Category Archives: Sexuality

Into the Cave

Yesterday, I was reading an article in The New Yorker by Morgan Meis about the discovery of the world’s oldest cave painting. It was a fascinating story of how an archeological team in Indonesia’s island of Sulawesi was exploring a remote valley. There were no roads into the valley, and there was nothing on their maps to suggest a way through the bush and mountain peaks. It sounded like a real archeological adventure into the unknown. Their maps show few signs of habitation in the valley. The team asked for directions anytime they encountered anyone, and they felt as if they were continually lost. Eventually they were able to find a path through a cave that led into this hidden valley, which the archeologists continue to call the “secret valley”—a term they use to protect the caves, which they don’t want to be easily found. The Lascaux cave found in Montignac, France was closed to the public in 1963, because their condition was deteriorating due to the exhalations of the 1,200 visitors per day, the presence of light, and changes in air circulation creating problems that threatened the preservation of the cave. Keeping the Indonesian valley secret is the only way at this time to preserve what the archeological team found.

The area of the secret valley was inhabited by an especially isolated group of Bugis people, an ethnic group of southern Sulawesi who I found to be a very interesting people because they recognize five separate genders. These Bugis claimed never to have seen a single Westerner in their valley. Something I will get back to in a minute. The archeological team began to explore the caves in the area and, a few days later, one of the archeologists entered one of them alone. There he found a spectacular painting of a Sulawesi warty pig, a medium-sized, hairy boar with small pointy ears and short legs. Near the rear of the pig was painted silhouettes of two human hands. The archeologist recognized that the artwork was very old, but just how old, he did not know. Technology was rough in to test the age of the painting using uranium-series dating. The answer was astonishing: the painting of the warty pig was at least 45,500 years old. This makes it the oldest known example of figurative cave art in the world. The cave paintings at Lascaux are estimated at around 17,000 years. The famous animal paintings in the Chauvet cave, of France, previously thought to be the oldest, are dated at around thirty-five thousand years old; the Sulawesi warty pig outdoes them by roughly ten thousand years.

All of this was fascinating, but what struck me about the article was one sentence: “The area was inhabited by an especially isolated group of Bugis people, an ethnic group of southern Sulawesi who recognizes five separate genders.” While the cave paintings are fascinating and add to the history of early humans, I find the concept of societies that accept more than two genders to be interesting, and I knew I had to do more research on this.

The Bugis people are the most numerous of the three major ethnic groups of South Sulawesi, Indonesia, with about 3 million people. Most Bugis are Muslim, but many pre-Islamic rites continue to be honored in their culture, including the view that gender exists on a spectrum. In contrast to the idea of only two genders (male and female), Bugis society recognizes five genders: makkunrai, oroané, bissu, calabai, and calalai. The concept of five genders has been a key part of their culture for at least six centuries. Oroané are comparable to cisgender men, makkunrai to cisgender women, calalai to transgender men, and calabai to transgender women, while bissu are androgynous or intersex and revered shamans or community priests.

Native American societies often recognized three genders: male, female, and two spirit similar to the Bugis concept of bissu. For one to be considered bissu, all aspects of gender must be combined to form a whole. It is believed that you are born with the propensity to become a bissu, revealed in a baby whose genitalia are ambiguous. These ambiguous genitalia need not be visible; a normative male who becomes a bissu is believed to be female on the inside. This combination of sexes enables a ‘meta-gender’ identity to emerge. However, ambiguous genitalia alone do not confer the state of being a bissu. The person must also learn the language, songs and incantations, and have a gift for bestowing blessings in order to become bissu. They must remain celibate and wear conservative clothes.

Bugis society has a cultural belief that all five genders must coexist harmoniously; but by 2019 the numbers of bissu had declined dramatically, after years of increasing persecution and the tradition of revering bissu as traditional community priests. Bissu have mostly survived by participating in weddings as maids of honor and working as farmers as well as performing their cultural roles as priests. Hardline Islamic groups, police, and politicians have all played their part in Indonesia’s increased harassment and discrimination of nonheterosexuals. After independence in 1949, the ancient Bugis kingdoms were incorporated into the new republic and bissus’ roles became increasingly sidelined. A regional Islamic rebellion in South Sulawesi led to further persecution. As the atmosphere became increasingly hostile to nonheterosexuals, fewer people were willing to take on the role of bissu.

According to the Bugis gender system, calabai are generally assigned male at birth but take on the role of heterosexual females. Their fashions and gender expression are distinctly feminine but do not match that of “typical” heterosexual women. Calabai embrace their femininity and live as women, but do not think of themselves as female, nor wish to be female or feel trapped in a male’s body, and they are respected by society. They are supported by family, and men accept them as males, living in feminine embodiment. The calalai are assigned female at birth but take on the roles of heterosexual males. They dress and present themselves as men, hold masculine jobs and typically live with female partners to adopt children.

The concept of five genders is not as fluid as a full spectrum of gender. The Bugis concept is more rigid than many who reject the idea of a gender binary. Along with cisgender males and cisgender females are transgender men and transgender women, nonbinary, genderfluid, genderqueer, and agender individuals, among many other possible definitions. Some experts suggest that there may be 100 genders or more and different cultures may use different identifications for one gender or another. The key, advocates suggest, is not pinning down a definitive list of gender possibilities but to be accepting of everyone’s declared gender.


Call Me Daddy?

