Public School Sex Education Turned Me Gay

No doubt some of you wonder exactly how I became such a horrible person. It is not difficult to connect the dots. Unlike many of you who were raised in the warmth of a values-based, God-focused Catholic education, I was indoctrinated with the treacherous secularism of the public school system. Part of that indoctrination, of course, consisted of sex-ed.

I vaguely remember the evening before my first sex-ed class, when I was twelve years old or so. I remember feeling nervous. I knew there was a thing called sex, but I didn’t know what it was and I was not sure I wanted to. I was right to feel apprehensive; not only would the subject of sex preoccupy my time and attention for years to come, but public school sex ed turned me into a homosexual.

The first day of sex-ed wasn’t terrible. We were handed a booklet produced by a tampon company, which detailed the many ways our pubescent bodies would betray us, and told us all about tampons and the role they played in dealing with the menstrual cycle. The booklet was 80% focused on cisfemale development and the many questions that young women might ask. The remaining 20% discussed male body parts and nocturnal emissions. I was relieved to know that being a cismale was far more straightforward than becoming a woman and menstruating. We also learned the “proper” names for our private parts, and some information about how cismale body parts interacted with cisfemale ones to make babies. (Readers wanting a refresher on this might refer to this entry I wrote for poor Steven.)

The pictures in the tampon-sponsored education book were sterile and abstract, the cutaway renditions of human genitals pointing out fallopian tubes, the vas deferens, etc. But then our secularist schoolteachers (or more likely the amoral, culturally relativist curriculum designers who probably studied postmodernism in university) took things a step farther: they passed around photocopied line drawings illustrating (so to speak) secondary sex characteristics in human development. The line drawings were reminiscent of those in coloring books, but instead of farm animals or Disney princesses these drawings consisted of a man and a woman standing side by side. Unlike the educational drawings from the tampon-sponsored education manual, these were not medical diagrams cut away to show the innards. They were just drawings of people — naked people. Neither of them was wearing any clothes.

Supposedly, these nefarious drawings were intended to be educational, pointing out the different changes puberty would bring. But these drawings were nothing less than soft-core pornography, and like an innocent gosling gazing upon Konrad Lorenz, I imprinted. One secondary sex characteristic was facial hair, and sure enough the naked man in the drawing sported a full beard, in addition to a broad chest, pubic hair, and a lengthened wee-wee. If he had not been a line drawing, this man could have come straight out of Fearsome’s blog, and he warped my impressionable young mind immediately. That was the point I turned into a homosexual (For further evidence, see shocking disclosure #2.)

Almost immediately I knew something was wrong. I felt the drawing was somehow shameful. I hid it in my room and only took it out to gaze at it when I thought nobody would catch me.

Why? Why did the public school system do this to me? If they had not exposed me to such images maybe I would not have imprinted on Mr. Naked Dude and maybe I would not have been doomed to a lonely, loveless life.

I’m not trying to say that I oppose sex education. To the contrary, I learned many things in sex-ed that I might not have been aware of otherwise: never put anything other than food in your mouth because that is unhygienic; using a tampon does not mean you have lost your virginity; and condoms really aren’t good at stopping the transmission of STDs, because they only cover your penis and not your entire body. I do believe we should have comprehensive sex education, but it should be age appropriate, and we should be sure to defer material that impressionable young minds might imprint on until their hormones have settled down — maybe age 35 or so. In exposing young minds to morally corrosive illustrations of naked people, just how many homosexuals are we trying to create?

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Books for Sixpence

Sixpence Nottthewiser (the dear!) recently posted an entry about the importance of reading. He writes about being horrified when he finds no reading material in some beautiful man’s apartment. Although I am in no danger of receiving a visit from Sixpence (or anybody else), and although anybody who did visit would be horrified for different reasons, I do sometimes read books. When Sixpence asked us for a favorite book to recommend, I had to speak up. So here are a few of the favorite books I have read over the past five years or so. Although I occasionally read books for straight people, for this entry I picked out books that are related to LBGTQ+ authors or themes in some way.

The Young in One Another’s Arms

by Jane Rule

Jane Rule is an amazeballs lesbian writer. Her strength is writing about the nuances of relationships. The Young in One Another’s Arms is about a one-armed landlady interacting with her boarders. The novel consists of the flow of everyday human relationships in a boarding house punctuated by surreal, sometimes violent episodes of ultradrama. It is such a strange novel.

Unlike some of her other works (eg Desert of the Heart) this book is not explicitly lesbigay, but it is so strange I feel compelled to recommend it. My guess is that you will either like it or be bored stiff.

Tomboy Survival Guide

by Ivan Coyote

Several autobiographical essays by a thoughtful, observant writer. I was not expecting to find an ally in the homosexuality wars from a butch lesbian who transitioned to male (sort of?) but there you go. (I think my allies in the homosexuality wars try to bring us together rather than driving us apart. But what do I know?)

Particularly memorable to me was the story “We’ve Got a Situation Here”, which tells the story of Coyote being scheduled to talk at a high school, and then the local Concerned Parent Organization finding out.

The Naked Civil Servant

by Quentin Crisp

Yes, it’s a classic. Yes, you have very likely read it. Read it again. Yes, it’s hilarious, because Quentin Crisp is a comedic genius who can turn a phrase like nobody’s business.

In some ways it is a very sad story about a crossdressing homosexual who just couldn’t bring himself to fit in regardless of the cost. I for one am grateful that this book helped him find his place in the world.

