Friday, March 20, 2015

One Three Seven: Cubes

The 18 March 2015 edition of the online published an article by Chelsea G. Summers called "Are Y'all Ready For This?". It  only reinforced everything I'd written about here about the idea of sex parties.  I suppose I could do a long list of Reasons Why I Will Never Attend A Sex Party, but I'll just quote from Summers' article: party was this past weekend [in NYC], and it was billed as the poshest of the Very Posh Sex Parties, a veritable Queen’s English of orgies, one promising a rich banquet of nubile, swinging flesh for heterosexual (and female bicurious) delectation. A friend invited me to be the plus-one of the journalist from [redacted], who then declined to show. My friend brought her boyfriend. They are monogamous. I am single. None of us had sex.

The invite to the Very Posh Sex Party came with a schoolmarm’s list of do’s and don’ts, wills and won’ts. You must wear a mask. Anyone seen with an active phone will be forced to leave. Men must wait for women to ask them. No means no. Proper cocktail party attire must be observed, at least until it is shed.

The main room of the Very Posh Sex Party was black and bare except for a pool table, several large couches, and a few armchairs. At one end of the room were the bathrooms and a patio; at the other was the fuck room. Near the bar and the patio sat a big square foam-covered platform. When we arrived, a woman in a black leather bustier lounged as a man gave her strident cunnilingus. She stared at the ceiling, distracted. Later, a man with an ad executive’s short ponytail would, unbeknownst to him, sit in her wet spot.

The crowd was largely white. White men in boxy off-the-rack business casual suits squired white women in body-con dresses. The men were older than the women; the women were better looking than the men, and there were more of them. The men looked like customers at a strip club; the women looked like they’d once or twice done a pole class because it was naughty. Everyone seemed cut from the same bolt of corporate cloth. Were I pressed to guess, I’d say the men were all, to a one, straight; the women were largely “homo-spectacle,” what Portlandia calls women who “kiss other women to get attention.”

These were not my people. Actually, wait——there was one adorable couple, a young ponytailed girl in a Black Milk Lycra cartoon dress, white thigh-highs, and creepers who led her fey boyfriend about on a thin silver leash. I kind of love her a lot.

Look, I’ve nothing against sex parties, and I’m not opposed to having sex at a sex party. I’m fond of anonymous sex, public sex, and performative sex, so while I’ve never had sex at a sex party, I feel like I’d want to have sex at a sex party. I certainly cast no aspersions at people who regularly enjoy sex parties; far be it from me to judge others for their delights. But this was, as far as I can tell, a bad sex party——and by that I don’t mean a sex party that was bad. I mean a veritable celebration of bad sex.

As it turns out, bankers seem to grow a uniform sort of ass. It’s flat and white and faintly floury as naan bread. The asses pump, pump, pump, the rhythm of some anarchic drummer, and I have seen them pumping, and yet I live. I saw on Saturday night a man, flush with fresh concupiscence, stomp flat-footed across a room of strangers, jacket, shirt, and pants unbuttoned, his pelted chest thrust out like a silverback gorilla. I saw a room of naked women, expensive shoes in the air, being fucked by men who couldn’t bother to remove their sport coats.

That's about as depressing as it gets.  And of course, given the date and the venue, it's clear that Summers' "Very Posh Sex Party" was the Killing Kittens NY party I'd written about. It does make me feel better about having no chance at all to get into the party. I'd have been one of the people Ms. Summers was mocking.

So, the Killing Kittens party really was as awful as I imagined. I have no idea what my friend in London Town would say about this, but it all sounds just too awful to be believed. Ms. Summers' description is exactly what I'd be afraid of. It sounds just too hideous--- exactly something that would be the object of derision and vaguely politicized snark. How could anyone actually attend (let alone perform at) something that would draw the sort of contempt found in Chelsea Summers' article? And you know what's worse? You know what I realised while reading this? As awful and pathetic as it all sounds, as open to humiliation and mockery as Ms. Summers' description makes it all sound...I still wouldn't have been allowed in. As awful and pathetic as it all sounds, I'm actually not regarded as good enough to be allowed in. Not only is this appalling gathering an utter travesty of the elegant, formalised, and coolly stylish party I might imagine, I'm not even good enough to get in--- even when compared to the awful men she describes.

