Saturday, May 23, 2015

One Four Three: Empty Rooms

I'll pose a simple enough question tonight. If you're reading this, I do hope you'll take the time to respond.

It's been a hope of mine since I started writing here that I'd be able to open up exchanges and conversations, that I'd be able to talk about some of the issues I raise here with others.

Let's try a very basic question tonight.

What if the last person you had in your arms or in your bed was the last person who'd ever be there?

What if you knew to a clear certainty that you'd never be touched again in any romantic or sexual way?

What if you knew to a moral certainty that you'd never have sex with anyone else ever again?

If you knew those things, what would you do?

I've seen columns written by the gender warriors where any sense of dismay or loss about such things is dismissed with contempt. Not having sex ever again, they say, is no loss at all, and to feel fear or dismay or loss is a sign of...what? "Privilege", of course, and misogyny.  To be dismayed over never having sex again is regarded as being complicit in "rape culture".

But amongst those who aren't ranting cultists of the Social Justice Cult---- how would knowing that make you feel?

It'll happen with everyone, sooner or later. Some kiss, some night in bed with a lover, will be a last time for you. Do you see that as too far in the future to make the question worth considering? Have you ever wondered what it would be like on the morning after you realized it was true? What would you see when you look into the mirror after such a realization?

It'll happen with everyone, sooner or later. But tell me--- tell me what it would mean to you to know you'd never be touched again, that you'd never have sex again. What would you do? What would you think about yourself and your future.

Do think about it and get back to me.




Tuesday, May 12, 2015

One Four Two: Objects

There are articles that I find on line that I wish I could discuss over coffee or drinks with lovely friends-and-correspondents. Flat whites or vodka-limes, the trick would be to sit back at a table on a street side patio or a rooftop garden and talk about the ideas behind the articles. I write here, of course, in the hope that people will discover these entries, read them, and then open discussions. I've always been a believer in messages in bottles, in exchanges of thoughts and ideas. One reason I do sit some mornings and search out articles on various topics is the hope of having things to discuss. I was an academic for a long time, and I think the key thing I miss from that world is the idea of discussions, of talking about ideas.  Down all the years, the one thing I've enjoyed most with my young companions has been talking books and ideas late into the night.  My bedroom wall is lined with bookshelves, and there's a reason for that. Nothing is as powerfully intimate and enticing as talking about ideas.

Yesterday morning on line I found an article by the disgraced Hugo Schwyzer. I know that six or seven years ago he was a voice in the world of the gender wars, but I've no idea what happened to him after his very public implosion. When I was an undergraduate, we'd have said, Sucked out of the universe like a watermelon seed. Well, he went to wherever those disgraced on social media in the gender wars go. Rehab, possibly, but more likely dragged to the edge of a stagnant urban river some moonless night and shot in the back of the head by the Social Justice Cult enforcers. Something like that, anyway.

The article by Schwyzer that I found was about how males in the here-and-now are unprepared to be desired--- how males (or at least straight males) have no ability to believe that anyone male can be physically desirable. The article was filled with too much Good Men Project-style vaporing and moralizing, but it did make a point. I've thought of myself as moderately well-read, as reasonably well-spoken, or as a passably decent conversationalist. I've never thought of myself as desirable or desired. I must've been--- girls have gone willingly to bed with me, and there have been girls who've made repeat appearances. If you'd asked me why they were there, though, I'd have talked about my bookshelves and the stories I can tell.  I'd never have talked about being desirable, and that would've been a topic I'd have avoided. Why take the risk of considering whether I was actually desirable in any physical way?

Here in the latter years of my life, it's a fortiori an issue I'd prefer to avoid. But I do wonder about the issue of being desired. I suppose that I can't imagine how a male body or a male face could ever provoke desire. If a girl tells me that a certain male is handsome, I suppose I can agree or disagree in an abstract way, but there's no emotional connection, no way to imagine that anyone could feel actual, physical desire for anyone male. I've no idea what it feels like to be desired, no idea what it means to know that you're the focus of longing.  I've been told that someone missed my voice or the things I know. I've been told that nights when a girl couldn't hear the stories I tell over the phone she felt empty and alone. That's something, of course--- a kind of being valued and needed. It's not desire, though; it's not physical.

