The Wonderful Land of Twitter

posted by Madame Bubby

Twitter logo

The Tweeter in Chief make may make some think the social media platform of Twitter is a hellscape. I suppose that depends on who you are and your previous level of social and intellectual engagement.

In my case, and perhaps my perception will change (not that I would enter #MAGA land; I currently find the #Resist echo chamber comforting, and who wants to hang out in Mordor), but I feel I have entered an enchanted forest.

I decided to activate my personal twitter account which I had opened a few years ago partly out of boredom and partly out of a what I felt to be a pressing social need to spread pro-labor union information.

Three weeks later, a world famous opera singer and I are following each other. Her name is Karita Mattila. She is a world famous soprano. Every gay man needs a diva to worship, and it took only one day for me to join her circle of Twitter buddies. And of course, most of us are gay.
 

Karita Mattila
Karita Mattila

A Reform Jewish rabbi, Danya Ruttenberg, has engaged me and like my tweets which have ranged from a discussion of a Hebrew term in Leviticus and the psychosocial pereceptions of clergy.

Wayne Kostenbaum, a nationally acclaimed gay author and I have gotten to the point where we have exchanged direct messages. He thinks I am cute.

I am now tweeting on a close to equal level with other academics in the fields of English and religion. I don't feel excluded like I did on some of the more traditional listservs or in real life.

And, let's just say, already I have moved from tweeting to direct message to texting with a hot young number in grad school in English literature. In one day.

On the lighter side, I am now part of the Old Hollywood club on twitter. I spent last afternoon tweeting around with a wonderful person, joking about the dowager/old lady roles in 1930s Hollywood. Perhaps not the same dynamic as actually being with the person physically, but how long would it take one to physically find someone who would know who Dame May Whitty was?

You are what you make. I wouldn't have been able to do all this if I hadn't already been an exciting, diverse, intellectually curious person. But the fast-paced medium of Twitter has enabled me to somehow share my interests in a more integral way which actually seems to contradict the nanosecond pace and spatially diffuse nature of the platform.

And Bijouworld's Twitter is currently mushrooming, especially since The Rialto Report tweeted:

“We’re proud to announce that Valparaiso Pictures/Permut Presentations have snapped up the screen rights to our article “Centurians Of Rome: How a Bank Robber Made The Most Expensive Gay Porno Of All Time.” We look forward to bringing it to the big screen!"

In one day, we gained 55 followers!
 

Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque
Centurians of Rome images and bank robber/film financer George Bosque

Now, I don't want to live on Twitter (perhaps the initial beginner's excitement will die down), but I feel the same way I felt when I discovered the internet back in 1998 and made some interesting connections on listservs (many of which have fizzled out slowly, given the more socially restrictive nature of the medium and just the fact that people do change).
 

Twitter logo bird holding sign that says: Yup, I tweet too much! Get over it!

Whatever happens, I will enjoy and perhaps be in a better position to learn if the cyberexperiences don't always develop in a socially and psychologically healthy way.

And follow Bijouworld on Twitter. Our always “kick-ass” account is really hopping now, revealing we are truly leading now in the fields of gay sexuality, LGBTQ history, and film studies.

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Sex on the Train Redux, This Time in London

posted by Madame Bubby

I've written about this phenomenon before, the ubiquity of sex on trains, but this time it made international news.

A man, his boyfriend, and another man enjoyed a threesome (some sources say orgy, but does a threesome qualify as an orgy? That's a whole other issue) on the London tube on February 18, 2018.

Nicholas Mullan, George Mason and a third guy (his face pixellated and thus unidentifiable) engaged in a variety of sex acts, which they filmed (something of a shift from the usual filming of violence on public transportation). Mason is a porn start of sorts, and advertised the video as “Complete on live sex at front of general public on subway train!,” reads the description for the video. "And there are lots of normal members of people watching in disbelief. Genuine naughty Brit lads suck n f*ck uncooked and don’t.”
 

George Mason
George Mason

They just pleaded guilty to one charge of “outraging public decency.”

It occurred on the long and busy Northern line on the Underground, between the Leicester Square and Waterloo stops (these stops are in densely populated areas of London). (And apparently the Northern Line seems to attract sexual activity, according to vague gossip on sites such as Datalounge. I used to take that line often when I studied English literature in London in the early 1980s. Sex workers frequented the King's Cross stop, a pretty raunchy area during that time, but I don't remember seeing any sex on the trains. Hmm… )
 

Leicester Square Underground stop

And here's the clincher: another gay man, who saw the porn video online, reported them, claiming that “it overstepped the mark and was morally unacceptable,” according to the story on Pink News.