And...yes. There is a snack bar. There had to be, didn't there? That's something I do need to tell my friend there in London Town. There's a snack bar (not even a real buffet) to make it all even more pathetic and sad:

There will be cheese cubes. There will also be a plate of desultory fruit, and another with careful loops of store-bought chocolate chip cookies. At the end of the night, as the columnist from [redacted] rides the young bro journalist from [redacted], her red g-string pulled to the side, her breasts plumped out of her corselet, mouth smeary-drunk with nuzzling and champagne, the cookies will be undisturbed.

But the cheese, orange as a kindergartner’s sun, gets eaten. I can think of few foods less conducive to sex than cheese cubes——chili, I suppose——yet there I am, at a sex party, and there are cheese cubes.

Not only would I never be allowed in, there'd be a sad and pathetic snack bar--- we're just hitting on all the things I've told both my friend in London Town and my friend Ms. Flox make the whole sex party scenario something truly depressing. Even if the hosts were bribed, coerced, or just inattentive enough to allow me inside, I'd be someone Chelsea G. Summers or some other columnist could mock and deride. (You'll notice that she does the blithely contemptuous thing of assuring her readers that she'd never mock the party-goers and their delights--- a statement that always drips with derision) And there'd be those awful cheese cubes, orange and mocking, symbols of bad sex and social pretentiousness. Why is it that I'm sure the cheese cubes would have bright plastic toothpicks in them?

And...yes. I'd stand inside, too humiliated to remove my sport coat, even if there was a coat check. (I must ask my London friend whether the older, distinguished, moneyed males she consorts with at LDN sex parties remove their coats) Remove nothing, unzip nothing, unbutton or unbuckle nothing. All those years of expensive education at least did that much for me: I'd know enough to expose no flesh, to abstain from anything that could be seen as comical and disgusting.

It doesn't ever get better, does it?

And now the NY Post tells us that the organizer behind Killing Kittens is a still-lovely (and 6-foot-tall) thirtysomething blonde Londoner named Emma Sayles...who's a friend of Kate Middleton. According to the 10 March 2015 NY Post--- As of Tuesday, Sayle says 60 people have signed up for the NYC event, including a group of British female bankers who work at UBS’s Midtown office and a bevy of models. Ah, marketing.

No, it never gets any better. I think we can take that as a given.

If you do ever hand me a cheese cube, I will do the Dr. Lecter Brain Fondue thing to you in response. Let's be clear on that. Even Ronald Firbank's eccentric Cardinal Pirelli would agree that Brain Fondue is the only proper fate for those who serve cheese cubes to the lonely and haplessly excluded out on the far side of the velvet ropes.

One Three Six: Kittens

A couple of weeks ago I found an article on line that explained that the Killing Kittens sex parties were opening a New York end. I immediately wrote a friend in London Town about it. She was the first one to tell me about Killing Kittens, and the first girl whoever told me about her own adventures at high-end sex parties--- both as the plus-one of moneyed, older admirers and as staff. (Oh, yes--- the name. It comes from the idea that every time a girl indulges in the solitary vice, God kills a kitten) She's done well enough for herself at high-end sex parties, but I've always been more than a little skeptical about the whole idea. The article that I found only strengthened my skepticism, and it left me more than a bit depressed.

