Sex and Cyber Sex

Sixpence (the dear!) recently ordered me to answer the question of whether cyber sex is really sex, and whether paying for cyber sex is actually paying for sex. Well, Sixpence’s wish is my command, so here’s my answer: yes, of course cyber sex is sex. Like “sextant” and “sexagenerian”, it’s right there in the name! What would cyber sex be if not sex?

Distinguishing “sex” from “not sex” is a popular pasttime. If only we had clear definitions that certain activities were “actual sex” and everything else was “not really sex” then we could sidle up to to the line of “actual sex” without consequences or reprecussions. (“Yes, honey, Lindsey and I were engaging in anal sex, but that doesn’t count.”)

My opinion is that sex is both fuzzy and multifaceted. There may be things we classify as being “more like sex” and others that are “less like sex”, but drawing bright lines between the two is futile, especially when some people have paraphilias that other people don’t find sexual at all. Thus sex is fuzzy. Sex is multifaceted because there are many different activities that can be considered as sex, and they are not necessarily comparable to each other.

My own opinion is that sex is a deep biological drive to procreate that predates humans (and vertebrates!) by billions of years. Behaviors that we take to satisfy that drive can be defined as “sex”. Within that continuum we might try to classify things as “more sexual” or “less sexual”, based upon any number of criteria:

  • Activities involving more than one person are seen as more sexual
  • Activities with more genital involvement are seen as more sexual
  • Activities involving more nudity are seen as more sexual
  • Activities involving more skin to skin contact are seen as more sexual
  • Activities that are more exclusive between participants are seen as more sexual (for example, we consider orgies sexual, but less meaningful than sex within the confines of a polycule)
  • Activities resulting in orgasm are seen as more sexual

Based upon this we might try to define a strict hierarchy of activities that are more sexual than others. Certainly people try to do this (having claimed a monopoly on every other important aspect of life, the Christians define “real sex” as being monogamous heterosexual sex within the confines of marriage, and everything else as sinful simulcra offensive to God), but I am not so sure it is wise. BSDM is a good case study here: many “scenes” do not involve genital contact, but it is difficult to argue that such BSDM power play is not sexual.

Unfortunately, we have prefrontal cortexes, so we muddle up sex by confounding it with other goals and drives. We are social monkeys, so we treat sex as a means of strengthening social bonds. Many of us crave the unconditional commitment we received as infants, and wish to recreate that in adult relationships with an “intimate” partner who will care for us in non-transactional ways. What distinguishes these drives from pure sex is that they don’t stem from reproductive urges, and we can satisfy these drives in non-sexual ways.

In this model a lot of different things can be considered sex. By asking the question “is this actually sex?” we are trying to draw boundaries. In the context of relationships, the boundaries are less “sex” vs “not sex” and more about “cheating” vs “fidelity”. Even though I have not been in an intimate relationship for decades (or have I?) I draw these boundaries too. I consider myself involuntarily celibate, but I engage in all kinds of sexual activities. Sometimes I try to associate with attractive people. I leave inappropriate comments on Fearsome’s blog, and make moony eyes at John Gray. In some sense these activities are not only sexual but more troubling than pursuing actual relationships would be, because these activities are not consensual — Fearsome and John Gray do not solicit such attention, and they would not be pleased if they knew of my actions. I would like to think of such activities (not to mention masturbation) as harmless, but they really aren’t (which is no doubt some of Jesus’s motivation behind my favorite Bible verses). The boundary between “harmless crush” and “unwanted sexual attention” is closer than we like to think.

Here’s the bad news: I do not believe there is an objective set of boundaries. When people enter relationships their boundaries about what is “cheating” vs “fidelity” are not always in concordance. This is the point at which one might ask a few logical questions, or better yet have a conversation to negotiate boundaries acceptable to all parties.

How does this play out when one is single? Does anything go? I don’t think so, at least not for most people. Some people want to save themselves for marriage, which means abstaining from certain acts. Other people have feelings about what activities constitute “going too far”, whether that is in the context of Grindr hookups or with phone sex. In addition there are pragmatic concerns like disease and finances and heartbreak.

Is cybersex actually sex? I think so, but even here this is a wide range between acceptable and unacceptable. Some people would consider reading Dr Spo’s blog unacceptable infidelity when one is in a relationship; other people would be fine with their partners (or themselves) spending thousands of dollars supporting their favorite OnlyFans content creators.

My feeling is that cybersex is sex, but many forms of cybersex may not be satisfying sex. This might change as virtual reality and haptic feedback get better, but it might not. When people think they are pursuing sex they might actually be pursuing one of the other motivations we have conflated with sex. If one is really craving skin-to-skin contact and non-transactional support, then paying a camboy to strip for you might not scratch that itch even if you do have an orgasm. I feel it is wise to have a clear sense of what you want, and then to pursue sexual activities that have the best chance of achieving those goals. There may not be a single activity which meets all your constraints (which is why many people have mistresses in addition to wives) but understanding one’s motivations helps to avoid barking up unsatisfying trees.

Superhero MEME

Sassybear (the dear!) celebrated National Superhero Day by posting a Sunday Five-style meme. My responses were getting too long for a comment, and ain’t nobody who wants to read my ignorant thoughts about superheroes anyways, so I’m posting the responses here.

Super Power

1. If you could have any super power (only one and you can’t say omnipotence) what would it be? Ideas: super strength, super speed, fly, turn invisible, phasing (walk through solid objects), elasticity (super stretching), teleportation, telepathy, time travel, etc. Be creative and feel free to come up with a superpower you’d really like having.

