Touch is my Kryptonite

I am almost never touched. The blood donation nurses feel my arm before poking in their giant needles. Occasionally I am pressured to shake somebody’s hands, which sets off my germ anxieties. And I do get to pet my housemate’s part-time dog. When friendly cats approach me for petting I indulge them for minutes and minutes. But other than this I rarely make physical contact with humans or animals.

So it should come as no surprise that I am very sensitive to being touched, especially when I am touched, especially when that touch is made in affection.

I both fear and crave touch. A long time ago I had a friend who was a hugger. She would hug me at the end of my visits, and it was electric. I fear hugs because I worry about this charge being sexual, but as far as I remember I did not suffer erections during our departure hugs. I was in far more treacherous waters with another fellow, with whom I had become emotionally entangled. I vividly remember the handful of times he embraced me platonically, even as I wished those touches were less platonic.

At my last job I had a coworker who would occasionally touch my shoulders or the small of my back. It made me shiver every time.

I remember holding a two-year-old once. Two year olds have such soft skin. I understand why people enjoy cuddling babies after that experience.

It is difficult to disentangle sexuality from innocent touch. I am relieved to announce that I harbour no sexual feelings towards cats or part-time dogs or two year olds. But I still crave being touched. Not all touch is sexual.

Often I think that I would prefer a cuddle buddy to a sex partner, because I get plenty of sex in my life (thank you onesomes) but almost no physical contact with other beings.

But when I am near attractive people things become more complicated. I know the slippery slope. Goodbye hugs last a little too long, and hands start wandering under clothing, and then all sorts of unmentionable acrobatics occur, and before you know it you are planning the wedding reception and/or baby nursery. No thank you! Thus, I refrain from touch, and its power over me grows stronger.

I wish I had a better resolution to this entry. But in this (as in so many things) I have nothing but confusion to offer.

North Carolina Wedge Issues

I probably should not be shocked that North Carolina introduced an “Uphold Historical Marriage Act” to make same-sex marriage illegal again. Truth be told, I am somewhat shaken and somewhat mystified.

I’ll save the marriage rant for another day, except to say that overall the emphasis on marriage as a gay rights issue makes me uneasy, but that should not stop others from enjoying their marriages if they wish. Regardless of my feelings, I was fairly confident that after the Supreme court decision the issue was pretty much resolved. More importantly, it seemed that gay marriage was more-or-less dead as a wedge issue, which as far as I could tell was the primary reason Republicans kept bringing it up. Unlike gun rights or abortion or trans people being able to use public restrooms, within my bubble it seemed that the issue had lost its power to provoke outrage. Too many gay people had come out, and as a result too many Republicans knew (and cared about) gay people who wanted to get married. Support for gay marriage has been rising steadily, and even in the mid 2000s we were seeing right-wingers resistance weakening (with President Bush cracking jokes about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Puppetmaster Cheney supporting his gay daughter, and the right-wing Harper government in Canada refraining from overturning gay marriage after getting into power in 2006).

But now it’s 2017, and for some reason Republicans in North Carolina think they can score political points by bringing up gay marriage again. I ought not to have been surprised that there is an undercurrent of resentment against gay marriage in North Carolina (and probably across the USA), but I was surprised. Writing this out I feel stupid that I was surprised. I just got complacent, and thought that the dark days of demonizing homosexuality in America were largely behind us. I still believe that being gay is much easier in America than being trans, and it is much easier than being gay in other countries (Russia, anyone?). But perhaps we ought not to feel secure just because Barry Manilow came out in public. Things could change again in an instant. (And let us hope with all our hearts that there is not a second plague.)

Asexual

My love life is certainly pathetic, and maybe I will never get laid again in my life, but I doubt I am asexual. I kind of wish I was asexual. It would make life a lot easier.

For one thing, people are complicated and disgusting. People don’t follow the life scripts I make up when I fantasize. They make their own decisions, which are often bad ones. They live their own lives. Sometimes they smell funny. They poop and pee and sweat. If I wanted to deal with all those bodily functions I would get a dog or cat. In the abstract the proposition of being in close contact with another being seems appealing, but the reality seems awful.

Then there is the temptation. I give thanks every day that I am not a straight male, because the sheer temptation all around me would be unbearable. In addition to luscious lust-objects walking around (most of whom would resent being thought of as lust-objects), there are endless appeals to sex in advertising and entertainment. My tastes are rare enough that super-attractive people rarely are featured on screen or in print, and when they are I am in trouble. When attractive people walk by on the street it takes every ounce of will to avoid ogling. I hate it, and I wish I did not have to deal with it. And unlike straight men, I am not swimming in that kind of sexualized environment constantly.

