Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gay Literature, Gay Pornography, Gay Sex and what that all has to do with WHM supremacy

image is from here
What follows is occasionally sexually graphic and discusses some pornography, but not much.

I've grown weary of reading any "gay lit" that insists of focusing on cock size or pornographic descriptions of sexual acts. (Of the white gay authors I know of, I'm pretty much left with Augusten Burroughs. And of course there's always James Baldwin.) I don't really consider pornography to be depicting any kind of sex I want to participate in, which is why I'm not anti-sex but am anti-sexxxism.

Often enough on websites where het porn is being critiqued as sexist, someone--usually a heterosexual man--asks "What about gay porn?" (Or, maybe, "What about lesbian porn?" as if lesbian porn isn't a genre of het male pornography. What they mean is lesbian-made pornography, and it's such a tiny fraction of industry pornography that it's kind of like having a conversation about the unhealthiness of fast food and someone saying, "What about that new chain that says they only use fresh produce and no hydrogenated oils?") 

"What about it?", is my answer. "Do you really think some micro-niche of pornography is going to topple the industry's woman-hating standards and practices, causing all its violence and abuses to be reconsidered in light or in dark of some new film that was made by women for women that maybe--maybe, doesn't do to women what men do to women in het pornography?"

That's what I want to say. And, if the conversation is happening on a discussion board, usually I do say it. Hell, I usually say it no matter where the conversation is happening. I can be annoying like that. And, often enough, predictable.

There's an odd kind of strangeness about straight people who think what lesbians and gay men do that is "having sex together" is somehow qualitatively and quantitatively different, on both phenomenological and mathematical levels, to what straight people do that is called "having sex together". Assumptions creep in: lesbians probably have "better" sex, and gay men, no doubt, have "more" sex. I know that I'm on the lesser end of the concocted continuum of gay males having sex. Being celibate and mostly asexual means that there's nothing "more" going on with me and sex. That this is often met with a response of pity or sorrow seems odd to me. I generally feel sorrow about most of the sex I find out heterosexuals are engaging in. And lesbians. And gay men. Not all. But most. Because for all the claims to sex being an astoundingly creative act, it's truly unoriginal in practice, perhaps because of how socially programmed tape loops keep repeating, as Andrea Dworkin once noted.

By the time I read up on a basic understanding of sexual politics, the sexual acts that were discussed were put in one of two categories: male supremacist or not male supremacist. (And for the binary thinkers out there, "not male supremacist" doesn't mean "female supremacist". It means "not male supremacist."

That made sense to me, seeing as to how male supremacy ruled most sexual practices across Western Civilisation. At least according to what was known. Because, granted, what was TAUGHT as happening in Western Civilisation was a very narrow (WHM supremacist) point of view on what was happening, never owned as such and treated as if a WHM supremacist point of view is [cough] "objective". So Western Civ was basically the story of Great White Het Men. As if no one else existed. And given the genocidal proclivities of Western Great White Het Men, there was a concerted effort made on several continents to make that being the case, except to keep a few white women around as property to reproduce him, and a few darker people as slaves. (With "a few" here meaning "millions".)

The perspective that acknowledged and named male supremacy as it applied to het, lesbian, or gay sex meant that a salient feature of "sex" was the values and practices it reproduced or promoted, not so much the fact of necessarily how many genders are together having it. In the most progressive circles of my teen-year friendships, there were specific interpersonal acts that one sought to "accomplish" and there were also "kinds of sex" meaning: straight, gay, and lesbian, and possibly also a bisexual orgy. Once those acts and kinds of sex were accomplished, one was presumed to be "knowledgeable" about sex. [Cough.] As knowledgeable, perhaps, as we were about Western Civ when seen only from a WHM perspective.

The decidedly more feminist way of understanding sex gave me the language to name that the kind of sex I wanted to have with people was the "not male supremacist" kind.

As Andrea Dworkin has noted, the fact that this is erroneously sometimes called "vanilla" sex is beyond a misnomer. Vanilla is a lusciously rich flavor, astoundingly aromatic, and not anything one ought to call "dull". That's what's people into, I don't know, let's say, Butter Pecan sex and Rocky Road sex are generally implying--that "vanilla" is dull. That said, when it comes to ice cream flavors if it doesn't contain some chocolate I really don't see the point of having ice cream.

When I was coming into my adulthood there was already enough literature out there about "sex" that didn't just assume we all knew how to do it. The books informed us, actually, that humans are rather ignorant on this subject, much as we like to pride ourselves on perpetually and inevitably acting out our "caveman" genetic coding--one programmed by a WHM supremacist god, apparently.

