Queer Tips

Queer Tips is a sex education blog run by the people at a Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes’ Out for Health Initiative. The blog recognizes that sex education in America is lack luster and is quickly worked through without actually giving teens the information they truly need, especially teens in the queer community. It aims to give queer individuals the sex education that they say has been denied to them and gives them an outlet that focuses on their needs and issues they face. In the blogs manifesto it states “sex ed should be more than a few hastily photocopied diagrams and a pat on the back. It sure as hell shouldn’t be an abstinence pledge. Queer sex ed is a guide to both a healthy sexual life and to a healthy emotional one.”

The blog is composed of pictures, original post as well as posts about sex, statistics, and other issues in queer culture from other writers, and also has a question and answer where individuals can anonymously ask questions they may to be fearful to ask or have no one else to ask these questions too. The blog is also more than just sex education but also infers about the state of queer issues in terms of sexuality, gender identity, and  gender expression as well as looking at queer sexuality throughout history and how it has been expressed and supported.

 tumblr_nka2043Fil1t025dco1_r2_400 Historically sex has always been a subject that was not outwardly talked about or taught. In Gayle Rubin’s piece Thinking Sex: Notes for a Radical Theory of the Politics of Sexuality she mentions that historically there were campaigns aimed at encouraging young people to refrain from sex of any kind, to stay abstinent, and get rid of prostitution. She talks of parents strapping kids to beds so they don’t touch themselves, and while these events don’t happen today, the messages and thoughts still permeate in our culture. Sex has been made into a taboo that isn’t completely or openly discussed or taught, leaving young people in the dark on what safe sex is, leaving them to discover through trial and error. Sex, when taught, is only by what society deems as acceptable, and as Rubin put it in her article sex has become a sort of “hierarchical system of sexual values”. What is acceptable is heterosexual sex and what is very low and taboo is queer sex.

Rubin also states ” The term ‘sex offender’ sometimes applied to rapists, sometimes to ‘child molesters’, and eventually functioned as a code for homosexuals”.  Queer sex has been oppressed over the years and deemed as deviant so it should never be talked about.I can remember sex ed in my health class, and it was only covered in one day. All that was discussed were a few diagrams of how each reproductive organ worked and the cliché of my teacher putting a condom onto a fake penis, and some of the STI’s a person can contract. There was not even a little mention of queer sexuality. Queer sex has been pushed to the background and when sex education is present it is only aimed towards heterosexual men and woman completely excluding LGBT individuals and questions they have towards sex.  This discrepancy is what this blog aim to fix and flip on its head.

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The blog gives queer youth a platform to express and learn about sex openly without the taboo and hierarchical system society places on queer sex.  They want queer youth and young adults to be sex positive an not look at it as this daunting thing that shouldn’t be discussed or questioned. Everything is on the table from questions about sex toys and which lube to use, to trans issues, ways to ask partners about STI’s and whether or not it’s ok to ask a person which pronoun they prefer. It creates an open dialogue that was once shut off to them and only open to the heterosexual world. As its manifest says it is more than just showing a few diagrams and sending people on their way. It is providing people with the proper information needed to become sexually aware and safe adults. The blog can be perfectly summed up with this excerpt from their manifest:

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 “It’s tips to a healthy relationship with significant others and with yourself. It’s providing queer youth with a roadmap— not prescribing one for them, but providing the tools to use and guides to live and to have wholeness as awesome, sexually healthy people within the vast array of contexts that they navigate daily”

 

Intimate LGBT Couple vs Spontaneous Gay Sex

There is no difference between two women being in love, two men being in love and a man and woman being in love. It is all love. Every couple has their flaws, fights, break ups, make ups, and struggles. LGBT couples are just two ordinary people in love. Some studies say that gay sex is more spontaneous than sex between one man and one woman. Humans were meant to be hunters and gathers. Everyone should be happy and be able to love who they love and have sex with their partner no matter what other people say.

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This is a Russian lesbian couple that was followed by a documentary photographer for almost four years. But in Russia their relationship is being seen as perversion. In 2013 in Russia it was illegal to hold gay pride events and same-sex relationships were not as equal as straight relationships were. LGBT couples should not have to be treated this way, they are people just like everyone else is. Straight sex is publicized why can’t LGBT sex. Lesbians and gays are just as intimate as straight people are.An intimate evening together. Both Lyudmila and Natasha have no financial stability - they move at least twice a year, often living out of boxes for weeks.