My usual answer here is a cheat: selective omniscience, in the sense that I could quickly and easily know the correct answer to any question I pose. There are lots of questions I would not want to pose (do I really want to know the state of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s love life? No, no I don’t) but there are many things I would like to understand.

Of course, this power is trivially Omega level: all I would have to do is ask “How can I become omnipotent?” and then I am cheating according to Sassybear’s definition. On the other hand, we are collectively moving towards this superpower. Wikipedia exists, and part of the reason we are all so wowed by ChatGPT is that it seems to have coherent answers to everything. Those answers are not always correct, but the technology will improve.

The most interesting superpowers are tradeoffs, which is why Superman is kind of boring. This can be taken to an extreme (hello Hourman) but lots of powers have interesting Shadow side effects. (I suppose selective omniscience would be one of them, in case one ever idly speculated about the nature of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s love life.)

Perhaps a fairer superpower would be an empathy ray. Anybody hit by the ray would immediately feel the emotions of those with whom they interacted. Thus if somebody is being difficult to Sassybear at work, I could zap that person with an empathy ray and they would feel the pain they were inflicting. The Shadow side of this power is obvious: just like guns we buy to protect ourselves at home, somebody could turn the empathy ray on me and then I would be miserable all the time.

2 Why this power? How would you use it?

Selective omniscience has obvious benefits. I really like Robzilla’s power of luck, but knowing the answer to any question means one could play games of chance lucratively. But one would also be able to answer more important questions and find solutions to things that currently feel hopeless.

I would like to think that an empathy ray would make us better people, but who knows?


3. Who is your favorite fictional superhero? If you don’t have one, who is one you are most familiar with?

I don’t know that I have a favorite. I once read a printed encyclopedia of superheroes, which I think was published shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths. In that book I was drawn to Havok (Alex Summers) the brother of X-men leader Cyclops. Playing second fiddle seemed interesting, being able to focus one’s energies seemed interesting (do I have undiagnosed ADHD? Maaaaaaybe), and his powers seemed cooler than being able to shoot laserbeams out of one’s eyes. Having said that I am not sure I have ever read a comic where Havok makes an appearance.

I don’t honestly read many comics, although I am drawn to the postmodern deconstructions of the genre (you all know about Strong Female Protagonist, right?). In that vein I am drawn to superheroes whose powers are kind of ridiculous.

Acknowledging that I am going to sound ignorant in writing this (given that I am sure there is lots of canon behind this), the Riddler strikes me as being particularly weird. Sure: most of the Batman villains are manifestations of psychological issues, but even here the Riddler stands out. This guy has enormous resources (where does he get all these wonderful toys?) and could make a decent living putting together puzzles for the New York Times or designing video games or doing scientific research, and instead he puts together elaborate crimes deliberately hoping to get caught? I guess that is not so different from serial killers who leave signatures of their crimes out of hubris, but a compulsion to leave clues when committing crimes seems like a real liability. The Joker as an agent of chaos makes sense. The Penguin makes less sense, but at least he is a criminal mastermind who owns a nightclub (and has the ability to control birds? Maybe that was just the Tim Burton movie). The Riddler does not have good motivations for what he does other than creating interesting plots for Batman comics, and that is interesting to me.

4. Have you ever read or owned a comic book? Besides me, do you know anyone who reads or collects comic books?

I have read comic books, but at the risk of excommunication I admit that many superhero comics irritate me. The X-men universe is especially frustrating: it is a convoluted soap opera for boys who turn their noses up at actual soap operas. Try reading the Wikipedia page of any mainstream Marvel hero and you will fall down a deep and depressing rabbit hole.

I have owned comic books, although I have never owned too many, and I have never collected them. Mostly I have read comic books from the library.

I have collected other forms of comics, though. When I was a child my family subscribed to the local newspaper. Many of you will be too young to remember newspapers. They were like news websites printed on cheap paper and published several times a week. Their best feature were the printed comics, which is not saying much because even as I child I could see that most syndicated newspaper comics were terrible. Nonetheless they published syndicated comics IN COLOR on weekends, and I collected those. I bound them together into a big fat book for years and years. It is one of those things I wish I still had from my childhood, but I am pretty sure my parents threw it away when I ran away from home. There were a few gems in that collection, including a comic called Simple Beasts which was pretty funny but which nobody remembers now.

On the Internet I know several people who read comics, although I am not sure I know anybody who collects comics as extensively as Sassybear does. In person I probably know people who collect comics, but I am not aware they they do so. (Despite common stereotypes you cannot distinguish comic collectors just by looking, you know. Comic collectors are everywhere. They could be your neighbours, your siblings, your children, or your coworkers. You might not agree with their lifestyles but as long as they are not harming others we should not persecute them, and we should be mindful of the comic collector jokes we spread around. We never know when a comic collector might be listening and deeply hurt by our crass comments.)

5. Have you ever been inside or even seen a comic book store?

Oh, I see comic book stores regularly, although many of the ones I walk past have focused more on collectible card games and dolls (oops. Collectible figurines.) than actual comics these days. I like looking in the windows, although I don’t enter them that frequently.

I have browsed through comics at the comic book stores, but I am wary of doing so because I have no financial control, and comic books are an expensive and space-consuming addiction.


6. Can you recall a moment when you witnessed true heroism? (Hey, maybe it was you!)

I assure you it was never me.

There have been moments when people have stood up to the challenge of their situations. Once I was at a work picnic and somebody was choking on a hotdog. Somebody else administered the Heimlich Maneuver and cleared the victim’s air passages. That was pretty heroic in a conventional sense.