What good has my sexuality done me? I have wasted years of my life thinking sexual thoughts and masturbating, and even more years feeling lonely and sorry for myself. What a waste of time. I never wanted children, so it is not as if the biological drive to reproduce did me any good.

On the other hand, I am anxious about aging, and way that “the equipment” stops functioning reliably. I guess I am more accepting of my diminishing libido. I just hope I don’t miss it when it is gone.

Being a member of a sexual minority has probably been helpful overall. First the HIV crisis scared me into never wanting to have sex with anybody ever, and then I realized that almost nobody around me would be receptive to my fumbling advances. Combine that with my unorthodox tastes and it is easy to argue that I have been protected from STIs and heartbreak, at the expense of a lot of loneliness.

I do not mean to say that asexuals have things easy, especially if they are asexual but not aromantic. But for me it would be an easier path than the one I have chosen for myself.

Rejection

One reason I have been so neurotic about followers and engagement on this blog is because I am neurotic overall. My OCEAN score has a giant N. But my anxieties around this blog run deeper.

I am pretty emotionally fragile these days. Among other things, I have been out of work for six months, which has taken its emotional toll. Even though I rejected the job (as opposed to it rejecting me) and I have stopped applying for positions (as opposed to applying and being rejected) I am dealing with the prospect that there is no place in the work world for me, and that I might never earn an income again. I am spectacularly ill-suited for the job search AND the working world, which is not a good combination. At first I felt that there ought to be a niche I could happily occupy, but as the weeks have passed I am less and less confident about this.

But I have been feeling rejected in other ways as well. I have been spending a lot of time by myself. I do not have many social interactions each week. Some part of this is okay and some of it has led to loneliness.

In order to succeed in life you are supposed to have a thick skin. Mine is like tissue paper. I anger easily these days, and am quick to take offence. Then I wonder why nobody wants to hang out with me, and why I feel isolated.

My paranoia has increased tremendously. When I have the hubris to believe that others think about me at all, I am convinced that those thoughts are judgemental. When I send somebody an email and don’t get a response, I conclude that the other person does not want to correspond with me. When I make a jokey comment that falls flat, I feel I should never post online again.

I have also felt isolated online. Several of my online communities have been drying up. People don’t post for days. I post and nobody responds or even notices.

So I tried my hand at writing content for the gay blogosphere. What a mistake this has been. I have ruined my good Henley Street name. Instead of maintaining the tone of lighthearted jokester I tried to cultivate via my comments, I have revealed myself to be a fraudulent neurotic mess.

None of this really has to do with rejection, or judgement. They all have to do with perceptions of being rejected. If I applied to more jobs I might get more interviews, and I might find something tolerable. If I approached more people and initiated social conversation, I might not spend so much time alone. If I worked on my anger management (and my overall weirdness) then maybe people would not be frightened of me. If I followed up when people did not respond to me online, maybe I could determine for certain whether I am being rejected or not.

Nobody is going to rescue me from myself. It always comes down to that, doesn’t it? Either I pull myself up by my bootstraps or I continue lying here on the floor.

The Salvation Army

Dr Spo posted some reflections on spring cleaning and in the comments the topic of the Salvation Army came up. That got me (re-)reading about the Salvation Army’s history of anti-LBGTQ political actions and subsequent attempts the Sally Ann has made to clean up its image (example 1, example 2, example 3). Based upon this we are supposed to believe that the Salvation Army is not homophobic; internal documents indicate that the Salvation Army will comply with same-sex marriage rules while continuing to oppose homosexual behaviour among its ministers.

There is lots more on the Internet. You can find it better than I can. But whenever these issues come up so do a jumble of contradictory thoughts.

Firstly: The Salvation Army is changing its tune for two reasons. The social context around homosexuality has changed, and their image took a beating. Economic actions against the Salvation Army likely got it to change its actions sooner than it otherwise would have. I do not know for certain, but I strongly believe this criticism worked. If it had not, then the Salvation Army would not have bothered to respond.

Secondly: Claims that boycotting the Salvation Army hurts poor people are spurious. The Salvation Army is not the only organization that ministers to the poor. Refraining from donating money to any charity because you do not give to the Salvation Army might harm the poor. Refraining from giving to the Salvation Army in favour of a competitor is likely to do more good than harm, because it establishes a minimum standard that the Salvation Army and its competitors must all meet.

Thirdly: My relationship to such organizations is very ambivalent. My former employer was such an organization (which was not explicitly religious, although it comes from religious roots and received much of its early funding from churches). On the one hand such organizations serve the poor; on the other they are parasites upon the poor. There is always a blurry line between the two. Nobody gets it right. It is plausible that the Salvation Army gets it more right than other organizations, but it is by no means guaranteed.

