Posts Tagged ‘Homosexuality’

This photo has gone viral recently. It was first posted on a ‘Gay Marines’ FB page and has since been sent round the internet, with the tagline ‘Gay Marine Comes Home’.

You know me. I am an out and proud ‘homophile’. I am bordering on being a homo myself.  My blog archives are full of pictures of men in clinches, from the sacred to the profane. But when I saw this image I was caught short. I will admit it to you, Roland. I felt a bit queasy. And I think you will understand why.

The photograph is a graphic illustration of the end of DADT, the edict that kept gay, lesbian AND BISEXUAL army personnel from being open about their sexuality. In some ways, the military was, until very recently, the last bastion of ‘pre-gay’ times. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ has been the unspoken motto of men who have sex with men for eons. And now it is over.

But it is not just the repression of homosexuality that is over here. I fear some other things may be on their way out too. What about all those soldiers ‘acting gay’ on video? Will they be doing that so much, when their gay colleagues are on site? Or, a story you know intimately, those plucky GIS who went gay for pay a few years back. Would that happen when being gay in the army is normalised?

I know that you and your ‘accomplice’ in homo-anthropology Steven Zeeland, have had a range of feelings about the ‘coming home’ of gayness in the military. In Male Impersonators and Barrack Buddies, you both seemed to be opposed to DADT, even though you were nostalgic for a time when homosexuality was even more hidden than it was in the army in the 1990s. You of all people are aware of the complexities and contradictions here. And you, of all people, would be unlikely to begrudge a passionate embrace between a marine and his lover, especially if it is caught on camera.

But something is well and truly lost isn’t it?

Perhaps our only consolation is that in coming home, the gay identity is also quickening its own demise. You have predicted we are nearing the end of gay. Judging by the defensive reactions mainly gay men give to me when I even dare to critique their precious identity position, I am inclined to think you are right.

A Gay Marine Comes Home. We know it’s over, Roland.

It’s over.

P.s. I am going to be honest with you, one of the things that made me feel a bit ‘queasy’ was the gender dynamics of the photo. The marine, supposedly one of those macho masculine types, has a garland round his neck and is being lifted off the floor by his big strong civilian boyfriend (who he termes ‘the giant’ on his facebook page). But I am an old-fashioned girl.

This week so far has been all about the men. For once. So I thought I’d share some links to recent articles that examine men and masculinity, not only through the judgemental lens of feminism.

I was delighted to see my favourite writer on men had an article in this week’s Guardian (UK newspaper). He put forward an admirable defence of metrosexual men . The comments below the line, though often quite critical of his ideas, are a good read. And they show to me how a discussion about masculinity is much better quality when it is inspired by a piece of writing by someone who knows what he is talking about (and doesn’t hate men)!

I was also pleased to see the great blog The Spanish Intermission feature a critique of Mark Simpson’s Graun article. Note how he describes me as a ‘pedantic anti-feminist battleship’! I am glad somebody has acknowledged my role in spreading the word about metrosexuality in general, and Simpson’s theories in particular.

Another story that caught my eye this week related to a TV documentary about homosexual men in football. There are still no ‘out’ gay players in British professional football and the reasons for this are complex. Again this is an example of how a sensitive and knowledgeable piece of writing about men and masculinity leads to some intelligent comments BTL.

Then there was the Uni Lads fiasco. A British ‘student’ website sent ripples through the feminist blogosphere when it published some very horrible articles making jokes about rape, disability and men’s sex lives. Of course, the feminasties only focused on the rape jokes. The site took down all its recent content, including some adverts for t-shirts with ‘pro-rape’ slogans on.

But in amongst all the howling and wailing, I noticed a very well argued piece (not about the Uni Lads thing just coincidentally) that criticised the concept of rape culture. It referenced my piece from the Good Men Project on the subject.

All in all, a pretty good week for teh menz!

A recent New York Times interview with Sex In The City star Cynthia Nixon, has caused a bit of a furore amongst mainly American gays. I first read about the story in Queerty, which is itself a VERY gay website. But I appreciated them running  it, and quoting Nixon at length and opening up the discussion to the commenters below the line.

