Dana Rudolph joins us from Mombian:

Sherron Mills, founder and CEO of Pacific Reproductive Services (PRS) in California, is a trailblazer in helping lesbian couples and single mothers create their families. She’s been doing so for nearly a quarter century. Mills took a break from running PRS to speak with me about the past, present, and future of her work, and to offer advice for those considering parenthood themselves. I’m splitting the interview into two parts, because Mills was generous with her time. Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow.

In 1979, Sherron Mills was one of the founders of the noted women’s health clinic in San Francisco, the Lyon-Martin Clinic. She explains how this led to her involvement in reproductive services: “Several of us involved in getting that clinic going had always wanted children. We wanted to have a donor insemination program at Lyon-Martin, but our board of directors back then was a little wary of it and we never got it started there. I left there in 1983 and started working in a private practice and doing it on my own in that practice. I met a woman who agreed to be a donor recruiter for me. She recruited donors from San Francisco State University and that was how we got going.”

For the full interview, read part 1 and part 2 at Mombian.com. All writing is copyright Dana Rudolph under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.5 License. Reposted with permission."
(...to the full post)

Today's beltcast is a discussion built from Fannie's post, ZOMG 100th Post!! aka eDating Do's and Don'ts. Outlawed moderates, and panelists include Fannie, Manontheside, and NforNeville. As always, you can listen to beltcasts from the beltcasts widget on the right pane of the blog.

Highlights include: discussion of various situations addressed by panelists in their recent posts, including the idea of dating HIV+, closeted, or married individuals, as well as other general questions about eDating. People interested in dating any of the panelists should tune in, as this is likely going to be more revealing than any gay.com profile you might stumble upon!

Sincerely,
ts
(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie,

I’m a 35 year old lesbian, happily partnered living in a DC suburb in Maryland. I just heard about the recent court ruling in Maryland. My partner and I have been thinking about having children, and with this new court ruling… I’ve begun to think that moving to a more LGBT-friendly state may be worthwhile. I’m just not sure that I can live in a homophobic state that doesn’t believe that I’m a human being.

Mulling over Moving in Maryland


MMM,

I had been closely following the Maryland same-sex marriage case as it traveled up the Maryland State Court System. There was a lot of excitement and reason to hope when the lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and I understand your feelings of loss, disenfranchisement and betrayal.

While you and your partner have to make your own decision on what is best for your future plans as a couple and as parents, with regards to your choice of geographical locale, I would ask you to reconsider your judgment of Maryland as homophobic.

Let me put a few things into perspective: I currently reside in Virginia, Maryland’s not-so-friendly neighbor to the south. In Virginia, with the recent passing of the Virginia Marriage Amendment (which was so over-the-top that Texas thought they had gone too far) same-sex couples are not legally permitted to own property together, leave each other in their wills, adopt children together, share a joint-bank account, and even rent movies on their partner’s account. I’m not joking, some jackass in rural Virginia thought that lesbians renting movies together threatened the stability of heterosexual couples everywhere. Oh, and Virginia still insists on enforcing their anti-sodomy laws. That’s right, Virginia’s Attorney-General is defying the Supreme Court, just to spite the gays. It’s pretty clear: Virginia is NOT for all Lovers, just the monogamous heterosexual married lovers. And we all know how many of those there are now; Hey Larry Craig!

So, MMM, living in a state that allows joint-parent adoption, recognizes partners in wills, has a majority of jurisdictions that provide domestic partner benefits, and has a very powerful and effective gay and lesbian caucus in both state legislative bodies isn’t so bad. I’m not suggesting that queers need to settle for what measly rights we have been given, I just think that those of us who are fortunate enough not to live in a REAL homophobic state shouldn’t take lightly the rights and freedoms that their fellow queers living just over the Potomac River don’t enjoy.

It should also be noted that the judge who ruled against equal marriage rights wasn’t a complete dick-head. He thought that it was the Court’s place to interpret existing law, and included in his ruling that he in no way condemns or attempts to inhibit the legislature’s ability to change those laws regarding marriage. I think that’s fair, and frankly, I believe it’s through the legislature that those changes should be made. Right, Arnold?

When you have a state like Virginia where you have men and women in the legislature who honestly hate gay people and purposefully act to disenfranchise and oppress their queer constituency, the goal is to push queer Virginians out. By making the state so unlivable, they strive to give us no other option than to flee to friendlier waters, thereby further reducing queer political power in the state.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that you and your partners should be martyrs for the cause. But if your attachments to your community and all of your Marylander friends are outweighed by a profound need to join the coercive cult of the marriage institution, then sure, move away to a gay paradise somewhere. But, also realize that there are plenty of people who are fleeing for the same reasons to places like Maryland. Maybe the Old Line State isn’t so bad after all.

++
fiercely,
fannie

send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

(...to the full post)

We have long discussed the imbalance between male and female nudity in American film. Similarly (yet in an opposite vein), we have discussed the way women’s sexualities are rendered invisible, or at least outside their own control and purpose, in society and in film. And gender variant folk are relatively lucky to appear in film in any state of clothing. For sake of focus, however, I shall play mostly within a binary gender system for this entry.*

So, I’m not kidding when I express some excitement at the increasingly common vibrator jokes in comedy.

Sure, they’re poking fun—but this comedy only works because female pleasure is becoming valued, "female self pleasure" is consequently exiting the closet, and a male-proclaimed "natural" view of what sex should be is actually yielding (albeit slowly and through obliquely subversive means) to a more sex-positive "what works" approach. (Hell, in this Cultural Revolution, even straight men are being freed to enjoy a sex toys.) It’s also moving ever-so-slowly beyond the proprietary ownership of an American Pie style, pseudo-lesbian, beautiful young woman…to a place where even the old lady in Smokin’ Aces can have a dildo hanging out by the bathtub. Granted, we’ve a long way to go yet, in all the -isms, when this quick laugh occurs in context of literary absurdity. And female masturbation, much like lesbianism, is often co-opted personally and commercially for male pleasure. (But this is also yet one more power tool in the female arsenal, should she choose to own and use it.)

One can hardly imagine Gidget taking time away from her breast-building exercises to jerk off. We’re making headway. (yes, headway. Did you see what I did there?)

And it’s not just niche movies like Shortbus or Secretary that are looking at sex, and especially at women’s experiences of their own sexuality, differently. We also have suspense films like In the Cut, where girl-next-door Meg Ryan (of all the actors!) sheds her cute innocence to play a real person, one who lies on her belly and masturbates while thinking dirty thoughts. Mrowr.

Now, in addition to increasing the acceptability of cultural references to women's sexual pleasure, we really need to work on getting governmental and health care systems to value female sexual pleasure as highly as they do male sexual pleasure (see: the old debates on insurance and viagra). For that matter, we need to get comparable general care for women's bodies. My half-assed insurance won't even cover something as basic as an annual gynecological exam. (Yes, if it was ever in doubt, this genderqueer was born with a vagina.) Condoms aside, pharmaceutical companies don't bother to develop testes-based contraception when they can so easily continue placing much of this burden on the ones with the uteri. What about the massive expense that menstruation causes for roughly half the population? My Spanish friend wisely suggests the government pay for this is a general public health/sanitation service. (And again, what about the transgender patients?!)

But, we're out of space. On one last film tangent, I’m in my midtwenties, and I think it only just hit me that Johnny from Dirty Dancing ought to be a ‘mo, and Penny his hag. Maybe I just identified really strongly with idealistic, uncoordinated, determined, socially inept, loyal, sheltered, utterly without artifice Baby--therefore never questioned his interest in "big girls don't cry" Baby. More intriguingly, how did I never really question why the scenes where Penny and Baby dance together (with or without Johnny) were so erotic for me? I mean, at the end of the day, whatever, maybe Johnny’s cousin is the gay one.


*But while we’re on this tangent, check out 20 centímetros for an interesting foreign take on the transgender musical genre, nudity and sex both included.


