “all the lushy lust of a hardware store, and … were conducted in much the same manner,” reporter Max Miller wrote.

The Stockade was created in 1923 after Ed Roberts, running for mayor and trying to steer a middle course between the McKay/Graham machine and the town’s reformers, promised to put prostitution out of sight, though not out of business.

After Edwards’ election, the facility was located at the bend in the Truckee River east of downtown, near where the fire department is now located. In the small town of Reno at the time, this was not a prominent landmark. It was out of the flow of things.

"[N]obody, whether resident or visitor, can stumble into the Stockade by accident,” Miller wrote. “He cannot be lured there from off the streets. … In fact, he has to go such a long distance out of his way even to find the Stockade that he must ask specific directions.”

If the women were caught doing business outside the walls of the Stockade—that is, downtown—their privileges to practice their trade inside it were cancelled, and they were forced to leave town.

Miller visited Reno to write a book about the famous Western town where sin ran rampant, and the Stockade was a chapter in the book, the best view we have of the place. He described it as a coke and beer place, “too cheap to go in much for whisky. … Girls standing there in the doorways have the sameness of keys left in the boxes.”

The women paid two dollars a day rent for the cribs, a substantial sum in the times. The assignations took place behind the curtains that divided the room. The law required twice-a-month physical exams of the prostitutes.

There was nothing particularly unusual about this. Many towns had such officially tolerated “bullpens” and tenderloins. Confining prostitution to defined districts was a common remedy across the country to unregulated community-wide streetwalkers.

In 1931, there was a mayoral election that became something of a referendum on sin. The Nevada Legislature had just made gambling legal and divorce easier, and for the forces of reform in Reno, it was a last straw.

The speculum is the object the gynecologist uses. This Swiss-made model opens horizontally rather than vertically.

Photo By David Robert

Mayor Ed Roberts could have been sent over by central casting for the role of reformers’ target. He had been a divorce lawyer, had a role in restricting but tolerating prostitution, opposed Prohibition, drank heavily and often, and loved to say outrageous things that pushed all the reformers’ buttons.

After the enactment of the gambling law, he said, “For the past eight years, I’ve been trying to make Reno a place where everybody can do what they please, just as long as they don’t interfere with other people’s rights. Now we can do lawfully what Nevada has always done undercover.” Running for re-election, he gloried in defying federal Prohibition, promising a church audience he would provide free liquor on street corners. He was re-elected easily; the reformers lost and prostitution won. The Stockade stood.

It’s an ongoing debate whether the Stockade’s prostitution was legal. State law did not prohibit it, and the Legislature required local communities to regulate it by keeping it 400 yards from schools and churches and off main thoroughfares. Historians are divided. In their history of Reno, Myrick and Barbara Land called the Stockade “perhaps the most famous legal brothel in the United States.” State Archivist Guy Louis Rocha disagrees, saying the trade was regulated, not legalized: “Regulating does not ipso facto mean legalizing. People always seem to confuse the two.” Miller wrote that “prostitution is not actually legalized in the state.”

The Stockade continued operating into the 1940s, but it finally fell, first before federal blue noses and then to Reno’s desire for respectability. During World War II, officials at Reno Army Air Base warned soldiers to stay away from the facility, then pressured the city to shut it down. The city complied, as a war time measure.

When the war ended, however, the city was interested in economic development and growth, and the Stockade seemed a remnant of the past that could hamper that effort, so it was declared a public nuisance and kept closed for good.

—Dennis Myers

A Reno guide to sex stores

What’s bizarre to one person may be perfectly normal to someone else. When it comes to sex toys, however, it seems that what’s wacky and kinky to one person is wacky and kinky to most people, and that’s the appeal. Extra kink equals heightened kicks for people who enjoy such thinks as bondage beds, virtual girls, electric paddles or rubber replicas of fists. ("Do you know porn star Chloe? Her fist would like to meet you. You can make its acquaintance at Suzie’s.")

