James W. Hicks, M.D.

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Rimbaud

In Flexible People, Media on October 10, 2011 at 9:15 am

The publication of a new biography of — and a new translation by John Ashbery of the poems of — Arthur Rimbaud, the prodidgy of French modern poetry, have been the occasions for several articles about the poet and his life.

Rimbaud was notorious as a youth for his homosexual relationship with the older poet Paul Verlaine, who left his wife to be with him. Rimbaud spoke graphically about engaging in sodomy with Verlaine, and complained that Verlaine sometimes expected him to top, when he would prefer to bottom. But about a decade later, after giving up life as a poet and becoming a trader in Africa, Rimbaud settled down with a local woman.

Disappointingly, the reviewer of these books in the New Yorker needlessly characterized Rimbaud as really heterosexual, suggesting that his earlier homosexual relationship was just a bit of performance art. The reviewer in the New York Review of Books more properly avoided imposing modern assumptions onto the sexuality of either poet, both of whom were clearly capable of having meaningful relationships with either sex.

Visit the archives to see all Flexuality posts!

Kaboom

In Media, The Flex Test on February 10, 2011 at 6:11 am

Gregg Araki’s New Film Will Make You Ambisexual
Madison Moore
Splice Today
February 4, 2011

In her review of Araki’s new ambisexual apocalypse film, Kaboom, Moore refers to my Flexuality Test, which she characterizes cutely as “a simple, fun-for-the-whole-family game that tells you how gay or straight you are.”

Bisexual Arabic Literature

In Cultures, Media on February 2, 2011 at 7:23 pm

With Cairo in the news recently, I was reminded of an Egyptian novel that deals with bisexuality. The Yacoubian Building, by Alaa Al Aswany, was a best seller in the Arab world when it was published a few years ago, and it was subsequently made into a popular movie. One of the main characters is Abd Rabbuh, a young police officer who is married but also having an affair with an older, gay man, Hatim Rasheed. Rabbuh has features of several sexual types, though his role is most obviously macho and versatile. The characters are portrayed sympathetically, though the plot requires a perhaps stereotypical tragic ending.

For another great novel featuring bisexual characters in Egypt, pick up Norman Mailer’s colorful epic, Ancient Evenings, set mostly in the 13th Century B.C. The narrator (Menenhetet) has sex with both men and women, as does his pharaoh, Ramses the Great. Menenhetet is portrayed as macho, while Ramses seems to be supersexual. The novel is fascinating for the way in which Mailer immerses the reader in an alien culture, in which sexuality, bodily functions, and religion are completely unmoored from contemporary associations and assumptions.

And back to Arabic, consider reading the erotic wine songs of Abu Nuwas, a revered 8th Century poet who wrote in Baghdad during the early Abbasid period. The classic poet is famous for his sexual relations with men (when he was a boy) and boys (when he was a man), but he also married a woman and loved a slave girl during his youth. He wrote passionate songs about both young men and women.

Interview on Turnstyle News

In Announcements, Media on January 25, 2011 at 3:38 am

How Sexually Flexible Are You?
by Robyn Gee
Turnstyle News
January 24, 2011

Check out this interview of me by Robyn Gee on the cultural news blog, Turnstyle News, which has been released just in time for the launch of the new Flexuality Test.

IKEA Goes Bisexual

In Media on September 29, 2010 at 6:07 am

Here’s an IKEA ad from Austria which plays nicely on our assumptions about people being either gay or straight… you don’t need to speak German to get the point.

http://www.youtube.com/v/-jcAlSMUHwM?fs=1&hl=en_US

Movies about Women in Love

In Media on September 17, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Many movies portray bisexual women, even leaving aside those that feature gorgeous murderers that play into male fantasies and fears, like the character played by Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct.

Rent, the movie of the Broadway musical by Jonathan Larson, is one long anthem in praise of human sexual diversity, but it specifically features the bisexual performance artist Maureen. The supersexual Maureen has previously dated the musical’s narrator, Mark, is on the verge of “marrying” a lesbian attorney, Joanne, whom she loves, but continues to flirt unapologetically with potential sexual partners of both sex.

