Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Long Pause and a Little Reflection





It's almost over folks!  The shit show that has been 2016 is at an end and I don't know about you but I'm ready for it to piss off.

Like many other people, I have been reeling from the recent election.

Seriously, Donald Trump?

America's collective pussy is clenching at the thought.

But while speculation flies about what a Trump presidency might look like and we wait with bated breath for the next offensive, asinine thing to come out of the man's gob, I have used these past few months to do some reflecting about the state of protest and sex positivity in this country. Because 2017 is shaping up to be a scrappy 365 days for us all, so we might as well gear up for it now.

One of the most poignant things I heard on election night came from Chuck Todd, who took his and the rest of media’s share of the blame for promoting Trump throughout his entire candidacy. 
But it isn’t just the media's fault.
Granted, there was some hyperbolic shit flying around. And Todd was right—every time Trump opened his damned mouth he was saying something more outlandish than the shit that flew out of him before.  Still, we as citizens cannot shirk our share of the responsibility.

2016 was the year of fake news.  Shortly before the election Samantha Bee reported from Russia about a man and woman whose job it was to flood our Facebook and Twitter feeds with fake news.  Not a new concept by any means.  This year, however, a man shot up a pizza parlor supposedly moonlighting as a child sex ring ran by none other than Hillary Clinton.  Last year it was a Planned Parenthood that was allegedly draining babies of their stem cells and organs and selling them on the black market. 
I guess without a little investigation it is easy to get swept up in the hyperbole of it all.  But who has time for research?  This is America after all.

For future reference, snopes.com is an excellent resource to check out the validity of, well, practically anything on the internet.  Or you can just Google the shit. Granted, it might take a little more time thumbing through all the other websites that  have covered a story as if it’s gospel, but it can be done.

But that is where the hurdle lies. We have a tendency to flock to those stories that fit in with our current world views. It's called cognitive dissonance and it is alive and well here in the U. S. of A.  We are all guilty of it, including yours truly. Case-in-point, after the election, when I was a fuming mess, I ran across a scathing article about this safety pin initiative.  Anyone wearing a safety pin was representative of a safe person who would stand against injustice were they to witness it.  The piece painted these people as privileged and, to some extent, I agreed. I just couldn’t see people of color or anyone hailing from an immigrant family and facing deportation pinning a safety pin on their bodies to combat the very real threat they may already be aware of.     

I know now that I was lashing out against allies.  It took a friend explaining his reason for wearing a safety pin to show me how wrong I was.  After the horrific shit that has happened this year—Pulse, Bastille, all the Islamaphobia, and, of course, Trump—we are all looking for a way to act; a way to show the rest of the world that while times may seem dark, the light of inclusiveness and human empathy is still burning bright.

Which brings me to my next point:

It is okay to make mistakes; it is how we learn.

In November, Kimberly Pierce, director of the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry was invited to give a lecture at Reed College where she was protested for being transphobic by people who took umbrage with Hillary Swank playing the role of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was killed in 1993. While the erasure of POC and trans individuals is a persistent thorn in the side of Hollywood—i.e. Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming Ghost in the Shell—people sometimes forget that it was movies like Boys Don't Cry that helped bring trans rights to the forefront of people's minds. 

2016 was a hell of an inclusive year.  So much so that we stopped listening, too quick to jump down the throats of anyone who dared question our ethnicity or misgender us or, heavens forbid, pose a perspective that challenges our own.

And I totally get it.

Perception goes as far as our nose. Beyond that, we're blind.

Shortly after the election I listened to an episode of NPR's Code Switch where comedienne Negin Farsad discussed how certain movements can alienate people that don’t necessarily have access to a lot of diversity.  One of the things she finds hope in, she explained, is when people feel comfortable enough to ask why she refers to herself as Iranian American instead of just American—something she said might blow up the Twittersphere with allegations of bigotry.  But Farsad believes that as much as these questions come from a place of ignorance, they also come from a place of honesty and a desire to understand.

It's like the book 1984, wherein our thoughts and language are policed by the opinion-setters. Just ask Alice Dreger or Ru Paul how they have been mistreated by the community they were trying to protect.  Is that why there is going to be a megalomaniacal, misogynistic, xenophobic, racist in office soon?  Because people were afraid to ask questions for fear of some right or left wing nut-job calling them a bigot because of an honest question?