When did I become a “daddy”? As I said on Monday, my hair has turned gray and there is much less of it while there is more of me around my midsection. Lately, I have been logging onto the dating apps a little bit more. Inevitably, a younger guy will message me and at some point, he’s going to call me “daddy.” I guess as a gay man, when you get older, there can be a few shocking moments. One of these moments is when you’re chatting with a younger guy, and he says he’s into older guys. And then it hits you: I’m the older guy.

So, what exactly is a “daddy?” Generally speaking, “daddy” is a category that gay men use to define themselves and/or each other. It is not to be confused with a “sugar daddy,” an older man who provides money or gifts in return for sex and/or companionship with a younger man. Other categories for gay men include “otters” (slim hairy men), “bears” (bigger hairy men) and “twinks” (skinny, smooth men). Some people outwardly identify as a “daddy” often on hook-up apps or on alt social media accounts*, and some people describe others that way. In its most stereotypical form, a “daddy” is an attractive older man who takes on a dominant yet paternal role in relationships with men who are usually younger. He is well-groomed, toned, masculine, and often successful. He takes the lead outside the bedroom and (again, so the stereotype goes) is a top in the bedroom. 

Similarly, to concepts like “queer” and “camp”, “daddy” is much debated, and its meanings and representations can be different depending on the person. For instance, not everyone thinks a “daddy” must be mature in age. Also, in today’s world, there is a bit of a change with the standard definition because of the seeming obsession with the “dad bod.” This phrase has been adopted to refer to an “average” guy who doesn’t have a lean, fit physique. He might instead have a paunch, a spare tire, or a middle-age spread. I guess that’s where I fit into being a “daddy” since I don’t have the perfect body. Usually though, a guy looking for a “daddy” associates the type with sexual dominance and penetration. For some, “daddies” are men who physically and mentally dominate while turning on their partner’s submissive side. When guys call me “daddy” it means they want a masculine or dominating person; neither of those descriptions particularly fit me.

In short: daddies tend to be older and, often, on the dominant side. But not always. The trope is an identifier for older men, but also a label that’s often put on them by younger guys whether they like it or not. Depending on the person, it can be a kink fantasy, or a genuine relationship philosophy. I asked one guy why he was interested in an older chubby guy like me when he had a fantastic body and a big dick, and he said, “It’s my fetish.” I can respect that. I have my own fetishes. By the way, what shocked me most about this particular guy is he recognized me from my profile picture and told me that he’s seen me around for the last couple of years and has always fantasized about me fucking him and how he wanted to “suck my cock.” He had no interest in kissing or getting blown himself. He wanted to please me. A dream come true, huh? I asked the guy if I knew him. He implied I’d recognize him but not know his name which is possibly true since I am terrible with names. He begged to get together, and we tentatively set a time. However, “something came up.” He was either telling the truth, or he got cold feet. That happens with “discreet” guys. We’ll see if I hear from him again. Anyway, the conversation caused me to think about my “daddy” status.

I find the concept of being considered a “daddy” interesting. I’ve never fit into other gay categories. I was never a “twink.” I’m not hairy so I’ve never been an “otter” or a “bear.” I’m not feminine or outgoing so I am not a “queen,” nor would I be considered “campy.” I’m not muscular so I’m not a “gym bunny.” I guess you could put me in the category of a “chub,” but I also don’t think that fits very well either. The fact is, I have never fit a gay stereotype. I, therefore, find it interesting that the “daddy” thing seems to be coming up a lot lately. Maybe it’s because my hair has gone nearly completely gray. Who knows? I just know most people would identify me as gay fairly easily.

One thing I do think is true about gay culture is that people are beginning to become more comfortable with being open about their preferences, fetishes, or kinks. A wider societal acceptance of kinks and sexual practices have changed how people communicate with each other online. For starters, it’s part of the reason “thirst” language has become increasingly violent and explicit. “Choke me daddy” is a common phrase seen online these days. Most of the time, the person is not saying they want someone to literally choke them but instead, expressing a desire for a particular person to dominate them. I’m going to choose to believe that “daddy” is used as a compliment even when someone, like me, doesn’t fully fit the stereotype.

* Alt, or alternative, social media accounts are secondary profiles people use in addition to a main account on a social media platform. They are a way of representing the self that deliberately displays a different identity facet and addresses a different audience to what someone considers to be their main account. The term “alt” originated from videogame culture and has been incorporated into social media accounts.


Creating A Sexual Ethic

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

—Matthew 7:15-20

As I said in a post last week, “I think sometimes people who grew up like I did in a religious family where sex was a dirty thing and gay sex was unthinkable, we often feel ashamed of exploring our sexuality.” When it comes to sex, many of us have been told what we should and shouldn’t do, especially when it comes to sex. If I’d done everything that I was told not to do, I’d have lived a boring life. As it is, I wish I had become more accepting of my sexuality earlier in life, but now that I have, I am not going to have someone else’s morality imposed on me, when I know they don’t even understand the Bible verses that “shaped” their morality. For those of us seeking to figure out sex within an LGBTQ-affirming Christianity, it can be tempting to look outside of ourselves for the answers. However, I believe religion is a deeply personal belief and experience. It is the group think that has nearly destroyed Christianity. Too many people are giving up on religion instead of searching their soul and looking for answers from God, not from someone telling you what God is saying.

Likewise, developing a sexual ethic that works for you and is in alignment with your personal faith is also a deeply personal experience. That doesn’t mean that it exists in a vacuum, or that you can’t (or shouldn’t) consult others — trusted friends, spiritual leaders, mentors, or the Bible— but what it does mean is that ultimately, the responsibility lies within you. There is a saying, often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, that says, “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us.” While the quote likely did not originate with Emerson, there is a lot of wisdom in those words. We must look within to decide what our personal faith and values are, and those include our sexual ethic.