The article I found  mocked Killing Kittens parties as "Slaughtering Pussies" and titled their article about the arrival of KK parties in NYC "There’s A Massive Sex Party In NYC For Elite People This Weekend, So You’ll Know Where To Find Me". Well, the article says that:

If you’re living in New York City and you’re currently short on plans for Saturday night, why not pull yourself together and go to Killing Kittens first-ever NYC sex party with the city’s elite? Sure, you have to be attractive, between the ages of 18-50, very rich, and able to refrain from calling the company “Slaughtering Pussies,” but who among us can’t manage to squeeze themselves into that profile for one night?

Oh, there is one other catch. For men to attend, they have to be accompanied by a female. Chicks can attend alone and fuck other chick’s boyfriends or dates, but no single guys. Single guys are not welcome. Single guys are undesirable creeps. (Yes, I read way too far into things.)

The sex party is kind of inexpensive — $100 for women and $250 for couples. Certainly less money than buying a hooker. Not that I would know the costs associated to such a thing. Maybe that price break is because they don’t test for STDs. For $1,000, people would want to know they aren’t going to leave diseased. For $100, they’ll take their chances. But according to the NY Post, Killing Kittens (AKA Slaughtering Pussies) does provide plenty of condoms, which we can all agree is super thoughtful.

You did note, I hope,  that single males are (as always) tagged as undesirable. Single males in the new century are tagged as undesirable in almost every social, romantic, and sexual situation. 

And the Manhattan standards for "attractive" will doubtless be far higher than in London--- that's not even a question. Needless to say, if you read the list of criteria for admission to a KK party, I don't qualify. At all. I'm not sure how to feel about that. My friend in London Town might find the parties an acceptable and amusing way to pass a Saturday night, but I'd never get past the door Nazis and the velvet ropes. Even if I managed to finagle my way inside (bribes? pretending to be Armand Busson? ) my experience would be all about a series of riffs on the theme of rejection and humiliation. All I could do would be...avoid eye contact, stay as fully clothed as possible, and hit the free buffet. The best I could do would be to try to get my money's worth at the buffet and the champagne bar.

Oh, yes. There's a free buffet. Let's just say that I find that idea to be...a problem. A sex party buffet should be, hmmmm....champagne, cocaine, and perhaps something like truffled chocolates. (Veuve, of course. Maybe Bollinger. But not Moët.) The buffet shouldn't ever be an actual buffet--- the Vegas hotel kind. As I've said before, naked people and a buffet line don't mix. Two words on that: steam tables.

Oh, yes, I've seen "Eyes Wide Shut" and read both "Story of O" and Anne Rice's "Exit to Eden". When people think about high-end sex parties, they think about "Eyes Wide Shut". They imagine the parties as being about beautiful people having sex in elegant settings charged with mystery. Or is that just me? 

I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. Sex is about stories and social markers. Flesh as flesh is a failure, and physical sensation that doesn't derive from being part of a well-crafted story does nothing for me. I read the article about the Killing Kittens parties and poured myself a drink. I've no idea if there's anything that could live up to my vision of what a high-end sex party should be about (or what sex itself should be about), but I do know that I'd never be allowed past the door at Killing Kittens in either New York or London Town to find out. There's nothing in that article, nothing at the Killing Kittens website, that promises someone like me anything but derision and humiliation.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

One Three Five: Vox

I've been watching a film this morning, a quirky little comedy with Emma Roberts and John Cusack called "Adult World".  It's not a bad film. Nothing special, but something to enjoy on a grey, cool morning while drinking vanilla latte. Emma Roberts' character is certainly someone I'd have focused on had I met her--- bookish, lovely, willing to explore the things in life she'd read about (and been warned about).

I think what catches my eye, though, is that she wants desperately to be a poet. Her character has the worst possible reading voice, but she does love poetry. So I am thinking about poetry, about which poets and which poems have affected me, about which poems have said something to me about love and desire.

Years ago, I found a blog by a very, very serious girl who wrote that her plan for one spring semester was to read "one good poem" every day. I did grin at the ponderous undergraduate seriousness of it all, but I couldn't disagree with the idea. That is something worth doing.