Other publications/individuals have not been so generous, and have railed at Ms Nixon for what? For having the audacity to suggest she has some agency in her sex life and her love life? How very dare she!

One of the main criticisms from Teh Gays about Nixon’s statement is that she is playing into the hands of the religious right in America who claim homosexuality is unnatural, against God, and a sinful ‘choice’. One supergay article suggests:

‘she needs to learn how to choose her words better, because she just fell into a right-wing trap, willingly.  When the religious right says it’s a choice, they mean you quite literally choose your sexual orientation, you can change it at will, and that’s bull.’

Another gayist piece states quite baldly:

‘ the issue here is not the legitimacy or source of an individual’s sexuality. It’s a question of strategy. ‘

This concept of ‘strategy’ relates to a theoretical term called strategic essentialism.

‘The term was coined by the Indian literary critic and theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. It refers to a strategy that nationalities, ethnic groups or minority groups can use to present themselves. While strong differences may exist between members of these groups, and amongst themselves they engage in continuous debates, it is sometimes advantageous for them to temporarily ‘essentialize’ themselves and bring forward their group identity in a simplified way to achieve certain goals.’

I oppose ‘strategic essentialism’ because I think it fails in its own goal of uniting ‘oppressed’ groups who have a common ‘enemy’ or oppressor. It serves to privilege (yes I can use that word too) one group’s identity and needs over other, less powerful ones.

In the case of the backlash against Cynthia Nixon, it is clear to me that (usually white middle class and often male) gays are outraged that their worldview and their sense of self, and how they were born this way, is not being prioritised. If sexuality is, to some degree, a choice, as Cynthia says it is for her, (note she is not generalising about other people), then gays lose some of their ‘victim status’ as these poor, beleagured people who are forced to live under the shadow of the heterosexual dominant group.

One of the comments that I found most troubling was this one:

It seems to be suggesting that bisexual people ‘choose’ their sexuality but gay people don’t! Apart from this not even beginning to make sense at a ‘scientific’ level – how are bisexual people ‘made’ so that they have the ability to make choices and gays are not? – it is politically quite worrying. I think what it is really saying is that bisexual people are ‘liars’. If sexuality is innate then people who ‘choose’ to go against their ‘natural’ sexual orientation, be it straight or gay, are a) lying and b) oppressing the people who stay in their ‘natural’ boxes by making sexuality look like less of a destiny.

One of the comments by Nixon that stood out for me was this:

‘I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.’

My ex was/is bisexual. Though he rarely used that word to describe himself. Sometimes he took the Freudian label and called himself ‘polymorphously perverse’. And sometimes I have worried, since we broke up, that he might have ‘gone gay’. This has filled me with a sense of loss and rejection, because if he is now ‘gay’ then what does that say about our relationship that occurred (with some hiccups) over a period of over ten years?

I expect my ex doesn’t identify as gay, now. He was more Anti Gay than even the author of the book of that title. He taught me, long before I had heard of Steven Zeeland, that ‘sexual identity is a joke’.

But it’s not a very funny one. And I think people’s reactions to Cynthia’s open discussion about her own sexuality, are a sign of how we still haven’t reached ‘the end of sexuality’. Maybe one day, eh?


In an unusual move, the Guardian, the ‘liberal voice’ of Britain, which is normally the feminist voice, and the puritanical voice, has come out in favour of a man who sells hardcore S and M m/m porn. Why this strange turnaround?

Well, if we look a bit more closely at their discourse, we can see it is not a turnaround at all, but business as usual for the Graun.

Nichi Hodgson, the author of the article, was present at the trial of Michael Peacock. He was being accused of selling and distributing ‘obscene’ material under the Obscene Publications Act (1959). It also related to the famous trial over the ‘obscenity’ of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1960. Hodgson wrote:
‘Why is that so important? For one, Peacock is the only person to have pleaded not guilty to a charge under the Obscene Publications Act 1959(OPA 1959) and won . He is the first person to have challenged the notion of obscenity in law, a law that was last updated in 1964, and has stood since. A law that is expressly designed to tell us what is “deprave and corrupt” – defined by Justice Byrne in 1960 as “to render morally unsound or rotten, to destroy the moral purity or chastity; to pervert or ruin a good quality.”‘

I agree that this is an important case. I am glad the Guardian covered it. But this is the paper that spends a lot of time and energy promoting the idea that pornography ‘depraves and corrupts’ people, especially men. And that it exploits and demeans people, especially women.