2016 was also the year privilege made a name for itself.  Granted, it's always been there—just ask the white, cisgender upper-middle class man.  Of course, naturally, nobody wants to be reminded of their privilege no more than we like being told we’re wrong.  Yet it exists despite the protests I have heard to the contrary.  When a black man is gunned down, overkill style, for stealing a box of cigars and your first response is to shake your head and say "he shouldn't have broken the law," then there is something fundamentally fucked up about that.

Yet this was the year I came face to face with my own privilege. 

When a man saw me cleaning windows and called it "woman's work" or joked about "chucking a spear" at an African man for pissing him off and I just laughed it off and quickly made myself scarce—that is privilege my friends.   

I am a white, cisgender man. Queer, to be sure. I believe the words "gay as the dickens" have been thrown around a time or two.  But privileged nonetheless.  I have the freedom to walk away and even laugh nervously at these misogynistic and racist comments. A female identified individual or person of color may not be afforded such luxury.  And if they are, it isn’t with the ease I do; they may even be afraid. 
This is what privilege looks like.

2016 was a fuck of a year.  We lost a prince, a princess, and too many people because of hate, ignorance, and a system meant to keep disenfranchised folks further divided.  But fret not, my friends!  The year is over and a new one is about to begin.  It will be a fight to be sure.  Over the next four years I have zero doubt that we will be fighting for our health care, our marriages, our right to simply exist.

But with a new year also comes a new hope.


So take the time to live, laugh, love, and fuck in the new year.  And make a mistake or two . . . or a dozen. How else are we going to learn?

Until next year my beauties . . .

Cheers!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

More Fetishes of the Strange and Bizarre



It’s that time of year again, my little newts.  That festive season when people from all walks of life dabble in sexual exploration—whether it be with a sexy new costume, or a freaky fetish behind closed doors, the possibilities are endless.

Halloween brings out an interesting aspect in human sexuality.  Something about masks and make up that make us feel freer with our bodies, our secrets, and our lies.  There is something about the anonymity of it all, something psychologists call “deindividuation.”  In the 70s Edward Diener studied the effects of deindividuation on trick-or-treating school kids as they went door to door.  Observers gave the kids directions to take one piece of candy before scurrying off to spy on the little hooligans as they robbed them blind.  Diener found “Significantly more stealing occurred under conditions of anonymity and in the presence of a group.”  And that may explain why we Americans are more prone to let our sexy inner-demons loose upon the world on Halloween.

Of course, not everything fits into the neat and bubbly package that is socialized sexuality, or even the more mainstream taboo.  And that is why I’ve put together a tasty cauldron just bubbling with some of my favorite freaky fetishes.  So enjoy, my creepie crawlies.


RIP

Clowns



With people all over my Facebook feed freaking out about these supposed clown sightings, I figured this was one to throw out there.  It’s a knee-slapper how a phobia to most people can somehow work itself into the sexual fantasies of others.  Clowns, for example, creep me the hell out.  For many people who hate clowns, it was Stephen King’s It that did it for them.  For me it was Killer Klowns from Outter Space.  Clowns that wrap you in a cocoon of cotton candy and then drink your blood with huge silly straw? 

No thank you.

Yet there are people out there who probably watch that movie over and over as their source spank-bank material because clowns do it for them.

It’s called coulrophilia and, while there isn’t a slew of research out there (people aren’t really flocking to tell researchers they’re into fucking clowns), we do have some anecdotal stuff to go by.  Like sex educator Sunny Megatron, whose partner “gets down with the clown,” had this to say:

“It’s not only liberating to completely become someone else, but even more so when that someone is associated with fear, pain, and/or inappropriateness…"sceneing" as a clown is just plain FUN. Clown role-playing doesn’t have to be scary. Sex is so darn serious. It’s the norm in our culture to feel ashamed if you accidentally do something silly while getting it on. As a clown you can embrace that silliness. 
Dr. Mark Griffiths also had some things to say about coulrophilia after “stumbling across a forum where a group of people were discussing their respective clown fetishes.”  Griffiths found that:
“On the whole, coulrophilia appears to originate from a young age, mostly male-based, and arguably there appear to have been associative pairings from this young age (between sexual arousal and clowns) resulting in classically conditioned behavioural responses (i.e., sexual attraction to clowns). There also appear to be overlaps with other sexually paraphilic behaviours (i.e., salirophilia in the form of ‘pie fetishes’ and transvestic dressing-up). Also, Halloween appears to be a time that some enjoyed as an annual opportunity to engage in their preferred sexual behaviour.”
The term “creampie” takes on a whole new meaning with coulrophilia.  And while I joke because I am terrified, it is important to note that a clown fetish doesn’t seem too far off from some of our more “mainstream” fetishes, like BDSM or role playing.  Sex in itself is a production.  Why not add a squeaky nose and some floppy shoes to the mix?