Real Live Nude Girl

by Carol Queen

As you know, I don’t fit into lesbigay culture that well. I feel like a freak and an outcast even among the homosexuals. Carol Queen gives me hope that there might be a place for freaks in this world. Queen is a sex radical to the sex radicals. She is partnered to (and has sex with) an openly gay man. She has such adventures! She goes to work as a peep show model to see what it is like! She trains doctors how to give pelvic exams by sitting in stirrups with her pants off! She goes to graduate school and watches seventeen simultaneous porn movies projected on a giant wall!

I am nothing like Carol Queen. But something about her approach to sex, about her rejection of labels, about her acknowledgements that sexuality is tough for everybody (even the straights) resonates so deeply with me. If I had to recommend one book that matched my sexual politics most closely, it might be this one. I was skimming through some illicit photocopies I made of some of the essays in this book, and I just want to type them all out for you word for word. This book is probably going to be difficult to find (it was published in 1997) but it is completely worth the search. If I had to pick a single recommendation, this would be it.

Far from the Tree

by Andrew Solomon

This book starts out fairly lesbigay. Solomon has an unusual family structure. He and his husband have some children and he is the sperm donor to some others. They make a complicated family. Solomon is gay, of course, and his gayness launches the explorations of this book. Gay children usually have straight parents, and the book explores how parents deal with children who are very different from them.

But the book does not stop with parents of gay children. It explores the lives of parents whose children have become criminals, about the lives of parents whose children are profoundly disabled, about parents whose children are on the autistic spectrum, and even about parents of children who are child prodigies. None of them have easy lives (do any parents have easy lives?) but the explorations are fascinating.

You might know Solomon from another landmark book: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. This book changed the way I think about my broken brain. If you suffer from melancholia (or maybe even if you don’t) that book is also a worthy read.

Captivity: 118 Days in Iraq and the Struggle for a World Without War

by James Loney

This is yet another book that does not come across as particularly lesbigay (and it is yet another book written by a Canadian. What’s up with that?), but Loney’s sexuality is definitely a factor in the story.

You might remember James Loney’s story. He was a member of a pacifist group called Christian Peacemaker Teams, whose role was to use their First-World privilege to intervene in scenes of conflict, with hopes to de-escalate the situation. Loney was in Iraq when he and three of his fellow CPT members were kidnapped and held for ransom. Much of the book relates Loney’s experiences in captivity, and the complicated feelings he had about his treatment and his rescue. The book is full of contradictions, but Loney is aware of these contradictions, and faces them directly and with honesty.

In this hyper-polarized world Loney somehow looks for the humanity in everyone — even the captors who mistreated him. He fell in love with a philosophy that spoke to him, and he tried to live that philosophy at the expense of his own well-being. But he does not come across as a saint or a martyr. He is just a guy trying to live out his values.

The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Get Pregnant

by Dan Savage

I have documented my affinity for Dan Savage before, and I continue to feel an affinity for him even though he is uncool and mainstream. He can be awfully strident at times, but he is also articulate and smart and once in a while he allows himself to demonstrate vulnerability. I like a good Dan Savage rant as much as the next mainstream homosexual, but Savage is at his best when he is off his soapbox.

I appreciated the ambivalence Savage showed in having children at all, and the mixed, politically-incorrect anxieties he felt in learning about the troubled history of his birth mother. (She’s giving up her unborn baby to fags. Duh.)

This book is very much a time capsule. I will never ever ever get pregnant or have a baby, but it is worthwhile look into the lives of a couple that really wanted one.

Saving Alex

by Alex Cooper and Joanna Brooks

The subtitle of this book is “When I was Fifteen I Told My Mormon Parents I was Gay, and That’s When My Nightmare Began”. The subtitle is not a lie. Alex’s nightmare, in this case, was being sent off to a reform house to punish away the gay. It’s harrowing. It made me angry. But it was well worth the read.

My Husband is Gay: A Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Crisis

by Carol Grever

What’s interesting about this book is that it was written in 2001, long before having a gay husband was acceptable. Much of this stuff is similar to stuff you will read on the “Gay Husband” corner of the blogosphere, but it is written well and all in one place.

Men who come to terms with their sexuality, come out of the closet and live their lives with authenticity have to go through an emotional journey. So do their wives, but we homosexuals often neglect that part. To some extent, this book fills in the gaps.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey to Manhood and Back Again

by Norah Vincent

Norah Vincent (a lesbian) wanted to know what men were like. So she went undercover, posing as Ned, a somewhat metrosexual man. She joined a bowling league. She went to a monastary. She tries to date women posing as a straight guy. She visits strip clubs. She goes to John Bly manhood groups. Sure enough, she learns what life is like in exclusively male spaces.

I learned a lot from this book. Despite being fairly male, and despite participating in some communities that are largely male, I have never felt in tune with male culture. I have never played poker or been to a strip club or joined the clergy. I do not really know what it is like to be a real man interacting with other real men. Ned enters these spaces and observes, and I am the richer for it.

We talk a lot about “toxic masculinity” these days, but I am still not sure what that is, or how it differs from regular masculinity. I guess this book offers some clues. It also offers sympathy, which appears to be a common theme of many of the books I am recommending.

It is worth noting that this book took a toll on its author, which Norah Vincent documents in her followup Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin.

Boys Like Us: Gay Writers Tell Their Coming-Out Stories

edited by Patrick Merla

Back when I participated in an LGBTQ+ reading group at the Lurkville Community Centre, I read a lot of LGBTQ+ anthologies. Many of them were mediocre, with a few standout stories. This collection was much better than average.

