Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality meets in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — It was all khakis and blazers and notepads inside the bayfront Hilton on Friday.

They gathered for a conference.

You wouldn't guess what.

The Business of Sex.

"I don't think anyone would know," said Eric Buhi, an assistant professor at the University of South Florida. "Maybe if they got on the elevator and started talking to someone about it."

Members from the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality held a regional gathering of about 80 professors, therapists, nurses, historians — even an Episcopal priest.

Everyone had one thing in common — a belief in scientific research of sexuality. The SSSS was founded in 1957 on those principles and now has more than 1,000 members.

The conference continues today and Sunday. Some session titles from Friday:

Freeing the Sexy Beast: The effect of religiosity on arousal.

How swingers find other swingers: The commercialization of the swinging lifestyle.

Consequences of casual online sexual activities on committed relationships.

They weren't meant to titillate, but to educate. In fact, in most sessions, you'd hear things like "qualitative question," and "homogeneity of variance" and "hierarchical regression analyses."

"Our conference is very scientific," said Buhi, a conference organizer. "That's what we focus on."

One presenter discussed religion and arousal. He put electrical monitors on people of different faiths and showed them images such as Victoria's Secret model Adriana Lima.

Another presenter talked about our "sexual script" — you know, in middle school when it's all first base, second base, third base. Posters displayed around the conference discussed abstinence-only education and the notion of "gaydar."

Mons Venus owner Joe Redner, First Amendment attorney Luke Lirot and University of Central Florida professor Randy Fisher spoke on a panel about the history of nude dancing in Tampa.

Redner recapped his colorful history. He admitted that he's not actually gay — a coy assertion he made when he sued Hillsborough County for banning sponsorship of gay pride events in 2005. He compared policies against homosexuals to Nazi Germany.

"I'm not gay," he said. "I amended my lawsuit and said I was bisexual and nobody could dispute that. How were they going to dispute that?"

He talked of his rise from a shy kid nervous around girls, to employee at a go-go club, to an icon arrested more than 150 times while defending his business. His first dance club, Night Gallery, opened in 1976.

"Right away, the city of Tampa started raiding us," said Redner, who would put three dancers on stage and leave three in the shadows. "When they took them, I'd put three more up. By the time we had the first three bonded out, we started all over again. The police would come in five, six times a day. It was a round robin."

Nude dancing has been around forever, said Lirot. In the Wild West, it was called a "bawdy house." In the 1860s, belly dancers appeared at carnivals beside space monkeys and two-headed boys. In the 1920s, it was follies and burlesque.

"It was well-tolerated as a fact of life," he said.

He talked of bad research and historic legal cases and the state of adult businesses in Tampa today.

At the end, Lirot praised the room of scientists.

"Scientific study is the core of the essence of what we need to see to try and get our due process back."

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at or (727) 893-8857.

Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality meets in St. Petersburg 06/05/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 5, 2009 11:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. How should St. Pete make up for dumping all that sewage? How about a street sweeper?


    Every crisis has a silver lining.

    In the case of St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis, which spawned state and federal investigations and delivered a state consent decree ordering the city to fix a dilapidated sewer system, the upside is figuring out how to satisfy the $810,000 civil penalty levied by the Florida …

  2. A boy and a girl stare at the camera from their house after Hurrciane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. [Associated Prss]
  3. Tampa poll rates streets, flooding, police-community relations and transportation as top public priorities


    A city of Tampa online survey of the public's priorities for the next 18 months rated improving streets and easing flooding as the top priority of nearly 89 percent of respondents.

    Survey results
  4. Video shows women violently beating another in apparent Pasco road rage incident


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Two women are accused of dragging another woman out of her car window and beating her unconscious at a Pasco County intersection in an apparent road rage incident, according to the Sheriff's Office.

    Shelley Lyn Gemberling, 49, and Alicia Nikole Scarduzio, 20, are accused of pulling another driver out of her car and beating her in a Pasco County intersection. (Pasco Sheriff's Office)
  5. Top 5 at noon: Out of sight, out of mind: a Times investigation; PolitiFact: what's at stake in the tax debate? and more


    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    Aaron Richardson Jr. talks to voices in his head at his father's bail bond business in St. Petersburg. Richardson has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]