Friday, February 6, 2009

W@H: Hot Man-on-Man Action

Why do lovers choose others To mirror their pain Yeah, slow down stranger You know that you're in danger --Richard Ashcroft, "Why do Lovers?" We here at Accidental Historian like to mix things up every once in a while. As such, we're pleased to present a one act play in one part called "John Eldredge Makes Shit Up." CHARACTERS: John Eldredge Darrell, a man born with only half a brain Ralph, an innocent ficus plant SCENE: JOHN has a great idea. DARRELL, a ward of the state who works in JOHN'S office licking envelopes then stuffing them with live crickets, is the only one nearby for him to bounce it off. JOHN ELDREDGE: Darrell, come in here. DARRELL: (Looking around, confused) Who's Darrell? JE: You are. Come here. D: Okay, Mr. Patterson. JE: It's Eldredge. But whatever. I've got an idea and I want to know what you think of it. D: I only really know envelopes and cickets Mr. Patterson. JE: Yes. And you're doing a great job of...whatever it is you do. But so far you haven't cost me more than that tax write-off, so just keep doin' it. Anyway, here's my idea. You know how I spend a lot of time on the Father Wound, right? D: My father gave me a dollar and dropped me off at the bus stop. JE: Yes. I know. D: The next thing I knew I was here. And the man at the door said I couldn't leave. Ever. JE: Focus, Darrell. Anyway, here's my idea. I'll tell everyone that guys who are gay do it because they didn't get important affirmations from their fathers. And since they didn't get those affirmations from their fathers, they look to get them from other men. More specifically, other mens' penises. Y'know. Inside them. Like those videos my pastor keeps accidentally finding on the internet. D: (Thinks about the idea for about five seconds.) My friend Steve likes having sex with other men. He says it's because they're hot. He also says that he really likes the cock. But I don't know what that means. JE: (Leans forward, excited.) And I'll bet he has a terrible relationship with his father. D: (Shakes his head.) No. His dad's a great guy. He used to take us all for ice cream after our basketball games back in high school. And he calls Steve's boyfriend Adam, "The other son I never had." JE: Well obviously your friend Steve in in deep denial about his Father Wound. D: I don't think so, Mr. Patterson. JE: Get back to work, Darrell. DARRELL leaves. JOHN stares at his desk for a long time, a look of confusion on his face. Finally he looks up and sees RALPH, the ficus plant, in the corner. JE: You think it's a great idea, right? Ralph: (Talking, but JOHN can't hear him.) Oh, god. Why does he always drag me in to this? I knew I should have listened to Carson Daly when he was talking about that Karma thing... END SCENE Unfortunately for everyone involved, any discussion of Christianity and manhood eventually has to work its way around to that thorny issue of hot man-on-man action. I really don't feel like delving in to issues of why this is. Nor do I want to spend a lot of time discussing why so many Christians are freaked out by homosexuality. There are a lot of theories out there about the topic, ranging from an entire religious sect of closeted homosexuals to theories about how a guy who likes to take the traditional role granted women in sexual congress is a threat to their gender stratification scheme. The reason I don't want to spend a lot of time on the theories is simple. I'm almost 100% sure that most of the ones I've seen are wrong. See, they're generally presented by people who are completely outside the tradition and haven't spent a lot of time having honest discussions with people on the inside. So they make up motivations. This is, not surprisingly, very similar to the way people inside evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity have a bad habit of inventing motivations to explain why outsiders think the way they do. For the average believer the issue of homosexuality is a completely teleological argument. The Bible says (they say, since lots of things in fundagelical Christianity are covered by the blanket statement, "The Bible says") that god created man and woman to have sex with each other. You don't even need to go to the verse in Leviticus about men lying with other men or that place in the epistles where Paul puts butt sex on the same level as murdering and stealing to see the problem. Boys have tabs. Girls have slots. Tabs go in slots. It's all crystal clear. Men who like other men completely ruin that image. Women who like other women probably do, too, but let's face it, for as long as men have been able to conceive of the idea of two women in the same room together, they've pictured those two women ripping each others' clothes off and making with the intercourse. So as long as we've had a patriarchy, women who want to diddle other women have had a more or less free pass because it's hot and, quite frankly, men want to believe that a woman who has never once thought of another woman in a sexual light is actually constantly about ten seconds away from going down on every other woman in the room. It's a double standard, but dammit, it's a great double standard... Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. Homosexuality is outside of "god's plan." Now, we all know that god's plan was screwed up by the whole eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thing. Since then sin has been a conscious choice. Therefore, if a guy wants to sin by, um, engaging in sin with another guy, it has to have been his choice. This is what leads us to things like ex-gay ministries, wherein one can "pray the gay away" or whatever. That, by the way, is a part of a much larger misunderstanding of the sexuality of humans. Put a bunch of teenage boys in a room with a bunch of teenage girls and tell them to keep their thoughts pure, avoid masturbating, and not sneak off to feel each other up and try to get to third base. It ain't going to happen. We have libidos and biological clocks for a reason, and it's not so we can learn to have stronger prayer lives by asking god to help us keep our hands out of our pants. There's an associated phenomenon wherein it's apparently the boy's job to push the boundaries and the girl's job to say what is and isn't allowed. Because, you know, girls never actually want to have sex and have to be forced to do it by, um, apparently marrying them and making it part of the pre-nup. Now, I will fully admit that the different genders generally have completely different ideas about what sex is and/or should be. But that doesn't mean that both don't want sex. I, uh, I didn't learn that in church. And so but anyway:
