Post Gay: It's a Brave New World

Discussion in 'Relationships, Discrimination, and Jealousy' started by jacero10, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    I am still pretty new to the lifestyle, so perhaps I'm discredited from the start from such a conversation. Or, perhaps there is some advantage to not having been immersed in queer analysis of everything. When I read such analysis my eyes usually gloss over and my mind wanders. Gross generalizations such as "men who have sex with men on the side are just bisexual" make my whole being cringe. On what basis can such a claim be made? On what authority? Such claims confuse sexual attraction, sexual practice and sexual identity each of which is a distinct reality.

    In recent years, the World Health Organization and other health authorities have abandoned the terms 'gay' and 'bisexual' and now employ the phrase 'men who have sex with men.' This recognizes two realities. First, regrettably many who are exclusively attracted to men still are reluctant to identify as such. But, more interestingly, there is a sizable number of men who have sex with men who in fact are not either gay or bisexual. That is, they have no emotional attraction to their own sex and have sex with men as a matter of convenience, experimentation, money, social pressure, commercial exchange, etc.

    While the social sciences can help us to a degree, their notorious failures should stand as reminders that they are not free from politics, personal bias or the temptation to overstate their effectiveness. One such grand failure was the common claim in the 1970's and 1980's that pedophilia could be treated and that various clients had been rehabilitated, resulting in numerous catastrophes. Catholic bishops aren't the only ones to blame (though that is the politically preferable conclusion in many settings). In my opinion, there are some therapists that belong in jail.

    The gay community is notorious for morphing it's self definition to suit its political aims or worse, fashion. In the 1970's, the common wisdom was that gay men and women shouldn't have to think in terms of marriage which was for straight people. Having multiple partners in various constellations of relationships without guilt was what "liberation" was all about, at least sexually. We all know that promiscuity (a very dirty word) became frowned upon in the wake of AIDS. Suddenly, the ideal of marriage became the new orthodoxy, if not in practice then in the community's projected image to the straight world. (Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the political debate, this false projection can only come back to haunt a community as perceptions of gay sexuality catch up with reality.) By now many of you will be angry or tuning me out as a self-loather. Before you do so, give me one more chance...

    If sexual attraction (distinct from identity) falls on a continuum, then with the pronouncements of various ideologies and orthodoxies convenient for the activist, all bets are off. The impulse toward some grand theory of sexuality is understandable and seemingly natural to the human mind which instinctively simplifies reality to reduce effort. The simplification often takes the form of rejecting data that doesn't fit rather than attempting to account for all data. Attempts to account for all data nullify most orthodoxies.

    One of the gay community's latter orthodoxies upon which it bases most of its politics is the genetic explanation of orientation. Politically this theory has the advantage of portraying homosexuality as something utterly beyond ones control. This would have been news to those earlier queers of the 1970's who proclaimed the lifestyle as a "choice" and the orientation as a "sexual preference." As many as a third of American males have had sex with other men. Only a small fraction of those are exclusively gay and less than a third have had sex with men outside a small window of time in their lives. It appears from the numbers that "choice" and "preference" are more accurate descriptors for those who practice gay sex. Shockingly, gays are the small minority (perhaps only 10%) among those who have gay sex. While same-sex attraction is beyond one's conscious choice for some, the genetic explanation cannot account for those who at one stage in their lives are more attracted to one sex and at other times are more attracted to the other or those who fall into the categories mentioned above. It certainly doesn't account for the hippie boy who is committed to his undefined status and glad to sleep with whomever strikes him as attractive and available at the moment. Another gay orthodoxy is in jeopardy.

    Being Post-Gay then, is a brave new world. It doesn't rely on comfortable ideological tenets, dispenses with unsubstantiated generalities and convenient labels and insists on the singular observation that people are people. Dividing the world between breeders and "us" or into gay, straight and bisexual just doesn't account for all the data. As people like other people we are happiest with being ourselves and loving others for themselves and not resorting to the inevitable falsities that arise from crude labels.

    It's time we take the sexual continuum seriously and realize that with convenient orthodoxies, labels and generalities, all bets are off !

    Joey
    Graduate Student, ND, Ind.
     
  2. Industrialsize

    Staff Member Moderator Gold Member

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    well, I'm a gay man and can certainly say that being Gay was NOT a choice, conscious or unconscious. And for the record, I have a LIFE, not a LIFESTYLE.
     
