Queering Valentine's Day

posted by Madame Bubby

I've written about “this day” in a couple of past blogs, including this one on our website. Sigh. I even posted a tweet on my personal account that I “had no plans,” passive-aggressively playing for sympathy (or maybe a date?).

An article I came across in a student publication called the Miami Hurricane makes a strong point, almost a manifesto, “the fact that the day went from one about beheading to betrothing is proof that we have the ability to radically transform this day into anything we want. And transform we did.” To some extent, yes. A day commemorating an early Christian martyr was also proclaimed as the day birds began to mate and is now essentially aisles in retail stores filled with items in various shades of red and pink.

 

Valentine's Day aisle

But is that its end: Hallmark, kitschy images of cupids and teddy bears, overworked florists walking on floors covered with stem cuttings, angst about making restaurant reservations in time and buying the perfect gift?

The article I reference above mentions how some campus organizations are making the holiday more gender-inclusive and include queer narratives in its celebration.

It's interesting though, that queer narratives that either code implicitly or explore explicitly romantic relationships (with varying degrees of intimacy) don't subscribe (because they have to) to what is essentially a kitschy bowdlerization of Victorian sensibilities about gender relationships (which were perhaps more idealized than real).

In fact, in the heady days of LGBTQ liberation in the 1970s (essentially the product of social changes that began in the 1960s), an era that rejected aesthetically (and culturally to some extent) the “hearts and flowers/moon and June” sentimentality of previous eras, gay erotic filmmakers produced work that probes tensions in romantic, intimate relationships on so many levels. Marginalization in this case, as with much groundbreaking art, becomes the space and time to bend and even break conventional social boundaries.

For example, in Andrew Herbert's Song of the Loon, in the 19th century, Ephraim, a white man, has left his lover and taken up with a trapper, Cyrus. Ephraim wants to settle down to an outdoors life of bliss as the object of affection of only one man, but Cyrus knows that Ephraim isn't dealing with his own, or his lover's, emotions on a realistic level. He takes Ephraim to an old Native American medicine man, who imparts the wisdom of the ages to the young blond buck (through words and hallucinogenic visions): Sex and love are not one and the same.
 

Images from Song of the Loon
Song of the Loon (1969)

And in Tom DeSimone's The Idol, an young athlete's (played by Kevin Redding) struggles with coming to terms with his sexual orientation shows how sexual activity and intimate relationships are not mutually exclusive. In fact, no “one” person ends up being the ideal/idol in this film for its protagonist.
 

Images from The Idol
The Idol (1979)

Steve Scott's Track Meet parallels the story of The Idol, focusing on a young track star's (played by Gavin Geoffrey) tension in coming out and accepting himself. Romance, strength, affection, and lovemaking are explored by Gavin as he discovers himself and the world of gay sex.
 

Images from Track Meet
Track Meet (1976)

What's interesting is the coming out narrative present in these films, because of how its complex psychosocial dynamic of fear and repression but, more significantly, self-discovery and self-acceptance, and, ultimately, liberation, subverts the cloying and also creatively bland Valentine's Day sensibility.

Yes, of course, times have changed, but I do wonder if more LGBTQ-themed Hallmark Valentine's Day cards is the blessed fruit of liberation. The struggle of the past should have taught LGBTQ persons to expect more; that the hearts and flowers are transitory and superficial, and that the end is not finding the “One,” but the glorious and at the same time heartbreaking day-to-day challenge of loving him/her/they.

For highlights from more of our romance-oriented films, also check out this video on our YouTube channel.

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Early Chicago Pride Parades: A Reflection

posted by Madame Bubby

Four million persons are expected to be at Stonewall 50 in New York City. The 48th annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade in Chicago promises to be quite impressive too, one big party.

Even in these times of turmoil in the United States when the human rights of so many are becoming increasingly precarious, LGBTQ communities are still strong and vibrant. And note that in Brazil, now run by the virulently homophobic Jair Bolsonaro, the São Paulo parade attracted three million persons.

But in the years right after Stonewall, the parades were not the carnivalesque events they are today. They were militant liberation marches, risky on so many levels for the participants. These early parades were attended by only a few hundred people and received little official notice.
 

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

1976 Chicago Pride Parade

The first gay pride march and rally took place in Chicago on June 27, 1970, just one year after Stonewall.