I understand what it's like to feel desire for someone. I understand longing and need. But I can't imagine anyone feeling those things because of me. My own romantic life has been about being useful for the things I know or the things I can say.  Those things have worked well enough, in a way.  But I have no sense at all of being anything physical, and I have less and less faith in my physical self as being of any value, or as being anything other than dead mass.

If you're reading this, tell me about desire. Have you ever felt desired? Do you ever feel desirable? Are you aware of honing those qualities and using them? And when you are desired, what does it feel like? What do you become more aware of about yourself?

If you're out there...do let me know.


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

One Four One: Solitary

I just noticed that the on-line world is full of announcements that May is National Masturbation Month.  And 28 May, every article inevitably tells us, will be the climax of the month, National Masturbation Day. That's just something none of the authors can escape saying. The more recondite articles will cite the history of the event--- back to 1995, to a San Francisco vibrator emporium protesting the dismissal of a U.S. Surgeon General who argued that masturbation should be part of a sex-ed curriculum ---and note that the original National Masturbation Day was 7 May.  At least one or two of the better on-line articles will include photos of anti-masturbation propaganda or of the covers of medical texts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries about the diseases and disorders caused by "onanism"--- Samuel Tissot is the big name here, of course, especially if you remember Steven Marcus' "The Other Victorians".

The tone of the articles is always fairly jocular. They mock the anti-masturbation crusades and crusaders of the past (I'm sure you know the Graham cracker story) and make jokes about what you're supposed to do in the other eleven months. More political articles tend to make the (very valid) point that masturbation is a marker for a great many other things. Opposition to masturbation is a very good predictor for right-wing attitudes on lots of other things--- abortion, same-sex-marriage, contraception, sex roles, sexual autonomy, gendered work roles.

Nonetheless, there's always a comic undertone. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. One article that took it as a given that masturbation was "empowering" and should be a major part of one's sexual education and "self-care" also began with a nudge-nudge-wink-wink set of jokes about National Masturbation Month and "choking the chicken" and the horrors of being a street cleaner after National Masturbation Day parades.

National Masturbation Month, like the vibrator emporium in San Francisco (Good Vibrations) that created the idea of the celebration, is a rather gendered thing itself, mind you. The articles take it for granted that there's something celebratory and liberating in female participation, but that male participation is superfluous and...comical. Comical at best. It's also taken for granted that anyone male is such a chronic masturbator that there'd be no need to teach him anything...and that, unlike the female case, there still is something shameful or risible about male masturbation.

I've said this before, but...in a world where words like "wank" and "wanker" are in common use, or where any set of images of beautiful girls is referred to as someone's "spank bank", there's really no way anyone male could indulge in the Solitary Vice and still maintain any self-respect. You can't be male and have masturbation treated as "empowering". If you're male, the Solitary Vice is regarded as some mix of pathetic and ridiculous at best, and as probably creepy, misogynistic, and dangerous at worst.  Even at "sex-positive" playspaces or things like the Killing Kittens parties, while a masturbating female is regarded as getting into the spirit of things, a masturbating single male is regarded as repulsive and unwelcome.

Here in the age of the gender wars, male desire is taken as being inherently suspect and treated as both pathetic ("thirsty") and dangerous. Male desire is seen as threatening, and no one male who hopes to avoid being mocked or "called out" can ever admit to any particular forms of desire. Admitting to particular fantasies is a clear path to being mocked or derided in a way that girls don't have to face.  That's one thing I've taken from the articles I've found at gender wars sites--- never admit to any concrete fantasies, never admit to any particular form of desire. Never, never admit to engaging in fantasies.  Well--- never indulge in any fantasies. The Solitary Vice is not for males. We've learned that from the gender wars.  Male desire is always regarded as unwelcome, sad, and ridiculous. As being inherently violent and about aggression. And the male version of the Solitary Vice is, well, far too easily mocked and held in contempt for anyone ever to consider indulging it in.

There are arbitrary social rules out there for everything. Everything comes with its set of social rankings. It's quite clear these days that if you're male, you can't participate in National Masturbation Month except to make jokes from the sidelines. No one male could be a promoter of the event. Certainly no one male could be a spokesmodel for the event. And in the other eleven months, well, if you have any shreds of self-respect left in your life, you certainly can't surrender to the (ideologically suspect) sad habits of onanism. Pleasure is itself suspect these days; we know that. Self-pleasuring is a gendered thing now, and it's not for males.  Desire itself is suspect, but it's very clearly not for males.

