Arts & Culture

Elizabeth's picture

Reflections on Outness

Logos for National Coming Out Day by Marius Valdes

By my count, I've been out for 17 years, since late winter of 1993, when I began telling my family that I had a girlfriend, and that they would be meeting her at my college graduation. I suppose I'd been out to varying degrees before that (out to friends, out in class) but for me opening out my family was my first sense of "coming out." My family was very encouraging, and I felt very lucky to have come out in such supportive circumstances.

What I've learned over and over since then is that coming out is never over. This is true for a couple of different reasons. One is that we change and as we change we need to keep coming out. Another is that we continually meet new people who were not part of our lives during our initial coming out process and so we are always coming out to the new people in our lives. 

I came out first as lesbian. I thought that I had left romantic and sexual relationships with men behind when I discovered my desire and love for women. Later I met a man who made me rethink that. I found myself deeply attracted to him despite his gender and realized that I'd created an artificial wall for myself between my ideas about gender and my ideas about sexual orientation. In terms of gender I was willing to accept a range of expression and a lack of anything more that socially constructed reality behind the discreet categories of "man" and "woman." Indeed in thinking about my own gender I much more often felt like someone who existed in the borderlands between gender categories than like someone who was entirely "woman". Yet, during my process of opening up sexually, I had kept a tight boundary around my sexual orientation, linking it only to women for a couple of years until this man caused me to reexamine my desires.

richnewman's picture

Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 2

A white woman’s mouth in the act of swallowing a white man’s penis fills the screen of my TV. Almost directly in the center of the picture, the shape of his organ glides back and forth against the inside of her left cheek. Panning back, the camera shows her kneeling on all fours in front of him, her lips engulfing and expelling his genitals as if she were the only movable part of a well-oiled machine. She looks up at him and asks, with a lust-filled and mischievous grin, “Does that feel good?”

“You suck a mean cock, Cherry,” he answers, his tone flat, as if he were reading her name out of the phone book.

richnewman's picture

Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Thinking About Pornography 1

Translation work has taken me away from this series, and I have been missing it. A conversation I had today with a friend reminded me, though, of the conclusion to an essay about pornography called “Inside The Men Inside ‘Inside Christy Canyon,’” that I published in 1994 in the now-defunct literary journal called “The American Voice.” This is a slightly edited version of that conclusion.

Male dominance instructs men that our bodies are tools. By turning male orgasm into the "cum shot," heterosexual pornography reflects and perpetuates this image of the male body. Yet it does not have to be that way. Erection, for example, the gradual hardening of a man's penis--in the hand or mouth or inside or against or at the sight, sound or smell of the body of his lover, or in his own hand--is the physical corollary of, a concrete metaphor for, that man's capacity for trust, something Sharon Olds explores in her poem "The Connoisseuse of Slugs:"

Elizabeth's picture

Sexual Freedom and Higher Education: Why Sex Weeks are A Good Idea

National Sexual Freedom Day logoNational Sexual Freedom Day is Thursday. Woodhull Freedom Foundation will host panels on the topic of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right and will also release the first Sexual Freedom Annual Report documenting the state of sexual freedoms in the United States today. This is an exciting moment in the movement toward greater sexual freedom for all. And yet it is also a moment characterized by conflict about what kinds of sexualities ought to be free, and what kinds of institutions ought to regulate those freedoms.

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an opinion piece by Margaret Brooks, of Bridgewater State University, railing against the well-established Sex Week programming series that exists, in different forms, on many college campuses. Sex Weeks have been around for at least a decade. They aren’t new. They aren’t even especially controversial. Until now. Brooks is scandalized by the way that commercial interests (sex toy companies) and academic interests (sexuality education) are blended without much to distinguish the one from the other. She is indignant that Sex Week workshops and programs are not taught primarily by full time faculty members. And she is outraged that these programs don’t provide abstinence or monogamy only education.

I sympathize with Dr. Brooks on a majority of those points, a fact which may be hard for many readers to believe.

Elizabeth's picture

What is sexual freedom?

This video was made by Tiye Massey, daughter of Woodhull Freedom Foundation advisory council members Dan Massey and Alison Gardner. It is a 12 minute long look at what sexual freedom means to a range of people she interviewed on the street and around town. And just in time for National Sexual Freedom Day! Thanks Tiye!

So, what does sexual freedom mean to you? Share your definitions and your ideas in the comments.