The original parade went from Bughouse Square, right on the dividing line between River North and Old Town. From that point, a small crowd marched down the Mag Mile to the Daley Center.

According to an article by Emmet Sullivan, about 150 people participated. He notes:

The Chicago Tribune ran a 75-word blurb about the event on the third page of its June 28 edition, noting that it ended with festgoers circling the Picasso statue in the plaza and shouting, “Gay power to gay people.” By 1973, the parade had moved its starting point to Belmont Harbor. The “gay liberationists” leading the charge numbered 300, according to the Tribune.
 

Chicago Tribune 1971 Pride Parade Article

1971 Chicago Pride Parade

The parade then bounced between a few routes, mostly around Belmont Harbor and the intersection of Clark and Diversey, at that time developing as Chicago's gay neighborhood.

I remember inadvertently going to that parade in the 1980s (as I went to the old Great Ace hardware store at Clark and Diversey), which by that time attracted thousands rather than hundreds of people. In my naivete, all I remembered were hot shirtless guys holding signs, whose message and import escaped me, especially when a hunky guy with a big mustache marching in the parade came up to me and let me grab his nipple (part of my gradual coming out experience).

I now know that by that time, the AIDS crisis was in full swing and the heady days of liberation were over. The community, with a new-found strength, faced down death and chose life.

Without those brave persons in the 1970s, who literally risked their lives as persons living in the supposedly equal society of America by marching in public, the fabric of a community would not have been strong enough to band together and ensure that those who died would be remembered. And to fight for and with the survivors who would make the memorial quilts.

Maybe in these times when the hashtag #NeverAgain is so apropos, we need to think of this Pride Month kind of like Passover. We remember the nights of oppression, and we remember the days of liberation. But in this case, we saved ourselves. Perhaps it's time to do some more saving.

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Sexology in 1965

By Madam Bubby 

 

March 1965 issue of Sexology

 


In March 1965, the sex education magazine Sexology, which came out in the early 1930s as the brainchild of Hugo Gernsback, addressed still at that time risque subjects such as female orgasm, lesbianism, homosexuality, and, showing the increasing interest in Eastern culture, the Kama Sutra. 

The physical culture movement, which really took off in the early part of the last century and which fed into the homoerotic muscle/physique magazines of Bob Mizer and others, had condemned prudery about sexual issues but still held up heterosexual marriage as the ideal situation in which to enjoy sex. 

Sexology reflected most of the psychosocial attitudes of that time, but after the famous Kinsey Report, when this issue came out, previous views about sexuality that relied on social conceptions of "normality" and prudishness about the body's physical functions were beginning to come under serious scrutiny. 

Gernsback, actually more famous for publishing the first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, was still the publisher and editor-in-chief when this issue came out. 
 

Issue of Amazing Stories

In 1965, the United States was beginning to more fully experience a cultural revolution, especially in larger cities. The Baby Boomers had become young adults who were questioning the 1950s ideals about gender and sexuality, while the dissemination of the birth control bill created, especially for women, a view that emphasized the pursuit of individual happiness (which could mean a healthy, enjoyable sex life) rather than traditional values that emphasized church, kitchen, and children. 

Homosexuality was still a taboo subject, and homosexual acts still illegal in many states, but under the influence of a more confessional culture that was beginning to allow for a more open discussion of feelings, people were finding an outlet to seriously discuss it in magazines like Sexology. It was no longer just a “dirty” subject to titillate or even shock as in the pulp fiction of the 1950s or the gossip rags like The Hollywood Reporter

Even though the medical consensus, more specifically psychologists and psychiatrists, still considered homosexuality a “condition” or “problem” or even “disease” which needed to be treated, there were glimmers that this interpretation could be misguided, and that a homosexual person could not pretend to be or become a heterosexual. The letter discussed below (which is the question of the month, “Homosexual Anxiety”) from this issue shows that so many gay and lesbian persons ended up in heterosexual relationships and then marriages because it was the social norm, to often disastrous results. 
 

Sexology's Question of the Month: Homosexual Anxiety

A 23-year-old man writes to Dr. Rutledge, concerned that even though he is sexually active with women, he has often masturbates while thinking of men. He also notes he did not have gay sex while in the military (interesting, which could imply it was not unusual to do so!). He is afraid he will “fall” into homosexuality, and he wants to experience “normal” feelings again. 

