Body Hair

Today I listened to an upsetting podcast about body hair. Apparently men who suffer hair loss feel less masculine, and women mostly hate their body hair to the point where they routinely get painful waxes on their pubic areas.

Add to that the scourge of posters I have been seeing around town urging men to get their backs waxed, and I feel compelled to make a public declaration (aka Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #5): body hair, especially for men.

The degree to which I am susceptible to this perversion is downright embarrassing. Show me a middle-aged man with a broad, furry chest and I melt. I am eternally grateful that most men have the decency to wear shirts in this country, although far too many of them leave their top buttons undone.

Chest hair is the big turn-on for me, but arm hair, leg hair, and back hair all light my fire as well. Then there is facial hair, to which I am definitely susceptible (hello, Fearsome) but which to my surprise I have discovered is not absolutely necessary for a man to be a dreamboat. Even more surprising, head hair is even less crucial: there are bald or balding men who turn my crank, and ones with full luscious manes can spur impure thoughts as well.

I am privileged to have some body hair and some facial hair, although not nearly enough to be attractive. But after listening to the podcast segment where a man with alopecia lamented having no body hair, I realize just how dysphoric I would feel if I was trapped in a hairless body.

Mind! I make no claims that people with body hair are more masculine than people without. But the heart wants what the heart wants, and apparently when it comes to men, the furrier the better. I may have seen one fellow on the Internet whose furriness exceeded even my attractiveness threshold, but even he was pretty okay.

I do not have the same turn-ons around body hair on women that I do for men, but unlike the guests on the upsetting podcast, I am not revolted by female body hair either. Female facial hair usually does not do much for me (although some pretty hot women have had a bit of peach fuzz) but pubic hair is a delight, and armpit hair and leg hair on women is fine for me. I am not in the target market, however, so my opinion does not count.

All the same, the body policing of female body hair makes me angry, and it makes me sad that women endure such expense and discomfort to conform to male standards of beauty (which, as it turns out, I do not share). I wish that accepting one’s body hair was an acceptable option for women in this culture, as opposed to being a phony choice that results in social sanction if disobeyed.

There is no question in my mind that my views are biased because of Perversion #5. If I was normal and thought that body hair was disgusting the way regular people do, my opinions would no doubt be different. That in itself is pretty messed up.

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Craigslist and Internalized Homophobia

My delightful commentariat agreed that broke neurotic homos looking for love ought to try Craigslist, so I hopped on the site closest to Lurkville and took a look-see. Oy vey. I wish I owned a closet so that I could have run screaming back into it, slamming the door shut behind me.

I’m trying to disentangle the antipathy I felt while browsing the site. I returned a second time as research (not “research”) for this entry, and it is still a mess. Expect this blog entry to be even less coherent than usual.

I don’t know what else I was expecting, but clearly the m4m sections of Craigslist are oriented towards hookups. (Even the “strictly platonic” sections aren’t.) That’s one strike, but I get the feeling that it is unavoidable in the m4m universe.

There are a few people looking for less hookup-y setups, and they stick out like sore thumbs. I find myself wondering whether these people are aware of what Craigslist is for, which is unfair because Craigslist is supposed to be for relationships, not just hookups.

Most of the posters want stats and pics. Stats I can deal with (sort of — my stats are underwhelming). Pics? Although pictures and even Youtube video of me exist on the Internet, I am pretty paranoid about not having my face on the Information Superhighway, whether in a gay context or otherwise. To my knowledge I have never taken a selfie. Clearly this is a dealbreaker when looking for looooooove; everybody (including me!) wants some idea of what they are getting into when answering a personals ad.

But there are pics and there are pics. Many of these Internet strangers want pictures of private body parts, and/or pictures where the subjects are immodestly dressed. Some people even post pictures on their profiles which contain both their faces and their immodestly-dressed bodies. That seems insane to me. But again it seems par for the course.

None of this is surprising. What surprised me was how much antipathy I felt browsing the profiles, even for people who ticked some of my boxes. I don’t like drama, and human relationships are full of drama. When I read a hookup ad my anxieties turned towards creepy people and disease. When I read a non-hookup ad they turned towards irritations and arguments. This is some combination of misanthropy, homophobia and rationalization, but it surprised me nonetheless.

Then there were the long disclaimers about no-shows and creeps and “endless emails”, which made participating in this community feel like an enormous amount of hassle. I have enough hassle these days looking for work and trying to find roommates; my tolerance for dealing with strangers is exhausted.

