Photo by Andy Houghton
What is the sexual urge and why are people crazy about sex?
Sex, in one form or another, does make us crazy. The Bible speaks often of religious ecstacy—that moment when you united with God and brought your personal, limited human identity into the Godforce. It was powerful and for onlookers terrifying—religious ecstasy, the sense of dancing with God as your partner was easily mistaken for insanity; or sexuality gone crazy.
Among the early gay writers known as "Uranians," sexual ecstasy became united (and concealed) under an ecstatic union with unleashed Nature. Especially among them, the repressed poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins became smitten with Nature’s force and beauty, while trying to express what he could of his own same-sexualized nature.
Nature became the powerful Male Figure, the throbbing urge toward completion, unleashed in the presence of the wild. To the Uranians and other earlier queer writers, Nature was no longer Mother Nature, it was Father Nature, and he was a hunk, a creature of huge submission and attraction. D. H. Lawrence, a "straight" writer who was extremely attracted to powerful men, literally worshiped this union with Nature revealed in the climax.
Although Western commercialism extolls sellable heterosexuality and shopping center religion, it is terrified of tracing sexuality back to its roots in the sexual urge—the “urge to merge” as we used to call it—and also sometimes the "impolite" urge to come out of yourself and into a larger sphere.
Today this urge, as something organic, uncontrollable, and physically present, is cosmetized like a corpse into gooey Hallmark-greeting-card images and ideas. Jesus is either the sexless shepherd who’d never come on to one of his followers, or the strapping Oxford undergraduate, always shy and rosy cheeked. The idea of God Itself, as an immense, creative, mutable Force (something Hindus see as organic to the Godhead), is terrifying to us. And yet it is almost impossible to completely repress it and even the attempt to do so creates neurotic violence and damage. It creates an atmosphere of the Inquisition, fundamentalism, and repression, which only sees in religion what is repressive and exclusionary, spawning religious warfare. A perfect example of this is seen in the words and actions of contemporary religion's most obvious closet case, Pope Benedict XVI, who is literally destroying the Catholic Church from within with his rampant, only too defensive homophobia and sex phobia.
Going all the way back through history, gay men and lesbians have always been the wild cards in any revelation of a religious ecstasy that cannot dismiss sexuality. Homosexual priests were associated with sexual rites in the early cults of Astarte and, later, Aphrodite, whose temple male prostitutes often associated with women and “serviced” men as a way of submitting to God. This form of temple prostitution was hated by the Hebrews; still it resurfaced time and time again
in Biblical accounts of the Jerusalem Temple.
In turn, this idea of men submitting sexually to other men (as a possible way of submitting to God) follows a basic primate pattern seen in “alpha males” who establish their rights for sexual satisfaction, a pattern other primates quickly recognize. The presence of alpha males and their mates, alpha females, brings a sense of tribal harmony and stability that still carries over, psychologically, into human life.
I find this most apparent in the gay need for hierarchy (that is, seeking out powerful or attractive men) for protection, and to allow us to express our own submission to other men.
Our needs to be the followers of great divas; the stylish courtiers of royalty; the suitors of powerful, “hot” working-class men, all make me feel that hardwired into our own queer brains is this sexual connection through energy and power to a force that is both greater than us, and also responsive to us.
We seek the Eternal Mother and want to bind the wounds of the fallen, as Walt Whitman did. We also seek the big Alpha Male: Jesus, Zeus, Mr. Leather, Tom of Finland, WWF demi-gods—and in our engagement with this kind of not-always-covertly-sexual power find a satisfaction that eludes most heterosexual men who cannot submit to the opposite sex without losing some of their own, well-defended masculinity.
This has brought heterosexuality into a constant "War of the Sexes" that now appears at close to atomic level; it has, unfortunately, made any kind of heterosexuality outside of marriage, in many repressive, fundamentalist cultures, always on the verge of rape, because the real religious roots of sexuality cannot be honestly recognized and explored.
