Two Muscle Guys Kiss at the Last Judgement

posted by Madame Bubby

I got blocked on Twitter a while ago by a Roman Catholic bishop because I responded to a tweet about Michelangelo with a pretty general article on the sexuality of the famous artist Michelangelo. Michelangelo was gay. He liked guys. Especially guys with big muscles.
 

Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti (source: biografieonline.it)

Now, during the Renaissance, the concept of sexual orientation had yet to be articulated or analyzed. Thus, Michelangelo, according to the social and religious norms of the time (usually the same), either performed sex acts with men (called sodomy due to an interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story since deemed incorrect by current Biblical scholarship), and/or, perhaps more loosely, he loved men, young men (which does not necessarily imply sexual activity).

In this case, art imitates life, and Michelangelo, aiming to produce what he deemed to be an ideal mimesis of the body as revealing a primal strength and power coursing through creation, painted male bodies that rival the famous bodybuilders of the past, without the artificial steroid-induced bulk. (And even the women in the Sistine Chapel are muscular.)
 

Adam and Eve, Sistene Chapel Ceiling
Adam and Eve, Sistene Chapel Ceiling (source: artarchive.com)

This unabashed glorying in muscular nudes under the aegis of a commission to paint the Sistine Chapel ended up becoming a problem. Why? The Counter-Reformation not only reacted to the Reformation, but to some of what it deemed licentious excesses of the Renaissance, and much Catholic religious art ended up degenerating into fixed forms drawn in attitudes of pious sentiment. Hello, anemic Jesuses with bleeding hearts and heavily draped Madonnas gazing up at the clouds.

And, in the case of Michelangelo’s paintings, the Church authorities covered up the genitalia.

But, as one article I read recently reveals, Michelangelo’s Last Judgement shows that just covering up genitals does not literally erase any imagery that might induce those impure thoughts that might send one to hell.

In the midst of the Last Judgment, where a muscular beardless Christ resembling Apollo looks like he is a bad ass coming to whale on a rival gang, two men kiss. Mutually and fearlessly. (Even his mother is frightened.) And these are not the ones condemned to hell. These are two guys on the redeemed side, as opposed to, as the article claims, a reputed pedophile biting his genitals to hell.
 

The Last Judgement kiss close up
The Last Judgement close up (source: Michelangelo.org)

Now, the men kissing need not imply sexual attraction, of course, depending on the cultural context. They could even be family members displaying affection. But it’s there, it’s there for the homosocial gaze, and I just wonder if Michelangelo was himself encoding, as it were, his own Last Judgement against a Counter-Reformation Church that viewed humanity as more fallen and sinful rather than filled with a holy energy that includes struggle and conflict but also surmounts it with a hope for a final vindication.
 

The Last Judgement
The Last Judgement (source: Vatican Museum, Michelangelo)
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The Magic and Mystery of Falcons and FALCONHEAD

posted by Madame Bubby

Vintage ad for Michael Zen's Falconhead showing in theaters

"Like something out of a Greek tragedy (or Clash of the Titans), a naked man lies spread-eagled on his stomach on the center of a ceremonial plaza. The Falconhead appears out of nowhere, clad in black robes that look oddly medieval, and presents an ornately framed mirror to the prostrate man, pushing his face into it with his shiny black boots. Text flashes, "He gazed into the mirror and was consumed by it."
 

Still from Falconhead of boot stepping on a man with his face pressed into a mirror

So begins Michael Zen's Falconhead (1977), a richly complex film that “features a fearsome bird-headed man with magical powers, a possibly nefarious shaman/landlord, stunningly photographed solo sequences, deliciously ambiguous sexual violence, and lots of gooey, gooey cum eating.”

The man with the head of a falcon character derives from so many cultures. The ancient Egyptian god Horus was usually depicted as a falcon-headed man, wearing the red and white crown which represented his kingship over both Upper and Lower Egypt. Horus was the son of Osiris and Isis, both associated with the cycles of birth, death, and the afterlife.
 

Horus

In ancient Egypt, falcons (also known as raptors) represented the soul in the afterlife. In fact, the falcons themselves were even mummified, and recently, some scholars have found evidence that the birds were sacrificed to the gods, or even used in falconry, where young birds are trained to hunt prey.

