Pox

As usual, this is all my fault.

Although I am not exactly happy about it, over the years I have been growing more resigned to accepting of the prospects for my sex life. Lots of people (even ugly people! even serial killers! even Republican senators!) manage to have sex with other people occasionally, but it does not look as if this is in the cards for me. I mean, there are options, but they are out of reach. It is possible that I could score if I promised to pay money and wear a paper bag over my head, but that would require more disposable income than I have. If I had that kind of dosh I should be paying for therapy, not carnal indulgences.

Then, of course, there is my paranoia. The rest of the world may be over HIV as thoroughly as it is over COVID, but I’m not.

But I was a fool. Perhaps, I foolishly thought, I could at least hope for some close contact? A few hugs, perhaps? Maybe if I promised to wear two paper bags over my head? It is not as if I need much company from other human beings. For the most part, I don’t even like other human beings! But even misanthropes crave touch sometimes, and the prospect of a lifetime of untouchability gets disheartening. So I held out hope. What a fool I am.

You know what happened next. God The Divine Feminine A collection of random genetic mutations subject to selection pressures decided to teach me a lesson. So now we have monkeypox outbreak, and hundreds of men who have sex with men are suffering from painful, sometimes disfiguring cases of the pox. Way to go, me.

Monkeypox is not an STI, and it is not limited to men who have sex with men, but that is how it is spreading, and it’s growing fast. After two years of COVID restrictions people are tired and want to party. And now monkeypox has come by, and it is feeling like another plague.

I am definitely worried about catching monkeypox, but I do not know that this is even my worst worry. My worst worry is that monkeypox will develop a reputation as a gay plague, and then it will start spreading to the straights, and then the straights freak out and then Ron Desantis rounds us up and sends us to quarantine camps. Idiots like the one Huntley and Sixpence documented are not helping.

I am being hyperbolic, of course. Desantis won’t be president until 2024, and until then he only can round us up if we are in Florida (sorry, Jimmy). Unless monkeypox becomes endemic in the gay population, this particular plague should be done and forgotten by then. Furthermore, I am fully aware that now we are bored of COVID the media machine has found another target for our anxieties. But at the rate this virus is spreading, I remain worried.

Dan Savage is recommending that we all moderate our sexual activity for a while, so that this monkeypox outbreak has no place to go. I don’t think that is going to work any better than “two weeks to flatten the curve” did: in order for it to be effective we need to act in collective solidarity, and we are clearly not willing to do that. I have been reading some collected posts about the early days of AIDS (see here ) and the similarities are disheartening. Certainly the way that some people defied public health and deliberately patronized bath houses knowing they had AIDS makes me queasy, even though I can sympathise with some of the underlying emotions. I hope we have learned since then, but I am not confident of this, and I worry we haven’t. I worry the straights will look at us and conclude that we learned nothing from HIV, and therefore are irredeemable.

Thankfully, there is a vaccine that probably works? So maybe there is some hope we vaccinate ourselves out of this mess. Given the poor vaccine distribution thus far, I am somewhat gloomy about this, but we can hope that public health learned something from COVID. (Har har.)

It is not clear to me how quickly public opinion could flip against us. Certainly there has been an anti-LGBTQ+ backlash for a long time, but I genuinely thought that most people (even most people in red states) tolerated gays now. Certainly corporations seem to love the gays, especially the respectable ones with good incomes. How many instances does it take for straights to get infected with monkeypox before public opinion flips? We all thought that we were safe from being used as a wedge issue (thanks for taking over, trans people!) but in these tumultuous times who knows what will happen?

And, of course, it is my fault. Sorry everybody. I hope the consequences are not too dire.

Boy Next Door

The Skanks paid me a visit over the weekend. They told me to write this entry and have not stopped harassing me about it since, so against my better judgment I am giving in. It is a good thing Gay Pride month is over, because there is a lot for me to be ashamed of.

Despite what you may have heard, I am not yet homeless. (That is not the shameful part). In fact, I have lived in the same place for several years. (That is also not the shameful part.) The area is not considered the nice part of town (how could it be when I live there?) but the homeowners, renters, Poors and Destitutes who frequent the area coexist, and although there is sometimes loud drama from drug addicts and those frequenting the nearby soup kitchen, I do not consider it overly unsafe.

