New Zealand Public Service Announcement

Well, the happiest time of the year has passed, and Christmas season has come to an end. (Don’t give me that. There are many adjectives that might be used to describe my tiny readership, but “orthodox” is not one of them.) Let’s return to the blogging mines by examining a New Zealand public service announcement you may well have seen already, given that it went viral six months ago.

(Content note: at one point there were innocents (Willym, Maddie, maybe others) who at one point visited this blog. The below video may not be appropriate content for them. Such readers may want to seek permission from a parent or guardian before proceeding to watch.)

This PSA blew my mind when I first saw it. It is so strange.

Firstly, this is a government public service announcement for a website called Keep It Real Online. That in itself is not so strange, but the PSA is genuinely entertaining. When was the last time you saw a government PSA that was genuinely entertaining? Many government PSAs try, but the vast majority end up being (as the kids say these days) “cringe”.

Secondly, this government PSA is using sex to sell a message about… sex. Isn’t that supposed to be illegal? It is well and good to use sex to sell beer and shampoo, but since when are you allowed to use sex as a lever to educate people about sex?

Thirdly, and maybe most significantly, look at what the PSA is not saying. Even though this ad is commenting on the consumption of pornography by children, it is not trying to ban porn or even saying that porn is bad. As Sue says, “We usually perform for adults, but your son’s just a kid. He might not know how relationships actually work.”

It turns out that there are many activities — investing in real-estate, playing contract bridge, listening to rock-and-roll music — that are appropriate for adults, but which you would not want your 10 year old doing unattended. Young brains are still growing and maturing, and children often lack the life experience to put these activities in an appropriate context. This PSA is putting porn in the same category, as an activity that requires context to appreciate without harm.

Can you imagine such an ad running in America? Just think of the backlash from assorted concerned moms of America, who by day loudly proclaim that pornography is ruining America and ask “who will think of the children?”, and never ever search for pegging or cuckold videos late at night. They would be organizing maskless protests and making angry phone calls to their senators if any government was to suggest that porn should even be allow to exist.

There is a fourth thing. It consists of only two words, but they are important: “No judgment.” (Can you imagine a PSA with those words airing in America? Holy cow.) The idea that kids are going to find porn, and that it is better to give them context for what they are seeing rather than punishing them for their curiosity is inconceivable. What kind of parenting is that? How do you build up a culture of vindictiveness if we went around saying “no judgment” to children? What’s next? Dismantling the prison-industrial complex because retaliation is less effective at keeping us safe than rehabilitation? Holding police officers to account for arbitrarily inflicting force on black people instead of rationalizing how the black people in question deserved their brutality for not being compliant/subservient enough? This slope gets real slippery real fast.

I’m not trying to say that this PSA is perfect, or that the associated educational campaign is perfect (there is a lot of “stranger danger” when they talk about grooming) but something is very strange in New Zealand. Maybe it is because they live upside down and all the oxygenated blood rushes to their heads, but I do not know that I have ever seen frank and honest messaging like this coming from a government agency. Maybe things are changing everywhere and I am just out of touch?

There is also a good podcast about the campaign which is worth a listen: Pornography awareness ad reaches millions around the world.

Old Lurker, the Queen of Giving

It appears that the latest fad is to bestow presents upon our fellow bloggers this season. And what better time than during a pandemic, when our wallets are already stretched thin? There is nothing Baby Jesus likes more than credit card debt. Still, one must maintain appearances, and who am I to go against the flow?

Sixpence has dealt with a lot of isolation this year. Maddie got him a car, but if he is to venture outside he still needs protection.

Maddie has had a tough time too, but not as tough as figuring out what to buy for the queen who has everything. But surely everybody can use a new pair of shoes?

Dear Debra has been doing a heroic job of entertaining us, so she is due for some gourmet treats to satisfy her sweet tooth.

RTG and Anne-Marie have patiently been waiting for a vaccine, but once things are back to normal they would probably enjoy a cultural adventure.

I know Willym is into culture and stuff, so what better gift than some music for his ears?

Let us not forget the Duchess Deedles and her green thumb. I had hoped to find some living plants to cheer her up, but all I came up with was a packet of potential. May her new hobby prove fruitful.

Poor Steven is another tough one to shop for. Fortunately Jimmy (the dear!) recently posted some video which inspired the idea of some handcrafted art.

I have no good idea of what to send Jimmy. Some yuppies for his neighborhood, maybe?

I do know Sassybear likes comic books, so how about some movies featuring his favorite characters? Or maybe a different movie?

I also know RJ is into art, so how about a nice wall calendar to inspire him all year long?

Let’s not forget Dr Spo. He is not doing much driving these days, but come January 20th the plandemic will be over and he will be commuting to Mesa and his office. Maybe he is due for some new wheels?

As usual, I have left a lot of people out. Some of you are tough to shop for. Others have been naughty. JP has not blogged for a while so I do not remember his likes and dislikes. Regardless, there are lots of stocking stuffers for all of you to enjoy.