I wrote about this collection before, in my entry about Chip Delany, but there were a number of other standout stories as well. We have all read a lot of coming out stories, both in blogs and in print. I am not certain that this collection has anything new to say, but it says those things in an interesting way.

The New Moon’s Arms

by Nalo Hopkinson

A flawed fiftysomething woman adopts a young boy who may or may not be a sea creature. I thought that this was going to be tedious and boring, but I was pleasantly surprised. It also does not seem to be particularly lesbigay, but keep reading.

Blog Puppy

Today’s self-indulgent blog entry is about online community and my relationship to it. The more I think about it, the more I perceive myself as being like a puppy. Puppies are social creatures. They want love and affections from their masters. They have lots of energy to jump around and play, and they will play with you much longer than you are interested in playing back. Unlike older dogs they are often impulsive and imperfectly trained. They have accidents. Sometimes when puppies are play fighting with you they nip too hard, and you get hurt. They don’t mean to hurt you; they are just unaware of their limits.

There’s no need to explain how this simile relates to my online behaviour, so I’ll do it anyways. It is abundantly clear that I am not very good at blogging myself, and that I have run out of things to say. But I enjoy playing with other bloggers in their comment sections. I crave attention and affection, but sometimes I nip too hard and feelings get hurt. Occasionally, a few bloggers throw a stick for me to fetch a few times, but I tire them out quickly. Other bloggers are busy doing two-foot things to engage much, and still others don’t like puppies (in particular this puppy) that much. I try to recognise when bloggers don’t want to play, but it is difficult for my puppy brain to understand that you don’t want to spend every waking minute keeping me entertained. I may exist in the world of two-foots but that doesn’t mean I comprehend it.

One disappointing aspect of blogs is that they tend to be one-to-many interactions. The blogger in question makes a post, some commenters respond to that blogger, and sometimes the blogger writes back. Sometimes I wish blogs were more like dog parks, where commenters could sniff each others’ butts and run around together independent of the blogger. Old bulletin board systems had that property, but it is mostly gone now. The blogosphere is okay, and I am grateful to read the blogs of so many thoughtful, erudite, and intelligent people, but I miss group interaction, and I treasure it when I see it happening in your comment sections. This is not to say that dog parks are perfect. Sometimes they get noisy and chaotic. Sometimes there are mean dogs that will growl and make me feel unwelcome. But they can be a nice alternative to one-on-one walks.

Mayor Pete

I probably should not write this entry, but I realized that (a) repressing it is not working, and (b) if I am going to alienate my entire readership* then I might as well do it in one blow. So here goes.

In this corner of the blogosphere, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, otherwise known as “Mayor Pete”. Many people have been posting inspirational video interviews and praising him as a hopeful candidate. People went nuts when he formally announced his presidency.

But along with the Mayor Pete wave comes the Mayor Pete backlash, and not every corner of the Internet is as enthusiastic about Buttigieg as this corner is. Another place I lurk heavily supports Elizabeth Warren, and somewhere in there I ran across a critique of Mayor Pete — in particular a critique of his character and his campaign, based upon the pre-presidential-run book he wrote. (Apparently one of the qualifications for running for President in the United States of America is authoring (or “authoring”) an inspirational autobiography.) In order to protect your innocent enthusiasm I won’t link the piece here. Instead I’ll put a link at the end of this screed, long after you have stopped reading.

I wish I could say that I stayed strong after reading this attack piece, but you know me better than that. I was swayed. The piece throws a lot of criticisms at the wall — many from a far left perspective — but some of them stick, and I have been swayed. I have suspicions now. In particular, I am wary that once again we are being manipulated, and that once again we are going to be disappointed.

I want to believe, y’know? I am tired of being cynical and hopeless about politics. I admire the faith that the system isn’t rigged, that we can somehow elect leaders who will govern with wisdom and won’t be in the pockets of our lobbyists. I read all of you celebrating and wish I could join the party. But I wish I could be Christian, too, and that isn’t happening either.

I am also upset that any time I see something hopeful, along comes a wave of criticism to sow the seeds of doubt. This is a deliberate strategy used by political opponents to foster indecision and inaction — and it totally works on me. But once you see the patterns they cannot be unseen. So here are a few words of caution about Mayor Pete. Some of these ideas are taken from the attack piece, and some of them have come to mind since.

As most of you know, I have exactly no business writing about any of this. I don’t get to choose the Democratic nominee for president any more than you do — less, even, given that I am Lurkistani, not American. However, we do not have a president in Lurkistan, so we adopt yours, and follow American politics closely. Also many of the blogs I read come from the Greatest Country on Earth ™, so I get a big dose of American politics there too. I may not have qualifications, but I have opinions.

Blowing the Filter Bubble

Why am I seeing so much about Mayor Pete? Should I believe that this is a grassroots movement that sprung up from nowhere? I am getting my Mayor Pete fix from your blogs. What are your sources? Are you searching them out yourself? Or are they being curated for you?

In this world of “personalized recommendations” I do not trust that there really is a grassroots. Somebody seeds these videos that go viral. It is in somebody’s interest to get these videos to our eyeballs. Who is engineering this? What do they have to gain from it? Are their interests in alignment with our own?

Although it does not pertain to this situation directly, there is a good (if slimy) book that illustrates how easily we are manipulated, called Trust Me I’m Lying, by Ryan Holiday. (And how did I come across this book, hrm?) The premise of the book is that news organizations are desperate for stories, so big media companies republish stories from smaller ones. But the smaller ones are also hungry, so the farther down you go the easier it is to feed the story you want to a small news source. If the story is juicy enough, it gets fed up the media chain until your friends of friends see it, who post it on their blog or Twitstream or wall, and then it hits our eyeballs.

