Folsom Street Fair

“The world is not divided into people who have sexual fetishes and people who don’t. There is a continuum of responses to certain objects, substances, and parts of the body, and few people can disregard these and still enjoy having sex.”

This quote from Pat Califia exemplifies fetishes and why we have them, and no fetish community is more prominent than the BDSM community, with its harrowing triple acronym (bondage & discipline, domination & submission, sadism & masochism) that includes most all fetish and kink acts. There is also no larger
BDSM fair than the Folsom Street Fair held in San Francisco. With the fair comes 400,000 visitors who are into all sorts of things, including leather, bondage, sadomasochism, drag, and petplay, to name a few.

Advertisement for Folsom

The Folsom Fair itself can be traced back to the origins of leather culture, which is a huge part of the BDSM community and one of the earliest communities for those into BDSM. Leather culture started in San Francisco in part because of the blue discharge, a discharge from military service for being gay. With these came multitudes of gay men who were dropped off in San Francisco and decided ‘why not just stick around.’ Among the areas that became popular among gay men in this early San Francisco, from the mid-40s on through the 80s were the Embarcadero and Folsom. By the 70s there were 30 different leather bars, leather clubs, and leather merchants on Folsom Street.

An extensive list of what each color and placement represents in hanky code

From this time the hanky code also originated, an excellent example of the structure that the leather community, and typically other kink communities, take on to communicate desires and rules. The hanky code is where someone has a colored hanky on their person, with the color and the placement indicative of what they are interested in, placement on the left meaning they are a top, and placement on the right meaning they are a bottom. Some common colors are red for fisting, grey for bondage, and black for s&m. Parallels can be drawn between this informal but almost official set of guidelines with Califia’s explanation of the guidelines the dictate public sex and turn it into more of a “quasi-public” act. Folsom can certainly be identified as quasi-public, as it occurs in the open but is confined to several blocks that are cordoned off so nobody just wanders in. To those inside Folsom though, everything is more public, which is part of the appeal of the fair. Being present at the fair is participation in some form, and as Justin Bond said in Shortbus, “voyeurism is participation.”

What is the appeal of Folsom and BDSM anyway? In Califia’s article “Feminism and Sadomasochism” she states that: “wearing leather, rubber, or a silk kimono distributes feeling over the entire skin. The isolated object may become a source of arousal. This challenges the identification of sex with the genitals.” Certainly appropriate, as the BDSM community deals with fetishes and fetishes by definition are sexual arousal towards something other than genitals. This erotic sensation that can be had from wearing leather and rubber underlies the BDSM community and the Folsom fair, with many participants wearing some or mostly leather and/or rubber. This challenge of arousal at the genitals also extends to other sub-categories of BDSM, most notably petplay. Petplay is a very common sight within Folsom, either very obviously, like wearing the gear that is involved in petplay, to more subtlety, like wearing a collar. Petplay also tackles on the idea of arousal and affection being directed at something other than the genitals. The arousal can come from the dominant and submissive roles that the two partners engaging in the act take on, it can also come from the intimate moments that are shared within the action. These moments also skew the classic sense of what is romantic and erotic by replacing verbal action with non-verbal action such as petting, holding, or stroking. Within this subset we can also find guidelines and rules established by the community, like collar etiquette. If one is wearing a collar, at Folsom or outside of it, one is assumed to have a partner. For those who like wearing collars but who do not have a partner or are not exclusive, having a collar with an open lock signifies this. Within this community and all the communities at Folsom rules and codes create an ordered environment where everyone can have safe and erotic fun.

Someone in full pony gear engages in an aspect of pony play at Folsom, pulling the dominant partner in a cart

Folsom stands out as a very intimate fair that challenges many norms. It is a BDSM fair that occurs outdoors, where many would consider such acts inappropriate. It also has a very large attendance which may contradict those who think that BDSM is a fringe thing and that fetishes are not common among people. The fair itself stands to challenge norms and it also establishes its own norms which is a wonderful thing in itself. On top of this all, the fair raises money for charity so head on out to it with your best leather and rubber gear because you are doing so for a good cause.

Human Puppy Play

Puppy play, or dog play, is a form of animal roleplay that first appeared in the United States in the leather community around the 1960s. Today there is a growing community of human pups and handlers who gather to socialize and play at events all over the United States and Europe. While the majority of the puppy play community is gay men,  people of any gender and sexual orientation can be involved in the subculture. Puppy play is a variation of dominant/submissive relationship that emphasizes the fun dynamic between an owner and their pet. Papa Woof, a long-time member of the puppy play community, described his interest in the roleplay in an interview with Vice.