I've occasionally remembered to ask people who take a rather sociobiological stance when it comes to understanding why we have the sex we have. I'll ask, when in the mood to do so, "And why do you suppose it would be that we all have to learn how to fuck, if fucking is supposed to be so very, very "natural" and "instinctive"? Clearly Johnny down the block who stuck his penis under or between couch cushions as an adolescent was a bit off course with the old "survival of the fittest" perspective on evolution and the maintenance of the species. To my knowledge there aren't any throw pillows walking around with half of his genes in them.

Advance us a quarter century and the question morphs into "Why do you suppose it is that so many het men want to shove their dicks in women's bottoms?" Clearly they know that's not where babies get made, right? So their self-proclaimed "testicular" mandate to make sure there are more humans roaming the Earth can't be "thinking clearly" there, eh?

And the homophobes among them so hate it when only males put the penis in the butt. So why DO so many het men want to shove their dicks in women's bottoms? I'd venture to say it's for the same reason that men want to ejaculate on women's faces. Because clearly women's faces aren't the site of conception either, other than a re-conception of male supremacist sex. And what both acts have in common is this:

1. Neither results in pregnancy but is considered by many het men as "having sex with a woman".
2. Both involve a very high probability for, if not intentional infliction of any or all of the following: degradation, pain, or humiliation of the woman by the man.

I know a few women who have tried and enjoyed anal sex. I know of not one woman who wants ejaculate on her face. Not one. And most heterosexually active women I know, when asked, admit that anal sex was, in fact, his idea. This doesn't mean she has or had no agency or power. It means exactly what it means: it was, initially, his idea.

One wonders what would happen to us if men kept their ideas about what to do sexually to women's bodies entirely to themselves. One wonders what would happen if het men just stopped approaching women altogether, and simply assumed that if a woman wanted to speak with them or approach them, she'd figure out some way to actually go about doing it. Maybe she'd figure out how to, I don't know, walk over and engage a man in conversation. Or maybe she'd find out his contact information and email or text him. And if she wanted to try something [not really] new, sexually, she could request that as well. Not in the nagging, persistent, manipulative, coercive way that too many het men employ when "making requests". I mean in the "if it seems fun to you also, I'd like to try this once and see how it feels" kind of way. And in a way that if the other person doesn't indicate excitement at the idea, then it doesn't get mentioned again and there's no pouting. This seems a rather respectful approach to me and yet I don't know many het men who bring their wishes and desires and fantasies--all infused with the images and acts found in pimp-produced materials, to women with so little demand, so little urgency, and so little entitlement.

A quality of male supremacist sex is that the person asking for or demanding it feels utterly entitled to do so. I came across a blog post (which is below) and was truly struck with how utterly bizarre it seemed to me, given that it was describing a man demanding something "sexual" happen in a public space--from another man. That the man telling the story doesn't think he'll be beaten to a pulp by either the man he makes the "suggestion" to, or that some other men on the bus won't organise to bloody him up, makes the story seem entirely fictional to me. Not "of this world". And that men actually DO approach women and make this "request" really hits home to me as generally and horrendously intrusive and inappropriate, and violating and frightening.

I'll share the blog post now, and will comment some more about all this afterwards. You can click on the title to link back to its home site. I don't think the title is meant to be as filled with double entendres as it now looks to be to me given what was discussed above.

In My End is My Beginning

‘If you show me your breasts I’ll give you £35,’ was perhaps an inopportune remark to make to the middle aged commuter sitting opposite me in the first class carriage of the 14.30 Taunton service out of London Paddington on Tuesday afternoon. I was only going as far as Bath Spa, but from the expression that darkened his features I immediately realised I was already in very hot – and possibly even sulphurous – water.

The worst thing about the situation was that I didn’t even particularly want to see his breasts – I just spoke on impulse and out of boredom. Not, you appreciate, proximate boredom – that’s for kids – but a deep, gnawing, existential kind of boredom. Besides he was reading The Times in a way that convinced me he was just as afflicted with tedium vitae as I. I thought: I’ll hand over the thirty-five quid, he’ll take off his tie – striped blue and lighter blue – and unbutton his shirt – white, not especially fresh – then simply part the sides so that I can ogle for a few seconds or minutes his slack, sparsely-haired moobs. That’ll be it: no fuss, no drama – I doubted that anyone else in the carriage would even notice.