For me personally, I try to follow the Golden Rule: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) My ideal sexual partner would be someone who is: honest, thoughtful, caring, and communicative. He doesn’t have to want a relationship as long as we both go into the encounter realizing this. There also has to be some chemistry between us. If there is no chemistry, I will be honest that I am not interested. I do care about others and I try my best to be thoughtful, that goes for whether it’s during an encounter or letting someone down easily. Most men are not known for being communicative, and I may fail on this at times, but it’s not because I am “ghosting” someone, but usually, it is a result of my fear that I am bothering someone or that I might interrupt them when they are doing something. So, I am not the best at follow-up, and I know I need to work on this. However, if I am messaged or texted, I will respond as soon as I can, which is more often than not immediately as long as I see the message.

If you want to develop a sexual ethic that resonates with you, there are a few things we can all do. The first thing we need to do is take stock of our values. Take some time to think about the values that matter to you. If you are not comfortable with something, then don’t agree to it; however, if you are uncomfortable about something like not communicating, then maybe that’s something you can work on. Usually, our personal values should be how we respect and treat others and what is going to make us happiest in a relationship. That could be a one-night experience or something that is more long-term.

Second, think back on the sexual and romantic experiences you’ve had and get in touch with what felt good and what didn’t. We usually have a variety of sexual and romantic experiences so think about everything from holding hands and kissing to penetrative sex (if you’ve had it). And don’t just limit yourself to “traditionally sexual” experiences. You can also meditate on times when your boundaries have been respected or transgressed. When you’ve felt safe and when you’ve felt vulnerable. Try to notice when your desires match or mismatch with your actions or the expectations or people around you. Maybe you don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone and feel pressured to have sex. This step isn’t about coming up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” (those are often context-specific and shift over time). Instead, this is about picking up on patterns.

Third, we should step outside of ourselves and use each of our experiences to realize our shared values. As we look at our past experiences, we need to look beyond the specifics (“We were drunk,” “there were lots of candles and rose petals”, “we did this thing,” or “we didn’t do that”) and look at how we felt: safe, seen, understood, respected, violated, disregarded, taken advantage of, excited, scared, etc. We should decide if our experience were a positive experience or a negative experience. Not all of our experiences will be completely positive or negative, but there may have been some of both in an encounter or relationship.

Next, we need to articulate to ourselves what our ethics are. So far, we have gotten in touch with our values, reflected on our experiences, and stepped outside of ourselves, and tapped into something bigger. That’s the hard part. Now, we need to put it all together. I don’t mean you need to create a sexual rulebook. It’s nothing that formal, and quite honestly, it may change from time to time according to our continued experiences. Merriam-Webster defines ethics as “a set of moral principles; a theory or system of moral values.” That’s what we’re creating here: a set of moral principles. What’s right and wrong. What’s helpful or harmful. What’s ethical and what’s not. When we create a sexual ethic, it’s not a list of what we want or don’t want to do, and it isn’t going to tell you what you’ll do in any given situation. Instead, it’s a framework that you can refer make to when you need to make sexual choices.

In addition, we need to release judgments. Our sexual ethics are the summary of what we value, how we see the world, what’s right, and what’s wrong. Sometimes we are called to make decisions about what’s right and what’s wrong, and sometimes we are called to celebrate differences. It’s important that we distinguish between “judging something as right or wrong” and “judging something as different than me.” It’s possible for someone who shares my sexual ethics to make completely different sexual choices. You may decide that celibacy is right for you, while you may also be like me and comfortable with casual sex or you may want to only have sexual encounters while in a relationship. Just because we have different sexual ethics does not make them wrong and we should not judge others for their sexual ethics as long as they do not harm others. Release judgment against people who are making different decisions than you would make, even if you don’t understand them, as long as they are acting ethically.

Finally, think of your sexual ethic like the United States Constitution: it’s a foundational document, it’s what we base our decisions on, it should withstand (and transcend) the whims of the moment, but also sometimes you need to change it and that’s OK. Sex is messy. And so is life. You’re going to hit some bumps along the way. You’re going to have an experience that shakes you up or meet a person that challenges everything you thought you knew. My sexual ethic today looks completely different than the one I had 10 years ago and even more different than the one I had just 5 years before that. Our preferences change usually because we broaden our horizons. Don’t feel guilty because you tried something or did something you thought you’d never do, but again, the main caveat is “do no harm.”


A Roll in the Hay

I think sometimes people who grew up like I did in a religious family where sex was a dirty thing and gay sex was unthinkable, we often feel ashamed of exploring our sexuality. I know I’ve often said to people that I was a slut in my twenties, but that is really just sex-shaming myself and being self-deprecating. The truth is, I had fun, and I’m not really ashamed of that. I doubt I’ll ever get married, so if I’m going to have sex, sometimes it’s just a random hook-up. Hell, I hooked up with a guy within days of moving to Vermont. In fact my bed hadn’t even come yet, so we had sex on an air mattress. It was great sex too, and I’d love to get together with him again, it’s just never worked out. I do see him on occasion and he has expressed interest in getting together again. It just hasn’t happened yet.

This brings me to the main topic of this post. A week or so ago a guy messaged me that he was in town and wanted to get together. At the time, I couldn’t, but he said he’d be back this week. We chatted a bit and realized we’d both like to get together, so we made tentative plans for this week. Don’t think this guy was just some random guy off the internet. I knew what he looked like, what his first name was, and why he was in town. With that information, I was able to look him up online, so I knew more about him then he’d probably intended. He’s closeted, or discreet as many guys say these days, and I respect that, even if I wish no one had to be closeted or discreet these days.

