07 December 2006

The Pleasure Seekers (Part One)

I shop fairly regularly at amazon.com, and often get email alerts about new products they think I'd be interested in buying. I definitely was interested when they notified me about a new book called Gay Life and Culture: A World History (Universe Publishing, 2006). Stuffed Animal loves books about Gay history! I was so anxious to read this one, I couldn't wait the couple of days it would've taken for amazon.com to mail it to me. I made a beeline for my local Barnes and Noble bookseller and grabbed a shelf copy.

The dust cover blurb describes its contents this way: "(An) extraordinarily wide-ranging book (in which) historians from nine different countries consider the evidence for same-sex relationships through the centuries . . . an important contribution to understanding what makes Gay life and culture universal throughout human culture and across time." How could anybody resist a teaser like that?

I don't think I've read such a thick volume since I was in college, and I had a hard time putting it down. Now that I've finished it, though, I doubt I'll ever want to read it again! As I review Gay Life and Culture for you, I'll explain how it's possible to love and hate a book at the same time.

This impressive (and expensive!) hardback tome does an exemplary job of tracing homosexual expression from ancient Greece to the modern day. It makes a convincing case that same-gender eros is not particular to any ethnic group or nation, but is a worldwide phenomenon with roots in many different cultures. It delivers a definitive rebuke to bigots of color who denounce homosexuality as an expression of Western decadence; the authors have painstakingly compiled historical evidence of it on every continent.

They've pored over yellowed journals and photos, fragile shards of painted pottery, crumbling frescoes, faded tapestries and aged parchments. What we call Gay sex today could be found throughout the Mediterranean, in eastern and western Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, Arabia, and the pre-colonial Americas.

It manifested itself in Japanese Samurai tradition, in the close comradeship of Caribbean pirates, in marriages of convenience between South African laborers, in transvestite patronage within the context of Chinese opera, in marriages between Native-American warriors and androgynous men, in British "romantic friendships" and New England "Boston marriages", in Indian eunuch prostitution, and in the intimacies Polynesian kings shared with their male attendants . . . and that's not the half of it, sugar!

So-called homosexuality has always existed in some form, and it's been practiced around the globe. The anthropological proof offered in the pages of Gay Life and Culture is indisputable. Unfortunately, the persecution of homosexuality has been just as widespread as its practice! At some point, same-gender coupling in society always suffered a period of suppression. The most frequent reasons for these pogroms (and they usually amounted to nothing less) was governmental régime change, a shift to Conservative political ideology, and/or religious crusades against perceived immorality.

It's quite unsettling to read page after page of documented starvings, maimings, torturings, burnings, drownings, disembowellings and beheadings! A two-page reproduction of a gory sixteenth-century engraving shows how the conquistador Balboa set vicious attack dogs on a group of Panamanian "Sodomites." The killer hounds are depicted gnawing limbs and heads off of bodies while their terrified Transgender victims writhe in agony. This picture will shake your nerves more than the bloodiest Hollywood horror flick you've ever seen!

Cruel punishments galore have been visited on homosexually-oriented men and women over time, and of course, atrocities still take place all over the world. Today, LesBiGay expression enjoys more tolerance than it has at any other time in history, but will it last? If the contents of this book has anything to teach us, it's that we can never afford to feel too secure.

Although the title is Gay Life and Culture, the fourteen scholars who authored the book take great pains to stress that it actually documents very little of that. There was no such thing as Gay identity in the ancient world. It's a concept of recent vintage, dating back less than one-hundred years; few of our forebears would have thought of themselves as homosexual (some definitely did, though, according to Gnostic Christian scripture that I've read).

What the book documents instead is the occurrence of homosexuality through the ages. In the process, its authors reveal that homosexual eroticism has traditionally had little to do with one's sexual orientation! Some ancient cultures actually encouraged same-gender coupling. Within those cultures, heterosexual folk no doubt indulged simply because it was the societal norm. You'd certainly think so when you consider the forms such coupling took.

Most of it was of a pederastic nature; mature men would openly pleasure themselves with boys in their early teens. In cases where both sex partners were mature, transvestism was often a necessary element. God forbid that the underage or effeminate partner begin to show even a trace of manhood! The masculine partner would break off their relationship in disgust.

Few people today would consider this kind of sexuality healthy, and it's certainly not typical of modern same-gender relationships. What's more, it almost never precluded the requirement to marry and sire offspring with someone of the opposite sex. In eons past, homosexuality was something you did "on the side," a view (too) many Pansexual and Straight people still hold!

Despite the misnomer of a title, and much too frequent use of the word "queer," Gay Life and Culture has a lot to recommend it. Its treatment of topic reflects impeccable scholarship, with one glaring exception: The book's final chapter. Written and compiled by a Dutch anthropologist, portions of it abandon historical objectivity for historical revisionism.

