Cruising on Craigslist

When cruising was introduced to the public in William Friedkin’s “Cruising,” there was a focused leather bar approach to the idea of gay men interacting with one another in New York City. Since then, the bars and clubs that were home to gay men have been erased and replaced with restaurants and shopping strips. Gay men were forced out of a private environment where they could be comfortable with their sexuality and enjoy the company of others who shared their tastes.

“The Meatpacking, back in the 80s, was very big into leather bars and transgender prostitutes,” said Jeremiah Moss.

“It went from a place where you could find underground sex of all kinds, to basically a suburban style upscale shopping mall, which is what it is now. It’s where tourists go to shop.”

Since the decline of the leather bars and sex clubs, New York has completely changed its culture. It once was a liberal city where free expression was nurtured. But now, it’s lined with outlets and giant advertisements. The gay underground culture has since been pushed out or to the edges of the city. And because of cases such as Mark Carter’s, all gay people have the right to be afraid and feel unwelcome in NYC.

So where did they go?

Online. Today, the homophobic culture seems very harsh and outside of the gay meccas such as San Francisco, gay men no longer have an outlet where they can feel comfortable getting away to. There private sexual life has to be put on display for shaming in order to fully embrace their own sexuality as Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner suggest in their response to “Sex in Public,” so ultimately they have had to find alternative, more discrete methods.

Websites such as craigslist have become a resource for people to find relationships based on specific desires, whether it be a quick blowjob, BDSM, paddling, “gumming” or just an evening romance. Under the “Personals” tab one can navigate into their preferred sexual orientation such as M4M (Men for Men) and find partners based on sex.

Each post will have what the creator wants in the relationship and how to contact him. Users are able to be very specific about their desires in order to fully disclose what will be expected. This method is very similar to how handkerchiefs are used in the leather bar scene except without any confusion.

“ Pretty Boy Jock on the DL Looking to Play with Straight/Bi Dude Ass”

“ do you need a cocksucker – m4m”

Craigslist can offer the ability to form intimate relationships that would otherwise be difficult to establish in a normal public setting.

In our discussion of Oscar Wilde’s sexuality, it was concluded that his sexual affairs were all done under the public light. Wilde’s grave is a beacon for homosexuals but his life also proved many things. The primary thing is that he never publicly announced his homosexuality. While the specific reason is unknown, one can conclude that because it was illegal to homosexual at the time, he reserved from publicizing this information. This illegality of homosexuality gave precedent to the present in that many people still look down upon homosexuals.

In Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home,” she writes about how her father kept his homosexuality unknown from her and his wife for many years. And he would even take discrete trips to NYC to express his homosexuality. This kind of attitude that gay men have had in history only furthers proves that traditional cruising is at least much less effective because these men have to do it in complete secrecy.

Craigslist and similar sites have made accessing other men with similar interests more accessible through their semi-anonymous forum. And with the death of traditional cruising, it’s a resource that is valuable to the gay community.

Gays Were Accepted Hundreds of Years Ago – by Andrew Trinh

Saints Sergius and Bacchus, as depicted by the painting by Rick Herold, were third-century Roman soldiers. The pair were Christian martyrs with Bacchus dying during torture and Sergius eventually beheaded in Syria for refusing to attend a Greek sacrifice. What’s more interesting is that in early Greek manuscripts, it was revealed that these two were openly gay. After their homicide, the two were given sainthood and several churches were built in their honor, including Constantinople and Rome.

“Saints Sergius and Bacchus” by Rick Herold

Rick Herold’s painting of enamel on Plexiglas was made in the late 19th century. It shows the two saints in a nude embrace while asleep. The viewer is lead to believe that the men do not share the same ethnic background because of varying hair colors and skin tones. What’s interesting is that the painting depicts more of a post-sex exhaustion with Bacchus with his head on Sergius’ chest. The idea is further supported by Herold’s inclination towards painting homoerotica.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus. 7th Century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai in Israel. Now in an art museum in Kiev, Ukraine.

The original piece (as show above) that influenced Herold’s creation is much tamer in nature. It shows the two saints next together with Jesus linking the two as if to show matrimony. The original painting opens up the idea of homosexuality being accepted in Christianity during the third and fourth centuries.

The image by Herold challenges the normative idea of religion being against homosexuality. And it shows a regression of the general public accepting homosexuality because these two openly gay men were given the highest honor a person could receive in Christianity. They were given sainthood. Today, homosexuals are still being put down and thrown under the rug. Homosexuals are still being put in the “other” category between humans and animals but in second and third century Rome, these saints were high ranking soldiers in the army. They didn’t hide their homosexuality and actually the reason they lost favor in the army was because they were found out to be Christians.