Fried Green Tomatoes, based on the book by Fannie Flagg, tells the story of life-long love between two women growing up in the South. One is a bit of a tomboy; the other (Ruth, played by the fabulous Mary-Louise Parker) marries a man and has to be rescued from what becomes an abusive relationship. The relationship between the women is not described as sexual, but it is implied that they are in love, and Ruth is probably flexamorous. Their story inspires the heterosexual passion of a modern housewife played by Kathy Bates.

The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love is just that, a tale of two high school girls (Randy and Evie) who discover they love each other. The movie never suggests that either girl is bisexual, but they are both young and might fall in love again. Having chosen love over conformity, their options are wide open (though the movie is so beautiful and the characters so lovable, who would ever want to imagine them drifting apart from their first love).

The Kamasutra

In Cultures, Media on September 7, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Since I refer to this blog as a “kamasutra,” I should give a shout out to the original, which was written seventeen hundred years ago by the sage Vatsyayana in what is now India. The Kamasutra was written for metropolitan playboys in pursuit of women, and it catalogued a variety of sexual practices without judgment. A fascinating and authoritative translation by Wendy Doniger was published in 2002 and is now available in paperback (the following quotes are from her translation).

Vatsyayana was well aware of the bisexual potential of men and women. The description of oral sex between men is among the longest and most ecstatic descriptions of a sex act in the entire book (which is saying something). Vatsyayana describes eight stages, from the initial placement of the lips on the head of the penis to the swallowing at climax. He reports men “who care for one another’s welfare and have established trust do this service for one another,” though oral sex was more commonly obtained from a masseur. A commentary by the scholar Yashodhara goes further, describing how men “take one another, in friendship, and give one another the sensual pleasure of ejaculation. They say, ‘You do it for me now, and I will do it for you later.’ Or both of them do it at the same time, by turning their bodies head to foot, losing all sense of time because of their passion.” These Indian sages were referring to men who were otherwise straight and interested in sex with women.

The same commentary by Yashodhara also describes oral sex between women: “Certain women in the harem, unable to get any tools, trusting in one another, excite one another with their mouth on the vagina.” Vatsyayana also describes how sexually unfulfilled women in a harem would “give pleasure to one another with the following techniques. They dress up a [girl] like a man and relieve their desire with dildos or with bulbs, roots, or fruits that have that form. They lie on statues of men that have distinct sexual characteristics.” Again, these were not lesbians in the modern sense but women who were otherwise expected to enjoy sex with men.

See also my posts on Sex Among South Asian Men and Bisexuality among Indian Women.

Women and Gay Fiction

In Media on August 31, 2010 at 4:23 pm

W4M4M
Cintra Wilson
Out
September 2010

An article in this month’s issue of Out magazine describes the growing niche market of gay (or “M/M”) romances written primarily for and by women. Interestingly, the two female authors interviewed for the article describe themselves as identifying sexually with gay male “tops” (i.e., they seem to have metamorphic traits, though they are identified as “straight”).

The M/M market evolved out of “slash” fiction: internet and fanzine-based short stories written primarily by female fans about imagined gay pairings of television and movie characters. Kirk/Spock were the first pair of buddies to be re-imagined in this way, along with Starsky/Hutch and characters from The Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Harry Potter more recently.

This trend has also been observed in Japanese yaoi, comic books and novels that feature gay men but that are mostly popular with young, presumably straight women. Why are women interested in gay passion? Academicians have debated whether the phenomenon represents a feminist adaptive mechanism or internalized sexism. Perhaps we should ask the same questions of men who consume “lesbian” pornography.

Pornography

In Media, Sexploration* on August 29, 2010 at 2:19 am

Many of us discovered our sexual preferences in adolescence while flipping through an older friend’s or relative’s stack of pornographic magazines. Now everyone is more likely to find pornography on the internet. A wide selection of pornographic studios provide free content to thumbnail gallery posts (TGPs), so you can browse and see what catches your interest. Most straight TGPs (for example, PicHunter) have links to gay, bisexual, and “shemale” material, so you may have already taken a peek at same-sex or transgender pornography, if only out of curiosity.

All pornography involves acting (not all of it very good), and a single twenty minute scene may have actually involved hours of uncomfortable intercourse. The real sexual orientation of the models may have little relation to the acts they perform (i.e., they may be versatile or simply miscast). So don’t be surprised if the participants don’t always look like they are having fun.