Sex can be extremely important to a relationship. According to a study done in Australia, spontaneous is an important part of sexual chemistry. Don’t be afraid to affirm to your partner that they are sexy or beautiful. This will increase the intimacy and bond between you and your partner. Most men have inherited a trait for hunting. They can use this trait to find their partners that play hard to get. Gay men like to play hard to get when it comes to sex. They let the tension build between them which then causes the urge to hunt or pounce on your partner. This then leads to either spontaneous oral sex or penetration. Gay men also attract their partner by wearing sexy clothing or underwear while doing things around the house like cooking or cleaning. This will cause a sexual attraction and more than likely lead to sex. Trying different things can be a good change with sex every once in a while. Having sex in new places can be surprising yet exciting. Sex is not only meant for one man and one woman couples but it is also meant for two men or two women couples too.

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In conclusion every couple who is willing to have sex together no matter if its two men, two women, or one man and one woman should be allowed to no matter what its their lives and their choices. I would also say that gay love and straight love are the same kind of love. Every body should have their choice of who they want to be in love with and who they want to have sex with. Lesbian couples and gays couples can have very intimate relationships. Intimacy can lead to a spontaneous sexual chemistry. All couples are the same we are all people nobody is perfect we all have our own flaws, we fight, we love, we break up, we kiss and make up. Love is love and sex is sex.It’s not gay love and gay sex it” just love and sex there is no difference we are all humans no matter who we love or who we have sex with.

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Salacious Magazine

For this post, I will be discussing Salacious Magazine. This magazine was created in early 2011. The website calls Salacious a “Queer Feminist Sex Magazine, Radically Sex-Positive Thought-Provoking Porn.” The magazine is the brain-child of Katie Diamond, a self-described “queer comic artist who fuses art with politics, graphics with sex, and education with visuals as a method of altering societal norms and breaking down preconceived notions of gender and sexuality.”   She felt that there was a need for a publication like Salacious to break down barriers and create pornography that was not homophobic, misogynistic, racist, or otherwise offensive. She works with a team of eleven others of varying gender and sexual identities, geographic locations, and specific interests within the realm of the magazine. They sell their magazine, as well as having a shop on their website and a party business. For the magazine, there are a number of regular contributors, many of whom are well-known in the kink or queer communities. The website also allows submissions. Salacious posts a wide variety of content, and targets both sexuality and art. This can include erotic drawings, smut, etc.

Salacious belongs in a queer archive because of its fearless and open dedication to queer sex and sensuality. The dominant views of sexuality focus on that of heterosexual relationships. Even porn featuring two people of the same gender is often inaccurate, or it uses heterosexual actors, thus giving a flawed portrayal. Additionally, it is often made to please heterosexual people. Salacious is made by queer people, about queer people, and for queer people.

Salacious reflects the ideas of many well-respected theorists. Berlant and Warner were proponents of breaking away from the heteronormativity and normalization of sex. Additionally, they share the view of Salacious that sex needs to be less normalized and less public.   As the two orphans say, “by making sex seem irrelevant or merely personal, heteronormative conventions of intimacy block the building of nonnormative or explicit public sexual cultures.” Salacious and its board agree with this, and they intend to make queer sex more accessible to those who want it. Similarly, James Franco in Interior, Leather Bar would agree with their desire to break down the barriers surrounding sexual attraction and kink. Franco insisted that the sexual scenes of Cruising should not have been cut, and that that reflected the need of our culture to censor queer sexuality, which should be viewed as a beautiful and sensual act. Salacious is an important step in countering societally accepted media such as Playboy, and other heteronormative sexual representations. Hopefully, it will gain popularity among the queer community because I am impressed by its intersectional inclusion of those of all sexualities, races, abilities, and more.

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TJ’s Lasting Impressions Lifestyle Club

The American history of swinging is relatively recent. The modern swinging movement emerged in the 1960s (Gould, 1999) and the term “swingers” was developed in the early 1970s, along with the establishment of the North American Swing Clubs Association.The swinging lifestyle seemed to originate around the same time as the sexual revolution; in the 1980s the push for the term “lifestyle” began to take off, as it was thought to more positively reflect the lifestyle choice that a couple made (Gould, 1999). It is believed that during the 1990s the swinging lifestyle became more prominent because of access to internet, which increased the ability for one to learn about the lifestyle and also meet other swingers.

