Sex and the City

Hey guess what, Sex and the City: The Movie opens in the US today. In case you were living under a rock, you may not have noticed.

I'll admit, I'm a fan of the show. I own all the DVDs. And even so, I find myself pausing on the show when I am flipping through the channels and find it on syndication. I'm all for entertaining television, and SatC is definitely entertaining. But it's also just television (or, as of today, just a movie). We all remember that, correct?

Maybe not. "Are you a Carrie, a Charlotte, a Samantha, or a Miranda?" Have you ever taken the SatC tour around New York? Do you really like the taste of a Cosmopolitan?

I think SatC is good pop culture, with witty writing and plotlines that keep interest. But I worry when it seems like some viewers have blurred the line between fantasy and reality. Honestly .... why would anyone want to be one of four stereotypes? Or even want to emulate the lives portrayed in any way?

As an owner of the DVDs and both television channels that show SatC in syndication, I've seen every episode multiple times. And quite honestly, the most I see it, the more it bothers me. One review I saw of the movie on the morning news today called the show & movie an homage to independent, single women. But homage means to show respect, and does this show really do that? Personally, I find the show to be full of stereotypes (the slut, the romantic, the cynic, the sensitive man, the emotionally unavailable man, the flamboyant gay male best friend, etc). The women are all obsessed with labels and appearances, blow petty things out of proportion and spend 99.9 percent of their time infatuated with, complaining about or being led on by men. How does any of this show respect to independent, single women?

It is just a television show, but it's a show many considering "groundbreaking" in it's portrayal of female characters, and successful, independent, sexually liberated ones at that. But what is so groundbreaking about label- and men-obsessed women? Is this really the best we can do? Can we call a spade a spade, and realize SatC does as much for women as movies like Indiana Jones do for men - over-gendered entertainment and nothing more?

But alas, it IS just entertainment, and for entertainment's sake, I will buy a ticket in the near future to see the movie. But you'll never hear me proclaim that "I'm a Miranda." We share hair color and sarcasm, that's about it.

(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie,

So there is this gaybor of mine I met at a party. He seemed nice enough, so I added him to Facebook. He mentioned having free tickets to the movies, so I said, "sure." The next day on IM I find out that he considered our friendly trip to the movies a date. He made it very clear he likes me... a lot. I'm not really into him as a boyfriend, but he's not unattractive and he's geographically very convenient. We could probably have fun, but I don't know how to bring that up without hurting his feelings.

Stumped in Suburbia

Dear Stumped,

So you've gotten the perennial problem of incongruent intentions. Where you're looking for a fun friend with fringe benefits, your bud is browsing for a boyfriend (don't hate me... I'm just a big fan of alliterations). This problem is a common one. However, despite its recurrent nature, it's a problem so many people have difficulty navigating. The most important part of this plan is honesty. Now, being honest doesn't necessarily mean telling him that you just want to be fuck buds. That's just tactless. It may work on craiglist queens, but the real world requires a little more diplomacy.

And Stumped, just for the record, from your description your friend wasn't completely off the mark, assuming your outing was a "date." Meeting a guy at a party, who then facebook friends you, who then promptly accepts an invitation to the movies, is classic boy meets boy script. And by classic I mean since facebook was invented, being all of four years ago. And it's also clear he wasn't completely off his mark where you're concerned because there's obviously some sexual attraction sparking between you too if you're considering adding him to your night-cap/bootie call phone tree. And give the boy some props for being so forth coming with his emotions, it can be difficult for someone to reveal romantic intentions.

So, what you've got to do now is continue to cultivate your relationship, but steer it in the direction that you desire. You can do this a variety of ways. The most important thing is to avoid stringing the poor bloke along, thinking that he's getting something more than you're willing to give. So, it's fine to go out on another date or so, but while you're on it... feel free to talk about other guys who you're seeing (if you're not seeing anyone else, it's fine to talk about other romantic prospects, real or desired.) This way he'll get the hint that while you like hanging out, you're by no means solely interested in him as your exclusive romantic/sexual partner. If you want a more specifically sexual relationship, then make that obvious. Crank up the dirty talk and stay focused on specifically that. Keep pillow talk safely ambiguous and esoteric, as to not encourage too much clinging. People are smarter than we give them credit. If you treat him like a fuck buddy, he'll get it. And then it's up to him whether or not he wants that kind of relationship.