On my street I have some neighbors, and this is where the trouble begins. The place where I rent a room is beside a multi-unit dwelling fronted by a barber shop. Several of the apartment dwellers have lived there for years, and in particular one burly, bald, middle-aged goateed fellow lives on the second floor walkup. Sure enough, he has caught my eye for years, and thus the shame begins.

I do not know much about him. I believe I know his name, and he has a job that has some strange hours — he leaves at one or two in the morning, returns in the afternoon or evening, and then (I guess) sleeps the rest of the day until he has to work again. I rarely see him. Sometimes if I am sitting on the front porch at one or two in the morning I will see him leave for work. (I will neither confirm nor deny deliberately sitting on the front porch at one or two in the morning for lecherous purposes.) During the seventeen months of winter Lurkville suffers each year, I sometimes see him shovelling snow when I am shovelling snow. Once or twice we have said hello to each other. (I will neither confirm nor deny subsequently requiring long showers to purge my mind of unclean thoughts.) Once or twice he has worn a sleeveless shirt, and I saw that he has a tattoo on his shoulder — I think it is a depiction of a playing card. He used to drive a tiny Smartcar to work, but I guess it broke down because now he drives a small SUV. Some time ago I saw a small teddy bear sitting on his dashboard. The teddy bear was clad in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, confirming that he is unambiguously straight.

Mostly I am embarrassed at sneaking lecherous glances at my neighbor, but really I should feel a lot more shame. The Bible’s position on this is clear, as  both Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 illustrate (emphasis mine):

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

But even from a secular perspective, my dissolute behavior is an abomination. I know hardly anything about my poor neighbor and yet I objectify him, thus contributing to rape culture. Straight men are fearful to walk outside alone because of people like me.

Some might argue that straight men harbor similar fantasies about “the girl next door,” and although that is unfortunate (and often goes too far into outright harassment), I suppose that in a society without arranged marriages some of this behavior must be tolerated if we are to propagate the species. But I have no such excuse. Honestly I am like the dog that chases cars; I would have no idea what to do if I caught one.

At this point some of the bad influences in my comments section might encourage me to “strike up a conversation” or “get to know him better” or other such predatory behavior. While couched in platonic language (“you can just be friends”) I am as aware of the tropes from educational videos and fantasy stories as the rest of you. It is important to note that such tropes are fictional, not real life. There is some valid criticism that despite living here for years I do not know my neighbors, but such efforts at community building should be engaged with a pure heart.

In addition to my neighbor being straight and completely uninterested in my existence (I am a Poor, after all), he also is not around much any more. For much of the week his SUV is absent from the driveway, suggesting that he has a different place to spend the evenings. Maybe he has a place to crash closer to his work, or maybe he has found a girlfriend and stays at her place during the week. I would like to think so, anyways. It seems that he has a difficult life even without people like me creeping on him, and I would like him to be well.

There, Skanks. Satisfied now?

Grindr PSA

“Walk in the swamp.” “Replace the houseplants.” “Take a driving test.” “Go to the carwash.” “Rehome feral kittens.” “Take up tea-totalling.” “Ride in a Lamborghini.” “Install a Magic Keyboard.” Judging by the number of charming euphemisms for anonymous sexual encounters in my blogroll recently, it seems that the lot of you are done with pandemic isolation and revving up your libidos again. And since we are in the roaring 2020s, that means booting up your smartphones and hitting the apps.

Well, Old Stick-in-the-Mud Lurker is here to offer a note of caution about Grindr in particular. In my opinion this app has not had a good track record about caring about your privacy. Let’s ignore the fact that the company was owned by the Chinese for a few years before being sold to a mysterious group of “US” investors including a former executive of Baidu. That’s just geopolitics, and besides China has a commendable record of treating its minority populations with kindness and respect. Instead, let’s examine a few instances of how the company treated your data.

There was, of course, the infamous disclosures of HIV status to analytics companies (as documented by the security researchers). That feels unpleasant, but since we have drug cocktails now there is no more HIV stigma, so I guess this was no big deal. Also it is not surprising at all — pretty much every app on your phone makes use of a bunch of other surveillance companies and libraries, and it is exceedingly common to allow those apps to collect more data than you intend.

