Censored!

posted by Madame Bubby

Lately many libraries (probably more boards that run libraries composed of evangelicals or traditional Catholics, now in alliance against anything that doesn't endorse “heteronormativity”) are censoring LGBTQ-themed books, especially that bestselling book by John Oliver, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, about a certain male bunny named Marlon Bundo who discovers the love of his life, who happens to be another male.
 

Marlon Bundo book cover

We seem to be going around in a circle where instead of a person, a book or any artistic creation is branded with as scarlet letter. Here are some the more extreme, even ludicrous instances of censorship against LGBTQ-related artistic creations:

Michaelangelo was homosexual, but he worked for a papacy which was becoming increasingly puritanical as it attempted to restrengthen itself in response to the Protestant Reformation. Male nudes appeared in his fresco The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. In 1559, five years before the artist's death, the Vatican hired someone to paint loincloths on the more risuque ones. Poor Daniel de Volterra became “the breeches maker.” In 1563, after the Council of Trent really started to crack down on any nudity in religious art (or any art, in fact), there was even talk of destroying it. Luckily, it did not happen thanks to protests by nobles and other artists. The Church had to back down. (It needed money.)
 

The Last Judgment

Then, much later, in 1933, a time of reaction to the Roaring Twenties, a shipment of art books containing images from The Last Judgment was seized by U.S. Customs as obscene material (someone who worked there had never heard of this painting; shows the importance of an liberal education, in my opinion). A few days later, the Treasure Department admitted the mistake and turned over the books.

Also during the 1930s, the screen version of Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour was reworked, even bowdlerized, to omit any references to lesbianism. The lesbian character became a heterosexual, making the love triangle heteronormative. In fact, the Code, now in full force, even forbade meniton that the movie, called These Three, was based on the play.
 

The cast of These Three
The cast of These Three

In 1961, the Motion Picture Association of America relaxed the code mentioned above, which forbade any portrayal of homosexuality on the screen. But, in 1962, it still did not approve of the film Victim, because it actually metioned those “H” words, homosexual and homosexuality, on screen. Its star, Dirk Bogarde, was gay, but given the overall social climate of the period, he had to keep it in the closet. (He came close to really revealing his sexuality when he sported tight leather pants in the campy Western, The Singer Not the Song.)
 

Dirk Bogarde in Victim
Dirk Bogarde in Victim

In 1979, when the sexual liberation movements were in full swing, right before the age of AIDS and the ascendancy of Reagan/Thatcher and the Religious Right, British customs officials seized and burned 100 copies of The Joy of Gay Sex. They ignored 200 copies of The Joy of Lesbian Sex, but in 1984 they seized and shredded both books.
 

Cover of The Joy of Gay Sex

I wonder if the real issue here is fear combined with a substantial dose of ignorance. It's not like these creations are going to appeal to children, though I am certain some fanatics would use the for them appropriate religious imagery of The Last Judgment to scare children.

The irony here is those who would use power to limit knowledge and impose rigid boundaries, even though knowledge itself is power. When used wisely, it is a power that acknowleges limitation but at the same time understands that the world and those who dwell in it will always be more than we know.

Source: Leigh Rutledge, The Gay Book of Lists

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Eye Candy

posted by Madame Bubby

I went to the movies a couple of days ago with a lady friend; we went to see a rather tepid movie called The Aftermath. I was in the mood for a historical drama (what we got was mostly history, not drama, but that’s another blog).

When we went to show our purchased tickets to the “ticket taker,” my friend asked him about the quality of the movie. The gentleman was equivocal; he said other it wasn’t as good as Apollo 11 in general, but there would be eye candy in The Aftermath for both of us. That is, the male lead for her, the female lead for me. (Yes, you assumed right, he assumed wrong. Oh, well.)
 

Skarsgård and Knightley in The Aftermath
The Aftermath

And I must admit, the ass and hands (which chopped a lot of wood in the movie, he knows how to wield that axe) of tall and handsome Alexander Skarsgård were eye candy to both of us. (There is a scene where you can see that ass, and it is high and tight.) Eye candy.

I’ve heard that idiom for a long time now, most of my adult life. For example, at all the International Mr. Leather conventions I’ve attended, many guys, even if they aren’t into the leather/BDSM scene, attend the leather market for the eye candy.
 