Prediction Followups

Well, the election is settled and everyone is as pleased as punch with the results, so I guess I should follow up on my predictions post from January. It isn’t as if I have not humiliated myself enough already.

  • Biden will win the nomination, because he is the establishment candidate. (60%)

I got this one, at least. Remember back to those fifteen seconds when we all thought Mayor Pete would win the nomination?

  • There will be the usual grievous infighting in the Democratic party from the Bernie Bros and Warren Sisters because of this. A bunch of democrats will refuse to campaign/stay home because of this. (80%)

Nope. There was definitely grumbling on Twitter, but I think most Democrats caved and voted for Biden in the end.

  • The Republicans will push the “Creepy Uncle Joe” narrative hard. (70%, conditional on him getting the nomination)

The Republicans (bless their hearts) opted for “Sleepy Joe” and not “Creepy Joe”, for the most part. There was that one photo floating around of Joe Biden and his son, and that almost flipped Sixpence’s vote, but the “Creepy Joe” narrative was much more subdued than I expected.

  • The Republicans will take as many negative traits we tend to apply to Trump and apply them to the Democratic nominee instead. They will work as hard as they can to suppress the Democractic vote and get it to stay home, especially in swing states. (80%)

This is two predictions. I think “Sleepy Joe” counts as projection, as does the narrative of fraudulent elections. I definitely am giving myself the prediction of the Republicans (bless their hearts) suppressing the Democratic vote. The closure of polling stations in Democrat-heay areas (Houston, anyone?) boiled my blood.

  • Biden will win the popular vote by a margin larger than Hillary got, but thanks to our friend Gerry Mander (and its institution the Electoral College) it won’t make any difference. Trump will be re-elected. (40%)

This is also two predictions. It looks like Biden beat Clinton both in total number of votes and in voter percentage. Sadly, activist judges appear to have hampered Trump’s re-election bid.

  • There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (90%)

Whatever do you mean? I am sure nobody wailed or gnashed their teeth waiting for the counts to come in.

  • Mitch McConnell will lose his seat, because the spotlight is finally on him (60%)

Bah. Did I ever get this one wrong. McConnell (bless his heart) will win re-election until he is 300 years old.

On a cheerier note, Miss Lindsey (bless his heart) also won re-election, which I am sure has all of you cheering. After all, aren’t you the ones always clamoring for more LGBTQ+ representation in politics?

  • The Democrats will keep the House (65%)

Yes, the Democrats (bless their hearts) managed to keep the House, despite losing seats. How in Heaven’s name did they manage to lose ground in this election?

  • The Democrats will take the Senate (60%)

I guess this is still up in the air because of the Georgia runoffs, but I am counting this as a failed prediction.

  • We will all be sick and tired of this election campaign by November (80%)

I don’t know about this one. I guess I cannot award myself this prediction.

I got six out of 12 predictions, for a success rate of 50%.

If my calibrations were correct I should have gotten 8.05 of them (67%), so I suck as a political analyst. I am sure you had better success in your predictions.

If there is a winner from this election, it was the Democrats. What a masterful campaign they ran! What a phenomenal candidate they chose! They did everything right and so Joe Biden won in a landslide, and now they can cheerfully conclude that there is nothing at all they need to change about their strategies in future elections. Hooray for them!

Acknowledging Pain

These virusey times have been difficult for many, but it feels that over the past few days this corner of the blogosphere has been hit pretty hard.

Dr Spo’s mom died, of course, and although he feels okay now I worry that the grief is going to hit hard at some point.

Deedles went missing a few days ago, and although there is probably no direct connection between that and the tinderbox that exploded in Minnesota, I worry about the effect this BLM/ACAB turmoil is having on her and her family. I wish somebody could check in to make sure she is okay.

COVID-19 appears to have been especially difficult on the Stevens. From what I can tell both Mistress Maddie and Poor Steven have been furloughed from their jobs, which has to hurt. Maddie has started drinking gin, and his posts have been getting darker. He is picking fights on Instagram and may be turning into a Batman villain. Meanwhile Poor Steven had been stuck on his farm, afraid to get groceries because he doesn’t have his residence papers and thus might get deported. Things sounded as if they were starting to look up (groceries and possibly a conjugal visit?) and suddenly he posts a vagueblog about a broken heart.

Michael54 often has long stretches between posts, but he has been absent for a long while now. His dog Murphy had a health scare, and then the blogposts stopped.

John Gray had a birthday, and has been keeping his chin up and tits out, but reading between the lines it appears that he (or at least his bantam cock) is feeling lonely.

Even kind and supportive Debra is grumpy enough these days to dropkick children. That is not to mention the many others (Fearsome, Travel Penguin, Blobby, and many more) who have somehow lost trust in their president, and are now seething with anger. Where does that anger go? How does it not burn them up?

