Lesbian Love and Sex in Afterglow

Afterglow: More stories of lesbian desire, sequel to Bushfire: Stories of lesbian desire, is a collection of seventeen stories edited by Karen Barber. The stories offer much diversity, covering love and sex that is long distance, unconventional, for pay, for life, or simply in the moment spontaneity. The stories take the reader all over the country, even as far as Hawaii, and span lifetimes, all the way from tales of teenage awakenings to end-of-life memories. While the stories do generally focus on sex and passion, the stories are about more than that. The stories express the search for lesbian community, history, and belonging. As works of fiction, the stories are real and raw, without relying on characters who are confused or ashamed of being lesbians.

The stories touch on these themes in many ways; where one story might only allude to something, another spans the gap. Starting in the first story in the collection, titled “What is the goal & how will we know when we get there?”, issues of belonging, closure, and certainty (or uncertainty) start to be asked and answered. In this particular story, conflict arises when two women’s life circumstances – living in different states, having families and jobs – generate doubt that any type of long-term relationship is possible, and the story ends with only a slight sense of closure. Two other stories, “Carol’s garden” and “Streak of blue” deal with uncertainty, but here they end in comfort and possibility. All three of these stories represent the struggles of life, and it is important that they come from different angles. Variety is abundant in this collection, and many sides of lesbian existence are shown, even ones that are rarely acknowledged such as prostitution and female masturbation.

Surprisingly, history and legend also factor into a number of stories. The search for history is most notable in “Gardenias,” in which two young lesbians vacationing in Hawaii discover, with the help of an old lady named Eva, the belongings of a performer known as the great Wah Ta Ta. The great Wah Ta Ta was a remarkable woman who, as legend goes, was able to suck whole beer bottles into her vagina. Eva shows the two women some of the items she performed with, such as the emperor’s teacup and ivory and leather dildos. The two women end up using some of her items to have sex while Eva watches from afar. This account is reminiscent of Cheryl Dunye’s quest to find the Watermelon Woman since most of Dunye’s research is gathered from talking to other women and by finding historical artifacts. In both cases, fact and fiction are likely mixed, but the importance of the Watermelon Woman and the great Wah Ta Ta rests on the search for history and identity rather than truth. History and the handing down of knowledge is also important in another story, aptly named “Cunt cult.” Here, a community of lesbians exist to pass their knowledge of love-making down to younger lesbians. Initiation into the cunt cult community means acceptance into the community, but members are expected to spread knowledge rather than keep it amongst themselves.

Of course, “Cunt cult” isn’t the only story centered on sex; to some extent, all of these stories are. Despite this, even the smuttiest ones serve a purpose. None of them feel like filler stories, even though many are very pornograpic. This does not mean that they lack substance; in fact, the focus on pleasure is important because it is a portrayal of lesbian pleasure authored by lesbians for lesbians. “Siesta” and “Telefon” are two good examples of how pleasure is used not only to satisfy the reader but also to emphasize the joys of giving and receiving pleasure. “Siesta” is perhaps the closest to “classic” porn on levels of fantasy and submissiveness, but the narrator is still able to assert the importance of her own pleasure. On the other side, “Telefon” is about the joy of giving rather than receiving pleasure. Additionally, three stories in this collection are stories of sex on the job, titled “Cinema scope,” “Filth,” and “A working dyke’s dream.”

This emphasis on pleasure becomes an emphasis on sharing throughout the entire collection, whether it’s sharing of sex, love, knowledge, history, community, or a sense of belonging. So instead of watching the newest lesbian tragedy on Netflix, check out these and other stories in Afterglow, written by lesbians for lesbians.

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.

 

Dancing, Drugs, and Dopamine

      Imagine a world where there is nothing but dancing, drugs, and dopamine. A world where you can snap your fingers and the most glamorous, exciting night is right in front of you. Parties, elaborate costumes, music; what can go wrong?  In the film “Party Monster” directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, Macaulay Culkin plays Michael Alig, a club promoter and leading member of the Club Kids of New York City, which hosted this glamorous lifestyle in the late 80’s and early 90’s that seemed to rise at the snap of Alig’s fingers. This euphoric and fabulous life was all Michael wanted, so he pursued his dreams and moved to the city to later establish the Club Kids, where he hosted parties and people came dressed in outrageous costumes. Mostly flamboyant and drag-like personas emerged. The Club Kids grew and grew until they were hugely prominent in the underground club scene. Alig learns to rules of fabulousness from James St. James (Seth Green), and he takes flight from there. “Party Monster” does a fine job in depicting Michael Alig and the Club Kids, and I believe it is a spectacle of queer culture that is important to take a look at.