There doesn’t seem to be one official definition of swinging. Dictionary.com defines swinging as “free and uninhibited sexually” and “exchanging spouses for sex,” while Urbandictionary.com defines it as “A lifestyle of non-monogamy where sexual relations occur outside the established couple.” TJ’s Lasting Impressions, a popular swingers club, defines swinging as “engaging in sexual activity with someone other than one’s spouse/primary partner, with the full knowledge and consent of that spouse/primary partner” (Friend, Pearlmutter & McGinley, 1989). There are many different ways in which swingers can connect with and meet other people who are interested in the lifestyle, such as through advertisements, phone and internet services, off-premise events such as socials and bars where no space is provided for engaging in sexual activity, and on-premise events such as a house party where there is a space provided for engaging in sexual activity.

My archive post will focus on TJ’s Lasting Impressions, which boasts being the largest and most luxurious lifestyle (swingers) club in central Pennsylvania. Larry and Elaine have managed the club for 16 years and are now the current owners. TJ’s is located only 10 miles from Routes 22/322 red-light district, which is known for having many striTJp clubs in one small area because of the lack of zoning regulations. When I asked members of the club if they felt there was any relationship between the location and the type of club TJ’s is, and they said that they felt that it was just a coincidence. They pointed out that strip clubs and swinger clubs target two very different groups of people, and they did not feel as though TJ’s would want to be affiliated with strip clubs. I feel that if there is any correlation, it may just be that people are more open about sexuality in that geographic location.

TJ’s provides a safe, open-minded atmosphere for both couples and singles to meet others who share similar interests. TJ’s is a private club, which means that you must either be a member or have a reservation in order to enter. TJ’s hosts many exciting and interesting events including TJ’s Threesome Night, Milfs and Cougars night, and TJ’s Slumber Party Night. TJ’s also has the Intimate Impressions store, a restaurant, a large Roman hot tub, VIP suites, 12 large party rooms, and a dance floor. TJ’s is on-premise, which means it provides a safe space for engaging in sexual activity, which the owners feel allows couples and singles to freely express their sexuality and sensuality and gives them greater opportunity for social interaction and activities. TJ’s puts a lot of effort in making sure that everyone feels very welcome at the club, and does not encourage anyone to do anything that they are not comfortable with. TJ’s targets both couples and singles, with different event nights targeting both groups. Members who I have spoken with state that they felt that females drive the lifestyle; even TJ’s website states that they believe the ladies are in charge of this scene.One female member stated that she had experienced the most sexual empowerment at TJ’s than anywhere else.

I choose to incorporate TJ’s Lasting Impressions lifestyle club into our digital archive because I felt that it queered normative culture by providing a safe and open-minded environment for non-normative sexual behavior and interests. Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner state in their article Sex in Public, “Queer social practices like sex and theory try to unsettle the garbled but powerful norms supporting that privilege -including the project of normalization that has made heterosexuality hegemonic- as well as those material practices that, though not explicitly sexual, are implicated in the hierarchies of property and propriety that we will describe as heteronormative.” I think that Queer culture attempts to challenge people’s concepts of what sexuality means, develop new ways in which to look at pleasure and the erotic, and redefine the social rules for who can become intimate with who. I think that TJ’s attempts to do those very same things. Our society tells us that sexual relations must be dancefloorstrictly monogamous, between one man and one woman, and in the privacy of our own homes – alone. I think that both Queer culture and TJ’s attempts to tear down that social norm, and build a new way in which to look at sexuality. Both Queer culture and TJ’s embrace the many dimensions of sexuality as a lifestyle, and do not view sexuality as something negative or abnormal. Some swingers and those who identify as LGBT may feel the pressure to not be open about their sexuality or sexual lifestyle with others, because both groups of people have faced a lack understanding from people with very normative and conservative views.

I, however, have noticed that, although Bisexual women are very welcome and common at TJ’s, they do not seem to target the LGBT community. Of all the event nights, there are no LGBT events. Members of the club have also told me that it is not very common to see gay and lesbian couples there. I personally think that TJ’s would receive even more guests if they reached out to the LGBT community. When searching through their website, I found that on their Terminology and Facts page that many of their definitions seemed very heteronormative. For example, they define a couple as a man and a woman, threesome as having to involve at least one person of the opposite sex, and “petting” as something seen among opposite genders. So, although I think TJ’s and Queer culture have some overlapping goals in redefining sexuality, I think that TJ’s is still stuck in a very heteronormative way of thinking about gender dynamics within a sexual relationship.