(...to the full post)

9.24.2007

Dream Job

When I was five, I had plenty of dreams. As an immigrant inspired by the fully-assimilated American kids on the Disney Channel (who, along with my PBS friends, taught me English), I pictured myself as having the perfect American name: Richard. At that same wee age, I couldn’t wait to go to college. I remember distinctly tattooing “12” into my brain because I had only 12 grades left after kindergarten. Awed by my mom’s cool tiger sweatshirt (a bootleg from the swap meet), I even focused on a particular school: Princeton. After college, I would get married. I thought to myself that my cousin Marilyn might make a good wife; we always had fun while we were at her house. Together, we would have two kids and live in a two-story house, from which I would drive off daily to my dream job as the local TV weatherman…

Well lo and behold: things have changed. When I was five, I didn’t know that my desired name-change would result in a nickname of “Dick”—a tell-tale sign of homosexuality that I missed at the time. I visited Princeton ten years later and was so turned off by the pretentious campus tour guide that I refused to even apply. Incest was a word that only older people knew; marriage was a word that I only thought I knew. And when I was five, I didn’t know that being a weatherman would be just one of my careers. I’d have to make a career out of finding a mate, too. I never knew—and I’m still discovering—that growing up means not only finding a job that I love, but also making a job of finding love.

If you really wanted it to be, dating could be a full-time job. It demands the same leadership skills that other occupations entail: purposeful and strategic thinking, knowledge of the business’ rules and politics, and many over-time hours consuming much effort and energy. In the end, instead of being paid with a salary, you’d get paid in dividends of theoretical happiness.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t financially-blessed enough to devote our full-time occupational life to the love hunt. After a long day at work, some people have the luxury of not having anything to do; sure, there a dinner dates with friends, errands to run, and favorite TV shows to catch, but other options for post-work activities include frequenting bars, clubs, churches, and other organized events to make a part-time job out of finding The One.

Others of us are, well, married to our jobs. If you work long or unpredictable hours or have an occupation that involves bringing work home, it’s easy to become a workaholic. I’ve been on this path of social devastation since high school. When I was in the eleventh grade, I slept about four hours a night juggling high school class projects with papers for requisite college classes I wanted to complete before actual college; I had agendas to create and copy for our high school’s biggest community service organization and materials I had to gather and create for class spirit rallies. I was a busy fellow, and that’s probably why I didn’t have a single dating experience until I went to college.

What eventually alleviated some of that crushing of social potential was a move to a residential college in Virginia where I learned to re-understand the role of work in my life: it was no longer a mode of academic and career-related productivity; it also provided a means to meet new people. The larger student population meant that the more I got involved with various organizations and classes, the more people I befriended, and the more people I could consider as dating potential. Though my primary drive in college was to deliver the highest level of work possible, I didn’t mind being temporarily distracted by side trips to those also interested in the work that interested me.

That said, though, work has always been an obstacle. The first guy I casually dated ended our blooming relationship after a month to concentrate on his thesis. When I took a June through August internship in Sacramento, my summer fling abruptly ended when I had to return to the hustle and bustle of collegiate life. The next summer, when I returned to Sacramento, my hours to date another man were severely limited by my responsibilities at work: I had about three or fours in the evening, four days a week, to find a compromise between our schedules; over the course of two months, we saw each other just a handful of times. Even in my senior year—at the height of my enjoyment of college achievement and friendships—my own involvement in leadership positions and intense research led to an absolutely barren year with regard to romance.

After working my ass off for those eight years of my life, you’d think I’d cut myself some slack in the work world. Not so: I’ve earned the privilege of being able to work even harder. I work about six days a week, sometimes up to 19 hours a day. I give myself sometimes a day or a day and a half each week to relax, time that I like to spend with the friends I know won’t be as fleeting as the next interesting guy I meet might be. The time to meet others: lacking. I’ve spent time in this blog blaming lots of things for my lack of luck with love; maybe I should really be blaming my choices.

When I was five, I had plenty of dreams. I knew that I had to work hard to achieve them—or at least to evaluate their actual worth and merit. Since then, I’ve accomplished a lot: I’ve received a college education I’m proud of, I have a job that I positively know is worthwhile, and yes, I’m even happy with my name. I foresee further success in my future; it is not out of reach for me to have kids and a two-story house. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and I continue to work hard to get where I’m going. What’s missing from making my childhood dreams come true is that which I haven’t yet prioritized as work that needs to get done: the job of finding someone who helps me forget that I have work to do. If I can’t solve that problem strategically, then maybe I’m not as much of a goal-oriented organizational success as I think I am.

(...to the full post)



missionary position joined us late this past week; he'll be exploring pockets of religion here and there for a little added discussion. More to come, as usual!

Sincerely,
ts
(...to the full post)

Helen Boyd joins us from (en)Gender:

Recently I did a talk that one of my queer femme friends attended, and at some point during the talk I mentioned what a hard time I had with Betty’s femininity because it brought up my own issues with my own “failed” femininity. Afterwards, she asked, “Well don’t I drive you nuts, then?” or something like that.

& The funny thing is: no, she doesn’t. Aside from her being a nice person who takes people as they come (moreso even than most other open-minded folks I know), she’s a queer femme. & The girls who were the bane of my existence - and the women who still are - were almost always straight femmes. Because queer femmes are somehow different than their straight sisters. For starters, they flirt with me, & I can flirt with them, & even though everyone knows nothing is happening, there’s a script of sorts that jives with everyone involved. Queer femmes have met other women with my gender before, & a lot of the time, they’ve dated them too. Our genders are mutually complimentary, you might say. Butches seem occasonally puzzled by me, or they seem to understand me, or they accept me as some kind of liminal butch, but they certainly aren’t threatened. Gay men - femme and masculine - seem to get that I’m not a jerk. (Or, as a gay friend said when he met me, “Oh, so you’re hip?” - after which we didn’t really need to discuss anything about my gender or SO beyond that.)

But it’s straight feminine women I can’t seem to have an un-awkward conversation with; often I feel like they’re worried I’m going to hit on them, and/or that their boyfriend is going to like me better than them (because of that “one of the guys” thing). Sometimes I swear they’re worried about both simultaneously. Straight feminine women seem to have way more invested in a kind of combative, competitive relationship between women - you know, who is the prettiest, the most feminine, the most fashion sense, or who gets the most attention from boys. Mostly I feel like I’m being asked to a duel but I haven’t got a pistol & I don’t the rules and I don’t know who I challenged and certainly didn’t mean to. It’s really like being in a culture that I don’t know & I’m not familiar with, the way that sometimes, as a white person, another white person will say something racist to you as if assuming you agree, or as a straight person, having another straight person make a homophobic joke assuming you’ll think it’s funny, too. Straight women like to complain about “what a guy” their man is, & how they don’t understand them at all, especially how they don’t hear anything when they’re playing a computer game or the like. And when I’ve said something along the lines of, “yeah, well I tend to tune out when I’m playing The Sims,” I get stares all around as if they’ve discovered a traitor in their midst.

And I am, I guess, a gender traitor. I don’t have much in common with the people who are assumedly “my tribe” - other heterosexual women. I don’t know how to talk to them. I don’t know how to make them feel better about themselves, or reassure them that I really dress the way I do on purpose. But it hadn’t occurred to me that it wasn’t all feminine women I felt that way about until my friend asked me that question. Looking back, it’s often been queer femmes who have helped me think about femininity in ways that didn’t just piss me off.

(...to the full post)

9.21.2007

I <3 Smut

Dear readers, I have a habit I just can’t kick. It keeps me up at night, tossing and turning (pages). I do it in the bathtub, in bed, on the couch, even on the metro. The cashier looks at me like a freak, as I creep to the register, petite and shy, and hand over my magazine with nervous fingers. What does he think? He must think I’m a pervert! An old-fashioned, boobie-oggling pervert! He must picture it, my magazine and me, close and comfortable, reclining…

Ahem. Back to the topic at hand:

I, Alison B. Bee, am addicted to men’s magazines.

Ok, it’s probably not as weird as I think it is, but we’re not talking GQ or Men’s Health here, we’re talking good old bikinis-and-cars magazines, like Stuff and FHM. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just find them riveting, laugh-out-loud funny, and gorgeously composed, even in the trashiest of cases.

Ok, it’s probably not as weird as I think it is, but we’re not talking GQ or Men’s Health here, we’re talking good old bikinis-and-cars magazines, like Stuff and FHM. I don’t know what it is about them, but I just find them riveting, laugh-out-loud funny, and gorgeously composed, even in the trashiest of cases.
I know you’ve probably read gobs of denouncements of and admittances of guilty pleasures in trash culture, but the funny thing is that I never saw these mags as “trashy” or in any way different from the normal stuff sitting around in the bathroom. Sure, they show women in compromising positions and questionable bikinis (I question, is that even a bikini, or a misplaced shoelace?) but so do Vogue and Cosmo. Do these magazines even participate in what our culture deems as low brow, or are they caught in a middle ground: elevated by opulent consumer goods on every page but debased by wacky gender norms?