  3. D_Tintagel_Demondong

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    *cough*bullshit*cough*

    Sorry. I have a flu.
     
  4. ledroit

    ledroit New Member

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    Your use of the word "notorious" suggests to me you are preaching to the choir. My guess is you might assume you'll strike a chord with folks who don't trust science or gays.

    If you want to make a scientific argument, you need data, large populations, methods that can deal with bias appropriately.

    You are talking primarily about labels. Easy targets.

    If you want to talk about identity & orientation, you're probably going to need some work in philosophy to look at the concepts of identity and difference, as well as psychology & sociology, to look at how identities are structured and maintained. If you want to look at some notorious assumptions, perhaps you could start with egregious claims that all human beings are heterosexual by nature.

    On a personal level, you might consider that most people form identities around love--who they love, what they love. People discover their identities on the basis of interactions that bring out the best in them.

    That's a kind of bottom-up approach to identity, whereas labels are a kind of top-down approach to identity, ie, you are what others classify you to be.

    Orientation is not about your dick. It's about your heart. Who you fall in love with. The human ability to fall in love, become aroused, become passionately engaged involves something that is similar to musical or athletic talent in its complexity, and exceeds both. It takes a kind of sexual intelligence to both recognize and respond to, as well as be engaged with, the beauty of another person. It is true that any one of us can repress our talents, and refuse to act on them.

    But why would you? Why cut yourself off from beauty, life, passion, arousal, love, joy, intimacy, the thrill of being naked and fucking the daylights out of someone you truly love, for no good reason?

    Explore some of these questions and experiences, and you will probably move beyond a superficial interest in "labels."

    That's my advice.
     
  5. Gillette

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    Thoughtful post.
    This section is the only one I'd quibble with. Statistics are fine for analyzing activity patterns but they completely neglect the individuality factor.

    Choice and preference may be somewhat accurate descriptors for the practice of gay sex but that doesn't negate the fact that sexual attraction is beyond choice.

    I'm heterosexual. It has, is and always will be men I want to give pleasure to and recieve pleasure from sexually.

    This doesn't mean that I'm sexually attracted to every man. I have preferences and make choices of which men I will and won't practice sex with on a regular basis.

    The same holds for those who are attracted to both genders. They may have a long period of being with one gender then a long period of the other. I don't think that's a progressive change of preference or a choice. I ould expect that it would have more to do with the individuals involved. Certain personality traits are strong attractors to people and if the person having the mix of traits they are looking for happens to be female instead of male or vice versa, then that's who they find themselves with. A person isn't choosing a gender in this situation, they are choosing an individual.
     
  6. ledroit

    ledroit New Member

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    Gillette, your post is thoughtful too. Thanks.

    Why not think about "talent" a little more when it comes to orientation. Any kind of behavior does and must involve choice, since it involves action. For action to occur, you must first have experience. Experience gives rise to understanding; understanding gives rise to values; values shape decisions, and decisions finally lead to actions and relationships you choose and sustain.

    That process & evolution is found in all human knowing or knowledge. It can be simple or complex at each of the four basic stages: experience, understanding, judgment, and decision--prior to action itself.

    At the level of experience itself, we have talents. Some are awakened by colors and shapes in a way that leads ultimately to art. Others are awakened by activity and grace in a way that leads to athletics or dance. I think the question of "choice" in orientation is complex because at the level of experience, it doesn't involve choice. We are sort of tone-deaf when it comes to having sex with some people, or seeing their beauty, or being engaged by them. But at other levels, we can and do make choices. They can be based on understanding, values, or decisions. At the level of understanding, for example: we know we are straight, gay or bi-, so we don't even go down certain paths. At the level of values: we know we are straight, gay or bi-, but we love someone so much we find them attractive. At the level of decisions: I'm married, so I won't do this, won't look, won't let myself go there. Or, I'm married, so I will have sex with my spouse, will love them, will keep myself open to attraction and arousal, even when novelty wears off.

    Great topic. But not a simple one.
     
    #6 ledroit, Oct 23, 2008
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  7. D_alex8

    D_alex8 Member

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    My problem with all of these 'post-anything' categorizations is that they stand at odds to their stated purpose, insofar as they effectively seek to label the very construct that they deem unlabelable, and seek to reductively group together phenomena which they acknowledge to be disparate.