Anyway, he’s in town for a big event at the university and wanted to get together. I said sure and was looking forward to it. It wasn’t a major get together, but really just a “fuck and go” as I tend to call it. He only had a limited amount of time before he had another engagement (not another sexual one, I might add), so he came over, we got down to business and had a great time. He said he’d like to see more of me while he’s in town, and I’d like that too. Discreet guys though can be a little skittish, whether it’s because of post-sex guilt, being afraid they might get caught by someone, or any other myriad of reasons. Will I see him again? Yeah, if he wants to. I got what I wanted out of it; he got what he wanted out of it. We had fun! I’d like to repeat the experience.

The thing is, I refuse to feel guilt or shame for hooking up with a guy. I’ve been there done that and wasted too many years doing that. I have a few local guys I get together with occasionally, and if this guy wants to get together when he’s in town (and I think he’s in town a fair amount), then I have no problem with it. You can only do so much by yourself, and while that can be pretty good too, there’s really nothing like having someone else to help you out.


Benefits of Being Fully Vaccinated

I debated whether or not I wanted to write a blog post about this particular subject, but then I decided, why not? Before the pandemic, I had met a guy that I got along with very well. We had a lot of the same interests in science fiction and enjoyed each other’s company. We would occasionally get together for a bit of fun (if you know what I mean), and sometimes, we’d watch a movie, usually we did more than just watch a movie. It was always a lot of fun. I have not been able to see him since the pandemic began. He has some health problems that didn’t allow him to even take the slimmest chance of getting COVID. We have talked a few times over the course of the pandemic, and we always said we would get together again when all of this was over or when we were both fully vaccinated.

Last week, he texted me to tell me that he was fully vaccinated, and I was able to tell him that I too was fully vaccinated. He suggested that we get together last night. Of course, I am writing this before I went over there, but I am anticipating we will have a fun time catching up and maybe even making up for lost time. It feels like things are beginning to get back to normal as more and more people are getting vaccinated. There is light at the end of the tunnel and Vermont is thankfully leading the way.

Vermont leads the nation in vaccines with 52.7 percent of the state’s population being fully vaccinated. We have 69.7 percent of the state’s population with at least one dose of the vaccine. New England has done remarkably well, with only Rhode Island and New Hampshire having less than 50 percent of their populations fully vaccinated. Rhode Island is close with 49.9 percent, but New Hampshire appears to be a bit of an anomaly in New England with only 35.6 percent being fully vaccinated. Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are the top four states for vaccinations, respectively. Rhode Island is fifth, but New Hampshire is twenty-third.  New Jersey, Hawaii, New Mexico, Maryland, and New York round out the top ten. All of the top ten are Democratic-leaning states. 

In contrast, South Carolina, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and Mississippi make up the bottom ten states with Mississippi having the lowest vaccination rates. The fact is the U.S. vaccination map looks a lot like a map of how states vote in presidential elections, with most blue states vaccinating at levels well above the national average and GOP states bringing up the rear. Sadly, the politics of COVID-19 have been partisan from almost the onset of the pandemic, and polls consistently show that Republicans, particularly men, are more hesitant than Democrats to get vaccinated.


The LGBTQ+ South

“In states where legal climates are less supportive of LGBT people, social stigma toward them is also higher. Social and legal climates are generally intertwined such that supportive laws and social acceptance run hand in hand.”Andrew R. Flores, Williams Institute, a public policy research institute based at the UCLA School of Law focused on sexual orientation and gender identities issues.

When I interviewed for this job in Vermont, they asked me, “You know it’s cold up here?” I responded, just like I’d responded during every interview in the North, “I hate the heat of the South.” When someone asks where my accent is from, and I say, “Alabama,” I always get the response, “That must have been a big change.” I tell them, “I hated the heat and I enjoy the cooler climate of New England. I hated stepping outside and being drenched in sweat within seconds of leaving the air conditioning and stepping into the oppressive heat and humidity.”

The heat of the South is not the only thing oppressive down there. The Republican Party and the Christian right are also oppressive if you are not white or heterosexual. If you are Black, Hispanic, Asian, or LGBTQ+ of any race, especially those who are transgender, the South can be a particularly unwelcoming place. Yet, even with that said, 35 percent of the United States’ LGBTQ+ population lives in the South, more than any other region in the country. They also make up some of the poorest in the LGBTQ+ population.

The South largely lacks employment protections. Like most states in the U.S., the South is largely at-will employment states; At-will employment is an employer’s ability to dismiss an employee for any reason and without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal (e.g., firing because of the employee’s race, religion or sexuality). No southern states have laws for LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections. While Bostock v. Clayton County held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because they are gay or transgender, it is unlikely that these protections will be enforced until courts explicitly expand protections to other statutes. Each application of sex in the law to protect LGBTQ people will require litigation. And the Bostock decision itself includes a worrying deference to religious organizations. As soon as he took office, President Biden issued an Executive Order directing agencies to enforce federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, consistent with the Bostock decision. Time will tell how this will affect LGBTQ+ employees in states without explicit non-discrimination protections.

Employment protections are closely tied to economic security and well-being. LGBTQ+ people in the states without protections are more likely to report household incomes below $24,000 than those living in the states where workers are protected. Lower income also means that LGBTQ+ people face more issues with opportunities for better education, jobs, and healthcare. Any LGBTQ+ person in the South has been asked more than once, “If it’s so bad, why don’t you just leave?” The answer is: lack of opportunity. Lower income means decreased ability to move. In other words, it’s easier said than done. This does not mean that all LGBTQ+ people in the South struggle with income or education opportunities. Researchers have hypothesized that LGBTQ+ people may intentionally pursue higher education as a way to buffer themselves against discrimination in the workplace.