Most of these people are not creeps. When I get out of my head enough to interact with others, it occurs to me that most people are mostly good most of the time. There are probably several people who would make good friends and reasonable sexual partners. But everybody has drama, and I just don’t want to get involved with that drama.

On the positive side, I did run across ads that reflected some of my own perversions. These people were not looking for people like me, but it is somewhat comforting to know that I am not the only deviant in town.

But (and this is where my confessions get particularly uncomfortable) even though I want to see other people’s pictures and even though I appreciate that other people are looking for similar things to what I fantasize about, I feel deep fear about other people knowing that I am looking for these things. Being recognised on such sites by people I know in my daily life would be embarrassing, to say the least. Let’s call it what it is: internalized homophobia. I can rationalize this by saying that I don’t want it to affect my next job (there is some chance I would be teaching, and my students or administration could come across these activities), but I do not know how much I believe that. Certainly people can and do get fired from their jobs for their personal lives, but there are also lots of people in similar positions who actively look for looooooove on the Internets. Honestly, I would be embarrassed to post an explicit ad on Craigslist, and that is evidence enough that I should stay away.

I hate this. I hate these vacillations. I may be in a space now where I rationally and emotionally understand that I ought to be alone, but the part of me that feels lonely and craves human touch refuses to concede defeat. I’m over 30; by now my libido should have shrivelled up and left me in peace.

If nothing else, I think that Craigslist is probably the wrong forum for me. I doubt there is a right forum. In the past I have considered OKCupid, but I doubt that would work any better. Being on that site would still involve posting pictures and interacting with other human beings.

Broke and Broken

Dating costs money. I guess I am too much of a cheapskate to get laid.

I suppose that young and attractive people can find sexual partners without money, via sugar daddies and sugar mommies. But I am neither young nore attractive.

Although it is not strictly true, I consider myself to be on a tight budget and a fixed income. I have not had a paycheque in almost eight months. Even when I had a paycheque, I did not have much disposable income because I felt obligated to put half of what I made in the bank. The good part of that is that I can continue to live without a paycheque for a while without cutting back on my expenses too drastically. The bad part is that I have to give up on a lot of things, many of which seem to be necessary when finding a romantic/sexual partner.

I don’t have the budget for a cellphone plan. In principle I might be able to get a smartphone and use wifi only, but that would be a big expense (and I would worry about cracking the screen and having to repair the thing or get it replaced). Thus many of the hookup/dating apps (Grindr, Scruff, etc) are out of my reach.

I have a food budget and can even waste a few dollars (like, $5-10 a week?) on junk food without having panic attacks. But the idea of spending $20 or more on a single meal seems prohibitive. The idea of spending $60-100 on an outing (which is what seems to be involved in taking a date out to a nice restaurant) is a big expense — one that I might afford once or twice a year, but not something I could afford with any regularity. But part of the dating scene is convincing a potential partner that you could be a good provider, and part of that is showing off status symbols like fancy dinners. All of that is out of reach for me. That does not take into account the transportation and clothing required to impress others.

In the good old days people went to bars and nightclubs to seek out sexual partners. Putting aside the cost for a moment, I am such a prude that I don’t consume alcohol, and I have never felt comfortable in such environments (among other things, loud music hurts my ears). Sometimes I think that these objections are subconscious defenses against me trying to find a partner, but regardless they feel real to me.

Many people meet at parties. I don’t get invited to many parties, and despite associating with some LGBTQ people at the community centre, I especially don’t get invited to parties with many other LGBTQ people. It takes a certain amount of money to be a good party attendee (eg bringing gifts for the host). Also parties are boring, but if my goal was to find a mate I guess I would have to get over that.

People suggest that getting involved with the LGBTQ community is a good way to meet potential sex partners. From my experiences with the Lurkville LGBTQ community centre, that does not appear to have panned out.

In the worst case I suppose that I could hire a prostitute, but let’s be real: if I am not willing to pay for dinner at a nice restaurant then I would hardly be willing to pay a sex worker for sex, even if I felt that sex was sufficient to meet my loneliness needs.

It may be the case that I am the only single, financially insecure, socially anxious, stay-at-home-homo out there, and that finding mates is a solved problem for everybody else. Or maybe homosexuals like me are just not cut out to find sexual partners, and thus are destined to be evolutionary dead ends. I guess in many ways this is a solved problem; if nothing else Craigslist provided people with mechanisms for arranging hookups relatively cheaply. (Is Craigslist still a thing?)

