Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Don't make me put my baby down."

Someone sent me this link to an opinion piece published in the New York Blade. The writer, a New York blogger, had just seen “Gay Sex in the ‘70’s” and felt moved to express some thoughts that clarify for those among us who ever gave him the benefit of a doubt the distressing way in which his mind turns.

I have stopped by his blog roughly a dozen times in the last couple of years. His writing always left me unsatisfied, but I returned perhaps because I am easily fascinated by men who are well educated but seem not to have fetched much truth or insight from their discipline.

I met him once, at a gathering of bloggers. We were introduced, and when he heard the words “farmboyz” and “Perge Modo”, he winced. He actually winced and grimaced, albeit briefly, and swiftly supplied a patronizing and pained smile in an attempt to cover his distaste for the introduction. It was the look I have seen on the faces of some archbishops when forced into contact with an unsifted and unwashed assemblage of laity.

I extended my hand, and he looked at it with horror as if I had just sneezed upon it all the contagious detritus of hell. To his credit, he did manage to shake my hand without fainting. He then avoided conversation by moving to another part of the room. Guess he had read a bit of my blog. Guess he didn’t much like it. Guess he had consigned me to hell.

I had never before had the experience of being judged in that way. Never had it since. It is not a good feeling. Throughout my entire life, I have never once felt judged in that way by God. Never once felt condemned or even disapproved of. There are church leaders who are swift to roll their eyes at what I write or do, but even they have never diminished their opinion of me an inch because of the choices I have made. They simply pray harder for me, but while praying, would never avoid visiting me, or calling me or consider cutting me out of their lives because of how I have lived my life.

Perhaps he would recall the moment of our introduction either differently or not at all. Perhaps the dissing was all in my head, imagined. It does not matter. In the New York Blade article, the excruciatingly odd thoughts he strings together about sex and disease and behavioral consequences seem to come from the provinces of childhood nightmares, or seem like lessons gleaned from a book of fairy tales intended for the small of mind.

It would be easy for me to list the possible reasons for his disliking anonymous sex, but I don’t know this man well enough to get it right. Were we to meet again, I would probably tell him that men who choose to spend their days perched on their sofas with their legs crossed tightly at the knees should not trash the Olympics just because they themselves choose to be unathletic.

I’ve been a runner all my life. I am sure this has done some damage to my knees and shins, but I am not about to start campaigning against marathons. I’ve tried not to run too much. To stay on forgiving paths. I don’t run drugged or drunk. These days, I keep to the right, letting the faster or younger have the inner track. But I would hate to think what life would be like without the exultation of the race, and I would never blame Nike for whatever aches and pains I’ve had along the way.

I could go on, but to what end? You can’t much reach men like that. They condemn the things they are afraid of. Things they might love too much. They cling to the safety of their convictions like mussels to rock in waves.

PS: - and perhaps a source of greater indignation – his characterization of the men of the ‘70’s as “unkempt” is simply ignorant. We spent most of our waking hours kempting ourselves into a look somewhere between Al Parker and Farrah Fawcett ( the opposite ends of the narrow bandwidth of beauty in those days). Would that we had had the luxury of the buzz cut, or clothes from the Gap and butch boots available at any mall. We might have had more time for sex.

22 comments:

Tom said...

Gay Sex in the 70s made me envious and resentful for having missed the party completely.

gordon said...

If you'll forgive me for saying so, the tone of your current post is beneath you. It is uncharitable and, for lack of better word, snippy. Might it not have been more effective to simply have pointed out evident errors in the Slutzky account? That, for instance, the famous trucks weren't delivery trucks (like those of UPS) but oversize vehicles intended for longer hauls, that they were not, I think, ever packed with men like sardines, and that to compare them to the railroad cars of the Nazi era is vastly, gratuitously, and inaccurately overreaching? That the author's stance is condescending and that his overall outlook is both pessimistic and puritanical, particularly when he raises the specter of oral sex as providing room for a new, unknown viral danger. Not as bright as he imagines himself to be.

farmboyz said...

