Sunday, December 25, 2016

One Nine Four: Performance

One of the big issues I'm noting out amongst the devotees of the Social Justice Cult is something called "performing emotional labour". This I suppose replaces "micro-aggression" as the latest example of Evil in social relations. It seems to mean the work women--- and it's always used as being something women do ---are expected to do in providing emotional support to male partners. It's used to mean work women have to do in a relationship to keep their male partners on an even emotional keel--- listening, offering support and solace, being there in moments of crisis or despair.

Now, no one likes an emotional leech. And some people really are emotional vampires in a relationship. But "performing emotional labour" seems to imply that any emotional support offered to a partner in a relationship is somehow illegitimate, that any expectation that one be a listener and emotionally supportive of a partner is inherently exploitative.

That seems to go along with with the general attitude in the Social Justice Cult that any social or interpersonal expectations or obligations are suspect at best, and very likely oppressive or exploitative  tout court.  We've come to a place where social and personal obligations aren't seen as holding societies together, but as ways of grinding others down.

In any of my romantic relationships, I want two things---- sex/romance (obviously) and a haven. I very much want and need out of a relationship what Lasch called "haven in a heartless world", a place to go for safety, respite, and refuge. A place to go for support.

That isn't, or shouldn't be, a gendered thing. You offer up the same support to your partner as they do for you: Ride or Die.  You listen, you support them against the outside world, you offer loyalty and a willingness to be there for them.  You offer solace and encouragement and comfort. You're on their side; they're on yours. Listening to their problems, taking their part against others, having their back. This is what makes it a relationship. Will it mean investing time and emotional resources? Absolutely. But that's what you do. And it's always reciprocal--- must always be reciprocal. Ride or Die.

If you feel oppressed because someone with whom you're partnered needs solace or encouragement, why are you bothering to pretend to be a partner? The idea that any personal obligations should exist in a relationship has become suspect...why? How did this happen? Is this related to the same attitude that makes actual telephone conversations an emotional ordeal? Is this related to the same attitude that makes it a grave sin to speak to strangers? Is this related to the same attitude that wants society made up of armoured monads who interact only at arm's-length?

Any thoughts on this?

Thursday, November 10, 2016

One Nine Three: Questions

I originally posed these questions back in 2004. I sent the list to various friends, including a girl I knew at the time who was finishing at Harvard Law and whose attitude, looks, experiences, and future left me filled with a toxic mix of Jealousy-Envy-Depression.  Her answers to the questions only intensified those feelings. Nonetheless, I hope you'll read this and consider your own answers:

1. When and how did you first find the courage to make a major life decision
without consulting family/friends-- or in opposition to family and friends?

2. When and how did you define yourself as an independent person?

3. Have you ever not done something because you were afraid that family and
friends would comment/question?

4. Have you ever been too afraid to do something or say something because
you were afraid that you could lose emotional/financial support from family?

5. If you are gay or bi, were you able to come out to family and friends?

6. If straight, when and how were you able to allow yourself to be known as
a sexual person/ sexually active around family?

7. Would you ever have been too afraid to live with a Significant Other
because family might have Commented or asked Questions? Would you have not
moved in with a Significant Other out of fear of losing financial support?

8. Have you ever not introduced a Significant Other to friends/family
because they might Comment or ask Questions?

9. What things make you anxious or paralyzed with fear?

10. Have you ever feared taking any career chance or moving somewhere
because you might lose your economic position or have your standard of
living fall?

11. Have you ever thought of yourself as too lacking in skills to make any
headway in the "Real World"? Have you ever felt that you deserved failure?

12. At what point in your life did you stop getting financial support from
family? Was it sooner or later than you expected?

13. Are you ever afraid that you can't live up to the social image/role
you've wanted for yourself?

14. Are you ever paralyzed by fear at the thought of being judged and found
wanting by Others in social or career situations? Would you rather be judged
harshly or just not compete and risk humiliation?

15. Of what things in your self are you deeply ashamed?

16. Could you survive a major emotional or financial reversal? How?

17. Do you ever think that you can't win an argument with Grown Ups or with
attractive members of your preferred gender? Do you ever go into arguments
thinking that someone like yourself can never win an argument?At

18. Do you ever think your life is all behind you?

Monday, September 26, 2016

One Nine Two: Negotiation

I'm still thinking about "The Girlfriend Experience" and what one might expect from a professional companion. I do remember some years ago--- maybe eight or nine years ago now ---and a blog by a girl who called herself Debauchette.  She had one of the first (and one of the best) escort blogs. She was clever and witty and literary and a fine writer. I miss her blog. Debauchette always called herself a professional companion. I liked the usage--- back to hetaira, of course, back to the idea of providing more services than just sex. Acquiring the services of a professional companion is about being able to afford the fees, but it's also about a certain kind of compatibility. You're paying for high-end services, but you have to be able to let your companion know what those are. You have to be able to provide a script outline that she can work with.

You'd be working with someone who comes with her own talents and background. I'm imagining it as like hiring a name actor.  You give someone like that a basic outline, and then rely on their own talents. If I were to hire someone like Riley Keough's character, I'd be trusting to her interpretation of the film script in my head. That ability is what justifies her fees.

Yet I'd still have to sit and look at her across a table and explain what I wanted. That's an awkward thing, a terrifying thing. It risks being judged boring and jejune--- much worse than being judged perverted. And it requires you to be able to put what you want into words. That involves self-justification--- again, obviously. There's the temptation to explain and over-explain, to try to show that what you want isn't a bad thing, that you aren't a bad person. Any attempt at explaining what you want is all-too-likely to turn into selling yourself, with all the anxiety you'd feel at a job interview. Explanation also requires that you be very sure about what you really want and that you be willing to admit to yourself that you do want these things.

That's likely to be the hard part. This is what I am; this is what I do. That's hard enough to say into a mirror about perfectly ordinary things. Think about admitting that to a high-end professional across a table: This is what I am; this is what I do. She's probably heard it all before, but would you ever believe that? Would you want to believe that? Would you ever fully believe that she wouldn't laugh or recoil in disgust?

It's much easier to get the envelope of cash ready than it is to put together a clear statement of what you want and what you need. I need you to make me feel like this. I need you to do these things. I've always agreed with the old, old saying that if you know someone's sexual fantasies, you know what the person really is. That's one of the more terrifying things I've ever heard.

Sitting across the table in the darkened bar at the four-star hotel, trying to explain what you're looking for from Riley Keough's character--- can you do that and maintain any sense of yourself and your self-worth? And, too, do you know yourself well enough to ask for what you want?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

One Nine One: Judgments

I spent some time last weekend watching a cable series called "The Girlfriend Experience"--- watching the first season all the way through. Well-written, though with some soap-opera touches that weren't necessary. The actress who was the star--- Riley Keough ---was wonderful. My type, of course: tallish, painfully thin, cold and calculating. I enjoyed watching it, though I suppose that it did leave me sighing not only over Ms. Keough, but over the idea of high-end escorts.

My own version of a Girlfriend Experience would include the things I think you know about. The girl would be dressed for a role in my films-in-the-head, with all the class markers I look for. and with a very clear set of scripts. I'd be paying--- I'd be more than willing to pay ---for certain kinds of attitude and conversation. The girl would probably need a syllabus and a reading list, which says so much about my own past and about my desperate need to feel like sex and books can be combined.

I'd be willing to pay for a girl who could perform as my leading lady in my films-in-the-head. I'd certainly be willing, although it's clear that I could never afford someone who has the skills I'd want.

I'd certainly be deeply afraid of disappointing whoever I'd paid. I'd be afraid that she'd feel like her skills were being wasted, that her talents far exceeded my ability to appreciate them.

I know that there are websites for clients of high-end escorts to rate their providers' skills and performance. There seems to be a whole set of polemics about the sites, about "hobbyists" using the sites to punish escorts by harming their business. Some of the sites seem to be infected by the whole Yelp Era attitude--- demanding, arrogant, and all-too-ready to take offense...and looking for a way to extort extra services. That's all very ugly.

There are also sites now where escorts can rate their clients. Fair's fair, I suppose, and escorts have a very clear need for a place for exchanging information about clients who might be violent or obsessive. Let's take that as a given. Yes, by the way, I am thinking of Wodehouse stories, of the huge ledger where Jeeves and other valets write down their judgments about their employers. Still, though--- there's something frightening about being a client and being rated.

A small parenthesis--- what is the correct term for someone who pays for an escort's services? Apparently there's a discussion in the demimonde about whether "john" is acceptable these days, though I don't know the details. I suppose I'd be okay with "john". It's  a usage that goes back a long way; I grew up hearing it. "Customer" or "client" would be a bit antiseptic, but fine as well. It's "punter" that I hate rather a lot. I think I hate "punter" almost as much as I hate "wank"/"wanker". Working-class British slang always manages to be cruel and dismissive and offensive. "John" or "client", then, but never never never "punter".

I would be terrified of being a client and finding a website where escorts rated clients by performance or looks. Please understand--- a site that discussed clients by the difficulty of their requirements or their tipping levels wouldn't be a problem. That's just business. It would be a site that rated clients as people that would be upsetting. Again, be very clear. I'd never use a rating site to rate escorts. If I had a problem or a compliment, that would be between the girl and me, or at most between the me and the girl's booker. I'm not a Yelp Reviewer type. And site that rated clients would leave me afraid ever to book an escort again.

