Monday, May 21, 2012

Thirty-One: Originals

Judith Butler famously described gender as "a copy for which there is no original". Gender is now described as purely a performance. One does one's gender.

I'm fond of the phrase--- "a copy for which there is no original" ---though not because I'm fond of Dr. Butler and her work. I like the phrase just for itself. It's wonderfully Borgesian, and I'll always like for that reason alone, without relating it to Butler's ideas of gender. How can you not be fascinated by something that's a copy with no original?

I know that I perform a role when I'm with young companions. The Older Admirer, the gentleman, the figure who talks about books and ideas while flirting. I can do that without thinking; there's no difference between mask and face.

Now I will admit that I don't always feel so secure in being simply male, in performing that role. I suppose no one male ever does. Being male, being "a man" is about being judged and accepted both by other males and by desirable women. There's no definitive moment when you're given the title, and it's never once for all. The criteria change over time and across societies, but every society has them. I suppose there's something inevitable there. There's no clearly physical moment to become a man, no menarche or childbirth. It's something that has to be shown over and over. It can't be achieved; it can only be lost.

I do think about that. A sense of social recognition as "a man" is always temporary, and no one keeps it into his later years. Age takes away all the things that enable you to have that temporary victory. The list of criteria here in this decade and this culture isn't long; you can't miss more than one or two.

I suppose I'm a bit gloomy tonight. I have been reading about what gender is about, and I've been following discussions on the web about what it means to be male, about what it implies--- and requires. I have been thinking about mortality and about the sense of possibilities being foreclosed.  I'll go on performing as long as I can. There's really no choice about that.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Thirty: Constructions

A young companion spent time with me the other night sitting over drinks at a table on my balcony. We talked and told stories and held hands and kissed. At some point I did open the shirt she was wearing--- a man's dress shirt ---and kiss her collarbones. She laughed at that and brushed her fingers through my hair and turned so that I could kiss the hollows above the line of her collarbones. She leaned back in her chair and drew on her cigarette and told me that men amazed her, that men all had their peculiar tastes. Her last boyfriend, she told me, had a whole obsessive thing for her feet. And I had a fascination with her bones, with her collarbones and hipbones and cheekbones. She always tried to imagine, whenever she went out with a new man, what his fetishes might be. All of you have them, she said. I just like guessing what it'll be.

She's right about me, of course. I prefer my young companions tall and very slender. I like angles and edges; I dislike curves and too much flesh. She has sharp edges, my young companion does: collarbones and hipbones and shoulderblades. She runs and swims relentlessly, and she has the lines I've always liked. She has those Nordic cheekbones, too, framing almond eyes. She knows that I can spend time kissing those edges, that I whisper to her that she has the fine hard lines of a sword blade.  She's fine with that, it seems. She enjoys the game of guessing, though, the game of finding out what parts of her body excite men, what parts they'll focus on.

There's a question there, of course. How do girls discover the tastes and preferences and fetishes that men are likely to have? Is it all via the web these days? That's possible, of course. Web porn and web gossip are universal, and by the time she goes off to university, a girl can have an idea that there's a whole array of sexual tastes out there. If she's seen web porn, she's seen how some of it works. I suppose, too, that there's always word of mouth, that girls exchange tales of what men like. Though that's hard to imagine--- a girl who's more experienced explaining to friends that, yes, there are men who want to whip you or spend time licking your bare feet or who want you dressed up as a French maid. That turns into a comedy skit far too easily, into incredulity and jokes. Maybe it is just a kind of cultural seepage, knowledge that's acquired almost subconsciously. By the time a girl goes off to university, she knows that s/m exists, that costume play exists, that men have secret tastes. The question is still there, of course, about what girls think in their mid or late teens when they hear of male tastes, and what they think as undergraduates when they first see male interests in the flesh. That's something I must ask young companions about.

I'm fortunate, I think, that girls seem to have a broader view of what's physically attractive--- and a broad view of what male interests can be. I'm not at all sure that there's not an age difference there, that girls don't accept as part of being with an older lover interests and tastes that would be seen as silly or bizarre  in an undergraduate boy.  One more thing to ask lovely young companions about. All those years of training come to the fore when I consider these things--- the urge to know what how my young companions see the world, and how they envision sex as being constructed. If you're reading this, do give me your thoughts.