Frankly, I can’t claim to know the answer. But, I am intrigued by this idea of a certain type of ‘visual pleasure’ that is derived from looking, specifically at materials meant for the eyes of others. What can I say for sure about my Stuff addiction? It’s not based in sexual fantasy. So, this brings me back to the beginning; if I’m not thinking about screwing the girls in the bikinis (I save that for Rosario Dawson on the cover of Bust…) why am I so riveted? Is it because the trashy is turned into a taboo? Is it a competitive feminine instinct that drives me to compare myself to the models? Is it a hope that the knowledge contained therein might teach me more about men? While maybe it’s a little bit of all of these, I think by-and-large the logical solutions don’t completely fit.

The most comfortable answer I can come up with is the thrill of being included in a reading that’s not meant for me. It feels subversive (and fucking fun) to laugh along at jokes about Entourage or morning wood. It strokes a special part of me, and maybe other women, too; it’s the part that wasn’t included in the ‘guy talk’ but always felt most comfortable there. It’s the part that feels constrained by just getting one heavily gendered periodical. It’s the part that maybe, just a little, feels excited by cufflinks and perky nipples, no matter how little sense it makes. …that, and I love the smell of men’s cologne. Oh, fold-out samples, you harlot.

Wanna swap centerfolds? You can contact me at gee.alibee@gmail.com

(...to the full post)

I almost feel bad criticising the people behind the GodMen conferences. The organisers aim to promote discourse, confront taboo and explore the interaction between Christian living and male identity. The church, as a cultural institution, is rife with misogyny, homophobia and sexual hypocrisy, so it almost seems churlish to criticise this effort at change.

GodMen fails. Though well meaning, the rhetoric used by the conference organisers only serves to reaffirm traditional models of masculinity, not to explore them.

The aim for the GodMen conferences is to create a male-only space where issues specific to the Christian male can be discussed. Discussion covers such topics as masturbation and pornography and, though there is still a consensus that these acts are sinful, the fact that these topics are being aired at all is a very good thing.

But there are two major flaws to the GodMen project. The first is a terrifyingly essentialist view of what a man is, and the second is an ongoing attempt to blame women for the crippled spirituality of some straight men.

The first problem is aptly summed up by the GodMen FAQ:

We have a society where men are often demeaned for the sake of a joke. When boys or men behave consistent to their male nature, our society has a knee-jerk reaction and says men must tone it down. Lower their voice. Put on a helmet. Take Ritalin. In GodMen NONE of our maleness is toned down because we believe, as the Bible states, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. It's a privilege many men never experience.


Now, that's problematic in a whole host of ways. I'll start with what they are presenting as "our male nature." The over-prescription of Ritalin, I concede, affects males more than females, but the rest is just bullshit. Why is a helmet emasculating? Why is aggression, signified by a loud voice, such a lofty goal for a guy? As a society we are too willing to sacrifice the lives of our young men in the pursuit of masculinity. We romance the concept through wars, extreme sports, hazing rituals and bar fights, but claiming it as a Christian virtue is frankly offensive. Significantly, Newsweek reports the shows opening with "karate fights, car chases and "Jackass"-style stunts" on screen and continuing with a song called "Grow A Pair." Quite what that has to do with God I'm not sure.

Though "fearfully and wonderfully made" is a powerful concept, I prefer to wonder at our variety rather than our ability to embody outmoded conceptions of gender.

Now, I'm sure some of you are wondering why exactly these discussions couldn't have gone on in the mainstream Christian community. The answer, it turns out, is women. Evil, soul crushing women with their oppressive flower arranging. Behold:

“In most churches, you’ll see flowers and ferns at the front,” says Stine. “That’s saying, ‘This is a place that a woman has composed'.” So GodMen sought to create a place where men could admit to flaws without being judged bad Christians and be unapologetically male

Okay, I'm simplifying the rhetoric somewhat. But GodMen was designed to combat the "feminization" of the church. Ignoring the fact that the pastor is probably male, that God is represented in exclusively male terms and that the "traditional family values" being preached expect a woman to be pregnant and barefoot (or, as my father put it, "Well fucked and badly shod"), the creators of GodMen present the Christian community as a sinister gynocracy, constantly judging poor oppressed men for their god-given inability to control themselves.

I think we all recognise this as the last resort of people being asked to confront their privilege. Like the racist complaining about "political correctness", any man complaining about how oppressed he is by women is trying to fight the realities of equality by framing them as an invasion. This distorted view is carried on into the GodMen blog where we find out that, and prepare yourself for this, women are even invading the golf courses.

They argue, and it is true, that women vastly outnumber men at church services. This is irrelevant. Victims of sex-trafficking are predominantly female, it doesn't mean that the women are in charge. Flower arrangements are hardly going to destroy 2000 years of patriarchy.


In Galatians, Paul writes that "there is no man, no woman" in Christ. GodMen's ministry tells men that their biology defines them and that female spirituality inevitably leads to hypocrisy and deceit. Religion should be about communion with the Other, not backing up your prejudices with supernatural authority. I love the attempt at dialogue, but meaningful conversation relies on questions, not easy answers.

(...to the full post)

9.18.2007

Gaycraft

It’s not a big surprise for some, but queers make up a huge percentage of people out there who play video games in some shape or form. Just take a look at Gaymer.org or GayGaymer.net. As a gamer for some time now, I have a decent sense of the kind of culture out there for gamers, and I am particularly sensitive to the culture that exists in the world of MMORPGs. But I noticed a moment in recent gaming history that struck a deep chord for genderqueer-minded gamers across the world. The game in question is World of Warcraft [WoW] (with more than 7 million players worldwide), and the catalyst for this massive event was none other than:


The Male Blood Elf


In the years since the game’s debut, devoted queer players of the World of Warcraft have observed the horrifically homophobic culture of online gamers – “fag” is easily one of the most frequently used words in the game. As a result, gamers started creating guilds (such as the Spreading Taint), or clubs, within the game for LGBT-friendly people. These kinds of groups were met with opposition, however, and by none other than the game developers: the administration of Blizzard Entertainment. Blizzard tried to suppress queer guilds by claiming that such organizing violated its policy against sexually explicit language or lewd behavior. After being confronted by the LGBT Task Force, Blizzard changed its tune, and now homo guilds can run around doing their thing.

But back to the Blood Elves. In early 2006, Blizzard surprised the gaming world with its announcement of an expansion, The Burning Crusade; the most important component being the introduction of the Blood Elves, a highly anticipated and much adored in-game race. But there was a twist nobody expected:

Blood Elf men are FLAMERS. Not just skinny, European metrosexuals, as most expected the Blood Elves to resemble. They are queeny, fashionistos, worthy of Fannie fierceness. Their clothes included belly-shirts; even their scripted voice phrases were steeped in queer subtext (“Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot…like…me?” “Sigh…I could really use a scrunchy…yeah, you heard me!”). They were completely unlike the rough-tough macho-male races in the game that resembled the pinnacle of Grecian physique. Blood Elf men were gender variant.

Immediately after Burning Crusade’s launch, thousands upon thousands of messages were posted on the official WoW message boards: “Why are the Blood Elves so gay?” “Sign petition to make Blood Elves men straight!” “Blood Elves are for fags.” Typical debates unraveled on the message boards about gays and straights, if gays should be on WoW, and whether the characters should be changed. How did Blizzard respond to all of these complaints?

They didn’t.

In fact, it was clear to see that despite all of the gay hate going on in the forums, thousands of people were creating new Blood Elf characters every day; even though it was super, super gay…it was still infinitely popular. Blood Elves dominated the realms, and the social culture, slowly but surely, started to change.

In my opinion, nerdy gamers in worlds like WoW, where hate-filled, homophobic people can hide behind the anonymity of their in-game avatars, are the most free they will ever be to say words like “fag” and go around calling everyone cocksuckers as often as they like. By creating a popular character that just so happens to act a little gay, Blizzard may have changed the global nerd culture to be friendlier to homos.

And I think they did it on purpose.

(...to the full post)

9.16.2007

The Next Morning

The lovers laugh
As they fall asleep.
The chimes of their bells
Ringing in each other’s mouths,
Still ringing in each other’s bodies.

Later, they dream of losing each other in fantastic ways.
One thinks of a bear attacking their camp ground,
And wonders which one would defend the other.
One dreams of an earthquake
That splits the world in two,
And spits them on opposite sides of a great hole.

They wake and look cautiously
Through the slits in their eyes.
At each other, at the room, and the changing world.
Is this the same world that they put to rest last night?
Is this the same world that their bodies together
Mourned and celebrated?