Of course, if I’d paused for a second to think about my proposition I would’ve realised that it was just another attempt on my part to indulge in the pornography that swells in every moist and hidden crevice of contemporary society. Yes, that’s the thing: ever since a revelatory encounter with the late Andrea Dworkin, in Manhattan, in the late 1990s, I’ve accepted that pornography, far from being a harmless little vice, is in fact a crime – and a crime with victims like any other. Granted, it seemed unlikely that this man was in danger of experiencing himself as a sexual object (indeed, he might even have welcomed this if I’d put it to him nicely), but there it was: I was objectifying him.

The strange thing was that as he became more and more irate, and threatened to call the conductor – I found myself getting aroused. I suppose you can guess how it all ended… But then, I thought to myself as I zipped up my flies, smarmed my hair, shut the toilet door, and descended to the platform at Bath Spa, in my end is my beginning – surely a sentiment Pope Benedict would concur with?

Posted by WS on Friday, September 17th, 2010 at 12:14 pm.

*          *          *

I remember a couple of young women approaching me once, and one of them, on a dare from the other, asked me to do something far less "revealing" than to open my shirt, but what was requested was an unusual thing for a woman to ask a man to do in public, in my experience anyway. I'd heard LOTS of men ask women to do it, so clearly there was a male supremacist component to it being asked at all. A kind of entitlement that is not socially encouraged in women the way it is with most men. Other forms of entitlement are encouraged in women--such as acting out race privileges and class privileges, if the women are white and wealthy. But the story above and the one I'm here being rather vague about is evidence of just how strong a sense of entitlement has to be to even get things to "get done".

Dworkin also noted how white/male supremacist "power" in its most basic interpersonal form, means if you want someone to do something and express that wish, the other person does it. So, for example, a king might say, "I'd like a lovely set of pyramids over there, just to the left" and, voila, a few decades later, there they are. And don't think the slaves who built them weren't whipped and told to do it faster. "You better get this done before the king dies" was probably implied in the lashings. When the slaves state, "I'd like the king to build ME a pyramid, voila, he's whipped or killed. That's white/male supremacist power for ya.

I recently saw the most politically and ethically appalling television program. I'm sure that telling you it was appalling doesn't really narrow the field of shows down any so I'll add that it was "a reality series". Still too many choices? Okay, I'll just come right out and tell you. The program was "Wife Swap". Yes. I'm waiting for the show "Husband Swap" but am not holding my breath.

Anyway, in this rather twisted and utterly offensive and heterosexist and misogynistically premised series, straight men "exchange" wives for a week or so. We then get to see what sort of chaos ensues when, as in the most recent episode, a white feminist hippy-type woman goes to the home where a socially conservative white father and his two thick-bodied teenaged sons play lots and lots and lots of football (the boring U.S. form).

What these "real men" are used to is the woman of the house--aka, the housewife--happily doing ALL the housework and ALL the cooking. She never sits down to eat with her husband and sons, because she's standing at the ready to serve them more food. Seriously. And both families are in the U.S. south, so don't assume that the hippy family is living somewhere in Oregon.

The hippy feminist is rather cool. She (and her husband) also has two sons although they are a decade or so younger than the thick-bodied "real men" sons in the other family. One of the hippy feminist's sons actually has long hair and wears pink and had once requested that his bedroom walls be painted pink--and so they are pink. (Can you imagine how the "traditional" mom who truly believes boys should be emotionally self-unaware, competitive, and into being rough-het-men reacts to that?!!?) For a good example of how to handle a situation where a boy wants to do things that are not traditionally seen as het-boy-like, watch this wonderful movie. I HAVE to assume the hippy family has seen it, and probably owns it. I hope so anyway.

By the end of the show, the hippy feminist sort of taught the rough guys how to be a bit more expressive and how to appreciate what the woman of the house does for them. She also taught them to cook meals for their mom/wife, and watch her eat sitting down, while they remained standing. The conservative mom admitted it was nice being waited on once in a while. She didn't really succeed in doing much of anything to the family she was "swapped' into, except teaching them some lessons in how to play U.S. football. The boy with long hair still has long hair and his little brother with shorter hair declares at the end of the program, "I'm going to grow my hair long."

All of this is to say that when people talk about sex or power without mentioning how entangled it all is with male supremacy and enforced heterosexist expectations, I kind of get the sense they are telling the story of Western Civ from the WHM's point of view, as if what they are talking about doesn't have a point of view and a set of political interests geared to promote one group being entitled to demand things from the other, with the power (force) to back up the request, should the unentitled person or group refuse. I'll consider engaging in "gay sex" again when male supremacy isn't both the basic and the advanced lesson plan in "how to have sex". And maybe also after watching my first episode of "Husband Swap" finishing up a delicious portion of natural vanilla bean ice cream, with dark chocolate chunks.