 Dolls



A few weeks back I noticed a group of co-workers huddled around a woman, telling her how creepy her eyes looked.  That’s when I noticed that she was wearing a pair of contacts that made her eyes look doll-like.  You know the dolls I’m talking about.  The creepy ones our grandmothers had with those blazing blue eyes that shut every time you laid them down.  I’ve seen too many horror movies to think those things weren’t playing possum just waiting to slit our throats in our sleep.  Some people, however, are in to dolls, or making and manipulating them. 

Agalmatophilia is the sexual arousal to dolls or anything doll-like, and, like all kinks, this one looks different to different people.  Adult toy company Real Doll, for example, has capitalized on the agalmatophilia.  And for the low, low price of $6000 you can own one of your own creepy, full-scale sex doll persons.  The doll fetish goes deeper than sex toys, though.  According to dollification.com, dollification is:

“…the process of evolving, mentally and physically, into a "living doll." Individuals who desire this process-as well as those who are in the midst of the process or have already achieved an end result-may be described as "dolls," and most desire as well to be owned. The parties involved in dollification are referred to as "Owner"and "doll"; this is comparable to a Master/slave or Dom/sub relationship.”
For some, dollification is a means of giving themselves over to a dominant or vice versa.  The dom or top usually finds pleasure in dressing his doll up, while the doll takes pleasure in the ownership and control of it all.  One woman described how erotic it was for her to be made to lay completely inanimate while her partner made her come.  Almost made me wish I was into it! 

There are others, however, who find a different appeal to dollification.  “Maskers” are adult men who like to don female masks and sometimes cross-dress.  This one is a little too Leather Face-y for me, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a legitimate sexual arousal.  Female maskers have been around since the 40s and 50s, according to one “masker.” In an interview with The Atlantic, Kerry goes on to explain:

“I mostly did think about masks when I masturbated.  I never masturbated over naked girls in Playboy or anything like that.”

Joel, who’s spent quite a lot of cash investing in this fetish, has a different reason for masking.  He tells an interviewer when they ask what he gets out of masking:

“I get enjoyment out of it, a sense of escapism out of it…I’m just out to have fun.  And it’s kind of like an extension of another persona within me who wants to come out and have fun.”

Tentacle Porn



Like most fetishes I write about, tentacle porn is one of those that I can see the erotic-element of even if I don’t necessarily subscribe to it.  Not long ago I came across a story by Tamsin Flowers called When She Dreamed… about a woman who is finally dragged under by the squid of her dreams.  It was this heady mix of creepy and erotic and I loved it! 

Tentacle porn isn’t a new idea.  As far back as 19th century, Katsushika Hokusai is said to have been the father of tentacle porn with his “The Dreams of the Fisherman’s Wife.”  Today, this little kink has spread beyond Japanese culture, and can now be found in pockets of Western culture as well.  This might be because of a little thing I like to call imperialsm.  You know, the west’s age-old tradition of going into somebody else’s back yard and telling them how to live.

According to YouTuber Noah Sterling, that is exactly what happened.  I encourage you to watch the video yourself but I will try to nutshell that shit for you here.  Shunga, or porn, was a happy tradition in Japan that celebrated sexuality in all facets of ways prior to the 19th Century.  Men and women were also less modest and entire families could be seen together at public baths with big cartoony smiles on their faces.  Enter Jesus—I’m sorry, other people toting Jesus—and suddenly sex isn’t in anymore in Japan.  Add in a world war, a few horny soldiers, and a mess of STIs and we’ve got censorship in the Japanese porn industry.  You know, the pixels over the junk we can all clearly see is under there.  Enter Toshio Maeda, who was all “Hey, tentacles kind of look like penises, but they ain’t breaking any laws!” and we have tentacle porn.