    The term 'post-gay' is clearly predicated on the notion of representing a progression onwards from 'gay' as a social category, due to the perceived shortcomings of the former. However, in its replication of the term 'gay', which has already been noted as insufficient as a label for all the forms of sexual behavior and sexual identity which it (purportedly) attempts to 'contain', the term ironically allies itself to that very modality of thinking which it seeks to overthrow/replace, and in turn merely 'repackages' many of its perceived shortcomings.

    To truly embrace a notion of sexuality as possessing infinite fragmentation and individualisation, one would need to dispense with labels entirely, rendering 'post-gay' as meaningless a term as 'gay'. Since 'post-gay theorists' work (and think) within a world constructed on the basis of reductive categories and labels, however, they are effectively bound to merely replace one term with a new one, each one as insufficient as the last.

    'Gay' can indeed said to be 'lacking' as a category in its ability to account for all male-male sexual interaction; but... did it ever truly claim to be a blanket term which could be applied in this way in the first place? Is it not rather a unifying term, a simple shorthand, used in certain specific ways by certain persons to denote certain modalities of sexuality and identity... while other modalities simply 'fall outside' this category, and always have done? To now take those avowedly 'non-gay-identifying' forms of sexuality and to relabel them (together with gay-identifying ones) as 'post-gay' is a product of syllogistic reasoning, along the lines of:
    (i) the most common construct for labeling male-male sexuality in our culture is 'gay';
    (ii) there is other male-male sexuality which does not identify as 'gay';
    (iii) we can lump this altogether as 'post-gay'.

    But (iii) simply does not follow as a reasonable, non-reductive premise from (i) or (ii). A more purposeful approach would arguably be simply to acknowledge gay-identifying forms of male-male sexuality, and to acknowledge other forms of male-male sexuality, without seeking to lump all these forms together under some new unifying label that reductively attempts to join together disparate pheneomena, and which thus merely replicates the inherent shortcoming of all labels and categories.
     
    #7 D_alex8, Oct 23, 2008
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  8. ledroit

    ledroit New Member

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    Superb, Alex8. Great to see you also have a little epistemology under your belt.
     
  9. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Great points, ledroit.

    I agree with your academic critique. Am in the social sciences myself (sociology) and will be doing more work in this area. You point about identity being a matter of affections than mere attractions makes a lot of sense to me. In fact, as a man who has sex with men but has no emotional attraction to men, your description fits my situation very well.
     
  10. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Point well taken. It is always difficult to use language to challenge language. I am not a deconstructionist myself and hope I did not give the impression that I was. I just did not have a ready to hand term to replace "gay" in the title. Titles, as the briefest of summaries are often vexing for complex material. Notice that the term post-gay is not really the subject of the essay and only appears in the closing.

    All defensiveness aside, you make good points, Alex. Thanks, Joey.
     
  11. lvsxy808

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    Well, I think I identify a problem right there. Having male-male sex does not automatically make one part of the "gay lifestyle," if such a thing can be said to exist. Everyone combines their sexuality and their lifestyle in different ways.

    The point, at least to me, is the freedom to choose. We should be free to marry if we choose to marry, and we should be free to not marry if we choose to not marry. An it harm none, do what thou wilt.

    Note that choosing how you feel is not the same thing as choosing what to do about those feelings. The first one cannot do; the second one can and should.

    Yeah, I can tell. My immediate reaction would be along the lines of "You think too much." :wink:

    Don't rule it out. Never rule it out. There's always a chance that some time in the future, your sexual attraction to a male will be so overwhelming that it will become an emotional attraction as well. I can't say that it definitely will happen, but you can't say that it definitely won't. Things change. You never know, and you should be open to all possibilities.

    Now, as for me, I can't imagine myself ever falling in love with a woman. But then I'm not sexually attracted to women in the first place, only men, so that makes an extra barrier for me. But if such an unlikely circumstance would ever come to pass, I know there's nothing I could do to stop it, and it would be better for me to just accept it. You, on the other hand, are sexually attracted to both, which has already broken down that barrier I still have. So I would say, be open to it. It might happen.
     