Overall I think there are a lot of people who struggle with a lot of unfair circumstances, and do so with grace. For example, there are parents who are raising difficult children, or people trapped in jobs they dislike but have to keep for other reasons. There are also people who do difficult things with care and compassion I do not possess. In a former job I had coworkers who did street outreach, and many of them were saints.

7. Last but not least: Have you ever done any of these….

…the Wonder Woman Spin?

I have spun, but have never become fabulous by doing so.

…the Bionic sound when running or lifting something?

I have made strange sounds when trying to move, but they weren’t the sounds from the Six Million Dollar Man or The Bionic Woman, neither of which I actually watched.

…bumped fists with someone and said “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate.”?

It’s a bold claim to suggest that anybody would want to touch me, even for a fist bump.

…shouted “SHAZAM!”?

I am pretty sure I have not attempted this marvellous feat. When I am invoking superhero transformations it is most often hulking out in rage (which happens far too often for my own good). For all my lofty talk of empathy most of the time I just want to be powerful and smash things.


While this blog is still around, there’s one thing I wanted to write about. It’s kind of dumb, but I am writing it anyways. I will try to keep the main point short.

In March 2013 (ten years ago now!) Ron in Delaware and Cubby hosted a blogger get-together eventually dubbed Bloggerpalooza. In March of 2014 there was a second event, and then Ron retired from organizing them. It seems that most of the bloggers involved enjoyed these events, and ever since then there have been occasional murmurs about doing something again, but it has never happened. (That’s not quite true: some bloggers meet from time to time at Palm Springs, which might count.

Similarly, since Anne Marie in Philly died there have been murmurs about people getting together to drink gin and commemorate her and Todd. As far as I know, this has never happened.

I am here to tell you that if you are serious about these murmurings then somebody has to commit to making it happen. Maddie excepted, none of us are getting any younger, and eventually people get too frail to travel. Sometimes people die. Sometimes people move too far away to make in-person events feasible.

If these murmurings are phatic “oh we really ought to get together sometime!” non-promises, and people are just as content never to meet in person as they are to meet, then that’s fine. But if you folks are serious then somebody has to make something happen (and for obvious reasons that somebody is not me).

In my opinion COVID is not over, and despite everybody going travel-crazy again, maybe this is not the time. But if you wait 1130 days to do something, then you might find it is not doable by that time, or you might find that nobody has gotten around to making it happen.

The bloggerpaloozas were fancy affairs with gift bags and outings and such. I do not know that the next blogger get-together would have to be as elaborate. As long as you have a date and a place to meet, some hotel accomodations, supplies for the orgy room, and some restaurant reservations you should be fine. Even this will be far more organizing than you initially thought, but if you split the work between two or three reliable people you can make it happen.

One question is where. Philadelphia is an obvious location, but there may not be a suitable host there. There might be another place that works for many people, such as Washington DC or Harrisburg. That would make it hard for Dr Spo and Fearsome and Jimmy and others who are not in the Northeast. Maybe California would be better?

Another question is when. Anne Marie’s birthday was September 6, which is close to the Labor Day weekend. Her deathday was May 27, which I guess is close to Memorial Day? Because of biological family obligations maybe neither of these is ideal. (Nothing, of course, says that a third Bloggerpalooza has to be associated with AM at all.)

For obvious reasons I would not be attending such a shindig. I do not have a clear sense of who else might attend. I also do not know whether it would be worth the time or effort. It does seem that Bloggerpalooza was transformative for some people, but that does not mean a third get together would be worth the hassle. The only point I am trying to make is that if you want this to happen then you have to make it happen.

Historical Archives

In researching the Bloggerpaloozas I discovered that nobody collected blog posts about the events. So guess what stupid thing I did?

Where possible I linked to the original posts. For some people I turned to the Internet Archive, and I was not able to track down writeups from some participants (including Cubby!). I have also chosen to include all participant writeups I could find, even though some of them have become controversial in the years since.

Sadly, some of the entries have rotted and the images are no longer visible.

Bloggerpalooza 1: March 23-24 2013

Bloggerpalooza 2: March 13-15 2014


I am reading a book where one of the protagonists has been invited to a wedding. This has re-ignited my rage at this ritual. I am not particularly pro-marriage, although I can understand how the legal frameworks concerning property rights can be helpful. However, I am steadfastedly and wholeheartedly anti-wedding, like Anita Bryant at a Gay Pride Parade.

Weddings are so g-ddamned expensive and so g-ddamned phony. They rival funerals for phoniness. We are all supposed to stand around and suspend our disbelief and pretend that this g-ddamned ritual means the couple in question will have a successful marriage? I suppose the tribulations of preparing such a complicated and stressful and expensive event means the relationship has some resilience, but given the divorce rate this doesn’t mean much. Meanwhile we all pay lip service to the idea that we will uphold and protect this sacred vow, and then proceed to not do so.

The financial waste drives me over the edge. I know that little girls (and little girly boys) are socially manipulated into thinking that one’s wedding is Your Special Day — a fiction that the Wedding Industrial complex has exploited handsomely. It is possible to be sensible around planning one’s commitment ceremony, but then it is not as Special, and Don’t You Deserve The Best for Your Special Day??

Of course, it is not enough for the Wedding Industrial Complex to impoverish the betrothed. All the close friends and family are then obligated to spend like drunken sailors on wedding gifts and fancy clothes and hairdos and possibly plane tickets. This forced obligation is horrifying.