The solution to meeting people is probably staring me right in the face. But I am pretty sure that I am the biggest barrier to me finding some kind of sex partner. If there was some other way to meet potential partners that even somebody on my budget could afford, no doubt I would find some other reason to reject it. The very fact that this hypothetical mechanism could lead to sex is probably sufficient for me to reject it, given my paranoia around disease.

Putting aside the infeasibility of anybody finding me attractive enough to sleep with, it is unclear that I am willing to put in the effort of even looking for a partner. In that case I should stop whining and be okay with being celibate for the rest of my days. Instead I vacillate. As the immortal lyrics of Paradise By the Dashboard Light phrase it: “What’s it going to be, boy? Yes or no? What’s it going to be? Yes… or…”

Activism Failure

Lately I have made the mistake of reading several books written by members of the queer radical left (News flash: lesbian separatists are still around. And they write books. Who knew?).

Although I spent many of my formative years associating with those in the radical left, their arguments and tactics irritate and often enrage me. Their “analysis” usually boils down to “we hate successful people”. True to form, those on the queer radical left long for the good old days when homosexuality was despised. They feel contempt for white queers (especially white male queers) striving for social acceptance. They lament “straight privilege”. They go out of their way to disrupt and disgust mainstream society. So it is no surprise that they despise gay marriage. They hate all marriage because marriage is a patriarchial institution, and they especially hate gay marriage because it affords some queers a bunch of privilege and acceptance that are denied to other groups (transpeople, people of colour, and poor people).

Man, I don’t know what to think. I have said before and will repeat ad-nauseum: I try not to judge other people’s kinks, and I am genuinely happy for those blogger-buddies who find meaning and support in the patriarchial oppressive institution of marriage. But a bunch of the queer radical left arguments against middle-class gays and against gay marriage ring true to me.

Back when we were fighting for gay marriage, Dan Savage related sob story after sob story of loving partners who were denied basic courtesies because they were not married. Partners could not visit their loved ones in hospital. They could not jointly adopt bio-children. They would lose their houses when a partner (in whose name the title was signed) died, and the evil biofamily would automatically inherit the assets. It was very Stone Butch Blues. Dan Savage and his army argued that granting full marriage rights to gay couples would right these injustices.

Meanwhile, the radical left was attacking marriage. They questioned why this set of basic privileges should be granted only to those who were married. What about triads? What about polyamourous marriages? Wnat about people who had no stable partner, but who had definite wishes about giving their chosen families — and not the biofamilies that had all too often disowned them — say in what happened to their lives and assets. When these criticisms were acknowledged at all, they were often dismissed with a “marriage first, and then we will work on nontraditional arrangements” attitude.

Now we have gay marriage, and as time passes its existence becomes less precarious. I doubt even President Trump (bless his heart) is going to overturn it now. So when are we going to make sure the same kinds of sob stores Dan Savage was relating during the gay marriage fight are not happening to people who aren’t married?

Oh right. We’re not going to work on that now, because the middle-class gays have what they want, and enthusiasm for extending these privileges to other groups has evaporated. I cannot think of a single campaign seeking to decouple the privileges of marriage from the institution of marriage. Funny how that works.

It reminds me a lot of the HIV/AIDS activism fight. When successful, white, North American gay men were dropping right and left, there was a lot of energy to pour into activism. Not everybody in ACT-UP was rich or successful or white, but I would argue that the presence of the mainstream in the movement made a big difference. Then 1996 rolled around and the antiretroviral cocktails came out. Then AIDS became less of a first world middle class gay problem and more of a poor straight third world problem. Mysteriously, our enthusiasm for activism on behalf of those groups mysteriously evaporated, leaving the heavy lifting to a handful of people like Stephen Lewis. Access to cheap retrovirals overseas has been a huge issue for decades, but without the same kind of pressure ACT-UP was able to apply in North America, governments and Big Pharma have dragged their feet, at the cost of millions of lives. That is not to say that Western gays have abandoned the fight entirely; we still show up to World AIDS Day and donate to red-ribbon charities, but we have not taken the fight overseas.

The reasoning is simple: once we get what we want, our activism drops. “Respectable” gay couples wanted gay marriage, and they got it. I am not innocent in this either, of course; I am angry that nobody is advocating for non-marrieds to get married people’s privileges because I am probably never getting married, but I still don’t want my biofamily to automatically take control of my life decisions and assets when I am incapacitated.

As much as I do not want to admit it, I think the queer radical left has been accurate in its criticisms of assimilation with respect to gay marriage. Will we ever see progress on nontraditional arrangements? Unless the poly community makes it happen I do not think it will happen, and I do not see enough social acceptance of polyamory for anything to happen for a while.