I think that TJ’s Lasting Impressions lifestyle club really fits in with our sex unit of the archive. I think that there are several areas in which TJ’s reflects topics we discussed in class. TJ’s reminds me of the public sex prevalent with gay men in the early 1980s. TJ’s also seems similar to  the bars in the Cruising film, where public sex and uncommitted sexual encounters were a part of the culture. TJ’s Roman hot tub reflects the gay bath houses we discussed in class as another location for public sex. There are some differences though; TJ’s website mentions that “other cultures” aka bondage, sado/masochism and watersports are uncommon and even shunned at most swing events, where the bars depicted in Cruising seemed to promote those types of activities.  Cruising also focused a lot on cruising, although TJ’s does promote a similar interaction, they frown upon what they call “bedroom cruising” where a male goes around to private swing areas attempting to get involved with something. I find it very strange that these places seem so similar, yet they are both so restrictive in their acceptance of other sexual orientations, and you do not see many clubs/bars which really target all sexual orientations. It makes me wonder why these places which promote open sexuality still set certain boundaries. TJ’s seems to have very strict rules and regulations on what is and is not acceptable within the swingers lifestyle and within the club, suggesting their own set of norms and etiquette. I think that it reveals that even groups which go against the “typical” norms tend to in turn create a new set of norms.

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Dr. Doe’s Sexplanations

Dr. Lindsey Doe is a clinical sexologist who hosts the Youtube channel Sexplanations. Sexplanations co-created by Dr. Doe and Hank Green from the Vlogbrothers, a Youtube channel run by Hank and his brother John Green, to provide free sex education to the public. The first video titled “Meet Lindsey Doe!” went live on June 10th, 2013; since then there have been 63 total episodes of Sexplenations uploaded to Youtube. All of which discuse diffrent topecs of sex, sexuality, and gender. Sexplanations is crowd funded by its viewers and has a subscription count of 170,133 users.

Dr. Doe is all about being sex positive and educating people of safe, consensual ways to enjoy their bodies while also educating them about their bodies. This is a value she shares with the GSRM community, which also values consent, sex positivity, and sex education. Dr. Doe sees a lack of education in the public school systems in sex education and is using the platform of Youtube to educate the public about sex and their bodies. Not only does Sexplanations benefit normative individuals but also benefit those in the GSRM and Kink communities by provided information for all individuals. Dr. Doe also keeps her channel open to everyone by using inclusive non-heteronormative and non-cisnormative language. Sexplanations also makes efforts to education people not only about normative heterosexual sex but also other forms of sex and sexual, romantic, and gender identities.

In Sexplanations Dr. Doe treats sex as a normal activity that is done in many different ways by many different people. This relates to how sex is seen as taboo in heterosexual circles, which we talked about at the start of this unit. By normalizing her language in regard to sex Dr. Doe is normalizing sexual activity and attempting to erase this taboo. In the process she is also normalizing all the different kinds of sex people have, from masturbation to sex with one partner of the same sex to BDSM. Dr. Doe goes even farther in her discussion of sex by also normalizing education of the body and teaches her audience about their bodies without shame or withholding information. In addition to normalizing a subject our society normally views as taboo Dr. Doe is also providing an education to a wide audience as her videos have no age restriction and can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection. This allows people of all ages to educate themselves about sex and their bodies from an early age. The lack of availability of sex education for young people is one of the many problems we talked about in class. Sexplanations offers an alternative way for people to educate themselves on sex outside of the public education system and their parents.

Ganymedes and Zeus

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The Abduction of Ganymede (ca. 1650),

By Eustache Le Sueur

Verily wise Zeus carried off golden-haired Ganymedes because of his beauty, to be amongst the Deathless Ones and pour drink for the gods in the house of Zeus–a wonder to see–, honoured by all the immortals as he draws the red nectar from the golden bowl . . . deathless and unageing, even as the gods.”

Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite 203 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th – 4th B.C.)