Hot guys at IML

So, what does the term literally mean? Candy for the eyes. One could say it is synesthesia. One is looking, but at the same time tasting, or at least wanting to taste. Perhaps it is a way to encapsulate in an easily understandable idiom the “male gaze” that mixes together longing, lust, and could be a springboard to fantasy. The words themselves rarely seem to verge into the dangerous domains of sexual harassment and beyond.

But, to be frank, I have never really heard a straight guy refer to a woman as eye candy. It seems to be mostly a female-male or male-male term. Eye candy ranges from the more wholesome Chippendales calendars and covers of romance novels, to the really risque Instagrams (celebrities themselves, or those who have become celebrities solely because of their Instagram pictures).

One definition itself of eye candy itself is quite telling. Despite its what could be a complex synesthesia of sight and taste, some claim it means visual images that “are superficially attractive but intellectually undemanding.” Ah, it’s that old emotion vs. reason binary going on here.

And the word candy can connote childhood or immaturity. Eye cake would perhaps connote a different set of images of assumptions!

I would think perhaps looking at eye candy could possibly move beyond the superficial. Unfortunately, perhaps, one could overanalyze why one is attracted to certain images and the intent of certain advertisers in producing such images. But then the whole point of that slightly primal twinge one experiences in the “eye candy” gaze would be lost.

And let’s not forget, for many LGBTQ persons who were and still are unable to make the journey from eye candy to intimacy, the “eye candy” gaze, however solitary, can even be salvific. In my case, before I came out, magazines like Honcho and some of those sword and sandal movies were my eye candy.
 

Three Honcho magazine covers

Yes, no one wants to be so lonely, like the closeted lesbian character Judi Dench plays in the movie Notes on a Scandal, that the “accidental” touch of a bus conductor’s hand bring a fleeting moment of life and joy.

Yet perhaps the challenge is being able to know and love the object of your affections as a subject. One can’t do that with an image. But the image can be a spark that lights a flame.

One may not find someone as physically beauteous as Alexander Skarsgård, but one’s initial gaze can develop into one’s personal ideal of beauty and intimacy that isn’t necessarily superficial. Ultimately, we are body, mind, and soul. Didn’t someone once say the eyes are the windows of the soul?

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Pot Luck or Unluck?

Dumpy office potluck

In 1592 Scotland, not exactly the jolly tearoom in a time of turmoil, someone used that word potluck to refer to a meal served to a guest the host did not specifically prepare for. In other words, I didn't expect you, so it's luck of the draw what I've got in the pot. And given economic conditions in Scotland at that time, you would be lucky if you got a bit of boiled oatmeal.

Fast forward centuries later, and the word now refers to an event where everyone brings a different (one hopes!) dish. Thus, supposedly, one can enjoy a choice, but at the same time, unless the host or hostess decides to notify in advance who is bringing what (often the etiquette these days), it's the luck of the draw what is in all those pots (really, tupperware, chafing dishes, foil trays et al). Or, in the case of some office potlucks, what's in the 2-liter bottle of soda and bag of chips someone (usually a male) picked up at the downstairs convenience store at the last minute.

I was reading on an admittedly snarky LGBTQ board about an event called the lesbian potluck, and apparently such an event was and is so popular it has become a stereotype. Apparently gay men, in contrast to lesbians, tend to eat out or cook at home specific menus, or if their culinary skills are less than stellar, hire a caterer. Perhaps this set up allows more time for extra-food events such as sex upstairs (or in the slings in the basement) between most of the guests. Or more time to finesse with the crudites and the specific décor.
 

Fancy crudites

Lesbians, however, for a variety of social and cultural reasons, prefer to view these meals as community bonding rituals (I've heard winter or summer solstice ones are popular). They will eat in, but the food comes from other lesbians, lovers, and sometimes, to add drama to those events, an ex-lover or two. I must admit I've never been to one, but I've heard stories, alas. Let's just say perhaps reverting to Prohibition might be a good idea at some of these events.

Yet potlucks were often, in the days of the closet, a way for both gay men and lesbians to meet each other in a private setting free from the threat of the police. I remember visiting Kentucky as late as the early nineties, and the main events for LGBTQ persons were potlucks. They took those Southern Bible Belt church potlucks, it seems, and made them their own way of forming community. (I do hope perhaps that they offered more than baked beans and casseroles with a cream of mushroom base!)