After all--- let's be clear. One of the underlying things about booking and escort is that you aren't being judged as a person. Both parties negotiate a price for a certain specified set of activities and for a scripted scenario. It isn't about you at all.  You don't have to be afraid or ashamed of your looks or skills. You're paying to be part of something: the script matters, the exchange of money for services matters, not you.

There's an old, old (very male) saying that men don't pay prostitutes for sex; they pay them to leave after sex. I've never quite understood that, but I do know that part of what I'd be contracting for in any arrangement with an escort would be freedom from judgment. My preferred scripts have some level of difficulty, some level of complexity that requires skills worth so much.  That's fine. I'll pay for professional skills. I'm paid for mine every day at work. But I'm also paying to be treated with a cool professionalism. I'd be paying so that I wouldn't see contempt or derision in the girl's eyes. To be part of a set of scripts is one thing. To be judged as a person is another.

Friday, August 26, 2016

One Nine Zero: Pasts

A lovely friend who lives in New Zealand hinted for years that she had a dark secret that she'd been keeping. I'd make guesses, of course. Most of my guesses were very dark, which says more about me than about her. When she was maybe twenty-eight (she turns thirty-one in December), she did share this, about the older lover who's haunted her life:

I can't stop fantasising about my uncle (for clarification--- he's my mothers cousin, but I shall refer to his as my uncle for convenience). He must be...62-ish now. He's tall and tan and solid. He owns a pub in the outback in Australia. I first met him when I was in my mid teens, he taught me how to blow smoke rings, we drank sambuca and we fucked. Now I can't stop thinking about the last time I saw must have been 2008? Or 2009? It was at a family funeral. When I saw him after the funeral I went up to him and hugged him. Brushing my hands around his waist, I felt something like an electric shock. 'Hey there, beautiful' he whispered in my ear, then kissed my cheek. An hour or so later I noticed him watching me, and nodding his head towards the bathroom. I swallowed the rest of my gin & tonic and walked ahead of him. I was wearing black heels and a black skirt. After he shut the door, he ran his fingers up my thigh, lifted my skirt and kissed my bare cunt. 

I need him again.

She expanded on that a few nights later:

it has been years. but there will never be anyone else. i met him when i was 17. not so young, i suppose. but give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life. cards on the table, right from the beginning. first cousin once removed is the technical term. and thirty years between us. our first night together i was drunk. sambuca flowed through my veins. but it was electric. i knew at the time it was different to anything i'd ever felt before. i didn't know that i'd never feel anything like it since. it was a cheap motel room. we fucked countless times that night, then the next day he flew back to australia. a month later he flew me to his pub in the outback. we had a whole month together. to date, that was the longest time we ever spent together. i started to understand that it was love. we'd pour drinks at his bar all night, then take a bottle upstairs with us. we would drink and talk until dawn. the sex was amazing. he went down on me for hours.  i'd had men before...but not like this. i felt so powerful, so needed, and so loved. 

we've been together all over the place. vancouver, tokyo, auckland, sydney, the outback, fiji, wellington. we steal long weekends. we fly each other wherever, whenever we have the chance. for a long time i wouldn't let him cum in my cunt. my mouth was fine, preferred. i got over that though. its been ten years now. and nobody touches me like he does. nobody looks at me like he does. he is the only man i want, and i can never have him. 

“The only obsession everyone wants: ‘love.’ People think that in falling in love they make themselves whole? The Platonic union of souls? I think otherwise. I think you’re whole before you begin. And the love fractures you. You’re whole, and then you’re cracked open.” 

and i have tried to not let it consume me. i slept with men his age. boys my own age. girls. there is only him. i've had long-term boyfriends, who thought nothing when i flew to fiji for a 'girls weekend' and spent four blissful days with his tongue in my cunt and his arms around my waist. when i flew to vancouver with friends he arranged to be there for a weekend too...i told them i was catching up with my uncle, and had his hand in my cunt in the lift up to his hotel room. another time we were together for four nights in auckland. we stayed at a house in devonport, and it was like this 'what we could have been' experience. we cooked for each other, and read aloud to each other. we played cards, and mixed each other drinks. we walked around naked. we bathed together. we came together all week. it was agony to catch the plane home after that. 

he is my addiction. we're a chemical reaction. 

“The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” 

some nights i stay up late, drinking straight bourbon and smoking. habits i learnt from him, of course. they aren't my only bad habits. on those same nights i might cut and purge. i didn't pick up those habits from him, but i'd say he inspired them. it would kill him to hear me say that. what we have together chokes me. it annihilates me. it is everything, yet it can never be anything. how did it end up like this? i was young and drunk, our first night together should have been just that, a drunken regret. not the start of an affair which would come to both doom and define me. 

and a few weeks ago i got a text. i will see him soon. 

this is my secret. 

I read those two e-mails and sat back with a drink and tried to decide how to react to her story. I don't find the travel implausible. She's from a posh family, and she grew up taking travel for granted. I know her family's place in Wellington society; I know the firm where she works. I know her tastes in older men--- I'm one, after all. I had no way of knowing how true it all was, but it was all quite plausible. Accept it as true--- I decided that she wasn't making it all up after a few bourbons. What I felt was...well, jealousy of course. Obviously jealousy. She's haunted my thoughts for years, and I can only wish that I could evoke that kind of romantic obsession in her. I wish I could mean that much, for good or bad. So of course I felt jealous.

It says a great deal about me that I read "Sambuca" and let my mind go to the last time I'd had Sambuca. Years and years ago, in an Italian seafood restaurant in Vienna of all places. I thought about her description of Sambuca flowing like electricity through her veins. I tried to recall the girl I was with in Vienna and what the sex had been like for us that nightWhat.  It says a great deal, too, that I was a bit disappointed about her clarification of who her older lover had been. "Uncle" is simply far hotter in this context than "first cousin once removed"--- a status I couldn't begin to define or diagram. If she had to be with him, he should've been her mother's biological brother. The vision of an incestuous affair is hotter than simply a years-long affair with a much older man--- even if the older man happened to be, well, me.

What I felt was a mix of jealousy, envy, and depression--- a toxic enough cocktail. Jealousy that I wasn't the older lover she could obsess over. Envy that she got to fly to distant cities and carry on an affair in elegant hotels and exotic settings. Depression that I wasn't likely to have that kind of amazingly literary obsessive romance in my life ever again. Jealousy, envy, depression--- I used to note that mixture as JED in my paper journals, and note that it never ended well, that it was always associated with self-destructive time in my life.

It's certain that the thing that makes her stories most painful for me to read is that I don't have stories of my own right now to match hers. Her past is full of stories, and this season I can't imagine that any of my own are as good as hers, or ever will be again.

I've spent my lifetime living through stories, living inside stories, aspiring to be part of stories. JED is the dangerous and corrosive feeling I get when it strikes me that my days of having worthwhile stories to tell may be over. I always see sex and romance as being about the stories one gets to inhabit, the stories one gets to trade with lovers, the stories that one uses in seductions.

I love the stories my NZ friend tells. But I do sit alone and recognise that I'm not likely ever to have stories worth telling a lover again.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

One Eight Nine: Holmes

Downtown on a Saturday morning, watching sleepy-eyed co-eds and young twenty-somethings drift into the coffeeshop by the river. Bright and surprisingly hot so early--- a morning for iced coffee rather than anything hot. The girls I'm watching are on their way home, threading their way through older, empty streets and construction zones back to their own rented rooms or to the new condos in reno'd buildings along the river streets. I can sit at a corner table with my own iced coffee and a stack of books from the tiny downtown library branch and try to read faces. I suppose it would be a novelist's feast, watching the faces of Saturday morning Walk o' Shame girls--- so many stories in those expressions.

Twenty-odd years ago, there was a Zalman King "version"--- a very, very free "version" ---of "Delta of Venus". It actually wasn't so bad on its own terms, and it's worth watching. It just wasn't Anais Nin in any way--- take that judgment however you wish. There was a fun scene where the two leads walk through Paris streets in that odd Phony War autumn of 1939 and try to construct stories for passers-by. They sit in cafes and do the same--- watch the other tables and construct whole lives for the couples who flirt or bicker or sit silently. Well, I liked the girl who played the lead in the film; I'll admit that. I did like the idea of sitting with a lover and constructing stories. That's one of the things I've loved, and one that I wonder if ever I'll do again.

Walk o' Shame stories for sleepy-eyed co-eds--- always a lovely chance to see what you can do with imagination and deduction. I won't refer here to all those moments in Sherlock Holmes stories where Holmes deduces a whole life from details. I hated those moments, really. Far too arrogant, and I was never a Holmes fan. I'll always admit to using imagination more than deduction. I'm turning the girls at the coffeeshop tables into characters in a story, not assessing them as potential clients or criminal suspects.