Play safe, kids.


send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie,

I go to a notoriously queer friendly university yet I came into the queer scene late in the game. I am out as bisexual and am involved in the queerest classes as you take. I find the scene to be incredibly clicky and hard to glide into. To the queers, I am basically straight, and to the straights, I am queer. How do you smudge into a world where solid identity is so very important, yet an extreme social necessity.

Not Queer Enough


First off, congrats on the coming out! Closets are for clothes, not queers. You’re question resembles one I answered almost a year ago, where Queer & Proud, a lesbian who occasionally slept with men, was getting a lot of negative from her hetero-friends, trying to label her as bisexual. Well it’s clear from your question, NQE that those same hypocritical sentiments can come from homos as well.

The way the Gay Liberation movement from the ‘60s panned out, despite great leaps and bounds in terms of civil rights and all that jazz, is a deeply marked boundary between homos and heteros. Another binary has been constructed so that one’s sexuality is either directed exclusively towards one sex or the other. I hope I don’t have to go into the many flaws in that thought process (i.e. assumptions of only two sexes to be attracted to, assumptions that sexualities are fixed and unchanging, etc.), but while it’s really easy to complain and call out the homo haters and the hating homos, maybe it’s best to remember that homos are humans too, and make the same stupid ass mistakes as their straight mates.

NQE, while I commend you on your entrĂ©e into the world of queer-ociousness, you’ve got a lot of learning to do about queers… especially homo folks (as opposed to pansexual, bisexual, omnisexual, etc.). Homos are bitter, quick to judge, and slow to trust. Wanna know why? ‘Cause we have a long history of getting burned by the heteropatriarchy. You name it, we’ve seen it: from electro-shock therapy from our doctors, to exorcisms from our preachers. Granted, after so many years it’s water under the bridge… but it’s pretty turbulent water. So when the queers on campus see your non-exclusively-homo queer self bounding into the fray and wanting the respect and acceptance of the hard-line ‘mos, there’s naturally going to be some skepticism.

You see a social clique of nasty gay Plastics acting as gatekeepers to this bounding fields of queer elysian bliss. But from their point of view, they see some budding homo who’s too afraid to jump in cold-turkey for the friends of Dorothy, and can claim some hetero privilege. They’re skeptical and waiting for you to earn some queer credentials. While that may not be true in your case, you can’t blame them for erring on the side of caution; especially when that caution is informed by years of homo-for-now-hetero-when-it’s-hard case studies. I won’t deny that it’s wrong of them to make you feel excluded just because you don’t play by their rules. But this is something that’s developed out of self-defense and self-preservation.

While I’m not trying to justify any mistreatment you may have had at their hands, I’m trying to put things into perspective. I absolutely support your right to go against the grain, even if it’s the gay grain, and to enjoy your non-gender-specific libido. So if you want to know how to run in the homo crowd while maintaining your truly queered existence, I’d advise being patient and building relationships one by one. If you want the queers to accept you, you’ve got to demonstrate that while you may enjoy a variety of partners, you’re still an ally, an asset, and a friend.


send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

(...to the full post)

This month I bring to you two very different looks at Arizonans. Novice Sister Oralee of the Grand Canyon Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and Scott from Scottsdale.

Since starting this project I have been surprised time and again, but many people's gender is much more complex than one might think on first glance.

Confused? I'm Not - January 2008 - Scottsdale, AZ

All of the Above - February 2008 - Scottsdale, AZ

You can see more Gender DiverCity pictures each Monday at http://genderdivercity.blogspot.com

(...to the full post)

“Wait, what?” I stopped. At my office desk, in front of my computer, my work came to a halt. I pressed my head into my open palm; I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Chu, the guy who had flirted his way into a month’s worth of online conversations before meeting up and then inadvertently hooking up—he was now coming clean that he was not gay at all?

“I think that, before we started making out, before we went into your bedroom… do you remember when we were talking?”

I struggled to keep my patience. “Yes…”

“Well, I remember you brought up a lot of things that were of concern to you.”