But how did we get here? That's something I've puzzled over here in the new century. The male version of the Solitary Vice was never regarded as aesthetically attractive, but how did we get to "wank" and "wanker" as common terms of contempt? How did we get to something like National Masturbation Month being increasingly gendered--- empowering for females, a contemptuous joke for males? Any thoughts? If you're out there anywhere over the aether reading this, tell me your thoughts.

As for me, well...as a gentleman of a certain age, I have few enough shreds of self-respect left. But I will hang on to what's left of them. There are things one can simply never do--- more and more of such things, really.  But I won't risk mockery and contempt. I won't risk becoming a victim to the spirit of the age. There are just things one can never, never do, or even consider doing. Better avoid the risk. It's just that simple.


Saturday, May 2, 2015

One Four Zero: Expulsion

It's been an odd year for writing about anything sex-related. I haven't seen any articles or controversies that have caught my eye in the last few months. No savage on-line warfare about conversations in elevators, no MRA gunmen, no efforts to have magazines shut down... There was the GamerGate affair, true, but that seems to have died down. The on-line anger inside the BDSM community about "50 Shades" was brief-lived.

If there's an ongoing set of polemics, it's over the trans* issue, about TERFs and the nature of identity. I don't want to go there, really. I'll only get in trouble. It's possible to be in favor of trans* rights and still think that being trans* is not the same as being "really" a male or a female. It's possible, and that's where I'd come down. But I can't risk going there. If I have any interest in the debates, it's only to laugh at the level of sputtering rage on both sides and to be interested in the whole question of identity. My grad school days were spent on issues of national identity, on markers of identity, and so I find the arguments over identity in the trans* debates vaguely interesting. I will just note that the accusation of "biological essentialism" comes oddly from a side that seems to believe that there's some innate, almost spiritual, quality of being male or female that's separate from the body--- an essentialism all its own.

So, then... what is there to write about tonight? Last night I saw James Franco's documentary "Kink", which I rather enjoyed.  Well-made film, with good interviews. You might guess that I developed an immediate crush on Maitresse Madeline at Kink.com, but that could hardly be a surprise. I suppose I wish that the film had been longer, and that they'd covered some of the social scene at the Kink.com headquarters--- its converted armory building in San Francisco. There was an article about that a few years ago in something like N + 1, I think. I may have  copy somewhere (I'm notorious for printing off articles to save for my archives--- something I learned all those years ago at grad school), but if you can find it out somewhere on the web, it's worth reading.

I liked what the film had to say about issues of submission and consent, and about the process of filming S/M scenes. I liked the discussion of how the filmmakers deal with the arbitrary restrictions put on content by the credit-card billing services that handle Kink.com's on line sales.  I suppose, though, that I found the film a bit depressing. I watched the camera move through the offices and spaces in the armory and understood that if those spaces were used for social activities and sex parties, I'd never be welcome there. I'd be as unwelcome there as I would at a Killing Kittens party in London or New York.

The writer who did one of the articles on the first KK party in New York was Chelsea G. Summers--- she's written about sex work and erotica at a number of places these last several years, including AdultMag. I know she's older than the usual age for venues like AdultMag (its editor, Sarah Nicole Prickett, is notorious for arguing that no one male over thirty should be allowed to write) and that she abandoned a doctoral thesis somewhere to become a writer about sex. I know nothing else--- I haven't seen a photo of her. The article on the KK party was very, very depressing. The party itself was described as something deserving of mockery, as were the male attendees.  Her latest article for Vice.com is all about the vileness of any older males' efforts at flirtation with young--- say, undergraduate age ---females. I don't think you'll be surprised to know that I regard Ms. Summers as a member of the party of my enemies.

I suppose I must write about her last article. After all, it is a call to expel all those like me from the world of sex and seductions. The KK article confirmed my own belief that the KK parties would be depressing, but then its mockery of the male participants made my depression much worse, and on a very different level. And now...the Vice.com article. I suppose I must write about it, must offer up my own views, my very different views.

It's now May, and it's a year when I need topics. If anyone reading this has topics to suggest, you're more than welcome to pass ideas on to me. You're invited to do that, really. I need things to write about, and I need to hear from anyone who might be reading this.