Sleepy-eyed, I always say. If they've been with lovers, they should be sleepy--- they should've been having sex 'til not long before dawn. Hungover a bit, too. What's sex without vodka shots or bourbon on the rocks? Pensive, sometimes--- you can see the girls thinking about whether last night was a mistake or a disappointment, thinking as well about whether last night was a one-off or whether there's an affair beginning. Sometimes you can see them wondering about how to explain to roommates that they slept in a new bed last night. Once in a while you do see smiles--- they liked the guy, liked what they did, enjoyed the sex. Sometimes you see them looking at cars parked on the street, or at couples, and wondering why they're walking home alone, without their new young gentleman escorting them. That expression leads to all kinds of interesting speculations about social rules here in the new age, right?

It's all different if you're male, I suppose. The walk home is less thoughtful, less a contemplative time. More triumph, less analysis---- unless that's an image that we've decided to reject here in the new age of equality and diversity.  My own experience has been that the walk home is a victory march--- proof of my own value, proof that for one night I've won a battle against time and decay and my own body and past.

But it's still a fact, I think. Male stories on mornings-after are much, much less interesting, and they're so much less complex.

Well, a morning that's all summer sunlight. You can sit and sip vanilla iced coffee and watch girls with stories in their eyes and try to imagine what their lives are like. Surely there was a third Holmes brother who was a novelist---- surely.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

One Eight Eight: Smile-Mask

When I was young, I read a lot of Marxist theory. I was good at it for a while, and I knew all the arcane definitions and analytical techniques that Marxism had developed on its own or absorbed from critical theory. I knew the terms of art--- interpellation, ideology, alienation, comprador capitalism. I'm having problems these days with something more personal: the idea of "emotional labour".

 I do understand that there's a difference between "emotion work" and "emotional labour". One is, I think, more about presentation of the self at work, and other is more domestic. I don't know the dividing lines. What I do know is that the underlying concept--- when it's applied to domestic, personal concerns ---leaves me even more depressed and exhausted than the labour-market application.

My understanding--- based on reading any number of the more political sex blogs ---is that "emotional labour" is used to mean male demands on women for emotional support in a relationship. It's a male demand, of course. The male half of the relationship demands that the female half provide emotional support and help him through emotional downswings. This is regarded as evil, since it's a male demand. I suppose I'd always thought one of the desirable things about a romantic relationship was that you had someone there who would offer you emotional support, who wanted to raise your spirits and help steer you through depressing moments. Oh, of course you did the same for them. That goes without saying--- loyalty and support in return, always. Always. But the hope-- for both parties ---would always be that in a romantic relationship you'd have someone who would see it as worthwhile, or as part of the relationship itself, to be there for you, to say the small romantic things you need, to offer solace and congratulations and care.

Reading the blogs about the evils of "emotional labour" in a relationship, all I can think is that there's no longer any room for such things. Once again, it's better--- best ---to remain silent. Never ask a lover for anything, not support, not solace, not kind words. Never ask, never expect. Never hope. The new rules call for silence and distance. No one--- and especially the male half of the relationship ---should ever display any emotional needs or ask for any emotional support. Never ask for anything that could be spun as a demand. Never offer anything that could be spun as condescending or smothering. Simply enough, never ask for anything.

There was a time when I believed that lying back in a lover's arms would be safe, that I'd feel safe and supported and loved. A relationship could be a haven in a heartless world--- a phrase Marx supposedly used about the bourgeois family. Haven in a heartless world---- a kind of blanket fort against the outside, a place where someone believes in you and supports you, where someone sees it as part of their role to make you feel better, to make you feel desired and loved. For the record, and to stave off ranters, I'll be clear: you do all that for your partner, too. Ride or die--- you give that to them just as they give it to you. Those days are over. The new rules make it impossible to look at a romantic relationship as a haven, or to think you might get--- or seek ---any support.

There are things I'd hope for in a Young Companion, and things I'd like to tell a lover I'd need. There are things I'd like to ask for.  I can't, of course. I can't even begin to say anything. I can't even hint. All you can do in these latter days is stay silent. Never ask, never hope, never expect.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

One Eight Seven: Tour

Let's go back to something this August. Let's go back to talking about sex toys. A young companion and I have been discussing the issue, and I suspect that the whole issue is making me increasingly unhappy.

My friend has an extensive collection of toys and accessories, and she tells me that she acquired her first vibrator at not quite sixteen. She's proud of her collection, and proud of the research she's done about brands and performance.  I sat the other evening and listened to her enthuse about her new glass butt plug and how brilliant it is to chill it in a bowl of ice water before use. I'm quite good at a fixed smile, mind you. I just smiled and nodded and filed away the details in my mental archives...and felt increasingly depressed.

She sees it as a kind of mission to convince me that toys are for everyone, that everyone needs a set of toys. She's completely uncomprehending about my own fears. Don't you want to try things that'll give you pleasure? Why are you afraid to try things? She does ask me that. Sometimes she laughs and makes jokes about it being a generational thing--- I thought your generation was all about free love. Mostly, though, she's baffled about why I'd be afraid or ashamed of trying things that would enhance my own pleasure and let me know more about what my body needs. My Lelo, she says, taught me so much! 

One evening not so very long ago, she went to a sex toy shop--- someplace expensive, someplace that branded itself as being all about "sensual exploration" and "adventures in intimacy" ---and phoned me from there.  She told me to get on FaceTime, that she and I were going shopping together. I had to laugh, really. This was my own private documentary about sex shops, with a lovely blonde girl in her later twenties showing me everything. Now I'll admit that I felt very twenty-first century about the tour. Using FaceTime is a novelty for me. Nonetheless, that was the only device I felt comfortable with that night.

She did show me things she liked, and she did a whole infomercial tour of items she though I'd like or that we could use together. Again, I had my fixed smile on while I tried to puzzle out what I was feeling. The things to be used together didn't bother me. I have no problem with that.  But the things she showed me that she thought I'd like on my own--- those things left me depressed.

That I might be jealous of the toys she liked for herself, that as a male I might feel a sense of rivalry with her collection of dildos and vibrators--- that at least makes sense to me. That I might raise an eyebrow and grin at her inevitable choice of colours for her (inevitably very large) dildos---- black (a posh blonde white girl must-have) or a kind of rich caramel (her Polynesian fetish, her dreams of Maori and Tongan boys) ---makes sense, too. A tour that was only for her own pleasure would've been amusing. The things she told me I needed for myself, the things she did threaten to buy for me---  those things left me sad and miserable.

Part of the shame I felt was doubtless at my own  reaction. Is part of what I'm feeling just homophobia, just fear of being thought gay if I use the toys? That's a disturbing and shameful thought.

Is it shame at using because I'm male--- when the Arbitrary Social Rules define sex toys as something "empowering" when used by attractive young girls but shameful and a mark of failure when used by males? Worse--- much worse ---is it shame at the idea of using them when I'm neither young nor physically buff? I suppose I'm imagining the invisible audience watching and being disgusted and brutally mocking me for being an aged perv doing disgusting things while looking even more disgusting. In some meta-sense, of course, is it more of a sign of failure that I allow the fear of an invisible set of judges to destroy so many things I do or might try doing?

Maybe it's that I'm uncomfortable with the idea of pleasure. I've never been very good at unmediated physical pleasure. I take very little pleasure in things or sensations themselves. I'm only truly attracted or thrilled by the stories behind what's happening, by the settings and backstories. Something that feels good on its own means very little to me. Being part of a story, being a well-crafted character in a good story--- that's where I derive pleasure.  Using sex toys alone wouldn't be part of a story where I'm a character good enough to be having sex with a beautiful young companion.

My friend spent a few hundred dollars on toys that night. Ah, posh blonde girls whose Christmas bonuses at work equal my annual salary!  She was gentle and pleasant and fun and upbeat with me over FaceTime. She was going to enjoy herself a lot with her new toys, she said, and she'd bought things she and I could try together. She was even upbeat about the things she'd shown me that I could use myself.  I want you to have pleasure, she said. I want to you try things and find your pleasure.

I kept smiling and nodding, which was all that I could do. I'm even ashamed to tell her about all the depth of my fears.

There's rather a chance that I'm not suited at all for pleasure--- something you'd think I'd have learned after all these years.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

One Eight Six: Found Objects

I asked a favourite young companion a simple question a few nights ago. If you dropped dead tomorrow, I asked, what would you be most worried people would find in your house?

She laughed about that. Not anything silly, she said. Not the sex toys. She just shrugged about that. She was, she told me, an upper-middle-class, educated white girl in the year 2016. Of course she had sex toys. All girls like her did, everyone knew it, and no one would think anything about it.  The vibrators (the USB-connected Lelo models), the dildos, the anal beads and penetrators--- she was wasn't the least worried about having those found by family or friends clearing out her rooms. After all, she'd never worried or been the least bit fazed when customs agents or theTSA found her travel vibrators. She just gave them a cool, grey-blue, posh girl's stare and went on her way.

What she'd be worried people would find would be her notebooks and journals. She pours her heart and secrets out onto paper, and she has a locked box filled with them. Those are the things she'd worry about. That's why she burned a lot of her teen years journals, too. She wouldn't want her family and friends knowing about her teen Bad Girl adventures, for all the obvious reasons--- starting very young, doing risky things, having bad things happen, having encounters with her parents' (mostly married) friends, sex with some of her father's employees, sex with friends' boyfriends or girlfriends. And because of her emotional issues from those days, things that she may be more worried about than who she was having sex with. She didn't want her family knowing how she felt about them when she was fifteen or sixteen, or that she'd done things deliberately to defy them and their beliefs and values.

