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Just Desserts 

Cake offers straight women a comfortable woman-friendly place to be sexy. So why does it feel so retro?

Wednesday, Mar 29 2006
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Women are emulating male sexual behavior, they say, in a garbled attempt at equality. By reading Playboy, admiring porn stars, and adopting a more casual, anything-goes approach to promiscuity the modern girl is trying to show that she's one of the guys. She doesn't sue her boss if he invites her along to the strip club after the client dinner; she looks at it as a mark of his favor and a good networking opportunity.

"I think it's a very twisted way of looking at women's liberation to assume that every step towards aping men is a step forward," Paul says. "I think women are kidding themselves. They talk about owning something, empowering yourself. You can talk about all of that, but if I go out and eat 20,000 Big Macs, am I owning McDonald's? Am I empowering my body by co-opting it myself? It doesn't make any sense. "

While some women legitimately enjoy the power that comes with exhibitionism, not all who pull their tops off are fulfilling a secret desire. In early March, for example, the American Medical Association conducted a survey of female college students and recent graduates. Asked about behavior on spring break trips, 57 percent agreed that being promiscuous was a way to fit in.

The societal expectations that tell women that overt sexuality is the "right" way to be sexual have helped Cake become a phenomenon, although its founders are loath to admit it. Kramer and Gallagher may not have set out to prove anything when they threw their first Porn Party, but over the years they have become more determined to portray Cake events as part of a feminist empowerment movement.

"I feel like we're right in the middle of this long story," says Gallagher. "We've now progressed to a certain level. We have this sense of equality, and female sexuality is a priority in our lives, and we have a positive body image. Now where do we take that in our lives?"

So far, the best answer they've come up with is to put female sexuality on display on top of the slick bar, in a scene that can be mistaken for a Playboy party. It may be that there aren't many new ways to create an erotic charge in a room full of men and women — we're limited by biology, after all, and millions of years of conditioning. Or it may be that we're not as far along in the story as Gallagher thinks, and that when real female sexual empowerment comes along, it will look quite different.

About The Author

Eliza Strickland

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