It will not surprise you to know — not having (m)any friends and being estranged from family — I do not attend many weddings. To my knowledge I have been invited to one and I attended two. One was the ill-fated wedding of Mr S. and Mrs R.. The other was a wedding that I inadvertently crashed as part of my volunteering. Both were small and relatively informal. One of the marriages worked out, and the other very much did not, resulting in a 50% success rate, which is about the national average? Although neither of these was a full-blown Bridezilla down-payment-sized extravaganza, I have had my fill.

But perhaps my cynicism is unjustified? If I haven’t been a bridesmaid in some awful color-coordinated dress, how could I ever understand the magic? How can I understand the significance of marriage until I hear KC and the Sunshine Band’s rendition of “Celebration” on the dance floor? Am I not aware that gays who had been together for decades felt that they weren’t expecting anything to change after their formal ceremony, only to find themselves transformed? How dare I be dismissive of this life-changing ritual?

Oh, I dare. I so very much dare, at least when it comes to the extravaganzas of conspicuous consumption. Maybe it is possible to rescue the significance from the hyper-capitalist, hyper-phony ritual. More power to you if you can pull this off, but I think the patient is very very sick.

If you want to go and have a big wedding, be my guest. I will hold my nose and try as hard as I can not to judge other people’s kinks. But don’t bother sending me an invite.

A confession and good-bye

I have to come clean; I am not who I say I am.

I am not a psychiatrist, but I see one on a regular basis. She urged me to be honest here, as part of my treatment.

I have something called Munchausen Syndrome. This is when someone pretends to be sick or someone they are not in order to get medical attention. I thought blogging would be a way to help, but it became another part of my problem. I am using it to get attention. When my psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman discovered my blog, she was very upset and asked me to take it down.

I really am 43 years old; I work as a security night watchman. I have never had a boyfriend.

Most of what I’ve written here is taken from medical textbooks and case reports I have found on line. I apologize for pretending I am Someone I am not.

I will leave this up for a week then it all comes down.

I feel a great fool.

Poor and Gay

No, today’s tedious entry isn’t about Poor Steven, who has not blogged for us in nearly a year. (Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I miss his presence.) Rather, this is about that most tedious of subjects: being a Poor. Spo-fans will be familiar with this self-characterization, and are sick and tired of hearing about it, but here we are.

Indirectly, Sassybear (the dear!) inspired this entry. He blogged about his collections, and growing up poor, and how it gives him satisfaction knowing he can own things he only dreamt of owning before. In the comment section, I nearly unloaded my own blatherings about poverty, but fortunately I refrained. So now you get to suffer. (Sadly, Sassybear is on a medical hiatus — send good thoughts his way, please — but if there is a silver lining it is that unlike you he need not suffer through this entry.)

I do consider myself a Poor. As prices rise and my unemployment continues, I am feeling this more and more. I am not sure that being a Poor has much to do with my homosexual tendencies, but they interact in a few ways.


Unlike Sassybear, Michael54, John Scalzi, and maybe some of you, I did not grow up in financial poverty. My biological family was middle-class: they owned a house and a car (sometimes a car and a scary white van). Both my parents worked for a while, and when my father stopped working then my mother took on two jobs (plus the third shift taking care of the household, of course, plus the fourth shift of dealing with domestic abuse). From what I remember there was always enough to eat at home. I certainly did not get the most expensive things, or get everything I might have wanted, but I had enough toys. Our family did not eat at restaurants, although we would sometimes eat fast food at the mall food court. I never went to Disneyworld or any other fun multi-day trips. Other than multi-week visits to The Old Country my parents would take every few years, we did not go on vacations, which was probably for the best. Even day trips to the fall fair ended up in conflict most times. It took me many years to enjoy outings of any kind, and even now I prefer going on outings alone.

In retrospect my parents may have been lower middle-class. Fortunately I was born without the fashion gene, so I did not really notice that our clothes were from cheap department stores. Although there were probably lots of things I wanted to buy, with a few exceptions I did not want them badly enough to suffer, and I vaguely recall feeling embarrassed even to ask. Maybe I was more aware of my parents’ financial status than I thought.

I do not have many nice things to say about my childhood home, especially during my teenaged years. But financially I suppose we were okay. I feel I picked up a few habits of being a Poor from my upbringing, but not many. That changed when I left home.

Bohemian Life

I suppose I started becoming a Poor when I left home. I did not exactly have legal housing at the time, so I had to scramble. At the time, though, it felt like an adventure to scrimp and save so that I could simultaneously afford school and food. This got more difficult when my squatting was discovered and I was coerced into paying for an apartment, but I (sort of) managed.

As I was born without the fashion gene (or the social awareness gene, really) most of the time I was blissfully unaware of looking (and sometimes smelling) ratty. I do remember some bad experiences of me not being able to take off my boots and my feet rotting as a result, but somehow I got through my education.

I had legal(ish) housing for grad school, which helped my feet recover. I suppose by this time my degeneration into a Poor was well underway, but since I was a student it did not stand out as much as it otherwise would have. (This is not really true. Even back then I stood out quite a bit compared to my peers, but that is because they had life skills I lacked.)

Genteel Decline

After grad school, I made a series of bad life choices that ended up with me working in prestigious-seeming jobs that paid me very little. In two decades of working I managed to crack the local poverty line twice. Because I am a miserly skinflint I did not mind this much; I was still able to save a fair amount of my earnings. But I was well on the way to perdition by this point. I became obsessed with saving money, which often made me penny-wise and pound-foolish. I would move a lot from one rented room to another, hoping that housemates would be tolerable. Despite being obese, I became obsessed with cheap and/or free calories. And I constantly felt as if everything was going to fall apart. To this day I find the concept of a five year plan laughable. At any point, I have little reason to believe that I will be around a year from now.