Nobody tries to get to our eyeballs more than political campaigns. Mayor Pete seemed to come out of nowhere. According to his mythology, one day he was minding his business as the mayor of South Bend and the next he was getting booked on late night talk shows. I don’t think that is an accident. Given that he has both run for DNC chair and written the mandatory presidential autobiography, I also am disinclined to believe the mythology.

So why are we hearing about Mayor Pete? Why are we talking about him and not, say, Wayne Messam, who is also a mayor, also young, also inspirational? Why are we not talking about Juli├ín Castro, who was also a mayor, is also young, and served with Barack Obama? Is this a meritocracy — the superiority of Mayor Pete bubbling to the top of our consciousnesses? Or is something else going on here?

As a somewhat-relevant sidenote, why do we feel that Kamala Harris is scary and shrill? Why do we feel that Bernie Sanders is too old now? He certainly is not cool the way he was in 2016. Why did we feel as if we needed to hold our noses and vote for Hillary instead of supporting her enthusiastically? There are a lot of narratives floating around, and it is surprising how quickly they come to mind. Where do these impressions come from? Are we doing the research ourselves and drawing our own conclusions? Or are they being fed to us?

Comparing Candidates

I have read some people supporting Mayor Pete with statements like “all the other candidates made me feel uneasy, but Mayor Pete really speaks to me.” I am glad the rest of you have been getting comprehensive information about the Democratic nominees. I haven’t. In fact, I did not know who most of the other nominees were before researching this blog post, and I probably can’t name half of them now.

This is a real problem. In fact, it is multiple real problems. Let’s for the moment assume that there are not frontrunner candidates and also-rans, and let’s also assume it was somehow our job to identify the best candidate to support in a nomination. You don’t go about that by being fed a steady stream of media about one candidate in particular. You do that by comparing candidates, which pretty much no politician wants you to do.

How does one actually compare candidates? Debates can work, although debates are highly orchestrated. In municipal politics questionnaires can sometimes be useful. I spent a little bit of time looking for some presidential candidate comparisons, and ran into a New York Times questionnaire about climate change. If you have any articles left (or know how to get around the NYT article limits) then it might be worth a look. The last question of the questionnaire is about nuclear power — a contentious issue on the left. The responses to that question are especially telling, but overall one gets a clearer sense of which candidates have insights into these topics, which are willing to say whatever they think we want to hear, and which are not willing to address certain questions at all. I feel Mayor Pete’s responses to many of these questions are illuminating.

How many side-by-side comparisons of these candidates have you done? If you have not done many, are you still willing to declare fealty to a particular candidate?

Now let’s talk about frontrunners, because here in the real world there really is no point in comparing all of the 17 (or 18? or more? Wikipedia says over 200?) candidates as if they all have an equal chance of the nomination. Some of the candidates are well-entrenched and some are upstarts like Mayor Pete. For a while those candidates will be in the running and we will all support our favorites and we will fight among each other, because there is nothing more a Democrat likes more than infighting. And then somebody (hint: probably somebody with money, and with entrenched support within the Democratic Party) will win. Then what? Are you prepared to hold your nose and vote for that candidate?

Do we think that Mayor Pete could surge in popularity the way Bernie did in 2016? If so, do you think he would be the establishment-supported candidate? It looks as if superdelegates are less of a thing but I am sure that the powers that be in the Democratic Party will find other ways to ensure the party doesn’t get too democratic. I do not have an answer as to whether Mayor Pete could be the establishment candidate, and that in itself is disconcerting.

The Gay Thing

This is a blog about sexual perversion, so let’s talk about the gay thing. In particular, let’s talk about the familiar refrain, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!”

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Mayor Pete is allowed to live his life however he sees fit. He is not obligated to be a sex radical. If he chose to wait until age 33 to come out as gay then who am I to criticize him? Maybe these tearjerking stories about how he was in denial about himself for so many years are actually true. I am not one of those who demands that Mayor Pete be more of a sex radical.

However, that does not let him off the hook and it does not let us off the hook.

When you think to yourself, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!” do you actually mean it? Pretend that Pete Buttigieg was a nice, white, cisgendered man who went to a good university, served in the military and was married to a nice woman named Chastity who had a kickass Twitter account. Look deep in your heart. Would you be as enthusiastic about Mayor Pete if he was another straight white charismatic politician like Tim Ryan? Really? Okay then.

Even though Mayor Pete’s sexuality is not biasing your perception of him in any way, consider how much he is playing it up during this campaign. Watch that video where he declares his nomination again. He gushes about his husband and about marriage equality a lot. Do you think that is an accident? Do you think his heartfelt story about coming out during a mayoral campaign because he didn’t want to be single anymore was an accident? Hint: he is cultivating an image, and he is doing so deliberately. Do you ever notice how he relates his brave story about coming out during a mayoral campaign and receiving a majority of the vote, but does not acknowledge South Bend as a university town? Sure, that university is a Catholic institution, but even Catholic university towns skew liberal — especially in 2011. Instead his narrative is being a poor gay mayor in an Indiana city that was once built on heavy industries that left town, as if he was in the Trumpiest of Trump Country. None of this is an accident.

How is a white, male, cisgendered, highly-educated, relatively wealthy politician supposed to stand out in a world where black people and even women are allowed to run for President? Would it not be convenient for the aforementioned white male to have some other characteristic that would allow him to stand out?