In Greek Mythology, Ganymedes was the embodiment of beauty. He was a handsome, young Trojan who was, as Homer describes, “the most beautiful of mortals.” In the myth of Ganymedes and Zeus, Ganymedes is herding his flock on the mountainside when Zeus sees him and is determined to make Gaynmedes his lover. Zeus, in the form of an eagle, abducts the young Ganymedes and carries him off to Mount Olympus to be the god’s lover and cupbearer. Hera, Goddess of Women and Marriage, and wife of Zeus, upon hearing that Ganymedes was to be cupbearer as well as Zeus’ lover, became enraged with jealousy. Her own daughter Hebe, Goddess of Youth, previously held the favored position of cupbearer. The omnipotent Zeus did not waiver in his affection for Ganymedes who would carry a golden cup as he accompanied the powerful god on his travels. Eventually, Ganymedes, recognizing the thirst of the mortals, no longer coveted his role and, refusing his position as Zeus’ cupbearer, decided to pour out all the wine, ambrosia, and water of the gods. Although Zeus, a notoriously angry god, first wanted to punish Ganymedes, he eventually realized he had been unkind to the boy. Instead, Zeus set Ganymedes’ image among the stars as the constellation and God Aquarius, making him immortal and fulfilling Ganymedes wish of sending rain down to the people of the earth who were in need. This myth is often depicted through artwork of Ganymedes and an Eagle, or Ganymedes and Zeus, seen on canvas, pottery, and multiple other mediums of art.

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Ganymede pouring Zeus a libation (c, 490-480 BCE)

By the Eucharides Painter

Greek mythology often portrays Ganymedes as the God of Homosexuality. It is fascinating that sex between men was not only seen throughout Ancient Greece, but was also revered. Men often lusted after other men, and as can be seen in the myth of Ganymedes and Zeus, the Gods themselves could not resist the allures of the youthful man. The culture does not dismiss homosexuality as an aberrant behavior but rather deifies it. The Greeks appreciated beauty in a very natural, stripped down form, to them beauty was not gendered, nor as we will soon discuss, was it confined by age. This is an important point of notice for queer culture because there was a time where rather than being sin, which is the dogma many religions currently preach, men having sex with men was to the Greeks a behavior of the Gods. Growing up in a world where same-sex relationships are streamlined in religious tests and stories could ultimately result in a more accepting environment.

The story of Ganymedes and Zeus is one that depicts a common theme throughout Greek mythology, which is pederasty. The word pederasty derives from the Greek “love of boys,” and it is the relationship between an adult male and a pubescent or adolescent male. Today, in our culture we may consider this to be pedophilia, however to the Greeks, this was a behavior that their very own Gods partook in.

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The act of Zeus abducting Ganymedes to be

his lover would now make frontline news.

It is important to question why when reading about Ganymedes and Zeus the reader’s focus is on the beauty of the young male, not the actions of Zeus. If translated into common day form, with idols we recognize, people would be outraged. However, it is common to be taught various Greek myths in classrooms, which cover similar content. It is not viewed as pedophilia to us, however if it was rewritten without ties to an ancient culture, you could almost guarantee that if would be controversial. Foucault would link this to his repressive hypothesis. In the beginning of the “The History of Sexuality” Foucault claims:

“Sexual practices had little need of secrecy; words were said without undue reticence, and things were done without too much concealment; one had a tolerant familiarity with the illicit” 

However, a very apparent switch was then made and sex was “moved into the home” where it could be carefully confined. It was restricted to simple procreation between a man and a woman. Other forms of sex were deviant and therefore not discussed. Except…

“If it was truly necessary to make room for illegitimate sexualities, it was reasoned, let them take their infernal mischief elsewhere: to a place where they could be reintegrated, if not in the circuits of production, at least in those of profit. The brothel and the mental hospital would be those places of tolerance: The prostitute, the client, and the pimp, together with the psychiatrist and his hysteric…”

Non-heterosexual behavior was essentially demonized. The only place non-missionary between a man and a woman belonged was in a whorehouse or in a mental institute. Foucault would argue, in his repressive hypothesis, that since the rise of the bourgeoisie if Ganymedes and Zeus were to be rewritten it would be worthy of sending Zeus to a mental institution. Man has come to jail the actions of a God.