Thankfully, I retained enough middle-class values to save money. But in most other ways I am a Poor. When I get access to a resource, I use it up as quickly as possible, because it might not be there tomorrow. When there are bargains to be had, I stock up, because maybe these things will be expensive when I need them. I am loathe to throw things away — what if I need them later?

In my bohemian years scrimping and saving seemed like an adventure. Over the years that feeling of accomplishment was replaced by a dread of deprivation. I have to be very careful about depriving myself of extraneous “treats”, because when I start feeling deprived I get angry and start spending like a drunken sailor.

Meanwhile the cost of living has been rising dramatically, and my purchasing power has not. Moreover, my work arrangements fell apart, and because I am a Broken it is not clear I will ever be able to work again. (There is a long family history of people in my family leaving the workforce early and not returning.) It is this dread over not being able to meet expenses that is currently the worst part of being a Poor.

Sometimes I am disconcerted by just how out of place I am compared to the rest of you. I buy foods that are cheap or on clearance. I dread the idea of eating at a restaurant where the portions are small, the food is expensive, and one is expected to tip some mysterious amount. My clothes are not from the cheap department stores; they are from thrift stores, and many of them are damaged enough to be embarrassing. I regularly patch up old pants and ripped shirts to wear in the garden.

Every time prices jump by ten or twenty cents on my junk food I feel the anxiety grow.

This year a lens on my glasses cracked. I am still wearing that pair of glasses. I have been wearing them for over a decade, and am well aware that they are not the right prescription for me any more. I do have a spare pair (purchased when I had a job with health insurance) but they are for special occasions. I may eventually break down and pay for a new pair of glasses, but I am holding off.

I will never own a car. I will never have a house of my own. I have been blessed with stable housing for a few years now, but sooner or later this will end, and I will be in dire straits. I could easily end up in a rooming house (if I am lucky) or an encampment (if I am not).

Taking a week-long vacation to Palm Springs or Bucks County is out of the question. I do take day trips on my bicycle, but even a night’s stay at a bed and breakfast is out of my budget.

Cellphone plans are expensive, but it is not fair to say they are out of the budget, because most applicant tracking systems don’t let you enter the phone extension from the number you got at the community centre. Still I am holding off in the hopes that I can avoid the expense.

I do not invite people over to socialize, and rarely take up other people’s offers to socialize with them. “Going out for a coffee” is no big deal for most of you, but it can get quite awkward for me.

It’s fun to read your blogs and interact with you in the comments, but I am under no illusions that you would want to interact with me in real life. Our socio-economic spheres are too different. So I appreciate the interactions we have, and hope you never discover what I am really like.


I am not actually a Poor. How could I be? I am highly educated. I have money in the bank. I have computers and internet access. For now, I have a tolerable place to live. Sometimes my diet feels monotonous, and I wish I could buy more vegetables in the wntr, but I have enough to eat and it is tasty enough. I have enough free entertainment (blogs, podcasts, books) to keep me occupied for the rest of my days. For the time being, I am even managing to pay for essential medical expenses (my cracked glasses notwithstanding). I have nothing to complain about. If I insist on acting like a Poor it is my own fault. I have bootstraps, don’t I?


It turns out I wrote about this before, and most of that entry still applies.

The reality is that once you are no longer young and pretty, it takes some financial leverage to find sex partners — especially in hookup culture, where first impressions count for so much. Maybe that is for the best; I can’t expect anybody to date me for my personality. But the expenses required to maintain even a basic gay dating life are so far outside my budget it is laughable.

I suppose cruising for sex in the bushes is a possibility, but even if I had such inclinations I look sufficiently homeless that people will think I am out to mug them.

I know that there are some Poors who enter relationships. Maybe some of those relationships work out, but in my experience many don’t, because a common comorbidity of Poverty is Drama, and Drama is a great way to tear relationships apart. I have quite enough unhappiness and stress in my life as it is, so the prospect of adding Drama to the mix is one I actively abhor. A lifetime of celibacy it is, then!

On Libraries

Since the last entry received a lot of comments, it is time to burst the popularity bubble. There are a number of incredibly tedious subjects I have been thinking of documenting on the blog, but since I am bad and lazy I have been dragging my feet. The first tedious entry has precious little to do with homosexuality. It is about libraries.

In particular, Dr Spo (the dear!) once blogged about public libraries. That entry (or one like it) prompted a thought experiment. Say that public libraries did not already exist. In our current neoliberal economic system, would we be able to invent them? Would they survive? What would they look like?

I do not have full answers to these counterfactuals, but I have some boring thoughts, which I shall proceed to unload upon you.

How Did We Get Public Libraries?

Uncle Wikipedia provides lots of history around public libraries. It turns out that there are many different kinds of libraries. Some charged membership fees, or were otherwise restricted to specific groups of people. Some libraries circulated material to patrons; others chained all material within the grounds. Many libraries charged subscription fees until the 1800s, when public libraries similar to the ones we are familiar with today became popular.

In reading through Uncle Wikipedia’s summary, a few things stood out to me:

  • An 1835 attempt to mandate public libraries came courtesy of the temperance movement, so that the masses would have a third place other than pubs and bars.
  • Public libraries have been linked to popular culture for a long time. Unlike scholarly libraries full of monographs, public libraries harbored such harmful public entertainments like novels and periodicals.
  • From early days publishers worried that public libraries would cut into their profits, and opposed their existence on that basis.

The elephant in the room here is Andrew Carnegie and the other robber-baron oligarchs brandwashing their images via philanthropy. In America Carnegie was a leading figure in establishing public libraries. Without his brandwashing many municipalities might not have established public libraries at all.