I do not know whether this level of pain is indicative of most people, or whether this is special punishment meted out by Santa for my association with their blogs. (Sometime you should ask Job’s first wife how Santa is always just and only the deserving get punished for their naughtiness.) I do get the sense that there are waves of pain rippling through the blogosphere right now. As a solipsist, you would think there would be something I could do to alleviate this pain, but I do not know what it is and knowing me I wouldn’t act even if I knew what to do. But at the very least I can acknowledge this pain, and hope that people get through it the best they can.

Masc 4 Masc

Well, it’s been a good run (no it hasn’t) but it is finally time for me to be cancelled and evicted from the blogosphere. Today I shall defend the Masc 4 Masc guys, and in the process address Sixpence’s feigned befuddlement at the fixation many gay men have with having sex with straight men. (He is still a dear, though.)

The core of the argument is simple: when we signed up to be male homosexuals, not all of us were on the same page. Some of us correctly thought that to be homosexual was to be attracted to other homosexuals; others of us mistakenly believed that to be homosexual was to be attracted to men. We committed the sin of fetishizing secondary sex characteristics typically associated with masculinity: deep voices, body hair, British accents, big muscles, Walking Dead T-shirts, questionable skincare regimes, and the stoicism borne of being out of touch with one’s feelings. We had a conception in our brains of what “masculine” meant, and that is what drew us like moths to a flame.

But then God played a cruel trick on us. He didn’t make us macho and butch. He gave us lilting voices, affinities for showtunes and dance, emotional sensitivity. We talked with our hands and cried in public. With enough effort we could look butch: we could work out at the gym and spend hours each day pushing body hair out of reluctant follicles. We could put on Toyota caps and “forget” to shave our scruff. But it would never be good enough. As the old insult goes, “he looked so butch until he opened his mouth and a purse fell out.”

But you know who can be butch and macho, seemingly without effort? That’s right. Straight guys. I agree with Sixpence: straight guys are probably no good in bed. But that’s almost beside the point. Sooner or later, we all learn that — like potato chips and chocolate bars — straight guys are bad for us. That does little to stop the craving, even though we would be better off with a plate of steamed broccoli instead.

Since straight guys are off-limits, what are we left with? Our fellow homosexuals. So we seek out the butchest, most masculine specimens available in the dating pool, because — for better or for worse — that is what we find attractive. Enter Masc 4 Masc.

There are some gays for whom stereotypical masculinity comes easily. Some of them are genuinely into sportsball and motorcycles. Some of them naturally assume body language and vocal mannerisms that fly under other people’s gaydar. They are the lucky ones — at least to those of us attracted to them. For the rest of us, it takes effort. Some element of Masc 4 Masc is a contract: “I am attracted to masculine men, and I have to work hard at appearing masculine myself, so I am looking for a partner who will make the same commitment.” If this sounds like the demands many people make of their partners to stay fit and attractive, that’s not a coincidence. There is a reason the catchphrase is “no fats, no femmes”.

Is being Masc 4 Masc okay? That’s where things get complicated.

Just a Phase

We often mock the Masc 4 Masc crowd on the same grounds that we mock bisexuals: they are just phases reflecting internalized homophobia and reluctance to accept one’s gay identity. Believe it or not, some of us don’t come out as gay right away. Instead, we test the waters by timidly announcing that we bisexual, and then we mysteriously sleep exclusively with men. So many gays go through this process, in fact, that when some guy announces he is bisexual we assume that he is just gay and in denial. Therefore, bisexuality does not exist, and men who cling to bisexual identities are fair game for mockery.

The same story holds for the Masc 4 Masc crowd. Because some of us claim that we like “normal guys, not like those ones that make the rest of us look bad”, we assume that anybody who claims to be attracted to masculine men is internally homophobic and in denial. Once they grow to accept themselves and their sexualities, we reason, they will let that go and be attracted to any man it is politically correct to find attractive. In the meantime, the Masc 4 Masc crowd deserves our derision and mockery. It’s just a phase, right?

Masculinity, Femininity, Misogyny

Consider the word “masculine”. What comes to mind? I’m willing to be something comes to mind, even for you gold-star woke gays.

Now consider the word “feminine”. What comes to mind now? Are there any differences? If there are, you are not woke enough.

There is a lot of stuff going on here, and it is tricky to disentangle. Because I am a homocon dinosaur, there are specific traits I associate with masculinity, and specific traits I associate with femininity. But there is a real paradox here. I cannot defend any of these traits out loud, because there will be exceptions to any trait you name. (Go for it. Name something you would define as masculine but not feminine, or vice versa.)

At the same time, we cling to these unspeakable notions of masculinity and femininity pretty tightly. We have collectively decided (or had decided for us) that it is okay for trans people to undergo some severe body-modifications so that their bodies are in greater concordance with their gender identities. At the same time, we have made it socially unacceptable for gay men to be attracted to people who are more masculine and be not-attracted those who are more feminine. We call this “internalized homophobia”. But for some reason it is also unacceptable to propose that gay men can take one step further and be attracted to women instead. We call that “the ex-gay movement”, and to respectable gays those advocating such positions are pariahs.