Fourthly: The Salvation Army’s rebuttals of its discriminatory practices from examples 1 and 2 are infuriating. They are whitewash. They make it sound as if the Army has always been welcoming of homosexuals, which is decidedly not true (eg read the comments from this Pinknews article or this Dan Savage column ).

Nowhere in their rebuttals is any acknowledgement that the organization participated in discriminatory, hurtful behaviour, or that they apologise for doing so. They are pretending that there was never any problem.

There is a good argument to be made that those who repent should be forgiven. None of us are pure. Individually and organizationally, we all believe heinous things and act in hurtful ways. But I do not see one hint of remorse in the Salvation Army’s about-face. All I see is marketing.

Fifthly: Although there have been many documented cases of discrimination and hurtful behaviour by both the organization and its members, condemning every action the Salvation Army makes is a grevious mistake. People are complicated. People who are deeply religious are often moved by spirits of charity and gratitude such that they do good things in bad circumstances. There is no doubt in my mind that members of the Salvation Army ministered to poor homosexuals the same way they ministered to other poor indigents, regardless of their personal beliefs concerning LBGTQ issues. Many times this goodwill is a recruitment strategy, but not always.

Furthermore there are many nonreligious people who are moved by the same spirits of charity and gratitude. As a duck-typed atheist I am supposed to condemn every church and every actions churches take (bless your heart, Christopher Hitchens). I will not do so. I hang out with Christians a lot, and there are a lot of Christians I know and respect. I may not approve of their lifestyles, and I reserve the right to condemn those lifestyles when they hurt others, but there are many ways to live in the world, and I know for a fact that my lifestyle choices are neither universally applicable nor optimal even in my life.

Sixthly: Many people within the Salvation Army continue to be homophobic (and not just about gay marriage), and the organization has an obligation to cowtow to its members even as it respects the law of the land. Unlike Queerty, I do not feel that the leaked internal documents are that surprising or that scandalous. I am not happy with all the positions this church takes (surprise, surprise) but I am also not the target audience.

Seventhly: I worry about the leaked internal memo. It specifies a baseline behaviour that the church expects its membership to take. The context is important. If the memo reflects consensus within the organization then I am more relieved than if this memo is disciplinary and faces deep resistance within the organization.

Eighthly: Nonreligious people bear some burdens too. In principle there should be lots of secular competition for the work that religious organizations do. In practice this is thin on the ground, as far as I can tell. Alternatives such as the effective altruism movement are gaining ground, but many of these movements are also horrifying. (Fund AI risk research if you want, but don’t pretend that it is either effective or altruism.) Time and time again I see antireligious people proclaim lofty solutions for poverty while being unwilling to get their hands dirty, and I see religious people doing work on the ground.

Ninthly: I firmly believe that good-willed social mixing is one of the most powerful tools we have to achieve peace, and thus that segregating ourselves based on beliefs is a net negative. Poor people should interact with middle class and upper class people as equals. Nonreligious people and religious people should work together on shared goals. One of the few positive things I will say about capitalism is that markets provide mechanisms so that people of very different political and ethical views can work together and interact with each other; money is a lowest-common-denominator force that gets us to work with each other. Currently there is a trend to ostracise others with whom we disagree. That is horrifying to me.

Tenthly: There is a big difference between giving money to the Salvation Army and getting on with your day vs getting involved with their volunteer activities. The latter is much more important. Giving money is easy and easy for the organization to abuse. Outsiders need to participate in order to determine the extent to which the organization lives up to its marketing of not being homophobic/transphobic in practice even if they insist on being so in principle.

Self-Indulgence

Here we go again. Instead of being a witty, erudite examination of the foibles of human sexuality, I have once again used a platform to howl into an uncaring void. This happens again and again.

Over the years I have learned that complaining and negative self-talk is indulgent. Nobody wants to hear it. It makes other people uncomfortable. Thus I should not ever express it in public. Thus the proper forum for such self-indulgence is either to shut up entirely or write my whining out into text files that nobody else will read. Instead I complain in public again and again, and then I wonder why I never have an audience.

I do not even know what I am looking for when I complain. Pity? Sympathy? Somebody to come along and save me from my own bad habits? When people offer such responses I reject them.

Probably I am looking for acknowledgement that my pain matters. But this is objectively not the case. Overeating is not that painful, and getting fat is my own damn fault, and we are all alone in an utterly indifferent universe. I have nothing to complain about, and yet I refuse to learn this lesson.

