Earth, Wind, Fire & Viagra

Glistening hard bodies crammed together in a heated pool of erotic wonder as the band rocks on. Moving to each other's groove, tasting each other's sweat, smelling each other's desire as the music pulses through chemically charged brains. Sex, drugs and rock and roll have always been the province of the young.

But many baby boomers who made the triad a cliché are loathe to let the party end. The summer-of-love generation will soon be able to mix the lusty, soulful sounds of a 70s funk band with a drug promising to help you get it up, get it in and ride all night long. Yes, the legal love drug Viagra is the proud sponsor of Earth, Wind & Fire's next tour.

Maybe its because the original band members all turned 50 this year that they've embraced the little blue pill. At each concert, screening tents will sniff out boner barriers of high cholesterol, blood pressure and sugar levels. A Pfizer spokesman says that it's "only appropriate to reach out to men as they hit their early 40s, when their testosterone levels start to sink and their sexual worries to rise."

Meanwhile, as the pharmaceutical industry buys its way into pop culture to heat up the pants of the old and the insurance-covered, the chastity crusaders are tapping pop culture to cool down the pants of the young and the randy. Former Survivor reject, Dirk Been, recently headlined a special Youth Night at the First International Abstinence Conference in Miami. The 25-year-old Christian hottie and aspiring actor was promoted as "the virgin contestant of the hit show Survivor!" He spoke of his desire to meet Mrs. Right, to present his gift of purity on their wedding night. Hundreds of spellbound brides-to-be swooned.

The conference's sponsor, the Abstinence Clearinghouse, has grown from 500 to 7500 members in the past four years, making it the nation's largest abstinence group. Declaring even masturbation a betrayal to a future mate and "the first stage of sexual addiction," the Clearinghouse is part of a right-wing uprising that believes non-marital virginity can save the world. President Bush welcomed conference-goers with a written note that said, in part, "Abstinence is not just about saying 'no' -- it's about saying yes to a happier, healthier future."

And now thanks to FDA-approved drugs, the abstinence movement doesn't have to worry about anyone missing their sexual peak. A guy who marries in his thirties (like Bush) can easily sport the once-condemned rager of yesteryear even after his testosterone teeters. But I'm not sure how healthy it is to artificially stimulate erections after so many premarital years of dousing them. I most definitely would not have been happier had I practiced abstinence until my marriage at 32. Like lots of women I know, I get seriously cranky if I don't get laid after three days. No doubt my husband would not have wanted my bitchy self if I had saved myself three decades for him.

Our nation practically threatens to criminalize young sex, when the body is primed and perky, yet promotes medically inspired erections when the body is calling for maybe a fuller and more mature expression of sexuality. But sexual maturity doesn't seem to be on America's radar. As our tax dollars subsidize "just say no" as the one and only option for healthy, responsible sexuality, depiction of unmarried sex increasingly drives our pop and consumer cultures. On Earth, Wind & Fire's latest album, "In The Name of Love," the Viagra crooners aren't just singing about marital bliss. And the tour's Viagra tents won't be asking for wedding rings.

Conversely, the masters of forbidden fantasy continue to profit from pop virgin Britney Spears. This summer the teenage temptress graces the cover of Forbes magazine -- a prime Viagra demographic. The Forbes story, "The Hottest Act in Shoe Biz," slips in that Britney is endorsing the Sketchers "Energy" shoe overseas. It's a great excuse for the unruly blonde to stand front and center, with a "Planet of the Apes" ragtop laced snug over her breast, pulling down the studded tiger-skin belt that holds up her white hip-hugger jeans. A belly-button silver dangly draws attention to her taut abs and invites us down there.

I used to think that such marketing of young sex amidst preaching of abstinence was hypocritical. That American culture sent damaging and moronic mixed messages. But this summer's commercial and political package of love makes it clear. Old fogies can pay for adolescent boners to enhance their sex life, but adolescents with boners must pretend sex is not a part of life. After all, sex, drugs and rock and roll belong to baby boomers.

Lara Riscol is writing "Ten Sex Myths That Screw America," a book she began while completing a master's degree in contemporary issues and public policy at the University of Denver. Write to her at sexaware@home.com.

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