And isn’t it fortunate that Mayor Pete is just gay enough to make liberals feel good about themselves while being so inoffensive that he doesn’t scare away those who are more socially conservative? Again, I am not criticizing Mayor Pete’s sexual choices, but aren’t they convenient? Presumably he was completely celibate before deciding to come out as gay and look for a husband. Mayor Pete never gets edgier about his sexuality than joking about the app he used to find said husband. And is it not darling (and suspiciously heteronormative) that Chasten adopted Buttigieg’s last name? Mayor Pete really is the living embodiment of the notion that gay people are exactly like straight people except for the people they choose to love.

I do not know the extent to which Mayor Pete organized his life such that his gayness would be so picture-perfect. But I highly suspect that he has cultivated this image of being gay and inoffensive very, very carefully. And honestly, I am tired of gayness being used as political leverage.

Look. I am glad that gays are cool now. It is much better for politicians to be using their gayness as an asset, as opposed to the bad old days when Anita Bryant said we should not be allowed to teach in schools, or Mike Huckabee wondered why we were not quarantined to prevent spreading AIDS to straight people, or the Mormon and Catholic churches insisted that we were intent on destroying the institution of marriage**. It is nice that gay people are the heroes and not the villains now, but homosexuality is still being used for political ends.

Claiming that Mayor Pete is leveraging his sexual identity for political gain is not the same as claiming he should remain in the closet, or that he should never mention his sexuality, or whatever. It is possible to simultaneously be a gay politician and not make it a central part of your narrative, if you so choose.

I have one more thing to say about homosexuality and politics: it is our responsibility as gay people to avoid giving politicians a free pass because they are gay. Just because a politician is gay does not mean that said politician will be effective. Debra recently elected a leader who is rumoured to be gay, but that does not imply that I agree with anything that leader stands for or does. Although not a politician directly, lawyer Roy Cohn was a gay political figure who was heavily involved in the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was openly gay and openly anti-Muslim. All too often those of us (gay and straight) who think of ourselves as enlightened are willing to give politicians a pass based on their homosexuality, and I do not feel this is justified.

Anti-qualifications

What is up with our fixation on electing people who have special stories? Why are we so opposed to nominees for President of the United States having relevant qualifications for the job?

I am not diminishing the importance of city mayors. For the most part, I feel that running a city (even a relatively small city like South Bend) is a complicated matter, and I think many mayors do an admirable job. However, municipal politics is different than state or federal politics, and for some reason we think it is okay that Mayor Pete has no legislative experience at the federal level.

I mean, President of the United States seems like a pretty difficult job too, but I think it is difficult in different ways than being mayor of a small city. Should we not have some expectations that the presidential nominees have some knowledge of how federal (or at least state) politics work?

Buttigieg is not, of course, alone in this. We all know what happened in 2016, and the qualifications for office that presidential nominee possessed. But (and here’s where I lose the rest of my readership, if I have any left) it is not as if Barack Obama was well-qualified to be president either. His legislative experience consisted of half a term as a Senator, which is something but not a lot. Frankly, I feel that Obama’s lack of experience as a federal politician showed, and that it hurt him.

I am not claiming that one needs to be Vice-President of the United States in order to be qualified for President (sorry, Joe Biden). I am not claiming you need to be in your 60s or 70s. But is it so unreasonable to expect a term or two in the Senate or House of Representatives? Being a state governor also seems like a good qualification. Is serving in Afghanistan and then becoming mayor of a small city for eight years enough? Even if you want to smash/reform the system, surely you should understand how the system works?

Trump

Speaking of Trump, why are we all so certain he is going to lose in 2020? Most of you are too young to remember this, but way back in 2004 we had an unpopular president named George W. Bush, and a decently qualified candidate in John Kerry. There was no way that Kerry could have lost the election against such an unpopular incumbent, right?.

The End

There is no chance you read this far. I didn’t read this far. I furiously unsubscribed from this blog several sections ago.

Look. I hope you’re right. It would be fantastic if Mayor Pete was the real deal, and won the nomination, and somehow beat Trump in 2020, and was the smart, well-spoken president who is going to solve all our problems. Oh wait. Where have we heard that before? One of the reasons we all fell in love with Obama was because he was a blank slate. We all projected our hopes and wishes for the presidency onto him, and — surprise! — he turned out not to meet those expectations. In a similar way, I feel we are projecting our hopes onto Mayor Pete. I worry we are being fooled again. So hate me if you want (yes, I know you already do), and hold on to your enthusiasm and hope, but also do your homework. Please don’t be fooled again?

If after reading these 3000 words you want to read thousands more, here is a link to that attack piece that I mentioned at the top: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/03/all-about-pete.

  • I guess JP is British, so would not be as repulsed by this entry as the rest of you. But if I throw in some grudging respect for the Extinction Rebellion movement then he should be covered too. I’ll alienate Kato by forgetting that Australia exists.

** I’m still working on that last one.

Grossing Out the Boys

Today’s self-indulgent blog entry comes to you courtesy of Lindy West, from an essay entitled “You’re So Brave for Wearing Clothes and Not Hating Yourself!”, published in a book titled Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman:

I was the girl kids would point to on the playground and say, “She’s your girlfriend,” to gross out the boys. No one had ever sent me flowers, or asked me on a date, or written me a love letter (Beth literally had “a box” where she “kept them”), or professed their shallow, impetuous love for me, or flirted with me, or held my hand, or bought me a drink, or kissed me (except for that dude at the party freshman year who was basically an indiscriminate roving tongue), or invited me to participate in any of the myriad romantic rites of passage that I’d always been told were part of normal teenaged development. No one had ever picked me. Literally no one. The cumulative result was worse than loneliness. I felt unnatural. Broken. It wasn’t fair.

