Great Moments in St. Louis History: The Arousal Show

by David Wraith

Watching Kendra and Beast’s scene from her Coming Out Party reminded me of the last time I really had my mind blown by a sex positive event in St. Louis.

A photo from The Arousal Show, by Michael Draga.

Ten years ago I was coming back from a trip to the west coast. I was lamenting being back in the conservative Midwest, but what made this trip different was that I had a re-entry strategy. I practically stepped off the plane into The Arousal Show, an erotic art exhibit where I was showing a documentary short that I directed.

Part of the show was supposed to be a live photo shoot with nude models, but the first models didn’t show and I ended up getting naked on a moment’s notice and filling in. There was also an installation, a bed on the first floor of the gallery with a naked man under a red sheet.  The idea was that he would remain covered the entire time, achieving, losing and re-achieving erections throughout the night. This was the artist’s intention, but the model had other plans. He got on top of the sheet and masturbated for hours in full view of the audience. Later, one of the female models from the live photo shoot joined him and turned it into a Jack-and-Jill-Off.

As the night was drawing to a close, there was a drum circle on the other end of the gallery. One of the art patrons jumped into the middle of the circle and started dancing. She was a tall, pasty white, social x-ray of a woman. She wore high heels, stockings, a miniskirt, a fur coat and a fur lined hat, all black. She looked like a gene splice of Paloma Picasso and Cruella de Vil. The exact opposite of who you expected to see dancing to congas and djembes played by a bunch of hippies.

A short, homeless looking, black man in a worn out bubble-goose wandered in off the street and started dancing in the drum circle as well. The homeless looking guy, at some point in his tragic trajectory, had learned how to dance like a member of the Alvin Ailey troupe. He was really good. Now, this was a guy that this woman would probably cross the street to avoid and at first they gave each other wide breadth, orbiting one another from opposite sides of the circle. But as they circled, they got closer to the center and each other. The drumming grew faster and faster as they got closer and closer.

One of the artists had given out long stemmed roses to the patrons as part of his performance. By this time, the patrons had circled the bed and were stroking the naked models with rose petals as they masturbated. As the drumming grew more frenzied, so did their masturbation. It was getting close to 12 a.m., the time we’d have to start clearing out of the gallery. I looked over my shoulder to the drum circle where the homeless looking guy was in a full back bend, balancing on one hand and thrusting his pelvis. The skinny white woman had hiked her skirt to her waist and was straddling him.  I looked back to the bed and just at the stroke (for lack of a better word) of midnight, the masturbating male model ejaculated to the thunderous applause of the rose bearing patrons.

I checked in with the female model later and she assured me that she’d had an orgasm as well. It was a beautiful moment. Maybe living in St. Louis wasn’t so bad after all.

Then there was the backlash. A war of words broke out in the Riverfront Times. Fingers of blame were pointed as to who let the show get out of hand. The masturbating man was subsequently disinvited by the college art departments where he had worked as a figure model.  Oh well, change takes time. That’s why we’re here.

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