Seth Green and Macaulay Culkin as James St. James and Michael Alig

     The darkness that was behind Michael Alig is something very important to understand “Party Monster” gives us a very accurate presentation of drugs that drove Alig to madness. Being an addict, Alig could never get enough. In almost every scene of the film, we see him high or using. It’s crucial to learn the role of drugs in this underground club life that Alig was basically constructing for himself. Some may argue the lifestyle wouldn’t even be sustained without them. Much of the plot is driven by his drug use, such as his overdose, being warned about them; his relationships are even sustained by them in certain ways. The phrase “dinner is served” is used multiple times throughout the film referring to the drugs he’s prepared for a large group or even an intimate night with James. Almost every action Michael performs in this film is under the influence of hard drugs such as heroine, ketamine, or methamphetamine.  

Macaulay Culkin as Michael Alig

      Murder is also a theme in this film. Part of Alig’s darkness is his real tendency to kill. He brutally murders his lover, Angel (while high) and dismembers his body. He stuffs his legs in a garbage bag and puts the rest of the remains in a box. Eventually he confesses and was sent to prison for manslaughter. This murder resulted from a long argument about drugs. He was so high he barely remembered his actions. 

Culkin and Green post-murder scene

      The culture and goal of this film, in my opinion, is not to just tell a story of Michael Alig and the Club Kids, but to really show darkness and pain that is behind the glitz and glamour of what often is, queer culture and practice (but not all). The culture of queer club scenes, underground drag, and practice cult-like groups, etc. There is a strong parallel between this film and “Pink Flamingos”. There are lines that both can connect to such as brutality and darkness, yet glamour and some sort of “perfect world”. Alig believed his club promoting and Club Kids was his perfect world, just like Divine did with her group. When actually, the reality of what they were engaging in was nothing but destructive. Like we discussed with “Shortbus”, and the actual existence of these kind of places, there is a certain set of “rules” and “norms” that govern these kinds of places always led by this great and fabulous leader. Justin Vivian Bond, Michael Alig, and Divine are all faces of their own “clubs” who really act as the eyes, ears, and especially mouths of these environments. “Party Monster” is a really important addition to queer film, in my opinion, and the true story of Michael Alig is something to take notice of when learning the history and culture of the queer club scene. 

Macaulay Culkin, Wilson Cruz, Seth Green

“Party Monster” movie poster

We All Need A Normal Heart

The Normal Heart Front Cover

The 2014 film The Normal Heart, written by Larry Kramer, is a recreation of Kramer’s 1985 play The Normal Heart. With a star filled cast, The Normal Heart is a beautiful drama that shows the unfortunate troubles of gay men at the start of and through the rise of the AIDS epidemic. Although this film existed in play form first, it was recreated as a way to reach a larger audience and show how seriously terrifying and mysterious the AIDS epidemic was for those living through it.

The Normal Heart starts off by showing the sexual liberty gays have recently acquired along with the happiness from their freedom. But the film quickly changes tone once gays realize they are being diagnosed with a rare and nebulous homosexual cancer. Once the main character, Ned—an openly gay writer, has a friend who becomes infected with this gay cancer, they start to seek out help. At this point, they go to Dr. Emma Brookner who is the one of the only doctors willing to work with patients infected with this mysterious disease. Dr. Brookner is looking for someone to be a leader and share her information with gay men; she finds Ned to be that man. At a meeting with Dr. Brookner, Ned, and many other gay men, Dr. Brookner shares her research and information with these men about how she thinks the cancer is sexually transmitted, and that the men should “cool it” because there is a high chance they will infect each other and die. The sexually liberated men scoff at her, but Ned knows how serious this disease is and decides to start an organization to get help and raise awareness for the disease. The rest of the film focuses on the development the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) organization intermixed with the personal struggles the gay men are facing at this time. The GMHC becomes one of the leading fighters to get support politically, publicly, and medically to combat the gay disease.

The film does not strictly focus on the disease, but also how this disease affects the personal lives of the gay men at the time. As if gay men weren’t already misunderstood enough, the gay cancer (which we now know is AIDS) adds another level of the struggles gay men face. The film depicts how gays during this time receive little to no help from anyone apart from other gays, how they become more feared than ever due to the rise of this mysterious cancer, how being gay is still full of doubt, fear, and confusion in addition to this crisis, and how it still is not safe nor secure to be openly gay to the public.