Now, I know many of my gay friends would laugh this off, or maybe make catty, campy comments, like I would have asked to join in, or, how big were the schlongs? I bet the supposedly outraged passengers were really getting off too, I can imagine the number of growing bulges on that train, if I were there, I would have laughed, yada, yada, yada. Ah, such bravado.

That may be a fun reaction looking at the incident from distant time and space, but as an actual physical spectator, perhaps the boundary crossing between sex and danger in this case could have been more an act of narcisisstic voyeurism than an aesthetic choice, as in Peter de Rome's 1972 short film Underground, sex on a moving subway car in New York City.
 

Stills from de Rome's Underground

Image from de Rome's Underground
Images from Underground, part of the collection The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome

I make this distinction, because public sex does not necessarily imply an audience of willing or unwilling voyeurs, and Mason claims he made the scene to encourage the fetish object of his fan's desire: him. In the de Rome film, they filmed the act, itself, in an empty car, contrasting the fantastic intimacy of that act in a public space gone private with an image of crowds of people in occupied cars. The bifurcation here is intentional, mediating the danger element, but also, by framing the sex act with this image, both blurring and expanding the boundary between public and private social spaces rather than, in the George Mason video, ruthlessly and crudely mocking it.

Mason and Mullan face fines, curfew, and even jail time.

And I don't think they will be filming an actual jailhouse sex video.

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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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The Death of Jack Chapman aka "Tank": A Warning and a Challenge

Last week I tweeted a developing a story about a member of the gay bear BDSM community, Jack Chapman (who took on the name of Tank Haferpeten), who died at the age of 28 from complications that ensued after a silicone injection into this balls. Tank was a “pup” in a polyamorous community under the mastership of one Dylan Haferpeten, commonly known on a various social media sites as “noodlesandbeef.”
 

Dylan with his pups
Dylan with his pups

Dylan and Jack aka Tank
Dylan and Jack aka Tank

This group of guys fetishized muscle growth, changing their body from conventional bear builds to bodies that resembled certain types of superhero cartoon or anime figures: abnormally large muscles and other body parts, attained not just by working out in the gym, but by artificial means such as steroids and silicone.

Some have claimed that Dylan himself suffered from some form of body dysmorphia, a pathology called “bigorexia:” his body could never be big or massive or muscular enough, and he was willing to do whatever he felt he needed to do to make his fantasy a reality. Yet when this dysmorphia doesn't just affect the individual, but others, the fantasy becomes a literally monstrous reality.
 

Illustration of bigorexia: a muscular man looking in the mirror and seeing a skinny man

Note I used the word pathology. Safe, sane, consensual BDSM relationships manifest themselves in different forms depending on the specific desires and needs of the participants, but the sources I have explored claim that Dylan's control of his pups took on abusive forms, including mandatory severing of family and friend relationships outside his polyamorous group (the pups had were only allowed to contact Dylan, and Dylan only, on their cellphones) and financial control (for example, signing over salaries to Dylan).

More tellingly, When Jack temporarily severed the relationship, Dylan sued him in small claims court for money supposedly owed, and he even refused to physically sever the collar Jack was wearing. When Jack returned to Dylan, he signed over an inheritance to him. (Three weeks later, Jack was dead.)

And in Tank's case, the most obvious abuse was the insistence on silicone injections, an unsafe, life-threatening procedure. (Some sources even claim that Dylan is connected to two more deaths related to silicone injections.)

What is even more disturbing is Dylan's attempts to cover up what actually happened, claiming Jack died from a lung problem caused by wildfires in the area (not going on at the time of his death a week ago). Dylan even concocted pictures of Jack in breathing gear. He also claimed Jack was alive when he wasn't. The death certificate, which has since been changed to reflect the true cause of death, silicone poisoning, first claimed Jack died from pneumonitis.

I'm not going to draw hasty, sensationalistic conclusions about some of the evidence I present above, but the story, even in sensationalistic forms that use terms like “sex cult” and “harem” which decry physically, socially, and psychologically healthy BDSM relationships, is profoundly disturbing on many levels.

There's a danger inherent in breaking taboos and living in insular communities that develop around breaking said taboos. Gay, bear, BDSM, leather, fetish, whatever: we are drawn to who we identify with and what we like, but a breaking of boundaries can result in a dangerous blurring of the boundaries that help define the dignity and self-worth of individual persons. In Dylan's case, his narcissistic pathology destroyed not just a person's body, but his soul and spirit.