There are good reasons for these social sanctions. We don’t want trans people to suffer from dysmorphia. We don’t want femmes to face systemic and hurtful rejection from other gays. We want to outlaw the ex-gay movement because generations of homosexuals (often teenagers) have been traumatized by the movement. These good reasons do not change the fact that holding all of these positions simultaneously is incoherent.

Why are we in the broader culture so hung up on masculinity and femininity anyways? We all know the answer to this: patriarchy. Unlike what the mixed-sex marriage advocates tell you, masculinity and femininity are not complementary categories enjoying valuable and equitable territory in God’s Heart. Rather, masculinity and femininity are complementary categories, and masculinity is superior to femininity.

Why should we (as gay men) worry so much about being butch, anyways? Why should we fret about being femmy in the first place? Because gays are as steeped in our culture as everyone else, and we see femininity as weakness, and treat it with derision. Hello misogyny.

The misogyny in gay male culture runs deep. It might be worse than the misogyny straight men feel for women, because gay men (unlike our straight counterparts) do not require the company of women for sexual satisfaction. Hence, “he opened his mouth and a purse fell out.”

It isn’t just the straights who think of us as sissy-boys. We do this to ourselves. You are all too young to remember this, but back in the old days we would intentionally feminise our names and misgender each other in public conversation. “Did you hear about Dr Spoetta? She broke her sewing machine, and now might not have a new frock ready for Palm Springs! Can you imagine?” The surface explanation was that this misgendering helped us hide in public society, but I am willing to bet that some of this was our own shame disguised as catty cruelty. What could be more shameful — more of an insult? — than a man being treated like a woman?

“But what about drag?” you proclaim. What about it? Are you trying to tell me that misogyny is absent from drag culture? Why exactly do we refer to drag queens who look a little too much like women as “fishy”?

This gets even weirder and more upsetting when it comes to situations where we celebrate feminine gays. Think of our founding myth: the riots at the Stonewall Inn. We talk about how it was those who didn’t fit in — the drag queens, the transwomen — who finally put their collective foot down against the police raids. And what do we celebrate about their actions? They threw rocks. They got angry. They were tough and aggressive in standing up for themselves. They acted like men. Even those who identified as women acted like men. “There’s nothing tougher than a drag queen, honey,” we say. But what if those drag queens and transwomen had embraced their feminine sides instead, being demure and caring instead of angry and aggressive? Would we be celebrating them then?

We are in a curious bind. On the one hand we want to overcome the humilation of being treated like sissy-boys and girly-men by reclaiming it. We want to embrace our mannerisms and voices and love of musical theater as elements of our whole selves. At the same time, many of us don’t want that at all. We are Pinocchios, and some part of us would give it all up to be real boys.

It is true that different gays are into different types of men. Some like the young twinks, and some are drawn to feminine men, but lots of us (even those of us who imagine ourselves enlightened) continue to find those butch masculine traits attractive. Just look at the illustration Sixpence chose to illustrate his entry. Does that look like a guy who moisturizes to you? (For that matter, consider the gay fascination with Tom of Finland.)

The difference between the respectable woke gays and the Masc 4 Masc crowd is that the Masc 4 Masc crowd are expressing their preferences openly and bluntly, and the rest of us won’t.

How to Develop a Fetish

Maybe patriarchy is awful and incorrect, and valuing masculinity above femininity is also awful and incorrect. So what? We are drenched in this culture, and some of us imprinted on it. As I argued in one of the entries linked above, the heart wants what the heart wants. Our sexual preferences are not a function of the neocortex, but of our reptile brains, and once our preferences are imprinted (so the theory goes) we are stuck with them. Maybe some of us made the mistake of being attracted to toxic masculinity. What do we do now? Pretend that this is not the case? If we can’t expect pedophiles (or poop fetishists, not to equate the two) to change their preferences, why do we expect those who fetishize masculinity to do so?

Yes, some of the Masc 4 Masc crowd is expressing internal homophobia. Yes, if given the opportunity some of that crowd will find itself falling in lust with men who are less butch. That does not mean that none of that attraction is genuine.

Even more threatening is the way that our culture wants to extirpate conventional straight men as thoroughly as it has extirpated stone butch lesbians. It is not okay for straight guys to be out of touch with their feelings. It is not okay for them to be gruff and depend on brute strength to solve their problems. It is not okay for them to offload the emotional labor of their relationships onto their wives and girlfriends. There is some element of our culture that wants straight masculinity to either become metrosexual or be ostracised from society.

So now we are blaming the Masc 4 Masc crowd for preferences they did not choose, and we publicly disparage those who possess the traits they prefer. I am not surprised they are defensive.

Rejection

The real problem isn’t that Mascs 4 Mascs exists. Lots of weird fetishes exist, and we do not fret so much about them even if we think they are weird. Part of the problem is that there are so many Mascs 4 Mascs, so we run into all the time. But there are two other problems in addition to this.