Well, yes, I could have said those things, but I was never in any of those trucks (nor was I ever on one of those piers) and don't know how crowded they were. Wasn't back from Rome until the late '70's. Precious upon coming out, I clung to the bar at Uncle Charlie's (midtown) and turned down most applicants. If I could do it over...
ps: I don't think I was too snippy (in the way Bush was snippy to Gore on the phone post stealing of the election) and my account of our introduction is carefully accurate. I was (am) deliberately uncharitable.

bj said...

funny, i had seen the article the other day, and within a few sentences, stopped reading; the moive itself wasn't that well done, and this article just sounded like someone who was too str8, or too young, to get any of it. Then I found out later who had written it, re-read it, and left with the same feeling - too str8 (in the non sexual orientation meaning, this time) and too young - but he's NOT THAT young - sure, he may not have experienced that period, i barely did and i'm approaching 50; but he doesn't seem to have gone beyond his teen years, when AIDS was this scarey foreign thing and he was just realizing all those awful things people were saying about queers might apply to him.

our introduction (a couple years ago) was after a few emails (from me) and me writing a post responding to his fear of being in his 30's, over the hill, and still going to bars.... ugh.

as far as gordon's comments - i dont think "farmboyz" point is at all about inaccuracies, but about the attitude and distaste regarding sex, and sexual freedom. you don't have to want it for yourself, but ferchrissakes, stop being so disgusted by it!

Anonymous said...

I found your opinion to be on point, not snippy. Why does one need to be charitable in response to someone who has irked them? Are we not moderately intelligent adults here? Perhaps if the tinman was slow or mildly retarded (perhaps the jury is still out on that) it would be just and right to extend charity (How's that for snippy?). Why do we need to cast judgement on another's sex life? Why is it that some gay men insist on projecting their own sexual frustration or hang ups on other's? Why must the rest of us toe the moral line that they have established as acceptable. The sexual revolution has not been negated by disease. I will not be told to behave by sister mary self love. God, first JMG gets all preachy about gym sex, and now this inane column in the Blade. I am so over this preachy bullshit. Get over yourselves ladies.

Chicago

Brian said...

I didn't think you were snippy at all. You could have restricted your comments to a simple dispute of the facts in the Slutzky article, but perhaps that discussion would be more appropriate for "Meet the Press" than this blog. Go ahead and talk about your personal interaction with this man, regardless of whether your opinion is flattering to him. You're not running for office, so say what you want.

Helen the Felon said...

Can you blame the guy? Clearly this tirade is simply a manifestation of his own inner struggle...growing up with a name like "Slutzky," he had to be good. Had his name been "Primly" or "Christian" or something, he'd probably be a total back-roomer.

Jeff said...

1) I love sex. And anonymous sex can be tons of fun, a real rush. Guess what? I've had lots of it. But three different people so far, including you, have come to exactly the opposite conclusion after reading my piece, which means either that I should have thought harder about how my words would be read and revised the piece accordingly, or that a few people are seeing things that aren't there. I'm open to either possibility.

As I wrote in my piece, sex in itself is not inherently dangerous, and there’s a difference between anonymous sex and unprotected sex. As far as physical health is concerned, whom you have sex with is less important than the precautions you take with that person. That's more or less a direct quote.


2) I do remember meeting you at Pieces during the Christopher Street bar crawl, and you're right: whatever dissing or judging you imagine is completely in your head. I'd only read your blog once before, actually, and it was because Joe (I think it was Joe) linked to a multi-part piece you wrote about something that happened a long time ago. I thought it was amazingly well-written. Where did you come up with the feeling that I was judging you?

I admit I was uncomfortable that night. I was flattered that Joe invited me, but I get shy when I'm in a large, unfamiliar group of people who all know each other. Makes me feel like the odd one out. All I can guess is that my discomfort must have been visible on my face. I'm sorry you misinterpreted it.

I don't get the hostility, but then again, I don't really know you.

Mark said...

Bless you, darling, your tone was exactly right.

I was in the Village then, and I did participate in all that fun.

The writer of that piece is completely ignorant of basic mid-20th Century gay history.

I commented directly on his post, gloating about his published status.

I guess my tone would be construed as "snippy" too!

Good.

Anonymous said...

I've read that blog a few times too but stopped because I always felt like some key ingredient was missing ... passion, perhaps, or humour, or the joy of exultation of the race, as you put it. I don't know ... maybe dispassionate intelligence leads to a kind of inability to be truly empathic. That article is both smug and condescending, but not only that, it somehow reduces the dignity and memory of those many gay men who lived during that era and are no longer here.

If I should ever be so fortunate as to shake hands with you, I may feel faint, but it would be from being in the presence of a man I read with such awesome enjoyment.

Cooper

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I note that Mr. Slutzky evidently does not understand the use of Spellchecker, which makes me a little dubious as the depth and skill of his scholarship as a social historian.
Upon a rereading of his article, all he has to say of substance is that gay's of the '70's make him go "ew".
I most pointedly will Not link to Mr. Slutzky.
I was there, albeit not in New York. The '70's weren't so bad.

bg said...