Yes, I have written poetry, not that you'll ever see it. After all, I was an undergraduate once, and I did send poems to lovely girls I fancied. Yes, they were written to entice. However not? They weren't declarations of love, now. They were enticements and small visions of things I imagined. They weren't too overtly erotic or graphic. They were all of them a bit melancholy, though. All these years later, I still don't know if that melancholy was an affectation or actually the way I've always seen the world.  By now there may not be any difference, of course.

I have favourite poets, and you can probably guess most of the names. I was in the last generation brought up with the Modernists, and they've stayed with me--- Eliot and Pound and Stevens and Auden are always there on my shelves. Rilke, too, in C. F. MacIntyre's translations. And Leonard Cohen, too, I think.  (I have no idea which poets undergraduates are taught to admire these days--- can anyone out there tell me? ) If I had a poet for poems about love, though, it was always Cavafy. Cavafy always evoked things that I liked. The sense of exile, the cafes in Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria, the sense of history, the sense of time and loss.

One of my favourites, a small poem called"Grey":

While looking at a half-gray opal
I remembered two lovely gray eyes—
it must be twenty years ago I saw them...

We were lovers for a month.
Then he went away to work, I think in Smyrna,
and we never met again.

Those gray eyes will have lost their beauty—if he’s still alive;
that lovely face will have spoiled.

Memory, keep them the way they were.
And, memory, whatever of that love you can bring back,
whatever you can, bring back tonight.

And another by Cafavy--- "Body, Remember":

Body, remember not only how much you were loved 
not only the beds you lay on. 
but also those desires glowing openly 
in eyes that looked at you, 
trembling for you in voices--- 
only some chance obstacle frustrated them. 
Now that it's all finally in the past, 
it seems almost as if you gave yourself 
to those desires too--- how they glowed, 
remember, in eyes that looked at you, 

remember, body, how they trembled for you in those voices

I can remember reading those aloud alone in my rooms. I can remember reading them to girls there, too.  My young companions have told me over the years that I have a good reading voice, and I'd like to think that's true.  It's been a long time, though, since I've read poetry to a girl. I'd like to remedy that.

I can remember reading Cavafy to entice lovely girls, and I can remember reading him myself (always in the Keeley-Sherrard translations) and feeling myself move into his world. I first read Cavafy as an undergraduate, though, and that's a lifetime ago.  I've no idea what poems and poets are taught as poets of romance and sex and desire and loss today. I've no idea which poets and what poems lovely undergraduate girls sigh over these days.  I can't recall which poets black-clad bohemian girls are reading at coffee shops these days--- whenever I look at the books they have with them, it always seems to be critical theory. Well, that is something I should ask about.

Tell me, then, if you're reading this--- what are the poems that literary girls sigh over these days? Who are the poets regarded here in the second decade of the new century as speaking for their time about desire and love and loss? What are the poems read to girls in half-lit rooms just off campus? Let me know, if you can--- tell me who the voices are these days for seductions and romance.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

One Three Four: Cocktails

If you have time, you might go to a blog at Blogspot called The French Exit and look at an essay called "Some Notes Toward A Theory of Male Jealousy" posted on 6. March 2015.  It's an interesting piece by a thoughtful writer, although I disagree with her conclusions.

She does, by the way, quote me in her article. I'd sent her a message once upon a time during a discussion of male jealousy: Jealousy is the gin; envy is the vermouth. She said that she loved the line but didn't know what it meant: I love that, but what could it mean? Wanting what others have makes their wanting what you have more delicious? No--- not that. My line there is incomplete: Jealousy is the gin; envy is the vermouth. But there's more to it. The complete line is Jealousy is the gin, envy is the vermouth, and depression is the olive in the Cocktail of Bitterness. I believe that holds true for both shaken and stirred.

I used to write about the atmosphere of what gets called Forever Alone. JED, I called it: Jealousy Envy Depression.