She and I are total opposites about the question. I kept notebooks when I was young, and I've diligently kept paper journals since the middle of the 1990s. But I was trained to always look to archives and documents. I believe in the idea of History, in the idea of a life preserved in archives. Everything must be documented and preserved--- I spent most of my years at university and grad school being taught that, and I believe in it.  I wouldn't be ashamed of anything I'd actually written down, not if I told it as a well-crafted story. I have the historian's kind of vanity, the idea that someday, someone somewhere would go through my journals and notebooks and find small bits of data that could be useful social history. I'm male, too. Having people know I'd had encounters in risky places or with unexpected girls would count in my favor. But all that only applies to things written down, to documents. Not to anything tangible.

What I'm saying is that I'd panic at the idea of people finding any hypothetical cache of sex toys. Not the riding whips or the riding crops, mind you. Those I'm rather proud of. They go with my reputation, with the self I've constructed since my early teens, with the interests I've clearly made part of my life. I could have riding crops found; that wouldn't change anything anyone things of me. But I could never have sex toys found. I've said it before, and I'll reiterate it here. There are no sex toys as such that a male can own that will allow him to keep his self-respect and social standing.

Vibrators and dildos for girls are associated with empowerment, self-discovery, sex. Things like Fleshlights or dildos or prostate massagers or inflatable dolls for males are associated with failure, creepiness, derision. I think the Arbitrary Social Rules are very clear on that. Male masturbation is regarded as a clear sign of social and sexual failure. Haven't we talked about that before? If you're found with sex toys in your nightstand drawer, the people finding them will hold you in contempt.

Part of that is something predicated on how porn is structured these days. If a girl has a collection of dildos, people will think about sex, about how hot it would've been to see her use them. If a straight male is found with dildos, he'll be tagged as closeted gay. If a gay male is found with dildos, he'll be mocked for being too much a loser to find a partner. Sex toys are an invitation to think of a girl as highly sexed, but an invitation to think of males as sexual failures.

The fact is, I told my friend,  I don't care what you read about in my journals so long as you think I'm a good writer and have a good eye.  What I'd be afraid of is being thought a sexual failure and sexually contemptible.  My paper journals are neatly archived and dated. I'd never hide them. But I'd never have a cache of sex toys because I would have to hide them,  because I'd agonize over what people would think about me if they found them.

And that, I think, is extremely sad.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

One Eight Five: Shopping

I never quite know how to behave at sex shops. I'm never quite sure what pose to strike or how to ask questions.

I've been to sex toy shops, though usually--- perhaps inevitably ---I'm there as a young companion's accessory, as the older admirer she leads by the hand. Literally leads by the hand, mind you. That's something my young companions have seemed to like--- drawing me along the store aisles in their wake. I can't say that I mind, of course. I love watching them shop. I love the way they show off their acquisitions and take me to the displays they want to explore.

It is awkward, though, if you go in alone. It's something that takes some deep breaths. Going into a sex shop alone, you have far too much to prove and far too much to hide.

I worked in a bookstore all through grad school. It was a good job. I was the evening and night manager, so I didn't have to be there 'til two in the afternoon. I'd close up at ten at night and then go out. I managed to get most of my doctoral thesis written and still spend lots of late nights in clubland. My job required me to take books home to read, and I had special authority to order History and Modern Lit and Non-Fiction. We had a good clientele, a good mix of upscale types, bohemians, and students. They valued my advice, and I tried to be knowledgeable. I hired good people to work with me, people whose lives had been built up out of books.  A very good job, and one I look back on now with special nostalgia.

I used to tell the evening staff that we were like bartenders or psychoanalysts or priests. People told us what they were looking for on the shelves, and we ended up knowing all about their inner lives and hopes. Not just the thirty-something soccer moms who'd buy a hundred dollars' worth of self-help books on reaching orgasm or saving their marriages, and not just the solemn art-school kids buying guides to Coming Out. We knew what authors you'd choose to give you the right vision of romance, the kinds of futures that the sci-fi readers believed in, the skills people wanted to acquire and the phobias they wanted to overcome.  We knew who was pregnant for the first time and who was traveling to Bali that summer. I knew--- predatory creature that I am ---which senior girls from the posh prep schools were buying "Story of O" or Anne Rice's "Sleeping Beauty" books.

So I expect I'm a bit afraid of sex shops for that reason. Shopping there shows someone what your current fantasies and fetishes are. You're vulnerable to the judgment of strangers--- always an unpleasant thing. More--- the shop clerk will see you what you buy, and she (it should always be a she) is likely only to see you once or twice in her career. Whatever you buy that night, whatever you seem interested in or excited by that one night--- that's what'll define you in her eyes.  That's a problem in general, by the way. If you tell a potential young companion about your current interest, she'll assume that's all you are, all you're interested in.

Cliche, of course, but true. It's easier to be a lovely co-ed and go to sex shops (at least those where the staff are more likely to have graduate degrees than those where the clerk looks like Comic Book Guy) than it is to be a gentleman of a Certain Age and shop there. A lovely co-ed can stare down anyone who raises an eyebrow and fiercely defend her own sexual agency and empowerment--- one of the best uses for all that training in critical theory. Someone male of my own age must shuffle and look at the floor and find some guilty way to insist that he's not a sad perv with a Real Doll at home. Possibly a Real Doll of an underage sheep.

I've been the official carrier-of-purchases for young companions at sex shops. I've been the older admirer to whom a lovely girl turns in the presence of the clerk and says, "Do you think this one will leave good marks on me?" I've been there when a young companion grasps my arm and leans her head on my shoulder and tells the salesgirl, "No--- give me the next size bigger." Those things are fun. Part of the delights of being an older admirer. But I couldn't go in alone. I certainly couldn't go in alone and ask the staff for advice or recommendations.

That's disheartening, really. I'm a gentleman of a Certain Age--- a professional, a sometime academic,  holder of post-graduate degrees. Yet I can't ever walk up to the counter at someplace like, say, Good Vibrations in San Francisco or any of its upscale equivalents worldwide and just...ask for advice and recommendations. Whatever my interests might be, from mere vanilla to the very baroque and complicated, I can't risk being judged and mocked. Whatever my young lady buys is fine. And I'm fine carrying her parcels or giving her my own take on what she's looking at. But I'm never going to be able to shop on my own.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

One Eight Four: Unsolicited

My friend and correspondent Ms. Flox--- the sex blogger A.V. Flox ---wrote elsewhere not so long ago about a problem of the current dating scene: the flood of unsolicited penis photos being texted to hapless young women. She posted a meme that's been going around the web--- a "prospectus" for a service that promises to show men why dick pics are a poor idea, and, for a nominal fee, to teach men that genitals are not an acceptable conversational opener.

My own response to her was:

I really, really can't imagine ever sending a lovely girl a dick pic. I mean, I don't send pics at all. Reading lists, yes. Hints that I could be dangerous in the theme-park thrill-ride way, yes. I'd consider sending her the heads of her enemies as an introductory gift. But dick pics lack any kind of imagination...and they leave anyone male open to easy ripostes and mockery. Too banal, too cliche, too risky.

I stand by that. In all the time I've flirted with lovely girls on-line--- back to the end of the last century  ---I've sent very, very few girls a photo of myself at all. And never, never a penis pic. A girl that I trust  may get an "official" photo--- something taken for corporate purposes, something with jacket and tie. It takes a lot for me to trust a girl enough to let her see me. In jacket and tie, I can look reasonably serious  and darkly intense. There are bright and lovely girls who can look at my official photos and see more than my age and my appearance. There are a few of them, and deeply treasured they are. But they're a very small niche population. For the most part, I sent reading lists.

I'm male, and all-too-aware that the male body is open to easy mockery.  There are risks that I won't take, risks that a gentleman of a certain age can't afford. Penis pics are one of them. The risks are too high, especially in an age of social media.  Let's be very clear about how the system works. It doesn't matter if you're in the worldwide top 1% for penis length, thickness, and rigidity. If a girl mocks your penis on social media, you've just been effectively re-assigned to micro-penis status. If you're male, you can't win that battle.  Ever. It's not a risk worth taking. Be clear about that.

The whole situation with dick pics may be very different for gay males. Unsolicited penis pics may be the coin of the realm there. I really don't know. But I do know that in my own social world, there's nothing to be gained from dick pics. They're what I was taught to regard as tacky--- never socially appropriate, very much something done by people who lack breeding and social grace.

Reading lists. I stand by that. I would never use an actual photo of myself on a dating site, and I would never send a penis pic. Reading lists are much more about what I'm offering. I'm a creature who's part of a niche experience--- being part of a literary scenario, being a character in a film or novel, exploring things that have the air of the forbidden. I'm sold myself as that much of my life. When I do offer sex, it's far more as a scenario than as flesh. The girls who respond to me want to do things in bed, yes. But they want something else, too--- and the stories being generated outweigh the flesh.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

One Eight Three: Letters

I've been thinking about love letters.