I think I refuse to learn this lesson because the underlying desire to engage in self-indulgence remains strong. I have little self-control, and it takes a fair number of spoons to act in ways that are even marginally acceptable to broader society. My inner three-year-old wants to throw tantrums, so instead of throwing tantrums where they do a lot of damage (for example, in the presence of policemen) I throw tantrums on the Internet. This has the side effect of increasing my social isolation, which might be a benefit or a curse.

Fat Pig

Today is the third day this week I have eaten over 4000 calories. Then I wonder why I am fat and getting fatter. I am not even hungry. Mostly I am angry and disappointed and upset.

It is a good thing I have no readers, because I am obsessed about food, and I hate my gluttony, and I probably will write about it a lot. I have zero self control in this area, particularly when I am tired and/or upset.

The thing is that I had a pretty good day yesterday. I went on a bike ride and ate well under 2000 calories. But I think I underslept today, and now the whole day has gone to pot.

The sad thing is that although my gluttony gets me in all kinds of trouble, it is probably a lesser problem. I am damaged goods. What right to I have to even think I could find a bedmate or a job?

Celibate

No, wait. This blog was not intended to be about social media marketing strategies. It was supposed to be about sex.

Why in the world did I think that it would be a good idea to blog about sex? I have been celibate for 17 years, if you don’t count onesomes. The most intimate I have been with anybody over that span is when the blood donation nurses touch my arm before poking me with big needles. I haven’t been kissing. I have not engaged in passionate embraces (and precious few platonic embraces). A few years ago an ex-landlord’s dog tried to hump my leg, but she was desperate and I did not consent. Does that count?

Yes, my love life is so pathetic that I am eligible to donate blood. Every time I walk into the clinic I am reminded of just how pathetic I am. On the positive side, I have learned a lot about blood screening procedures over the years. (Is that a positive side? Probably not, given the several years when I obsessed over the politics of blood donation.)

Kids these days throw around the term “incel”, which stands for “involuntarily celibate”. Technically I qualify for that status, but associating myself with that group seems weird given how bitter they are at not getting laid. Nobody owes me sex, and it is pretty clear that nobody is enthusiastic about offering me any either. Everybody else in gayland seems to have plenty of opportunity, but not me. Did I mention that I am pathetic? (Also ugly.)

Slowly, I am coming to grips with the idea that I may never have sex again. Sometimes this weirds me out. Sometimes I am comfortable with it. I suppose that with sufficient effort, weightlifting and plastic surgery I could get laid too, but it is far from clear that the cost is worth the benefit.

This is not to say that I do not have opinions about other people’s sex lives. Boy do I ever.

Referral Spam

Well, that solves one mystery. Upon uploading my last post I immediately received two likes and a follow from three blogs I had never heard of before. My guess is that people are running bots keyed to tags, and immediately following/liking posts based on those tags.

The goal is twofold: to stroke my ego and to get me to follow/like those blogs back. In this way they build up their audience base. This is how people do publicity in WordPress.

I am guilty of this as well, although I am less blatant. I populated my blogroll with active bloggers I read using other mechanisms, in the hope that they would notice and follow me back. So even though these referral spam tactics feel skeezy to me, my hands are dirty as well.

The lesson to be learned from this is that my tagging strategy is broken. I should be loading my posts with long, straightforward lists of tags to attract the audience I would like to have reading me. As a stubborn old git I am reluctant to do so, so I guess it is another life of obscurity for me.

Self-promotion

Well, it’s Day 3 and already I am dismayed. Nobody knows I am blogging, and so nobody is reading this blog. Changing this would require self-promotion. These subtle hints (changing the website field on my commenting identity, following other blogs in WordPress even though I already read them via RSS) are not working so far.

Self-promotion makes me want to vomit. But writing yet another blog nobody is going to read makes me feel despondent. Really this blog is trying to be an antidote to the overwhelming isolation I feel most days. That is a stupid reason to blog, because if others do not offer me their attention then I feel as if I have wasted my time.

On the other hand, some part of me does not want readers. Most of me cringes at the idea that any of my posts “go viral”. That would attract a lot of unkind opinionated strangers, which is exactly what I don’t need. But having any readers at all brings its own burdens. Dealing with other human beings at all brings burdens, which might be one explanation for the overwhelming isolation.

Maybe there is some clever way I can promote this blog and build a small readership. I do not really know how WordPress works well enough to know whether I can do this without being obnoxious. I suspect I cannot. At the end of the day promotion always requires intruding into the personal spaces of others. If you cannot grab other people’s attention, you can’t get your message out.

I keep comparing my readership goals to the celebrity blogs in this corner of the internet. But most of us do not develop the loyal followings of Spo-reflections or Going Gently . Most of us sit way out on the long tail, earning one or two loyal readers and writing post after post with no comments. That has always been my fate on the Internet and I expect it will be no different this time.