Just as African American slaves from the 17th century onward crafted a language and music of coded words, phrases and drum beats before them, gay men in the 50s and 60s spoke a secret language to one another. Polari, the spoken language of made up words known only to gay men subverting the laws against homosexuality, was prevalent until homosexuality in England became legal (at leastin the privacy of the home). Unlike jazz and blues, the music and language derived from slavery and segregation of black Americans, polari disappeared.
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down. CSNY
Randy would not be the first or the last gay man I fell for. I never pieced together the hitchhiking he did from work instead of taking the bus, and the expressed hopes to pick up someone “interesting.” I’m guessing now that he got paid on the side for his lovely looks: from delicate hands to his big style and classy flare. Anyone else with more exposure might have known, but no one in my town growing up was gay–except my sister’s best friend and the drama department at school, to my knowledge. It was the late 70s and no one was gay–openly. I just never suspected that men could be anything but interested in me as a female, someone to stick a dick into at the very least. My worldview was small, provincial, like the state I grew up in despite its savvy sensationalized reputation world wide to the contrary, no doubt based on one city, a small piece of real estate relative to the entirety of the state with its miles of farmland and country roads.
It was after these first 6 months or so on my own, working, going to school, quitting school and trying to make a life nearly on my own, a lonely pursuit of angst-filled growth and delirious abandon, when I concluded that I wished my parents would have reigned me in more, made the effort; my limitations were few and the responsibility of that freedom was overwhelmingly burdensome. I was lonely, and my life felt like one huge scary spin of outright disregard for my own safety–even to a 17 year old alley cat on a crash course to world wise self-sufficiency.
“Balls!” said the Queen. “If I had them, I’d be King.”
Reading my daily dose of pop fodder in the Guardian, one of several publications I read daily, I, of course, was drawn to the titles that aim to lure cheesy-lover readers like me: When it comes to sexual desirability, balls are often treated as an afterthought. Mike Barry has my admiration for a good writer’s trick–making something from nothing.
Yes, it is interesting that testicles are often overlooked in the sexual realm. Most regard them as unlovely, on the modest side, to gross, on the other end of the spectrum of ball aesthetics. But really, what’s the point? They still get all the privileges and priorities that the patriarchy has offered their owners for all of recent history, which I consider since prehistoric times: power.
As Barry points out, balls are associated with guts and strength, ironically enough given their sensitivity and vulnerability; in fact, they are notoriously the target of anyone’s defense in warding off a male attacker or downing an opponent in a fight. Betty White (at least according to Facebook “facts”) publicly defended the vagina’s replacement for the myth of tough balls since the vag “takes a licking and keeps on ticking,” (pun intended) to steal a phrase from an old Timex commercial. With all the pounding of penises (real or replaced) and punishment of birthing its built for, female genitalia more appropriately earns the accolade, “She’s got vagina!”, to praise an individual’s chutzpah.
However, one paragraph gave me pause in Barry’s article:
I certainly never thought I could feel sexually empowered by my entire package until I met my now-husband: he was the first person to celebrate all parts of my body rather than avoid or ignore some of them. Being with someone who didn’t view half of my sex organs as extraneous to our sex life forced me to reevaluate my own view of my anatomy. As gay men, our sex life was already considered transgressive; without the pressure to conform to a “normal”, heterosexual view of male sexuality as defined by my ability to penetrate a partner, I could allow my entire self to become a source of sexual self-confidence.
The intrigue lies not in the observation that a loved one can appreciate all of his beloved’s parts, even the socially stigmatized or ignored ones–a banal truth, in my mind–but in exposing the underlying assumption of the socially constructed male: his genitalia is defined and evaluated in terms of its heterosexual penetrative utility, i.e., big penis=big satisfaction (vaginally speaking).
How freeing not to be heterosexual just for loosing that construction, opening up the space to heart-see a man’s body parts in light of how two people enjoy–actually experience–their relationship.
Sigh. Is it ever possible to free ourselves from the prison of preconceived notions grown from lazy, unconscious pattern makers, our predecessors?
Nope, it’s too nice outside on a Saturday of a three-day weekend to get my panties wadded up over long-standing social ills. I’d rather spend the time with my daughter succumbing to ad-men/women pitching holiday sales at us, like Victoria Secrets’ 7 for $27 panty sale (buys me another day ignoring the pile of laundry in my bathroom).
Seriously, I found this piece, Thirteen Problems with Balls in Cosmo, though not current, timeless and informative (yes, Cosmo!), far more balls up entertaining than Barry’s piece, despite the poignant heart-felt human connective moment referred to above.
This Ted Talk is a worthwhile ten minutes of storytelling with a significant message about being who we are and the nature of our humanness and humanity.