What's fascinating to note is that homosexuals are actually more clear on this point. They know what is missing in their hearts is masculine love. The problem is that they've sexualized it. Joseph Nicolosi says that homosexuality is an attempt to repair the wound by filling it with masculinity, either the masculine love that was missing or the masculine strength many men feel they do not possess. It, too, is a vain search and that is why the overwhelming number of homosexual relationships do not last, why so many gay men move from one man to another and why so many of them suffer from depression and a host of other addictions. What they need can't be found there. --John Eldredge, Wild at Heart (94-95) [emphasis his, bold mine]
Now, leave aside the fact that a man with some sort of graduate level degree in psychology just called depression "an addiction." Actually. don't. Dwell on that for a moment. Let the unintended consequences of that construction of "depression and...other addictions" roll around in your mind for a moment. I'll wait. We're back? Good. Now, then, this is a perfect place for a little game I like to call "Damning Eldredge with his own words." For, you see, this sequence comes three pages after Eldredge uses Bly's imagery of the Golden-Haired Woman to explain why a man will fall in love with a woman across a room, reach her, realize she's normal, then fall in love with another woman in yet a different part of the room. I guess it's perfectly normal for a man to move from one relationship to another if it's always with women and not so much if he's doing the same thing with guys. Also, let's pretend for a moment that he actually has statistics to back up his "overwhelming number" of broken homosexual relationships. First of all, it's fascinating the way he apparently uses "gay men" and "all homosexual people" interchangeably. Either he doesn't realize that gay men and lesbians may well have different relationship dynamics (um, I developed this weird idea that it might actually be way easier to set up homosexual relationships. My theory is that men look for "man things" in relationships while women look for "woman things." So if you've got two women they're both looking for "woman things" whereas if you've got a man and a woman one is looking for "man things" and the other for "woman things." Bear in mind that it was early in the morning when I came up with this, I thought about it for all of 30 seconds, and I never even bothered to suss out the difference between "man things" and "woman things." So, please, take it with a planet-sized grain of salt), or he's conveniently ignoring lesbian relationships in his wild theorizing. Either option works. Second, um, I have no statistics to back this up, save old re-runs of Seinfeld, but I'm pretty sure that an overwhelming number of ALL relationships end badly. That's why on the ninth day god invented gin and tonic and that dive bar down the street from the Garden. But, again, it's not worth mentioning that it happens to heterosexuals, too, if it can ruin your wild accusations and help maintain that general idea that homosexuality is a special variety of bad. Either way, the root of the problem evangelicals have with homosexuality isn't that they're some entirely closeted subculture. It's that they have to call homosexuality a sin. In calling it a sin they have to make it a choice. And in making it a sinful choice, they have to make sure everyone knows that it's fraught with pitfalls and will never bring satisfaction. This, in turn, requires a lot of time spent making shit up. I had a friend tell me once that he thought people went gay because they just really wanted sex and didn't care where it came from. I asked, "So why don't they have it with people of the opposite gender? Or animals?" That pretty much stopped him dead in his tracks. It created one of my many, many theories, too. Basically, if someone makes an argument against homosexuality that can be countered by asking why they don't just stay straight or asking why straight people do exactly the same thing, it's probably not a good argument. But I think I'll leave the final word here to Daniel Radosh, who ran in to a competing theory while at Cornerstone in the process of writing Rapture Ready! The theory in his case was that men turn to other men after they've been disrespected by a lot of women.
"A man's greatest need is to feel respected, and if a man doesn't feel respected he'll go anywhere." [said John Smid, the ex-gay speaker] My jaw dropped. This is what turns people gay? Because before I met my wife, I often felt disrespected by women, and it never occurred to me to remedy that by sucking cock. --Daniel Radosh, Rapture Ready! (181) [emphasis his]
Ah, hell, I can't resist getting in the last word... If it's an issue of disrespect from women, someone needs to call those guys who are looking for dominatrixes* and tell them they're doing it wrong. And someone needs to call all the guys who are being disrespected by their boyfriends and tell them they'd better just give up. I mean, where do you go when neither gender respects you and that's the only reason that you could possibly have for being in a relationship? --------------------------- *And, yes, I know that should probably be "dominatrices." It looks weird, though.