” ‘Have you ever owned a pet?’ Papa Woof asks. ‘How many times have you come home from a stressed day and thought, what a wonderful life they have? Someone to pet, feed, play with them. They are happy, mostly carefree… That’s what the headspace of puppy play is all about.’ “

Pups have the opportunity to be free of their human personality and embrace a new, carefree headspace. Puppies take on the persona of a biological canine and embrace animal instinct. Most of all, puppies love getting pet and getting love and praise from their handler. Puppies may like to play with chew toys, play fetch, bark, walk on all fours, explore and get in to trouble. Many pups wear gear to enhance the play. Most commonly collars and masks are worn,but all sorts of rubber, leather, and neoprene gear is used in puppy play.

The relationship between a puppy and its handler is a spin off of the master/servant dynamic present in BDSM culture. There is a lot of variety in the relationships between handlers and pups. Some handlers may be more strict and controlling, focused on having a well-trained, obedient pup. Others can be more playful and nurturing, caring for pups in a less strict way. While the dominance of the handler is maintained in all puppy play relationships, there is a lot of flexibility in the way that the handler plays their role.

For many people, puppy play is not necessarily sexual. Many events, such as the popular Pup
Social
 are purely fun, social events that do not allow any kind of sexual play. At such gatherings, puppies play with each other in a puppy mosh pit while handlers observe and socialize. Some events may have vendors, dances, contests, gear demos, classes and more. These events allow people involved in puppy play to meet up in a safe social environment

In this course we have discussed a lot about sex and sexuality and self-identification. Puppy play is definitely to be erotic and sexual, usually restricted to private households and clubs, though it does not necessarily involve sexual acts. The genders of a pup and its handler can conflict with their individual sexual orientations. For example, a gay male pup may have a lesbian handler. Each participant can get pleasure and satisfaction from their role in the role-play, though they may not be sexually attracted to one another. The dominant/submissive relationship and emphasis on gear in puppy play is definitely erotic, but it may not make sense to identify yourself in the puppy play community exclusively by your sexual orientation. For some people interested in non-sexual puppy play, it may make more sense to identify only as a handler or pup than as a gay man or lesbian woman.

 

The Try Guys Open Eyes

From Left to Right: Ned, Zach, Keith, Eugene

The Try Guys is a group of four guys that tries things most men have never considered or would never consider trying. Buzzfeed conceptualized The Try Guys in September of 2014 when Buzzfeed released “Guys Try On Ladies’ Underwear For The First Time // Try Guys.” Since then, The Try Guys have exploded on the internet gaining increasing popularity among Buzzfeed’s avid YouTube viewers. The group consists of a fairly standard circle of four guys: Eugene—the cool, talented, and pretty one; Ned—the cute, silly, and fatherly figure; Keith—the kooky, awkward, intellectual; and Zach—the nerdy, weird, omega of the wolf pack. Together, these four have experienced anything from trying drag to nude sushi modeling to pseudo-childbirth to BDSM, all while allowing the YouTube audience to vicariously experience such activities accompanied by the guys personal insight.

This group is an important addition to this archive not only because of their willingness to cover taboo topics publicly for anyone to see (such as drag, nude male modeling, and male stripping), but because of who the four guys are. Aside from the civil rights oriented Eugene (who happens to be the only non-white member of the group), the group consists of fairly normative, presumably straight, white guys. This makes the group have so much influential potential; the group reaches out to a demographic of people who are arguably a conservative and judgmental group of people—straight, white guys—and allows them to see that a lot of “gay” things to do may not be stupid, weird, or “gay,” but actually very interesting, fun, and even liberating. Additionally, it also gives out the message that, “if they did it, and they’re cool and normal, then I guess it isn’t weird.” More importantly, Buzzfeed also has other audiences of many different demographics that these videos are viewed by both in the U.S. and around the world; to these audiences, this can send out the message that not all straight, white guys are the stereotypical, closed-minded person that many think. All of this added together just creates a recipe destined for positive influences.

We can see The Try Guys’s influence to multiple demographics (including worldwide audiences) in this clip from a video posted November 21, 2015 (from 2:30-2:37).

In two specific videos, “The Try Guys Try Drag For The First Time” and “The Try Guys Try ‘Fifty Shades’ Style BDSM,” The Try Guys cover topics directly related to this class. In these videos, The Try Guys explore the topics by performing them personally; this allows the guys to ask the very common questions anyone unfamiliar with the topics has and also bust any myths or misconceptions about the topics.

As we experienced in the Gender Performativity unit, specifically RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag performance is not some crazy act by men to get into the pants of other men, nor is it strictly for the purpose of “being a woman.” Instead, we saw that drag is like a theater performance; the actors do it for their personal desires—whether it be to enact a persona, entertain an audience, or to be a queen for a day, etc.—and the audience watches for entertainment, for a unique experience performed with skill creativity, and heart. The Try Guys give us all of this and more; we get to see their personal journey of a day in drag along with how their closest family and friends felt about the experience. Throughout their journey we find that the experience was one of hesitation at first, but ended with a finish of satisfaction and liberation. We see this best when Zach says, “there’s a fear of compromising your masculinity, but who cares.”