This was also my teenagerhood, except in my case it was entirely fair, and I did not go to any parties in my freshman year. Outside of a brief interlude in my early twenties (when I pursued a woman and was pretty terrible to her) it has remained the same since. Either my gaydar (or more precisely, romantic-dar) is so broken that I don’t pick up on these signals, or — more likely — I have never been the target of them.

The book is worth reading, by the way.

Dr. Laura Turned Me Gay

Do you remember Dr. Laura? I guess she is still around. She used to be a popular advice columnist on the radio, and her show was syndicated widely. She was on the socially-conservative side of the spectrum, although I don’t think she achieved Rush Limbaugh levels of wingnuttery. (Apparently Limbaugh is still around too?) It is fortunate that Dr. Laura doesn’t hate the gays because I regret to inform you that Dr. Laura turned me gay.

(Have I told this story before? I feel as if I have told these stories before. As if my blog was not tedious enough, now you are getting reruns.)

After grade 10 or so, my teenaged years were not particularly happy. School was my refuge, but after school I spent a lot of time in my room hoping there would not be a household fight. I did my homework and I read books, and at one point or another I discovered the radio. It did not take too long before I started listening to sportsball broadcasts.

I have a lot of unkind things to say about the professional sportsball industry — the way it chews up young people and spits them out, the way we cheer on uniforms and not players, and especially the consumerism of it all. Sportsball broadcasts would not exist at all if it weren’t for the named stadiums and the beer advertisements and the sponsored scores. Nonetheless, I got pretty interested in sportsball for a few years. I listened to the radio and started reading pages of statistics published in the local newspaper (newspaper?!) each week.

I probably didn’t appreciate sportsball itself that much, but I craved the camaraderie of the announcers. In between announcing plays they would share anecdotes about the players and the league. They seemed to enjoy each other’s company. As somebody who did not have (m)any friends, it was nice to listen to enjoyable chit-chat instead of worrying when the yelling was going to start downstairs.

I am surprised that I got so emotionally involved. I cheered for the players that were making an impact, and felt sad when players I liked retired. When the local team won I felt happy; a bad loss could really bring down my mood. I liked the enthusiasm of the announcer, especially when somebody was close to scoring. I liked that the broadcasts were dependable refuges for me.

A few months (or maybe years?) into listening to sportsball broadcasts I left the radio running after the evening’s game had finished. A phone-in show started playing. It was called Radio Heartbeat, and was voiced by a gentle man named Alan Mayer. Each week, Mayer would take calls from his audience. Sometimes those calls focused on a theme (“the moon”, “rainfall”, “an experience that brought you joy”). Sometimes his callers would commiserate their own life experiences. And sometimes they would ask Mayer for advice. Mayer’s usual response was along the lines of “You have the answer inside yourself. What is it saying?” Then Mayer and the caller would try to work things out. Sometimes callers discovered answers and sometimes they didn’t.

In retrospect, it wasn’t that different from therapy, but I didn’t know that at the time. At the time, I was blown away. At school the teachers and textbooks had the answers, and my job was to give them the answers they wanted. At home there were no answers. Here was this gentle man with his gentle radio show taking gentle calls, without any agenda of stirring up conflict to boost ratings, or even to fix people.

I loved Radio Heartbeat. Some nights I couldn’t wait for the sportsball broadcast to end so that Mayer could take to the air. I still liked sportsball broadcasts, and I still enjoyed the camaraderie of the announcers, but this was something special.

Then one evening everything changed. The sportsball broadcast drew to a close (I don’t remember whether “we” won or lost) and I waited for Radio Heartbeat to begin. But instead of Radio Heartbeat, Dr. Laura’s show started playing. Dr. Laura took calls too. But she was there to dish out advice and fix people. She didn’t care about reflections on the moon or rainfall or joyful experiences. People had Problems, and she had Advice, and she was there to Fix People. It was awful. I listened for a few minutes and turned the radio off.

I think I tried once or twice more. Radio Heartbeat did not return, and Dr. Laura was as insufferable as ever. So I got mad, and I left. I decided to boycott the radio station in question, which meant I stopped listening to sportsball broadcasts. My interest in the sport waned shortly thereafter.

Who knows what might have happened if Radio Heartbeat had stayed on the air? Maybe I would have continued to listen to sportsball. Maybe I would have learned more about the sport, and learned to appreciate the sport as a sport instead of just as a set of stats and broadcasts. Who knows? Maybe I would have started playing sportsball recreationally. Then I might have been butch. Instead I became a homosexual. Thanks for nothing, Dr. Laura.

Straight Porn Turned Me Gay

Opponents of pornography often claim that it is harmful and warps minds. I am here to testify that this is completely true. If it had not been for straight porn I might not have turned into a homosexual.

Unlike my peers I did not stumble into a stash of dirty magazines when I was younger. I do remember finding a naughty calendar (Miss April wore some overalls that barely covered her nipples, and Miss June was embracing a pillow with no underwear on!) but that was about it. It wasn’t until I made the worst decision of my life (using the Internet) that I was exposed to pornography.

I confess that I found those initial images titillating. Boobs! Hips! I also confess that I found myself looking at wee-wees and chest hair more often that I should have, but that is not what this entry is about. This entry is about power.

There is an Internet quotation often misattributed to Oscar Wilde that says “Everything in the world is about sex, except sex. Sex is about power.” Once I got beyond the novelty of seeing the mechanics of coitus, the power dynamics in pornography quickly became evident, and they were horrifying. The pretty women in the pictures and 10-second video clips did not seem to be enjoying themselves. Their male partners often were domineering and comtemptuous of their female partners. Even those women who claimed to “want it” did not really seem to want much at all. Was this what sex was about?