Gail Dines in the Guardian in December 2011, very aware of the charges against feminism and its puritanical approach to pornography wrote:

‘But feminists who organise against pornification are not arguing that sexualised images of women cause moral decay; rather that they perpetuate myths of women’s unconditional sexual availability and object status, and thus undermine women’s rights to sexual autonomy, physical safety and economic and social equality.’

Hmm. Me thinks the lady did protest too much.

In another Graun article in 2011, about a porn industry conference where feminists protested, Gail Dines was quoted as saying:

“You cannot have a massive industry built on the sexual torture and dehumanisation and debasement of women. If you want any gender equality in a society you cannot have this industry steam-rollering into men’s psyches, sexuality and identity,”

So why is the Guardian now supporting pornographers?

The only way I can see that this case has received positive attention in the Guardian is because it relates to ‘gay’ porn. If no women are involved, the Graun does not care so much about its crusade against the ‘degrading’ effects of pornography. Hodgson wrote:

‘Throughout the trial, the court had carefully warned the jury against sentencing out of any impulse of homophobic disgust. So it was disturbing to hear the prosecution lawyer invoke towards the end of his address the following example of the likely audience for the “obscene” material: “a man, in his 40s, married, with a wife who doesn’t know of his secret sexual tastes”, especially considering the defendant’s testimony that his customers were mostly gay men.’

As [redacted] has written, incidentally in a blogpost that got threatened with censorship by his webhost company, straight men enjoy watching men’s cocks in pornography. They may not be the main clientele for hardcore m/m s and m porn, but this divide between ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ porn is false. Also, many women watch ‘gay’ pornography. Again as Simpson has told us, Manlove for the Ladies is a big market and getting bigger.

Hodgson placed this case as a victory for ‘gay rights campaigners’ and ‘everyone who believes in social and sexual liberty’.

‘How ironic that the defence had begun his closing by trying to distance this case from the R v Penguin Books (1961) trial (commonly known as the Chatterley trial), which the recorder had already referenced to as precedent. That trial, in which the infamous test of the book’s obscenity was whether you would let your wife or servants read it, exposed everything that was wrong about the way those who held power and privileged pronounced on the sexual tastes and liberties of the population. Here was that same example of the white middle-class, privileged patriarch, no longer guarding against the sullying of his goods and chattel, wife and servants, but fearing for his own depravity.

Thankfully, the jury did not fall for it as a tenable argument. For gay rights campaigners and for everyone of us that believes in social and sexual liberty, it’s a day to make a five-digit victory sign.’

However, during the trial I did not see any ‘gay rights campaigners’ speaking up for Peacock (with the single exception of  Chris Ashford of Law and Sexuality Blog).  Maybe this was because ‘gay rights’ activists are often puritanical themselves, as they try (and succeed) to separate the ‘gay’ identity from ‘homosexual’ sex, and to make it respectable and almost ‘heterosexual’.

I wrote previously at Graunwatch about how gay activists such as [redacted] have taken a dim view of men demonstrating their homosexuality in public. I am not surprised this case was not taken up by ‘Teh Gayz’.

I am also disappointed that Hodgson used this damning phrase to describe the the hypothetical man who this case is suggesting is the focus of the law:

‘white middle-class, privileged patriarch’.

Patriarchy is always the ‘enemy’ in the Guardian (an imaginary one in my opinion). And this word enables the paper to come across as ‘liberal’ and caring in a case such as this, whilst maintaining its crusade against ‘patriarchal’ pornography and the ‘pornification’ of culture that feminists claim demeans and exploits women.

I rarely identify my own sexual orientation. I take the view summed up so eloquently by Steven Zeeland, that ‘sexual identity is a joke’.