The explanation is easy enough, really. I've been cleaning out my flat. Trying to make space, to de-clutter, to look less like I live in a ruined book warehouse or a storage closet at a fading liberal-arts graduate school. I've been emptying out storage bins and throwing out enormous amounts of old papers. I suppose I hate doing that. I was trained to do History and Law, and I was trained to believe that archives were key, that the past is more important than the present. I know--- space is important, minimalism is good for the soul, and it's a bad thing to live on the edge of hoarding. It may be that at my age, the past is what you have instead of a life. Nonetheless, it's time for a de-cluttering campaign. And there've been love letters found amidst all the debris of my life.

The letters themselves date from all across my life. I found a couple of faded ones with stamps that date back deep into the last century, letters from girls when I was in my teens. Some have foreign stamps and add "USA" or "Oesterreich" under my street address. Those are written on airmail stationery, and I'm fairly certain that's not even made any more. Different handwritings, different inks, names I remember from long ago.

We don't do love letters any more, do we? Few enough people even do letters. I've been told that even e-mail is fading. We text, these days. Something as short as possible. We live in a time when people use "TL;DR" as an actual, non-ironic statement. You can guess that I hate that. Of course I like letters. I like the ritual of writing them--- choosing stationery and ink, sealing them with wax. I like it that it takes time for them to arrive. I like it that you can have them to remember and re-read down the years.

Now it does occur to me that in the age of the gender wars, love letters may not be regarded as a good thing. I can see the outrage machine of the Social Justice Cult gearing up to make that parrot-squawk "Problematic!" call that signals that moral evil has been uncovered somewhere.

I can hear the attacks in my head. The gender warriors will regard love letters as "entitled". After all, to send a love letter can be spun to mean that you're imposing on someone else's attention and time, that you're expecting (or demanding) a response, even if that's only some kind of emotional effect in the recipient. Isn't telling someone how you feel about them a demand that they "perform emotional labour"? Can't telling someone about your hopes and fantasies about them in a love letter be spun as something "non-consensual", something like cat-calling? It's all-too-easy to imagine that the gender warriors would hate love letters. They hate all the rituals of romance, after all. They disapprove of courtship and seduction, of the idea of exchanges. They really hate the idea of fantasy, of course. And anything traditional or archaic.

Let's make a note about that. The gender warriors and the Social Justice Cult hate the past and everything about it.  That's something I'll never understand.

In any case, now... Love letters are open to attack by the gender warriors. They're probably a dying art anyway. They take too long to write, they require too much effort. And while couples might discuss "relationships" these days, they don't discuss courtship and seduction; they can't risk sharing dreams and fantasies.

I found small stacks of love letters in my storage bins. Some were bound in ribbon. All of them were parts of my past, memories I hated losing. Some were gently romantic, some were passionate, some were clever and witty, some were full of fairly graphic erotica. All were...hopeful.  That's a part that's as key as promises of torrid encounters. They were hopeful; they were promises of a better future. That's something that makes tossing out old love letters doubly painful. You lose the memories, you lose the proofs of your past--- and you lose the promise of a future.

The letters that have been swept up in my de-cluttering may not have been re-read in years. But they were always there: proofs of my past and promises for futures that never arrived. I'll miss them, miss the idea that I had a past worth remembering. As a gentleman of a Certain Age, I may never have the chance to write more. And that's not something I want to consider.

Monday, June 6, 2016

One Eight Two: Thrill Rides

The other night I went back and re-read a blog entry from three or four years ago--- an American expat girl writing about her life in London. I know the girl a bit, or knew her once, when she was shuttling between the Pacific Northwest and DC, a self-destructive, hyper-aware, ghostly-beautiful co-ed. The entry itself is an  account of her No-Names-Please encounter with an English guy she picked up at a club in Camden Town.  I can't tell you much about the setting or the club life she wrote about.  London's not my town. I'm a creature of cities out on the Donau and not the Thames. Anyway, the story did call up memories of my own.

When the expat girl took the English guy home, she shook off the warning of a girl with her at the club not to do it: I never heed warnings.  When he fingered her in the taxi (a £35 ride? Bloody hell--- a long way back to her rooms at LSE) and told her very graphically what he's going to do to her, she thought---

You're thinking this is horrible, but the horrible part is that I only smirk. I'm not offended or scared. I feel calm and cool...

In bed, he did hurt her, and when she was loud he bit her nipple hard enough to draw blood and said, Stop making noise, you fucking slag.  What she thought was---

I'm terrified but I'm enjoying this.

I'm terrified that I'm enjoying this.

Oh, the story never goes very much farther into anything dark. Don't think that. There's rough sex all night, and some fairly gentle sex and conversation the next morning, and then he charged his phone (nice touch), dressed, told her that he did have a girlfriend, and left. She wasn't even really annoyed about that; she liked being hot enough to entice a stranger to cheat on his girlfriend. The next day she was too sore to walk much, sore from no-lube anal, and her left breast was bruised and the nipple erect with a smeared ring of dried blood all around it. No regrets, though, or only the dim and tired awareness of how much she likes courting danger. It's a very hot story, and I'm...well, envious of her for having it to tell. I can't wish I'd been the guy, though. She likes her men tall and handsome and with the whole rock-hard abs thing. And she always did strike me as a girl who's harsh enough to comment on a male partner's looks and...ummm...endowment to his face. Not anything I'd risk. There's no point at all in wanting to be the guy. I meet none of her criteria, and probably never have or will.

What I am thinking about tonight is her  whole elision of arousal and terror:

I'm terrified but I'm enjoying this.

I'm terrified that I'm enjoying this.

I envy that--- I envy anyone who has that said about them, who can evoke that in an attractive girl.

I have no idea if anyone has ever thought that around me. Or thought those things in any serious way. I've always been the Theme Park Thrill Ride for a certain kind of co-ed. They can do things that they've been taught were Bad, or at least risky, and they can do them with someone like me, who really does meet all the criteria for a Lifetime Movie of the Week villain. They can do those things--- go home with the much-older man who's certainly a predator of some kind and just might be dangerous ---and still know that it's like getting aboard the much-hyped thrill ride at the theme park. Faux-danger--- you get the adrenaline rush and get to pretend to be terrified, and you know that in a few minutes you'll be able to walk away from the ride and feel like you've had an adventure, like you've done something, like you have a story to dine out on for weeks.

I've played to that image, of course, the image of being dangerous and depraved. It's all part of roué-hood, isn't it.  I used to laugh about it. Work the creepy, I'd say. Tell the girl that, yes, you are everything Lifetime Channel and her parents and Dr. Drew and Women's Studies 101 told her to be afraid of, and is she up for the risk? It works a fair amount of the time. It really does. Faux-danger is an alluring thing. Horror films and theme parks make piles of money off the idea.

And people do dine out on stories. I've done it myself for years--- sought out experiences specifically for their value as stories. I've known many a posh girl, many a girl with a professional degree and a serious career, who's deployed stories to suggest that she had a wicked, interesting, intriguing past, one that got pretty heavy, one that endows her with a hint of danger still, one where her tales of escape will leave friends and dates begging for more.

It's still a bit exhausting for me, of course--- being the dark lover. And unsettling, too. A lovely, vodka-fueled co-ed stretched out on a bed late one night, back arched, thrusting sharp hipbones up at you and begging you to hurt her raises problems. There's always the morning-after regrets issue. There is always that. And as incredible as it is to have some lovely girl yielding herself up to you and asking you to go further, to not have any limits with her, it does put you in an awkward position. You have to be pitch-perfect at things. The girl can be telling you to do all these things she's read about or fantasized about or seen in films, and you have to get them exactly right. There's no room for error. I've said no to things, which has surprised girls. I've said no to choking girls when they've asked--- that's not something where you can make a mistake. (Scarves. I might do it a bit with a scarf, if a girl asked, but never with my hands. Not that way. Never.) There was a flat no to the one seriously MDMA-dreamy girl who asked me to cut her. That I wouldn't do; that I won't do. That's not something I ever want to have to explain to anyone later. That particular girl had faded scars on her hipbones and thighs--- she'd cut herself in high school ---and she wanted to have a lover do it for her. That was her fantasy, she said. Be clear, now: I had no moral objection. It wasn't even that I distrusted myself or thought I'd turn into Patrick Bateman. But I wasn't going to become the target and the Bad Guy if she had morning-after regrets.

I do suppose there's another kind of Thrill Ride that's easier. It's one that girls I have loved wanted. I don't have to be faux-terrifying. I only have to be older and attentive and literate. There are girls who want the experience of an Older Lover, who want what an Older Lover can offer: booklists and conversations and an introduction to things they've wanted--- being part of a world that's mannered and bookish and intellectual. They want an Older Lover who can show them things, teach them things. A lovely girl at McGill in Montreal wrote me once to say that the exchange seemed perfect to her: youth and beauty and sex exchanged for knowledge and instruction. That's easier to do. I have no especial problem with the idea of whips and candle wax, of masks and silk scarves around slender wrists. I have no problem slapping a girl at the moment of orgasm. But this latter way is just...simpler. I can be the kind of Greying Lover that my Montreal friend always wrote about. I don't know that I can teach a lovely co-ed anything about Life, but I did work in a bookstore all through grad school, and I stood up in front of classes and lectured for years. I can always talk about books and ideas. That's easy to do. A different quality of Thrill Ride. I could do it for the girls I have most loved over the years. It's not something I could do with the expat girl in London, though. It's not even something she'd want.