Although this film is largely about the AIDS epidemic, it still showcases many things presented in our sexuality unit. One specific aspect from our unit that The Normal Heart focuses on is Ned’s sexuality, his understanding of it, and his relationship with his family because of it. Until the latter half of Ned’s life, he always believed his sexuality was wrong; he had been told a plethora of times that he could change his ways, become straight, and finally be normal. This is very similarly to our reading of Merle Miller’s “What It Means To Be a Homosexual,” where he says,

I have spent several thousand dollars and several thousand hours with various practitioners, and while they have often been helpful in leading me to an understanding of how I got to be the way I am, none of them has ever had any feasible, to me feasible, suggestion as to how I could be any different.

In both cases, we see that these gay men realized that no amount of therapy can change who they are; although it may be a more stressful life, they know who they are, what they are, and nothing is going to change that. In fact, we even see that after this epiphany, both individuals become happier and more at peace with themselves.

We also get to see how gayness crosses over to family life with Ned and his brother, Ben. Ben is a lawyer at a very successful law firm and Ned is seeking his assistance for the GMHC. Ned believes that the support of not just his straight brother, but Ben’s straight company will drastically help their movement. On the other hand, Ben thinks that the “straightness” of him and his company will not make a difference. It is at this point that Ned realizes his brother still doesn’t see him as a healthy equal, that Ben still thinks he is “sick,” and that his brother still doesn’t understand him, even though he accepts him; this is exactly the struggle Martha Shelley describes in “Gay is Good.” Here, Shelley explains that she is sick of liberals saying that it doesn’t matter who sleeps with whom, but what one does outside of bed; to her, this isn’t good enough anymore. She states,

[w]e want something more now, something more than the tolerance you never gave us. But to understand that, you must understand who we are. . . I will tell you what we want, we radical homosexuals: not for you to tolerate us, or to accept us, but to understand us.

In the heat of Ned and Ben’s argument, we hear a very similar frustration expressed by Ned towards Ben’s understanding and acceptance of Ned. Ben tolerates and accepts Ned, but he doesn’t truly understand Ned which, as Shelley agrees, is not good enough for Ned.

In yet another example from the film that connects to our unit, we see that to many in the straight world, one’s sexuality is extremely important and can influence someone’s opinions or actions towards a homosexual. During this time, Ned is one of the few open, politically active gay men; many of the other GMHC are closeted out of fear of having their lives ruined from the rest of the world not accepting them. Even the mayor and his assistant are gay, but they neglect the epidemic due to the potential of them being outed even though they are struggling through the epidemic themselves. As we saw from Joseph Epstein, he stated in “Homo/Hetero: The Struggle for Sexual Identity” that,

[f]or this reason, and from an absolutely personal point of view, I consider it important [to] know whether a man I am dealing with is a homosexual or [not].

In a scene in the hospital at which Dr. Brookner works, we see this exemplified when a maintenance worker won’t go into the gay-related immune deficiency (GRID) section of the hospital to fix a TV because his union says he “doesn’t have to risk his life over some contagious fairy.” Another situation like this occurs when two gay men, one of them severely sick with the disease, are asked to leave a plane they are on because the pilot will not fly while they are still on the plane. These scenarios truly demonstrate the struggles gay men faced during this time period.

The Normal Heart is quite an outstanding film that explains a difficult period for gay men. The story encapsulates many of the struggles gay men have faced to get to the point they are today in a powerful story that can open the eyes to many who do not know about or who who do not understand the struggles gay men have gone through. Because of its excellent depiction, I highly recommend this film and believe it rightly deserves its place in this archive.

To get a glimpse of the film, here is the trailer:

The History of Pride Flags

The very first gay pride flag made its first appearance in 1978. The original flag had eight colors. Today’s gay pride flag has only six colors. Each of the colors represent a different aspect of life. The first gay pride flag was created by Gilbert Baker. He is an artist from San Francisco. Among the gay pride flag there is other pride flags that represent different pride groups. Some of these other pride flags are Leather Pride, Bear Pride, Bisexual Pride, Lesbian Pride, Transgender Pride, Asexual Pride, and Feather Pride. These are only a few of the other pride there is many more. The other main one that I want to focus on is the Bear Pride flag, because this was the next pride flag that was created. Craig Byrnes was the designer of the Bear Pride flag. He came up with the official design in 1995 as the bear pride community was growing. Each color represents all the different types of real bears all around the world.