The Try Guys and their endeavors continue in another video where we get to watch and learn about BDSM with a professional, The Try Guys, and few female Buzzfeed coworkers. We start off with the Buzzfeed employee’s personal misconceptions about BDSM followed by an explanation by the knowledgeable Buzzfeed workers. This parallels Pat Califia’s explanation of BDSM; Califia shares what many think of BDSM followed by her explanation of why these misconceptions are not accurate representation of what BDSM actually is. Just like for Califia, Buzzfeed and The Try Guys are trying to dismantle the taboo of BDSM and show its true inner workings, specifically that BDSM is not crazy and violent sexual assault, but rather a consensual role playing coupled with a power dynamic and strong physical sensations. Together, I think the video and Califia’s work exemplify that, as Califia explains, BDSM is a fantasy where participants are enhancing sexual experience, not impeding it.

Because of such progressive work reaching out to a vast and varying audience, I believe The Try Guys are just one step in the right direction to help thwart misconceptions of taboo topics in our world. Much of their content is enlightening and entertaining; I highly recommend that, if you haven’t already, check out the rest of their videos. They have done plenty to bring a little perspective to their audience, and it looks like they have just scratched the surface.

Born This Way

Lady Gaga is an eccentric, well-known pop artist whose career has never had a dull moment. She is known for her wild antics such as wearing a meat dress to arriving at an awards show in an egg, which she stayed in for seventy-two hours before coming out to be reborn on stage. Since the beginning of her career in 2008 Lady Gaga has won five Grammy Awards and thirteen MTV music awards for her hit songs like ‘Just Dance,’ ‘Poker Face,’ ‘Born This Way,’ and ‘Bad Romance.’ In addition to her music, Lady Gaga pours her heart and soul into supporting the LGBTQ community and fighting for their equality. When she is not on tour or writing songs, she is speaking at pride events, conferences, and being there for her fans which she calls her “Monsters.” For example, she spoke at the National Equality March Rally, the Gay Pride Rally in New York City, in Maine to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and many more across the United States.

Gaga has been and advocate and an icon for the LGBTQ community throughout her entire career, and she continues to use her fame and influence to fight for equality for all of the queer culture. Many of her songs like ‘Poker Face,’ ‘Born This Way,’ and ‘Hair’ refer to her sexuality and many of the struggles the LGBTQ community can relate to. The most controversial of these songs would be ‘Born This Way,’ because a lot of Gaga haters and anti-LGBTQ people were outraged by the lyrics. These naysayers believe that sexual orientation is a choice, which goes against the message the lyrics ‘Born this way’ stand for. Some people take issue with this song due to the reference to loving God, and they do not believe God approves of queer culture and therefore criticize her for putting them together. However, they do not speak for all religions, there are some religious communities that do not condemn queer culture. Although there were many objections to this song, Gaga also gained a lot of fans because the lyrics made a connection with people, and helped them realize it is okay to be different and to love yourself for who you are, because you were “born this way.”

“‘Born This Way’ is about being yourself, loving who you are, and being proud” – Lady Gaga

Some people argue that Lady Gaga is not truly queer, that instead it is an act she puts on to gain popularity and profit and therefore they do not think she should be an LGBTQ icon or advocate. However, Lady Gaga has come out identifying as a bisexual time and time again over the years. It is true she has only dated men, but she says she has always been attracted to females as well and has had many sexual relationships with women. Queer is an umbrella term for many different sexualities like gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and many more. Lady Gaga is queer, and she supports all of the queer community. She is not discriminating against straight people, her point is that not everyone is the same. There are straight people and queer people and everyone deserves love and acceptance. She advocates for queer equality which relates to the conversation in class about gender neutral bathrooms. They are similar in theory as both concepts make provisions to include not exclude. For example, in our discussion about bathrooms, we talked about how it is not about removing separate sex bathrooms, it is about adding a third option for gender neutral people so that everyone’s needs are met.

“Lady Gaga Is Queer. Always Has Been, Always Will Be” – Queer Voices

Another Lady Gaga song that supports my argument that she is a good LGBTQ icon, is ‘Heavy Metal Lover.’ This song is about one of her past relationships where they shared an interest in leather and BDSM. Throughout the song there are sounds of whips slapping, and lyrics like “Whip me slap me, punk funk, New York clubbers, bump drunk.” This type of sexual behavior directly relates to the film “Cruising” because they both have scenes in the leather bars in New York City where gay men in leather explored their sexuality. Also, BDSM is an aspect of queer or abnormal sexuality, which connects to Gayle Rubin’s theory of sex hierarchy with the “Charmed Circle.” Rubin used this circle to describe good, normal, natural, and blessed sexualities in the inner circle known as the “Charmed Circle.” The outer circle describes the bad, abnormal, unnatural, and dammed sexualities known as the “Outer Limits.” Lady Gaga advocates for the outer limits and for acceptance of different sexual expressions.