The writer at The French Exit was clear that women could tell the difference between jealousy and envy, but let's make it clear. Jealousy means Why is she with him instead of me? Envy is Why can't I have what he has? Different things. Jealousy, in the end, is directed at her--- or at her choices. Envy is directed at him--- at his fortune.  Depression, of course, flavors either---- depression usually contains something like I'll never have anyone ever again.  The three things go perfectly together. And of course I love the cocktail metaphor, if only because I see the bartender's pale, slender hands and a very Art Deco cocktail shaker in motion. I have no idea what the Cocktail of Bitterness looks like when poured through a strainer into a chilled glass.

I haven't seen very much written on jealousy in the age of the gender wars. I'll take as a given that if it is written about at all, it's tied to male evil and oppression rather than be taken as part of the human condition. It's one of the oldest of human questions: Why not me? Why wasn't I the chosen one? What's wrong with me? Why did she choose him? Jealousy comes down both to rage at oneself and at the person who didn't choose you. Always both--- always. You fear that you're not good enough, and you hate yourself for that. You hate her for seeing it and for making you see it. You're angry at her for not choosing you, but even more for making you see yourself as not good enough.

Envy of course is the most singular of the Deadly Sins--- the one Deadly Sin that gives no pleasure at all to the sinner. Envy eats away at the self, at any sense of being in the right place in the world. Maybe that's why I call it the vermouth--- just the hint of it to flavour the drink.

Depression of course is the garnish, the olive that you toy with while you sit at the bar, the olive you draw off the toothpick, the olive you crunch on while the drink sits there, perfectly chilled.

Males aren't allowed to feel jealousy in the age of the gender wars. Take that as a given. We're not allowed to even admit to jealousy. But it won't go away. It hasn't gone away in the last few thousand years, and it's there in every human life, waiting. So's envy, but for some reason we're not told that envy is a moral and political failing in the way jealousy is.

JED--- Jealousy Envy Depression. Those things blend so well together, mixed in the proper proportions. The Cocktail of Bitterness, yes. It'll be on the bar menu for a very, very long time.

Monday, March 2, 2015

One Three Three: Encounters

I've been thinking about a friend who writes what she calls Dead Poet Erotica--- erotica about the young Sylvia Plath or the young Anne Sexton. It's not quite historical romance, and it's not quite fan fiction.  Yes, she does give her characters--- Plath at seventeen or eighteen, Sexton at nineteen or twenty ---the lovers they should've had. Yes, she does create a character that's very much herself to sleep with both Plath and Sexton. But she does know both biographies and she has a very clear grasp of both writers' poems and the critical studies of both.

Still, Dead Poet Erotica does edge toward the "celeb-parody" stories you see at various on-line erotica sites. You can probably imagine what those stories are like. Choose a name--- almost any young actress, singer, or model from the past fifteen or twenty years ---and someone has written "celeb-parody" erotica about them. The plots are simple enough: hot young celebrity has unexpected encounter with another lovely celebrity girl, hot young celebrity has secret life where she's sexually insatiable with strangers of all genders (and occasionally dogs or horses), hot young celebrity is sexually humiliated and used by men who'd never have a chance with her in real life. There's a strong streak of envy and bitterness in many of the stories--- I do have to note that. Sometimes there are stories where two girls (e.g., Taylor Swift and Emma Stone, or Emma Stone and Emma Watson) have sex and then do become a couple, but there are very, very few stories where there's anything like romance between the celebrity girl and anyone male. The authors' imaginations run to punishing the girls for being unavailable or just for being famous and wealthy. Yes, some very ugly envy- and class-based revenge tales are out there. And very, very few tales with male-female encounters that end in any kind of romance or connection.