                        

(the flag on the left is the original 8 color flag and the flag in the middle is the present 6 color flag and the flag on the right is the ear pride flag)

Gay pride and bear pride along with leather pride are the top three pride groups that usually attend pride fests. In class we watched a short clip from “Where the Bears Are”. This is an internet show about the Bear pride community. It is a comedy mystery web series which won the 2012 “Best Gay Web Series”. It has become a big hit ever since it made its debut in 2012 with over 10 million hits. This show represents basically one group of gay men who are very hairy and have a larger masculine body structure. These men also usually have facial hair as well as chest hair. The Bear pride community has many different slang terms to describe what type of bear every man is that’s in the community. Another short web clip we watched in class was “Easy Abby”. This is a web series based on a lesbian who has a lot of girlfriends that she doesn’t remember when she runs into them after not seeing them for a little while after they broke up. Both web series are based on gay people weather they are men or women. Before other pride groups were formed and came up with their own pride flags they all would have originally used the rainbow gay pride flag to support their sexuality. But now each gay group has their own pride flag. there is a pride flag for transgender people, lesbians, straight, asexual, and many more different groups.

       

I chose to do my history archive on the history of the most common gay pride flags because not many people realize that there is more than just the original rainbow (gay) pride flag. Along with the gay pride flag being one of the most popular pride flags, the bear pride flag is also one of the three most popular pride flags as well. Bear pride has been growing more popular since 1995 when the official design of their flag was debuted to the community. No matter how many different gay pride flags there is the original gay pride flag (the rainbow flag) will never fade away because it is what has formed our community and shaped the future for other pride flags to come to gay groups that do not have a special flag of their own. We all share the original pride flag, but like to stand out with our own pride flag that represents who we truly are.

PrideFlags

 

“The Platonic Blow” – A 20th Century Response to Whitman

W.H Auden was one the the greatest and most intelligent writers of the 20th century and one of my favorite poets of all time. Much of Auden’s work is influenced by politics, religion, philosophy, and love. Auden was gay and fairly open about that fact. He often traveled to Berlin before WWII broke out to enjoy the gay scene in the city and to visit his close friend Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood, whom we briefly discussed in class, traveled with Auden to China, Spain, and eventually to America. They collaborated together on books about the Sino-Japanese War and the civil war in Spain.

I will leave it to you to read Auden’s more famous poems (which is something you really should do) and instead focus on a particular poem that is not as well known. Auden wrote this particular poem to his lover Chester Kallman to be playful and never meant it to be published. It is titled “A Platonic Blow” and you can read it here. It’s worth the read.

Not only is the poem about a guy cruising a man, bringing him back to his apartment, blowing him and rimming him, but it is a finely structured poem on top of that. Auden uses internal rhyme, an end rhyme scheme of ABAB, and each line is metered so that there are five stressed syllables. “A Platonic Blow” is unique in Auden’s work because of the explicit and raw eroticism of it.

Auden and Chester Kallman

I chose to look at Auden and this particular poem in contrast to Walt Whitman. We spent a significant amount of time in class talking about Whitman and his poetry. Whitman is in ways regarded as one of the father’s of queer culture and literature, despite the fact words like queer or gay were not labels he applied to himself. It was the 19th century and these terms were not in play yet; however, Whitman still laid the groundwork for the queer literature to come. As you know from Whitman’s poems we read in class, much of his work was centered around the intersection and combination of the American nation and sex.

Auden and Isherwood

Auden, too, wrote about the nation and sex, but he chose to keep the two separate. His poem “Spain” is one of his greatest works and deals with the idea of the nation. He wrote it while in Spain with Isherwood, and it describes the country in its past, its present, and in its future. Much like Whitman, he had an idea of what he thought the nation should be, although they were writing about different nations. Whereas Whitman saw love and sexual relations between men as a reconstruction of the nation’s relations, Auden never mentions the two in conjunction. He, who was out in a way Whitman couldn’t be, chose to keep his ideas of the nation separate from his ideas of same-sex relations.

It may have been because Auden lived in a strange period where same-sex relations were not so taboo that he did not feel the connection between the homoerotic and politics that Whitman felt. The Weimar Republic was fading and war was approaching, but there seemed to be this bubble in time that allowed for queer culture to flourish for a few years. “The Platonic Blow” highlights the sexual climate of the time, which was becoming much more open than the the one Whitman knew. The poem is blunt, crass and beautifully written, and it seems to say that sex does not need the nation. It can exist outside the confines of politics and borders. Whitman saw sex and the nation as being intertwined, but Auden saw them as separate entities. “The Platonic Blow” is one step further into the explicit erotic that Whitman couldn’t take, and it show so clearly how Auden chose to keep his sexual feelings separate from his published work.