It is impossible to know how the individual Greek from ancient times interpreted the actions of their Gods, however we can infer from the recurrent themes seen throughout the myths that pederasty was widely accepted. It is also impossible to know what the focus of the myth was intended to be. Logically, understanding that these myths were embodied through art and storytelling it would make sense to assume that beauty was a central focal point when sharing and preserving their culture. As mentioned earlier, if this myth were to be modernized, our repressed society would not focus on the beauty. However we still read Ganymedes and Zeus in a positive frame of light. The discrepancy is due to the common reader of Greek Mythology reading it in the vein in which it was written. This may be due to the cultural ties that come along with something that is not of our time-period. The only difference between the story of Zeus abducting a child and a Catholic priest and an altar boy is that the former is a remnant of a time period where people were not focused on the sexual acts that occurred and that sentiment carried through the generations of storytelling, keeping beauty the main focus.

“Thus the image of the imperial prude is emblazoned on our restrained, mute, and hypocritical sexuality.”

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.

 

Appropriate Behavior

Appropriate Behavior is a film written by, directed by, and starring Desiree Akhavan. The film tells the tale of Shirin, a bisexual Iranian American women in her twenties, finding her way after breaking up with her first girlfriend, Maxine. Trying to bounce back from the broken relationship, Shirin attempts to move on with her life by finding a new job, exploring new sexual experiences, and finally buying a bra. Deciding whether or not to come out to a strict and traditional family contributes to Shirin’s daily struggle of moving on and finding happiness. The film jumps from present moment to flashback every few minutes it seems, but the catch up you play as scenes change put you in the same jumbled mindset Shirin is in. The flashbacks also make you feel as if you are going through the break up with Shirin. The opening scene show the lover’s separation, then as the movie goes along, Shirin remembers the good times she and Maxine had together: the first time they met, Maxine meeting Shirin’s parents, attending a Persian New Years party. And then the bad memories come flooding back: Maxine pressuring Shirin to come out to her parents, Shirin catching Maxine making out with a man at a bar, and actually breaking up. We see that Shirin has finally moved on when she tosses the strap-on dildo (the only item remaining from the relationship) away and can now handle seeing Maxine.

Desiree has been continuously compared to Shirin. They are both bisexual Iranian American women in their twenties/thirties raised by Iranian immigrant parents.  When Desiree wrote this screenplay she had just gone through a horrible break up and had just come out to her parents, two events that Shirin goes through in the film. It is easy to claim that Appropriate Behavior is autobiographical, but as Desiree points out in this interview, there is a difference between Shirin and herself.

“I think Shirin is all of my most absurd impulses explored, a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure. It felt like a heightened, absurd version of everything you would hope to do, but definitely know better than.”

Shirin represents Desiree’s id. Shirin is everything that Desiree would choose to do if it wasn’t for her superego telling her not to. Throughout the movie you can see that Shirin is the girl that does whatever she wants without worrying about the consequences. She asks a woman out right in front of her ex-girlfriend, randomly meets up with men from okcupid, and makes a movie about farts starring kindergarteners. While Desiree claims to be very shy and reserved. Desiree’s film id is Shirin, so Desiree’s film superego is Shirin’s brother, Ali. According to their parents, Ali has done everything right. He became a doctor, found a beautiful Persian doctor girlfriend, and is planning his wedding. In the article mentioned above, Desiree explained that she feels as if she does not belong in the groups she is a part of, yet she is still a part of them. The depiction of Shirin and Ali as the id and superego place Desiree as the place in the middle, the ego.

The sex scenes in Appropriate behavior help tell the story. You see Shirin in a variety of sexual encounters and Desiree’s goal was to show realistic and honest sex in her film. The match cut between Shirin and the okcupid man and Shirin and Maxine directly compares Shirin’s emotions and feelings in each different sexual experience. Shirin is obviously more into sex with Maxine and feels a stronger connection with her. Shirin’s emotional involvement is also visible in the threesome scene. When Shirin is with Marie they feel connected and enjoy each other, but with Ted, Shirin loses her interest and backs off. The sex scenes show Shirin’s desires (id) and her interest in embracing her sexuality. Through these scenes, we also see how Shirin connects with people and the relationships she has with them.

This film is thought-provoking and full of life. The deadpan humor is continuous throughout the entire film. The hilarious one-liners will stick with you. The storyline is relatable and keeps you hanging on to see the outcome of Shirin’s adventures. Desiree Akhavan tells this story beautifully and she is surely an artist to watch out for.