Elizabeth's picture

Instant Censorship, Google Style

censorship [remix]

Google just launched a new search technology that speeds up the already mindbogglingly fast process by which you can find information online. I read about it in the New York Times this morning. It launched yesterday and it's called Google Instant. It works like this: as you type your search string Google begins finding results and displaying them before you hit "search." The list changes as you continue typing. If you begin to type "censorship" for example, by the time you type "CEN" you get search results for Central Park. Type the "S" and you get results for Census. Type the "O" and you get censorship-related results. This all happens at the speed of typing. Fascinating. I was wondering whether I thought this was distracting or helpful when I read something that really pissed me off: 

Some words, like “nude,” produce no results because Google Instant filters for violence, hate and pornography, the company said.

I don't think that automatic filtering for "violence, hate or pornography" makes sense in the first place - users should be able to control their own filtering - but I certainly don't think that "nude" should be filtered because of a possible connection to pornography. I wondered what this looked like in practice, and I also wondered what else was filtered.

I went to my computer to try it out. I started typing.

N (Netflix) NU (Nurse Jackie) NUD (...nothing at all!)

Elizabeth's picture

Cabaret Red Light in Red Hook This Weekend Only

Cabaret Red Light Seven Deadly Seas advertisement

My sweetie writes about boats. I write about sex. Tonight we were fortunate to find an entertaining intersection between the two: Cabaret Red Light's "Seven Deadly Seas" performed on the schooner Gazela, docked for the next few nights in Atlantic Basin, Red Hook, Brooklyn, sponsored by PortSide New York.

If you're looking for something to do check them out. It's an intimate setting - only about 80 seats per show - the second row is about as far away as you can get from the action! 

The performers are fabulous and the writing is witty. The costumes are lovely, and the shedding of them is lovelier still. Gazela is a beautiful ship, and with the skyline of  Lower Manhattan in the background it's hard to imagine a more fitting setting for a show about debauchery and plunder.

Check them out. They're only there for this one weekend. For more information or to by tickets:

http://www.cabaretredlight.com/sevenseas/home.html

richnewman's picture

Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Do You Like Your Body 3 (Preliminary Notes On the Expendability of the Foreskin)

In 1834, Sylvester Graham—inventor of the cracker that continues to bear his name—published a book called A Lecture to Young Men, in which he warned that masturbation would transform a boy who practiced it regularly into:

a wretched transgressor [who] sinks into a miserable fatuity, and finally becomes a confirmed and degraded idiot, whose deeply sunken and vacant, glossy eye, and livid shrivelled [sic] countenance, and ulcerous, toothless gums, and fetid breath, and feeble broken voice, and emaciated and dwarfish and crooked body, and almost hairless head—covered perhaps with suppurating blisters and running sores—denote a premature old age, a blighted body—and a ruined soul! (Quoted in Kimmel)

Stephanie Zvan's picture

No More "Safe" Guys

 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a number of conversations with my male friends about them being called “safe,” or in one case, a “safety blanket.” Don’t know what I’m talking about? Celebrate.

This is the phenomenon in which a (generally young) woman dismisses her behavior around a guy as “Oh, that’s just so-and-so. He’s safe.” It always sounds like it’s meant to be a compliment, but there’s very little like it to bring out the bitter in a guy even decades after the fact. It took explaining the concept of “safe” to the wife of one of these friends for me to really figure out why.

Safe is better than not safe, right?

Well, of course none of my guy friends want to threaten any women, so being very not safe is right out of the question. However, being this sort of safe is far beyond not being a rapist in potentia, far more than just what’s left when that worry is removed. This safe means out of the running for any kind of sexual consideration whatsoever. This is gay-best-friend safe without the gay or necessarily the best friend. There are more options to be found in the real world than just this kind of safe and not safe. 

richnewman's picture

Fragments of Evolving Manhood: Do You Like Your Body 2

At eleven, I am the youngest of eight boys lined up along one row of lockers in the otherwise empty men’s room at the swimming pool to which the day camp we are attending takes us every other day. Normally, I’d be changing with boys my own age, but a mix-up back at the camp grounds landed me on the bus with these guys, who are all twelve and thirteen. I turn my back to them to hide the erection that has taken hold of my body and which I am having difficulty fitting into my bathing suit. Despite my best efforts to remain inconspicuous, however, my movements attract their attention and one of them sneaks up behind me and looks over my shoulder. “Hey,” his voice rings out metallically, “look at the size of Newman’s boner!”

Like a pack of dogs that has been thrown a single piece of meat, the group surrounds me in a tight circle, while I stand there not moving, body pointing me into the air above the middle of the room, wishing I could vanish, that it would vanish, but no matter how much I will it, the damned thing will not go down.

“What are you, a homo!?”

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