Here are some great Auden links:

Biography

Auden Reading His Own Poems

My Favorite Auden Poem

 

Cruising Redefined: Grindr

Calling all gay, bi-sexual, and curious men! Want to get laid tonight but you still haven’t showered and don’t feel like leaving your apartment? There’s an app for that! Grindr- For those looking for a quick rendezvous, whether it be a date or something much raunchier, or perhaps just a night of sexting and an adequate, though temporary, fix for loneliness.   grindr2Ah, yes. Grindr. Today’s modern version of cruising.

Technology has reached an ultimate high. Available on smartphones, Grindr is the first and leading app of its kind. So brilliant yet elegantly simple, It is an all-male location-based social network. Using the GPS function of a smartphone, users can locate other gay men within a relative proximity, scroll through their pictures, read some information about them, and send a message, photo, or location.

“Grindr is a very, very visual experience. I’m not really a big believer in words.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

14JPGRINDR2-articleLarge

“Outside the gay community, people would probably say it’s just a hookup app, and absolutely, sex is going on. But it’s more than that, because there’s always the possibility you will hit the jackpot and find someone who will move you. It has this potential for making a huge impact in your life.”- Joel Simkhai, CEO, Grindr

Joel Simkhai, Grindr’s mastermind, was born in Tel Aviv, Israel and moved to New York with his family when he was 3-years-old. He graduated from Tufts University with degrees in economics and international relations. With $2,000 and the help of a Scandinavian software developer, Simkhai began working on Grindr, an app he had “rattling in his mind” for awhile. When the technology became available, he jumped on the opportunity to make Grindr his baby. Launched in 2009, Grindr today has an estimated 4 million users and is available in 192 countries, including places where being openly gay can mean death.

What’s with the Name and Mask Logo?

Simkhai says that the word Grindr comes from a coffee grinder. Mixing people together. “It is a little bit rough – not to mix, but to grind.” It is tough, and masculine, and sexy. The logo is a mask because they wanted to create something primal, like an African tribe mask, since socialization is a primitive, basic human need.

Simkhai has also created a program called Grindr For Equality, as a way to reach out to this huge global network of gay men and encourage them to get involved in the gay rights movement, by providing them with contacts and information about politicians who are struggling with interfacing the gay community.

Grindr is today’s cruising. In William Friedkin’s Cruising we see Al Pacino hanging around New York City’s grimiest S&M bars. In Interior. Leather Bar., we learn about James Franco’s fascination with the underground gay cruising culture. Although Grindr may lack the eye contact and boldness that cruising entails, it is a safe and comfortable way for gay men to meet other gay men.

Though it may seem funny or trivial from an outside perspective, Grindr has, and will continue to have a huge impact on gay male culture. Instead of hanging around suspect urban areas, Grindr provides males with a safe platform to explore their own sexuality and text other gay males. From the safety and comfort of their own homes, I believe that most gay young boys today will begin their sexual journeys on Grindr, at their own pace. If the narrator of Torres’s “We the Animals” had Grindr, would the ending have been any different? Maybe instead of furiously writing about his darkest and deepest fantasies in his diaries and secretly hanging around mens’ bathrooms, he could have connected with other young gay boys in his area who are like him. On page 111, he says, “Maybe it was true. Maybe there was no other boy like me, anywhere.” If Grindr was available to him, I think we could have seen a drastically different ending. Perhaps he would have broken away from his suffocating, tight-knit, yet destructive family unit, and connected with someone who understands him.

I am excited to see how Grindr will change and enhance gay culture in the future to come. Though people may scoff at Grindr as being nothing but a hook-up app, it is a way for gay men to get to know people around them who they may otherwise have never known. I believe that connecting humanity with each other, regardless of the platform, is a true benefit to mankind.

Honest Sex

If you type in sex into the Youtube search engine, a variety of videos of the sexual nature pop up, but hidden among all of these was a little gem titled Honest Sex, a video posted by BuzzFeedYellow, a Youtube channel quoted as “being just like BuzzFeed, but more yellow”. The idea behind being “more yellow” escapes me, but the video still caught my attention. The video was posted on January 29, 2015 with the caption, “Can you handle it?”