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are” – Lady Gaga

Mentioning the New York gay leather bars exemplifies her knowledge of LGBTQ history showing she has done her research and is part of the queer community. ‘Heavy Metal Lover’ is also another source of evidence that Lady Gaga is bisexual because her lyrics are gender neutral, meaning she does not show a preference for one sex over the other. In addition to demonstrating her knowledge about LGBTQ history, Lady Gaga reiterates her strong passion for the LGBTQ community by using “Baby we were born this way” in the song ‘Heavy Metal Lover.’ This use of repetition of ‘born this way’ once again emphasizes and proves Lady Gaga is a good LGBTQ icon, and ‘Born This Way’ was not a fluke or a publicity stunt.

“No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgender life, I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive” – Lady Gaga

As many of our classmates can vouch for, it can be very challenging living as queer in a world where not everyone accepts you. During a time of confusion, loneliness, and self-hate, I believe having the support of a pop star like Lady Gaga can only be seen as a positive, and in fact can be the light at the end of the tunnel for many that are struggling. At the end of the day, we need more people who accept us like Lady Gaga.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex by Madonna

Madonna is undeniably an icon. Despite starting her career in the 1980s, she is still a prominent public figure. Her vast media presence even to this day includes such websites as Wikipedia, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, IMDb, and even madonna.com. Her 2003 VMA performance with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, 1984 song “Like A Virgin,” and “Vogue” dance style are just a few of Madonna’s lasting cultural impressions. Madonna is more than just the “Queen of Pop”; she is an idol to the queer community. She has used her years as an actress, singer, songwriter, producer, dancer, businesswoman, and author as a platform for her to advocate for the gay community.

Coming in at #3 in advocate.com‘s “10 Times Madonna Put the ‘Homo’ In Homoerotic” is SexThis 1992 coffee-table book caused an uproar, prompting her then-boyfriend Vanilla Ice to break up with her, despite appearing in the book himself. Additional celebrities featured include Naomi Campbell, Joey Stefano, and Isabella Rossellini. Photographed by Steven Meisel Studios and published by Warner Books, Sex is a spiral-bound book with a metal cover, released to stores with a Mylar cover to prevent non-buyers’ prying eyes. Despite the bans and bad press, the book sold 150,000 copies its first day and eventually cracked the New York Times bestseller list.

Sex is an uncensored work following the character’s exploits via images and anecdotes. (For a detailed look at many of the pages in Sex, click the image above.)

madonnasex5_20081216_1792207242The first page advocates for safe sex, stating, “If I were to make my dreams real, I would certainly use condoms. Safe sex saves lives. Pass it on.” Specifically citing AIDS as the impetus behind this, Madonna brings a queer issue to the forefront. This is a responsible message whose LGBT+ positive tone persists throughout the book. In addition to heterosexual sex acts, the book contains depictions of many controversial sexualities (including but not limited to: BDSM, male homosexuality, female homosexuality, bestiality, sex with a minor, sex in public, group sex, childhood sexuality, interracial sex, and masturbation). Chapter 9 of Gayle Rubin’s From Gender to Sexuality explores the history behind the aversion to these expressions of sexuality, and it calls into question the established norms of sexuality via the “charmed circle.” Madonna’s Sex completely ignores Victorian tradition and provides the entire sexual community with soft-core porn for thought.

The images are powerful not only by their content but also by their reality. Madonna and/or her character in the book, Dita, writes,

“Everyone has their sexuality. It’s how you treat people in everyday life that counts, not what turns you on in your fantasy… A movie like In the Realm of the Senses turns me on because it’s real… I wouldn’t want to watch anyone get hurt, male or female. But generally I don’t think pornography degrades women.”

The use of “their” as a singular/gender-neutral pronoun may be alluding to acceptance of the trans community, although admittedly it may just be loose grammar. The idea that fantasy should not define you and that your attitudes toward people should is important to queer culture. The real emotions and feelings behind Madonna/Dita’s fantasies are crucial to book’s message; this is not fake. Interior: Leather Bar publicizes gay male sexuality by showing a real gay couple acting out a staged sex scene. Although staged, the intimacy is real, which norms the otherwise “deviant” activity of homosexuality. By incorporating true longing, intimacy, and fantasy into Sex, Madonna norms many controversial sexualities.