I flashed back to the moments before our hookup. We were in my living room, talking across from each other, building tension through body language, eye contact, and the space between us. Somehow, we began talking about the idea of moving too fast, and I brought up a few scenarios that my overly-analytical mind warned me to be cautious against: What if he just needed a homosexual outlet from his chaste Arkansan seclusion? What if he wasn’t really attracted and just needed an easy way to get off for the summer that we’d be working near each other? At the time, though those questions surfaced, he assured me that—despite the nonsensical part about knowing each other for just about a month and having met for just a few hours—he actually did like me, especially after finding out that I was a pretty decent guy not just online, but also in real life. And that’s when we started making out.

“Yes, I remember…”

“When well you asked if I was using you as an outlet because I had none in Arkansas, it got me to thinking...”

Had I opened my stupid mouth again?.

“…and I think that I’m not using you as an outlet in place of my Arkansas experience; I think I’m using you as an outlet because I have a hard time with women.”

I remained silent, waiting for him to explain. He didn’t. I prompted him for more.

“Well,” he continued, “when I was in seventh grade…”

MAJOR PAUSE. When you were in seventh grade? You’ve been thinking about this since you’ve been in the seventh grade, you’ve roped me into this years later, and now you’re saying you’re straight? UNPAUSE.

“…I started getting really shy around girls. I’d be friends with them, but I wanted to be more with them. But my self-esteem was awful—it still is. I couldn’t approach them in the way that the other guys could. I liked them, but I was so worried about what they’d think and how I looked and how I behaved that I couldn’t get myself to act on my attraction. So I think that’s when I turned to guys. I began looking at the other guys and how well the girls reacted to them. I began to get jealous, admiring the other guys for the things they could be and the things they could do and eventually the things they could get that I couldn’t. And so I began looking at them as reflections of who I wanted to be. My self-esteem issues kept me away from the girls and deflected me to the guys.”

I tried processing what he said, which was tough given that he had just shattered the only potential for actual dating that I had had in almost half a year—if not more. “Okay…”

“So,” he pressed on, “I think that reaction has been embedded so much within me that I’ve just gotten scared of approaching girls. And so I go with the next best thing—which is—well, guys…”

I didn’t know how to react. On one hand, he was obviously aroused when we were making out on Friday night. How do you fake that as a straight man? Random, accidental friction could not have been enough to bring about that strong of a reaction. And on top of that, how do you pull me along on a string for a month and go as far as hooking up when you have all of these doubts in your mind? In conversation, he even asked a mutual friend about what kinds of things he could say or do to impress me—that type of pre-meditated flirting is not at all indicative of doubt.

“I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t mean to bring you into this. I just obviously don’t have this completely sorted out for myself.”

“It’s okay,” I forced myself to say. It obviously was not completely okay as much as it just had to be okay. “It’s just… you know… it’s just a lot to think about.”


My gut feeling was not to believe him. No, I thought, this had to be some deep-rooted psychological reply steeped in heterosexism; at the same time, who was I to impose my own theories on his own obviously confusing sexual journey? I was in no place to tell him he was wrong or not; if anything, I could throw him into much more of a maelstrom than he perhaps needed at the moment.

But I wasn’t done. I couldn’t be. So I had to throw a litmus test at him.

“Can I ask you a really blunt question?”

“Yes, please,” he said, wanting to make sure he entertained what I had to say so that he could feel better about throwing this on me.

“Well, if we are to understand sexuality as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and other sexualities—we have to talk about sex. And if we’re talking about sex, Chu, then—can I ask what turns you on?”

“What turns me on?”

“Yeah: dick, vagina, what…?”

“Do you want to know the truth?”


“Boobs and ass.”

I took that in. It wasn’t what I expected until he asked if I wanted to know the truth. “Okay, well, so what’s gotten you off with guys since the seventh grade?”

“Well, when I’m with guys, I enjoy the stimulation. But I don’t like stimulating. It doesn’t turn me on.”

“Okay,” I acknowledged. I didn’t want to question him further. I had to accept this, maybe because I could empathize: maybe if I were blindfolded and a girl was providing adequate stimulation, then maybe… maybe it’d work. Maybe the self-esteem is such a huge issue for him—as it has been for me—that it’s had this huge of an impact on dictating his actions and interactions with the world. Maybe, when I boiled the types of people in the world down to the sex they were having and enjoying, maybe he was best defined by his feelings and thoughts rather than his actions.

But maybe he’s just overanalyzing himself. Maybe he’s just digging himself into a bigger hole by rationalizing his apparently deviant actions. He was telling himself that this wasn’t like him, and who else could tell him who he was aside from himself? Not me.

