Of Trees and Bushes and Fun Beneath Them

The Christmas tree, O Christmas tree is a relatively recent addition to the Christmas aka Holiday aka Saturnalia festivities in America. Prince Albert the Good brought it over from Germany during his time as the husband of the great Victoria, and pretty soon the tree decorated with candles and then electric lights has become a staple of what has now become America’s end-of-the-year orgy of consumption.

Such trees, real or artificial, have become status symbols, and they even reflect changing tastes. I head somewhere that the retro Atomic Age white and pink trees (to us in our pseudo-organic age, so unnatural) are returning to popularity. In fact, smaller ceramic Christmas trees with bulbous light and garish ornaments painted on from this period are suddenly the rage on Ebay. Camp and retro and kitsch reign, and o so gay!
 

Ceramic Christmas tree

The proximity of the minor Jewish festival of Hanukkah to the season has created a cousin of the Christmas tree, the Hanukkah bush. Yes, bush. And not the burning one which was not consumed, which would be more appropriate to Passover. It seems that some more secular Jews tried some cross-holiday pollination here, even celebrating Chrismukkah (gifts and trees and menorahs, let’s do it all), much to the consternation of many more orthodox rabbis.

Now the more sensible Reform and Conservative rabbis have claimed that the holiday is mostly secular, so why not put up a tree or a bush if doing so is void of religious significance (its heathen roots in the worship of Odin in the primeval German forests notwithstanding). One woman recently tied in her bush specifically to Hanukkah, decorating with menorahs and little figures of the Maccabees, an interesting solution, but perhaps not one that will gain a foothold in popular culture.
 

Hanukkah bush

Now what’s really fascinating about all this tree and bush worship is the obvious sexual connotations. A tree is phallic, obviously (though as Freud says, a cigar can just be a cigar, and likewise the same could apply to a tree), and in Norse mythology, the great tree Yggdrasil held up the physical world. Its destruction meant its end.

J.R.R. Tolkien transformed this mythology into his own in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. The survival of the world and the fertility of a line of tall kings are dependent on first two trees, one silver and one gold, and after their destruction, then a white tree descended from their seed.
 

Tolkien's gold and silver trees

And the rabbis and the priests and the ministers of course have interpreted and reinterpreted those mysterious trees in the Garden of Eden, in many cases connecting them with sexual awakening and a fall from innocence into experience.

Thus, rockin’ around that Christmas tree could really in many cases mean sex, and not just the sex that makes babies. The prolific gay porn director, Robert Prion, seems to enjoy setting sexual escapades around and under Christmas trees. Of course these trees aren’t even really growing, because they are either artificial or real ones cut down, so one wonders if somehow the whole life/fertility mythological connection gets lost here. Whatever the case, it certainly adds a somewhat campy/kitschy o so gay aura to the scenes that feature them in our recent release Teasin' 'n' Pleasin' and our upcoming release Access All Areas.
 

Sebastian Jaymz abd Jay Richards in Teasin' 'n Pleasin'
Sebastian Jaymz & Jay Richards in Teasin' 'n' Pleasin'

Scott Spears in Access All Areas
Scott Spears in Access All Areas

A week ago I bought an used tabletop artificial blue tree with a stand covered in glitter that I was told, by the place that sold it to me, once served as a Hanukkah bush. I put some white lights on it, and It really glitters and sparkles. I just might keep it up through February or even March, despite that being a social faux-pas. I mean, who says that lights and sparkles and sex are only a holiday affair?

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Who Could Be the Emperor in Centurians of Rome: His Name Is Elagabalus

Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians
Michael Flent as the Emperor in Centurians of Rome

When the gay porn epic Centurians of Rome came out in 1981, the publicity proclaimed that the kinky, fisting-loving emperor played to the hilt by Michael Flent was Caligula. At one level, it makes sense, given the overall reputation of Caligula as the ultimate monstre sacree, but after a close viewing, I came up with another theory. Admittedly, the work is fiction, and I highly doubt the creators were specifically trying to place the action and characters in specific historical circumstances, but there are third century A.C.E. parallels.
 

Original poster for Centurians of Rome
Original Original Centurians poster

The emperor Elagabulus, born in 203 A.C.E, was the scion of a dynasty dominated by Syrian women. It's a bit complicated, but let's just say by that time diverse persons in the Empire were able to rise, primarily through the army, to powerful political positions. His father was Sextus Varius Marcellus and his mother was Julia Soemias. His grandmother, the formidable Julia Maesa, was the sister of Julia Domna, and thus the sister-in-law of Septimius Severus, the Roman founder of the dynasty.
 