And in the case of lesbians, the potluck often became a way for lesbians and/or early feminists to say, we are cooking for each other, not for men aka husbands and children, and not just in a kitchen in a house owned or supported by a man. And at the same time, these early lesbian potlucks were able to embrace environmentally friendly and nutritious diets, especially, macrobiotic, vegetarian, gluten-free, and vegan options. Oy veh. Lentil salad, anyone? More lentil salad, anyone?
 

Lesbian potluck

To be honest, my potluck experiences have been less enjoyable than most. I remember the dictatorial hostess of one I attended criticizing my pumpkin tart (she claimed it was undercooked). Another friend went to the same event and brought a plain lettuce and cherry tomato salad, which the hostess insulted as well (that friend admitted she did not have time to do much and frankly did not want to). Still, the hostess committed a major etiquette faux-pas. (She, a straight woman, much later married a gay man. No comment.)

And then, at the Bijou office a few holiday seasons ago, there was the year of the cookie exchange that accompanied a potluck. I made a vegetable lasagna that year as well that but I should have used regular cheese (the fat free cheese does not melt), and I cut down on the spices. It was bland, but one person just sprinkled a bunch of oregano and garlic powder on it. (At least he did not insult it!)

But I digress. That infernal cookie exchange. So many rules. Let's just say participants had to bake not just say, one batch of cookies as for a potluck, but several batches because one would ultimately exchange your batch with the respective batches of the others. Thus, you would come home with several different types of cookies. But only after you baked Lord knows how many batches of your cookie. In a panic, I called my mother and a friend. They said do drop cookies. I tried a drop cookie cake mix recipe. I burnt two batches. Never again.
 

Burnt cookies

Maybe pot lucks are like life in general. Maybe one should be lucky one can fill a pot, or even own a set of pots, and not just one to piss in (and no, the watersports party is not an event with food).

So, here's to a holiday season and a coming year full of pots, luck, food, sex, and love. Not necessarily in that order.

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No More Porn on Tumblr! Why?

I wonder if the announcement that Tumblr was banning pornographic content was perhaps inevitable, but not for the official and unofficial reasons currently being disseminated by the media.

The surface reasons seems to be tied into the confluence between technology and profits. The IOS App Store would no longer allow the Tumblr App because of an isolated child pornography incident. Since most Smartphone users rely on Apps, not allowing it would seriously lessen Tumblr’s overall use and scope. But why target Tumblr? Was it simply the, according to some sources, the 20 percent porn content?

It may seem that Tumblr was directly put between the proverbial rock and hard place, even though the microblog is a free service. An article in The Verge succinctly paraphrases the new policy:

“Banned content includes photos, videos, and GIFs of human genitalia, female-presenting nipples, and any media involving sex acts, including illustrations. The exceptions include nude classical statues and political protests that feature nudity. The new guidelines exclude text, so erotica remains permitted. Illustrations and art that feature nudity are still okay — so long as sex acts aren’t depicted — and so are breastfeeding and after-birth photos.” The wording of Tumblr’s announcement seems to both evoke and invoke arguments about obscenity that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.

LGBTQ sexual pioneer Chuck Renslow started out as a physique photographer, and he definitely was pushing social boundaries during the 1950s with his homoerotic (as close to nude was possible, and one could often see that the posing straps were painted on) photos. He, like many other in this line of work, were “coding” their visuals, because it was one of the few ways gay men could experience their erotic desires and fantasies safely and privately. Many outfits mailed nude photos and films in plain envelopes, but these were often confiscated by the Post Office and the perpetrators, both the senders and receivers, punished.

Some of these incidents ended up in the court system. Renslow’s case ended in victory, as the judge made the ruling that if one deemed these photos obscene, so would certain masterpieces of art, especially from the Graeco-Roman period.

The Manual vs. Day case, which went to the United States Supreme Court, held that magazines consisting of semi-nude or nude males are not obscene and the Post Office cannot interfere with their dissemination through the mail. The case is notable for its ruling that photographs of nude men are not obscene, an implication which opened the U.S. mail to nude male pornography, especially those whose audience was gay men.