The problem is that I understand it all. I see both sides. The only thing I don’t get though: the making out—the scratching of scruff, the redness that remains only after male or male tongue twisting. How did you come to enjoy that stimulation, Chu? Doesn’t that count as stimulation? Stimulation that I doubt replicates the guy-girl experience whether you close your eyes or not? How did you rationalize that one?

The next day, Chu changed his all-important Facebook interest from undefined to very definitely, “Interested in Women.” And I—hundreds of miles way—still could only wonder, “What if?”

(...to the full post)

I don’t think I’m gangsta enough to survive in Polk County, Florida. This suburb may sound vaguely familiar to some of you. This is where Victoria “Tori” Lindsey got beat down a few weeks ago. You might remember, six girls took turns hitting her while two guys stood at the door as lookouts. Oh and did I mention that they taped it and wanted to post this ass-beating on youtube?

Back in my day (be quiet, I know my day ended like yesterday), it would go down like this. A girl would talk shit about another girl or group of girl one of three ways: in a note, on the phone, or on aim. This of course always got back to the other girl, and the result would either be girl B talking about girl A, girl B confronting girl A and in very rare cases, girl B physically fighting girl A. What would not happen is a gang of girls attacking one other girl… and then taping it … and the trying to put that trash on the internet for everyone to watch.

The attack was described as “animalistic”. To be clear, the fight was like none I’ve ever seen. The girls took turns attacking Lindsey in an attempt to make it fair. As ride-or-die as they were to beat Lindsey’ s ass they were very careful not to knock into the china cabinet. The beat Lindsey for 30 minutes – thirty minutes! That’s a long time to be doing anything. I didn’t know that teenagers even had attention spans that long.

I will say, they were committed to getting their message across. If I’ve learned anything from this it’s that you can’t call girls “sluts” on myspace or you just might get your ass beat. Worse than Ike beat Tina, ok that was wrong, but they did beat her down pretty bad.

And then they weren’t even worried about being charged. They joked about missing cheerleading practice and not going to the beach. I mean, really? You knock a girl unconscious (twice) and continue to beat her, you don’t let her leave until you’re done beating her, you catch the whole thing on film and don’t expect anything to happen? Cheerleaders are tough like that?

According to CNN, the ladies (should I even call them that) will be charged as adults and face life time sentences. Yeah, that means you’re missing cheerleading practice. And prom. And graduation. Oh and guess what, the rest of your life. And for what, because some chick called you a slut. Wow. And Lindsey is left with blurry vision and she can’t hear out of one of her ears.

I don’t really understand why anyone is so surprised that girls would resort to violence. It’s not new and it’s not uncommon. Don’t believe me? Do a search on youtube. Yeah, it’s a craze of sorts. Now the reasons why one would want to tape and post a fight, well aside from gaining some street cred, I don’t really know. I don’t know that men find fighting sexy. I don’t think you’ll be getting additional acceptances to college because you can stomp another chick into the ground. And it won’t get your ass into heaven. So who do we blame for this (hey it is the American way)? Is this their parents’ fault? Should these girls have been spanked when they were younger? Maybe they didn’t get enough attention. Or maybe they were just really bored.

Ya’ll spend too much time worrying about gangstas and thugs and we really need to be worrying about these cheerleaders. I know I am.

(...to the full post)

The UK government has recently moved to criminalize both production and consumption of porn that it deems "grossly offensive and disgusting." Clause 63 of the new Criminal Justice Bill defines this kind of porn as containing "real or pretend" acts which: (1) threaten a person's life; (2) may result in serious injury to the breasts, anus and genitals; (3) involve sexual interference with a human corpse; and (4) contain a person performing intercourse or oral sex on an animal. The law will effectively ban most ‘violent’ pornographic depictions, as well as images and stories featuring necrophilia and bestiality.

Is this law an intrusive policing of sexuality that will end up criminalizing most adult-consensual BDSM online communities? Or will it help to reduce violent sexual crimes, as the government claims?

If we accept the constructivist contention that sexuality is constituted by social discourses, it would appear that the UK government might have a point. Our sexual “natures” are not the expression of some internal, bio-psychological state, but are instead effects of cultural production. Thus, removing a key source of words and images that construct violent sexual desires will reduce the incidence of those desires. Presumably, if sexual violence is not craved, then it is much less likely to be implemented non-consensually. Banning ‘extreme pornography’ will reduce the amount of rapes, murders, kidnappings and tortures that are of a sexual nature.