On the other side of the globe, in Jack's native Australia, a mother, brother, and grandmother are grieving for their son. They don't regret that he was gay, or a bear, or into BDSM: they regret that a disturbed, dangerous individual who lacks a soul destroyed a whole, loving person.

Abuse is never OK. Never. It's up to all to us, starting at the local level, to watch out for each other. And social media gives us the power to do so on a global level.

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Turn Down That Music!

“Turn that stereo down or I am calling the cops!”
 

Old lady neighbor banging on ceiling with broom

Sometimes I listen to the police scanner (it's legal). Noise complaints abound, as would be the case in densely populated areas where multifamily housing is predominant.

And let's face it, the construction of most residences isn't exactly designed to withstand the decibels of many sound systems, from the old-fashioned stereo receiver or boom box to streaming on computers and Amazon Echo and what-not.

That bass beat, probably more insistent and all-powerful than even the dreaded leaf blower, can cause floors and walls to vibrate and created a scene of physical and emotional horror for those forced, yes, forced to listen to it. No, I do not exaggerate.

Yet, before the advent of such systems, most noise complaints resulted from domestic arguments (still the case) or babies crying.

(And come to think of it, probably not too many sex noises before the days of sexual liberation. And I haven't heard a complaint about that on the police scanner … yet.)
 

Note that says We don't give a fuck if you fuck... But why the fuck do you have to fuck so fucking loud? Fuck!

Anyway, it turns out that a woman known only as Eva N. in Slovakia tormented her neighbors for 16 years, not with rap or heavy metal (the usual means of sonic torture, but apparently loud classical music has been used to disperse loitering teens), but with opera. Specifically, Verdi. She supposedly put one aria from the opera La Traviata sung by opera superstar Placido Domingo on a timed loop from 6 am to 10 pm every day (she apparently was careful to not intrude on legal quiet hours for her jurisdiction).
 

Neighbor pointing at The Opera House

Why? According to the story which went viral, she was exacting revenge on her neighbors for a barking dog which also at one point bit her. The dog is now mercifully deceased. She no longer lives in the house, but she kept the music going. (I wish I could read her blog, but it is in what looks like Hungarian.) She has finally been detained and arrested, and the music stopped, but not after some difficulty. Apparently, because of the way she had set up the music on a timer, the authorities had to turn off all the electricity for the block to stop the music.

Neighbors called the house the Opera House or the Singing House. One woman said she liked Placido Domingo, but that this situation was ridiculous.
 

Placido Domingo singing
Placido Domingo

I also found another YouTube video (it has since disappeared from the internet) which seems like the selection is not from La Traviata (which doesn't really have a loud tenor aria), but the fiery, loud vengeance aria "Di quella pira" from Il Trovatore. It makes more sense it would be that one, given her goal of sonic revenge.
 

Cartoon of opera singer loudly singing

What does this story have to do with me, or for that matter, porn? I was guilty of the same action. And yes, with opera. I did it to blast out punk-loving and heavy metal-loving neighbors in one of my first apartments. My sonic weapons were primarily Verdi (the Act I ensemble from his opera Macbeth and the soprano-mezzo cat fight duet from La Gioconda. I was given a telling-off by the management company. I had to move. I was young. (At least I didn't put them on an endless loop, then leave.)

And I was also guilty of loud sex noises. I moved into another apartment, and the maiden lady (I am being kind) accused me of doing sits up exercises in bed. Yep, I was jacking off and screwing my first boyfriend on a futon I had on the floor. Poor soundproofing, as usual. I had to move. (Why was she listening?)

I was young.

Eva N. is not young. Is that the point? Maybe it's true to some extent that good fences make good neighbors, as proclaimed by Robert Frost. But if the fence (and one should think of the fence as more psychological than physical) is ramshackle, good can become bad, and a boundary based on respect can become a pit of contention.
 

Good fences make good neighbors

I would argue that good neighbors build good fences but also are willing to build a bridge over that fence. So often in dense cities a neighbor is only a slamming door, a pounding footstep, a flushing toilet. Not a person who goes to work and laughs and loves.

In the ideal good old retro days that some people have mischaracterized as some kind of white person's pastoral paradise, people knew their neighbors. I must agree that in many communities, this situation was true.

I was raised by my mother to get to know the neighbors, and, if possible, cultivate some level of friendship. My mother is still friends with neighbors that she knew more than fifty years ago.

It does take a village to raise a child, mold a mind, open a heart. And to also know when to turn the music down. Or at least invite the neighbors to your party.

(And maybe, as is the case in some porn fantasies, invite the cute upstairs neighbor to a really private party.)

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