However, it is worth noting that Carnegie had strict rules that although he would provide construction capital for libraries, responsibility for operating costs fell exclusively to the host municipalities. Carnegie got the credit, and ratepayers footed the bill.

All this leads to my suspicion that widespread public library adoption were not in fact inevitable. If Carnegie and other oligarchs had chosen a different target for their philanthropy (colonizing Mars, say, or converting the heathens to Christianity) then it may have been much more difficult to get public libraries established.

Could We Still Invent Public Libraries?

That was then. What about now?

Thankfully, we no longer live in the Gilded Age, and there are no more oligarchs trying to brandwash their images. If there were, then it is conceivable that oligarch-philanthropists could somehow fund public libraries. But I do not think modern-era library movements would look the same as libraries do today.

I feel the biggest difference would be means testing. Public libraries in the 19th- and 20th-century versions were intended to be universal. A rich person could get a library card and use it as freely as a poor person (provided the poor person had a home, I guess. Homeless people do not have home addresses and thus in many places do not qualify for library cards). Publishers have never been happy that public libraries can purchase books and lend them to rich people who would otherwise be able to purchase books on their own, and as publishing has grown more electronic they are doing something about it.

As this Indicator podcast on library economics explains, the big difference is licensing. A library that purchases a physical book has traditionally been able to loan that book out. The tradeoff is that library users are disgusting, and generally books would degrade after being circulated a few dozen times, prompting the library either to drop the book or purchase a new copy. E-books are electronic and can in principle be loaned out many times, but e-books are licensed, not sold, so libraries do not have the first-sale doctrine to protect them. Thus the publishers (who are in no way an oligopoly themselves) restrict what libraries can do with their e-books. The podcast says that many libraries are forced to re-purchase books every two years regardless of how many times they are loaned out. In addition, libraries must only loan one copy of each book they license at a time (which is why we might lose the Internet Archive). The idea is that rich people using the library will see the enormous number of holds on popular titles, and then be persuaded to license their own copy from Mr Bezos.

It gets worse. Publishers saw that ebooks were being signed out of libraries at alarming rates, so they took further measures. Macmillan publishing put an embargo on sales of popular new ebooks to libraries. For two months, libraries were prohibited from licensing the hottest latest books, so that rich people would see that their preferred titles were not at the library an go pay Mr Bezos instead. (Macmillan — bless their hearts — retracted their embargo once the pandemic started, but now that COVID is over (har har) I expect it will return in one form or another.)

Neither of these moves are directly means testing, but they amount to the same thing. Libraries might provide some access to popular media for people, but the experience for Poors is degraded, and people with money are expected to pony up cash for their entertainment. The embargo is especially galling to me, but it is not surprising.

Okay, but in the Good Old Days publishers hated public libraries too, and yet we have them. Why would things be different now? Couldn’t oligarch-philanthropists lobby governments to give ebooks the same protections physical books have? They could, but they won’t. Carnegie got rich from steel. Other robber barons profited from railroads. None of these directly competed with libraries. If there were oligarchs in modern society, they would likely come from the tech world, which deals (and profits!) from data and intellectual property. It is not in their interests to give public libraries more power.

Instead we get things like Free Basics by Facebook, which is Meta’s charming initiative to get Internet access to the poor — degraded Internet access that for the first few years included Facebook (natch), Uncle Wikipedia (for brandwashing) and few other services. In response to criticism Meta later broadened access, but it is still low-bandwidth, low-quality access to limited resources intended for poor people.

My own belief is that means testing (either implicit or explicit) condemns services to mediocrity. Services stay healthy when those with voice and power use them. That has been the case for public libraries traditionally (even upper-middle class people exposed their darling childrens to the wonder of library cards) but this may be a historical accident that would be difficult to replicate under modern conditions.

What Are Public Libraries For?

If you have been to a public library in the last decade you may have noticed they have changed. They are no longer just about books and quiet study spaces. Now they have 3D printers and cafés and social services and virtual reality stations. Does this make sense? What is a library for?

Uncle Wikipedia states the following criteria for public libraries:

  • they are supported by taxes
  • they are governed by a board
  • they are open to all
  • nobody is coerced to use them
  • they provide services without charge

These are good principles, but they don’t answer the question. What services? Traditionally we think of libraries as providing access to books. Why books? Books contain information. So maybe libraries provide access to information, which explains why they have tax clinics and host public meetings and provide Internet terminals.

I feel there is even more to modern libraries than this. Libraries provide access not only to information, but culture. That culture might be in the form of information or entertainment. The underlying principle is that everybody in the community deserves access to culture, which is why some libraries provide day passes to museums and campsites.

Public Libraries and Censorship

As some of you may have noticed, there is a culture war going on. Our next president Ron DeSantis is leading the charge, but many other fine states (Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and others) have been conducting suspiciously coordinated campaigns against trans people, drag queens, and reproductive rights.

Libraries have not been exempt from this, of course. There has been much furor about Drag Queen Story Hours — sigh — being held at public libraries, and of course our next president Ron DeSantis has been busy ensuring that school libraries are cleared of free and woke material. This has prompted shock and horror from progressives, and many comparisons to Nazis burning books.

However, as I have previously blogged, librarians cull their stacks, although apparently they prefer the term weeding. There are many defenses of this horrifying practice, but given that libraries are cultural resources and not cultural archives, weeding is seen to be a necessary practice. For the most part, libraries do not see weeding their stacks as censorship, even though the criteria used to discard “obsolete” books are frequently cultural.

