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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Putting the "Sex" back into homosexuality.

I haven't written about sex in oh, at least an hour, so why not start again. Actually, it's part of my job, doing my PhD, writing about sex and how gay men have sex - and I usually enjoy it - the writing I mean. Oh, and the fieldwork.

I've been thinking about what it was like when I was a baby-gay, back in the 70s when I was in my teens and coming out. Nearly all my initial contacts were sexual, until I was about 17 and started making gay friends, and as a teenage boy getting all that sex, I was very, very happy with that. Young, dumb and full of cum, as they say. Yes, I also wanted a boyfriend, and love, but like most teenage boys, I tended to think with my dick.

Suddenly there was a whole world of fun in front of me. And Gay Liberation actually had the message of sexual freedom at its core. We aren't heterosexuals, so why form our social and sexual patterns on their models? If you want to go and fuck till sunrise every day, well why not? And a lot of guys did that.

That's putting it a bit crudely, but there was a sense that we needed to move away from the judgmental and anti-pleasure aspect of so much of how the straight world saw us.There was a strong message of celebrating the body, celebrating the sexual. This didn't mean you couldn't fall in love and have a partner, but there was so much negativity about two (or more) men getting naked and having fun that Gay Lib thought it important to stress that there is nothing wrong with it.

Instead of the old message from society 'You are evil sick perverts for doing that' we took on a new "sex-positive" message instead, saying two (or more) men getting naked and having fun was a very good thing indeed - if that's what you wanted. I remember at one of the first Gay Lib meetings I went to at uni being told how lucky we were as gay men - we could screw around as much as we liked and no-one would get pregnant, the worst that could happen was syphilis and that just needed some pills.

And then, along came AIDS.

And with it came a whole lot of finger-pointing and moralising, and an awful lot of people saw it as God's punishment on filthy homos. Quite a lot of self-hating gay men did as well. And some still do - I've met them.

But there's a mistake in their logic. HIV can be transmitted by sex, but it's not caused by sex.

Yet that old stupid, anti-pleasure messages keep coming through. I think NZ has quite a strong puritan streak to it - all those bloody missionaries had a bad effect. Christianity really doesn't like anyone having a good time with their body. And I am surprised at how often I come across the attitude even today among some gay men, this idea that sex is bad, a sin, something that shouldn't be talked about, shouldn't be mentioned and the cause of all our woes. Then they disappear into a sauna, have sex, and feel terrible about themselves again. Sad really.

It doesn't have to be like that! Sex is great ! Or it can be. No - It's not the be-all and end-all of life, and sex is different from love, something a lot of gay men know very well. And when sex and love come together, well, that's magic, that's probably what we all want I guess. But even if I had the perfect partner, I suspect I'd still want to fuck around, and would expect it not to be a problem.

I'm still often utterly entranced by the random beauty of men I end up in bed with. Some are regular fuck-buddies, some are casual one-offs - but it's rare that I end up naked with a guy and don't find something beautiful and sexy in him. I hope that they feel the same way. And I know, I'm getting older, greyer, saggier, I'm not as desirable as I once was, but I don't care too much.

It's my body, and I like my body, and I like what I can do with it, and what can be done to it. And that's enough for me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I Like Dykes

I listened to a couple of guys I know the other day making jokes about lesbians. Not nice jokes. These were gay guys too, not idiotic straights - and it made me wonder: Why do some gay men seem to find lesbians hard to deal with?
I've always had dyke friends, since I was 17 or so and just coming out. Maybe that's exposed me to their world more, so I'm comfortable around it, I don't know, but some of the stuff I hear from other gay guys really repels me. It's nasty sexist bullshit, and I doubt they'd tolerate it if a straight guy talked about them that way.

And I remember the way so many dykes stepped up and got so deeply involved in HIV/AIDS: They didn't need to - it's not a virus that lesbians tend to get infected with. But they stood up for us in a huge way. Way more than some of the closety bitter queens that are still around. Lesbians helped protest for better care and treatment, they helped in a practical on-the-ground sense of getting food to people, driving them to hospital appointments, and they took care of us, they looked out for gay men sick and dying with AIDS in a way that most of the rest of society wouldn't.

How many gay men are interested or even aware of any health issues in the lesbian world?