They stand and shake night off their shoulders.
(hesitating for a moment)
Is this the same world—full of disappointment
And predictable sadness?

They rise,
But some of their parts stay behind.
The shadows of their bodies on the sheets
Stay put, holding one another lightly.
While morning turns to day,
And the day broadcasts the world to them,
They remain, refusing
To acknowledge
The light in the window.

(...to the full post)


+ news +

The HIV,
Ja Suck,
and a fantastic transition for the week.


As most of you have noticed, lewdandshrewd joined Below the Belt this past week to write a little sexual anthropology every now and then. This may be a good time to review the term "NSFW", or "Not Safe For Work" -- meaning, "Don't click the neighboring link unless the people you work with are very open-minded!"

A couple new writers in the works, and a beltcast in the very near future...

Sincerely,
ts
(...to the full post)

Sydney joins us from Single in the City:

After a full day of work, I decided to treat myself and get a massage. The Relaxing Indian massage sounded nice. I was given this paper like g-string (at least it was large) and was told to lie down. Pretty normal. So the guy starts working on my legs and then moves up to my butt. Hmmm…I do not remember asking for the buttocks shiatsu. He puts my legs in pretty compromising positions. I can feel his hands getting close to my crotch. Again I wonder if relaxing=happy ending massage in India? Was something lost in translation?

Massages are in themselves pretty homo erotic acts. I mean you have one guy semi naked and the other guy is sensually rubbing oil all over his body. This was not the first time a massage therapist went down under on me (not fully)…you just know it does not feel right. He puts his crotch next to my face as if to say...wanna play?

I am never “up” during massages…I am way too relax. I move the towel to cover up. I mean a) I have a boyfriend b) I want a massage not a hand job c) refer to a d) my friend had an interesting body odour and e) I’m not attracted at all to him. I wonder why he thought my buttocks were under all that pressure?

While my ass was getting relaxed, I could not help but think about sex…and sex roles. I was having a conversation with my younger gay bro Shane about this last week. He was in a relationship where he had to change his sexual roles. I always say two bottoms do not make a top, but can you change your sexual role preferences? Can another person make you a top? Or a bottom?

I myself tend to believe everyone is born one or the other....sure you can be versatile...but most prefer one. I prefer one role but I must admit that from time to time I do enjoy trying something new. And can you tell who’s what? Shane reckons that emotionally driven people are bottoms. Others think that feminine guys are always bottoms. I find that is never the case…I’ve met butch muscle boys who would bend over in a second and limp wrist-ed queens who will fuck anything in sight!

In India at least roles are very defined or so says Hussein. “Total tops” in India are guys that only fuck..they won’t suck or kiss. All they do is bend you over …and total tops are not considered gay at all. Only those in the receptive role are fully considered gay in India. So if you take it up the ass..you are a true queen.

So my massage ends…and no happy ending…and no tip either! I enjoyed it but I was too distracted by where this guy was going to fully relax and that is the point of a massage…at least for me.

(...to the full post)

9.14.2007

Who's Your Daddy?

Before I dive right in and start talking about lots of taboo stuff, let me introduce myself: I’m a Midwestern, corn-fed, clean-cut, nerdy scientist. But – fuck! – sex fascinates me. I don’t mean that I like having sex (though I do), but I like thinking and learning and teaching about sex and the politics of the bedroom, or wherever else people might have orgasms. Exploration of people’s sexual boundaries is my secret agenda: “Would you ever… let your partner pee on you? … have sex with a transgender person? … watch other people have sex? … role-play in the sack? … participate in a sex-party? …” I think sexual behavior, desires, taboos, and fetishes are some of the best ways to understand people; as our most intimate thoughts and actions, sex can speak about our most basic moral, social, and philosophical principles.

But enough philosophical mumbo-jumbo. I’m here to talk about sex, about all the “dirtiest,” “naughtiest,” and most taboo, but to talk about it intelligently. (Disclaimer: read on at your own risk - NSFW.)

I’ll be writing about such varied topics as foot fetishes, anti-sex legislation, piss, cum, squelching and chastity - perhaps crudely, definitely bluntly, but hopefully provocatively. My ultimate goal is this: to share my thoughts about sex, sexuality, and why sex of almost any kind can be fascinating, wonderful, and a downright fucking good time. This won’t always involve personal sexual anecdotes, but today…

I am by no means old enough to have had children of my own, but the last time I had sex, my trick called me “Daddy.” I didn’t think much of it the first time; perhaps he had slipped and called me “Danny” in the throes of passion. The second time, it was unmistakable: “Yeah, Daddy!” Of course, I wasn’t about to let a little strange name-calling get in the way of a good fuck, and I’m just about as tolerant as they come when it comes to kinks, fetishes, and weird sex. So we kept at it.

After a few more moans and a few more minutes, he was apparently aware that being called “Daddy” didn’t freak me out… So he went to the next step in the kinky-name-ladder: he called me “Puppy.”

Instantly my mind snapped to an image of my hot, tan, 30-something trick with a raw steak on his back, getting fucked by a German shepherd. Not my idea of hot. But, hey, I was enjoying myself nonetheless, and there wasn’t really a quadruped humping his ass, so we kept at it. A little later, my hormones were in full force, something clicked in my brain (or cock) and I realized that I didn’t have to want to have sex with my father or a German shepherd to enjoy a little verbalization. The words themselves were a turn-on just because we “shouldn’t” be saying them. The act of rebellion was part of the excitement!

When we were finished and he had driven me home, I started thinking (as I tend to do, post-orgasm) about our experience. I realized I could react to it in two very different ways – and both had some validity. I could’ve reacted as I did: enjoy the rebellion, the rule-breaking, and the downright dirtiness of it. Or I could’ve taken offense that I’d been referred to as an animal, a dog: that I’d been, in a way, degraded. (Of course, humiliation, degradation, S/M, and related things will have to be addressed separately, because that’s just another bag of beans.) After all, what if he’d called me bitch or fag?

Here’s where it gets sticky, and where sex is really unique. Sex is about passion, pleasure, and a personal connection with the person(s) with whom you’re doing it. Sex opens doors to really offend people, but it also opens lots of doors to do things you’d never think to do outside of the bed. If that personal connection is such that you can call your partner-in-crime “Daddy” and not offend them, I say go for it! But there’s a level of sensitivity that’s required to be able to break into the realm of kink and potentially-offensive sexual behavior. It’s a pretty major faux pas to start calling the guy you’re fucking “pussy boy” or something if he’s not going to respond positively. And here’s where I think sex is unique: it’s the only arena in which it can be OK to use that kind of language, provided that all involved parties are on the same page. Under no other circumstances could I really justify using the phrase “pussy boy” or similar usually-offensive phrases.

Now, I’ve just opened a can of worms, I know: Am I really saying it’s OK to call your partner really offensive names? Am I really saying it’s all right to use those most taboo words: faggot, cunt, bitch, ho, etc.? Am I really saying it’s OK to let our principles about social equality, justice, peace, and fair treatment of individuals go to the wayside when we’re having sex?

Yes, yes, and no, I think. Just as we accept the theatrical value of those words in film or on stage, we can employ them effectively in the role-play of the bedroom. Actors don’t have to truly believe the words they use to evoke an emotional reaction; in the bedroom, one (or all) partner(s) can use words they don’t really mean to heighten the pleasure of the experience.

And after all my philosophizing, it turns out I WAS asking for it… I looked down at the shirt I’d been wearing. It said, “Hoosier Daddy?”

(...to the full post)

9.13.2007

1st goberndadorA

When the relationship between gender and Mexico is mentioned you may think of machismo, the degradation of women, the testosterone levels in the men, and the perpetual enforcement of a heterosexual, marriage-based society that favors traditionalism over modernism. I'm hooooping that at least one of the entries I have written has shed a little bit of the light of the deeper extent of this relationship in general. But now I find that there was something else right in front of my face that I have yet to address that screams gender from every angle.

The structure of the Mexican government is slightly different from the one that is in place in the United States but they generally have the same characters. There is a president (which, surprise, surprise, has never been female or of indigenous background), there are senators, governors, representatives, and what we would consider "mayors" of each town or city. The responsibilities of each role are generally similar to those that you already know in the states with slight changes due to things like the economic state of the country, the history of its development, and the unfortunate presence of various forms of corruption around every corner.