Of course, tentacle porn does tend to be a little rape-y at times, and people take umbrage with that.  According to Dr. Joel Dahlquist and Lee Vigilant in their chapter in the book Net.seXXX: Readings on Sex, Pornography, and the Internet:

The experience of hentai is morally distancing. Tentacle hentai offers the telegenetic signs of the most perverse and debased sexualities. It opens for fantastic examination a sexuality that transgresses all ‘simulated’ moralities of the ‘real’ world, where tentacle sex between nubile girl-women and cloned boy-men monsters are the order of the day – a monstrous sex-feast of the most abnormal acts...”

First of all—spoiler alert—the chapter immediately spiels into some bestiality/pedophilic hybrid because that, for some reason, is always the end-game when it comes to sex in our culture.  And secondly, you know that “fantastic examination of a sexuality” the authors were talking about?  It’s just called a fantasy, and rape fantasies are actually quite common, along with a lot of other kinks people sometimes think about, but never actually do.  Like tentacle porn in all of its variations.  Because let’s face it, one you go squid you die.  Humans can’t breathe under the sea. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to watch go watch The Little Mermaid

Happy Halloween! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

On Monogamy...Or Not


I realized a startling fact about myself recently—one that’s had me rethinking and reevaluating my own personal thoughts on sex positivity and relationships:

I’ve told a lot of people to cheat on their partners.

I felt a little hypocritical.  After all, I fancy myself the relationship queen.  All of my major relationships have lasted two years or more and have been monogamous or, as Dan Savage might say, monogomish.  Yet, I’ve cheated on each of my partners as if it was a natural occurrence, and then got pissed if one of them cheated on me. 

And I’m not the only one.   After the Ashley Madison fiasco last year, people lost their shit, not just because their partners were cheating on them, but because a website catering to infidelity existed at all. It became a public moral outcry.  In 2013, Gallup released a poll of the moral acceptability of 20 issues.  Of their sample of 1,535 adults, only 6% believed having an affair was morally acceptable.  (Meanwhile, belief in the death penalty shot up a few points, but I digress.)  Furthermore, adultery is still illegal in 21 states. 

As a culture, we’ve gotten it into our heads that once we make an emotional and/or sexual commitment to another person, we somehow own that person’s body.  That is simply not the case and, at the same time, I don’t want to see my husband fucking around on me anytime soon.

So I’ve been dealing with some cognitive dissonance about relationships and this idea of monogamy.  After telling so many other people to cheat on their significant others, do I really have the right to be pissed off if my husband cheated on me?

After a little soul searching and a lot of debate, I think I’ve found the answer:

Yes and no.

First of all, the concept of monogamy stems from a patriarchal society bent on preserving wealth and lineage.  Women were the baby-makers, as it were, and if there’s a kid involved the dad’s less-likely to renege on the monetary end of the bargain.  Women were property to be bartered for, and had little to no choice in the mate they acquired in the deal.  Our modern ideas of marriage reflect some of those same practices—the rings, the pure white wedding dress, the vows “till death do us part.”  It’s all very precise…and binding.

There is also the fact that monogamy isn’t natural.  Of more than 5000 species of mammals, only a few mate for life, including humans.  Everything else is fucking around like it’s their jobs.  Humans too!  And it kind of is our job, at least, from an evolutionary perspective.  The whole preservation of the genes thing wouldn’t have happened without a little action.  Some research suggests that cheating might also be engrained in our biology.  The hormones dopamine and vasopressin have been linked to infidelity, and the ways in which some people might deal with sex.  Vasopressin influences sexual motivation and dopamine makes us feel good.  According to Dr. Nicole Prause in an email to Medical Daily:

“Since the primary motivation for engaging in sex has long been pleasure, it reasons that the same mechanisms that attract some people to pleasures in general, might also attract them to broader sexual practices.”

In a nutshell, sex is designed to feel good on a biological level, otherwise, primordial man might not have been motivated to preserve the species.  But besides humanity’s predisposition to, for lack of a better way of saying it, “fuck anything that moves,” there is a significant majority of people who are happy and comfortable in a monogamous relationship—such as yours truly.  Monogamy isn’t unnatural in any sense, and sex, even the extra-marital kind, can be negotiated in ethical ways not harmful to us, our partners, or relationships. 