But I do identify with and even practice ‘sadomasochism’. And, whilst I welcome this verdict, I do not think it represents a big shift,  in our culture which still separates ‘good sex’ from ‘bad sex’, ‘normal’ people from ‘perverts’, or in the Guardian,which remains puritanical, misandrist, and conservative.


Photo by Robert Mapplethorpe

The Strange Decline of The English Cottage is a documentary that is being made at the moment, for BBC4 about the old tradition of ‘cottaging’ in Britain. Men having sex with each other in public toilets. I found this article about the project delightfully ironic, as it mentions Miss Marple in relation to the traditional English landscape. As Miss Marple is one of my alter-egos, and as I have already started (but aborted) a piece of kind of ‘slash fic’ about Miss Marple and the murder of the homosexual, I thought it was hilarious she was being brought into this murder mystery on TV. But, I know one thing about Jane Marple, it would take more than a few homos and glory holes to shock that old bird! Anyway here is the article. ..

It is perhaps inevitable that within the vagaries of English slang a word so redolent of the English village, Miss Marple and vicars cycling to give evening sermons, should come to be associated with acts so unspeakable and perverted that they are morally repugnant to your average citizen. Yet on the fiftieth year since Lord Wolfenden, a man so repulsed by the deviancy of the homosexual act that his report found it necessary to recommended its legalisation, the fortieth since the death at his lover’s hands of the eminence grise of the cottage, Joe Kingsley Orton, it is perhaps appropriate to consider what has happened to this most Anglo-Saxon of leisure pursuits.

It is an activity once favoured by playwrights, pop stars, politicians and Republican Senators from Idaho, allegedly with codes of its very own. Yet it is also in sad decline.

Here, I must declare an interest as a homosexual, whose formative years were spent throughout the land in, or within spitting distance, of such places of deviancy, perversion and undeniable pleasure. For cottaging has through its long and honourable history (since 1729) remained a purely gay pursuit; partly because of the puritanical attitude towards sex than has always existed in the English social body, but mainly because the idea of unisex public lavatories never caught on. There was a cottage in my village, which from an early age my parents told me to avoid, although no reason was then given. Such was the seriousness of their warning that I frequently underwent humiliating journeys home to visit the toilet until one day, aged fourteen, I ventured into the grimly painted forbidden zone with the purest of motives, but left with intentions to revisit for quite a different purpose. This early encounter, such as it was, was the beginning of almost ten years of intense, almost obsessive devotion, I may even say love, of the English cottage. From such origins came many encounters, some of them quick, some more fruitful, but none of them dull, and all of them enacted with a sense of risk that is now lacking from my life: being fucked in a cubicle by a student from Leeds University as my train left for home is a memory that sticks in my mind with a certain fondness.  For cottaging is addictive, like heroin, except less expensive and easier to get hold of. I even met one of my best friends in a cottage, in a small university town. The building has since been knocked down and turned into a shopping centre. But we remain friends. He is now an illustrious academic at a respected institution over the Herring pond, but on his rare visits to perfidious Albion, we remember – over a bottle or four of Veurve Clicquot  – times idled away in various provincial towns of England and  London, looking for cock.

The intervening decade has been kinder to him than I. He still claims to be roughly the same age, I have aged eight years, taken up new hobbies – bridge, fine wines, crack cocaine – and almost verge upon the respectable. That is not to say that even when cruising on Hampstead Heath or Clapham Common, I do not hanker for the old days of sideways glances at urinals and the cautious half opening of a cubicle door. But the sad fact is that although successful, I was never any good at cottaging: I was by my friend’s feckless standards too nervous and unobservant of slight signals. Of course, he now has two convictions for gross indecency, whereas I do not.

And there perhaps you have at least part of the reason for this tragic decline but not all. In London alone the cottages of Bethnal Green (always highly recommended) and Pettycoat Lane to those of Hyde Park, Carnaby Street and Oxford Circus have either closed or been sanitised to prevent extra curricula activities for the homosexual.  It is now with fond nostalgia that one recalls the cottage in the old British Library, where upon the cubicle wall was affectionally ascribed: ‘I had David Starkey here’.The cottage has been across cities and towns been replaced by units that act as lavatories and act against the cottager’s inherent interests.  Of course, such places do still exist: I am told that in the toilets University College London remain a rare paradise in barren desert and I am sure that some remain in the more remote parts of these Sceptred Isles. But it is rather like living in the last days of the British Raj: some of the magnificence is still there, but the glory days are far behind. If you’ll forgive the puns.