Most “lesbian” pornography, unfortunately, is aimed at straight men rather than women and may seem particularly artificial in its depiction of female passion. But there is at least one good, free lesbian TGP that depicts women who look and behave more naturally, at RealLesbianPorn.

Some gay pornography exploits the gay-for-pay concept by presenting “amateur” straight men who have been tempted to explore their gay side for money, only to find they enjoy it. This may hold particular appeal for bi-curious viewers who can identify with the models. Gaysexer is a good TGP with a wide selection of studios and model types. Gaydemon organizes its thumbnail galleries by type of model and action and includes bisexual and shemale directories

“Bisexual” pornography typically involves threesomes in which two men have sex with each other and another woman. Again, it is created for men but may appeal to women who are turned on by gay sex. “FFM” (female-female-male) porn rarely features women who appear genuinely interested in each other. PenisBot has straight, gay, and other galleries, including a fairly good selection of bisexual images.

When browsing through pornography on the web, beware of fake TGPs that endlessly redirect you to other TGPs and studios or that carry malware. The sites listed on this post seem to be relatively safe. Video clips may carry more malware than photographs.

Bisexuality in Fiction

In Media on August 23, 2010 at 8:16 pm

It should not be surprising that the complex reality of sexual desires are captured in some of our best novels.

One of my favorites is Vikram Seth’s 1986 novel, The Golden Gate, which defies all expectations by being incredibly enjoyable in spite of being set in rhyming sonnet verse. Believe me, you have to try it! The book tells the story of several young adults in San Francisco, including Phil, a man who has been left by his wife and is raising a young son, who finds himself falling in love with another man. Phil could be described as open-minded and flexamorous, but his lover is restrained by his religious beliefs that homosexual acts are sinful. The book is a beautiful celebration of the attitudes of the Bay Area in the 80s and 90s.

As Meat Loves Salt, by Maria McCann, is a historical novel set in England during Cromwell’s civil war against the crown. The author not only renders the speech, smells, and tastes of the period convincingly, but also the sexual possibilities in a world before the invention of “gay” and “straight.” The two main characters are both men who are unquestionably bisexual (without thinking of themselves in those terms) in both their physical desires and romantic attachments. The book is stunning, haunting, upsetting, erotic, and an utterly convincing artistic rendering of the expression of bisexual desires in a previously unfamiliar cultural context.

And of course, the international best-selling Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the last of which came out in English just this year) features an ambisexual, computer-hacking heroine. The series is now being rendered in movies, with fierce speculation about which Hollywood acress will play Lisbeth Salander.

Ambisexual

In Media, Sexual Types on August 10, 2010 at 10:04 am

If you are similarly sexually aroused by both women and men, then you are ambisexual. This is the simplest, classic type of bisexuality: a “Kinsey 3” on the heterosexual-homosexual seven-point scale. The prefix in the word ambisexual puts the emphasis more specifically on the equivalence of desire for both men and women, as distinct from other manifestations of bisexuality, though you may also feel comfortable calling yourself bisexual. The term “AC-DC” has been applied to those who derive equal sexual satisfaction from both sexes, or you might refer to your desires as “50-50.”

Ambisexual is probably the most natural condition, the one that would emerge most commonly if society did not so strongly encourage heterosexuality and pathologize homosexual desire, skewing the bell curve that would otherwise define a population’s erotic tastes.

If you are ambisexual, you may be attracted to men and women in more or less the same ways. You fantasize about both. You physically enjoy sex with both. You might fall in love with both, though that is more common in the flexamorous type. You are independent enough in your thinking, and free of sexual guilt and prejudice, to be able to recognize your natural attractions to both sexes and not suppress either.

Janis Joplin was probably ambisexual. She was known to have many sexual relationships with both men and women throughout her life, even when she was in longer-term romantic (and sometimes platonic) relationships.

The ambisexual type is also captured in the character of Capt. Jack (played by John Barrowman) in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off. “He can sleep with man, woman, or alien,” as the lead writer and producer of the show told Blastr.

Sissy Bounce

In Media on July 24, 2010 at 7:34 am

New Orlean’s Gender-Bending Rap
by Jonathan Dee
NY Times Magazine
July 19, 2010

Gay or straight? Male or female? Identity or performance?

A feature article in this weekend’s magazine describes the “sissy bounce” rap scene in New Orleans, where female fans aggressively shake their butts together on the dancefloor in thrall to genetically-male, female performers, at least some of whom are raising children they have fathered. The audiences, performers, and genre all cross boundaries, calling to mind the metamorphic sexual type.