The seven minute video outlines the conversation that many couples fail to have before embarking on that journey between the sheets. Although the video depicts a heterosexual couple, the idea of whether or not a relationship is to be monogamous can be applied to any gender.

“I don’t believe in a monogamous lifestyle. I’ve tried it before and it just doesn’t work for me.”

Monogamy is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “the state or practice of being married to only one person at a time” or “having only one sexual partner during a period of time”. The idea of monogamy has plagued relationships in western culture for some time, but the question is why this has become the steadfast rule when monogamy in the natural world is uncommon. Throughout history many societies practiced a variety of relationships which included monogamy and polygamy, but in modern Western culture people who engage in the practice of polygamy are seen as sinners. Society stigmatizes the idea of a polyamorous relationship because it does not fit into the little box in which our society currently resides, so it is foreign, it is “queer”.

Sometime people fail to realize sex can occur with multiple people at one time and it be okay. Sex is a crucial part of a relationship, but we allow it to hold too much power over the way we conduct those relationships. Sexual relationships don’t just occur between a man and a woman, but between people of all genders. Just as we shouldn’t shame people for being straight, or gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender, we shouldn’t shame them for engaging in a non-monogamous or polyamorous relationship. If they can be honest about their sexual relationship, then we shouldn’t name call or slut shame them as society has bred us to do.

“Are you comfortable with me seeing other people?”

While non-monogamous relationships may not be for everyone, we have to move past the stigmatization that we place on the idea of people who do live that lifestyle. Having an honest sexual relationship is something that everyone should aspire to do because there are some of us who are currently failing to do so. We have to have those conversations because whether the relationship is monogamous or polyamorous is should always be honest. Honest sex…can you handle it?

The Spectrum of Sexuality – #WhereDoYouFall

“Everyone loves someone regardless of their gender,
so why would you think there’s some agenda?
Everyone loves a man and woman somewhere,
so why would you think there’s nothing there?
Where do you fall on the spectrum of sexuality?”

Ryan Amador is an openly gay singer/songwriter based in Brooklyn. Amador produces songs that express his relationship experiences as a gay man. He also uses his music to address his listeners in an attempt to inspire them to evaluate how they feel and, in turn, express themselves. Amador calls his most recent album, titled “4s,” a “short reflection on nature’s influence over human behavior, be it in regard to love, sex, and Mother Nature herself”.

a2325252100_10

Amador’s song “Spectrum” asks listeners the question: Where do you fall on the spectrum of sexuality? The artist’s message of sexual equality stands strong throughout the entire song, however, a deeper idea is buried within the song as well. Amador notes that the title of the song relates to the fact that he believes sexual diversity exists on a scale with a wide array of sexual options for people to make. He connects this scale to a spectrum with a diverse selection of colors on a color wheel.

“My hope is that when people watch this video, they too can celebrate in our planet’s natural complexity, feel some love for their individual self and see we are all just loving each other on the same big white bed.”

 a3983537313_2

Uncovering and analyzing one’s sexuality through their feelings and emotions is a complex process for anyone, and Amador’s song highlights why; defining sexuality is far from choosing a black or white label. It takes time, experiences, and sincere introspection.

“Spectrum” also successfully relays the notion that acquiring love is what we should aspire to, regardless of whatever dogma might surround that love. Identifying yourself on the sexual spectrum should not be hindered by the opinions or beliefs of others.

“What in nature moves linearly?
Planets and seasons move circularly
What in nature is really black and white?
Flowers and twilight share every shade of light”

In the “Spectrum” music video, numerous couples of several different sexualities and race are featured laying together on a bed, visibly blissful and intimate with each other. Their laughing, playful interactions exude pure love while Amador urges listeners to choose their love. The smiles on every person’s face in the video affirm Amador’s principles.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 5.33.19 PM

While Amador’s lyrics serve as more of a public service message for those struggling with recognizing their sexual status, his music definitely encourages people to be open and straightforward about how they feel towards who they love. Sexuality is experimented by almost every single person, as it should be, and there is nothing wrong with wanting to express those erotic feelings on a platform that goes beyond complete privacy. The film Cruising exhibits gay men being open about and comfortable with going to a public forum to express their sexuality, with no judgments being passed or qualms about the acts of sexuality being performed; sex and love are accepted as attributes wanted by all. Amador’s music undoubtedly promotes deference for expression of love in any and all forms.

“There’s more than two ways you can reach a climax,
and on the spectrum of your sexuality,
let’s find respect for individuality.”

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.