Anonymous said...

I’ve also found the “anti-gay Christians are closeted” argument unconvincing, not to mention statistically unlikely. However, I’m not sure if I agree with the “completely teleological” argument, either. It seems to make the Christian view of homosexuality a matter of reason (God says it’s bad, therefore it’s bad, regardless of my feelings on the subject), when to me it’s always seemed more like a truthy gut-feeling sort of reaction (I feel it’s bad, therefore it’s bad, regardless of what God says on the subject, so I’m glad the patriarchs and early Christians agreed with me).

What I’ve never quite understood is where that gut-level aversion to homosexuality (mostly male homosexuality) comes from. I can remember feeling it, back in my less tolerant days, but I can’t remember why. Is it just a nugget of culture, like a necronym taboo or acceptable nonverbal gestures or something, that became attached to the predominant religion? Does Christianity encourage a defined, orderly view of humanity’s place in the universe and men’s place in the family, and homosexuality disrupts that? I really don’t know.

jessa said...

Something I have never ever seen or heard a Christian recognize: that a big part of why more homosexuals are depressed or addicted to whatever (and I don't know that they actually experience these miseries any more frequently than heterosexual populations, but I'll allow them the assumption that they do) could very well be caused by the Christians themselves. I'm pretty sure that your life isn't going to be peaches and cream when people are telling you your lifestyle, your choice of life partner is sin or preventing you from being with your life partner. Diagnostic criteria for mental illness aside (because they aren't applied in earnest anyway, in practice, if you are sad for too long you are depressed, if you drink alcohol more often than they think prudent, you are addicted) the extra miseries of living against the grain are apt to produce some feelings that will be labeled mental illness. Nevermind that those feelings may very well be completely legitimate. (Because you will sill be labeled depressed if you are sad for too long, but for entirely reasonable reasons, like a close family member dying every other month for two years, because it isn't grief if you are sad for two years straight, but whatever.)

Also, as to Christian theories about non Christians and vice-versa: Even when you try to put yourself in another persons shoes, look at things from your perspective, no matter how good a job you do at it, you are only considering another version of your own perspective. You cannot truly appreciate the perspective of someone else unless you actually talk to them and ask them, and even then, you cannot fully appreciate their perspective. To me, that is a no-brainer. Duh. How could it possibly be any other way, in this world. But apparently that is not a no-brainer to a lot of people.

Geds said...


Limiting it only to teleological arguments is a step too far in the other direction. There are certainly those who would be against homosexuality no matter what anyone or anything they believed in said about it. There are also probably those who go around beating up gay men to overcompensate for the fact that they'd rather be doing something else with them and don't want to admit it.

But for the average believer who has nothing intrinsic against gay people and may well really like that gay couple down the street or get along famously with the woman in the next cube over who has pictures of herself and her life partner parasailing in Paraguay, I think that you have to look at it as a teleological argument. If it's simply, "The Bible says," then all the stupid arguments about why people are different follow logically (inasmuch as it's possible for logic to be applied).

I mean, even reading the Eldredge quote and realizing it's mind-numbingly stupid, I don't get the impression that he has a real bone to pick with gay men. He simply believes that all men should be like *this* and gay men are like *that* and there isn't any wiggle room in his theology. So he has to make shit up.


Good point on the diagnostic criteria thing. I've always boggled at the idea that getting drunk, what is it, four times or more a year, makes you an alcoholic. I've always thought that you need nuance in explaining both mental illness and addiction.