  12. D_alex8

    D_alex8 Member

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    Actually, I think I'm one of the few token (post)(de/re)structuralists :rolleyes: at LPSG these days, and I certainly didn't take this to be your approach; indeed, I too would argue that it is an imperfect methodological tool which all too often is used to deconstruct concepts without remembering to piece them back together again in order to gain insights into experiential reality. Nevertheless, I do think that certain elements of a structuralist approach can be of use as part of any (necessarily?) eclectic research into reconsidering human sexuality as it is experienced, rather than as it is prescribed, if only in highlighting those implicit assumptions that underpin such prescriptivism.

    While language consistently falls short when trying to articulate complex processes, I think that your own research interests come up against a second level of linguistic confoundment; specifically, because you are attempting to verbalize articulations of sexuality which go unverbalized. In other words: while 'being gay' or 'being bi' both connote a (more or less pronounced) sense of verbalized self-identification, other forms of male-male sexual contact are often arguably marked by the very fact that they exist as unlabeled experiences on the level of 'impulse' or 'desire', which are not generally verbalized (they 'simply happen', rather than being topics of discussion for those who experience them), or are at most semi-verbalized (in terms of anonymous discussions on web fora, for example; something of an LPSG speciality!).

    To that end, I think it becomes a necessary question of your research to consider how one might productively discuss forms of sexuality which have no problem in existing unnamed, and to consider how one can avoid 'pigeonholing' and 'overgeneralizing' these sexualities through labeling them (and thus, arguably, transforming them already into something which they definitionally are not).

    ***

    The 'continuum of sexuality'. This, for me, is another problematic area in the theorization of sexual identity, since a continuum necessarily possesses two polar extremes; here taken to be 'heterosexuality' and 'homosexuality'. Thus, the notion of a 'continuum' effectively pre-establishes a prescriptive view of these two phenomena as opposites, and then seeks to locate other sexual identities in a kind of 'interzone'.

    I would argue that we need to come up with a far more diffuse way of 'thinking sexual identities' than placing them on a continuum; a diffuse approach which doesn't polarize in the way that a continuum does, and one which allows for all kinds of overlapping and flux at any time. As of right now, I feel we are still largely stuck within the drive to 'classify', even when our intent is specifically not to do this. Our focus would perhaps be better placed on the level of 'fluidity', with sexuality able to move around as freely as any body of liquid, free from polar extremes or fixed positions.

    ***

    From the standpoint of my own past work on sexual representation, I would want to extend the timeline back in addressing this point, to embrace the writings of sexologists from the 1870s to 1920s, who first sought to address the articulations of male-male sexuality they were witnessing (in a more consolidated way) within urban communities. One consistent aspect of writings by British, American, and German writers alike (for example, Havelock Ellis, Xavier Mayne, or Magnus Hirschfeld) during that period was their desire to 'normalize' what had previously been seen as a disorder, to the very (political) ends that you describe above.

    Several of these writers indeed went to the extreme of literalizing the notion of a 'third sex', located between heterosexual males and heterosexual females, which could include practitioners of all perceived 'non-straight' activities. Such claims of 'biological distinctness' again served the aim of 'normalization', although they conversely presented the 'third sex' as aberrant to the implicit heteronormativity of the hetero-male/hetero-female continuum (again indicating why I view the renewal of the 'continuum concept' with some trepidation).

    However, in seeking to 'lump together' all perceived 'non-heterosexual' behaviour, these theorists (and perhaps Magnus Hirschfeld most clearly) actually end up taking a more comprehensive view of male-male and female-female sexuality than could take place later, after the politicising and widespread acknowledgement of the concept of 'gay sexuality'. In other words: they reveal how same-sex activity can be constructed outside the concept of 'gay identity' (specifically, because the latter did not yet hold any widespread currency).

    Hirschfeld, in particular, sought to demonstrate the fluidity of male-male sexual identity by undertaking a breakdown of the findings of the 30,000 or so interviews/case-studies recorded by his Sexual Research Institute; and ultimately concluded that male-male sexuality was as varied as the number of individuals who practised it. It's perhaps no wonder that many of his published works centre around individual case-studies, therefore, in which something like "I love my wife, and I love to be sucked by Peter on Tuesdays" becomes the only 'label' of sexual identity that can really be affixed to the respondent (in addition to all kinds of other individualized markers regarding upbringing, career, home life, artistic appreciation, etc.); to that end, I would suggest that the work of these 'early' sexologists may still hold several methodological pointers of use for our own endeavors to better comprehend male-male sexuality today.

