Cults All Around You

posted by Madame Bubby

I was doing my usual scrolling on Twitter the other day, and I came across a news item on a cult I had never heard of before, which masked as a theater company!

According to the link above and other sources, the leader of this cult is a former actress, Sharon Gans, who starred in the 1970s film Slaughterhouse Five. In 1978, she and someone named Alex Horn ran out of San Francisco a theater company called Theater of All Possibilities, but it folded because of scandals and later resurfaced in New York City in 1980s as an outfit called Odyssey Study Group.
 

Gans cult articles
Gans cult articles (Source: A Cult Survivor's Handbook)

The Odyssey Study Group still puts on theatrical performances, but its members primarily focus on following the teachings of philosophers George Ivanovich Gurdjieff and his protege P.D. Ouspensky, who believe that the path to self-development involves labor and intentional suffering. The philosophy one could characterize as a form of gnostic dualism, as it claims most persons are living in a “sleep state” until awakened by learning esoteric principles taught by an elite persons, in this case, Gans, who is practically worshipped as someone one who gained a higher level of consciousness.
 

P.D. Ouspensky
P.D. Ouspensky

The link details the all too familiar verbal, physical, and financial abuse of members characteristic of cults, but after doing some research on Rick Ross' excellent cult education website, I also discovered that the cult does not allow African-Americans or LGBTQ persons. Apparently they aren't “pure” enough, though I did not find out the exact reasoning. Thus, if a member of the group attempted to recruit me in a coffee shop (the typical first step), I would be instantly rejected.

Why am I bring this point up? Cults are certainly in the news these days, especially if celebrities are involved. I am thinking specifically of the NXIVM pyramid scheme/sex slave cult, even more notorious because of the involvement of Allison Mack. Yet, what is really fascinating and also frightening is how these cults mask as other types of groups and ideologies, transmuting them into times and spaces of abuse.
 

NXIVM cult
NXIVM cult (Source: meaww.com)

I've come very close to cults, because cults prey on those they see as vulnerable to their “I/We alone can save you” mission. When I was in high school, a girl approached me and asked if I wanted to go to a movie. I thought she was asking me on a date, and to be frank, I was shocked, social outcast I was. When I asked where the movie was playing, she said it was being shown at some youth group. I asked my parents if I could go, and they said yes. I possess very little memory of the incident, other than persons sitting in folding chairs holding Bibles and giving the group money. On the way home (I got a ride home from the group members), I began to feel violently ill. Perhaps I sensed something was off. When my parents found out I had given the group money, they called the girl's parents. No more "youth group movies" for me.

I also briefly in college joined a Catholic charismatic group after a recommendation by a nun (she is no longer a nun, by the way; she left and got married). Catholic charismatics speak in tongues, claiming that it is a gift of the Holy Spirit. I remember lots of psychological manipulation in an "inner healing" session, and I noticed that persons in the group, called The Children of Light, tended to hang out only with others in the group. I got the sense this group somehow thought they were special, or "the elect" in a kind of antinomian way, as opposed to those mundane Catholics who were not so gifted. And what is even more frightening: one of the president's Supreme Court judgeship picks, Amy Coney Barrett, was associated with a community called People of Praise, which started out as one of those charismatic groups.
 

Speaking in tongues
Speaking in tongues (Source: Northwest Catholic)

And, I found out as well, what looked like yet another yoga place in the Clark and Diversey neighborhood, Body & Brain Yoga (now closed), which taught a Korean physical exercise philosophy called Dahn Yoga. The Dahn Yoga organization, among other abuses, charged exorbitant fees for retreats and even was involved in a wrongful death suit.
 

Dahn Yoga CNN report
Dahn Yoga (Source: CNN.com)

And then there was a meeting I went to with a friend from college and someone she knew, which in hindsight I found out was some pyramid scheme. I remember being hectored to take a course which would change my life. The friend of a friend gave them a lot of money that night. By that time, I had wised up. I knew I was vulnerable because of my sexuality and socioeconomic status, but I also was educated enough academically and experientially to both know and intuit the specific time and space of a cult.

The problem is many persons do not wise up, especially in situations of personal anxiety, or, particularly in the current cultural situation, public anxiety. And many persons are what I would call seekers, looking for an ultimate answer, a total experience, where struggle will end, but never really finding whatever they are looking for. Cults and cult leaders prey upon their fears and insecurities, usually offering a dangerous us vs. them mentality that justifies the abuses.