Firstly, we prioritize masculinity over femininity, so those of us who are not very butch get rejected over and over again. We feel our potential dating pool is smaller, especially when we are femmy guys who like masculine ones. We get bitter and resentful, and we start making demands. “Those bitches are self-hating homophobes if they can’t see what a catch I am,” we tell ourselves. (Yes, of course we call them “bitches.” Misogyny, remember?) But what else are we going to do? We’re not desirable like real men. We’re girly-men, and deep down inside we feel we are not worthy because of mannerisms and traits we did not even choose to have.

Secondly, we have not figured out how to exclude others with kindness.

Whether justified or not, most of us have preferences, and ideally we would like to ride the relationship escalator who matches our preferences. But we have no way of expressing those preferences without making some people feel left out and excluded and hurt. So instead we get hard. We add all kinds of conditions and disclaimers to our profiles: “no fats, no femmes”, “no endless texts”, “drug and disease free, UB2”. And those of us who don’t fit those categories get hurt. In turn, we hurt others. (And that, kids, is why everybody on dating sites comes across as cold and heartless.)

So what are we supposed to do? When we don’t feel that spark, how do we let others know we are not interested without hurting them? If we are good respectable woke gays and pretend that we are attracted to everybody, how kind are we being when we lead others on? Worst of all, what happens when others are attracted to us and we don’t reciprocate? We have no good ways of dealing with this, so we ghost and we say cruel things, and then we all get hard. (So much for gays being in touch with their feelings.)

Are the Mascs 4 Mascs to blame for this? They certainly have their parts to play. But so do the rest of us — even those of us who think we are woke. Mascs 4 Mascs have their problems, but I continue to believe that the problem is bigger than they are, and I have a lot of difficulty laying all the blame at their feet.

And for those people who have self-examined and become comfortable with their sexuality and purged their internal homophobia and are STILL guilty of being attracted to masculine men? Sucks to be them, I guess. They should have chosen better preferences.

Predictions

I guess the primaries are going to rev up any day now, so it is time to make a bunch of predictions about this awful election. If things go terribly you can blame me; if things go well you can point and laugh at my poor predicting skills. I will offer confidences in the following predictions, but I am no rationalist superpredictor.

I predict:

  • Biden will win the nomination, because he is the establishment candidate. (60%)
  • There will be the usual grievous infighting in the Democratic party from the Bernie Bros and Warren Sisters because of this. A bunch of democrats will refuse to campaign/stay home as a result. (80%)
  • The Republicans will push the “Creepy Uncle Joe” narrative hard. (70%, conditional on him getting the nomination)
  • The Republicans will take the many negative traits we tend to apply to Trump and apply them to the Democratic nominee instead. They will work as hard as they can to suppress the Democractic vote and get it to stay home, especially in swing states. (80%)
  • Biden will win the popular vote by a margin larger than Hillary got, but thanks to our friend Gerry Mander* (and its institution the Electoral College) it won’t make any difference. Trump will be re-elected. (40%)
  • There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (90%)
  • Mitch McConnell will lose his seat, because the spotlight is finally on him (60%)
  • The Democrats will keep the House (65%)
  • The Democrats will take the Senate (60%)
  • We will all be sick and tired of this election campaign by November (80%)

What would I like to have happen? That’s a very different kettle of fish.

Thus ends my delusional prognosticating. Hopefully I will shut up about the election now.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if THIS was the post that finally alienates everybody and gets me cancelled from the blogosphere?

* I should probably amend this to say that I am an idiot; in most states (but not all) gerrymandering for the presidency is not much of an issue, because votes are tallied state-wide. Maybe this means I should rate the Democrats winning the House/Senate lower?

Sacksrifice

I recently listened to a podcast about Oliver Sacks. It was an interview with Lawrence Weschler, who is promoting his book And How Are You, Dr. Sacks?: A Biographical Memoir of Oliver Sacks. Like everybody else, I knew of Oliver Sacks and his famous books, but I have not read those books and did not know much about the man himself.

Notably, I did not know that Oliver Sacks was gay. In our enlightened post-gay world, that would ordinarily be irrelevant to anything (“What does it matter that he was gay? He’s just a human. Why do you people obsess over sexual identity so much??”) but in Oliver Sacks’s case it seems to have been relevant. The story from the podcast went something like this:

  • Sacks had been a doctor, and had known he was gay. Other than a brief period in California, he had suppressed this, and was celibate for decades.
  • Sacks had his clinical practice, and had written Awakenings, but at the time the book was a flop. He was not taken seriously by his fellow doctors, partially because his research was qualitative, not quantitative.
  • He fell into a writer’s block characterized by logorrhea. He would write and write and write and be unhappy with all of it.
  • Weschler was a writer for The New Yorker and wanted to profile Sacks in the early 1980s — after Awakenings had been published, but before it became a bestseller. Over the course of four years, Weschler interviewed the man and spent time as he did his rounds. When Weschler was ready to write the profile, Sacks asked him not to do so if there was no way to conceal his homosexuality. Weschler thought that Sacks’s homosexuality was a part of the story, and so the profile got shelved.
  • Much later in life, Sacks accepted his sexuality enough to come out in his autobiography (published in 2015). Seven years before his death from cancer, he fell in love with a man and had a relationship.
  • As Sacks was dying of cancer, he finally gave Weschler permission to write the profile.

