PROVINCETOWN, Mass. This quaint town on the outermost point of Cape Cod has historically been known for its location on the extreme end of another measure; the liberality of its residents’ views on matters sexual. “The first settlers ran the Puritans out of town when they came up from Plimouth Plantation,” says Matt Skerkel, using the original spelling as he drapes his arm around his husband, Tom Skerkel-Manning. “We’re got every variety in the GLBT produce section–even dogs and cats living together.”
But one practice is still considered beyond the pale here, as honeymooners Jim and Sandra Meznick find out when they snuggle together in a booth at the Lamplighter Inn and he leans in to first nuzzle his nose in her hair, then furtively takes a bite of her earlobe. “Hey you two perverts!” shouts bartender Courtney Balstrom from behind the beer taps. “I seen youse, and there’s none of that allowed in here.”
The faces of the two turn red with embarrassment and the husband reaches for his wallet while his wife wraps her shawl around shoulders as they prepare to leave. Jim drops three twenties on the table in payment of a $45 dinner tab but is too mortified to wait for change and pops the collar on his jacket to hide his face as the couple heads for the exit.
“Absolutely disgusting,” says Jim Hampy, a local fisherman who has formed a bestiality support network for others like him with dreams of getting “scrod” by the official fish of the state, the cod, under its other, more risque name. “It’s people like you who give this town a bad name!” he shouts after the Meznicks as they scurry into a crowded t-shirt shop next door to avoid detection.
Earlobe-nibbling is perhaps the last sexual taboo remaining in America, a practice that attracts the obloquy and scorn of both the strait-laced and the liberated. “I don’t mind the scorn,” says Niles Herstrom, a greeting card buyer for a large drugstore chain and a closet earlobe-nibbler. “It’s the obloquy that gets to me. I don’t even know what obloquy is!” he says before turning away to fight back tears.
“The human earlobe is the last erogenous frontier,” says Philip Gluz, the Norman O. Brown Professor of Polymorphous Perversity at the University of Cape Cod, who teaches a seminar on the subject that has drawn criticism from state legislators as a front for indoctrination of young people. “Earlobe nibbling does not result in human reproduction, so the weirdos who do it have to perpetuate their species by other means,” says Rep. Mike O’Bannon (D-Seekonk). “We used to burn witches for lesser offenses, which was wholesome entertainment for the whole family.”
There is currently no specific law prohibiting earlobe-nibbling in the state, but prosecutors sometimes resort to a statute adopted in 1635 as part of The Book of the General Lauus and Libertyes of Maffachufets to repress the practice. “If any man or woman fhall LYE WITH ANY BEAFT, or fhall NIBBLE UPON THE LOBE OF ANY PERFON’S EARE,” the law reads, “they fhall furely be put to death.” Defense counsel argue that the law should be stricken from the books under the principle of desuetude, or that its enforcement should be suspended until a new shipment of s’s arrives from England.
But that won’t help couples like the Meznicks, who say they just want to pursue their love according to their own lights. “Why canth they just leaf uth alone,” Jim says as Sandra moans softly. “Ith really a victimleth crime.”