In our commercialization of sex, we have brought it so far away from one of its own deepest roots, its ritual as a merging with God, that the only thing left of it has become TV's The Bachelor, Blind Date, and The Pussycat Girls.
It's sad, and I feel the loss of these wondrous roots all the time.
One of my prime feelings lately is that too many gay men have lost the talent of being seductive. A generation or two ago, it seemed to go with the territory. Maybe too many of us had seen too many old movies and knew the moves that the stars of old used, to keep them stars—but seduction I feel has become a lost art, but one that with a little practice we can bring back again.
So to reacquaint you with it, I offer 37 ways to be seductive—and get what you really want, though in a nice way.
1) Repeat his name after you hear it. Then say, “I like your name.” Even if you don’t and his name is Jerky McSmirk, say it. Then smile a bit, but make sure he does not feel that you are laughing at him.
2) Ask him what he does with his time that is important to him. Almost every man loves to talk about his work—and even if he doesn’t, he will have something that he likes to do with his time and is waiting for someone to ask.
3) Keep his hand in yours for more than moment, but not long enough to embarrass him if he
is embarrassed by public displays of affection.
4) Touch him behind the ear or neck. Very gently.
5) Get close enough to him that he can smell your breath, and make sure that your breath is
6) Tell you like . . . the way he smells, his skin feels, his eyes look—something completely personal.
7) Invite him to sit down with you.
8) Invite him to stand up, go to the bar, go outside for a breath of air; anything, just invite him to do it, so he knows you are including him in your plans.
9) Ask him how he feels. And repeat the question often. In most of “normal” life, no one cares how men feel. It is considered uncool to ask. Don’t be afraid of being uncool. Cool is for kids. Warm is for men.
10) Ask him to taste what you are drinking. And then smile.
11) Offer to buy him a drink. Or, if not a drink, then something else. Don’t offer this to
reciprocate for something he has already done; make it a freewill offering. If it is simply tit-for-tat (whatever the hell that means), it loses a lot of its seductive power and even your tit may start to pale compared to his tat.
12) If you offer him a business card (and people do nowadays), write something on the back
of it that is personal, even if it’s just your signature and “call.”
13) Touch his hair or forehead lightly with your fingers and smile while you’re doing this.
14) Sophia Loren was once asked who was the most seductive man she had ever met. “Cary
Grant. We met on a plane. What struck me immediately was how he smelled, with a very subtle citrus cologne, and how nice his manners were. So many men use bad manners to seduce, and that’s bad.”
Learn something from that.
15) Wherever you are, find an excuse to invite him outside for a moment. Then enjoy the fact that the two of you are breathing the same air without a lot of other people breathing it.
16) Invite him to your—whatever. Apartment, palatial estate in Hoboken, hotel room, or even the curb where your car is parked, or the curb next to the subway entrance. But make sure he knows this invitation comes from you personally.
17) Ask him out for something. If he asks if this is a “date,” say, “No, but I just thought we’d get to know each other and have fun.”
18) There is nothing so seductive as a man who knows when to laugh at the right time. Never laugh at him, unless of course the whole situation at some point becomes so absurd that even while laughing at him, you are really laughing at yourself.
19) At some point make sure that your cheek is close to his. You can do this by getting close enough to him to whisper into his ear. There is something tingling and nice about having someone whisper into your ear anyway, but having your cheek next to his cheek means that you are inviting intimacy, something that most men find appealing, even if they are not capable of doing it themselves.
20) When he shows up at your apartment, tell him how much nicer he looks without a lot of
people around him.
21) Don’t expect him to sit next to you his first time in your “space”; allow him to have some other alternative seating. And don’t take offense if he does not sit with you. He may be too shy to plump down next to you when he hardly knows you.
22) But this should not keep you from approaching him and smiling.
23) Always offer a man something to eat. It may be light, but it should have some texture to it. If he’s nervous at your first meeting, having something like celery or carrots around for munchies can be good. Don’t just offer him a drink. Although “liquor is quicker,” it often makes men feel out of control.