Although this perspective appears to make intuitive sense, it represents a highly flawed and immature understanding of social constructivism. First of all, banning violent porn is not going to eliminate violent sexual desires. Violence is so much a part of our art, cultures, religions, history and daily life that eliminating the sources by which violent sexualities are constructed would require a censorship program of Stalinist proportions. Millions of paintings, movies, history books, works of fiction, holy texts, government policies etc… would have to be eliminated in order for this ‘purge of violent material’ to be truly successful. Eliminating violent sexual desires is as impossible as eliminating all instances or depictions of violence that might inspire those desires.

Furthermore, what is so bad about violent sexuality if it is practiced in an adult-consensual context? It is certainly a much more ethical alternative to violence as it is usually committed. What is more immoral? Torture and humiliation at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s henchmen, U.S. authorities at Abu Ghraib and Nazi ‘scientific’ experimenters? Or the same kinds of activities in an adult consensual framework, in which there are codes of conduct (such as ‘safe words’) that can ensure safety and security for all practitioners? Most violence is committed on a non-consensual basis, and it is that violence that is most morally questionable. Pleasure through consensual violence can be unproblematic if there are sufficient safeguards for the health of all concerned.

Thus, if the government were truly interested in providing some kind of regulation for ‘extreme pornography’, it would do well to pass laws that bind producers and consumers of such porn to accept an adult-consensual and safe framework of activity. For instance, requiring porn producers and users to sign statements about the necessity of adult-consensual safeguards in violent sexual situations would be a major step forward. Another useful policy is mandating that violent porn websites have to feature at least one page that lists guidelines for safe and healthy BDSM. If the government is actually concerned about people who want to practice violent sexuality, then it should enforce these kinds of regulations. The government should also avoid passing measures that would inhibit BDSM parlors (which usually have very well developed standards of collective safety and rule-enforcement) from practicing. In the 1990s, “decency laws” in many Western countries forced BDSM establishments to shut down or disperse to isolated parts of town. Thus, violent sexual cultures lost major institutions that encouraged adult-consensual and safe behavior.

Another issue that practitioners of violent sexuality should be aware of is the implications of structural violence in society. Women, racial and sexual minorities are frequently the subjects of systematic violence. Eroticizing sadism against these particular groups is, thus, highly problematic: sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist discourses can perpetrate sexuality, as they can any other social practice. I am certainly not advocating for a ‘ban’ on BDSM practices that reflect patterns of social dominance. Rather, it is simply necessary for the participants in such practices to be aware of the social implications of their actions. There is a risk that social oppressions reproduced in sexuality can feed back and reinforce dominance in the wider social realm. Practitioners of violent sexuality should at least be aware of this risk.

Overall, the UK government’s move to ban ‘extreme porn’ is a mistake. It is not going to contribute to a reduction in violent sexual crimes. If the government is truly interested in regulating ‘violent sexual practices’ (and ensuring the safety of its citizens), it should use ‘extreme porn’ websites to spread awareness about adult-consensual and safe BDSM practices.

***For More Information***
The Wikipedia page on ‘extreme porn’ has a surprisingly good summary of the concept as well as an insightful analysis of the debate around it. Also, check out the following articles: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7364475.stm
In addition, take a look at this very interesting ‘diagram’ of various kinks and fetishes: http://www.trevoroldak.com/uploads/fetishmapbig.gif
For a useful analysis of how ‘decency laws’ have forced the closure of BDSM establishments that encouraged safer sex, adult-consensual practices and ‘healthy play’, check out Michael Warner’s excellent book, The Trouble With Normal. I have also dealt with a similar topic in a previous post.

(...to the full post)

My father has largely been a source of negativity in my life. My parents divorced when I was 3 years old and my time with him from that point onward has basically been divided into three time periods: 1) ages 3 to 15 I was afraid of him and hated him and was afraid of becoming like him 2) 16 through 20 I forgave him for being a bad father and understood the things in his life that led him to be the fucked up man that he is 3) 21 to present I’ve been somewhat actively trying to pursue a positive relationship with him on an adult level, treating him as an equal and demanding the same in return.