Bust of Julia Maesa
Julia Maesa

I mention all these women specifically, because, at one point in Centurians of Rome, the Emperor mentions his mother sends him women he is not interested in. This dynasty was run by powerful women on so many levels, and I find this detail telling, and there's more in what we know about Elagabalus that makes this detail, and many others in the movie, even more telling.

Now, Julia Soemias was a cousin of the emperor Caracalla. When Caracalla was assassinated in 217 A.C.E, Macrinus ascended the throne, and he exiled the whole Syrian tribe. But Maesa plotted to regain power, and Soemias made a claim that Elagabalus was the son of Caracalla. After some battles and further plotting, he was proclaimed emperor, as the Senate accepted the claim of parentage.
 

Alma, Tadema, and Heliogabalus

Elagabalus' religious beliefs presented a problem, as he was the hereditary priest (through his mother) of the ancient Syrian mountain god Ilāh hag-Gaba, who was later assimilated into the worship of the sun God Helios and Sol Invictus (the victorious Sun; thus Elagabalus is sometimes referred to as Heliogabalus). The worship of this god apparently required him to circumcise himself (not a Roman custom), but even more significantly, he installed Elagabal as the chief deity.

But, more relevant to this discussion of Centurians of Rome, and I must admit that some of the ancient sources are not exactly reliable (Augustan History contains some Hollywood Babylon-like elements!), Elagabalus' sexual orientation was confusing. He married five women (and divorced them all), including a Vestal Virgin (a huge taboo). But marriage was more of a fluid financial transaction at that time in Rome, and of course one could assume Grandma and Mama were hoping he could produce an heir. He didn't.
 

Elagabalus' entry into Rome

But he supposedly married an athlete called Zoticus (though his prime male companion was a blond chariot driver and bond slave named Hierocles) in a public ceremony in Syria. The historian Cassius Dio claimed he made himself up and whored around in public and in the imperial palace. Some historians have claimed that Elagabalus may have been transgender, as, according to one source, he wanted to somehow equip himself female genitalia and called himself the queen or wife of his main male lover, Hierocles. Note that at the end of Centurians, guess who the Emperor ends up with sexually as he makes him his slave: the blond stud Eric Ryan.
 

Eric Ryan and Michael Flent
Eric Ryan and Michael Flent in Centurians

I see much more parallels, or really resemblances, with the character played by Michael Flent, whose sexual kinks were certainly not “vanilla,” and his almost feminine submission to the hot top George Payne in the fisting scene evokes some of the details mentioned in this admittedly biased account of life in the palace by Cassius Dio:

“Finally, he set aside a room in the palace and there committed his indecencies, always standing nude at the door of the room, as the harlots do, and shaking the curtain which hung from gold rings, while in a soft and melting voice he solicited the passers-by. There were, of course, men who had been specially instructed to play their part. For, as in other matters, so in this business, too, he had numerous agents who sought out those who could best please him by their foulness. He would collect money from his patrons and give himself airs over his gains; he would also dispute with his associates in this shameful occupation, claiming that he had more lovers than they and took in more money.”
 

Michael Flent and George Payne
Michael Flent and George Payne in Centurians

Yes, life in the palace became one decadent orgy which turned a profit. Maybe that's why the government needed that tax money from Octavius and Demetrius (Scorpio and George Payne), and the character of Argus (Eric Ryan) certainly fits in with being one of those agents looking for sex slaves.
 

George Payne and Scorpo
George Payne and Scorpio in Centurians of Rome

Grandma Maesa finally had enough, and she, after some machinations, managed to get Elagabalus and his mother replaced, and the two were eventually assassinated in 222 A.C.E.. His replacement: the indisputably heterosexual Alexander Severus, Elagabalus' cousin, the son of her other daughter, Maemea. Think: backlash, but in this case, the women were still in charge, and Alexander, though he got rid of the Elagabal cult, was religiously tolerant.

I must admit I am an ancient history geek (in the department I teach at, I hold that unofficial title), and hence my attraction to this movie, and I also admit when I was watching it, I thought of the unfortunate and much-maligned Elagabalus. Overall, Elagablaus resembles the Emperor in Centurians more than the wildly cruel and bizarre but ultimately heterosexual Caligula.

Sources: some Wikipedia, and also Will Durant's series The Story of Civilization (Durant was a homophobe, but the series contains everything you need to know about everything, as far as I am concerned, and that's how I first found out about Elagabalus).

We just remastered Centurians of Rome, and the newly restored version is available on DVD and streaming on our Video on Demand site. For more information on the strange backstory of this classic gay porn blockbuster (it was funded by a bank robbery!), read this fascinating blog at The Rialto Report.
 

Centurians cover image
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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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