Lingerie and lovers-boutique owner Terri Moser of Fantasy Faire—she co-owns the shop with her husband—says that, despite nearby legal prostitution, Renoites aren’t sexually outlandish.

“I don’t carry things that are that bizarre because they don’t sell in Reno,” she says. “The people that shop here don’t go to the brothels.”

The nerve wheel, demonstrated here on one of Fantasy Faire’s manequins, can be used to electrify your nerves or to actually draw blood.

Photo By David Robert

Still, depending on your tastes, you might say Fantasy Faire’s stock verges on the bizarre. There’s the I Rub My Duckie waterproof personal massager that looks as sweet and innocent as Ernie from Sesame Street’s rubber duck. For women on the road, there’s the Auto Vibe, a pocket-style vibrator that plugs into your cigarette lighter. Fantasy Faire also carries a custom-made love swing that can hold up to 700 pounds. Then there’s the not-so-outrageous but more I’d-like-to-show-this-off-in-my-china-cabinet glass dildos, made by Phallix. Suzie’s also carries these top-of-the-line dildos that resemble blown-glass pipes. The cost is what’s kinky, with some dildos costing more than $1,000.

The most bizarre items at Fantasy Faire are probably the medical toys.

“I think the medical toys are a little more off the beaten path,” Moser says. “You don’t see 18-year-olds using these things.”

There’s the speculum; it’s what your or your partner’s gynecologist uses to open things up, except this one opens horizontally rather than vertically. Then there’s the nerve wheel, which looks like a miniature pizza slicer with poky protrusions all along the circumference of the wheel.

“You don’t have to be mean with it,” Moser says, “but you can. You can draw blood if you want.”

At Adult Theatre & Bookstore, the novelty items are worth a second look. There’s Sammy Schlong the Singing Dong, an ode to that asinine singing fish that was so hot during the Christmas of ‘99. There’s also the dildo that has been molded into President Clinton’s likeness.

The Hustler’s Virtual Girl is what the clerk at Adult Theatre & Bookstore says is “probably the freakiest thing we have for sure.” The blond plastic bombshell in a squat spread-eagle position, mouth wide open, draws a fine line between novelty and practicality—practical only, perhaps, for extremely horny girlfriend-less men who have burnt themselves out on KY Jelly and pornography, who shun hookers and who are willing to shell out $375.

Romantic Sensations is probably the best place to find far-out bondage gear. Lots of masks and ball gags. Your colonial-style yoke and shackles. Chastity belts, which the store owner designed (some of the male belts require specific genitalia piercings to hold them on). A bondage bed, which has steel rings at each corner for tying a person down. There is also an interesting device similar to the speculum but intended for keeping the mouth wide open, very wide. It looks like orthodontic headgear.

When it comes to sheer amount of sex toys, Suzie’s has the competition licked. If your partner’s mouth and tongue aren’t enough, the Tongue Tingler hooks behind the ears and slides under the tongue to gets things vibrating. The Sex Machine is something you and your partner can share—unfortunately, only one at a time. This device has both male- and female-pleasuring attachments that can be set at multiple speeds. Jenna Jameson’s anatomically named vibrator for men is a lot less woman than Hustler’s Virtual Woman for only a little less cost ($329.95). However, you’re paying for the fact that the orifices have been modeled on Jameson’s own and for the UR3 rubber, the most realistic-feeling fake flesh on the market. Suzie’s also offers the electric paddle, a tennis-racket-like paddle that delivers a heavy electric jolt to bottoms and other body parts when slapped against them.

Whatever your poison, Reno sex shops give you many choices. Moser believes many couples in Reno haven’t been inside these shops because of the stigma that if you’re a couple who’s going into a sex store, there must be something wrong with your relationship. Not so, she says; many years of having sex with the same person may send anyone looking for a bit of variety.

"[Going into a sex shop] is kind of like looking for a new restaurant,” Moser says.

—Miranda Jesch