I suppose one thing is that lesbians in general tend to be much more politically switched on than gay men. They get done over by society twice: first for being women and then for being same-sex attracted. And yes, society still treats women unequally - look at the pay gap over a lifetime's work if you want a simple example of it. While all the technical and legal disadvantages to being female might have been removed, the social and cultural ones are still strong. But most gay men never really understand that side of things. The old message that came out of lesbian-feminist politics "The personal is political" still holds, but it's something that a lot of gay men don't have to engage with - we're still men at the end of the day.

Part of it shows the weakness of trying to build a community based only on sexual orientation. Gay men like men - lesbians like women - so some assume that we should all be the same, but we're not. Being part of a group attracted to the same biological gender doesn't make a community. Shared history, shared ideas, and shared rituals do, and so does shared oppression - yet now that we've become so mainstream in so many ways, and a lot of that social oppression has lifted, that sense of connecteness has been eroded.

So I guess I just want to say I like dykes. I have strong, intelligent, funny and kind lesbians in my life, and I think you're great. You make my life richer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Caught in the Net

Every now and then I get an email from some dating site I joined up and lost interest in, telling me someone has left me a message. They're usually from Ghana or somewhere in the old USSR, telling me how much they loved my profile and that distance is no obstacle to our love - I don't even bother checking those emails now. But thanks guys anyhow. I've looked at, and joined, and forgotten, a lot of sites over the years.

Just how many gay dating sites are there? Here in New Zealand nzdating has things pretty well sewn up, but gaydar can get pretty busy. They're all a bit different, but with a fair amount of crossover too. Damn, admitting I know that shows how much time I spend on them. Well, I did do my MA on gay men's online sex-lives, I'm just maintaining my research interest, honest.
Let's see - what comes to mind first? - NZDating, Recon, Gaydar, Gay.com, Grindr, Manhunt, BearWWW, Hairy Turks, GayRomeo, Squirt, Silver Daddies, Adam4Adam - that's just a little list, and they all have their own characteristics.

Some seem to attract certain age groups, and some are designed to target certain groups. Some are more geographically specific, some are international. You can find sites for just about any kind of gay identity it seems: You're a gay Mormon? There's a dating site for you. You're in your 20s but like guys in their 50s & 60s? Try Silver Daddies. Have you moved beyond vanilla sex? Recon should do you just fine. You're a total Mac-geek? Grindr is already on your iPhone I'm sure. There are of course sites that deal only in bareback sex - you 'd better know what you're doing if you go to them.

And we tend to call them dating sites, but let's face it - most of the time they're not. NZDating is widely known as NZFucking for good reason. But sometimes people do meet up on them and fall, not just into bed, but in love, and create a relationship. I've known men fly across the world for someone they've met online - always a bold move, and not one that always plays out so well.
Then there are the sites like X-tube, not officially gay as such, and more about sexual display, but even there gay men reveal all sorts of strange things about themselves, often providing intimate glimpses into their lives and hearts along with the money-shot.

The net has changed so much of our social world. For gay men, I think it's been a two-eged sword. On the one hand, it's made it easier for a whole lot of guys in small isolated places to feel connected. It's also made it easier to hook up. And it's made it easier for a lot of guys who don't like the gay scene, or who are deeply in the closet, to get a bit of nooky in their lives. And there can be a sense of community online, but I think it's pretty thin. There are people on various sites I've been chatting to for ages, but will most likely never meet - I'm not sure I would want to spoil the illusion by letting reality intrude.

But I think it's also had the unintended consequence of weakening the gay world. It does seem harder for bars and clubs, the traditional centres of urban gay life, to keep going. Without the need to actually hang out with a bunch of other homos, we get less of a sense of ourselves I think, we become a bit more isolated, a bit more fragmented.

And sometimes it just seems so lonely and hopeless, seeing so many men out there with their impossible wish-lists for their perfect partner. So many men, sitting at home, typing out messages to each other, opening up their hearts at times, sometimes just their flies, but so often expressing a real desire for affection, for connection and for love to some stranger. And then they meet - and then? As I said, I know some happy stories, but they seem to be in the minority.

Apart from the lucky few, I don't think life online is going to bring those things. We get this false sense of intimacy when we're online, but you don't really get to know people unless they're sharing the same air as you, unless you can see them and hear them.

I won't be going off the grid, but I do wonder just what it's doing to us all at times.