Some LGBTQ+ individuals have nice lives in the South. It’s not bad for everyone. However, fear lurks around every turn. If you are in the closet, then you have the fear of being outed. Even with some legal protections like those in Bostock, you still fear losing not only your job, but your family, religious life, friends, etc. when or if you choose to come out. Some LGBTQ+ people live in metropolitan areas and have more freedom and acceptance, but many do not. For those who do not, the South can be like sinking in quicksand. The more you try to help yourself, the more backlash from politicians and religious conservatives. I have been told it has gotten better in recent years, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for transgender individuals. They face increasing discrimination and hardships in the form of new laws targeting their rights, freedoms, and healthcare access. 

I am glad I got out when I did. For the first few years I lived in Vermont, I dreamed of getting a job closer to home and moving back to the South or at least closer to the South. I no longer feel that way. I realized that as long as I lived in the South, I was living in quicksand. Each day I was sinking and suffocating more because of the oppression of the South. Vermont has the highest percentage of any states for LGBTQ+ identification at 5.3 percent. In contrast, Alabama ranks in the bottom 16 percent of states with only 3 percent, tying with Alaska, Arkansas, Montana, and South Carolina who also have 3 percent. Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota rank lower. Though not a state, Washington, D.C. has the highest percentage with 8.6 percent of its population identifying as LGBTQ+.


Navigating a Love Life in a Post-Pandemic World

While the end of the pandemic that shook the world to its core is still hanging on, President Biden has surpassed his promise of 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days, and it looks like we will reach double that goal. The success of vaccine distribution has given many of us a bit of hope that life could resume to somewhat normal before 2022. By the end of this year, hopefully we will be heading back to the office, hugging loved ones (I miss hugs), and dating. While I have been on few dates since moving to Vermont, I was optimistic before the pandemic and going out and to gay events in Burlington, hoping to meet someone. As we move closer and closer to normal again, one has to wonder how we will navigate a return to the possibility of romance (and possibly sex) after a global pandemic?

One thing the COVID pandemic did was to give us a lot of free time. For many people, it was too much free time, especially in the beginning. When we weren’t scrambling for toilet paper and sanitizer wipes, we were sitting in our homes with every topic under the sun swirling around in our heads. It meant watching a lot of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+, not to mention way too much online shopping. With more time than usual to sit and think, many of us have reconsidered what we find to be important in our lives. The loneliness of quarantines and lockdowns has made a lot of us realize just how much we would like to have a partner by our side.

As we begin moving forward once COVID is a memory, many of us who are single might be rethinking how to go about not only how we date, but who we date. It won’t be a surprise if people take their time and get to know people more often. I think people might be a little more careful and get to know someone better before moving forward. I think it will be important to think about whether this was a person who diligently wore a mask and observed social distancing because it will tell us whether he cares about the well-being of others or if he is just a selfish asshole. Of course, the alternative of just swiping right and setting up a quick hookup will still be available, but I think the COVID pandemic has taught us a lot about human nature. We’ve spent a year and some change with not much else but ourselves and our thoughts, and that longing for human connection could result in a wave of monogamy, something that technology and smartphones seemed to have left in the past.

As the world starts to reopen and we can return to bars and clubs (I miss the monthly drag shows in Burlington), it’s important to remember that while we were alone during 2020, we should remember that it’s not a bad thing to want a solid foundation in terms of a relationship. However, there is a flip side to this because life is like a coin. There are always two sides to every situation. Yes, the lack of human connection has been dismal, but the nonexistent physical contact has been just as bad for many. Once people are vaccinated, we can once again get together with others without fear of contracting a disease that has killed over half a million people in the US alone. We might see a rise in not only monogamous relationships, but a whole lot of hookups because for a lot of people—that’s been off the table for over a year. I recently downloaded a few dating apps again, mostly to see if anything had changed and if the landscape of available men had changed. Men are definitely horny. I’ve seen a lot more interest than I usually do when I log into those apps, but I am looking for something more than just a quick one night stand.

Relationships are probably going to get deeper and more common but there is also going to be a sexual revolution of sorts with more people (dare I say, desperately) looking for hookups. With that, it’s wise to remain cautious not just because of COVID, but also keeping in mind that STDs have not ceased to exist. If you’re not the type that realized a need for a partner after this and just want to hookup, keep in mind that there are plenty of people exiting the pandemic with the same sexual needs. So, it’s always smart to practice safe sex—more so than ever because people are going to be screwing around like well, they haven’t fucked in over a year.

Throughout history, major events have always had an impact on our romance and sexual lives, and COVID is no different. Whether we’re seeing the reality of having someone close at all times, or the power of sex—the post-COVID world might be a wild one.


The Problem with Bottom Shaming

An Athenian red-figure kylix (cup) dating from around 510–500 BC depicts a young pentathlete pulling his older lover towards him for a kiss. In many of the city-states of ancient Greece, sex between a man and a youth was an accepted – even idealized – form of love, its virtues extolled in works by writers including Plato.

In Ancient Greece, some philosophical reflections even idealized same-sex love. We can find notable examples in the Symposium, the philosopher Plato’s description of an intellectually high-powered Athenian dinner party. One character, Phaedrus, extols the virtues of manly, same-sex love among warriors and legislators: “And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world.” This, allegedly, was the inspiration for the Sacred Band of Thebes, comprising 150 pairs of male lovers, which fought heroically at the battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC before succumbing to the overwhelming forces of Philip II of Macedon.