24) Sex and intimacy are great appetite suppressants, which is probably the reason why so
many people are over-weight now: they don’t get enough of either. So if things heat up, dinner can wait.
25) Admire something he’s wearing, then tell him how much better he might look without it.
26) Don’t jump all over him. Let him have a moment to enjoy the intimacy of physical
closeness with you. Sexual dysfunction is now on the rise, and part of that may be that people expect too much to happen too fast, in an already stressful, work-driven culture. So no matter what “deed” happens, enjoy the fact that he is there enjoying you.
27) Ask him, “Is there anything we can do that would make you more comfortable?” If he
hesitates, then tell him what would you more comfortable.
28) Try taking off your shoes, and then his.
29) Massage his shoulders. Most men carry huge tension in them. Use a light touch, and don’t try to do anything unexpected that would surprise or bother him.
30) Point out something around the apartment or space that interests you, and talk about it in a way that can bring him into the picture. (“Do you have anything like that? What do you usually show your friends?”)
31) Turn the music to something that is soft, no matter what your taste in sound is. Never
make either of you talk over the music, and if the news is on turn it off.
32) Bring out some pictures to look at it. And invite him to sit closer to you.
33) When you are sitting closer, have at least one part of your body (an elbow, knee, hand, or shoulder) touch his.
34) If you offer him something to eat, give him a moment to try it without being all over him. Seduction requires a moment for him to enjoy being near you without you being aggressive about it. So, draw away form him for a moment while he eats. Or drinks.
35) If you feel that he is withdrawing from you (and sometimes this happens from nerves or
self-consciousness), then take a breather. Don’t get into his face, but back off a bit, and then come back with (in a nice, non-threatening way): “What’s your day been like?” Get him to talk.
Again, most men are never asked about their feelings or themselves unless it has to do with work and is done in a threatening or challenging way. So the fact that you are not asking in a threatening way is wonderful.
36) Touch his shoulders gently. And then work your way up to his ear or face: gently. Kiss
him, but not on the lips. Now start to touch his chest, and unbutton a button or two. After unbuttoning a few buttons, stop, kiss him, then begin unbuttoning or removing more.
37) Tell him you did not expect him to look so good with his clothes off. And then say, “I
really like your shoulders (or chest, or neck, or arms, or . . . ). Most men love have their bodies complimented. And, if he does have a great body, and it’s too obvious that he’s spent a lot of time on it, try: “You should keep your clothes off all the time.” In other words, you are not so foolishly “cool” and self-involved that you are going to ignore something that means a lot to him.
Fiction is facts, feelings, and ideas arranged for a purpose. Fiction is important for human life.
Our imagination is fed through fiction. Children are taught lessons from fiction. Fiction provides
the relief humans need from the wearing business of consciousness. One of the first marks of a
totalitarian society is that it limits fiction: it tells you what kind of stories can be told.
Our needs for fiction are seen in beauty contests, staged political events, any form of drama such as plays, movies, commercials, magazine ads, TV, and WWF wrestling smack-downs.
People feel that fiction "lies." It does not lie as much as it arranges the truth, or what we can accept as the truth.
In truth, or reality, bad fiction lies: it is based on trumped-up phony concepts of the truth. But good fiction has its own "fictional truth." It shows us what reality really is.
Some basic ideas about "arranging facts": the "round house" theory of fiction.
The first fiction was in the form of folk tales, a very potent, usable form of fiction. People told folk tales -- stories from the "folk," from regular people. These were tall tales, wish-fulfillment stories, dreams, etc. and they told them in round huts, tents, and small one-room shelters.
So folk fiction was "circular": beginnings and endings met in a believable and satisfying way.
Folk tales start off with a basic question, and then end with an answer. Why does the leopard have spots? How did humans come into the world (creation myths)? Why do we behave the way we do? Who were the first kings and queens? What punishments do the bad receive, and what rewards do the good get?