In the medieval period, falconry became a widespread cultural practice among the nobility, but some of its practices were extremely cruel, including temporarily blinding the birds (the gruesome details are elucidated in the hyperlink above), which made them easier to train.
 

Medieval falconry: falconers with horse
Falconers with horse from ‘De arte venandi cum avibus’, 1240-1250, from http://www.medievalists.net/2016/03/falconry-birds-and-lovebirds/

The practice, however, lost popularity in Europe because of the widespread usage of guns and gunpowder. In Britain among some of the gentry the practice survived, and these individuals formed a series of clubs that kept the art alive, leading eventually to the modern development of falconry in Europe, North America and Africa.
 

Man with falcon
Image from http://vafalconry.swva.net/Falconry.html

There are so many elements in the above of terrifying power, sacrifice and cruelty, but also beauty and awe. Birds of course can fly, and this action has always inspired humans to think about power and its limits, the Icarus myth being the most well-known one.

And falcons in all their variety, who soar in the sky, are carnivorous creatures, who hunt for earthbound prey, the creeping things in the creation account in Genesis. Yet, at the same time, humans have attempted to tame, even confine, this energy through the art of falconry.
 

Falcon flying
Image from https://mydreamsymbolism.com/falcon-spirit-animal-totem-symbolism-and-meaning/

It's like this type of bird represents for humans a boundary breaker, someone who can brave the wide gaps between heaven and earth, nature and art, life and death.

Perhaps in the mirror the falcon-headed man presents to the prostrate man, we see ourselves consumed by what seems to be our own physical sexual power, but ultimately, it's a power given to us by a natural, or even supernatural force that encompasses, in fact, thrives on, extremes in order to not just survive, but triumph.

The falcon-headed man is the endless orgasm of life and death; we can imitate it, mirror it, but our life is a disconnected series of gooey cumshots in the sublunary earth. The men are consumed; but he burns like that famous bush, not consumed.
 

Still from Falconhead of masked man

The poet Yeats proclaims in his famous poem, The Second Coming, that in a time of crisis “the falcon can no longer hear the falconer;” in these times, perhaps, we have lost the seismic energy that charges body and spirit together in a dynamic relationship. I see this line as implying that falconer cannot bond with the falcon; he has stopped up his conduit to the falcon's awesome energy he was able to tap into.

Thus, all that's left, as in the famous line at the end of the poem, is the “rude beast slouching toward Bethlehem waiting to be born,” a dead life devoid of creativity, passion, and love.

Quotes from the Falconhead review by DM at BijouWorld.
 

Stills from Falconhead
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Cruisin' at the Grocery Store

posted by Madame Bubby


Just came upon this old post from the Bilerico Report:

“Just about any grocery store is perfect for picking up a man. There's a reason why single women in the 70's and 80's swore by the produce section... Is he shopping for one?”

Now, this post was written in 2009, and obviously our shopping habits have changed. I know where I live, I see more Amazon delivery trucks, and I even saw a guy drop off Amazon Pantry frozen food at one particularly swanky apartment building near me.

But everyone except the super rich (including the President aka the vulgar boor) at some point still need to shop outside for food and other essentials.

Thus, can one still pick up someone else at the grocery store for sex, or even a date?

Now, regarding the produce section, I can see during “retro times” a guy asking a girl something about the inventory, because then, it was assumed most guys were pretty much inept at homemaking tasks, even the “confirmed bachelors.”

And then a single career gal who would be boyfriend (not necessarily husband) hunting (hello, Helen Gurley Brown, author of Sex and the Single Girl) would succor the lost soul among the zucchini, and lo and behold, exchanging phone numbers, yada yada, dinner at her place. (I think I have been watching too many 1960s romantic comedies.)
 

1970s grocery shopping couple

Yes, that scenario might have worked in an ideal fashion in the heterosexual world, but in the closeted gay world of that time? Perhaps. Maybe just a side glance, and then … Hopefully, a safe place with a minimal threat of arrest.

Now, many years later and after much social change, I guess, depending on where the grocery store is located, I'm sure cruising does occur. But it probably ends up being a Scruff/Grinder type. Hottie Leather is ten feet away. Where is that in the store? Thus, one would end up looking at the phone rather than sizing up the bare chested muscle jock next to you who is ready to start feeling up the cucumbers (the latter image is a fantasy, but I hope one that will become reality).
 

