Wednesday, January 28, 2015

One Three Zero: Long Con

There's a question worth considering tonight. Suppose you were standing at a party or a bar and someone fairly attractive and of your preferred gender came over and began speaking to you--- flirting with you. What would do you? Assume you're unattached and there on your own. What would you do?

There are nights where I'd very coldly glare at the person speaking to me and walk away. Not because I wouldn't be interested in flirtation and seduction. It's not that at all. There are nights when, the more attractive the girl was who was speaking to me, the more likely I'd be to snarl at her and walk away.

At some basic tactical level, why would I walk away from someone attractive who might be interested in me, who might laugh and flirt and dance and make out?  The answer is that I'd find the fact that she was approaching me to be...uncanny. Unheimlich.   There are arbitrary social rules and socially-approved courtship norms--- they may be archaic or oppressive or exclusionary, but they do exist, and everyone knows what they are.  I'd have to be suspicious of anyone who violates the arbitrary norms, for better or worse. Why would they do this? And why would they do it around me?  My thought process on some nights would be simple enough: this is out of the ordinary, and that's suspicious. There's always the possibility that something out of the ordinary, something that comes out of nowhere, may be a good thing. Perhaps the person randomly handing you the $100 bill isn't running some kind of con, some kind of scam. Perhaps the attractive person approaching you at a party isn't going to humiliate you in public or isn't setting you up for some cruel joke. But how much trust do you put in the possibility of sincerity and good fortune?

You can ask yourself why they'd do that to you, but the answers are easy enough: boredom plus because-they-can. Because for certain people, random cruelty is its own reward.

And yet we are social animals. You'll remember the experiments where, when given the choice between a cold, wire-framed replica of a mother that provided milk and a warm, soft, cuddly cloth "mother" than gave no milk at all,  infant monkeys bonded with the cloth doll. We need the social interaction and the belief in kindness. We need to think someone might want to bond with us in some way. And so we're...optimistic. And foolishly optimistic at that.

So, then--- how would you answer the question?

What would you do if someone (yes, attractive) began to approach you outside the approved courtship norms? Would you believe in possibilities, or in the likelihood of the long con being played?

Monday, January 19, 2015

One Two Nine: Markets

If you haven't been reading a blog called Graphic Descriptions, you really should. It's at, and it's done by Stoya, who's become the hip-lit voice of the erotic film world. She's a fine writer--- you can check her stories at as well as her blog. I haven't seen any of her films, with the sole exception of the "Hysterical Literature" short video piece she did with Clayton Cubitt. I know her work only in print form, in essays rather than photos. I rather like her writing, mind you. She's thoughtful and has a mix of introspection and dry wit that I do like. I'll recommend her writing at Graphic Descriptions to anyone who might be reading this out over the aether. Let's begin with that.

Her latest entry at Graphic Descriptions begins:

A few weeks ago I said “There’s really no nice way to explain to a person that you just don’t care that much about the size of their penis or its turgidity.” This seemed to be largely understood as a comment on unsolicited dick pics, but I just mute or block the people who send those. On twitter, on my phone, if I don’t have a way to shut down unwanted communication I tend to avoid the technology.
What I was referring to was the shy or reluctant penis. The penis attached to a person who thinks they must provide a brick of an erection at the slightest hint of a partner’s sexual desire. Attached to those who apologize profusely for what they interpret as an insult to my physical allure, what they fear is a failure to meet basic requirements. 
I encounter the bearers of these complicated cocks fairly regularly in the wild. The thing I struggle with is how to gently communicate the fact that in a recreational setting I really don’t care. 
A hard cock is not the key to pleasant or fulfilling sexual interaction. I don’t have any cocks at all and manage to make myself feel quite good whenever I have the desire. Having a lower orifice penetrated by a cock raises the risks of sex. A condom might break, causing a flurry of unscheduled STI testing and a trip to the pharmacy for Plan B. Even if the condom stays intact, the next-day itch from vigorous abrasion by latex is one of my least favorite sensations.
When these male-bodied people begin to stress, I say “It is totally ok. If it presents itself as a viable option for vaginal penetration that might be fun but there’s a whole range of other stuff we could be doing” and they say “Thank you for being so nice.” while believing precisely none of my statement and stressing doubly. They get stuck in their heads about it. Their manhood becomes threatened by their own adherence to a paint-by-numbers conception of heterosex. 
But in my bed, the person with the semi or wholly flaccid organ is the only one focused on its absence of tumescence. And I’ve never found a nice way of stating my lack of concern in a way that will be believed.
The essay that goes on from there is really well done, and it's something any rational male reading it has to agree with. I'm a gentleman of a certain age, of course, and I have all the standard culturally-determined fears of performance failure. I suppose that I'm all the more worried because I've always linked performance not so much to physical pleasure or to manhood (whatever that may really be), but to all kinds of other things, to my ability to be inside all the stories and films in my head. I've always seen performance as a gateway to being someone else, someone in other cities, someone who lives a very different set of lives.  
I'm male, and straight, and just as prone as any other straight male of my age to disbelieve a girl who says--- in essays, at a party, on a date ---that she doesn't care about size or tumescence. Of course I agree with Stoya that there are a great many other things that two people can do in bed whilst having heterosex. I know (and never doubt) that I'm...reasonably...skilled at some of those things. Yet...whenever I've been with a girl, whenever I consider my contingency plans for what to do if certain basic systems might fail to function, I feel very much as if I'm planning for minimizing my losses in a disaster, and not as if I might be planning ways to give pleasure to someone I like.  
That's bad strategy, I know. Bad policy, too. It's hard to escape, though. I have always been someone who has to try not to take counsel of his fears. It's likely to get worse with age, too. I know I shouldn't inflict my fears on my Young Companions, and I know that Stoya is very much  right in her essay. The fears aren't going away, though. They come from someplace that's pre-rational and very deep-seated. 
Here in the second decade of the third millennium, there are ways to mechanically overcome some systems failures. We all know that. There are so many ads for the Blue Pill in all its guises, ads all over cable and print and the web. I haven't had to use the Blue Pill yet, but it's always there at the edge of my thoughts when a lovely Young Companion and I are flirting. What if this time I need it? What if this time is the beginning, if this time is the border to a period where I'll always need it? 
A friend in London--- early thirties, a part of the worlds of art and academia ---tells me she habitually carries a small tube of generic Sildenafil or Tadalafil--- generic, grey market Viagra or Cialis ---with her to assignations. There in her designer handbag she has condoms, a small travel toothbrush and toothpaste, and a morning-after shirt--- and a tube of Blue Pills as a guard against her partners' age or drinking habits.  She told me that and I found myself laughing. Yes, she prefers much older (and moneyed) admirers, and, yes, I should've been complimenting her on her precautions. I suppose in a way she's contradicting Stoya's essay, but then my friend is trying to avoid what another British friend, a Scots girl at Oxford, describes as "tears and stammered excuses".  As a gentleman of a certain age, I'd be sad-yet-grateful to know that my Young Companion had thought about these things.
And yet... I have to laugh here. What the story says about me isn't exactly what you think. When she told me about the tube of Blue Pills, she told me the pills themselves were "grey market", made in someplace like Mexico or India or Hong Kong and sold without a prescription. What fascinated me (excited me, perhaps) was the idea of having a demimondaine's kit in her handbag, the idea of being able to buy the Blue Pill as something semi-illegal. 
You do understand about me, right? You understand how much I obsess over lists and gadgetry and the idea of what Wm. Gibson calls "the street". I wanted to know all about how the pills she had were produced--- the equivalent of meth labs in Mexico or Kowloon or Bombay? How does one find them as street drugs in London or Manhattan? Is it a special-order item your coke or MDMA dealer would have? My Scots friend and I had an exchange of e-mails about what the per-pill cost would be--- she argued that £8-£10 per pill would be about right, allowing for profit margin on the street. I've no reason to doubt her, though I suppose I must ask my friend with the tube of pills to confirm that. 
I want to be very clear about this. I'm not at all sure I'd ever carry a tube of pills like that on my own. I know all-too-well about taking counsel of my fears, about being hypochondriacal. Having the precautionary tube at all would make it much more likely that I'd talk myself into needing it, into being unable to function without it. 
I also want to make it clear that while I appreciate Stoya's essay, and while I know rationally that what she says is true, on some very deep level I'll always connect systems failure with shame. (And isn't an accusation about systems failure--- about size or turgidity ---exactly something the gender warriors use to shame males they don't like?) 
I was trained for a very long time to be a historian, and I do obsess over the idea of lists and kits, over the idea of living in a neo-noir story. I can't allow myself to think about the Blue Pills in my friend's tube for their own sake. I can only think of them as markers in a tale about black or grey markets, about the idea of being part of the underground, about how the pills are made and sold and whisper-marketed rather than about what they do. Those are the only ways to keep my fears at bay.

Friday, January 2, 2015

One Two Eight: Reactions

Long ago, a girl told me that everyone wants to be found attractive, but only by people who are themselves attractive. If someone unattractive finds you attractive, she said, you feel like you've done something wrong.

I've thought about what she said over the years, and she's always had a point. Fame, Freud wrote, was  "the love of many anonymous people". But fame (or even celebrity) is different from individual desire. And my friend was right. We want to be desired, but only by people we'd desire in return, or at least by people whose desire raises our own social status. There's always the thought that if someone unattractive, someone much less attractive than you, desires you, then it means that your own value is lessened. If they think they can have you, then it means that they can see flaws. They can see something that means you're not out of their league, and your own social status is lessened.

All of which raises the question of how to respond to desire, of how others' desire is supposed to make one feel.  The gender warriors of course disapprove of desire altogether. Desire, they argue, is always an act of aggression, a demand.  The gender warriors see desire as a claim on someone else's body and time. Desire is seen as something that always lessens or cheapens the desired, since it reduces them to being seen as merely sexual. They seem to think that the only response to desire is righteous anger.

I've never understand why being desired is considered reductive. We're each of us a whole complicated collection of things, but a sexual being is one of them. There's the whole question there of how we see ourselves--- what we are versus what we've done ---and the question of differentiating desire from admiration. Both involve having status ascribed from others, but which is...better? Which is more "true"? Does being desired as a sexual being, as a physical body,  touch on something deeper or more 'authentic' than being desired as someone successful or stylish or intelligent?

I have to say that sometimes there is a feeling that being told that you're smart or fun or charming feels vaguely derogatory. There are times when one wants very much to be desired as a body, as a sexual creature.  Desire speaks to something deeper and more personal than social graces or knowledge,  and being desired as a body can mean something more personal, more intense, than being seen as bright or charming or good at social graces. I'm used to young companions telling me that what brought them to my bed was all the things I know, all the stories I can tell. I'm not used to being told that I'm simply wanted, or that I invoke any physical desire.

Well, wanting what you've never had, always believing the grass is greener over the hill. I'm used to those things.

The question remains, though. How do you respond to desire? How does desire make you feel? What does being desired tell you about yourself and your social status? If you're reading this, write and tell me. Tell me about desire and what it means to you to desire and be desired.