My father’s main problems have always been his ego, his greed, his verbal abuse, his short temper, and his self-centeredness. His life has been countless failed attempts at artistic (mostly film) projects trying to get whatever he wants at any cost regardless of how it affects those around him. He likes to feel in charge, he likes to lead the pack, but really he’s just an immature kid trying to assume the role of the alpha-male which is the position he was in throughout his childhood. He was the oldest of 8 children and was forced into being a third parent and taking care of his 7 siblings denying him his natural growth as a young boy. His father was physically abusive to him, and generally he has had a fucked up life with a fucked up family: drugs, death, suicide, being poor, prison etc. all of which contribute to his inner turmoil. Since he was male and the oldest he was taught to be strong and take control of others from a very young age and if he didn't he was abused or punished until he did.

On the positive side of things he is a very good director. He is politically savvy and very down to earth, smart, and easy to get along with when he isn’t wrapped up in his ego. He has directed many independent videos/films, and written a number of articles. Only a few of his projects have generated any real income but all have had moderate critical success or were enjoyed by those who had access to them.

My mother left him because of verbal abuse and because of his complete economic and emotional selfishness. He is THE typical story of a self-centered artist. His occasional film or video gig bought him enough food to slide by while my mom paid for rent, myself, and everything else. Divorcing him was most definitely the right choice for her and I.

When I was young I was really terrified of him. His bouts of anger often reduced me to tears, he was insulting, mean, and horrible. He had virtually no respect for me one moment and after the tirade was over he would apologize later but never change his behavior on any real fundamental level. It was only when I became a teenager that I really began to pity him instead of hate him. He was and is a failure in his own eyes, his family's eyes, and in society's eyes. He never had a chance to have a normal childhood as a basis for his life and he has built such an ego around himself he sabotages his own work because, for him, it never lives up to the acclaim he feels it deserves.

He has aged and with it I think has come the slow understanding that he has really fucked his life up. He has let down my mother. He has let down me, his son. He has let down his siblings he was supposed to help raise, most of which are fucked up, dead, or barely getting by. But instead of intrinsically changing the life set out for him by his socially constructed gender he uses that same structure to do the only thing he knows how to do: start project after project and hope one takes off, generates lots of money, and use that money to solve his problems. This will never happen and money doesn't solve problems. Even a modicum of success does not make up for decades of bankruptcy and emotional detachment. Due to this I have always had a shallow and tenuous relationship with him. My whole life I acknowledged his character flaws and even though I knew there was a real person in there I knew I would probably never truly see it. I would never really reach HIM, just the bullshit he uses as a facade to cover up his emotions and insecurities.

I was wrong.

During his most recent short film he was, as usual, hoping for the best. Seeing the world through the lens of his gender he saw the answer to his problems lying in becoming a successful alpha male: money, fame, and power. This would be it - this is the big one, it's going to make him $10,000 each week once it takes off and becomes a feature-length hollywood production that he will direct. He'll be famous and never have to work again. I saw the final product and it was beautiful. It was intelligent, sweet, and incomprehensibly optimistic about the world and the human race. It was political and revolutionary. And like most revolutionary pieces of art, it didn't do well. After a month of good reviews and sub par audience attendance at an independent theater the final showing came. The credits rolled, the movie ended, the crowd left, and I found myself standing outside the theater doors knowing something was wrong. The manager of the theater, a friend of mine, came up to me and said that he had just learned, because of the lack of ticket sales (let alone the lack of producers coming to throw money at it) my father wasn't able to pay the theater for the month of showings. He was in the process of letting the owner know that he would pay as soon as he got the money but that he didn't have it now. During my realization of how serious that was the doors opened and I saw my father, his face covered in tears, his voice barely audible, look at me and the manager and barely croak out a single word: water. He closed the door as the manager ran off to find him a bottle of what he requested and left me in shock.

I had known my father for almost 25 years and I had never once seen him cry. I'm sure he had here and there, but it was rare and I had certainly never been witness to it. In that one moment of pure vulnerability I completely and finally understood him. It was a culmination of all the understanding I had done over the last decade. He was fucking alone. He never had a normal childhood and he had never matured because of it. He didn't know how to relate to people unless he was bossing them around. He had taken every last shred of his positivity, his happiness and creativity that he had buried inside of him - he took it past fucked up layers of anger and abuse he had suffered and poured it all into this one work of art; a story of a young man trying to do something good with his life. Something he, having dropped out of high school, having been a parent since he was born, having never been taught how to have a non-dysfunctional relationship to people and society and women, had never been able to do. And not this movie alone but he had poured his heart into his work before, and had seen it all fail. He never had a chance, and maybe he could have been lucky enough to work past his problems earlier in life but can I blame him that he didn't? Can I blame him that his salvation of money, power, and fame was created by viewing the world through the lens of his own socially constructed gender? How many men are lucky enough to have a radical feminist critique present in their own lives so that they can smash their inner patriarch?