 

Shibari and Kinbaku

Rope has long served as a staple in the bondage aspect of BDSM in Western culture. Yet, much of what is practiced today in regards to rope bondage has evolved from Eastern culture, specifically Japan. In the 1400s rope became a tool used by Japanese warriors to secure their captured enemies on battlefields, and by the 1600s it became common in law enforcement. The forms that the warriors and law enforcement used became known as Hojojutsu, which was characterized by quick knots made from natural fiber rope. It was recognized as a martial art (think jujitsu or karate).

Hojojutsu

Over the years Hojojutsu faded from practice and is not widely practiced today. However, it serves as the main influence for modern rope bondage that is practiced both in the East and the West. The two main modern forms are called Shibari and Kinbaku.

The word shibari in Japanese means “decorative tying” and was not used in the context of bondage, but rather for things like wrapping ribbon on presents. Western culture took the word and applied it to bondage, giving it its meaning today. Kinbaku is a Japanese verb meaning “bind tightly” and the meaning has stayed relatively the same in Western usage. There is no exact date when the West started to adopt these practices from Japan, but for hundreds of years they have been slowly assimilating into the Western BDSM culture.

Kinbaku in practice. I waded through a lot of stuff to find these pictures so I hope you appreciate them…

There is some debate over the differences between the two forms because each person who practices does so in a slightly different way. Both forms are considered erotic, but they achieve this in slightly different ways. The most recognized difference is that Shibari gains its erotic nature through the actual beauty of the rope and the study behind it. It is much more about the aesthetic of the rope than the functionality of the bindings. The rope can be synthetic and colored though normal it is uncolored and natural. It is slightly thinner than the rope used in Kinbaku.

Kinbaku gains its erotica more through the functionality of the intricate knots than their appearance. It uses thicker rope, and it uses jute rope, which is a natural fibre. Kinbaku is much more about restraint than appearance and is considered to be more erotic and sexual than Shibari.

Shibari. Notice the lack of any actual restraints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fusion bondage is the modern Western product that incorporates the Japanese forms of Shibari and Kinbaku. It is one of the most varied forms but also the most common in the West. It borrows aspects of the original two forms, but adds aspects like colored and synthetic rope. Fusion bondage does not have the confines that the traditional forms have and is considered to be more a free form of bondage.

Both Kinbaku and Shibari can be practiced by men or women on men or women. The person who has studied the form and ties the knots is known as a rigger. There are several well-known riggers in both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. One that particularly caught my eye name is Lee Harrington, who is trans sexuality and spiritual educator. He explains that Shibari for him is all about the study and knowledge that goes into the ropework. He derives his pleasure from the ropes aesthetic instead of the body of the person he is using the rope on.

Kinbaku

We have spent a lot of time in class trying to define what sex is and where fetishes fit into that definition, which is what lead me to researching this topic. I find it interesting that both forms are considered erotic and can give the participants sexual pleasure, without anything we would consider traditional sex being involved (no genitalia). From what I understand, a rigger and their participant do not have to have any sexual attraction to one another in order to derive pleasure from the act, although I would image that sexual attraction to one another would enhance these feeling. It is more the rope and the knots that give the pleasure and sexual satisfaction to those involved, which further muddies the waters of a clear sex definition.

For some, their ropework defines who they are and lets them break free from the constraints put on them by sexual identities. For instance, a straight male rigger who derives his pleasure from the actual ropework would have no problem tying up a man. We talked in class how some people’s sexual identity is not the main priority when fetishes are involved. A person might identify as a rigger instead of a lesbian for example.

If you are interested in the actual knots involved and how to tie them, here is a link.

 

 

Allen Ginsberg Poetry

allen_ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg is remembered as perhaps the most influential queer poets of his time. Writing during the post World War II era and having led a full life which included drugs and a brief period of time in a mental institution, Ginsberg has all the makings of an intimate wordsmith full of experience.

Ginsberg was a prolific writer and many of his poems can be found here.

Among his multi-faceted works are included several poems directly speaking about sex. One of his more graphic poems, “Please Master,” describes a scene between a Master and sex slave of the BDSM world. BDSM refers to a kink community that can incorporate any or all of the following; Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism.

Check out the full poem here.

Alternatively, listen to Allen Ginsberg reading his poem via this video.

To read this poem is to become the sex slave, as the poem is written in in first person by the submissive partner. Over and over again as we read we beckon for the Master to give us permission. At first the poem starts out gentle, like foreplay; “can I touch your cheek… can I kneel at your feet.” Then we ask the Master for clothes to be removed; “can I have your thighs bare to my eyes…can I take off my clothes below your chair.” As the sexual act progresses we ask the Master for permission to “…pass my face to your balls…” and “…to lick your thick shaft…” The act has progressed to oral sex, however we beckon the Master for more, eventually culminating in anal sex until the Master comes. As the poem continues the requests of the Master become more graphic, “more violent.” The rigid “Please Master can I…” structure becomes a little less rigid and the sentences become longer. This feels a little more wild like the sexual act itself would feel.