Even so, I think there are ethical reasons to cheat on a partner or spouse, and still identify as monogamous, at least, socially so.  Disability, chronic illness, substance abuse, libido, and, yes, infidelity are all factors that might lead a person to cheat.  Differing sexualities or sexual kinks can also play a role.  When partner A likes getting their toes licked and partner B is completely squicked out by feet, therein lies a sexual disconnect.

Being unfaithful, however, might also come at a price.  Emotions can sometimes gunk up the works, blurring the boundaries of the extra-relational affair as well as our relationship with the primary partner.  Poly people, or anyone in sexually open relationships sometimes have to navigate this: when one partner is getting too much or too little action there can sometimes be emotional baggage to contend with.  In order to cheat, or even be open to more than one relationship, I think we need to be in tune with our own emotional needs, expectations, and sexual desires, as well as being emotionally and sexually empathetic to our partners. 

That said, there is something to be said about the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  Flings like the office Christmas party where things got a little out of hand with that hot dude from accounting, or the business trip to Vegas you took where curiosity got the best of you and you put a dick in your mouth for the first time.  Sometimes a fling is just a fling, and mentioning it to your partner can be more damaging to your relationship than just keeping your yap shut.  Accidents happen, even in sex.  But, when certain affairs begin taking away from your primary partner, perhaps it’s time to start exercising a little bit of that empathy I was talking about earlier. 

Unless your partner is a douche bag—which is sometimes the case because, well, some people are just selfish assholes.  If infidelity is your thing, if you get your rocks off on cheating on an unsuspecting partner despite everything being roses at home, you might be one of these selfish pricks.  If you want to have your cake (your partner) and eat it too (your affair), then you might want to rethink your relationship and your emotional capacity toward a committed relationship.  Also, the use of sex as a relational bargaining tool, leading someone along on an emotional leash with the promise of a little action, is wrong.  In simpler terms, this is abuse, and if you are doing this you are an asshole who probably doesn’t deserve your partner anyway.

In America, the politics of sex boil down to this:

Is it moral?

But morality is subjective.  An extreme example—murder—could be rationalized under some conditions as a moral thing to do.  Does it make it right?  Not necessarily, and not without all the information.  When it comes to other peoples’ sex lives, however, we rarely have all of the information.  Each person in a relationship experiences that relationship differently.  That is why communication is so important.  However, I’ve learned some people lack the interpersonal skills, the emotional wherewithal, or the language to communicate properly…especially in a culture as saturated in sex as America, and yet still afraid to broach the subject honestly.

So do I think it’s okay for you to cheat on your partner?

Maybe.

But only you can make that final decision, and ultimately deal with the consequences of your actions if and when it comes to that. 

As for me?  I feel like too many people have their noses in other peoples’ bedrooms telling us what sex should look like, especially when it doesn’t look the way we do it.  But being sex positive isn’t about policing other peoples’ sex lives.  Instead, it should be, as sex educator and author Emily Nagoski defines, “Each of us get to decide how we feel about our bodies and what to do with it.” 

And sometimes, for whatever reasons, people decide to cheat.  It is all part of being autonomous, sexual beings and nobody has a right a right to judge your autonomy—except, maybe, the person you’re cheating on.  Just be prepared to take that leap, because it may or may not come back to bite you in your ass.

Until next time,

Cheers!

  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Sexy Sermon





I gave in to the temptation when I was 17.  I had invited a friend to church that night, and we were walking home through the little town that I lived in.  I had been questioning my sexuality for more than a year.  Being gay definitely wasn’t in God’s plan for me…just ask the Nazarenes.  Yet there I was suddenly strolling down a dark alley with someone who obviously didn’t accept Jesus during the evening service because all he wanted to talk about was SEX.  By the time he got around to asking me to blow him, how could I resist?

I left the church when I was 19. By then I had started attending a predominately black Baptist church where I sang in the choir and moved when the spirit moved.  I was also still struggling with my sexuality—praying the gay away and getting nowhere.  Dark alleys had become a sort of second sanctuary to me.  I had no idea what the Baptists thought about the gays, but I was sure it wasn’t any better than the Nazarenes.  And that’s when I saw him.  One bright and sunny Sunday morning, the guest pastor with the fiery eyes and brimstone in his voice…

My hookup from last week.

As I left the service, he and I shared a handshake and hug that was this awkward mix of knowing—wasn’t I just biblical with this guy?—and fear.