The distortions are sometimes subtle, and at other times quite blatant; for example, the chapter opens with a page-length reproduction of a "D*ke Action Machine" flyer that attacks the concept of Lesbian marriage. A Straight reader who saw this flyer and read the caption that accompanies it . . .

For some, marriage represents a heterosexual institution that has no relevance to they way they live their lives.

. . . might come away thinking a sizable number of Gay women oppose marriage equality. Polling has suggested the opposite is true! However, this particular author didn't allow factual evidence to divert him from the radical political agenda he seemed hell-bent on pursuing:

In the 1980s and 1990s, increasingly conservative Gay leaders came forward. In the United States, several authors defined the aim of Gay emancipation as "getting a place at the table" . . . yet such activists also wanted to get rid of those at the margins of the Gay world, in the first place, pedophiles, but also drag and leather queens, and men who cruise for sex in public places, because they spoiled the image of homosexuals (sic). These conservatives also believed in a "Gay gene," in the innateness of homosexuality. They were opposed by some who believed that the struggle should not stop with equality for homosexuals (sic), but should bring about sexual freedom for all; for them, the question of whether or not sexual preference was biologically determined was irrelevant.

It's not hard to guess which group of activists his sympathies lay with, given the way he casually vilifies those he calls "conservatives", and distorts the nature of their activism! However, his real objective in writing this passage was to establish that pedophilia, transvestism, sado-masochism, fetishism and the desire to have intercourse in public are all part of what it means to be Gay; note his deliberate use of the discredited term "sexual preference."

In effect, he takes all the controversial aspects of human sexuality (including some that are unquestionably harmful) and attributes them to Gay identity! This is a radical hedonist's definition of homosexuality, and one that an overwhelming majority of LGBT people don't ascribe to.

"The Pleasure Seekers" continues with Part Two.

06 December 2006

The Pleasure Seekers (Part Two)

In his apparent zeal to interpret recent Gay history through a "queer" lens, the aforementioned anthropologist makes numerous bizarre and misleading statements:

The issues that have mobilized the Gay Rights movement have included equality in criminal, civil and labor laws, sex education, housing, Social Security, pensions and taxes . . . the more radical aims of the 1960s, such as the abolition of sexual and gender dichotomies, were soon forgotten.

Considering that such radicalism in the modern Gay Rights movement dates no earlier than the late '60s, when the Stonewall riots took place, this statement skews historical fact. Overall, homosexual activism had a fairly conservative thrust in that decade!

The token Gay (sic) in the Straight world or the token Black (sic) in the Gay world are sometimes welcomed as expressions of political correctness.

Were you aware that the reality of Lesbians and Gay men living in a predominantly heterosexual society constituted tokenism? Neither was I! It's also news to me that you can't be Black and Gay at the same time! What the over-used term "political correctness" means in this context is anybody's guess.

. . . society remains largely defined by heterosexuality and excludes or marginalizes other choices; it is for this reason that the queer (sic) movement has wanted to defy hetero-normativity and create a "queer public culture."

"Hetero-normativity"? Yipe! What a mouthful! I wonder how many reputable dictionaries you'd have to consult before you could find a definition for that word? This passage isn't footnoted, so the reader is left to wonder what group of people the anthropologist is applying the label "queer movement" to, and what in the world a "queer public culture" could be. BTW, did you notice his description of gender-specific attraction as a "choice"?

While the Straight world (in the 1970s) saw a growing dichotomy between singles and couples, the Gay world found many ways to bridge the rift . . . most homosexuals (sic) felt able to separate love and sex . . . they no longer believed in monogamy, but in experiencing love and sex in a whole range of different relationships. (Author) Edmund White has sung the praises of this vibrant world in his writing, while (historian) Patrick Moore has suggested reviving it.

This is a gross generalization of how Gay relationships operated thirty years ago, as well as an idealization of promiscuity among Gay and Pansexual males. What's more, this assessment of "the Gay world" barely applies to how Lesbians and Bisexual women experienced the 1970s!

For some, the rise of same-sex marriages and monogamy denies a rich Gay culture, in which love and sex were both combined and successfully kept apart.

Sounds a lot like what heterosexual folk do, doesn't it? So much for "queer" innovations in human sexuality!

Sex Panic, a radical queer (sic) group in New York, lost its struggle against the "cleaning-up" of Times Square and against the city's zoning policy, which forced most sex venues to close down. An Amsterdam group was more successful, keeping a local park (a popular cruising ground) available for homosexuals (sic).

Note the subtle way he implies that reserving venues for illegal sexual activity is a goal of the Gay Rights movement. This entire passage would fit nicely inside a Focus On The Family propaganda pamphlet, wouldn't it?