This exchange inspired me to work through, at rather too much length, my thoughts. I have posted them at my blog.

Joe Clark said...

You’re advancing a rather conventional psychological explanation in assuming he is afraid of or attracted to what he “condemns.” And anonymous sex (which means promiscuous sex; names are often exchanged) is not comparable to running a marathon, either in execution or emotional impact, to say nothing about the forms of injury found in each.

Besides, I recall a previous blog entry of yours, which I simply cannot be arsed to look up, in which some sap dared to question your open relationship with “C” and you pretty much told him off. Sorry, but promiscuous sex and open relationships, like monogamy, are open to comment, question, and dispute.

farmboyz said...

Yes, Joe Clark, my words, like Jeff's are open to "comment, question and dispute". So? (Sorry you didn't like my "marathon" bit. Even before I finished it, I sort of knew that one can't really compare shin splints to a life-altering disease, if you'll permit the trotting out of a new phrase that encompasses the current meds.

Jeff said...

Everything was spelled correctly in the original draft I sent in to the newspaper, Daniel. But thanks for the gratuitous insults.

circleinasquare said...

I LOVED
"...the unkempt hair, the mustaches, the clothes. "
Loved it, loved it, loved it!

Luke said...

Jeez. Jeff certainly touched on a sensitive subject, huh? He mentions the possibility that all of the "fun" gay men had in the 70's bore some consequences and every man over 40 cries "prude!" I'm all for being promiscuous now and then, but don't blame society when you get an std.

As someone who knows him in person, he is neither a prude nor is he puritanical. I think everyone here who is calling Jeff this needs to take look at themselves for a moment and consider the far more likely scenario that they may be projecting their own conflicted feelings about their sex-life onto him.

Gay men feeling conflicted about their sex-life? Never!

Luke said...

OK the previous comment irritates me to no end.

It's great you did a little internet stalking and, based on a Friendster profile, you purport to know Jeff inside and out. I wonder what I would have to say about YOUR character if I looked you up on the internet. Oh wait, I can't. You posted anonymously! That seems fair!

What a hypocritical little chicken shit. Next time you want your commentary to be taken seriously, stop hiding behind your computer.

Rey said...

This is new to me: a huge argument on a blog!

I don't have enough information to give an educated opinion, but I must say that I like the nature of this post very much. Not so much because it's an argument, but because it's taken a personal tone that many blog posts lack. The sex stories, pictures of cute guys, pop culture, politics and more politics: it gets a bit tiring after a while. But personal stuff never gets tiring!

Reading about the personal experiences of people, especially of gay men, has helped me a great deal put my life into some perspective, most likely because throughout my life I had relatively little contact with my own kind.

Sorry for interrupting this discussion with something unrelated, but I felt the need to say this.

farmboyz said...

OK Luke, let's just calm down. Although I agree with you about anonymous commenting, I've allowed everyone their say herein and interestingly, we've now got an illuminating collection of pros and cons. I for one didn't even understand his reference to Friendster and I didn't explore it. We need to keep to the high road. Pretend you're climbing that Christmas tree in the Poseidon Adventure. Pretend Colin Farrell is ahead of you on the tree and you're looking up his shorts... Feeling better?

Alan said...

The premise of his article is very much like Richard Berkowitz's "Stayin' Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex."

The majority of commenters seem to be flaming Slutzky for being sex negative, too young to know anything about the subject, self-loathing, etc. However, the author of Stayin' Alive was none of those things and arrives at very similar conclusions.

Anyway, let me just say: Yay! Another NYC blogger blogfight! We flyover staters love watching these ... from a distance. :) When will the de-linking start?

chuck said...

"I could go on, but to what end? You can’t much reach men like that. They condemn the things they are afraid of. Things they might love too much. They cling to the safety of their convictions like mussels to rock in waves."

Why is that so wrong...to cling to convictions? I'm curious. It seems in a world where everyone says, "don't judge me for what I do"...when *I* choose not to have anonymous sex or remain monogamous with my partner, I am judged as a mussel or someone who is denying some deep-down sexual desire. I'm sorry, I'm not buying. I'm a fairly well adjusted human being who knows what he wants, and it isn't sex with as many partners as I can possibly have in a lifetime. And honestly, the same could be said of your convictions: "You can't reach men like that." You do what you feel is right and reasonable in your life. It doesn't mean we all agree with it.