Another dinner guest at Plato’s imagined symposium, Pausanias, contrasts “base” love (with women and boys) as merely for sexual gratification and therefore inferior, with “noble” love (with young men). The latter, he says, is “pure” and about instilling guidance and wisdom in a pedagogical relationship rather than sex. This rationalization of same-sex love, whether platonic or carnal, had an extraordinary resilience in western societies over the next couple of millennia and beyond. Take, for example, the famous defense by Oscar Wilde at his trial for sodomy and gross indecency in 1895: “The ‘love that dare not speak its name’ in this century is such a great affection of an elder for a younger man as there was between David and Jonathan, such as Plato made the very basis of his philosophy, and such as you find in the sonnets of Michelangelo and Shakespeare… It is beautiful, it is fine, it is the noblest form of affection. There is nothing unnatural about it.”

Throughout history, the receptive/penetrated partner in male same-sex relationships has often been seen as the lesser person in the relationship. One of the most famous examples of bottom shaming is Julius Caesar, who has often been portrayed as a macho, militaristic, elite Roman leader. Much of that masculine power revolved as much around his ability to demonstrate his sexual prowess (think Cleopatra) as it did around political prowess. However, his contemporary political rivals saw this masculinity differently and often commented on such. Julius Caesar was nicknamed the “bald adulterer,” which fit the Roman political stereotype perfectly by sleeping his way to power. As a young man, he spent a considerable amount of time at the court of King Nicomedes of Bithynia, fueling a series of rumors about an affair in which Caesar was the submissive party. His return to Bithynia just a few days after leaving to “collect a debt” further fanned the flames. Suetonius tells us that this was the only stain on Caesar’s masculinity. But it was a stain that proved difficult to wash out, and he would be reminded of it throughout his prematurely ended life. One colleague, Bibulus, addressed Caesar as “the queen of Bithynia.” During an assembly, a man named Octavius hailed his co-consul Pompey as “king” and Caesar as “queen.”  

Male sexuality and sexual masculinity have been defined throughout history by the role played by the receptive partner. Women have been seen by most of world history as the weaker sex, and because they take on the receptive role in sex, a man who is the penetrated partner for another man is seen as less of a man. A gay man’s position in the bedroom can extend to how he’s perceived in the LGBTQ+ community. Bottoms, those who are the receptive partner, are often not afforded the respect they deserve. Bottoms deserve a lot more respect than they usually receive. All too often, the terms “bottom” and “submissive” are used interchangeably. However, not all bottoms are submissive. Some bottoms can be quite aggressive, thus the term “power bottom.” 

Even versatile men can have a more submissive side because they may prefer those who bottom for them to be more aggressive, but versatile men may also like those who top them to be more aggressive. The opposite can also be true: a versatile gay man who is more dominant may prefer more submissive bottoms and to take control of sex when they are the bottom. Then there are the “strict tops” who refuse to bottom no matter what. These men are often the least respectful of bottoms, and “strict bottoms” may often feel (or be perceived as) inferior to tops for being the receptive partner. The dichotomy of the top/bottom relationship needs to be more respectful for both positions.

Most tops do not consider that being a bottom takes a lot of preparation before engaging in anal sex—something a top benefit from but seldom worries about. The idea of spontaneous sex might sound like a thrill, but it is an unrealistic fantasy of the gay community seen in depictions of gay life from m/m romance novels to gay porn. We don’t want to think about all the preparation available. It’s similar to something I once read about Henry James’s novels that no one ever goes to the bathroom in his novels, though that is true of most novels. However, for a bottom who hasn’t prepared for sex, it can be a stressful and uncomfortable experience. To avoid any awkward mishaps during sex, most bottoms will prepare for it—even if there’s only a tiny chance, they might have sex that day. Even with the most preparation and precautions taken, most bottoms will still hope and pray the entire time that no accidents happen.

Furthermore, it should come as no surprise to anyone that anal sex can be painful at times, and it can take a lot of getting used to before it becomes a fully satisfying sexual experience. When it’s been a while, it’s literally like sticking your finger in a Chinese finger trap, and we all know that isn’t the most enjoyable thing. Most gay men will prepare themselves for bottoming ahead of time. Still, if they don’t know their partner’s penis size, this could make the experience more satisfying if he has a larger than average girth but might be less enjoyable if his penis is less girthy. There is a lot to consider and be prepared for, but it’s also a gamble if you don’t know what to expect. A bottom might ask for “Size?” or “Pics?” from a potential partner while chatting online. Those are not just questions for size queens; they can also be a question so that the bottom can be more prepared for the top. Many men will just see those questions as crude, but the bottom may just be trying to prepare for a better experience for the top.

In the gay community, bottoms are still seen as the more feminine ones. Bottoms are looked at as less than tops in the community. If you doubt this is true, then ask yourself, when was the last time you heard someone refer to a “top” in a derogatory way. Gay men often have insecurities about being labeled a bottom because the gay community all too often engages in “bottom shaming.”  Why is this the case? It goes back to historical perceptions of gay sex which ingrained in men the idea that the receptive partner was lesser: either they were the younger partner, a slave, etc. Achilles and Patroclus were an example of this, while the exception was the relationship between Alexander the Great and Hephaestion. Yet, even with Alexander, all of his male lovers were not equal, such was the case with another of his favorite sexual partners, Bagoas, a eunuch “in the very flower of boyhood.” It’s a stereotype that we must work to change.