The poem is such a beautiful description of a BDSM sexual scene between two men. There is “tenderness” in the act as their is in the poem describing the “sweat fuck.” Despite a very clear power dynamic in this poem and in BDSM, we read the pleasure that the submissive partner receives; “please master make me go moan on the table.” The submissive position that Ginsberg is describing is not one of oppression or degradation. It is one of pleasure giving and pleasure receiving. It is one of having power and giving it to the Master by asking for permission. It is one of conversation and openness (something that BDSM communities assert in every sexual encounter).

A major point being emphasized here is the power and pleasure received by a man who gives himself fully to his male partner. This is much like the anonymously written essay “Cocksucker” which was published in the Boston gay magazine, Fag Rag, in 1971. This essay opens with the discussion of how men who get fellatio are thought of as more masculine, but men who give fellatio are thought of negatively because “who would want to suck the cock of someone who had sucked the cock of every male in the room?” However, to be the submissive partner is not something that should be frowned upon or thought of negatively. It is the submissive partner in this poem who tells the Master what to do and sets up the entire scene to be pleasurable for both parties; and in a sexual act, is that not the very essence of power?

Another fantastically sexual poem by Allen Ginsberg is “Sphincter” which you can read here.

In this poem Ginsberg talks about his anal rectum, just as one might assume given the title. At the beginning of the poem, Ginsberg reflects on how over the past 60 years his sphincter has served him well. He hasn’t experienced any major medical complications, and it has been very receptive to pleasurable insertables.

This poem touches briefly on a more somber topic of queer sexuality; the AIDS epidemic. Ginsberg says in his poem that he will have to start using condoms to protect himself:

Now AIDS makes it shy, but still
eager to serve –
out with the dumps, in with the condom’d
orgasmic friend

As the poem comes to a close he looks towards the future hoping to still have an active, healthy sex life into his old age. He recognizes however that age can create changes to his sex life as he begins to experience aches and pains, yet he “Hope the old hole stays young/ till death, relax.”

Again with Sphincter as with Please Master, Ginsberg writes about empowerment through submission to other men. In Sphincter he speaks of his body part as “eager, receptive to phallus,” and he says he is “unashamed wide open for joy.”

Through both poems readers gain a sense of power through pleasure. Tearing down the fallacy that a man being receptive and submissive to another man in sex is a strong message being incorporated into these two erotic poems.

If you like all of this, check out the Allen Ginsberg Project.

looking through the peepholes on trust, intimacy, and live sex.

“The top is careful to give him just enough to stretch his capacities. . . . The crowd is transfixed by the scene of intimacy and display, control and abandon, ferocity and abjection. . . . We have never seen such a display of trust and violation”. What is being described here is quote taken from Sex in Public by Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner. Here they are describing a special relationship between two partners preforming an erotic sexual act which involves force feeding, an extreme power dynamic, informed consent, a lot of trust, and vomiting.

There is a parallel between the “normal world” and the sex world. Although extremely close these worlds never seem to touch. The sex world today is typically kept behind closed doors and any actual sex is kept private. Of course there are certain establishments where people can go to see sexually enticing acts, dances, strip teases, or a little bit of girl on girl performance; however, a live sex show of any other type is typically out of the question for most places. Amsterdam, famous for its Red Light District featuring brothels, strip clubs, and even live sex shows; is a place that still offers these forms of entertainment at many different levels.  Casa Rossa, a theater in Amsterdam’s Red Light District offers multiple shows ranging from stripteases, S&M, couples having sex, and even a banana show.   

These shows may not be for everyone as some people may perceive them as pushing the boundaries of sex, power, and trust.   Well what about a show featuring professional dancers performing sexual acts without pushing any boundaries? In 2003 the group of Spanish theatre dancers known as La Fura dels Baus preformed a sex show titled XXX, a show based from the writings of Marquis de Sade. Featuring naked actors the show depicts an array of sexual acts set on exploring the nature of sexual fantasies. Featuring explicit scenes no “actual sex” is preformed, instead prosthetics are used and film clips are used to display certain acts. While the show is extremely graphic and has been known to leave nothing to the imagination, William Burdett-Coutts the artistic director of Riverside Studios, explains that “the whole point of it is that it makes you think about what is acceptable and about fantasies and about what you believe in”.

Although extremely sexual the XXX performance does not test the same boundaries as a real live sex show. In some cases a real live sex show will include volunteers from the audience and test them on stage to see what they are comfortable with and willing to do sexually. There is a high level of intimacy and trust between live sex performers especially if the performance involves painful acts. Viewers of these dynamic acts may be unaware of the sensual and trusting relationship between the performers and may disapprove of such acts. Sadly, even with the showing of XXX in an atempt to ease the notion of sexual acts, such performances are fading and most have been removed from society. For the places that are left, some only offer just a peep.  Peep shows can offer its customer some fantasy fulfillment but they are much different from a live sex show as they typically are not as explicit or unusual and most importantly do not feature the same level of dynamics and intimate trust as other sexual preformances. While live sex shows have become harder to find, productions of these shows have continued on behind closed doors.

