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.
“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.
The medico-pychological health establishment and popular media mold our sexual proclivities and cabin our instincts. I’m convinced of it. Like Cicero, I have pushed the bolder of an idea that labels of gender-sex identification are arbitrary, prejudicial and crippling, that love is far too mult-faceted, complex and unexamined to be striated into gross categories of behaviors: homosexual, heterosexual and bisexual. If they have a function at all, it is to be descriptive of tendencies and not modes of prejudicial placement and exclusion. And like Cicero, the bolder comes down with excuses from friends and followers that human nature is thus. That may be so, but it is important to delve into how human nature is not so natural, that there are unconscious contributors that frame our nature, confining it to a few convenient options that order behaviors neatly and conveniently for reference, analysis and mating.
An article from askmen.com entitled “Exploring Female Sexual Fantasies” written by Dr. Victoria Zdrok gives men advice about dealing with women’s fantasies during sex. She advises men not to feel intimidated if your woman is fantasizing about Brad Pitt during sex or Angelina Jolie, for that matter, since “many women are naturally bi-curious and women are much more likely to have same-sex fantasies than men.” She further advises: “If you find out that your girlfriend or wife is having such fantasies, don’t worry about her being a lezzy — take advantage of the moment and suggest a threesome. But don’t be too eager; pretend that you are actually indulging her fantasy!”
Now, she’s a doctor so she should be good authority, right? Men and women should believe her and I am sure a publication like askmen.com with a wide readership (largely men, I would presume) features an article written by a doctor for legitimacy and persuasiveness. No matter that a quick google search reveals the doc as a Penthouse centerfold and her front page images are one of the following.
Now, I am not suggesting that the good doctor is not authoritative or doesn’t know her stuff. I mean what man wouldn’t suggest a threesome upon discovering his woman has bi-curiosity and that most men lie and manipulate women into fulfilling men’s fantasies, right? What I am suggesting is that most readers would not question the source of the writing for legitimacy and take the advice from a doctor as a credible given. They would take it as fact that many women are bi-curious and women more than men have same-sex fantasies. I am no sexpert and no doctor. However, my more than five decades on Earth have proven at least circumstantially otherwise. Try trolling on Craigslist in the personals ads for men seeking men in just about any city. They vastly outnumber the women seeking women section. If men are not fantasizing about men maybe it’s because they are having the sex with other men that the women are not with other women because women are busy being mere curious fantasizers too afraid to act or maybe they are not advertising their sexual behavior or getting hooked up through other means.
I am being ridiculously reductive, but I believe Dr. Zdrog is too. It’s not just Craigslist but my lived experience talking with and reading about men from a variety of sources that leads me to conclude that probably more men are curious and fantasize about sex with other men than this article suggests and more women are more than curious, but I would not dare make a bold statement about any of that in writing, not without affording the reader the benefit of my research and findings. No, I am not overlooking the fact that askmen is not supposed to be the Atlantic Monthly of scientific research.
The point is that we take our information fed to us without examination. Publications like askmen are in the business of making money by selling exciting and eye catching ideas (duh, right?), the more biased and incomplete–suggestive–the better. No one wants to get bogged down in reading a bunch of facts and studies. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Dr. Zdrog may be right or she may be writing more from her own experience as a bisexual and self-proclaimed sexpert Penthouse featurette (whatever all of those dynamics suggest). The magic is in being published. If she is published, she must be right. If she is a doctor, she must know. I mean I am sure my GP, my family’s all purpose doc for coldsores to leukemia, knows all about sex and fantasy, right? Men can believe the bold statements about women and bisexuality (and implicitly men not being as bisexual). Women can believe it. What effect does that assumed, unverified “fact” have on incurious readers’ sexual understanding about themselves and others? If I am bi curious, is it because I have been fed that curiosity or does it derive from MY natural inclinations?
Michel Foucault, Twentieth Century French philosopher, in his work entitled The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction“> theorized that sexuality has been controlled by the medical establishment throughout history by legitimizing or norming sexual behavior through science, something humans are cultivated to accept as authoritative. Doctors of medicine and psychology analyze human sexual behaviors and label them deviant or healthy, and those “facts” are disseminated into the population as the standard against which individuals measure their own normalcy.
Nothing new here about how much our thoughts about ourselves are not truly our own, but it bears reminding that critical thinking, among other practices, can set us free-er. Sex and relationships are far more complex and should be afforded the greatest respect and devotion of thought beyond the soundbites we are used to consuming. What attracted me to the definitions of bisexuality as a concept was the umbrella of its protectorate–all manner of relational behaviors– as well as its focus on human tendencies to separate and divide. We are pattern-makers as a species. We love the feel of a pattern. Patterns tickle our brains, and we are taught to recognize them from toddlerhood on. Maybe that is the human nature behind the science of labeling.
Mono-sexism attributes partiality and vacillation to the bisexual.
S/he slides between normative heterosexuality and prohibitive homosexuality, claiming neither but able to inhabit each as opportunity and good fortune affords depending upon the social climate or sexuality growth or transition phase, according to the mono-sexist. These are behaviors generalized, speculated and thrust upon the ones who refuse the binary, those who are iconic and ironic, iconic in merely loving people not genders and ironic in being suspect for loving no one or neither, without partaking of either (Bisexual Imaginary).
From Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Non-binary believing believer
There is a world where people are people.
I know it exists.
They don’t have to define themselves on
Human is a panoply of factum
each one a case for infant-eye examination.
If we had to assess beings as that infant does
with no data upon which to shortcut rely such as
we too would sleep all day for the sheer exhaustion
of seeing, hearing and learning anew each one.
If my sexual identity miffs or mystifies
If I don’t act my age
If I look like someone’s ancestors–or don’t
If I defy the conformity to a certain race
If I appear an androgyne without need to choose
Who gives a fuck and why?
I want to know.
Because of habit, fear, and laziness
Because of insecure identity
Because of personal investment
Because of past injury and reward
Because of pictures painted in malleable minds
Because of enculturation and saturation and maturation
and a million other wherefores and therefores and somehows
I must be like you?
I must choose my identity and make it fit?