Why did Weschler feel that Sacks’s sexuality was relevant to his profile? He offered a couple of reasons. First: Sacks was tormented by his homosexual feelings. (He probably would have benefited from https://chastity.org, but that has not yet been created.) He felt that he was an outcast. This gave him a lot of sympathy for his clinical subjects, who were people suffering from conditions too mysterious and too resistant to treatment for other doctors to care about. Weschler used the phrase “community of the refused.” Sacks felt that he himself was refused, and he tended to the medical needs of others who were refused, and identified with them when other well-adjusted doctors would not have bothered.

Secondly, Sacks knew drugs. Again according to Weschler, Sacks was sufficiently tormented (and insufficiently devoted to the blood of Jesus Christ) that for a few years he turned to drugs and became a speed freak. This helped him identify cases where drugs might have been helpful.

To these reasons I would add a third. You all came out early enough in life that I do not expect you to relate to this, but a common coping strategy for self-loathing, closeted, genetic dead-ends is throw ourselves into their careers. They hope that working hard enough and building up career accomplishments serves both as an excuse for not going on dates (“work is sooooo busy”) and as a justification for their existences. You don’t have to take my word for this; I plagiarized this concept from The Velvet Rage, a book by Alan Downs, a book well worth reading if you woke youngsters have trouble understanding how your gay elders got so messed up.

Let’s take Weschler at his word, and accept that there was some relationship between Sacks’s own despair surrounding his sexuality and his ability to relate to others. This raises some interesting hypotheticals relating to the justification of one’s existence. This is debatable (and if any of you read this far I am sure you will debate it), but for the sake of these hypotheticals let’s say that if Sacks had been able to direct more of his energy into sex and interpersonal relationships, he would have been less driven to administer to the “community of the refused”, and would not have accomplished as much in his career. What was Sacks’s personal torment worth?

Say that Sacks’s personal torment led to him being an innovative, influential doctor who then enlightened thousands of readers by writing bestselling books. Would that have been worth the torment?

Put aside the bestselling author bit. Say that Sacks’s torment had led to him being an innovative, influential doctor who helped humanize patients via “narrative therapy”. Would that have been worth the torment?

Put aside the innovative, influential doctor bit. Say that Sacks’s torment had pushed him to sympathizing with his patients and humanizing them on a personal level, helping to heal some people who were otherwise thought to be incurable? Would that have been worth the torment?

Put aside the curing bit. Say that Sacks’s torment had led him to be a more caring doctor who had real empathy for outcasts because he felt like an outcast himself, even if he was not able to cure significantly more people than indifferent doctors. Would that have been worth the torment?

Before you offer kneejerk reactions, consider the cost of self-acceptance. Even at the most modest level, patients who would have otherwise been ignored and treated like pieces of meat felt as if they were treated like human beings. Has a doctor’s demeanor ever had an effect on you? How much torment is a more sympathetic doctor worth to you or the ones you love?

You can argue that this is a false dichotomy all you like. I am sure you are completely correct, and that this idea that closeted self-loathing people overcompensate in their careers is just another delusion from my diseased little brain. There are no tradeoffs in this world. We can all have our cakes and eat them too.

Dear Santa

No, I have not forgotten. You made it abundantly clear that I have not been eligible for your services for decades, and certainly my conduct this year has only dug the hole in my Niceness credit rating deeper. And from one fat, judgemental bastard to another, I get it: rules are rules. But a lot of the people in my corner of the blogosphere are decidedly Nice, and you have gifted several of them some pretty terrible things this year. Sure, I read their blogs and comments, but that isn’t their fault, and it is no reason to punish them for my naughtiness.

So consider this a petition, fat guy: how about gifting my fellow bloggers some good things for 2020? Save the lumps of coal for the one who deserves it.

As always, it is dangerous to list specifics, knowing that I will omit people. But my niceness credit rating is ruined anyways, so here goes:

  • Please gift John Gray some better health so that he is not run down from his job all the time. Please help Dotty fit into her new household (no more weeing in the house!) and please keep Winnie and the other animals healthy and happy. Please gift John some handsome, muscular, well-hung bedfellows who will treat him kindly and give him hot sex.

  • Please ease off the stressors Dr Spo has been facing this year. Dealing with whatever medical complaint he faced really wore him down, and now his mother’s poor health is making things worse. Please gift him some serenity, and gift his mother some healing energy so that she can at least go home for Christmas. Please gift him some administrative staff he likes and who will stay in the office for a while. Finally, please gift him lots of hot sex with Someone.

  • Please help Fearsome and Shawn sell some houses so he can get his new futuristic truck. More importantly, please continue to heal his arms so that he is not in physical pain, and gift him as much hot sex as he would like with Better Half.

  • Please help RTG heal from his surgery, and deal with whatever new cardiological issue has come up now. Please keep Anne Marie’s stomach healthy. Please gift them both with hot sex or at the very least gratifying porn.