But there are other struggles which have some momentum, and for which comfortable middle-class homos could participate:

  • Societal rights and acceptance of transpeople, including non-discrimination legislation and an end to using idiotic bathroom issues to wedge voters.
  • Addressing widespread homelessness and poverty among LGBTQ communities, especially with respect to non-white communities.
  • Addressing misogyny within mainstream gay culture.
  • Breaking down class and racial barriers in LGBTQ communities and organizing.
  • Advocating for LGBTQ rights where they are being suppressed, and offering sanctuary to those affected by repressive laws.

Will we take on any of these challenges? Until/unless they affect us personally, I doubt it.

Straight Pill

From time to time I read memes with questions like “If there was a pill that could make you straight, would you take it?”

I think my answer is “no”, but probably not for the usual reasons. In a previous episode I expressed gratitude that I was not straight, because our hypersexualized culture is tough on straight men. I also expressed a wish to be asexual instead. So if the question was “would I take a pill that could make me asexual”, the answer ought to be “yes” even though in practice such pills exist and I do not take them.

That is part of the problem with this hypothetical. Pills get expensive, and Big Pharma is all about the chronic disease management over full cure model. There probably would not be a single pill to make me straight; instead I would probably have to sign up for a lifetime of prescriptions.

Maybe more importantly, I have always felt fairly adamant that I do not want to have kids, and being straight increases the risk of such an outcome considerably. (One would think that getting the snip would reduce it, but in my case I think the snip got botched.)

But in some sense, I guess I would not take such a pill because I believe that some aspects of sexuality are functions of choice, and I have not made those choices. Whatever else I am, it is pretty apparent that I am not a Kinsey 6. The only sexual experiences I have had with another person were with a woman, and the sex itself was usually pleasant enough (although there were many aspects of that relationship that were less than fine). In some parallel universe I have exactly the same sexuality I do in this universe, but I have been married off to some nice girl and dutifully had enough kids to satisfy the grandparents (although whether my parallel universe spouse and kids are happy is quite another story).

Even without a pill, I could probably live a life that is considerably straighter than I do now, but I have decided not to. Instead I read too many gay blogs and too much LBGTQ literature, and I associate too much with other deviants.

Would being straight leave an empty space in my existence that would have to be filled with something else? Possibly. Certainly I have squandered a lot of time and energy towards my homosexuality. I just wish there were guarantees that instead of sex I would fill that empty space with more worthwhile pursuits. There are a lot of other interesting pasttimes in this world.

Third Wheel

If I could choose, what would the structure of my sexual life be?

There seems to be some spectrum of commitment when it comes to sexual intimacy. On the one extreme is committed monogamous marriage for life with no exceptions. On the other is anonymous sex in public washrooms. I feel many sexually active people (even straight people) have relationships that exist between these extremes.

We have some vocabulary to describe these middle grounds, but it is pretty sparse. Bless the poly people, who are working hard on this problem. Some of the terms I am aware of include:

  • friends with benefits
  • pillow friends
  • secondary/tertiary relationship members
  • fuck buddies
  • spouse swappers
  • swingers
  • adulterers
  • pieces on the side
  • mistresses
  • casual daters
  • no-strings-attached relationship members
  • summer romance participants

Many of these terms are pejorative, but that is not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that few of them are stable states. Their failure modes tend to be either heading towards long-term committed relationships or to breaking off contact.

I want something in between. I don’t want a series of anonymous partners who do not form emotional connections with me. I also have zero interest in marriage or its substitutes, where others are obligated to stay with me when it is not fun any more. I do not want to combine finances and I do not want to have kids. But it would be nice to have people in my life who are friendly towards me, whose company I enjoyed, whom I found attractive and who wanted to enjoy sex with me precisely as long as it was worthwhile for them. Such relationships would probably last on the order of a year or three — not a few weeks, and not a few decades. I do not want a large number of sexual partners, but I am not committed to monogamy either.

Is such a thing possible?

I have my doubts, because most of the ideas we have around sexual relationships either focus on having many sexual partners (whom we may or may not care for emotionally) or focus on getting married as the “win” state. People who start out casually dating with no-strings-attached relationships often find themselves in trouble when one party is happy with keeping the relationship casual and the other is wondering whether the relationship “has a future”. Then come the ultimatums, because the long term goal of dating is supposedly to move towards marriage (or close relatives like civil partnerships).