Here in Zacatecas, they are experiencing something very contemporary not only for the city and the state, but for the country. They are in the third year of a six year term held by the first female governor in the history of the state. She is only the fifth in the history of the country to be elected. She won the popular vote by being what many considered the "lesser of two evils" in the elections held in July of 2004. After taking her place in September, her support was widespread and the people were generally enthusiastic about her presence and the energy she brought to the city and the state. By the time I arrived here in July of 2006, much of the hope had already greatly diminished and people were claiming that she had done nothing for the people, had not followed through with any of her promises, and did not care at all about the welfare of the Zacatecans. Now this doesn't sound very far from the description we could use for many a politician these days, but the difference comes in when people start relating their personal opinion of her governing skills to the equipment she carries between her legs.

Being a female politician anywhere in the world ain't easy, honey. Of that we are well aware. But in a country where it is a brand new idea, not one that we have had a few decades to get used to, things are a lot heavier. Not only are people already saying, only halfway through her term, that "this is what happens when you put a woman in charge" (something I have trouble thinking would only be said in Mexico, especially during the current debates going on in the States), but there are lots of smaller details that have larger effects. For example, to anyone and everyone in Zacatecas, she is known as "Amalia". Call her Governor Garcia (I had to stop and think about what her last name is, I might add) and no one will even know who you are talking about. Now, when was the last time we referred to the lord almighty himself "George"? Then I keep thinking and right in front of us we have who…McCain, Dean, Obama and…Hillary. Hmm. Interesting. So our good friend, Amalia, is always impeccably dressed in her pants suit, occasionally fitted with a skirt, but most often with pants. She always has her hair perfectly styled and her pearly earrings shining through. Now these comments wouldn’t be necessary if she were a man but then again, a tie is a tie and a comb-over is a comb-over, isn't it?

Amalia has one daughter. The father? Mysteriously, he is not in the picture. She is not married which did surprise me when I first found out. In a state that is considered 98% Catholic, being a female governor is one thing but an unmarried one? I found out today that the supposed truth is that she is a widow but the common opinion is that she is divorced. Opinion based on fact or on a desired implication?

In terms of what I know of what Amalia has achieved, I can't lie, I haven't heard of or seen much. A lot of people do chock that up to being female which inevitably leads to being a bad politician. They overlook the fact that other female candidates in the past have faced violence, attacks, and even one that was murdered before her name could be put on the ballot for mayor. I tend to point out that maybe it isn't that she doesn't want to get things through the government, but more that they just ain't lettin' her in, folks. It's one thing to let her in the governor's office it's another to actually let her have a voice in the national government.

Personally, I was excited to arrive at the beginning of such a new and interesting political term. I have been very disappointed in her lack of influence not only on Zacatecas' politics but also on the importance placed on women's rights. Despite her claims that she would be focusing on their needs and wants, the only thing I've seen to show for it is a billboard or two with the faces of four woman, two children (beautiful and light-skinned), an indigenous woman, and the governor herself with the statement "Nuestras mujeres merecen ser respetadas" (Our women deserve to be respected). That'll show those misogynistic wife-beaters. Yo go, girl.

I'm still not sure what my personal opinion is on Amalia. I know that the majority, if not all, of the people I have spoken with have one that is almost 100% negative. I am also conscious of the fact that we shouldn't be defending her just for being a woman. The fact is, she could just be a dishonest, crappy politician like so many of the others out there. It's just so hard to not want to be behind her in a situation in which no one else is. Where do we draw the line? There are those in the States who look at the ballot and simply choose every female candidate. There's a lot to be said in using a technique like that. So in a country where having any woman on the ballot is a huge achievement, should we follow that same thought process? Even if we know she sucks?

(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie

I’m a 25 year old gay male. I live in a small city in the South, where it’s kind of hard to meet guys. I have to admit to using the internet to meet new guys, because the bar scene isn’t really me. I recently met someone online. He emailed me and he’s really sweet, funny… and well… really hot. But the problem is that he’s married. He was very upfront about the fact that he is bisexual and is married. No kids are involved, yet. Now, I know that I should just walk away because I can’t expect an LTR… but I’m tempted to hook up with him. What should I do?

The Other Man

Hey TOM (I hope that your name isn’t actually Tom, and the acronym is just a coincidence),

So, you’re thinking about getting down and dirty with a nuptial-knotted mister (so sue me… I like alliterations). Now, your average advice columnist would tell you that you’re a dirty shmuck for trying to get involved with a married man. How dare you threaten the stability of this clearly healthy heterosexual relationship! Damn queers!

Well, lucky for you, I’m not your average advice columnist… and frankly, giving you a slap on the wrist for thinking about bedding your beau with a bride would be far too easy.

Here’s how I see it. Once a cheater, always a cheater. People who cheat, I believe have a life-long propensity for cheating. Yes, the specific relationship they were in may have been on the rocks. Yes, maybe it was just that one time, but I will bet if someone did one of those nifty, authoritative “studies,” they’d find that people who have cheated on a partner in the past will almost indefinitely cheat again. But it’s important to identify who is doing the cheating.

You, TOM, aren’t the one betraying a spouse. That’s his commitment to keep, not yours. I’m tired of mistresses (and extra misters) throughout history getting all the flack for sleeping with married people. That kind of discourse tends to erase the fault of the married person, who is the one who made the commitment to his/her/one’s spouse.

Now, maybe it’s because I don’t have this overpowering reverence for the “sacred institution” of marriage, but I actually don’t have a problem with you hooking up with the married man. The fact that he sought you out, and the fact that you don’t know his wife, etc. indicates that married guy already has the intent on having extra-marital sex. Whether he sleeps with you or not, he already wants sex with someone that is not his wife. If it’s not you, it’ll be someone else.

So go ahead, jump on that wedded wang. Just know that what’s happening is just sex. Don’t go expecting him to leave his wife for you or anything. And even if he did, I wouldn’t get with him LTR-style, because chances are that he’ll still be looking for a different kind of Nancy.

Also, just to clarify to all my readers who may be shocked at my response: If the married guy wrote in to me asking if he should cheat on his wife with TOM, I’d rip him a new one, a la Fannie Fantabulous Fierceness. I don’t condone cheaters. It’s cheap and dishonest. If you’re going to have sex outside of a relationship, it should ALWAYS be cleared with all parties involved. Honest non-monogamy is the only kind of non-monogamy I condone. I just don’t think that TOM is doing anything wrong, and I’m tired of people coming down on the “other man/woman” for violating something they didn’t commit to.

++
fiercely,
fannie

Send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

(...to the full post)

Drinking some rum & (probably chemically toxic) wyler’s light, listening to two drunk people talk politics. It seldom gets better than this. Our proposed topics for my blog today? Gender and divorce. The government’s ideal role, if any, in marriage. Housing discrimination. Gender neutral bathrooms. The recent Ohio ruling. How the Ohio ruling drew on science or scientism.

As my roommate and my friend argue religion, I do some quick Googling. Did you know that “gender news” leads you to http://www.gender-news.com, a ministry of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood “informing the Evangelical community of gender-related news”?

I think it’s all fascinating.

First, we have a religious claim of truth about gender:

“I am saddened, because the solution to feeling uncomfortable about ‘having to choose a gender at the bathroom door’ is not a change in the signs but a return to the biblical truth about God’s design of men and women.” [source]
Simultaneously, we have a religious claim of ideals about gender and the effort needed to attain them:
“The thing you need to understand about biblical manhood is that a male does not check off a manly to-do list (get a well-paying job, buy a house, get married, raise some kids, teach Sunday school), and once accomplished "becomes" a "man." Rather, a male is always "becoming" a man. I know we're getting a little philosophical, but stick with me.” [source]
Curious and...curiouser.

My drinking buddies, as they continue discussing belief and worship, have now left politics well behind for a more heated debate on the existence of a higher power. But I cannot forget the political ramifications of this entire conversation. Because this ongoing consideration of science “versus” religion (for they are so often posed in opposition) does affect my civil rights, especially when schools like Patrick Henry aim to create “champions of God” by developing strong debaters and politicians.

I guess part of the problem is when people base political and social morality, through legislation, not on moral reasoning, but on obedience to a particular higher power…while proclaiming that all citizens are welcome to believe (or not believe) in whatever higher power(s) they choose. You can have religious freedom and ethics-based legislation at the same time, but you cannot base those ethics on religion.