  • Please help Sixpence adjust to his new digs and his new longer commute. It sounds as if his move was positive overall, but it was surely stressful. Also please gift him lots of hot sex with HuntleyBiGuy and his other paramours.

  • Please gift RJ with a boyfriend. He is dealing fine without one, I guess, but it is time, and it is not good that he feels like a third wheel at social gatherings. Also gift him lots of hot sex with aforementioned boyfriend.

  • Please gift Michael54 with some serenity at work. “The Kid” has really done a number on Michael’s well-being. Even though the kid sounds Naughty please find somebody who can get through to him and start healing the hurt that is making him hurt others so wantonly. Also please gift Michael some clarity in dealing with Other Michael in a way that benefits his well being. Also hot sex with whomever Michael54 feels is appropriate.

  • Please gift mrpeenee better health this year. He has been through a lot with dental troubles and other health scares. Please gift him with as much hot sex as he would like (not necessarily from you).

  • Please grant Poor Steven some calmness around his mother’s condition. It is good he found a better nursing home for his mom than the awful one she went to earlier, but it still caused Poor Steven a lot of stress, so please gift him with a better 2020. Thank you for helping Steven find in-person social gatherings to attend. Please gift him some (safe!) hot sex as he goes through his exploratory phase, possibly with a new boyfriend.

  • Although she does not have a blog, Deedles is Nice and we all love her and her comments, so please gift her with good blood sugar this year, and please give her good mental health in addition to hot sex with Balder Half.

Lots of other bad things happened to people this year. There have been suicides. Blobby got injured a few times. Cb’s dad died, and he had a stressful time dealing with the estate. Other people seemed to have good years, but that is no excuse to give them coal in 2020 (and not everybody blogs about their struggles). Please Santa give them good years as well, and lots of hot sex.

P.S. Naturally, I forgot someone I had intended to include: Sassybear, who had a nasty series of health emergencies all in a row, and who also dealt with the suicide of his blogger buddy David. Not cool, Santa. Please give Sassybear good health this year, lots of companionship from his dogs, lots of Green Lantern paraphernalia, and hot sex with his boyfriend and spouse.

(And yes, I have forgotten others, too. My apologies.)

Pornstalgia

Recently, Dr Spo (the dear?) directed me to get in touch with The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections. He said that TBDHSR wanted to make me an honorary board member (?!) and that furthermore that they did not know how to contact me (??). Of course, it was a ruse. Instead of an honorary board seat I received a stern talking-to. How embarrassing was it that I post less frequently than Harry Hamid (may he rest in peace) and didn’t I understand the terms of the contract I signed and when I finally decide to post I go around making baseless accusations of my readership how very dare do I have I no shame and also I have few enough readers as it is so I had better start posting some quality content if I am interested in maintaining ownership of all my fingers and toes. You know the spiel. We have all been there.

Admittedly, the Board wasn’t wrong. I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Truth be told, I have not felt like doing much of anything. I don’t want to get out of bed, which has done wonders for my employability. I don’t want to cook or clean or attend to other grownup chores, which has done wonders for my living conditions. Even checking poor Steven’s blog forty times a day so I can leave snarky comments is draining. Blogging seems beyond the realm of possibility, and blogging something engaging seems farther still.

Perhaps I should be concerned, but I can’t be bothered. Lacking the budget for healthier coping strategies (therapy, opioids) I have turned to my usual bad habits: cheap carbohydrates, spider solitaire, and wasting hours on the Internet. I have been spending more time than is healthy looking at educational films on the Internet, which makes no sense given that I have lots of educational films downloaded on my computer already. Maybe this is Grindr for ugly unloveable people? Instead of experiencing the thrill of hunting down eligible bachelors in the real world, I keep looking on the Internet for educational materials that will give my brain the dopamine rush it craves. Maybe the next video is the one? Or the next? Or the next? That perfect educational experience must be out there somewhere, right? Well, probably not, because I am a perverted freak who is unskilled at Internet searches, so the signal to noise ratio is pretty bad. But once in a while the slot machine pays off (so to speak), so I keep pulling the lever (so to speak). Such is the nature of intermittent reward.

And boy howdy, was I jolted by a couple of finds recently. The jolts were ones of recognition — not of having viewed the films before (which is common) and not because I recognised real-life people in the films (which has happened once) but because the films in question answered questions I have been harboring for decades.

You see, it has not always been this easy to download full-length, on-demand educational videos on the Internet. You are all too young to remember this, but once upon a time watching educational films was a real ordeal. You would have to go to some dingy video store, where the videocassettes (videocassetes!) were not even rewound sometimes, or worse, you had to go to a MOVIE THEATRE in some dingier part of town, and watch your educational material in a dark room full of heavy-breathing strangers. Such movie theatres had their risks so in those antediluvian days many of us consumed educational materials in the form of still images. Often the best you could find were thumbnails, but if you got lucky (again with the hunting instinct) you might find some lowish-resolution images. Hard drive space was precious in those days, but I still managed to accumulate a collection of these educational images — first on floppy disks (so to speak), and later on the hard drive of the second computer I owned for myself.