One way around this problem would be to be a third wheel. Maybe there are couples out there who are already in committed relationships, but for some reason are not happy with strict monogamy. Maybe they have discordant sex drives. Maybe an otherwise straight man is struggling with same sex attraction, but doesn’t want to break up the marriage. Maybe both partners are tops, or bottoms, or in some other state where the other partner cannot meet all the sexual needs. Maybe they feel that two sexual partners is just not enough.

I think a common strategy among such couples is to become progressively unhappy and then eventually break up. That is a bad state. Another strategy is to bring in “guest stars”, who sometimes get treated like props or extras rather than as members of the relationship.

I think of third-wheel status as being a relatively stable, medium-term relationship in which all parties are aware of the third wheel and give explicit approval to it. The goal of the third wheel is not to become part of the primary household, and it is not to be a homewrecker and steal away one of the primary partners. For the most part, the primary partners meet each other’s emotional, material and financial needs, but one or more members shares an emotional and sexual connection with the third wheel.

I do not know how I would fare in such a relationship. Probably navigating jealousy issues between the primary partners would be too much. But such a setup might work better for me than trying to find an exclusive partner with no desires for marriage.

As I write this, it occurs to me that what I am describing is a subset of polyamorous secondary relationships. So if I am serious about pursuing this (hint: probably not) that would be the place to start.

This probably counts as Shocking Disclosure of Sexual Perversion #4.

I wish I could express these wishes with more clarity and fewer words. I also wish it was more socially acceptable to express preferences for relationship structures in the middle of the spectrum.

Substitution

Even those of us who claim to be cultural outlaws are often guilty of mimicry. Polyamorous people often have single “primary” partners. People who declare themselves child-free often own dogs or cats to provide the unconditional love otherwise offered by children or teenagers. People declare that they don’t watch TV, but then spend hours a night on Youtube.

My mental model around this phenomenon is that most of us have emotional and social needs. When we cannot fill those slots in conventional ways we make up substitutes.

I often brag about being celibate. But except for the sex part I am not as celibate as I claim. Throughout my post-pubescent life I have attempted friendships with certain people that have been rawther suspicious. In the company of these people I feel my bonding hormones kick into gear. I engineer situations so that I will run into them. I want to spend time with them whenever I can. Although some of these people reciprocate a baseline friendliness, none of them reciprocate the kinds of feelings I harbour for them, and none of them have demonstrated any romantic or sexual interest in me whatsoever. That is just as well, as I have no realistic future plans with them. (Unrealistic fantasies are another story.)

Not having been in a serious relationship for a while, I cannot say for certain, but it seems that I go through the basic relationship stages with them: first attraction and limerence, then scrutiny and irritation (sometimes to the point of repulsion), then finally acceptance of their foibles and flaws.

Sometimes these people are not my type, but I use them as substitutes anyways. Often they are women, which calls into question just how dedicated I am to the homosexual agenda. Although in principle some of these people are “available” (in the sense that they are not in otherwise committed relationships) none are available to me. Usually I am profligate, and maintain several such relationships at the same time.

I do not know how I feel about my relationships to these people. Perhaps these substitute relationships inhibit me from pursuing real ones, which seems like a net benefit. But I do not want to abuse other people for my own selfish needs, and I do not want to reveal myself as the creepy pervert I am, if only because I do not want them to feel used. Thus I usually do not disclose these feelings, and once in a while my substitutes are polite enough that they don’t bring the matter up. Some have raised the issue, which leads to awkward conversations.

I do try to let these substitutes know that I am grateful for their presence in my life.

I do not know what I would do if any of these people reciprocated my feelings and offered me sex. It would be like the dog who enjoys chasing cars and finally catches one.

I worry that I am incapable of genuine platonic friendships. I often feel that every relationship I participate in has some kind of ulterior motive. I feel that I am living dishonestly, and I do not like that.

On the other hand, I have occasionally been falsely accused of maintaining suspicious relationships with people, in the sense that (as far as I can tell) I did not have sexual feelings towards these companions. I am fairly certain such perceptions have cost me at least one friendship. Sometimes these relationships are with people who (on paper) are my type. Am I in denial about these?

Things get even more complicated when the people with whom I associate are in committed exclusive relationships themselves. In those cases I worry about coming across as homewrecker.

I do not feel that I explicitly seek out these substitutes, but again I am probably just deluding myself. I sometimes wonder whether I could get by without substitutes for intimate relationships. It would be nice to live a chaste life, but it looks as if that is not in the cards for me.