I’m not religiously intolerant the way many of my queer friends have become. I recognize the power of faith in our lives as one which can be quite positive. Granted, I also tend to take a Dune-like view on organized religion. I mistrust the direct influence of faith on government. I think faith is meant to be personal, is best kept personal, and the Bible often supports this view for Christians. And anyway, what’s the point in free will, if government requires us all to conform to one vision of ideal behavior?
(...to the full post)

9.10.2007

A New Love

“You know, I’ve been thinking about opening up my dating pool to people who are HIV-positive.”

In the middle of my living room, at the tail end of a long, winding discussion of nothing and everything all at once, I said it—something I had always thought about but never really had the opportunity to say. My friends looked at each other to confirm their mutual astonishment. It was a silent shock, padded respectfully with a generous attempt at empathy that remained just that: an attempt. It was obvious that my comment had hit multiple walls of disagreement.

“Wouldn’t you get it too?”

“I’d be too scared of getting it.”

“What if you wanted to have children?”

“I don’t know—it would have to depend on the person.”

“If you loved someone that deeply, wouldn’t you want to share that physical bond with them?”

“I wouldn’t want to go into a relationship knowing that I was going to lose my lover, partner, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend—whoever.”

One of my friends likened my hypothetical to dating someone with genital herpes, and I replied that I would much sooner dump someone with genital herpes than HIV; though I’m not an expert epidemiologist, I haven’t heard many alternative causes to herpes other than sex. At least with HIV, you can’t make the same assumptions: that someone’s lack of protection or promiscuity necessarily infected them with a cursed disease.

At the root of my reasoning is this: It seems to me that most arguments against dating people with HIV involve its sexual inconveniences. Yet if I am truly committed to following the beating of my heart in my search for The One, I have to distance myself not only from the cerebral rulers of my life, but also from any insistent impulses below my belt. I need to believe in and desire the metaphysical manifestation of attraction, the pleasure of connection rather than erection. Indeed, given this mindset, it makes sense to even refigure my statement: Why say I’m opening up my dating pool to HIV-positive men when I haven’t really closed it to them?

I’ve come to realize that, for better or worse, I separate love from sex, making it more possible to be with people with whom I can’t have sex. My roommate—a horn-dog and wannabe sexpert—would never get into a relationship with someone for whom he had to abstain. For him, intercourse is the physical expression of deep, bonded intimacy; for me, it’s a bonus. Oh? You want to sleep together? Okay, let’s make out too. For me, sex adds to—but is not a prerequisite component of—a deeply loving relationship.

He suggests that I have a negative view of sex. Maybe. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had good, full-blown intercourse. Perhaps that lack of positive experiences has shifted my attention from satisfying my penis to actually trying to feel.

But what if the connection that my friends tell me exists between love and sex is a result of their being heterosexual? If, one day, I want to reproduce by combining my sperm with a woman’s egg and begin a family with someone, then yes: I would want that same woman to parent my child, and I would hope that woman is someone I love incredibly because I would devote as much of my life with her as I would with my child. Love and sex, in that case, bond by convenience.

I don’t want to suggest that the beating of one’s heart should be the sole arbiter of mate selection; I’m sure it’s possible—though some may say perverted—to feel love for someone much younger or for multiple people or for other species. I can’t speak for those experiences, and I can’t imagine how different the beating may be—or how not different it may be. My point, then, is that when we evaluate love and sex as a singular entity, choices we have in partners and relationships become harder to decide, and the focus we can dedicate to simply finding love leaves itself to unintentional pollution. Sex—in my naive, hell-bent on being hopelessly romantic point of view—confuses love.

Back in the living room, I tried fruitlessly to defend my position, my rationale unorganized in the face of opposition stated so strongly and appealingly: Sex is too important a part of what I know about relationships; the revelation of an HIV positive status is definitely a dealbreaker. I wanted so badly to rattle off a list of counterexamples. I wanted to prove my friends wrong. I wanted to rally behind capital-L Love, an ideal in which I believe and for which I strive. I couldn’t, in the face of the material evidence I had at hand, make my point. Their ideas about love had been bogged down in the reality of the physical. Sex, it seemed, had conquered all.

(...to the full post)

Aundi joins us from Queercents:

A source of money that has historically fueled several tiers of the queer community and is often overlooked, ignored, and sometimes even shunned by other queer subcultures, is that which is funneled in via the sex worker contingent. For the past several weeks I’ve been talking with a variety of queer individuals who are currently or have previously been employed in various sects of the industry, including three dominatrices, an erotic dancer, an escort, and an alternative porn model.

There is certainly a financial phenomenon that occurs in relation to this line of work and its effectual funneling of resources into the queer community. Some in the industry or tied to it have called it “trickle-down ho-encomics,” and it is unique in form and effect to nearly any other money system on earth.

Ask any woman or man who has been paid — in one way or another — for a sexual presence; and she will tell you that the typical client is a straight, white, middle-aged, middle-class biological male. Of course, sex workers’ clients come in all genders, from all backgrounds, ethnicities, classes, etc; but the overwhelming majority is the aforementioned. To some degree this is a result of entitlement; certain people simply have a better grasp on what the world owes them. Others have been trained differently. The anomaly does not lie herein, but in the fact that the same socio-economic group that constitutes the bulk of sex-worker income, has historically been responsible for creating and enforcing systems that curtail prosperity and equality for queer people.

I should probably toss in a disclaimer at this point. I am not at all a lesbian separatist; in fact, many of my closest friends are straight, white men; but even the bad history books reaffirm the facts of historical power systems. A second disclaimer: with the permission of those interviewed, I will be using the words ho and whore for sex worker as they are easier to type out, are actually preferred references by my sources, and do not translate strictly into people who exchange intercourse for money. They are broad terms, T.S., a San Francisco-based professional dominatrix says, “like beautician” or DJ.

T.S. said, “I wish that there were more realistic accounts of what it is like to be a successful career whore. I feel really misrepresented by many of the “dabblers” who end up writing about their experiences. I want there to be open discussion of all kinds around sex work including the economics of it, and for sex work to be taken more seriously so that there is more understanding of the variety and range of experiences. I think people would be able to see that many women in the sex industry are making informed decisions about their work and greatly contributing to the community.”

S.L., who has been employed in a variety of facets in the sex industry, from porn to fetish modeling to working as a professional dominatrix, calls her work like being the sexy Robinhood. “Money tends to rise economically in one direction,” she said “this [sex work] is the hidden trap door where it falls back down and gets spread out in a different way,” and she says that this particular flavor of work has been an “economic overflow valve historically.”

T.S. said she remembers a sexologist referring to sex work as “the second National Endowment for the Arts,” and for many of the women I spoke with it has been just that. S.L. said, “My most important commodity is time. That’s one of the benefits of being an independent sex worker…I do a lot because my work time is condensed, and I have a very flexible schedule, so I have a lot of time to work on personal artistic projects. With a 9 to 5 job, I wouldn’t have as much energy for art…meetings, rehearsals.”
Many hos, including several of my references, are currently in or have completed school, and their work has prevented them from taking out costly school loans. Two own homes; one has financed a complete remodel via his work in the sex industry.

And the trickle-down often extends past the sex-workers themselves. S.L. says she’s been a “constant lender, mostly for partners and lovers, but also to a number of my friends. I’ve also offered housing for free or reduced rates to people who are important to me.”
R.L., a former stripper and dominatrix, paid her lover’s rent for two months while the lover began her M.B.A. studies. P.F. funded a portion of her lover’s sexual reassignment surgery. A.W. paid for her lover’s education (and then got dumped). “There’s an element of being a sugar mommy,” S.L. says and adds she’s covered many “event tickets, plane tickets, meals, and presents.”

Coincidentally, Moorea posted last week on the down-side to the economic imbalance between many sex workers and their lovers, a sugar mommy burnout of sorts. I asked several of the hos I interviewed to make generalizations about partners who might milk the income and time of a sex-work employed lover, whether they found this to skirt an unhealthy imbalance or a natural exchange. S.L. agreed that, “some people become chronic whore daters because of that phenomenon.” She quipped, “What does the stripper do to her asshole before she goes to work?”
“Drop him off at band practice.”

S.L. described this as a pre-ordained role, not just by a straight culture, but by human beings in general. There are those who are “dazzled by fancy ladies, like to experience luxury but have no interest or the means to pursue it on their own,” she said, “but plenty have partnerships in which a whore might bring in the money while the other person does all of the household work, transportation responsibilities, lawncare…economy [like any relationship] does not exist strictly in fiscal terms.”

T.S. said, “Ultimately the sugar mommy role is taken by choice and for many comes from a place of empowerment rather than default. I’ve been what some may call a sugar mommy not just to my lovers, but to my friends and members of my community who have less earning power. It comes down to my values about ownership and wealth in general, which are that (although I need to take care of myself first in order to be able to do so) I believe that what is mine belongs to my friends, family, chosen family and extended community.”