. . . some (Gay) journalists have defined new aims that contradict the desires of many: No drag, inter-generational sex, or flaunting of S & M (sado-masochism), no public cruising or promiscuity . . . there are . . . urban queers (sic) who need space for sexual experimentation . . . and queers (sic) who like public sex and need recreational venues . . . some men like Gay sex but would rather have love affairs with women. These . . . exclusions create conflicts over the aims of the movement.

I suppose they do, if you think the Gay Rights movement has ever included among its goals forcing mainstream society to affirm erotic fetishes, sexual activity in public, and adulterous relationships! Note how the topic of pedophilia again rears its ugly head in this passage!

"Queer", once an insult, became a popular word in the 1990s, for some indicating rage and a radical struggle against Straight norms and Gay conservatism, for others suggesting a way to remain closeted . . . the success of ACT-UP led to the establishment of Queer Nation, a group that wanted to re-energize the Gay movement by making queerness (sic) visible in the Straight world, and by queering hetero-normative society . . . Queer Nation, which operated mainly in the United States, espoused Queer Theory, which emphasized that concepts of identity and community were unstable."

My, my! Language fascism can be so useful when pushing a fringe social agenda! Despite much evidence to the contrary, the anthropologist casually informs us that the term "queer" is no longer derogatory. He states that the term can apply to either radical Gay activism or closeted behavior, which I suspect would be news to people even on the extreme political Left! Worst of all, he wears the term thinner than a crackhouse carpet by using it in adjective, noun and verb form, all in the same sentence!

Exactly what is "queer" supposed to mean when brandished with such grammatical fluidity? Is he selectively using the word in both its traditional and (allegedly) revised senses, as suggested by the phrase "queering hetero-normative society?" Maybe he intended the confusing nature of this passage to tantalize readers with curiosity, prompting them to buy the two books on "Queer Theory" he lists in a footnote reference. No sale here, sugar! Don't need any of what you're selling.

Anybody familiar with the cavalier way Left Wing ideologues toss "queer" around already knows that the word in its so-called reclaimed sense is undefinable. The anthropologist says as much himself later on. "In English-speaking countries," he writes, "the term (queer) has become outdated, and no new terminology has yet taken its place." So if he knows this usage has lost its currency in much of the world, why does he lean so heavily on it? Maybe using words with lots of shock value is a hard habit for him to break?

"The Pleasure Seekers" concludes with Part Three.

05 December 2006

The Pleasure Seekers (Part Three)

Few words have more shock value than "pedophila," and the final chapter of Gay Life and Culture leans very heavily on that subject. Much too heavily, in fact. In a passage subtitled "Boy Love," the full extent of the author's hedonist leanings is exposed:

For a long time, the Gay world had viewed the boy as a sexual ideal alongside masculine adults . . . today, most people in the West find relations between minors and adults unacceptable, although research has indicated that, in general, young people suffer no negative consequences from inter-generational sex unless it happens inside the family, or unless violence is used against them. Western societies have seen a major change in that sexual desire, once based on differences of gender, age, and class, is now founded on equality and symmetry. Power relations have become unacceptable, and this is especially true for inter-generational contact. New laws were passed to counter the 'pedophile menace' . . . in the few places where they still exist, pedophile movements such as the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and Dutch Verniging Martijn were kicked out of Gay and Lesbian parades in the 1990s. In 1994, under pressure from the Clinton government, pedophile groups were expelled from the ILGA (blogmaster's note: International Lesbian and Gay Association). Nevertheless, men have been coming out at increasingly younger ages, while higher ages of consent inhibit their access to the Gay world. This poses the problem of how to incorporate youngsters into Gay society.

When I read that last sentence, I was so infuriated, I wanted to hurl the book across the room. I wanted to hurl, period! So adults can't mentor young people without sexually exploiting them? So "inter-generational sex" with children is harmless? So a grown man robbing a child of his innocence doesn't constitute violence? I'd like to see him tell that to all the victims of pedophile priests!

As I indicated in Part One of this essay, Gay Life and Culture describes ancient mentoring traditions which mandated sexual intercourse between mature men and young boys. There's nothing wrong with scholarly interest in traditions like that, but only someone with a depraved mentality could feel nostalgia for them! In my estimation, the author of this chapter fits that description: His barely-disguised attempts to justify predatory sexuality are reprehensible and disgusting!

Because of their inclusion, I can't, in good conscience, recommend the book. I would even go so far as to say it should be withdrawn from sale! Its editor, Robert Aldrich, compiled an excellent reference work overall, and there can be no doubt about that. However, Aldrich was guilty of a lapse in judgment most grave when, for whatever reason, he allowed it to become a "stealth" vehicle for the NAMBLA lobby!

Pleasure Seekers was the title of a 1965 musical comedy starring Ann-Margret. The term implies hedonism and, indeed, is basically synonymous with the word "hedonist." Radical hedonists like that pedophile-coddling anthropologist are Pleasure Seekers in the extreme! To such people, being Gay means one thing and one thing only: Sex! It defines you totally. Your most basic need is to have sex, but sugar, that's not the half of it!