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain is a critically acclaimed and extremely popular queer romance/drama movie. The film was directed by Ang Lee, under the production company River Road Entertainment in 2005. It was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and received three of them: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score. It is based off of a book by an American author by Annie Proulx.

Despite being so successful, the movie was not without its fair share of public outcry and controversy. After all, it depicted a gay male relationship. A relationship with two men is not necessarily part of the “normative” culture that our world fostered back in 2005 and still does today. As a result, it faced many challenges including theatre cancellations, media criticism, and overall denouncement from various organizations. For example, it was pulled from a theatre in Utah despite having been contracted to premier there. In addition, the conservative media attacked Hollywood for pushing a “gay agenda”. This bad press caused sales to decrease dramatically over the course of the week. However, the movie prevailed and is still revered as a great production of its time that sheds light on an otherwise darkened subject matter.

Brokeback Mountain begins with the two main characters, Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) looking for a job for the summer. They both arrive at the same trailer of a man who owns a large herd of sheep. In past seasons, there has been an issue where wolves were hunting and killing the sheep. So, he wants the two men to camp out on Brokeback Mountain together to scare off any wolves that come close to the herd.

At this point, we only get some minor hints they Jack may be gay. While Ennis is standing outside, Jack stares at him through the side-view mirror of his truck. The stare lingers and his eyes have a certain intensity that hints at sexual desire. If Ennis had returned the stare, it would have been very similar to those in Cruising. This means we aren’t at an intense point of mutual attraction yet, but there is a hint that it is evolving. It serves as an effective foreshadowing into the coming relationship between the two men.

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Once they get to the mountain, they set up camp and begin their daily and nightly duties. The usual arrangement is that one person holds down camp at night, and the other rides out to the sheep to guard them. However, they decide that both of them will stay at the camp for one night. Ennis starts by sleeping outside, with Jack inside the tent. It is very cold, and Jack tells Ennis to sleep with him inside the tent. In a matter of minutes, they begin kissing, and eventually they begin to have sex. This kiss was initiated by an intense stare. It was a stare that told both parties that they were interested, a form of communication without a single word. This is exactly the kind that the main character in cruising used to attract the killer, another man with which to have sexual relations with. It is marked by eye contact, small facial movements, and bodily gestures.

Now, we see the first truly mutual sign of affection between the two main characters. This confirms our thoughts from the beginning, and thus starts the emotional and sexual relationship between Ennis and Jack.

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As the story continues, they move on past working on the mountain and get families of their own. They both marry women and have kids and live seemingly normal lives. That is, until Jack makes contact with Ennis again by means of a postcard. This sparks their relationship and they begin to see each other, with the intention of hiding it from their wives. Ennis’ wife sees them immediately when they are kissing for the first time after not seeing each other. Afterwards, they continue to meet on Brokeback Mountain multiple times throughout the year to have sex and spend time with each other. This creates a downward spiral for Ennis’ normative life, and eventually ends in divorce.

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This is a parallel that can be drawn to the lives of many gay men today. Due to the pressures of society, many feel that they must marry someone of the opposite gender. This forces them to suppress their true feelings and it eventually manifests into lies, secret relationships, and a great deal of unhappiness. If society were to release some of this pressure, perhaps Ennis and Jack could have lived their lives together from the beginning. The pressure isn’t only present in the movie, but it was also present on the movie when the various critics were denouncing the contents saying they would threaten the normative American family.

Divorce is not the only thing that plagues the lives of Jack and Ennis throughout the movie. It is suggested that Jack’s community found out about his homosexuality. Not long after their last visit, Ennis finds out that Jack has been killed. Jack’s wife lies to Ennis about how it happened, saying it was an accident while fixing a tractor. Then, the scene flashes to images of Jack getting beaten and slashed.

Unfortunately, this is a stark reality for a lot gay people in the world today. Many people get beaten, bullied, or worse by their peers simply for having feelings for the same sex.

Brokeback Mountain is a keynote movie in queer culture. It showcases not only the social struggle of queer relationships and ideas, but also the lesser known details of the lifestyle. Their interest in each other revealed itself only when they shared glances, just as those in Cruising right before two men would get together to have sex. And after exchanging these signs of affection, they immediately delved into sexual acts, very similar to the gay bars in Cruising. As a result, Brokeback Mountain teaches us a lot about the social restrictions that surround being gay, while paralleling itself to other productions that have less to do with the social aspects and more about the sexual culture.

 

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.