So, in a moment of pure unabashed emotion I forgave him for all he had done. I hadn't forgotten it, and I don't let him get away with it when it still happens, but I forgave him. I felt love for him and for the first time in my life I wanted to call him dad instead of his first name.

My dad is the failure of the male gender in a world that builds men up knowing most won't succeed. He is the powerless working class man, he is the self-centered artist, he is the failure of the education system, the long lost first born child, the abusive father, he's a thousand stories and male stereotypes and more rolled into one. Society failed him so he failed those closest to him. Patriarchy built him up and patriarchy tore him down. The problem with gender archetypes is that they aren't real life. A man can't succeed when there's a corporate empire trying to control him. An artist can't express himself when one needs so much money just to have a place to live. A father can't raise a family when he was never raised himself. A husband can't have a healthy marriage if he never knew one was possible. A man has to fight to be a feminist because he's led to believe he is something else: that he's a man instead of being a human being.

Seeing the world through the lens of patriarchy is deadly. Seeing it through the lens of feminism is liberating. I don't think it's too late for my father, I don't think it's too late for anyone, but I know that if he ever wants to release his anger, his sadness, and create a real future for himself - one filled with love and peace, not money and power - then he has a lot to own up to and a lot of work to do. Maybe I'll try and talk to him about it if I can muster up the strength.

(...to the full post)

A.J. joins us from The Guppie Life:

The New York Times magazine wrote an article about gay marriage amongst the twenty-something set.

One thing I’ve noticed in my few years as a gay boy is that millennial gays generally seem to want to get married some day, and they’re confident that it’ll be legal in their lifetimes. They want to have kids, a house in the suburbs, and a Golden Retriever. Maybe a Cocker Spaniel.

Gay boomers have their own established culture. In my experience, they don’t want a wedding, and they don’t want to register at Crate & Barrel. Kids aren’t even a consideration (unless from a prior hetero relationship), and oftentimes partnered gay boomers maintain separate residences.

(This is all highly subjective conjecture, based on the few older couples I know personally and what I read in the gay blogosphere. Please feel free to send counter-examples.)

A few older gay guys I know have derided me for wanting a monogamous marriage to a man. They say only, “You’re young and idealistic. You’ll understand when you’re older.” I think the implication is that these men have some sort of sexual arrangement with third parties.

That kind of argument doesn’t fly with me. I might be young, but I know what I want. After coming out, it didn’t even occur to me that I wouldn’t settle down and get married. I can relate to the desire for stability and legal validation expressed by the men from the NYT article.

After all, gay guys of my generation were raised on headstrong Disney heroines who ended up happily ever after with their princes. Why shouldn’t we expect the same for our own lives? Ariel mournfully singing about not fitting in and wanting something more… that was me, only at eight years old I hadn’t quite realized it yet.

Even so, I’m generally freaked by the idea of marriage, gay or straight, before the age of 30. The kids in the NYT article look like Pod People (or Log Cabin Republicans, whichever is worse). They’re too saccharine, and the photos accompanying the article are deliberately evocative of Leave It to Beaver. They look like they’re trying too hard to impress.

Maybe I’m cynical because I’m a child of divorce. Most of my friends growing up had divorced parents. Every member of my family in my parents’ generation has been divorced at least once, and we even have a family pre-nup.

I might be young and idealistic about gay monogamous marriage… but I am so getting a pre-nup.

(...to the full post)

Why is Judd Apatow so obsessed with demonstrating the profound idea that average joes deserve love? First, we met the loveable virgin Andy in 40-Year-Old Virgin. Then it was slacker stoner Ben in Knocked Up. Then Evan and Seth in Superbad. And finally some dude in Forgetting Sarah Marshal. At this point, I feel like I’ve heard the story enough; do I really want to shell out the $10 for a movie ticket? Each storyline includes some confused average guy that ends up finding some gorgeous, smart, sexy, wonderful woman to fall in love with him and show him the way. And the world rejoices because normal people deserve love, too.