Since then, Christianity has been known to be unsupported of homosexuals. Today we have LGBT-friendly Christian groups but by definition, gays are still put in a separate category. Even in those accepting groups there are the LGBT and the people accepting them. And in comparison, Christianity has shown regression on accepting the LGBT community even though there are a number of saints that were known to be homosexual.

The painting challenges queer normative culture. In comparing how Christians accepted gays hundreds of years ago and how homosexuals are treated now, whether it be rejection and subjugation or the weak acceptance into LGBT-friendly communities, the level of regression is palpable. The painting almost says, “these advances are not enough.” And what the people in the queer community are doing, while it may seem like significant advancements, is just making up for what used to be, and even then it fails. These gay saints weren’t the other; they were revered, loved and seen as powerful figures. Today, we still haven’t even gotten over “othering.”

Martha Shelley (1992) in her article, “Gay is Good,” said, “the worst part of being homosexual is having to keep it a secret” (p. 32). By putting homosexuals in a different category, we dehumanize them. In contrast, there is ample art supporting the homosexuality culture in ancient Greece and Rome. Gay men having sex was shown on pottery and paintings. And today, we refuse to accept art forms that support homosexuals. Anything with gay sex is distasteful porn. It took over 1500 years after ancient Rome for homosexuals to be featured in lesser art exhibitions and even today there are no large-scale art publications that feature homosexuals. Homosexuals as told by Shelley are still kept in the dark.

The “Warren Cup” depicting one man penetrating another.

Herold’s painting bridges a gap between Ancient Roman liberalism, Christianity’s change over centuries, and the current negative perspectives against gays. It shows two gay saints in a sexual embrace, challenging stiff religious beliefs that have moved communities against gays. And it dares to ask it’s viewers to reconsider what it means to be an oppressor of gays, because long ago, in what we consider a less civilized time, they were accepted.

I Was Robbed of My Humanity – CocoRosie

CocoRosie, the duo of Bianca “Coco” and Sierra “Rosie” Casady, which started in Paris in 2003 has continually pushed queer agendas onto its listeners through abnormal visual and vocal stimuli in the release of their five albums and drag aesthetics.

CocoRosie is not shy to challenge the normative.

The duo is seen dressing semi-drag on various occasions, infusing masculine and feminine qualities in their aesthetics. But their message comes predominantly from their music.

To queer is to question and CocoRosie never fall short of asking the difficult questions. In order to grasp their differences and messages, we are going to look at one of their most popular songs, Werewolf, which was released in 2007, and dissect key points from it.

The song begins with Bianca subconsciously viewing herself as a werewolf – this is a woman turned into an animal.

The first verse is the loss her innocence in “fatherless showdowns” which is reflective of the CocoRosie duo’s childhood. The point is continued with, “River sweep away my memories of children’s things a young mother’s love.” The things that children hold dear are taken away, implying a loss of innocence in a transition from childhood to adulthood but also, imply the roles of a mother to rear her children.

In the chorus, the duo is trying to relieve themselves of the negative memories that they encountered.

“Ima shake you off though
Get up on that horse and
Ride into the sunset
Look back with no remorse”

But again in the second verse, they encounter “black magic” in the form of a man. In the third verse, after an introduction of a mysterious message in the bridge from the father, the band reveals the true pain of this song:

“You blew through me like bullet holes
Left stains on my sheets and stains on my soul
You left me broke down begging for change.”

And suddenly the song isn’t simply about childhood abandonment. It’s almost as if this father character was an accomplice in the rape of the song’s narrator because of his absence. The mysterious bridge talks about the father telling his daughter to keep “the secret” which is implied to mean the secret of the daughter’s rape.

In the metaphorical sense that father means government, CocoRosie is saying that in the eyes of the “Man,” the woman, who is seen as a beast, a werewolf, is inferior and is a tool for men. This relates to Judith Butler’s idea of “Gender Perfomativity” where women at birth, are given a set destiny of oppression because of their biological “inferiority.”

CocoRosie in

In the instance of this song, the guidelines for what it means to be a woman and what power is given to men are set. This song challenges the normative in the idea that the scenario that is set up is the normal, and by hyper-exposing the situation, it pushes change. The duo are trying to say, “this happens under our noses and people allow it continue to stay under our noses, but it has to change, now.”

The song is called Werewolf, but what it really means is, “I was robbed of my humanity.”

It’s queer. They are different. But they offer insight on a gender-struggle situation that is ignored too often.

CocoRosie continues to create music that sounds different, but also offers alternative messages that deal with challenging the norm.