Religion has a rich history of making us fear sexuality, that is, unless it is done in the strictest of guidelines.  Jesus had to save a woman from being stoned to death just for having a little afternoon delight with a man that wasn’t her husband.  Beyond that, the bible is full of divine dos and don’ts, along with their consequences.  Spoiler alert:  it’s always stoning. 

Even so, sexuality didn’t become the ticket to hell it is today until St. Paul stuck his nose in to everybody’s sexy business.

The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7).”

Good old Paul—getting married couples hot and bothered for more than 2,000 years.  While Paul’s dirty talk might leave something to be desired, the message went on to be analyzed by the likes of St. Thomas Aquinas, who focused on the Creator’s “natural order” of things.  He failed to account for many of the natural curve balls nature tosses into the human gene pool.  Oh, and he viewed sex as a necessary evil.  Still evil, but necessary to his whole insert tab A into slot B philosophy.

“…as regards the perfect degree of virtue…that which is not a sin, but a lesser good. On this way sexual intercourse casts down the mind not from…the perfection of virtue.  Hence Augustine says: "Just as that was good which Martha did when busy about serving holy men, yet better still that which Mary did in hearing the word of God: so, too, we praise the good of Susanna's conjugal chastity, yet we prefer the good of the widow Anna, and much more that of the Virgin Mary."

Pretty high standards for the ladies there, Tommy. 

I wish I could say something like, “Oh, what did those old coots know?  It was the 12th Century and people still thought the earth was flat.”  Unfortunately, remnants of these philosophies are still seen today.  One only needs to look at the legislative chastity belt they’re strapping on vaginas everywhere, or the religious freedom (discrimination) laws people are fighting for, or the trans bathroom fear evangelicals are so concerned about while they’re cramming glory holes everywhere with their piety.

Of course, evangelicals aren’t the only ones with strict views on sexuality—though I admit I’ve been the hardest on them.  Catholics and Christians hold many of the same ideas on adultery and abortion and queer issues.  Not long ago the Pope decided to welcome divorced people back into the fold, but don’t ask him to budge on the gays.  In Islam, premarital sex (zina) and masturbation (istimna) are sins against one’s body the Qur’an orders you flee.  Thankfully Islam allows temporary marriages for those hard to flee urges.  But as for being gay…a hundred lashes if you’re the top, death if you’re the bottom.  After all, is there any greater sin than taking it like a woman? 

Judaism at least sees sexuality as a pleasurable gift of God to be celebrated, though only in the marriage bed (mitzvah).  They also permit birth control a lot more often than their Christian and Islamic counterparts, and their views on abortion could lend a few lessons to certain state governors.  However, the sin of Onan (jerking thyself) is still forbidden, and the gays are still condemned because, well, Leviticus.

Now, I am not generalizing entire groups of individuals.  For the most part people want to worship their God the way they choose, and the rest of us can fuck right on off.  It is the devout amongst us, toting religious authority from ideas most probably haven’t delved into beyond what their pastor, imam, or rabbi has told them.  Because of this, they lack the empathy to understand such a natural function of the human condition, and one their God calls GOOD. 

Religious leaders everywhere need to understand the responsibility they have to those who follow them—that an idea like “sexual purity” only hinders people from experiencing real fulfillment in their relationships and in their sexual lives…not to mention the confusion it breeds.  Purity pledges are a staple in evangelical circles, as if signing a piece of paper and slipping on a ring is enough to detract those biological urges we have.  Research actually indicates these pledges are just as effective if you toss the ring and certificate into the trash:

"Eighty-two percent of pledge takers denied (or forgot) they had ever taken such a vow. Overall pledge takers were no different from non-pledge takers in terms of their premarital sex, anal and oral sexual practices, and their probability of having a sexually transmitted disease."

Furthermore, this “purity” myth is steeped in the quagmire of systemic racism.  In the documentary Give Me Sex Jesus, director Matt Barber touches on this with a tidy little timetable of sexuality views here in the good old U.S. of A.  In the movie, Amy Frykholm, Associate Editor of The Christian Century, says:

“I don’t think we can talk about purity in American culture and not be talking about race…in America, when you begin talking about purity, about rigid social norms that need to be reclaimed from the past, then you’re talking about race.”