Rome

In Cultures, Media on July 23, 2010 at 1:14 pm

In 2005-2006, the HBO miniseries Rome amazingly recreated the politics and personalities of the Roman republic on the verge of becoming an empire under Julius Ceasar. The acting, sets, music, and story are fabulous.

Among it’s other virtues, Rome portrays several different types of bisexuality in an accurate historical context.

Early in the first season, Octavian is taken to a brothel by the soldier Titus Pullo, where he is offered a range of men and women to choose from. It is taken for granted that men are ambisexual and might want to have sex with both genders.

Octavian’s sister, who has previously loved and been married to a man, is successfully seduced by her mother Atia’s arch-enemy Servilia, an older woman who had previously been in love with Julius Ceasar. (Yes, it’s a bit of a soap opera, but so much more.) Atia’s daughter is flexamorous. Servilia’s feelings are unclear.

Servilia also employs a 14 year old psychopath as an assassin who is supposed to poison Atia. This versatile young man becomes a servant by offering himself as a sexual bottom to the senior slave of Atia’s household, but he also flirts boldly with Servilia. For him it is all about the money.

In one episode, Lucius Vorenus’ fellow mobsters anally rape another man, reflecting the sexual violence that can be condoned within a macho sexual culture. Marc Anthony also rapes a passing woman and expects continuous sex from his slaves. He’s never shown having sex with a man (unless you count the orgies in Cleopatra’s court, where he shows off his new tattoos), but he is presumably supersexual.

Vorenus’ tavern manager in the second season, who becomes Titus Pullo’s girlfriend, is portrayed as atypically (for the time) manly and sexually aggressive, suggesting she might have metamorphic traits.

Julius Ceasar is involved only with women in the series, but the real Julius Ceasar was known in his time to have had a homosexual relationship when he was a young man. In fact, he was assumed to have been the bottom, which could have destroyed his reputation if he were not so strongly respected by his men as a soldier. He might have been flexamorous or ambisexual.

Flexible Films

In Media on July 18, 2010 at 10:17 am

The new movie, The Kids Are All Right, tells the story of a lesbian couple whose children track down their sperm-donor father, with unintended consequences. All five principle actors are fabulous. The movie also reveals some interesting examples of flexible female sexual desire and behavior.

On the subject of movies that depict flexible sexualities, I also recommend Y Tu Mama Tambien, a 2001 film from Mexico, in which two young men discover their heteroflexible side with the assistance of the older woman whom they both desire.

I understand that Penelope Cruz plays a bisexual woman in last year’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but I haven’t seen the movie myself.

Article in CNN Living

In Media on June 28, 2010 at 8:17 pm

The last person out of the closet? The bisexual male
By Stephanie Chen, CNN
June 28, 2010 9:04 a.m. EDT

An article that is neither skeptical nor salacious about the existence of bisexual men, and the challenges of identifying as bisexual.

Keep in mind that the figure quoted of 1.8% refers only to those who explicitly identify themselves as bisexual, not to the much larger numbers of men and women who have had bisexual experiences and attractions.

Stay tuned for a future post which will describe those higher numbers.

Two Short Stories

In Media on June 19, 2010 at 3:19 pm

There are many coming-out novels, but who tells the stories of the not-gay and not-lesbian young men and women who have same-sex experiences?

The title stories of two acclaimed short story collections are narrated by a young man and a young woman who are left behind when their best friends recognize themselves as gay and lesbian.

In Drown, Junot Diaz, the prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, tells the story of two Dominican-American high school boys whose best friendship turns briefly sexual. But it’s the heteroflexible narrator who feels confused and marginilized, while the more confident, gay friend escapes to college.

In Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer’s narrator is an alienated, Black college freshman woman who forms her first, strong emotional bond with a classmate, only to feel rejected when her friend embraces a lesbian identity. Is the narrator “really” lesbian, or flexamorous, or asexual?

Gay and lesbian labels provide an answer for the best friends in these stories. But for the young narrators, the labels don’t fit, and they feel shut out by the friends they love. Both stories are hauntingly beautiful.

How many friendships have been tested when sexual desire enters the relationship, forcing friends to think about their sexual identity without a framework for understanding their experiences?