Of course, like many an English tradition, modern technology and social advances has played a role in its demise. Yet logging onto one’s Gaydar, and GayRomeo, lacks an equal frisson to shoving one’s knob through a glory hole in a cottage in Peterborough, Kettering or some such God-awful place. If you ask me, the advance of the internet as a tool for the homosexual  is welcome, yet its role in the death of cottaging is evidence of not only the laziness of the average sex-addict, but also of the creeping bourgeoisation of homosexuality. The current liberal, tolerant attitude towards homosexuality, greatly welcome though it is, has correspondingly led to the de-sexualisation of the homosexual in the public mind: he must be well-dressed, coiffed to perfection, witty and preferably totally, publically neutered. Of course, promiscuity itself amongst gay men is far from on the declining: my accidental entrance to the FIST tent some years ago at Gay Pride proves that. Yet, like the decline of the Liberal Party after 1909, in its finest hour, the gay community has cunningly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and submissively accepted the demise of the most public actualisation of its inner self.

‘Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband.’
-The Taming of the Shrew, 5. 2

There’s small choice in rotten apples.
The Taming of the Shrew, 1. 1

The last time I wrote about the royal family was in 1997. I had an article published in a Birmingham radical Afro-Carribean community magazine, about the death of Princess Diana. I commented, not a little pretentiously, on the way Diana’s body was brought back to British shores, draped in the flag featuring the Prince of Wales’ coat of arms. She escaped, all too briefly, the tyranny of the Windsor clan, only to be engulfed and wrapped up by them, by the Crown, by the Empire, finally, in her death.

Now Diana’s first born son and heir to the thrown is about to be married. And once again, I am struck by how the royal family marries its subjects to it, traps us in a bond we seem unable to escape. Kate Middleton appears on the face of it to be a willing ‘victim’. Unlike Charles and Diana’s, William and Kate’s relationship seems to be one based not on duty, but on love. They met at university. They lived together. They are the same age. Just as Diana and Charles seemed awkward, out of step, uncomfortable, so these two seem compatible, in tune, happy. But I think their union represents, as Diana and Charles’ did, a symbolic reinforcement of, not only the monarchy, but also of the institution of heterosexual marriage itself.

Kate Middleton  couldn’t be more different from the ‘shrewish’ Kate in Shakespeare’s Taming of The Shrew. She may have the dark hair and strong figure, and Diana may have been more like Kate’s sister in the play, Bianca: blonde, demure, ‘angelic’ and dutiful. But as we now know, Diana actually demonstrated she was the fiery rebel, and  the Windsors treated her as the ‘shrew’ that brought shame and trouble on their family. Kate Middleton it seems, has arrived at The House of Windsor ready-tamed. She has already placed her hand under Prince William’s  foot, and will probably serve and honour him for the rest of her days.

There has been a lot of hoo-ha in the press (from the little coverage I have read) about the class differences between the two. How shocking that a ‘middle class’ woman would dare to marry the  prince. I don’t have a window on The Queen’s mind, but I think that actually she may be quite relieved at her grandson’s choice of bride.  Elizabeth has not had an ‘annus horribilis’ since ‘that woman’ shifted off this mortal coil. But she knows that the monarchy is never entirely safe from the republican threat. The culture of empire, inheritance and entitlement is being challenged in the UK, as symbolised by devolution, the peace process in Ireland, the reform of the House of Lords, and, in a small way, that paint-splattered car carrying Charles and Camilla amidst the student riots.  Having a middle class woman marry into the monarchy is probably a good PR move for the Windsors. It shows them to be less ‘stuffy’ and ‘old-money’ and ‘aristocratic’ than they in fact are. It suggests ‘modernity’ and even ‘inclusivity’. And it means the people, though they may have been totally in love with the original ‘people’s princess’, have a chance to identify once more with the heir (to the heir) to the throne and his bride.