    More than enough paragraphs already, I think. :rolleyes:
     
    #12 D_alex8, Oct 23, 2008
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  13. nitzaski

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    I only speak from my own experience and how I see the world around me. I like your title but it aint that 'new' but there have been many brave people in the past. I remember vividly coming out and proudly walking hand in hand with my fella in my teens. It was youthful exuberance and it felt wonderful. Oddly, the fact that so many people have a view now would not hold the same aura that it had then. The odd thing is that I feel it was better 20 years ago when we were not disected so much, there are so many trying to place blame and state the reasons for who we are.

    Is it jumping on the bandwagon, quite possibly. I do not understand the theory of a third sex - it is a need to put us in a box that can be quantified - are we really so dissimilar that we can be this narrow - there is more to our sexual being, far more than just being this, that or the other. And we are far more complicated than to lump us into a group that is not only uninformed but really quite ridiculous.

    Sexual freedom, in my opinion, is exactly that. I dont think it can be quantified and nailed down to a point that we all accept - it is far too complicated and, of course, involves emotional development and structure too - are we going to be able to place this on a graph and measure that too? - I think not.

    I am not an intellectual or, even, scholared in the subject, but I do know that we cannot think that we will find a theory or mathematical solution to who we are, what we feel and why.
     
    #13 nitzaski, Oct 23, 2008
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2008
  14. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Oh hell. Now I know what I'm going to be doing all tonight. Damn you.
     
  15. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Yeah, I do probably think too much. It's an occupational hazard!

    I like what you say about staying open to the possibilities. I agree that sexuality and attraction are dynamic, which one of my major points with the gay community as it tends to pigeon hole people, at least on the popular level.
     
  16. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Thanks, Alex. Great points. While human sexuality is an obvious personal interest, it isn't my area of study or research. So, you have taught me a lot about early 20th cen. scholarship on homosexuality.

    I particularly like your comments on Hirschfeld. I think he is right on with they idea of virtually individual sexualities. There are interesting parallels between his approach to avoiding general labels and allowing language to remain as close to detailed facts and Heideggar's observations on ontology (which always come back to epistemology and linguistic theory). His idea is that language hides what it describes even more than it discloses essential facts.

    In the end, doesnt every question finally come down to epistemology? Seems so to me here in my academic mental asylum.

    Your comments on the third sex and the continuum introduce completely new material to me. I will have to think more about this. As yet, I do not fear the concept of a continuum as I find it liberating from the conventional labels. But, I do think there are many axes to this question that a continuum cannot approximate.

    Thanks again.

    joey
     
  17. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    I responded to this once before, but it got lost somehow. Dont have time to recount everything. Suffice it to say, you have some great background here that is very new to me. My area is Sociology of Religion with a focus on animism. So I am not researching in this field. Though still interested in it.

    Loved what you said about Hirschfeld. Sounds a lot like Heideggar who must have been a contemporary. It's all about epistemology in the end, is it not?

    Sorry, I haven't time for more now. Back next week.

    Thanks again, Alex.

    Joey
     
  18. B_dxjnorto

    B_dxjnorto New Member

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    I get that there are as many sexualities as there are people, but we can still probably narrow it down some just so that we can muddle it up by filtering it through our various symbologies and cultures and spitting it out as language or words on the page.

    By way of illustration I feel rather the opposite of you Joey. I don't usually feel very sexual toward people I don't already know and like. But that doesn't mean I don't often find strangers attractive or beautiful. And I get that variety and newness and novelty is extremely erotic for many. I'm very interested in emotionally intimate friendships with men and it's rather frustrating because obviously many men are not oriented that way.
     
  19. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Maybe I should add that I am in favor of gay marriage. I just dont buy they gay orthodoxy that says it will really solve any issues or that anywhere near a majority of gay men will want to be married. Gay marriage is a strong lever in bringing legitimacy to gay life, but numbers in Holland and other places indicate that only a tiny fraction of gay couples want what marriage implies: a permanent and exclusive commitment between two people.

     
  20. jacero10

    jacero10 Member

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    Thanks for your comment, norto. I can understand your frustration with men who will have sex but not a relationship. I dont know why it is this way. It just seems to be so. I know I have frustrated some guys whom I am not capable of satisfying relationally. I hate that fact, though I cant do much about it.
     
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