How about the incident with Norway, which got mad at Grindr for sharing potentially-identifying data with advertisers. Again, I guess this is no big deal, and probably Norway was just being a bully.

The incident that worries me the most happened last October, when noted computer security researcher Troy Hunt (oh behave! That’s his real name. This is not a “Lost Boys” post.) discovered that you could exploit the “forgot your password?” functionality of Grindr to log into someone else’s account.

Oh wait. Troy Hunt didn’t discover this bug. Another less famous security researcher named Wassime Bouimadaghene discovered the exploit, tried to tell Grindr about it, and was summarily ignored. It wasn’t until Hunt boosted the signal that Grindr bothered to respond.

Look. I’m not computer literate but even I know that bugs happen in computer programs. This was kind of a stupid bug to leave uncaught in your code (especially for a security-related function like password resets) but it does not surprise me that such a bad bug got through.

Having said that, this bug is really serious. You did not need a virus or a phishing email to exploit this. You just needed someone’s email address (is your email address floating around the Internet somewhere?). The unforgivable sin here is that Bouimadaghene reported a serious problem and Grindr ignored it. It does not matter than Bougimadaghene was not famous. It would not matter if it was reported by a completely anonymous source. When somebody tells you about a bug like this, you investigate and you act. Otherwise people get hurt. (I am tempted to make a Lindsey Graham joke here, but that would undermine the point. It might be nice schadenfreude if Miss Lindsey’s Lady G’s account got hacked, but being happy for security bugs because they hurt people we dislike is a bad security attitude that gets us into lots of trouble.)

Once Troy Hunted the company on Twitter, Grindr acted quickly to fix this particular bug. That’s great, but the fact that they needed to be publicly shamed before acting is reprehensible. That does not matter for me because nobody on Grindr would ever want to date chat with me, but my blogroll is full of beautiful charismatic people and I want you all to be safe.

So should you switch to another hookup app? This is not an easy question. On the surface it might seem like Bumble or Scruff or ChristianMingle might be a better choice, but on the other hand they all have bugs too. Some people might argue that Grindr is safer because (as the market leader) it is under so much scrutiny. Personally (and perhaps irrationally) the underlying values a company demonstrates matters a lot in my technology decisions. WordPress and Blogger are both big targets and have lots of security issues, but my values align more closely with WordPress, so I chose that platform for my regrettable blog. It might have been the wrong choice or it might have been the right one, but as a heuristic it has not been awful. In that sense, Grindr is right off the table for me.

Mind! Learning anything about the underlying values of a capitalist enterprise is no easy task, especially if you want to dig deeper than the marketing fluff. So most of us just use whatever everybody else is using and rest assured we will all go down on the ship together. Maybe that is not an awful strategy, but sometimes these ships do sink.

Sprung Again

Well, here we go again. I have written about the treachery of spring clothing before. Once again Lurkville is emerging from a long, dismal weather. Once again people are cavorting around in immodest dress, and once again I am struggling. A handsome mustachioed fellow walked by wearing shorts that ended above the knee, and my thoughts were derailed. You might think exposing a little leg is no big deal, but let us not forget the trouble the Israelites got into for worshipping a golden calf. God was real mad at them for that one.

Of course, things are a little different this year, because we are living in a pandemic, which makes these unclean thoughts even more unwelcome than usual. In the linked entry I blamed my impure thoughts on how other people dressed, but that is just blaming the victim. I bear sole responsiblity for my lustful thoughts. If others choose to wear shorts or leave the top button of their shirts undone or otherwise dress immodestly, it is my job to stop drooling and avert my eyes, and if that does not work then I would be well advised to take Jesus’s advice; blind people cannot commit adultery in their hearts.

I don’t understand why this is so difficult for me. We all know that this is a pandemic year, and unless you are in a social bubble with one or more willing partners, it is our duty to quell our libidos and chastely sit through seven hours of Zoom calls a day with gratitude in our hearts. Everybody else can manage this. I read your blogs, and see that you have all managed to keep your libidoes in check. You restrict reproductive thoughts for appropriate situations such as scrolling through Scruff profiles, reading Captain America/Winter Soldier fanfiction and serving cake to people in your social bubble. Otherwise you calmly reason with your bodies that this is not the time for libidinous thoughts, and your bodies comply. Mine very much does not. That might be understandable if I was fifteen years old and struggling with the hormonal waves of puberty, but I have no such excuses. Furthermore, I have not had sexual contact with another human being for twenty-one years now (not that I am counting). You would think my body would take the hint: if nobody wanted to sleep with me before, they certainly don’t want to sleep with me now.