Hot muscle guy shirtless at grocery store

I had to go to the store near me last night, and it's in a heavily LGBTQ neighborhood, so I should be glad that guys can wear shirts like “Boys! Whoooo!” openly, but action was minimal. I've also noticed that especially on the weekends, gay men grocery shopping tends to be a couples activity. The married ones are there during the day stocking up on essentials and the young ones are there in the evening picking up more fun goodies for some event or outing.
 

Senior gay couple produce shopping
Photo Credit: Getty Images

I am starting to think I might enjoy better luck with the delivery guys (Amazon, Peapod, whatever). After all, an electrician ends up experiencing some very interesting food sex in an elevator with the “Brillo-headed” delivery guy in Jack Deveau's classic gay porn movie Rough Trades.
 

Celery up the ass in Rough Trades elevator food sex scene
Elevator food sex scene from Rough Trades (1977)

I wouldn't want a celery stick up my ass like in that movie. I'll take the man and what's in his boxers, not what's in the boxes.

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Chicago Pride Parade 2019: The Drama

posted by Madame Bubby

I was there. It was humid and crowded, and luckily I was standing near some hot shirtless guys with cute asses. Nothing terribly exciting or, to be honest, much different from previous years, even if it was celebrating 50 years since Stonewall.
 

Chicago Pride Parade balloons
Photo Credit: Time Out Chicago

I left early to cool down in a friend's apartment, and soon the floodgates opened. Literally. Severe thunderstorms moved in, accompanied by torrential rains. To obtain updates, I was following CWB Chicago on Twitter as the drama was occurring. Attendees were ordered by the police to first shelter in place, and then evacuate. Ultimately, the parade was, to use the unfortunate language of the police, “terminated.” In the 49 years of its existence, as far as I know, this parade was never rained on. Never.

Luckily, my friend and I were ensconced on the couch watching the delayed broadcast of the parade during the monsoon.

We waited until the sun had emerged, about 4:30 p.m, to emerge ourselves to check out the situation.

I already knew from the updates that this unprecedented event causes situations of violence, and, according to a witnesses, overall “weirdness.”

For example, a local Walgreens and CVS wanted to lock their doors because of the onslaught of persons fleeing the rain. In the parking lot of the Walgreens, persons were jumping on cars (this behavior has happened before at events), but in the case, the crowd was larger and overall more violent.
 

Jumping on cars, Chicago Pride Parade
Photo Credit: CWB Chicago

Police said two people were arrested in separate incidents for slapping police horses after the parade had stopped. For example, acccording to CWB Chicago, Wagdi Elgosbi, 28, approached a police horse in the 3200 bock of North Clark around 5:20 p.m. and asked the officer riding it if he could pet the animal. When the officer denied his request, Elgosbi slapped the horse in its face, police said in an arrest report. (Unacceptable!)

And, something both violent and, to be truthful, weird occurred at Chicago Comics (complete story available here). A woman burst into the store, begging for someone to call the police. A gang of twenty plus teenagers burst in, vanadalizing the store, and they sprayed the woman with pepper spray. The group fled when they heard the sirens. The police arrived, and the woman was taken away in an ambulance.
 

Mess in Chicago Comics
Photo Credit: Chicago Comics Facebook Page

Now, just listing incidents in this fashion doesn't really prove much specifically. Violence has occurred in the wake of this event before (and tends to occur at public celebrations, no matter who puts them on), but the above behavior appear to be more noteworthy, whatever that means.

And certainly noteworthy was the twerking trend occurring this year. Any object could be “twerked,” according to this compilation.

I realize for some time there's been much controversy, mostly racially-charged, around claims about groups of teenagers not from the local area creating problems in the Boystown area.

I also think one could gain a more accurate and perhaps even inspiring context for this situation by recounting what happened to my friend and I after we left the apartment.

In a quest for food, we stopped at a casual joint called Windy City Gyros. The place was full of openly gay teenagers, racially diverse. Yes, openly gay, girls holding hands, one guy with his arm draped around the shoulder of another guy. This was a place where they could be open, safe. I can't imagine that behavior occurring when I was in high school in the 1970s, anywhere.
 

 

Windy City Gyros interior
Photo Credit: TripAdvisor.com

And, I do understand the serious issues with police presence at such events, especially at an event which commemorates a movement that began as a protest against the police, but a couple police guys casually went into the place to sit down and eat. Imagine how different this situation might have been in the 1970s and 1980s. During that period, the police might have been there because the owners would be calling them about the deviants.