We can’t forget—though a lot of people do their best—that before slavery was abolished people of color were treated as breeding stock while others were kept in human zoos.  After the Civil War, propaganda swept across this great nation advocating for the “pure” race.  Movies like Birth of a Nation (1910) portrayed African Americans as savages waiting in the shadows to rape our white women and overtake our governments.  The Tuskegee Experiments, in which black syphilitic men were denied treatment lasted for 40 years and looked more like an experiment in eugenics than any kind of helpful medical science.  By the time The Civil Rights Movement rolled around, people were touting their God as a reason to segregate.  It was their religious freedom, after all.

Meanwhile, black churches don’t seem to have such rigid beliefs about sexual purity.  While it is widely believed sexuality is somehow more oppressed in black culture, especially around ideas of queerness, E. Patrick Johnson (2008) suggests that isn’t necessarily the case.  In his book Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men in the South, Johnson writes:

“The point here is that the social mores of the South dictate a passive aggressive stance toward any transgressive behavior, especially the activities, behaviors, and indulgences that undermine its religious philosophies—drinking, gambling, adultery, and homosexuality…men and women who have a ‘friend’ on the side are careful not to bring any offspring from extramarital affairs around the legitimate children so as not to ‘embarrass’ the family; and homosexual liaisons between supposedly straight men and known gay ones are treated similarly to heterosexual extramarital affairs:  it’s allowable as long as the indiscretion is not flaunted (4).”

In retrospect, I wonder what it was my hookup from all those years ago—the preacher with the brimstone voice—was more worried about:  being outed or having his sexuality dragged out in front of the whole congregation the way mine had been once upon a time.  Either way, I like to think he found his own sexual niche along the way, and that he grew in his faith as well as himself.  

As for me, I no longer consider myself religious.  Religion, as far as I’m concerned, is like an ex boyfriend I once had—too many control issues, and not enough sex.  I still see the importance of faith groups, though there is a responsibility there that is being shirked.  Sexuality should be celebrated and enjoyed.  People should know how to communicate with their partners, how to navigate their own sexuality or lack thereof, and they need the resources to do it safely and critically in an environment free of judgment or guilt-slinging deities.  Because let’s face it…the standards of the Virgin Mary are unrealistic, if they even existed in the first place.     

Until next time my prayerful pretties,

Cheers!

Cited:
Johnson, E. Patrick.  Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South.  The University of North Carolina Press, 2008.  Print.

And one more thing...

I wrote this weeks ago, long before the tragic incident in Orlando.  Something about the discourse I watched unravel in the wake of that atrocity persuaded me to post this now.  Sexuality is a beautiful and scary thing.  The queer community is testimony to that, as it challenges the sexual norms many of us have been force-fed our entire lives.  And fear, as we know, is a tremendous motivator.  But we shall rise from the ashes like phoenix ready for flight, our flames brighter and stronger than ever.  So until next time, here's to you Orlando.  

Cheers.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Queer AF


Queer as Folk aired at a pivotal time in my life.  I was 20 years old.  I’d come out of the closet and jumped back in again before finally breaking the damn door off the hinges.  I was in my first real relationship when I was introduced to the gang on Liberty Avenue.  Not having Showtime myself, I watched QAF every few weeks or so in two or three episode bursts on VHS tapes a friend recorded for me.

Yes, I said V-H-S.

From Justin’s very first rimjob to the melancholic finale that saw Michael and Brian dancing together against the backdrop of a burnt out Babylon, queer people everywhere flocked to this groundbreaking new show.  Queer as Folk brought the plight of queer life to the forefront of viewers’ attention at a time when Will and Grace were playing to hetero expectations.  It also laid the groundwork for other shows like the L Word, Noah’s Arc, Looking, and Modern Family—all tremendous milestones in queer television.   

It had its downfalls…something only time and the privilege of retrospect (not to mention that I’m currently rewatching the entire series) can afford.  

First of all, Queer as Folk is as white washed as a Trump rally.  The only people of color are either “tricks” or sex workers.  Women and their roles in the show are also limited.  Besides a couple of lesbians, Justin’s mom (she's barely seen after Season 1), and Debbie, QAF was a real sausage fest. 

This lack of diversity is problematic because the queer experience is so vast it can’t be portrayed as a bunch of white guys hitting the bars while on their search for love and sex. 

The show is also ageist as shit, insisting anyone over the age of 30 is “gay dead.”  Ah, to be gay alive again!  And if you aren’t donning a six pack, a bubble ass, and a nine inch cock, you’re as insignificant as the 30-somethings. 