Progressives like to proclaim that book bans are universally bad, but I am not so sure. Germany (specifically Bavaria) used copyright to limit access to Mein Kampf for decades. If you don’t like direct appeals to Nazism, how about The Turner Diaries, virulently racist novel that influenced Timothy McVeigh, among others. The problem with cultural works is that they can be persuasive, but are not obligated to be truthful. Our culture war is about deciding which cultural artifacts are acceptable and which ones aren’t, and the two sides of the debate make remarkably similar arguments. (Observe how we mock right-wingers for doing their research via Facebook memes.)

I ain’t no philosopher, but my tendency is to lean towards free-speech absolutism. I very much acknowledge that persuasive yet harmful works exist, and that misinformation spreads much more rapidly than truth, and that we are learning to hijack our reptile brains to spread bad information more quickly, and that misinformation has already caused many concrete harms (how many lives have the novels of Ayn Rand ruined?). At the same time, I am not convinced it should be up to the state to determine what is acceptable vs unacceptable discourse, because the state has a vested interest in protecting itself from criticism. So I am mostly against these bills that want to restrict what public libraries and school libraries are allowed to stock in their libraries.

But just because a library should be allowed to stock certain materials does not imply that it should be obligated to. Libraries have finite resources. They are not capable of providing access to all cultural works. So some things will by necessity be left out. The tricky question is what should stay and what should go. Should the library membership have the final word? Then maybe calls for public libraries to clear their shelves of LGBTQ+ material are okay, because a significant fraction of the local citizenry demands such. If we are going to insist on minority rights so that a bunch of bigoted anti-gay citizens cannot override some queer person’s ability to access LGBTQ+ material, then do we extend that right to TERFs by allowing virulently anti-trans material (not all of which is authored by JK Rowling)? The obvious temptation is to allow those works which are supported by our political tribe ban those which our political tribe finds offensive, but that is exactly what future president Ron DeSantis is doing, and we do not like that much at all.

The kneejerk answer to this is “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” but then it should be fine for libraries to stock materials that contain information that will be used to harm others.

The Internet throws another monkeywrench into this discussion. Internet access is not universal, but it is widespread, and people can now access much of the information online that they once would have gotten from the library. Is it okay for libraries to not stock materials that are available for free online? (The Turner Diaries would be one of those, at least for now.) My own gut feeling is that libraries need not worry so much about omitting easily-accessible information, but even this gets tricky. What do we do when the easily-accessible information exists, but is lost in a sea of bad information?

Libraries have been dealing with these kinds of questions for decades now. I am not sure they have the best answers to them, but their answers are no doubt better than mine, and possibly better than those of Republican lawmakers pushing divisive wedge issues. My tendency is to trust the librarians, but given my unwholesome proclivities you would expect me to say that.

Censorship Day

Wow I’m upset. I can’t read Sixpence’s blog anymore. To see the blog you have always had to click through the “This is an adult blog” warning, but then those jerks at Google decided that you needed to sign in with a Google account to read Sixpence’s posts. There is no way in the world I am willing to log in so Google can know everything about my naughty blog habits, but fortunately I was able to use a non-Javascript browser to get past that. The jerks at Google are good engineers, though, and now that doesn’t work either.

That leaves RSS, but the RSS feed for Sixpence’s blog contains no text. So I guess I can’t read my favorite GenZ blogger anymore. How will I learn about gay artists on Instagram now? How will I see the interior design of famous people I have never heard of before? This is a disaster.

I understand why Google has done this (“who will think of the children?”) and I can’t say I disagree, but I am still upset. I have a strong policy of not logging into services when I am just browsing content and I am afraid I am not willing to cave into this. Sorry, Sixpence (and Upton).

(Yes, yes. Google is not a country and so this is not censorship, even though the oligopolist tech giants are more powerful than many countries. Spare me.)


Sometimes the Internet is strange. I mistyped the URL to my blog the other day and my browser did a web search instead. It found this page, which is mystifying. Someone (maybe Sixpence? Maybe David Naylor?) is analysing Sixpence’s blog for word density, links, and other SEO (search-engine optimization) metrics.

I always assumed Sixpence was popular because he was stunningly attractive and because he blogged about interior decoration, but compelling content isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t hit eyeballs, so it appears Mr. Notthewiser might be taking a more systematic approach to cultivating brand loyalty. One does not become as popular as he is organically.

This is yet another disappointment of the blogging world. When blogs started we were told that we could all express ourselves and find an audience for our thoughts. We weren’t told that when hundreds of thousands of other voices are also blogging, it takes real work and dedication to stand out from the crowd. The Long Tail is real, and most of us are at the end of it unless we are willing to devote enormous amounts of energy to tweeting and primping ourselves for Instagram and chasing brand sponsorships and interacting with our fans. No shade to the superstar bloggers like Maddie and Debra and John Gray and Sixpence who put in that kind of effort, but I am of that entitled generation that wants results without being willing to put in the effort. I learned a long time ago that I would never be popular in the blogosphere, but I’m still bitter about it.

Independent of viral popularity, we are all supposed to be cultivating our personal brands for success in life. This is particularly important on LinkedIn. We are supposed to be inspirational and positive and not crazy, demonstrating to others that we are effective teammates with hale enterpreneurial spirits. At the same time, we are supposed to “be ourselves”. Whatever. As someone who struggles with homosexuality I long ago learned that there are aspects of onesself we do not share with others, lest there be Consequences. There are many aspects of my self and my personality that others would find reprehensible if they knew, and thus are better kept locked inside. That is not limited to homosexuality, of course; those of us who are mentally ill are allowed to talk about such things so long as we have successfully triumphed over such, but those of us who continue to struggle had best sit down and pull those bootstraps. All those employers who boast about diversity and non-discriminatory hiring practices get real quiet if you are upfront about being mentally ill (or worse, a Poor) when applying to their jobs. (Oops. There I go leaking identities again.)