There's a strange lull in life these days, a strange kind of exhaustion in my life. There's maybe one girl in my life right now who'd appreciate both poses--- who'd ride the thrill ride, terrified as part of being wet-and-breathless, but who'd want the long conversations later, who'd never worry about rock-hard abs and how many miles one could run. Alas, though--- she's eight thousand miles away, living on the beach at Wainui. At the moment, the best I can do is put ink to paper and offer her tales of books and ideas alternating with thrill ride scenarios. I'd like to think that she'd say what the expat girl told the English guy:

I'm terrified but I'm enjoying this.

I'm terrified that I'm enjoying this.

I want her to say other things, too--- Have you read this? What do you see out there in the dark, in the waves? Let me tell you all the things I see in my city.  That's part of being older, I suppose: fear that you can't evoke either thing in lovely girls any more.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

One Eight One: Seating Arrangement

I've said before that I have my dislikes among the sex bloggers. I'm fine with Karley Sciortino at Slutever and Vogue, who's lovely and a delight.  But the two writers I'm currently regarding as my leading candidates for an enemies list are the blogger who calls himself "Dr. Nerdlove" and the woman who calls herself Arden Leigh.

I'm sure they're both well-meaning. I'll give them that. But reading either of them leaves me depressed and angry. There's nothing in either writer's archives to make me feel the least shred of hope, and both seem to take a positive delight in belittling, haranguing, and mocking hapless male readers. The so-called Dr. Nerdlove enjoys using "tough love" slogans to humiliate and bludgeon male readers. He enjoys mocking any male with limited social skills or who's the least bit shy. Arden Leigh uses New Age and psycho-babble terminology to the same end. Leigh sets herself out as a female PUA, as someone who's studied the skills of seduction...and then lashes out at any idea of romance, or fun, or actual flirtation.

And what have I learned from them recently? Well, I've learned this:

If you're sitting at dinner or drinks with a girl (but should you be? after all, asking anyone out is a show of "entitlement", isn't it?), be sure never to sit directly across from her. Always sit on the diagonal. Make sure you're the one sitting close to the wall and that she's always close to an exit/escape. Never, ever meet her eyes. Never under any circumstances hold her hand. Never touch. Never introduce any topic of conversation. Never attempt to add any information to a topic, never attempt to explain anything no matter what you may know about a topic. Reply only in monosyllables. Never show any emotion in your voice, and of course never raise your voice. Never ask a question, never ask for any information, never ask about anything personal. Never disagree; never defend a viewpoint. Offer nothing. Keep looking away, head down.

If you're on the street with a girl, it goes without saying that you never hold a date's hand or put an arm around her. Always walk just a bit ahead of her so that you're never behind her, where you might seem to be a looming threat. Never stop--- keep walking no matter what. Never give directions. Do not speak while walking--- certainly never speak first. Do not suggest destinations or routes. Call attention to nothing around you. Make no comments on anything. Again--- never meet her eyes, never look directly at her. Keep your body language close, keep your own social space to the barest possible minimum. At a bar, on a subway, on a bus--- keep at least one empty seat between the two of you. There at the bar, sit half turned away. Draw in on yourself. Never allow yourself to seem like a physical presence.

And never, never, never ask for anything, especially not any kind of show of attention or support or affection. Offer none, lest that be taken as being "entitled" to a response, or as a kind of manipulation.

Do all these things. I'm sure "Dr. Nerdlove" and Arden Leigh would approve. This is how we live now.

This is what I've learned.

Though the question remains open: how exactly does one make a dignified withdrawal from the emotional post-apocalyptic hellscape of romantic and sexual interaction?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

One Eight Zero: Galt

Not long ago I ran across the acronym MGTOW. That's Men Going Their Own Way--- a subset of the MRA world. One on-line commenter described the MGTOW types as "the 1970s lesbian separatists of the Manosphere", which is rather funny.

The idea behind MGTOW is that men, or at least those men who've been wounded in the gender wars, should just walk away from those parts of the social world (romance, dating, marriage) controlled by women and live on their own.  There's an unfortunate linkage between the MGTOW philosophy and "exit" libertarians--- the people who talk about "going Galt" and withdrawing from a corrupt and collapsing society.  Somehow there's a connection made between not wanting to pay child support or pay for dinner on a date and not paying taxes.

All this does baffle me.  The political linkages baffle me, certainly. And the tactics here baffle me. Announcing a withdrawal from social life? That's all-too-easily mocked as defeatism. It's all-too-easily mocked as futile vanity, too--- commenters at articles about the MGTOW movement laugh at the idea of men who are self-described losers expecting that women will care about their withdrawal.

I'll say, too, that some of the Going Their Own Way types don't help their case by claiming that they've been traumatized and plundered in divorce settlements. Alimony is no longer what it was in 1950s movies or tabloids.  Here in the state where I'm writing, having to pay periodic support (it's not even called alimony these days) longer than eighteen months can happen under only a few very limited circumstances--- e.g., a spouse who's clearly disabled. If a middle-class couple have even rough parity of income, it's not going to happen at all. And there's no sympathy out there for anyone who feels aggrieved at having to pay child support.

It's unfortunate, too, that the movement pronounces its own name as "Mig-Tau". It's not possible to take seriously a social/political movement that calls itself "Mig-Tau".  Let's remember: it's not possible for anyone male to indulge in the Solitary Vice with any self-respect at all once he's become aware of the words "wanking" and "tossing".  It's just as impossible to maintain any self-respect while belonging to something called "Mig-Tau".

Nonetheless, there are some serious questions that the MGTOW types approach, but can't answer while blathering on about Red Pills and going "off the grid". What about the males who consistently don't do well at games of sex and romance? What about the ones who've run out of the resources (financial, psychological) that you need to deal with dating, sex, or relationships? Is there a case to be made for simply withdrawing from the sexual marketplace--- whether that case is based on age or cost-benefit analysis or just on emotional exhaustion? If there is a case to be made, how do you argue for a dignified withdrawal? How do you maintain yourself in some kind of dignity afterwards?

The world as it stands now isn't all that accepting of the old idea of the bachelor.  I'm not talking here about the recluse, about the aging fellow who lives at the top of the stairs in a walk-up flat and comes out only to go to the market or the liquor store, who snarls at anyone who speaks to him.  I'm thinking of someone who simply doesn't participate in the rituals of pair-bonding or mating. Do we still have social room for the extra man, the quietly courteous dinner guest who'll fill a BGBG-arranged table? Can we accept that someone might want to just withdraw from the search for a mate and devote himself to...reading, or male friends, or a quietly successful career? Is it possible to be accepted as being happy (or not diagnosed with something unpleasant in the current DSM) as an unmarried, solitary male?

Is the social world prepared to accept someone's principled resignation? Can you say "sorry, I just can't afford this" or "sorry, this is too emotionally risky" and not be mocked as a loser who couldn't attract someone anyway, or as someone hiding some deep inner flaw?

I've no idea what Mig-Tau believers do after "going their own way". Perhaps it's only that I see them as having poor cultural capital, or that "Mig-Tau" sounds too close to H.P. Lovecraft's dread Mi-Go. But I'll them serve as examples in a slightly different list of arguments. Is it possible to make a dignified withdrawal from the world of relationships and pair-bonding? Is it possible for someone who's announced his resignation to retain any social value or avoid outright mockery? Does contemporary society have any use for--- or understanding of ---the solitary male?  Can you be a bachelor and be regarded with anything other than poorly-concealed derision?

Any thoughts on any of this?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

One Seven Nine: Towers

Geoff Dyer wrote an essay some years ago called "Sex and Hotels". I know that it was posted at once upon a time, and it was probably in one of his earlier collections of essays. I saw it referenced not long ago, and I'll be having the local library find me a Dyer collection with the essay. I usually like Geoff Dyer, and "Sex and Hotels" is something I do need to read--- or re-read.

Not long ago I wrote about Karley Sciortino's little essay on hotel sex, and I'd like to pair that with Geoff Dyer's essay. Hotel sex has always had a special valence for me, and I always love hearing girls' stories about the hotels where they've gone with lovers or beautiful strangers.

Location has always been an important part of sex for me. Backseats, desktops, library stacks, wagons-lits...  Location matters. It matters for establishing a mood, for establishing literary or film tradition. A lovely friend in New Zealand messaged me the other night to say that she wanted the measurements of my office desk, just in case she ever found herself spread out atop it.  Wellington NZ is something like eight thousand miles from where I'm sitting, but it never hurts to be prepared.

Hotel sex, now--- hotel sex comes with so many literary and film connections. Each hotel tells a different story about a city and about a particular affair. Each different hotel puts you in a different story.

I have my favourite hotels in Manhattan--- the Royalton, the Parker Meridien, the midtown Pod Hotel, the Night Hotel. Different lovers in each, different kinds of stories being told. My New Zealand friend told me once that she kept a log of every hotel pool where she's swum naked late at night, and that she has a list of Auckland hotels divided up into those where she's been with married men and those where she's just been with boyfriends or girlfriends. I admire a girl who keep lists of things, of course. I admire a girl who keeps score.