Tumblr of course is certainly not contained physically in brown, unmarked envelopes, but what is interesting is that Tumblr seems to be agreeing with that 1950s judge. Agreeing to some extent, yes, but also opening up once more some of the time-worn arguments about the complex relationship between sexuality, artistic expression, violence, and how this relationship builds and shapes an audience.

Going back to my initial statement, it seems inevitable that something of this nature would happen, because it’s obvious our means of communication have changed drastically since the days of postage stamps and nudie photographs and envelopes, and later, moving images of sexual acts in theaters that charged admission only to adults: physical mediums that exist in a controlled spatial situation.

What Tumblr and those who support restricting what they deem porn (for them, porn equals genitals which equals sexual acts) fail to recognize is not of course the nanosecond dissemination of mostly amateur depictions of sex which could result in more potentially dangerous situations: no, they fail to recognize the aesthetics (which tie into social contexts, of course) of a wide variety of LGBTQ pornography from the 1970s and 1980s, especially.

For example, Al Parker responded to the AIDS crisis by combining sexual acts and documentary in his film High Tech. Jack Deveau offers what one could claim is a documentary of gay life during the "hippie" era in Left-Handed. So many others of that period usually offer narrative structures: the sex acts aren’t just sex acts per se, but components in forms that explore the larger social issues of the time. And even some of the J. Brian films, which were not made to specifically address any social or moral issues, could be seen as living documents of gay sexual history.
 

Three cast members in High Tech
Three men using vacuum pumps in High Tech

Stars of Left-Handed
Stars Ray Frank & Robert Rikas in Left-Handed

The question remains as to how one could apply any standard of evaluation to any medium which communicates the erotic universally, but it seems a rather generalized case could be made that the older the porn, the more chances it could be determined to be aesthetically or historically significant. But the burden of proof would fall on the user, and in today’s lightning-paced communication environment, time is an enemy, rather than, as before, space.

Yet at this juncture, it seems like the only possible solution here is diversification. Perhaps Tumblr’s free-for-all ethos caused this implosion. Given the fluid nature of social media, those who used Tumblr, especially LGBTQ persons who still exist in various states of marginalization, will have to regroup, and unfortunately, some might claim, not return to closets or ghettos, but establish in their own tech-savvy ways other spaces for erotic expression.

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Thanksgiving Porn?

We at Bijou Video carry some of the best Halloween porn, and we are in the process of coming out with some interesting “Christmas tree” porn, but Thanksgiving porn?

Seems perhaps an oxymoron, as turkeys and green bean casseroles and Norman Rockwell grandmas in aprons (and family feuds too), don't seem to lend themselves particularly well to erotic expression.
 

Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving

I did a search on google, and Thanksgiving porn does show up; on pornhub, I found an image of a cute young guy in bondage trussed up like turkey on a table, but not much else that really ties into the holiday.
 

CTA train, Chicago

I did find a link to a Thankgiving parody vintage gay porn video from 1983 called Spanksgiving, complete with wavy lines that indicate a well-played Beta videotape and the ubiquitous pornstache. It's pretty hilarious, if you now what is being satirized. I particularly enjoyed the placement of the pumpkins around “Rock Hansen's” crotch.

Perhaps the easiest erotic connection one could make with a day that focuses on food is food porn, which comes in all shapes and sizes. I don't think some of the usual Thanksgiving food items would work with assplay (a firm zucchini, for example), as they are usually too glutinous and goopy. But if you get into messes, I guess one could certainly rub some cooled down gravy on a willing victim and lick it off. Ew …
 

Traditional Thanksgiving food

I am forcing the issue here, I am afraid.

I am wondering perhaps it Thanksgiving could be a day to rest form the libido; instead of feeding it with a healthy diet of erotic play, one just feeds. Literally.

Perhaps the inevitable nap could stimulate some cuddling, which could always be start rof some hanky panky rather than the end of it.
 

Cute guys cuddling

But most significantly, remember that many LGBTQ persons will not be able to spend time with blood family. I hope that many will thankfully enjoy Friendsgiving, a newly coined word that emphasizes inclusivity and the real situations of many who courageously created their own bonds of love and sharing.
 

Friends toasting over Thanksgiving meal
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