And, as many of our Sleeping With Money posts can affirm, money is often fetishized. “It has a sexual dynamic,” S.L. says, “It can be a turn on to buy lavish gifts for lovers.” A high-end professional like herself is often lavished upon by wealthy clients, and she, in turn, has the opportunity to lavish upon others. “Characteristic of radical queer culture, so many people…are activists” or work on causes or artistic endeavors for little or no money, and sometimes, “queer hos are the wealthiest queers in a given group.” She adds, “It’s not what I want solely for the rest of my life.”

But, without a doubt, sex work is fueling the queer economy. Queers often patronize queer-owned or managed establishments: restaurants, bars, event venues; and sex-workers and their partners are not unlikely invest in their people. Several report financing art shows and performances. T.S. says, “Because I am running my own business on every level, I am hyper-conscious of cash flow, in both directions and I would say that many of my friends are as well.”

I have a friend in Los Angeles who is among those queers that believe taking money for any sort of sex work furthers the negative objectification of women and that, regardless of the financial rewards and dollars into the community, the end result is hindering to the community at large and overall equality. I asked the hos what sort of thoughts they had on this.

T.S. said:

“I like to explain that it is a matter of me exercising my power to do what I want with my body. I enjoy my work, and I enjoy the freedom that comes with it. As far as objectification goes, I believe that my work and interaction with men often helps them to understand the complexities of our current societal gender crisis better which in fact fights that which many think I am perpetuating.”

S.L. said:

“Sex work is one of only labor sectors that historically and [continues to be] populated with a vast majority of women and transwomen. It’s still one of few sectors in which women consistently make more money, and it actually could be used as a labor model. It’s one of most appealing options for working class women, other than the stigma… While if you think of it as selling your body, selling a beauty ideal, yeah, that’s an unappealing picture of how women can be equal or unequal, but if you understand it as selling a service of human connection – especially in these times …— it’s a really powerful and necessary service to provide…I don’t disagree with capitalism being a barrier to ending oppression…My particular set of interests, values, skills, and talents have led me to working within the system in a subversive way. Much of the money that I get from the deep trenches of patriarchal capitalism ends up in co-ops, queer radical spaces, and funding subversive art. That’s what I am capable of right now. That’s my flavor of fight. For revolution — if that’s the goal — it takes hits from all different directions to get to a tipping point. Being a socially conscious queer whore is a powerful act against those anti-capitalist powers.”

(...to the full post)

theinquisitor interviews Galina, an early-20-something heterosexual woman living in Boston.

theinquisitor: Where did you grow up? What was the high school like that you went to?

Galina: I grew up in a small town, right on the ocean on the north shore of Massachusetts. My high school was also small - a little fewer than 200 kids in my graduating class. Because both my town and, subsequently, my high school were so small, it was fairly standard to know at least semi-personal details of people's lives with whom you may never have had any real conversation. Because everyone knew each other if not by name than at least by face, high school could feel friendly, yet simultaneously suffocating. Classes were generally on the small side, and teachers were able to develop real relationships with their students. My high school also offered a fair selection of extracurriculars and sports teams, considering its size. J. Crew, Abercrombie, and other stores that carried popular labels at the time, probably got a fair amount of business from the student population. The fact that my town is fairly well-off probably had something to do with that...

I: What were the standards of attractiveness for girls? How "far" did girls go to reach these standards? (i.e. -- how seriously did people take being "hot"?)

G: I think the standards of attractiveness for females were pretty "ordinary" in hindsight. The high school's most coveted girls were those that could be found in any town, at any high school. Very...average. not that I wouldn't call these girls pretty, but the conception of attractiveness was so narrow, that many possibly unconventional "beauties" were likely overlooked by the boys for whom these girls were probably targeting their looks in the first place. There were also exceptions to the "obvious hotness" rule. There were those few girls who were attractive based on their confidence - though that's more rare, especially in a high school setting. A hot girl would inevitably have nicely straightened hair. That’s pretty much a given. I do feel, however, as the years have gone on, the standards of attractiveness have become more blatant, for lack of a better word. Girls are much more overt with their sexuality at younger and younger ages.

I: Can you remember a time in high school that you tried to reach these standards? (Assuming that most people feel as if they are inherently below such often lofty standards.)

G: My self-esteem was so crippled in high school (I’m not even sure I was aware of how bad it was - I felt that my sense low of self-worth was entirely justified by the fact that I did not see myself mirrored in the girls that were considered attractive) that I don’t think I felt that I was anywhere near the realm of the "hot high school girl," so I don’t think I even attempted. I was very self-conscious about my looks, and never got the attention from boys that I wanted, but probably pretended not to care about it. I do remember feeling good about how I looked at senior prom. It was a nice change, not that it helped me catch the eye of any of those eligible high school boys...I don't think I had the personality of a "high school hottie", regardless of how I looked.

I: Did you see a difference in the standards of attractiveness when you went to college? How so?

G: I think I was in a unique situation in college, due to the fact that the vast majority of girls at my school were fairly unattractive. Not to succumb to the popular standards of beauty, but I’d say that all sorts of standards, the women at my school wouldn’t be considered attractive. I think there was still the group of girls that were dubbed “hot”, just like in high school, but perhaps because my college was fairly small it seemed to matter less. I also think more of an emphasis was placed on confidence and other intangible qualities that leant themselves to attractiveness, rather than just physical features.

I: Looking back on both episodes of your life/schooling, do you see any difference between the relationships of GENDER AND ATTRACTIVENESS in high school versus in college? For example, if you attended a very liberal college, perhaps you encountered men and women who had less strict notions gender.

G: I think there may have been more outlets for people who didn't necessarily fit into conventional beauty ideals in college, just by virtue of having a larger student population, or perhaps a more accepting attitude overall. I also think other things were valued more in college by the majority of students (intelligence, shared interests, religion, etc) so physical appearance, and wearing the right clothes became less important. That being said, the sorority girls at my college, while not terribly attractive in my eyes, all sported the designer labels, the latest hair trends, big sunglasses, uggs, and the like. They had their own table in the dining hall and they just carried themselves with an air of confidence that many others lacked.

I: After having emerged from high school and college, which set of "rules of attractiveness”, do you feel impacted you more: those of your high school days or those of your college days?

G: I think your high school years have a huge impact on you just by virtue of your age and the fact that you're figuring things out and doing your best just to fly under the radar. I’ve definitely been impacted by the way I feel I was perceived in high school, and those feelings of not being pretty enough or not fitting into whatever that mold was that made boys want your company. It can make you feel a bit pathetic to admit that, but I think the way the opposite sex (or a potential significant other) responds to you, can really affect the way you feel about yourself. College was interesting because while I felt better about my looks from a more objective standpoint, I still lacked the confidence and self-esteem that had become more valued, which made my experience with boys sadly quite similar in college as it was in high school. I, unfortunately, am a bit of a slave to the conventionally impossible standards of beauty with which I am bombarded and against which I continue to judge myself...

(...to the full post)

“Most of my friends are straight”
“Yeah, I don’t act like the typical gay, do I?”
“Gays are so promiscuous – loving, monogamous, long-term relationships are what life should really be about.”

If you’ve ever heard any of the above statements, then you’ve come into contact with the discourse of “gay conservatism”: a powerful ideology within gay and lesbian communities that basically calls for queers to distinguish themselves as little as possible from the dominant straight community. Having established this, it is not difficult to guess that the central tenets of this ideology mirror many of the biases and prejudices of normative society:

1.) Gender Conformity & Masculinism – gay conservatives frequently bemoan the alleged high profile that drag queens and bull dykes have in queer communities. They claim that gender non-conformists (and other ‘hedonists’) provide an inaccurate (and shameful) picture of the gay and lesbian community as a whole. Andrew Sullivan, one of the most celebrated gay conservatives, is famous for suggesting that, at the end of the day, men should be masculine and women should be feminine. Unsurprisingly, most gay conservatives are men, with the exception of one “lesbian with a male brain” (Camille Paglia) and her disciples. Paglia was famous in the early 1990s for vitriolic diatribes against feminism and lesbian communities, claiming that non-feminizing (e.g. – not including any kind of ‘cross-dressing/acting’) gay sex is productive and stimulating because it involves a separation from the protective, uncreative cocoon of the mother. Lesbianism (defined as never having sex with men), on the other hand, is regressive and “intellectually enervating” because it is a flight back into the regressiveness of the mother. Although most gay conservative writing is rarely as misogynist, it generally does not accord much relevance to feminism and insists on viewing gay issues and lesbian issues as “separate spheres.”