Located at 1800 Mission st. in San Francisco CA there is a building known as The Armory.

 

    Vacant for years, this large military building was purchased by Kink.com in 2006. Kink.com is a pornography company that produces and live streams BDSM acts and other fetishes, with a mission to “demystify and celebrate alternative sexualities”. While the locals in the Mission District are aware of Kink.com’s presence many walk by this magnificent building every day and have no idea what takes place inside. While places for live sex shows and other fetishes are pushed out of sight from society they are still accessible through other means all while keeping the sex world away from our “normal world”.

BDSM: Fifty Shades vs. Interior Leather Bar.

 

male-submissive-bdsmSex is one of those peculiar things that can only be discussed or accepted when it is deemed to be “okay” and thus encouraged in situations. Gayle Rubin’s “Thinking Sex: Notes for the Radical Theory of Politics of Sexuality” describes this perfectly, saying that our western society supports sexual acts that are high on this “hierarchal system of sexual value,” where ones pertaining to heterosexual monogamy and reproduction are situated at the top. And although through monogamy the homosexual community can be accepted, gay sexuality combined with other “taboo” forms of sexuality find themselves at the bottom of this pyramid (including, but not limited to, straight and gay sadomasochists). Due to the fact that there does exist a social norm for how you do it and with whom you do it with, it is difficult for many to find comfort with the idea of BDSM as a form of “safe” sex. It is so ostracized that those who do enjoy it must live two lives: one public, the other extremely private. And because sex plays such a significant role in politics, the “democratic morality” of it is always debated. If there is a lack of “mutual consideration” or  a “presence…of coercion,” that sex is not “okay” and not to be praised or accepted.

S&M/BDSM culture has existed for decades. The acronym stands for Bondage, Discipline, Submission, Dominance, Sadist and Masochist. This type of sex almost always involves on participant in power and the other partner subjecting themselves to the “master’s” desires. This sex-slave like role requires them to give up all their power and control; the sadist receives pleasure from inflicting pain/asserting authority over the masochist, who receives pleasure by allowing this. There are many levels of intensity that you can choose, so there is always flexibility with what you like and are comfortable with. That being said, consent plays a major role too. There still exists a line between fulfilling your fantasy and knowing when to give up (or take back) that control. Types of ways to control, or be controlled, are through the use of bondage (hand-cuffs, ropes), sensory deprivation (blindfolding, covering the ears or mouth), torture, and enslavement of the masochist. S&M allows for the most kinks and fetishes to be satisfied.

Two films that challenge this morality are Fifty Shades of Grey and Interior Leather Bar. “Fifty Shades” was originally a book written by E.L. James about a young college student, Ana Steele, who meets a young successful business man named Christian Grey. Ana having been a virgin, she had never experienced any type of sex (not even sex without kinks and fetishes, or “vanilla sex”), but when she begins seeing Christian, he exposes her to his “playroom” filled with all the BDSM accessories you could think of. Ana consciously subjects herself to Christian, allowing him to punish her when need be. The book/movie became one of the most popular erotic works in the country. On the other hand, Interior Leather Bar is an independent film by James Franco in hopes to recreate the forty minutes of obscenity cut from the 1980 film Cruising. Cruising was a film starring Al Pacino as an undercover cop who goes into gay S&M clubs to find the serial killer who’s been mass murdering homosexuals. The movie shows many graphic scenes containing men dressed up in S&M attire and “cruising” for other men to have sex with, but there are no really sex scenes or images of genitalia. Franco wanted to recreate what those cut scenes would have been, exposing his audience to  all the sexual acts occurring in the bar as well as showing actual gay sex.

Despite both films having to do with this type of sexual culture, it is portrayed quite differently. S&M to many seems taboo and at times scary, but Fifty Shades makes it seem erotic, mutual, and safe. Christian Grey presents a contract of consent for Ana to read through and sign, making her safety the number one priority. In return for her sexual favors, he buys her expensive gifts like an Audi, a first class plane ticket, and a Blackberry so that he can’t stay in touch with her constantly (talk about liking control). He even introduces her to his family, making this type of sex on that anyone is capable of having since it does’t have to be a lifestyle, and thus normalizing it. All of these things portray heterosexual BDSM as safe and controlled. However in Interior Leather Bar, there is no discussion of consent at all, written or spoken. Men are just standing around cruising for other men, but in a more predacious way. The room is dark, there’s a lot of spanking and pain being inflicted. The gay portrayal of BDSM is even difficult for Franco to watch, who ends up cringing and leaving the room. While Fifty Shades presents sex with rules and eroticism, we see it as artistic because it is “palatable”. However, Interior Leather Bar shows it as threatening, hazardous, and maybe even repulsive. This makes it seem more like a porno rather than an acceptable form of having sex. There is no contract, no safety words for slowing down or stopping, no gifts, nothing. Just the sole desire for the men to explore their fantasies. This is unfair; Fifty Shades shows what we’d like to think S&M could be, while Franco’s film shows what we could never accept it as: torturous, non-mutual, and homosexual.