The doctor's response pretty much shows that the idea that sexual orientation is learned or conditioned was still prevalent, and sadly, for him it is still a “problem” with three possible causes. He claims gender confusion because of emotional problem in childhood (thus the boy thinks he is a girl), a typical stereotype during that time. Remember, this was long time before medical science began to understand transgender people, and that gender identity could be something different from sexual orientation. 

He then claims - and this is where he could be grasping at the idea that maybe, just maybe, being gay is not a choice - that because of a problematic heterosexual family dynamic that “they turn their natural sexual interests toward the same sex rather than the opposite sex.” He does blame the family, but perhaps he is hinting that one could naturally be gay, and that a person could who identifies as gay is doing so to make one's life easier (quite a claim in this period!) because one does not have to worry about pregnancy and financially supporting a family. (Those are also reasons why many people, especially women, had been joining religious orders for centuries, but the price was no sex at all!) 

Rutledge finally claims that extreme stress could cause one to have gay sex, in that case, a temporary aberration. Overall, he wants the person to get psychological help. 

Now, this response these days doesn't particularly strike one as being enlightened in light of our medical discoveries, but just ten years later the American Psychological Association declared that being gay was not a problem or condition or abnormality, and that steps should be taken to remove its social stigma, which the writer of the letter (one might assume in these days he was bisexual) definitely feels. 

And one should also take into account that another article in this issue affirms the physical and especially psychosocial importance of the female orgasm, long a taboo subject, and quite revolutionary for a generation whose mothers and grandmothers were taught to see the sex act as something fundamentally “dirty” and revolting to be endured only for the sake of producing children. 

And, more significantly, one of the lead stories is an actual interview with a lesbian, even if the title, “How I Became A Lesbian,” implies that it is more a learned or developed behavior than an orientation. 

Sexology ceased publication in 1983 after Gernsback sold it to another publisher, but its legacy lives on in countless other sex educators who counsel many, encouraging an open, diverse climate that celebrates the amazing spectrum of sexual and gender expressions and relationships - even while their work is hampered or put at risk by the recent upsurge in regressive reactionary movements against sex educational classes and books, against legislation protecting the rights of transgender people, against reproductive rights, and other anti-LGBTQ/anti-sex/anti-bodily autonomy agendas.
 

By the 1970s, the sexual revolution that had begun in the 1960s was in full swing, and in the heady days after Stonewall, gay men were beginning to interpret and share their sexual experiences and relationships on film. Check out some of our titles from that period on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming at BijouGayPorn.com!   

 

Article updated 5/10/24 to reflect the current political climate

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Bijou Movie Reviews: The Word as Picture

I, Madam Bubby, the author of practically all these blogs,  like to think not only our movies not just as “classics,” but some of our reviews.

 

One twitter follower recently complimented us on our movie descriptions, and in this more visually-oriented age, our reviews show the power of the word to give some in-depth insight into really groundbreaking porn movies.

 

Many of our films date from the heady, trippy days of 1970s gay liberation, and the gay pornography of that period probed for the first time gay men's sexual identity and expression. 

Sometimes it's even more exciting (and educational) to read the reviews of these movies in particular (of course we want you to buy and watch them too!).

 

Remember the late great Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert? I might consider these reviews close to their level; just click on the hyper links and enjoy. 
 

Images from Born to Raise HellCheck out the reviews of Born to Raise Hell, the uber-gay-leather-BDSM movie, from 1974 with the legendary Val Martin. Note we've got two approaches to this movie (which still both disturbs and excites viewers with its brutal edginess), almost like Siskel and Ebert sparring. 

 

The review of Jack alludes to the famous Continental Baths, where Bette Midler got her start, because guess what? That's where the movie takes place! 

 

Images from Jack

The review of Adam and Yves is stunning in its detail and intensity (like the movie), and the author also ties  it deftly into the French New Wave movement. And there's a surprise guest appearance by a legendary actress of the silver screen. 

 

Adam and Yves images

Attack of the Amazing Colossal Latino is in some ways so bad it is good, and reading the review itself a real camp fest like the movie itself, which clumsily attempts to do some genre crossing. Science fiction meets gay porn! 

 

All these movies stream at www.bijougayporn.com!

Watch now!

 

Attack of the Amazing Colossal Latino images

 

 

 

 

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