As most of you know, I am manipulative and abusive. It’s part of my family history and it is a part of me. I felt traumatized by displays of aggressive domination in my family home (aren’t I a special snowflake?) and I despise this aspect of myself (even though I am unwilling to put in the work to change it). As such, displays of coercive power are a real turn-off to me, as are situations where I witness forced consent (sometimes called “choiceless choices”), where a party chooses an option they actively dislike because no other option is better.

I interpreted a lot of that early porn as forced consent. I am not even talking about degradation porn or BDSM stuff — just the run of the mill depictions of baby-making between men with large ding-dongs and young women. These depictions further cemented my beliefs that women don’t have sex drives or enjoy sex, and that straight porn is exploitative. Ordinarily these are post-orgasm realizations, but in my case seeing these things ruined the mood entirely.

This is not to say that gay porn was a lot better. There is an awful lot of “broke straight boys” nonsense out there, and a lot of dynamics involving very young men. Normal gay men find these kinds of young bodies hot, and I guess I should have as well, but again I saw too much exploitation and forced consent for my comfort.

For some reason I felt that older men and women had more choices in life, and it was easier to fool myself into thinking that depictions of sex between older people was voluntary and not just consensual. Furthermore the older people having sex occasionally seemed to be enjoying themselves. But there were other power dynamics at play as well. We like underdogs, so seeing the kind of person who is usually powerful (namely, middle-aged white men) being dominated stings less than seeing an already-exploited young person exploited further.

Moreover, even though gays classify themselves into “tops” and “bottoms” even the bottoms seemed less coerced into their roles; they had penises too, and could become tops if they so chose. To my warping brain, it seemed as if bottoms had more agency and choice than young women. And then there was reciprocity. It was rare to see men performing oral sex on their female partners, and when they did it was perfunctory and short. Meanwhile, extended fellatio sequences were mandatory. Even rarer than cunnilingus was cuddling; male partners did not seem to enjoy the company of their female consorts much. In contrast, even tops would perform oral sex on bottoms, and sometimes they would hug and cuddle.

But my real downfall was categorization. I am sure there is good straight porn in the world, but it is a real chore to find it in the sea of awful exploitative junk. Even finding porn between middle-aged men and middle-aged women seems impossible. In contrast, the gays provided many convenient search terms for less-exploitative sex between older men: “older”, “mature”, “bear”, “daddy”. There was still noise in this taxonomy, but it was easier to find smut that did not horrify me. What are the corresponding terms for straight porn? “milfs”? Good luck with that. The best I have been able to do (and this was years later) is “swinger” porn.

As I have aged my views have shifted somewhat. For one thing I find myself much more bored by porn than I used to be. The hunt for new scenes can be exciting, but the results are almost uniformly disappointing, and searching for them is huge waste of time. Overall I am much less happy with professionally-produced porn than in my younger years. Intellectually, I have also softened my stance on sex work. It is true that many of the people depicted in porn don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, but how many of us look forward to our jobs? It still really upsets me to see exploitation, but working at a fast-food joint is also exploitative, and for some reason I am willing to tolerate that. Furthermore some of these depictions of exploitation are just an act, and even though I still find them awful to watch, it does not necessarily mean the participants are actually being exploited. Finally, I have come to realize that sex is about power, and lots of people find these displays of power hot. (Hello, 50 Shades of Grey.) But for the most part these depictions are not for me, even as I harbor my own illicit power-based fantasies.

But the damage has been done. Pornography warped my impressionable mind. Now I am a homosexual, and not even the respectable kind of homosexual who is attracted to muscular twinks who are strictly above 18 years old. Obviously the best course of action would have been for me to chastely avoid the Internet entirely, but even if I hadn’t how much better might my life had been had I been able to find appropriately-categorized straight porn easily, instead of turning to man-on-man smut? Might I have been spared this lonely, loveless life?

A Round-Heeled Woman

The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections sent me a terse note after my last entry, advising me to write something less self-indulgent and more cheerful or else. So here is a cheery book review about a memoir entitled A Round-Heeled Women, by Jane Juska. The name “Jane Juska” may not be familiar to you, but you might remember the (in)famous personals ad she posted to The New York Review of Books in 1999:

Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.

Apparently this set off an avalanche of lascivious personal ads in the New York Review of Books. When I first heard this story the vision of dozens (hundreds?) of book nerds writing dirty notes to each other and engaging in orgiastic literary copulation both amused and comforted me, but this was years before Grindr. What I didn’t realize is that the writer in question had a story, and that she wrote this story down. So I sashayed to the local university library and signed the book out.

I think I was expecting John Rechy’s Numbers written by a straight woman. That’s not what I got. Jane Juska does document a number of sexual conquests, but through the course of her adventure she has fewer partners than certain unnamed bloggers on busy weekends. And in rereading her personals ad, it becomes clear that Juska is not in search of a lot of sexual partners. She wants a lot of sex, but she wants sex with a man she likes. That is a big difference.

Readers in search of salacious bedroom scenes won’t be entirely disappointed, but much of the book consists of memoir — how did Juska end up spending 30 years of her life celibate? How did she find the gumption to post the ad? — and the logistics of finding and meeting different men, most of whom were (duh) in New York. Given that Juska lived in California, this made for a lot of plane trips back and forth. She also includes some details about her life at the time, including an intriguing chapter on volunteering inside San Quentin Prison.