The unfortunate part is the the compartmentalization is imperfect, and if we are not careful aspects of our Shadows leak into the daylight (see: Catholic priests who join the Church to escape their homosexuality). Maybe it is best to live like Jimmy and scrub our social media posts shortly after publishing them, so we can delay the inevitable social scandal and cancellation a little longer.

Infidelity and Penises



So I guess I have a confession to make. I probably should have told you before, but I didn’t want to ruin Christmas for everyone. But now the holiday is over and I guess it is time to come clean.

I… haven’t been… completely faithful to you. Fine. I cheated, okay? I snuck around behind your back and visited other social media.

No, I’m not talking about the blog written under my government name. That barely counts! Nearly nobody reads it, for one thing; it basically exists as a repository of self-incriminating confessions prospective employers can Google when looking for reasons not to hire me. And that blog is completely different than my presence here, except you can immediately tell the same person writes it, and sometimes the topics overlap in embarrassing ways. But more importantly, we both knew the deal when we got into this. So that’s not it.

But… that wasn’t the only one, or even the latest one. And I know that when I started this I wrote that things were going to be different this time, and that I was going to make things work out, but I guess I didn’t. I screwed up again.

Why? Why? Who knows why? Yes, it’s true that we’ve been together in this corner of the blogosphere for over a decade, and it’s true that one can fall into a routine after a while. It’s not right to take one’s social media for granted, but it happens sometimes. That doesn’t mean I don’t care! I mean, I probably don’t care, but it’s not because I’ve been lurking here for over a decade. I still find you interesting. I still read your posts, and sometimes I leave snarky comments. But it’s true that sometimes the eye wanders, especially in times of stress. And when Jimmy described how much fun he was having on Gay Twitter, I let my self control slip. (That’s not to blame Jimmy; I accept full responsibility for screwing up.) Exercising a series of bad judgments, I clicked around and ended up on Gay Mastodon.

I was just looking around, okay? I was just curious to see what was out there. But yes, I found a server (which you do not want to click if you are at work), and I started reading. No, of course I don’t have an account! Of course I am not posting!! I made that mistake here, and just look what happened. Never again. Never, ever again.

Sweet baby Jesus. I didn’t mean to tell you all this. I just wanted to blog about penises. Because I learned something while betraying your trust, and I thought you should know.

You know how over the years I have incessantly, unrelentingly hounded you to post scantily-clad blogger selfies? It was kind of a joke, but some of you graciously indulged me, although most of you have been understandably reticent. I never intended to pressure you unduly, although I screwed that up too, as Dr Spo can attest. As with so many of my predatory behaviors, the thrill is in the pursuit more than accomplishing the goal.

As it turns out, there are other communities where the participants are much more eager to post scantily-clad blogger selfies. Frequently, those selfies are less than scantily-clad.

Let’s be clear. I have been on the Internet a long time. I am no stranger to the things one finds there. I have not kept an exact count, but over the decades I estimate I have the human penis represented photographically over a dozen times. Although I have no direct intimate experience of other people’s penises, I am sure they are great. But… penises aren’t that interesting to look at. Probably this is just another expression of my broken sexuality, but given the choice between a hirsute fellow displaying his penis and a hirsute fellow wearing trousers, I think I prefer the latter. Penises are fun to hint at, but when it comes to blogger selfies I think being scantily-clad matters. There is a reason Salome dances with seven veils.

But I think the most shocking disclosure is that even though there are many selfies featuring fellows who on paper ought to push my sexual buttons, they are mostly… not interesting? That the people on the Mastodon server I find most compelling are the ones who microblog about things other than lust and sex? What in the name of our Lord and Savior is up with that?

But that’s not the greatest contradiction. The greatest contradiction is that somehow you heavily (some would say overly) clothed posters of text and memes are somehow incredibly engaging and attractive, and the ones on Mastodon flashing their fleshly assets like bulldogs in heat are often less so. What is up with that? Is it just that blogging attracts the most beautiful people? That’s my best hypothesis so far.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you are all stunningly attractive, and that my wandering eye has messed up everything. So now what?

The other site was just a dalliance. I don’t want to get involved. I wasn’t kidding about avoiding heartbreak in my last entry. If I dump you for that site then I’ll start to get emotionally attached to people there too, and then bad things will happen to some of them, and then it is heartbreak all over again. Thanks, but I’d rather not.

I could pull a Newt Gingrich and unilaterally declare our relationship open. In public we paste on smiles and pretend nothing is wrong, and I keep sneaking around, and I try to look away and not seethe with jealousy if you have a Facebook or a Tiktok or a Reddit on the side. That’s how open relationships work, right?

I’ll say this much: trying to follow multiple social media simultaneously is exhausting. Never mind the web of lies and deceit one has to maintain while cheating. Even when everything is above board, it’s so time consuming. Who has the energy for that? I don’t. Clearly, one social media would have to be the primary, and it would probably be you.

But if there is one thing hundreds of years of patriarchial Biblically-inspired marriages have taught us, it is that open relationships cannot work. The honorable thing for me to do would be to admit that I have once again ruined everything, and to disappear so that you have space to heal and find somebody who isn’t unfaithful garbage. That would be the honorable thing, but I haven’t exactly exhibited a lot of honor lately.