My experiences, and the experiences of others (as seekers and the sought), have shown me that possibilities for spiritual growth and experience exist, but no one person or one idea is all possibilities, and making something possible does not make you better than others and thus give you license to do harm.

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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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Glorious Glory Holes, Or Not? Part One

Vintage glory hole blowjob photo

"BROKEBACK BATHROOM"

A long time, ago, in 2004, I found out via the gay press that one of the men's bathroom in a building where I teach at was one of those "T-rooms," complete with a glory hole. Apparently the cops raided the bathroom, which by then had developed a reputation for clandestine sexual activity. The glory hole was sealed and a sign placed in the room announcing that the area was now under surveillance by campus police. The publicity garnered by the raid around campus later earned the bathroom this nickname: "Brokeback Bathroom."
 

Brokeback Mountain cover

I never knew this activity was going on. Honestly. But one question really prompted further inquiry: in an age of more tolerance, and even in some areas of the mainstream, acceptance and embracing of gay sexuality (ironically, the generally positive reception of the movie Brokeback Mountain that came out in 2005 revealed this development), why the secret sex in unsanitary bathrooms? Only an "outlet" for married guys or guys in the closet? And even if a guy wasn't in that situation, why the appeal of sticking your dick in a hole and letting someone unknown person suck it? I enjoy oral sex immensely, but I like to see the person who is going down on me and play with other parts of his body. Apparently many others aren't necessarily interested in seeing what the cock is attached to!

WHAT IS A GLORY HOLE? WHAT'S IN THE NAME?

What is a glory hole? Why is the hole modified by the word glory, with all its complex connotations, including Biblical/religious ones (the word for glory in Hebrew is kavod, in Greek doxa)? It's interesting and perhaps significant, given the often blurry distinctions between the experience of sexual orgasm and religious mystical experience (think of the famous statue by Bernini, "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa"), that the word glory is an English translation of the Hebrew word which really means weight and could imply destruction related to powerful physical phenomena like thunder and lightning.
 

Kavod in Hebrew

Detail from Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue
Detail from Bernini's "The Ecstasy of St. Teresa"

And according to W.R.F. Browning's Dictionary of the Bible, in certain sections of the Torah or Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), the "cloud" is a kind of covering through which the glory shines (Exod. 24:16-17). There appears to be strong associations with a supernatural power pulsing through the natural (thus both transcendent and immanent), which include sexual power, and also a kind of need to somehow "cover" or "conceal" that power (like the walls between the bathroom stalls) because of its physical (and spiritual) immensity.

POSSIBLE PSYCHOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION OF THE NAME

This context could give some weight (pun intended) to the rather florid and fanciful "etymology" from the unknown author of an article published in the late 1960s or early 1970s, "The Other Side of the Story: Defending Glory Holes."

Why are they named glory-holes? Possibly because of the glorious sexual release of being blown, standing with your erect prick stuck through it and being sucked off by a warm, hot mouth on the other side. Possibly, on the other hand, the "glory" belongs to the person doing the "job" on the other side of the wall, sucking on a fat, throbbing piece of meat, and receiving the thrill of a convulsive stream of jetting cum into his mouth as reward for a job well done.

Regardless of the hammy, cliched language, the unknown author touches on some of the motivations for such activity, including the anonymity (only seeing a mouth, for example), and even, despite the anonymity, an objective sense of accomplishment or reward without the context of a potentially complicated interpersonal relationship. Also, the anonymity can encourage a fetish, not only for say, an uncut cock or a thick one, but also perhaps attaching whatever face or body shape to that appendage, as argued by that same unknown author:

There is also the fantasizing of sucking on an organ which you can mentally attach to anyone you wish - an unobtainable "straight" friend, a movie star hero, a famous athlete; indeed, anyone at all! It's simply PRICK! And prick alone, in its raw, unadulterated state!

A private fantasy becomes public in a way one can't express publicly.
 

Cover of the vintage magazine Glory Hole: A Study of Homosexual Activity in Public Places

More on glory holes, focusing on their history, next week in this multi-part series. In the meantime, find countless movies featuring glory holes - including the four Sex Toilets compilations - on DVD at BijouWorld.com and streaming instantly at BijouGayPorn.com.

 

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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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