Karley Sciortino noted that hotel sex is about temporarily leisured, about being able to pretend for a few days that you're accustomed to luxury. Maid service, room service, the decor--- sex in hotels always feeds on class markers. Though there's something to be said for the stories you can create in decayed roadside motels or faded railway hotels in provincial towns. Both the four-star hotel and the places that probably house people who have "suspected" in front of their names promise anonymity, whether from the paparazzi or the FBI.

Hotel sex for me has always been about early mornings, too, about leaving a sleeping companion and looking out at cities just as the sky lightens. I don't smoke, but it would almost be worth starting just to stand with a cigarette and look out the window while the city began to stir. There are memories there, of course: kissing a companion's bare shoulder and slipping out of bed to watch the day begin.

If you're reading this, and if you're one of the quiet, literary girls I picture as my Imaginary Readers, I suppose you could tell me about your own favourite hotels and hotel sex memories. You could tell me about whether you see the hotel as an adventure in luxury, or an adventure in transgression (a married lover, say, or an alluring stranger), or as away to have anonymity and freedom.

Hotel rooms are for adultery,  as both Ms. Sciortino and Geoff Dyer tell us. They're for being sealed off in a room or a suite and not having to follow the rules of the outside world. Hotel sex is for call girls and clients, for escorts sent up after a discreet call to the concierge desk. Hotel sex can be about all the activities and positions and games you'd never feel comfortable trying at home. Hotel sex is about escape--- and all the best things in life are about escape from the quotidian.

If you're reading this, tell me about the hotels in your past. Tell me what desires you've been able to live out in hotels, and what you think about when the door closes behind you and you toss a carry-on bag onto a hotel bed.

Monday, May 2, 2016

One Seven Eight: Stones

I remember being once upon a time at a huge state park somewhere in the Smoky Mountains. I forget why I was there--- a vacation with my parents, maybe ---and  I recall hiking down through hills and thick woods. I remember that there was a stream, and that you had to cross it by going from rock to rock in the stream. It was easy enough to do. You just sprang from one rock to the next without a thought. But then, halfway over the stream, I stopped and looked around and then discovered that I'd lost my rhythm. I'd started to think about what I was doing, about how to make the jumps, about how much I didn't want to end up in knee-deep, chilly water. Once I did that, I just couldn't make the leaps--- however small, however simple ---any more.

The same is true of sex these days.  I've become afraid that I've lost my ability to just act. I'm afraid that I've begun to overthink that needs to be done.

Some of that may be age, or fear of age. I'm at a place in my life where I'm worried that some things will just be beyond me---- more precisely, worried that I'll make that discovery at some moment that will leave me open to derision and humiliation. I seem to spend too much time worrying over whether the last time for doing one thing or another has already happened. Haruki Murakami wrote in "I.Q. 84" that everyone secretly longs for some version of the end of the world. I have to hope that's not true. Or at least hope that I haven't made the transition from abstract speculation to actual longing.

It's not all age, though. Some of it is overthinking, taking counsel of my fears. There is a Zen kind of moral here: the conscious mind becomes a hindrance to true understanding. I look at a lovely girl and know what I should do with her while we make love. I know the things I'd like to do, the things my history and body say to do, and then I find myself paralyzed. Too much thinking, too much analysis of what it all means, of what could go wrong, of why whatever it is unlikely to be as good in the flesh as it is in my thoughts and hopes, of why fleshly bodies are untrustworthy and aesthetically flawed. A Zen moral, yes. The conscious mind gets in between things and trips up all your hopes and desires.

Maybe it's only that all desire is suffering, but I think that it's more. It is the Zen thing, the overthinking thing. I can't let a kiss or a touch or a taste be satisfying on its own, and once I stop to think about it, then my fears reduce it to being no good at all.  Needless to say, I also assign my own fears to whomever I'm with. I assume that she'll recoil in disgust at touches, tastes, sights.

I did once talk myself into being unable to board an aircraft for some years--- for almost a decade. Now I've talked myself into being afraid to touch or taste or caress or discuss any needs or hopes. Too much thinking. Too much taking counsel of my fears. Too much sense of all the things that are encoded into anything that involves the flesh.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

One Seven Seven: Rooms

I write from the bed of room 1014 at The Standard, Downtown LA, where I may or may not have “made love” in the ginormous bathtub last night. 

My goal in life is to live in a hotel. Reality can be so boring, so predictable—I prefer a lifestyle of constant escape, because why not? However, since I can’t afford that yet (sigh), for now I use hotels for their most basic functions: travel and sex. The first, of course, is self explanatory, but it’s easy to take for granted what a night in a hotel can do for your sex life.

The quote is by Karley Sciortino, "Karley Slutever" of the rather delightful Slutever blog (and her own column at Vogue these days, too). It's from a piece at the blog that Standard Hotels has at its website for 05 April 2016.  I'm an admirer of Ms. Sciortino, and I have to agree with her about hotels and sex:

Hotel bars and restaurants have a slightly different vibe than most others—there’s an inherent level of intimacy and possibility, which often leads to more free and open conversation. Who knows what can happen at the hotel bar: maybe you’ll meet an exotic stranger and have a surreal, Lost In Translation adventure. 

Hotel sex is a sexual luxury item, and the novelty of it allows you to play into fantasy. Basically, when you check into a hotel, you check out of life, which enables you to take on a new identity. I’ve had the most hedonistic, Helmut-Newton-style sex of my life in hotel rooms. It’s sort of like how an actor puts on a costume to help get into a new character—in a hotel, a space of both elegance and anonymity, you can be a different, more adventurous you. Also, the huge bed, good lighting and 400 thread count sheets don’t hurt.

I've always believed that a new city isn't really yours 'til you've had sex there, preferably with a beautiful stranger. Hotels, of course, are the classic venue for that. They're temporary places--- stage sets, really, if you follow the precepts of travel marketing. Well-designed, well-managed hotels are supposed to offer elegance and anonymity, an interlude where you're in a new world, where the stage is kept perfect for you. Fresh linens on the bed, the sheets turned down, the room immaculate, the view breathtaking. It's a fantasy locale, and there's nothing like the intersection of anonymity, elegance, and an unknown city to suggest that sex is, well...required.

I stayed once at a boutique hotel in Manhattan that made a discreet point of suggesting that its upstairs club--- which had an indoor pool with its own banks of benches and a poolside d.j. ---might lead to a night in one of its sleekly Euro-styled rooms. The main desk had its own little shop where "intimacy kits" with condoms, lube, and blindfolds could be purchased. The design was all about suggesting not just the hot-sheets hotels that used to be all over Midtown in the days when New York was on the edge of apocalypse, but a venue for adventures. Not romance, mind you, and not commercial sex--- adventure.

Hotel bars are like airport bars, of course. They're like some Interzone fantasy, some Casablanca or Tangier fantasy. Step inside, order a drink, and you don't come from anywhere, you aren't going anywhere, your name and particulars cease to matter. Hotel bars and hotel beds encourage confessions and stories. Insofar as they do that, they're my natural habitat. 

Once, long ago, I spent a Christmas Day in a boutique hotel. There was snow outside, and grey skies, and a language I barely understood. The hotel's theme was something Anglophile, something about foxhunting prints  and dark velvet. There was a restaurant with a Christmas dinner designed to bring up Oxbridge-life novels and films. I ate alone, and found myself talking to a girl who'd been sitting alone with her drink, very obviously near to tears. That ended a couple of hours and  a few drinks later with the two of us in her bed, exchanging stories and watching the snow outside mask the city lights. I left her asleep and never saw her again. I may have left her a note with my contact address--- not e-mail, no: this was before e-mail ---on hotel stationery. I do remember that it mattered to me that there was hotel stationery in the drawer. I did wonder if any of the things she'd told me were true--- name, upbringing, past, why she was there and what (who, of course) had left her crying on Christmas Day. I may or may not have told her stories of lives I wished I'd led rather than anything about the one I was living. 

In hotels I always think of the rooms as tiny, individual worlds, little display cases for lives and hopes. When you walk hotel corridors, you're walking past cells filled with ongoing stories. When the door closes behind you, you're cut off from the outside world, alone or not. 

Hotel sex is a statement about stage sets and making oneself part of some half-remembered (or half-imagined) film or novel. Hotel sex offers that--- escaping into being part of a novel or film. That's not such a small thing. 

Hotel sex is a way of marking out that you've been to a new city, a foreign city, an unexplored country, and been part of a film or novel there. It marks out the unexpected and the singular. It's a marker for discovering that, here in some new world, you do have social and sexual value. Those things aren't small, either. 

Hotel life and hotel sex offer up many of the same markers. And both things offer up hope of being outside the world, at least for a while. 

I do miss hotel bars and hotel restaurants tonight, and of course I miss hotel sex--- a lovely girl sitting naked on the bed, framed in half-light from a window looking down on a foreign city. 

If you're reading this, I hope you'll tell me about the hotels and cities where you've found moments of escape, where you've found Adventures.

Monday, March 28, 2016

One Seven Six: Iterations

I have been considering the idea of fantasies these last few nights. Obviously, everyone has preferences and hopes and dreams. The question here in these latter days in what we're allowed to do with those things.