Folk tales are filled with "folk wisdom," the popular wisdom that is often based on almost
universal wishes, rather than on real life. Another form of folk wisdom is popular music ("My boyfriend's back and it's gonna be trouble!"), country music ballads ("Love is just a four-letter word!"), even nursery rhymes in which bad children are punished and good children get rewarded.
As human life became organized by power, the "little people" kept living in their huts, while powerful people lived in castles. Folk tales gave way to what we call "courtly tales" -- tales of the royal court.
The courtly tale is very much a part of gay fiction, because courtly tales pay a lot of attention to differences in status, and that has always been a queer interest as well: the powerful vs. the weak. Beautiful vs. ugly. Smart vs. dumb.
In the courtly tale, differences in status charge the story. Also, courtly tales are concerned with attention to status details: how a great house looks; fine clothing and it's style; the way people dress and convey themselves. These are hallmarks of courtly tales. Loyalty, submission, and longing for power are also aspects of courtly tales, as are codes of chivalry and behavior.
Andrew Holleran's popular novel Dancer from the Dance is very much a courtly tale, dealing
with status, "queenliness," the desire for heroes in a cynical world, and a longing for purity and honor.
In our own day, Mafia and gangster stories, Westerns (the code of the Old West), and many
most romances are courtly tales. One of my favorite courtly tales concerns the quest of the good "little knight:" to prove himself against all odds. Hollywood uses this format constantly: Robin Williams has made a career out of it, but so did Jimmy Stewart before him.
Gay fiction has not paid much attention to folk tales and fairy tales, but they are a very potent form of fiction. I used them in my Mirage trilogy of novels, which were billed as science fiction but were actually more "Sword and Sorcery" stories in a science fiction setting. One of the characteristics of folk tales is that they are based on gossip and are told in a vernacular language, the language of the people. I wish we had more queer stories like that, told in the language of street queens, hustlers, and regular folk, instead of opera queens, Ph.D. candidates, and Francophiles writing in eighteenth-century French translated into English. One of my favorite writers for this is John Rechy. His wonderful novel City of Night is filled with queer folk tales, often told in a shockingly magical "You won't believe this!" way.
The Novel Emerges.
The first "novels," or "new stories" came about in the 18th Century in English through letters. The first novel in English is Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded published 1740 by Samuel Richardson. Richardson was a prosperous printer and he was asked to produce a book with models for letter writing, then a great hobby and craze among the rising upper middle class to show that they were educated enough to write. He wrote Pamela, and later, in 1747, Clarissa Harlowe. Both novels are "epistolary novels," that is, the plot is revealed in letters.
The novel came about due to the advent of having a “private life,” a "private space" (a place for reading and gossip), and "private time," such as a time for social visits, vacations, travel, and dealing with personal money as a part of a private life.
During the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance, sex was considered fairly much a public
"function." There was an amazing candor about sex, as witnessed by The Canterbury Tales,
Chaucer’s great poem filled with bawdy stories and rhymes. This sexual candor later died in Victorian times.
In the Middle Ages, religion took the place of a private life. Religious feelings were often hidden and very vulnerable--you could easily be killed for your religious feelings, but rarely for your sexual ones.
Much of our human "religious" feelings are now incorporated in what we call “gay fiction” —the idea of power worship, of glimpsing inaccessible beauty, of religious ecstasy as a sexual experience. I think we need to explore these ideas and experiences much further. However, we are only beginning, openly, to twin the religious with the sexual. For too many people, under Catholic or Protestant Christian conservative repression, religion is the absence of sexuality. However, throughout human history, this has never been true.
What Is Gay Fiction?
I have two definitions that I like to use. The first is more academic:
1) Fiction that takes all the power and energy that, in conventional fiction, one gender exerts on the opposite gender, and in gay fiction exerts on the same gender. In doing this, our ideas of that gender are enlarged: gay and lesbian fiction, by its nature, enlarges our ideas about gender definitions and boundaries. Men become nurturing, tender, wild, queenly, exciting, etc. Women become powerful, huge, positive, etc.