The fact is your sexual preference be it top, bottom, or versatile, doesn’t mean a damn thing when it comes to your masculinity. We should be proud if we are a bottom, a top, or a bit of both. We should be proud of our sexuality and not get bogged down in roles because why does it matter? You need to realize it doesn’t matter, and we are all a part of the same community and should uplift each other instead of trying to tear each other down. Tops come in all shapes and sizes, including short guys and feminine guys. Plenty of drag queens out there are tops. Don’t assume someone is a top or a bottom because of the way they present or because of their size. There are also plenty of well-endowed bottoms, and while many of us may find that a waste of a good penis, we should respect their preferences. It boils down to each of us respecting one another.


The Harm of “Masc4Masc”

……………………………………………. IYKYK …………………………………………….

From the moment we leave the womb, we are indoctrinated with ideas about what gender means. Real men don’t cry. They don’t ask for help. They don’t back down from a fight. Our culture teaches masculinity in ways both subtle and overt, through schoolyard taunts and gendered bathrooms. It carries over to sports, the gym, fraternities, and other male-only spaces. The result of this relentless social conditioning is that every gay man inherits an identity crisis: we must reconcile our sense of masculinity with our inability to conform to the world’s inherent enforced heterosexuality. While some resolve the conflict by rejecting gender norms altogether, a surprising number embrace the very customs they fall short of, striving to embody cultural notions of masculinity in how they speak, act, and dress. This is particularly true when it comes to dating.

In the gay community, a sexual premium is placed on masculinity, which puts pressure on gay men to be masculine. Dating (hook-up) apps often feature ads saying they are looking for “Masc4Masc” or describe themselves as “straight-acting.” More feminine-acting men are seen as less desirable sexual partners for these men. In one 2012 study about gay men’s attitudes toward masculinity, a majority of those surveyed said it was important not only for themselves to present as masculine but for their partners to look and act masculine as well. Other studies have found that gay men are more attracted to masculine-looking faces and muscular builds. The more masculine one rates oneself, the greater importance one places on masculinity in his partner.

I remember as a child being made fun of because I liked to play with the girls or that I walked with a swish or used my hands to talk. These were seen as feminine, but there was the unspoken belief that if others derided me for that behavior, I’d conform to the masculine ideal. I remember my father even made me play flag football during recess because that’s what all the other boys did, even though I hated it and felt uncomfortable playing football. He did not care. When I reached puberty, and my voice changed, it did not become very deep, and I was often made fun of for the way I talked. Other boys used to mock me with an over-effected gay voice. I spent most of my life in school trying to avoid being seen as feminine or gay. While some may dismiss the reverence of masculinity among gay men as “just a preference” or the ridicule of less than masculine men, both have been documented to have adverse mental health effects. Gay men who are more gender-nonconforming struggle more frequently with self-esteem and experience higher levels of depression and anxiety. Those who prize masculinity are more likely to be dissatisfied with their bodies, gestures, and voices.

A primary reason people in the LGBT community have more mental health issues is not only because they experience higher levels of marginalization from society at large but also because of the intense pressure to be, look, and act in a masculine way. However, there is also the larger issue of this social exclusion happening within the queer community itself. We’re judging and excluding one another because of perceived gender roles. Gay culture’s obsession with masculinity hurts both masculine and feminine men alike. Even gay men who endorse their own masculinity feel a degree of uncertainty about whether they are manly enough in the way others see them. There is a certain feeling that they will never be masculine enough.

While such feelings are most common earlier in the coming-out stages, masculine norms continue to affect gay men’s sense of self long after they’ve come out. Many gay men want to fit in and be seen as “normal,” not different. If you pay attention to gay social media personalities, you may notice that the strict division between masculine and feminine appears to be blurring. A majority of Millennials believe gender falls on a spectrum, and a survey from queer-rights organization GLAAD showed 12 percent of this generation identifies as gender non-conforming. Take, for example, the social media personality Tate Hoskins, who has grown in popularity by blurring the gender norms for young men by switching from an ultra-masculine country boy to a femme boy in a French maid outfit and cat ears. He’s taken a lot of flak for embracing a non-gender conforming attitude. Still, he continues to stay positive and have his message heard by his nearly 754K followers on TikTok and his close to 30K followers on Instagram. The following video has more than 2 million likes and has been viewed by many more:

Gay men know instinctually that that masculinity is fluid. Even the most “straight-acting” gay man can’t call everyone “bro” all the time. All gay men engage in code-switching, butching it up in a job interview but letting themselves “queen out” at the weekly Drag Race gathering. Much of this variation in behavior stems from a desire to avoid negative social repercussions from society at large, but gay men also tend to put on their straight faces to be more appealing to other gay men. As young people push the boundaries of gender, an increasing number of gay men feel comfortable questioning gay culture’s idolization of traditional masculinity—and the notion that desire is bound by it. It would take a whole new series of posts to discuss the gay obsession with straight men. In gay romance, you sometimes see the trope of the straight man who falls for a gay man either only to realize he was always gay or that he is gay for just one man. Then there is the genre of gay porn that uses gay for pay actors to get viewers or the gaybaiting of the bromosexual culture. Straight men can be a nice fantasy, but a diversity of gender norms (or lack thereof) can all be found within the gay community.

We should respect the diversity of the gay community more and quit looking outside our community for what is considered normal. Too many gay men only want a masculine, fit top with a large penis. Other gay men have an obsession with the myth of a six-pack gay (a straight man who will go gay after a six-pack of beer). It’s all unhealthy. And while some men exist out there who are very masculine, have a perfect body, and possess a huge dick, they are few and far between, and it’s an expectation that is found more often in porn than in real life. We need to look more for what is in a man’s heart than his outer appearance, whether that is his body, fashion sense, or mannerisms. 