The boundary between celebration and violence, and self-expression and psychological disturbance, is fluid, especially at events whose purpose and history, however that history may be subsumed or diluted, is a stand against repressive hierarchies.

I decry the violence that occurred in a place previous generations built to be safe and open (including for twerking) for the future: LGBTQ youth.

Perhaps, 50 years after Stonewall, we need to realize that it's not justice or rights in the abstract we need to work for, but with persons in all their moment by moment, often messy, complexity.

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A Bicycle Built for Two... Or Not

posted by Madame Bubby

My first major experience riding a bicycle was finally being able to ride a two-wheeler, and the fashion then was a banana seat bicycle. The seat was shaped like a banana. Mine was purple. (How gay was that?) I got yelled at by my dad because I was coasting to a stop rather than using the breaks. At that time, kids rode their bikes all over the neighborhood, without helmets (gasp!), and often without adult supervision.
 

Ad for 1970s banana seat bikes

When one of the kids across the street was missing (a common occurrence in that chaotic household), I don't even remember the police being called. Kids on bicycles were sent out as search parties by the adults. At that age, it was liberating, to be able to travel long distances alone.

I grew dependent on bicycles through my college years, as I was not able to drive and afford a car. When the suburban bus company went on strike one summer, I wrote my bicycle nine miles each way to my job. I resented it. At that time, a car was a status symbol; it showed independence, being an adult. If you were still having to ride your bike everywhere, you were trapped in a sexless adolescence. You were a nerd. You couldn't take someone on a date, especially in the car-dependent suburbs.

Now, it seems, the bicycle is a status symbol in certain urban areas. Riding a bicycle means you are “green.” I see bicycle shops that sell expensive bicycles from Europe, where riding one has always been pretty much a norm, even among adults. One shop in Chicago, Heritage Bicycles, builds custom-made bicycles also sells expensive coffee. Cool hipster grad student types ride their bicycles everywhere (I see several getting off their bikes at the university where I work).
 

Heritage Bicycles

Bearded hipster guy on bicycle

The bicycle is almost like a symbol or even a stereotype of the urban “blue” culture that voted for Clinton, as opposed to the “red culture that voted for the vulgar boor (they drive gas-guzzling pick up trucks, or if they were white suburban soccer mom Republican types, gas-guzzling SUVs).

And, given that I thought of the bicycle as somehow for me representing sexlessness or even confinement, it's interesting that when bicycles became a more prominent mode of transportation in the late Victorian period, there were concerns that the riding position was unladylike. In order to do so, a lady had to abandon the heavy corsets and other confining garments. According to one article, some women were even harassed, pelted with stones, for wearing pantaloon or bloomer. The article claims that the bicycle actually helped liberate women, paving the way for a woman presidential candidate.
 

Victorian woman on bicycle, 1895

The rise of the bicycle also directly coincided with the birth of the New Woman, an early feminist idea that pushed against the limits of patriarchal oppression. New Women were free-spirited, educated, economically independent, and wholly uninterested in being hidden away in a drawing room under a mound of needlework.

In the world of gay sexuality, it's also interesting that the bicycle hasn't been much of a background for gay sex, especially in porn movies. Cars, trucks, motorcycles, yes, the bigger, the better, macho, manly ... but a bicycle? No, not masculine enough. Kind of corresponds to how I felt when I was stuck riding a bike rather than driving a car.

In our Bijou Classics repertoire, reflecting the above dynamic, there's paucity of sex scenes involving bicycles. In M.A.G.I.C., one of the fantasy game show contestants in a cute bicyclist who performs a blow job on the lead, Gene Lamar. A scene involving a bicycle occurs in Hot Truckin' is much more prominent. The humpy truckers (Gordon Grant and Nick Rodgers) entice a redheaded bicyclist, who eyes them while seductively licking a popsicle, into the back of their truck for a three-way. Woof!
 

Redhead licking popsicle in Hot Truckin'
Scene from Hot Truckin'

I tried riding a bicycle again in my late adulthood. I bought one used, and I got it refurbished. Someone stole it from a supposedly secure bike room.

Now I just fantasize about hot young bearded guys I see riding around wearing tight shorts.

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