If you get drunk a lot because you want to use alcohol as medication, you might be an alcoholic. If you get drunk because you get buzzed, want to keep the buzz going, and go too far, you might be a normal human being who gets a little stupid when interacting with alcohol. Similarly, if you're always unhappy for no damn good reason, you might be depressed. If you're unhappy because things are genuinely bad and don't look to be getting better, you might be a realist.

But it's kind of a crapshoot and its easier to tell people how they should be than find out why they are what they are. That might go to the perspective thing you mentioned...

hapax said...

I would respectfully request that men who talk about how lesbianism is treated differently because so many men find the fantasy attractive might occasionally remember that an awful lot of women likewise find the HoYay hot indeed.

In other words, y'see, Eldredge to the contrary, boys aren't THAT different from girls.

(On t'third hand, though, I'm having a tough time thinking of women -- conservative Christian or otherwise -- who show any signs of being *threatened* by lesbianism. Generally speaking, if the woman in question has no homosexual or bisexual tendencies, her reaction is more of a "Meh. Whatever.")

All of which leads me to suspect that there is a heck of a lot more here about power relationships than sexual relationships (as far as the two can be separated.)

But maybe the people I know are weird.

Geds said...

Yeah, the thing about that is I once got a full-on HoYay run-down from a girl who was in to girls and rather liked the idea of guys who were in to guys and I think it broke my brain ever so slightly. So you probably won't hear about girls who like the same-sex stuff from me. It kind of gives Nam-like flashbacks...

Meanwhile, this is total blue-sky thinking here, but there may well be an element of confusion in how guys approach the idea of gay sex. I was sitting around one morning and the thought went through my head, "Do gay guys fantasize about taking it up the butt?" It seems logical to me, although I haven't exactly done a scientific survey, so who the hell knows, that the traditional tab 'n' slot architecture of the male and female body somewhat dictates how sexual fantasy plays out. So it's pretty logical to assume that, all other things of top/bottom and position aside, straight men generally put themselves in the "give" position and straight women generally put themselves in the "take" position if they're fantasizing about sexual intercourse.

The gay man (and, I suppose, the straight man who likes getting pegged) has both options. Never having sat down and discussed it with one, my brain went "Tilt" and couldn't come up with an answer. It was one of those weird points of perspective where I was simply unable to come up with anything definitive on my own.

Meanwhile, too, I suppose there's a point of asking who decides who gives and takes that's not as straightforward as in straight sex and probably not as big of a thing in lesbian sex. That, I would assume, is where any issues of power would originate. Your average straight guy probably knows little more about guy-on-guy sex than what shows up in prison dramas and simply can't relate.

There's an additional issue that comes in to play, too. Girls are expected to be close and get all touchy-feely with each other. Guys are expected to, um, hit each other and never reveal their emotions, I guess. It's a much easier mental leap to go from girl friends to girlfriends than to do the same with guys.

All in all, I suppose that if you add those things up, you can come to a perfectly reasonable conclusion as to why gay men would be treated differently than gay women. After that if you start adding on levels of stigma, different expectations about what the different genders may want out of the sexual relation, and all the other crap that gets kicked around, I think there's a lot more going on than a single-point explanation.

But to the original point: you won't hear me arguing that women don't get in to the idea of homosexual sex. From what I understand it's generally women who are the driving force behind slash. It was also a pretty deep and basically pointless tangent to take in a post that was already filled with long tangents. So I really didn't see it as necessary to cross every single T on that one...

hapax said...

Umm. For obvious reasons, I'm not qualifified to speak to "what do gay men fantasize about?" OTOH, I'm not particularly qualified to speak to "what do mostly straight women fantasize about?" either, except for a very limited sample. (But I think you already knew it wasn't that simple)

Still, I read a LOT of genre fiction, that being pretty much my job description, and most of it isn't genres I particularly enjoy meself, and...

well, the fact of the matter is that romance/erotica/pornography written for a gay audience (male and female) is significantly different from that written for a slash audience (that is, women who like to read about m/m and men who like to read about f/f).

I haven't ever sat down and articulated the distinction formally, but it is pretty noticeable.

I don't think it is as much to do with "gay people are different from straight people", though, as in various complicated issues involving projection, identification, and the subjective vs the objective (or even objectifying) gaze.

Which is even more of a tangent to your original point, inasmuch as Eldredge's gaze seems firmly directed towards his navel. (Or perhaps a bit lower.)

Sniffnoy said...

*And, yes, I know that should probably be "dominatrices." It looks weird, though.

You know eventually someone will backform "dominatrissy" as the singular.