Because a royal wedding is not just a showcase for the royal family ( a family that needs some positive media coverage, as it still includes nefarious characters such as Prince Andrew and his dodgy dealings, and his hilariously dodgy dealing ex-wife). It is also a showcase for the institution of marriage itself. Marriage is on a steady decline in the UK. There is probably nothing anyone can do to stop this. And, if I were The Queen, or probably more significantly her heirs, I may be a little concerned. Because, as Shakespeare knew, the whole concept of being a ‘subject’, of serving your King or Queen and Country, is bound up with the concept of being a wife, or even a husband. If people can’t be bothered to show their allegiance to  each other in a formal declaration endorsed by the state, what hope that they will give a toss about serving an old lady in a crown and a big house?

Enter the Gays, sashaying and swishing in their wedding gowns and tiaras. ‘Gay Marriage’ ironic as it may sound (to those of us who remember when ‘gay’ meant something vaguely radical) could actually be the thing that boosts the marriage stats. And all those queens who will I am sure, before too long, get their chance to be princesses for the day, may also actually bolster our respect and loyalty to the actual Queen and princes and princesses of this land. Remember Diana? Remember how popular she was with the gays? Yes it was because she showed compassion to people suffering from HIV/AIDS, yes it was because she was a diva in the gay melodrama sense. But also I think some gay people like the idea of being truly embraced by the establishment. Of being ‘subjects’. And Diana held out her dainty princesses hand and they took it. Kate Middleton is no Diana. But if Gay Marriage becomes legal anytime soon, I expect her marriage to William will be up there in the gay diary of great gay moments in history, along with Diana’s funeral (because lets face it the gays loved that more than her wedding), with Cabaret, with oh you know all the big gay moments by now.

Peter Tatchell,  that well-known campaigner against the privileges of the few, and for the rights of many, has thrown his tiara into the ring. He has organised protests, not against the monarchy, or against the heteronormative oppressive institution of marriage, but to call for gays to be able to marry like Kate and William are. Tatchell’s statement, as part of the Equal Love campaign, demanding marriage and civil partnership rights for all couples (cross-sex and same sex) says:

“We wish William and Kate every happiness. May they have a joyful marriage and a wonderful married life together.

“The royal couple are lucky. They have the option to get married. Gay couples don’t have this option. They are barred by law from marriage.

“We urge Kate and William to support marriage equality: the right of same-sex couples to get married. Their support would mean a lot. They take for granted the right to marry. Marriage is something that many lesbian and gay couples want but cannot have.”

This is a clever move by Tatchell I think. If his goal is to achieve gay marriage rights, and the ‘heterosexualisation’ of homosexuality once and for all, how better to do it than to tie the rights of gay and queer people to the mast of the monarchy, the ultimate symbol of (heteronormative) power in Great Britain? Also it is a way of extending the ‘struggle’, so that, no matter how much ‘equality’ gay and LGBQT people achieve, if they can’t enjoy the same rights and privileges as the most privileged couple in the country, have they achieved true ‘equality’?

I write this when I am still feeling sickened by the news of a trans woman who was assaulted in McDonald’s in America, for entering the women’s WC. This assault was filmed by cheering onlookers and then uploaded onto youtube. I won’t link to the story as all the links include the video and I find that chilling in itself. Equally or even more chilling is the story of the Long Island sex workers who have been murdered recently, probably all by the same person. If Tatchell is looking for continued oppression of ‘sexual’ minorities, he might consider those women, rather than the wedding of Kate Middleton.

So I think Peter Tatchell has got his priorities all wrong. Foucault, a gay man who did not enjoy the ‘right’ to get married to the man he loved (if he had have wanted to – I do hope not) nor the ‘right’ to not die from complications arising from the HIV virus he contracted, said that it is the ‘fascist inside’ us that we need to be aware of and to fight, if we want to achieve some kind of liberated society. I think Kate Middleton represents quite well that fascist inside us. Mild-mannered, aspirational, insipid, respectable, that is how I imagine the fascist inside me.

And all I want to do with fascism is to kill it.