One set of images concerned a strange party held in a basement or a rec room. At this party a number of scantily-clad people appeared to be enjoying each other’s company. Picture one of poor Steven’s nudist gatherings, except populated by straight, horny senior citizens who do not understand that nudity is about liberation and not sex. In one image eight people are standing around exploring each other’s anatomy with their hands and mouths. One woman is sitting back on a stool as one person — male? female? nonbinary? — explores her nether regions with some fingers, while another golden brown balding man kisses her on the lips. Another woman is standing with her eyes closed, each of her hands grasping appendages, as her neighbours kindly engage in a breast examination. It is not clear that everybody is having fun, but they certainly seem engaged in their task.

Another image features the golden brown man staring into the distance as a woman cuddles him from behind, reaching around to offer certain (presumably shaved?) body parts some tactile attention. This image always stuck with me, as did the entire situation. What was this party? Was it real, or staged? Did senior citizens really enjoy each other’s company like this?

A different set of images was clearly staged for video production. I knew this because some of the pictures were labelled “Videograb 1” and “Videograb 2”. Also one of the images was the cover of the video cassette, labelled “Oldies Spritz Parade”. In this series of images, two older gentlemen (one clean shaven, one with a bushy gray beard) dressed in pyjamas paid tribute to a nubile young woman standing between them. In other images, the nubile young woman handled various appendages of her elderly friends.

I think you know how this story ends. As I wallowed in my own self-indulgent self pity, clicking around on unsatisfying video after unsatisfying video, what do I stumble across other than educational films documenting the events from those still images so many years ago? I knew that some video of the nubile young woman and her two friends must exist somewhere, but I did not anticipate seeing it. I was even more surprised to find video evidence of the rec room party.

The two films were both unsurprising and deeply surprising. The production values were typical of these kinds of educational films, with terrible music and the participants uttering the requisite grunts and moans. But I found other aspects of both films astonishing.

The first surprise was that film of the rec room party existed. That should have resolved the issue of whether the event was staged. Much of the film’s cinematography was typical of the genre, with the usual close-up shots and participants positioned so that certain anatomical features were prominently on display. However, by the end of the video I still had my doubts, because some of the people (in particular one couple) were not senior citizens at all — they were much younger. Was this terrible casting for an educational film targeted at aficionados of senior citizens, or was this a genuine party where a wide variety of people had been filmed?

A second surprise was an erotic shock concerning the golden brown man. Apparently he suffers from imperfect eyesight, because in some of the educational film’s scenes (but not in the still images) he is wearing glasses. As it is objectively true that glasses make people sexier (especially when those people peer over their glasses at you) this added a depth to the plotline I had not expected.

Reading glasses aside, a third surprise is although the rec room party participants seemed to be enjoying themselves, the video was not as educational for me as I was expecting. This was true of both films, actually. Would have I reacted differently if I had been exposed to these videos at a similar age when I found the still images? The image of golden brown man staring into the distance has long been highly charged for me. I cannot tell whether exposure to the video would have made that better or worse, and I cannot tell whether my standards have changed as educational materials have become more accessible on the Internet.

The other video also held its own surprises. For one thing, the fellow with the bushy gray beard seemed genuinely befuddled about how to behave in the presence of a nubile young woman. Several times the aforementioned woman positioned bushy gray beard’s hands to get him involved in the festivities. There is no question that these kinds of nonverbal communication practices are important when interacting with other people, but it is rare to see this in educational films.

Another surprise was how much attention the two gentlemen paid to the pleasure of their nubile young friend. Most of the video consisted of the men caressing and nuzzling and sucking on various anatomical features of their ladyfriend. That seems highly unusual to me. In most educational films of this genre (older men, younger women), the woman desperately focuses on the man’s satisfaction, at the expense of her own enjoyment. Other than fondling, little time was spent on the appendages of the gentlemen. There was one brief scene of oral attention to an appendage, but it did not last long. I do not know why I should have been surprised at this, but usually I expect a usual tiresome trajectory of perfunctory attention to the ladyfriend followed by slobbering oral attention to the men, quickly followed by penetration in unnatural body orientations. The pattern in this film was significantly different, and I am not sure why.

Since encountering these two films, I have been somewhat hesitant to explore the Internet further. Who knows what else I will find? Neither of these discoveries was awful, but why should I expect my luck to hold?

No, of course I am not going to link to either the images or the videos here. I have my good Henley Street name to consider, and these images and videos will not affect you in the same ways they did me. For one thing you are not perverted freaks, but more importantly you don’t have the decades of history I have had with these images, and thus they won’t have the same emotional resonance. Finally, there are innocents who occasionally visit this blog (Willym, Maddie), and it would be unethical to warp their minds by exposing them to such material. You will have to be content with these verbal descriptions, and I will have to go hide my head in shame forevermore for even writing about this. What the hell was I thinking?