You need to have sex in unconventional ways, like sado-masochism. You need to have sex with multiple partners, preferably at the same time! You need to have sex with anonymous partners. You need to have "bareback" sex without condoms. You need to have sex in inappropriate places, like in public parks. You need to have sex with inappropriate people, like close relatives, other people's spouses, and underage lovers! Your sexual needs are insatiable! And any attempt to curb them must be considered a violation of your human rights.

Above all else, you need to make sure your sexual practices don't conform to those of heterosexual society. Social convention is anathema to you! You must angrily reject traditional relationship models like marriage and monogamy. You must understand that your genitals aren't just meant for pleasure, they're meant for making radical political statements, too!

It doesn't matter if you lack the desire to form long-term intimate relationships. On the contrary, it's better if you don't! Lust divorced from love represents human progress! So does sexuality divorced from sexual orientation. Confining yourself to either same or opposite-gender attraction limits the kinds of sexual experiences you can enjoy! Queer Theorists argue that sexual orientation is "fluid." They strenuously object to the idea that it's inborn. You can "choose" to be Lesbian or Gay or Pansexual at any given time, because after all, sexual orientation is about nothing but pleasure!

A certain kind of hedonist defines the practice of trolling for child sex partners as pleasure-seeking. You may not personally care to indulge in it, but you dare not disapprove of people who do! What an outrage! That would fall under the dreaded category of (gasp!) "political correctness."

At this point, it becomes difficult to distinguish the opinions radical hedonists hold about so-called homosexuality from those held by rabid Religious Right Wingers. Their common theme is belief in a strictly sex-based identity which is amoral, and which deliberately undermines the social order. Heterosexual supremacists fear what they think Lesbians and Gay men represent. Radical Gay hedonists want them to be afraid! The two groups complement each other in a twisted kind of way. Both are stumbling blocks in the fight for equality!

Making the pursuit of sexual pleasure the focus of the Gay Rights movement would turn our movement into a dirty joke. Worse, it would play directly into the hands of our religious and political enemies. It would raise legitimate questions about the propriety of integrating Gay people into mainstream society.

If we're really nothing but Pleasure Seekers, then maybe it isn't a good idea to teach our history in schools! Maybe it isn't a good idea to air LGBT-oriented TV shows without parental warnings. Maybe it isn't a good idea to allow Lesbians and Gay men to be parents. Maybe it isn't a good idea to let us serve as clergy. And so on. And so on!

Don't misunderstand me: I've got nothing against pleasure! I love it just as much as the next guy. What bothers me is mindless obsession with pleasure. Obsession results in poor judgment; any recovering addict will tell you so! The head you lead with should always be the one between your shoulders, not the one between your legs! Some of us seem to have forgotten that morsel of wisdom . . . or maybe we just never learned it?

"Sex = Gay Liberation" is a false equation! Why are we still trying to do the math? When we gave ourselves over to sexual bacchanalia in the 1970s, we stigmatized ourselves and opened the door to venereal disease, not the least of which was massive HIV infection. Living hedonistic lives threatened our very existence! Yet some of us demand to go back to those bad old days. Why?

Are the Pleasure Seekers angels of death? Do they want to complete the grim job that the AIDS epidemic began? Is it mass human sacrifice that they have in mind? When Stuffed Animal sniffs the air around Gay people who espouse radical hedonist philosophy, he wants to gag, because it absolutely reeks of stupidity, immaturity and internalized self-hatred!

I've got a request to make of all the radical Gay hedonists out there. If any of you feel a strong need to have sex in places accessible to the general public; or to destroy traditional relationship models like marriage and monogamy; or to abolish the concepts of gender and sexual orientation; or to parade sexual fetishes in the streets; or to impose your adult desires on pre-pubescent and adolescent human beings, that's your own little red wagon to drag along behind you. Please don't try to hitch your wagon to the Gay Rights movement! No free rides for extremists and predators!

We are not a pleasure-seeking movement. We are not an anarchist movement. We are not a criminal movement. We are a civil and human rights movement! Granted, that may not be what some early Gay activists had in mind, but nevertheless, that's what we've become. So friggin' get used to it!

Most of us are focused on full integration into mainstream society, whether you approve or not. We want the freedom to make a contribution, not freedom to foment anarchy! We support the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but only to the extent non-LGBT people enjoy that right; we're not interested in redefining it or carving out hedonistic privileges for ourselves. If that's unacceptable to you, tough t*tty! Militant Pleasure Seekers should go start up their own movement, and stop piggybacking off of ours!

I, for one, have had it up to my whiskers with these jokers on both the Left and Right Wing who want to portray me as a sex pervert! I am what God created me to be; I know He didn't make me a pervert, and damned if I'll let anybody make one out of me!