Still, Queer as Folk encapsulated what it meant to be queer at the tail end of the AIDS crisis, when much of the country still feared and/or misunderstood the queer movement.  And for those of us who had our feet in both the hetero and queer world, the show provided some long-overdue education to the masses. 
Allow me to count the ways:

Coming Out

Coming out is one of the hardest things a queer person can do.  Whether you’re gay, bi, trans, asexual, or sexually fluid…coming out can seem like stepping onto a high dive with only a tarp held beneath you supported by family, friends, and coworkers—any or all of which could let go at any time.

Coming out can be scary and beautiful and it should never be forced on a person before they’re ready to make that leap. 

Queer as Folk exploited various avenues of this rite of passage.  Whether it was Justin coming out to his mother and homophobic father, Brian outing Michael to his work “girlfriend,” or Hunter telling his adopted dads that he’s actually straight—“Have you tried not being straight?”—QAF gives us a glimpse into that uncertainty and fear, as well as the consequences coming out can sometimes entail.

Parenting and Family

Parenting is tough no matter who you are.  I can only imagine what it’s like to be a gay parent and constantly having to defend that paternity.  On a recent episode of Savage Love, Dan Savage ranted at the beginning of his show about queer parents giving hetero people a break.  I agree; baby brain is real and sometimes makes us forget ourselves.  How else do you explain grown men and women cooing at infants as their vocabulary grossly deteriorates?

Queer as Folk depicted not just the “who’s the mommy/daddy?” questions queer parents are often berated with, but everything from the role of those parents in the child’s life to circumcision, and even divorce. 
It also showed us the different ways families look—from Brian’s strained relationship with his father and sister, to Justin crashing with Debbie after his father refuses to let him come home, to Michael and Ben’s adoption of a young sex worker.  The role of friendship and community can’t be dismissed.  Sometimes blood isn’t thicker than water.  Sometimes family is just the people we meet along the way.

Homophobia

Whether it’s Justin getting bashed after prom, a mother calling her HIV Positive son a “faggot” during a custody battle, a drag queen getting the shit beat out of her in a dark alley, or a bomb going off at the happening gay bar—QAF gave us a raw look at the way bigotry has and continues to affect the queer community.  The beauty is in the way characters handle their victimhood.

Justin, for example, continues his pursuit of art despite nerve damage from his bashing.  Later, when he confronts his attacker, Justin has the power of life and death over the man who had caused him so much pain over the years.  His choice to walk away from his attacker breaks the chains of his victimhood, reminding us we still have choices where once they might have been stripped away; that it isn’t our victimhood that defines us—but what we do with it. 

Forgiveness isn’t the only way to heal, and it may not even be in our repertoire.  Sometimes time is the only tool we have.  Still, we can live a life that shines for others.  And that is where true healing begins.

Sex

One of my favorite quotes from the show is from Uncle Vic:

“Sex isn’t careful, and if it is you’re doing it wrong.  It’s messy, and it’s human.  And it’s mixed up with other things.  It’s a genie that won’t stay in the bottle.”

Queer as Folk gave us an honest glimpse at human sexuality that is still lacking in television and movies.  From Brian Kenny’s backroom fuckery, to BDSM and sex work, to the different ways people navigate monogamy and non-monogamy alike, QAF didn’t just dole out the sex scenes, it educated us about this vast spectrum that is human sexuality.  Safety and consent are always a theme, whether you’re in the backroom at Babylon, getting fisted on leather night, or just hooking up. 

Oh, and the cock shots peppered throughout the series are something more shows could learn from.

I’m looking at you Game of Thrones.

Pride

These were my favorite episodes.  After all, Pride is what Queer as Folk was all about.  Being proud of who we are, the love we have for each other, the communities we build and the changes we elicit—Queer as Folk celebrates it all.  From Uncle Vic, whose very presence reminds us we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for the sacrifices of others, to baby Gus, a symbol of hope and tolerance for a future that seemed a never-ending uphill battle for equality, especially in post-9/11, Bush-era America.

Today, marriage is the law of the land.

We won.

But the struggle is far from over.  Not when queer people the world over are still at risk of suicide, assault, and execution just for existing.  Here, America is finally making significant strides for equality.  So today, let’s stand with queer people everywhere—beneath that great big rainbow of ours—and ask ourselves:

What have you done today to make you feel proud?


Happy Pride!