2) Fiction that is written by, about, and for queer people. Simple as that.
Pre-Stonewall, much gay fiction was extremely closeted, as was most of life. In fact any
mention at all of homosexual activity put a work of fiction in a very special place: on the shelves of multitudes of closeted queer people. So, much gay fiction has a historical purpose. In other words, what was shockingly "gay" a hundred years ago, may not be so today, except as a historical artifact. You also have the question: is the writing of almost totally closeted queer writers, like Somerset Maugham, part of gay fiction, even if there are no gay characters in it? My feeling: YES. Because Maugham reveals his own covert, rebellious, distinct gay voice regardless.
Also, how about works of fiction in that strange "netherworld" of "ambiguously gay" writers writing ambiguously gay books? Books like D. H. Lawrence's Women In Love or Joseph
Conrad's Lord Jim?
My feeling: YES, again. These are "gay books," in that the intimacy between men in them is so intense that dismissing it as devoid of homosexual or homoerotic longing is deceitful.
So, all great fiction -- that is, fiction that deals with the whole of human experience is "gay fiction"--but not all "gay fiction" is great fiction!
Three concepts that you can dismiss regarding writing fiction:
1) "Originality"— this really cripples many writers. You do not need your own "original" plot. There are virtually none, especially since most plots hail back to a few ancient stories, like "Cinderella," the basis for thousands of novels, plays, movies, and TV series. However, if you have one "original" character, you have done something amazing. Tennessee Williams gave us Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski, but both those characters can be traced back to Shakespeare, with the emotionally fragile Ophelia (from Hamlet) and the horrific demon Caliban (from The Tempest) who was all muscle and unleashed fury.
So, the writer must rely on his own originality — that is, his ability to observe and organize ideas and feelings.
Having your own "material," in the form of direct experiences, is not important. One of the world’s greatest war novels, The Red Badge of Courage was written by a young writer, Stephen Crane, who’d never been in a war. Jane Austen led a reclusive life, never married, and yet wrote constantly about love and marriage.
2) "Voice" — many writers feel that they can never achieve a real "voice," a distinctive style or approach. In truth, there is no such thing in fiction as "voice." There is only technique and what you do with it.
Technique is what allows you to write what you want to write, and say what you need to say -- the way you need to say it.
One of the most distinct "voices" in literature, Ernest Hemingway’s, came from using
newspaper techniques. He was a journalist in the Midwest, so he merged journalism with the
style of Willa Cather, another writer from the Midwest.
Writers have to learn what it is they need to say, then say it. Learning technique will get you there.
Dancers learn technique in order to dance. Just as there are many different types or schools of dance technique -- ballet, modern, folk, jazz, and schools within these types, there are many different fiction techniques. A writer needs to learn techniques — how to recognize them, practice them, and use them to develop his own "voice."
3) "Writing is lonely and hard. It is a constant, brutal struggle. Writers lead miserable, neurotic, self-destructive lives."
No, writing can be one of the world’s most pleasurable activities. Writing is not lonely, but is the complete antidote to loneliness, because you are contacting the deepest part of yourself. It is wearing, but worth it. What writing does require is great discipline, concentration, and effort. But then, so does any other art form, or working in any field of science.
4) Regarding gay fiction: There is a certain way that gay writers are supposed to sound
— like Oscar Wilde, Proust, or Andrew Holleran — and if you don't write like that, you can't be one.
Forget that one totally. This idea has been foisted on us by the ever-present queer academic establishment. Oscar Wilde, Proust, and their many progeny, such as Holleran or David Leavitt, are only one strand of gay feelings, thought, and writing. There are many more, from many different periods and other countries as well. So, if you don’t feel you fit into the "classic" gay mode, which I used to describe as spanning the entire gamut of human feelings and experiences, from artificial to bitchy, don't worry.