My friend did ask me if I'd ever wanted to write stories about any actresses or models I've fancied. I had to tell her that I actually hadn't.  Writing erotica is hard. Let's be clear about that. I've always said that erotica and biography are the two hardest genres to work in. Erotica slips all-too-easily into bad comedy. Go find some porn novels from the 1970s or 1980s, go find stories at erotica websites...and then read them aloud. Try to keep a straight face. You won't be able to do it--- you won't.  I'll be honest enough to say, too, that there's a risk to writing down fantasies if you're male (there's a risk even to admitting to having fantasies, if you're male). There's the term "spank bank" lurking somewhere, and the cultural disdain for male lust and any male manifestation of the Solitary Vice. It's shameful to admit to fantasies if you're male, and probably an admission of being "creepy" if you're male and write erotica--- a fortiori if you're writing about someone real.

If ever I were going to do "celeb-parody" erotica, though.... Well, first off, I'd have to purge the "parody" part, since the goal wouldn't be to mock, degrade, or humiliate the fantasy girl. I'm not interested in any of that.  I wouldn't write something driven by envy or ressentiment--- I won't do that.  I'd probably be tagged as "creepy", though, since I would want to do some biographical research on the girl who'd be the center of the tale. That comes with all those years of academic training, though. I'd want her name and description to be correct, and I'd want to have other things--- career points, nicknames, favourite designers ---be correct. I'd probably look for interviews on line and try to get the rhythm of her voice and get her personality down.

What else, now? Well...let's think. How do you get her character to meet whoever she'll be pairing with? If you were doing two hot young celebrity girls together, it would be easy. They'd be able to meet at work--- on set, backstage, at awards ceremonies or after parties. To have her meet someone male, someone outside her usual circle--- that's hard. Let's say that no male character who was essentially me could be anything like the pizza delivery guy.  There'd have to be some reasonably plausible way to have the characters meet, some reasonably plausible way to have them open a conversation.

I suppose the next part would be where I'd lose the whole sense of inevitability that drives erotica. My male character would (obviously) be my stand-in, and he (obviously) wouldn't be someone whose body or sexual magnetism would make sex happen instantly. There would have to be conversation, and some way for my character's failings (age, looks) to be put aside. That could  It would have to be the conversation, and lots of dialogue kills erotica, doesn't it? There were would have to be some reasonably plausible reason for the girl to decide that, yes, this is worth exploring.  And there would have to be some way to get my character past his obvious fears.

I think I would want to imagine the girl sitting astride me on a sofa or holding me close to her while she sat on a desk or a table. I'd have to explain that, given my age, there was at least some possibility that my body wouldn't work, and that I just needed her to promise not to laugh. She'd...what? Take my jaw in her hand and hold it. Shake her head and say..."No. Just no. You don't get to be afraid. I'm the one in the locked hotel room with a stranger who's probably older than my father and who's already said he wants to blindfold me and tie my wrists. Sorry--- you don't get to be the one who's afraid." And she'd kiss me.  That's very much a scene I'd want to write. I'd want, too, for her to run a thumb over my lips and grin. "All those degrees," she'd say. "You'll figure something out. You can do more than one thing." Well, I'd want that to happen in real life, too.

I've always been someone who can describe scenarios to a lovely girl by phone, but writing sex scenes is something I'd have to learn. I'd have to learn how to avoid the mistakes that would turn the sex scene into low comedy...or into something purely mechanical. If I made things true to my own life, there'd be a great deal of talking during everything. I've never understood films or novels where people don't talk during sex.

The resolution of the story... Well, romance isn't likely between a hot young celebrity girl and my character. But there's no reason that even what both know to be a one-night thing can't end well, can't end with grace and something close to enjoyment.  Politeness, anyway. I'd want both characters to want to say "thank you".  The characters might not exchange phone numbers, but they'd neither of them have any regrets. That would be important.

Well, I suppose I might try to write something like this. I might--- after all, I do have female characters in mind.  The trick of course is write them into stories that are reasonably plausible. Verisimilitude counts, of course.  Which means that research counts. It's just hard to think that the attitude any characters I create always take--- verbal, cool, slightly detached ---would go with erotica.