Juska’s adventures in dating will sound familiar to many who have ventured into the shark-infested waters of modern love. She triages responses into yes, maybe, and no, and even among the yeses she finds flakes and freaks. Some dates lie about their ages. Several behave in hilariously inappropriate ways. She falls for a few only to discover they do not reciprocate their feelings (after they have slept with her). Not many want to discuss Trollope, but one who does leads her on an adventure to view an original Trollope manuscript.

Juska is not shy about her apprehensions around this process. She had children from a previous marriage; what would they think? She had a job as a schoolteacher; could she book time off? Would her social standing (and possibly her employment standing) be harmed by her love life? And of course, she worries about her looks and her age. Does she look too old? Are her boobs too big? These are questions we all have to face when looking for men we like and want to have a lot of sex with.

The book is well written and quick to read. In reading it I learned many interesting things. For example, did you know that some women have sex drives independent of the desire to have babies or snag a man? Apparently this is true. Furthermore, I learned that some women are attracted to men visually:

Sometimes, as I lie on my futon reading, say, the Times or The American Scholar, I will feel the familiar tickle between my legs. But mostly, I am aroused by men, parts of men. I love men’s asses, even the ones that aren’t perfect. I am aroused by the sight of John’s neck, of Bill’s forearm, of Sidney’s voice, Robert’s hands, Graham’s legs. Men have fabulous legs, no fat, long muscles. Walking down the street in the summertime, all those men in shorts, is a thrill for me. And I adore penises. They are different from one another, straight and crooked, long and short, thick and thin, endlessly fascinating at rest or attention. They do wonderful things for me and I do wonderful things for them.

Now isn’t that the kind of book you would like to spend an afternoon with?

P.S. to Sixpence: I saw your blog post about my entry. You are very kind. That guy is hot and I look nothing like him. Also Blogger and I do not get along, and there are few Blogger blogs on which I can comment.

Sandy

A few weeks ago Nurse Heartthrob blogged about a neighbour rechristening Heartthrob’s bantam cockerels Julian and Sandy. “Julian” and “Sandy” refer to sketch comedy characters from an old BBC radio programme called Round the Horne. That sent me off to Wikipedia and Youtube.

The premise of the skits were that Julian and Sandy are campy gay men, but since homosexuality was illegal at the time, the comedy consisted of slang called “polari” and double-entendre.

Here is a short skit called the “Bona Gift Boutique”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muAPba7s0A8

And if you like that there is a vinyl rip of their comedy album, “The Bona Album of Julian and Sandy”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9koGCymZNPk

After listening to some skits I was somewhat surprised. The comedy is rather camp and somewhat British. Although not side-splittingly hilarious, the skits are not bad, and contain lots of catch-phrases that (like the Three Stooges) get funnier when you re-enact them on the playground than they are on screen. The surprising thing was that although Julian and Sandy are portrayed as very very camp, and they embody several gay stereotypes, they don’t come across as objects of derision. In some ways they remind of of Scott Thompson’s Buddy Cole skits from Kids in the Hall. That is not a ringing endorsement (despite my affection for the Kids in the Hall the Buddy Cole sketches never worked for me), but it makes for a good segue, because both Hugh Paddick (who played Julian) and Kenneth Williams (who played Sandy) were themselves gay.

None of this is really worth blogging about; if you saw Nurse Heartthrob’s blog post you probably looked up Julian and Sandy as well. What struck me was less Youtube and more Wikipedia — in particular, what happened to the actors. Hugh Paddick who played Julian seemed to turn out okay. He found a boyfriend and they stayed together for 30 years.

Kenneth Williams who played his friend Sandy had a different path. On the one hand, he was successful in showbiz, appearing in the Carry On films, and when he died he had hundreds of thousands of pounds to his name. On the other, he was lonely and celibate, felt he never lived up to his potential, and (intentionally or not) overdosed on barbituates at age 62. I guess it is not surprising that this sad life story struck a chord with me, but maybe it should be. I am not in showbiz, I am not funny, I do not have hundreds of thousands of pounds to my name, and barbituates are a lot more trouble to get a hold of than they used to be. Nonetheless, Williams’s life story resonated deeply. Many days I feel that loneliness and sense of failure acutely. What’s the bloody point?

Sick and Tired

Over the weekend I got sick, for the second time this year. Given how whiny and irritable I am these days, I am guessing it is the manflu, but I don’t know for sure. Regardless of what it is, the infection has migrated to my chest, where no doubt it will reside until June or so.

Although I am feeling sorry for myself, the fact that I am sick is of little consequence overall. I am unemployed again, so it is not as if I am missing work. I am single and unlovable, so it is of little consequence if I choke to death on my own phlegm. Unfortunately I live in shared housing (you think I can afford an apartment of my own?), and I think I made my housemates sick too, but that is the worst of it (as if that was not bad enough).

Nonetheless, I am feeling sorry for myself, and then I start regretting not having a life partner who would drop everything and tend to my every need, bringing me soups and making sure I have enough blankets and taking my temperature and in general coddling me. After all, isn’t that how being sick works when you are in a relationship? Then I come to my senses and realize that I am not daydreaming about a life partner — I am daydreaming about a nursemaid, or more likely a mommy who would tend to me the way mommies tend to sick preschoolers. Then I just feel worse, given that I have very deliberately cut off ties with my parents.

I think I am also dreaming of having a teddy bear, because when I am sick and vulnerable I want to be held and cuddled. But that is not the way my life turned out, so I get to fend for myself. That works for now, but it won’t work so well as my illnesses get worse. One day I will be rendered immobile via illness or injury, and then what?