A friend in London Town told me  the other afternoon of her recent Sex Dreams all about the young Vivien Leigh. If I'd had Sex Dreams (and in a Classic Hollywood mode) they'd involve 21-year old iterations of the Two Hepburns. If I were in a mode for Year Sixteen fashion models, of course it would be Anja Rubik, Karlie Kloss, and Aymeline Valade. I probably shouldn't go into the idea that having those thoughts would be of no use, since the Solitary Vice, while "empowering" for attractive girls, is socially unacceptable (creepy, pathetic, a sign of being a loser) in males---- though that social fact is always lurking somewhere.

The age of the gender warriors and the intersectionalistas has meant that kinks, fetishes, and preferences are judged far more harshly than they were in the 1950s or the 1980s. I've been talking about that for a while now. It's much more dangerous nowadays to reveal a set of kinks or to be seen as seeking to explore new things--- the standards for judgment are political rather than moral and aesthetic, and there are the clear risks in being judged on social media.  Judgment is based on politics, and on what I call Authenticity Fetish--- the idea that it's morally culpable to want to explore things that aren't "authentic" to oneself. For example, it's fine nowadays to come out of the closet, but wrong to experiment with being gay or bi just to see what it might be like. I've seen the term "sex tourism" expanded to that as a criticism, with the term having all the overtones of  an attack on the sort of cultural imperialism that's involved in trips to Thai or Moroccan brothels. I suppose that goes for s/m as well--- doing s/m as part of an organized "community" is fine; doing it because it was intriguing in films or French novels is wrong. It's now wrong to seek out adventures and new experiences for their own sakes.

The trick of course is to have fantasies and kinks that aren't "problematic", to tailor one's sexual interests  so as not to risk contempt, disdain, political/ideological attacks, or the dread and fatal accusation of possessing "privilege".

The age of the gender wars is one where it really is less and less easy to explain to a potential partner what you might like. The risk isn't so much being told that the proposed scenarios aren't interesting (which is painful enough) or that they're aesthetically icky. The risk is being told that you're a Bad Person in some social and political sense. And having that Bad Person status regarded as intrinsic...and broadcast to the world on social media.

What should a fantasy/kink/preference be? It should be...complex and stylish enough to establish that you're literate and imaginative and clever. But it should under no circumstances trigger  social disdain or political attacks.

It should however be seen as contingent--- something you may enjoy for a time or two, but not necessarily something defining your identity. That way you're free to change over to new preferences, new ideas, new games without being trapped in an identity. That of course is harder now, since only Authenticity counts.

It seems to me that it's less and less possible to do any sort of role-play, too. The roles you might want aren't "authentic"--- by definition. There's the accusation that role-play traffics in cultural appropriation and stereotypes. Though it might be worse if the assumption was made that the role-play roles you'd fancy really are "authentic", and that you were now trapped inside them--- that there was no allowance made for play or imagination, for trying on masks simply because they were different. There's something exhausting and disheartening in having a partner in role-play believe that she knows what you "really" are, to have her think that the scenarios you've created reflect your true inner life and self-conception.

But the serious part of things is simply finding fantasies that are socially acceptable. They should have enough of an edge to give girls a slight frisson of wickedness, but they should still avoid any territory that could be labelled as "problematic". Under no circumstances should any kinks or preferences lay you open to attacks or social disdain or be tools that could be used against your social standing. That's always the heart of the game---- learning to play defense. That remains the hardest thing: establishing a list of fantasies that you can deploy without being treated as someone deserving of social and political contempt.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

One Seven Five: Risk

I've written before about how it's become too risky to talk about one's fantasies or fetishes or preferred scenarios. I stand by that, mind you. These days, here in the age of the gender wars, it's far too risky to tell a partner or potential partner what it is you like. It's become too easy to be shamed all across the web, and in the call-out culture, there's a social premium on outrage and finding reasons to attack others' preferences.

I do remember long conversations with girls back in the days of my lost youth--- conversations across tables or over late-night phone lines, conversations in the dark across beds in residence halls or off-campus apartments. I recall talking with lovely companions about dreams and fantasies--- sexual and otherwise ---and offering up visions to one another: I've always dreamed of this? Have you thought about doing this? What would you do if you had the chance, or if this could be the right place? I remember the nights of girls looking at me and whispering, Show me. I remember girls looking shyly across the table and saying, I've always wanted to do this, I just didn't have anyone to trust. I can remember the two of us laughing about suggestions and clinking glasses: And why not? I mean, let's just try it.

I wouldn't do that now. I'd never risk revealing myself, even to a lover I'd been with for a while--- let alone to someone I was trying to seduce. I really never thought it would come to this. I grew up in an era that had discovered experimentation, where art and music and film celebrated transgression and crossing boundaries. And I've spent much of my life marketing myself as someone with whom girls could cross boundaries, as someone with whom girls could experiment.  My own experiences with suggestions and shared fantasies had been largely successful. Girls had seen me as a partner who wouldn't judge, who'd be willing to follow them into their own dreams. As the well-read older lover, I was useful--- a resource for girls who needed or wanted encouragement to feel free to try things.

I wonder if it's as simple as a generational thing, as the new century passing me by. The culture no longer encourages fantasies and fetishes. It no longer encourages role-play or scenarios. We no longer valorize experimentation, and we certainly no longer valorize the idea of transgression, of pushing past boundaries just to see what's on the other side.

There are people with whom I used to share stories and fantasies who I feel deeply uneasy about talking to these days. I no longer trust anyone not to secretly be feeling contempt for me. It's not the particular content of my fantasies that might be contemptible, it's that I'd have (or need) fantasies. I've always lived in fear that my fantasies and kinks are boring--- there's always that. But I especially hate the nagging fear that even having fantasies marks me for judgment.

Perhaps it's that I no longer trust potential partners. I've been burned during the last few years in ways I hadn't experienced in a pre-social media world. I hope that I've always been discreet and trustworthy around girls' dreams and fancies, and I'm certainly not given to divulging secrets. But I have developed a gnawing fear of being held up to public (or social-media) ridicule.  I have developed a gnawing, paralyzing fear of seeing contempt or derision in a girl's eyes when I talk about what I like and what I'd like to try. I have a gnawing fear that what I might like is no longer regarded as wicked and alluring, but as politically/socially unacceptable and contemptible.

I've spent a lifetime regarding fantasies and scenarios as stories, as roles one can step in and out of. I never saw them as saying anything about my "authentic" self. We live an age of authenticity fetish now, and any games, any stories, any preferences are unacceptable unless they're part of something essential to the self. It's no longer acceptable to sample and explore identities and interests, and I'm very old-school PoMo about that. Nowadays, though, I'm paralyzed.  There's less and less chance that a potential partner will accept kinks and fantasies as purely menu items for play rather than a statement about one's value and social rank.

Let's just say that all of this makes it harder and harder to flirt or play with lovely girls, even ones with whom I have a history.  It can't just be age and flagging enthusiasm. It's a fear that keeps me from saying anything about what I might like, and it keeps me from asking lovely companions what they might like.

I used to offer up new experiences, and I used to be someone who could persuade girls that it was safe to explore things with me. I won't do either thing now.

Monday, March 14, 2016

One Seven Four: Holiday

Well, it's 14.  March. One month after Valentine's. And while I know that it's Pi Day, it's also Steak & BJ Day.

I'm assuming that the gender warriors are angry about the concept of Steak & BJ Day, and while in and of itself makes it a holiday worth celebrating, I do see a few problems myself.

Now I'll admit that when I think about Steak & BJ Day, the first thing that goes through my mind isn't a list of long-legged, sharp-hipboned  supermodels. My first thought is...a 1.5-lb. porterhouse, medium-rare, from my favourite steakhouse here. I'm not sure what to make of that. I suppose it could simply be age, though it could also be my own obsessiveness. As I've told Ms. Flox many times in our discussions of such matters, I do obsess over presentation and formal style. I can't begin to enjoy the story if the props and the setting aren't right.  While I could obsess over lovely co-eds or my personal list of fashion models (Ms. Rubik, Ms. Kloss, Mlle. Valade), the porterhouse matters. Formality always matters, though I hope not to the complete exclusion of all else.

 I suppose I do feel a certain amount of psychological exhaustion here on the holiday. I like the idea of  Steak & BJ Day, and I like the idea of a ritualized day for sexual gifts to males. Yet I do think I'd be exhausted tonight if I had to take part in a Steak & BJ Day ritual. It's not just the performance anxiety a gentleman of a certain age might feel (imagine being the one who drops the chalice at the Mass!), or not merely that. It's also the fear that on the one day in a year when sex and a romantic dinner might be offered to me as a gift, when I'd be the one receiving rather than giving, everything would turn bad or disappoint.  After all--- it's not the sex itself that's the key here. It's the formal ritual, it's the walk though the measured, formalized steps of the scripted performance.

I suppose I should note that it's Pi Day as well, and that I had no pie. I suppose I could've bought something at lunch, but even Key Lime pie is merely flavor and texture. It's not a ritual.

Ritual is about socially-ascribed value, but it's also something that's safe from mere individual feeling.

14 March is a night when one considers that there are neither steaks nor wet-lipped girls in one's life. I suppose I can have a porterhouse this weekend. The restaurant will still be there. It's possible that a Young Companion might join me. But there's something exhausting and depressing about the two things (or either thing) not occurring on a ritually-designated night.