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.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

One Seven Three: Seasonal

Saturday morning downtown by the river, at a coffeeshop that bills itself as a "European-style patisserie", I was watching the river traffic and reading.  One of those regional mornings where everything seems slow and dreamlike. A young couple came in--- early twenties, wearing some kind of conference ID tags from one of the new hotels along the riverfront ---and sat at the next table over. I could read their name tags--- he was Logan, she was Shelby. She was lovely--- tallish, slender, in black leggings and an oversized grey t-shirt with 3/4-sleeves. Light brown hair to just past her shoulders, dark nail polish. The boy was, well...perfectly attired and coiffed to be in a ska band c. 1982. If that sounds dismissive, I suppose it is. I have very little time for other, younger males. I do regard them as little more than moving objects to walk around on sidewalks. I directed my attention to Shelby, and I was busy speculating on her legs (long, slender, taut) and eyes (dark, lively) when a group of four other people with conference name-tags came in and began enthusing over Logan and Shelby: We hoped we'd find you here! How romantic! So you two hooked up last night! We all thought you would! You guys are such a cute couple! You're meant to be together!

Logan mostly looked stunned and sheepish, but Shelby was happy and gracious (I'll assume she had an old-school regional upbringing) to the new arrivals. I watched the scene over my reading glasses and smiled to myself. Well, I thought, in a better world, a perfect world, this would have played out a bit differently. In a better world, Shelby would've been alone and ended up flirting with me and taking me back to her hotel room. As things stand in this world, though, all I could do was sit and try to infer the backstory here. The two young lovers had one set of stories; their well-wishers had another. I spent a few minutes trying to infer what kind of conference it was, and whether the new arrivals had been trying to get Logan and Shelby together even before coming into the city. I wondered, too, how the process of hooking up had begun and what kind of affair each of them was expecting or experiencing. I had no idea what the conference was for or what the dynamic there was all about. For that matter, I had no idea what styles of seduction and lovemaking Shelby favored, but those things were worth a few moments of consideration.

(Oh, I'll admit, too,  that I was also mocking Logan's ridiculous ska-boy hat to myself, but that really should go without saying.)

It's hard to say precisely whether I was looking at my flat white and feeling jealousy or envy. Did I find Shelby attractive and desirable? Did I wish she could've been in bed with me the night before? Yes, certainly.  But in some ways what was just as important as the seduction itself was the social reaction. Shelby's friends were excited for the new couple. They acted thrilled that two people whom they saw as meant to be together had actually hooked up. Whatever Logan and Shelby had been feeling when they slipped out of the hotel to the coffeeshop, they were being cheered by their friends.  There was a social thing happening here--- approbation and approval.

It's springtime here, and there's a few thousand years of symbolism out there about springtime and new beginnings and new romances.  I think I envied Shelby and Logan being part of the whole idea of springtime and new beginnings, and I envied them even more the social approval granted by their friends.

It means something to be told by your social network that your choice was the right one, to be congratulated in public. Social approval means something. You can believe anything you want about your loves and your love affairs, but it means something to be granted social approval, to be told that it's easy for others to see that you're the Right Person for someone, that the two of you make a good couple. It means something to be in the kind of affair that involves Saturday-morning coffeeshops and Sunday brunches and reading the New York Times or the New York Review of Books together over flat whites on a city morning. It means something to be told you're a character--- finally a character ----in the story you always longed to inhabit.

I suspect that while Shelby herself seemed quite lovely,  what left me sighing at my table was the thought that I don't in fact have a social network that could support my choices or cheer me on. And it's not hard to work out that having a lovely young companion's social circle congratulate her for being with me is something that's not going to happen.

This morning I walked downtown in search of eggs Benedict and found myself wandering the streets by the Arts Centre.  There were two or three couples watching the fountains or drifting off to cafes. I did watch at least one well-dressed couple in their twenties embrace on the edge of the fountains. I could frame it--- the pose, the water in the background, the romantic conversation they were obviously having.  It would've made a good shot, either as a still photo or in a film. Again, I realised how left out I felt. Being part of that pose, being part of that story--- those are things worth doing. Spring is a ritually-sanctioned season for being part of stories like that: new loves, new romances.  Here in the first weeks of springtime, I am coming to realise that I'm unlikely to have again what either Shelby and Logan or the fountain couple had. I'm unlikely to be urged by social networks towards a particular partner or cheered on when the two of us do hook up.  You two are so good together! is not something I'm likely to hear again. I'm even less likely to be part of moments by fountains, to be part of moments that define the core of an affair.