I am not arguing that lay people should be held to exactly the same standard, but if the Catholic priesthood can be expected to live lives of chaste service, it surely is no big deal to expect the unmarried laity to embrace chastity during a global pandemic. And yet, not for me. Maybe I am a nymphomaniac?

I thought these thoughts were supposed to subside as I got older, but now I am older and they are still here. There is talk that Lurkistan is taking steps to ban conversion therapy. Overall, this is pretty good news; coercing people to change against their will is awful, and I fully endorse ending it. On the other hand, I am worried, because if I would like outside help in converting from a hypersexed menace to a well-adjusted asexual, I had better act soon.

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.

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.

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?

Sympathy for the Devil

In a recent comment, Debra (the dear! [1]) exhorted me to “not go over to Satan”. As is usually the case with Debra, this was wise and insightful advice. Unfortunately, it is not easy advice to follow. The Prince of Temptation has done a real number on me. I mean, just look at him:

Satan on a cruise

With that broad chest and manicured goatee, he would fit right in on Fearsome’s blog:

Satan portrait
Cuddly Beard

As you know, I am not much of a Christian. Everything I know about Satan comes from the documentary South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. (Incidentally, this is also where I learned everything I know aboot Canada.) Although it was released in 1999, the documentary has aged well. In the film, Satan has recently gotten into a same-sex relationship with Saddam Hussein, but already the relationship is rocky.

Saddam and Satan

Being from 1999, you might think that the filmmakers would portray Satan and Saddam’s relationship as a great big joke, and although there are jokey elements, the issues that Satan and Saddam face are not that different from any straight relationship where one partner is a tone-deaf, emotionally abusive jerk:

Kenny asks Satan what is wrongSaddam doesn't nurture Satan's emotionsSaddam just wants sex and can't learn to communicate

The thing is, Satan just wants the same thing every gay on Grindr is looking for: love and companionship with someone who understands them and appreciates them for who they are inside. But I have some news for you, Satan: Saddam isn’t that guy. He is not good enough for you.  You’re gorgeous, and you have a job, and you have that deep resonant voice that would fit right in with a Gwaenysgor choir. You can do so much better than Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.

Girl, I know you have baggage. We all have baggage. Sure, Jesus doesn’t like you. Join the club. Sure, a lot of people don’t like your career. The thing is, every society has unpleasant tasks necessary  in order to keep it functioning, and we should celebrate you — not disparage you — for being willing to get your hands dirty and do what needs doing. Sure, you are the embodiment of evil and sin in the world, but does that mean you don’t deserve love? That it is okay for that Saddam to mistreat you and diminish your self-worth?

I don’t care that you skip leg day. I think you are gorgeous, and although I am no catch I would like to think I would make a better boyfriend for you than that Saddam. I would listen to you go on about whatever book you are reading. We could stay up and cuddle instead of just having sex. Admittedly, my immortal soul is a pretty steep price to be in a relationship, but am sure we could work something out.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t be a better boyfriend than Saddam Hussein. If anything I am more controlling and less mature than him. At least Saddam was good in bed, and he managed the affairs of an entire country for decades. Meanwhile I can’t pull myself together enough to get to the grocery store before it closes. Come to think of it, I suck at both nurturing emotions and at communicating effectively. Debra is completely right. I am not boyfriend material for anybody, and I should keep well enough away. I have hurt more than enough people for one lifetime, and you deserve better.

But don’t give up hope, little horn. Somewhere out there there’s a boyfriend who is kind and supportive waiting for you, and I hope that you and he will cross paths sooner rather than later.

Satan looking up

[1] Yes, as we recently learned, this expression is not intended to be entirely complimentary. I do not care; we should never let facts spoil a good catchphrase. All of you (well, most of you) are dears, and you will just have to deal with it.

Public School Sex Education Turned Me Gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Laura Turned Me Gay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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