_________

Tomorrow, I will discuss how bottom shaming has hurt gay men throughout world history.


Sodomy

In May 2020, the U.S. Department of Education released its updated campus sexual assault regulations under Title IX. The law prohibits sex discrimination at federally-funded institutions. Schools were given only until August 14, 2020 to adopt compliant policies and procedures while Betsy Devos and the Department of Education (DoE) spent the last three years drawing up these new Title IX regulations. In 2017, the DoE withdrew the Obama Administration’s guidance documents on the subject; a year later, it issued a lengthy notice of proposed rulemaking under the Administrative Procedure Act. This was the first full rulemaking on a major Title IX issue since 1975, and the only one ever dedicated to sexual harassment. It is not without controversy. What do you expect from a Secretary of Education who is neither an educator nor an education leader? The woman has NO experience in public education, never even attending a public school.

Sexual assault is a serious issue on college campuses, but it was not initially addressed in Title IX; however, the Supreme Court did address sexual assault, but only in discussing whether an institute of higher learning receiving federal dollars could be held responsible. In 2011, the Obama Administration issued a lengthy “dear colleague letter” spelling out the many measures schools must implement to “end any harassment, eliminate a hostile environment if it has been created, and prevent harassment from occurring again.” Still, the Trump Administration withdrew the “dear colleague letter” to reframe Title IX. The 2016 Republican platform devoted an entire section to Title IX charging that the Obama Administration’s “distortion of Title IX to micromanage the way colleges and universities deal with allegations of abuse contravenes our country’s legal traditions and must be halted.”

So, what are the issues with the new Title IX regulations? The general outline was laid out in the November 2018 proposal. Its central feature was a return to the framework established by the Supreme Court in 1998-99. No longer would schools have broad responsibility “to take effective action to prevent, eliminate, and remedy sexual harassment” by “changing the culture.” Now, the focus was on schools’ responsibility to address cases of serious sexual misconduct. Simultaneously, though, the new rules have gone far beyond the Supreme Court in establishing what constitutes harassment, what schools must do to identify and adjudicate cases of misconduct, and the remedies they must provide to victims of such misconduct. As a result, the new administrative regulations are less radical—and more demanding—than the DoE’s critics often suggest.

What forms of harassment require a response from educational institutions? Under the new guidelines, the following are considered forms of sexual assault: rape, sodomy, sexual assault with an object, fondling, incest, and statutory rape. While the Supreme Court held that harassment must be “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” to trigger Title IX, the Obama Administration pushed schools to address harassment before it “becomes severe or pervasive” to prevent the creation of “a hostile environment.” Schools are now to address the incidents, but are not expected to address the culture that causes such incidents. The entire matter is very complicated (if you want to read more, you can read this article from InsideHigherEd.) I was asked instead to read my university’s new policy and comment on it.

I immediately noticed the definitions of sexual assault and its archaic language. It differentiates between rape and sodomy.

Rape is defined as penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person without the victim’s consent. Sodomy is defined as oral or anal sexual intercourse with another person forcibly, and/or against that person’s will (non-consensual), or not forcibly or against the person’s will in instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of age or because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity. This is what I don’t understand: Why is the federal government requiring separate definitions of rape and sodomy? Both are defined as forcibly or non-consensually having the victim’s vagina, anus, or mouth penetrated with another person’s body part or sex organ. I don’t see the difference. Why must the two terms be spelled out? In my opinion, the use of the word “sodomy” is intentionally using homophobic language.

Sodomy is a word that has been demonized as a weapon to promote intolerance against gay people which is the main reason for my objection. The word promotes negative stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination to practices such as anal or oral sex which have been associated mostly with the gay community. The term is sometimes even replaced with “crimes against nature.” Originally, sodomy was derived from church law designed to prevent nonprocreative sexuality anywhere and any sexuality outside of marriage (in some cases, any intercourse not in the missionary position between a man and a woman). Historically, the term has been used as a form of discrimination against gay men.

Though sodomy has been used to refer to a range of homosexual and heterosexual “unnatural acts,” the term “sodomite” usually refers to a homosexual male even though the real meaning is nonprocreative sex. The term is derived from the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Christian churches have referred to the crimen sodomitae (crime of the Sodomites) for centuries. The modern association with homosexuality can be found as early as AD 96 in the Jewish historian Josephus’ writings. Sodomy, in historical biblical reference, probably did not even pertain to homosexuality, but the acts of bestiality and female and male castration for sexual slavery. The story of Sodom’s destruction and Abraham’s failed attempt to intercede with God and prevent that destruction appears in Genesis 18–19. The connection between Sodom and homosexuality is derived from the described attempt by a mob of the city’s people to rape Lot’s male guests. Some suggest the sinfulness for which Sodom was destroyed might have consisted mainly in the violation of obligations of hospitality which were essential according to the original writers of the Biblical account.

In essence, the new regulations are forcing educational institutions to use derogatory and homophobic language to differentiate between heterosexual and homosexual sex. The DoE is forcing colleges to violate Title IX, a law passed to protect people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. Title IX covers students and employees at these institutions. Therefore, the new policy contradicts the Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. 

Aren’t we supposed to be past using derogatory and discriminatory language such as sodomy in our laws? If you include anal and oral sex in the definition of rape, why is it necessary to also include sodomy and give virtually the same definition? Am I the only one who finds the term “sodomy” offensive?