Oh wait – normal, straight white males deserve love. Love with gorgeous straight white women. And once they find this love, it’s as if they found their way. As if these women somehow saved them and helped them become functioning, adult men.

I appreciate Apatow’s rose-colored view of women; they are all smart, beautiful, perfect, gorgeous, together, pretty and able to look past physical normalcy. Did I mention beautiful? Sure, there were flawed female supporting characters, but they didn’t get nearly as much screen time as the many normal-because-of-their-flaws men.

In Apatow’s world, the men are allowed to be flawed, and by flawed I mean average and normal. They say stupid things. They play with action figures. They smoke pot. They wander around town carrying beer in empty detergent bottles in hopes of getting in to the cool party with the cool girls. They are able to act like “guys” until the perfect woman comes along and shows them how to be grown-ups.

At first, I thought it was nice that Apatow portrayed women in such a flattering light, especially compared to the normalcy of his male characters. These women were smart, confident and could see beyond their partner’s shortcomings and accept their men for who they are. They had successful careers as small business owners or entertainment news reporters (and I understand this Sarah Marshall character is a movie star?), whereas their guys were salesmen or unemployed.

But then I started to feel inadequate. Men in Apatow’s world are able to be insecure, dopey, lacking goals, etc. But not the women. They were perfect. If they were normal, who would be the strong figure to save Apatow’s men?

Perhaps Apatow too will grow tired of this same storyline, and turn the tables and write movies where normal guys fall in love with normal girls. Wouldn’t that be crazy? Or where gay people exist outside of the blunt end of jokes that reveal troubling and unresolved aspects of a character’s insecurity.

What gives me even more pause isn’t just these perfect-women-and-their-flawed-men, but the fact that I have not come across a single column or criticism pointing out this weird gender bias. Maybe I haven’t been looking hard enough, or maybe we all secretly wish we lived in a world with perfect women. But either way, I’m starting to feel like I don’t measure up. Whereas if I were a guy, I would.

(...to the full post)

Dear Fannie,

My best friend and I have been really tight for a really long time. Like, eight years. But recently he's started to get into some things that aren't good for him. The other day, I was having a party at my home and he was over and brought a few friends. I didn't mind because they were nice, cute, and sociable. So... what the heck. But, then, I found out that my friend had a pack of cocaine on him. And I later discovered the guys he brought over were his suppliers. I'm not sure if he got high at my house, I was furious with him and I haven't been speaking to him. But I'm really concerned. What should I do?

Frightened For Friend,


I'm sure you don't need to be told that your friend is entering risky territory. And while I affirm everyone's ability to choose one's own path, it's also important to make sure that one's choices and decisions are not negatively affecting anyone else. The fact that you all have been good friends for so long probably means that you have a hard time thinking badly of your cozy companion as a coke-snorthing comrade. I don't care how uncharacteristic this is of him, or how much you don't want to butt in, but the facts are is that he is snorting up and you've got to set boundaries.

Friendship is a two-way street. Live and let live is a fine idea, but not when it's live and let your friend bring his cocaine-dealing-posse into your home and walk all over you. True, a good friend will always be there, but sometimes the best friend you can have is the one who will tell you to your face that you're being an asshole and give you a good hard slap.

You have every right to be angry. No matter how close y'all are, he does not have the right to bring drug dealers (no matter how nice and cute) into your house without having first explained the situation and asking you. You have a right to safety and he violated that trust.

I'd advise that you continue to support and offer unconditional love. But establishing clear boundaries can be hard. So be prepared to face some anger, there is little else that a druggy hates more than being judged. But be resolute. Tough love is the hardest kind, but often the most beneficiary. Tell him that you forgive him this one time, but if he ever brings drugs or drug suppliers into your home, you're going kick him out.

Also, be ready to face the fact that he might need more help than a good friend. He may need professional help. The good news is that as a friend you can help by getting him the professional assistance that he may need. Yes, it's up to him to partake in whatever program or assistance is offered to him. But it doesn't hurt to offer. But most of all, make sure that he doesn't endanger you, your family, or your other friends. Because when it comes down to it, if he isn't willing to accept your help, then he can't be helped by anyone but himself.


send your questions to askfannie@belowthebelt.org

(...to the full post)

Creative Commons License