2.) Marriage & The Military – Andrew Sullivan is famous for claiming that after gay marriage and access to the military have been achieved, the gay rights movement should “end the party.” He suggests that, by limiting our goals to marriage and the military, we are least likely to incur the wrath of the dominant straight community, and we will pay our respects to U.S. liberal constitutionalism (which allows for only formal, legal changes in society). He views marriage and the military as perhaps the most respectable institutions in the U.S., and thus, being included in them would represent/symbolize the acceptance of gays in society. Bruce Bawer, an important (but less famous) gay conservative bemoans the lack of established “courtship rituals” in queer society and positive examples of loving, stable, monogamous relationships (e.g. – marriages) for queer youth. This lack of “positive examples” (i.e. – inducements) creates a culture where “horrible things” like promiscuity and kinky sex are acceptable and an active part of the textual discourse and visual imagery of the queer community.

3.) Resistance to “left-wing” Coalition Politics – gay conservatives tend to see no reason for making alliances with feminists, civil rights and anti-racism movements, anti-war movements etc… the dominant political discourse in most queer communities is viewed by them as “uncomfortably left-wing.” Indeed, being a homosexual should not necessarily imply any kind of political involvement and the U.S. “new left,” with its anti-war, anti-bourgeois, anti-capitalist ideology is certainly not the best ideological group to make friends with. As Richard Tafel (an erstwhile president of the Log Cabin Republicans) points out, gay conservatives tend to believe that the capitalism dominant in Western societies is perhaps the primary factor in creating a positive social environment for gays and lesbians (because it promotes ‘individualism’).

Gay conservatism is usually justified as either a strategic imperative (diminish one’s ‘difference’ in order to become a better candidate for government-administered ‘rights’), or as an ethical necessity in the morally anarchic world of the queer community (thus, ‘straight values,’ such as marriage, monogamy, gender-conformity become viewed as ethically desirable).

As strongly as its promoters may feel about these justifications, this ideology has inexcusably negative implications for the queer community. Particularly relevant for the readers of this blog is the fact that it completely misses the point about gender. As we all know, most homophobia is based not on whom one has sex with but on the victim’s perceived gender performance. Thus, people who don’t fit expectations of masculinity or femininity (whether they be queer, bi, trans, gay, straight, lesbian or whatever) are most often the targets of violence, discrimination, and hatred.

In that respect, gay conservatives are certainly right that if we really want to endear ourselves to the normative straight community, we should sweep those pesky gender non-conformists under the carpet and do our best to ensure that they stay out of the picture (how many queers out there have been lauded by straight people for not being “the stereotypical dyke/fag”?). If, however, we are truly interested in building a better, freer world where gender restrictions and homophobia have no place, then it is gay conservatism that needs to be shunted.

***For more information***
Gay Conservatives – Bruce Bawer (A Place at the Table, Beyond Queer); Andrew Sullivan (Virtually Normal); Camille Paglia (Vamps and Tramps, Sexual Personae – at your own risk, she will make you pull your hair out!!); Richard Tafel (Party Crasher).

About Gay Conservatism – There have been few comprehensive analyses (as yet) of this social/theoretical phenomenon. Of the two that I am aware of, Paul Robinson’s Queer Wars: The New Gay Right and its Critics is by far the best. For a slightly less scholarly endeavor, check out Richard Goldstein – Homocons: The Rise of the Gay Right. For a particularly vitriolic response to gay conservatism (particularly as it relates to issues of sexuality), see Michael Warner –The Trouble with Normal.

(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie,

I'm just another young gay guy, fairly new to the world of romance. Most of my dating, for the better and for the worse, is done with the aid of the Internet and various online dating web sites. I actually really don't mind it. I think I get to meet a lot of people I wouldn't normally meet in bars or elsewhere. But I always hear everyone's nagging worries in the back of my head. Is it safe?

Sincerely,

iDate

Congratulations, iDate! You're our millionth customer! *cue Price is Right theme and confetti!*

Actually, though you're not our millionth customer, your question has resulted in belowthebelt.org's 100th post! So in honor of this momentous occasion and in an effort to answer your question, I've assembled a top 10 DOs and DON'Ts for internet dating/hooking up etc. (I tried coming up with 100, but it would have been 50 pages!)

[Also, where are all the non-young gay male readers! I'd love to hear from you! Send me your questions to the brand new, super professional email: askfannie@belowthebelt.org]

DOs:

- Know what you're looking for: The wide world of internet dating is inundated with a plethora of niche markets (Is anyone else studying for the GREs?). Everyone is looking for something different: a good fuck, an LTR, a chaste movie date, a "movie date" which ends up in a different kind of dimly lit room… So when you post your ad, profile, or begin chatting with someone make sure you communicate what it is you're looking for.


- Choose your e-venue wisely: There are many ways to getting your e-ass out there. There are your various "social networking" sites like facebook and myspace, the gay-themed profile sites à la manhunt.net or connexion.org, chat rooms of the gay.com variety, and personal ads on sites like craigslist.org. Each site has a different kind of demographic, so it's important to make sure your goals for eDating and the website demographic are congruent. Craigslist is great if all you want is a quick fuck, but finding more personal connections are a little more difficult there. In the same respect, looking for fuck buddy on chemistry.com is a bit counter-intuitive.

- If you're having sex, ALWAYS use protection: I don't care how many times he claims that's he's clean, or that you're the only person he's had sex with a year. Men are exceptionally good LIARS. When in the pursuit of action, half the time they don't even realize their lying. If you need any reminders on why safer sex is important please click here, here, and here [WARNING: these links are very graphic...swallow your food first]. This of course doesn't apply to those bug chasers out there. If so, rest in peace!

- If going out on a "date" date, choose an activity that's appropriate for a first date: For some reason people have a propensity for suggesting very strange first date ideas when communicating online. Good ideas include coffee date, dinner date, movie date… public places are generally a good idea, especially if you need to scream for help. Bad ideas include your cousin's wedding reception, a dinner party with all of your friends, an abandoned warehouse… ok that last one is kind of ridiculous, but the former two are real suggestions that sorry-ass eDaters have given in the past.

- Call him, for chrissake!: Don't be afraid to migrate communication from e-mails or chatting to the good ol' telephone (if you have his number). Too many people waste hours waiting on a chatroom for their boo to reappear because they're uncomfortable making a phone call when it's not a mode of communication that has previously been breeched.

DON'Ts:

- DON'T have sex with a liar: If the "hot twink" you set up a booty call with shows up and turns out to be a cheating old geezer with a wedding band, SLAM the door in his face. Liars abound far and wide on the internet, because it's so easy to lie when you don't have to speak face to face. Put the mofo in his place, and teach him that just because he got his foot in the door by pretending to be something he's not, doesn't mean he'll get away with it.

- DON'T lead people on: If you don't intend on riding his cock tonight, and you’re just faux-cybering… STOP, it's disingenuous. If all you want to do is chat, tell him that up front. Honesty does a body good.

- DON'T do anything you're uncomfortable with. Many times, guys will try and guilt trip you into either hooking up with them for "taking up their time" online or otherwise. In addition, be aware that guys will omit certain sex acts that they may really enjoy when talking with you initially (e.g., people with foot fetishes may not be up front about that in the first word!). If you're uncomfortable with something they suggest or start doing, say so immediately. If they don't respond, well, leave.

- DON'T out coworkers, friends, or acquaintances that you may come across while surfing the web for some hot mens. As sad as it is, closetedness is still widespread and the internet is a favorite means by which closet cases can meet other men discreetly. Respect people's privacy. Especially if you find out someone is in the armed services. Coming out is often a difficult and sometimes traumatic experience for many people. Everyone should be able to decide if and when that happens. NOTE: this rule does not apply if you find a hypocritical public official trolling for some man ass à la Mark Foley or Larry Craig. Out his lying ass for the betterment of society.

- DON'T get depressed if someone ignores your interest. It's a harsh world, and an even harsher online world. It's easy to dismiss a "wink" on manhunt or a message in a chatroom. It's people using discretion, and being indirectly honest. Think of it this way: it's better than someone chatting you up and getting you excited and hopeful, , only to be told later that "you're not his type." Recover and move on, there are better fish out there.


++
fiercely,
fannie

send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org


(...to the full post)

Creative Commons License