Michel Foucault:

The experience of heterosexuality, at least since the Middle Ages, has always consisted of two panels: On the one hand, the panel of courtship in which the man seduces the woman: and, on the other, the panel of the sexual act itself. Now the great heterosexual literature of the West has had to do essentially with the panel of amorous courtship, that is, above all, with tha which precedes the sexual act. All the work of intellectual and cultural refinement, all the aesthetic elaboration of the West, were aimed at courtship. This is the reason for the relative poverty of literary, cultural and aesthetic appreciation of the sexual act as such.

In contrast, the modern homosexual experience has no relation at all to courtship. This was not the case in ancient Greece however.  For the Greeks, courtship between men was more important than courtship between men and women (Think of Socrates and Alcibiades). But in Western Christian culture homosexuality was banished and therefore had to concentrate all its energy on the act of sex itself. Homosexuals were not allowed to elaborate a system of courtship because the cultural expression necessary for such an elaboration was denied them. The wink on the street, the split-second decision to get it on, the speed w ith which homosexual relations are consummated: all these are products of an interdiction. So when a homosecual culture and literature began to develip it was natural for it to focuse on the most ardent and heated aspect of homosexual relations.


I’m reminded of Cassanova’s famous expression that ‘the best moment of love is when one is climing the stairs’. One can hardly imagine a homosexual today making that remark.

Michel Foucault:

Exactly. Rather, he would say something like: ‘the best moment of love is when the lover leaves in a taxi’… It is when the act is over and the boy is gone that one begins to fream about the warmth of his body, the quality of his smile, the tone of his voice. This is why the great homosexual writers of our culture (Cocteau, Genet, Burroughs) can write so elegantly about the sexual act itself, because the homosexual imagination is for the most part concerned with reminiscing about the act rather than anticipating it. And, as I said earlier, this is all due to very concrete and practical considerations and says nothing about the intrinsic nature of homosexuality.

I have been reminded of this passage in one of my favourite interviews with Foucault, recently. I think it sheds some light on two questions I asked. The first was about why homo literature often seems so ‘romantic’ about homo-sex, when homosex in reality tends to be  so ‘unromantic’: pragmatic, casual, ‘un-emotional’. Foucault’s response might be that this is because homo writers always seem to be looking back wistfully on the sexual act. The way it was conceived tends/tended to be rushed, illicit, snatched in a stolen moment, rather than the result of an elaborate and often public courtship, as a heterosexual sexual act might be.

The other question I asked, that it reminds me of, I didn’t actually ask. I am asking it now.  This relates to your stories of being a ‘straight-chaser’, of those men for whom ‘it is my first time, mate. I’m nervous’ might be a common refrain. About the questions you may ask yourself about why you are so intrigued by their nervousness, even more than the actual act of sex with them. If it arrives. I wonder, if straight chasers are in some way chasing that ‘courtship’ that in modern times has been denied gay men (who have had to spend some of their time skulking in bushes, quite literally, in order to have sex with other men). The way that maybe more ‘traditional’ gay men might also be chasing  courtly love, by chasing the ‘rights’ and rituals of straight people, such as dating, engagement, marriage (divorce).

I feel more sympathetic to those ‘straight’ gays after hearing you and reading this interview with Foucault. Though not to the fundamentalist verve with which they pursue their aims, at the expense of those whose version of ‘romance’ is a little more dark and mysterious, dappled as it is with the shadows of illicit sex and unexplored sexualities amongst seemingly straight men.

Just as Genet and Baldwin created and reported on the  romance of the sexual act that is gone, the warmth of his body and the memory of his smile, maybe you and other homo-romantics are trying to reclaim a romance that has been denied you, the  traditionally hetero-romance of ‘will she won’t she?’ the waiting, the hope, and sometimes the bittersweet disappointment of coitus not achieved.

Maybe the internet adds to and also takes away from that romance. It tends to in most situations, be both a promise of, and a desultory ruiner of all hope of anything resembling poetics.

I wish he was here, still, to look upon this world with wonder and horror and annoyance and laughter.  I wish I didn’t have to be always looking back at the memory of the warmth of his words.

2nd Image: Still from Genet’s Chant d’amour