Not only is there discrimination between ways of having sex (S&M vs. “vanilla”), but there is discrimination between who you choose to do it with. Fifty Shades shows a distasteful kind of sex as something to be acquired, to be seen as erotic solely because the participants are straight. While Interior Leather Bar leaves the audience shocked. This difference is due to the obvious, that the majority identifies with straight sex, but also because one movie presents consent as the most important thing while the other disregards it. It is not a matter of accepting these generalizations that the straight way of having taboo sex is safer than the gay way, the point is not to accept a stereotype. If there is going to be concern, it should be more focused on the act and less on the sexuality of the participants. This way, we can get rid of negative/exaggerated stereotypes of certain sexualities, and work towards acknowledging BDSM for what it really is.

KAZAKY

Kazaky is a synthetic-pop, dance heavy, Ukrainian-based boyband that came together in Kiev, Ukraine back in 2010. Current band members consist of Kirill Fedorenko, Artur Gaspar, Artemy Lazarev, and Oleg Zhezhel. Famous for their 5.5-inch custom stilettos, the band first gained momentum towards the end of 2010 with the release of their first single, “In the Middle.” The song transfixed audiences across the world as members started out in more masculine clothing and then transitioned to a more androgynous appearance with their infamous heels. Their second single, “Love,” further expanded their popularity, with the music video reaching nearly 5 million views. The band has now produced two studio albums (The Hills Chronicles and I Like It (Part 1 + 2)) and numerous music videos. Unsurprisingly, the band members even appeared in one of Madonna’s music videos, “Girl Gone Wild” – Madonna obviously has a pattern of including backup performers that can dance significantly better than her. In addition to their studio albums and music videos, Kazaky has been featured in numerous high profile publications due to their bold and intrepid taste in fashion.

With backgrounds as trained dancers, group members are famous for their intricate and synchronized dance moves that draw upon many different styles and cultures. Kazaky’s choreography consists primarily of acrobatic dance, voguing, and waacking. Members of the band contrast gender with their high stilettos, hyper masculine physique, dark sensual androgynous fashion, and runway style dance choreography. More interestingly, band members intentionally keep their sexual identities hidden, only pointing out that some members are gay while others are not. In a response comment on one of their Youtube videos, member Oleg Zhezhel states, “the reason we never answer this question is because we try to keep a kind of mysterious charm.” Member Kirill Fedorenko adds, “We are unbiased in terms of being pro-straight or pro-gay. There is no gender-related implication. It’s all about the dance and the movement.” In addition to adding a level of curiosity, the band’s decision to withhold their sexual identities can be seen as a form of protective secrecy against their anti-queer, fascist political state.

On March 4, 2013 the band released a new track and video, “Crazy Law”.

Although not confirmed, it’s been speculated that the song and video are responding to the anti-gay propaganda legislation coming out of Russia. While synchronously dancing in intense leather and kink-spired clothing, band members promote ideals of self-love, desire, peace, and gender-nonconformity.

“Why am I feeling? This is a crazy law
You can have many looks, even how you’re born
Why am I feeling, this is a crazy law
I’m not trying to show you something wrong”

In the opening lines, band members question the validity of Russia’s homophobic legislation. Emphasizing a dynamic, non-singular attitude towards outward appearance, more arguably gender, the band rejects typical static, singular, and dichotomous stereotypes of gender. The band members argue that their performance and appearance is not unnatural, but instead a valid and real identity. Towards the end of the song members sing:

“Keep your dreams, keep your plans
All of this things you have is nice

The crazy best it’s now with us
Your body disappears don’t come up
Look around a lot of noise
Never gonna lose your voice”

Band members again reiterate a sense of anarchic validation towards individuality and separatism. They encourage listeners to maintain eccentricity and self-advocacy despite living within a controlling and repressive environment. Though Audre Lorde argues for a new modern understanding of the erotic from an empowering female perspective, one could connect ideas from her writing to members of Kazaky. Kazaky’s performances can be seen as a source of erotic power, and a sharing of that power with their viewers. With their androgynous, gender-bending looks and outward projection of multi-faceted sexual identities, members refuse submittal to traditional gender and sexual expectations. Instead, members foster power from within themselves and from within their differences and similarities. They search for new understandings of the erotic and attempt to bring that power to those stripped of it by oppressive political structures.